In My Kitchen – January 2022

In My Kitchen – January 2022

Happy New Year everyone!

And here we are…again.

How are you?

I missed posting on IMK last month, the month just got away from me. It was lovely gathering with friends and family for the Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. I was grateful for every minute we spent together. Our gatherings were small, all of us who were eligible were vaccinated and boosted, and they felt safe. We were careful, so careful. It paid off, everyone is still healthy. What a horrible thing we have to worry about, that you might accidentally infect someone you love!

Hopefully you were able to enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.

We hosted a chili party on New Year’s Day to toast the start of 2022. I meant to take pictures of the chili but we were having way too much fun. Even though it was the coldest day of the season, to date, we managed to have a good time. Our tummies were warmed by chili, our outsides by a fire pit, heat lamps, good friends, and warm winter coats.

Woefully the only pictures I have is of the kitchen the next morning…

The second run of the dishwasher swept them all away. Sadly for us there were very few leftovers.

So, what’s new in my kitchen?

New is this amazing warming tray that kept the various versions of chili hot. I has a large surface so it can hold several large pots. It will be useful for future parties. I am optimistic.

Warming Tray

Warming Tray – Quinn looking on: “what you doing…gonna give me any leftovers?”

I kept the tray just inside the door to the outside deck. Party goers could pop in and fill their bowls with hot chili (get warm for a minute), then add all the trimmings from bowls on a table outside.

In My Kitchen I have some new Christmas cookbooks. I haven’t had a chance to peruse them yet but am looking forward to it. I need inspiration. After two years I have lapsed into a rut as far as meals. We used to have or attend dinner parties once a week, there has been big change these last two years. Hopefully you, kind readers, will see some of the meals in future posts.

Christmas Cookbooks

Christmas Cookbooks

In my kitchen I have this lovely woven bowl in a gorgeous pink color. It was a gift from a long time friend in Florida. My minds eye can see how breathtaking a half dozen lemons will be in it. It came with a molded cloth that is intended to support a bowl in the microwave, and keep your hands from being burned. My friend knows that Paris is my very favorite city in the whole world. They both were made by an artist local to her who is a designer of art and functional objects, named Linda Livingston. Linda can be reached at livingstonlin@icloud.com if you would like to see or learn more about her art.

In my kitchen I have some new flour sack botanical napkins.

Flour Sack Napkins

Flour Sack Napkins

These are from a company called June & December. I really love the simplicity of the botanical embroidery. I crave minimalism in January after all the bling.

In fact, in my kitchen I have lots of napkins of all types and varieties. We use cloth instead of paper napkins and I love having a selection I can match to the food and my mood. These are freshly laundered as we used them for the party. They were given to me by the same thoughtful friend in Florida.

Cloth Napkins

Cloth Napkins

In my kitchen I always have dogs underfoot. Casey at thirteen is endlessly patient with Shanna, the puppy, who wants to cuddle with her. But Casey knows that Shanna is just looking for an opportunity to be naughty.

Casey and Shanna

Casey and Shanna

Shanna is also funny, she has yet to meet a fruit of vegetable she doesn’t adore and she loves ice. These photos were not exactly ‘in’ my kitchen but taken through the French doors of the kitchen looking out into the yard.

She clearly thought the other dogs were about to steal her stash.

The ice had been dumped from ice chests that held the drinks at the party. It was so cold that night that the ice was still on the ground in the morning.

So, here we are again. 2022 feels like an endless rerun.

I know that you may be tired, and anxious, and worried, and perhaps angry. I have been all of those. I think we need to be gentle with ourselves and each other this year. We are fragile.

This quote comes from a newsletter Sarah Bessey wrote, I think it is appropriate for this year.

Be…”Gentle with your words to yourself. Gentle with your expectations. Gentle with your demands. Gentle with your soul. Gentle with your plans, your time, your hours, your sleep. Gentle with your partner, your kids, your people. Gentle with your needs, your wants, your desires. Gentle with your mind and your body.”

I wish you a safe, healthy and happy New Year filled with love.

 

 

In My Garden – December 2021

In My Garden – December 2021

I know I know…where have I been? Everything is okay, I’ve just been busy everywhere but in the garden. Actually I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen either. Grilled cheese sandwiches have been on the menu many a night. I am making a New Year’s resolution to be on line more frequently (and to floss my teeth every day).

It’s the quiet season in the garden, except for the weeding. There is always weeding and now is the time to get on top of it before they get big. But weeding is my least favorite activity and wet weather has thankfully put a limit on it. I will be sorry come spring.

I purchased a dozen bags of steer manure to enhance the soil in the bed that runs beside the driveway. The Spanish lavender bushes have done well but I can’t say the same for the Dutch Iris bulbs which are between each of the lavender bushes. I think I planted the bulbs too deeply, they need to have the tops of the tubers exposed to the sun and warmth. Also, maybe our weather is just not warm enough for them. They did very well in the sunnier climate of the Bay Area. But, Fort Bragg is both foggier in the summer and quite a bit cooler. So, the plan is to dig them up, add the manure and some bone meal to the soil, and replace them with Dahlia tubers. The existing dahlia tubers I have in another bed need dividing, but I am also expecting an order of new tubers from Swan Island Dahlias in Oregon. Dahlias are very successful here and will (hopefully) make an amazing display along the driveway, stay tuned.

Another benefit will be a longer display of flowers. The Spanish lavender blooms earlier than the French, usually starting in May. The dahlias will bloom later in the summer and early fall.

Lavender

Lavender – May

You can see here that the Spanish lavender was in full bloom in May but the French lavender is just starting. It reaches its best in June and early July.

The good news is that we have had some rain, not nearly enough yet but much better than last year. The dogs are enjoying the puddles. And Shanna should be named ‘pig-pen’ as she loves the mud.

 

Shanna

Shanna @ 7 months

Adding an outdoor shower when we remodeled is one of the best ideas we had. The dogs have had the benefit of a warm water bath.

I have had a couple of shipments from Annie’s Annuals (although they are all perennials). Fall is the recommended time for planting her in California. The cooler weather and winter rains give them a chance to put down roots and become established. That is especially important for low water or drought resistant plants.

I came across an interesting article in DIY Home, a fall garden guide. It contained some helpful tips on getting your garden ready for spring.

So, here I am with a quick walk about before it’s January.

The vegetable garden has mostly finished except for lettuce and arugula.

I didn’t plant much chard or kale this year, I’m not sure why. I miss them.

The garden is mostly green this time of year although there are still some flowering plants.

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage – a hummingbird favorite

Cuphea

Cuphea micropetala
“Candy Corn Plant”

The Cupheas bloom almost non stop in my garden, I have several varieties. They have proved to be prolific, low maintenance, and drought tolerant. Both the hummingbirds and the bees adore them. Over the past 3 years the Candy Corn variety has grown into small bushes, they are positioned just below our bedroom windows. We can hear the hummingbirds chittering in the mornings as they sip nectar from the flowers.

House and beds from the back

House and beds from the back

You can just glimpse the Cupheas on the left side of the house. Everything is mostly shades of green this time of year.

I am working on an inviting seating area overlooking the pollinator garden (which mostly looks like a bunch of weeds this time of year).

I have scattered some new wildflower seeds and look forward to seeing what turns up come the warmer days of spring. I will give you an update each month as the garden comes to life.

You can see the lavender plants along the driveway in the back of the picture.

The wreath came from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Volunteers gather in early December to make them. Isn’t it gorgeous? You need to get there early to choose the best. All the greens are gathered locally.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Stay well and safe. I will see you in 2022.

Happy New Year!

In My Kitchen – November 2021

In My Kitchen – November 2021

Last month was a quiet one in my kitchen. I am not sure where the time went, how can it be suddenly November with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner? It’s time to start thinking about decorating, and holiday cooking and gift giving. Oh my! We’ve gone for what seems forever without those things and I’ve lost the habit of holiday momentum. That must be a worry of retailers as well as I started to see Christmas catalogs even before Halloween was over. It gets earlier each year. Don’t you just hate that? I am usually tired of the whole thing by the time the actual holiday roles around.

But, I am looking forward to gathering with family and friends with a new sense of thankfulness and appreciation for what is truly valuable in my life.

The cooler wet weather meant it was time to pull out the Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) for winter soups, stews and long braises. The flavors of this dish were amazing but I think it would have been better with a fattier cut of meat, maybe lamb shanks or a lamb shoulder instead of the leg. Next time.

I won’t post the recipe until I get it perfected.

Instant Pot Moroccan Lamb with Chickpeas

Instant Pot Moroccan Lamb with Chickpeas

In My Kitchen (at the Oakland condo) I have a new sous vide wand. I got tired of toting the one from the Fort Bragg house back and forth so have purchased a second. We will be spending Thanksgiving day with good friends in Oakland and it’s my assignment to cook the turkey since half the guests are vegetarians. I have found sous vide the very best way to cook turkey, most especially the white meat which can be (and usually is) dry and tasteless. But it’s quite delicious cooked slowly sous vide and not dry at all.

Sous Vide Wand

Sous Vide Wand

Overnight Sous Vide Turkey Breast

As a bonus the breast can be cooked ahead and gently reheated before serving.

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

I will cook a boneless turkey breast and several thighs separately from each other.

The pictures above are from pre-pandemic holidays.

A trip to the Bay Area is not complete without a visit to Trader Joe’s. We have a wonderful grocery store in Fort Bragg and a farm stand just down the street a bit, but no TJs. I haven’t been in to a department store in a couple of years now. Food stores are different, I enjoy browsing what’s new and usually find some interesting things.

I think these colorful felt trivets would make wonderful holiday gifts.

Felt Trivet

Felt Trivet

‘Cauliflower Slims’ are a good bread or tortilla substitute. They make larger ones but I have found they fall apart too easily. These toast up nicely in the toaster oven.

Cauliflower Slims

Cauliflower Slims

Although I can make my own, they also sell pre-riced cauliflower which is very convenient. I substituted it for the rice in this fried rice dish which was spiced with cumin and mixed with peas, scallions, roasted delicata squash, and baby spinach then garnished with pomegranate seeds (also from TJs).

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Sheet pan dinners are a welcome time saver. I’ve been working my way through sheet pan chicken by Cathy Erway. This was coriander-crusted chicken with crispy chickpeas, fennel and pomegranate.

In the garden the last of the cauliflower had started to bolt, they weren’t nice firm solid heads anymore. But I actually loved that, when roasted, those looser heads resulted in more crispy bits. My favorite.

This was another sheet pan dinner with cauliflower, new potatoes and olives.

This orchid was a house warming gift last October, it has bloomed continuously for over a year. I can see it from my kitchen in the Oakland condo. Orchids are the perfect houseplant for as they thrive on neglect. The only time I’ve killed one is when I overwatered it. This one is beautiful.

We took the dogs (yes, all three) to the condo. It was Shanna’s first time in the city. Country girl turned city girl.

Shanna - first city view

Shanna – first city view

I could watch her from the kitchen. She was absolutely fascinated by the activity in the streets below and the birds flying at her eye height.

We thought she might find the trains (the AmTrack station is next door) frightening but she took everything in stride. She did want to make friends with everyone we saw on our walks, probably more people and dogs than she had seen in the total combined first 6 months of her life.

That’s it for me this month. This post is part of a monthly round up from kitchens around the world hosted by Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings. Please stop by and consider adding your own post to In My Kitchen.

 

In My Garden – November 2021

In My Garden – November 2021

Well, it’s been good weather for ducks this past month. I was surprised to see this one walking down our street when I went to pick up the mail. It could have been Jerimina Puddle-Duck from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. Did you know that it has been 119 years since that book was first published? Those beloved children’s stories are timeless. I quickly jumped out of the car to take her picture before she could waddle away. I don’t know where she came from, but it was too perfect.

Jerimina Puddle-Duck

Jerimina Puddle-Duck

A sudden and intense rain storm created a short lived pond on the property, it was much enjoyed by the dogs in an impromptu pool party.

Quinn encouraging Casey and Shanna to come in

Quinn encouraging Casey and Shanna to come in – come on in, the water is fine!

 

Casey braved the water

Casey braved the waters. That’s my hubby laughing at their antics.

 

Shanna

Shanna finally took the plunge, quickly running to the other shore. She wasn’t sure about the entire thing.

The rain cleared for a day and I cut back many of the perennials and scattered wildflower seeds in the pollinator garden. The seeds are already sprouting with all the wonderful wet weather. We placed a bench where you can see the pollinator garden.

New Growth

New Growth in the Pollinator Garden

The second picture above is the current view from the bench. There isn’t much to see at the moment. There will be though. I am looking forward to taking my morning tea or evening glass of wine on that bench come spring.

Meanwhile the stormy weather has produced some amazing and unusual cloud formations. This was the sky earlier this week, a portent of an impending storm that was to hit later in the day.

These are Cumulus clouds, puffy white or light gray clouds that look like floating cotton balls.

And because of the rain we’ve had a bumper crop of mushrooms this season. I’m taking a mushroom ID class later this month so I hope to be able to identify them.

Above you will find a picture of just a few. Thankfully the dogs don’t seem to be interested in eating them although I notice quite a few have been nibbled by other creatures.

The tomatoes and zucchini are now finished, we had a long harvest this year. Kale is flourishing also chard, beets, arugula and lettuce.

Kale

Kale

Arugula

Arugula

The hummingbirds are happy. The resident Annas are the only species that overwinter here on the coast. The battling Allens have migrated south for the winter. Sages are blooming, also the alstroemerias.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. Our own will be filled with many expressions of thanks as we gather for the first time in two years. I am thankful to all of you who have seen me through the long dark months of this pandemic and other struggles in this country. Thank you for your kind comments, emails and texts. They have and still do mean a lot to me.

Please be safe, get vaccinated.

Stormy seas on the coast

Stormy seas on the coast

October – Beef Shanks with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil in the Electric Pressure Cooker

October – Beef Shanks with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil in the Electric Pressure Cooker

Well, that is a mouthful of a title. There are several takeaway items from it though. Beef shanks are a tough cut of meat, usually requiring long cooking. In the electric pressure cooker (maybe you have an InstaPot), that time is cut down to less than an hour. Also, crispy crunchy chili oil…if you haven’t discovered it yet…run out and buy or order it. It’s addictive and can transform a simple bowl of rice or pasta into something special. Here I use it to flavor the beef shanks. This idea and most of the recipe comes from a wonderful post by Petra. She hosts the blog Food Eat Love and you will find her original version here for beef short ribs. I would recommend clicking over to it, her food is really 5 star restaurant quality and the pictures will have your mouth watering.

Myself, I spent too long in the garden getting ready for an impending rain storm and needed to cut some corners. Lacking the 4 hours needed to cook the beef slowly in the oven, I turned to my pressure cooker. I don’t use it much in the summer when we rely on the outside grill, but come the cooler wet weather I use it often.

Don’t have an electric pressure cooker? Don’t worry. See the variation at the end for instructions for cooking in a standard Dutch oven.

Beef Shank with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil

Beef Shank with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil

In Italy veal shanks are called Osso Bucco. You will find numerous recipes on line and in Italian cookbooks. Here in the U.S. veal shanks are difficult to find and costly if you do. I used budget friendly beef shanks instead and gave them an Asian twist.

I served it with a sweet potato that had been cut in half, rubbed with sesame oil and roasted at 425 degrees F (in the toaster oven) for 50 minutes. It was a wonderful combination.

Beef Shanks with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil (in the electric pressure cooker)

serves 4 -6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of neutral oil such as grape-seed
  • 3 to 4 thick slices of beef shank with the bone and marrow
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large onion, cut into half moons
  • 1 leek, chopped (if you have a spare one that needs eating as I did)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 peeled slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 cups of fresh shiitake mushrooms, tough stem ends trimmed, cut in half if very large
  • 3 tablespoons of crispy crunchy chili oil
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of rice wine, I used Shaoxing
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of cornstarch, optional if you want to thicken the sauce
  • chopped cilantro for garnish, optional

Method:

  1. Select saute mode and add the oil to the pressure cooker. Cook the carrot and onion (maybe the leek as well if you had one laying around in the crisper) until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
  2. Add the ginger, mushrooms, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine and water. Stir to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pot and mix everything together.
  3. Nestle the beef shanks in the liquid, trying to get everything in one level if possible. The liquid should just cover the shanks.
  4. Put on the lid, close the vent, and choose high pressure cooking for 40 minutes.
  5. At the end of the 40 minutes let the pressure release naturally for another 15 minutes.
  6. Put a tea towel over the vent and release the pressure manually.
  7. Remove the shanks and mushrooms from the pot and skim off any fat from the juices. Or pour the sauce into a fat separator, let it rest for ten minutes for the fat to surface, then pour the degreased sauce into a serving boat. (Or put everything in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight. The fat will be easy to remove when it solidifies.)
  8. If you would like to thicken the sauce, pour the degreased liquid into a small saucepan and heat until just simmering. Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water and stirring into the hot liquid until it is thickened to your liking.
Beef Shank with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil

Beef Shank with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil

No pressure cooker? No worries. Use a heavy bottomed dutch oven with a lid, and increase the amount of liquid to 2 cups. Follow the instructions right up until step 4 above. Then, instead of pressure cooking, bring the pot to a simmer, cover with the lid, and move it to a preheated 300 degree F oven. Bake for 3 to 4 hours, until the beef shanks are tender and falling off the bone. Continue from step 7.

Leftovers were turned into a swoon worthy beef soup by adding some chicken broth and extra vegetables. This is cold weather cooking at its best.