Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Random Conglomeration: Today's Good Things

So I have decided to go out on a limb today and blog about things pretty much not at all related to my kitchen. Which calls into question the very identity of my blog: Should I rename it and focus my blogging energies in a more generalized direction? hmm ... food for thought.

Anyway, there are few things today that I'm simply mulling over because they make me happy so ... I thought I would share.

Item #1: My trench coat. It's FOG by London Fog. It's tan. It has lots of bottons, pockets, and a belt. I love it. And thanks to this stunning Fall weather (Thank you, Dallas, for finally getting with the program!), I am able to wear it now. And thanks to this weather, our windows have remained open for the last four delicious days ... ahhh.

Item #2: If you are craving a moisturizing, fast-absorbing (for real this time! Not one of those false gimmicks used to get us to buy and then, psyc! Your hands are tacky for like, an hour), and absolutely delicious smelling hand creme, look no further than FREEMAN brand GoodStuff Organics Moisture Whipped Hand Creme. I die. This stuff is hand cream heaven on earth (is it 'creme' or 'cream'? The bottle says 'creme' but I usually say 'cream' ... *shrugs*). Going into the cool/dry months and seeing the reasonable price, I stocked up. Go here to buy it, or get it at WalMart for $1 cheaper and no shipping. The savings add up!

Item #3: This darling owl cookie jar at Anthropologie (pictured below)! Now I am not in the habit of keeping cookies around my house, let alone storing them in jars specifically crafted for holding cookies -- what a waste of space and money. pfftt However, the moment I clapped eyes on this owl, I decided it was high time to add a cookie jar to my kitchen counter! (Hey, my kitchen is back in the picture - I haven't completely digressed.) But wait! Is that the real price? It's not April Fool's Day and someone forgot to send me the memo? $128 for a ceramic owl, people ... so true and yet so tragic because it means unfortunately my kitchen will not be sporting this wise (and yet not so wise! lol) addition anytime soon. But I can admire, can't I? Yet that can lead me down a slippery slope of mad Googling and eBaying for a more economical alternative. I have yet to find one but I will keep you (my 2 faithful blog followers) posted. Maybe this means I need to hit some more garage sales, maybe a thrift shop or two ... *strokes chin*

what a great owl!!

And lastly but not leastly ...

Item #4: In my online quest for the perfect, darling owl at the right price, I happened on a lovely blog called Smorgasbite and a recipe for Earl Grey cookies. (Now if only I was so creative as to name my blog something like that!) Anyway, considering my love of both Earl Grey tea and cookies in general (despite my lack of cookie jar), I decided I'll be giving them a whirl. I have baked Earl Grey Shortbread in the past but they weren't a raging success and the little flecks of EG leaves weren't the most appetizing (maybe I should spend more time pulverizing, as the recipe suggests). We'll see if I can do better this time ... and of course blog about it. What else? ;)

OK. That's all for now. Just thought I'd share a few good things that I'm enjoying today.

Happy Hump Day!

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Morning Glories bloomed!!

This morning I wasn't feeling so well. That I-think-I'm-coming-down-with-something feeling that makes me want to stay in bed all morning. But staying in bed has a way of making me feel even worse really, so I got up and made a pot of coffee instead.

Preface: yesterday evening, we flung all our windows open to the glorious cool air and Kevin proclaimed it would be the perfect night to sleep with them open. I completely agreed and drank in the crispness as I snuggled deeper under my sheets and felt the occasional gust of Fall air against my nose.

So this morning as I scuffed around my kitchen, the air was still cool through the kitchen windows (have I mentioned how I love my kitchen windows?) and the sun beat in and my coffee brewed. I looked out into my bright yard and at my tiny little garden on the patio and realized with glee that my shy Morning Glories had finally bloomed! Yay! At last! I had to grab my camera and snap a shot of them before they clammed up again.

And with that I decided to photograph my other plants, too.

I haven't done a garden update in quite some time. When we were out of town this summer, some of my herbs died; when we got back I replanted them but then the Blue Jays ate the seeds so I gave up on any other herb but my Basil which apparently is immortal ... until about a week ago when I planted a few new herbs which are to remain at my kitchen window until they are a little bigger and perhaps not quite so attractive to hungry birds.

Here are my 3 kitchen herbs: Thyme, Rosemary and Dill. I think the Dill is the one that's growing tall already, the middle of the three pots pictured. (In a moment entirely lacking in organization, I somehow got the three little pots mixed up so I'll just have to wait and see what they turn into!) The other two are a little slower, though I can see now the tiniest green shoots just peeking out from the soil. 

It is so fascinating to me, watching plants grow. It's so fulfilling seeing little seeds dropped in soil with some water and sun turn into full grown plants that I can use in my kitchen or appreciate for their beauty. I think I have a little hint of understanding now why people love gardening so much. What a beautiful pastime.

I'm hoping the Rosemary proves as hearty as I believe it to be so I can have a big shrub of it eventually. Kevin and I were biking around the neighborhood yesterday afternoon and before I even saw it, I smelled Rosemary and Lavender; sure enough, someone had a huge, beautiful bed of both growing in their yard. If for no other reason, I would love a Rosemary bush just to smell the heady aroma wafting through my yard.

Here are the last remaining Basil plants (above). There are about six now (including a couple I moved to my windowsill) and in the foreground, one lonely -- but fastidious -- Parsley left over from the summer. I realized I had so much Basil there was no way I could use it all. I planted a lot to start with, then thinned and thinned over the months as they grew larger and needed more sun and space. I admitted to myself at last that I wasn't actually a grocer and it was best to just give away some so it wouldn't go to waste. Three neighbors, one co-worker, one cousin and ten (!) Basil plants later, I am happy with the amount of Basil left in my yard. I have read you can dry Basil very easily which I plan on doing as we head into the cold months. You can also freeze pesto, so I really ought to make a couple batches; some of the leaves are just begging to be picked.

One of the seeds that miraculously survived the Blue Jays are my Forget-Me-Nots (above). As I replanted my herbs, I decided some flowers wouldn't hurt, which is when I planted the Forget-Me-Nots and the Morning Glories. The Forget-Me-Nots haven't bloomed yet, but the leaves are pretty and soft.

And here are two new endeavors (above). Whenever I use something in the kitchen, I must use the seeds and try to grow it in my yard! It's likely too late for either of these to get very far, but I have planted Jalapeno (top) and Avocado (bottom) seeds.

What I'd really love is a lemon tree, but that's for next Spring.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Last night's dinner was the perfect preface...

...To today's weather - just a twinge of cool to contrast the toasty warmth of direct sun on your back, the grass still damp and cold from the rain.

I decided last night was Homemade Tortilla Soup night, so I whipped up a delicious pot from scratch. I don't think I've ever made homemade tortilla soup. It turned out wonderfully though, if I do say so myself. ;)

Start with ...

3 chicken leg pieces (leg/thigh) in a large pot of water over high heat with a sprinkle of salt. Let it boil til the chicken is cooked through (45 minutes or so) then lower the heat to medium-high and remove the chicken to a plate to cool.

If you're like me and now have less than 1/2 a pot of broth left after removing the chicken, add a box of store-bought broth to fill the pot up a bit more.

NOTE: Store-bought broth is a suitable supplement to homemade broth; as a stand-alone, I don't feel like it has the best flavor though. I always make my own broth to start out and then add boxed broth if needed.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare...

1/2 white onion
2 fresh jalapeno peppers
4 fresh garlic cloves
1/2 can black olives
Dice all of these medium/small and add to the pot of broth.

The stir in ...

1 can corn/pimento (I think it's called 'Mexican Corn Medley' or something like that - I got mine at Aldi)
1 large can crushed tomatoes

NOTE(S): 1. Prepping jalapenos should be done with care since the membrane and the seeds are what make the pepper hot and the act of removing them can leave residue on your hands/nails. Wash your hands before and after and use a spoon to scoop the seeds out and scrape the sides free of the membrane, aka placenta, which is where the capsaisin lives. 2. A trick I use before chopping fresh garlic is to soak the cloves in water for a few minutes. This softens the skin and makes it much easier to separate them from the garlic itself. Remove the garlic from the water and smash with the flat of your knife, separate the skin, then chop the garlic.

Let all of this boil for a while - til the onions and peppers are soft. As this is happening, add the following seasonings to taste ...

Crushed Red Pepper
Chili Powder
Cumin Powder
Dried Oregano

The red pepper really bumps up the heat so don't add much if you like your soup more mild.

Once the chicken has cooled, remove from the bones (carefully since there are lots of smaller bones that can make it into your dish if you're not watchful!) and then chop down to bite size. Add this to the soup, or keep on the side and add as a topping if you have guests who don't eat meat - you could easily sub the chicken broth for a vegetable broth, too.

And that's pretty much it. Easy as can be! Once the soup has come together and the veggies are soft and the broth is just as hot as you like it, turn off the stove. Let your soup cool for a few minutes and construct a bowl as follows:

Ladle soup into a bowl and add toppings...

fresh Avocado, diced
Crushed tortilla chips (or you can be really entrepreneurial and make your own out of sliced corn tortillas and some vegetable oil on the stove)
fresh chopped Cilantro (unfortunately I didn't have any cilantro this time)
Monterrey Jack cheese

Eat until you are full! ;)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I had a weird day.

But it got better this evening once I came home and spent some time with Kevin, made dinner, watched some Anime (he just got me started on a series called 'Moon Phase') and went for a walk around our neighborhood. 

Dinner was chicken fajitas today, though I guess they are more like chicken tacos? I'm not sure what the magical preparation is for the restaurant fajitas that come out of the kitchen sizzling and popping on those little cast iron dishes. I just brown chicken on the stove - no extra dose of sizzle involved. But yummy for sure!

And somehow, we have the worst luck with sour cream in our house. Whenever we are putting it away we manage to drop the tub, splattering what's left of the sour cream onto the floor, rug, refrigerator, wall, trash bag. At least we had already eaten. ;)

Start with ...

2 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) cut down to bite-size-ish pieces
Brown the chicken in a pan with a little cumin and a little chili powder and a pinch of salt

Then, prepare ...
1 green bell pepper - wash, remove seeds then slice into strips
1 onion (white or red would do here) - slice into strips
Soften the veggies in another pan over medium-high heat with some butter to keep them from sticking - add a pinch of salt, too. I like the veggies to get sort of browned around the edges, but just cook them to whatever point you like - still crunchy, soft, a little brown around the edges...whatev.


Heat a small pan on a medium-low flame and add a little butter once it's warm; swirl a corn tortilla in the butter and let the tortilla warm on both sides - set aside and cover. Repeat this with however many tortillas you want. This is actually Kevin's tip for helping the tortillas stay in one piece and not start splitting as you take a bite - that's never fun, but usually messy - and I've officially adopted it.

 The only other 'toppings' I use is some grated cheddar, some of Kevin's custom-mixed hot sauce and a drizzle of sour cream. So so good. (A beer might have made this dinner even better but, alas, we are out.)

wow, that looks like a lot of sour cream from this angle...

Monday, September 20, 2010

In the wake of this epic fail Monday ...

I've decided to make something easy and delicious and something that will accompany my glass of wine brilliantly (this is vital, mind you). Something with all of 5 main ingredients (Not counting salt and pepper. Who does that anyway?) that will take no more than 20 minutes to cook.

Beef-But-I'm-Substituting-Turkey Stroganoff

The ingredients in order of use:

1 bag of egg noodles - which should be cooked and set aside (covered)
1 lb beef or turkey or whatever
1/2 white onion diced
8 oz white mushrooms NOT washed and sliced or diced as you like

Start to cook the meat then add the onions to start softening; in a minute or two, add the mushrooms. I like doing these sort of together which is faster than browning one ingredient then removing it from the pan and then browning the next (some people cook the meat then remove and cook the onions). This is silly and a waste of time I don't even have. Once the meat has browned and the veggies are soft, mix in ...

4 T flour - mix this into the turkey mix
2-1/2 c water - I used some white wine as well because it tastes good - pour in after the flour and stir til smooth. Let this all simmer a little til it starts to thicken (won't take long). Remove from heat.

1 c sour cream - stir this into the mixture til combined.

Stir the sauce into the noodles and eat up!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Life is but a dream

Tonight in my kitchen ...

...I have a niece helping me make brownies before we watch a movie. Preferably 'My Neighbor Totoro' but 'Robots' will do, too since she is betting I'll "laugh my head off" or else she will be eating her shirt - yes, we made a bet.

...We went on an errand and I found a few new envelopes of herbs for my backyard garden. My Parsley and Coriander died when we were traveling this summer so I am trying out some new ones. I planted Thyme, Rosemary and Dill in little pots (these are all $5 at WalMart right now and too cute) as soon as we got home and will keep an eye on them on my kitchen counter everyday.

...Smiley is begging to go outside. I refuse to let him though since he's twice gotten himself lost and I'm just not OK with that. He is pretty sure he's a lion and the backyard is the African wilds. Squirrels and possums are his Gazelles. He sometimes tries to soften my resolve by swirling around on the floor and looking cute and fluffy - but it doesn't work this time.

...As I sit here Kevin and Karina are talking in the living room and playing with Kevin's devil sticks. The brownies are starting to smell lush and Karina has come in a couple times to take a swipe of batter from the bowl with one finger.

And...that's all. Just a little segment of my evening. Happy weekend. =)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Today Kevin gave me the idea for curry.

We love curry.

The first time we really experienced curry was several years ago - maybe 4 or 5? - when we were living in McKinney and going to school at night in Dallas. We had math class one night and were famished afterwards. We stopped at this little hole in the wall Indian place on Spring Valley at Abram Road which has since been replaced and then replaced again with each-time inferior establishments. We ordered some kind of curry and were sure to tell our kind waiter we wanted it mild. Apparently mild in India is blazing hot in America; as we ate, we couldn't stop sweating and crying and sniffling. But neither could we stop eating. No pain no gain. ;)

Unfortunately some people are so stuck on burgers and chicken and similar boring fare that things like curry are 'gross' or foreign - I don't "do" Indian or Thai or Japanese or whatever. These different foods are certainly not gross, people are just unwilling to try new things. Stop being stubborn! Branch out! Experience new things! Going with what you know or what's easy or safe is simply boring ...

Having said that, I think some people may have to develop a taste for it; the heat can be intense and the aroma is definitely pungent. But the flavor is delicious and complex and proves itself to be a great base for a variety of veggies or meats. Usually, we use chicken (boneless, skinless breasts); once, we used pork (thin-cut chops). Sometimes we throw in pineapple, fresh cherries, peas, green bell pepper. But we've never used salmon til tonight and it turned out wonderfully.

1/2 onion (white or yellow), diced
2-3 T curry paste  - I mixed green and red curry paste together.
1/3 head cauliflower, bite size
2 T fish sauce - Again, not exactly a nosegay but the flavor is great! Asian markets are good for items like this, as well as inexpensive coconut milk and a few items you have probably never seen before.
1 can coconut milk
2 c water
1/2 c frozen green peas
1 can diced or crushed pineapple - I had a can of diced on hand and ended up chopping it down a bit more.
2 salmon fillets (honestly though, use whatever protein you like best or have on hand)
2 T corn starch in 1/2 a cup of liquid (made after you've combined the above ingredients)
2 pinches (whatever those are!) salt

2 c rice (Jasmine is best)
a few lemon wedges for later
red and green curry pastes; a bottle of fish sauce

Soften the onion in butter and olive oil then add the curry pastes and break it up into the onions, letting it bubble and hiss a little. Don't breathe through your mouth - you'll probably start coughing if you do. ;) Splash in the fish sauce.

After a couple minutes, add the cauliflower and coat in the curry paste; then add the coconut milk and water. Let it heat through and simmer for a few minutes. Add in the peas and diced pineapple and simmer for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the salmon. Actually you could pan sear or bake - whatever. Just let it cook for a short time since fish doesn't need long; plus, the next step is to ...

Poach the salmon in the curry sauce for several minutes minutes, letting it bubble.

freshly poached and infused with coconut milk and curry
While this is happening, have a pot of rice going: 2 cups of rice, 4 cups of water; high heat til boiling, then down to medium til soft. Stir it from time to time since Jasmine seems to stick a little - or maybe I'm just no good at making rice!

Once the curry sauce has bubbled for a few minutes with the salmon, lift the fish out and set it aside. Prepare the corn starch, pour it into the sauce and stir - add more if you like it thicker. Remove from heat.

Yay! Time to eat! Top a bed of rice with a salmon fillet and a generous drizzle of the curry sauce (more like 2 ladles full!), then squeeze on a wedge of lemon juice. Don't forget a glass of Pinot Grigio! (always great with salmon and just sweet enough to cool the heat of the curry.)

sooo good

Monday, September 13, 2010

Only two recipes into this blog and 'comfort food' is already the name of the game, folks.

Tuna Noodle Casserole 

takes center stage. But this time it's better; no canned soup here, no pre-packaged cheese. Instead: homemade cheese sauce with fresh milk and the always authentic and richly-aromatic Parmesan cheese grated right in. A splash of white wine, even? Yessir! And yet it's still so easy! Yay! That's the best kind of dinner after a nutty Monday at my office.

Here are the simple steps toward tunay noodly goodness!

Gather the following:

1 small onion, diced
8 oz white mushrooms, chopped medium/small (NOTE: don't wash your 'shrooms. Ever. If there are spots of dirt that concern you, just wipe them clean with a cloth or a paper towel. Washing mushrooms actually degrades their quality and breaks them down, swelling them up with water - ick. Need proof?)
2-ish pats of butter
1 T olive oil

fresh chopped onion and 'shrooms!
Combine these in a large skillet; I used a big, non-stick skillet that was T-Fal and sparkly blue. Cook over medium/high heat til the onions and mushrooms are nice and soft.

While this is happening, boil a pot of water and cook a bag of egg noodles (my bag was 12 oz), drain, drizzle with some olive oil and set aside.

Add the following in this order to the onion/mushroom goodness:

1/2 cup of white wine (my 1/2 cup was rather generous!). Drier is better, but I used Pinot Grigio which isn't super dry but it isn't fruity either (somewhere in between) - let the wine cook off for about 3 or 4 minutes, during which time it is perfect acceptable to pour yourself a glass and drink up!
where have you been all day, my friend?
6 T all-purpose flour to coat the vegetables (mine clumped up a bit cuz this IS a lot of flour ... it rights itself in the end so no worries: 2 tablespoons of flour to every cup of milk)
3 c milk (I used 2% but I am pretty sure it won't matter much what kind you use so long as it isn't hazelnut or soy or chocolate) - stir the milk in after all the flour has been incorporated and stir occasionally until the milk starts to bubble a little around the edges, still using a medium/high flame. Let it thicken a little then add ...
2 cans chunk light tuna, broken up
1 bag (or a little less) frozen green peas - just eye ball it

The original and always delicious Parmesan
1/4-cup-ish freshly grated Parm - the real deal is great in this setting (not the contents of your pre-grated plastic container - tsk tsk) since the relative-mildness of the other ingredients allow the flavor of the Parm to stand out nicely.

Incorporate everything, letting the cheese melt a little, then pour over your ready-and-waiting pot of egg noodles. Mix everything up and throw (well, maybe that's not the right word. "Spoon", perhaps is a little more graceful) the whole thing into a casserole. Top it off with some crushed saltines OR some buttered breadcrumbs (I admit, the breadcrumbs sound better but I only had saltines on hand tonight), a little more Parm, and then into a 400-degree oven it goes for about 10 minutes till bubbly and JUST browning around the top.

can you say delish? mmm ... I can. But I'll chew and swallow first.

Yum, yum and yum and a big fat bon apetit, folks. THAT makes for a happy Monday night.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just thinkin' about my kitchen

Lately it seems the ‘designer’ kitchen has come into vogue. This is the kitchen outfitted with granite slab counter tops, top-of-the-line ranges, fancy (read: expensive) appliances. And of course nothing less than stainless steel covering everything and glimmering in the classy way only stainless steel can. These are beautiful kitchens and certainly a pleasure in which to work. Does this mean, however, that a simple, maybe even out of date kitchen is less efficient or can’t produce meals that are just as tasty and enjoyed by all? I don’t think so.

my kitchen. best to ignore the textbook, mail, cell phone...
 Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a kitchen like that. A kitchen is a kitchen I guess so it doesn’t matter that mine wouldn’t be at home on the pages of a magazine. But still – I like pretty things. No matter how basic or even out dated my little kitchen is though, I still love it. I take care of and keep it clean and maintained and I cook in it almost every night of the week and almost every weekend morning, I am brewing coffee or making oatmeal. It is my kitchen. My own little space.

One of the things I love about my kitchen is the long bank of windows over the sink that provides a panoramic view of my sunny backyard (or rainy or cloudy as the weather dictates). I love my backyard. I always knew that, whenever I had my own home, I wanted a kitchen window looking out onto my backyard and the birds and squirrels that passed through it every day, and a big tree, green grass, and a shady patio. I have all of that and it makes washing pots or rinsing vegetables a little more pleasant.

view from my kitchen windows
In my kitchen window sits a little wooden Dala horse. I have had him for years and can’t even remember where I found him. But he is friendly and cheerful and sometimes makes me think of my Scandinavian friends.

I have lots of cabinet space, too. I think for a while I felt that perhaps I didn’t have enough cabinet space in the house. Now I realize instead I might just have too many things. When we moved in May, I rearranged most everything in the kitchen about 2 or 3 times to make sure they were properly placed. I’m still getting used to this new kitchen but I think everything is where it should be.

my Dala horse
I love, too, that the footprint of my kitchen must be twice that of the kitchen Kevin and I had for 4 years before we bought this house. We lived in a condo in Dallas near the college that had one bedroom, one living space and a very small kitchen. I liked that condo and had grown accustomed to it and its layout. But I always felt cramped in the kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of the home, as they say; but no more than 2 people could really comfortably gather there and I didn’t like that (or the lack of counter space!). Here the kitchen gets its due. I like that it’s large enough for me to cook and several friends to gather and talk and take in the energy and smells of this V.I.R. (that is: Very Important Room). Although we have yet to invite a large group of friends to our home, I have already imagined the number of people who can spend time with me in the kitchen, and it will be so nice when that time comes.

My kitchen has blue counter tops. This is certainly one of the very least stylish things about it (along with the linoleum floor that has a patch missing in front of the dishwasher and thus has been covered by a big blue rug). I sometimes think I might just ‘go with it’ (the blue counter tops, that is) and add a sunny orange glass tile back splash, icy blue paint above the tiles, and sheer-ish curtains to my windows. I want to take up the linoleum and stain the concrete below in a rich mottled brown. I think these update might be sufficient.

We’ll see.

my clean stove which is also very old; note the distinct lack of stainles
No matter how basic a kitchen, I think one very important trait is cleanliness; a clean, tidy kitchen is a welcoming kitchen. I try to keep my kitchen clean. When I clean up after dinner - actually this has somehow become Kevin’s sole duty, no matter who makes dinner - I think the one thing that really completes the task even after the leftovers in in the fridge and the dishwasher is humming, is a perfectly clean counter top and range. Otherwise the kitchen is not clean and you’ve done a partial job. Clean counter tops and a clean stove welcome the next cutting board and the next Dutch oven.

No matter the colors or lack of granite in my kitchen, it is just that: MY kitchen. And I love it all the same.
Inspired by this morning's mediocre cup of coffee, I bring you ... 

Ode to the French Press

Now I haven't always used a French press. I actually had mine tucked away at the back of a cabinet for a while before I really started using it and realizing how much better the quality of drink is from a press than, say, a bag or a pot or something like that.

My French press, used here to brew some loose Earl Grey leaves.
A French press seems to excel at extracting every possible flavor ... nugget? ... from whatever it is you are brewing/steeping. Take for example a simple pot of coffee. I have a pretty nice coffee pot; it's from Gevalia and has a digital clock. I have used it for years and the coffee has been quite good. Then I used my French press. I have realized the 'good' coffee from my coffee pot is flat and flavorless - or at least flavor inferior. It has flavor; just bitter and bland flavor. Now my French press, on the other hand? It brews a very full-flavored pot of coffee with richness and volume. It tastes like a street cafe in Paris (because I've been there and I know! lol) or the best almost-as-strong-as-espresso coffee you've ever had. (NOTE: You can just make out the stainless steel electric kettle in the photo above which I should mention is the preferred-by-those-in-the-know method for boiling water)

The French press is really simple in design and use. Typically there's a tempered glass pot or beaker with a handle. Into the pot fits a combo lid/filter that is fixed with an extra fine mesh screen flattened between a couple metal plates (with holes, obviously) and then screwed onto the bottom of a large metal dowel of sorts which is the same length as your pot; onto the other end of this dowel is a little handle and the lid that covers your pot/beaker. Add your coffee grounds, add freshly boiled water, let steep and then slowly depress the mesh filter. A delicious pot of coffee is now at your disposal.

my Gevalia coffee maker.
I notice when I brew coffee in my press that I need fewer grounds and that the coffee is darker than a regular coffee pot (making the French press economical, too, by making more coffee from less grounds). It has this luscious almost-foam at the top that's brown and caffeinated ... and the swirl of the cream as I pour a cup? It's art, people. Nothing less than food-as-art.

Lest you think the French press is limited to coffee, let me tell you the tea it brews is equally delish! I have found that brewing a pot of loose leaf tea - just the same method as coffee - is so full of flavor and is the most respectful way to brew your loose leaves. Much better than a tea bag and even slightly better than a teapot with loose leaf tea poured over a strainer. Earl Grey is most definitely my favorite variety of tea. Loose leaf EG is in an entirely different class from the lowly EG tea bag. Poor bagged leaves, crushed to oblivion and almost completely lacking in Bergamot which makes EG what it is. It is MIA in the tea bag variety; loose leaf brings Bergamot front and center.  It's what makes EG so good, and part of what makes loose leaf so devine. It must be respected. And the French press is the perfect method to bring the Bergamot richness out, front and center. (did you know Bergamot is actually an orange?)
respect the tea leaf.
Some French presses are pretty pricey but I scored mine for somewhere around $20 and it has more than paid for itself and earned its place in my kitchen. Try TJ Maxx or Target, even eBay. Bodum brand offers lots of design options (mine is a Bodum) and is high quality but it seems other companies are offering them, too.

All this to say I will still drink a cup of coffee from a traditional brewer (for example, I still love a Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks from time to time) and I will still use a tea bag (Celestial Seasonings, anyone?), but for the best flavor extraction and the best hot drink experience, I recommend the French press and I use mine whenever I possibly can.

Do you have a French press? Or just an opinion on the French press? Let me know, and thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

So...I started a blog! I guess I'm behind the times; it seems most people already have a blog - maybe more than one - on which they post the goings-on of their daily lives, however mundane or fascinating. Personally, I have this habit of snapping a photo or two (or 3 or 4 or ...) of the food I make and eat: in my kitchen, someone else's kitchen, a restaurant - I don't discriminate. So I thought (well, credit where it's due, KEVIN thought) a spot for all my food ventures might be nice. If not nice for others, at least for me: a place to keep track and post a few of the photos I snap as I'm buzzing around my kitchen.

I suppose nothing truly epic has come out of my kitchen; just yummy, simple things that most people like when they try them. From omelets to 'souped up' brownies; something thrown-together to simmer in the Crock-Pot all day, or some new dinner creation I whip up to relax (yes, cooking can be relaxing if not at least distracting) after work - maybe with an unexpected ingredient or a twist on an original. I just enjoy cooking and I especially enjoy it when others are happy with it, too.

So now for my first recipe post (drum roll, please), I present tonight's dinner: 

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

There is absolutely nothing glamorous or out of the ordinary about tonight's dinner. Having admitted that, I will say it is simply delicious and homey and comforting which is draw enough to bring it into my kitchen. I made it once before (ages ago) and have been craving it for days!

I started with 6 large tomatoes - I suppose they are called Beefsteak or Hothouse? The kind real chefs might turn up their noses to (the bastard cousin of the tomato family), but they suit this use quite well. I wash them, dry them, then cap them and scoop the flesh out with a large spoon (keep this for later). After sprinkling a little salt into each of the newly minted caverns, turn them upside down on a cooling rack over your kitchen sink to help drain just enough of the excess juices.
tomato! ready to be salted.

While the tomatoes are draining, prep the filling. I start with an onion, yellow this time, cut into medium-small-ish dices and then soften in a pan with olive oil and a touch of butter. NOTE: I find that a combination of the 2 fats brings a little more flavor but also keeps the onion (or whatever) from cooking too fast or burning - olive oil has a lower smoke-point than butter (check out this handy chart). Once the onion is soft-ish, add about a pound of ground turkey - or any meat of your choice (ground sirloin is nice, too) - and brown. Remove from heat.

While this is happening, cook one cup of rice - any rice really, but jasmine is the hands-down favorite in our house. The flavor and aroma are undeniably top shelf. Once it's cooked, mix in about 1 cup (or to taste I suppose) of grated Cheddar cheese.

my pot of Jasmine bubbling away

Combine the turkey and rice mixtures and add the following:

- 1 can green peas (or a small bag of frozen, which is a better-quality choice but I only had a can in the house today)
- The diced flesh of about 3-4 of the aforementioned tomatoes or more if you want
- Kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper (pre-ground and packaged pepper is inferior, folks! Stop using it!)
- Really any fresh herb of choice; for me this is basil since I have an abundance of it right now - I snipped about 15 small leaves into the mix
grown and picked in my own yard. nothing beats it.

Mix thoroughly. The rice likes to stick to itself so just make sure there aren't any excessively-large clumps of rice, the seasonings are well distributed and you should be good to go. Go ... into the tomatoes, that is.

(oh, and your oven should be preheated to 350 at this point)

Stuff the tomatoes as full as you can with the yummy filling (don't you just love the sound of the cheesy ricey mixture as you spoon it into the tomatoes?). Place all the tomatoes into a baking dish large enough to accommodate them. My largest baking dish was rather too large though so I went down a size and then put the remaining two tomatoes into their own individual ramekins. Kevin wanted me to do this so he had his own personal dish and I aim to please! Actually I think it might be a nice way to present this as dinner for guests ...

all mixed up and ready to be tomatoed

Anyway, just before putting them into the oven I sprinkled some of the grated cheese on top of each. When it comes out it's perfectly brown. Bake for about 40 minutes and let them cool for a few minutes. (I have a tiny bit of filling left over this time which is a perfectly delish treat all on it's own while I'm waiting on dinner!)

I also found a lonely green pepper in my fridge and decided to bake him up, too. I remember growing up on stuffed peppers - my brother asked for them as his birthday dinner every year, but we had them other times, too. Soo yummy.
Let them cool for a few minutes before digging in, obviously, unless you don't care if your tongue is scalded. You could make a salad or something to go with but this time they were great all on their own.

Mine was eaten with Kevin in front of the TV watching the 'Dexter' season 3 opener, which made it even tastier. ;)

ready to eat!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...