Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's that time of year...

Don't mess with my golden lasso
...and yes, this is an oldie but a goodie. Hope you all have a wonderful and spooky Halloween.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You know it was a weird summer growing season when...

late season tomato sauce're finally canning tomato sauce mid/late October. Only a few of our own tomatoes went into this batch of sauce, the rest from an organic farm on Sauvie Island. But did we have to hold out late or what? In the end, I feel lucky I was able to can tomato sauce at all, really. It was a rough year for hot-weather edibles. It sure did make me savor and enjoy the rare moment when finally in October AdRi and I shared a sliced heirloom tomato from our garden for lunch one day.

I really cooked this sauce down to make it thick and rich, and canned it in the smaller pint jars instead of quart this year. I hate wasting the sauce I don't use all up in the quart jars, and most of the time I'm cooking for two here, so the smaller jars are so much better for us. I love how I'm able to customize things like this for how we live. It's yet another benefit of making it ourselves.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In celebration of my new blog header

I am not the only domestic arts bad-ass in my family. Oh no. This is my sister on the roof of her house in Australia. With her new love, a power washer. Now that, indeed, is a domestic arts bad-ass.
my sister is also, a domestic bad ass

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Soup companies love casseroles

Tricks with soups
This beauty was published in 1956 by….wait for it…Campbell Soup Company! I know it’s shocking, isn’t it? But let’s pause here for a moment and take in this link.

A soupy good time

Okay, you back? In 1956, the Campbell Soup Company wrote in their Tricks With Soups…
"Take a tip from famous chefs. The secret of many a special dish, they say, lies in the sauces used in its preparation. But few of us these days have the time or skill to make them. And why should we bother when most of us have more than one excellent, well-seasoned “sauce” standing on our own kitchen shelves right now. Canned soups are time-saving, ready-made cooking helps that can add extra flavor to old favorites, make left-overs taste like new and can give you ideas for specialties all your own.”
Ah ha! Baked in a casserole.
And you know, I can see a lot of that, right? But then I look at the sodium content of that link I shared up there, and all those things in there that I don’t really even know what they are, and I back away a little bit. Is cream of mushroom soup the devil? No it is not. But I’m fascinated in how a product like cream of mushroom soup has become synonymous with the casserole.
Look at those soups party with leftovers

If we go a little further back in time, say to this publication, published in 1942.
make america strong

Published as a wartime piece, this Chicago newspaper steered readers to frugality as well as ensuring a well rounded meal with all food groups represented. It's your patriotic duty, of course.
it's your patriotic duty
This casserole recipe sites frugality and a well rounded meal, when eaten with a green salad. There’s no cream of mushroom soup here, just a reference to a well seasoned medium white sauce.
Ah ha. A well seasoned white sauce. What if we went to the basics of a good casserole, using what we have on hand, what's in our pantry, and made it from scratch? Would it take forever? I thought I'd find out what happens when I remade the classic tuna noodle casserole. You'll have to tune in tomorrow to find out how that went. And I didn't even use tuna....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All roads for casseroles do not lead to cream of mushroom soup

Phew that was a long title. It really should be: A modern day take on a home-baked casserole. But it’s just not witty. But let’s get to the point, shall we?

Casseroles don’t have to solely consist of food from a tin can. The wonderful thing about a casserole is that you can pack it with veggies, and use your creativity in the items you combine, put it in a lovely pyrex dish, and pop it in the oven.

I recently had a whole bunch of leeks, onions, and garlic. I may have even had some kale in that mix. I needed to use it up and I came up with this casserole using only things I had on hand. Yes, sometimes it’s possible in my household that I’ll have a container of homemade ricotta that needs to be used, and it just so happened this was that day. However, you can use ricotta from the store and it would be just as delicious.

Homemade casserole

Veggie Tomato Ricotta Casserole
Fill a saute pan with a bunch of chopped fresh vegetables and saute with olive oil until cooked: the goal is to get as much water out of the vegetables before adding to the casserole. Throw in as many fresh herbs as you like: I like thyme and rosemary, especially.

Boil a pot of water and cook half a bag of pasta: I like corkscrew, penne, or bowties for this use. Drain and set aside.

In a casserole dish, spread 1/3 of a jar of Italian tomato sauce. I used sauce I had canned last fall, but you can use a jar from the store, or cook up your own if you have an abundance of tomatoes. Then layer, as you would a lasagna, the noodles, vegetables, crumbled ricotta cheese, until you’ve used up all of your ingredients. Top with mozzarella or another meltable cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until bubbly and your house smells delicious.

And not a can of Cream of Mushroom soup in sight.
Speaking of soup, tomorrow’s Casserole Hotline continues with Tricks with Soups recipes from 1956. Oh you know what’s coming, don’t you?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Casseroles were made for shortcuts

At their core, a casserole is a great thing. It's about working with what you have, or like my mentor Tim Gunn says, "Make it work." And so with casseroles, we do, don't we?

So in this spirit we looked at Shortcut Cooking. Brace yourself.
Shortcut cooking
Don't let the appetizing, mouth watering cover photo turn you away. (The food stylist in me can't but help gawk at the drip of brown goo: that's a technique used to make your mouth water. Is it watering? I didn't think so.) Keep in mind the 1969 publication was at least using color photography to depict its creations, unlike many of the black and white photos seen in earlier cookbooks. Oh wait. Only the covers received the high-brow treatment because when we find our first casserole, it's all black and white, baby.
jackstraw casserole
And this one is Tuna Jackstraw Casserole. The photo caption reads...
When time's a-flying and the family is "starving," a can opener is your best friend! This casserole is as delicious as it is quick—it's bound to be a favorite!
This recipe uses 5 cans of products and 1/4 cup chopped pimiento. A casserole entirely made from cans. What's up next? Canned Casserole? Sssshhhhh. I'm sure that's quite possible. Technology and everything.

But does a casserole have to be nightmarish like this? Or course not. At its core, remember, is using what you have. And I did just that recently, and lucky for you, I'll share a very tasty recipe and my approach tomorrow. Hint: it includes homemade tomato sauce from a jar and lots and lots of vegetables...

Do you use fresh ingredients in your casseroles? Have you made up your own?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Casserole Hotline is Open

The temperatures are dropping and hot comforting food is returning. And that means a hot dish. Covered dish. Casserole. Are these things the same or different? I'm not sure, but one thing I am sure of, there a million kinds of casseroles out there and I find them wonderful. Err, some of them. 

On last week's Lelo Homemade show we waxed nostalgic for all kinds of casseroles and perused my collection of 1920's to 1970's cookbooks, promotional pamphlets and newsletters. There are all kinds of casseroles, some that are intriguing, some that are downright frightful. 

Don't believe me? Let’s take a walk down casserole lane and see what we find…
Dishes men like
First we looked at Dishes Men Like. One of my favorite cookbooks. And such a great opening…
If you have a husband who likes to cook, pamper him! Encourage him! You are lucky indeed, even though you find yourself only a fetch-and-carry handmaiden while his genius glows. But men are wise, not one in a thousand really wants to take over the job. They usually have a few specialties to produce on occasion and leave the rest of the cooking to us.
Pamper him!

And yes, this it real. Published in 1952 by Lea & Perrins, every recipe includes, you guessed it, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. Those ad guys were so smart, weren’t they? Casserole dishes are of course to be found, including….Beef and Mushroom Casserole with Sour Cream and Tuna and Chips in Casserole.
Tuna and chips in casserole
Beef and Mushroom Casserole
I'm tempted to ask the question, Would you hit that? But that might be offensive. Instead, I'm introducing a little series this week here on Lelo in Nopo where we’ll be exploring the good, the bad and the ugly of casseroles. I hope you’ll join us! What’s your favorite or worst casserole?

Tomorrow? We’ll take a look at the casserole recipes in “Shortcut Cooking.” And this one comes with photos. Until next time, the casserole hotline is open.
Oh yes they do

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's blooming?

Paint splash on my zinnia
Plenty of things still blooming in the garden, in all colors and of all kinds. But this one caught my eye the other day and I took a photo for you.

Thanks to Renee's Garden Seeds (one of my most favorite seed purveyors) for this one, which I believe is Carousel and from her Granny's Bouquet mix. I planted them late, and they're providing lots of fun color right now in our front garden.

Zinnias are always on my list of garden annuals to start by seed directly in the garden. Note to self: plant these again next year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lelo Homemade show goes regional: an update!

I love being a part of something growing and new and passionate and committed, and the folks behind, the place where my radio and podcast show Lelo Homemade is a part of, are growing. The transformation from a Portland-specific internet radio site into a regional radio/audio and multi-media site is pretty cool. now is about Portland, Seattle and Vancouver and I'm so happy to be a small part of it with Lelo Homemade.

Here's an update for you....the wonderful Erin McGovney is joining me in many of the shows, bringing a passionate voice for all things home and garden. I love Erin's energy, and realized that our ability to chat for hours about canning, design, self-reflection, growth, and gardening should really be shared with others. She's funny too.

Check out the new here and all of the awesome shows available, you can read about my show here, and listen or subscribe to it on iTunes here. This week? We're going to chat about casseroles. Love them or hate them, we've all had them. And believe it or not, there are great ways to make them. Viva la casserole!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Woof! Important Message!

My canine swiffer
There's a new feature on, and you can see it on the right hand side....a recipe index with links to 50+ recipes I've written about here on the blog over the five years I've been keeping this blog. Thanks to the prodding from a few readers to create this: you know who you are. More changes to come, but in the meantime, knock yourself out with some cooking, will you?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Memories and dreaming of the gardens of my childhood

Me in the garden, age 3?

Eucalyptus surrounds my childhood memories of gardens, both in scent, sound, and sight. It was everywhere in my 1970's Southern California life, and its stringent scent is so ingrained in my very makeup that I can smell it a block away today to locate one.

I'm the daughter of gardeners, and while I may have tried to shun this fact as a teenager, photos like this prove to me I have always been in the garden.

Southern California was a bountiful place to grow up, surrounded by avocado trees and citrus, and produce that grew year round. Jacarandas and their purple blooms dropped while I ran over them with my banana seat bike. Lantana was both the name of our street and the flower grown as a bush at the end of the back lawn.

Seasons were nonexistent and something to experience when visiting family in Kansas. Because at home, we went to the beach for Christmas.

But the gardens of my childhood remain with me today, in how I live and see outdoor space, where I spend my time, and how I find peace in working the dirt or walking through the paths. Elements of my childhood gardens deeply permeate our gardens...thickly fragrant jasmine at the back door and front porch, wild spaces of blooms grown with abandon, fuschias waiting to be picked and made into floating fuschia ladies, and the poor pitiful gardenia I continue to be determined to grow though even in Year 5 it's barely grown since planted.

And a teenager I think of another house and the space we had for rows of corn and wheelbarrows full of carrots. Living in an avocado orchard, guacamole was an everyday food item, and fallen fruit was eaten by our dog. Oh such shiny coats our dogs had.

I love this photo of me in a front garden at our house on Lantana Street. Its composition shows the photographer was taking in both their daughter and their landscape, an eye on both. The eucalyptus drips from above, and the child crouches among the annual petunias. You can see the row of eucalyptus behind our house, edging the strawberry field that grew right up next to our back wall. Today those fields are full of houses, but in my memory, I can hear and smell those trees sway in a coastal breeze. I am that child, and that child is me. Dreaming in a garden.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Enjoying the harvest: delicious homegrown, homemade tomato soup

In the frenetic energy of the harvest and canning and preserving, don't forget to enjoy the abundance in the moment and savor the flavors right then and there. I've been able to do that this year, and I've discovered a new favorite way to enjoy tomatoes. It's super simple, but because you're using the best produce at the best time of year, it's super delicious.

Tomato soup

A simple bowl of homemade tomato soup made with homegrown tomatoes and plenty of garden herbs has become a new harvest standard. It's flexible for adding roasted vegetables to it if you want to bulk it up some, or to enjoy just as is with a side of garlic cheese toast. It keeps in the fridge well, and may even be better the second day once the flavors have mingled a bit.

We've been harvesting lots of tomatoes, but not enough to use for big canning recipes. Instead, I'm roasting them and some I've made into this fabulous soup. Here's how I do it...

One of these things is not like the other

Coat a lipped baking sheet with olive oil. Slice your roma tomatoes in half, and place them cut side down on the pan. I also like to throw in 6-7 cloves of garlic. Salt and pepper, and add some fennel seeds. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes have turned crinkly and began to brown on top. Remove from oven.

In a soup pot, add the roasted tomatoes and a large container of chicken broth. Use an immersion blender to blend it all up, right in the pot. Add lots of favorite herbs from the garden, finely chopped. I like rosemary and thyme. Sometimes some sage. For a little heat, add a teaspoon of red chili pepper flakes. Let come to a boil and then simmer until it thickens to a consistency you like. I usually do this for about 20 minutes. For richness and smooth texture, stir in a little heavy cream towards the end.

I've done plenty of pans of tomatoes this way, and instead of making them into soup, I let them cool and drop them, usually about a pan per bag, into freezer bags. I'll be able to pull out a bag this winter and make the soup then, or use it as a base for more playing on variations of this soup. So while I'm preserving it for winter, I'm also making sure to enjoy it right now, too. It's a two-fer. A tomato two-fer? Whatever it is, it's delish.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Make it work: a mantra for my days

I made a movie of my dog navigating our very scary indoor stairs. She does this every morning. Some days she's faster than others. Some days she's hesitant. This is after three months of being blind.

I've watched this movie a lot of times. I've showed others it. Proud of her. Of her bravery and figuring it all out. Of making it work.

There are new health issues with Wink, and I'm close to having a pity party over here. So many tears. Vacillating between cries of "Why is this happening?" to "What can we do?" to "How are we going to cope with more of this?" Wink has a bad cough caused by a loose esophagus, and why is the big question. It's all very technical. And devastating.

And then I watch this movie. She is not feeling sorry for herself. She is not opting out of life. She is not crying and complaining. She is figuring it out, learning a new way to measure space with her paws—you can see this if you watch the clip over and over and over like I have.

I'm trying to let my sadness and grief pass through me, and move on to the place of making it work. In the meantime, I'm watching this movie, and the other new one of her coughing spasms. She coughs and throws up, and keeps wagging her tail with joy. (I won't make you watch that one too). Make it work, people. Make it work.