Tag Archive | so simple so delicious

Other People’s Ideas

Pickling syrup before stirring…

Another batch of Bread & Butter pickles made today. Hard to believe that two pounds of cucumbers can distill into five half-pints of pickles, including a whole onion, but it is so. I’m grateful for other people’s ideas, in particular what they think of to do with food. I would not have thought to invent Bread & Butter pickles, and now that I think about it, I don’t even understand why they’re named that: there’s no bread or butter, there is a lot of vinegar and sugar, and a few tablespoons of spices.

  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 6 allspice berries plus a pinch of ground allspice
  • 6 whole cloves plus a pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Boil ’em all together, boil the jars, et voila! So simple, so delicious.

I had a few sweet peppers in the fridge, and needed a quick snack for ‘supper,’ so I looked up ‘stuffed sweet pepper recipes.’ I’m grateful as always for the technology that allows me to discover a world of recipes with a few taps. I adapted one I found, cut a Blot pepper into quarters, mashed some cream cheese, shredded Mexican cheese blend, and Italian-seasoning ground garlic, forked enough onto the pepper sections to cover them, and baked for twenty minutes at 450℉. So simple, so delicious! These are things I wouldn’t think of by myself, but with a little nudge from other people’s ideas, I can create my own version with whatever is on hand.

Little Wren was introduced to the big North Forty for the first time this evening, just as the sun was setting. She didn’t quite know what to make of or do with all that space. But she’s sleeping soundly now, after a busy day flirting with does, guarding the garden, making sure I’m okay any time I cough, dispensing random cuddles when she feels they’re needed, and trekking into evening. I’m so grateful for this little creature who came into my life, exactly what we each needed at exactly the right time.

Consciousness

Alan Alda as Dr. Gabe Lawrence on Season Six of ‘E.R.’

We all wonder what it is. Is it intuition, memory, awareness? No one can really say, even scientists. So we’re each free to interpret this word, consciousness, as we like… as long as we tacitly agree to some parameters. For me, the word consciousness sprang to mind the other night when I was in the kitchen doing dishes, watching ‘ER’ out the corner of my eye, and I heard a voice that took me only a fraction of a second to recognize.

That’s Alan Alda, I thought, as I turned to the TV to see who was speaking. I chose awhile ago to spend some of the remaining hours of my precious life watching ‘ER’ because I wanted, after reading some random article, to see the role in which George Clooney got his big break. He’s an admirable actor for his talents, and an admirable human for his values and actions, in my humble opinion. Anyway, it’s my choice how I spend these precious hours, and he’s pleasing to watch. As is the entire show, it’s good TV. It was indeed Alan Alda, brought on cast no doubt to keep people hanging in after Clooney left the show. (Season Six brought lots of new people on board, and it’s working for me. I’m grateful to know when and how I’m being manipulated, so I can choose whether I want to go along with it.)

With a predictable story arc, it’s clear he won’t be here long. But the point is, in that instant in which I heard and recognized his voice, I thought about consciousness. It’s been years since I heard his voice, a lifetime since it was as commonplace as any voice I knew, when he starred in M.A.S.H. and I heard him every week for years, and still decades later, it was unmistakable, instantly recognizable. It surprised me. Back then, Alda was ubiquitous; today he’s like a madeleine, a few recorded words bringing back with startling clarity a past reality, a lost time. I’m grateful for the consciousness that can string these disparate times together with the instanteous thread of a single voice.

I’m grateful too for the consciousness of ancient trees. Here is the Triangle Tree, with three distinct sides instead of a circular trunk. How do you measure the radius of an isosceles triangle?

Side 1 (pay no attention to the date)
Side 2
Side 3. All shot within two minutes of each other, equidistant from the tree, near sunset this evening. I’m grateful for The Triangle Tree.
I’m grateful for a healthy dinner, more or less, of a BLT salad. Nothing could be easier: lettuce, chopped tomato, mayo, salt, pepper, and crispy bacon. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful for the cousciousness embodied in me to appreciate time, space, and food.

First Salsa

Topaz and a young piñon on our morning walk
I’m so grateful that I could make the first batch of salsa with all the vegetables right out of the garden: two small yellow onions, one Jalapeño Tam, one Leutschauer paprika, and one Blot sweet pepper, plus the three pounds of tomatoes featured yesterday. The recipe called for a couple ounces of tomato paste, and I used two frozen tomato paste ice cubes made last summer. A little salt, garlic, cumin, apple cider and white vinegars, and it was done.

I’m grateful for the joy of canning the first batch of salsa this season. I don’t know where I got the recipe, but I think it’s going to be delicious. Everything worked out so perfectly that I didn’t even get a taste: When I scooped the finished product into hot jars there wasn’t a drop left over.

The recipe called for the chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, and salt to be drained over a bowl for six hours.
After draining, the liquid from the bowl is simmered with two vinegars, tomato paste, and garlic until it thickens a little, five to seven minutes…
…then the vegetables are added and simmered for another 5-7 minutes.
And then the mixture is ladled into hot, sterilized jars and sealed in a hot water bath. Looks like seven perfect seals to me! Normally I put everything on hold as I remove the jars from the bath, so that I can listen for the pops. Tonight I was hosting a meeting at the exact moment the jars were ready, so I cut their time short by a minute and they started popping as soon as I lifted them out. But I dashed around the counter to join the zoom meeting, and couldn’t quite count the gratifying pops as they happened. Yes, gratifying: there is something profoundly satisfying about counting a full set of sealing pops after lifting jars from a canning bath.
I’m grateful to harvest the first leek of the season, and grateful for lots more in the garden bed.

After the meeting I was hungry, and decided to try a quarter recipe of Creamed Leeks and Eggs. It’s intended to be served on thick toast, but I’m trying to cut down on carbs. Ha! Or at least saving them for dessert. And besides, I used the last sourdough sandwich bread yesterday and haven’t baked more yet. So I served it in a bowl. O.M.G. It was so simple, and so delicious!

Leeks simmer in cream, water, salt, and lemon peel slivers until tender, and this mixture is topped with scrambled eggs, parmesan, and black pepper. What a great comfort meal for cooler fall weather.

Change

I think this little girl’s world has changed a lot since spring. I wish I knew more about where she came from and what her life was like before. I’ll probably never know more later, but I’m grateful that she is expanding her horizons, and I’m stretching along with her. She’s only been to the canyon a few times, but now I’m under doctor’s orders to walk there daily again. My habit of doing that changed last fall when Stellar could no longer make it that far, and then he was gone and it was winter, and cold and snowy, and I didn’t want to walk down there alone anyway. We live where lions live, which I’m also grateful for; but I don’t want to be walking alone among them. So Wren and I are girding our loins for the short hike down there daily. Even though she is small, she is alert and will let me know if there’s a big cat on the horizon.

I’m grateful for change. It’s wonderful to know that nothing stays the same. Everything uncomfortable will also go away, even as will everything lovely. I’m grateful that I’ve allowed my tastes to change over the years. When my mother made Bread & Butter pickles every year for the St. Alban’s church bazaar, it was fun to help. I was too young to slice, but I liked packing the sliced cucumbers in ice. One time the Colonel cut his finger slicing them and there was some concern about where the sliver of skin ended up… Maybe that’s why I never liked to eat them. Eew. I loved dill pickles but sugar and onions? Forget it. Now, they’re my favorite kind, but that may be only because I’m making them myself with cucumbers I’ve grown. This recipe I’ve used twice this summer is so simple, so delicious. The pickles are crisp, sweet, and spicy. Sometimes I load up a tiny bowl for a snack mid-afternoon, and sometimes I incorporate them into a meal. Today, I made the most delicious sandwich on a toasted croissant with avocado, Havarti, and pickles, with lots of mayonnaise of course. My love affair with mayo? That’s one thing that will never change.

Truth

The most riveting TV drama of the summer is paused now until September. It’s not the kind of thing I normally would have watched, but after the first episode I was hooked. I’ve watched all but one of the January 6 hearings in their entirety, and only missed half of one because it overlapped with Boyz Lunch. I’m grateful that the final hearing of the first set occurred this evening, so that I could enjoy lunch without distraction, and focus on the hearing without distraction also. I’m grateful for truth in general, and I’m grateful for the committee’s lucid, compelling, and relentless reveal of the truth of that devastating day. I’m grateful that this truth remains public record, that all the hearings are available to watch on the committee’s website.

I’m grateful that Wren is getting more comfortable with company.

I mentioned an upcoming hearing to a friend a couple of weeks ago, and someone else on the zoom referred to it as “another nothing burger in the witch hunt.” I’m flabbergasted that anyone can think like that. Especially after today’s hearing, in which a truth that was already crystal clear was made even more strikingly irrefutable. I have no more words. See for yourself. Trump must never return to power, and his followers must come to understand that he lied to and betrayed them from the beginning. I hope the tide turns soon; when it finally does, it may be a tsunami.

I’m also grateful for another Top 5 Boyz Lunch, and the overwhelming success of the twice-baked pizza. I’m grateful for green salad, homemade peppercorn dressing, and a 7-Up cake that mostly held together even though I ejected it from the pan a little too soon. It was a big hit with the fellas, “the best ever.” That’s a high recommendation to make it again, especially since it was so easy. I’ll have to do a little research about the physics of baking this particular kind of cake, leavened only with 7-Up, at high altitude. It needed about twenty minutes longer than the recipe suggested, and maybe should have baked at either a higher or lower temperature to keep a portion from falling.

Mon Dieu!

Speculoos breakfast cake for dessert

I fell asleep watching Drag Race France, even after a nap this afternoon. This oxygen thing is taking a toll. I’ll be grateful when it’s resolved and I have more energy in a day. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for Drag Race France, and for Boyz Lunch, and for all the fun I had in the kitchen this morning. Mon Dieu! It was 95 degrees outside and I slaved over a hot oven all morning, baking first that Speculoos breakfast cake at last, and then homemade hot dog buns. Both were delicious.

Lunch underway, a kitchen whirlwind this morning
I’m grateful for these herb scissors: boy, do I love having the right tool for the job! The Herby 3 Bean Salad recipe calls for ¾ cup fresh herbs, and this tool made short work of chopping the dill, fennel leaf, parsley, basil, and rosemary from the garden.
Herby Three Bean Salad, with garden fennel, last summer’s green beans, and fresh herbs, plus some canned beans, store-bought red onions, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
I’m grateful, as always, for the technology to find the right recipe for the job. I found hotdogs in the freezer this morning and decided that’s what’s for lunch, but had no buns. I searched ‘quick hotdog bun recipe,’ and pretty quickly found Bonnie’s 30-minute bun recipe. Amazing!
The last of the Homestead all-beef hotdogs from the freezer, saved after they weren’t needed at Michael’s memorial party almost exactly a year ago. I’m grateful for a chest freezer filled with wholesome local meats and garden produce, and also for this new Staub grill pan/lid that just happened to arrive yesterday with its cocotte bottom.
A perfect July luncheon.
And a restful nap afterwards for the chef and the tiny sous-chef.

Fennel, Again

Little One like her vegetables, loves snacking on carrot sticks, cabbage, lettuce, peas… but not fennel!

I don’t know why I got obsessed with fennel this season. Probably because I was thwarted last summer thinking I had planted bulbing fennel and finding out too late it was the kind that only produces seeds. The fennel crop has been the most gratifying garden success so far this summer. I was grateful to harvest the first bulb this morning. I cut the feathery tops off and put them in a jar of water to use later, maybe, or maybe dry them. There’s plenty more where those came from if all I do is end up composting them. I’m grateful for compost: I never feel like I’m wasting food anymore, everything I don’t eat goes into the compost and then back into the garden to feed the soil.

I’m grateful, again, to be able to search a recipe in just a few minutes. Today I chose Braised White Beans with Greens and Parmesan, though it should have said and Fennel, which is how I saved it on my computer. It’s a winner. It was easy and delicious. I was grateful to have all the ingredients on hand.

Gently sautéed thinly sliced fennel bulb, onion, and minced fresh rosemary. I’m grateful for the new Food52 GreenPan (nontoxic, non stick) skillet, at twelve inches with a glass lid the largest skillet I’ve ever owned. I foresee some fabulous Boyz Lunches coming from it in the future, and maybe some blueberry pancakes tomorrow.
The recipe called for chard or kale, but I used red and green orach from the garden, tossing in to wilt after adding minced garlic and a tiny crushed red pepper.
Then two cans of rinsed and drained Great Northern beans, because I only had one can of cannellini which is what it called for. Then dump in two cups of veggie or chicken broth–I used a pint of veggie from the freezer.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, smashing a few beans to thicken the broth.
Turn off the heat, squeeze in a tablespoon or so of fresh lemon juice, then toss in half a cup of mozzarella and a quarter cup of grated parmesan, and stir til melted and mixed.
So simple, so delicious! I’m confident that Wren will like a spoonful of leftovers in her breakfast, and I’ll enjoy the rest for lunch.

Simple Pleasures

Where does a little bad dog hide when she’s rolled in deer poop? It didn’t do her much good. I brought her in for a forced bath, oh she looks pathetic under the tub faucet, but once I get her in there she stays and lets me wash her.
So simple, so delicious. Soft tacos for lunch with seared snap peas, scrambled eggs, cheddar, and avocado.

I’m grateful Wren is doing well in all three of her classes today. She’s still reluctant with crate training and car training, but is more enthusiastic about tortoise training. Today’s the first day she found him all on her own as we circled the yard searching. Life’s simple pleasures.

What is it? Is it a party hat? Is it a dog toy? No, it’s a phone stand, and it worked great in its inaugural FaceTime this evening. Thanks, Kay!

Chocolate Mousse

Probably I’ve expressed gratitude for chocolate before. Why wouldn’t I have? Today I’m grateful for chocolate mousse, in particular in these no-bake ‘bars.’ I made them last night for Boyz Lunch today, and they were quite well received. Some graham crackers, butter, sugar and a pinch of salt for the ‘crust,’ so to speak, and a essentially a bunch of whipping cream and chocolate chips for the mousse, with a splash of vanilla and some espresso powder. Heavenly. I’m grateful that chocolate is still readily available, that for the time being, this luxury bean is still able to be cultivated in warmer, wetter parts of the world, and transported far from its native climes. I don’t expect this will always be the case.

I was also grateful for a cool, cloudy day, or they’d have been even messier to eat than they were. We finished lunch just in time before the predicted deluge, which dumped about a fraction of a tenth of an inch of rain over a few minutes before moving on. We are all grateful for even a splash of rain at this point, and the humidity got up to a whopping 49% while the sun shone, for awhile. In a remarkable turn of events, at bedtime the temperature is two points away from the humidity, at 58º and 56% respectively. The remaining mousse bars are safely stored in the fridge and the freezer for later, and much later. I’m grateful for a fridge and freezer, and the solar electricity to power them.

I’m grateful to crawl into a cozy bed after a day of natural beauty and fellowship in this peaceful little pocket of the planet, on this one precious day that will never come again.

Boyz Lunch

I am always grateful for Boyz Lunch. Today, the company of my dear lunch boys assuaged the melancholy left by the ghost of lamented potential; and also just the fleeting visit from an old friend. It was fun to plan the meal, use preserved tomatillo salsa from last summer’s harvest, soak and cook dried black beans from Rancho Gordo instead of opening the usual cans, and make enchiladas with corn tortillas from a regional tortilleria. Yellow rice is so much easier than I knew, just add turmeric. The meal took some thought and preparation but was ultimately so simple, so delicious.

I combined three recipes to make the most of what I had on hand, adding cream cheese and cheddar to the shredded chicken, (cooking rice in the leftover chicken water); mixing cream, sour cream, cumin, and more leftover chicken water in the blender with the salsa verde then pouring that over the filled and rolled tortillas in a 9″x13″ baking dish. I’m grateful, as always, to have a well-stocked spice rack, pantry, and refrigerator. I’m grateful for my ‘personal shoppers’ who continue to coddle me through covid. I’m grateful for every little piece of the puzzle that comes together to create, serve, and enjoy lunch weekly with an intimate club of three that’s been dining here for nearly six years. I’m grateful for the acceptance and gratitude we share for each other and for our precious, impermanent time together.