Friday, November 18, 2011

The Many Faces of .... um.... Squirrel

True to my promise, I have been cooking up all the wild game that my husband has been bringing home from the hunt.  True to myself, I have really been trying to like it.  Mentally, I'm fine with it. Eating it, though, has been a bit more of a challenge.  I've always been a squeamish eater.  I don't like seafood.  At all.  I don't find it comforting to eat outside of my comfort zone.  It's a darn miracle that I love tofu.  But I was and am determined to gain a taste for wild game meat.

So far, I've tried cooking squirrel 4 different ways.  My kids have eaten every single recipe without any more complaint than they give any meal, so I know it must be at least palatable. And yet I still find myself uneasy with the squirrel.  So far, I have tried:

Squirrel Stew
Squirrel Crock Pot Stew.  This recipe was edible but not delicious.  Undoubtedly, it was recipe error, not user error.  It was plain and basic and the little I did to perk it up wasn't enough.

Squirrel Curry

Tofu and Squirrel Curry.  This one was sure to please, I thought.  How can it not be good, chopped up and smothered in coconut milk and strong spices?  WRONG!  The tofu was great, but the boiled squirrel had a horrible texture.

Squirrel McNuggets.  This one was a definite improvement.  I deboned it, breaded it, and pan fried it up with chicken pieces.  Served with a multitude of dipping sauces, my youngest found it irresistable and asked for seconds.

Squirrel with Pan-Fried Noodles
Squirrel McNuggets
Squirrel and Pan-Fried Noodles.  Pan-fried noodles with green peppers, olives, garlic, and butter have long been a comfort food favorite of mine.  This was, in my opinion, the best way to hide the squirrel.  I'll admit it. I'll do anything for olives, butter, and garlic!

Still, though, I'm not quite there yet. I have to find a way to separate the critter from its bones in a way that does not involve either boiling water or 2 hours and a sharp knife.  I'm stumped, I tell you.  It must be time to return to the crock pot.

My husband says I'm not good at cooking meats to begin with, so I'm not to lose heart.  Never-the-less, he's volunteered to cook up the next batch of squirrels that come home with him.  I'm honest enough to admit that I'm relieved.  maybe I'll find it more edible if I don't spend 4 hours cooking it.

The Toy Library

One of my husband's perennial complaints around this time of year is that the kids have "too many toys!"  It is true that we become inundated with new belongings this time if year, but can you really blame the 2 and 4 year old for having been born, respectively, a few weeks after and a few weeks before the big Christmas gifting season?  It's not their fault that they're December and February babies and that they're so darn cute that people like giving them toys.  That's ALL our fault. 

Around this time of year, I try very hard to moderate my husband's tendencies to "toss it all!  It's not like they won't be getting new stuff soon."  I agree that we can easily get too many toys, but I also know that the girls get attached to certain toys.  We always have to dance a careful compromise to not hurt anyone's feelings.

This year, the issue is compounded by my youngest child refusing to clean up her anything she has played with.  It's like WWIII every night when it's time to clean up the playroom.  Tears and tantrums, threats and ultimatums, it's always a hard road to get the room clean.  Her sister and I usually end up doing most of the work, letting the little one out of most of her work. This week, we decided to put an end to it. 

Enter:  the toy library.  We packed up all of the Little People, all of the toy dishes, the toy food, and dress-up gear.  Left in the playroom is the toy kitchen furniture, the doll stroller, the Little People buildings, books, and anything large.  Removed are all of the little pieces and parts that make the mess.  We allowed them to keep a small volume of toys that would not drive us crazy trying to get her to clean up.  Everything else is in the toy library.

If one of the girls wants to play with something from the toy library, all she has to do is make sure the toys in the playroom are cleaned up.  If they are, she can check out a new toy.  It must be returned before anything else can be taken out.  At the end of the day, the child listed as responsible for checking the toy out is charged with returning it with all of its pieces.  It's simple, really.  I don't know why we didn't try it sooner.  The playroom looks neater.  The children are more excited about what they're playing with because they had to anticipate playing with it and earn it by cleaning something else up.

The best part of this whole deal is that when I refused to let the littlest play with a new toy this afternoon, she threw a fit, then quietly put every single toy away.  When I went to check on her, the toy room was clean and she had accomplished it with absolutely no adult supervision and nagging.  I'm definitely impressed with her effort and reminded once again, that kids are capable of more than we give them credit for.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Never-Ending Project List

As I come to the close of my current knitting project, it's time to decide what will be next.  I like to think about this before I finish my current project because often I'll need a few days to wash, dry, and cake up the yarn for the next project.  Planning ahead by 3 days means I won't have down time between projects unless I want it.  This time, as I finish up a pair of longies for my youngest, I find myself conflicted as to what should be next.

As a way to calm myself down enough to pick a project, I decided to write out all of the projects that I've been throwing around this fall.  In an old fashioned Pro and Con list, I came up with 14 projects and 4 UFOs to finish.  It's no wonder I was having a hard time figuring out what needed to come next!  Without further ado, here is the current list of projects that I'd like to pick from.

New Projects:
  1. Mittens for A
  2. 1-2 sweaters for A
  3. Longies for M out of Ellyl yarn
  4. Longies for M out of Irish Meadow  yarn
  5. Stuffed monsters for A's bday bash
  6. Dog sweater
  7. Hat for C's client
  8. Mittens for C
  9. Hat for A (she only has balaclavas!)
  10. Coasters for the living room
  11. Dishrags (a gift truly for myself)
  12. Mittens for M
  13. Slippers for A (I have had the leather soles for 3 years, waiting for her to grow into them!)
  14. Sweater for myself (I don't have ANY sweaters that I made for me.)
  1. Turn M's pink footies into longies
  2. Crocheted yarn bag (I have the squares all done, just needs assembly)
  3. My cardigan (I stopped working on it when C told me the color was not good for my complexion.)
  4. My mittens (horrible pattern, horrible fit.  needs severe re-working!)

The question now is what to do next?  I have the yarn on-hand for probably every single one of those projects.  Which is most important?  Which is most time-sensitive?  Who's begging the loudest?  I'm pretty sure I left something out, too....

Monday, November 7, 2011

The First Deer of the Season

We butchered our first deer of the season.  Aunt C shot it with her car.  It's really a somewhat interesting story, if you care to read.  If you don't like hunting, then please, move on to another post.

So the story all begins when we went out to dinner on Saturday night.  Aunt C had some Culver's coupons she wanted to use and the husband wanted to stop at Farm and Fleet, so we headed north to the 'Boo (a city near us.)  On the way home, we suddenly had reason to thank God that we were in the right lane, rather than the left as we came off the bluffs.  Spread across the entire left lane was a HUGE buck that had been hit, very recently, by a car.  This prompted a lengthy discussion on how we had all seen a seemingly large number of deer along the side of the road this season.  This, then, spilled into a conversation about what a shame it is to see so many deer hit, killed, and abandoned by the side of the road.  It seemed a waste of venison and antlers that could be put to good use of the carcass had been tended correctly.

After returning home, Aunt C headed back to her home.  Less than 10 minutes later, we received a phone call from Aunt C.  It seemed that she had shot us a deer... with her car!  To be honest, the deer ran into the side of Aunt C's car as she sped past on the highway.  It hit the side of the car, not the front. It's neck was broken and it died immediately.  But, since we had just been talking about not wasting deer hit by cars, the discussion opened up of, "Can we take the carcass?  Should we?"

The men in the family were uncertain.  They knew they were going to have to do the field dressing.  It was 8pm and already dark.  My husband and I had a discussion that basically ended in me saying, "Personally, if I could be of any help to your dad with field dressing it, I'd go and leave you here with the kids.  Since I can't, I'll defer to your decision."  It seems he has an aversion to salvaging the meat because he considers it roadkill. 

So he's okay with hunting and eating squirrels but venison killed by Aunt C's car was just too "redneck" for him.  Thank goodness this blog is fairly anonymous, because he'd be unhappy if anyone he knew was informed that we processed a "roadkill" deer.  Giggle.

The way I saw it, it's death was as quickly accomplished with the car as it would have been with a bullet during hunting season.  We knew the "hunter," we knew when it had happened (10 minutes ago, so it was still fresh), and we knew from a first exam that the neck and hip were broken, but it wasn't smeared across the road.  It was fresh, solid, and in one piece.  The women of the family ended up making the decision to process the deer and the men in the family headed out to handle the field dressing, tagging, and police/DNR management. 

The next morning, I upheld my half of the bargain and did as much as I could to help in the butchering and processing of the meat.  It seemed only fair that I should do those parts that I physically could, since that was my excuse for staying home and knitting while my husband field-dressed the deer in the dark.  In the end, we have 7 gallon-sized bags of venison now.  We decided that because of the warm weather, we wanted to process the venison as fast as we could.  In order to speed up the trimming and cutting, we decided that other than the tenderloins, it was all going through the grinder for jerky, sausage, and general cooking.  No need to waste time cutting the perfect roasts and steaks.  Cut it, trim off the fat and silverskin, bag it, and drop it in the cooler.  Later this week, I imagine we'll wash it, chunk it, and grind it. 

I think I've really acclimated to eating venison.  Last year, I remember that the smell bothered me a little when we butchered the deer.  This year. it just smelled like meat.  A little beefy, and a little gamey, but meat all the same.  For dinner, my MIL served up one of last year's roasts.  It seemed fitting to eat venison after spending the morning processing venison.