Food, Tablescapes

Frozen!

IMG_0182Does this tell you it’s cold in Houston?  With temperatures the last several days being below freezing, one is not encouraged to venture far from home.  That means it’s only natural to think of warming with comfort foods like soups and stews.

In the refrigerator were most of the makings for beef stew though the pantry was empty of the diced tomatoes and broth I typically use for liquid.  That being the case required some creative thinking, so I added a bottle of beer and at the last minute the remains of some frozen edamame and red pepper and tomato soup that had accompanied a grilled cheese sandwich on another frozen day.  Noting the ingredients, the hubby raised his eyebrows in questioning wonder. 

While the stew was bubbling away,

IMG_0131I got the bar, where we eat most of the time when it’s just the two of us, ready for dinner.

It’s nothing fancy,  but I do choose dishes that go with whatever happens to be on the surface.  If you’ve seen any of my tablescapes, you know that seldom is an eating surface unadorned which makes it very easy to add on.

IMG_0136With fragrant smells emanating from the kitchen, we settled to watch the evening news.  By the time the latest Trump bashing was over, the stew was ready and guess what?  Those extra added ingredients combined for a pretty tasty creation which goes to show you don’t always have to rely on the tried and true.  Cooking is just another way of expressing your creativity.

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Food, Recipes

Buttermilk + Oysters

IMG_6831Before we were frozen out of Maine a few days ago, we had dinner at one of our favorite Rockport restaurants, Nina June, in the heart of the village.

IMG_6833It is the brainchild of Sara Jenkins who combines her love of Mediterranean food with her Maine roots.  She is also a cookbook author, the most recent one written with her mother Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a food guru in her own right.

On a cold night, we started with soup that combined leeks, potatoes, oysters and buttermilk in a creamy base.  It was so good that I had to see if I could recreate it for dinner on a chilly Houston night.  

IMG_0114I started with the known ingredients and added chicken broth and half and half.  I can’t promise that it was as good as Sara’s, but it wasn’t bad.  Here’s how it went together.

Buttermilk Oyster Soup

1 pint oysters, cut in half if they are large

l leek, finely chopped

3 red potatoes, finely chopped

1 c. chickens broth

1 qt. half and half

1/2-1 c. buttermilk

salt and pepper to taste

Saute oysters in about 1/4 c. of their liquid for about 2 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

In a large saucepan, cook leeks and potatoes in chicken broth until potatoes have softened.  Add half and half and heat through.  Add buttermilk and oysters with salt and pepper to taste and heat until all ingredients are blended.

IMG_0117Simple enough, the soup was very tasty and a perfect meal with a green salad and  cornbread muffin.    Next time I make it I might add a few drops of Tabasco and I can also imagine it with spinach or kale as an ingredient.  Hmmm, what started at Nina June may take on a life of its own.

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Entertaining, Food, Random

From the Kitchen

OK, you know the table is set so what’s for dinner?

I had in mind a chicken dish served over polenta, but Houston temperatures have been a little wintery which made me think of comfort food, something warm with crusty bread.  What eventually came from the kitchen was somewhere between a stew and a soup which one of the dinner guests cleverly suggested calling a “stoup”!

The dish proved to be a simple one that took little time to put together.  If you are like me, that’s always a plus and makes the recipe worth sharing, that is if I can remember all the ingredients.

Chicken Stoup

4 boneless chicken breasts, halved

flour, salt and pepper

1-2 T. olive oil

1 onion, coarsely chopped

10 garlic cloves, minced

diced tomatoes, 28 oz. can

carrots and mushrooms, sliced*

4-5 bay leaves

1/3 c. each white wine and chicken broth

1-2 t. red or white wine vinegar

*Use your own judgement as to how much.  I used a heaping handful of baby carrots and 1 c. of mushrooms.

Dredge the chicken breasts in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  Brown in olive oil.  Remove chicken to a plate and add onion and garlic to pan.  Cook until onion is soft and lightly browned.  Add wine and broth and cook for a few minutes until liquid has been reduced by half.  Add remaining ingredients and place browned chicken on top.  Cover the pan and cook until chicken is tender.

Place the chicken in warmed bowls.  Add 1-2 t. wine vinegar to liquid and spoon over the chicken breasts.  To add a little color, embellish with coarsely chopped spinach leaves.  That was an afterthought since I didn’t have parsley or basil.

Serve with crusty bread and a simple green salad.  Makes 6 servings.

Whether for friends or family, Chicken Stoup will get moans of appreciation.

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Food, Holidays

Keeping It Going

Just as the dishes and the dryer hose pumpkins are a staple at Thanksgiving, so is cornbread dressing made just like, well almost like, Mom used to make. For that matter, I think she made it the same as my grandmother, so I like the idea that this dressing has been around for a long time.

I’m not sure how Mother made her cornbread, so I rely on this recipe in my trusty Southern Living cookbook.  Can you tell it has been around for years and is much used?

Country Cornbread 

1 1/2 c. cornmeal

3/4 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 c. milk

6 T. shortening

Preheat oven to 400. Combine the dry ingredients with eggs and  milk.  Spoon shortening into a 10″ skillet (I use an iron one) and heat in the oven until the shortening is melted and the skillet hot.   Pour the cornbread mix into the skillet and bake for about 20-25 minutes.

Now for the dressing which combines a few simple ingredients.  I usually make it a day ahead of time so the flavors are well blended.  

Though the main ingredient is the cornbread, Mother always crumbled a few leftover biscuits into the mix.  If I don’t have biscuits, I toast a few slices of bread and then make cubes or crumbs.  That seems to work just fine.

Cornbread Dressing

1 round of cornbread plus biscuits or bread cubes

1 lb. sausage

1 c. each celery and onion

3 eggs

1 t. poultry seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

1 c. Craisins (that’s my touch)

3-4 c. chicken stock

Brown sausage with celery and onion.  Add to crumbled breads. Mix in remaining ingredients being sure to add enough stock to  make the dressing nice and moist.  Spoon into a large casserole dish.  Bake at 350 until the dressing is heated through and the top is a bit crispy.

Though much of the dressing disappears at the Thanksgiving table, there’s always enough left over to put it on turkey sandwiches the next day.  I’ve even made soup out of the remains.  It was quite good, but dang, I can’t remember how I did it!

OK, enough words.  It’s time to get on with making the dressing. If you have a favorite dish for Thanksgiving, do tell.

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Food, Random

It’s a Puffball!

For several days something that appeared to be a mushroom sprang up in the yard and got bigger and bigger and bigger until it was larger than my head.  Thinking to trash it before it took over, I pulled it off the ground and was blown away by how much it weighed.  When I started looking at it, trying to recall my limited mushroom knowledge, the first thing I noticed was it didn’t have any gills.  

Curious now, I took it inside and cut it in half to find that it was dense from top to bottom.  Now, really puzzled, I posted this photo on Facebook and asked for someone to identify it.  Immediately, several Maine folks informed me it was a puffball mushroom that was deliciously edible.

I wasted no time experimenting, first sautéing it in butter to get a feel for the taste.  It was quite mild with a very nice flavor.   Since then it has been used in scrambled eggs and spaghetti sauce and added to stir fried veggies, all of which worked beautifully.

So far so good with no ill effects which led me to think about a soup.  Now, that was a real winner.  The hubby went so far as to say it was the best mushroom soup he’d ever had and that’s something since he loves the one we learned on one of our Foodie Adventures with Michael Salmon.

Quite honestly, to make the soup I just started throwing ingredients…celery, a couple of small potatoes and baby carrots…in the pot and simmered them in chicken stock.  For seasoning, I used a garlic/herb mix, onion powder, dried fire roasted tomatoes, salt and pepper.  When the veggies were tender, I added about 5 cups of puffball, broken into small pieces, and let it cook for a few minutes longer.  While the cooking continued, I used an immersion blender to puree the mix.  At the last minute a cup or so of milk was added.  

Now, for the taste test….scrumptious!  It was just the right thickness with flavor that made taste buds sing.  I don’t know whether or not I’ll ever be lucky enough to have another puffball volunteer in the yard, but my fingers are crossed because I have ideas for a few more things to try.  If you’ve had experience with this unusual mushroom, do share.

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Food, Recipes

Blueberries Any Way

blueberriesThe season for those sweet little wild Maine blueberries has come and gone, but each year I pick/buy enough to last until the next season.  They freeze beautifully which ensures that we can have all our favorite things made with them.

Blueberry muffins are always on hand as they are oh so good with morning coffee.  

They are especially good topped with lavender blueberry jam which is also a great topping for ice cream or panna cotta.

Scones oozing with blueberries are a special treat for Sunday brunch.

When the kids come to visit, their favorite is blueberry pancakes with GrandP’s secret syrup, better known as maple syrup.

As yummy as other things are our hands down favorite is blueberry crisp.  Sometimes it’s all blueberries, but it’s equally good with peaches or with mixed berries.

I’ve been making this crisp since I was a teenager thanks to the recipe shared by our next door neighbor.  For that reason, I always call it Miss Myrtle’s pie.  Since she was generous enough to share her recipe, I will share it with you and hope it becomes one of your favorite desserts.

Blueberry Crisp

4 c. blueberries, peaches or mixed fruit

1/3 c. sugar

1 heaping T. flour, cornstarch or tapioca

1 t. lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a pie pan or baking dish.

For the topping, combine 1 c. flour, 1 c. sugar and 1/2 c. brown sugar.  With a fork, add a slightly beaten egg and mix until the dry ingredients are crumbly.

 Sprinkle on top of the fruit and generously dot with butter.  Bake at 350 until the topping is nicely browned.

There you have it.  At our house we like cinnamon so I often add a teaspoon to either the fruit or the berries.  Of course, the finishing touch is a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Hmm, I can taste it now, so I’m going to the kitchen and get started.

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at home, Food, Tablescapes

Now For the Rest

Now that you’ve seen my friend’s lovely gardens, lets take a quick look inside where we gathered for a delightful lunch after meeting the chickens.

Walking in, one immediately gets a sense of energy and good cheer.  Both are characteristics of the people who live there.

The table is ready for us to sit, but first I want to share a few favorite vignettes.

There are collections so representative of Maine treasures.

IMG_9273I’m crazy for the framed piece by Lynn Karlin who I am taking a workshop from in a couple of weeks.

Among the wonderful spaces is a screened porch with views to a garden area and Maison Poulet.

Relaxed seating makes me think of whiling away a summer afternoon with a good book.

Getting back to the table, you can bet I like these dishes since I have the same and use them frequently.  They are perfect  here as they pick up the design and colors of the table.

There’s no need for an elaborate setting, and the little sprinkler cans filled with flowers from the lush gardens are just right

as is the natural placemat.

Hmmm, I think it’s time to see what’s going on in the kitchen where a garden fresh salad is being tossed to accompany poached salmon.  You know, it just doesn’t get any better than enjoying good food and conversation with a group of interesting women.

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