Monday, February 06, 2017

Catching Up

Lots happening last month and this month. I used to periodically do a post like this for my Mom, but now I have my dear sister in law in Virginia who reads this blog often and has asked for an update, (especially on the studio remodel - above photo) so here goes.

Very busy on the scholarship front. The deadline to send me the applications (this is for a State of California level scholarship) was February 1. I was amazed at how many women (because these scholarships are only for women going to college) waited until the last moment to mail the applications. The postal delivery woman had to bring the last batch in a carrier box because there were so many. Considering that applications can be sent as early as September, it was interesting to see that the almost all of them arrived during the last five days.

For me the process included opening over 80 envelopes, collating parts of the application as needed, lots of stapling, checking a whole bunch of things to make sure that the applications were valid and complete, preparing them for the committee members, logging them on the spreadsheet, making sure that there was a digital copy sent to the email address reserved for the Ethel O. Gardner Scholarship Committee's use, then mailing the prepared paper applications to the committee and filing mine for review and scoring. This doesn't even take into account all of the emails that flew in during the couple of weeks with questions. I actually was happy to see those because I had been wondering if we were going to have any applicants, but questions usually mean interest! We will meet for the selection process in a few weeks, so I have to get busy scoring them and logging the comments and scores.

On the project front, my studio remodel has been going really well the last few weeks. There have been lots of changes to the old place during the last four months or so. The French doors that were old when we got them second hand years ago were replaced with a window plus new exterior wall, and part of the wall closer to the parking area was opened up for a new outside door. The steps were moved over to the new exterior door and one half of the French doors became the new interior door between the storage area and the studio area. You can see the new window, old French door with multiple panes, and (through it) the new outer door in the photo below where Sweetie is using the nail gun on the ceiling with the help of Anne Marie (second photo down).

We insulated the ceiling with Kate's help and

put up shiplap ceiling boards, insulated the wall between the studio and storage and put up a plywood wall. Sweetie installed new LED lights and created and installed lots of new trim and I did lots of painting of walls and trim. Last weekend, since we finally had a couple of days without rain, we moved everything out and made a template for the flooring.

On Sunday our sweet neighbors Glenn and Anne Marie helped us move the flooring to the back deck, place the template, cut it, move it to the studio, and install it.

I painted the baseboards and Sweetie installed them and some threshold to hold the 'floating' Tarkett fiberfloor in place. It's a nice sandy color and looks like stone. Should be easy to mop up when the painting gets colorful.

Sweetie put together a great workbench with drawers and mounted the old shelves from the old kitchen pantry above it.

He made some narrow shelves by the door to the storage. I put an array of acrylic paints...48 colors!...on them so far. Still figuring out where things should go, so changes can happen.

I'm starting to move my art supplies back in and putting a few things on the corkboard, but that will likely change, too. The drafting table still has its covering that protected it during the construction, but it will be gone soon.

I now have the most magnificent place to draw, paint and do crafts. I have an idea for a three part piece for our daughter's new place, based on a photograph she took at Manhattan Beach which I'll paint in acrylics on three panels.

Oh, yes, I've been reading a lot, too. Rainy weather often gets me reading and it has been very rainy. My new favorite series is by Martin Walker and the series is about Bruno, Chief of Police in a small town in the Dordogne in France. Well crafted mysteries, great characters, and good cooking.

No recipe this time, but I know that some of my regular readers have been wanting to know how we have been spending our time.

Last, but not least, Sunday we pruned the walnut tree by the back deck. The branches were getting too close to the house and this is a good time of year to prune. The rain held off all morning so we got quite a bit done. Here is the pile of limbs and branches, ready to be put into a trailer to get recycled. As you can see, Pi keeps an eye on us and is never far away. Hope you have been pleasantly busy, too.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Meatballs For Pork Lovers

Meatballs can be such versatile little bites. You can serve them with a dipping sauce for appetizers, put them into a soup or use them to adorn a salad. A favorite way to serve them is with a sauce on pasta or rice. You can serve them on their own, perhaps with a sauce or dip on the side. And of course you can use them in a sandwich, too.

Recently our favorite neighbors thawed out too much ground pork from their home grown pig. What a problem to have, right? Anyway we were suddenly blessed with a good sized quantity of ground pork, so I immediately thought 'meatballs'! These are baked and are very simple and delicious. The recipe calls for cooking the onions and then mixing the cooked onions with the meat and other ingredients. I managed to overlook those instructions and added raw onions, but they cooked in the oven and I liked that they still kept their character and weren't wimpy caramelized onions, even though I do love onions that way. They also have chopped fresh rosemary, but you could also use another herb, dried or fresh. Imagine them with green onions, ginger and cilantro for an Asian take on meatballs. You can also use any mixture of meat. I mixed some ground turkey with the ground pork, but ground chicken or beef would also be good. Just keep the proportions the same.

By the way, I was just looking at the blog history and last October 22 I finished ten years of blogging...and I'm already 52 posts past that. Lately about 500 people a day are looking at my posts. I know that lots of people who read this blog don't leave comments, so it was really nice last week when we called to wish Sweetie's East Coast sister a hearty Happy Birthday that I found out she had made the Bean Ham and Cabbage Soup and liked it. It's very gratifying to know that someone makes these recipes and that they like them. If you missed that post you may want to check it out. The soup is one of my all time favorites and great for cold weather.

Are you ready for meatballs? Once these were baked, I cooked up a simple 'cream' sauce with non-dairy margarine, mushrooms, minced garlic, flour, thyme, salt and pepper and some soy creamer. I boiled some noodles al dente, stirred them into the sauce and put the meatballs on top. Steamed fresh spinach on the side filled out the plate. These meatballs would go well with a nice tomato sauce and pasta, too, or on top of rice with some steamed sugar snap peas and a little soy sauce and get the idea. If you are worried about fat, you can put the balls on top of a rack which has been placed in the baking sheet instead of baking directly on the sheet as I did.

Easy Oven-Baked Meatballs
from Stupid Easy

2 pounds ground lean pork (or other ground meat)
(I used a combination of pork and turkey)
1 medium onion, chopped finely
3 tablesppons fresh rosemary, chopped (or 3 teaspoons dried rosemary)
1 tablespoons dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fat of choice (I used olive oil)

Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees F (204 C). Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper (or silpat mat as I did).

In a large skillet, over medium heat, saute the onion in a spoonful of your fat of choice until softened, about 5 minutes. Let cool. (this is the part that I skipped over!)

In a large bowl, combine the ground meat(s), onions and all the spices.

Form into 2-inch balls and arrange on the prepared sheet pan. (If you have a sturdy disher or scoop it helps to keep the size even. Otherwise use a heaping  tablespoon measure.)

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until cooked through.  Serve at once or store in fridge or freezer for quick protein in your favorite recipe.

Ideas: Chop and use in and egg and veggie scramble or omelet or frittata.
Chop and toss over a salad and toss with your favorite dressing.
Use in your favorite soup.
Mix with a tomato sauce flavored with Italian spices and put over steamed spaghetti or spaghetti squash.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Good Bread For A Cast Iron Skillet

I love my cast iron skillet. I have a small one and a large one and I use one or both almost every day. The little one is great for the breakfast egg and the big one is perfect for so many things, from pan-seared pork chops to home fries. It has been rainy around here for so long that most meals are cooked in the kitchen, not the BBQ, and they have to be ones that warm you up.

A great way to make cornbread is in a cast iron skillet that you pre-heat in the oven while you mix the batter. You get an amazing crust that way, but the bread in the middle stays soft and moist. It's the way my Mom learned to make cornbread in North Carolina when she was a new bride.

I made this recently to take to a dinner party where the menu included smoked chicken and brisket, steamed mustard greens, delicious slow cooked beans and some dilly bean pickles that were familiar. I used some stone ground cornmeal from a friend and instead of buttermilk used 3/4 cup soy creamer mixed with 1/4 cup plain yogurt. So delicious! Didn't need butter or anything.

This is a quick, easy bread to go with soups and stews, so it's perfect for this time of year.

Here is Mom's recipe:

Mom’s Skillet Corn Bread

 1 ¼ cup yellow corn meal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt (I used just a bit more, but not quite 1/2 teaspoon)
1 egg, beaten or 2 egg whites
1 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup soy creamer and 1/4 cup plain yogurt, mixed)
¼ cup vegetable oil, divided

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron skillet and place in preheated oven for 5 minutes.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the egg, buttermilk and 3 tablespoons of the oil. Pour batter into preheated skillet and for 20 minutes. Top will be barely golden brown and edges by sides of skillet will be brown.

Serve hot.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Devil's Food For The Cake Slice Bakers

I love this time of the month because being part of the Cake Slice Bakers means that I have a great excuse to bake cake. Since January usually means cleaner eating after all of the holiday richness, it takes a bit of doing to figure out how to combine that with cake.

Since we have been invited to dinner tomorrow evening by a couple who are also trying to reduce their sugar intake, I decided to make tiny cakes in my antique gem pan. Each of us will get one little cake, which is about four or five bites. That will be enough to feel like we've had dessert, but will also only be a tiny amount of cake, so we can feel virtuous.

I am greatly indebted to fellow Cake Slice Baker Hazel of Procrastibake because she baked this, too, and she made donuts. Best of all she created a dairy-free version, which I only changed slightly. It is roughly half the original recipe, too, so just enough cake! Thank you Hazel!

Traditionally Devil's Food Cake has a decadent icing, too, but I went with just a sprinkle of confectioner's sugar because it's pretty.

Devils Food Gems

Based on World Class Cakes by Roger Pizey  and Procrastibake's recipe

35g cocoa powder, plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, divided
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs.
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
65 ml boiling water
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
230 g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs at room temperature
225 g self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
85 ml soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray gem pans or small muffin tins with baking spray. Mix together 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1/4 cup dried plain bread crumbs. Sprinkle cavities of pans, rotate pans to coat and then tap out excess onto waxed paper. Discard excess or use for another pan. Set pan(s) aside.

Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water and stir until smooth. Let cool.

Cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping bowl as needed, to incorporate eggs. Add vanilla and beat well to combine.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together on a sheet of waxed paper or in a bowl. Set aside.
Stir the soy milk into the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until combined. Mixture will be thin.

Alternately add the flour mixture and the cocoa mixture to the creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture. Start with 1/3 of the flour, add half of the cocoa mixture, another third flour, the rest of the cocoa mixture, the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl and then beat to fully combine mixtures.

Scoop batter into prepared pans, filling 2/3 full. Place a baking sheet under the filled pans.

Bake until center springs back when pushed, about 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of the cavities of the pan.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out to cool completely.

Decorate as you please. I used sifted confectioners' sugar (icing sugar).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Sweet Tea Bread

It took me a long time to come around to being a coffee drinker because I started out as a tea drinker. When I was a child I remember I was given a very milky, weak tea when I was sick. Later, one of the highlights of my day was the time spent after school sitting at the dining room table enjoying a cup of tea and some conversation with my Mom. She would stop her busy schedule most days in the afternoon for 'tea time' and it was a great opportunity to discuss anything from problems at school to events of the world. She and I were both very interested in politics, so often the conversation turned to that topic. I'm grateful that she isn't alive in 2017 because I believe that the upcoming inauguration would be a trial for her. She was a supporter of equality for minorities and both genders most of her life and she was not a hater, although she wasn't a fan of the last President Bush, either.

In college I started to have coffee some of the time, although tea was still my favorite hot drink. Once I started working it was far easier to drink coffee when I was on the go, so tea became a drink for the afternoon only.

Lately I have discovered that coffee and my body don't get along, so tea is my hot beverage for the whole day. I have all, green, red, caffeinated, decaf, fruit infusions and so on. My favorites are English or Irish Breakfast, Earl Gray, and Peppermint, plus a ginger/honey combo from China that is both sweet and hot.

Recently I baked a lovely quick bread that has tea as one of its ingredients. You soak some dried fruit overnight in the tea which really gets the whole loaf infused with the tea flavor. For that I used English Breakfast since it is hearty and the flavor doesn't get lost in the other flavors of the bread.

You can mix up the dried fruits you use, but be sure to include some candied citrus peel for the special tang that gives. I baked this recipe as four small loaves instead of one big one and just reduced the baking time (45 minutes instead of 1 1/2 hours). Either way, this is a lovely bread to have with a cup of tea!

Tea Brack
one medium loaf or 4 small loaves
from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

1 cup white raisins (I used golden raisins)
3/4 cup dried currants (didn't have enough, so added 1/2 cup dried cherries and 2 tablespoons candied ginger)
1/4 cup chopped candied peel (I used half lemon and half orange peels)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cold tea (I used English Breakfast)
1/4 cup rum or brandy (I used Irish Whiskey)(optional but nice)
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 all-purpose, unbleached and 1/2 Irish whole meal flour from King Arthur Flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon EACH ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg and salt
1 egg, room temperature, well beaten

Grease and line sides and bottom with buttered waxed paper - 1 medium (8" x 4") loaf pan. Leave the paper ends sticking out about 1/2 inch so the loaf can be pulled from the pan. Set aside. (You can prepare the pan the next day after the fruit is marinated.)

In a bowl combine the raisins, currants, candied peel, brown sugar and cold tea. Add a dollop of brandy, rum or whiskey to give it a secret goodness, although this is optional. Cover tightly with plastic wrap so that no moisture escapes and let marinate overnight.

The next day...Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. while making the batter.

In a clean bowl mix together, with your clean fingers, or a spoon, the dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the marinated fruit mixture, stir well to combine, and add the egg. The mixture will be on the thin side. Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the loaf slowly in the 325 degree oven until a toothpick comes out dry when pierced into the load, about 1 1/2 hours. If using a convection oven, reduce heat; bake at 300 degrees F.

Remove the bread from the oven. Place on a wire rack about 5 minutes to cool, then remove the bread from the pan, discard the paper, and let cool completely before slicing.

Serve with butter or cream cheese...and tea!

I suspect that you could marinate everything and keep it in the refrigerator (for at least a few weeks) until you wanted to make the Tea Brack. That would mean that it would all be done in less than two hours. That's still not as fast as Irish Soda Bread for unexpected guests, but pretty fast for expected guests and family!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wonderful With Jam

Elizabeth of Blog From Our Kitchen is our Kitchen of the Month for this new year, January 2017. She chose a bread she heard of from another BBB, the lovely Jaime. Jaime has a bed and breakfast property in France and one of the impressive things about the breakfast she serves is the amazing variety of homemade jams.

These rolls are wonderful with jam! They have a rich taste, have a tight crumb, and a nice crust, and are light and flavorful. If you don't like jam, that's OK because they are fine all by themselves (or with a little butter).

I did the orange version. The orange is just hinted at, but I think it is lovely. I also used wheat germ and Irish Wholemeal Flour (instead of whole wheat flour) because I like the flecks of germ and bran in it. I did use the orange blossom water and a bit of dried orange peel, plus the orange liquor.

I made the dough as the recipe was written, making sure that the milk mixture was body temperature and everything, but it's been cold and damp around here...lots of rain and wind and power I found that the dough really wasn't rising. It wasn't part of the recipe, but I decided to boost the dough a bit by taking a cup of all-purpose flour, some additional dry yeast (maybe 1/2 teaspoon...not sure, didn't measure it) and adding enough water to make a soft dough. I let that dough sit for about an hour to let the yeast get feisty, then kneaded it into the recipe dough until it was pretty well combined. Then I let that dough rise as if it were the first rise. I think that all of the butter, milk, eggs and alcohol might have bested the original yeast a bit, so the reinforcements were needed. From that point the dough rose really well and the resulting rolls were heavenly.

I shaped the rolls just as the recipe called for. Because I had added more dough, they were pretty large. Next time I think I'll make eight or nine rolls so they are a bit smaller. Might put them in a cake tin, too.

So try this lovely French roll bread, especially if you like some jam (and butter) with your rolls.
If you want to be a Buddy, let Elizabeth know how your rolls turned out and be sure to include a photo for the roundup. She needs that by January 29th. Check her blog for details.

Check out what the other Babes have baked this month, too.
A Messy Kitchen - Kelly - Fouace-Nantaise -an Orange Scented Bread 
Blog From Our Kitchen -Elizabeth - Dreaming of Orange Blossoms
Bread Experience - Cathy - Fouace-Nantaise Orange Star Bread
Judy's Gross Eats - Judy
Karen's Kitchen Stories - Karen - Fouace-Nantaise /Two Ways
Life's A Feast - Jaime - Life's A Feast
My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna  - BBB Fouace- Nantaise
Notitie van Lien - Lien - BBBabes Give You An Orange Flower 
and our queen of the round-up:
Thyme for Cooking - Katie  -

Here is the recipe that Elizabeth gave us:

Fouace Nantaise 

based on Jamie Schler's recipe for Fouace Nantaise


·                     50g (3+1/2 Tbsp) unsalted butter

·                     60g (60ml) milk

·                     3g (3/4 tsp) active dry yeast

·                     250g (~2c) flour
   » 50g (6 Tbsp) 100% whole wheat
   » 185g (1+1/2 c) unbleached all-purpose
   » 15g (2 Tbsp) wheat germ

·                     4g (~1/2 tsp fine) sea salt

·                     25g (2 Tbsp) sugar

·                     45g (45ml) orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or Cointreau)

·                     7g (~1+1/2tsp) orange blossom water

·                     2 eggs, body temperature, lightly beaten

·                     zest of one orange, optional

·                     milk or cream, for wash on shaped loaf


1.             mixing: Melt butter.

2.             Pour milk into a largish mixing bowl. Add the melted butter to the milk to raise the temperature to body temperature (check with a thermometer OR by placing a drop on the inside of your wrist - if the milk feels cool, it's too cold; if it feels hot, it's too hot; if it feels like nothing, it's ju-u-u-st right). Add yeast and whisk in until it has dissolved.

3.             Adding them one at a time, whisk in eggs, then pour in orange liqueur and orange blossom water. Place flours, sugar, salt, and orange zest (if using) on top. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the flour has been absorbed. (Traditionally, the bread is made with rum rather than orange liqueur. The first time I made this, I did use rum, but I really wished that the flavour was more orangey so decided to use orange liqueur instead.)

4.             kneading: Using one hand to turn the bowl and the other to dig down to the bottom to lift the dough up to the top, turn, fold, turn, fold, etc. the dough until it is smooth and elastic. As you knead, resist the temptation to add more flour or water.

5.             Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a plate and allow the dough to rise, until almost completely doubled, on the counter in a non-drafty area.

6.             shaping: When the dough has doubled, it's time to shape. (To check to see if it's ready, poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn't risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.) Turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board (just the smallest dusting will be enough). Divide the dough evenly into 7 pieces.

7.             Shape each piece into a ball. Place one ball in the center of a parchment-lined cookie tray. Arrange the other six balls of dough loosely around the center ball - to form a flower. Cover with a damp (clean) tea towel followed by plastic grocery bags and leave to rise until almost doubled. (To test, using a floured finger, gently press against the side of the shaped bread. If the indentation immediately jumps back, it's not ready; if it stays indented, it has over-risen; if it gradually fills in, it's ready to go.

8.             baking: Preheat the oven to 350F. Gently brush the top of the risen bread with milk (or cream). Put the tray onto the top shelf of the oven (to prevent the bread from burning on the bottom) and bake for about 30 minutes until the bread is a "deep golden brown". Jamie also writes that the outer "petals" of the flower "will have just started to pull away from the center ball".

·                     Other recipes for Fouace Nantaise:
» Foodista:
 Jamie Schler's Fouace Nantaise
» Trouver en Bretagne:
 Fouace Nantaise (en français)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Smells SO Good?

That's what Sweetie asked after he came in from cutting up the Christmas tree to put it into the green recycle bin. We finally took down the tree today and put all the decorations and ornaments and lights up in the attic until next year. Usually I would have done it on January 7th (the day after Epiphany), but we have been having terrible wind and rain since the weekend and it was nice having the lights and soft glow of the round ornaments during the rain. Of course we also had some blackouts with no power - 3 hours and then about 6 hours, plus a few brief ones, (less than a minute), so no comfort from the tree lights then. Still, we are on high ground, so no flooding here. We didn't lose too many tree limbs, although our old apple tree did fall over, which is very sad.

Our friend and neighbor Phil also asked, "What smells so good?" when he came by this afternoon to borrow a few gallon jugs of well water. Our neighbors are on a different power line and had been out of power for about 14 hours by then and needed a little extra. Fortunately, I usually fill up about a dozen during December for times like these. We have our well water treated with a salt, so for tea and coffee I use bottled spring water because it has more acid than the treated water, so it's better tasting, for tea especially. I just fill those as they empty and label them with the date and "Well".

So what did smell so good? The Country Bean, Ham and Cabbage Soup that took most of the day to make. This is one of those recipes that are good to do when you're going to be hanging out at home much of the day. We did get a walk in with Pi between storms,

and saw how flooded the Laguna de Santa Rosa was on High School Rd. in Sebastopol. Many roads in the Santa Rosa area have flooded and there have been mudslides and evacuations from low lying areas. We have had over 11 inches of rain since Sunday. A good time for soup since there is more rain today and will be a little more tomorrow. Taking care of the Christmas tree was also a 'between the storms' thing since we finally had a day where there was a break between storms.

You actually start this soup recipe the night before. You rinse dry white beans and put them to soak with water covering them. (Actually put at least an inch of water over them. They soak it all up during the night). The next day there are draining, rinsing and simmering sessions. The longest is for an hour and a half. Most of the rest are for 15 minutes or a half hour. It does take a little time to chop the veggies and to make the herb bouquet. Towards the end of the process you have to take a few minutes to fish out the herb bouquet to discard and to cut the ham into bite sized chunks, as well as to slice up the cabbage. The recipe calls for a roux of cooked flour and butter to thicken the soup, but mine simmered so long that it didn't need any thickening.

Give this a try. The recipe is from my Mom, but I don't know where she got it from...I just make it and enjoy it. It is hearty, tasty, stick-to-your-ribs good, and pretty healthy, too. It makes lots, so there are leftovers which are even more delicious than the original meal. Just be prepared for that question: What Smells SO Good?

Country Bean Ham and Cabbage Soup

2 1/3 cup dry pea beans (Great Northern, white beans)
1 3-lb cooked picnic ham, bone in
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 carrots, quartered and sliced
5 sprigs parsley + 2 bay leaves tied together
2 medium onion, sliced, plus 1 onion stuck with
3 whole cloves
4 garlic cloves, mashed
½ teaspoon EACH dried thyme & ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 can tomatoes
1 small head green cabbage, sliced in 1/4” slices

Cover beans with cold water by at least an inch and let stand overnight. 

Drain, rinse, return to pot and cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and soak for 1 hour. 

Drain & rinse & return beans to the pot. Add ham. Add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a low simmer and simmer 15 minutes. 

Add the vegetables, herbs, onions and seasonings to pot. Cover and simmer 1 ½  hours. 

Add the tomatoes and simmer ½  hour. If tomatoes stay whole, chop them up with a spoon. 

Remove herb bouquet and whole onion. 

Add the cabbage, stir, and simmer ½ hour. 

Remove any ham bones and discard. Cut up any ham chunks into bite sized pieces and return to the pot.

Make a roux of 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour, cooked in a small pan until light brown. Add it to soup. Simmer 15 minutes. 

Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper as needed. Serve hot.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Bread For The Storm

It's funny how the prediction of a major rainstorm coming our way spurs different folks to do different things. We are lucky enough to live up a hill, so flooding isn't a problem. We did move the cars out of the way of potential falling cedar trees and we made sure to have flashlights ready and extra bottles of well water for power outages, but beyond that there wasn't too much to do.

Turns out that my neighbor and I both decided that fresh bread was a necessity if a storm came, plus soup of one kind or another. I made a loaf using my sourdough starter (100% hydration), some Irish Whole Meal Flour from King Arthur Flour, and some unbleached bread flour. The Irish Whole Meal Flour has little flakes of bran and bits of wheat germ in it so you get a nice texture and flavor. The bread flour gives that added gluten for rising. I've been feeling like a failure lately with my sourdough breads (too dense and too flat), so this time I kneaded it by hand to make sure that it felt right as well as looking right. I also beefed it up with a bit of added dry yeast in the flour mixture. The crumb was somewhat airy as a result.

Now I could try to give you a recipe, but the truth of the matter is that there were many parts that I didn't really measure.

Basically I took 1 cup of sourdough starter and added a mixture of half wholemeal flour and half bread flour, plus water. It was about a cup of the mixed flours and a cup of water. I let that mixture sit and bubble for a couple of hours, then stirred in another cup of the mixed flours and some salt. I let that sit an hour, then kneaded in more of the flour mixture (here is where the measurements don't happen), until the dough was soft but firm. I let that rise until doubled, then turned the mixture out onto a floured board and degassed it, then rolled it up into a loaf shape, put it in a loaf pan and let it rise until it barely rose over the top of the pan. I painted it with soy creamer and slit it across the top in three places. I think I messed up on the slits because the top sank where I had cut the slit.

Into a preheated 350 degree F oven it went for about 40 minutes. I cooled the baked loaf on a rack for about 10 minutes, then tried a slice while it was still a little warm. Delicious!

The next morning I woke to the generator running at the fire station next door, which usually means that the power is out...and it was. How nice to have fresh bread to enjoy with a cup of tea made with water heated on our gas stove. If you live where the power goes out during storms, a gas stove that you can light with a match is a great thing to have!

The power came back on in about three hours, but the winds were so fierce and flooding of the roads around the area so bad that we didn't even think to venture off the property. Still, we had the Sunday paper to read and enough light coming in to read by, so we were the lucky ones I think.

My neighbor just came over a little while ago with some of her porridge bread, based on a recipe I baked, but she went even further and ground her own flour with rye berries and a red hard wheat called Fife as the grains to use.

It is a delicious, hearty bread with the moisture typical of porridge bread and of rye bread. The flavor is phenomenal and the grain tight and crust dark and lovely. If you look closely at the slice you may be able to see some of the bits of grain. It has a nice chew, too, which mine didn't.

Hope you are staying warm and dry wherever you may be!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Wise Guys

The twelve days of Christmas are over and we have reached the Epiphany, commemorating the story of the wise men from the East, who followed the star to Bethlehem and presented gifts to the infant Jesus.

During the days I've had the Nativity scene on my hutch, the figures for the wise men, affectionately called the 'Wise Guys' by me, have waited on the side. Today they were able to take their place, front and center. This weekend the holiday decorations will be packed up and returned to the attic for another year, the tree will go into the green recycling bin, and each of the figures for the Nativity set will get wrapped up and stored together with the stable until next year.

I feel blessed that no one else in the family wanted this set. I remember it on my Mom's mantle in the living room and even though I didn't make it back to Virginia for Christmas very many times, having it here makes me feel closer to my family; those still living and those who have gone on to the next life. I don't know how old this set is, but I think it is at least 25 years old...maybe older.

I really do plan on getting back to posting recipes soon. So many of the things I've been cooking and baking lately are old favorites that have been posted you get old wise guys instead.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Life As Tapestry

I discovered something about myself the other evening. It gives me a kick to have a tapestry of a life rather than a literary life or a painter's life or a baker's life or gardener's life. I spend a lot of time on philanthropy in the form of helping raise money for and award scholarships, but I'm not a's just a thread in the tapestry. I wonder what the weaving will look like when I'm finished?

I guess there are some days when I envy the kind of person who says to themselves, "I'm a historian" and then that is the main passion of their whole life. For one thing, if I could do that and just focus on one passion, I wouldn't have the accoutrements of so many different passions taking up storage space around the farm. I wouldn't have a spot for mosaic tiles, another for stained glass and all the tools that go with stained glass window making, another for gardening supplies, another for painting supplies, and another for cookbooks and cooking equipment and baking supplies.

I might have walls of history books, instead of walls of books on subjects like The Romans in Britain and Tea and Tea Parties, on Square Foot Gardening and Garden Structures, on Building Decks and Renovating Bathrooms, to say nothing of Just My Type (typography) and Making a Literary Life. The newest additions are on Cookies and Pies, so recipes will be coming shortly.

Fortunately I have a good sized set of storage areas and I enjoy all the different threads, including my newest plan, which is to grow seedlings to give to the local Grange folks for their spring plant sale. In the past I have grown up to a dozen different kinds of tomatoes in one year, plus three kinds of squash, a few kinds of cucumbers and a few more kinds of beans. I ended up giving a lot of seedlings away and having way too many plants, so some produce went to waste. Growing all of those seedlings for the Grange will let me try some new ones and pass along some that I know grow well here. That way I can enjoy growing all kinds of different tomato seedlings, for example, but I can just plant two or three actual tomato plants in my own garden. The rest will find homes elsewhere. Wonderful!

If you are reading this it is likely that you, too, are a tapestry sort of person since I think we tend to attract like-minded folks. What is your blend of threads? If you have one blazing passion, what is it? I know that there are a fair number of folks who read these posts, but I know little about you. Care to share?

Monday, January 02, 2017

A Little Lemon Sauce

Although we love the richness of Christmas foods and sweets, Sweetie has been giving away the things that are left and asking me to take a break from baking. With the coming of January I start thinking of healthier options. Not a diet exactly, but more soups, salads and things like grilled salmon. Grilled chicken or shrimp would also work well with the lemon sauce we had with our New Years Eve fish.

We are fortunate because fresh wild salmon is available in the regular market for a somewhat reasonable price at this time of the year. When fresh salmon is $17-20 a pound, as it often is, I turn to less expensive fish like rock cod. Last week it was $12 a pound, still a lot more expensive that most meat choices and much more expensive than veggie choices, but I tell myself that it is the best kind of fish oil and good for the heart. Sweetie grills the fillets after giving them a thin coat of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs and pepper.

Because it is also lemon season and I wanted to see if I could make a non-dairy, creamy lemon sauce for our New Year's Eve salmon feast, I played around with one. It turned out to be sweeter than I wanted it to be, but Sweetie loved it, especially with his Ponapean rice, which has steamed white rice mixed with ripe banana. I think I'll try almond milk or a combination of almond milk and broth the next time I make it to see if it turns out more savory. There is some inherent sweetness in the soy milk that didn't appeal to me when it was part of the sauce. If you like your sauce thinner, just add more liquid.

Creamy Non-Dairy Lemon Sauce

4 tablespoons non-dairy margarine
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
zest from half a lemon
juice from a full lemon
1 cup soy creamer
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan melt the margarine. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the lemon zest and stir for a few seconds. Mix the lemon juice and soy creamer, then add all at once to the saucepan, stirring constantly. Continue to stir and cook over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

If holding the sauce for a short while, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the sauce to keep a film from forming. Remove to reheat or to serve is sauce is still hot enough.

Serve hot.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

The best part of 2016 for me was going to Ireland and France. I bought a new ornament for the Christmas tree to commemorate that...a bag of baguettes.

Somehow 2016 seemed like a long year...probably because of the Presidential elections here in the U.S. Not thrilled with the outcome, but perhaps there will be positive foolishness and not just negative foolishness. Already hearing some who were thrilled the day after the election who have changed their minds. That's a pretty quick turn around considering that we heard practically nothing 24/7 but Trump this and Trump that. Anyone who was paying attention pretty much knew that we were going to get what we are starting to get. The inauguration is still almost 3 weeks away!

On to more positive things. Not sure if it is Pollyanna or ostrich behavior.

Santa gave me a new fitbit for Christmas since my old one conked out on me. The old one was sweet and simple. This one is so complicated that I haven't been able to complete setup so far. I'll try again tomorrow morning. I have to decide on using my iPhone as the dashboard or a Windows 10 computer. I somehow thought that I could use both. I used the iPad and my computer with the old, simple one. Perhaps Santa should have just given me another simple one. I'm a simple kinda girl. Oh, that's right....positive, positive, positive. Well, when it gets going I'm going to have access to more information to encourage me to have healthier habits. There, positive enough?

It truly is a beautiful day/evening and I truly wish each and every one of you a most Happy New Year!