Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lentil Soup

We love our soups and especially one that is hearty, nutritional, filling, a good source of protein, freezes nicely and happens to be quick and easy. As is the case with many things, it is much better the following day as flavors have had an opportunity to meld. Cooking enough soup to eat for several days and then freezing any remainder is always a plus for us, so think about doubling this recipe to ensure you have enough to freeze, and consider making it the day before serving. Many of my recipes are not written down, so I documented these ingredients while making it yesterday for the purpose of sharing it with you.

Interesting is that many of the soups and dishes we prepare begin with a basic onion-carrot-celery-garlic-salt-and-pepper base. From there lots of things can develop, and in this case it's...

Lentil Soup from Diana's kitchen

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of kosher salt
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth (we use a local free range chicken stock)
1 pound well-rinsed and drained lentils
2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes (they are ready to go from the freezer)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more, to taste)
2 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

** Kale (an optional event)

Place the olive oil into a large Dutch oven, heat, and add onion, carrot, celery, ground pepper, just a sprinkle of salt, and the garlic. Cook on low until the onions are translucent (5-6 minutes). Add coriander, cumin, cayenne, and stir. Add broth, lentils, and tomatoes.

Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to low heat, cover and simmer with the lid slightly tilted until the lentils are tender, approximately 40 minutes. We like this soup as is... a nice coarseness to it, but you may want to puree a portion of it to suit a consistency you most enjoy.

When it is done, add the teaspoon of salt, stir in the vinegar, and taste for any adjustments.

** I happened to have a little kale left over from an Italian sausage and potato soup I made last week, and since I didn't want it to go bad, I chopped it up and tossed it in the soup for just a couple minutes.

Any way you prefer, serve with a slice of a favorite coarse bread (or not), a glass of wine (or not), and for us it is a perfect meal.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pacific Northwest Rain

The Pacific Northwest is known for its gray days in the rainy winter months, but in photos such as this I find much beauty and tranquility.

Don't forget this happens to be SkyWatch Friday, so go and see skies from around the world.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Morning

Beckoned by the morning

Total silence and calm on this beautiful Thanksgiving morning. Neither the sound of a bird nor the rustle of a leaf was heard.

Wonder who is up so early putting pumpkin pie in the oven?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Today I look beyond the garden before me and at a larger landscape, the bigger picture of our country and the meaning of thanks-giving for me.

Thanksgiving Day is primarily a harvest festival celebrated by Canada and the United States, but despite that I believe we should all take time to think about that for which we are truly thankful. Consider writing it down. I hope you will do your own soul searching in an attempt to understand what your life is really about and that for which you are most grateful. Here are a few of the things which I hold dear.

Perhaps first and foremost is our freedom, for without that our families lives would not be the same... for without them, we will have turned back the hands of time.

I am thankful... that my grandparents safely fled Communist Russia, and that although times remained difficult, they were able to feed and raise a family without fear for their well being, and their values and ethics were bestowed upon us,

... for the people who believe in this great country, that remember that upon which this country is based, and are willing to stand up and defend her for each of us,

... that we are a generous people who give unselfishly to those in need,

... for the love, health and happiness my husband (my best friend) and I share,

... for our children and grandchildren and that they are healthy and loved,

... that we are blessed with a wonderful family and truly great friends,

... for our faith and all the beauty in this world,

... for this moment...

And in that spirit we wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and say thank you for being an important part of our lives.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Heavens Declare

This evening... from this I am reminded:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. ~ Psalm 19:1-3

Getting Ready

It is time to do some cooking, prep work. If at all possible, I prefer doing it in stages... a little here and a little there, so that the day of a very nice meal I am more relaxed.

About 40 years ago an older friend of the family shared this wonderful and flaky pie crust recipe with me, and today I'd like to share it with you. Undoubtedly it has stood the test of time.

No-Fail Pie Crust from Diana's kitchen

3 cups of unbleached flour
1 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
7 Tablespoons ice water
1 Tablespoon vinegar

Cut shortening into flour and salt mixture. In another bowl combine the beaten egg, ice water and vinegar, then pour the liquid into the flour and blend quickly with a large fork. Roll it into a ball or two and wrap in waxed paper, into a storage bag, and pop it in the fridge until ready to use the next couple of days.

It makes 3-4 individual crusts (depending upon how thick you like yours), and since I will use only 2 for my pumpkin pies, the remainder freezes nicely for another time.

Simple Corn Bread from Diana's kitchen

Today I made a simple corn bread recipe and baked it in an iron skillet. It will be stored for the next couple days when I'm ready to make Corn Bread Stuffing.

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
4 tsp baking powder
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine corn meal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and mix well.
Beat egg, add milk and oil, and pour mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just until mixed.
Bake in a greased iron skillet or shallow pan at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

And while it is cooling, all I can think of is a little butter.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

End Of The Line

I thought I'd throw my hat (photo) in the ring and have fun with this.

Wonderful photos from many participants await your viewing at Gardening Gone Wild and the Picture This Photo Contest for November. Judging this month's event is Joshua McCullough, creator of PhytoPhoto, a specialist collection of expertly identified botanical, horticultural and environment photos.

Joshua suggests images may be presented metaphorically... as well as showing the end of this year’s garden... photos can be interpreted literally using lines as strong components... or best symbolic use of the theme... but photos combining both interpretations will receive the highest commendation.

Share with me your photos that say the season has come to the END OF THE LINE.”

So here is my go at it:

Summers are hot and dry in this area of the Pacific northwest, and skies are devoid of clouds, thus we recognize the end of the line, not just when the surrounding landscape changes color and leaves fall to the earth's surface, but as the rains begin and energy is transferred from the valley's floor to dynamic skies.

Ground fog manifests from ever increasing rainfall and these dramatic sky formations reflect a change in season. And metaphorically the gradational tone and lines of the landscape, the sun's rays and cloudscape... all converge to the end of the day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Skywatch Friday

Enjoy your weekend, and
be sure to visit SkyWatch and see skies from around the world.

"Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." ~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BackUp Your Blog

I was visiting Autumn Belle's blog, My Nice Garden, and was reminded as to the importance of backing up our hard work. We have so much time invested in taking photographs, editing, selecting and writing the words, laying it all out, comments and exchanges between us... only to find it disappear. What a horrific moment.

Exporting (backing up) your blog is a simple task:

1) Sign into your blog
2) Go to the Settings tab
3) Under Basic and Blog Tools, click on Export blog, then Download, and Save file

That's it... it has now been saved on your hard file. And should you not be able to find it once you have downloaded it, go to Start on your desktop, to Search, select Documents, type in .xml into the blank, hit Search, and it should pop up immediately.

Periodically update the file and should you ever move to another format for blogging, there it is ready to import. Any further instruction, simply go here regarding Imports and Exports.

Autumn Belle, thank you, for that was a reminder to backup my blog again.

P.S. And don't forget to backup your computer system on at least a weekly basis. External hard drives are quite inexpensive, and it saves a whole lot of heartache.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weekend At The Coast

The gently bobbing and winding road offers spectacular sites of alternating sandy beaches and the rugged volcanic coastline, I wrote here.

We love the pristine Oregon coastline, and our favorite drive is along highway 101 from Florence to Depoe Bay. The drama is unparalleled, and we never tire of it even though we usually visit several times a year.

Sunshine was forecast for this past Sunday, thus our plan was to walk along the beach and look for stones. However, our arrival Saturday afternoon was met by a gray and misting rainy day that continued through Sunday. When we departed Monday afternoon, the winds were clocked at 40 mph and forecast for 70 mph by evening. Reports yesterday morning indicated that highways were closed near Seaside, Oregon due to winds in excess of 80 mph.

However, we came equipped: a few books, dinner to prepare, as well as our coffee and breakfast items. Being able to sit together and watch flocks of birds and the waves come crashing in upon the lava beds is something we love to do, and that we did.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Freezing More Tomatoes

Curious as it seems, I just finished blanching, removing the skins and quartering these 8-pounds of tomatoes from our vegetable garden and placing them in quart-sized freezer bags for use this winter along with the others we had processed during the season.

Several weeks ago these were picked green due to a frost warning. I placed them on a paper-lined tray, covered them with newspapers and left them in the garage to ripen.

Remarkable is to be canning/freezing tomatoes on the 17 of November, but even more-so, all of them except for this one that is red, came from various red tomato vines. The marvels of nature never cease to amaze.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oregon Desert

Did you know that the state of Oregon is nearly two-thirds desert? The Cascade mountain range separates the ocean and valleys to the west from the High Desert and semiarid grasslands to the east. Most of the land in southeastern Oregon (more than two-thirds) is owned by the Federal government and managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and U.S. Forest Service.

Although south central Oregon is an arid region, this part of the country has been homesteaded and a ranching heritage for well over a century.

Earlier this month we traveled there to visit some friends and try out our newly purchased "used" camper... a test to see if we would enjoy this type of travel and exploration. (Click on the images below for full effect of the views.)

Cold and snow were forecast for the higher elevations, but by the time we arrived at 4000 feet only dampness remained from the previous nights accumulation. We were presented with a beautiful sunny day of desert buttes, big open sky and unobstructed views for as far as the eye could see. Harsh and isolated expanse of territories, areas that appeared as wasteland, contiguous miles of sagebrush and bunch grass, yielded rugged and compelling beauty.

Mountains rose sharply, and breathtaking was the gradual descent into the panoramic valley of Lake County. From valleys to mountains, deserts to ancient basins of salty lakes to traversing the narrowing roadway down a canyon pass, we had finally arrived at our destination, Adel. It had been a long day and well worth the journey; now it was time to get set up and relax.

The early morning brought us mule deer climbing upward along the mountain side; a golden eagle soared as his mate stood guard atop the highest point of the cliff; mountain quail bobbed about the surrounding area; we listened to the call of chukars, and Magpies upon scattered trees and thickets would not sit long enough for me to photograph. The sun was bright and the chilling air yielded an occasional dry smell of juniper.

One of our day's adventure was to travel from Adel past the slightly salty Crump and Hart Lakes toward the 251,000-acre Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. We drove to Plush and far beyond by way of a gravel road to a public area (next to staked claims) where one was allowed to dig (and we were told at least 3 feet down) to find Oregon Sunstones, the state gem. Note: Important! is to fill up with gas before you go and pack water and a lunch, for the area is very desolate and remote.

My husband worked hard, but came up empty. We still laugh at what a joke it was for us to dig when more was found by walking about the sparkling ground and collecting the small residual pieces from previous miners. And too, just down the road they were using heavy equipment in order to uncover veins of the feldspar.

Nonetheless, we had a nice picnic lunch, chatted with a couple of prospectors, and relished in the days adventure. We have a favorite saying: Done that twice, first and last. Laughing out loud now, for it takes so little to amuse.

And yes, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We had a wonderful time with our friends and experienced the amazing beauty of this area.

From our campsite, panning west to east: the silence and view surrounding us

Climb to the top of the hill

Driving toward Hart Mountain

Pick a spot and dig for gems

Several days of relaxation and spectacular beauty, but it's time to head on home