Saturday, December 22, 2007

Marshmallows, Take Two

On a whim yesterday, I decided to make marshmallows again, this time with Lyle's Golden Syrup(tm) instead of the standard light corn syrup. The result is a mellow, off-white confection with a delightful flavor. As I have shown you the process before, I won't bore you with the recipe. I thought you might enjoy some of the highlights of this session:

This is a recreation of what I had to do yesterday. As I was pouring the hot syrup into the bowl while running the hand mixer, I realized I needed to start the timer. Hmm, both hands are busy, no one else is around. Maybe, I can reach up with my foot and hit the button. Success! Sh, I know it looks silly.

All right. Alton Brown lied. Despite following his directions, the marshmallows are firmly attached to the pan.

Whew. I ran a greased spatula around the edge of the pan and the marshmallow finally released.

The goodies are wrapped and ready to be given to my nieces and nephews.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Tale of Two Meals

The other day I decided that while I wanted something a bit out of the ordinary for lunch. A quick peek in my refrigerator revealed some leftover rice and some veggies. We are in business.

First the prep work: I chopped a carrot, some onion and a rib of celery. I mixed together some Teriyaki sauce and set that aside for later. Then I heated some canola oil in a saute pan. I added the carrot and the onion and allow them to soften just a bit. They move to a bowl and after adding more canola oil to the pan I move to the next step.

I beat an egg and scramble it in the hot pan. When it is mostly cooked through, I add the egg to the bowl with the carrots and onion.

I add more canola oil to the pan and throw in my cooked rice and the celery. After a few minutes I add the Teriyaki sauce and I put the egg and other veggies back in the pan. Tossing well to coat everything, I allow all to heat back up before plating.

Can I tell you how good this was? In case you are wondering, I actually used very little canola oil in the making of this dish.

And now on to last night's (and tonight's, and...) dinner. Or

A Dish Best Served Twice

I am trying to clean out my freezer and refrigerator so I have been pulling together meals that utilize the resources in my very own kitchen. And believe me, I need to. No matter how much I try to prepare, I am never quite ready for my husband's annual gifts from work: the ham and the cooler full of Omaha Steaks (tm) items. Don't get me wrong: I appreciate it. I just have to scramble to find the room for it all. If my husband is reading this, I really need a new refrigerator. Hint, hint.

Anyway, back to the meal. A couple of days ago I moved a container of homemade tomato sauce from the freezer to the fridge. At the grocery I picked up a container of ricotta cheese and a package of lasagna noodles. Yesterday morning I assembled the dish.

Yes, I like my lasagna cheesy. I added ricotta , mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses to the dish. Cover and put back in the refrigerator until it's time to cook.

After an hour of baking, the dish is out of the oven and ready to be plated. And the best part is that this will taste even better the next day.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

True Domestic Bliss
I have to admit that one of the things I love the most about my house is its location. I have nice woodland views from the rear of the house, and can simply set out onto the deck to enjoy gorgeous sunsets and sunrises. What can I say? I feel blessed each time I look outside.

Last evening's sunset. I had to abandon my dinner preparations so I could get this picture. Not to worry: my daughter stood watch over the food while I was out on the deck.

I was actually up before the sunrise this morning. I'm not sure I am going to like this view so much after the houses are built back here.

Just a few minutes later. Well, I will enjoy the natural beauty while I can. And if nothing else, I will always have these photographs to look at after we have new neighbors.

Good morning and have a great day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Playing Hide and Seek

Apparently one of my husband's favorite games is Hide and Seek. Please note that I have not said that I enjoy it. Far from it, in fact.

Monday mornings I am often treated to this sight:

I am fairly certain that there is a chair somewhere underneath all this paperwork. Now if I could only find it...

And then there is this delightful scene:

I swear, there is a very nice coffee table and sofa underneath all these papers and magazines. Really.

Somebody (who isn't me) needs to gather the papers for the recycling center.

Where did my kitchen table go?

I hope I don't need to get to my bookcase any time soon.

Sigh. Apparently this paper affliction is contageous, because some of this is my mess. But I do clean up after myself.

Oh well, I suppose that if my husband's perpetual paper trail is the worst I have to complain about, then my life isn't all that bad. Please excuse me while I use these pictures to help bring my blood pressure back down to normal.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a male cardinal to stay in one spot long enough to snap his picture? Silly little creatures.

This is about the only good reason for mornings to exist.

There, much better now.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes

This was the scene from my kitchen window yesterday afternoon.

Look what I woke up to this morning. It's only been snowing about 2 hours at this point. Unfortunately, freezing rain and sleet is forcast for this afternoon before turning back to snow. Oh, and much wind is also in the works. Where's spring?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Two Dinners and Some Nuts
I have been having more fun in the kitchen the past couple of days. It all started early Wednesday morning when I got some beef short ribs ready to sear before slow cooking them all day.

The beef short ribs have been seared and onion added to the pot.

A sauce of yellow mustard, dijon mustard, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, pepper and sugar coat the ribs and the slow cooking begins.

After 10 hours in the slow cooker, the ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender. Don't be alarmed by the amount of fat in the dish. Unless you are eating the sauce, it isn't a problem and it is perfectuly normal for the fat to be rendered from the ribs.

Mise en Place for "Emeril's Spicy Nuts" (Don't mind me while I giggle.)

First we toast the pecan halves.

Set aside the nuts (er, drupes) and add butter, brown sugar, water, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and salt to the pan.

Once the glaze has combined, add the pecans back in the pan. Stir and coat thoroughly.

Lay the pecans out on a baking sheet to cool. Use two forks to carefully separate the nuts so they don't stick to each other. This was my first time making such a dish and I am fairly pleased with the results.

The cast of characters for Bobby Flay's Barbecue Grilled Shrimp: cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, brown sugar, and salt.

Tonight's dinner players. Living as we do in Southern Indiana, all our seafood comes to us in the frozen form. Here I have shell-on shrimp, sea scallops and a mahi mahi filet.

The scallops are wrapped in pre-cooked bacon slices and they and the shrimp are on skewers. The dry rub has been applied to both the scallops and the shrimp. The mahi mahi has been salted and peppered and will be grilled whole. Unfortunately, I was too busy cooking to take pictures of the seafood cooking on my stove's grill top.

I decided to try yet another new recipe today: A Beurre Blanc sauce from William and Sonoma's web site. The ingredients include white wine, lemon juice, minced shallot, salt, white pepper, and of course butter.

Wait - what's this? Someone is using a Sharpie(tm) to put grill marks on the fish?

The finished Beurre Blanc Sauce. You may have noticed that this particular recipe eschews the heavy cream that is often found in this classic sauce.

And we have our Mixed Seafood Grill! Excuse me while I go eat now.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Potpourri, Part Deux

Just a reminder of where we left off 2 weeks ago. The fruit is now dry enough to package.

I've got the first packet ready. Don't you love the salmon color of the one orange?

All tied up and ready to be delivered.

I thought you might like the recipe for this nice gift. Today I pulled out a packet that was a couple of years old and added it to a pot of simmering water on my stove today. It smelled just heavenly.


This is a great project for the Holidays and it makes a nice gift. I typically cut up several oranges and lemons at once so I can make many gifts.

Thinly slice oranges and lemons. Place on several layers of paper towels. I place this on cooling racks in jelly roll pans. The fruit is very juicy and it will take quite a while to dry out. To preserve the color of the fruit I like to air-dry the fruit, but they can be placed in an oven set on the lowest setting for several hours. This way the fruit turns dark.

When orange and lemon slices are thoroughly dried, the potpourri packets are ready for assembly. On two squares of netting, place a few dried slices of each fruit along with 10 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 3 bay leaves. Close and tie with a pretty ribbon.

If desired to use as a simmering potpourri, add a couple of slices each of orange and lemon, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick and 2 bay leaves to 2 cups of water and simmer on low heat. Do not allow to boil dry.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Brining for the Good

I have to admit it: since learning that I am allergic to chicken, I am obsessed with finding substitutes. Turkey is the obvious choice, and luckily, I have been able to find less than the whole-frozen-turkey-carcass in my local stores. I actually found a half bone-in turkey breast at the store this week and that parcel couldn't land in my cart fast enough. I immediately had visions of a tender, succulent, brined turkey breast on my plate later in the week. I then had to consider what the side dishes would be for such a delectable dish. I finally decided upon fresh green beans that had first been blanched and then roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper and freshly grated parmegiano reggiano cheese. My husband brought home some home-made whole wheat buns from a dinner he attended last night and I reheated them to round out our dinner.

The brine is ready: I heated 1/2 gallon of water and added 1/2 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup sugar with 1 lemon, quartered, and one orange, quartered, 2 bay leaves, one cinnamon stick and a half dozen whole cloves.

Once the water has cooled, I added the half turkey breast and refrigerated overnight.

Hee, hee. I had fun placing pats of butter under and over the turkey skin. Is it illegal to have that much fun with one's food?

This afternoon I trimmed and blanched fresh green beans. Then I patted them dry and placed them in a baking dish with olive oil, kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and freshly grated parmegano reggiano cheese.

Sadly enough, I neglected to document the final result, so you will have to use your imaginations. Suffice it to say, I set the meat thermometer at 160 degrees and pulled the meat out at that point. An aluminum foil tent allowed the meat to rest while we plotted this dinner's demise.

Amazingly enough, there is enough left over meat for another meal and I am sure I will find a way to reinvent the green beans. I love it when a plan comes together!

And for those who have been following the not-hot water saga: After 4 days without, we finally have hot water again. Such a simple, over-looked luxury in life. Thank you, Kirby!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Oh Hot Water, Where Art Thou?

It is now Day 3 of our Captivity and no hot water is in sight. For the 3rd, count them folks, 3rd time, this year we are without hot water. Our friendly neighborhood heating and a/c guy was out twice this past Saturday, but alas, no breakthrough for our problem. Kirby left with promises to track down the elusive part early Monday morning.

Well, we have proof the water heater exists. Too bad it doesn't actually work.

I arose early this morning and eagerly awaited the promised phone call: our guy had called all around town to no avail. He then expanded his search and finally found the ONLY supplier in the state who had parts for our particular water heater. Once again he promised to immediately set off to Indianapolis and then install the necessary part later today.

Fast forward to 7pm this evening. No sign of Kirby and no hot water. I have a sink full of dishes because my dishwasher is full. Feeling apprehensive before dinner, I filled my pots with water, thinking that the water would at least have a chance to warm up to room temperature before I would have to heat it. We ate dinner and heated the water. I washed the dishes and cleaned out the sinks while we heated more water, praying that adding cold water to a hot Pyrex(tm) pot wouldn't crack it and implode the universe. Fortunately luck held out and more water was heated. After the third time this year, we have this down to a science: wet hair, lather, rinse over empty sink, finish over warm water, move on to the next person.

Also of note was the fact that our guy informed us that our particular unit was built in 1989 while our house was built in 1995. I sincerely hope that this wasn't a 'used' unit, but given who our house builder was (and I had nothing to do with that! I've always said we bought a 3 year old fixer-upper), I guess that shouldn't surprise me. And, I learned today that a replacement unit will cost big bucks and that we can expect this unit to die in a most messy and wet way very soon. As my husband stated earlier today, "The joys of home ownership." Uh, yeah.
Christmas is Coming
It has taken a few days, but my Christmas decorations are now up. As I am allergic to evergreens, we have an artificial tree and artificial decorations. I did clip some holly for a vase, but that's it for the formerly live decor.

About 12 years ago I wrapped our tree with lights so that now it is just a simple matter to assemble the tree and plug in the strands. It has worked well, but in the past couple of years some of the strands have begun to burn out. Hopefully, after I replace all the strands we will be good for another 12 years.

I took my time bringing up parts of the tree.

Finally! The tree is rewired and fully decorated.

This is one long and heavy garland.

Admit it. You've never seen a tomato cage painted gold, turned upside down with the legs wired together, then lit and decorated before now.

Another long garland and a small tree adorn the front porch.