In My Kitchen ~ October 2015

Good things come in small packages (1)

In My Kitchen… is the sweetest lil’care package. My friend Jeanne Raffetto Tentis (a culinary instructor in Wisconsin and author of Queen Jeanne’s Cuisine) surprised me with this bundle of delights — an antique ramekin, snazzy kitchen towels, and a colorful array of tea light candles. Thank you, xo. Good things really do come in small packages!

Mexican vanilla

In My Kitchen… is a tiny bottle of Mexican vanilla that packs a BIG punch! The aroma is SO heady I’m tempted to unscrew the cap and take a whiff every time I walk by my pantry… ahhhh. (Mostly I save it for baking The Man Of Few Words goodies.) Hooray for cooler mornings! Below are a mini peach & blueberry cobbler (pie?) and a small batch of sugar cookies I made for that man o’ mine. I loooooove Autumn!!! (And obviously him.)

But, part of me wasn’t ready to give up Summer quite yet…

In My Kitchen… are these bold-colored bargains. The swizzle sticks (a parrot, palm tree, cactus, and an owl) are made from the most delicate glass — 25 cents for all four, yay! The beverage napkins were from the “dollar store” and the slice of lime in my ice water was in honor of Celia. ;) It’s fun to change up things In My Kitchen with a lil’ color and flavor — even plain ol’ water.

Speaking of color…

Color Scheme

In My Kitchen (next to it)… are paint swatches. These are the potential candidates for my Garden Room bench. Remember the vote? Tangerine won! (Now to figure out which shade of tangerine.) The colors are more vibrant than they appear (Oklahoma’s summery sunshine ‘n’ all) and their names are as appealing as their hues: Baby Carrot, Savory, Autumn Harvest…

To see other colorful, flavorful kitchen goodies (from small to large) ’round the world please visit Celia’s blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. The links are in her sidebar.

Enjoying seasonal shifts and year-round friendships,

~ Kim

Comfort Zones

Comfort Zone

The first day of Autumn has come and gone and I’ve officially entered my Comfort Zone. “A place or situation where one feels safe and at ease without stress.” (Definition courtesy of Google.) I’d add: “An area within your soul that feels like you’ve finally come home… a sacred place that nurtures creativity.” 

Whenever I listen intently to my soul (particularly this time of year) that “still, small Voice” speaks volumes. It also guides me to some amazingly comforting, creative places.

My kitchen ranks right up there as a Comfort Zone, followed closely by my piano bench. (Sometimes it’s this trundle bed, courtesy of my sister.) Other days, Comfort wraps its loving arms around me in the passionate embrace of cooler nights and invigorating mornings. I feel wide awake. Rarin’ to go. Or, content to simply “be.”

Autumn isn’t a dying season to me — it’s full of renewed possibilities — and I need to (must) take advantage of it.

That said, I’ll be spending more time offline than on in the coming weeks as I renew and “regroup” — and possibly take a nap (or two or three) on that trundle bed. Ahhhh…

Where (or when) is your Comfort Zone?

Enjoying everything Autumn,

~ Kim

Poached Chicken, Mango, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

Chx Avo Mango Blueberry Salad vertical

Do you despise rubbery, tasteless chicken? I do! The only solution I’ve found that renders succulent, slice-able chicken for salads or Alfredo or whatever (without confiscating the choice parts of a whole roast chicken at the table for “later”) is poaching. Although come to think of it, that first method is “poaching” too… but let’s move on.

When chicken breasts — even the boneless, skinless variety — are submerged and cooked at the gentlest of simmers (I’m talking barely a bubble) over the lowest heat possible, magic happens! Plus, you can “influence” the chicken’s flavor by whatever you throw in to simmer along with it. (I believe the proper term is infuse.)

For this batch I alternated whole carrots and celery stalks, chunks of onion, and a couple of garlic cloves in my Dutch oven, laid the chicken breasts on top (so as not to cook them too quickly on the bottom of the pan — the higher off the heat, the better), added a half-dozen black peppercorns, several sprigs of fresh parsley, a sprinkle of sea salt and a bay leaf topped with enough cold water to cover all of the above. Let the poaching begin!

Granted, it takes a bit of patience, but the tender results are worth your time (and mine) — not to mention more chicken stock for the freezer. Win, win! And hey, how ’bout those frozen blueberries… I feel a salad coming on. (I love visual reminders, don’t you?)

Blueberries and Chx Stock

Poached Chicken, Mango, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

Assorted greens (I used a “bagged mix” but anything with arugula is fine by me)

1 poached, sliced chicken breast (for an excellent tutorial on poaching click here — many thanks to The Kitchn!)

1 cup diced mango

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced

Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed

1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen, obviously)

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

(adapted from Jodee Wieland’s “Delicious Homemade Honey Mustard Vinaigrette recipe here — thanks, Jodee!)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard (Gulden’s or Grey Poupon)

1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (the real deal)

3 drops hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot or Louisiana style hot sauce) (no doubt I used more… let’s just say “to taste”)

1 small clove garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper & sea salt (ditto on “to taste”)

Assemble salad greens in the bottom of a large shallow bowl.

Top with artfully arranged slices of poached chicken, mango, avocado, and blueberries drizzled with freshly squeezed lime juice.

Pour on the Maple Mustard Vinaigrette and enjoy!

Poached chicken, avocado, mango, and blueberries with Spicy Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

There’s nothin’ complicated about this salad — just start slicin’ and dicin’ whatever’s in your fridge for your very own flavor fest and throw on a tasty vinaigrette — but, please take the time to properly poach your chicken first.

Enjoying weekend wonders,

~ Kim

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.


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…


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


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.


“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