28 February 2010

Healthy Eating - Heads Up!

So I was cruising the Web this past week and found an interesting non-profit site --- Meatless Monday . Check it out. The sidebars have excellent links to articles that are informative and convincing.  I know that we should all be eating less meat and more fruits and vegetables, but for a confirmed carnivore it seems a tall order. Still, I think it's time to try... 

So, I'm jumping on this wagon! I may have Mondays that I slack a bit or forget and get all excited about some recipe that is totally meat-centered, but I think it's a good challenge to set for Silent Bob and myself. Hey, if I slack on a Monday, I can go meatless one of the other days of the week.  It ought to be a cinch to work with legumes, vegetables, rice, mushrooms, fruits, and grains to come up with a day's worth of knoshing ... it's only one day a week, for now. Who knows? If we latch onto the idea, perhaps we can expand the meatless days over time. For now, though one day a week seems do-able.

How about you? Are you already limiting your meat consumption or are you a candidate for Meatless Monday? My first offering has got to be one that I absolutely love... so this recipe from a cookbook I got when SB and I visited Colonial Williamsburg is perfect. We're having it with an herbed flatbread and a big green salad. A perfect dinner for a Meatless Monday!

27 February 2010

Vintage North End ...

Did I tell you that I love Italian food? Did I mention that northern Italian cuisine is the very nearest and dearest to my heart? Well ... as far as Italian grub goes, anyway.

Several years ago, I happened upon a cookbook compiled by a lady from Boston's North End. It started out landing on the 'new offerings of local writers' table at the small bookstore that I frequent. Shortly thereafter, it made it to the local Borders shelves and the tourist stalls at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Who knows if it made it to the national bookstore market. All I know is that I snapped it up because it had a recipe for pignoli cookies and I DO love a good Pignoli cookie! In fact, one of my son's girlfriends brought me Pignoli cookies from a bakery in New York's Little Italy and instantly won my heart, but that's another story. Back to my initial intent here...

Of course, I got said cookbook home and found many more recipes that got me excited. I've been using this unassuming little local cookbook ever since... and one recipe that I L-O-V-E is Chicken Brachiolettini with Mushroom and Wine Sauce. Thank-you, Marguerite DiMino Buonopane!

24 February 2010

Another Storm ... Another Snow Man ... Another Spicy Supper

Noontime: Yesterday's beef and barley soup will be long gone when Silent Bob comes in from shoveling and using the snowblower to clear the latest foot of snow. It's wet and heavy stuff this time; it's the kind of stuff that the meteorologists warn you to be careful of when shoveling. It's heart attack snow ... the kind that you take in small doses ... an inch or two at a time. Unfortunately, this storm hit late in the night and has gifted New England with 8 plus inches. By the time dawn rolled around, the flakes were sticking together - a sure sign that it is getting warmer aloft and the snow-to-rain changeover is on its way. It's going to be a wet, slushy wind-up to this storm.

Two hours later: The town trucks haven't even been down our road yet. I guess that let's you know how fed up with winter the DPW guys are ... besides, it's school vacation week here and I'm thinking they think they can put off the really early morning plow down our road. Gap Mountain folk are retirees or a couple families in which the parents are self-employed or own BIG trucks. Do you see how this logic is goes?

Anyway, it's storms like these that make us all a bit cautious. The trees are really weighted with heavy, packy snow, so there's a real risk of power outages. Hence, we run jugs of water and fill the bath tub so we can 'keep the facilities functional' and have enough water for the teapot and a quick wash, should the power lines drop. We also lay in the wood supply so there's dry wood for burning. We get the cars in under shelter as best we can... or at least out of the way of the snow-clearing equipment and the town plows. And we wait... this is a late winter blow. Spring can't be far behind!

23 February 2010

Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With 'C'!

Back in the day, when my three kids were rammin' and tearin' around the house and yard, I made cookies a couple times a week. Really! They were packed in school lunches, sent off to bake sales, packed up and taken to Scout meetings, shared at pot luck suppers, and sometimes, as in these cookies, stowed away for 'adult consumption'. Let the kids have the soft molasses cookies that have about 4 dozen to a batch and three or four bites per cookie ... Silent Bob and I would savor these little two-bite treats.

I love these little cookies because they are a low-key imitation of the Austrian Ischl Tarts ... you know those gorgeous shortbread cookies that have two layers and a raspberry jam filling that peeks through a center hole in the top layer that has been perfectly dusted with confectioner's sugar? They are an art form that I just don't have the patience to make. Thumbprint cookies, however, are just my speed.

22 February 2010

Spicy Spareribs and Red Beans and Rice

My nod to the Mardi Gras celebration of this past week had to wait until Silent Bob and I had a visit from our son Eric. When you make a batch of ribs and a big old bowl of red beans and rice, you need big appetites around! The guys can really put away the goods - and they both love ribs.
These ribs are really easy to make; the key is to really rub them up good with the spices and leave them to soak that spice rub in for several hours. Slow cooking gets them to the 'fall off the bones and into your mouth' stage. The barbeque sauce is a spicy hot blend that is sticky and gooey - truly finger-licking material. The beans and rice make a nice addition to help cool off your tongue from the ribs' spiciness ...

Oh... and a hint: Do line the pans with foil when you get to the barbeque sauce and basting stage. You'll be glad you did when it comes time for clean-up.

Baby Back Ribs - printer friendly

Beans and Rice - printer friendly

19 February 2010

Making Toast

I'm reading a new book... Making Toast is a memoir written by Roger Rosenblatt. It's a short but powerful collection of essays that details his family's evolution through the dark times after the loss of his daughter to a sudden catastrophic heart attack. Mr. Rosenblatt and his wife move into his daughter and son-in-law's home to help with the care of their three young grandchildren and the maintenance of the household. It is a dignified and bittersweet memoir that chronicles so many things ... the grief of a father, the redemptive nature of his blossoming relationship with his young grandchildren, his wonder at the lasting memories and impressions that his dynamic daughter has left behind, his struggle with the cold and random nature of life's circumstances, his joy and befuddlement at the nature of young children and their inner workings ...

15 February 2010

Rattling Those Pots and Pans ...

The spinach is looking really good this week and I have some pork in the freezer that's a prime candidate for a savory four spice pork stirfry. My constant fight to eat less carbohydrates will lose the battle tonight, because the only thing that really sets off this dish is a cushion of pot-browned noodles ... a dish of cold pineapple to cleanse the palate and cool off the tongue from the spicy hot chili sauce will be a nice foil...

14 February 2010

Pizza ... Love On A Pan...

I love the smell of pizza baking ... tonight sausage, mushrooms tossed with red pepper flakes, garlic, and olive oil, tomatoes, and slivered Provolone ... ala survey data, thank you very much ! AND... sappy as I am, we're watching Lady and the Tramp just so I can gush over the spaghetti scene... and we can sing along to the dog pound scene. Dinner and a movie... and a restful and happy Valentine's Day!

Yeah... Silent Bob will be rolling his eyes, but we can watch Star Wars another night.

11 February 2010

And the Flowers Win It!

Lifestyles.... they sure are hard to change.

I don't know about you, but I'm trying to change the way I think and act when it comes to consumption of goods. I try not to buy too many fruits and veggies that are out of season, but boy, it's hard! I try to find local meat suppliers, but the pickings are still slim up North where I live. I definitely feel like Silent Bob and I do our share when it comes to recycling and composting and we're always looking out for new ways to expand those efforts. Silent Bob and I are doing our best to cut out any unnecessary 'driving around' in order to cut our gasoline consumption. We consolidate our 'supply runs' to one loop, use our cloth bags and boxes at the markets.

At home, our thermostats have been pushed way back and our woodstove has a catalytic converter in it to help cut emissions. We have changed most of our lighting fixtures over to those funky coiled energy-saver bulbs and even more important, we don't leave the lights on unnecessarily. We are trying to lessen our carbon footprint, as best we can.

Still, I get to feeling at times, like I just want all our old conveniences. My bad girl attitude of  'I want it it and I want it right now' still creeps up on me (kind of like wanting flowers in February...)! Change is tough! We have been seduced by the easy fix that technology has offered, cheap sources of everything, and a big old consumer mentality ... and it has been a great ride! BUT things have got to change... right?

I can only hope that we end up with 'nothing but flowers' - metaphorically speaking, that is! There may be some culture shock, but humans can advocate for and adapt to change ... right? There can be a happy medium... right?

Enjoy the link (click on the title of the post)... I can only hope I'm not breaking any laws by hooking you up with the music! Think of it this way... it's your reward for reading this rant... I DO go on sometimes. Sorry!

Happy Valentine's Eve!

It's All About the Candy ... Chocolate!

The raw materials are above ... and Cupid is at work!

Okay, folks. I have never been successful at making candies, fudge, or buttercream. It has seemed a fussy, exacting exercise requiring way too much attention to food thermometers and 'ball stages' and melted chocolate consistencies. THIS, however, worked for my feeble skills as candymaker! Bark! Yes!

Now, you MUST notice that I 'glommed onto' this recipe from another location. Notice the post title is underlined? That's your link to chocolate heaven! Click on the post title and you will access the recipe for this chocolate treat. Those girls at BigGirls,SmallKitchen know their stuff! There is NO WAY I can ever take credit for this easy and completely orgasmic snacking experience. Yes, I said, orgasmic.

The only changes made to this recipe were strictly personal... I love dark chocolate and can rationalize eating it far easier than milk chocolate, so I used dark bittersweet chocolate chips. I also cut the amount of nuts by half... and increased the cherries by 1/4 cup. I also cut the cherries in half, and chopped up the nuts into smaller pieces, figuring that the sugary goop would increase their size. That's it for adaptations... it's pretty to look at and so wonderfully sensual to have melting in your mouth! Go for it! Happy Valentine's Day!

Incidentally, the survey says ... go for the flowers if you're trying to impress your Valentine, but having a batch of chocolate can't hurt!

10 February 2010

Spice Garden Poetry 2 - Afternoon in Early Spring Banana Cake with Maple Frosting

Afternoon in Early Spring

The sun shines warmer today.
Water sluices from the tired yard’s
snowdrifts. The roof’s ice jam
runs - a trickle, a gurgle, a drip.                     Desolation Road Photos

Ice on the terrace is punky.
Footsteps squelch, slipping
sideways and circular, drunken
in winter’s boot.

Grey juncos twitter and shush,
shying from my movement
between door and feeder.
A crow’s harangue echoes.

The breeze is slow and soft,
like syrup soon made. It
moves gently in the treetops.
Branches creak, click together.

Spring’s sounds make me drowsy
for a cat and a sun porch  nap.
Curled in a crocheted cocoon,
I'll doze as a season awakens.

- Susan Miller-Lindquist

These very early days of Spring are such a tease! The sun is downright warm when I sit out on the sunporch at the south side of our grey cottage on the hill. I can look out and see the lilac buds swelling just a bit ... it's still a long time until May and their heady smell, but on these sunny days I dream about warm Spring days to come.

Bringing Back a Favorite Food Memory ... Fideus Catalan-Style

I remember a day that Silent Bob and I spent with friends driving around in the countryside northwest of Barcelona. We drove to Montserrat Monastery and took the cable car up to the heights to see the abbey and its church that housed the Black Madonna. We drove south through some vineyards and tiny Catalonian villages, and finally arrived back on the Mediterranean coastline. We ended up in a resort town called Sitges. It was there that I first put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea. After roaming the beach, we stopped at a small, seaside restaurant for dinner. It was there that Maria introduced us to fideus - a spaghetti-like noodle that, in this case, was dyed with squid ink, dressed with fresh seafood, and coated with a gorgeous fishy sauce. I can still close my eyes and remember my reaction to that first bite. The freshness of the squid and salty tanginess of the mussels was such a revelation to me. These were not the fish of my WASP-ish background. This was a different kind of simple, fresh, comfort food. There were other dishes brought to the table that afternoon, but fideus has stayed within my 'food memory file' all these years.

09 February 2010

Bread ... The Ultimate Sustenance

Today, I have been contemplating bread. It enters into so many aspects of life. The first bit of solid food a child is given is often that hard crust of bread or 'Zwieback' on which they cut their teeth. The last food you may well stomach in this life might be milktoast. A crust of bread and water feeds the punished and the penitent. Mary Antoinette may well have said, "Let them eat cake.", but it was bread that the French folk truly wanted for their survival. Bread is the most basic of foods, so basic that it enters into our religious lives also as part of the Eucharist. It is part of all cultures in that 'breaking bread' together becomes the ultimate of basic hospitality.

06 February 2010

Dinner for Two ... Chicken Caesar Salad and Mussels Zuppa

Wow! What an easy dinner. Scrub the mussels, wash and spin some romaine lettuce, chop the lettuce, slice some purple onions, chop some black olives, plate the salads and add croutons and cheese, fry up some garlic and hot peppers, add some crushed tomatoes, simmer it all together for a few minutes to reduce the tomato juices, slice and throw some crusty bread in a hot oven to toast, throw the mussels and a glass of white wine into the pan and cover, boil until the mussels open up, fry up the chicken pieces for the Caesar salad, uncover the mussels and cook to reduce the zuppa while you flip the toasty bread and chop the chicken pieces, dump the mussels and zuppa in a big bowl, plate the chicken on the salads, grab the toast and chow down... slurp, crunch, sip. Salut!

This dinner really was easy... slice and dice all the ingredients and you just throw it together in step fashion... have two pans ready to deal with the zuppa and the chicken and some plates and bowls ready to plate the salads and zuppa and you're good to go.

Don't forget to slurp some of that white wine while you work... you can't go wrong!

03 February 2010

Late Winter Dinner ...

Last week, we received a visit from my sister and her hunter man! He'd been out with the boys hunting deer in Arkansas and scored big time! Oh, I love those guys! They shared the wealth! I currently have venison steaks, sausage, and stew meat in my freezer and I am psyched! I share with you a recipe that I developed after having an excellent venison entree at an inn up (over, down, whatever)  in Henniker (the only Henniker on Earth!), New Hampshire.

02 February 2010

Chicken Soup with Rice

Each month is gay,
each season nice,
when eating
chicken soup
with rice.

In January
it's so nice
while slipping
on the sliding ice
to sip hot chicken soup
with rice.
Sipping once,
sipping twice
sipping chicken soup
with rice.

In February
it will be
my snowman's anniversary
with cake for him
and soup for me.
Happy once
happy twice
happy chicken soup
with rice.

-from Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak

Good Book Alert 2 !!

The Tenth Muse - My Life In Food

I find Judith Jones' memoir about her progression into the life of food writer and cookbook editor enthralling. The list of people that she has worked with over the years is long and daunting - Julia Child, Nina Simonds, and James Beard - to name a few. You don't sense from her words, though, that she was ever overwhelmed or put off by them. Instead, she seems to have been an open vessel into which their knowledge poured. Her adventurous nature and enthusiasm for exploring different food families comes through in the memoir and she devotes the last section of the book to sharing some of the more notable food memories that she has from different eras of her life - and the recipes for these foods.

What a life this Yankee gal has lead! We should all be so lucky and talented!

01 February 2010

Cookie Monster's Pick ...

When the early Spring comes around, I'm reminded of Girl Scout cookie sales... over the years, my daughters' troops sold their share of the goods! And boy, don't we love thin mints! We usually buy a few boxes and talk about storing them in the freezer for later consumption. Somehow, though, they never make it into cold storage. We gobble them up by the sleeve, never thinking about calories, fat, or good nutrition. And when they're gone, I'm back to baking my own recipes. I do love the combination of chocolate and peppermint, though, so finding a recipe for cookies with a bit of crunch AND that deadly flavor combination was a good thing.