Inspired.....I'm easily inspired by people who seem to be living my life.....today we (husband & me) watched Julie & Julia, for those of you who might be unfamiliar with the blog turned book, turned movie....a young woman named Julie Powell decides to tackle Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. She cooks every recipe (over 500) in one year and blogs daily about the project. Needless to say, husband looks straight at me and says "you could've totally done that"! No kidding...Julie Powell beat me to it, that's all!

The major lesson I took away from Julie & Julia is the fact that while both Julie Powell and Julia Child are remarkable, amazing, talented people. They doubted their abilities along the way and it was their supportive partners that kept them from doubting themselves and inspired them to never give up.

I have that amazing support in my partner and just need to embark on my adventure...whatever it may be.

The task at hand is dinner....so I'll contemplate my adventure over Oxtail and Lentil Stew....

Braising on my stove are beef oxtails in white wine and stock with sauteed shallots, garlic and chopped carrot. I added a little salt & pepper, covered the pot and I'm going to let it braise on low heat for about 2 hours.

When the beef oxtail is tender and falling apart, I'll use the braising liquid to cook the lentils, about 2 cups of dried lentils. Then I'll add fresh bok choy at the last minute. Taste for seasoning and we'll have dinner as the sun...make that fog....sets over the icy landscape.



One of the simple pleasures of Fall is the root vegetables that are available. Considering I used to only eat beets that were pickled I realized how much I was missing out on when I was introduced to the simplicity of a sweet boiled beet. I'm not crazy..(well just a little), but a boiled beet, sliced while warm and sprinkled with the slightest bit of sea salt is AMAZING!

Of course I'm extremely spoiled because I have access to freshly picked, local beets that are really, really sweet. I boil a 4 inch (diameter) beet in water until tender, run under cold water to remove the skin, slice, sprinkle with salt and serve.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing!


Tomatos & Tomatillos & Hail Storms

This past summer we had a beautiful garden in full swing, heirloom tomatoes aplenty. I was checking them everyday.

Typical for Southern Oregon we had our 100+ degree heat wave for about a week. Usually the heat is broken by a thunderstorm or two, followed by whatever forest fire starts from the lightening. Well, Mother Nature decided to mix it up a bit and and hurl 2 inch ice balls from the sky. Really? Did we deserve to be pummeled? Did we complain that much about the heat? I personally don't mind the heat. I didn't expect her to get so vengeful. The hail came and went in about 20 minutes. 20 minutes that destroyed 60 tomatoes, 3 flower pots full of pansies, 4 cukes, 5 zucchini's and dented the hood of our pick -up truck.
I was surprised at how sad I was, normally I'm a pick yourself up and dust yourself off kind of person. We went out the next day and surveyed the damage..tomatoes, total loss, cukes and zucchini too....the only bright spot was the fact that the tomatillos survived! What a hearty plant! Not only did I pick some tomatillos the other day, the plant is producing another round of the husked beauties and has more flowers. Maybe the tomatillo is trying to makeup for my loss and sadness?
So in honor of my lovely tomatillo plant that loves me, here is a great way to use tomatillos. Tomatillo salsa is one of my favorites. If you have never tried it, please do, tart and sweet at the same time, and a perfect accompaniment to fish, pork and wonderful spooned over tamales!
This recipe is adapted from SimplyRecipes.com
Tomatillo Salsa Verde
1 & 1/2 lbs tomatillos
1/4 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
pinch of sugar
1 small JalapeƱo pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped (optional)
Salt to taste
Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.
Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, sugar in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Store in refrigerator.
Makes 3 cups.


Jacksonville Strawberries

For some reason the strawberries from Jacksonville taste the sweetest. We love to get them at the Grower's Market or from the great stand on the corner of Rossanley and Hanley RD...yum!
We got a big box of them on Saturday and you know how quickly they deteriorate! So after much digging through some of my old cookbooks and my husband absolutely whining for some sort of strawberry dessert....here's my attempt at a quick Strawberry Upside-down Cake. This recipe is adapted from one of my go-to books.....The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham, and no she's not Ritchie's Mom.

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 tblsp granulated sugar
1 tblsp fresh orange zest

1 1/4 cups AP flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
5 tblsp butter - softened
1/2 cup orange juice
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 inch round cake pan. Arrange the cut strawberries on the bottom. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup granulated sugar and orange zest.
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, mix to combine.
Rub in softened butter until flour mixture has absorbed all of the butter. Whisk together orange juice, vanilla, and egg and add to flour mixture. Mix well and spread evenly over the strawberries. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate, fruit side up. Serve warm with whipped cream.

NOTE: I just realized while typing this recipe that I only used 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the batter.......ooops.... I'll let you know if it is a disaster, or a lucky mistake!

Very good!!!...not too sweet...tastes like yellow coffee cake with strawberries, next time I will add the correct amount of sugar!



After many sunny bee-u-tee-ful days in Arizona, we came back to sunny days in Oregon as well...considering it was snowing when we left.
Sandals, shorts, sunglasses, air conditioning, we had it all in the AZ!

We found another local, artisan food vendor while we were there! The Pork Shop in Queen Creek Arizona has the BEST handmade sausages. We splurged (or so we thought, the bill was only $28) on green chile smoked sausage, fresh bratwurst, jalapeno cream cheese sausage sticks and perfect hard salami. Then we stopped at the Queen Creek Olive Mill for freshly baked sourdough bread (and lots of olive oil) and headed back to the house to indulge.

Josh made his secret recipe burgers (pictured above) for us and we dined on those and BBQ'd brats.....what a meal


Homage to the Humble Egg

I have to say, hands down, eggs are my favorite food EVER! I don't know when I first discovered how much I liked them. I do recall the incredibly delicious "dunky" eggs my Dad would make us as kids. Dunky meaning the ability to dunk your toast into the runny yolk. We always ate brown eggs, because according to all of the TV commercials "brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh". I remember overhearing that white eggs came from New York (we lived in Southeast Massachusetts), oh the horror! Eggs from New York! It was bad enough that we had buy these foreign eggs at Easter to color them for the Easter Bunny.

We soon started to raise our own chickens and I was shocked to learn that not only could hens lay brown and white, but blue-green eggs too! This variety of hen was Araucana. I thought they were pretty cool, already dyed and ready for the Easter Bunny!

Since eggs lend themselves to so many uses and are pretty much the perfect food, the recipes are endless. One of my favorites is Baked French Toast. The eggs in this recipe perform double duty creating a souffle like custard that gives you everything you love about French Toast in one bite! This recipe feeds 4-6 hungry people.

Baked French Toast
1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread- sliced (leave slices out to stale overnight)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9 X 13 oven proof baking dish.

8 eggs- (4 separated)
3/4 cup real maple syrup
2 1/2 cups whole milk or half & half
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Arrange stale bread in prepared baking dish. In a large bowl beat together the 4 whole eggs and the 4 egg yolks add syrup, milk, spices, salt and vanilla.

In another bowl beat the 4 egg whites with cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the egg and syrup mixture. Pour over the bread slices and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving.


Out of fFocus

....just a little out of focus, like this photo. I was running late for work with two giant trays of these little gems for my co-workers, when I heard Mike's voice in my head.."you should really put these on your blog". Ok, Ok....get out the camera...clock ticking, where is the best light at 7:15am in February, in Southern Oregon, in the house, because I'm NOT going outside with this brownie, it's FREEZING out there. After running around the house turning lights off & on, trying to use the flash...nope... kitchen counter, straight down, press the shutter, hope for the best... because now I'm REALLY late!

Speeding to work on an icy morning with two trays of Chocolate Espresso Brownies sliding around on your backseat isn't the most relaxing drive...but they smelled really good, and my car smelled like rich, dark chocolate for the rest of day.

Needless to say the stressful, speedy morning was soon rewarded with contented sighs and oohs as word got out that the brownies were "in the house". Decadent, rich, chocolaty and satisfying were most of the adjectives flying around the office that morning. So if you have co-workers or a sweetie to impress any day of the week....make these brownies!

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks Maida Heatter's Best Dessert Book Ever. This recipe is hands -down the best brownie ever!

Chocolate Espresso Brownies
4 eggs
2 cups of sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 ounces butter* + 2 tblsp melted
1 shot pulled espresso*
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare baking pan by lining a 16 X 24 (jelly roll style) pan with foil, and brushing with 2 tblsp melted butter, set aside.

In a kitchen stand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and sugar on medium speed for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 6 ounces of butter and 5 oz of chocolate over very low heat until completely melted. Add shot of espresso coffee to melted chocolate. Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. When the 15 minutes are up for the eggs and sugar, add the sour cream and vanilla to mixing bowl and mix for another minute to incorporate.

Add egg mixture to large bowl with flour mixture, slowly add the melted chocolate mixture to the large bowl as well. Fold all ingredients carefully. Mix until just incorporated. Pour mixture into prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool completely in pan. Cut into squares and serve plain....or I always make a double-decker brownie with icing....here's how....

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of sea salt

Over very low heat or double boiler, heat cream to just warm, add chocolate and stir until thoroughly melted. Add vanilla and sea salt.

Transfer your cooled sheet of brownies by flipping them onto a large board or counter top.
Cut brownie sheet in half to make two 16 X 12 squares. Pour approx. half of your prepared ganache onto one half. Spread ganache evenly. Carefully place the other half of the brownie sheet on top of your ganache covered layer. Pour and spread the rest of the ganache on the top layer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Cut into squares, serve.

*Espresso- if you don't have access to an espresso machine, you can use purchased espresso, very, very strongly brewed coffee, or instant espresso powder, use 5 tsp.
*Butter- you can use unsalted butter, if you prefer, I have found no difference in the finished brownie using salted butter.


Good For You.......

Happy New Year....Sorry for not keeping up as well as I should on the blog, you see our entire family joined us at the Holidays! Needless to say, I did a lot of cooking but none of it made it to the blog.
One of our New Year's Resolutions for 2009 was to start baking all of our own bread each week. This is not new to me, having baked bread on a daily basis for many years.
But with the price of our favorite bread at over $4.00 per loaf in the grocery store, I decided to pull out and dust off some tried and true favorite bread recipes.

This recipe combines good for you ingredients into what I call a "daily loaf". This bread can be used everyday for sandwiches, toast, etc. It has perfect flavor and texture to compliment almost any sandwich filling!

Lisa's Wheat Bread

2 tblsp & 1 tsp active dry yeast (about 1 & 1/2 pkg's)
1 & 3/4 cups warm water (not over 110 degrees F)
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
6 tblsp butter - melted & cooled
1/3 cup honey

In a 4 cup glass measuring cup, combine warm water, evap. milk, and honey. Whisk in yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Add cooled butter and set aside. This mixture should never get above 110 degrees F, or you will kill the yeast and your bread will not rise.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the following:
3 cups unbleached Bread flour (King Arthur Flour is the best)
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup high gluten flour
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 & 1/2 tsp salt
(keep an additional 1 cup Bread flour in reserve to add to bread dough as needed)
Turn mixer on briefly to combine. With mixer on low speed, add liquid ingredients all at once to dry ingredients. In a few minutes the dough will come together, it should be barely sticking to the sides of the bowl and pull away easily. If the dough is too wet, it will be very sticky, add additional Bread flour in 1/4 cup increments, until the dough pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Once you have achieved a balanced dough (not too sticky) let the mixer knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Check carefully for additional flour as needed.
When 10 minutes have passed, your dough should be smooth and form a ball easily when pulled from the bowl. Rub a little bit of olive oil onto the surface of the mixer bowl, turn your dough ball in bowl to coat.
Let dough rise to double (about 1 & 1/2 hours) in a warm, draft free area. Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel if your kitchen is cool or drafty. You can also raise your dough in the oven with the light on for heat.

After dough has risen to double, give it a good punch to release the gasses. Fold the dough into itself and form into a ball. Let dough rest while you butter 3 standard size (Length 8 1/2", Width 4 1/2", Height 2 3/4") loaf pans. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces, each piece should weigh approx 23 oz) Form each piece into a ball and let rest for 5 minutes. Take each dough piece and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it measures approx. 8" X 8". Roll dough up as you would for a cinnamon or jelly roll. pinching the seam tightly to form your loaf. Place dough seam side down into your prepared pan. Repeat with the two remaining dough pieces.
Cut shallow slashes into the top of each loaf and let rise until double (about 1 hour).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped. You can also test them by inserting an instant read thermometer into the loaf, it should read 190 degrees F.
Remove loaves from pans, and cool on a rack on their sides for at least two hours before wrapping. Of course, you don't have to wait that long for a slice!

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Cincinnati, OH, United States
A dedicated foodie, with a passion for the best food. Favorite food crushes include; Cheese, Wine, Breads, Seafood, anything made with eggs, ...there's actually no point in a list, there isn't much out there I don't have a crush on. Transplanted from the Northeast at age 18, a whole new frontier of food was opened up to me. I have fished for Salmon, hunted for mushrooms, cracked open fresh oysters from the sea and devoured them on the spot. Figs, pears, peaches, so many indigenous jewels! I dedicate this BLOG to the endless variety this region provides. My hope is to live here for a very long time & continue to discover and experience it's unique bounty! Alas, my life has now taken me to Cincinnati, OH where the food culture is like none I have ever experienced.


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