Author Archives: mlaforge

About mlaforge

Reader, teacher, mother, principal, mathematician, quilter, baker, neighbor.

Birthday Freezer

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For my birthday, Barbara and Gerry bought me an upright freezer.  We thought I could cook on the weekends and put it in the freezer for the weeks.  Well, we all know that I’m not great at sticking to routines, but it does seem like inspiration might see me through this.  The painful part is thinking of what to make, it turns out, so if I document what I do for the next little while, I will have some idea of what worked and what didn’t for the future.

I didn’t document the first time around, here, though I have some pictures.  I cooked all day on a Sunday and ended up with

  • Two enormous lasagne pans with chicken stew (carrots and potatoes from the share, made entirely with boneless breasts and thighs in the crockpot and gravy made from stock).  One we ate, one I froze.
  • Two large eggplant lasagne that I think only Josie and I eat.  One eaten, one frozen.
  • A pound of ground chicken cooked in taco seasoning to be taken out for a taco night
  • Two chicken enchilada casseroles.  One eaten that week, one frozen.

This time, I am still kind of all over the place.  I made:

  • A pound of ground chicken cooked in taco seasoning
  • Pizza from pizza dough I froze, but not the first Big Cook.  Some other time.
  • Blueberry french toast to eat because the bread was getting stale. There are leftovers, so I guess I’ll have them in the refrigerator for dinner tomorrow or Tuesday, or tonight, for Maggie, since we are eating…
  • Chicken Marbella, enough to freeze half but my parents are coming so who knows, maybe we’ll just eat it into the week
  • Seedy Date Bars, which has nothing to do with freezing at all but I want something snack like to bring to school for me and Maggie
  • Overnight coconut oats – again no freezing but for breakfast
  • Cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries because they are finally in the stores and my dad likes it so much
  • Date bars from the Rebekah’s cookbook

That said, I did buy a big package of chicken breasts and thighs so I can make crockpot chicken stew sometime, and froze them.  I think I would like to know how the Chicken Marbella freezes.

I’d take pictures and upload them and write some more, but I am too tired and need to go work a while before my parents come for dinner.  Maybe later.  I’m reading Meddling Kids and Ancillary Justice and Carry On.

M.

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Beginning of July 2017: jam, pie, greens

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I’ve been trying all day to write this post but now that I’m finally here, I realize just how tired I am.  Jim and I, plus Dad and Mom, spent the day working on the outside of the house–sanding, scraping, reframing windows.  I spent the afternoon making dinner and supplies for the girls’ lunches this week since they are teaching a Theater Project camp.  Tabouli, pasta salad, and pasta and greens.

Pasta and Greens

  • A giant bowl of Swiss chard, chopped roughly, plus the stems separated and chopped
  • A big old sweet onion, chopped big
  • Some pasta boiled separately with some water reserved, about a cup
  • A pound of crumbled feta

Sauté the onion and stems.  Add all the chopped chard and sauté for 3-5 minutes.  Add some water (1/4 cup or so) and cover to steam, another 3-5 minutes.  This way the greens get tender.  Mix in as much pasta as you want and whatever kind.  I like fusilli.  Mix in 1/2 a cup or so of reserved pasta water. Turn off the heat, mix in feta, cover and let sit so the feta melts some and the salt moves from the cheese to the rest of the dish.  That’s it.

Freezer Jam

Make strawberry freezer jam according to the Certo liquid pectin recipe.  🙂

And now, for the Celebration of the Portland Symphony Cookbook portion of the blog, recipes from pages 301, 302 and 307.  Actually, I’m not going to talk about page 307 but I did make baklava today and so it is worth noting that THAT is where you will find it.

Strawberry Pie, p. 302

  • 1 baked pie shell, 9 inches or so
  • 3 cups of strawberries, sliced and divided
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 – 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

I made a batch of my mother’s pie crust (here), divided it in half, chilled it for 30 minutes, and then rolled it out.  The one for the Strawberry Pie, I pricked and baked with weights in the bottom of it (um…dried chickpeas) and when I dumped the chickpeas out, the shell slid beautifully out of the glass plate.  It was so pretty, I just filled it like that.  I think in the future, I’ll leave in glass since the syrup leaked a little through the bottom in one spot.

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But anyway…

Simmer 1 of the cups of strawberries with 3/4 cup of water for 3-4 minutes.  Make up a paste of cornstarch and sugar and as much/little water as you can get away with so that the paste works.  Add it to the simmering strawberries and simmer another few (or more) minutes until the syrup is thick and clear.  Cool for 5-10 minutes.

The other two cups of strawberries (or maybe a few more because they are so delicious) you put in the bottom of the pie shell.  Pour the slightly cooled syrup over the strawberries in the pie shell.

Chill for 1-3 hours and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.  Apparently, it can be made with raspberries or blueberries too.  But I haven’t done that.  Though I might now.

Fudge Pie p. 301

Compared to the Strawberry Pie, even easier!

  • 1 UNBAKED pie shell
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Put the butter in a saucepan on VERY low heat.  Stack the chocolate pieces on top. The butter melts and the chocolate falls down into it and melts too.  Turn off the heat, if you remember to, before the chocolate is all the way melted because then when you stir the last solid bits in, it cools the whole thing down a little so you can…

Add the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla, mixing well, with a whisk.  Add the eggs one at a time or even all at once, whisking until the whole thing holds together.

Pour into the bike shell.  Bake 45-60 minutes until the pie is nicely rounded and the top is cracked a little.  If you tap it with your finger, you’ll know that the pie is baked, and not still made out of batter.

As it cools, it sinks down in the shell.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

In other news…

  • I wrote a much more scintillating post yesterday and LOST the whole thing.  Wordpress hadn’t auto saved in 29 minutes.  What is this?  The computer lab at UNH in 1986?  Needless to say, I was upset, but here I am back again tonight.  Let’s see if this one sticks.
  • We went to Burlington, VT last week to see UVM.  Found two great bookstores, a cute town, and stayed in a hotel together.  The togetherness was very…together.
  • I got new glasses.

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  • I am reading books.  Josie is reading a book about science and the answers to unusual questions.  Maggie is reading 100 Years of Solitude.  Jim is reading For the Common Good, Chuck’s new book.  Yay Chuck!

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  • I have finished David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding and am desolee.
  • We also visited with cousins, and Michele attended a conference in Bar Harbor, BJ and Phoebe and Max got their picture taken and there are flowers on our window sill.

Love,
Michele

Sunny, so much like summer, and Sunday night dinner with the gang

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  1.  Stir fry tonight.  Chicken, bok choi, pea pods, peas, scallions, tricolor carrots, lomein noodles.  Mirin, soy sauce, a little honey.  Josie Adolf and Kevin will put bottled “Classic sauce” on it in the end.
  2. Oven not preheating and staying hot like it should.  But I managed to make some cookies in between its shenanigans.
  3. Rode my bike to Wild Oats this morning to have breakfast with Jeanne.
  4. Two flowers came up from the bulbs I planted years ago.  I brought them inside.  Three other flowers grew out back and I’m not sure why.  The lilac bush we planted last year is still small but it is healthy, so that’s nice.
  5. Made Russian iced tea with fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice.
  6. Kevin and Josie are coming over.
  7. I’m reading Oryx and Crake, The City of Stairs, The Thief (because Meg Whalen Turner has a NEW one finally, so a reread is in order), and the Short Drop.  Jim has been reading graphic novels…Lemire’s Roughnecks, and one called Tom Boy.  Maggie just finished Chronicle of a Death Foretold and on her own she is reading The Butcher’s Hook.  Josie is reading Catcher in the Rye.
  8. The house smells like ginger and scallions and cookies.  There is grass on the ground and new leaves on the trees and the first cherries were at the store.
  9. Yesterday we went to see Josie at All State, Nana, Pupa, Jim, Michele.

 

Emergency cake (Anarchy Cake)

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I forget about this cake till I need it.  I host bookclub very rarely.  And we had decided January was too busy so we have a date set for March. That said, I offered, for those who still wanted to come over for January’s Friday night meeting, to host.  But…it was Friday night.  Every dish is dirty.  But we have books and wine and of course, I can always make the emergency Ancharchy Cake.  From “The Best American Recipes 2002-2003”.  I doubled it.  Completely freaked out when I thought I might have quadrupled the milk, but baked it anyway.  It was wonderful.  I don’t know still how much milk I put in.  

  1. 1 1/2 cups fruit, sliced if using peaches, apricots, or plums; pitted cherries.  Messy is fine.  Or 4 oz. of chocolate chopped.  >>This time I used chocolate chips.
  2. 1/2 cup plus an additional 1-2 tablespoons superfine sugar.  >>I had it, left over from jelly making this summer, but I know I don’t always.
  3. 3/4 up cake flour or pastry flour.  >>Had it but if you have to regular flour works.
  4. 3/4 tsp baking powder
  5. 1/4 tsp salt
  6. 1 large egg
  7. 1/4 tsp fresh lemon zest
  8. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil >>Used the last of it and added enough canola to make the amount
  9. 1/4 cup milk
  10. 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with parchment paper, brush with oil, lightly flour.  >>Thanks to K, I have a springform pan, yay!  Would work in any pan.

In a bowl, mix the fruit and a little sugar and set aside.  >>Because I used chocolate, I didn’t have to do this.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, powder, and salt.

In mix, beat the egg with 1/2 cup sugar and zest until light, fluffy, and pale in color.  Takes as long as 5 minutes.  Add the oil, then the milk and vinegar, beating until combined.  Using a spatula, fold in the flour mix.  Batter into pan, drop the fruit or chocolate on top.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.  Bake for 50 minutes or until top is beautiful golden brown and a knife or toothpick comes back clean.  Cool, remove the sides of the pan, and serve.

Chicken soup and a laugh

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Chicken soup, by me, today.  Never quite sure how to make soup, but this was very good.  I will do it again.  Maybe always this way.

1 small chicken, in a dutch oven with a couple carrots, a parsnip, parsley, and an onion, covered with water and a few peppercorns and salt.

Boil then simmer for several hours.  Take the chicken out, and strain the liquid, throwing away the solids.

Take all the good chicken off and out on a cutting board.  Dice.

  • Dice up 3-4 potatoes (I had fingerlings from the farmers market and probably cut them in 4-6 pieces each, and there were probably 14 of them or so)
  • Dice up 4-5 carrots (again, lots from the farm share)

Cover with broth and boil til about half way to tender

  • Chop and separate the stem and the leaves of swiss chard so you have about 2-4 cups

Add the chard to the broth, add more broth, keep simmering til tender.

Add the rest of the broth and a large tablespoon of jarred, concentrated chicken stock.  Then add the chicken.

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Also, this from a friend today.  Thank you, friend.

trigortreat

Also, went to Lewiston today.  At 7 am.  Here’s why. So worth it.

Michele

Fall Farmshare madness, cooking as a force against, my disappointment in the two A’s, and other times and places

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 Fall Farmshare madness

Well, the time has arrived.  It is time to cook the beets.  First just one or two per pickup and now many more.  Accumulated over the many months, the beets have now been rendered (roasted) into enough to make borscht (nah) or vinegret, a Russian beet salad I used to make in my days surrounded by the russian language and a few elderly russian friends.  So vinegret it is.

Russian cooked vegetable salad (Vinagret)

  • 7-8 beets of various sizes, only 2 of them were really big, peeled and roasted in olive oil, then cooled
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced plus 3 carrots quartered the long way and chopped into diced, boiled in salted water until tender
  • 10 small dill pickles, chopped up
  • half a bag of frozen peas, unwarmed
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • some scallions chopped
  • Some fresh dill chopped (1/4 cup?)
  • salt and pepper

All dressed with:

  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sunflower or corn oil
  • salt and freshly grown black pepper to taste

Cooking as a force against

Jim says that it used to be finding me cooking meant I was happy.  Now it often means I am upset.

In addition to the vinegret, I roasted three squashes with three vidalia onions.  I have a recipe for Butternut squash and spinach lasagne in case I get ambitious tomorrow, but may just eat it on quinoa with feta cheese.  So there you have it, the recipe for Quinoa with Feta Cheese and Roasted Squash and Onions.  🙂

My disappointment in the two A’s

Amazon and Audible.  I know that Amazon is the Big Bad these days, but the rising kindle edition prices are a disappointment, and now Audible isn’t releasing big name audio books always at the same time as the print, or, often, they aren’t linked to sync.  Sigh.  Such is the world, I guess.  I only, therefore, bought the audio version with my monthly credit of the new Louise Penny mystery novel.  It is careful and lovely and subtle as usual.  Welcome.

Other Times and Places

Graduate school was a hard time for me.  I wasn’t ready for it, for one, and I was far from home.  The group of people who were my colleagues were wonderful but not the people I would find my home in.  I learned about reading beyond my own pleasure and about what it was like to not be the most eager learner and how much more important that eagerness was than strict intelligence.  They were uncomfortable often difficult years, but I learned so much and became so much more resilient.  That has been true of every hard time in my life.  How much more resilient do I want to be?

When the girls were learning to read, Maggie signaled a new facility by sounding out How…to…coo…k…EV…er…y…thing…by…Mar…k…Bitt…man.  This morning I made frittata a la Mark and his cookbook for my parents who are leaving in a little more than a week to go to Florida.  I always miss the but I can tell I am going to miss them even more this year.

I didn’t look up the recipe but here’s my adaptation:

Mark Bittman and Michele’s fritatta

5 eggs and 1 2/3 cup of half and half in a bowl (woulda used milk but we’re out) and 1 2/3 cup of grated cheddar and romano cheese, as well as a sprinkle of cayenne on top

In my medium cast iron skillet I sauted and onion (another part of the farmshare down!) and three cold diced baked potatoes leftover from the other night in butter and olive oil with salt.

When that was done and brown, I poured the egg mixture over and put it in the oven at 400 degrees fahrenheit until it was puffy and brown on top.

Then we ate it.  🙂

Squee!  I get to be a Wild Oats recipe tester.  

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My first assignment, cornbread.  I’m not a huge cornbread fan, so I think I was probably a good choice for it.  I thought it was delicious.  But what’s not to like about anything made with buttermilk?  No recipe shared here, of course, but here are a few pics.

It also goes well with the audiobook of Witching Savannah’s book 2: the Source.  Though I had to stop cooking long enough to turn it off once or twice.  Nerve-wracking.

Michele