A Chance to Redeem Ourselves

If you're a new reader to my blog, I want to fill you in on something:  Last summer Tim and I tried to garden, and failed miserably.  You are welcome to go back and read all about it (the evidence is filed away under the Gardening tag), but even six months later, the disappointment lingers with me.

Even without our own garden, we were proactive during summer, stocking up on produce from the farmers market and local groceries.  Now that summer's juicy tomatoes are not around, we have enjoyed the fresh, bright flavor of our homemade tomato sauce.  In fact, we only have a single pint remaining.  When I pulled it out of our deep freeze this morning, I looked at Tim and said, "Next summer we are going to make twice as much sauce."  He whole-heartedly agreed. 

I also undertook some ambitious (aka time consuming) canning projects including the Zesty Salsa recipe I saw demonstrated at the Ball Canning Luncheon that I attended in July at Local 127.  It is the freshest salsa I've ever had from a jar.  

In early August we got a great deal on bulk peaches at Jungle Jim's.  Using several recipes from the Ball Blue Book we preserved nearly 15lbs of peaches, reserving the rest for a few desserts and afternoon snacks. 

In our deep freeze we have peach pie filling and peaches packed with sugar.  It's great to have a back-stock of sweet, juicy fruit when you have a husband with a serious sweet tooth. 

In my opinion, the greatest thing we made from these peaches was Peach Butter.  It has a thick, jammy texture and a slightly spiced peach flavor.  On a slice of whole wheat toast it is a reminder of the hard work (and satisfaction) associated with preserving summer food.  I nearly forgot we had canned peach butter until I was digging through a closet looking for something else and stumbled upon our quietly aging stash. 

While I sit typing this with chilly fingertips and a warm dog across my lap, it's nice to have this reminder that summer will come--inevitably--and we're going to have a chance to redeem ourselves with a new garden and three times as many preserved food items for next winter.  It's something I very much look forward to. 


A Renewal

I'll admit I've been a little distant from my blog. 

And I don't want you to think that I'm not still here, reading blogs and discovering new sites, cooking up a storm, and feeding my hungry husband--because I am.  I've kind of enjoyed this mini hiatus from my blog and am here to tell you that it can be very freeing to just let go of any expectations that I might think someone else has of me and this little site. 

Frankly, I am the boss of my blog, and as CEO, CFO, COO, and CIO of this little operation here, I gave myself as many sick days, personal days, mental health days and vacation days as I may have needed. 

Since taking this time off, I feel renewed in my excited about food.  I'm going to do a little renovating of the site to gear up for winter and spring (oh Spring, you are getting so near!).  I've cooked some dishes and baked some goods I'd like to share with you, and I hope that you'll continue to engage in a dialogue about food, gardening, and life with me as we take on 2011 together. 


The Christmas Mouse

You know how people say things come in three's?  Well, the Christmas Mouse has one-upped those people and has now reared it's creepy, cute, adorable head in my life four times in the past few years.  I feel that the entire story needs to be told in order for you to understand this recurrence of an unappreciated rodent. 

(As a precurser, I will say that the third incarnation of the Christmas Mouse is edible, thus appropriate to be mentioned on my food blog, but not in the road-kill sort of way.)

First, there was the store in the Outer Banks called The Christmas Mouse:  a year-round Christmas shop filled to the brim with holiday cheer.  While browsing the store, we decided to start a family tradition of buying a Christmas ornament to commemorate our trips together. 

Then there was the laundry incident.  A mouse crawled beneath a pile of dirty laundry in our old apartment's basement and was already dead when I found him.  Tim began calling referring to it as the Christmas mouse; I suppose because it was like a gift for me at the bottom of the dirty towels. 

And this year when Tim and I went to my parent's house to decorate sugar cookies, my mom showed me her latest edible creation:

A chocolate mouse made from cherries, almonds and Hershey's kisses.  Her friend (and my former science teacher) had made them and my mom thought they were so cute that she made a batch, too.  Tim and I looked at each other and immediately agreed that it was the Christmas Mouse once again showing up in our lives. 

To assemble a Christmas Mouse, she dipped the cherries in melted chocolate and used the warm chocolate as adhesive to attach the head (a Hershey kiss) and the ears (sliced almonds).  The eyes and nose were just little dabs of melted chocolate and the tail is the cherry stem. 

I thought the Christmas Mouse had come full circle, but he wasn't done.  This year, Tim and I went to a Christmas Eve service at the church where we got married, but we didn't realize that the 4:00 p.m. service was designed for children, complete with a puppet show starring Michael, a (Christmas) mouse who visited baby Jesus. 

It was the best Christmas Eve service I've ever been to.