Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Penumbral lunar eclipse takes place when the Moon moves through the faint, outer part of the Earth's shadow_the Sun, Earth and Moon align in an almost straight line.

The Earth blocks some of the Sun's light from directly reaching the Moon's surface, and covers a small part of the Moon with the outer part of its shadow, also known as the penumbra. The rest receives direct sunlight and can be as bright as a full Moon.. This type of eclipse is often mistaken for a normal full Moon and is hard to differentiate between the two.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Cottage Pie and a Happy St Patrick's Day

Since 20% of my heritage is British and Irish, a Happy St. Patrick's day to ye.
May luck be our companion
May friends stand by our side
May history remind us all
Of Ireland's faith and pride.
May god bless us with happiness
May love and faith abide. 

~ Irish Blessing

Cottage Pie (or Shepherd Pie made with Lamb) from Diana's kitchen

2 pounds russet potatoes (or parsnips), peeled and cubed
1/3 to 1/2 cup half-and-half
4 TB Unsalted butter
5 young chives, diced
1 egg, slightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

1 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TB fermented Tomato Conserve or 1 TB regular tomato paste
1 1/2 pounds lean local grass-fed ground beef, i.e. sirloin
4 ounces crimini (or white) mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
½ cup beef stock
3 TB Madeira
½ cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed and drained
½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, drained
1 TB cornstarch
1 TB water

Boil potatoes until tender_ 10-15 minutes. Drain the potatoes. Place the pot back on the stove over low heat to evaporate any excess water. Add half-and-half and butter and mash potatoes until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Temper the egg with a bit of the mashed potatoes; add to the potatoes and combine thoroughly. Add the chives and combine.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, celery, and garlic until tender_ 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with just a touch of salt and pepper.

Add the tomato conserve and mix evenly. Push vegetables to the side. Add the ground beef and cook until beef is no longer pink_ about 10 minutes. Incorporate the vegetables and beef and add the mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaf, beef stock and Madeira. Taste for any additional salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Mix 1 TB water with the cornstarch and stir into the pan to thicken, about 1 minute. Mix in peas and corn. Transfer mixture to an oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly.

Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal and prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a fork to create a bit of texture. Bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to cool for at least 15 minutes. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beef Carbonnade (Beef and Beer Stew)

Soups and stews are among our favorite things to prepare, and a byproduct is that leftovers are generally better the following day as the flavors meld even further overnight. Should I ask my husband what he would like for dinner that I haven't fixed in awhile, on many occasions he will say how about a pot roast

Several months ago rather than a regular pot roast, I made a beef carbonnade that was absolutely delish! A thick stew of beef, onions, herbs… cooked in our own dark beer_ a porter, and with fresh vegetables. And to be certain I still knew how, this for last night's dinner...

Beef Carbonnade (Beef and Beer Stew)  from Diana's kitchen 

4- 4 ½ lb beef (local grass-fed chuck roast), cut into 2″ cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
14 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon paprika
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 TB unsalted butter
2 TB bacon fat (from 3-4 slices bacon)
1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
4 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer
1 cup beef stock
2 TB molasses 
2 TB organic apple cider vinegar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh tarragon, chopped (optional)
3 bay leaves
Add carrots, potatoes, parsnips, mushrooms…  

Dry the beef with paper towels. In a paper or plastic bag, mix flour, paprika, half teaspoon each of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the meat and toss to coat evenly. Heat the oil and butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on both sides and uncrowded in small batches, about 6-8 minutes.

Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside. 

Add the bacon fat and onion and cook until caramelized_ 20-30 minutes. Add the garlic, stir to combine, and cook another minute.

Add the beer and scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate the fond. Add the beef stock, molasses, vinegar and herbs, and then the beef. Bring it all to a simmer on the stove. Cover the pot with the lid, slightly offset. Bake until beef is tender_ 2 1/2 - 3 hours at 325 F.

(Note: at this point it can be refrigerated overnight once all has cooled to room temperature. Any excess fat will be solidified and easily removed for a healthier meal. Simply reheat the next day and continue.)

Add the vegetables, combine and bake uncovered for another 40-45 minutes until they are tender. Remove the thyme and bay leaf.

Serve with a nice crusty bread just in case you like to sop up any of the delicious sauce remaining on your plate.

(Oxford Dictionary: Mid 17th century (denoting a piece of meat or fish cooked on hot coals): from French, from Latin carbo, carbon- 'coal, charcoal'.)


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Take A Look At Me Now

Yes, take a look now for if the ominous color of the morning sky and forecast of thunderstorms prevail, the Magnolia stellata, Thundercloud Plum and many other blossoms in full bloom will soon be gone.


Garden_ north

Forsythia "Fiesta"
Daphne odora 'Marginata'

P.J.M. Rhododendron


Garden_ south
The Painter Lady

Brassicas soon to be planted
Spiraea 'Bridal Wreath'

don't even think about getting into those beets
Thundercloud Plum