Bitsy saw Mrs J taking a bucket of seeds to her back yard feeder and she wanted to go with her.  She was stymied because there was no way to do that while staying on a cleared walk.She gave up and decided dry and warm would be the next best thing.  It would have told  the story better had I a picture of Bitsy and Mrs J is the same frame but, alas, there was no way to get that while staying on a cleared walk.



Happy New Year for those that celebrate it.  It’s 32° with a brisk North wind here in Beautiful Southern Illinois©.

We get a lot of miles out of chicken thighs.  These were roasted with the potatoes at 350 in the toaster oven, seasoned with garlic and onion powder and my dried pepper mix, for about an hour.  Turn the potatoes and the chicken once or twice.  The other side is a mix of corn and black beans with onions, roasted red pepper and jalapenos.  I like to season with garlic, cumin, ground coriander, oregano, and a splash of seasoned rice vinegar with a drizzle of olive oil.Breakfast, anytime.  I should trademark that phrase.  We only eat breakfast style meals for dinner.  This is pulled pork fried with onions and peppers with a couple of eggs cracked into it.  Make a little pocket to put the eggs for each serving, reduce the heat to low, cover, serve when the eggs are how you like them.  They are easy to flip if you want to make sure there isn’t any wiggle left in the eggs.  Onion naan makes a great addition.I call this one the  corner defense.A basic meat sauce spooned liberally over spaghetti.  I see comments all the time about how you shouldn’t put more than a dab of sauce on the pasta but I think that’s daft.  I made a bunch of sauce and it is still sitting in the fridge, accusing me of abandoning it.  I’ll call on you, promise!I’ve discovered that many of the quarts of tomato sauce I canned are mislabeled as tomato soup.  I’ve also discovered that my tomato sauce makes a damn fine soup.  While it was reducing in the big pot, before sealing in mason jars, I added garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, and the telltale – bay leaves.  I remember debating myself about whether I should add seasonings to the pot but it was hours on the stove and I couldn’t not add stuff.I still had some duck stock so I made it into more gravy and added leftover veggies from the fridge plus some new.  It has pork and chicken, potatoes and carrots, onions, corn, peas, and a handful of egg noodles.We had it with pan biscuits and I enjoyed mine immensely.I’m sure this is a traditional New Year dish somewhere.  I think I saw it in a blog comment.  I’m finishing off the last of the sauerkraut with some garlic sausages.

Ms Bea is having none of it.

Duck Confit

I’ve been dry brining these pieces  in kosher salt that has been mashed about with juniper berries.  My mortar & pestle-fu is weak.I had this much duck fat rendered, from this duck, not quite enough so I added some lard to cover.While the duck was brining seemed a good time to make stock from the carcass.  I ended up with about four cups of that good stock, the kind the jiggles in the bowl after it has chilled overnight.  The duck has been in a 200 oven for about four hours.  I’ll cover this with foil and set it outside to cool.  The bones are not pulling away with a gentle tug but the meat pierced through easily.  Last time I did this the meat fell off when I tried to lift it out by the leg bone.  There will be a thin layer of gelatinized duck broth under the fat, it should peel right off tomorrow.I will admit to nibbling on those duck cracklings but most of those go to the dogs as kibble sweetener.  We are managing to stay fueled.  There’s leftover pot pie yet, a bit of it anyway.  Pictured are a pair of pulled pork sliders with slaw and a nice habanero/citrus sauce from the Caribbean.Bonus kitteh pic!  Young Ollie is bookended by Bea, on the left, and Toby.

I Guess He Likes It Here

Just below him is Scout. They’re both snoring. I have another photo of him, same spot, but Bixby is next to him and Gabe has his paw on Bixby. I’ll download that one tomorrow and share.

He’s put on a fair amount of weight, which I’m sure I’ll hear about from the vet this week.



We are coping with the damp, dark winter days by cooking comfort foods.  Expect soups and sandwiches.  These chili dogs are easy to eat out of hand if you have a damp cloth handy, otherwise a fork is indicated.I think a few of the out-takes from the Picnicking Birds folder are in order.  We have lots of squirrels, plenty of cats, raccoons, dogs, deer, and occasional shots of Mrs J – even a glimpse of me on the mower.  That last category will have to await summer.More of those pancetta tacos.  These are built with a smear of refried beans, crispy pork, queso fresco, a bit of red onion, a nice spoonful of chipotle crema, and a drizzle of my current favorite taco sauce.We have a tenacious grey squirrel that braves the elements and squirrel eaters to nosh on the sunflower seeds he seems to favor.  Gabe has spent many a patient hour sitting at the back door waiting for him.This is the last bowl of the cheddar broccoli soup.  I’ve kicked it up with my own blend of seasonings kept  in an Oxo pepper grinder at the table.  When I see the level of spice getting a bit low I add some more of whatever is close to hand.  As a result the blend is constantly changing but always includes sea salt, several varieties of dried red peppers, and coarsely ground black pepper.  I just added some crushed coriander seeds and Mexican oregano to it and those seem to work well.  I pre-grind most items before adding them, the grinder on the Oxo is not made to reliably handle disparate sizes of feedstock but it does a good jobs of dispensing my mix.This was from last month, we had a bit of snow that didn’t last too long but it did prompt me to go to town to buy some salt for the walk.  Alas, it took a few broken bones to teach us us that lesson in winter preparedness.This chicken was seasoned with a lot of granulated garlic and then roasted beer-butt style in a baking tray with a few potatoes.  Halve the potatoes and place cut side down to bake in the chicken drippings.  We had a little bowl of mac ‘n cheese on the side.  The meal was crying out for some color so I put that parsley garnish down but it looks so sad there.  Should have steamed some broccoli.