Catch Of The Day

It’s been a long time since I’ve tasted a Northern or Walleye, let alone caught one.

Back in the halcyon days of summer vacations, Dad ‘n’ I would arise before anybody else (I’m talking 5:00 a.m.) and launch the resort’s Alumacraft fishing boat with its 25 hp Evinrude motor armed with a thermos of coffee and fishing poles from home in high hopes of catching a lunker. Some morning our outings yielded Northerns; other days walleyes. Both were wonderful.

So are the memories.

There’s nothing like casting a line and feeling a rebellious tug beneath the surface, except for eating it later. (Fellow-fisherman, you know from whence I speak.) One of the highest compliments my Dad ever paid me was: “Nice cast!” On that particular morning mine landed next to a weed bed where I subsequently reeled in a 5-pound Northern. I’ll never forget the sight of it breaking the calm surface of the lake with a defiant splash — or the proud look on my father’s face.

Afterwards we went back to the cabin to cook breakfast. While Dad cleaned our early-morning catch, I prepped potatoes, toast, and another pot of coffee. One of the best wake-up calls I’ve ever experienced was the aroma of fried potatoes and fresh fish fillets sizzling in a cast iron skillet with toast and freshly brewed coffee.

Plenty of butter was also a plus.

Recently I bought some Ghee — clarified butter with the milk solids removed — after attempting to make my own and researching numerous articles re: its compatability with dairy allergies. I miss butter! Some of them said it was a no-no, while others proclaimed it was lactose and “dairy-protein-free.” (The bane of my existence.) Ever the optomist, I opted for the latter. So far, so good, one teaspoon or “dunk” at a time.

Last weekend a couple from church returned from a fishing trip to Canada with two coolers full of fillets on ice intent on giving away their excess. Thank you SO much for your generosity! I was like a kid in a candy store in front of their tailgate in the church parking lot. After I got home I thawed a bag of Walleye fillets and made Walleye Almondine (or Amandine.) Sorry, no photos — it was gone in a flash.

The next day I made Poor Man’s Lobster (click on the link for the recipe): Northern fillets poached in a white wine and what-have-you broth. I added a few Court Bouillon ingredients ala Alton Brown — the more, the merrier — and broiled them to perfection later. Soooo grateful to taste that flavor again.

Enjoying the catch of the day and memories,

~ Kim

Sharing Is Caring (Carnitas)

Some things are too good not to share. Take Carnitas for instance. Translated as “little meats”, a hunk of pork is slow-cooked for hours, shredded into shards after it’s fork-tender, then sautee’d prior to serving. Talk about flavor this side of heaven. (The leftovers freeze and reheat well, I might add.)

A few simple ingredients contributed to that stunning transformation: onions, oranges, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, salt, sweetened condensed milk (truth be told, I punted and mixed coconut oil and coconut palm sugar to achieve that effect due to my dairy allergies) and lard. Confession, I subbed “bacon fat” — a Southern staple. Oh my!

Several years ago I made David Leite’s Authentic Carnitas and enjoyed every bite, then filed his recipe for future refence. When I looked it up again last week, the only note I discovered on it was: “These are fabulous!” (Click on the link for the recipe.) Who doesn’t want to eat fabulous food?

Shown above with a skewer of black olives, a side-salad of baby spinach, arugula, and orange segments dressed in a lime vinaigrette with avocado slices drizzled with lime juice and liberally sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, plus a gluten-free wrap I was trying out that evening, (ditto on oh my!) it exceeded my flavor expectations. In the future I may incorporate some of the sides into that hefty structure (who doesn’t love a good fusion taco?!), but on that particular evening I wanted to taste everything separately. Unfettered. Fabulous!

Re: the taco shells… BFree Sweet Potato Wraps. Described on their packaging as: “Scrummy with sweet potato, beetroot & carrot” I have no idea how they ended up on our local grocer’s shelf with their UK pricing and origins, but they were mighty tasty. (Thanks, adventurous grocery store buyers!) FYI, they’re also good with a slice of pastrami, a “schmear” of Dijon mustard mixed with mayo, and an assortment of greens. Gotta love cross-cultural-flavor adventures.

Re: Life On The Lake, we’re still in the throes of winter in Oklahoma — torrential rains, hail, tornadoes, fog, frost, ice, sleet, snow, and temps ranging from 70 to 30 or below — but I still love it here. Don’t let weather — or life — distract you from your dreams. You never know when the next surprise or inspiration will show up.
Speaking of which — above is a “just because” mid-winter bouquet TMOFW showed up with one afternoon. It was least I could do was to surprise him with FABULOUS food that evening. Isn’t it lovely how that all works out?

Well, that pretty much sums up life at the lake lately. Cook! Eat! Enjoy! And, be sure to look up a few recipes while you’re at it.

Enjoying revisiting FABOULOUS food,

~ Kim

An Ode to 2020 and Beyond

Today I come to you with 365 posts to my credit. A whole year’s worth of blogging. (Never mind it took nine years to do it.) Frankly, I thought I’d have a best-seller under my belt by now, too, but life goes on and goals get revised.

Living life well is my most important priority this year.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is to keep writing even if you hit the “delete” button more often than “publish.” The ability to detect B.S. is also an acquired skill. :) Write everything down. Your thoughts matter — so do mine and everybody’ else’s — read them with an honest heart and an open mind. Edit and/or delete as needed.

When you give thoughts the space they need, you’ll also be able to discern whether to take them seriously or not. Use your time wisely. To those who have the gift of posting regularly, I applaud and admire you. Eventually I plan to emulate you. Thanks for the inspiration! Well-written thoughts tickle my soul. Meanwhile…

Eat well to sustain yourself.

Pictured above are two cooking creations o’mine: Neopolitan Meatballs with Ragu (courtesy of Milk Street magazine‘s Jan/Feb 2020 issue) and Brandied Mushroom Pate’ pasta — the result of repurposing leftovers from a beloved dish after sharing the original pate’ with pals at a pre-holiday gathering. (Click on the links for recipes.)

Life is better… tastier… when you share it with the ones you love.

Noodles are such a comfort food for me — evidence of my Czech heritage, too — even if I have to eat the gluten-free version. FYI, these are photos of my hubby’s serving — my GF noodles fell apart, but they tasted good, even if they didn’t photograph well. Cook what your heart and stomach crave and you’ll live a much happier and fulfilled life. Punting is allowed! Do what works for YOU.

Mostly, I just wanted to say hi and Happy New Year. Love y’all!

Are you living life WELL this year and beyond? Do tell.

Enjoying “2020 vision” at the lake,
~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ December 2019

Happy Holidays everybody! Welcome to In My Kitchen (winter edition.) Couldn’t help but festoon my baker’s rack to celebrate the Season and the fabulous bunch of friends I’ve met from all over the world thanks to “IMK.” For a glimpse of their gadgets, goodies, and global adventures, click on our congeinal hostess’s link: Sherry’s PickingsWhether you peek or participate you’ll find a warm welcome.

In My Kitchen… I’m pretty set with cooking implements, other than a serving plate or two. (The better to entertain with, my dears.) Lately I’ve been focusing on ingredients — some for me, some to share with friends — and some The Man Of Few Words keeps sneaking! He’s been very polite about asking (and asking) until I finally told him to “have at it.” Let’s just say I’m a good sport about sharing my chocolate and/or blueberry fig bars, plus the fact he prefers them over his usual snacks is a testament to how good they are, not to mention good for him. Shhh…

It’s doubtful he’ll tuck into my Decaf Ginger Peach Tea, Pad Thai Rice Noodles, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, or Sriracha sauce (heaven forbid!) but I recently noticed that “my” Sicilian Orange Marmalade has disappeared by the spoonful every time I hear the toaster pop up. Good thing I have jars of Fig Tangerine and Wild Berry (not pictured) on reserve. True love comes in new flavors and sharing is part of the plan. What a blessing to inadvertently introduce someone to a “new” way of enjoying life simply by restocking the pantry to suit me.

And sharing.

In My Kitchen… is the sweetest lil’ teapot. Okay, it probably qualifies as a gadget, but I knew I had to have it the minute I saw it. No more running to the big tea kettle on the stove to refill another cuppa while reading or watching TV. (Some days I feel more ambitious than others.) Nestled in the cute polka dot “bowl cozy” — a gift from my cousin Jeanne, previously pictured — it offers immediate recliner-side relief from the cares of this world. Is there anything more soothing than a cup o’ tea? (And homemade, hand-made love?)

In My Kitchen… is one of my favorite plates. I’m sure I’ve shown it to you before, but it bears repeating: Promise. Peace. Possibilities. Patience. Words to live by.

Words I LOVE and have lived by most of my adult life — even when somebody is sneaking my snacks. :) Happy Holidays!

Enjoying The Reason For The Season,

~ Kim

Bleak Friday at the Lake

Yes, you read that right. Today is “Bleak Friday” at the lake. God bless the folks who brave early morning risings and long lines on Black Friday, but I’m not one of them. Especially when it’s raining, thanks to a continuation of Thanksgiving Day’s 24-hour drizzle. The sky is overcast (not to mention dripping) so I opted to stay put. Ahhhh… it’s been a productive day.

Thanksgiving leftovers bagged, tagged, and in the fridge or freezer for future use? Check. House cleaned and festooned for Christmas? (Paltry though my decorations may be…) Check. Music perused, practiced, and in place for a memorial service on Saturday and two church services Sunday morning? Check. Dishes and laundry done? Check. Airplane ticket booked for a holiday in New Hampshire? WOOHOO!

You get the idea. I don’t sit around or shop much. (Unless it involves following my heart to visit my daughter on the East Coast between Christmas and New Year’s — the first holiday we’ve spent together in over a decade — plus I get to meet my son-in-law to be and his family!) Some things are worth the wait or long overdue. Decide what’s important to you! Even if it means standing in line.

Below is a synopsis of Thanksgiving dinner. (After the fact I know, but it was wonderful.) Hope yours was as equally magical, colorful, and tasty! Smiling about the empty “pumpkin without the pie” dish, thanks to TMOFW and his Mom. After 50+ years of rolling out pie crusts for family dinners, she decided to bake the filling (or in my case, the overflow filling) in a separate dish. No fuss, no muss. Russ ate the whole thing before dinner! Who says dessert can’t come first?

Although that turkey breast may resemble Ol’ Mother Hubbard’s shoe, it was the perfect size for the two of us. After it was stuffed, skewered, and roasted I served it alongside a very small ham with a few side dishes. We felt blessed (and stuffed) beyond measure! Thanksgiving was good at the lake — hope yours was, too. And if you’re still standing in line to snag more Black Friday deals, God bless you.

The roses were my last-minute idea for a lil’ shot of color to overcome a soggy Thanksgiving Day. (And today.) So glad I impulse-bought ’em. I’m sure there’s a lot of that going on yet. :) You GO!

Enjoying “Bleak Friday”,

~ Kim

Mixed Berry Crumble Dessert

Once a fixture on kitchen counters everywhere (at least where I grew up) cannisters stored the “basics.” Flour, sugar, coffee, and tea. What do you store in yours?

These days mine house rice in alphabetical order: Arborio, Basmati, Jasmine, and White or Wild. FYI, I eat a lot of rice. Which made me think. Sometimes life can become so compartmentalized that you risk missing the big picture. Reality isn’t organized. Life either. Do NOT attempt this thought process at home.

A few mornings ago my day started out with a shimmering falling star streaking across the sky, accompanied by a stellar cup o’ Joe — followed by a spectacular sunset that evening — followed by a glass of Cabernet. Some events are meant to be random. Unexpected. Divine. Like this dessert. (Even though I had to dig out the “basics” from another set of cannisters in the recesses of my pantry.)

Mixed Berry Crumble

(adapted from Yummly who adapted it from Cooking Classy, with a few adaptations by moi)

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided (plus a lil’ extra)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup salted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 cups fresh berries or frozen mixed berries, thawed (I used a combo of frozen blueberries & sliced strawberries w/a sprinkle of sugar so they’d macerate…)

1 Tbsp. raw turbinado sugar (I used granulated sugar; fresh out of turbinado)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and generously butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; set aside.

Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon peel in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla.

Cut egg yolk mixture and chilled butter cubes into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. (I tried all three options just for fun.)

Gently press a little over half of the mixture into the prepared pan to form a crust.

Combine cornstarch and remaining sugar in a separate bowl. ( More dishes, but prevail.)

Combine cornstarch mixture with fruit (fresh or frozen) until thoroughly coated.

Pour berry mixture over crust and top with remaining flour mixture.

Sprinkle turbinado sugar (or plain ol’ granulated) over the top.

Bake in preheated oven 35-38 minutes until top is golden brown. (Personally, I was more concerned with the bottom crust over-baking so I adjusted the oven rack to the upper 1/3 of my oven midway through and watched and “smelled ” until it was deemed done.)

Remove from oven, cool completely on a wire rack, and serve as is or with ice cream.

Refrigerate leftovers (if any) in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

SOOOO good! Or at least I’m told.

By the way, here’s that sunset.

Talk about just desserts.

Enjoying pondering cannisters and living an “uncompartmentalized” life,

~ Kim

Jambalaya ~ Past, Present, and Future

The first time I tasted Jambalaya was at a grown-up girls’ slumber party in the late 1970’s. Several of the seven females from the Class of ’76 reunited over dinner at a former classmate’s apartment in Minneapolis (she moved away before junior high but we kept in touch) and as I mentioned earlier, I have fond memories of the Twin Cities. Her Jambalaya was one of them. Never tasted anything like it until I moved South of the Minnesota-Iowa border. Good times and great flavors.

The Magnificent Seven (not including our former classmate) were outnumbered by 29 boys — yes, my graduating class totaled 36 — and although we girls were small but mighty, we were outspoken. Probably the apt word from that era is: dissenting. We weren’t afaid to disagree, protest, or try flavors foreign to our smalltown digs. The boys seemed to like our cooking, too. Memorable moment before we voted to cater subsequent class reunions: mega-batches of potato salad made in my kitchen.

Ditto on good times.

The Girls of ’76 went on to lead lives — culinary and otherwise — beyond the confines of our rural hometown. (Some of the boys, too.) But OH, how I remember that post-high school Jambalaya with shrimp, Andouille sausage, chicken, and the “Holy Trinity of the South” — sautee’d peppers, celery, and onion (hadn’t heard of that before either) — in a flavorful tomato sauce over rice.

Fast forward to present day when Joy The Baker added eggs (her Jambalaya Egg Bake was featured in Better Homes & Gardens where I first spied this recipe — with full credit going to Joy The Baker and Better Homes & Gardens.) Thanks both for featuring this flavor-fest blast from my past. Similar to Shakshuka (also discovered post-high school), it appealed to my beyond-the-border sensibilites and reminded me that there’s a lot left to experience in life — waaay beyond the the Prom floor or the bland Tuna Hotdishes I’d grown accustomed to on previous weekends.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook (thank you!) I recently posted photos of my Chocolate Roux and BBQ. (Different flavors and methods; same South of the Minnesota border spin.) Follow the links.

I’ll be making all of them again in the future. Hope y’all try ’em, too!

Enjoying past, present, and future Jambalaya — among other things,

~ Kim