posts tagged with 'cooking'

first asparagus

I had the first cooked asparagus of the year with my lunch today. There was just enough for one person, which was fine, because the boys were away at their grandparents' and Leah was on a training meeting for her new job. Before I dug in I thought about taking a picture to commemorate the event—but then I decided that would be silly. I probably write about eating the first asparagus every year, I figured, and one picture of a bunch of asparagus doesn't look any different than another. So I just enjoyed without photographing. Well, it turns out that I don't comment on asparagus nearly as much as I thought I had. Barely at all since this paean back in 2015. So a totally missed opportunity! Oh well, even without a picture I think it's worth mentioning that, today, this 21st of April, the garden is up and running and producing food.

new experiences in salad dressing

We have a disagreement in our house about what kind of salad dressing is best. Harvey likes a creamy dressing, the kind made with mayonnaise and sour cream. Zion prefers a vinaigrette, heavy on the vinegar—or when we don't have any dressing made he's happy to adorn his salad with balsamic straight from the bottle. (Elijah doesn't eat salads.) I was at Penzies the other day, and, looking at their display of salad dressing mixes, wondered if Italian dressing might split the difference. Some vinegar, but not too much; plenty of sweetness too. Seems perfect! When I went to make the first bottle this evening, though, I was kind of surprised by the recipe. Two parts oil to one part vinegar? And vegetable oil?! (the instructions don't even specify what kind of vinegar). Because it was the first time I did it like they said, and as I expected it came out pretty oily. But I guess that's what salad dressing is like for most people! We're maybe an exception in that, to us, a vinaigrette is twice as much vinegar as oil. Because vinegar is the part that tastes good and doesn't coat your tongue with flavorless oil goop! No, I exaggerate: it actually was fine. Just like store-bought dressing. But nobody loved it. I'll change up the recipe a little bit next time, but for now I wonder how long it'll take us to go through the cup-plus that I made today?

eggs in February

Other people's hens lay during the winter, but not ours; they take a break from mid December until mid February or so. It's not the cold that stops them, as I understand it, but the light. The light is definitely coming back now, so at least one of them has started up egg production again. But until this week it wasn't at all warm, which led to an interesting moment at breakfast on Sunday. On Sundays the boys like to have cereal, so I'm my own for breakfast; I decided to have a fried egg, and I decided to use the freshest egg, the one I'd just brought in from the coop half an hour before. I had the pan all heated up and buttered, I moved the potatoes I was also cooking out of the way, I cracked the egg in... and I was very surprised when the yolk clanked into the pan and didn't compress at all from it's spherical shape. Ah yes... it was 11°F out, after all! I probably could have cooked it anyway, but what's the point of having a fried egg if the yolk isn't perfect?! So I scraped that egg out to give to the dogs and cooked the second-newest egg, from the day before. It was fine. The moral of the story is: it's possible for something to be both fresh and frozen.

new year, old pancakes

A couple days before Christmas, our neighbors came by with a gift. They moved in a in the summer, so we've only known them in the pandemic times and barely had a chance to get to know them; not that we would anyways, since they're much classier than we are. Very kind, too: they brought us a gift basket with Wilson Farm pancake mix and syrup. Awesome, we love pancakes! Only it turns out we're a little spoiled. We made the day after Christmas, having missed our usual Friday pancake day—though when I saw that the recipe called for nothing more than the mix, water, and an egg OR two tablespoons oil, my hopes were not high. Accurately; they weren't bad, by any means, but thin and kind of tough and pretty much blah. We ate them, of course! With the syrup and leftover Christmas ham they made a fine breakfast. But then today was Friday again and we got to have the real thing. True, stores aren't carrying wheat germ any more so I've had to adjust our recipe, but with white and whole wheat flour, buttermilk, two well-beaten eggs, and plenty of butter we have pancakes that come out light and fluffy and tender to the fork; just about perfect. A good way to start a new year.

our Thanksgiving day

We celebrated Thanksgiving just the five of us, and it was nice. Originally we were going to get together with Leah's parents and brother to exchange food and take a walk, but due to the rain we postponed that until tomorrow. While it would have been great to see them, I think I'm glad things ended up the way they did, because it was actually really lovely to have a quiet cozy day at home in the rain, reading, playing cards, and slowly but steadily making food. And we made some food!

food on our table

a feast!

Leah took charge of the turkey. I made sides: mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. I also made a pumpkin pie, but then when it came time for the boys to add their own contributions it turned out they all wanted to do desserts too. Harvey made an apple crisp and Lijah folded some pieces of Hershey chocolate in Pillsbury crescent roll dough to make some quite delicious chocolate croissants. Zion... caused ice cream to be purchased? Does that count? We all ate very well.

I was especially happy with the stuffing. It was the recipe my mom has used all my life (and probably long previous!), which I don't think I've ever attempted before. Why would I? I've always had the real thing available! My attempt came out a little different but just as delicious, and since only Harvey and I wanted any there's plenty left over. Actually, there's plenty of everything left over: with that spread, we couldn't even finish off the veggies and dip! And there will be more food coming tomorrow. Yikes! Good thing the rain's over so we can get some exercise.

We talked a little about what we're thankful for this year. Mostly surviving covid and enjoying some new opportunities in this strange pandemic world. Zooms with far-away friends and bubble school for the most part, but Thanksgiving around our own table came in for a little love too. I hope and trust we won't have to do it this way again... but maybe we'll want to, every once and a while.


experimental cookery

I love coleslaw, and I think I do a pretty good job making it—if I do say so myself. I like to switch up the recipe for variety's sake, to match what it's meant to go with: a sweeter dressing with celery seeds when we're having fish, something more tangy with chipotle pepper to go with tacos. Today I went even further in experimentation: along with our Spanish tortilla and toast I made maple-vinaigrette coleslaw, perhaps the first time that particular flavor combination has ever been assembled! (or maybe it's commonplace; I could look it up, but I think I'd rather revel in my uniqueness and also it's past my bedtime). The kids didn't love it, but I thought it was delightful. I wonder how much farther I can go before it's not coleslaw any more?

rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

Last year a garden reorganization brought all the rhubarb in our yard into one garden row, united from various far-flung and suboptimal spots. Since it was newly installed we didn't harvest much last year, but this year the plants are working at peak capacity and I have to keep picking to keep them healthy. So we're using lots of rhubarb. Besides a pie a week, I also made rhubarb syrup the other day. Some of us had it on pancakes (others objected vehemently to the very idea). Then yesterday after a hot afternoon of working outside we cooled off and re-hydrated with some rhubarb soda—syrup and tonic water on ice. Delicious! I just wished I had some lime to go with it.

pink fizzy stuff in half-pint jars with ice

pink refreshment

This morning I was going to make rhubarb muffins, but we had some pear that needed to be used up. Pear muffins were good but it was sad to break the streak. Harvey and I could eat (and drink) rhubarb-sugar concoctions all day. The other two boys aren't as enthusiastic. Oh well, it'll be strawberry season soon. The strawberries plants, in the row next to the rhubarb, are looking good! Do you think they'll like strawberry rhubarb pie?

a rhubarb pie on the table

I wonder how many pie pictures I've posted on this blog?


from the "gooey" section

A couple weeks ago I picked up a cookbook at the library, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich, thinking I'd get some inspiration for holiday treats. The only problem with the book is that, while it's designed like a glossy coffee-table book, there are only pictures for every fourth or fifth recipe! How does the author expect me to bake something that I haven't already seen in mouthwatering full-page illustration? Yesterday we tried it out for the first time, making "Rocky Road bars" (pictured on page 213) and they were delicious. So good, in fact, that after we left the last five with our friends who gave us dinner yesterday I had to make some more for dessert this evening. They came out even better the second time!

a chocolate marshmallow bar on a plate


The recipe is super simple: just a graham cracker crust (with sugar added), topped with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and nuts. You hardly need a recipe for that! And yet, I never thought of it myself despite always wishing I could get marshmallows in cookies somehow. The key, I think, is baking the crust for 10 minutes at 350° and then adding the other stuff before baking for 10-12 more minutes at 375°. I don't know if I'll get to any of the other recipes in the book before I have to return it—we've got a little bit going on this time of year—but it's already changed our lives. Rocky Road bars are a keeper!


afternoon in the kitchen

Every Tuesday we share a meal with the friends who make up what we still call "Bible Study" despite not having opened a Bible together since Zion was born. Call it eight years. But we still get together, and once there are no kids under five in the group we might be able to get back to the studying (that'll be three years from now, unless someone pops out another kid). Unlike our regular Friday evening gathering, which is always at our house and a pot luck, the Tuesday dinner rotates among four families (well, 4.25 counting 5th Tuesdays) who make up the group. So we get three free dinners out per month—but when it's at our house we have to do some work. Well, let me tell you, today I did extra.

Yesterday evening Leah asked me what I was planning to cook, since she was going to Whole Foods and cook pick up what was necessary. When I said I had no idea she read me the sale items for inspiration, and we settled on a pork loin. What is a pork loin? I wasn't entirely sure, but it sounded like something that could feed a crowd. (It may surprise you to know that I have never cooked pork; lots of bacon and ham, but no pork.) After some confusion over recipes—it turns out pork loin and pork tenderloin are not at all the same thing!—I figured out basically what I should be doing; and despite my not having a meat thermometer, which was strongly recommended by most sources, it seemed easy enough.

Of course, making a roast seemed fancy enough that I needed some top quality sides to go with it! Mashed potatoes, sure (and I had to do them with the food mill since Lijah didn't care for the lumps last time). Roasted broccoli so we'd have something green. Then in my searching for pork recipes I came across one for butternut squash with maple syrup and sriracha; I'd been wanting a new way to do squash! So I thought I'd try that as well. And then, since I forgot to feed the sourdough starter yesterday, I had to make yeast rolls too.

I have to say, while I'm not sure about pork—my ethical considerations are particularly strong when it comes to pigs—the meal came out so good I might have to shell out real money more often to repeat the experience. Certainly, it was worth all the afternoon's work and stress. Too often I get into a rut, just cooking the things I know how to and buying the same ingredients again and again. Rice and beans mostly. Which would have been fine with one of the young visitors: that's what he asked for when he saw what we had on the table. You can't please everyone all the time. But the evening's meal sure pleased me!


breakfast standards

I like to think we do pretty well for breakfasts around here. I've heard friends say that even cereal is too much trouble for them in the morning, so they limit themselves to a breakfast bar on the way out the door. None of that for us! Still, I come to understand that I still have improvements to make.

In our book club we're reading the fantastic Gone-Away Lake, by Elizabeth Enright. I've read it lots of times before but I'm always glad for another go. Her sequel, Return to Gone-Away, isn't quite as good, but it's still plenty compelling enough for me to give it another run-through this weekend. And on page 29 I read the the following words:

Aunt Hilda's breakfasts were famous: varied and original, not just the ordinary plodding through of cereal and eggs and toast.

Eggs and toast ordinary?! Here I thought I was doing pretty well to get a hot breakfast with scrambled or fried eggs on the table four or five mornings a week. I do agree with her on the cereal though—at least so far as cereal by itself is concerned. So what would she have extraordinary cooks prepare? Here's Aunt Hilda's breakfast that day: "fresh orange juice, hot buckwheat cakes with butter and apple jelly, and bacon." Sounds good to me. Does anyone have a good recipe for buckwheat cakes? How about a suggestion for getting the kids to try them?