It started with thinking about a dessert I could give to a visiting friend that we could both eat.
Baked, whole, cored Granny Smith green apples. We both stuffed the cores with butter and maple syrup, but my friend could add dried fruit and spices if she liked. And she did.
They needed something cream after baking, so I bought a pint of Haagen Dazs vanilla as it is the ONLY ice cream in our local grocery store that isn’t full of fake ingredients and additives. It’s still…real food.
I moved on to using my apple corer that peels and slices and baking the thin slices with butter and maple syrup. Delicious.
But I’ve got a fair amount of frozen fruit in the freezer, so why not add those to the mix?
Peaches, cheeries, blueberries, and strawberries…
And this pan produced 4 rich desserts topped with the HD ice cream.
YOU could add spices…
Like cinnamon and/or a little nutmeg.
Or toss with sugar, which I don’t use.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. I didn’t cover my pan.
Creative Cooking: Roasted Cauliflower and Garlicky Green Beans
Note: oops. I wrote this post back on April 12 and forgot to post it the next day. That would be about the time I started having issues with a crowned jaw tooth that needs either a root canal or to be pulled. I’ll try the root canal first, even though I’m so not a fan of root canals. But the tooth is the last tooth in line and provides a lot of chewing territory. Life is full of bad choices one has to make, but we make them and move on.
The other day I went to grill some lamb chops at noon, only to realize the propane tank was empty and had to be replaced.
Here’s what I had for lunch anyway:
I pan fried the lamb chops in my cast iron skillet and roasted a cauliflower head. Lamb has good fat it renders quickly, so no extra fat is needed in the skillet.
For the cauliflower, I started to heat the oven at about 400 degrees, and while waiting for the oven, I just sliced the cauliflower head into “steaks” about an 1/2-inch thick, put them on a flat pan (covered with parchment paper), sprinkled with salt and herb mixtures, and drizzle then with a good olive oil. I also use my convection oven feature, but you don’t have to. Convection makes the oven hotter faster. Indian spices are also really good when roasting cauliflower—I wish I could use them.
After about 10 minutes in a really hot oven, check the cauliflower to see if the bottoms are browning and turn them over. You want the pan to be hot as the beautiful browning comes from the bottom, not, so much, the top. Don’t let the bottoms burn in a hot oven.
It does not take long to cook cauliflower at high oven heats—maybe 25 minutes or less.
I order my olive oil in gallon jugs from Organic Roots—and it is absolutely delicious. Mostly I just use it to dress salads, but I did use it for this cauliflower, and it was really good. Olive oil is pretty fragile, so I never sauté with it. And a jug like this one lasts me, living alone for the most part, about a year.
Also, know that most olive oil you find in the supermarkets has been ”cut” with inferior veggie oils. You can research that for yourself, and there is plenty of information about that problem with olive oil and, also, with honey. Commercial seed oils are so not healthy for you—and you can research that problem for yourself too.
I’ve really enjoyed buying frozen packages of these organic string beans (and corn too) all winter. I just put what I want for few days in a saucepan, cover the beans with water, bring to a boil, and drain immediately. Then I have ingredients to add to a meal or to salads.
Once drained, I dress the warm beans with finely chopped garlic, herbs (dill is lovely), salt, and the Organic Roots Koroneiki olive oil. One could add other ingredients as well: chopped onion, some sweet red/orange/yellow peppers, etc. Just use what you have on hand.
In this meal pictured above, I also had already cooked some of the frozen corn (also heat just to boiling and drain) so I just combined the beans and corn.
I replaced the propane tank when it finally stopped raining. The new one is really heavy to drag up the hill to the back deck—but I managed. It’s also heavy to lift to the spot on the grill where it hangs, especially as that spot is under a permanent shelf that gets in the way. But this time, all went really well, and I grilled some hamburgers Saturday to put on my lunch (which is now my main meal of the day) salad.
Boy did those hamburgers smell good. Like, sun and summer.
I like having what I think of as ”assets” in my kitchen.
The leftover gravy from the recent lamb shanks and leeks cooked in the Instant Pot would be such an asset. And I knew I would have that leftover gravy, so I planned for it by making sure I had a package of meat to use, just as I knew I had those garlicky green beans in the refrigerator when I made the lamb shank dish in the first place.
I will often add other ingredients to assets to make new and different meals. And in this case, I made a rich and hearty soup that extended the life of the gravy. A soup is a whole new asset in and of itself.
First, I defrosted a packing of lamb stew meat—part of the whole lamb I get in the fall. I could also have used ground lamb. Or even, ground hamburger.
I chopped up some additional savory veggies (onion, carrot, celery) and sweated them out in my Creuset cast iron enamel pot—using beef tallow as my sauté fat. I added herbs and salt, of course. And when the veggies were starting to color up/carmelize a bit, I added in the meat—which cools down everything.
I cooked that mixture until the meat started to brown and most of the liquid in the pan was cooked out.
At this point, I add in the leftover gravy, more water to make the ”soup,” and a package of frozen mixed veggies I had in the freezer.
Heat the soup until it comes to a hot simmer, and it is basically done. Look at that gorgeous broth color.
I didn’t add something white (potato, cauliflower, rice) as the gravy was thickened with sprouted rice flour in the first place. But what is fun now is to add things into your bowl of soup.
In this case, I added some grated mozzarella cheese and some pasta cooked on the side before I added the soup.
If you add pasta to a big pot of soup, it cooks ”out” pretty fast—in that it dissolves into the broth—as you reheat the soup—which means you lose the ”al dente” of the pasta. Here I used a bit of rice pasta macaroni—as that is what I had on hand that also needed to be used.
And, as I don’t want soup where the whole of it has been repeatedly reheated (that’s a histamine issue, in part) I only heat what I’m going to eat for a meal. I also don’t want for soup to hang around very long (another histamine issue), so I opt to freeze portions to have in the freezer for other meals. Plus, by freezing some if needed, I don’t get tired of a big soup and can move on to other cooking/eating.
I added in some raw heavy cream for another bowl of soup. What gets added into or onto a soup is only limited by a lack of imagination. One could add bacon crumbles. Or top grated cheese with some chopped green onions. Or add different spices: like hot pepper, cumin, any of the Mexican or Indian spices. Or add in beans. Or do all of the above. You could also put the soup over a bowl of noodles or spaghetti and top with whatever goodies float your boat at the moment.
The main goal is to have rich, nourishing food that makes you feel happy when you eat it.
My daffodils are up and some are blooming. I picked this bunch Tuesday in the pouring rain after running an errand. They are still beautiful and fresh today, Friday. And I have so many daffs that I will have flowers in the kitchen for some time now.
And—local peep—right up the hill from me is Golden Brook Flower Farm where the greenhouses are full of gorgeous flowers. This sweet bunch of tulips came to my house Wednesday and are also still just gorgeous today. Look at that beautiful tulip color. They came with very long stems, too, so I could have used a tall vase for them if I had wanted to.
Yesterday I cooked two lamb shanks and leeks in the Instant Pot—and increased the cooking time to 40 minutes this time. The shanks were tender to the bone with the addition of 5 minutes. And the meal was delicious and produced leftovers.
I cooked the carrots separately, drained them, and added them to a bowl big enough to hold the whole recipe when ready to be combined. I added the garlicky green beans (see earlier posts) I had on hand to the carrots while the lamb and leeks cooked. I browned the shanks in the Instant Pot in beef tallow while the 2 large leeks, with some chopped garlic and salt, cooked in lamb fat in a pan on the stove—lamb fat saved from an earlier lamb dish. When the leeks were golden, I added some water that would pick up all the browned (not burned) goodness in the pan. When the shanks were brown, I added the leeks and garlic, about 3 cups of water, herbs (a dried Provence mixture that includes some rosemary and lavender), salt, and several tablespoons of sprouted brown rice flour to thicken (you could use flour), and cooked for 40 minutes. I let the pot sit for 15 minutes after the 40 minutes were up before releasing the steam. I always turn off the ”keep warm” button as there is no need for it.
Then I just combine all the ingredients and enjoy my meal. I’ll have enough for one more meal with the second shank—and I’ll reserve the extra broth and make a soup with it and some fresh lamb meat pieces I had in the freezer. I’ll sauté those with savories and more veggies and will have a nice soup for at the very least another day. Or, two.
I’m hand sewing binding on the last baby quilt and will mail two quilts to a niece soon now. The larger one will be for her little girl toddler. Pictures will follow receipt of these two quilts.
And now I’m making fun Churn Dash blocks from all those strips I cut. It’s a good thing I’m happy making these blocks as there are A LOT of cut strips in the two sizes I need—along with a lot of cut center squares and fabrics reserved for more of those. These are all Cotton+Steel/Ruby Star Society fabrics from my stash—and the goal is to use them up and/or combine the remnants with the rest of the stash.
It is just so fun to combine these fabrics to make cute 7 1/2 inch finished blocks. I’m thinking 90 blocks, or 9 rows by 10, which will make a good lap-size quilt. Of course blocks will be moved around a lot along the way.
There is actually a lot to look at to figure out block placement. The color, dark and light placement, the centers, the intensity (or not) of the block.
On Saturday, AC doggie and I made a trip over to Barrett’s Cove to see if he could chase his ball there. The Snow Bowl field is being ”fixed” and is looking so much better—but it’s roped off until the seeded grass gets established—which will take some time as grass seed needs consistent 65 degree weather to sprout and grow.
We’ve had so much rain recently, and the lake is really high at Barrett’s Cove. Much of the grass there has huge puddles, but we did find some dry ground next to the little creek which was running really fast. Deep pools lay along its length that were way over AC’s head.
And wouldn’t you know, AC dropped his ball into the creek above the bridge, and it bounced along faster than AC could manage.
There was great carrying on to retrieve the ball as AC won’t go over his head into the creek’s pools, and I couldn’t quite reach the ball in time while I tried to negotiate the steep creek banks.
We finally got it just below the bridge when it ran up against bushes at the creek’s edge and AC could reach it while keeping his back legs firmly on ground.
Will he drop it again into creek water?
Who knows. He’s a pretty quick learner actually. He remembers his encounter with our local porcupine when he was a little over 6 months old. It was late at night, and there was no way I was going to be able to take him to the emergency vet clinic on my own as he was frantically pawing his face. I sat on the floor and pulled out the quills, one by one, which is horribly painful for a dog. And he let me. He just seemed to know. In fact, it took several days as some had broken off with his frantic pawing at them—and it took some days to find those and to ease them out.
Porcupine is currently wreaking havoc in the emerging plants in my garden. And AC saw him the other night but did not charge him. And now I go out with him on his last trip out at night—after reminding him about how BAD AND SCARY porcupine is.
Sunday was beautiful and sunny. As is this Monday morning which will start a new week.
It was the kind of heavy rain where flooding happens, and the intermittent creek on the woods side of my house was ”booking” all day.
I hunkered down and made do with food I had on hand and just enjoyed the peacefulness of a rainy day.
AC, who hates rainy days, was ever hopeful that I would play with him with his ball.
To amuse him, I cut his toenails, which he HATES, and cleaned his teeth, which he LOVES. I clean his teeth with some double-wrapped gauze that I put over my finger and rub on his teeth. Then I used the Furminator on his coat. I have not “Furminatored” him in about a month—and he is starting to shed his winter coat. Using this tool weekly really helps the dog-hair-in-the-house problem.
Good Heavens! I had to get out the vacuum to clean up the rug and me when I was done. The Furminator excels in getting out the loose undercoat in a dog. For AC, I got the short-hair medium-size dog version—and I highly recommend this tool as it has made a big difference in the amount of dog hair in my house.
I also spent some time looking at John Steele’s web site. John is a retired pharmacist from Utah, and he is a wildlife photographer. I met him at the Snow Bowl field as he takes his two older dogs there to walk, and one of them, Miss Daisy, loves to chase AC’s ball with AC. Miss Daisy is the black dog in this screenshot of a photo John took of Daisy and Jamie jumping from the float into Hosmer Pond—which I took from his web site: johnsteelephotography.com
John’s web site also has some beautiful and interesting pictures of mustangs out west. He’s currently working on a photography book that he hopes will educate more people about these horses. And there are really nice photos of Maine and Maine wildlife—and more photos of these two dogs who love to swim.
Today is sunny, so AC and I will be out and about to make up for the rainy day yesterday.
The grass is…GROWING…and turning quite green. The lawn crew that helps me is coming next Wednesday to take up the wooden, winter snow boardwalk and to help me with some of the needed spring clean-up. And AC has not heard any flying squirrels in the house for about a week now.
Betsy Maislen, from Vermont, came to visit for a few days.
And to pick up a sewing machine she bought from a friend here. Her old machine, with which she started quilting, finally died.
Going from a very old machine to the Janome 8900 has been like going from a Model T car to a space ship for Betsy. It was so fun to watch her delight as she began to sew on her new machine.
We set up a sewing station for her downstairs:
And she went home with this top for a baby quilt—Wendy Sheppard’s ”Whirlygigs,” found in Simply Moderne magazine, No. 26.
I really like how the white squares are forming a very interesting pattern in the center of this baby-sized quilt. There are just so many geometric shapes that titillate the eye in this pattern: x’s, o’s, paddles.
I worked on the longarm while Betsy was here—and finished quilting and trimming ”Pot-Pourri 3.” The binding went on after Betsy left on Tuesday and after I had done my weekly cleaning/laundry tasks. So I now have hand sewing for night tv watching.
Here’s a sneak peek at one of the Churn Dash blocks for ”Eye Candy 3.”
Some days before Betsy came, I got really hungry for a pasta salad. I have to use rice pasta, but I’ve gotten used to it over the years. It is softer and if overcooked can get gummy. I love to use crisp veggies in a pasta salad: celery, onions, carrots, colored peppers (red, orange, or yellow). I add some roasted meat, like chicken. And those tiny organic green peas that are in the freezer section. And lots of herbs—with good olive oil. Sometimes I add some grated mozzarella cheese.
I didn’t have green peas or roasted chicken on hand, so I fried a small cube steak and but it up. I put the salad on a bed of mixed lettuce, and it was delicious.
For the leftovers, and after a trip to the grocery store, I added a hamburger patty and the little peas.
And while she was here, Betsy got roasted lamb, baked potatoes with raw butter, tiny new asparagus, and baked apples with vanilla ice cream. (Haagen-Dazs vanilla is the only ice cream I can find that has real ingredients and not a lot of fillers meant to substitute for actual cream.) And, for lunch before she left, we had a big green and veggie salad with meat from a just-cooked spatchcocked chicken.