Day One and Yummy Summer Food

Hello, my friends!

Day one at my new job went pretty well on Friday! Here was the view when I alighted from the shuttle bus at the main campus.

Stanford University

I never spent any time on the main campus when I worked at Stanford in 2005-2006, and I assure you that the medical school, where I worked back then, was not winning any beauty pageants. But the main campus is drop dead gorgeous. These photos are from my new iPhone. I’m still shocked at just how photogenic California is in general, but Stanford is truly spectacular. More photos of it for you in the future – when I am less supervised as I walk from place to place than I was on Friday. (Also, I don’t work in either of these buildings. I’ll get a shot of mine for you at some point.)

Everyone was super nice to me and kept telling me how excited they were to have me there and how awesome they think I’m going to be. Hard not to like a place like that! The day was mostly consumed by administrative stuff, setting up a loaner computer until mine shows up at the end of the month, getting my e-mail set up, getting an ID made, having lunch with the boss, etc.

When I got home I dug up a program on the web with which I could estimate my travel distance on campus on Friday. 3.5 miles. Just on campus. Plus the 1 mile+ round-trip from my place to the train station. Yes, I will be needing some good shoes. And they won’t last long!

Here’s the train I took home, pulling out of the station Friday evening. Day one successfully completed! The next week is going to be a busy one. I have several meetings already scheduled for me. New employee orientation in two weeks, and lots of administrative stuff to do yet (like signing up for benefits when I’m able to log in to that site!)

End of the Commute on Day One.

In the meantime I have been trying some summery recipes that I wanted to share with you. It has been relatively cool so I managed to make some things that use summer vegetables AND require heating up the stove or the oven. I’m often frustrated by summer recipes that call for roasting tomatoes and things like that. It is frequently a sauna in my kitchen, so I am often loathe to generate any kind of extra heat. But, I digress.

1. Fast Raspberry Scones
These were delicious, but when I added the raspberries, which were very ripe, the batter turned into a soggy mess. I had to add a lot more flour just to be able to manage this. And there was no way I was going to be able to “cut or pull apart into 2-inch pieces”. So I divided the sloppy batter into the 8 wedges of my scone pan and baked it for about 30 minutes. Worked out great!

2. Fresh Corn & Avocado Salad
Okay, I haven’t made this yet this summer, but it’s so good that I wanted to add it to this list. Great with tortilla chips!

3. Easy Gazpacho
I just made gazpacho for the first time yesterday, using this recipe. I am seeing many variations of this in my future!

4. Summer Squash and Potato Torte
Garden full of squash? This is perfect (if you can bear to heat up your oven). I made this with limited cooking implements at my parents’ house in Kentucky a few weeks back. DEFINITELY add slices of fresh tomato to the top now that they are coming into season as well.

5. Chicken and Summer Vegetables Enchiladas Verde
I made these last week and they were so good that I am making them again this week. Fresh corn, zucchini, and spinach. Don’t skip the sour cream and avocado for the top! I used the kernels from an entire ear of corn instead of bothering to measure.

6. Sweet Corn Pancakes
Like regular pancakes, but with fresh corn kernels and a little cornmeal. De-licious! We had these for dinner Saturday night, and then I had the leftovers for breakfast. Good for both! I used all the kernels from one ear of corn, which was more than called for.

{All food images above, except for the scones, are from the web sites to which I have linked. The scone image is mine.}

Do you have any good recipes that call for fresh summer fruits or vegetables? Extra points for anything that does not require generating extra heat in the kitchen!

Strawberry Freezer Jam Time!

Making Strawberry Freezer Jam

Making Strawberry Freezer Jam

Making Strawberry Freezer Jam

Making Strawberry Freezer Jam

Vintage Apron takes a beating during jam making

My vintage apron, all splattered with strawberries!

Asparagus Season!

I’m cooking on a theme this week, and it’s asparagus! It’s asparagus season here and it doesn’t last long. Kind of amazing considering how many things you can get year-round at our farmer’s market (which is open year round). Asparagus season is always really short.

So, this week I started off by making the Spring Sandwich again. Though I forgot to toast the bread. Still tasty and super easy to make!

Then I made Green Lentils, Asparagus, and Watercress from the lovely Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. Those are chunks of pecorino romano cheese on top.

Green lentils, asparagus, and watercress

I have never been a person that liked beans, except for green beans. And I do like edamame these days. But I don’t like what I think of as more traditional beans, like kidney beans. Which is why I generally think chili is disgusting. But I digress. And since I also don’t like nuts, it makes it hard to come up with vegetarian dishes with a little protein in them, unless I eat a load of tofu (meh). But lentils. Lentils may be a kind of gateway drug. I have twice recently made moong dal as part of the big Indian feast, but I’d never made any other kind of lentils. And friends, I definitely liked this!

As a bonus, this dish seems to be good both cold and reheated. I tasted it cold last night and thought it was fine, but opted to reheat it with a little leftover rice and it was yummy that way too!

Also in the lineup for this week is another recipe from Plenty, the Asparagus Mimosa, though it looks like more of an appetizer/salad type of dish and less of an entire meal. Similar in a way to the sandwiches, but with boiled egg and capers (something else I’ve never bought before!).

And to round out the week (if I need it – the lentil dish may last much longer than I had planned, especially with the leftover rice!), some potato leek soup, maybe with some quickie (Jiffy) corn muffins made with last bit of buttermilk in the fridge.

Hope you are all eating well this week too!

Bits and Bobs

Lemon Cube Water

What’s up with all of you? I don’t have anything major to report today. At least not with photos.

I finished the two stash quilts I was working on and I’ve started the other three, but I have not been able to get any photos. But I’m very excited about the progress I’ve made on those quilts. Looks like I might actually be able to get them all done. I know I’ve only just assembled the backs for the other three and cut the pieces for the tops, but getting started is often the hardest part in my opinion!

On the food front, we had a lovely dinner tonight – Spring Sandwich: Boiled Egg, Seared Asparagus, and Pickled Onion. The perfect thing to have during the brief asparagus season in the spring. I only wish asparagus stayed in season longer so I could make this in the middle of the summer when I don’t want to generate any (more) heat in my kitchen. I toasted the bread in the toaster (and could skip that), boiled eggs (which I could do really early when it isn’t sweltering in my kitchen yet), and seared asparagus (which I did in a skillet for maybe 5 minutes, but could easily be done outside on a grill as well). Very yummy!

You may also be wondering what the photo is about. It’s my latest drink. A while back someone gave us a big bag of lemons. People do that in California, because they have lemon trees in their yards and don’t know what to do with all the lemons. Anyhow, we juiced a bunch of them and I saved them as 1 tbsp aliquots in ice cube trays.

Fast forward to now and I am needing an alternative to my usual hot tea, and plain water seems so dull. Then I had the idea to just put a lemon cube in a glass of water. It gives the water a little pizzazz and cools it down just a touch (I generally like my drinks around room temperature – never iced down). It’s perfect!

Good Food at Maison Hodge

I mentioned recently that I’m trying to learn a bit more about cooking, and I’m trying out a lot of new recipes. I tend toward recipes that seem at least moderately healthy and not too complicated. I thought I’d let you know how things are going and about a few recipes that we really loved – and thought you might like as well!

Homemade Chicken Pepper Pizza

One thing I love making is homemade pizza. I haven’t been making it much lately because there has been some dieting going on around here, and between the fat of the cheese, the sugar in the store-bought marinara sauce I usually use, and the oil in the dough, this didn’t seem to really make the “healthy” cut. But I’ve been revising this lately and it’s been going pretty well.

First, I changed my dough recipe. I had been using the olive oil dough recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but switched to using the standard boule master recipe, which has no added fat. I might actually like this better for the pizza. It’s a little lighter and airier. (Incidentally, if you haven’t tried it this dough freezes nicely. I typically make a batch and divide into 3 parts. I make a pizza fresh with one part and freeze the other two parts for pizzas over the next few weeks.)

Also, the pizza above has no sauce and only a small amount of grated fresh parmesan. What I did put on it was leftover cooked chicken and some yellow pepper. I’ve taken to throwing whatever is leftover in the fridge on the pizza, and I find I’m willing to put a lot more things on it when I don’t have to worry about whether I think it will go with the tomato sauce. Last time it was roma tomatoes, blanched broccoli, and bell pepper. But it’s a tad dry sometimes. So I’m still working out the kinks here.

I also found some blueberries in my freezer from the end of last season and was looking for something healthier than muffins or scones (or sweet pancakes) to put them in. This blueberry oat quick bread recipe from The Kitchn turned out to be just the ticket. The fat comes from some buttermilk – no other oil or butter is added.

Blueberry Bread

I quite like this and think it would have been even better if I had added the eggs to the sugar and milk to mix thoroughly before adding to the dry ingredients. Instead, I mixed the sugar and milk but put the eggs in the dry, so I may have mixed this batter a little too much. But I have declared it a success. We’ll see what the husband thinks when he’s up from his nap and has a taste. FYI, if you make this, it doesn’t really brown much on the top.

Bread Dough Rising

I’ve also been wanting to test out making something that could replace standard sandwich bread. I can’t deal with crusty bread for sandwiches. I need a softer crust for everyday sandwich eating, but would love something tastier than the usual supermarket bread. So, I’m trying the buttermilk sandwich loaf recipe from Artisan Bread. We’ll see how that goes.

Some other dishes that have gotten the thumbs up around here lately:

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup: This was a lesson in my standard neglect to taste a dish until I sit down to eat. I used homemade chicken broth that I had not added any salt to and then didn’t add any while cooking either because the recipe didn’t call for any. Needless to say, it needed salt. We skipped the hot chiles at the end (my red curry paste is quite hot). This did turn out somewhat difficult to eat. Our friend that we gave some to said, “I was sad that I had selected a spoon to eat it with,” when told that my hubby found it a little hard to eat. I went with the Asian combination of spoon with chopsticks. Breaking up the rice noodles into little pieces would make it easier, but make me feel like a 4 year old. Overall this recipe was pretty tasty, quite easy to make, and contains yummy vegetables (spinach and snow peas) that we often don’t eat enough of around here.

Prosciutto, Pear, and Blue Cheese Sandwiches: I know this doesn’t sound ridiculously healthy, but in my defense this recipe is from Cooking Light and has nutrition info listed that is not that bad. THIS WAS SCRUMPTIOUS! This required me to broil bread, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before (no, I’ve never made garlic bread. Don’t ask me why.). So, I burnt the @!#!% out of the first batch (apologies to my fellow apartment dwellers about the smoke alarm!). But it all came together deliciously in the end. And so easy. No actual cooking, which is great. We may switch to toasting the bread instead of broiling in the summer when our un-airconditioned kitchen turns into a sauna and I don’t want to generate any heat of any kind if possible.

Curly Endive Salad with Potato, Bacon and Poached Eggs: I found versions of this recipe here, here, and here. I had a ton of curly endive left from the sandwiches (even though we ate them two nights), and was looking for something easy to do. This was definitely the ticket. I did the red wine vinegar/olive oil dressing on the endive, and roasted the shallot with some small potatoes (the shallots I got were really strong and we’d kind of had our fill of them raw). Topped with a little bacon and actually two poached eggs. Like breakfast on a salad. Poaching eggs was also something I’d never done before. Totally hilarious that for the first egg I missed the instruction to TURN DOWN THE HEAT on the boiling water to a simmer before adding the egg. Right. So that egg bit the dust, but the rest of them were totally edible if not stunningly beautiful. This recipe also got two big thumbs up at my house, so it will definitely be going into the regular rotation. So simple and delicious – this is the kind of go-to meal I need to have in my aresenal!

And just so you don’t think there isn’t any sewing or knitting going on around here, I’m finally on the solid color border on my shawl (yippee! being down to one ball of yarn instead of three means I can occasionally take this with me somewhere again), and I’ve made a little progress toward making a couple of those quilts I talked about doing.

Poppy Quilts In Progress

I have acquired the necessary batting to make all five quilts, and I have prepared the front pieces for the two quilts out of the huge poppy fabric (okay, that just took cutting the piece in half and trimming the edges), and pieced the backings for both of those. So, I’m ready to baste these two together whenever I get motivated. Maybe Tuesday? Once I start on a project, I hate to let it sit around forever, so there will hopefully be more progress on these quilts soon!

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