Where The Sum Is Sometimes Better Than The Parts

I'm one of those folks who reads cookbooks for fun. Sometimes I don't have the correct ingredients, so I make do. Sometimes it even tastes good. And sometimes, if I'm really lucky, a miracle happens.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Last Time I Cooked Hardly Anybody Got Sick

    Have you ever seen that kitchen plaque that says "Last Time I Cooked Hardly Anybody Got Sick"? Our neighbor very generously gave us some of the wild chanterelle mushrooms he and his wife harvested. Now I have to admit, this made me a little nervous. But many people here eat them with relish (enthusiasm, not the pickle) year after year. Our neighbor sells them to restaurants, and most likely knows what he's doing...I hope.
 They hit the sauté pan right after the butter started singing a duet with the garlic...you know..that soft little sizzle noise? If it were a tango, it would be the slow steps followed by a dip.

   Meanwhile, the pork tenderloin was in the oven, and the wild rice and bulgar risotto was in the other pan. There was a pile of freshly grated Parmesan cheese in a dish. The smells....mmmmm.

One of my weak points in the kitchen is plating and presentation..or is that two? I don't know how you learn that. Ed says he doesn't care, as long as he gets to eat it. And on this particular day, he'd hurt his eye and couldn't see well anyway. Lucky him..all he could do was taste.

Now if I could only figure out how to get the camera to take pictures without washing out the color....

But wait...there's more! I had some left over strawberries from the garden that would spoil if I didn't use them soon. although I had a perfectly good recipe for fruit cobbler, I just HAD to try a new one. I was kind of suspicious at the volume of butter it called for...1/3 lb for the pan, and 1/4 lb for the batter. It came out like a brick...a buttery brick.
Ed liked it, but I thought it was very heavy. sometimes it's just best to stick with the tried and true recipes.

Friday, August 6, 2010


     I bought pasta bowls yesterday. I've been looking for the perfect bowls for some time. I wanted them to be big enough for a generous portion. Maybe sides high enough to hold bouillabaisse or chowder and a hunk of bread. Or I could use them for a dinner sized caesar salad with grilled chicken...
    I found them at Ross. At $4 each I could hardly lose. Well, actually they're made in China so they're probably filled with lead or some such thing and I'll wind up poisoning my guests, in which case we'd all lose, but I digress. Generous size, high sides, interestingly shaped, inexpensive. I'll take six, and take my chances with the lead.
  These are some of the eggs my girls crank out, used here for scale. Yes, one is green. Dr. Seuss would be proud.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Is It Still Lasagna?

  I made lasagna this afternoon. Italianates and food purists should probably just take their leave now, because this definitely isn't traditional.
   I started with whole wheat pasta. I like Ronzoni. It's readily available and to be honest, I don't detect a noticeable difference in texture or flavor, although I'll be the first to admit I don't have a sensitive palate.
Sauce goes in the (disposable) pan. Yes....I do use ready made sauce. So sue me. I use the noodles uncooked and spread the ricotta on the noodle just like peanut butter on a graham cracker.

  I thawed out a package of chopped spinach, sauteed a Walla Walla onion, and about a 1/2lb. of sliced mushrooms, and put them in a bowl all together. I used 1 1/2 leftover chicken breast, diced, mostly because that's what I had. I've been known to use leftover Something In A Tortilla meat (an upcoming episode), with good result. I had grated cheese at the ready. So it goes together like this:

Sauce in the pan, layer of ricotta coated noodles, veggies.

Meat, cheese, more sauce. Repeat.

The last layer is noodles without ricotta, although I can't imagine more ricotta would be a bad thing. Is that possible? Then a good layer of sauce. I don't skimp on the amount of sauce because the uncooked noodles absorb a lot of moisture. One more layer of grated cheese. Today I didn't have any mozzarella cheese (what was I thinking?), so I used what I had on hand, which is how this blog got started in the first place. Grated Monterey jack and mild cheddar in this case. Oh don't make that face...just wait..

   I covered the whole thing with foil and baked it for 45 minutes, then uncovered and continued to bake for another 15 minutes. You should smell this kitchen!          
Did I mention I made bread?  Our friends and neighbors Don and Kitty have a bed and breakfast down the road, the beautiful Inn At Crippin Creek ( www.crippencreek.com ). They also offer cooking classes. And my friends, they are REAL cooks. Anyway I took a bread making class from them, and now I don't feel intimidated by the thought of making a loaf or two for dinner. Of course, their loaves are much more beautifully formed.

 A loaf of bread, a glass of wine, a nice salad, and whole wheat chicken lasagna. Life is good.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tastes Like Chicken


   My granddaughter is staying with me for several weeks this summer. The secondary benefit from that is that my daughter and her husband get some "we" time. And what better way to spend it than cooking for each other. Food is nurturing by definition, both nutritionally and emotionally.

   Dan made chicken picatta with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Oh Yum! I think the problem I have when I try to make this dish is that I try to cut too many corners in order to cut the calorie count. I saute the chicken instead of coating it..stuff like that. Sometimes the hit you take in flavor just isn't worth it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

So It's Not Risotto

   Yesterday I wanted to have a simple supper. I decided to make a rice dish as the main dish, but could I leave well enough alone? Noooooo. After checking out supplies in the pantry and the fridge, I decided to make an almost-risotto-wild-rice-bulgar-thingie-with-asparagas-and-mushrooms.
   I like adding bulgar to rice dishes. It boosts the protein and fiber content without significantly impacting taste or texture. Usually I mix it half and half. So here's how it went together.
     I started with a box of of RiceARoni Long Grain and Wild Rice mix. Ok so sue me. Open the box, pour the grains in a measuring cup, set aside the flavor packet, and throw away the directions on the box. Now, whatever the rice mix measures to (I think it was just about 3/4 of a cup),  pour in an equal part of bulgar. Assuming my memory serves, that would put the measured grains at 1 1/2 cups. You're a smart person... it's not surgery, it's food. Put the grains in a pan and add the flavor packet (I use a covered skillet). Double the amount of liquid as grain. I used 2 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup whatever white wine was open, and put it into the rice. You can begin heating the rice now, but I waited until I had the asparagus and mushrooms ready.
     I cut 1/2 lb asparagus into 1" pieces and put them in a separate skillet along with a handful of diced mushrooms, sauteed them for a few minutes in some butter, then added them to the rice. Once the rice pan was simmering, I turned it onto low and let it cook for 30 minutes.
    While the rice was cooking, I grated some lemon zest, and a fat 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. When the rice was done, I tossed in the lemon zest, the cheese, and served it with a nice salad.
     Was it that perfect creaminess that is risotto? Nope. Did I aggravate my  shoulder with all that stirring? Nope.  Was there any left after dinner? Nope.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kaiser Permanente-Survive..er..Thrive

 Sometimes Life's road is uphill. This time it is not only uphill but full of switchbacks and rockslides. I've been out of state for the last six weeks helping my sister take care of Mom. At 88, Mom is usually an energetic, independent woman. With one misdiagnoses after another, she has been through a very tough time. We hope to get her home this week and back on her very busy two feet.    Thank you, everyone for your prayers and patience.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Banana Nana Fo Fanna

Last week after running errands all day I was pretty tired, so I stopped at Sharon's Pizza and picked up a bake-at-home pizza. Well, it sat out on the counter for two hours, and by the time I put it in the oven, man that yeast was happening! What is better than bread, cheese and veggies?!

Yesterday I wanted to make Ed something special since he was working so hard on the house construction, so I made his favorite cake. Banana Pecan Cranberry Rum cake.

I always use buttermilk when I bake. It gives a nice rise to the cake. Dried cranberries add a little color. Now the thing about bananas.., You know how it is. You buy a bunch of bananas, you eat four of them and then the other two sit on the counter until they get a little...unruly. I just peel them, put two in a ziplock sandwich bag, and put them in the freezer. When I want to make something bananay (is that a word?), I just take them out. At this point they look really awful. They're really brown, mushy and liquidy. Not to fear. Take them out of the bag, liquid and all, mash them up, or use a whisk, and put them in the batter. Besides, considering how much rum goes into the cake, who cares what the bananas looked like?