Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Can this be true?

I just finished a well written, appealing story by a first time novel writer--The Cradle. I enjoyed the characters. The tale never felt contrived--as a matter of fact one part seemed to have been written by someone who had to have experience in the subject matter.

But I have a beef. The same beef I had with a recent (but short lived) TV series called, Life Interrupted. A main character gives up an infant for adoption and the infant goes from one unstable situation to another with their life beginning in an orphanage/home and ending in a string of unfortunate foster homes.

Is it really possible for an infant to end up unadopted in the U.S.? I remember so many newspaper stories, over the years, of the sad circumstances of an abandoned infant and the ensuing throng requesting to adopt the child.
Were these anomalies? I can't believe that's true.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recipes--some 2011 holiday hits

Fran ended up making the popular gratin of cauliflower for one of our contributions to the family Christmas dinner. I'll have to wait to try my brainstorm idea of turning æbleflæsk into a tian. She also made one of the versions of a salted caramel chocolate layer cake, thanks to inspiration from @Blueeyesbrenna.

The day after Christmas I was reading Pioneer Woman's blog and came down with a craving for her Beef with Snow Peas. Delicious! All these years I believed that flank steak was another way to cut the beef's round steak. I know what we'll be using on our Asian favorites from now on.

Oh and that recipe for wine punch I heard on NPR from Nigella Lawson? It was a big hit on Christmas. One problem, even though two of us brought enough to make 5 batches it wasn't enough. It was that good.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Remembering Mama



You'll always be here, won't you?
A permanent fixture in my head.
Lessons learned
Flora and fauna names
kitchen tips
and relationships, too.

You'll always be here, won't you?
A permanent memory in my head.
Jumping rope in the kitchen
The grapefruit diet
Winding curlers into G'ma Curley's hair
and warm pudding, too.

Promise?

You'll always be here, won't you?
A permanent conversation in my head.
Behind the wheel
Cutting parchment
Vacuum in those corners
and triple word scores

You'll always be here, won't you?
Standing right behind me
Reading what I'm writing
I can hear the smile in your voice
Your warm soft laugh
and your embraces
your warm embraces.
~Your Loving K

Monday, December 19, 2011

One small thing...

....at least she left us as peacefully as possible--in her sleep.
Love you, Mom.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Æbleflæsk

Update 2016:
This year I made the recipe below, but without bacon, one cup of reduced-by-half apple cider vinegar sweetened with a tsp of sugar and browned panko & Gruyere for topping.
I used some leftovers to create a breakfast hash. I added 3 cooked chopped brats, 3 broiled smashed potatoes and 6 eggs. Delicious!

One Christmas, several years ago, I took a chance (like I often do) and made a recipe I stumbled upon while browsing on the internet. That's when I learned that the combination of bacon, apples and onions as a side dish is a wonderful accompaniment to ham and turkey. Since then, I've learned it's a Danish recipe with nearly as many variations as there are Danes. (slight exaggeration) I've never found the first version I made again, but (I'm guessing here) with the combination of aforementioned three ingredients it's hard to go wrong.

Here are the three latest versions I browsed and found. Please share if you have yet another.
Click here for a printable version


Apple, bacon and Onion side dish
(from Channel 14 in North Carolina)

In today’s recipe, you’ll use fresh fall apples to make a vegetable side dish with onions, bacon and dried thyme that's especially good with roasted pork.

INGREDIENTS:
• 10-12 slices bacon 
• 3 cups thinly sliced white onions 
• 3/4 tsp dried thyme 
• apple cider (approx. 1 cup) optional 
• 3 cups thinly sliced, cored apples 
• salt and pepper to taste

PROCEDURE:
Use a heavy bottomed saute pan or cast iron skillet to cook the bacon until it's nice and crisp and then take it out of the pan to drain on paper towels.

Pour off some, but not all of the rendered bacon fat and add 3 cups of thinly sliced white onions right to the skillet. Stir those around and add a heaping 1/2 tsp of dried thyme and cook the onions until they start to soften up. Although it's not necessary, after a few minutes you can add a splash of apple cider (a cup or so) to the onions and let that reduce.
Once the apple cider has reduced, add 3 cups of sliced apples and cook those until they start to soften. You can peel the apples, if you like, but it’s nice to leave the skin on, especially if they're a red apple, for a little added color.

Season with a little salt and pepper to taste, crumble and add the bacon and it's good to go!

HINTS:
Leave the bacon out, if you like, and saute the onions in 2-3 Tbs of butter instead. Use 1 Tbs of fresh thyme in place of the dried thyme if you have it.
Serves 4-6 as a side

***************

"Go ahead and try this, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. The smoky flavor of the bacon enhances the carmelized apples and onion and puts this over the top.

Recipe: Æbleflæsk Serves 2

6 Slices of bacon, 3 per person
1 apple, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 slices Rye Bread, one per person.
Cook bacon til done. While this is cooking, peel the onion and slice the onion and the apple. Take bacon out of pan and place aside. Drain pan of most of the fat, leaving about 1-2 tsp. of bacon fat in the pan. Add in the onion and apple and cook until it has started to turn color, and carmelize. Add the bacon back into the pan and continue cooking. When the onions and apple are nice and carmelized, take out of pan and serve on a slice of rye bread. You can up the quantities depending on how many people you are serving.
Enjoy.

* You can also make this vegetarian by omitting the bacon and cooking the onion and apple in some olive oil. Not only would it be meat free, it would also be a lot more heart healthy. I've done it like this many times. And apart from the tsp. of olive oil, it's also pretty fat free. Onions and apples aren't high in calories, and their health benefits prepared with olive oil, well, let's put it this way, it's all good for you that way."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And another from Misk Cooks blog

"A few notes about Æbleflæsk.
1. You’ll need a deep-sided frying pan because there’s a mountain of apples and onion that need to fit into it. As it cooks, the volume will reduce by half (at least).
2. If you don’t have a lid for your frying pan, cover it with foil. You don’t want the cooking apples to dry out.
3. Don’t overcook the apples. They should be tender when tested with a knife or fork, but not allowed to disintegrate into applesauce or mush.
4. Don’t throw out the bacon fat; you need it to flavour the apples. It’s just not the same without it.
5. We like the apple peel. Peel them if you wish.

Mr. Misk’s Danish Æbleflæsk (serves 3-4)

Ingredients:

8-10 slices of streaky bacon
1 thinly sliced onion
6-8 apples, cut into equal 1-inch size chunks (half cooking apples and half eating apples)
2-3 tablespoons sugar (to taste)

Method:

Place the bacon in a cold frying pan and fry slowly until crisp. Do not allow the bacon to burn as this taints the flavour of the apple when the bacon fat and apple chunks are mixed together. When cooked, remove the bacon from the pan, and place between layers of kitchen towel to drain. Add the apple chunks and sliced onion to the pan with the bacon fat, toss thoroughly so everything is mixed through, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Clap a tight-fitting lid on the frying pan, and allow the apples to soften and the onion to cook until translucent. Stir every few minutes to keep the apple from catching on the bottom of the pan. Cook for approximately 15-minutes until the apple chunks are tender. Don’t overcook; this isn’t applesauce.

Now sprinkle with sugar, stir and turn cooked apples gently, and taste. Adjust sugar if necessary. Add salt if you must.

To serve, poke the bacon into the Æbleflæsk, and serve with slices of dark rye bread. The Æbleflæsk is usually spooned on to the top of the rye bread as an ‘open sandwich’ with the bacon eaten on the side. Enjoy!!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

That might have been us . . .

Have you ever gone shopping and found yourself perturbed by another shopper moving at a turtle's pace and the nearly impenetrable knot of people that forms in their wake? Maybe you've gone so far as to wish they had stayed home and not made your errand even longer than you had allotted time for? That might have been Fran and I.

I nearly apologized, but you see this is such a big, wonderful moment for me--Fran is walking! Not just the few feet to the kitchen or bathroom, but REALLY WALKING. Each time we leave the wheel chair behind in the car, my heart pumps with a warm surge of hope and happiness. So no, I'm not going to leave her at home.

Every possible opportunity, I'll be taking her out into the world she's seen little of in the past couple of years. If you see us, please remember to smile and give us a little space--jostling isn't helpful when you're working on balance and concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. If we're not preoccupied with the journey, we'll return and remember your smile.

Hope to see you around town.  :>)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holidays and Books

Thanks to @SalemRebekah, I had an epiphany in the shower.
Isn't that where everyone discovers their best ideas? :>)

It's sad, but when a classroom has a student who doesn't celebrate Christmas (within our sheltered Oregon community) , there tends to be some grousing. It can be minor or it can go farther, depending on the teacher and the family involved.

The classroom to the south of us has such a student. And yes, I have been hearing some grousing.

After reading @SalemRebekah's tweet about refusing to inject any religious holidays into her course of instruction, I realized how families might interpret a teacher's decision to include/teach what they believe to be the only thing people want to learn or hear about.

Coincidentally, the classroom aide to the south of us, was sad because her favorite Christmas stories wouldn't be read this school year. It took some time, but eventually it dawned on me that perhaps we need to think and try harder when it comes to the stories we could be reading to the short folk.

On Twitter there were 2 friends who had recently experienced a "pay it forward" moment during their morning caffeination. And then @SalemRebekah tweeted -- "Informed coworkers today that I would be keeping church & state separated by not making kids do Christmas related assignments. #rebel"

It was at that moment when it occurred to me. Christmas stories weren't important. Sharing, caring and stories about generosity were the key. (slapping forehead)

So now my quest is centered around books to read to the wee folk about "paying it forward'.
So far I have the following books on a list of "to buy": (Please keep in mind that my focus is on kindergartners)

"Ribbon Rescue"
"The Mitten Tree"
"A Circle of Friends"
"My Most Favorite Thing"

Do you have any suggestions?  :>)




Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gingerbread Waffles and "the process"

My favorite breakfasts involve eggs-- scrambles, omelets, a couple lovely over-easy ones atop crispy hashbrowns (if I wasn't already stuffed, I'd be craving eggs again). So it's a puzzle to both N and I why, over the past few years, I've begun to experiment with waffles. Perhaps it began with that bacon waffle N ordered at Andy's Cafe. Now that was a beautiful waffle!

This time the idea was all about gingerbread waffles (though the bacon and blueberry experiment is gaining tradition status). My usual recipe finding process may be similar to yours-- I Google and Google and Google, refining the search until I find 6-8 that sound like what I'm looking for. I leave those tabs open on the browser, until I can whittle the selections down to 2 or 3. Sometimes I'll print all 2/3 before I can decide. I was tempted by the recipe that called for pumpkin, but decided on a recipe from Annie Eats blog. (I worry about wasting the leftover pumpkin). The only change I made was to add brown sugar instead of white.


I served them with applesauce, butter and maple syrup. Neither of us could imagine eating the waffles without applesauce or apple butter. It added a fresh, bright and slightly tart flavor to all the sweetness. They seemed a little dry, but still delicious. I think it'll be worth it to try the other two recipes. Only because it's a fun way to spend a weekend morning.

The recipe we made: Annie Eats

The recipe with pumpkin: Cristine Cooks

The recipe with buttermilk: A Bloggable Life

Monday, November 21, 2011

Oh What a day


How did I get so lucky in one day??

Four, yes four! Four of my favorite things in one day! 
Driving in the PDX area. 
Driving in the rain. 
Driving in the dark 
AND (dootdadoot) 
driving during rush hour!!!  

Now I feel an overwhelming urge to do an impression of Sylvester the Cat spitting in disgust.  
After our drive home from her Beaverton appointment, Sara and I were so giddy with relief to be back in Salem, we laughed extra hard over a moment of hilarity in Costco.  
We greeted the membership card checker and there was this suspicious odor of poop and disinfectant hanging in the air.  
Of course I had to say something about it. Wouldn't you??

Fran began to giggle as I pushed her along in her wheelchair.  Soon we were over by the coolers and it became clear to me there was another odor in the mix--yep, it was vomit. I leaned down to share the obvious in her ear.  The giggling increased. 
We made a stop at the pharmacy. Fran was just beginning to recover, when another customer on the other side of the pharmacy counter said, "...it smells like Christmas".

That was it. The gates opened and she began gasping for air. Didn't help that I leaned down and wondered out loud, "I wonder where SHE spends christmas?" 

I'm sure people were wondering what was wrong with the two of us. 

Sweet Potato Chicken Curry

This recipe from Danielle Stephenson, Lakeville, Minnesota, (Cooking Light NOVEMBER 2009) is definitely a keeper--so delicious!
I made 2 changes:  I used chicken thighs instead of breasts and Butternut Squash in place of the sweet potatoes. Be aware, it does take approximately 2 hours of combined prep and cooking time, but oh so worth it!

Sweet Potato Chicken Curry


  • YIELD: 7 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
  • COURSE: Main Dishes

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preparation

1. Combine curry powder, coriander, turmeric, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and bay leaf in a small bowl.
2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high; return chicken to pan. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in ginger and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add curry powder mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Stir in potato and chickpeas. Cook, uncovered, 30 minutes. Add peas; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice. Discard bay leaf.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chicken and Sweet Potato Casserole


We made this recipe last night. It was delicious and share-worthy :>)


Take it from Australia's Taste.com members, even the kids will adore this chicken casserole recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1kg chicken thigh fillets, halved crossways
  • 1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs lemon thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Maille wholegrain mustard
  • 400g orange sweet potato, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup thickened cream
  • 1 quantity caramelised onions (see note)

Method

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken. Cook for 2 minutes each side or until golden. Remove to a plate.
  2. Add fennel, thyme and garlic to pan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add wine and mustard. Cook for 3 minutes. Add sweet potato and stock. Bring to the boil. Return chicken to pan. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add cream. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes (do not return to the boil as sauce might spit). Stir in caramelised onions. Serve.

Notes

  • To freeze: Allow to cool for 1 hour. Spoon into a 4 cup-capacity airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat: Thaw in the fridge for 24 hours. Microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM (50%) for 15 to 18 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, or until heated through. Caramelised onions: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over low heat. Add 2 thinly sliced large red onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until soft. Add 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash with Chicken Sausage & Orchiette Pasta


Fran did one of her amazing feats of taking from 2-3 different recipes and creating a new delicious dish for N and I. By the way, I think I'm becoming addicted to Butternut Squash.

Butternut Squash with Chicken Sausage & Orchiette Pasta

32 oz cubed butternut squash
3 links of chicken sausage cut into half moon ¼” chunks
½ a large onion, diced
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 tablespoon dried sage
orchiette pasta
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon butter
preheat the oven to 435. toss the butternut squash with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper on a sheet pan. Roast the squash for about 35 mins or until starting to caramelize, taking it out every 10 mins to stir and check on it.
Cook the sausage in a large skillet on medium heat with a little bit of olive oil until starting to brown, stirring frequently. Add the onion and red pepper flakes to the sausage and cook until the onion is starting to brown, about 3-4 mins. Add the garlic, pecans and the sage to the pan, stirring frequently for about a min. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the roasted squash.
Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and reserve about a cup of the pasta water.
Return the sausage/butternut squash mixture to a medium high heat and add the parmesan, butter and half of the pasta water along with the cooked pasta and stir until combined and the cheese is melted into a smooth uniformish sauce, adding more pasta water if necessary. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And then there were three

I had almost forgotten what it was like to even consider that Fran might be able to join us as we spend a day out running errands. It's wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
We began at Ace Hardware, spent a long time at Costco, went to PetCo and finally made a stop for dinner at Willamette Burger Co. On a good day (over a year ago) that would've wiped her out for more than 24 hours. Tonight she came home, tried on a new shirt, sized Izzy's new harness and now she's sitting (mostly) upright in her chair watching TV.
Life is oh so good :>)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wow! This school is doing it right



Where poor students soar
November 5, 2011
What works at a school dealing with poverty and a lack of English fluency? Tough love, hard work and a laser focus on achievement.

By Sandy Banks

From the outside, Plummer Elementary doesn't look much like a showcase school. The 60-year-old campus has drab green bungalows, a patchy lawn and graffiti scrawled on the "Please, No Honking" sign.

The California Distinguished School logo above the front gate, out of reach of taggers, is about the only indication that something special is happening inside.
The San Fernando Valley campus, in a working-class pocket of North Hills, was singled out by Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy in a conversation we had last month about whether low-income, Latino students in this district are doomed to mediocrity.

Plummer — where 90% of the students are poor and two-thirds begin school not fluent in English — is one of the district's highest-scoring elementary schools. Its Academic Performance Index score has risen by more than 200 points, to 862, in the last four years, outpacing schools around the state with similar demographics.

Whatever is going on there shouldn't be a secret, so I paid a visit to poke around.

What I found was tough love, hard work and a laser focus on student achievement. Not rocket science, but not magic either.
(click the link below to read the entire article)

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-banks-20111105,0,4705874,full.column

Going Deep

On the last Monday of October, Fran received some relief from this constant pain in her lower right quadrant. Not all, but a good sized portion. It's a shame she had to go all the way to PDX for this help, but we're more than willing to do that for her.

Something we've learned during the past several years is the majority of the pain doctors (we've come into contact with) are only good for one or two (if you're lucky) tries when it comes to the injections. It's as if they like to relieve people's pain, but not if it's going to take too much time and effort. Why?
And then they make a leap: if your pain isn't relieved by their effort, it must all be in your head.

When this is all over, I hope I still have an urge to shine a light on this deficiency in the pain profession. I know she's not alone in this frustrating experience.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A pinch of good and a pinch of bad

The day started out good, with a buffet breakfast in honor of an 8 month pregnant teacher at my school. Even better, it was worm day in science. I love the excitement it generates!

The next half was mixed. I took Fran to her first of two appointments, which N and I were asked to participate in. (which, sadly, meant I would miss the second half of worm day) I won't go into detail. I'll just say it was disheartening, distressing and discouraging.

But then we went to her second appointment. Thank you, Dr F, for making her feel just a little bit better AND thank you to both Rebekah and Karyn for getting us there.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mindful Breathing

Many of you may remember me mentioning a book I read about a year ago, "How to Be Sick", by Toni Bernhard. Her book taught me two excellent techniques for dealing (in the moment) with stress and anxiety producing experiences.

During a recent visit with Amber and Rebekah, our conversation turned to how each of us tries to deal with these feelings. I wanted to share a few excerpts from Toni's book that have stayed with me and continue to use.

The first page is a separate technique from the following four.
Give it a try. Works for me. :>)

Click here to read the excerpts.
I apologize for leaving a few fragments of text.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Penne Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Honey Bacon and Sage

I can see why more and more cookbook authors are taking the opportunity to either tell a story with their recipes, teach important skills or delve into the world of science--people (like me) are using cookbooks less and less. This evening I was ready to thaw some chicken breasts to grill with a starch, a vegetable and a salad. It's what I do on my less inspired or tired evenings. Instead, I remembered the prepped butternut squash sitting in the fridge waiting. Waiting to be made into something suitable for autumn.

I didn't crack one of our many cookbooks, instead I typed, "roasted butternut squash, penne", into Google. I'm  more selective than I used to be. I tend to look for blogs instead of the usual allrecipes or food.com. I didn't see a blogger on first page of results, but I did see farmfreshliving.com. That turned my head. Well, that and the mention of bacon and sage.

You'll find the recipe and link below, but just so you know--I used a bit more bacon and cheese than the recipe called for AND I used 2-3 tsp of dry sage.
I hope you enjoy this as much as N and I did.

http://www.farmfreshliving.com/BUTTERNUT_SQUASH_WITH_PASTA.html

"Winter squash contains an amazing amount of vitamin A. Just a 1/2 cup of baked butternut or buttercup squash has more than a full day's supply of this powerful cancer fighter! Both butternut squash and buttercup squash are also low in calories but high in fiber and are packed full of potassium, vitamin C, calcium and iron.

You can use butternut and buttercup squash interchangeably in recipes. This recipe tastes best when you use fresh , just picked sage leaves. Sage is a very easy and very hardy herb to grow. Sage is also an attractive garden plant that can be grown in a container or in the garden with other perennials.
 Serves 4
Click here for a printable copy
 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup organic virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
1 pound penne pasta
8 pieces thick honey cured bacon, cooked and broken into bite size pieces
1/2 Sweet onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
10 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 Directions
 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil; season with salt. Transfer to oven and roast until squash is browned and tender, about 15 minutes. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt water and return to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set pasta and reserved cooking liquid aside.

 Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add bacon, onion, crushed red pepper, and sage. Cook until onion is soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add penne and squash and toss gently, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid as necessary to moisten.
 Add cheese and black pepper and cook, tossing gently, until pasta and squash are heated through. Serve immediately with more grated cheese, if desired."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUT-GOAT CHEESE CRUMBLE

Splendid Table
From Sunday Roasts: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts, from Old-Fashioned Pot Roasts to Glorious Turkeys and Legs of Lamb by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Betty Rosbottom.

Serves 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes if you purchase peeled butternut squash; 40 minutes if you peel and cube it yourself. 

Start-to-Finish Time: 55 minutes to 1-1/4 hours

 Although this dish calls for only a few ingredients, it delivers big, robust flavors and can be prepared almost completely in advance. The diced squash can be roasted several hours ahead so that at serving time all that is necessary is to arrange the cubes on a platter and sprinkle them with crumbled goat cheese, chopped walnuts, and minced parsley. My local supermarkets sell butternut squash that is already peeled and halved, and if you can find it in this convenient form, it will shave a good amount of time off the prep.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 3 pounds/1.4 kg butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-in/2.5 cm dice to make 8 cups 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 cup/55 g walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup/115 g goat cheese, crumbled 
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley 


1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas 5.
2. Brush a heavy, rimmed baking sheet/tray with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the cubed squash in a single layer on the baking sheet/tray. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the squash, and toss to coat well. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper.
3. Roast the squash, stirring every 10 minutes, until it is tender when pierced with a knife and browned around the edges, for about 35 minutes or longer. Remove and set aside. (The squash can be roasted 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, reheat in a 350°F/180°C/gas 4 oven until warm, for about 15 minutes.)
4. Place the roasted squash cubes on a serving platter and sprinkle with walnuts, goat cheese, and parsley. 

Market Note: Look for peeled butternut squash in the produce section of the supermarket. About 40 ounces/1.2 kg of this peeled squash should yield 8 cups. If you buy a whole squash, look for one that weighs 2-1/2 to 3 pounds/1.2 to 1.4 kg before peeling.

 Cooking Tip: To toast the walnuts, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet/tray and place in a preheated 350°F/180°C/gas 4 oven until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully so that they do not burn. Remove and cool.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wish List

Either I'll live to regret it or I'll have great fun, but this past weekend I told N I want my own (small/light) leaf blower.

Drives me nuts when the little leaves blow into the garage and when the pups track in leaves from the deck. I wonder if it offers the same thinking time as vacuuming?

Fran has a new doctor. I have no idea if he'll actually do anything new, since I rarely hear anything from the girl. Oh, and she'll soon have a new pain doctor. Though, he's in Beaverton. At this point, we don't care. It was such a sock in the gut to have one pain doctor come totally undone when he learned she kept a personal blog (and didn't name names) and another pain doctor turn her down. Who knew it could be such pain to be in pain.

I have a questionnaire sitting on the counter, from the clinic she just left, wanting to know why she left. I don't know if I want to bother filling it out. I doubt if it would change how they do business. I suppose I could be short and sweet and say, "maybe because you made it impossible to switch doctors"? (sigh) Her doctor, bless her heart, was fine when the girls were young, but (for whatever reason) didn't hand her off to someone better qualified to handle things when it was obviously out of her league.

Okay, enough whinging. Don't feel like crying yet again.
I'd rather have a leaf blower.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

First week done and I'm exhausted

I spent the last half of my Friday treating N to my usual verbal regurgitation of the first week of school. I have to talk it out, poor guy. Thank goodness I'm fortunate to be married to a good listener with a good sense of humor.

My first thought was wondering if the majority of this year's children are less prepared for school or if teacher L did the first week differently than past years. I have this vague memory of training them to do multiple jobs with stations of blocks, puzzles and playdough--not cutting, gluing and writing. I felt like a participant in a circus act.

Thursday, I took all of them into the computer lab for the first time (solo). It's normal to have 2 or 3 kids, in each class, unfamiliar with using a computer, but this year about a third of each class was trying to use the mouse without pressing the button. Made me wonder what type of technology they were accustomed to using. One little guy kept pushing the monitor screen--I understand that!

We have a couple of little guys who are happy to let us (but we won't) take care of their every need. Gives me an urge to send home some literature on what a 5 year old should be expected to do on their own. Yes, I know it seems easier to dress them, hang up their coats and manage their backpacks for them, but not in the long run. Plus, you're taking all the fun out of growing up!

I like this article (click here to read entire article):

The responsible child: How to teach responsibility
"Choose age-appropriate tasks. Your 5-year-old is ready to handle some jobs that require self-reliance and dependability. She can feed the dog every evening (not just when you ask her to), for example, and put her dirty clothes in the hamper every night at bedtime. She can also start learning to plan ahead if you ask her questions like, "What will you need in your backpack tomorrow at school?" and "What equipment will you need to have at your swim class this afternoon?"
Teach first things first. Your kindergartner probably knows by now that work usually comes before play, but you still need to reinforce this basic rule. "Sure I want to take you to the park!" you can tell her. "But remember, first we need to clean up after lunch." Be friendly and matter-of-fact about it, and admit that you prefer the fun, too — then she'll understand that you're not just being bossy, but are simply expecting her to behave responsibly."




Monday, September 5, 2011

Not as alarming?

I'm going to be obsessing over how to add Stephen Fry's voice to my current alarm clock. I wonder if he'd actually wake me up?


survive

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Radiolab - "Helicopter Boy"

Love this story.
One of those that I retell to anyone who lets me. ;>)
If I remember correctly, it's approximately 17 minutes long.

Friday, August 26, 2011

While I slept . . .

Not exactly.
I did wake up, but with my ear plugs in it didn't give me the usual adrenaline rush. I was surprised at how little rain followed the lightning. Though the air does feel a bit more clear this morning.



Saturday, August 20, 2011

PASTA CAPRESE

PASTA CAPRESE

from Cooks Illustrated (click here for link)
Serves 4 to 6.   Published July 1, 2007.  
This dish will be very warm, not hot. The success of this recipe depends on high-quality ingredients, including ripe, in-season tomatoes and a fruity olive oil (the test kitchen prefers Columela Extra-Virgin). Don’t skip the step of freezing the mozzarella, as freezing prevents it from turning chewy when it comes in contact with the hot pasta. If handmade buffalo- or cow’s-milk mozzarella is available (it’s commonly found in gourmet and cheese shops packed in water), we highly recommend using it, but skip the step of freezing and add it to the tomatoes while marinating. Additional lemon juice or up to 1 teaspoon sugar can be added at the end to taste, depending on the ripeness of the tomatoes.

1/4cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-4teaspoons fresh lemon juice (see note above)
1small garlic clove , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1small shallot , minced fine (about 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2pounds ripe tomatoes , cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
12ounces fresh mozzarella cheese , cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see note above)
1pound penne pasta or other short tubular or curly pasta such as fusilli or campanelle
1/4cup chopped fresh basil
1teaspoon sugar (see note above)

INSTRUCTIONS



  1. 1. Whisk oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add tomatoes and gently toss to combine; set aside. Do not marinate tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.


  2. 2. While tomatoes are marinating, place mozzarella on plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain well.


  3. 3. Add pasta and mozzarella to tomato mixture and gently toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.

RECIPE TESTING

Recipe Diagnosis: Pasta Caprese

PROBLEM: Mozzarella Chewing Gum
Industrially produced mozzarella clumps into a rubbery, stringy mess when combined with hot pasta.

SOLUTION: Dice, then freeze
Freezing the cheese for 10 minutes before combining it with the pasta prevents it from turning into taffy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Seasonal Food Love

Wow!  Who knew that a flat of Marion berries could be so inspiring!  All I was thinking was jam and maybe a crisp.
I thawed out some chicken thighs and left for happy hour with the dames.  When I came home I discovered Jonathon had hit a home-run in the culinary department.


from Fiery Foods (click "Fiery Foods for link)


Blackberry or Marionberry BBQ Sauce

This sauce works particularly well with grilled beef, and it's great on steaks of all kinds.

Ingredients

Makes
About 3 cups
¼ cup butter
¼ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon. chopped garlic
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon hot sauce of choice
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups fresh blackberries, crushed
Methods/steps
Heat the butter in a saucepan, add onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add all the other ingredients including the berries and cook for about 10 minutes in a slow simmer. You may wish to let this reduce down a bit if the sauce appears too thin.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Radiolab - "New Normal?"

Radiolab is one of my favorite programs to listen to on Saturday mornings on OPB radio. However, if I'm too busy, I'll turn it off. I want to be able to focus on every word.

The upside of missing episodes, is that I can catch up on the treadmill via their podcasts. I was surprised to find myself caught off guard when a local (Silverton) citizen was the main focus of one segment from an episode about human nature. And what a wonderful segment it is.


Entire episode:


Segment with just Stu:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"August, die she must"

"August, die she must 
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold
September I'll remember
A love once new has now grown old"
~Paul Simon 1965

No, I'm not out of time yet, but work began kicking my door today--my principal's letter arrived in the mail.

What I'm most pleased with is the number of books I've read. I doubt that I've surpassed the unofficial record I set one summer. The summer I overdosed on iced tea and sunshine.

The best changes--I love our new curtains and I'm very happy two prints are now framed and hung (thanks to Groupon). 
 
A great discovery--Marionberries submerged in vodka for 2 weeks creates a delicious concoction.

I admit to being about ready to get back on a "jump out of bed" schedule, but not ready to find out how tired I'll be at the end of the day. I see many dinners out in our September. :>)


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wouldn't it be great . . .

I enjoy coming up with ideas for others. Doesn't cost me a dime for that bit of entertainment and sometimes I've even had the chance to watch an idea come to fruition. Great feeling it is!  ;>)

This afternoon, I was driving north on Cordon for a berry run, when I spotted a few runners taking advantage of the shoulder and long expanse without a stop sign. The wheels in my brain began to turn.

Wouldn't it be a great pledge/commitment for health insurance companies and private clinics to come together and build a nice wide paved pathway running along side of Cordon Road? Like the one out around Monmouth, separate from the roadway.

As a matter of fact, many Willamette Valley communities have at least one of those multi-use paths. I think it's Salem's turn. Maybe there's an area better suited or a place we can connect to. What do you think?

Here's a link to what the Corvallis area has to offer.

Kaiser Permanente
Providence
ODS
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon
Willamette Valley Health Partners
Salem Clinic

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crash Hot Sweet Potatoes

Crash Hot Potatoes
Last week, I found a recipe on Pioneer Woman's website called "Crash Hot Potatoes" (here's PW's version and here's Stacy's). In a mere 7 days I made them twice--so good! Today it occurred to me that same process might yield some tasty sweet potatoes, but I wanted someone else to go first. The search was over quickly when I landed on the Stacy Makes Cents website. Here's what she made and here's the link to her site:


Crash Hot Sweet Potatoes
2 whole Medium To Large Sweet Potatoes
½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
2 quarts Water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
1-½ Tablespoon Light Brown Sugar
½ Tablespoons Kosher Salt
½ teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
½ teaspoons Smoked Sweet Paprika
¼ teaspoons Onion Powder
⅛ teaspoons Granulated Garlic Powder
⅛ teaspoons Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Peel the sweet potatoes and slice about 1 ¼ inches thick. Add ½ teaspoon salt to water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add potato slices and simmer for about 12 minutes, or until somewhat softened. Remove carefully to a wire rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Line a large, heavy sheet pan with foil. Using a flat-bottomed bowl or potato masher, slightly mash each potato slice, taking care that they stay intact. Drizzle each slice with a mixture of the butter and oil, using half of the mixture.

Blend the topping ingredients (sugar and all the spices) together really well with a fork, making to sure to get the sugar completely incorporated.

Sprinkle the slice evenly with a total of half the topping ingredients. Make sure you avoid getting the topping on the sheet between the slices if possible—it will burn and smoke before the potatoes are done.

Gently turn over each slice, drizzle with the remaining butter/oil mixture and sprinkle with the remaining seasonings.

Roast at 375° for 20 minutes, carefully flip each slice and return to oven for about 10 minutes more. Serve hot. *Broil for 4 minutes if you desire a crispier outside.*"

*Recipe from http://dlynz.com/ (dyln)

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Mom

We don't know what brought on these symptoms that are similar to Parkinson's, but we're sure it was some event. Perhaps, one of those times she fell down. (darned low blood pressure!)
 I'm just glad she's been able to hang onto her sense of humor.
I don't know if I would.
From Drop Box

Farmer's Markets recipe collections

Here are a few links to Farmer's Markets recipe collections. There are some treasures to be found, but many of the sites I visited made me wonder what would be the best way to put/sort/display recipes on a website.

Farmer's Market Chicken Saute (a single recipe)

Carrboro Market

Rhode Island Farm Fresh

Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural

Washington State University Extension

Chesapeake Bay Farm Fresh

Summer Squash and Pasta Salad with Crispy Chicken Thighs