Eggs Rosemary

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That’s what I’m calling it. Even though the Rosemary is just a garnish and there is more bell pepper than herb. Even though I’m not the first person to put rosemary on scrambled eggs: type the words eggs rosemary into google and you’ll find lots of directions for (not recipe ….too big of a word for such simplicity)scrambled eggs with parmesan and rosemary. Could it be I’m the first person to combine orange bell peppers and rosemary in their scrambled eggs? Doubtful. But it was such a pretty breakfast that I had to take a picture, so then, well, why not post it? Not to mention that it was really tasty.

My husband was a grocery store produce manager back in the day (still the fastest corn schucker this side of the Mississippi) and he’s not a fan of bell peppers, he prefers the orange peppers because they’re milder. Which is true, and now I think they’re my favorite, too. And rosemary – such a beautiful, complex herb, strong enough to grow wild on the sandy dunes of gulf coast beaches ( the name means “dew of the sea” in Latin), strong yet feminine, full of womanly lore from the Virgin Mary to Ophelia, bright, warm flavor and exhilarating scent. Yes, I’ve just decided, rosemary is my favorite herb. And check out the health benefits here.

So… for a simple feel good breakfast, here you go:
Whisk farm fresh eggs in a bowl
(yes, there is a difference, go get some at your local farmer’s market)
Cook eggs and orange bell pepper over medium heat
(use ghee instead of butter or oil because remember, this is a “feel good” breakfast)
Top with fresh rosemary
(here’s your excuse to go buy a rosemary plant)
Enjoy!

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The Quest for Beauty

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Yesterday was the official first day of summer “vacation”. So far, my summer to-do list includes cleaning out closets, gardening and washing windows. My prayer, however, goes something like this: “What do YOU want me to do with my time, God? Help me to use it wisely.” Full disclosure: as I write this I have a towel on my head, a hair mask on my “thirsty strands” and a computer tab opened to the Juice Beauty website where I just ordered a cream blush in “seashell”.

The quest for beauty is constant, for most of us women, I think. We want to look beautiful for our husbands, boyfriends, Facebook page, Instagram feed, and for our judgmental friends. We want our homes to be beautiful. We want to have beautiful families. We put in a lot of time and effort to get there, but that pinnacle of perfect beauty is always just out of reach, isn’t it?

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Picture some of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. For me, the hills of Tuscany come to mind. It’s jarring to think that those ancient hills will one day be gone. “Heaven and earth will pass away….” Shouldn’t making my soul beautiful for all eternity be at the top of my to-do list rather than finding the perfect shade of blush?

Yes, but…that doesn’t mean variations of the word “should” will go away anytime soon. And that’s a good thing. “To hear the call of Christ is to have ‘the deathbed realization’ while you are still alive,” wrote Steven Marsh in his reflection on yesterday’s gospel reading for mass (Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time) “Don’t wait until it’s too late to fully give the gifts the Maker has bestowed on you.” So keep pursuing beauty. If it is something truly beautiful it will lead you to God. And be the mirror of true beauty for others.

I have a dear friend who has given up the quest; she doesn’t see anything within herself worth salvaging (for reasons anyone could probably guess as they are far too common today.) She views herself as defective and hopeless. For her, the perfect shade of blush doesn’t exist, and if it did, it would not brighten her face or her heart. If you are reading this and you have given up the quest or know someone who has, remember these words: God delights in you. Seek and ye shall find.

Open That Watermleon and Make Popsicles

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An open lap top.  A one word prompt from Word Press:  OPEN.   A thought:  am I open to blogging again? It’s been so long.  After all, here I am in my kitchen with two halves of a sliced open watermelon that have been fleshed out to make watermelon basil popsicles. And my open calendar/day planner is full of all the activities and projects and recipes that I was not able to get to during the school year.  I’ve got less than two months left now, how did that happen?

I muddle 1 cup of fresh basil leaves in hot water for my popsicles and muddle the word in my head: OPEN. Muddle the thought of going through that blogging door that was left OPEN.  A sign, perhaps?  Now I have to let the basil leaves cool completely before blending them with the 2 1/2 cups of cubed watermelon and 2 tbsp. of fresh lime juice. Then they will be ready to pour into the popsicle molds and popped into the freezer.

Lunch? Probably should. I open an avocado and while slicing  its green flesh into pieces, somehow slice open my thumb. Okay, that was an exaggeration for the purposes of this prompt.  But I did knick my skin with the knife.

I almost give myself a headache trying to open a bottle of Naked Green Machine 100% juice smoothie. “OPEN, DAMMIT!” Don’t know if it’s my pleading or my strength but the top does in fact, finally, open.  I drink the green juice, eat the green avocado on toast, and marvel at all of the other lovely shades of green: watermelon rind, fresh basil, palm fronds on the window valances, grape leaves on the dish towel.    The popsicle molds are in the dish drainer, open and waiting.  Let’s see what takes shape.

Watermelon Basil Popsicle recipe courtesy of savorylotus.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Up Summer

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Ahh summer is here at last! Aside from getting more sleep since I DON’T have to be up by 5:30 for the next two months (the first day of the 2015-2016 school year is August 10th but who’s counting?) here are some of the things that have helped me begin to recover:

Beach time with husband and friends and a couple of fruity, frozen alcoholic beverages from the beachside bar (in a handy, take-home cup! Reuse/recycling at its best!)

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Finally replacing the light bulb in my closet.

Getting rid of clothes to give away and re-organizing the ones that are staying.

Finding the right bathroom counter organizer at Walmart.

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Taking a trip to the nearby fruit and vegetable stand for some fresh blueberries, strawberries, homegrown tomatoes, and grapefruit.

Vacuuming and cleaning the living room blinds and cleaning the windows.

Washing my car and cleaning out all of the stuff that had accumulated on the floor boards and backseat.

Making a pitcher of this Grapefruit Mint Iced Tea courtesy of Cooking with a Wallflower. Then drinking a cold glass after washing my car in the Gulf Coast heat. (because no, I’m not going to get up at 5:30 just to be able to wash my car without sweating).

Eating homegrown tomatoes with a glass of vino verdhe rose on the covered back porch while watching the rain. A very delicious, very unusual and inexpensive wine by the way, which reminds me, I need to enter it in my wine journal. (see: Wine Journaling | alittleway.)

I’m finally starting to feel like a human being again.

Two Too Easy Dinners

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Since my last post, I’ve entered paperwork hell at school (otherwise known as the last quarter of the school year) endured – I mean -coordinated two field trips (i.e. MORE paperwork) one on which I got soaking wet in the rain, and, fortunately, had some days at the beach during Spring Break (so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.)

In general, I’m extra tired, stressed out and cranky. But, in case you are, too, I thought I’d share the meals that saved me this week (not including dinner at Mom and Dad’s and leftovers from Mom and Dad’s – thank you, Mom!) The first, easy beef and bean burritos, I got from Ree Drummond’s blog, The Pioneer Woman. She starts off by saying: “an important clarification: The Pioneer Woman Cooks is not meant to be an encyclopedia of innovative gourmet recipes. It is a reflection of what is going on in my kitchen day in and day out, whether that’s necessarily thrilling or not.”

Well, if you consider it a thrill to be able to make a quick, easy and tasty dinner after getting home late from a stressful day, check her out here:
Beef and Bean Burritos | The Pioneer Woman Cooks | Ree Drummond.

Number two is what like to call “Mrs. Fresh’s ALMOST Chicken and Biscuits.” Just add the following to your crockpot:

About 1 pound boneless chicken (salt and peppered)
1 can cream of chicken and mushroom soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bag of peeled baby carrots
1 jar of sliced mushrooms
A bunch of thyme

Cook on high 4-5 hours or low 6-7 hours

Heat some frozen biscuits in the oven and serve with the chicken.

ALMOST as good as Chef John’s!

No food pics, so I here's a picture of the clean part of my kitchen.

No food pics, so I here’s a picture of the clean part of my kitchen.

Stuck in the Middle

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I really want to love this book. The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks. I’ve already renewed it twice from the library and it’s now two days overdue again. So I’m faced with a decision. Do I drop it off at the library at one of those convenient, drive-through style metal drop off boxes and wait for the hectic spring semester to end before finding another book? Or do I make a choice to MAKE TIME to read it?

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As I sit here at the kitchen table and listen to the whir of a lawn mower across the street on this beautiful spring morning, I think of all the things I have to/want to do today:

Laundry. Look for new cushions for our patio chairs. Find a recipe for tartar sauce to have with our left over fish from our fish fry last night (because most of the cocktail sauce is now gone and I’m not going to the store just for cocktail sauce). Write a blog post about my husband’s super delicious fried fish. Find a crockpot recipe for tomorrow (it’s all about planning ahead right?) Watch an episode of Mad Men (the last season begins April 5, I have to catch up!!). Sit out on the patio and paint my nails a pretty spring time color. (My nails are currently polish-free and badly un-manicured and there’s a bottle of Essie “Fashion Playground” that’s been sitting on my bathroom counter for over a week.”) The only reading that makes the list is reading what my fellow bloggers have been up to.

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Why do I want to love this book? For starters, it’s an intriguing plot based on the true story of a woman named Carrie McGavock, whose planation home in Franklin, Tennessee became a Confederate field hospital during the Battle of Franklin. But I’m no Civil War buff and I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book if I hadn’t actually visited Franklin and the very plantation where this all happened. I’d never even heard of the Battle of Franklin until our trip to Nashville last November when we took a little trip about 20 miles south to check out the town. We visited two historic homes there and I was captivated by the stories of these people who endured a major battle right in their own backyard. I couldn’t wait to read The Widow of the South.

It’s not that I’ve DISLIKED the book so far. It just hasn’t really GRABBED me. I think the back and forth changes of view point between Carrie and the soldiers out on the field has been a bit aggravating. And a bit dry, a bit too expository, a bit too Red Badge of Courage. HOWEVER, as I open to where I left my book mark one night before my eyelids closed (between pages 128 and 129) I’m reminded that it is getting better, now that the wounded are arriving at the house. As it reads on the back cover:

When a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrives at her house, he awakens feelings she had thought long dead – and inspires a passion as powerful and unforgettable as he war that consumes a nation.

And yes, by page 128 Zachariah has arrived, and maybe this is where the fiction really meets history in this historical fiction novel. So maybe I should just hang in there. At the bottom of page 128 Zachariah is lying on the wooden floor of Carrie’s house with other wounded soldiers and this is how he describes her:

“She was dark haired and pale and she was dressed all in black. This was the lady they’d been making jokes about, wanting her to return, about how their important parts would react to her arrival. I thought then that I could not be dying, because her arrival felt like a punch in my chest, which I reckoned to be a sign of life. I saw her and felt grateful and heated and afraid, all together.”

That’s good stuff. Maybe I’ll hang in there, try to squeeze in some reading during my 27 minutes of lunch time at school.

What do you think? How many pages until it’s time to head to the book return drop box?

At Carnton Plantation, November 2014.

At Carnton Plantation, November 2014.

Reduction SOS

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Thursday night I made my second attempt at a reduction sauce. The first attempt, several months ago, was a somewhat complicated red wine reduction, but it didn’t seem complicated enough to stop me from trying it out one night when we were having my parents over for dinner. Cut to: me snapping at my husband and mother when they offered help, almost getting into an argument with my husband in front of my parents, my mom throwing some cornstarch into the pan to try to thicken it up with no success. In the end, we drizzled the sauce on our grilled steaks and it didn’t ruin the meal, but it wasn’t the deliciousness that it was SUPPOSED to be. It was thin and barely had any taste at all. And definitely felt like a wasted effort.

Last week while surfing the internet, I came across a recipe for a “simple and easy” white wine reduction sauce from the Cooking Light website. Delicious on pork or tossed in pasta, they said. It sounded fast and fresh and easy – perfect for weeknight pork chops. All I had to do was sautee some chopped onion, add some white wine, chicken stock, white wine vinegar and chopped chives, bring to a boil and continue to cook until reduced “by almost half.” So simple – I just typed those steps from rote memory.

Before getting things going on the stove, however, I did a little googling on how to make a reduction. They said don’t worry too much about whether or not it reduces exactly to half or one half, or whatever the case may be. Just let it happen, they said. Or something like that. They also said the larger the surface area of the pan, the less time it will take to reduce. So I used a wide bottomed saute pan just like in the picture. The recipe recommended about five minutes for it to reduce but after five minutes, it was, you guessed it, NOT reduced. And watery. So I kept the pan on the burner and watched it very closely and carefully until suddenly it was mostly onion and chive with a little bit of thin watery reduction left. Into the garbage it went, and my husband pulled a bottle of barbecue sauce out of the fridge.

Ok fine, it’s not like I wasted a ton of time, energy or ingredients but what a disappointment! I wanted white wine sauce! And I had visions of future lovely white wine pasta dishes. A secret weapon I could whip out at a moment’s notice.

So my question is…should I even bother at a third attempt? Will that be the charm? Better yet, does anyone have any tips on how to make a reduction that actually reduces and isn’t a watery mess? Thanks!

Wine Journaling

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So glad this week is over! But…instead of relaxing with a glass (or two) of wine… I will be relaxing with my wine JOURNAL. It’s Lent, remember? No vino except on Saturdays and Sundays. Cheating? No, that’s survival. So in between making egg salad for dinner (no meat on Lenten Fridays) and pining for that Jacob’s Creek Pinot Grigio in the fridge, I will write a journal entry re-living our WONDERFUL dinner from LAST weekend at Upperline in New Orleans.

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The journal was given to me by my friend Karen, let’s see…back in 2009. What a great gift – she knows I like to write and I love wine! But for some reason, considering how much wine I drink, I haven’t recorded wines in the journal that often. Well…maybe that’s because in the moment you’re drinking, eating, laughing, talking – it can be kind of awkward to whip out your journal and write about it. But when a wine or an EXPERIENCE with a certain wine really sticks with me, I can write about it just like I’m writing in my diary or other journal. And it’s fun to go back and read my tasting comments and who I was with, where we were, what we were doing. I’ve got 12 wines in here, everything from the chianti I had in chianti Italy to a chianti/sangiovese blend from Macaroni Grill. And because I like to go to regional wineries, it’s fun to write about unusual wines that I can’t get just anywhere. Here are the wines that have made it into my journal so far:

Flat Creek Estate Super Texan 2008 (Marble Falls Texas)
Lasios Nero D’avola 2007 (Sicily)
Independent Producers Chardonnay 2008 (Columbia Valley, Washington)
Altos de la Hoya Jumilla 2007 (Spain)
Michael David Petite Petit 2007 (Lodi, California)
Golden Kaan Cabernet 2005 (Paarl, South Africa)
Le Grand Donjon Chardonnay 2007 (France)
Acrobat Pinot Gris 2009 (Willamette Valley)
Monteluce Primoro 2010 (Dahlonega, Georgia)
Montecalvi Chianti Classico 2010 (Chianti, Tuscany)
Crane Creek Vidal Blanc 2011 (North Georgia)
Col di Sasso Cabernet/Sangiovese 2013 (Montalcino, Tuscany)

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And tonight’s entry: Trimbach Gewurtzraminer 2010 from Alsace, which we had last Saturday at Upperline in New Orleans. A friend from New York and some friends from Minnesota were visiting and wow – what a fantastic dinner all around. I love Gewurtzraminer but don’t have it that often – probably because I don’t usually want to pay 42 dollars. My friends asked me to choose the wine from the wine list (of course!) and I knew it would be perfect. That Alsatian spice and fruit, so delicious with fish or seasoned meats can be the perfect compromise between red and white. My husband and my friend Nicol had the shrimp and grits (silky smooth) and I had the lamb shank with saffron risotto and, oh – the gewurtz brought out the flavor in both. To start? How about some spicy fried oysters in between sips of that spiced honey and lychee fruit. Can you say divine??? And afterwards, with honey-pecan bread pudding topped with toffee sauce? Smashing! Best dinner I’ve had in a while. I have to agree with the description on the Trimbach website which states, quite frankly: “It is in Alsace that this grape variety reaches the height of perfection”. Fortunately tonight I have a couple episodes of Mad Men recorded to go with my egg salad….

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Why is this “A Little Way?”

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Sometimes it takes a great effort just to do the little things. Especially after a long day at work. I THINK I’ve finally gotten a handle on how to be a good teacher, but still learning about being a wife! Inspired by “the little way” of St. Therese of Lisieux, who tried to “do little things with great love,” this is my Little Way.

But now I have to come up with something to cook for dinner before my husband gets home. And I really should put away this junk that’s been cluttering the kitchen table. But all I want to do is browse recipes and listen to the news about the Israeli PM’s speech today. While eating some chips. But I gave up chips for Lent. So even though today is one of those days I could eat goat cheese and crackers for dinner, I will slide a frozen lasagna into the oven. A little frozen lasagna heated up and served with great love. 🙂

Sometimes it takes a great effort to do the little things, but it’s the little things that keep us going and make life worth living. Isn’t it?

Do Try This at Home

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“Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king.” – Louis Bromfield, American novelist (1896-1956)

“With a piece of bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree.” – Russian Proverb

Wednesday I had the day off from school. And since it was ASH WEDNESDAY, I observed the Catholic rules of fasting. But since I had the time, I wanted to practice my cooking skills and try something new to go with our big meal of the day. I decided I was going to try my hand at baking bread.

I’d been browsing bread recipes after watching Lorraine Pascale make Crackle Top Bread on her BBC cooking show. Her bread looked delicious and she made the process of kneading and rising seem do-able and fun. You can watch the video clip here:BBC – Food – Recipes : Crackle top bread.

So I had the sachets of yeast in the pantry, all I needed was the perfect bread recipe. The Crackle Top Bread calls for rice flour and castor sugar, so it was out. Most of the so called “beginner breads” that I found online, such as sourdough and French bread weren’t very inspiring even though I do enjoy them; I wanted something with a little more pizzazz. A Williams-Sonoma recipe for “No-Knead” Rosemary Lemon Bread was enticing, but because there’s no kneading, the dough has to rise for 12-18 hours. I’ll take 10 minutes of kneading, thanks. Besides, as I found out, it’s the BEST part!

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” – M.F.K. Fischer

So I turned to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and found it: Pepper-Cheese Bread! As in bread with the flavor of cracked pepper and parmesan cheese. YES! Prep time 40 minutes, rise time 1 and 1/2 hours, bake time 35 minutes – YES! And YES, it is as good as it sounds and no, you don’t need a hardcover BHG cookbook, the exact recipe is also available on their website: Pepper-Cheese Bread. However, the cookbook has a few handy tips, which I will share with you.

On the first rise, keep the bread away from drafts by letting it rise
on the top rack of a cool oven and place a bowl of warm water beneath it.

To knead, fold dough over and push down with the heel of your hand.
Turn, fold and push down again, Repeat process until smooth and elastic.

Punch down the dough (once) by pushing your fist down into its center.
Next, use your fingers to pull edges of the dough to the center.

My personal tip is: don’t worry if it seems like your bread hasn’t doubled in size. Mind did NOT look like it had risen enough. But I just went by the timing in the directions; I didn’t test the dough by pressing down with two fingers, etc. And my bread turned out PERFECTLY! Beautiful and delicious.

I love my bird S&P shakers, but my bread is more beautiful!

I love my bird S&P shakers, but my bread is more beautiful!

Beginner’s luck? Maybe. But I feel like maybe perfect bread is related to the elasticity of the dough, so I also recommend that you make sure you beat the flour and yeast mixture on HIGH speed for the recommended time and make sure you knead the dough for ten minutes. The ONLY thing I might do differently next time is add more parmesan cheese. The bread had a very delicate pepper flavor (which is good) but I did expect it to be more cheesy.

“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” – Omar Khayyam

If you’ve never baked bread before, I hope you’ll try it. Or try it again if yours didn’t turn out great the first time. There’s something so satisfying about rolling the plump, yeasty dough in your hands and shaping that soft, pillowy bundle. And then the excitement when you pull that gorgeous brown loaf out of the oven and realize that you did it! You baked bread – the symbol of hearth and home and nourishment for thousands of years. It just feels good.

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” – Ecclesiastes 9:7

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.” – Matthew 14:19

"Peasants breaking bread". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Peasants breaking bread”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons