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Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Mother


My mother’s name was Rosemary and she was one of the bravest people I know. She recently died at the young age of 76. She was my best friend and champion. Many family and friends would describe her as feisty, not one to back down. Since October of last year I have been taking care of her. She had stage 4 kidney cancer. In the beginning we spent our days shuffling back and forth between doctor visits with hope and thoughts about where we would eat lunch that day. That period quickly changed. During her chemo treatments we sat together and talked about family and the news. My mom loved to talk politics. That quickly changed too. Doctor visits and treatment became almost daily. We both became more quiet and reflective. I felt angry about her disease. We would go straight from her home and then back again. Her strength quietly ebbing away.

The day my mom decided to stop all treatments is the day I believe she decided that she was not giving up but that she accepted the inevitable. She wanted to take control of whatever time she had left. I wanted her to keep fighting the fight as I was not ready. But she stood her ground and I had to respect her wishes. The disease took over so quickly. How she suffered in the end. My heart is broken, I miss her so……………

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club March Three Recipes

We are now in our eleventh month of the Cottage Cooking Club; a group of international blogger's cooking together and then posting our experiences along with the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's cookbook, "River Cottage Veg". Our group is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes in our everyday cooking, and is and has been inspired by our dedicated leader Andrea of the The Kitchen Lioness. Every month Andrea picks one recipe from each of the ten chapters. We then pick and choose which one or ones we want to blog about in a single post. This month was special as we are half way through.


And to celebrate this occasion Andrea sent us all a gift basket from Bonn, Germany. (See the adorable picture above). This was the first time I received a package from overseas, I felt so worldly. See what blogging can do. Thank you Andrea! Anyway we all choose a recipe from a list that was presented before but did not have the opportunity to prepare for whatever reason. I choose 3 recipes from this selection and was once again impressed by the simplicity and flavor of each dish.


The first recipe I prepared was the Pinto Bean Chili. I prepared the autumn's version that consisted mainly of pinto beans, mushrooms and butternut squash. Cumin and allspice were added along with cayenne and fresh herbs.



I served this with a dollop of sour cream and it was delicious. The next day we enjoyed leftovers atop a bed of whole wheat couscous.


The second recipe was the winter stir-fry with Chinese five-spice which was my absolute favorite of all three. What is there about the smell of five-spice? The flavor is indistinguishable. Here the recipe instructs you to chop up all the veggies first and then to heat up the wok. The original recipe used egg noodles, but I substituted soba noodles which we absolutely loved. My husband said that this was "spoon worthy" which was a pretty big compliment.


By the last recipe I realized that all of my picks had the same color of veggies, similar herbs and spices. Obviously I picked them all on the same night. Maybe I was craving something. Anyway for my third I prepared the carrot hummus. This particular recipe emphasizes that most any veggie or bean can make a delicious spread. I served this with everyday pita chips and it was so flavorful.


Recipes adapted from the River Cottage Veg, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. First recipe; from the chapter "Comfort Food and Feast" Pinto bean chili (page 23). Second dish from the chapter "Pasta and Rice"Winter Stir-fry with Chinese five-spice (page 288).  And last but not least; From the chapter "Meze and Tapas" Carrot hummus (page 296).

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the LYL post for December on the CCC website, by clicking clicking here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Green Beans with Lemon Vinaigrette and Sliced Almonds


I know this might sound crazy to some of you but It’s been warm here in the southwest, warmer than usual. To compensate for the heat we are now walking in the early mornings. Today we decided to drive out to one of the outlaying Mountain preserves to check out the wildflowers and do a little hiking.


On our way home we decided to stop at the market. This time of year the farmers in our area are harvesting both fall and spring veggies. As I was getting ready to check out I saw a large basket of green beans. I know green beans sound so everyday but after breaking one in half and tasting it I could not resist, they were so tender and fresh. The hardest part was deciding whether to keep them raw or to cook them, in the end I decided to blanch the beans and prepare a dressing. Serve this vegetable side dish for your Easter brunch or dinner.

The lemon vinaigrette adds a fresh tang and will help break up the heaviness of any meal.

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans (trimmed and halved)
1 stalk fresh garlic (use just the white part and finely chop)
1 lemon (zest and juice, need 3 tablespoons juice)
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil, divided
1/8 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup slivered roasted almonds
Salt and pepper

To prepare:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add beans and cook 3 to 4 minutes until crisp tender. Stir a few times to make sure beans cook evenly. Check by tasting, cook until you get the desired result. (I like mine just cooked so they are a little crunchy) Remove from heat, drain and then plunge into a large bowl of ice and water. Drain and set aside.


In a medium sized bowl whisk together the lemon zest, juice, olive oil, dried mustard and honey. Season to taste, salt and pepper.

In a large heavy skillet add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, then add fresh garlic. Stir occasionally about a minute or so.


Add green beans and cook about a minute to lightly warm.


Transfer beans to serving dish and toss gently with vinaigrette. Garnish with sliced almonds.


Enjoy!





Sunday, March 15, 2015

Flower Child Scramble


A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went out for breakfast. It was the first week-end in a long time that we had no actual plans. I almost felt like I was on a mini vacation. Saturday morning we woke up, went hiking and then decided to try The Henry, a new restaurant in Scottsdale. The décor was fairly masculine, kind of like Mid Century Modern meets Victorian meets office. It is touted as a neighborhood restaurant where friends and family can gather and grab a cup of coffee or a complete meal. The menu is pretty eclectic; there are traditional dishes, great salads, sandwiches and even Heirloom quinoa tacos. I ordered the flower child scramble and it was delicious. Simply put it was organic eggs scrambled with mushrooms, butternut squash and kale.

I thought the best way to recreate this recipe would be to prepare each vegetable separately. The butternut squash was peeled, cubed and roasted, the mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with a little Marsala wine added at the very end. The kale was sauteed and then ½ cup of water was added to help cook it down and make it a little softer. I scrambled the eggs by themselves and then added the ingredients and garnished with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients:

Extra Virgin Olive oil
1/2 butternut squash (peeled and cut into small dice)
2 large kale leaves (stem removed and cut into thin slices)
1/2 cup water
8 ounces cremini mushrooms (wiped clean and cut into quarters)
2 tablespoons Marsala wine (or cognac, white wine would be great too)
6 eggs (whisked together, medium bowl)
Salt and pepper
Fresh Parmesan for garnish

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 400°

In a medium sized oven proof dish place prepared butternut squash pieces and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, mix together with hands, or a large spoon. (Whatever works best for you). Bake for 25 minutes, stirring squash halfway through. Remove from oven, set aside.


Next the kale, in a medium size skillet on medium high heat add olive oil, then kale and cook stirring frequently until wilted, add 1/2 cup water and cook down until water evaporates and kale is soft, remove from pan and set aside in a small bowl.


Now for the mushrooms, in the same skillet on medium-high heat add a tablespoon of olive oil, then place mushrooms in skillet and stir occasionally, when mushroom get to the point that they start releasing moisture; about 5 to 8 minutes. Turn down heat a little and add wine. Stir mushrooms until wine evaporates, remove from heat.

In a large non-stick pan on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, when pan is hot add eggs, stirring gently. Here you want the eggs just cooked. Remove from heat add the squash, kale and mushrooms.


Gently mix together, top with fresh Parmesan. Serve with a side of fresh fruit. Enjoy!



Thursday, March 12, 2015

White Beans and Savoy Cabbage with Chicken Sausage


The first time I prepared this dish was about 4 years ago after receiving Heidi Swanson’s cookbook in the mail “Super Natural Every Day". I followed the directions and ingredient list to the letter. It was simple to make, somewhat hearty and perfect for the cold winter day. As time went on I began making simple changes to this dish depending on what I had on hand and what was available seasonally. As with most of her recipes the ingredients used are mainly whole and natural and many of her recipes can be used as a sort of template or as she states in her introduction as “starting points”.

This time I stir fried the potatoes, removed them from the skillet and then added back the potatoes and the chicken sausage at the end. This step made for a more crispy potato (crouton) atop the beans and cabbage. Also I used savoy cabbage instead of the regular and sliced it a little thicker. You could also swap out kale or chard for the cabbage and add quinoa or farro for even more flavor. Have fun with this dish.

This recipe has been adapted from Heidi Swanson’s book, "Super Natural Every Day".

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large russet potato (peeled and diced small)
Sea salt
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 - 15 ounce can white beans (rinsed and drained).
1 medium savoy cabbage (sliced 1/4 inch)
1/4 pound chicken sausage (sliced 1/4 inch thin)
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

To prepare:

Preheat oven to warm.

Add canola oil to a large skillet over medium high heat, place diced potatoes in pan and let sit. Saute; stirring every few of minutes, about 8 to 10 total. Remove potatoes from skillet and place in a heat proof dish in the oven on warm until the rest of the dish is done.


Add sausage and cook one to two minutes until lightly browned, remove from the pan, set aside in a separate dish. Now back to the skillet; add the beans and let cook until just browned; about 3 to 4 minutes, add in garlic and stir another minute longer.


Place cabbage in skillet over the beans and with a pair on tongs, gently mix together; cook until wilted. Serve with potatoes and sausage in the center family style. Garnish with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!










Wednesday, March 4, 2015

No Bake Chocolate Almond Oat Bars


I could not stop eating these bars. I ate them day and night for almost a week, my husband only had one. Best yet there is no time in the oven. Almond butter, butter and honey are melted together in a saucepan and the remaining ingredients are added. They will need some time in the fridge.

The raisins and rolled oats contributed to the texture of the bar making them a little chewy. Here you could sub out cranberries, dried cherries, blueberries…pretty much any dried fruit your heart fancies. Have fun with these bars, I did……Now off to the gym!

Recipe is from Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients:

1 cup almond butter
1/3 cup honey
1 stick butter (unsalted)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup almonds (roasted and rough chopped)
3/4 cup raisins
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (rough chopped)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

To prepare:

Prepare an 8 inch square pan by coating pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper leaving a few inches of overhang on all sides.

Begin by melting almond butter, honey and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently, about 5 to 7 minutes until mixture is completely combined.


Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, stirring until chocolate has melted and well combined.


Spoon into prepared pan and refrigerate until chocolate hardens. I waited about 6 hours. Cut into bars.

Makes about 2 dozen.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club February Three Recipes

We are now in our tenth month of the Cottage Cooking Club; a group of bloggers cooking together and then posting our experiences along with the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's cookbook, "River Cottage Veg". Our group is and has been inspired by our dedicated leader Andrea of the The Kitchen Lioness. Every month Andrea picks one recipe from each of the ten chapters. We then pick and choose which one or ones we want to blog about in a single post. I prepared 3 of the 10 recipes chosen and once again was impressed by the simplicity and flavor of each finished dish.


The first recipe I prepared was the cheesy peasy puff turnover. Prepared is really an over statement here as this was so easy to put together.


Basically the puff pastry is filled with frozen peas and white cheddar (or the cheese of your choice), next it’s folded over, sealed and then baked in the oven. The kitchen smelled wonderful and as the time came to pull the turnover out of the oven, we gathered around.


Soon after we cut into slices and devoured this little gem in one sitting. A real crowd pleaser.


Avocado and pink grapefruit with chili was my second dish and I would definitely make this again and again. We have a pink grapefruit tree in our yard and I'm always on the lookout for recipes. The two main ingredients go so well together, this was light and delicious.


The last dish I prepared was the potato rosti and another big winner in my book. It definitely reminds me of our American hash browns. The potato is quartered, then boiled for about 5 minutes, here you want the potato slightly underdone. Next it is refrigerated, making it easier to grate. I really liked this technique and will be using it next time I make something like this. I caramelized an onion beforehand and added it into the grated potato. I served with this with sliced green onions on top.

Recipes adapted from the River Cottage Veg, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. First recipe; from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers" Cheesy peasy puff turnover (page 220). Second dish from the chapter "Raw Assemblies"Avocado and ruby grapefruit with chilli (page 122).  And last but not least; From the chapter "Side Dishes" Potato Rösti (page 391).

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the LYL post for December on the CCC website, by clicking clicking here.