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Recipe: Winter Stew

It’s been seriously cold around these parts. I mean, I’m not complaining… Much. I’m sure Barrow has it worse, but when it gets below -10 degrees, I tend to become a hermit in our house. Bring on the movies, games and books. And the stew… Yummy for the tummy and warm to the belly.

I was searching the web for a great stew recipe. By great, I mean one that has ingredients that everyone in the household can eat. My husband is an extremely picky eater and Silas seems to have fallen close to the tree. I found a couple of recipes that, when combined, seemed to make a good and hearty stew.

First let me start by saying that I bought pork instead of beef (thinking pork roast, but wanting beef stew…. Yeah). Next time, I would definitely stick with beef, because I’m not really a pork fan and it tends to taint the stew taste a bit. Second, honestly if I were eating this on my own, I wouldn’t have any meat in it at all. I’m just not a fan of preparing and cooking meat and once I’ve seen what it looks like before it was cooked, I don’t really want to eat it afterward. I think this stew could easily become a nice vegetable soup with veggie broth subbed for chicken and extra veggies subbed for meat. But I digress… Ok, on to the recipe!

Pork Stew

Pork stew & oat bread.

Ingredients:

1 lb. stew meat (beef or pork, or hey, even chicken!)

2 cups water

1/4 cup flour (I used less than this. Just enough to coat the meat)

1 carton chicken broth (or veggie, or beef)

5 potatoes

5 carrots

can of corn

can of green beans

3 tablespoons sugar (brown or white)

2 tablespoons minced garlic (I like my garlic)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 & 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon oil (vegetable or olive)

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder (I think an actual onion would work better, but mr. husband doesn’t like the texture of onion)

1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (or whatever seasoning you prefer)

1 small can tomato paste

Directions:

Start by coating meat in flour and then sauteing on oiled pan until meat is lightly browned.

While meat is cooking, add all other ingredients (except oil and flour) to crock pot and set on low.

Once meat is browned, add to crock pot and set to high

Cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 on low.

About an hour before it’s done, add left over flour to crock pot, add more to thicken to your liking. You can also add cornstarch.

While stew is cooking, you can make some easy and yummy bread! I used this recipe for oat bread.

We’ve had some friendly visitors around these parts, as well. Our little (I guess I should use little loosely) moose family has been out and about with all of this soft and comfy snow around. Mmm moose stew… Just kidding!

Moose Friend

Moose friend eating twigs by the house.

I saw the family of three having a pow wow by the stream the other day. I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda cute seeing the three of them, laying down in a circle, just chilling out. I definitely enjoy their company.

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Concert: Josh Ritter

Saturday night, I had the privilege of seeing (in my opinion) one of the best songwriters of our time: Josh Ritter. I first saw him in Boston, opening for Death Cab for Cutie (Regina Spektor also opened that night. Talk about an amazing concert!) It was the perfect setting. An outdoor concert right on the waterfront. A young twenty-something came on stage, looking bashful and truly happy to be there. He sang a couple songs and they were simple, yet beautiful. Kathleen and Snow is Gone being some of the crowd favorites. During intermission, I decided that I needed his album and never looked back.

Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter happily live

I didn’t really think I’d be seeing him again anytime soon, but just a year later, I happened to find out that he was playing at one of the local pubs in Limerick, Ireland. I thought it was some sort of destiny. I watched him that night, a huge smile on his face. Still the same. His smile was infectious and kept me happy and satisfied for days after the concert. I couldn’t wait for him to serenade me again (doesn’t everyone feel, just a little bit, that they’re attending a concert just for them?) This time, he had the amazingly beautiful and emotional song Girl in the War, to add to the mix. Such a powerful song, magnified ten times when live.

Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter, big grin.

I didn’t see him again until 2009, when he played in Anchorage. He was becoming a bigger star, but he still seemed like the same bashful songwriter, with more grown up lyrics. Still pure and thought-provoking. Still folky, and still one of the best storytellers I had ever heard.

Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter live.

This year, I heard that Josh Ritter would be back in Alaska, not only in Anchorage, but also Talkeetna and Palmer. I was so caught up with seeing him in a small-town setting, that I almost missed out on all of his concerts completely. Luckily, I was able to attend his show in Anchorage and it was pure magic!

He came on stage with just two other musicians, playing guitar and stand up bass. He played some new songs and some old. His new songs were just as mesmerizing as ever. He had funny little conversations with the audience, as always. Charming and sincere. The harmonies, chords and voices were perfectly imperfect. Real and true. Pure bliss for the senses.

Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter & roses.

I could go on and on (and on) about how amazing Josh Ritter is and how his concerts can seemingly change your life, or in the least, make you grin throughout the rest of the night, but I’ll save you the blabber! Suffice to say, you won’t be disappointment if you ever do get, and take, the chance to see him.

Josh Ritter

Oh moustache!

So here’s a little plug to my man, Josh Ritter!

 

If you wanna dance:

To the Dogs (Or Whoever)

Mind’s Eye

 

If you’re feeling thoughtful:

Thin Blue Flame

Girl in the War

Monster Ballads

 

Just for fun:

Galahad

Lillian, Egypt

Josh Ritter

Look at those luscious locks!

And on a fangirl note… I really miss his curly white boy afro.

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I’m sure if you follow my blog, you’ll be amazed that there’s actually a new post at the top. I know I haven’t been the best at keeping up, but that’s what the new year is for, right? I’ve never really been one for new year goals, but I’m going to try my hardest to set and keep a couple of them in 2012 (up until the world ends, of course…)

1. Blog at least once a week, complete with pictures. I’ve been blogging about once a month lately, which doesn’t make for an interesting blog, does it?

2. Cook at home more. A lot more. I have been getting better at cooking family meals at home, but I’ve still been pretty lazy at it. It’s been maybe twice a week, when it really should be every day of the week.

3. Read at least one book a month. I know that sounds sad… I used to read all the time, but December was the first time I’ve read through a whole book uninterrupted since Silas was born. 2 years (I told you it was sad). My friend sent up the book Dewey the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World as a Christmas present. It was so cute and light-hearted, you couldn’t help but finish it up in one go.

4. Promote my business more. Birch Tree Naturals is doing better than I thought, but I still haven’t even made back what I put into it. I’m hoping to promote my products more and maybe do some craft fairs next holiday season. Any one wanna be a regional representative?! I’m only partially kidding…

5. Learn to knit. I’ve had the materials for a while and just never found the time or inspiration to actually knit something. Winters are so long, dark and cold up here… Knitting by a cozy fire sounds wonderful right about now!

6. Get active. I’ve let myself go. I need to start working out again and eating healthy. It’s as simple as that.

Today is what I’d call a snow day (that would be a couple of days ago now… I’m already slacking). The power was out this morning from the inches of snow resting on the power lines and the white stuff is still steadily falling. It’s been pretty lazy over here, so I thought I’d take some time to go through some old pictures from the year past. Here’s a compilation album of things we did in 2011!

Glacier

We decided to head about an hour out of Palmer and check out the Matanuska Glacier.

Silas

Silas got hair!

Gardening

We tried to do some gardening. Key word: tried...

Smokey Bear

We had photo shoots with Smokey Bear while hiking Alaska throughout the summer.

Caines Head

And saw beautiful views while exploring.

Silas

We went family camping for the first time in Seward.

Silas

It was a beautiful and sunny summer. I'm definitely missing the sun right now.

Polar Bear

We saw the Alaska polar bear cub before she left the Alaska Zoo for bigger and better things.

Grampie & Silas

Grammie & Grampie came to visit.

Grammie & Silas

Twice!

Homer

We took a mini vaca to one of my favorite places: Homer.

Pizza

Made some yummy food.

Birch Tree Naturals

Started a business!

Silas

And enjoyed the holidays with family & friends!

Happy new year everyone! I hope it’s off to a great start!

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Truly Beautiful

Today was the last day of the beluga season for me. As I stood out in the 20 degree weather, I thought about the fact that I probably would never again witness the view that I saw before me at that very moment.

Point Woronzof

View of Point Woronzof

From where I was standing, I could see the Cook inlet, the mouth of the Knik river, Port McKenzie and point Woronzof. From where I was standing, I had spent almost half a year looking for one of the smallest whales in the waters.

Belugas

How I actually saw the belugas.

From where I was standing, I got paid to watch some of my favorite creatures on the earth (err… in the ocean). Suddenly the biting chill wasn’t that cold and standing up for four hours didn’t seem like such a big deal. I like the thought that I hopefully helped to secure protection for these amazing animals and I’m so lucky to have had the chance to see them up close in their natural habitat.

True Beauty

True beauty.

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‘Tis The Season!

It’s 10:00 A.M. and the sun is finally starting to come up! As much as I enjoy lighter days, the darker days make Silas sleep longer, and that is also very nice! When summer turns to autumn, and autumn to winter, I always think back about my time in Ireland and Scotland. I love the holiday season overseas. Bus trip through the highlands and castle exploring with the leaves changing color… Amazing! Random snow falls, holiday decorations in downtown Limerick and shopping along cobblestone streets… So much fun. Eating muffins and drinking coffee with holiday music quietly playing in the background… Sigh, I miss it.

Downtown Killarney

Colorful Downtown Killarney.

Castle in Killarney

Castle in Killarney National Park.

Cottage

Cottage in Killarney National Park.

View of Edinburgh

View of Edinburgh

Hamish

Hamish the Scottish Highland cow loved posing for pictures!

Scottish Highlands

Autumn in the Scottish Highlands.

Loch Ness

Posing in front of Loch Ness.

Scotland Cobblestone

Cobblestone street in Edinburgh.

Porridge

What Scottish experience is complete without some porridge? The best I've ever had!

Alaska definitely also has holiday charm. It’s probably one of the only states that most everyone puts up lights around their house. There’s also fun events throughout the winter, even though it’s usually below freezing. How many people can say they’ve been on a ferris wheel when their eyelashes were sticking together? I can’t. I’m not brave enough… The point is, there’s lots to look forward to over in Alaska, as well. Really, I’m happy anywhere, as long as it’s holiday season! Even palm trees can display their holiday cheer with some green and red lights strung around them. Here’s to snow, glowing wood stoves and colorful holiday lights!

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Do You Salsa?

Things are pretty calm over here right now. Just enjoying our time as a family before the husband goes away for work for a couple of weeks And he’s gone. Oh, and getting over being sick. Lots of throat coat tea and riiicooolaaaa for Nick and I! Those things work wonders. That and being able to actually rest. I did have to work on Saturday, though. It is getting COLD out! I’m so glad I actually had some gloves this time around. I’m excited for PFD’s and paying off some bills Never got it… Also, hopefully getting the process started for getting back to school and finally finishing my degree!

Fall has come and gone.

Autumn in Alaska

Autumn in Alaska.

On September 17th, we went to the fall festival that Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm was putting on. While we got there too late for many of the festivities (Silas did have his first tractor hay ride)), we had plenty of time to pick some of the last autumn harvest. From the moment we walked in, I had a craving to make corned beef and cabbage and I decided I wasn’t leaving without a nice-sized cabbage head!

Pyrah’s is a U-Pick farm way out in the valley, located in a town called Butte (yes, this is where the butt is located). I had been itching to go there since the beginning of summer, so it was nice to finally check the place out. While there wasn’t much left by the time we got there, I’m sure it’s a happening place in the summer months and we still managed to pick a nice, big cabbage and some kale (all for the price of about $4. I’m telling you, it is a big cabbage. Double the size of grocery cabbages!)

I made kale chips for the first time with my fresh pickings, but I wasn’t too impressed. Maybe I just didn’t do it right (some olive oil and seasonings), but I found the texture to be nasty and the taste to be off. I was a bit worried because I still had two big piles of kale left to use up and had no idea how to accomplish this feat. I could have just made a salad, but that’s boring. I begged my mom for some help and she came up with a yummy soup recipe, including kale, sausage and bacon. I made it a couple nights ago, along with Prevention RD’s Italian appetizer bites, and our family had quite the feast! I’ve got grand plans for the cabbage (remember corned beef cabbage anyone?) Maybe if there’s still some cabbage left at the farm, I’ll pick some up and try to can some sauerkraut. Probably not gonna happen anymore since there’s already snow halfway down the mountains. I think it’s almost winter time!

Along with the farm theme, I’m hoping to make it out to Boreas Acres farm soon. Nick and I have plans of getting some pgymy goats in the future, but we want to learn as much as we can about them first and gain some first hand experience. The woman that runs the farm seems very nice and willing to help us accomplish this. I’m looking forward to playing with some goats! I’m sure Silas will love it too.

The other night I was craving salsa and chips, so I made some! My dad gave me a recipe a while ago that makes awesome salsa. We are salsa fanatics, so over the years we’ve come across many recipes (from Greek to authentic Mexican) and my father has meshed them all together to come up with this beauty below. It’s always a test as you go along recipe. I never seem to write down how much of everything I used to get the desired outcome, but my most recent salsa turned out perfect (if you love cilantro and spiciness). I actually remembered it this time!

Perfect Salsa

Perfect Salsa

Perfect Salsa Recipe:

3 small Roma tomatoes (you can use whatever type of tomato you like, but romas tend to be the least juiciest)

1/2 jalapeno (less if you don’t like your salsa spicy)

1/8 white onion (I cut a nice sized sliver out and then cut that in half. A little onion goes a long way)

2 cloves of garlic

3 cap fulls of apple cider vinegar (I just used the cap to the bottle to measure)

Cilantro, salt and black pepper to taste (I use tons of fresh cilantro, probably at least two nice hand-sized bunches, and also a fair bit of salt)

Also, while I was looking for the salsa pic, I stumbled across this cutie:

Baby Silas

Baby Silas

Aww, he used to be so cute and innocent…

On a final note, Josh Ritter will be playing at Latitude 62 in Talkeetna this January! I really hope there’s still tickets left. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Josh in Boston (opening up for Death Cab for Cutie), Dolan’s in Limerick, Ireland and in Anchorage. I hope I can keep this awesome streak going!

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Introducing…

Birch Tree Naturals

Birch Tree Naturals Skincare!

 

Birch Tree Naturals Skincare products!

The time has finally arrived! My herbs have been infusing in olive oil for over a month now and most of my ingredients have arrived (still waiting on one package… Lame). I do have enough to make my body butter, though. So it’s off to work I go today! First I’ll have to sift my oil, then melt my butter (shea and mango, to be exact) and whip everything together with my chosen essential oils. Within the next couple of days, I’ll cook out my birch tree bark oil (tar) to add to the mix.

Herb Infused Olive Oil

Herb infused olive oil soaking up the sun!

 

Close-Up

Look at all that pretty plant matter!

Once my tea tree oil arrives in the mail, I’ll be able to get started on the product that was the reason for this whole endeavor: my psoriasis cream. I’ve been dealing with psoriasis for a long time now (not as bad as that picture in the link) and it would be nice to have an all natural product that could get rid of my stubborn dry skin. If it works, I plan on sharing it with everyone! Wish me luck 🙂

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