Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cooling Down

The squirrels have been busy for weeks, harvesting walnuts from the tree behind the garage. From dawn till dusk they are hard at work: fetching the nuts, finding a quiet place to nibble off the lime-green hulls, hopping about the lawn in search of the perfect spot to dig - and then, as often as not, digging up nuts they've already buried, to move them somewhere else.

Eating breakfast on the porch every morning gives me a front-row seat to this annual ritual. The ash tree outside the window sports a squirrel-sized branch stub about ten feet off the ground, perfect for a spot of solitary hull-removal. The tree trunk offers protection from attacks in the rear, while the elevated location allows the nibbler to keep a wary eye out for the competition:

About halfway through the hull-removal process

It's not unusual for another squirrel to sneak up the tree and mount a surprise attack from the side. Skirmishes and property disputes are frequent, providing plenty of entertainment for the breakfasting blogger.

Fresh walnut hulls are thick and tough, but the squirrels remove them in just a few minutes. Starting at one end, they chew methodically round and round, turning the nut in their paws and spitting out bits of hull with a toss of their head, until the brown inner shell is revealed:

Can't believe he chewed the hull thing....

Walnut juice is a potent dye - I wonder what colour this guy's teeth are after a day spent chewing through walnut hulls? :)

On a side note: nuts and acorns are thin on the ground this year. Neither the walnut tree behind the house, nor the oak tree in front, have borne anywhere near the amount they usually do. A commenter from Canada recently mentioned that hickory nuts were in short supply there. Does anyone know the cause of this year's poor nut crop?

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Cooler weather calls for comfort foods, and in the Micawber household, homemade pizza ranks high on the list.

Inspired by a Boulder pizza restaurant that uses a crazy-hot wood-fired oven to cook pizzas in about 90 seconds, I've been baking our own pizzas at the hottest temp available in our home oven:


The results are amazing: a springy, crisp-bottomed crust with chewy interior; perfectly melted cheese that stays creamy, not rubbery; and baking time cut in half  - about 10 minutes (or less) does the trick for a 10"x15" pizza.


Pizza crust recipe can be found here (disregard the temperature instructions; bake instead at 500┬║ in a well-oiled pan).

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Blueberries have all but disappeared from the local grocery store (alas). We celebrated the last of them with some fresh blueberry ice cream adapted from this recipe.


Here's my version - Really Fresh Blueberry Ice Cream for Two:

  • Puree 1 cup fresh blueberries in blender, food processor, or immersion blender cup.
  • In separate bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 cup milk or milk substitute (we used coconut milk beverage).
  • Add 1/2 cup whipping cream or heavy cream, 3/4 tsp. vanilla, and a pinch of salt to liquid in bowl. Mix well.
  • Combine with blueberry puree, then freeze mixture according to ice cream maker directions. If you have enough willpower, let the ice cream cure in the freezer. (We didn't.) :)

The colour and flavour were out of this world...


...and the tiny bits of blueberry skin added just a hint of pleasant texture.

Next summer I'll try adding a hint of lemon to make the blueberry flavour really pop.

Next summer....

*sigh*

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17 comments:

  1. I love the squirrel shots! Your pizza looks delicious too!

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  2. Your great photos and interesting observations about your resident squirrels confirm the signs of early fall I am seeing around me. Two of our resident squirrels dashed under our mystery-Macadamia-like nut tree this morning and now after reading this post I am wondering what kind of crop of nuts we will have this year...none have fallen that I have noticed yet.
    Thanks for sharing your yummy looking recipes, Sue! xx

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  3. I'm coming to YOUR house! Sounds like the eatin' has been pretty good.

    Try lemon zest in your ice cream --- a bit of sweet and tart at the same time.

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  4. Yum! It's a bit cooler here, the angle of light is definitely different, but it's still so humid, longing for Fall.

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  5. Wow, I love the squirrel viewing post and play by play! and your recipes are making me very hungry! Like a good bike ride!!!

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  6. what is it about fall that makes everything taste great????? well it does taste great.
    Blueberry ice cream yum!

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  7. It's kind of a dreary day in my neck of the woods. There are currently 47 Fahrenheits scurrying about outside, the mountains are cloaked in clouds and tonight's forecast is for rain turning to snow by morning.

    Your pizza just cheered me up a bit. YUM!

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  8. Yummy! I love home-made pizza and yours looks just fabulous! And the ice cream even more! I will make some pizza tomorrow and I will try your recipe. Have a nice evening, Viola

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  9. Those squirrels are very busy preparing for cold weather. I hope there are enough nuts to get them through.
    That pizza looks yummy.

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  10. I will be over tomorrow morning for left over yummy pizza for breakfast and squirrel watching.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  11. Love the look of the pizza and the blueberry ice cream and how lovely to be entertained by squirrels whilst eating your breakfast, I love to watch the birds when I'm eating mine but for some reason the neighbourhood cats usually take up residence in my garden and frighten them all away..

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  12. I made soup today so we can pretend summer is almost over. And I think we hit 90F outside, but the rain shower right now should cool us down at least a couple of degrees. Soup may not be so bad after all. I copied your pizza dough recipe for another time. Hugs, Linda@Wetcreek Blog

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  13. You know the expression "Busy as a bee." Well, "busy as a squirrel" doesn't quite alliterate, but they are. Busy. Here, they pull each and every tip off the pine cones one by one to get at a seed underneath. The ground is littered with sharp little pine cone tips. They can do this soooo fast! They peel an amazing number of pine cones in an hour.

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  14. Your recipes look delicious! I love to bake a pizza in the hottest oven, it works so well. We're planning pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil on Saturday night, actually. I loved seeing the squirrels. My kids are obsessed with squirrels in the yard because they aren't very common where we live. I find this so funny because where I'm from, in the east, squirrels are everywhere all the time! Nobody marvels at the sight of a squirrel. You'd think my kids were seeing very exotic creatures, but I guess to them, they are. :)

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  15. It's 10 a.m., I'm already wearing slippers this fall, my hands and legs are chilled, and I STILL drool over the ice cream... ;-) Pizza and ice cream look delicious!

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  16. What great shots of the squirrels! We have had chipmunks the last few months. They climb 50 to 60 feet up the fir trees and then heave the unopened cones to the ground. It can make quite a racket, especially when they bounce off the roof of my car. I hope they can remember where they are stashing all of the little seeds.
    Your yummy looking food pics are making me hungry.
    Have a lovely weekend.

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  17. I love watching those adorable little critters also. Not too many acorns in my neck of the woods either. I just figured they haven't really begun to fall, but after I read your post I looked out my window for a close up view of some of the branches on the two large oaks out front ... and I couldn't spot a single acorn! I've seen a few on the path but not many. Poor squirrels. I'll have to put extra nuts out for them this winter! ... I also cook my pizza in a very hot oven. Yours looks delicious, and so does that blueberry ice cream! xo

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