The magic mushroom – on health & healing

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There comes a time in everyone’s life where we need to reflect. Reflect upon our health, our happiness and our future.

That time for me, is now. With Buddy’s recent scare, and he and Ginger’s inevitable aging, I put in motion a set of changes to prolong their time with us and ensure they are as healthy, comfortable and pain-free as possible, for what we hope to be, years to come. In our quest for finding the right mix of potions, we realized that what applies to them could and should, help inform our own regiment.

Health and well-being is largely dependent on choices. We make choices everyday and those choices add up to a map of our path that brought us to where we are in life, love, work and health. Some of our health is determined by genetics, but part of our health is dependent on all of the choices that influence each of these areas. I am always amazed at how much we have control of in this seemingly out-of-control world.

Simply put, we need to take control of our lives and be informed about as much as we can to make the right choices. Fifteen years ago, I was challenged with an illness that was determined by genetics. I read up on and educated myself at the time, but if faced today with the same situation, I would have gone at it a little differently, and certainly with more vigor; in fact, that is exactly what I am doing now. More vigor, more thought, more awareness. Genetics never change (although, soon they can).

Today, I would have looked to nutrition, emotional stability, situational acceptance, the power of the mind, and the power of ancient remedies. I would have meditated, done yoga, accepted my situation in a positive light and sought out things that are not the routine answer. This is not to say that I did not do things right, because I did the best I could with what I knew and discovered at the time. I survived and came out, perhaps, a little bit stronger.

It is never too late to start making smarter choices, bigger changes, and positive impacts. One of the first things to do is to make the choice to become better educated on your options for healthy living. The next step is to make a commitment to implementing those things you learn. Then, obviously, you need to take action.  This is obviously easier said than done.

I am, in some capacity, working in all three stages. I was especially happy to find that in the, “becoming better educated” stage, that I have more excuses than ever to seek out, cook and eat wild mushrooms.

Oh, how I love wild mushrooms!
Tom does not.
Turns out they are good for us (much to his chagrin).
So good!

I recently discovered that mushrooms present significant health benefits. So significant in fact, that even Tom can’t ignore. A friend of ours turned us onto the magic of mushrooms. No, not that kind of mushroom (shame on you). Our friend had become ill, lethargic and un-diagnosed. It was not until she began taking these supplements that she was able to resume her life after years of a serious detour.

I had already read a little bit about how mushrooms might be a good thing to incorporate into Buddy’s diet when we thought cancer was lurking within. I became more intrigued after hearing about Heather’s story, and even more intrigued when I began reading up on the supporting research.

Not only are certain varieties believed to have properties that reduce blood pressure, help control diabetes, sharpen memory and strengthen immunity, the largest benefit, in context of ourselves, is inhibiting growth of cancer cells. As with most things, ingesting beneficial foods are usually not effective in delivering the potency required to reward you with maximum benefit; capsules or extracts are best suited for that. It seems though, that eating mushrooms, of any variety, will offer enough of a reward that I can optimistically recommend they find their way to your plate as often as possible. I am certainly not an expert on the subject and certainly won’t pretend to be in this post, so to read for yourself, take a look here, here and here.

I have ordered several products from this site both for Tom and I, as well as for Buddy, Ginger and Dad (read up on Paul Stamets, renowned mycology expert). They have not yet taken residence at my doorstep so I will have to report back in a later post after my real research kicks into place. I will say though, Buddy and Ginger have been religiously taking this (human-grade, made for pets) product for several months now, switching between the joint formula and digestive formula. This, in conjunction to other dietary improvements have made a remarkable difference to their health in this relatively short time. As an bonus, acupuncture for Buddy has proven to provide noticeable relief from a myriad of symptoms. Tom (inspired by Buddy’s unbiased success) has recently joined that club too (and I will talk further on this subject in a subsequent post).

As another thought for cure, and intended to help inform my cousin Bridget, epilepsy in dogs also benefits from acupuncture.  Eric, go with this, it is a small price to pay for a drug-fee loved one and might prove to be a smaller expense long-term.  Read further here for some great thoughts on the subject (Scott and Christine, you will be interested in this too).

So if anyone else is also thinking about improving their health, even the tiniest thing can make a difference. Smile more, frown less (I need to do this). Eat 1/2 instead of the whole (Tom needs to do this). Laugh when you feel like crying. Kiss your dog. Kiss your other dog (even if its just your better half). Appreciate what you have and forgive yourself for what you don’t. Eat your mushrooms. Love your life!

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Wild mushroom and corn ragout with tomato & peach
Serves 4

Mushrooms are lovely cooked in butter and olive oil.  However, in keeping it healthy (and shareable with my pups), I am roasting the mushrooms and corn with only the tiniest bit of oil, no salt.

You can serve this by itself as a vegetarian dish, or as I did, serve as an accompaniment to beef braised in tangy peach sauce (recipe follows).

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil
1/2 lb mixed wild mushrooms (approximately) – I used a few small chanterelles, 7 shiitake and 4 trumpet
1 ear of white sweet corn, removed from cob
Pinch of sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, cored and diced
1 peach, peeled and sliced
Truffle oil (optional)

PREPARE & ROAST (the mushrooms + corn)

Gently wipe any dirt or grit from the mushrooms.  Remove the stems from the crimini and portabella (if using).  If using chanterelles, scrape the stems with a pairing knife to remove the grit then trim the bottom of the stem.

Put the mushrooms onto a baking dish lined with foil, and toss with the smallest amount of olive oil needed to lightly coat them; this could be just 1 teaspoon.  Set the corn alongside on the same pan.

Roast them in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Check on them after 10 minutes to be sure they are not drying out.  Give them a little stir to mix them with the juices that should be starting to release.  If they seem too dry, close them up in the foil for a few minutes.  Pull the corn from the oven if the kernels are tender and cooked at this time.  The mushrooms are done when they are tender and browned.  The trumpet mushrooms will take a bit longer than other varieties.

Alternative cooking method for the mushrooms:

Heat a little olive oil in a pan.  Add a knob of butter and let it melt before adding the mushrooms.  

Cook for several minutes, stirring a few times, until the juices begin to release.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt over and grind in some pepper.  

Add the garlic and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates.  The whole thing will take about 10-15 minutes.

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PLATE

Lay down a few slices tomato on each plate and scatter the corn.  Divide the mushrooms, selecting a mix of the varieties for each plate.  Add in the peach slices and sprinkle with a little salt.  A few drops of truffle oil are a nice addition if you feel so inclined.

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Beef Braised in Tangy Peach Sauce

Serves 4

This braised beef, as well as the sauce, is delicious over the mushroom and corn ragout.  You can roast the mushrooms and corn at the beginning of the braising time since the oven begins at 400-degrees.  The oven will then get turned down for the remainder of the braise, at which time the mushrooms and corn can be set aside and heated-through later.

The sauce will make approximately 3 cups, but for this you will only need 1 cup, so you will have extra to freeze or bottle for later use.

INGREDIENTS 

1 1/2 lbs choice boneless beef ribs
1 tsp kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Spelt flour for dredging
Olive oil for browning
1 cup tangy peach sauce (see recipe here)
1 sweet onion, trimmed and sliced

PREPARE

Line a baking dish (large enough to hold the ribs) with foil. The foil should be large enough to fold over and cover the ribs. Place the slices of onions onto the foil and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.

Season the beef with salt and pepper, then dredge through the flour.

Heat a sauté pan and add enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. Brown all sides of the beef; be sure to let it sit undisturbed until one side is brown before moving. When it is ready to be turned, it should easily come away from the pan without sticking.

When all sides of the beef ribs are browned, transfer to the baking dish, setting the ribs over the onions.

Deglaze the sauté pan with red wine and scrape all the bits up to pour over the ribs.

Pour the peach sauce over the ribs and cook uncovered for 45 minutes. Baste the ribs with the sauce and cover with the foil. Continue cooking until they are tender, basting occasionally, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 more hours. During that time, if the pan gets too dry, you can add a little water.

The onions will be caramelized and taste delicious served under or alongside the beef. You can use the pan sauce after removing the fat, or as I did, use some of the tangy peach sauce that was not used for cooking.

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In Loving Memory of Amber Bender, September 2002 – August 2014

My dear sister-in-law Laura, our heart goes out to you and our/your beautiful, sweet Amber. She will always be by your side and in all our hearts.

photo 7I love you Mom; I’ll meet you at the other side.

Just Peachy (1 sweet + 2 savory)

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galette

I’ve always wanted a fruit tree; one that actually produces fruit, unlike our cherry trees, which do not. Apple trees grow well in our neck of the woods, as do plum trees, cherry and fig. I don’t know how to do it but I think I need to plant a fig tree soon.

For now though, I am currently without fruit (on tree). Luckily, when our next door neighbors Kam and Amy moved in, they had a peach tree that they didn’t want so they gave it to their friends, Neil and Stacy, who moved in across the street from us shortly after they moved in next door. Neil and Stacy re-planted that tree in their front yard and then several years later, sold the house to Piotr (AKA “P”). It has been a decade now since that tree was relocated, but it has just in the last couple of years, began to produce fruit.

The fruit from this peach tree feeds many squirrels, birds, bugs, and the bunny in the neighborhood, in addition to providing a juicy accompaniment to my morning yogurt, plus an endless amount of cooking inspiration. The branches fell heavy and full several weeks ago, so in an attempt to salvage a branch in distress, Tom and I picked the fuzzy, round balls which slipped easily from their stems, out of their clothing and into a basket, a bag, or a bath.

Parboiling them loosens their skin, allowing it to peel away easily for freezing, baking or saucing. Otherwise, keep them in the basket if they are ripe, in a paper bag if they are not; eat raw with yogurt and freshly made granola (or the best that you can buy).

If you are like me (lucky enough to have a neighbor/friend willing to let you take copious amounts of them, and still kind enough to bring you a bag of them picked from the tree’s top), you will need other ideas; so, here are a few ways I like to use peaches (with corresponding recipes of course):

Spicy Peach Galette
Peach Barbecue Sauce (use for baby back ribs or on a lamb + feta burger)
Tangy Peach Sauce (use to braise beef or sauce fish)

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Spicy Peach Galette
Makes 2 galettes

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I have always admired the imperfect and irregular shape of the galette. Galette is filled more sparingly than pie and with the thin profile and lovely drape, it crisps nicely, making it a welcome addition to your morning coffee, or with a light dollop of crème fraîche it has all the nuances of an elegant dessert. Galette is portable if you want to tuck it in your picnic basket or it sets nicely atop a fancy plate waiting to hold court. Galette is easy and forgiving if baking isn’t really your thing, but can be made to look quite pretty if you are patient enough to spend time arranging the fruit just so. This galette is filled with sweet peaches and then spiced a bit with cayenne-spiked honey. I was inspired by all the galettes that have been popping up as of late, and with a healthy basket of peaches on hand, it seemed as good of time as any to give the galette a try. Plus, I had half a recipe of pie dough still hanging out in my freezer from my Red, White and Blueberry pie.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound peaches, peeled and pitted (4-5 small)
A good sprinkle of cornstarch
1/2 recipe pie dough
1 lime wedge

1 TB honey
1/8 tsp cardamon
1/8 heaping tsp dried oregano
Several shots cayenne pepper powder

honey
Cayenne spiked honey for glazing (this is how mine looked)

PREPARE

Thaw the dough in the refrigerator (if frozen). Be sure it is still chilled, but soft enough to roll. Divide the dough in half and roll, one half at a time on a floured surface. As soon as it is rolled, transfer to a non-stick baking sheet before the dough becomes too soft to move. Sprinkle approximately 1 tsp of cornstarch over each dough round.

Squeeze lime juice over the peaches and arrange them in the center of the rounds, leaving a few inches at the sides. Fold the sides over to cover just the edge of the peaches.

Mix the honey, cardamon, oregano and cayenne in a small bowl and heat in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds (just long enough to make the honey soften).

Brush the honey over the tops of the peaches, and bake in a pre-heated, 400-degree oven for approximately 12 minutes. If the peaches have too much liquid, stirring in a little cornstarch will help.  When finished, let cool slightly on the pan and enjoy right away or cover and refrigerate or freeze.

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Peach Barbecue Sauce
makes approximately 4 cups

barbeque sauce

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil to sauté
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 poblano chili, large dice
2 tomatoes, cored and large dice
4 peaches, skinned, cored and large dice
1 bottle of ale (I used Red Hook IPA, but any good ale will do)
3 TB organic ketchup
1 TB Grenache (or other red wine) vinegar
1 handful fresh cilantro, roughly torn

PREPARE

Sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft (5 minutes or so). Turn up the heat to medium and add the remaining ingredients.

Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat to low and continue cooking until things become nicely combined and slightly thickened (about 30 more minutes). Purée with a hand blender or in a food processor. Adjust seasonings to taste.

lamb burger 1
Peach barbecue sauce in & on lamb burger with feta, grilled onion and peach

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Tangy Peach Sauce

Coconut oil for sauté
1 small jalapeño, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 TB coriander seeds, toasted and freshly ground

2 lbs peaches, peeled and pits removed (approximately 4 cups peach meat)
1 cup water
1/2 cup coffee
Juice of 4 limes (approximately 5 TB)
3 TB fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp siriacha sauce

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PREPARE

In a small amount of coconut oil, sauté the garlic and jalapeño for a few minutes over relatively low heat. Add the ground coriander and stir.

Add the peaches, followed by the fish sauce, siriacha, water, coffee and lime juice.

Turn up the heat and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and let simmer until it has reduced and thickened, approximately 30 minutes.

Put the mixture through a food mill and then purée with a hand held blender or in a food processor. You should have about 3 cups. Check for flavor. If you like it spicier, add more siriacha, too spicy, add more lime and perhaps some honey.

This freezes well or you can bottle it following this process.

Ginger buddy
Not bottled and not frozen, Ginger & Buddy are peachy too + they eat peach!

Flowers + peaches courtesy of our friend Piotr, thanks “P”.

Short (stack)

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short stack

It is a beautiful day.  It was filled with laughter, love and food.  I turned one year younger today and although I have much to say, I am keeping this one short and sweet.

I woke up to my loving dogs, barking birthday wishes (or was it just to go out?).  Followed by my loving husband, bringing me coffee and juice in bed.  I turned on my tech with email greetings, and followed this link to a video sent from Pete.  Gotta love a GOOD laugh!  Not sure what I wanted to eat, I quickly decided PANCAKES, PANCAKES, pan cakes..la,la la pancakes to a tune you will soon also be singing (if you follow the link).

So, watch this video.  Sing that song.  Make these cakes:

The fluffiest (f*cking) pancakes ever! 

(For today, anyway).  I may have made the (non-) bush-league version since my flour and my sugar were not white, my eggs were organic, my butter was Irish, my buttermilk was actually almond milk and my blueberries were, in fact, local (but yes, product of USA).  So perhaps mine were not quite as pictured on TV, yet tasty indeed!

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 TB turbino sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt

2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup cream on top, plain yogurt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 TB maple syrup
2 TB butter, melted and cooled slightly

Blueberries, optional

berry

MAKE

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites to fluff and then whisk in the milk, yogurt, vinegar and syrup. Alternatively, you can use buttermilk instead of the almond milk yogurt and vinegar (I only had almond milk and yogurt which worked out just fine).

Whisk the egg yolks and then whisk in the melted butter.

Add the egg white mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just unit it comes together (lumps are okay).

Stir in the egg yolk mixture.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

COOK

On a hot, oiled (I did not use Pam) griddle, plop spoonfuls of the batter spaced an inch or two apart. If using berries, drop the berries onto the wet surface of the pancake now. Let cook, undisturbed, until bubbles form on top.

Using a spatula, flip the cakes over. The tops should be golden. If not, add a little butter to the pan and let it seep underneath. Continue cooking a few minutes more.

Serve with butter and finest Canadian maple syrup (oops, I used Trader Joe’s). Grilled pork sausages and fresh peaches are a flavor explosion not to be missed.

two plates
Breakfast for 2 humans and 2 pups (bowl of peaches and blueberries for the 4-legged ones). 

Oh, one more thing, I got many birthday wishes and I do appreciate them all but I feel the need to share two that took the (birthday) cake.

pup cardFrom my darling little pups.  I forgive them their spelling.

dad card
Thanks Dad and Linda!  Another GOOD laugh for the day, plus a dancing hula with music.  With the weather, I really felt like we were in Hawaii.

If I could attach a clip from my voicemail, you all would get to experience an outstanding “birthday song” performance from the Edwards/Cappadona clan; big thanks and well done!

Love you all!

Ten Shades of re(a)d

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10 shades
Journals #1 – 10 from 1998 – 2014

I have an affinity for red. This is quizzical since I most always wear black. I don’t usually wear lipstick, but if I did, the colors of my journals seem like they might be a good fit. These are my journals.

Ten journals. Eight handwritten and two high-tech. Tom brought me into the age of computer journaling the Christmas of 2012, when he gifted me my own iPad Mini, inscribed lovingly on the back “For Saucy – Love Guinea & the Pigs”.

I was still teetering on beginning a new handwritten journal and moving into the current Century. I inherited (or shall I say, took-over) Tom’s iPad (yes, the first version) when I finished handwritten journal number 8. The things written on Tom’s iPad are what I refer to now as, “the lost chapters” because the Pages app got corrupted and lost everything at some point; until the “genius” mentioned a software program that was able to recoup some of those entries (but I’m sure not all).

This original iPad to which I am referring, has a cover that is Black. My journals are Red!

Ironic I know. Such is my life. Ironic, but good.

From here-forward, this 3rd day of August, 2014, I begin journal number 10 (so this is a changing of the “guard”, if you will). My current Mini in it’s second leather cover. In honor of this new chapter (journal), I have set up a new page that indexes all of the posts from this blog, by month, year, title and recipe.

You can check it out here and I hope it inspires you to revisit, or visit for the first time, the stories of 10 Legs in the Kitchen. A kitchen always in motion, always in flux and always with love.

Salad of Duck Confit, starring: Strawberry and Fig

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Everyone knows that Fig and Duck can sing a nice song and that Arugula hits the same nutty note time and again.  Strawberry and Chèvre hit both the high notes and low notes, leaving plenty of room for Fig and Duck to chime in.  It is Onion that can sometimes venture off-key.  However, choose an already sweet one from Walla Walla or Maui and it is sure to fit in.  Macerated in a little vinegar and tuned up with olive oil, the band gets together and plays a nice gig called, “Summertime, Salad, Strawberries and Fig”.

They will be performing (as an encore) this weekend over at Angie’s weekly party, Fiesta Friday.

Salad of Duck Confit: starring Strawberry & Fig

Serves four – six

When making this salad for just Tom and myself, I usually still use the same proportions for the vinaigrette; it can be used throughout the week for other salads or to drizzle over fish.  The amount of strawberries, figs and onions you macerate can vary depending on how many people you are serving.  Any leftover onions are delicious on the grill to serve with your next meal (I just grilled my leftover onions last night and served them with our hanger steak).

INGREDIENTS (for Vinaigrette)

7 cleaned, quartered strawberries, stem removed
1 knob butter
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 pinch fleur de sel plus pepper (
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil

INGREDIENTS (for Salad)

4 qty. 1/4″ slices, sweet onion (such as Walla Walla) cut into large pieces
4 figs, cut in half then quartered
7 strawberries, hulled, quartered
6 qty. 1″ x 1″ pieces of bread. Brush with olive oil and grill to just golden each side (1-2 minutes each side depending on grill). Do this in a sauté pan if grilling is not an option.
2 ounces chèvre
2 duck confit legs, meat removed from bone (skin and excess fat reserved for another use)
1 bunch arugula, cleaned and spun dry

PREPARE (the Vinaigrette)

Sauté the 7 strawberries in butter a minute or two until they are slightly loosened. Add the sparkling wine or prosecco and continue to cook until some juices from the berries release. Reduce this down to about 3-4 TB liquid (it will be pinkish in hue).

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Transfer the mixture to a chinois and squeeze the liquid into a bowl.  You should have about 1/4 cup liquid.

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Add the vinegar plus whisk in the oil.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

PREPARE (the Salad)

Add the cut onions to the vinaigrette, along with the cut figs and strawberries. Cover with a lid (or wrap) and let sit to macerate for a 1/2-hour or so, (seasoned to taste, with a little sea salt and pepper, if needed).

Brush the bread cubes with olive oil and grill them until slightly golden on each side (1-2 minutes per side).  Alternatively, you can do this in a sauté pan.

Heat the duck confit on a piece of foil in a 350 degree oven until just warm, approximately 5 minutes.

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TO PLATE

Mound a small pile of arugula, tightly, on the center of each plate. Top with a crouton.

Using a spoon, drizzle some of the vinaigrette over each mound (mindfully saving a little for you… for later, in a jar). Using tongs, divvy, the onion pieces, strawberry slices and fig quarters among plates.

Divide the duck meat among the plates, tucking it in in with the fruit.

Crumble over goat cheese. Enjoy.

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Last one to the party misses out on the duck!!!

Willpower (is over-rated)…

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fig

…until you are done indulging.

I just finished a box of crackers that I kept proclaiming to be, not very good.  Yet, as the box stared me in the face on the counter each day (not having quite made it to the bin), I reached in, for just one, to take away a small growing hunger.  Once I had one cracker, inevitably, another handful ensued.  These were not delicious, but I could not stop from having them, one after another as if I was willing them to taste great; subliminally they were great.  Until I stopped eating them.  Then they were not (great).  At that point, I finally realized, for the tenth time, how mediocre they were.

This is where I proclaim never to buy cracker products again (ha).  Well, I certainly won’t buy that product again… until I do; amnesia sets in at some point during trips to the market (why? I don’t know).  What I do know is never say never.  Although, I really do mean it at the time.  Indulgence is tricky.  Sometimes it is for good things and sometimes for bad.  Willpower is not my strong suit since making excuses (justifications) is something I do particularly well (at least in my head).

Once when I was young, say 10 or 12, I was canoeing on the lake behind our house and consumed an entire box of Ritz crackers.  I just  c o u l d  n o t  stop.  I kept telling myself it was okay to keep eating them because, now opened they would just go bad, or, more likely, get soggy.  I told myself that I was skinny and these were wafer thin.  I had already indulged in half the pack so I might as well finish the rest.  So I did.  Later I became sick.

I don’t deny myself food when I feel it is needed (whatever that need might be), but I wish I had willpower to say no to those things that I know will not agree with me later.

So, today, right here, right now, rather than give you the anti-cracker (because I don’t really know what the anti-cracker would be – thoughts?), instead, I vow never to eat a full box of crackers again (at least not mediocre ones) and I give you my top 10 list of things (better for you than crackers) that I should (and do) eat when hungry for a snack (not in any particular order).

Cottage cheese (one or two spoonfuls usually does the trick, otherwise a slice of Swiss cheese will do).  What am I saying?  Cheese, just cheese.
Toast!  With great butter and jam, or almond butter (see below).
Beans of any legume variety (I am addicted to black, pinto and white beans, lentils, chickpeas, cranberry beans, or the like, and of course – hummus!).  I am literally, full of beans.
Leftover steak (yes, I usually have a little piece of tenderloin in our ‘fridge cooked from our “Friday steak night”).  If not, roast chicken, roast pork or turkey cutlets are usually afoot.  The stand-in deli meat makes an occasional appearance.  Just need a little meat please (Buddy-approved statement).
Avocado, scooped straight from the shell.  Morning, noon or night.
Granola (I usually have homemade or good-quality granola hanging about).  This is a good substitute for dessert, one handful would (should) be sufficient.
Nuts of any kind, but best of all are sprouted almonds or sprouted pumpkin seeds (no added salt).
Almond butter, in substitute of PB (best scooped finger to mouth, Ginger-approved).
Goat’s milk ice cream (with La Loo, why would you even eat cow’s milk?).
Mini tacos.  Don’t ask, on the “bad” list.
Figs (when in season), smushed onto a crostini slathered with chèvre.  Sometimes also drizzled with honey.

Hmmm… I think that was eleven (but one does go on the bad list).

PSbuddy cheese 2Cottage cheese works well for Buddy.  He prefers a fork to a spoon.

PSPBGGinger enjoys this diversion from licking paws (sort of).

Me…well, I had a little bit of each.

The “nibbler” strikes again.

What is your go to snack?

Watermelon Soup (aka summer chili)

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PSjournal

A “P”eace offering, of sorts. I think perhaps I offended my friend. Well, not offended as much as skewed some of the facts, hence making him crazy. He needs things to be accurate and perfectly factual. I just like to tell it like I see it, even if my view is slightly skewed. So, as an offering of goodwill (and subsequent editing – well, one item at least), I used his “gifted” watermelon to make my favorite watermelon soup.

This one is “from the journals” (mine)July, 2009. I came up with it on a trip to my brother’s place in Manzanita, Oregon where we were vacationing with my in-laws, Lois and Bill, at the time. Each of us had brought a few baby watermelons to the gathering on the coast. When life brings you watermelon (or 5), eat it with salt, then use the leftovers to make soup.

Watermelon Soup (AKA Summer Chile) Serves 6 – 8

Although this is served with a “salsa”, the salsa is actually the body of the soup. The watermelon broth is ladeled over the the salsa and they mingle nicely to become a light chili. I like to dollop a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraîche over too before serving. This soup would also be good chilled but I prefer it warm.

INGREDIENTS (for soup broth)

Olive oil for sautéing (approx 1 TB)
1 heaping cup chopped sweet onion
2 TB chopped jalapeño
2 TB chopped, peeled, garlic
1 tsp chopped, peeled, ginger
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5 heaping cups, rinds removed, sliced, seedless watermelon (juice from sitting counts too)
Juice of 1 lime (approximately 2-3 TB)
1 tsp honey (you might want to omit this if your watermelon is overly sweet)
1 tsp ground cumin (1/2 tsp if you are not a fan of cumin flavor as I am)
1/2 tsp kosher salt (+/-) to taste
Many grinds of fresh pepper (I did 20, for the record)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
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1/4 cup (+/-) mix of fresh mint, basil, cilantro
_____________

INGREDIENTS (for salsa)

2 cobs of corn, grilled, corn removed from cob
2 cups cooked black (or pinto) beans (I make mine from scratch which you can see here). If you are using canned beans, drain and rinse them then add some salt, cumin and chili powder to taste)
1 TB lime juice
Minced jalapeño, to taste (optional – only if you want to add some more heat. Alternatively, a little bowl could be offered to guests on the side if some like it spicy (Bill) and others are more tame (Lois))
1 avocado, peeled and diced
A sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste

PREPARE (soup broth)

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Sauté the onion, jalapeño and garlic in olive oil until soft (approximately 5 minutes).

Add everything (including the cooked onion mix) other than the herbs to a food processor and purée. You might need to do this in two batches.

Transfer to a saucepan, bring to a simmer and reduce by approximately one cup.

Check for consistency and flavor. Adjust to your taste. Perhaps a little more lime juice or another pinch of salt? Like it spicy? Add more jalapeño to the base or keep it for your salsa.

Stir in the chopped herbs, let warm a few minutes longer while you pull together the salsa and heat your bowls.

PREPARE (salsa)

Mix all the ingredients together. I leave the avocado out to place on top, separately, so that any leftovers won’t spoil.

TO SERVE

In heated bowls, place a large spoonful of salsa (topped with the avocado if you haven’t. Mixed it in yet) in the center and ladle the warm soup broth over top. Garnish with sour cream or crème fraîche if you like.

PS2 with beans

PSladeling beansPS4For “P”, I have included a spoonful of chopped garlic, since I left “lot’s of it” out of his “loaf” burger.  It was meant as a joke but before I could warn him, he had already added to soup and consumed half the bowl.  I have yet to hear if it was too much (but I suspect not).  This is where I would argue that minced jalapeño would be nicer than garlic.

PS5 doorstepKnock, Knock.

Who’s there?

Soup.

Soup who?

Souper sorry.  :o)

photo 8We told her to do it… (“P” – please keep visiting us and taking us for walks, signed “Princess” + buDdY).

The Burger that “Loafs” About

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buddy selfieI asked Buddy to take a picture of the burger but he took a selfie instead…

PSginger close up burger…his sister was only slightly amused.

I like to give my friend Piotr a hard time. I don’t do this to be mean, but just because he is so easy to tease. The first time Tom and I ate dinner at his house it was admittedly good, despite his self-proclaimed inability to cook. Good in a no-fuss, pleasantly simple, but tasty sort of way. Having (then) recently rejoined the ranks of bachelorhood, he had just moved into the house, had no furniture (literally) and very few dishes. He did have a sheet pan though, and it was filled with chicken, plenty of it. We all stood around the long (very long) kitchen island that serves as his hub, munched on chicken thighs, ate salad, drank wine and became friends.

Now, “P” (that’s what we call him), doesn’t entertain often but you can be assured when he does, one of two things will be served, chicken or salmon, and sometimes both. He’s the kind of guy that likes a routine and cooks what he knows, which is wise for company (I could learn something from that,preaching it often as I do). I am pretty sure he only knows how to cook in large quantities and has a hard time adjusting to the size of the crowd; not sure if that is a one-size-fits-all type of deal, or a more-is-better guy kind of thing.

But I admire him putting it out there and every year he throws a party for the anesthesiology team at the VA Hospital where he works. This year, by request, he made bison burgers. I was surprised to hear this, thinking outside his comfort zone and all, but then I found out chicken was on the menu as well. Baby steps.

After the party was over “P” stopped by our house bearing a platter of watermelon, cherries and cheese (yum). It was a hot, lovely, only-in-July NW week and (regardless of that) we were out on our deck in the shade, so he pulled up a chair and we chatted a bit. Me being me, began asking about food, which brought us to this – he did not have a bowl big enough for mixing 5 lbs of bison. To this I expressed my surprise that he formed them himself rather than buying pre-formed patties? “No, no”, he said. “You must form them with love. I mixed in the onions, the parsley, egg and breadcrumbs….” This is where I interrupted him (me being me). He was not describing burgers; he was describing grilled meatloaf, I told him. As I razzed him and gave him a hard time, I remembered that I do like meatloaf and I’m sure it was quite good. So, with my motivation being part inquisitive, and part proving my point, that night when he left I set out to make a burger that loafs around and right alongside, a meatloaf that cooks in it’s pan (so basically, I set out to make meatloaf disguised as a burger).

As an aside, later that same night, we found additional goodies surface on the deck including a bowl of green salad with many vegetables, plus beer (!). And ironically, cucumbers in the salad. What?! I had been bitching about not having cukes all weekend. I even mentioned how nice it would be to see if on some crazy notion “P” might have some and then I would not have to go to the store. I, of course never asked, because I never thought he would have one… turns out he did! Goes to prove, you just never know until you ask.

Loaf” burger

This makes three+ burgers, sliced loaf enough for three sandwiches (or two dinner servings). This is all relative of course, to appetite, size of person feeding and multiplication (was math your strong suit?). You might notice this yields an odd-sized portion, because of course, it was a “proving a point” experiment…

PS2burger on grillIt’s not pretty but…

Also, I had no bison on hand so I used grass-fed beef instead. I had no parsley, hence oregano. No white bread allowed, so whole wheat breadcrumbs instead. Since my tray of watermelon “P” brought us sported a wedge of Stilton, I decided to mix this in too. Obviously, you can use my experiment to form all patties or all loaf, your choice.

1. 4 lbs ground beef, ground bison or a combination of the two
1/4 cup chopped sweet onions
1 tsp kosher salt
Many grinds of fresh pepper
1 egg, whisked (3 TB for burgers, the rest reserved)
1/4 – 1/2 cups bread crumbs (1/4 cup for burgers, the rest reserved)
2 – 3 oz Stilton or bleu cheese, crumbled
3 TB chopped poblano chili
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped soft herbs (I used oregano, summer savory and chives)
3 TB organic ketchup

1/2 cup purée of roasted tomato, balsamic and onion (all reserved for the loaf)

Mix the meat with the rest of the ingredients, holding back on the egg and breadcrumbs as mentioned above, as well as reserving the tomato purée.

Form three patties, 5 oz each. The remainder goes to baked loaf.

Form the remaining mixture into a loaf shape set over waxed paper. Pour over the remaining whisked egg then scatter with more bread crumbs. Pour over the purée of roast tomato and then carefully transfer to a non-stick loaf pan (sans waxed paper).

Grill the patties on a hot, oiled grill, 3-4 minutes per side. I like to grill slices of onion at the same time.

Cook the loaf pan, alongside the patties, on the heated grill or in a 450-degree oven for approximately 30-45 minutes, or until cooked through. Let rest 10-minutes before slicing. Served on toasted bread with caramelized onions and perhaps a little barbecue sauce, it would make (and did) a mean sandwich!

After our dinner, I packed up the “loaf” burger I made for “P” along with a few slices of the the MEATloaf and texted him to see if I could bring it over. No reply. He had already gone to bed. 8:30 pm. Good boy (school night and all).

The next morning, my text had been answered (at probably around 4:30am), to which I tardily-replied (bad girl). When we came home that evening, there was a cooler on our back porch housing the frozen “loaf” patty I requested in exchange for the one I made for him (it was necessary to compare, don’t you see?).

coolers

Hmmm… ya think someone ought to remind him that his salary affords him the ability to buy a new cooler all this time later? Take note of the blackened out name before his; I bet Sue has one that is not chewed on by critter. Again, all in good fun.

I removed the patty from the cooler and replaced it with the patty (and loaf slices) I had made. I then put the cooler back on “P”‘s porch (since he was not home) and sent him a text.

photo 1

textMy message to him is in green.

What?! He thought I thawed his burger, mashed it up and put it back into a completely different shape (1/2 the diameter and twice the height), placed it in a bun, with cheese, and grilled onions and called it my own?! We’re still laughing, and mean absolutely no offense to those with English as a second language. Not your burger to me, but a burger from me to you. Lesson learned on my end, I’m a putz.

Oh yeah, druuuuuumm roll please. Yes, this tasted good. Still, I am a purist and will stick with my way when I put burger to grill. However, there are many of you out there that have an opinion and I would love you to chime in. Do you make your burgers with breadcrumbs and egg or do you consider this an infringement on the sacredness of a burger and teetering on meatloaf? This inquiring mind wants to know. Oddly enough, I had never considered this an option a mere week ago. I’m growing, I’m changing…

So, since these were made because of a party, it seems fitting to bring them to a party – Happy Fiesta Friday everyone. Join Angie over at the Novice Gardener for more good things to eat, Hilda and Julianna will be greeting guests too. Ginger and Buddy are sitting this one out.

hammack

 

 

 

The quick little “big salad”

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I set out to make a small salad to supplement our dinner of leftover fried chicken (yum, yummy, yum). I began with various lettuces, growing in my “garden” (read pot, sitting on my patio table), then, because they looked lovely, I picked a few snips of fresh herbs as well as fragrant chives to layer over and toss within. I found myself boiling an egg, which sounded, yum; perhaps because I had just purchased sweet Canadian shrimp meat that I was toying with setting on top (of the salad). A small handful of baby tomatoes, sliced, slowly began building it up, mushrooms (thinly cut) and corn, (shaven from it’s cob). A large crumble of blue cheese (Pt. Reyes, Oregon) mashed into a bowl of freshly squeezed lemon juice, ground pepper and green onions dissolved lovingly into a puddle of buttermilk. When we sat down with wine poured and ready to dig in, the ensemble looked rather large and I said, “Looks like the big salad”. Tom, being who he is, pulled up this clip on his phone (or click here for a short version). Enjoy!

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Buttermilk Bleu Dressing

Freshly made bleu cheese dressing is a bleautiful thing, it is not only great for dipping, with carrots, cauliflower and fried chicken (or fried gizzards for that matter) but is also a nice way to enjoy a salad of crispy greens on a warm summer evening. No hydrogenated, overly processed ingredients required.

Full disclosure: I have made this for years and have, at a few points in time, written the quantities down as I make it but…this is not one of those times and I am just guessing here…. As with most dressings, it does (loosely) conform to the typical rules:
1. Use a 1:3 ratio of acidity to fat.
2. Garlic and onions are well served soaked first in the acidity, even if just for a few moments prior to adding in the rest.
3. Taste, adjust, taste, adjust….instinct.
3. Salt, pepper & sugar are to taste. If too salty, add more acidity, if too tart, add more sugar.
4. Whisk the fat with the acidity to emulsify. Adjust consistency as desired.

Specific to this dressing rules:
1. The buttermilk, bleu cheese and sour cream will knock out the typical 1:3 ratio rule but as a rule of thumb, I would use 1 TB sour cream and 1 TB lemon juice for every 2-3 oz cheese. The buttermilk is used to thin the dressing and quantities can be altered depending on your desired thickness (perhaps 3-5 TB for 2-3 oz cheese).  Also, I always use low-fat buttermilk since that is more readily available to me.
2. If using shallots, soak them in the acidity (lemon juice), if using green onions, add them in at the end. Use more green onions than you would shallots (perhaps 1 TB chopped shallots for 2-3 oz cheese)
3. Soft herbs are good in very large quantities (and multiple varieties). This go ’round I did not put them in the dressing, as I usually do, but rather tossed them in with the lettuces (the dressing keeps longer this way + I was lazy).

INGREDIENTS

Lemon juice
Diced shallots or chopped green onions
Fresh ground pepper
Raw sugar to taste

Good quality bleu cheese
Buttermilk
Sour cream
Mix of fresh soft herbs, chopped

PREPARE

Combine the lemon juice with the shallots, fresh pepper and sugar (just a pinch to start).

Crumble in the bleu cheese and mash with a fork. Add the sour cream and mix well. Drizzle in the buttermilk to thin and bring the dressing to the desired consistency. Mix in the herbs.

“Big” Bleu Shrimp Salad

This can be as little or “big” as you like (and no, Dad and Linda, I’m not referring to “big blue” the suburban).

INGREDIENTS

Mixed lettuces (from your garden if you have), cleaned and patted dry

Hard boiled egg, peeled and cut in half (1/2 per person)

Cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters (2-3 tomatoes per person)

Crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced (1-2 mushrooms per person)

Freshly grilled corn, removed from the cobb (1-2 TB per person)

Green onion and mixed soft herbs, chopped (even if you added to the dressing)

Fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste

Buttermilk Bleu Dressing to taste (see above for “recipe”)

ASSEMBLE

Squeeze a little lemon juice over the lettuces then lightly sprinkle some sea salt and grind fresh pepper over. Carefully toss with your fingers (you may toss some dressing in too, if you like, but be gentle and stingy so as not to make soggy).

Divide the lettuces among individual plates. Spoon over a few bits of dressing then layer on the vegetables and pile the shrimp meat in the center, slightly scattered; place the egg half on one side. Sprinkle with green onions and herbs and grind over more pepper, if desired.

I used to swear by our (local) Oregon shrimp meat that can be had fresh, for a short bit of the year. I have been having a harder and harder time finding it to be as fresh as I would like (it is delicate, for sure) so one day, on the recommendation of my trusty fishmonger’s at Gemini Seafood, I purchased the Canadian shrimp meat. It is as delicious and sweet as they said!…some day, I’ll have to tell you the story of how Ginger became our head “shrimp-tester”. Until then, just know that she endorses this statement (and will be telling everyone over at the Novice Gardener’s shin dig. For sure she will let Selma, Hilda and Indu (the co-hosts) know about these yummy shrimp (and for now, we will offer this to Angie as the elusive “blue fish”).photo 5

 

Nibbler, Nibbler: Red, White and Blueberry pie

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photo 3

I am a nibbler. Not like the elf, but like a picker, of food (not noses). I learned this from Mom. She snacks and picks and nibbles. I noticed this on her last visit, and on all visits previous. Now I know where my nibblery (not a word?… oh well) came from. A bite of this, and many bites more of this and that, equals nibbles, if done slowly and spaced out with at least 10 seconds between nibs.

I am not a baker, but yet I am baking a pie. Not sure why I decided to bake a pie, but at least it allows me to nibble. No actually, I do know why. I have excess berries, about to go spoiled. Plus, it is the Fourth of July (which, in fact, rhymes with pie). Also, I just want to bake a pie. I feel like doing this, if for no other reason than that it sounds like a good way to spend a slice of a holiday afternoon.

Bear with me though, as I puddle around the baking world and try to bake something that resembles a pie. This is my second, maybe third attempt, ever (so be kind).

Red, White and Blueberry Pie
Caddywhompus, haphazard, tasty and good

I do love a buttery crust, so I did need to nibble… the edges. I didn’t mean to, but I did - nibble… pieces and edges and burnt things (oh my) and buttery sides. It is not pretty but I fixed it with more dough, more nibbles, and more time in the oven.

INGREDIENTS for Dough

2 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp raw sugar
8 TB butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 TB lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

PREP dough

photo
Yes, this used to have edges… (the nibbler strikes again).

In a food processor, mix the flour, salt and sugar, then add the butter in slices. It will be a course mix.

Stir the lemon juice into the egg, then add this mixture to the water. With the machine running, pour in the liquid. The mixture should all come together. Do not over-process.

Scape the dough out into a ball and divide in two. Flatten each ball into thick discs and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour or you can proceed making the pies the next day.

Roll out one disc to approximately 1/8″ thick. Put it (carefully) into a pie pan and shape to fit. Poke the bottom with a fork and freeze for at least 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer and top crust with parchment or foil, then fill with pie weights.

Partially bake in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove foil/weights and continue cooking another 5 minutes.

Remove crust and let cool.

It is now ready to use. You have a second disc of dough that can be frozen for later use, or use to top or decorate this pie, or you could make a second pie. I vote for second pie.

INGREDIENTS for Filling

A fleck of butter
1 cup very-sweet nectarine chunks (skin removed)
3 cups cleaned blueberries
2 TB lemon juice
1 tsp spelt flour
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cocoa powder (I thought it was cinnamon, but hey, it works)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 TB water

4-6 figs, stem removed, sliced thin
6-8 strawberries, tops removed, sliced thin

PREP filling

Melt just enough butter to keep the fruit from sticking. Add the fruit, flour and spices. Cook over low for a few minutes then stir in the water. Let simmer, stirring every so often for approximately 20-30 minutes. Let cool completely.

TO ASSEMBLE

Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with raw sugar (just a little).

Cover the bottom of the crust, lightly with fresh blueberries (approximately one cup)

Arrange the fig slices and strawberry slices around the very edge (or however you feel like arranging).

TO COOK

Bake the pie for 20-30 minutes in a 350-degree oven (mine was 400-degrees, but edges were a little dark (so I ate them) and then added a little dough and continued to cook with the oven off but still warm (around 300-degrees).

Top with more whole, fresh blueberries if desired and more fresh slices of strawberries. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream (like La Loo goats milk), or just plain, right out of the pan.

Happy Fourth All!

I have packed up my pie and am bringing it to a party with fireworks, sparklers and good people that know how to cook! (Fiesta Friday with Angie @ the Novice Gardener, Margy @la Petite CasseroleL and Sylvia @Superfoodista)

photo 1
Ready to dive in! (I added a few cross pieces when I put new dough over the burnt edges)

photo 1
We’re not there, but an appropriate view from Mom’s cabin. A salute to all those that have served, in any fashion.

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