Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chicken and Cornmeal Dumplings

It's been a long time since I last blogged, father I; went to Disneyland for 4 days, went to a Mika concert, googled and cooked a recipe for kabocha squash and chicken which I will not dare to repeat here, took care of a sick child and...finally cooked a decent meal!

I buy a lot of organic boneless skinless chicken thighs. At Costco now they have it in pre-portioned packages that I freeze and pull out a package in the morning for that evening. It has the perfect amount of chicken for a family of four, sometimes with a little leftover for lunch the next day.

Tonight I cut each thigh into 3 pieces, seasoned with sea salt and pepper and lightly dusted with flour. I browned the pieces in a little olive oil in the dutch oven a few minutes on each side. Then I added a sliced onion, 3 carrots cut in 1 inch pieces, 2 celery stalks a parsnip and a handful of green beans all in 1 inch pieces. I sauteed the vegetables a bit with the chicken then added about 3 -4 cups chicken stock and a few sprigs fresh thyme.

While the veggies were sauteeing I made dumpling batter:

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

scant 1/2 cup milk
1 egg

Blend the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. You can add some fresh, chopped herbs here if you like, such as chives or dill or parsley.

After the stock comes to a boil, Lower heat, check and correct seasoning and then drop dumpling batter by the tablespoon into pot and cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes.

You can make this dish with bone-in chicken as well. Just let it cook a little longer before you add the dumplings.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Julia Child Cooking Club

My friend Fran recently invited me to join a cooking club that was being formed by a friend Jonna, I was asked to invite a friend and I asked Michelle. Two other women were also invited, my friend Heather and a new friend Patricia. The M.O. of the club is to create a menu based on recipes by Julia Child, prepare them in the host kitchen and enjoy them together. Well, we did that last night and it was a pretty fun and filling night.

Jonna hosted at her house not a 1/2 block from the beach. We started in her lush backyard kitchen so Heather could prepare the creme brulee for dessert while we enjoyed appetizers and champagne and got to know one another. We finally moved it inside to start prepping for dinner. The main living/cooking/dining area is on the second floor so we were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset view. My contribution was the cheese course so, no cooking there!! Fran made the main dish of Supreme de Volaille aux Champignons or chicken cutlets with mushroom cream sauce. Patricia prepared Pomme de Terre a l'ail, Garlic mashed potatoes. Both of these recipes are from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 as well as the Creme Brulee. Michelle made Courgette aux Epinards, saute of grated zucchini with chopped spinach, this recipe from Volume 2.

I think everyone used a technique or style of cooking in their dish that they hadn't done before; for example, the potatoes had a roux, the chicken cutlets were just rolled in the hot butter briefly and finished in the oven, with no browning and the creme brulee was completely finished on top of the stove in the pot and not baked in the ramekins. Even the vegetable dish was a little different as the spinach was blanched before cooking and the zucchini was salted and squeezed dry of water.

For the cheese course we had "Haystack Peak" an artisinal cheese from Colorado. It is a pyramid shaped goat cheese, slightly aged, with a bloomy rind. I served it with a jam I made this summer of Local Blenheim Apricots and also a few recently harvested walnuts.

Everything prepared was done well and delicious. Lots of great wine too. My only concern was that there was so much richness in each dish, I could hardly communicate at the end of the night. My stomach was in so much pain. I didn't have to eat as much as I did, but I love food and always eat everything on my plate. Just call me Miss Piggy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chicken: In the Style of The Hunter

Chicken Cacciatore means hunter style, the french version is called Poulet Chasseur. The dish should include mushrooms, meat broth or sauce and tomato (sauce). This is a favorite of my family and here is my fairly easy version. I always use dark meat because this is a braised dish and I like what braising does with dark meat, where breast meat will often dry out. If you do use the breast you may want to pull it out early in the cooking process and add it later to finish.

In a dutch oven or large pot add about 2 Tablespoons olive oil and heat pan on high. When hot add seasoned chicken, I used boneless skinless thighs tonight, but you can use bone in just as easily. Brown the chicken pieces well. Add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped carrots, 1 stalk chopped celery and 3 cloves chopped garlic and about 8-10 sliced mushrooms. Saute a bit and if you like add about 1/2 cup red wine and reduce. I also added dry porcini mushrooms because I had them and they add good flavor. To use dried mushrooms, place a handful in a glass bowl and pour boiling water to just cover. When reconstituted gingerly remove mushrooms and strain liquid into the cooking pot. Add soaked mushrooms to pot.

Add about a cup of chicken broth and a can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed and a sprig of rosemary and a few grinds of black pepper. See my note on canned tomatoes here. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer covered till meat is very tender. Remove meat from pot and reduce sauce to a thicker consistency if necessary. Check seasoning. Serve with creamy polenta.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Birthday Party Taco Bar

Saturday was my daughter's 10th birthday and we had a dance party with all the boys and girls in the 5th and 6th grade. For dinner we served a Taco Bar and Chicken Enchiladas. I have a few favorite recipes I'd like to share with you.

The recipe for guacamole came from a man I once worked for. I was the family's personal chef. He was from Mexico City and there was only one way he like his guacamole prepared and this is it: Mash several avocados. Season with salt and lime juice. Add chopped jalapeno to taste and lots of chopped cilantro. Very simple yet very delicious. All the flavors really shine through.

My carnitas recipe is from Diane Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking cookbook. The recipe is simple and I get raves every time I make it.

Cut up 3 pounds of pork shoulder into 2 inches cubes. Heat some lard or oil in a heavy dutch oven and fry the pieces till brown. Don't crowd pan, do in batches if you need to. Add 1 roughly chopped onion and saute for about 5 minutes with the meat. Add 1 orange cut in 1/8ths, 10 crushed black peppercorns, salt, marjoram 1/4 tsp dried or a few sprigs, thyme 1/4 teaspoon dry or a few springs, 3 bay leaves and 1 cup milk. Simmer covered about 1/2 an hour until meat is very tender. Remove lid and reduce down liquid till just clear oil and meat remain. Remove orange pieces. Serve in corn tortillas with salsa fresca, guacamole and a squeeze of lime.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Tonight I made 15 pounds of beef peperoni with my friend Danny. It was made from a cow that was raised a mile and half down the road from my house by a lovely lady named Doreen whom I buy my eggs from. All her animals are well cared for and fed organically. Doreen gave me my first cheese recipe and I bought my goats from her.

10 pounds of the peperoni we seasoned with paprika and piment d'espelette, a spicy ground red pepper from basque region. It also had fennel, allspice, salt and red wine along with a starter for the fermentation. The last 5 pounds we seasoned with green and black peppercorns, fennel, red wine and piment de espelette. This will probable be more like a french saucisson.

Now the sausages will hang in Danny's distillery to ferment and dry. With the big storm that is expected to come in the humidity and temperature should be just right.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Not Kentucky Fried Chicken

Today we were driving home from running errands, sitting in traffic in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Both my kids called out for KFC. No Way, kiddos! Don't even ask. "Oh but we love that popcorn chicken" they chanted. Well, lucky for me I was planning chicken for dinner tonight so I made it fried and it was good. I even made some popcorn chicken.

I used boneless, skinless thighs and breast, which I cut up into smaller pieces, each thigh became 2 or three pieces and the breast was 4 including the tender. I removed the little oyster nuggets from the thighs and these were the "popcorn".

I arranged flour, egg and bread crumbs in three bowls. I seasoned the flour with salt and pepper and to the whole wheat breadcrumbs I added a good amount of raw sesame seeds. Each piece of chicken was dusted with flour, dipped in egg and coated in crumbs. When all pieces were coated I fried them in about 3/8 inch canola oil. Since they were small and boneless they cooked pretty quick, about 2-3 minutes each side.

I served the chicken with steamed green beans and a plate of sliced avocado and tomato seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. The breading was our starch tonight.

There is enough leftover chicken for lunch boxes tomorrow. And my kids do love this much more than KFC.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cajun Shrimp and Sausage

When my brothers and sister and I were growing up in Queens, NY we would often visit Aunt Nancy in The City. Nancy had a great job at the New York Times, was very sophisticated, was a "foodie" even in the 60's and 70's and had cable TV!! Me and my wild siblings would go into her East Side apartment and examine every antique, every magazine and book and piece of art. We'd go into her walk in closet and examine her shoes and try on her fur coats and fancy scarves. Come to think of it we still do all that when we visit Aunt Nancy! Nancy would often make us this great dish, I am sure it came from either Gourmet magazine or the New York Times or a from a cookbook published by NYT. I think she called it Creole Shrimp. Nancy had and I am sure she still has, this gorgeous red enameled cast iron Danish covered pot, that she cooked and served this dish in. I sure wish I had that pot. I have the next best though, a bright red Le Creuset dutch oven that I cooked my rendition of Aunt Nancy's creole shrimp.

A few notes on ingredients. I prefer Wild gulf white Shrimp (prawns) over tiger Prawns. I just don't like the taste of farmed tiger prawns, but love the sweetness of wild Gulf White Shrimp. I never eat prawns or seafood stews or pastas in a restaurant because they will inevitably use farmed tiger prawns. If I do see Wild Gulf White Shrimp on the menu I will usually order them. They seem to be much more available these days here on the West Coast than in the past. East Coast often has great shrimp. And when I say shrimp I mean prawns. I never heard of prawns until I moved to CA. So in this recipe I mean the larger shrimp, or prawns. Not bay shrimp, the tiny ones.

THe sausage I used was Turkey Andouille Sausage from Garrett Farms. It was from my local natural food store. You can use pork sausage also. And any spicy cajun stlye sausage will work. You can also leave the sausage out altogether, like Nancy did.

In a dutch oven, Melt 2-3 tablespoons butter with a little olive oil. Add 1 chopped yellow onion, 1 diced celery stalk and 1 chopped red bell pepper. Sweat over low heat till softtened. Add 1 to 3 tsp cajun spice depending on how hot you want it. See my recipe for blackened spice here. Season with salt.
Chop the andouille sausage (I used a package of 4) into 3/4 inch pieces and add to pot. Saute a bit and then add 1 can peeled tomatoes that you crushed with your hands or chopped. (I used a 16 ounce can - if you have a 28 ounce maybe only add 3/4's of the can. If you like it more saucy, go ahead and add the whole thing.)
Cover and simmer on low till sauce has reduced and thickened. Add your clean and peeled shrimp and simmer till cooked through, stirring occasionally. Check your seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Serve over buttered white rice.

Livy and Henry with Livy's friend Ashi at dinner. 2 Thumbs up from all!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dragon Blood Soup

I received a load of heirloom tomatoes from my friend Elizabeth the other day. Red and yellow, big and small. I've been eating them on my english muffin in the morning with yarlsburg cheese. MY kids had a sleepover at her house last night with her kids and this morning they picked all the ripe tomatoes on her plants. Then they took the tomatoes to our little mountain store, Casalegno's and sold them to the proprietress, Gina, and each kid made a little mad money. I hit up Casalegno's this afternoon and bought a bunch of the tomatoes to supplement the big pot of tomato soup I made today. We call it Dragon's Blood Soup because that is what they call it at Excaliber in Vegas!

I started with about 10-12 tomatoes of varying sizes (about 5 pounds) and about 1/2 pint assorted cherry tomatoes. Rinse, core and cut tomatoes in half. Keep Cherries whole. Place on a rimmed sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 375 degree oven about 45 minutes to concentrate the flavors. While the tomatoes are roasting, Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot, add 1 chopped onion and 3-4 cloves chopped garlic. Saute until soft. When tomatoes are done roasting, add to pot. Add 3-4 cups water or stock. Bring to a boil and simmer about 25 minutes covered. Towards end add a few leaves of basil. Puree. If you like it a little creamier you can 1/2 cup cream at the end. It also adds extra fat. You can also choose to serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche or yogurt and let your eaters decide if they want the extra creaminess (fat).

I served the soup with croutons I made from days-old rosemary focaccia bread cut in small cubes and fried in olive oil.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday Fish

Last week we hit a rough spot with my seven year old Henry and my mind (and life) was pre-occupied with him. I wasn't in the blogging mood. This week he had a good week, we spent a lot of time at the skate park after school and following up on ideas from friends to help Henry. Also trying to make healthy meals that Henry will eat.
Henry helped me shop for last nights dinner and picked out a lot of the menu. We settled on fresh wild Alaskan King Salmon and asparagus. Henry also picked out a lovely cheese from Bellwether farms, carmody, which was like a good cheddar, we munched on the cheese before dinner with some nuts and raisins. It's good to see Henry eating cheese and picking out interesting cheeses, he hasn't always been a big cheese eater and it's a good source of protein that masquerades as a snack.

We also were gifted some just picked beets from my friend Devon. Devon went on a field trip with her son Kai's class to an organic farm to glean a beet field for a food bank. If you don't know what gleaning is here is the definition; Glean: to collect the remaining grain, etc. from a reaped field. I only recently found this out through my children's 4H leader as they will be participating in gleaning a field for a food bank as well. Devon got to keep a paper bag full of beets and shared them with me.
I also discovered a delicious marinated Feta from Yarra Valley Farms. Both of these went into dinner as well.

Here's how I prepared everything quite simply:

I removed the feather bones from the salmon (using needle nose pliers) and placed the filet on a foil covered sheet pan. I seasoned it with sea salt and cracked pepper, and few knobs of butter and some fresh chopped dill (that I had bought earlier in the week for chicken noodle soup - I will share that recipe soon as I make Chicken noodle soup almost weekly in the winter).
I roast the salmon in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes checking after 10 minutes. I insert a knife in thickest part of the fillet. When done the fish should still be slightly translucent and still bright pink.

The asparagus I snapped off the bottoms, soaked briefly in cold water and placed in a shallow pan or on a sheet pan. Toss with s&p and olive oil to coat. Put in the oven at the same time as the fish. Roasting the asparagus this way really concentrates the flavor.

I cleaned the beets,rinsed and separated the tops. The beets I roasted in a small ceramic roasting pan salted and covered with foil and placed in the hot oven as well. The beets will cook for about an hour and I will use them in a salad another day.

Th beet tops were rinsed and roughly chopped. I added about a tablespoon olive oil to a pot with a sliced garlic clove and a big pinch of crushed red pepper. Place over medium heat and when the oil is starting to sizzle add the greens. stir about, lower the heat and cover till tender and bright about 5 minutes. The beet greens cook almost as fast as spinach. Sprinkle with the marinated Feta if you like.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blackened Rock Cod with Crispy Skin

I did buy that beautiful orange rock cod yesterday at Staff of Life, because I knew I wanted to cook it with the skin on and crispy, and it is not often they don't just filet and skin all the cod before I get there. Staff of Life has the freshest fish counter in Santa Cruz by the way. When I was there yesterday I also made friends with the new Cheese monger! He is awesome, friendly and knows his stuff. He just moved down from Napa where he ran a cheese shop there. Originally from the Basque region of France, I know I am going to enjoy being friends with him! I love the staff at Staff of Life.

Here is the menu for tonight: Blackened Rock Cod, Cumin scented black beans, fresh corn cakes, and sauteed zucchini.

I used this recipe for the corn cakes. The beans came right out of a can and I seasoned them with ground cumin. I sliced the zukes into moons and sauteed in a little olive oil in a very hot pan to get brownage on them and sprinkled with sea salt. For the fish I cut slits in the skin and seasoned with salt. The flesh side I seasoned with blackened seasoning mixture and salt. In a very hot cast iron skillet with a little olive oil I placed the fish flesh side down for about 3 minutes then flipped it and finished cooking it on the skin side till the flesh was barely cooked through and the skin crispy.

Blackened seasoning: 3 Tablespoons Paprika, 1 teaspoon each of the following: black pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, salt, garlic powder, dried oregano and dried thyme. This is a general guideline, taste and adjust heat and salt to your preference. Or buy Paul Prudhomme's!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wild Sea Scallops!! Let them eat leftovers!

I went to the fish counter today at Staff of Life and everything looked so fresh and so good I wanted to take it all home and have a seafood party. The Tombo (Albacore) Tuna was bright pink and glistening, the sable fish filets (aka black cod or butter fish - very high in Omegas) looked perfect. This is what I originally came in for. Then I spotted the Rock Cod still on the bone, gutted and scaled. The skin a beautiful orange - I knew i wanted to pan fry it till the skin was nice and crispy. But then I noticed the huge Wild Day Boat Sea Scallops. Whoa, that was it, that's what we're having for dinner.

I also picked up a bunch of green onion and an eggplant to round out my menu. I am really lucky to have several farms on my road where I can pick up fresh vegetables daily. Yesterday (from Everett Family Farm) I picked up some zucchini, sweet red pepper and 2 kinds of tomato; purple cherokee and early girl. I also had some basil with roots sitting in a vase on my counter from the weekend.

This is what I planned:

Grilled, eggplant, zucchini and sweet red pepper with basil. A tomato salsa with green onions, sea salt and raw grated garlic. Steamed Rice. Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops finished with butter.

Slice veggies and season with sea salt and pepper. Coat generously with olive oil and sprinkle with julienne basil. You can grill these, fry in a pan or roast in the oven. I grilled them so I wouldn't have to dirty a pan. Roasting is a favorite way too. I like the way the roasting brings out the flavor of vegetables. Just place in an even layer on a sheet pan and roast in a 400 degree oven. Turning once. Total cooking time about 20 minutes.

For the salsa I chopped 2 tomatoes and 2 green onions. I used a microplane grater to grate a large garlic clove into the tomatoes and sprinkled with sea salt.

Now for the sweet succulent scallops. First be sure to check with your fish seller that your scallops are wild dayboat scallops. If the scallops came out of can, it means they were caught at sea, shucked and placed in a brine or saline solution to keep them fresh. You will not achieve the proper brownage or have the true sweetness of a fresh sea scallop. Dayboat scallops are caught by divers and delivered fresh in a sack.

To prepare the scallops remove the little flap of meat you may find on the side of each scallop and discard. Rinse the scallops lightly and pat dry with a towel. I stack mine between 2 paper towels. To cook, place a large skillet over very high heat. When hot add olive oil to just cover bottom of pan. Pan should be close to smoking. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Gently add each scallop and let brown. Don't move your pan around and don't move your scallops, just let them brown, about 2 minutes. When you have a nice brown crust gently turn over each scallop. If it is sticking slide a metal spatula under to loosen. Let 2nd side brown. After 2nd side is browned throw in a knob of butter (about 2 teaspoons) and swirl around pan. Remove pan from heat and serve.

I never made scallops for my children before. I usually give them salmon or some other white fish and they are happy. Crab and lobster thrills them. I was a little surprised when they wouldn't eat them. Livy told me tonight she is a vegetarian, Henry said he is a fastfoodatarian. We told Henry he would starve to death. Livy changed to a meatatarian after I heated up yesterday's leftover chicken.

That's ok, more for me and Ron. They were to die for.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Excaliber Baby Chickens, no forks allowed

On our way home from Zion National Park and a fun visit with an old friend, James and a new friend Debbi, we stopped in Vegas, baby! We stayed at the Excaliber and went to the Tournament of Kings dinner show to watch the knights jousting. Henry really liked the dinner of Dragon's Blood Soup, Games Hens, fried steak cut potatoes, broccoli and dried out dinner roll. He mostly enjoyed the privilege of eating with his hands. Henry is a picky eater, so when he likes something (that is healthy and the rest of us will eat it) I will make a point to cook it. Game hens seem like a complicated meal to eat on a
weeknight, but this dinner was simple.

I don't think I've written about salt here yet. I use course grey sea salt. I guess it's from France. I buy it in bulk at the Natural Food Store. My sister, the real salt freak, buys it by the barrel. I joke, but she does buy like 30 pounds of it every year and then hands it out to us through the year. She saves a lot of money buying it in bulk. Something like $1 or 2/pound to my $6.

I use a big mortar and pestle to grind up my salt into smaller crystals, about a tablespoon at a time or as I need it. I really like using the grey sea salt. It makes the food taste really good and it has lots of minerals in it. I read articles on salt where they stated there is no difference in taste between the pink salt from this tiny island near japan, the grey salt from France,etc... and the diamond crystal from mines in Pennsylvania, that all salt has the same composition.
But the way the salt crystals melt on the food, or in your mouth, I guess that is what makes a difference.

Anyway, if you see it in your store pick it up and give it a try. Try it on fresh lettuce greens with good olive oil and a sprinkle of vinegar and cracked black pepper. Let me know if you notice a difference.

Excaliber Game Hens

For the baby chickens I ground about a tablespoon salt with the leaves of about 8 springs fresh thyme and a bunch of cracked pepper wiht my mortar and pestle. I rubbed this mixture all of the birds and put a little inside the cavity. Place the birds on a roasting pan (covered with foil for easy clean-up) and put a pat of butter on each bird. Place in a 375 degree* oven for about an hour. Baste the birds when you think about it and half way through the cooking time flip the birds to brown the backs. flip back after 15 minutes and finish breast side up.

After you get the birds in the oven cut 2 or 3 large idaho potatoes lengthwise into 8ths. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a sheet pan and put in oven with chicks. I also wrapped a bulb of garlic sprinkled with olive oil and a little salt in foil and baked in the oven too.

Steam a head of broccoli. Skip the dried out rolls.

Serve with or without silverware.

Henry said the only thing missing was the rolls!!

* I use the convection roast mode on my oven. If your oven cooks slow, increase heat to 390 degrees or so.

I never remember to take a picture of the food when it is finished. I am always too hungry and ready to eat. Here's a picture a few minutes after it went in the oven.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tortilla Soup


Cover an assortment of dried chilis with boiling water to soften. Remove seeds and stems then puree softened pods. (I used pasilla, california, new mexico). (You can use dry chili powder in place of this homemade paste if you want to.) Saute an onion and a couple of chopped garlic cloves in olive oil. Add 4 chopped boneless chicken thighs. Stir in some of the chili puree to taste and a 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. Add about a quart of chicken stock. Throw in some chopped tomatoes, a can of black beans and some frozen corn. Bring to a boil and simmer about 20 minutes. Season with salt. While soup is simmering cut about 6 corn tortillas into strips and fry in oil till crispy.
Finish soup with a half bunch of chopped cilantro.

Serve soup with fried tortilla strips, chopped avocado, lime wedges, sliced jalapenos and sour cream.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cooking St. Patrick's Day Feast for 90 Friends

We had our 4th annual St. Patrick's Day Party yesterday. Friends and family started arriving around 4:30. There were about 40 kids who took over our property with a friendly game of war that was fantastic to watch. The boys (and a few brave girls) ranging in age from about 4 to 13 had sticks and branches and divided themselves into 2 sides. They traversed hills, zip lines, fences and trees. I love this, because today you hardly get to see a big group of kids just do what is natural and fun. We all did this as youngsters. We were more free to roam our neighborhoods and use our imagination to have fun with what is available outside our front doors. For me this was the best part of the party.

The food was pretty good too. Here's the menu:

The best corned beef from Staff of Life my favorite natural food store butcher anywhere, but this one happens to be in Santa Cruz and is operated by Ken Miller with the help of some fantastic butchers, especially Joseph.

I put the 50#'s of corned beef on to simmer about 11:30am. At about 3:30 It was nice and tender. I took it out of the pots and added 15 # of new potatoes and 10# carrots and simmered till tender. Then I added 9 heads of cabbage cut in 1/8ths. I sliced the corned beef while this cooked.

You must serve corned beef with coleman's spicy mustard (the dry stuff in the yellow can that you mix with water.)

I also roasted 2 sides of salmon (farmed - due to the shortage of salmon and restrictions on the industry, hopefully next year we will have a salmon fishery).

We had 6 loaves of homemade Irish Soda Bread (recipe included)

For dessert we had brownies, green jello jigglers, (thanks Joyce) homemade boston cream pie, and delicious cookies from the buttery (thanks Jodee).
My son Henry never came around when we serving cake, so I made him the Chocolate Cake in a Mug at around 9:30. (He is spoiled, but his Mama loves him).

The beer and wine were flowing and I heard that Robert Hyde brought a bottle of awesome Irish Whiskey. We were also gifted a lovely bottle of Hendrick's Gin. Yum.

I think everyone left content and with a full belly by 10. The lovelies Sherri Hyde and Deirdre Smith didn't make it to the party this year so things kind of petered out early.

Here is the recipe for Irish Soda Bread

Sift Together:
4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 3 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup raisins, 1 Tablspoons Caraway seeds

Mix Together:
1 cup sour cream, 1 cup milk

Blean liquid into dry ingredients and knead about 10 times.

Pat into a buttered cake pan and cut an X or Cross on top

Bake in 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or till toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Happy St. Patrick's to Everyone!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Love Recipes from Wednesdays' NYT

Tonight for dinner I am making this recipe from the "Good Appetite" column in today's New York Times.
Garlic and Thyme Roasted Chicken With Crispy Drippings Croutons is in the oven now and smells fantastic. I am roasting the chicken early so I can get my kids to dance and karate and get home, eat and back out again. Tonight is the scholastic Book Fair at our School and Micky Magic (our local tied died hippie magician) will be there. Henry is certain he will get picked to help with a trick, he said he always does.

This chicken sounds awesome to me. I secretly like to scrape up the salty, fatty drippings from the pan and savor them when no one is looking, so like the author of the article this is right up my alley.

Catching Up Sat, Sun, Mon

Friday was knitting night, so I am not responsible for feeding my kids. I only cook my dish to share which was pasta puttanesca. I started with olive Oil and 2 cloves chopped garlic, a few pinches crushed red pepper and anchovy paste or crushed anchovies in a saute pan and heated till fragrant. I then added a cup and a half of leftover quick tomato sauce, and brought to a simmer for about 10 minutes. I finished the sauce with a large handful of chopped kalamata olives and a tablespoon of chopped capers. Toss with Penne and fresh chopped mint.

The kids did great, Dad picked up ribs and fixings from Gayles Bakery, our local gourmet take out in the famous Capitola by the Sea.

Saturday, we were going to go out to eat but everyone was tire, so while I was out picking up kids I picked up some fresh ground beef and francese rolls and we had yummy cheeseburgers with avocado, tomato and lettuce.

Sunday, I had a little over a pound of beef leftover from Saturday and made quick Beef Bolognese. I sauteed diced carrots, onions, celery and garlic till soft add the ground beef and browned ot. Then I added 2 14 oz cans of San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes and 1/3 cup heavy cream. Simmered about 30 minutes and served with fettucine.

Monday we had roasted salmon pearl cous cous and sauteed spinach. I usually cook regular cous cous but Monday night I tried the Israeli Pearl Cous Cous. I sauteed the pearls in butter and olive oil with a chopped shallot and a tablespoon of tomato paste. When it was nice and browned I added the water and simmered on low 10 minutes. MY family liked it except for Mr. Noodles and butter dude.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Man is sick of chicken, wants meat

Red meat! New Leaf had organic New York Steaks on sale for $8.99 a pound. Picked up three. Henry insisted on a green bell pepper because he liked the smell. Livy chose green beans and I picked little white creamer potatoes and shitake mushrooms.

I boiled the little potatoes in their skins and then strained them and added them back into the pot with a nice big chunk of sweet butter, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of grey sea salt, few twists of pepper and a big pinch of herbs de provence. Sauteed them a little bit for a little brownage on the skins.

To cook the steaks, I heated my favorite 10 inch all clad fry pan on high heat and added a drizzle of olive oil, salt and peppered the steaks and seared them in the pan, first side about 4 minutes flipped over and seared the other side about another 4 or 5 minutes.

While the steaks were cooking, I sliced the shitakes (remember to remove the stem, too tough to eat) julienned the green pepper, and chopped a small shallot and clove of garlic. When the steaks were done cooking I removed them from the pan to rest on a plate tented with foil. To the hot pan I added a little butter and the pepper and mushroom mix and sauteed till softened. I added about a half cup water to scrape up any brown bits from the pan and reduced down to a sauce. Check the salt and season if necessary. You can finish this sauce by stirring in a couple pats of cold butter if you like.

Steamed green beans.

Lovely Frida

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fish Tacos and Frida Kahlo

Tonight is my 4th grade daughter's Book Club Tea at school. Every kid read a biography and then wrote and illustrated their own book about the biography. We have been binding the books this week using the Japanese Book Wrapping Technique and it's been a lot of fun picking out fabrics from a pile of donated scraps to match each kids famous person. Tonight the kids will dress up as thier person and present the book they made and give some facts about that famous person. My daughter Olivia did Frida Kahlo. My very good friend who spent a lot of time in Mexico loaned Livy a tradition outfit to wear from when she was a child. We will be making Mexican Wedding Cakes to bring along too.

Ooh, I think that was just a little earthquake!

For dinner tonight we are having Fish Tacos. Viva la Mexico. In our house we serve tacos build your own style. I set out little bowls with all the different fixings, a platter of fish and everyone gets a warm tortilla. We heat tortillas as we need them in a cast iron skillet. I will also heat up a can of refried beans.

The fish

any white fish (sole, snapper, cod, etc...)
blackening seasoning (recipe to follow)

Coat fish lightly with seasoning. Get a cast iron skillet very hot. Melt a tablespoon of butter in the pan. Add the fish and let sear and blacken on one side, then flip and finish on the other side. Depending on the thickness of your fish, it should cook within 2-3 minutes a side. I am using petrale sole tonight, so I am guessing it will be about 1.5 minutes per side.

Garnishes for tacos:

Chopped tomato
Chopped avocado
Chopped Green Onion
Cheese, (Queso Fresco, Catija, cheddar whatever you have/like)
shredded cabbage
chopped jalapeno
sour cream
sour cream blended with chipotle chile (my favorite for fish tacos) ( When I open a can of chipotle chile in adobe, I usually use just a little bit - the rest I put in a zip lock and put in the freezer. When i need a little I just carve off what I need)

Blackened Seasoning

make a lot and save for later use (can be used for steak, chicken...

1/2 cup paparika
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon white pepper
1 Tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt

Recipe can be doubled up or tripled up, etc...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

San Marzano Tomatoes

Tonight we are having raviolis. Someone else made them, they are chicken and mozzarella and my family loves them. I just made a quick tomato sauce to serve over them and cleaned some fresh artichokes to steam in the pressure cooker when we get home from after school karate, art, etc...

A word about canned tomatoes. The imported san marzano tomatoes make the tastiest sauce. Hands down. They cost more than any other canned tomato but if you are looking for taste especially in a short amount of time these are the tomatoes to go to. At my local natural food store Staff of Life they carry an organic italian peeled san marzano tomato in a 14 oz. can for about $1.50. This is a real deal. The brand is Strianese. I sometimes pay over $5 for a 28 0r 30 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes in a regular grocery store.

Quick Tomato Sauce Recipe:

2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (enough to cover bottom of saucepan)
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
big pinch crushed red pepper
couple shakes dried oregano

1 or 2 cans italian peeled tomatoes

Heat olive oil in saucepan and add garlic. Pour tomatoes into a bowl and squish with your hands to break up into smaller pieces. Add pepper and oregano to pan let heat but do not burn. Add tomatoes. Season with salt to taste. Bring to boil then simmer on very low heat till reduced to desired thickness. This is great pizza sauce also.

A cook is learned a Roaster is Born

Brillat Savarin said something like that. Anyway tonight we had Roast Chicken with Steamed Broccoli and Steamed Rice. Unfortunately I didn't live up to Brillat's aphorism tonight because my kids had eye doctor appointments back to back starting at 4:30 on the other side of town. We were late getting home so we picked up that roasted chicken from the market and all I had to do was put the rice in the rice cooker and clean and steam the broccoli. It's one of our favorite dinners where everyone actually participates in eating especially when I actually roast the chicken. I will post about roasting a chicken among other things at a later date.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Starting Over, potato leek soup and salad

In 2007 I started this blog to share my cheesemaking and goat raising stories. It was originally called Goatmama's cheesemaking. I wrote 2 posts that I never published and since have sent my goats to live with a happy herd in another place. I still make cheese occasionally, but not like I used to.

I decided to start this blog over again, sharing my love of food and cooking. My friends are often asking for ideas for dinner, so I will be posting what I'm cooking every night. That's the idea anyway. We'll see how consistent I am.

Today isn't exactly the best place to start. It's a lazy, rainy, Sunday and I already made dinner this afternoon. Potato Leek Soup, which my kids enjoy, even my super picky spaghetti with butter boy. Great way to get him his veggies. This version is made with a chicken broth I made earlier in the week when I roasted a whole organic chicken for dinner and threw all the bones into a pot after carving. I covered with water and brought it to a boil then simmered it for about 2 days adding more cold water as needed as it reduced down, and sprinkling about 2 teaspoons of gray sea salt in on the second day. You need to mush down and break up the bones with a big spoon or masher to get all the yummy marrow out of the bones. When the bones are nice and soft and broken up strain the broth and cool. Sounds kind of yucky, but according to Weston Price ( and Nourishing Traditions this is really, really good for you and your children. As a trained chef, I never cooked a chicken stock this long, but it's not bad, it's actually pretty good. Weston Price would say to drink 2 -3 cups of bone broth a week.

Potato Leek Soup

Melt a couple of tablespoons butter and olive oil in a large pot. Add 2-3 large leeks chopped, soaked and rinsed twice, 1 chopped onion and 1 clove chopped garlic. sweat gently till softened. Add 5-6 chopped potatoes and about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts water or chicken stock or combination of the two. You can also add some fresh thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer till potatoes are soft. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender or run through blender or food processor. Season with salt and white pepper.

Serve with a green salad

Simple Vinaigrette

In your salad bowl add:

couple pinches salt
couple twists of black pepper
couple pinches dry mustard

add 1 Tablespoon red or white wine vinegar and mix with fork to dissolve mustard

Using your fork, Blend in 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Build your salad on top of the dressing in the bowl. When ready to serve, toss gently.