Sunday, April 27, 2014

Eggceptional Eggs

We spent an afternoon last week visiting some friends, drinking tea, and discussing all sorts of things.They have an urban farm with a good sized vegetable garden, chickens, and the most adorable baby goose I've ever seen. The goose stood about a foot high, had soft fuzzy greenish-grey down, chatted amiably with us by quacking, and liked to be picked up, held, and petted.  So sweet! When they grow up, geese can be very territorial and aggressive to trespassers, so we'll take advantage of his amiableness while he's a baby. As we were leaving, they gathered some eggs and gave us some to take home. They were beautiful. One was an off-white, one a light tan, and one was a light greenish-blue. Egg color has nothing to do with the nutritional quality or taste of the egg - the colors are almost all due to the breed of the hen.

I cooked these eggs my favorite way: scrambled. There are several different ways to scramble eggs, but mostly it comes down to what you add - if anything - to the eggs and the way you prepare them.

A "hard scramble" is what you usually get at a restaurant. These can be prepared in one of two ways; In a restaurant, the eggs are cracked and stored in a container and some of the beaten eggs are poured onto the griddle as needed. In some restaurants, usually those with fewer scrambled eggs ordered, the eggs are cracked open and beaten as needed. In both cases, a little butter might be used, but the egg mixture contains nothing but eggs. These are allowed to start setting on the griddle or in the pan, and then stirred or scrambled as they finish cooking. And, usually, these eggs are cooked hard - until they're completely set in the pan or on the griddle.

The other type of eggs are "fluffy" or "soft scrambled eggs." Crack the eggs into a bowl and add a little dairy sour cream (about 1 tablespoon per 2 eggs) and a couple of tablespoons of shredded cheese if you like. To prepare the eggs, put a little butter (about 1 teaspoon per egg) and cream or half 'n' half (about 1 tablespoon per egg) into a small frying pan. Heat this until the cream is scalding and then quickly add the beaten eggs. Stir briskly and constantly as soon as you add the eggs to the cream and cook until the eggs are softly set. Don't cook completely because they'll cook a little more after you remove from the heat; you want these eggs to be soft and fluffy.

One of my favorite things is to make fluffy scrambled eggs with cheese and also fold in some cooked vegetable as the eggs are cooking. I especially love sauteed onions and cauliflower or broccoli, but feel free to add any vegetable you like or have as leftovers. You could also add some cooked bacon or sausage or some diced ham or chicken. Feeling fancy? Sprinkle on some sliced almonds or chopped walnuts. And a touch of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, basil, or oregano - it looks gorgeous and adds a pop of flavor. Be creative and adventurous!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Passover and Easter

This time of the year marks the Passover and Easter. For a lot of people, even though Spring officially started March 21, Passover and Easter signify the real beginning of Spring and all the promise that holds: joy, peace, new beginnings. It's a time to dust off the cobwebs of our dormant season and plant for upcoming growth and harvest seasons. Food, family, and fellowship are important components of both Passover and Easter. And everyone has their own "must haves" for those important meals. I've listed some menu suggestions below, just in case you'd like to add to your traditions. But first, a couple little stories.

When I was growing up, wearing brand new dresses, shoes, and Easter hats to church was the big deal. And we also got to wear white gloves and socks with ruffled tops. We were really something! Church was followed by an Easter egg hunt and baskets full of chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and Peeps. And dinner always included devilled eggs, ham, au gratin potatoes (which we kids called "all rotten potatoes"), and since we lived in Minnesota, of course there was Jell-O. Everything else changed from year to year, but we could always count on those essentials.

I think one of my favorite Easter stories happened to my baby sister, not me. They had a golden retriever named Sundance who was generally well-behaved and was a beloved member of the family. One year, my sister served one of those spiral cut hams that you bring to room temperature instead of baking. She set the table, set out the ham, and they all went to church. When they got home, they discovered that Sundance had broken into the house and devoured the entire ham. Can you imagine? A house full of dinner guests and the main course was obliterated. That dog was lucky it survived for several more years!

Easter dinners generally feature ham, lamb, or chicken. This is usually accompanied by potatoes au gratin, escalloped potatoes, parsley buttered potatoes, or creamed new potatoes. Spring vegetables are favored: asparagus, spring peas, artichokes, and green salads. Desserts are often on the lighter side: carrot cake, coconut cake, lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, and strawberry shortcake.

Passover dinners usually include beef rib roast, braised veal shoulder, or roast chicken. Matzo balls show up in soups such as chicken soup with parsley, sage, and leek matzos or matzo balls in lemongrass chicken broth. Vegetables such as herbed new potatoes, braised baby artichokes,  or potato leek matzo balls as well as mixed green salads with apples, Asian pears, and walnuts. Favorite desserts are dark chocolate torte, chocolate orange honey cake, and meringue tortes with berry sauce.

I'm sure that you and your families have your favorites, your traditions, but remember that it's fun to try something new each year. Who knows? It might become your new tradition!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thank goodness for Crockpots!

This past week has been a busy one! Had breakfast twice with friends and lunch twice with friends. We managed to play water volleyball three times this past week. Also included were shopping, knitting with friends, and three meetings all at the same time - I chose to go to "Women Who Kill" which was presented by some Sisters in Crime members, sponsored by King County Libraries. The three presenting authors discussed character development, how much of themselves appeared in their protagonists, and did they kill off people they don't like or do they develop them as murderers. It was very enjoyable. And yesterday was lovely outside, so I spent two hours at a nursery buying and potting some plants: strawberries, sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme, chives, peppermint, chocolate mint, and catnip. And fuchsias. Great start for the summer. Next time, I'm going to get several lettuces and salad greens - they also looked great. I also spent some time doing baking experiments - I'll share those results in a future blog.

With all of that, thank goodness for Crockpots. Here are two recipes I made this week - enough for dinners and leftovers as well.

Curried Chicken
Makes 6  (1 1/2 cup) servings


1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 - 2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chicken broth or stock
2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, large pieces of fat removed and discarded
2 (10 3/4 ounce) cans cream of chicken soup OR 1 cup heavy cream

  1. In a 5 quart Crockpot, combine onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and all spices with chicken broth; mix well
  2. Add chicken and mix well to coat all pieces of chicken
  3. Cook covered on LOW for 6 - 9 hours
  4. Add cream of chicken soup or cream, cover, and cook another 30 minutes
Serve with steamed rice or pasta; also delicious with potatoes.

Makes 8 (1 1/2 cup) servings

1 pound lean ground beef
1 large onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
3 (15 ounce) can chili beans
1 (15 ounce) small kidney beans, drained
1 (4 1/2 ounce) can chopped or diced green chilies
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. In a frying pan, saute hamburger, onion, and garlic until hamburger is no longer pink. Drain well and place cooked meat, onion, and garlic in a 5 quart Crockpot
  2. Add tomato sauce, beans, chilies, and spices and mix well
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 - 9 hours
Note: If you wish, you can use different beans or combinations of beans, such as pinto beans, great northern beans, large kidney beans, and black beans

Corn bread and a crisp green salad are excellent accompaniments. You can also serve this with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, or even a chunky salsa. Tortilla chips or corn chips make a nice crunchy addition to the meal.

If you have some leftovers, but not quite enough for the number of servings you want, cook some egg noodles, drain, and add to heated leftover chili. The egg noodles cool down the chili heat.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Time Flies

     I have noticed that I no sooner publish a blog post that it's time to write the next one. Time seems to be flying by faster and faster. I got thinking about when time didn't seem to go so fast - when I was a kid. The school years seemed to last forever and summer was luxuriously long. We had time to do so many wonderful things.
     My sister, friends, and I called ourselves The Fancy Five. We were always trying to come up with money-making schemes. We knew that we were about to hit the big time, but somehow, these schemes didn't ever quite pan out. For example, one summer day we decided to sell cookies that one of our moms had made. Sales were very slow, so we got the bright idea to give away a bottle of pop with each cookie sold. We raided the bar of my girlfriend's parents for the pop. When her folks got home from work, they were not very happy with us. I don't know if my friend got punished, but I remember being told to go home and not come back for several days.
     We knew we were finally going to make the big time when my Dad built us a car of sorts. He had gone to the dump and found an old wooden ironing board, mounted it on 4 wheels, put a box on the front to look like an engine compartment, an old bicycle seat to sit on, and a box in back for a passenger. The whole thing was steered with a rope that just pulled the wheels from left to right. And it was pedal powered - it would go as fast as we could pedal. Not content with just taking turns driving this contraption, we named it the Woody-mobile (after my Dad, Woody) and decided we would make money by using it as a taxi and giving kids rides to and from school. I don't recall anyone ever paying for a ride, but we had great fun giving each other rides.
     And then there was the time we formed a little circus; we had a parade, hoping to draw hundreds of people to watch us perform tricks on a swingset. We had exotic names, draped ourselves with scarves, and hung upside down from the trapeze. We swung as high as we could and jumped off, arms extended wide and graceful so that we'd look like we were flying. I think we managed to cajole a couple of our moms into coming, but other than that, those large crowds that would propel us to stardom never materialized.
     Undaunted, we never gave up. We temporarily reorganized The Fancy Five into a serious stitching group called the Knit Wits (we were so very clever!). Our plan was to knit these amazing afghans and blankets and sell them for hundreds of dollars.  As I recall, we each managed to make a dishcloth or two. Yet again, our ideas and chutzpah didn't quite match reality.
     What finally brought all these schemes to an end was puberty and the discovery that maybe boys weren't stupid or icky after all; our energies were directed towards attracting their attention.
And now, later in life after our biggest dreams of getting married and having kids and grand-kids have been realized, maybe it's time to resurrect The Fancy Five . . .