Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Weekly menu

This week has been all about leftovers. Sounds like a lot of turkey, doesn't it? But it was all so good that stretching it out to last has been really nice.

  • Turkey shepherd's pie, salad (turkey meat, gravy, broth, and cooked vegetables with mashed potatoes over the top and baked til golden), glazed carrots
  • Turkey stuffing bake (spoon stuffing into a baking dish, cover with sliced turkey, pour gravy over the top and bake, covered, until hot), leftover green beans
  • Turkey and sausage gumbo with rice
  • Chicken stir fry, broccoli with garlic, and steamed rice
  • Cheese pizza, salad
  • Pho (asian beef broth with noodles, fresh herbs, and thinly sliced beef on top)
  • Scrambled eggs, toast, mixed fruit

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What a nice present

Look what I saw out my front door this morning: snow! Now something we ever saw back in Southern California, and something that only happens here every once in a while, just enough to make it exciting and special. I love how everything looks like it was dusted with powdered sugar, how every surface is dappled with white. I love watching the flakes come softly to the ground, the tiny specks and the denser clumps where snowflakes have come together. In all my 38 years, I have never seen it snow on this day.

Best birthday present I could have gotten. Well, aside from this, which I plan on playing with all day long.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another big grin

My baby sister is getting married. OK, she's all of thirty five now, but she'll always be the one I tricked into eating a pillbug and the one who shared all of my dearest secrets when we were growing up. I'm beyond happy for her - her guy is really, really good for her and they love each other dearly and well. He called my dad this morning to ask for her hand, and I got a call soon after.

Now, does anyone have suggestions on a really amazing lace shawl I could knit up for her? I'd like to do something really special, something that takes a lot of time and energy, since I can't be there while she plans and worries about the wedding. So I'm going to work all the love and good wishes I can into this shawl. The longer it takes, the more attention it needs, the more I'll be able to focus on her upcoming wedding from afar. I'll be there on the big day, but in the meantime I want something to cluck over like the big sis that I am.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday sky

Sigh. I want to hang that on my wall. Good thing it's right out the window.

Busy weekend

It's not even Sunday, and already I'm exhausted! So much done and so much more to do.

The boys have been home since Wednesday (no school the day before Thanksgiving). I spent that day getting the house in reasonable shape and getting things cooked for the next day. We went to a potluck dinner at my cousin's wife's parents house, along with her sister and sister's daughter. Made mashed potatoes, cranberry jezebel sauce, and rolls to take along. Dinner wasn't the best or the worst I've had, though it was easy to just have one plate full. The boys had a wonderful time with their (second? first, once removed? What do you call the children of your cousin?) cousins, making up all kinds of games and generally chasing around the house. Arden was transfixed with the doll house they had set up and spent hours arranging the furniture and people inside. Little does he know we're getting him this for Christmas. Shhhhh! Really enjoyed seeing everyone. I managed to pull one of the younger ones over to the dark side of Continental knitting - she'd been eyeing me as I worked and decided that looked much easier than English style. We all trundled home in the rain, sleepy eyed and full.

Yesterday was my own turkey dinner. I bought a small, organic, free-range turkey and all organic and mostly local ingredients. I love that we were able to afford to do this and that it is so possible in this area. The turkey was amazing roasted - golden, crisp skin with the most amazing smell filling the house. The gravy was some of the best I've ever had. Made stuffing in the crock pot for the first time, and it was incredible - doing that again next year! We had the freshest, greenest green beans with nutmeg along with everything else. Ryan tried the Jezebel sauce and declared it delicious. Martinelli's all around, much to the delight of the boys. It was nice having our own little feast, just the four of us. We toasted to our first Thanksgiving in Oregon, the first of many to come.

Yesterday was also spent buying trees. Wanted to get some fruit trees in the ground while the soil is still moist and easier to dig, before it gets really cold. Dan and I found a lovely Cox Orange Pippin apple, an asian pear that was trained to espalier with two varieties of pear on it, and a lemon tree. We wanted a Fuji apple as well, but they won't come in until early February. I'd also like a peach tree, but that'll wait until Spring. Today was spent figuring out where the trees should go, digging holes, trimming back shrubs and trees to make room, and hacking out a 10 x 10 foot space in the corner of the yard. That last bit was more to make a play area for the boys than to make space for the trees, but it really does make the yard look nicer. Also dug up and started an asparagus bed over on the side of the house. Lots and lots and lots of work. Good work! I loved lopping off all the branches and breathing that crisp air.

Now we have a huge pile of branches. Dan's thought: we should get an outdoor fire pit. 'Cause you know, then we could burn things.

Big grin.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Weekly menu, recipes, and a few pictures

I'm not sure, but I think Tabby likes her new bed. At least, this is where I'm finding her most of the time now, usually curled up against the side of the bed, blissed out asleep. Wish I'd made the sides a little taller and the rest a bit smaller - might toss this in the washer again and see if I can reshape it. But definitely a success. It warms my heart to see her so comfortable and happy, especially since I was able to help her feel so good. Warm fuzzies all around.
This over on the right is a really bad picture of something new I started. I used some of the sock yarn that I got in the DyeORama swap that's been waiting ever so patiently to be used for something special. Thought of something I actually need and want, did some figuring, cast on, and I'm beyond happy with the results so far. Too bad my camera disagrees! Anyone want to guess what I'm working on?

Here's the menu for this week, followed by two comfort food recipes that should be perfect for colder weather. I'm not hosting Thanksgiving for the first time in many, many years, which makes me a bit sad since I love all the planning, cooking, and arranging. Well, more to the point: I love having people come over and eat my food! This year, we'll be going to a pot luck T-day with my cousin and his wife and her family. I'm doing a small turkey meal the next day so we can have all of our favorites and leftovers to pick at (isn't that the most important part of Thanksgiving? Stuffing to pick at the next day?)

  • Potaju - a simple soup with vegetables and bacon I got from a Japanese cookbook - recipe to follow, fresh bread (extra for stuffing on Friday)
  • Channa dal with herbs and garlic, basmati rice, cauliflower with mustard seeds
  • Three cheese pizza (mozzarella, parmesan and romano), salad (I make pizza dough constantly, freezing half once the dough is frozen. This leaves another batch of dough ready at any time I want to make pizza without extra work. I make the sauce, too)
  • Grilled chicken, sauteed cabbage with garlic
  • Thanksgiving day - I'm bringing my Grandma's rolls (these are so good! I'm making 2 batches, 64 total, so we'll have enough left over), mashed potatoes, and Cranberry Jezebel Sauce
  • Our own T-day spread: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans wtih nutmeg and walnuts, some of the rolls, some of the Jezebel sauce, Martinelli's and wine, and Tirimisu (this was at the request of both boys)
  • Leftover feast pickings the next day :-)
And now, recipes. Both for warming, comfort in a spoon of one sort or another.

This is a soup recipe I got from a book called Japanese Country Cookbook. It was interesting to find that this is considered a Japanese dish, even the name (which surely comes from the French potage). Any way you look at it, it's warm and simple and delicious.

4 0z. bacon or fatty ham (can use a little more if you like), sliced into bite sized bits
1 medium onion, diced
6 cups water
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste (give it a good bit of pepper)

Saute bacon or ham in a large pot over medium heat until most of the fat has separated. You don't want the bacon or ham to crisp. Add onion and saute until transparent. Add water slowly so it doesn't splatter. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or so. Add potatoes and cook until potatoes have come apart, around 30 minutes. Add carrots, salt and pepper and cimmer until carrots are soft. You can serve the soup as is, or mash the vegetables a bit to thicken.

Conjee (or Jook)
This is comfort food at it's simplest and best. Rice is cooked in a lot of water until it forms a thick, delicately flavored soup, perfect for topping with just about anything.

3/4 cup short or medium grain rice
5 1/2 cups water
salt to taste (I use around 1 tsp.)
ginger, grated fine - optional

Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Combine with water and salt (this isn't traditional, but I like it) in a heavy pot, then bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook for at least an hour, though two is better. If you like, add some ginger to the rice before it cooks to add a bit of flavor and comfort to anyone with an upset stomach. Once the congee is ready, you can eat it plain or top with any number of things. Leftover meats or fish go well here. A splash of sesame oil, soy sauce, and some green onion is good. Shot of hot sauce can be nice. Vegetables are nice on top, or you can add them to the congee as it cooks so they end up tender at the end. Play with this until you find your own favorites - congee is a wonderful blank canvas.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Weekly Menu

Saturday found me sick. Very sick. Lay on the couch, hacking up a lung sick. But the menu needed to get made, so I tried to plan things that were easy and that might appeal to me and Dan (starting to get sick) and the boys (on the fringes of sick). Nothing exciting or brain bending this week, no new recipes or challenges, just comfort food on the quick. (note - I'm feeling mostly better now, but was very glad for the simpler meals so far this week)

  • Leftover pork with chipotle, cabbage slaw
  • Scrambled eggs, bacon, sliced oranges
  • Black bean burritos, sauteed corn (I just cook frozen corn in a pan with butter, salt and pepper until it gets a bit caramelized at the edges - really good and easy)
  • Congee with chicken and bok choy (lots of ginger in this, for upset stomachs)
  • Chicken stir fry with broccoli, steamed rice
  • "Rice Stuff" (Dan's specialty: chicken in a spicy peanut sauce that is the ultimate comfort food), stir-fried greens with garlic, more steamed rice
  • TJs easy meal - here I just wandered Trader Joe's, looking for something super simple. Ended up with 4 cheese ravioli that I tossed with caramelized onions in lots of butter, along with some frozen "vegetable melange" with herbed butter. Ahhh, butter.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Random Tuesday

First, some more dyeing. I wanted something special to gift to Anna when she got here, so I looked through her gallery to find the most likely colors. Orange, green, and pink it was! This turned out a wee bit brighter than I'd intended, so I offered to overdye in a smidge of brown to dull the colors a little, but Anna swore she loved it as is, so I left it like that. Also notice another project in this picture - home grown tomatoes that I picked before frost hits. They are ripening on the table, making a really nice edible centerpiece. The riper ones went into a marinara last week, which was delicious.

Next, another something from the garden: my first carrot! There's something mysterious about pulling a root vegetable from the ground - will it be long, thin, thick, colorful? No way of knowing until it's out of the ground. Each time I pick one, it's an adventure. So far, the carrots are crunchy and sweet and Ryan has taken to picking them when he feels like a snack. Score one for mom!

Next, a cat bed for Tabby. Since the surgery, I've really wanted to do something that would help her feel better physically. It's been getting colder here lately, and she doesn't really have any insulation to speak of (unlike her owner), so I figured a cat bed would be perfect. I used some Patons Classic wool, doubled, and some Cascade 128 that I bought at half price last week. My own pattern, not felted yet. As soon as I laid it on the floor, she came over to sniff, so I'm thinking it will probably go over well.

Last, a calender picture for Deb. Also a bit for me, as well. You can't see it, but there are red letters on the 28th. Won't say what they are for, but I will mention that I was born on Thanksgiving day a few decades ago. The real fun of that comes every 4th or 7th year, when my birthday actually falls on Thanksgiving. I love when that happens - cooking, people I love all around, and a big meal that I can plan for and cook? My idea of heaven.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weekly Menus

Last week was incredibly busy, so no time to post the menu. Had friends from out of town visiting for three nights - Anna and her husband came out to take a closer look at Portland, and we all had a wonderful time. This meant lots of running around and getting things in order. Plus a special meal while they were here. I did have a menu planned out, however, so I figure I'll just add it to this weeks and do two weeks at once.

  • Sesame noodles, stir fried nappa cabbage
  • Ooey Gooey Witches Fingers, salad from the garden (the fingers were a HUGE hit on Halloween, using half a string cheese per "finger")
  • Cheese omelets, home fries, sliced apple (breakfast for dinner)
  • Spiced red lentil soup
  • Fried rice with egg and vegetables (this is a great clean out the refrigerator meal)
  • Vegan dim sum: scallion cakes, tofu siu mai (the filling on these was wonderful, but the wrappers didn't steam properly), curry puffs, bok choy with garlic (from the garden), sticky rice, and coconut ice cream with ginger and lime
  • Fast Food - not on the list, but I was out late enough Sunday night that we decided to just go out.
  • Pasta with broccoli (fast, easy, and an entire meal)
  • Dal with garlic and cumin, carrot salad with mustard seeds, basmati rice
  • Vegetable soup, grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Chicken curry, more basmati rice, sliced pineapple
  • Potstickers, stir fried asparagus, steamed rice
  • Spaghetti with marinara sauce (made from the last of our tomatoes), salad
  • Pork with chipotle, roasted tomatoes and red peppers, arroz rojo, corn tortillas
I'll be back with a full report of Anna's visit very soon, I promise!