Thursday, September 25, 2008

another kind of ragdoll

This is my friend Lindsay's lovely kitten. Her name is Layla... isn't she lovely? Those blue eyes, that soft fur, the pretty paws, whiskers and ears just make her a real show stopper in my book. I do not have the words to express how soft Layla is, honestly. I saw pictures of Layla before I met her and I thought I knew how soft she would be in person. I was wrong. She is as soft as she looks times 10. No, times like 100! She is sweet and soft and elegant looking. It's too sad that I am allergic to cats or I would want a Layla. My friend and her nice fiance adopted Layla a couple of months ago and just last weekend they adopted a boy ragdoll kitten and named him Leif. After the Viking. Cool, huh? He's cute, too. See?

Lindsay and I were talking about how it is just so neat to have two of an animal that kind of match. As most folks who read here know, I have two beagles and I must admit that having two beagles seems better than having one beagle and one jack russell, you know? Nothing wrong with JR terriers but our OCD seems to spill over into animals.

Not much is going on in my life just now. I am preparing for my sister's much anticipated visit and working a lot! I finished the quilt, which is good. I will post pictures of it soon, I promise! I have not bought a camera, yet since I am hoping to test drive my sister's camera next week. I haven't really been cooking a lot since we seem to be out and about every night at dinner time. We had Mexican last night. Oh, chili rellenos, how I love you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

camera talk

I realize that I named my last post grumpy and camera talk and there was no camera talk. I am obviously looking for a point and shoot digital camera but I need to be able to do close up shoots of food, inside. My last camera took really pretty pictures outside from about 3 - 5 feet. Here is a run down of the models I have done a little research on and want to see in person -

The Canon powershot A80. This camera comes highly recommended from its users and I like the looks of it. This camera only weight 8.8 ounces, which is important when you have to lug it around to baseball games or on long walks with beagles. This camera retails for about $150 new. I would be happy with a used one, provided it was in really good shape. Not that $150 is so much money (it's really inexpensive in the world of digital cameras), it is just I wonder who takes care of all the orphan electronics out there? Seriously, I am not so consumed with having new stuff. Except for shoes... I just can't wear someone elses shoes. Anyway, this camera is 8.0 megapixel, 4x optical/ 4x digital zoom and has a 2.5" LCD. I like this camera but I am not ready to go steady or anything. I might let it carry my books to class.

Fuji fine pix J10

Pretty, right? I think so... I like the name, also... just say it... Fuji. It's so soothing sounding. Fuji. This camera with 10 megapixels, 5x optical/5.7 x digital zoom and 3' LCD screen retails for about $200. Again, a used one ould be fine with me. I really like the look of this camera but looks aren't everything in life and cameras too, I suspect.

Kodak Easyshare 10.7 megapixel

I believe the Fuji camera stole all the beauty from this camera... or maybe the Kodak Easyshare is the Picture of Dorian Grey for the Fuji. All that to say that this camera is ugly. Really ugly. My favortie thing about the specs on this camera is this line "Through a 28mm wide-angle Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon optical zoom lens." because I have no clue at all what that means! Seriously, despite its hideous appearance this is a lot of camera for about $300 new. Again, used cameras can always come live at my house. I don't mind. So, it is 10.7 megapixel, 15x optical/ 5x digital zoom and has a high ISO sensitivity that "Allows you to capture rich, lifelike colors in low light without a flash." Then there's this line, "Offers continuous clear focus as close as 6" in macro mode." I think that once you cross the $300 threshold for digital cameras, you get a lot more camera.

Anyway, those are my top 3. Obviously, I don't want to spend a bunch of money. I am curious if anyone has a camera that they would highly recommend? Nothing over $350... I guess. It's just that I can think of about 1 million things I would rather spend money on, you know? My sister is coming to visit and is bringing her camera and said that she thinks I will like it so much that I will want one like it. I am not sure what brand/model it is, but I am excited to get to "test drive" it all over Philly, DC, and Baltimore at the end of the month.

grumpy and camera talk

I am trying really hard to not be grumpy today! Here is Grumpy of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs as a modern art installation from Photofunia. You can play and waste a whole lot of time there playing with pictures. Like this...

That's my little Huckleberry Finn the beagle as a tv star. I like to think that those kitties are watching a spy movie, starring the ever dapper secret agent, double o zero, Huck but then again I am kind of crazy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

remember when...

Pebbles went into the pantry, got out a bag of Baked Cheetos, took the chip-clip off, and then got her head stuck in there while having a snack?

Pebbles sat in the sun beam and looked so sweet and innocent that there was no way you could ever believe that she got her head stuck in a bag of Baked Cheetos that she took out of the pantry?

Huck laid up on the landing of the stairs and wrinkled up the rug and looked so comfortable that I said "...'tis himself" and there was a digital camera that worked to capture all of this?

Yeah, those were fun times.

I cooked a lot this weekend. We had a really very good goulash last night and this apple crostata from the Barefoot Contessa. We had it with Edy's Apple Pie ice cream. Egad, it was good. Maybe egad is only something you say when something is bad or scary? I don't know. The goulash was made with chuck roast and was rich and delicious. I guess I could post the recipe without a picture? Stranger things have happened, yes?

Ok, I like to call it, "goulash not made with ground beef because I am sick of things made with ground beef because they are little more than Hamburger Helper" I am sorry if that is offensive to anyone... I am not feeling well today and that makes me crappy and being crabby makes me sarcastic and that's just not nice.

2 lbs. of chuck meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil (not extra virgin)
3 tablespoons of flour
1 large yellow onion, thick slices
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced thick
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked balck pepper
3 tablespoons of smoked paprika
3 cups of water
2 diced tomatoes
1 large red pepper, roasted, peels, seeded and cut into large diced chunks
12 ounces of sliced mushrooms (I used crimini but white mushrooms are fine)
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1/2 lb. of wide egg noodles
1 cup of sour cream

Heat a really big pot over high heat, add the butter and olive oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of the paprika and then dredge in the flour. Once the butter is foamy, add the meat to the pot and brown well on all sides. It's really important to brown it well. Really. Anyway, brown the meat in two batches if needed so it will brown well. Remove the meat from the pan and add the onion and carrot to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the meat back in with all the accumulated juices (I love to say that) and then the water and tomatoes. It should be nice and brown already. So, then let it come up to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer on the meat for about 2 hours. After 2 hours it should really just fall apart and the carrots should be kind of gone, you know? Just cooked down to nothing carrotness and the tomatoes should be mostly cooked away, too. The broth should be thick and brown and very flavorful. Now add the red pepper, mushrooms and half the parsley and add salt if you think it needs it. Let it cook at a simmer for another 30 minutes. The mushrooms will produce a little liquid but you may need to add some water to it. Finally, increase the heat and add the egg noodles and remaining parsley and cook it until the noodles are the desired tenderness. My husband likes them tender and it took about 30 minutes with the lid on and I did have to add about 1/2 cup of water to it. Once it's done, serve it up topped with some sour cream. It's really good. Really, really good. I had it for lunch today, too. It was good.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

post #101

I did not notice that my last post was number 100. I suppose that is some sort of a milestone. Hooray!

Here is another dish I made before my camera went ca puts. It is pastitsio and is delicious. Basically, this is a pasta dish of a tomato meat sauce, layer with tube pasta and covered with a blanket of rich delicious bechamel sauce. All my reading on the internet suggests that this dish is Greek but I think it is really an American creation... maybe made by Greek in America, you know? Like spaghetti and meatballs is not Italian because the Italians never eat meatballs with pasta, BUT Italian families in America eat spaghetti and meatballs. Regardless, the Chinese invented pasta, really so all this "pasta is Italian food" is crazy talk!

Anyway, I did a lot of reading about this dish on the internet and came up with a recipe that I thought my husband and I would enjoy and settled on this one from Falling Cloudberries, a cookbook that I want to add to my collection. I rarely purchase cookbooks for various reasons but this one looks interesting and worth the money.

Monday, September 8, 2008

before my camera died...

I made this savory sausage, cheese, tomato and pesto pie. I have to give a lot of credit to Andrew over at the Scottish Cow for this creation. I was thinking about a savory pie with summer vegetables and he posted a lovely recipe with fabulous pictures for one over on his blog the same week I was planning to make mine. I followed his advice on roasting the tomatoes and keeping them away from the bottom of the pie to minimize sogginess. This was really very good and different. I have been in the mood for different lately. I only want to make/eat food that I have never made/eaten before.

Here's how I did it - I made a basic double pie dough recipe (I used a basic pie dough over other choices because I did not want this to taste like pizza at all) and lined a 9 inch tart pan with half of it. I did not blind bake the dough, since I wanted to make a pie with a top crust and wanted to fold over the dough. I roasted the tomatoes before putting them in the pie, which not only eliminated a lot of the liquid, but gave the tomatoes a nice, concentrated flavor. Yummy! So, basically it was layers of cooked Italian sausage, pesto, the roasted tomatoes, pesto again, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes again, pesto again, Parmesan cheese and then the top pie dough, crimp around to look nice and rustic and then baked at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. I was very pleased with how this turned out. The oil in the pesto did seep a bit into the top crust giving a portion of it a slight green tint but that is ok, I guess.

I served it with this creamy artichoke soup from Giada de Laurentis. The recipe can be found here. I will make this soup again and probably often, it was so good. I made some minor changes since I had canned artichokes on hand, I used those and I did not garnish the soup with more marscapone cheese as it just seemed like a lump of cheese. I did thinly slice chives for this dish but I am not certain why I took the picture before putting them on. Oh yeah, I am a lousy photographer!

Concerning the camera, my husband is encouraging me to hold out for the right camera. So, that means a shopping date one day instead of just ordering something on the web. Maybe my sister will want to go camera shopping with me while she is visiting at the end of this month!

I did manage to get all of the pictures that were stored on the memory card off of the dead camera, so I have about a weeks worth of blog posts and after that I will have to think of something else.

Friday, September 5, 2008

a requiem is needed for my camera

Oh, it is so sad! My beloved (tongue in cheek there) digital camera has gone to that big electronics waiting room in the sky. It won't even turn on. It hates me.

Oh well, I have been looking for an excuse to buy a new camera and now I have it! Yes... a new camera. I have gotten more than one suggestion to but a Canon Powershot A80 and I think I would be happy with that but I want to really do a little research and make sure I get the best camera for my needs. I live in the middle of nowhere and this means I have to plan a special trip over the Chesapeake Bay to really look at cameras. Alas! I do not know when this will happen. I guess I will have to blog just words for a couple of weeks. My pictures were usually so craptastic that I doubt anyone will really miss them. It makes me sad to think that I maybe wouldn't blog while the camera thing is going on. I really don't care if anyone reads this (besides my mom), it is just a good exercise to keep the blog consistently.

Hmmm... I do have a backlog of food pictures that I haven't posted, so maybe I will post those for a while but they are really bad. Not bad food, just bad pictures, really. Food that doesn't photograph well... like Swedish meatballs. They look like mini alien pods. I have never seen a mini alien pod but I have a pretty good imagination and I think they would look like this.

Mini alien pods in sour cream sauce with dill, anyone?

Anyway, we had this pasta with smashed peas, ricotta and sausage for dinner last night and if I recall correctly, we will be having it tonight, too since this recipe like makes a ton. Like 8 servings at least. I don't know how Giada stays so slim if she considered this to be 4 - 6 servings. Regardless, it was pretty good. I think I will make it again and use a better quality ricotta cheese than this time. Also, I think the peas need to be cooked more than she states. That's just my opinion.

Ok, I am off to buy a grave plot for the camera. Oh, and I need a new black dress for the funeral...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

$8 potatoes and new vintage fabric

I have made these potatoes before. They are really, really fabulous. Cheesy, creamy, and they have a crispy topping that is made from torn pieces of bread and shredded cheese. I affectionately dubbed them "$8 potatoes" last night since the 8 ounces of Gruyere cheese used to make them cost $8.34. So, really they are like $14 potatoes considering the cost of the Parmesan, cream, stock, thyme, butter, garlic, and potatoes. Ok, so maybe they are $20 potatoes. Yikes! But they are really, really good. I cannot stress how much better they are than something like this. I remember eating those when I was a kid. I remember the clicking sound the dehydrated potato slices made when they were poured into my mom's Pyrex glass bowl. Potatoes should click unless it is because they are lovingly fried to a crisp. Just my opinion. Honestly, I loved those things as a child.

Ok, here is a dark, shadowy picture of some great, old fabric I bought last night on my way home. I pass a large antique store on the way home. Their prices on furniture are crazy but on fabric and small items, the prices are awesome. The top piece is actually a duvet and I love the red and white ticking stripe. The bottom is soft yellow and both pieces are 100% cotton and so smooth and soft already. I took them home and washed the musty, used fabric smell out (I hate that smell). I plan to make a coverlet out of these by sandwiching batting between them, tufting and tying it at intervals and then binding the edges - kind of a cheater quilt. I think I am going to use turquoise floss for the ties. It should be cute and be ready for my sister to use when she gets here at the end of the month for a much anticipated visit. The fabric was $6 and I already have the notions needed. Quilt batting is on sale at Joann's right now for 40% off. Hmmm... all told, this project will cost less than the potatoes au gratin! Nice.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

whose big fat chocolate chip cookies?

These are MY big fat chocolate chip cookies made from Tyler Florence's recipe called "my big fat chocolate chip cookies" which by the way is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I have ever tried. It makes big... well, big fat cookies but the cookies are cakey and chewy and delicious. I guess "my big, fat, chewy, cakey, delicious, chocolate chip cookies" was too long of a name. As a child I did not really know that a home cook could make round cookies since my mom always made square chocolate chip cookies. She made more of a chocolate chip blondie than a cookie, now that I think of it. Anyway, I thought that round cookies were from the store and square cookies were from home! I recall a few years ago a friend of mine told me that his son had not yet figured out that he could have a Christmas tree in his house. He really thought department stores and other people's houses had Christmas trees! How funny and how sad, huh? I cannot imagine being a kid and not having a Christmas tree in my house. My mom hand painted all of the ornaments on our tree and I remember knowing that made them special, even as a child. I cannot remember when I was more careful or delicate with something than when I was helping to decorate the tree and then put the ornaments away.

I have been thinking about Christmas a lot lately. Wondering about decorations and what my hubby and I will have for dinner. The Anglophile that I am, I would love to make a traditional English Christmas dinner. I thought about doing that last year but when I got to the store and the rib roast was $9 a pound and the turkey was $.30 a pound, I decided to make turkey! The turkey was pretty good.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

still life with tomatillos

I think I have mentioned before that I believe I live in one of the most beautiful places imaginable. I just want to say that again. I don't mean my house specifically, but rather living in the country in Maryland. It's really a lovely place.

On Monday morning we slept in late. Well, late for us. I got up around 7:00 and the Lenny was up by 8. We had a late, leisurely breakfast. Since I am normally up and out so early, I rarely get to fully appreciate the way the sun comes into my kitchen around 9:00. I get great sun in my living room in the afternoons and great sun in my kitchen in the mornings. Here is a fruit stack that my mother painted years ago, some tomatillos, and poblanos. I thought they just looked lovely in the sunlight. I like that you can see the shadow created by the window panes.

Anyway, the tomatillios and poblanos were purchased to make enchiladas verdes. I have been on a kick lately of wanting to make food that I have never made before. I have made many enchiladas in my life but never the green kind. I like to call them green meanies, but then again, I am a strange person most days.

The enchiladas turned out pretty darn good. I think I will make them as creamy, green enchiladas next time. You know, like a mix of the sour cream based enchilada sauce and this green meanie sauce. The sauce really isn't mean as in it is not very hot. It is a nice savory front of the tongue heat. This is a very labor intensive meal but I believe worth it in the end. I would not try to make this on a weekday after work, unless some of the steps were already done.

Enchiladas verdes

For the chicken:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (that's 2 to 3 breast halves)
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

For the salsa verde:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
12 tomatillos, husks and stems removed
2 poblanos, halved, stemmed, and seeded
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt
¼ dried cilantro
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
12 6-inch corn tortillas

Preheat broiler.

In a saucepan on the stovetop, sauté the onion in 2 teaspoons oil until golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Add 2 cloves garlic and cumin and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth. Add the chicken, and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through about 15-20 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking. Cool chicken. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.

Toss tomatillos and poblanos with 2 teaspoons oil, and arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet, poblanos facing skin-side up. Broil until blackened and soft, 5-8 minutes, checking often. Put poblanos in a plastic bag and let cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Remove the skin from the poblanos. Put the tomatillos, poblanos, 1 clove garlic, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and reserved chicken cooking liquid in food processor, and process until chunky, about 8 1-second pulses. Smear bottom of 13 by 9-inch baking dish with 3/4 cup tomatillo sauce.

Shred cooled chicken by hand. Toss with cilantro, 1 1/2 cup cheese, and salt to taste.

Remove foil from baking pan and dry the pan. Brush both sides of tortillas lightly with oil and arrange on the pan. Bake until soft, 2-4 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

Place 1/3 cup chicken filling down center of each tortilla. Roll each tortilla snugly and place in the prepared baking dish. Eight enchiladas will fit down the middle of the baking dish, and the remaining four will fit two-deep perpendicularly next to that row. Pour remaining tomatillo sauce over top of enchiladas, coating the top of each tortilla. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese and cover baking dish with foil.

Bake until heated through and cheese melted, 15-20 minutes. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and then serve garnished with sour cream and thinly sliced scallions.