Friday, October 17, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Winter is Coming

Winter is coming and it's knocking on our old and smudged front door.  We woke up this morning to a cool breeze blowing through our open bedroom window.  The kind that reminds me to look for my slippers as I slowly roll out of bed, all the while, scanning the room for my robe; only to sneak back into bed where a temptress is whispering in my ear a warm promise of a few more winks of sleep.  Nestled between soft sheets and layers of homemade quilts, I agree with her words.  Just a few more minutes of rest.   A pillow fits perfectly under my neck.  Both eyes slowly close. I lay there and listen.   Listening for the fog horns that will soon be blowing from the Bay as the fog rolls along the water.  Listening for the sound of droplets of rain as they hit the ground below. Listening for winter to arrive.  Waiting for the rhythmic tap-tap-tap of my window cover ties gently hitting above my head as a ribbon of fresh air rides into my room.

I think of Fall as the crunchy-crispy season and Winter as the silent time of year.  We went bike riding this weekend and the sound of our tires running over a light layer of freshly dropped crunchy leaves mixed with the breeze on my face reminded me that Fall is here right now.  The season that I have anticipated and longed for all Summer has arrived.  My favorite season.  It always has been. Even though the cold of winter is slowly finding its way to our mornings, the afternoons are full of warm rays and gentle rustling leaves.  I walk to my window and watch our huge tree in the front yard slowly shedding the thousands of leaves that it has worn all Spring and Summer.  One by one slowly swaying back and forth until it finds a new home on top of our dying grass.  Waiting, hiding, resting until we rake and rake and rake each and every leaf into huge piles.   I know that when the tree has finally released the last leaf, and is left standing naked and bare, we will have filled 92 large black garbage bags.


I feel this time of year is my New Year.  My time to renew goals and start fresh.  Winter and January are cold and lonely.  Fall is rustling with motion, alive with vivid colors;  change is coming is what I hear in the cool air as it sways our huge pine trees in our back yard. The only color that we see during the winter months comes from these tall ambassadors of Winter.  My favorite movie is Chocolat.  In the movie, when the wind blows, it signifies change.  This has stayed with me and I automatically associate wind with change.

In Maryland the transformation of our seasons is like no other state I have lived in.  We have all four seasons.  I mention this because I have lived in some states that did not experience seasons.  I became restless.   Some years Maryland has very hot Summers, some years our Springs are short.  Last year Winter stayed forever-- or so it seemed.  The winter is grey.  I feel as though we are driving through an Ansel Adams photograph. There is beauty there but it feels lonely to me.  I mention to the kids, especially on foggy mornings, "Do you hear that?"  The silence is impressive.  The birds are gone, the wind has died down and a bold wave of cold is setting in.  It is brown, gray, white, black and very monochromatic.

I remember thinking the first Spring we moved to Maryland how ugly it was. Winter was wrapping up and we could feel the warmth of the sun on our skin but the land was doing nothing to reciprocate the sun's warm embraces.  I thought that we had moved into a town where the trees were tall but without leaves.   They looked dead. The ground had no coverage.  The color was gone.  I accepted the change but with a twinge of sadness that the colors we had left in Utah would be greatly missed while we lived in Maryland.

Explosive!  That is how the Spring erupted that first year.  It happened so fast.  One day it was two toned and the next we had green grass along with buds on trees that cast a slight tinge of Lime and Moss hues. The bark radiated that change was on its way.  Flowers were budding.  The skies were blue.  It was as if an artist with a brush touched our world with color and we were transformed into a beautiful painting.  My heart fell in love with this place on that first day of bright color.

Can I even explain a Summer in the Mid-Atlantic and give justice to how hot, sticky and buggy it is? You can clearly see that this is not my favorite season.  I like warmth.  I enjoy the heat.  The humidity we can certainly eject from this state.  It must serve some purpose but it is brutal.  Which makes the months of September and October so magical.

To me those two months are spirited with glimpses of flying leaves, unseen changes and spells of delight. We get roughly two months of cooler weather, changing leaves and autumn festivities. We rode our bikes on Sunday and it was a much needed excursion.  Last week I was in a funk.  I was moody and tired.  Being outside makes my mind clear.  It reconnects me and embraces me with invisible strands of earth's energy, wrapping me in a cocoon and reminding me that THIS is where I go for peace and comfort.  Nature and the seasons, with their changing melodies, sing to me when I am out walking and riding my bike.  Camping and canoeing do the same.  The great outdoors is filled with inspiration.  I feel as though the air is swirling with a whisper of hope, love and encouragement.  If the truth must be told, as I rode today, I thought to myself, this is my church.  This is where I recognize the hand of a higher source without question.  Nature is my sanctuary.

I rode my bike with closed eyes for a few seconds and felt such peace.  I felt happy.  I was reminded that the simple things in life, like the changing seasons, are a gift. A gift that draws attention to the fact that change is good.  Change is okay.   I like change.  I like having a chance to reform and to regroup.  In my mind change is essential for my happiness.

Winter is coming.  This year I am preparing myself for the change of season.  I am trying something new.  The past winters I have let myself stop moving.  I slow down and stop exercising.  I gain about 20 pounds knowing that in the Spring I will work it off.  I don't want to do that anymore.  I am preparing myself with warmer clothes to walk and bike ride outside.  Mentally I am also telling myself that I need to keep moving. These aging bones need constant movement to stay young.  If I stop I feel as though I may not be able to start up again.

This type of change can be difficult but I feel that I am at a new place in my life.  I feel so good and alive physically.  This summer has been a tough one mentally with a lot going on with extended family. Keeping myself active and exercising has taken on a new role for me.  I actually like to workout.   Something that I have not felt a passion for in a long time.  My body wants to stay moving and I am hoping my mind is on board as we enter into this new season of cold, rain and snow.  Hopefully together with a sense of adventure.

Am I the only one that feels this connection to a certain season or the essence of what nature brings into our lives?  Do you have a season that resonates with you, causes change, or allows you an inner peace that is hard to explain?  I would love to hear what season is your favorite and how you are preparing for the winter months where you live.

Winter is coming.  Are you ready mentally and physically to endure this seasonal change?

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Crispy Potatoes and Onions



Potatoes and Onions always reminds me of the time I spent living with my grandmother.  She loved this dish and we always baked extra potatoes so that we could eat this in the morning.  My grandma loved potatoes.  She always said it was in her English blood to eat a potato or two every week and she did.

I have kept the tradition alive.  When I bake potatoes I throw a few extra in the oven so that when the desire to have a warm breakfast hits my family, I can whip this up.  If you can't eat potatoes I have substituted baked sweet potatoes too.  The difference is that they work best if they are not too soft. They tend to get very mushy if over cooked.

I love the crispy skin of salmon or chicken that is cooked to perfection.  Well, it is no surprise then that I keep the skins on my potatoes and make sure the oil is very hot so that they come out crispy and perfect.  Almost like a potato chip.  YUM

My cast iron pan is the perfect cooking vessel for this dish. It radiates heat and provides the perfect heat source to guarantee that the potatoes come out just how we like them each and every time.

This dish is simple but it is so easy and family friendly that I knew I needed to share it with my readers.  Don't let the specs of burnt onion sway you away from making this dish. In our opinion they add flavor and texture to the dish.  If this is not how you prefer your onion, then remove them before you add the potatoes.  Reintroduce them to the dish after the potatoes are fried.  

Enjoy!


Crispy Potatoes and Onions
Serves 4

4 baked potatoes, cold and cubed (see above picture)
lard or your favorite frying oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer
salt
pepper
garlic powder
1 medium onion, sliced thin

1.  Heat oil until it starts to just bubble at the edges of your cast iron pan.  Reduce heat to medium.

2.  Add sliced onions.  Let cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add potatoes and season..  Fry together.  Watch the heat.  Cast iron will keep the heat very hot and you may want to turn it down a touch.  I like to cook my potatoes for about 10-12 minutes.  I turn them every few minutes.  Add more oil if they get dry or start to stick.

3.  Remove and serve.  You can always add cheese, sour cream or bacon as optional garnishments.

Written by Sherron Watson


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spatchcock Chicken with Herbs


Well I finally got around to making a Spatchcock Chicken or a chicken that has been butterflied.  If you have teenagers--definitely use the word Spatchcock--LOL  Drake and Rye have forbidden me to use the name in their presence, especially around their friends.  It sounds so funny and then when you add an accent to it--it's freaking hilarious.   I must be a 15 year old girl trapped in my 46 year old body.  Some things just never change.

I have had this fun love affair with accents and impersonations for some time.  I am by far no Jimmy Fallon but I do enjoy mimicking sounds and phrases.  I love reading Isabella books out loud.  This forum allows me to try out new accents with new characters.  My favorite, and this is probably a given, is an Irish accent.  It rolls off my tongue so easily.  

Outside of its funny given name, Spatchcock Chicken, is very good.  I was a bit skeptical at first.  Every picture featuring this dish always looked so beautiful.  The skin (you know my love affair with skin) always looks crisp and golden brown.  It's true--give me the chicken skin over the white meat.  Now I may have to fight you for the dark meat.  That is my favorite.  I had to make the chicken and then eat the chicken to be completely convinced that this is the BEST way to cook a whole chicken.

I am a believer!  

The meat on the inside of the chicken is cooked perfectly. Having the chicken parted down the middle and fanned out allows the chicken to cook faster and more evenly. It is cooked at a high temperature which allows the skin to be roasted to perfection. My first cut into the breast meat releases a clear juice that allows the white meat to glisten with doneness.

I usually buy thighs but lately I am finding myself buying more and more whole chickens to make this chicken: Spatchcock Chicken. Go ahead add your favorite accent.

I wish I could say this is a fancy recipe with unique ingredients but it's not.  It is just a farm fresh organic chicken that has been seasoned with simple herbs, some juice, mayonnaise and spices.  The presentations of the chicken is the fun part and the show stopper.  I encourage you to give it a try for your family and see if they enjoy this version better than the whole chicken with the hollow center.

Learning to spatchcock a chicken is easy.  I used this tutorial for my first attempt from Food 52. Click on link to see the steps.



Spatchcock Chicken with Herbs
Makes one chicken, serves 4-6

1 whole chicken, thawed
1 medium grapefruit, juice only
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt, 
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2/3 cups mayonnaise.

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Below you can see that I used a cookie rack over my cookie sheet to bake the chicken.  Use this method or find something similar.  You want the heat to be able to get under the chicken too.

2.  In a medium bowl add the remaining ingredients.  Taste the mixture.  Grapefruits have a tendency to be bitter if not fully ripe.  Add more honey if this is the case to make it taste a bit sweeter.  If you don't have or want to use grapefruit, substitute orange juice.

3.  Cover the whole chicken with the marinade.  See picture below.


4.  Bake until chicken's internal temperature reaches 165.  Mine took about 40 minutes but ovens vary and this will need to be monitored based on how you know your oven to bake.

5.  Remove chicken and let rest for 10 minutes.  I use a pair of kitchen scissors and portion up the chicken.  Save any leftovers and store them in the refrigerator.


Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Duck and Cover



I have had it.  I want out.  I want to quit.  I can't do this anymore.  It's over.    These are the thoughts that I have had the last few days.  I have felt so overwhelmed and under paid.  I work and care and work even harder and then care even more. I don't get anywhere with this blog.  I feel that it sits out here for the universe to ogle and that's about it.  I have poured my heart and soul into this forum for almost 4 years.  My love affair is waining.  I am tired.  The ideas are there but the time to create, make, photograph and edit are not.

The last few days have been tough.  I woke up on the wrong side of the bed for no apparent reason on Monday.  I could just feel that the universe was against me.  My mind was on over drive and the negative thoughts would not leave.   When this happens I feel blind sided.  We had just come off of a great weekend filled with bike riding, hiking and family time.  I should be in a great mood but I wasn't. Is this what menopause feels like? or am I truly just having a bad day.  

Finnley has been crying for days.  Is she hungry?  Is it her teeth?  Does she not feel good? SOMEONE please tell me why she cries all day long!  I wake up each day to the same routine and each day I talk myself through the crying.   Monday night Cory felt really bad for me.  He asked Rye if she would watch Finnley.  We ran out.  We went to McDonalds.  Yep--that greasy, fat filled establishment that I favor with my presence about two times a year.  This was my second.  The man knows how to make me feel better.

I ordered french fries and an ice tea.  I ate every single damn fry and could feel the tension melting away.  I totally unloaded on Cory every ounce of frustration, failure, and moment of feeling worthless that I have been experiencing through out the day.

Seriously--every single episode of this nature--Cory thanks GOD that he is not a woman.  In his attempt to sooth my moment of exhaustion and frustration he tells me that if I want to go back to work full time he would stay home (which is funny because we both work from home now) and be a stay at home Dad.  I laughed until the table next to us started to eye us with suspension.  I think they wanted what we had in our fries.

I love him.  Oh, if it was that easy.  After all, we know how easy it is to be a stay at home anything--Mom or Dad.   The reality is it doesn't have anything to do with me being a stay at home Mom.  I believe it has more to do with being tired.  I had let myself get to a point where I was on over-drive and running myself on empty.  I didn't allow myself to refuel the "engine" and start fresh.

This self induce moment of hysteria was all because I sometimes forget to let myself have a down day.  I drive my creativity to the brink of crazy and then wonder why I have melt downs that equal that of a nuclear plant.

I expressed on my facebook page that I needed to take the day off.  The support I got was overwhelming.  It felt good.  I felt that I was being given permission to stop for a day and recover, regroup and refuel my inner self.

My friend Linda said to me, "It's okay to duck and cover sometimes".  She is a wise woman.

I  know it to be true.  How do I make sure it happens before I get to the point of an epic melt down?

So what did I do yesterday?  I took the day off.  I read a book.  I took a nap while Finnley slept.  I told Isabella it was a sick day and she could do what ever she wanted to do for homeschool.  I got a new phone.  We ate out.

I slept like a baby last night and woke up this morning feeling better.

Much, much better.

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Baked Eggs with Sausage


I can't believe I have not added this recipe to the blog yet.  This is an old family favorite.  My first introduction to this dish was by Cory's mom.  She made a simpler version than this but the idea of baked eggs with cream is the same.

My recipe is different in that I add cooked sausage, some sauteed onions and a pinch of parsley.  I feel that the flavor profile is more to my liking with a few more ingredients to layer the dish and make it a "one pot"breakfast.  The meat and eggs are served together.  It works well served with my favorite Gluten Free Biscuits.

This dish is gluten free but would need to be modified for an individual if they were eating a strict Paleo diet.  I don't have any issues with cheese so I have included this in the recipe below.  Leave it out if you don't eat cheese.  I also make mine with Ghee and Coconut Milk.  If you don't have any dairy issues then replace these two items with grass fed butter and heavy cream.

I use Chicken Sausage from Whole Foods. You can use any sausage you want , and that fits into your style of eating.  We are trying to cut out pork from our diets and so the chicken works best for us.

Making this dish in small ramekins allows for my kids to eat these in the morning before school starts.  This recipe makes 4 but you can easily double it and have a few extra for school day mornings.  We microwave them for a few seconds until warm.

I have an assortment of ramekins that I use for single serving dishes like this egg dish.  You can see in the picture I have used a Pyrex glass dish and a wider fluted dish.  The recipe is the same for each size.  What will happen is that the the thinner dish will be, well, thinner and the smaller ramekin will create a thicker dish.  They taste the same.  I do this all the time and I have never had to alter cook times or ingredients.  I like the wider dish for when I am having guest over because I think it looks pretty.

The cook time will vary depending on if you want your yolk runny or hard.  Our family is at both ends of the spectrum when it comes to yolks and how they are cooked. Our girls love over easy eggs. They want the yolk as runny as possible.  This would be the 10-12 minute bake time.  Cory and I like our egg yolks hard.  We bake them an additional 10 minutes to make sure they are firm.  Bake your eggs somewhere in between the two times to achieve the perfect center for you and your family.

This is a dish that is great for any time of the day: breakfast, lunch or dinner.  

ENJOY!


Baked Eggs with Sausage
Makes four servings

2-3 tablespoons red onion, minced
1 large chicken sausage, diced and cooked
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter or ghee
8 tablespoons cream or coconut milk
salt and pepper
pinch of parsley for each ramekin

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Spray ramekins with cooking spray.  Add water to a large baking dish.  Enough water to go up half way on the ramekins.  See top picture--it has the dish I used, the water added and the two sizes of ramekins that I use.

2.  Remove casing from sausage and fry with onions until done.

3.  In each ramekin divided the sausage/onion mixture equally.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Add1/2 of the tablespoon of butter to the bottom of the ramekin and the other half will be used on top of the raw egg.  Crack the egg on top of this mixture.  Add the parmesan cheese, coconut milk or cream.  Finish the dish with the second half of the butter from the tablespoon.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Add more parmesan cheese if you would like.  (There is no right or wrong way to layer this dish.  I just like to layer the ingredients in this order.)

4.  Add the ramekins to the baking dish with water.  Carefully put pan in oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Check eggs. Additional minutes may be required based on how you like your eggs baked.  See comments above.

5.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.  I usually take a knife and fork and diced it all together and eat with a gluten free biscuit or slice of toast.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kuri Squash with Sausage and Rice

 

I am really enjoying the cooler weather that we are having in Maryland.  The leaves are slowly changing, our windows are open and the air smells clean.  

I remember hearing, as a kid, grown-ups say, "I can smell Fall in the air."  This always seemed like a strange saying to me.  As an adult I now know what it means.  I walk outside and the first thing I do is inhale a deep long breath of fresh air.  

The season is changing and it feels wonderful.

I went to Whole Foods last week and they have a huge display of squash.  I love seeing the varieties with all their own shapes, sizes and colors.  My eye was drawn to this bright orange Kuri Squash.  The orange is vivid.  The shape ranged from round to teardrop.  I chose the one pictured above. When I cut into it I was overcome with a flowery scent.  I could tell it was a squash but the aroma coming from the Kuri squash was strong.  I felt that it would work great with a filling of some kind.

I had some left over sausage from an earlier dish and thought it would make a good filling combined with some rice.  I made rice, added a few sauteed onions and the sausage.  

Simply delicious.  I scooped the squash pulp and sausage filling onto a platter and served it for lunch. We all thought it was a pleasant change from our favorite Acorn Squash.  The dish is subtle in flavor with a nice combination of texture from the soft squash, firm sausage pieces and confetti like rice. 

All in all, a wonderful Fall dish to add to your menu.  I hope that you can find Kuri Squash in your area. 


Kuri Squash with Sausage and Rice
Makes two halves.

1 whole Kuri Squash, cut in half and seeds removed
4 tablespoons of butter or Ghee (2 in each half)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil, for sauteeing onion and garlic
2 cups  COOKED rice
1 cup COOKED sausage (I use chicken sausage)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
4 tablespoons coconut milk (2 in each half)

1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  Prepare squash to be baked by cutting in half, removing seeds and placing in baking dish.  Add salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of butter to each half.  The butter will melt and be used when you add the rice/sausage mix.

3.  Bake squash for 35 minutes.  Check the squash and see if it is still firm, if so, bake a bit longer.

4.  While squash is baking prepare the filling.  Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil.  Add the cooked rice and cooked sausage.  Taste mixture and salt and pepper accordingly.

5.  Remove baked squash from oven and fill the centers with the rice.  The butter that has melted should be soaked up by the rice.  Add the 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and sprinkle with the parsley flakes.

6.  Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Serve scooped on a platter (see picture) or serve a half to each person.

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Baked Salmon with Capers, Herbs, and Lemon


I eat salmon at least once a week.  I am guilty of making salmon just to enjoy the crispy skin. It is like a huge potato chip to me.  It totally grosses my husband out;  he won't even try it to see if he likes it or not.  I think he would enjoy the crispy and salty taste of the perfectly fried skin.

It does not taste fishy in my opinion.  I fry the fish with the skin side down in a pool of olive oil that is very hot.  My cast iron pan is perfect for this part of the recipe.  It does the job quickly.  I turn it over and get a nice sear and then transfer the salmon to a baking dish to finish cooking in the oven.

I don't always do this two-step process but for this dish I did.  I removed the crispy skin and devoured it before my daughter could get wind of what I was doing in the kitchen.  She loves the crispy salmon skin too.  (For the most part I always share with her.  It's what Moms do.) The oven allows the mayonnaise, lemon and herbs to coat the salmon filets.  I take one large piece of salmon and cut it into two or three pieces and then top them with my desired ingredients.

Capers are heavenly in my opinion.  They are briny and add just the right punch to this dish.  I use them in everything these days. I love finding new ingredients.  Capers are an ingredient I see posted in recipes all the time. I just never started buying them until recently.  Not to sound to repetitive, but I am so glad I did.

This recipe calls for mayonnaise.  There are several options you have here.  You can make your own mayonnaise from scratch or use store bought.  I have used both with great success.  We have also used Vegannaise.  

Enjoy this easy baked salmon dish.  


Baked Salmon with Capers, Herbs, and Lemon
Serves 4

1.5 pounds of fresh, wild caught salmon (1 large filet or 4 smaller portions)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 cup of mayonnaise or Vegannaise
1 lemon, juice only
1 lemon, sliced thinly
4 sprigs each of fresh thyme and fresh dill
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Jar of capers


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare baking dish with a light coating of cooking spray.

2.  In a heavy duty frying pan heat oil.  Add salmon with the skin down and fry.  This takes about 3 minutes for the skin to get nice and crispy and to pull away from the salmon.  Flip salmon and fry again for 3 minutes.

3.  Remove skin and set aside.  Add the whole filet of salmon or small salmon steaks to a baking dish.  Season fish with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.  Smear top with mayonnaise.  Sprinkle herbs, lemon slices and capers for the final touches. Cover with foil.

4.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Fish should be moist and flake with a fork.  Serve immediately. Store leftovers in refrigerator.


Written by Sherron Watson



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