Friday, 20 July 2007

Wildfires and Icecream

We currently have a number of wildfires burning in Nevada. Last count was well over 20. These photos are of the Hawken Fire, which is burning in the hills in front of me, which means we have had some rather spectacular views of the fire and the helicopters doing water drops. These were all taken on, I believe, Day 2 of the fire, when the winds were strong and up to 400 homes were at risk. We are now at Day 4 and the heroic firefighters have done an excellent job, with containment now at 34%, no homes lost and the fire confined to about 2495 acres, so far. The winds being quieter over the last couple of days has also helped.

What I do find hard to fathom though, is the behaviour of a far to large proportion of the public. Despite numerous appeals, by the authorities, through the media to stay away, they were trying to get as close to the fire as possible. This was getting in the way of emergency vehicles and personal needed for firefighting and rescue. Just as seriously, they were also blocking the escape route for residents who needed to be evacuated from the fire area. Not a lot of common sense!!!

Then there are the idiots who went up to the lake to watch the helicopters coming into scoop up water. There were appeals going out in the media asking people to stay away, as they were hampering operations there. No brains....


Went out and bought a Hamilton Beach icecream maker at the weekend. I have fond memories of my childhood and homemade icecream. Plus I like the idea of having control over what I put into the icecream....the list of ingredients on the store bought stuff is a tad scary!

For my first attempt, I decide to make some Green Tea icecream. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I brought two cups of whole milk to a boil and then seeped 8 green tea bags in the milk for about 10 minutes. removed the tea bags and let milk cool. Then I whisked in 6 egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar. I heated the mixture in a double boiler, until the custard was thick enough to cling to the back of a spoon. I allowed this to chill. I whipped 2 cups of cream until soft peaks formed. I added a few drops of pure vanilla essence to the cream. I then combined the custard and cream till they were completely combined and put it in the fridge, overnight, to chill.

The next day, I started up the icecream maker, which had been in the freezer for 24 hours per instructions, and poured in the recommended 1 litre of the chilled mixture. This was when things began to get interesting. About 20 minutes into the freezing proccess, the mixture began to overflow out of the ingredient mix in spout on the machine. Not sure whether I have to add less mixture because of being at high altitude, or if whipping the cream first added to much air. I think that I'm going to have to experiment a little. next time I make Green Tea icecream, I think I will also use more tea bags or buy some Japanese powdered tea as the flavour was not as intense as I would have liked. Still, all in all, it tasted pretty good.

All it was missing was a snifter of Stone's Green Ginger wine to pour over it.....

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Look, It's Rodney!!!

Rodney, for those that are wondering who I am talking about, is the know-it-all squirrel in 'Squirrel Boy', shown on Cartoon Network.

Anyway, I was out for my morning stroll yesterday, when I spied this cute little fella, perched on a neighbour' s fence. Not sure what variety of squirrel he is. Doesn't look like one of the ground squirrels that are all over this area.

After my initial 'Whoa', and after cautiously checking him out and not noticing any obvious signs of him frothing at the mouth, etc, I remembered that I was clutching my camera. He sat there checking me out and posing for the camera. He actually appeared quite tame, but I took to heart all the warnings I'd been given about wildlife and rabies, etc and decided not to get to close.

A month or so ago, walking past the same spot, The Kid and I spied a raccoon, poking it's head out of the storm drain. Apparently the raccoons use the storm drains as their version of a high way and as a result can pop up all over the city. I hadn't actually seen one, until then, but had heard them at night, trying to get into the rubbish bins.

Coming from a country like New Zealand, that does not have squirrels, raccoons, skunks, bears, etc, I still get excited when I see sights like this. I can sit and watch the antics of the ground squirrels for hours. Though some wildlife, like snakes, etc, does have me beating a hasty and prudent retreat. New Zealand is also free of snakes, scorpions and other such nasties, which makes picnicking, tramping and other outside activities, a lot more enjoyable. We do have a type of poisonous spider, called the Katipo, but it is usually only found on rocky beaches and it's bite, while painful, is not fatal. I've seen reports that the Australian Redback spider has also been found in New Zealand, but again, while the bite can be painful and can make you sick, it is very rarely fatal.
While we do, in NZ, get to see lions, tigers, bears, monkeys and other assorted non-New Zealand wildlife, in zoos and wild life parks, there are no snakes even in captivity as the result of them escaping and establishing in NZ, would be a disaster for our native wild life, especially the birds.
Long may it remain so, however I sadly think that it is only going to be a matter of time before snakes do establish themselves, unless NZ's biosecurity ramps up their efforts to stop them. There have been a couple incidents where snakes have been found in shipping containers and, in one case, slithering around in the open.
Al this talk of snakes, now has me fighting the urge to prop my feet up on the wastepaper basket :-)

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Bacon and Egg pie....yummmm

This is one of my favourite comfort foods, plus it's rather versatile. You can have it for dinner, lunch or even breakfast. It goes well with salads, or mashed spuds & peas or chips (french fries to Americans). I only make it occasionally, so I feel okay ignoring the calorie count...or the fat...not to mention the cholesterol :-) But hey, a girl gets to live dangerously every so often, doesn't she?

Another thing about a bacon and egg pie, is that it needs to have substance. None of these thin, wimpy, 8 inch shallow pie need at least a 9 inch deep pie tin to do it justice. I also find that American bacon tends to have a higher fat and water content than the bacon that I am used to. It has a tendency to make the pastry soggy if you don't cook it slightly first. If I'm using mushrooms, I also cook them slightly as well as they also have a fairly high water content.


2 Puff pastry sheets

1 lb bacon (cut each slice in 1/3 and cook slightly)

10 - 12 eggs

8 slices Swiss cheese

4 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 medium tomato, sliced thinly

1/2 small onion, diced

Pepper (preferably fresh ground)

Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Lightly cook bacon. You want to cook it enough to remove fat and water, but not crisp it. Lightly cook mushrooms.

Roll out 1 pastry sheet to fit pie plate letting the excess pastry hang over the sides.

Tear half the cheese into pieces and spread over the bottom of the dish.

Place a 1/3 of the bacon on top of the cheese.

Break half the eggs into the plate. You can prick the tops of the yolks with a fork, if you want the yolks to spread slightly.

Sprinkle some pepper over the eggs.

Place 1/2 the remaining bacon over the eggs.

Layer the mushrooms, followed by the onions and then the tomato.

Break the remaining eggs into the plate.

Sprinkle some more pepper over the eggs.

Layer the remaining bacon on top.

Tear the remaining cheese into pieces and layer over the bacon.

Brush water around the edges of the pie and then place the remaining sheet of pastry on top. Crimp the edges together and then cut off the excess pastry from around the pie. Cut small slits in the pie top to allow steam to escape.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 1 hour or until pie is golden brown and the middle set. If a knife or skewer ,inserted into the center , comes out without raw egg on it, then the pie is done.

Serve & enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Rotisseried BBQ chicken - attempt 1

In the past , I've always left the rottisserie BBQ thing up to the hubby, but tonight I decided to give it a go. Start with one 4lb chicken. My Kiwi friends, read the price on this baby and weep :-)

Trussed and ready to spin. I peeled, and cut in half, 15 cloves of garlic. I mixed them with honey and butter and inserted them under the skin of the chook. Sprinkled it liberally with the hubby's delicous BBQ rub and then flicked the switch. The bird turned and nothing fell off, so I guess I positioned everything correctly. Back inside for a glass of iced tea and the news. Someone flew 193 miles in a deckchair suspended from 105 helium balloons. Bush announced a new surge in Iraq and said it was 'the beginning of a new way'. Personally, I'd like to see the beginning 'of a new way' regarding schools and health care!!! Meanwhile, outside, a few healthy thunderstorms boomed, setting off a number of new wildfires and the chicken started smelling very good indeed...

All done!!!!

And rather tasty too :-)