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You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 7/17/11 - 7/24/11

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Change of Command

Last Friday was Dave's change of command.  He took command of the 2d Combat Weather Systems Squadron.  For any no-longer-actively-serving-in-Air-Force-Weather types, the squadron stood up in early 2010 combining personnel from the AF Combat Weather Center at Hurlburt Field with the Weather System Support Cadres from Robins and Tinker AFBs.

Both sets of parents, Dave's brother and our niece came into town to see the ceremony.  It went off without a hitch, and here are a few pictures of our day.

I think I'm looking at someone else taking a picture of me, but I wanted to show off one of the pretty corsages all the ladies in our family were wearing.

Dave presented me flowers.  He called it an advance apology for late nights and changes to weekend plans.  :-)  He knew to get me a mixed bouquet instead of roses or lilies, which are typically what one sees given.  That mixed bouquet is still looking like it was just picked 5 days later in a vase on our kitchen table :-)
The boys each got one of these coins.  A great gift!  Good job Dad!  We're so proud of you!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spawn of the Pond

Last week I talked about bringing 3 tadpoles into the house as a mini-science lesson for the boys.  Those tadpoles spent the weekend in a glass mixing bowl while all of our visitors were here.  They swam around, eating fish food and leaving plenty of algae-green-colored droppings.  You could see visible changes in their eyes and by the end of the weekend, the telltale legs had sprouted on the two largest ones.

July 13th

July 18th
On Monday I went to the local pet store and picked up a medium-sized "Critter Carrier" and set up some rocks on one end.  This will be an area for the tadpoles to start hanging out once they figure out what to do with their legs :-)

You can see one of the tadpoles in the center foreground, and there's one in the center of the pack of the tank.

In other pond news, I got some good pictures of what I assume is the tadpoles' mother:

This son-of-a-gun is LOUD at night.  My condolences to all our houseguests who have to sleep in Jacob's bedroom whose window is right next to this pond.

And the fish in the pond seem happy.  Unlike the two sets of koi we had, these folks come crowding over when I stand nearby, they know where their food is coming from, ha ha!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not-Quite-Boston Baked Beans

Boston Baked Beans with a Southern flair....

I've been rather scarce, busy with our visitors this past weekend (that's for another blog post which is forthcoming) and now that the extended family is now all safe and sound back home, I have some time to play catch-up with the household and some of the administrative pieces of my life.  I can also catch up some blog posts on my mind....

While we were visiting my parents in June, they grilled steaks and burgers for us.  They also served up some delicious homemade "Boston Baked Beans".  My Dad had made them from scratch (he loves to cook!) from a recipe from America's Test Kitchen's Cook's Country magazine.  Since the recipe is copyrighted and you have to pay to see the recipe online (or at least sign up for the 14-day free trial), I'll point you to the website, but won't reproduce the recipe here.

Jacob and I are the only bean-eaters in the family, which is unfortunate, because beans are so stinkin' (pun intended) good for you!  Low fat, high fiber, flavorful...

Dad gave me a printout of the recipe from the magazine (which he could do as a paid subscriber) and I made up a big pot of them the day after I got home from our trip!  Except, I didn't make them exactly as in the recipe, since I had some ingredients on hand that I thought would make reasonable substitutes....

...starting with the salt pork.  I had a HUGE package of ham hocks in the freezer.  After all, this is the south and ham hocks are WAY easier to acquire than salt pork...Emeril Lagasse has a ham hocks and beans recipe that will seem similar to mine, except I'm keeping the molasses and brown sugar from the Boston baked beans...

...and the Dijon mustard.  If you open our fridge, you'd be greeted with four bottles of mustard: two bottles of French's yellow mustard, one bottle of Gulden's brown mustard, and one bottle of Zatarain's Creole mustard -- hands down the best mustard EVER!  I had a hankerin' for the Creole mustard...

Dad told me that Boston baked beans, by definition, has molasses and salt pork or pork fat, so my substitution of something other than salt pork would make them migrate away from their Bostonian roots.  And then I can share the recipe!

The other point to make here is that this is a "quick cook" beans recipe.  Boil the beans with some baking soda for 20 minutes to soften them.  After some prep cooking of the meat and veggies, you simply bake the beans for about 2 hours -- having just-like-cooked-overnight beans in a fraction of the time!

Patricia's Not-Quite-Boston Baked Beans - inspired by "Quicker Boston Baked Beans" recipe in June/July 2011 Cook's Country magazine.

1 lb. dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed
1 Tbsp. baking soda
2 large ham hocks, slice as much meat off the bones as possible; keep the bones
1 onion, chopped fine
3 c. water (4 - 4 1/2 c. if you use a Dutch oven)
5 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 tsp. Creole mustard
2 tsp. cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 350F.  Make sure oven rack can accommodate your Dutch oven.  Bring 3 quarts water, beans and baking soda to a boil in Dutch oven over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer for 20 minutes.  Drain beans, rinse excess cooking water.

The skins will peel back from the beans, this is a good thing!

2. Return empty pot to medium-high heat.  Cook the chopped ham hock pieces w/ the bones until well-browned, about 10 minutes.  Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in water, beans, sugar, 1/4 c. of molasses, Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tbsp. of the mustard, vinegar and 1/4 tsp of pepper and bring to a boil.  Cover, transfer to oven and cook until the beans are nearly tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Chopping meat off a ham hock isn't that easy, but will help things cook down better while in the oven.
Brown the pieces.
Don't be afraid to let the pieces stick to the bottom some...that's the good stuff!
Combining everything.
Don't be afraid to throw in the bones.  The meat and fat there will flavor things up nicely.

3. Remove lid and continue to bake until beans are completely tender, about 30 more minutes.  Stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp. of molasses and remaining 1 tsp. mustard.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The same ham hock bone after cooking.  Pick out the bones before serving!

A great main dish!