Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

IMG_1403, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

We got our first substantial snowfall here in Denver yesterday and over night. It is still snowing today! I'm not brave enough to drive in this winter white yet but I did get out in the backyard to take these photos of the snow covered herb garden. I hope the lavender and thyme comes back in the spring.
2010 has been a year of many changes....some good .....some hopefully not to be repeated . All in all it was a year of great family and friends support and love and certainly lots of little girl giggles and hugs.
I hope that 2011 will be a great year for all!
A champagne toast to all!
Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve snowfall, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

IMG_1407, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Denver sunrise

Denver sunrise, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Ready to start a new day. Sunrise this morning was 7:15. But the days are getting longer now that we have past the solstice!!!!!!

Denver sunrise

Denver sunrise, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas to all.......

swinging on the moon, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

I want to wish all of you who follow my blog a very Merry Christmas! This is my first Christmas away from California and the adjustments have been huge! It is so wonderful to be near my two granddaughters here. I see them almost everyday. They bring me such indescribable joy!
I do miss California, the beach and my dear friends and family but none of my granddaughters are there so at least I have half of them with me in Denver.
Last month Amber asked me what my theme would be this year for Christmas. Oh, gosh, what pressure. I hadn't even thought about it. Well with cold days that required bundling up to keep warm inspiration hit me.
Along with raindrops on roses these are a few of my favorite things this Christmas. Many of these things are handmade which is typical each year. Some of the tree ornaments I have had for over 30 years.
I wish you all joy and love during these holidays and throughout the new year of 2011!

woolen hat Christmas

Merry Christmas, 2010, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

2010 Christmas theme:

mittens, 2010, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Follow along to see what the theme is this year.

Granddaughter hands

Granddaughter hands, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Here are my four precious girls' hands this year. Ella is 7 1/2, Kate is 3 1/2, Reina is 3 yrs, 3 mo. and baby Gabriela: 11 months. This is a sweet and permanent record of the girls hands to look at each day on my tree.

Granddaughter hands, more

Granddaughter hands, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

mitten cookies

IMG_1326, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

beaded and stitched felt mittens

Packages, tied up with ribbon

Packages, tied up with ribbon, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

poinsettia Santa

poinsettia Santa, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

porcelain faced doll

porcelain faced doll, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas paperwhites, tutorial

paperwhites, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

I love bulbs and Christmas is the time for "paperwhite" narcissus and amaryllis. Every year I plant as many paperwhite bulbs as I can find and afford. They are about $1 each so I must pace myself but I love the whole process of starting with brown bulbs and ending with these gorgeous white blooms. These are from last year but let me walk you through the process. It is too late to plant for Christmas blooms but you can still find the bulbs in nurseries and they will bloom in 2-6 weeks. Good luck!

paperwhites pot

paperwhites tutorial, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Find a pot. This one has been used several times before and came from California with me. It is 6 inches across the top and about the same deep. I also use glass or ceramic containers with no soil but rocks and water......If you buy your paperwhite bulbs early they will be nice and tight with no green peeping through. Later in the season they start their cycles whether or not they are planted. The ones I planted today were a little late. It only means they will bloom sooner...

Paperwhites tutorial, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Place about 3 inches of soil in the pot

bulbs on soil

paperwhites, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Place the bulbs on the soil, add more soil until the tops of the bulbs are covered.

add a little moss

paperwhites, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

This is a pretty reindeer moss I found at my local Denver nursery

breaking out of the bulb.

Paperwhites, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

I planted these bulbs November 30 in a glass container over rocks


Paperwhites, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

After 2 weeks these bulbs are already blooming. Sometimes it will take longer depending on the temperature. These are sitting on the mantel.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vegetable Parmesan

Ok I switched to Italian last night but I saw this dish on Giada di Laurentiis' Christmas special and had to make it. I used red bell peppers and green zucchini for festive Christmas colors. I walked to Spinelli's grocery to pick up some of their puttanesca sauce and the rest of the recipe I followed according to Giada's direction. It was yummy. It reminds me of a lasagna without pasta or meat. Another vegetarian choice. I had mine with a bowl of soup and fresh too, of course.

red bell pepper, sliced

red bell pepper, sliced, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

I also used eggplant, fennel and zucchini and grilled them on the stovetop grill

fennel, sliced and brushed with olive oil

grilled eggplant placed over bottom layer of sauce

grated Mozzarella, then sauce , then another vegetable (fennel) layer

all layers of vegetables, another layer of cheeses and topped with breadcrumbs

Vegetable Parmesan, ready to eat

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Julienne Darblay!, creamed leek and potato soup with julienned vegetables

Another French cooking lesson. This soup is basically a hot vichyssoise with added julienned vegetables on top. I had a bunch of leeks in my vegetable bin and potatoes in my cellar providing me inspiration for this soup. I'll give you estimated amounts but again it is not a recipe but a method. Said to have been invented at Versailles, this soup is an elegant variation on the simple leek and potato soup all French housewives know:

4 leeks
4 TBS butter
1/4 cup olive oil
4-6 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock (or water, the bouquet garni will add enough flavor to water and keep it as a vegetarian dish)
cream or creme fraiche ( 1 cup)
salt and pepper (white)
fresh and colorful vegetables, cut julienne and steamed until tender

Cut off the green parts of the leeks, wash well and reserve for bouquet garni or julienne for garnish
Cut the white parts into rounds and place them in a pot with melted butter and olive oil. Cook until soft but no extra color added. Add the potatoes, stock, bouquet garni, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove bouquet garni, Place soup through a food mill. Return to the stove and add the cream. Bring up to just a bubble and serve.
Place the julienned veggies on top as a garnish. Grab a fresh baguette and a glass of wine and enjoy!
More French cooking basics to come

leeks, chopped and sauteed in butter and olive oil

This is what the leeks look like after sauteeing for about 15 minutes. Ready to add the potatoes, stock and bouquet garni (herbs)

Bouquet garni:

OK These are the classic bouquet garni ingredients: leek greens (two 4 inch pieces, to be the outside pieces of the bundle , bay leaf, celery (one 4 inch piece with the leaves on), parsley (4 pieces including stems) & thyme ( 3 pieces)
This little bundle allows the flavors to infuse into the soup without becoming part of the soup.

bouquet garni, tied and ready to go

cooked soup through the food mill

You can use a blender, food processor or emersion blender but I like the consistency of the soup put through a food mill

Ready to eat!

poinsettia quilt

poinsettia quilt, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

In case you were curious about the "tablecloth" under the soup. This is my poinsettia quilt that I made in 2006. It still remains one of my favorite. It was originally posted here

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soupe a l'oignon, gratinee

IMG_1331, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

As these days and nights get colder a good bowl of hot soup will warm the hands and the tummy. Twenty six years ago I attended the summer session of the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. I wanted to be a student to learn the methods of French cooking.....not just collect recipes. Recipes can be found with the click of a mouse these days but methods must be learned by the senses. You need your nose to smell, your mouth to taste, your eyes to see the changes in your food prep and of course your hands for many reasons.
This is the classic Cordon Bleu recipe for French onion soup: I hope you try it. Bon Appetit!

Onions, 4, (I used what I had- 1 spanish, 4 cippolini, 3 long skinny red ones that I picked up at Spinelli's and even a shallot)
butter, 1 cube
flour, 3 Tbs
wine, white, 1 cup (choose one you would drink)
chicken stock, 4 cups (hopefully seasoned with a bouquet garni)
or add the
bouquet garni
bay leaf, 1
thyme, fresh, 3 sprigs
parsley. 4 sprigs, include stems
celery stalk with leaves, 4" piece
leek greens, 2 4" pieces
sandwich and tie with kitchen twine
and remove before serving
Gruyere cheese, grated
baguette sliced in one inch thickness,
slice the onions into 1/8 inch thickness. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and add the onions. Cook of medium low until the onions are caramelized. I wish I had taken a photo at this stage but I didn't. This will take some time......up to 30 minutes or maybe even more. A dark golden color to light brown is perfect. Be careful not to burn the butter or the onions.
Add the flour and cook until the smell of the flour is gone. Then add the wine. Don't forget to pour yourself a glass at this point. Cook until the liquid is reduced. Add the chicken stock with or without the bouquet garni. Cook for about 20 minutes until the tastes are all blended. Add S & P to taste.
Here comes the fun
Oven 400 deg
Place the bread slices in the oven until toasted.(This step must be done to keep the soup from soaking in to the bread making it soggy.)
then choose a good soup bowl/tureen that will handle the heat. Remove the bouquet garni and spoon the soup into the bowl. Place the crouton on top of the soup and then add the grated Gruyere on top. Place back in the oven until the cheese melts.

This is a hearty soup that is traditionally eaten after an evening at the theatre or Christmas shopping. It is one of my favorites but will leave you smelling like a roasted onion the next day. I don't eat this often because I am a dental hygienist and work very close to people.
Sunday night as I was wrapping Christmas packages I got a call from my "boss". He fired me .....I'm not sure why but said I didn't "fit in" with his other staff members.
It was a pretty shitty day after that so I resorted to kitchen therapy. And I didn't much care what I smelled like the next day.
This soup was perfect to comfort me and bring back great memories of my 6 weeks in Paris so many years ago.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage sauce

I had dinner with Whitney and Kate last Friday night at our locally owned "Cherry Tomato" restaurant (on Cherry Street). When the server offered this special pasta I couldn't resist. It was fabulous and rich! This gave me a great idea as to what I should do with my sweet pumpkins left over from Thanksgiving just 10 days before. So I roasted my pumpkins with olive oil and herbs including lots of sage. Then I put the cooked pumpkin through the food mill to make a creamy a flavorful puree. Ok then I sweetened it a bit with maple sugar and added a little kick with so pepper spice. I added some eggs to the mixture and cooked it on the stove until the extra moisture had evaporated and the mixture resembled a custard.
Then came the ravioli assembly which follows:
I topped this yummy pasta with brown butter (melted butter cooked until it turns brown but does not burn) and chopped fresh sage added when the butter is oh so hot that it sizzles the sage pieces as you drop them in turning them crispy.
Cooking the ravioli and making the sauce takes about 3 minutes. The pasta from beginning to end in time intensive but very good therapy and worth every minute of time.
My daughter-in-law, Amber is a great fan of ravioli, too. Amber I wish you were here to have dinner with me tonight.
Buon Appetito!

1 teaspoon of pumpkin filling in each section

I used a ravioli plaque that helps you make several pieces at once but you can also free hand it and make individual ravioli by rolling out one piece of pasta, then a teaspoon of filling, egg wash the edges and place another pasta piece on top. Then give the seams a little pinch so that the two pieces glue together.

pasta equipment

pasta equipment, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

I used the pasta attachment on my Kitchenaid but you can also roll out the past by hand with a rolling pin. This is a lot easier.

top piece on and rolled together

Roll out another flat piece of pasta and place on top of the filled lower piece after you brush the seams with an egg wash to act like a glue for the two layer......kind of like quilting, isn't it?

assembled ravioli, ready for the pot

This is what these little gems look like after you remove them from the plaque.

cooking directions:

pasta, cooked, originally uploaded by cabanagirl.

Cook the fresh filled ravioli in salted boiling water until the ravioli rise to the top. Then scoop them out with a Chinese "birdsnest" scoop

Ready to eat!

I made a brown butter sauce with fresh chopped sage cooked crispy in the brown butter sauce