Monday, December 14, 2009

they're coming for you, Barbara...

I could spend a couple of paragraphs gassing on about where I have been and what a terrible, naughty little blogger I am but I think we are all above that, right? I mean, really.

Ah, owls. Aren't they cute. I made one of these a few months ago for my friend Heather and now I am seem to be making them in large batches to sell in a local shop and I actually listed some on Etsy! Who am I, right? Generally, I look at my handmade items and I think that they are just not really worth selling and I seriously lack confidence on this topic. Fortunately, there has been a very positive response to these, so I am feeling a little better.

The title of this post is from Night of the Living Dead -- one of my favorite, very scary movies. I usually don't go in for seriously scary movies but that one is a favorite. The husband and I get all snugged up under the covers and watch it together. It's the best. Every time I look at all these owls all together, I think of that part where Johny is teasing his sister Barbara in the graveyard, saying, "they're coming for you, Barbara... they're coming for you..." I just love it. Of course Johnny gets eaten by a zombie but he really had it coming what with teasing his sister like that.

I guess it's time to breath some new life back into the old blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

bells are ringing

Two very dear friends of mine are getting married on October 10th. No, they are not getting married to each other, they are each getting married to someone else. It's a tad bit confusing but I am so overwhelmingly happy for the both that I held one party for both of them to share!

Whenever someone I know gets married, I always find myself reflecting on my own wedding day and my marriage in general. I don't know if that makes me self centered but I suppose it is natural to some extent. Honestly, my wedding day is really the first major life milestone that I really, honestly felt like a different person afterward. Graduation didn't make my any different, really. I think it is because the wedding ceremony itself if what makes one technically married. Right? Walking in a graduation doesn't earn the diploma, the years of schooling that proceeded are what's important. The wedding ceremony for me really looked to the future that we would share together as husband and wife, not back at the time we spent dating, so I supposed that has something to do with my feelings.

My wedding day was a sunny, windy Tuesday in March and I recall it as one of the happiest days I remember. I wish all the best to my friends and their future husbands -- lots of love, laughter, and companionship.

Ok, enough of my musings. I promised folks at the party recipes for the items I made. Here is the menu and some recipes. I will post more later.

Lemon pesto goat cheese dip with crudites
Cherry tomatoes stuffed with marinated feta cheese
Hummus with pita
Chicken kabobs marinated in yogurt and coriander
Roasted shrimp scampi
Sherry and mixed berry trifle

Cherry tomatoes stuffed with marinated feta cheese
1 7-to 8-ounce package feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 pound large cherry tomatoes

Toss cubed feta, oil, shallot, and oregano in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the tops off of 24 tomatoes. Scoop out tomato pulp with melon baller or small spoon. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on serving plate.

Stuff hollowed cherry tomatoes with marinated feta. Drizzle with additional olive oil.

I thought these were really very good! I think I got this recipe from Bon Appetit like eons ago and it originally included a slice of kalamata olive in each tomato.

Lemon pesto goat cheese dip with crudites

10 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup homemade or purchased pesto
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
Assorted vegetables (I used cremini mushrooms, red pepper, and broccoli)

Blend cheese, sour cream, 1/4 cup pesto, lemon juice, and lemon peel in processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl.

Sherry and mixed berry trifle
1 1/2 cups dry sherry
7 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pound of fresh strawberries, ashed and sliced
2 pints of fresh blueberries
3 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Fresh raspberries, for garnish, optional
Mint leaves, for garnish, optional
1 angel food or pound cake (really, you can buy this already prepared at the bakery)cut into 1 inch cubes

Place the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and remaining 1 cup sherry into the top of a double boiler. Whisk until completely combined. Place the top pan over simmering water (do not let water touch the bottom of the top pan). With a wooden spoon, stir over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until the custard is quite thick, about the consistency of mayonnaise. Let cool. Whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar. Take half of the whipped cream and add it to the cooled custard, stirring well. To assemble: In the bottom of a trifle bowl layer 1/3 of the cake cubes, 1/3 of the berries, and 1/3 of the custard. Continue layering, ending with custard. Take the remaining whipped cream and completely cover the top of the custard. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with additional whipped cream, fresh berries and a sprig of mint, if desired.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

sick as...

I wonder where the saying, "sick as a dog" originated? My dad was really good at knowing the origins of cliches -- especially if they were of military origins. Why not sick as a beaver or sick as an ox? Hmmmm... I suppose I could Google it but it just seems to require too much effort just now.

I am sick as a dog. Not a happy little beagle in a basket sick but miserable, homeless stray dog sick. I haven't felt like cooking and even if I did, I don't feel like eating. It's very sad. My stomach is hurting like crazy and I have a constant low grade fever for a week now. I will see my doctor for the 4th time in a week today. Sigh. I dread the thought of going to the hospital because frankly it is a horrid place full of sick people and it really smells terrifically bad.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Happy birthday Heather!

My fabulous friend Heather had a birthday last week. I made her this reusable grocery bag. This was a rather daring move on my part since Heather makes handbags. I was feeling a little intimidated but I was betting she would like it and that it was something she would not make for herself. I only made her some linen produce bags to go with it and she seemed to really appreciate those. I hope to see her using this bag at the local farmer's market this Saturday!!

Update - I should mention that I did take some heavy inspiration on this (especially the polka dots) from Posy Gets Cozy but did not use her pattern. I am sure it is fabulous but I didn't think I needed a pattern for something like this... I just used an exsisting, ugly reusable bag that I got from the store for the pattern. I would rather figure it out on my own than spend $8 on a pattern.

Monday, July 27, 2009

and then you stir it some more

Few foods are as comforting to me as risotto. It is comforting to eat and for me, I find it terrifically comforting to prepare. I know folks seem to carry of about how terribly difficult risotto is to make but I think that is to scare away any would be future risotto chefs from discovering the immense pleasure of eating homemade risotto. I think they want you to spend 25 bucks a plate for it at the local Italian bistro!

The secret to making really good risotto is to add the liquid slowly and stir it continuously. Yes, continuously. The jar of arborio rice from which I prepared the pictured risotto called for it to cook for 30 minutes and to have 3 cups of liquid added to 1 cup of rice. My cooking time was closer to 45 minutes and I added closer to 8 cups of liquid. I needed substantially more liquid since I had other items in there besides the rice... like mushrooms, shallots, etc. Much like when you make chicken and rice, it requires much more liquid than the normal liquid to rice ratio of 2 to 1. Same idea here.

I do not recommend trying to saute or boil something while stirring the risotto. I prepared a roast in the oven to accompany this since it really did not require any attention from me. I wanted to give the risotto my full attention. The results are well worth the effort.

Mushroom risotto

8 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound fresh white and crimini mushrooms, sliced, set aside about 1 cup of these
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, divided
Salt and pepper
1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
1 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated


Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Pour 1 cup of the hot chicken broth over the dried porcinni mushroom. Let stand for about 30 minutes, and drain reserving the liquid.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms (fresh and dried, reserving about a cup of the fresh mushrooms), and herbs. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir quickly until it is well-coated and opaque, 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook until it is nearly all evaporated. Stir in the reserved mushroom liquid. Now, with a ladle, add 1 cup of the broth and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to cook and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be creamy, but not mushy at all. Like rice pudding. Stir in Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter.

In a separate pan, saute the reserved mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of butter and add them at the end when the risotto is cooked. This gives multiple layers of mushrooms through the dish.

Enjoy this with beef or roast chicken or all by itself.

Friday, July 24, 2009

this dog

This dog, Pebbles, is a sweet, silly little thing. She has taken to hiding between the sham pillow and the other bed pillows every morning while I am in the shower. I come pack into the bedroom and wonder where that silly dog could possibly be. The tip of her tail gives her away every time.

She did not seem to mind me moving the pillow a bit and taking a couple of pictures. She does love the camera.

The camera does love her at well.

I took the pillow completely off and she rolled on her back to show me how submissive she really is! A truly submission puppy would not have gotten in the bed in the first place but would have gotten in her crate like a good little girl.

But what can I do?

I love this dog.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

blog! blog!

A recent conversation between my better half and me...

Better half: "Are you ever going to blog again?"

Me: "Yes."

Better half: "..."

Me: "..."

Sometimes I have nothing to say and really not a good way to well... not say it! Sometimes I have to go on a diet and really scale back on the serious cooking. Sometimes I do that.

Until I find some inspiration, I might suggest these blogs - - funny! - compelling and amazing! - hilarious!

Monday, July 6, 2009

uh huh

I just haven't really felt like blogging lately... I'm cooking really but well I just don't feel like taking pictures of food lately. I'm sure I will be back soon.

Here's a link to one of the funniest Bugs Bunny cartoons ever!

Monday, June 22, 2009

what a wekend

My husband and I had a surprise visit from old friends and their amazing sons yesterday! Well, actually they are old friends of my husband's from grad school, but I am happy to claim them as old friends, too. They have three boys ages 8, 7, and 5 and all three are smart, funny, cute, and just amazing. I was really feeling the desire for three smart, funny, cute and amazing sons yesterday. Sigh... I still have the beagles, right?!? They are at least funny, cute, and amazing.

We had a great weekend despite the terrific thunderstorms all day on Saturday. We both got some much needed rest, did some much needed housework and spent some much needed time in each others faces.

I bought some boneless, country style ribs recently at the grocery store. I was not too sure what to do with them, actually. I mean isn't a boneless pork rib really just loin meat? Anyway, I decided to braise them in beer and barbecue sauce along with some spices and tomato paste. Wow was that a winner! The beer lends richness and bitterness, the tomatoes have rich and sweet undertones and the meat was tender and very flavorful. I decided to make sandwiches on cheap, white hamburger buns since that is what I had in the house. I served the sandwiches with homemade steak fries and green beans with bacon. OK, so maybe not the healthiest meal but I never claimed to cook healthy food now did I?

I really should have used my green plates since these french fries are about the fall off the edge here but oh well.

Beer and barbecue pork ribs
2 lbs. of boneless, country style pork ribs, washed and dried well
1 bottle of beer (I used Harp ale)
1 cup of prepared barbecue sauce (I used Stubbs original)
1 large onion, sliced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon on paprika
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Heat the olive oil in an oven safe pan large enough to hold all the ribs. Salt and pepper the ribs liberally and then add to the pan. Sear the ribs on every side until golden brown - about 8 minutes total. Remove the ribs, add all the other ingredients except onions to the pan and mix well and let it come to a full bubbling boil. Add the ribs back in and place the onions on top of the ribs. Cover and put in the oven. I cooked mine for 2.5 hours at which time they were falling apart and the liquid was reduced to a thick sauce. Check on it every 30 minutes or unsure that there is enough liquid. If it evaporates too quickly, add about 1/2 cup of water or stock to it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

it's not like making shoes

Peach and blueberry cobbler must be one of the greatest things ever. Not too sweet and the blueberries turn the filling a lovely ruby red. Oh, and with a little bit of vanilla bean ice cream... it's heaven I tell you!

Peach and blueberry cobbler
8 peaches, peeled and sliced, about 6 cups
1 pint of blueberries
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar, divided, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for skillet
1/4 cup of heavy cream, plus more for brushing


Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl add the peaches, blueberries, water, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix well to coat the peaches and blueberries evenly; set aside.

Prepare the dumplings: Into food processor add the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand. Mix just until the dough comes together. Add the 1/4 cup of cream. Don't overwork; the dough should be slightly sticky but manageable.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the peach and blueberry mixture and cook gently until heated through, about 5 minutes. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the warm peach mixture. There can be gaps, the dough will puff up and spread out as it bakes. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some sugar; put it into the oven on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

cookie soldiers

Seeing all these little peanut butter blossoms all lined up makes me smile. I feel much this way when I see the pens in the stationery store... rows and rows of pens, neatly lined up by color, like disciplined soldiers ready to march.

I made these cookies for my fabulous friend Heather. I must admit that I have never made this type of cookie before last night. I never much cared for these when I had them as prepared for the church cookie walk. This is really strange since i love peanut butter and chocolate. I found them to be hard and a real challenge to eat. When I was plopping the kisses into the cookies last night, I recalled reading over on Sarah's blog that peanut blossoms are really phenomenal right out of the oven so I gave that a try. Whoa doggies, that was really amazing. I mean, really amazing!

This recipe is from the Hershey's website and can be found here. I did not make any substitutions or changes to the recipe. Even cooled, these were not hard but rather stayed nice and chewy including the kiss in the center. Oh, so tasty.

Monday, June 15, 2009

puppy love

I was very happy for my husband to come home yesterday.

A week is a long time to be apart from the love of your life.

I made fried chicken and waffles for him for dinner to celebrate.

We had a nice quiet evening together.

I think this little tri-colored lady was even happier to see him than I.

Well, maybe not.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

table for one, please part 3

Today is one of those days that I just feel so fatigued. I woke up feeling completely worn out. Ugg.. I hate that feeling. The bad part about fatigue and me is that it could be nothing or it could be an early symptom of an infection or it could be a side effect of the medications I take or it could be a Behcets flare. Sigh. I hope this time it's nothing.

I have been doing really well not eating junk food or eating out while my chubby hubby is away. I can't make any promises for tonight since I just want to crawl into bed. I had pasta Alfredo last night. I recall a young chef I worked with calling Alfredo sauce "a triple bypass on a plate" which is rather amusing. I love creamy things, despite their artery clogging reputation and I cannot remember the last time I had pasta Alfredo. It is such a simple yet rich dish.

1/4 pound dried penne pasta or pasta of your choice
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional


Cook the pasta in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (about 8 minutes for my penne).

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until tender. Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce has reduced slightly, about 7 minutes. The bubbles will get really big as the cream thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon and be nice and thick.

Add the pasta straight from the water with a slotted spoon and the add half of the Parmesan and toss to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

table for one, part 2

Wednesday already? Seems this week is going rather quickly. I was really dreading spending the week without my husband but it hasn't been too terrible, actually. Lenny jokes with me that saying something isn't too terrible isn't really much of an endorsement and he is certainly right about that! Can you imagine a book jacket with a review as follows - "It's not too terrible" raves Kelly!

Speaking of books, I am reading Valley of the Dolls right now and while it is certainly more ummm... well, it has more sex in it than my usual reading, I am enjoying it! I was determined to finish it last night. I must have read 150 pages but just could not stay awake for the final 25-30 pages. Oh, well, I have a date with that book tonight. Other than much reading, housework and playing "big dog" for the beagles, I am keeping myself busy watching the BBC's latest version of Robin Hood and I did watch the Wizard of Oz the other night. I love that movie very much.

We have had absolutely the most terrific thunderstorms on the eastern shore of Maryland the past two nights. The only trouble with thunderstorms is that the beagles are afraid! Ok, so maybe I am a little afraid, too!

I made shrimp with tomatoes and soft polenta for myself for dinner and was really rather pleased with it (now there's an endorsement). I got the recipe from Everyday Food. I had enough soft polenta left to have it for breakfast with a poached egg, so it was like totally a win-win situation.

I cut this recipe in half but ate all the shrimp and tomatoes but only half of the polenta, so I don't really know if this recipe would feed four for dinner. I did not consider what I ate to be more than a normal serving.

Shrimp and tomatoes over soft polenta from Everyday Food
1 1/2 pounds frozen medium shrimp, thawed, peeled, and deveined (tails removed)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice

Soft Polenta
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons butter

1. Season shrimp generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add shrimp; cook until opaque throughout, turning occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining tablespoon oil to pan; cook garlic and red-pepper flakes until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juice along with 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down and become saucy, about 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make Soft Polenta. Just before serving, stir reserved shrimp into tomatoes. Divide polenta among four bowls; spoon shrimp and tomatoes over polenta.

Soft Polenta
1. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring 4 cups water with 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to a boil. Very gradually, add cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, whisking often, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter until smooth.

Monday, June 8, 2009

table for one, please

My husband is gone for a full week. He left yesterday and will not return until Sunday, June 14. It's just me and the beagles. There is a temptation to eat junk food every night while standing in the kitchen. I am going to make an effort to cook every night for myself and sit down in the dining room to eat. This is Linguine alla Carbonara and it was absolutely delicious, rich, and decadent. I was feeling sorry for myself in my loneliness and this did the trick, you know? I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson but cut it back significantly since she calls for 1 pound of pasta per serving! Yikes! I cannot imagine the belly ache I would have if I ate that much pasta in one sitting. Wow.

There is something about cooking for one and eating alone that is really rather strange to me. I suppose I view food and a community endevor and not just something one does for nutrition. Eating Linguine alla Carbonara alone seems a little creepy... like, I know I have a problem now that I indulge in good food when I am alone. Having said that, I am not sure what else to say here.

Recipe time?

The loneliest pasta in the world, modified from Nigella Lawson's recipe so I didn't have a terrible belly ache from eating too much

1/4 pound of linguine
4 ounces cubed pancetta (rind removed)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/8 (just a splash, really) cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg


Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.
In another large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Pour over the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.
In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, and pepper. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, but since you want it kept al dente start checking it 2 minutes before end of the recommended cooking time.
When the pasta is done, remove approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the pan with the bacon cubes back on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Thin with pasta water, if needed. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg to serve.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

a proper feast

My husband asked me to make Tandoori chicken. He even went to the store for all the ingredients. Of course he brought home strawberry yogurt by mistake instead of plain which made me giggle. Can you imagine tandoori chicken made with strawberry yogurt instead of plain? Yes, very tasty indeed. I have never made tandoori chicken before and was surprised by how easy it was.

I used a recipe from Savoring India by Julie Shahni which was really fabulous. The recipe is available online here. I grilled mine over charcoal (there is an option to broil it instead). Both beagles were really dialed in on the whole concept of grilling and then were totally enraptured by the smell of the chicken. Speaking of the chicken, it was tender, smoky, moist, flavorful... just perfect really. It wasn't red the way tandoori chicken is in restaurants but that is OK with me. I made homemade naan, orzo and rice pilaf, and hummus to serve with it. It was truly a feast and we were in heaven. Now I just need to find a use for 32 ounces of strawberry yogurt.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

wicked, bad, evil, naughty blogger!

A few years ago, I helped a friend prepare for a dinner party at her house. Her son's bassett hound stood up on its hind legs and licked the potatoes that were on the counter. She exclaimed, "wicked, bad, evil, naughty dog!" at the poor pooch. I was in the dining room and didn't see what Winnie the hound had done but rather I just heard a rather proper, almost British exclamation of "wicked, bad, evil, naughty dog!" I laughed myself silly. She also once called Winnie a miserable cur. I think there is something to be said for creative insults to animals who misbehave. I always borrow from the book Rebbecca and call my beagles "filthy beggars". Not the most original but really, they are filthy beggars.

Ok, so I have been a very wicked, bad, evil, naughty blogger lately. I have been cooking and I have been eating... I just have not been blogging about it at all. I guess I am streaky (you know, I get on a good steak and then fizzle out) when it comes to blogging. I fear I am streaky when it comes to everything in life. Sigh.

I made chicken bouillabaisse recently. Here it is -

Very delicious and a lot of fun to make. Some foods are just more fun to cook than others and I would say this one is way up there. I used Jacques Pepin's recipe from Food and Wine and it can be found here. I did not use the Pernod or the tarragon at the end since I liked the more subtle anise flavor from the fennel seed. I also took my chicken off the bone when it came time to serve since I couldn't see fighting with the bone at the dining room table. If you make this, be sure to make the rouille which is a homemade garlic mayonnaise. It is excellent and is guaranteed to give you garlic breath for a week!

Friday, May 1, 2009

a little alliteration or life lessons learned

The following is a sample of things I have learned through experience over the years.


1. You can indeed teach an old dog new tricks.
2. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.
3. Cats hate water and the people who put them in the water.
4. I cannot eat whatever I want and wear single digit sized clothing.
5. I will always love my family no matter what.
6. Curtains really do add a lot to a room.
7. Having a creative hobby is very important to my mental wellness.
8. Even a crazy, super neat freak, introverted, silly, ultra-conservative yet completely irreverent girl can find a man who loves her in this world!
9. Having a pet (or two) is a very good thing.
10.Beef and broccoli, no matter how tasty it is, will never be photogenic.

Beef and broccoli
Serves 4
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup beef stock
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (careful! it's hot!)
Ground pepper
1 1/4 pounds top sirloin, cut diagonally across the grain into 1/2-inch-by-3-inch strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 head broccoli, florets separated into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion slice
4 white mushrooms, sliced
Coarse salt
In a large, shallow bowl, mix 1 tablespoon soy sauce and sarachi sauce, Add meat; toss to coat. Let marinate 15 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook meat until browned, turning once, about 2 minutes per batch. Remove meat.
In same skillet, fry broccoli in remaining oil over high heat until bright green and crisp, tossing often, 2 minutes. Add onions and mushrooms to pan and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
Stir together remaining soy sauce, beef stock, and cornstarch, add to pan, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until thickened, 30 seconds. Return meat to pan; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with jasmine rice and some egg rolls that your husband picked up on the way home!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

birds in Florence

Chicken Florentine is one of those dishes that was so popular in the 1960s. I wasn't alive in the 60s but I have it on good authority that this was popular back then. I think that usually Chicken Florentine is served as either something rolled up or made into a casserole and served at church potluck suppers around the Midwest. Don't get me wrong, I love a good church potluck in the Midwest. I just wanted something a little different -- something that was really about the chicken and the spinach and not canned soup and egg noodles. I also did not want to roll up a boneless chicken breast with a paltry amount of spinach inside that mostly wants to ooze out to freedom on a bake sheet. So, this is chicken breast, seared and then poached in a cream sauce, the cream sauce is finished with sauteed spinach and Parmesan cheese, and then poured over the chicken, topped with more Parmesan and then browned under the broiler. All in all, very tasty indeed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

just like heaven

I don't often think about what heaven is like. I think heaven is so far removed from what I can conceptualize I just decide to leave it as something or rather someplace to look forward to. Today, I just hope there is short bread, chocolate, and toffee in heaven. Oh, and a strong cup of coffee with real cream and sugar.

Caramel toffee crunch bars
(a recipe I have but cannot cite the source from which I got it)

1 1/2 cups of AP flour
1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

6 ounces of milk chocolate - finely chopped
3/4 cup of Heath toffee bits

For the base: 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. instant espresso powder or finely ground instant coffee
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 oz. bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped

For the topping:
6 oz. bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup Heath toffee bits

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9x13 inch baking pan, line the pan with foil and butter the foil. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk together the flour, coffee, salt and cinnamon. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another three minutes or until the mixture is light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and turn off the mixer. Add all the dry ingredients and mix just until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated. You’ll have a very heavy, very sticky dough. Scrape the dough into the buttered pan and, with the spatula and your fingertips, press it into a thin, even layer. I have to flour my finger tips to pull this off.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the base is bubbly. It will look as though it is struggling to pull away from the side of the pan. Transfer the pan to a rack and turn off the oven.

Scatter the chocolate evenly over the top of the hot base and pop the pan back into the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate is soft. Remove from oven and immediately spread chocolate over bars, using offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate and press them down lightly with your fingertips. Place the baking pan on a rack to cool to room temperature.

If, by the time the bars are cool, the chocolate has not set, refrigerate them briefly to firm the chocolate. Carefully lift out of the pan, using foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. Trim the edges if they seem a bit thick. Cut about 54 bars, each about 2 inches by 1 inch, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Resist the temptation to eat it all.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

curry house

When I was a student in culinary school, I very much wanted to learn to make food that was outside of my culinary microcosm. I think I have said before that I turned my nose up at much of my culinary heritage which was southern, country cooking. I have of course come to my senses now and I embrace all kinds of food. Thinking back to my younger years, I recall a group of students took a trip to China and since I was dead broke, I did not get to go. I listened to their stories and looked at their pictures and video tape with much envy. I still have not been to China - heck, I've not been anywhere really. I do feel a longing to travel -- see the world, taste the food, etc. Far too much conspires against me in that regard. Far too much.

In this grisly day and age I find myself living, I think it foolish to dwell too long on what I do not have and instead look admiringly at what I do have. Yes, yes, I know it is all together hokey to say, but chin up, every cloud has a silver lining and all that!

I made Chicken Tikka Masala which, I believe, is not real Indian food but rather a creation from London curry houses. I find it utterly fascinating that different cultures have migrated from their homeland and develop a new type of cuisine in their new home. Like Italian-Americans and Chinese-Americans cook, serve and eat food that is not Italian or Chinese but is a new type of cuisine that uses food available in America and seeks to please a more American palette. I cannot be alone in this. There must be a Facebook group for people who are fascinated by the evolution of ethnic cuisine away from its country of origin, yes? Perhaps I will start one.

Back to the Chicken Tikka Masala. It is basically a dry rubbed spiced chicken, coated in yogurt and garlic, cooked and then combined with a Masala sauce. It's really very tasty and different. I also made curried peas and homemade pita bread to serve with it. I used the basic bread dough from Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day to make the pita. That book really is amazing. I should have made the naan as demonstrated on the web page but did not really think of it.

For the Chicken Tikka Masala, I used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen that you can get for free by registering on their website. I understand that they are rather picky about folks posting their recipes on the web, so I will just leave the link.

Here is the Curried Peas recipe -
2 tablesppons of olive oil
1 small Vidalia onion, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
1/2 cut of chicken broth
1/2 cup of plain Greek strained, full fat yogurt - I like this one
cracked black pepper

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth and bring to boil. Stir in peas and cook, uncovered, until peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the yogurt,and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

hoot, hoot

I made this little owl for my fabulous friend Heather. The story behind how I came to make this owl is an interesting study in something I like to call, "It's a small world-wide-web after all!" I have followed a blog called "The Scottish Cow" for a little while now. Unfortunately, it has not been updated in sometime. Andrew is busy making beer, I think. From there, I linked to a blog called "Looking In", which is fabulous in an understated, unassuming way. So, from Looking In, I followed a comment to "Polka Dot Bug" who made some really cute owls of her own... turns out Polka Dot Bug is the Scottish Cows wife??!! Yes. Small world, huh? After looking at the picture of the darling owls she made, I was inspired to make my very own original owl for my friend who loves owls. Got all that? Good!

I played around with making my own pattern and I think he is pretty cute, if I do say so myself. His name is Ollie the Owl and obviously he likes trees and is not nocturnal.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

it's my party

Why yes, that is a Pepperidge Farm chocolate fudge 3-layer cake, now with chocolate confetti topping! What can I say, I did not want to make my own birthday cake this year. Lenny made me a cake from scratch one year when we were first married and I couldn't believe the amount of chocolate he managed to get all over the house. Yes, all over the house.

I had a great birthday really. We had cake and ice cream and then Lenny beat me at games! Five times he beat me. Geez, you would think the guy could let me win on my birthday! Losing five games in a row to my husband makes me realize that some things about me have not changed birthday after birthday. I have never been very competitive. Other things that have not changed... hmmm... I think I am as sarcastic as ever. Things that have changed (for the better) - I am much more compassionate with age and I seem to fuss over the house and like cute things more and more.

On a completely different note, I may post some pictures soon of things I have made recently. I have this odd aversion to really sharing things I've made with the world. I usually give my homemade creations away as gifts but have been encouraged by others to actually try to sell them. That is a whole new world of insecurities for me but it might be a good idea to put myself out there for a little vulnerability and see what happens.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

one pan cooking

My husband was completely underwhelmed by this dish. He said he just wasn't in the mood for shrimp or broccoli so I guess it makes sense that he wouldn't like this at all since it is roasted shrimp and broccoli. I was absolutely crazy in love with this dish! The lemon, the spices, the fact that it is roasted in one pan! Washing up was so easy, you know? Ok, so I did make a pot of jasmine rice to go with it but really, a fabulous meal for two dirty pans is a complete miracle in my house!

Now, if only I could convince Lenny to love this dish.

Roasted Shrimp with Broccoli
Serves 4

1 pound broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined - I took the tails off, too. I hate to have to work for my food once it is cooked!
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

2. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.

For the life of me, I cannot recall where I got this recipe. Maybe here? I know that I added the garlic to the recipe but otherwise I had it printed out without any indication of where I got it. I don't think I have ever roasted shrimp before this, brocolli definately but not shrimp. I was very impressed with the tender little pink sea creatures that resulted from roasting them.

Friday, April 3, 2009

light and airy, warm and gooey

My list of favorite foods is topped by eggs and cheese. Chuck roast is on that list too, but that's a story for another day. I would be perfectly happy to eat eggs everyday of my life and cheese just makes me inexplicably happy. I just think cheese makes life better is all.

This was breakfast this morning. Friday during Lent equals no meat. Cheese omelets it is! I recall learning to make omelets in culinary school and the chef I took egg cookery from (yes, egg cookery was its own class. Heaven for me!) emphasizing that a proper omelet should never have any brown on it. Never. He was right, of course since brown on eggs equals burnt flavor, no matter how subtle. A good cook should be able to taste even a subtle scorching on an egg. Also, according to my chef instructor, an omelet is never flipped. Regardless of all that food snobbery, the finished flavor of a delicate cheese omelet is amazing, I think.

My husband and always call cheese omelets "omelet du fromage" in honor of his little brother, Josh. Josh visited us about 5 years ago and had apparently seen the episode of Dexter's Lab where Dexter endeavors to learn French from a record (do kids even know what records are?) while sleeping but the record gets stuck on "omelet du fromage" and that was all he could say the next day. Josh walked around our house saying "omelet du fromage" until I thought I would go mad with wanting a cheese omelet! Ah, the cheese omelet, one more fabulous culinary creation associated with Napoleon. Wouldn't it be fun to compile all of the foods associated with different historical figures? call it "Cooking History" or something like that.

Cheese omelet
3 large eggs (I know, a lot of eggs but we are not eating any meat or wheat products)
1/8 cup of heavy cream - really just a splash
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
a few fine grinds of black pepper - white pepper is better, if you have it
1/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tablespoon of butter

Heat a non-stick pan (for a tri-folded French omelet, I use a 9 inch pan, so a Western omelet that is folded in half only, I use a 6 inch egg pan)with the butter over medium heat. Don't heat the pan and then add the butter or the butter may color brown which in turn will color the omelet brown. Whisk the eggs with the cream and salt and pepper. Once the butter is foamy and melted add the egg mixture. Using a heat proof, rubber spatula swirl the eggs around and move the pan back and forth gently. Very gently, you don't want to wear the eggs, you want to eat them. Once the edges begin to set, lift the edge and tilt the pan to pour the uncooked liquid under the omelet as it cooks... do this all around over and over until you do not have any liquid left. Add the cheese right down the center and then fold one side over the cheese. Slide the omelet folded side first onto a plate and use the pan to flip the other side over for a French omelet. Really, if you have a nice non-stick pan that isn't too hot, this should be super easy.

There are all sorts of toppings possibly, more cheese, spring onions, chives, etc, etc. I was in the mood for a cheese omelet... just the delicate balance or the light and airy eggs and the warm and gooey melted sharp cheddar. Maybe we''ll have these for dinner tonight, too!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Anniversary Strawberry Pavlova

Saturday was my 9th wedding anniversary. I cannot believe it has been nine years already. I can honestly say that I love my husband more today than the day I married him. I am a better person today than I was nine years ago, because of him. I really didn't know my husband all that well when we got married but he really did sweep me off my feet. Such a romantic, that man! I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and that together we would be just fine. We had a small wedding in Tennessee. I lived in Ohio, he was in grad school in Boston, my family was in Florida and his family was divided between Ohio and Indiana. Tenneessee seemed like a good place to marry. We thought about eloping but then decided to invite family. I am glad we did. The wedding pictures with my dad are some of the last pictures I have of him.

The picture above is the back of my very wrinkled dress and veil. I loved those little rosettes; they were the only embellishment on an off white, matte satin, a-line dress. I loved that simple dress so much.

For our anniversary I made a strawberry Pavlova. I know that Pavlova is made with raspberries but strawberries just sounded better. I know Ina Garten makes this with mixed berries and calls it "Chantilly meringue with mixed berry sauce" or something like that. Strawberry Pavlova is so much easier to say, I think. We really enjoyed this! Pavlova is a very grown up dessert since the flavors and textures are rather sophisticated. I love it. I did not give up on my sugar free and wheat free decisions, since I made this whole thing with Splenda. Wow, I love that stuff but it is super expensive!

5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup Splenda or fine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest from 1 orange - divided in two
1 lb. fresh strawberries
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup splenda


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and a large pinch of salt on medium speed until frothy. It is important that the bowl is clean of any fat or the meringue won't fluff and rise correctly. I sometimes wipe the bowl with vinegar to be extra sure. Add 1 cup of the Splenda and raise the speed to high until the egg whites form very stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla. Spread this into a 10 inch circle onto the parchment paper. It will be about 3 inches thick.

Bake for 2 hours, or until the meringue is dry and crisp. Turn off the heat and allow the meringue to cool in the oven for about 4 hours. If it cools in oven this way, it will get and stay crisp. The mantra for meringue when I was in culinary school was "dry and crisp but never brown" I think Splenda browns more easily than sugar because this browned in about 45 minutes but was not dry.

Meanwhile, cut the strawberries in half or for large ones in quarters. Combine about half of the strawberries and the water and Splenda in a small sauce pan along with half of the orange zest and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash with a potato masher. I think I should call my potato masher just a masher since I mash everything with it except for potatoes. Cool this sauce completely and then stir in the remaining strawberries.

I like to put the bowl and the whisk into the freezer for about a half hour before whipping the cream since a very cold bowl, whisk and cream will make very nice, fluffy whipped cream. Whip the cream with an electric mixer with a whisk. When it starts to thicken, add the Splenda, vanilla and orange zest and continue to whip until you have stiff peaks.

To serve, remove the parchment from the meringue (it should peel right off) and spread the whipped cream on it. Top with the strawberry sauce and enjoy! By the way, this doesn't keep well at all, so enjoy ALL of it with someone you love!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

it's coming!

I suppose I should be this excited about Easter but what my mind is really fixated on this week is baseball. Opening day is April 6 and although I am not going and I did not purchase "Extra Innings" this year (so I have no way of watching my beloved Detroit Tigers) I remain rather excited!

Opening Day in Detroit was always a treat despite the less than cooperative weather that Michigan could cook up for Spring. I have not been to Opening Day since we have moved from Detroit. It just doesn't feel right. What I think I miss most of all is going to games in Detroit in May and June when the weather is warm but not too hot. We usually sat in the cheap seats. Almost always we were early enough to watch batting practice and eat our fill of junk food at Johnny Rocket's. I can remember the feel of the sun on my face and the smell of a myriad of pork products wafting down from the concession stands. Then there was the game itself and my passion of keeping score. I have not the words.

Ok, so now I should think about Easter.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

alternate morality and chicken with leeks and goat cheese

I am actually still cooking. I mean, a girl does have to eat during Lent. I am off sugar completely and actually not eating any starchy vegetables or any wheat products. I must admit that while I miss the comfort of carbohydrates, I do feel better off of the sugar. The trouble with me and sugar is that the more I eat of it, the more I want to eat of it. This probably means that I actually have a real problem with sugar, yes?

I often think that eating healthy and being "green" have become the new virtues that Americans recognize publicly. I am somehow stuck in the Victorian age where you can indulge in food and not recycle but please don't ever lie, cheat, or steal! I would never think of cheating on my taxes or my spouse but my diet, eh, well who cares?

I recall that two years ago during Lent I was discussing giving up sugar and whatnot with a coworker. I remember that he said, "I have a terrible sweet tooth, so it's best that I just avoid sweets altogether." I thought to myself, "WOW, what a concept! I mean I have a terrible sweet tooth, too but I FEED that baby whatever it wants." I smiled and nodded but honestly, I have never forgotten about that! All humour aside, I know that my decisions about sweets (along with some help from a certain evil medication) have caused me to put on a few pounds in the last year and a half.

All that aside, I made this dish recently. It was most tasty! I got the idea from a magazine that I cannot recall just now. I get a couple of cooking magazines and I must admit that I never actually cook the recipes in the magazines. The magazines remind me or inspire me to cook certain things. Perhaps that does not make sense but that is generally the way it works out for me. I think that is why I love Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson... neither of them present me with difficult recipes but rather a concept of what to cook. Ok, picture and recipe time.

Chicken with leeks and goat cheese

4 chicken thighs
4 chicken legs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
10 ounces white mushrooms , wiped clean and sliced thin
2 leeks , white and light green parts only, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup lemon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 goat cheese
2 tablespoons of heavy cream

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Cook chicken skin side down until skin is deep brown and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook until second side is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to baking dish and place in the oven while making sauce. Bake chicken is cooked through, maybe 10 minutes. (If, like me, you just cleaned your oven until it was so shiny and clean it was fit to be on Martha Stewart's show, you will probably need to clean it again after cooking this. Chicken legs and thighs render a lot of fat. Just saying.)

Discard the fat in skillet. Melt the butter in the skillet over high heat until it foams . Add the mushrooms and leeks and cook until the mushroom liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and cook until almost evaporated, about 1 minute more. Add the broth and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in goat cheese and simmer until thickened, another minute. Add cream and simmer until thickened. Don't boil this or the goat cheese may curdle. That's just not pretty.

I served this with asparagus. My husband liked it pretty well and I will probably make this again in the near future.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I didn't give up beagles for Lent

A couple of little tri-colored beagles that I know smelled super funky, so they got a bath yesterday. After they were reasonably dry, I let them out of the kitchen. Huck, the shy one, promptly went upstairs to hide under the bed where he could feel safe from any further torture from his usually loving mistress. Pebbles decided to find a sunbeam to warm her little mass for the afternoon. She managed to locate a particularly good sunbeam that happened to hit a couch cushion for most of the afternoon. Trouble is, in my house, beagles are not allowed on the couch... when I walked over to take her off the couch, I must admit, my resolve about dogs being too nasty for the couch quickly waned.

Very quickly.

Actually, I felt myself changing my party affiliation from "NO DOGS ALLOWED!" to "but gosh, she's so cute on there" in a flash.

Yes, I must register with the "but gosh she's so cute on there" party today.

Can you blame me?