14 May 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

I actually gave my mother's day gift to my mom yesterday because of work schedules, but it's worth saying again. Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's out there, we wouldn't be here without you.

There's probably going to be a mid-week post with pictures, because while I've gotten a lot done with the yard and the garden, I haven't had time to take pictures! I have radishes, peas, chard, and beets that are putting up shoots already!! Donald was the first to notice them, saying that I either had radishes, or just freakishly orderly weeds :-) The hops are up and we will be running their strings later this week as they climb up, since they are growing pretty fast already! All three raised beds are finished, we just have to fill the third one with soil and finish the trellis on the north bed for the tomatoes and peas to climb up. Speaking of tomatoes.. I totally thought I had managed to kill one of my tomato plants, but after a bit in time out (and having already gotten a replacement) it perked right back up, so now it's in a pot by itself and doing pretty well.

This week's menu is pretty straight forward... I'm back to what can affectionately be called my "regular" schedule this coming week so no surprises when it comes to work and such. Game night is Wednesday so I'm cooking for the usual crowd.

Sunday - Tacos
Monday - Slumgullion
Tuesday - Baked "Fish & Chips"
Wednesday - Farm-stand Chili & Cornbread
Thursday - Bi Bim Bop
Friday - Salads
Saturday -  Pasta

08 May 2012

Running a Little Behind...

This week's menu post ended up being a couple of days later then I originally planned, but I'm on vacation, I get a pass right?

Sunday - Pasta and Salad
Monday - Dinner at my parent's house
Tuesday - Stir-fry
Wednesday - Thai-spiced Turkey Burgers
Thursday - Loaded Baked Potatoes
Friday - Home-made Pizza
Saturday - Donald is going to grill something

But I've been productive in the garden when I haven't been here posting. All the plants and seeds are planted in the first garden bed. And as we were planning things out we realized that we wanted to build a third bed. I have no clue what we are putting in the third bed entirely at this point, but it's going in. I'll get some more pictures up here when they are done tomorrow so that all of my posts aren't just the dry ramblings of my slightly neurotic self.

I get to meet with my personal trainer for the first time this week and I'm super excited!! This came about in part because I work with super awesome people and in part because I have the best mom in the world and she gave me my birthday present early! So I'm sure I'll have more to say about that after our first training session on Thursday. And now I am going to go crash, because it has been a long but enjoyable day!

04 May 2012

The Art of the Cheese Plate

As a professional cheese-monger I am constantly being asked, "I'm putting together a cheese plate for (insert event here), what should I get?" There are any number of ways that you can go about putting together a plate that will wow your guests, but here are a few of my favorite ways to do it.

* Milk Sampler *
This is one of the classic ways that people will tell you to chose cheeses for a cheese plate, usually consisting of a cow's milk cheese, a goat's milk cheese, and a sheep's milk cheese. This is nice if you don't really know the tastes of the group you are putting together a plate for, as you can get a little bit of everything. I like to make sure that there are a variety of textures represented, but you don't have to. A nice fresh goat's milk (like the Zingerman's Creamery's City Goat), a semi-soft cow's milk (a younger gouda or swiss style usually), and an aged sheep's milk (like Manchego or Vermont Shepherd) is my go-to combination.

* Regional Grouping *
This is another classic. Choose your cheeses based on country, region, or other geographical grouping. All cheeses from England, or all from Bavaria, or all from countries that your Mediterranean cruise will be stopping in. These cheeses will all likely be of the same milk(s), depending on where in the world you are sourcing from and what animals have traditionally thrived in that environment. Again, I like playing with texture if possible. Different regions in France are particularly easy to find in most cheese shops, one that I'm fond of is the Auvergne region. A cheese plate highlighting this region might have a lovely wedge of Saint Nectaire, a chunk Cantal (or Salers if you can find it), and a slice of Blu d'Auvergne. These are all cow's milk cheeses that for me really highlight each other and bring out flavors in one another that you might not notice enjoying them on their own.

* Single Producer *
This is one that I really like to do with the many fantastic American producers that are producing whole lines of cheese. Highlighting a single producer can be a great way to introduce your friends to a great cheese maker that you love. Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, GA and Cowgirl Creamery in California/Washington D.C.

* Single Milk *
This is all about texture. Highlighting the things you can do with the milk from a single kind of animal give you a chance to explore the flavors and textures you get by treating the milk differently in the making and aging stages of cheese making. Cow's milk is obviously going to be the easiest one to find a large variety of cheeses in, but there are more and more great goat and sheep's milk cheeses on the market from small, artisan producers that you can find fairly easily these days. An example of this might be: Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farms (triple-cream, goat's milk base, New York made, very smooth and soft); Lincoln Log from Zingerman's Creamery (slightly aged goat's milk, french style log, Michigan made, just a bit crumbly); Queso de Vare (aged goat's milk, savory, spanish, texture like a medium dry cheddar); Ballerina Goat's Milk Gouda (aged goat's milk, gouda style, sweeter, dutch, dry and crumbly with crystalized protein crunch); and Harborne Blue through Neal's Yard Dairy (goat's milk blue, english, slightly sweet with a nice bite from the blueing).

With all of these options you will want to make sure that you have your cheeses at room temperature when you serve them. Unless your cheesemonger specifically tells you that a cheese has an ideal serving temperature, all cheeses show best at room temperature. I also like to have some dried or fresh fruit, a condiment (such as mustard or fruit preserves), and some sort of nut out with the cheeses, to be enjoyed alongside. The only other thing you need is a nice cheeseboard or plate to serve it all on and you are ready to break out a bottle of wine and enjoy the party!

P.S - If you like this post please leave me a comment here or on facebook and let me know what other cheese/cured meat/delicious food things you would like to see. I love my job and I love being able to share knowledge with people too!

28 April 2012

What's For Dinner - April 29th Edition

So over at HJ Waxing Moon my lovely SIL made a great post about menu planning. While I am not nearly as methodical as she is about it, it's a practice that I enjoy. And so I figured that I would revive the sometimes regular practice of posting up my weekly menu! This week is going to be a nice, regular week, with nothing out of the ordinary going on, so it's pretty straightforward to plan for. Plus, I get the whole weekend off next week (and a couple of days after that too!) which means some nice relaxing time to cook, clean, and garden!

Sunday - Leftovers/Graduation Party Attendance
Monday - Mac n' Cheese w/ green salad and other veg
Tuesday - Beans with Sausage & Greens
Wednesday - Chicken Curry in the Crock Pot
Thursday - French Onion Soup & Mystery Dish
Friday - Steak Fajitas
Saturday - Pasta

I hope everyone else is enjoying their weekend, it was kinda grey and drizzly here today for U of M's graduation, but it was better then the snow that they were forecasting! Hopefully I'll be back out in the garden on Tuesday if the rain holds off to get the seeds in the raised bed, with pictures once it's all put together and planted!

26 April 2012

Garden Building Day 2

This was the second day of garden building! After getting the frame built yesterday, today it got filled. We broke up the sod underneath and then laid down a layer of newspapers to help prevent the grass from grown up through the bed. I would have removed it altogether, but our sod is very healthy (and thick!) so it stayed where it was. After 3 trips to our compost center, using recycling bins to get the good stuff, it was full. I laid out a rough grid with a nice bright pink cotton, so it was easy to see against the dirt. Then, since we did get some plants in addition to seed, the plants all went in the ground. Four kinds of tomato, three kinds of peppers, mustard greens, and collards are all happily planted. I'm still about two weeks before the last frost date, but I figured I'd risk it. As luck would have it, we have a frost warning tonight, so all of the pots and other small plants that I have are all fit in around the plants I just put in the ground and covered over with a tarp so they don't get damaged. I figure between the covering and the fact that the compost is still generating a little bit of heat they should be fine.

I also found out last night that plans I had made for next week were changing, so I find myself with 6 days off starting next Friday. So it looks like the twin to this bed is going to be built then and (hopefully) planted as well! So far, the lineup for that bed is: potatoes, squash, onions, kale, and parsnips. And I'm putting in my new herb garden setup. It's going be a modified gutter garden concept, moved closer to the house/kitchen for easy access (because that's mostly the purpose of growing herbs for me - yummy food!). I'm also considering tearing up another part of my lawn on the other side of the driveway and putting in a couple of rows of corn and perhaps getting some asparagus rhizome to anticipate for next year, because somehow, I almost always miss asparagus season at the farmers markets around here...  In any case, there are more plans and plots going on here at The Rose & Thistle, who knows what tomorrow will bring!





25 April 2012

Garden Building Day 1

Today was the construction phase of the garden building! We got out bright and early to Home Depot and got all of our supplies for the bed itself, plants (including some flowers for other beds), and seeds. After a bit of a slow start trying to get a shovel put on a handle, we were off and the building process went pretty smoothly. Towards the end of the project, once we had all the walls built, we brought the new chicks out to hang out in the bed for a bit while we changed the litter in the brooding box. So I give you, our day in pictures :-)




24 April 2012

Gardens and Sunshine

It's been a really long time since I made a blog post. I've been running and working and spring cleaning with a vengeance! I've also been spending a lot of time ogling the gardening that my SIL has been posting about over at HJ Waxing Moon. She's out in the Portland, OR area and so they are a bit warmer and a bit further along then we are in the Mitten right now. She and Mr. Moon have been doing a fantastic job at getting their garden spaces cleaned up and ready for the year. 

But, enough waxing on about my fab SIL, I've got gardening of my own happening! When we moved into our house there was a sad little raised bed in the front yard with a dead potted evergreen stuck on top of it, and two pseudo-beds on either side of the front door that had some scraggly looking bushes in them planted too close to the house. The two beds at the front of the house have since been reformed by taking one set of bushes out and using them along our south property line to form the beginnings of a hedge. This solved the problem of the bushed being planted too closely to the house, and then my MIL planted some beautiful red tulips in front of the remaining bushes. We also moved a very pretty crabapple tree that was planted a bit too close to the house as well. 

The next phase of the project was to reform the raised bed. The first part of this happened a few summers ago when I had my brother down for some forced labor help in the garden and we discovered that the reason that the raised bed was there was it was hiding an old tree stump that no one had bothered to remove, they just built up far enough around it to put a 3" layer of dirt over it! So I had my brother help me dig out as much of the stump as we could and added more dirt and compost and it became my herb bed for a couple of years. This is phase two. Donald and I are going to remove the old bed (after transplanting some of the herbs that are still alive after winter) and build two new 4'x8' raised beds for vegetable gardening. Tomorrow we are going to build the first of the two beds and then plant into it on Thursday. The second bed will be constructed after I get back from watching my baby brother graduate from Northern Michigan next weekend. So, here's my to-do list for the next two days and the planned layout of the first bed. Hopefully I remember to take pictures as we go so I can post them here!



07 February 2012

Welcome back Ya'll!

I had such a blast in Austin! I got to indulge in excellent food, awesome people, and a good healthy dose of doing absolutely nothing at all! And now I am back in the wonderful state of Michigan and getting back into my routine. I spent most of the first day back cleaning my house and reclaiming my kitchen from the dust-bunnies and such that we let to fester while I wasn't around to make sure the usual chores got done. I didn't miss work, but I still found myself in a cheese shop on more then one occasion! I snapped a whole bunch of pictures (they're posted on Facebook if you follow me there), but my favorite is the one that I snapped of my lunch after visiting my friend Paul's shop, and that's what I leave you with here.


21 January 2012

Just When You Think Winter is Canceled

This week has been a little up and down for me. I had an open shift at work for the first time in a bit and when I got home all the grand plans that I had for making dinner and such went right out the window. Luckily I have a wonderful husband who can follow a recipe so it was not a complete wash. But I've made it to the gym on schedule and had some good runs this week. And I got to cap the week off with the Burn's Night party given by friends of the family. I got to wear my fantastic new dress that I got last week and Donald piped the haggis in. It was a good time all around, though I could have done without the mid-dinner headache.
I'm getting pretty excited about my vacation. This time next week I will be getting ready to fly down to Austin, TX and visit my good friend Paul! I don't have a really solid schedule for the time that I'm down there yet, so if there is something you think I should be sure to check out, let me know! I will be down there for Paul's birthday and I get to wear fantastic new dress number two and generally have a raucously good time! I'll be gone for a week and it will be so nice to relax and have fun.

Jan 22 - Jan 28
Sunday - Slumgullion
Monday - Chickpea & Tomato Stew
Tuesday - Chicken Enchiladas
Wednesday - Burn's Night hosted by the Masons
Thursday - Pasta with Garlic Pesto and Tuna
Friday - Venison Shepherd's Pie
Saturday - Sushi (not sure if this is going to be homemade or eating out)

I probably won't post a menu next week, as I won't be here to be cooking. But there will defiantly be pictures and a lengthly summary post once I get back. I'm not taking my laptop down with me so I'll have some internet access via my phone, but won't be posting much except probably to Twitter (@YarnAndWhiskey). Have a good week everyone, hope you are staying warm with all the crazy weather that's been happening lately!

16 January 2012

Getting back on track...

The holidays are finally over and I'm starting to put the pieces of my routine back together. I've done some re-arranging of the storage space in my kitchen and I think that it's going to be a nice change. But I want to get back into the habit of posting my weekly menus.  And because it hasn't been that long into the year I'm posting last week as a bonus!

Jan 8th - Jan 14th
Sunday - Ham & Bean Soup
Monday - Salmon and Couscous Cakes with Tomato, Olive, and Caper Relish
Tuesday - I hit a deer. So we had Chinese.
Wednesday - My friend Anya made Bigos!
Thursday - Pizza Night (home-made of course)
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - White Beans with Chorizo and Mustard Greens

Jan 15th - Jan 21st
Sunday - Venison Stroganoff
Monday - Broccoli & Mushroom Stir-fry
Tuesday - Whiskey/Marmalade Glazed Salmon with Tatties N' Neeps
Wednesday - Venison, Bacon, White Bean Chili
Thursday - Chickpea & Tomato Stew
Friday - Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce
Saturday - Burn's Night Dinner hosted by friends

If you were paying attention to the item above you will note, I hit a deer. In the greater scheme of things it was a little traumatic (I kind of had a 14 hour long panic attack/adrenaline rush that day), but there was minimal damage to the car I was driving, I am alright, and the deer was killed on impact and found pretty quickly by my husband. Donald and I spent most of the afternoon on Wednesday hosting the Amateur Butcher Hour as we broke my deer down into it's edible pieces. All said and done we got about 25 lbs of ground meat, two back loins around 3 lbs total that we cut into medallions and wrapped in bacon, and another 2 lbs of meat that was reserved for this week's menu in the stroganoff and the chili. So between that and the venison that I got as a gift for Christmas (btw, best Christmas gift I get every year!) my freezer is re-stocked for the year!

Also got to catch up with one of my very old and fabulous friends, Lana over the weekend! She drove down and we went to lunch at one of my favorite places in Ann Arbor - Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery. They had one of my longtime favorites on tap, the La Roja. It's a Flanders-style amber ale that has never disappointed me in it's slightly sour drinkability. It was so great to see Lana as we haven't been in the same place for the last three years or so and if there was any worry about it being a bit awkward those notions were gone in the first few minutes as we fell right back in where we left off. She summed up the day pretty well (and said some really lovely things about me as well) at her newly minted blog over at Martinis And Muscles. You should go visit because she's pretty awesome!

Until next week....