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Posts from the ‘A Word or Two’ Category

a tisket, a tasket

a tisket, a tasket,

a wee and leaky gasket…

or

how the get-away almost got away…

We still live in a construction zone. We’re into month three now of our remodel. This is the month (we believe, because we’re told) that all work will be done and our house returned to us for the remainder of the summer. This past weekend the Guinea Pig and I decided  that we’d pack up our dogs and a few clothes (from the four places they’re stored these days) and head over the mountain where we have a little vacation place. All around us are mountains there, a whole ring of them, surrounding wide meadows where horses graze. (No, they’re not our horses, but we “borrow” them to feed  our carrots and apples to and to nuzzle their noses.) On the other side of the Cascades, the sun makes an appearance at least 300 days a year (which to water-logged Portlanders like us is golden.) Aspens shimmer and quake and the sweet scent of sugar pine perfumes the air. (I am not kidding! It truly does!) We were so ready for this!

We arrive, the dogs do their happy dance to be there again. We breathe deep the air, and head inside.

Our arms filled with groceries for the long weekend, our feet step, unawares, into a pool of standing water in the kitchen.

a tisket, a tasket,

a wee and leaky gasket

Turns out that a simple little gasket that connects (I don’t know) 2 things that ought to stay connected had given way, and for two months (or longer) sprayed beneath our sink. Cabinets had swollen, counters had shifted and mold had set up house. Did we I cry? Did we he curse? No. Oddly enough. But the collective sigh was deep and long, and our spirits sank.

And then we got busy.

We called a plumber. We called our insurance company. We called a restoration contractor. We cut short our get-away and returned to the construction zone for some sorely needed R & R. Funny how quickly one’s perspectives can change.

~ ~ ~

I grew up spending a good (blessedly good!) part of my summers on my grandfather’s farm. Big Papa had a dairy, prize Brahma bull, guinea hens, chickens, shetland ponies, and a few horses. One beautiful painted pony, Billy, was mine. (I think Billy might have been my first true love.) I grew up roaming freely amidst milking barns, silos, tack rooms, hay lofts, tractors and the smells and sounds of farm animals. They are like heaven to me still.

Big Papa’s no longer with us, and we no longer have his farm to retreat to. But  farm is so much a part of the fibers I’m woven from that when I “lose” my way, all I have to do to find “home” again is go where the farms are.

Yesterday I grabbed my camera for a day’s outing outside Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge…wind-surfing capital of North America. That’s not why I go. Climb just outside town though, towards Mount Hood, along the cold and rushing Hood River,  and you’ll encounter countryside that looks like Alpine foothills, dotted with farms, old barns and fruit orchards. Apples, pears, cherries. And stacks of boxes where bees make honey.

When I head out on car trips like these, I’m seldom sure exactly where I’m going. But something certain pulls me along. When I climb out of the car, I’m breathing differently. My camera presses against my cheek and soon I’ve lost all sense of time. The clutter of thought evaporates. I’m like that girl again. Only this time, with a camera. (And without the skinned-up knees.)

Yesterday I met a lovely woman who grew up on this farm, Draper’s, with its cherry orchards and goats and profuse, overflowing flower beds. It’s her farm now, where she raised her three girls, and she invited me to share it. How did she know how badly I needed that? 

She knew. 🙂

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the art of surrender

It’s not as I expected…but just as I expected.

I expected hordes of people passing through our house. I knew the messes were inevitable. I knew that clouds of dust would find their way into small hidden spaces and loud noises would ring throughout the day. I knew that keeping our dogs smiling would require extra love. I knew too that without a kitchen, life would be interesting. I was ready for all that, and even my husband would attest that I’ve been quite the good sport through all most of it. But I imagined  that I could cook and I could then post what we ate for dinner. How hard could that be?

Hmmm.

As you’ve noticed, I’ve gone silent.

It’s not from lack of intention or interest. Life – moving throughout the day – just takes far more of me during this remodel than I ever imagined. It’s been good, but it’s been complicated. It’s been fun, but it’s been challenging. It’s been exhilarating and occasionally it’s been exhausting.

I used to read in the mornings, but reading has stopped. I exercised often. That was then. I corresponded with friends and family. Now it’s howdy waves in passing or texts with lots of code talk. Leaving all rhythms behind can be frustrating, and all the more so the tighter we hold.

I knew that no matter what I expected, I would be surprised. Expecting to be surprised makes surrendering to the inevitable far easier though, don’t you think?

We’re about half way through…or so we imagine. But of course we don’t know. We humans think we know a great deal and frequently we’re mistaken about that. There will be more surprises for us. (And for you.) May we find our way to be graceful through them.

Our kitchen is nearly done. Dribs and drabs remain. But we have water now, and heat to cook with. Our food is now within reach, and pots are bubbling on the stove. Spree is stirring. And though it’s Wednesday, and you might have expected vegetables (because I did lead you to that belief didn’t I?) ~ here is the smallest of offerings.

~ ~ ~

Halibut Fillets & Ribbons of Vegetables

in little paper packages

~ ~ ~

(And already another surprise…I just this very moment, we’re talking real time here, went to locate the images I’d shot of this sweet little dinner. It appears that I’ve erased them from my card …before uploading them to my computer. So – I’ll be back to fill in the images as it looks like our house may be enjoying this dish again on Saturday. 🙂 What are you gonna do? So in the meantime, would you be so kind as to imagine a light and very tender piece of halibut nestled in a parchment package, overlaid with colorful ribbons of zucchini & carrot & fennel & red pepper & peas, all brightened by wheels of lemon, bits of ginger & sprigs of cilantro? You’re a dear!)

Days later – OK friends – even though you’ve gone to all the trouble to conjure  this dish, we’ve enjoyed the dinner again and I’ve now got the photos for you. 

You might like this with a loaf of crusty bread, wrapped in aluminum foil and put in the same oven for about 10 minutes. Or maybe boiled or roasted new potatoes, or maybe basmati rice (or that delicious Forbidden Rice, as we did.) 

 Halibut & Ribbons of Vegetables in Papillote

for 4 servings

  • 1 zucchini, sliced into ribbons or shoestrings
  • 1 carrot, again, as with your zucchini
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 handful fresh snow peas or sugar peas in their pods, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb (tough outer layer removed) sliced thinly
  • fresh ginger root – the thickness of your thumb x 1-inch, cut into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Meyer lemons, 1 grated & juiced, the other cut into thin wheels
  • 4 halibut fillets, about 6 to 8 ounces each (170 – 225 g) (or another mild fish of your choice)
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat the oven (or toaster oven if you’re camping out indoors or feeding only 2) to 420°F (215°C).  Cut parchment paper into 14 to 16-inch square pieces.

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excuses, excuses…

Dear friends, man oh man, vhat a veek! And now, Wegetable Vednesday called on account of veather! I didn’t have what it took to brave the vindy vet, and now the plumber says too, sorry ma’am, no vater neither! 

A lifetime of experience says, now may be the time to take a wee vacation! So I leave you now,  but see you Friday!  And soon will come wegetables of course, but sveets too, because we deserve them!

’til then,

love, Spree

things topsy turvy & a new feature at cooking-spree

In earlier posts I’ve alluded to “things about to happen” around our house, but I can explain further now. First there was the joyous birth of our little Drew baby! And even a bit before, and a lot since, we’ve been preparing for a good-sized remodel – two bathrooms and our kitchen.Once work begins on the kitchen, things will get especially interesting. We have a gas grill, and a portable induction burner that’ll hold one pot at a time. And we’ll have boxes full of herbs and spices and plates and forks and knives.

How do I prepare for what has been described to me variously as “completely disruptive”, “awful”, and “just plain hell” (really?!) ? I accept that things will be turned on their heads for a while, and I’ll be here to document it. I’ll photograph the destruction and mayhem.  I’ll play my part in this creative process, from demolition to gleaming completion. I know it’ll be challenging in ways I can’t yet know. But I’m thrilled! And I think I’m ready.

What will it mean here, on these bloggy pages? We’ll discover together. Smoothies? Salads? One pot wonders? Grilled seafood? We won’t go hungry, I promise!

One thing that will make this process less disruptive to food-lovers like us is that Spring is upon us and Summer is coming, and about now Farmer’s Markets are springing up all over the city and in the ‘burbs! Wooden stalls lined with fresh and gorgeous produce, bulging in bright ripeness! The choices we have are exquisitely exhaustive! So, one thing I can predict for the coming months is this: I’ll be carrying my basket to farmers markets, visiting with the growers, photographing fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables and bringing a few choice picks home. Once a week I’ll share my trips with you. We’ll explore old favorites, never-liked and never-tried’s. Most of what will result will be simple, beautiful,  and delicious. And since life around our house will be turned on its head for the next little while, it seemed only fitting to name this weekly feature something like

Wegetable Vednesdays!

and so I have.

(but don’t be surprised to see a few vruits too)

It will be a veritable celebration of things with stems & seeds & roots!

Why not begin with a couple old standby’s and treat them freshly? It doesn’t get more basic than peas and carrots, right?

Well, it could…

~ ~ ~

R a i n b o w    c a r r o t ,  p e a   &   p e a   s h o o t   s a l a d

(about 6 servings)

1½ pounds rainbow carrots (various lengths makes it even prettier)

4 ounces pea shoots (see NOTE)

2 cups sugar snap peas

1 cup snow peas (optional)

¼ cup Meyer lemon juice

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup crumbled sheep or goat milk feta cheese

¾ cup mint leaves, cut into slivers

For protein, add either

3 cups cooked chicken, shredded

2 cups grilled or poached firm fish, in pieces

1 cup cooked & shelled edamame (fresh soy beans)

NOTE on pea shoots – One market I go to stocks them regularly. You may find them at Farmers Markets or Asian markets too. 

~ ~ ~

 Scrub the carrots gently in order to retain most of their bright outer color. With a mandolin or vegetable peeler, cut thin lengthwise ribbons to make about 4 cups. Discard ends or any tough cores. (What worked best for me was to lay the carrot on the cutting board, holding the thin end of the carrot in one hand and with the other, using a vegetable peeler and a bit more pressure than normal, peel from the small end to the large. I discarded both the first and last strip of each carrot since that was mostly peel.) 

Put dark and light carrot ribbons in separate bowls of ice water and soak about 15 minutes to crisp them up. Drain in a colander and roll in kitchen towels. (or line a salad spinner with towel and spin.) 

Go through the pea shoots, discarding thick or tough stems and tearing sprigs into 4- or 5-inch pieces.

Pull the strings from the straight sides of snap peas (& snow peas if using) and then thinly slice lengthwise.

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the littlest “little” comes home


Meet Andrew Justice…

the littlest of our little ones…

Not far from where he started…

Drew and his family…

with Mama and sister Emi…

Emi with her newest little brother…

Luke and little Drew…

~

Daddy & Drew…

Emi, Luke & Drew…

the family celebrates…

What a joyous place to spend my days!!

Happy I could share a bit of it with you.

with Love & Joy,

spree

Easter morning

And whether or not you celebrate Easter, may this Sunday morning be full of light, warmth & good cheer,

and may there be love on, and all around, your table! 

love, spree

beholding

when you opened the eyes of your heart today,

what or whom did you see?


Spreenkle #4

It’s snowing big fluffy rabbits here today. Went to bed with rain pouring thunderously on our roof so loud we could barely hear one another, but woke to 5 inches of pristine white silence covering our patio. So, out of exhilarated appreciation for the quiet beauty of this day, I’m keeping it white.

Have you ever enjoyed buttermilk, freshly bottled from a local dairy? When I was girl, my grandfather (we called him Big Papa and he was indeed bigger than life in many ways) had a dairy farm on the coast in Washington state. Sweet-faced Jersey cows, each one with a name, would line up in the milking barn twice a day. One of these days I’ll share some stories of what life on that farm was like. It was so much MORE than a dairy farm, but I don’t want to give it all away in a little Spreenkle. I remember though, on the tile counter of the old farm house, sat bottles of milk, their skinny necks filled with the sweet cream that had risen. And I remember too the taste of fresh buttermilk our grandma would make.  And occasionally a treat. A milkshake maker, the color green of the day, with its cloth-covered cord and its dented steel container would be pulled from its cupboard and set on the counter. Into it went fresh, chilled whole-buttermilk and orange sherbet. Whirrrr! Pour! Straw! Slurp! Pure deliciousness!

It’s not easy to find a truly wonderful buttermilk in our markets. But we can Make it! And it’ll be wonderful. I’m not talking here about the “trick” of adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk to simulate the real thing when we’ve run out. Read more

romantic dinner timeline

I apologize! I’d meant to post a schedule for the Valentines dinner but life started suddenly running faster than I could, and here it is days later. Most of you weren’t looking for this anyway, but a promise is a promise, so here we go…

If you wanted to substitute a steak for the ahi, everything would proceed essentially the same as the timetable below. Just replace sesame seeds with cracked black pepper for the steak.

(For the stacked crab bistro salad, hints were already given for how with a few prep steps out of the way the night before, this can be very easily assembled in only a few minutes just before plating. You could enjoy a cocktail and an appetizer and then, in under 40 minutes have the rest of dinner ready to share.)

I know parts of this for some will seem overly simplistic – my hope is that a lovely dinner, this or some other, could be easily accessible and do-able for everyone. Very little should keep you (at least every now and then) from being able to put some love on the table for a sweetheart. So, with that, on to the rest of the dinner:

0:00 (oh-100 hours – I never thought I’d have the occasion to talk like that! 🙂 I sound like a sailor! Oh wait, that’s not what I mean, is it?)

Remove ahi from the fridge to take some of the chill off, and pat both sides with good sprinkle of coarse salt and then the sesame seeds. (Measure water for rice and put on to boil. Have dinner plates nearby for serving, with pickled ginger and wasabi paste on them. Put the rice on to cook. Set the timer for 30 minutes for the rice. 6 minutes total elapsed time.

0:06

Are you blanching the sugar snap peas the night before? Oh good for you. That’ll save time. Remove peas from fridge. The rest of this will come together so quickly. Brush the mushrooms clean, remove stems, slice thinly – about 1/4″.  Slice the shallot. Peel ginger, cut in thin slices (about 1/8″ or thinner). Cut those slices again in narrow strips to form matchsticks. Elapsed time 12 minutes.

0:18

Put one skillet on the stove for your ahi. (Cast iron works great, but any heavy skillet. Turn heat on very low just to gradually bring the heat up.) Put canola & sesame oils in another skillet for peas. Bring heat up to medium. Measure out the tamari and cooking sherry and put together in small cup at the ready. Pat of butter on standby. Pan’s hot, add shallots, 1-2 minutes add mushrooms, 30 seconds later add ginger. 2-3 minutes add peas, 2 minutes or so, add liquids. Stir til thickened. Add butter. Put lid on and hold. 11 minutes elapsed time.

29:00

Towards the end of the cooking time for peas, raise temperature on ahi pan. Once smoking hot, add ahi. Watch for doneness as directed in post. Timer just went off on your rice. Remove from heat, leaving lid on. Turn ahi when ready. Seer on other side. Fluff riceElapsed time somewhere around 3-5 minutes.

32:00 – 35:00 

Ta-dah!

 Ask your honey to pour the wine and light the candles. Plate the dinner and bring to the table. Bon appetít – enjoy your night!   ♥

(To print a copy, click here. )

we google

we have a pressing question, don’t know how to proceed, need an expert’s advice, need it quick!

we google.

something that surprised me as a new blogger was the existence of  a whole behind-the-curtain world in which i could see all manner of things that the reader of my blog could not. one of the most fascinating details revealed in that hidden place was just how a person had found their way to my site. it never reveals WHO, only HOW. i can’t know your name or your address, your nickname, where you spend your money or what your so-called guilty pleasures are. i only know the street you took to get to my place…which is actually very little. i can understand if you don’t find it all that interesting. but read on. you may.

many such searches have resulted in a person landing at cooking-spree completely by accident. believe me, it’s obvious. and i presume they quickly move on.  some of those searches i’ve thought of sharing with you before because they’ve made me laugh out loud and i thought they might do the same for you. but today i came upon one that i simply couldn’t keep to myself. Read more