Thursday, December 25, 2008

Long Ago Christmas Day Memories

Sleigh Team Draft Horses
Draft Horse with Alpaca in Maine
While I was looking out over the sun-dappled snowy landscape across the river today, I found myself blessed with a short, happy mental journey back to a seemingly simpler time in my boyhood days on the farm. After Christmas morning milking and other chores were done and a hearty breakfast of the best the farm had to offer, we would all gather around the tree in the sitting room. The tree, in all it's glory, lovingly adorned with mostly homemade decorations, sheltered the few offerings beneath its full lower branches. Perhaps that the gifts were few, but well thought out by the giver, made each one seem that much more precious to us. In my case, the biggest treat was to be found in the red wool sock hung on the fireplace mantle off to the side, a big juicy orange! On a really good year it was often accompanied by a grapefruit. These were both hard to come by in our winter markets and Uncle 'F' would attempt to special order them for his truck garden store in the little city.
After opening the usual array of wool socks, gum rubber boots for school, wool pants, and perhaps a scarf or two and assorted undergarments, I'd be allowed to go visit friends on the nearby farms for a bit. This was always a super way to spend the afternoon. First would come getting one or two of the draft horses fitted to haul either the small sleigh or the logging sled, then off over the 'snow lanes' to the other homes. 'Snow lanes', as we called them, were simply the pasture, logging, and other rude farm pathways that we used year around. In winter a large wooden 'roller' would be drawn over the lanes to pack the snow into a frozen 'roadway' for sleds, toboggans, sleighs, and other winter equipment.
The visits weren't lengthy, and were mostly intended to distribute treats ranging from pies to baskets of apples, to our closest neighbors. While I was out making my rounds, other kids & young adults from the other farms would be doing likewise and including a stop at our place. Often an adult wanting to visit a bit would hitch a ride from one of us to another farm and return with a different traveler later in the day who was headed toward their home.
The nicest thing about this little tradition was that it gave everyone a chance to see how their neighbors and friends were coping with the harsh winter weather and see if anyone was running low on anything. If a need was seen, a return trip, usually by an adult couple, at a later time would give all a reason for another visiting period and an opportunity to exchange needed items with others. This visit was normally done New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, depending on folks' availability.
After the visits were done Christmas Day, the horses tended to, chores done, milking over, firewood restocked in the pantry, and vehicles tucked into the barn, we'd have a nice dinner followed by listening to Uncle 'Rs' big battery powered radio as it related rousing stories of the adventures of various radio heroes or comic families of the day. Then, full of hot chocolate, another rare treat, and sated by the events of the day it was off to bury myself under a pile of very old, very warm quilts. Hope you all had a great day, we did here. Until next time, take care.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Alternative Desserts For Holiday Meals

Hi again folks. I'm thinking of food (as usual) and thought if some of you are going to try alternative dinners, then perhaps I could share a couple alternative dessert ideas from Amy Bouchard and another from a local eatery. Bon appetit!
The First One From Amy
BOSTON CREAM PIECAKE: 1 3/4 cups sugar 1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup) softened 2 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla 3 cups cake flour 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/4 cup milk
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8" or 9" round cake pans. Mix sugar, butter, eggs & vanilla until fluffy. Beat in flour, baking powder, salt & milk until well blended. Pour evenly into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.
CREAM FILLING INGREDIENTS: 1 box instant vanilla pudding 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream 1/2 cup confectioners sugar 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup sour cream
DIRECTIONS: Beat all ingredients together with an electric mixer until fluffy (about double in size).
CHOCOLATE GANACHE: INGREDIENTS:6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (I like to use the squares) 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream 2 cups confectioners sugar
DIRECTIONS: Melt chocolate and cream together in microwave then add confectioners sugar. Whip or use hand mixer until well blended. Place the chocolate icing in the fridge to firm up. Place cream filling in the center of two cooled cakes then spread chocolate icing on top of the cake. Store in refrigerator.

Second One From The Delightful Amy

Amy Bouchard's Easy Ice Cream 1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups whipping cream

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons vanilla. Directions:

In a large mixing bowl mix together condensed milk, water, and vanilla. (Tip: Before mixing the whipping cream use a metal bowl and put in freezer for at least 15 minutes along with the beaters from your mixer as this will help the cream whip better.) Whip your whipping cream until fluffy then fold into your condensed milk. Optional:

Fold in 1 1/2 cups fresh berries, candy pieces, or chopped cookies. To make Chocolate Ice-cream:

Same as above just add 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate (melted and cooled) to the condensed milk mixer.

To make Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream: Use 2 teaspoons peppermint extract in place of vanilla, and add 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips after the whipping cream. Pour into a foil lined loaf pan or cake pan, put in freezer for 6 hours or overnight. Fun for kids: You will need small plastic container's ( 1/2 - 1cup size) larger plastic container's ( 2-3 cup size) crushed ice salt Put ice-cream mixer in small container then place the lid on tight. Put the small container in the bigger container fill with crushed ice and 1/2 cup salt. Put the lid on the bigger container and shake for 7- 10 minutes. You will have soft serve ice-cream.

From a Local Eatery

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars Makes 16 bars Mixing time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 325 degrees F. for about 30 minutes


1 1/2 cups graham cracker cookie crumbs

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2/3 cup (4 ounces) miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Cookie dough for filling:

5 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Cheesecake filling:

10 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup (2 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips


Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square pan with heavy-duty foil, letting the foil extend over the edges. Butter the foil. In a medium bowl, stir the crumbs and melted butter together until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips. Press the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake 6 minutes. Set aside. Leave the oven on at 325 degrees F.

Cookie dough:

In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium speed until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low speed and add the flour, mixing just to incorporate it. Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.


In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar on low speed just until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla, beating just to blend them in. Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust. Drop teaspoonfuls of the reserved cookie dough over the top of the batter.

Bake about 30 minutes until the top feels dry and firm and looks set if given a gentle shake.

Put the remaining 1/3 cup of chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of a double boiler). Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth. Use a teaspoon to gently drizzle thin lines of melted chocolate over the top of the bars.

Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. The chocolate topping will be set when the bars are cool.

Using the aluminum foil edges, lift the cooled bars from the pan and peel away the foil from the sides of bars. Use a large knife to cut the bars into16 pieces, wiping the knife as needed, and slide the bars off the foil. Be careful to hold the knife blade away from you when wiping it.

Serve cold or at room temperature. The bars can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

And so, until the next 'Weighing-In', ENJOY!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Alternatives To 'Roast Turkey or Ham'

While searching for tasty alternatives to the traditional 'roast' turkey or ham dinner, I mentioned my quest in an E-mail to my generous friends in Spokane, WA, George & Linda Allen (of Glacier National Park travels posted about earlier this year). They responded in their usual manner and provided me with these 3 mouth watering ideas. Thanks for sharing with us, both of you!!
George's Holiday Prime Rib
5 lbs prime rib roast, trimmed
6 or 8 cloves of garlic crushed
1/4Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp Graded fresh horseradish
1/8 Cup Fresh Rosemary
1/8 Cup Fresh Oregano
1/8 Cup Fresh Thyme
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Zest of one lemon
Make a thick paste of all ingredients, rub top and sides of the roast, chill overnight. Remove 1 hour before cooking.
Preheat oven 450F degrees. Cook for 25 minutes. Then lower temp to 350F. Cook until meat at the thickest part reads 125F for rare or 130F for medium rare.Let cool in warm place for 30-40 minutes before carving.
We serve with fresh graded horseradish and au Jus Serve with a nice Latah Creek Huckleberry d'Latah from Spokane Washington, or tall 'Bloody Marys' with Dry Fly Vodka also from Spokane, Washington.
Looks Good Enough To Eat!!
Deep Fried Turkey a la Allens
We have no precise recipe for deep fried turkey, just a few steps before doing the deed.
Put 14 lb turkey in cooker and cover with water.
Mark water level.
Remove Turkey & wipe and pat until fairly dry.
Empty water from pot.
Fill pot to high water mark with peanut or cottonseed oil.
Heat to 325F.
Inject with Cajun Garlic butter marinade. Usually can buy marinade in most supermarkets or Sporting Goods. (Or look 'online' for one of your own choosing)
Hang until excess drips off (otherwise, if wet makes pot boil over possibly causing loss of hair on arms & eyebrows as George can verify).
Just before lowering turkey into oil, turn off flame!
Slowly lower turkey into pot, cook at 275F to 300F degrees for approximately 3 minutes per pound or until thighs are 180F or breast is 170F.
Remove from oil, rest for awhile(perferably with drink in hand), then carve and dig in!!!
Safety Tips: 1. Don't try this indoors. (duh) 2. Place cooker on gravel or dirt. 3. Avoid brines containing sugar as it will burn a inedible crust onto the turkey. 4. Wear long sleeves and gloves when lowering turkey in the pot. 5. All this has been learned the hard way (arm hair and eyesbrows grow back eventually according to George)

Deep Fryer for Turkey

Prepped Turkey
Going down!!
Cooking away
Looking good!
Dinner's ready!!
Brined & Smoked Turkey Brine Preparation In a large stock pot mix: 1 gallon water 2 cups kosher salt 1 cup brown sugar 12 bay leaves tablespoon of cloves tablespoon of course ground pepper 6 or so thyme sprigs 6 or so rosemary sprigs Bring to a boil until the salt and sugar dissolves. Pour into a clean 5 gallon bucket, add ice cubes to cool brine. Place turkey in brine and add water until covered, then cover bucket and place in a cool spot for 12 to 24 hours. Place in Smoker1(1) or (2); or Weber Kettle(3) with apple wood for smoke. Each smoker or kettle is different, so cook until breast reaches temp of 170F or thighs 180F. Let rest 15 minutes before carving. We have a Bradley Smoker and I slow cook for 10 hours at 200 degrees and only use smoke for half of the time. NOTES: The black smoker is like our Bradley(1); blue one(2) is a Brinkman; the other(3) is a Weber Kettle. These are the most common types in our area. Some smokers are charcoal, propane or electric, ours is electic.
Wood Chips For Smoking
Smoker #1
Smoker #2
Weber Kettle (#3)
Well folks, after all that, I still find myself thinking about something REALLY different: Lobster!! This is prompted by the fact that the current economic crisis has caused the price of lobster to drop into a nearly give-away price range. Whatever we decide, you can bet that the 3 methods of preparing beef & turkey will be on the menu at Chez Indian in the coming year. Mostly dependent on 'snow depth'. Until next time, take care. New Holiday Fare at Chez Indian??

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Thoughts

I sincerely hope this message finds all of you well and full of the Holiday Spirit, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just the celebration of another year and the promise of the new year. Although written as a Christmas poem, this little gem seems to me to be more of an 'All Purpose' holiday message.

It's Christmas Time Again
(by Bob Lazzar-Atwood)
Put your problems on probation
Run your troubles off the track,
Throw your worries out the window
Get the monkeys off your back.
Silence all your critics
With your conscience make amends,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again.
Call a truce with those who bother you
Let all the fighting cease,
Give your differences a breather
And declare a time of peace,
Don't let angry feelings taint
The precious time you have to spend,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again.
Like some cool refreshing water
Or a gentle summer breeze,
Like a fresh bouquet of flowers,
Or the smell of autumn leaves,
It's a banquet for the spirit
Filled with family, food, and friends,
So allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again.
Thanks to all the wonderful people who have visited here, may the coming year be one in which each and every one of you finds joy, contentment, good health, and all things that make life so grand. Until next we meet, take care. Mike

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Time to Reflect

Well folks, it's that time of year when I reflect on all that's transpired in the past year. Lost some friends to the ravages of life, gained some new ones, had ill health and good health. Not rich, not needy. Family is doing well and so am I. Guess this year will go in the 'great' column of the old score book. I only have two columns that I use, 'really great' and 'pretty great' as I think any year I'm allowed to enjoy life and our beautiful 'Big Blue Marble' of a world has to be at least 'pretty great'. Thought I'd share a couple of my 'reflecting on the past year' favorite songs. Anyone of any religion or even no religion at all can relate to the sentiments and scenery as this is a truly wondrous planet we're allowed to 'borrow' for awhile. As a wise man once said, "I don't question whether or not there's a Creator, as somehow it's happened and it's all here; my question isn't who created it, but why was it created. Mankind often seems very unworthy of being the tenant of such a beautiful creation." That said, my best to any who pass by here, and may your past, present, and future years be as great as those I've enjoyed. Until next time, take care and be well.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Etched Forever in My Mind

Nestled into the farm where I grew up was a small one bedroom house and an equally small piece of land abutting the two-lane road. The property, while fairly small, was generously blessed with lilac bushes, numerous patches of various edible berries, rhubarb, and a few well situated apple, oak, and evergreen trees. In this modest dwelling lived two spinster sisters who had lost their respective fiances in the bloodbath of WWII in Europe and never married. One was a retired teacher, the other a former librarian, but that's not really relevant here. What is pertinent to this little tale, is that soon after the elder sister passed away, the younger was beset by the ravages of cancer of the stomach. In those days, care at the end of one's days was often left to the nearest relatives or close friends. This was especially true in that rural setting, as there were no nursing homes and only one small hospital. As the sisters had no living relatives, and since 'Aunt E' was a nurse in her 'pre-Uncle R' days, it was decided to move Anne into our large house, which was equipped with far more bedrooms than we had people in residence. This only took place after Anne was unable to maneuver about on her own and required multiple trips daily down the hill to the little house beside our farm pond's outlet stream to attend to her needs. When she reached this stage, the little house was cleaned up and closed up to preserve it from the ravages of the often cruel Maine winter weather. Anne remained at our place for over a year before she finally was released from the pain and suffering of her illness. A few days after the services and interment ritual at the farm's 'family cemetery', just beyond the rear-most pasture and surrounded by a low stone wall, 'Uncle R' went to see the local lawyer about the disposition of her assets. Since this had never been discussed, he was somewhat taken aback to learn that Anne had left a small savings account and all her property to himself and 'Aunt E'. As it was midsummer, and not being quite sure how they wanted to handle the matter of the little house, they spent some days thinking it over, then decided to see if there were any prospective renters or buyers who would be willing to live in a beautiful setting, albeit with no running water, electricity, phone, a wood stove for cooking and heating, and an 'outhouse' for the toilet facilities. As this seemed doubtful, the house remained closed and shuttered in the meantime. As fate would have it, the elder uncle and patriarch of a local immigrant family from Hungary, via Czechoslovakia and Canada, had recently arrived in town. His wife had died several years before and he'd stayed in the 'old country' until all the family, save for himself, were safely settled in Canada or the USA. A large number of them settled in Maine to work in the woods and paper mills. Our town alone had seven families of the clan living in 'mill houses' and employed at the paper mill and it's associated operations. As they tended to be rather blessed with many children, space in the duplex 'mill houses' was at a premium and 'Uncle Mike'(or Grand-Papa) was scouting humble accommodations suitable to his simple needs. As he had only what wealth he'd possessed after paying sufficient bribes and transportation costs to ensure the family's future in the free world, he was seeking something rather modest, since he'd be living on money collected by all the family in a 'pool' to finance his elder years. Since 'Uncle R' wanted to have the place occupied before another winter could do more damage, he agreed to rent to 'Old Mike' for the sum of five dollars per week, which was more than acceptable to all concerned. 'Uncle R' got a live-in caretaker for the place and Mike got a place that wouldn't unduly burden his family. There was an added bonus in that Mike had been a leather worker in Hungary who was skilled at the manufacture and repair of all leather goods, from horse collars to work boots, and itching to have meaningful work to occupy his hours. Another fact I learned from Mike soon after he'd moved in, was he'd been a merchant mariner for years prior to doing leather working. He'd left the sea-going life to spend more time with the family after the patriarch, his older brother, had been killed in an accident. He might have remained there in the old homestead if not for the aftermath of WWII and the growing menace of the Soviet Union. In the early 1950's he'd seen trouble on the horizon and set upon the task of removing every last one of his kinsmen and their families from the growing oppression. First they went to Czechoslovakia, then gradually, trickled their way to the New World and new lives. He himself made it out only weeks before the Russian tanks were unloosed on Hungary in response to protests against the curtailment of the few remaining liberties. All this background merely provides the basis for a series of memories that have sprung anew from the depths of my old brain after a chance meeting with one of Mike's grandchildren, now himself in his late thirties and a new resident of a nearby town where he's bought the local pharmacy. It was actually he who recognized me and my wife and approached us. That meeting, and that earlier that day a close friend had encouraged me to find more memories to post, sparked my dormant need to reminisce. All the memories that started flooding from this simple encounter with a gentle man, who was but an infant when I left to carve a life for myself, and who knew me mainly from stories his Grandfather Mike told him about the 'boy in the faded photos' on his table, seem to be of those halcyon days when I was about ten to thirteen. He'd met me during my few random visits home over the years, one of which was to be a pallbearer for Old Mike. He knew my second, present, and last wife(all one lovely woman) from her days as a nurse in the small city where he first worked after having been licensed to dispense medications. I think it was memories of the funeral of Old Mike and working with my wife that triggered his recognition. From the day 'Uncle R' brought Old Mike home to Sunday dinner, followed by Old Mike, and myself as willing helper(no milking or mucking for me THAT Sunday), departing in the old truck for the little house down below, he and I hit it off. Old Mike had a pretty good grasp of spoken English, which he said he got from years of being at sea in the company of Irish sailors. He called me either Michal or Mickey from our first hour together. It wasn't long before we had the place opened up, swept, mopped, and dusted, and the hand pump for the kitchen sink working. Mike then told me he'd be very happy if I stayed and 'assisted' him in unpacking all the curious goods still piled on the truck. Seems he knew I was more than a 'little' interested to see what treasures this man from far away thought of sufficient value to carry all the way to America with him. This turned into quite a project, in which 'Uncle R' happily allowed me to assist, as Mike gave him ten dollars to pay him for the loss of a farmhand for a few days. Seems Old Mike was a pretty sharp cookie when it came to 'reading' people and situations. The unloading of the truck went rather quickly, followed by something I'd never had before, a small glass of red wine, hard crust bread, and feta cheese his family had sent with him. Wondrous fare, his words to me then have remained with me over the years, "take just enough sip of wine to wet the lips, bread to fill the corners of your stomach, and cheese to make the other two enjoyable." Funny how things like that are forever etched into our consciousness. Probably the combination of simple, yet wonderful food, good company, and the novelty of it all, conspired to drive the thoughts home to stay. The following three days were a mix of patiently answered questions, nothing seemed off-limits, calm instruction on where and how to place things, usually culminating in a leisurely stroll around the small property with Mike pointing out things I was well aware of, but had never really 'looked at'. His deep, smooth voice, poetic accent, and seemingly endless knowledge about the world and its inhabitants would magically transport me to wherever he willed me. This proved to be the beginning of a deep friendship, especially those first three years, that endured his having to move into town with his son's family due to worsening health, my leaving to travel the world, often taking special trips to see sights he'd described to me in great detail, and countless letters exchanged between us until his death at the ripe old age of ninety-one. When I got word of his passing, I flew in a non-stop relay race from Singapore to Boston, and then by Greyhound to my hometown to take part in the funeral. The memories of many shared leisurely strolls, simple meals, and hours drowning worms, each of us wordlessly and happily aware of the other, are once more tumbling helter-skelter through my mind. Hopefully I'll be mentally agile enough to grasp a few before they disappear, and when I have them, I'll post them here, as they're too valuable to hoard for my own enjoyment. Until next time, be well and take care.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Brief Interlude...

His eyes are still not all
they need to be for lotsa reading,
so the Cheap Old Grouch
sent us a nice request. Brother Tim sent Roscoe to help us. Thanks a lot Tim!

He only drank a little (250 cases) beer and ate a buncha red hot dogs, like about $700 worth of them! Meanwhile, we searched high & low(sorta) and then And we got pretty discouragedThen Junior had a bright idea! And she gave us these nifty photos to share. Paris at night

Purple haze Mirror pool with rainbow Cherry Blossoms Japan Tundra Autumn in Germany The beauty of Antarctica Salzburg, Austria Neuschwannstein, King Ludwig's Castle in Bavaria , Germany Disney Castle View of Holland Beauty of Tibet Golden Maple Leaf Edge of Glacier Lavender Farm and Tree Lavender Farm Blue Sea Lavender at the Foot of the Mountain Comet (Make a wish) Breithorn Peak ( Switzerland ) Deep Autumn You only pass this way once, so catch as much of the Earth's beauty as you can on your way through. and we all went Until next time, take care.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

On Hiatus For a Bit Due To......

.... Mike having a little trouble with reading while
he awaits more eye operations.
Since he knows how much we worry
about his health, he has decided to
team with
some friends

in the meantime to concentrate more on his continuing quest to better the environment

by offering to sample the offerings of some
others in this growing movement to see if
their products measure up to standards.
Having noticed his keen interest in
the subject, another local entity

has also enlisted his help in the testing of a few of their fellow
competitor's products. Mike,
being the selfless environmentalist
he is, eagerly accepted the challenge.

While he's away we, the conscientious

staff that we are, will be continuing

our search for additional blogging

subjects to ensure an adequate supply

of material awaits his return. Until

then, be well & take care.

(ani erors n tiping or layout are Mike's as we all know kitties kan't tipe)