Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner

Sometimes the beauty around us goes unnoticed. It can be as simple as the lovely golden yolks of a farm fresh egg. Earlier today, after the rain subsided and Ms Sunshine poked her head over the clouds, I took my camera outside and randomly shot a few pictures in the yard. Everywhere I looked, something that hadn't been there 2 days ago was smiling back at me in 'dizzyingly delightful' (like it!?) shades of Spring! You won't need a recipe for bacon, eggs, fried potatoes and toast with marmalade but make it anyway, it's comfort food with a little carb hit.

The yellow rhodo yearning to show off.
The pink rhodo turning all pastel after showing off magenta.
The pine looking like a brush bottle waiting to scrub away the clouds! Oh Yes! Work your magic.

Plum Cake
The day would not be complete without something sweet, would it? This recipe was lovingly shared by my BFF who makes it for her SO very often! You can sub apples or any other fruit or raisins, but the tangy, sweet plums are divine and traditional in plum kuchen.
9x13 pan, greased, 375 degree oven, check after 40 minutes
1 c room temp butter
1 c sugar
1 pkg vanilla  sugar (in the baking section in small packages)
beat until creamed about 2 minutes
Add 4 eggs, 2 c ap flour, 2 tsp baking powder, pinch of salt.
Beat on low for 3 minutes and pour into prepared pan
Oh yes, don't forget the plums!
Place halved plums, pitted, cut side up on top of the batter and sprinkle with topping mix.
1/4 c sugar
1/2 pkg vanilla sugar
Bring out the whipped cream for me but if you like ice cream, be my guest. Enjoy your day. This will help.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pizza for 2 on a lovely day...

What can I say? Lots! The day started very early with birds singing outside the bedroom window. I always think it's a good sign when birds are happy...the sun might be shining, there might be time for exercise before church or breakfast even. I have decided it doesn't always matter if a meal is fancy to enjoy it. I felt like cereal so I did just that. A bowl of raisin bran, a sprinkle of granola, sliced banana and almond milk and I sat gazing out the window thinking how fortunate I am to live right here, right now. The camellia bush is in full bloom and every other perennial is fighting to open and be seen. The little Japanese Maple is unfurling those beautiful deep burgundy leaves.
Remember yesterday I had the pizza dough (Williams-Sonoma recipe that never fails me) waiting in the fridge? I made a big 14 inch pizza and loaded each half with different toppings. Husband likes meat (beating chest noises here) so I packed it with ham, salami and pepperoni and I (delicate creature that I am) chose red pepper, kalamata olives, fresh tomato, feta and onion. Tossed together a coleslaw with apple, cranberry and standard mayo, sugar and white vinegar dressing topped with lots of fresh Italian parsley.
We had the burn permit and decided to clear the path that goes to the river so there was a lot of heaving and wheezing as we loaded the fire (safely, of course) with branches and debris. I took a little break before I broke a sweat and headed to the garden to put in 2 tomato plants and tidy up the beds. The neighbor cat showed up. This cat is at least 50 lbs, a real slow moving sloth of a cat, who stops every few feet to catch his breath but still manages to find kitty stops in my yard. Annoying. Unfriendly, but I always talk to him as if he would listen or change his mind. It's not happening. I had a few peanuts in my pocket for the chipmunk and a woodpecker decided to tap on the telephone pole. I felt so.. so.. connected with nature. jk, it was a great day. Hope yours was too.
oops my day wouldn't be complete without dessert. Had a big ol peanut butter cookie which is loaded with peanut butter cups and milk chocolate. There, now that concludes my great day! 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Soup Saturday...at least for lunch

It's the end of the week and it's raining. I feel caught somewhere between monsoon season and drizzles. Let's call it April! 
I had made us a pot of chicken noodle soup the other day and put leftovers in the fridge. It seems all my friends that called during the week were complaining of scratchy throats and headaches. Not taking chances, the soup is out today for lunch and this time I'm adding some ginger and chili garlic sauce to it!

While I was in the fridge (not literally but it gave you pause, right?), I remembered that I had an old standby, Boiled Raisin Cake, waiting for me. You know I love my sweets, so after sharing my peanut butter cup with dh, I brought out the cake to thaw for dinner. 

The pizza dough I made yesterday (from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking Cookbook always) is waiting in the fridge for later this evening. I love the weekend because there is simply no stress, no fuss. 
Back to the cake, it may have been a hardship during the war to think of recipes that didn't have eggs or milk and butter and sometimes even sugar. This cake has stood the test of time. It is moist and rich with the flavor of spices and I personally want to thank the war brides who did whatever was humanly possible to bring healthy meals to their table during WWII. Cheers.
Boiled Raisin Cake
350 degree oven. Bake 1 hour, test.
2 c raisins
1/3 c shortening (I used butter but remember this is the 40's!)
1 c dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg, cloves, ginger
1 c hot water
2 c flour
dash salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 c orange juice, zest of orange
1 tsp vanilla
Put raisins, shortening, sugar, spices and hot water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer 6 minutes uncovered and cool.
Add dry ingredients, orange juice, zest and vanilla to raisin mixture, mix well (runny batter)
Use small tube pan or loaf pan, greased.
Enjoy the weekend whether you have sun or rain, look for the rainbow!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mexican Chicken Kebabs and friends

I'm beginning to dream of summer, aren't you?  I first had this served to me at my girlfriends home in the Gulf Islands on a warm summer evening. We had chilled white wine and feasted on kebabs. What better way to enjoy the company of friends? Ole! Discussing the menu for our getaways is half the fun of going and an intrinsic part of the much anticipated mini vacations together. Girlfriends, I heart you!

Mexican Chicken with Spicy Yogurt Sauce
2-3 Tbsp fajita seasoning* (recipe follows)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in 1 inch chunks
1 large garlic clove
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp evoo
1 c plain yogurt
1 each red, green and yellow pepper cut into chunks for skewers
1 red or white onion cut into chunks
whole mushrooms
In a large bowl combine heaping 2 tbsp of fajita mix and chicken Toss well to coat, cover and chill for 2 hours.
Yogurt Sauce

Using a mortor and pestle or a smooth flat surface, grind the garlic and salt to form a paste. Place in a small bowl with olive oil. Mix in yogurt (and dash of cayenne to taste) and the remaining fajita seasoning.
Alternate chicken, peppers, onion and mushrooms on prepared skewers. If using wooden skewers, pre-soak in water for 30 minutes so they don't char on the grill.
Grill 10 minutes over hot grill.
Serve with rice and drizzle spicy yogurt sauce over all.
Fajita Seasoning*
1/4 c cumin
1/8 c oregano

1 T salt, pepper, garlic powder or granules, onion powder and cayenne pepper.
(1/2 tsp celery seed, basil, nutmeg, marjoram, thyme, rosemary and chili powder all optional)
Mix well.

Stuff it! With a smile...

I bought the big bag of peppers the other day and must have hidden them in my fridge, because I totally forgot about them! The choices were chop and freeze or cook, girl, cook! 
I suddenly remembered an old, old boyfriend and a trip to Greece and bingo! stuffed peppers were on the menu. I had 2 big slices of meatloaf from the night before so the protein part of the meal was taken care of. Honestly, I prefer the vegetarian style stuffed peppers anyway. The mint and parsley flavors are so much more distinct. 
The only olive oil I use is Greek, thanks to the wonderful Koutalianos family at http://www.basiloliveoil.com/, and it all fell into place. Have you used Major's chicken base? It's wonderful and rich with chicken flavor. My ever so talented niece told me about it. A little rice, stock, chopped tomatoes, so you have enough liquid, with sauteed onion, lemon, oregano and garlic and you're ready to stuff those peppers and enjoy the taste of Greece.

Stuffed Peppers (2 very large)
Oven temp 350 about 60-70 minutes
1/2 c rice (I use long grain white)
1 c rich stock ( I use Major's)
2 chopped tomatoes (I use Roma)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 chopped onion
1 clove garlic diced
1/4 c fresh mint and parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
Cut pepper lid off and scrape seeds from inside, season with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft, add rice and stock and stir occasionally, about 4 minutes.  Only partially cook the rice as it will continue cooking once in the oven. Stir in spices, tomatoes and gently fill peppers about 3/4 full. Put in ovenproof dish ( I used my Anchor Hocking 1 Quart glass mixing bowl and it was just right for bracing up the tall peppers)with fairly high sides and add 1/2 c liquid stock to the bottom. Drizzle olive oil peppers. Do not cover the rice with the lids until later. The rice will swell in the pepper to fill it. Test after 1 hour. My peppers were huge so I needed the full 70 minutes. In the last 10-25 minutes I put on the lids so they would soften and brown up a little for presentation. The minty vegetable aroma was divine and I think I could visualize myself sipping ouzo and peeling shrimp just before I had a reality check and realized I was in my little kitchen with the rain beating on the skylights. Sigh.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Olive Oil Cake after a great weekend away ♥

Everyone deserves a little reward or two. Before leaving for the Women's Retreat on Friday afternoon, I baked a lovely Orange Olive Oil Cake based on an Anna Olsen and Bon Appetite recipe. Does Anna ever disappoint? I loved the moist and very flavorful cake and wolfed down a couple of still warm slices before wrapping it up for dh to enjoy whilst I was enjoying myself in the company of women. 
Our destination was in the forest at a camp for disabled children and their families. It was a wonderful place, and looking at the drawings and pictures of very smiley faced campers, I would say every child who is fortunate enough to attend this facility comes out refreshed and rewarded. The bedding was super soft and the rooms were pleasant enough, but it was the camaraderie and the fresh outdoors that were the best! We participated in an interpretive obstacle course which had most of us howling with laughter! I know I was only 6 inches off the ground but when you're blindfolded, perception is reality.
The rain stopped long enough for us to wander to the lake and stop to talk to the animals at the petting zoo. Gisele and Billy were born 4 days earlier to a frisky goat, chickens wandered about doing their little dance and the burro and horses were content. Well, I take that back. The burro proved to be a stubborn a** when the ranch hand tried to pull him away from the grassy area. 
But, lest I regress more, I came home to overripe bananas and decided to carry on with the olive oil cakeathon. Today I baked a very simple cake and topped one with milk choc chunks and toasted pecan pieces strewn with abandon over the top and left the other plain, only because my guilt overtook me. I added a little shot of amaretto to it instead of vanilla. Love the almond anything! See how pretty the dessert fork is, a gift from my late mother-in-law.

This cake is the easiest recipe and if your home is like mine, we always have bananas that get too ripe, too quickly.
Set the oven to 350, I use 2 pie plates but you can use a 9x13 greased.
2 1/4 c flour
1 2/3 c sugar ( I use 1/2 white 1/2 brown sugars)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder, baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 c evoo
2/3 c buttermilk
3 eggs
3 large bananas, mashed (1 1/4 c or more)
shot of bourbon, amaretto or vanilla
and 2/3 toasted walnuts, pecans optional
Blend all together for 3 minutes in a large mixing bowl. Bake in greased containers 45-50 minutes. If you use the cake for lunches it is very moist and doesn't need icing but, if you are having company or it is for a special dinner, then a cream cheese icing is wonderful on it. Keep in fridge, if iced. It just doesn't get any easier than this! 
Since the cake has that 'comfort food' feel to it, I decided to make meat loaf, acorn squash, fried potatoes and broccoli for dinner. 'Sufficiently suffunctified' as my dad would say, bless his heart. Where did that expression come from?
I planted the second raised bed with lima beans, green beans, purple beans, golf ball carrots, mixed lettuce, beets and filled containers with purple onions, cherry tomatoes, turnip and leeks. The third raised bed now has summer and winter squash and peas. 
Hope I'm not too early for everything, but I was in the mood for planting. 
Today has been a good day, I hope yours was as well. ;)

Monday, April 12, 2010

First Bear of Spring

They're back! I took this picture late last fall before the last of the bears decided to hibernate and leave our yard and their favorite apple tree. Or maybe it's the swing that amuses them. I've been a big fan of Lily the Bear at bear.org where she and her cub, Hope, have just left their den, so I knew it wouldn't be long until our bears were back. I wondered how he got in the yard and after checking out the neighborhood, I found out he had simply climbed over the fence, a good 8 ft fence, since I had neglected to leave the gate open for him. He found the compost and turned that over and sauntered down the hill towards the river. Nice life! 
This aside, I made a Sweet n Spicy chicken dish last night and it was wonderful. Just the right kick tempered with a sweet glaze served with cilantro onion rice and a big salad loaded with toasted cashews, feta, avocado and tomato. Has anyone tried the new artisan lettuce from Costco? 4 lovely small heads of crunchy lettuce..perfection. The recipe follows 
Get your spices ready! Start the rice. Serves 4.

8 boneless skinless thighs

Spice Mix:
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cilantro chopped
1 tsp sea salt
The chipotle is hot chili powder, if you don't have it on hand substitute cayenne to taste or another hot chili powder such as de arbol or pasilla.

1/2 cup honey, melted in micro
1 Tbsp cider vinegar or white vinegar
Mix and reserve 2 Tbsp for serving.

Pat chicken dry and rub with oil. Toss chicken in spice rub to coat well on each side.
Grill approx 5 minutes per side until cooked through. While chicken is cooking, drizzle glaze on each side the final minute of grilling or broiling. Prepare for a little smoke from the sweet glaze. Yum.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What did you do last summer, fall and winter? Me? Well this is what I did: stack 'em high! I mixed and measured and toasted and ground until I had a tower of rubs and seasonings done. The house was filled with exotic aromas for hours. It was heavenly and after labeling and putting the spices in tins, I breathed a sigh of satisfaction. 
This went on for weeks actually, as I was a vendor at the local Farmer's Market. A fun experience and I met some wonderful new friends. 
This spring I begin a new adventure. I have raised garden beds to begin square foot gardening and plans for a chicken coop are underway..
...and so it begins. I have been reading and following and reading some more each and every day and am feeling inspired to join with all of you who have blogs or simply read and enjoy blogs. So, here I am! I have ideas to translate to posts and pictures to upload and I hope you will be patient with me. I can hear dh in the next room watching and cheering, no, not for me, for hockey. That's just fine, let me carry on and create my (yours and mine) space...