Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dogwoods in Bloom

As promised, I went out this morning and took 
pictures of the Dogwoods.

 This is a lovely sight to come home to.

 The bush to the left is a Fothergilla gardenii.

The blooms look like bottle brushes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Lovely Luncheon at the University Club

We had yet another delightful and interesting
luncheon at the University Club in the IMU today.

Our guest speaker was Dr. Tom Morrison, 
who is Indiana University's 
Vice President for Capital Projects and Facilities.

He spoke to us about the Master Plan for the Bloomington campus.

They have things planned out years and years in advance.
 They leave nothing to chance.
If you are interested in learning all the details,
the fine print can be found here.
It was a fascinating talk for those of us
who are familiar with the campus.

But since this is actually supposed to be a food blog,
with some gardening 
and some other stuff thrown in from time to time,
let's get to the food...

First up was a Bitika Salad 
of iceberg and romaine lettuces
 with blue cheese, bacon, chopped cauliflower 
and garlic sweet and sour dressing.

I liked the fact that the salad wasn't swimming
(or rather drowning) in dressing.
It was done just right.

 I chose the
Grilled petite pork chop with rosemary and garlic 
over mashed potatoes 
with country style gravy and green beans as my entree.

The pork was cooked perfectly and was moist and tender.


 Several others at our table ordered the vegetarian option of
Eggplant Parmesan.

They were very happy with their choice.
I could tell.
Their happy smiles and clean plates told the tale.

Dessert was a cheesecake with cherry sauce.

The food was delicious as always.
We are fortunate to have
such a great chef and kitchen staff at the IMU.
Spring Blooms!

Spring is early this year.

I have been taking advantage of the warm weather
and have been out working in the garden.

 While I get to work,
come along and take a tour of my early spring flowers.

The hyacinth in bloom.

 Vinca minor.

 Flowering pear tree.

 Cornus florida, or Dogwood tree.

 Pink Dogwood.

Due to the drought in 2010, 
neither of the Dogwoods had a single bloom last spring.

 Iberis or candytuft.

Dicentra or Old-fashioned bleeding heart.

 The Canada Red Chokeberry bloom.

This is a very sweet-smelling bloom.

Notice that the leaves start out bright green. 
They will turn purple in a month or so.

Purple leaf sand cherry in bloom.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Ugly Side of Spring

This afternoon we received alerts that severe weather 
was headed our way.
We were warned to expect strong thunderstorms,
possible hail, and even tornadoes.

As the threat of tornadoes became more likely,
we headed for the basement.

I took up my station at the back door,
looking to the southwest, camera in hand.

The sight was not encouraging.

 The clouds were slowly swirling.

 Then they began to dip.

 As they crept closer.

 And then the winds picked up.

 The flower petals from the flowering pears began flying.

 It looked like it was snowing.

No hail here, though.

But then we looked up and saw a funnel cloud forming
over our back yard.

Fortunately, it rolled over and went on its merry way.

Other areas of the county received hail and reported
multiple funnel clouds.

This part of spring I can do without.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stained Glass Windows

A couple of weeks ago we attended a wedding
at my husband's former church.

This brick church was built early in the last century
to replace the former wooden church that was
hit by lightning and burned to the ground.

Simple, but elegant stained glass windows.

A close up of one of the windows.

I especially liked this window with the grapes.

Whistles innocently.

More windows.

The fanciest windows were at the back of the church.

Did I mention that we were here to attend a wedding?

Wishing many happy years for the happy couple!
They are a lovely pair and we love them both!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A St. Patrick's Day Feast

Just in case you slept through yesterday or were too caught up
in March Madness, yesterday was St. Paddy's Day.
The day when the Chicago River runs green.
The day when everyone is Irish, 
even if like me, they have not an Irish bone in them.

And did you know that there are more Irish people 
living in the United States than there are living in Ireland?

 I thought we would celebrate the one day of the year
when some of us in the family could share in being Irish
by making Corned Beef and Irish Potato Puffs.

I had never made Corned Beef before I tried Rosie Hawthorne's
most excellent recipe last year.
That would be Rosie Hawthorne of Kitchens Are Monkey Business.
In fact, I had never met a corned beef I liked before 
That is quite telling, folks.

Rosie’s Corned Beef
Bake for 3 hours, 15 minutes

4 lb. flat-cut corned beef brisket
Ingredients for the rub:
4 TB brown sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper*

Mix all ingredients together.  Sprinkle the spice mixture all over the brisket.  And rub your meat!

Add 2 cups cold water down the side of the baking pan, being careful not to wash off any of the rub.

Cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

After one hour, remove from oven, and pour out braising liquid.

Pour another 2 cups of cold water down the side of the pan.  Cover and bake for another hour.

After the second hour, remove from oven, pour out liquid, and add 2 more cups of water in.

Return to oven for the final (third) hour of baking.

Remove from oven, pour off liquid, and turn oven to 450 degrees.

Ingredients for glaze:
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 TB soy sauce
1 TB Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper*
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp ground ginger

*I halved the amount of cayenne pepper in the recipe.  Rosie's recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon for each part.

Mix all ingredients and brush the sweet-hot glaze over corned beef.

Return to 450 degree oven and let it cook uncovered for 15 more minutes.

After resting, slice thinly.

Serve on toasted rye bread with thin slices of corned beef, melted Swiss cheese, a brush of Dijon mustard on the rye, some potato chips in the sandwich for crunch with a slice of dill pickle on top.

 The mise en place:
This time I had a two pound flat cut corned beef brisket,
brown sugar, black pepper, ground cayenne pepper, ground
mustard, and nutmeg.

Unfortunately, I had to grind my own cloves and I had 
to substitute fresh ginger for the ground ginger.

Fresh ginger and dried, ground ginger are not good substitutes,
so I went easy on the fresh ginger.

I did find out that freshly ground cloves will easily overpower
all the other flavors.
Freshly ground cloves are very, very spicy.
Live and learn!

 I spent a bit of time trimming the fat off the meat.

The fat is on the left..

 The spice mixture has been spread on the meat and
after the cold water is poured down the side of the dish,
it is ready to go into the oven.

 On to the glaze.

Soy sauce, Dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, ground mustard,
brown sugar, and fresh ginger are the ingredients for the glaze.

Oh, do you notice the Birthday cake on the table
behind the mise en place?
Yesterday was the Foodie Boyfriend's Birthday!
Wish him a happy belated birthday!

 The glaze will go on the meat in the last 15 minutes of cooking.

 While the corned beef was happily braising in the oven,
I turned my attention to the Irish Potato Puffs.

Irish Potato Puffs
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
2 tablespoons onion (or 1/2 shallot), grated
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 slices cooked bacon, minced
1 egg
½ cup bread crumbs, for dredging

Peel and cube the potatoes before adding to some water and sprinkling with some kosher salt. Cook the potatoes in the microwave for about eight minutes, until fork tender. 

Add the butter and mash until fairly smooth. Place the potatoes in the refrigerator to cool.
Meanwhile, grate the garlic, onion or shallot and cheese. Mix together with the minced herbs, flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, bacon, sour cream and egg and set aside.

Once the potatoes are cooled, mix in the other ingredients and put everything back into the refrigerator for another couple of hours.

Use a one-inch cookie scoop to measure out the right amount of potato mixture and then either gently roll into a ball or flatten the ball into a patty.  The puff balls or patties are then dredged in bread crumbs.  Put the puff balls or patties back into the refrigerator to firm up before frying.

The patties can be fried, a few at a time, in hot oil in a skillet before draining on a rack.   The puff balls can be deep fried in oil that has been heated to 350 degrees in a pot or deep fryer.  Fry a few at a time until they are a golden brown.  Drain on a rack after cooking.

The finished potato patties or puff balls can be held in a warm oven until dinner time.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives, if desired.

Makes about 40 puff balls or patties.

 While the potatoes cooked,
I mixed the remaining ingredients together, minus the butter.

 After everything had cooled and was mixed together,
it was time to make the potato puffs.

I used my 1" cookie scoop for this job, but you can use a spoon
and then roll the potato mixture with your hands.

 Roll the potato puff in the bread crumbs.

 Place the puffs back in the fridge to allow them to firm up
before frying.

 Fry for just a few minutes until golden brown.

Drain and then plate.

 The corned beef has rested and has been sliced.

And dinner is served.

Trust me:
you must try Rosie's recipe for corned beef.
It is truly the best.

Try the Irish potato puffs with a dollop of sour cream.

I hope you enjoyed your one day of the year
when you too could be Irish 
(unless you really are Irish and can 
celebrate being Irish 365 1/4 days every year).