Friday, November 23, 2012

Friends

Over the river and thru the woods...
They say, "family is where you go and they have to take you in." Perhaps. But friends are people who don't have to take you in, and do it anyway.

Toby practices looking cute!
The Spread!
Pat, J, and Truddles!
J and I are blessed with really wonderful friends. On Thanksgiving we were able to share time with them. First we went to see the Diva and the Nurse. Nurse has had some health challenges this year, and we offered to cook Thanksgiving dinner at their house. They provided the turkey (very moist and delish despite worries by the cook to the contrary!) ,a wonderful squash casserole, and pumpkin pies. We brought dressing (cornbread and sausage, of course!), gravy, mashed potatoes, two kinds of cranberries, and the carrot sticks. The Diva's mother was also in attendance. It was wonderful to see her, very spry and full of cheer.

Laurie, Liz, and Pattie
After a yum dinner and a brief nap (yes, I did! And right on their couch, too boot. That's what it's all about, isn't it?) we made our way over to Laurie and Pat's where Lizzie, Missy, and Pattie had feasted. We had our choice of two pies. Not wishing to upset anyone, I had a narrow sliver of both. Can you really eat too much pumpkin pie in a day? No, I don't think so either.


I miss being with my birth family, but rejoice we have such a wonderfully loving family of choice. Here's to many more more Thanksgiving days together!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November Garden Report

Yes, we cut everything right down to the ground!
One last report on the garden for this year -- to say good by for a while! Today, Miss J and I worked in the garden, draining and wrapping up the fountain, emptying pots and bring in our Buddha statue.







I'm always sorry to see it all go. We know what comes next, don't we? Snow you say? Well yes, but eventually what comes next are tulips and daffodils.



Will the nest be occupied?



I had hoped to plant more bulbs this fall, but with school keeping me busy busy and no cash, well, we just won't be able to do that this year. But that's the best part of gardening. There's always next year!



Watch this space!

So it's not really good bye to the garden, but more like, "until we meet again!" Until then, sleep tight in your beds, my lovelies! I can't wait to see you when you awake one day next spring. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beauteous Fall!

Rochester doesn't really have a bad time of year. Even Winter has it's charms. But Fall is one of the best times here. Everyone is nervously having a great time, trying not to focus on what's next.

The other day I had a few minutes away from my busy school studies to shoot a few pictures. Here's one I took that I think came out pretty well. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did capturing it!

Rochester NY


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Isn't This Beautiful?

Railroad Trestle

Midterms - Done!

I just survived my first graduate school midterm exam. Advanced Cognition. Never have I studied so hard in all my life. When I study for a test, I try to guess (predict) what questions the teacher will put on the test, and also I try to only study what don't know, rather than spend time on what I do.

This time, I didn't stick with my strategy and studied way too much. I will trust myself next time. I'm also going to work a little harder at studying as we go, and try not to put too much off to the end. I did keep up with the reading, and I didn't slack off. But I think I can better focus my efforts.

So my reward today was to go out shooting. I think I got some great shots for our annual calendar. Here's one I had time to process before I race out for my Statistics class. Enjoy!
Genesee Valley Park Bridge, Fall 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Roadtrip to Geneseo!

If you didn't hear the news, I lost my job about three weeks ago. No need to look sad -- I'm actually quite enjoying life as an unemployed student! And I'm busy busy busy between the Dharma Center, and getting ready to start school.

The Big Tree Inn, Geneseo, NY
So, I carved out a little bit of time for Miss J and me to go on a photography expedition yesterday, down to Livingston County. And of course we needed to stop for some lunch -- how much art can a girl make on an empty stomach?

When we got to Geneseo, we decided that we would try the Big Tree Inn, a place I have eaten several times in the distant past. I think the last time was just before a Indigo Girls concert. But that's another story.

Flavored butters
Of course we were starving by the time we got to the Inn, so we were very happy to see the bread basket and flavored butters arrive at the table. The bread was quite good -- chewy crust, soft bread, but not, alleluia! not under baked!!! We hate the recent trend in under baking. Bakers, please note: half raw is not the same as moist. If you want moist, add fat or sugar. The flavored butters, pesto, lemon poppy seed, and strawberry, were better in concept than in execution.

Spring Chicken Salad
 J ordered the Spring Chicken Salad. It was a grilled chicken breast on appropriately dressed salad greens. Am interesting addition to the salad was some cubed parsnip. It took me a minute to decide what the mysterious yellow cube was -- but in the end I got it figured out. We like to add a lot of unusual things to our salads, but I never tried parsnips. I will in the future, however.

Clam and Mussel Chowder
My choice for lunch was the soup of the day -- a clam and mussel chowder. I love shell fish prepared in any way, and it would have been nice if there had been some actually in the soup. The soup was good, don't get me wrong. It just wasn't very chock full of clams or mussels. Maybe there were two or four all together? Not very many. There were a lot of veggies, however, and that was really good.

So, overall, we were pleased with our lunches and suggest you check out the Big Tree Inn if you are down to Geneseo. Keep in mind that Geneseo is a college town, and don't expect to be able to get into the best restaurant in town on parents' weekend. But with a little luck or pre-planning, you could be enjoying a lovely luncheon there yourself!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Homemade Ricotta and Onion Marmalade PIZZA!

This isn't a recipe, really, as much as it is an assemblage of other things. I decided I wanted to use my ricotta - recipe is here - and onion marmalade - and here- and also the slow roasted grape tomatoes I had in the fridge that I made last week. The tomatoes are super easy. I just washed 3 pints of lovely grape tomatoes, put them on a sheet pan, drizzled a tiny amount of oil over them, and slid them into a 250 degree oven for about 3 hours. I checked on them every 30 minutes or so, to be sure all was well. When they were done, I put them in a container and put them in the fridge. I try not to think about them there, because otherwise they would last me only a few hours!

So last night, I located my pizza stone and cranked the oven up to 500 degrees. I used the pre-made Nan bread that Wegman's carries as the crust, but you could use Boboli pizza shells, or your own pizza dough. Whatever you like. The nan was perfect for me, though. I spread a layer of onion marmalade, not too thick because it is pretty sweet. Then i added olive bar dark olives, sliced in half, my yummy tomatoes, and then the ricotta. A sprinkling of a good Romano cheese and some herbs de Provence, and into the oven they went!

When they were done, about 10 minutes, I topped them with a very lightly dressed salad of arugala. I used hazelnut oil and champagne vinegar because those are the lightest things I have. You wouldn't want to use a good balsamic because the onions are pretty sweet. The tart pepperyness of the salad was perfect.

This was probably the best pizza I've ever made. It was verging in too sweet, so next time I'll use maybe some coarse salt on top, or maybe even a few anchovies. But over all it got great reviews from Miss J. 


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Homemade Ricotta and Moussaka-stuffed Eggplants

Last week I saw a recipe for a grilled salad that used pears, eggplant, Parmesan cheese, and toasted walnuts. I was intrigued, so I asked Miss J to pick up the ingredients when she did our weekly shopping. Miss J obliged, but unfortunately Rochester weather did not. And after a week, the notion of eggplants and pears together in one dish started to sound more weird than intriguing. So I decided to go with "plan b." Which I didn't have.

Add to the equation the fact that a few weeks back I saw this lovely store-made ricotta on sale at Weggies. And that ground lamb was loitering in my fridge, also the casualty of a rainy week and no grilling.

Google to the rescue! I Googled "recipes for eggplant, lamb, fresh ricotta cheese" and came up with a number of candidates. This Moussaka won out. But first I had to make ricotta cheese. It turns out that making Ricotta is about as easy and fast as can be. Think about it: it's American cousin -- cottage cheese -- is called "cottage" cheese because it can be made by a person of humble means in a small house. You have to try it -- it was a snap, and the result was too yummy!


Homemade Ricotta

Makes about a cup.

Ingredients

Half gallon whole milk
2 cups buttermilk

Steps

1. Line a wide sieve or colander with cheesecloth, folded so that it is at least 4 layers thick. Place in sink.
2. Pour milk and buttermilk into a heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently; scrape bottom of pot occasionally to prevent scorching. As milk heats, curds will begin to rise and clump on surface. Once mixture is steaming hot, stop stirring.
3. When mixture reaches 175 to 180 degrees on a candy thermometer, curds and whey will separate. (Whey will look like cloudy gray water underneath a mass of thick white curds.) Immediately turn off heat and gently ladle curds into sieve.
4. When all curds are in sieve and dripping has slowed (about 5 minutes), gently gather edges of cloth and twist to bring curds together; do not squeeze. Let drain 15 minutes more. Discard the whey.
5. Untie cloth and pack ricotta into airtight containers. Refrigerate and use within one week.

 Moussaka Style Stuffed Eggplants


Ingredients

 Serves   2 servings
Preheat over to 400 degrees.


1 lb eggplants (medium-sized)
kosher salt
1 tbsp olive oil
oil (extra, rubbing the eggplants)
38 lb ground lamb (lean)
14 onion (diced)
1 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tomatoes (peeled seeded diced)
12 green bell pepper (peeled seeded and diced)
38 tsp ground cloves
38 tsp cinnamon
38 tsp ground cumin
tsp cayenne pepper
14 cup ricotta (fresh)
23 cup ricotta (fresh)
ground pepper (fresh)
18 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated)
34 tbsp milk
18 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
fresh parsley (garnish)

Halve the eggplants lengthwise and score the interior of each half, leaving about a third of an inch thickness on the perimeter. Use a paring knife and a spoon to scoop out the interior of the eggplant, leaving a 'boat.' Using a fork, pierce the skin in several places, liberally salt the halves and place them upside down on paper towels to drain for about 30 minutes.

Wipe the eggplant shells out with paper towels, brush the skin lightly with a little olive oil, and place them on a baking sheet. Bake them until they are just tender (about ten minutes) then remove from the oven and set aside in a baking dish.

Chop the eggplant flesh into 1/2" cubes and set aside.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the lamb and cook, breaking up the pieces, until lightly browned--about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, chopped eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is soft--about five more minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, cloves, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne and cook until the mixture is fairly dry.

Remove from the heat.Season to taste and spoon into the 4 eggplant halves.

Place the remaining 1 and 1/3 cups of ricotta in a small bowl and stir in the nutmeg and enough milk until the consistency of the cheese mixture is spreadable.Spread it over the filled eggplant halves and sprinkle the tops with parmesan.

Bake until the tops are very brown--25 to 35 minutes.


Monday, August 13, 2012

CSA Abundance: Onion Marmalade

For quite some time I have wanted us to subscribe to a CSA farm -- that's "community supported agriculture" to you -- and this year we finally did. For some money up front, you get a share of the produce a small farm produces. We chose Lagoner Farms, and couldn't be be happier with the result. The produce we have received from Lagoner Farms has been really outstanding and they are very nice people, to boot.

The only downside (which is not a downside at all) is that we have gotten a LOT of some stuff. For example, I use a lot of onions in our cooking. Miss J and I think if a little onion is good, then a lot of onion is better. But even we couldn't eat 3 big onions a week for 3 weeks. So what to do? Make Onion Marmalade, of course!

Onion Marmalade is in the categories of things labeled "Things I want to try but not right now. " Nine onions in a three week period moved this item up in the list, and so one Saturday, I found myself weeping quietly over some lovely onions. And weeping I was. I usually read five to ten recipes online before I launch myself into a new project, and I can't believe that NOT ONE of the authors mentioned crying. But the result was worth it.

I like "My Husband Cooks" recipe best as a starting place. You can check it out here.

Onion Marmalade
Ingredients:
4 cups onions (sliced thin)
2 T bacon fat (If you don't have bacon grease in your fridge, well, too bad for you. Use oil.)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T port wine (I would have used red wine but I didn't want to open a bottle for 2 T.)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt

Directions:
1. In a non-reactive pan, melt the bacon fat and add the onions and salt. Cook until the onions are beginning to turn brown, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Be careful -- just a little bit of burning makes the whole mess taste bitter and yucky.
3. Add the sugars, port wine, bay leaf, and balsamic vinegar. Cook over medium heat until until the onions are soft and the juicy part is thick. This will take about 40 minutes. Keep an eye on things -- you don't want it to burn or turn into concrete.


4. Remove the bay leaf and cool. Transfer to a glass or plastic container with a good lid. This will last quite a while in the fridge.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Visit to Woodchuckville

J and I have rented a cottage on Waneta Lake, a teensy-tiny lake in the Fingerlakes region. This really is the land that time forgot. For most of the week we have done absolutely nothing but cook out and eat, read books, and play Farkle. There is also a lot of just staring at the lake. This has been heavenly!

So today, we decided to shake the dust off and go out for a bit. Our destination was The Windmill Farm & Craft Market in Penn Yan, aka Woodchuckville. If you ever wondered where people get tee shirts that say things like, "I'm Great in Bed (I can sleep for hours at a time)" it's at the Windmill.

The parking lot, with a view of the namesake windmill
Slightly burned on the edges = perfect!
The Penn Yan area is home to many Mennonites, so they are represented at the Windmill, mostly in the food stands it seemed to me. I was able to buy a loaf of salt-rising bread, a hard to find favorite. My dad used to make it frequently when I was growing up. Salt-rising bread is made without yeast, but instead is made from a starter of naturally occurring micro-organisms, like sour dough. Despite it's name, it isn't salty. I'm not really sure where the salt comes in. Dad had a started made from potatoes, and it stunk to high heaven. Which explains why the cleaning lady threw it out when she was cleaning the fridge one week. A tragedy for us.

So tomorrow I will have some lovely salt-rising bread toasted.  Ah, if only I had some peanut butter to put on it too!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dygert Does HDR

I'm just fascinated by the HDR photos I've seen -- My nephew Tim took some at the beach in Hawaii that were stunning -- but I've not tried to shoot any on my own until now. With a week at a cottage before me, I thought I might have enough time to noodle through how to do it.

Setting up my Canon DSLR was the hardest part. Lucky for me, I was able to find an excellent resource on the internet. If you have a Canon 5D Mark II, you will be able to use these instructions too. They are very specific!

So once I got the pictures in my camera, then I had to get them put together via Photomatix software. This software has only one purpose -- to combine the bracketed shots in your camera to make an awesome HDR photo. Photomatix isn't expensive, and the version I bought was actually good for 2 people, so I could share it with J too. Also search around on the internet for a % off coupon. At this writing you can get 15% off the list price with an easy to find coupon.

J and I do a calendar every year, primarily for our own pleasure, and share it with family. This year I think the theme is going to be "pictures that tell a story." I think these HDR photos do just that!

Now on to learning about those filters I bought for my camera!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cheese Tasting Lunch!


Although my readers probably will find this nearly impossible to believe, I don’t usually put much focus on my lunch. Right now, since I am trying to loose some weight, lunch is two Adkins bars. Definitely blah. And J doesn’t do anything special for lunch either, making a meal out of whatever is leftover in the fridge.

So, for our vacation, I wanted to really do nice lunches. Here at Waneta Lake we are far from any interesting restaurants. I think we would have to drive all the way to Ithaca for a good meal. So I planned to eat all our meals here. This does make it possible for us to be budget-minded and nutrition-minded as well. So it’s all good.

Today’s lunch was a cheese platter. I bought five nice cheeses at Wegman’s. These were served with a multi-grain baguette, and a sour dough cherry nut bread. Here’s the line up with our remarks. I start describing the one with the piece missing.

1.     Chermont (Vermont).  This lovely double cream made with goat’s milk was wonderful. We had it last night on toasted rounds of the multigrain baguette, and beets tossed with a little vinaigrette and toasted pecans. We loved the richness and the light goaty-ness of this cheese, and both scored it as our top pick of the platter.

2.    Tarentaise (Vermont). This is described on the label as a alpine-style cows milk cheese. It is a hard cheese, with a medium-sharp cheddar flavor that develops in the mouth. It had a little grittiness to me, something I notice in some swiss cheeses with rinds. I don’t especially love it.  I rated it 4th, but J gave it a 3rd.

   
3.     Langa Castelbelbo (Italy). This cheese was semi-soft, kind of the texture of those Laughing Cow wedges you can get. Almost rubbery. The flavor was very non-descript, just light dairy, nothing more. Maybe it would be good cooked in something? I rated it 5th. J rated it 2nd, mostly because she liked the texture.
4.     Aged Mohon (Spain). This was a hard cheese, with a texture J described as flakey. It has a ceddary flavor that we both liked. I rated it 3rd, while J, who will put any creamy cheese before a hard cheese, rated it 4th.
5.     Jumi Apenberger (Switzerland). This was an amazing  hard cheese, creamy with a strong poopie flavor that ended on a floral note. It kind of tasted like dead things smell. But in a good way, really. I rated this 2nd, but J was not impressed. She gave it a 5th.

We ended our meal with some fresh cherries, which were exactly the right thing. With the early spring and then the freeze, and now the drought, we are feeling very blessed to have cherries this summer.

Tomorrow: Melon and prosciutto!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cookies for Retreat: A Quick Visit to Dewachen!

Ontul Rinpoche
We had a wonderful time this weekend at our Buddhist center, the Amitabha Foundation in Rochester, NY. Ontul Rinpoche, a skillful teacher and inspiring yogi, was invited by our founder Ayang Rinpoche to teach  on several topics, including Bodhicitta (Loving Kindness and Compassion) and Lojong, a Tibetan mind-training tradition. Ontul Rinpoche brought his son, Ratna Rinpoche along. It was wonderful to see Ontul Rinpoche again and meet Ratna Rinpoche.

Buddha Amitabha, for whom our center is named, has a pure land called Dewachen, the land of great bliss. There all the conditions are perfect for enlightenment. We strive to give our retreatants an experience that mirrors that. So we do a lot of little things to that end, including serving yummy snacks!

I made some cookies for retreat, and they were very well received by everyone, including Ginger Cookies that I make all the time. You can find the recipe here.

Here are the other (much requested) recipes!

This first recipe is from the site Two Peas and Their Pod. The original recipe says it makes only 16 cookie bars. Believe me, if you ate one that big, you would probably go into a coma! This are rich rich rich! I cut them in to about 36 bares and that was plenty big! Also, the recipe says there is a 15 minute prep time. It took me at least that long to unwrap the darned carmels! I think the prep time was at least double that. But the cookies are worth it, I promise you.
You can find the original recipe here.

Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bars


Yield: 16 cookie bars
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Chocolate chip cookie bars with a layer of salted caramel. These gooey sweet and salty cookie bars are pretty much perfection!

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 10 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart baking pan (which is an 11 X 7 pan-I used a glass Pyrex dish) with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. Microwave caramels on High until caramels are melted, stirring every 20 seconds. This will take about 2 minutes, depending on your microwave.
  5. Divide the cookie dough in half. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Pour hot caramel over the cookie dough. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough over the caramel and spread dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with additional sea salt.
  6. Bake cookie bars for 30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool bars on a wire rack to room temperature. Cut bars into squares and serve.
 **************************
This second recipe comes from Cooking Light and can be found here. I added pecans to the recipe. I think just about everything is better with nuts!

Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg 
  • 2/3 cup dried tart cherries
  • 3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add vanilla and egg; beat well. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture. Beat just until combined. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.
  3. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or just until set. Remove from oven; cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
 *****************************
I wanted another non-chocolate cookie to offer our guests, and as I said earlier, I love all things nutty. So I decide a  peanut butter style cookie made with almond butter would be just the thing. It was harder than you can imagine to find such a recipe. But I did finally find this one. Everyone raved about these cookies. I didn't put the almonds on top, only because I forgot.

You can find the original recipe here.

Eastern European Almond Butter Cookie Recipes


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter
  • 3/4 cup cold almond butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together butter, almond butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined. 
  3. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. If dough is too soft, refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Otherwise, using a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop, portion out dough on ungreased cookie sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart. Using the bottom of a floured glass or a glass dipped in sugar, flatten each cookie mound slightly. Top with a few slivered almonds, if desired. 
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden on top and bottom. Do not overbake. Cool on pan 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Garden Report - Peak!



View from the side garden
This has been an extraordinary gardening year, for a couple of reasons. We started early, with an exceptionally mild winter and spring. It has been dry, so even the things that are in the wetest part of the garden, but don't have any business being there are having a good year. And the youngest part of the garden, is three years old now. So things are well-established and ready to be divided.

Beautiful day lilies!
All the day lilies are are blooming now, including my favorites, the spider shaped ones. I think we must have 15 different day lilies represented. Last year I did an arrangement of all the different day lilies in our gardens, and it was an amazing assemblage, if I do say so myself! When Joanne is home again, I think I'll reprise it!
I love the color of this one.

From now on until Fall arrives, we will mostly be pruning and deadheading. I have a couple of echinacea to plant -- red ones! And two cups and saucers, blue of course, too. I'd love to add a garden to the front yard, and another on the side of the house. But I suspect those will be a very hard sell to Miss Joanne, who is much better at stopping to smell the roses than I am.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Grilled Salmon, Marinaded in Dijon Mustard

Grilled salmon with grilled squash and rainbow chard
This is absolutely the best best best grilled salmon I have ever made. I think I could eat this 5 days a week, which would probably make my doctor happy and annoy Joanne! I use the wild salmon, not farm raised for this recipe. I've gotten a little suspicious of farm-raised fish. The wild salmon has wonderful color and texture, too.

We can thank Ina Garten for this recipe. I use her marinade, with a small addition of honey, but my directions for cooking the salmon are a little different.

Wild salmon, cut in 6 ounce portions. This amount of marinade will work for 4 servings.
2 tablespoons course dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons good soy sauce
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

About 30 minutes before you are going to grill, mix the marinade in a pan large enough to accommodate the salmon in a single layer. Put the salmon in the marinade, skin side up.
Make a medium size charcoal fire, and oil the grill so the fish won't stick. When the fire is ready,  place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill.  Discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes. Then move the fish away from the heat and cook for another 5 minutes.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Caponata and Lamb Meat Balls

A perfect summer day for us is one that is spent primarily outdoors, either working in our gardens, or shooting pictures. It definitely isn't a day full of household chores! But girls have to eat, and we like to eat well. So I bite the bullet, and from time to time, make up a bunch of yummy stuff, and then we graze on that for the rest of the week.

And so, recently, I made up some lovely caponata, a cold dish of eggplant, raisens, pine nuts, and capers plus a whole lot more. With some wonderful lamb meatballs, tabouli, hummus, and store-bought nan, we had lunches and dinners for days. And many of theme were taken on the patio, with the flowers and birds as company!

Caponata

This is recipe started with one by Mario Batalia. Don't be put off by the strange additions of coco and cinnamon. I promise you will like it!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 stalks celery cut into 1/4" cubes (3/4 cups)
1 medium eggplant diced
6 large green olives, chopped. I like the ones with pimento best, but use whatever you like.
9 good black olives -- the oil cured kind - chopped
1 small roasted red pepper chopped. If you used the green olives with pimento, you could probably skip this.
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup golden raisins reconstituted in 1/4 cup water in the microwave for a minute or two
1/4 cup tomato sauce. I use leftover marinara
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/6 cup balsamic vinegar

Saute the onion, celery, pepper in the olive oil until the onion and celery are soft. Stir in the eggplant and cook for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more vinegar or honey as needed.


Lamb Meatballs


Suddenly Wegmans has been selling ground lamb. I love this recipe because they are baked. I cook them ahead and then heat them up at supper.

1 pound ground lamb
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, Form the meat into small round meatballs. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake them about 45 minutes.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Rochester Jazz Festival - Are You Hungry?

 Miss J and I took in the Rochester Jazz Festival the other night. We had tickets to Steve Martin's show -- a show that sold out in about 10 minutes! Lucky for me,  Miss J has a cool head and a steady clicking finger and she was able to score us quite good tickets.

So before the show, we strolled around and scoped out the food choices. We have equally coveted tickets to Nora Jones tonight, and due to the competitive parking situation, decided that it would be best to come at dinner time, eat at the festival, and then go to the 8pm show. Here's what we found:

OriginalPoutineLaBanquise.jpg
Poutine, thanks to Wikipedia
French fries covered with cheese and hot peppers in a paper dog bowl?
We observed a lot of folks carrying what looked to be dog dishes, filled with something that gave me gas just to think about it: french fries, hot peppers and cheese that had an extremely unnatural color. Is this some Rochesterian version of poutine? Poutine, for the uninitiated is a Canadian "delicacy" made of french fires, brown gravy and cheese curds. I think it's a ghastly idea, but lots and lots of other people think differently.

Lots of choices
Most of the choices were what you would expect if you have experienced Rochester festival food. There was italian sausage, with the obligatory peppers and onions. There were both red and white hots. Fried dough, our answer to funnel cake, was present. I did see crab cakes, and I might be brave enough to go for those. Although I usually disappointed when I try for something "high falutin'" rather than just sticking with the tried and true.

Dinner avec a chair
Some people chose to eat at "Betty's" in the Eastman Theater where the concert was held. I think the have those giant cookies, and box wine for sale in there. But you do get a chair, and that's something.
Curb-stone setters

For the rest of us, the curb would do. It's not about the actual food, afterall. It's about  being part of the crowd, celebrating fantastic music, and celebrating SUMMER! The solstice has passed and now we are on our way to that other season -- I won't even say the word -- but for everyone in Rochester, the clock is tick-tick-ticking. And we must make hay (or hots!) while the sun shines!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

End of May Garden Report

With our mild Winter and extremely early Spring, I guess the garden is about a month to six weeks ahead of where it "should" be. Well, there aren't really any "shoulds" in gardening -- it is what it is. And this year it's early.
Tree Peony, bachelor buttons, and the white climbing rose
Our mature tree peony has 20 blooms on it. It is amazing. I can't wait for the two we planted this year to get on with it. This picture shows our fountain - an anniversary gift to each other about five years ago - the climbing white rose, which is loaded with blooms, some of the bachelor buttons, and the tree peony.

Newly painted bench in the meditation garden
Every year there is some sort of building project that seems to need to be done. This year's project is the garden bench in the meditation garden. Joanne bought this a few years ago. It's one of those metal and wood benches you see everywhere. I guess we have had it about four years. A couple of years ago it started to look pretty beat up, so she took it all apart, sanded it back, and polyurethaned it. It was difficult because the metal parts of the bench are cast iron, and they are HEAVY! We always wrap the bench up with a tarp and bungie chords. But this year, when we unwrapped it, it looked terrible again. J wasn't really looking forward to taking it all apart again. She decided that this time she should paint it. So when John and Nic came up for a few days, John helped her with the project. He was really wonderful. You can't imagine how much easier a job is when it's a young (strong) guy helping you! I love the way the bench came out, and I think I'll like it even when the paint starts to look "old". I tried to talk J into distressing the paint, to speed the look along. But no luck!

Clematis "Crystal"
The clematis are coming along this year. I think we will probably buy a couple more to help them get to the level of coverage we want quicker. J says she is a little disappointed, but I figure it will take a few years, and it has only been 2 really. J's favorite clematis is one called "Crystal" - it really looks like a lotus, I think. The picture isn't a very good one. The color of the clematis is a very very pale blue, almost transparent.

I hope you are having a wonderful time in your garden too!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May Garden Report

Petunias. I love this color combo.
Well, Miss J was off to South Carolina, helping with grandbabies last week. While she was away, I worked like a demon in the garden. As a result, I am now to the part of the gardening year where I describe our state as being, "almost finished." Almost finished is some kind of weird gardening calculus where you get closer and closer but never actually finish. My list of "to-dos" includes:

  • Feed the roses (we have 9 bushes)
  • Move a day lily
  • Buy and plant 1 or 2 tree peonies (depends on if I can convince J that we really need 2!)
  • Plant some small black-eyed Susans so I have more flowers in the fall
  • Weed
  • Cut back the spent tulips
  • Tie up the spent daffodils
  • Plan 30 little zinnias that will grow to 30"
  • Buy and plant some smaller zinnias
  • Move the birdbath
  • Unwrap and set up the fountain
  • Buy and install 8 -12 bags of mulch
  • Deliver the bachelor's  buttons I dug out to our neighbor

And that's just this week's list! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

April Garden Report

We are enjoying a very early spring here in Rochester. Well, I guess I should modify that statement a little. Here is Rochester, we enjoy good weather very very much. But we always have that sensation that a meteor is speeding towards earth when we do. There is just that little bit of, "Oh wow, we are going to pay for this!" in the back of our minds.  My garden, however, has no guilt, and just blooms it heart out when the weather turns warm.

From what we refer to as the "plum tree".
Last Fall I put in about 150 new bulbs, mostly daffodils, but also some tulips, allium, and lilies. I put in 50 tulips -- a lily form tulip -- in front of the house. They are going to be the last of the bulbs to bloom, I think, because it is shady and cool there. That's ok with me. I like the blooming season to be spread out throughout the season. Most of the bulbs were daffs because I decided I wanted to represent all of the eight different types of daffodils in my yard. I get my bulbs from Zimmerman and McClure, by the way, and their stuff is absolutely the best! You can find them on the web here. Be sure check them out.
I won't tell you how much this cost.

Most of the daffodils were something like $6 for 6, but this one -- my absolute favorite -- was a lot more. No, I'm not going to say. Go look it up for yourself. I love the way the white petals have yellow at the centers. It looks like either the cap is reflecting on the white, or has somehow rubbed off on the white. The effect in person is stunning.

J's favs
Joanne's favorite this year are the daffs with peach colored cups. I wasn't sure how much I was going to like those, so I didn't plant very many. But I'm going to add another dozen or so this year. Also, I planted these outstanding peach tulips that have yellow at the base of the flower. I think a bunch of those with the peach and white daffodils would be just amazing. I'll be doing a bouquet next spring, you can be sure!

I got about 100 of the lily form tulips, and as I said, only about half could go in front of the house. So I have them spread about. I got an assorted group. I love the two-tone jobs. When they open up all the way, they are just spectacular! J seems to like the traditional shaped tulips better, but I am pretty fond of these.

Robin's nest in our climbing rose. Sweet!
One exciting thing to share with you -- a mama robin has built a next in one of our climbing roses. I saw her going back and forth yesterday evening, caring in bits of grass and such. I can't wait until the eggs are laid. I want to climb up and take a picture of the eggs in the next. Of course, I'll have to be very careful and will abort the mission if it seems to distress the bird at all. So sweet! This rose is an extremely prolific bloomer. I can't wait until the nest is wreathed in blossoms!


I hope you all are having a lovely spring, and will be able to get yourselves out into the garden soon!