3rd grade started today. As much as I missed my little man, I remain amazed at how much he talks. Seriously. No breathing. Just talking.
In one of his long winded moments, he asked me to make a lasagna for his homecoming. So I did.
I made a sauce with Roma tomatoes, garlic, onion, white wine, basil and parsley. Steamed off a bunch of spinach mixed that with ricotta. Shredded a brick of mozzarella. Boiled some noodles. Called it good.
Tonight we eat left overs. Tune in tomorrow for a Peanut Shrimp recipe, Pad Thai like if you will.
I overextended myself financially this summer...a little too much eating out, drinking out, more eating out, know what I'm sayin'? Therefore, I'm pantry eating. What I'm cooking comes straight out of my pantry, my fridge, and my freezer; this feels like my own private Quickfire Challenge.
It humbles me greatly to know that I hit my limit and I'm pulling together dinners that I now feel privileged to be able to make. I think all day about what items could create a dinner - tomatoes & what? Tortillas, but no cheese. Pasta & no tomatoes. The list goes on and on with things that don't match, yet I manage to pull together dinners I didn't know I could make. I wonder if this means I win my own Quickfire Challenge?
Tonight, I pulled together from both Silver Spoon and Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks a quick polenta with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, basil (that I grew myself), flat leaf parsley, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, garlic, red onions, and jalapeno. The chef said he could smell it coming up the stairs and wanted to know what I did the minute he hit the kitchen.
You will need:
1/4 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1/4 sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, from the jar
10 pitted kalamata olives, chopped (if you want)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, rough chop
10 leaves, basil, rough chop
2 huge fresh tomatoes, cut into pieces
Salt & Pepper
Toss a bit of olive oil in the pan over medium high heat. Add the onions first and let them get a bit soft, then add the garlic and the jalapeno. Cook both until just brown - just barely brown. Add the sun dried tomatoes and the kalamata olives. Cook until warmed through, then add the artichoke hearts and the tomatoes. Salt carefully, the olives, sun dried tomatoes & artichoke hearts will contain salt.
Toss in the basil leaves and let simmer for a bit. You'll want this to pull together to look like a thick sauce. At the end, toss the parsley over the top.
Fine ground Polenta
For the polenta, you'll want to boil 4 cups water and quickly stir 1 cup polenta into the boiling water. Add 1 tablespoon butter, a spoonful of cream cheese, and salt. Stir everything together quickly.
Serve the veggie mix over the top of the polenta, with a toasted piece of french bread.
I believed that I could be experiencing the worst day ever, until I went to work and learned that toilets need reinforcing due to collapse. Bluntly put, some people weigh so much that toilets break under their weight. Not. okay. at. all.
That, I firmly believe, sums up the worst day ever for anyone. My day, merely, filled with inconveniences.
The recession finally hit my kitchen. Actually, it's a bit of a self-imposed recession in that I am doing a bit of pantry cooking. Be that as it may, this school year will consist of less eating out - not after soccer, not after drop off, not all the damn time. My desire to head off to France next summer currently out weighs my desire to eat out in piddly ways. The onesy, twosy meals that happen hear or there that seem to add up to way, way too much money every month. Though, I think the cash will flow a bit more freely again at the end of this month, I'm still going to pantry cook. Look out for some crazy recipes.
Thus, the chef and I, in the summer of '09, find ourselves coming through cookbooks searching out recipes that resemble the food stuffs we've got in the fridge - er...what I've got in my fridge, since the chef has nothing in his (I checked it out).
I think so far, the soft polenta with beef short ribs went the furthest in terms of overall meals - we ate 4 nights worth of meals on that. The main event with sauteed kale and bacon, then tacos, then two nights of enchiladas made both of us thrilled to eat.
Yet, wait for it, I made the winning dish with pasta, leeks, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, artichoke hearts and cream. Yippee.
You will need:
8 Marinated artichoke hearts, cut in half
1 garlic clove, minced
Handful rough chop flat-leaf parsley
2 leeks, sliced thin
Pasta - whatever your heart desires. We used bow tie because that's what I had on hand.
Salt & pepper
Spoonful spicy Italian garlic and pepper mix from my friend Diana as a housewarming gift - thanks Di. (I'm all out again...hint, hint)
6 oz. cream
So this is what I did...I put the water on to boil, with salt (be still my beating heart). Then I put some olive oil in the pan, on medium heat, added the leeks. I stirred the leeks around until they were soft, then I tossed in the garlic. Let all of that get a bit soft - not brown. After that you'll want to add half of the parsley, spoonful of the spicy stuff, and the artichoke hearts. You'll want this to cook for just a few minutes on medium/low heat.
During this time, your pasta water should be boiling. Get that all situated and ready to serve.
Cook down a bit, not too much, then add the cream. Cook this for a few minutes, until it starts to thicken a bit - then add some pasta water, just a bit for flavor. Salt & Pepper your sauce to taste.
The chef looked amazed at how good this tasted. Frankly, I shocked myself.
This summer my little boy is rapidly becoming so much bigger. He hardly fits on my lap, doesn't cry when I leave, gets funnier and funnier, and seems so - well - much bigger, so much so that the grandparents refer to him as little moose. The boy's become little moose to the dog, who, at the beginning of the summer really looked like a polka-dot moose. Such a fat dog that he's on a diet - when I told my kid that I hand't lost any weight this summer, without missing a beat, he replied completely serious, "maybe you don't need more than two cups of kibble, it worked for the dog. You know?"
Sending my son away from me this summer raised lots of stuff for lots of people. None of that stuff pertains to the kid-let and me, but everyone struggles with their own issues. Spending the summer on my own raised my own issues of independence and complaining - I can do whatever I want and I have nothing to complain about. Who knew that both would feel so liberating? Who knew that complaining could be so tiring? It's so much easier to appreciate what I've got and love who I do. So. much. easier.
The time away also allows me to really miss the boy; to develop a real appreciation for motherhood, for my son, and for myself. It's allowed me to think. Really, really think about what I'm doing and where I'm going. Granted, I'm looking forward to him co ming home so much that it makes my chest ache. I'm looking forward to third grade, to the drama of it all. The soccer season, the assemblies, the newness of the learning, the beauty that this age facilitates. He's lovely and funny and he's growing into a pre-teen and it's wonderful. They grow so fast - so cliche, I realize.
In honor of my moose, I decided to make the chef a Goat Cheese and Berries Tart. It just seemed so easy and yummy - who doesn't love that?
Goat Cheese Mousse
7 oz heavy cream, cold
4 oz goat cheese, at room temp.
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
Whip the cream to medium stiff peaks and keep it chilled while preparing the mousse. In a medium bowl, whisk together the goat cheese and sugar. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Fold together the whipped cream and goat cheese mix.
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 stick butter (I know, confused me too. Cut the stick in half) at room temp.
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Cream together butter, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt and a bit of vanilla. Slowly add the remaining flour and sugar, mixing well. Add the egg yolk and vanilla. Flatten into a disk and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Roll out between parchment paper into 6 inch rounds, roughly 1/8 inch thick. Place inside tartlet rings, then prick the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. Let cool.
Fill the cooled tart shells with the mousse, top with fresh berries.
It seems like lots of work. Really, this took me 15 minutes tops to pull everything together before I baked them off. No joke. Easy, peasy.
In a way, I can tell I'm really ready for my son to come home because the kitchen in my house begs for use. I stumble upon recipes and find that the chef eats what I make willingly, but not in the same way as the boy.
Soups go un-made, chickens go un-roasted, granola gets neglected...until now. The weeks of summer flew by this year. Poof and they're gone. My little family grew by leaps and bounds, both physically and emotionally. As celebration, I'm giving this recipe a try:
adapted from the NY Times, Mark Bittman
6 cups rolled oats, specifically not the instant kind
2 cup mixed nuts & seeds, sunflower, sesame, chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds or cashews
1/2 cup to 1 cup honey or maple syrup, or can use agave syrup
1 cup dried fruit
The directions as follows:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine oats, nuts and seeds, coconut, cinnamon, salt, and the sweetener. Place on a sheet pan and put in the oven for 30 minutes or a bit longer, watch it so it doesn't burn. It should brown evenly - the tip in the Times said, the browner it gets without burning, the crunchier the granola will be.
Remove pan from oven and add raisins or dried fruit. Cool on a rack, stirring once in a while until granola reaches room temp. Transfer to a sealed container and keep in the fridge.
I'm thinking this will be divine with a bit of plain greek yogurt.
Breakfast, it's the most important meal of the day.
No two ways around it. I'm in an August, summer almost over, what am I going to do to balance it all again, funk. Working 45+ hours a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, but seemingly always working wears a girl down. Also, I miss my son. I miss him.
I miss his hilarity, his smile, his companionship. That said, he's learned to swim and ride a bike, how to deal with absence, skinned knees, dogs - shoot, he even got bonked in the head by a tree branch. All endured with that goofy grin and those long eyelashes framing his twinkly eyes. He's tan and taller, wilder and more smart assy, loving and still little, but not as much. Can you tell I miss him?
and then I don't.
I spent 8 hours by myself on Saturday. Glorious time, putzing around the house time, baking, prepping a chicken time, hanging laundry, watching bad TV time...the solitude, the lovely, lovely solitude. I pitted cherries by hand, changed my sheets, washed the dishes, watched more bad TV - drank a beer (which I seldom do...) the quiet, the calm quiet that includes someone on the street playing electric guitar, "Free Bird", and the like.
I remind myself that in times like this I start to writhe inside with fear. Fear of not being enough, doing enough, or having enough - and I am, I do, and I do. It's my goal to remember the following:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve this world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us; It is not just in some of us - it's in everyone! And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others!"- Nelson Mandela
I think today, when I am in midst of the darkness of my own mind, I will give myself permission to walk in the light.
I give everyone else quite possibly the best pie crust I've made in a long time:
8 oz. butter, cubed
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water
The trick really is to keep everything super-duper cold (sorry Grandma) to enjoy flaky, lovely, buttery, wonderful pie crust.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside. Add in the cold cubed butter and work it until the butter is mixed in and pea size - but not gone. You'll want to see the butter. Then add the cold (again, sorry GG) water until it's all incorporated. You might need to add a bit more water, but do it slowly as to not add too much.
Chill for an hour or more. Then you can use it the way you'd like. I used my batch with cherries - next time apples.
Cline Cellars Some lovely, lovely wines. Stop by for some delightful tasting. The Pinot Gris, Cashmere (do they know me or what?), the syrah...much wine to enjoy from this vineyard.
Also, much like the Lucy, this winery donates a dollar from each bottle of the Cashmere to breast cancer research.