Monday, July 6, 2015

Oliver, Soccer and Poldark

As you can see,
Oliver is settling in well.
He has a new cover for the sofa
where he's allowed to join us on special TV viewing occasions.
FIFA Women's Soccer was just such an occasion.
Congratulations Team USA!!

He was really waiting to see Poldark!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Blueberry Soup--A Summer Delight!

I never had cold soup until I met my husband.  Back in the day, The Baker wasn't a baker.  He wasn't a cook except for what he needed to prepare in his bachelor kitchenette.  I wasn't a cook either.  My mother and grandmother were not ones to share their kitchen space.  My sisters and I weren't even expected to wash dishes.  The few times we were asked to, a fight (of sorts) usually ensued.  The fight centered around which of us could get out of the kitchen the quickest.  It wasn't pretty but no bruises were involved.

One long ago hot summer day, Andrew invited me to partake in a bowl of chlodnik made from his mother's recipe.  Chlodnik is a Polish chilled soup made from barszcz (the Polish version of beet soup).  I found it quite delicious and refreshing.  My mother rolled her eyes when I told her about the soup.  Cold soup was not (and never was) something she was even interested in trying.  My second cold soup was one made with buttermilk, cucumbers and dill at a Polish restaurant in London.  It, too, was very good.  From those chilled beginnings, I graduated to gazpacho--a liquid salad that we enjoy all summer.

I had never tried a chilled fruit soup until I found this recipe in the Chicago Tribune some summers ago.  Is it a main course or a dessert?  It is delicious whatever part of the meal it is offered in.  When, as now, blueberries are in the market, this is on our table.  I hope you will give it a try.

Chicago Tribune

2 1/2 pints fresh blueberries
1 3/4 cups cold water
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Whipped cream, optional

Place two pints of the blueberries, water, orange juice, wine, sugar and zest in a medium saucepan over medium heat; heat to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer; cook stirring occasionally until blueberries break down, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat; puree in a food processor. Refrigerate at least two hours.

Divide soup among 8 bowls; divide the remaining 1/2 cup of the blueberries among the bowls. Top each with whipped cream if desired.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Orville Redenbacher and The Farmer's Market

I'll be confused the rest of the week!  The Baker (and I hope he gets back to baking soon) and I went to the Farmer's Market in our new town this morning.  Our favorite farmer is a part of the Valparaiso market too--a major selling point for our move here!!  What's confusing is, today is Tuesday.  Our Crown Point market was/is on Saturday.  I'm already feeling like tomorrow is Sunday!!

I'm not sure that it's better here but it is very nice.

The Farmer's Market is open on Tuesday and Saturday.  That's better!
The location is very nice.

We came home with honey, broccoli, tomatoes, blueberries,
a loaf of French bread,  homemade strawberry jam and
a bouquet of colorful snapdragons.


Orville is a native son.
In his honor, there is a popcorn festival here in September.
Maybe we'll check it out.

Happy Saturday Tuesday to all.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Beets on the Menu

We are slowly making progress in settling in and immersing ourselves into our new neighborhood and city.  In our former neighborhood, we watched the city pass by our front porch.  Here, we watch only a portion of the neighborhood at the end of our cul-de-sac.  It's very quiet.  Sometimes we hear only the chirping of birds as they stop by for a bite at neighborhood avian "cafes".

I must admit that, so far, I'm missing having to step onto the front porch to retrieve our mail.  It's only a short walk to the mailbox but it doesn't hold the old-time feel of hearing the mail deposited on the porch.  

Speaking of the porch, ours has a southern exposure and the plants are adjusting nicely and showing off colorfully.  We are working on getting fencing up on the side of the house for Oliver to enjoy some alone time outside.  For now, he has to be on a leash anytime he goes out.  He and Andrew are enjoying their walks here.  There are lovely parks with comfortable pathways to be explored.  I believe Oliver thinks we are on vacation and is wondering when we'll go home!!

Meals are still fairly simple as we get the kitchen unpacked and situated.  We are both excited about the ample pantry that is already full and waiting to be tweaked.  Here, the farmer's markets are on Tuesday and Saturday.  Our favorite farmer, Linda from LE Garden, is here on Tuesdays.  I was busy last Tuesday but Andrew paid the market a visit and came home with, among other things, a bunch of beets.  Since he's been working so hard, I decided to use them in one of his favorite dishes--cold beet soup.  It isn't exactly like his mother made but close.

Cold Beet Soup (Clodnik)

1 bunch (about 5-6 smallish) beets
1 medium onion, sautéed until translucent (2-3 minutes)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice
Plain yogurt or sour cream
Fresh dill

1.  Place the whole, unpeeled beets into a large saucepan and cover with water.  Simmer until soft--about twenty minutes.  Let them cool in the liquid, saving the liquid.  Slip the peel from the beets and slice them.
2.  Add the beets, onions and chicken stock to the beet liquid.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer and cook an additional ten minutes or so.  Remove from heat and cool.
3.  Using an immersion blender (or regular blender/food processor), puree the beets in the liquid.  Chill for several hours to overnight.
4.  When ready to serve, stir in fresh lemon juice and yogurt or sour cream to taste.  Top with fresh dill.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Eggs Cocotte

We are almost down to the last box to unpack.  The kitchen is in fairly good order except for the herbs and spices.  There is a large, shallow drawer that, I'm sure, is meant to hold those bottles.  I need to get to The Container Store for the drawer organizer to hold them in place.  Soon!  In the meantime, we are having the simplest of meals.

Eggs Cocotte came to mind after hearing on the weekend news that a suspected arsonist had set four fires in different areas of Chicago's Sofitel Hotel.  Thank goodness no one was injured.  Cafe des Architectes, located in the lobby, is a favorite of ours for Sunday brunch.  So, happy in the fact that all was well and it was Father's Day,  I made the little casseroles for brunch to celebrate.  These also make a delicious light supper.

Eggs Cocotte for Two as inspired by Cafe des Architectes

1 Tbsp room temperature butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup (or so) diced potatoes (I used fingerlings and sliced them since they were small)
1 cup (or so) diced red, green or yellow onions
2 eggs
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350

1.  Generously butter two cocottes (or small ramekins)
2.  Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan.  Add the potatoes and saute over low heat for about five minutes--just until starting to brown.  Add the onions, salt and pepper to taste and saute another five minutes or so until translucent.  The cocottes will only spend a short time in the oven so prepare the vegetables to your liking as they won't really cook much more in the oven.
3.  Divide the mixture between the two cocottes.
4.  Top each with an egg (or two, if you are a two-egg person)
5.  Sprinkle the egg(s) with a dusting of Parmesan cheese and place in the oven until the yolks are set but not firm, about five minutes.  They should be done to you taste.  Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Penne Pasta with Asparagus, Tomatoes and Feta

There are still a few (o.k., more than a few) boxes to be unpacked.  At least there are no more to be brought into the house!!  For now, we are trying to figure out the best ways to use the kitchen.  There's a huge pantry that, with organization, will be very efficient.  Once the rest of the house is in place, I plan to take a chair and a cup of coffee into the pantry where I'll sit and decide where everything goes.  Until then, I'm finding we have quite a bit of pasta.  At least it is light and was easy to move!!  The farmers' market had lovely asparagus.  We enjoyed it in one of our favorite spring (almost summer) dishes.

Pasta with Asparagus, Tomatoes and Feta a combination of two Chicago Tribune recipes

2 pounds asparagus
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 ounce chunk of Parmesan, grated

1.  Snap off woody bottoms of the asparagus and peel the stalk.  Cut on the diagonal into 2 inch pieces.
2.  Place the asparagus into a bowl with the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well and allow to stand fifteen minutes.
3.  Spread the asparagus in one layer on a baking.  Roast in a 500 degree oven about ten minutes, shaking the pan a few times during that time. 
4.  Transfer the asparagus and any juices back to the bowl.  Add more salt and pepper to taste, stir in the Parmesan and set aside.

8 ounces penne pasta (cooked according to package directions)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 each, halved red and yellow tomatoes
1/2 cup each crumbled feta and freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced

5.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat; stir in the garlic and tomatoes.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are slightly softened and the garlic is golden--about five minutes.
6.  Stir in the cooked and drained pasta.
7.  Stir in the asparagus, the feta and the parmesan.  Garnish with the basil.