Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bear's Test Video


I got a Flipvideo camera this week! So I used it to film the first use of the "Furminator" on Bear. Hopefully this little device will help reduce the amount of hair we sweep off the floor every single day!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sometimes It's Good to be Weird...

I was going to title this post "Dinner When it's too Hot to Cook," but I decided I needed to give a little more background than that.

My love for food has been with me a long time. I don't remember a time when I wasn't aware of people in the kitchen, making wonderful things.

This life long love of food has given me eccentric tastes in food, and very peculiar shopping habits. And as a result of this weirdness, my icebox has a rather odd mix of things in it at any given time. I think this is a good thing. My husband sometimes doesn't agree. Although his objection isn't to the range of things. It's more a statement about the STATE of some of those things. I do tend to forget about the things that get pushed to the back. I have some interesting science experiments going on most days... :)

Oddness in my icebox brings me to tonight's dinner. There were 2 factors greatly influencing my choices for dinner: 1- it's hotter than blazes outside, and 2- Dev is at his parents' house, so I'm cooking for one.

I like to have sliced, toasted baguette slices on hand in my pantry. It's much cheaper than buying the toasts at the store, plus I can make them plain, or flavored if I want to. Plus, it's so easy, it seems silly to buy them. Slice the baguette, drizzle it with olive oil, flavor it if you want, then toast in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Let them cool and throw them in a ziplock bag til you need them.

I also picked up some marinated goat cheese at the Montrose Farmers' Market a few weeks ago. It's marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, fresh thyme and peppercorns.

As a result of a trip to the Nepal Restaurant earlier this week, I have roasted lamb pieces in a take out container, as well.

Another container has roasted roma tomatoes I made a few weeks ago- another nice thing to have on hand, and MUCH cheaper than buying sun dried tomatoes at the store.

So after perusing my icebox, I put this plate together:

There are two different bites here.

The first is a baguette slice with the marinated goat cheese, a slice of cold roasted lamb and a dab of mango chutney. It looks like this...

The second is a baguette slice with home made ricotta (seasoned with salt and pepper), a roasted roma tomato and a fresh basil leaf. Oh- and a drizzle of olive oil. It looks like this...

This was a delicious dinner. And one that would not have been possible had I not been so weird. So there. :)

The Nepal Restaurant

I am always on the look out for my new favorite restaurant! I love cooking, don't get me wrong. But sometimes I want to sit back and let someone else prepare the food. Unfortunately, I haven't had many wonderful dining experiences out here in Colorado.

Last week, however, Dev and I found a diamond in the rough. A while back (while we were looking for the perfect dog to adopt), we drove out to the animal shelter in Glenwood Springs, CO. At the turn off from the highway, I noticed a restaurant in this little strip mall called The Nepal Restaurant. I made a mental note of it and filed it away in the back of my mind.

Earlier this week, Dev and I were shopping around in Glenwood Springs (which is a fairly common occurence). For some reason, I remembered the little restaurant in the strip mall, and suggested we go eat there.

I am sooooo glad I did!

The restaurant itself is nothing fancy. The dining room is rather smallish. The decor consists mostly of posters of Mt. Everest and other Tibetan/Nepalize(sp) cultural items and traditional symbols. I noticed as we sat and waited for our meal, that everyone who came through the door seemed to know the staff, entering to welcoming hugs and questions about family members, or school. This, to me, is a very good sign!

I ordered chai right off the bat. And I was not disappointed. Every time I emptied my cup, a staff member appeared out of nowhere with a steaming hot pot, ready to refill my teacup. The downside of this was drinking 3 cups of chai before our food arrived. It also may be responsible for a tummy ache I had later that night!

I ordered the combo plate for an appetizer, because it had a little of almost everything on the appetizer section of the menu. Here's a pic...

On this platter we found: shrimp, chicken and vegetable Pakoda (a version of tempura using chickpea flour) and a Samosa. It was wonderful! The fried meat and veggies were crispy, but not mushy. The flavor of the chickpea flour is present, but not overwhelming. The samosa was especially good. I love fried pies, and this one was seasoned perfectly! Oh- andI almost forgot the Papad (crispy lentil wafer) and the Naan (flatbread). All the above was served with a grouping of sauces, ranging from sweet to spicy to a tzaziki-like yogurt based sauce.

I seriously should have stopped right there. I was fat and happy. But then our entrees arrived....

Dev had the Lamb Bhuteko (Seasoned lamb in dry tomato sauce with cooked onion)...

I wish I had ordered this. It was spicy and sweet and soft and crunchy all at the same time. I would have wrapped it all up in the garlic/cheese Naan we ordered to go with it. And I could have died a happy woman.

I ordered the Lamb Kawab (Marinated in yogurt and herbs overnight then cooked in Tandoori oven)...

My entree was really good, but it lacked that saucy smoothness I have come to expect from this kind of food. Normally I order a korma preparation. And I'm sure I'll order that next time. I have no doubt these people do an off the charts version of it. But this was really good. And if Dev hadn't ordered the Bhuteko, I probably would have waxed poetic about my entree. But as it stands, I liked his better. I did eat the pieces of roasted lamb and onion wrapped in the garlic/cheese naan. I have the leftovers in the ice box, and I think that will be my lunch, with a little homemade tzaziki topping it all off.

Needless to say, The Nepal Restaurant will definitely go into our regular rotation. Mondays are reserved for Taipei Tokyo...but this might become a weekend date night tradition!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

I am a very lucky girl. I married a guy who loves learning how to make cheese. I happen to love eating cheese. Works out well for me, huh?

I have been asking Dev to make a batch of fresh ricotta for a few days. I've seen several ricotta recipes on blogs and in magazines, and I prefer to use home made, because it is softer and sweeter than store bought ricotta.

I used the first of the batch on pizzas day before yesterday. This morning I used a little more to make something I've wanted to try for a long time- ricotta pancakes.

I saw a special on The Food Network about different chefs' favorite things to eat. On the breakfast episide, someone said they loved the ricotta pancakes at some fancy restaurant. I watched the process and figured there wasn't any rocket science involved and I could probably do just as well at home.

I started with my standard buttermilk pancake recipe.

I usually let the batter sit a few minutes while I plug in and heat up my electric griddle. Right before I was ready to ladle the batter on the grill, I added some ricotta cheese. I crumbled it in the batter in fairly small pieces. Then I cooked them like I normally do, adding fresh blueberries to each pancake before I flipped to the second side.

I didn't have any maple syrup, so I heated equal parts honey and butter and whisked them together until they were pale and light. I may never buy syrup again.

The pancakes were light and airy...and every once in a while you hit a little pocket of creamy ricotta cheese and a big, fat, juicy blueberry. The honey butter took it right over the top. What a great breakfast!

I think this would be good using almost any fruit...especially strawberries and sliced fresh peaches.

Anyhoo- you should try this immediately! Your family will thank you...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?? Yes She Can!

Pie crust used to be on my list of things I was terrified of. My last attempt at making a pie crust ended badly. I ended up with a sore hand from repeatedly banging it on the counter and a frankenstein-looking pie crust that was dry and tough.

Fast forward 2 years. I am standing in my kitchen looking at 2 pounds of fresh cherries that are quickly going to start decaying if I don't do something with them fast. What to do?

I had no choice but to consider a pie application. No problem, I thought. I'll just go down to the basement freezer and pull out a handy dandy store bought pie crust. Wrong. No pie crusts in the freezer. Clock ticking on fresh cherries. How bad could it turn out this time?? I have 2 more years cooking experience under my belt. I can do this. Breathe. Concentrate. Suck it up. MAKE A PIE CRUST FROM SCRATCH.

I gathered my ingredients....2 1/2 cups of AP flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and two sticks of cold butter- oh- and a glass of ice water. I assembled my food processor. I put the flour, sugar and salt in the processor and pulsed it a few times to sift and mix it. Then I added the butter, cut into pieces. I pulsed that until it looked all crumbly. Through the feed tube I added one tablespoon of cold water at a time until the dough started to stick to itself and form a ball in the machine. So far so good!

I dumped the crumbly mess on the counter and formed it into a ballish sort of thing. Then I cut it in half and formed each half into a disc shape. In the icebox it went for 30 minutes.

While that was happening, I made the filling. I had about a pound and a half of cherries (after I painstakingly pitted all of them). I mixed them in a bowl with 4 tablespoons of instant tapioca, a cup and a quarter of sugar, and a dash of salt. This needed to sit and soak for at least 15 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I took the discs out of the icebox and began rolling them out. To my utter surprise and shock, they rolled out beautifully. I was able to get the bottom crust in my pyrex pie dish without cursing or violence. I poured the cherry mixture in, put a few pats of butter on top, then rolled out the top crust and put it on top. I sealed the edges and cut a few vents. It went in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. Oh- and make sure you put a cookie sheet under it, because inevitably it will leak.

I even took the leftover dough scraps and rolled them out, cut them with a biscuit cutter, sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on them and baked them with the pie. The resulting cookies taste like really crispy shortbread. I almost wanted to make another batch of dough to make more cookies!

After an hour, I was rewarded with a really good cherry pie. Was it beautiful? No. Was it the best pie I've ever eaten? No. But I made it from scratch!

My next project will be a rhubarb, strawberry, blueberry pie!

A Variation on Eggs Benedict...

I love eggs benedict. I always have. Unfortunately, Devin doesn't, so if I make it at home I have to make some slight alterations in order to make it palatable to him. The only way he will eat eggs is scrambled. He is also not fond of hollandaise sauce.

On this particular morning I had lots of odds and ends sitting around in the icebox, and the craving for eggs benedict hit me right between the eyes when I woke up.

For the base (where the English muffin would normally be) I split and toasted a piece of garlic/jalapeno cheddar focaccia. On that I put a slice of capicola ham and a slice of juicy tomato. Atop that I perched the scrambled eggs. To guild the lily, I added some shrimp and mushrooms in a spicy sour cream sauce. I have to admit, I didn't make it, it was leftover from a trip to a local Mexican restaurant the night before. But let me tell you, it did the trick. This was seriously good. I might order the shrimp dish again just to have leftovers to make this!

Friday, July 16, 2010

We have a furry child!!!

This gorgeous guy is ours!! Last week we adopted Bear from the Rifle Animal Shelter. I can't say enough about the wonderful people who work there. They are truly dedicated to making life better for all the animals under their care.

Bear is a 2 year old black lab/New Foundland mix. At first he was quiet and shy, but now he has come out of his shell! He came to us house trained and crate trained. However...he does not walk on a leash well. Dev is working with him constantly and I'm sure he'll get the hang of it soon.

I'm sure there will be numerous future posts about Bear's exploits. Right now he's napping at our feet while we work on lesson plans and check email. I'm sure he'd rather be somewhere riding around or playing in some water. But then again, so would we!

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