Sunrise…sunset…swiftly fly the years

14 06 2009

Kya_09bby

I’m stuck in the land of song lines and cliches… “There goes my baby….”  I’m in shock.  My oldest grandchild has graduated from high school.  Who said she could grow up?   “Don’t touch this.”  The time has flown by.  Just “weeks” ago Baby-face was running around the living room “helping” with Christmas wrapping.  We ran her little legs off that night… *Ü*  “Isn’t she lovely…?”  We were a little far away to get any really good shots, but we do have some really blurry fun shots!  Oh my…well…back to the kitchen now.





TFF Meets Cook the Books

10 06 2009

We’ve come to the end of another school year…and as usual, I’m working a lot of busy days preparing.  For some reason, since the pressure is off everyone else, they figure I’m in neutral mode too.  Ummm…no.  I’m in end-of-year-mode with tons of deadlines and reports being due and this, that, and a couple other things.  I tend to fall asleep relatively early these days! LOL!  So…When it comes to my cooking with various groups, I’m grateful for being with a couple that participation is flexible, and if I can get double duty out of anything, I will!  And so…Cook the Books and Tyler Florence Fridays are having a meeting this week!

TFF-BlueberryLemonScones

Cook the Books has been reading A Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.  There are lots of foods lurking in the pages of this fantastical and magical book.  One item that kept coming up, that’s been a source of curiosity for me since I was a child reading another book that made reference to the same item…scones.  I’ve read many a recipe for scones, and have thought time and again that I’ll have to try that.  But today was the day.  The Belmont Stakes were running and fresh scones with hot coffee sounded just perfect.  Horse racing…scones…good match.

I’ve been cooking off and on with the ladies from Tyler Florence Fridays, but didn’t have a recipe trial ready for the Friday just past.  When the idea of fixing scones for Cook the Books came up, I immediately searched for “scones; Tyler Florence” and got a full list of replies.  There was a recipe for Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze that caught my eye.  The recipe was immediately available from The Food Network, and there were numerous reviews and little twists other cookies had used.  I knew I’d just bought blueberries and I had lemons as well…everything else was available with one minor exception…I only had 1 cup of heavy cream left.  Not to worry…I subbed out a few ounces of heavy cream for sour cream, and added 1/4 tsp. of baking soda to the mix.  Solved.

TFF-BlueberrySconeDough

The recipe worked just as it was supposed to…much like a really moist biscuit dough…which, I suppose it pretty much is!  Somewhere along the line I’d read that frozen berries…not frozen berries from the freezer case, but fresh berries you’ve brought home from the market and frozen in their package, work great for recipes like this, because they hold up to handling as you work the dough.  That made a lot of sense.  The dough had to be formed, cut and transferred…was a little difficult because of it’s mixed medium – wet and crumbly at the same time.  It would be scary to work with fresh raw berries…surely they’d squash, so the frozen routine sounded ideal.  And it was. It held up to the forming, cutting and baking without giving off much juice that would have that strange chemical reaction of turning green.  Even where I cut through whole berries to shape the dough, there wasn’t a problem with the berry juice making things colorful.

TFF-BlueberryScone-close

The proof is in the eating though.  The scones have a very light and tender crumb.  They were strong enough to hold up to plating, but broke apart easily for eating out of hand.  The scone was buttery rich with just enough sweetness that a jam wasn’t needed.  We thought that any number of berries or fruits would work well in the base recipe.  I did make a bit of a change with the glaze.  After hearing about how much the recipe made, and it’s fluidity, I mixed 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 T+ 2 tsp.  lemon juice, and a grating of lemon zest.  We loved them for brunch or Sunday mornings.  I think I’d like to add a bit of lemon zest to the dough next time to promote the lemon essence a little deeper, but Tyler…this one’s a keeper!!





Not Cafeteria Spaghetti ~

16 04 2009

Open House night has come and gone for another year.  Once again, we served a spaghetti dinner for the families.  In the past, we served dinner so parents who were pressed for time, juggling Little League schedules and such, had a way to feed their families at a low-low cost, and make it to Open House night in the process.  We started out using the school cafeteria spaghetti 5 years ago.  After serving it for 2 years, I asked if I could make the spaghetti instead of ordering it from them.  I was serving it, but I also knew I could easily cook spaghetti for 200.  School spaghetti doesn’t have much flavor, and the gals don’t have a lot of time to put TLC into the product because they’re jamming the extra work in between other chores.

Permission to go my own way with the spaghetti was granted 3 years ago.   The first year, I was able to find Italian sausage fairly easily.  I learned a lot about timing and how incredibly long it takes a 30 quart kettle to come to a boil.  Talk about a watched pot!!  The second year, I couldn’t find Italian sausage to save my soul.  I hunted and hunted…in all the wrong places I guess.  This year, I was afraid we were running into the same situation this year, except I found some spicy Italian Sausage pizza topping.  It was all meat and spices.  Go figure.  So…the weight of the package was the yield, there’d be no further loss due to cooking.  Hey…not too bad!  And all that spice mellowed in the sauce really nicely.  I use half ground beef as well, but that I had to cook.  That was fine.  It gave me an opportunity to remove the grease from the meat, and then season it to my taste.

Recently someone asked me where one even begins to cook something like spaghetti for 200…and I’d never thought of it that way.  I have school food service in my background, so it kind of comes relatively easy for me, mostly because feeding that many doesn’t make me shake.  We used to feed over 400 kids every day at my school.  Do that for a few years, and you quit worrying about numbers like that!  LOL!!  But it got me thinking…how would you find out where to start??

When I get into a project like this, I start with an estimate of how many servings we’re going to need, and how many we really expect.  The two can be different by quite a lot.  Let’s use the spaghetti…  Last year we fed 150.  The student group that was benefiting from the dinner has had huge turnouts for their events, and sold out of everything at their last event (family movie night) before intermission!  So…200 sounded like a reasonable number.  We have 280 students enrolled, so it’s a conceivable number.  Next I go to a reference book for quantity cooking, Food for Fifty.  They have a buyers guide which tells you how many servings you will get from how much purchased food, and it has recipes.  So, I take the recipe for spaghetti with meat sauce for 50 and multiply everything by 4.  I figure out my shopping list, translating cups to quarts, half-gallons and gallons, and tablespoons to ounces or portions of cups.  Be careful of quantity recipes though.  Sometimes the quantity of ingredient is just ridiculous.  For instance…2 cloves of garlic for 50 servings of spaghetti.  Get real.  Yes, I said cloves, NOT heads.

The next step is to calculate my game plan…How long does it take to boil a kettle of water for pasta?  What pans do I have for that?  How am I going to store, the cooked pasta until assembly the night of the dinner?  What am I going to cook meat in?  How long does it take for 10 pounds of ground beef to cook?  How long does it take for spaghetti to get hot all the way through?  How many servings can you get from a loaf of french bread?  Then I work backwards…the dinner starts at 5:30 Wednesday night.  It takes this much time to toss salad together; it takes that much time for the spaghetti to heat up; it takes this much time to mix up the pasta, meat and sauce components.  I not only can, but need to prep cook the ground beef and the pasta.  The meat will benefit from being cooked and seasoned in advance.  The flavors will have more time to blend and come out.  The pasta can be cooked almost al denté, rinsed, oiled and bagged until it’s time to mix the spaghetti.  So…one night before, I’ll do the pasta.  Two nights before I’ll cook the meat.  I’ll shop the afternoon before I start cooking.  Sketch out the time frame, as close as you can, figure out how and where you’ll store your components, and put your plan into motion when it’s time.

shopping

I cooked the meat on Monday after doing the “fresh and frozen” shopping.  This also included the dry and non-food components.  I wanted the bread to be fairly fresh, so I wanted until Spaghetti Day to buy that.  I bought ground beef in 5# “sausages”.  I unwrapped the meat, and broke it into chunks in the pant.. Don’t press it in.  I cooked 2 of the chubs at a time, in my turkey roaster, at 350º, covered with foil for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Pour off all the accumulated fat.  Break up the meat as much as you want at this time.  Add 2 chopped onions and seasonings to taste.  Add 2 cups of water to the pan, cover again with foil, and bake another 45 minutes.  Cool rapidly.  So…there’s an hour and a half, probably more like 2 hours for cooking 10# of beef, if you only have 1 oven to work with.  I cooked 3 pans of meat, and it took around 6 hours.  That’s pretty accurate!  I used a big tub to hold the cooled ground beef until I had it all cooked.  Then I stirred in5 pounds of frozen Italian sausage crumbles.  That cooled the ground meat down!  We put the cooled meat into a BIG Ziploc bag and got it into the refrigerator somehow!

pasta-galore

Tuesday was pasta cooking night.  I had 20 pounds of pasta to cook.  The pasta came in 4 pound bags.  I was able to cook 2 pounds of pasta in each of 2 soup kettles at a time.  While the spaghetti only takes a few minutes to cook, once it returns to a boil, it takes awhile for that much water to start boiling.  Even starting with the hottest water I could get it still took almost an hour for the first pans to come to a boil initially.  Once we got rolling, it was taking about 40 minutes to cook 4 dry pounds of spaghetti.  When it was cooked, I pulled it out of the water with tongs, and into a colander with cold running water to stop the cooking.  I rinsed the pasta until it was cold, drained it and poured it into a large container where I sprinkled it with oil…olive oil would be my first choice.  From there, the pasta went into a 2-1/2 gallon Hefty zippered bag.

Now…I use a marinara sauce and work it over for my sauce.  I’m not too worried about my sauce being seasoned much, because the meat is.  Mix the sauce however it works best for you.   Make sure you have enough sauce for all the spaghetti.  It seems like a lot, and it is…but it’ s really easy to NOT have enough!  Then, mix it all together.  Spray down a pan with release spray, put in hot pasta (refresh in hot or boiling water), meat and sauce.  Lift and fold the mixture to work the sauce throughout the entire pan.  The meat will be worked through at the same time.  Cover and bake at 350º for 1 hour or until temp holds at 165º.  Maintain a temp not lower than 140º.  I started at 2:30 to mix the spaghetti, mix the salad, and slice, butter and portion 12 loaves of french bread.  I was finished panning up the spaghetti and cleaning up the kitchen in an hour and a half.  I would have had time to do the salads and the bread, but I had some volunteers who could help before the dinner but not during the dinner, so they did the bread and salads.  Score!  LOL!

I don’t know if I EVER want to know how much a 6 inch deep hotel pan full of spaghetti weighs.  All I know is I hate lifting pans that heavy, but I sure set myself right up to do that last night.  And I know better than to store something that heavy even a little high up, but there’s not much room in the walk-in right now.  I have body parts that are not being kind to me.  I know I had a workout last night! LOL!





Country Living

5 04 2009

Once in awhile living away from the hustle and bustle, and not having easy access to adventruous foods and ingredients, comes with a bonus.  This time it was the blessing of watching a hawk protect “his” space, which just happens to include my space too.

rshawk-k1488316

We’ve always known we have wild animals in the area…Rocky Raccoon has raided our chicken eggs more than once…Bob Cat has also visited a few times…durn him.  We’ve also seen opossum here, and chased them out of our critters’ food.  We have a variety of bird life as well….we hear the mournful coo of the Mourning Dove, see the zippy little hummingbirds as they pass through, watch the little house wrens grow from hatchlings to full grown, and then there are the raptors.  The big, majestic raptors.  Where we are, we can see the occasional eagle, osprey, and a variety of hawks.  For the past 5 years or so, we’ve had a breeding pair of Red Shouldered Hawks in our trees.  We went back and forth whether we had red-shouldered, or red-tailed hawks…both are prevalent here.  Between the cry, the coloration and the habits, we’ve determined we have red shouldered hawks.  Here’s a great video clip:  Red Shouldered Hawk Solo .  That’s what I hear every day, at one time or another.

Hearing more than one cry, usually means something is up…something is threatening the hawks, or they’re excited about something.  We have a heard of chickens and a pair of ducks, plus a flock of cats…I became worried for their safety and went out to see what was up.  Of course, you get outside and all is calm…no sound other than the ducks communing.  That about figures.

Minutes later, I spotted a hawk – quite large – in the top of the old willow on the stream bank.  I could hear its cry piercing the afternoon.  Seconds later, the bird took flight and swooped down into the backyard…wait…no…here’s the bird I was watching..Oh my gosh…there are 2 of them!!  No!!  There are 3!!  And I can still hear another cry, as I watch the feathered air-show being performed right in front of me!  With wingspan of more than 3 feet, these are pretty intimidating creatures when they’re coming right at you!  And fast!  I quickly realized I was watching the male defending his territory, and likely listening to his mate in the tree.  The pair hung around long enough to make sure they’d defended their ground and then flew north-east toward the mountain.

One interesting observance…while there was a different pair of hawks in the area, the chickens and ducks took shelter.  Or maybe it was that there were hawks out, diving into the middle of the duck pond area, that they all took shelter and only came out when they saw me.  Hmmm…  We have lots of cover for the chickens and ducks, but they’re also somewhat exposed due to it being winter-spring, when the foliage isn’t out to protect them.  Another reason we don’t let babies out too early!

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I have to admit…that was quite an amazing way to end the afternoon!





Oh where, oh where?

28 03 2009

We’ve had a couple of very busy weeks here.   There were some health issues we needed to get ironed out, and our iron wasn’t hot enough.  Enough metaphors…  My beloved Mr. Green Jeans has been in the hospital and I haven’t had time to do spit.  Between working and visiting the hospital and doing all the home chores, well, there wasn’t much time for cooking.  I at least ate reasonably well. Thank heaven for Trader Joe’s.  I grabbed a few salads and wraps and that carried me through with only 1 Taco Bell stop and a Wendy’s visit I regretted almost immediately.  Curiousity got the best of me.  I lived, I learned.  I hope to get back in the swing of things here again shortly.  I’ve got lots of ingredients stashed in the freezer to play catch-up with.  I’ve got 2 Whisk Wednesdays to catch up, and I’ll do some of that on Wed. coming up…because there are no frogs legs to be found.  Hmmm…here’s a thought…could we sub chicken wings??  They kind of look like frogs legs? And since frog is supposed to taste like chicken…??  Never mind….I’ll be back here real soon!  I can hardly wait to make Tyler Florence’s Lemon Pudding Cakes!  I just have to get the chocolate cake eaten first!  It was a gift…and it takes so long for cakes to be gone here!





Sproutibles

14 03 2009

I know…it’s not a “real” word, but it stands for Sprouted-edibles.  I’m very pleased to say that we’ve had our own sprouts consistently since January, with only the slightest little problems…we ran short of sprouts one week, and were a little overboard another.  Here’s the story of the lifespan of a sproutible.  Don’t blink…it goes by pretty darn quick!

Day 1 –

srpout1

While I’m in the kitchen prepping dinner, I grab a wide-mouth pint canning jar and fill it halfway with slightly warm water.  We usually have a mixture of sprouts:  Alfalfa, radish, red clover and broccoli.  I add 1 teaspoon of each seed to the jar, shake it a little to break up the bubbles, and leave it set for about 24 hours.

The technical part of what’s going on here, is that we’re softening the hulls of the seeds so that the embryonic plant inside can soak up some of that water and sprout!  Water and the right temperature are the two things that tell seeds it’s time to grow.  One without the other doesn’t work well.  The seeds can be the right temperature to grow, but without moisture, they remain dormant.  Water at the wrong temperature will yield swollen soggy seeds that can’t grow if the water is too cold, or cooked seeds if the water is too hot.  It’s kind of that Goldilocks thing…it has to be “just right.”  “Just right” and room temperature have a lot in common.  That’s why lots of houseplants do well…it’s the right temperature for plants that don’t like a lot of drastic changes.  But we’re sprouting edibles…back to it!

Day 2 –

sprout-24hrs

After 24 hours, the water is slightly cloudy, and said to be full of nutrients.  It is recommended to save this water for adding to anything that will be consumed soon.  That having been said, I’m usually in a bit of a rush, and simply drain them and give them a good rinse.  Rinsing temp should be about room temp.  If the water is cold, it will shock the seedlings a bit and they won’t start growing again until they return to 60-something degrees.  Rinse, drain, rinse, drain,  set aside will our mantra for the next few days.

Day 3 –

sprout-1rinse

It’s now Wednesday morning.  We perform the mantra… Rinse, drain, rinse, drain, set aside.  We do the same thing at lunch time…Rinse, drain, rinse, drain,  set aside.  And now it’s time to fix supper again, and here’s what’s happened in just 48 hours:

sprout-48hrs

The seeds are beginning to sprout.  Look closely, you can see some of the root-tails coming out.  Many of the seed hulls have split.  These are all good things.  Rinse, drain, rinse, drain,  set aside.

Day 4
It’s morning.  Whe we went to bed, the seeds had started to split.  Here’s what we found this morning:

sprout-4rinse

There are lots of roots this morning!  Another mantra…Rinse, drain, rinse, drain,  set aside.  Do the same at noon…Rinse, drain, rinse, drain,  set aside.  And what does the evening bring?

sprout-72hrs

The jar is now about half full of sprouts.  It’s time to start swishing to loosen the seed hulls.  Once the seed has sprouted, it doesn’t need the hull any more.  When you rinse, just slosh the seeds around gently.  We’ll be graduating to the next size screen soon.  The leaves can’t access the light and turn green, by creating chlorophyll until they’re free of the seed hulls.

sprout-lid

Sprouting lids or screens come in different sizes because seeds come in different sizes.  This is a fine screen-lid.  It will permit water to enter and be poured off but will keep seeds from flowing out with the water.  At least once they’ve been soaked it will.  The next size screen will be just a little larger and will do a very good job of keeping most of the sprouts in the jar while permitting the seed hulls to wash out of the jar.  Seeds the size we’re using will only need these two screens.  Seeds like mung bean seeds will start with the second screen, and graduate to one that has 3/8 inch openings.

Day 5 –

It’s Friday morning now…sprout-fri-am

We’re still in the pint jar, but we’ve graduated to the next larger screen-lid.  The jar is mostly full of sprouts.  They’re suspended in water in this picture.  We’ve got roots and bright green leaves now.

sprout-fri-pm

It’s Friday evening now.  We’ve had to move the sprouts into a larger jar.  This is a wide-mouthed quart jar-squarish, so it doesn’t roll.  There are still seeds just beginning to sprout, so we aren’t ready to package them up just yet.  There’s lots of plant life in the jar now. They’ll definitely need rinsing frequently if the days are very warm.

Day 6 ~

sprout-sat-am

Saturday morning. Late morning, but still morning.  Here are our sprouts before rinsing.  Notice the condensation?  That means it’s pretty warm inside the jar.  The sprouts generate a certain amount of heat on their own…all that growing going on!

You’d be able to package these up in a ventilated container (save a sprout container…justify it because it’s the LAST you’ll ever have to buy!) and keep them in the refrigerator at this point if you wanted.  I’m going to let them go another day or so.  I’m interested to see where we are after 7 days…if they aren’t too “grown” up that is.  I have a strawberry carton that I saved for sprouts.  It holds a quart jar full.  This batch may go to the half-gallon jar before they’re mature.





Whisk Wednesdays Winter Gift Exchange

28 02 2009

One of our group suggested we do a gift exchange to help pass the Winter.  What a great idea!  We found we were spread all over North America…wow!  I think everyone decided to participate, so little packages have been flying about for the past month.  My package is currently winging it’s way to…… in ……..  I can’t tell you….it’s a surprise!!

In the meanwhile…my package from ……….. has arrived!  Woo-hooo!!  What special gifts I received!  And how incredibly appropriate too!  See?

winter-09_shari1

There was a gift bag from the Le Cordon Bleu Boutique.  I’ve never heard of such a place!! Oh how FUN!!!  Here’s what was in the bag…a LCB apron, and LCB tea towels.  They’re sparkling white with the blue LCB logos.  Thank you so much!!  We also found boxes of silicone muffin cups…regular and mini sizes. I didn’t have any yet, so I can hardly wait to try these out!  There’s also a liquid measure…looks like a great tool! And a silicone spatula…who can have too many of those?  This one is curved….love it!  My sender sent a couple of clues along…regional food treats…Honey Tarragon mustard (yumm!) and a can (how interesting!!) of pure maple syrup!  She also included a recipe for a Big Pancake…a favorite at their house.  Thanks so much!!  I’ve never made one, but I’ll have to give it a try!  Now, there’s no way that _____ could know that I stick small recipe cards to my fridge with magnets while I’m cooking, but there’s a magnet from LCB to help me out with that!  How fun!! I love it!!  And last, but certainly not least, is a little whisk.  Who could ask for a better gift??  Thank you soooooo much!!  I love every single thing and can’t wait to get back into the kitchen this weekend!!   *BIG hugs**

3/5/2009 ~

Finally…All the packages have arrived and I can thank SHARI (now how COOL is that???) for all the lovely gifts…especially the items from LCB!  I’m so enchanted!!  But, I’m betting I use the little 1/4 cup measure most.  It just has that sweet feel to it!  Shari, everything is so fabulous!  I can hardly wait to try out the little silicone muffin cups! I’ve put the silicone spatula to work already.  I have 2…flat ones.  This is my first curved…LOVE it!!  I’ll cherish the apron and towels…how special!!  The magnet has jumped to the front of the refrigerator!  I’m saving the maple syrup…canned…what a CONCEPT!  I love the tarragon-honey mustard!  I’m hunting for just the right sausage for that!!  I’m looking forward to the next rainy Saturday so I can fix the BIG Pancake!  I’ve never made anything like it…but it sounds marvelous!  And a whisk…LOL!  How appropriate!  Thank you SOOOOO much for my lovely gifts!  It really made my day!





For the love of wine tasting

15 02 2009

Once a month we have a reservation at Checkers, a little bistro that promotes young adults in the work-place.  Checkers is a training facility for food service workers.  Checkers is also one of Butte County’s best kept dining secrets.  The food is slightly skewed to Italian bistro, and they’re only open a few nights a week (however, Tues. through Fri. for the best lunch and lunch value in town), and they hold a reservations-only wine tasting-pairing each month. We started attending 2 years ago, on Valentine’s Day…one of their better and more-attended occasions.

The theme for this month’s wine tasting was, “For the love of wine tasting.”   And since most folks seem to love the reds, we had a majority of reds.  Each wine is paired with a small plate course orchestrated to bring out either qualities of the wine or qualities of the food, or both.  To see full size images, please click on the thumbnail image.

roastedbeetsaladWe began with a Sonoma Brut from the Gloria Ferrer Vineyards, paired with a roasted beet salad.  By itself, the wine was nicely dry with notes of almond.  Although said to have citrusy notes as well, I didn’t catch that so much.  The salad was pairs of roasted beets, golden and red, chilled, adorned with micro-greens and an herb dressing with crumbled cheese, perhaps feta?  The amount was so small it was hard to place the taste.  The red beets were sweet, but didn’t have the roasting-intensified flavor I anticipated.  All in all though, a nice starter; very light and cheerful.  A table partner didn’t care for the golden beets.  They felt there was an earthiness in the golden beets that almost tasted dirty.  Interesting.

crabgratineeNext up was a Williamette Valley Pinot Noir (2006) from the Argyle Winery, paired with a crab gratinee.  The description of the wine on our program was full of alliteration, but the upshot was the wine was full of fruitiness and aroma.  At first taste, it was indeed fruity-plum and cherry, but a bit acid as well.  The wine paired very well with the crab gratinee, which I really wanted to like.  For the most part, I love crab.  And ’tis the season of Dungeness.  But I just couldn’t get past the nose of the dish…it smelled fishy, and I can’t eat fishy smelling anything.  So I had another deep sip of wine…and its flavor had changed!  The herbs and crabby taste rounded out the edges of the wine so it was more full, more fruity, almost like jam.  I managed to eat half of the crab fiasco, because it made the wine so wonderful!

halibutharissaOur next dish was grilled halibut with a grilled red pepper harissa, paired with a Nebbiolo (2004) from the Caparone Winery.  When I see the word “camphor” I don’t exactly think of wine.  You know? I think of, well, medicine…tinctures…smelly stuff I’d never think of drinking.  So, when the term “aromas of camphor” was used to describe the wine we were about to sample, let’s just say it didn’t warm me to the soles of my feet.  It did, however, chill my heart.  Toward the end of the tasting notes there was mention that this wine could easily age 25 years…does that mean they’re still waiting to see if it gets any better??  Needless to say, this was not my favorite of the evening.  Most of us at the table agreed.  We all agreed, as well, that it became tolerable paired with the spicy harissa sauce.  The halibut was without flavor. It was dry on the outside, but moist inside, yet had no flavor.  It got all it’s flavor from the harissa…coriander, caraway and fire!

chcknchrizo_rojo1On to our next dish…Basque chicken with chorizo and a Juan Rojo Toro (2004) .  This was sure to be a better combination than that which preceded it!  And it was.  The Rojo Toro was delightful by itself.  It was full-bodied and fruity without being sweet.  It paired nicely with the chicken and chorizo.  The chicken and chorizo was a little sad though.  The chicken tasted as though it had been cooked separate of the other components, so although properly done and moist, it was bereft of all the layers of flavor that should have been throughout the meat.   Peppers, onion, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, Spanish chorizo…basil, thyme…as you can see, the chorizo was cut into serving size hunks, so it wasn’t able to give of its spicy flavor while accepting the sweet tomato juices. The artichoke looks like an after-thought here, rather than a member of the cast.  A piece of chicken, stacked with a bit of chorizo, dredged through sauce, and this was quite good.  The Rojo stole the whole show though.

porktenderloinpolentaRounding out the savory dishes for this evening was sliced pork tenderloin with a cheesy polenta, paired with a 2006 Weingut Allram Blauer Zweigelt.  Described as a “fruity red” this wine was pressed from blue cold-weather grapes in combination.  It did have a rich berry aroma and flavor, and paired excellently with the lovely pork tenderloin, served simply au jus with chopped red pepper and a dollop of cheesy polenta.  Although I didn’t care for the polenta in the least, the pork tenderloin was roasted to perfection.  Toward the end of the glass, I was able to pick up some chocolate-cherry notes in the wine.  Priced at $11.99 this is a lovely little find.

chocrasp_portConcluding the evening, we have a Lodge Reserve Port from Smith Woodhouse, paired with a molten chocolate cake with sugar-coated raspberries.  Silly me…I was thinking molten as in thick, gooey, semi-liquid…and sugar, as in granulated, coated raspberries.  That would be a be a “no” on both counts.  The chocolate cakelet was very tasty, however.  It paired wonderfully with the port.  And I usually don’t care a lot for port.  This was yummy though.  Bruce decided it was too rich for him, so I shared his piece with another tablemate…his was semi-liquid, and just the way I’d imagined…and the port was still good!

Next month I believe we’re off to another region of Italy.  I didn’t quite catch it when it was announced.  I did get reservations for next month though.  *Ü*  And I have plans of partaking in a Greek cooking class…now doesn’t that just sound like fun??





25 01 2009

Today’s precarious economy, further fueled by California’s lack of a state budget, has made living and working in California an interesting experience as of late.  I’m a school employee.  Our district’s working budget for the year has already been reduced from figures the state released in My-June of 2008.  We honestly don’t know how long capital can hold out.  The state can’t pay it’s bills, including funding education, among other things – fire, law enforcement, state government expenses…  It’s times like this I’m glad I know a few tricks.

Beat convenience packaging.  A 9 0z. package of sliced breast of turkey was $3 – on sale.  I bought a 10 pound deli turkey, whole, for $18.00.  $1.88 per pound, and the roast was 10#.  I recently bought a mid-range priced deli slicer, thinking in advance.  If you can’t afford, or can’t store 10 pounds of turkey all at once, see if a friend will go in with you.  Even if you have to take the roast to a butcher or deli counter for slicing, you’re going to be well ahead of the game.  I figured the second 6 packages of sliced turkey were all “free.”  The same follows with other cuts of meat.  Alton Brown recently did a show on the value of buying a whole beef tenderloin.  I wish I could have watched it carefully.  It makes so much sense.   I’ve purchased pork butt that way…we got some great cuts and sausage out of it.  I’ve got a package of beef cuts right now.  I’m sure it’s good enough for stewing and stir-fries.  Mmmmm….shredded beef for tacos…  I’ll stop by and show you what I come up with! LOL!  Have a great day!





Whisk Wednesdays and delays…

19 01 2009

We had a little hiccup from Life show up last week…Bruce had a heart attack and we ended up with him in the hospital for a few days.  So…3 doctors, 2 stents and 5 days later, we were finally able to escape.  It’s got to be easier to get someone out of jail than the hospital!  We had to wait for the Cardiologist to sign us off.  Then we had to wait for the doctor on call to release us.  After that, there’s all the paperwork to get together and signed off…at least his nurse was really on the ball for that part.  He was ready for everything but the final meds.  And now we’re home, trying to adjust to our new normalcy.  The heavy cream sauces and butter are no longer part of our “diets.”  I’ll work around them as well as I can, or those sauces will be part of our “once in awhile.”

And now I’m off to braise the chicken for Poulet en Cocotte Grand-Mère (Braised Chicken Casserole with Bacon, Mushrooms, Potatoes, and Onions).  Well, after I turn my potatoes first.  I’ve already done the mushrooms and onions, and carrots as well.  Practice, practice!