Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Can't Beet It

Yes, I know tomorrow (Monday, May 28th) is Memorial Day in the U.S., and the “traditional” start to summer and the grilling season.  Yes, I will be grilling, carne asada, (hey, it’s a Pan-Cultural-Fusiony thing), which is so ridiculously easy and also so similar to the marinated pork I just wrote about, that I won’t bore you with the details (OK, *if* you’re interested, marinate some skirt or flank steak in some red wine vinegar, some oil, some S&P, some herbs [cilantro, dried oregano, garlic] and maybe some lime juice.  How long you marinate depends on how thick the steak.  Flank overnight, skirt 2 to 4 hours.  Covered, in the 'fridge.  Grill, slice against the grain, make tacos with corn tortillas and some salsa fresca.  Carry on.)  But this post isn’t about grilling, although I suppose you could do both dishes on a grill, and they’d work.  No, it’s about roasting and pan-roasting and the magic of old time, old-school, French-style pan sauces.  And yes, I am fully aware that the picture of those beets up top looks like some sort of oozing, alien life form.  Sorry.  Roasted beets apparently aren’t very photogenic, but they sure are tasty, especially when mixed with a tangy dressing and made into a lovely salad.

First up the beets.  Like many of the veggies I cook with lately, (thanks to my CSA, The Growing Experience), I came late to the beet love.  Oh, we ate enough of them when I was a kid, and I liked them just fine.  They were always canned, and my Mom usually mixed them with thin-sliced onions and some vinegar with a touch of sugar, to make sort of a quick pickle.  As an adult, I bought them, again only in cans, for the same preparation, or julienned to toss into a green salad.  But they were only rare guests in the little kitchen.  Too many other, bright, shiny, trendy things to play with.  I certainly never bought fresh beets.  I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what to do with them.  They were, well, intimidating.  Hard, leafy, and they *gasp* STAIN THINGS.

Yeah.  Like dishrags.  OK, that rag was a little tired even before the run-in with the beets, and frankly the beet stain rinsed out pretty quickly (and came off my fingers just as easily), but the juice color is an issue.  I wouldn’t use a good towel around them, jus’ sayin’.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Two Quick, Important, Notes....

...about this weekend.

First of all, and I know this is short notice, but tomorrow, May 12, in the United States is the US Postal Service's annual food drive.  It's called "Stamp Out Hunger", and its sponsored by, among others, the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Postal Service and the United Way.  I wrote extensively about this cause last year, and it's still very close to my heart.  My box (yes, a box, I'm up from last year's bag) is ready to put by my mailbox tomorrow morning.  It's chock-full of staples, rice, beans, pasta, juice, canned low-sodium veggies, peanut butter, dry cereal, tuna, applesauce, etc.  You don't have to set out a lot for the letter carriers to collect, every donation will help.  But please, don't use this as an excuse to clean out your pantry, and donate that can of escargot you bought in 1987 on a whim.  No glass, no expired products.  It should be things *YOU'D* want to eat.....

Here's a couple of  links for the full scoop on this so very worthwhile project.

Sooooo many, many people will be happy and grateful that you helped.  Make a difference, please.  It could very easily be you, or someone you care about, that needs help from a food bank someday.

Speaking of people we care about, Sunday is, of course, Mother's Day.  Honor Mom.  Make sure she knows just how important she is to you.  Not just Sunday, but every day.  Some day, and trust me, I know this....you'll wish you'd told her more often how much you love her and need her.  And always will.  If she's not physically with you, tell her anyway.  She'll hear you.  I know mine does....

Have a lovely, caring weekend everyone.  Foods are coming again soon.  Maybe something to do with beets, and lamb chops and curry.  Maybe some poblano chiles and queso fresco and walnuts and pomegranate seeds.  Maybe......?

Give of yourself, to Mom, of course and to those we don't know who need our attention.  I love you Mama.

Friday, May 4, 2012


¡ Hola amigos !  And that, sadly, is about the extent of what my sad little brain retains from many, many years of high school and college Spanish lessons.

That and “¿ donde esta el baƱo ?”, which is frankly just as important of a phrase.  Perhaps even more so…

But, I digress, as always.  This, however, may be the earliest digression yet.  No, apparently that tendency of mine didn't go away during my hiatus.

Tomorrow (or today, depending upon where you are and when you’re reading this) is Cinco de Mayo.  Which, although it is most likely, what I call a “faux-li-day” or a contrived holiday (see other examples, St. Patrick’s Day, Groundhog’s Day, Sweetest Day, and darest I say…Halloween), is still however, in the grand tradition of holidays, faux or real, an excellent excuse for some “good eats” (to borrow a phrase, thanks AB).  Yikes.  THAT sentence structure even hurt MY brain…..let’s carry on, shall we, and try to recover from that horror ?

For dinner tomorrow, I’m planning on making a very traditional Mexican dish that features all the colors of the Mexican flag, which of course I’ll share with all ya’ll in a bit.  But for immediate inspiration, not to mention satisfaction, here’s a suggestion for the star of your particular fiesta.  I made these earlier this week, and they were a) easy and b) tasty, which, in my book, makes the recipe a winner.  Even throwing together some refried black beans, salsa and guacamole from scratch didn’t add to the stress/effort level all that much.

So, let’s make some tacos, shall we?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What a long, strange trip it's been...

(with thanks, much, to The Grateful Dead for the riff line...)

Well.  *THAT* certainly wasn't how I planned to spend the Holidays, and all of the Winter and the early Spring.

Let's just say...I wasn't myself.  I was...."under the weather".  "Indisposed".  Had had "better days".  "Down for the count".  

OK.  Enough with the euphemisms.  Fact of the matter, I spent about 4 months sick as the proverbial dog (sorry Princess and Goober....figuratively "as a dog" not literally...).  Honestly, I pretty much spent from Thanksgiving to Saint Patrick's Day sleeping, or wishing I WERE sleeping.  It was all I could do to shag my sorry butt out of bed to feed the Kidz and do some laundry.  It was bad.  Really bad.  As one of my friends said, I now know what it must feel like to be 110 years old.

I won't go into the gruesome details of what hit me....let's just say that a) modern medical science is a miracle, and b) there is, in fact, better living through chemistry.

I really wasn't doing much during the time I was gone.  I wasn't able to do much.  I certainly wasn't cooking.  I also certainly wasn't mentally or intellectually (or physically, frankly) capable of writing a coherent blog post to let all y'all know what was going on.  And for that, I am deeply and profoundly sorry.  I feel (and felt) so guilty that I'd just abandoned this little effort.  And you all (however many you may be, I appreciate you !  Really !).  But I just.....couldn't.  I look back on those last two or three posts in late November/early December, and they were....strained.  I was pushing it, and myself, and eventually it just didn't work any more.  In fact, early in November, I'd taken a sabbatical, and told you it wouldn't happen again.  Unfortunately, it did.  Big time.

In the interim, I did however, get to know the good and the bad (mostly bad, as in REALLY bad) of pre-packaged, pre-prepared dinners from the local groceries, Trader Joe's, Sprouts Market and Fresh & Easy.  Don't go there.  Really.  You don't want to go there.  The good news about that was I had absolutely zero appetite, so the fact that the stuff I was trying to eat was crap really didn't matter.  Honest review, the best of that motley bunch came from TJ's, but even much of their stuff just wasn't good.

The upside.  I lost about 30 pounds.  My pants (and underwear, I know, TMI) are falling off my hips....I look like a geriatric, female WASP gang-banger  It's not a good look.  I expect "What Not To Wear" to be knocking on my door momentarily.  The Grrrrlz however (lookin' at YOU Lulu.....) had no such issues with the foods being offered in the little kitchen for those 3 or 4 months.  As a matter of fact, between the increased amount of goodies in the Princess Bowls (ewwwwwwww, ahhhhhhhhh, Mazzie didn't eat dinner again, SCORE for the dogs) and the, shall we say, lack of exercise for said dogs, Ms. Lulu's sporting quite the little pot belly these days.  She sort of looks like a Buddha with gray fur.  The dry doggie crunchies have been replaced with a "lo-cal" variety as a result.

But enough about that.  It appears the storm has passed.  I've been back in the little kitchen for about a month now, cooking regularly and enjoying the offerings of my CSA.  There's been a bread or two made (how I missed the smell of bread baking), and delightful adult beverages are once again being consumed.  Mayonnaise was made yesterday for farm-fresh artichokes.  I'm getting back into the habit of taking pictures of what I'm doing (*that* actually is harder than it sounds....I've made some great meals that I've thought after the fact about documenting).  I can take a shower without wanting to pass out in the tub (trust me, that's a huge improvement).  Pre-prepared food hasn't made an appearance in my home in at least a month.

Even better.....as of today, The Evil Voldecourt no longer owns my Dodgers.  There's a new boss in town, and he's NOT the same as the old boss (shout out to The Who for that reference).

So.  I'm back.  I know I've said that before.  But this time I really mean it.  I'm back.

Tomorrow (or the next day).......we cook.  I hope to see you then.  And thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for hanging in with me.