Kissy face mom.

December 3, 2010

Moxie thinks I’m the funniest thing ever.
Moxie Laughing

Vegetable Korma

September 21, 2010

A rather awful picture of tonights supper.

I started off w/ a recipe sent by my sister and changed it up thusly:

1 tbs cumin
1 tbs grnd corriander
1 1/2 tbs garam marsla
1 tsp tumeric
4 whole cloves
1/2 tsp grnd cardamom
1 tsp grnd cinnamon
4 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs minced fresh ginger
1 white onion, chopped
1 can fire roasted tomato w/ juice
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup cashews, grnd
1 head cauliflower, chopped
3 small potatoes, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/2 cup chickpeas

Comibine spices in a heavy bottomed pan and dry fry until aromatic, about 2 minutes.  Add oil, and mix to combine with spices.  Fry garlic and ginger in the oil and spice mixture for about 2 minutes, then add onion and cook until softened.  Crush tomatoes into the pot and add the juice.  Mix in the ground cashews and whisk until incorporated.   Add coconut milk and vegetables.  Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are as soft as desired. Could be al dente. Could be mush. It’s your choice.

Ground cashews: 1/3 cup cashews soaked in about 1/2 cup water for an hour.  Remove most of the liquid, then grind in mortar or in food processor.

I used edamame because I mostly hate green peas.  Try to find them fresh around here.  I dare you!  My sister’s recipe called for chicken instead of the veg.  I did poach a chicken breast in there for Andy, then cubed it on top of his plate.  Hers also had heavy cream in place of the coconut milk but I have baby weight to loose!  Top w/ yogurt and cilantro if desired.  Serve over basmati rice.

Sweet Sweet Olive

September 4, 2010

In 2004 I was a depressed and lonely woman in a strange city half way across the country from the place I considered home.  My solitude was intentional, a product of the denied grief of a lifetime and two all too fresh deaths.  I rented a two bedroom duplex and hid there, rejecting the idea that a good life was worth the effort.  I mentioned off handedly to a coworker that I thought I needed a dog.  She brought me an adoption booklet from her vet’s office and there, about halfway in was a picture of my heart’s dog, Olive.

She was called Duma then, by the ladies that ran the rescue she’d been living at for six months. She’d been found wandering the streets of northeast Georgia alone and hungry.  She seemed easily startled and they soon realized that was because she could not hear.   She was camera shy, so in the picture her face is turned back towards the camera over one sholder.  She’s standing still for the photo, but you can tell she doesn’t like it.  She’s doing it because she knows these nice people want her to, and she usually does what nice people ask.  I knew she was my dog before I even read the caption under her picture.  I thought she was all soul.  It turned out she was also very largely joy.

Olive, named for the sound a deaf friend made when he said “I Love You” quickly became the most important piece of my life.  She was waiting for me every morning when I got out of bed and in the afternoons when I came home.  She was so horribly shy at first that she couldn’t stand to see me leave the room without her, and followed each of my steps.  Though I was still deeply sad and anxious, I got up on weekends to make sure that Olive had a walk.  The desire to let Olive see more of her own kind got me out of that crappy apartment to the dog park, where I began to see more of mine.  Her oddball tummy made me search out good food for her, and realize what I was eating myself.  And then that day when the bottom finally dropped out, Olive sat between my legs in the floor while I held on to her for hours.  She was what I gripped when I decided to go ahead and try the climb.

She became the friend that would walk beside me across half a country, down 100 pounds, away from a life I was designing to be free of anyone I loved enough to weep for, and towards the courage to find the one I live today.  Olive gradually made me remember that the flow of love is worth the pain it brings with it, and that despite my many faults I am a person who loves well.  She found the heart I tried to throw away, and brought it back to me.  That was the only thing she ever bothered to fetch.

More than six years ago she found a woman alone, with a stale and blank face.  This morning my kind husband told me that he loved me and took our two month old daughter from the room.  I held sweet sweet Olive against me and she took her leave.

Waiting.

July 1, 2010

Time flies

At about 5:30 in the morning on July 1st, I’m sitting in our not so well scrubbed bath tub looking for that mythical state of relaxation and calm that everybody advises those in a pensive cycle of waiting to find.   I am a horrible waiter, and have been since childhood.  Not satisfied with mere punctuality, I’m the woman who has a book in her glove box for the inevitable 30 minute wait I’ll do in the car before any appointment.  Tick tock…. don’t mind me, I’m just waiting.

This would probably qualify as the ultimate wait.  I’m waiting for our first child.  My estimated due date of June 20th came and went without so much as  a contraction 11 days ago. In physiological terms it’s just any second.  2 or 3 centimeters dilated, more than 80% effaced, baby at a -1 station. Evening primrose oil, red raspberry leaf tea, black/blue cohosh tincture, spicy food, and my personal favorite source of protaglandins have all been tried for weeks.  Yesterday, proving my own fragile mental state, I actually consumed 4 oz of castor oil in a chocolate shake and spent the rest of the day groaning on the can.  All to no avail though.  I woke up this morning at about 3am feeling far more fine than I care to.

My daughter, whatever her name will end up being, apparently doesn’t share my early nature.  She’s comfy inside of me, I guess.  She has plenty of room inside my farm girl’s pelvis to just hang out and start long before her teens the tradition of driving her mother just a little crazy.  She must know that by whatever impossible mechanism of nature, I fell in love with her months and months ago, and I’ve been sitting on my hands not having a much wanted drink, round of sushi, or knock down hard run on my swollen and gimpy right leg. I’m desperate to meet her.   How long will this woman wait for me, she must wonder.

I’m just sitting here, and I’ve nothing left to read.  I’ll get out of the tub in a bit, scrub it down (it really is pretty scummy), and then go bounce on my exercise ball for another day looking at 30 years old for the patience my baby has already mastered.

Our Daughter

March 5, 2010

Working title: Georgia Marie Skelton

For the love of GOD!

March 3, 2010

Make this right now.  NOW!

Beet Hummus from Simply Recipies

Meat Pig

February 12, 2010

1 medium onion, diced fine
4 stalks celery, diced fine
4 carrots, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs olive oil
½ cup red wine
1 tbs fresh oregano, minced
1 tbs fresh sage, minced
1 tbs fresh thyme
3 lbs ground meat (I like one each beef, lamb, and turkey. Venison is also good.)
1 egg, beaten
½ cup marinara
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup instant oats
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper

In large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions, garlic, carrot, and celery. Cook until softened. Deglaze pan with red wine and allow liquid to reabsorb. Add fresh herbs. Allow to cool. Combine cooked vegetables and all other ingredients by folding together, not squeezing. Form into a loaf, by hand and refrigerate on a lined cookie sheet for one hour. Bake at 350°F until cooked through, about 1-1½ hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the giant loaf reads 160°F. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Note: Add more marinara if too dry, more bread crumbs if too wet. I admit that these measurements are only approximate. Meatloaf is something that changes every time I try it.  I always: limit myself to one egg, eschew loaf pans, and use the cooked vegetables.

You can of course shape the loaf any way you like.  It’s a horrible photo, but as you can tell, Andy is very fond of pigs.

Meat Pig

Spirit of Aggieland

January 29, 2010

Even in the cold cold north, one man shows his Aggie Spirit.

Jeffrey honors the 12th man.

Olive is suddenly grateful for her undercoat.

Lentil Moussaka

January 10, 2010

We’ve decided to stay up in Vermont for the winter. I know! I know! Most people fly south for the winter.  After spending 29 of my 30 years in Texas, however, I decided an actual winter was in order.  So I wake up to this every morning:

This is where Andy spends most of his winter days.

Of course, the dude can work any where he likes. I on the other hand am continuing my unemployment trend in pursuit of another life long goal.  This gives me ample time to cook and blog.  Hopefully this will end the 6 month or so long blog dry spell.  I’ve been cooking all this time, but also teaching 8th grade, so there’s been very little time to actually write about it.

The weather seems to make me want nothing but soft, warm comfort food. When I was recently asked to bring some sort of hearty vegetable dish to a family gathering, the only thought that would come into my head was Moussaka.  I love all things Greek. I love eggplant. I love feta cheese.  I certainly love béchamel.  The only thing I don’t love is the current lack of Zoe-friendly meat in my freezer.  We’re pretty much on vegetarian rations right now.  That’s fine, actually.  I do love the challenge of filling us up without the ease of using meat.

The following is what I came up with after pursuing recipes for moussaka.  It’s a combination of different points from the many that I read.  Over all, I loved it.  It was a rather time-consuming recipe, but I was in the mood to chop and fuss and prep.

Filling:
1/2 cup of green lentils
4-6 cups water
2 small yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup beer
2 (14 oz) cans tomatoes, diced
1 cup cherry tomato, halved
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tbs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tbs fresh oregano leaves, chopped
kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper

Casserole:
2 eggplants, peeled and sliced
2 zucchini, sliced
2 baking potato, sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole grain bread crumbs

Bechamel:
5 tbs unsalted butter
4 tbs unbleached flour
3 cups 2% milk
1 cup half and half
1 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of white pepper (which I didn’t have, so I used black)

Peel eggplant, and slice it about 1/8 inch thick.  Place the slices in a large colander and apply a very liberal amount of salt.  Set this aside for at least 30 minutes while you prep the filling and slice the other vegetables.  The goal here is to pull some of the moisture from the eggplant.  After 30 minutes, rinse thoroughly with water and then dry with paper towels.

To prepare the filling: Boil the lentils in the water (salted) until almost done.  Leave them with just a little bite to them.  Drain and set aside.  In a large pot, sauté the onions in a small amount of olive oil.  Add garlic, and cook just to soften.  Deglaze the pan with the beer, then add the canned tomato. Add back the lentils, fresh tomato, and seasonings.  Simmer the filling for a bout 30 minutes.  The filling should be quite, thick and most of the liquid will reduce.  (I had extra filling which I used on top of some whole wheat spaghetti for lunch.)

In a large skillet, heat a little bit of olive oil.  Brown the eggplant, one side at a time. Set aside.  Brown the zucchini in the same pan and set aside.  Add a small amount more oil, then cook the potatoes until they are a bit softened, but not fully cooked.  Set aside.

In a 13X9 inch pan, lay down a layer with each of the vegetables.  You will have more eggplant than anything else, so try to work it so that each of the 3 layers will have some of each vegetable.  I placed eggplant, zucchini, and potato in bands.  For the bottom layer I placed: eggplant, zucchini, eggplant, potato.  In the next layer I placed the vegetables so that they were directly above a different vegetable. The idea was that each piece cut from the casserole would contain all three vegetables.

On top of the first layer of vegetable spread about 1 cup of the lentil filling, then top that with a little feta and a little Parmesan.  Top with another layer of vegetables, then filling, then cheese.  Make sure to end the layering with vegetables on top.  Bake the casserole at 350°F for about 25 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow it to stand for about 15 minutes.  The casserole may be a little watery when taken from the oven, but should reabsorb most of the liquid.

While it cools, make the white sauce.  In a straight sided skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sprinkle the flour on top of the butter and whisk together to form a roux.  Cook the roux until it is a dark sandy color, just starting to brown.  Add the milk and half and half, whisking to incorporate.  Continue to stir until the mixture thickens.  Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Taste for flavor, and re-season if necessary. (You will have extra white sauce.  Use it on pasta, or any recipe that calls for a cream sauce.  Mine will probably go into Tuna Noodle Casserole to be frozen for later.)

Pour just enough of the béchamel over the vegetable casserole to cover it lightly.  Top with the bread crumbs and more cheese if desired.  Bake uncovered until the potatoes are fully cooked, about 30 minutes.  Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

Hatch Cornbread

September 21, 2009

You probably are familiar by now with my very southern obsession with corn bread.  I’ve admitted, once and for all, that I do put sugar in there.  The secret is out. Hopefully the Texas Rangers won’t throw me out of the state.  The next big secret in cornbread of course is to cook it in a cast iron skillet.  The crust that forms from that hot skillet and fat is probably the next best thing to Prozac.

My brand new cornbread trick though involves a very simple addition.  I put up about 8 quarts of roasted hatch green chiles this year.  I buy the peppers in bulk, blister them over a flame, steam them in a paper sack,  then peel off the blackened skins, and remove most of the seeds.  That all gets stuck in ziplock bags and frozen to use over the coming year.  You can have the roasting done for you in most top end groceries around the Southwest.

1½ cup yellow corn meal
½ cup unbleached flour
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp kosher salt
¾ cup hot hatch green chilès, diced
1 egg, whipped
1½ cup buttermilk
2 tbs vegetable oil, melted butter, or bacon fat
2 tbs additional fat for the skillet

Set a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet on high heat while you prepare the batter.  Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir, just to incorporate.  Turn the heat off under the skillet, and drop in the 2 tbs of extra oil.  Swirl to coat.  While the pan is still extremely hot, pour in the batter and spread it around to fill the pan.  immediately place the skillet into a 425° oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle of the cornbread comes out clean.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan, then invert over a plate.

I serve cornbread upside down.  If you flip the cornbread over so that it is served right side up, the crispy crust will steam itself soft.  Serving it just as it flips out of the pan, with the dark brown fried edge up, will keep the crust perfect while you eat.

This was fire engine hot cornbread.  If you prefer, use mild hatch chilès.  You could also use any green pepper that has been fire roasted.  Hatch are hard to come by in many locations.