Archive for February, 2014

February thaw

February 22, 2014

We had three snowstorms in a week, and that was quite enough!  We ran out of places to put the snow and our driveway got very narrow, bordered by snowbanks high enough to overtop the car.

One day last week, we were in the middle of a snowstorm and I had an evening class to teach.  I was watching the university announcements page hoping to see them cancel classes, but nothing showed up.  I could have (and, in retrospect, should have) called in to say that I couldn’t make it to campus, regardless of whether classes were being held or not, but I can be stubborn when it comes to holding class, so instead I gave myself plenty of time and headed out in the midst of the storm.  It took me two hours to drive what is usually a 45-minute commute and I saw cars off the road and power lines down all along the way.  Well, turns out that the university announced a class cancellation just half an hour after I left home, so I had a four-hour drive in the worst road conditions I’ve ever driven on all for nothing.  I was not very happy when I got home, but a relaxing sauna with E helped.

Now we’re enjoying a short warm spell.  We’ve had temperatures in the 40s for a few days and there’s been a nice amount of melting.  I’ve been out in the driveway a lot today, partly to help break up the ice and encourage the melting, but mostly because it’s been so nice to be outside in the sunshine.

February dinner: The Finnish Cookbook

February 15, 2014

We’re starting our cookbook year with The Finnish Cookbook. This cookbook comes from the 60s and was written primarily for Finnish-Americans who wanted to recover the foods of their ancestors, so it’s not exactly the most current Finnish cuisine, but it has a lot of good things in it. E and I both had a flip through and together we picked out a menu.

I spent most of the afternoon cooking and used four burners and the oven, something I don’t do often. It was very satisfying to know that I could manage so many different things at once. E had a lot of work to do, but she still laid an appropriately wintry table for our Finnish dinner.

Blue and white

Blue and white

We started with tomato potato soup (tomaattiperunakeitto) and Karelian carrot pies (Karjalan porkkanapiirakat). The soup was smooth and creamy and very nice on a snowy February day. I’ve made traditional Karelian pies before; they’re like tarts with a rye crust and a savory rice filling. The carrot version is similar but the filling, obviously, has carrot.

Tomato potato soup

Tomato potato soup

Soup and Karelian carrot pies

Soup and Karelian carrot pies

Our main course was fish with spinach (kalaa ja pinaattia) in poached fish sauce (kalakastike). The fish was cod poached with bay leaves and parsley. The sauce came out a little thin, but it was good, a creamy sauce made with dill, parsley, chives, and boiled egg.

Cod and spinach in poached fish sauce

Cod and spinach in poached fish sauce

For dessert, we had Savo cranberry pudding (savolainen tirri), a rich, thick pudding.

Cranberry pudding

Cranberry pudding

This was a very satisfying dinner both to cook and to eat.

2014 dinners: cookbooks

February 15, 2014

After the rather challenging color theme we followed in 2013, we’re taking something a little less perplexing this year. We have lots of cookbooks in the kitchen that I don’t use very much, so this year we’re picking one cookbook each month and making our monthly dinner using recipes from the book that I haven’t made before.

Since we had to shift our December dinner to January, we’re starting our year in February.

February: The Finnish Cookbook, Beatrice Ojakangas

March: Complete Indian Cooking

April: Cooking Down East, Marjorie Standish

May: The Classical Cookbook, Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger

June: The Viking Cookbook

July: The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook, Pam Hoenig, and Chocolate Ecstasy, Christine France

August: Louhisaari Castle Household Recipes, Joni Kuurne

September: Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England, Mary Savelli

October: Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi

November: Best-Ever Curry Cookbook, Mridula Baljekar

December dinner: red and green

February 6, 2014

Our final monthly dinner of 2013 ended up getting delayed. With holidays, travel, and end-of-semester grading, it was just too busy to fit in a day of cooking and prep. So we decided that the best thing to do was to simply have our December dinner in January.

The colors were red and green, an easier task than some previous months. E laid out a nice table.

Christmas colors in January

Christmas colors in January

We started with a salad of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and green and red pepper.

Red and green salad

Red and green salad

Our main course was baked salmon. I made a fresh relish of finely chopped green and red peppers and red onion with cilantro and parsley. We had green beans along with the fish.  We drank a locally-made cranberry wine with dinner.

Salmon and green beans

Salmon and green beans

For dinner I made strawberry soup using strawberries we picked last summer.

Strawberry soup.  I think I messed up the recipe a little bit, but it was still good

Strawberry soup. I think I messed up the recipe a little bit, but it was still good

And so ends the year of color-themed dinners.  2013 was a particular challenge and I’m ready for something a little more flexible in 2014, but I still had great fun doing it.  I think the best month was July, but every month had something going for it.

Spring semester update

February 5, 2014

We’re a few weeks into the spring semester and I’m very happy so far. It’s a little disorienting since this is the first time I’m teaching four different classes at the same time (before I’ve always had at least two sections of World History 1) but all of my classes are going very well. This semester’s interesting development is: ancient Greek. A group of students came to me last fall and asked me to teach them to read ancient Greek. With some help from the language department we got a class set up and I am now teaching elementary ancient Greek to a class of seven students. There were more people who expressed interest, but I’m glad to have ended up with a small class.

The introduction of the new core curriculum continues and that means lots of work for us to do in the department. Things are very unsettled right now as no one really knows which classes students are going to sign up for and which may end up getting canceled. It will probably take a few years for things to settle out and become more predictable.

The winter continues to buffet us. The pattern still holds that we get big dumps of snow followed by warm spells that melt most of it away. Today we’re in the middle of another big storm. I expect to spend the late afternoon and early evening shoveling. E. and I have both gotten very busy with work and not had a lot of time for each other lately, but we’ve planned a little getaway in the spring that should give us a nice break.

I have a batch of farmhouse blueberry ale bubbling in the carboy right now. I used some of my new equipment from Christmas and it made the brewing process quicker and easier. Last night I made baked mahi-mahi with a soy-ginger glaze, rice, and green beans; tonight I’m going to make a pot of chilli to warm us up after flinging snow around. And life at Heather House goes on.