Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

Do you have a mantra? A life mantra that you've constantly repeated deep within yourself to encourage greatness in the mundane? My mantra changes from time to time. At times it's as simple as "God loves me" or "I'm important." Mantras can be very personal or just something to uplift, like "April showers bring May flowers!" And that has been my mantra for the last 4 days while rain has dumped on Minnesota. Our sump pump engaging for 2 days straight - every. ten. minutes. is something I've never heard before. No joke. Thankful for working sump pumps. And thankful for frozen squash from September farmer's market that brings happiness into  my dreary days in the form of Butternut Squash Soup. Mantra: Butternut Squash Soup is Happiness.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Potato Kugel Cups

There is nothing that signals the arrival of spring more than a bunch of kugel cups. Which, in fact, spring has finally sprung in Minnesota even though I was witness to one very negative omen that had me believing that spring would never, ever arrive. A robin was half dead in the middle of the highway attempting to flutter off the middle of the road with one weak wing to save its sad little life. Obviously, a very clear signal that spring would never bring its buds. As that was my first robin siting which you see, on my mom's side of the family, is a very big deal because the person who sees the first robin and calls it into my grandma is the mighty winner of one dollar. Very exciting, but I wasn't about to phone in a half dead robin because I didn't want to admit to that sad robin being here as it was on its way to death's door. And I did not want spring to head the same way, but spring did head that way and brought snow mid-April which is pure ridiculousness. I digress, let's not ruminate on snow in April. Spring is here and its brought kugel cups. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Finnish Rye Crackers

Do you ever have ten bazillion things going on in the kitchen at once causing you to forget a very key ingredient while whipping up some fantastic recipe that will use up about 4 seriously old jars of who-haw in your pantry all in one fell swoop, which is a fabulous thing, and either attempt to salvage the just-put-in-the-oven-brownies by quickly removing the piping hot 8x8, pouring the gooey mess back into a bowl, and adding in the key ingredient (flour) or do you leave it to bake in the oven to discover what new recipe you mistakenly developed? I'm in the category of the prior with these brownies I made for Easter. Yep. I needed to pour the hot, about to be fudge mess mid-bake into a bowl, stir in the flour and return to the oven. Even with that near flawless save I still forgot the salt, but the salt wasn't nearly as missed as the flour would've been. The fam visiting from out of state over the holiday weekend were uber glad I salvaged the brownies because they were super gooey, oozy and boozy and everyone approved. Flash forward 2 days for more salvaging during the prep of the rye crackers I'm talking about today. As the dough was chilling in the fridge I somehow came to the realization I left out a 1/2 cup of sugar which is another key ingredient that would turn these deliciously crisp, sweet and aromatic crackers into bland communion style crackers. I had to salvage. Yep, just take the dough ball out of the fridge, get out the potato masher, pour in the sugar and start mashing - naturally! It worked. Crackers saved. I hope you try them out because they are fun to make and ever funner (not a word) to eat. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Brined Chicken

If you're not brining chicken before baking your bird you seriously need to get on board with brine. Think of it as a way to make the most tender chicken you've ever had the opportunity to wrap your lips around. The method works for any cut of chicken - legs, thighs, breasts - bone-in or boneless. The amount of soaking is based on your degree of organizational skills on any given day because who can plan chicken soaking for 3 hours before a semi-peaceful supper appears - right?!?! timeframe. The minimum time span that the bird needs to bathe would be about 3 hours and the maximum 24 hours. The brine is made up of water, salt, chile peppers, and a cinnamon stick. After the chicken takes a bath in the salty, spicy, cinnamon bowl you pat dry the chicken and it hits the pan or the oven or the grill. I haven't tried grilling my brined chicken yet, but that is surely next because I have this hunch it's going to be fab. I have had success with the baking method that I detail in this particular recipe and seriously guys - there are Never. Any. Leftovers. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Barley Risotto with Lemongrass & Roasted Broccoli

In my head I'm a really good farmer. My perfect image farmer self has a chicken coop full of eggs, an overflowing garden in which I preserve, dry, and pressure cook away so that I can sustain my family over the winter and maybe a small, green tractor like the one my dad had when we were growing up. What other farmer things would I have? A barn. I'd have a really cool, old barn. And a big farmhouse porch that I could sit on and fan myself while drinking iced tea. Doesn't this sound so relaxing? I fear there are several important Farmer Details I'm leaving out because my Farmer Knowledge is colored by memory of my little girl self growing up on a hobby farm. We had acres upon of acres of heavily wooded land that a river ran through which fed the mile long garden in which the green tractor plowed. We lived in an old spooky farmhouse littered with antiques that were most assuredly from Laura Ingalls Wilder's day. A two-story barn and out sheds that held chickens, a pig, a pony, a bunny, so many kitties and dogs. Endless adventure was possible for a small child and endless work for a real farmer. Back to my adult imaginary farm that I work really hard on with punishing, back-breaking hard work that puts me in physical pain at the end of the day and guess what? I kinda like that. I like it so much so that I've volunteered to be a trainee farmer by weeding my CSA's real life garden in return for a bushel of garden treasure which will be sure to inspire this blog forever and ever! It's happening people. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chai Tea

Captain Crawley, Anna and Bates, Lord Grantham, Lady Mary, Cora! I'm obsessed. Lord Grantham was in my dreams last night - I may need an intervention. My husband has been given the pet name Lord Melvie. My inner voice chimes in with witty little sayings like: "simply mahhh-velous!" or "brilliant!". English people are so polite and have the best vocabulary.

I may need to pick up a good habit or two from Downton Abbey. Like drinking tea! The English would probably be frightfully disdained at my version of chai tea, because I'm guessing its very "un-English" by adding sweetened condensed milk and lots of spicy cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Maybe Cora the American would approve.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Date & Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you have anything luxurious in your life? There are so many degrees of luxuriousness in the world that my luxuries are seemingly simple. Washing my hair, but also having the opportunity to take the proper amount of time to style my hair - you know - add product, blow dry throughly, straighten with a straightener and style so that you don't need to wash your hair again for 4 days because time is a tickin' as two little people need to have their cereal N.O.W. Manicured fingernails. That is a luxury. A meal at a restaurant without children present. Properly cooked asparagus. Flying on an airplane to go on family vacation. A cookie. Nothing too obnoxious. Good hair, clean fingernails, eating out once in awhile, steamed vedge, an annual vacation and cookies. Is that high maintenance? Maybe so. Maybe not. Depends on your life view, but I'm going to bet that everyone in the world counts a cookie chock full of oatmeal, dates, and chocolate chips a true luxury. Because if you don't consider that luxury you must bake this cookie now as to discovery simple luxury. So chewy. So healthful tasting, but in a happy way. Get yourself some dates. Some oats. Some chocolate chips. And get yourself in the kitchen.