Monday, January 31, 2022

MONDAY RECIPE POST - OVEN-ROASTED PORK LOIN WITH HERBS

We have made a couple of old favorites this week, Chicken and Dumplings and Cheesy Cheddar Chowder.  If you click on their names, I have provided a link to each recipe.  There were leftovers and we ate each dish for two or three days.  Therefore, I didn't make a new recipe for today, but found an old menu to share from my old blog.  


Oven-Roasted Pork Loin with Herbs


I found this recipe at "Best Recipe Box" in October 2013. Unfortunately, when I did a search for the link I used originally, there wasn’t one.  I found the blog but not the recipe.  There were other pork recipes available but not this one, unless I missed it somehow.


Oven Roast Pork Loin Roast with Herbs - serves 4 to 6

Times may vary depending on your oven temperatures. A meat thermometer put in the thickest part of the meat should reach 145 degrees F.  Your roast should be done but the suggestion was not to go past 145 as the roast will start to get rather dry.

2 pounds pork loin roast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon dried herb mix (basil, oregano and/or thyme)
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

3 medium to large potatoes, peeled, cut into large pieces


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

(Add potatoes to a saucepan, lightly salt and bring water to a boil.  Par-boil for at least 10 minutes.  Drain and surround the pork roast with the potatoes.  Add them the last hour of cooking and turn half-way.  Baste with the pan juices at the same time as you baste the meat. They had a lovely flavor.)

Rinse and pat dry pork loin and then season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large oven-safe skillet on medium-high heat.

Add oil and heat for about 1 minute.

Sear the pork loin on all sides until a crust forms, about 1 minute per side.

Remove pork loin from the pan and set aside.

In the same hot pan add the butter, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and mustard.

Stir and cook the sauce until the butter is completely melted, then remove from heat.

Coat the pork loin with your mixture of dried herbs by patting all over the pork roast.  

Place the pork back into the skillet (along with the potatoes) and spoon sauce over the pork loin and the potatoes.

Cover with foil and transfer to the oven for 30 minutes.  

Remove the foil, spoon some more sauce over pork and potatoes, turning the potatoes at the same time so that they are well coated.  Cook for about another 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of pork reaches 145 degrees.

Remove from the oven and cover with foil to keep warm.  Let rest for about 15 minutes.

Slice thin and serve hot.

We enjoyed this very much and there were leftovers.  The next night we had it again.  There were a few potatoes left over also but we sauteed them in the morning and had them as part of our breakfast.  To replace them for our evening meal I made cauliflower cheese, which I served with the peas, also left over, and the pork roast. 

To me, Cauliflower Cheese is very much a nostalgia food from childhood. I have my own recipe but am always looking to trying something new. I found the recipe at Smitten Kitchen.  Fortunately the link still works and you can see the original recipe here.  It was very close to my Mother's recipe and my dear other half enjoyed it very much also.

Cauliflower Cheese - makes 4 side dishes

1 medium head (about 2 to 2-1/4 pounds) cauliflower
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons mustard powder
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups milk (I used low-fat and this dish still tasted very creamy)
1-1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra sharp, grated cheddar cheese
Parsley for garnish, chopped

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Trim the cauliflower and remove the core. Cut into 1 to 2 inch florets.

Steam in a saucepan for about ten minutes, or par-boil six to seven minutes until firm but tender.

Drain thoroughly to get rid of as much moister off the cauliflower as possible. Put it into the casserole that you are using to put in the oven and set aside. The casserole should be a 2-quart oven-proof baking dish.

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat.

Add the flour and whisk to combine; cook for 1 minute while stirring. You want to get rid of that uncooked flour taste.

Add mustard powder and a pinch of black pepper, stir to combine.

Drizzle milk in a little at a time, whisking gently to get rid of any lumps. Keep adding a little at a time and repeat whisking until all the milk is in the pan and the sauce is smooth.  

Season with salt and bring mixture to the point where you can see a bubble or two on the surface, but don't bring to a rolling boil.  Keep stirring so as not to burn the bottom of the sauce.  If it seems to be sticking at the bottom of the pan, turn it down a little and keep stirring. The mixture should be thickening by now.

Stir in 1-1/4 cups of cheese, a handful at a time. Wait for the cheese to melt before you add the next handful.  It won't take long.

Taste carefully and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Spoon the sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until there is a nice golden brown on top of your Cauliflower Cheese.  I sometimes turn the broiler on for the last couple of minutes, but watch it very carefully so that it doesn't burn.


What did we think of this menu?  Delicious!  Both the Pork roast and the Cauliflower Cheese recipes will be used again.  My thanks to Best Recipe Box and to Smitten Kitten for two great dishes.  

I used sage and thyme for my herb mix for the roast.

I also line the roasting pan with heavy foil.  This makes clean up a snap.

The second night was just as delicious as the first.

The Cauliflower Cheese and the peas were a perfect accompaniment to the roast and we didn't miss the potatoes.

We have yet more leftovers, enough pork for sandwiches for lunch and the Cauliflower Cheese will make a nice light supper.


Thanks for looking, enjoy your day and...




Friday, January 28, 2022

CONVERSATION AT THE FEEDER...

 



Camera Lady says to husband, "It's too high, I have seen them try.  They can't get up there."  

Today's Quote: "Famous Last words!"

Thanks for looking.  Have a great weekend.










Thursday, January 27, 2022

NEW BLOG POST FROM OLD BLOG POST

I haven't shared any flowers for a while, so I went back into my archives.  These are The Tom Kubota Stroll Garden in Seattle, during the summer of 2010. 

Heavenly Bamboo or Nandina domestica
This plant really doesn’t look much like real bamboo, maybe the leaves come close to the bamboo leaves. It is, in fact, a shrub that grows bright red berries after flowering white in spring.It comes from Eastern Asia and is now considered an invasive species in Southern states because it is very drought tolerant and tough.

Panicle Hydrangea  or Hydrangea macrophylla.
While other big-leaved hydrangeas frequently fail to bloom, these never disappoint, so I read.  It is native to Japan and grows 3 to 16 feet.

Mountain Hydrangea or Hydrangea serrata.
It is native to Japan and Korea and is prized for its ornamental beauty and unique flower clusters.  Colors range from blue to pinkish red, depending upon soil pH, and features a flattened cluster of flowers.  It needs ample sunlight but will benefit from partial afternoon shade.

Common Foxglove or Digitalis purpurea.
It is a biennial or short-lived herbaceous perennial from western Europe. This plant, also sometimes commonly called purple foxglove, fairy gloves, fairy bells, lady’s glove, and many other things.

Cornflower Perennial Mountain Bluet - Centaurea Montana
Mountain bluets are similar in appearance to their annual cousins, the cornflower. However, its perennial nature and ease of care have spread across the British Isles, Scandinavia, and North America. In fact, in British Columbia, it has spread so aggressively that it’s now considered an invasive weed.

 This is an upright, vase shaped small tree with very pretty white and grey green variegated leaves that light up shady to partially shaded areas in the garden. In spring the leaves are highlighted in pink. In fall the leaves take on a deep scarlet red color. They can reach reach 12 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide and maybe 1/2 that size in containers. 

The Perennial Pea - Lthyrus latifolius
Also known as Wild Sweet Pea and Everlasting Pea.
The plant is a member of the Fabaceae family and a native of the Mediterranean (northern Africa and southern Europe).  The genus name comes from the Greek word for pulse or pea Lathyrus. Its specific species latifolius means “broad-leaved.”  Everlasting pea climber has a trailing and climbing habit and grows to a height of 6′ to 9′ feet with a spread of 3′ to 6′ feet. When left to its own devices with nothing to climb, the plant will ramble as far as it can grow as a groundcover approximately 4″ to 8″ inches high. When it has support, it will climb to a height of 6′ to 9′ feet.








Tuesday, January 25, 2022

FINLAND IS OFFICIALLY....

“Finland is officially the world’s happiest country. It is also 75 per cent forest. I believe these facts are related.”

~Matt Haig~




(These images were found at pixabay.com, when I did a search on Finland to illustrate this quote.)




Monday, January 24, 2022

MONDAY RECIPE POST - EASY BRAISED BEEF WITH MUSHROOMS - serves 6

(My photo doesn't look pretty but the taste was excellent.  You can see Natalya's photos at the second link provided below.)

BEEF Easy Braised Beef with Mushrooms

Serves 6 


This week's recipe is from a food blog called MomsDish hosted by Natalya.  If you are interested in seeing all of Natalya’s tips, her blog link is here.  Or if you prefer to cut and paste:

https://momsdish.com/braised-beef-with-mushrooms

I have added quite a few of her tips below this recipe.  


Easy Braised Beef with Mushrooms Recipe

Servings: 6 servings

Total cooking time from start to finish, approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes.  


3 lbs beef chuck roast

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions

1 pound mushrooms

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste 

1 tsp ground cumin (I used the equal amount of thyme)

3 bay leaves

2 cups beef broth (I added a cup of red wine to this)


Trim the beef of any excess fat and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Set aside.

Chop the onions into one-inch chunks and the mushrooms into halves.  Set aside.

Preheat a Dutch Oven (or another oven-safe dish) with 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. 

Add the beef and brown each piece on all sides. 

Remove the beef from the pot and set aside.

In the same pan, add 2 more tablespoons of oil and cook the onions and mushrooms in the beef drippings until they turn a light shade of brown.

Add the beef back into the pan, along with the salt, cumin (or in my case, thyme), and black pepper. 

Add in bay leaves and beef broth. 

Cover with a lid.

Bake in a preheated oven to 375°F. for about 90 minutes, or until beef is tender. 

Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves.

Serve immediately with your favorite side dish and enjoy!


This was delicious!  Thank you Natalya for a very comforting meal on a cold, chilly evening.  It is 21 degrees Fahrenheit right now.

Gregg cooked roasted carrots, along with onions and a surprise as we were also having the mashed potatoes, slivers of sliced potato.  

He put the veggies in a bowl and mixed with the following (no exact measurements as he adds a bit of this and a bit of that, though I asked for approximates) about 2 tablespoons of extra Virgin olive oil, soy sauce (4 shakes), rice wine vinegar (4 shakes), and a good forkful of chili crisp.  He put all the vegetables onto a sheet pan and cooked on 425 degrees F. for about 20 minutes.  I always enjoy his spontaneous put-togethers, and the ingredients he uses for the sauce are always very tasty.

I had already made the mashed potatoes to the menu, but his sliced potatoes were an experiment and there weren't that many.  I would definitely go for more next time, and not make the mashed potatoes.  The vegetables, along with those thinly sliced potatoes, were excellent.

The next day the potatoes had been eaten, and we added cooked rice.  It was a very nice substitute.

I added 1 cup of red wine to the beef broth.  I picked this up from cooking shows watched over the years.  Also doesn't hurt to enjoy a glass of wine at the meal.  In one of those cooking shows the chef said never use cooking wine as you should treat yourself to a glass with your meal.  

I am not a big fan of cumin and my go-to herb for this type of meals is thyme.  

I will add another half hour onto the cooking time.  Our oven seems to run cooler and takes longer for most recipes we put together.

Added note:  the soup is now all gone.  This is one of those meals that got better each time we ate it.  For tonight's supper, our third meal, there was still a little meat left and a few veggies, but there was more broth. I had a couple of hot dog rolls left, which I halved and sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.  Then I toasted them under the broiler in the oven until they were nice and brown.  They were a tasty addition.  This is such a great meal for a chilly day.  


The following are all Natalya's tips from her original recipe.  I added them here as a guide for when we make this again.  


What Kind of Beef is Best for Braising?

The best beef for braising: large cuts like chuck roast or brisket. The low and slow process helps to break down and tenderize even the most massive cuts. Alternatively, you could also use bone-in cuts like Oxtail or Beef Short Ribs.


Storing Leftover Braised Beef:

Braised beef is the perfect candidate for meal prep. Super versatile, it can be used in plenty of different ways throughout the week. 

Whether you have leftovers to eat the next day or two, or want to freeze those leftovers for a rainy day, here are a couple of different ways to store braised beef.

Refrigerator: 

If you think you’ll eat the braised beef within a week, feel free to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The container will keep the meat from soaking up any lingering smells in your fridge, while also allowing it to continue developing its flavor.

Freezer: If you’d like to keep the braised beef on hand for up to 3 months, freeze it in a freezer-safe bag or airtight container. But first, let it cool down completely. You can store it in one big bag or portion it out into several smaller bags. To thaw, place a bag in the freezer overnight.


How to cook the braised beef in a Slow Cooker:

In a skillet, brown the beef and veggies as directed. 

Next, transfer them to the bottom of the slow cooker pot.

Add the remaining ingredients: 

Next, simply add in the remainder of the ingredients right on top of the beef and veggies. 

Give the ingredients a good stir.

Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or until the beef is fork tender.


(I will try the slow cooker next time.  I don't have a pressure cooker but added this in case any of you do.)


Pressure Cooker: 

Brown the beef and veggies on the saut√© setting, and add in the rest of the ingredients right on top. 

Turn on the Soup Setting and let the pressure cooker do the rest.


That's all I can think of right now.  Thanks for stopping by and...





Thursday, January 20, 2022

FEAST FOR ONE - THE BLUE JAY DINNER BELL


The trail cam produced this nice clear photo of the Blue Jay.  When the sun is shining I get better pictures.  It was about three feet away from the camera, and was sharper and not quite as blurry.  

The Blue Jay is considered to be boisterous and a bit aggressive, but when I hear them squawking outside I am happy to see them.  

Since we had to have two of our largest trees cut down next to the deck, the Blue Jay doesn't visit quite as often.  I suppose it lost its protective cover.  When one does visit on the odd occasion, it pleases me greatly.  And that squawk seems to be a signal to let others in its family know that the dinner bell has rung and there is food on the table.  

Blue Jays can be beneficial to other birds.  In the "Birds of Maine Field Guide" written by Stan Tekiela, you will read that they are "known as the alarm of the forest, screaming at any intruders in the woods".  This also lets other birds know that there is a predator around.  Blue Jays will also mob raptors, which will provide protection for other birds.

Their history is quite interesting.  Did you know that because of the Blue Jay's preference for acorns and beechnuts, they helped facilitate the migration of oak and beech trees thousands of years ago?  By burying these nuts in the ground, they helped spread nut-bearing trees northward at the end of the Ice Age.  This in turn benefitted numerous species of wildlife.  They continue this behavior even today.

You can read more about them here.





Wednesday, January 19, 2022

SHARING A FEW…

rambles here. I have enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles.  I am sharing the ones I have done on my iPad.  I like the photos/illustrations and have been saving them. Each one only had 440 pieces, but they have given me many happy hours.  I have put these together during the past year. 
It has snowed again but not as much as last time, or as much as others have had.  About 3 inches.  Gregg went out to shovel the driveway.  The other day we were wondering where all the young teenagers had gone.  We always used to have them knocking on our door, but no one came the last time.  
As my dear other half was about to start, a young man appeared on one of those electric scooters with a shovel in one hand (the snow plow came through early this morning and the roads were clear pretty much).  He asked if he could do the driveway for us.  He turned up just at the right time.  When asked how much he said as much as you think it is worth.   He was paid with grateful thanks, and he did a great job!
We had a family member stay with us for a few days.  Enjoyed our visit very much.  I am looking forward to doing more of that with family and friends as the year progresses.  Keeping fingers crossed!
I left the Christmas decorations up longer than usual because of this visit, and today was the day to start taking them down.  I am not rushing into it as I do enjoy looking at them.  The place is starting to look a bit bare. 
I do an inventory of each ornament that I pack away, as I misplaced a couple of boxes (down in the basement somewhere no doubt), and I want to make sure I remember where I put them for next time.
I made macaroni and cheese for dinner.  Not sure what is going to be a side, roasted carrots and we have a bag of Bok Choy in the fridge that always makes a nice quick saut√©.  It might seem a lot of pasta considering I shared the one this past Monday, but we had that meal a couple of weeks ago.
I am about to start reading a book by Jane Goodall with Phillip Berman, called Reason for Hope.   I greatly admire the lady and have done since I was young.  I shared her last name before I was married, and as a teenager I wished we were related.  We weren't!  I read everything I could about her work with chimpanzees.  My love of animals and wildlife in general, has been part of me since I could barely walk.  We were always surrounded by cats and dogs and rabbits, which started me on that journey.  
When I was old enough I rode into town to the library on my bicycle, and filled my basket with books, some fiction, some non-fiction, all to do with nature around the world, including Africa. 
 Our family almost ended up in Africa at one point in my life, when my dad was offered a job with the police force over there.  It didn't come to pass because my mother would not agree to the move, but my particular fork in the road took me here instead, and I have been blessed a hundredfold.  In my second lifetime I hope I will get to Africa. 
In our genealogy search Gregg found that two generations ago I had relatives who traveled to that country as missionaries.  I remember a family member, a cousin my mother had introduced as our family historian way back in my childhood.  He told us a tale about them, and I remember being enthralled.  Years later, long after I was married, I remembered this when we were talking.  It was long before Gregg thought about genealogy.  One day about a year ago he said didn’t you tell me you had missionaries in your family?  He had found them. Mom’s cousin?  I wish I could talk to him now.  
And I may be repeating myself here, but according to No. 5 in my previous post, that’s okay.  I am just taking a trip down memory lane again, and I always enjoy doing that. 

Thanks for indulging me in my latest trip. 
Have a wonderful day! 




Tuesday, January 18, 2022

I THOUGHT THIS WAS POIGNANT AND VERY ENLIGHTENING...


Artist Laurencia Victoria
(Thank you for the ID Anni)


It certainly gave me pause for thought.  Gregg found it online.  If anyone recognizes this piece, please let me know who wrote it, and I will give it well-deserved recognition.

Added note: thank you Sandra for telling me that this was from Will Rogers.


"This is too insightful not to share. I asked a friend who has crossed 70 and is heading towards 80, what sort of changes he is feeling in himself? He sent me the following:


1.   After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children and my friends, I have now started loving myself.

2.   I have realized that I am not “Atlas”. The world does not rest on my shoulders.

3.   I have stopped bargaining with vegetable and fruit vendors. A few pennies more is not going to break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.

4.   I leave my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.

5.   I stopped telling the elderly that they've already told that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane and relive their past.

6.   I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.

7.   I give compliments freely and generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient, but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say "Thank You.”

8.   I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.

9.   I walk away from people who don't value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.

10. I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat and neither am I in any race.

11. I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.

12. I have learned that it's better to drop the ego than to break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas with relationships, I will never be alone.

13. I have learned to live each day as if it's the last. After all, it might be the last.

14. I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time, just choose to be!


I decided to share this with all my friends. Why do we have to wait to be 60 or 70 or 80, why can't we practice this at any stage and age?"


Thanks for stopping by today.


Monday, January 17, 2022

MONDAY RECIPE POST - BAKED ZITI WITH SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE - SERVES 8

 

I found this week's recipe here at "Garnish and Glaze". The blog host is Melanie and she lives in Nebraska.  There are many, many delicious recipes on her blog, and it is well worth checking them out. 

Baked Ziti with Sweet Italian Sausage - serves 8


Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, peeled
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can (15 ounces) Basil and Oregano diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 box (16 ozs.) rigatoni
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh chopped parsley and basil for garnish


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook sausage and onions together until meat is browned.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds)

Break tomatoes apart with your hands as you add them to the skillet.

Stir in the tomato sauce, paste, sugar, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the meat is cooked through, and then stir in the diced tomatoes and fresh basil (if you like your sauce thick you can simmer without the lid, but the sauce thickens when it bakes also.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish or two 8 x 8 inch dishes.

While sauce simmers cook the pasta as directed on the package for 10 minutes or until al dente.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot.

Mix 2 cups of the sauce in with the noodles.

Pour half the pasta into the baking dish, top with half the remaining meat sauce, sprinkle with half the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and then repeat the layers using up the remaining ingredients (you can add more cheese to the top if desired).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned on top.

Let dish cool for 10 minutes and then serve garnished with Parmesan cheese, parsley and basil.

Melissa also mentions that you can use plain diced tomatoes with the addition of 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil to the sauce right before you simmer it, and add the plain diced tomatoes after simmering.

Also this can be made without the sausage.  You will need to cook the onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Serving size is an 1/8 of the recipe.  With the sausage it comes out to about 541 calories per serving.  Without sausage it is 401 calories.



What did we think of this dish?  It was delicious!  

I only had the sweet Italian sausage in links. I took the casings off and broke the meat up in the skillet. For next time I would make it easier on myself and buy the Italian sausage meat in a roll.  It doesn't take that long to remove the casings but I just like to remove all the steps I can.

I improvised a bit.  I didn't have the exact sized baking dishes suggested, but a Corning Casserole that I have had in my collection for years fit nicely. I am not sure of its capacity and didn't bother to measure it but it is not overly large.  The mixture came right to the top of the dish but did not spill over into the oven. I did lay some aluminum foil on the shelf beneath the dish just in case.

I grated enough Parmesan to put on top of our meals, and also added a slice of buttered bread, sprinkled with grated Parmesan and toasted under the broiler.  

Another tasty treat we have discovered is if you put a teaspoon of grated Parmesan right on the broiling pan, it melts into a delicious, crispy wafer.  We found this out when we broiled those Parmesan toasts as extra cheese fell onto the broiling pan.  We loved nibbling on these.  It would also be good broken up and put on top of say tomato soup instead of using bread.  I am not sure how difficult it would be peeling it off any other way, but when I use my non-stick aluminum foil, I can remove it easily. Parchment paper might also work.

Serve with your favorite side.  A nice green salad was our choice.  

Easy enough to leave the sausage out of this dish and go vegetarian.  I have made it both ways.

I will make two casseroles next time, one to freeze.  There are enough leftovers in one dish to last us for a couple of days.  


Thanks for looking and have a great week.



Saturday, January 15, 2022

99% SURE THIS IS THE CULPRIT

One of the reasons I started putting out the feeders again is that our bear seen locally raiding them was in hibernation.  I didn't take into account raccoons I also thought hibernated at this time of the year.  Apparently not! I didn't actually catch him in the act of stealing the owl-shaped seed ball, but it seems strange that our ambidextrous seed eater turned up the next night after it disappeared.   These are very short videos, 15 seconds each.  

I found the following information at this website.
"Although they don’t hibernate, raccoons do hole up in dens during the bitterest days of winter and are able to sleep for long stretches of time – up to a month – without heading out into the elements. The extra layer of fat they add during the fall – about one-third of their total weight – helps provide insulation, along with a heavy coat of coarse fur. Raccoons, though typically solitary creatures, will sometimes den in groups during very cold weather."
The word "raccoon" comes from an Algonquin word "aroughcoune," meaning "one who scratches with his hands."  A new bit of information for me.
"Dens range from tree cavities and underground burrows to abandoned buildings and, sometimes, unused chimneys. And raccoons are not above kicking some other animal out of its warm den to take over."
You can read more information at the link I provided under the second video.   The following are still-photos taken with the same bird cam.
Whatever your opinion of them is, and I know they can be complete and utter pests, I have never had any issues and have always found them endearing.
  That's not to say I want to get too close as they are after all wild animals, and I will always keep my common sense about me.  I certainly do not want to encourage them.  
For the last couple of nights our little visitor has not returned, and I hope it stays that way, for them and for the sake of our neighborhood pets.  They also love to get into trash cans trying to find food, and with those nimble little fingers, can get the lid of one very fast, so I am told.
Also, Gregg thinks he may have spotted the missing owl seed ball not too far from our deck.  It's in a very muddy area and we are going to wait for the ground to dry up before retrieving it.  Hopefully all it will need is a bit of a wash.  We are expecting another snowstorm on Sunday.  The weather forecasters promise us only three inches this time.  
The Cardinal was there to lend his support to Squirrel, and was also very thankful the raccoon had left some bird seed for his morning snack.