Monday, December 28, 2015

Season's Eatings

We are fortunate to be in this country and this part of the world where I prepared an embarrassing amount of decadent food for the holiday.  This year we had a few bumps in the road with our plans but dinner came out great. After a Christmas Eve with good friends consisting of Potato Leek soup, crab legs and shrimp we feasted again Christmas Day on Prime Rib Roast, Duck and various sides. I still feel full after all that but then on Sunday we entertained again, this time I made a Chicken Picatta and sorely burned the baguettes to the point of no return.

The sad part about the season this year was no church service matched our needs (work schedules) and the weather pattern so we missed the services we really needed to attend. 

Roasted perfection

Digging in.
Perfectly medium rare

On the plate we had Mushrooms roasted in duck fat, Gene's Potatoes, Asparagus with hollandaise, Roasted Duck and Roasted Prime Rib.  Whew! That was quite a meal. 

On Sunday we entertained the Kropp's and since I royally burned the bread and made a scene that would blush a teamster,  Bob reenacted the murder from Psycho with a baguette which would have dented steel or clubbed a seal to death. Such a disappointment after spending 24 hours conditioning the dough and then forgetting it in the oven.

Friday, December 25, 2015

New Icon finished and delivered

Sometime last year I was commissioned to paint an icon by a friend for his wife. Since it was not to be delivered until today, I was unable to post anything about it. This is the process and finished piece...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Soup of the French Onion

So we had a craving or at least I did and so did Mackenzie. So she agreed to join us for dinner last night as I put the finishing touches on the French Onion Soup. Brenda had a late lunch so we ate a bit later than usual and we had a visitor who should have stayed and had soup with us but did not. Sorry Mvi,  but you missed a good meal, you should have stayed.

The soup is not really that big of a deal to make. It's hard to screw up really. I did a little research and while most of the recipes called for beef or chicken broth as a base, I was intrigued and found a highly recommended stock made by Swanson. I used the low salt variety as I like to control my saltiness.  Sam's Club had a large bag of even larger sweet onions and I peeled about 4 or 5 of them.

I have a nice 5 quart cast iron that sauteed the onions for me till they were golden and it took a good hour, so don't be in such a rush.  The variety of onion really makes a difference. I thought this might be too sweet but it calmed down after a bit.

French Onion Soup

4-5 large sweet onions but use what you like, red, yellow.
2 cloves minced garlic
4 T butter
1 cup red wine
2 t thyme
1 bay leaf
1 T beef bouillon before I add the salt and I get a little flavor boost in addition.  I use the Better Than Bouillon brand.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
1 t Fish sauce
1 t apple cider vinegar

2 cartons no salt Beef Stock, chicken stock or vegetable stock.

Toasted bread
Swiss, provolone or whatever melt-y cheese you love
White Truffle butter (op) I just happen to have a tub and used it to butter the toast before broiling.  Yes please, there are no rules here.

I used my trusty mandolin and had my way with the onions in short order. I added the butter to the dutch oven and then the onions with a generous dose of salt and then let the onions cook down for about an hour keeping a close watch and very low flame, I added the garlic after a few minutes. They were golden and a nice fond on the pan came up with the addition of the wine. I added the herbs, bouillon and then the broth and allowed it to come to a boil then lowered to a simmer until the onions were good and soft, about 45 minutes. I was in no hurry.  Checked the seasoning, added salt as needed and the cider vinegar and fish sauce. Remove the bay leaf.

Spoon a good dose of soup into a heat proof bowl and top with the buttered toast and a healthy dose of your favorite cheese. Broil till the cheese is bubbly.  How is that for decadence? I read a recipe where they dosed the soup with cheese then added the crouton and more cheese on top. Too much to hope for? I think not. Great warming no meat meal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pumpernickel on a Whim

Not much to do on Saturday with no plans so time to make some bread. I had to run out and get Rye Flour since Brenda's request was for Pumpernickel. I had heard it was a tough bread to make but it actually turned out rather nicely.  We had the Baumer's come over for a bit of soup and the bread went well with the cheese soup.

As usual, I searched a bunch of recipes looking for common ground and settled on this one although since making this loaf, I have found some even more interesting recipes. Brenda asked for no caraway but now I think its essential for flavor and I will grind them in the future to add to the dough.  I used the big mixer for this as the dough can be stiff.  In the future I might make this in a loaf pan as it spreads  a bit and I wanted a thicker sandwich slice for Ruebens.

From Smitten Kitchen 

Makes 2 loaves
2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 cups medium rye flour
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup bran
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
Special equipment: Spice grinder (optional), instant-read thermometer

1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside and let cool to lukewarm warm.
3. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.
4. In bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth and beat at medium speed for three minutes. (If you don’t like whole seeds in your bread, grinding them in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle allows their flavor to come through without the texture. I always make my black bread this way.)
[Note: This, or any bread, can also be made by hand, simply mixing the ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon and kneading the dough on a counter until springy and smooth.]
5. At low speed, add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins to work its way up paddle. It will be very sticky but firm.
6. Scrape dough off paddle, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
7. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Combine cornmeal, flour and remaining caraway seeds, if using, and set aside.
8. Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds or loaves. Loaves should be placed in a loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray, while rounds should be placed seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal mixture, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it; no such slashing is needed for bread in a loaf pan.
9. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer. Baking time in your oven may vary — check in on the bread when it is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the baking time to make sure it has not super-speedily baked. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Painting Progress

Many of you might have seen I started a new page just for my studio. Please 'Like' the page and you will get updates as I post photos of works in progress if that interests you.  I was working again last night making more refinements to the 5 Saints for the Narthex Project.

What Do You Buy a Cook?

So for Christmas, why waste your time with silly, non functional gifts? What do you buy the cook? The real cook, the everyday cook?  Or that non sports guy, who has eclectic tastes and odd likes?

Lately I have been following posts regarding this, I have not really expressed any desire for myself in this regard but any of these items would make my top ten list:

I have a lot of cookbooks but I follow and really like this guy. He writes Serious Eats and this is not so much about recipes as it is the science of cooking.  I always cook my hard boiled eggs according to these instructions and am never disappointed, same with soft boiled or poached. Love, love, love.

My delightful bride and I went shopping for a gift card at a local nursery, Mulhall's,  last weekend. Kind of a high end joint with a lot of great stuff in the gift portion of the shop. A lot.   One of the things I kinda smiled at was this little kit for flights. I don't usually imbibe on a plane but if I did this would be cool. Make your own craft cocktail in a TSA approved set up. How cool is that?  I would definitely buy this for Brenda if we were jetting off somewhere soon.

Tool & Garden Tote in Olive Twill - Garden / Tool tote in olive twill

Another eye opener at Mulhall's was these bags  made locally right down the street from me at Artifact Bags. So nicely crafted and beautifully appointed with a hefty price tag's Christmas them too.

I love these little guys. Nicholas got me and air plant ( Tillandsia) and a terrarium to place it in similar to the photo. So cool I had to buy another with a pink bloom at Mulhall's while we were there.

This year for my birthday Mackenzie took photos with her photography friend, Heidi,  in my studio while I was working. If that wasn't enough, it's what she did with the photos that impressed everyone.  She picked her favorites and went to Artifact Uprising and made a Layflat album of her dear old dad. How sweet is that?  Love love love!!!

Customizable design

Monday, November 30, 2015

Eating Omaha...LoLo's Chicken and Waffles

I don't know what caught my eye about the TV spot I saw for this joint but it sounded like a place we would try with the Fangman's. We saw them Saturday night and reconnected for dinner at our house and had a great visit. Love them.

At the Thanksgiving table I happened to mention the LoLo's ad and the family made plans to meet with our kids on Sunday. Wow, great little place and the food was unbelievable. Brenda was tried of hearing about me rave about the collard greens but everything was a hit.

We were not shy about this at all. We ordered the feast for 6 for the five of us and we had plenty left over. I think we carried out as much food as we ate and we took a plate to Mackenzie who was working.

The chicken was superb. Everything you want fried chicken to be, crisp and crunchy. The meat was delicate and tender. The sides we tried hit the right notes too. we are not used to eating grits, so found those a bit bland but the fried okra, slaw and greens were amazing. Definitely a spot we will hit again, especially on a Sunday afternoon. 

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.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Art Collecting Weekend

We were invited to a Pottery Show in Ft. Calhoun this past weekend. I was looking forward to a nice drive in the country and some great woks of art. We were not disappointed and I wound up purchasing a nice piece for the house. I have been interested in the last few years to add some Art pieces to our house and this would be my first  major purchase.

It's a rather large vase with a horse theme lid. The artist, Pam Daly was present (the show was at her home) and explained the significance of the horses (therapy for having to put hers down after 30 years) and the work was impressive and fit with our general ambiance.  I was a potter at one time in college and fondly recall the High Fire 'parties' we held as we fired up the Raku kiln once or twice a year and made a grand day of it. It was hot, sweaty and exhilarating work with the occasional disappointment as a piece imploded upon impact with the damp straw or whatever burnable medium we fired with.  Pam was kind enough to show me around and let us see the kilns and talk about firings. The ladies were bored to tears I am sure but didn't let on.

We met some nice folks, looked at a lot of great art and admired a beautiful country home. I was tripping down memory lane and Brenda...well not so much but its always wonderful to spend time together anywhere we go.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Using What You've Got..

Last night Brenda was late and I had a way too long of a nap after work. Groggy and knowing dinner would be expected regardless, I was searching for anything I could whip up considering I had take nothing out and it was meatless day so I took inventory:

3-4 cups corn off the cob, cooked
1 pound frozen shrimps, med
3 hamburger buns, getting stale

I searched one of those website for a recipe but Corn Chowder came to mind so I set out to turn these disparate ingredients into dinner.

Corn Chowder

2 T butter
2 T flour
3-4 cups skim milk
3-4 c corn
1 t thyme
1 t chipotle powder
1/2 c cream
3/4 cup shredded cheese
1/2 t tumeric for extra color
Salt and pepper

I made a roux with the butter and flour, cooking it till pale gold then adding the corn to give it a bit of color. To this add the milk and allow to thicken. I used the immersion blender to make a smooth soup with some rough cut corn and added the rest of the spices.


I cubed the hamburger buns and placed them in a skillet with 1 T butter and a good glug of olive oil. Sprinkled the whole thing with Garlic salt and Parmesan and allowed them to toast, shaking the skillet frequently.

I added the shrimp to boiling water, peeled them and chilled.

Serve the chowder with croutons and float a few shrimp on top. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Weekend of Family Feasting

This weekend, Nicholas came to town and cooked Ramen. A simple dish but a long time to prepare. The broth takes about 12 hours to complete alone. Ben decided to make Alkaline noodles to go with so the boys were in charge of the kitchen.

The results:

Assembled Ramen, not your dorm room cup o soup.
 All the accompaniments to the painstaking broth includes soft boiled egg, shredded chicken and sliced pork roast, a variety of sauces, marinated mushrooms and of course noodles. It was a  tasty and satisfying dinner with great company.

The very night of the dinner I prepared 4 lamb shanks for a slow cooking experience. First, after the shanks thawed from the freezer, I browned them thoroughly in  cast iron skillet (on the outdoor grill) and then placed them in the crock pot for 10 hours with:

1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Dijon
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
4 cloves garlic crushed
4 large sprigs of rosemary
2 carrots diced

The next morning, after the meat came off the bone, I strained the drippings and skimmed the fat, added 2 cups chicken broth and poured it into a roux I made with 2 T butter and flour. To this I added a package of sauteed pearl onions and 8 ounces of Cremini mushrooms quartered.

I served it with Greek potatoes and sauteed Broccolini.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fruit Compote for Pork... Figs and Cherries

A while back when Jill brought me cherries, she said her mom was looking for a fruit dressing for Pork.

A very long time ago I visited Alice Water's restaurant in Berkley, CA called  'Chez Panisse'. At the time it was a prix fixe menu for the night and we chose a night based on what we could afford. It wasn't cheap.

The night we were there, a lovely roasted pork was served with a fig and cherry compote. Last year we bought so many figs that I had quartered some and froze them and as they sit in the freezer along side the cherries I am posting my version of Alice's magical dish. Now understand this, my children are sick to death of roasted pork with fig and cherry compotes as it was my go to for any occasion and catering job.  Some of friends were so enamoured of the sauce they took it home for an ice cream topping.

Now I apologize to Joy in advance if she can make sense of this as I rarely measure, taste everything and cook by the seat of my pants most times. In the past I used Oregon canned fruits but they no longer can figs.

1 -2 Cans of Cherry juice as a base
Juice of a lemon
Pitted cherries, a pint maybe?
Fresh quartered Figs (I like the dark ones)
Sugar, start with a quarter cup then go up from there.  Honey?
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Suggestions , ginger or a pinch of nutmeg or allspice, peppercorns, red wine or port, orange zest? 

Adjust the seasoning as it cooks to add more sweet or spice. 

Combine this and let the fruit macerate and cook till the fruit breaks down a bit then thicken this with cornstarch till the consistency you like. Taste, Taste and taste again. I remember being a bit disappointed as the cherry juice does not carry as much flavor as I hoped but I did not want the artificial flavoring so messing with the spices can really augment the flavors.

Stuffed Peppers with Chipotle Cream sauce

Jill delivered corn and peppers fresh from the field the other day. The Anaheim Peppers have a short shelf life as they continue to ripen and eventually spoil on the counter.  I could not let these beauties go to waste on my watch....
Large and firm, I first laid them on the open flame of the gas stove to blister the skins off of them. Banana Peppers seem to have a more tender skin and I usually don't worry about them but these have a outer shell like plastic so off it comes. Once skinned, split and seeded, I started on the filling.

I went with my old standby since I have a dew shrimps in the freezer.  A medium onion, a clove of garlic sauteed in olive oil, a teaspoon of Old Bay and a cup or so of bread crumbs. About a pound of cleaned de-veined medium shrimps thrown in at the end so as not to overcook them, I sauteed the whole mess then added enough cream to moisten the filling for stuffing.

For the Chipotle  Cream I made a medium Bechamel Sauce and added about 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar, a good glug of hot sauce and a teaspoon of Chipotle powder.  I spooned filling in the split peppers and laid them in a greased casserole on a bed of sauce. I filled the pan with them then added any extra filling on top of the peppers. Everything was covered with the remaining sauce and a bit of cheese then baked at 350 till golden and bubbly. Like this....

Really, really good. Thanks Schabens for your generosity of produce and lovely daughter. So much fun to visit with.  Brenda suggested next time a hamburger and red sauce so I still have a few peppers left. Sounds like a plan. Today I am roasting a bunch of tomatoes and garlic for the freezer and eventually Roasted Tomato Soup.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Zucchini Abundance

We have a few zucchini plants and they are starting to come due and have to be checked daily before they take over the yard with a surprise 7 pound fruit. I like to pick them so they still fit in my Vegetti but we rarely catch them in time. Last night we had a lot of leftover salmon and a few zucchinis so I got to work.

I used what tools I had and cut 2 large zucchini into noodles and sauteed them in olive oil with 3 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt. Meanwhile I chunked up the remaining salmon and added it to the pan. Tossing and keeping it all moving, I added about 1/2 cup of cream and 1/2 cup shredded Fontina to the pan and made a quick savory sauce. Into bowls with a sprinkle of Parmesan and we were in business.  The sauce thickened up with the cheese by itself despite the water let loose by the zucchini. A quick and easy meal, relatively healthy depending on your views of cream and cheese.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Special Treats

I am a BIG fan. This weekend our fasting friends shared a meal with us and I prepared a fasting dinner with appetizers of Bloody Mary Shrimps and I opened a can of spicy Octopus and plated it with the shrimps.  I buy it at Walmart of all places for $1.38 a can and it is great if you like that sort of thing and how do you know if you don't try it?

The texture and the flavor of it is perfect. Chewy but not tough and a perfect compliment to your charcuterie tray. The Gill's were good sports and adventurous eaters and loved it. Really, it's a good thing.

New friends and Old Friends

We were fortunate enough to share meals with some great folks this weekend and find some great food at local markets.

Figs! We love figs but they are late this year and we ran across them at Trader Joe's so we had to have them on the menu for company. Dressed with honey from a local supplier and blue cheese, they were delicious.
So tasty.

For Saturday's dinner we entertained a new couple that we know from church but have never gotten together.  Tammie and Jason Gill showed up about 5 and we made a nice loaf of Prosphora together while I finished preparing dinner for all of us. Sam's had Broccolini this year so of course a bit of that along with Greek potatoes and a nice roasted salmon on the grill.  I dressed the Broccolini with a bit of truffle butter and served the salmon with our standard Artichoke Salsa (recipe elsewhere on the blog)  For dessert I made a Blueberry Crostini with some puff pastry. Came out great.

I had just removed 2 fresh loaves of French baguettes from the oven before they arrived. We had so much fun we kind of forgot about the rising Prosphora and it rose a touch too much. I sent the whole loaf home with them after it baked. I hope it was OK.  We stayed up way too late and just had a lot of fun.

For the Greek Potatoes:

I had  Red Potatoes thanks to Brenda's folks so I wedged those and harvested some Rosemary from the yard

The marinade was 1 cup Chicken stock, one juiced lemon, 1/4 olive oil and 4 cloves of crushed minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of  minced rosemary.  I arranged the spuds in a non stick pan and poured  the marinade over reserving about 1/4 cup. I roasted the potatoes at 400 for about 40 minutes or less, the marinade had been absorbed and turned them over then back in the oven for about 20 minutes. Gave them another douse of marinade then served. Really, really tasty.

On Sunday, we reconnected with some old friends, Mike and Nicki Schmader. I grilled some chicken and Pork Kabobs and had a nice pilaf, grilled veggies and Greek salad with Panna Cotta with a berry coulis for dessert. So good. Figs, olives, humus and Feta for appetizers. Great time reminiscing and reliving our past exploits and just catching up.

So for the chicken, you know I like to brine (4 c water, 1/4 c salt and sugar) my poultry and I threw the pork cubes in the brine also. I grilled the chicken plain and dressed it after I cut it up with fresh lemon juice and olive oil and a smattering of oregano. For the pork I used a dry rub:

  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • I coated the brined pork with this and gave it a douse of olive oil before setting the cubes of the grill. Moist and seasoned well, they were just great after a squeeze of lemon and a bit more olive oil.

    For the Greek Salad like they make on the islands:

    Tomato wedges
    Fresh cucumbers
    Red onion
    Kalamata olives
    Feta cheese
    Dressed with lemon juice and Olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper. 

    You will notice a very Mediterranean theme here as I used a lot of olive oil and about 6 lemons this weekend. I have a few leftovers for lunch this week.

    Monday, August 3, 2015

    Busy weekend

    Fresh from the oven, crispy and chewy

    Lemon Blackberry Gin and Tonic

    Christian and Mackenzie, all smiles
    We were fortunate enough to host the Fangman's this weekend as they kindly attended Mackenzie's going a way soiree at Emily's house.

    I light of that I had made some baguettes to use for hoagie fixings for lunch. Later in the day we snacked on grilled brats and antipasto salad.  We enjoyed a cocktail on the patio. Best friends ever.

    Christian showed up unexpectedly on Saturday to be there for the divine Miss M and everyone was caught off guard. So nice to see him there.

    After the Fangman's left on Sunday we went to Bob and Kim's Garden Party, a yearly event but this year on their 35th anniversary. Funny we have known them everyone of those 35 years plus a few more I believe. We met at our first apartment and have stayed in touch over the year and we love them like family. 


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