Month: June 2009

The Trip to Minnesota

The Trip to Minnesota

The cherry tree off my deck…taken right before I left. Note the netting (done by great loves Steve and AJ) to save the cherries from the robins. Friends will pick the fruit come the first week in July and hopefully save me some so we’ll have cherry pie come Thanksgiving.
Dear Friends: The blog is somewhat on hold temporarily; isn’t that what hold means?

I made it to Minnesota with two cars, a husband, a daughter and a puppy and without a working printer, computer or much in the way of kitchen equipment.

Two days of driving, one night in a hotel and … then… school for the first time since 1976. Not only school, graduate school. Well, there’s not much time to eat, much less cook. Maybe that ten pounds will finally come off. Ok, twenty. I’ve been here almost five days and have yet to unpack my suitcase or do any grocery shopping beyond already-roasted chicken and pre-grilled vegetables. God is, indeed, the love of my life as he placed a Whole Foods store 1 block from the apartment, on the way home from organ practice and the class on Choral Scores Analysis. More on this another day. How I love it all; how badly I’m doing and ok with that, too. Some days. (Do you know the fifty types of French Chanson?)

Anywho, I’ll be studying for a couple of months and know that the blog will be up in a more intelligible way in a little over a week–please!– when cameras, computers, etc. are all in working order and grades are posted for the first class. Meantime, enjoy a short article from the cookbook on what to do with… you guessed it… chicken. Go back and make Moroccan Chicken (first May blog) if you are desperate for a recipe.

Chicken Salads, Sandwiches, etc.
a few ideas for the roasted chicken you stored in the frig last night

-I think my family is most happy I’ve roasted a chicken the next day. There are chunky chicken sandwiches (with salt and mayonnaise) for lunch or even dinner.

-Salad? Put some on top of your favorite Caesar (check out my recipe for Caesar Salad to Call Your Own) or tear onto top of mixed greens. If you choose the mixed greens version, add some grated cheddar and top with salsa and crushed tortilla chips.

-Easy pedestrian chicken salads for toast, crackers or greens:

Mix into chopped chicken a small amount of onion, double that of celery and add a little poultry seasoning and pepper. Stir in mayonnaise and add salt, if needed.
Or:
Mix into chopped chicken some green grapes, pecans, pineapple, onion and curry powder to taste. Add mayonnaise to moisten. Sprinkle with salt and pepper after tasting. Mix well; serve on bed of greens or as is.

-How about chicken tacos? Roll up chicken and chopped green peppers in tortillas and add salsa to satisfy.

-Do you love frittatas? Use potatoes, chicken, onions and basil in this one.

-What about fast soup? In a small kettle, sauté one cup each chopped onions, celery and carrots. Add 2 quarts of chicken broth. Bring to a boil and add some fresh vegetables such as asparagus, green beans, cabbage, zucchini (or all). Turn down heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are done. If you have fresh spinach and basil, add them now. Stir in 1T chopped garlic. A little chopped leftover pasta or rice would serve to make the soup heartier. Potatoes? Why not? Stir for a minute and add chopped chicken. Check for seasoning. Serve w/ grated parmesan.

– Call it anything but leftovers; you’ve got a meal!

Sing a new song, loved ones,

Alyce
Olive Panzanella and Grilled Sausages

Olive Panzanella and Grilled Sausages

  • Do you love the word “panzanella?” It’s beautiful, isn’t it? As a musician, the sound of it brings a sweet pitch to mind… and a drawing out of the eh of “ella,” with a tad of dipthong present… a big no-no for singers. So it goes something like, “pahnzahnayhhhhhhlllahhh….” Maybe to you, it doesn’t have such a ringing tone. Maybe, to you, it sounds like one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. But you also might wonder what in the world is panzanella, much less olive panzanella. I never heard of olive panzanella either, but I made it.
    Ok; here goes: Pane is bread in Italian…. Panzanella is a dish made with Tuscan bread that is a day old (Oh what lovely things we do with day-old bread…) and traditionally is made with tomatoes, basil, onions, cucumbers and olive oil. I am a twister and turner of “traditional” dishes, adding what I have in my pantry or frig and making them into traditional Colorado Springs dishes. After all, I am not in Tuscany; I am blessed to eat Marigold’s bread in Colorado Springs… and I am without cucumbers as I am rapidly paring down my frig to be away from home for two months. (More on that later.) My basil (all four plants) promptly died after planting, but I do have thyme… and there was still parsley in my veg drawer. Closer inspection (read that cleaning out) of the middle shelf led me to olives stuffed with garlic leftover from my daughter’s graduation party. Et voila, olive panzanella. Things that grow together go together, is the saying.
    This is a wonderful meal to serve in the summer when tomatoes (and basil if you make it the typical Italian way) are full, ripe, round and warmly fragrant. It is perhaps a tish early in the season, particularly in Colorado, to make it now, but hey, I had the tomatoes and went for it. You can substitute some dried thyme (1/2 if) for the fresh if you have to, but try to use the fresh parsley at least. I think you could be absolutely inventive with your veg. (beans, asparagus?)
    So turn your eyes to heaven, breathe deeply and shrug your shoulders back squarely before you say the best grace you can before this meal begins (and afterward, too, if you are a Jew); it is one for which to be very thankful. Being grateful, as a way of life, is healthy, I think, for me. Maybe for you, too. A great practice. This meal is simple, fast, even frugal and still feeling decadent. Oooo. (Lower your eyebrows and pucker up big when you “ooooo.”)
    One note about the olive oil. Don’t skimp on the oil for your dressing. First of all, make your own dressing and you’ll save money not having to BUY bottled dressings (check the ingredients sometime), have great salads and not ruin costly veg. Many homemade dressings do store for several days or more. When folks talk about what a great salad that was, it was usually because 1. the ingredients were fresh and 2. so was the salad dressing. I use, for dressings, Olio Santo (California.) For cooking, I use whatever Olive Oil (not EVOO) is on sale.
    To taste dressing, get a little piece of lettuce from frig and dip very lightly a teense into the dressing. Good? Bad? Salty? Oily? Vinegary? Adjust one of these and try again. Better? Worse? Bland? Needs zing? (try a drop or two of Tabasco)
    Wine: Why not go the whole Italian way and sip a Chiani Classico? On the other hand, there’s hardly anything better than California Zinfandel with sausage. Neither are expensive, though you can find expensive examples if you want to.
    If you have become a recent lover of wine, find a wine shop in which you’re comfortable (where the help is approachable and helpful) and frequent it. Make yourself a customer and get to know the wine people there so that you’re comfortable going in and asking for “a zinfandel under $15.00.” Not everyone can afford expensive wines often. I think of it like this: every day wine, weekend wine, birthday wine, graduation wine, etc. The numbers are then not so staggering. Besides, if you’re cooking at home, my friend, you’re already saving your bucks. Buying decent wine OUT is really a lot more; drink it at home. “Better wine and better food at home” is the phrase we use to not eat out.

    Dessert: Semifreddo Espresso. Brew 2 cups of espresso. Pour a ½ cup each over each of 4 cups of vanilla ice cream. Use gorgeous small lotus bowls. Smile.

    Make the meal bigger for company: Add a cheese plate and/or a first course soup.

    Time to cook:

    Olive Panzanella with Grilled Italian Sausages
    Serves 4

    Sausages: 4 fresh Italian sausage links and ¼ c Dijon mustard
    Place mustard in a small serving bowl and set aside. Fill a 4 qt. saucepan half full with water. Add sausages and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer sausages about 5 minutes to cook off some of the fat. Remove from water and grill over medium heat until crispy brown. Set aside, covered.

    Salad:
    12” Baguette, cut into 1-2” chunks (stale is good; new will still work)
    1-2T olive oil
    Kosher salt and freshly black ground pepper
    1 each: red, yellow and green bell (sweet) peppers, cut into 1” dice
    ½ med red onion, slivered
    2 lrg or 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/8s
    ½ c sliced green olives stuffed with garlic
    2T capers (chopped finely if the large ones)
    ½ c fresh parsley, minced, plus 2-3 sprigs for garnish
    2-3 t fresh thyme leaves

    Dressing: (You’ll use it all.)
    1 T Dijon mustard
    3 T red wine vinegar
    ½ t garlic, minced
    ½ c (8T) extra-virgin olive oil, best quality
    ½ t Kosher salt
    ¼ t Freshly ground black pepper

    Heat olive oil over low-medium heat with a dusting of salt and pepper. Add cut-up bread and brown slowly, toasting evenly and tossing with tongs for 5-10 minutes until golden.

    Meantime, make salad dressing in a large bowl. Whisk the mustard, vinegar and garlic together. Add oil slowly, whisking still, until shiny and somewhat opaque. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped vegetables and herbs. Season once again. Add toasted bread and stir gently, but thoroughly. Let sit 10-15 minutes. Garnish with parsley. Serve with sausages topped with the Dijon mustard.

    Eat all of the salad; it doesn’t keep.

    Here’s the Gabster, still looking good from
    her day at the groomer’s.

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce

    P.S. Re being gone: I move to St. Paul ( temporarily) this Saturday for two months to do some graduate work in liturgical music at University of St. Thomas. I’ll also be within walking distance of a hugging group of old cooking friends…… Move with me and keep up on the blog, which will feature SUMMER IN THE CITY food and HOW TO COOK AWAY FROM HOME IN A FURNISHED (NO GOOD KNIVES; NO CUISINART) KITCHEN WITH A GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD FOR GROCERIES AND THE BEST FARMERS’ MARKETS……..

Mustard-Rosemary Green Bean Salad

Mustard-Rosemary Green Bean Salad

Over the weekend, perhaps you were very blessed indeed and grilled some steaks, chicken breasts or pork chops with someone you love. While it’s summer some places, in Colorado, it’s still a tad nippy at night. (Time for the gray sweatshirt hoodie.)
God, I’ll trust, was with you and you spent an evening on the deck with some people you enjoy SO MUCH….and you spent more time at the table than in the kitchen.
Someone identified a contstellation maybe. (Mary, not Martha) You might have had a nice salad and that bottle of wine you couldn’t afford, but your friend who COULD, brought along. (When we eat together, life changes in ways we don’t anticipate.) Maybe your daughter made dessert and your son (if old enough) put some old Simon and Garfunkel or Tony Bennett for Lovers on the stereo. People began to breathe somewhat slower… and some told a story or two from the week. One just sat there sighing, taking in the air with a little peace.

(At left: view to north from our deck.)

“Phew” was almost said out loud. There were no “you should…” or “why didn’t you…”s Maybe you rolled your eyes at yourself and smiled. (Did I really think that was SO important; THIS is what’s important.) No matter what, eventually your spine relaxed as your face softened and your breath became even and you came to the table knowing you were cared for and enjoyed.


Well, you had some leftovers, didn’t you? Sunday night rolled around…not a big time to cook, but still a time to be together. Blessed indeed were you if you worshiped together sometime as my family did. (It’s Trinity Sunday.) There’s a bit of meat in the frig and some cooked green beans…what to do with them?
Here’s a sweet green bean salad you could throw together. Granted, you needed to have been growing some rosemary in your south window (who wants to pay the $3.50 for a tiny, old packet of it in the grocery). Use dried if you don’t have it. Rosemary is for remembrance… check it out. Throw a bit of the meat, thinly sliced, on the side of the plate (almost like a garnish) and make most of the meal veg tonight. It’ll feel good. Have a bit of wine if there’s any left; tomorrow’s Monday, folks.
Take the cool Sunday night air in through your nose and feel it reach all the way down to your ribs and below. Still time to rest before the week begins again.


Wine: Nice California Syrah…do it if you had leftover beef or pork.
If you had chicken or fish left, put out some Sauvignon Blanc.

Mustard-Rosemary Green Bean Salad
Salad:
4 approx. 2” new potatoes, cut into 1/8’s
18 1” baby tomatoes
2T olive oil (plain quality is fine)
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 c haricots verts or young green beans, cooked until tender
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
2 springs rosemary, for garnish

Dressing:
1T Dijon mustard
1T white wine vinegar ( I like Chardonnay)
2T extra-virgin olive oil, best quality
Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Place cut up potatoes in a glass pie pan or casserole with ¼ c water. Cover with dinner plate and microwave 4-5 minutes on high until tender. Drain and set to one side.
Meantime, heat olive oil over medium heat in medium skillet. Add a dusting of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and sauté for 15 seconds. Add baby tomatoes and cook for about five minutes. Put microwaved potatoes in pan with tomatoes and sauté 10 minutes or so until tomatoes are softened and potatoes have begun to look a bit crispy.

Dressing: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard and Chardonnay vinegar. Slowly pour in olive oil, whisking until emulsified. (Creamy and satiny) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add cooked haricots verts/green beans to dressing and mix lightly. Pour beans onto large platter and top with tomato/potato mixture. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Here are the animals this weekend-Gabby (aka Gabriella) got groomed (woo hoo) and Russert (neighborhood stray/sometimes ours) hung on the front porch:

Enjoy the whole crew!

Sing a new song–maybe you did Saturday night!
Alyce
Carrot Cake Baby Shower

Carrot Cake Baby Shower

This blog dedicated to our new little friend-to-be, N.R.W.

Baby and bridal showers can be so complicated, intense and have just too much food. There was a time when such events were not much more than cake, punch and mints and nuts on the table. Now, they’ve turned into rich buffets (with rich presents involved) in homes or even more expensive, rich meals at restaurants. Why not go back to the easy style of shower…a few treats, a couple of games to lighten up the day and lots of chatter and laughter? After all, the person giving the event has first got to organize it, cook a bit and definitely dust something or other (a lick and a promise is my idea of cleaning) before the guests arrive.

Spending the day loving the guest of honor and not worrying about the food or the house would be the goal here.

I hosted a baby shower last week for one of my good friends and made it easy, easy, easy. Here’s the menu:

** Sangria (see Chicken Taco Salad blog from last Monday)
** White wine
** Iced Tea/Water
** Spinach Dip and tortilla chips (brought by the grandma-to-be)
** 3 different cheeses (Humboldt Fog, Manchego, and Gouda) with
** 2 kinds of crackers and some thinly-sliced baguette
** Lindt truffles in small bowls around room

 

Dessert: Carrot Cake
Coffee
Of course, there’s a story for the carrot cake.
I once worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. I held several different jobs (mostly library ones), but finally moved out to Woodlawn Plantation in Mt. Vernon, Virginia. Woodlawn is a beautiful house, built by George Washington for his foster daughter, Nelly Custis Lewis. Originally part of the Mt. Vernon estate, it is just down the road from that lovely house and just north of Ft. Belvoir.
We had a great group of people working there, all of whom I loved dearly; I was quite attached to them. Lots of healing went on there after a few traumatic years of my life. Among the great work force was housekeeper Grace Herson. A nearly-elderly woman then, the mansion was a big place with which to keep up and she cooked for us, too! When there was a fine occasion or some vip was coming, Grace would make her carrot cake. We all adored it.
 
I left Woodlawn in 1985 after my husband went to Officer’s Training School and we were then transfered to Spokane, Washington. When it was time for me to go, the people I worked with wrote a cookbook for me, putting down on paper in one book all of their favorite recipes that we had eaten together over the years. Grace included a few, but the carrot cake was the one I’ve treasured over the years. Here’s Grace’s version that has become mine over the intervening years… and never fails to make a big hit, especially among carrot cake lovers. I doubled it for the shower and baked it in a 1/2 sheet cake pan.
 Grace’s Carrot Cake
makes 1 9×13 cake; serves 12
2 cups whole wheat
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 c vegetable oil (I use Canola now)
3 cups grated carrots (blotted dry w/ towel if you use food processor)
1 cup chopped nuts
Icing: 1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, 4 T softened butter, 3 1/2 c powdered sugar, 2 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  (If you make cupcakes, use 350 F.)

Cake: mix dry ingredients together and add eggs, oil and mix well. Add carrots and nuts. Turn into greased 9x13x2″ pan and bake 45-55 minutes until a toothpick stuck in middle comes out clean. Cool well in pan and ice. Refrigerate if not eating that day. Cake freezes very well for up to one month.

 

Icing: Beat cream cheese and butter together very well for 2 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar (or you’ll have a big mess).
Beat in vanilla and whip icing until very smooth.
.
Sing a new song, and great thanks to the mother-to-be………someone very special, who’s been a pewmate in a new church for the last several months (what a difference that’s made) and is also the daughter of one of my very closest friends,
Alyce
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My cookies: I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t make these cookies, but it has, perhaps, been only 25 years. I don’t know where the recipe came from, but it may have been from an oatmeal box. I keep looking at new oatmeal boxes, though, and, as things like that go, it’s not there… so I’m not sure. Over the years, of course, the recipe has developed; it can be modified to fit your favorite ingredients, as well.

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Chicken Taco Salad Bar Party for 25

Chicken Taco Salad Bar Party for 25

Why do we shy away from inviting a group-any size, really- of people to eat at our table (or sit on the floor) and warm their hearts with us? What stops us? Larger parties just put people to shaking their heads and sort of pulling their lower lips to one side, gritting teeth, thinking about the need to paint the house, clean the carpet, re-do the bathroom, install new lighting fixtures, buy all new dishes, pots and pans and wine glasses, and, as my husband says, “alphabetize the spices.” In other words, we want to do everything that ever needed to be done (preferably in one week/day? or less) in the last five years. (Above and below photos-favorite family/friends come visit for the chicken salad taco party in honor our our daughter’s college graduation.)
Once, many years ago now, we were having our good friends, Susan and Charles (with kids) over for a Christmas night buffet. Early that afternoon, my lovely guy decided it was time to pull apart the kitchen chairs and re-glue them. Oh, boy. (I did stop him.)

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