Aïgo Bouïdo or Quick Comfort

19 May

Tonight I was looking for something quick, savory, heart warming, healthy, and healing for dinner. Harry wrecked his bicycle in a pothole on his way to work yesterday, and sprained his right shoulder. Despite me nagging him to take it easy, he insisted on raking dog poo, planting some remaining seeds needing planting, and folding laundry. By the time I got around to dinner, he was passed out on the couch with a heating pad on his shoulder.
Soup is a go-to meal for me when I need comfort. My usual comfort soup is Tom Kha Gai, Thai chicken and coconut soup. Tonight, I didn’t have all of the ingredients needed for that comfort food, so I turned my attention to my cookbook collection before turning to the Internet. Mastering the Art of French Cooking jumped off the shelf. Garlic is cleansing for our blood and contains high amounts of vitamin C, so Aïgo Bouïdo seemed a good idea for someone who is healing from injury. The recipe that follows is adapted from Julia’s recipe and one I found from Williams Sonoma. I decided to turn to the Internet to compare recipes.

Here is how I made it today. If you want to read the recipes I adapted from, references are posted at the end of this post.

Serves 2
SOUP:
8-12 whole, unpeeled garlic cloves (the more the merrier, I’ll use more next time I make this, but I only had 8 cloves this time)
4 cups water (I might use a stock next time for more flavor)
1 1/2 tsp. dried Herbes de Provence (Williams Sonoma uses sage leaves, Julia uses a list of dried herbs, my Mother-in-law brought back Herbes de Provence from Provençal area of France. I used this blend because it seemed appropriate and Julia’s recipe called for all the herbs in this blend.)
2 whole raw eggs
1 egg yolk
1tsp. Olive oil
Salt and white pepper to taste

CROUTONS:
4 thick slices good crusty French bread or homemade bread
Olive oil to drizzle on bread
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional, but Julia suggests it and I don’t need big reasons to put cheese on something)

Bring water or stock to boil. Add the garlic, dried herbs, and pinch of salt to the rapid boiling water. Turn heat down, and simmer garlic and herbs for 15 min. Meanwhile, while garlic is simmering, drizzle slices of bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toast in a moderate oven or toaster oven until browned and crisp (about 5 min. In my toaster oven). Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven to melt and toast the cheese, about 2-3 more minutes. Place croutons in the bottoms of individual soup bowls.

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After 15 minutes, remove garlic from liquid with a slotted spoon. Let the garlic cool for a minute or two so it’s easier to handle. Peel garlic cloves and set aside. Bring the liquid back to a light simmer. Crack the eggs into small ramekins, and gently lower the eggs, one at a time, into the hot water.** Poach eggs to desired doneness, 3-4 minutes. Gently remove eggs from liquid with a slotted spoon, briefly drain with a paper towel under the spoon. Place the eggs on top of the croutons in the soup bowls. One egg per person.

Return garlic to liquid. At this point you can purée garlic, herbs, and liquid in food processor, blender, or, my personal choice, a stick blender. Blend until smooth. return soup back to sauce pan, bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Whisk the remaining egg yolk with olive oil in a small bowl until thickened and emulsified. Add 1 TBS hot soup to egg mixture, whisk, and add 2 more TBS soup to egg mixture one at a time, whisking to incorporate, or temper the egg to the soup. Pour egg/soup mixture back into saucepan, return to low heat. Using stick blender, blend until well incorporated and frothy. If you don’t have a stick blender, you can quickly whisk egg mixture into soup, or return soup back to food processor or blender. You may not get the frothiness that you get with the stick blender, but that’s really just for esthetics.

Ladle soup over poached eggs and croutons in each soup bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with pretty fresh herbs (I had rosemary) and serve immediately.

This soup proved to be simple, quick, healthy, easy, heart warming, and healing. This recipe will be in regular rotation for those nights when only a warm bowl of nourishing soup can heal what ails ya.

Some variations I might try:
Steeping dried Dried Pueble chilis in the stock while the garlic simmers, then purée them in with the soup, changing the herb to cilantro, maybe adding a touch of lime juice, and instead of croutons, some roasted pepitos– Southwest Garlic Soup

Using fresh or dried dill in place of Herbes de Provence

Adding sliced mushrooms to the poaching liquid along with the poaching eggs, and replacing the croutons with homemade wheat crackers crumbled on top.

**This cooking liquid does not have any acid in it, so your poached eggs will have feathery whites. Vinegar helps stabilize the whites in normal egg poaching liquid, resulting a more uniform poached egg. In this case, the whites may spread further, causing the whites to be less uniform in shape. It’s only esthetic, but if you want pretty poached eggs, use your normal method with separate cooking liquid that contains water, vinegar, and salt only.

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References:

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Berthole, and Simone Beck copyright: 1966, thirteenth printing December 1966 page 47

Williams Sonoma Aïgo Boulido.

it’s spring, but it doesn’t feel that way

25 Mar

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I feel gray and cold just like the weather was yesterday. I have been unemployed for a year, so I’ve gotten good at handling rejection. I’m lost. I don’t want to go back to what I was doing, but as it looks now, I’m going to have to.

I have been nothing but a drain on my marriage and to my family. my failures have brought us down so far I’m not sure we can recover. I don’t know what to do.

how do I come back from this place?

wrapping up 2012 in photos

1 Jan

I realize I haven’t posted since August. so my resolution for 2013 is to share more often, hopefully at least once a month.

To make up for it here is a barrage of photos taken for meant-to-be written blog posts from the end of 2012:

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I really got to focus on my jewelry making hobby

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Harry and I made new friends and had fun at Pueblo Res.

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Watusi cattle at Colorado State Fair

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We got to get up close and intimate with Beth Orton at Fox Theater in Bolder

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Teal Stetson-Lee….cyclocross babe!

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grew pumpkins and carved them for Halloween

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the croissant making process the Gourmet Magazine Cookbook way

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got into making pasta from scratch thanks to Cooks Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen

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made some rad Christmas gifts

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got involved with a great organization for the empowerment of young women who are survivors of sex trafficking, SEAMS

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discovered I love making soap. did so with my friend Carla Magenta Williams, visited from Madison, WI

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finally….flew to Prescott, AZ over the Grand Canyon and home over a snowy Moab

As I’m going through all of these visual memories, I’m reminded of how fortunate I have been in my life. These memories and experiences reassure me that 2013 will be full of promise, talent, potential, hope, joy, and love.

Happy 2013 to all of y’all!

Comfortable Car Camping

21 Aug

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At the end of July, Harry and I were supposed to go to Arlington, Texas to celebrate the marriage of our friend Eva Kasson to David Hong. Life got in the way, and the trip to Texas was not possible. So, to make up for the missed road trip, Harry suggested we go camping.

Harry and I have a deep connection with camping. Before we met, I had never really been camping. Our first camping trip was to Jackrabbit Lake in northern Georgia back in the summer of 2000. Since then, we have used camping as a way to get away from the craziness of everyday and recharge in nature. Over the years we have perfected our vision of our ideal weekend campsite. This time we got it nearly perfect.

We chose to go to our “normal” spot. It’s the site where we got married August 31, 2008. Off of county road 309, off of HWY 285, in the San Isabel National Forest, near Buena Vista, Co is the Midland Bike Trail system. We discovered this area about a year after we moved to Colorado. There are several free campsites in this area. We have camped at nearly all of them, but this time we chose the same site where we got married.

We packed the Aveo up with all necessary camping gear and all four dogs. It was a very tight squeeze!

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The day was perfect for a drive. The sky was the shade of blue that I swear you only see in the Rockies. It was full of perfect white cotton ball clouds.

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Getting our campsite set up doesn’t take Harry and I long. We have worked out a pretty efficient routine. He sets up tent and I get the “living” area set up.

Posey found a leg from a deer almost immediately after our arrival.

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Hunting is allowed in this part of the San Isabel National Forest. The hunters field dress the deer near their campsites, so there many skeletal parts left behind. I can’t decide how I feel about this

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Anyway…my favorite thing to do when we camp is…surprise…COOKING! This time around, I brought my nifty new camping stove/oven. Yes an oven. The fire restrictions were still in place, we weren’t allowed to have an open campfire, so this seemed the best time to pack this big piece of camping equipment.

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I made brownies, a quiche, and stir fry on my awesome camp stove/oven

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I spent my days reading the “Fifty Shades” series on my iPad, swinging in the hammock, and gazing at the big fluffy clouds.

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this cloud looked like a chicken

We spent our early evenings hiking down a dry creek bed. Posey and Dozier are our little mountain goats, and Sienna and Toby were the detectives sniffing out all the little chipmunks and bunnies. They had lots of fun.

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Posey, Dozier, and Harry on top of the rocks that were once our wedding alter.

True to a Rocky Mountain summers, we experienced some afternoon and evening into night showers. Somehow, we forgot the rain fly for our tent, we had to fashion one from a couple of vinyl table cloths a tarp, and bungee hook straps. I wish we had gotten a picture of our ingenuity. We also had to drag the whole tent out of the rain into the shelter of the sun shade over our “living” area. It was frustratingly hilarious every time!

Since there are often deer carcasses lying about the area, there are a fair amount of coyotes. I’m somewhat of a country girl, but those who know me know I’m also very scared of the dark out of doors. I’m very freaked out by what I can’t see but can hear (or not hear). It is funny that I do love camping so much, especially since I never sleep well. The one night it did not rain most of the night, one of my coyote friends came into our campsite for a little visit. I wildly imagine that it was a she, so, she came around three times that night. The first time I could hear her sniffing around pretty close to the tent. The dogs went crazy and even Harry woke up. The second and third time she didn’t come as close and the dogs, and certainly not Harry, could not have cared less. I, on the other hand, heard her running around through the bluffs all night long. Her sharp cries and shrieks echoed off of the granite bluff faces clearly and repeatedly. My nerves were gnawed raw by the morning. The next morning, we realized we had left the bones from our ribeyes the night before out on the “kitchen” table, and that was probably what attracted the coyote. It rained every night after that, and my coyote friend did not come back.

The last day we were camping, it got really chilly. I had the lovely experience of cuddling up with Dozier and finishing “Fifty Shades Freed”. It was just the right kind of junk book to read while chillin in the forest. The photo at the beginning of this post is of the Collegiate Peaks in the rain that chilly day.

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One of the reasons we keep coming back to this place is the beauty of the view. Mt. Princeton is such a great and majestic backdrop to aid in quiet relaxation. We left here five days later feeling balanced, refreshed, recharged, and reconnected to nature. Just what we both needed Midsummer.

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My favorite season: Frost Farm Lamb and Honey

17 Jul

I have really felt inspired this week. After being gone for almost two weeks, it was nice to get back into our normal routine starting Saturday morning. Harry and I started early for us and were at Colorado Farm and Art Market at Margarita at Pine Creek before 10am ( the market opens at 9, so…). I was excited to see that the Kelly-green knitted tank top was still at the vendor who makes and sells lovely knitted clothes and stuff. We continued the initial walk around the market. My favorite vendor, Frost Farms (read this article FarmBeet ) had lamb this week!!!!! And OH GASP!, HONEY!!!!!!! This farm is dear to my heart because they have one of the smallest farm booths, but what they sell is always gorgeous. The lamb is the absolute best I have ever had, the same goes for the honey. Jay Frost and his family really set the bar and are striving to continue sustainable traditions. Not to mention, the Frost boys are a very good looking bunch of farm boys and are as gentle in person as they are on the eyes. I really enjoy buying produce and lamb from them every summer. Saturday, I bought 6 nicely marbled lamb chops and a pint of Frost Farm honey. Then it was over to the Venetucci Farm booth for some lovely multi-colored carrots, a pretty bouquet of grasses and zinnias, a bunch of garlic, a load of green beans, a pound of Colorado sweet cherries, and three luscious Colorado peaches. A quick step over to Smith Farms for the sweetest peache-n-cream corn and the most aromatic cantaloupe, and the Saturday trip to the Farmer’s Market was complete.

I have already selfishly eaten the peaches, cherries, and cantaloupe all by myself. Last night, though, I really let the lamb, honey, and carrots shine in the most beautiful meal. I just seasoned the lamb with salt in pepper and pan seared on the stove top in olive oil and a little butter. The carrots, I trimmed and braised in the Frost Farm honey, a tiny bit of cinnamon, orange zest and juice, and chicken broth. Then I let a rip on the heat and turned the braising liquid into a nice glaze, garnished with mint..

The mint in my garden is doing better than the weeds that took over in my absence. I picked a ton of it and decided that last night’s meal was going to be the result of good lamb and tons of mint. After I seared the lamb chops, I made a pan sauce out of shallots, mint and chicken broth. I also made a lovely flavorful pesto out of mint, garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. I threw together a pot of pearled couscous with shallot, garlic, mint, dates, and walnuts cooked in chicken broth.

My plating may not have been as fancy or thoughtful, but the food was beyond restaurant quality. I get such a big kick out of taking ingredients that are used in restaurants and bringing them home to create something that is, most of the time, better than what I can find at a really expensive night out. The whole meal cost less than $25 for Harry and me. I am sure the same meal out would have cost over $120 with drinks and tip.

Mint walnut pesto

3 c. Loose packed chopped mint leaves
1 big handful of walnut pieces, toasted
2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2+ c extra virgin olive oil ( honestly I didn’t measure, this is totally a guess)
1 TBS water ( again, didn’t measure, just eyeballed it and looked for consistency of pesto to judge amount of water, but I’m sure it wasn’t more than a tablespoon)
Salt and pepper

Put mint, walnut pieces, and garlic in blender. With motor running on medium, start drizzling in the olive oil. Stop and scrape sides of blender bowl often. Once the mint and nuts are puréed, add the water and more olive oil until the pesto has a nice, smooth consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lamb Chops

Dry surfaces of lamb chops with paper towel. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat large skillet with 1TBS butter and 1TBS olive oil on high until butter is melted and sizzling. Sear the chops one one side about 2 minutes, turn and sear another 2 minutes. Continue to turn every 2 minutes until cooked to desired doneness. We eat our’s medium-rare, so it only took about 6 minutes, and I turned my heat down to medium-high because the butter started to brown too quickly. Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

Pan Sauce

After removing chops from pan, I drained all but 1 TBS oil from pan, added half a shallot, minced, one minced garlic clove, sautéed until fragrant, then added 1c. chicken broth and some pepper. Brought this to a boil and reduced until it started to thicken, then I added 1/2c. chopped mint and swirled in some cold butter (less than a tablespoon) off the heat. Served over the lamb chops.

Honey Glazed Carrots

1 TBS butter
2 bunches small to medium sized fresh carrots, cleaned, trimmed, and peeled if needed
1/2 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cinnamon stick
Zest and juice from 1 orange
1/4 c. good quality honey
1 c. chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Chopped mint for garnish
a squeeze of lemon juice

Melt butter over medium-high heat, add shallot, carrots, garlic, and cinnamon stick. Sautéed until garlic is fragrant, add orange zest and juice and chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and cover. Reduce heat to medium and braise carrots for about 20 minutes or until carrot are tender. Remove cover, and crank heat back up to medium-high and bring to a rapid boil. Allow to reduce and thicken. After a few minutes, a thick glaze will start to form and candy the carrots. Right before serving, give the carrots a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to brighten them up and sprinkle with chopped mint. Don’t forget to remove the cinnamon stick before serving

I hope this meal inspires you to shop your local Farmer’s Market, eat good lamb, and to take the time out to prepare a lovely meal. This meal didn’t take hours to prepare, maybe 45 minutes, probably less, and it was way cheaper and more rewarding than having the same meal out somewhere. Plus, anything you make at home has way more love and heart than something served to you out of a large commercial kitchen. I really took the time to think about what I was serving, where the food came from,and who it was being made for. I truly believe that all of that effort, love, and thoughtfulness comes out in the flavor of the food.20120717-132802.jpg

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boiled eggs

16 Jul

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Boiled eggs are a treat for us. One would think that since we have chickens, that we get to eat their eggs boiled all of the time. The truth is we don’t because it takes a bit of planning ahead.

Really fresh eggs do not peel well, in fact, most of the white will peel off with the shell. After some trial and error and some online research, I have concluded that an egg needs to be at least two weeks old in order to make a good boiled egg.

When an egg is fresh, the membrane that holds the white to the shell is adhered tight to the shell. As the egg ages, the membrane shrinks away from the shell, allowing that little air pocket in the wide end of the shell to form. Believe it or not, this makes the egg easier to peel.

I have to think a couple of weeks ahead and set eggs aside to boil later. I do love hard-boiled eggs, but I always forget to think ahead. This time, I had been away from home for a couple of weeks. Harry didn’t keep up with my system of giving them away, so we had plenty that were ready to be boiled.

This is how I boil perfect eggs:

1. Place older eggs in the bottom of a sauce pan and cover with water an inch above the eggs.
2. Bring eggs to a boil over medium-high heat
3. Cover and remove from heat.
4. Let stand in hot water for 11-13 min (since I live at a higher altitude, I go 13 minutes)
5. Drain water from eggs, return to pan, cover and gently shake the pan to crack the eggshells.
6. Plunge the eggs into a bowl of ice water and let them sit for 10 minutes or until cooled completely.
7. Peel under the water, and enjoy!

I have read that if you lay a carton of eggs on its side 24hours before you boil them, the yolk will be centered in the boiled egg. I expect to try this someday, but it requires a bit more planning on my part.

Yesterday we made egg salad with the eggs that didn’t peel perfectly, the rest we picked. We can start tasting those in a few days.

Let me know if this technique works for you or if you have discovered a better way to boil eggs. I am always open to suggestions that work.

oh, hail!

8 Jun

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We had one of, if not the biggest, thunder/hail storms last night. You can see how dark the clouds were prior to mayhem. Mother Nature has a great sense of humor, too. She gave us a beautiful rainbow minutes before she delivered her wrath.

My husband, Harry, took some great pictures of the awesome hail

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The hail storm also did a number to my garden. I’m not sure what, if anything, will survive enough to give me any veggies, time will say about that. I have to start over on most of my herbs, for sure.

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wrecked corn, eggplant, rhubarb, and tomato.

I guess we had it better than some very close to our neighborhood. About a mile east of our house, a bulldozer had to be used to move hail out of the street so that flooded cars could be moved.

We are just getting into our Colorado summer. I have a feeling this storm won’t be the only weather related excitement we have this year.

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