Book Tree

Note to self: Update plugins on your blog so you don’t find yourself locked out.

Book TreeWhat do you do when you don’t want to carry a pile of books to their rightful owner’s bookshelf because it’s upstairs and you don’t want to make three trips? Turn them into a tree.

Important Questions for the Dog

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Questions I would like to ask Parker, our recently rescued dog.

Are you glad you live with us? Were you hoping for a different sort of family?

Are you comfortable now, or are you nervous when I talk to you and ask you to do something?

Do you really like your crate that much or do you just go in there because you think I want you to?

Do you like Rusty, or do you wish you were an only dog?

When you look at me out of the corner of your eyes, are you thinking, My God I love her! or She is freaking me out!?

What’s your story? Where did you come from? How did you end up in a shelter?

August Succotash

Last week’s CSA box had all the ingredients for a delicious fresh succotash: corn, tomatoes, sweet onions, and lima beans. Get to a farmer’s market this week and enjoy August, using this recipe from Bon Appetit, on Epicurious.IMG_0983

Did I mention fresh basil?
I started a pot of whole grain rice in the cooker while I prepped the succotash. The meal was a hit all around.

Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes, and Onions

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn (preferably 2 ears of white corn and 2 ears of yellow corn)
  • 2 cups fresh lima beans (from about 2 pounds pods) or 10 to 11 ounces frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing. Stir in basil and serve.

Tofu Jerky

It’s summer. There are beach days, lazy days, hot days spent hiding indoors, and days spent cooking. This has been a summer of preserving, not because of any extraordinary quantities of food, but because it’s something I only recently decided to give some time. This post: dehydrating.

I bought this Nesco Food Dehydrator after figuring out a few things:

  • I didn’t need to spend a lot of money on a deluxe dehydrator, and yes, there are deluxe models and brands. This one was inexpensive, reviewed well in several places, and expandable by adding more round trays to the tower.
  • Internet wisdom indicated that a top heater and fan is preferable to one on the bottom, particularly for foods that drip, and thus drip down to the heating unit.
  • I could make beef jerky for the people in my family who love it, but I could also make tofu jerky for those of us who are vegetarians. Sold.

It is pretty basic, which is not a complaint. I added four more trays and extra inserts for making fruit leather and screens for herbs. There is indeed a heater in the lid unit, with the recommended range of temperature settings. It’s easy to clean, relatively quiet, but needs some shelf space to store.

Yes, there has been tofu jerky, to the delight of many. I’ve been experimenting with different marinades and when the recipe is ready, I’ll share. Contenders have been the barbecue marinade and the basic smoky soy flavor, but you know what? I suspect a bottle of quality teriyaki or mesquite marinade would be worth trying as well.

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Tofu jerky, ready to go.

It’s very good. Going to get better, but already a success.

This week I made beef jerky from three pounds of ground beef, using a prepared mix. The carnivores are happy, but I’ve promised a batch made from whole meat and my own marinade. IMG_0988

Previously I shaped this kind of jerky by rolling the ground beef mixture between two sheets of waxed paper and then cutting into sticks. These were made with a Nesco jerky “gun”. That was kind of fun to use.

I’ve dried pints of blueberries and quarts of cherries. A jar of dried blueberries sitting out on the kitchen counter gets noticed, and everyone is more likely to toss some into a salad or yogurt, or just snack on a few. I’m going to do more cherries while they’re abundant because I often bake a heart-healthy cookie recipe that uses dried cherries, which are expensive and sometimes hard to find.

A handful of dried cherries, leftover from making jam.

A handful of dried cherries, leftover from making jam.

I’ve played with fruit leathers using applesauce as a base. The cherry was delicious; peach, not so much.

Cherry leather, ready to dry.

Cherry leather, ready to dry.

On the list next: tomatoes, herbs, chickpeas. Green beans. I wonder if I can make those yummy dried green beans for snacking?

Rainy Day Notes

1. I love my new rain shawl with a hood. It’s awesome.
2. I hate having dogs who aren’t trustworthy yet, and must be walked outside on a leash in torrential rain in order to pee.
3. Individually.
4. It’s stuffy in the house since I can’t open the windows.
5. I’m really glad the garage is too full to hold my car, between my husband’s never-ending project classic car, assorted bikes, and regular garage stuff; I like getting soaked while carrying groceries into the house.
6. So why am I baking a pie for him?
7. That was sarcasm.
8. It’s a great day to try a recipe from Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables, specifically, a greens and ricotta cheese dish.
9. It’s also a great day to knit, which I haven’t done yet. But I will.

I have things to share, really. Food, knitting, and a few good books. On a day when I am dry.

Got Stale Bread? Panzanella.

Oh yum.

Traditional panzanella is made by moistening stale bread and tossing it with vegetables, usually tomato and cucumber. There are variations, and authentic panzanella – bread salad – is worth making and eating. My usual method, though, is to top chunks of quality stale bread with marinated tomatoes and let the oil and vinegar soak into the bread. Yesterday while rummaging I found a half loaf of ciabatta lunga that was past any recovery, chickpeas, marinated tomatoes, and a charged camera.

Grab a plate, and start adding stuff.

A big handful or two of greens. Baby kale here, because that’s what I hadIMG_0688

Top with chunks of stale bread. Good bread, not sliced white stuff. The crustier the better.IMG_0691

Be generous with the marinated tomatoes.IMG_0695

A half-cup of chickpeas makes this a main dish, vegetarian salad. Freshly ground black pepper tops it off. I had about a tablespoon of grated parm leftover in the fridge so I tossed it on, too. IMG_0698

Now walk away for a few minutes. Trust me. Give the bread a chance to soak up the marinade from the tomatoes. Drizzle a little olive oil on top of the whole thing first if you think it’s warranted. Congratulate yourself on making a filling, heart-healthy, nutritionally sound meal.

Eat.

Cooking for Delivery

 

IMG_0108Food. There’s a Christmas present.

Include a promise to keep the food deliveries coming throughout the year, and you have made someone’s day. That’s how it was for my father-in-law, who manages to find his way in the kitchen but hasn’t spent his life cooking, but has now become the chief cook and bottle washer. My husband and I decided that a year of homemade food deliveries would be a good gift for his parents, and it was certainly well received.

The first delivery looked like this, carefully packaged for storage. IMG_0233

 

IMG_0110For the freezer:
  • Lasagna, cut into squares and individually packaged
  • Meatballs packaged 4 to a container
  • Stuffed Baked Potatoes, easily thawed and heated in the microwave
  • Beef Stew, frozen flat in ziploc bags, in bowl-sized portions, and biscuits
  • Cook’s Illustrated’s fabulous make-ahead dinner rolls, requiring a quick counter thaw and time in the oven (A Passionate Plate has illustrated the prep nicely, here.)
  • Lowfat cinnamon crumb muffins
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For the fridge:
  • A jar of steel-cut oats with side containers of chopped nuts and maple syrup
  • Not-even-close-to-lowfat homemade “Reese” cups (These were in the house because we’d been experimenting with them, and thought they might be appreciated. They were.)
  • Cooked and seasoned mixed grains and wild rice.

Out of that list, I’m sharing the recipe for steel-cut oats, because I’m eating a bowl right now. I made a batch yesterday and divided it into short, wide-mouth mason jars for the fridge. (Technically, I’m eating a jar of oatmeal.)

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and is one of hundreds of reasons you should subscribe. You can do this in print, for your iPad, or online, or some combination, and it’s worth every penny. I’ve been a follower since they started publication (twenty years!) and have never been disappointed in a recipe.  Three of the recipes from this delivery are theirs, or have morphed from theirs over the years, lending credence to my recommendation.

Perfect OatmeaL

3 cups water
1 cup whole milk (I use skim because that’s what we have.)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup steel cut oats
1/4 tsp table salt
 
Bring water and milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over  medium heat. In the meantime toast the oats in the tablespoon of butter in a small skillet for a few minutes, until they begin to get a little color and start to smell yummy.
 
Stir the toasted oats into the simmering pot of milk & water, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer gently until it thickens and resembles gravy, about 20 minutes. Add the salt now and stir very gently with a wooden spoon handle (there’s a reason for this but don’t panic if use a regular spoon, just be nice). Continue simmering, stirring with the spoon handle occasionally, until nearly all the liquid is gone and the oatmeal is thick, about 7-10 minutes more. It can stand off heat, uncovered, 5 minutes, to set and absorb more liquid. 
 
Serve, and enjoy the best oatmeal EVER. Topping bar here includes brown sugar, honey, chopped walnuts or pecans, and dried fruit. Serves 3-4.
 

All of the food was appreciated and enjoyed, except the grains, which were something new to their plate. I’ve sent more meatballs and sauce in the meantime, but it’s time to plan another big delivery. All in all, a useful and very good gift idea, adding variety and interest to someone’s diet, especially someone who is perhaps not used to preparing meals.

 

 

Woot! Azura in Rehoboth

I love Azura Clothing in Rehoboth, Delaware. Alyssa and Andy are helpful but laid back, the shop is a feast of color and texture, and the racks aren’t just more of the same. I pop in when I’m in the shopping mood and always put it on the tour when I have house guests at the beach. I love them more this week, though, for putting a few of my headbands and accessories in their shop.

Love them. Go there.

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Evernote and…beans

I had a brainstorm while stocking up on beans at the Whole Foods bulk section last week. The identifying signs have information I might need, like the fact that one needs a longer soak time, is particularly suited to a dish, is known by alternative names, or has a provenance I want to remember. I’ve scribbled notes on the tags or scraps of  paper, but this time I thought to snap a quick picture of the identifying boards with my phone.

That’s not so brilliant, but uploading them to my “Cooking” notebook in Evernote was.  Now they are there, tagged, and searchable. As with all my clipped recipes and notes, I can access them from my laptop, phone, or ipad, wherever I, and the beans, happen to be. This is serious. I travel, and I cook.

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My (mainly vegetarian) kitchen goes through a lot of beans, and I love experimenting with varieties and uses. I can expand the note to indicate which were successful and which should be bought again. 

I love Evernote.

 

Roasted Carrots ‘n Walnuts ‘n Friends

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Just start right off with that, yes?

I’ve had this recipe from the New  York Times in the back of my mind for a few days, and found myself with a hot oven and a few ideas of my own last night. I had a small bunch of long, thin carrots, a half head of cauliflower, and a fat leek.

When I’m being careful not to go overboard with olive oil, I like to put a bit of it in my hands, rub them together, and pick up handfuls of vegetables to coat the pieces with a thin layer. It works well and uses less oil than tossing the vegetables and oil in a bowl together, but needs a third party to pour more into my hands. A small puddle on the cutting board works just as well.

The carrots, side by side on a large sheet, went into a 450 oven for a ten minute head start while a handful of walnuts toasted in a small cast iron skillet. In that time I coarsely chopped, soaked, and drained the leek and the cauliflower. The carrots were then tossed with thyme, the cauliflower and leeks arranged closely but in a single layer next to the carrots, and everything went back in for another 15 minutes or so; these were skinny carrots.

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We drizzled a tiny bit of walnut oil – how delicious – on the carrots before adding the toasted walnuts, and served everything together. I wish there were leftovers for lunch today!