Tag Archives: butter

Juno the Whale

27 Aug

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Every night since I was a little girl, I can remember hearing Tom Brokaw’s voice. We watched the Nightly News religiously, and hearing Mr. Brokaw’s voice in the background kind of became part of our family. Now, Brian Williams is our on-the-tube family member, and he and his team have been recently reporting on an issue incredibly close to my heart.

Juno the Whale. I met Juno only a few months ago visiting him at the Mystic Aquarium. He was playful, fun, and such a ham! Just like in the videos that have now gone viral, he truly is a big, white, playful ball of whale. So adorable. Just like his father.

The real connection I have with these beautiful whales is with Naluark, Juno’s father. Naluark is living at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT on a “breeding loan” from the Shedd aquarium. Boy is he ever. That whale can DO IT. So much so, that I was scared for life with a very weird and ever-present curse. I’ll explain.

Years ago, our family took a vacation to one of America’s best cities, Chicago.   We visited all of the local tourist stops, including the Shedd Aquarium. Like Mystic, a main attraction was the Beluga Whale exhibit. We entered the dark room, cool and echo-y with hushed oohs and ahhs. Goosebumps ran up my arms and it smelled clean. I remember the weight of my dad’s hands on my shoulders as I slowly walked closer to the floor-to-ceiling glass of the tank, being careful not to leave fingerprints or patches of breath-fogs as evidence of my awe.

“Susie, Susie, come see this!” My dad’s beckoning arm towards my mom knew something I didn’t. The Belugas, Naluark and his mate, were swimming beautifully. They looked like they were dancing, actually. Twirls, dips, and dives.

The room became thick with silence. I’m sure every chin dropped. And when my confusion at every onlookers’ reaction became my all-too-pre-teen reality, mine dropped, too, and out came a very audible gasp. Maybe it bordered on a scream. I’m not sure; you may have to ask my parents about that. Anywho, I saw Naluark’s thing.   It was… huge.

Being old enough to know what “that” was, and realizing that these animals were doing “it,” I was also still young enough to think it was just plain gross. I too loudly removed myself from what the rest of the crowd saw as a beautiful and rare scene of nature, and clearly and vividly remember the moment to this day.

In fact, this has kind of haunted me in a way – maybe the higher order Beluga whales played a funny little trick because now, at 32-years old, wherever I go, I see animals procreating. Bugs, dogs, monkeys at the zoo, ducks, geckos (man they get loud in the heat of the moment!), and most recently, crabs (I hope they used protection) to name a few.

So this summer, I had a chance to make amends with what I now call “My Beluga Whale,” Naluark. Through the glass, and to the humor and slight embarrassment of my husband and mother in-law, I apologized to my whale for screaming during his intimate moment, and was ironically forgiven in a way by the silliness, smiles, and joy of his son, Juno.

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If you are a follower of the blog, you’ll realize that occasionally, a story has to be told, even if it isn’t around food. So while I do not have a food-connection to my beautiful Belugas, I’ll provide a recipe that’s simply an oldie, but a goody. Just like Naluark.

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Plum Crumb

  • 5 ripe plums, each sliced into 8 pieces.
  • 1 heaping tbsp. flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt, divided
  • ¼ tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 3 c old fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 3 oz. gorgonzola cheese
  • ½ c good quality honey

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In pie pan, mix the plums with the flour, sugar, thyme, and half of the salt (works out to be about a pinch). Mix until incorporated.   In a separate bowl, and using your hands, mix the oats, butter, cheese, honey, and remaining salt until the mixture is fully incorporated and crumbly. Spread the cheese crumb topping on top of the plums, and bake until browned and crusty on top.

Set aside to cool before digging in (although you will want to because the house will smell just divine).  

Enjoy!

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Turkey Day Trials 2013, Part 2

23 Nov

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Years ago, my mom had an especially funny Kindergarten class.  There was this one boy in particular who looked like he was 5 going on 55, and had the imaginary years of personality to match.  It was at this Thanksgiving time when I was home from college and would volunteer in her classroom, thus starting my love for teaching and education.  I remember sitting in one of the teeny, tiny chairs watching my mom line up her kids to go home for the day.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” as she started to speak, all those little eyeballs grew big and round and stared at her as if she was made of gold and about to pass out candy and puppies, “tomorrow is a special day.  Please turn to the person behind you and say, ‘Tomorrow is the Feast!’”

I watched as 17 little kids whipped their bodies around, almost smacking the next person in line with swinging backpack momentum.  “Tomorrow is the FEAST!”

They were so excited!  So excited in fact, that if everyone turned to the person behind him or her, they were talking to the back of a head, and they didn’t even notice!  The best part being our little boy, happy and jumpy as ever, being last in line, and turning to tell the air behind him that tomorrow is the feast.  He couldn’t have been happier to tell nobody!

I laughed out loud that day, and we still laugh about it every Thanksgiving.

Yesterday was the Kindergarten Thanksgiving Feast at my school.  It is a huge event, and something our school has been doing for years.  While quite a production, it provides food for all of the kids, and their families, in our 5 Kindergarten classes.  While already being stressed about fitting in everything I need to do before the Thanksgiving break, I also offered to roast a turkey.  Sigh!  So rather than freak out (which, Rob will tell you, I kind of did anyway), I decided to chalk it up to Turkey Day Trials.

Usually, for my Turkey Day Trials, I make a roasted turkey breast, mostly to test any glaze, rub, or compound butter I would like to try that year.  Anyone remember the infamous microwave turkey breast of last year?  Anywho, coming home after working all day and getting this turkey in the oven was honestly, something that I needed to not stress about.  I had floors to clean, no time to baste.  I needed laundry done, no time to brine.  This needed to be a no-mess, no-fuss, no-nonsense bird.

So that’s exactly what happened.  No funny mishaps here.  No microwave, no trips to the emergency room.  I stuffed a Meyer lemon in the cavity with rosemary and citrus mint.  I sprinkled the juice from another Meyer lemon on the outside, and roasted the lemon quarters in the pan.  I rubbed the bird with a stick of softened butter, gave it a very healthy dose of s&p, a small shower of ground cardamom, poured some water in the pan, spanked its hiney, and away it went.  Starting the oven at 425, I immediately turned it down to 350.  To remove the basting issue, the bird was covered for the first hour with foil.  After an hour, I removed the foil, turned up the oven again to 425 for about 15 minutes, and then lowered it to 325 for the last hour and a half of cooking.  Wham bam, thank you ma’am, at 155 degrees in the thigh, the bird was out of the oven, covered again with foil, and rested for a whole HOUR (this is because I honestly forgot about it.  My dad had just picked up my mom from the airport, and by this time we were all eating one of our favorite dinners– butternut squash risotto with seared scallops and sage brown butter – all of our chit-chatting left the bird resting comfortably, and forgotten about).

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When I finally cut into the bird and prepared it in small bites for small people, it was simply the best turkey I’ve ever made.  It was completely juicy all the way through, with brown skin and a lovely herby, lemony flavor.  We all tasted a bit and Thanksgiving came roaring through the door.

While cleaning up, I asked Rob why he thought this turkey ended up better than the rest.

“Because you didn’t think about it.”  Mr. Pilot Hands might be on to something.

My mom came to Kindergarten with me yesterday to help with the feast.  While I lined up the kids in our room, ready to go fill our bellies and give thanks, with all the parents watching I said,

“Ladies and Gentlemen, turn to the person behind you and say, ‘Today is The Feast!’”

The same excited, kiddo reaction ensued, and my mom just happened to be last in line.  With a huge smile and an audible giggle, she turned to nobody behind her, and excitedly said, “Today is The Feast!”

Enjoy!

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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.

Enjoy!

 

 

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