Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Feeding a Family

It’s been an incredible year of growth for Timber Creek in 2007. We are helping so many organizations with fundraising, welcoming so many new people who are enjoying their home deliveries, and planning to branch out in ways you cannot imagine.

But there are many people who need our help, and this year the Feed a Family Foundation can help in another new way. The Feed a Family Foundation was begun last year by Tony, the owner of Timber Creek. His vision was to send fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to families in need for one year. This past year we fed 5 families thanks to the generosity of their friends and families who collected $1000.00 in their names. Tony matched their funds and began sending a weekly Goody Box to their doors. These donations were made without the benefit of a tax deduction being offered to the donors, and to them we say, “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”

This year, we can offer that tax deduction. If you know a family in need, please contact me. I will help you get the ball rolling to feed a family that you know. The Foundation will verify that there is a need to be met, and then will match your $1000.00 donation to feed the family that you choose for one year. The gift of organic fruits and vegetables is a meaningful gift that will continue to arrive at their door over and over again. Please help if you can. So many are counting on us.

And this year, Your Donation is Tax Deductable.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Where's Rita?

Hello, and sorry for the long lag between posts. In the beginning of August I wound up in the hospital quite unexpectedly for a week! I’ve never been overnight in a hospital in my life – it was quite an experience. I’ve been recovering at home for a couple of weeks, but I managed to celebrate my daughter's wedding. Now I’m climbing up onto the TCF saddle again, even if just for the mornings for now.

So, What’s New????

Metz Fresh in California is recalling their bagged spinach because of a possible salmonella outbreak. Metz Fresh does not grow organically so you’re OK if you stick with organics.

The Green City Market in Chicago begins their “Eat Locally” challenge today. This is a really interesting concept and is causing mountains of chatter. For a look at what Chicagoans think about the idea, check out one of my favorite message boards: www.lthforum.com and go to the subject: "Other Culinary Chat” and then to “How to Eat Local”. This discussion centers around a few broad subjects..such as: “What Exactly does ‘Local’ Mean?” , “What about Chocolate,Coffee and Beer – Do I have to Give them Up?”, “What about Packaged Foods?” and many other daring questions. One writer offered these reasons to eat locally:

Locally grown produce is fresher.
Local food just plain tastes better.
Locally grown fruits and vegetables have longer to ripen.
Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons.

Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story.
Local food translates to more variety.

Locally grown produce is not always fresher. Farmers have to sell as much of their crop as possible and this means sometimes rotating older produce in with newer produce. I’d argue that local food tastes better if it’s grown in clean, healthy soil. Those strawberries in the grocery store that taste like wood are local to somebody – and they don’t taste any better at the source. I’m assuming the third point is referring to ripening on the vine. This statement is usually true.

Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons in whatever definition of ‘local’ we have adopted. Planting a garden will do a better job of it. I’m not sure what the ‘wonderful story’ is; but I’m all ears if someone will tell it. If local food translates to ‘more variety’ we would have been eating only locally since forever. Let’s be honest -- the whole idea of this challenge is to limit your variety and see if your idea to eat locally really can line up with your actions.

There are other issues that are not addressed: what if the food is sprayed with herbicides, pesticides and fungicides? Is ‘local’ still better then? How about if you don’t live near a big city like Chicago where you can shop at a farmers’ market? How much gasoline is OK to burn in pursuit of eating locally? And what do you do in the dead of winter? There is an underlying, unspoken message in the ‘eat locally’ movement, and that is: “If we all do this together, we can break the distribution network that moves food from one coast to the other.” This will probably never happen. Millions of people rely on, are employed by or own aspects of the distribution network. The sheer complexity of it cannot be addressed by an ‘eat local’ movement.

You may have noticed in the grocery store that you can now buy locally grown melons or zucchini. Since grocery stores were born they have been buying locally for in-season produce because their shipping costs are lower. Now, since the buzz words ‘locally grown’ are in vogue, they have begun labeling them as such.

The idea is to ‘look before you leap”, but people often adopt buzz words without really thinking about what they mean when they say them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Grilling Artichokes

Right off the bat, you just have to face it: Artichokes are a lot of work. It doesn’t seem that way if you do a little today, and finish them tomorrow, tho. So here’s the plan: Prep them today, and amaze all your friends at the bar-b-que tomorrow!

I prepped these artichokes while I was making a pizza for dinner. You don't have to set aside the morning to do this!

You will need a grill. If you have smoking chips, use them, too. But that’s tomorrow. Today, we do the work.

Prepping and Marinating Artichokes

2 Artichokes
3-4 Lemons
Olive Oil
Large Pot of Boiling Water

Sharp Knife
Vegetable Peeler

Have that pot of water boiling.

First, cut a lemon in about 6 slices. Pull off the 2-3 lowest tiers of outer leaves on each artichoke, then peel the stems with the vegetable peeler. Put a fresh cut at the bottom of the stem. Now quickly – right away – rub a slice of lemon over all the newly exposed surfaces. This is a recurring and very important theme. The cut surfaces of a raw artichoke will turn black in a few minutes. Working quickly is the key.

Now, cut one artichoke in half as shown. Immediately rub the newly cut surfaces with lemon. Using the tablespoon, remove the furry choke and any thin, spiky (usually purple) inner leaves. Rub the newly exposed surfaces with lemon. Repeat with the other half, and again with the other artichoke. All the cut pieces in these pix have been liberally rubbed with lemon. See the pic on the right for what you’ll have left over!

Plunge the prepped artichokes into the boiling water and hold them down with tongs to be sure that all the air between the leaves escapes and is replaced with boiling water. Do this several times. Turn them over now and then, too, to be sure they’re cooked completely. When not turning them, partially cover the pot. This step will take about 20 min. for very large artichokes.

In the meantime, juice up the remaining lemons. Ignore the seeds. Just leave them in the juice. They’ll fall off during the grilling. Pour the juice in a very large, non-reactive bowl. Now add about 2/3 as much olive oil as there is juice into the bowl. This is not a critical measurement. Sometimes I use more oil, sometimes more juice. Then put at least 1 Tb. or more of Kosher Salt into the bowl. Grind in a lot of fresh pepper and whisk it all together.

You’ll know when the artichokes are finished cooking because a paring knife will slip easily into the exposed artichoke bottom. Lift the artichokes out of the water and let them drain in a colander -- cut side down -- until they’re cool. Then set them into the marinade, spooning the mixture into all the little crevices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight…or over 2 nights, whatever you like.

Cooking the Artichokes (Serves 4)

I forgot to photograph this part, so I’m using pix I took of other grilled artichokes – that’s why they look like they shrunk!

Remove the bowl of artichokes from the fridge and allow to sit at room temp while you prepare the coals. Get the grill going hot, use wood chips if you like. Now set the artichokes on the grate and allow the flames to surround them for a moment or two. Now cover the grill and keep all the vents open. You can also add anything else you’re going to grill at this point. Turn the artichokes after at least 5 minutes, then again after 5 more. The object here is to just get them warmed up, and charred too, if you like.

When you serve these guys, be sure to put a big bowl on the table for the leavings. The flavors will melt in your mouth!

To me, they’re worth every minute of prep.

(Clicky all the pix for a better look!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Timber Creek Bag Dryer

So......now you’ve purchased some of our Evert-Fresh Bags and you see how wonderfully they work, but there’s a little problem……once you’ve rinsed them out, where do you put them to dry? My kitchen was wall-to-wall with drying Evert Fresh bags, but now we have the solution.

We hooked up with Kaj from Canada to bring you the only bag dryer of its kind. This little thing is so slick! When you’re ready to dry your bags, just slide the ring down the dowels and attach the base. You now have 8 handy hangers.

If you’re short on counter space, you can hang this little contraption from anywhere via the metal eyelet – and when you’re finished – just put the bags away, slide the ring back up the dowels, detach the base, and it will fit in your silverware drawer. The whole thing is 14” tall and weighs 6 ½ oz. Nifty, huh?

And the price can't be beat.....$16.99 each! Just call and add one to your order.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday Afternoon Lunch Blogging

It’s almost lunchtime. I’M HUNGRY!!! I have 2 perfect avocados from Timber Creek just waiting to be treated with lemon juice and salt – but WAIT – how about a “Midshipman’s Butter Sandwich”? You may have seen the recipe on our website. I made it today and only changed it a little. (Except for baking, I just cannot seem to stick to a recipe!) This is today’s version:

Midshipman’s Butter Sandwich (There's no butter in this sandwich--the Avocado is the "butter")

1 large piece of toasted Tuscan Bread
1 ripe Avocado
3 very thin slices of Vidalia Onion
Or other sweet Onion
Lemon Juice
1 small Plum Tomato cut in strips
4 sprigs Cilantro (c’mon! Try it!)
Good Sea Salt

Spread some mayo on the toast, then sprinkle the onion rings over that. Peel and slice an avocado, then fan it over the toast. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the avocado, sprinkle with tomato shards, salt well with a good sea salt, then lay the cilantro sprigs over the top.

Yeaahhhh Baybay!!!!

clicky on pix for a more delicious view!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Cool Dinner for a Hot Day

Baby, it’s HOT outside! And hot days call for cool meals. Cooking on the stove is out of the question, but sometimes it's even too hot to grill. Guadalajara Gazpacho appears on one of the recipe pages at the website, but this version is just a little different. You can make this a day ahead of time and serve it really chilled, or keep all the ingredients in the fridge until the moment you put it together. Sometimes I even use frozen corn – just to keep it as cold as possible. Vegetarian-style or with shrimp, this dinner is coooool!

Guadalajara Gazpacho

1 46 oz. bottle of spicy Tomato Juice
3-4 ripe Plum Tomatoes cut in chunks
½ C thinly sliced Green Onions, or
½ C diced Vidalia Onion
2 ripe Avocadoes, cut in chunks
1 C diced Jicama (about ½ of a small one)
1 C fresh corn off the cobs (about 2 ears) or 1 C frozen corn
½ lb. cooked and cleaned large Shrimp, split lengthwise and cut crosswise (optional)
1 big handful Cilantro, roughly chopped (or you can substitute fresh Basil)
Hot sauce to taste (optional)
Juice of 2-4 fresh Limes

Pour the Tomato Juice in a large bowl. Add everything else and taste. It might need more salt, more lime juice, more hot sauce – suit yourself. If you don’t like cilantro (and you know who you are!), you can use fresh Basil….but I would dare you to put in just a tiny bit of cilantro, because nothing will brighten the taste of this dish like cilantro will. If you’re leaving out the shrimp, you can add more of each ingredient as a replacement. This will make 4 large bowls of “GG”, or a great appetizer for 6-8.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


I know it’s almost officially summer, but you’d never know it here! The nights have been in the mid-40s and the days are barely hitting 80. This past week, it never went over 75, and some days were downright chilly – just right for a last hurrah of Risotto.

This version is done “restaurant style” so everything stays pretty and the flavors retain their distinctness. You will need Arborio Rice or, my favorite: Carnaroli Rice. The former is now available in most grocery stores, the latter in Italian Specialty or Grocery Stores. This rice releases a lot of starch while cooking – almost making a soup – and that’s what makes Risotto what it is.

For 2-4 people you’ll need:

1 Broccoli Crown cut in tiny florettes
1 small Onion, chopped small

1 medium Carrot, diced
1 C frozen Peas, thawed
4-6 cloves Garlic, chopped rough
1 C Arborio or Carnaroli Rice
5-6 C Chicken Broth
3 Tb. Butter
Zest of one Lemon, chopped
¼ C Parmesano Reggiano

10-12 medium or
8-10 jumbo Shrimp

Olive Oil

(Options: use Veg. Broth or water, and leave out the shrimp for a Vegetarian-Style version, or substitute Chicken for the shrimp.)

Clean an devein the shrimp, then cut them in half lengthwise and again crosswise. Start a pan for saut̩ and a saucepan for the rice. Saute the shrimp and half of the garlic in a little olive oil. Strive to slightly undercook, rather than overcook it. In the saucepan, heat some olive oil and add the veggies (but not the peas). Stir constantly over high heat so that they caramelize just a bit, and cook through Рbut just barely. Remove the shrimp to a plate, and the veggies to a bowl.

Heat a little more olive oil in the same saucepan you cooked the veggies in. Add the rice and cook until the grains begin to shine a bright white. Add a cup or two of chicken broth, and boil stirring constantly. The rice will begin to absorb the broth, so add some more. Keep adding and stirring until the rice won’t absorb anymore and the remainder of the liquid has cooked away save for a nice, hot starchy bath around the rice kernels. Taste a few grains to make sure they’re cooked.

Now, take the pan off the heat and add the butter. Stir well. Add the Parmesan and stir again. Pour in the veggies (this time the peas, too) and stir once. Now ladle the risotto into a serving bowl. Sprinkle the lemon zest on top, and maybe another grating of Parmesan. Then sprinkle some garlic shrimp on top of that. Ahhhh! It’s Italian comfort food!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Evert Fresh Bags

OK, So I know you’re looking at that insert in your delivery this week wondering, “..is Timber Creek going in a new direction or something?” and the answer is YES and NO.

It’s really true that TCF Members have been calling me over the last several months singing the praises of EvertFresh Bags. They’ve all suggested that we sell them because what’s better than TCF Organic food? TCF Organic food that lasts longer, is the answer!

Since organic food isn’t sprayed with fungicides and other chemicals when it is harvested, it can go bad more quickly. Even though for the most part our produce comes directly from the grower and is barely a week old when you receive it, the life of organic produce will always be shorter than the life of conventional produce.

The solution IS the Evert Fresh Bag. I drove to Whole Foods and bought a package of 10 large bags for $7.99. I followed the directions, and even my husband could tell that the food was fresher! I was hooked, and Timber Creek jumped onboard.

So, here’s how to use them: Wash your produce and dry it well. Even though it’s been dried, it will still have a little water clinging to it, so wrap it all up in paper towels. Then, label the paper towel and put a mark on the top of the Evert Fresh Bag to count the uses. These bags have a special clay from remote caves in Japan worked into the plastic. This clay absorbs the ethylene gas that ripening food gives off, and this keeps the food fresher. However, the clay will reach its maximum absorption capacity after 6-8 uses, so it’s good to keep track. After the clay has been maxed-out, you can still use the bags as just….well….bags!

Now, expel as much air as possible, and store your produce. You can store items in the fridge, or in the case of bananas, for example, you can leave them on the counter. You can also use Evert Fresh Bags to keep your flowers fresher, longer. I treat flowers and herbs such as parsley and cilantro the same way: put a fresh cut on the bottom, set them in a glass of water, put an Evert Fresh Bag over the whole thing, and set it in the fridge. You will be amazed!

Now you don’t have to make it a point to eat up all the more delicate foods you receive such as lettuce, first. Lettuce and spinach last incredibly long in these bags, and you’ll be able to use them more spontaneously.

No one can beat our price, not even Home Shopping Network (!), so give them a try. Just add them to your next order.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Photo Friday

On Tuesday. Because I'll be out of town for a few days. This is an Indigo Bunting I photographed in my front yard last week.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kung Pao Chicken 101

I LOVE Kung Pao Chicken! This is a dish for which you spend all your time in prep, and almost none actually cooking. And because all the ingredients can be delivered by Timber Creek, you won't spend any time shopping, either! (You can get the grocery items from our Wholesale Buying Club: Natural Farms.) Dishes like this are good because you can do the prep in short bursts throughout the day instead of all at once.

You’ll need 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. From TCF, I usually get 1 package of split breasts on the bone and bone them myself – it’s less expensive, and not very difficult, but that’s another post.

If you have a wok, this recipe will go easily. If not, use your largest skillet and consider using two turning utensils instead of one to keep the food moving over the heat. My wok is 35 years old and made of spun steel. It’s developed a little patina over the years, so don’t let that throw you in the pictures.

You can refrigerate the leftover Kung Pao on top of the leftover rice, and it is a great chicken salad eaten cold or room temp…if it lasts that long! The usual caveats stand about using sherry. NEVER use “cooking sherry”. Always use something that is at least drinkable…and “cream sherry” is not for cooking. I use Christian Brothers Dry Sherry. Inexpensive and it does the trick.

The bottled ingredients are also available in almost any grocery store. (...and you can click all the pictures for a larger view...)

Kung Pao Chicken (or Shrimp)

In a bowl, mix:

1 Tb. each, dry sherry and cornstarch
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper (white is preferred, but not necessary)

1 ½ lb. skinned, boned chicken breasts cut into bit-sized pieces (or 1 ½ lb. shelled & deveined medium shrimp)

Mix the ingredients in the bowl. Add the chicken and coat well. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 min.

4 Tb. peanut oil
1 C roasted, salted peanuts, shelled
1 ½ Tb. each: minced garlic and minced ginger
1 – 1 ½ bunches scallions, sliced

Cooking Sauce Recipe:

4 Tb. soy sauce
1 Tb. Thai chili sauce (or other hot sauce)
2 Tb. each: white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar and dry sherry
6 Tb. chicken broth
4 Tb. sugar (optional)
3 Tb. cornstarch

While the chicken is marinating, shell the peanuts. I shell them on a dish towel. Then I gather up the towel and rub the outside well – that loosens the paper covers. I take a small handful over the sink and very lightly blow away any remaining paper, then put them into the measuring cup.

You can prepare the garlic, ginger and scallions just before you start cooking.

When it’s time for dinner:

Start the rice. I often use jasmine rice cooked in chicken stock – 2 C stock to 1 C rice. Bring the stock to a boil, add the rice and stir. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 min.

While the rice is cooking, heat your wok over high heat. When it’s hot, add 3 Tb. of the peanut oil. Add the peanuts and stir constantly. When they are just beginning to brown, start removing them from the pan to paper towels to drain. If any burn, throw them out. This step flavors the oil.

Remove the chicken from the fridge and add 1 Tb. of peanut oil – mix well. Add the ginger and garlic to the wok, stir twice, then add the chicken and stir constantly until it is no longer pink. Add ¾ of the scallions, allow them to cook about 2 min, and then pour in the cooking sauce. The dish will come together immediately. Remove the wok from the heat and stir in the peanuts. Spoon some rice into a bowl. Spoon the Kung Pao Chicken on top. Sprinkle with scallions. Dinner is served.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Some Things Cannot Be Improved Upon

After two very, very long weeks I just wanted a very simple breakfast. Because I like to cook, there are times (like this one) when I realize that I can combine flavors, amplify or dampen flavors, but I cannot make a flavor. This lovely piece of fruit came in my delivery this week. What did the poet say? "...only God can make a grapefruit..."?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What We Had For Dinner Last Night

This is a quick post for a quick dinner. My original plan was to make a type of Salad Nicoise: cold, steamed veggies, eggs and potatoes with cold tuna. It was a little cool outside when dinner time came around, so I decided to cook up some salmon, instead. Then I veered further offtrack and made a mayo/tamari/garlic dipping sauce…and, well….as often happens with me, dinner completely mutated into something else.

So: In the morning, I boiled 2 potatoes and 2 eggs together. I took the eggs out of the cooking water after 10 min. and ran cold water over them until they were cooled off. Then I set them in the fridge. I continued to cook the potatoes (jackets on) until they were tender, then gave them the same treatment as the eggs. In the meantime, in my large wok-steamer, I steamed the green beans for 5 min and the leeks (trimmed, but whole) for about 10. Then I set them on a plate to cool. Afterward, I put everything into the fridge to get it chilled.

I mixed up about 1 C mayo with 2 Tb. tamari (soy sauce) and, using the garlic press, added a very, very tiny clove of garlic. Then I let that sit in the fridge with everything else to let the flavors marry.

Come dinner time, I heated the oven to 325°, salted and peppered the salmon, and got a frying pan hot on the stove with a little olive oil in it. I cooked the fish flesh-side down first for less than a minute, then flipped it over to skin-side down for 30 sec. more. Then I put the whole pan into the oven for 10 min. more. In the meantime, I arranged the platter: cut the eggs and potatoes in quarters, split the leeks in half, drained and sliced some jarred roasted red peppers, and put it altogether. I drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil over the veggies, sprinkled some French sea salt over all – and WOW, what a GREAT DINNER! No leftovers. None.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Official Start of Grillling Season

Well, OK – I admit it, I never stop grilling. There’s no weather too cold to get a nice tenderloin roasting for dinner on that grill. I think I got that from my father who once grilled the Thanksgiving turkey in a heavy, wet snow storm – it was the best turkey I ever had.

But let’s talk about grill types. If you have a gas or propane grill, you know how to use it. It’s basically an outdoor stove and its uses are pretty straightforward. If you have a charcoal grill, you’re a step closer to my hickory chip-smoked heart. But if you grill using hardwood charcoal, you’re definitely hardcore – and I am hardcore.

There’s a little butcher shop right next to Timber Creek where I buy my hardwood charcoal. I pour it into my cylindrical charcoal starter and crumple a piece of newspaper underneath. Just light the paper with a match: no starter fluid required and in about 15-20 min. your charcoal is red hot. While it’s firing up, I soak some hickory chips to flavor the food. I usually pour that hot pot of flaming charcoal onto an equal amount of charcoal sitting inside the grill, let that sit about 10 min. more, and at that point it looks like this:

These coals are banked to one side because tonight we’re making pork tenderloin with grilled veggies. I simply sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper all over the tenderloin….I don’t put oil on the meat. I seem to get a better crust with less burning this way. Drain the hickory chips and sprinkle them over the coals. Reset the grate over the coals, and set the meat over the hottest part of the fire and allow each side to sear evenly.

Then I prepared the veggies. Today, I’ve been a little pressed for time, so I took the easy way out. I used a spray bottle of olive oil and sprayed the veggies all over – leeks and baby bok choy this time. I soaked the bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes, then ran the veggies through. A little more salt and pepper, and they’re ready to go. By now, the tenderloin has been nicely seared on all sides, so I moved it over to the cooler side of the gril, and moved the leeks right up over the fire. I positioned the bok choy about half way between the two. Then I covered the grill, closed the air holes on the top about half way, and went inside to the kitchen.

On the stove, I melted a couple of Tb. of butter and added a clove of garlic run through the press. I let it sit over very low heat while I went outside to move the veggies around and add a tomato to the grill, cut in half -- cut side up. The meat was cooked in about 15 min. and I took it off the grill to rest while the veggies finished up. Then I split the leeks and poured the garlic butter over them and poured a little inside the bok choy. I grated some Parmesano over the hot tomato, sliced the pork and arranged a sliced starkrimson pear alongside, and dinner was served.

Yes, yes, this dinner may sound kind of boring to some. But I told you I’m hardcore. I could eat breakfast lunch and dinner from the grill, and my philosophy is: never waste a good fire.

Tomorrow I’m grilling artichokes. Want to come over?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Easy Holiday

This past weekend we had a good showing of family for our holiday dinner. A total of 13 adults and two children – and that’s not even half of them! This time, I wanted to enjoy myself. I often spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and not very much time visiting during an occasion like this, so I changed my gameplan. I ordered the Raw Veggie Box from TCF and made in advance a huge tray of Radishes, English Peas, Zucchini, Yellow Bell Pepper, Scallions, Baby Carrots and a couple Sugar River Cheeses. I also had made a dip made of 1 part mayo, 1 part sour cream and a healthy dash of habanero sauce. It had a kick! I found a bottle of chardonnay I didn’t even know we had, so the day began very pleasantly, indeed.

Dinner was as simple as I could possibly make it. I bought a spiral cut ham and just brought it to room temperature – no cooking needed. I took 5 lb. of Russian Red Fingerling Potatoes and put them in a roasting pan with 5 large sliced Leeks, 5-6 large Garlic Cloves, chopped, a couple Tb. of Kosher Salt and a generous sprinkling of Fresh Rosemary Leaves. I tossed them together with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, covered the pan and put them in a 400 degree oven for 45 min. Then I stirred them, lowered the heat to 350, and let them go another 45 min. Next, I lowered the heat to 300 and just let them sit in there another 15 min. or so while I finished setting up the buffet.

Before the guests arrived, I took 5 lb. of trimmed Asparagus and peeled the bottom half of each stalk. Then I dropped them in the steamer for 20 min. at serving time. I also melted a stick of butter in a measuring cup in the microwave to dress them (easier to pour that way).

My favorite part of the meal, tho, was the salad. I have a great time experimenting with salads. This one consisted of mainly Romaine, but I also added a little Escarole since I had some in the fridge. I tore and tossed the greens, then zested a few Lemons and minced an equal portion of Flat Leaf Parsley. These, I tossed with the greens to coat them and bring in a nice background flavor. Then I added the rest: chopped Scallions, Grape Tomatoes, and some jarred Roasted Red Peppers. Then I covered the bowl and set it in the fridge till dinner. Next, I made the croutons. Making your own croutons is an essential step to making a great salad. A salad doesn’t need croutons, but if you’re going to have them, make them yourself. Once you’ve made your own, you’ll never eat store bought croutons again. Consider them to be as important an ingredient as fresh lettuce is to your salad. To make them, I bought a loaf of Rudi’s Olive Oil and Rosemary Bread and let it sit out a few hours the day before the party. The morning of the party I cut up the bread in rather large cubes, and brought my wok up to high heat. I then added a generous amount of Olive Oil to the pan, and dropped in the bread cubes. Next, I turned the heat down to medium and began tossing the cubes so that they each got some oil on them, and they toasted evenly. Before they were finished, I sprinkled them generously with Kosher Salt, tasted a couple because I’m the cook, and let them cool on a cookie sheet. Now you can make them in the oven on a cookie sheet, but my oven was occupied, and they take longer that way.

When it was time to eat, I finished the salad. First, I drizzled some Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the salad and barely tossed it. Then I sprinkled some Balsamic Vinegar over it. Again, I barely tossed it. Then, with a vegetable peeler, I shaved huge tongues of fresh Parmesano Reggiano generously over the greens, and topped it all with the cooled croutons.

Then came the fun part: After everyone went through the buffet line, They noticed these little wine glasses on the table with strange colored granules in them. These are some of my salts. I got this idea from Willson, the chef in Madrid, Spain who I link to on the right (“Will’s Eats”). He had done a post about some of the specialty salts he uses, and, truth be told, I’m an incurable salt collector myself, so I took a cue from him. For the dinner I put out Celtic Sea Salt from France, pink Murray River Salt from Australia, and Black Salt from Hawaii. These are only 3 of the 15 or so salts I have in my kitchen, but the idea was to have some fun at dinner, so I kept it simple. The salad described above rises to incredible heights of flavor with the addition of a good specialty salt, and the Asparagus would play well with them, too – so we went for it…it’s amazing what a little very, very good salt can do for a dish. We drank a nice Rose` from Spain and chatted and ate for quite a while. We had wonderfully easy and enjoyable day, and at the end I gave a tip of my hat to Will for the inspiration.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Don't teach me anything new --- because once I learn it, I just can't stop!!

If you haven't seen this, it's HILARIOUS!!!

If Mozart Came Back as a Cat....

Ok, This is purely cute. That's why it's here.

Everyone needs a little smile now and then! =) (I heard she eats organic cat food!!)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Everybody Loves PIZZA !!

Last night my sister, Laurel and her husband Jim joined me and my husband, Rich in a throwdown challenge set into motion last summer: Which one of us makes the best pizza? Last June, when we cooked up this idea, it was faaarrrrr tooo hot to bake pizzas all day, so we planned to have the ultimate Pizza Cook-Off some day in February. That day was yesterday.

We all gathered at the house to show what we had: and man-oh-man the competition was tough! First Laurel made her pizza: herbed crust, lots of meat and fresh veggies. Then I made mine: Naples-style with Timber Creek Mozzarella, basil, onion, garlic and store-bought pepperoni. In the meantime, I had baked a peach pie with white peaches that I got from TCF last summer. Last August when they were ripe, I just sliced them up, tossed them with a little sugar and lemon juice and froze them in a zip-lock bag for use on some cold, winter’s day. I also churned up some homemade vanilla ice cream made with Amish Whipping Cream and Amish Whole Milk. Whew! It was a daunting day, but somebody had to prove my pizza was best!!

We didn’t rush. We took our time and even had a “do over” to be sure that the very best representative pizzas would be offered up for the judges. In the end, over pie ala mode and coffee we declared it a “draw”, but we had a heck of a lot of fun getting there!

PSSSTT!! Click on pizza for an even more delicious view!!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Morning Kitten Blogging

Zinfandel discovers a new playmate. =)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How To Feed A Family

This post is a long overdue “Thank You” to everyone who felt moved to respond to the letter they received from Timber Creek about the Feed a Family Foundation.

You are the most generous, selfless, caring people I know.

As most of you probably know, Tony’s idea to feed families organic food for a year was originally grounded in the simple concept that together, we all can do something to help one another. This first effort of Timber Creek matching funds with Member contributions was purely born; and was meant to give our combined dollars and shared concerns to others without the need to form a charitable trust to be overseen by the government.

By the second week of our call to the Members of Timber Creek, it had become clear that Tony should make the Feed a Family Foundation a formal, government-approved foundation that worked year ‘round to ‘feed a family’. Wheels were put into motion, forms were filed, and we’re well on our way to that worthy goal.

We have not yet reached it, tho. We did not receive our not-for-profit status in 2006. Our application is pending with the IRS, and during this time we are unable to accept any donations on behalf of the Foundation. While none of the members of our Board of Directors foresees a reason that we would not be granted tax-exempt status in early 2007, we must be patient and wait until the IRS makes their final determination. I hope that you understand our concerns and can appreciate that this policy has been adopted to protect the Foundation and help to ensure its long life.

Some of those who have given large contributions have asked that we send their checks back, and that is OK with us. We understand. Others, particularly those who wrote smaller checks, have asked that we keep the funds and use them to feed a family. They know that they cannot take a tax deduction from the Foundation, but that’s OK with them. Two groups of very motivated people did put together the funds to feed two families for the next year! This is what caring is all about, and I take off my hat to them.

We will keep you informed of our progress. The Feed a Family Foundation is a great cause, and soon we will be able to help many, many families with a year-long delivery of fresh, organic food, courtesy of you.