Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sometimes Lazy is a Good Thing...

It was another lazy weekend. We worked plenty hard of course getting things done but really not much effort put forth in general. We went to the store for a few items on sale and decided to pick up a few sausages of different flavors and just grill them for dinner with various mustards.

What goes better with a grilled sausage than a pretzel and I had a few hours to kill so I made the pretzel recipe elsewhere in this blog. Now....for something green. Frozen peas, a bit of mayo, green onion and chunked cheddar? A winning combination!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fruit and Meat...and a bounty of Cherries!

Jill stopped by last night with a generous basket of fresh picked berries and cherries thanks to her mom, Joy. Thanks Joy!

So I haven't made a fruit compote for meat in quite a while possible because I over made it back in the day after visiting Alice Water's restaurant in Berkley in the 80's.  The night we went, a roasted pork loin was served with a Fig and Cherry Compote. I had to make that but figs in the Midwest are hard to come by although Trader Joe's now offers them in season.  I found that Oregon Brand offered canned figs and Bing Cherries and there I had my mainstay. I made it as our 'fancy' meal for years.

I can no longer find canned Figs in town (Oregon Fruit no longer cans Figs.) but take advantage of fresh ones whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Jill's only request was that I post a recipe for some kind of cherry sauce for pork or duck (I added the duck since it is also a fruit friendly meat)

I have been researching a bit and find a lot of sauces that can be used 2 ways. Savory meats or sweet desserts. I remember our friend, Michale,  spooning the Fig and Cherry compote over ice cream once.

Making a sauce like this will generally always include corn starch, probably some sugar depending on the tartness of the fruit, some spice like clove or cinnamon. It simply depends on your mood. I find that cherries have a subtle flavor easy to overcome with spices so you want to try and intensify that cherry flavor if possible. Reductions and concentrations help.

I saw several recipes that incorporate Balsamic Vinegar so that would be a nice component. I must retreat to the test kitchen to experiment with the Cherries on hand and see what I can come up with. My first food commission!  More to come.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Father's Day fixins

Just another day with the kids all working or out of town. A very, very quiet weekend for us.

I made Chicken Korma, my first attempt to decipher a zillion recipes, all different but the same. Some with tomatoes, some not. Not a lo cal meal at all, this one had a nut paste in it made of cashews and almonds. The side was an Aloo Gobi type treatment to zucchini and potatoes. The zucchini got a little soft so I would think harder about this combo again.

The paleness of the dish denies its intense flavor. Chicken braised in a gravy made from pureed nuts, cream and various spices. This one was a bit hot but I have my Masala Dabba mixed up. Cayenne and Chili are not the same thing...oops. Luckily we can handle a bit of heat and it really added to the dish.

Chicken Korma

2 pounds chicken boneless breast and thighs cut into chunks
1 tsp curry powder
plain Yogurt
1/2 cup almonds/ cashews in 1 cup water, boil 10 minutes
1 med-large onion cut into petals
2 T olive oil
1 tbl butter
1 tbsp ground Cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
12 cardamon seeds crushed (I removed the husks and crushed the seeds)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp hot chili powder (I used about tsp or more of Cayenne)
bay leaf
4 cloves
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp garlic ginger paste
salt and pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
Green onion and Cilantro leaves for garnish
1/4 to 1/2 cup Cream (hold to just before serving)

First I marinated the chicken pieces in 1/2 cup yogurt and 1 tsp curry for a few hours. Set aside in the fridge.

I boiled the nuts in 1 cup water and processed them with an hand blender till smooth. Set aside.

Heat oil and butter, add onions and saute till soft then add spices, garlic/ ginger paste.
Add the nut paste and cook for a few minutes, add the tomatoes and extra water if needed.

Turn the heat to simmer and add the chicken pieces, nestle into the sauce, cover and let braise for 40 minutes slow heat. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, remove cloves.

Chicken should be tender. Thicken gravy if needed, I used Wondra, then add cream to finalize the sauce. I mixed a bit of the cilantro into the gravy as well as a garnish on top with sliced green onion.

On Saturday, I just did not feel the cooking genie so we opted for a Charcuterie tray with various salami and cheeses, some deli chicken fingers, blue cheese dressing, cheese, olives and fruit.
I added a few Shishito peppers, blistered in olive oil and salted liberally.Delicious.

To top off the relaxed weekend, Brenda found a new Gin and Tonic recipe so I made that for her

The scotch and soda was for me.

Lemon Blackberry Gin and Tonic

Juice 1/2 lemon in a cocktail glass. Add 2 mint leaves, 2 plump blackberries and 2 tbsp simple syrup (1 cup water and sugar dissolved). Muddle then add 1 1/2 oz gin, ice and top with tonic water. I hate gin but this was pretty good.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Perfect Summer Salad

That my friend is a bold statement but I stand by this delicious mix of flavors and it surprises me every time we have this salad how really good it is.

The basics

The secret here is the dressing that I have made for years from my old Joslyn/ Blackstone cookbook.

Crab Louis Dressing

(loosely adapted from Bernard Schimmel's original)

1 c Mayo (we use light)
1/4 c chili sauce
1/4 c ketchup
2 t Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 c sour cream
juice and zest 1/2 lemon
a few dashes of hot sauce (I used 1 tbls)
salt and pepper

Mix all and set aside to prep the salad.

I had boiled eggs and shrimps (21-32 per pound) and iced them down. Perfectly ripe avocados (I am not sure how my lovely bride manages to have a perfect avocado in the fridge, it seems, at all times) and your favorite croutons with fresh Romaine and Iceberg mix. I think the greens really need to be really crisp and fresh.

The assembly:

On the bed of fresh greens, distribute the shrimps, sliced eggs then sliced avocado fanned out.
I add the dressing and top with croutons and whatever you like then that final sprinkle of salt and cracked pepper.

Brenda likes tomatoes and extra stuff on her salads. I am a purist and like only the basics. Hers looks better though....
 So yummy and fresh but the deal is between the dressing, eggs and shrimp its like they were made to be together. Creamy avocado and that final sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper. We never seem to tire of this salad.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In Love with Fit and Light Greek Yogurt

Sometimes at night I need something sweet and I pass but my lovely bride turned me on to this yogurt.

One of my favorite flavors between Strawberry cheesecake and Boston Cream Pie there isn't much I don't like. Why all the fuss? Well at 16 gms of carbohydrates its great for our low carb diet mixed with fresh strawberries which we always have in the house along with seasonal blackberries and blueberries and raspberries.  Berries are very low carb and high fiber and perfect for a low cal addition to yogurt but I needed a crunch.

I have made granola in the past and it is sinful. What can you do to cut it down a bit but still get that satisfying nutty crunch? Make it yourself and control the ingredients. It does not have to be sweet but can be sweetened a bit.

1 cup rolled oats
1 tbls coconut oil
1-2 tbls honey
1/2 cup chopped raw pecans, almonds and or walnuts.
1 tsp cinnamon

I mixed this all together and baked for 10 or 15 minutes in the toaster over keeping a eye on it as it will burn easily. Stir it a bit and give it a few more minutes. Let cool and store in an air tight container. Just a tablespoon on top of your yogurt and berries with provide that needed munch factor.  It will add about 100 calories so go lightly!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Icon Progress

Are you done yet? Hardly, I say with a smile but getting there. Someone asks me every week.

The hard parts? Laying out the cross pattern on the Bishop. Getting some great expressions on the figures. Basing in all this color sometimes multiple times, sometimes not liking and changing color, rearranging garments so they make more sense. It's coming along. 

The good part is that the heavy lifting was done with the first batch. I drew all ten after the research and he research took a few weeks at least. Now its just settling down and making them better than the first ones. 

It seems I am always buying brushes. I look for them every time I go to the store to take advantage of sales and clearance.  They usually only last  for one painting. They lose their point and shape and get relegated to applying background paint. I hate throwing them out so they go into a container of 'gently' used brushes that look to be in pretty poor shape. 

My favorite paint is no longer available locally so I have to buy on online now. It takes surprisingly little paint to cover the figures. I buy paint as I can and have issues with storage and finding what I need  so I keep a box of the current palette handy and together so I don't have to look for things. I have reorganized most of the studio so I put things back instead of wasting 20 minutes looking for whatever. I have a lot of whatever.

Eating Omaha....Astoria


The paper has been featuring an Indian Carry Out here in Omaha that recently changed hands from Kurry Xpress to Astoria. We stopped by for a quick but expensive bite after church. It is quite literally a hole in the wall type of place. 108th and Q on the Southwest corner.We are not as adventurous without the Fangmans but time to get out there and be brave.

They had a lot of Biryani and we don't normally do a lot of rice due to strict carbohydrate issues so we opted for more traditional dishes. A lot of folks had the egg Biryani  and a lot of the customers were East Indian so it must be a great place. We were not disappointed. I had the House Astoria Lamb Curry about a heat rating of 8. The waiter raised a brow but if you know me at all, I can take the heat.

Brenda had the Chicken Kurma. She just had a 4 rating but could have gone much higher. The dish was memorable. I have made and ate a lot of Indian but this was fantastic. I would order this on the next visit but turn up the heat a bit. There was some intense savory flavor here I cannot quite get my fingers on but there will some experimenting at home. Brenda is already rolling her eyes I am sure. I started researching recipes for traditional Kormas (Kurma is another spelling)  and some have tomatoes, some don't. Varied spice mixes with or without clove etc. Could have just been butter and cream. This is no Weight Watchers dish!

My Lamb Curry dish was tender and tasty and quite warm but I could have gone all the way. We had a double order of Naan but foolishly no veggies.

There is a short order menu without much explanation so it was hard to get a foothold of what might be a good combo. Next time we can split the moderate sized entrees for a better mix. Almost everyone there ordered the Biryani so perhaps we can give that a try. But I telling you, I am dreaming of that Kurma.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cod Loins

Its a Tuesday night our traditionally  fasting night and I had a few fishes left from Lent that need to be used. I found a deceptively simple recipe that proved to be quite tasty. I had 2 thick loins thawed in no time

1 pound cod loins
2 T butter divided, melted
Salt and Pepper
juice from 1 lemon
1/4 White wine (I skipped as none was open)
Chopped parsley

Put a tablespoon of butter in small roasting pan and place fish then turn to coat.
Salt and Pepper then bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Crumble 1/2 sleeve buttery crackers like Ritz into 1 T of butter and mix well.

Remove fish and squeeze lemon over fish then place crumb mixture on loins. Return to oven for another  10 minutes till golden. What crumbs fell off the fish thickened up the liquid and made a nice sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Delicious.  We had a nice salad as a side.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Eating Omaha...Riveras, Grilled Chicken and a late anniversary meal

Yesterday after a busy weekend of Omaha exploration and finding parts of the city we never knew existed, I picked up about 8 pounds of skinless boneless chicken to brine and grill. One of favorite snacks for the week, we will much on this chicken  for the rest of the week. Some of it got Greek-ed up a bit with a dressing of olive oil, fresh lemon juice and zest, a bit of oregano and pepper. The salt from the brine makes the chicken plenty seasoned in that regard.

We hit Rivera's on Saturday, a local Mexican restaurant a giant leap above the average taco and enchilada joint. The care and consideration to the food along with presentation and just plain tasty, this guy knows his way around a enchilada. Brenda had the Bo Pork and I had the Chicken Tinga totasda. we both realized we had ordered each others meal. We shared and brought at least half home. Another fantastic meal.

Sunday after the chicken grilling I got down to some serious cooking for our very late anniversary dinner. Mackenzie came over for company. Such a  busy gal these days as she prepares to leave us for California. Its going to be a tough fall season this year and I don't even want to think about the winter Holidays.

We always have veal saltimbucco and fettuccine Alfredo for our anniversary and this year was no different. I did not pound the veal properly and it was a little chewy but still tasty as usual. The real reason for the meal as far as I am concerned is the fettuccine. So creamy and decadent I couldn't help sneaking fork fulls as I cleaned the plates and put some of the food away.There is still a good amount in the fridge.

All in all it was a delicious weekend but we didn't get much done a s usual. Found an interesting new nursery on Saturday and completed my summer wardrobe additions.  I painted a bit Sunday night, did a bit of gardening but the mosquitoes are a nightmare this year forcing us inside far earlier than we should be.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

So it begins again....the Second Phase of the Icon Project

After our icon installation a few Saturdays ago, I began the second half of the work.A little surprised at the low key response to the first installation. A lot of folks don't even see them when they walk in and very few realize I am the painter, it must be the Lord's way of keeping me in my place. Maybe when the other side is completed?

a few have asked questions about the process. I posted an image of the drawings pinned in their order and ready for transfer. I use large sheets of graphite paper to retrace the drawn image onto the canvas then  outline and refine the drawings with a brush and dark paint to get an idea of where to put the color.

Sometimes I change my mind completely and redraw the garments to make more sense. Sometimes I find a better prototype and change the drawing to match the better version.  On St. Nicolai here, I rearranged his sleeves and outer garment, covered his Gospel hand and generally re draped everything, adding folds and hems. I am mapping out the pattern on his outer garment which takes a surprising amount of time.

Capturing the expression by changing the eyebrows to a more plaintive look.

St Edward the Confessor as a younger man.

Pinterest Recipe Test

 I looked for a new  chicken recipe and found this. Basically a Pesto and cheese filling for skin on boned chicken breasts. The hardest part was boning the breasts but I saved the remnants for a tasty stock later. The recipe? Some comments they couldn't taste the apricot, too much like a fall recipe, blah blah blah.  It was okay. Just okay. The flavor despite a cup of basil was not strong, the cheeses lost in the herb pesto. Not sure if I would make this again. The apricot was only on the skin and if you reject the crispy skin, well no apricot flavor. This recipe was posted by Half Baked Harvest blog link below.


One-Pan Apricot Walnut and Brie Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Potatoes | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest



One Pan Apricot Glazed, Walnut and Brie Stuffed Chicken



  • Potatoes
  • 1 1/2 pounds small red and purple potatoes, halved
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt + 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • Chicken
  • 4 skin on boneless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 ounces brie, cubed
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt + pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Add the potatoes to a large sheet pan with sides. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil. Add the seasoned salt, pepper, garlic and lemon zest. Toss well. Roast for 10 minutes or until you are ready to add the chicken to the pan.
Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. Place walnuts, basil and garlic in food processor and slowly add the olive oil until mixture becomes paste like.
Next add brie, cream cheese and egg to the food processor and pulse until mixed well. Season with salt and pepper.
Gently pull up skin from chicken breasts and spread about 1-2 tablespoons (depending on the size of your chicken) of cheese mixture under skin of each breast .
Remove the potatoes from the oven and slide them around a bit to make room for the chicken. Place the chicken on the pan. In a bowl, combine the apricot preserves, balsamic and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Brush the mixture all over the chicken breasts.
Place the pan back in the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes golden. If the potatoes are cooking faster then the chicken, just remove them a bit early to avoid burning. Serve the chicken with a side of potatoes and fresh basil for garnish.


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