Sunday, January 30, 2011

What to cook when there's no power?

DC had a snowstorm on Wed.  Lucky for me, I only live 1 mile from work.  The Federal government let out workers 2 hours early on Wed and the local universities followed suit.  I didn't actually leave work until 4pm and then stopped to get gas but was home by 5.  Some of my poor colleagues were stuck for hours on the highway, trying to get home.  Sean and I were just hanging out, looking outside as the heavy snow came fast and furious.  The lights flickered, the power went on and off for about an hour and then poof, no power for good.

I have a gas stove and gas heat.  Guess what?  you need electricity to start the gas stove and the thermostat is electric.  I couldn't do anything about the heat but I was able to gather candles and matches and light the stove with the matches.

What to eat when there's very little food that's not frozen?  Risotto.

I belong to the food related listserv.  In fact, joining it, 15 years ago was my first foray into learning about the internet.  Several years ago, the members of the listserv published a cookbook called CyberFeasts and Foodstocks.  A Foodstock is a gathering of people from the list and over years I have attended many foodstocks.

A second cookbook was published this year

and is dedicated to a member, Bob Pastorio, who died a few years ago.  Bob was a big presence in the group and everyone still misses him today.  He was generous with his time and advice and opinions on just about everything.

So, when I thought I would make risotto, I turned to Second Helpings because the first chapter is dedicated to The Pastorio Fundamentals and there is a basic recipe for risotto with variations.

So, I stood by the stove and lit each burner needed with matches.  I cooked by lantern light.  Risotto is very easy to make - melt butter and oil, saute minced shallots.  Add rice, stir for a couple of minutes to coat rice.  In the meantime, have hot chicken stock ready.  Spend the next 25 min, adding ladlefuls of stock to pan.  Stir until stock is absorbed, add more.  I added a cup of frozen peas with the last ladle of stock.  The variation I used was to diced up some asiago and mozzarella and put into a cup with some heated cream.  When all the stock was used up, I added the cheese and cream and stir until cheese is melted.

This was delicious and we ate by candlelight in the living room.  The rest of the evening, Sean and I perched flashlights on our shoulders and read our books.  There was still no power the next morning when we left to walk to work but by the time we came home, the power had returned.

I did think of my friend Gwendolyn who has spent the last 6 months going without electric light and blogging about the experience.    I figured she wouldn't even know if her power was off or not!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dark Days Challenge 2010-2011 - Week 9

This week's local meal for the Dark Days Challenge is blueberry buttermilk pancakes.

The recipe is from a wonderful cookbook (this can be my next cookbook post too!) called The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham.  I've had this book for over 20 years and it shows.  It's already been repaired once and now the pages are falling out again.  Do I buy a new copy or just stick with this old one?  I had actually bought this cookbook for an old boyfriend about 25 years ago - and somehow it ended up back with me.

There are many recipes I use in this book but for sure, it is my source for pancakes and waffles.  It has the easiest buttermilk pancake recipe.

1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
3 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda.

Mix dry ingredients, then add buttermilk, egg and melted butter.  Mix until everything is moist.

Now, I used 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup cornmeal.  Then added blueberries on top, while frying.

The flour and cornmeal were from Wade's Mill.  Buttermilk, egg, butter were from South Mountain Creamery.  Blueberries were picked last summer at Butler's Orchard and frozen.

What's blooming in January

There's a lot of snow out there and I'm afraid of seeing my plants after all the snow melts.  At least no branches broke off the trees in the yard.  There are many many broken branches throughout my neighborhood. 

There are some pretty plants blooming in the house.

Oh wait, he is pretty but not a plant.  Here is Sean shoveling my steps during our recent snowstorm.   He looks a little demonical.

Here are the the blooms

Crown of Thorns

Orchid.  This was given to me by my neighbor, 8 years ago when I moved into my house.  Talk about benign neglect.  This plant faithfully blooms every year.

Another orchid with buds.  This one will bloom white.

Orchid.  I can't say who or where this came from.  Let's just say a friend of mine, may or may not have been in Singapore recently.  She (or he) might have visited the Botanical Gardens there and bought an orchid.  This friend of mine may have come for dinner last week and brought me this orchid as a gift.  Just don't tell the custom agents.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dark Days Challenge 2010 - Week 8

This week's  Dark Days Challenge meal was roasted chicken with butternut squash gnocchi.  The chicken is one from farmer Allan - well it's from an Amish farmer in PA but I bought it from farmer Allan.  These chickens are the perfect size for my family as we get a couple of meals plus a nice amount of stock.

One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a yogurt maker and this week I made my first batch.  I decided to marinate the chicken in a yogurt mixture.  First the yogurt was drained a bit, then mixed with dry mustard, thyme, coriander, salt and pepper.  Now that I have a nice pair of poultry shears, it's quick work to cut the chicken into pieces.  Yogurt was smeared all over and I let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Cut up chicken

Yogurt draining

I have made butternut squash gnocchi several times with various degrees of success.  Sometimes it's too heavy but the last recipe I used turned out nice and light.  I used the same recipe this time but alas, they were a little too soggy - not enough flour.

Squash from my garden - thawed.  It's not actually butternut but a kind called Amber Cup.  I should have sauteed it for a little bit to get out a lot of the liquid.  I think that was part of the problem.

The mixture.  Spooned into boiling water and boiled until floating.  I scooped them out and put in a dish and baked in oven with butter.  The mixture has local eggs but I forgot to use my local flour.

Gnocchi and roast chicken.  The gnocchi weren't bad but I decided to put them back into the oven and bake some more to see if they would firm up better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dark Days Challenge 2010 - Week 7

The dark days challenge meal for this week was pork chops with zucchini pizza all washed down with beet/apple juice.  I have taken stock of my freezer and seem to be rapidly running out of vegetables - plenty of pork and chicken and sweet potatoes and fruit.  Looks like I will be visiting the farmer's market more this year than last.

Farmer's market purchases - golden beets, kale, chard, apples, mushrooms, celeriac, amish cheese

Zucchini defrosted from summer stash

Squeeze out all the liquid from zucchini, combine with eggs and flour and cheese and pesto.  Put in pan.  Bake for 25 min until puffy.  Top with favorite pizza toppings - in my case sliced mushrooms and more cheese.  Put back in the oven and bake until all heated through.

Eggs, cheese from farmer's market, flour from Wade's Mill, pesto homemade from summer.

Pan fried pork chops - from my heritage hog

Got out the juicer and juiced the beets and apples.  Yum yum

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Preserving in the winter

It was time to do something about the two gallon bags of hot peppers in the freezer.  That and my last jar of hot sauce was all gone so it was time to make Red Hot Sauce from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I made this same sauce last year and it came out pretty tasty.

I took out two bags of plum tomatoes from the freezer and thawed over night.  Once they were chopped, it was apparent that there wasn't going to be enough tomatoes so I dug into the back of the freezer and found the last bag of plum tomatoes.  In years past, farmer Allan has given me buckets of tomato seconds but this year he didn't have a very good crop of tomatoes - as a result, there are no more tomatoes in the freezer.

Mixed batch of hot peppers

Thawed tomatoes

The chopped seeded peppers and tomatoes (not seeded) were combined with white vinegar and simmered until soft.  Puree with hand blender, then combined with spices and sugar and more vinegar, simmer for awhile until right consistency.

Ready to go into the canner

Next day - this sauce is HOT.  There was some leftover that I just put into the fridge and hoo wee.  It's hot.

There is still a bag of peppers left so I'm going to dehydrate the rest.

This morning I went to the local farmer's market and bought a couple of organic grapefruit from FL.  I used the fruit in a salad and as I was about to put the rinds down the garbage disposal, I thought about candied peel.  I've never done it but thought what the heck.

Chopped peel.  It was boiled several times in water to remove the bitterness.

Make a sugar syrup, then add peel and boil until syrup is gone.

Drying on the rack.  Once dry, the peel can be rolled in sugar or melted chocolate.

Aside from eating out of hand, what else can be done with candied peel?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Old Cookbooks

My friend over at Mommy Porch received some nice new cookbooks for Christmas and wants to do a feature every month on one.  She borrowed the idea from Taste and Tell and what's a good idea if not to share?  I didn't get any cookbooks for the holidays (hello Beanies, cookbooks for your mother, a good gift idea) so I thought, hey there are a butt load of cookbooks on my shelves - maybe I should revisit some old ones.

The first one to be revisited is Laurel's Kitchen.
I don't remember where I got this book but it was the first cookbook along with A Diet for a Small Planet, that I received in college.  When I was a sophomore I decided to become a vegetarian.  When I was a junior, I was living off campus in Montreal with my friend Rachel (we went to McGill).    We loved to cook and cook we did whenever we needed to procrastinate. 

Paging through this cookbook this week my thoughts were "did we really use this book?"  It's worn, the pages are dog-eared and there seem to be food stains all over.  30 years later, I just can't remember making any of these recipes.  We did have some Moosewood cookbooks that we used too but today, I have no desire to make any of the recipes in this book!

For example, every single bread recipe calls for all whole wheat flour mixed with whatever grain required - rye, oatmeal, etc.  Those loafs must have made great doorstops!  Brewer's yeast, soy flour, cashew gravy, better butter made with soy - ugh.  Thank you Deborah Madison for showing me the way to better tasting vegetarian fare.  This book still hold sentimental value for me so for now, it's back on the shelf.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dark Days Challenge 2010 - Week 6

I've had several dark days meals this week.  I took out a chicken from the freezer (1 down, still 5 left in there!) and roasted it for dinner.  I always make chicken noodle soup with the leftovers but this time, I decided to mix things up a little and make chicken barley soup.  My son said "barley?" in that suspicious tone of what is my mother trying to do to me.

Last week, we had a day or two of pretty mild weather so I ran over to the garden to see if the ground was soft enough to dig up some parsnips. It was, just barely.  So the soup has some yummy parsnips in it.

I took all the meat off the bones and threw the bones into a pot with some water and simmered a couple of hours.  After that, the soup was easy to put together.

Saute some shallots (from my garden) and roasted garlic (frozen, from garden).  Add carrots and parsnips (garden) along with broth.  I had cooked the barley (sadly, not local - seriously, where does barley come from?) ahead of time, so once the carrots and parsnips were soft, added cooked barley and chopped chicken. Heat, season with salt and pepper.  I made popovers to go with them and almost all the ingredients were local for that.  Milk, eggs, butter from South Mountain Creamery and flour from Wade's Mill.

The next morning was another local meal for breakfast.  I had thawed some link sausage from my heritage hog and cooked it up and made scrambled eggs.  The eggs and cream were from South Mountain Creamery.

Dear Kim

My friend Kim died this week after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer.

I've never met Kim. How is it possible to call someone you have never met your friend?

When my daughter was 1 year old, I joined a listserv of working mothers.  I came to this list in a roundabout way.  I had initially found one of those pregnancy lists - you know, the one by month and date?  So I was a member of the April 1997 pregnancy list.  After Emma was born, I didn't last too long on that list since it seemed that most of the women were stay at home moms - I went back to work when Emma was 2 months old because her father was still in graduate school and I was the only one making some money.  While back at work, I was also pumping breast milk every day and having a hard time of it so somehow I found a pumping list.  From there,  someone  (Pip?) recommended this list for working mothers and I've never looked back.

For the first few years, it was toilet training, starting school, balancing work with all the kids activities, etc.  Now our kids are older and the issues seem to be more serious.  We've had spouses die, children die and parents die.  We've had divorces, marital problems, remarriages, and kid problems.  This was the first time one of our members died.

Over the years, I have met many of the women on the list.  Either from my own travels or their visits to DC.

Two years ago, Kim wrote the list that something wasn't right. Her stomach hurt.  After that, she made the decision to share with the list her struggle with what turned out to be pancreatic cancer.

She was a biology teacher so in the beginning, we all got very detailed descriptions of her diagnosis and treatment.  After a year of radiation and chemotherapy, Kim's diagnosis was not good.  For the past year, she has shared with the group her preparation for dying.  She got all her ducks in order.

This summer, she organized a group of moms to come to her home in Long Island - a reunion of sorts.  Unfortunately for me, the timing was bad and I wasn't able to attend.  The moms who did attend related to the group the energy and joy they all felt for being there, being with Kim.

Kim and I corresponded privately about our families, our love of nature, our values.  Even though I never met her, I considered her a close and dear friend.

We are a tight-knit group and we are all grieving the death of Kim.

Our friend Robin wrote a eulogy with help from group.  Several of the moms from the NYC area and another who flew in, represented us at the memorial service.  Here is what was read:

Thursday January 6, 2011

We come to you as representatives from the Internet.  Fifteen years ago, in the Internet’s early days, Kim became a member of a fledgling email list of working mothers, called, cleverly, "Working Moms."

Kim was a central part of our little email list as it evolved from a mild-mannered support group of working moms to, fifteen years later, an unbelievably tight group of women from around the world -- the Internet equivalent of family.  As we became increasingly immersed in each other’s lives -- supporting each other through serious marital difficulties, illnesses in family members, and every parenting and work challenge from toilet training to psychotic bosses, Kim was a hugely strong voice.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to learn that Kim’s emails were always fiercely smart, straight-shooting, funny, deeply felt.  She knew EVERYTHING but was totally matter-of-fact about it: she knew how to repair a Mac (oh, and had incidentally written a book on the subject), she knew how to run a web-based business (since copied by corporate America), she knew how to cook anything (and now all around the world wmoms bake her lemon poppyseed cake in her honor), she knew why some people could smell their own pee when they ate asparagus (it’s a one-gene simple dominant-recessive trait, of course!).   She had astonishingly deep knowledge of an astonishing number of subjects and she shared it all.

She shared it all.  She shared what it was like to be blindingly in love with your own son.  She shared what it was like to burst with pride every time you look at your own daughter.  She shared what it was like to keep a dead fox in the freezer (I still am not entirely sure why) and then to realize that Stu’s acceptance of that, ummmm, quirk meant that he was the guy for her.  She shared her pain with business and family and political foibles; she shared her deep, fierce love of teaching (boy did she ever land in the right job or what?) and over and over she shared big chunks of her soul.

And then last summer she shared her home and her family with us, inviting all the working moms – many of whom had never physically met – to her house for one last, loud, heartbreakingly wonderful week-end.  At first we argued with her – she had metastatic pancreatic cancer, for pity’s sake, why not let somebody else host it?  But Kim fiercely, passionately wanted to share her life with us, and boy oh boy did she.  We arrived at the home of a woman who had already outlived her prognosis and she had planned out (on the ever-present white board!) an entire week-end of menus, games, beds, food, tours, campfires, song-singing, beach-combing, and, get this:  CRAFT PROJECTS.  Yes, Kim the teacher, the astonishing organizer, motivator, leader, had created silk screens for t-shirts, and garden stones for her yard, and we played and laughed and talked and sang away one of the most memorable week-ends of our lives.

And for the last two years she shared her illness with us.  For many of us, this was the first time we had confronted an ill contemporary or the inexplicable tragedy of a mother leaving behind her kids.  She didn’t whitewash it, she never tried to assume a Lifetime Movie of the Week approach.  When things were hard, she said they were hard.  When things started to suck, she said they sucked.

She taught us so, so, so much about priorities.  She wanted, in the worst way, to live.  When it became apparent that she couldn’t, she shear-willed her way through Easter, to another vacation, to the AP bio test grading.  And then, when it became clear that her body’s fierce hold on life was fading, her hugest priority – being there for her kids –  became accompanied by her desire to die as well as possible, as true to herself as possible – to her grit and her grace and her fierceness and her family.

This disease has broken our hearts.  Our hearts are broken for Stuart, and for Justin and for Emma – and we can only promise you that you have aunties all over the world and that we will never ever forget your mama; that we will hold her in our hearts always.  And that we will never forget that in the end, after all the emails and the careers and the journeys, her family family family was her fiercest priority of them all.   

Written by Robin Schoenthaler, read by Eileen Winrock, Jenny Hausler, Joanna Wissinger, and Wendy Schweigert, with contributions by wmoms from around the world.

"...Let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart ...
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...
Because I knew you...
I have been changed for good."
(Changed for Good, Wicked) 


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dark Days Challenge 2010 - Week 5

This week's Dark Days Challenge meal was cream of tomato soup with buttermilk rolls.   Unfortunately, I didn't remember to take a picture of the soup when it was done!

The rolls are from a recipe from the November 2010 issue of Cooking Light.  The soup I just threw together.

For the soup, sauteed shallots from my garden in butter from South Mountain Creamery.  There was a bag of frozen tomatoes in the freezer that was marked "tomato puree" even though it looked like pasta sauce.  Since I didn't remember making sauce, I took a chance that it really was puree.  Added that to the pot along with some frozen plum tomatoes.  Plum tomatoes are the easiest to freeze because you can just pop them in a ziplock bag and stick in the freezer.  When you want to use them, run under water and the skins slip right off.  I threw in the whole tomatoes and simmered the mess until cooked.  Took the emersion stick blender and blended until smooth.  I also added a frozen pesto cube to the soup.  The final touch was to pour in a couple of glugs of whole cream, from South Mountain Creamery.

For the rolls, I broke out the flour from Wade's Mill  When Sean and I went to NC a couple of weeks ago, we drove past the town of Raphine, VA where this mill is located.  The buttermilk is from South Mountain Creamery - the yeast is not local nor was the orange that was zested!

Flour and buttermilk

Rolls, second rise

Finished rolls