29 June 2010

Tasty Penzeys Loot

Over the weekend, The Husband took me to our local Penzeys so I could stock up on some necessities. I'd been a little worried about taking my wheelchair into such a little shop, but there was enough floorspace available for me to get around and find all the things I was looking for without knocking down racks of merchandise.

Penzeys Loot

I picked up:
  • Regular Canadian Mustard Powder
  • Herbes de Provence ("rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, savory, basil, tarragon, dill weed, Turkish oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram")
  • Northwoods Seasoning ("coarse flake salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, garlic and chipotle")
  • Horseradish Dip ("ground horseradish, salt, dextrose, onion powder, lemon peel, dill weed, black pepper and chives")
I had two coupons so the Northwoods Seasoning ($3.39) and the Herbes de Provence blend ($2.39) were free. Yays!

(Horseradish dip was The Husband's impulse buy. We like dip. We like horseradish. We shall like horseradish dip?)

25 June 2010

Yay for Local Yoghurt

When we were grocery shopping last weekend¹, The Husband encouraged me to pick up a new brand of yoghurt. I am so glad he did, because Simmons Family Farm's low fat yoghurt tastes awesome and is made twenty-five minutes from my home -- eat local, ftw!

Lovely Low Fat Local Yoghurt

I purchased a strawberry and a peach Simmons Family Farm yoghurt, but Price Chopper also sells blueberry and plain. Blueberry might be nice with some granola mixed in and I'm betting plain will work wonderfully in place of sour cream on baked potatoes or pirogi ...


I've only eaten the strawberry yoghurt, so far, and I was so impressed by it that I really had to argue with myself against going straight on to the peach.  In the end, dietary guilt won and I set the peach aside for later. 
Ingredients: Organic Sugar, Water, Strawberries, Natural Strawberry Flavor and Pectin, Skim Milk and Non Fat Dry Milk.

Cultures: Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii Subsp. bulgaris, Lactobacillus delbrueckii Subsp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus.
Five yoghurt cultures for happier digestion!

No fruit-on-the-bottom here; the yoghurt is thoroughly mixed with strawberry puree which turns it a pale pink but only yields a gentle whisper of strawberry flavor. If you want jammy yoghurt, you'd be better off with a different brand. As I don't like overly sweet or jammy yoghurts, I was very pleased. Also, despite being low-fat, the yoghurt is very thick and creamy.

In addition to being local, low-fat, and delicious, Simmons Family Farm yoghurts are quite reasonably priced! A good thing, as I plan on eating many more of them. The downside to purchasing more is the un-recyclability of the plastic yoghurt tubs -- my town will not recycle #5 containers so I will have to save them up and recycle them at Whole Foods at the end of the month.

And, you know, it's just terrible to have another reason to go to Whole Foods!


¹ Grocery shopping in a wheel chair? Not as difficult as I had expected.

24 June 2010

Pots of Petunias (& Other Good Things)

Last weekend, with The Husband's help,  I  planted three containers with herbs and petunias.  He did fetching and heavy lifting -- I arranged and planted the containers.  He was also responsible for our purchase of eucalyptus and scented geraniums.  It has been a while since I've seen scented geraniums for sale so a rousing huzzah is due The Husband for spotting them.


I've been partial to scented geraniums since I read Anne of Green Gables twenty-odd years ago.  Anne, who has a charming habit of naming (or re-naming) all the things around her, sets out to name Marilla's geranium:
"What is the name of that geranium on the window-sill, please?"

"That's the apple-scented geranium."

"Oh, I don't mean that sort of a name. I mean just a name you gave it yourself. Didn't you give it a name? May I give it one then? May I call it -- let me see -- Bonny would do -- may I call it Bonny while I'm here? Oh, do let me!"

"Goodness, I don't care. But where on earth is the sense of naming a geranium?"

"Oh, I like things to have handles even if they are only geraniums. It makes them seem more like people. How do you know but that it hurts a geranium's feelings just to be called a geranium and nothing else? You wouldn't like to be called nothing but a woman all the time. Yes, I shall call it Bonny."

Growing in my planters:
  • eucalyptus
  • lemon-scented geranium
  • gooseberry geranium
  • dill
  • rosemary
  • large-leaf "Italian" basil
  • sweet basil
  • oregano
  • curly leaf parsley
  • Supertunia "Priscilla" petunia hybrid
  • MiniFamous "Double Orange" calibrochoa

23 June 2010

Chicken & Egg

Lunch for The Husband -- grilled chicken leftover from Sunday's picnic on artisan bread from the Price Chopper bakery with Bibb lettuce & Stonewall Kitchen's Blue Cheese Herb Mustard. Because I love him so, I also gave him the last devilled egg.

Sunday's grilled chicken was based on Betty Crocker's recipe for "Grilled Provençal Chicken Breasts" and came out rather nice -- tender and moist with really good flavor. Of course, I modified the recipe a bit, based on the ingredients I had on hand and the number of people I needed to feed ...
Provençal Greek Chicken Breasts
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Penzeys Greek Seasoning
⅛ tsp pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

Place chicken in a storage container with a tight-sealing lid. Whisk together first three ingredients, pour over chicken. Seal container. Shake. Refrigerate overnight. Heat grill. Cook chicken for about 10 minutes on each side or until beautifully browned and cooked through.

[Interesting lemon tip: Jacques Pepin, on either Disc 1 or 2 of More Fast Food My Way, says you can get more juice out of a hard citrus by microwaving it for a few seconds. I usually just roll mine around the countertop.]
Sunday's devilled eggs were also from Betty Crocker. I used the recipe for "Chive 'n Onion Deviled Eggs," but got a little confused while making them -- put the paprika and chives in with the yolks, used mustard powder where the recipe called for "yellow mustard" -- and mucked them up a bit:
Confused Chive 'n Onion Eggs
6 eggs
¼ cup chives-and-onion cream cheese spread (from 8-oz container)
1 tsp milk
1 tsp yellow mustard powder
⅛ tsp Penzeys Hungarian Sweet Kulonleges Paprika
2 tsp chopped fresh chives

Hard-cook eggs using your preferred method, cool, shell, and halve.

Place yolks in a bowl and add cream cheese spread, salt, milk, mustard, paprika, and chives; mash with fork until smooth. If making ahead, store yolk filling and eggs separately in the fridge until needed. Pipe yolk mixture into egg whites. Sprinkle with additional paprika. Serve.

[You want to use eggs with bright, golden yolks for these. I used Farmer's Cow eggs which have buttercup-gold yolks.]

22 June 2010

Veggies & Dip

Is there anything better than fresh veggies and dip? Why, yes! Leftover veggies and dip!

To make Knorr's® French Onion Dip you mix together:

16 oz. container Breakstone's® sour cream
½ cup Hellmann's® light mayonnaise
1 envelope Knorr® French Onion soup mix

Refrigerate for as long as possible, so that all the flavors melt together. Mix and serve.

I prefer to eat this dip with pretzels, but The Husband likes it with everything.

To make Betty Crocker's® Creamy Salsa Dip mix together:

½ cup Breakstone's® sour cream
½ cup Hellmann's® light mayonnaise
¾ cup Green Mountain Gringo® Roasted Garlic salsa
1 Tbsp Penzeys® dried cilantro

Again, refrigerate for as long as possible, so that all the flavors get a good chance to mingle. Mix and serve.

While I think this dip is best with sliced orange or yellow bell pepper, it is also good with cucumber rounds, grape tomatoes, pretzels, bagel chips, fingers, and whathaveyou.

(Yes, that is a lot of ®s ... when it comes to making dips, I am a complete brand whore).

21 June 2010

Double Dad's Day

This year, we celebrated my Dad's birthday and Father's Day together!

Double Dad's Day Picnic, 2010

~ French Onion Dip  ~

~ Creamy Salsa Dip ~

~ Assorted Vegetable Dippers ~

~ Low-Sodium Chips & Pretzels ~

vegetable dipperschive & onion devilled eggs


~ Grilled Provencal Greek Chicken Breasts  ~

~ Tossed Salad ~

~ Chive 'n Onion Devilled Eggs ~

Chicken breasts marinated with Greek seasoningpotato salad with chives & celery


~ Strawberry Duet Cake ~


17 June 2010

Back-to-Baking Brownies

Today, I thought I might try baking some brownies.  I knew there were open bags of chocolate morsels and King Arthur Flour's basic brownie mix in the bottom baking cupboard and that all I needed to turn the mix into brownies were eggs, water, and melted butter -- all ingredients which should be grabbable from the wheelchair. Luckily, my medium mixing bowl was drying in the sink drain so I did not need any help getting to that, either.

Mind you, it still took me a good half hour to prepare the batter! And, of course, I managed to get brownie mix all over myself and the counter and misplaced a measuring cup in the process. Was it worth the mess? Yes! The brownies were excellent. Last time I used this mix, I made the super-rich and chocolaty fudge-y version. This time, I made the cake version which was all fluffy and tender and nomnomnom.

I know brownies are no big deal, baking-wise, but I baked these from my wheelchair and they are the first thing I have baked since the blueberry bread goodness of March 21. Baking these brownies helped me feel capable and gave my self worth a little boost.  While the list of things I can't do right now is pretty long, it's one item shorter than it was this morning.

11 June 2010

Lo, I Proclaim Thee Less Grotty!

Last week I learned that, at least with the style of un-ducted range hood we currently own, the filter is supposed to be replaced regularly.  It is not washable -- the whole piece is supposed to be taken out and binned, then a new one slotted into place.

Also, the plastic cover for our range hood light has been all melted and mangled since before we moved in, but I never got around to replacing it because it was one of those "out of sight, out of mind" things and how often do I look up at my range hood light?

All the freakin' time, now that I am in a wheelchair.

Obviously, there was nothing for it but to shell out money for a replacement light cover and new filters.

There is a plate on the underside of the hood which lists the manufacturer's information, including that all important model number. I took that number to the Broan parts site and was rewarded with a schematic of my range hood. Using the parts numbers from the schematic, I ordered two replacement filters and a replacement light lens from Ace Hardware Outlet (where it cost me half as much as it would have from Broan).

My order arrived this morning, I popped them in, and it's almost like looking at the underside of new range hood!

Three years it took me to do this, people. Three years.

07 June 2010

Free Mushrooms

My grandfather foraged for mushrooms his whole life and never, to anyone's knowledge, sickened from his loot but he was also a man of interesting habits who didn't believe in doctors or proper dish-washing and his failure to die from a bad mushroom might have had more to do with pure Portuguese stubbornness than anything else. Certainly, my mother put no stock in his skills and composted the sacks of fungal goodness he would occasionally present her with.

While I'm sure Grandfather must have been a discriminating forager, he used to tell me that it didn't matter what he picked -- a silver fork, thrown into the pan of cooking mushrooms, would tell him whether any were poisonous or not! Of course, I now know that this is a dangerous bit of folk wisdom -- some poisonous mushrooms will oxidize silver, but some won't! The only way to know if a mushroom is safe to eat is to be dead certain you have picked the right sort of mushroom to begin with.

Me? I am not brave enough to forage for mushrooms. While it sounds terribly romantic and poetical to forage for mushrooms in some misty, ferny wood, I prefer getting my mushrooms from the farmers market or grocery store. The farmers market usually has some nice shiitakes or morels, but I don't get to the market as often as I'd like so we usually consume grocery store standards -- white button, portobello, and crimini.  And, of course, I like to keep a big jar of a dried mushroom blend on hand -- mushrooms, like bacon, make many dishes better.

So I must admit, I was pretty chuffed when the nice people at Marx Foods sent me a sample pack of their dried mushrooms. Marx Foods is a bulk online gourmet food retailer selling some of the most nommilicious stuff -- black garlic, duck prosciutto, many interesting pate en croute, and squab (blame it on the gluttonous numbers of British period novels I've been consuming, but I have terrible desire to cook squab).

Mushrooms from my sampler include:

  • Black Trumpet
  • Chanterelle
  • Lobster
  • Morel
  • Porcini

What will I do with these delicious mushrooms when I get back to the kitchen?  I don't know -- there are too many possibilities!  We are partial to herby creamed mushrooms on buttered toast, but that doesn't seem posh enough for these mushrooms.

05 June 2010

Going to Pot

We moved into our first home in 2000 and I, being a total culinary n00b, bought our kitchen a nice set of non-stick T-Fal cookware.

Five years later, I replaced that badly chipped set with a stainless steel set from the Betty Crocker Catalog (read about that experience here). I also bought a 12" nonstick chicken fryer, because I needed an extra deep sauté pan.

Five years after that, the stainless steel cookware set is as fine as the day it arrived, but the chicken fryer needs replacing as its bottom is all scratched up. I am not surprised by the damage,  but I do want know why did I not learn my lesson in 2005? Why did I not purchase a stainless steel chicken fryer then?

Well, I own a stainless steel chicken fryer now. It is a Cooks brand four-quart tri-ply 18/10 covered sauté pan with a tempered, vented glass lid and I bought it on sale at JCPenney for forty dollars. It has a lifetime guarantee and I fully expect it to last forever goshdarnittoheck.

(Must admit I have never fried chicken in my chicken fryers -- I used them as if they were small French/Dutch ovens and makes stews, braises, etc in them).