Wednesday, September 28, 2011

They Call It Puppy Love

We've got a new addition here at Casa de Wigington, and his name is Bandit -- he's floppy and sweet and full of fun. Read about how he came to live with us at my latest Army of Ermas contribution:

An Army of Ermas: They Call It Puppy Love

Two years ago, we lost our beloved golden Labrador, Tanner, to cancer, leaving us with a single dog, our goofy Retriever mix, Brisco. After Tanner died, Brisco helped fill that dog-shaped hole in our hearts. Then we noticed he was getting kind of lazy. A three-year-old dog probably should be doing dog things – chasing the cats, digging holes in my herb garden, hunting for cheese -- not ... [Read Full Article]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Puffball Mushrooms = Nom Nom Noms from the Woods

About a month ago I started running (which is one of the reasons I got slack and haven't blogged much lately) and the place I run is a park that has some really awesome trails. It's nice because there's hardly ever anyone there in the mornings, so often it's just me and some squirrels and the occasional deer. Because the trails go through the woods, I get to see a lot of neat stuff -- Buckeye trees, chipmunks yipping at me, an old blind groundhog waddling along and bumping into stuff. The best thing I've found so far is the puffball mushroom.

Now, the puffball mushroom can get big -- I've found some that were the size of my own head. However, they seem to have the best flavor when they're about the size of a softball - they're nice and tender and soft, and they cook up beautifully.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you find a puffball - first, make sure it's really a puffball mushroom. There's one that is similar which has slightly brainy-looking striations on it, and it's toxic as hell. If you're not sure that you've got a real puffball, cut it open down the middle. If there are brown lines or a distinct stalk inside it, get rid of it, because it ain't a puffball.

The second thing to remember is that puffballs tend to grow in the same place each year, and they often grow in clusters. If you've found several, just take one - leave the rest for the next person to come along.

Finally, remember that some parks do not permit you to remove things like this. Now, I would never ever tell anyone to do anything illegal, but I can tell you that a puffball the size of a softball fits perfectly inside a hooded sweatshirt and you can pretend it's your right boob. Just sayin'.

OK, so enough about that. What the heck do you DO with a puffball mushroom? Well, you eat it! They have a nice, earthy, woody flavor to them, and there are a couple of things you can do with them. For starters, you can slice them about an inch thick and toss them on a grill, like a steak. They're amazing.

Or you can saute them for lunch like I did:

Take one puffball mushroom.
Make sure it's really a puffball - the inside looks like a cross between styrofoam and a marshmellow.
Throw it in a pan with a chopped onion, some green peppers and a piece of kielbasa sausage that your kids refused to eat for dinner the night before.
Add a splorp of steak sauce and cook it all up until it's nice and soft.

Enjoy the hell out of it, because it's amazing.

Big-Ass Carrots and What to Do With Them

I've never planted carrots before, but I decided I'd give it a shot this year to see how well they did in our soil. Around here the dirt is kind of a crapshoot - I never know from one side of the yard to the other what's going to be producing and what's going to be like the freakin' Sahara desert. At any rate, the other day I noticed that the carrots were looking pretty bushy - and I was having a hankering for carrots -- so I dug them up.

Holy guacamole, Batman. These are some big-ass carrots.

No, really, I'm talking about BIG.

That's like the Carrot That Ate Cleveland right there.

So there I am with a big basket of Big Ass Carrots -- about four pounds of them -- and wondering what to do with them. After all, you can only dip so many carrots in ranch dressing before it becomes boring, so I decided to do two things. The first was candied carrots for dinner:

Candied Carrots

2 lbs carrots, washed and peeled
Brown Sugar

Chunk your carrots up into pretty little pieces. Melt the butter in a saute pan over low heat, and toss in the carrots. Coat them so they're all nice and shiny. Add a pinch of salt and cook until the carrots are soft -- in fact, if you let them get a little bit translucent, it's even better.

Add the brown sugar, and stir it all up until it's melty and good. Yum. Candied carrots.

After I made candied carrots for dinner I still had a bunch of Big Ass Carrots left. I decided to use my cool new Ninja Chopper and make a carrot smoothie to drink for breakfast the next day, and it was amazing.

Carrot Smoothie

2 lbs carrots, washed and peeled
3 C orange juice
1/4 C fresh ginger (or about 1 Tbs powdered)

Toss them all in your chopper/blender thingie and puree the hell out of it. The smoothie is more pulpy than my kids liked, but I thought it was delicious and it filled me up. Dig in and enjoy.

I'm Giving Away Free Stuff!

Everyone likes free things, and when those free things are books, it's even better. I've won a couple of really neat things thanks to online contests hosted by authors and publishers - my most recent being a super cool tote bag and a copy of Barton Seaver's For Cod and Country cookbook. So, in the spirit of Giving Stuff Back a little bit, I'm going to host a contest here on Outside the Lines. It's my birthday today, so instead of me getting presents, I'm going to give YOU some.

Here's what I'm giving away to one lucky and randomly-selected winner. You get:

1. A copy of my novel, MacFarlane's Ridge (your choice of paperback or digital download)
2. A copy of my kids' book, Pirate's Alphabet
3. A copy of my teen novel, Summer's Ashes

Yes, you get ALL THREE if you win! Yay!

You can earn multiple entries into the contest by doing one or more of the tasks below. The more you do, the more chance you have of winning. The contest begins today (September 26) and ends on Monday, October 3. The winner will be chosen by the Random NumberTron Select-o-Matic Generator on Tuesday, October 4.

You must leave a separate comment telling me what you've done for each entry.

1 - Follow this blog (or let me know in the comments that you're already following it) = 1 entry

2 - Subscribe via email (or let me know in the comments that you're already subscribed) = 1 entry

3 - Like my Patti Wigington - Author page on Facebook (again, let me know in the comments) = 1 entry

4 - Follow me on Twitter = 1 entry (be sure to include your Twitter name in your comment)

5 - Tweet this post, share on Facebook, stumble it, blog about it, etc = 1 entry each

And here's the most important part of all: be SURE you put your email address in your comments, like so: joe_blow [at] somedomain [dot] com. Because if you win free stuff, you don't want to miss out on it because I had no way to contact you, do you?

Alrighty, get to sharin' and then tell me what you've done!