Herbs from the Back Yard

October 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Two years ago we got some mint and lemonbalm from Mr. E’s mother. We planted them at the foot our our grilling station. I wanted to let them grow in peace for a year before gathering any to be sure(r) that I wouldn’t kill them by over-harvesting. This year, I guesstimated, would be safe, so, nothing but to it!

Drying Herbs

Now we have some extremely local herbs!

Juhannus Drink 2014: Shand-ito

June 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last Saturday we celebrated juhannus (Midsummer). In Finland, it’s one of the biggest if not the biggest holiday of the year. Our plans were very modest, but we did enjoy the outdoors – our yard – and relaxed. And ate! πŸ™‚

Our juhannus dinner consisted of local potato (NH), local asparagus (nearby in MA) and fresh local fish (NH) from our fish share. Our beverage did even better: we made shandies (basically, a mix of beer and lemonade or other soft drink) with commercial lemonade and Mr. E’s latest brew, an orange hefeweitzen. We then combined that with mint from our own back yard for a kind of a shandy-mojito mix. The mint comes courtesy of Mr. E’s mother – we got two different mints and lemonbalm a year or two ago from her that we planted around our sacrificial altar grilling station.

Shand-ito Mashup

So, our own beer and mint make a hyper-local shand-ito. Definitely a keeper if you’re into sweet(ish) drinks. Enjoy fresh outdoors for best results! πŸ™‚

Special Dinner: May 2014

June 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration. The May cookbook is The Classical Cookbook. It presents recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome and adds a version that’s adapted to the modern kitchen.

We had honey-glazed shrimp (a Greek recipe) as starter. They were very sweet, but not overly so. Mr. E did comment that all of the recipes he made for this dinner took a surprisingly large amount of honey. I guess the ancient Mediterraneans had a sweet tooth. πŸ™‚

For the main course, Mr. E made a cold Roman chicken and sausage salad with nuts and cucumbers and molded in a shell of bread. (The recipe actually called for sweetbread – brains – but Mr. E used sausage instead.) The bread shell didn’t settle very well, but the salad still tasted good. The combination was a little different due to the dressing made with honey, wine, mint and coriander. Certainly not what we’d associate with Italian cooking nowadays. We also had mushrooms cooked in honey and wine as a side.

Lastly, there was a pear patina, a custard-like sweet dish flavored with pear and sweet wine. It reminded me of pancake, so I suppose you could call it flourless pancake as well. Very delicious, in any case, and, very aptly, washed down with wine.

May 2014 Special Dinner

It would’ve been nice to deck the table with an ancient Greek / Rome theme as well, but I’m afraid I don’t have the brain power at the moment. I did pick our blue napkins with Greek key meander at the perimeter, though, and used wooden chargers and hand-blown glass dessert plates for a dash of rusticity, if that’s even a word. πŸ™‚

May 2014 Table

All in all, some of the flavor combinations aren’t typical for the 20th and 21st century Western tastes, but we enjoyed this dinner immensely nevertheless. Definitely a keeper!

Special Dinner: February 2013

February 21, 2013 § 2 Comments

Mr. E decided on doing special dinners with a color theme this year. When Mr. E was little, he associated months with a combination of two colors (much like his colors for weekdays). His aim is to make dinner with ingredients that are naturally as close to each month’s colors as possible; food dyes are right out for this project. February’s colors are white and red.

We opted for no starter. Instead, we had mashed potato with sauteed red pepper and clam-herb-breadcrumb-stuffed cod flounder in tomato-cream sauce. We had milk to drink – cow’s milk for Mr. E and soy for me. (We do love our calcium!) For dessert, Mr. E made a strawberry cheesecake from scratch.

Feb 2013 Special Dinner

I kept the table simple with a white runner and a small red tablecloth I made quite a few years ago in elementary school. The table looked a little empty, so I put out a small dish of peppermint candy. Although it’s still winter, I used our strawberry dishes for the dessert. Spring is coming, after all.

Feb 2013 Table

I really enjoyed the main dish, and the cheesecake was Mr. E’s best by far. The crust cut like a dream, and the cake was perfect. Not to mention yummy! It would have been even better with fresh strawberries, but we prefer local berries over the watery, over-produced supermarket ones, so frozen it is.

Now it’s almost time for March. Can’t wait what Mr. E will come up with!

Ants in the Pans…

June 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

…as in the dishwasher. Annoying, insistent, tiny ants found their way into our kitchen and proceeded to help themselves and their sisters and their cousins and their aunts!


Peggy Greb.

(Photo by Peggy Greb; found via USDA Image Gallery. A marvellous source for copyright-free, public domain photos, by the way!)

The good thing about the ants being inside the dishwasher was that it was supremely easy to get rid of them: we just closed the door and ran the washer. Unfortunately, some enterprising individuals had already found their way back to the colony and spread the word. We had an ant trail running from the back door across the room to the kitchen.

Ant trail

Unknown, via Tomlinson Bomberger Lawn Care, Landscape & Pest Control.

We killed the ants and found the most likely entrance spot: near the back door, there’s a crack where the floor and the wall meet. Unfortunately sealing the crack didn’t help: next day the buggers were back. I even spotted a few entering between the sealant and the wall. (How are you supposed to be able to seal against critters that small?!)

Since we both have already collected far-too-respectable amounts of allergies, we try to keep our exposure to chemicals to a minimum (including scents – no aromatherapy for us). I looked for green or organic ways to deter pests, and found a few sites that recommend mint teabags, cucumber peels, cinnamon, chili, or cayenne pepper, for example. Although a little dubious, I decided to try the pepper. I sprinkled some ground cayenne pepper at the wall/floor joint near the doorway, and kept watch.

Cayenne Pepper Barrier

The photo above is the first stage of peppering. While we did see ants milling near and at times on the pepper, they generally seemed to avoid it. However, mostly they just moved to the left where there was no cayenne. (Duh!)

Once I realized that I would have to cover the whole wall/floor joint with pepper, we thought we were in the clear. Then we found ants in the dishwasher again, plus on a countertop dish drying rack. After a flurry of squishing, washing (the rack), and sprinkling (more pepper!), we also decided we’d try to destroy the pheromone trail left behind by the dead-by-dishwasher ants.

Mr. E first mopped the floor* and then used a rag to wipe it with undiluted vinegar. Only then did we start to see a real drop in the amount of ants. Just to be sure, we also ran the dishwasher half empty with vinegar and detergent, and handwashed our dishes immediately after use for three or four days.


Ant Fighting Mashup

ground cayenne pepper + mopping + vinegar = no ants, no poisons*


*) Disclaimer: Our sponge mop packaging warned not to use it with vinegar. That’s why we mopped first and used a rag with the vinegar. Also, I don’t know how vinegar might react with other surface types than wood.

Special Dinner: April 2012

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

This year, Mr. E is doing a round of dinners based on The Lord of the Rings. (A short recap of the β€œproject” can be found in the beginning of the Special Dinner: January 2012 post.)

April’s special dinner is modeled on the rangers’ dinner in the wild. Tolkien doesn’t describe the meal, but β€œberry, root, and herb” as well as hunting is mentioned, so that’s what Mr. E used in his interpretation. We had herb-stuffed Cornish hens and root vegetables cooked on open fire followed by a selection of berries with mint.

Mr. E would have wanted a game bird, but we only have access to a limited selection. He decided that Cornish hens are uncommon enough to pass for wild fowl. He stuffed them with scallion, sage, and rosemary and basted them with white wine and honey. Then they were cooked in the fireplace (because it was too wet to cook outside) over onions, potato, carrots, and turnips.

Cooking on Open Fire

We had the hens over a bed of greens and herbs. The drippings from the bird and the vegetables made for very good sauce for the meat.

Hens over Greens

Our dessert consisted of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries with mint leaves.

Berry Mint Mix

All in all, the meal is a lot fancier than you would really cook camping out in the woods, but the kinds of ingredients could well be found wild in nature. And it was delicious!

I don’t know when we will get around to our May dinner; it’s halfway through May already and we just had the April one. Taking up an old hobby again has meant tighter schedules for us this spring, but it’s well worth it.

And speaking of schedules, I’ll be concentrating on other projects for the rest of the month. I’ll be back in June. In the mean time, have a good one!

Special Dinner: September 2011

September 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

Once a month, Mr. E cooks something a little fancier than our regular fare, and I set the table.

Sept 2011 Dinner

This month, we had carrot beet soup with a dash of ginger followed by cabbage rolls and potato wedges with rosemary mint gravy. We finished with a mouth-watering peach custard pie.

Peach Custard Pie

Very delicious!

I kept the table setting simple…

Sept 2011 Setting

Sept 2011 Setting Centerpiece

…because when I went out to pick fresh flowers for the table, I was interrupted by wasps. Luckily I was only stung once. That was enough to shake me, though.

Sept 2011 Centerpiece

The bouquet is made with boneset. The mild scent is quite pleasant. It reminds me of something. Elderberry, perhaps?

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