Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Winter Garden

Living in coastal South Carolina allows me the luxury of having a garden year round (if I were so inclined).  Our falls and winters are mild and we have maybe one cold month a year (last year we didn't even have that).

I have two friends who are wild gardener's and the funny thing is that they both do it for different reasons.  Kit does it for enjoyment and relaxation (I totally do no get that) and Dena does it to make her home look good and the fresh veggies and herbs she gets.  They both spend a ton of time in the garden digging, planting, mulching, putting in compost (you get the idea).  My idea of a garden is you dig a hole, put a plant in, cover it up, water it and that's about it (which may be why my garden is never as fruitful as either one of theirs).

One of first years together Michael put a raised garden bed in the backyard for me.  The first year it was okay and I got a few tomatoes, after that it was down hill for that spot.  The herbs grew fine (at least until the sudden and unplanned death of my rosemary bush earlier this year) but that was it.  I thought it was because of the tidal flooding in that corner of the yard but, my gardening friends assured me it was the almost total lack of sunshine that did my plants in. 

Michael is quite the gardener too and I believe he is a mix of my two friends.  He seems to enjoy being outside digging in the yard and I know he is proud of how our home looks from the street with all his flowering bushes.  A number of these will be gone soon as fall is here and I wanted to plant some decorative veggies in the front yard so out I went yesterday with my little trowel, two very big bags of soil and the plants I am hoping I am not  sacrificing to the plant gods!

Hopefully we will have a winter garden!  I sort of put in 2 colorful Kale plants, 6 cauliflower plants and next to go in when I figure out where the heck they are going are collards (which I will have to share with one of the gardening friends since I think 9 collard plants might be a tad too much).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

German Cooking

I was born in the USA as were my parents and my grandparents, that's where things changed.  My greatgrandmother on my mother's side was born in Ireland and my great grandparents on my fathers side were born in Germany.  I do not know anything about my great grandfather on my mother's side and on my father's side well, they were Irish and were here for the Irish uprising that took place in New York back in the 1860's.  But basically I am an American of German and Irish heritage.

I know nothing of traditional Irish cooking aside from the fact that it is probably not Corned Beef and Cabbage.  What ever food heritage there was died probably with my great grandmother as for them it was more important to be an American than it was to be Irish.

My German family however was very different, the heritage and the food survived a few generations.  I am determined to revive it!  My father's Aunt Irene was the cook in the family.  She made these absolutely wonderful Poppy Seed Rolls, Spaetzel in a Wet Stew and Saurbraten with Potato Balls.  I have the Saurbraten recipe but have never made it, sometimes I think it's too much work, sometimes I think it's too much food and than I realize I am just plain old afraid it will not taste as good as what I remember.  I am absolutely terrified of making the potato balls, there were too many pots of potato mush in my childhood but, I think this is the year I brave it! We invite friends who eat beef and don't mind really heavy food over this winter and I make the much feared Saurbraten.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Difficult Decisions

Times are tough for just about everyone and money just doesn't go as far as it use to.  Salaries (if you are fortunate enough to have a job) haven't kept pace with inflation and many of us are scrimping just to make ends meet. I know many people who have a full time job and than one or two part time jobs in addition just to try to get by.

I know someone who is all most always in a financial bind and that person brought to mind this morning the sometimes difficult decisions that have to be made.  Of course it is easier to be on the outside looking in when you know someone in this situation but when you can't pay the rent, the electric and water bills and don't have money for food it's time to make the cuts that have to be made.  You don't need a fancy phone with all the charges that go with it, you don't need cable TV with all those stations.  It's time to let go of what you think you have to have and focus on what you do need.  A roof over your head, food on the table, electricity and water.  Sure all those other things are nice to have you really need them?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

I have been craving Italian food lately so the last time I was at the Vegetable Bin we picked up an eggplant.  It has been sitting in the fridge now for over a week and since I was off today decided to have a cook-a-thon.  Eggplant Parmesan has been on my mind every since the beautiful purple fruit came to our home and I have dreams of the temperature being below 85 so my mind wanders to soups.

First up was a pot of White Bean Soup.  Sometimes I use Navy Beans, sometimes White Beans.  To tell you the truth I have no idea what the difference is, all I know is that after cooking it for quite a while it turns into this delicious pot of very smooth white soup with some veggies in it and ham hocks floating around. 
Not my picture since I have not re-charged the batteries yet.  Borrowed from Sandhill Farms.
Next was the eggplant!  I absolutely love warm fried eggplant but unfortunately I hear its not so good for us so Michael's cousin Butch had turned me on to baking instead of frying the eggplant and let me tell you, it tastes delicious!  You peel the eggplant, slice it (without cutting you fingers) dip it in an egg wash, into some bread crumbs, onto a cookie sheet you coated with cooking spray, into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or so and Viola almost as good as fried eggplant eggplant!  The rest is even easier (this is one of the few times I use jarred sauce )  spread some sauce into a baking dish, a layer of eggplant, some grated mozzarella, some sauce, eggplant, mozzarella (you get the picture).  Top with mozzarella and some fresh grated Parmesan, pop in the oven covered with foil for 1/2 an hour, take the cover off, cook for a few more and you are done!  So it is Eggplant Parmesan Hero's for dinner tonight, not the healthiest although there is Whole Wheat Hoagie dough in the kitchen waiting to bake.

One last thought.  When I went to buy bread crumbs today, simple ordinary bread crumbs, I was comparing the labels between the store brand and the popular well known brand and found that both contain High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Bread Crumbs!!! 


Monday, September 17, 2012

Asian Chicken with Vegetables

So I came home from work yesterday to defrosted chicken breasts (sounds vaguely familiar I know) and couldn't bring myself to just throw them in the oven with some salt and pepper, mash some taters and cook some peas to the Internet I went.

This time I Googled chicken breasts cabbage, since that was what I was thinking.  Once again I had the pleasure of reading a ton of recipes and realized that:

1.  I will only cook a recipe if there is a picture or two

2.  I will not cook a recipe if there are no comments and the comments had best be good

So here I sit with a cooking blog with recipes with

1.  Almost no pictures since the camera batteries ran down

2.  There are no comments on the recipes

If I were me looking and seeing the recipes posted on this blog I would have a hard time making any of them!

That said, I came across a stir fry recipe and it was pretty dern good!  There was enough to take for lunch today and I learned another important lesson while eating this meal

1.  Stir fry doesn't taste as good with brown jasmine rice as it does the sticky rice

Asian Chicken with Vegetables

2 chicken breasts skinned and de-boned (you can do this easily yourself and save a ton of $)
1 Tbl cornstarch
Salt and pepper
1 small onion cut in 1/4 wedges
1 pepper (green, yellow or red) cut in 1/4 strips
6 cloves of garlic minced
2 Tbls soy sauce
1 tsp  Sesame oil
1 cup cooked broccoli (frozen worked great, just don't over cook it)
1 cup chopped cabbage (plain green here)
1/2 c water
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup fresh basil cut
Olive Oil

Cut the chicken into small pieces add to the cornstarch, add some salt and pepper, mush it all around so the chicken is covered.  Heat a wok on medium high heat with 2 Tbls of oil until almost smoking, put the chicken carefully in the pan.  Cook on first side about 2 minutes, flip and cook another 2 minutes (chicken will not be completely cooked at this point).  Take chicken out of pan, add a little more oil than add the peppers, cabbage and onions.  Stir and cook for about 2 minutes and add broccoli, stir and cook another minute or so than add the garlic cooking for an additional minute.

Add 1/2 cup water, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and the chicken.  Cook for about 3 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked completely, add the basil, stir and enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thank You!

It's hard to believe that what started last year as a way to share my love of cooking and life is about to have it's 7000th page view someday today (probably)! 

I know that many of the big blogs can have that many views in one week but to me that is a milestone that I didn't want to miss.

Thank you to each and everyone  one of you for sharing this journey whether  you came to just look at one page or you read each and every post!

Each one of you is special to me!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Herbed Pan Seared Chicken Breasts with Wine Sauce

Yesterday Michael had taken 2 chicken breasts out of the freezer for supper while I was at work.  You know how that goes, you look at it (at least I do) and think what in the heck am I going to do with that?  Off to the Internet I went knowing that grilling was not an option last evening.  I found my way to one of the cooking channel recipe sites and started reading recipes trying to figure out what looked good, fairly healthy and we had some semblance of the ingredients or things I could sub.  2000 recipes later (okay maybe only about 50) I stumbled across one that sounded tasty and was cook able!  I started reading through the ingredients, we were in good shape, than I started reading the directions.  It was here that I stumbled.

I think that I am not a beginner cook and this recipe was marked easy and certainly all of the directions seemed straight forward enough except for the part about how to cut the chicken.  It said to cut them into something like airline portion tenderloins.  What in the heck is that?????  There was no highlighted area to take me to the directions on what this meant or even looked like! I thought back to when I flew a fair amount and they still served food (tells you how long ago that was) and all  I could picture were these little boneless, rubbery white pieces of so called chicken.  I certainly was not going to put that on the table!  So I improvised and cooked the entire breast, made a few changes and I have to say, this turned out good enough that I would definitely make it again!

Herbed Pan Seared Chicken with Wine Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 chicken breasts with skin and bone
salt and pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried chives
1/2 a cup or so sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter

Heat oil in saute pan until hot, salt and pepper the chicken place in pan skin side down.  Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, turn over and cook  for another 7 minutes covered.

Add wine, garlic, rosemary, parsley, chives and mushrooms, give a bit of a stir than re-cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove the chicken add the butter and give a good stir.

All done!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Doga with the Dog

I promise to write a blog about cooking soon!  There has just not been much creative cooking going on here while Michael was gone and than this week has just some how become a blur!

Trust me this is not us, notice all the small dogs!

Last night Bear and I went to our Doga class, yoga with you dog explains the entire thing!  You take your dog for a walk to tire them out a bit (or in Bears case wind him up more) and than you do yoga outside while holding onto your dog who otherwise might wander (or in Bears case run away) while getting your face licked.

There were 3 other dogs there.  One belonged to the instructor and she was a very well behaved Jack Russel, than there was my friend Linda's golden Trip who is some kind of very quiet freak of nature (he isn't really a freak of nature, I'm just jealous) and last there was an 8 month old Golden doodle named Grady who was very cute but I suspect that Bear was not the best influence on.

We did the stretching exercises, Trip sat there calmly, Lola sat there calmly, Grady sat there relatively calmly (he is a puppy after all) Bear was Bear.  I came home with more dog slobber on me (from the grateful doggy kisses of my own dog and Grady and Trip who needed to get into the act) and more fur on me than I think Bear had on him (even after driving down 526 at 60 mph with the windows open and fur flying everywhere).

I was brave for a few seconds and actually let go of Bears leash (everybody else was doing it after all) but quickly scooped it up when I noticed he had started to stray (wander in a direction he shouldn't have at a speed he shouldn't be going).   I think the best laugh of the night (and there were many) was to see Grady laying on top of his owner while we did some relaxing, I guess he thought that if Lola (who weights 10 lbs maybe) was doing he could too!  Bear on the other hand decided he needed to guard me and stood with his front legs on one side of me and this back legs on the other.