Monday, December 18, 2017

MAKING MOCHI AND MORE

Long time, no see! I had fully intended to post back in October but once again, time got away from me. Since then, much has happened. One of the highlights was making my own mochi. I've loved this Japanese rice cake treat for years. (I am not Japanese but I can see why they love making it.) It's traditionally made with a red bean filling so I made one version with that and another kind geared more toward American tastes with strawberry. Of course, I had to make both pink! It seems like it would be difficult to make but it was much easier than I anticipated. My husband was so excited that he snapped this photo of me with my sweet little mochi.


And now back to October when I had intended to post! It was the first hard frost of the season and I was very sad to say goodbye to my beautiful squash plants. We harvested all we could that night. This was our last pick of the crop—beautiful acorn squash, 'Eight Ball' zucchini, patty pan squash, Middle Eastern zucchini, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and my favorite, my delicata squash.


We have a root cellar so I'm able to still enjoy the fruits of my harvest. Today I'm roasting some of my delicata squash for lunch. It's so easy. The hardest part of cooking winter squash for me was always cutting it because its exterior is so hard, but I found a solution that has made all the difference. I pierce the skin with a fork and heat it in the microwave for two minutes. It's then tender enough to easily cut. For delicata, you simply cut the squash in half lengthwise then cut it into 1/2 inch slices. 


Speaking of yummy things to eat, I found a new healthy recipe in a calendar I was recently given. It's for spinach puffs! They're made primarily of potato flakes and you guessed it, spinach! I scoop them with my largest cookie scoop onto a baking sheet and bake them for 30 minutes. I loved them so much that I made them as a side dish for our Thanksgiving feast.


I must admit the highlight of this year's Thanksgiving feast was making my own turkey broth. Those of you who've done this for years probably think this is crazy but for novices like me who have never done this before, it was truly a thrilling experience. I suddenly realized what I'd been missing all these years. The broth was incredibly delicious. The only thing that threw me initially was that it gelled into a jello-like consistency. It looked like a big bowl of turkey jello! The following Monday I called my local home extension service to ask about this and found out this was a good thing, meaning that the simmering process had really drawn out the collagen from the bones, creating the jelly consistency. Here is a photo of the broth right after we took it out of the pot so it hadn't gelled yet.


Our broth adventure also yielded this wonderful bowl of turkey meat from the carcass and veggies. This meat was so much more flavorful and tender than the one we ate for dinner. I enjoyed many dinners of this delicious broth and turkey meat.


With our Thanksgiving dessert, I always serve tea. One of my favorite teas is blooming tea in which you place a tea bloom in a pot and let it steep. My favorites are jasmine and chrysanthemum tea. I buy a lot of my tea at Little Woods Herbal and Teas in Ames and I took this photo of one of their tea blooms steeping in a glass teapot. If you're going to bother with blooming tea, you want to serve it in a glass teapot to show off the beautiful bloom.


These are my glass teapots. I served my tea in the larger squatter pot on the right since it serves more people. I haven't used the little one at the left yet but I love its shape. It's better suited to serving two or so people. 


I didn't have much time to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving like I usually do. The pink Christmas tree is up, though. (You can see photos of it in last year's December posts.) I did find these wonderful paper accordion trees from West Elm. I was worried that they might be sort of flimsy but they're very stout little things so I was worried for naught. They make a delightful little winter forest on my table.


I don't know about you but when the weather turns chilly, I suddenly get more in the mood to curl up and read a good book but not just any good book—one that promises to enrich my life somehow. Here are my picks for December. I've read many books on the Danish concept of hyyge so why not this one on the Swedish art of balanced living?


This is totally unrelated to anything that I've talked about but it certainly made me smile when I saw it so I thought I'd end this post with a photo of sweet little sheep fob I recently found. Those who know me well know that I have a fondness for sheep. I don't know if it comes from my love of wool or the fact that sheep are just plain cute creatures. Who knew they made sheep fobs that you could hang from your purse?!