In My Kitchen – April 2020

In My Kitchen – April 2020

How are you all doing out there? I know that we are facing some hard times. In California we are in our third week of shelter-in-place and going a little stir crazy. I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen, but it’s not the same. I’m trying to avoid the grocery store and market, shopping only once a week or less (which is not my common practice).

By the end of the week, when fresh produce (and other essential ingredients) are running out, we find ourselves eating a lot of pantry meals. Some of them have been surprisingly delicious. Others, not so much.

Meanwhile I have been struggling with so many emotions, seemingly all at the same time.

  • I am sad and grieving, for all of us. It is heartbreaking to read what is happening in Italy, and NY, and Detroit…all over the world.
  • I am encouraged and hopeful. I know many people and companies are ramping up research and production to meet our needs in this medical emergency.
  • I am afraid for my family, friends, my community, the world and myself.
  • I feel full of appreciation, respect, pride and even love for those that are stepping up. In my book our medical caregivers, our first responders, and many in our local and state government are my new heroes.
  • The day seems to go so slowly but then again, the day is over before I know it.
  • I am accomplishing very little even though I have all day to do it.
  • And I am mesmerized by the news.

For the first time in a long time, the world feels very small. We are all connected. We are all in this together. Things will never be the same. That might be a hopeful thing.

Exercise helps, taking a walk or a Zoom class or getting out in the garden helps, a lot.

So what’s happening in my kitchen? More ambivalence… I want to spend time in the kitchen. But, then again, I’m not interested in spending time in the kitchen.

Emotions are complicated things aren’t they?

So, in my kitchen, I have pickled asparagus. Spring is happening, ignoring the reports of doom. The asparagus is amazing. I purchased 4 big bunches at the market (before the lockdown) and made 4 quarts of pickled asparagus.

Pickled Asparagus

Pickled Asparagus

I couldn’t decide whether to pickle them tip up or tip down, so I did some of each. Does it make a difference, what do you think? Our weekend brunch favorite is pickled asparagus on avocado toast with a poached egg on top. The sharpness of the pickle contrasts delightfully with the crisp toast, creamy avocado, and the rich soft egg.

I made fennel spice rub with a few adaptations for Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder. There was plenty left over for other dishes.

Roast Fennel Spice

Roast Fennel Spice

Forever roasted pork shoulder

Forever roasted pork shoulder. You will find the recipe for the pork shoulder and the spice rub here.

In my kitchen you will find me using my electric pressure cooker more often. It’s not an Instant Pot but it works the same. The market seems to have large packages of chicken and I cooked a big batch of chicken thighs so we would have leftovers for lunch. It was very successful.

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot. You can find the recipe for Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs here.

It’s useful to know you can cook an entire family sized package of thighs quickly. Most of the recipes online call for only four. Now that everyone is home for lunch each day, leftovers are very welcome. Use any kind of rub or spices that are family favorites.

Towards the middle of the week, and thinking about lunches again, I made a pantry soup while there was still a few zucchini and potatoes hanging around. This recipe is endlessly adaptable. I chose to make it more Italian spiced but you could easily change it to Mexican by using beans instead of potatoes, frozen corn, and chili powder. Or Indian if you have ground lamb and some curry powder. Customize it to what you have on hand and the flavor profile you feel like in the moment.

There’s a wonderful book, first published in 1991, called From Pantry to Table by Marlena Spieler. She has some creative cooking ideas and suggestions from a well stocked pantry or kitchen. I know Amazon did not rate it highly but for me it’s a go-to for ideas when my pantry is down to the bottom of the barrel.

Italian Soup - Sausage, Zucchini and Tomato

Italian Soup – Sausage, Zucchini and TomatoThe recipe for Sausage, Zucchini and Tomato soup is here.

In my kitchen I have one new cookbook, recommended by a friend. I haven’t cooked from it yet but am looking forward to it. It may need to wait until I can do some more expansive food shopping.

The Beauty Chef

I do like her emphasis on self care and that your skin reflects what you eat. We all need to be reminded to take care of ourselves right now.

In My Kitchen is a collection of posts from around the world. It’s hosted by Mae from Sherrys Picking’s. Please do check in with us, this month the world is very small. And please, if you are a blogger or writer (or a poet), think about joining us and adding your own thoughts, it will help all of us through these difficult times.

I welcome any comments. What are you doing to stay sane right now?

 

 

 

In My Kitchen – January 2020

In My Kitchen – January 2020

Happy New Year everyone, wishing you all a peaceful and joyous year. We had a lovely Christmas, Casey and Quinn were especially pleased with their gifts.

Aussies with their new 'babies'

Casey and Quinn with their Christmas gifts

They do love their stuffed toys and carry them around in their mouths to greet us.

The flags on the front of our home spell out Happy New Year in international flag language. It’s the picture at the top of this post as well as this one.

Happy New Year with Casey and Quinn

The flags spell Happy New Year in international flag language

This January posting of In My Kitchen (also known as IMK) is part of a monthly gathering of posts from kitchens around the world. It’s fascinating to read what is new and notable from the Southern Hemisphere as well as the U.S. and Europe. Please do click on the link to Sherrys Pickings to read them all.

So what’s new in my kitchen? These nifty silicone egg cups are designed for using in the Instant Pot to make a copy of the Starbucks sous vide egg bites. I have made a version sous vide, which turned out ok. Butt there are a lot of recipes online and I am looking forward to trying them all. The egg cups came with a lid and a carrying tray to make it easy to remove them from the electric pressure cooker.

Silicone Egg Cups

Silicone Egg Cups

Silicone Egg Cups

Silicone Egg Cups

I will post the recipe if it turns out to be edible.

In my kitchen I have one last pear from the boxes my brother and sister-in-law sent for Christmas. They came from Harry and David in Oregon and are the best pears in the world, absolutely delicious.

Pear from Harry and David

Pear from Harry and David

It’s a tradition that we send each other pears before the holiday. This year I put one in the fridge and it delayed the ripening enough that we enjoyed each and every one. They are delicious with some cheese and walnuts for dessert.

In my kitchen I have some black rice.

Italian Black Rice

Italian Black Rice

Have any of you tried it? Do you have any recipes? The rice came from a small Italian deli and shop that just opened in town. The rice looks a bit like wild rice and they told me it cooks up nutty and a little firmer than regular rice. I’ll let you know how it turns out. They have lots of very interesting imported items. I also bought a jar of sun dried cherry tomatoes in olive oil and some lovely anchovies.

Sun Dried Tomatoes and Anchovies

Sun Dried Tomatoes and Anchovies

I find most sun dried tomatoes, even the ones in olive oil, rubbery and unpleasant with hard bits. I have made them myself and prefer them just before they are completely dried. I look forward to sampling these.

I was intrigued by these new products I found at the grocery store…

RightRice

RightRice, made from vegetables

RightRice is a blend of lentils, chickpeas, and rice. There were several varieties but these looked the most interesting to me. They claim to be more nutritious and higher in protein than regular rice.

The farm stand down the road was open today and I purchased these lovely carrots and a bunch of dino kale.

 

Another product to try is this organic sprouted blend of brown rice, millet and quinoa. One of my resolutions for 2020 is to add more whole grains to our diet.

Earthly Choice

Sprouted Brown Rice, Millet, Quinoa

And what would the holidays be without at least one new cookbook? This one about exploring the South of Italy. We listen to podcasts on our way back and forth from Fort Bragg to our apartment in Oakland. Katie Parla was featured on one and had fascinating stories about the food of Southern Italy as well as the history. It’s a cookbook to read as well as cook from.

Food of the Italian South

Food of the Italian South

And lastly I will leave you with some wonderful pictures from a Christmas walk. In the hills above Oakland there is a marvelous system of parks and trails. Each year at this time the ladybugs migrate and congregate in one area. It’s always magical to come across them. If the sun is warm and shines on them, they will fly into the air as a swarm and you can hear the clicking of their wings.

 

Again, Happy New Year to you all, and prayers to my blogging friends in Australia for their safety.

 

 

 

In My Kitchen – December 2019

In My Kitchen – December 2019

It will be 2020 in less than a month and I admit to being an anxious mess. I have had to take a news break and stop listening to the radio, TV, reading the paper or jumping at various flash news updates on all my electronic gadgets. The world does not feel like a friendly place at the moment. The Thanksgiving holiday was a welcome respite with its reminder of what is truly important. It was a chance to focus on friends and family (including all our furry four legged friends). I count my blessings for those people and animals in my life.

I recently read an article about morning rituals, one stuck in my head. The idea is to take 30 slow breaths first thing every morning, reminding yourself with each in breath of something or someone you are thankful for. It’s so simple and powerful, a gratitude meditation. But you can do it while dressing, or ordering your morning latte, or feeding the dogs. It doesn’t need to be a big deal. I haven’t been good about starting a meditation practice although I think it is important. My mornings are busy and noisy; the dogs usually get me up fairly early and their mood is one of joyous awakening. I can be thankful for their exuberance at meeting the new day. They are certainly a blessing.

Casey and Quinn

We are so thankful you are finally home

Anyway, on to what’s new in my kitchen.

In my kitchen I have lots of dressing, this year I made three batches because there wasn’t enough left over. The first was a vegetarian version of my regular sausage/cornbread/raisin dressing to satisfy all dietary requirements at Friendsgiving (made with parmesan broth instead of turkey broth). You can read the recipe here.  The second and third (yes three!) batches were with chicken sausage, the recipe is here. I did make some minor changes to both recipes in that I roughly tore the cornbread into pieces and toasted them in a 325 degree F until they were beginning to brown and crisp on the edges. I think that step improved the texture of the dressing.

Demolished

Batch number three…

Finished baked Dressing

It is the best leftover with multiple uses…as a bed for poached eggs, as a thickener for a turkey soup, or just reheated in the microwave as a snack. I only make it at two times each year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, my waistline can’t handle any more.

In my kitchen I have Cornish Game Hens cooked sous vide. You have to spatchcock them before vacuum packing and cooking under water for 1 1/2 hours at 161 degrees F. They were brushed with a mix of garlic, orange zest and paprika before cooking. I broiled them for a few minutes after they were done to give them some color.

Sous Vide Cornish Game Hens

Sous Vide Cornish Game Hens

We were very happy with the results.

With the cooler wet weather I have been craving more carb heavy meals, but at the same time I avoid eating a lot of wheat products. So I am interested to try this paleo grain free flour. Pancakes are in my future.

Paleo Baking Flour

Paleo Baking Flour

Have any of you tried it? If so, what do you think and what did you make?

To go along with those pancakes, some wonderful small batch maple syrup.

Maple Syrup

Runamok Maple Syrup

In my kitchen I have some Artisan crackers, these will be very welcome with cheese in the upcoming holidays.

Artisan Crackers

Artisan Crackers

And lastly in my kitchen I have some toasted tahini. I haven’t tried it but I will be making multiple batches of hummus and will let you know if there is a significant difference to my usual preferred brand.

Obour Toasted Tahini

Obour Toasted Tahini

From my kitchen I can see the lights of our Christmas tree. I’ve been collecting ornaments for many years and inherited them from my parents as well. There are many wonderful memories of past holidays and loved ones connected to the ornaments in the tree.

2019 Christmas Tree

2019 Christmas Tree

I’m connecting this post to a virtual blogging party at Sherrys Pickings. It’s the last “In My Kitchen” of 2019, oh my! Please follow the link to read what is going on in kitchens far and wide.

Happy holidays everyone!

In My Kitchen – November 2019

In My Kitchen – November 2019

Thank you for visiting my November version of In My Kitchen. Each month Sherry MacKay of Sherry’s Pickings hostesses a global gathering of food lovers. You get to peek into their kitchen lore and knowledge, recipes, new kitchen gadgets (I’ve made some amazing discoveries), new ingredients, kitchen tales and musings. Click on the link to connect with their blog postings.

Well, last month ended with five days of no power. It was quite an adventure. We fared better than many since we have a generator and were able to keep the lights on. But, most stores in town were closed. And, the one service station with gas had a line a quarter of a mile long. Surprisingly everyone was good natured about the whole thing and neighbors pulled together to help each other, sharing power to charge cell phones and other electrical communication devices. It did bring home how dependent we are on the electrical grid though, phone service was spotty since they use the towers to boost signals and the internet was down. It was a strange feeling to be so cut off here on the coast. I think these outages will encourage more folks to invest in solar and batteries.

The lemonade from the entire event was that everything was cancelled, I was left with four whole days of empty time on my hands. I finally got around to cleaning out the pantry, washing down kitchen shelves, and sorting through bookcases; all chores on my to-do list. I was waiting for a rainy day, which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime in the next 10 days. We desperately need rain.

So, what’s new in my kitchen? October is my birthday month and favorite gifts are cookbooks (from others and also from me to myself).

nothing fancy by Alison Roman

Alison Roman is a frequent contributor to the NY Times, this is a cookbook about entertaining simply.

From The Oven To The Table by Diana Henry

I have a few cookbooks by Diana Henry and enjoy her writing. This one has a lot of what we call in the U.S. “Sheet Pan” dinner recipes. I always enjoy her take on food and her writing.

Sous Vide by Hugh Acheson

I love cooking sous vide and this one will definitely increase my range of recipes.

Cook Something from Canal House, hirsheimer & hamilton

This is the newest from Canal House in the U.K. It’s also my first one from them and I am in love. Canal House has been around for quite some time but they are new to me. I made some simple pan fried chicken thighs with preserved lemon. It was quite simple but delicious.

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Preserved Lemons

So, I plan to post some interesting new recipes soon. I must admit to having been in a cooking rut.

In my kitchen I have a bowl of apples from the tree in a friend’s yard. These are Galas and are delicious eating apples.

Gala apples

Gala Apples

In my kitchen I have the last of the summer tomatoes. These are from Nye Ranch just down the street, they have a Saturday farm stand and are also at our local farmer’s market each week. They told me that they don’t expect to have any more until next season. We have been enjoying them with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh cheese.

Heirloom tomatoes

In my kitchen I have a new pepper grinder, this one easily adjusts to a fine or coarse grind and is very easy to grind. I find my hands sometimes ache and I appreciate how little pressure this one needs to grind a generous amount of pepper.

 

And lastly in my kitchen I have dogs, five dogs to be exact. We were watching my friend’s corgis for a few days. Remember the puppy who stayed with us back in May? See puppy Milo in the left front of the first picture (he was a little peanut). The second picture shows him as an 8 month old, right front of the second picture. It’s wonderful that they all get along so well. It’s fun to watch them try to herd each other (and us).

 

In My Kitchen – September 2019

In My Kitchen – September 2019

It’s been several months since my last “In My Kitchen” post. Why has it taken so long? I honestly don’t know since there has been a lot of cooking going on. But the type of cooking that happens in the summer months is quite different from that in the fall and winter. We eat a lot of salads, and grilled vegetables. I don’t do a lot of shopping because we have been eating out of the garden (my own, farmer’s markets and friends) whenever possible. Our ‘meat’ is often a sous-vide chicken breast or sausage tossed on the grill to brown at the last minute. Simple food, and light, which is appropriate for the season. During the summer months I would much rather spend my time in the garden than the kitchen. That will change once the weather cools and our rainy season starts.

Local Tomatoes

So, In My Kitchen I have salads.

And in my kitchen I have grilled vegetables from my own and other local gardens.

I learned a trick this year when grilling vegetables. Wait to toss them with oil until they come off the grill. Once warm and cooked they absorb whatever dressing you would like to add quickly. If you coat them with olive oil before grilling, the oil can turn rancid in the high heat and have an “off” flavor.

I cooked the carrots sous vide before tossing them on the grill to char. The artichokes were par boiled first.

In my kitchen I had half a flat of fresh figs from our warmer inland area. I did try to grow a fig tree here on the coast and it was a colossal failure. I don’t think it is hot enough here. I had one in a container on my deck in Oakland, it did really well but I had to fight the critters for the figs. These are Black Mission Figs, I made fig jam and we have been enjoying them fresh in salads (as well as in hand).

Black Mission Figs and Fig Jam

In My Kitchen I have homemade taco seasoning, this recipe came from Mollie and her blog, Frugal Hausfrau.

I used it to coat a chicken  chicken breast before cooking it sous-vide. We then quickly browned it on the grill. It was delicious.

Once you cook a chicken breast sous vide, you will never go back to another method. This one cooked away to perfection in the water bath while we attended a neighborhood meeting. It only took a few minutes to toss it on the grill once we returned home.

In my kitchen I have fresh herb sauces to use on vegetables or grilled meat.

This Salsa Verde contained cilantro, mint, fresh thyme, scallions, jalapeno, and garlic with olive oil, cumin, lime juice, and harissa. It was delicious on simply grilled vegetables.

Trader Joe’s has had some interesting new products. These artichoke hearts were preserved in a simple brine, wonderful tossed into a mixed vegetable salad.

They also have grilled ones in olive oil and sun dried cherry tomatoes in olive oil. The grilled ones were a little stringy. There is not a Trader Joe’s up here on the coast but I stock up when I am at the Oakland apartment.

At our holiday craft’s fair I picked up this European butter keeper. It was made by a friend’s brother who is a potter. I’ve never used one before but it is supposed to keep butter fresh at room temperature. You fill the top part with butter, then turn it upside down on the bottom which is filled with water.

I really like the tree on the top. Do any of you readers preserve butter this way?

This post is part of a monthly gathering of bloggers. Click on the link to Sherry’s Pickings for a look at what is happening around the world.

In My Kitchen
Sherry’s Pickings

That’s all for now, I will see you all again in October. Thank you for visiting.