Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'll be gone for a bit

Off to the biggest little city for some vacating. Won't be posting for about a week. Hopefully I'll be back with some good culinary stories.
Seeya in about a week!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese Tea Ceremony has fascinated me, probably since Karate Kid. I'm not sure why. The discipline, the ritual, the sacredness perhaps. It's just beautiful. I guess when you don't have those kinds of rituals in your life, you're fascinated by it in others. I again became fascinated by the ritual after reading Memoirs of a Geisha. Japanese society and their rituals became even more intriguing. To top it off I love Maccha. I'm not a huge tea fan. I have lots of it in my cupboard, because I'm always trying to make myself like it. I figure it would be better to drink it in the morning rather than coffee, in order not to raise my blood pressure. I should drink chamomile in the evenings rather than wine, but I just can't enjoy it the same. But! The one tea I do enjoy is powdered green tea, or maccha. The flavor is just so intense. It's got a brightness to it that I can't explain and it goes so well with something slightly sweet. So, I began my hunt for Maccha, both here in Humboldt and on line. I had no success, until on my and my husbands anniversary we walked into a little shop called All Under Heaven on 212 F St. in Eureka CA. They had little tins of Maccha along with tea bowls and bamboo whisks. I told my husband, "that's what I want for Christmas". Well he couldn't remember the whisk, but he did remember the Maccha. Yeah Me!
So, last night I pulled out my tin of Christmas Maccha served up the girls, me and my husband an impromptu Japanese Tea Ceremony. This is what you do:

First you clean the serving bowls and boil the water. Serve a sweet treat before serving the tea (I served dried figs) You mix the Maccha and water and whisk it until it's frothy. The contrast of the bitterness of the tea and the sweetness of the treat served before represents harmony. (I just love Japanese traditions - they're so cool).

When you receive the tea or chauwan take it in your right hand, place the cup in your left palm and turn clockwise three times before you drink. When you're done, slurp loudly to express how good the tea was.

Wipe the cheuwan where your lips touched with our right hand, turn counter clockwise and return to the host.

This type of tea ceremony is called a chakai and will take from 20 minutes to an hour. (We probably squeezed it into 10 minutes - that's about all you can manage with a 10 and 5 year old.) We were no where near honoring a traditional tea ceremony. That would take years of practice, but it was fun introducing our children to another culture's traditions. One that can be centering, artful, even religious. The Japanese have so many beautiful traditions that are artful and centering. I think it's wonderful that many of them center around food and drink, such as this tea ceremony. I think our culture could use more sacredness around our food and drink. It would make eating more precious, and less of a sport, and more of a wholesome part of our lives, rather than an issue.

I think I'll consider making more of my own sacred traditions when it comes to food in my and my family's lives. Maybe you should too?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas cookie frenzie

Sunday night was the night to make Christmas cookies, after a long day of decorating the house and warming up from our trip to the snow to get our tree the day before. Of course we had to have gingerbread men, so being lazy and tired I picked up a package of gingerbread cookie mix and we went to town making cookies

My oldest helped me mix the batter, roll it out with grandma's rolling pin and cut out the shapes. She's old enough now to stick them in the oven without my help. God help me the teenage years are speeding towards me like a truck with no breaks on an 8 % downhill grade!
After the first batch cooled my youngest proceeded to decorate.....

Happily my best friend "auntie" Laurie stopped by and spent a Christmassy evening with us. She seemed to more then enjoy herself helping the girls out with decorating. It was fun to talk about good times we've had with our families, and the times we've had together over the years, and to just be silly kids with the girls and make a big mess of the kitchen. The first round. Looking pretty Christmassy.

My oldest having waaaay too much fun with the sugar shaker.....The first batch, looking quite proper and fitting for the holiday season.

Then things took a disturbing turn. Maybe it was getting late, or the girls were tired and hungry, or maybe it was the beer and wine auntie Laurie and I had been indulging in. We'll never know, but suddenly Bat Wings appear!Then this thing Cece made. It looks like a character from Shreck mixed with something from Steven King. Why do I keep hearing "redrum" in my head?

Then the aliens begin to arrive.....welcome to area 51The final mass of cookies..... then we sat down to eat some dinner and sing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs. Thank goodness the neighbors don't live too close to us. Overall it was an extremely enjoyable evening. Thank goodness no one had a recorder while we were singing. I'd hate the think we all didn't sound as good as we thought at the time. Enjoying our gingerbread men, ghosts, aliens, batwings, and whatnot's and singing the 12 days of Christmas over and over until we just couldn't stand it anymore . That's what the holidaze are about.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Turkey leftovers still - Getting creative

The other night I was trying to come up with yet another thing to do with turkey. I was really in the mood for Mexican food and remembered I my husband had made chicken mole a few days before Thanksgiving and I still had the sauce in the fridge. So I threw together some turkey mole, with my homemade Mexican rice and refried beans. It was yummy with a few pickled jalpeno's scattered on top.

Here's my rice, the recipe is below the picture:

1 cup white rice
1/3 cup peanut oil (I didn't have any this night so I actually used bacon grease.)
1 can diced tomatoes or one fresh tomato peeled and seeded
1/3 cup diced onion
1 tsp chili powder.
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup peas
salt to taste

Fry the onion in the peanut oil until clear, add the one cup of cooked rice and cook until lightly brown, drain off any excess oil. Add in the tomato, chicken broth, chili powder and peas and salt. Cover tightly and cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Here's the turkey mole and flour tortillas being warmed up. (this came out of a jar, when I get up the gumption to make my own I'll share the recipe. It's a weekend project)

Now for the real creative leftovers. My girls don't care for the mole because it's a bit on the spicy side, so I made turkey quesadilla's for them. I put a few slices of turkey topped with a little bit of gravy and some of my homemade cranberry sauce then topped that with some monterey jack cheese, and voila! You have Americana/Mexicana post Thanksgiving quesadilla's. It sounds weird, but the girls chowed them down and asked for seconds!
Tonight, I think we're going to have shepherd's pie. I need a break from turkey.
Bon Apetite!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey lungs? Wow! Who knew?

I was checking out one of my favorite blogs today, Chris Cosentino's Offal Good and I saw that he had a post on cooking Turkey Lungs. Now talk about using the whole animal. No waste there. I also learned that the U.S. doesn't allow the sale of turkey lungs for some unknown reason. Yet another food item being taken away from us by the government out of fear. We're so silly here in the U.S. with our bizarre fear of foods. Anyway, check out Chris's Turkey Lungs. It's pretty cool.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

They're Here!!!!

Thanksgiving dinner was delicious this year. It's the first Thanksgiving I've had the pleasure of cooking in some time, and I was actually looking forward to slaving away in the kitchen. I started a couple days early by making the cranberry sauce you see below. This is a recipe I found several years ago on the Epicurious site. I love the combination of tart cranberries, chocolaty dried figs, savory rosemary and sweet port. It's easy to make and it can be done a week ahead and it's so much better than that canned jelly stuff.
On Thanksgiving morning I got up at 6 am and put these beauties together. I'm not good at any type of yeast bread normally, but with some patience and the nice warm fire my husband built these are probably some of the best rolls I've ever made. I found the recipe for these in the November 2008 Sunset magazine. I love when I can make something and pull most of the herbs I need (parsley, chives, and rosemary, the only thing store bought was the dill) right out of my garden.
After I finished the rolls I threw a couple of pies together. I was lazy and used store bought crusts, but I did use fresh pumpkin. My youngest came home with a sugar pumpkin from our local pumpkin patch for Halloween, so I roasted it and pured it the same day I made the cranberry sauce. Then I used a classic pumpkin pie recipe that I found at FabulousFoods.com several years ago. It turned out good enough that my husband even enjoyed it, and he hates pumpkin pie. It was topped with whipping cream (not from a can) of course.
This pie is apple huckleberry pie. The apples came from our tree and the huckleberries were picked next to our property. It was a banner berry year this year. The girls loved this pie.Instead of stuffing our turkey this year, and instead of a traditional dressing I decided to get a little off the wall and make oyster dressing. It made sense to have some type of seafood sense we live within view of the ocean. I found a fantastic Oyster Dressing Recipe in Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisianna Kitchen cookbook. If you ever cook anything out of this cookbook, plan on it being over the top. And don't plan on any type of diet food in this book. It's all about the fat. But man was this dressing good.

Then there was the "smashed" potatoes, that my oldest daughter adapted from the November 2001 Martha Stewarts Living Magazine. This involved steamed celery root and yukon gold potatoes that my daughter insisted on leaving the skins on and instead of running through a food mill or processor she aggressively attacked with my mom's old potato masher. They were lumpy creamy goodness.

Then to my husbands dismay I made these sweetly delicious maple glazed yams with pecan topping from my December 1998 Bon Appetite magazine. He's not one for candied yams, and can't tolerate the ones with marshmallow's on top, so I compromised and topped them with maple syrup and pecans. And he liked them, I heard him mumble so. And because we can't have a meal without some type of green (and orange) vegetables I threw together these steamed green beans and baby carrots and topped them with a tarragon butter.

And now for the piece de resistance...........

Drum roll please..............

The turkey!

First I brined this 12 pound beauty for 24 hours in my own homemade apple juice, which I made from our apples and the leftover peals from all the applesauce and apple chutney I've been making and canning over the past few weeks. The brine also included brown sugar, kosher salt, fresh ginger, bay leaves, cloves, and 3 quartered oranges. Then I handed it over to my husband to smoke on our Webber bar b que. He socked hickory chips in water and placed them on top of mesquite coals and smoked the bird for 3 hours.
I basted this tastiness with olive oil while it was cooking.
Once it reached 175 it was good to go!
I can smell the smoke flavor just looking at this picture.

After 11 hours of straight cooking, finally I get to eat.......

Oh yeah, all of this is topped with my giblit gravy. I made giblit broth the day before, toasted the flour in the morning and whisked that together with the broth and smoky flavored meat juices from the turkey and added back in the chopped giblits. No waste here.

Then it was nap time, even for the dog.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tryptophan Haze

Well, it's been a while since I posted. I've been a bit busy with a sick child. She was so bad we had her in ER last week. She's better now, but then I headed into the big Turkey Day Cook Off. I decided to focus on getting my house back in order and cooking my brains out. Which I did. My husband and I cooked up the best turkey ever! Unfortunately I'm in such a bloated tryptophaned state that I just don't have it in me today to post the pictures of our beautiful bird, or to post the recipes. So stay tuned, that will be coming soon. After a good nights sleep, a few chores rapped up and an afternoon picnic with leftovers and friends at the beach, I hope to be back into writing mode.

Just wait until you see the pictures of our toasty tasty turkey. You'll be able to imagine it's smokey smell and it's toasty deliciousness from the photos to the point of salivation.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Minerva Awards

On October 22nd,2008 in Long Beach California 5 women were awarded the Minerva Award by First Lady Maria Schriver. The Minerva Awards were created in 2004 and are awarded to women who have made extraordinary contributions to California in the arts, health and sciences, community activism, business and technology, motherhood, innovation, education and lifetime achievement. Why do I write about this on my food blog? Well, because this year, one of the extraordinary women to win this award is from our neck of the woods, Eureka CA. And she earned this award by helping to feed the homeless for the last 20 years. Her name is Betty Chin and she's a pretty remarkable woman. She started out by spending what she earned at a part time job at a school to go out and feed the needy. She rises every morning at 2 am to pray and meditate. At 2:45 she goes to her kitchen to see what she has to feed hundreds of homeless and she proceeds to prepare the meals. At 6 am she picks up homeless children to make sure they have showers before school starts and gets them clean clothes, school supplies and visits to the doctor if needed. By 8 am she loads up her truck and heads to Saint Vincent DePaul parking lot and serves 200 donuts and coffee. Then she heads home and prepares dinners of sandwiches and what ever else she can find in her cabinets, or that people have donated. By 11 she goes to her part time job then after work she loads up her truck and heads back down to Saint Vincent DePaul to offer meals, care baskets and clothes to families in need. She goes home by 7 to start the whole process over again.

Why? This is Betty's passion. As a child in China she was homeless for 4 years. The Chinese Cultural Revolution tore her family apart. Her father fled the country and her mother was imprisoned, leaving her and her siblings on the streets. She knows what it's like to be hungry and alone. She walked 1600 miles across China and eventually found her way to America and to the town of Eureka. She was able to get on her feet in America and rather than be bitter for what she went through as a child, she has chosen to give back to the needy people of the country that has given her so much.

Betty struggles everyday to keep going. She works part time and her husband is a retired professor. When asked by a reporter "what can we do to help" her response is, "give me peanut butter". She makes 400 sandwiches every day and she relies heavily on community donations. So, in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, I felt it would be appropriate to honor this wonderful woman here, and in doing so, possibly inspire some desire out there to help this woman with her passion to serve the needy.

What can you do? You can donate money or supplies through the Humboldt Area Foundation or through the
Betty's Blue Angel's site
So, while you sit down to that wonderful meal at Thanksgiving, think to help out those who are less fortunate then you and give thanks for people like Betty Chinn who make our world a better place to live.

For more information on the Minerva Awards go here

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No more bake sales in California schools?

“I don’t think all celebrations need to be around food,” said Ann Cooper, the director of nutrition services for the Berkeley school district. “We need to get past the mentality of food used for punishment or praise.”

This is from a New York Times Article, Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push For Healthier Foods

Ok, yes I agree to some extent. But how far do we take this? To the point of no more bakes sales to raise money for school programs? I think soda machines and candy vending machines have no place in schools, nor do hostess cupcakes and the likes. I'd like to see all meals actually cooked, not nuked out of a box in our schools, and I'd love to see all schools with gardens and the return of home ec. But how far do we take this? To the point that we can never ever bring a homemade goodie to school, just because the fat content doesn't fit the government mandate? We can eat good wholesome food that is occasionally a bit on the high side in fat or sugar, as long as we learn to slow down and eat, not gobble. As long as we savor and enjoy and stop eating when we're full instead of ramming as much tasteless cardboard burgers down our throats as fast as we can. If we learn to slow down and enjoy our food (read real food not fast food) and quit worrying about the fat and sugar content, as long as it's real and natural fat and sugar, we lose our urge to over indulge. And, we need to get our kids away from the computers, tv,s, cell phones and all of the rest of the menagerie of tech items that keep them from getting up and exercising, playing, and interacting with each other. We don't need a nanny state going over board and feeding us nothing but sprouts and hummus. We need to educate our kids about nutrition and exercise, about a healthy lifestyle. You can enjoy good savory food cooked in butter. Look at the French. It has flavor, and they sit down and eat together and make an event out of it. Who said food isn't a celebration? That's just bunk. If we made it more of a celebration and less of a competition we wouldn't have the problems we do now. At least that's how I see it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

So what to do?

So... What to do with a 1 lb chicken breast and one potato for dinner for four? I was tired today, I've been tired all week now that the days are shorter. I haven't been thinking well and I'm out of whack with having Tuesday off for Veteran's Day (God bless them all). This week has been a two Monday week for me. I couldn't get my brain in gear to come up with a thing, so I got on the internet on my break at work and found a chicken chowder recipe from Cooking Light. You can find it here . I'm cooking it right now, so I'll have to let you know how it turns out. What I liked about it, besides the fact I had all the ingredients I needed at home, I wouldn't have to stop at the store, and there would be enough to feed all 4 of us, is that, even though it's a Cooking Light recipe, it called for bacon. I like that we're losing our uptightness about fats. I remember back when, when Cooking Light would have called for margerine (YIKES!) or olive oil only. But bacon fat has so much flavor! You don't need all that much, and a little really can't hurt you, unless you have some serious health issues. This recipe calls for you to fry just two strips of bacon, which I'm lucky enough to have from a locally butchered pig. You then remove the bacon to later crumble on top of the soup and fry the chicken and veggies in the bacon fat and voila' you have minimal fat usage and very flavorful veggies and chicken. I can tell you right now, it's smelling super nummy! I'll let you know how it turns out.
Bon Appetite!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Post Halloween Post - The Brain!

I carved myself a spare brain for Halloween. You like it? This is my melon brain. I carved it for our office Halloween potluck. I also carved one for my daughter's birthday party. She's lucky enough to be a Halloween baby. I'll tell you what. The kids had no qualms about eating it, unlike the adults at work.

I surrounded my brain with severed monster fingers, which were quite tasty. The adults had no qualms about eating those.

I served up the brain and monster fingers with some severed and bandaged goblin toes with blood (ketchup) and bile (Larrapins mustard) to dip them in. These went even faster than the fingers.
It was a deliciously vile Halloween. I just hope those nasty birds don't come back....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Using up leftovers

I had a half head of napa cabbage and some leftover sausage in my fridge last night and I was wondering what the heck I was going to make for dinner after spending the last five hours peeling and coring apples for apple pie filling and apple chutney. Well, here's what I came up with:
It was yummy!
Cabbage and Potato Soup

  • 2 or 3 tblsp olive oil

  • 1/2 head napa cabbage thinly sliced

  • 3 large potatoes sliced in 1/4 inch pieces, peel on

  • 1/2 lb cooked pork sausage (I used Gourmet Signature roasted red bell pepper and carmelized onion sausage)

  • 1 can black eyed peas drained and rinsed

  • 1 small yellow onion thinly sliced

  • 4 cloves garlic chopped

  • 5 cups chicken stock

  • 1 tbsp Mexican oregano

  • 1 tsp dried marjoram

  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • pinch of allspice

  • Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat olive oil

  2. Add chopped potatoes and large pinch of salt and cook on medium high covered until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally.

  3. Stir in onion and garlic. Cook until onion starts to turn clear.

  4. Add stock, canned black eyed peas, cooked sausage and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

  5. Stir in chopped cabbage and cook until it has softened, about 10 more minutes.

  6. Salt to taste. You'll need more or less depending on whether you used homemade or canned stock.

  7. Serve up topped with Parmesan cheese.

  8. This is a hearty soup and is great with some crusty bread. It makes great leftovers, as we found it tasted even better the next day.

Cabbage Potato Soup @ Group Recipes

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Farmer in Chief

This is a fascinating article written by Michael Polan in the New York Times.


Great to see some real solutions put forward. It will be interesting to see if any will ever get implemented.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Harvest Time - A series of havest meals.

October is harvest time, and I've been meaning, for some time now, to show off some of our harvest. We've worked harder this year to get more out of our efforts, and I think we've done a pretty good job. We've learned a lot along the way, and I think we may have an even more bountiful harvest next year. That is if we, mostly I, can stay motivated. My husband is always motivated and does most of the work. I follow around in awe, trying to do my best, and to not get in the way too much. (Until it comes time to cook it, then you better get out of my way.)

Our first success was our potato harvest. We discovered that russets grow very well here, but the blue potatoes, not so much.
As you can see from the picture we also had beets and carrots. An excellent year for both, except for the tragedy that befell my carrots. I had tons of huge king carrots ready to be pulled. I didn't have time to pull them before leaving for a 3 day weekend. When I got home, all but a couple had been snagged by a nasty little gopher. I was having fantasies of blowing the little jerk up like the caddy from Caddyshack. Oh! and let's not forget the plums I harvested from the plum tree down the road. I was swinging like a monkey from the limbs to get these. My husband harvested a bunch of yellow plums from an old tree just off our property as well. They were good to eat, but didn't make the best jelly. I need to work on that.And the beautiful rainbow chard you see above has been the most incredible plant in our garden this year. This picture was taken in August. The same plants don't look much different now in late October. I have harvested tons of leaves off of these. Unfortunately my kids have decided they don't care for it. I personally love it with a little olive oil and basalmic vinegar. I have found I can successfully hide it in frittata's, and they'll goble it up.

Below you can see our first full harvest meal.
Chard and potatoes from our garden and a roast from the pig our friend raised and my husband helped with the culling.

And the final result....
The next harvest dinner was a salad and herbs from our garden, beats, beat greens and cod that my husband caught.
Then there were the trout we brought back from Medicine Lake. Man was that tasty!

And a harvest breakfast. Home grown potatoes, beats and carrots and eggs fresh from the coop.

Then there were the huckleberries! This was my first harvest from the little bush down the road. I made some very yummy muffins with this.
Then! My husband went berry picking! (And I forgot to even take a picture of all the black berries I picked - 7 lbs worth!)
That's a lot of huckleberries! And below is what my fingers looked like after cleaning them for a pie. They didn't go back to normal for a week!
And here's my very first huckleberry pie. I'm so proud!
And then we finally did it. My husband and his friend, who raised the pigs, killed and butchered one of our goats. Actually 3 of them. We were able to sell two, so we made a bit of money off of them. So we had a wonderful goat curry along with some zucchini pancakes made with the neighbors' zucchini and our fresh eggs. To top it off a yummy zucchini bread. My mom's recipe of course.
And finally! For our most recent harvest dinner. A friend of mine at work is married to a guy who is a bear hunter and I lucked out and got a couple of bear roasts from them. I haven't eaten bear in years, and I've never cooked it. I wasn't sure how this would turn out, but I was more then pleasantly surprised. We've wiped out our potato and pea supply from the garden, so those are store bought, but the chard (everlast chard) is from our garden and the bear is from Humboldt County. It turned out very good, if I do say so myself.

Before - it's a very pretty pink before you cook it.
After a nice long roasting:
And the final delicious meal
It's been a tasty harvest! You just can't believe how much better food tastes when you grow it, hunt it and fish it yourself. The hard work makes you appreciate it all that much more, and it is so much more fresh and nutritious when the source is only 100 feet from your back door. Yum!