Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Squash and Carrots


Although I love dessert, one can't live, or at least not very well, with a diet of sweets. Because I try to get a few servings of veggies every day, it is worth the time and effort to have a garden and/or buy from farmers markets. You get fresh, seasonal produce that way, and it's almost always local produce.

It's still summer squash season, although the harvest is winding down. We usually grill slices along with whatever Sweetie is putting on the grill, but sometimes I want a different treatment. Last week I made a wonderful saute with zucchini squash, carrots and patty pan squash, plus some chopped Italian parsley, a little garlic and just enough water to keep the veggies from sticking during cooking. Because they were so fresh they didn't need anything else and were delicious.

I cut the patty pan squash into quarters and cut the carrots and zucchini into sticks, trying to keep their shapes about the same so that they would all cook in about the same time. One thing I made sure of was to only cook them until I could insert the tip of a sharp knife. I like my squash with some bite to it. Sweetie likes his carrots that way, so we were good to go. If you look carefully you'll see the lone green bean that was on the bean bush. More are coming in now, but then it was the lone bean!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Chocolate Works With Irish


Well, chocolate works with almost anything, really. Still, this recipe is for a dense, moist, decadent chocolate cake made with liquor. Usually I make it with bourbon, but for our party last weekend I made it with Irish Whiskey and Scharfferberg semi-sweet chocolate and baked it in a beautiful star studded Bundt pan. It was so pretty that I left off the usual chocolate ganache topping and just sifted on some confectioners sugar...and it was still a hit.

Bookmark this cake if you want a cake that is easy, impressive, rich, goes together quickly, and...best of all...very, very chocolate. If you make it ahead you can douse it with whiskey and wrap it up in cheesecloth and plastic wrap and it will get even better. Because it is so rich I usually serve thin slices, so it serves quite a few people, too. Once the party was over we didn't want so much temptation sitting in the kitchen, so Sweetie took a nice big chunk of it over to Spoiled Rotten Farm, where it was much appreciated, too.


86-Proof Chocolate Cake
from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts

Soft butter for the pan
dry bread crumbs (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I used semi-sweet and it was fine)
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold strong coffee
Cold water
½ cup Irish whiskey
½ lb. (2 sticks) sweet butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
3 eggs (large or extra large)
Optional: confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F after putting oven rack 1/3 up from bottom. Butter a 10 cup capacity Bundt or other fancy tube pan. Dust the whole inside with fine, dry bread crumbs that have been mixed with a teaspoon of cocoa powder. Invert pan over a piece of paper and tap lightly to shake out excess crumbs. Set the pan aside.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over hot water on low heat (or microwave one minute at a time at half power, stir, continue until melted and smooth). When melted, set aside to cool slightly.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a 2-cup glass measuring cup place the cold strong coffee. Add cold water to the 1 ½ cup line. Add the Irish whiskey. Set aside.

Cream the butter in a large mixer bowl. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat to mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the chocolate and beat until smooth. Scrape bowl and beaters often.

Then, on low speed, alternately add the sifted dry ingredients in 3 additions with the liquids in 2 additions, add the liquids very gradually to avoid splashing. Continue to scrape bowl and beaters often. Inhale the wonderful fragrance of chocolate mixed with Irish whiskey!

Pour into the prepared pan. Level the top. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or 15 minutes until a tester in the middle of the cake comes out clean and dry.

Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then cover with a rack and invert. Remove the pan, sprinkle the cake with a bit of optional Irish whiskey if desired, and let cool.

Move to a serving plate. If desired, sprinkle the top with confectioners sugar through a fine strainer.

Cake is wonderful as is or can be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.





Monday, September 22, 2014

Smashed!


A few nights ago I wanted a tasty side dish for some grilled pork chops. Fortunately I had small red potatoes in the pantry and it was cool enough to fire up the oven to a nice high temperature. Smashed potatoes with nice crispy brown bits on the edges and bottom were the hit of the evening.

These are easy to make and just a bit different from French fries. For one thing they aren't fried, although a generous hand with the olive oil makes 'em extra delicious. For another thing, you can jazz them up with herbs and/or spices, or keep them simple with salt and/or pepper.

Since the potatoes I used were small - about golf ball sized - I boiled them in unsalted water until tender, then cut them in half. If you have to use larger sized potatoes, you might want to cut them into chunks before boiling them. They will cook faster that way. You can make this using small Yukon gold or similar waxy potatoes, too.

The halved potatoes were put on a baking sheet that I had lined with heavy foil and then glazed with olive oil. I've done this recipe using a silicon baking mat to line the pan, but the clean up was really messy. With the foil all of the excess oil gets tossed along with the foil after you serve up the smashed potatoes, which is much easier.


Once the potatoes are on the foil, spread them out. You want about two inches between potatoes. Then use a potato masher or strong metal spatula (pancake turner) to smash the potatoes. You want to partially flatten them, but not smash them into tiny chunks. Take a look at the photo to get an idea of how much to bear down.

At this point you can do as I did and just sprinkle on salt and pepper, and/or you can sprinkle on chopped fresh herb or dried herbs or spices like cumin, paprika or cayenne pepper. I used some dried rosemary. Then drizzle with some more olive oil. Be generous if you want crispy results. You can use flavored oil, too, like garlic olive oil or truffled olive oil if you are feeling decadent.


Place the smashed and seasoned and drizzled pan(s) of potatoes into a preheated 500 degree F oven. Bake for 6 minutes, then check them to see if they are done enough for you. Some folks like the skin to still be a little soft and lightly golden, but others, like Sweetie, like a lot of crispy skin and for it to be nice and brown. If it's not done enough, bake for another minute or two and check again. Keep doing that until done to perfection!

I found that about 5 of the smashed half potatoes was a nice portion, but hearty appetites will require more. These are so good that you may want to start with a minimum of 6 small potatoes and go from there.

I usually start these about a half hour before we eat. That gives you enough time to boil and halve the potatoes, preheat the oven, arrange and smash and season the spuds, and then time to cook them to the best crispy, crunchy, delectable potatoes you can imagine.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tie Dye In A Cake


If someone were to ask you to name a few of the iconic fashions of the hippie era, you might say bell bottoms, fringe, items with peace symbols on them, ponchos, and...tie dye. Some of the other icons have disappeared, but tie dye is still around, at least in N. California. We have a shop down the road not ten minutes away that sells all manner of clothing items...including long underwear with a button seat flap!...and they are all tie dye.

I'm old enough to have seen it the first time around and I even know how to tie cloth and dip it in dye to get wild multicolored circles and swirls. I guess that's why my daughter's desire to bake a tie dye cake took my fancy. Usually I shy away from too much dye in foods, but she was planning to attend a 70s party and wanted to bring the cake. The cake mix, ordered from Amazon, came in a two pack, so we decided to give it a test run for Straight Shooter's birthday. It's Duff Gordon's Tie Dye Premium Cake Mix, in case you want to order it yourself. It also comes as a single box and in a pastel version, but this vibrant cake is such fun you may want two boxes.



If you looked at the cake sitting on it's cake stand on the hutch, it looked pretty, with lots of multi-colored sprinkles, but sort of plain. Straight Shooter's eyes popped when a slice was cut from the cake and he got the full impact of all those wild, mixed colors. This cake takes a little extra work, but it was worth it.



So how do you create the tie dye effect? The batter is divided into six small bowls and then you use a specific number of drops of the included gel food coloring to create a rainbow of colored batters.



After greasing one of the cake pans, you drop a measured amount of red in the middle of the pan. Then you drop the same amount of orange batter right in the middle of the red batter, which spreads the red toward the edge of the pan by displacement. That is followed by yellow batter, green batter, blue batter, and purple batter. Each color is dropped in the middle of the puddle of the last batter. It ends up looking like a very colorful bulls eye.



You do the same thing for the second pan, then bake them.

Because I can never leave good enough alone, we did two pools of color in the second pan and started one of the pools with blue instead of red, so there were two sets of colors. That made it trippy when you cut the cake. You didn't know which colors you would see on the top layer in which order.

I think that you could probably use your favorite white cake recipe for this and some gel food colors, but if you do, be sure to put the gel colors in the bowl before mixing up the batter, and have the cake pans prepared. That way there will be less time between when you finish mixing the batter and when the cake goes into the oven.



You can frost this anyway you like, or even use rolled out fondant. We didn't rally think about the impact that having a plain vanilla frosting hiding all that color would have when the color was revealed, but that was part of the appeal.



We used the funfetti frosting...it comes with sprinkles, but we also added some multi-colored heart sprinkles that I found while I was getting ready for the remodel of the kitchen.


Combined they gave a very festive look to the cake.



I have to admit that we cleaned up all of the batter bowls and utensils outside with the hose.



We even did the batter scooping outside because it wasn't clear how messy it would be (pretty messy) and I'm not willing to find out how washable my new countertop really is yet. I know, I'm a wuss, but I want to enjoy its pristine beauty just a while longer.

So let me know if you end up making this cake, OK? It can be a blast from the past, or a fun project to do with the kids...or both.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Baking Bread Again


It's almost like that song ... "Falling in love again..." because I really did miss bread baking while the kitchen was torn up and now it almost seems new. Some of that is because I'm still searching for some of my equipment and supplies, but some is because working in a new space just feels fresh and different. I love it!

This month our talented and straight talking Babe, Ilva of Lucullian Delights blog is Kitchen of the Month and she has chosen Robert Mays French Bread for the Bread Baking Babes to bake. The special ingredient that makes it different from other French breads is egg white. The recipe comes from Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery and it was fun to make. Another somewhat unusual feature is that for the final part of the baking you cover the loaves with pots, for a better crust.

Like Ilva, I didn't cover my loaf but lowered the temperature for the last 15 minutes instead. I think the crust was just fine that way, even if it wasn't very thick. I did use a baking stone, which made for a lovely bottom crust. It was delicious and not difficult at all. The only tip I have is to start out with 8 or 9 oz. liquid (water/milk) for that amount of flour. I used 10 oz. and had to add a little more flour while kneading. If you want a really slack dough, use the larger amount, but I was going for a fairly dense crumb and it was just right. Used King Arthur white whole wheat flour for half for that nutty taste, with a milk or egg yolk wash added just before baking.



I shaped half of the dough into a crown and kept the other half as an oval loaf. I brushed the crown with milk and brushed the oval loaf with the left over egg yolk. Because I was still pretty swamped with punch list tasks when I made it (a few weeks ago, absolutely as soon as I had an oven and enough of my baking stuff organized) I kept it pretty simple.


This is a fine bread for sandwiches, toasting, or just enjoying with butter and jam or to find the last drops of a good stew or soup. Thank you Ilva for choosing just the right recipe for trying out the new kitchen.

Do visit the blogs of our other Babes, too, to see their take on this delightful bread.
Bake My Day - Karen, Blog From OUR Kitchen - Elizabeth, Bread Experience - Cathy, Girlichef - Heather, Life's A Feast - Jaime, Living in the Kitchen With Puppies - Natashya, My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna, My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna, Notitie van Lien - Lien.



ROBERT MAY'S FRENCH BREAD
from Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery

500 g/ 1 lb 2 oz preferably a half-and-half mixture of unbleached white and wheatmeal
15 g/ 0,5 oz of yeast (fresh)
2 egg whites
280-340 g/ 0,5 pint to 12 oz water and milk,preferably 3/4 water and 1/4 milk (perhaps a bit less liquid)
15 g/ 0,5 oz salt

- Warm flour and salt in a very tepid oven. (you can skip this - I did)

- Pour in the yeast creamed in a little of the warmed milk and water mixture. Add the egg whites, beaten in a small bowl until they are just beginning to froth. Pour in the remaining milk (but not all at once like I did, I had to add more flour to get the right consistency). Mix as for ordinary bread dough.

- Leave to rise until spongy and light. This will take 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the temperature of the ingredients when the dough as mixed.

- Break down the dough, divide it into two round loaves-or long rolls if you prefer. (I made one oval loaf). Cover with plastic or a light cloth and leave to recover volume. About 30 minutes should be enough.

- Decorate crust with cuts or not. Bake in a pre-heated oven (230°C/450°F) for the first 15 minutes. Then to prevent the crust to get too hard, cover the loaves with bowls or an oval casserole. In another 15 minutes the laves should be ready. (I did not cover my loaf because I had nothing of that size of shape that I could use so I lowered the temperature to 175°C/350°F and left it in for another 15-20 minutes, but I did use a bread/pizza stone.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gluten Free Baked Lamb Meatballs


It's been great being back in the kitchen cooking. I had no idea that finding new homes for all my cooking and baking equipment and supplies would be so challenging. It isn't that there isn't room, nor that I hadn't planned where to put most of it, the problem is that I find that where I thought things should go is not truly where they fit best when actually using the kitchen. That means rethinking a lot of my original plan.

I look pretty crazy sometimes as I open and close drawer after drawer and door after door of the cabinets, looking for a whisk or grater, a citrus juicer or colander. Some things have been moved four or five times since the project started and my memory just isn't what it used to be.


Still, I wouldn't go back to the old kitchen and I love all of the work space. I even used the little table this week while I was preparing pounds of home grown, just picked cherry tomatoes for roasting. Sitting instead of standing to remove all of those little tomato tops before I prepared them for roasting was a treat. After the tomatoes were roasted I decided that as long as the oven was hot, I could make meatballs for dinner.

I had thawed some frozen ground lamb from the freezer and somewhere recently I read a recipe where they used almond meal instead of bread crumbs for making meatballs, so I decided to see what I could come up with using items already in the pantry and fridge. I'm not eating gluten free myself, in general, but it's always nice to have a dish to make that is when I might have guests who need to eat gluten free. This dish is not vegan or vegetarian however, but it is dairy free. Because Sweetie is not a big fan of mint, it is a mint free dish, too. Mostly I would make these again because they were awesomely yummy.

There was just over a pound of ground lamb. The fridge had a wonderful caramelized red onion and fig conserve, some Dijon mustard, an egg yolk left over from another recipe, eggs, fresh basil, and the almond meal. The pantry had salt and pepper. That was all I needed. Because the onion and fig conserve was ready to go and very full flavored, the meatballs went together very quickly.


I scooped them on to a foil lined baking sheet and baked them in a 400 degree F oven for about 18 minutes. I was going for 20 minutes, but they seemed to be done at 18 and I hate overcooked lamb.


A key thing to remember if you decide to make these is to handle the mixture lightly. That keeps 'em tender and juicy. The other thing to know is that they may flatten just a bit, so don't expect tight, round meatballs. Instead look forward to light, juicy, delicious meatballs with some crispy bits where they sat on the pan. The lamb flavor shines and is enhanced by the slightly sweet onions and figs. The mustard and basil are background flavors and I didn't really taste the egg or almond meal at all. You can serve them with some more of the conserve or a bit of tomato sauce, or some yogurt...all three would be good. I served them with a neighbor's gift of fresh from the garden broccoli, which I roasted with garlic, and corn on the cob, and that was wonderful, too.


Elle's Gluten Free Baked No Mint Lamb Meatballs

1 pound ground lamb
1 egg yolk
1 medium or large egg
1/4 cup caramelized red onion and fig conserve (any kind of onion-fig jam or conserve will work)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup almond meal (ground blanched almonds)
2 - 3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper)

In a mixing bowl, using a fork, lightly stir together the above ingredients. Scoop balls about the size of a walnut on to a foil lined baking sheet, leaving about an inch to two inches between balls. (You can make the meatballs any size you like, but the smaller size bakes more quickly than larger ones.)

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 12-20 minutes. Check after 12 minutes to see how done they are - they should be browned around the edges and spring back a bit when prodded - turn the pan 180 degrees and continue baking until done.

Serve at once and enjoy! Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Cookies From A Pot


Do you have a favorite snack for times of stress? Lots of folks turn to ice cream and that does have the advantage of being ready to eat from the carton, it come in lots of flavors, and all you need is a spoon.

I tend to go for cookies. When I knew I would be without a stove for a while I baked some blondies, and that really helped. Once they were gone I wished that I had made butterscotch cookies, so I looked here on the blog for the recipe. No way I was going to find the recipe in my recipe card file because the file had disappeared into the whirl of items that used to live in the kitchen cupboard but now were temporarily housed elsewhere for the kitchen remodel. Turns out that I never put up a post on butterscotch cookies, so I had to wait until I found the recipe box. About a week ago I spotted it on a window sill behind a curtain. Sure enough, there was the recipe I wanted, so I brought it inside and put it by the flour in the new baking center. I decided that once I was able to bake again that it would be the first thing I made.

Today was the day! The stove is working, I have sinks in working order and a dishwasher. The new drawers and shelves are starting to be put to use as I sort out my kitchen things and find new homes for them. One of the nice things about this recipe is that you can make the batter in a good sized pot. No mixer needed!

You start with a lot of butter. It gets melted in the pot, then you add a lot of brown sugar. That gets stirred together. I usually let it cool a bit and today I was blessed by a phone call from a friend so we caught up while the mixture cooled.

Once the butter/sugar mixture cools a bit, you beat in the eggs, then, all at once, add the dry ingredients, nuts, chocolate chips and vanilla. As long as your pot is big enough, all this can be done in the same pot you melted the butter in. The batter gets turned out into a greased baking pan and spread out, then it's into the preheated oven. It doesn't take long before the house smells absolutely delicious! This is a very aromatic cookie. After cooling you can cut them into bars of whatever size you like.

These bars of delight ship well and keep well if you can keep them hidden. I usually freeze some so that I don't eat the whole pan in a day...I like them that well. Fortunately we are down to the punch list so my stress level should be pretty low for a while. I bet I make these again before Christmas!

In case you have been following the madness of the kitchen remodel, I'm going to include a photo and am happy to say that the last of the paint touch ups was done today. All appliances, cabinets, floor, sinks, faucets, drawer and door handles on the cabinets, hooks, garbage containers and all but one of the towel racks have been installed. Most of the shelves and drawers are lined, and some are even filled. We found a good buy on bamboo drawer dividers at Costco, so lots of items that can go in them are in drawers and in order. Now I just have to remember which drawer they went to!


I hope to post a lot more often now that I should have more cooking and baking time. I made some amazing lamb meatballs last night which I need to share with you before I forget the ingredients I threw together, plus there are a few things I've made in the last week or so that were too good not to share. Hope you have checked out some of the older posts. If you have a way to go to classic web version there is a photo of a table setting which is a link to the recipe index. The index is a little out of date, but there are some hidden treasures there if you look for them.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Height of Summer Chicken and Corn



The garden is so beautiful right now! The cherry tomato plants have taken over most of a 4 foot by 6 foot planter box, but there is a sky blue morning glory with flowers as big as saucers that has climbed up and through those tomatoes and up some more.


There is a smaller Early Girl plant that is starting to produce red, ripe tennis ball size tomatoes, too. I used both the cherry and Early Girl tomatoes in today's dish. The squash plants yield about one a week, which is fine since there has been no baking to speak of until today for about 5 weeks, and not much real cooking either. Sweetie grills the squash, just like using a campfire. Come to think of it, having no working kitchen is a bit like camping out, without the bugs. Fun for a while, but it was so nice to finally bake today!

A good friend has corn that has all ripened at once, so she gave us some a few days ago. The first eating was lightly steamed and right off the cob. Today I cut the kernels off the cobs and added them at the last minute to a chicken casserole which also has fresh tomatoes, white wine, onions and fresh basil. It's based on a recipe I've loved for years, Chicken Cacciatore. This is a fresher combination and really delicious.


It is also one to bookmark because you can make it up the night before, or even a few days before you eat it and then reheat it when you have had a busy, busy day. Sitting overnight or longer melds the flavors and it is even better than freshly made. Just be sure to add the corn 5 minutes before you serve the dish. It really only needs to warm up!

I served this with fresh from the garden steamed green beans, but it would be lovely with a salad and some nice bread, too. Bread baking coming soon, I promise.


Chicken with Corn, Onion, Tomato and Basil

1 chicken, cut up (I used 4 chicken breasts, each cut in half)
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 pound fresh tomatoes, washed, stem end removed, and cut up (I used about 14 oz. Early Girl and the rest cherry tomato...with the cherry tomatoes cut in quarters)
3 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced in thin slices or chopped
2 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob
salt & pepper to taste & olive oil for the bottom of the pan

Sprinkle chicken with salt. In a large, heavy ovenproof skillet, over medium heat, brown chicken in hot oil. (I use just enough oil to coat the pan bottom to keep the chicken from sticking. If you have a large, heavy ovenproof non-stick skillet, you don’t even need the oil.)
Add the onion; cook about 3 minutes, stirring, until the onion is crispy-tender. (If using chicken breasts, remove them to a bowl...which retains the juices...while you stir the onions, then place them over the mixture once the tomatoes have been added. Otherwise they may cook too long and become tough)
Remove pan from the heat. Stir in the tomatoes and pepper. Sprinkle with the basil.
Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F. oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until tender. 5 minutes before dish is cooked, add the corn, cover, and return to oven for 5 minutes. Serve at once.
 If you will be reheating the dish, don't add the corn until you have reheated the dish. Keep the corn refrigerated until ready to use.
If you are reheating the dish, place it in a preheated oven, without the corn, and heat it until internal temperature registers 165 degrees F. Uncover, add the corn, cover and keep heating for 5 minutes. Serve at once.
It is OK to let the casserole stand in turned off oven up to 1 hour, but the corn will not be as sweet.
Serves 4-6.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Honey From the Hive


Last spring we pulled into the driveway and stopped for the mail from the box by the road. An intense humming sound drew my attention toward the olive tree downhill and I was happy to see that there was a bee swarm. Why would that make me happy? Well, I knew that our near neighbors, just across the road, were hoping to start a bee hive in their garden and here was a local swarm, ready to find a new home.


Later that day, dressed in a bee costume and armed with clippers and a cardboard box, AM, G and Sweetie captured the swarm from the olive tree where they were unsuccessfully trying to create a home. They took to their new home in the hive quite well, although initially they started a comb in a part of the box not meant for a comb. Soon they were buzzing about the local area, pollinating the fruit trees and berry shrubs, the veggies and the flowers in the cultivated gardens, gathering pollen and making honey. With the current problems with bee hive disease and die off, every healthy hive is a welcome addition.

Yesterday we were in San Francisco celebrating the birthday of one of our favorite people. The traffic home was slower than usual, so we were very happy to get home. We were even happier when we rolled up the hill and met AM, who had just dropped off something for us.

There, by the door, was a package wrapped in lined paper with "taste me" written on it. Given that AM makes amazingly delicious cheese, soup, bread, and other goodies there was no telling what delights were in store for us.


We removed the paper and found a golden, almost glowing, piece of honey comb, full of fragrant honey!
All thoughts of dinner fled as I quickly made tea and toast.


The toast was the perfect vehicle for that honey.See the little chunks of honey comb? We could almost taste the flowers. A delight indeed. Thank you AM and your bees!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eat From the Garden


Farm to table is really big right now in the restaurant world. That is probably a good thing because getting people to really taste fresh veggies and fruit soon after they are harvested might help generate demand for that taste hit in regular and fast food restaurants, to say nothing of in grocery stores.

Even better than farm to table is garden to table. To have planted the little seeds, nurtured them, set them out in the garden when the time was ripe, kept them going with regular water (and plant food as needed), tying up the tomatoes and re-routing the wayward pole bean vines, watching the first fruits form and grow and ripen...then to pick and eat that ripe food shortly after picking. Bliss.


I usually try to do as little as possible with the harvest if I only harvest enough to enjoy that day. Today I harvested enough lovely green bush beans for Sweetie and I to enjoy with our dinner. All they needed was a quick rinse and a rapid steam to turn them brilliant green and heat them enough to enjoy. Nothing else was needed! We had them last night, too. The thing to remember if you decide to grow bush beans is that they come in almost all at once...within a week or so. Great if you are canning them, but otherwise you need to pick them almost every day and figure out what to do with them. My pole beans seem to take a bit longer, so I harvest them less frequently.


The small tomatoes (Early Girls, I think) also got a quick rinse and then were sliced. The slices were laid on a platter and I sprinkled on a tiny bit of garlic salt and freshly ground pepper.


These tomatoes never saw the inside of a refrigerator, so they were room temperature. They taste like summer...juicy, tart, the essence of tomato. Last night's cherry tomatoes were even simpler. Wash, put on plate. Remove green top, eat, repeat.



If you don't have a garden or a neighbor who wants to share, try a good farmer's market. It will be almost as fresh and very, very delicious.

For those who are keeping track, we now have a counter and sink and faucet in the baking center, so washing up is easier. The photo of the tomatoes and cutting board shows a sliver of the new quartz counter top. Still no regular stove or oven, but Sweetie is patching some dry wall tomorrow and I'll be working on the mural this weekend, so it won't be too much longer before I can bake again.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Apple Pie-ish


The Gravensteins are here! A big banner, sponsored by the Slow Food movement, announces that fact right near Whole Foods in downtown Sebastopol. Gravensteins are one of the early apples. They are delicious and make great applesauce and cider, even pie, but don't keep and don't ship well. Fortunately, we have a couple of Gravenstein trees on the property and this morning I had my first taste of the season.


My breakfast was apple pie-ish because I diced half of an unpeeled Gravenstein, sprinkled it with cinnamon, microwaved it for a minute and a half, then used that delicious, hot apple goodness as the base for my cereal and plain yogurt. If you think about the bran cereal as having pie crust flavors, and the yogurt as having the dairy flavor that some ice cream or whipped cream would have, it isn't difficult to pretend that you are eating apple pie...well, if you have an imagination like mine anyway.

The main kitchen cabinets are here this morning, too! Soon we will be having breakfast in regular bowls, not paper ones, because we will have a dishwasher again. Once the stove is hooked up, there will be real cooking and baking again, too. Exciting!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Still Eating


From the looks of this blog...no posts for a while...you'd think we'd stopped eating of something. The truth is that I've almost stopped cooking. Having everything pulled out of your kitchen will lead to that. It's been almost two weeks and last night was the first time I really used the alternate kitchen that Sweetie created in my art studio.

We had both used the sink a few times for washing up, but lately we have been eating prepared foods. I cooked some things and put them in the freezer before the demolition, but we have also enjoyed Pasta King lasagna, bagged salads with tomatoes from the farm stand and similar foods. Steamed freshly picked green beans are possible using the microwave in the living room.

Yesterday I decided that the time had come to do some real cooking, but I still wanted to keep it simple. I used the toaster oven mid-day to bake some boneless, skinless chicken thighs. After cooling slightly, they went into the studio fridge. Closer to dinner time. I used the studio microwave to boil broth in a large glass measuring cup. I added a flavor packet from a package of couscous. That mixture was poured over a bowl of couscous from the package, covered and it sat for 5 minutes to allow the couscous to absorb the broth.

While the couscous was cooking, I cut up the chicken and basil, juiced the lemon and rounded up the pepper grinder. I had forgotten to get the feta from the fridge in the living room, so I added it once I went back in the house. All of the ingredients except the lemon zest (which I skipped...who knew where the zester had gotten to?) and feta were stirred into the fluffed couscous.


 All that was left was to add the feta, heat some bread and serve it up.

Sweetie has always loved this recipe and was thrilled to have a home cooked meal that was this delicious. Tomorrow we may be back to bagged salad to use up the rest of the chicken, but I'll bet I'll be cooking in the alternate kitchen the next day. I'll try to post what I cook, but the next few days are full of flooring work and wall painting, so who knows if I'll have the energy. I do love to paint walls, but it does tire me out.

Hope you make this dish. It is a lovely meal for a summer day with bright, fresh flavors and it's easy, too.


Mediterranean Chicken Couscous
Serves 8 (more if part of a buffet or potluck)

1 1/4 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 (5.6 oz.) package toasted pine nut couscous mix
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 (4 oz.) package crumbled feta cheese (I used about half that amount)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (optional)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Garnish: fresh basil leaves

(Note:  Substitute 3-4 teaspoons (I used 3) dried basil if you can't get fresh. 3 cups of leftover cooked chicken or turkey in large dice works fine, too.)

Microwave chicken broth and seasoning packet from couscous package at HIGH for 3-5 minutes or until broth begins to boil. Place couscous in a large bowl, and stir in broth mixture. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, stir in chicken and next 6 ingredients. Serve warm or cold. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts, if desired.