Monday, September 29, 2014

Yogurt returns to my kitchen

For the second time the Asian store was out of the yogurt I like, only had a bit of that Greek stuff, which tastes too much like candlewax for my taste.  So I heaved a sigh and pulled out the thermometer, and here's a home batch of yogurt in the making.



 Simple stuff: heat milk (I used lowfat here, since my usual skim doesn't make good yogurt) to 180F, see the thermometer clipped on, then move it off the heat, let it cool to 110F.  




Ladle some warm milk into your starter -- in this case the bit I had left of my previous yogurt -- and stir in thoroughly. Then pour the now warmed starter into the pot of milk. Stir to mix in.

The foil stuff you see there is one of those people warming blankets, never used for a person, but it seemed like a good idea for this purpose, because yogurt needs to be maintained at a low steady warmth for about 7 hours or more, and my stove would be too hot.

So I wrapped the lidded pot warmly in its foil blanket,  and set a timer for this evening, when it will go off and I'll be wondering wildly why, why, what have I forgotten, why are those bells chiming etc.  Then I'll finally remember the yogurt, pour it into smaller containers, and they'll go into the fridge overnight.  Tomorrow all being well, they'll be ready to eat. Or to make into yogurt cheese if I'm in the mood.

Another reason I didn't use the stove for the gentle warmth is that I was busy roasting veggies at that point, at 390F.  




Asparagus, red bell pepper and zucchini sticks, with tons of spicy stuff shaken over, 30 minutes roasting did it nicely.  With some left for tomorrow, to go with mashed potatoes.

Dessert was, what else, a tiny apple turnover. The turnover rate on these turnovers might be faster than planned.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tiny Pies Redux, and Oblivious Squirrels

Ages ago I got on a wonton wrapper kick, and made all sorts of interesting things, from tiny pies to ravioli and dumplings and various other ideas.  Then I went on to make my own pasta, so the ravioli idea went away.

But I figured that since it's apple season, and I don't like eating raw apples, but don't mind them cooked, perhaps, since the farmshare is putting in massive apples each week, I'd better see what wonton wrappers will do.  

I'm not fond of making pastry. I make good pastry largely because I have naturally cool hands, always a help from Mother Nature.  But there are many things I'd rather be doing.

Sooooo, all round by China to say I did get a supply of wonton wrappers from my Asian store, and today made a little batch of Tiny Apple Turnovers.  Spells tat.  Oh.  Well, they actually taste pretty good. Seen here on an antique dish, figured it was time to try and make my food look nice, since I don't have a food stylist on staff.  I didn't count, but it's about a dozen and a half, if you need to know how many you'll end up with.




 
Filling: grated and chopped apple, one medium sized, oat flour mixed in to take up some of the juice, note the flour motif recurring throughout recipes these days, splash of lemon juice, drop of almond essence.  Wonton wrappers, edges brushed with water, you can use eggwash if you feel fancy, pressed firmly down, both sides, and  then stabbed with a big antique Russian fork.  Take that, and that!  You can stab them with anything else if you don't happen to have your big Russian antique fork handy right now.

And here they are, with a dusting of confectioner's sugar.  I expect in some kitchens there's a nice little gadget you use to dust stuff with sugar, but in mine you open the bag and shake.  These tiny turnovers are crisp, since the wonton wrappers are unleavened and thin.  I baked them so as to have a little something with my afternoon tea today, and several days going forward.

Meanwhile, out on the patio, demonstrating a great disregard for the work going on indoors, and an independence of needing tiny pies, an athletic squirrel is doing his calisthenics at the same time as getting a nice feast of wild cherries. 





He's welcome to them -- they're bitter and tiny and all pit.  But birds and squirrels and rabbits are crazy for them. I have to keep sweeping the windfalls, cherries, that is,  off the patio so they don't get trodden into the house.

Last minute Sunday lunch

Not inclined to rummage through the freezer and do a "real" recipe, so I made egg and chips and ketchup!  Very sophisticated version, but nonetheless..and it's one of those meals that don't look like one of those food designers organized it, much more tasty than it looks in this picture.  It's Food Adequate.



Took a baking potato, nuked it on high for three minutes, then sliced into big french fries, roasted with spritz of olive oil, kosher salt, fresh-ground black pepper, big pinch of curry powder, because I'm out of turmeric until I remember to buy some.  Roasted that for about half an hour at 390F.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, beat up an egg, drop of milk, big spoonful of green split pea flour, homemade, you remember the flour caper a few days ago, big chunk of home pesto, the one item that did come out of the freezer, black pepper, not much salt because I also put chunks of sharp cheddar which is salty enough.

This made a really nice cross between a pancake and an omelet, and had all kinds of different flavors happening in each bite.  Not too bad for a mad dash meal when I wasn't in the mood.

I did stop briefly in the middle to help a neighbor figure out his dog problem, how to get two dogs to Kennedy airport to see off his girlfriend, when his one big crate wouldn't fit in the smaller, gas-saving, car, thought he might have to leave them home and ask neighbors to take care of them.  Result of the discussion: my two pet taxi carriers are on their way to Kennedy with his pups. He hates to be separated from Bennie and Appie, and it's mutual, so everyone's happy.

Then back to the stove, and a nice lunch followed.

More DIY, well, more like Delegate it Yourself

For ages I've been wondering if it's possible to convert one of my current bathtubs to a walk in shower without major renovation.  I was musing with a friend ages ago if it would be possible to cut out a section of the current bathtub and put in an insert to seal the gap and make it watertight, so I could just step in.  She was very amused at what she took for a flight of fancy, and I didn't pursue it at that time.

But today, as I was looking through links about bathroom conversions, I found this, yay. 

And I've sent it to my lovely across the street friend, artist, and contractor, to see if we can work together on this.  This is another of my steps to Stay In This Home, just a safety feature I've started thinking about, it getting a bit more iffy to step over the side of the bathtub to shower.  

I'll still have one full bath, though.  And that's another part of my Big Plan.  If ever I need a person to stay with me, the Nook bedroom has its own full bathroom, great privacy, doors connecting and can be closed to the hallway, all that.  So this is just some longterm thinking.  I'll leave that bathtub as a full one, but convert the other bathtub, the one leading off my bedroom.

Anyway, as they say, that's the plan!  much cheaper and less disturbing than tearing out and replacing the bathtub itself. So here's where I ask if any blogistas have experience with this?  any precautions? additions?  the bathtub in question already has a grab bar installed years ago for Handsome Partner, and a portable shower stool, and a hand held shower, so that's all in place.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Italian American Festival 2014

When Handsome Son was much younger, our annual day together was the 4H show at the local county park.  Then he grew up and it moved to another location, and we were in urgent need of our annual funnel cake destination.  Last year at the same county park,  this was the Italian American festival and we liked it so much that we went back this year, and found it many times bigger.  I guess a lot of people liked it.

 Almost opening time


The food is a big event at any Italian activity, and there were a huge number of food vendors, mostly cooking on demand and ranging from old fashioned tomato pies (old Trenton doesn't say pizza!) to great cheesesteaks, which though they are a Philly food, are actually wonderful coming from Trenton. 




 Handsome Son patiently modeling for the photographer while planning lunch












And lemonade made from scratch, containing actual lemons.  And the funnel cake. We were too kneedeep in sauce and onions and pasta marinara and peppers and confectioner's sugar to chronicle our food odyssey, but take my word it was good.

Lovely day with crafts and a big set of terrifying rides, 



and a historical display indoors of Italian contributions to the culture


Trevi Fountain in fiberglass!  heh


 Posters of Italian productions

including newspaper clippings about homeboy Alito of the Supreme Court, a local boy, and many musicians and entertainers.  




The local live music was pretty good, too.

And there was bocce with keenly competitive games and players of all ages.  



If I ever have a team, that lady in the green blouse is my first pick.  killer bocce player.







 And the little girl in pink threw a mean ball, too.


And street signs brought from Chambersburg, The Burg in local parlance (Stephanie Plum's stomping grounds, you know?).





And food prep is a big deal in this event, with this great salesman chopping and shredding garlic and ginger and Parmesan and chocolate all over the place, the smells were wonderful.




Oh, and the barkers for the food vendors: where else can you get an announcement "Eggplant Parm to die for!  Eggplant so fresh it's still growing!"

And a huge crowd of happy well fed people in the hot sun and thankfully slumping down in the shade. And as the sun sinks slowly in the west, your photographer does likewise...

Onion rings and barleycakes

After a wonderful day of sun, walking, and much food, at the Italian American Festival with Handsome Son, which I chronicle elsewhere on this blog, I got home ready for a little something, but not a big something.

So I took onion rings from the freezer, thawed them a bit, dusted them with homemade barley flour, egged and pankoed them, and  was ready to bake them at 390F on a baking sheet, when I thought, hm, leftover flour and egg and panko again.

I hate to waste and I didn't want nameless little dishes in the fridge waiting to be used on something or other, so I added a drop of water, and shaped the leftover egg, barley and panko between two spoons into little cakes, which I baked along with the onion rings for 15 minutes.  They all came out very crunchy and pretty good, ketchup a nice addition.  And a glass of chablis.



So this was supper.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Spice Girl arrived!

My spice bush aka Viburnum carlesii arrived from White Flower Farm, yay, great excitement and on a nice cool day but no rain, good for me to plant. I know plants love to be planted on a rainy day, but some humans aren't quite so on board with digging in the rain.

So she's now in place in the corner of the fence where the neighborhood will get the benefit of lovely scents next year, and she'll give me a bit of shade in the area where I'll be putting out houseplants next year, too.

I thought you'd like to see what a nice job WFF does with their shipping.  She arrived in a plastic container, totally secure with paper and tape, never shifted, not a crumb of earth got loose, not a twig broken.













 So she's all set to get organized over the winter for me.  What with the purple sage on one corner sending out sage scent all summer into fall, and the spice bush with pink and white blossoms, sweet lovely scent late spring and into summer, and the common lilac spreading all over next door in spring, that area will be quite well supplied with aromatherapy.  We have other spicebush specimens in the neighborhood but this saves a walk to sniff them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Supper from the Farm, blissful

Today was farmshare day, and after the usual mad blur of washing and brushing and scraping and chopping and slicing and steaming and freezing, and sorting, my reward was a wonderful fresh dinner.


 Quarter of a totally ripe cantaloupe, doused with ginger powder and a scoop of plain yogurt over with a bit of honey, good stuff, trailed over.  After a dish of tomatoes, diced, salted with kosher salt, peppered with freshground black pepper, left to mellow for an hour.

Then a nice glass of red wine, Yellowtail Shiraz.  Afterwards a cup of strong coffee.  I find that caffeine in the evening doesn't bother me at all, in fact I sleep better, so I don't need to deprive myself.

Perfect early Fall meal, cool day with bright sun.

He followed me home, I have to keep him, and philosophical musings on winter pansies

While my cleaners are at work I always make myself scarce, and use the time to do a few things I don't tend to get to on other days. So a trip to a  distant grocery for various items such as whole black peppercorns, pure honey, steelcut oats and so on, that I can't get more locally, then a detour via Mazur's, the lovely, family run, four generations, nursery where I get my plants when I have space and budget.  This is not the farm, also a four generation situation, where I'll be getting my farmshare this afternoon.

Today I came home from the nursery with white mums to put out front, annuals just sitting among the pachy, and they'll get more spectacular as they go. 







The cat followed me home, showed up on my step the other day, so I have to keep him, and he's earning his keep supporting the sedum.






And blue and white pansies to sit on the fence out back, along with the other plantings.  They're not planted yet, just looking around at their new digs.   



It's taken me years to get around to getting winter pansies, because of an enormous moral objection to making spring plants work like winter ones.  It's going against nature, I tell you!  and every year I've looked at them and thought, no, it's better to stay with the seasons.  

Then this year I finally thought, well, I don't want to assume too many more springs in my life, so why don't I just get them now and enjoy them.  So I will.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The pancake of apples, almond and oat flours, redux as a pudding

The sort of pancake thing I showed you the other day made its debut as a pudding today.  And I must say it worked very well.  

I baked it for one hour at 390F, and all the liquid was absorbed, the flavors developed and it made a great dessert.  Since there are only a couple of teaspoons sugar in the entire recipe, it can also be a nice winter breakfast, too.  I think the low sugar content is a reason the flavors come out well, too, not being drowned out in sweetness.And it had been in the fridge overnight, which probably helped the flavors develop.




So this is a keeper for me. Oatmeal, Almond Flours Pudding.  OAF pudding, well maybe we can come up with something a bit more appealing.  Add the Apple and we can get OAFA, which sounds like a soccer  (britspeak: football) association, but never mind, can't have everything.  I mean, I made you a recipe, what more do you want?  but if you can name it better, please do!

Meanwhile, it worked very well.  Just use a pancake recipe, usual eggs and leavenings and salt,  but instead of the regular flour, sub almond flour and oat flour, add in cubed eating apple, a big one, to the recipe, and go from there.  I think this might go over okay with hungry kids, too.   I can also see it making a killer cherry pudding, too, almonds and cherries being friends and all that.

And I have three more large helpings to go.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Celebrating the coming of Fall at the Preserve




Lovely peaceful hike on the Preserve today, to celebrate the arrival of the equinox, taking in the lakeshore, and the farm track and the trail through the beechwood then back up beside the field.

So many different sights and sounds and views in a tiny area of wilderness. 






An artist quietly painting by the lakeside, to my surprise, since she's in what I thought was my own preserve, never saw anyone down that little path to the water before. 



 

And realized that they have widened the trail so much that it can be seen from the farm track, which explains her discovery.

While I was down there, I spotted, far across the water, an egret perched in a tree above the lake.  Unusual to see one there, in fact to see one at all, perhaps a fall visitor on his way somewhere.




Then through the lovely green shade of the beechwood, with birds flittering about ignoring my presence. 




Interesting circles of tree stumps, probably felled because they're about to come down anyway




huge fungi on this old tree, and what look like ferns marked with flags, perhaps they're rare, this being a place with quite a lot of protected flower and plant species.  



 And here's a really aggrieved sawn off tree stump.


Then out along the track where fox and deer like to live.  In fact I saw a doe with two fairly young deer a few minutes before I went to that trail.  I also saw what looked like a fox scat, pretty fresh, but I didn't see the scatter. 



 Fallen leaves starting to turn color.


 
Then back across the edge of the field, full of butterflies -- no big ones this year, but tiny yellows and whites -- and wildflowers.

And so home for a cup of tea and a nice muse over what I saw this afternoon.  And over what I cooked this morning. My life is just one long mad round of unalloyed joy!  and this evening it's "Endeavor" on DVD, with a nice glass of red.

Experimental food continued, with various flours and other ideas

So today I decided, since I had a huge eating apple to take care of before Tuesday's farmshare, and I had the oat and almond flours ready to go, I'd combine the two.

So I made a kind of pancake mix, using oat and almond flour, and the usual eggs and leavenings.  Let that stand a while, and diced fairly fine the apple, sprinkled it with lemon juice to keep it from browning.  




Then I made not exactly pancakes, not bound enough for that,but a lovely dessert on the pan, batter poured out, partly cooked, apple dice added, then turned almost cooked through, and spooned out onto a plate with a honey drawing on it.  I like this touch.  You don't have to wear a chef's hat to do this!

And it was really lovely, with the almond taste along with the honey and the touch of lemon and the apple flavor.  Grinding the dried almonds into flour really released the taste, as I'd hoped.

Next experiment with the rest of the apple and the batter: poured it into a buttered ovenproof dish, and I'll bake it later and see how that works out.

If I'd wanted a really pancake-like mix, I'd have added regular flour, but I wanted to see what this would be like for flavor.

Windfalls for everyone

This is one of the reasons I preserve my wild cherry tree as much as I can.  In spring the blossoms are a madhouse of bees, great for local honey production.  Summer it gives me shade to sit out and read.  Fall and the crop of berries, inedible by humans, very bitter and mostly pit, are a feast for birds and squirrels.  The squirrels are very messy eaters, knock a lot of fruit down onto the deck.  




Then opportunistic little baby rabbits nip out and eat them to their heart's content.  And that suits me, since the fruit doesn't get tracked into the house.

This baby has been around, or maybe it's a few of them, for several weeks,noshing on my basil plants, very sophisticated taste, come to think of it.  And now the cherries are providing them with fuel, too.

They're late season babies, perhaps because the severe winter put the rhythm out, and we didn't see many baby rabbits this spring.  But now they're around.

When the next snows come, we'll see how much of the tree survives.  Beautiful with a cloak of white, but I usually run out and shake the snow off to save the branches from being brought down.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Art the Beautiful at the Festival of the Arts 2014

Just pop over here and see how I spent my day!

Grinding Flour -- a Metaphor for Art (Six Word Saturday)

Originally this came into my head a couple of days ago, but it was as a metaphor for life.  Then I mused that art is also a metaphor for life.  And that life is, even more,  a metaphor for art, to an artist.

Sometimes art grinds you, sometimes you grind it.  It's about being transformed.  One of the reasons making art is challenging is that it's about coming face to face with yourself.  It takes stamina. Making art will change who you are, one way or another.

In Field and Fen this week, I've been describing my adventures in, literally, grinding flour from various pulses and grains, and it's so much like working in the studio.  Having a concept, then doing all the prep needed to let it happen and develop, then seeing the results, sometimes surprising, sometimes grittier than you expected, but always the act of making is the important issue, more even than the physical result.

And I just discovered this morning that aboriginal paintings were created in just this way: the eventual result less important than the sacred act of making the painting.  

Beautiful results are a by-product, and a bonus, rather than the whole point of making art.  Something not always well understood by people looking in from the outside.   And making something in order to sell it is so irrelevant to the whole life of art, that it's why real artists have either patrons (often generous spouses) or day jobs.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

More experiments, now that I've rediscovered my coffee mill

I've been grinding up a storm, got all carried away. Years ago I used my coffee grinder to reduce cinnamon sticks, worked fine, and then forgot about it.  But in the recent kitchen overhaul, my tools are coming into use again, because I can see them and I remember to use them.

So since fullsize grain mills are just big grinders, and they make flour just fine, why not use the little coffee mill to make small samples of all sorts of flour.



To date: oat meal into oat flour, green split peas into flour, pearl barley into flour, dried chickpeas into flour.

Next time I buy lentils I plan to make some lentil flour.

This way I have a repertoire of flours for breads and pancakes and thickening for soup and sauces.  And since I like noisy tools, the coffee grinder is just my cup of tea, if you follow me.

Do any blogistas have other ideas for stuff I can grind now I'm in the groove?

Latest adventures in food from the farmshare

This week the share included a half head of cabbage.  If you don't do stuffed cabbage, and a half head would feed a small army with stuffed cabbage, which I don't like anyway, then what's to do?

So I cut it into wedges, steamed it till nearly tender yesterday, and put in the fridge overnight while I thawed a bag of homemade spaghetti sauce.  

Today I put the cabbage in a casserole dish, poured the spag sauce over it, grated a big helping of sharp cheddar over and a big shake of the Indian hot spicy snack I showed you some time ago as my secret weapon.  45 minutes at 390F and it was pretty nice.  

Cabbage was tender, but still had shape, sauce went well with it, and the spicy and cheesy top helped the general neediness of cabbage pretty well.  Since I'd made the spaghetti sauce, I knew there were already a lot of flavors in it, so I didn't need to add spices or salt to the casserole.








So here's my Chou Gratine, avec epices, in red sauce. This as you see would make one helping for four people, or one helping four times for moi.  Or one snack for a veggie teenage boy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Supper before the Bite Club meeting

Since this is a new group, I have no idea what to expect.  They encourage people to bring food they've cooked, but since I didn't actually cook anything from Alice Waters, her book being nice but not new to me, I decided I'd bring a handful of fresh late season herbs to share.

So I can do that, bringing sage, lemon thyme, English thyme, peppermint, spearmint, oregano and hope people are interested.

Meanwhile, I picked up my farmshare this afternoon, and found some lovely late season big tomatoes.  Perfect for a quick and favorite supper:  diced big, with cubes of sharp cheddar, two eggs broken over, kosher salt, black pepper, sprig of lemon thyme laid on top, half an hour at 380 F.  








Yet another dish in search of a name.  Possibly Welsh rarebit.  Or Independence for Scotland, depending on how you feel.  



And perfect with a slice of toast from that big loaf I made with the wholewheat and a.p. and oat flours.  It has a lovely crumb and a great crust. Must remember that combo.

The wine is just for the shoot -- I'll drink it when I get home again, not wishing to drive after even a single glass of wine.