Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice Storm

I woke up at 3:52 a.m. because my yorkie, Arthur, was barking mad. Noises outside were alarming him and he wanted me to know! Ice machine rumbles outside my bedroom window confused me. What was happening? Bits of icicles from the maple were falling onto the metal roof. The picture to the left is of that sight at 4:00 a.m. when I realized the freezing rain was turning everything into ice-encased wonderland. My husband, considering he never was a boyscout, was bustling about making sure we had flashlights, operational generator, hot-tap shower, and firewood. He took a shower and encouraged me to hurry and take one in case the power went out. The news advised that this was the beginning of the storm and we had 24-30 more hours of this.
David called the office staff and told them not to come in. He moved the field employee's vehicles from under the trees to a safer location by the cornfield. Unfortunately, two employees didn't leave their keys with us and their cars are under some maples that may be a problem later.
I was groggy and not as composed as he. The only thing I could think of was to cook. So, I fried some bacon, made biscuits, and cooked up an egg. We ate and joked about only having half a loaf of bread, a little milk, and no eggs.
David left for work. Now, I have to say, he didn't have to go to work, this was an excuse to see the scenery. He called from the office, and gave me a full report. As he was talking to me, he was fishing for his keys. Guess what? He left them at home. Ha. He came back home, ate a couple more slices of bacon and left again with his office keys.
I couldn't stand it. I grabbed my camera and headed out. First I went to the backyard. The old black walnut that had gotten struck by lightning last spring was completely down. I took a few pictures through the fencing. I looked at the garden. I always leave herbs and some of the taller bushier plants up during the winter for the birds to rest in. The angular branches encased in ice were so beautiful. The wild arugula looked like lace. The peppers looked trapped like the fruit in the eau vie bottles. The chive blossoms looked like a crystal bouquet. Everything was so surreal. And then I started hearing the popping and cracking. I looked across the street, and realized the tops were snapping out of the black locusts. A brittle tree, this ice would be their demise.
I took my chances, and walked under the sugar maples in the side yard to the front. To my dismay, the maple's branches were snapping. It was odd, a snap across the street and immediately an acknowledging snap in the front yard. And, this is only the beginning?
The hundred year old trees were definitely going to feel the effects. I looked by the old coach house. I felt a pain in my heart as I realized the ancient dogwood had split in half.
Once again in the warm house, I wondered how long this warmth would last. The lights were flickering. David called. The office was completely dark. The substation was down in E'town. I called Nolin and was informed many feeder lines to many substations were down. No idea how long this would be the case. I advised David. He called me back a little later. His buddy told him probably 3 days and that was only if it didn't get worse. Again, this was only the beginning of the storm according to Jim Cantore, Weather Channel correspondent located in Paducah, KY. Hmmm...
Still, at 10:53 a.m., we have electricity. I had planned on doing some recipe testing today. I'm probably pushing my luck. How bad would I feel with a batch of cookies in a lifeless oven? Now I'm looking over at my Christmas present I haven't had the chance to play with, a chocolate tempering machine. Should I? Again, pushing my luck...
I am amazed with all the internet troubles over the last two weeks that I am able to do this. Although, when I just autosaved, a message came up that it was unable to connect to blogger. Maybe, I should cut this short. I am typing very quickly, and probably will not proofread. Again, pushing my luck.
When it's cold there are comfort foods that at the mere mention of their names, one's soul warms and if lucky, fingertips too. Cornbread, chili, pudding, cocoa, soup, these are the warming foods that comfort me. Last night, I baked up some cornbread to serve alongside beef stew. Being a thrifty soul, I had save a few choice pieces of steak, brisket, and a roast. David would die if he knew I had frozen those bits and created the delicous stew he slurped down several bowls of. He is not a leftover eater. He is now. Hee. Anyway, the cornbread was gussied up with coconut milk. It was very subtle. David never even knew. He just commented on the moistness. I think next time, I will toast some unsweetened coconut and toss it in the batter. It was really tasty.
Coconut Cornbread
Serves: 6-8
1-1/2 cups self-rising yellow corn meal mix
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup coconut milk (I dumped the remainder in the stew, he never even knew it)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 10" iron skillet by spraying with a non-stick spray.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Pour batter into greased skillet.
Pop in oven for 15 minutes or until lightly golden on top and firm in the center.
Cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mouse + Snow = No Internet

Why hasn't there been a blog in almost two weeks?
For the last two weeks we have had the most dreadful sub-zero cold snap in recent history. When just normal winter cold happens, the mice (remember, this is the country) for whatever mousy reason, go into the phone company's breaker boxes, and power stations and build little nests around the wires and when they are tucked away in their newly-built creations, they start chewing on the wires. This results in instant electrocution, unlucky mouse, and crackly, popcorn noises on the phone which means limited or no internet because the signal can't get through properly, unlucky me. So, in the mornings the internet is down, and in the afternoons, there is spotty service which doesn't help me at all since I have to blog before daylight.
My husband gets so angry every time this happens that I just didn't tell him for about a week. Early last week, he wanted an email sent to him from home to the office, and I finally had to break down and tell him that 'it was that time of year again'.
This has been going on for now 5 years that we have lived here. Oddly, I have become used to it. Eventually, the Windstream guys come around and fix the problem. Then, in the spring, the other scenario happens, torrential spring rains with driving winds push water into the breaker boxes and the wires get wet and it happens all over again. Crackly lines translate into sporadic internet service. And think, we ran a business out of this home office for 4 years! I have to smile when I think of the corporate office of one of the largest (and in my opinion the best) home improvement stores that were always so understanding, probably because their home office is in the country too. Even when we had turkeys last spring who for whatever reason decided that the back door and driveway were so much more exciting than their coop, and would gobble at the sound of a tractor driving by. So when David would step outside to talk and get some air, and the three turkeys at the sound of his voice would break into unison gobbles, even then, the corporate guys were cool about it.
It's just country living, and one can get spittin' mad, or just deal with it knowing that in good time, it all will work out. I opt to deal with it. Believe me the first year and a half, I did get mad and probably came across to Windstream and their guys like the crazy lady on the hill, but I could not would not believe that in the 21st century, mice still wreaked havoc on telephones which, in turn, translates into internet problems. It is true, and there is nothing one can do about it. Mice will always be in the country.
It was really maddening last week because Friday a week ago, I found the best meatball recipe that I wanted to share. Last Monday I had some exciting news which I have since forgotten, Wednesday I made ricotta gnocchi that I wanted to pass on to you. And then, this past Friday was National Pie Day. Kentucky has some wonderful pies none more famous than the Derby Pie. I am going to hold on to my Derby Pie recipe until we get closer to Derby. Did you know, I am "breaking the law" by calling it my Derby Pie recipe? Yep, a couple from Louisville in the late '60s trademarked the name, Derby Pie. Get real, a nut and chip pie laced with bourbon by any other name is still Derby Pie. I'll take my chances, and call it what it is.
Anyway, in my recipe research for another one of my cooking contest that I'm gearing up for, I rediscovered a recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad. The strangest sounding concoction. Many years ago, I was asked to make an anniversary dinner. The client gave me her Mom's recipes which included this salad recipe. I had never heard of it, and frankly, thought it sounded disgusting. I made a little bowl for myself, in the spirit of research of course. It was delicious. Odd, but tasty. Sweet, tart, salty, creamy, crunchy all in a congealed salad creation. I cannot resist a good congealed salad. So very American, and many times, as in this case, so southern. When you make it, you will dream of warmer weather and that other southern speciality to complement it, a cool sweet tea.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Serves: 8-10
2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup melted butter
3 TB sugar, plus 3/4 cup sugar
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 8 oz container whipped topping
2 3 oz pkgs strawberry gelatin dessert mix
2 cups boiling water
2 10 oz pkgs frozen strawberries
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple
Whipped topping or whipped cream, to garnish.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
For the crust, mix the pretzels, butter, and 3 TB sugar. Press this mixture into a 9 x 13 x 2 glass baking dish, and bake for 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and 3/4 cup of sugar. Fold in the whipped topping, and spread over the cooled crust. Refrigerate until well chilled.
In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, and allow to cool slightly. Add the strawberries, and pineapple, and pour over the crema cheese mixture. Refrigerate until serving time.
To serve, cut slices and serve with a dollop of whipped topping.