The Simple Life and a Simple Stir Fry

Since January 2018, I’ve had to put my pursuit of flavor aside due to events beyond my control. Recently though I had a hankering for “meat and veggies.” (Vegetarian friends, please look away!) Beef, bacon, broccoli, and brown rice sounded good.

While that concoction doesn’t look like much (thanks to a rainy spell and Oklahoma’s fickle photographic conditions) it tasted SO good, The Man Of Few Words had seconds and I ate the rest. :)

Truthfully it’s been a tough year. At one point I thought about deep-sixing blogging, but that would’ve meant giving up sharing sporadic inspirations with you. My heart just couldn’t accommodate that. Plus I have a story or two left to tell — and I love reading YOURS! Bonus points for yummy recipes.

In the meantime, I’ve found a new outlet for my dormant culinary dreams. Once a week some of my newfound friends and I gather to have a glass of good wine and “munchies.” How could I not cook for them?! They bring the wine and I bring the FOOD! (It was the least I could do to show my appreciation.)

Tonight’s impromptu repast consisted of marinated mushrooms, garlic & herb roasted baby Yukon potatoes, and kalamata olives. Simple fare. Speaking of which, I’m smack dab in the middle of a much simpler life. After I turned 60 (gasp!) I realized that I’ve entered my last go-round on this planet. Every day and every flavor counts. I intend to make the most of them and share my flavor innovations with my friends. (TMOFW, too!) I even brought home an exercise bike yesterday. Yikes…

Getting back to that stir-fry, it was basically a half-pound of bacon cut into “lardons” and sauteed until crisp (drained on paper towels); a pound of 80/20 ground chuck browned with chopped onions and minced garlic (added at the last minute) in the bacon drippings and a “steamer bag” of broccoli nuked in the microwave. (Ordinarily I’d steam a fresh head of broccoli, but time was of the essence.) Then I added previously cooked brown rice seasoned with Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Easy peasy!

Here’s a close up:

Bacon Broccoli Burger Brown Rice 2.JPG

The simplest pleasures in life — the simple life — are best.  Live yours and don’t look back. But please continue to share your recipes. :)

Enjoying a scaled back perspective and GOOD FOOD,

~ Kim

Twice As Nice (Croatian Chicken Paprikash and a Warm Boho Salad)

Two New Favorite Dishes

Since I arrived home, I’ve been vacillating between the life I started to eke out a year and a half ago after the fire (sorry to bring that up again) and “life” — after 3-1/2 months in Minnesota — following Mom’s Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Basically readjusting to my space.

Yes, there actually is (or once was) such a place, but some days I forget what that feels like. Between multiple phone calls to/from the care center, my Mom, the Realtor trying to sell Mom’s house from afar, her doctors, home inspectors… let’s just say I’m workin’ on it… a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

Croatian Chicken Paprikash

Thank God for wonderful foodie friends who know me — or at least my love of GOOD foodand who’s recent recipes appealed to my sense of the familiar.

Pictured above is Croatian Chicken Paprikash by Jasmina Brasovic. OH MY! (Be sure to scroll down to her recipe for this on FB.) Even though my grandparents weren’t Croatian (they hailed from nearby Hungary), going back to my “Czech roots” — or at least the flavors that once fed me due to mutual proximity — has been instrumental in grounding me. I sooooo needed that!

Thanks, Jasmina, xo.

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Add to that an unconventional side dish: Maple Bacon Kale & Roasted Potatoes by Ally Phillips — a “warm salad” per my Boho friend, whom I know won’t mind that I subbed spinach (minus the chicken broth) and fried leftover baked potatoes in a pinch — and you have some extraordinarily good eatin’ on your hands (or plate), not to mention hearty Comfort Food by genealogical proximity.

Jasmina and Ally both have Croatia in common — twice as nice — plus exceptionally tasty recipes! My Grandma would have LOVED how these lovely ladies “cook.”

Nourishment is more than just eating — it’s food for the soul.

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Enjoying trying something new while attempting to get back to the “old,”

~ Kim

Skillet Love

Summer Skillet

I used to think cast iron skillets were for frying chicken. Bacon and eggs. Steak. Spam. (And some pretty decent hashbrowns.)

Then Mom gave me these cherished relics — the lil’ Griswold skillet (above), and the Sperry griddle and larger “Never Break” skillet (below.)

Skillet Love 1

Generations of women cooked ‘real food’ in these pans — Mom, Grandma, and Mrs. Rogers (my piano teacher, to whom the “Never Break” belonged) — and I’m honored to be next in line. Considering that Mrs. Rogers was approaching 80 when I was a mere babe in the kitchen (my last piano lesson was over 40 years ago), I’d say her skillet was well-seasoned. The others, too.

Come to think of it, so am I. ;)

I can still ‘see’ Mom cooking breakfasts in that lil’ skillet, and one of my favorites was a Bohemian pancake (of sorts) called “Schmun.” I have no idea if the spelling is correct, but it was fun Googling it… amazing what you can find out about folks when your Czech is rusty or non-existent!

Schmun consists of 2 eggs lightly beaten, a cup of milk, a cup of flour, and a pinch of salt, whisked ’til smooth and fried to golden goodness in a liberally buttered hot cast iron skillet. About mid-way through, you start cutting the ‘big pancake’ into smaller pieces — similar to when the smaller space ships broke off from the Mother Ship in “Independence Day” — and continue frying the ‘independent’ pieces until all the sides are nicely browned. Add more butter… if needed? (That wasn’t a trick question.) Serve immediately with warm maple syrup.

I cooked with that skillet for the first time when I made meals for my folks on the ol’ Norge last year, and it primarily served as a sauté pan. (Mom developed a penchant for microwave cooking during the last decade and got rid of her ‘other’ pans.) Thanks heavens she kept the cast iron! I had yet to discover its wonders.

Then, last fall my sister came bearing a heavy box when she visited. Not only had Mom sent the skillets and griddle, she included two slightly battered lids — one large and one small. Anybody remember those? (I sent the larger one back with my Sis for her efforts, and to share the skillet love!)

Skillet Love 2

Lo and behold this summer, my garden began producing a bounty of veggies — particularly grape tomatoes, or so the label said. (They’re more the size of a plum tomato!) Previous assumptions ‘cast’ aside (I know…), I began to experiment with my skillet stash with divine results.

Tomatoes 1

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some sliced tomatoes combined with summer squash, a sprinkle of cracked pepper and sea salt (or Pink Himalayan), and possibly Greek seasoning (or whatever ‘flavor of the day’ tickles my fancy — my adjunct seasonings vary every time, such fun!), and in ten minutes or less supper’s on the table. (Or at least my supper… ) The kitchen also doesn’t heat up from steaming and/or roasting.

I adore cast iron cooking!

No need to be concerned about tomato’s acidity on the skillets — or me. (By the way, that’s not intended as ‘medical advice.’) I did some research and nearly every article said it was a matter of ‘seasoning’ to thwart any ill-effects. Start with a well-seasoned skillet; re-season as needed. FYI, the contrary articles said ‘use your judgment.’ Done deal. I’m pretty sure my skillets have built up a protective coating after a century — plus I take good care of them. (And me!)

I’m reaping the flavorful benefits of kitchen savvy and cooking vessels from women I’ve long admired — that goes for you, too, Sis! — and I’m loving it.

Summer Skillet 2

Enjoying a lil’ skillet love,

~ Kim

© 2014 Kim Bultman and a little lunch

Cheesy Potato & Rosemary Galette

Potato Galette

Two year olds are a wonder to behold.

Recently I spent five days in ‘Grandma mode’ marveling as our lil’ grandson zoomed about, climbed, danced (me, too!), made faces, sang songs, jumped, stomped, and figured out more settings on my digital piano than I knew it had.

Between fielding full body hugs (as only a two year old can give) and answering “What’s that?” (as only a two year old can ask), I couldn’t help but think we should all live life with so much intensity and curiosity.

I also took more naps than usual. ;)

After he and his lovely Mama and proud Papa headed home, the house seemed quiet. Too quiet. So did my brain. Since words weren’t readily forthcoming, I decided to poke around in my “idea file.”

When was the last time you looked through your drafts? I mean really looked? I tend to squirrel away recipes and ideas until later. Much later. (This one was from 2012!) Gotta love two year olds…

Earlier I’d published a post extolling the virtues of galettes, and judging by the searches it continues to generate, folks are intrigued by these flavorful layered beauties. (One bite transports me to a French country farmhouse, too.)

Then my friends at Cooks & Books & Recipes featured a potato galette and I knew I had to make it. Spuds in any way, shape, or form are a favorite, but the prospect of thinly sliced potatoes laced with fresh rosemary and cheese intrigued me.

The challenge, however, was to slice ’em without a mandolin. Mandoline?

Whatever works.

Without a Mandolin

Not too shabby for slicing by hand!

Cheesy Potato & Rosemary Galette

(adapted from this recipe)

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan & drizzling

6 medium Russet potatoes, unpeeled

2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (reserve some for top)

1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling

1 c. shredded ColbyJack cheese, plus a handful for the top

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375° F. Brush the bottom and sides of a spring form pan with oil; place on a baking sheet and set aside.

Thinly slice the potatoes with a mandolin — or a sharp knife and a lil’ patience. :) Place slices in a large bowl; toss with olive oil and rosemary.

Assemble the galette by forming a ring of potato slices around the edge of the spring form pan. Then cover the bottom, overlapping the slices. Season with salt & pepper and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheeses.

Continue layering twice more — potatoes, S & P, and cheeses. Finish with a final layer of potatoes. (If you end up with extra, reserve for another use.) Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and additional rosemary and Parmesan.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes until the potatoes are tender and edges are golden brown. If your heart desires (mine did) sprinkle a handful of ColbyJack on top; return to oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Run a sharp knife around the inside of the spring form pan before removing the ring. Gently loosen the galette from the base (aided and abetted by a lil’ coaxing with a spatula) and transfer to a serving platter. Slice into wedges and have at it!

Forgot to mention those crispy edges! Ahhhh...

Crispy edges…mmmmmm

Some ideas are worth revisiting… and some visits become etched in our hearts.

Enjoying the wonder of two year olds,

~ Kim

© 2011-2014 Kim Bultman and a little lunch

An Off The Cuff Post (and Best, Easiest, Tastiest Grilling Recipe So Far This Summer)

Green Things

One of the things I love about summer is the spontaneity inherent in the season.  Grab something and throw it on the grill!

(Even better if it’s flavored with an impromptu compound butter…)

In this particular case, I was trimming haricot verts on the veranda when my step-son mentioned his “pork chop packets” — fresh green beans, carrots, and compound butter, topped with a boneless center-cut pork chop.  Oh my!  I took it a step farther and seared the chops before encasing them in foil.  Sorry, no “after” photo… they were devoured in a heartbeat.  (Vegetarian version expounded on below…)

Summer Veggies with Compound Butter

As for the compound butter, anything goes.  Key words:  have at it… spontaneous… impromptu!

This batch included softened butter smashed with sliced green onions, basil, parsley, garlic, thyme, and freshly ground pepper — but use whatever tickles ya or whatever’s on hand.  Throw it in the fridge in plastic wrap for a bit to let the flavors “marry,” then add a dab to the packet before adding the veggies (to keep them from sticking), top with a seared chop and a generous dollop of compound butter, seal, and you’re good to grill.

(Note:  Be sure to seal the foil packet well.  Turn once during grilling.  If in doubt about “doneness,” test chops with a meat thermometer before consuming.)

Compound Butter

Regarding the off the cuff portion of this post, I’m finally home again.  Missed ya bunches.  Couldn’t resist writing.  Plus, I’m making these again for supper tonight.  So, so good.  I also imagine they’d be good with chicken.  Or salmon.  Or steak.

Or, just veggies for my vegetarian pals. :)  Use your imagination…

On a personal note, I need to restructure myself and my blog a lil’ bit.  So many ideas, so little time — up until now!  After spending the equivalent to two months away from the place that makes me happiest since January, I’m feeling out of sorts.  Off my game.  Sluggish.  Can we say move it or lose it?!  (Photos may or may not be forthcoming, lol.)

More good things to come though, including the winner of my giveaway later this week.  (Giveaway is closed.)

Happy grilling and stay tuned for transformation…

Enjoying unpremeditated meal planning, writing, and rediscovery,

~Kimby

Cutting Board Tacos

1)  Take one insanely hot summer day and your basic taco fixin’s…

(Nothin’ fancy — just the basics — seasoned with this.)

(Allow me to zoom in a bit closer.)

2)  Assemble them on the nearest cutting board.

(Closer…)

3)  Add a lil’ sunshine and a fork.

(Clooooser…)

4)  Okay… a LOT of sunshine and a fork.

(There we go!)

5)  Think of winter and laugh.  Bwahahah!

(Apologies to my Southern hemisphere friends…)

Serve with a side of this and pull up a chair.

That’d be it. :)

Enjoying easy weeknight meals,

~ Kimby

What’s your favorite “beat the heat” meal?

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Bye, Bye, Miss American Fry

I’ve always loved potatoes — baked, mashed, creamed, boiled, roasted, you name it — but the ones that make me swoon are fried potatoes.

My fondness for sauteed spuds hails back to my roots, when my folks would take us “up north” fishing.  I can still picture Mom cooking Dad’s early morning catch (generally walleye) in a cast iron skillet, adjacent to a larger skillet filled with sliced potatoes sizzling in butter.  Their aroma would waft through the open screen door to mingle with pine, birch, and lake-scented air and beckon me to blaze a trail to the table, where all of the above was served on a Melmac plate with a side of toast.

Breakfast doesn’t get much finer than that.

During “the trucking years” I looked forward to breakfast more than any other meal — particularly breakfast potatoes.  After a day or night of shifting gears across America, I’d search for a good ol’ fashioned truck stop — not one of those huge, hundred-acre mega-plexes, but a “Mom & Pop” joint — neat and tidy, with a little wear and tear around the edges, and a cook who looked like they’d put in a few miles, too.

After perusing the “breakfast section” of the menu, I’d order any combo that came with American Fries (sometimes hailed as “home fries”) and anticipate that mound of crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside, hand-peeled, hand-cut spuds, pan-fried to a golden brown.  Depending on which region I was in (and which cook was slinging hash), the spuds would hint of butter, bacon grease, or lard — but, they were never greasy — and they typically sported diced onion or peppers.   Potato perfection.

Then came the convenience food revolution and a noticeable decline in “American fries” — often replaced by mechanically cut, frozen cubes dunked in a deep fryer.   Not the same!  I could almost hear Don McClean crooning, “Bye… bye… Miss American Fry…”

Thankfully, I ran across a recipe in the “good ol’ days” that never fails to deliver the taste and texture I’ve been missing.  Although billed as a ‘salad’ (Warm Irish Potato Salad http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/11445761.html), these spuds are entirely suitable for breakfast, and worthy of their title.
 

American Fries (adapted from ‘The Local’ linked above)

4 c. red potatoes, diced

8 slices bacon, diced

1/2 c. malt vinegar

4 green onions, sliced

4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until almost tender; drain.  Rinse with cold water; place in a sieve to drain thoroughly.

In the meantime, fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove to paper toweling to drain.  Reserve drippings in skillet.

Heat bacon drippings over high heat; add potatoes.  Reduce heat to medium-high; cook and turn with a spatula until potatoes are browned evenly.  Add malt vinegar; stir gently until vinegar is evaporated.  Remove pan from heat.  Add green onions, parlsey, and bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

As I said, breakfast doesn’t get much finer than that.

Enjoying spud nostalgia,

~ Kim

What kind of potatoes do you like?