Food -n- Flix ~ Eat, Pray, Love

28 01 2012

What a way to start the culinary year!!   At Food -n- Flix we are being hosted by The Law Student’s Cookbook and we’re watching Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I love a year that starts by traveling to 3 different countries with 3 different cuisines!!

Gilbert shares her story of love, love lost, self lost, retreat, self discovery, and renewed love with us as she travels to Italy, where she works on healing her physical self…eating nurturing foods, cultivating nurturing relationships, and restoring her own identity amid endless plates of pasta, pizza and gallons of Italian wine.  Gilbert’s journey to India gave us a glimpse of a different life and cultural style, where young women are married off by their families, and prayer and meditation are the tools of self restoration and the journey to spiritual awareness and peace.  Finally, Gilbert returns to Bali, where, on a previous trip during her “previous” life, she met a “seer” who predicted she would return to Bali, live with him and teach him English, and find love.  Gilbert certainly does find love, in the form of a handsome man who runs her off the road, and later helps her home after a night of frivolity and tequila…  I loved the story so much, I ended up reading the book during the month as well.  *contented sigh*

I pondered over a load of recipes and thoughts to represent this movie, and in the end, I came down to my own major comfort food from Italy… Pasta e Fagioli… Pasta with beans.  This soup is like a warm hug for me.  It was cold…rainy…dark…yet this soup warmed us up and made us comfortable.  With warm bread added for good measure, this was a feast…and I shared it with my beloved…my best friend for the past 30 years…my hubby, Bruce.  We have done a lot of eating, praying and loving during that time…I wish for Ms. Gilbert the kind of peace I have in my heart!

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Virtual Thanksgiving Dinner…Blogger style!

5 11 2011

Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes by The Pioneer Woman

I’m very blessed to be carried along by a fabulous bunch of folks on-line.  I’m not even sure there’s a name for the group…it’s a mailing list of like-minded-always-learning home chefs-in-training.  I can’t always play, but I truly appreciate the continued invitations!  When the idea of a Virtual Thanksgiving Dinner came up, I knew I had to jump in!  Bless Phyl, I was assigned “Mashed Potatoes”.  Trust me…with my schedule lately, mashed potatoes was even a challenge!

I know…I know… Mashed Potatoes is elementary!!  That’s why I’m stepping out of the box a little and doing a Potato Mash-Off between 2 highly recommended recipes:  Ina Garten’s Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, and The Pioneer Woman’s Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes (my personal favorite).  I reduced both recipes by half on a night when I was planning to roast a chicken and we could try the potatoes side by side alone, and then sauced.

mash-off1_cbwa

Both recipes start out with Yukon Gold, or other potatoes for mashing,  boiled in salted water.  Ina uses milk heated together with the butter and The Pioneer Woman uses room temperature cream cheese.  Ina finishes her potatoes with buttermilk to achieve creaminess in the end.  Okay.  Got it.  Grab your spoons and taste, please…

Our “blind” taste-tester was my hubby, Bruce.  After tasting both samples he announced that there was no single winner, really.  The potatoes tasted different enough that it was like comparing valencia oranges and naval oranges.  Bruce felt Ina Garten’s potato recipe had a more distinctive potato flavor.  It would be a really good mashed potato anytime “just potato” flavor is desired.  That being said, he said if he were to choose one he could eat without gravy or sauce, it would be The PW’s recipe.  The creamy richness of the cream cheese brightens the color and the flavor of the potato.  It’s kind of like a mashed, scalloped potato flavor…they totally enchant me…and I can’t bring myself to use quite as much butter as she does!  LOL!

Now, the final taste-test…sauced!  Bruce scored the recipes about the same as his earlier rating.  He really enjoyed both servings, but still favored Pioneer Woman’s recipe more.  Admittedly, Bruce could simply favor the Pioneer Woman’s recipe out of a sense of familiarity.  This is, after all, the recipe I use for holiday potatoes.  Ina’s recipe is much closer to the recipe I use day to day for mashed potatoes, so it would seem that recipe would be familiar as well.

Which takes me to the question of…how do  you select a “favorite”?  Is it the recipe you use faithfully, day in and out because it tastes really good and it’s reliable?  Or is it the recipe you put extra work in to, a few times a year, when you want something a little more special?  The Pioneer Woman’s recipe is my favorite.  I wish I could fix these any time we have mashed potatoes, but there’s a LOT of dairy fat in this recipe, and we must be moderate in all things…

Thank you Kayte for keeping me in this loop!  I loved participating!!





So…what’s new with you?

15 10 2011

I feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the cooking earth!  Well, maybe not so much “cooking” as “blogging.”  Which would be much more accurate.  I really have cooked!  A LOT!  At some point I’ll post “Battle Zucchini”…probably during the winter when I wished I had some of the squash again!  There have been a lot of distractions…   A new boss again this year (makes the start of the school year a little more work the first few years), a few new tasks added to my job and the learning curve that goes with that, and then there are the girls…

All my life I’ve wanted a horse of my own…  A little over a year ago I discovered Horse Plus Humane Society, which was called NorCal Equine Rescue at the time.  These absolutely AWESOME folks rescue unwanted or uncared for animals, primarily horses and other equines (donkeys, burros, mules…).   Willow (the red-brown, properly called either Chestnut or Sorrel in horse circles) came to live with us in July of 2010.   H+HS has been blessed to be able to save a record number of equines this year, but that also means they have an abundance of fully adoptable to semi-adoptable (horses with less training who may require “finishing”) to totally untrained horses.  Enter Shasta…the light buckskin (light body color, dark mane, tale and points (ears, feet, muzzle).    Both horses are mares (girls), Willow is 17 years old, and Shasta is 5 years old.  With 2 horses, more of my free time is spent doing something I love…being with my girls, working on their training.

That doesn’t mean cooking has stopped, but it does mean I’m not blogging much if at all, and I’m not cooking according to any schedule.  I’m still cooking up a storm.  We eat a lot of Mexican food because we’re in a good area to be able to get supplies, and it’s quick after work.  I might spend 7 hours cooking up a pork roast on the weekend for carnitas, but then I’ve got quick suppers a couple nights during the week.  The same goes for a poached chicken…it can become either Mexican food (makes the best enchilada meat) or into Asian food.  And then…a French roasted chicken…who can complain about one of those?  Again…usually left-over meat that can be re-purposed.  Carne asada sliced beef or flank steak comes in very handy for carne asada tacos or fajitas.  We also eat quite a bit of rice because it goes with everything I’ve already mentioned!  LOL!  While we had fresh tomatoes coming out our ears, we also ate a LOT of pasta with any kind of fresh tomato sauce I could put together, and a lot that didn’t have recipes!  LOL!

Everything is pretty much good here… We have a new way to weed and fertilize the garden…  Shasta is a tricky girl. She’s one smart little mustang!  She opened the gate and went into the garden to do a little weeding.  This would be okay…and will be when I’m sure no one has left any gardening implements lying around.  The gate is firmly fastened now…little stinker!  There’s plenty of compostable material here now…no question about that!  With our heavy clay soil…that’s a good thing!  LOL!

There’s plenty of mischief and mayhem that goes along with living here…not only did we adopt the horses from H+HS, we’ve also adopted chickens.  I have 4 cute little bantams running with the big buff orpingtons!  They don’t seem to bother each other at all.  The two roosters each tend their flocks and everyone is happy.  Except Mr. Raccoon.  He’s been going hungry.  Maybe he’ll go somewhere else to find a meal…

I do miss you all…  I’m still reading, watching movies and even reading posts now and then…time is just a bit hard to come by right now.  I wish you all the best, and I’ll get back here…surely as the winter draws the curtains on outdoor activities!  TTFN!





Hi there…remember me? Wow…

17 07 2011

First, I can hardly believe it’s been 2 months since I posted. Mercy! Just Life being Life and not having enough time to cover every base and recharge between bouts sums up where I’ve been.  I haven’t been active in any cooking groups, even my own…  Which is not to say I haven’t cooked…I certainly have and will make mass presentations shortly.

Second…does anyone have recipes for using up zucchini?  We have 2 plants. That’s all. 2.  I’m really awash in zucchini this year.  Last year…couldn’t get enough to do anything with, and they’d get HUGE…this year they’re perfectly timed to be gorgeous for any application.  So far, we’ve had zucchini pancakes and zucchini latkes…that explains it better than zucchini cakes…which we also had…a chocolate zucchini cake.  We’ve had it grilled and fried and with pasta…  I have plenty…I can afford to mess up a few times!  My tomatoes are looming on the vines in about the same way…big gorgeous suckers this year… I don’t know where we got this seed…could be some we saved…the tomatoes are coming off firm, red, ripe and full of flavor.  *sigh*  Time to pick up some buffalo mozzarella…because of course I have basil right beside those tomatoes!

I’m out of here for the moment, but will be back with some 30 Minute Thursday Round ups!  I just need to do some photo finding!





Thirty Minute Thursday: Maccheroni with Pancetta and Ricotta~

14 04 2011

My Thirty Minute Pasta dish this week is Maccheroni with Pancetta and Ricotta.  I didn’t have the size macaroni they suggested, so I pulled out some very macaroni-esque tri-colored pasta that I did have, and made do with that.  This is another dish that goes together really quickly.  A quick sauté of a few seasoning vegetables and pancetta,  a quick stir of the ricotta and parmesan, mix together in a bowl with hot, freshly drained pasta, and you’ve got an entreé!

Tasting Notes~
Not one of my favorites…which is definitely not to say it wasn’t good.  It was.  And it was ever so easy.  It’s just not a recipe I’d select over some of the others.  And yet…if these were the ingredients I had handy…I’d fix it again.  It was a little on the bland side…and the texture didn’t work well for me.  I’m just that way with some textures…and I know I’m not alone in that.   I might add a bit of this and some of that and see how it comes out the next time…  I’ll let you know!  LOL!

Look Who’s Cooking~
Over at Grandma’s Kitchen Table, I found that Kayte was busy making Fusilli con le Zucchine Giaffe e Ciliegini (Fusilli with Yellow Squash and Grape Tomatoes).  First off…follow the link.  No, I’m serious…I’ll wait.  The picture is worth the visit!  Don’t worry…it’ll open in another window…go take a look!  Isn’t that a gorgeous photo?  I love it!  And I love Kayte’s selection this week.  What a fun dish!  I’m sure it went really well with steak just off the grill!  We’ll be seeing more and more of these kinds of recipes as the Summer approaches!

I’m very excited about cooking from this book through the summer.  A couple fresh tomatoes, a bit of basil and you’re good to go!  Bonus scores if you can add fresh from the vine summer squash or peppers!  I love that this book works really well with a summer garden!  Even if you have to grow a few things in pots, you really should treat yourself to a few pots of basil and a nice, solid looking Italian or paste tomato plant.  If you’ve got the space for a zucchini, you won’t be sorry.  The male flowers are edible as well as the squash itself.  My goal is to have enough male flowers to be able to fix stuffed squash blossoms.  I’ll get there!  LOL!





Reading Blog posts…

30 10 2010

One of the things I absolutely love about reading foodie blog posts is the vast diversity of peoples, cultures, and customs we represent and the wonderful things that are laid out there for us to discover about each other.  I truly enjoy visiting the kitchens of ladies I’ve never met, and likely will never meet.   Occasionally, I’ll stumble across something that particularly touches my heart…which is what this post is about today.

As I was perusing the recent French Fridays with Dorie posts, I dropped by to visit one of the members’ sites to see how her version of our recipe turned out.   When I popped onto Simple Girl‘s website, I was greeted by the most colorful caterpillars and butterflies!  LOL!   It was Bug Day at her daughter’s 2nd grade class…what a joyful day they must have had!! How incredibly inventive of the teacher…and how supportive of Mom!!

I know I’m a little, bitty blog with a little bitty readership, but I care about all of us.  That’s just me.  I also love making cute little graphic goodies.  So…I’m going to when my heart tells me to!  If you have a particular wish to send, let me know…I’ll see if I can help you out!   You’re welcome to use this one if you like.

The very first one is being awarded to (drum roll please….) Simple Girl!!  You can see by the smiles on the kiddos’ faces that they had a fabulous time, who wouldn’t love one of those yummy looking cupcakes!!  Caterpillars for the boys – oh yeah! BUGS!  Butterflies for the girls…who’d try not to eat their butterflies…but they’d start melting in their fingers, and were ever so tempting…they just couldn’t help it!  LOL!  I can just feel the joy bubbling around their room!  Did you know I’m an elementary school secretary?   Yep.  And it’s a small school…less than 200 students on my end (we also have 4 preschool classes at the other end of the campus).  Anyway…  Congrats!!





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!