Friday, October 22, 2010

Sunny cookies

Yesterday I was reminded of how cool my job is and just how fortunate I am to work in such a facility where experimenting is part of the job and mess-ups are usually still eaten. You see recently we acquired a very nice sized box that had served as a shipping cooler space so it was already conveniently lined with reflecting insulation. As soon as I saw it I knew that it could serve as another useful item. I could either make a Halloween costume out of it, maybe be a microwave, or I could make it into a sun/solar oven. How convenient that I work in the bake lab and we happen to have items on hand to experiment with on a normal basis. I opted to go with the second option. 

This would be my box with conveniently insulated sides. They were already lined with a reflector sheet so I simply had to fill in the gaps with some aluminum foil. I also covered the top with plastic wrap to create the oven box. I stuck a black t-shirt in the bottom of the box to attract the heat and put a simply cake pan down there with my three cookies. I covered the pan of cookies just as another way to trap additional heat. A few books under the box tilt it toward the sun.

See my cookies down in there? By now, after only about 10 minutes in the box I have already realized a few flaws. The cookies are sliding down the pan. Duh. The pan on the bottom should be level so I don't end up with a blob of cookie dough on the bottom of the slope. After about another 30 minutes I realize that it's simply too windy and my box doesn't weigh enough as it blows over and my cookies are now definitely in a blob on one side of the pan. After I rearrange my box and pan and now weight inside the box a few too many times I realize that the plastic wrap on top keeping the heat in is simply not going to cut it. I need an actual piece of clear plastic or glass, something a little more substantial for a proper seal and heat trapper. I think I had to move the box about 5 times during the course of the 4 hours it took to half bake a cookie due to the rapidly moving sun and the location I chose. 

At about 3:30pm I realize there is not enough sun left in the sky to do anything more for my baking action so I  abandon oven action. My cookies look fairly normal, still kinda a blob. Because it is late October and the sun is so low in the sky only about half of the cookie pan was actually in direct sunlight. Another thing I learned was my box was too deep to allow proper sun and it was simply too much space to heat up. A lot of wasted space is unnecessary. It did manage to get up to 218 degrees in there at one point. I believe a properly designed sun oven should get to normal baking temps though.

Mmm. Grandma's Old Fashioned Molasses cookies, my favorite. Not sure if you can tell but half the pan, the part in the direct sun was definitely done and crunchy. The other half that never made it into the direct sun was a little under baked and doughy. Good thing experimenting is encouraged in my workplace and even the rejects get eaten by bake lab participants!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stop and Look Around

 Once again I am amazed by the moments I witness while in the middle of creation. Take for example my experience last week while outside. I was in the garden, spending a few moments checking out the plants, picking some produce and I notice a rabbit running around. My presence has obviously alerted the animal, however, this animal is inside the fence and cannot seem to get out. As I walk towards the house I move into the yard at just the right moment to watch my cat pounce on the rabbit as it is trapped against the fence. We're talking about a cat only a small amount larger than the rabbit catching and dragging off a rabbit. I think she thought I might take her prize away because she quickly dragged the animal up to the side of the house and I see her attempt to pull it under the porch. Much to her dismay this is not possible and she sits while I watch.

Meanwhile it dawns on me why on occasion it smells like decomposing animal under our porch. Our amazing cat likes to capture animals, drag them under the porch, and leave them there to decompose. Gross, I decide I must prevent this from happening again. Now the cat has decided to drag the rabbit over the porch and I think that I can shoe her out the gate on the other side, no problem. Much to my dismay, I have forgotten that on the other side of the deck there is no guard fence and she pulls her prize under the porch to do her business. I just hope she ate the whole thing. 

Check out my prized purple bell pepper. This is the prettiest one I have harvested. 

There are no stop signs at my house, but Sunday was a fabulous day for taking pictures in Abilene, Kansas.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Have I mentioned how much I adore Autumn? For some reason I have found such great joy in the season this year. Last year I was off traveling during the Autumn season and didn't get to enjoy all the beauty that Kansas demonstrates. I have been trying to take more moments to enjoy the beauty and record them. The colors of the trees haven't changed much yet right here, but on campus in Manhattan I have noticed several trees that are in so many different colors it is simply amazing. I love this picture of a stray leaf caught in the mum.

As I was trying to capture the beauty of the bright red berries among the changing leaves, I noticed the nasty squash bug. As I took several pictures trying to get just the right angle I actually witnessed the squash bug pooping. Crazy.

Love my old, super slow, matted haired, but fierce barking Lucky Dog. 

God is good, his blessings are around us everyday if we simply take the time to stop and notice them. This afternoon I sat in the sunshine and soaked up the greatness of Vitamin D and warmth after a long morning of staring at a computer screen. The weather this week has been amazing and I am actually looking forward to spending tomorrow evening outside at a high school football game. Nothing says fall like high school football, popcorn, and a blanket.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lost and found goats

The Lindahl Funny Farm goat story has yet another turn of events. Over a month ago the newest animals on the farm, four boar goats, disappeared. We joked about the fact that these goats didn't even last one week on the farm before taking a hike. We seem to have that kind of luck with animals. You know, the luck involving chasing them across fields and such. Within a day or two with the assistance from handy neighbors these goats were seen in several different places in the area. Being the smart animals they are, these four goats decided to split up, two to a pack. This would be the moment when my father goes out into the countryside making attempts to catch goats after chatting with the neighbors that have sighted them on the run. You see there were several goat sightings. My father spent a couple of days driving around the country looking for goats and chatting with neighbors that had seen them. At this time, two of the goats did make their way back to the farm after a neighbor approximately 4 miles south of us was able to catch them. 

Much time passes and we assume the other two goats have been long sacrificed to the local coyotes. As I type this presently, I hear the herd of coyotes outside my window. We quickly get over it. They're just goats.

Fast forward in time a month or so to this past weekend. My mother sits reading the newspaper and in a loud excited voice reads an article from the Lost & Found section, "Two female goats with red tags found in Dickinson County. Contact the sheriff department." And being Saturday we had to wait until Tuesday to clarify that the goats were indeed ours. Our other neighbor approximately 1 mile south and 4 miles east had been keeping our goats for the past month. Like I said, they split up and went different directions. Apparently they were trying to run back home. Now they're home again. We'll see how long this lasts.

Long lost and now found!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Open Windows

I have been rejoicing in the beauty of Autumn much this season. This morning was a delightful crisp morning as I left the house and after making the drive to church the sun was so bright as I got out of my car I felt kinda like I was jump-started to worship. Yesterday my mother and I both enjoyed the fabulous day outside as we worked in the ground preparing for yet another season of beauty. However, the ground was difficult to cultivate because it has been a long while since any moisture has fallen from the sky here. Presently, as I attempt to grade my lab reports I am distracted by the sound of like rain falling from the sky outside my open window. How great is it although we may have to wait some time, the rain does return. 

I am reminded of one of my favorite songs, Cannons by Phil Wickham

And this is why I feel so alive when I am outside enjoying creation and discovering all that it has to offer. It is the display of all God has given us to enjoy, to discover Him in.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soirée Success!

Another soirée came and went with a great success. I've found the joys of inviting random people, expecting only a few, and then being blessed with many. I love hanging out with people and I love eating food, so putting the two together makes me quite happy! I truly am blessed with some fabulous friends and neighbors that make the fact that my actual family is small a minor detail.  I love to cook and I love to dine on others' cooking as well. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when my neighbor left me some of her cake for a cinnamon roll that I had made. Genius! Bartering- this is what I'm talking about.

So the fact that people are coming over demands my immediate attention in the kitchen. I did manage to whip up a few items and then managed to photograph none of them. Tonight I took a picture of my leftover butternut squash soup that was mighty tasty.
I made a big pot so the following recipe could be cut in half for a more normal size. Or make the whole thing and freeze some for later when it's freezing outside and nobody wants to cook.

1 large onion
2 stalks celery
1 giant or 2 normal size carrots
1 apple

These I chopped and sauted in a skillet until tender.
I also roasted my butternut squash in the oven until soft as well. I think that after roasting and removing the skin I probably had about 8 cups of squash mash.

2 medium butternut squash
4-8 cups broth

So combine all the veggies in pot and add veggie/chicken broth. I added 4 cups of broth and then pureed with an immersion blender until fairly smooth. I left some chunks but you can process to desired effect. Then add more broth until you get a desired consistency. I added an additional 2 cups of broth. Heat it through and then I added yogurt for a little creamy action, some thyme and pepper. 

About 1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon thyme

Taste, taste, and taste again until it's just right for you!

Additional joy moments of the evening:
Great people
Amazing weather
Giant bonfire that lasted all of 10 minutes maybe
Hilarious children, specifically one 2nd grader
Roasting marshmallows on the deck in a chimenea 
Neighbors and parents tucked into the little breakfast nook
Outdoor gatherings in the fall with little to no bugs
Getting chilly outdoors
Caramel corn bake off- Sorry Kelsey, Carol's won.
Adorable newly married couple cuddling on my deck
Daddy Doug turned one year older
Plans for the next gathering!

Tubers and other Fall Bounty

Last weekend I decided it was time to unearth the sweet potatoes that have been diligently growing all summer long. Sweet potatoes are those amazing Vitamin A filled vegetables that add a greatness to many things. I've also learned this summer that the sweet potato leaves are also a very great green to eat. I actually haven't eaten any, but I did go ahead and blanch some with my swiss chard to put into the freezer for soup. 

I only planted four sweet potato starts and this was the mass of running leaves and vines.
Step 1: Push back the greenery.
These grew so funky and they were pushing up through the soil.
Exhibit 2: the collection of really odd shaped tubers.
Some of them had vein like appearances on them. Some had canyons and creases. Some of them looked like they had possibly cracked?
I do not know the reason for the funky potatoes I grew. Guess that learning moment will have to come later. But nonetheless some really great giant tubers for my dining delight. Presently, they are in the basement completing their necessary 5-10 day curing process. According to my online sources this is necessary for the tubers to heal from any wounds gained in digging and also to allow the starches to convert to sugars and make a tastier product. They're supposed to cure in a humid hot (85 degree) environment and I figured since the basement made my other potatoes start sprouting in a couple of weeks, it's probably warm and humid enough for a curing process. 
I am also still diligently picking peppers and tomatoes. I think the tomatoes are definitely in the dying stage, but my pepper plants are loaded. I'm just hoping that all those green bell peppers will ripen to amazing red sweet peppers before the frost kill them off. We have loads of purple peppers which were a great new pepper for me, however, they taste like a very strong green pepper, kinda bitter, definitely not sweet. Not my favorite, but we'll go ahead and delight in my Wildcat Peppers! Oh and eggplant too!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Vacationland of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was a lovely destination. Had it stopped raining for more than a few hours during our visit we possibly would have discovered more gems of the area. However, we managed to spend some much needed time simply resting and enjoying each other's presence. I kept remarking, it's all about the memories and I think we have several that include getting soaked as we attempted to go places and the rain hit again. I didn't even get a picture of the beautiful ocean that we managed to visit one day because I assumed we'd be returning but it decided to rain some more instead. It's a good thing our condo had a dryer because this amazing lady used it often!
I also managed to purchase a new pair of shoes on the trip. I tried so hard not to buy "stuff" but they were on clearance and Minnetonkas are simply gems.
Besties once and for all.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Morning Blessings!

Last week as I was preparing for a great day I managed to peak out the window and catch a glimpse of a beautiful sunrise. I decided to run out and catch photo of the sunrise.

Then I decided that beautiful pictures of the sunrise are completely ruined with power lines in them. Now would be a great time to be living off the grid. They really just get in my way of taking creation photos.

It had started to sprinkle and as I turned around to make a dash back into the house I noticed this amazing full rainbow. Simply amazing!

Thank you Lord for such a great blessing this morning. Beautiful reminders of your goodness and opportunities of another great new day!