January 22, 2011

The Breakfast Surprise Party


This morning we surprised Michelle, one of my mama pals, with a day after birthday breakfast. We pulled it off, we moms and our girls. My girlie and me, Jemma and gals, Joan and her sweet, and  - Michelle. Michelle is a mom of boys. So, isn't it lovely she could be surrounded by girls to celebrate her day?

Jemma provided the flowers from her garden and I wish you could see how great these red tables look.

The saucer holds remnants of the French Macaroons. Salted Caramel and Chocolate, I believe.

Celebrating should be mandatory.

Maybe every Saturday.

There's so much to be glad for. Especially when you're one of five who love being moms together.

And La Provence is a wonderful place to enjoy.

January 21, 2011

Ahh, the Bergamot

Like many, many people my only understanding of the Bergamot was some essential oil memory. An oil sold with the likes of Patchouili oil. It had something to do either with hippies or massage therapists.

Thankfully, life provides experiences (and a  foraging neighbor) so my understanding has been refined.

Stick with me here.

In the early 2000s, a lovely gardening man I worked with, used to bring small vases of Freesia into my office in winter. At first I just thought they were beautiful. Over time, I realized that they were beautiful and fragrant and drove me to want a cup of tea. And, as my unintentional explorations led, I found my desire fulfilled in Earl Grey. I've become quite an Earl Grey connoisseur, I enjoy the subtler, not to perfumey types and I like the hint of Bergamot. (See how we came full circle - wait there's more).

I was content with my tea and freesia experiences. Then this summer my friend, the foraging friend, introduced me to a beautiful line of pure and delicious olive oils. They are tres special. The way the olives are harvested and crushed makes for a very complete flavor. Garlic is crushed with the olives (for the garlic olive oil) rather than garlic oils being added to the olive oil. No infusion. Full on flavor marriage. You can learn about the oils here. I'm never going back!

In the end, the flavors hold up in cooking or preparations really well and that pleases me.

One day, I was looking at the Bergamot label and was truly surprised to learn that Bergamot isn't extracted from actual hippies, but from the Bergamot, a citrus fruit grown in Calabria, Italy or perhaps France.

Finally, yesterday, Mary handed me an actual Bergamot from one from her travels. Yes, it looks like a lemon and your knowledge of citrus has probably made your mouth water as if to smell or taste the sour. But the fragrance is intense and beautiful and clean and freesia like.

I have to cut into it and taste it. It's said to be more bitter than the grapefruit, which seems impossible with its beautiful scent. I plan, however to wait. I want to leave it on the counter in my kitchen and breath in all the aroma this beauty has to offer.

The Bergamot

Mary gave me a Bregamot.
I can't wait to tell you about this fruit.
Have you ever held one in your hand?

January 20, 2011

New Steps in this New Year

As I go in this new year, I'm thinking that there are things I want to include and things I'd like to leave behind.
Here's the list so far:

Include
Walk
Read
Write
Food blog (bring fun recipes and thoughts, hmmm, seems like this might be one already, sometimes)
Plan a Weekly Menu and eat at home at least five nights a week
A Square Foot garden
Family game nights
Listening to my kiddos
Encourage others' faith, hopes and dreams
Sleep
Movie dates with my dear husband no less than 2 nights a month

Discard
Unplanned spending (the 3 day waiting rule can apply to me too!)
Clothes I'm not using
Sugar
Responding before taking the beat for thought
Anxious thought

I just may keep updating this list. I'll certainly be reporting on it.




January 19, 2011

Celebrating Disappointment.

I've heard of cooking a turkey in a trash can. Sadly, my tale is about the turkey that hit the trash can, good night!

Last night, the intrepid, mama de cuisine, headed for the kitchen with great gusto. I'd planned my weekly menu (thank you for the inspiration Kerry!) and was prepared to, well, prepare. I made a beautiful kale salad (credit to Joan) to be used in the coming days (the juice of half an orange and olive oil along with some unsweetened and dried cranberries mingle well). Started a pot of Pasta Fagioli (thanks to my friend Alice and her recipe) while I got the potatoes on the boil and a head of Romanesco tossed in lemon and olive oil and into the oven.

The easy part was supposed to be the Trader Joe's Turkey Breast with cranberry stuffing. It wasn't. While the mashers were wonderful, the Romanesco brocolli tenderly roasted and browning, the turkey was a bust. I'm adept with turkey. (I've been on a quest for perfectly tender turkey and found a couple of different perfectly delicious ways.) I didn't see this one coming, however. It's sold as a rolled and stuffed breast wrapped in an elasticized net to hold it together. We're supposed to cook it in a 350 oven for 20 minutes per pound. Following the directions I stuck my insta-read in and it came out a beautiful 160 degrees. Unfortunately, that was just the outer turkey meat. The inside meat, when cut was a nice pink. Ok, not so nice. Clearly, this style of stuffed breast should have cooked lower and slower.

It ended up in my trash can. I'm all too aware of how salmonella works and also, not the least bit willing to serve dried out turkey breast (which was only going to get drier going back in the oven). A sad sigh follows.

All was not lost though. Leftover chicken found it's way into a subtle turkey gravy I was playing with from the drippings, some stock and vermouth. It was yummy over the potatoes. And the nice man at Trader Joe's is going to provide a refund for my trouble. (He was aghast to hear about the instruction trouble.)

It was a learning experience and a nice save.
I can celebrate the disappointment.
It's a good thing.

January 18, 2011

Traditions & a French Dip Sandwich

My kids are getting old. The handwriting is on the wall. They may not be leaving tomorrow, but every moment today has to do with their tomorrows. I'm noticing how important family traditions are to both of my two. We have plenty of traditions around holidays, Sundays, birthdays, late mornings, etc., (and a discussion of them will make another post).

I've also noticed that the traditions I don't legislate, but that evolve over time are very important.

A year or so ago we went to Philippe's for French Dip Sandwiches a couple of times after Christmas. We saw lots of families with college aged kids, likely home for the holidays, eating and chatting for long stretches of time. I thought, "I love this - a cool, not-so-blatantly Christmassy traditional visit to a great LA institution - we can do this!"

However, we didn't go at Christmas this year. At least I didn't go. My Dear took the kids into LA for some errand or another and ended up stopping at Philippe's without me. And then I got this laryngitis business and didn't feel like going anywhere for a couple of weeks. My tradition was canceled, put off, done for the season.

So Monday, with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we decided to go up to LA's great camera store - Samy's -  to explore each of our digital photo/video needs. And on the way we stopped, along with the rest of the city, for a French Dipped Sandwich.


While we stood in line, my daughter starting singing Christmas songs. And my son reminded me that the Beef Dip is better with a pickled egg.

My timing may be off a bit, but my traditions are thankfully, embraced and intact.

January 17, 2011

Tonight? Romanesco.

I'll dispense with the, "why, your cauliflower looks like a horny toad!" comments and skip right to this. I'll slice it and toss it with olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Pop it in a 350 oven and let it roast until it begins to caramelize. Then, for the last 5 minutes, I'll add minced garlic, a clove or two, and Romanesco, here we come.

Tonight, it will sit next to a turkey breast with a mild cranberry stuffing and some roasted winter carrots.

I'm looking forward to dinner.

Have you tried this crazy looking veggie?

January 16, 2011

The most beautiful girl in the world.

My daughter has been on a double overnight with her good friend.

She's away and having fun, as it should be.

I am missing her sparkle and spark.

Ah, absence and the heart.

Fondness.

And the joys of anticipating reunion.

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