Thursday, March 28, 2019

Swedish Visiting Cake

One of my retirement goals I have fallen short on so far over the past 3 months is trying a new recipe once a week.  It's not that I have been idle, because I certainly haven't.  I just haven't felt inspired to spend time in the kitchen.  So many other things to explore with all my new found freedom, with walking regularly at the top of my list.

Today I made soup to take over to my BFF's for lunch and along with the soup (cabbage and potato in case you were wondering), I bought a loaf of wonderful, crusty French bread and I made a new cake recipe.  It is from one of my favorite cookbook writers, Dorie Greenspan and it's from her Baking book.  Anyone who loves to bake should check out this very complete and detailed book with recipes ranging from cookies to breads, cakes, pies, and all things yummy.

This particular cake recipe was so easy which is why it appealed to me this morning.  It is a one bowl cake, requiring no electric mixer, and most people would have the basic ingredients required in their homes.  I had it made and in the oven within 10 minutes.  The end results was a lovely, subtly flavored cake perfect for after our lunch.  It would be delicious with a cup of tea or coffee for an afternoon treat.  I highly recommend this cake and I love the name of it too!

Swedish Visiting Cake
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Book

1 cup sugar (plus more more sprinkling on top right before baking) grated zest of one lemon
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used 2 tsp of vanilla paste and opted not to use almond extract)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1 stick melted butter, cooled
1/4 cup sliced almonds

In a medium bowl, add the lemon zest to the sugar. Rub the zest and sugar in between your fingers to release the oils, the sugar will start to smell delicious.
Whisk in the eggs one at a time.
Whisk in the salt and the extracts.
Change to a spatula and stir in the flour.
Fold in the butter.
Stir until combined. This can me made in a 9-inch cast iron skillet, cake pan, or pie pan. I used a little of the melted butter to grease the pan.
Pour the batter into the pan and top with the sliced almonds and a generous sprinkling of sugar.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. It will be golden and the edges will have a nice crust.
Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then take a knife and run it around the edge of the pan.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Fifty Years of Friendship: A Love Letter

Dear Patti,
How can it be that 50 years have gone by since we first met in junior high on March 5th, 1969? I realize that date may not be 100% accurate. Perhaps we met sometime prior, but we do both remember attending our mutual friend's birthday party on that date, so we decided to make that our annual Friendaversary date.

What an adventure it has been knowing you all this time! We have seen each other through all of life's ups and downs-births, deaths, relationships, weddings, funerals, jobs, travel, and just the routines of daily minutia. Sometimes I start to tell The Husband something perhaps on the trivial side and he will say "That sounds like something Patti would like to hear" and he is exactly right. You always do (or at least you pretend well).

There are a few significant reasons why I believe our friendship has endured 50 years while other friendships have come and gone. One of those things is constant communication. There has rarely been a day that we haven't touched base with each other in one way or another.

Back in the day we had our rotary phones (ES-72340) where we would call each other as teenage girls and yack for hours, arranging outings like school trips, cruising downtown, or trips to your lake cabin as examples. When you went off to Western our first year of college, we wrote letters back and forth sharing our experiences. Once we became roommates when I joined you at WWU, our adventures really began and we never quit talking, even in the many classes we took together, much to our professors chagrin. When you married your beloved husband and he moved you away to Oregon, we continued talking over the phone constantly as our long distance phone bills indicated. Nowadays there are so many ways to stay in touch it's mind boggling. So, even though we live in the same town we are constantly finding new ways to amuse each other via Facebook, texts, and our newest discovery, video chatting. Someday we may even master that particular technology.

A second reason we have endured is our differences. You have always brought out my sometimes repressed sense of adventure and challenged my fears with your unbound zest for life. I, on the other hand, at times try to rein you in on those rare occasions when it's just a little bit necessary. I am a rule follower while you have a devil-may-care attitude. I love that about you and have always been a bit envious of that characteristic.  You accessorize, I don't!

The last and most important thing that has kept us going is laughter. Since the time we met, constant, never-ending, silly, wicked, ridiculous laughter. There was an instance early in our friendship when we were seniors in high school and we were environmental camp counselors. The school principal was making a speech to the little grade school children and you leaned in and whispered something in my ear I thought at the time was terribly naughty. I nearly died trying to contain myself.  It has been like that ever since. We have set each other off in the most awkward of situations, to the point of having to separate ourselves, or be separated by others in order to regain our composure. Museums, lecture halls, churches, jobs, funerals, weddings, restaurants-nothing is sacred.  It is this laughter that has gotten us through all of life's difficulties as well as brought us so much joy and unadulterated fun.

I could write volumes detailing the innumerable experiences we have had together, but words cannot encapsulate this amazing gift of knowing you for 50 years.  I look forward to many more years of sharing life's rich pageantry of experiences and all of their humorous moments with you.

Forever your friend,
Love, Sue

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

In The Moment

I am making good progress on one of my retirement pledges to walk.  Not doing so well yet on some of the others such as cleaning out closets and cupboards, but I have plenty of time for that (she says optimistically)! 

To say I as out of shape while I was working would be an major understatement. The hospital where I worked is huge and sometimes it could be 1/4 mile from where I would end up parking to my office. I could do short spurts, but I had no endurance.

Since January, I have worked up to being able to walk 3 miles without a single ache, pain, or issue. I am able to enjoy my surroundings, observe the flora and fauna-as much as there is in an urban environment, and really have a peaceful meditation time in the outdoors. It is one of the most enjoyable parts of this new non-work lifestyle.

Today's walk led me up and down the streets of my neighborhood, through the beautiful forest park near my house, and down my favorite street where I imagine the interiors of various wonderful old homes. I heard various birds, including a noisy woodpecker and some somber sounding mourning doves, saw a flock of hens pecking around in the grass while busily clucking at each other, a couple of squirrels chasing each other up and down a massive cedar tree, smelled the wonderful scent of wood smoke and rich mulchy earth, observed more and more early spring bulbs starting to peek out from their winter underground, and even some new buds on a cherry tree.
Being in the moment while I am on my little treks is extremely beneficial for erasing any cares I may have (such as current politics) and resets my mind and body in the most healthy way.  I have included a picture of a poem by the late Ursula K. LeGuin that someone had framed and posted at the edge of their yard. Lovely, and I am happy to say I made it home before the skies opened up and rained up a storm.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Picture This

We have a new camera and do I have a lot to learn.  This is something I have wanted for ages, a Nikon DSLR. I have had a small Fuji FinePix point and shoot type of camera and if I do say so myself, I have taken some good shots with it over the years. In fact, this blog was created because of buying that camera and needing a reason to take pictures.

Now though I have an honest-to-goodness professional camera and it's a bit overwhelming. I have been watching many YouTube videos on this particular model and its' settings and capabilities. I have started to experiment a bit just inside the house and as soon as the weather improves some, I can't wait to take it out and about.

I will say it isn't as convenient as my little Fuji camera or my cell phone for just sticking it in my purse and having a camera at the ready, but when I am ready to really try my hand at still life photos or portraits, I can't wait to use this new one. 

It has a multitude of settings for particular scenes already pre- programmed, but I have been learning about using the manual mode and setting things myself as I did with the picture above.  This picture was taken in rather low lighting with the aperture set low so as to blur the background objects with a clear focal point.  I absolutely love the detail this camera can capture.  If you look very closely you can see the dust bits on the rocks.  Perhaps I need to put the camera down and get out the dust cloth!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Slowing Down

The first thing on my retirement list is "Slow Down." It's been 1 month and 2 days since I retired and I am beginning to acclimatize myself to this new lifestyle, with slowing down being my number one priority.  I was so used to having daily stress in my life; either self-imposed or mandated by the nature of my work that it was second nature.  I now find myself with no deadlines or time constraints and it's revolutionary. Not only has my body become more relaxed, but my thoughts have slowed down and I am experiencing a wonderful peace of mind.

The second thing on my list is "Walk." Opening up my senses by getting outside in the elements is something I have always enjoyed, but rarely made time for while working. Though we have a treadmill (aka clothes rack) in our basement, when I have used it in the past, it has been like torture. Nothing more boring in the world, even if listening to music or watching TV.

Walking through my neighborhood looking at others houses and yards, gardens, trees, and parks is far more interesting. Venturing outside my neighborhood and walking with my BFF is another great luxury we are able to do. What fun it is to have her company as we discover new places.  As we work on our endurance and are able to go greater distances, we will start exploring parks and gardens throughout our region and discover all the glories the Willamette Valley has to offer.

I have included a few pictures from some of my recent walks for your viewing pleasure and hope to create additional blogs of my future adventures.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Yum Yum Bowl

Food bowls are a thing.  They appear on menus of many restaurants these days. I have recently experienced two very good ones; one called a Philosophy bowl and the other was called a Harvest Pasta bowl.  I decided to try to make my own version and created a hybrid of these two bowls.

My bowl creation has a base of brown rice and the toppings include roasted vegetables of Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and butternut squash then sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and crumbled goat cheese.  A dollop of hummus and a drizzle of lemon-tahini dressing completes the dish. I have included the recipe I use for the lemon-tahini dressing.

This may not be the prettiest of all lunches, but it is packed with a depth of flavors and a variety of textures. It is also a nutritious meal that is quite fulfilling. 

Lemon Tahini Dressing
In bowl, whisk together 8 Tbsp sesame tahini, 1/4 cup each of lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp each of water and finely chopped flat leaf parsley, 2 tsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 1/8 tsp cayenne.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Grilled or Toasted

There has been an ongoing debate in my home for years.  I call a cooked cheese sandwich a toasted cheese and The Husband always states "It's grilled cheese." I must have grown up in a household where the former title was used and I have always called it that.  What say the rest of you?

No matter.  Today I made lunch for the bestie and the menu consisted of rather unsophisticated childhood favorites of toasted cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, homemade dill pickles (thanks Jodi), and butterscotch pudding.  What raised the sandwich to adult heights was the use of three types of cheese.

Recently while on vacation, we made a stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory where I couldn't resist stocking up on some delicious varieties of cheeses including Monterey Jack and a  three year aged cheddar, one of their special reserve cheeses. Today's three cheeses included those as well as real, honest-to-goodness Parmesan-Reggianno.  When done, the combination of these cheeses really raised the sandwich to a new level.
You can't go wrong with a bowl of hot, creamy tomato soup along with the sandwich for a classic duo. An occasional dip of the sandwich into the soup is a must.  A creamy butterscotch pudding with just a squirt of whipped cream was the perfect sweet ending.  My bestie had announced earlier in the day that when she gets old and loses all her teeth, all she wants to eat is butterscotch pudding!

Obviously, no recipe for this lunch menu. I'm starting off slowly getting back into my blog. I'm still getting used to having time off and cooking has not been at the top of my agenda.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Beginnings

My slate is empty. A new year, a new start, a new lifestyle in front of me.

I retired on Friday after working non-stop for the past forty years. I was fortunate to get a full time job mere weeks after graduating from college and haven't stopped since.  Seven places of employment during this time period, countless coworkers-many who are long forgotten, a few indelibly etched in my heart forever, lots of hard work, stress, rewards, frustrations, and laughter all behind me now. Now is the time to discover what it is like to not be an employee but to be free and independent of time clocks, rules, regulations, and others expectations.

This will be a totally new experience that both excites and causes me some trepidation. Always a planner, months ago I began writing lists of things I would like to do. The very first thing on my list is "Slow Down."  My best friend recently told me that I always appear to be rushing to the next thing.  Now is the time to stop, be in the moment, and truly experience what I am doing.

I retired this blog in April 2013, finding that keeping it up was too demanding of what little free time I had. Now is a good time to dust it off and bring it out of retirement as I enter mine. Hopefully I will share how I start filling up my cleared slate with my experiences as I begin this new chapter in my life.

Happy New Year one and all!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bye Bye Pie O My

I'm retiring. No more spending my weekends planning and cooking and plating and styling. No more fretting and fuming over pots and pans and whisks and spoons. No more shopping and buying and searching for ingredients. No more pictures and writing and editing and posting.

This blog has been so interesting to create. I started nearly five years ago in May 2008 on a whim and it morphed into at times, an all consuming project.  I've posted 348 entries; an average of seven posts a month. Some recipes turned out great. Others were a complete fiasco. But I learned something with every dish cooked, every photo taken, and every post written.

Over the years I've been doing this I've made a little (and I mean a little!) money which I most often used to buy cookbooks for my ever growing collection.  I have received an amazing array of sample food products and gadgets from companies all over the country. It was always fun to come home to boxes on the front porch and open them up to see what kind of goodies were sent my way.  My blog also generated some press with two mentions on Bon Appetit's website; once for Christmas cookies and another time for shrimp and grits. Locally, a weekly newspaper reporter interviewed me for my take as a hometown food blogger. That was certainly fun to see in print.

But the best part of doing this blog was hearing from readers and enjoying their comments, especially from my dear friends. Such generous words were always motivating. Yum! Of course my in-home fan club, The Husband, was another great motivator. I love cooking for him and he is always most grateful.  He also contributed to my recipes by year after year producing fantastic vegetables in the garden for me to put to good use.

I am going to retire my blog now and move on to some other hobbies.  Who knows, maybe someday I'll work up the energy to compile all of these posts into a cookbook. It's been fun, and through this experience I hope I have become a better cook, a better photographer, and a better writer. GOOD BYE and thanks to all of you who have followed Pie O My!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce

Happy Easter. No bunny cakes or cupcakes with nests of chocolate atop them for this year's Easter dinner.  Instead, I've opted for a sophisticated and rather decedent cheesecake flavored with lots of juice and zest from  slightly sweet Meyer lemons and topped with a lovely raspberry sauce. It just screamed Spring to me.

This cheesecake differs from ones I have made in the past in that the crust is a shortbread rather than the normal graham cracker crumb concoction.  It too contains some lemon zest, making it a perfect compliment for the creamy filling.  This recipe is a keeper!

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce

1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup butter
1 slightly beaten egg yolk
¼ teaspoon vanilla

3 packages cream cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 lemons, juiced
1 1/2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sour cream
Raspberry Sauce :
1 cup of raspberry jam (I used seedless jelly)
1 cup of fresh raspberries  (I used frozen berries)
1 tablespoon of lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400.

Make Crust:
Combine first 3 ingredients. Cut in butter till crumbly. Add egg yolk and vanilla; mix well. Pat 1/3 of dough on bottom of 9-inch spring-form pan (sides removed). Bake about 8 minutes or till golden; cool. Butter sides of pan; attach to bottom. Pat remaining dough on sides of pan to height of 1 3/4 inches.

Preheat oven to 450.

Make Filling:
Add softened cream cheese into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until creamy; add sugar, lemon juice and zest. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each just to blend. Add sour cream and stir to combine.

Turn into crust-lined pan. bake at 450 for 12 minutes; reduce heat to 300 degrees; bake 55 minutes or till knife inserted off-center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 1/2 hour; loosen sides of cheesecake from pan with knife. Cool 1/2 hour more; remove sides of pan. Cool 2 hours longer.

Raspberry Sauce:
Put jam into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute until melted. Add raspberries and stir to coat. Pour over cooled cheesecake