31 March 2012

Random Recipes - Lasagne di Pollo e Funghi Misti

Well, I'm feeling like the wedding guest that sneaks in the side door of the chapel just as the couple kisses and the congregation applauds! Quick! Someone give me a handful of rice, damn it!

This random recipe post has been one long search for the 'osso buco'  (my first and real random recipe) that is not here in my little New Hampshire backwater ... so I turned to another random page in the same cookbook and came up with a tomato mushroom sauce that is a main component in lasagna with mushrooms and chicken.

Saturday Snapshot (s) ... A Place I Remember

From the footbridge across the valley from Neuschwanstein

In Germany, many of the natives think of this place as their version of Disneyworld. It ranks up there with Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the Rhine Valley, and Ocktoberfest in Munich. Every tourist coming to Germany has Neuschwanstein flagged as a 'must see' in their tour books ... and we were no different. It's a facade, though, when you really learn a bit about it. It is a shell of a grand castle with only a small part of the interior made complete... a mad project begun by a prince who felt he had deep pockets and whims that could never be emptied or challenged. He ended up dead ... drowned mysteriously and the castle was left unfinished. It's darker history also includes a stint as a huge repository for artworks and treasures lusted over, confiscated, stolen, and stored by the Nazis during that horrific WWII period.  Those artworks have since been liberated and some returned where they belong, others placed in museums ... and the castle has been turned into a major tourist destination. It's in a lovely area of Germany, near the German-Austrian border ... and once I got over the awe at such a massive princely whim, I looked around at other more awesome sights ...

28 March 2012

Lemony Chicken Soup

When the kids were really small, I made soups for them all the time ... lunches usually consisted of soup and crackers and little sandwiches or tiny bowls of chopped up fruit or pieces of cheese and ham bits. The sides changed a lot, but the soup remained a constant. They would come in from the back yard sandbox and swingset with rosy cheeks and chilly hands, get a wash-up, and climb up onto their chairs to gobble lunch and play with their 'little guys'  - then it was time for an afternoon nap and some quiet page-turning or make-believe in their rooms before a bit of Winnie the Pooh or Mr. Roger's Neighborhood or Sesame Street on the television.

Ina Garten's Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower

When one is trying to follow a Weight Watcher's regimen, vegetables are good friends! Consequently, I have been digging around for good vegetable and fruit recipes that are lighter and more diet friendly ... got a winner here! Ina Garten's latest, how easy is that?, has given me this newest approach to cauliflower.

27 March 2012

Apple Tart

A mini-tart for a small homecoming ... SB and my brothers were hiking up around Mount Cardigan for the past couple days. What started out as a nice Spring hike turned into a windblown, cold, and raw slog up over and along the ridge of Cardigan and on to its sister peak. They had a good time and stayed in a lodge, so the 'roughing it' was minimal, but they sure looked happy to be back where it's warm and snug ... in my kitchen.

25 March 2012

Making Madeleines ... with Maple Syrup

Here's one for my culinary bucket list ... the petite sweet cake/cookie that is shaped like a long shell ... the sweet Madeleine. I have always thought these French confections were difficult to make. Yes, they need a dedicated pan with the shell design for forming their distinct shape. Yes, one must whip the heck out of the eggs and sugar before carefully folding in the rest of the batter ingredients. Yes, one must chill the batter for a couple hours. Yes, one must be careful about leveling the batter in the pan's shells and watch for the perfect golden crust to form around the edges. But, really? It was no big deal.

24 March 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Lord of the Manor

Meet Penny ... top cat around the grey cottage these days. He's getting a bit big for his britches as he grows through his kitty adolescence. Can you tell that he has major attitude?  Yup ... he's got it and then some!

Penny was born in a basket on our couch last Spring and has since made the couch his throne. He climbs to his spot numerous times during the day to lord it over us as we sit with books, nap away an hour or two, or lounge about with a glass of wine and a laptop or puzzle ... what a distinguished presence he's becoming.

To see other's Saturday Snapshots, visit Alyce's blog - at home with books  ... it's always a fun Saturday morning tradition to look at what's inspiring other bloggers and add your own little snapshot with a bit of commentary! Simply link up a post of your own and leave Alyce a comment informing her of your participation ... oh yeah, and a bit of a comment on her contribution!

23 March 2012

Basque Cod ... and Elena Arzak

Basques had been crossing the ocean since the Middle Ages, voyaging to the rich cod fisheries of the Grand Banks and pursuing whales into the treacherous sub-Arctic waters off Greenland. Indeed, John Cabot's celebrated discovery of Newfoundland in 1497 was greeted by the Basques with something approaching wry bemusement, for it was hardly a new-found-land, two of their own captains having dropped their anchors off the very same coast over a hundred years before.  - Mark Mills in Amagansett
This week, I have had my nose in a couple books. In one particularly good mystery novel, I came across this quote. It reminded me of reading Mark Kurlansky's book, Cod - A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. Kurlansky writes extensively about the importance of the Basque fishermen's discovery of the Grand Banks. The codfish became such an important sea harvest that it played a dominant role in the development of the European rush to colonize the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Salted cod became a staple of naval stores and fed many a sailor, as countries like Spain, France, and Great Britain made their marks on the world beyond their countries' immediate political borders. To this day, salted cod is an important ingredient in Basque and Catalonian cuisine.

22 March 2012

Lenten Bread

Making a gluten free bread for our little church's Communion Eucharist is something that I have wanted to do for my congregation for a long while. I have tried three different gluten-free bread recipes, but none have a nice loft and a flavour that non-gluten intolerant folks will accept. I have finally found a couple ready made flour blends made by Bob's Red Mill that are very good ... Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix and Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix. The key is to eat these breads when they're very fresh ... so I am making bread this afternoon for this evening's Lenten service.

20 March 2012

Spring Day Poking Around ... and Carrot Soup

SB and I have had our noses poked in the seed catalogues and gardening books this past week and we've been thinking about vegetable gardens and berries and Springtime yard pursuits! Isn't the change of seasons a motivating time? Yesterday, it was absolutely glorious outside all day. SB raked and I baked. I poked around a bit looking for daffodils and crocus popping through the soil. Then we sat around on the back terrace and caught the first mosquito of the season and laughed over that little bugger. It was a lazy day at the grey cottage.

Come evening, I used some leftover carrots (from the little church's Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner event) and made SB and I a delightful pot of Cream of Carrot Soup. This was a simple uncomplicated affair - onions and garlic sautéed, boiled potatoes, and cooked carrots, a flour and butter roux, and a session in the blender to make a smooth as silk purée. The lot was put back in the pan with some low-fat evaporated milk, chicken broth, white pepper and a bit of smoked paprika. Whisked to a steaming simmer, it was a perfect easy supper. We had some leftover yeast rolls all warm and steamy to dip in the soup ... and I had my cold glass of Sauvignon blanc. Life is good.

19 March 2012

Left Over Guinness ... Another Beautiful Cake

So ... what did you do with your leftover Guinness stout after toasting the Emerald Isle, knoshing your corned beef and cabbage, blathering on about past St Patrick's Day escapades, and listening to the rowdy leprechauns partying next door?

What no parties in your vicinity? Well, there were a few in Sprout Sara's Boston neighborhood! After a walking tour of Back Bay and a jaunt up through the Public Gardens and Boston Common, we ambled back to her apartment where the corned beef was smellin' up the place in a good way! Beers, Irish Cheddar and Yancey's Fancy Horseradish Cheddar with crackers and music ... listening to crowds of rowdy leprechauns sing their way up one side of Beacon Hill and down the other, and lounging around chatting and laughing until the potatoes and cabbage were perfect ... yup. That was our St Paddy's Day! When that corned beef was perfect we fell on it like ravenous wolves! Oh what a decadent party!

Sara asked me, at one point, where the Guinness Cake was and I had to admit that I ran out of time on Saturday morning. I'd spent all day Friday and part of Saturday baking Irish Soda Breads and Yeast Rolls for the little church's Corned Beef Supper fundraiser. I got out of it with one loaf of Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Drambuie for us, dropping the rest at the church ... then it was time to leave for Boston!

18 March 2012

Top o' the Mornin' !

Whole Wheat Irish Herb Bread smells heavenly while baking ... like a combination of cake and Thanksgiving dressing. It has a bit of sweeteness from light brown sugar, basil, thyme, and marjoram for that herby flavour, and currants for a nice sweet chew. Plop it on a pretty bread board. Serve it up warm with some soft butter for smearing and a cup of strong tea. You'll swear you're back in Ireland ... all you need is a peat fire and some back music!

17 March 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Everything in its Place

I gave this jigsaw to my husband for Christmas. We have long winters in New Hampshire and just about the time that the snow and cold or the sleet and muck make for uncomfortable outdoor work, SB likes to pull out the card table and work on a puzzle ... it keeps him busy and out of my hair. It occurred to me as I looked at this picture that we are pretty set in our ways ... married for an unGodly amount of time and still good friends and partners in crime ... we fit together like these puzzle pieces.

Glad I hooked myself up with the right person. I'd hate to be that puzzle with one missing piece ... just sayin'.

Saturday Snapshot is an exercise in pure fun ... a blogshare with Alyce @ at home with books .
Check out everyone else's Saturday Snapshots ... and pick out one of your own, add a little story or caption, and link it up at Alyce's hub! A picture's worth a thousand words, you know ...

16 March 2012

Warm French Lentils ... and Sausages

This week, Ina Garten is the 39th star of the 50 Woman Game Changers blog posts.  You can bet there will be a bunch of fun recipes! Ina Garten has become a fixture of the Food Network's star chef line up. Long before that, though, she established herself as a talented cook who had a knack for throwing a great dinner party and later, a purveyor of excellent gourmet foods at her shop Barefoot Contessa on the outer end of Long Island ... in The Hamptons. Her business savvy and easy way of presenting simple, delicious, basic foods in a tastefully elegant manner made her an attractive mark for the summer folk and entertaining crowd. The attention she got from her successful storefront brought her to the attention of the television foodie show production people and the rest is history. The storefront is gone at this point, but Ina has moved on to bigger and better things.

She's intelligent and likeable, makes foods that are not so unhealthy that we shake our heads, has an incredibly clean and crisp sense of style, produces cookbooks that are pleasing to the eye with recipes that are easily accomplished. Plus, she has not become so ever present in the stores and magazines that we gag when her name is mentioned.

She's Ina ... she has a beautiful smile and a friendly manner. She has mapped out an excellent business strategy for sharing her culinary style while maintaining her personal lifestyle and family privacy. I personally adore her.

12 March 2012

Onion and Gruyère Tarts

These little tarts are perfect as a first course or an accompaniment to a soup and salad supper. They're easy to make if you have a box of ready made puff pastry sheets. You simply roll the sheets a bit thinner and cut them into rectangles, top with the cheese mixture and finish with crispy onions and black olives. Cut the squares smaller and you have a nice tray of cocktail tidbits.  They have a very crispy flaky crust, a soft cheesy center and very crispy onions topping them off. The addition of the black olives give the tarts a hit of salty tang. Delicious with a glass of crisp white wine!

I came upon this recipe somewhere on the Internet a few years ago. Of course, at the time, I never imagined that I'd be blogging so I didn't take note of its exact location. I wish I could give credit where it's due, but alas ... at any rate, it's simple and yet, sophisticated. I've made the tarts to start a schmancy meal and as an easy alternative to biscuits or bread with soup. Last evening, they sat beside a lovely cream of mushroom soup. A versatile little recipe ...

10 March 2012

Instruments of "Eeeew!"

I have always been the girl that has the butcher do the work for her ... but I was recently on YouTube and found an instructional vid on "how to splatch cock a chicken". Being clueless, and highly curious, I clicked in and after plugging my ears when the kitchen shears and boning knife came out, I watched the procedure. After the videographer got through with the snip and crunch, he cleaned up the little bird, and flipped it over to show just what a beautifully butterflied chicken looks like. I was sold. I kept telling myself that I could do this, do this, do this ...

Okay ... you can stop laughing if you are one of those that whacks away with nary a squeamish thought. This was a HUGE accomplishment for me. I've committed to one measly chicken and I feel great! I just want to know how all those farm wives EVER got over killing and plucking, and chopping up their sweet little chickens ... day after day! We won't even talk about Babe the pig or Bossie the cow!

Saturday Snapshot (s) - Fachwerk and Love

In the Spring of 2010, SB and I flew to Germany to visit dear friends and to take a junket to Dresden and Prague. On the way back from Dresden, we stopped at a beautiful Ludowingian castle called Das Wartburg near Eisenach. One section of the castle was a long wing comprised of this beautiful fachwerk - timbered construction that supports stone and plasterwork. The lighting was just beautiful that morning and to top it off there was a pair of doves nestled into a sunny corner. So romantic and lovely ... it seemed that my tourist snapshot couldn't get any prettier. I fell in love with the place.

The next Sunday, we went for a walk in the Odenwald near Weinheim ... up into the hills. The Spring breezes were really soft and warm that afternoon. I stopped at one point and turned off the trail to take a rest and just look ... it was the stuff of dreams for me. Just look ... I often think back to that day. I can't tell you how much I love the German countryside and miss our German friends.

What, where, or who do you dream on when you're feeling nostalgic ?

Now's your chance to post a dreamy snapshot of your own ... or view the other snapshots that have inspired the bloggers who join Alyce's weekly photoshare at her blog, at home with books. Hit the link above and see what everyone is sharing this week! You're always welcome to join in too! Cheers! Enjoy your weekend!

09 March 2012

Darina Allen and Christmas in March

If it can snow in March, then I guess I can bake one last wintertime dessert and give it my own snowy dusting! Darina Allen's recipe for Ballymaloe Mincemeat Crumble Tart is a highlight in her book of Christmas recipes. It was more than I could resist ...

06 March 2012

Cook's Illustrated - Black Bean Chili

I swear I make so many soups and stews that I should start another blog that's devoted to just those types of recipes! I make so many soups and stews that I'm running out of different bowls to use when I photograph a serving for a post! The women in the area consignmnent stores know me now and aim me in the direction of new stock when I walk through their doors! No kidding! One gal calls me 'the dish and platter girl' ...I suppose it could be worse...

These are the latest little finds ... they hold just about a cup and half . Perfect portion for a nice hot lunch ... don't you think? If the truth be told, they're probably salad bowls or dessert bowls, but I will use them for my soups and stews! They look pretty with my ancient Corningware plates. Yes, they were a good buy. To boot, I found some silverplate spoons and the sweetest little pickle fork ... yup, I'll be dressing up the photos a little bit from the usual dishes and spoons!

04 March 2012

The New American Plate - The Book and the Concept

My brother, Rich told me about this book a while ago and I poohed-poohed it, all the while knowing that he was concerned about me and was trying to pass on a good idea and some good recipes.

We all have to come to terms with weight loss and dietary control in our own time and it's taken me a while, but hey now ! I'm slowing coming around. The Weight Watchers membership has been a good first step. I'm managing to stay somewhat  mostly disciplined in my diet and as I get used to things like portion control, looking at the actual plate content analytically has started to kick in ... and here is where this cookbook comes in.

03 March 2012

Turkey Fried Rice

Making your own fried rice will spoil you ... it is so easy to put in more of what you like and less of what you don't. It's fresher than what you get in most Asian eateries and it's really not that hard to make if you just sharpen your knife and get chopping! Get yourself a good wok and some wooden or silicon spoons for stir frying and away you go!

An easy lunch that is nutritious and not too over the top ... turkey fried rice and a pot of tea ...

Saturday Snapshot - Last Summer's Colors

Last summer, I ran around like a crazy woman when we were threatened by Hurricane Irene. I knew the high winds and heavy rains would batter my pretty flowers, so I cut half a dozen bouquets from the last of the perfect blooms. It was a pretty few days in the grey cottage, despite the rains and flooding that happened all around us.

Flash forward ... It's been awfully brown all winter and then, just the other day, it became awfully white and blustery. Times like this bring on memories of those summer gardens. Looking at this snapshot, I can't decide which is my favorite flower - the colors makes me positively woozy. Yup ... it's cabin fever!

I've been flipping through the seed catalogues the last couple days.

I've been dreaming on flower beds ... what do you do when you've been struck by wintertime cabin fever?

Check out other bloggers' Saturday  Snapshots by visiting Alyce's blog, at home with books. The are a kazillion links to check out! Have fun!

02 March 2012

Farmers, CSA's, and Severine von Tscharner Fleming

 Photo Credit - Rich Pomerantz Photography

SvTF is the way I'm going to refer to her. I'm sure she must have a nickname that she goes by ... perhaps Madame Greenhorn ? She's worked very hard to bring organization and support to young farmers nation-wide through her efforts in forming The Greenhorns. The homesteading and CSA movements have blossomed while she has been recruiting the most enthusiastic of supporters in the fields of agriculture, film, art, technology, and marketing to jump on board the Greenhorns advocacy group and help promote its mission to recruit and support young farmers as they go up against the large agribusiness complex that threatens small scale farming. The organization's blog,  the irresistible fleet of bicycles , is a wealth of information on finding available farm land, farming issues, seminars for learning farming practices and business strategies, ways to advocate for the small farmer in the political arena, and celebrations of successes. This is grassroots organization in a 21st century world and technology is helping a lot! The Greenhorns organization, with SvTF as its director, has its hands in the worlds of on-line communication, independent film production, and radio.

SvTF is an eloquent advocate. Yes, she's on a mission. Sounds a little daunting, doesn't it?  Well, it is when you really think about it, but there are so many small farms struggling to grow good food and raise healthy animals to supply the American public with healthy local foodstuffs. CSA's are just the tip of the iceberg. Local farmer's markets are the place to really see what small farmers can provide. The networks that are formed through those markets and regional food festivals are the backbone of the locavore movement  ... and I'm sure SvTF is cheering the little explosions of enthusiastic support that are occurring all over this country (and the world!). Yup, she must be ... and giving small farmers a place to connect and collaborate ... and THAT's game changing. Period. Peace.

As an aside - For a really great look at SvTF and other young farmers who are jumping headlong into this resurging agricultural renaissance, see Rich Pomerantz's blog and, in particular, his Young Farmers series at Rich Pomerantz Photography . He's taken some amazing pictures and has given  great write-ups on all these young people.

01 March 2012

Betcha Can't Eat Just One ...

One of the things that Silent Bob loves the most are oatmeal cookies warm from the oven with a cold glass of milk ... these cookies are the best oatmeal cookies that you will ever have. Guaranteed.

They're fast and easy. They mix up in one bowl with no fuss and they're dropped helter skelter onto the cookies sheets and popped in the oven one batch - two batch - three batch. You get just about three dozen cookies ... enough for a party or for stocking the cookie jar.