23 January 2006

Cheese, Gromit

We have gone back to purchasing yuppie cheeses from Brie & Bleu in New London. We'd not had good luck with them keeping Red Leicester in stock for us and so kind-of lost interest for a while, but then PBS did a special on the "Cheese Nun" (Mother Noella Marcellino of Regina Laudis) and fromage was constantly on my mind. Ahhh ... cheese. Is there anything better?

Anyway, not only did the nice cheese lady order some Red Leicester for us, but she had the yummy Fage yogurts we like so much (and are so hard to find) and she had a nice white Stilton with mango and ginger bits that is so good it is nearly orgasmic and thus we have been spending too much money on cheese. I guess, really, that I would not normally think it was that much, but that my cousin said "thirty dollars in cheese" in such a tone as to suggest we are complete wastrels and spendthrifts. Though, I might add, she is perfectly happy to eat our cheeses.

The mango ginger Stilton is truly excellent. The Stilton is creamy (yet crumbly) and deliciously tangy, while the ginger bits provide a little zing and the mango chunks add a sweet chewiness which makes the whole thing just indescribably delicious. If the house were on fire and I had to choose between saving The Husband or the Stilton ... well ... let us hope The Husband happened to be holding the Stilton at the time.

15 January 2006

Nature at Night

We went on a full moon walk at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center last night. It had been raining most of the day so the ground was all boggy and the moon was obscured by clouds and thus I figured for sure I would slip in the dark and twist my ankle in the mud, but it was fine. Damp and a bit squishy in parts, but fine. While it was a bit weird to be walking around in the dark woods without flashlights, it was also surprising how easy that was. Our eyes adapted to the darkness quite quickly and, even though there was no moon for most of the walk, we could see quite well.

The guide and The Husband (lucky bastard) both saw a great horned owl, but we did not see much wild life, otherwise. We did see some nice brooks and ponds, lichen-encrusted tumble-down stone walls, and velvety mossy dells, as well as "old man's beard" (which is lichen that resembles spanish moss) and one hopeful spider. There were only about seven of us who turned up for the walk and that seemed a pretty good number. You didn't feel crowded on the trail, but nor did you feel the unblinking focus of the guide.

Overall, we both enjoyed the walk and would do it again. The nature preserve conducts a moon walk every month and they're also doing a special Valentine's walk that will encompass different bits of the preserve end with a medley of desserts at a local inn. Our guide said they don't do groups bigger than twenty and if there are too many people signed up then they'll just do two walks rather than having a huge group tramping through the preserve. This seemed to make The Husband happier as, when we had discussed it before, he seemed worried the woods would be wall-to-wall with earnest Valentines.

09 January 2006

Nobody There Is That Doesn't Love a Bean

Bought a packet of dried beans a couple weeks ago when I was picking up more barley and have been wanting a nice bean soup ever since, but have had some problems finding a easy pork-free recipe that also sounded tasty. Finally stumbled on a Betty Crocker recipe ("Slow Cooker Easy Multi-Bean Soup") which is chock full of vegetables and entirely pork free.

I started the soup late last night and it was ready for lunch. I followed the general outline of the recipe, but did some tweaking out of necessity and preference. I only buy wax cartons of broth so I used 1 ¾ 32 oz cartons of (low sodium organic) chicken and vegetable broth instead of the cans called for. My slow cooker (your standard size available everywhere) couldn't accommodate all 70 ounces of broth which is why I only used part of the second carton. I poured a carton and ¼ in last night and then added another ½ carton this morning, because it looked a little thick. It was still thick at the end and I probably could have thrown the remaining ¼ carton in, but I wanted thick soup. Bean soup ought to be thick. Runny bean soup is a heresy unto the belly and taste buds.

The recipe also called for "Italian" seasoning, but I don't tend to buy blends so I just added handfuls of dried basil, parsley, garlic, and thyme until it looked about right. At the end, when I added the crushed tomatoes in, the soup tasted a little blah so I added three cloves of crushed garlic. Yum.

The soup turned out very thick, very rich, and very tomato-y. This is probably because, rather than using 2 tbs of tomato paste, I chucked in the full 1 oz tin ("roasted garlic" flavor). Also I substituted a can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes for the diced, because that's what I had on hand and the crushed tomatoes blended in with the soup much more than the diced would have.

Yes, I know, there's a lot of garlic in this soup. Mmmm. Garlic.

(Please, someone explain to me why there is no HTML character entity reference for 1/3? I can sort-of see why 1/8 and 1/16 don't get one -- they're not so commonly used -- but 1/3??? That's pretty common. Isn't it? Hello? Anybody?)