In My Kitchen – November 2014…The best way to choose paint colors

In My kitchen this month is decision central…

In my last post I mentioned that we were getting ready to paint most of the rooms in the house, starting with the kitchen.  I mentioned that we must have just about every paint chip available from all of the major paint companies.  Did you thinking I was exaggerating?IMG_1607

I think the problem is having too many choices and of course there really isn’t a huge difference between say Mystic Cream and Artist’s Canvas.  As for the names of these paints…what are they smoking to come up with names like First Love, Meditation, Woodstock Tan, and Stone Harbor?  I like names that at least have something to do with color – tell me what color do you imagine when you think Meditation?  I also feel like I’m color blind when I talk to the paint experts at the hardware store:

Diane:  “I have a light beige and persimmon duvet cover that I’d like to coordinate with, what do you think of this linen color?”
Paint Expert:  “Well, I suppose you could go with that but aren’t you afraid of the green undertones in that?”
Diane (to herself):  Green undertones?  I see light beige…
Diane (to Paint Expert):  “Oh, of course, I see what you mean, how about Lonesome Dove”
Paint Expert:  “Weellll, I could see it but do you really want to bring the hint of gray in there?”

In any case, I’ve come up with a pretty good way to pick the color for the back hallway and the kitchen.  I wait for a rainy, muddy day and let the dog out.  Once Lola does the test color with her tail I go find the color card that’s the closest to our mud.  Now if you have dogs, you’ll need to do your own test since I’ve noticed that mud varies region by region so I won’t give you any particular recommendation but ours looks like this:

As always, thanks to Celia for hosting the In My Kitchen feature.  Please stop by to say hi to her and if you don’t already, think about joining in next month – there should be plenty going on in everyone’s kitchens during December.

 

Rosemary Braised Short Ribs and Retirement

It seems like a very long time ago I mentioned that I’d be posting my version of braised short ribs based on a meal my daughter and I had in New York City.  I’ve been tweaking the recipe a few times to get it pretty close to that great meal but we’ve had a few things going on here that just keep getting in the way of actually writing a post.

You might recall that my husband retired.  If you ask him how retirement’s going, he’s likely to say “great, getting used to it, but it’s great”.  Out of his hearing though, my friends ask me “So, how is it having John home all the time now?”.  My response is usually something like… “Well we haven’t killed each other yet although he almost got smacked upside the head with the cast iron skillet when he thought it was a good idea to rearrange the kitchen”.  Don’t get me wrong – retirement’s great…I’ve loved every minute of MY retirement and after 36 years of marriage we still love each other and it’s nice to finally be able to just go and do whatever we want, when we want to do it.  But, it’s an adjustment and just like recipes, you need to tweak things a little until you get them just right.

It’s not that we don’t have plenty of room in the house.  We’ve got more than enough room for just two people but the problem seems to be that even with all that room, we both end up being in exactly the same place at the same time – namely in front of the ONE computer.  Which is why I’ve had a hard time getting a blog posted since I write in spurts.  I’ll do a paragraph, get up to maybe get a load of laundry going, grab a cup of coffee, and sit back down at the computer – except there’s now someone else’s butt in the chair.  I may have posted a while ago what I think of the new Windows (##@#!!!##).  One of the  ‘features’ is that if someone else logs on, you have to go back through your logon security screen to get to where you were.  You might not think it’s that big a deal but if you end up doing that every 20 minutes or so, it does get annoying.  That problem should be resolved soon since I just bought a new Mac laptop.  Just hang in there though while I go through my learning curve of switching from a desktop to a laptop and Windows to Apple (I’m signed up for one of their classes November 10th).

Another interesting thing with having a retired husband home is that he suddenly realizes all of the things that need to be fixed or updated around the house.  You know, the things I’ve been staring at and ‘mentioning’ for 10 years.  My thinking is, that it’s perfect to have someone to help me repaint all of the rooms in the house.  What’s not going so well is color selection. As a result, I think I have the little paint cards for every Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Glidden, and Valspar color ever created.  Every day I drive over to Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Ace Hardware to pick up some more color cards.  I think if I just tape all of the cards on the walls, I’ll have at least one room completely repainted.   Let’s just say that our tastes are so different that we’ll be lucky to get a color selected by next spring – but you can be sure that one of the guest bedrooms will NOT be electric mint green.

Since my husband has seen the error of his ways in rearranging the kitchen and he’s decided that I’ll still be head chef around here, this is my final version of the braised short rib recipe – although please feel free to play with the ingredients, especially the ketchup and mustard, depending on how sweet or tart you like things.

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Rosemary Braised Short Ribs

Prep Beef short ribs:
Sprinkle 4-6 beef short ribs with salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Slow cook seasoned ribs in a crock pot with about 1 cup of red wine  for an afternoon until meat falls off the bone and can be shredded with a fork.  Save liquid from pot for meat sauce.

For the meat sauce:

- Dice 1 medium onion and 3 large cloves of garlic.  Sauté onion in olive oil in large, heavy skillet until  translucent then add minced garlic.
- Stir in about 4 tablespoons of ketchup and 2 tablespoons of mustard of your choice.  I love using the using the Maille brand Old Style whole grain Dijon mustard.
- Skim off the fat from the liquid in the crock pot and add beef/wine liquid to skillet with shredded rib meat.  Stir it all together and let it simmer to the consistency of a pasta sauce.
- Serve on top of your favorite pasta with a nice topping of fresh grated parmesan cheese.

 

 

Gluten Free Chicken Piccata

Time to catch up… We had a great time hosting the engagement party.  We were certainly glad to have rented the canopy because it was cold and rainy although lucky for us, the rain held off until the food was served.  The amazing thing is that we actually were able to stand under the canopy – if it had been up to my husband we would have been standing on top of it.  If you ever need anything assembled, my husband is not the first guy you’d call for help.  After the rental company dropped it off along with 50 tables and chairs, my husband went out to set it up with Tim.  Not that he gives up easily, but seriously…14 minutes after being out there he was back inside fuming, telling me to call the company to send someone out to set it up.  I had to tell him that they don’t do that and sent him back out with the warning that he’d better not come back inside in under an hour.  As it was getting dark I started to worry until I heard our neighbor out there and figured we finally had a fighting chance on getting the canopy up.  Our neighbor is not only a super nice and handy guy but he’d already dealt with the same canopy for a party he’d had a few weeks earlier.  So thank you Jim for getting that canopy up and helping John save face by explaining that the equipment was all rusted and bent.

We had plenty of food some made ahead, some provided by Tim’s mother, and delicious appetizers friends brought.  The only thing that I had to do at the last minute was to make the chicken piccata – why I made so much I’m not sure but by the time I sliced and pounded the chicken breasts, I ended up with about 50 cutlets.  At least I had great help from Tim’s mother and we sort of got a rhythm going with me dusting the cutlets and Kath sautéing like crazy.   I had a number of guests who have severe gluten intolerance and decided to make this a gluten free dish that everyone could enjoy although I was a little leery of how the almond flour would work out.  Frankly, it turned out great and I’d definitely make it again because the almond flour actually seemed to make it a little lighter yet the flavor was marvelous.  I especially liked this recipe because it made plenty of extra gravy and who doesn’t like a little extra gravy on top?

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GLUTEN FREE CHICKEN PICCATA (for less than 50)

4-6           Chicken breasts, pounded to thin slices
1/2 Cup   Almond flour
5 TBL     Olive oil, or enough to coat bottom of pan
1/4 Cup  Lemon juice
1 Cup     Chicken stock – I found gluten free chicken broth made by Swanson
Capers for topping

-  Coat chicken breasts in almond flour then sauté in hot olive oil until lightly browned
-  Remove chicken and keep warm while making sauce:
- Add lemon juice and chicken stock to pan, loosening chicken bits, reducing sauce
- When sauce has thickened, add chicken and capers

And that’s all there is to it…unless you’re doing 50 of them in which case bring a stool over to the stove.

 

 

In My Kitchen – September 2014

In my kitchen is my now retired husband…

IMG_1578Okay, that’s not my husband but a gift to him from someone who’s obviously not worried about John doing his performance review next year.  My husband’s hair is a little sparse and I admire the extent that this fella went to to find the perfect gift.  There’s Chia Pets all over the stores but it’s hard to find a Chia guy and you might not be able to read the fine print, but it is HANDCRAFTED!  Can’t beat that now can you?  Actually, after 20 years as a controller with EMC my husband had quite a round of parties and send offs from people from all over the company (and yes, he did get some extremely generous gifts other than Chia Guy).

John’s been incredibly worried about what he’s going to do in his retirement years but I took care of those worries the first morning of his retirement!  Despite an incredible heat wave here, we needed to get the yard spruced up because this Saturday is the engagement party for my daughter Niki and her fiancé Tim.  So we’ve been scraping and painting the deck, taking out shrubs, digging out stumps, and slinging mulch.  We ended up with a huge brush pile and I was lucky to coerce our backlogged landscaper to at least come with the chipper and get the mountain of debris out of the yard.

Then, the food planning and decorating ideas…

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Rather than take individual photos of what I have (still more to buy), I just took one shot of what I have so far (still plenty more to buy).  I found terrific disposable steam tables (back left) for the hot foods.  They have a metal stand, then you put the foil tray for hot water on the stand with the food trays above (cans of sterno under).  The craft store had some little chalkboard stands to label the food and note everything that’s gluten free for those with sensitivity.   Since the wedding colors will be gray and pink, I found silver plates and utensils.  In the middle are adorable flower shaped cupcake papers for pink M&Ms and I will put the little silver balls in the center since they only had one box of those.  Boy, are M&Ms expensive!  The candy store has these dispensers where you put the plastic bag under, pull the lever…and spill about $40 worth of M&Ms all over the floor!  I went into shock when I weighed and got the price on my bag of M&Ms but decided not to complain since I’d trashed the woman’s store…oh well.

We’ll be using plastic wine glasses and my “pink” champagne glasses arrived yesterday.

IMG_1588What?  They don’t look pink to you?  They don’t look pink to me either and I was about to call the company to complain when I looked at my online order…yes, they certainly were pink in the picture but then after reading the description that says CLEAR champagne glasses, I realized they’d just poured pink bubbly in the glasses for their photo.  Guess I’ll be looking for some pink champagne.

But my absolute favorite item in my kitchen this month came all the way from South Africa!  My dear friend Mandy (do check out what she has in her kitchen this month too) sent me these perfect cake decorations.  I get excited any time I get mail that isn’t a bill or piles of advertisements but I was truly touched that Mandy would go to the trouble to send me this little gift which I will use to top the mini cakes – I’m thinking of a making heart shapes on the cakes.  Thank you again Mandy, you are one of the sweetest most thoughtful bloggers I’ve been lucky to meet via our blogs.

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So wish us well and send us some sunshine.  In the meantime, check out what Celia has in her kitchen this month, as well as the other IMK friends who’ve posted what they have going on.  Thanks as always to Celia for hosting this monthly feature – Celia, you’re the best!

Strawberry Cream Scones (or you could call them biscuits)

Unfortunately, I missed Celia’s International Scone Week last year so when the buckets of rain came pouring down on us yesterday, I figured – hey, this is a scone baking kinda day!  Now I’ve been making these scones for years because around here the only available scones you can buy could be used for hockey pucks or building a brick adobe hut.  Hard as rocks and as tasty as sand.  Almost everyone I’ve served these to have loved them with comments like “these are succulent!”.  I say almost everyone because every time I’ve tried to get my husband to try them, he’s said “maybe later”.  Translated that means “maybe NEVER“.  I’d ask him why and he’d just say “I don’t like scones”.  So when he came home last night and saw the strawberries (his favorite) peeking out of these um, delectable little things and asked me what they were, I told him BISCUITS!  He loves biscuits – had some last night, had some this morning and took one to work.

Now I still haven’t told him that he ate the dreaded scones and I’m not sure that I will but I hope you enjoy them as much as he did.

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Strawberry Cream Scones

2 1/2  Cups flour
2        Teaspoons baking powder
1        Teaspoon baking soda
1/2     Cup granulated sugar
1       Stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (cold, cut in pieces)
1/2    Cup sour cream
1/4    Cup heavy cream
1       Egg
Fruit of your choice – chopped strawberries in this case but blueberries are great

-  In food processor, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar
-  add in pieces of butter until mixture is crumbly
-  Mix in sour cream and egg, then pour in heavy cream and blend until dough becomes very sticky
-  Add berries (and/or nuts) by hand

Lay parchment paper on baking sheets and place blobs of scone mixture, about 6 per pan.  Warning, this is a VERY sticky batter and I find a big stirring spoon & butter knife is helpful to smooth and round each scone.  An alternative is to put the mixture on the parchment paper and spoon it all out as you would a cake mix, then cut the scones into squares after baking.
Preheat oven to 400°  and bake for about 25 minutes until top is golden brown.

If you have a scone recipe to share, you’ve still got time to join in since Celia’s declared this event scone WEEK!  Link to her wonderful post to add your idea.

In My Kitchen – August 2014

August … already the light is subtly changing and the afternoon shadows sneak into the kitchen a little bit earlier each evening.  I haven’t been spending much time in the kitchen cooking but have been taking advantage of our incredible summer days outside cutting brush and digging out stumps in my never ending quest to reclaim our back hill.    Of course New England weather is much like that little girl in Henry Wadsworth Poem – There Was a Little Girl:

“When she was good, she was very, very good
and when she was bad, she was horrid”

Needless to say we’ve had the entire range of hot, humid days where breathing feels like sucking air through a wet towel; chilly, rainy (even tornado warnings) downpours, and then what we always dream of around January – The Perfect Day.

We’ve had enough sun and rain for my blackberry patch – at least enough for us and plenty to share with the birds:

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My daughter and I spent a weekend in New York City on a mission to find the perfect wedding gown for her August, 2015 wedding.  After finding that perfect gown, we celebrated at Nino’s and we each had their special of braised short ribs over pasta.  It was so good that I had to try to re-create it when I got home.  I think I really nailed this one and decided to braise the short ribs in the crock pot until the meat just fell off the bones.  I’ll share the recipe in another post, but in the meantime, have a look at these ribs simmering away in wine with rosemary and oregano:

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In addition to pre-wedding planning, Niki and her fiancé have had an offer accepted on a gorgeous home in Boston.  They won’t be moving for a while but in the meantime I’m trying to sort through the boxes of “stuff” that’s been parked at my house.  In exchange for the use of my space, I’ve pilfered this adorable cupcake tree.  As I said, we’ve had some beautiful weather which is why there are no cupcakes on the stand – but please feel free to send some my way…Mandy?  Butter, Sugar, Flowers?

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Finally, patiently waiting for us to finish singing Happy Birthday is Lola, our 9 year old Bernese Mountain Dog, drooling, waiting for her birthday hotdogs.  I know it’s hard to tell and I didn’t go a great job of making those hot dogs in the shape of a “9″, but she didn’t mind what shape they were in as they disappeared in a matter of seconds – chewing in not something Lola ever learned:

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Thanks for stopping by my kitchen this month and again, thank you to Celia for hosting this monthly peek into everyone’s kitchens.  Please swing by to see what she’s up to at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  Also, be sure to enjoy the list of contributors who share their what’s happening in their kitchens.

 

 

Chicken Marsala – for “one of those days”

Ah, nothing like sitting down in the morning with a cup of French Roast Peet’s coffee, ready to catch up on what your blogging friends are doing when you’re suddenly hit with the smell of burning plastic and smoke billowing out of your laundry room.  Yes, you know you’re going to have a day.  Maybe not the day you’d planned or hoped for, but certainly a day.

I should have known that something wasn’t right when I shifted the water lever on the wall over to turn the water on and it moved a little too easily.  Hmm, it normally gives a little resistance but who am I to complain when it slides over without any effort?  So, load up the washer with a batch of towels and push the start button.  I did wonder if the lever might not have turned the water on so I waited until I heard water going into the washer and went back to my coffee… until the smell hit me, and then the smoke, and a grinding kind of noise… time for action:

#1 – shut the water lever to the off position (notice the panel on the washer shows a code of ‘nF’ (huh?)
#2 – hit the off button on the washer (oh, so you don’t want to shut down?  Fine!)
#3 – pull the plug
#4 – open the window & doors
#5 – consider calling husband to say I just burnt up the washing machine
#6 – reconsider and using bad language, get the owner’s manual out

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to find out what the “secret code” is for this washer.  The display is 2 characters but I didn’t know that the first time I got a code of “DO”.  I stood there waiting for the rest of the secret code to scroll across the screen assuming that it was going to tell me exactly what to “DO”.  As it turned out, I was supposed to realize that it meant Door Open…okay, got it, the door wasn’t fully closed but it took me a while to figure that out.  So although I kind of remember long ago looking in the manual for what the codes meant, and discovering that in the 46 pages (ok only 13 pages in English), I still went back to it to see if the secret codes had magically appeared.

No, they had not.  However, I did find all sorts of extremely useful tips like:

- Install the washer on a floor that can support the weight – I guess you find that out when your new washer lands in the basement.
- Do not allow children to play around or IN (YES IN) the appliance  – kids don’t do well on the spin cycle
- Of course – Do NOT sit on the washer
- Here’s a good one for all of you cooks out there – Do not wash or dry items that are soiled with vegetable or cooking oil.  These items may contain some oil after laundering.  Due to the remaining oil, the fabric may smoke or catch fire by itself.  Don’t say I haven’t warned you if you spontaneously combust!
My favorite though:  Do not add gasoline or explosive substances to the wash water.  I’d like a show of hands please…how many of you out there have added gasoline to your laundry?  If yes, please tell me why.

So forget about that secret code of “nF” – maybe non-functioning although the capital F makes me think of something else.  I ended up telling my husband what he had to come home to and of course got the standard “I’ll take a look at it when I get home” response.  That’s ok, I’m used to it.  He’ll take a look at it and decide that we need to call a plumber.  This is the situation as of now…

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That’s not a pretty picture and I think this one makes me feel much better:

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When your day starts with almost burning the house down, it’s definitely a day that needs a quick and easy dinner.  There is nothing faster, easier, or more tasty than this Chicken Marsala recipe and a huge benefit is that you get to take the mallet and pound that chicken into giving you the ‘secret code’.  (My chicken however decided not to give it up).

CHICKEN MARSALA

4          Chicken boneless chicken breast, thin sliced or pounded
¼         Cup flour
½         teas Salt, pepper to salt
½         teas Oregano
4          Tbsp Oil
4          Tbsp Butter
½         Cup Marsala wine
Optional:  mushrooms and/or capers

Pound chicken breasts between sheets of Saran Wrap

  • On plate, combine flour, salt, pepper & oregano
  • Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess
  • Heat oil & butter in large frying pan over medium heat
  • Saute chicken on medium high heat until lightly brown (just a few minutes each side)
  • Add mushrooms/capers around chicken & cook a few more minutes
  • Pour wine over chicken & cover, simmering for about 10 minutes or until chicken is not longer pink.
  • If more sauce is needed, additional sherry can be added or canned chicken broth.  Just before serving, baby spinach leaves may be added
  • Serve over buttered noodles