Winter in Kentucky.

For me there is no Fall. It’s only Summer and Winter. I dread the months of October through April. The world turns brown and grey and I have to wear a jacket and shoes. Ugh. We have a fireplace and it’s pretty enough but it’s gas and it takes a week or two for the awful smell to burn off. It’s not nearly as charming as a wood fire. I love the smell of a wood fire. Building a wood fire brings such satisfaction. It’s always a thrill to see a roaring fire start up. It must be a primal thing our ancestors instilled in us. In college I lived in a house with a wood burning fireplace and I was the only one of three gals who could get the fire roaring. (It’s all about air-flow). Now our stinky gas fireplace is “fired up” and my cat Emmett is in his happy place. I’m surprised he has any fur left as close as we gets to the thing.

In about one week I will have a functioning kitchen. Woo-hoo! I am so excited. We’re putting in a gas cooktop Image

and all I can say about that is hallelujah! I will be cooking with gas again! I’m already planning menus. First, the aforementioned beef stew, then some chicken chili/stew. I’m hoping that one of these weekends the Chiefs football game will be aired in our market so I can make a big pot of chili and cornbread.

My husband used to engineer for GE in their Appliance Park division. He designed our new Single/Double Oven Image

It’s gonna be awesome. It has a pizza oven on top of the regular sized oven. I am so excited about this!

So, I’m doing the finishing touches on the paint and what-not in the kitchen. If all goes well, I will be cooking again, this time in high style. Did I mention how fabulous my husband Derek is? If not … boy howdy!

Ciao for now!

Rachel

M I A for a long, long, long time . . . ready to cook SOON and this time it’ll be stew!

Well hello there! It’s been six plus months since my last post. Why? I don’t know really. I guess I haven’t had much to say. I also haven’t had a kitchen, what with the endless remodel. Technically, I have only been without a real kitchen for two months but it feels like a year and frankly it’s difficult to cook without pots, pan, a stove, oven, sink oh and countertops. This is what my kitchen looks like right now. 

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ARGH. I hate mudding drywall. It’s kicking my butt! As soon as it’s all done I will post pictures of the new house. Which is really what we’re ending up with once this is all said and done. New bath, bonus room living room, bedroom. I have the BEST husband in the whole world. He’s a slave driver and my back and neck my never be the same but I’ll be living in style at least. Soon that will all come to an end and I will have a brand new kitchen. My in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving and the goal is to have it all done then. Pray, cross your fingers, knock on wood what ever it takes I need a kitchen.

Anyway, now that it’s fall I’m anxious to start cooking soups, stews, breads; you know all those warm and cozy foods than make the horror of cold weather bearable. One of the first things I plan to cook is beef stew. Mmmmmm. I have tried several different approaches to stew and had differing levels of success. Tyler Florence’s “Ultimate Beef Stew” was pretty good but lacked depth of flavor. Mama’s stew is good but a bit simplistic. The BEST beef stew recipe I’ve ever found is “Cook’s Illustrated’s”. I tweak the recipe (of course) a few places but only by additions and a minor subtraction. This stew is rich, meaty and down right delicious! I serve it with a thick piece of crusty Italian peasant bread and a dollop of horseradish/sour cream/chive mixture. You will love, love, love this recipe!

Published January 1, 2010.  From Cook’s Illustrated.

SERVES 6 TO 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • anchovy fillets, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons) – DO NOT SKIP THIS INGREDIENT. I’ve used anchovy paste in a pinch.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (see note and step by step below)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable (cold-pressed Grapeseed oil is optimum)
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut from pole to pole into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups red wine (see note)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh lavender (I added this on my own. I adore cooking with lavender. It’s completely optional since most people don’t grow it or have it readily available)
  • 4 ounces salt pork, rinsed of excess salt (see note)
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed (I HATE these so I skip them and add mushrooms instead)
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (about 1 packet)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed (Trader Joe’s English peas are AMAZING!)
  • Table salt and ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine garlic and anchovies in small bowl; press with back of fork to form paste. Stir in tomato paste and set mixture aside.
  2. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Do not season. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add half of beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke or fond begins to burn. Transfer beef to large plate. Repeat with remaining beef and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, leaving second batch of meat in pot after browning.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and return first batch of beef to pot. Add onion and carrots to Dutch oven and stir to combine with beef. Cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.
  4. Slowly add wine, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase heat to high and allow wine to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme, and salt pork. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Remove pot from oven; remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
  6. Using large spoon, skim any excess fat from surface of stew. Stir in peas and mushrooms; cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are cooked through and meat offers little resistance when poked with fork (meat should not be falling apart), about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and allow to soften for 5 minutes.
  7. Increase heat to high, stir in softened gelatin mixture and peas; simmer until gelatin is fully dissolved and stew is thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve. 

NOTE:
Use a good-quality, medium-bodied wine, such as Malbec or Pinot Noir, for this stew. Try to find beef that is well marbled with white veins of fat. Meat that is too lean will come out slightly dry. Four pounds of blade steaks, trimmed of gristle and silver skin, can be substituted for the chuck-eye roast. While the blade steak will yield slightly thinner pieces after trimming, it should still be cut into 11/2-inch pieces. Look for salt pork that is roughly 75 percent lean. The stew can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat it gently before serving.

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Enjoy and let me know if you try it, with or without my “tweaks”.

 

Hmmm … musings of a newly wed. Oh, and Eggplant Experiments.

I was single until the age 43. Most of my adult life I lived alone or with female roommates. It has been 20 plus years since I lived with a man and even though I dated a lot, as anyone will tell you, it’s not the same as living with a man 24/7. D and I have lived together for nearly two years now and I still find myself amazed by the differences between us and more specifically I’m mesmerized by the male anatomy. Now I have to be delicate in my discussing “male anatomy” because even though D doesn’t read my blog he would not be thrilled to know that I am discussing his body in a public forum. That being said, I love my husband and everything that entails. It’s just that I marvel at his body and the fact that I live with a man. Sometimes when I see him in all his nakedness I am transfixed. I find myself staring which he thinks is funny and weird. I just love having a beautiful man at my disposal, all the time. Simply put, it’s fun and I find myself giggling just thinking about it. We live in our bodies without really giving them much thought. I am a woman and it’s just who I am. The fact that I live with a man now is amazing to me.

Aw ... love!

Aw … love!

Okay, okay … enough already, I’m supposed to be writing about food and teaching people how to cook not bragging about my handsome hubby.

I don’t watch a lot of Food Network but one show I do enjoy is “Chopped”. I love to see what the chefs will do with the crazy ingredients they are given. It inspires me to try new things, to stretch my palate and to take chances. Yesterday I got my cook on. It’s been a long time since I felt inspired enough to actually experiment in the kitchen. I suppose I’m not much of a planner which would explain why this blog is so sporadic. In my defense, having only half a kitchen does make it challenging to come up with inspired food and then take pictures of it.

Anyway … last night I made Spicy Pork Loin with Mushroomy Rice Pilaf and broiled Sun-dried Tomato and Balsamic Eggplant and I took a fuzzy picture of it, Yay!

Spicy Pork, Mushroomy Rice Pilaf, Sun-Dried Tomato & Balsamic Eggplant

Spicy Pork, Mushroomy Rice Pilaf, Sun-Dried Tomato & Balsamic Eggplant

As you may recall, I love to prepare meats with rubs. I find they infuse flavor much better than a marinade in much less time. I have also learned to let meat rest before serving. Two simple things that will make your cooking life so much easier and rewarding. With this in mind I figured why wouldn’t it work with Eggplant? I don’t have a lot of experience cooking Aubergine. ( Which is also my favorite color)

My favorite color!

My favorite color!

So I dusted the slices with a mixture of onion flakes, powdered sun-dried tomato, garlic powder, salt, red & black pepper and just a tiny pinch of sugar; then I threw them under the broiler for 10 minutes. After they were finished I drizzled balsamic vinegar and a pinch of parmesan cheese. Yummy! D didn’t even hate it.

Rice Pilaf is my go to starch. It’s easy with Jasmine rice, onions and baby portabellas. I used the same spices as the eggplant to tie the two dishes together. For the pork loin I used a combination of chili powder, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and onion flakes with dried cheddar powder. I pan seared them on each side for about four minutes then finished them in the warm oven for another five minutes.

Dinner was a success! D ate two servings and I vowed to actually blog about it. Woo hoo!

Be careful … someone could be watching.

Okay so, living in the country/small town sometimes has reminisces of city life. For example, the odd and occasional siren wailing somewhere in the distance, the infrequent traffic jam, the neighbor urinating in his back yard. In the city it would be some vagrant or drunk down in an alleyway but the similarity is still there.

This morning I am opening up the house to the morning light, twisting on the blinds and look across the street to see a youngish, caucasian man wearing droopy, long, gangster shorts, standing with his back to me in a pose that looks remarkably like the urination stance men take. I think, surely not, and yet … a few moments later he turns, zips up his fly and walks back to what ever task he had to do. I am amazed and slightly tickled. It’s the little things I miss about city life. Ha!

My hometown Kansas City, Missouri.

My hometown Kansas City, Missouri.

I sincerely don’t miss public urination but what I do miss most is the restaurants and concert life. I miss Saigon 39, Blue Koi, Spin Pizza and yes, even Chipotle. I used to go see live music at least every other month. I miss the independent film and city streets. I could take any number of routes to get to the same place. I miss Lew’s and The Well. I miss happy hour. Elizabethtown has no bars or clubs only chain restaurants and big box stores. The charm of small town life has been sucked away by corporate America.

Thankfully there are towns nearby offering independent restaurants and boutiques so they are a short drive and beautiful drive away. Bardstown, Kentucky is old and charming. Glendale, KY is quaint and loaded with antique/flea markets and a renowned “home cooking” restaurant. One particular lovely salvo are the bourbon distilleries. kentucky_bourbon_trail_mapMaker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Rose’s, and several other fabulous libation creators. This September is the Kentucky Bourbon festival in Bardstown which I am hoping to attend with a KC friends.

There are things to look forward to. A remodeled house, my twin nephews graduating from Annapolis Naval Academy, a beautiful life with my darling husband.

Mondays, Meatloaf, Mashed and my oh my … It’s hot already.

I am not complaining about the heat. I have a home and after last night many people in the mid-west do not. To them I send my prayers. I can’t imagine the terror of losing a home to a tornado. My family has been in the eye of the storm and survived, I am so thankful for that.

So, it’s Monday. Monday’s are my domestic days. I do laundry, clean the house (which is easier when your house isn’t torn apart but hey … that sounds like a complaint, sorry about that), and I mow the lawn. Today is going to be really fun since the temps will be in the 90’s and the humidity is approaching 100%, oh and hey … the A/C is out. Good times. Oh and did you read the post about how I have to PUSH mow the lawn because the beast (rider mower) doesn’t work? Yeah … that post was funny. But I complain again, sorry about that, I don’t mean to.

I did mow and it took 3+ hours and it wasn’t that bad. I’m listening to the audio book, “The Time Travelers Wife”. It’s not what I thought it would be and I’m not sure if I like it. We’ll see when it’s over. I’m finding it a bit tedious.

The A/C has been repaired. Woo hoo!

I mentioned meatloaf in my title, huh? Well, last night I cranked up the oven (before I knew the A/C was out) and put in what was probably the best meatloaf I have ever made. Meatloaf gets a bad rep I think. It can be boring and bland and fatty. Here’s what I learned.  Ground Veal. I know, I know … baby cow, sorry if that’s not your bag. In the past I had a tendency to over spice my meatloaf. I was gonna take a picture but forgot. Now it’s all gone and there’s nothing to photograph. I could take a picture of the mashed potatoes and gravy but do you really need to see another picture of mashed potatoes? I don’t think so.

Did I mention I went to Rome in September? It was perfect. I need to go back.

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What inspires me? Coffee and Security Alarms starting my day right!

I have been asking myself this question for some time now. I have created a list of people and things that make me want to create, help someone, improve myself or simply do a great job on what ever it is I am working on.

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We interrupt this blog to tell how Rachel is a moron and whose husband will likely strangle her today.

So, we have an security system in our home. It provides D with a measure of peace that is extremely necessary due to some step children that regularly abused his trust … we’ll leave it at that. As soon as the climate warms above 65 I open all the windows in the house, what with me being the spring lover and non-allergy person that I am (believe me I know how blessed I am to say that last statement).

Anyway … this morning I start to blog about what inspires me and think … “Well open windows in spring”, so I put down my cup of coffee (which is working it’s magic on schedule ;), I scoot behind the chair to the living room window to let in that beautiful fresh air  only to hear the screeching wail of the alarm go off. S#%*T!  FOR LIKE THE FIFTH TIME THIS SPRING!  As I bolted to the alarm panel and enter the code to turn it off my stomach cries out … release the Drakken! Which causes me to think … well great, now I have to call my husband (who is teaching a class) and call ADT while I’m setting “on the pot” as my mother so delicately puts it. It’s that or create a  mess on our new floors, eeeewwww! So, I call D, apologize profusely to tell him it was just me again, then call ADT who has already disrupted D’s class now for the second time.

And then I washed my hands.

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Okay, so now you know that open windows in spring time inspires me …  what else? In no particular order …

  • Coffee in the mornings!
  • My husband (and I’m not just saying that to appease him) He really does make me want to be a better person. He is a perfectionist and I am not. I am hopeful that after a few years I may become more of one though.
  • My cats. It’s true that pets provide comfort and calm.
  • Long drives down a winding road. There are a lot of amazing ones in Kentucky.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • My mother because half the time whenever I cook I think, “How would Mama do it?”
  • Jesus, for all the obvious reasons. (Technically, I’m pretty sure his name should be first on this list.)
  • My friend LeAnne. She is the kindest and most sincere person I have ever met.
  • Planting and growing things. I’d like to think I get this from Mama and Granny but … since I mostly ignored them when they would try to get to help in the garden as a child. I suppose really it comes from a lot of places.
    My great grandmother, Helen. My granny Mary, and my beautiful mama, Marthella.

    My great grandmother, Helen. My granny Mary, and my beautiful mama, Marthella.

    Mama’s influence, certainly but also my friend Doug. He taught me so much about nutrition and health. I want to grow my own food because it’s good for me. I grow my own herbs because I love to cook and I’ve been poor much of my life and it’s cheaper to grow them than to buy them. There is great satisfaction in growing, cooking and eating food from your own hands. Anyone can go to the store to buy them.

  • Birds. I love waking to hear the Mourning Doves cooing.
Heavy sigh. Ah, Amalfi.

Heavy sigh. Ah, Amalfi.

  • Large bodies of water. Lakes, oceans, rivers even my new tub. Nothing fills me with more peace or calm than being in or near water. I don’t know now or why but it does.

That’s my list. I could probably add a to it but for now, it will do. What inspires you?

Pictures of Spring

I know that I say this every year, I can’t help myself. I love spring. I love the flowers, the birds, the greening that takes place. Kentucky is amazingly beautiful when it’s green.

So, now that we have a fancy new camera … I take pictures. Here are just a few.

I still love caterpillars!

I still love caterpillars!

One of my Bearded Tulips

One of my Bearded Tulips

Sunrise from the deck.

Sunrise from the deck.

One of a multitude of Robins.

One of a multitude of Robins.

I love my tulips!

I love my tulips!

Beautiful

Beautiful

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Lawn care and landscaping … is not for wimps.

Even dandy's can be lovely. The honey bees think so! My lawn, in spring, abounds with them.

Even dandy’s can be lovely. The honey bees think so! My lawn, in spring, abounds with them.

Since I am home all day … every day … ugh, I have taken over the lawn care and landscaping responsibilities. It seems only fair, since D works hard every day to bring home the bacon,  I manage the house and all that entails. I enjoy mowing the lawn, sometimes. It’s a chance to be outside. I get some exercise, sun and a chance to listen to my podcasts or audio books. The only real problem is the size of our yard. It’s three quarters of an acre with a plethora of dandelions, onions, clover and in some places actual grass. Most of it is level but it does slope down the back which by the end of the three hours of mowing can be a bear.

Now we do have a riding mower (aka the beast) that is nearly 25 years old. The tires won’t stay inflated so before you can even fire the beast up you have to get the tire pump out and inflate them. The blades are so dull that I’m pretty sure they only cut the grass because the of the circular motion (that is if you can get them to actually work). The exhaust is so bad on this thing I feel guilty every time I try to fire the beast up. That is if I can actually get the beast to even start. Half the time it won’t start and if it does I can usually get one or two swipes of the yard mowed before it dies and it has to set for 30 minutes before it will start again. Needless to say it is not an ideal mowing machine. As a result, I end up push mowing with my Rachel propelled mower. It takes three hours on a good day. If it’s hot it can take up to four.

Having said all of this … my biggest complaint is that D won’t pop for new tires or maintenance on the beast. I think that since he’s not having to do the work it’s not important to him how it gets done. He winks at me and says,”But the exercise is so good for you, think of how good you’ll look at the end of summer!”  ARAAARRRAGGGGH! New tires will cost $102.00. Which may sound like a lot but seriously in the grand scheme of things that’s a pittance.

So, my question to you dear followers, how do I get my dear sweet husband to help me get our mowing apparatus into working order? I’m not asking for a new riding mower. I would be happy to stare with new tires.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005O5XQ52/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Back from a long break, again.

So, it’s been four plus months since my last post. I admit I get bored posting about the food I cook and feel a bit overwhelmed by the process when there are so many food blogs out there that are so much more interesting than mine. Also, we are remodeling our entire home and my kitchen has been half way disassembled with the bulk of my cooking tools packed away which makes cooking difficult and not too inspired.

We have remodeled our master bath and bedroom. I am so blessed to be in a position to do all that we have. I look at our new rooms and just swell with amazement that I live in such a lovely home. It took us four long months to remodel these two rooms. I thought we’d never get it done and honestly there have been only one or two times I’ve wanted to hit my husband with a hammer. Seriously!

So, here is the new bath…

We added a frameless glass shower and a freestanding tub.

We added a frameless glass shower and a freestanding tub.

vanity

I can’t believe we have a vanity and armoire from Restoration Hardware. It’s simply gorgeous!

My brilliant husband built a frame for the mirror to match our vanity/armoire. There are definitely perks to marrying a mechanical engineer. He can build anything. He installed the tile floors and the engineered hardwood floors. His back is killing him but our home is going to be beautiful when it’s all said in done.

I am in charge of the walls. I do the drywall mudding, the painting and the trim work. I managed to talk him into painting the walls an actual color. It’s called Mousse Moose. It’s light brown or latte colored. It’s neutral and hopefully will make the house sellable.

We also finally got our king size bed set up and I am actually able to sleep for more than two hours uninterrupted. It’s amazing! I still have to pee two or three times every night but I can actually go back to sleep now as opposed to lying awake trying to create a space in the bed for myself.

Here is the finished bedroom:

bedroom We’re working on the living room now. This weekend we will finish laying the hardwood floors, put up the crown molding, trim the windows and put the baseboards back in place. Yippee! I have new living room furniture that should finish being delivered in a few weeks. I’ve never had anything but hand-me-down furniture before. It was really nice to go to a store and pick out a new sofa and chairs. As soon as we’re finished I’ll upload pictures of it.

In the meantime … I fight the Robin’s. By which I mean they keep trying to build a nest on our porch light which is next to our front door. I take it down and five minutes late she’s back with the grass, twigs, paper and mud to put it back. Tomorrow I’ll get a rubber snake and see if that will deter her.

The Robin’s have also built a nest in the wheel base of our Ford F150. I keep telling D we can go without driving the truck for a couple months, right? Silly birds.

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Adventures with braces in adulthood . . . bring me the meatballs!

. . .  First, let me just say that I am thankful to have the means to even have braces as an adult. Lord knows insurance doesn’t pay a dime for them (they’d rather I be toothless). Second, braces at any age, I’m certain, sucks but there is something truly unglamorous about having a metal smile as a 44 year old woman.

All of that being said, braces are awful. Yes they hurt but that’s ancillary to the aggravation of having to eat soft foods and constantly picking at them to make sure nothing is in them. For a foodie, being restricted to soft, malleable foods is endlessly annoying. Eating chicken or steak is out of the question. Shrimp is too chewy too. I find myself eating a lot of potatoes, ground meat and soup; endless amounts of soup. It’s a good thing I enjoy them. Raw vegetables are out of the question too. Basically, anything that is too crunchy, firm, sticky or chewy is out. I have never brushed my teeth so much in my life. We’re talking five or six times a day.

Here’s something no one told me … they put them on the INSIDE of your teeth too. I have sharp wires with what feels like a rope tethered between to prongs. My tongue is even raw. I don’t guess I have to mention how bad that is for my love life. Shit.

So, I suppose I should use this “challenge” as an opportunity to be creative in the kitchen and find tasty foods that don’t require endless amounts of chewing but are still healthy. I did manage to choke down a salad today. Salads are not good without something crunchy in them. I miss carrots and croutons. Eggs, cheese and lettuce are lovely but so boring and bland.

Okay so I’m being creative. Tonight I made turkey meatballs with Kalamata olives, red peppers and onions, coated in Italian breadcrumbs browned and  then baked. I made a red sauce with onions, mushrooms and served on buccatini pasta. It was very, very, tasty.

I’d post a picture but who needs to see another picture of meatballs. It’s not rocket science or in any way interesting. So, here’s a picture of something much more interesting from my honeymoon. Since it’s so icy and cold outside this image reminds me of warmer days. Wish I could be there now.

The view from our balcony in Amalfi.

The view from our balcony in Amalfi.