Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009!

Don't let the door hitya where the good Lord splitya.

Okay, so this year hasn't been all bad. The first half of it was great, and of course we are finally closing the year in our own home, which is something. But all things considered, I'll be glad to see the back of this year and I'm looking forward to some pretty big plans for 2010. If three-fourths of them come to fruition, then 2010 will be a good year.

Our lovely friend Elizabeth is joining us for a few days, but we don't have plans for tonight just yet. Tomorrow Keith wants to make banana waffles for breakfast, and of course we'll have blackeye peas, greens, and cornbread for dinner! (Probably a nice roasted-veg medley of potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, and sunchokes, too.) We need luck and money in the New Year so we're going to chow down on those peas and greens!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

First Snow!

It's our first snow in our new house! And it came up out of nowhere.

This morning we got up to a beautiful sunrise and a bright, sunny morning. It wasn't very cold, so I slipped into a skirt and light top and went out to do some errands. I had just finished having my hair trimmed at about 2 pm when one of the stylists remarked, "Oh look, a snowflake!" As she spoke, we saw another snowflake, then another, and then it was snowing. By the time I got home, it was snowing hard! The streets were slushy with icy patches, and footprints were filled in within minutes.

Now I'm curled up in my pajamas, hot roaring fire in the pellet stove, sipping Black Butte Porter (my favorite Oregon brew) and watching the snowfall bury my ugly lawn.

It's going to be great for my little cherry tree!

Fry doesn't know what to make of it. She's been in the window looking amazed, chittering to the snowflakes.

This was the view from our bedroom window just before it got dark out. Doesn't that chicken coop just look snug enough to curl up in?

This isn't supposed to last; it's supposed to switch to rain later, and the rain will wash the snow away. But for now we're both so pleased to be in our very own house together, watching the first snow pile up on our very own yard!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hurricane Dog in our house.

Here we only just got our first dog, and we've had his Uncle Harley (Keith's father's dog) visiting us over the holidays. Man. If one high-energy dog is demanding, two will killya! Father-in-law left Harley with us for a few days while he went up to Seattle to see Keith's brother, and yesterday I took both dogs to the park by myself. That was a humbling experience.

Our dog has been renamed Patch - it suits him much better than Milton, we think - and he's settling in a bit. He's had a wonderful time this week playing with Harley. They'll be sad when they're separated.

For those of you who said my dog didn't look like he's half Corgi: Get a load of those sawed-off Corgi legs!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

It's a slow week, this downtime between Christmas and New Year's. A lot of people are off work, and while the bustle of the holidays is mostly over, it's still cold outside. This is a good time to fill up the freezer with quick, easy dinners that can go directly from the freezer to the oven for a home-cooked meal requiring zero effort or cleanup. And they make great gifts for busy people; everyone likes a hot meal, and what's more comforting than pie?

This is a chicken pot pie that I came up with a couple years ago. The filling is loaded with veggies and a dose of flaxmeal, making it considerably healthier than a packaged pot pie from the grocery store (ever look at the calorie count on those things? Yikes!!) and it tastes better too. The recipe makes enough for two pies, so it's easy to make one for dinner right away and another to put in the freezer for later. You can put it in a traditional double crust, or dump the filling into a casserole dish and top with puff pastry, pie crust (latticed or whole), mashed potatoes, colcannon, or biscuit dough.

In the picture above, it's a double-crust pie with a homemade cheesy-butter crust that has savory herbs mixed into it. I took the picture just before adding the top crust and trimming the edges.


2 small chicken breasts
Lemon Juice

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Squeeze lemon juice over the chicken and sprinkle with rosemary (or oregano or equivalent herb). Bake 20-30 minutes or until chicken is done. While it cooks, prepare:

3 leeks, sliced and washed
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 turnip, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, sliced
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
Half a head of garlic, chopped

Saute onion in olive oil until it just starts to turn translucent. Add remaining veggies and garlic, and cook (you will need a huge skillet or a wok) until mostly done. While it cooks, mix up:

1 cup white wine
1 cup veg or chicken broth
Paprika to taste
Salt & Pepper
1 Tbsp flaxmeal
3 heaping Tbsp cornstarch, potato starch, arrowroot, or flour
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

Pour over the veggies and cook, stirring often, until gravy thickens and veggies are cooked. By now the chicken should be done, so shred it and stir that into the filling, and you're done. Now it goes into a bag or into the pie/casserole presentation of your choice, and then baked at 400 F for 30-45 minutes (depending on the topping) or 60-75 minutes if frozen.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kitchen Holiday

Whoo! One thing I've learned in blogging is that the longer you go without a post, the harder posting becomes. I vow to post more often, and am considering different directions to take this blog (or a new one) in the new year. I'm open to suggestions...

Anyway, we've had a lovely Chanukah around here; see the picture of our delicious latkes, made with red potato, sweet potato, fresh rosemary, and our backyard eggs. All our hens are laying regularly and we've been getting the dog and the cats settled - they still aren't fully comfortable around him but things have gotten better.

In the meantime, I've been baking like a mad fool for holiday gifts. I'll post more about that once the gifts have gone out, but it's keeping me really busy! I still have a bit more to do but I'm nearing the end... today's agenda involves painting on pottery with my friend, then grocery shopping, then baking up Noble Pig's Guinness Stout Ginger Cake and sharing that with other friends. At some point this weekend we have to finish cleaning the house and I have - no joke - fifteen pies to make. At least they're small pies... but eep!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

...And Doggie Makes Ten.

So now, after two people, three cats, and four chickens, another soul has moved into this house: our new dog, Milton!

He's about a year old, so intelligent and obedient. He's been very well-trained already (though of course we still have work to do) and I just can't get over how smart he is. And isn't he beautiful? He's an Australian shepherd - Corgi mix, with that long Corgi body and short little Corgi legs but that beautiful silky Aussie coat.

He has a boundless source of energy but he's just so lovable. We really lucked out in finding him!

I'd really like to get him into agility classes next month - he's so smart and energetic, with that herding mentality that really enjoys work. He'd have a great time doing agility training. I'm hoping he'll be a good exercise motivator for both of us, at any rate - he already got us up and out on a freezing cold morning for a nice long walk.

The cats aren't too thrilled about him but I'm hoping they settle down and get used to him. Davey is already warming up to him (he's our friendliest cat, easily)... Roxy is still growling at him when he gets too close to her, and Fry is still hiding. They'll have to get used to him eventually though, right? Poor guy, he just wants to be everyone's friend!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


We got a hard frost last night! The temperature got down in the mid-twenties and we woke up at dawn today, to a world thick with milky fog and sparkling crystal covering our yard. We put up holiday lights last night so the timing was perfect - they look so pretty in the fog.

Keith fixed our broken furnace a couple days ago (what a rock star!) so we woke up in our warm bed, in our warm house, and watched the dawn come in through the fog. Then we got up and he made delicious multigrain waffles, drizzled with real maple syrup. It was a fabulous way to start the morning and now we're about to bundle up for a nice long winter walk.

In other news, Lana finally gave us an egg yesterday so we officially have four laying hens. At the rate they lay, we're looking at almost two dozen tasty, healthy eggs per week! Quiche, anyone?

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Night of the Whole Fish

We got home from L.A. on Monday afternoon. The new Portland Monthly magazine was waiting for us here, and in it a great writeup of the ABC Seafood Market. The name is pretty unappetizing - reminiscent of such childhood grossout games as "Already Been Chewed" Gum and offering a view of one's masticated mouth contents as "see-food" - but this is a really impressive fish market. As it's very near our place, we made a field trip to check it out on Tuesday, and decided to return on Wednesday to try the freshest fish for dinner.

So on Wednesday evening, we stopped by. Tanks crowded the little market, each one crammed with live fish frantically swimming to nowhere. Large pools overflowed with live crabs, underneath signs in Chinese and English: "Please ask for help in catching crabs, we not responsible if you bitten by the crabs." The prices were incredible - blue crabs for 99 cents a pound, Dungeness and King crabs for $2 or $3 per pound. For once I deeply regretted being Jewish and not having shellfish, but we decided on tilapia, at $4/pound that day. Keith selected a small one-pounder near the bottom of the tank, and a tiny young woman quickly and expertly caught that same one in a net. She tossed it into a bucket; it flapped wildly, and then she transferred it to the counter and killed it with a sharp loud blow. In less than two minutes she had scaled it and gutted it, and we were the proud owners of this small, bleeding, newly eviscerated fish.

We got it home and debated what to do with it. Grilling would've been nice, except the temperatures are dipping down into the twenties at night now and firing up the grill in such cold dark wasn't a pleasant thought. So I decided to broil it. I don't think my old worn-out oven got hot enough; I think I actually baked it. But anyway the plan we settled on was to stuff it with lemon slices, garlic, and fresh rosemary, and then sprinkle it with olive oil, lemon juice, and sel gris. All good in theory, until I oiled up a dish, opened the bag, and found myself confronted with this:

Um. Yeah.

Sidenote: When Keith and I first met, we worked together on a film set. At the end of the shoot, Keith and his boss took all the production assistants (including me) to a nice dinner at Automatic Slim's in downtown Memphis. I ordered a fish dish and found myself presented with the whole animal, eyes and all, and was unable to eat it until Keith covered its face with a lettuce leaf. I mean, I like meat and all, but I was a vegetarian for 12 years. I still can't deal with my food while it's looking at me like that.

So I covered this fish's face with a folded paper towel, and tried to proceed. But I couldn't get it open, and I wasn't sure if all its guts were out or not; it was REALLY bloody in there. So Keith gamely came in to take over. He got out a heavy wooden chopping block and a big knife, and began by moving the fish's mouth and voicing songs and pleas for mercy.

So once he was done playing with the food, Keith went ahead and stuffed it. He didn't need a paper towel to cover its eyes, big tough guy he. My contribution wound up being the olive oil, lemon, and sel gris drizzle. I couldn't bring myself to stick my fingers in there. I've stuffed turkeys and chickens before, which is greusome enough if you think about it too hard, but at least they aren't looking at me.

So we baked it up. We had to take it out a couple of times to check it and drizzle it with more lemon. Meanwhile Fry watched the proceedings with a very great deal of interest.

At last it was done. It looked appetizing enough...

...until Keith opened it up to get the meat out and then it looked like a gory murder victim. Aiighhh!!

We served it up with mustard greens and mashed delicata squash, looking forward to this rustic, authentic meal of the freshest fish we'd ever had. Oh boy. We dug in, and... it tasted like pond water. Exactly like dirty pond water. A few bites near the stuffing tasted pretty good, but most of it had the kind of dirty-water flavor I normally associate with wild catfish. I couldn't eat it. Keith ate a little more than I did but eventually he gave up too.

It wasn't a total waste though. We had fun with the experiment, and the fish ultimately did not go to waste; the rest of our household enjoyed it tremendously.

Happy Early Chanukah to Roxy, Davey, and Fry.