Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greek Night - Moussaka and A Movie

Breading the Eggplant

Preparing the Sauce

This past Sunday a very pleasant afternoon was spent in cooking a very tasty Greek meal. The menu was comprised of Moussaka, (an eggplant based casserole), Saganaki, (a breaded and fried cheese dish), and a  crisp Greek salad , It was followed by a delightful variation (more on this later)  of a traditional Baklava recipe.  

I took advantage of my two chefs in training (see photos ) to help in the prep of the Moussaka, an extremely labor intensive dish involving chopping and sauteing vegetables and meats as well as breading and frying eggplant slices.  All these ingredients are layered into a casserole dish and then topped with a cheesy Bechemel sauce.

The finished products, if I do say so myself, were quite tasty, and my young helpers seemed to enjoy learning the fine points of chopping, sauteing and frying.  Next time, I'd add even less olive oil than than already reduced amount I  used in the moussaka.  The recipe called for  3 "teacups" of olive oil in all, and with only 1 1/2 added, it was still a little heavy for me.    

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The Cooks and their Masterpiece
Dessert was delicious, a lighter and very tasty hand holdable variation of Baklava.  To his dismay, on the morning of the dinner, Rich found out that traditional Baklava preparation involves soaking the dish in honey for 1-5 days.  Pressed for time, he devised an ingenious little treat of phyllo dough sachets filled with delicious almond apricot filling.  He promised  to rise to the challenge this weekend and provide us a version of the real thing this weekend.  Yum!

We finished the evening relaxing in front of the fire watching "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." and I am sure no one will ever look at Windex in the same way again.

Our next culinary adventure is Indian - one of my favorites - stay tuned!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bye Bye Beige

Today, my creative adventure was to "de-beige" the guest room. When we moved into this house 7 years ago, every room in the house, excepting the kitchen and the library was painted a nice, neutral beige. Acutally, there may have been more than one shade of beige, but to me, a lover of color, its just one step up from different shades of gray. This is not to say that gray or beige are bad colors, and when used appropriately, they can be very effective. and charming.

In this case, painting the entire house beige was a terrific selling feature - it was a blank canvas - it gave the effect of walking into a brand new house - nothing to clash with our colorful uphostered furniture. Plenty of time to live with the house and it's lighting and learn what colors might enhance each room.

But, after 7 years of beigedom, it is time to embrace COLOR!!!!! My plan for the winter is to select a new color or texture for each of the remaining beige rooms (3 bathrooms, living room and guest room). I really like the shade of creamy beige in our bedroom and it is well suited to the decor - soft moss green, pink , raspberry and white fabrics and decor along with worn woods and burnished gold metal furniture and mirrors. So, that beige escapes the paint brush, for now! (To tell the absolute truth, I have long toyed with painting the bedroom a subtle and delicate shell pink, but I think that would just my husband right over the edge. ) It's the least I can do to allow him some space.

Today's project involved painting the guest room a shade of light blue with a violet/gray cast. As usual, I couldn't find exactly the right color at the paint store, so I mixed a bunch of tester jars I had, added some white, painted it on a piece of foam core board, and brought it to my paint store to color match it. I had already purchased some beautiful blue and yellow french and English fabrics for draperies several years ago, and a lovely blue needlepoint chair and a couple of area rugs. I've also been collecting some French fashion prints and English blue and white china to hang on the walls. At a local thrift store I picked up a lovely reversible blue and white duvet cover for the bed. I also plan to somehow integrate a large lacy tablecoth somehow - perhaps as a headboard canopy of sorts.

Check back tomorrow for photos of this ongong project.

Also tomorrow -

Teatime with friends.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mexican Rice

"Food is the most primitive form of comfort".
- Sheila Graham

Here is one of our favorite winter dishes. I usually have all these ingredients on hand, so it's one of those things I can make I have planned ahead much but I still have a little time to cook. It also makes enough to feed my family of four for 2 nights ... terrific for one of those days when I really don't have time to cook. It also freezes well, so you can freeze leftovers if you like for another day.


1 to 1 1/2 lbs. browned, drained ground beef
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 yellow or sweet onion, chopped
3 cups cooked white or brown rice.
2 tsp.cumin
1/4 tsp.cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black or white pepper
2 1/2 tsp.chili powder
1/2 lb. frozen corn (1/2 bag)
1 cup beef broth or bouillon

If you haven't browned your ground beef or cooked the rice earlier in the day, or like me, happened to have these items as leftovers from the day before, you can get them going and then start as follows:

Heat 2 T of olive or other oil in a large skillet. Saute the onions on medium high heat until they are golden and slightly wilted. Turn heat to high and add the two cans of tomatoes, salt, and spices. Saute until the onions are soft and most of the liquid is gone.

Add the ground beef, broth, and corn, stirring and heating through until the corn is cooked, and most of the liquid is evaporated. Now, you can add the rice, stirring well until it absorbs the remaining liquid.

Cooking the liquids away serves a couple of purposes - first, it thickens the sauce, and second, it concentrates and enhances the tomato and beef flavors. since not all in my family are lovers of hot and spicy food, I didn't add any cayenne pepper to this, but about 1/4 tsp. would give this a nice bit of heat to warm you up on a cold winter evening.
Happy Eating and a Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Beautiful Snowstorm Photos

This morning, Ian and I and our trusty collie, Cody, went out hiking in the woods to enjoy the beautiful miracle of a sunny day after a heavy snow. What made this snow particularly beautiful was the fact that the snow was heavy, sticking to the tree limbs like gingerbread frosting, and the wind had blown at a good clip, thus enrobing lots of vertical surfaces in the icy white mixture as well. I found myself stopping numerous times during our walk, unable to fully take in all the details of the spectacle, even at our ambling pace.

Normally, we'd be walking at a slightly faster clip, as we're usually following Cody and his speedy nose as he picks up a scent, but he was moving much slower than usual, still, I suspect, suffering the effects of his recent bout of life threatening pneumonia. It will be awhile, I think, before he gets his energy and stamina back; I never thought  I would be so happy to hear him bark as I am now.

Anyway, here are some photos from or hike though the beautiful woods of the Eagle Creek Valley. Hard to believe that in a couple of months, it will be covered with a carpet of Virgina Bluebells.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

News from the Farm

Went to the henhouse this evening carrying a bucket off fresh water and hoping for some eggs as there was only one yesterday. I also hoped they were "up",as it was dusk and it would make my tasks a bit easier (especially with an adolescent rooster on the premises). Indeed, I was pleased to see they were all roosting up on the high perch, with the exception of Grizzabella who sat on the slanted roof of a laying box and Pudge, who was perched on a bag of shavings. The first thing I noticed was that the entire floor iof the henhouse appeared to be covered in scratch grain. On investigation, I found that the bag had been skillfully opened ( Indeed it looked like one of them actually pulled the string on the bag top. I could just imagine the feeding frenzy that must have ensued while they stuffed themselves silly with the tasty grain. it remains to be seen if any of them keels over tomorrow from acute gastointestinal distres.

Having said this, I have to say that I was happy to find 4 dark brown eggs, i lighter peachy brown egg, and our first green egg! We received this batch of chicks on May 19, so I am quite happy to be finally receiving some eggs. Now, I can start coking lots of "eggy" dishes like quiches, frittatas, breakfst casseroles, lemon bars and meringue cookies, lemon curd, pavlova, maybe even egg drop soup and fried rice. Perhaps I will even try a spinach souffle.

Soon it will be time to begin the adopt-a chicken program where, for a monthly fee, you receive a profile of one of our rare and endangered species hens and the eggs they produce.

Raspberry Bushes-

I added four new raspberry bushes this year and did actually manage to harvest a couple of handfuls of nice berries this year. I plan to plant more next year on the other side of the property where we are free of Black Walnut trees . I suspect that their presence may be responsible for die off of the plants and lack of fruit. I also learned that it is best to control sucker growth to 6 inches apart and a row no wider than 12-18 inches to ensure the best, most productive bushes. The bushes will be pruned this week, removing the canes that bore fruit this year, In the spring, other canes will be cut back. Wish me luck - there is nothing better than fresh raspberries in a peach melba, sauce or salad dressing. I lust for the day when I would have enought berries for an entire pie!

Really Good Chili Recipe

Here's a recipe I came up with last week. I was aiming for a vegetarian version, but I ended up with some meat anyway.

Really Good Chili.

1lb. ground beef

2 onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 cans black beans, drained ( you could use kidney beans, but we like black better as they are not as mealy.)

2 cans canned tomatoes - diced, or whatever style you have handy

1 quart organic or natural beef broth

2 TBSP. chili powder

1/2 tsp. salt, more or less

Freshly ground pepper

Splash (i'm guessing about 1/4 cup) Red wine - whatever's open

About 4 shakes of Worcestershire sauce

Brown the ground beef and onions till bef is browned and onions soft and sl. brown. Toss in the garlic and heat for about 1 minute. If necessary, drain this to reduce fat. If not, deglaze the pan with some of the beef broth, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Put everything a stew pot, or crock pot and simmer for about an hour.

If desired, top with a dollop of greek yogurt, sour cream, shredded cheddar, or crumbled Feta cheese. The yogurt is delicious and is the lowest fat, lowest calorie option.

Serve with - Crusty cornbread and a nice salad with a balsamic vinaegrette.

To drink, a nice red wine, or a juice like cranberry or pomegranate.

Thanksgiving Dinner Plans

For Thanksgiving dinner this year, I 'm thinking of focusing on the use of locally harvested ingredients and other ingredients acquired from family owned vendors. To this end, I have gathered and processed my own black walnuts from our yard full of black walnut trees. I plan to use these in homemade maple ice cream. I plan to flavor the ice cream using Maple Syrup from Bragg Farm in Vermont. The syrup was given to me by a friend, Bryan Pfeiffer, who is a friend of the Braggs, and helps them out with their syrup production every year.

I'll make an apple pie using the apples we picked from Stuckey Farm, a wonderful u-pick operation in Lebanon, Indiana. If we really get into the spirit, we'll make our own butter for the piecrust from cream I get from a local creamery.

The stuffing wil be seasoned with sage, parsley and other herbs from our garden. We'll have roasted yellow fleshed and sweet potatoes with garlic, olive oil , sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and rosemary, also from the garden.

The corn pudding will use corn purchased from Stuckey's farm - frozen fresh straight from the farm, and eggs from our own flock of pullets . They have recently started laying and it is wonderful to have fresh eggs available again.

That's about all the local ingredients I'll be able to rustle up this year, but I've put in 4 red currantbushes this year and I hope that next year, we'll have enough currents to add to our cranberry sauce. Hopefully next year, we'll also have enough red raspberries to make a nice raspberry shrub as our accompanying beverage.

As for the bird, if I can, I'll find a fresh one from a local farm that won't break the bank. If not, I'll have to resort to a supermarket bird. Happy eating all!