Sunday, November 30, 2008

Denis Johnson - Tree of Smoke

Tree of Smoke

I'm afraid it's time once again for that very painful process that I like to call "Pam's Book Reviews". Those three words strike fear in the heart of every literate person reading this blog, and if you are a person who actually writes book reviews then let me apologize in advance. Reading my book reviews is probably akin to a musician listening to someone who is tone deaf try to sing (um, for the record, that would be me also). But I do think that I have found a formula that we can all live with. Basically, I copy, verbatim, the little blurb inside the book jacket. Then, I just say whether or not I liked the book. It works for me, and really it is the least traumatic for all of us.

Last year, I chose Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke: A Novel because it allowed me to read one book for two challenges, the Notable Books Challenge and the Chunkster Challenge. And that's the problem, I didn't chose the book because something I was interested in. I chose it just to be able to cross if off of two lists! Silly.

The inside of the jacket:
This is the story of William "Skip" Sand, CIA - engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong - and the disasters that befall him. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert and into a war where the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, this is a story like nothing in our literature.

First of all, I read this book, sort of the same way I watch The Unit on television. When I watch The Unit, I am usually sitting on the couch, paging through a magazine. When a scene comes on with the wives, I put down my magazine and watch, when the war story comes back on, I pick back up my magazine. Why do I even watch The Unit?? Because I control about 99% of our Tivo watching, my husband's 1% is The Unit and a couple of shows from Spike TV. If he can watch Project Runway, Criminal Minds, Top Chef, Real Housewives of Orange County, and all the other shows that I make him watch, then I can watch The Unit.

So, anyway. I did read this book, all 614 pages of it. I could tell that it was a good book and an interesting book if you like war stories, and covert operations, and things like that. I just kind of paid more attention to the characters and their personalities and less on the covert operations part, and even then it held my interest. So, if you like war based stories, then you would probably really like this!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging #182

Patchouli. Being pensive.

This week Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted by Diamond Emerald Eyes. It's her birthday weekend so it's extra special!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pan-Fried Tofu with Spinach, Pear, and Star Anise

Pan-Fried Tofu with Spinach, Pear, and Star Anise

I was looking for something light to make earlier this week, to try and offset the amount of food I planned on eating for the holidays. I also needed to try a new Tyler Florence recipe for Tyler Florence Fridays, so when I found Pan-Fried Tofu with Spinach, Pear, and Star Anise in Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen: An Indispensable Guide for Anybody Who Likes to Cook it sounded perfect.

Now, I must preface my comments, with the fact that I don't care that much for tofu. If you wondering then why for heaven's sakes did I make a dish with tofu as the star ingredient? Well, I want to like tofu. I really do. With all the flavors in this dish, I thought that if there was ever a dish that could make me like tofu, this would be it. Did it? No, not really, but the flavors of everything else in the dish were amazing. So, as I was eating it, I kept thinking of how I could make it without the dreaded tofu, and I think boneless, skinless chicken breasts would make a fine substitute.

Pan-Fried Tofu with Spinach, Pear, and Star Anise
Serves 2

1 block extra-firm tofu, 15 ounces, halved horizontally
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, peeled
1 garlic clove, minced
1 fresh red chile, cut in paper-thin circles
3 whole star anise
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 pounds baby spinach
1 pear or Asian pear, sliced into thin wedges

Lay several layers of paper towels on a cutting board, then place the tofu squares on top, side by side. Cover the tofu with more paper towels and place a plate on top. Add a can or two to press down and drain out some of the water in the curd. This makes the tofu denser and meatier.

In a large skillet, heat the peanut and sesame oils just to the smoking point. Fry the tofu on both sides, flipping occasionally with the spatula, until golden, about 8 minutes total. Remove the tofu from the pan and drain it on a plate lined with paper towels.

Using the same pan, saute the ginger, garlic, chile, star anise, and peanuts-your kitchen will smell amazing!

In a small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice together; set aside.

Briefly toss the spinach in the pan, stirring just to wilt, no more than 30 seconds. Remove the spinach to a bowl, scraping the peanut mixture in there also.

Put the pan back on the heat and heat the hoisin mixture.

Combine the sauce with the spinach and divide between 2 bowls. Lay the pear slices and tofu on top.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lemon Rosemary Goat Cheese

Lemon Rosemary Goat Cheese

I have two problems with this, I have no idea where this recipe came from. I found it in my to-try file as an untitled document. So, if this is your cheese, let me know, and I'll send some kudos your way. And, two, I don't know if it's any good or not. I mean it looks really, really good, doesn't it?? Right now it is marinating in my fridge. But any recipe that tells me to spread the cheese on some toasted baguette slices or that the remaining oil may be used for dipping fresh bread, is a good recipe! Note, though, when refrigerated, the oil becomes more solid-ish, so it won't really poor unless you bring it to room temperature. But what I usually do, at least with my herb oils, is just scoop them out with a knife almost like they're butter, and spread on the bread.

Lemon Rosemary Goat Cheese

6 oz fresh chevre (goat cheese) log
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, rinsed and dried
4-6 strips of fresh, clean lemon peel
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with mortar and pestle
1/4 teaspoon crushed tricolor peppercorns
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
1 - 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

You'll need a clean, dry 16-oz jar with lid.

Place fennel seeds, peppercorns and crushed red pepper flakes into the jar.

Gently slice the goat cheese into 5-6 equal-sized slices. Pour a small amount of olive oil in the jar to cover the bottom, and begin gently adding pieces, covering each with oil as it is added.

When nearly full, gently push rosemary sprigs around sides of jar. Do the same with the lemon peel.

Top off the jar with oil, making sure to cover all the contents completely. Cover tightly and keep cool, preferably in warmest part of refrigerator.

Store at least 2-3 days before eating. May be stored this way up to a month.

To serve:
Move to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving. If serving for a group, gently pour entire contents of jar onto shallow dish or bowl and serve with soft cheese knife or spoon. Spread chevre onto toasted baguette slices or bread and drizzle oil over top. Remaining oil may be used for dipping fresh bread.

Weekend Herb Blogging

This will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by
by Scott at The Real Epicurean.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Eat, Drink, Be Thankful

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yellow Eye Chowder

Yellow Eye Chowder

I have been so excited about trying my heirloom beans, but it was hard to decide what to make. First of all these aren't ordinary beans, so I didn't want to waste them on any old recipe. Second of all, every single recipe in Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo sounded like something I wanted to try. Well, I finally settled on yellow eye chowder, because I love, love, love bean soups.

The recipe calls for smoked chicken, which I didn't have. I planned on using some bacon and a few chicken thighs as a substitution. But, I had this wonderful, fabulous bacon from my CSA. It was so unbelievably smokey, that I thought the chicken would really add nothing to the dish. So, I went with the bacon alone. This was wonderful. The yellow eye beans were creamy and had a similar, but milder flavor than black eye peas. The sweet potatoes complimented them really well, and the sage added an earthiness to the dish. Really nice!

Sorry for the bad picture. I think it's hard to make a bean soup attractive. And what's up with that piece of sage leaf that looks like half an arrow!?

Yellow Eye Chowder
Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound yellow eye beans
2 small sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 pound smoked chicken (or bacon!)
3 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Soak beans overnight.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and saute about 10 minutes. Add the beans and their soaking water, add more water if necessary to cover the beans by about an inch. Bring to a boil, cover partially, and simmer until the beans are just starting to soften, about an hour.

Add the sweet potatoes, chicken, sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and beans are tender. Serve garnished with parsley.

(Since I used bacon, I skipped the olive oil. I sauteed the bacon until it was crisp, and then sauteed the vegetables in the bacon fat, and proceeded with the recipe as it was written, omitting the part about adding the chicken.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Garden Tuesday - Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives

Do you clean up your fall/winter garden? I don't. I pretty much leave everything as is, which explains why my stuff reseeds like crazy and I have no order what-so-ever to my garden. But I think the dried flower heads are pretty, don't you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Butternut Squash Puree

Squash Before

I've lamented before about getting too many veggies from my CSA, or rather, too much of the same thing. The radishes were tough to deal with, but the abundance of winter squash, I figured I could handle that. But still, butternut squash every week is not necessarily my idea of a good time. So, I decided to freeze them. After researching it, a google here, a google there, freezing a puree sounded like the way to go.

Squash After

I preheated the oven to 400. Cut the squash in half and scooped out the seeds. Debated whether or not to roast the seeds. Decided I was too lazy, so I composted them instead. Brushed the cut side of the squash with a little olive oil, and laid them cut side down on a baking sheet, and added a little water to the pan. Roasted them for about an hour. Removed them from oven and let cool. When they were cool enough to handle, I pureed them in my food processor and then scooped it into jars. Now I have 4 of these bright orange jars of roasted squash puree in my freezer. Aren't they pretty, they are the very epitome of autumn. I'm not sure how I'm going to use them, any ideas anyone??

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Picky, Picky, Picky

The other day while eating dinner, my husband suddenly stopped and said, "Wait a minute, what is this?" He then proceeded to flick a bug out of his cooked greens. It was a black bug. You know, a sort of generic bug. One of those that if you were to look in a child's dictionary, next to "B is for Bug", there would be a picture of this bug. Nothing too scary or nasty, I mean it wasn't a cockroach or anything. He stares at me with a look that's mixed with indignation and incredulousness.

Me: "What?! I washed them. He must have been hiding. They're organic."

Him: Still staring. Silently.

Me: "What?! He's dead. He's been steamed."

Him: Still staring. Silently.

Me: "What?! Some countries eat them, you know!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging #181

Patchouli learns that it is much harder to go down a tree than it is to go up one.

You know in those old "Dick and Jane" readers, Jane's kitten (I think it was named Fluff), was always stuck in a tree. Then the nice firemen would come and rescue the kitten. I always thought that was made up, that cat's were too smart to get stuck in a tree. But after I spent 45 minutes coaxing Patchouli down the tree, I'm not so sure. I was so afraid that I was going to have to call the fire department. Can you do that? Does the fire department really come rescue kitty cats?

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging which is hosted by Niko and Cloud at Cats in Maryland.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Herb-and-Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Smashed Broccoli and Garlic

Roasted Chicken

Does anyone really need an excuse to try a Tyler Florence recipe? No, not really, but joining Tyler Florence Fridays has made sure that I do more than just drool over his cookbooks! This recipes came from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen: An Indispensable Guide for Anybody Who Likes to Cook page 31. This cookbook contains one of my tried and true favorites for collard greens, and I love the meatloaf. But for my inaugural entry for this event I wanted to try something new.


I have to say that this was utterly amazing. Perfect in every way. I would have never, ever even thought that I would like something called smashed broccoli. But it was the perfect backdrop for the chicken. As a matter of fact, it might just be my new very favorite way to make broccoli. And the chicken, what can I say about the chicken? It was filled with flavor and the aroma while it was baking was incredible. I marinated it over night, since I barely have time to prepare myself in the morning, much less a marinade!


Herb-and-Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Smashed Broccoli and Garlic
(no changes, this is all Tyler!)

1 1/4 hours to make + 5 hours to marinate

Give yourself plenty of time to marinate the chicken; I usually do this the morning I plan to serve it. The smashed broccoli and garlic remind me of the soft, overcooked vegetables of my youth. It's mushy and satisfying. To me, chicken and broccoli is a classic combination that doesn't need rice or potatoes to go with-it's perfect the way it is.

Serves 2

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon, peeled in big strips
4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 lemon, sliced in paper-thin circles
2 bone-in chicken breasts, 8 ounces each, skin on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 bunch broccoli, about 1 pound, including stems, coarsely chopped
1 cup Chicken Stock
1/4 cup plain yogurt

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Start by marinating the chicken because it will take the longest. To infuse the oil with flavor and create a base for the marinade, combine the olive oil with the lemon zest, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves in a small pot and place over very low heat. You don't want to fry the herbs, just steep them like you're making tea. When the oil begins to simmer, shut off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes. Pour the fragrant oil, solid pieces and all, into a bowl and put it in the refrigerator to cool.

Combine the chopped chives, parsley, and tarragon in a small bowl. Stuff 2 lemon slices under the skin of each chicken breast, along with half of the mixed chopped herbs. Put the chicken in a resealable food storage bag and pour in the cool herb oil, turning to coat really well. Toss in the remaining half of the chopped herbs, seal the bag, and refrigerate at least 5 hours or as long as all day.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before cooking so it won't be too cold when it goes into the pan; cold chicken takes longer to cook. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put a cast-iron (or regular ovenproof) skillet over medium heat. Drizzle the bottom of the pan with a 2-count of olive oil and heat until almost smoking; this will keep the chicken from sticking. Season the chicken with a fair amount of salt and pepper and put it in the pan, skin side down. Cook for 5 minutes or until the skin begins to set and crisp. Flip the chicken and brown another 5 minutes. Flip it yet again, so the skin side is down, and transfer the entire pan to the oven. You want the chicken to render its fat and the skin to crisp up. Roast the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through. While that's in the oven, move on to the broccoli.

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot; add the red pepper flakes and garlic. Throw in the broccoli and toss to coat in the garlic and oil. Pour in the chicken stock, cover, and let the broccoli steam for 10 minutes. When it is quite soft, pulse the broccoli a few times in a food processor, or better yet, use a handheld blender if you have one. The broccoli should be partly smooth and partly chunky. Stir in the yogurt to give the broccoli some body and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep it warm while preparing the pan sauce. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered chicken fat and return the skillet to the stovetop. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, scraping up the flavors with a wooden spoon. Cook the liquid down to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter to smooth out the sauce and turn off the heat.

Spoon the smashed broccoli onto 2 plates, lay the chicken on top, and drizzle with the pan sauce. This is comfort food!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chicken with Sweet Chili Sauce

Chili Sweet Chicken

How fast can you walk through an Asian market? takes forever. I wander up and down the aisles, picking up items and squinting at them, because for some reason I think that squinting will help me understand what the label says. I'm sure that I need one of everything, and frequently come home with things that I have no idea how to use or sometimes even what they are! One of the items I picked up was a sweet chili sauce. I wasn't sure what to do with it, except that it says "for chicken" right on the label, complete with a helpful picture of a chicken!

Sweet Chili Sauce

I love this stuff. It makes the perfect dipping sauce for chicken, egg rolls, just about anything, and it makes a fabulous marinade and glaze. I hesitate to even post this as a recipe, because it's a couple of ingredients thrown together. That's it. I served it with steamed bok choy (and yes, my bok choy kind of looks eaten up, it's organic, what can I say, I share it with bugs), and jasmine rice. If you are wondering why it serves an odd number, it's because I wanted one for my lunch the next day!

Chicken with Sweet Chili Sauce
(serves 3)

1/2 cup of sweet chili sauce
1/2 cup of soy sauce
peanut oil (or whatever you want to use for sauteing)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mix 1/4 cup chili sauce and 1/4 cup soy sauce in a shall glass dish or zip lock bag, add chicken and turn to coat. Marinate chicken in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Add a tablespoon or two of oil to a pan and heat over medium high heat. Lift chicken from marinade and brown on one side for about 2-3 minutes (it may smoke a little from the sweet marinade). Turn the chicken over and brown for 2 minutes per this side. Cover with a lid, turn the heat to low and let it finish cooking for about 8 minutes.

Mix remaining chili sauce and soy sauce in a small pot and heat over low heat until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve over chicken.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon

I am all about trying new recipes, but there is something so nice about a recipe that you've made over and over again. You know it's going to work. You know exactly what to expect from it, no surprises. And sometimes, after a hard day at work, I don't want any more surprises. I want to have at least one thing go the way I hope it will. That is what this recipe is about, quick and easy, perfect for a weeknight dinner. I actually use this recipe from a cookbook, Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2004 (Cooking Light Annual Recipes), but you can find it online at the cooking light website: Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon. And since I always do what I'm told, they suggest serving it with baked sweet potatoes with brown sugar pecan butter, and steamed broccoli, and that is exactly what I do.


This recipe will by my entry this week for Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Ruth from Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. I'm not going to repost the recipe, just follow the link above, and while you're there be sure and look for the sweet potato recipe, it's also a keeper!


I'm sorry to have to post this, but apparently I have been spammed. Someone has left a bunch of comments, which then are getting through on some email accounts. I guess this is what happens when your blog is brought to the attention of a cetain type of person. Does anyone have any idea how I can fix this, or address this issue? I guess I will begin with comment moderation, or approval. Isn't it a shame that someone spends their time just busily trashing other people?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Garden Tuesday - Berries


One of the many signs of fall is the profusion of berries that seem to develop almost over night. I've never understand how birds know which berries are okay to eat and which ones are not. These must not be okay because this cluster arrives every fall and lasts all winter. I keep promising to get all Martha Stewart-y and cut these and artfully place them around the house in cute little vases, but thankfully I never do. Because really, aren't they gorgeous, exactly how they are?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rocket (Arugula) and Sweet Potato Salad

Rocket and Sweet Potato Salad

Whenever I get any arugula (rocket as it's known in some areas), I always turn to Donna Hay. She always seems to find fresh, simple ways to serve it. So, when I found her recipe for Rocket and Sweet Potato Salad in The New Cook I knew I had to try it. I had everything I needed, except for the haloumi cheese, so I added that to my grocery list and headed off to the store. At the store, I searched in vain for haloumi. I finally asked the cheese guy (cheese monger??), he said they didn't have any haloumi because the price had jumped from $9 to $25, and he didn't think anyone would have paid that much. Would I have paid that much? I doubt it, but I might have, because I have found no other cheese that grills like haloumi. So, I bought some asiago, knowing full well, that it wouldn't work. And it didn't, it melted in a big puddle, which I then let cool, and sort of scraped back up into a mound on the plate! It would have been way better with the haloumi, but it was still good, and quick, and healthy..can't really ask for much more than that, now can you?

Rocket and Sweet Potato Salad
Serves 4

14 1/4 oz sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
6 1/2 oz haloumi (if you are lucky!)
chilli oil
6 1/2 oz rocket (arugula)
2 tablespoons Vietnamese mint leaves (I don't know what kind mine is!)
4 green onions thinly sliced
1 red chili sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons brown (or palm) sugar

Brush the sweet potatoes and the haloumi with the chili oil. Cook on preheated grill or grill pan for about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until browned. (I actually just roasted mine in the oven at 400 degrees until the sweet potatoes were tender, about 5 minutes per side).

Arrange the arugula, mint, and green onions on a plate. Top with the sweet potatoes and the cheese. Mix the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Raccoon Mountain

Raccoon Mountain

I like to classify people into groups. Mainly things like... people who like beer and those who don't, or people who'll eat food that's fallen on the floor and those that won't. It's either you do or you don't, you will or you won't. You get the idea.

One of my divisions has to do with sightseeing. You know when you visit museums or exhibits, and there is the thing that you are looking at, and then there is the little plaque next to it that tells all about it. Well, I think there are two kinds of people, those who read those little plaques and those that don't.

What I'm trying to say is that I have no idea what the above picture is. I just liked the way it looked. Doesn't it look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book? I think it has to do with electricity. My husband can probably tell you what it does, what it's made of, how much it weighs, and who invented it. Because he is one of those people.

If you are one of those people, you can read about it here, Raccoon Mountain, or you can be like me, and just look at it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging #180


Patchouli would like to say thank you to blogger for naming Sidewalk Shoes a blog of note!!! She would like to thank all of her fans and loyal readers (especially those that check on Saturdays just to see a picture of her, or maybe Smudge, or maybe Scrappycat), and she would also like to welcome any and all new readers!

Weekend Cat Blogging is hosted this week by CatSynth, who after having been recently hacked are currently temporarily at the CatSynth FEMA trailer. They promise to be back, even better than before.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thai One-Pot

Thai One-Pot

I can't decide whether or not I plan to do a CSA next year. I know I don't have to decide until March, but that doesn't stop my from fretting about it now. I loved it in the summer, when I had free time to think about each ingredient and figure out how I wanted to use them. But once school started, and I'm exhausted, and usually have some sort of cold, and I'm even less creative than usual, it's become some what of a chore. I posted about roasted radishes, and while it was pretty good, it's not something I want to eat often. I'm kind of done with radishes, but they keep coming. Every week. Another bunch of radishes. I've offered them to friends, I've composted them, I've used them in salads. Please make them stop.

So, I found this recipe in Quick from Scratch One-Dish Meals Cookbook (Quick From Scratch) by Food & Wine Magazine. It called for radishes. I had plenty of those. It also called for ground pork, which I didn't have. I substituted ground turkey, which may have made it healthier, but I think it would have been way better with pork. The turkey just didn't have enough flavor. I found the recipe on-line Thai One-Pot and I've also included it below for you.

Thai One-Pot
Serves 4

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 pounds lean ground pork (or turkey)
3/4 cup short-grain rice
2 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 scallions including green tops, chopped
10 radishes, cut into thin slices
5 tablespoons chopped cilantro or fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 1 lime)

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the bell peppers, shiitakes, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring every so often, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove.

Add the pork (or turkey) to the pan and cook, stirring, until it is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. If you used pork, you can spoon off the fat at this point. Stir in the bell peppers and shiitakes, the rice, broth, soy sauce, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Cover. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, without removing the lid, until the rice is just done, about 20 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the scallions, radishes, cilantro, and lime juice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cranberry Orange Sorbet

Cranberry Orange Sorbet

Nothing says fall and holidays more to me than seeing cranberries appear at the grocery store. I buy lots and store them in the freezer, because other than a few short weeks in November and December, I never, ever see them. So, actually this recipe was made with a bag of cranberries frozen last year! I am trying to use them up, as I start to buy more this year.

Cranberry Orange Sorbet

If you are looking for something different to do with cranberries, you have come to the right place. This was amazing. When you first taste this, all you taste is sweet and it tastes like a regular sorbet, but then after you swallow, you get the tartness of the cranberries. It is a very sophisticated flavor. It might even be my very favorite recipe out of my very favorite ice cream book, Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz.

Cranberry Orange Sorbet

It even took a little more work then I usually attempt. I even got out my food mill. But it was so worth it!

Cranberry Orange Sorbet

1 1/2 cups of cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
grated zest from 1 orange
1 1/2 cups orange juice (the recipe calls for fresh, I juiced the one orange that I zested and then just used orange juice from the carton in my fridge)
1 to 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional, but I used it!!)

Heat the cranberries, water, sugar, and the orange zest in a non-reactive pan until the liquid starts to boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Pass the cranberries through a food mill (using a fine disk) (mine doesn't have disks, so I don't know if it was fine or not), or puree them in a blender and then strain the puree through a sieve to remove large pieces of cranberry skin. Stir in the orange juice and the liqueur.

Chill then freeze in your ice cream maker according to it's instructions.

Bookmarked Recipes

This will be my entry for this week's Bookmarked Recipes, which is hosted by
, hosted by Ruth at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Garden Tuesday - Pansies!


It's fall and here in the south, that means it's pansy planting time! I posted this last year at about this time. Last year, I had only purple and white, but this year I found a mixture of purples, pinks and yellows.


Don't they make you smile?


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Going Green Can Be Colorful


Everyday, it's the same routine. I get to school, and pull a kleenex out of a box, and shove it in my pocket. I carry it around all day, discarding it at the end of the day. I have a perpetual runny nose. I'm allergic to molds and since the ceiling of my school has huge water rings and collapsed tiles, I can only imagine the horror that must be growing up there. I started thinking the other day about all those kleenex and what a waste it was. Then I remembered something. Guess what I had hidden away in my fabric stash??? Vintage handkerchiefs. Lots of them. So, I pulled them out, laundered them, and even pressed them. I feel so prim and proper. But just look at how pretty they are. It is much more pleasant to dab one's nose with these. Really, they are so soft, makes having a runny nose, almost enjoyable. I may even go crazy and wash them with a little linen water, so that I smell like lilacs. It's official, I am an old lady.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging #179

Patchouli enjoys a good laugh.

Ooops! Sorry, edited to include a link to Weekend Cat Blogging hosted this week by Breadchick and LB at The Sour Dough. I can't believe I forgot that!!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Roasted Peppers and Goat Cheese Pizza


Yes, the ingredients that you saw in yesterday's post, show up again today. But isn't that one of the challenges that we face on a constant to use up leftovers in a creative, or if not creative, at least in an appetizing way. So, I had some of the roasted peppers leftover and some of the goat cheese, and I had been craving pizza lately. Do you ever do that, get stuck on a food? I had pizza 3 times in the past week, I finally feel like I've saturated my need for pizza for a while. I made a garlic infused olive oil to brush on the crust and used my favorite bread machine pizza dough recipe, only this time I was actually smart enough to make double the dough recipe and freeze one ball of it. Why have I not been doing that in the past???? Also for the pizza dough, I substitued the whey from the drained yogurt (from making yogurt cheese)for the water in the recipe, and it was great. It gave the dough a slightly tangy flavor, almost like a sourdough, but not quite.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Roasted Peppers with Red Wine Vinegar, Thyme, and Olive Oil


For me, bell peppers are an ingredient. I use them in soups, stews, stir fries, whatever. I don't usually serve them as themselves, but when my CSA gave me a huge bag of them, I realized that it called for some rethinking on my part. I've seen various recipes for serving roasted peppers as a side dish, and they all play on the same theme of the peppers served with a sort of vinaigrette.

The book that I happened to be browsing through at the time (please tell me that I am not the only one who spends countless hours just pouring over cookbooks), was Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, The by Peter Berley. In it, I found a simple recipe for roasted peppers, using some fresh thyme.

Roasted Peppers

These were wonderful, simple, and flavorful. The leftovers would be great with pasta, or as I'll show you on another post, wonderful for pizza! I served them with a goat cheese stuffed chicken breast, which I can't decide if it looks good in the picture, or kind of creepy.

Roasted Peppers

Roasted Peppers with Red Wine Vinegar, Thyme, and Olive Oil

4 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
4 yellow bell peppers, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I used my homemade
herb vinegar)
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Roast peppers using your favorite method (broiling, grilling, over a gas flame). I broiled them until they were charred. Placed them in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and let them steam for about 15 minutes. Then peel (sort of rub) off the charred skins and place in bowl.

Add the oil, the vinegar (if you made my homemade vinegar, this is a great place to use it), thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Eat. Enjoy.


This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, since this recipe really showcases the subtle and homey flavor of thyme. This week it is hosted by Wiffy at Noob Cook.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ham and Bean Soup

Ham and Beans

If you are thinking that I was completely on the ball, and all ready cooking with my fabulous heirloom beans from the previous post, you would be sadly mistaken. No, actually I had some beans in my pantry that I needed to use up, so I could get to the fabulous beans. So, this is recipe is actually a bag of regular supermarket dried beans (although, they are organic).

What is great about this, is that I discovered a new (or at least, new to me, sad, pathetic creature that I am) way to cook beans. Usually I cook my beans in the slow cooker, which is fine, but sometimes I think they have sort of an overcooked taste to them. I've tried the pressure cooker, which I think gives uneven texture, plus I tend to either overcook or undercook them. I've tried the stovetop method, covered and uncovered, simmered, boiled, whatever, but it never produces consistent results. So, I decided to try the oven. I mean that's what bean pots are for, right?

It was perfect. See those perfectly cooked beans?? Not overcooked, not undercooked, just right. The veggies were just right, the broth was flavored just right. Really, they were perfect.

Ham and Beans
Serves 6 - 8

1 pound of dry great northern beans (or whatever you want to use), soaked overnight and drained
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pound ham hocks
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
6 cups of water (or enough to cover the beans by about 2 inches)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 300.

In an ovensafe pot (I used an enameled cast iron), heat a few chugs of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions, celery, carrots, and ham hocks, until veggies are starting to get tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, beans, and parsley. Add water to cover by about 2 inches. Turn up heat and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in oven. Bake for around 1 1/2 to 2 hours (may take a little longer depending on the age of your beans. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Heirloom Beans

Rancho Gordo Beans

You want to know what gets me every time? Flat rate shipping. Tell me that I can have as much as I want, and I only have to pay a fixed amount to ship it. I rise to the occasion. Thank you Rancho Gordo. Expect lots of beans in the future. Have you seen their cookbook, Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo. I got it too. Of course I did, was there any doubt?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Simple Bolognese

Simple Bolognese

What's that saying...jack of all trades, master of none? I sometimes feel that way with my cooking. I dabble here, I dabble there, I am always trying something new. So, I don't have any set of recipes that I always fall back on, that I've perfected. I want to work on that. One of the recipes that I want to have up my sleeve, is a simple bolognese sauce. I know that it can be as long and as complicated as you want to make it, but I wanted to start out basic, and go on from there. So, I went to Giada, Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes, and you know what, it was perfect. It was wonderful. I loved it.

The recipe in the book is only slight different than the web sight, Giada's Simple Bolognese. The website calls for the vegetables to be coarsely chopped, the book calls for a fine mince. I followed the book, and since fine mincing a carrot is not one of my specialties, I used my food processor. It was so quick and easy, toss the garlic and the onion in the food processor first, mince it, and while it is sauteing, process the carrot and celery. So quick and easy, perfect for a weeknight. Actually it was perfect for a Friday night, because the leftovers made fabulous lunches on Saturday and Sunday. Really, is there anything better than leftover spaghetti?? I'm not going to post the recipe, since you can follow the link above, just remember, I recommend following the book's instructions for a fine mince.


This will be my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights , hosted by it's lovely creator, Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.