My love of food

Food is so important to me, that it plays a major role in my first two novels. My husband also loves food and loves cooking (triple bonus points). When my husband retired, he started (no pun intended) making all our bread, using a hybrid starter based on the stuff floating around in the air at our house and a “starter kit” purchased from an online purveyor of San Francisco sourdough culture. (Loving the age of the Internet.)

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Sourdough

I’ve collected some of the food pictures I’ve posted in my Food tab, if you’d like to have a look. There are more pictures to add, but it’s a start.

Happy hump day. May you enjoy a nice dinner with good company today.

Squash flower and zucchini pizza

Tonight we made two pizzas from the garden. They were amazing, and pretty.

Here is the squash flower pizza before and after baking.

Squash Flower Pizza 1

Squash Flower Pizza 2

Here’s a close up of those zucchini flowers.

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It is an incredible joy to make something so delicious from the garden. We are using most of our water ration on the veggies and fruit trees, which makes indoor water use very challenging. Meals like this make all the water pinching worth it.

Here is the zucchini pizza, unfortunately after eating some! The photographer needed sustenance.

Pizza-2

The zucchini pizza has olive oil brushed on it, then a layer of shaved Parmesan cheese, the thinly sliced zucchini, and sauteed onions. The crust is homemade using special pizza flower and adding Italian herbs and garlic powder.

Both pizzas were equally awesome.

Good night, and happy weekend!

Michael Chiarello is back and news(letter) announcement

Or, I should say, I’m back to Michael Chiarello. I am what I call “phasic,” meaning I go through enthusiasms in phases. My cooking enthusiasm phases are few and far between, and my husband has been waiting for another one to strike. (He does most of the cooking.) His absolute favorite phase of mine was my Michael Chiarello phase. The food is great, and best of all the recipes are simple. (I tend to choose recipes that are really involved and then I’m burned out (no pun intended) on cooking for another three months.) And I tend to make dessert which is really only useful when we’re going to someone’s house or having people over. No, I don’t eat dessert every day, and maybe that’s my problem.

I love this cookbook, though!

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I was thumbing through it because I needed the recipe for Ceci a la Siciliana, about which I love everything, especially the name. I say the name a lot. I think it is pronounced Seechee a la Siciliana. I say it as often as possible. The dish also tastes great and is vegetarian.

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Changing topic, I’m starting a newsletter this year. I plan to do one once a month and will be providing original recipes, updates on my writing, book give-aways, photos, and writing tips. To sign up for the newsletter, please let me know in the comments!

Thanks for visiting, and enjoy your day.

Monday veg dinner

Vegetarian sausage seems to be dominating our menu lately. It’s so versatile! Last night we made polenta with spaghetti squash and sausages sauteed with peppers and onions.

The sausages come in a package from Costco. We used the apple ones for this recipe.

The recipe was from the New York Times, but Hubs altered it a bit. For one thing, he used vegetarian sausages from Costco.

Here are the main flavors, the peppers, onions and seasonings, including fennel seeds (to die for).

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The polenta was flavored with bay leaf and fresh rosemary, plus sea salt. I see a few fennel seeds in there too, now that I look at it.

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During the day, my hubs used the giant persimmons someone gave us and made a persimmon pudding cake. There shouldn’t be a slice taken out of it before a photo shoot, but we couldn’t stop ourselves. It is incredible.

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Now that I look at it, I see that there is more than one slice taken out of the cake! Oh well, I’ll start my diet (again) today.

We have BJ’s Brew Pub red ale on tap at the moment.

Thanks for dropping by!

Nicci

Thanksgiving, recap

I wasn’t going to do this because after all, everyone in the U.S. who cooks the traditional fare, cooks basically the same thing on Thanksgiving. But I didn’t see too many other Thanksgiving feast food photos in my reader, so here they are.

Here is the table. After we discovered I had turned off the oven where my husband was baking the stuffing, and it had been off for half an hour, I decided to drink some of the sherry I used for my squash recipe. The wine glass is a gift from my friend and critique partner, so it’s a nice reminder of one of the people in my life for whom I am very thankful.

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All the way back in 2005, Sunset Magazine did a contest for Thanksgiving and put all the recipe winners in their September (I think) issue. I use that magazine every year to make this because my husband and mother in law love it. It’s not super sweet, which they prefer, and it’s quite fluffy and light (though not low-cal).

Sweet potato maple cream cheesecake with a graham cracker and pecan crust
Sweet potato maple cream cheesecake with a graham cracker and pecan crust

That magazine also has a recipe for stuffed kabocha squash. I noticed these squash at the store this year so I decided to go for it. I’m so glad I did. It was fantastic, tho’  the photo’s a tad blurry.

Kabocha squash stuffed with veggies and glazed with a sauce of Worcestershire, soy sauce, sherry, cumin, cayenne and butter and olive oil
Kabocha squash stuffed with veggies and glazed with a sauce of Worcestershire, soy sauce, sherry, cumin, cayenne and butter and olive oil

The turkey was my husband’s masterpiece. It finished a couple hours sooner than we expected, necessitating a bit of an acceleration in the kitchen as I had been using the long afternoon to write a new scene in my work in progress novel. The turkey stayed on the barbie for another hour, on low, gently smoking to a crispy-skinned exterior while retaining a succulent interior (due to being stuffed with quartered oranges):

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He also made the best cranberry-orange relish I’ve ever tasted, with the mushy part being pleasantly sweet from sugar and the best orange crop ever from one of our trees, and contrasting with lots of whole and nearly whole cranberries which burst upon the tongue with freshness and a tangy tartness.

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I am thankful for my health, for my family, for my friends, for having enough to eat, for all the variety of life, and for being a writer. I am also thankful for a new habit I have of thinking about things I like and appreciate for a minute and a half, first thing upon waking every day. This new habit is better than coffee for setting up a joyful day. I recommend it.

I signed a pledge not to shop on Thanksgiving. I am also not going to shop today! So there! I’m going to do my favorite thing: write.

Thanks for visiting, and enjoy the day.

Here are a few people who blogged about Thanksgiving:

http://cookiedoughkatzen.com/2013/11/29/the-holiday-season/

http://followthatleader.com/2013/11/29/being-thankful/

http://chasetheredgrape.com/2013/11/29/crossfit-energise/

September dinner

1. Pick some peppers (yeah, I really like my macro setting on my point and click camera):

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2. Have husband make homemade dough using the bread machine and a recipe from AllRecipes (plus he throws in herbs). 

3. Make weird shaped pizza so it fits on a Silpat.

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4. Using a pizza peel, transfer the whole Silpat directly to the rack of a 400 degree oven, but only cook for 13 minutes, not 16 because it cooks faster using this method:

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5. Enjoy! And then sleep from carb overload. (Man did that dough cook up big.)

Dinner from the garden

Using this recipe: Eggplant green curry, by Garrett McCord, and substituting this overgrown yellow squash from the garden for the eggplant:

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and switching out the coconut milk with coconut water, cornstarch and a little soy milk (more healthful), we made this:

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which we enjoyed (relished) over brown rice.

Details of modifications:

Also added a few carrots and some broccoli. The broccoli, carrots and squash get cooked the longest.  The recipe has you pre-cook the eggplant for 3 – 4 minutes, which definitely works for eggplant but not for our rock-hard gourd, the carrots or the broccoli. These items needed to be cooked for half an hour. Sear them first, then lower the temperature, cover and simmer until soft. You can see how hard the squash was above, needed a heavy steel cleaver to get through it and to hack off the skin.

To make the coconut water substitution, use 2 cups of the coconut water to get the boil going. Only add the slurry of a couple heaping teaspoons of cornstarch at the end, drizzling the slurry around evenly over the pot, stirring constantly so it doesn’t make lumps. Then pour in a little soy milk, if desired, about a half a cup, to make it a bit white and creamy.

We used 4 Thai dragon peppers from last year’s garden and kept frozen. The heat was a bit off the charts, not for the faint of heart.

This was a delicious, low-cal, vitamin-rich, and satisfying meal. Where’s the protein? you ask. (If protein is important, as it is for me right now as I’m trying to build muscles at the gym using Lou Schuler’s New Rules of Lifting for Women program, which has you up your protein levels to 30%, which I track by using myfitnesspal.com.) Have some nonfat, Greek yogurt with slivered almonds for dessert.