February 11th marked the third anniversary of this blog. It’s been bunches of fun since the first blog post. I’ve been looking over old blog posts and it’s really been a treat to be able to share all the highlights of my life here living in “The Country”. Carrollton is a thriving and growing college town that is steadily getting more cosmopolitan over the years, thank goodness for that. It is not too far form Atlanta so a “city fix” is only about an hour drive away. Lately, I’ve been finding less time to devote to updating this blog. With the ease of blogging on Tumblr these days, I have made the decision to only write one blog post a month here. So I urge all of you to check my Tumblr page often for frequent updates. You can also easily browse older posts there by clicking on the “Archive” tab.
This winter has been the most interesting yet weather wise. We’ve already had one snowy week and I am now hunkered down indoors as snow and sleet are falling hard. I must say I have appreciated the time off from work to catch up on my long to do list here at home. I’ve been grateful that our power supply has been reliable so far.
My new indoor gardening venture in sprouting has been yielding a variety of delicious sprouts. The sprouter was a gift from about 2 years ago and I’m finally enjoying it. My first crop of alfalfa, fenugreek and mung bean sprouts were delicious! If I had known it was going to this easy to sprout, I would have started sooner.
I’ve enjoyed the sprouts in sandwiches and salads but the most interesting dish I made was mung bean sprouts steamed in savory egg custards. A traditional Japanese dish, “Chawanmushi” that is quite easy to make. I also made homemade dashi(a stock of kelp and shaved mackerel flakes) from scratch. Dashi is quite easy, it is simply kelp simmered gently in almost boiling water and then fish flakes are steeped briefly in this water.
Dashi is the traditional base for a delicious miso soup and also used in the chawanmushi. I also added shiitake and some leftover shredded chicken to the custards. To round off the meal, steamed spinach with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.
I’ve been such a busy bee at home that I’ve only made it into Atlanta once this year. Hopefully that will change as the weather warms up. I tagged along with James one Monday on one of his weekly runs into the city and enjoyed spending my gift card at Star Provisions. The “Doughssant”(croissant dough cooked like a doughnut) was a delight along with a delicious cappuccino. I picked up a couple loaves of my favorite bread.
Wintertime is off course a great time for baking and I’m still enjoying being a part of “Bake like a Beekman“. A couple of weeks ago, I got to make the selection for everyone to bake and I picked the Lemon Meringue Pie. After a couple of chocolate baking assignments, I thought something tangy would be a nice change of pace especially with the abundant citrus in season at the moment. I tried a new technique of cutting the butter with the dry ingredients in the stand mixer and it worked beautifully. I enjoyed the flakiest pie crust I’ve ever made.
The pie is one of the best I’ve had. For this week, it was “You Pick” so I went with the coconut cake. It was George’s birthday recently and he mentioned coconut cake being one of his favorites so I thought why not give the recipe for the coconut cake in the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Desserts a try. This cake is definitely a keeper. A light fluffy egg-white based butter cake filled with lemon curd and smothered with light and airy meringue frosting and shredded coconut. The lemon curd itself is divine so I’m glad the recipe made more than what was needed for the cake, I’ve been enjoying it on scones and toast. The one thing I did differently with the cake was to split the layers, making a four instead of two layer cake.
Amidst the ups and downs of the season, I’ve made it a point to have afternoon tea whenever I had a chance. On a couple occasions, I was joined with good friends as well.
We’ve enjoyed tea with a variety of treats. Scones one day, some biscotti by Sweet Georgia Grains and toasted crusty bread another day. But each time, instead of tea sandwiches, I threw together a salad with what was on hand. My favorite combination so far is roasted cauliflower, shaved hakurei turnips, baby arugula and avocado simply dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. Homemade Kiwi Jam and clotted cream was enjoyed on scones as well.
We celebrated the Lunar Chinese New Year on the 2nd of February with a potluck. I made my “lou sang” salad that was enjoyed by all and also tried my hand at candied lotus root in addition to a batch of candied orange peels. For the recipe, see the Candied Orange Peel and a few pictures from this year’s party: HERE. I used the same recipe for the lotus as I did for the peels, starting with fresh lotus roots that came already blanched. I added a few drops of almond extract to the syrup to make them more interesting.
My favorite kind of meal in winter is a hearty stew or braised dish of some kind. I picked up a whole chicken while at the store on Monday getting supplies in anticipation of getting snowed in. I had a hodge-podge of produce in the fridge and somehow I’d figure out a delicious way to combine them for a lovely meal. I looked through my collection of recipes on Pinterest and found the perfect starting point for what I had on hand, Nigel Slater’s Coq au Riesling.
The recipe is a riff on the traditional Coq au Vin(chicken in red wine) which always brings Julia Child to mind when mentioned. I used Sauvignon Blanc instead and had a small pack of dried porcini mushrooms that were a gift Helen Helwig brought back from Italy that was perfect for this. I rehydrated the porcini before adding them to the dish as specified. I also had shiitake and shimeji(Beech) mushrooms that I thew in toward the end of the recipe since I did not want them to melt away. I did simmer the chicken a little longer than specified, taking into account I was using a whole chicken instead of just thighs. I left the bone on the dark meat but did de-bone the breasts.
I had some golden beets I had picked up while in Atlanta, those I tossed with olive oil and roasted with dried thyme, sea salt and pepper. The rest of the wine went nicely with the meal along with a “bake it yourself” baguette from La Brea Bakery now easily available at a couple of our local grocers. It was an amazing meal and best of all, I have leftovers to enjoy .
I hope all of you are keeping warm and comfy. Looks like another day off tomorrow with this icy rain snow mix coming down hard at the moment. Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message if you would like a recipe I’ve mentioned or have questions. Wishing everyone a comfy and cozy winter. See you next month, or on Tumblr and Pinterest. I leave you all now with recent pictures of the ladyslipper orchids. These are plants I’ve had for a couple year’s now and I am simply delighted I’ve gotten them to rebloom.
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- Merriments of the Season
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