What I'm up to
  • Oxo Good Grips Small Wooden Spoon
    Oxo Good Grips Small Wooden Spoon

    everyone needs these, many of them.

  • Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-inch Round Frying Pan
    Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-inch Round Frying Pan

    Scarily, I can say I have enough copper. Not many people can utter those words.

  • Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
    Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
    Le Creuset

    The same thing could be said for Le Creuset, but still. Great for braising and soup making.

  • The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
    The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
    by Amanda Hesser
  • Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 X 18 X 1
    Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 X 18 X 1
    Nordic Ware

    What did I do before I started using this half sheet? Cry.

flora and flying. Get yours at bighugelabs.com

Entries in easy to make (2)


Wayward Fruit and Lost Buttermilk - Buttermilk Fruit Smoothies


Its all in the pink.

They say summer doesn't start in Seattle until July 5th.  This year it started the day before and we were blessed with a marvelous 4th of July to spend in the company of friends and family and to watch the fireworks from near or far.  The weather is supposed to stay warm and sunny for the foreseeable future. For this my tomatoes and raspberries are grateful.

In praise of soft fruits of the drupe etc.

In praise of  the soft fruits.

This also means that the berries are starting to ripen at a pace that makes it hard to keep up.  I will admit that it is hard to not drive by the berry stands in Anacortes and not stop for Skagit Sun Hoods or Sakuma Farms Shuksans.  I have many raspberry plants bearing fruit from now until September.  Our marionberries and blueberries are starting to color up too.TH and I will make our annual pilgrimage to the blueberry farm sometime soon.  It also means finishing up the berries in the freezer that we vowed that we would get through by February because we would eat them every day. We made a good dent in the berries this year, but I could make 16 pies this week and we would still have berries to eat. The dent might be more like a ding. Now, it is the race to the end of the fruit and smoothies are the vehicle of choice.


milkshakes made with buttermilk

The real deal - Superior Dairy Products  strawberry and chocolate shakes

In 2008, TH and I attended the Vernacular Architecture Forum Meeting in Fresno, California. The meeting was awesome. We toured Fresno and the Central Valley farms saw worker's housing, ethnic neighborhoods and ate some amazing food. That is what is so amazing about the VAF meetings - they don't just focus on the buildings, but on the social and cultural factors that shaped the communities and landscapes of settlement.  One place we visited, Hanford, California had the requisite things in a settled agricultural center - mills, town common, courthouse, commercial district and a great little ice cream shop and diner called Superior Dairy Products that good VAFers flocked to after touring the town.   There TH and I had shakes made with buttermilk instead of milk.  The tangy and thick buttermilk added a dimension to the shake that I can't really describe, but it worked.  Guess what? It works in a smoothie as well.  At Superior, you can have them add ground walnuts to your shake.  While I did not partake on that trip, I am now adding ground almonds and they are delicious.  This smoothie is the best thing to do with the lingering 3/4 quart of buttermilk leftover from your famous pancake batter.

Buttermilk Smoothie - where wayward fruit and lost buttermilk meet

Makes 1 12 oz smoothie (can be doubled)
We use a old stick blender, but if you have a nice vitamix/waring/smoothie maker, by all means use it.

1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen fruit (I use mixture of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
8 oz of lowfat buttermilk
1 T almond meal or ground walnuts (optional)
1 T ground flax seed (optional)
1 T maple syrup (optional, but good if you want things a little more sweet than tangy)
1/2 t vanilla (optional)

Place fruit, buttermilk and any or all of the above ingredients in a 1 pt wide mouth mason jar or your blending vessel of choice.  If you like things icy, then start your blender/hand blender/vitamix and blend until smooth. If you like things a little less refreshing,  let the mixture sit for a bit to soften up. Go check your email and walk you dog. Then return to your smoothie making and blend until smooth.

Drink up.


Brain Food - Mexican Chocolate Polenta brownies 

one bowl brownies. Really.

I have been super busy with travel, dog anxiety and classes. I meant to post a recipe right after my certificate program ended. Instead, I got distracted and enchanted with a trip to the dairy barns of Wisconsin, planning a trip to Italy and then school starting all over again. E's ruptured disc did not help things.  I have challenged myself to start writing again, here, there and over there... We'll see how well I do.

My certificate capstone project had certain aspects that were challenging - juggling five individual schedules, a client who was out of town alot, and some unclear objectives. In the end it all turned out pretty well and the client was happy.  I cooked/baked a lot during the last few weeks of the quarter, mostly for stress relief.  The last time I was in grad school, I did much the same thing, baking and cleaning for study avoidance. 

TH requested that I make chocolate polenta brownies. These were something I made in grad school that she loved very much. I don't know why I stopped making them 13 years ago, but I just did. I make all sorts of different brownies, so it isn't like I don't like making brownies or can't. They just were filed along with my large scale construction drawings somewhere in a deep recess of my brain. 

Polenta in brownies? What? Well, the polenta adds a crunchiness and a heft that isn't as caloric, but is nice nonetheless as well as great if you are avoiding nuts.  I love combining the flavors of Mexican chocolate - cinnamon, some orange and a little kick of pepper if you desire.  These are a riff on the Baker's classic one bowl brownie, very simple and most people who have dried unicorn horns in their pantry will have most of the ingredients on hand. For the rest of you, just work with me.

Note: I have become a lazy cook. Instead of slaving over a hot double boiler to melt the chocolate and the butter, I bung the chocolate and butter in a 150 deg F. oven for 30 minutes until melted. I remove the bowl and add the polenta. I let the mixture sit for another hour to soften the polenta up a bit a bit. You don't have to be me (trust me, you don't want to be) and actually follow the directions.  At the end, you should have a nice pan of brownies that remind you of grad school - that last paper, simpler times and maybe a trip you took somewhere sunny and festive to forget your troubles.

orange polenta brownies
Mexican Chocolate Polenta Brownies
Makes one 9" pan that yields between 24-36 brownies depending on your cutting skills.

Pan Prep - For ease of clean up , line pan with parchment paper cut to come up the sides of pan (don't want brownie mix to stick to side of pan).

Preheat oven to 350 F.

4 oz of 70%  or 60% bittersweet chocolate cut into chunks or chips
3/4 c (6 oz) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour or gluten free all purpose mix  (Bob's Red Mill) + 1/2 t xanthan gum
1/2 cup quick cook polenta or cornmeal
3 eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla
1 t orange extract or 1/2 orange zested
1 1/2  t cinnamon
1/8-1/4 t cayenne pepper (optional - I don't care for it)
1/2 c chocolate chips (60% or semi-sweet), optional but a nice addition

Conventional way - Over a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat and add polenta and stir polenta into the chocolate/butter mixture.  Let sit for one hour if possible to soften.  Add sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla, orange extract, orange zest, cinnamon and optional pepper and mix well.  Add flour or flour mix and optional chocolate chips. Stir until blended, but do not over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and use spatula to smooth out batter. Have assistant lick bowl and spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on oven's temperament) or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a baking rack until cool. Wait at least an hour before cutting into squares.