Friday, December 30, 2011

Last Lunch in Savannah

Excellent Techie News!

I am so excited that I can finally post things from my iPhone- even pictures!  I have been able to send short text message-like posts from my phone for a while, but I could never get pictures to work.  I just finished downloading the Blogger App for the iPhone, and now I can post full length stuff with pics on the go!

I'm not sure that necessarily equals more posts on the blog, but it is definitely a step in the right direction!

Remote Test Post

Test post

Friday, December 9, 2011

Blue Turtle Bistro- A Review

Tonight I decided the women in the Witherington family needed to get out of the house for a while.  We have been working hard the last few days, playing hostess to visiting friends and family in the aftermath of my Daddy's death.  I wanted to go somewhere nice, but comfortable.  And I wanted insanely good food.  Boy, did I ever get what I asked for.

After much thought, I took my Momma and my niece-in-law, Sarah, to Blue Turtle Bistro.  Jim, a friend of mine, is the manager, and I haven't been able to stop in during my last few visits home.  Plus- I was a little afraid of going and not liking it- considering my friendship with Jim.  I was such a silly goose for letting that keep me away!

We came in for an early dinner- in fact, we were the first ones there for dinner service that night.  We were seated immediately (after a quick hug from Jim) and we ordered dinner drinks.  I had a Reisling from the Washington state area, I don't remember the label, but it was very good.  It went perfectly with the Brie En Croute (served with sliced apples, strawberries and a wonderful macerated cherry compotish mixture).

Horrible Pic of Beef Fillets
When it came time to order entrees, I was honestly stumped.  Everything sounded so wonderful!  Momma and Sarah both ordered the beef fillet.  It was served with haricovert and silky mashed potatoes.  I ordered the crab cakes (on the recommendation of our server- bless her!).  They were served with a roasted corn pudding and asparagus.  The crab cakes were packed with crab- very little filler (which, of course, is the true test of a good crab cake).  They were so rich, I could only eat one!  That might have been because I had a hunch dessert was not to be missed.  I was so right!  But I have to mention the roasted corn pudding before I leave dinner.  The outside was slightly crispy and the inside was achingly creamy.  The flavor of the corn was definitely out front- but the texture is what made the dish for me.  The combination of the strong corn flavor with the crab cake was one of the most divine culinary things I have ever experienced.

Equally Horrid Pic of Crab Cakes


Jim ever so sneakily pushed the dessert menu my way as we were finishing the last of our dinner.  Again, I could have ordered anything on the menu and been very happy.  Sarah ordered the pumpkin/gingerbread creme brulee- served with pistachio brittle (to me the best part).  Momma and I split the bread pudding.  It was topped with slightly sweetened whipped cream, butterscotch sauce and more of the macerated cherries.  Jim added a sparkler, for a dramatic touch.  I am telling you now- the combination of the sweet bread pudding with the salty butterscotch sauce was completely out of this world.  It truly was the best bread pudding I have ever eaten.  Ever.  Seriously.  And believe me- I have eaten my share of bread pudding.



Might as Well Make it Three Bad Pics- Bread Pudding


As I read this before publishing it, I noticed I used the word "combination" quite a bit.  As a writing teacher, this irks me.  But as a foodie, it makes me realize just how important unity is on a plate.  Good restaurants make sure each individual dish is the best it can be.  Great restaurants put thought in how the flavors on the plate go together throughout the meal.  I can honestly say Blue Turtle is a great restaurant.  From the appetizer to the dessert, every bite was consistently amazing.

I don't get back to Savannah as often as I'd like, but after tonight, Blue Turtle will be on my "must have" list for every single return trip.  If you love food (and stellar service)  you MUST go give Blue Turtle a try.  I promise you won't be sorry!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wine Braised Swiss Chard Mac and Cheese

Yeah, still taking pictures of dinner with my iPhone.  Sorry.

So tonight's dinner was inspired by a trip to Natural Grocers.  They had some Swiss Chard in the produce section and it was beautiful.  I could not keep a bunch of it from jumping into my cart.

I bought the stuff to make mac & cheese last week, intending to make it for a dinner party.  I ended up doing Brunswick stew instead, so I still had the smoked gouda and sharp cheddar in the ice box.

It was really chilly here today, so I was in the mood for something oozy and cheesy for dinner.  I decided to braise the chard and add it to the mix.

I didn't use a recipe for this, but I'm sure that doesn't surprise you.  I can tell you what I did, but I don't have any measurements.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Firstly, I put on the water for the macaroni.  When it boiled, I added about half a box of elbow macaroni.  I let it cook about 8 minutes, then took it out and rinsed it with cold water.  It set to the side while I got everything else ready.  I got out my biggest non stick skillet.  I put a few glugs of olive oil in it, sliced some fresh garlic and threw it over medium heat.  While the garlic and oil were heating, I washed and chopped the chard- stems and leaves separately.  When the garlic was brown, I took it out with a slotted spoon and left the yummie garlic flavored oil in the pan.  I bumped the heat up a little and threw in the chard stems.  While they were cooking away, I shredded a piece of smoked gouda (about as big as the palm of my hand) and about the same sized piece of sharp cheddar.  By that time the stem pieces were soft, so I threw in the leaves (when I chopped the leaves I rolled them up like cigars and made a chiffonade- but I don't think it matters how you chop it).  I added some reisling (the end of a bottle I had in the fridge) and a little salt and pepper, then let it cook down with the lid off while I made the sauce for the mac and cheese.

To make the sauce I used the same pot I boiled the macaroni in.  I put about 3 tablespoons of butter in it (over medium heat) and waited for it to melt.  Then I added about the same amount of all purpose flour.  I let that cook, stirring every once in a while.  After about 3 minutes I added 2% milk.  I have no idea how much I added.  I looked at the amount of pasta I had, then eye-balled the milk to have enough sauce for that much pasta.  If I HAD to guess, maybe it was 3 cups?  I whisked the milk around for a few minutes to make sure the flour and butter got evenly incorporated.  At this point I grated some fresh nutmeg in, added some sriracha hot sauce, a little salt and a whole lot of freshly ground black pepper. I kept whisking fairly frequently to keep it from scorching on the bottom.  It will take a few minutes to begin thickening, but when it starts, it really kicks in.  If it gets too thick, you can always add a little more milk.  Mine was just about right.  I turned the heat down to low, then added the shredded cheeses.  Honestly, I added them one at a time, whisking the sauce after each addition until it was silky smooth again.  At this point I tasted the sauce.  I HATE mac & cheese that isn't seasoned enough.  I added a bit more hot sauce (to cut the richness and give it some character), a tad more salt and a lot more black pepper.  Then I dumped the skillet full of chard in the sauce.  The chard had braised for probably about 10 minutes, and the wine had evaporated completely.  I dumped the macaroni in after that.  I stirred until everything was coated with sauce and poured it into an 8x11ish pyrex casserole dish.

I made a quick bread crumb topping with 2 tablespoons of melted butter and a couple of handfuls of panko breadcrumbs.  That mixture got sprinkled on the top and into the oven it went- for about 35 minutes.  I like to let the crumbs get really brown and the cheese to char a little on the edges.  While it was baking I roasted some pine nuts in a dry skillet.  When I served the mac & cheese I garnished it with the pine nuts.

This really didn't suck.  Devin went back for seconds.  Really.  He did.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chicken Divanishness

This is a terrible picture.  It makes my dinner look like spotted dog food.  I promise it tasted really good, though.  I seriously need to stop taking blog photos with my iPhone.  I bought a really good camera to take food pics for the blog, and apparently have become too lazy to walk upstairs and get it.  Bleck.

So this was a clean out the icebox kinda dinner.  It is loosely based on a chicken divan recipe my ex mother in law used to make.  Well, that's not really true, because I've never seen the recipe for the chicken divan.  It kinda looked like it.  Whatever.

Here's what I did...

I threw 2 cups of rice in my rice cooker (a birthday gift- more on that later).  While it was festering away I did this...

I chopped half a yellow onion and threw it in a skillet with some olive oil.  After a few minutes I threw in some sliced mushrooms (the end of a basket that was well on its way to science project status).  After they colored a little, I added some leftover steamed broccoli and let it cook a few minutes more.  I sprinkled a little salt on the veggies, and glugged a few glugs of Vermouth in the pan, just to make things interesting.  I let that reduce down a bit.

I greased a 8x8 pyrex dish and layered some leftover shredded rotisserie chicken in the bottom.  I threw the veggies right out of the skillet on top of the chicken.

In a bowl I mixed a can of Amy's Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup, a few tablespoons of mayo, a few tablespoons of sour cream, some fresh lemon juice and a few pinches of fresh curry powder.  I threw in an egg to bind everything together.  I poured the soup mixture over the chicken and veggies.

I had half a can of french fried onions left from my Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole, so I threw them on top, then finished the topping with some melted butter and panko crumbs.

Into a 375 degree oven it went for 30 minutes.  I served it over some jasmine rice, and dressed it liberally with fresh ground black pepper.  It  didn't suck.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brunswick Stew

 This was today's project.  It's a big ole steamin' pot of Brunswick Stew.  I'm sure lots of different people call it lots of different things, but where I'm from, it's Brunswick Stew.

I'm willing to bet this recipe came up the way most Southern recipes do- out of necessity.  Someone had some leftover chicken or pork or beef from a Sunday roast and decided to do something different with it.

This particular version is a hybrid of a friend's mom's recipe and several other recipes I've seen on blogs over the years.  I cobbled it together with what I had on hand.  Well- technically that's a lie.  I had the chicken, but I bought pulled pork specifically for this recipe.  And yes, I realize that's a huge cheat, but I don't care.

The food club I belong to is meeting this Tuesday, and we decided that theme would be "Americana."  Basically it was an excuse for each of us to
cook something from the region where we grew up.  Being from the South, I first thought of fried chicken and macaroni and cheese.  But because I work full time, I decided fried chicken for 10 people in the middle of the week might not be realistic.  So, I then set my mind on Brunswick Stew.  I've never seen it on menus around here, and I knew the people in my club would love it!

I'll tell you what I put in mine, but if you google Brunswick Stew, you'll see lots of other variations.

I started with 2 boxes of chicken stock (another cheat) and poured them in a large stock pot.  Then I chopped a large yellow onion and threw that in.  I put the pot over medium high heat to get things rolling.  Next came a bag of frozen corn and a bag of frozen baby lima beans.  I had a bucket of fingerling potatoes from Dev's mom's garden, so those got washed up, chopped and thrown in.  I put in a whole bottle of barbecue sauce (I used Famous Dave's) plus the last of the coca cola barbecue sauce I made last week.  I added quite a bit of sriracha, because I like it.  If you don't, use tabasco, or any other hot sauce you want (or none at all if you are a sissy).  Then came the main events.....one container of Lloyd's Pulled Pork and one whole shredded rotisserie chicken.  If you want to do this the hard way, you could make the stock for the stew while you cook down a whole chicken.  I took the easy way because I didn't have time to go the other route.  I bet no one will know the difference!  Lastly, I hit it with some salt and pepper- lots of freshly ground black pepper.  It has been simmering on my stove for about 2 hours.

I'm pretty sure my food club will like it.  If they don't, I'll bring it home and freeze it, cuz I LOVE it!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thai Chicken Soup

On Thai menus this is called Tom Kha Gai.  It's always yummie, even when the restaurant doesn't get it quite right.




I found the recipe I used on the Food Network website.  Most of you know I live out in the middle of nowhere, so there was no way I was going to be able to find galangal, or kefir lime leaves at my local grocery store.  But I did find something called Gourmet Garden Thai Herb & Spice Blend.  It's kind of like a paste.  It has lemon grass, ginger, cilantro, garlic and chili peppers.  So, in the recipe, when it calls for these ingredients, I used the paste.  I substituted strips of lime zest for kefir lime leaves.

Here's a link to the recipe on Food Network's site.

I have to say, I think the soup turned out really well.  Next time I'll use more coconut milk, though.  It just wasn't quite creamy enough for me.

Of course, next time I make it, I'll use the Thai food kit I ordered off the internet yesterday!  :)  I'll make it again with the real ingredients, and tell you how it compared to this...

Long Winter Nights Ahead...

I know some people hate this time of year.  Long, cold nights, short, cold days.  Waking up in the dark and getting home from work in the dark.  All these things can wear on a person.

But I guess I'm weird.  I look forward to the long nights.  The cold I'm not so crazy about, but around here, one goes hand in hand with the other.  Why do I like this time of year?  Because it's comfort food season.  Almost all of the foods that I consider comforting are cold weather things- mostly because they take a long time to cook and tend to heat up the kitchen.  This time of year, anything that heats a room in my house is a blessing.  I love stews, braises, soups and roasted veggies- chicken and dumplings, shepherd's pie, gratins.  All these yummie things take time and heat.  And with nights as long as they are in the winter, BRING IT ON!!

We got some snow this weekend, and I couldn't wait to get in the kitchen.  I made some oatmeal wheat bread, some cinnamon honey butter, some Thai chicken soup...and tonight I'm making oven roasted ribs and baked potatoes.  This week I'm planning to take on shepherd's pie and maybe some kind of Moroccan lamb stew.  Oh- and another bonus of this kind of cooking.....amazing leftovers!  Lunches for school will take a turn for the fantastic!

I'll be blogging some of the things I made this weekend.  I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed making and eat them!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roaring Fork Bakery- A Review

Yesterday, Dev and I were doing our regular Saturday errands (Target, Natural Grocers, Lowes, etc.) and we stopped for lunch at the Double Dog Pub.  While sitting there, looking out the window, I noticed the bakery was open.  Usually when we're in Glenwood, it's later in the afternoon during the week, and the bakery is closed.  After settling our tab, we walked over to take a look at what Roaring Fork Bakery had to offer.

Dev saw the chocolate cheesecake right off the bat.  So we ordered one slice and two spoons.  Then he helped himself to a cup of coffee.  While the lovely lady behind the counter was working on the cheesecake, I looked around in the case and spotted the chocolate croissants.  Two of those went into the bag.  Then there were home made dog biscuits for .50 a piece, so Bear got a treat as well.  After another look around, we saw a beautiful loaf of nine grain bread.  After asking whether or not it contained Rye (Dev is not a big fan of Rye at all), it jumped into our bag.  We struck up a conversation with the ladies behind the counter, and before I knew it, a plate came to the counter with a sample of baguette and bleu cheese- specifically a bleu cheese called "Moody Blue."  If you can find it- buy it.  It is slightly smoky, and not at all strong or assertive like a Maytag bleu.  Dev even had some, and he hates bleu cheese.

They have a lunch menu.  While we were there a gentleman came in and ordered a sandwich.  Unfortunately they were out of lettuce and tomato.  I don't know if that made a difference to the purchaser or not.  It seemed kind of odd not to have that stuff on hand during a weekend lunch time, but not owning my own bakery, I don't know if that's unusual.  Now I know they also serve soup, so the next time we're in Glenwood early enough on a Saturday, we'll be eating lunch with our new friends at Roaring Fork Bakery.  Hopefully that whole "having enough sandwich stuff for the weekend" thing will be solved by then!

They have a Facebook page (which I linked to at the top) but not a web page.  I wish they would consider doing it.  People are using their phones and iPads more and more to find new and interesting places to eat.  It would be great if they could cash in on some of that publicity.  They have daily specials, and if they posted them on Facebook, or even tweeted them, they might pick up more business.

I will definitely be going back.  The ladies working there could not have been any nicer, or more accommodating.  I can't wait to warm the chocolate croissants and have a cup of tea in the morning.  It might even make Monday more bearable!

Sunday Lunch

So we had a light lunch today, because we're going to have taco soup for dinner (hopefully pretty early).

This is a piece of 9 grain bread with some "Moody Blue" cheese, dribbled with a little bit of honey from the Savannah Bee Company.  I got the bread and the cheese from Roaring Fork Bakery.  You will hear more about them, later.

This was a very satisfying lunch.  Kinda fancy, but at its heart, very comforting.

Halloween Treats

Since I've been on a cupcake decorating kick lately, it seemed logical to practice my new hobby on my class at school.

Once again, I didn't make the cupcakes or the frosting.  I figure I don't want to put all that work into them if I'm not confident they will come out.  And I'm FAR from confident about my cake decorating abilities.

I ordered some more cool things from "Cupcake Social" and they arrived on Wednesday, so I was ready to go!

For the kids I did mini cupcakes in double chocolate cake with dark chocolate fudge frosting.  I used the smaller star tip and then put candy corn and sprinkles on each little cupcake.



For the big people in our building, I made regular sized cupcakes (same combo) then used candy corn and colored dusting sugar.

These pics aren't the greatest.  I really need to stop taking blog pictures with my iPhone and start using my big girl camera again.  These pics make them look like chocolate cupcakes with poo and candy corn on them.  Bleck.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Getting Back to My Roots

When I was little, my mom signed up to take a cake decorating class at a local bakery.  I'm pretty sure it was sponsored by Wilton.  I remember her baking a cake each week to take with her to class, and I remember she always came home with a decorated cake- which we (my sister and I) got to eat.  It was cool for the first few weeks, but after that- we all kinda burned out on cake icing.

I always had great birthday cakes.  I remember the required barbie cakes (the ones with the real doll top and the cake part was a huge hoop skirt), the character cakes (for some reason I remember Big Bird and Strawberry Shortcake) and zillions of other cakes my mom made for other kids at school.

When I got to high school, I used all of mom's equipment to make birthday cakes for all the members of Duran Duran.  I still kinda remember all the birthdays.  I think Simon Le Bon is next in early December.

When I moved away, I took all my mom's cake decorating stuff with me.  She doesn't do it anymore, and I do bake for my class and my friends, so rather than see it go to waste, I took it.  And for the most part, all the tips (I think I have all of them) and equipment have been packed up in a box, out of the way since 2006.

Because of the popularity of cupcakes, I have been thinking of getting out the box and trying my hand at decorating.  Surely some of my mother's talent rubbed off on me, right?  After reading several blogs, however, I realized that to make trendy cupcakes, I was going to need some new tips.  These are gigantic, and they are designed to make the huge swirls of frosting on the tops of all those beautiful cupcakes.  I found a source online the other day (Cupcake Social), and ordered a set of my very own.  They arrived about 4 days ago.

My husband teaches 5th grade.  He has auctions for his class, so they can spend the "money" they earn at their "jobs."  He usually asks me to bake something he can put on the auction block.  Usually I send cookies or brownies.  But this time- I was ready.  I decided to make strawberry cupcakes with pink cream cheese frosting.

Now- I didn't make anything from scratch.  I really didn't have time.  But I did get out my new decorating tips and give it the good old college try.  They weren't perfect, but they were awfully cute.  I even used the sample of white sugar sprinkles I got with my new tips.

If you have any creative leanings in the cake decorating area, you really should give it a shot.  It feels so creative, and you get to eat your work!  Plus- people love to get baked goods as gifts.  I highly recommend the company from which I bought my cupcake tips.  They are very nice and I was very satisfied with my experience with them.  I really like that it's an Etsy shop, because I love the idea of supporting small businesses.


Now I'm chomping at the bit to bake again for Halloween.  My mom gave me a chocolate/caramel cupcake recipe that will be perfect!


Dutch Babies and Other Odd Culinary Subjects

I was reading my blogs last night before I went to bed and saw that Angry Chicken had posted a "Dutch Boy" recipe.  I've heard of these before...some people call them German pancakes, or oven pancakes.  I guess I just assumed they were too much work to bother with.  Well, according to this post it's not difficult at all.  I had all the ingredients- butter, flour, eggs, milk.  And I had a large cast iron skillet.  So I threw caution to the wind and decided to  give it a try.

As it turns out, it really wasn't difficult at all.  It was almost too easy.  And mine came out just like the picture (which NEVER happens to me).  I have only 1 criticism.  I really think it is too bland.  The recipe does not call for any salt (although I did make the conscious decision to use salted butter).  It tasted like a creme puff without the creme.  Syrup didn't help much.  But at lunch I found this recipe's true calling.  I tore the remaining half pancake into 2 halves and filled each with leftover chicken curry....MINDBLOWING.  It was like a crepe, only sturdier.  This would be amazing with any kind of roasted meat.  As a matter of fact, after looking at other similar recipes, it is the same as Yorkshire Pudding- which everyone knows goes hand in hand with a big ole slab of roasted beef!  This is the kind of thing you eat while standing in front of the ice box at 11pm, stealing cold leftovers.  Seriously- I will do this again.

I will also upload the picture I took, as soon as my phone cooperates with me and emails it like I asked it to.  Who knows how long that will take.  But in the meantime, hit the link at the beginning and look at
Angry Chicken's photo.  Mine looks just like it!  Yay!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Project

 We were busy this weekend!  We were kinda stumped over what to do with the stairway in our new house.  There's a huge blank wall, and we don't own enough pictures (or the right types) to fill this space.
While wandering around in the blogosphere a few months ago, I came across a post on a design blog about ledge shelves.  I loved the way they looked, plus I figured it was way better than putting 50 nails in the wall to hang all those pictures individually.  Not to mention, trying to hang them all straight!
Fast forward a few months and we're ready to tackle decorating the stairway.  I remembered the pictures, and showed them to Dev.  One trip to the hardware store and a few hours in the garage, and he made me these.  He built them a few weekends ago, and I painted them this weekend.  I haven't had a chance to spray paint all the frames, but I wanted to see what they'd look like, so I dug out our pictures and threw them up.  Even haphazardly arranged, I think they look great.
 I especially like the way the white shelf pops against the darker wall.  We haven't quite finished painting the whole wall yet, but when we get around to it, it will be awesome!
I also like the way the shelves look from the living room.  I think I'll try to track down some different size frames to make things a bit more interesting.  I'll try to find the blog post again and link to it.  Dev said the shelves were really easy to make.  I am fighting the urge to put them all over the house!

Happy Birthday!

video
Happy Birthday, Diane!  I tried to upload this onto 1700 Miles, but it seems wordpress wanted to charge me to add a video uploader.  Hmmm.
Anyway- I hope you have the best birthday ever!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The A-Z of Me!

I just found this cute little survey on Oh So Lovely, a blog I read often.  I thought I'd answer the questions and post them here.  I will even go so far as to copy her and say if you post answers to these questions, link me to them in the comments so I can check them out!

A.  Age:  42
B.  Bed Size:  Full
C.  Chore that you hate:  Cleaning the Bathroom!
D. Dogs:  I have one big dog named Bear
E.  Essential start to your day:  Something just short of an atomic explosion- I'm not a morning person!
F.  Favorite color:  Garnet
G. Gold or Silver:  Silver
H.  Height:  5'4"
I.    Instruments you play:  Piano
J.  Job Title:  8th grade Literacy teacher, but I sometimes wish it was full time blogger!
K.  Kids:  Did I mention we have a big dog?
L.  Live:  Colorado
M.  Mother's name:  Louise
N.  Nicknames:  Gertie (given to me by my Daddy) Mimi is actually a nickname- my real name is Mary
O.  Overnight hospital stays:  None!
P.  Pet Peeves:  Seriously?  I'm a teacher...I have thousands
Q.  Quote from a movie:  "It's not the years honey, it's the mileage."- Indiana Jones, "Raiders of the Lost Ark"
R.  Right or left handed:  Left!
S.  Siblings:  one younger sister, Cindy (only by 18 months), one older half brother, Bobby and an older half sister, Sherry
T.  Time you wake up:  6am under extreme duress- by myself...8am
U.  Underwear:  Please!
V.  Vegetable you hate:  tie between beets and fennel
W.  What makes you run late:  laziness and procrastination?
X.  X-rays:  teeth, kidneys and chest
Y.  Yummy food you make:  pizza, roasted tomato pasta, macaroni and cheese...
Z.  Zoo animal:  Monkeys!

We Have a Grill!

Very blurry dinner
We finally bit the bullet and purchased a grill.  After several months of research, Dev decided on a CharBroil Red.  The flames don't actually touch the food.  It has some kind of cast iron shield that conducts the heat, but doesn't allow flare ups.
Anyhoo- alls I know is that it has made some good food for us lately.
First, I threw some ordinary quesadillas on.  They came out slightly charred, crispy and delicious!  The next test was pizza.  Again, the crust was nicely charred and crispy.
Tonight I marinated some mahi in a soy, olive oil mixture and put it on.  It turned out really well.  I rounded the meal out with some zucchini fritters and grilled onions and mushrooms.  I only took one picture, and it was pretty awful.  That's what happens when you try to take a picture of your plate while you're walking out the door with it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Strawberry Banana Bread


Strawberry Banana Bread

1 ½ c. sifted flour
2/3 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
¾ c. quick-cooking oats
1/3 c. oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ c. strawberries, mashed
½ c. bananas, mashed
¼ c. almonds, diced

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; stir in the oats.  Add the oil, eggs, strawberries, banana and almonds, stirring just until no dry ingredients show.
Turn into a greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for one hour or til toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, then turn out of pan to complete cooling.

I found this recipe on a blog before I became aware of Pinterest.  So, as usual, I copied the recipe, but not the blog it came from.  If someone recognizes this recipe, please let me know so I can give credit to whoever posted it first!  Now that I use Pinterest when I find things on the web, I always know who my source was.  If you find lots of ideas on the internet and want a way to keep them organized, you should look into it.

This turned out really well.  I followed the recipe exactly (a rarity for me), and I'm glad I did.  Dev and I had a piece right after I took it out of the oven and it was wonderful.  We put butter on ours, but cream cheese would be just as good.

Mixed Herb Butter

In this bowl I have chopped.....mint, oregano, chives, basil and parsley.  I softened a stick of butter, mixed them all in and put them it in a small glass container with a lid.

I always use salted butter to make compound butters.  I know most people say not to, but I find that it makes for a more flavorful butter.  Sometimes I'm not great at guessing how much salt I should use, and using already salted butter lets me worry about something else.

I'm roasting potatoes and carrots to go with some pork chops tonight.  This butter will go well on the veggies and the meat.

Fresh Herbs!

Fresh herb time will soon be over here in Colorado. It's time for me to start coming up with ways to use larger quantities of herbs as I harvest for the last time.

On this board I have chives (used this morning for herbed cream cheese and butter), mint (used for making simple syrup for iced tea, herbed butter and canteloupe sorbet) and parsley (also used in herbed butter and pork chops).

Sunday Morning Projects- herbed cream cheese!

So this morning, after our lovely ham and cheddar scrambled egg breakfast, I made a list of the projects I'd like to do for the day.

This yummie cream cheese was on the list.  When I was making my scrambled eggs this morning, I used the last of a container of chive-onion flavored cream cheese.  As I was putting the container in the recycle bin, I looked at the ingredients list.  It had way more on it than cream cheese, chives and onions.  It suddenly hit me that I have a whole herb garden (and chives are one of my most successful pots) and I never use them to make things like flavored cream cheeses.  I vowed then and there never to buy flavored  cream cheese again.  From now on- I'll make my own, using far more wholesome ingredients.

My first go at it was this chive-citrus cream cheese.  I had half of an 8oz. bar of cream cheese already in the ice box, so I took it out to soften it up.  Meanwhile, I headed out and gave my chive plant one last good haircut.  The weather here is getting cooler by the day.  All of my herbs are slowly wilting and turning brown, so this week will probably be the last for the outside herbs at least.  I brought in the chives and rinsed them off.  I used my kitchen shears to snip them into little pieces in the bottom of a small mixing bowl.  I ended up with too many, so I took some out and saved them for the mixed herb butter I'll post later.  Next, I added the softened cream cheese and about 2 teaspoons of lemon zest.  I stirred them together well and transferred the mixture to a small glass bowl with a lid.

I'm thinking of using this not only in scrambled eggs, but also on bagels topped with smoked salmon, or even as a base for simple tomato-basil toasts.  There are hundreds of possible combinations out there, just waiting to be mixed up!

Ham and Cheddar Scrambled Eggs

So this morning I wanted something very comforting for breakfast.  Because of the significance of the day, I wanted a good breakfast, so I could spend the rest of the day being thankful for the people I love.

I decided to do some simple scrambled eggs.  Devin loves scrambled eggs.  I actually prefer fried or poached eggs, but it seems silly to cook eggs two different ways for one meal, I usually just eat scrambled as well.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I am very fortunate to have a family down the street from me that keeps chickens.  They usually get more eggs than they can use.  My husband taught their daughter when she was in 5th grade, so she brings a dozen eggs down once a week or so.  I love it!  Once you've started using fresh eggs, the ones from the store pale in comparison.

So there really is no recipe for this.  I scrambled 4 eggs with a splash of milk, salt and pepper and a dash of sri racha sauce.  The sauce doesn't make the eggs spicy, it just adds a little something that cuts the richness of the egg and cheese.  I melted a little butter over medium low heat.  To me, the secret of stellar scrambled eggs is using lower heat.  Low and slow works for barbecue and scrambled eggs!  After the eggs began to set, I added a few teaspoons of chive cream cheese.   I added it early because I wanted it to completely melt into the eggs.  Devin loves cheese cake, but he would not like chunks of cream cheese in his eggs.  If he never sees it, he won't know it's in there!  The cream cheese makes the eggs richer and adds a little extra flavor.  When the eggs were just about done, I added the chopped ham and shredded sharp cheddar.  I took the eggs off the heat and continued folding in the ham and cheese until the cheese was melted.  The eggs were served immediately with a slice of sunflower seed bread.

Very creamy and comforting on a special Sunday morning.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie!

Tonight my friend Kari came over for dinner.  She is my tech-yoda, and we have a great system set up where I feed her and she helps me stay up with the latest and greatest in technology.  I decided to make chicken pot pie tonight, because I saw a really cool looking pastry crust recipe I wanted to try, and chicken pot pie is one of the best crust-related dishes I know.

I found the crust recipe at Closet Cooking.  Here's a link to the recipe.  I followed the instructions exactly, and it came out beautifully.

For the filling, I totally winged it.  It was one of those ice box cleaner-outer kinda things.  I started by poaching 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in white wine, chicken stock and water.  I strained the broth out and saved it to make the sauce.  I put the chicken on a plate in the ice box to cool so I could chop it.  I used the same pot and heated a few tablespoons of olive oil.  I dropped half a chopped white onion, some diced carrot, and some diced new potatoes in.  I seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, as well as a pinch of poultry seasoning.   After about 10 minutes, I added 2 tablespoons of butter and let it melt.   Then I stirred in about 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour.  I let that cook a few minutes and added about a cup and a half of the chicken broth I saved from poaching the meat.  I stirred constantly and brought it up to a bubble.  It thickened nicely.  Next I added about half a bag of frozen peas, about 1/2 a cup of heavy cream, and tasted to adjust the seasoning.  By this time the sauce was really thick.  I took the chicken out of the ice box and cut it in a rough dice.  I stirred it into the sauce.

The pastry recipe made 2 crusts, so I put the first in the bottom of my pyrex pie dish.  I filled it with the chicken mixture, and put the other crust on top.  I cut some vents in it, painted some egg wash on it, stuck it on a cookie sheet, and baked it at 375 for about 30 or 40 minutes.

Although it didn't come out of the pie dish in one piece, it was delicious!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor Day

Dev and I headed to Montrose for Labor Day.  On Sunday, Dev and I joined his mom, his Uncle George and Aunt Lou, and Larry (a family friend) on a 4 wheeler trip to Animas Forks in the San Juan Mountains.  I took about a million pictures (as soon as I get them all uploaded to flickr, I'll let you know). I thought I'd put at least one here.
My souvenir from this trip was a nasty sunburn.  Apparently the sun is even more dangerous at 13,000 feet.

Pantry Remodel


 So Dev and I have been busy tackling the millions of projects we need to do in our new house.  The very first one was making a pantry for my teensy little kitchen.  We decided to use the space in the closet under the stairs.  I don't have a before picture, but I do have some afters.
Oh, and please ignore the goldish yellow horrid paint.  It's gone now.  That was the second project.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tried 2 new cheeses today-
Truffle Goat and Cocoa Cardona. Both VERY good!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm not dead...

but school started back, so that kinda explains why I haven't posted in a while.

Tomorrow is Friday, so hopefully I'll get in the kitchen this weekend and come up with some stuff to post about.  This week, believe me, nothing we've eaten is blog-worthy (unless you dig cheerios and store-bought blueberry muffins).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Things to do with Leftover Mashed Potatoes V.2

What else can you do with mashed potatoes?

Tonight, I was feeling a little down and icky, so I decided to use some of my stash of leftover mashed potatoes to make potato soup.  I've never done that before, but after finishing my experiment, I think it will be my go-to potato soup method from now on.

So- I chopped up half a medium Vidalia onion and sauteed it in my soup pan over medium heat.  I used a mixture of a little butter, a little olive oil and a little bacon drippings.  Butter- because I love the richness and texture it adds to creamy soups.  Olive oil- because it has a high smoking point and I always use it for sautéing.  Bacon drippings because they give great flavor and it's just what you're supposed to do when making potato soup.  Period.

After the onions had been going a few minutes, I added about 2 cups of the leftover mashed potatoes and stirred them around until they were soft and heated through- probably 5 minutes or so.  Then I poured in enough unsalted chicken stock to make however much soup I wanted.  I know- it's so aggravating when you're reading a recipe and the person doesn't give you at least an approximate amount.  But I'm telling you- when you cook in the real world, you don't always know how much to use.  Get over it.  Just eye ball it!  It's soup for crying out loud.  I used a whisk to make sure I blended everything until it was smooth.  I also had a lonely leftover baked potato in my ice box, so I fished him out and chopped him into chunks and threw him in the soup.  I left his skin on and everything.  I though it would be nice for there to be some potato chunks in the soup along with the soft onions.  I let it come to a soft boil just to heat the potato chunks all the way through.  I turned the heat down to low and added about half a block of cream cheese.  I know there was already cream cheese in the mashed potatoes themselves, but I've never once tasted something and thought, "Wow- there's too much cream cheese in this!"  Plus, I was going for a really velvety smooth texture.  I whisked some more until the cheese was melted and smooth.   To finish the soup, I added about a quarter of a cup of heavy cream.  At the table I added chopped chives.

The bowl in the picture also got a pretty chive, basil and oregano bloom garnish.  Seriously, this was probably the best potato soup I've ever eaten.  And it took about 10 minutes to make.  Does dinner get any better than that?  Oh yeah- I also served this with a big hunk of home made bread- slathered in butter, of course!

Things to do with Leftover Mashed Potatoes

One of the few dishes Devin ever requests is potato pancakes.  There are probably as many recipes and techniques for making them as there are people who like them.  In my family, we always use leftover mashed potatoes, instead of grated potatoes.  I have all ideas we do that because the first time my Daddy ever made them, he was trying to use up leftover mashed potatoes- and we liked them so much he continued making them that way.  Fast forward 30 or 40 years, and I'm making them the same way.

I basically tweak my buttermilk pancake recipe, which was given to me by Devin's mother.  I start  by nuking (normal people probably just call it microwaving) however much mashed potatoes I have leftover (or however much I want to dedicate to breakfast).  This loosens them and makes them easier to mix with the other ingredients.  I add 2 eggs, about a teaspoon of baking soda, a little salt, a little pepper and enough buttermilk to make it all soupy.  Then the judgement call comes in.  You have to add some flour or they won't come out right.  But how much flour you add depends on lots of things.  How humid is it?  Is it raining?  How much mashed potato did you use?  How much buttermilk?  See?  It's not an exact science.  I usually add enough flour to make it the consistency of thick pancake batter.  After you do it once, you'll get it.  Oh- and use plain all purpose flour NOT self rising.

My preferred method of cooking these is on my round cast iron griddle pan, but you can use a regular non stick skillet or an electric griddle.  I use butter to fry mine, but you can use vegetable oil, or if you're crazy, cooking spray (where's the fun in that?).  I usually use about a quarter cup of batter for each pancake.  I have no idea how many a batch makes, because I never make the same size batch.  If you have pancakes leftover, you can wrap them up and put them in the ice box for the next day.  I imagine they would freeze pretty well, too.

Devin likes to put maple syrup on his.  That gives me the heebie jeebies.  I eat mine with sour cream, or sometimes ketchup.

Mashed Potatoes

I should start a series on 100 things to do with leftover mashed potatoes.   I'm betting if I really put my mind to it, I could come up with almost that many things.

Whenever I make mashed potatoes I ALWAYS make more than I need.  Around my house, the leftovers are more sought after than the original dish- the same thing happens with lasagna.  Anyhoo....

My basic recipe for mashed potatoes hardly ever changes.  I peel however many russet potatoes I think I'll need.  This particular time we were having a guest for dinner, so I bought 4 really large russets.  I fill my spaghetti pot (I think normal people call them stock pots) with water and put it over high heat.  I throw in 4 whole bay leaves and 2 or 3 peeled and smashed cloves of garlic.  I cut the potatoes in largish chunks and put them in the water.  I bring the whole thing to a calm boil, throw in some salt, and let it go for about 20 minutes.

Now, if I'm feeling lazy, I'll just drain the potatoes, pick out the bay leaves, throw them back in the same pot, add 1/2 a stick of butter and about 4 oz. of cream cheese and mash them with my potato masher.  If I have company coming, I'll drain the potatoes, pick out the bay leaves, throw the potatoes and the garlic into my kitchen aide, add the butter and cream cheese (and sometimes a touch of heavy cream if they need loosening up) and, starting on low speed with the paddle attachment, mash them in the mixer.  They get smoother and creamier using the mixer method.  Either way they taste good.

I went one step further down the road to deliciousness this last time and used my chive garlic butter instead of plain, unsalted butter.  Holy cow- they were ridiculously good.

So- the next morning I had an entire container of glorious leftover mashed potatoes.  But whatever shall I do with them?

Day 5 of the Photo Challenge

Someone I love......  Isn't he cute?


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 4 of the Photo Challenge...

Day Four of the challenge... favorite color.  This is a close up of the table runner we have on our buffet in the hall.
I think I'm officially caught up now!




Day 3 of the Photo Challenge...

Day 3.... clouds.  I took this picture last year in Denver from the science museum.


Day 2 of the Photo Challenge

Photo for day 2....what I wore.  Because of the continual effort to reduce the box farm I'm being forced to live in, my outfit today was filthy by the time I got around to taking a picture.  Therefore, I decided to spare you, dear reader, from the traumatic experience of seeing it.  But here it is, safely tucked away in the dirty clothes hamper.












This photo is for the challenge over at Oh So Lovely.....

Here's the badge thingie....

We're Here! And already we're up for a challenge....

Ugh!  I HATE moving.  I despise it.  Especially in the hottest part of the summer.

We're finally all moved in.  Now we are surrounded by boxes.  My kitchen and pantry are almost set, and as soon as that's done, I will be able to function.

To further my attempt to become a better blogger, I've decided to participate in a little blogging event.  It's really a blog photography challenge, so I'll hopefully improve my skills along the way.  The event is being hosted by Sherry over at Oh So Lovely.

Each day, for the entire month of August, I will post a different picture.  I'm already a few days behind, so tonight I'm hoping to catch up.  This should help me keep up with my promise to post more often.

Here's my first post: a self portrait.





Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moving

Oh my gosh I hate moving.  Seriously.  I'm sure no one likes moving, but I really hate it.  And I always end up doing it during the hottest part of the summer.

I had great intentions of taking my big girl camera to the house today to get some before shots.  Yeah.  That didn't happen.  The whole day is a hot, sweaty haze.

Now that I've had a shower and taken way more ibuprofen than any human should need, I'm ready for bed.  Can't wait to wake up and do it all over again!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We Are Home-Owners!!!

After several disappointments, Dev and I finally closed on our forever home!
We signed our lives away at 1:00pm today.  I shouldn't complain, because we got an amazing deal on this house, and I can't wait to get busy making it into our first home.
After purchasing a new washer and dryer, we came back to town and loaded up a few tools and the dog, then headed over to do a few things.
Dev changed the lock on the front door and tinkered with the crawl space vents, while I roamed all over the house, thinking about paint colors and furniture placement.
I'll try to take my good camera over tomorrow and take some better "before" pictures.
The former owners had very....colorful taste.  Most of the house is mustard yellow.  The kitchen is bright purple, the guest bath and 2 of the bedrooms are lime green. It will be fun to see the progress as it becomes "our" space.
The poor yard has suffered severe neglect.  The grass is all dead, and the shrubs have had no pruning or TLC in quite a while.
Here's a shot of Bear in his new backyard.  You can see the plum and peach trees.  One of the things that really sold me on this house was the fruit trees.  We have cherry, peach and plum trees.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quick Yogurt Breakfast

This is a dreadful picture.  Sorry.  But it really tasted good.

I have mentioned before that I am lucky enough to have a husband who makes yogurt for me.  We had a batch in the ice box and I had just made some strawberry spoon fruit.  Sounds like a good combo to me!

I just mixed a few tablespoons of the strawberry stuff into a bowl of plain yogurt.  The spoon fruit is so sweet, it didn't need anything else- just a dash of good quality vanilla.

Fig-Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops

So I still have quite a few packages of pork in my freezer from when we bought half a pig last year.  I took out some pork chops the other day and decided to see what I could do with them.

Firstly, I decided to brine them.  I've read quite a bit about brining meat (especially pork), and if it keeps the meat moist, I'm all for it.  To me, one of the worst things in the culinary world is a dry pork chop.

I didn't really measure, but I put a handful of kosher salt in the bottom of a tupperware container, then laid in my 4 chops, then added water until the chops were covered.  I stirred it around, sealed it up and left it for 24 hours.

The next day I took out the chops, rinsed and dried them, then rubbed them with olive oil and salt and pepper.  I put them to the side to come up to room temp and turned my attention to a glaze.  I love pork chops with a sweet element.

I had a jar of fig preserves in the ice box, so I put a few tablespoons of that in a small saucepan, then added a few glugs of inexpensive balsamic vinegar.  I put it over medium-low heat and let it sit and simmer until the chops were done.

The chops were thrown on a medium high grill for about 4 minutes a side. Right before I pulled them off the grill, I painted them with the fig/balsamic reduction.   I think they could have come off a little earlier.

On the side I whipped up a quinoa-veggie salad and dressed it with a citrus vinaigrette.  I seem to remember mixing cooked quinoa, cucumber, feta, tomato and fresh mushrooms.

This meal did not suck.  I will make it again.  Mostly because I still have tons of pork chops in my freezer!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I missed Black and White Wednesday!

I can't believe I missed Black and White Wednesday!  I'm posting my pic anyway.  Hopefully, it will be picked up in next week's gallery.
I entitled my picture "Why Thank You."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

As the summer come to a close, things around here are really heating up.

We are still hoping to move at the end of this month, so we're thinking about packing.  Thinking.  We're not actually doing it yet.  I think part of our hesitation is the possibility of the closing not happening.  We have had such weird luck during our search for a house, I don't think we'll believe it's happening until someone hands us some keys and takes all our money.

I have been cooking quite a bit, and I have a few posts that I'm working on.  It's after midnight, though, so I think I'm going to bed.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Trip

We just got back from our short trip to Montrose to visit Dev's Mom.  It was a quiet weekend, but not without its firsts.... I attended my first ever bull riding event.  I only took a few pics because I was using my iPhone, which I have not yet figured out how to zoom, so the pics aren't that great.

Until I get around to writing up the post (hopefully tomorrow afternoon), here's a pretty sunset pic I took at Harvey Gap last week on one of our afternoon fishing trips....
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