Cooking + Baking

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Hello, and happy October! It’s been a while. After a much needed break from all the interior improvements we made when we moved in (six years ago!), and a bit of uncertainty about what exactly to do in the basement, we finally decided to paint – some wood paneling (but not all), the fireplace, and the laundry room ceiling. Thus far, we’ve finished the guest room, the little hall to the bathroom, ceiling beams, and around the fireplace. I started the actual brick this morning, but it is so deeply textured that rolling, even with a thick nap, is not really an option. We will be paint sprayer owner-operators forthwith!

That’s where I’ve been, at least. When not too tired to cook because of all the up-down-side-to-side brush and roller movements, I have made some yum. Firstly, this tandoori style chicken, which Greg gorgeously grilled and topped with a few home grown cayenne pepper slices. The recipe comes from 30 Minute Mowgli, the Indian cookbook for those of us who want to have a life outside of making this delicious food. I’ve made quite a few of the recipes and highly recommend it!

You may also note that the bottom photo is a little blurry? My lens is slowly dying, and sometimes I catch it in the act and others not, so, until I decide whether to buy another DSLR lens or to move to a 100% digital camera, please forgive me my off-pics.

We visited Michael and Mary recently (hiya!), and Mary, who has some deep roots in Maine, made amazing-delicious Whoopie Pies, after letting us know she would not be making Grape Nuts pudding. I had no idea this existed thereabouts, and as Greg and I are both Grape Nuts lovers, I sought out a recipe and made some right quick. Isn’t it beautiful? It smelled heavenly and was quite delicious, but the nuts made a soft crust on the bottom, and I wanted them at least a little bit crunchy.

Homemade pita tower! Spiced beef patties! Tahini dressed salad! Our favorite hummus with pickled raisins from Eat Cook L.A.!

Normally, Greg is a pita gobbler, so I made a lot of them. He surprised us both by not finishing the batch before they turned hard, so I made a little savory breakfast bread pudding, with homemade green chiles and bacon. Zero complaints, dear peeps.

Greg is a hot beverage sipper, and, whenever possible, also enjoys a dip-dip of something sweet and crunchy into said drinks. For a while, he enjoyed the big box of brown sugar Belvitas at Costco, while I always lamented their too sweet sweetness and all the unrecyclable packaging carted off to the landfill. After some trying and failing, I tweaked a few recipes into the best homemade version I could, and we are both pleased as punch at the result! This batch is on the thicker side, but we’ve since decided we prefer them thinner and crispier. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to see for yourself.

Ginger Biscuits

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 cup almond flour (I use homemade from making almond milk -woot!!)

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 t baking powder

8 tablespoons (one stick) butter, softened

75 grams powdered sugar (10 tablespoons)

10 grams molasses (1 1/2 teaspoons)

3 T microplaned ginger (maybe 2 t dried?)

1/4 cup cold milk

Mix milk, molasses, and ginger together, set aside. Combine flours and baking powder, rub into butter and powdered sugar. Add milk mixture and oats, combine until a stiff dough forms. Roll on a lightly floured surface to desired thickness, and cut into shapes. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly golden, 12-20 minutes. Depending on thickness, makes 30-40 biscuits.

Home grown tomatoes roasted for salsa!

Hello Neighbor, near and far! It was an exciting day at the grocery recently, with cherries on super sale! We bought two brimful bags and ate them in very short order. The height of summer pleasure, to be sure.

Our choke cherry patch is in full splendor, with the birds and squirrels positively wild for them! I contemplated picking some for jelly but watching their delight in the eating has been ample.

The orange horned poppy was battered in our late snow storm and is a bit on the small side but still blooming profusely. The word is resilience.

Matilija poppy and glimmering green sweat bee (I think). The poppy volunteered this year, and is blossoming like crazy. The bees of all stripes (literal and figurative) are zooming on it all the live long day.

The gooseberry also took a beating in our late storm while still managing a small harvest. This bush is in our Juniper-proof fenced edible garden. She’s allowed entry when we do our progress checks and watering, standing sentinel next to the bush, knowing full well I am a sucker for her charms. I take a small handful, break each open just a little and feed them to her, one by precious one. Both our hearts soar.

Stillness and Movement and Joy

Our very convoluted mattress (four compartmentalized pieces, zipped into in one heavy giant!), which is nearing the end of its useful life at nearly eight years old, was making uncomfortable bootie canyons of clutterd and fallen springs. Sad face. I got the idea that we could do some creative re-organizing, cut and flipped the affected areas, and voila! I do believe we will get at least one more year from my bit of invention. And though that looks like an awful mess at the foot now, it is entirely undetected by our wiggly feet.

When we visited New York City in 2015, I enjoyed a stellar corn soup that has never left my memory. Last week, while browsing the freezer for lunch, bags of corn and spinach called to me. I made super simple purees, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, and tarragon, before carefully spooning them into bowls, NYC style. Greg called it crack soup, and I knew I’d lived up to that first taste. We’ve since enjoyed a second delicious batch.

And to our more mainstream Southwest style eats. Mushroom tacos on homemade corn tortillas, with a serious note of gratitude to Joanna Gaines for a recipe that is not too sticky. I can FINALLY make my own, easy breezy every single time. Good gracious, yum, yum, yum!

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle…

In the garden gives category: we beat the birds to the cherries this year! I made an amazingly delicious tart (definitely better when home grown) and three jars of equally delicious cherry jam. Like spreading a little bit of pie on your life, a.k.a. heaven. Smoked chicken, salad with ranch, and pancake/fritters with our first garden grown zucchini and some of the chili jelly/jam I made a short while ago. Yum, yum, yum.

In Rainbows, with a serious nod the most stellar Radiohead album of the same name. More, please.

fern bush
gaillardia
hollyhock
Loving on Pops
lodge pole pine
Apache plume
mallow
faded rose a.k.a. deer delicacy
echinacea – with and without rabbit nibbled petals

The parents! We had a fun weekend of eating (green chile, Cherry Bakewell tart with my own jam!), gaming (Sequence, canasta {they cleaned our clocks good and proper!}), more eating (biscuits and jams and bacon, grilled steak, homemade focaccia with grapes and rosemary, salad, grilled asparagus, the remaining Bakewell tart), more gaming (Spades!), library browsing, movie watching, dog cuddling, and porch chilling. Not too shabby….

Hello reader! How about that sky? I always appreciate nature’s gifts when I am feeling a little down. Like a lot of people, I am reeling over the Supreme Court Decision about Roe v. Wade. I actually find abortion abhorrent, on the whole, but absolutely wish to keep it legal and safe because I find the following (taken from research by Lisa B. Haddad and Nawal M. Nour) unacceptable:

Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion, and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, are unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%). Of the women who survive unsafe abortion, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications. Unsafe abortion is thus a pressing issue. Both of the primary methods for preventing unsafe abortion—less restrictive abortion laws and greater contraceptive use—face social, religious, and political obstacles, particularly in developing nations, where most unsafe abortions (97%) occur. Even where these obstacles are overcome, women and health care providers need to be educated about contraception and the availability of legal and safe abortion, and women need better access to safe abortion and post abortion services. Otherwise, desperate women, facing the financial burdens and social stigma of unintended pregnancy and believing they have no other option, will continue to risk their lives by undergoing unsafe abortions.

Having someone very dear to me as a child of adoption, knowing women who were quite cavalier about their multiple abortions, as well as knowing women who badly wanted children that did not live more than days beyond birth has given me a front row seat to the nuances of choice.

Before I was married, and ages before I knew my body was wholly inhospitable to fertility and pregnancy, I had two “scares” where my period was very late. Having known I did not ever want children from a young age, I was terrified at the prospect of becoming a mother. Yet, both times, I never considered abortion. My first instinct was adoption. This inclination has obviously never changed. As this has been unfolding these last days, I wondered why more women don’t consider it. Most who choose abortion, find the thought of terminating a pregnancy more palatable than giving a stranger their baby. Only about 1% choose adoption. The remainder find themselves attached to the child and become single moms.

I don’t really know where I am going with this, besides to say life is so complex. I want all women to feel agency over their lives. I want all babies to be wanted and cherished. To thrive! I want families not to struggle financially to raise their children. I personally won’t be helping any woman receive an abortion for reasons of my own morality (save in cases of rape, incest, mother or infant mortality), but I will absolutely support families by continuing to contribute to food banks, affordable housing agencies and initiatives, and Save the Children. Additionally, candidates who believe in choice will get my vote, since that is the only remaining option, governmentally speaking. It will not help people over the short term, sadly, but if the people will it to be, choice will come for every woman again.

And now, for something completely different! We had a most amazing cool and rainy day yesterday. I took full advantage by making what would normally be a sweltering day a most hospitable experience. The windows were open, the kitchen abuzz. I made: strawberry rhubarb jam, with our own rhubarb, of course; sweet-tart jelly/almost jams of roasted bell pepper and chipotle; and green chiles – Hatch, poblano, and jalapeno. We test drove them over today’s lunch of smoked chicken, and all the thumbs are up, dear peeps!

Then there was soap. From the top: a goat milk and oat made spicy with cinnamon, clove, and ginger; and my favorite shampoo bar combo of essential oils of rosemary and mint, fresh mint leaves – also home grown; and nourishing herbs of calendula, marshmallow, horsetail, nettle, and burdock (I make a tea and add the lye to it), with rhassoul clay. Hair luxury in a bar!

I used to fuss over getting the soap to a thick pudding stage before putting it in molds and creating swirls and flourishes on top. Now, after everything is thoroughly combined, I dump the mixes straight in and smooth the top, deciding the initially pretty crests and valleys only attracted dirt from our grubby hands when washing. Gross. I also pop the molds in the oven at 160 degrees for about an hour to ensure each loaf gels. I got tired of partial gels with that weird oval at the center and decided this was easiest. Working smarter and not harder, batch by batch. I do what I can, at least.

The late snow kept Pike’s Peak in prime prettiness for days. Another silver lining…

Our girl gets the bestest belly rubs and poses with brilliant iris blooms. She is all that and then some.

The petal parade has begun….

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, twenty-nine years!! It is quite the number, which leaves us both pleased as punch. In celebration, we went to Dos Santos, our favorite taco joint, on Friday, and yesterday I made bouillabaisse and homemade garlic and red pepper aioli (high falutin’ word for lip-smackin’ good mayo) for the day-of celebration. It is slathered on extra crunchy French bread croutons before being delicately dipped in the broth. Every manner of happy tastebud sound follows. We enjoyed it with a bottle of wine purchased on our Missouri vacation last year – Hermanhoff White Lady. It made for one heck of a way to celebrate!

While I labored in the kitchen, the hubster labored in the garden and on our screen door. Juniper is sometimes an impatient little booger when it comes to getting in and out of the house and had made enough of a wreck of the screen that insects could get in, no problema. So we had a heavier duty one installed (by Mullet Screens – a kindly guy who comes round in a van!) and bought the “screen saver” (HA!) to keep further damage from occurring. It needed a little trim, and Greg made it so. It looks quite nice and seems built to last.

All the sprouts tended since January are snug in the ground and looking quite lovely! The stick structure in the middle is made for beans to climb and came from fallen branches in all these terrible winds we’ve been having. I am super excited to think about our summer harvest. Though I won’t be counting any beans until they’re actually off the vine. Now that snow is out of the picture, we are in prime hail season. Oh, Colorado….

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Happy 73rd Birthday to my MOM!!

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