About Me

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Just a simple gal living on the outskirts of Portland making ends meet. I have lived in Portland for over 20 years and I am happy to call it home. On this blog you will find everything from cooking to my crazy life. I hope you enjoy.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving without an oven

Surviving Thanksgiving without an oven was easier than I thought it would be. I know I sounded very confident talking about it for the past week, but deep down inside I was a tad nervous wondering if I could pull it off. Well pull it off I did, and it literally couldn't have been simpler.
I took two thawed Cornish game hens and gave them an overnight bath in a brine. The brine I used was a mixture of water, Kosher salt, brown sugar, juice of one orange and one lemon with the fruit tossed in the brine, half a cinnamon stick, small palm full of black peppercorns, few whole cloves, fresh rosemary, 1 bay leaf and a few whole allspice. I brought the brine to a boil and turned it down to a simmer for a bit (until all the salt and sugar is disolved) to let the flavors merry. Then turn off the heat and let the brine cool completely you are not looking to cook the hens. While the brine is cooling you you can remove the backbone out of your hens with a sharp knife or a pair of poultry shears. Then submerge the hens in the brine and put a lid on it and place it in the fridge overnight.
Yesterday afternoon I got the smoker out of the garage, brought the racks in and cleaned them up and found the apple wood chips that I wanted to use. You can use whatever flavor of chips you prefer I used apple wood because I had used citrus in my brine and I thought the flavors would compliment. I placed the hens breast up cut side down on the oiled rack and smoked them for 1 1/2 hours using three pans of chips. At this point the hens may look done but they are not.
This is where the boyfriend steps in and fires up the grill. The hens grilled for another 40 min. to an hour at about 300-350 degrees depending on how big they were in the first place and were basted with a 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup quince jelly and 1 1/2 tsp stone ground mustard reduction that I added an additional pinch of black pepper and salt to. So after cooking on the grill they looked like this. Better right?
I also made up some sauteed asparagus. In a large skillet I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter added almost an equal amount of brown sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let that melt together and get hot, add the asparagus and saute for about 4 min. Then to the skillet add about 1/4 cup chicken stock and lid it letting the asparagus steam until desired doneness. This is my sons favorite way to have asparagus.
I also made up some delicious buttermilk mashed potatoes, and all I have to say it if you haven't used buttermilk in your mashed potatoes instead of cream or milk or whatever it is that you use...you don't know what your missing. It also helps if you use Yukon gold potatoes. The flavor just can't be beat. I know, I know what is Thanksgiving without dessert and how did you do dessert without an oven? I cheated thats how I simply found something that was pumpkiny (probably should be a word) and that I would not have a ton of laying around damaging my waistline all weekend. So I give you the store bought pumpkin spice, cream cheese filled and frosted cupcake...pretty dang tasty I have to admit. I only bought four.
This year it was just the bf and I for Thanksgiving I did a real simple table. I used my vintage harvest table linen and put a few sprigs of my fresh rosemary into a antique honey jar. The rosemary perfumed the air just a little which made the whole kitchen smell wonderful even if there was nothing in the oven.
I hope each and everyone of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. This year I was again thankful for my job, home, family and friends but most importantly the one I love. He is a very positive force in my life.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Shortbread

I got one last batch out of my oven before it went to that great appliance heaven in the sky...well one last batch of cookies and one loaf of French bread. I will get a new/used oven this weekend not to worry.
I made buttery delicious shortbread this past Sunday that came out crisp with just a hint of color to it...just the way I like it. Now my shortbread recipe is no secret but the secret ingredient will have people guessing if you don't tell them what it is. Ingredients 1 1/4 cup flour, 3 Tlb. white sugar, 1/2 cup very soft butter (or 1 stick butter. Directions Cream the butter and the sugar together until very well blended and fluffy. This is where you add the secret ingredient. Open up two individual tea bags of double chai tea and grind to a fine powder. Cream this finely ground tea into your butter and sugar then add the flour one 1/2 cup at a time mixing well after each addition
After you get your dough all together I lightly dust a surface with flour and roll it out to the thickness I want and cut out Christmas shapes.
It amazes me just how many little cut outs you can get out of a double batch of shortbread.
I managed to get an army of little short bread men a forest of little Christmas trees and a few handfuls of little snowflakes. I put the little sprinkles and dragees on them before baking. Bake these little gems in a 325 oven until they start to show just the slightest bit of color around the edge...almost no color. These little cut outs don't take long. They really look nice a plate and are the perfect thing to take to a Holiday party.
Yes I did say in the first paragraph that my oven had died, and I am sure you are wondering how I am going to pull off Thanksgiving dinner with no oven...well I guess you will have to come back and see. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving I hope you spend it with the ones you love enjoying each others company.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Holidays are here

I can officially start thinking about the holidays ahead and all the treats and goodies I swear I won't eat...I must like lying to myself. I got all my fall bulbs into the ground yesterday after work and I know the squirrels will be thrilled. My daughter said they were probably watching me from the cedar tree across the street in anticipation of those tasty tulip bulbs. Every year the squirrels dine on my bulbs and then bury walnuts in my flower bed. Crazy I know.
I wanted to post a quick blog about Holiday treats and how easy it can be to pull something together last minute to take to a cocktail party or treats for the office. Something that doesn't consume your entire afternoon yet looks like you spent a great deal of time on it.
I love Dark Chocolate so when I spied this semi recipe in on back of some crazy mailer I jumped on it. Directions over double boiler or in microwave melt one bag (12 to 16 oz.) of dark chocolate/semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks. To the melted chocolate add dried fruit and nuts...making sure to keep the nuts and dried fruit well coated. Drop by spoonful onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Pop into the freezer until hardened and WALA! (not sure of my spelling there) You have fruit and nut clusters that will rival any candy shop. This is a simple yet satisfying treat that will be a crowd pleaser for sure.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Best Brisket Ever

This is one of those recipes that is so good you can invite people over for dinner to share in the deliciousness of the finished product knowing full well you are going to get many kudos and pats on the back for making said wonderful dish. This is the Sunday roast to beat all Sunday roast and people will think you spent hours perfecting this beautiful piece of meat.
Ingredients 1 4lb. untrimmed beef brisket, 2 Tlb. salt, 2 Tlb. black pepper, 2 tsp. cayenne, 4 cloves crushed garlic, 1 whole onion peeled and cut up into slivers, 1/4 cu. soy sauce, 1/8 cu. Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 liquid smoke (plus an additional 1/4 cu. for later), 1/4 cu. strong black coffee, 1/4 apple cider vinegar, 3 fresh sliced jalapen0 (seeds optional).
Directions Allow your brisket to come to room temp. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. In a bowl mix together the salt, black pepper, cayenne, and crushed garlic and rub real good into your brisket pay special attention to the meatier side of the brisket. In a bowl mix together all the liquid ingredients. In the bottom of a foil lined roasting pan put in the slivered onion and half the jalapenos and pour in the liquid (except reserved 1/4 cup liquid smoke) place the brisket fat side up, sprinkle on remaining salt and pepper mixture and jalapenos (see photo above). Cover roast with the foil and seal (not to tight)and put lid on roasting pan. Bake in preheated oven for four hours at this point pull the roast out to check it and see if you want the additional 1/4 liquid smoke (I usually don't) then cover it back up and slip it back into the oven for another hour. It roughly works out to 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound. Take roast out of the pan and cover it and let it sit for about 30 minutes. The pan juice works great for gravy and I love this roast served up with some cheesy polenta or grits (whichever you want to call it).
This hearty roast is the perfect thing to make this time of year...I like to make it on a Sunday because the leftovers turn into wonderful sandwiches for the work week ahead, and the aroma that wafts through the house while it is cooking will almost make your forget your weekend is over.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Maraschino Cherries

In my area last summer cherries went on a sale in a phenomenal way (under 2.00 a lb.), so I bought a couple pounds for eating and another pound for trying my hand at making Maraschino Cherries. I found a recipe simple enough and I had everything to make to make them. These cherries turned out super delicious full of flavor and makes me wish my cherry tree was older/bigger and produced enough cherries for me to make these more than once a summer.
Ingredients 1 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup pom juice, 1 cup sugar, 3 1/2 oz. lemon juice (fresh is best), 1 whole star anise pod, 1 peel (no pith) from orange, 1 lb. pitted cherries. Whatever variety of cherry you want to use is going to work just fine. I used dark cherry.
Directions In a medium sauce pan put all the ingredients except the cherries, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer until all the sugar has dissolved.
Add the cherries and continue to simmer for about ten minutes or until the liquid develops a cherry flavor to it. Keep in mind you don't want to cook the cherries just bring out their flavor.
Remove from heat and place contents of pan in a bowl to further cool and stop the cherries from cooking. When the cherries and syrup are room temprature transfer to a jar or something else air tight and put in fridge. These are great for topping cake, cupcakes or my personal favorite making my own homemade Shirley Temple and Rob Roy mocktails.
If you store them right they should last a few weeks in the fridge...unless you eat them straight from the jar...I do that to.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cinnamon Biscuits

I got this recipe off of a recipe card that came in the mail with some book offer or some recipe card offer about 12 years ago, and it has been a family favorite since the first time I made it.
This recipe is quick, easy, extremely tasty and it satisfies my craving for something sweet and baked all at once and in short order. Pretty sure it is in no way good for you, but I look at it this way I balance of couple of these with a bike ride or two and some Yoga I will be o.k.
Ingredients 2 Cups flour, 1 Tlb. baking powder,1 tsp. salt,1/4 tsp. baking soda,1/4 cup veg. oil 3/4 Cup fresh buttermilk, 1 stick of very soft butter, 3/4 Cup white sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Directions Preheat oven to 350 Take the first four ingredients and sift together into a bowl. Add to the dry ingredients the veg. oil and buttermilk and mix until you form a sticky dough (you may need to add a tad more buttermilk). Place dough on a floured surface and knead dough until it comes together. Roll dough out with a rolling pin until you get a rectangle roughly 15 x 8. Spread very soft butter over dough ( I know it looks like a lot, but it is worth it ) then mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle that over the top of the butter. Roll up dough like you would regular cinnamon rolls and cut roll into 1 3/4 in. sections with a sharp knife. Place sections cut side down in a lightly greased 9 in. round cake pan and bake for roughly 20 min. ( give or take a minute or two ). Serve warm...simply delicious!
Note: When I made these last weekend I decided to kick it up a notch or two by using brown sugar instead of white and tossing in a small handful of chopped pecans. As you can see it worked beautifully. Enjoy.

Monday, November 4, 2013


I started a project some months back and it is going slow, but happily I am making progress. My kitchen is small and I have to make due for now with what I have. I also like to keep things as organized as possible and nicely labeled. Not always easy when you are dealing with limited space and someone who likes to cook and bake as much as I do. To say the least I have tons of spices, herbs, and dried treasures in jars that only I know what they are...imagine a apothecary shop and you have my spice shelf and cupboard. I like reusing glass jars and canning jars to store items in and I also like to recycle spice jars and bottles as well, so I needed to find something to label them with that could be reused as well as the jars and bottles.
I found this great shop on Etsy. I always seem to find the neatest little treasure that I just can't live without and they have never let me down when it comes to finding gifts for friends and family, so I figured they could help me with my organizational issues, and they did. I found the perfect shop to take care of my spice shelf and pantry shelf issues/needs. I love the little chalkboard design labels, and the pens work great. I have had my pen for over a year and it has not dried up. I use a couple of different sizes to label all my jars and bottles. Oh it will probably take me another year to get everything finished, but I will get there sooner or later. It is nice having everything visible and knowing how much I have of one thing and if I need more of another. Eventually I will have all matching jars and bottles...but seriously one step at a time. The best thing about the pen that I use is that the ink/chalk does not wash off with water, but will come off if you dampen a paper towel with some Windex, so you can start over with a fresh slate if you misspell a word or need to put something different in the bottle or jar.