“Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” author Gretchen Rubin wrote. I can so relate. And of course while in the kitchen I cooked and baked this long weekend. Some for Dean and I, and some for others needing an extra dose of love. “The people who give you their food, give you their heart,” Latino civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez once shared. “Cooking has nothing to do with the ingredients, but everything to do with love,” author Dominique Browning commented. I make-do with the ingredients in my well-stocked kitchen, but I beg to differ with Dominique that the right ingredients can make foods taste better. Muir Glen’s organic tomato sauce is the best for a rich red sauce contrasted with a from-scratch white sauce for spinach cannelloni. I happen to pick up a couple of cans last week. Of course, everything is done with love when it comes to cooking, even the acquiring of ingredients. That’s where my organic gardening comes in. Slow cooking, fresh, from-scratch and homemade reigns. “Through cooking, touching, feeling, preparing, and savoring good, real food made from real ingredients, I get to fully inhibit my kitchen; heal my body; connect with friends, family, the Earth, and the larger community where I live,” quoting Mark Hyman, MD. I had a fun weekend in my warm kitchen!
Some Saturdays can be activity-filled and complicated with household chores, shopping, and cleaning, “get up and get going” like a weekday. This crisp November Saturday morning I slept in. The sunny autumn day Dean and I began with chive & cheese scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls knowing we needed a substantial breakfast to get the autumn leaf and brush cleaning completed. Dean captured some lovely photos while in the yard. And my thoughts drift to a subject at hand to facilitate at an employee enrichment class in a couple of weeks. Simplicity. Some refer to a simple lifestyle as minimalism. Whatever you call it, it is living in the present moment, and enjoying life, love, family, and friends. There are only a few basics to possess … and everything else is just stuff. It is up to you to figure out what you can live with and what you can live without. So what can you give away from that pantry, garden, closet, or garage? What do you need to cling to for substance for your day today? I have confidence you will make a wise choice.
~ Opera Prima Moscato, La Mancha, Spain ~
~ Yukon Gold Potato Pancake with Peppered Pecan Wood Smoked Bacon and House Made Pear Chutney ~
~ Grilled Local Heritage Hog Chop (12 oz.) and Annie Gunn’s Pork Belly with Local Apple Golden Raisin Chutney, Garlicky Brussels Sprouts and Whipped Local Sweet Potatoes ~
~ Angus Reserve Aged Filet Mignon, Northern Plains with Cabernet Cracked Pepper Butter served with Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes, Farmer Vegetables and Plugra Butter ~
Thank you, my love. With fond vignettes and memories made in 2014, and a welcome to 2015 and the more to come …
Of course you have heard of the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. I always added to the end of that saying “and May flowers bring June bugs.” Well, I have refined that saying to “April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring June critters.” Missouri’s humid summer is here to stay for at least the next 3 months. The warmer season attracts the bugs as well as other critters to our plants. My two potted daisy plants were coming along finely near the front porch, watching each day for a week anticipating a blossom to open any day. Dean and I came home from work one evening this week with the two daisy plants knawled down to the roots! The neighborhood rabbits or squirrels must have had a mighty fine lunch of daisy leaves. There was plenty of other green vegetation to eat! The critters tossed the one lone daisy stem with a blossom to the water splash block setting under the front porch gutter. These furry critters must not like the daisy blossom, but I do. Not to eat, but I admire their simple beauty. I snatched the blossom and set it in water to co-exist with some airplane plant shoots. A repurposed medicine bottle found at the Chandler Hill Vineyard grounds while marketing last year now makes a lovely vase. The daisy blossom graces our kitchen and opened this last day of May. Lovely!
Hot tea has been the beverage of premium choice for the 3+ long months of winter. Wild cherry is my favorite, seems to cure whatever may ail my body. Then there is the tea garden green or pomegranante green tea that brings a bit of spring or summer into my day, healing to my mind. Of course, the classic Earl Grey with a tad of half & half brings me to my days as a young mother. My sister-in-law introduced me to this tea after spending a year in England. The more contemporary, spicy, citrusy flavor of Chai filled my tea cup several times as well this winter. The tea set in the photo is a gift to my daughter, Elisabeth who celebrated her 30-year birthday a few days ago. I want to share my love for tea. It can change the tone of a day after a few sips. It must be taking those few moments to savor that saves the day. The mentioned teas and tea set are all compliments to the Olde Town Spice Shoppe in historic St. Charles, a local small shop for all your teas, accessories, spices, and gourmet foodie items.
Spring visits Missouri again this week, and a spot of tea does not quite fit the bill. I make a change with the temperature of the day. It is a celebration drink with the good news. My bloodwork showed no auto-immune or cancer! Just an allergy to the cold, which this winter was the worst for me since this allergy appeared over 5 years ago. Pyrmid apricot ale is poured into a clear glass, sharing the bottle with my hubby as I am feeling a bit woozy-headed and tired this evening. The apricot ale pairs wonderfully with the sweet chili Thai noodles with sweet peas and grilled chicken. I think this ale would accompany a dark chocolate dessert very nicely. My Weight Watchers weigh-in is tomorrow, better hold off for another day when I feel up to baking and can work off the extra calories (or points) before weigh-in.
I sip a cinnamon vanilla herbal tea as I write. What is your choice of beverage? And what food do you pair it with? I would love to hear!
Late this afternoon my sweet hubby and I visited a local Mexican establishment savoring a “happy hour” margerita and a golden bubbly before heading to the Kirkwood Amtrak train station. Americana at its height. I waved hoping to see him one last time before the train disappeared. I saw him and he smiled his Gall grin and shot off one last wave. I cannot imagine sending my lover on a train to a deployment assignment. So many women have to brave such events. Dean is just visiting his children and parents in Lee’s Summit, MO for the weekend. The photo-of-the-week challenge this week is the word “curve”. It makes me think of a nickname my Dean calls me, “curve-a-licious”. So my curves are more pronounced than some others, good reason to cut the ice cream habit in the evenings. Moving to chamomile tea, a healthy option to settle me down for the night. The photo was taken almost 3 years ago while on our honeymoon in Hilton Head Island, SC. Captured is a free-spirited moment. My love, the moon and stars are awaiting your return!
The clouds have been ominous since early this morning at daybreak. As the sun came from the east, the clouds and cold front came from the southwest, meeting for a spectacular contrasting display in the sky. Rumblings of spring have been heard all day, some rain produced from those clouds. I observed from my 5th floor office in Clayton, as a tornado watch had been issued until 9:00pm tonight. We need the rain, come rain. No high winds or hail, and definitely no tornadoes. please. The unseen sunset this evening was met with heavy cloud cover. Rotating, violent winds brought about alarms and sirens all around St. Peters just before 8:00pm. Composure, an herbal supplement was given to our nervous labrador, and we tried to find Celine, our timid cat but she found low shelter somewhere in the house. I enjoyed two strawberry daiquiris spiked heavily with Captain Morgan while the local tornado alarms blared for 15 minutes just minutes after savoring homemade fajitas and saffron rice by Chef Mick. While no basement, we were feet from our interior bathroom just in case that train sound started. So much for rumblings of spring. The storm screams and alarms blare to tell us spring is here in Missouri. We all survived, thank God!
A slow, quiet snow continues to fall this Lenten Friday morning. A hush only experienced just at sunrise and with snow cover. The songbirds will become active within the hour, feeding on sunflower nuts and seeds we have provided for them. Another inch of snow overnight, and a forecast saying the cloud cover will dissipate sometime this morning. It has been another week of snow, sleet, and ice, not quite the volume of last week, but winter all the same.
Lenten Fridays become a culinary holiday or tradition in my neck of the woods. Two or more dozen churches in the St. Louis area offer a Lenten fish fry. Even a Jewish community in St. Louis offers a “meatless” menu on the 6 weeks of Lenten Fridays, an opportunity for folks to gather during these last days of the winter season. These “fish fries” can include baked fish or steamed shrimp, a healthier alternative. Each year Dean & I peruse the newspaper and internet to find well-priced fish fries close to work or on the way home. The fundraiser efforts of our community churches can be expensive on our tight budget, so we gather 3 or 4 times during the season. Sometimes we get off on a Friday early enough, and make it to our home parish All Saints. We make sure we partake at the St. Peter Church in St. Charles on one of those Fridays. The wonderful portions of homemade slaw and desserts beat all the rest. St. Paul, Missouri has 2 places for a Friday evening destination, the local bar Dog Prairie as well as the local Catholic church serve up fried fish and shrimp. Albacore tuna on crackers works as well as a meatless pasta dish like my Pasta Primavera I wrote about in my previous blog. We will meet with my brother and sister-in-law next Friday, and the Friday after with Dean’s cousins. We people are like the birds who gather at the feeders and trays on these winter mornings. Chirp and chatter about the savory dishes we are partaking in, local happenings, upcoming trips, and the long winter.
According to my culinary book Food Lover’s Companion, primavera alla [pree-muh-VEHR-uhl] is the Italian phrase which means “spring style”. The Italian dish pasta primavera is an example of this culinary style. Fresh vegetables, are diced or julienne cut either raw, blanched, or lightly sauteed and added to al denta pasta tossed with olive oil and parmigiano-reggiano [pahr-muh-ZHAH-noh reh-zhee-AH-noh], Italy’s premier parmesan cheese. Well, this evening was my turn to cook dinner, as Chef Mick was off with his family with other dinner plans. I thought to make a fresh arugula pizza, but did not have any flour in the house. My low-gluten diet. One way or another I was using the organic baby arugula mix I bought at the store yesterday. Store-bought is not quite as tasteful as the home grown variety, but arugula’s destinctive flavor is what I craved, if you can tell by my previous blog. Spring fever has offically hit! I found a box of multi-grain penne, so I prepared them al dente. My kitchen’s vegetables on hand were lightly sauteed in 2 teaspoons of olive oil + 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. So here are the ingredients found in Anna Marie’s Pasta Primavera made tonight:
2 Deanna Greens And Garden Art dried jalapeno peppers, hydrated and chopped finely
1/2 cup yellow squash chunks
1/2 cup zucchini squash chunks
3 large button mushrooms, chopped in chunks
1/4 cup fresh baby arugula leaves
1-1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/3 cup petite cut tomatoes
1/3 cup + shredded Italian cheese blend
10 oz penne pasta, cooked al dente, drained, coated with 1 teaspoon olive oil
Here are the recipe instructions:
1. Heat both oils in a medium skillet.
2. Add the finely chopped jalepeno peppers to the heated oil; saute for 30 seconds.
3. Add both squash and mushroom chunks to the skillet; saute 3 minutes.
4. Toss in arugula; stir to coat with oil.
5. Toss in basil, garlic powder, and salt; stir.
6. Stir in tomatoes and 1/3 cup cheese.
7. Toss saute vegetables with al dente pasta.
8. Pour into bowls; garnish with additional shredded cheese, if desired.
Sure savored every bite of this dish. Buonanotte!