RENAE IS UPDATING HER BLOG. That’s right, folks! I’m here with an actual recipe and everything! I thought my life would be getting less hectic around this time, but I can’t even remember a day I was able to sleep in past 8 a.m.. Although half of our raccoons have been released (we actually have more than usual remaining for this late in the year), instead of using the extra time gained during my weekend for leisure, I’ve been training to work with raptors. In addition, it feels like I have 400 cats in the house right now (it’s really four). And I attended a weekend-long wildlife conference a couple of weeks ago. And I’ve been testing for Kittee’s upcoming Ethiopian cookbook. I’ve therefore actually been cooking a lot this month, but not many recipes I can share. My food photography skills, never very impressive, have taken a nosedive of late so I don’t even have any decent pictures of my delicious output, although I can assure you YOU WILL WANT THIS COOKBOOK. I was worried I wouldn’t have the time to commit to testing, but I’ve been making Kittee’s Ethiopian recipes for years and I just couldn’t resist the temptation to be a small part of this project because I knew it was going to be amazing. And it is!
I took a break from Ethiopian last night (although I had leftovers for lunch earlier!), and I did something I haven’t done in an embarrassingly long time: I baked bread!! I used this no-time bread recipe from The Kitchn. As a bread snob, I can’t say it’s the best bread I’ve ever baked, and I’m so bread-baker-snobby I hate bread recipes that are by volume instead of weight, but it’s better than no bread and better than commercial bread for sure. Then I needed to come up with something to serve with it. I’ve been stuffing my face with a ton of injera lately so when not eating Ethiopian, I’ve been making lighter meals, so soup seemed about right. I had some fresh black-eyed peas from the farmers market in the freezer and a large horde of jalapenos ready for the test recipes, so I whipped up this smoky, spicy black-eyed pea soup.
Spicy Black-eyed Pea Soup
1 medium onion, diced
1 small jalapeno, sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp Old Bay
1/2 tsp smoked salt (or to taste, depending on how salty your broth is)
14-16 oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen black-eyed peas
8 cups veggie broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Put some oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the onion, jalapeno, celery, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic, and saute for several minutes until vegetables are soft. Add the paprika, Old Bay, and salt and cook another minute or two, then add the tomatoes, using them to deglaze the pot if necessary, and cook another minute or so. Add the black-eyed peas, veggie broth, bay leaves, and vinegar, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer over medium heat until the peas are soft, about an hour to an hour and a half. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Serve with crusty bread and lots of Tabasco!
I wish that since it’s been so long since I last posted that I had scads of pictures to share of all the exciting things I’ve been doing, but alas, although I’ve been doing some exciting things, photos are scarce. I never did share some of the pictures I took in Harpers Ferry, WV when I was furloughed, though, so I’ll take the opportunity to do so, as it’s a very lovely place and I had a really nice day. A lot of the acreage there is a national park, which was of course closed (it seems like EVERYTHING I wanted to do while furloughed was a national park or wildlife refuge…soooo annoying), but I don’t think I’ve actually gone to the park before as there is a lot to do otherwise. Actually, I’m not sure I wasn’t on park grounds at times, but there was no one to stop me, so IN YOUR FACE, CONGRESS.
We usually park near the train station. I love trains (and train travel), and if you are in the town for any length of time, you’ll probably see one. A freight train chugged on through about two minutes after I parked. Amtrak stops at this station as well. Here’s an infrared shot of the station:
Across some disused tracks you can see the quaint, historical town:
Nearby is an old boat landing; there’s a sign here telling the story of a daring Civil War-era escape.
One of the focal points of the town is the old church, which is up many, many 18th-century (read: small, uneven, and treacherous!) stone stairs.
If that church isn’t old enough for you, here are the remains of an even older one:
Keep going behind the church and you come to Jefferson Rock, named for yes, THE Thomas Jefferson, who took in the view from the rock while traveling through the area and stated “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”
The view is pretty awesome.
Continuing along you come to a graveyard.
All in all, a very lovely way to spend a day. The government reopened the very next day and I found myself quite suddenly back at work.
I’ve alluded periodically to the fact that in addition to raccoons, I’ve been starting to work with raptors. I won’t be able to share as many photos from that because we aren’t really allowed to take pictures of our rehab birds, but I’ll try to snag some pics of the education birds when I can. Working with raptors is WAY different than raccoons: they don’t take to being cuddled and they eat much grosser food. But I really enjoy it. I’ve always been in awe of these birds of prey (when I say raptors, I mean birds, not dinosaurs!) and having the opportunity to get so close to them and even handle them is amazing. I showed some friends and family some pictures of me holding some of the birds and most everyone commented, “you look really HAPPY!” Of course I was happy, I WAS HOLDING AN OWL! THIS owl:
Another of our ed birds, this is a long-eared owl, which is smaller than the barred owl above, but much larger than a screech owl.
One of the first things you learn about birds of prey is that red-shouldered hawks have a reputation for their attitude, which is just that: they have an attitude. Every single person that takes a red shoulder out of its cage imitates it by saying, “I’m a red shoulder!” in an assertive voice…usually while the red shoulder is asserting its red-shoulderness. This education bird was notable for not acting like a red shoulder – instead he sat quietly and enjoyed the crisp autumn air.
Here I am holding a broadwing hawk, which I know less about because we have fewer than we do red shoulders and red tails; in fact, I think this is the only broadwing we have at the moment. It took him a little while to settle down.
I got a question about the new cat, Heidi, a couple of weeks ago – I’ll have a cat update next time…there’s much to tell, good and bad. A teaser: Heidi is no longer the “new” cat!