Monday, November 29, 2010

I have a confession to make. I have been using treats to train the boys to come in from the pastures whenever I go out to the barn. Most of the time, it is purely for their benefit. They get to chow down on their apples and carrots and don't have a care in the world. Boo's treats But sometimes... when I get them in the catch pen, we work on haltering or leading or (gasp!) herd management chores like taking temps or even (gross!) fecal samples or getting shots. Boo If your 'pacas aren't trained to come in for some kind of signal, if they run away whenever they see a hooman in their territory, it's awfully, awfully hard to get them into an area where you can safely contain and work with them. They were only eating pasture when they arrived here, no grain, no hay. So they never voluntarily came into the barn or the catch pen area before. But apples, apples have lured them in. At first, only Honeywiese was brave enough to check out the white dog bowl with apple chunks in it. The boys But over time, even Boo got in on it. And now, he is the first one to stand at the gate waiting to be let in. We may, however, have to work on curbing his enthusiasm. He's getting a little spitty around the treat bowl. C-baby found out first-hand yesterday, when she got a carrot-chunk hair spray. Manners are always required, even if you are an alpaca. Boo will soon learn that spitting will cost him his treats altogether. And then, you know what he'll say... Boo hoo! "Boo-hoo!!!" Sorry. I'm a sucker for a bad pun. Cheers!
What a busy weekend. Pappa Bear and I started cooking Sunday around 8am and the last guests left our house around 10pm last night. Needless to say, I don't want to do much of anything today. I'm beat. Dead. Tired. Despite my weariness, I would like to show you some pics of PB cooking and of the nifty little antique disk tiller my father brought down for us, an anniversary present. I'm sure this is not a common item to have on one's wish list, but we are so excited as we will be able to rehab the pastures here next spring - and other pastures in our future wherever we finally settle down. Here, Pappa Bear trusses the turkey. I loved the soft light coming in the windows. Pappa Bear trusses the turkey Final touches before it went into the oven. Whenever PB concentrates, you can see the furrow between his brows. finishing touches A new recipe for sweet potatoes with a caramel topping. Scrumptious! PB's sweet potatoes The antique disk tiller. Dad got this when it was already an antique, over 40 years ago when he was building my parents' house on Lake Superior, to clear the lawn areas. It has sat outside for over 70 years and is not rusting. Why don't they make things like this anymore? Dad had loaded it up on his trailer all by himself. We wondered how he got it on, and how we were going to get it off again, when we noticed his ratchet winch. He is so clever. unloading the disk All hooked up now and ready to roll over to its parking spot. Notice the brand new plow on the ATV? PB installed that over the long weekend also. rollin' along The boys were watching with curiosity as PB parked the disk. Happy Thanksgiving from Zoey and all of us! Zoey says Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The temps hovered around 10 degrees farenheit this morning with a wind chill of minus 4, so I bundled up in my Carhartt clothing to head out and check on the boys. For the first time since their arrival, I find them not only hanging out in the barn, but Boo was actually cushed (lying down) and did not jump up and run out of the barn when I stepped inside. After refreshing their hay troughs, I headed back to the house, but when I saw Honeywiese come out of the barn and lie down in the sun that hasn't shown much in over a week, I decided to grab my camera and head back outside for a few pics. I wonder if he is appreciating sunshine after so many dark days, as I am? It sure looks like it. Honeywiese in the sunshine Stay warm friends!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm not normally a food blogger. Except for one other post, How Veggies Stole My Blog, I do not normally post about recipes or food. However, I felt I needed to make this one exception. Because tomorrow, Shauna James Ahern, most commonly known among food blog readers and writers as Gluten-Free Girl, will be choosing at random a winner out of all the folks who try making a gluten-free recipe this weekend and post a comment on her Thanksgiving blog. The winner will receive such goodies as her cookbook, a variety of baking tools, specialty gluten-free flours, and a Kitchen Aid mixer. Since Pappa Bear and I were going to whip up a batch of gluten-free lefse in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner next Sunday anyway, I thought, "what the heck," kill two birds with one stone. Might as well snap a photo or two in the process and enter the contest. Judging by the way PB normally ogles his way through every kitchen store we've ever been in, I'm sure we would make good use of any baking supplies that might happen to chance our way. So, why gluten-free lefse, of all things? Several reasons.
  1. We're Scandinavian. (Well, I am, and PB is by marriage to me, just like I am Irish by marriage to him).
  2. Scandinavians in my family love love love lefse. Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without lefse.
  3. Lefse uses, in addition to a bunch of potatoes, a full cup of flour to make everything stick together and fry up in its luscious deliciousness.
  4. PB recently learned he has a wheat sensitivity. He does not become deathly ill if he eats wheat, and he can have all other types of gluten without a problem. But he's been advised to try to cut back on wheat products.
  5. My sister along with her daughter Sophia (my Goddaughter, in fact) are both gluten intolerant. I can't stand the thought of these guests being left out of the lefse party.
So for the past five or so years that we've been hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my extended family, we have had to get creative around offering dishes for a variety of dietary needs. (In addition to the gluten issue, we have vegetarians, dairy-free, diabetic/sugar sensitive and a nephew with such extreme sensitivities to egg/nut/dairy that my sister basically brings all his food with whenever they travel).

This is the third year we're making gluten-free lefse. You'd think we'd be pros by now, but sadly, there is one obstacle in the process - the flour. Two years ago, we used a gluten-free flour we found in bulk at our local healthy foods grocery store and made a small batch of lefse, and although it was harder to roll out without sticking and tearing, we managed to eek out enough of them that my sister and niece, who didn't know we were experimenting, were quite pleasantly surprised by the treat.

Last year, unfortunately, the flour brand had changed, and the batch failed miserably. We didn't have time to round up a different flour and try it again. I was very disappointed. I'm sure they were, too, although too polite to say so. So this year, armed with the memory of last year's failure, we bought TWO kinds of gluen-free flour. We mixed up a half batch of lefse Sat., using an all-purpose no-name brand from the bulk bins. It worked, they rolled out, the fried up, but they didn't taste very "lefse-y." We mixed together another batch with the other flour and rolled them into balls, sticking them in the fridge to cool around 7:15pm, planning on frying them up, too.

 Then I laid down on the couch as my back had been hurting badly all evening. I took a 3-hour nap, followed directly by an 8-hour night's sleep. Needless to say, the lefse balls remained in the fridge until tonight, when we fired up the grill again and finished the task, this time using Bob's Red Mill all-purpose flour. It has a more yellow-ish tint than the other flour we tried, but it feels like regular flour and it mixed up well and rolled out just fine.

You can't roll gluten-free lefse as thin as normal lefse. But that didn't deter us. And it fried up just beautifully. But the best part was, it even tasted like lefse. Maybe not exactly, but much much closer than the other flour we tried. And even better, I think, than the batch we had two years ago. So, here, without any further ado, is the recipe we used - my mother's recipe - substituting GF flour for the regular flour in a ratio of 1:1 Lefse (using instant potatoes) Mix: 3 C boiling water 2 tsp salt 2 tsp sugar 8 Tbl butter (1 stick) Add: 1/4 C cream (we use either Soy or Coconut creamer, regular flavor) Stir In: 3 C instant potatoe flakes Cool the dough to room temperature, then add 1 C flour and 1/2 Tsp baking powder. Form into balls (larger than golf, maybe pool cue size). Try not to fold the dough over during the ball-making process.

The fewer cracks and crevices you have in the rolled ball, the better the ball will roll out into a circle. The more you can form it into a ball like you would a snowball, the better it will shape during rolling out. This recipe will make about 20 balls. Put on a plate and chill in the fridge to cool. (Can cool overnight). If leaving overnight I like to cover them to keep them from drying out too much. It should go without saying that if you are making GF lefse AND regular lefse the same day, or even in the same household on different days, you need to make the GF first, and make sure your grill and all of your utinsels and cloth items (pastry cloth, rolling pin sleeve, apron, towels, etc.) have been thoroughly washed and NOT used on any gluten containing items.

 Before heating your grill or rolling out lefse balls, prepare your lefse cooling station by taking two bath towels and laying them one on top of the other, completely opened up. Top them with a flour-sack kitchen towel. You now have a stack of three towells, all open, all one on top of the other. Fold the entire stack in half once, with the kitchen towel on the very inside. Lay the folded stack on the kitchen counter near your lefse grill. When the lefse comes off the grill, you will open up the top 3 layers of the folded stack and lay the lefse down along the crease of the kitchen towel, still in half, then cover it back up. When done correctly, it will be sandwiched with the kitchen towel on both sides of it. Each lefse you will place exactly right on top of the first one. The steam heat will soften up the crispy edges. The entire batch will cool in this stack of towels before you put them away. Heat your lefse grill (we use a Bethany #730 aluminum grill to approximately 450 degrees. You can fry them on any heat between 400-500, personal preference dictating. We like it around 450 or slightly higher - it cooks slow enough for the lefse ball roller to get the next one prepared before the first one is off the grill.
   lefse tools Before starting to roll out your lefse ball, flour your hands and flatten the ball slightly between your plams - using your thumbs to keep the edges from cracking as you flatten it a bit (push the edges back together with your thumbs - you'll see the little cracks forming as you flatten). You want as few cracks as possible, as these will lengthen out into very odd shaped edges that will tend to rip when you move the lefe onto the grill. See the odd shaped edges below? That's an example from before we figured out the "flatten slightly and push the edges back before rolling out" trick).
   lefse rolling Once the ball is flattened to about palm-of-the-hand thick, place it on the liberally floured pastry board (we use a Bethany Pastry Board and Cloth Set #500) and using a rolling pin fitted with a sleeve (also floured), roll the lefse out to approximately 10-11" diameter. I would say "circle" here but chances are your lefse will not be an exact circle. That's OK. Once rolled, using a grooved lefse rolling pin, ever so gently, starting in the middle of the lefse each time (to avoid having the lefse edges stick to the rolling pin and roll up in it), run the rolling pin out to the edges in two different directions, leaving a grid of grooves on the lefse surface. This will help it to fry up nicely. Using a lefse turning stick, slide it under the middle of the lefse carefully (if you haven't liberally floured the pastry board cloth, the middle will tend to stick to the cloth) and gently lift it from the board, transferring it onto the grill by gently laying down one edge first, then rolling the stick along the rill as you unroll the lefse onto the grill. Let it fry on one side until you can see bubbles. If you lift up one edge (again using the lefse turning stick) you should see spots turning brown, but not too dark! lefse frying Using the stick again, sliding it under the middle, gently lift it off the grill and using the same method as before, lay one edge down then roll the stick along as you lay down (unrolling) the rest. There's no magic in knowing when the other side is done - just peek until it looks lightly browned. If large bubbles start to rise up in the dough while frying the second side, poke them to deflate them, or use your stick to gently tap them back down. Check the under side and when gently browning, using the stick again, move the lefse off the grill and into the middle of the stack of towels. done! Liberally flour the pastry cloth and rolling pin sleeve again (and your hands) and start the next ball. If you had one stick to the cloth last time, scrape any dough off the board with a hard flat edged item, then re-flour liberally. It's customary to get "cook's taste" when going to all this work, so don't feel bad if a lefse rips badly during the rolling or transferring - this is the cook's opportunity to taste a fresh one! To eat, I simply like them smeared with real butter. Pappa Bear likes to sprinkle them with cinnamon/sugar. After Thanksgiving I often eat them with leftovers rolled up inside - riced potatoes, stuffing and turkey! Oh, and if you're wondering what was on Pappa Bear's apron, here's a close up. It's my favorite apron. lookin' pretty Cheers!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bighorn Mountains The view from the walking trail overlooking Sheridan and the Bighorn Mountains. On the drive home, we stopped off in Rapid City to visit friends and opted for a quick visit to Chapel in the Hills, a Norwegian Stavkirk (stave church) where Pappa B and I were married over eight years ago. It looks exactly as we remembered. I love this gift shop building. We want to build a chicken coop like this some day. Just a wee bit smaller. A very large flock of turkeys were wandering the steps of the church, and we startled a mule deer buck who headed up the steep hill behind the church just behind the turkeys. We had perfect roads all the way home. Which was good, because the morning after we arrived safely back in MN, the weather was drastically different.
I grew up in the midwest far from the Wild West. But that never stopped me from having fantasies of horses, cowboys and indians. The woods around our home became a fertile playground for the imagination as I imagined I was a leather-clad indian girl walking silently through the forest, in search of whatever it was little indian girls search for in the woods. Perhaps that would explain why I've always had a soft-spot for cowboys. And married a man from WY, whose grandfather, who had passed away before I met the family, was a cowboy. Despite this connection, I had never actually met a real living cowboy. Until last summer, when we visited Sheridan, WY during the Elk's Youth Rodeo, which Pappa Bear's parents have been organizing for the past twenty years. Their good friends, Steve & Linda Cox, along with the Cox's son T.J. and his partner Kelly run Cox Cattle Company. T.J. runs cattle, trains horses, builds fences and also trains Border Collies while Kelly teaches Western and English riding. The Coxes were all at the rodeo, and I got to watch T.J. herding cattle for the rodeo events using his dogs. I was transfixed. So before our journey to Sheridan last week I asked Pappa Bear's father if he could arrange a visit to the Cox ranch, since I had never visited a working cattle ranch. It turns out all the cattle have been moved off the mountain and the ones that are being shipped have shipped by this time of the fall, so there was nothing much happening at the ranch, cattle-wise. Despite this, Bob managed to talk Kelly into taking me horseback riding. Although it might have been close to 20 years since I sat astride a horse, I was not going to let an opportunity to ride around the foothills near the Bighorn Mountains pass me by. The weather, which had been balmy 70's for the weekend, had dropped sharply in temperature and a cool wind was blowing the day scheduled for the ride. But it did not rain or snow, so we headed out past Wyarno, WY towards the Cox ranch. The scenery on the drive out was breathtaking. The sky was mostly cloudy but occassionally the sun peeked through a crack and lit up the grass covered hills like gold. Here and there a ranch sat tucked in the valleys between the grassy hills, and occassionaly we saw groups of black Angus cattle grazing. Too soon, we had arrived and it was time to catch the horses and lead them over to the trailer where we would groom them before the ride. Kelly caught Vegas first, the female she'd be riding, then we crossed the corral to halter T.J.'s roping horse, a 10-year old male which would be my companion. Kelly explained how things would go as we walked them over to the trailer, where we were greeted by Kokita. Kokita After grooming and getting saddles and bridles on, then a brief time in the round corral getting used to signals and turns, we were ready to head out into the hills, accompanied again by Kokita, who bounded ahead or alongside of us the entire ride. The rest of the ride was, in a word, incredible. I wish I had more pictures. I was reining one-handed, but dared not fiddle with my camera with my free hand lest I get distracted and give the wrong signals to my horse. My horse was calm and steady, his only mischievous behavior was he liked to trot UPHILL. Or maybe I sat too far forward on the uphill and gave him the wrong signals. More likely. At any rate, it was a lovely, lovely ride. We were chilly by the end of it all, and after warming up by a wood fire inside the house, I asked Kelly if we could peek at their new litter of puppies, just one day old, born to first-time mom Tack. Oh, my. Border Collie pups It would have been tempting to slip one into my pocket, were it not for the fact that they were not even close to being weaned yet. And I think that Tack, and T.J., would have definitely noticed. The ride back into Wyarno where my ride was meeting us was pleasant with the heater cranked and our fingers thawing out finally as we finished chatting and I thanked Kelly for braving the cold and patiently sharing her love of horses with me. Until our ride that day, thoughts of Wyoming and the Wild West for me have always been accompanied by a vague longing for a "real" western experience. I might be a novice on a horse, but Kelly never made me feel that way, and the ride at their ranch made it all seem very, very real to me at last.

Monday, November 8, 2010

One of my favorite things to do whenever we visit Pappa Bear's folks in Sheridan is to walk over to Kendrick Park and watch the buffalo and elk (which are enclosed inside a very tall chain link fencing topped with barbed wire). Kendrick Park bull elk Kendrick Park bull elk Today both herds were hanging out near the hay at the bottom of the park and close enough to the fence that even with the poor zoom on my camera I could get a decent shot. Kendrick Park bison Kendrick Park cow elk I'm always awestruck when I watch these animals. So powerful, so beautiful. Amazing. Grace. Amen.
Pappa Bear and I are visiting his folks in Sheridan, WY this week, to celebrate his parents' 40th wedding anniversary. While we're here we are enjoying a plethora of adorable dogs. Like his mom's new puppy, Belle. Belle And his sister's dog, Jazmine, who now officially belongs to PB's dad. Jazmine And yesterday we had pupplies galore, when their neighbor's son brought over his two Porkie puppies (or Yorki-poo, but I like Porkie personally), Kingston & Peach. Peach These little balls of fluff were endlessly fascinating to Belle, who had energy to burn. And I would be completely remiss if I didn't also mention Pepper, the sweetest German Shepherd I've met. Her exuberance and size had to be tamed around the smaller dogs. Pepper Puppy Pandamonium!
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