"Gimme the girl that's beautiful, without a trace of makeup of on,
Barefoot in the kitchen, singing her favorite song.
Dancing around like a fool, starring in her own little show,
Gimme the girl the rest of the world, ain't lucky enough to know."
~Joe Nichols, Gimme That Girl

...not saying that this is me,
but Nichols sure nailed it when
he wrote the barefoot in the
kitchen line!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It Positively, Unmistakeably, and Unquestionably Must Have Been Saturday.

   After recovering from a rather restrictive head cold, I was wild with impatience.  I missed my time in the kitchen, creating meals for my family.  I missed being with Mum throughout the day, learning from her, listening to her voice.  I missed going to work...thanks a lot, H, for telling me to stay home.  I kept fretting about whether or not it was an extreme inconvenience for y'all.  I can't say that I missed Abby's loquacious tendencies- she knows how to make up for two hours in ten minutes.  That's what you get if you tell a sibling to learn about verbal condensation...
   To get to the punchline, I think it was Saturday.  Yes, it must have been Saturday, because I believe it to have been a  Saturday.  Anyway, upon Saturday, the 19th: a date which I have now assured myself of, I started printing numerous recipes off of the internet.  Yes!  I remember now!  It was Saturday.  I have evidence!  I would never have been thinking about sweet foods if I wasn't feeling slightly healthier.
   Where was I?  Oh, yes.  So, there I was, on a Saturday- mind you, printing recipes that had ridiculous amounts of sugar for a sick person to consider, much less read about.  The grand total measurement of sugar:  5 1/2 cups of sugar.  Terrible, isn't it?  I normally reduce the sugar by half in every recipe if it's logical, but that only brings it down to 2 3/4 cups sugar.  Which is preposterous.  I was probably sending a red alert to my immune system.
   There's a slightly acceptable excuse for this mad influx of sheets of paper with deathly ingredient proportions.  I was housekeeping, readers'.  On a Saturday.  Why not?  I had over 1,384 emails in my inbox.  After knocking out over 1,103 emails, unceremoniously depositing them in my trash bin, I felt very self sufficient and accomplished.  Say there, I had single-handedly completed a mammoth task (admittedly, the pileup was my fault) and there had to be some reward for such efforts.  Especially while one is sick.
   Garnet Beet Pesto, Creamy Sesame and Orange Smoothie, Almond and Chocolate Pots de Creme, Crisps: Oat and Ginger, and saving the best for last...Spicy Pumpkin Bread.  I confess that I disgustedly and unhesitatingly remove all emails that remind me of pumpkin before it is the middle of October.  C'mon, y'all!  If we have to say good-bye to Summer, can't we at least shed some genuine tears, snatch a last handful of tomatoes, and wave to her as she takes all of those lovely colored leaves with her?  But, since it was past the 15th of October, and it was very much indeed a Saturday, I relaxed and browsed through the recipes flooding my inbox with their orange reminders.  Pumpkin, punkin, pumpkinn.
    Now I have to tell you that I printed off the Spicy Pumpkin Bread recipe on Saturday.  However, there was no possibility of my making it.  My tenacious, stubborn, pernicious cold protested it's undying devotion, refusing to abandon my body.  Imagine someone who is accustomed to doing all that she can, whenever she wants, all the time.  Now imagine that someone wiped out, sneezing uncontrollably, messy-haired, beneath five blankets, listening to Neil Diamond and John Denver in a frantic attempt at sleep.  You may also imagine this: invisible but oh-so-real frustration, impatience, and irritability bubbling up within this someone.  Saturday: explosion pending...it's been two.whole.days.
   By Saturday, I was determined to kick this bug to, well, Mt. Hood at least.  I mean, for the love of Peet, the cold wasn't even my fault!  I'm not naming names, but I'm pretty sure that a certain somebody had a cold a while back.  I wash my hands more often than a frog.  And they love water!  I juice nearly every morning!  I eat salad everyday!  I eat more micros than any five star chef could dream of!  I...I do try...to get to bed...and sleep...  But I'm sure that this cold wasn't my fault, just like I can positively assure you that it was Saturday when I printed off this Spicy Pumpkin Bread recipe.  You may now imagine the uncontrolled happies when the bug took the hint and dumped me- oops, sorry environmentalists!  I meant recycled me- and left me free, free, free.
As well as normal, normal, normal.  And healthy, healthy, healthy.
   In fact, I was feeling so free, normal, and healthy that I decided to make something dreadfully sugary.  With pumpkin.  I won't lie to you.  Here's the truth: I'm still unashamed of my choice.  No guilt.  Mamalita, it tastes gooood.
   For your viewing pleasure, readers':

   Not to mention that I actually have a recipe to post!!!!!

   Spicy Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 cups pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. freshly ground salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar (1 or 3/4 cups will do)
3/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp. vanilla bean extract
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 large, free range eggs
15 oz. pumpkin puree, fresh or canned

cooking spray- I used grape seed oil

   Preheat oven to 350 F
   Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine flour and the nest 7 ingredients (flour through cloves) in a large sifter and sift.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and next five ingredients (sugar through pumpkin) in a bowl, and stir well with a whisk until smooth.  Add to flour mixture, and combine until moist and creamy.
   Spoon batter into 2 (8"x4") loaf pans coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle the batter with the chopped walnuts.  Bake at 350 F for 1 hour, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool loaves in loaf pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans.  Cool loaves completely; dig in or hoard.

   A personal observation...this bread is not properly named.  It deserves the title of Subtly Spicy Pumpkin Bread.  The spices are delicate hints that tip-toe over the taste buds before introducing the pumpkin with a mild finish.  Once more, this recipe is a Saturday find.  I'm positive about the Saturday part. 

The Barefoot Girl

Sunday, October 20, 2013

To Summer's End, With Love. Yours Truly.

   Have you ever dragged through an emotionally draining day only to find that there was a delightful bit of sunshine at the very end?  Probably.  But! your bit of sunshine most likely did not come in the form of a precious bagful of stunning little tomatoes.  Dear readers'...I have never enjoyed tomatoes more deeply.  As I prepared a salad to accompany dinner (cringe...this dinner was created and consumed over a week ago...tardy post...) with these acidic, colourful fruits I could not have been more enthusiastic.  Yes, I ate several.  The rest made their way into the salad.
   Here is a long-overdue post, with pictures. 

   Preparing my mirepoix.

   French green beans!!!  (I love them...if you couldn't tell.)

   Sparkly salt.

   The mirepoix and fillets...ready to be popped into the oven.

   Green zebra, yellow heirloom, cherry tomatoes, and a streaked pear...loveliness.

   I did a little happy dance when I cut open the yellow heirloom tomato.  A beautiful blush in the center.

   The salad, with a base of micro greens: compliments of Mini Farm's Mama.


   The fish turned out soft and succulent, with a rich rosemary and cracked black pepper after-taste.   I also roasted some potatoes with poblano peppers, but as my siblings would gladly inform you...they were *gulp* undercooked.  Ah, well. 
   You're probably thinking by now that it is a difficult thing to squeeze a recipe out of me.  That's true, dear readers'.  Sadly, I'm a free-flowing spirit in the kitchen.  I can't even recall what I used last winter in a certain dish that one friend purportedly fell in love with...  However, I promise to throw one in soon.  Because pumpkin season has arrived.  And I have a new pumpkin recipe to try out!!!
   Not to mention that we grew kuri squash this year.  As well as butternut squash!  The recipes will come soon.  For now, I had to share my happies with you, because these tomatoes were a most delicious gift from a kind and generous family.  And if we have to let go of Summer, at least we can gaze longingly at photos of mouth-wateringly good tomatoes.
The Barefoot Girl

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pizza Night.

   Since my work largely involves pizzas, and the guys' are teaching me how to make our various types, I've been itching to make some for la famiglia.  At long last, I was finally able to nail some time down to make dinner.  I'm not happy with how the crusts turned out (my dough was too moist and soft,) but there were plenty of happy faces at the table.
   I sorta wish that I could make these pizzas sound gourmet, or interesting, but they are far too familiar to me.  After you've served dozens of each variety, well...
   Abbylicious announced that she loves me :)  I love her too- my pizzavore photographer!

Rounding the dough.

Not sure what I was doing there...my theory is that the above demonstrates proper weirdness.

Cheesy grins.

 A pizza smiley face!

Micro cress flatbread.

Pizza special: avocado, cubed cheese, chiffonade basil, and homegrown tomato!

Monterey jack and parmigiano reggiano with purple basil.

Mozzarella and coppa.


Evening juicing.  My messy counter-space.  We'll pretend that the coffee pot isn't in the photo, and hope that Martha Stewart never sees this. 

   I've had people snatch my camera from me, eagerly zipping through photos, looking for something odd, suspicious, or *cough* an embarrassing selfie.  The most embarrassing moment in time is when you realize that you take more pictures of food than anything else. 
   "Sure, grab my camera!  Here are my memory chips!  Look through it all!  Um, I will warn you, it's a diary of my diet..."  Love the disappointed looks.  And the hasty return of my camera and chips. 
   "Bored?  I'm sorry.  Wanna go through my journal?  It's a frustrated rant about the guy at Subway who didn't wear gloves when he made my brother's sandwich, or the fact that Whole Foods doesn't carry the brand of fleur de sel that I wanted.  (Desperately wanted...)  Oh, you want to browse my library?  Have at it!  Anthony Bourdain, Bob Spitz, John Ash, and absolutely no Julia Child.  Forgive the last heresy, but I'm such a rebel.  Watch out for my jar of chopsticks, and the papery stack of recipes.  Those are future blog posts.  Fair warning, if I catch you snooping in my collections, I may snap a picture for my camera browsers, and feature you in a post." 
The Barefoot Girl  


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Yeti: Love.

   There are times in life when you literally throw in the kitchen towel, stick your hands up above your head (as if it'd stop the clock...) and say, "I'm done."  In other words, you ain't gonna cook any more, and you'll never look at a stack of dirty dishes again.  Of course selective memory is a useful tool here, because you totally ditch the word/fact reality.  I did that on Wednesday night.  I'd cleaned up a ton of dishes, cooked three meals in the past day or so, and I was finished with this whole bleary-eyed-kitchen-monkey business.  Ok, ok, I'd just finished my final project for culinary class.  Nervous wreck.
    I threw up my hands (again, calf-roper fashion,) and I told Mum that I was gonna take her out to eat.  She looked at my face, smiled her charming/ understanding smile (which is actually really cute, if you've never seen it!) and said affably "Alright, hunney.  Where are we going?"
   Darn!  I hadn't thought about that!  Resourceful Me stared at her, clueless, and then threw the ball back.
   "Well, where do you wanna go?"
    "How about the Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen?  Would you like to go there?"
   I must have looked so numb and dumb, because she just chuckled.  "Let me know when and where you want to go, hunney."
   Well, Wednesday evening was our target time, and just for the heck of it, we threw Abbylicious into the mix.  I'd break the bank if I took the whole family out, so it had to be just two folks...Mum and Abbylicious were willing to let me drag them out to a new restaurant.  Brave souls!
   After trying to persuade Abbylicious that her outfit was perfect, uselessly ordering the dog not to slobber on my dark skirt, and hoping that there would be table space for us at the Cafe (they don't do reservations!!!) we hopped into the car, and took a night ride down to Glen Ellen.  Restaurant Row, readers.  A regular hub-bub.
   Then we saw the Cafe.  Chock full of diners'.   Wait time for a table was 15-20 minutes.  Mum, Abbylicious, and I did our triangular feel-each-other-out look, and shook our heads.  We thought that maybe we'd hit the Vineyard Inn, or Hot Box Grill.  We considered The Girl and The Fig.  But as we pulled away from the Fig Cafe, Mum mentioned The Yeti.
   Now, don't be frightened by the terrifying myth of the Nepalese abominable snowman...he's just a mammoth, hideously scary monster (did I mention that he's hairy?) who reputedly stalks people, eats frequent snacks, and! snowboards.  It hasn't exactly been confirmed whether he's a vegetarian or a carnivore.  Anyway.  We went to a restaurant.  Named: The Yeti...
  I cannot tell you how in love I was with the fact that we had to cross a real bridge, over a real creekbed to get to the restaurant door.  So romantic *sigh*  Yes, I'm desperately and hopelessly sentimental when it comes to things that are darling or beautiful.  Or romantic.  In the scenic sense, of course.  When it comes to the male species, they only pretend to understand romantic things, but gushy-gooey Hallmark cards and chocolate and roses and diamonds and sunset proposals are zilch compared to twinkle lights strung along a bridge sheltered by gnarly, lichen-covered oaks.  A bridge that must be crossed on a nippy autumn evening... *second sigh*
   As to the Yeti, the warm reds and oranges on the walls, doorjambs, and windowsills stole my heart instantly.  I'm a sucker for welcoming, happy, empathetic hues. Dark red cloth napkins: perfectly ironed and folded.  I don't care that there are three levels in this restaurant, or that it's a bit chilly/drafty.  Or that the Indian music got on my nerves after a while.  (Was it supposed to be relaxing?  It sounded like mournful, wailing tones to me.)
   I admired our Nepalese waitress.  She was perceptive, gracious, attentive, and had the softest, loveliest voice.  She didn't hover over us, but she also didn't ignore us, either.  Near perfect.
   And the food!  Where do I begin?  Ooo, the bowls!  Tarnished silvery bowls with coppery twin handles, steaming as they arrived at the table.  Forget the elegant dribbles or dots of sauce.  This was rich, chunky curry; abundant helpings of steamed white rice; piping hot, brown-speckled naan; mind-blowingly spiced sour pickles; decadently sweet mango chutney.
   Now, I don't normally eat lamb.  Just not something this girl does.  However, I ordered the Rogan Josh, (lamb curry,) while Mum ordered the Saag Gosht, and Abbylicious ordered the Tikka Masala, both of which were chicken curries: gorgeous, vivacious oranges.  Mine was a richer, deeper orange, hints of burnt terra cotta, and definitely spicier than Mum's and Abbylicious's curries.  The method of serving in separate bowls, with the addition of (warmed!) plates made sharing so easy.  I cannot describe the flavors for you.  They were so unfamiliar, so complex, so drastic.  Which set me on fire...I love this restaurant.

Plain naan, and garlic cilantro naan.

Rogan Josh on left; Saag Gosht on right.

Mango chutney on left; pickles on right.

Tikka Masala on right; oh, come on!  You know what steamed white rice is, and you probably figured out which of the curries this was.  Excuse my awkward nerdiness.

 The Ice-Cream.  (Yes, it was The Ice-Cream.  Read on.)

   We ate until we were full, and our waitress kindly offered to box everything up for us to take home.  I then requested their dessert menu.  My theory was that if the savory dishes were delicious and highly satisfactory, then the sweet dishes held promise.
  We had the traditional Indian pistachio Kulfi ice-cream.  Oh-so-ordinary sounding when I write it here...  The plating and presentation was unexpectedly attractive, nothing like the hearty style presented at dinner.  Green cardamom?  Rose water?  Saigon cinnamon?  If I wasn't such a hater of complicated sweet flavors, I would be able to raise my right hand, stand before the Sugar Monster, and swear that it was the best ice-cream on earth.  Both Abbylicious and Mum dug into that ice-cream with enthusiasm.  Mum and I shared one, because I wasn't knocked out cold by the taste...but I can tell you right now that Abbylicious cleaned her plate with dedication.  I only enjoy simple flavors when it comes to sweet stuff- complexities befuddle my palate, and then I get frustrated.  Go for it, though.  Try it.  I do not regret having done so.  The only omissions I would make are the maraschino cherry (cliche) and the whipped cream (the ice-cream didn't need any help, or annoyances.)
    It was comfortable, rustic, quiet, and soothing.  I want to go back, but I think that it would be prudent to deposit the next paycheck..
   I'm head over heels in love with Indian food, a cuisine that I have avoided because it was just too different...foolish me.  And I don't believe in the Yeti.  (Unless it's pitch black in my room, and I don't want to drop off the bunkbed to visit Mrs. Murphy.  Yes, I still believe in under-the-bed monsters, but that's another story.)
   To wrap this baby up, I'd give it a four out of five star rating for cleanliness, ambiance, service, food, pricing, and experience-impact.  Not that my extremely nonprofessional opinion counts...aw, heck.  It's darned good.  Check it out, readers', check it out.
   Smiles, (and yawns,)
The Barefoot Girl

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spicy Skewers.

   I am attempting to blend more seasonings into my foods.  I'd be happy to putter on through life with just a pepper grinder and shichimi togarashi.  Enter C, my coworker, who has taught me how to make up nearly everything our kitchen has to offer.  His marinade for our chicken skewers includes olive oil, rosemary (which I pronounce rose-murry, just in case you haven't read a useless fact today,) minced garlic, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.  I also found out that C hates the feel of raw meat, so as brave as Katniss Everdeen, I stepped forward and volunteered to be the chicken-skewer-er.  For keeps, whenever he needs me to do it.  Blah.  Skewer-er.  Is that a proper title for the position?
   C patiently taught me how to twist the long pink strips while poking the skewer through the chicken meat at even intervals.  Then he turned away with a shudder, and I knew he was done.  A couple of years ago, I would have been in the same boat.  I couldn't even be at the market meat counter with my family when Mum ordered raw meat. 
   I made the chicken skewers at home for the family.  I'm proud to report that I was steel-stomached enough to walk up to the meat counter, order the four boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and watch as they were being wrapped up.  Not to mention that I washed, sliced, and skewered all of the chicken strips.  Then I let them sit in the marinade for a little while during which the BBQ heated up, and I disinfected the meat cutting board like all of humanity depended on my cleanliness in the kitchen.

Ready to grind pepper, mince the rosemary and garlic...so forth and so forth :)

This salt was sooo sparkly after I ground it with our mortar and pestle!  I felt like I had sodium fairy dust!

The prepped marinade.

Marinating chicken.

Chicken.  On our ancient grill...I'm in love with it because of the color; serious burnt orange :)  

This picture doesn't do the skewers justice, but then, the lighting was unreasonably poor.  They looked darned good in person.

 Supper, ready for consumption!

    A friend of mine was completely aghast when I admitted to her that our family does little, if next to nothing, in the line of grilling.  Meat in particular.  She looked at me in shock, pity, and I'm sure, suspicion as to whether or not I was just a vegan trying to deny my family's carnivorous habits.  No, I've been in the shoes of a vegan, a vegetarian, a raw foodist, and for a short while- a gluten free person. 
   On a quick side note, food's intertwined with life, readers'.  Babies are content to drink milk, and not explore all that much.  Kids are picky, averse to savory dishes, and fond of rather unhealthy foods.  Teens are all over the place: girls wanna diet and be skinnier than Miss America, boys want to eat lots of protein and turn out like a Big Hunk, and the rest of us just want to plain-out eat.  All the time.  No time restrictions.  Or ingredient restrictions.  Adults are more mature (I think.)  They have eating habits, limits, preferences, and adventures.  Nothing overly sporadic, unless they're crazy omnivores.  I know that there are some things I don't want to eat, I can't eat, and I'll never eat, but right now, I'm happy to hop around the food world, nibbling here and there.  So, I've chucked dieting fads/habits out of the window, and I'm tasting new things every chance I get.  (With a few exceptions that are actually too repulsive to mention.)  Nutrition and health are still key components of my dietary rhythms, but I'm game to poke around.
   All that to say, I cooked meat, and helped eat it.  Grilling is a rather new, fresh concept for me, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.  Eating meat?  Doable; not necessary to my happiness.  (Useless fact #2.  Yes, I also pronounce that n-word as ness-suh-sree.  Please don't ask why...)  Since I don't tend to look at food while I'm eating it, boiled cabbage would be just as acceptable.
   Now, as to feedback from the family.  Every last one of my family members said that I could cut back on the crushed red pepper flakes, even omit them.  Too spicy.  Truth be known, I wouldn't be a good judge of that, since the guys' I work with are fond of pepper eating.
   Yep, when we have zilch to do, the guys' grill up some jalapenos, then consume them, seeds included.  Habaneros are our current ambition.  Without the follow up of water.  We'll see how that goes...  I've eaten more than a few jalapenos since I started my new job (who wants to be the lone scaredy cat who couldn't down a spicy little pepper?)  When the family ran for water, I sat by myself at the table, slightly bewildered.  Hot?  You bet your boots!  Hot and unreasonably good.  However, I made a promise to my dear and infinitely patient Mum that the next batch of skewers will not have crushed red pepper flakes. 
   There's heaps to learn in the culinary world.  I'm game, eager, ready.  My coworkers' are teaching me new things every time I work with them.  For which I am grateful.  Well, maybe my family could have passed on my spicy rendition of the chicken skewers.  With that, I'll sign off.  Maybe you're hungry now.  Maybe you're wanting to cook.  Eat.  Cook.  Learn.  It's rewarding.
The Barefoot Girl