Baking in the Almost-a-Kitchen–So Long, Miss Gab


                In memoriam:  Miss Gab.  July 4, 2008 – September 26, 2014

Our world is made up of many things--special times, prayers, phases, people, schools, skies, places, music, mountains, meals, oceans, books, travels, and, for me, dogs.  If you’ve read this blog long, you’ll know the dogs often figure prominently in the stories and cooking adventures at our house; they always have.

(Below:  May, 2009:  Fiona, our first female golden, with puppy Miss Gab on top of her and then Miss Gab and Tucker with friend Newman)


(Below:  puppy Tucker with Britta, under Miss Gab, and his own grown-up happy self)


And while I don’t often enough chronicle loss and pain here in a what appears to be a cooking blog, I can’t move on, cook, or write without a tribute to our Gab–so long part of the Two-Dog Kitchen.  Maybe I just need to get it down so that I can see it here, maybe make some sense of it.  But there’s no sense to this story.  You’ve guessed this isn’t a happy tale. Continue reading

Trading Granola for Eggs – My Urban Barter Tale

I was on the road a couple of weeks ago and checking my computer when my I-Spy Radar saw an email with a subject line that had something to do with too many fresh eggs and trading cookies for them.  I try and stay off email a lot when I’m away seeing my kids or on vacation, but I couldn’t NOT look at this one.  Backyard eggs just hook me right in.  And, of course, cookies fall right out of my oven.

My siblings and I grew up with fresh eggs; my dad either traded produce for them or shelled out a little cash to his Swedish farmer friend Munson.  When our  parents retired and took it (ha!) easy on a little “hobby” farm,  they had their own chickens and, hence, their own eggs, to say nothing of a garden that produced tomatoes the likes of which I’ve never again tasted.  When Dave and I visited as newlyweds, we had fresh eggs (fried in bacon or sausage grease) every morning early.  Why would you want anything else?  And why not at 6am?  There, of course, were also biscuits.  With sour cream and honey or molasses.  Unending pots of coffee.

To say that  mass-produced eggs pale in comparison is an apt description.  Don’t you love the looks of this egg produced by one of Cathy’s ladies?

(Read my post about this salsa here.)

So, anyway,  I missed great eggs for years.  I really missed them because I just love eggs.  I go through phrases where sure that the SB diet will take off my well-fed excess, I eat them daily.  Then I begin to worry about the cholesterol and switch back to egg whites.  Whichever, I always eat vegetables for breakfast, too.  (Alternately, I’ll eat yogurt and fresh fruit for weeks on end–with my homemade low-fat granola.)  But back to the email:  as soon as I could arrange it,  I was ready to start trading whatever I had for those eggs

In St. Paul, you can now raise chickens in your own back yard.  Right in the city.  Now I don’t have much space, and I’m only fond of eggs, not chickens, so I’m not putting up a coop back there in place of my postage stamp patio.  But I’m happy to oblige my friend Cathy and her family, who are the ones suffering from the overage.  Her “ladies” live in the yard, eat well, exercise daily, and are nearly pets who produce things like this:

 Here’s a closer up pic so maybe you can see the beautiful colors.  The whites are nearly blue:

One week, I traded some oatmeal chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies:

This week I made granola for Dave, so just made a bigger batch and traded that.

It’s lovely with milk, better with plain Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey, and best with homemade ricotta and fresh fruit. Naturally, you can scoop up a little and eat it out of hand.  (I do recommend leaving a scoop or spoon in the jar as you’re keeping this granola awhile.)  Your choice.   Whatever you do, I hope you find someone with whom to trade it so that you can eat eggs like I’m eating!  Thanks, ladies.

alyce’s low-fat granola with apricots, currants, and cherries
based on David Lebovitz’  recipe, which he says was based on Nigella Lawson’s!

  • 5 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 2t ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
  • 1t kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups each: chopped walnuts and almonds
  • 1/2 cup each: pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and plain sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped dried apricots, cherries, and currants or raisins
  • 1/3 cup each: real maple syrup and honey  (can use all honey)
  • 3/4 c applesauce 
  • 2T olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl or soup pot.  (oats through seeds)  Meantime, heat liquid ingredients over low heat, stirring, in a small sauce pan until just warm and well-combined. (syrup, honey, applesauce, and oil).  Pour liquid ingredients over dry and mix well for a few minutes.  Pour onto two or three large, rimmed baking sheets and bake 50-60 minutes until dry, golden, and crispy, stirring 3-4 times during the baking time.  Store in a tightly-sealed container for up to a month.  (This granola will not keep well in a plastic bag.)

Cook’s Notes:

1.  I thought I’d share the differences between my granola and David Lebovitz’–his included 3/4 cup brown sugar (I skipped that) and had no fruit at all (I like fruit).  I also added ground cloves, which are optional.  But I definitely borrowed the idea of applesauce in place of the large amount oil usually used in granola and part of the reason it’s so caloric.  This is very low fat, crispy, tasty, and…  well, you’ll like it.

If you’ve never visited the magical David Lebovitz blog,  please do yourself a favor and make the trip today.  David is an American pastry chef living in Paris who always has a great story to tell—  The food’s lovely, too, but it’s the stories that bring me back again and again.  FYI–David also does things like Paris Chocolate Tours if you ever get to the City of Light.  If you want more info, check the blog or ask David yourself in the comment section of his blog.

2.  Changing it up:  The number of additions (and the size of their amounts), to the oats is rather flexible., as are the spices.   If you only have a few nuts and some raisins, for instance, you can still make this granola.  Or if you have only apricots and almonds…you can still make this granola.  Only have cinnamon?  Use 3 teaspoon cinnamon then.  See?   Do keep the main ingredients and proportions intact:  oats, honey, maple syrup, applesauce, and oil.

two-dog kitchen and a bit of travel

Mother Gabriela

Our lilacs through the piano window.  Two views–above and below.

Above: Tasting Sean’s brews in Colorado.  Our son’s on his way to becoming a master brewer.  Woo hoo!

Above:  In Princeton–a facade saved, ready for its new building to be built behind.  Meantime, you can see the sky!

My Easter cake…will blog soon.  Great for spring!

Dogwood blossom in Princeton

 With Dave and Emily eating lunch in the sunshine in the West Village

                                                  At The Spotted Pig in NYC,  April Bloomfield’s restaurant.
                                                        Couldn’t get in.  🙁

Dappled light –West Village/NYC (above)

Gorgeous window boxes in downtown Princeton (above)

Princeton spring–Dogwoods (above)

“Yes, we did,”  said Gab and Tuck

Sing a new song,

Alyce’s Lamb Shanks on Mashed Ginger Rutabaga and Next Day Lamb Stew

I like a pasta bowl for lamb shanks and sides…sit them up in the rutabagas to show them off.

 If you’re a bit unsure about lamb shanks… what they are or how to cook them, here’s the deal:  they’re pretty much like cooking a tiny pot roast on a big old bone.  Whatever treatment you’ve given beef chuck roast is probably going to work with lamb shanks–which are from way up on the lamb’s leg.  Since the meat is tough, it needs to be braised (cooked in liquid) and the braising liquid of choice is often wine, though it needn’t be.  A stiff stout would work, as would broth, tomatoes, cider and water…whatever floats your shanks.  Add root vegetables and/or onions, celery, garlic, and you’ve an entire meal.   Even just onions and wine with a bit of dried rosemary will give you something well worth eating.  Most recipes call for two lamb shanks per person; there isn’t a lot of meat on one.  I find that given the vegetables and sauce inevitably cooked with them that one is plenty.

I start  lamb shanks on top of the stove and finish them in the oven, cutting off about a 1/2 hour cooking time compared to all oven braising.   They can also be done totally on top of the stove, paring down the cooking time even more to about an hour total. Because I wanted a simple rutabaga mash as a base, I cooked the rutabaga separately stove top just like you would mashed potatoes, except I added fresh ginger and garlic to the cooking water.  You could certainly cook the rutabaga in the pot with the meat for ease of preparation; add them for the oven time only.  Or, if you wanted, you could mix up a bit of couscous (in place of the rutabaga)  while the lamb rests or even make a salad in place of green beans. I added potatoes mostly because I wanted them for the next day stew.  It won’t take much (and actually there are vegetables in the sauce) to finish this meal.  Then, there’s

way fast shanks in the microwave

If you’re interested in under an hour (really),  folks have also been microwaving lamb shanks with great success since 1989 thanks to THE NEW BASICS COOKBOOK (Workman, 1989) written by Silver Palate gurus Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. These shanks are done in 30 minutes.  Just for fun, here’s  the info for microwaving the shanks:  (And by the way, I microwave my chuck roasts for chimichangas.)

In a 2 qt microwave-safe casserole, cook 2T olive oil at full power for 2 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup chopped red bell pepper, 3/4 c chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 sprigs rosemary (1/2 t dried), 1/2 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper, 3/4 cup dry red wine, and 1T tomato paste.  Cook, uncovered, 5 min.  Remove 1/2 of the vegetable mixture and set it aside.   Lightly oil 3 small lamb shanks with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Arrange shanks in a triangle over the vegetables remaining in the casserole.  Cover, and cook for 20 min.  Turn the shanks and cook another 10 min.  Spoon the reserved vegetables over the shanks, cover, and cook 2 minutes.  Remove the casserole from the microwave, and let it stand for 5 minutes before serving.  Serves 2-3.

 Still a great all-purpose cookbook( above recipe courtesy THE NEW BASICS)

If you’d like to try them my way, do what Dave and I did:  put on some great music, pour yourself a glass of wine, and throw this in the oven to braise while you put your feet up and talk through the day.  While you can sure eat lamb shanks alone, they’re worth sharing.  And, wonder of wonders, if you didn’t eat the third lamb shank, you can make a beautiful stew next day…recipe down below.


While the French like Bordeaux with lamb, I am partial to a softer, rounder wine here like Burgundy (Oregon Pinot Noir to be exact; good French Burgundy is out of my price range generally speaking) or a (red) French Côtes du Rhône, which is a Grenache blend.  These wines, for my palate, compliment the softer, sweeter notes in the root vegetables. So, yes, you’ll need two bottles of wine for this meal.  One for you and one for the pot.  (Not a bad deal.)  Ask your wine shop about an inexpensive–under $15– Côtes du Rhône; there are lots of tasty values.  The Oregon Pinot will be pricier for the most part (though there are some $20-$30 bottles), but really worth it for a splurge or birthday.  These wines will be $40-$50 and up and are often cellared for several years before drinking.  So if you head toward the Pinot for you to drink, pick up something less expensive for the pot.  Which ones:  I love most Oregon Pinots, but have soft spots for PriveKen Wright and Sineann,

Try this: 

 alyce’s lamb shanks with mashed ginger rutabaga, new potatoes, and lemon-crumbed green beans               serves 2-3

Raw lamb shank

Let them brown well on each side
  • 3-4 lamb shanks
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (plus extra for vegetables)
  • 4T olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 2 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped
  • 4 large carrots, trimmed
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1 750 ml bottle red wine; I like Cotes du Rhone
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1t Herbes de Provence
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 large rutabaga, trimmed and peeled
  • 6-8 small red potatoes  (No recipe given for steaming potatoes or beans.)
  • 2-3 cups fresh green beans
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1t butter
  • 1/2 t grated lemon rind
  • 2t chopped fresh parsley

  1.  Mix flour with salt and pepper in a shallow, large bowl.  Place one shank at a time in the bowl and, using your hands, cover with the flour-salt-pepper mixture.  Repeat with remaining shanks.
  2. Meantime, heat over medium heat 2T of the olive oil in a heavy, oven-safe pot (you’ll need a lid or heavy-duty aluminum foil; this must be covered).  Place the shanks in the pot and let brown well–10 minutes.  Turn over and brown the other side.  Remove shanks from pan and set aside.
  3. Add remaining 2T olive oil, heat and add vegetables (onions, celery, carrots, garlic), sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and saute briefly–5 minutes or so.  Add herbs–  bay, rosemary,  thyme, the tiny bit of crushed red pepper, and Herbes de Provence.  Pour in wine and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

 4.  Return lamb shanks to the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook on stovetop 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
5.  Place covered pot in oven and bake another hour or so until meat is quite tender…maybe even coming off the bone if you like it like that.  (Meantime, make the rutabaga mash (see below for recipe) new potatoes and green beans–no recipe provided for these.  I do like a bit of bread crumbs with lemon and pepper on my beans.  What I do is throw a piece of great white baguette in the food processor and then toast those crumbs in a bit of butter and grated lemon peel.  When the beans are steamed and salted, and peppered, I top them with the lemon-crumb mixture)

Making a sauce and serving up:

1.  Remove the cooked shanks to a warm dish and cover.  Place back in oven to keep warm while you make the sauce and mash the rutabagas.



Cover and return to oven to keep warm while you make the sauce.

2.  In the pan you should have a 1/2 pot of lovely gravy with soft carrots, onions, and so on.   If you can do it, spoon off a bit of the fat and remove the small sticks leftover from the rosemary and thyme.  Taste and see if it needs seasoning.  If you have an immersion blender, haul out the power tools and blend this sauce a bit—as smooth as you’d like.  If no immersion blender, you can carefully transfer some of the sauce and veggies to a food processor or simply mash away with a potato masher.  Taste again and adjust seasoning if needed.
3.  In a large shallow bowl, place half of the rutabaga mash and carefully sit a lamb shank, bone up, in the mash, so that it stands at attention. Spoon a generous serving of sauce on meat and mash.  Repeat with the remaining serving(s).
4.  Add steamed potatoes and green beans, if serving.  Garnish with chopped parsley.
5.  Serve hot.  Let leftovers cool completely, cover well, and refrigerate 1-2 days until you make stew.

mashed ginger rutabaga   2 servings

Bring a 2-3 qt saucepan 1/2 full of water to a boil.  Add a 1″ piece of fresh ginger and 1 peeled garlic clove, as well as a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Meantime, trim and peel one large rutabaga, which looks like a large turnip…with gnarly roots.  Just for fun, know that Brits call these babies swedes and Scots call them neeps just as they do turnips.  Cut the rutabaga into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the boiling water.  Cook until tender, about 20 minutes, and drain.  Remove garlic and ginger; discard.  Mash rutabaga well with a tablespoon of butter using a potato masher or a mixer.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper; taste and adjust seasoning. (Remember these vegetables will have a hearty sauce on them.)
Cut up the cooked new potatoes for the stew; they go in toward the end or they’ll disintegrate.
leftover lamb stew                    serves 4

  •  2T olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and sliced into  1/4-1/2″ moons
  • 1/2 large turnip, peeled and diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 large mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Leftover lamb braising sauce
  • Leftover new potatoes, cut up
  • Leftover lamb, cut off the bone and chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • Drop or two of hot sauce if needed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. To an 8 qt stock pot, add olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add fennel, turnip, carrots and mushrooms.  Cook for 5-7 minutes until just softening and beginning to brown a bit.  
  2. Pour in broth, water, and braising sauce and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and add potatoes,  and lamb.
  3. Let cook until vegetables are quite tender…20-30 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt, pepper, or hot sauce as needed.
  4. Serve hot garnished with parsley and with some baguette for dunking.

two dog kitchen and what else I’ve been cooking:

   Pan-Roasted Brussel Sprouts and New Potatoes with Parmesan and Onions

I blogged this on my other blog, Dinner Place, The Solo Cook

When do we get to walk?  This computer stuff is getting old, Mom.
Testing a new bread machine.

Leftover grilled chicken with pomegranate seeds, berries and cabbage-spinach salad with sherry vinaigrette
Our Gab

Zabaglione…will make again and blog…

Chickadees, in bitter cold, grab seeds and break them with their beaks while standing on metal feeders.  Brr. You think you have food problems.

Sing a new song, and cook lamb!

The Bible talks a lot about St. Paul, but it never mentions Minneapolis…

Back of house.  Driveway needs a bit of shoveling, huh?

 After a few days driving, living in hotels with two dogs,  (also one man and 55 tote bags they all wanted to get into), we are “at home” in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Home of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Prairie Home Companion.  Home of Macalester College and University of St. Thomas.  Home of the Minnesota State Fair.  Home of Scusi and The Groveland Tap.  Home of Dave, Alyce, Tucker and Gabby.  (We just watched the population sign go up.)

While Tucker loved the hotel, we’re not sure the hotel loved Tucker.   On TV, President Obama addresses the country about the earthquakes and tsunamis, which we heard little about until we stopped for the night.

 Two days of driving from Colorado drove the dogs crazy, but gave me two days alone (nearly) with my husband with them gated in the way back of the car.  Thanks, God.  Lovely weather (cold, but no rain or snow) and mostly clear skies led us most of the way and the first several hours (we went the back way), we saw about two cars.  Overnight in Kansas City and a leisurely breakfast yesterday lent a feeling of almost vacation.  But if it were vacation, my cream soups wouldn’t have been packed.  And packed they were.

Dining Room, Office  and nearly everything else for now.

 Moving is not vacation, despite the necessity for eating out, picnicking on the dining room floor or on the blow-up bed, and generally having no place to hang your hat or sit down as there is no furniture.  Moving means getting in a small room with several other people intent on spending the afternoon signing their names over and over again  with only stale coffee to drink.  Moving is getting on a first name basis with the cable guy.  Moving is driving by, stopping to peek in windows, and trying to remember what color the living room is.  (Who bought this house?)  Moving is walking in only to find no one cleaned the refrigerator or inside the cabinets.  Moving is a big sigh of relief to find that everything else is definitely clean, which would include the bathrooms.  Moving is remembering your niece, nephew and kiddoes live just up the road a piece and are already coming to see you.  It’s finding two comfy folding chairs and a bottle of Glenlivet on the front porch without a note.  It’s seeing your piano teacher appear at the door beautifully coiffed with two huge baskets full of plates, cups, breads, wine, cheese, fruit, roses and A SHARP KNIFE!  (All while she’s on the way out of town.)

Look at it now; the living room will never be that clean again!

While we treated ourselves to a celebratory first night at the Italian restaurant and wine bar across the street and down two buildings, we woke up the next morning needing breakfast.  There is little eggs and bacon can’t solve.  And all you need is one skillet, a spatula, the eggs and bacon.  I toasted the bread in the oven.

This is how my mom cooked eggs in bacon grease.  A real treat these days.  Broke in the stove but good.

And we were home.

We’ve spent the first couple of days cleaning up, unpacking, going to the store three times, figuring out what foods the birds want in their feeders, trying to make the gates work in two feet of snow, getting phones, tv and internet working (and then not working) and walking the dogs in mud and big puddles. Once the temperature rose a little above freezing, the stuff began to melt (I’m wet 8 inches up my jeans, not something common in Colorado.)    I must say I’m really wondering where it’s all going when it melts.  We made it to worship on the first Sunday in Lent and were warmly welcomed back to Mac Plymouth United Church, which is a combined PCUSA and UCC church four blocks from our house.  We joined the Wednesday Lenten soup and study night; this year focuses on a reading of TAKE THIS BREAD by Sara Miles.  I have this book, but it’s packed a thousand miles away.  So I downloaded it to my computer, where I have Kindle.  We’ll have to share my computer, tho. 

Side yard.  Thanks to previous owners, I know exactly what’s planted here.
Here’s Tucker waiting to skid getting a ball.
Here’s Gab in the new Two-Dog Kitchen

Come visit soon.  Well,  maybe you should wait til we get chairs.

You Don’t Need a Cookie App or The Only Fig Newton You’ll Ever Need

 Don’t forget Drop in and Decorate:  Monday, December 20, 4-8pm……….………

Watch this space…throughout the season for the recipes for these cookies.

  Are you really carrying your smart phone to the store and searching your cookie app for ingredients?  I’d like to know.  Are you deciding which cookies you’ll make based on which cookies are on your app?  Or is this just a cool thing to look at on subway or while you’re waiting for the dentist?

I mean, it sounds kinda fun.  Maybe.  Squinting at a screen while in the grocery…trying to remember what you already have at home…bringing the recipe up over and over as you move from aisle to aisle or while you argue with your toddler or husband.   How about stopping in the midst of the Christmas grocery crowd and actually writing a list down?  How’s that goin’?  Is a smart phone dictating your Christmas cookie list?  Now, now, now.  I have to know.

New recipe;  Oatmeal cherry chocolate almond….Coming soon!

Maybe it’s like watching Food Network.  Of course, I watch Food Network.  Where would I be without Ina?  How would I make (ok, Dave make) Christmas dinner without Tyler?  And how fun has it been to leave the tv on in the sunroom while I cook during the day.  I can’t see it, but I can hear the pitter-patter of Jadey’s little feet or the whirr of Ina’s electric juicer.  I can get the hell out of dodge whenever the Neely’s show comes on.  Or, as one person wrote, “I have an incredible urge to smoke a cigarette whenever Neely’s comes on.”  Yes.  Me, too.  And I don’t smoke anymore.  (6 1/2 years now)

But if you keep your eyes on this blog (I’d like that!), I’ll give you the recipes for the cookies on the tray at the top of the post.  One or two at a time.. or what I have time for.  We’ll start with

The Only Fig Newton You’ll Ever Need

The Only Fig Newton You’ll Ever Need or How Alyce Conquered The Fig Bar
makes one 9×12 pan of cookies


 2 c dried figs, stems snipped, chopped (I do it in the food processor w/ a little flour)
1 1/2 c brown sugar, divided
1 c water

2t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract

1 c unbleached flour
2 c oatmeal, uncooked
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

  • In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil figs, 1/2 c of the brown sugar, and the water.  Reduce heat and simmer about five minutes.  Remove from heat and cool a little while.  Add vanilla and almond extracts.
  • Combine flour, oatmeal, remaining 1 c brown sugar, the baking soda and salt, stirring and tossing them together.  Add melted butter and mix thoroughly.  
  • Press half the mixture into the bottom of the 9×13 pan.  Spread with the cooled fig filling.
  • Sprinkle filling evenly with rest of oatmeal mixture.  Press it gently into the figs.
  • Bake about 30 minutes or until gently golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a  rack.  Cut into squares the size you like.
  • Store at room temperature 2 days or in refrigerator 1 week.   Can freeze for up to 2 weeks. 
These started out as Fanny Farmer date bars…nice morph, huh?

Sing a new song; bake a new cookie;
Come listen to “my” choir sing their Christmas cantata this Sunday at 10.  In fact, if you read well, come to dress rehearsal on Saturday at 1pm and sing along.  Blessings if you’re moving through Advent right now..walking down the path, following the light, squinting into the distance…


Two-Dog Kitchen Returns:  (Skippy Jon Jones, grown up, reappears this weekend for a month.)

Resting while mom bakes!   Tucker (left),  Gabby (right)

Peaches, cream, and more

If its August.  If it’s Colorado.  I’m eating peaches.  Any day. Every day.  For at least two weeks.  By themselves.  On Greek Yogurt with Colorado honey and slivered toasted almonds.  Or granola.   On top of vanilla frozen yogurt.  In a salsa on pork chops.  Etcetera.

Here are a few of the yummy things I’ve done.  Of course the best?  Above.

Grilled peaches:

Preheat clean grill to medium-high heat.  Cut peaches in half and remove pits.  Brush each half with a little bit of canola oil and place cut-side down on grill.  Let cook about 3 or 4 minutes and turn over when grill marks are well-established, but not blackened.  Cook another 2 or 3 minutes until tops of cut-side are somewhat visibly drying.  Remove and cool briefly.  Enjoy as is or try another good idea…

Grilled Peaches with Goat’s Cheese, Honey and Thyme
God had to have been in on this creation.  Of course.  Here’s how:
Grill peaches as above.  Top each with 1-2 T plain goat’s cheese (softened a bit).  Drizzle with your favorite honey and sprinkle with a few leaves of fresh thyme.   (recipe copyright Alyce Morgan, 2010)
Grilled Peach Salsa
Lovely on BBQ Pork Chops (Really),
Shrimp Tacos
Grilled Fish
Tortilla Chips?  Of course.  Here’s how:

2-6 t very finely minced jalapeno (to your taste–start with 2t and more if you’d like)
1/3 c finely minced onion
2 large peaches (Colorado preferred), cut in half and grilled*, peeled after grilling, and chopped into 1/2″  pieces
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 ea medium red sweet pepper and green sweet pepper, diced
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Dash of kosher salt and a couple of grates of fresh ground pepper

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients gently but thoroughly. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. (Add more jalapeno, etc) Serve on with grilled pork chops, shrimp or salmon or on seafood or fish tacos. (recipe copyright Alyce Morgan 2010)

Wine? If you make the bbq pork chops or salmon, try a little inexpensive Beaujolais. Other reds or bigger wines, will overwhelm this meal. It’s summer and something lighter and refreshing will turn on these peaches. If you make the shrimp or fish tacos, a cold Spanish Albarino (lovely white) or even an Oregon Pinot Gris could do the trick.

(If you’d like to make the green bean salad, here’s the blogpost for it, though I dressed it differently here.  Rather than a mustard vinaigrette, I mixed a bit of top-quality light Ranch with some roasted salsa for a dressing.)

Lovely frozen yogurt from David Levovitz’ book THE PERFECT SCOOP. (Click for the recipe.)  Of course, we then had it like this:

                 Vanilla Yogurt with Sliced Colorado Peaches
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

Our tomatoes are ripe.  Salads are every day now.

Skippy Jon Jones and Tucker saying, “Hi!”

Emily’s home for a week or so.  Here she helps beat melted chocolate, a little cream, and sugar for a frozen chocolate yogurt testing that looked like this when done:

I’m still working on this…want to try it with toasted almonds, etc.  I’ll admit it was tres tres tres like it was… made with Valhrona Chocolate.  Definitely.  Oh my.  Ask for it if you’re coming to dinner.

Speaking of coming to dinner:  I have one space left in Cooking with Music for September 18 at 12:30.  It’s an Italian class with pizza appetizer, two main-course soups, and an apple crostada (free form apple pie) for $50.  Includes dinner (you also get to invite a friend) and wine.  Email me if you’re interested.

Right now, the sun is shining so brightly.  But on the windows I hear the tip, tap, tip of rain.  Opening the shades (closed to keep the sunroom cooler), I see it’s definitely raining.   Sun, Rain=Rainbow!  I’ll be watching out east for it.

It’s time for a little music, a candle or two, cell phones on off, and watches stored.  Friday.  A bit of dinner together.  Breathing how blessed I feel to have almost my whole family in my house.

Sole on Leeks with Salad

For six or seven months, I’ve been loving fish cooked in vegetables or with vegetables or as a part of a salad.  Maybe longer.  Just think of it.  Simple white (any color, really)  fish that absorbs the flavor of vegetables, is a complete dish (or almost) when it comes out of the pan,  and lets you eat your carbs at the other meals.  Or not.  To say nothing of getting your however many servings of vegetables.  Right there.  Right then.

I’ve done fish “tacos” this way,  fish salads with proscuitto, snapper in tomatoes, onions and olives, etc.  I even put sole in a spicy broth and felt naughty.  After all, sole is supposed to be…

Well, what is sole supposed to be?  I always think of meuniere when I think of sole.  And I make that fairly often.  Especially for just me.  What’s easier?  While I link to Ina’s recipe for it, really you can make it without a recipe, I’d think.   Very lightly  flour, salt and pepper up your sole, saute it in butter for a couple of minutes,  take it out of the pan onto a heated plate.  Add another tablespoon of butter into the pan, melt, and squeeze in a lemon.  Pour that over the fish on the plate and scatter some chopped parsley on top.  I like another dusting of salt and pepper.  If you have some greens on your plate, the sole and lemon butter will create your dressing.  Et voila, dinner is served in… how many minutes?  And how much sole do you need?  How hungry are you?  1/4 of a pound is ample.  If you buy a half pound, cook it all and eat the rest cold the next day with some green beans or tomatoes.

This sole, however, was a dream before I cooked it.  Fish cooked on leeks and just a smidge of garlic.  Nestled in some greens and a little tomato and yellow pepper for color.  No dressing that’s made ahead  per se, but a dressing is definitely made, once again, by lemon and olive oil.  Quick and healthy and lovely for a hot night.  Add a little Sauvignon Blanc, maybe a bite of bread and butter or cheese,  and there you are!

Sole on Leeks with Salad  serves 2

1t butter
2T olive oil, divided
6 leeks, whites and light green only, trimmed, washed very well, and sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, minced finely
1/4 c fresh parsley, divided
2T fresh chives, chopped, divided
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 # sliced fresh Dover sole
1 lemon, halved
1/4 c white wine or chicken stock
3c salad greens
1 tomato, chopped finely
1/4 yellow sweet pepper, chopped medium

In a large skillet, heat butter and 1T of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add leeks and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often.  Add garlic, 2T of the parsley and 1T of the chives.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Cook another minute or so until vegetables are very wilted and beginning to brown.

Add sole in a single layer over the leek mixture.  Add a little more parsley and chives, along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Add wine carefully.  Squeeze lemon over all and cover.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until fish is opaque, but still quite tender. 
 Meantime, on a large platter, scatter salad greens and top with chopped tomatoes and peppers.  Season with salt and pepper.  When fish is done, slowly, using a large flat spatula, remove vegetables and fish onto or in the middle of the greens.  Season with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, drizzled over the fish and salad.  Squeeze the other lemon half over the entire platter.  Finally, dust with a last pouf of fresh ground pepper.
Serve with a little seeded bread and salted butter, as well as a few slices of cheese.  A light white wine, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, would be the perfect accompaniment.  But I said that already.
Bon appetit!
Note:  the herbs are all from my garden…  Quite fun to wander around outside, hoping nothing burning on the stove, while I decide which herbs go in which part of what dish.  Some things I just love about summer.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
Thursday night dinner guests:  Froncie, Julie and Teresa for Grilled Chicken Caprese (another post.)
Froncie is an old college friend; Julie and Teresa are her sisters.  Wow.  What an evening outdoors.
How cool to see an old friend….
We babysit Moss.
He likes it.
Sunbird for brunch.
Someone else cooked!
Why I have goldens.
Summer in the front garden.
Russian sage…bees love it…
Still waiting…
What’s on my counter and in the frig?
Sweet potatoes for a frittata
Fresh mint in a small watering can–for tea
Big gladiolas
New potatoes
Sea salt
new Le Creuset pan; Dave burned up my old 3 qt one:):(
Big hunk of Gouda
Goat’s Cheese
Lemons and Limes
Side of salmon (friends for dinner)
Chuck steak (testing chili for Cooks’ Illustrated)
Oregon chardonnay
Blueberries (making blueberry frozen yogurt)
3 qts of iced tea
Sing a new song; cook some fish,

Asparagus Soup or There’s a New Kid on the Block

I never tire of the SILVER PALATE cookbook.  In fact, I recently saw a perfect hardback copy  at  a used    bookstore and snatched it up to put away for when my paperback copy -almost 30 years old-dies.  Or for when one of my children or good friends loves something I’ve made and I want to hand them their own copy.  My bent-paged, tattered covered, stained, smeared, and spilled-upon copy is one of the loves on my cookbook shelf.  Within are notes, memories of special times,  thoughts, re-writes (heavier salt back then and more ingredients available now), dreams, and just plain stuff that is still fun to look at and/or cook.  Written back when women were just seriously beginning to need a reason to not cook (actually that’s when the shop hit it big in NY), it hit the market with a big keBANG and, I think, opened up a whole world to a whole lotta people.  Funny, huh?

Think of it.  My cookbookshelf before 1980.  Julia.  James. Betty Crocker.  Joy.  Galloping Gourmet.  I think there were Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping books my mom threw in when I got married.  I had a recipe box with 4×6 cards and I was a lot better off than many friends who had 3×5 cards.  GOURMET.  BON APPETIT.  I had those.  When I could afford them.

People cooked from newspapers and church cookbooks.  A lot.  More often, people cooked from scraps of paper quickly scribbled while you visited someone else and wanted a copy of a recipe they had made.  Or, as with my Aunt Marie (Dad’s sister), you sat and wrote recipes while she talked.  That’s how I got my grandma’s pound cake recipe.  I never met my grandma; she died about 1938.  Thank God for my Aunt Marie’s memory.   Thank God for my mom’s memory because the imprints in my mind of watching her cook were of the times she cooked out of her head.   Were there copy machines?  Sure, but only in offices or libraries.  And, if you did copy something onto that filmed sort of paper, what did you do with that piece of paper?  If you were a very organized person or a secretary by profession, you might have punched them and put them in a 3-ring binder with your other typed recipes.  Big if.  I met one person like that in my life.  And I cooked.  People didn’t really have typewriters until (or if)  they went to college, and those were wretched machines.  If you wanted to type seriously you used the IBM at work after hours.  If, by chance, you worked.

I thought I had truly made it to heaven food-wise when I made Sheila Lukins’ Cream of Asparagus Soup out of SILVER PALATE.  One of the first times, it was the day before my daughter Sarah’s baptism (86) and I was cooking for a big celebration.  My sister Helen, who flew in for the occasion,  was serving as both sous chef and dish washer.  Not for the first or last time.  It wasn’t just a celebration of Sarah and her blessed baptism in Spokane, Washington, but it was also a celebration at having another live child.  In 1978, God was good indeed and we had our first lovely boy, Sean.    In 1979, I had had a miscarriage.  In 1982, our daughter Elizabeth died—–SIDS–on July 20.  In March of 1984, our son Ryan was stillborn. 9 pounds 2 ounces.  Sarah, an adopted child, was one who might escape our run of horrific luck and live.  Our families came.  We cooked.  We laughed.   We bought a beautiful white dress and shoes.  We celebrated.  We went to church and laughed.  Came home and ate.  And what we ate was from the SILVER PALATE COOKBOOK!  Cream of Asparagus Soup.  Chicken Marabella.  Things that later became very famous, indeed.

And Sarah lived.

Over the interim years, I’ve made that soup many times in many variations.  I’ve switched the veg to broccoli and added parmesan.  I’ve made it cold and I’ve made it hot.  It’s been in paper bowls and china bowls.  It’s been a starter and it’s been a main course.  It’s been cooked for invalids and small children who don’t like vegetables, but who will eat this soup.   This year, it’s in sweet, tiny cream soup bowls Dave bought me for our 36th wedding anniversary last week; he had to buy them used.  (Below @  Margarita at Pine Creek dinner to celebrate!)

 I’m not sure many china manufacturers make them any more.  A gift for someone who loves to make first course soups, something that most people gave up doing before they were born.  But I like a soup to start.  I like the feeling of seeing that little bowl on the table and thinking, “Something besides salad!”  Or, “How warm!”  Or, “How fun!”  Or, “What will it be??”  It’s a smooth and easy start for a meal and can be just as veggie as salad.  People feel very special when you make them a first course soup.

Our friends Susan and Charles came to dinner last weekend; I made nicoise.  (Above at their son’s wedding-Charles is hidden)

Dave grilled tuna for it.  I love nicoise.  So does my sister.  So does Sue.  So does Dave.  I like it with salmon and asparagus, too.  But I like to best with ahi.  I’m so spoiled.  I eat it just as easily with canned tuna, which I did in France with my sister.  For a first course.   Before a huge plate of roasted chicken.  With sweet, ceramic, cold pitchers of white wine.  Ah, France.
But, what for a first course?  I kept having asparagus soup running through my head.  For whatever reason, I wasn’t thinking SILVER PALATE.  I’ve made this so many times that I had to be in the middle of making it, thinking of where it came from, to remember to grab SILVER PALATE and look to see if there really was a recipe for this soup!  It had become my own.  I barely thought about its provenance.  But the more I cooked, the more I remembered… and pretty soon the book was on the counter and I was back all those years cooking for Sarah.  Cooking for Elizabeth, for whom I never cooked (though I cooked, ate, and nursed her), the anniversary of whose death is today.  Cooking for my family; being grateful for not only Sarah’s baptism, but for my own.  Thanks to Tom Trinidad, I now know that.
And, of course, the soup isn’t the same soup as in 1986.   I have more experience in the kitchen, more experience with soup (one of my favorite things to cook), and more experience dealing with the grief of loss and the joy of addition.  By now, I grow lots more herbs and use them differently, though I certainly grew herbs in the 70’s and 80’s when I couldn’t get them in stores like now.  (If you want to pay 4 bucks.) 
 I know now how to get canned broth to taste better; I’ve always made homemade broth, but don’t feel too bad anymore if I don’t.  I now know what a few drops of Tabasco can accomplish and that there is no substitute for onions, carrots and celery.  I know now you needn’t add a ton of whole cream, but can throw on a “T”-tiny (as Susan says) spoonful of sour cream and a few chopped herbs and locate a whole nother planet in that bowl. 
Thanks, God, for the new kid on the block.  For what it taught me about making soup.  For the memory that impressed itself over and over as I recreated this food for more people I love. 
Alyce’s Asparagus Soup
via SILVER PALATE and a few years
1 1/2 medium onions, chopped coarsely
1 shallot, ditto
2T butter or olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
6T fresh tarragon (or 2t dry), divided
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
2# asparagus, chopped, woody ends in garbage
1 1/2-2 quarts chicken broth, unsalted
6 baby carrots or 3 regular carrots
1 stalk celery with leaves
4-6 drops Tabasco
1/4 c low-fat sour cream
Lemon rind
In a 4 or 6qt stockpot, heat butter or oil over medium-low, and add chopped onions and shallot. Saute about 10 minutes and then add garlic.  Cook another 5 minute or until veg are very soft.  Add salt, pepper, tarragon, parsley, and asparagus and let flavors marry by cooking a minute or two or three, stirring and smelling as you go.  Oh, tarragon.
  Pour in 1 1/2 qts chicken stock and add the carrots and celery.  Drop in the Tabasco. Carefully.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 40 minutes or so until all the veg are  very tender indeed.  As it cooks, add more broth if it seems too thick.   Taste and adjust seasonings. 
 Carefully puree in batches in blender (hold down top with a big towel) or in the food processor. 
Remove to pan and serve hot or let cool and chill to serve cold.  Top with a spoonful of sour cream and a sprinkle (not too much) of tarragon and a grate or two of fresh lemon rind.
It’s happy.
It’s sad.
Thank God for asparagus soup.
Sing a new song,
Two-Dog Kitchen and New from around the ‘Hood
Including a “New Kid on the Block” in 2010
Emily-home overnight!
Skippito joins the fray.  He belongs to Mary Pat, but will be our cat when she travels.  I guess he’s our 1/3 cat.
Outside with next-door neighbor and herder, Moss.
Moss loves to try and herd cats.
He doesn’t know you can’t.
Trying.  Never giving up.  It’s a good thing.