Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Weeknight Family Dinner
Well, what do you know? Wednesday evening was the first time this week we were all home together for dinner. That doesn't happen very often any more. So of course I had to take advantage of this rare opportunity and make a special dinner for my family.
That afternoon I put together a quick marinade of fresh lime juice, tequila, honey, a pinch of dried Serrano chili, salt and black pepper. This went into a plastic bag with a nice flat iron steak so that the meat could marinate for a couple of hours.

I have been wanting to try this dish for some time, and thought that this was as good a time as any. Pesto Pasta certainly sounds good, right?
Here I have linguine, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fresh flat leaf parsley, fresh basil and about 1/4 cup of frozen homemade pesto.

Now, would you look at what I have to work with here? Minx likes to just plop down wherever. That usually means he's right at my feet. I think he has made himself right at home.

Next we have a nice salad. I cut some beautiful lettuce leaves that are growing in a pot on my deck and I also plucked some lovely chive blossoms. Croutons made from bread scraps and freshly grated cheese compliment the sliced red onion for this salad.

The Pasta was cooked and drained and tossed with the thawed pesto. Then the grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley and basil were gently mixed in. In hind sight I should have added a bit of the pasta water to the pasta to help make more of a sauce, but this was still very good.

The meat was cooked to medium-rare and was tender and succulent. I realized later that a nice addition to this dish would have been some Chimichurri sauce. Perhaps next time, amigos.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Turkey in Every Pot
It's that special time again. Time to make more turkey stock. Goody! Stock therapy for me.

I picked up a package of turkey legs at the store and made sure that I had enough of my aromatics on hand to make another batch of stock.
Here I have carrots, onion, celery (with the leaves), garlic, black peppercorns, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, fresh oregano, fresh parsley and fresh bay leaves. I later added a couple of dried grape tomatoes and a few pieces of diced fresh tomato to the stock pot.

The first step was to clean and roughly chop the veggies and put those in an oven-safe pan along with the turkey legs.

These roasted in a 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes.

Then the ingredients were placed in the stock pot with some water and the remaining herbs.

More water was poured into the roasting dish and the pan was deglazed, releasing all of the wonderful fond from the bottom of the pan.

After about 8 hours, the stock had reduced down to 2 quarts.
The next morning I took the cooled stock out of the refrigerator, skimmed the fat off the top and ladled the gelatinous goodness into several 1-cup containers. After labeling the containers, they were lovingly placed in the freezer for later use.

But that's not all. After allowing the stock to simmer gently for a couple of hours, I removed some of the meat (which had fallen off the bone) from the stock. I let that cool in the refrigerator before continuing to the next step.

I decided to make turkey salad with some of the meat. I carefully picked through the meat before adding finely diced carrot, celery and white onion. Then I mixed in some mayonnaise and some of our delicious veggie dip until the mixture met with my approval.

The turkey salad is nice and creamy.

And now we have lunch. Delightful. The horseradish in the veggie dip added a bit of a tang to the turkey salad while the veggies lent a nice crunch to the salad.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gardens and Kittens
Don't ask me why gardens and kittens go together in my mind. Just. Don't. Ask. There, feel better?
I went out into my garden in a very light rain (hey, we'll take any rain we can get!) to get these pictures from the garden.

I have to admit to a particular fondness for these tropical beauties. Yes, that's right. Impatiens are perennial tropical plants. They just act as annuals in our cold climes. So now you know.

The fothergilla gardenii are in full bloom now.

As are the dogwoods. Please note that the beautiful "flowers" that you admire on dogwood trees are not actually part of the flowers at all. The true flowers are the small 'buds' in the center of the bracts. The bracts are specialized leaves that frame the true flowers.

Healthy lichen cover one of my dogwood trees. If you see this on one of your trees, do not be alarmed. The lichen do not harm the plant and in fact, lichen can only flourish in an environment that is relatively free of pollution. So this is a good thing, all right?

Lichen is a composite, symbiotic organism, consisting of both algae and fungus. They rely on each other and in this form cannot live without the other.

And now back to the dogwood bracts. Not blooms. Got it? Good.

I like this photo. But that's just me.

The old fashioned bleeding heart is blooming.

As are some of the pinks (dianthus or annual carnations).

Some nice, tasteful garden art is never amiss.

Well, these columbine are being rather shy. Le sigh. And isn't it a tragedy that this beautiful flower must now always be linked with the stupidity of men?

And really LE SIGH. Unfortunately, this is very representative of my garden right now. Quite frankly, the garden is a mess, but given that I had to use my rescue inhaler after just walking around the garden to take these pictures, I think that you can understand.
I was happy to hear that the plans for our new deck have been drawn up and that we have a contractor ready to bid on this puppy. Can you see it? All of those weeds, including the horrible thorny tree that insists upon returning year after year next to the back door to the garage will soon be a distant memory.
I can see it. I can live it. I need it!

Now, on to the kitten.

We had company over this weekend, including our dear nine-year-old niece. Minx was a good little host and entertained the young girl. And I have to admit that I'm not sure who was entertaining whom. But, boy was the poor kitty worn out afterwards.

You know, I told myself that I wasn't going to put out a glass of water on my desk for Minx like Midnight had had. However, Minx had put his head into my water glass one too many times and I caved in. Minx is very happy.
Me? Well, I guess I am very happy too. And that is a good thing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

And Now for Some Food
One of my favorite dishes at Easter is Deviled Eggs. This is such a simple dish and yet it is so easy to mess up. Believe me, I have tasted some atrocious deviled eggs at pot luck dinners.
Now I have to say that I make a mean Deviled Egg, if I do say so myself. And the Foodie daughter has built on my recipe and made it even better. She added one new component to the filling and turned the volume way up.

First up we have the Foodie grandma's Veggie Dip. She had gotten this recipe from a friend and then shared it with us. We're so lucky.

1 cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salad oil
4 teaspoons horseradish mustard

I did not have horseradish mustard this time, so I substituted 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon horseradish (or horshradish if you are Sandra Lee) for the horseradish mustard.
Stir together and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.

You may be tempted to just start dipping those crispy crudites in the sauce now, but please restrain yourself.

This dip will be even better 24 hours from now. Trust me on this.

This dip is very good with crudites, but I had other plans for some of this batch.

I put some eggs in cold water in a sauce pan and turned the heat up to high. Once the water just began to boil, I quickly turned the heat down to a simmer and set the timer for 9:20. I realize that is an odd time, but I have found that 9 minutes is just a tad too short and 10 minutes is definitely too long to hard-cook (not boil) an egg.

If your hard-cooked eggs have that green ring around the yolks, that means you are cooking them too long. Be sure to also have a bowl of ice water handy so that you can immediately cool the eggs once the time is up.

Here is the mise en place for the Deviled Eggs.
The hard-cooked (and cooled) eggs
Veggie Dip

The eggs were cut and de-yolked.

I opted to grate the onion so that the onion bits would be small as I intended to pipe the filling into the egg whites.

Once the yolks were broken into crumbs, mayonnaise and the veggie dip were added to taste.

Piping: Attempt number 1.
Yikes, I ended up with more yolk filling on my hands than in the egg whites. That's what I get for trying to use cheap disposable piping bags.

Yes, I'm Semi-HOing it by using a zipper top bag with the bottom corner snipped off. I feel so ashamed.

Not the neatest plating ever.

And finally, a sprinkling of paprika (*Personal Pet Peeve Alert* Please note: it is not Pap-a-REE-ka; it is PAP-rik-a or pap-REE-ka) over the top.
Yes, these were messy. Yes these were gloppy. But they were SOOOO good.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

An Interlude
What's this? Still no food? What do those people eat? Well, at least you can enjoy some pictures while you wait for the Foodie family to eat again.

Say hello to this newcomer to the Foodie household. Honestly, it jumped into the plant tray at the nursery when I wasn't looking. I swear that's what happened...

Now tell me that you could have resisted this little beauty.

Minx "meets" the next door neighbor's cat. Minx is not pleased. This is his house now, so go away.
And why do all of those Asian Lady Beetles come inside my house and then die? Geez.

A beautiful April sunset.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day
Today is Earth Day, when we think about how we are treating our planet and try to do things to help the earth.
What better day to go to the recycling center?

The place was full when I first pulled in.

You have to admit that it was nice of them to all leave so I could take these pictures of our local recycling center.
As a bonus, one of the employees informed me that they were giving away trees today. I chose a Shumard Oak sapling to plant in our back yard.

Another way I try to help the earth is by using reusable bags when I shop. These are sturdy and hold quite a bit.
It feels good to do my part. How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Crafty Me
I had volunteered to make one arrangement and had been volunteered to make another. The deadline looms so I'd better get busy.

These are the items needed for the first arrangement. The hardest part of the project is figuring out the look you are going for. Here I knew that I wanted an arrangement without flowers, but struggled to find an appropriate container. Finally I wandered down the basket aisle of the craft store and found this small wooden chest. I now had a plan.
Also needed are a hot glue gun, needle nose pliers, wire cutters (not shown), a craft knife (not shown), scissors and heavy wire.
The "ingredients" for the arrangement are floral foam, sheet moss, silk ivy, a silk artichoke, plastic grapes, pheasant feathers, curly willow twigs and the box.
A word about the floral foam. There are several different kinds available and each has a specific purpose. Make sure you pick the correct foam for the project.

The first step was to cut the floral foam and glue it to the bottom of the box. Floral foam is hard on knives, so don't use your good knife for this purpose.
I then put down the sheet moss. Years ago I learned the hard way to not glue the moss in place. The glue would prevent the stems from being poked through and the stems will end up holding the moss in place.

And here is a handy tip for dealing with pliers or wire cutters that don't have a spring handle. If you hold the tool like so, your hand becomes the spring. This keeps you from having to constantly keep changing your hold on the tool.

See how this works?

Since the grapes don't have a sturdy stem, I cut a length of wire and looped one end to the grapes. Now they can be stuck into the foam.

Another length of wire is glued and stuck into the bottom of the artichoke.

And the dry fit is complete. Now, I just have to take everything out and glue them into place. Wish me luck.

Not bad. Not bad at all. I think the lady who will be receiving this arrangement will be pleased.
And on to the next arrangement.

I had promised to make an arrangement for a charity raffle. Might as well take care of that one too.
The event is a Ladies' Tea, so what better vessel for the arrangement than a tea pot?
I wanted this arrangement to look like a summer bouquet, so I chose the flowers accordingly. Again, the most time consuming part of the entire project was in choosing the materials. In fact, I'm fairly sure that I was wandering around the store, picking up flowers, putting them back and muttering to myself the entire time before moving on to the next flowers.

The roses are the predominant form in the arrangement, so they were placed in the pot first. I never just take the floral bush as is and plop it in the pot. Each stem was cut from the bunch and placed individually in the arrangement.

The green/white flowers are the next largest and were cut from the stem before being placed around the edge of the pot.
Finally, the small wildflower stems were cut apart from the large bunch and added to the pot. The arrangement must frequently be turned so that a balanced look is achieved. I usually use an old kitchen turntable for just this purpose, but today I just turned the pot by hand.

And another arrangement is finished.

I'm pleased with how this turned out.
All told, both projects took me just over an hour to complete.
My first job was as a silk and dried floral arranger. I had the task of taking an arrangement or wreath that a designer had created and to make X number of copies of that item. From time to time, we were given the task of creating our own arrangements as a teaching tool. I vividly remember staring at the vase for my first arrangement, absolutely terrified of having to create an arrangement that would be seen from all sides. Fortunately, practice does make perfect, and I am much more confident in my ability to create these arrangements.
Not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon.