Monday, August 18, 2014
Life has been interesting, if not exciting. Let's see... Some guy cut in front of Connie, causing Connie to slam on his brakes and the airbag sensor to go cattywampus. That was two days in the shop. Then, on our trip to the airport, we took a side trip through Crown Hill cemetery to visit Dad's grave and show my sister-in-law the highest point in the city.
Just as we were leaving, it started to rain.
I was riding in the backseat and had the window down to take photos. The window wouldn't go up. My chivalrous husband put the car in park and ran around and pulled the window up as far as it'd go. (Two more days in the shop...) We then went home and traded cars for the trip to take Barb to the airport. She was here visiting for five days. We got in loads of fun things like a trip to the State Fair with the whole crew. And, dinner with Mom at The Friendly. I had some fabulous fried catfish there...
During Barb's visit, Annie the dog conned her into loads of treats. Wee Mac the cat got in the grove too, showing Auntie Barbara he knows how to high five!
And, Barbs overfed her by more than a bit. So, starting the day Barbs left and lasting for four days, Annie had diarrhea. Lots of diarrhea. My living room carpet looks like someone had a mudball fight in there. Fortunately, once she picked a room, she pretty much stuck with it. Then, she figured out at least one human would actually wake up and take her out in the middle of the night. A human who forgot to turn off the alarm system and woke up the immediate neighborhood with the wailing of the sirens. Ok, then. A trip to see Doc was in order. A VERY undignified examination of the doggie woggie ensued. Meds were prescribed. Excessive passing of gas followed. That's fine except she was laying between my office and Connie's. Both of us were ready for gas masks! Now, Annie is starting to feel a bit better. And, I'm thinking a good carpet cleaning will be happening - soon!
Midst all the fun and excitement, I barely cooked. A barbecue for the kids. Pork chops with peach glaze for Barb. Pork fried rice with the leftover pork chops. Not much exciting. Totally forgot that Secret Recipe Club was sneaking up on me. I'd perused my assigned blog and printed a few recipes. I'd even put harissa on the grocery list thinking I'd make a soup that sounded good. But, I kept going back to the rice pudding with dates and pistachios. One, I've never made rice pudding. Two, we both adore dates and pistachios. Now, I had no business making a dessert after all the goodies we had while Barb was here. But, rice pudding it was. My assigned blog, SimplySensationalFood.com is by Nayna who lives in the UK and is a recipe author for City Connect Cambridge. Her blog is vegetarian and measurements are given in grams etc. I've copied her measurements here since I used the by guess and by gosh method of measuring... And, I left out the saffron that Nayna called for. That is one spice I really can't stand. Guess if I had to choose one, choosing the most expensive one was the best idea!! I was really pleased with this dessert. The dates and nuts added just the right amount of crunchy/chewy/interesting topping. And, the cardamom in the recipe was perfect. I'd have included a link to the recipe but nowhere on the blog could I find an index...
60 g short grain rice
250 ml water
400 ml cream
60 g sugar
1 t cardamom powder
6 medjool dates
60 ml boiling water
In a small saucepan, start simmering the cream and cardamom. You don't want it to boil but you do want it to reduce. In another saucepan, start water for your rice. Cook the rice according to the package directions but add 5-10 minutes so it is VERY soft. Drain the rice. Add the sugar to the cream and stir until it's dissolved. Add the drained rice. Refrigerate so you're serving it cool. An hour or so before serving the pudding, chop the dates and add them to the boiling water. Remove them from the heat and allow them to sit for half an hour. Mash them into the water. Serve the pudding garnished with the date compote and the nuts. As you can see, I chose to use sliced almonds that I'd toasted instead of plain almonds...
Thank you Nayna from Simply Sensational Food!
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Well, if you read my last post, you know my sister-in-law, Barb, was here visiting. Her first evening here, we took her to Chef Joseph's. She finally got to meet our dear friend who is such an incredible chef. She loved her chicken parmesan. And, Connie and I loved our lamb confit tacos!!!
The next evening we headed to Mom's and from there went out to Zionsville for dinner at the Friendly. That evening there was a drag race on Main Street to raise money for Alzheimers. I wish I'd gotten photos of the guys in drag coming in the bar to collect donations. They were wonderful!
Saturday, it was State Fair time! David and Kara and Bradley and Rosie came over from Columbus to see Auntie Barbs. The kids got to feed the sheep, eat enough sugar to last a month (or more) and just generally have a great time. One of the highlights for me was getting to see the sculpture that won my friend, Kathy Cunningham, first place in the professional division. Then, I turned around and said, "Oh, look at that cool piece!" Turned out it was another by Kathy...
The fair was followed by a run through the sprinkler at home. Picking flowers for Momma. Playing with Annie. PIcking tomatoes. Climbing the tree. Then, it was time for dinner - and helping Grammie. Barbecued chicken on the Big Green Egg, corn on the cob, homemade green bean casserole and two pies - one chocolate, bourbon pecan and the other mince walnut.
Our friends Barb and Tom had been in the office and brought us three bags of goodies. Corn on the cob, green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans... Connie took one look at the green beans and asked if I'd make green bean casserole. He meant the stuff with the cream of mushroom soup topped by the store-bought fried onions. I had other ideas. Shocking, I know. I set out to create REAL green bean casserole. Now, I did not write down official measurements as I went... so, these are estimates!
Green Bean Casserole
for the casserole:
2 lbs green beans, trimmed and halved
1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 T butter
4 T butter
4 T flour
1 1/2-2 c milk (I use 2%)
1/4 - 1/2 c dry sherry
salt and pepper
for the onion rings:
one small red onion, peeled and halved
Cajun seasoning (we make our own Emeril's)
You're going to feel like a three ring circus while making this... In a large, heavy pot, pour about an inch of vegetable oil. That's for frying the onions... It needs to heat slowly and you need to stay with it.
In a medium skillet, melt the two tablespoons of butter and sauté the mushrooms and shallots. As they cook, they will give off moisture. You want to sauté them until the pan is almost dry. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
Start the roux for the sauce by melting the butter in a medium saucepan. While it's melting, cook the green beans in a small amount of salted water. Because I want the beans relatively soft, I cover the saucepan and leave the beans to steam a bit. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir for a few minutes. You want the flour to cook but you don't want it to color much if at all. Next, add the milk slowly, stirring constantly. Once you've added the milk, add the sherry. Now, you can stir the sauce occasionally while you fry the onions.
Slice the onion VERY thinly. Pour about an inch of milk into one shallow bowl. Put flour and Cajun seasoning in another. One the oil is hot enough to sizzle when you put an onion ring in it, you're ready to go. Put a handful of the rings in the milk, then into the flour. Toss them with the flour until they're well coated. Put them in the hot oil and cook for about 5 minutes a side. They need to be nicely browned. Drain them on paper towels or a paper bag.
Now, it's time to put the casserole together. Drain the beans. Mix them with the mushrooms, shallots and sauce and pour them into a baking dish. Top with the fried onions and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.
Yes, it's considerably more trouble than canned soup and canned fried onions. It's also about 1000% better :-)
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
It is finally tomato season at our house. The best ones aren't ripe yet. And, I'm not terribly fond of the one plant that's already producing. The tomatoes are just a bit mealy for my taste. My favorites of all time are still Black Brandywines. All of that aside, I'm just happy to have real tomatoes and not the canned kind. My Black Brandywines will be ripe soon enough and I'll just eat those with a bit of salt and pepper.
A few days ago I picked the first ripe zucchini. And, I had a handful of cherry tomatoes. And, a container of buratta. I was thinking a riff on caprese salad would be good. Was it ever. We've now made the salad twice in a week. It's super simple and very flavorful.
Then, we had BLT's. Of course. That's summer food. The only BLT I eat otherwise is the special one at the Barking Dog Café. There they have home cured Bark Lard, tomato jam, basil mayo and lettuce on BLT's. They're heavenly.
Last, but not least, we had Boudro's Guacamole. Boudro's is on the Riverwalk in SanAntonio. They make this killer tableside guac. Did I mention how well it went with the killer prickly pear margaritas? Oh, yeah!!!
I had to try it for myself! I've got to say that the real thing prepared tableside is better... But, this is pretty darned good :-)
Zucchini Tomato Salad
1 small zucchini
12 cherry or grape tomatoes
6 large basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil (I used blood orange olive oil)
balsamic vinegar (I used Sicilian lemon balsamic)
Shave the zucchini lengthwise. Because this was a really fresh zucchini from our yard, I didn't peel it. I did, however, avoid the seeds. Pile the shavings in the center of two salad plates. Surround with halved cherry tomatoes. Chop the buratta. Divide it between the salad plates. Chop the basil and scatter it on top of the buratta. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Vacation Time! We tend to travel a lot for business. This year we were in Phoenix for the NPC investment advisory conference and New Orleans for their annual conference. Coming up we've got a trip to San Antonio for me to take a bond class. Then, there's a drive to Kansas City for the America's Wealth Management radio show conference followed by another conference for the portfolio models I use. Last, but not least, I'm back to Phoenix for the NPC Women's Conference. Typically, we tack on a day or two of fun so as to not waste travel time. This time, however, we had nothing but fun on our minds. I'd gotten an email from Interlude Tours touting a trip to Michigan. It sounded fun but also sounded like it wasn't enough time for all we'd like to do. So, I e'd our friends Chris and Mark and asked what they'd think about doing a trip. Sure, they said. As soon as we get back from 10 days in the Netherlands. Alrightly then. This could be a real letdown for them!
Stashed in my scans, I had an old article from Midwest Living about Hungry Village Tours in Saugatuck, MI. Saugatuck was to be our first stop so the tour sounded great. From Saugatuck, we'd head to Grand Rapids and the Meijer Gardens. Then, we'd go see the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Next task, find B and B's. We were heading north right before the 4th of July so prices were high and availability was limited. I finally found a reasonably priced B and B on the Blue Star Highway in South Haven. Martha's Vineyard was it's name. No such luck in Grand Rapids so we wound up out in Lowell, MI at River's Edge.
Everyday People Café in Douglas was our destination for dinner Friday night. We'd been warned that there'd be a long wait so we were prepared to head to choice #2 if that was the case. Luckily, there were two tables open when we got there. VERY quickly the place was packed. I know why. The food is fabulous. Chris had a spinach salad with nuts and berries. Mark had crab cakes. They were both very happy with their choices. Connie had a Greek salad that was ho-hum and I had a chopped salad with garlic dressing. I could've had a BOWL of that dressing and been happy.
We also split a tapas plate with fruit moutarde, olives, chevre, red bell pepper relish, almonds, chive crema...
Magnificent. Our wine was a bottle of W Pinot Noir. We'd highly recommend Everyday People!
Saturday dawned bright and early and we headed downstairs for our breakfast.
And, what a breakfast it was. A pineapple wedge with a strawberry.
Homemade granola with vanilla yogurt.
Egg custard with a blueberry sauce and a homemade sausage patty.
All served by our totally delightful hostess and host. Then we were off on our Hungry Village Tour.
My goodness. David Geen who owns the company has run a travel business for years and years. He's great. I would LOVE to go on one of his Italy foodie tours.
The tour took off from the Saugatuck Art Center. I would LOVE to have some of the fun artwork from their garden.
We started at Pleasant Hill Farm where JoAnn and her hubby grow organic blueberries and make maple syrup. Thanks to our friend, Tim Burton at Burton's Maple Syrup, we've seen the maple syrup making process. This was a bit more rustic and equally interesting. The fascinating part, though, was the organic blueberries.
Oh, and the outhouse. The Art Center where the tour started was locked so there weren't facilities there. And, the only facility at Pleasant Hill was an outhouse. Ok, if that's my only choice...
Next we were on to Dee's Farmstand. Dee is in her late 70's and has lived on this farm virtually all her life. In addition to produce she sells a lot of junque. We bought cherries, honey and jams. And, Connie and I wandered off and talked to Vern, her son-in-law, who's an engineer in real life but was picking cherries that day.
From there we went to Evergreen Lane Creamery. Goats. Loads of baby goats. And, incredible goat cheese. I love our goat cheese we get from Capriole Farms in southern Indiana but I'd have to say that Tom and Kathy's garlic goat cheese was just a teeny, tiny bit better.
Our last stop before lunch was the Fennville Winery. As is true of a lot of Michigan wine, they tended toward the sweet side. Not our favorite kind of wine. But, we did find a couple of bottles we liked, including a rose. We had it with dinner the other night and it was very good. We also bought a bottle of bubbly to celebrate our tenth anniversary.
Lunch. This was one of those meals that you store in the recesses of your brain and pull out whenever you need to remember a totally fabulous meal. The restaurant, Salt of the Earth, is closed for lunch so we were the only folks there. The chef has carte blanche to do whatever he wants. Jeff Bailey was the chef. Homemade bread was on the table when we got there.
We all dug in. Our first course was popcorn grits topped with perfectly prepared pork belly and a roasted tomato sauce. How do you prepare popcorn grits, you ask? You pop the corn. Then, you soak it in water and butter. You drain it and reserve the soaking liquid. Then you put it through a very fine sieve. Then, you mix the grits with enough of the soaking liquid to make a creamy sauce. Next up was chicken with a very crispy skin, parsnip puree, chive crème and a mix of English peas, chanterelles and asparagus. Perfection on a plate. Dessert was a chocolate torte with marinated strawberries.
After lunch we went to a farm where they had chickens, cows, ducks and peacocks. We found out, much to our chagrin, that free range chickens aren't so free range. But, the good news here is that Dawn is a potter and I found a cute piggy bank for my collection at the office.
Last but not least we went to Virtue Cider. None of us really liked the cider but it was fascinating to see how it was made. The place was totally spotless. You literally could've eaten off the floor.
Once we left the tour, we headed to an art gallery and adjacent wine shop. I was the only one who had the smoked salmon that was out for the gallery opening. I was also the only one who wound up with a case of food poisoning. I'm not certain it was the salmon but my guess is it was the culprit...
Next stop, Saugatuck Brewing for flights of beer. Very good beer too. It's a fun brew pub. We saw lots of plates of good pub grub being served but none of us were interested...
Did you think we were done? Nope, remember we were with Connie who loves to cram in every experience he can while on vacation. No sitting around for this guy. The Casco Twp nature preserve beckoned. STEEP stairs down to the lake. But, so much fun to dip our toes in Lake Michigan.
On to South Haven to find the lighthouse. Mission accomplished!! Then, back to Martha's Vineyard. Should we unwind or go to dinner? Dinner won. Particularly since the place we wanted to go - which was nice and close - ended their dinner service about 9pm. It was about 8:00 at that point.
We set the GPS and found that Hawkshead was practically behind the B and B. But, we still had a fun drive to get there. Chris had a salad with salmon and asparagus. Mark had the prime rib. I wavered between that and the lobster bisque and wedge salad. Connie had the fried blue gills. As usual, we shared. The blue gills were good but the hash brown potatoes were incredible. As was the lobster bisque. Unfortunately, none of the photos of the food turned out... Just one photo of Mark and Chris:
Whew. So that was day one of vacation :-)
What did we think about Martha's Vineyard B and B? We'd stay here again in a heartbeat. Can't say enough good about it. The whole place was beautiful. The food was awesome. Other than the gal who checked us in and who was a bit glum, everyone was SO nice.
Now, with those lovely Michigan cherries I made some salsa...
Cherry Cherry Salsa
sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
cherry balsamic vinegar or any other good balsamic
extra virgin olive oil
(you could add some jalapeno)
Slice the red onion and soak the slices in ice water while you start chopping. Finely chop the cherries, tomatoes and cucumbers. We didn't have to peel the cucumber because I'd picked it in our yard two minutes before. But, typically I do peel the grocery store cukes. Drain the onion and pat it dry, then finely chop it too. Add in some chopped mint and dress wth the vinegar and oil.