Something Old, Something…Well, Old

And here I am, back from my three week bloggy vacation.  A more or less “real” vacation, too – and to be perfectly frank, I need a vacation from my vacation.  Don’t get me wrong, we had a really great time in Vegas, then in Hocking Hills with most of the kids (and The G Man, who was a constant source of joy and amusement for us all), but Beloved and I are very, very tired…as well as looking at getting caught up after two solid weeks out of the office.  Then there’s the fact that as soon as we got home and started dropping kids off at the airport, I came down with an absolutely lovely case of bronchitis.

Oi vey.

At any rate, I spent yesterday updating the digs for August (like it?  I do!) and wondering what the blue blazes I was going to post about.  Beloved had several suggestions, and while I will get to all of them eventually…I don’t have the energy or inclination to put forth too much effort right now.  Normally under such circumstances I’d pull out a recipe, but I haven’t done a whole lot of cooking over the last two or three weeks (although you can bet your bottom dollar I’m in the process of some very big planning).

Lo and behold, though, Jen at Sprite’s Keeper has come through for me with the Spin Cycle once again.  You see, the subject this week is “weddings” and while we spent the last two weeks getting acquainted with Darling Daughter’s main squeeze, Mr. Fix It, we were informed that they intend on getting hitched within the next year.  Yay!   But since that hasn’t quite happened yet, I can’t write about it.  So, I’m re-running a very old post (October 2008) about my own wedding.

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<<< This is a wedding lemon.  It is appropriate.  This is the wedding lemon’s story.

Okay, if you want to start at the very beginning, which is a very good place to start according to Julie Andrews, you have to go back to October 2007, when, while we were sitting at a really nice restaurant on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Beloved looked at me and said, “So, why don’t we see what it takes to get married in Hawaii this Christmas?”

After my hysterical laughter died down, I saw he was dead serious.  So, we went about finding out what we needed to do to get married while in Hawaii over the Christmas holidays.  We’d both done this before – marriage, I mean – and didn’t want anything elaborate.  We just wanted to sign the papers, say “I do” and get on with the honeymoon.

Easier said than done.

Weddings are a HUGE racket in Hawaii.  While I can’t speak for the residents, people who come to Hawaii from the mainland to get married can NOT just go the Department of Health for a license, nor can they just make an appointment with a Justice of the Peace at City Hall.  You have to make an appointment with an independent “marriage license agent” located at various places around the island you intend to get married on for the license itself.  We got ours at the espresso bar of a small fish market/delicatessen for $65 (cash only).  They threw in a complimentary bumper sticker that said “I Got My Marriage License at the Pono Market.”

Just like this one.  In fact, that’s the bumper sticker.

And since you can’t just make an appointment with the Justice of the Peace at City Hall, you MUST go though one of the approximately 2,867,291 wedding planning services that do business on the island of Kauai alone.

“Wedding planning services” is apparently an ancient Hawaiian term for “ridiculous and unnecessary things that are outrageously expensive” and none of which include the serving of alcohol.  Something I simply don’t understand, because you’d have to get me pretty damn drunk to agree to pay $3,000 for an officiant, a couple of leis, a “decorative and commemorative” copy of the marriage license, 24 digital – not even printed! – photographs, a pair of traumatized doves they’ll release just in time to poop all over your wedding party, and some guy in a flowered skirt blowing a conch shell.

Call me old and cynical, because – gee – I am, but that all sounded suspiciously like a scam to me.  Oh, they’ll make the appointment for you to get the marriage license (although the $3,000 does not include the $65 – in cash – to get it), and they’ll help you plan the time and location of the ceremony and make those arrangements for you, but if you’ve got the appointment for the license and have already made the arrangements in regards to the time and place, it will still cost you $3,000.  And if you tell them in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that you DO NOT WANT the damn leis, photographs, doves and conch blower they will so aggressively attempt to upsell you that you’ll end up yelling and calling them thieves while you accuse them of extortion.

Not that I’ve ever done anything like that, you understand.

After talking to well over two dozen blood sucking tourist traps wedding planning services – long distance, mind you – I was ready to cry in frustration when I came across one woman who, along with her husband, was licensed to perform marriages and ran a small service that focused on lower budget ceremonies.  She was completely amenable to allowing us to come to their home where we could sign the papers and she would pronounce us married in a mercifully brief civil service.  And she would file the paperwork with the state.  All for $200, which yes, is still stupidly expensive for what we were getting, but by then I was so thrilled to be quoted a figure that wasn’t in the thousands and didn’t include torch bearers, hula dancers and live monarch butterflies that I was practically sobbing in gratitude as I gave her my credit card number.

So, on January 2, 2008 we drove to her home, which was located fairly far inland on Kauai and was absolutely beautiful.  We sat on her lovely covered deck to sign the paper work and then went to stand under a huge, gorgeous Meyer lemon tree loaded with ripe fruit that smelled heavenly while she pronounced us married.

She even gave us a souvenir absolutely free of charge, which is why Beloved is holding a lemon behind his back in the picture of us kissing on our wedding day.

You can't see it, but he's holding a lemon behind his back

Tomato, Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

It took me awhile to recover from so many days off, but I have recipes again!  LOL

Actually, I was quite busy this weekend – on top of grilling some filets from Chuck and smoking a free-range chicken we picked up at the farmer’s market, we pitted and froze five pounds of sweet cherries I found on sale for $.199/lb, made homemade chicken stock from a “soup chicken”- an old laying hen past her prime – and (believe it or not) made dog food for Scooter, using the meat from the old hen and a kidney from Chuck.

Yes, I guess we’ve gone off the deep end.  I should have never read the ingredients on the bag of kibble we’ve been feeding him; it was simply appalling.  I wouldn’t eat that stuff; why feed it to my furry, four-legged child?

At any rate, since we’ve got the grill/smoker cranked up full throttle for the summer, salads are still the order of the day.  We’d picked up some lovely tomatoes and cucumbers at the farmer’s market this last weekend and have been trying to consume a seedless watermelon for several days (there’s only so much watermelon you can eat at any given meal, and I’ve been resisting the urge to pull the ice cream maker out and make a sorbet with it), so voilá!  A Tomato, Watermelon and Cucumber salad.

Quick, easy, tasty, refreshing and oh-so-good for you, too.  What more could you ask for?

Note:  A mandolin will make quick work of the cucumber and onion.

Tomato, Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

Tomato, Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

4 to 6 servings

4 cups cubed watermelon

1 large, ripe tomato, chopped

1 large cucumber, sliced very thinly

1/2 large, sweet onion, sliced very thinly

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

3 teaspoons sugar or Splenda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the watermelon, tomato and cucumber in a large bowl; toss with the sugar or Splenda and salt.  Let it stand for 15 minutes.

Stir in the onion, thyme, vinegar and olive oil.  Cover and chill for 2 hours.  Taste; season with pepper.  Serve on lettuce leaves, if desired.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Tomato, Watermelon and Cucumber Salad on Foodista

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

Here in the States, cherries are in season.  They aren’t something I cook with very often, and when I made this dish Friday night, I wondered why – it was really simple and absolutely delicious.

We had scored some really nice, bone-in pork chops at the little retail store of the people who butchered our half a cow (more about the marvelous Perkins family of White Feather Meats in a later post) and I was rather at a loss with what to do with them.  Then I spotted the inexpensive cherries I’d picked up earlier in the week and wondered if they could be used to sauce the chops.  The answer was a very happy “Yes!”

After an extensive search of my cookbooks and the internet, I found this recipe on the Serious Eats website and immediately thought, “This is it!”  Unlike most cherry sauces, this was low in sugar and didn’t use cornstarch to thicken it (a lot of the recipes I found online used canned cherry pie filling, which I have never liked).  The original recipe did call for a pinch of sugar on the pork chops themselves, as well as pan-frying in canola oil – both of which have been banned from my kitchen.  I simply seasoned the chops with a little salt and pepper and cooked them in a little beef tallow I’d rendered myself a few days earlier, and they came out just fine.  The recipe also called for placing the pork chops on a cold skillet and turning the heat on underneath – a sure-fire way to get them to stick.  Heat the skillet first, then add your fat and the meat, and you will greatly reduce any problems with it sticking to the pan.

And if you don’t eat pork, this would be just lovely on roasted or grilled chicken.

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

serves 4

1 cup cherries, pitted

3 tablespoons water

1/4 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch of salt

4 thick, bone-in loin pork chops

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of fat – oil, clarified butter, lard, etc.

Place the cherries into a small pot and pour in the water, red wine, red wine vinegar, honey, thyme, mustard, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes, smashing the cherries with a wooden spoon about half way through, or until the sauce becomes slightly syrupy.

In the meantime, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat until quite hot.  Place your fat of choice in the pan, making sure to coat the bottom.  Season the pork chops lightly with salt and pepper, reduce the temperature slightly and pan fry them until they reach an internal temperature of 140º F, or are no longer pink in the center or close to the bone, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

Serve immediately with the cherry sauce.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Pork Chops With Cherry Sauce on Foodista

Apple Crisp

I am late today posting, and the rest of the week may be a bit haphazard – the drug dealer from Florida who bought this dump, sight unseen, as a “legitimate” front our responsible and immensely caring landlord has taken our rents and run because that’s what sleazy gigolo criminals do forsaken us due to financial difficulties and the power to our office building is going to may be shut off today.  We have a backup plan, since we’ve been unpleasantly aware of this possibility for some time, but implementing it is going to take time and effort we really can’t spare right now.

Life – it surely can be interesting.

Anyhoo, I learned a couple of things while making this recipe yesterday:

  1. Never buy apples in bags no matter how cheap they are; half of them will be bruised beyond use.
  2. I could use a course in food photography.

Oh, I’m getting better, I’m just not progressing at a rate that suits me – I’m definitely not happy with the shots I took for this.  Oh, well; you’ll get the basic gist of it all.

So, faced with half a bag of reasonably decent Macintosh apples, I decided to make an apple crisp with them, and some homemade vanilla ice cream.  Now, if you’ll scroll waaaaay down and look at the sidebar, you’ll see a little button that says “Cook, Eat, Share – Featured Author.”  I have NO idea how they found me, but the people who run this site sent me an email asking me to be a contributor on their site, and since I have what is ostensibly a food blog where I post recipes at least once a week, I got the status of “Featured Author.”

I have absolutely no idea what that entails as of yet, but it is quite flattering.

Anyway, I haven’t had much of a chance to search the site for recipes until this weekend, but when I did I found a treasure trove – if you need recipes, you should really check this site out.  I found one for “Double Crumb Apple Crisp” that looked just wonderful, but it made a ton.  With some adjustments in ingredients, proportions and procedure, I came up with a dessert much more suitable to a household of three (one of which won’t touch it because he only likes “crunchy” apples 🙄 ).

It can be easily doubled if you’re feeding a crowd, and is absolutely tasty no matter how large you make it.

Note: if you use salted butter, cut the amount of salt in half.

 

Apple Crisp

serves 6 – 8

7 cups thinly sliced cooking apples

1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on the tartness of the apples

1 teaspoon cinammon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons corn starch

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt (I use kosher salt)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit for about half an hour.  Stir, and sprinkle with the corn starch; mix thoroughly.

While the apples are macerating, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Whisk the oats, brown sugar, flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl, cut the butter in to the oatmeal mixture with a pastry cutter or two table knives until it is coarse and crumbly.

Press a little more than half the oatmeal mixture in the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish; spread the apples evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal mixture over the apples.

Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until the topping is brown and crisp and the apples are tender.  Serve warm, with ice cream if desired.

Spinach Stuffed Pork Roast with Fruit Sauce

Pork Roast with Fruit SauceGood gawd, we were so busy last week that I never got around to posting a recipe.  And it’s not going to get better any time soon; after more than a week with Jolly and Little Guy, Beloved left yesterday afternoon to drive to Kalamazoo, Michigan for a week to see a client.  He comes home Friday night, then on Saturday Oldest Son and Darling Daughter fly in for the Thanksgiving holiday.

YAAAAAAYYYYY!!

Sorry – I don’t see my older kids nearly often enough.

Oldest Son has to leave first thing Friday morning following Turkey Day – he has work commitments – but Darling Daughter is staying until Sunday.  There’s gonna be a whole lotta cookin’ goin’ on, since Darling Daughter is also of the culinary persuasion, and she wants some basic cake decorating lessons, which will be fun too.  I SO cannot wait for their visit!

Whenever any of the kids come to visit, I always ask them what they’d like for dinner.  This dish is always requested by Oldest Son, who likes it accompanied by Hoppin’ John.  It may sound odd, pairing this rather sophisticated dish with such a humble side, but they go together amazingly well.  The fruit sauce is simplicity itself and lends itself well to just about any pork dish; I’m going to try it with my Honey Rosemary Grilled Pork Loin, which I recently roasted in the oven (it turned out really, really well).  I think it would be what my kids call “teh yummeh.”

I have no idea where this recipe came from, but it’s been in my repertoire for years and while it sounds like it should be complicated, it really isn’t, although it’s certainly fancy enough for company.  If you don’t eat pork, you could easily stuff a boned turkey breast with the spinach mixture and serve it with the fruit sauce – in fact, I bet it would be fabulous.

Spinach Stuffed Pork Roast with Fruit Sauce

serves 6 – 8

2 ¼ boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of visible fat

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 slice fresh bread, minced (or pulsed in a food processor until reduced to coarse crumbs)

6 oz. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of any excess moisture

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Fruit Sauce

1 cup mixed dried fruit, chopped

1 cup unsweetened apple juice or cider

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat;  saute the onion until tender and golden.  Stir in bread and spinach and season to taste with salt and pepper; remove from heat and set aside.

Starting on a long side, cut a deep pocket in the pork loin roast for the entire length; stuff with the spinach mixture and tie closed with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals.

Place the pork roast on a rack in a small roasting pan; sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Roast pork for 45 minutes; spread with mustard and sprinkle with parsley and return to oven for another 15 minutes or until an instant thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork (not the spinach stuffing) reads 160° F.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 – 15 minutes.

While the pork loin roast is resting make the fruit sauce:

In a 2-quart sauce pan, bring the apple juice and dried fruit to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 3 minutes to soften the fruit.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the water and cornstarch; stir into simmering fruit mixture.  Add the brown sugar and bouillon; raise the heat slightly and cook until thickened, stirring constantly.

Cut and remove the kitchen string; slice the pork and serve with the fruit sauce.