Inspirations…

I’m sorry. I’ve been pathetic at updating my blog.  Last September was the last time I had time to update it and even I cannot believe that.  Between school, power outages, holidays, blizzard, sicknesses etc.…. I have not had time, but the additional truth is, I’ve thought about it… but could not find inspiration in my circumstances.  Today, however, I had an inspiration – ha!  Lucky you!  Yes, I need to have inspiration – something share-worthy, and today that would be…. [insert drum roll…] a seven year old frozen turkey breast I found in the bottom of my freezer!  YES!  Aren’t you excited?!  I was!!  Seriously, I was – hence the reason it takes me so long to blog.  Strange things inspire me.

Okay, so our chest freezer needs to be de-frosted – plus, I wanted to get to the bottom of it and use up all those forgotten frozen things like turkey breasts from when we first got the freezer in 2006.  It’s actually been pretty fun and sort of like a trip down memory lane with the things I’ve dug out.  Hamburger and hot dog buns from a Labor Day picnic from like 2006.  A package of scallops wrapped in bacon from BJs from a New Year’s party we threw in 2007…  various containers of left-over sauces and soups I’ve made over the years… shredded zucchini from the garden from about 4 years ago.  Going to make some zucchini bread with it this weekend – in the middle of winter – as intended, albeit many more years later than intended.

Well, back to the turkey breast.  It was a 5.5 lbs.   I threw it in the oven and roasted it today.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with it, but when it was done cooking, I looked at it and asked it what would make it happy.  It said, “soupie”.  Yes it did.  So that’s what I made.  I shredded up the meat and put 2.5 large containers of broth in my big, black vat.

Turkey Soup 1

Then, I took the pan that had all kinds of good, yummy goobers from roasting the turkey and put it on the stove-top.  To it, I added a couple sticks of butter, three large chopped Vidalia onions and 1 lb. sliced mushrooms.  I let that sauté and get all yum in the pan.

Turkey Soup 2

Turkey Soup 7

Meanwhile, I took 3, 6 oz. bags of fresh spinach and dumped that in the vat.

Turkey Soup 6

When the onions and mushrooms were done, I dumped that on top of the spinach in my vat.  The heat from that began to cook the spinach.

Turkey Soup 8

Next, I cooked up a pound of ditalini macaroni and then dumped that on top of the onions and mushrooms in the vat.

Turkey Soup 9

I stirred all the yumminess together and texted the daughter to pick up some more broth on her way home because the goober to broth ratio was not quite right.

Turkey Soup 10Turkey Soup 11

I hauled the vat onto the stove top to heat ever so slowly until the extra broth could be added… and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I tasted it and had an idea… what if I added a bit of half-n-half?

Turkey Soup 12

Best soup you ever had in your life.

As I was furiously concocting this amazingly fun soup, and the smells were filling the kitchen, I realized it was all-of-a-sudden way too quiet.  I looked down to these faces staring at me and realized it was their dinner time.  What a tease – they’re hungry and patiently waiting as I finish my mad-scientist work.

Turkey Soup Aslan Turkey Soup Lucy

Turkey Soup Boo

So, I wish I could say, something like ‘until next week’ – or even ‘until next month’, I’ve now realized I have to stick with something very non-committal like, ‘until the next inspiration hits…” I bid you happy inspirations!

P.S.  Oh, and speaking of things that inspire me?  My favorite soup-stirring spoon… it’s enamel and has an inviting guest designed onto it.  Can you spot it in this picture?

Turkey Soup 13

The Perfect Lobster Roll…

I’m finally getting to it.  Yes, finally capturing my thoughts on what it is that makes the simple, beautiful, luscious lobster roll one of my very favorite things to eat on this earth.

About a month ago, when summer was waning, I realized after another daunting work week that I had not enjoyed much of what makes summer, summer.  I was sad about that while watching this show on the Food Network called ‘Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives’.  I was suddenly inspired to find the perfect specimen of lobster roll in our area and was actually quite surprised that I had not already figured out the answer to that long ago.  Not only that, I didn’t even know what made a lobster roll perfect in my own mind, so determined to have a set opinion on the subject, I set out to try as many local lobster roll joints as I could manage.  I was very surprised at how much of an opinion I actually did have on the subject considering I had never really thought about it before!  Ha!  So here is what I learned about my own preferences as to what makes a lobster roll perfect.

  1. NO MAYO!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love mayo.  Most lobster rolls are made with mayo – which was completely surprising to me because I have always only ever mostly seen the butter-drenched lobster roll in these yonder parts of the world.  Found out that the butter version is very strictly a New England style and much of the country prefers their lobster with mayo.  Personally, I think adding mayo to a gorgeous pile of lobster is a travesty and there should be a heavy tax paid by anyone who consumes one.  😉
  2. Tender lobster meat that you don’t have to war with when biting into the sandwich.  There are two things that contribute to a tender pile o’ lobster meat:  small (aka young) lobsters and not overcooked lobsters.  Biting into a lobster roll that is tantalizing looking just to war with biting off a piece just to hardly be able to chew it does NOT make for a good lobster roll no matter how delicious it looks.
  3. Bread/lobster ratio is critical.  Just because a longer bun is used and a little more meat added,  this does not = a better, more extravagant lobster roll experience.  To the contrary – by the time you get to the end, you can’t finish the last couple bites because it’s mostly bread and now cold and soggy.  Eww.
  4. The butter.  Honestly, I cannot say for sure, but it seemed like some places used unsalted drawn butter.  As purist as this sounds, without the salt, it just tastes oily and not yummy.  Especially at the end of the meal when the bun is soaked – not so good.  I prefer a salted butter on the side that you can just pour on each bite as you take it so that the bun does not disintegrate in your hand.
  5.  Lastly, the roll must be GRILLED.  I had no idea how important this was until I had had my fourth lobster roll and it had been grilled instead of toasted – OHa MYa GOODNESS – what a beautiful thing!  The grilled roll enhanced the flavor of the lobster and added a wonderful texture and just turned the whole experience into the perfect summer taste bud memory.

I polled my friends to see where they like to go so I know, by now you are all screaming – “WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR FAVORITE?!!”  🙂  So here are the places I went in order:

Lenny & Joe’s in Madison

Lobster Shack in Branford

Lobster Landing in Clinton

Clam Castle in Madison

Westbrook Lobster in Clinton

Now, I know this is hardly an exhaustive list of all the lobster rolls out there, but I really wanted to try the places local to me that I could quickly get to when the need for the perfect lobster roll struck, hence my choices.  This is what I experienced:

Courtesy of Lenny and Joe’s, Madison, CT

Lenny & Joe’s:  They make my favorite clam strips dinner so were my first choice to try.  Well, the extra long bun I just mentioned was had here.  The lobster roll was toasted, the meat fairly in-between tender and chewy… came away a little disappointed, but it certainly satisfied my craving.  I hoped I hadn’t over-glorified the thought of getting a perfect lobster roll… but in their defense, how can anyone live up to being the first taste of over-blown expectations of the perfect lobster roll!  Oh, and they have the yummiest cole-slaw side.

Courtesy of Lobster Shack in Branford, CT

Courtesy of Lobster Landing in Clinton, CT

Lobster Shack in Branford and Lobster Landing in Clinton:  As it turns out, these two places are very similar in their approach – they may be related to each other.  🙂  You can’t get any fresher than their seafood.  I loved their simple menu and the out-door ambiance by the water is the ultimate lobster-roll eating room.  Branford even had a band playing and it couldn’t have been more fun.  The Branford lobster roll, sadly had the most difficult to chew lobster meat of all I tried.  Now, something like that could be limited strictly to my experience because maybe it was due to an older lobster.  It looked extravagant and the pieces of meat were huge (which might indicate an older lobster.)  There were a few bites that I didn’t have to war with, so it could have been a one-off.  At Lobster Landing in Clinton, the lobster meat was the most tender of all that I had tried.  It literally melted in my mouth.  I was rejoicing… I started hearing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus” as I took each bite – this must be IT!!…

…That is until I went to Clam Castle – yes, the little, tiny, unassuming place on route 1.

Courtesy of The Clam Castle in Madison, CT

This is where I experienced the first GRILLED bun… not only that, but the lobster meat was extremely tender – the whole sandwich just blended into this morsel of buttery, lobstery, toasty goodness – the kind where the only words you can utter are MmMmMm!  Now, one thing I have to say about Clam Castle is that I really almost didn’t want to go in because it was clearly a very old, greasy spoon joint and kind of gave me the heebie jeebies.  It is a very tiny place and filled to the brim with patrons, so I thought, “I’ll just run in, grab the roll and eat it in the car.”  Well, we ended up enjoying great conversation with the staff and eating it there and really – you just don’t notice anything else once you start eating the lobster roll!  Ha ha!

… I was going to stop my quest after the Clam Castle, but I had driven by Westbrook Lobster the previous week and thought, with a name like that, they must make a pretty good lobster roll…  gotta try it.  So we did – and boy am I so glad we did.  They grill their bun – not quite as perfectly as Clam Castle, but satisfyingly crunchy.  The lobster meat was tender and plentiful.  They put the butter on the side so you can dunk or pour it on a bite at a time.  Saves the roll from becoming too soggy.  Completely enjoyable, but without the outdoor ambiance of the Lobster Shack and Lobster Landing.

Courtesy of Westbrook Lobster in Clinton, CT

Which one is my favorite?  Well, I seriously would go back to them all.  I have described my taste-bud preferences, but each place offered their own uniqueness that the others didn’t have.  I could never limit myself to just one.  However… it has got my mind going…if I were going to make the perfect lobster roll, how would I do it?  Stay tuned until next time because it is my project for today and will be documenting thoroughly.  :))

Enjoy a lobster roll before the season is done!

A Very Long Month

Well, its been quite a long month.  Mostly filled with things you’d rather not hear about!  Suffice it to say puppies sick, Momma hurt, Momma Sick etc…!  But sum total, life is sweet.  I know I have a bunch of things I promised I’d wrap up from the last entry, so let’s begin with the HAWESOME HAWEBANERO HAWT SAWES!

It came out so great.  I’ve had a few taste-testers who know their hot sauce and they describe it as “Woah!  Sweet, then the HOTTTTT kicks!!”  Very satisfying project.  I have 3 bottles left – two of which are spoken for.  The last will be for us and anyone visiting who might like a taste or a chance to clear out their sinuses.  Here are a couple pics… the labels, even though I used indelible ink, are smudging from the condensation in the fridge.  Gotta figure out how to do that better.

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The finished picture of Meg’s ‘ oh so delicious Rustic ‘ Tart:

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The garden, as beautiful as it looks, was quite disappointing this year.  Between the clouds and shade, we have some tree cutting to do if we hope to continue to garden in this spot next year.  The tomatoes are ripening now – one of the highlights , so between that and the basil, we are satisfied.

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Can I just say how scared to death I am to begin my fall course:  Advanced Biochemistry…  To make my Manager laugh at work, I put as one of my goals for the end of this year:  “To complete my fall class in Advanced Biochemistry without crying.”  Ha ha!  Who am I to think I can take a class like?  I just have to laugh at myself…

So picture this:  80-90 degree HUMID weather, two large dogs and two kittens AND NO AIR CONDITIONING.  (Whose brilliant idea was it to build a new house without central air anyway?  Oh, mine…sulk… ) I could vac and/or mop the floors every day if I had time, but I don’t.  As it is, every two or three days we risk our lives potentially being engulfed in and consumed by gigantic fur tumbleweeds!!  The clothes don’t even dry in the dryer…  even as I type this, I am sweating bullets and it’s 9:00 pm.!  I don’t remember what my hair looks like dry.  I’ve experienced hot humid weather plenty, but I don’t think I have experienced it for this extent of time.  Its been relentless.  We had one day last week (Tuesday – yes, it stood out that much!) where it was a gorgeous, DRY summer day.  I thought I had gone to heaven!  I was giddy with dryness LOL!!  I don’t want summer to end by any means, but please Mr. Humidity – go somewhere else.

The pups were sick this month one week after another… we were juggling adult dog food, puppy food and bland diet food in various rations for 3 weeks, in addition to kitty chow and soft food.  It may seem like a small thing, but when they all got regulated back to the simple plan, I thought I would cry in relief.  They are all such a continual source of joy and happiness – it was hard to see them sick.

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Peeka is my work buddy.  Prefers to be on my lap while I’m working from home as much as possible.  She is noticeably sad when I come home from an office day and prefers to be carried around on my shoulder for awhile those evenings.  However, at the same time, she is very brave and is completely comfortable with the pups now.  She takes her life in her hands sometimes!!  The dogs just have no clue of their size vs. the kittens and I am so glad the cats are fast!

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Boo is my little sweetheart, affectionate boy who follows me around everywhere.  He has a mighty purr which belies his very tiny kitten cry!!  It’s such a small little cry it is kind of funny – you just don’t expect it out of him because he’s bigger and more muscular than Peeka!!

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Aslan is my heart and we communicate telepathically.  He is silly and always ready to play tug-of-war.  He loves routine.  He delights in the routines of the morning, and even knows the difference between a “Mommy’s working from home day” vs. a “Daycare day”!  He melts my heart the way he plays with his little stuffed Bernese Mountain Dog puppy!  I’ve got to video it one of these mornings – you would die laughing.  His face melts me.

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Lucy love personified.  The poor little thing has continual pain in her left leg that will take a long time to heal.  She limps a good amount of time, especially when she gets up from resting or sleeping, but she never, ever complains or whimpers or ever let’s me know she needs something.  She just always smiles and wants to please and cuddle.  She’s happiest when she can just sit on my lap and cuddle.  She would stay there all day if I let her… and if it weren’t so dang nabbed humid, I would!

Until next time, stay dehumidified!

ONE MORE PICTURE because she’s just so photogenic!

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Ha ha!  🙂

Hawesome Hawbanero Hawt Sauce!

It’s been a great weekend.  I love the heat.  Seriously, I do.  The only reason I have an air conditioner in my room is for the pups, otherwise I love the summer heat – especially all the goodness that summer heat brings.  Inspired by summer heat and a recipe I found in bon appetit magazine, I am making my own hot sauce – just for fun.  One does not visit the country of India five times without developing an appreciation for hotness in their food.  I am definitely not one that prefers spicy hot, but I have many family and friends who love it, so this is mostly for them.  The recipe is very easy – no cooking on the stove since the habanero peppers provide all the heat necessary.  I am going to label it ‘Hawesome Hawbanero Hawt Sauce’!  Pretty catchy, huh?  🙂  Yesterday I bought two pounds of habanero hot peppers at Whole Foods.  Meg and I had a blast there.  It’s the first time I’ve ever been.  Their produce is amazing.  The store was quite overwhelming with all the specialty items they have.  It will take a few visits for me to not be mentally exhausted taking in all the details of green, organic lifestyle – perhaps a topic of a future post.  So today when I came home from church, I did the first step in making the sauce:  de-stemming the peppers and processing them with kosher salt.  I am making a double batch (I always make double batches of most everything I make.)  The peppers are now happily beginning a little ferment cycle.  Then I add vinegar and finish the fermenting in a day or two.  Here are pictures of this first part of the process.

The habanero’s all prepared for processing:

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Processing to a chunky pulp:

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Put into jars for a little fermenting until step number two can be completed.

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So… stay tuned for the completion of the Hawesome Hawbenero Hawt Sauce recipe!

Of course, a blog post would not be complete without the latest antics of the menagerie… so we had given the kittens their own ball of yarn to play with because they kept tearing apart the one I was using.  After having a wonderful dip in the pool and soaking up some rays, this is what I came in the house to find:

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Oh, yes.  Caught red-handed.  And true to form when I asked them WHAT they were DOING!  Lucy, all wiggly and always eager to please, immediately dropped the yarn ball and came over to sit in obedience before me… as you can see, Aslan didn’t find it that big a deal…

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Unfortunately, I am not very good at holding my facial expressions.  I have never been able to display any other facial expression other than what I feel – and in this case, it was laughter.  Hence, the next picture – okay I guess it was not that big a deal.  Aslan is true to his name.  Very wise.  🙂

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He just continued on with his yarn ball fun.  Hey, it kept them busy for an hour!

While I was busy with my hot sauce (and vat of spaghetti sauce) making, Meg was busy with her inspiration which we got to enjoy:  Blackberry Nectarine Galette.  Yes, it was as delish as it looks!Image

I don’t have the ‘baked’ picture yet, but will post it next time.

Until then, enjoy the heat!

So much to learn…

I have spent the majority of the last couple days immersed in synchronization… between iPhone, iPad, MacMini and MacAir iCloud synchronization and WordPress, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook synchronization, I think my brain is quite needing a synchrobreak!  However, I was feeling the need to update this blog and other content here, so be sure to check out the new tab above called, “Memories – Our years in Review”.  Now I am off to buy the hottest peppers I can find to make some homemade hot pepper sauce… then there is gravel spreading to do when Ed gets home from work.  I will leave this brief post with some picture updates from the Hawes Hive…

Here is our Lovely gravel delivery.  I think we are going to need another truckload… lots of work ahead.

Gravel delivery…

…in the event the first picture was not exciting enough… 😉

Butterfly on the Butterfly Bush… surprise, surprise…

Lucy and Boo slowly gaining respect for each other…

So sweet… they really want to be friends…

Garden Status since last blog…

More Garden Status since last blog…

Summer is being really summery this year.  It’s great and I have already gone in the pool 3 times this year!  Big accomplishment since last year I was only able to go in twice all season!

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

Well, it’s been a terrific couple weeks.  I’m sure it’s not surprising news that we now have two of the most adorable, sweet, little kitties in the land named ‘Peek-a’ and ‘Boo’ (thank you Ryan and Tadan for entrusting us with your kitties!)  After all, our family pretty much monopolized Facebook feeds with their every move and name opinion polls… (if you only knew the pictures and videos we did NOT share!) but in all candidness, we are enjoying our menagerie of pets so much that it is hard to think of doing anything else except spend all our time with them.  Alas, we do have other obligations to the Hawes ‘farm’, so focus we must!  🙂  Here are a few pictures of our veggie garden.

Mulch Delivery

Mulch delivery!

Welcome to my garden

Welcome to the garden…

Beautiful raised beds and walkways

Neatly mulched rows and walkways… soothing to the eyes…

All the hard work that we did last year in building in the wooden boxes into the raised beds have proved amazingly time saving this year.  We had the garden weeded and planted within days vs. weeks.  This year we put mulch down to try and combat the weeds.  It’s called ‘eco-mulch’ and is different from regular pine bark mulch.  It is supposed to keep the weeds at bay and turns the soil beneath into rich humus.  We’re putting this around the house gardens as well.

Hawes ‘farm’ you ask?  As a kid visiting my aunt who raised a couple cows and pigs for meat and chickens for eggs, I fell in love with working and simply being in a barn.  She had horses, too, which I learned to ride.  I would love to have a couple of horses and some sheep.  The fresh hay scents as well as the pungent manure all melded into that wonderful ‘au de barn’ smell that you just can’t get in a Yankee candle.  I hope that one day the field next-door already fitted with a barn and chicken coop could be ours, but until then, we take care of, love and are satisfied and thankful for all that we have here which keeps us quite busy now!

Today we had some exciting news!  Meg was interviewed by ‘The Daily Quirk” and it was published today!  She is now one of their regular bloggers!  I’m so proud of her.  She has a great eye for photography and they found her Tumbler blog and liked her style!  Here is the link to the interview:  http://thedailyquirk.com/2012/06/26/tumblr-tuesday-ct-working-girl-who-wishes-she-was-cookin-instead/

Hope you have a chance to read it.  While you’re at it, visit her Tumbler:  http://hawesme.tumblr.com/  She’s so busy that she’s hired a couple of assistants:

Blogging Staff 2
I will leave you with a few more pictures of these cuties with a promise to try not to monopolize my future blogs with cute animal pictures… I said “try” – I cannot promise.
Shoulder pal
                                                                  Shoulder Pal
Hey - what about meeee
                                                        Hey, I’m ova here ya know…
HEY! I'm OVA HERE!
                                                             What about Meeeee!   🙂

We’ve Been Skunked!

So, my first WordPress entry stinks! Well, okay the entry doesn’t stink, we do! The house is full of lovely, skunky-turned acrid smell. Aside from waiting it out and giving Aslan a “Skunk-Out” bath, I’m not sure what else to do!

It all happened last night… I came home from practice around 9:30 p.m. When I got out of the car, I smelled the familiar perfume and thought, “One of these days, that skunk is gonna get somebody.” Well, sure enough, this was the night! The smell intensified as I got to the door, gear-laden and tired. When I opened the door, I was not prepared for the intensity of the smell to increase times ten. Well, as the story goes, Aslan and Lucy chased a skunk in the back yard. Aslan got hit, but believe it or not, I cannot tell where. When I sniff him close, there is no definitive oily smelly spot. Compared to Lucy, he definitely has a lingering odor, where Lucy smells somewhat normal. Well, it was a smelly night and of course Aslan has to sleep at my feet while working today! I just cannot deny him his usual daily affection either just because the poor guy stinks! I found myself holding my breath for inordinate amounts of time and getting dizzy!!

So my first day of  summer hours will consist of writing my first WordPress entry, use my new battery powered weed-whacker, learn a new bass line, and figuring out how to de-skunk my puppy!

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