Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our trip; Day 2

A pleasant night passed.  I had mentioned that I was concerned that we wouldn't get off the train as planned.  But there were no issues.  The train was late when we got on it.  It had not been able to make up much time - something about having to pull onto a side track to give right of way to a freight train. 

We both woke just after 5 a.m.  I left the "roomette" and traveled down the hall in bare feet to the coffee pot, bringing back two cups - One with cream for me and one black for him.  He went for the second cup.  As promised, the Steward knocked on the "roomette" window just after my cell phone alarm went off saying it would be another 25 minutes, but we were easily ready in time.  Two late August Virgos can rule the world when it comes to organization. 

We were now in California farmland.  My impulse is that it is very dry land, but I grew up in the northern Willamette Vally in a very different climate.   Husband spent some of his formative years in the CA Bay area and feels more at ease in this country.  We talked about his Dad and Mom and Dana and Denise and Richard and Orval.  If you are reading this now and you are one of these people, know that these conversations were happy and reflective.  He cares for you deeply. 

We left the train at Sacramento.  Pulling our bags behind us on early Thanksgiving morning, we walked down I Street, then crossed over to J Street at about the 700 block.  We were headed for 926 J Street and the Citizens Hotel.  You might already have guessed that I had reservations.  I was hoping for one day and night at a very nice hotel.  It needed to be near the train station as we had no transportation but our feet. 

The building was built in 1929 and had been renovated just a few years ago.  As perspective for the young ones, my Father was born in 1929, and I am 51 years old.  Perhaps it would be helpful to say that the building is 81 years old, before t.v., widespread electricity, widespread toilets, widespread plumbed water.  Also before television, cable and internet.  

I've been in renovated hotels without exhaust in the bathrooms, without comfortable heating and cooling and other problems.  Renovating a building that old is very difficult and expensive.  Modern expectations include comfortable  and spacious bathrooms, internet, cable TV.  Code related to exhaust and outside air flow, well, there wasn't any back then.  And then, there is seismic code.  It really isn't easy and I've been in hotels that has been done poorly.

Citizens did it well.  If you are in Sacramento, I recommend it.  

We spent the day walking in Sacramento.  We were shocked by the abandoned areas, closed buildings, the numbers of homeless walking the streets. 

For example, this is the block next to the Citizens.  Refer to the photo of the Citizen above.  The Citizens is to the right in this one.  This was typical.  Whole blocks, abandoned by the owners and taken over by others.  Not good for anyone, including those who took over.   
We were "mugged", but scared the crap out of our muggers, and got away without a scratch.  That story is on Day 3.  (Don't worry, we were fine.)  

We spent hours walking in old Sacramento.  Completely closed up for the holiday.  

Mostly shops, restaurants and bars.  We are not the touristy types and probably wouldn't have gone except that we had the place absolutely to ourselves. 

 Well, a couple runners.  A few others like us, but just a handful of people. 

We walked these streets nearly vacant, like some creepy movie.  Just our thing! :)

There was a museum, which, of course, we didn't get to go into.  Hello.  It was Thanksgiving.

We returned to early dinner reservations at the Grange.  In the same block as the Citizens.  I love food in all forms and did some research.  The Grange's existence influenced my selection of the Citizens. 

We were served an excellent, traditional, Thanksgiving meal.  If I am going to do this kind of thing, I'm going to have to get better at documenting it.  But it was so excellent, that we slurped it down without a photo.  Until desert.   

This was little cream puffs filled with a layer of pumpkin and a layer of cream filling. Exactly what I don't make at home which is one of the things I look for in good restaurant food.  It was drizzled with a sauce that was both caramely and fruity.  If there was a class on how to make that sauce, I'd be there.  I'd be happy to eat that sauce over my breakfast cereal for the rest of my life.  Notice my finger prints.

The other desert was a cranberry tart.  The crust wasn't anything, but the filling was awesome.  Husband was stuffed and left the deserts to me.  This one was my breakfast on Day 3.  More to come. 

Please come back.       

Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Trip; day 1

I've just returned from Yoga class.  I mentioned to my classmates that I had just returned from a trip.  They said, "where to?"  But, our trip was not about a destination.  It was about the train.  I had planned every detail of this, as is my way.   

We left on Wednesday, the day before the actual day, around 1 p.m.  Step Son took us to the Amtrak station in Vancouver, WA.  I sat in the back seat of our SUV.  Husband and Step Son in the front.  Brilliant Baby beside me, all strapped and travelling, looked at me the entire ride from the house to the station as if to say, "you don't usually ride back here" or "where is Sister?"  I hooked my index finger into his fist and talked to him.  But seriously, when will this child start to talk so I know what he is thinking??? 

My plan was a "roomette" on the sleeper car and a reservation in the dining car for our meals.  The train was late, a full hour.  Step son and Brilliant Baby left us to wait.  We sat next to a nice elderly lady with her walker who spent the time eating the food she had brought with her and talking on her Blackberry.  Really.  She and I talked about her going to meet family in Eugene, OR.  She would be there by dinner time. 

The train arrived and we separated, her to the coach car, us to -- where?  We asked at each car until we arrived and were directed to our little roomette.  Now mind you, I am good at research and planning.  I picked a room we would sleep in and spend time in during the day.  I had taken a virtual tour of the room prior to the trip.  I was disappointed that it was so painfullly small.  Little more than a closet.  We reserved wine tasting in the parlor car at 4 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m.  There was time before we got to the full realization of what I had done to us.  We enjoyed our evening.  Dinner was good.  We hit Eugene just after dinner time and settled into a dark ride through the evening and a night on the train.

It wasn't until we returned to our "roomette" that we fully realized our situation.  We sat quietly for a bit.  Then, we had a little fight.  It would be like sleeping in a small closet.  There was an upper bunk which one of us could have slept in, but we quickly decided that we didn't like the idea and would sleep together on the lower bunk, painfully small.  Longer, but less wide that a standard twin mattress.

A calm set over us.  It was dark, but warm.  There were sounds around us -  interesting and happy sounds.  As we tried to get comfortable, we watched the dark and snowy world go by outside our window.  We snuggled in together, way too close, but cozy warm.

Late at night, I woke and set up.  In the somewhat bleary world without my glasses, I saw trees covered with snow drifting by outside our window.  There was the occasional shake or shudder of the train, but mostly it was a peaceful and rhythmic vibration and peaceful view of a world going by outside our window.  Together with the peaceful snoring/breathing of my sweetheart, a very pleasant and happy feeling came over me.   I was on vacation.

The plan was that we arrive in Sacramento at 6:08 a.m.  I had been concerned that we would not awake in time to get ourselves off the train, but the Steward had assured me that it was one of his jobs that he get us off at the right stop.  Plan B was the knowledge that my cell phone alarm was set, as always, to go off at 6 a.m.  If the train was on time and the Stewart failed me, I wasn't looking forward to missing our plans.  That would mean what?  Bakersfield?  Then what? 

Remember to check back for more.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Turkey Pot Pie

The Thanksgiving pagent was awesome and fun.  They made their own cute little costumes and sang little songs.

So many happy cute little children.  I haven't been working much the last few days and that's going to have to stop, but, heck, these moments are few and go by so fast.    

I made turkey pie around this time last year.


We are busy this week. We won't be eating turkey on T-Day. So this will be our dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow.  I don't really use a recipe.  Lots of vegetables like carrot, peas and potatoe.  Onion and garlic.  Make a rue of flour and oil.  Add liquids of broth or half and half or both to make a sauce.  Salt, pepper, whatever seasonings you like.  I tend to favor Italian seasonings.  There are recipes out there if you want one.  But this is about lattice crust.
Start one direction.  Cut thin slices with a pizza cutter.  Actually, my mother had a special cutter with a zigzag edge.  Wish I had one.  
Then pull back every other one and start the other direction.

Lay back the opposit set every other one and do another row.

Then lay back the opposite group ever other one and add another row.

  And Another

 I'd really like to promote world peace through lattice crust.  If I'm not being clear, please let me know.   A good lattice crust on a casserole changes everything a soothes the savage beast.

Just cut back the extra edges so a 1/2 inch hangs over and smush them against the edge of the casserole dish.  Dab the finished lattice top with a beaten egg and I mean get it wet with the eg everywhere.  Bake until brown and the filling is bubbly hot.  If it is bubbling up between the lattace, consider that a bonus.

Remember to enjoy the moments you will remember when they are actually happening.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi

Oh, and here was our Sunday night dinner after the cookies were delivered and everyone went home.


Obsolutely yummy, but I really like fresh ginger.  A restaurant quality entre and very easy to make.

The fish was the lost leader at Safeway one weekend several weeks ago.  I bought a couple packages and put them in the freezer, so it's cheap and good.

Try this, Richard Osborne.  Vel would love it.

With brocolli and rice and a movie. 

I've got lots to be thankful for.

Remember to cook with fresh ginger.

Pumpkin Cookies to Take to School

First things first.  Happy Birthday to my little sister, Melinda Bennett.  She is not the same person as Melynda who comments regularly here.  Hi, Melynda!  Actually, I'd say hi, Melinda, but I haven't gotten my little sister very interested in computers.  Last time I asked her, she hadn't yet visited.

Why is it so hard to take a picture of a fire in the fireplace?  Well, you'll have to take my word for it. 

Next, are we ever really thankful enough?  Today, I'm more than usually thankful for a warm house and a full pantry.  The washing machine is swishing away getting our clothes clean for the coming week.  What a lucky girl I am.  Remember to take a moment and be grateful for what you have, whatever that is.  Things could be worse.  Gratitude is something very powerful and essential in our lives and getting more scarce in the secular and materialistic world we live in.

On that happy note, Husband is busy playing with his new DVD player.  And by the way, when did DVD players need to be hooked up to the internet and where was I when this happened?  And what is Blue Ray, again?  Seems like only yesterday when Dad was recording the season fanale of Dallas for Mom, because she has a class that night and she didn't know how to time delay the video tape machine.  Yes, children, that was before DVD players were conceived of or imagined.

Now to the important stuff:  My assignment for this afternoon is to make pumpkin cookies with Step Granddaughter that she can take to a school event tomorrow.  Another thing to be thankful for.  I've found a canned pumpkin that says it is packaged in Corvallis, OR, which is near were I was born, so local enough for me.  I've seen it at Freddies and Safeway. 

Oh, and here is my inspiration for this.  http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com/2010/11/pumpkin-spice-thumbprints-and-csn.html

Pumpkin Cookies
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed bown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 c. rolled oats
1 t. baking powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c.  AP flour
1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
Some where around 40 Hersey's Kisses, one for each cookie
Melted chocolate for drizzling.

In one bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients.  In another bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients.  Add one bowl to the other and stir to combine.  Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Drop teaspoons full on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non stick spray.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Straight out of the oven I pressed a Hersey's Kiss into each cookie and drizzeled with a little chocolate syrup.  Okay, so this was more fun for me than her.  But she humored me.  And we got cookies to take to her event.  She ate enough that she won't want her dinner.  Hope I'm not in trouble again.

Remember that the details count for something.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Jackson the Doberman

We lost a dog today, Jackson, Doberman Pincher. He was a good boy. Thanks for guarding us, people (grown ups and children), business, home. Thanks for leading and protecting children and golden retrievers, and still being good dog for adult people. Not perfect, but good. I'll miss you, Jackson. Meemaw loves you.

Kitchen talk #3; Whale Done

I love the book Whale Done, by Ken Blanchard.  If you haven't read it, it is a quick read and I highly recommend it.  And his other books, The One Minute Manager, Raving Fans, Gung Ho.  His books are simple ideas that many of us learned early in life, but sort of forgot along the way.

Whale Done starts with the idea of how they train whales to do tricks at Sea World.  I've never been there, but I've seen it on TV.  So how do they get the whales to do tricks?  Beat them?  Starve them?  Would you want to be in the water with a mistreated whale?

According to this book, whales are trained by rewarding desirable behavior and ignoring undesirable behavior.  The book goes on to suggest that we translate these ideas to our personal relationships with the people who are important to us.  Just because the people around us aren't likely to physically hurt us (well, I'm hoping) doesn't mean that their sensibilities and sensitivities are less important.  And really, are negative interactions motivating or helpful?  Well of course not.

So there goes any form of criticism right out the window.  Along with it goes most sarcasm.  Darn, because I like sarcasm.  I'm really pretty darned good at sarcasm.  But it doesn't get you anything but a momentary sense of righteous indignation.  It doesn't teach anything.  And it doesn't encourage the behavior you like to see in the people around you.

So Well Done, Step Grand Daughter for careful stirring.  Ignoring the little mess on the counter.  Next time she does anything that looks like cleaning up, I'll try to praise her immediately. 

And Well Done, Brilliant Baby for closing the cabinet door.  Ignoring that he opened it. 

Oh, and Well Done, Good Husband for all the things you do to make our lives better.  Ignoring... well, let's not go there.

Remember to point out the positive.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Meatball Monday #2: Beef and Bacon Meatballs in Sauce

Last week, I gave my basic meatball recipe.  I use it in several dishes and keep a batch frozen instead of buying those frozen meatballs at the store which are very fatty and kind of icky, I think.


Here is my first Meatball in Tomatoe Sauce.  I do this several different ways. 

Beef and Bacon Meatballs in Sauce
1 lb lean ground beef
5 pieces bacon, uncooked, cut into small pieces
1/2 c. commerical bread crumbs
1T. dry minced onion
2 cloves garlice, Minced
2 t. worchestershire sauce
3 dashes chipolte tabasco

Combine the ingredients and shape into small meatballs.  Bake in a 450 oven for about 10 minutes.   Refer back to last weeks meatballs for more detailed instructions.  This is a fatter meatball that the first week because of the bacon.  Husband is at step son and daughter in law's looking at some repair to a canopy and having a very good time, I'm sure.  But he will be a long soon.

Since it's just the 2 of us tonight, I'll freeze half of the meatballs for meatball sandwiches in Josh's barbecue sauce for another day.

Sauce for the meatballs.
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
1/2 t. sugar
2 t. Italian seasoning.
Mix together and set aside.

Once the meatballs are cooked, place half of them in a large skillet and set aside the others for packaging for later.  Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bring to a slow simmer.  Turn the meatballs in the sauce as they simmer slowly for about 20 minutes.  This isn't anything like marinara.  This is more of a glaze.    

Simmer until you haven't got much sauce left.

More like this. Anyway, we like it.

With buttered carrots, salt, a little marjoram.  Not bad.

Remember to simmer, not boil.

Next Monday, Meatballs in Plum Sauce.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Taquila Sunrise Cranberry Sauce

Oh, yes.  I'm having a good time getting ready for my guests.  There is something so wonderful about a warm kitchen on a cool day.  Either you know what I mean or you don't.  A warm kitchen on a cool day makes me deliriously happy. 

Here is an original recipe for cranberries that it a little different and daring, but also delicious.

Sunrise Cranberry Sauce
12 oz bag of cranberries
1 c. sugar
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup taquila
Put the cranberries in a collander in the sink and wash them, pick out anything you don't want to eat.  In a medium pan, combine the sugar and juice over medium until the sugar is desolved.  Add the cranberries and taquila and cook until cranberries start to pop.  About 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.   Cool to room temperature, then chill.

Of course, the alcohol burns off as it cooks.  And it is really, really good.  Just saying.

Remember to try new things.

This post is linked to http://amoderatelife.com/2010/11/hearth-soul-recipe-hop-23/

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Pie

We'll have a mincemeat pie and a pumpkin pie. 

Why mincemeat?  see this link - http://dinnerattheosbornes.blogspot.com/2010/09/grandma-streckers-old-fashioned-mince.html  Or because I want to.

Why pumpkin?  Because my darling step grand daughter wants it.  Not just pumpkin pie, but pumpkin pie with Cool Whip.  Not some fancy version that is being pushed on Food network.  Just basic pumpkin pie with Cool Whip.  And by golly, that's what she is getting.  I'll use the Libby's pumpkin recipe, not because it is fabulous, but because it is satisfying.   Actually, I make a pretty decent pumpkin cheese cake which I clipped out of Gourmet magazine some years ago, but we'll save that for another year.  

So I planned this out, really I did.  I'm good at planning things out.  It's one of the best things I do.  But really, we had so freaking much fun, that I didn't take any pictures.  Step grand daughter came over to help me make pie crust.  It is one of my greatest fantasies that SOMEONE WILL LET ME TEACH THEM HOW TO MAKE PIE CRUST.  I mean really!  If step grand daughter doesn't learn, there is a younger one.  Remember to teach what you know.

"What is shortening?" says my lovely girl.  "Well,  It's kind of like oil," I say.  "Oil?" says my brilliant girl.  "Uiooooooo!"

But make pie crust we did.   I measured and she mixed.  Well, she measured some.  I cleaned up the spills, some.  But that's okay.  I told her that a cook's best tool is her hands.  We then washed well and mixed the dough by hand.  We said it was like play-do but we will eat it.  Oh, yes.  We had fun.

Dad (step son) came by, for a bit.  Step grand daughter lost interest for a while.  Making pie is not an easy task.  But she came back and taught me a song which had the main lyric "I wouldn't want to be a turkey on Thanksgiving day,  Oh Yeah." 

My mother cut up left over pie crust and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, then baked.  We did that today and ate it like cookies.  And yes, that is just as disgusting as it sounds to the adult palate, but children just love it and we ate a ton of it at the Osbornes today. God help us.

Papa joined in. Girls, he is pretty darned good at changing diapers, finding binky, and filling sipper cups. But he is taken, sorry. The truth is that the children often prefer him, because he is so warm and open and just a really nice guy.

The pie crusts are packed away in their pie plates and wrapped in plastic.  We'll bake them tomorrow.

After carefully cleaning the sink, we unwrapped the Butterball that had been defrosting in my fridge the last 4 days.  We rinsed it and dried it and put in the roasting pan.  Step grand daughter and I had an extended discussion about it - mostly where it's boobs were and where it's butt was.  We looked inside it. She pointed out that she could see it's bones.  She wanted to see the giblets, which we simmered on the stove and will give to the dog tomorrow.  Mostly, everything about the turkey was icky and disgusting, but we will eat it tomorrow.

Remember to look eye ball to eye ball at your food and remember to involve others.  Oh, and remember to enjoy yourself.  

Friday, November 12, 2010


This doll's name is Jessie, or Jessica.  It has been over 40 years.  I remember receiving her as a Christmas present in my parents house in Albany, OR.  She was wrapped in plastic.  I remember my father taking out his pocket knife to cut her loose from all that.  I remember the pleasure of holding her when she was was nearly my size.  She carries a few scars from years of use, but so do I.
My sister, Melinda, got a similar doll, about 3 feet tall.  My Jess is wearing a dress made by my Mother.  It has my Mother's neat small hand stitches, and her signature love of rick-rack and bias tape during this period. 

I might mention that my maternal grandmother was Jessie Irene Rose.   My grandmother was born in Northwest Oklahoma and died in Albany, OR.  She went by Irene, but her actual given name was Jessie.  My cousin, Kellie named her first daughter Jessie.  I was the first person to see or hold young Jessie, Kellie's Jessie, as she was delivered in the hospital.  

Step grand daughter likes Jessie, the doll.  Carries her around the house.  Holds her and shows her to people who visit.  Tells people Jessie is her daughter and that Jessie is 4 years old.  But, she doesn't belong to step granddaughter.  She was a Christmas's present to me more than 40 years prior.  If you are step grand daughter, how could you be expected to get your head around that one?

Remember to hang in there Miss Jess.  You are creating something.  Not sure what, but something.  And sorry about the ramble.  Just what's on my head today.  


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Potatoes

My parents and grandparents were married until one of them died. I think my parents liked each other and truly enjoyed each other's company. But I'm not sure that was true for maternal grandparents who went through huge struggles and grew through it. I think they grew in different directions and at end of life were not happy with each other. I hope for happiness for everyone. Just saying, on that. But, for the young ones, it created a very secure and stable life for the old ones to stay together. My sister and I talk about that we are secure today partly because of the security our parents built for us at a personal price to themselves.

But I married into a family that suffered a divorce prior to my entry. For the young ones, there are pressures from many sides around the holidays. Their significant others have multiple people wanting them for the holidays too.  This is different from the way I grew up.  They need to meet multiple obligations to the older ones around the holidays. How can we not be part of the pressure for them?

Husband and I had a careful talk. Our plan is to be as much support and comfort to the young ones for the holidays with traditions that build upon the past and look toward the future. We'll plan several holiday events. The first one is this Sunday. It will be a table full. These are people we like. I want a good meal for them and a pleasant memory. We've been sick with 2 viruses over the last month. We seem to go from hard time to hard time but here is the beginning of the Holiday season, 2010. Time to get moving.

So there is a Butterball defrosting in the fridge. Nothing fancy, but that's how I do it. I'm making lists, like I do, planning it out and looking forward to Sunday.

I make the potatoes 1 or 2 days in advance.  No fun mashing the potatoes at the last minute and I plan to have fun.  According to my notes, I started making this in 1997.  Trust me.  Nothing fancy, but makes time for the fun stuff, pies and other favorites.

Make-Ahead Potatoes
10 large Russets, peeled and quartered
1 C. sour cream
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, brought to room temp
6 T. butter,at room temp,  divided
2T. dried minced onion
1 t. salt

Place potatoes in large pan with enough water to cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook until they stick easily with a fork.  20 - 25 minutes.  Drain and return to the pan.  Add sour cream and cream cheese, 4T. butter, onion and salt.  Mix with a hand mixer until smooth and incorporated.  Spread into a large casserole dish.  Melt remaining 2T. butter; drizzle over top.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready.  Let stand 30 minutes on the counter after taking from the fridge.  Then, bake covered for 350 degrees for 40 minutes and uncovered for 20 minutes.  12 servings or so.
More to come.
Remember to plan for the future.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kitchen talk #2: The Ideal Marriage

I've seen a few things and done a few things in my 51 years.  I've made a few mistakes and watched others make a few.  I have the following observations about marriage.

1.  Some people marry thinking that the marriage or their spouse will make life easier for them or make them happier or make life better for them somehow.  Unfortunately, no other person can do those things for you.  Once the truth comes out, it is a difficult thing to recover from.  Personal growth is a life long activity for most of us.  Try to grow together, but try to allow your beloved the freedom to grow as he or she needs.

2.  Others marry with some idealized idea of what it will be like, how wonderful it will be to come home to their beloved.  No cold bed, no eating alone, no being alone.  Or some Prince Charming idea.  Or some pursuit of a good provider, or good housekeeper, or good mother or father.   And, once again, reality sinks in and it is hard to recover from. 

3.  It's so interesting how many people pick a person very different from themselves.  I did that.  I'm left brain, organized, detail oriented.  I can be a little awkward socially.  My emotions are stable.  I don't have the great highs and lows my sweet heart has.  He is a big picture thinker, a dreamer.  He is the life of the party.  He is a lover of music and art.  He can talk to anyone. We believe we picked each other because we balance each other.  Together we are one really good person.  I have one very distinct set of skills, talents and abilities.  He has a very different set. When it's all working for us, we create synergy.  We can do anything.  The world is ours.  When we fight it, it's horrible. 

Lesson here:  Don't fight it.  It is important to me to be good roll models for marriage and partnership and life skills for the young ones around me, but some days we just aren't up to it.

4.  What about love?  Hot pants love mellows over time.  If you are lucky, it never goes away.  Hot coals turn to slower embers, still cooking, but part of a natural progression and good in it's own way. 

I had this quote on our wedding anouncements.  I can't remember where I got it.  If you know, please say. 

"Love is friendship that has caught fire.  It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving.  It is loyalty through good and bad times.  It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses."  This may not sound like Prince Charming, but I kissed a few frogs to get here.

Love my Grey Wolf.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meatball Monday #1

I've learned something fairly important.  The hamburger that we got from the rancher, the local cow from Battle Ground, is so much better that I can't even think to go back to hamburger from the grocery store.  I didn't know that the quality would be so much different.  I mean hamburger.  Really?  But this is leaner and just noticeably nicer.  The texture is smoother.  It cooks out so crumbly with a little bit of crunchies.  Just better.  Makes me wonder what we've been eating.  

What I didn't get was enough steak.  What I got too much of was big roasts.  I'll be doing this differently next time.  It may take a couple times to figure out exactly what we like the best.  The rancher who we got it from said that they sometimes have what she called a hamburger cow.  By that she means a cow that just all goes to hamburger.  I can feel more experimenting coming on.

It is handy to have some meatballs premade in the freezer.  They can turn into spaghetti, sandwiches, Swedish meatballs and many other things.  The premade meatballs you find in the freezer section of your grocery are much fatter.  And much less really flavor.  And much less wholesome.

Basic Meatballs
1 lb lean ground Beef
1 egg
1/2 c. quick oats or bread crumbs
1/4 finely chopped onion or shallot or 1 T. dry minced onion 
1 or 2 large cloves of garlic minced
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. each of salt and pepper. 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Add all ingredients and mix to combine.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not ashamed to enjoy this part.  Your hands are your best tool.  Remember I said that. 
I like small meatballs.  Easier for the kiddos to eat.  Easier for the ladies watching their figure to pick out the number they think they should have.  Makes nice appetizers.  Swedish meatballs with a toothpick as an appetizer.  Good for the holidays.  Just saying. 

Bake about 10 minutes.  The time may vary depending upon how big you make them and the meat itself.  If you've got doubts, break one open to make sure the pink is gone. 

I sometimes turn them over half way between baking, but it isn't required.  Just makes the brown on both sides.  When done, put them on a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.  Freeze them in a zip lock bag until you need them or use them immediately.  Food made simple. 

Remember to plan ahead.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pheasant, an ethnic food, and other issues

I'm a big fan of the show, Iron Chef, on Food Network.  Each show there is a featured food.   I just watched one where the featured food was Pheasant. 

The Iron Chef was Morimoto, who is of Japanese descent.  I hope not to offend anyone.  My heart is pure on this.  Morimoto made really grand dishes saying that in Japanese culture, pheasant was reserved for Royalty.  Because he is not royalty, he said this was very special to him.

My grandfather was a farmer in mid-northern Willamette Valley in Oregon when I was in my teens.  His main money making crop during my teen years was Peppermint.  I've blogged extensively about that prior to very many people coming to my blog, when I was still talking to myself, so I should do that again in some form.

My grandfather had no grandsons, but he had 5 granddaughters and I has the oldest, plus 2 step grand kids.  His first name was Lee.  I was named after him and had a very special relationship with him.  But, he did not treat me delicately.  I was his grandson for every purpose.  To me, he was someone I admired and desperately wanted to please. 

For 2 years of high school and 1 year of college, he let me drive the Swather that harvested the peppermint.  Well, the truth is that the Swather cut down the peppermint.  It was fallowed by a machine we called the Chopper which picked it up and shot it into a tub on wheels which was sent to the mint still to de-still the mint oil. 

My grandfather insisted that any vehicle that I drove I was able to do basic service to.  Every morning, 5 - 6 a.m. or so depending upon weather, we fueled the equipment and serviced it.  I was proud and felt special that I could perform his service protocol and get out to the field doing exact what he asked.  But, the rest of the day was boring, and not difficult, but I felt that I was part of a bigger vision.  Back and forth across the field, turn and back, turn and back.  Grandma and the younger cousins brought presents which were stowed at the end of the row.  Bottles of cold/ice water or Ice Tea.  Boxes of sandwiches, pickles, other salad and pickles items, sweets. 

You'd see amazing things as you drove at 2 miles per hour across a 50 acre field of pepper mint.  Various birds and other critters.  From time to time, you'd see wild birds including pheasants which would be scared up by the machinery.  It was nearly an out of body experience, the things I saw.  Being boyish by nature, this was an interesting experience because the boys around would hunt the game that scared up.  I remember eating pheasant which I believe was cooked on a Weber kettle in the back yard.  My memory is a poultry that was flavorful and rich , but oily.  Game is not special to me and not regal.  It is very basic and earthy.  

Remember to deal with reality and earthy things first.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remember to Enjoy Yourself with Someone You Love

Whoever suggesting eating to live instead of living to eat, needs to get out more. 

Husband and I work very hard.  Pre-recession when our business made, oh, a little more money, we went out to dinner more.  We enjoyed trying new places and sampling things we wouldn't normally eat.  We are humble people from working class families who worked very hard to produce us.  We are grateful.  I don't really mind that we go out less.  In fact, we enjoy it so much more now.  Life can be hard, but you appreciate things more, don't you think?

At lunch we went to Hudson Bay Bar and Grill  It is in the Heathman in Vancouver WA.  One of our favor places in the area.

I had their house salad with blue cheese dressing, yum.  And the most lovely thing: A bed of barley cooked in a rich stock with herbs covered with sauted prawns, oysters and clams in shell.  I've always said that the best food is eaten with those tiny forks and the hands.  There was a lovely broth or sauce over it.  Normally I can identify the tastes of herbs and spices.  I know only from the menu that it was Saffron which I know very little about except that it is horribly expensive, from a flower that is harvested in France, and it is red.  And judging from my lunch absolutely delicious.  I stuffed myself and we had a great talk, the kind of thing husbands and wifes do, about the kids, the future, the next trip we are planning, our memories about things. 

Husband had corn chicken chowder which was equally delicious.  Isn't in the best thing that simple food can be the best?  It had been up close and personal with cream and butter.  Although it was pureed, there was a very earthy vegetable base.  But it wasn't completely pureed.  I don't believe in baby food soup.  There were some chunks of corn and chicken, small but enough to add texture and feel.  Yum, Yum.

I didn't taste his sandwich but it was thick sliced turkey on rustic bread.  He liked it and ate every crumb.

I didn't have it this time, but try the seafood stew.  Yum, Yum and Awesome.  I would love to take a lesson on the stock for this stew.  I've made soup all my life.  I have several cook books on the subject.  My mother was the queen of the stew pot, this seafood stew is just plain excellent.   If you go at night, they have a pot of steamer clams that are just delicious.  Husband has enjoyed their local fish specials several times.

Remember to enjoy yourself when you can.  But remember to go back to work.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Roasting a Whole Chicken

I'm a big fan of buying whole chickens.  My corner store uses whole chickens as a loss leader.  This little baby is a 4.2 lb chicken which I bought for $.79 per pound.  With the "club card", I bought it for $3.32.  A whole chicken.   When I see it at this price point, I buy several for the freezer.  

I'm not tempted by the prettily packaged 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts and you shouldn't either.  If you are at all intimidated by the idea of cutting up a chicken, let me tell you a story or a couple stories.  First story:  My Grandparents on both sides were farmers in NW Oklahoma during the depression.  There were years they had zero income, none at all.  They lived off what the farm could produce and what they could barter for for complete years.  Next time you think you've got something to complain about, think about that.  About this time in the story, my step kids are rolling their eyes and checking their watches, but wait!  They aren't here right now.  For the rest of you, this is going to get more interesting.

My paternal grandfather was Miles Bennett.  His cousin was J.D. Decker.  The Deckers farmed down the road close to Orient, OK.  One hard year, the Bennetts ate their chickens for food.  Now, they had no eggs. 

If you've never been hungry, think about that. They had little children and they ate their chickens because they were hungry and didn't know what else to do.  Do you currently have something to complain about? 

So for a year or two, the Bennetts bought eggs from the Deckers until they could get back on their feet and get laying hens again.  So the story goes, this crate was taken to the Deckers who put eggs into it and sent it home to the Bennetts.  Yes, if you are a left brainer like me, there are a couple flaws in the story, but that is the story that was told in my family over and over and over again until you just want to scream.  If you look carefully, my aunt placed Easter egg basket grass and a plastic chicken in this crate.  She gave it to me upon the death of my paternal grandmother along with a little family jewelry and made me promise that if I took the crate I would leave the chicken.  So here's to you, Grandma and Grandpa Bennett and Aunt Vera.  And thanks for all you taught me.   

Now, story 2:  wait for it, I have a million.  At Grandma Bennett's funeral, the old ones got together with Pastor and told some stories about her.  Pastor told the stories at the service.  I'll always remember Pastor saying that Grandma was known for her hospitality.  In the time it would take for her to see new guests coming over the hill, she could kill, pluck and cook a chicken and have her famous chocolate cake in the oven.  

Now, for you left brainers, I have a cook book that Grandma Bennett gave me that supposedly has her famous chocolate cake recipe in it.  She gave it to me new when I was about 12 or 13.  I still have it and have blogged about it.  She moved off the farm when I was a baby upon the death of Grandpa Bennett.  But you get the story and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy, actually it empowers me that I could do anything, even if it is totally boggus.

Now I've been cutting a chicken in half to roast it.  This is not the way my mother did it, but it cooks faster. 

Scour the sink until it is very clean.  In a very clean sink, remove the internal organs from the cavity.  Run water through it and take a few moments to pick or cut off anything that you know you don't want to eat.  Breast side up, with a large knife, start at the tail end and cut straight down moving towards the top of the chicken ( the neck or wings end.) 

There is a bone at the top which I usually break with my hands, but if you have a really good knife you can cut it or break it.  Up to you.  Lay the chicken flat in the sink 

Still in the sink, turn the chicken over.  The backbone now faces up, as well as the thighs and legs.  You are going to literally cut out the backbown by cutting down either side.   

Feel your way.  God gave you strong hands and strong fingers. Cut as close to the center as you can with the objective of cutting out that center back bone. 

The next picture shows the two halves of the chickens with the backbone in the middle.  Throw away the back bone or use it with other parts to make soup or stock.  We'll roast the two halves.

Clean your sink thoroughly again.

Herb Roast Chicken at the Bennett/Osbornes

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Cut the chicken in half.  Place the two halves skin side up in a foil lined flat metal pan.  The bottom part of my broiling pan works well for this if you haven't got some fancy roasting pan.  

Melt 4 T. butter in a small sauce pan.  Add 1 1/2 t. Italian seasoning, 1 T. lemon juice (bottled works fine), 1/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. fresh cracked pepper.  Stir, then literally pour it over the chicken. 

Now place in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes.  This is called Roasting in cooking terms.  You can brush the chicken with the juices and butter at the bottom of the pan but I often don't. 

One of the reasons I like this is that I can cook a whole chicken on any week night.  A little rice.   A little brocolli and we aren't doing that bad. 

If you think you can't do this on a week night, trust me you can.  If you still think you can't, try it on a week end or an easier day until you build confidence. 

I've done this for company using two chickens, a good salad, good bread and a good vegetable.  Remember to trust me

Oh, and I think I linked to Real Food Wednesday.  It looks pretty cool.  If I did it wrong, I'll do better next time. http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2010/11/real-food-wednesday-11310-2.html

I also linked to Simple Lives Thursday.  Check this out.