Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Response to the "Modern" World

I'm not a big fan of Facebook.  Some people use it to put one sentence sound bites on how they feel that day.  Others use it to have very limited discussions with others.  Having a discussion in sound bites is not something that seems to work well.  And you get that this is not really friendship, right?  People who see your intimate thoughts on Facebook may be only acquaintances.  Calling them friends doesn't make it so.

There was recently a controversy on Facebook among the Osbornes as to whether Step Grand Daughter should be taken fishing.  The exactly comment was "Isn't she too young to be killing animals?"   

The world changed recently.  Traditionally, children were not as insulated from the realities of life.  They didn't grow up thinking that eggs come from Costco.  They knew eggs came out of chickens because they had some contact with the process.  They knew what birth was because they had seen it in some form.  They dug in the dirt, road their bikes far and wide, picked food from plants and ate it raw and dirty.  They lived closer to Grandma and Grandpa, saw them age, saw them sick, saw them die. 

There was no antibiotic soap.  We were sprayed with a little Biactine and called it good.  We were exposed to things.  We learned to pee outside behind a bush when the occasion called for it.  

Is today's world better?  McDonalds, Costco, frozen entrees in a bag?  These things are new.  They haven't been around long.  Is our world a better place because of it?    Are we healthier, happier, more self actualized?  Well, I'll let you make your own decision, but please leave me a comment with your thoughts.  And Osbornes - no offense, just my opinion on that.


Shared with Kelly the Kitchen Kop at  Please go there next.  It's really a good thing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chocolate Delight Muffins

I stumbled across this recipe a while back and have been making it ever since.  Actually, I saw another blogger make them, but I can't remember who.  Original source is below.  If I owe you a shout out, let me know.  

I recommend this recipe because it is so full proof.  It is uniformly moist, but also uniformly firm and not crumbly.  You can freeze them and they defrost in the same condition as you started.  You can pack them in lunches and expect that they don't easily compact.  Hand them out to the kiddos; they are very good kiddos, afterall.

First, I use the muffin papers. In my world, muffins travel.  The papers make them tidier.  Oh, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, the dry ingredients. 
  • 1 3/4 c. all purpose flour or 1 c. AP flour and 3/4 c whole wheat flour.  I've done it both ways.  Spoon it into the measuring cup, but do not pack.  Level off the top.  
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar.  Pack brown sugar into the measuring cup with the back of a spoon.
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened baking cocoa powder.  Spoon in and level but do not pack
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 salt.

Use a spoon or whisk to combine the dry ingredients. 

Melt a 1/2 c. (1 stick of butter) on the stove and set it aside to cool.  

In a separate bowl, the wet.
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg 
1 t. vanilla

Whisk it and then add it to the dry.  If you are my generation, you may have been told to mix only until the dry is just incorporated and to avoid over mixing so as not to have peaked muffins.  I was traumatized by that until one day I decided there were worse things than peaked muffins.  I haven't had any trouble.  Mix them as much as you want.  It's fine. 

 Add the melted butter. Stir to incorporate.  Melted butter is truely a beautiful thing, isn't it?   Add 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips. 

I remember my early muffin lessons taught to fill muffin tins 1/2 full. 

These get filled a bit more.  I have the ambition that they will be perfectly neat, but there is always a drip somewhere.   

Into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  And for goodness sake, set the timer.  There is no reason not to and it's just easier.  I used to think that a "real" cook knew when things were done and didn't need a timer.  Then I got a real life.

Remember that chocolate is good for you.  Oh, here is the original source of the recipe. Good old Betty Crocker.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dungeness Crabs

These beauties are a special present from Daughter in Law.  Thank you, Dear.  They were purchased fully cooked, so don't be expecting any Julia incident in my kitchen, although I would be up to that task. 


I've seen Dungeness Crabs cooked in large vats at the beach.  It isn't for the faint of heart or New Yorkers.  No offense, anyone. But no, these have been in my freezer since purchased. 

They are beautiful and amazing, don't you think?

I'm going to steam them to warm them.  Then, serve the legs with melted butter to dip in.  I'm thinking not to serve the bodies at the table.  Cleaning the bodies of these crabs is not a tidy task and I'm not skilled at it.

 The gills area can be just peeled away. 

The crab "butter",  which is the intestinal areas, won't hurt you, but I've read that the "butter" sometimes has a concentration of Mercury. 

We'll be discarding anything that isn't clearly crab meat today and not worrying any more about that.  I'm not one who worries about food.

I sometimes feel guilty sucking out their good parts.  But not enough to stop. Remember that it's the simple things, really. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Red Currant

One of the funny things Husband said recently is that he looks forward to reading the blog so that he can see what's going on in his life.  (He's such a funny guy.)  We are busy and working hard at our business, but I have a busy mind and here is one of the things I'm thinking about.  (Also, that the upstairs guest bathroom needs to be painted.)

This poor pitiful thing is Red Currant.  I've had it a couple years, given to me by a plant swap friend from her yard.  I forget what I gave her in return.  Last year, the little kids stripped it and sucked it clean of every yummy bit.  I got nothing.

I didn't really mind.  Remembering days of my own childhood, picking crabapples and blackberries until I had a tummy ache.  Washing green beans and yellow corn with the hose and then eating them raw.  Then washing hands and feet with the hose so as to be allowed back into the house.  Last year the kids stripped my peas, parts of my beans, as well as my red currants and I was happy for it.  I bought what I wanted from the farmers stand.  

I have a new cookbook about home canning.  I grew up with home canning and got away from it, but something is drawing me back.  I'm picking out salsa and relish recipes, considering purchasing a pressure cooker, contemplating pickles.  

With the red currants, what should I make? Raspberry Red Current Jam on page 25 sounds appealing. Raspberries are readily available in season.  This is a combination my mother did not considered.  

Just plain Red Current Jelly on page 115 maybe.  I prefer the pouches of liquid pectin.  Do what you like.  I just feel comfortable with that.  


Then there is Rhubarb Red Current Preserve on page 67.  That sounds more like me.  I'm a rhubarb sort of girl. But you saw my currant plant.  
And here is my rhubarb plant.  So it will be a while. And it uses orange zest as natural pectin.  No added pection.  Not sure how I feel about that.  What do you think?
And there you are, Dear.  Did you know all that was going on?
Remember to work when you have to, but think and dream when you can. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Farmer's Market and What's Happening in the Greenhouse

I served as a volunteer on opening day of Farmer's Market yesterday, in Vancouver, WA.   It is something I've been thinking of for a while now.  Last summer was so chaotic with the forced remodel.  This summer I'm hoping for a few things:  (1) Be happy, (2) Have a garden I'm proud of which means the time to spend on planning and maintenance.  I've already started, (3) Be happy, (4) Do some canning and get some food put by.  My mother and grandmother spent all summer canning.  I have the most happy memories of it, (5) Support local small businesses as I want my own small business supported, (6) Oh, and I already mentioned the happy part. 

I think the Farmer's Market might be part of my plans.  I don't always do well or feel comfortable in a crowd and I sometimes get tongue tied with people I don't know, but the market folks made me feel comfortable.  I'm looking forward to going back, soon.

Can't garden much with record rainfall, but here's what's going on in my greenhouse.  It's running between mid 30's F at night and mid 70's F during the day.  I enjoy observing and recording the temperature changes.  There are flats of various clippings which I am attempting to root using powdered rooting hormone.  Some are a huge successes.  Others, a "failure."  My experiments aren't real failures because I learn from each and there are not consequences.  My "failures" end up making compost. 

"Hens and chickens" that Step Daughter's uncle gave me last summer.  Not sure what I'll be doing with them.  They are an old fashioned plant which reminds me of my grandmother's rock garden and makes me happy. 

Strawberry start volunteers that sprouted from a previous experiment.  Again, not sure what I'll do with them, but something.  

Flats and flats of lettuce sprouted from seed.  The only thing currently in my raised beds is radishes and carrots.  I suppose I'll be planting lettuce soon, if it every stops raining.

Other plants just waiting for their chance.  The greenhouse is a handy place to keep things. 

These logs have had holes drilled in them.  Plugs with spores of Shitake mushrooms have been hammered into the drilled out holes. 

I mist them daily.  They need to stay below 70 Degrees. 

As soon as there are sunny warm days, they'll need to go into the garage or a closet.  My greenhouse hovers in the 80 to 90 degree range on a warm sunny day.  Will I grow Shitake mushrooms?

If this seems foolhardy, Remember to have hope.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Traditional Food is Cheap #4: Beef Stroganoff

Once again, I enter my house at 5:15 p.m. after a long day.  I'm tired.  I hear my Mom's voice in my head saying "put on a happy face."  Aren't women amazing.  If you know one, remember to tell her and thank her for everything she does to keep life together for those around her. 

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I had to clean my kitchen before I could start cooking.  I need to buy dog food tomorrow, or someone will be hungry, but there's enough for tonight.  And I haven't yet emptied the dishwasher, but at least I started it when I left this morning. 

Okay, time to get going. Two big cloves of garlic, minced or diced.  I need to get over to Diane's Produce and stock up.  I'm out of a lot of things.    A purple shallot diced. Not green onions, which some people call shallots.  By the way, have you noticed that Paula Deen calls green onions, spring onions.  I'm always so impressed with what a small world it is, but the things that make us different are interesting too.  

Half a pound of mushrooms.  I usually get crimini, but I've got these white things this time.  Have you noticed that people on Food Network recommend not washing mushrooms?  They all wipe them with a kitchen towel.  I wash mine and have never had a problem.  I wouldn't eat a potato or an apple without washing it.  Just saying people. 

I usually quarter mushroom.  For Stroganoff, I slice, but do what you want with your Stroganoff.  It's yours after all. Two T. good oil, canola or grape seed or olive oil. Saute the shallot, garlic and mushrooms. 

I like them a little soft and translucent in Stroganoff.  Nicer with the sour cream sauce.  One of the things I like about cooking is that it's all about me.  There are so many areas of my life that are all about doing things for other people.  Following other people's rules.  When I cook, the mushrooms can be any way I want.  And that's all I have to say about that. 

 A full pound of some type of less expensive beef steak.  With all meat, take the time to cut off anything you don't want to eat.  It's your decision. 

Slice the meat as thin as possible.    I've got two piece stacked.  I'm using a cheap serrated bread knife that I keep for this purpose.

Remove the vegetables to a pie plate sitting on the back of the stove.  Two T. butter and add the meat.  Saute until it's just cooked through.  Feel free to nibble a bit.  Cook's privilege. 1/2 t. salt, a couple good turns off the pepper grinder, 1 t. Worcestershire sauce.  Turn it off until you are close to ready to eat. 

Start the pasta.  I've made this with really good fresh pasta.  I've made this with homemade pasta.  Tonight, it's 1/2 pound of this, cooked according to the package. Salt the water as it heats.  Add a little oil to the water after adding the pasta. 

To finish, return the vegetables to the meat in the skillet.  Bring it back to heat and add 1/2 c. sour cream, a handful of chopped Italian parsley.  As you stir, add another 1/4 c. sour cream if needed for a very creamy texture.  Taste and consider another 1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce.  Always taste and adjust the flavors to suit you.  It's a recipe, not brain surgery.  Add the pasta and stir to combine.  It should be creamy. 

Oh, good.  Before long we are cozy on the couch, plates in our laps, a glass of wine.  Watching TV. Grateful not to be in Japan and Iran.  Grateful to have a home and good food and worthwhile work to do.  Grateful for a good warm bed and each other.  Feeling a little silly about any previous grumpiness.  Remember the important things.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week end Beef Short Ribs from the Pioneer Woman

Let's start with a picture of my favorite sous chef.

I've been trying to make something each weekend that I simply can not make on a week night.  I really enjoy visiting blogs that are clearly a huge labor daily.  And I don't want to offend anyone.  My reality in the moment is that I come home on a week night after a full days labor to another workplace.  No other way to say it. 

Giving myself a creative corner to work in for a few hours on the weekend keeps me from being all frumpy and slumpy in the long run and helps me to stay in touch with myself.  My mother's daughter.  An American home cook.  A lover of food.  A lover of home and hearth, even though I must venture out each day for work.  

Now, I want you to stay here, so I'm giving the link to the recipe late in the blog.  Beef Short Ribs.  I have most everything in my freezer.  I'm just that kind of girl.  But I don't have this.  It took a trip to the grocery store and a consult with the butcher, but she hooked me up.

It starts with browning the ribs in a large heavy bottom pan.  Hot oil, meat, significant heat.  Not a skill to be under estimated by a beginning cook.  But an important one lots of cooking styles. 

It really struck me a year ago when my mom stayed with us.  Age and illness had left her struggling with many things, from talking to walking.   Together one afternoon, we made Julia Child's Beef Bourguigon.  She couldn't go to the lady's room by herself, but she could brown meat in hot oil.  Some part of the brain of a good cook remembers the important stuff.  Brilliant baby was just really a baby then.  I was so impressed with how well she held him, even though she had trouble with so many other physical stuff.    

Set the browned meat aside. My mom used a pie plate to hold things and pushed them to the back of the stove.

Now the sauce. I followed Pioneer Woman's recipe almost exactly, which is rare for me, but just saying.  Go to the link below for the recipe. 

Cover the ribs with the sauce and put in a 275 degree Fahrenheit oven.  I covered it with foil for a while, but uncovered it for the last about half of the cooking time.  3 1/2 to 4 hours total time in the oven. 

Pioneer Woman recommends cooling the ribs and refrigerating them for several hours or overnight.  Then removing the meat from the bones, draining off the excess fat and heating the remaining meat and sauce.  I was unaware that Pioneer Woman was so delicate.  I set them aside while I made other side dishes and tended to my household.  But then, I removed the bones and strained off the fat.  I have my mom's heat-proof fingers.  I can take anything.

I took husband a taste while he continued with his work.  Got his attention.

And the sous chef's.  I mean really.  What self-respecting Golden Retriever isn't interested in this.  

Served it with buttered fettuccine and Italian flat leaf parsly.  And I assure you that there was a brocolli side dish.  I never seem to photograph the stuff that's good for you. 

Remember to cook.  

Oh, and the recipe. 

Go forth and be happy.