Monday, May 10, 2010

Day after Mother's Day and I'm still eating...

I trust you had a wonderful Mother's Day. If you're not a mother I hope you had someone special to wish a Happy Mother's day to! I talked with my mom (86) who said she said a little prayer to her mother in the morning. Isn't it amazing how much a mother's love transcends all else? My mom said it in a very matter-of-fact explanation but I could hear her voice break, her emotions seep out. I felt so close to her at that moment. I have been blessed to have had wonderful women in my family, as friends and co-workers and they have helped shape me and given me encouragement when I've needed it most.
This little tag came with my flowers yesterday.
It was a warm and fabulous day to get out in the yard and I saw my bachelor buttons were in bloom and who could pass by that purple explosion!

I enjoyed steak, salad and baked potato yesterday and today I was craving Chinese, so it was stir fry to the rescue. A simple dish with pork tenderloin, baby bok choy, baby portabello mushroom I had on hand, served over steamed noodles and rice.

Pork Stir Fry (no recipe, so approx measurements)
1 pork tenderloin sliced down the centre and cut in 1 inch chunks
1 inch chunk fresh ginger rough chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 onion chopped
2 baby bok choy sliced in 1/2
2 c chopped baby portabello mushrooms (any mushroom will do fine)
1 red pepper in large chunks
dash sesame oil, several dashes soya sauce
In med high frying pan or wok heat 2 tbsp oil and add onion, ginger and garlic until onion begins to carmelize about 4 minutes, stirring. Add pork chunks and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Put aside. Add another 2 tbsp oil to wok and add mushrooms, stirring for about 2 minutes, add bok choy and red peppers stirring often. Add pork and spices. Whisk about 2T cornstarch, sesame oil and soya with 1/3 c chicken stock and add to wok. Let it thicken and add more stock if necessary. It should cover veg and meat with a thinnish glaze.
I steam about 2 c steamed noodles and about 3/4 c cooked Basmati rice each and ladle pork mix over. Add another dash of soya and hot sauce if you like. Quick, Fresh and Flavorful!
Of course in Chinatown there would be a large dish of fresh oranges and a fortune cookie but I had made Rhubarb Streusel Muffins so we had those instead.
Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

1/2 c plain yogurt
1/4 c veg oil
1 egg
1 1/3 c flour
1 c diced fresh rhubarb
2/3 c dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
Blend yogurt, oil and egg and set aside. Stir rest of ingredients together and add yogurt mix, combine until moistened. Fill 12 greased muffin tins 2/3 full.
1/4 c brown sugar, 1/4 c chopped toasted pecans, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp melted butter all stirred together. Spoon onto each muffin and bake 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Test for doneness.
Ode to Spring!

Friday, May 7, 2010


There is just so much to learn as we blog and I am realizing that my food pictures are not as good as some of my favorite bloggers. Perhaps it's my camera but I think it's that I am not using all the functions on my camera to the best advantage. Do you have this problem as well? I can't tell the food to 'smile' or 'change that pose' or 'I think it would look better with the blue sweater'. Food is there, waiting, plated and ready for me to make the most of it. My camera lacks 'smell-o-vision', which would help immensely! So, I must learn more from my fellow bloggers.
This is entirely different than cooking. Cooking is fun, relaxing, invigorating, an excuse to try new spices, new serving dishes, new arrangements. 
I made a lovely chicken strata for dinner and hope you can tell by my pictures just how tasty it was.

Chicken Strata ( based on an Anna Olson recipe for Rockwell Bake)
350 degree oven, greased 9 inch springform pan or 9x13 or bundt pan
2 T olive oil
1 c finely diced onion
1 c finely diced celery (I used lovage as well)
1/2 c finely diced carrot
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 apple grated
1 T crumbled sage
2 t fresh thyme
1 t poultry seasoning or rosemary
1 c dried cranberries
1/4 c dry vermouth (I used half vermouth, half chicken broth)
5 large eggs (my gf chickens eggs are smallish so I used 6)
3 c milk (I use skim, your choice)
1 T dijon mustard
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
8 c diced day old bread (I used French but you can mix white and wheat) 1 inch cubes
3 c chicken breast, cooked, 1/2 inch diced
2 1/2 c grated cheese (recipe calls for Swiss (not my fave) I used Gruyere and cheddar mixed

In a saute pan add oil and saute onion, celery and carrot about 4 minutes, add garlic and herbs and continue cooking another minute. Add cranberries and vermouth and simmer another minute or so until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cool to lukewarm.
In a large bowl, while veg mix cools, whisk eggs and milk and add mustard, salt and pepper. Add bread cubes and toss to coat well and let sit for about 15 minutes.
Stir the veg and diced chicken in the bread mix, add 2 c cheese. Spoon into prepared baking pan and sprinkle with 1/2 c remaining cheese. Bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown and center springs back when pressed. In the bundt pan I cooked 1 hour 15 minutes as it was thicker.
Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving. If using springform pan, remove side ring after 15 minutes.
This served 6 with a side salad and sweet potatoes. We had cranberry sauce on the side.

Of course all this eating of the savory strata meant I would be craving something sweet to balance the meal. I had baked a Lazy Daisy cake earlier in the day. You remember the old hot milk standby cake with the lovely coconut, brown sugar topping that is put under the broiler at the last minute to 'candify' the topping.
However, I had also made a chocolate self-saucing pudding cake and knowing how dh loves his Reese peanut butter cup ice cream, I thought the chocolate would be the better combination. I like my cake warmed a little first so the pudding layer melts a little more and softens the ice cream.
What I really mean is that I wanted whipping cream but I didn't have any.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo

I Twittered earlier about eating an entire bag of tortilla chips from Fresh Is Best and honestly I could barely manage dinner tonight. I had all good intentions of preparing a Mexican inspired feast, but my heart just wasn't in it. I could imagine myself sitting on the beach in Puerto Vallarta at sunset, sipping on my second Margarita with no problem. In fact, I had my white gauze shirt and short shorts on, a cute straw hat and big smoky sunglasses and my skinned was bronzed from a day at the pool. Oh yes, this part is easy.
So what can be done to get through the day without celebrating the 5? How about a trip down memory lane? I was being all nostalgic thinking of how our family centered every occasion around food. I never ever wanted to miss a meal at home, even as a teenager. My mom was a remarkable cook, still is actually. I remember the macaroni with bran muffins, the vinegar marinated beef made into stew with heaps of mashed potatoes on the side, the rich tomato gravy smothering the Swiss steak loaded with peppers and onions , walnut butter horns, molasses brown bread, butter tarts and apple pies. Seriously, every single meal was home made, from scratch, no shortcuts. Who in their right mind would miss a meal? Exactly. Even the days, maybe weeks, I hardly communicated with my parents more than a grunt, I was home for dinner.
One of the recipes was not so homemade, but I do remember it well and always called it Mom's Casserole. In a way it was a relief to have this dinner and take her off the pedestal for just a brief moment. Silly to think of that just now.

Mom's Common Casserole
1 tin cream of mushroom soup
1 tin cream of chicken soup
1 c sour cream
1 c drained corn or frozen niblets
1/2 tsp pepper and paprika
3 c cooked med wide egg noodles
2 lb hamburger
1 c chopped onion
1 c buttered breadcrumbs
Fry and drain the hamburger and onion
Mix the 4 ingredients together and add pepper and paprika
Add hamburger, sauce and noodles, mix well and put in buttered casserole. Top with buttered breadcrumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for approx 30 minutes

Since I'm on the oldies but goodies kick, whenever I make bran muffins I always go back to my tried and true recipe from Roger's Foods, simple and perfectly bran.

Classic Bran Muffins
1 1/2 c Rogers Wheat Bran
1 c buttermilk
1/3 c veg oil
1 egg
2/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c Rogers all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda and baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c raisins or dates, optional
375 degree oven, greased muffin tin, makes 1 dozen. Cook 15-20 minutes
Mix together bran and buttermilk and let sit. Combine oil, egg, sugar and vanilla and add to bran mixture. Combine flour, b soda, b powder, and salt and stir well. Add this to the first mixture and stir until just blended.

So the '5' is almost over, it's early evening. I wish you all a colorful, musical fiesta evening!

Here's lookin' at you!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Peas Poking Through...

Last night the sound of some mysterious creature compelled me to throw on my shoes, grab a flashlight and go outside. I found 2 beautiful peacocks on the neighbors roof, they weren't the colorful kind, but they let out the craziest sounds somewhere between a goose, a wild cat and a crow. They were back this morning so I'm going to search them out again. A radical change from bears and deer.
Back to my little garden. It is criminally slow, and I am not the most patient cultivator. If the sun would shine a little more and the rain cease there might be more action. Can't blame the seeds for staying below the surface.
You learn to appreciate the beauty in small things when you spend a few minutes outdoors. Like the moss growing randomly on the dead tree stump or how my concrete heron who think he's real, stands guard over the garden.

Or, how the light hits the wet wood on the chair and bench my dh put together for me just because i asked him!In fact, he had so much fun creating that he built 5 of them and now I have them situated throughout the yard, and I love them.
I know you must find pleasure in day to day encounters as well. Challenge yourself to grab your camera and take a few shots of what gives you a reason to be thankful.

Flat Out Chickster!

I saw on a few blogs that 'spatchcocking' (An old British term, spatchcocked, refers to the removal of the backbone of a bird so that it can be flattened prior to grilling or roasting, according to the turkey farmers of Canada website) a chicken flat would cook it faster and keep it juicy. I like that idea since I am the white meat fan and nothing could be worse than eating a rubber chicken. So I flattened it! Actually, cut through and took out the back bone, seasoned it all up with olive oil (Greek Olive Oil), my Greek seasoning spices which I loaded with mint, oregano, dried lemon zest, sea salt and cracked pepper, a little garlic under the skin.

Smelled terrific in about 40 minutes in a 375 oven. On a separate roasting pan I drizzled olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper and thyme over my asparagus spears, Yukon gold potatoes, yam and cauliflower. 
                                                                                                                                                                              Easy oven cooking although my heart was yearning for barbq, the weather was not cooperating.

In spite of the weather, there is always yard work and I was anxious to see what might be showing in my raised garden beds. The peas were up! So dependable every year. Little bits of onions, turnip, squash, beans but nothing to get excited about. Still a little early when temperatures are dropping to low 40's overnight. Sigh..

And my dh has a confession (that's my word since he has no idea I'm writing this!! haha). No matter what divine dessert I may have made, how I labored over some recipe or baked a 7 layer cake, his meal ends with a honking bowl of ice cream. Not just any ice cream but his flavor of the past year...drum roll...Reese by Breyers (Ice Cream and more). Oh yes, every night, no exceptions. Kinda cute.