Thursday, April 29, 2010

The other birthday recipe: Oven Roasted Broccoli

Along with the Lemon Chicken recipe (two posts down), I handed my dear family a two pound bag of broccoli and this recipe for Oven Roasted Broccoli , found at a recently bookmarked blog, Honey and Jam.

Oven Roasted Broccoli
from Epicurious

1 1/4 pounds broccoli crowns, cut into florets (about 8 cups)
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
Large pinch of dried crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss broccoli and 3 tablespoons oil in large bowl to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes. Stir remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, garlic, and red pepper in small bowl. Drizzle garlic mixture over broccoli; toss to coat. Roast until broccoli is beginning to brown, about 8 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

I encourage you to click over to Honey and Jam to see the beautiful broccoli pictures this young blogger has posted. And speaking of beautiful food pictures and recently bookmarked blogs, just a little clicking around has revealed a noted blogging trend: young women--some still in high school--who are cooking, baking, photographing and blogging with amazing finesse. At their age I had barely mastered the basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. If you like Honey and Jam, you might also like some of the recipes (and photography) on:

Cooking for Seven
17 and Baking

A couple more cooking blogs I've been following:

Smitten Kitchen

I may never buy another cookbook. Well, maybe that's going a bit too far.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Garden Art

Today as I was doing the morning dishes--well, actually the evening dishes, but I was doing them in the morning--I admired one of my blooming foxgloves from the kitchen window. And as I appreciated its form, slender and reaching, and its color, creamy white blooms and green foliage, I noted that the concrete wall with peeling paint that served as its backdrop did nothing to enhance its beauty. But, wouldn't a black backround look nice? And, the sunlight was hitting the foxglove just perfectly. I left the dishes to search for a piece of black fabric, and after pressing out the wrinkles, I taped it to the wall behind my foxglove.


I guess this is what you call flower portraiture. Pleased with the result of my foxglove picture I set my eyes to searching out other blooming forms and colors which might likewise be enhanced by my black fabric and just the right amount of sunlight. The pink ranunculuses growing nearby were a bit spindly as far as ranunculuses go, but all the better for my picture.


I think I've found a new angle on an old hobby.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken. Such a simple name for such a Wow! dish. My sister-in-law posted the recipe on her Italian food blog last week and when I read it I knew it was just the recipe to offer to my dear family who had offered to cook my birthday dinner.

"Chicken?" queried Tayta. "But that means I'll have to touch raw chicken." And so she did, facing down one her culinary fear factors. The lemon chicken was fantastic and Tayta proclaimed it our new favorite chicken recipe.

Lemon Chicken via my sister in law, Shandra, via Matha Stewart

~Allow time for marinating: 1 hour to over night

Combine in a bowl:

1/3 cup coarse (grosso) sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Loosen the skin of the chicken from the flesh and rub/pour the lemon/salt mixture under the skin and in the cavity of the chicken. For the best flavor and texture, marinate the chicken for a few hours or even the day before you roast it, but if you've only a half an hour it is still worth the effort. When done marinating, rinse the salt off the chicken and prepare the gremolata.

1 bunch parsley
2-5 cloves garlic
zest of 1 or 2 lemons

To make the gremolata, c the parsley, garlic and lemon zest togethe . Mix the gremolata with six tablespoons soft butter and spread under the skin of the chicken and in the cavity. Add a few quarters of lemons and bay leaves to the cavity of the chicken and roast at 180 celsius (350 f) for 45-60 minutes , just until the juices run clear.

Serve with roasted potatoes and the lemons scattered around.

We used chicken breasts on the bone w/skin (nine of them to be exact) so didn't have a cavity to fill. Tayta tucked the gremolata under the skin and for a couple of large breasts I made a large slit/slice in the chicken and she put in more gremolata. My family served this with garlic roasted broccoli...(to be continued)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some Kind of Week

As I enjoyed a too rare moment of quiet and conversation with Dear Husband the other day I realized just what a full week we had experienced, a week full of activities, conclusions, and beginnings. It was enough to take my breath away and more than enough to prompt praise and thanks to God for seeing us through it all. The highlights:

Tayta left on her first international trip sans parents (though with adult friends of our family), traveling to Istanbul where she had been invited to help with childcare for a conference. Caring for babies and small children is a joy to Tayta and she took pleasure in every moment of caring for her young charges. I rejoiced in this opportunity God had given her to serve, doing something that she loves so very much.

Tayta and her little friends

On Friday, Active Son and Artist Son participated in the annual Dead Sea runs, Artist Son running the 10K and Active Son completing his first full marathon--a goal he had set for himself to accomplish before leaving for college. And what better place to run but to the Lowest Point on Earth. We were all up at 4:30am on race morning as the guys plus friends had to meet the race buses which would take them to their race starts. The main road to the finish was closed so friends and I took the scenic route through Madaba, up over the top of Mt. Nebo and down the back side to the Dead Sea.

Artist Son burning up the road with his best 10K run--he'd have run the 21K but for the 17 year old age requirement.

Active Son approaches the finish line of his first marathon

After concluding weeks of training by running a marathon, Active Son next looked forward to a new challenge, making the decision to accept Boise State University Honors College's offer of admission with a full-ride financial package. Becoming confident that he would like to pursue a graduate degree in physical therapy, Active Son thinks Boise State, just 10 minutes away from his grandparents (who have promised to teach him how to ski but were careful not to offer until he made his final decision) will be a fine place to learn and grow.

And as Active Son looks foward to beginning a new season of study, Dear Husband rejoiced that his season of formal study had come to an end yesterday, when he took his last final of his last course in his M.Div. program. This very last course was Eschatology and taught in Arabic (many of his courses were in English)--a doozy of a last course, for sure, especially since he wasn't on the same eschatological page as his professor. Towards the end my wifely encouragements degenerated into admonishments to "grin and bear it" and "just do it! "

I thought a celebration dinner in order, and I still do, but it turns out that the celebration dinner that took place that night was in honor of my birthday with my dear family made the dinner and the dessert. This was especially nice since my family really doesn't cook--unless you count egg sandwiches and grilled hamburgers. Now Tayta of course is a fantastic baker, and her overall kitchen awareness contributed a great deal to the effort. I picked the menu: Lemon Chicken, Garlic Roasted Broccoli, Greek Salad, Artisan Bread, and Apple Pie with a Walnut Crumb Crust. I handed them the recipes for the new-to-us dishes and they did a fantastic job. I'll post the recipes later. Can you guess which child made, or should I say designed, the salad?

Artist Son's Greek Salad, arranged in true Mediterranean style.

This week also saw the much anticipated first blooms of the foxgloves I nurtured from seeds last spring and Artist Son immortalized the best of them in the colored pencil sketch which graced my birthday card.

First Foxglove, by Artist Son

And maybe a little rest this weekend? Maybe, a little. This afternoon, freed from the bondage of Arabic eschatology, Dear Husband and the boys boarded a plan for Cairo with their Amman Little League team where they will enjoy some baseball on real grass fields--an advantage of playing near the Nile. I think Tayta and I will live on leftover apple pie and sandwiches until they return on Sunday night.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Citrus Iris

I brought a couple of these irises indoors so that I could enjoy their beauty as I went about my daily work. Though their coloring reminded me of lemon meringue pie I was surprised to discover that they have a lovely citrus fragrance--though more orangy than lemon.

I was driving in our neighborhood one day a couple years ago and as I passed by a vacant lot I saw one of these beauties growing out a trash heap--someone had dumped their garden trimmings and a bulb has taken root. I sent Active Son to salvage it for me (better a boy digging in a garbage pile) and a few years latter I have a several stems of these irises. I wish I knew their name.

Tayta's Granola Bars

Tayta left on a jet plane today on her first international adventure sans parents--though she did travel with an adult. Newly arrived in Istanbul, Tayta will help care for babies and small children while their parents are conferencing. She may even have a chance to see some of the wonderful sights of this ancient city, but taking care of little children is what really excites her.

All packed up the night before, Tayta offered to make new recipe she found on one the creative blogs she enjoys reading. Knowing that her big brothers would be running a marathon and a a 10K while she is away, she thoughtfully made these wonderful granola bars for them to snack on during the week.

While Tayta followed the linked directions and the basic wet ingredient/dry ingredient proportions, she made enough adjustments that I'll give Tayta's revised recipe below. Tayta's bars didn't cut up as neatly as the ones on Little Birdie Secret's blog but we decided that is because she spread the mixture thinly in a jelly roll pan. Next time she'll use a smaller baking dish. But I must say, even the crumbs are so delicious that we save them in a container and I've been nibbling on them today.

Granola Bars~Tayta's version
2 cups oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped nuts (combination of chopped almonds, chopped pecans, and 2-3 T ground flax seed)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter
4 T canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
8 oz (2 cups) raisins
1/2-3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

possible additions for next time: sesame seeds, peanuts, chopped dried apricots...

Follow the directions given here. No baking except for toasting the oats/seeds/nuts. Delicious!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Wadi Dana meets the Oregon Coast

Last year I wrote about our annual camping trip in the Wadi Dana Nature Reserve; this year we enjoyed a different kind of camping experience. Think Wadi Dana meets the Oregon Coast. Now, we love the the Oregon Coast, contrast as it is, with it's rugged landscapes emerging through fog, brisk breezes, and overall dampness, to the arid climate of Jordan--but we don't camp at the Oregon Coast.

When we arrived at Wadi Dana last Friday the view from the arrival tower into the gorge was spectacular and we were hopeful of a beautiful weekend. But, within 30 minutes of our arrival ominous clouds rolled in.

They moved in so quickly that I was yet optimistic that they would move quickly through the valley, but it was not to be. By the time we reached camp the drizzle had begun and we were damp even before we got our things into our tent.

One family with four very small children made a quick--and wise--decision to cut and run, heading out of the valley on the shuttle that brought our things down. As the rain began to drip through the tents I thought we'd soon be following, but to my surprise, no one was ready to call it quits. The Bedouin tent of goat hair was still providing some damp, pungent shelter, the sleeping tents weren't leaking too badly, and we did have firewood. As long as the precipitation held at a drizzle we'd be okay?

If you look closely you'll see some flames in the middle of the ring of people. The fire pit was surrounded most of the time. I think my hair may have permanent smoke damage--I've washed it at least four times now and it still smells like smoke.

These smiles aren't forced. Really. I can't believe how many truly happy campers we had on this trip. One mom told me that as she took her young daughter to the bathroom at 4:30 in the cold, damp morning her daughter exclaimed, "Mom, thanks so much for bringing us here--this place is awesome!

And where else in Jordan would you have the chance to play fog ball?

We were looking pretty pitiful a few hours before breaking camp. This is Active Son and our friend carefully tending the hamburgers that were to be our lunch. I was ready to do a cold lunch in the tent but they insisted that grilled hamburgers would be better--they were right.

When you live in a rain deprived country like Jordan you learn to never complain about rain. Rain is baraka, blessing. That blessing of life was evidenced in the lush abundance of wildflowers that were blooming in Dana this year. The drizzle stopped for an hour or so on Saturday morning and I headed out on walk to enjoy the beauty of God's creation and visit some of my flower friends. Even the spent thistles looked beautifully fresh.

Jurinea staehelinae, after blooming

Convolvulus althaeoides

Ferula communis L.

The Giant Fennel staged the most glorious show of all the wildflowers in bloom.

And though I don't think that any of us would want to repeat the weather conditions we experienced this year, we bonded together in an extreme camping experience sort of way. No regrets. We made a memory.