Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Sweet peace on the island... vacation has begun!

This week I'm grateful for:
*Husband, who is letting me borrow his computer while mine struggles to find a wireless connection. He's a gem and he knows I value my little Friday ritual.
*This island paradise where Ma and Pa reside. It doesn't come more tranquil than this. (Pictures will follow once my computer returns to its happy place.)
*A lovely visit with brother and family last night. Great walk with wonderful sister-in-law, catching up and bouncing ideas around. Good ideas, Kim!
*Sweet and thoughtful son, who is a joy to travel with and who shares my love of gelato. Bliss at the ferry terminal.
*Deadlines. I get things done on deadline and this week was no exception. There were moments when I wondered how it would all get done before the trip, and sure enough it did. Barely.
*Neighbors and friends who will come and harvest cherries during our absence, thus relieving my cherry guilt. We have had more fruit this year than EVER and just getting perfectly ripe as we walk out the door...
*Sunshine on the ferry. It was a gorgeous ride tonight. The ferry was filled to overflowing with families and babies and little kids all headed out to the various Southern Gulf Islands. There were even some whales frolicking out to one side of the ferry, but you had to have bionic eyes to really see what was going on besides a little splash now and then.
*Lavender lemonade. I've been meaning to make lavender simple syrup ever since I first was introduced to this nectar last year and I finally did that this week. (Will post specifics, I swear.) Seth and I harvested three lavender plants, I cooked up a batch and have been inflicting it on family wherever I go! It's divine.
*Sleep. Whatever works--short afternoon naps, full nights of sleep, you name it, I'm grateful for it. And so looking forward to it tonight! There's nothing like vacation sleep!
*The other, local, sister-in-law, who is looking after our place, keeping an eye on the wild dogs and making sure nothing dries up and dies in our absence. So grateful for that!
*Memories. Grateful for a brother with a freaky sharp memory who helps prompt me to remember odd and crazy things from 30 years ago. You need to be writing this stuff down, Shelby. It's priceless.
*Safe travels. I don't take it for granted.

A restful weekend to all!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...

I have this magnet in my office and love looking up at it. A nice reminder some days between the zooming back and forth.

Meanwhile, I haven't disappeared off the earth like a certain South Carolina governor... no, not me. I've just been dropped into the black hole that is pre-vacation prep/yard work never ends/Seth's home (yeah for that last part). So blogging, not so much. It's been on my mind, and that's about as far as I've gotten. I'm behind on Top Chef Masters, I've tanked after one week of Table Topic Tuesdays and you can bet your sweet behind that I won't be partaking in this week's Thursday 13. Alas.

But I'll be back... my hope is that vacation will rejuvenate me in oh-so-many ways. And mayhap I will find a spare creative moment to share what I've been up to in the kitchen... besides spilling lavender simple syrup all over my nice new cooktop today, I have been enjoying many summer salads... But undoubtedly I won't be able to refrain from sharing my grateful list on Friday. I'd have to be in a coma to not share. (Hello, fate? Yes, that's me, tempting you. Back off.)

Heigh-ho, it's off to Canada we go!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Future files: Happiest cake on earth

Imagine my delight when I found this cake:

It was featured on a blog I check in on somewhat infrequently: whatever. A very stylin' photographer gal with a crafty bent. Semi-celebrity in the blogosphere too, I do believe.

Actual. Intake. Of. Breath. (The happy kind. Not the kind I got from watching Hangover today, which was the somewhat horrified/frightened kind, at times. In between unabashed shrieks of laughter.)

Can't wait for a fun occasion to get dye all over my kitchen and make a mess. And eat it up. Whoo-hoo. Cake. And anyone who knows me knows my whacko penchant for colors, in a spectrum. Somehow haven't outgrown it. Yeah for that.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Long week, but a quick one. Does that make sense? A little of the "not enough time in the day" with a pinch of "too much to do" and some "lack of focus" (some days) thrown in, and voila! You have a long, quick week!

But still so much to be grateful for:

*Thankful for girlfriends who come to lunch and leave two, maybe three hours later. Good conversation, good understanding, good support. Ahhh. And picking cherries off the tree for dessert? That's either lazy on the hostess' part (me!) or just life on the farm...

*Grateful for the cherry trees and the seemingly never-ending gifts at the moment. Had a "must" moment for cherry cobbler this afternoon, couldn't immediately place my cherry pitter and searched a couple local "marts" for one... no luck. Came home in sadness, one last look through the endless utensil/gadget drawer and there it was. Cobber currently in the oven... oh, it's out now! Ready for a little ice cream...

*So grateful for a husband who brings me flowers when I get a ticket. Shouldn't I be the one getting him flowers? Just the doltiest moment speeding through town... I have been SO GOOD lately, it was just perfect justice to get caught. Would have been just about par for the week if I'd been on the phone with Corinne, my usual in-car-chat pal... thankfully I was not!

*Thankful for an independent young man who did great at his first sleep-over basketball camp, despite some less than ideal circumstances. We're all looking forward to his return home next week... then off for some fun family vacation time!

*Thankful that the weather has been so beautiful to work in the yard. Not heavy and hot, just warm and lovely... until this morning when the rain helped me decide that, in balance, the house needed me more than the yard. Too true. I've always said it's either one or the other, and a rare day that both feel under control. With my grubby shoes wandering through from the yard, it was about time to take a layer off the wood floors! Everything feels happily scrubbed for the weekend now!

*Both husband and I are worn and ready for rest. I'm so thankful to be at Friday night, with a day of rest ahead. Peace. Shalom.

*Thankful that my muscles haven't gotten too out of whack with all the crazy lifting and rototilling and digging I've been doing. Maybe in my old age I'm actually getting wiser about what I bite off? Hmmm, not so sure about that. Maybe just a touch more careful...

*Grateful for inspiration, wherever it comes from... bloggers I follow, food or otherwise, creative and innovative ideas and people. Things to think about, cogitate, ponder... In searching for some old files in husband's home office this week I came across a couple of quotes I'd calligraphied a couple of years back and completely forgotten about. One of them was: Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks. --Philip Brooks. Seemed somehow appropriate for this time in the world.

*Grateful for optimism. I heard a report last week that Americans are more optimistic than Europeans about finding a way out of this global economic situation... I thought, well, that's about right. Optimism is a good thing, in moderation. Optimism has a lot to do with what has made America a great place, and it can help get us out of this mess as well (even if a little cockeyed version of it seems to have helped get us here to start with). A little saying about boot straps, right? I need to find mine, I think I have them packed away here somewhere...

*Thankful for the puppies and all their cheer. It's never a bad day in dog land. They come, they sniff, they love. Some try to chew, of course. I talk to them while striding around the yard--they hear quite a few opinions from me, some days! But they are wonderful companions, even the chewy one. If you ever need to feel like someone's listening, go talk to a dog. They really know how to listen. My appreciation for them has grown considerably over the years.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday 13: Thirteen favorite summer desserts

Can't help myself. Fruit is already everywhere, and more is on the way! So what makes me happy in the sweet sweet summertime? These 13 desserts:

1. Peaches on pound cake. This is husband's birthday cake every August. It's heaven. Peaches are fresh and ripe and glorious. With vanilla bean ice cream, of course.

2. Strawberry trifle. This reminds me of my mom. And childhood. With slivered almonds on top. Custard and cream and cake... oh yes and strawberries too!

3. Rhubarb custard pie. This reminds me of my mom, too. She makes the best rhubarb custard pie!

4. Cobbler. You can vary the fruit--whatever you have on hand is great. And here's THE best cobbler topping recipe I've ever found. It will change your life. I'm not kidding. Revo-wait for it-lutionary. Again, with ice cream!

5. Cherry pie. This one reminds me of my sister-in-law. She has made many a pie looking for the best recipe, right combo... which one have you settled on, my dear? Let me know and I'll post it! (And this one has to be a la mode!) I have been standing under the cherry tree(s) this week and just eating them right off the tree. Pretty wonderful. The pie cherry tree is just about ripe, so I'll be needing that recipe soon, Kim!

6. Strawberry shortcake. See Sunday.

7. Blueberry buckle. Blueberries I can eat by the handful and just be happy. But if you HAVE to cook them, in a gooey cake works just fine for me. A la mode, if you pleaase.

8. Claufouti with raspberries. You must check out that link... it's to Eric Ripert's recipe, and, well, that's like The Almighty himself posting a recipe. A joy to watch.

9. Apricot frangipane tart. Anything frangipane works for me... with fresh apricots it's really good!

10. Tres leche cake with a mixture of fresh fruit--especially fresh figs!

11. Kuchen with peaches or plums or apricots. This was a specialty of my Grandma's back when she was in her baking prime. I have many a fond memory of eating slice after slice of kuchen. Always had a hard time picking my favorite flavor... I can't put my hands on her recipe right at the moment, and posting any other would just be heresy. So for now you'll just have to drool in anticipation--I will find the recipe and I will make!

12. Huckleberry crisp. Huckleberries seem so precious and the season so short. You have to grab this while you can get it! We have a great local restaurant that features this in season, so I usually let them do the baking on this one! A la mode!

13. Probably one of my all time favorites is just a slice of really fabulous watermelon. Well, more than one. But crisp and cool and so flavorful.

What's your favorite summer fruit dessert?

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Table Topics

So you've seen those Table Topic games, right? There's the Family one, the Girl's Night Out... it started with just a couple and has grown into quite the little industry.

Which is all to say, I have the Gourmet version. How exciting is that? And it sits in my kitchen, I pull a card out now and again, and that's that. So I happened upon the idea of plucking a random card from the pile every Tuesday (alliteration is important, no?) and answering it here... in writing... for you all... my three loyal followers!

So how hilarious is this very first question I pluck from the stack: If you needed to gain weight what would you eat? Ha ha ha. So if you've been paying attention, I've been trying to take a little bit off lately, so that question is pretty darn funny. My gut instinct was: Oh, what I've been eating the past couple of years! But that's probably not what "they" meant.

Let's see, what would I eat? Hmmm. Carbs carbs carbs. Sweets sweets sweets. Cheese cheese cheese. Probably fettucine alfredo or carbonara... or both. A little custard, a little cake... a little of both! Milkshakes from the IceBurg, of course. With fries, onion rings and tartar sauce, a cheeseburger... Oh boy. (Didn't I make a resolution not to write about food in the evening? Yikes.) Oh, probably would need a steak. With blue cheese mashed potatoes. Grilled cheese sandwiches with lots of butter on the outsides to make them crisp. Oh, I just thought of fried things... that would help pack it on. Cheese sticks, yep. Any vegetable done tempura style. Oh my. A cheese plate, of course. Baked eggs. Oh, I forgot cheesecake. Lots of different flavors. And chocolate...

And then there's the different ethnic cuisines... lots of Thai peanuty noodles, and Indian curries with full-fat coconut milk and lots of ghee, enchiladas from our friends south of the border, gelato (how did I not mention chocolate hazelnut gelato already? I've obviously been blocking some of these foods out mentally), crusty baguette and brie, fondue (!)...

OK, I think I've adequately answered this first installment. Look forward to future, healthier Tuesday Table Topics in the future!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A musical Monday... with no school!

School's out... well, for most kids. Depends on how many fake-makeup-snow-days your particular school district decided to tack on to the end of the year (right, Maizy?).

In honor of school being out, I thought I'd post some videos of a cool kid choir that I have been enjoying. I happened upon them on some blog or other that I visit semi-regularly (I've forgotten which one!), and thought this was a really cool discovery. Of course, I then find out that they are little celebrities in their own right and have been on the news and have about 5 million YouTube hits... so this isn't exactly a new find, but take a look at some of these faces. These little performers will undoubtedly pop up at American Idol auditions in about 8 or 9 years... Check out their web site; these kids are getting a piece of music education that most kids could only dream of.

I have to say I think their choir teacher is a riot, even though I want to give him a haircut. Who wouldn't love to get to sing current, fun songs in choir with their teacher playing along on the guitar or piano? I won't even paint you a visual of my childhood choir, but suffice it to say I got a really sucky grade during my 5th grade year, because rather than sing, apparently I liked to throw eraser chunks at nearby boys... alas. Blame it on the lack of inspiring music, I say.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Strawberry shortcake

Somethings just aren't ever the same after they've been commercialized... for some reason when I tweeted earlier today that I was going to go pile the whipped cream on strawberry shortcake (yes, apparently I did think that information needed to be shared...), I couldn't help but think of this...

When what I really meant was this:

Angles make all the difference, don't they? The photo above makes it look like I just might have been ladylike and delicate in regards to the whipped cream... below you can see most assuredly that I was not! But oh how yummy.

Here's the best shortcake recipe I've found. It's divine. It's from epicurious.

Orange and sour cream shortcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425°F. and lightly butter 2 baking sheets. In a large bowl whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl whisk together zest, sour cream, and milk and add to flour mixture. Stir mixture until it just forms a soft and sticky dough and drop into 12 mounds at 1-inch intervals onto prepared baking sheets. Pat dough to 1/2-inch thickness and bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer shortcakes to a rack and cool. Shortcakes may be made 4 hours ahead and kept in airtight containers.

Top with your favorite berry combination and whipped cream. Or ice cream. Or both.

What passes for supper around here

Others may have breakfast in bed. Around here, any meal will do...

All the while singing, "Heaven, I'm in heaven. And my heart beats so that I can hardly think..." Yum.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

What a lovely week! Not hard to come up with a list this week:

Grateful for great weather. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right. A couple of muggy moments, but nothing that stayed too long, and great weather in which to accomplish lots of outdoor activities (code for: yard work).

Grateful for good energy for aforementioned yard work. One of my little methods for getting it done is to have an early shift and a late shift. I can get stuff done from 8 a.m.- noonish, then need to knock it off for a few hours. By 4 p.m. or so, I can get back out into it and then it is truly my favorite time of the day for working in the yard… cooler, and long on the shadows. Even working until it's almost too dark to see works for me!

Grateful for my husband, who after a long week of work, trekked over to the TriCities with me this afternoon to figure out AT&T and my iphone… and didn’t even get perturbed when I left the iphone sitting on the sofa back home. I was pretty sure they’d tell me I had to have the ACTUAL phone on my person to sign me up (that’s what I’d been told on the phone), but a helpful young man hooked me up with a sim card and I’m good to go. Looking forward to playing with it all weekend...

Grateful for my son, who called me a couple of times last night to check in, see if I’d do him a favor, tell me he loved me, see if I’d do him a favor, and inquire about my week. Oh, and see if I’d do him a favor. It’s always nice to hear from him in the “off” weeks, and today was his last day of school... Oh joy. He’s now a 7th grader! And did I mention he needed a favor? Mom always accommodates, especially when “I love yous” are involved. Sucker Mom. Always.

Grateful for pens that write just so. Do you have a favorite pen? I do. Those lovely gel ones that flow so beautifully that I think they must just inspire beautiful writing… actually, even my lists feel more poetic when I write them with happy pens.

Grateful for my friends, the near and the far, the newer and the o-so-old (in years, not age!). I can honestly say that each of my friends brings something unique to my life that no one else could bring. I'm very lucky.

Grateful that I didn’t die while running with my aunt and uncle this morning. I have some superfit relatives visiting, and I am inspired by their fitness in the golden years. Three miles is their warm up run. Three miles is the longest I’ve run in some time. But I was inspired to do it again (seeing as how I lived and all), sooner rather than later.

Grateful for creativity. This is a recurring theme with me, as you know! Found this absolutely amazing interactive music video this week. You have GOT to check this out. How often do I use caps when trying to persuade? Really, not often. So you know this one made an impression. I think I had a smile on my face the whole time I played with this song. So cool.

Along those lines, I’m always grateful for whatever song is currently putting a smile on my face. I found this a capella version of Africa by Toto this week and wanted to share. I especially like the rain/thunder/storm sounds they start the song with, but I have always liked this song. Very specific time and place memories for me… fading now, but the song always makes me smile.

And speaking of smiles, I am grateful for comedy and laughter. We were listening to XM radio’s comedy channel on the way home from TriCities tonight and I laughed so hard I cried. Can’t even remember what at, but it was priceless. I’m not sure those channels should be allowed in cars… what if I was driving and lost control of the car? Husband was driving, thankfully, and had some good laughs himself, but I don’t think he came as close to wetting himself as I did. What a hoot. So very good to laugh.

Grateful for prayer/meditation and its calming and healing effects. I know this from my own life, and I know it from other’s lives as well, how powerful this simple act can be.

Grateful for all the resources we daily take for granted. When I think about my life without water, or electricity, or… you name it, I am grateful for these things and for the times we live in, to enjoy them. I would have been a very bad pioneer woman in those nutty skirts and sweeping my dirt floor. Very bad indeed. So I try to do my little part to reuse, recycle, not consume, be more fuel efficient, what have you, and appreciate very much this rich rich world we live in.

Which again segues nicely into my gratitude for this peaceful and quiet place we get to call home. It is generally so still… until 1 a.m. and the coyotes sound like they are IN the bedroom! Or a neighbor hollers across an acre of hay… but still, so quiet. I was listening, quite intently, to an audiobook this week while working in the yard (Angels and Demons by Dan Brown—fyi, his writing is much better listened to than read, in my humble opinion. While this isn't saying much... it made for good weed-pulling entertainment!). I was in a pretty tense/suspenseful place in the story, all the while hauling bricks away from the old herb garden/pond area. At a really critical moment, all the dogs (all 4 rambunctious rascals), who were above me on the deck, decided to get up and race across to the other side of the yard and start barking. I just about jumped out of my skin! So yes, generally peaceful. Generally quiet…

I think that’s it for the moment. Have a chillin’ weekend. I know we will!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Top Chef Masters: how the pros cook!

Sometimes it works in your favor to have too much going on, or a really bad memory... I had COMPLETELY forgotten that Top Chef Masters was starting soon. Soon, as in: tonight. So the dvr was not prepared and I rushed down to get it all fired up, only to have it record 9 minutes of the first showing. The second showing got bumped by reruns of New Adventures of Old Christine and current showing of SYTYCD. Many thanks to Bravo for having nothing else to run tonight: I finally got the third showing taped in its entirety.

What a lead in! Can the drama of TCM match the drama of Sher’s dvr? Undoubtedly not. And, my hunch going in (that this will be pretty civilized, these are professionals, after all) was more or less played out. But there was a bit of fun along the way. And some complete flops, to make those of us without a James Beard award feel much better about ourselves.

First off, new host. Not so much into her. It’s not a Padma thing, I’m not all fluffy for her… and maybe this one improve with time? We’ll see. She is Kelly Choi, completely unknown to me before tonight, but apparently best known for a TV show, Eat Out NY.

So the season consists of 6 episodes with 4 master chefs in each episode, and then, presumably, a finale.

The contestants for tonight, with their restaurant and their charity of choice (if they win!):
Hubert Keller. Fleur de Lys, San Francisco. Make A Wish Foundation.
Christopher Lee. Aureole, NYC. Autism Speaks.
Tim Love. Lonesome Star Western Bistro, Fort Worth, TX. March of Dimes.
Michael Schlow. Radius, Boston, MA. Cam Neely Foundation.

They get right into the quickfire with a favorite quickfire from Top Chef past: dessert. This time for Girl Scouts! The guys have 45 minutes to pull it off. The girl scouts rank the chefs and award stars:
Hubert: Meringue swans, the Coolest Glass Dish *ever* with fruit and sabayon. The girls loved it! 5 stars.
Michael: Brownie with honey ice cream and peanut butter chocolates. He tanked—ice cream messy and cake not cooked. Amazingly, he still got 2.5 stars. I’m not sure the girls noticed.
Tim: Strawberry milkshakes, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chicken-fried strawberries (really, chicken fried? I love fried like the next guy, but that seemed just too “Texas” for me. Ugh.). 3.5 stars.
Christopher: French toast with caramelized bananas and orange sauce. Seemed fairly unremarkable. 3.5 stars.

The best part was that the chefs got to watch the girls eat, but the girls didn’t know. So they were chatty and honest and fairly critical and the guys had a real good laugh listening to them. Some comments surprised, but others were just spot on. And, harsh as it was to see an established chef tank, it was also heartening. Stuff happens. To everyone.

Then on to the elimination challenge: Create a meal in a dorm room with a toaster oven and hot plate. Two hours to prep and cook three-courses. Holy cow. Grilled cheese on an iron, anyone? Some of these guys don’t even know what a microwave is! Or so they claim. There was a funny little interlude with Hubert Keller playing with the buttons on the microwave, saying, “I have one in my kitchen but I’ve never used it.” Really? Seems unlikely.

So they decide to cook:
Michael: Salmon crudo, cabbage soup, and pork a la apicius (I have no idea what that means)
Hubert: Scottish salmon, carrot and pea soup with cinnamon (that doesn’t sound good to me AT ALL) and macaroni and cheese with prawns
Tim: Scallop carpaccio, squash and corn posole, skirt steak and braised kale
Christopher: Red snapper ceviche, creamy risotto, pan roasted pork chop

I must say, it is nice to only have to keep track of what four people are cooking… this feels similar to the end of a Top Chef season when the riff-raff has been whittled away. These chefs really seemed like they were all good guys having fun together. Lots of mutual respect, joking, probably especially from Keller, who I would consider the “master of the masters,” as Christopher later says…

So off they go to cook IN the dorm rooms. WITH the students there. This would not be high on my list of fun things to try. But they are game and do a great job of jerry-rigging things as needed to make it work. The biggest oops of this round is that Tim accidentally froze all his ingredients. Stuck them in an empty “cooler” and came back in the morning to find it all rock solid. So we’ll never know just what he was planning on making, but as you can see from his menu, not a fresh thing in sight. Poor guy, that would be hard to recover from, but he just kept plugging along!

New info of the evening: Hubert Keller would be a DJ if he wasn’t a chef.

After they fed the students and judges—oops, “critics” for these chefs—no real “knife-packing” here—they went to the critics table. And one other difference from the “real” Top Chef—this stew room is amply supplied with alcohol and looks like a chef’s table in the middle of a kitchen restaurant; no back-of-kitchen supply closet to sweat in for these masters.

Critic’s table
James Oseland, editor of Saveur
Gael Greene, New York restaurant critic
Jay Rayner, The London Observer

They talk, they debate, they sort-of-don’t-like some things and mostly like others. But generally they are fairly mellow and respectful and award points to each contestant with the winner being Hubert Keller. No shock there. He just kind of owns the kitchen, if you know what I mean. Confident, and in that confidence he is able to be kind and accommodating of others. No arrogance (that we saw, anyway). Hurray for that. Oh, and you’d think he’d hung the moon the way they raved about how he rinsed the macaroni with cold water in the shower (to stop the cooking) and then heated it back up with hot water from the shower as well… come on, we’ve all done that, right? Ha. It just goes to show that many times a big part of the kitchen battle is problem solving.

Teaser for future episodes: Neil Patrick Harris and Zooey Deschanel as future critics. Really?! How fun. I know, what do they know about food? We’ll find out.

OK, I’ve rambled on a bit. Can you tell I’ve missed Top Chef? Sniff. I feel like my life has meaning, once again. Well, for six weeks anyway.

Wordless Wednesday: First summer lunch on the grill

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Morels = morsels of yum

OK, there's a sight you probably won't often see on my blog: frying. Not that I don't love the fried "thing," I just try to avoid quadrupling my calories per bite. So I usually save that kind of decadence for eating out.

But in all the online research I did for morels, the deep-fried version kept coming up, over and over. It seemed like destiny!

Very simple:
10 morels
2 eggs, beaten
Bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying

I followed proper morel protocol and soaked them overnight. That helped loosen dirt bits and sand (yes, oddly, sand from the forest...), and then I stored them in the fridge between paper towel sheets. Nice and moist.

I cut the morels in half and dipped them in egg, then bread crumb and into the hot oil. A couple of minutes each side and they were good to go. And go they did!

We enjoyed these tasty tidbits with our first grillin' lunch of the summer. It was lovely--the weather was perfect to eat outside (inbetween storms last weekend) and the corn on the cob, sausages/hot dogs and grilled potato wedges went well with our mushroom treasures.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A hunting we done went

A couple of weekends ago we went over Joseph way to enjoy a bit of time in the woods. It was lovely, and though a few weeks behind Walla Walla in terms of trees leafing and buds blooming, we were able to unearth a few morels along the tree line. Very cool. I must say husband has the best eye. Seth didn't do too badly himself. Me, apparently I'm not so much of a hunter--this is definitely a case of Him bringing home the bacon and Me frying it up in the pan. I wandered, I looked, I tried different angles, different places--under trees? in woodsy clearings? You name it, I tried it. I found very very few... But we won't dwell on it. It's not a competition, right? Hmmmm...

Seth the hunter!

Ruby ready to chase deer ghosts through the woods!

Once we got home, I did a little research on morel storage, recipes, and even some tips on how to find them more/better. Nope, not a competition.

Next up: What we did with them thar shrooms. Nummers.

Favorite chicken salad

This chicken salad is hands-down my favorite chicken salad. Well, there is a curried one that comes close... I suppose it depends on my mood. But today it was all about the red grapes and tarragon. The zing of the tarragon vinegar really makes this sing!

Chicken salad with red grapes and walnuts
2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
2 cups red grapes, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
1/3 cup roughly chopped toasted walnut halves
2 Tbsp. tarragon vinegar
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle the vinegar over the salad, then toss with the mayonnaise. I tend toward a little light on the mayo, so if you like it a little thicker, add a bit more. Add the salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate for a bit before eating... if you can. Today for lunch I ate it practically the moment it hit my plate! Barely had a chance to take a picture...

Enjoy! And thank you for having a birthday, Margie, to give me the excuse to make this for you!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

A wild and crazy busy week. Doing what is anyone's guess, but it was busy.

And filled with many things to be grateful for:

* Week 2 of No Hoses Chewed by Little Miss Ruby. I know I will jinx things by bringing it up, but I can't help myself. She is doing WAY better than last summer. Next week will be the real test as I get the drip part of the irrigation back up and running... she has pretty much decimated that over the winter and I need a full day or two to diagnose and repair, so I've been (yep) procrastinating and moving hoses. No more. Time for the rubber to meet the pvc, so to speak. (Oh, in the interest of full disclosure, there was one sprinker head--one of those cheapy green ring guys--that got munched, but still, overall and compared to last year...)

Little Miss Ruby in all her glory!

*I'm grateful for all the blooms that surround me. Here's what Wordless Wednesday WOULD have been, Kim, if I'd only had a brain (I completely spaced it this week!):

Red yarrow. I love how different this looks from that yellow version I grew up knowing, and not liking much.

Two of my favorite David Austen roses... can't remember their official names but I love how full and peony-like they are.

This is the best year yet for our clematis out front. It was here when we moved and has only bloomed so-so until this year... maybe it was the hatchet job I did on it last fall?

*I am grateful for the storm that came through last night, for the rain it brought. I love weather diversity, and we certainly have had some of that the past few months.

*I am grateful for people I know who walk their talk. It is so so common anymore for people to put on different faces for different people and situations, and I suppose some of that is inevitable. But when I meet a genuine article, it just is so refreshing... not like I'm a genius at spotting them, it's just one of those a-ha moments. I love it.

*Grateful for my men and their love and devotion. And their communication. I'm blessed to live in a house with men who talk! Yeah.

*So thankful for health. I keep those close with health issues and concerns in my prayers daily; know that we think of you.

* Grateful for watermelon. We have had some of the loveliest watermelon already this year. I don't even want to contemplate the carbon footprint on it, but nothing says Hey Summer like a bunch of watermelon chunks in a bowl. Heaven. They can also kind of bust open that grocery budget but it's well worth it, I say.

*Grateful that Seth had the opportunity to learn the trumpet this year and get to know his pretty awesome band teacher. But, also very glad to be done with band concerts for the year! Sometimes these blessings do have their flip side...

* Grateful to believe and know that I am exactly where I should be, doing what I can do to make my small part of the world a better place, every day. What's that "bloom where you are planted" saying? Something like that. Can't say every day is a roaring success, but I'm also a big one for each day starting anew. Here's my favorite quote toward that end: Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely... Ralph Waldo Emerson

* Grateful that no matter how wild the week is, now matter how empty my grateful list can feel on Monday, Tuesday or even Wednesday, by the time Friday rolls around I usually have pulled my head out of my... well, let's just say I generally have found some clarity and through all the flim-flam I manage to remember that I have so much to be grateful for. Circular logic, that. But it works. Grateful for being grateful.

* UPDATED. Almost forgot! Both Seth and I are so very stoked that Philip Chbeeb made it to the top 20 of So You Think You Can Dance, season 5. So stoked. Check him out. He has done an amazing job of coming out of his own style and learning choreography for other styles and worked his butt off to get to where he is. Yeah for him!

Here's the url. Having a real bugaboo with posting video tonight, so I'll just send you to youtube.

Blessings, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday 13: Thirteen favorite pasta shapes

What's worse than researching pasta shapes late at night when you're hungry? Nothing. Yep, nothing. Remind me to write food-related posts earlier in the day, would you?

Meanwhile, here's my Thursday 13 for this week, my 13 favorite pasta shapes. It's important to remember there are really NO bad pasta shapes, just ones I prefer over others... just so we're clear on that.

What are your favorite pasta shapes?

1. Orrichiette. Always been a big favorite for me, since it's slightly unusual and hard to come by. Fun medium-size ear-shapes that sauces ahere to quite well.

2. Capellini... Angel hair. My favorite twirlable pasta. Love the thinness of the noodle; it wraps so delightfully around my fork tines!

3. Orzo. A wonderful little shape to make a pasta salad. Or a kind of fake-o risotto. It goes over big with the young lad around here with just butter and salt. Me, I need to throw in some parmesan.

4. Ravioli. Stuffed with just about anything. Well, usually cheese... goat cheese, ricotta... or butternut squash. A great favorite.

5. Pipe rigate. Nice and fat. I actually like making macaroni and cheese with this shape, since it's bigger than the usual macaroni noodle... more space for the cheese sauce to latch on to!

6. Cavatappi. Sort of like fusilli, just shorter.

7. Ditalini. I love this short stubby shape much better than longer tubes, for some reason.
8. Gigli. (No, not the movie!) Almost a work of art. I think an alternate name for these is "lilies." Which totally makes sense.

9. Radiatore. A great shape for chunky meaty sauces to cling to.

10. Small shells. This is my favorite shape for making "macaroni" salad--the kind with peas and little cubes of cheddar.

11. Tortellini. Again with the stuffed. Hooray.
12. Fusilli. Long and spiraly. It reminds me of what I wanted my hair to look like in middle school... long and spiraly! At least in my old age I've come to terms with the fact that my hair is actually angel hair!

13. Gnocchi. Yes, this is an pasta shape, separate from the actual potato-based dumplings that I love as well.

Happy Thursday 13! Now go make a big bowl of pasta for lunch. I know I will!!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Who needs a kettle to make kettle corn? Not me.

For an event at work today, we decided on a "state fair" theme... long story, but trust me, it was an appropriate theme for what we were doing.

Anyway, after much discussion, the menu came down to churros, cowpie cookies, kettle corn and a wild array of crudite vegetables (to combat the other menu items!). I wasn't quite sure about how to go about making the kettle corn and contemplated ordering giant bags of the stuff online, but after a little research, it became apparent this was not rocket science and could easily enough be made at home.

Here's the recipe I settled on, from a fun site called Seattlest.

Kettle Corn
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons white sugar
kosher salt to taste
melted butter (optional)

In your saucepan, heat the oil and popcorn kernels over medium-high heat, shaking the pan to keep the kernels from burning. When the kernels are about to start popping, they will become slightly lighter in color, and most important, they will start to smell like popcorn. At this point, sprinkle the sugar over the kernels and cover. With the lid on, continue to cook the popcorn by gently shaking the pan over the heat. When the popping has slowed (don’t keep cooking until the very last kernel has popped, you will end up burning the sugar), remove the pan from heat and empty the popcorn into a large bowl. Toss with salt immediately (when the sugar on the popcorn is still hot and sticky, the salt will adhere to the kernels better) and sprinkle with melted butter if you like. Enjoy while still warm.

Since I needed to make a rather large-ish quantity, I hatched up the idea of using my electric fry pan and quadrupled the batch. I made about 8 quad batches this morning, and it was quite a workout to shake the fry pan adequately while the popcorn happily popped away! Quite fun, and very tasty. I will be making this again, soon. Unfortunately, at the moment I'm out of popcorn. Go figure.

Here are the kernels in the pan, just ready to start popping. For some reason, adding the sugar kind of stops the popping for a minute, so don't be worried that you've added it too soon, just keep on shaking and soon the whole pan will be exploding with popcorny goodness.
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