Friday, May 30, 2008

the cutest paperclip holder in town

The template for this is from the Toy Maker website. I cut it out and put it together on my lunch. I think it is hands down the best paperclip holder I have ever had at work. I do not have an exact-o knife handy at work, so the lines are a little less than perfect and there was no way to get in the wheel spokes but I am just crazy about it! I made another one for my friend downstairs and I think she put a penny in it! There are so many cute paper projects on the Toy Maker site that I could spend all night cutting a putting together little things.

hurt beagles and onion rings

My sweet beagle Pebbles has a partially torn ACL. Poor little bunny is on pain pills and is completely restricted from any exercise for 10 days. At the end of 10 days the vet will evaluate her to see if she needs surgery. I certainly hope that she does not. She wants to run up the stairs and be a silly beagle but we are having to control that. She is such a sweet little girl and the closest thing I will probably ever have to a daughter, so it breaks my heart to see her in pain. I am sure she will be fine.
I was really in the mood for junk food last night but not so junky that it was from a fast food joint, you know? I made chicken sandwiches and onion rings, which was a really good dinner, actually. The man I call my husband really enjoyed it, too. I did not take any pictures of any of the food for some unknown reason. My onion rings were not the battered kind, although those are really good, too. I basically slice two onions and dredge the rings in seasoned flour, then dip in evaporated milk and then dredge back in the flour. Then fry them in 350 degree oil until they are golden brown and so good and crispy.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. I am making dolls and kitties all weekend for a "homemade open house" my super cool friend and co-worker is hosting in July. I must have stabbed myself with a needle 10 times last night while doing a little hand sewing on some doll heads. I have never really gotten the hang of using a thimble. I guess I should learn, huh?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

clam chowder and, more importantly, mini corn muffins

When a new resident moves to Maryland, they are forced to do two things - 1) Pay exorbitant tax on any car they wish to register and 2) you must agree to consume at least 3 pounds of Old Bay Seasoning a year while living in the great state of Maryland. I must say that number 2 has been much easier for me to accomplish! I kid, of course (about the state forcing you to eat Old Bay, not about actually eating that much)!

We had clam chowder last night (seasoned with Old Bay, of course) and while it was simmering, I realized that I really wanted corn muffins to go with it. Not just corn muffins, but mini corn muffins. So cute and really tasty. I asked the man who lives with me if he wanted mini corn muffins with the chowder and he said, "Oh, yeah!" in that kind of "we haven't had mini corn muffins in forever" way.

Okay, recipe time -

clam chowder
4 strips of thick bacon cut into 1/2 pieces
1 sweet onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, also diced finely - I love the taste of celery but absolutely do NOT want to bite into a firm piece of celery in my soup
3 tablespoons of AP flour
3 medium russet potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces - the love affair continues between me and the russet
1 10-ounce can of whole baby clams, liquid reserved
3 cups of whole milk
1 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of dried dill
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper

Heat a big pot over medium heat, spray with non-stick spray and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until crisp and all the fat is rendered out. Remove the bacon with a slotted thing and set aside. You should have about 3 tablespoons of fat in the pot. Add the onions and celery and cook until the celery is tender. Add the flour and stir until dissolved - about 45 seconds, really. Slowly add the reserved clam juice and stir until thickened. Slowly add the milk - 1/2 cup at a time and letting it thicken between additions - this will prevent the roux from settling on the bottom and burning. Not good chowder at all. Once all the milk is added, add the potatoes and stir in all the seasoning. Reduce the heat so it simmers but does not boil or it will burn. Some folks pre-cook the potatoes but I want the starch from the potatoes in the soup for the flavor and the thickness. So, simmer the potatoes in the milk for about 15 minutes stirring so it doesn't burn or stick but gently so the potatoes don't get too broken up. Once the potatoes are done, turn off the heat and add the clams and half of the cooked bacon. Canned clams are already cooked, so they just need to be heated through. If they cook again they will get tough and rubbery. I like to serve the chowder with a little shake of Old Bay, some sliced green onions, and a little of the bacon on top.

mini corn muffins - make 24 minis or 12 full size
3/4 cup of corn meal
1 1/4 cup of AP flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup of milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/4 cup of vegetable oil

Whisk together all dry ingredients. Add milk, oil, and egg and stir until just combined. Spray a mini muffin tin with non stick spray and add muffin mix. I use two teaspoons to scoop up the batter and then push it into the muffin cups for the minis and a spring style ice cream scoop works well for full size jobbers. I cook them for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Obviously, I am like completely crazy about these things. I must say that they are awesome for breakfast the next day, too.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

beef, broccoli and noodles, oh my!

I got this recipe from Every Day Food here. It was really very good. I made ramen noodles with it, actually. I just throw away the salt pack, I mean the seasoning pack and season the noodles myself with some soy sauce and green onions. I was surprised at how good the noodles tasted, honestly. I couldn't resist buying them at $1 for 10 packs instead of $2.79 for one pack of lo-mien noodles one aisle over in the grocery store. Frugal and tasty and actually low fat!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

rum raisin rice pudding

Rice pudding is one of those foods that "snuck up" on me. I remember being a young pastry chef and the restaurant chef telling me he wanted me to make rice pudding from left over arborio rice. I was totally stumped, as I had never eaten or made rice pudding in my life. This particular chef was truly American when it came to desserts and that means as long as it was sickenly sweet, he liked it. I took the left over arborio rice, mixed it with a very sweet creme' anglaise that was infused with cinnamon and orange. I served it in martini glasses with fresh whipped cream (again, overly sweet). The chef proclaimed it a success. I was off the hook to cook in his kitchen another day!

This rum raisin rice pudding is a little less sweet AND it has rum and raisins in it. I did not have short grain rice on hand so I wanted to cook the rice to very tender, since long grain rice stays noticeably firmer. My husband enjoyed this very much. Sometimes I think I should rename my blog to "cooking for the man who lives with me" or just "cooking for the man" since most everything I make it to please him.

rum raisin rice pudding makes about six 1/2 cup servings
3 cups of cooked white rice
2 cups of whole milk
2/3 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of rum extract
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1/2 cup of dark raisins
Zest of half an orange
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Combine all ingredients except zest and vanilla in a large sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 - 30 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is quite mushy. Remove from heat and stir in orange and vanilla. I like it served cold but you can serve it room temperature and that is nice, too.

Friday, May 23, 2008

zuppa di lenticchie, ya'll!

Here's is some lentil soup with garlic chili oil that I made from the homemade chicken stock that I carried on about for like 3 paragraphs. What can I say, it was that good. The lentil soup is a variation of a lentil soup from Mario Batali. I added 2 lbs. of diced, peeled, seeded tomatoes (about 6 Roma tomatoes or 28 ounces of canned tomatoes) and I used Vidalia onion since I really do not like to cook with red onion. Well, that is mostly true since I do love red onion cooked with raspberries. It is awesome on steak. Anyway, the soup was really very good. I also did not have the Italian Lentils that Mario calls for named Castelluccio Lentils. I really prefer petite French lentil when I cook lentils. They are brown, small and have a nice earthy taste. I enjoyed the chili oil very much with the lentil soup but the soup would be good without it, too. The recipe can be found here.

I am really very glad that I have a three day weekend coming up here in more hours than I care to count down. I plan to do nothing but clean house and make cute things that will hopefully improve my mood which has been less than stellar the last few days. Happy Memorial Day to everyone; have great cookouts!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

frugality be thy name!

When my husband and I were first married we were so poor we didn't have 2 nickles to rub together. I had basically started over with a new career after leaving the world of professional cooking and he was fresh out of seminary without a job. I always looked for inexpensive dinner options then and although we make a lot more money now than we did then, I find myself looking for inexpensive dinner options due to the high price of food.

I must admit that I grew up eating home cooked meals. My mother did not work outside of the home until I was 15. I never ate Hamburger Helper, frozen meals or even fish sticks as a kid. My mom prepared all of our meals from scratch, really. Another big craze I missed out on (tongue in cheek here, I wasn't really "missing" anything) was the popular use of a big name commercial soup brand used as a sauce to cook with. I tried it out when I was first married since many inexpensive meals seem to revolve around it and found it too salty and just plain embarrassing for a former chef to do. So, I make my own cream of mushroom soup and go from there. I find this much more tasty and completely lacking in embarrassment for me. Every one's happy, right?

homemade tuna noodle casserole - makes a whole lot (6-8 servings?)

3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of AP flour
2 cups of whole milk
10 ounces of fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 6-ounce cans of good quality tuna in water, drained well
12 ounces of egg noodles (my hubs loves kluski style noodles)
4 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon of salt
fresh black pepper

Cook the noodles according to package instructions in well salted water. Drain and rinse, set aside.

Heat the over to 350.

Melt one tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a medium sauce pan. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until onions and mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining butter and melt. Stir in the flour and stir until the flour is dissolved. Add the milk 1/2 a cup at a time stirring well to help the flour mix in. Don't add the next 1/2 cup until the milk begins to really thicken. Once all the milk is added, reduce the heat to low to keep the sauce at a simmer and let simmer for 3-5 minutes.

To assemble - mix the noodles, sauce, tuna, salt and pepper together in a casserole dish gently so as not to break the tuna up too much. Cover the top with the cheese and place in the over until brown and bubbly - about 20 minutes. I like my cheese a little darker, so I turn the broiler on for the last 2 minutes. Sometimes I like to mix peas in there, also. Others may claim the title, but I really am the Queen of the Frozen Pea.

We had this with some homemade rolls from this book and a vegetable on the side. It was pretty tasty and super cheap. Whatever happened to that guy on Food TV that had the "Good Deal" show? Dave Lieberman? It would be nice to have some frugal recipes again. Remember the Frugal Gourmet on PBS. He was super cool, right?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

potato fans

These were really good and well... interesting. It is always strange to say that food was interesting but these were. They were really very good but I guess they looked a little too much like not potatoes, right? I don't know. Taste good, look different. Here's the recipe -

Bread crumb topping

1 slice of white bread, torn in pieces
4 tablespoons of melted butter
½ cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon of paprika
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Potato fans

4 russet potatoes, wash them up or they will taste like dirt and be gritty
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the bread crumb topping: Heat oven to 200 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground. Bake bread crumbs on baking sheet until dry, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, and then combine crumbs, butter, cheeses, paprika, garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl.

For the potato fans: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut 1/4 inch from bottom and ends of potatoes, then slice potatoes crosswise at 1/4-inch intervals, leaving 1/4 inch of potato intact at the bottom. Clear as mud, right? I laid each potato between two chopsticks and cut down to the chopsticks so I did not cut all the way through the potatoes. Just be careful - it is not a fast slicing job. Gently rinse potatoes under running water, let drain, and transfer, sliced-side down, to plate. Microwave until slightly soft to the touch, 6 to 12 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking.

Arrange potatoes, sliced-side up, on foil-lined baking sheet. Brush potatoes all over with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until skin is crisp and potatoes are beginning to brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven and heat the broiler.

Carefully top potatoes with stuffing mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Broil until bread crumbs are deep golden brown, about 6 minutes.

I cannot remember what we ate with these potatoes. I am guessing some sort of chicken or beef but I am not certain. I have seen recipes for these and they called them hasselback potatoes but I'm not sure what that means.

Nothing else new to report here. Except that I am working on my own doll pattern after playing with and adapting other people's patterns. I am excited about it. I hope to be able to give one to my sister for her birthday at the end of July.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

unfashionably delicious

When I tell people that I went to culinary school and worked as a professional chef for 8 years, I think they always make the assumption that I am a trendy food snob. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, I like my good mustard, chicken stock, and kosher salt and I would never cook with anything called "cooking wine" or "cooking sherry" but I am not into trendy or fashionable foods. In fact, I think food trends to be rather silly. I mean what did the world do before the whole salt craze? I think the one food trend that drove me the single most nutty was the whole "balsamic glaze" craze that is really so 10 years ago. Honestly, balsamic vinegar is lovely and it does have a place in cooking, no doubt. What I do doubt is that it is good on everything or that everyone who claims to like it on everything actually does, you know? What truly makes me excited in cooking is really good food not really trendy food. I think a lot of unfashionable food is incredibly tasty. I remember hearing after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11 that fine dining restaurants around NYC were serving comfort food because that is what people wanted to eat. I was so excited to hear that but at the same time I wondered, why were they not already serving comfort food on a daily basis? Herein lies the number 2 reason I left cooking as a professional chef (#1 was the hours/lifestyle) and that is my unwillingness to try new things if trying new things meant serving some unsuspecting patron chocolate covered squash or compromising the taste of food to make it look like something that food was not meant to look like. Trust me, if you put enough gelatin in most any pastry it can become a park bench... but at the cost of the flavor and texture. Besides, who wants to eat a park bench?

Having said all that, I was so happy to see Nigella Lawson's show on Food TV the weekend before last called Childhood Memories. She made a number of dishes she grew up eating and she remarked (albeit briefly, she does not blather on like me) about how delicious unfashionable food truly is. She prepared a dish called "Granny Lawson's Lunch Dish" which is a very unfashionable name for food, I think (but I love it)! I prepared it for my husband and I over this past weekend and I must say, we really did enjoy it. I followed the recipe exactly, except I made mine round since I thought it would look super cool. Actually it turned out looking like a gigantic "uncrustable" which made me smile.
I served it with glazed baby carrots. Glazed with?? That's right, balsamic vinegar, because balsamic vinegar does have a place in cooking. No doubt about it.

miss kitty doll

This little kitty doll was a gift for my friend who is getting some living kitties this summer. I thought she could use a little kitty to keep her company in the interim. As usual, this is not the greatest picture in the world as the doll is much cuter in person. She is soft and lovable and you know she likes you because she is smiling at you!

Friday, May 16, 2008

homemade chicken stock

I think I mentioned before that I am forever trying to actually not overspend on my grocery budget. Prices at the grocery store keep going up each week and I am not getting a raise each week to offset that, you know? One place that I know I spend more than I should is on boxed chicken stock or broth. In culinary school, we were told that stock is made from bones and broth is made from meat so I try to keep that all straight and not call one the other. Anyway, I made homemade chicken stock. I remember being a saucier' and making chicken, veal and fish stock each week. I really enjoyed making stocks. The French call stock the fond de' cuisine or the foundation of the food and once again I recall one of my chef instructors, Chef Lundberg, reciting, "garbage in, garbage out". It is so true. I must say that my homemade stock was much better than anything from a box (yes, even Kitchen Basics). Pictured above are the bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme for the sachet. When I was wrapping it up in the cheesecloth, I felt a real sentimentality for the process of making stock. I did not wrap my cloves up with the sachet, I pierced the onions with them because I always thought that was cool.

Here are all the ingredients in a stock pot. Chicken bones, onions, carrots, celery, cloves, salt, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns. All that was needed was the water. Although my stockpot isn't really large enough for the sachet to get lost, I tied it to the handle anyway just for the nostalgia of it all.

Here it is cooking along before I skimmed off the nasties. The nasty foamy stuff has to be skimmed off the surface. It really must. I simmered it for 1 and 1/2 hours. It smelled divine. Really divine.

Here is one quart of the finished product, strained and into a Chinese takeout soup container. I eat way too much Chinese takeout soup and that is why I have one quart containers to strain my stock into. All in all, I ended up with about 2 and 1/2 quarts of chicken stock. I made lentil soup from most of it and it was delicious.

I have a sinus infection and my poor beagle Pebbles has heart worms. She has to go in for a treatment in a couple of weeks. The vet promises me that she will be ok. I certainly hope so. The vet declared her to be athletic and outgoing and Huck to be a couch potato dog. Pretty insightful for one visit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

in the dining room

I really wanted to put an open shelf in my dining room. I know that normally dining room furniture conceals whatever is within it with doors but I thought it would neat to have open storage for linens, decorative plates and serve ware. I spotted a solid wood cabinet at an antique store on my way home one day and purchased it for very little money. It needed some love. I just happen to have some extra love for an old, wood, abused, bookcase.

Here it is on my porch, upside down. It was upside down so I could fix some damage on the underside. I thought at first that I would replace the wood here but that turned into a crazy project so I used this wood epoxy filler stuff. Worked like a charm.


Oh, all patched, sanded, and primed! Ready for paint. I bought "fireweed red" since it looked the most colonial for the shelves and exterior and "artifact" for the back panels. The idea of the whole thing being red made my head hurt a little. The idea of any of it being red made my husband's head hurt a lot! The shelf was parked on my porch for 2 weeks since I am not one to rush paint drying. As I worked on it, Mr. Anderson came to like it more and more. One day he actually said, "it's coming along nicely" and I knew I had turned him to the dark side!! Oh wait... that's another story.

Here it is finished. I have since moved a lot of things around on there and although, I am a minimalist, I definitely see the need for additional items. I just don't want to buy things just for the shelf, you know? I want it to be more of a natural thing. The swan stays and I think I will put a plant on the left side next to the swan. The Blue Willow plates are family thing and actually have a funny story. Something to do with my aunt marrying into a wealthy, English family and not liking any of the "old" stuff they had; she wanted 50's modern pieces. The old stuff included Chippendale furniture and Blue Willow china. So, she gave the plates to my grandma who gave the plates to my mom. My mom gave them to me. I love them. I have more pieces than pictured here. I actually had more pieces at one time but they were actually stolen and sold. I went to get them back but could not afford the price of $45 a plate!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

neglected chicken with veloute' sauce

My dog Pebbles has a cold. She keeps sneezing and seems to feel pretty lousy. It is funny when she sneezes since she is a dog and has no manners as all. When she sneezes, everyone knows!
I wanted to make her some chicken soup, I feel so badly that she is sick. I decided against the chicken soup since she is a dog. I am sure she would love homemade chicken soup but I think it might be a little over the top to make chicken soup for my beagle with a cold. Those beagles are spoiled enough.

Instead, I roasted a whole chicken for Mr. Anderson and I to have for dinner. The weather for April and May seem to have switched on the eastern shore of Maryland. We are enjoying ALOT of rain and cooler temperatures now and we had a rather warm and relatively dry April. I heard the radiators in my house kick on last night and the thermostat is set at 55 currently. Anyhow, cool, rainy and blustery is perfect weather for roasting a whole chicken! I keep my chicken very basic. I rub it with butter, season with salt, pepper, and thyme inside and out and then roast it on a rack in a roasting pan at 375 for about an hour. I like the skin dark and crispy. I made a chicken veloute' sauce to go with it since pan gravy seemed too heavy and greasy last night. Veloute' sauce is one of the 5 mother sauces of classical French cuisine. I think once people hear that, they are scared to make it! It is very easy to make and is so worth the minimal effort! I first learned to make it in culinary school and love it. It is simply a light stock thickened with roux and seasoned with salt and pepper. Simple and really very tasty.

Chicken veloute'
2 cups of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of AP flour
2 tablespoons of butter

Heat a sauce pan over medium high heat and melt the butter without coloring at all. Add the flour and whisk cooking for maybe 2 minutes, again without darkening the butter or flour. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock a 1/2 cup at a time. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to simmer until reduced by about 1/3. Season with salt and pepper (white pepper preferably) and serve. Update: I have to amend this to say that I actually served what is known as a sauce supreme and that is a veloute' with a couple of tablespoons of cream whisked into it at the end. I neglected to bore anyone reading to tears with the fact that veloute' sauce is rarely served as is but there are several daughter sauces made from it. That is a big part of culinary school - learning basics from which can be made more difficult or involved dishes.

I bought some fresh herbs at the church May Fair last weekend or so ago. This lemon thyme smells and looks so lovely. I know I need to move it outside but I am enjoying the fragrance in my kitchen so much. I also bought some lovely lavender, basil, parsley and dill.

While the chicken was roasting, I started a new book called Julie and Julia. It is humourous and an easy read; I must have breezed through 100 pages in an hour last night. This is one of my favorite things about roast chicken and that is it requires little involvement from me and I am free to read or sew or clean. In fact, neglect for an hour is the best thing for roast chicken.

Monday, May 12, 2008

mother's day brunch and books

We had a Mother's Day "love feast" at church on Sunday. I made a breakfast casserole, fruit salad with honey and mint, and served it with breakfast pastries, juice and coffee.

The breakfast casserole is a recipe from Paula Dean that turned out well. I don't know that I will make it exactly the same again as I found the flavors to be a little too competitive. The hash browns on the bottom were a little over the top but all in all, everyone really enjoyed it.

The fruit salad is a "go to recipe" for me and is from Tyler Florence when he was on How to Boil Water. I don't always use the same fruit but I add the honey, orange juice and mint always. I really like this fruit salad; the mint really brightens up the flavor and makes the fruit so happy.

Ok, about books. I have been getting some good summer reading suggestions and even some loans of books (which is super cool). I have been crazy lately wanting to read some really good fiction. Like GOOD fiction not fluffy stuff. I read Mists of Avalon and Pillars of the Earth recently and unfortunately, I was a little irritated with both each for their own reasons. Pillars of the Earth was definitely the better of the two. I keep trying to read Moo by Jane Smiley since people around the college where I work are all keen on Jane Smiley but I cannot seem to get into it. I find the narrative annoying and the satire very contrived and obvious. I don't want to be told who a character is but rather shown through his or her actions and interactions with other characters. Sorry Jane Smiley fans! Eh, maybe I will try something else.

Friday, May 9, 2008

happy mother's day

Happy (early) mother's day to all the moms out there. Since I do not have children, I get to help the men make mother's day breakfast at church Sunday. I don't expect that the beagles will get me anything but you never know with those crazy hound dogs. We had a terrific thunderstorm last night and of course the dogs were scared. I feel like a mom this morning since I was up a lot of the night trying to "make it all better" for them.

The picture above is of my mom and dad before they were married. My mom must have been very young in this picture since she was married at 16! I love everything about the picture - her dress, her demure little handbag, the car, my dad hugging her around the waist, the love between them. I posted a picture of both my parents since mother's day happens to be on my dad's birthday this year. I remember that happening when I was a kid. I didn't understand about movable holidays v. fixed holidays, so I could not understand why my dad's birthday wasn't always on mother's day or why my birthday was once on Palm Sunday but not always. Anyway, I know mother's day this year might be hard on my mom since my dad passed away very unexpectedly a few years ago and here is it his birthday. I don't mean to be downer on such an occasion, but I don't know what to say to my mom about all this besides I love you. My wish for my mom this mother's day is that she will always keep the love that she had for my father that is so apparent to me in this picture. From my lips to God's giant ears.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

daydreams and pasta

I have this crazy daydream sometimes about my husband and I owning a small dairy farm where we would make goat's cheese and milk that is not full of antibiotics. We would go for long walks with the beagles and it would be such a perfect life with goats and goat's cheese. Right.

Truth is I already live on a farm. We only live on the farm, we do not work the farm. There are no goats on the farm. Actually there are no farm animals on the farm, only dogs. I have considered getting a chicken house and some chickens to put in the chicken house but it seems like I have enough to do without having to take care of chickens, also.

Ok, enough blathering on about goats. I adapted this recipe from Everyday Food. I had mushrooms that I wanted to use, so I used mushrooms instead of asparagus (we just had asparagus the night before). My husband really liked this pasta dish. Ok, so here is my adaptation. I used 1 tablespoon of butter to saute' 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms and I added 1/2 a cup of grated Parmesan to the finished pasta since mine seemed kind of soupy and was not really coming together as a creamy sauce as advertised.

As pictured, we have Italian sausage with this. We also had a tossed salad with a sundried tomato vinaigrette. I worry that people don't think we eat vegetables since they are usually not in the dinner pictures. We do - it's usually some sort of salad with a homemade dressing of sorts.

By the way, someone asked what kind of plates my blue plates are. They are Currier and Ives and each plate has a different Currier and Ives scene in the center. I super big time heart them and would love more pieces!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

super easy

I made this for a coworkers' "Good Luck but We'll Miss You" party. It is a warm artichoke dip and is so super easy to make and very delicious. I don't have much else to say about it. Here is the recipe-

12 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 scallions (white and green parts), sliced
1 clove garlic peeled
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine
2 cups drained jarred or thawed frozen artichoke hearts, patted dry
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne
Butter for the dish
Assorted crackers or bread for serving

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, milk, Parmesan, scallions, garlic, eggs, and lemon juice or wine; pulse until smooth. Add the artichokes, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and pulse until just mixed, but still chunky. Transfer the mixture to a buttered, deep 4-cup casserole dish and bake until lightly browned and set, about 1 hour. I like to spread a little more grated Parmesan on the top before baking. If you don’t have a large food processor, you can mix everything but the artichokes with a hand mixer and then roughly chop up the artichokes hearts and add them. It should work.

Good luck but we'll miss you, Caryn! I hope you liked your dip!

On a completely different note, I need to get a summer reading list together. I fondly remember getting a summer reading list during the last week of school when I was a kid. I was always so bored over the summer that I was probably the only kid who actually read all the books on the list. I am looking for any and all suggestions for good reading this summer. I am a total dork, so if you suggest anything to me make sure it is dorky and not smutty!

chicken with mustard sauce and kitchen French

I learned all my kitchen French from a Scottish Sous Chef I apprenticed with named Nigel. All my pronunciations are wrong - you know French with a Scottish Brogue? It's really great.

Here's dinner last night. This was a good, simple dinner for a Tuesday night. I used red skin potatoes, despite not-so-secret food crush for its cousin the russet. I think the trick to making roasted potatoes is to cook them twice. So, I either steam or nuke the potatoes to par cook them and then roast them with garlic butter and olive oil. To keep the potatoes from sticking I preheat the pan with the oil and butter and then add the potatoes to the hot pan with the hot oil and butter and whole garlic cloves. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Roast on 400 for 30 minutes. Really good - the outside is crispy and golden and the inside is soft and potato-ey.

The chicken is just a sauteed chicken breast and I make a pan sauce with chicken stock, cream, and coarse grain mustard. I like Maille brand. They've been making mustard since 1747 so I think they know a bit about it! Honestly, the mustard is richer and not as acidic (read: vinegary) as some other better known brands. Pommerey mustard is good, also. I really like to see the mustard seeds in there. I am not trying to be a food snob about this but I truly believe the adage of "garbage in, garbage out" more than ever when using just a few simple ingredients. Mustard is the dominant flavor in this sauce, so it should be really good mustard. Enough said about the mustard.

Chicken breast with Mustard Sauce

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat and nasties and pounded lightly
2 tablespoons of AP flour
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 cup of good chicken broth or stock or white wine
1/2 cup of cream
2 tablespoons of really nasty, cheap yellow mustard (just kidding!)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and rub lightly with the flour. Heat the oil in a large saute' pan over medium high heat. Cook the chicken on each side until golden brown - about 3-4 minutes per side. If it is still not done, finish it in a 350 degree oven. Add the chicken stock to the pan and scrape up any good chicken bits in the bottom of the pan. Reduce the chicken stock to almost dry (called au sec in French) and add the cream and whisk in the mustard. Reduce by 1/2 or until the cream is thick enough the coat the back of a spoon and holds the line when you draw your finger across it (called nappe' in French). (I wish I had a picture of what this looks like. Note to self - take a picture of a nappe' sauce on a spoon.) Serve the cook chicken with the mustard sauce. The sauce is good with asparagus so I served asparagus on the side.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May Day festivities

Our church has a May Fair every year on the first Saturday of May. It is a fun time. That's the May Pole after the children danced around it and wrapped it in ribbon and there is the lovely colonial sanctuary in the background. It was really a positively dreamy day, you know? Warm and clear and lovely. I grew up in northeast Florida and lived there until I was 24. I've lived a somewhat nomadic life in the few years since making stops in Ohio, Michigan, and now Maryland. I believe that of all the places I have lived, Maryland has the most delightful Springs. I find it hard to put into words how incredible the landscape here truly is. I think partly it is the historicity of the place and also the preservation of rural qualities. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said "keep it rural" - funny right? To take a urban expression like "keep it real" or maybe I am a dork and over thinking this as usual.

There was a pony ride! Ok, not a pony ride but rather two giant Clydesdale's that pulled a wagon. I did not go on a wagon ride but I did pet the giant ponies on the nose.

This is a beagle named Kirby. I love him! My beagles really love Kirby, too! It was a lot of tri-colored fur with the three of them all together. This picture is of Kirby shortly after he was blessed in the blessing of the animals. I think he looks very happy to have received a blessing.

Here are some bright purple pansies from the flower sale. I didn't buy purple pansies, I bought some fresh herbs and some light pink. I need to buy pots for them all.

There was a moon bounce that looked like a castle and had a smiling dragon on the roof. I'm glad the dragon was smiling or else it would have been super scary for me! The kids loved the moon bounce.

All in all it was a great day. There was also a band outside and then a gospel choir inside the sanctuary but I did not get pictures of those. Having moved from Detroit just 2 years ago, I am amazed at how quickly I have adjusted to and actually prefer this type of life. It is indeed bucolic in every way.

Monday, May 5, 2008

the very best bread cookbook ever

I must admit that I was very skeptical... VERY skeptical. This bread cookbook goes against everything I learned about making bread in culinary school. I am very happy to say that my skepticism was misguided or misplaced or whatever. I was wrong. I only bought the book since it was getting so much love in the blog world - here, here, here... ok, it seems every blogger and foodie in the world knows about and loves this book. I made the boule above first. It looked and tasted wonderful! I remained skeptical. One boule, one time, it was a fluke! I made another and then another. Oh boy. This is really good bread. It is really, really good bread and incredibly simple to make. What's more it is only flour, yeast, water, and salt - noting weird or toxic, you know? Also, I did the math and came up with an average cost of 65 cents per boule!

Here is a white loaf served with the best store bought strawberry preserves. Here is a recipe for homemade freezer strawberry preserves from Divine Domesticity. I love that name... it makes cooking sound so lovely and well... divine!

Here is homemade pizza. My husband declared this a winner. He is a pizza snob. I was overwhelmed with joy. Not the greatest picture I have ever taken what with the mini Liberty Bell sitting there are the parchment paper and all. Just look at the pizza. It was awesome.

And finally, sticky pecan buns. Enough said, right? All of these were made from the basic master recipe of dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It is one of those cookbooks (or books for that matter) that make my short list titled "I wish I had written this book."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

lovely chicken and sausage goodness

This is a recipe from Nigella Lawson. When I take any of the "Which Celebrity Chef are You?" quizzes (who knew quizzes had 2 z's?), I turn out to be a Nigella. Honestly, I wasn't exactly surprised by those results; the question about what time is best to eat chocolate cake kind of clinched it for me.

I usually make this full meal as presented by Nigella with garlic roast potatoes, and Petits Pois a la Francaise, which is cooked lettuce with peas. So delicious. I first learned to make lettuce with peas in Culinary school and I was totally impressed with eating hot lettuce, for some strange reason. I thought it a so smashingly un-American dish! I did not make the honey-bee cake last night that Nigella serves with this chicken, although it is a lovely chocolate cake sweetened with honey and I love it. We just had a homemade chocolate cake and I wanted some nasty peanut butter ice cream last night. Yummy!