Sunday, January 31, 2010

Warm Spinach Balls with dipping sauce

Garlic spinach balls with Cucumber Mint Yogurt Dip

Bean and Barley Salad with lemon caper dressing

so very 
Forbidden City Chicken

Spanish rice, made with brown rice and roasted peppers

Not an attractive picture, this is the Halibut, before baking. Apparently I did not get a shot after baking. Such is a busy kitchen.

I did not make the Lime and Dijon Chicken thighs. 

Nutella Bread Pudding

Gingerbread Pudding Cake, with pears.
This is not pretty, but this bakes up to become the pudding on the bottom. You are looking at butter, brown sugar and hot water. 

Yum, served with vanilla ice cream

And now for a little fun.
Dancing raisins, an experiment.
 I part Granddaughter, I part Grandpa, and some kitchen supplies: water, baking soda, vinegar, and 5 raisins. 

So when is it going to work, PaPa?

One of the raisins did "dance" to the top of the water. But it was a bit anti-climatic considering she had to wait until after dinner to try the experiment.

Another great family dinner, good by January 2010. As always thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello, drop me a line, I love having visitors. 


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sunday Cafe meal planning and philosophy (mine, you can ignore!)

When I first began to have dinner on the last Sunday of each month, I had some stifled yet seemingly proper ideas about how to write a blog and what to say and how to do it. I think it is fairly apparent by now, that my/the starting style of this blog is not, in the now. And all I can say is Thank Goodness!

Fortunately there are no blog rules, and I am glad. It is not that I don't believe in rule. Or don't follow them. I believe that rules are necessary. Rules assist folks in being organized, and lawful and in many small ways happy.

In addition to the rules of the world, I live by this truism:

There is what you do, and what you did not do. (there REALLY is nothing more, really)

It is so simple. Done or not done. No reasons why or excuses. Truth be told, there is no "wanted to".

I use that bold line to guide me.

Me? Yes, for I must be truthful with me, which by extension is truthful to all others.

Here is some of my did do and did not do of the week.

I did not fold the bed sheets. They are safe in the laundry basket, where they were placed when the dryer buzzed. The sheets will be taken from the basket and used the do the weekly linen change.

I did not cook dinner this week. FFY*

I did eat only cookies and a glass of wine for dinner this week.

I did work about 50 hours this week.

It is not always pretty here. Different shifts, fatigue levels the preclude doing more, once home. Using some of the available time for self, instead of more work. And all I will say is this, "it is OK". My guess is, we all live with the beautiful imperfections of real life. So repeat after me, is OK.

Now on to the food! I wanted to make a nice variety of tasty, healthy and beautiful food for Sunday Cafe. Here is what I have found and will serve. I will probably add something more, I usually do. The lovely Jess will arrive at 10:00am this morning and we will begin the journey to create this months Sunday Cafe.

Warm appetizer, Garlic Spinach balls from here,
with this, Cucumber mint yogurt dip from here.
Baked sour cream halibut, from here,
Forbidden City chicken from here ,
Dijon and lime chicken from here.
White bean and barley salad from here.

In addition I have a new cookbook to play with. The Ponzi vineyard cookbook. There is a recipe for braised cabbage, I will cook. I love cabbage, everyone else, not so much.

Nutella bread pudding from here. This was requested last night. All of my kids know, requests gladly taken.

I have found that by extension of this Sunday dinner routine I love and hope enriches the lives of my loved ones, as it enriches my own life, I am a better cook and person. As I have circled myself in finding my self, I am comfortable. See, it is what you do.

As always, thanks so much for taking a moment to stop and say hello. On to tomorrow.


*FFY (fend for yourself-we dine this way when passing between the shifts)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Frozen lemon juice cubes

I am a big fan of lemon. Lemon bar cookies, the "yellow" pie our mom use to make as my younger brother use to refer to Lemon Meringue pie. Squeezed over pan sauteed green beans with thyme and garlic. There is more, much more really, because lemons are versatile and can freshen most any dish. I usually buy a bag of lemons at Costco. They are always plump and beautiful. 

Those lemons just home from Costco, simply glow in the fruit bowl. I am real good about using them, but in time they do slip down to the bottom of the fruit bowl. There, they will darkened a bit and become leathery on the outside. When I am adding more fruit to the fruit bowl, I usually discover the once beautiful lemons are now ugly fruit. Inside that ugly fruit, the juice is still good. So I make frozen lemon juice. These juice of 1/2 lemon cubes are real handy to have, and a frugal use of something that would most likely go to waste.

Juicing the lemons can be a bit more difficult, with the skin leathery.

Strain out the pulp and seeds. The small ones don't bother me, and you do not notice them when you use these cubes. You could use a small mesh strainer if you would like a completely seedless juice cube.

Pour the juice into the ice cube tray. You will get about 2 cube areas for each lemon. It might not be exact, but then again lemons don't grow with exact size restrictions or expectations!

Freeze solid, then pop them out into a labeled bag.

As always thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello. Drop a note, I love having visitors!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday night brights

Not a lot of stuff tonight.

We had a "get it fixed, it doesn't work right" weekend! This included the main bathroom toilet and the cross-top freezer in the kitchen. Honey also tried to repair a lap-top computer, but that was a no go. Along the way we had to deal with the food from the cross-top (the garage freezer was full) and make a Costco run. 

But I did come up with this nifty idea for "free" storage bins, totes or you could call them anything you want. You see a cat lives here. Along the way, we have acquired cat litter buckets. The buckets are great, they stack together nicely, they don't hold so much that I cannot lift them when they are full, even full of wet heavy stuff, like soggy yard debris. But still they were still stacking up. Yes they can be recycled, but I would prefer to use them first, so........

Using a jig-saw, cut off the upper ribbed/lid area. Then cut out a handle or two. You can use either the short side or the long side. Then the possibilities are endless. Currently I have 5 of these in the freezer as organizers, one for vegetables, one for meat, another for frozen stock, etc.

 As we acquire more they will be used as organizers in the toy area to hold soft stuffed animals or small games or books. I have a couple more ideas for cutting them differently to hold different things. So stay tuned!

Credit where credit is due, Honey did the cutting. I am not to be trusted with an electric tool outside of the kitchen, seriously!

Here is the "new" plan for the freezer, use it to only hold a weeks worth of groceries from the garage freezer. That along with ice cream and the small amount of other items I keep on the door should work out OK. We'll see.I am not taking bets I won't be called "pushy" again.

Silly times! And now for a little humor. This is the body pillow my chiropractor suggested I use to help with some better body placement and getting a good night's sleep. The idea is great, but this pillow was too big for me, and even felt like another person in the bed. The granddaughter will love to jump and play around with this in the TV room, as I have chosen a smaller, more effective pillow. In the meanwhile..........

"Mr Brown" was left napping on the bed the other day. Some days I simply do not know what to expect!

As always, thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello. I really appreciate it!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

White Beans and Ground Beef with tomato sauce, Our Dad Ken's favorite beans

Growing up we ate very little food in rotation. It seemed my folks, Dad especially liked to eat a wide variety of different food. Living in California made this possible. Living in the Marin County area, made this easy. Dad was a commercial refrigeration repairman. He often was called to the docks in San Francisco and worked on some of the largest refrigeration units in "the city" including many on large fishing and crabbing boats.

Food was everywhere, in one form or another. Dad was in the thick if it, everyday. More than once, he came home with some special "find" that captured his fancy in a market or deli tucked out of the way, yet frequented by all the hungry working people in the area. Dad was a "foodie" before the term had been coined, and lucky for him he had a great and loving cook in our Mom.

But these beans were kind of a regular, probably three times a year we would have these beans for supper. Usually on a Saturday, as these beans do take a while to cook. Not a lot of attention, but in fact, about 4 - 5 hours cooking time. Dad could of eaten these much more often, there was only one problem. Mom hated beans. And of course she was rather vocal about it, but she did love Dad dearly so she would put away her opinions and cook these for "Daddy" as she called our Dad.

Recently I have been learning to cook beans, a simple little goal I set for myself, a couple of years ago. I thought for the longest time that I didn't even like beans. Maybe it was something I had heard growing up? But truthfully I enjoy beans. I simply did not know how to cook them. I have had very little success in cooking beans in a slow cooker, so I don't bother any more. And besides, there is such enjoyment in smelling the delicious dish as it cooks away on a lazy Sunday morning. These could be cooked in a slow oven, if you wanted to keep busy with other tasks, or wanted to leave for a while.

 Great Northern beans were used for this batch, they are equally delicious.

I have made a small change to how the beans are made. Mom and Dad both used tomato sauce. One can did not seem to be enough, yet 2 cans yielded beans that had too much tomato flavor. Dad would use a partial second can, Mom always used the 2 full cans. My small change is to use a can of tomatoes and "sauce" them up in a blender. I think it provides just enough tomato flavor. This is a simple dish of ground beef and beans. It is homey and comforting. Serve on a soup plate and pass the salt and pepper.

Our Dad Ken's favorite beans
1 pound of small white beans, prepared*
1 pounds of lean ground beef
1 T thyme
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can ready to use diced tomatoes
black pepper (I use about 7 "grinds" on the grinder)
2 t salt

Brown the ground beef.

My beef was a bit watery from being in the freezer, simply let it cook until dry enough to brown.

Add the thyme, garlic and pepper. Continue to brown until the flavors of each are fragrant. Add 3 cups of  water to the pan, stir and simmer the brown caramelized juices off the bottom of the pan.


Buzz the tomatoes and 1 can full of water in a blender to make a slurry. Add to the pan, along with the prepared beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover pan. Let simmer 2 hours, stirring at the one hour mark and reset the timer for another hour. Add the 2 teaspoons salt. Cover and simmer another 2 hours or until beans are done. If the mixture is a bit soupy, turn the heat up and simmer off some of the liquid.

Serves 8 - 12

It was interesting to take a process that I observed as a kid, and turn it into an actual recipe. I hope you enjoy these beans as much as we did.

Recipe rating:
Oh Yes! Will make again.

As always, thanks for taking a minute to stop and say hello. We appreciate your time and your wonderful comments!.

* soak beans over night in plenty of water, drain and rinse.OR  For a quick soak, put beans in a large covered pan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, simmer 30 minutes. Set aside and let rest 1 hours. Drain well, use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use in your favorite recipe.

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Ingredient Spotlight @ eat at home

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cooking marathon, because of me and my silly ways.

I just got through confessing on facebook about my behavior towards my cross-top freezer, here in the kitchen. My freezer apparently is having a problem with me, yeah I know, usually I am fairly nice. However, the freezer has a different opinion of me. Apparently I am...pushy. I mean come on, I thought I was being frugal. But as it turns out, I am pushy, pushy, pushy. I push more and more food into that little cross-top and it can't take it any more.

It froze up. Yes I know freezers are suppose to freeze, but not freeze up. I guess there really is a difference.

Hmmm, I don't think this belongs here!

I took all the food that would fit, out to the freezer in the garage. That now means I need to use up what did not fit, out there. So.....

There was 2 frozen bananas, I used those and the 4 in the fruit bowl to make a loaf of banana bread. The banana bread is in the oven now.

There is frozen ham hocks, I will make stock. Later in the week, I will make some lentil soup.

There was ground beef, I will use that tomorrow for White beans with ground beef and tomato sauce. I do think however, I will rename this dish in honor of my dad to Ken's favorite beans. 

There was packages of shredded zucchini from the kids garden. I will make zucchini fritters for dinner tonight.

But today is "Olivia Saturday".

I (try very hard) spend the third Saturday with our granddaughter Olivia. Fortunately Honey is also off work today. Olivia and I will spend some time with my sister Kathy downtown Vancouver walking around and stopping in a bakery that is just in the right spot. Then later we will have dinner with her Papa, when He returns from a model train swap meet. 

Pushy huh?, I would of never thought that before!

As always thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello, I do appreciate it!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gramdma's Peanut Butter Bars

I did not get home until 7:30 pm, about 12 hours after I left the house this morning! Too tired to eat dinner, but by golly I had to make these! I had spotted this gem back in August, and saved it for just a night like tonight.

Grandma's Peanut Butter Bars
adapted from Megster Meter

1 stick (1/2 c) and 1 T butter
2 c powder sugar
2 c chunky peanut butter
2 c graham cracker crumbs

2 c semi sweet chocolate chips
1 T butter (come on what is another tablespoon at this point?)

Melt butter, beat in powdered sugar and peanut butter. Stir in crumbs. Press into a 9X13 prepared pan.

It worked very well to place peanut butter crumb mixture into bottom of the pan, and press into place using waxed paper as a barrier between your hands and the crumb mixture. Also that eliminated the need to lick your fingers!

Melt chocolate chips and the last (innocent) tablespoon of butter. I used the microwave and it took about 1 minute and 15 seconds. Stir well to combine, the mixture will look glossy. Spread over top.


After chilling 3o minutes, cut into small squares. Refrigerate. Yum Yum Yum, is there anything better than buttery, peanut butter and chocolate? I will take to work and share in the morning. 

Recipe rating:  Oh Yes! (will make again)

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope your evening is just grand. Leave a message, it really makes my day, or night to read the comments.


Some food that we continue to eat

In about 1963 when I was 8, I have fond memories of my Dad cooking a couple of dishes. Not on the same day of course, but he did cook for us ocassionally and he always made the same two things.

Fried Cornmeal


White beans with ground beef and tomato sauce

And I loved both, very much. I have not had the Fried Cornmeal since I was a kid. But basically it is prepared something like this: ( I can only imagine these were my Dads thoughts)

1. Start the night before.
2.  Pour a large amount of dry cornmeal into a bowl ( use a big bowl, there are lots of kids that like this stuff  and you will want some too) 
3.  Cover the whole mess with milk, and then add enough additional milk to have about 2 inches of milk hover over the cornmeal. 

The next morning, the cornmeal will have taken up all the milk. Heat a large cast iron skillet on the big burner with a large "glop" of bacon fat. When melted, swirl the fat to cover the bottom of the pan.

"are you making fried cornmeal?" "Yes" - our Dad was not a big talker.

Break up the cornmeal into about 5-8 big chunks and pour into the pan. Let each side cook until crusty and brown, turn and cut with the spatula and continue until it is hot, brown and crusty. Add more bacon fat if the pan looks dry.

(you kids settle down in there, your mother is sleeping)

Turn and brown, turn and brown until the kids won't let you turn and brown any longer or you run out of bacon fat.

Dish it up (save some for me) and send them in to eat in the living room.

Serves 5 noisy kids and 1 Dad, who usually made some eggs to eat with his. Oh and he poured maple syrup over his fried cornmeal. Some of us had syrup, but me, I like salt.

I made this once, well I tried, and it was not like what dad made. I probably was concerned about the amount of fat I was using or something like that. So fried cornmeal will always be a happy memory food, but the beans and ground beef.................

...well, I have beans soaking right now.

Beans with ground beef and tomato sauce is delicious, frugal and reheats well. A wonderful wintertime dish, and I can't wait to enjoy it again. 

As always thanks for taking a moment to stop and visit, I surely do appreciate it! Yesterday was another long 12 hour day and my gosh I was tired. Stop in later and I will have a sweet treat to share.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday night brights

"Share A Random MOMENT"
When I was running errands this weekend and getting my chore list completed, I found this piece. There was no way I could leave it at the store, it belonged with me, in my home! I love it. We had to move the other piece that was here........

It is just right, here in the living room. I so enjoy this print and what the subject says about seizing the moment, because the moment is now.

Egg shells saved for using in the garden, but that is not the reason for the picture. 

Sponges, clean and ready to use, again not the reason for the photo.

It is the use of the milk jug. Need a little "carry all" or holder?
Cut the spout area out, cut along the crease that is the top of the jug, and then smooth the edges with a pair of scissors.

There, you now have a "free" holder of all useful things, and when you are done, simply recycle it!

It was time to freshen up the look of the dining area, pleasant enough for now. As the weather changes and flowers bloom, the center piece will change.

Never having a Dutch oven before, I am enjoying the use of this. A wonderful piece of kitchen equipmentl to have, use and appreciate. 
Spotted these at Christmas, got lucky, they were still there!

And the last piece of kitchenware, a red tea kettle, I must say it has been fun outfitting the kitchen in red. But alas all good things come to an end.
I can finally say, the kitchen is done. I have had such a good time in this project, with the open storage hutch and the dish hutch. It is not the same kitchen that came with the house at purchase in 2007. Now we just need to do something about the old yellowed counter tops. 

He is quite aware that this chair is not his, he simply chooses to not care what I think!
I am reminded of this quote:
"Cats are intended to show us that not everything in nature has a function"
Garrison Keller
Of course I do not believe it, his function is to let me care for him.

This sorry looking dish, was very good. We had the kids over for an impromptu dinner on Sunday, and I made a Gingerbread Pudding cake. It seems like a lot of steps, but it goes together very quickly!

Gingerbread Pudding Cake
adapted from tastingspoons
350 degrees
serves 8 (if your lucky!)

1 1/4 c flour
2 t gr ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t allspice
1 4 t gr cloves
1/4 t salt
3/4 t soda
Whisk all dry ingredients together, set aside.

1 stick (room temperature/softened) butter - divided in half
1/4 c sugar
1 egg
In a medium size bowl, beat half the stick of butter (1/4 c) and sugar until combined. Beat in egg until creamy.

1/2 c molasses
Beat molasses and reserved flour mixture into the creamed mixture.

1/2 c cold water
3/4 c brown sugar
Slowly beat in the cold water, until smooth. Pour batter into prepared 8" square dish or equivalent.Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the batter.

Place remaining butter in a small bowl, pour over the butter 1 1/3 c very hot, but not boiling water. Stir the mixture until butter melts. Carefully pour over the brown sugar.

Bake 40 - 45 minutes. Do not over bake.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, spooning the pudding sauce over the ice cream.

YUM is all we could say. Honey ate the rest today and the bowl is ready to be washed. I will make this again as soon as I go to Penzys and get more spices.

As always thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello, let me know you were here for a visit. It truly makes my day.