Sunday, November 17, 2013


 I combat "gardening withdrawal" by putting little succulents in my southeast facing kitchen window. They like the light and I like the green! Above from left to right I have a variegated crassula (Jade plant), a sedum and a Kalanchoe. 
This is a miniature ice plant that has hot pink blooms occasionally. I water these only once a week. I've been advised to water them thoroughly so that water drips out the bottom of their little plastic pots. That way mineral salts from the chlorinated don't build up in the potting mix. All the plastic pots are set on plastic peanuts in the pottery pots so the roots don't set in water.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


 This is my regular pantry which is installed in a hallway closet. The shelving unit allows me to organize everything so I can see it because it's not too deep and fairly wide. Seems like a logical thing to me.
Then there's the cold pantry...aka the freezer section. Oye! I've never figured this out...WHY ARE REFRIGERATORS DESIGNED BACKWARDS? Every cook knows that fridges need to be half as deep and twice as wide. Then food wouldn't get lost in the back. And then I wouldn't have to empty out the entire bin to get something! Or have the entire contents of a shelf fall out on my feet as I'm pulling out a bag of peas.
HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO DO? I guess it's the "we've always done it this way..." syndrome! But this is the 21st Century...time to think outside the original design, don't you think?

Friday, November 15, 2013


 Thanks to Trader Joes, I can have huckleberry pie without paying $12 a pound for wild berries at the local Grower's Market. Seems that in Oregon, only the indigenous Indian tribes have a license to pick and sell the wild blueberries, aka huckleberries. The wild berries also feed the deer, elk and bears. So they are coveted and don't last long during their harvest season which is usually sometime in September. They are found in the Cascade mountains at elevations from 3000' and higher. As for flavor, they are soooo much tastier than those bloated, watery domestic blueberries that you find in the supermarket. Just combine these tart morsels with some sugar or berry preserves, a bit of cornstarch and a pinch of salt. 
Here is my simple attempt at a lattice crust combined with a frozen pie shell. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream and you'll never settle for domestic blueberries again!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I've been buying Trader Joe's bouquets for years and just found out that those nice lilies included in many bouquets are TOXIC TO CATS...
Seems that not only the foliage but the POLLEN can kill a cat by causing kidney failure. Looking back on this, it could explain the mysterious illnesses that our cat Izzie has had a couple of times...which included vomiting, lethargy and drooling. And it's not just oriental lilies...daylilies, tiger lilies (both of which I have in my garden) can also be toxic. I'll be digging these buggers up this winter and trashing them. WHO KNEW? You know how cats like to get up on counters and rub up on things...she probably got the sticky pollen on her fur and licked herself. Our vet, who is more of a dog guy, never mentioned this to me. He put our cat on antibiotics and she snapped out of it after about 4 days. And the blood screening did show a bit of reduction in kidney function as I recall. So we were lucky! If you need more proof, just go online and Goggle it. Tons of horror stories! 

Yeah, we're talking about you, Izzie!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I sorta vowed not to do another of Julia's recipes anytime soon after the chicken roasting/oven smoking event but...I couldn't resist picking up some frozen sole at Trader's. This recipe is easy and good as long as you remember that Julia never saw a cube of butter she didn't like!
The trick to this recipe is that you DO have to think ahead a bit and clarify some butter. I do it by melting a 1/2 cube of butter in a Pyrex cup and then sticking it into the fridge to harden. The white, watery milk solids will be on the bottom of the solid butter. Just wipe the bottom of the chunk of butter on a paper towel, wipe out the glass dish and put the butter back in it. It's now clarified so it won't burn so quickly.  
For this quick supper I sauteed some cooked Yukon Gold potatoes in a bit of olive oil. Then I cut up a strip of applewood smoked bacon, fried it and added about 1/2 a package of fresh Trader Joe's wild arugula along with some chopped pimento peppers I trying to use up.
Then I wiped out the pan, put it on medium high and added about 1 tablespoon of butter( half the amount that Julia recommends). I seasoned the fish, dusted it in flour, shaking off the excess and put it into the hot pan. It only takes about 2 minutes per side and you're done! I placed the sole on the bed of arugula and served it.
The fish was nice and crispy but not overdone. And I have to admit that the butter does add a nice flavor. The trick is to have the pan fairly hot so the sole will cook quickly. And my not as enthusiastic fish eater husband appreciated the potatoes. (We don't all like fish for breakfast like me, I guess)...

Saturday, November 9, 2013


 I think Ronald Regan said that...sort of. After the big truss up, it was time to fingerpaint in the butter. Again I was following the step-by-step in Julia's "The Way to Cook." I cut the amount of butter by half, figuring that 1 tablespoon shmeared over the bird would do the trick. I added a little Meyer lemon olive oil from Lucero. So Henrietta was ready for the big roast up.
Julia said to pre heat the oven to 450 degrees. I followed this and put the bird in. At 10 minute intervals (per Julia) I was to open the oven and baste, turning the bird on a side. So I opened the oven door after just ten minutes and immediately set off the smoke alarms and was enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Seems I didn't read the fine print...something about if it smokes, add some water to the pan and that will fix it...
Clearly they didn't have a smoke alarm in their Santa Barbara home (Paul and Julia) in the 1980's when she was writing this cookbook...or maybe her kitchen didn't open up to the rest of the living area like my "open plan" house. Or maybe she had a big ass venting system in her range hood.
The cat and dog made for under the bed and I yelled for Jack to come and help me. We opened every window and door in the place (it was 50 degrees and raining at the time). I poured 2 cups of water into the roasting pan and then another cup just to make sure I had enough to cover the bottom. I lowered the oven temp to 425 and hoped that in the next 10 minute basting period, all would be well.  
When the dinger went off, I slowly cracked the oven door open and again the smoke alarm went wild. I added more water and again turned down the temp (per Julia) to 350 for the rest of the roasting time. Thank goodness, I thought...that'll cure it. 
This drill continued every 10 minutes. Now the smoke alarm was only peeping for a second or two. I kept flipping the bird so to speak every 10 minutes and basting, basting, basting. By 70 minutes, the bird was done and so was I!
Yes, it was brown but sort of looked like a war victim in the skin department...all that turning took its toll.
    So here it is sliced and ready for dinner...and yes, it was moist...
Gosh, now I know why I sometimes just buy a cooked rotisserie bird at Costco...Bon Apetit, Julia!

Friday, November 8, 2013


 I admit it...I got crazy in the head and decided to truss a 6 pound chicken for roasting. I guess I was inspired by the many times I have watched the "Julie and Julia" movie. I used Julia's "Way to Cook" cookbook (published in 1989), a wrist breaking tome complete with lots of photos.
What I DID NOT HAVE WAS A REAL TRUSSING NEEDLE, which looks like a short knitting needle (about 7" long) with an eye made for kitchen twine. I had no hope of getting one before the use by date of the chicken, so I had to figure out what to use instead. Here you see my solution...a thermometer probe, a carpet needle and kitchen string.
 The thermometer probe is almost the same size as a real trussing needle. I poked Henrietta chicken with the probe to make a hole. Then I had to carefully thread the curved needle with the string attached through the hole without drawing blood (mine). Not as easy to do as I had hoped. It helps to be ambidextrous! Here I am doing the last part..."closing the barn door" as Julia called it. I had already strung the top part of the bird and secured the wings in the same manner.
 I finally had the string fished through the legs with a bit in the middle through the breast as shown.
 Now all you do is tie it up tightly and you have a trussed hen. Cute, no?
I also put some fresh sage leaves under the skin of the breast. Not in the cookbook but always fun to do.
"The Way To Cook" was published in 1989 when Julia would have been in her late 70's I think. She acknowledged the microwave and the food processor. She also left out most of those hideous aspic recipes, so I think it was an attempt to update "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
So "Why truss a chicken?" you ask...good question. Maybe because I'm semi-retired and had some time to kill in the kitchen? Or perhaps I just wanted to see if I could do it like Julia. Then again, maybe it would lead to a better, moister roasted bird. Stay tuned to this blog.

Monday, November 4, 2013


 Three days and nights of sorting makes Jack a tired boy! But IT HAD TO HAPPEN!
When we downsized from our spacious 400 sq ft studio on Grey Eagle Drive to a 11x12 bedroom studio at Angel Crest Manor, we just sort of threw stuff in the closet and said, "We'll get to this soon!" So 2 1/2 years have passed and we finally got to it due to forces beyond our control...our big copier that we bought in 2005 gave up the ghost unless we were willing to spend about $1500 on replacement imaging units. It was time to retire "Tojo" and get a new, smaller copier. But BEFORE that happened, guess who insisted on painting the room her favorite color "Creme Brulee" and cleaning out the closet full of paper. I think that we have easily thrown out about 500 lbs of paper!

 So here is our new pride and joy, "R2D2." It came to us from the Canon Solutions office with that nick name. It is the smallest full color copier that they sell...far smaller than the big commercial units.  
As you can see, it fits on this credenza and doesn't take up the entire corner like the old Oce copier. Jack now has room for his white drawing cabinets and original art storage where he can get to it. We also treated ourselves to new office chairs and donated our cheapie IKEA ones to Goodwill.