Friday, December 26, 2008

Oyster Stew

Every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember my family has sat down to a dinner of oyster stew. This year our family wasn't together for Christmas Eve proper. I phoned Mom to find out how to make it so I could share this annual treat with my co-conspirator. It turns out she uses a recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook. All these years I assumed she had it memorized. The recipe I ended up using is an adaptation of that one and serves two as a first course. It tasted exactly as good as I hoped it would.

Oyster Stew

Gently examine 8-12 fresh oysters in their liquid for bits of broken shell.

In a small saute pan blend together:

  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • several grinds of fresh pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons of water to make a paste

    Stir in the oysters and their liquid and start heating the pan over very low heat. Continue cooking and stirring and add small amounts of water if the mixture becomes too thick.

    Meanwhile heat 1 1/2 Cups milk and 1/2 Tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan. Do not boil.

    When the oysters begin to curl around the edges add them and the cooked flour mixture to the hot milk. Stir in well to dissolve the flour gel and remove from the heat. Allow pan to stand for fifteen minutes off heat.

    To serve return to medium low heat and bring just to a high simmer. Ladle into hot bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of sweet paprika. Serve with crackers.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Big Five-Oh

Even though I stopped chasing numbers in respect to birding a few months ago I couldn't help but notice a little milestone yesterday. We braved some chilly wind and gray skies to see what was going on around Picnic Point. Along with lots of Tundra Swans, Common Loons, Gulls and an immature Bald Eagle, I saw my first Common Goldeneye. That species brought my total to fifty new ones in 2008. Just for the heck of it, here they are:

  • American Dipper
  • American Pipit
  • Baird's Sandpiper
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Canvasback
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Common Moorhen
  • Dickcissel
  • Dunlin
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Heermann's Gull
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Lincoln's Sparrow
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Northern Shrike
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Ovenbird
  • Palm Warbler
  • Philadelphia Vireo
  • Pine Siskin
  • Red Crossbill
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Sedge Wren
  • Semipalmated Plover
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Short-billed Dowitcher
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Stilt Sandpiper
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Tundra Swan
  • Vaux's Swift
  • Veery
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Western Grebe
  • Western Gull
  • Wrentit

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ripe Solanum Fruits

I posted a while back about a Solanum atropurpureum plant I'm growing. When fall arrived it responded to the cooler temperatures by stopping everything it was doing, including growing and ripening its fruits. On a whim I just moved it into the house. Light levels were drastically reduced compared to what it was getting all summer but it didn't seem to mind and remains a nice green color. But what's more, once warmed up the fruits finally resumed ripening. You can see here their resemblance to their tomato and pepper cousins. I'm told by the friend who gave me the plant last spring that they won't actually soften so soon I'll harvest some and remove the seed. Another good friend of mine is way into the Solanaceae so I'll mail some off to him to grow. Just for fun I'll hang onto the plant all winter if it decides to live that long and place it outside again next growing season.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tundra Swans

One of the nice things about being relatively new to any pastime is the high frequency of new discoveries and experiences related to to it. I've been experiencing that in the realm of birding. As long as four months ago I started really becoming aware of the birds that just pass through my area seasonally from exotic locales. With shorebirds making their stops back then through the southward warbler wave to the recent influx of large waterfowl I've tried to keep abreast of new arrivals via posts on various message boards. Unfortunately free time that coincides with tolerable weather and daylight have been at a premium lately.

But today I finally got a chance to get out and look for one species that has particularly sparked my interest, the Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus.) The fact that these large, beautiful birds breed and summer--such as it is--at the northernmost reaches of North America and then migrate such a great distance to spend their winter on the more temperate coasts is amazing to me. I find it funny that I've been driving past them not much more than a block away for some time now but didn't know to look. It seems almost everywhere I look now there is something of ornithological interest and it doesn't even require travelling to exotic destinations, just a slight diversion from my beaten paths.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

New Camera....First Bird Attempt

I just took my first shot at photographing a bird with our new camera. It's an Eastern Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) in winter plumage on a feeder in my garden. Granted, it's an overcast day and I was shooting through double-pane glass and a screen, but it didn't turn out to horribly bad. I will admit to running an autofix filter on it with an image processing program. I'll be interested to see how this works in the field. I am not a photographer.