Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

Early Winter

Series: Green Spaces | Story 15

I'm afraid winter is here to stay. Our Opheim snow-birds have or are preparing to fly the coop. The last of the couples have just deserted us for warmer climes. I can't blame them. I'm starting to dream of our annual Christmas trip to sunny Florida. I won't miss this brutal cold or that blanket of snow.

The two days of ice-fog up here did make everything sparkly and pretty. But sparkly and pretty isn't at all warm. I'm sure the deer that are dining on my lilacs (the leaves didn't get a chance to all fall off) don't really appreciate that frost dropping on their heads as they tug on those leaves. A couple of times now we've seen the deer getting up on their hind legs to reach higher morsels, as the impalas and gazelles do in Africa. We hadn't seen that before.

We still have sharptails in the yard. They've fussed at me when I've been outside refilling bird feeders for the redpolls that are staying in the yard. We had a magpie flitting through the big trees in the shelter belt last week, but I expect he's also gone south by now.

There have been more whitetail bucks sniffing after the does in our backyard. A couple of them are good-sized, with much more impressive antlers than poor Stub. He's still hanging about, being regularly rebuffed by the does. One of the fawns even went so far as to head-butt him. It will be interesting to see how he progresses next year. I'm afraid his one antler will always be stunted.

Now that it's cold, and I'm finished with this session of the Whole Life Challenge, I'm doing more regular cooking. I'll still lean towards healthier, but I won't be so strict about wheat flour and real sugar. To go with my pork loin roast (it was pre-seasoned with a Mexican flair) I made a side dish of rice. The roast was cooked in the InstaPot, along with a few whole onions from my garden. Rice goes well with Mexican, right? I did cut the recipe in half for the two of us, and I used avocado oil (not sure if it's what you'd call neutral, but I like it). I like garlic, so didn't feel there was too much in the dish. You may feel differently. I used minced red onion in place of scallions since that's what I had. Green would be prettier.

Garlic Butter Rice

6-8 cloves garlic, sliced thin

2-3 Tbl neutral-flavored oil

2 1/2 tsp minced garlic

4 Tbl salted butter, DIVIDED

1 1/2 C long-grain white rice

2 1/2 C chicken broth

1/4 - 1/2 C scallions, sliced thin

Salt & white pepper

Sauté garlic in hot oil until golden and crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour out excess oil, then add 2 Tbl butter to pan. Return to heat. Once butter melts, add minced garlic and cook 1 1/2 minutes. Add raw rice, stirring to coat. Add broth, cover and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low. Cook 12-15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, leave covered, and let rest 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Stir in the rest of the butter and the scallions. Sprinkle with the crispy garlic. Salt & pepper to taste.

My other recipe for this week is a lovely dessert. I've been craving sweets lately (aren't we supposed to fatten up for the winter?). I love all things lemon so this fits the bill. It almost makes up for not being near a Starbucks and their lemon loaf. I don't care at all for coffee, but they do have wonderful teas.

Lemon Poppyseed Tea Bread

1 1/2 C flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C butter, room temperature

1 C sugar

1/2 C buttermilk

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 Tbl grated lemon rind

2 tsp poppyseeds

3 Tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9 1/4" loaf pan. Sift dry ingredients together. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in buttermilk, then eggs. Add flour mixture and blend well. Stir in rind and seeds, then the juice. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 45-55 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Glaze for lemon loaf: 1 C powdered sugar, 1 Tbl lemon juice, 1 Tbl soft butter, 1-2 Tbl milk. Blend until smooth. If needed, thin with a bit more milk, or thicken with more powdered sugar. Pour over cooled loaf. Optional: sprinkle with poppyseeds.

My current gardening is limited to watering all the houseplants, and plucking off any dead or dying leaves. The orchid cactus has one blossom finished, but the other is still gorgeous. The two buds seem to be stunted, but they haven't fallen off. I'm hopeful they'll still bloom.


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