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They’re Baaaaack!

15 Apr

One of the first things I learned in foraging on the Oregon Coast is that Banana Slugs are delicious.  Might I clarify learned, as in, someone told me so.  My pleasantly surprised, “Oh, I have so many of those in my backyard!” statement lead to the thankful explanation that the backyard ones should NOT be eaten.  Those slugs live off poop.

Needless to say, I have not delved into the wonderful world of Gastropods.

Figures, since Sig donates his fair share of excrement to the earth, and waiting for the sun to dry the ground just enough to collect his donations hasn’t happened, since, well, pigs flew around dropping the money that grew on their barnyard trees.  Thus, the slugs are back!  They kill my rosemary plants every year, wrapping their black, slimy, squidgy bodies up and around the very top branch, leaving not one little pine leaf unslithered.  Blech.  And now they have taken a liking to little Siglet, attaching themselves to his furry shorts every chance they get (maybe to get closer to their food source?).  There’s nothing like the comfort of walking around the house barefoot, until you step on a slug.  Squish.

There are many home remedies for slug removal, the most common being beer.  Can’t you just picture it: good ol’ drunk, fat slugs having their own little frat party until they pass out?  (Don’t worry – no hazing involved.  These are civilized slugs.)  And normally, I’d be all for the drunken explosion of herb destroying slimy bugs, but there’s a big problem: Sig. Loves. Beer.  We’d have dead slugs and a slurring Sig.

So in honor of the fact that I can’t kill the slugs, and Sig can’t have the beer, and Rob is underway and is not allowed to have beer, I decided to make a tasty pub concoction: Honey Oat Beer Bread.  Toasted with a slather of Orange Butter and you’ve got a treat that any person, or slug, or Sig for that matter, would enjoy.

A Caution Tested Through Experience: This bread will make your house smell heavenly while baking.  But, like most breads, it’s best after having cooled quite a bit.  So, have a hanky ready (to wipe the ensuing drool) and consume yourself with a good book to avoid scalding your mouth.

Honey Oat Beer Bread with Mandarin Butter (makes 1 loaf) 

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 c 5-grain oats, plus more for sprinkling on top (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand) 
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 + 1/8 c honey
  • 1 bottle good flavorful beer 

Mandarin Butter 

  • 1 stick room temperature butter 
  • 2 mandarin oranges, zest and juice 
  • sprinkle of fine sea salt 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the butter, using a small spatula, mix all ingredients together until incorporated.  Taste for seasoning.  When mixed, spoon onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and mold into a log.  Put in the fridge to harden.

For the bread, mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add 7 tbsp of the melted butter, the honey (tip: it pours and mixes better when warmed; just heat for about 15 seconds in the microwave), and slowly pour in the bottle of beer.  With a heavy whisk, mix together until just combined.  The dough should be loose, but thick.

Pour into a prepared greased and flour-dusted loaf pan.  Top with a sprinkling of oats, and then drizzle with the last tbsp of melted butter.

Bake until golden and when a took pick is inserted, it comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Let the bread cool, then spread a dollop of Mandarin Butter on top.




Almost Goosed

14 Feb

So it turns out my sickness last week was a bit worse than my initially self-diagnosed cold with sore throat.  Feeling worse and more run-down as the week went on, I showed up to school on Friday with the mindset that it was just one more day till the weekend – I could do it.  But with quite a few independent, but similar, you-don’t-look-good statements, coupled with our secretary mentioning that pneumonia is going around, I realized the germs were quickly beating my stubborn immune system to a phlegmy pulp, and decided to call a substitute and go to the doctor.  Turns out I had bronchitis (better than pneumonia!) and was told to sleep, sleep, sleep.  So that Friday, after eating the last bit of a fabulous need-to-have-any-time-let-alone-when-sick chicken and leek soup, I took some NyQuil at noon, and the rest of the day/evening/night was a mix of drooling sleep and foggy awakeness.  In one of my sleep states, Rob went out and got fixin’s to make Mom’s English Muffin Pizzas (EMPs) for dinner.  How did I get so lucky to find such a great guy?!

After a hacking coughing fit during the night, then a very discombobulated morning thinking Rob was late for work (his duty was the next day), we decided I needed a bit of that Oregon fresh air to clean out the lungs, and brain, a bit.  A simple walk would do just that.

At the lakes next to our house, there are lovely trails, small wildlife, many relaxed fishermen, and one giant goose.  Always surrounded by many mallards and other ducks, this goose is obviously the King of the Lakes, honking and flapping his big white wings whenever anyone threatens the air around his brood.  This goose is enormous.  Turkey-sized.  I’m really not exaggerating and find it hard to adequately express just how absurdly rotund he is (although my mind goes directly to pounds and pounds of delicious goose fat to confit with.  Figures.).

Anywho, we pulled up to a parking pot at the lake right next to His Gooseness, his bleats and honks penetrating our heat-roaring car.  Giggling we walked away to enjoy our moments outside, sans rain.

As we trudged up our last hill, slow and wheezing (well, I was, at least), we spotted him – big, white, and oh so territorial, marking his land right next to the passenger side tire.  As we stepped closer, his head lifted.  Another step, a blink.  Another step, a throaty hiss – his long thin pink tongue sticking out like an old lady’s angry pointy finger.  Tail feathers still planted firm on the ground, he did not stand, he did not flap.  He just blinked his beady little eyes, continually hissing his attack warning.

“Be careful,” Rob kind of giggled as he saw me venturing to reach the passenger door.

“Oh, it’s fine,” I waved him off.  “I can run faster than a stupid goose.”

Well, karma is a you-know-what.  At that moment Mr. Would-Be-Sunday-Night’s-Dinner-If-I-Could-Get-A-Hold-Of-Him screamed/honked, reared up on his skinny webbed feet, and I swear those little eyes squinted and turned fiery red.  Screaming like a little girl, I flapped more than him and ran away, and thus inevitably became  a hacking breathless mess.  Not moving from his spot, Mr. Fatso Goose just sat back down, never once leaving his land.

Goose: 1.  Jill: 0.  Rob: laughing hysterically.

Being sick, it wasn’t a huge foodie week or weekend.  But I’ll include the fantastic soup that helped to heal me the two days prior, thus giving me the energy to take on a goose.  And lose.

Chicken Leek and Tortellini Soup (serves 4 large servings)
** This is a very fresh and tasty soup, plus easy and fast to make – I ate it solely for two days straight (solely by choice – there was fresh Rockfish in the fridge).

  • 1 huge leek (or 2 medium – the leeks up here are amazing), white and light green parts rinsed, cut in half, then sliced into linguini shape.
  • meat from 1/2 a rotisserie chicken, shredded (I roasted chicken legs earlier in the week and used the meat from 3 of them)
  • 4 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 c water
  • juice from 2 mandarin oranges
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 c packaged (dried) tortellini pasta (your choice of filling – I used pesto)
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • s&p
  • Parmesan Regiano cheese, grated, to top the soup

Melt the butter in a large soup pot, and saute the leeks until just soft (season with s&p).  Add the chicken, then the liquids and juices, and the herbs.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes to develop the flavors a bit.  Turn heat back up, add the tortellini pasta and cover the pot, cooking the pasta in the soup (depending on the pasta it should take anywhere from 5-8 minutes).  Cooking the pasta in the soup really adds texture to the broth (from the starches), making it thick, different from a French slurry.  Taste for seasoning and remove the sprigs (most of the herbs will have fallen off the stems).

Ladle into large bowls and serve with a fresh grating of Parm. Reg. on top.

Enjoy, even when you are perfectly healthy!!

(sidebar: Happy Valentines Day, everyone!  Rob and I had some amazing food tonight, and a good “man” story – will share soon!)

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