Thursday, March 26, 2009

fresh eggs 101

more signs of spring are slowly creeping into our lives. The arrival of daffodils, forsythia, iris and eggs took place this month.

fresh eggs

Simple, easy breakfasts have returned... poached eggs and toast. When eggs are fresh, I think this is the best way to cook them. Poaching requires no added oils, so you can appreciate their flavor to the fullest. Poaching takes a short amount of time and no special equipment. A pan of slow boiling water and a slotted spoon are all you'll need to create perfectly poached eggs. Simply crack your egg open and use one half of the shell to cradle the egg. Bring the shell down to the water's edge and slide it's contents gently into the water. It will sink down to the bottom of the pan. No need to touch it at this point, unless the whites are scattering too much, which won't happen if you're using really fresh eggs. If they do scatter a bit, just use the slotted spoon to gather them up close to the yolk. Boil for 2-5 minutes, depending on how firm you like your yolk. Most days I like a 4 minute egg. With these small banty eggs this creates a slightly firm yolk. When the egg(s) float to the top, they're soft poached. They'll float up in 3 minutes with the banty eggs. Make sure you use the slotted spoon to fish them from the water.


Creating a breakfast suited for company?... or want something special?... poaching is the first step to fabulous dishes like Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine or ...Eggs Maryland, Waldorf Style Eggs, Norwegian Eggs, Artichoke Eggs, Eggs Blackstone, Asparagus Eggs or Country Eggs Benedict. Go ahead, you deserve it!

Now that you've become a pro poacher, you can poach nearly anywhere. Over a camp stove, on the barbeque, on your car engine, using a magnifying glass in the sun. Anywhere you can boil water, you can poach an egg. The possibilities are endless!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

a bit of warmth...

...on a morning when you must get up early and go outside... even though it’s very wet, cold and blustery. You need stick to your ribs type food. Comfort, reward for getting up early on a Saturday, food. It cannot be something that will turn you into a lethargic couch potato who would rather watch I Love Lucy reruns all day in the warm, dry house. Those raised garden beds must be put in place before the planting season passes us by.

While shopping at New Seasons last weekend, the market’s employees were offering samples of rolled oats. Hesitantly, I tried one. This was not your run-of-the-mill oatmeal with the texture of baby food. These rolled oats formed an almost cakelike consistency. I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal, but this creation turns oatmeal into a dessert resembling bread pudding. Even my picky daughter liked it! Seems like a great way to use berries still in the freezer from last season's crop.

rainy day

oatmeal berry bake

Oatmeal Berry Bake
4 Tbls butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup berries – blue, rasp, marion, black or chopped strawberries - fresh or frozen
Brown sugar and milk for adding at the table

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix butter, brown sugar, eggs, applesauce and milk. In a separate bowl, mix oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Combine with wet mixture and add berries. Pour into a greased 9x9-inch pan. At this point it may be refrigerated overnight. (If so, allow an extra 5 to 8 minutes for baking)
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (or more if coming out of the refrigerator). Cut into squares and serve hot with brown sugar and milk, if desired.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

knit wit

Last weekend is a blur. My family was forced to cook their own meals, clean up... or not... Dishes piled up in the sink. Mounds of laundry sat idle. The dog begged for a walk. Outside, rain slammed onto the windows, inside I knitted.

Look! Just in time for spring. A winter hat! well I’ve been wanting to knit something other than a scarf for years now, and finally did it. On a trip to Powell’s a few weeks ago (for those of you wondering what this is... it’s a mega bookstore in downtown Portland), I stumbled upon this great book called “Hip Knit Hats” by Cathy Carron. I was actually searching for an Ina Garten book, but got distracted, and as usual, a bit overwhelmed in this monster-mega bookstore. “Hip Knit Hats” is filled with, you guessed it, hip knit hats. The felted hats in the back of the book are what really lured me in, but for my first few projects, I must force myself to stick to the basic beginner patterns in the front of the book. Hats are my new favorite thing to make. They’re so easy and much quicker than a scarf. The patterns in this book start on double pointed needles, which do take a bit of getting used to. You use four of them at the same time! Just when you kinda sorta get used to these awkward things, you switch to circular needles, which in comparison, are a piece of cake. My first hat went to my husband, who was so shocked that he was wearing it in less than a week after I first put needles to yarn. Just in time too... for the spring snow.

1st hat


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

so many seeds to sow

For the first time in 12 years, we're putting in a vegetable garden. M and I built a couple of lovely raised cedar beds a few weeks ago. Now we’re waiting for an opportunity to get them into the ground and filled with some local soil. In the meantime, I’m relearning the art of growing vegetables. The ability to access information sure has changed in the last 12 years! In a few short hours, I learned tons about how to grow everything imaginable in our climate. My initial plan included waiting until starts appear in nurseries, then buy a few to grow in our beds. That should be simple enough. Beyond assisting on a science fair project, I don’t have much experience growing plants from seeds.

Then I read Laurie’s blog, She's starting seeds inside, right now. Using egg cartons. She made it look so easy and fun. I was inspired. Since our hens seem to be on strike, we have plenty of egg cartons waiting to be useful. So accompanied by a small dog and a smaller list of supplies, I escaped to Portland Nursery. The seed section was fascinating, and crowded. My short list suddenly grew to include all the veggies we eat on a regular basis. I wedged myself in between two customers, contemplating which herbs to buy, to quickly snatch up the last packet of genovese basil. Several racks were already cleaned out of other popular items. At the beginning of March! Yeah for backyard gardeners!

Two hours later... and two trips to the car... I brought home two blueberry bushes, potatoes, garlics, seeds, seeds, seeds, seeds... starting trays, soil... and did I mention seeds? butter lettuce, mesclun mix, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, red onions, carrots, delicata squash, cilantro, basil, beans.

garden plantings

I poured some of the seed starting soil into a bucket and mixed it with water...

garden plantings

I filled each egg carton compartment with a ball of the wet soil. Seeds were planted according to the package instructions for depth, and covered with a thin layer of soil. I then placed the cartons into the black plastic trays I purchased and positioned them in front of our south facing windows... now it’s up to the sun and a daily dose of water sprayed onto them.

garden plantings

This experience leaves me thinking we may soon have an excess of little veggie plants. We're probably just in need of a few more raised beds. Most seeds need at least 6-8 weeks to grow inside before they go out into the garden. So... time to sow!