Monday, November 9, 2015

Working again....

Making slow progress through these last 5 Saints. Started background fill in to finish the garments.So many details left to do.
Slowly but surely I hope to be done here fairly soon and get this project off the board and on to something else. Concurrently I am working on a private commission panel. I would love to do about 50 more of these to go all the way around the church but not sure how approach the board or parish.

I would rather the parish choose their own Saints this time and even donate whole 'family' panels. The dilemma comes when we move to a new church and they want to hire a 'real' iconographer. what do we do with all of this?  Anyway, I want to paint a few 'soldier' saints and the like. There is room for about 50 or so and create a real 'cloud of witnesses' around the sanctuary and meanwhile I get much needed practice. This go around they might need to run about $300 each to keep me in the business and still give 1/2 to the altar servers.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Saturday Company and a Duck...

On Saturday after another devastating defeat for the Huskers, we entertained Nick and Jill for dinner. I actually had a hard time coming up with something then thought about those ducks I bought after season last year. I thawed one out and looked up some recipes and how to's before I set about roasting.

I was surprised that most recipes boil the duck for 10 minutes before roasting. It tightened the skin and after being allowed to dry out, made for a very crispy duck. Roasting is kind of a chore with a oven temp, timer changes and multiple turns on the duck  it came out very moist and crispy so totally worth it. Perfectly cooked too. While I did not use the included packet of Orange Sauce, it was actually quite tasty and I could see basting the bird with it then serving it as a side. I am thinking of a little Siracha and soy added to it maybe.

I served it all with a side of mashed reds and broccolini with truffle butter. Overall a very tasty meal but the duck really only serves 3 at best and knowing Brenda would not touch it, I made her a roasted chicken breast.

So, I am no longer a duck virgin and would consider this again (domestic duck of course). My next great minor adventure is airline chicken breasts. I am fascinated with this old school cut so whole chickens, I am coming at you.  Fangman's need to plan a visit so I have an excuse to cook.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

It's That Time of Year!

Time to stuff those pie pumpkins! From savory fillings to sweet ones, use a pumpkin to deliver a treat to a football party or anything that requires a side or dessert. These little babies from Jill's brother's farm were stuffed with Italian sausage, bacon and leeks. A good dose of cheese and a bit of cream topped off the filling. These are not baked yet but they took a good hour at 325 to get the shells edible soft.

I was considering expanding this to perhaps a cheesecake filling if I can find a way to treat the pumpkin flesh and make it a bit more sweet so off to the test kitchen! I am thinking a brown sugar crust with butter? Yum.

How about Bread pudding? Yes,  please! With a bit of Creme Anglaise to pour on top? No one says no to that, especially with a bit caramel sauce in it.

Endless possibilities, lucky the pumpkin crop was plentiful this year.

Icon Progress....finally

It's been quite a while since I posted anything about his subject as I took most of the summer off to enjoy the weather and back yard. After we came back from Mexico I was reinvigorated to get more painting done and I started working again.

Currently I am working on a private commission and this large canvas for the opposite wall at the church. Folks have not been asking about this much lately and I have become a bit spiritually lazy and allowed the Devil to talk me out of finishing and believe me, he whispers in my ear without end with words of discouragement and eminent failure.

Actually the amount of work itself is daunting and I am trying not to repeat perceived mistakes I may have made on the first canvas.  One of the greatest killers of one's work ethic is to compare oneself to another. When we visited St. George in Kearney early this spring I was so overcome by the quality of the work and talent of the artists I lost my way,  finding that artistic muse so easy to derail. Artist's should only compare themselves to their past, nothing else.

This summer,  after a conversation with the potter I purchased a vase from, I came to realize that working in isolation is really detrimental to some artists as she was complaining about being alone in her studio and missing the input from a peer. Just someone to bounce an idea off of or garner an opinion.

Now the weather has turned cooler and Brenda has a few late nights at work I find myself back in the studio, mildly overwhelmed by what is left to be done but trying to stay on track, paint a little each day and refocus my life back to the church. Currently I have been refining the faces and expressions while filling in large color blocks in preparation for folds and drapery. Why I do not work on hands at the same time is beyond me since you would think I already have those colors available but they are always a separate part of my work.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings

Ben had talked about making Chicken and Dumplings in the crock pot. I started thinking about it and found a recipe for the dumplings I wanted to try. In the past dumplings have been gut bombs, dense and chewy or like wet biscuits and unappealing. I founds something a little different to try but first I have to make the stock.
I know that canned stock is readily available but I had none and I did have a lot of frozen parts in the freezer so that's what I used.

To 8 quarts of water in a large marmite I added one large onion, unpeeled and cut in half, 2 carrots chopped, a celery bottom trimmed from the package we bought, a teaspoon of cracked pepper, thyme and a bay leaf. I also added 1 heaping tablespoon of chicken base and 2 tablespoons of salt.

Dumplings are about ready, steamed and light

I had 4 chicken breast bones with some meat attached and a chicken back.

All in the pot and simmer, not boil, for about 2 hours. Taste for seasoning, filter and set aside.

To make the Chicken and Dumplings:


1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 teaspoon chopped chives
1 egg mixed with
1/2 c buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients then add egg and milk mixture. Do not over mix, set aside for a few minutes.


2 carrots chopped 1/4 inch
1 onion chopped 1/4 inch
2 stalks celery 1/4  inch
1/2 cup or less flour
2 T butter

4 Quarts of broth

Saute veggies in butter till onions sweat and add flour.  Pour in broth and allow to come to a boil. Drop dumpling batter by teaspoonful as they will expand x 3 or so. Cover pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes to steam dumplings. Needed a bit more salt but overall very tasty. Dumplings were light as pillows and a perfect texture.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Eating Kansas City

We motored to KC this weekend with good friends, the Kavans. Our main mission was and IKEA run and visiting the boys as well as the annual Art Fair.

I asked Ben for some mom and pop places for BBQ this trip and settled on Woodyards. Great place, smokey, picnic tables and great BBQ at a fair price. The special tonight was a full slab of baby backs for $16.99. We had a 3 meat platter with burnt ends , pulled pork and sausage. Yum,  and with the sides, so much food! Great atmosphere and great company for sure. I will definitely hit this place again.
Of course we went for the Art Fair and it was great with a lot to look at.

Drinks with the kids at the hotel lobby after hitting the liquor store to pick up Brenda's Bluecoat Gin and some Hard Root Beer!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Potato Crusted Fish

A while back Ann Burrell on her TV show made a Potato Crusted Halibut.  I made this version using Mahi Mahi from Trader Joe's. A much more available fish in these parts but I think the result was about the same.

Basically you sliced the spuds as thin as possible with the mandolin and then laid them out in overlapping layers on parchment paper, place your fish in the center and wrapped it all up like a package using the paper to help roll the fish. Yukon Gold potatoes were used and on her show she used an infused olive oil to brush the potatoes. The infusion was made with bay leaf, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and fennel seed. This was brought to a boil then set aside for an hour to infuse.

The picture here tells the story and I need to try for a thinner cut in the spuds but overall this worked well.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Weekend in Des Moines

We spent a relaxing weekend in DesMoines with good friends Matt and Lori just to catch up and make future plans. They are great travel buddies and we are talking about doing another domestic adventure next year late spring, early summer.

Of course, I couldn't show up empty handed so I made a couple of batons to take with us. Light and airy, I think I am getting the hang of this crusty French loafery(?)

I also made some Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls late Friday and froze them to take with us for Sunday morning.  Here is the problem with taking fresh french loaves on a road trip early Saturday morning....I got up several times in the wee small hours to manage the dough and I was really beat the next day, all day. It is well worth losing a bit of shut eye but....

Lori made some quick meals that were really tasty but this dressing on the romaine really caught my attention. She used Demaris Phillips recipe from the show Southern at Heart. I liked the spicy end notes and the unusual combination of capers in the mix.
  • Dressing:
  • 1 ounce drained capers (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
  • Small pinch ground cloves
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
    For the dressing: Mince the capers and the garlic; add the salt and use the back of your knife to grind into a paste. Add the paste to a medium mixing bowl along with the mustard, mayonnaise, sesame oil, cayenne and cloves. Whisk to combine. Stir in lemon juice, and add pepper to taste.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Using What You've Got.....again

Stuff just seems to pile up in our fridge and Brenda is a tough task master, literally expecting a hot meal when she comes home! Please someone,  rescue  Seriously she gets a little miffed if I haven't cooked something and trust me, it's tough coming up with a meal every night. We do not eat out much at all.

So I had a 1/4 sliced flat iron steak cooked medium, about 6 large Cremini mushrooms leftover from another project, a little bit of Blue Cheese and Parmesan and a boatload of tomatoes. What to do?

A while back there was a great eatery called 'Ryan's Bistro' in Omaha and it was fantastic but short lived as the owner was a restless yuppie and soon sold the restaurant to decay. One thing remained in my head from that place though was the Steak Pasta dish with lovely tender chunks of tenderloin and mushrooms laced with cherry tomatoes and served in a light cream sauce flavored with chunks of blue cheese.

Ok. I got this. I have a fully stocked pantry of staples so cream, butter and pasta was on hand.

First I chunked up the mushrooms and sauteed them in a bit of butter and olive oil. Next I added the tomatoes, about 3 2 inch ones cut up and let them hang a bit before adding about 1/2 cup cream, 3/4 cup of skim milk and 2 ounces of left over cream cheese. I placed 2 crushed garlic cloves in the sauce to steep a bit. I added about 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. The whole thing thickened up surprising well to the point I had to add a bit more milk to thin it down.  I added the steak at the end with the crumbles of Blue Cheese just  heated through and served it all over our favorite pasta (Fiber Gourmet). It was really good.

And my lovely bride? Happy wife, happy life. Of course she complained about the way it is making her fat (it is not) but really with the sensible servings and lo cal pasta, watered down cream it turns out to be a bout 500 calories per serving. Not bad.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Eating Omaha...Le Voltaire

It is Restaurant Week in Omaha and a lot of local eateries are offering Prix Fixe menus to showcase some of their fare.

We are taking advantage of several of these with friends and our first foray was to a local French eatery called 'Le Voltaire'. This is an established French cuisine that is simply off our radar for some reason. We haven't been here in years. It has a a great bakery and pastry shop next to restaurant run by the chef. 

Our menu included a choice of

FIRST COURSE (choose one of the following):
  • Escargots de Bourgogne: a french classic | parsley | garlic butter
  • Goat Cheese Toast | blueberry chutney
  • Bowl of French Onion Soup
SECOND COURSE (choose one of the following):
  • Red Wine Braised Beef Cheeks
  • Petit Tender: balsamic onion confit | blue cheese
  • Papillotte of Salmon | tarragon-capers butter
THIRD COURSE (choose one of the following):
  • Crème Brulee a la Vanilla
  • Bread Pudding | caramel sauce
We all had a fair sampling of most of the menu. The Baumer's were in tow so each of us had a different appetizer. The big winner was the soup. Brenda deigned it the best she has had. I had a taste and it was delicious. Very cheesy, a lot of bread and the broth was just great. I had the snails which were tender and loaded with butter and garlic. Plenty to soak up with the slices of French baguteet on the table. Cindy had the goat cheese toasts and they were good as well but not my first pick for a savory meal.

Next,  the main course. None of us ordered the fish but it looked fantastic served at other tables. Mike and I ordered the Beef Cheeks and were not disappointed with the tender meat and vegetables in a red wine gravy. A lot like my version of Beef Bourguignon, a lot like it. The ladies each had the steak which turned out to be a thick cut of Flatiron and it was quite tasty. Interestingly, they were not asked how they wanted it cooked so it came to the table rare to medium.

The desserts were fantastic. The bread pudding being made with leftover croissants and a delightful caramel. I missed the creme anglaise I get at The Upstream though.  All and all a five star night with great company.


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