Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nasty Nasty Weather Today.

Well, we finally got some nasty weather. It's incredibly windy with intermittent heavy driving rain. This, my friends, is a good day to stay indoors with a nice fire. Speaking of which I might light a small one. No, on second thought it's still 19 degrees inside so it's warm enough. We had a small fire last evening and it warmed the house right up. If we had a woodstove though I'd light one just for the comfort of watching a fire burn. There's something primeval and comforting about having a fire burning in bad weather, don't you think? It's still true that the heart of a home is the hearth. That's why everyone hangs out in the kitchen!

Today's weather is basically bad. 50 km/h winds packing gusts up to 80 km/h. Rain. 16 degrees. So far no power outages or trees down and it's unlikely that will happen but I'm ready if it does. The kids have a half day today so they'll be home early and Steve is hopefully working a normal day and will be home in time for dinner.

In the US the EPA's attempt to ban almost all wood burning stoves in favour of so-called more efficient models has me a bit worried because Canada often follows the lead of the Americans and even if they do not, the lack of availability of a good stove will drive up prices. And I'm going to need one for the new house. I love a woodstove for heating, cooking and during emergencies. I was just reminded about this because with this nasty weather it's the perfect day to have a big pot of stew simmering slowly. Maybe I can find the slow cooker instead.

Here's the article from Natural News. Take it with a grain of salt.

Traditional wood-burning stoves are still one of the most cost-efficient, sustainable, and renewable sources of energy production that families can use to heat their homes. But the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not a huge fan of them, as was evidenced by its recent decision to push those who use traditional models to convert to EPA-approved -- and oftentimes much more expensive -- alternative models.

Throughout history, civilizations have relied on the burning of wood to cook food, warm water, and heat places of dwelling. After all, trees are an abundant and renewable source of wood, which means that the costs associated with obtaining energy and heat from burning wood are minimal. This, of course, is why many cash-strapped folks today are turning to wood-burning stoves rather than their local utilities.

But the EPA is now expressing concern about the 80 percent-or-so of wood stove users that still rely on non-EPA approved models. Most of the wood stoves manufactured before 1990 do not contain the EPA's certification stamp of approval which, in the eyes of the agency, means they are an unnecessary contributor of excess environmental pollution.

This is debatable, of course, as EPA-approved models can still emit excess smoke just like the others, and may not necessarily provide any pollution-reducing benefits at all. Because of their altered designs, many of the new EPA-approved models do not work as well as the older models, either, especially when used in severely-cold weather (

Most wood-burning stove companies in the US actually went out of business shortly after the EPA established its original certification requirements for wood stoves back in the 1990s. Many of the companies simply could not develop a complying product that actually worked. Today, the EPA is once again revisiting these New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) guidelines in order to push even more people away from the old stoves.

At the same time, EPA spokeswoman Alison Davis recently tried to whitewash the agency's position against wood stoves by claiming that the EPA is "not in the business of telling people how to heat their homes." No, it is actually in the business of restricting the types of wood stoves manufacturers are allowed to produce and sell, which ultimately does tell people how to heat their homes by robbing them of their freedom of choice.

Learn more: But take it with a grain of salt.

Here's a beef stew recipe I really like but I mostly adjust it depending on what I have on hand. Here's my usual beef stew recipe:

1 lb beef cut into cubes. dredge in seasoned flour and fry until brown in hot oil (2 tbsp). Add bouillon, worchestershire sauce, burgundy if desired, crushed garlic and herbs to taste (rosemary, thyme, bay) Simmer covered for 1 hour. Add 10 cups of cubed vegetables such as turnip, rutabaga, potato, celery, carrot and 2 large onions. Simmer again for 20 minutes until veggies are soft and serve with dumplings or crusty bread. This is the one you serve your kids.

Here's my fancy recipe with the veggies served as side dishes. And yes, I borrowed this recipe from Gordon Ramsay, the chef. This is the one you'd serve your mother-in-law.

  • 3 tsp goose fat
  • 600g beef shin, cut into large chunks
  • 100g smoked streaky bacon , sliced
  • 350g shallots or pearl onions, peeled
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms (about 20)
  • 2 garlic clove , sliced
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 750ml bottle red wine , Burgundy is good


  1. Heat a large casserole pan and add 1 tbsp goose fat. Season the beef and fry until golden brown, about 3-5 mins, then turn over and fry the other side until the meat is browned all over, adding more fat if necessary. Do this in 2-3 batches, transferring the meat to a colander set over a bowl when browned.
  2. In the same pan, fry the bacon, shallots or pearl onions, mushrooms, garlic and bouquet garni until lightly browned. Mix in the tomato purée and cook for a few mins, stirring into the mixture. This enriches the bourguignon and makes a great base for the stew. Then return the beef and any drained juices to the pan and stir through.
  3. Pour over the wine and about 100ml water so the meat bobs up from the liquid, but isn't completely covered. Bring to the boil and use a spoon to scrape the caramelised cooking juices from the bottom of the pan - this will give the stew more flavour.
  4. Heat oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2. Make a cartouche: tear off a square of foil slightly larger than the casserole, arrange it in the pan so it covers the top of the stew and trim away any excess foil. Then cook for 3 hrs. If the sauce looks watery, remove the beef and veg with a slotted spoon, and set aside. Cook the sauce over a high heat for a few mins until the sauce has thickened a little, then return the beef and vegetables to the pan.
  5. To make the celeriac mash, peel the celeriac and cut into cubes. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Tip in the celeriac and fry for 5 mins until it turns golden. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in the rosemary, thyme, bay and cardamom pods, then pour over 200ml water, enough to nearly cover the celeriac. Turn the heat to low, partially cover the pan and leave to simmer for 25-30 mins.
  6. After 25-30 mins, the celeriac should be soft and most of the water will have evaporated. Drain away any remaining water, then remove the herb sprigs, bay and cardamom pods. Lightly crush with a potato masher, then finish with a glug of olive oil and season to taste. Spoon the beef bourguignon into serving bowls and place a large spoonful of the celeriac mash on top. Garnish with one of the bay leaves, if you like.

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