Friday, October 3, 2008

What To Do With Ptarmigan

So, J finally got an invite to go hunting with one of the locals. Since the big game license is a bit spendy for "non residents" (we don't qualify for resident status until next year), he bought the small game license, and headed up into the hills with his buddy.
His buddy was looking for caribou, and J was lucky enough to spot them for him. With the caribou kill in the bag (the licensed friend, not J-in case any fish and game guys are reading!), they decided to look for some small game.
I personally was hoping for rabbits. Not only do I like Bunny Stew, Bunny Braised, and Bunny Pot Pie, their pelts are great for making realistic stuffed animals.
Before you say "eeewww!", think about it. It's my goal. To make a stuffed bunny out of a dead bunny or two.
(Oh, gosh, here comes the hate mail from the PETA folks, I'm sure.)

ANYWAY... they were also on the lookout for fox. If you think MY goals of stuffed bunnies is nuts, J's friend's wife has a goal to have a fox fur coat made of fox she and her husband have hunted themselves.
I don't think that's nuts, BTW. I think it's pretty cool. Though I would prefer lynx or, well, bunnies.

I digress... (imagine that).
So, J and the friend dd not come home with bunnies or fox. J did manage to come home with three ptarmigan. For those of you who don't know what one is, it's a wild bird, similar to a grouse. They are kind of on the small size, about the size of a Cornish hen once you get the feathers and such off them.
But, My Mighty Hunter returned home with these dead little birds and it was only fair to stroke his ego and make a fuss about making dinner from them.

All kidding aside, I was interested in trying them. And I AM very proud of J, who spent a lot of time in the hills freezing his hiney off to bring these birds home. His friend was also incredibly generous with the caribou, giving us the back strap (think T-Bone, minus bones) and the tenderloins (think filet mignon), and I guess the guys made some arrangement to split the cost of processing and we are getting somewhere in the neighborhood of half the sausage and other cuts that come back from the processing place.
Not bad at all, and I DO like filling the freezer with stuff that doesn't cost what the grocery charges for meat. Not to mention, with genuinely "organic" and free range animals, ya know.

So, back to the ptarmigan.
I was a little leery when I first laid eyes on the little dead critters. J had already cleaned and skinned the birds. I was expecting them to look like chicken, you know, pink flesh and such.
If you are squeamish, skip this part.
Ptarmigan is actually a dark meat. And by "dark", I mean like a red meat. The little birds looked more like sheep hearts. I know because I saw Bear Grylls on Discovery Channel eat a raw sheep heart while I was waiting for my own hunter to return.
That part was kind of gross, and it required me to beg J to cut the meat off the bone and make it look more like something I would buy in the grocery store. Which he did. Thank goodness.

I found a recipe on line and was actually brave enough to slightly improvise as well. I normally do not take kitchen risks when I am not familiar with something I am cooking, but I got enough online "advice" about cooking the little birds to know that I should treat it more like red meat than poultry.

For any locals (or if you happen to just have a ptarmigan sitting around in your fridge or freezer), this is what we did:

Ptarmigan Stir Fry

3 little birdy breasts, cut into pieces (like for stew meat)
1/4 C Soy Sauce
Onion Power to taste
Garlic Power to taste
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

Put in shallow pan with enough water to cover the birdy pieces and simmer until sauce has almost boiled away (about an hour on ours).
Meanwhile, fry two pieces of bacon, crumble the bacon and drain,reserving the bacon grease.
Drain your ptarmigan, reserving the sauce in your wok pan (or whatever you are going to do the rest of the cooking in).

Toss the ptarmigan pieces in the bacon grease, fry on high heat. Dump everything into the hot wok, adding the crumbled bacon and whatever stir fry veggies you want to add- and we added a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning. Cook until veggies are tender.
Then serve it over brown rice, because brown rice tastes better and it's healthier for you than white rice.

All in all, it was pretty good. The ptarmigan does NOT taste like poultry at all. If you go into it thinking it will, you will probably freak out. Kind of like I did, at first. It tastes very similarly to beef, and if you are squeamish about trying game meat, you can trick yourself through the meal by telling yourself that it's beef. It's what's for dinner. (ha ha)

Even Beans tried it. She didn't eat much of it, I think it was too spicy for her tastes, but she didn't spit it out either.
And after I got used to the idea of what I was eating, I actually went back for seconds.
And, I even gave J "permission" to ptarmigan hunt again. I'd eat it again. I would. And now that I know what to expect, I can think of a few creative ways to cook it.

Speaking of creative recipes, I did find one that I'd actually like to try. Someone posted a recipe for "Ptarmigan Cheese Steaks", basically cooking and shredding the meat in Philly Cheese Steak manner and spices, then putting on a hoagie bun with cheese and other toppings. Now that I've eaten it, I can totally see that being pretty yummy.

I'm proud of my hunter. I'm also thrilled that this particular meal cost next to nothing for us. I don't count the cost of the license ($20) in this meal because I would have paid more than that just to get J out of the house and to stop talking my ear off about how much he wants to go hunting. And, the $20 license is good for a year, so it's money well spent, in my opinion.

Y'all will have to stay tuned to see what kind of concoctions we come up with for Caribou. Meanwhile, this pregnant chick is actually craving a ptarmigan hoagie. I wonder if I could find J a small game hunting buddy for this coming week?

Until then,
Happy Moose Trails!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Into the Danger Zone

Alright, folks. Time to go "there"...into the dangerous realm of politics. More specifically, into the Economic Crisis we are currently facing.

Here's my disclaimer:
"It's my blog, I'll say what I want. You're welcome to disagree, and even to threaten to never read my blog again. It's your prerogative. But as usual, I am always up for lively debate and discussion, as I think through debate we can all maybe learn a different perspective or way of thinking. So, bring it on. Just do it publicly instead of sending me secret hate mail to my inbox, please."

Ok. With that disclaimer out of the way, I just want to ask... WHY is our President in denial? A POSSIBLE recession? C'mon! Folks, wake up and smell the decline of the dollar!

On the subject of bailouts, I want to start with a little story...
Y'all don't hear me talk much of my own family. I have one, but the relations have always been a bit strained, especially since I had a bit of a rebellious streak. That rebellious streak didn't mesh well with both of my parents being military officers, and, well, you get the gist.
I'm still the proverbial "black sheep", and while we all "make nice", there is a certain closeness lacking in our family.
It's ok. Really. I've had plenty of therapy.
And it wasn't all bad. My parents did actually manage to teach me a handful of life lessons.
Which brings be back to the bailout discussion.

Once upon a time, I was a really dumb young lady. I racked up a lot of debt, bought things I didn't need and couldn't afford, and even set priorities in life like, "Cigarettes and booze before groceries and rent". Really, I wasn't so different than many other Americans or Congressmen who don't understand what a budget is.
Well, I got myself into a world of hurt. I was robbing Peter to pay Paul, and when my credit cards were all maxxed out, I needed a way to buy groceries. I went to my own "government" (good ol' mom and dad) and asked for a bailout.
Well, they gave me one. It had lots of rules like, "Don't ever ask for another dime", "Now you'll have to figure out how to pay for your own college tuition if you ever want to g and make something of yourself", and "Stop being so stupid, stupid!"
The rules didn't matter. I was getting some cash. Economic Crisis solved!
Well, that (and the money) lasted about a week. I was responsible with about half of it, and payed down a credit card. The other half, I bought some things that I absolutely "needed", and then took a little to celebrate being more economically sound. The problem was that very soon after that, the credit cards were maxxed out again, I needed groceries, and I got a life lesson from the "government" (mom and dad) that the Parental Reserve was officially closed.
I think my mom's actual quote was, "Hmm. Well, don't the door hit you in the hiney on the way out." And dad even offered me a good sized cardboard box, should I need it for a residence.

Faced with my new, and much more serious Economic Crisis, I had to figure out what to do. To make a very long story (about 4 more years of Economic Stupidity) short, trying to make things better by taking out more debt, running away from debt, and attempting to ignore creditors while begging my parents for money they wouldn't send landed me in Bankruptcy Court at 23 years old.
Talk about embarrassing.
Even Bankruptcy Court did not ultimately end my stupidity, though it did slow it down a good bit. But only because it's hard to get credit cards when people see you've filed bankruptcy.

Fast forward a few more years. Realizing I was now "up the creek (you know which one) without a paddle", I started busting my butt to do something about it. I did eventually put myself through school for my paramedic degree (on full scholarship, thank you!). With that degree, I started working crazy long hours and paying off the people I owed and finally learning how to rebuild my credit. I managed to buy a house (small and in a questionable neighborhood, but it was mine!), decided it would be better to drive a little beater than a spiffy car with a payment, and that there were things I could live without in order to truly afford life on my own.
When my husband and I got married, we both came into it with a little bit of debt (about $15,000). My husband had promised me that when we paid our debts off, we could start having kids. THAT was motivation, buddy.
I started cutting our budget to the bare bones. We gave up bottled water and started drinking tap water when I discovered we spent $1500 a year on bottled water, and that was $1500 closer to having a baby that I could get. We started to reduce, reuse, and recycle not for saving the earth, but for getting more debt paid off so I could have a baby before my biological clock imploded. I worked insane amounts of overtime at my job (upwards of 110 hours a week), as did my husband.
Amazingly enough, within 5 months, we were out of debt, except for our home mortgage. The following month, I was pregnant.
We have since continued our economic overhaul, continuing to see what we can and can't live without, preserving our resources, and finding out how much freedom there is in being fiscally responsible.
There's a lot of pride there.

I share this story to say this:
Economic Bailouts don't work. When people have to work hard to make it work, THAT works.
Our current situation in our economy is the fault of people making stupid decisions.
It STARTS with people who want more than they can afford, and way more than they actually need. The "American Dream" is no longer a space (no matter what size) to call your own and some economic freedom, it's having the biggest, fastest, best, and most of whatever everyone else has.
THAT stupidity is followed by banks and businesses extending credit to people who 1) don't deserve it, and 2) can't afford as much as the bank is willing to give them.

So, WHY are we surprised we are in the state of affairs that we are in? How is America's situation any different than my own stupidity as a younger woman? Why in the world do we think throwing money at the situation is going to save us? What it IS going to do is lure us into a false sense of security. Make no mistake, friends. The government wants us to FEEL better about the situation and continue spending money we don't have and making stupid financial decisions, until we find ourselves in a much worse situation than this. Only the government is hoping that it won't get worse.

I don't consider my parents to be stupid people. Quite the contrary. But I will say that it was probably not a SMART decision to bail me out. I'm sure my parents, like the government, hoped the money would help and that I would magically become smarter and not make those same- or stupider mistakes again.

Maybe I'm just a big jerk, but MY proposal is this: Make America live out the consequences of their stupid decisions.
Yeah, I know, that means you still won't be able to sell your houses or afford your mortgages. That means you'll have to live with foreclosures on your credit report. That means banks will go bankrupt and all kinds of chaos in your life will ensue.
But you know what?
It's survivable.
Trust me. I know. From experience.
And not only is it possible to survive without being bailed out, when we DO recover (and we will. We're America for goodness sake!), the pride you will have in your own lives, your own country, and your ability will surpass any momentary joy you will get out of seeing Uncle Sam pay your way out.

On that note, Beans is up and ready to play. So I have to stop my ranting and raving for now and go teach her the value of a dollar, while it still has some value.

Until next time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More Snow Day Fun

How's that for a good reason to blow off the housework for the day? Isn't she stinkin' cute?
This was our "snowman". Beans helped. Well, she knocked our snowman's head off a few times and cackled like a mad scientist about it, while I put the poor little guy's head back on.
Alas, our snow did not last long. There are traces of it outside, but it's mostly just piles of mush now. We sure had fun while it lasted, though, and most of all, loved coming in and making some homemade hot cocoa!

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

Last night had a distinct "smell" in the air. It reminded me of my childhood days, when I lived in the north east (New York). It smelled like snow.

This morning, I woke to a light dusting on the grass and cars and by 8:30 this morning, it was really coming down.
Ok, well, at least by MY standards, it was coming down. (I know, I know, it's gonna get worse!)

Keep in mind, this is the most snow I've seen in over 7 years.
Last year, in Alabama, we got snow. It was actually a wet slushing, but it LOOKED like snow and stuck to the grass for about 10 minutes before melting. But in Alabama, that's enough to close every single business in town for the rest of the day, and send people in a panic to the store for milk and toilet paper.
For those of you laughing... I'm not kidding. For a week after our "snow storm" in Alabama, you couldn't get milk or toilet paper. You would have thought a hurricane had come through instead of some slush.

I know this first snow is sending many locals groaning about how close the winter actually is.
For me, I am excited. I feel like a little kid, hoping for a snow day. Beans and I have spent the morning gazing out the window at the huge, wet snowflakes drifting to the ground, and even being a little giddy and dashing outside in our jammies to go see the snow up close.
After her nap, we plan to put some of our snowy gear on and go play outside in the snow... before it melts, which I've been told it likely will.

I have to say that the snow has already put me in a "Christmas-y" mood. The snow was enough motivation to pull out my list of Christmas gift projects and get started.
I can't divulge what I'm working on because the recipient is an avid reader of my blog, but I will say that working in shades of red, green, and snowy white made me dreamy of the days when the house will smell like fresh pine, candy canes, hot cocoa, and who-knows-what other yummy treats cooking up in my kitchen.

This brings me to my next "hot topic". Holidays. I babbled about my favorite (Thanksgiving) before, but now that I am thinking about Christmas, I have to share some thoughts.

Commercialism drives me nuts. I personally feel that it has ruined every half-decent holiday that has come along. Christmas USED to be about family gatherings, good cheer, and life changing paradigm shifts like Ebeneezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol". It used to be about celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Now Jesus has been reduced to a million plaster-of-paris castings being SOLD SOLD SOLD in millions of Christmas displays that go up sometime after Halloween, for Pete's Sake!
"A Christmas Carol" has been redone and retold by so many different Made-for-TV movies that the story has completely lost it's effect. Poor Dickens! Poor America.
Families are fractured beyond recognition (I must admit, even my own) and we have become a society to afraid to open our doors to our neighbors that even sharing holiday cheer with neighbors and friends has become a lost art.

This is why I make homemade gifts.
Yeah, I know, there are people out there who think homemade stuff is "cheap" or "tacky".
Let me be clear... I do really good work. I don't THINK I send off "tacky" gifts, and you aren't likely to get a holiday colored scarf from me each and every year... What I make will be handcrafted with love, with the recipient in mind.
Hmm. I'll take pictures and post after the holidays, so as not to ruin any surprises.
I like to give gifts with meaning.
And my "thrifty" way of giving means that even in this economic crisis we are in today (more on that in another hot-topic post!)... I can give to more of my friends and loved ones than I could if I went and bought them a bunch of expensive junk.
Seriously... I don't need another Bath and Body Works gift pack. First off, I'm ALLERGIC to the stuff they put in their products, second, they dry out my skin like crazy, third, 90% of the scents kind of make me gag, and fourth... it makes me wonder how many more of these generic type gifts my friends bought to distribute to all the people they felt OBLIGATED to give a gift to, instead of WANTING to give something to someone.

(Oh gee. I hope I didn't really offend anyone with that statement. Just remember, it's MY opinion. And if you already bought me one of those baskets, well... you have time to return it, right?)

ANYWAY... I don't know how I got on that topic this early in the season. I mean, it is just BARELY fall, and I know many of my readers today are still sitting in 80 and 90 degree heat wondering why in the world I am babbling about Christmas anyway.

All I know is that today's weather makes me want to pull out the Christmas albums already (Oh don't worry, I won't. J will would pitch a fit if he had to listen to Bing Crosby from now until December 25th.)

Meanwhile, I'll have to satisfy my holiday longings with my Christmas gift crafting, a romp in the snow with Beans, and follow it up with some homemade hot cocoa when we come in rosy cheeked and soggy from the snow.
If we have enough to build a snowman, I'll try, and hopefully take a picture too!

Until then...

Happy Moose Trails!