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

 

In My Kitchen: July 2014

 

I know I’ve missed a couple of IMK posts but I cannot believe that I just typed June only to remember that we’re in July already.  I guess time flies where you’ve been a slug.

Now technically not inside my kitchen, but outside my kitchen window is my hummingbird feeder which gets drained about every 2-3 days.  For some reason my feeder attracts just the males who fight all day because they don’t want to share – it’s like watching Star Wars fights with lasers.  A couple of them got into such a fight that one guy drilled himself into my screen door and I had to pop him out since he was quite stuck. Why these little sugerheads don’t have diabetes I don’t know – probably because those wings are beating so fast they must burn the calories right off.

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Now here’s a controversial item that I bought from the Pottery Barn catalog.  Barbara from Just a Smidgen was kind enough to tell me where she found hers after I saw it in one of her IMK posts. See all of the great ideas you get from snooping into other people’s kitchens?

I just love the galvanized metal and think it will be perfect for the barbeque that we’ll be having for my daughter’s engagement party in September.  I love it –  my husband hates it although he has no one to blame but himself.  I showed it to him in the catalog and said “isn’t this cool?” and he gave me the um huh so I ordered it.  When it came in, he decided that he hated it and wanted to know where I was going to put it…well, right here in my kitchen but out on the porch for barbeques of course.  He’s suspicion and claims that I never showed it to him which to be fair, is an old trick I’ve played a few times where I’ve bought things that I know he won’t like but then say “omg!  don’t you remember I showed this to you?  You liked it then – your memory’s really going.”

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I just love this colorful towel that my daughter found for me in San Francisco on one of her business trips.  Does anyone have any idea what it says?

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IMG_1550Life is just a bowl of cherries these days and they’re finally available in the stores.

IMG_1551Since we’re again having a glut of lobster in New England ($5.99/lb), I’ve got some Lobster Risotto cooking (recipe here).  At these prices, it’s cheaper than steak so I’m finding it very hard to let a week go by without some sort of lobster cooking.

And finally, in my kitchen are my “assistive devices” (don’t you love the tennis balls on the walker?)  which will be going to the senior center in town…I may keep the cane because you just never know when you’ll need a cane.  Since I spent about 3 hours on Monday with an ax, shovel, and saw digging out overgrown shrubs, I’d say that my hip is now in good working order.  The hip felt great – all the other muscles, well…let’s say I need to work on that a bit.

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Thanks for stopping by my kitchen this month and thanks again to Celia for hosting this monthly get-together.  Please stop by to say hi to her and see the others who are kind enough to allow us a peek in their kitchens – http://figjamandlimecordial.com/2014/07/01/in-my-kitchen-july-2014/

Cleecha – Syrian Bread Rolls

Great news from the surgeon – my x-rays show that the new hip is in perfect alignment and now it’s just a matter of physical therapy and getting the muscles in shape.  As far as he’s concerned I don’t have any restrictions on what I can do and although I didn’t bring up driving – since I’ve been doing that for 4 weeks now – I’m a free woman.

To celebrate the good news, my friend and former neighbor of over 20 years took me out for a fantastic brunch.  Judy now lives north of here in a seaside town called Newburyport which unfortunately is about an hour away but she was so kind to not only make the trip down, but true to form arrived bearing gifts…

peturnias from judy
A beautiful colorful pot of pansies which brightened my day and…
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Homemade cleecha, a soft Syrian bread roll which is sooo good with morning coffee.  In the 20 years that I’ve known Judy, she’s never let me go hungry and whenever I’ve had a medical problem (or just because) she’s always the first at my door bearing homemade goodies.  Judy’s mother came to America as a young bride not knowing a word of English and raised her five kids with so much love and a wonderful appreciation of Syrian foods.  Recently Judy has documented these precious recipes and posted the videos on her blog:  The Key to my Art on WordPress.  Rather than have an amateur try to explain how to make these rolls, I’ll turn it over to the experts – Sito and Judy.  I hope you enjoy their kitchen artistry as much as I do.

http://thekeytomyart.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/sitos-kitchen-making-bread-with-mom/

Good as new – well, almost

It’s five weeks now with my new hip and time for me to catch up in the blog-o-sphere. Thank you all for your wonderful comments and well wishes prior to my surgery. The surgery was a complete success and the hospital stay, thanks to the private upgrade, was actually not bad at all. It was a long wait to get this particular surgeon but it was well worth it since he performs the most joint surgeries in Boston, operates out of the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and performs the newer anterior hip replacement approach which is much less traumatic leading to faster recovery time and no restrictions on movement after – well other than the pain of having the top of your leg sawed off. But really, I’d rather wait for a surgeon who’s done hundreds of these and not just watched a Youtube video before cutting.

The Brigham’s is a world renowned hospital with people coming from all over the world. As I was leaving, someone from the Saudi royal family was coming in and had taken three suites in the private Pavilion – one for the patient, one for family, and a another for a contingent of security. The hospital really does try to make an unpleasant experience as comfortable as possible but I did have a rather disconcerting experience when they were wheeling me down to pre-op. In an effort to enhance the ambiance and relax patients, they have people from the Boston Conservatory of Music play soothing melodies. I’m really glad that I was PRE-op and not any medications when I was wheeled around the corner to see a lady on a stool playing a harp!

Denver Harp Player FAQ

Seriously, harps are very relaxing to listen to, but can you imagine coming OUT of surgery, all groggy and seeing a lady with a harp? I mean…come on folks, even if she didn’t have wings,  would it not cross your mind that something went wrong in surgery? I suppose it’s better than being wheeled through the boiler room though and wishing that you’d maybe made some different life choices.

devil : The Devil who is about to welcome someone Illustration

Unfortunately, yes unfortunately because I couldn’t eat the day after surgery and went home on the 3rd day, I wasn’t able to taste test many of the culinary options.  I know, I know, hospital food is yucky except by booking myself into The Pavilion which is privately run and has it’s own kitchen, I had food options that rivaled the best of Boston restaurants

You may not be able to read the entrée selections on the five page menu, but they included: filet mignon, oven roasted turkey, baked stuffed chicken, spinach stuffed salmon, baked stuffed shrimp as well as a page of make your own burgers, salads and a great desert selection!

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I started with a fabulous home made chicken soup, better than what I’ve ever made…

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Not being in the coronary unit, I was able to order lobster stuffed ravioli in a delicious cream sauce…

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with a beautiful caprese salad…

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Since I could order anything I wanted at any hour day or night, my daughter couldn’t understand why I didn’t just start at the top of the menu and work my way down.  I think the kitchen might have suspected that I was feeding my family though.  I was released late in the afternoon on Friday and the kitchen very nicely made me up a great chicken salad sandwich with cranberry sauce and stuffing to take home.  All in all, no complaints on the hospital stay other than, well it being a hospital stay and they do love waking you up every 2 hours to make sure you’re still alive.

It’s great being back home although I haven’t been doing much cooking to date.  Every now and then I get bursts of energy but they don’t last long before it’s nap time.  As my friend reminded me – “you were just in a knife fight at the wrong end of the knife”.  Hopefully I’ll have more to post as recovery takes place and I do want you all to know that I’m doing my best to keep up with your posts – I’ve loved reading them all even if I haven’t had the brain in gear to respond to all of them, please know that I’m loving hearing what you’re all up to and hope to be tip top soon.