Thursday, September 29, 2016


It just started getting cool. It might be here to stay. But I will not give up the grilling, especially when I do it right on the stove top over two burners. I'm usually just cooking for 1-2, so it's plenty of space. I just haven't figured out how to clean it well; it's a mess. But both meat and veg cook quickly with the high direct heat, and grilling tastes different than pan-roasting, slow-cooking, stir fry or oven-roasting. Here are some of my best grilled meals. 

Grilled pork chop and asparagus with plum sauce and puréed parsnips.

I mostly grilled pork and shrimp. Sometimes chicken. I rarely eat beef anymore; if I do, it's a hamburger. I have trouble digesting it unless it's super slow cooked. Asparagus is one of my favorite veg to grill and went well with the pork and plum sauce. A little heavy on the sauce here. First time using parsnips; haven't revisited them. Might be a great root veg to roast this fall.

More pork. Most of the time boneless, but I think it may taste better bone-in. Undecided. The most fun part of this dish was making potato chips from scratch. I love the mandolin, with three different settings for thickness. The baked ones didn't get as crispy as the fried ones I tried, but were a lot less messy. I don't like dealing with hot oil, cooking with or cleaning it up. The yogurt sauce and cilantro topping added a great depth of flavor to the whole dish. And who doesn't like dipping chips?

Grilled pork chop, white peach and onions. Sauce with Dijon, raspberry vinaigrette and soy sauce. Side of paper thin cucumber salad.

Three things grilling at once for this dish. The pork chop, yellow sliced onion, and a beautiful white peach. Awesome flavors together, especially grilled. First time I've grilled fruit. Want to try grilled watermelon next summer. Pork was covered with a whisked sauce of Ken's Lite Walnut Raspberry Vinaigrette, dijon mustard, and soy sauce. AWESOME. I just made it up and it was a perfect balance of sour, savory and umami. The vinegary cold side of super-thin peeled sliced cucumber and onions were a nice complement to the rich grilled components. Just need to figure out where to get fresh dill. Dry just doesn't cut it, nor does it look pretty.

One of my family's favorite. Just good on so many things!

This last meal was the best grilled dish of the summer. I just can't get enough shrimp. Shrimp should be grilled shell-on; the shell holds in the moisture. It only take a couple minutes to cook on each side. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper before putting on the grill. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over them when they're on the plate. So simple, tender, and tasty as they burst in your mouth. The heirloom tomato was from a friend's garden (I will never garden, I just suck at tending; I can barely keep a basil plant on the kitchen counter alive). The fresh basil leaves, splash of balsamic vinegar, and parm are a great combo. Typically mozzarella is the cheese of choice, but I enjoy salty nutty parmesan. I was lazy on this, using pre-shredded. It's just not as good as freshly shaved cheese. Ever. I already had a big batch of caramelized onions made the night before (these take 45 minutes to get right; the antithesis to grilling time). They were a perfect topper over the grilled zucchini.

Grilled shrimp with smoked paprika, grilled zucchini with cumin and caramelized onions, heirloom tomato with balsamic, basil and parmesan.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Sunday in the Kitchen

I just have to brag. Spent 8 hours in the kitchen yesterday, well one of those hours running to grocery store for heavy cream and butter. Cooked ALL DAY. It was glorious. Last week was so busy, busting out three more collages for an upcoming show, that I just didn't have time to cook and tried to rely on ready-made stuff. Bad move. Canned soups just aren't great. Frozen burritos with jarred cheese sauce is horrid. I didn't like the taste, and my stomach was not having it. So Saturday, after meeting my art deadline and delivering the work to the Carter Art Center Gallery in KC, I shopped. Hit one of my favorites, World Market. Some real deals. Got these large serving bowls and casserole dishes; not a one was over 12.99. Then went to Trader Joe's. Got some organic fruits and veggies, and fresh herbs. Then it was time to head home, sleep in, wake up and COOK.

Spent the first hour or so slowly enjoying my coffee and pulling out ingredients, laying them all over the counters near my cutting boards. Getting various mixing bowls and utensils. Mise en place. Putting into place. Thinking through the order of the cooking. What needed oven, what needed stove top, which recipe was more high maintenance, more steps. Oh, and I had already chosen dishes and had purchased most of the needed groceries the day before at Trader Joe's. SO, started with the most involved one first. Caramelized onion and sweet potato hash with a baked egg. Recipe from The Kitchn cookbook. Caramelizing the onions takes at least 30 minutes of stirring and attention. Roasting the sweet potatoes takes about 30 minutes, too. Then you combine those into this cute ramekin, crack an egg on top, and bake for about 20 more minutes. Long time for little dish. But so worth it. Layers of yummy. I was so hungry I had taken a bite before I remembered the photo! Lesson learned...spray the ramekin. Egg stuck to the sides. Boo.

Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato Hash with Baked Egg

Now I was nourished and ready to plod on! Next came two stove top dishes, meant to be lunches throughout my week. This white bean soup was a recipe from Real Simple magazine. Veggie stock, onions, two cans white beans, chopped fresh spinach, basil, salt and pepper. I think I threw in a bit of cumin. It's fun to season and taste, season and taste. But slowly. I've killed dishes with too much salt. Inserted the immersion blender and blended to my desired consistency, which is about a medium smoothness factor. I still like to know they are beans. Topped with a dab of plain yogurt, freshly shaved parm, and chopped chives. Served with homemade crackers. 

White Bean Soup

Prepared the soup in a regular saucepan. The next recipe I prepared in my purple le creuset dutch oven on the stove top first, then moved to the oven. It's just served and photographed in the pretty new casserole dish. This is rosemary lemon chicken. No recipe in particular. It's a slow cooked flavor fest. Saute onions and garlic in butter. Throw in chopped peeled sweet potatoes. Salt and pepper. Lay on four salted peppered skinless boneless chicken thighs. Chop a lemon into fourths. squeeze onto chicken. Tuck lemon peels, full leaf basil, and three sprigs rosemary in and around chicken. Cover whole mess with chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Transfer dutch oven to the oven. Cook at 425 for about 45 minutes. Chicken should be falling apart and potatoes super soft. Take out rosemary sprigs before serving.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

So while those two dishes were simmering away, I prepared dough for my first experience making homemade crackers. They are so cheap in the store, why bother, right? WRONG. Fresh. No preservatives. No weird aftertaste. Endless possibilities for variety using different types of flours and seasoning. This recipe was from The Kitchn cookbook. It called for poppyseeds and fennel seeds in addition to the sesame seeds I had on hand. But I just used the sesame seeds. It was easy to make the dough. I had to seriously concentrate on directions, because baking is not my thing yet. I'm clunky rolling out dough, knowing how much to flour every service and utensil so I don't end up a stick mess. Well it worked, and it was a LOT of work, cutting the crackers, picking up one at a time with a spatula, spacing them out on the floured baking sheet, piercing ever single one with a fork so they wouldn't puff up. Whew. But fun! I will do this again but only in huge batches.

Sesame Seed Crackers

So I'm done with the oven and turn it off until I'm ready for the two final dishes of the day. Well, I have the next one prepared, turned the oven on, and it won't light. What the FRACK! This happened a few weeks ago, in the heat of the summer, and had a guy come fix it. In five years it never NOT worked. Well, here it is, the first time using it after it was fixed, and it won't work again. Toaster oven to the rescue! Seriously! The following two baked items were made in small batches in my toaster oven. Since I can only eat small portions and I was just experimenting, this worked well. For a dinner party, forget about it. The stove guy will come back soon, but I'm not paying! So this next dish just sounded like a tasty appetizer I wanted to try. Easy for a party. Recipe from Oprah magazine. They called it a rugelach. I looked this up, and merriam webster says it's a pastry made with cream-cheese dough that is rolled around a filling (as nuts, jam or chocolate) and baked. Well, this recipe was savory (my favorite) and called for pie crust dough. Hmm. Whatever it is it's GLORIOUS. I had only used puff pastry once before, in a baklava, so I thought I'd like that kind of bread better than store-bought pie crust. The filling is cooked mixture of fresh chopped spinach, onions, garlic, lemon juice, and feta. I cut the puff pastry into squares and put a dollop of the filling in the middle, and attempted a kind of fold that didn't really work well but passes. I have lots to learn.

Spinach Feta Pastries

So last but DEFINITELY not least is this organic pear galette. Now, I'm not fond of desserts. At all. Weird, I know. But I want to have a couple of solid desserts up my sleeve for dinners and parties. This recipe is from The Kitchn cookbook. What's super is that you can use any seasonal fruit and complimentary seasonings. I'm not a big apple lover, but I saw some gorgeous organic pears and went for it. First I prepared the homemade dough. This was not hard! Yay! Just some pulsing of flour and butter and ice cold water added a bit at a time in my mini food processor. Again, I had to bake this in the toaster oven, so I didn't need to prepare much dough. You don't even need this dough, just pat it down into a disk and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I peeled the pears and sliced them on a mandolin and coated them with sugar, cream, flour and butter and a bit of cinnamon. Rolled out the dough. Spread some apricot preserves around the center, leaving about a two inch border of dough. Layered on the pear slices as pretty as I could muster. Then folded and crinkled the edges onto the top of the fruit. Put a few dabs of butter onto the exposed fruit. Brushed the crust with some water and sprinkled sugar. Baked. There you have it. Topped with whipped cream. Made it myself. Cup of heavy whipping cream into a chilled metal bowl. Add two teaspoons sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and whisk the hell out of it. Perfect! Tastes so fresh!
Organic Pear Galette

Galette: a flat round cake of pastry often topped with fruit; a food prepared and served in the shape of a flat round cake.

  1. Bon appetit! (good appetite, enjoy your meal) 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Kitchen Studio

When I realized I was spending as much time in my kitchen creating culinary art as I was spending in my art studio creating collages, I dubbed the kitchen a "studio." Studio is defined as "a room where an artist, photographer, sculptor, etc. works.
Synonyms: workshop, workroom, atelier, workspace. "the artist's studio"
This works for me. I am claiming that my cooking is art. Therefore, kitchen studio. 

I have adored this book. I like to have it handy on a shelf in the kitchen. There's a great website, too: but I like the feel of the book. 

In the first section or so, there is a great diagram. Seeing this made me really think through how I use my space; what I did first, how much I walked and pivoted. How could I be most efficient, safe, and what just looked more inviting. Just like my art studio, it took time to arrange materials on surfaces to determine the best flow for my making.

In addition to work areas, the tools for cooking need to find their places. When I add a new gadget, I have to rethink my set-up. But that's just fun. Things I use least go up high or hidden in cabinets. Things I use most often are out on the counter, or within easy reach or eye level. 

I love my kitchen studio. I've worked hard to achieve the look and function I like, that motivates me to want to be in the space. When I have parties, most people don't move from this space. I'm incredibly lucky to have a 6-burner gas stove and these giant windows. And lots of hummingbirds that are quite vicious but fun to watch as I chop or do dishes. I hand-painted the cabinets based on a Matisse cut-out design.

I need lots of chopping space. I try to use one for meat an one for veg for sanitary reasons. I keep a ceramic bowl for trash right there, so I don't have to walk four or five steps behind me when I need to toss something. I just wait for the bowl to fill, then empty the bowl. 

I do wish I had more counter space to the right of the stove. This spot gets used more than any surface since it's closest to the fridge. All of my utensils are in those drawers. Forks, knives, spoons are in the top. Ones I use to cook with most often are in the white and turquoise ceramic jars on the counter. I also keep cooking oils there: canola, olive, and coconut. Vinegars are grouped on another counter. I'm getting into crazy vinegars, like cameroon mango. That's another post! I like my built-in shelf there, too. I had an organizational orgasm buying new glass spice jars with silver screw on lids and labels. Oh so fun and they look great. 

Who doesn't love thoughtfully curated refrigerator doors? This is where I collect school photos of my niece and nephews, their drawings and notes to me, and magnets from cities and national parks I've visited. They remind me of good times, restaurants, and views. On the left are two menus I bought on the streets of Paris. Super sexy women and food. I should have bought more of these. Next time!

Aren't these shelves stunning? They came with the house. It's easy to look junky; I've slowly replaced various colored plastic bowls with just silver, white, and wooden. Dishes are mostly white, or turquoise now. Mugs are from various cities. There are framed postcards of places I've traveled. The sign in the middle says "I'd like to lick your grits and butter your biscuits." Ha. A print from Hatch Print Studio in Nashville. Some original art by local Kristin Huke. A short stack of my favorite cookbooks. A beer label collage courtesy of Leslie Smith's dad. Dachshund salt and pepper shakers from Karen Kostan. Purple goblets and china set from my Grandma. Things I use most often are at eye level and within easy reach.

Friday, September 2, 2016

RIP Recipes

So here are some of the foods I just can't make a meal of anymore. They hurt my stomach. I can't digest them. They give me hardly any nutrition. And they were my trigger foods that led to my fat self. I couldn't stop. Four pieces of pizza. A whole big bowl of pasta. Three slices of bread. A dozen wings. With beer. After some kind of dip. Whew. I am extremely lucky that I don't crave these meals these days; I just have a fond memory of them. I can't explain why I don't crave them; but when a hankering does come around for them or it's just something everyone likes to eat, I've tried to make some healthier versions. So I can at least get the taste, fool my brain into thinking it's the full deal...


Veggie Pizza, homemade dough

My homemade version was amazing, just ask Lance. Made my own crust, added garlic to it. Tomato paste and honey as the sauce. Fresh toppings, grated mozzarella. The best. If I can get the crust thinner, this may come back for me.

Flatbread Cracker Pizza
I've only made this once. Trouble is finding the large flatbread crackers that have some flavor. Need to find a brand and order online. These are yummy and satisfyingly crunchy. Same toppings as my original pizza, but much easier to make since I just put them in the toaster oven. My toaster oven is getting more use now, since it's perfect portion size for me and I don't have to heat up the whole oven.

Pizza Cup Minis
These were divine but messy. Too much oil since I used a dollop of homemade pesto in them. Press three pieces of pepperoni into each mini muffin cup in the pan. Fill with veg, meat, bit of tomato paste, and top with mozz and parm. Bake in oven until cheese melts. Bite size delight.


Mac and Cheese with sausage and hot sauce
My thin friends controlling themselves at my mac and cheese birthday buffet

Once I figured out how to make my own mac and cheese, I was obsessed. It was scary. I even had a birthday party themed around it. Seriously. I made a huge steaming pan of it and asked friends to brings toppings. It was a big hit. To the gut. Ugh. There just is no substitute for this dish. I'm having to settle on stealing a bite of my nephew Jonah's when I get to see him. 

Homemade pasta

I got culinarily curious about making pasta, so I asked around on facebook and found a friend who gave me hers (thanks, Meg!). I see why people don't make it often. It's high maintenance, but the fresh taste seems so worth it. But then you remember how cheap it is to buy. So then you put the machine away. Either way, I can't eat much of it. Takes up too much room in the tummy, and there's no protein or vitamins to speak of. I've tried zucchini noodles. Nope. Edamame noodles were an exciting prospect since they packed in tons of protein. Nope. The textures of these just don't work for me. Not enough of a fake-out for my brain. This is the best I've been able to come up with so far:

rice noodles
They are super thin and pretty easy for me to digest if cooked long enough. I've gotten a bit of angel hair pasta down, but I'm wary. I don't want angel hair to be the gateway drug back into overeating. I use them as pasta, and with stir fries. Any time I need a noodle, this is my go-to.


No Knead Bread with rosemary

My GOD, isn't this beautiful?! Got the recipe from my friend Karen. I still love good bread, but I can just have tastes. I hope I can do a half panini or grilled cheese eventually. I also want to try a sourdough starter. I was just in Depoe Bay, Oregon and came across this shop called Toasted. Check out the menu. All kinds of toast! With delish homemade jams and toppings. What a brilliant idea. I guess it's a thing on the west coast; I want to bring it home if I can make good breads.

Pancakes of course

RIP pancakes. Never loved 'em anyway. Sugar for breakfast just isn't appealing. I'm a savory and salty girl. But the ritual was fun. And nothing beats the smell of real maple syrup filling the house.

Buffalo Wings, some kind of dip, and beer

And last but not least, a super-size RIP to this particular combo. Super Bowl Sunday will have to have some new alternatives fo sho. This is the only time I made wings myself, but as I made them, you can see, I drank beer and had lime flavored tortilla chips and some kind of yummy dip. Chowed down. These days, I just can't eat wings at all. I've tried three times. Won't stay down. Must be the fact that they are fried and loaded with flour and seasoning. Not sure. Had thought since they were full of protein, they'd be a good idea. Nope. They're pretty horrible for anyone. I can get my buffalo fix other ways!