Sunday, December 28, 2008

a pleased-as-punch christmas.

Hello again, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I know I sure did. There were moments of stress (both Andy and I were working) but our family-time was high-quality and memorable which left us with smiles on our faces and love and gratitude in our hearts. We were and are very blessed to have such loving families.

How can you put such precious times into words? It's hard for me to do that, it's as if one can't quite convey the gravity of meaning within the bounds of the English language. My mom gave me a beautiful engraved Christmas Memories book last Christmas that takes me forever to fill out because I have to choose my words so carefully. I want to ensure that we remember each year with some clarity, even 40 or 50 years from now, and when our kids read it, they'll be able to imagine what it was like.

All the traditions I love were still alive and well, although they have begun to take new shapes and forms. Our traditional Christmas Eve basic tomato soup became Barefoot Contessa's Roasted Tomato Basil, Christmas Day was spent mostly with my in-laws, and both families came together in the evening to see a Christmas movie (Marley & Me). Even though traditions are changing a little bit, my mom reminded me that my 11 year old sister is still in the prime of her Christmas-memory-making years, and that we have to be just as excited about new traditions as we are about the old ones. She already loves family tradition just as much as I do.

I treasure my memories and laugh out loud when I think of them (boingers), and now leave you with some snapshots taken with borrowed cameras that will hopefully bring a smile to your face too.

I loved this. Andy's grandma's tree had frames with family photos. I am definitely going to borrow this idea.

Our cookie party was a hit! As you can see, someone has snatched a few from the bottom left corner. I think they were pumpkin chocolate chip...

One of my best gifts! My sister (the one with the hands over her face to hide laughter) bought me awesome pink slippers! The consensus is that I look like a muppet...I adore them! It was so good to see my little sis - I stayed a few extra days after Andy went back to Portland and she and I slept together like old times, when we were younger we shared a bedroom and a bed for many years - lots of sleeptalking and drooling :)

Grandma Beaman's vintage angel tree topper, what a doll!

Christmas Day Coffee - I had at least six cups and was feeling a bit feverish by the end of the day! I think Andy's dad and I probably drank a few pots between us. With flavors like Coconut Creme and Chocolate Hazelnut, how can I resist?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cookie Coma.

Welp, my camera is offically busted, so I have to post pictures that don't belong to me to illustrate my points. (See above: courtesy Martha Stewart)

We are leaving for Meddy on Saturday, weather permitting, and all the girls are planning on getting together for a cookie swap party on Monday night. I'm so excited! Last year we had so many cookies that it was almost painful to finish them all (don't worry, it didn't stop us)

I watched a slideshow on on HOW to throw your own cookie swap party. Like I need directions? Bake cookies, eat some, bring them to party, eat more, send the rest home, eat the rest! I will say, however, I always appreciate her attention to details. If you'd like to host a cookie swap and want to do it Martha's Way, you should take a moment to watch this lovely slideshow. Take Notes. For notes, you'll need a beautiful fountain pen, a lovely sheet of fine linen stationary, preferably monogrammed, and put on your best cashmere sweater. Delightful!

I'm planning on borrowing someone's camera to document our cookie fete, so hopefully I will be able to post pictures next week.

14 days 'till Christmas!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mission Cookie-Obsession Accomplished.

So continues my exciting Candy Cane Joe-Joe's saga.

Returned a very gross bottle of wine to TJ's and exchanged it for another box of Joe-Joe's. Yipee! I said it was to take home during Christmas to share. Ha!

Andy and I went to do homework today at the Ace Hotel in downtown. I took a few Joe-Joe's wrapped up in foil and dipped them in my stumptown coffee...heeaaavennnn!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

danger, danger, daaaangggeeerrr!

Bought a box of these yesterday. Oh my goodness. Have made quite a dent already, all by myself. They are addicting - the candy cane flavor leaves a hint of mint in your mouth that lingers oh so delicately and sends the message to your brain that YES, you need another...and another....
I've read around the web that they sell out fast...I think I'll just pick me up another box, you know, to last through Christmas, of course. In fact, I'd better, because I am not sharing this box, I just decided. It's mine, mine!

Somebody help me! This obsession leads to major overuse of, commas, !

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

My Thanksgiving contribution consisted of a pumpkin chocolate cheesecake, requested especially by Andy. Here is my first attempt. There are changes that I'll make for sure, it wasn't sweet enough or cheese-cakey enough, but it was met with satisfaction from the family so that's good! We spent our holiday with Andy's family in Medford, and had a VERY relaxing day, so much to be thankful for. I forgot to take a picture of the sliced pie too, whoops!
Another silly thing to be thankful for - I got to use my parent's kitchen which has 3x the counter space and an amazing oven. So baking was actually fun! Hope you had a great holiday!

(Used Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Gingersnaps)




BAKE! Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie (BH & G)

1 pie shell (I made a gingersnap pie crust w/crushed gingersnap, melted butter, and cinnamon)

12 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/4 c. sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 c. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

15 oz (1 can) pumpkin

2/3 c. brown sugar

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

4 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 c. half and half or light cream

chopped chocolate for garnish

Bake and cool crust (unless already prepared). Heat oven to 375 degrees. In medium mixing bowl combine cream cheese, 1/4 c. sugar and 1 egg; beat on low speed until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture in the cool crust. Sprinkle with the chopped chocolate. In a bowl combine pumpkin, brown sugar and spice. Stir in 4 eggs. Gradually stir in half and half. Slowly pour pumpkin mixture onto the chocolate layer. Cover pie edge with foil so it will not burn. Bake 60-65 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate within 2 hours. Top with more chopped chocolate if desired, and serve with homemade whipped cream.

Monday, November 24, 2008

breakfast for dinner and Madame Récamier

Family Traditions are something I take very seriously (hence the capital T). In fact, I can get un peu scary about it, just ask my poor family, and their unsuccessful attempts to modify or suggest new traditions. Not happening! One year - my heart rate still rises when I think about it - we went OUT for Christmas Eve dinner! It was terrible! Not because eating out on Christmas Eve is a bad thing, it's just that it is NOT our tradition.

But this isn't about Christmas...yet...this is about breakfast for dinner. Sunday nights growing up were church nights, so to placate her children (I like to think) my mom made breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, eggs, and bacon with lots of syrup and OJ to top it off. There's just something about the way each family cooks breakfast and how it has a different taste to it. Have you ever noticed that? I think I could pick out my mom and dad's fried eggs in a lineup, blindfolded.

I can hear my parents finally exhale after all these years, because I don't really have a monopoly on holiday traditions anymore. It has only taken me one year and six months to come to terms with it! I have a new last name, new family members, and a husband who doesn't freak out as easily as I do. So we have our own traditions to create - we can make completely new ones or borrow from family and improvise.

All this to say, we borrowed a family tradition from both sides - breakfast for dinner. Last night it was waffles with peanut butter (sunflower butter for me), eggs, butter-fried potatoes, orange juice, and a big juicy pomegranate. Now a Kimmelshue family tradition.

Mom, if you're reading this, don't get any ideas!

Just thought I'd add this on to brighten your day. Jacque-Louis David, 1800.
Madame Récamier, Courtesy of Le Louvre ( Magnifique! Mystérieuse!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dinner, Simplified.

Sometimes the last thing I want to do on Thursdays after a 2 hour exhausting dance class is make a complicated dinner. That's where this dinner combo comes in. It's fairly new to our reperatoire, but it has become a favorite. You'll need 4 simple ingredients:

Chicken Thighs, with skin and bone
1/2 to 1 pound fresh green beans
1/2 to 1 pound mushrooms
French bread OR rice, your choice

Preheat the oven to 450. Ground fresh black pepper all over the chicken, use a little more than you think you'll need. We use chicken thighs because of their superb flavor, and the great way the skin crisps. Cook till browned and crispy, 30-45 mins, turning once.

While the chicken is cooking, wash the green beans and remove the stems. Clean and quarter the mushrooms.

10 minutes before the chicken is done, cook the green beans. Use LOTS of butter (We use Kerrigold Cultured Irish Butter, unsalted) and add some fresh minced garlic to the pan. Cook to your preference (we like them crunchy). Cover and keep warm. Right before serving, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice, a generous grating of Parm. Regg., and add a little sprinking of Celtic Sea Salt.

On to the mushrooms. Cook, like the green beans, in butter, to your preference.

Serve the chicken, mushrooms, and green beans with rice or french bread.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Three Cheers for Pots and Pans!

Arg, my kitchen is SO white! That's why I am so happy that we got our pot rack hung today. It's like art on all it's own - the light reflecting from the stainless and the contrasts it creates against the black rack - I thoroughly enjoy it. We had to get a little creative with it because there wasn't a great place to hang it from the ceiling, and if you know me, anything that hangs, sticks out, runs along the floor, or is sharp is a possible hazard. I just knew if those pots were hanging out in the open my head would meet them sooner or later.

Plus, my p&p's and I have too good of a friendship to stick them in a dark cabinet next to the arrogant onions and the moody potatoes. They deserve to be recognized! Good job, guys. Or girls. Or both?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

a sunday morning mini-photo-journal

I had the house to myself this morning while Andy opened at the coffee shop. I decided to make pumpkin pancakes with TJ's gluten-free pancake mix and my pumpkin puree. Unfortunately I threw the bag away that the mix came in when I transferred it to its special container. So I don't really know what the ratios are. This was the result - brown and almost burned on the outside, crepe-like, and completely raw on the inside. Ew! On to plan B.
But first, I consoled myself by admiring these beautiful gerbers that my husband brought me (The kids are jealous once again) The cruddy pancakes are forgotten! If only life was that easy - "I've had the worst day ever! Oh look, these flowers are so beautiful that I have completely forgotten about whatever was causing me pain! Oh joy!"

I usually trim the stems down, but the sturdy bright green was just too enjoyable.

Now I've got zero options for breakfast. I don't want cornflakes! Those are for crispy chicken. Plan B is a delicious smoothie - frozen mango chunks and mixed berries, coconut milk, a little bit of rice milk and OJ, and a splash of Aloe Vera juice. And the last 1/2 of a chocolattey soy mocha from Black Rock in one of my favorite mugs. Not microwaved, but warmed up in a pan so it doesn't taste wonky. YUM-E.
Have a restful, relaxing, rejuvenating Lord's Day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

octopus-man, pumpkins, and a Bizarre Occurence.

I have a number of interesting things to share. First of all, I've been cooking a lot but somehow always forget to take pictures until after it's all eaten up.

Andy's cousin is an art major at PSU and gets to make all sorts of fun things. She knitted this octopus for one of her classes and brought it over to show. It was insanely good and the yarn was amazing!

I bought a pumpkin at the Farmer's Market and cooked it for the first time. I was/am determined to use fresh pumpkin because although canned pumpkin is incredibly convenient and wonderful, I wanted to know what REAL pumpkin tasted like.

So, every Wednesday we have a chili party at our house with Andy's cousin and another one of our friends dropped by today. None of the canned chili junk. I made a colorful, festive pumpkin chili that was very tasty! Honestly, I just threw it together like I always do but here's kind of what I did.

1. Saute your chopped onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in the ovoo. What's the surprise? PUMPKIN! Yes, I chopped up about a 1/2 cup-ish fresh pumpkin and threw it in the pot with the o, g, and rpf's. After soft and fragrant, add a tablespoon of cocoa powder and stir.

2. Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes in juice, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add 2 cans of whatever beans you like. I used red kidney beans and black beans. Add some chili powder, maybe some paprika. I also throw in a few frozen cubes of homemade chicken broth, just to give it a flavor and health boost. I added some frozen sweet corn in the last 5 minutes.

3. Simmer till delicious. Season to taste. Eat with cheese, sour cream, and frito chips.

What else did I make? Gluten-free pumpkin oatmeal muffins. They were OK, nothing a little irish butter can't improve :).

The weirdest thing yet! How did these tongs get jammed onto this spatula? Neither Andy or I can get it off, no matter how we try to maneuver it or pull on it. It's on there tight! I just really don't know how to explain this phenomenon. And it's my favorite it sits on our table until we can figure out a way to pull it off without breaking something.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Envy, Courtesy Williams-Sonoma

Enjoy the above photograph of the gorgeous hand-hammered copper soup pot from Williams-Sonoma, made in Italy "especially for them"...I had the pleasure of watching it used this morning for the first and only time in my life, because the day I can afford the Ruffoni Hammered Copper Stockpot with Acorn Lid is the day my wildest dreams have come true, and that means the world has probably ended and eternity has begun.
I signed up for my local Williams-Sonoma cooking technique class and the subject was Fall Soups. There is nothing better than soup! It's the perfect food. Our culinary expert/chef who led the class demonstrated how to make two soups: Pasta e Fagioli and Creamy Butternut Squash. I learned some good, practical tips from the class that I will most definitely use. Here's a few that stood out in my mind.

1. When you are making a bean-based or cheese-based soup/stew, add the rind of a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano and let it work like a bay leaf. It will impart a superior flavor into the soup and you just remove it when done cooking. Genius! They sell it by the pound at Whole Foods so a small piece of rind shouldn't be too spendy.

2. You can infuse flavors into homemade chicken stock. For the butternut squash recipe, he used the WS mulling spices, put them in an infuser-ball, and let them simmer in the stock until he got the flavor that he wanted. The subtle flavoring in the soup was delicious and you couldn't quite put your finger on why.

3. Another stock tip. Instead of finely slicing your onion, cut it in 1/2 and stud it with a clove on each 1/2. Another way to impart more complex flavors!

4. My favorite tip of all. "Recipes are merely a suggestion, unless you're baking, and then it is a formula". Ok, well, I passed college math sheerly by the grace of my teacher. In chemistry, frankly I just wasn't interested in chemical reactions of any kind. Maybe that's why I don't take to baking like I do to cooking. Lit'l bit o'dis, lit'l bit o'dat, and tada, you have a wonderful and palate pleasing meal!

I can't wait to use these tips next time I have the hankering for soup. As I look out the window and see the leaves changing colors and feel a distinct chill in the wind, I know I will be looking forward to a steaming bowl of homemade soup quite often.

Friday, October 17, 2008

One Year and Six Months

It was our one year and six month anniversary this week! Andy surprised me and took me out to dinner to this downtown Greek restaurant that we had been wanting to try. We got a new printer at Costco and he's a little print happy - he made a sign that covered the door that said "Will you go on a date with me? Check yes or no". Of course I checked yes because I knew food was involved...He also gifted me with a lily blossom stem with two HUGE blossoms on it. They're so huge it's almost a little creepy - too many movies about man-eating plants I guess. They are gorgeous and our house smells so good! We both had lamb at the restaurant - he roasted lamb and I lamb in a phyllo dough with veggies. OOPA!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Side Note...

I made a roasted tomato basil soup that was out of this world...using fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes from a friend's garden, my homemade chicken stock, and delicious fresh basil and onion. My camera was/is dead so I did not get to document it, which is tragic. I will just have to make it again because it is the best soup in the world!

On another note, I have the best husband in the world. Who else would let me lounge and watch Sex & the City after dinner while he washes the pile of dishes I left in the kitchen? As far as I know, no one! I'm so blessed :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

beauty & the stockpot

Finally, I made it down to the Saturday Farmer's Market on the PSU campus. I grabbed my produce bag and set out on foot to gather items for my assignment of the day: chicken stock.

 Have you ever had homemade chicken stock? Not only is it so incredibly nutritious (the Jewish penicillin?) but it is so much more delicious than anything you buy in a can or box. I learned how to make it when I lived in England and just started to make it for our use recently. My favorite recipe is from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions book - once you read this book you will NEVER look at your food the same. 

The recipe I use follows the lovely pictures below.

There's nothing like the fall harvest...

Chicken Stock

Adapted from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions

1 whole free-range chicken or 2-3 pounds bony chicken parts*
gizzards & feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped*
1 bunch parsley

(I couldn't afford the farmer's market celery today so I substituted zucchini, which has great adrenal support properties. * Free-range/Organic is important - battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.)

- Cut chicken into parts, place in large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar, and all veggies except the parsley. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. 

- Bring to a boil and remove foam that comes to the top. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 6 to 24 hours. The longer you cook the stock that richer it will be. Check the chicken pieces frequently for the first 1-2 hours. When the meat is done, take out the pieces, cut the meat off the bone, and return bones to pot. Reserve meat for other uses.

- 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add the parsley. 

- Strain stock into large bowl and cool in fridge until fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim this off and reserve stock in containers in the fridge or freezer.

- Personally, I freeze some stock in ice cube trays to plop in with rice, potatoes, etc. to give it a super flavor. I also fill some quart-sized freezer bags to use for soup. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Reminder of the Good Ol' Days at Kennedy School

Who didn't love elementary school?

We went for a meal at McMenamin's Kennedy School and relived our greatest childhood experience while eating a very good hamburger and fries. The boys enjoyed a draft beer and Tiff and I ordered a bottle of Edgefield Black Rabbit Red. We ate out on the patio across from a wonderful fire in a monstrous brick oven surrounded by patio heaters complete with a funny waiter. After our meal we made our way to "detention" where the boys were happy to discover a cigar room! I left dinner with my old school song running through my mind..."hoover, hoover, that's our name, we're the hoover hurricanes!"

my favorite lasagna

Thanks to my Everyday Food subscription, the perfect lasagna is only an hour away. I was feeling very restless and needed to do something with my hands - I didn't have the patience or attention for a craft project, but cooking a yummy meal is something I could do. Pair it with a salad, a baguette from Trader Joes, and a glass of red and ta-da, I'm a genius.
If you don't have the stomach for red meat (I can't handle a lot) or would like to cut a little off the cost, the eggplant is a welcome addition. I also read where someone added zucchini in place of the eggplant and said it was amazing.
"Healthier Meat Lasagna" from Everyday Food
6 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 4 ounces total), broken in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small eggplant (1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 pound ground sirloin
1 can (10.75 ounces) tomato puree
1 pint (1 percent) cottage cheese (2 cups)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella (2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place noodles in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish, and cover with hot tap water; set aside to soften.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, eggplant, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add sirloin, and cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomato puree, and cook until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Season meat sauce with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Remove noodles from baking dish, discarding water.

Spread about 1/4 cup meat sauce in bottom of dish, and top with 4 noodle halves. Layer with 1/3 cheese mixture, then 1/3 sauce. Repeat twice with remaining noodles, cheese mixture, and sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until lasagna is bubbling and cheese topping is golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Friday, September 19, 2008

a diversion from moving house.

So yes, we've been in the midst of moving, and NO, we're not done yet. Lucky for us, we were able to get out of our boxed apartment and the heat (yes, the Portland heat!) to drive up to Bellingham for the night and visit some friends and leave the chaos at home behind. We wandered down to the Fairhaven area by the water and stopped at a little coffee bar for a mocha and a scone. To my delight, it wasn't your average Starbucks fare. The white chocolate and berry scone was soft, warm, and delicious. The mocha was topped with good creamy foam and not one bit burnt. 

The coffee bar was modern-ish with warm walls and leather furniture, with tall windows to let in the light and plenty of space for quiet conversation. The staff was very friendly and confidently knew how to make a good coffee. Sometimes it seems to me that you get one or the other - a friendly barista who makes a burnt coffee, or a snobby barista who makes a super good coffee. I love it when you can have it both ways. 

It was a nice change from the usual fast-paced, crowded coffee atmosphere that we had found so far in Portland, and our little Bellingham getaway was just what I needed to work up the energy to tackle the mess at home.
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