Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Yearly Spice Procurement

Every year in November, I make a special shopping trip to restock the pantry spice shelf with bulk purchases of spices. I only buy the amount I need, i.e. a nickle's worth of chervil or double the amount in a spice jar for tarragon for less than half the price of one. I save a lot of money and a lot of waste not buying the standard sized spice jars at the supermarket. It took me seven years of marriage to use up the allspice jar I bought at the supermarket as a new bride. Today was the day for 2009, and I'm fully stocked for holiday cooking. I'm able to cook much better foods from scratch by maintaining a full pantry, and can do so much more cheaply than using supermarket allotments. I highly recommend searching out those merchants that offer choices in spices and making special trips - even if only once a year.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stock Pot

On Monday, it's time for the stock pot. Today, it's oxtail broth. I am also clearing out the food that's been lingering with the morning sickness. I've only eaten a fraction of my normal quantity, and I left food to spoil. It's a shame, but sometimes it just happens.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Around the Kitchen

It's been a bit quiet around the kitchen lately, what with the food aversions and morning sickness. I'll post more after this time passes.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Food Factory Day

Today is fully autumn in our kitchen. It's Food Factory Monday: beef stock, yogurt and for the first time, home made lemon-lime soda. Natural fermentation! Since the ginger ale was so amazing, I'm hopeful that by the weekend we'll be sipping some delicious soda. At the very least, it should be easier on the budget than the commercial soda water. If it's actually health giving, instead of harmful, I'll be over the moon. If I'm really, really lucky, the Vintner will prefer it over the carbonated stuff.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Delicious Yogurt

How did I ever get out of the habit of making yogurt? The home made batches are so superior to what I could buy. I'm so happy autumn cooking has returned.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The End of the Summer Kitchen

Today, I commence with the food factory Mondays, after a summer break. I'm making yoghurt today, and will add in making broth when the weather cools just a bit.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I'm baking chocolate chip oatmeal cookies this afternoon. I'd post the recipe, but it's the one on the back of the bag. It's not that special, but for the boys. I want them growing up thinking that moms stay home and bake cookies. It's not about the kitchen so much today; it's about the Cottage lifestyle.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pork Chops

So, the pork loin turned out so well, that it will become a regular favorite around the Cottage. I've made another one since then to happy results. Tonight, we'll be having pork chops. I prefer them bistro style with mustard and apple chutney and cream, and gnocchi alongside. Since I don't quite have the makings of that, I'll think we'll just have macaroni and cheese alongside to appease the toddler in the house. I'll do a jalapeno honey glaze for the Vintner, and apple chutney with brown mustard for me. I'll have green veggies to boot, but I'll be alone in that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pork Loin

Tonight, I'm making my first ever pork loin. I hope to master this, since they can be so impressive. I'm thinking just bay leaves and garlic for the flavoring. I'll post tomorrow as to how it turned out. I'm pairing it with white rice, and possible a green vegetable. I think spinach salad would be best, but I didn't think about that ahead of time (during the shopping.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lammastide baking

For Lammas, I always bake a loaf, despite the ridiculousness of baking in that heat in our climate. Lammas is obviously a holiday invented by non-Texans! Yesterday, I fed the starter, and this afternoon, I'll mix and knead the dough. I'll bake tomorrow morning. Why go through this senselessness? It's my mother's birthday, and I'll also bake a cake. If it weren't her birthday, I doubt I'd commemorate it. As it is, I feel an extra pull to celebrate the feast of loaves; it's also baking I do on any day of the week, whenever the holiday falls. I'll return to the summer baking break, after this day.

Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

I should get more time to post in detail my way of making chicken fried steak and gravy. I make home made mashed potatoes from scratch, too. For now, I'll just tease that this is our menu, and fill in the recipe later.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hot Wings

Tonight's supper will be a rare summer treat - hot wings in the oven. I don't have any other meat ready, so I took them down from the freezer. Normally, I would grill outdoors such a meal in late July. However, the new grill yet awaits a new part. The old grill is defunct. That leaves the indoor grill (too small for such a meal) or the oven. So, I'll bake them in lots of butter for 45 minutes, then toss them with a sauce of Louisiana hot sauce, honey and more butter. I could fry them, but I don't have enough oil, until I go shopping tomorrow. I would serve homemade ranch along side, but the Vintner prefers store bought ranch (sigh.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Prawn Cakes, Again

I've started adding Louisiana style hot sauce to the batter. It works well. In addition, I now fry in a combination of bacon grease and coconut oil. The ginger is a good addition.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pickling Cucumbers

Today, I'll be pickling cucumbers with the lacto-fermentation method. Check back in a few days to see how they turn out. I'm a pickle lover, so I've got high hopes.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Guy Food Night, again

I cringe at tonight's menu - Guy Food. I'll spare the details, but suffice to say, it's not in the spirit of the Cottage.

I'll be having something completely different, perhaps a vegetable plate, if the garden has any left of the early summer foods. Otherwise, I may have creamed spinach. I'm just not too feminine to eat greasy, processed food weekly.

Green Onion and Fermented Ginger

Last week's prawn cake variation was fresh green onion and lacto-fermented ginger added to the batter. Yum. Also, I'm frying in a blend of coconut oil and bacon grease. It's a thumbs up from the Vintner. I even got to taste some this time. Good stuff from our kitchen these days - I'm making the prawn cakes weekly, now.

As one might see over at the Cottage, I'm beginning to follow a liturgical calendar. I've been progressing towards this in a culinary fashion for some time, about five years. As it follows, I'm doing this less hesitatingly now that my faith is lining up in this way. Therefore, look for more fish and shellfish recipes on Fridays, and all the time during Advent and Lent, here at the Cottage's Kitchen.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Baking Break

After the St. John's day, I typically take a break from baking bread in the summer. It's not a religious commemoration, but rather a practical one. It's just too hot. I'll make a lammastide loaf, but that usually only reminds me why I don't bake in the Texas heat. Lammas is much more sensible for those much further north than we are. I do continue to feed the starter over the summer, to keep it alive. Now we are in high summer, and summer foods predominate.

Broken Pitcher

Sadly, I just lost my favorite pitcher here at the Cottage. I knocked it off the counter, and it broke the edge. It was so pretty, and is a sad loss. Now, we're going to have to change our beverages for the summer. This was the one in which I made my iced tea. I was drinking about a quart of unsweetened, decaff tea daily. I may use my nice crystal in a pinch. Here's something for the shopping list for Cottage

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Feast of St. John the Baptist

Tonight we're feasting on pork chops and gnocchi for the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Perhaps it's not the most traditional or appropriate, but it's on the menu. I just fry the chops in a pan, and serve with apple chutney. I cover the gnocchi in lots of butter, cream and mustard. Yum! Simple, fast food for busy summer nights.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Night is Guy Food

Tuesday night is the Vintner's choice here at the Cottage. I cringe at the guy food that is consumed, and try to enjoy a salad or something. It's important to remember how satisfying it can be to have enough guy-space, when the lady of the house spends so much time adding feminine touches. With three of them in the house, I know that I'm outnumbered and defer to greasy fingers shoveling hot wings into faces. A lady just has to learn when to let a man get in touch with his animal self. They can all be perfect gentlemen, when required, but they don't have to be required all the time.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Baking of the Week

I was too busy yesterday, to post the Baking of the Week. It's a white pain au levain bread, and a rose pavlova. Unfortunately, the cream went bad, so I have yet to taste the pavlova. I'd prefer not to go shopping today, but I may such that we get to eat it today. The rose flavoring comes from rose water and my home made rose sugar. My roses are transitional, and not yet officially organic (i.e. we haven't lived here long enough to know definitively, but may have been organic prior to our purchase of the Cottage.)

Adding Ginger

Today, I'm going to add lacto-fermented ginger to our prawn cakes. We'll see how this variation works. Also, for the spice, I'm adding dried hot paprika, instead of fresh peppers. My chili pepper plants have yet to produce, and I'm at the last of last year's pickled peppers. I want to save those for another day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer squash

Right now, my squash is from the farmer's market. Soon my own garden will be producing. That will be the time for creative recipes. Now it's enough to slice and saute with lots of real butter and sea salt. After the long months without it, it's enough to appreciate the simple pleasure of early June foods in their most simple, natural state. There will be plenty of time to approach these foods with the bumper crop management mentality.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fun Foods

It's not all about healthy eating and nutrition here at the Cottage. Sometimes we just have fun. Tonight it's hot dogs and a baseball game. We keep all things in moderation around here. Especially in the summer time, when we eat so many fresh veggies from the garden, we allow for other foods just for fun. This is real life, not following someone's guide book by rote on how to have a perfect diet.

Eat something fun today!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Baking of the Week

This week's baking is fairly simple, due to the summer heat. I'm baking a loaf of 100% whole wheat, long-rise sourdough, or pain au levain. It's not the wheat that makes it "au levain" it's the long-rise sourdough. I use 100% wild-caught yeast. In the previous post, I addressed feeding the starter. In future posts, I'll address catching the wild yeast and specific baking. For now it's enough to note that this is how I ususally bake. While I still have some commercial yeast, it will likely be my last year using this, and my last jar. Once I finish this, I will no longer buy my formerly beloved Red Star yeast. I used to prefer cakes of fresh yeast, but I can no longer find them. I never really enjoyed buying Fleishmann's after first trying Red Star many years ago. It's just too iffy in quality. Then, after reading about the Fleishmann heiress' political dealings of years ago, I couldn't feel happy supporting them, even with less than a dollar of my money. Since I don't live in the geographic area where Red Star sells it's cakes of fresh yeast, I had little choice if I wanted fresh. Fortunately, here at the cottage I was able to catch quality yeast. At first I only used it for my pain au levain, but now I've expanded my skill set. It's much easier than I feared it would be. The results are spectacular. It's hard to even try baking with commerical yeast now. In fact, I wonder how it ever caught on so pervasively. The bread is nowhere near the quality. Could previous generations not tell? Did they not care? How could this have happened? Here at the Cottage, at least, we'll be enjoying our wild, slow bread.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Prawn Cakes

Today's recipe is a return to a favorite at the Cottage. For years, we only ever at shrimp in the form of fried prawn cakes. Then, our food processor needed a new blade, and it was too much work to do by hand (with small children underfoot.) It's still fiddly with the peeling and deveining, but I don't mind the quick pulse and then deep frying.

Again, it's another Nigella Lawson recipe from her "How To Eat". It's so simple. It's like crab cakes, but with shrimp instead of crab. That's it. I won't post her seasonings, and I experiment with them so often. It may return to a weekly treat for us. I'm not even sure if I'm going to follow the recipe today, or go out on my own flavoring twist. If it does become our weekly treat again, then I might make the flavor variations a weekly feature.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


So, I should have double checked with the pantry before planning a home made version of Hamburger Helper. We don't have the ingredients! I'll have to try again after my shopping tomorrow. We had the beef on Monday, and the Vintner prefers the Tuna Helper tonight. It's neither old-fashioned nor home made, but it's his preference. He's come so far in the expansion of his palate, that I have to pause now and again. Old-fashioned eating is still a shock to him.

All this home made bread, real butter, whole milk and - gasp - home made condiments are still foreign to his taste buds. He certainly likes it, but it takes time to adjust to the absence of MSG, artificial colors and preservatives. Let's not even discuss those green things that I try to offer. That's chlorophyll in that food!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ground Beef

The Vintner has a taste for Hamburger Helper. Sigh. So, I'm on a journey to expand his taste preferences. Not to undo the decades of preference in favor of boxed meals, but just to bring some choices. Previously, I posted my taco seasoning recipe. Tonight, I'm going to brown some meat, add a brown sauce with stock and serve over pasta. Essentially, it's the same as a boxed meal. I may also try it with a bechamel sauce for a romanoff flavor. I'll post more on the results.

Ah, that brings me to the results of the kuchen: great flavor, but the mincemeat should work better inside the dough, rather than on top. It just crumbled off the top.

Also, it's the day to make yogurt.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mincemeat Kuchen

I used my usual sour dough starter, but added whey instead of water to make the dough. Also, I added more butter, nutmeg, a bit of sugar, all (unbleached) white flour, vanilla and lemon. Essentially, I just altered Nigella Lawson's kuchen to be a long-rise sourdough and lacto-fermented as well. I let it rise overnight at room temperature, instead of retarding in the refrigerator, as I would with commerical yeast. This morning, I started preparations to make it an apple chutney kuchen. At the last minute, I decided to make mincemeat kuchen instead of apple kuchen. The mincemeat is from before I started lacto-fermenting condiments this spring, but it is home made. Since it's not that different from the chutney, or indeed, Nigella's recipe for apple kuchen (just more spices and fat,) I'm optimistic. If it doesn't work so well, I'll try my apple chutney for kuchen next.

Friday, May 29, 2009



"Fajita" means belt in Spanish. Good to know how that makes "chicken fajitas" a bit nonsensical. It's one of the cheapest cuts of meat from the diaphram. It's Texan home food that somehow became restaurant food. The point is there really isn't a "recipe" for this type of cooking; it's too quick and easy for that.

Sear the meat over very high heat, quickly, either open flame or a scorching hot cast iron skillet. Slice the meat against the grain. Simple seasonings include salt, pepper and cumin. Goes well with post-cooking marinade, such as lime juice, or Korean marinades. Serve while hot.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New Grill

Just in time for summer grilling season, we have a new backyard propane grill at the Cottage. It's a simple, pure blessing from my brother-in-law. They purchased a new one, and wanted to get rid of this one. Our outdoor grill was no longer serviceable. How happy we are to have this "new" one. I won't have to spent so much time in the hot kitchen this summer, nor do I have to build a charcoal fire in the rickety old one. It's time to dust off all my grilling ideas and recipes and get out there!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grilled Shrimp

Grilling season begins here at the Cottage! Since the old outdoor grill has past its usage, this will be an indoor meal. Even so, we'll enjoy the new season, just as much.

soak bamboo skewers in water for at least half an hour before grilling. Pierce the peeled shrimp with the skewers and grill for a couple of minutes until pink. Serve with dipping sauce. Hardly a recipe, right? Just a reminder how simple and easy it is to grill. It's time to relax and enjoy basic foods, in their natural state.

Dipping sauce

1 tbs East Asian fish sauce
1 tbs water
1 garlic clove
1 chili pepper
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
grated fresh ginger to taste

chop the garlic and the chili pepper and blend all the ingredients together.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Taco Seasoning

When I was growing up, taco seasoning was something out of a packet. As a new bride, I thanked heaven for the seasoning packets at the supermarket. The Vintner was only familiar with those flavors, and didn't like my attempts. Now that I'm more confident in the kitchen, I season my own tacos. I can't imagine why so many people think these flavors are so complicated. I even feel silly posting how I do this. I don't follow a specific recipe or quantity. I do leave out MSG, however, and artificial preservatives and colors. Perhaps this is what the Vintner misses.

Taco Seasoning

sea salt
freshly ground pepper
coriander seed or leaf or both
hot paprika, or ground chili pepper
tomato sauce or organic ketchup
fresh garlic or garlic powder
fresh onion or onion powder

It's all to taste. I just sprinkle it over as I go. I never make it the same way twice, just until it tastes like tacos.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stocking Up on Mondays

Here at the Cottage, Monday is for stocking the kitchen. Not with shopping so much as turning the kitchen into our little factory. In cooler weather, it's the day to bubble a stock pot on the back burner. In the middle of summer, it's the day for pickling and canning. All year 'round, it's the day for making yogurt. Since, ahem, we haven't finished eating last week's yogurt, the yogurt container is still too full to fill again. However, I do have extra time to write about yogurt, so perhaps that counts for something.

The Vintner has requested a special meal for the season finale of his favorite show on television tonight. He had a rough week of extra work, so whatever he wishes is fine with me.

Thus, we have an unusual day of a quiet kitchen on a Monday at the Cottage. I'm enjoying it, along with the lovely weather. Busy summer days are just around the corner, so this won't be coming my way again any time soon. Since we did have an usually busy morning with the boys and extra errands, it's good luck to have the kitchen tasks happen to be quiet.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Feeding the Sourdough Starter

Today's kitchen task is feeding the sourdough starter. There are many recipes out there for beginning a starter, but caring for it tends to be neglected. Usually, the instructions are limited to, "don't forget to feed it weekly." I've found that nurturing it over time has been just as important. The quality of the starter I have now is far better than when it was young. I'll address how to catch a 100% wild starter at a future date.

First, bring the starter up to room temperature from the refrigerator. Once there are signs of activity - bubbling, color change, or the like - then empty into a clean bowl. Wash the jar in hot, soapy water, and allow to air dry. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour and ¼ cup filtered water to the starter. Stir the flour and water until well blended, making sure to add as much air to the starter as possible during the feeding. Oxygenation is just as important to the feeding process as adding more flour and water. When the starter is a smooth consistency, then add it back to the clean jar, seal and refrigerate. Allow the starter to incorportate the new flour for at least a day before using it as leavening. Ideally, feed once a week.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Recipe of the Day

Lacto-fermented Apple Chutney, or Nigella Lawson meets Sally Fallon

500g cooking apples
1 medium onion
2 chili peppers
250g unrefined sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp sea salt
black pepper
1 tbs grated fresh ginger
1 tsp turmeric
50ml live-culture, liquid whey

Peel and chop the apples, and finely chop the onion and chilis. Blend all the ingredients and place into canning jars. Allow to sit at room temperature for 2-3 days, then refrigerate for up to several months. Lovely with pork chops.

This recipes blends some of the ingredients of Nigella Lawson's Spiced Apple Chutney with Sally Fallon's lacto-fermentation style of making condiments. They both make lovely chutneys on their own, but my style is to blend the best of both.

Welcome to the Cottage Vineyard Kitchen

Welcome to the extension of the Cottage Vineyard: our kitchen! Here's our space reserved for all the cooking and recipes I do. I devote so much energy to this, that I didn't want to clutter the Cottage Vineyard. Thus, the vineyard will be for our whole family, and this space will be just for my kitchen work. Enjoy!