Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday Morning Hike at Thacher Park

Sunday morning we were being lazy, just lying on the couch when I suggested we go take a walk through a park I had heard about. Thacher Park is a state park that is just 20 minutes from our house. There are about 30 miles worth of hiking trails and some beautiful scenic views. It was a beautiful morning- mid 40s and lots of sunshine. We all had a great time- our only regret was not taking advantage of this park sooner.
Gavin is at such a fun age right now. I said to Adam that while babies are awesome with all of their milestones- the fun is just really starting to begin. Gav had so much fun running around, throwing rocks, and just being a kid.
He's really growing up!
The beagles enjoyed some nature as well. We just wish that they would be better off leash. It is such a great place to let your dogs loose but unfortunately these hounds just can't (won't) listen!
Gavin grunted while walking up the hills- totally hilarious. I think this was one of our favorite family outings- we're already planning on going back this weekend. Even with the snow just around the corner, we think we might start snow shoeing with Gav. I think he could handle it - the boy likes adventure!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Friends Thanksgiving

We hosted an early Thanksgiving celebration with all of our Albany friends on Sunday. It was a really fun day- complete with football and lots of good food. We decided to celebrate early because everyone had family plans or had to work on Thanksgiving Day. Adam decided to bring down the t.v. from our bedroom so we could watch multiple games. And if two screens weren't enough, he also set up our iMac to further up the "awesomeness." The guys definitely appreciated the effort and I have a feeling this is how we'll be watching football every Sunday from now on.
My mom had told me about a turkey recipe she saw while watching Food Network- Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy so I decided to try it out. I put the turkey in the brine on Thursday. I love this method but it's always a challenge trying to accommodate a 5 gallon bucket in the refrigerator. It soaked in the brine until Saturday afternoon. Then, you put all the veggies and apples in the roasting pan, place the turkey on top and spread the herb butter crust all over it. Then is simply sat in the refrigerator until Sunday afternoon, when it went right into the oven. It turned out very good- beautiful dark color on the outside and extremely flavorful on the inside.
Everyone brought a side dish- we had it all: two types of dressing, mashed potatoes, grilled sweet potatoes, salad, brussel sprouts, mac n cheese, cranberry relish, and lots of pie! We had a really fun time and are very thankful for meeting such great friends.
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving- go get your grub on!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Homemade Stock- yes, it's all that it's cracked up to be!

I have been making my own chicken and vegetable stocks for several months now. It's really easy and makes a tremendous difference in how soups and stews turn out. If you're like me- you go through a lot of chicken stock this time of year. I also make a lot of roasted chickens so I finally started to keep the carcass to make stock the next day. It's a great way to use up wilting vegetables as well.

Today I am making Chicken Stew with Biscuits. This Barefoot Contessa recipe is delicious! It will satisfy anyone- (well, maybe not a vegetarian, but you get what I'm saying). Her recipe calls for using bone-in chicken breasts, that you roast and then shred. I am using a whole chicken because I wanted to make my own stock. I don't have the frozen pearl onions- so instead, I'm adding celery, chopped rosemary, and also some button mushrooms. It's just a chicken stew- feel free to use what you like! Also- I don't use quite as much butter as Ina. Use what you're comfortable with!

Now, back to the stock. There are thousands of recipes for making chicken stock. I have found that the key is to use a lot of aromatic vegetables and herbs and to simmer for a long time. When I use a carcass from a roasted chicken- I will simmer for 3 hours. In today's case, I don't want to overcook the chicken- so I will remove it once it's done, shred the meat, and then return the carcass to the simmering stock for another hour. If you give it the time, you'll end up with a beautiful dark stock- looks nothing like store bought stock.

Here is my "recipe"

Chicken Stock:

1 whole chicken (or carcass)
2 or 3 carrots, washed, and chopped in 3 pieces each
2 or 3 stalks celery, washed and roughly chopped
1 whole onion, peel left on and quartered
1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally (I didn't have garlic today- so I substituted leeks)
Bunch of fresh thyme
2 bay leafs
Freshly ground pepper- ground coarsely
Pinch of kosher salt

Cover the chicken with water- only enough water to completely submerge the chicken. Add vegetables, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 3 hours*. Make sure pot is covered but that the lid is slightly cracked. Keep an eye on it- making sure your water does not evaporate.

After stock is done simmering, strain through a sieve into a clean pot/bowl. Refrigerate the stock after it's cooled. The fat will harden at the top, which can easily be removed.

*Remember- if using a whole chicken and not just a leftover carcass- remove the chicken once it's done cooking, remove the meat- then return carcass to pot.

This will make about enough stock for a homemade soup and in this case, my chicken stew. It freezes very well, but I tend to use it right after I make it. I still have to rely on store bought stock- but if you have the time- I highly recommend treating yourself to homemade. It really will take your recipes to the next level.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fallen leaves = Blah!

All the leaves have fallen from the trees, leaving a very drab and dull landscape. I have felt a bit off ever since daylight savings occurred. I don't enjoy short evenings. It feels like 10pm when it's only 5:30pm. Although, we have been enjoying fairly mild weather - even made it to 70 degrees last weekend.

I finally planted spring bulbs today. Last spring, my neighbor's yard looked so nice with pretty tulips and daffodils popping up. I was a bit jealous so I made a mental note to plant some bulbs of my own this year. Now if only those a-hole squirrels will leave them alone!

Gavin is really starting to talk. He isn't using complete sentences but he is good at getting his point across. Like most kids, he finds it is most effective if he just adds the word "no" in front of another, such as, "no night-night" or "no eat". Everyday he has something new to say- it's pretty cool.

Adam has been exhausted lately- the 5:30am wake-up is starting to get to him. I cannot even fathom getting up that early. He is working somewhere between 50-70 hours a week. It varies depending on what types of cases he is assigned to or if he is on call. I think he is fine with the workload- it's just those early mornings that are a struggle. The good news is that he seems to enjoy anesthesia.

Well, that's about all for this week. We are planning on doing some exploring on Saturday so hopefully I will gather some more writing material. Things have been a bit dull- haven't even had any interesting mishaps at Starbucks or Price Chopper to rant about!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Autumn in New York

Well, here we are - beginning of November. I can't believe how quickly time is flying by. I had hoped to take more day trips but we've just been really busy with things that I can't even remember doing! Plus, I had the cold/flu from Hell and did not have much energy. I'm not sure if I had the notorious swine flu or not because I never went to the doctor. I'm basically surrounded by doctors in our social circle and they all gave me the same useless advice: rest and drink fluids. Seriously, so glad we paid thousands of dollars in medical school tuition for that! I keep telling Adam that if he was really ambitious, he'd find a cure for the common cold! Instead, he is learning to put people under and keep them alive while having surgery. What a slacker!

Anyhow, before I knew it; November arrived. The trees are dropping their leaves and the nights are getting cold. We are busy winterizing the house. We decided to put plastic up in the windows to try and conserve some heat. Last year we paid ridiculous amounts of money to heat this house. Sadly, the house was still pretty cold because our radiators sit right beneath the windows. Money was literally going out the window. So, last month we bought the plastic insulation kits and got out the hairdryer. I have to say- it makes a huge difference! The house feels warmer already. We'll see how it is when the temperature falls to the single digits. In the meantime, I did promise some fall foliage pictures so here are my favorites from this year.
This is the view of Albany from Thatcher Park, which sits up on the hillside.
Another shot from Thatcher Park
Gavin and his pumpkin...
I've been raking up the leaves in our yard- Gavin has so much fun playing in the piles!
And napping in the piles...
Needless to say, we still haven't cleaned up his fall playground.
And really, when the leaves are this much fun- why should we hurry? Happy Fall!