In My Kitchen ~ September 2015

In My Kitchen are the whimsical, the practical, and the elegant.

First up, the whimsical.

The fun-loving side o’ me couldn’t resist this jalapeño relish, especially with the name Cowgirl Kisses. I was in the “moo”d (wanna be cowgirl that I am) for some sweet, spicy heat and this chutney style condiment didn’t disappoint. Plus, cows are cool.

(Humor me and hover over the photos…)

Then there’s the practical.

Everybody’s idea of kitchen basics differs, but for me ramekins are essential. I use them for prep and/or serving everything from soup to nuts. This pair caught my eye at a local consignment store, not just because they were practical, but because they were pretty. (Double blessing!) I’m envisioning all sorts of potential: crème brûlée (with vanilla sea salt, of course), movie snacks, petite salads, single-serving entrées, and more. Thankfully I was in the right place at the right time, and the price was right, too — $2.00 for both!

Some things are ‘practically’ meant to be.

Ramekins

Elegance is one of those subjective concepts, and for some it means dripping with details or gilded in gold. For me, it’s the intersection of sheer simplicity and style.

Imagine my delight when I spied a trio of crystal martini glasses at another op shop in a booth that was going out of business — yup, $2.00 for all three. (Woohoo!) Made by TARNÓW in Poland, their exquisite design fascinated me. They passed my “ping” test, too. (Such a pretty sound!)

Of course, such elegant vessels needed an equally stunning serving plate, so it was back to consignment store #1 where I’d spied a small oval platter “just the right size” for canapés. (The pattern is Petite Bouquet made in Japan.) I thought they made for some interesting international relations over cocktails.

Cocktail and Canapes

It was also an opportunity to try out some new flavors on The Man Of Few Words. ;)

He got past my gluten-free toast points okay (told him it was “garlic toast”… shhhhhh), but he wasn’t real wild about the “dark stuff” (mushroom pâté.) More for me, yay!

However, he couldn’t get enough of the “light stuff.” No wonder why…

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Thank you to Celia for hostessing this monthly In My Kitchen event! For more gadgetry, ingredients, and innovative ideas shared by folks from around the world, please visit Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

Enjoying unexpected blessings in Oklahoma,

~ Kim

Ham Puffs

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Back in my twenties (late 1970’s & early 80’s… yes, I’m that old…) I toted my “signature appetizer” to every potluck, picnic, and post-ball-game gathering: “Chicken Puffs.” Despite their unimaginative name, those bite-size lil’ pastries filled with delectable homemade chicken salad disappeared faster than Houdini. (David Copperfield for you young’uns.)

With an infallible choux pastry recipe (sorry, I can’t remember where it originated — but it doesn’t require milk or shortening, only the basics: butter, flour, salt, water, and eggs), I’d stir, split, and stuff to my heart’s content — a Julia Child wanna-be — decades before “Julie & Julia.”

Fast forward to present day and my hubby’s imminent arrival home…

I needed something to tide him over until dinner was ready, but a hurried forage through the fridge and pantry only yielded cubed ham and the aforementioned “basics.” Well, okay then! (Please pardon my “Minnesota speak” after my recent sojourn there… I’m still in withdrawal.) How ’bout ham puffs?!

The Man Of Few Words has a penchant for ham salad — it’s one of his favorite sandwich fillings. In fact, that’s what he requested for our wedding reception many a year ago. (And who am I to quibble when true love runs rampant and my fiance’ volunteers to help?!) TMOFW stood at the reception hall counter cranking out pound-after-pound of ground ham with my Grandma’s hand-operated grinder — for hours — while a dear friend & I whipped together “the filling” in large bowls. All told, we made over 300 sandwiches!

Thankfully, today’s effort was on a smaller scale. Wheeeeeee….

Ham Salad Pate a Choux 1HAM PUFFS (more elegantly known as “HAM SALAD PÂTE À CHOUX”)

For the “puffs”:

1/2 cup hot water

4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) butter

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs (at room temperature)

For the filling:

1 cup cubed cooked ham

1/4 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise (might need a lil’ more)

2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

Optional add in’s: grated onion, finely diced celery, chopped hard cooked eggs, minced pimento (for color), minced water chestnuts (for crunch), a smidge of Dijon mustard, and “what have you”

.  .  .  .  .  .  .

Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a medium-size saucepan bring water and butter to a boil; remove from heat.

Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough forms around the spoon. Scrape off the spoon and cool dough slightly.

Beat in the eggs one at a time with an electric mixer. (Be quick about it or you’ll have scrambled eggs.) NOTE: The dough will be sticky! (Scrape the beaters, too.)

With two teaspoons, drop small balls of dough on a large un-greased baking sheet. (Bear in mind the “puffs” will double in size during baking, so make them smaller than you think you need or you’ll end up with gigantic appetizers.) Alternatively, you can shape them into artistic lil’ swirls with a pastry bag for “fancier” occasions. :)

Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately split each puff with a serrated knife. (My new steak knifes worked great for this.)

Place puffs on a wire rack with the “lids” open to cool completely.

Meanwhile prepare the filling.

In a food processor (gotta love modern day inventions) pulse the cubed ham until finely ground.

Stir in the mayonnaise (or salad dressing), pickle relish, and optional ingredients (if desired) until combined. Add more mayo or salad dressing only if needed to bind the mixture together. (You don’t want “soupy” filling.)

Fill each cooled puff with ham salad and serve immediately.

Ham Salad Pate a Choux 3Enjoying past and present memories, xoxo,

~ Kim

P.S. This choux pastry also makes fabulous “bite-sized éclairs”… just sayin’. :)

In My Kitchen ~ August 2015

In My Kitchen is Vanilla Bean Sea Salt — a gift from my friend, Ally, xo. I think it’ll make a tasty addition to the sugar cookies The Man Of Few Words loves — or custard or vanilla pudding (or any other ideas?) — provided I stop “taste-testing” it every time I open my spice cupboard!

Kitchen Goodies 1

In My Kitchen is a bundle o’ love from Minnesota (which explains my absence in July… missed you, xo!) — a loaf pan, a pair of dish cloths, and a bamboo utensil set from my Mom — plus some of the many cookie cutters shared by my sister-in-law, Laura. Thoughtfulness abounds at home and around the globe!

Garden Gate Napkin Holder 1

In My Kitchen is this adorable lil’ “Garden Gate” napkin holder. I found it at my friend Tammy’s equally adorable shop and couldn’t resist combining nostalgia with functionality. It brought back memories of swinging on our garden gate (anyone else enjoy that simple pleasure as a kid?) and makes me smile every time I look at it.

Deviled Egg Platter

In My Kitchen is a Red Wing Pottery deviled egg platter (circa 1950s) that belonged to my sister. Red Wing Pottery has a huge showroom in Red Wing, Minnesota (where else?) and I’ve shopped there a time or two — a mecca of dishes, dinnerware, and collectibles — you’d love it! My Sis most likely discovered this at a flea market or antiques shop. :)

Although it has a few chips and dings, its one-of-a-kind beauty and design obviously appealed to her — and me!

Don’t we all have chips and dings? I think they add to our uniqueness.

Goodies from Jeanne

In My Kitchen is an array of goodies from my cousin Jeanne, xo! They arrived by mail and it was so much fun poking through the packaging and discovering each treasure. I’m thankful to finally have steak knives (seriously, have you ever tried cutting a piece of meat with a paring knife?) and the colorful serving plates and canapé forks were a welcome addition, too. I feel like I could actually entertain again!

Love Trinket Box 1027

Last but not least, In My Kitchen is a trinket box — the first “pretty thing” I bought when we moved into our house. The saying on top caught my attention: “Love is sweet, given or returned.”

That’s what In My Kitchen is all about! To join in and/or view the love shared each month from kitchens around the world, please tune into Celia’s blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. PLEASE NOTE: things are running a lil’ differently at Celia’s”In My Kitchen” this month (details in her blog post linked above) due to unexpected family obligations for our hostess, and also due to the sad loss of one of our dear IMK friends, Selma…

Yup, “Love is sweet, given or returned.” Take care, Celia, and rest in peace, Selma, xo.

Enjoying thoughtfulness, discoveries, and memories,

~ Kim

Something To Write Home About (II)

Letter writers are reporters for the newspaper of life. Columnists of the daily. Chroniclers of the ordinary. Copy editors of dreams.

That last point is perhaps best illustrated in a poem I read recently by j.i. kleinberg, author of the blog chocolate is a verb.

Please take a moment to immerse yourself in it.

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“found poem” by j.i. kleinberg (used with permission)

As a life-long letter writer I was captivated by Judy’s succinct description… an explanation, if you will, of why I write letters. (Not that I need to explain myself, lol!) She nailed it and my gut reaction was YES. (I love it when someone unexpectedly defines a part of me that has heretofore been indescribable!) Thank you.

To me, this is what letter writing is about — revealing yourself line by line and sorting out life by the paragraph. (Personally… and preferably with a pen.) No backspace. No delete. Put it out there!

Letter-writing is a soul-baring business and the best letters are those filled with unabashed opinions and juicy thoughts — our true, unedited selves. Somehow, I think poets feel the same way about writing poems, xo.

Dangly Thingy

Fluid lines appeal to me (as does transparency) in letter-writing, poetry, and “dangly things.” (This one happens to grace my current writing space — aka ‘Garden Room’ — courtesy of my late sister.) I gave it to her after she crashed her Harley ten years ago (not her fault!) while she was convalescing in a nursing home for five months with casts up to her hips and shoulders — with a terrific attitude, I might add. It brightened her room, and now it brightens my life. (And I miss writing to her!)

For every letter, there’s a designated “receiver”– someone as willing to read your thoughts as you are eager to write them — whether they write back or not! FYI, I preface or ‘postlude’ many of my letters with an abject apology of sorts: “Don’t feel like you have to respond or keep up with me word-wise.” (Can’t help myself… it’s who I am.)

Letters are our indelible history in the making (if we don’t “tell,” who will?)… a mutual exchange of souls, and as so eloquently stated, “intimate art.”

Long live poets and letter-writers!

Enjoying a lil’ soul-baring,

~ Kim

Flowergram IX

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It’s been awhile since I posted a Flowergram, but whatever this cacophony of purple is in our back yard, it attracts “hummers” (aka hummingbirds) and brings me joy. I hope it does you, too! (Couldn’t resist sharing it, although my feathered friends were a bit too speedy to capture in flight — use your imagination!)

Totally un-floral (but related to lake life) is the state of The Bluff since we came back from our 4th of July sojourn to Minnesota. A huge section broke off and/or sunk in from the previous rains and run-off,  plus we were greeted with 6″ (or more) of rain upon our return. Our “view” is about to change dramatically!

Winds, waves, and ongoing high water have been undermining The Bluff daily and I’m just waiting to hear the “whoosh” when it meets its watery grave… a piece of our lives and history GONE due to unprecedented weather. (The world and its climactic conditions are in flux, and it’s good to be mindful of what that may mean for us.) On a local level, I’d sum it up as: things change — especially people, lives, and ideas — bear with it, go with it, and adapt the best you can. There’s an inspiring simplicity to this stark reality.

Bluff Stuff

On a side note (aka “story”) The Bluff has been a popular spot to catch catfish over the years and it’s not unusual to have late-night visitors lugging poles and flashlights down the slope all hours of the night. (Folks show up sporadically from midnight ’til dawn — prime cat-fishing time — to reel in a lunker or two for dinner the next day.)

I respect that (and hunger) as long as they respect the privilege of “public property.” Yes, I know it’s not “mine” but I take care of it like it is! I picked up trash along the shoreline once for two days, then tied an empty garbage bag to a tree (along with a poster of “photographic evidence,” tee hee) to remind folks not to be flagrant with Nature — or “my” neighborhood. Apparently the point was taken… I haven’t had to pick up trash since then. Win, win.

One recent evening when I was up at 1:30 a.m. (such is the life of a writer ;) I saw headlights bearing down the road, turning onto The Bluff. Let me tell you, they slammed on their brakes pretty darn quick when their front bumper reached that drop-off! Within seconds the wanna-be fishermen shifted into reverse and re-thunk their plans in the time it took to back up, because they were up the road like a shot! (I’m just thankful they didn’t go over the edge… bet they were, too.) Life on the lake is “changeable” — everybody adapts — especially fishermen. And me.

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Whether your flora is blooming locally or not (and fishing is amenable or accessible), remember to “bloom where you’re planted.”

Appreciate life in all of its stages and changes.

And, take care of yourself. (Ma Nature, too, please.) Thanks!

 Enjoying “life in progress” on the lake,

~ Kim

Out of the Shadows

Storm

I’ve been living in the shadows lately… partially defined, somewhat indistinct… and mostly due to Oklahoma’s meteorological mayhem since we moved into our house — never mind an unprecedented case of “Seasonal Affective Disorder” and wonky Do Over circumstances. (I thought Minnesota’s weather wreaked havoc on my psyche!) Sheesh.

Frequently unannounced absences from this space (due to life and whatnot) have also contributed to my lack of continuity and well-being. I started “this” for the express purpose of “expressing myself” (four-odd years ago) and when I don’t write regularly, I feel it down to my toes… or act like the cloud pictured above.

I’ve also been missing “playing” in my comment section. I’m a responder! When I don’t respond, I feel awful. (I imagine you do, too.) Thank you for your comment just doesn’t do it for me, and not replying to your comments does me in completely! I promise to be a lil’ more interactive from now on, xo.

Speaking of Minnesota… I just returned from a 17 day sojourn there, mostly spent with my Mom who recently turned 80 — can you say surprise party? ;) Mom has no internet. (Can you say cranky?) Thank goodness The Man Of Few Words has weathered More.Than.One of my artistic temperamental storms and knows that hugs cure my ills. I’m positive for the most part, but I have my moments.

And, speaking of The Man of Few Words… today is the first day he hasn’t been somewhere in the house (new or temporary) in over eight months. (!) I love that man to pieces, but sometimes a girl’s gotta have a lil’ breathing room — even though he provides plenty of “room” with his quiet countenance. (No offense to retirees, folks with disabilities and/or illness, or who stay home together by choice — good for you!) TMOFW started a new job today and I feel like Queen For A Day. ‘Nuff said.

Anyhoo, I’m amazed (or taken aback) at how seldom I’ve asserted myself here during these past months considering how much I love to write. (And how cathartic it is.) It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that I don’t know how to say what’s on my mind sometimes. (Either that, or I’m plain ol’ wimpy… or sparing you from a bunch of indistinct whining.) Call it post traumatic stress syndrome, coping, or whatever (!), I’ve been peeking at life (including yours) more than participating and I don’t like it. Definitely not moi!

(At least I’m definite about something…)

Thankfully shadows are created by light, and that’s what I’ve chosen to focus on during these tentative, tumultuous months — silver linings and all that. With light, ordinary every day objects transform into art… plus they make me smile.

On a personal basis, I’ve been redefining what I want out of life and honing my edges, which isn’t easy for a “soft” person like me. I’d much rather float along with the status quo and avoid decision-making, confrontation, opinion-stating, (and/or social media) unless I absolutely have to — yet I know full well that honest communication is a two-way street and it involves speaking my mind (and listening to yours) so we can both say “what we think.”

(Sometimes I think too much.)

Otherwise, how can anyone know what I — or you — feel? Bring it on!

Wall Flower

“There you are… don’t be shy.”

I’m finally out of the shadows.

In the light at long last.

Living my life and looking forward to celebrating yours!

Enjoying better-late-than-never illuminations,

~ Kim

Reflections

Clouds 4

The other day I stopped at a thrift store along the highway to poke around for a bit. (Cheap entertainment.)

On the way in I noticed a small Casio keyboard for sale (the kind with “light up keys” when you play the notes — an oldie, but a goodie) perched on a rickety stand on the dusty dirt “floor” outside. I didn’t pay much attention to it because my mind was on kitchen stuff (a girl’s gotta restock somehow) so I went inside in search of “treasures.”

Not long afterwards, a family came in — Ma and Pa with four young’uns in tow — who proceeded to scramble up and down each aisle in search of the next great “deal.” (Me, too.) Occasionally we bumped elbows and shared smiles and giggles as we went about our singular intended quests.

After I’d procured and paid for my $6.00’s worth of thrift store happiness, I exited the building intent on going home, but the keyboard beckoned…

On a whim (and because it was plugged in), I set my purse and “recycled Walmart bag” on the dirt floor and stood in front of the keys. What would I play?

An elderly gentleman (whom I’d conversed with earlier) was still slung on a bar stool (also for sale) and I wasn’t sure if he was loitering or just keepin’ an eye on things — but his face was weathered like the surrounding Oklahoma landscape and he interested me. He didn’t ask for a “concert,” but his stalwart presence and sense of fun elicited Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” as the optimal piece to play.

Within a few measures of the opening notes, a lil’ girl who reminded me of “Scout” (Atticus Finch’s daughter in “To Kill A Mockingbird” — one of my favorite novels) came running out the door and was glued to my elbow, watching… wondering… listening.

Soon, her three siblings quickly joined her.

Considering the majority of my “audience” was under 13 years old, I switched gears and said: “Here’s one I bet you know.” Then I proceeded to play the ‘Happy Dance’ theme song from the Charlie Brown specials. I love that song. (They seemed to, too.)

More smiles and giggles followed… theirs and mine.

When I finished, the lil’ gal commented: “You’re realllllly good!” and my response was: “Well, I’ve been playing piano for over 50 years now, so I’ve had LOTS of practice.”

(Imagine that… 50 years!)

The old guy just grinned, probably more about my age than my piano-playing prowess.

After that, we parted company — four youngsters and an “oldster” (or two) bolstered by strains of music from my past — music which I no longer have (everything burned up in the fire), but God graciously granted me “recall” for that impromptu concert. Playing from ‘memory’ was never my strong suit; it’s a discipline my piano teacher did her best to instill in me, and which others highly recommend for ‘freedom of expression.’ Unfortunately, the best I ever did was to comply by memorizing a piece or two for the requisite “piano recital” every Spring. (I need to work on that again.)

But, on occasion — on this occasion — I “remembered” — if only for the look of sheer joy on those young (and old) faces. Music was meant to be shared.

Back in my “hey day”(a half-century ago!), my piano teacher had aspirations for me to become a concert pianist — but life turned out otherwise. Now, it’s merely a ‘reflection’ of my past — and probably why I love the reflections on the lake (and music) so much… and Debussy to this day. Or the Charlie Brown theme. :)

Although I don’t have my old music books any more, I still enjoy sharing “music.” (Especially when youngsters — and “oldsters” are involved.)

Here’s one I used to play, illustrated by lovely Monet paintings (another love) and gorgeous real-life photos. Enjoy!

Debussy’s Reflections In The Water

Sunset before the storm 1

Whether or not life works out the way you (or others) once dreamed, you can still make a difference.

Enjoying “Reflections In The Water,”

~Kim