Category Archives: Food

Breaking the Doldrums & A Major Personal Milestone

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House bound with rain, rain, rain smooshing the piles of snow outside into bogs of slush.  It hasn’t stopped raining here in Council for more than 48 hours…not gully washer rain, but steady drizzle. The rivers are raging, the creeks overflowing, basements are flooding and my cell phone blasted an emergency alert during a major REM sleep cycle about 4 a.m.

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Frosted ear piece … cold, cold day

Anyway, last week’s girls weekend was a hoot … the snow was fab down at Brian Head Resort outside of Cedar City Utah. My skiing partners even got me on some powder filled, choppy mogels and very, very, very cold … frost on the ski helmet.

Which made our spa day  at the Flamingo Las Vegas even more perfect (facials, feet pampering, steam/sauna rooms, and hot tubs). I’m putting the spa day on my TO DO agenda every time we head south … OR find ones closer to home?! Duh!

So good we had breakfast here 2 days in a row!

So good we had breakfast here 2 days in a row!

The cute Vegas neice, Catlin, showed us a hidden gem for breakfast named Crepe Expectations (it’s one of those Diner, Drive Ins, and Dives notable places). So good we went two days in a row!

In that same shopping plaza we tasted and I bought the MOST yummy hummus I’ve ever eaten … When in Vegas I highly suggest you find Happy Hummus  and buy their Lemony Spinach … it’s heavenly.

Back home and house bound, I’ve taken on the eBay world selling the ‘let’s clear out the shop’s 40 years of we won’t use this’ stuff. Easy to learn how and it’s kept me occupied … and we know I have to be occupied or I start planning stuff! Well, full disclosure I’m planning stuff anyway … a family camp out , & fishing trip, a southern Utah/Arizona road trip, and I’m still hoping for a few days on the slopes of Grand Targhee.

Keeping the doldrums at bay I’m also working on a measly little 500 piece puzzle .. my one puzzle for the year … yikes! It has driven me nuts … these little pieces of pink and green bushes are so much harder than the mostly black Star Wars one I did last year. Can you imagine that?

The sun is finally out and shining for the first time in weeks … I’m outta here … hello Brundage!  Well, I will be once Sweetie is ready 🙂

Noteworthy in My Life:  On February 14th I will be 21 years sober! I’ve not done this alone … thank you to God and my wonderful family and friends. I would not be where I am without them!! I love you All!!

 

Pick, Pit, Slice, & Juice … It’s Harvest Time!!

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Boxes of Love

Boxes of Love

It’s Harvest Time! Pick, pit, slice, juice,  freeze a little here, bottle a little there, dehydrate a bit over there. My backyard garden has reached the tipping point … we can’t eat the fresh goodies fast enough, and the neighbors are starting to hide when they see me coming.  … Monday it was pear sauce, pear leather, and whole tomatoes, along with drying fresh mint. Yesterday, a small batch of green beans and today it’s more apple slices for the dehydrator, hot pepper jelly, and grape juice.  I do have to fess up that I burnt a batch of pears … the house smells yucky.

Hot Pepper Jelly

Hot Pepper Jelly

For at least a month I’ve been harvesting apples, making apple butter and dried apple rings (with cinnamon and sugar).  We had to fight for our pears this year; blister mites started early, ugly things, but they tasted great. We also have a dwarf apple tree grafted with 3 different types of apples; early summer, mid-summer and late-summer which spaces out the dehydration time (thank goodness)! Don’t ask me what kind of apples they are … ’cause I don’t remember … in fact, I’m not certain I ever knew.

Beans from a Bucket

Beans from a Bucket

And blackberries! It’s been a bumper crop; I’ve frozen blackberries, given blackberries away and away and away again. I have so much blackberry jam from 2 years ago … I don’t think I’ll be doing that again for a while. And the Chilean Chimnaya Peppers are are brilliant red and ready for rista tying.  And just a note, these babies are HOT …  1/2 of one replaced 10 jalapenos in my hot pepper jelly recipe.

Our dwarf peach tree is totally loaded.  So tomorrow early on it’ll be peach jam, bottled peaches, peach pie, and peach cobbler … and more whole tomatoes. Which to remind myself, I’d better check the zucchini; when I came home from fishing last week there was one that grated out 6 1/2 cups … the double chocolate zucchini cake was irresistible!

A Little Bit Here ... A Little Bit There It's Harvest Time!!

A Little Bit Here … A Little Bit There
It’s Harvest Time!!

Now, why am I bragging about the harvest in my yard?  Because this bountiful harvest comes from a small, city lot with poor rocky, clay-based soil.  How do we do it? Well, Sweetie built 6 grow boxes (4′ x 5′), pick axed and pry bar’d holes to plant 6 fruit trees (we only have 4 surviving though)  …  and dirt, manure, sphagnum moss, and compost comes in bags!  Anyway, I love having fresh produce and fresh fruit  all summer. I can feel a bit virtuous that I’m ‘Eating Local’ … mostly,  I love the feeling of having a ‘bit put by’ … just in case. I am not a ‘farmer’, nor a great gardener, just someone who love the smell of freshly turned soil in the spring, who loves the buzz of bees around the fruit and vegetable flowers, and who loves the taste of tomatoes warm and sweet from the vine.

Growing something from seed, or a greenhouse plant can change us.  There is hope  in planting a garden …  faith that the tiny seed will grow into a plant willing to share all it has with us.  Once you fall in love with a box of dirt and a garden catalog … whoa Nelly … your tomorrow will never be the same.  So why not give it a go? Next spring … find a corner, dig a hole, build a box, salvage a pot or bin  and plant something you love.  Your world will never be the same. I promise.

  Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; (Jeremiah 29:5)

 

 

All Things Basil

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First Harvest ... Basil 2016

First Harvest … Basil 2016

Wanderingkeri has actually been wanderingkeri at home this week … I admit that wandering is in my blood … but love it when my domestic garden-y self has time to just “be”. I arrived home from last week’s journey to discover a dying apricot tree, over-watered garlic, tomatoes in need of fertilizer and burgeoning basil plants.  Garden & yard “work”, I use the term work loosely because for me it is “Dirt Therapy” … my mind is free to ponder thoughts I don’t often make time for when I’m on the move … and as I go about the tasks of tilling the earth, planting and watching the miracle of seed, to plant ,to fruit, to table happen I marvel at the hand of our Creator and how perfectly the world is put together.

Well, my first harvest this season was basil … from seed, to seedling in the greenhouse I tended the plants, wished them well when as greenlings they moved into their summer beds and last evening pinched off a colander full of perfect leaves. The plants wanted to become a bit leggy with little fullness (kind of like a sprouting teenager). Then I had this colander full of basil; Sweetie was up at Council and what was I going to do with all this basil by myself? I texted Peter, my step-son, who is a fantabulous chef, asking for suggestions.  I declined to make pesto (my standard go-to) and besides, I haven’t replaced my blender/food processor that I tossed out in a fit of “oh heck! this isn’t worth the effort to keep fixing” moment. Between Peter’s suggestions and a broader web search I spent the evening making all things basil for dinner.

It's not chicken

It’s not chicken

Paula Deen’s Chicken with Butter & Basil … which I will still have to try using chicken … because the chicken breast I thawed wasn’t actually chicken … turned out it was a tiny pork roast (note to self … be more specific on labeling your freezer food Keri).  I’d already prepped the ingredients for the recipe, so in another “what the heck” moment, I cut the roast in half (lengthwise), buttered it and popped it on a very hot grill. Turns out pork is Yummy with basil and butter … along with avocado and tomato slices and Giada’s refreshing Italian Lemonade.

Ah .. Italian Lemonade ...

Ah .. Italian Lemonade …

While I was in the midst of my “that’s not chicken” moment, I was also making Giada De Laurentis’ Italian Lemonade (another use for basil) and from one of Peter’s suggestions I found Jamie Oliver’s Lime-Basil Sorbet recipe for dessert. The sorbet wasn’t ready for that evening’s meal, but the following night … another score point for fresh basil.  The sorbet was perfectly sweet & tart and the basil added an unusual twist that brought it all together.  Refreshing and light for an end of the evening nosh. And if that wasn’t all; last night, cold from the fridge, Sweetie pronounced  the left-over pork roast “wonderful” and ate it with a bit of mustard, he said it would have been perfect if the mustard was Chinese rather than Trader Joe’s spicy brown.

Well, later today we’re heading for an over-nighter on the river … the goal is catch fish, not mess with camping & cooking.  Our go-to for a quick evening meal … we buy a Costco rotisserie chicken, a couple of small sides along with some muffins or rolls for breakfast then toss them into a small cooler along with the Jet-boil, a couple of bags of mint tea & Starbucks Via packs and we’re set.  No muss, no fuss and plenty of time for tossing a line … tossing a line, now that’s another perfect time to ponder.

Here’s to Pondering what’s important … and, Oh! Do I need to ask if it is okay to eat sorbet for breakfast?

Everywhere is a 1000 Miles from Boise

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Hello! Ciao! Nǐ hǎo!  We’re hommme! Another successful roadtrip in the memory; 5 nights in Washington state with Sweeties family.  We live ‘in-between’ … my children & gkids live southeast of us in Utah & Colorado, whereas Greg’s children live northwest in Oregon & Washington.  For us to get together with any of them it’s a 1000 mile road trip, which takes a bit of scheduling to spend much time with any of them in their busy, busy lives. Last month was Utah (4 times) and this month, Packwood & Seattle WA.

Mid-June Sunset in Packwood Washington

Mid-June Sunset in Packwood Washington

Packwood is a typical small northwest mountain town, a couple of hours from Portland or Seattle; tourists, trees, and rivers.  It is about 5 miles or so from Mount Rainer National Park and is tucked inside the Gifford Pinchot National Forest so hiking trails under the canopy of ancient and second/third growth forests abound. IMG_2514 We  became bewitched walking in the Grove of the Patriarchs in Mount Rainer National Park, we donned our rain gear and tramped along the rocky edged Cowlitz River at the end of National Forest Road 1270. The next day, the rain left and a full sunshine morning found us on the rather steep Three Peaks Trail to lunch later in a meadow with clear views of Mount Rainer and the Tatoosh Mountains.  So many places to see, much to short of a weekend … so many things to look forward to seeing over the next few years.

Mount Rainer in the sunshine

Mount Rainer in the sunshine

The NW Family in the Meadow

The NW Family in the Meadow

Besides just seeing the kids, our main objective was a chainsaw wielding weekend clearing dead timber from around Tess & Ali’s new cabin in Packwood and help them begin the process of building a fire defensible space. After a morning stretch along the Cowlitz River Sweetie fired up the Stihl and began felling dead and dying trees while we hauled & piled the slash for burning.  We piled dead as well as over grown green tree limbs and when the match lit that pile the green branches exploded and burned as hotly as the dead ones. One result from the drought … green does not mean it won’t burn. If you want to learn a bit more about Firewise Landscaping & Maintenance check this link out.

In the best sense our NW family are all foodies … every meal they prepared for us was 5 star, and I mean every meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner (day after day) breakfast? not your typical scrambled eggs … sliders for lunch? yes, but with a twist … asparagus for dinner? yes, but cold with mint, roasted hazelnuts, and a vinaigrette. Yes, I’m remembering and smiling and I am going to try my hand at the breakfast dish this weekend.

After 3 days and 6 hikes we headed further west to Seattle to check out their new house on the Sound. Within walking distance in one evening we had a meal of small plate tastings at The Whale Wins on Stone Way North, strolled the Fremont area and enjoyed one of my favorite desserts, gelato, from a small shop named The Fainting Goat (all organic ingredients), before walking under the Fremont Bridge to oogle the houseboats docked near the rowing club, and heading up the hills for a welcome rest.

View on our morning walk

View on our morning walk

A Smile from FS Road #1270

A Smile from FS Road #1270

Our last morning, Tessa took us to Pike Street Market where we tasted smoked salmon (bought some), had warm, fresh from the oven almond croissants from Le Panier and where I went back and brought home 2 loaves of fresh bread. We stopped for real greek yogurt at Ellenos  on the corner … it is The Best, Freshest yogurt ever (I recommend the Marion Berry)! … we had to bring some home with us …that’s my lunch this afternoon ,along with chunks of that tender french bread.

When we travel, we eat; local specialties and small shops, diners where the parking lot is full, street carts with a line, we always look for “that place”, you know, the one that you can’t forget.  I truly believe that smells and tastes make the strongest memories.

We finally rolled in just after 10 last night, with a few stops, one just to grab a few cups of fresh picked Washington cherries … and his morning? we are getting back into our routine … and later today?  I’ll start planning our next 1000 mile trip … everywhere from Boise is 1000 miles. This time I’m thinking, FISHING!!

 

Feeding My Red Rock Addiction

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Hello from Southern Utah. I am a red rock loving, open spaces, sage brush and sand, Ponderosa pine, small town loving addict. One can hardly imagine what will be found at the end of the long (often boring landscaped drive) from Boise down the main arteries of I-84 then I-15.  But I know… red rocks. When we took the exit toward Panquitch my heart started beating faster …

At Dawn's First Light

At Dawn’s First Light

This morning I’m sitting in a fabulous VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) discovered by Greg’s sister & brother-in-law (Paula & Jim) located not too far up the Alton, Utah turn off from Highway 89 … watching the sunrise over the pine topped mountains and the upper reaches of Bryce Canyon in absolute silence. My soul is sucking in the beauty of God’s creations and I am soooo at peace.

We left home a few days ago … breaking up the 9 hour road trip with an overnighter with my beautiful Daughter No. 1 and her fab family … then headed south after a yumm breakfast at One Man Band Diner in Lehi, Utah.  We met up with Sweetie’s sister just inside the entrance to Bryce Canyon where they’d been biking all day and decided to take the short drive into Panquitch for dinner at Cowboy’s Smokehouse Cafe. Their smoked meats and country  gravy bring us back here time after time. We had plenty of time to enjoy the atmosphere before heading back to ‘Bryce’ to participate in the ‘full moon hike into the canyon’ lottery.

Moon rise over Bryce Canyon

Moon rise over Bryce Canyon

Of course we won the lottery … The full moon light hike down the Fairyland Trail in Bryce Canyon only fueled my red rock addiction. For a spot in the full moon guided,  super secret location until your number is picked,  hike show up at the Bryce Canyon Lodge at 4 p.m. with your hiking shoes … they actually check the tread on the soles to ensure you won’t slide off the trail in the dark. We had smiles when our party of 6’s number was drawn.

Somewhere along Wire Pass Trail

Somewhere along Wire Pass Trail

Yesterday it was SLOT CANYON time!! Taking the 38 mile road trip east of Kanab on Highway 89 to the turn off at White House Rock Road to sloooowwwly drive the 8 miles over a fairly rutted dirt road we finally reached the Wire Pass Trailhead . This is a spectacular and fairly easy slot canyon hike with some petroglyphs low on the right hand side of the canyon wall … just before the open T junction and not too far out of the first slot canyon. Take a right at the T for miles more awe inspiring slots to enjoy.

FYI …  About a quarter mile into the first canyon there is a climb over a rock and down about an 8-9 foot drop, that with care is easily maneuvered …  the caveat being if you are short it is much harder to leverage yourself back up (says the short girls Karen & Paula).

After a 6 mile hike, and the hour or so drive back into Kanab we were all looking forward to sustenance … Sweetie and I took our Kanab-newbie family to the only place we ever stop to eat in Kanab which is at Houston’s Trails End restaurant for their Chicken Fried Steak dinner (always go for the famous favorite).

Today its off to Moab … Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and a couple of Canyonland’s hikes.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Hot Scones Anyone?

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IMG_2186Beside the Hi Spot’s  fry sauce, there is another absolutely unique Utah food … Scones. Hot, crispy outside soft inside eaten dripping with honey & butter. My mother used to make us Scones after bread baking … she would save some dough, pull out the frying pan and set out mouths watering in anticipation.  I saw an article the other day talking about Scones … which reminded me that I hadn’t made Scones forever so today I’m going to make a loaf of bread and SCONES!

I don’t bake often anymore because I love homemade bread and can eat a whole loaf standing up in the kitchen before it can cool down.  Then, after I clear the counters and hide the bread, I make SCONES!

Where the name scones came from, I have no idea. That’s just what they’re called. They do look like Indian Fry Bread, but larger and more airy.  I have made Navajo Tacos with day old scone dough and have never been disappointed. In fact, Sweetie, who grew up in Pennsylvania and is a food snob (I say that with love because I grew up in Utah and am a snow snob) often quirks an eye at my, as he calls it, ‘pioneer cooking’, loves scones and Navajo Tacos.

I use my Grandma Penrod’s bread recipe (which she taught me when I was first married, but it is not written down anywhere … oh, I guess some day I should write it down).  Anyway, the recipe is simple, has no oil in it, can be sized from a single loaf to 10 or more, and is almost fool-proof.  Scone making techniques vary depending on who is cooking … some are as large as platters and need to be cut into pieces to eat … mine are medium sized, fried in Crisco (or coconut oil) in my trusty cast iron skillet, which gives it a dark golden amber color.

Check out the pics and see if your mouth doesn’t water … I wish you could smell it!

IMG_2183If you’d like to give making a scone a try, here is my Grandma Flora Eudora Chipman Penrod’s bread recipe. (See I’m writing it down, sort of). If you’re anticipating a follow me to the dot recipe … this ain’t it.  My Grandma told me, that her job in the family, starting when she was 5 years old was to bake the bread each week.  Her bread was heavenly … only once in 40 years has mine reached that level of perfection and I am certain she was coaching me from heaven.

Grandma Flora Eudora Chipman Penrod’s Bread Recipe

(this will yield 1 loaf of bread & 4 scones) size accordingly

About 3 cups unsifted flour (I use unbleached white)

1.5 T dry Yeast (older yeast add a little more … new yeast a little less)

1 to 2 T Sugar

1 T or so of Salt (to taste)

About 2 cups lukewarm water

Sprinkle yeast & sugar onto water, place on top of warm oven until yeast is bubbly

Mix salt & flour

Gently mix yeast & sugar into water once it’s bubbled

SLOWLY Pour water into flour while mixing (by hand or by machine) if it is shaggy add a bit more warm water but not so much to make it gooey

Blend and Knead until dough is smooth but not rubbery (Grandma’s words)

Cover with damp cloth and let rise in a warm spot near the oven until it’s about doubled in size (more or less)

Punch the dough down, knead slightly … cut in 1/2

1/2 for the bread loaf … the rest for scones

Loaf the bread and let rise until it tops the bread pan

Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes until the top is golden.

Fry up a Scone

Quarter the remaining dough and flour the outside (just a bit so it won’t stick to your hand)

Stretch the dough until it is uniformly (sort of) pulled out to the size you want

Heat oil until it almost smokes

Lay the dough into the hot oil … flip once when golden brown

Drain on paper towel then

Slather it with butter and honey and inhale it while it’s hot!

Note: Scone dough can be refrigerated for several days

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Pierogi Makin’ Time

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Final Results … 100 Plus Pierogi

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Yummm … Pierogi

I’m loving the beginning of this El Niño … our small ski resort has over 104″ of snow (and that’s before Christmas)! Last weekend we ventured out to the slopes for our first shussh of the year … or at least Sweetie did … I left my knee braces in Boise so I spent the afternoon reading in the grill and watching the snow fall.  It would have been a perfect afternoon except the snow had knocked the power out and there wasn’t a hot chocolate or hot cider to to be had. Drinking ice water on a snowy afternoon?

I’m making up for it this early morning … hot mint tea, a fire, wrapped in a squishy blanket and watching the Christmas tree twinkle.  It’s pierogi making day …  and just what is pierogi I know you are dying to ask … small dough stuffed dumplings filled with cheesy riced potatoes … home-made dough rolled paper thin using the handy dandy pasta noodle maker, round cut using a tuna can, filled with fresh mashed potatoes and cheese … folded and the edges crimped together.  These are popped into a simmering pot of hot water and served topped with  a half-pound of melted butter and browned onions.

This traditional Slovak / Polish dish is hearty … it fills not only the body but the soul.  It is one of the many combined Vergari & Holecko family food traditions we’ve incorporated into our own  Christmas Eve dinners.  Typically it would be 7 different fishes, but like all good traditions we’ve incorporated some whole, changed others, and added a couple of new ones and now we have our own traditional Christmas Eve meal … homemade mushroom soup, pierogi, tuna sauce and spaghetti (I know sounds strange but tastes lovely), and a fish … this year its Dover Sole. Dessert will be Chocolate Pots (ala Peter Vergari) with Chocolate Mousse (ala Me).

… our fingers are crossed  that El Niño winter storms don’t close the passes in the Blue Mountains between Boise & Portland … treacherous in winter … this year Greg’s family is coming over those passes for a few days of Christmas merriment and maybe a day or two on the slopes.  I’m sending prayers heavenward that they will have safe travels on their way here.

So … it’s time … I’ll finish my tea, absorb a bit more warmth from the fire, wake up the Sweetie and then it’s Pierogi makin’ time!

Merry Christmas! May your heart and soul be filled with this season of light and peace …