Monday, April 30, 2012

Playtime and Homes and Hearty Pasta

I had a play date today with my favorite 2 year old Miss Gravyboat...yes she told me to call her that. I highly recommend this kind of date. All play and no work is a delightful change from the rest of my life and the world is a pretty wonderful, fun place when seen through those two year old eyes. We started off with the Hokey Pokey sung by meow voices, followed it with a song sung by dancing cows...so we danced both times. A very zen song about belly buttons was also a hit. The Color Kittens book was read, we played with crayons and were silly with the color names we gave them, had a stuffed animal parade and dressed Madeline, drew cats and tossed plastic flowers into baskets. I even found out that the best thing to do with a TV clicker is to bang on it. Miss G gravely assured me that mommy does it that way.

When it was almost nap time she covered me up with a trio of blankets then changed her mind and gathered them up again and settled down in the sun with a stuffed kitty and an armload of other stuffed toys. I love children who know when they are tired and get settled for a nap so easily. As you can see, I didn't really babysit..I was just an oversized playmate who enjoyed a brief time of being a kid again.

One of the reasons for this happy time is that the family will be moving to a new home soon and Mom needed to pack. Much easier to do if Miss G has a friend over to play with. We talked over coffee while the little one napped and discussed some of the kinds of choices involved in choosing a new home. That got me to thinking about my top criteria for a place to live. I think my current home has the big ones covered:

- sunny inside and outside, but with periodic days that have fog, too
- not too big
- room for a garden

- outbuildings for storage and shop
- not too far away from town
- not too far from the ocean
- not too far from the city (San Francisco)
- a place where it is OK to be of a liberal outlook
- a place that doesn't have to be kept neat to please the neighborhood

One of the few things I do miss about our current home is not being within walking distance of anything except the gas station/store out on the highway a mile and a half away. When we lived in Berkeley I loved being able to walk to lots of places, including the downtown.

One of the things that I have found but didn't think about when we were looking for a place is that there are so many wonderful food producers in this neck of the woods. The fellow just outside of town has started selling his amazing strawberries again. A neighbor sells fresh eggs. I used to work at the farm of a woman who sells raspberries and goat cheese. My new neighbor is a cheese maker in Marin. As a food blogger all of this bounty is very much appreciated...and not taken for granted. And then there is the easy availability of world class wine....

What things are on your list for choosing where to live?

Guess I should include a recipe today since the last post didn't have one. Tonight's dinner was a good one, inspired by a fellow giving tastes of chicken sausage at a local market over the weekend. The tip is to cook the sausages in with the pasta. That way the pasta carries the taste of the sausage, too. It really did make a difference. Instead of a bite of sausage, then a bite of pasta with no sausage taste, each bite had some sausage flavor to it. This is a pretty quick meal, too, if you have the ingredients on hand.


Tri-color Tortellini with Chicken Sausage
makes enough for two...but can be doubled easily

1/2 package frozen tri-color tortellini pasta
1 small tomato, finely diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 jar good quality pasta sauce...we used Newman's Own
2 chicken sausages...we used Saags
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Bring water to boil in a large pot.
While the water is coming to a boil, gather the tomato, chopped parsley, chopped oregano and pasta sauce together.
When the water in the pot boils, add the tortellini and stir gently. Add the two sausages and bring water back to the boil. Lower heat to simmer. Let the sausages cook 5 minutes, then remove to a cutting board. Let the pasta continue to cook. Slice the cooked sausages into bite sized slices.
When the pasta is cooked, pour into a colander in the sink to drain off the water.
While pasta is draining, put the tomato, parsley, oregano and pasta sauce into the pot the pasta cooked in. Stir and heat the sauce. Add the sliced sausage and drained pasta. Stir gently to coat all.
Serve while hot. If desired, garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

I served this with a Caesar salad and it made a very nice meal.

By the way, I LOVE lurkers! I like comments, too, but I'm just happy that you choose to visit my blog and sometimes read my posts. WELCOME y'all !!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Milestones

For years I never looked at the stats for this blog. I guess I was afraid to see how few people looked at my efforts. Now that Blogger has changed the interface I see those stats often. Just passed the 120,000 pageviews for the life of this blog...who knew? That's a lot of people visiting at least one page. Woot!

Another milestone is the celebration of another year of marriage. The theory is that it gets easier with time. My experience is that marriage more closely resembles the roads around here; ups and downs, gentle and not so gentle curves, smooth some of the time but rocky, too. Right now seems to be well paved and only mild curves and few hills which is nice after some rocky times a year ago. Mostly I feel lucky...and that's a fine way to feel. Sweetie and I look forward to more time together, God willing.

To celebrate we took a drive (how appropriate, right?) last weekend south and west, over those up and down country roads, past lush green hills, grazing cows, colorful wildflowers and all kinds of barns. A seafood lunch at Tony's in Marshall was uncrowded and excellent.

It was amusing along the road there and after to see the cars lining both sides of the road for long stretches at Hog Island Oysters, Tomales Oysters and at Nick's Cove where the seafood isn't any better, especially the oysters, but the crowds are abundant this time of year.


Another beautiful drive took us to Pt. Reyes and the Cowgirl Creamery building for tastes of exquisite cheeses that cost over $30 a pound or more, although there are some that are more reasonable. I happen to love their Red Hawk cheese so we took some home to enjoy during the week. It is rich and semi-soft and a bit smelly but soooo good. Another beautiful drive took us over the hill past the McAvoy Ranch with all of their grey-green olive trees and into Petaluma. We even found a farm stand with fresh strawberries picked in a field nearby. What a wonderful spring day it was!

Are you celebrating any milestones any time soon? Want to share?

Other things that have been keeping me busy include getting my comfort food cookbook off to the publisher, lots of time in the garden weeding, mulching, preparing to plant and...yay!...planting the squash and tomato seedlings (plus I gave away over 6 dozen tomato seedlings this week) and spraying cayenne laced water over the lily shoots that are just sprouting, on the roses to discourage the deer, and over the iris buds because I'm not sure if the deer like them or not. They apparently don't eat tulips, so I have some beautiful ones and they have lasted a while, bringing cheer to the garden.


Sweetie and I have been working on finishing up the new door into the utility room because it has an animal door in it and we hope to get a new dog by summer. It is hilarious to see our cat trying to decide if he wants to use this new door or not. He has trained us to open the other doors in the house for him and we did so because the old animal door opens now onto weeds. It's not unreasonable on our parts to expect him to use the new door which can be reached without getting any dirt on his paws, but it is also not unreasonable for the cat to expect us to continue to open any door he chooses to use. Fortunately positive reinforcement works! Each time he came through the new door this week, I rewarded him with some kitty treats and lavish praise. Now he saunters through as if there is no need to consider any other entrance...this one will do.

Other enjoyable pastimes include the gym in the usual way, the scholarship group meetings, the art class where I am painting tomatoes in expectation of even better ones come September, and work on a friend's childrens' book. Meals with friends and bread baking are constants and very satisfying. How did I ever have time to work?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Strawberries of Spring in Scones


Last Saturday Sweetie and I celebrated our anniversary with a road trip south along the coast. A seafood lunch was followed by some hiking and cheese buying and the views of the spring countryside along the way were wonderful! Shortly before reaching home we found a farm stand selling fresh strawberries, so fresh that their sweet fragrance was intense. The vendor said that they were picked right next door and, sure enough, when we looked across the dirt parking lot we saw dark green rows of plants not far away. Few things are more welcome in the kitchen than fresh, first-of-spring, local strawberries!

Naturally most of the strawberries were eaten fresh after a quick rinse. I did put a few into some scones and I had a hard time getting photos of them before they were eaten up.

One of the secrets to having tender scones, instead of hard hockey puck lumps that often pass for scones, is to handle the ingredients gently and as little as possible. I was lucky enough to have some unsalted butter in the freezer. Instead of cutting it in to the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, I used the shredding disc on my food processor and shredded the frozen butter, then cut it in. I think I learned that trick by reading Julia Child's method for quick puff pastry. Anyway, it works really well.

I also used my spread apart fingers for mixing in the last of the buttermilk with the final bits of dry ingredients because it was easier to be gentle that way. A quick pat of the dough into a rough round and it was time to cut the round into 8 pieces with the bench scraper and into the oven they went. The oven heat made the strawberries smell even more wonderful than when we bought them. These scones are amazing! They are buttery, only slightly sweet, and bursting with bits of delicious strawberry. A sprinkle of sanding sugar on top gives them a nice crunch on the outsides which contrasts with the softness of the insides.

Fresh Strawberry Buttermilk Scones
a variation on Blueberry Buttermilk Scones from Baking in America by Greg Patent
Makes 8 scones

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, plus a bit more for glazing the top
1 tablespoon sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with cooking parchment or a silicone liner; Set aside.

Sift the flours, baking soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Grate the butter using the shredding disc on your food processor if butter is frozen, or cut the butter (which has been cut into tablespoon-sized pieces) into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or two knives. Be gentle. Use your finger to work the butter rapidly into large flakes. Add the strawberries and raisins and toss with your fingers to coat evenly.

Pour the buttermilk into the strawberry mixture and stir and fold gently with a rubber spatula. Use your fingers, spread out, to gently work the last bit of very moist dough into the last dry bits. The dough will be thick. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface and dust it lightly with flour. Shape gently into an 8-inch disc. Brush a bit of extra buttermilk over the disc and sprinkle on the sanding sugar, if using. Use a bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the disc into eight pieces.


Transfer each piece carefully to the prepared pan, setting the scones slightly apart. Bake in the preheated oven 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to cooling racks with a large spatula and serve warm or at room temperature. These are great without any additional embellishments, but do taste good with butter, jam or lemon curd added.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Babes Bake Beer Bread - Eh?

This April we are gathered round Natashya's kitchen table at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies (take care to not step on any doggies) as we bake a lovely Canadian bread; Granville Island Beer Bread which has a full 12 oz of beer in it. Surely you have some left over from Spring Break, right? Thanks goes to Chuck at CookingBread.com for generously allowing us to use and print the recipe.


I'm glad that the Babes don't abide by too many rules because I did change things a bit with this recipe. For starters, literally, I used some of my sourdough starter instead of the 'night before' mixture. I also don't care for dried onion flakes, so I kneaded some caramelized onions into the dough along with the sausage and cheese. Some of the flour became whole wheat flour and a few flax seeds made it into the dough, too. I did use the full 12 oz. of beer though. Changes I made are noted in italics in the recipe.


With all those changes it is still basically the same bread flavors with a tiny twist. Excellent bread toasted and used for a BLT  since I used pork sausage for the sausage part. Pretty tasty just sliced and devoured. It was still warm from the oven when we tried that with some of it for dinner, along with a salad.

So hats off to the Canadians! Give this a try yourself, send Natashya an e-mail telling her of your experience with it and include a photo (and do this by April 29th) to be included in the round-up and to get your April Buddy badge.

Sending this over to Susan for the marvelous Yeast Spotting weekly event. Thanks for keeping it going Susan! It is a blast to check out all the great breads each week.

Last, but certainly not least, do check out the other Bread Baking Babes' sites to see their take on this savory delight. The links are to the right.


Granville Island Beer Bread

Ingredients

Night before: (I used my sourdough starter)
1¼ cups bread flour
¾ cup tepid water
¼ teaspoon instant yeast

Day of:
1 - 12 oz bottle beer (room temperature)
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons dried onion flakes (skipped this)4 teaspoon instant yeast
1½ tsp salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ cup sugar
4 - 4½ cups bread flour (I used half whole wheat flour)
1½ cups farmers sausage
2 - 3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Method
The night before combine 1¼ cup of bread flour, ¾ cup tepid water and ¼ teaspoon instant yeast, cover with plastic wrap and set aside till next day.(I used 1 1/2 cups of my sourdough starter.)

The next morning pour the night before mixture into a large bowl. Add in the room temp. bottle of beer, olive oil, dried onion flakes (left these out), 1 cup of bread flour, instant yeast, salt, pepper and sugar, with a wooden spoon mix all these ingredients together till well blended.

Mix in another 1½ cups of flour (used some whole wheat here). Sprinkle some more flour onto a flat surface. Pour out the wet dough onto the floured surface, place a little more flour on top. Start to knead the dough and continue to add a little flour till the dough becomes smooth (a little on the tacky side). Knead the dough for about 8 minutes, then place into a lightly oiled bowl, turn the dough over so all the sides are lightly coated. Cover with plastic and let rise for 1 hour or till it has doubled in size.

Sprinkle a little flour onto a flat surface and pour out the dough. Add the farmers sausage or any other cooked sausage you like (I also added 1 medium onion, chopped that I had cooked slowly in 1 tablespoon olive oil until caramelized to a golden brown). Add 1 cup of cheese and knead till all incorporated. Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest for another 15 minutes. Afterwards cut dough in half, shape into loaves and place onto a cornmeal parchment lined cookie sheet (I used a loaf pan for one loaf - I made three because I increased the starter amount and flour amounts so I had a lotta dough!). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour. Using a sharp knife score the dough about an inch deep. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese on top of the loaves. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes or till a thermometer places into middle of loaf reads 180F-190F. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.


Classic Devilled Eggs

It's been a social week for me and one of the fun events was a party for the Giants opener. I'm not a huge baseball fan but I enjoy the women who were coming to the party and as it turned out I had a good time watching our 'local' team win their first game of the season. While our group in the north bay was experiencing periods of sun followed by showers followed by clouds and more rain, the Giants fans were bathed in sunlight and a cool breeze.

A party like this deserves hot dogs, which we had, but also a nice pot luck array of dishes. I brought devilled eggs and discovered in the morning that I didn't have a recipe, nor had I blogged about this egg dish in all the years I've been blogging. Who knew? Fortunately I was able to adapt my Mom's recipe. She uses a dressing called Durkee's but I've never seen it in the stores here. I substituted in mustard, salt and pepper and a touch of cider vinegar for it. A dash of cayenne give a hint of heat (but add more if you are feeling really devilish) and paprika on top is traditional and pretty.


Devilled Eggs - Classic

Makes 12 halves, but can be doubled easily

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
2 tablespoons Light Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon prepared mustard
¼ teaspoon cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
dash ground cayenne pepper or more to taste
Paprika for garnish, and/or chopped parsley to garnish

Hard boil the eggs and cool. Remove eggshells.

Cut each egg in half. Pop out (remove) the egg yolks to a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper, cayenne and mix thoroughly. Fill the empty egg white shells with the mixture and sprinkle lightly with paprika.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Orange-Lemon Yogurt Bread

Our scholarship group met this morning and had some of this bread with our coffee and some red grapes. I think you might enjoy this quick bread, too.

Orange-Lemon Yogurt Bread makes one loaf
2/3 cup butter softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I substituted 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice for some of the OJ)
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Glaze
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 teaspoons orange juice
some grated orange zest

Topping
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Add the yogurt, orange juice and zest and combine. Mixture may be curdled looking...that is OK.



Combine the dry ingredients and add to the batter and mix just until combines.

Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 55-60 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if top browns to quickly.

Place warm bread, still in pan or on a platter or board, where you can glaze it. Mix together the glaze. Poke holes in the top of the bread and pour the glaze over the top, letting the glaze settle into the holes. OK if some runs down the side. Let bread cool completely. (I refrigerated it at this point.) Mix together the topping and pour over the top. Because the topping is less runny than the glaze, it should cover the holes. Let topping setup, about 1 hour. Cut and serve in thin slices.



This is a moist, tangy loaf and goes great with your favorite cup or coffee or tea. This photo doesn't show the final topping, so you can see those holes in the top.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More Rhubarb

We have been having some rain and cool weather for most of this month so it has been enjoyable to bake things. The cooler weather has also allowed my tulips to stay around much longer than usual, so I have been able to enjoy first some yellow and lavendar ones, then pink and red ones and now the later yellow ones while still having the pink ones looking good.
The only downside is that the ground has stayed cool, too. I did plant out some zucchini squash plants that had gotten too big to stay indoors. They seem to be OK but I don't expect much growth from them for a while until it warms up some. I have dozens and dozens of tomato seedlings so I hope it warms up soon so they can get planted, too.

  My recently planted rhubarb plant looks pathetic but a friend has been generous with stalks of her gorgeous rhubarb so I've been enjoying this plant that always reminds me of spring.


Although rhubarb cut up and cooked with a little sugar is a fine thing all by itself, it also lends itself to a very Irish dish, the rhubarb crumble. I suspect that this is also a very British dish and who knows how many places enjoy it for 'pud'. The lovely thing about it is that it is quick and simple and delicious, too.

Rhubarb Crumble for 4-6

3-4 stalks fresh rhubarb, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar or to taste
4 tablespoons all-purpose or whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter

Place the rhubarb and water, plus sugar as needed, into a shallow, wide ovenproof pan...I use our cast iron skillet. Cover and cook the rhubarb for 20 minutes at medium heat. While rhubarb is cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

When the rhubarb has cooked for about 10 minutes, make the crumble: In a medium bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt and nutmeg. Work in the cold butter with your fingertips or use a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture is crumbly and clumpy.

Uncover the pan and crumble that mixture evenly over the hot fruit. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown. Serve while still warm. Good with a garnish of whipped cream.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Easter Egg Bread Loaves

 Since I have a sweet tooth a mile wide I love Easter with the multitude of candies in the stores all ready for the Easter basket. I often make sweet rolls for Easter brunch, too. But not everyone loves all things sweet so this year I'm surprising Grandma Loyce with her own Easter egg, but it is a savory bread egg since she doesn't do sweets.

I started with a bread recipe that uses pumpkin. The recipe started with raw pumpkin but I had a can of processed pumpkin so I used that. I added some garlic since I once made a yam bread that included garlic and it was a great flavor combination so I figured that this bread could profit from a little garlic, too. The pumpkin gave the dough a lovely golden color.

 For the decorations I decided to use a flour and water paste as is sometimes done to make the cross on hot cross buns, but I divided it into two ZipLoc plastic bags. One was flavored with finely minced parsley and colored with a few drops of green food color. The other one was given a shot of catsup and a drop of red food coloring. As you can see in the photos the green kept its color better than the red during baking. Each egg was sliced across toward the top and bottom to give the dough room to expand in the oven. I put a band of the red paste across those, then added a green zig-zag and dots and then some red dots, too. The end result was two colorful loaves that look a bit like colored Easter eggs and smell like the best bread.

I intend to wait until tomorrow to slice up the one I made for Sweetie and me and I look forward to surprising Grandma with her own loaf of colorful Easter cheer. This bread is supposed to make a fine soft bread that toasts well. We will see.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!


Savory Easter Eggs
Based on Pumpkin Bread in Flavored Breads by Linda Collister
 14 oz. canned pumpkin puree (Not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 packet (about 2.25 oz.) active dry yeast proofed in 1/4 cup lukewarm water
3 cups (more or less) bread flour
extra flour for dusting
1/2 cup flour
water

Mix the pumpkin puree and olive oil in a a large bowl. Mix in the sea salt and sugar. Set aside.

Add the proofed yeast to the pumpkin mixture.

Stir in 1 cup of flour. Let sit 2 minutes. Stir in another cup of flour. Let sit 2 minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead in additional flour. Dough will be soft but not sticky.

Put into an oiled proofing bowl or container, turning dough over to coat with oil. Set in a warm draft free place, lightly covered with plastic wrap or a shower cap, until double in bulk. (I had to leave the dough for 3-4 hours, so I set it in the fridge and did the proofing when I returned. It was time to cook dinner, not shape bread, when it had doubled, so I punched it down in the proofing container, pulled the edges of the dough over the ball of dough a few timed, made sure it was still coated with oil, then let it rise again. In general, you can do this a number of times and the bread will be better for it if you have the time.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and divide in half. Shape each half into an egg shape, being sure to pull the edges of dough under the dough ball to form a 'skin'. It may be necessary to knead in additional flour as you shape the loaves in order to have a dough firm enough to retain the egg shape. Place shaped egg (loaf) on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat silicon mat, cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled.

While loaves are doubling, mix together the 1/2 cup flour with just enough water to make a thick paste. Divide in half and put each half into a plastic bag that can be sealed. To one bag add 1 tablespoon finely minced parsley and a few drops green food coloring. Mix the paste with the parsley and coloring until completely. Mixed. Repeat with another bag, the rest of the paste, about a tablespoon catsup and a drop or two of red food coloring.

Once loaves have doubled, use a sharp knife to score each egg towards the top and towards the bottom across the egg shape. Cut a small corner out of the red paste bag and pipe the paste over each score. Cut a slightly larger corner out of the green paste bag and pipe a green zig-zag shape across the center of each egg, then pipe dots toward the top and bottom of each egg. Pipe some dots from the red paste bag if desired.
 Shortly before loaves have doubled preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Decorate the eggs as described above. Bake the decorated loaves in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Loaf will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped. Let cool before slicing. If you want to make yours a gift, too, you can place the egg(s) in a basket that has been lined with the Easter grass that is shredded paper. Add a bow if you like and watch the recipient's joy at having an Easter present that isn't candy (or give them candy, too). Makes two small loaves.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Thanks Dad! Thanks Mom!

Perhaps I shouldn't be thanking my parents since I hope to live a long life and this recipe, if eaten often, would not be considered one that supports good health. The good news is that I only make it about once every five or six years so I suspect that other poor eating choices will ruin me before Fried Chicken ever gets a chance.

You might be tempted to make this with the skin removed, but resist that impulse. Go for this version with it's mid-century innocence when we didn't know that fried foods could clog arteries. If the oil is hot enough the skin doesn't absorb too much and some fat will fall through the cooling rack rungs to the bottom of the cookie sheet, so there, it's almost virtuous. Also it's totally delicious.

This is pure comfort food in my book! Warm, juicy savory mouth watering fried chicken with a crisp golden brown skin. I used organic Rosie brand cut up chicken and was really pleased with the flavor. If you are only going to enjoy this treat every now and then find the best bird you can to cook up.


One trick to making the crust crispy is the have the oil hot enough, especially for the breast pieces. The skin browns quickly without overcooking the meat itself. I also chilled my chicken pieces for 1/2 hour after I breaded them. That meant that a few pieces needed an additional light dusting with flour, but again it allowed the skin to brown without the heat overtaking the interior. The meat gets cooked in the oven and since the browned skin keeps the chicken juices in, every piece comes out bursting with flavor and juicy deliciousness.

So now you know why I say 'Thanks' to my Dad. He loved this chicken and made sure that we learned how to cook it. We had it for dinner, but also cooked it up in advance if we were going to take it on a picnic. It's excellent cold, too. My Mom gets the biggest 'Thanks' because she showed us how to cook this up right and gave me the recipe, too, so that I could pass it on to you.



Oven Baked Fried Chicken
Good hot with biscuits, or cold for a picnic to Izaak Walton lake, this has been a long-time family favorite.

1 cup flour ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning 1 frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces Vegetable oil for frying In a deep dish or pie pan stir together the flour, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Coat chicken in the flour mixture, shake off excess and set aside on a piece of waxed paper. (Note: At this point I chill the chicken for a half hour).

Heat oil (1 inch deep) in deep frying pan or chicken fryer until oil is quite hot (350-375 degrees F). Brown chicken a few pieces at a time. Place on cooling racks set in a cookie sheet with sides. When all pieces are brown, finish cooking chicken in 325 degree F. oven until tender (about 20 minutes).

Still enjoying the tulips in my garden. Here is a close up that shows the beautiful markings on the interior.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

An Early Spring Salad


Right now is the transition time between winter salads and spring salads. There are certainly asparagus which can be blanched or steamed and added to your salad and avocados are plentiful, too. In general, though if you are going seasonal, there will be a wait for local tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and beans to liven the salad bowl.

One of the great additions to salads right now are beets. One of our local farms have them from thumb sized to super large. The local market had organic Chiogga beets on sale so I bought some, took them home, cleaned them well with a brush and water, trimmed off some of the roots, oiled them lightly, wrapped them in foil and baked them in the toaster oven at 350 until they were tender when pierced with a knife (about 25 minutes). Since I didn't need them for the salad until the next day, I just kept them in the foil packet and put that right in the fridge. I peeled and sliced them when it was time to make the salad.

The dressing for this salad also uses a seasonal ingredient...fresh orange juice and zest. I'm not sure why but oranges and beets go really well together. The greens are mixed organic baby greens and I tossed them with the dressing, piled them on salad plates, then coated the peeled, sliced beets and some peeled, separated mandarin orange slices in the dressing. Arrange the dressed fruit and beets over the dressed salad greens, then scatter some candied pecans over it all and serve.

The tender Chiogga beets are really pretty with the rings of color, plus they don't 'bleed' while you are preparing them like red beets do. Their flavor is a bit more mellow, too. Do try this easy salad while you are waiting for future bounty from the garden. You may not even miss vine ripened tomatoes (too much).

Here's some spring flowers to get you in the mood.


Citrus Vinaigrette

Juice from one large orange (about 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons orange zest, colored part only
1/2 teaspoon Dijon type mustard
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Fasten the lid and shake until the dressing emulsifies. Remove the lid, taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Keep chilled until you use it and chill any left over.


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Hearty Bean Soup


It surely is spring but a rainy one here. I love the rain, love the sound of it, the sight of drops running down the window and splashing in the puddles on the walkway. I'm thrilled that we are finally getting some good soaking wetness after a fairly dry winter. Unlike where I grew up we don't get summer rains so our trees and plants and water table require winter rains for optimal health. Here is a photo of a daffodil I brought inside to add cheer.


One of the things I enjoy when it's raining outside is to make soup. This one, Country Bean and Cabbage Soup, is a family favorite for a couple of reasons. First of all, it makes a LOT! If you are expecting a hungry hoard to arrive, for example within a few days before Christmas, this is the perfect hearty meal to have waiting in the fridge. That's another reason; it tastes even better a day or two after it's made so you can make it before the rush of activities that come with the hoards. A third reason is that it is delicious and used good-for-you beans and cabbage. If you only have the tail end of a ham to go into the pot as I did, that's OK, too. The ham bone contributes a great flavor to the soup. I was out of parsley when I made it...it still tasted fine, but it's even better with parsley. I think the recipe originally came from the Six Minute Soufflé Cookbook, but don't quote me on that.

 New on the home front includes work that Sweetie did today to fit a dog door into our new utility room entry door. He still needs to replace the door jamb and threshold and I still need to paint it all, but it brings us closer to being able to have a dog again. I'm finding it hard to wait.

Other news includes my labors today (in the sun since it rained yesterday when I was making the soup but not today) of potting up 64 seedlings into larger peat pots with more potting soil. Most were various varieties of heirloom tomato, but a few where golden chard and rainbow chard seedlings. So far I only have one lemon cucumber seedling, but I hope a few more sprout soon. I'm looking forward to a big garden and a lot of fun giving seedlings away to friends and neighbors.


Country Bean & Cabbage Soup

2 1/3 cup dry pea beans (Great Northern, white beans)
1 3-lb cooked picnic ham, bone in
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 carrots, quartered and sliced
5 sprigs parsley + 2 bay leaves tied together
2 medium onion, sliced, plus 1 onion stuck with 3 whole cloves
4 garlic cloves, mashed
½ teaspoon EACH dried thyme & ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 can tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small head green cabbage, sliced in 1/4” slices

Cover beans with cold water and let stand overnight.
Drain, cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and soak for 1 hour.
Drain & rinse; return beans to the pot.
Add ham. Add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a low simmer and simmer 15 minutes.
Add the vegetables, herbs, onions and seasonings to pot. Cover and simmer 1 ½ hours.
Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer ½ hour. If tomatoes stay whole, chop them up with a spoon.
Add the cabbage and simmer ½ hour.
Make a roux of 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour, cooked in a small pan until light brown. Add it to soup.
Remove herb bouquet and whole onion. Simmer 15 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper as needed.