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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year in Review 2009

It's been a little over a year since the very first post on Loomis Living. It was an exciting year as we settled into our new home and lifestyle.

In January, we planted the upper orchard. 16 trees and hours of digging later, the orchard was taking shape. These trees will bear the fruit of our future, I just wish I knew how long we will have to wait.

February brought life and near death of the seedlings for our first garden. It was this month that marked the groundbreaking of our Mandarin Grove. We are now up to 11 Owari Satsuma trees.

March was a busy month. I tried my hand a making homemade bread for the first time. Ironically, it started with an Amish Friendship Bread starter that I used in a different way. We planted a patch of blueberries and added 4 fuzzy friends to our household.

April brought a new home for the chickens as they developed feathers and personality. It also was the long awaited month when we planted the garden.

In May, fruit and vegetables were the main event. From tiny mandarins to tomatoes and pumpkins, this month was filled with excitement every time I walked around the yard. Our Meyer Lemons were used to make a wonderful lemon cake for Mother's Day and the chickens received a new feeder and waterer.

June was a month for retirement, chicken runs, and peppers. The flowers were out in all their glorious color and there was an epic battle with earwigs after they threatened our crops.

July brought us our first tomato. We made salsa with the bounty from our garden and enjoyed the yard in bloom.

In August, the chickens laid their first eggs. There was also an abundance of peppers so I made some mustard. Halloween came early and our first crop of pumpkins was harvested.

September was a month of hungry deer and the citrus trees were their meal. We added protection around the trees this month. I also tried my hand at making granola.

October was a quiet month as we continued to miss our chickens. I rediscovered rice cooker paella and have served it many times since.

November had beautiful weather and sparked a new heuchera garden and succulent container planting. I also enjoyed the many fall blooms and celebrating Thanksgiving with our families.

December was a month for making and eating all sorts of food. We had a wonderful time celebrating with our family and friends. We even had snow!

As 2009 draws to a close, I look forward to 2010 and all that it holds. Wishing you and yours a safe and happy new year from Loomis.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Garlic Studded Rosemary Lamb

An unexpected surprise greeted me when I opened the refrigerator the other night - it was a leg of lamb. Lamb is not one of my favorite dishes, but I thought I would make the best of it. My husband usually prepares the lamb, but since he was sick, it was up to me. Taking a cue from his usual process, I prepared the lamb with my own style.

3-4 pound leg of lamb
2 heads of garlic, peeled and separated into cloves
1/2 cup rosemary needles
olive oil
black pepper

1. Unwrap the lamb and place in the pot. I used a 6 quart dutch oven.
2. Using a paring knife, poke a hole in the lamb and insert a clove of garlic into the hole.
3. Repeat step 2 until all the garlic is used and the lamb is has garlic all around.
4. Drizzle olive oil over the lamb, making sure all sides are covered.
5. Sprinkle the rosemary and pepper over the lamb
6. Rub the surface to ensure the rosemary and pepper thoroughly coat the meat.
7. Cover and put in the refrigerator until ready to use. I stored the lamb overnight before cooking.
8. When ready to cook, place dutch oven on stove top over medium heat.
9. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
10. Brown the lamb on all sides.
11. Cover and place in the oven.
12. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F. This is about 10 minutes a pound for medium-rare.
13. Remove from oven and let rest before carving.

Our lamb rested in the covered dutch oven for almost an hour after removing it from the oven. It continued to cook and was medium when carved. Even though it rested longer than I anticipated, it was still very good. I ate it plain without any mint jelly and the flavor was mild and the meat tender.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009, Unwrapped

First off, I hope your Christmas was everything you imagined and more. We have had the pleasure of celebrating for the past two days with our families. The celebrations were relaxing and fun. Unfortunately, my dear husband was sick so he was unable to enjoy the celebrations in their entirety.

This is one of the four beautiful trees my parents had at their house. I helped them decorate it and I take responsibility for the ton of lights! I decided to adopt it this year since our Christmas tree faced several challenges. We bought a small potted lemon cypress and I decorated it with lights. However, the lights were removed and used to keep two of our citrus trees warm during the cold spell we had earlier this month. A few days later the pot started showing some white fuzzy stuff, so outside it went. Maybe we'll have better luck next year.

We enjoyed some fantastic food this holiday season. My mom's prime rib was the best!!! I was pleasantly surprised with the lamb I cooked for Christmas Eve. I was the tastiest I have had in a long time. The sweet potato pie was also a nice addition.

To wrap up this Christmas post, I would like to mention that I am grateful for the many blessings we have experienced this season and the blessings still to come. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Apple Cider Glazed Turkey

I tried this recipe for the first time in 2003, after seeing it in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. It is one of my husband's favorites. He requests it every Thanksgiving. This year he picked out a 19 lb turkey and couldn't wait to get it carved.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Buttery Cider Glazed Turkey:

19 lb turkey
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 large onion, peeled and cut into wedges
2 medium baking apples, cored and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh apple cider
5 sticks cinnamon (about 3 inch lengths) broken
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/3 cup all purpose flour
Chicken broth

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. Rinse turkey well and pat dry with paper towels
3. Season inside cavity with pepper. Rub 1 of the halved garlic cloves on the inside of the cavity
4. Place the garlic cloves, onion, and first apple in the cavity
5. Pull turkey skin to back and fasten with skewer
6. Tuck the drumsticks under the band. Twist wing tips under back
7. Brush turkey with 2 tablespoons melted butter and season with pepper
8. Place bird, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
9. Insert meat thermometer into center of an inside thigh muscle without letting it touch bone.

10. Cover bird loosely with foil and roast until thermometer measures 160°
11. Cut band of skin or string

Basting mixture
12. Once the turkey reaches 140°, bring apple cider and cinnamon sticks to boiling
13. Reduce heat and boil steadily for about 30 minutes or cider is reduced to about 2/3 cup
14. Add the 1/3 cup butter, brown sugar, and thyme
15. Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved
16. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks

Final Roast
17. Remove foil from turkey. Baste turkey with cider mixture
18. Continue roasting uncovered until thermometer reads 180°, basting every 10 min
19. Remove turkey from oven and discard cavity ingredients
20. Cover with foil and let stand 15-20 minutes before carving

Holiday Recipes '09

From Thanksgiving, where we hosted our families for dinner, to today when we will start our Christmas celebrations, it's been a season for family, fun, and food! I have enjoyed trying many new recipes this year. Here is a summary of our holiday recipes for 2009.

Old Fashion Cornbread Dressing with homemade cornbread (no bacon)
Whole Cranberry Sauce


Many of these recipes came from one of my favorite blogs, Chickens in the Road. I also relied on The Pioneer Woman for recipes and inspiration. I am looking forward to next year and many new recipes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chocolate Nut Cereal Cookies

'Tis the season for another holiday dessert to share. Yesterday, I decided to experiment again with some melted chocolate over cereal and nuts. This recipe is a combination of ingredients we had in the pantry.

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups Kashi Go Lean cereal
1 cup chopped True North Pecan Almond Peanut clusters
2 tablespoons Trade Joe's unsalted natural peanut butter

1. Start melting the chocolate. There are various methods to melt chocolate. We have the chocolate melter, so I just dumped the whole bag of chips and turned it on.

2. While the chocolate is melting, mix the cereal and nuts in a mixing bowl.

3. Stir the cocoa powder and peanut butter into the melting chocolate.

4. Once the chocolate is smooth, pour it into the mixing bowl. Stir until all the cereal is coated.

5. Pour the chocolate cereal mixture into a greased 9x13 glass dish and chill until firm

6. Cut into squares and serve.

These cookies were easy to make and didn't require the oven. The extra cocoa powder gives them a rich chocolate flavor, almost like dark chocolate. An added benefit is that the Kashi cereal is healthy, so having an extra piece isn't too naughty.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sweet Potato Cookies with Orange Glaze

Friday, I made roasted sweet potatoes/yams for a work party. There were some leftover potatoes so I decided to use them to make cookies. I based the cookies loosely off this recipe, omitting some ingredients since they were already in the roasted sweet potatoes.

1-2 cups seasoned mashed sweet potatoes (these were the leftovers)
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup raisins
1. Mash the sweet potatoes
2. Add the eggs and milk to the potatoes and mix until blended
3. Add the flour (I sifted it), baking powder, sugar, and oatmeal and mix
4. Add the raisins
5. Drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet
6. Cook for 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven
7. Remove from oven and let cool

3/4 cup of powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons orange juice
1. Mix the orange juice in to the powdered sugar
2. Adjust amounts as needed until the desired consistency is reached
3. Drizzle over cooled cookies

These cookies were really good. My husband, who doesn't like yams, actually liked the cookies. It's a good thing that I wrote down the recipe as I went along. I will definitely be making these again.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Overnight, a blanket of snow covered the landscape. This was the first view I saw when I looked outside.
First stop was to check the chickens. The chicken run had sustained some damage but it should be repairable since we didn't glue the joints.

The chickens were ok, but they seemed a little confused about the snow.

Next stop was the upper orchard. It was surprising how much snow had fallen. We decided to shake it off the branches so they wouldn't break under the weight.

Once all the trees were clear, we headed doen the hill to tent city, aka the Mandarin grove. Since all the trees are young, we put lights and sheets over them. The deer protection came in handy to make little tents over each tree. I was able to find this lovely array of sheets at the local Goodwill store.

As the day grew brighter, the scenes were even more beautiful. This is a view down our street.

There continues to be a mixture of rain and snow this morning and there is freeze warning tonight. Winter has officially arrived.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Pulp

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I decided to roast some of the pumpkins I'd cured from the garden this summer. I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do with the pumpkin, but I proceeded to roast anyway. I searched online for different methods and ended up using this process:

1. Wash the outside of the pumpkins
2. Slice in half and cut out the stem
3. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff
4. Place pumpkins with the cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
6. Bake the pumpkins face down for about 10 minutes and flip
7. Continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes or until the flesh is soft.

8. Let the pumpkins cool to the touch, about 10 minutes
9. Scrape the softened pulp out of the shell and discard the skin
10. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or freeze.

The 3 small pumpkins I roasted yielded 4 cups of pulp.

In general the process was fairly simple. Scraping the seeds and strings from the pumpkin shells was the most difficult step. I took an extra step of saving the pumpkin seeds. Separating the seeds from the strings was pretty messy, but they came in handy as a quick snack before our pre-Thanksgiving dinner. I still have some pumpkins left, so it looks like I will be roasting again soon.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Mandarin Time

It started with our grove...
Next came the blossoms...
Then tiny, tiny fruit...
and finally, Mandarins!
This is one of the 13 Mandarins we grew this year. At least we are averaging a little more than 1 per tree.
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