It’s Spring and a Girl’s Thoughts turn to…. Lamb and Lilacs

   A couple of weeks’ spate of travel, moving trucks, and unpacking have denied me blogging time, but I’m back.  As I write, the books are still stacked, the dishes are in disarray, the painters are scraping merrily and loudly, and the most recent house guests just took off for the interstate.  The crazy life has left us reaching into our back pockets for meals we can fix blindfolded, and here’s an easy, elegant supper for a cool spring evening…

Grilled Lamb Chops and Roasted Carrots, Potatoes and Red Onions serves 4

12 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-2″ pieces on a decided angle
12 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half or quarters
2 large red onions, cut into eights (trim so blossom end is barely cut off- so onion pieces hold together)
4T fresh rosemary, minced
1t kosher salt; 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil (Plain old oil is fine–needn’t be extra virgin.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place vegetables on a large, rimmed baking sheet.  Toss with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender and crispy at edges.

8 lamb chops ( I like loin chops, but shoulder chops would do!),
3T olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat grill pan over high heat.  Meantime, brush lamb with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place lamb chops on hot grill and cook 2-4 minutes each side, depending on how done you like your lamb.  2 minutes will be rare, 3 medium, etc.  You can also choose to grill for 1 minute and finish cooking the chops in the oven.  Whichever way you choose, you might want to test the temperature of the chops.  Not everyone will agree, but I think 130 degrees F is about medium…still pink, but not rare and not done.  Try 120 for rare and 140 for medium-well done.  Let meat rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

 Need something green?    Asparagus, of course.  Grill or steam–your choice.  It’s that time of year.

Taken last May at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

 Wine:    We drank an Aussie Shiraz with this meal.  Forefathers makes their McLaren Vale Shiraz moving toward spicy, but not terribly peppery.  Ours was an 05 and ready to go.
Dessert:  I hate to admit I made apple-raisin bread pudding, topped with a baby-sized slug of Asbach-Uralt (German brandy…Weinbrand, actually.) and a spoonful of ice cream.  What else do you do with old baguette?

 Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the New ‘Hood
  Our 100-year old lilac trees are about to burst the bounds of beauty..two more days til full-bloom.

You always knew I was a Bleeding Heart, right?


Just back from walk to the Mississippi River and back.

White Bleeding Hearts

Driveway tulips.

West side tulips and strawberries just beginning to bloom

Going outdoors–my favorite distraction.

Before clearing room for piano

How to put rugs down when the dirty floor is covered with boxes?


Who bought all those serving pieces and quiche dishes anyway?

The cookbooks start to go up.

From naturalized front yard

Unpacked books from boxes making way for piano

More cookbooks up

Piano window area cleared for piano delivery

Now you don’t see it, now you do.

The new big mess.

Office furniture delivered and installed…unpacking now

Our hundred-year old lilac trees beginning to bloom.  May 18, 2011.

Joyce Smith visits from Sandpoint

Almost bloomed tiny lilacs on trees.
All the way from Colorado Springs to The Groveland Tap…Sara loved it.

Mother’s Day Weekend in Princeton–Wine-Tasting Luncheon

Sing a new song,

"Egg Salad" or Ah Gotta Code in mah Noz and TIME

Egg Salad #2

 Living in a new place can do a lot of things to you.  You might retreat into comfortable behaviors and forms of communication. You might call your old friends every day. (Or you might want to.) You might surround  yourself with things that you know.  You might cook meals that are soft and warm.  Or not.  You might just take this opportunity to start anew.  I’ve done it all a bit.  For one, I’ve made chicken and noodles or chicken noodle soup three times in the last week, attempting to get a perfect recipe for a one hour meal.  I posted the first attempt here, but I continue.  The most recent (with boneless, skinless chicken thighs) is on examiner, for which I just included a link.   I’ve also made new and perfectly crisp AND soft  salads, replete with poached eggs.  Textures, textures.

Egg Salad #1–in examiner article

Newest attempt….Truly done in under an hour.  Way under if you use the food processor.

Being in St. Paul is a joyous venture and adventure.   Every day is something new, but that might be because it’s spring.  The icebergs have almost melted unless you live on the south side of the street!  The yard is waking up day by day.  Nothing’s in bloom (crocus blooms at the neighbors), but the bulbs are peeking their little heads up.

I couldn’t wait and bought these at the market.

 The birds, as I told our realtor, are nuts.   The previous owners fed them, and I’m continuing the insane practice.  Soon I know I’ll have thousands of little Jack Sparrows, Woody Woodpeckers, and “My Little Chickadees” flying around my kitchen windows.  I know this because I see the little biddies chomping around with bits of twigs and grass in their mouths.  I know what’s happening out there.  I have two jays who pop in, grab peanuts and depart making noises a little like Groucho Marx.  They are not sociable like the sparrows, who argue and kibitz at the trough all day long like old men in the coffee shop.  Not flighty like the chickadees who are easily scared off. (Boo!)  Not jealous like the male cardinal, who, until yesterday, wouldn’t share the feeder with anyone–not even his wife.  Yesterday, I did see him sharing and wanted to give him a little “high five.”

Jack Sparrow and friends in the side yard if you look carefully.
Girl cardinal mixing it up with the sparrows.

  I have very little around me that belongs to me.  I feel light.   While I have a decent percentage of my kitchen in  place (but not appliances I’m used to), I don’t have furniture that has my butt imprinted on it.  I have few clothes, which means laundry is simple.  There’s no piano here; no practicing.  My time is definitely my own; I have no job except for writing cooking articles for in St. Paul.  The rooms of the house are pretty empty; I sweep them with a broom.  Wipe up the bathrooms and kitchen and I’m done with housework.  Hm.  

I didn’t bring one of these.

 In other words, I have time for dog walks. I often read a blog called, “Don’t Eat Alone” (you can find it on my blog roll to the right) by a guy named Milton Brasher-Cunningham in Durham, North Carolina.  There’s a great post this week about walking. I think it was Barbara Brown Taylor who called it, “the spiritual exercise of putting one foot in front of the other.”

“Come on, Mom.”

   Time to listen to Minnesota Public Radio ad infinitum, where I hear things I’ve never had time to hear before. (Chanticleer singing Ralph Vaughn Williams’ version of “Loch Lomond” for one.)  I hike on down the grocery (ok, it’s a block and a half) if I need an onion or a piece of meat.  (They have a great butcher counter and lovely butcher named Daniel.)  If I’m feeling flush, I mosey on over to Whole Foods (four blocks) or Coastal Seafood (four blocks) for fish or organic blueberries.  Time.

I’m told “Goof Off” gets paint off wood.  Right.

 I’m painting my office.  Slowly.   It’s Pepto Bismol pink and it’s on its way to becoming a whiter shade of pale.  I think it’s called “moss” and, really, it’s kind of a dusty teal.  In my next life, I’d like to be the person who plays timpani (only in the orchestra, thank you) or writes paint names. Either will do.  If I named this paint, it would be “a greener Robin’s egg blue”, which is why I don’t write paint names.

A local office designer is working on the furniture for my office and he sent me a chart of colors from which to choose the colors of my cabinets.  There are 25 colors, clearly visible, but the names are not legible over the computer.  I was so down.  I don’t know if I got Brackish Water or Dusty Sunset. 

Painting in an old house (ours is nearly 100 years old) is a physical and spiritual experience.  It’s a great way to get to know your house intimately.  Every wave in the wall.  Every slant in the floor.  (My office floor makes me tilt my head.)  Every color that went before.  Well, not every.  In fact, before the Pepto Bismol pink, that room was a LOVELY shade of water-filled, pale green.  I’m getting to know the carpenter who cut the wood for the door and window frames so long ago.  How perfect and meticulous he was (I’m safe in saying a he in 1911 maybe) with the available tools.  Did he know how long his doors would hold up?  Or that I would try so hard to not get paint on the windowsills?

There’s just something incredibly wonderful about being able to paint in the spring with the windows open and the music playing.  Spending the day with your hair in a bandana (shades of 1971), concentrating so hard on getting the green over the pink.  Hearing the street noises and trying to decipher them without looking.  Eating lunch on the the back steps in your sweatpants and the hub’s old black t-shirt full of paint smears.  Scrubbing the brushes at night, hoping they’ll dry by morning.   Living.

I just finished GOAT SONG by Brad Kessler, who has a lot to say about living.  Simply, GOAT SONG is a book about a guy and his wife (not so much about the wife) who leave New York behind and move to Vermont to raise a small herd of goats.  Now while that story sounds likely, simple, bona fide, and typical, it is, however, none of those.  Brad Kessler not only wants a different life, he claims it in a far-reaching, thoughtful and thought-provoking manner.   He’s a fine, fine writer.  He’s an historian and a spiritual guide.  He’s a cook.  He’s a cheese maker.  He looks at one hundred pieces of land before he chooses one.  He buys goats and brings them home in the car.  He falls in love with his goats and, while he teaches us the history of goat herding, we, too, fall in love.   The goats, in turn, fall in love with him.  He travels to France to learn goat cheese-making first hand and gets around to doing something tres, tres beautiful with that milk.  Because Brad only buys girl goats and if they have any boy goats, they get sold.  And that doesn’t begin to tell the story. What I mean is:  I have time to read.

I just started BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER:  The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef by  (Chef) Gabrielle Hamilton–just as good of a read, though light years away from Brad Kessler.  In common, they have a love of the land, our world, and food.  Sick as a dog with a wretched spring cold, I could not put down this book and fell asleep with it in my arms. Time.

If you came here for a recipe, I suppose I’d better give it to you.  This is a light lunch or first course for dinner done in 5-10 minutes.  Sweet and filling.  Crunchy and soft.  Make extra dressing and keep in the frig.  Note:  Dressing keeps longer without the shallots or onions.  And you can skip the dressing totally if you make the egg quite soft (runny) and use that as dressing.

“Egg Salad #2”  serves 2

4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
2 small tomatoes, sliced (Try the Mexican “brown” tomatoes–tasty and cheaper.)
2 carrots, sliced
1/4 c minced parsley
1/2 English cucumber, cut into thin half-moons
1t fresh lemon juice
2 poached eggs (slide raw eggs, each in a cup, into barely simmering water for 3-4 minutes til white is firm)

Dressing:  1 T balsamic vinegar, healthy pinch each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, 1t minced shallot or garlic, optional, 1/2 t honey, 1/4 t dijon-style mustard, 2T extra-virgin olive oil–Whisk salt into vinegar.  Whisk in all else, though drizzle in 1T olive oil at a time, being sure it’s incorporated well before adding the second,)

  1. Divide greens and vegetables between two large shallow bowls.  Drizzle equally with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Top with well-drained egg and drizzle with dressing.
  3. Serve with a piece of hot, buttered whole wheat toast.

 Sing a new song and enjoy spring,

P.S.  I’ve come to realize a lot of my readers are from countries where English is NOT a first language.  I welcome you all, but hope you’re not trying to learn English from my blog!  I speak a little Spanish  (Hola, Que tal?) and less German (Wie gehts?)… and even less French (Mais oui!) Anyway, know that I’m aware and am grateful for your presence. I’d love to hear from any of you.  If you write in your own languages, I can figure out a translation.  But do write me–especially if you try the recipes!  Bon chance, mes amis.

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.