Wednesday, January 28, 2009

still life in the midst of chaos

Every so often there is a painting that just keeps calling my name, and I think I have to have it.  To keep.  Selfish, huh?  Considering I get to live with art everyday.  But I love this one.  It just oozes with the everyday, and despite it's somewhat chaotic composition (intentional by the artist) I find it compelling and alive.  As the artist states in her own words,"my work is a vehicle to express a world confused, packed with tension and aggression... it often describes a world on the edge of chaos, the most peaceful, pastoral scene being riddled with turmoil."
And we do tend to go thru this life at time oblivious - not really seeing.  This painting reminds me to take the time... for more on this artist see

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Barak Obama's Inauguration Day

I headed to Philadelphia in the morning for class, somewhat put out to think I would miss the Inauguration speech and have to wait for re-runs.  It dawned on me, however, as I boarded the train, I would arrive around 11:30 and not have to be in class until 12:30.  Whoopee!  I'd just hang out at Bridgewater's Pub at 30th Street Station and catch the speech there...

I entered to find I was early enough to get a stool right at the bar, and pulled up eagerly in front of the television to catch up on the festivities.  Taking up the seat at lunchtime, however, obligated me to order something, so I had Tomato Bisque with club soda and lime, followed by a strong, hot, Earl Gray tea.  The bisque was delicious - thick and perfectly seasoned, with shavings of parmesian and fresh basil on top.  I'll have to keep this in mind when the day has been long, and I'm waiting for a train - what a treat, especially on a bitter, cold day.

As the ceremony proceeded, I found myself feeling an intense pride in my country, and blessed to be a citizen where democracy is valued and power is passed so peacefully.  When Barak Obama was sworn in, the entire collective in the bar stood and clapped.  It was a wonderous moment, not soon forgotten.  Such joy - and hope for the future.  I found myself doing the Snoopy Dance the rest of the day! 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

salmon pasta salad

This recipe is one I created, and has become a standard on those late evenings when I crave "real food", but am too tired to cook.  Just the process of putting this humble meal together, with a glass of chardonnay, feeds my soul.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, then add 3 handfulls of penne pasta to the pan.  Cook pasta about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, assemble the following in a serving bowl large enough to contain all the ingredients:

2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbs. sundried tomatoes, drained of oil and chopped
cracked pepper 

Set aside:
1 large handfull baby spinach, chopped
about 3/4 cup fresh grated parmesian cheese
16 oz. bag Salmon (canned will work if it's thoroughly drained, but it doesn't look as nice)

Drain the pasta and rinse, then add to the oil mixture and toss.   Add additional ingredients and toss well to combine.  Delicious warm right after preparation, or chilled the next day.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Dinner

Layne and Cassie went to Jenna and Andrew's for New Year's Eve.  I picked up Joe and Lynden after baking a batch of french bread in the morning, and we headed to Phili for dinner with the rest of them.  I had sent the pork with the girls the night before, so Jenna had it roasting before we arrived.  We heated up the black-eyed peas I brought, along with sauerkraut, salad and brownies.  I enjoyed cooking and cleaning up with Jenna in her little kitchen, cheerful with her collection of red appliances, bowls and accessories.  She noted this was her first dinner to "slave over" but it was worth it!  Afterward, I fell asleep on the sofa to "Guitar Hero" wars, trying to figure out the allure of this popular game - I'd rather read a book then play video games any day of the week, but enjoyed being a part of things.

spicy black-eyed peas

As the young wife of a southerner, I quickly learned no New Year's dinner is complete without black-eyed peas and boiled collard or turnip greens.  I never did aquire a taste for boiled greens, but found the black-eyed peas to be the perfect compliment to pork and sauerkraut.  

On New Year's Eve, bring the following to a boil, then turn to a simmer for the evening:
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
3 quarts of water
3 tbs. chili powder
1 tbs. paprika
a pinch of dried hot peppers

Stir ocassionally, and If the liquid gets too low, just add more water to keep the beans covered.  Turn off the burner and cover the pot before retiring for the night.  The next day, just heat the beans before dinner. 

easy french bread

This recipe is from a well-worn cookbook that has been the basis for most of my cooking as a young mother.  Written by Doris Janzen Longacre, "More with Less" emphasizes whole food cooking and a responsible, thoughtful approach to eating.  Around the same time, I discovered "The Country Store" in Mount Joy - a small deli and bulk food store run by a Mennonite woman at the back of her house.  With these resources I began to can, cook and bake in earnest, spending one year determined to by absolutely nothing in a can or box (well, I found I couldn't give up tuna or peanut butter, and though I had managed to make just about everything imagionable that year with tomatoes, tomatoe paste just wasn't worth the trouble!)

Those summers were filled with gardening and canning, my Grandma Stella always willing to lend a hand with paring and pickling.  We had so many cucumbers one year there were 10 buckets of 14-day pickles going in the basement!  We always made tons of applesauce, spaghetti sauce and canned peaches, and froze boatloads of blueberries and strawberries.  And I happily attacked the challenge of cooking and baking everything from scratch.

I remember proudly picking up a load of mushroom soil in the old red Toyota pick-up for my garden, which I had heard was just the absolute best fertilizer.  I was knee deep in the stuff, happily shoveling it out of the back of the truck when my brother came by.  "Do you know what that is?" he asked with a smirk.  "Of course," I confidently replied, "it's decompozing mushrooms!"  "Well no," he said with a laugh, "you're standing in cow poop!"  Well, I think I had the last laugh - hardly any weeds all summer in the pitch black garden, and hearty vegetables to boot!

A long story leading to this easy, simple recipe for bread!

Combine with a fork in a medium-size mixing bowl:
2 cups very hot water from the tap - almost too hot to touch
1 tbs. honey
2 tbs. yeast

Let stand until bubbly, then add and stir with a wooden spoon:
3 cups occident flour
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

Add more flour until it becomes hard to stir, then place on a floured countertop and begin to knead the dough.  Continue kneading and adding more flour until it is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticky.  Knead another 3-5 minutes for good measure, then place back in bowl which you've greased with more olive oil.  Cover with linen towel and put in a warm dry place to rise.

When the dough has about doubled in size, pound it down and knead it a bit more, dividing it into two equal parts.  Roll each part into an oblong slab about a 1/4 inch think - you'll hear air bubbles popping as you do!  Roll it into a long loaf and place on greased cookie sheet.  Do the same with the other.  Both rolls will fit on one baking sheet.  Score the tops with a knife and spray with olive oil cooking spray.  Cover with the towel and let rise until double - about a half hour.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned and the bottom has a hollow sound when tapped.

If you have any left the next day, count yourself lucky.  It makes delicious toast! 

slow cooked pork

This is the pork I make every year for New Year’s dinner and varies each time based on what I have in the pantry.  Essentially the elements are the same.  It’s the slow cooking and attentive basting and turning that makes it moist and delicious. 

Preheat oven to 300.  Prepare roasting pan with lid by greasing it liberally with olive oil.  
Combine in a four-cup glass, measuring cup and stir with a fork:
½ cup water 
½ cup red wine 
¼ cup balsamic vinegar 
¼ cup tarragon vinegar 
¼ cup apple or sweet pepper jelly 
2 tbs. hiosin sauce (Chinese barbeque sauce) 
4 cloves minced garlic 
¼ cup diced onion 
1 tbs. hot pepper sauce 
1 tbs. dried ginger 
1 tsp. dried rosemary 
½ tsp. dried coriander 
½ tsp. fresh cracked pepper 
¼ tsp. salt   

Place in roasting pan and put in oven with lid for several hours: 
10-12 pounds boneless pork loin (brown meat) 
Pour sauce over the top of the meat    

Baste meat every ½ hour or so, and turn the pork once or twice during the cooking time of about 4 to 5 hours.  Keep covered.     

Serve with sauerkraut and spicy black-eyed peas.