This is what a sunny autumn afternoon looks like in our backyard. By autumn, I mean that yesterday, it was 60 degrees and sunny, while those back in Central New York (and in other parts of the northeast) were digging out from a 15-inch snowfall.
The stuff hanging from the tree, which is a live oak (after they shed their leaves in fall, they bud again immediately instead of waiting until spring), is Spanish moss. It's pretty and it gives an ancient, mysterious feel to the trees it hangs from. It's also home to a mite called the chigger, which will inject a digestive hormone into your skin and live off an inner layer of skin for a while until you start seeing a rash and get rid of it (which means you don't touch the stuff).
We're starting to meet our neighbors, getting accustomed to walking out the door and spending 15 minutes chatting before getting on our way. The dog is off leash during the day, typically.
We got to meet the good Brothers of Roger Lacey Lodge No. 722 and their Ladies at their election and installation. We're finding community.
We have enough stuff unpacked to cook a decent meal. The first thing that wasn't a simple veggie omelet was ox tail soup, with yucca root, carrots and onions. I took some of the beef fat from the soup, cooked some kale in it and poured the soup over the kale.
We found some sriracha amongst our things, and added it for some spice.
If you haven't had it, yucca root has sort of the consistency of a chewy potato, but with a hint of a sort of coconut sweetness to it.
By early next week, we'll have most of the amenities of home. Our furniture will be out of storage, as will our washer and dryer. Our TV and Internet hookup will be connected. We'll have stuff to get rid of and trash day to figure out, but that can all wait until it needs to happen.
In the meantime, we have fresh air and sunshine, and we've spent a lot of time speaking to the neighbors. We miss our friends back in CNY, but we'll connect soon, there, here or in between.
So, yeah, it's been awhile. My bad. I've no excuses outside of general laziness mixed in with some selfishness. In the spirit of getting back into it, I thought I'd share the meal I made the night I proposed that JB and I get married. She said yes; feel free to take that as a vote of confidence in this meal.
You could modify this about a thousand ways, most of them not nearly as intricate as this. There were three steps.
(1) The pasta
Make some pasta. I don't think you need instructions. I used some sort of spiral something, you know, cause it's fancy-ish.
(2) The stuff (lobster and veggies)
I caramelized a couple of large onions in uncured, pepper bacon with a little bit of sesame oil. I then added some oyster mushrooms and some asparagus.
Separately, I boiled some lobster tails (I mixed cold water and warm water), then cracked the shells and cut them up.
You can now put the veggies and lobster over the pasta and toss it all.
(3) The cheese
This is where the overkill comes in. The cheese sauce is:
- A stick of butter
- A bit of heavy cream
- A can of chicken broth (at this point, the low-sodium stuff doesn't make a difference, so you may as well go whole-hog)
Here was a good afternoon project: peanut butter cups. They were time-consuming, but fairly easy to make.
Food you'll need:
• 2 boxes Baker's chocolate (I used 54% cacao, which has 6g sugar per serving; could probably have used darker for healthier)
• Fat (I used 2 sticks butter; if you want healthier, go coconut oil; you'll probably need about 8oz)
• Peanut butter (I used a kind that has peanuts and a little sea salt; use a regular brand if you don't mind the extra sugar)
• Some water
Equipment you'll need:
• Double-boiler (or a metal bowl fitted over a saucepan, pictured, like I used)
• Rubber spatula
• Muffin pan
Get your double-boiler going (or, if using the fake one, fill a saucepan about a quarter full with water and start getting it warm over medium heat). In the top part of the double-boiler (or the metal bowl), put half your chocolate and half your fat.
Once the water is starting to get hot (it doesn't need to get to a boil – it'll get there eventually), start melting the chocolate and fat, stirring with the rubber spatula. When it's liquid, pour evenly into muffin pan.
Put the pan in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, until the chocolate hardens. Spoon some peanut butter on (I'm a peanut butter junkie; I used a full 2-tbsp serving on each). You could, in theory, just use a dollop. I could not.
Repeat the first bit with the other half of your chocolate and fat, pouring the liquid on top.
Put back in the refrigerator for a couple of hours until it all hardens.
I mutilated this one taking it out, but this is what I got for the final product.
This is a recipe by Jason, a Syracuse attorney known on Twitter as @jaseface1. I'm not usually a recipe kinda guy, but I'll mix it up and give it a shot when I get back into the starches in a few weeks.
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup fresh broccoli
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves (optional, i have a plant so i use some)
1 egg (also optional)
Dough: In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in water. Add the oil and salt; mix in 1 cup of the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour, until dough is smooth and workable. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, or until it is elastic. Lay dough in a bowl containing 1 teaspoon olive oil, then flip the dough, cover and let rise for 40 minutes, or until almost doubled.
Filling: While dough is rising, combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, broccoli and basil leaves in a large bowl. Mix well, cover bowl and refrigerate to chill.
Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees.
When dough is ready, punch it down and separate it into 2 equal parts. Roll parts out into thin circles on a lightly floured surface. Fill each circle with 1/2 of the cheese/filling.. fold over, securing edges by folding in and pressing. Brush the top of each calzone with egg (or olive oil) and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 25-30 minutes. Serve hot.
What happens when you're experimenting with high-cacao chocolates (because they're actually good for you!) and you come across one that is just plain inedible? You make something yummy, of course!
This was a 100% cacao chocolate bar. No milk, no sugar. Way too bitter to eat by itself.
If you're like me and don't have a double-boiler, you can fake one by putting water in a saucepan, bringing the water to a boil, and then putting a metal bowl in the pan.
In the bowl part of the double-boiler, melt the chocolate and a stick of butter (keep stirring them so they don't stick to the bottom of the bowl). Add some almonds, blueberries and raspberries. Stir until everything's coated and somewhat evenly distributed.
Line a cookie sheet, casserole dish or pie plate with wax paper. Pour the chocolaty melty stuff on top, and stick it in the refrigerator. It should harden enough to eat in about 3 hours.
Sorry about the unsaturated cell phone blurriness, but I was too hungry to grab my camera!
Sometimes dinner's just so delicious it needs to wind up on the blog. And so it was with Sunday night's fare.
This started with large haddock fillets rubbed down with a Central New York favorite – a Java Gourmet dessert rub (Keuka Lake). After letting the rub seep in a bit, I sautéed some banana peppers in coconut oil and added the haddock, cooking until done.
Meanwhile, in the other pan...
I started with a generous helping of sesame oil and added some chili oil. I had some leftover chopped onions, so threw those in there, and then added a head of escarole.
Tim: "Is this your 3-day chili?"
Me: "No, it was an afternoon quickie."
Tim: "Well, those can be just as hot sometimes."
This is a 3-hour chili recipe, but if you used a stove-top pot instead of a crock pot, it would go quicker.
1 lb black beans, rinsed
1 lb kidney beans, rinsed
2 lb ground beef
1 med onion, chopped
1 jar salsa
6 habanero peppers
6 jalapeño peppers
chili powder to taste
olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
In crock pot, combine the beans, salsa, two chopped jalapeños and some chili powder. Stir it, then put it on high.
Finely chop the rest of the peppers (I used a Magic Bullet, which made life easy). In a medium pan over medium heat, sauté the peppers and onions in some olive oil. Add the ground beef and some chili powder.
When beef is browned, drain off the liquid and add the beef, onions and peppers to the crock pot. Stir. Cook on low, stirring occasionally. If it starts to look dry, add water as necessary.
I haven't really had a chance to try something new in the kitchen for a while. So I thought, "Hmm, who wouldn't love some paella tonight?" And there was paella.
I cooked the rice in a rice cooker; it's white rice with turmeric, because apparently saffron is unavailable in my local supermarket. I did a quick Google search in the spice aisle, and discovered turmeric is "the poor man's saffron." Good enough, I guess. It was tasty anyway.
While the rice was cooking I had two other items on the stove:
• A pan with diced onion, diced red pepper, hot sausage and bay scallops, seasoned with black pepper and dried parsley sautéing in olive oil
• A pot with littleneck clams and shrimp (I also got two cherrystones to serve as a strong visual, for presentation – that's the big clam you see on the right).
When the rice was done, I mixed in some peas. I drained the sausage/scallop mixture and added it, then the clams and shrimp and tossed the whole lot together.
This one was real easy and really tasty. I'm not actually sure how much pork I used; I got a huge tenderloin and cut it into a few parts and froze most of it. But you could use this on any amount of pork that fits in a 9x13 casserole dish.
- Pork, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 bananas, sliced
- 1 can apricot nectar
- 1 can banana nectar
Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until fully cooked.