Cinco de Mayo and Appreciating Teachers…

8 05 2011

Some holidays are so convenient!  The first week of May is often that way…as it was this year.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Mexican food and make and consume it regularly…so Cinco de Mayo is not merely an excuse to indulge, but it’s also a time when a lot of extra goodies become available for a limited time.  This week was full of Carne Asada tacos, cheese enchiladas for the teachers, and a Pastel de Tres Leches…that’s right…Cake of three milks.

Awhile back I mentioned that I was testing granulated chilies for Marx Foods…This was a great week to use chilies!  I picked up a package of round steak cut for carne asada, and created a marinade with my own two hands.  I expected it to be tasty, but…oh wow!!

Chipotle Carne Asada Marinade

Juice of 1/2 to 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 Tablespoon Marx Granulated Dried Chipotle Chilies

Combine the ingredients in a large zip-locking plastic bag, and add up to 2 pounds of beef (I used round steak) slice for carne asada.  Marinate at least 3 hours, but 48 hours is the best minimum for round steak.
At cooking time, wipe most of the marinade from the meat before throwing the meat on a hot grill or comal.  Cook until well seared on each side, slice across the grain at a slight diagonal slant into thin strips.  Serve with pico de gallo at the table with hot tortillas of your choice.  I prefer the small taquito size…but anything up to 5 inches or so is a nice hand size.

I found that although I was marinating 2 pounds of meat, we used about 2-3 slices of meat for dinner for two people.   Dressed with lettuce and cilantro, draped in pico de gallo, you have most of a meal in hand…Antojitos.  Little bites.  Meals for the “on-the-go”…Mexican fast-food.  We didn’t “invent” fast food at all!

On Cinco de Mayo, I made the above Carne Asada for our tacos…it made for a quick, complete supper for us so I could get back to the kitchen and start work on the Teachers’ Appreciation Luncheon for the next day.  I had volunteered to make cheese enchiladas and a Pastel de Tres Leches, better known as a Tres Leches Cake…or as my dear friend Alton Brown calls it…Tres Leche Cake.  Since I used his recipe…should I correct his titling…absolutely.  We mustn’t promulgate mistakes.

This quiet, unassuming little cake begins as a simple butter cake.  No big deal.  Click on the link, and follow ALL the instructions.  Especially the part about waiting overnight.  Especially that part.  And I do know how hard it is to wait.  Really I do.  By the time I got my cake out of the oven it was easily 10 p.m. and I was ready…ever so ready…to go to bed.  I cooled my cake far less than suggested, maybe a total of 30 minutes…the 15 minutes I could force myself to sit still and the few minutes it took to mix the ingredients for the glaze…I did make one teeny tiny change, quite by mistake.  I didn’t see that the recipe called for 1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, and only put 1 teaspoon in the cake batter.  I “fixed” this by adding the missing 1/2 teaspoon to the glaze.  I seriously doubt that made for any drastic change in the outcome.  Since I knew my cake was going to have to wait after being frosted, I didn’t push frosting it before it chilled.  I was leery of frosting it while it was still really warm.  I wasn’t worrying about the glaze, but the frosting…yes!

Let me tell you…this whipped cream frosting mixes up in one big hurry!  I ran out to the extra fridge to get the cake and the frosting was ready when I got back…and I didn’t fool around!  Since I’d made the cake in a 9 x 13 inch pan, there was more than enough frosting.  There was even enough to drop a dollop onto “good morning!” coffee!

A friend described the taste as… “Like when you let your ice cream melt into your cake,” and that about says it.  Incredibly moist without being soggy.  I think I stumbled on the trick to this…whip the butter until very light…whip it more with the eggs and sugar.  When you add the flour mixture, use the lowest setting that will mix the flour into the creamy mixture.  Stop just before the last addition of flour is totally incorporated in the batter.  You can finish the mixing by hand as you move the batter to the prepared pan.  After baking, I used a broken piece of bucatini pasta to poke the holes in the pasta…it worked great!  I used every drop of the liquid and rotated my pan around so the glaze got to every side of the cake.  As hard as it was…I didn’t taste this until it was serving time for the luncheon.  By that time, all the ingredients had had time to become one…oh and what a wonderful oneness!

It’s kind of nice to get almost empty pans back… *Ü*





On Sick Leave…

19 02 2011

We apologize for any inconvenience…however our kitchen is currently closed due to the flu.  We’ll be fine…as soon as these bugs get out of our bed and go live with someone else or DIE!  There just isn’t much cooking going on..and I’m totally off schedule with everything, and I do mean everything! I made it to work one day this week…  Quickie soups are about the extent of my energy level.  We play thermometer roulette for major chores…the one with the lowest temp gets to do the chore of the hour!  We feel lousy, but we’re managing to survive!  We’re being doted upon by our loving and protective dog, Jasmine.  If I could only teach her to do some of the other chores too… Right now, she specializes in bed-warming and pillow stealing.  But she’s a love…until she kicks me in the face in the middle of the night! *giggle*cough-cough-cough*  Wish I could kick the symptoms!  I’ll be back on deck, cooking up a storm as soon as I can…

Anyone with TMT posts is still welcome to send them in to me for round-up!!  I can manage to round up the participants meals, even if I can’t toss one together myself just yet!  That will probably be one of the first meals I attempt though…something easy and soothing…  See you back here real soon!





Resolutions, goals or challenges?

9 01 2011

Photo courtesty FreeFoto.com

It’s the time of year when a lot of folks like to make resolutions…  I’m not one of them.  Other folks set new goals for themselves….I’m going to read “X” number of books this year!  I’m not one of them either.  I accept challenges.  I usually accept challenges as they smack me between the eyes, and preferably as they come by me.  I love cooking challenges.  I love learning challenges.  When those two get together it’s a lot of fun!

Life throws me enough of its kind of challenges that I don’t need to try to commit to filling my plate with extra servings of sports club work-outs…there’s plenty of work to be done around here that doesn’t require spending extra money for them to tell me when I can be there and what they’d like me to do.  Have you ever hauled brush or shoveled anything wet?  Let well enough alone.  I don’t need time on a treadmill…I can trudge through the mud in my own backyard and get plenty of resistance training, thanks though!  Pilates?  I pull a lot of hay and carry it.  Does that count?  Then there’s the garden…

The garden may appear to be sleeping right this minute, but it’s already 8 weeks until our last frost!!  There are garlic plants up already, coriander is up, the strawberries are spreading like a blanket…spring bulbs are up and about, the first narcissus is already in bloom!!  The challenge there is to keep the bodkin healthy enough to stand up to the general aches and pains of creeping antiquity, each searing ache a memory of its own.  Would I trade?  Not for the most part!  I’m hoping to be canning pickles and tomatoes this year, and I strive to be self sufficient in the culinary herb department.  It’s much easier to nip out to the garden and snip a few fronds than pay $2.99 to the grocer for whatever they might have in whatever condition it might be in.  The same $2.99 will just about pay for a full packet of seeds or a 4 inch plant.  My rosemary is now 4 years old, and my thyme is wintering it’s second winter…we must be doing something right!

The biggest challenge of all is never losing sight of remembering that Life is to be shared and enjoyed.  Taking on too much, for too long isn’t a good thing.  Peaks and valleys are ok, but try to keep things in moderation for the most part.  Make sure that your investments of energy go to things you love.  Then, no matter the sacrifice, it will all have been worth it in the end.  That having been said…get out there and do something you love!





Behind the Kitchen Scenes~

19 12 2010

I’m finally off work and can begin to catch up on the things that have been going on.  This is a shot of the stage and emcee’s podium for the concert this year.  You can’t see the snowflakes hanging above the chorus or the audience in this shot, nor the foyer, but there was plenty of snow falling!  LOL!  The podium came out pretty well.

Yes…it was hand painted…every single “brick.”  Was.  Past-tense.  History.  But it was worth it!  It was totally different from anything we’ve ever done…  I think the emcee was afraid I was going to ask him to wear a Santa suit though.  He didn’t even talk to me that night! LOL!

In between other things, the weather has been changeable… Decently pretty one day, soaking and cold the next…Freezing somewhere along the way just for a fun surprise.  That means we’ve had some juggling with the various outside animals, to keep them relatively comfy.  Here awhile back, someone mentioned that they’d like to see my hens…so here in all their glory are my chookies…

This is my little flock.  The two black hens are Silver Cuckoo Marans and lay “Large” very dark brown eggs, sometimes referred to as chocolate brown eggs.  Their names are Crooked Beak and Henny-Penny.   The feather-footed “bantams” were adopted from Horse Plus Humane Society before they experienced the dog attack.  I wasn’t planning to get a rooster…but this fellow is pretty mellow and certainly serves his purpose by herding his ladies in when it’s night-fall.  His “crow” is so quiet and mellow that it’s no trouble at all.  We rarely hear it, so we know the neighbors aren’t annoyed by it either.  We call him “Roo” and the hen hasn’t found her name yet.  We also haven’t had any eggs from her that we’re aware of.  Since her comb is such a pale pink, I doubt that she’s laying right now.  That’s ok.  The other two girls are keeping us well supplied right now.  They have a support light in their hen house, partially for heat, and so we continue to have eggs.  Don’t worry…they both took a good vacation during the summer months.  We didn’t get eggs for about 2 months.

Here’s an example of how the topography of my land changes with just a bit of rain… The shot above is in the summer…nice and dry…

This shot is after the first Fall rain…a little mucky, but not desperately bad.   This drained off quickly and dried out because the sun came out.  And then December came…and with it…R A I N… The rain has caused us to scramble a bit.  The mud, combined with a couple of freezing nights (which causes the soil to spread and accept more water even more deeply) has happily turned to severe muck…not good for a horse’s feet.  Last Saturday morning, I made the executive decision that Willow had to be moved, while we had a break in the weather. 

Fabulous decision!  Within mere days, the rain came in and decided to stay…for days and days and days on end…  Her paddock now looks like this…

It’s as though the stream jumps its banks here, and actually runs through the paddock.  It got deeper and you could actually see the current within half an hour of taking this picture.

Her lovely spot beneath the trees is completely under water right now.  She would easily be belly deep if she walked to the usual bank.

Here you can see the water flowing downstream, coming over the bottom of the fence panel.  We get quite a bit of run-off.  Fortunately, it does run off…

Bruce has already been out with Willow this morning, making sure the new area is draining.  She’s gotten it pretty sloppy up there as well, but it’s better packed up there.  That land has been grazed by cattle in the past, and is more compacted than down by the house.  It’s still muddy, but more easily drained.

Although you can’t see the top of the mesa, there’s a thousand foot mesa just outside my backyard.  Makes for nice scenery, but it also makes for some nasty wetness too.  That’s one reason we use raised beds.  I don’t have to wait as long for the ground to dry out.

And that’s just part of what’s been going on here at Rancho Roseberry! LOL!  I did a major “I’m getting ready to cook” shopping trip yesterday while I was out for other pleasures.  Thanks for a fabulous “girls lunch out” Ra!!  The pleasure of your company was gift enough!  I have pork and masa ready to start on for tamales. I have the needs for recipes for French Fridays with Dorie and Cooking Italy!  I really love the new book Cook the Books selected too!  Now if I’ll just pace myself, and enjoy it without overdosing! LOL!

And with that, I’m off to do something in the kitchen…It’s brunch time.  Happy Holiday Cooking and Merry Christmas!

 





Señor Frog came to dinner ~

1 08 2010

First, let me assure you…no animals were actually harmed here.   Señor frog was successfully rescued as you’ll see below…

This cracked us up…  We had chicken marinating in one container, I’d just made up a heavy quart of barbecue sauce so there would be some left for the chicken, and we were just marking time until it was really time for dinner.  Bruce went into the kitchen, and came out saying we had an unexpected guest for dinner… “Guess who ‘hopped’ in for dinner?”

We’ve battled grasshoppers tremendously this year.  They’ve hit our garden really hard, ravaged our blackberry vines, and have generally been downright destructive.  They also show up darn near everywhere!  They like to hitchhike.  I’ve found several in the house…quickly dispatched by the house kitty or myself, and we even had one that stuck to our windshield as we drove through town.  There are literally thousands of these insects.  The only time it’s cute is when the hen is running after them!

We’ve also started noticing cute little frogs coming in.  We live in an older home in a rural area, with a stream running through the property just yards from the house.  Bruce took one outside the other night; I was startled by one – but couldn’t quite catch it – while I was cooking a couple nights later.  They’re cute, all of 3″ fully extended, and we see them so often in this old house – though usually in the bathroom, that we’re used to them.

My first guess was “Señor Frog” … and sure enough, there he was, slippin’ and slidin’ all over the inside of my quart Pyrex measuring cup!  He’d gotten stuck down to his middle in ooey-gooey barbecue sauce and he was so slippery his feet wouldn’t catch!  Poor widdle froggie!  LOL! He couldn’t get enough traction to try to jump, and he couldn’t climb out of the measuring cup.

Ok, it’s me…I’m thinking of what’s in the barbecue sauce…vinegar…tobasco sauce… Poor Señor Froggie!!  I scooped him out and took him to the sink and gently rinsed him until he was clean of all remnants of sauce.  That took some doing.  Have you seriously ever tried to bathe a live frog?  While I believe in marinating my food, and I’d like to try frogs’ legs someday, this wasn’t the right way to go about it.   Once he was all nice and clean again, he posed for a few pictures, and then we went someplace a whole lot safer for froggies…the garden.





Unsafe Food Alert!!

20 03 2010

Just about the time you thought we could eat safely again…  Hot off the presses kids…here’s a release acknowledging a huge recall of products which may be tainted with Salmonella, some from places we’d normally trust…like Trader Joe’s.  Bet they’re more than a little whizzed over there!  Read the article here:  http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=25&sid=1916103 There’s a full list of products you can download.

If you’re cooking raw without packages, you’re pretty safe…but read just so you can help your friends out!





First Sign of Spring?

13 02 2010

What’s the first real, honest to goodness, reliable, first sign of Spring?

Narcissus flowers
Where I live, I don’t have to wait for the snow to melt…I see green all winter.  I know that sometime between Christmas and Valentine’s Day that the grass starts really growing and putting on length.  However…you can’t even think about trying to mow it, because the ground is still pretty soggy.  We see Narcissus coming up in December, and they start blooming well before Valentine’s Day.  Closer to Valentine’s Day will find Daffodils opening their trumpets and almond trees starting to open their delicate pink blossoms. But hose are just harbingers.  The true sign is yet to come…

The most sincere sign of Spring I can think of is the sound of the little frogs and crickets coming out of hibernation.  When you can step outside in the evening and the hear the world of the little creatures that live along the stream bed, listen to their symphony, then you know Spring is coming on fast.  We won’t have another hard freeze, though we may have a light frost.  Not even that is highly likely though.  Mid-February usually means the coldest of the weather has gone by.  That doesn’t mean the wettest weather has passed though.   We can still get some really gully washers before it quits raining for the summer.

I hate to say what I did today, but it goes along with the weather here. It won’t be terribly long before I can pick salad greens and herbs for use in the kitchen.  I can always pick chives, rosemary and thyme, but cilantro, parsley, and sage will soon join in.  We also found 2 asparagus spears growing in the garden! Yay!!  The Sunchokes are going bye-bye.  They are so invasive!!  They’re horrid!  They took over the whole asparagus bed in less than 2 years, and that included being thinned out.  We picked up some new asparagus to put in.  We also picked up strawberries and rhubarb.  I wonder if rhubarb will be a perennial in this zone…

I lifted the chives and divided them, and moved the clump still in the wheelbarrow all the way to the back, then lined both sides with cilantro and parsley (flat, Italian),  I added a few primulas for pretty and some red leaf lettuce and romaine.  Then there’s a pot of sage and a tiny white flowering kale.  Sounds like way too much, I know…  I have no problem lifting the flowers out later, and we know the cilantro won’t last long.  Our heat is too intense for it.  All you can do is sow, sow and sow again. I was shocked to find some had self seeded in a pot in the greenhouse frame.  I was pulling it out, and suddenly got a whiff of…if you ever smell cilantro, you’ll know you’ll always know that smell! So…I quit “weeding” the pot, and just added the lettuce.

I can direct seed snow peas and onion sets, and potatoes now.  I have a bunch of seeds for veggies that can be started now too.  I really want to get some Swiss Chard going out there.  I got some San Marzano tomato seeds that I’m very excited about. They’ll be great to can, as well as use fresh in a lot of things we do…Italian, salsa… I just need to get things rolling in the right direction.

I also need to remember that my body needs me to take this in stages.  I’m feeling it tonight, and I hardly did anything out there today.  The bending and stretching, digging in the earth…all feel so cleansing and renewing.  Plus it’s like a facial for my nails. They never are stronger than when I’m gardening.  I think that’s one reason I don’t wear gloves.  We’ll see.

Tomorrow, I need to check for the position of the moon, and think about when to prune the fruit trees.  There’s always something!