Wednesday, February 11, 2009

breaded polenta cutlets

This is one of my new favorite recipes. It is from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classic cookbook. (I have only changed the original slightly by omitting ground fennel.) I served these with potato parsnip gratin, green beans and a salad. The kids chose to dip them in ketchup (big surprise), and I found they were great as leftovers too.

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup cornmeal or dried polenta
1 cup chopped onions
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 cup herbed bread crumbs
(to make your own breadcrumbs pulverize stale or lightly toasted whole wheat, sourdough, or french bread in a blender or food processor. Mix in 1/4 teaspoon of mixed dried herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, and marjoram, and add a dash of salt and black pepper)

1. Bring the salt and water to a boil. Gradually pour in the cornmeal and stir briskly with a whisk until the polenta begins to thicken. Lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the polenta tastes done.

2. Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic in the oil on medium heat for about 7 minutes. Remove the cooked polenta from the heat. Stir in the onion/garlic mixture, and if using , the cheese. Add salt to taste.

3. Pour the hot polenta onto an oiled baking tray or 10 inch pie pan to about 3/4 inch thick. Spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The polenta will thicken as it cools. *Side note - Polenta can be refrigerated for 3-4 days so you could always do this step one day and finish the dish another.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg until foamy and then whisk in the milk. Place the bread crumbs in a separate shallow bowl. With a table knife, cut the cooled polena into squares, rectangles, diamonds, or other shapes. Line up in order the pan of cutlets, the egg mixture, the bread crumbs, and the oiled baking sheet.

6. Lift one cutlet at a time with a spatula and dip it into the egg mixture. A light coating of egg is best, so gently shake off the excess. Then dip each cutlet in the bowl of bread crumbs and coat well. Arrange the breaded cutlets on the baking sheet about one inch apart.

7. Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown on both sides, turning once after about 20 minutes.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DIY Domestic - Changing up your house on the cheap.

I bought my little house 4 years ago and since then the list of what I want to do to it has grown. Being on a tight budget has taught me how to change things up on the cheap. The past few summers I have worked on the garden and yard. The house came with a well established perennial garden so it has been easy to transform my yard without having to buy new buy using what I have by creating new gardens, moving plants and starting new ones. It is a labor of love that I so thoroughly enjoy. This however only feeds my DIY domestic bug in the summer months. During the winter I am trapped inside going crazy. I have found several simple ways to make a difference in your home for not much money.

1. Reorganize your furniture. It is amazing what a difference this can make. It is very common in my house for my husband to leave for work and come home to a room that has been completely changed up. When the bug strikes I need to attack. Last week it was my kitchen that was calling me. First thing I did was move a few pieces of furniture around. I don't have a ton of options because of where my woodstove is but I was able to make pretty big difference by making a few small moves. I don't have a before picture but here are the afters:


The table used to be in the middle of the room and the hoosier cabinet was on the opposite wall where that large picture is now hanging. Before the it was even there it lived in our living room and was filled with office papers. I finally took down this large ugly wall mounted coat rack (where the picture on the left is now) and we started hanging out coats up in the living room closet instead. It is amazing how much less cluttered it looked. Next up in this room will be paint on the walls and one day (after I win the lottery) new flooring.

The next day I attacked the other side of the kitchen. The side I cringe at each day. The cabinets are very dark, it has an old built in oven and separate cook top (both almond colored) with very tired looking counter tops and hideous back splash tiling. My long term goal is to rip out all the cabinets, get a normal one piece range, add a dishwasher and create a free standing kitchen with no cabinets. I am addicted to free standing kitchens, but I will talk more about that later.

Since this won't happen for sometime my short term goal is to paint the cabinets this spring. I'm getting way off track here with my kitchen dreams. Back to reality. Number 2 on the list of easy DIY domestic changes to make to you home is:

2. Declutter. Decluttering your home makes it look bigger, cleaner, and gives you such satisfaction. So the next day I started with decluttering some of the cabinets. It felt so amazing to finally clean out the junk drawer that hadn't been touched in about 4 years.

3. Take a little here / Give a little there. This means take down a shelf you don't like or remove a door that makes the house more open etc.

My next project using #3 was creating a shoe/hat closet. One of my biggest pet peeves about my house is not having a porch or mudroom. We remove our shoes when we enter the house but I cannot stand piles of shoes and wet boots on the floor in my kitchen. I have tried it all. I had shoe rack, shoe box, shoe bucket, you name it and we tried it. It never satisfied me. The other day a light bulb went off in my head. Next to the side door which we use to come and go from the house is a large food closet that sits between the refrigerator and the door. When you swing open the first door a door with shelves then swings out to the right opening up to more shelving inside a very deep closet. We have been using this for food storage since we lived in the house. The swinging door has been bugging us so I decided to take it off, clean out the food (most of which could be thrown out of moved to other cabinets), placed a mud tray on the bottom and moved my hat/mitten baskets to the other shelves. Instant boot closet. Now the kids come in, take off their stuff and put it away in the closet. My kitchen floor doesn't look like a mess of boots and shoes anymore and all is good. Here are the before and after pics. The picture quality is crappy but you will get the drift.

Before as a food closet

After as a boot and hat closet

Other cheap ways to change up your house

4. paint
5. change up the pictures on your walls, make new art etc.
6. add plants

what have you done? anything else to add to the list?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Big step

I have talked about my love of writing poetry here before. I have been writing since I was very young. I was very active in college by reading and performing at special events, taking poetry writing classes, and I was even published twice in the literary magazine published by the school. Since college though I have not publicly read or submitted my work. I recently stumbled upon a local event happening here in Burlington called F@#* Valentines Day poetry night. I have decided the time is right. I am going for it. I plan on attending and signing up to read. Last night I pulled out some of my older notebooks and my final portfolio I did for my last poetry class. Reading my professors final words gave me the inspiration I needed to do this. Her final statement was "You will be a strong writer if you want to be. Keep reading and keep writing." I am not sure why I have put this on the back burner but it is time to move it to the front.

At first I started to stress about how I would pick just one to be my first. Then it hit me and I just knew. I have waited 15 years to read this one particular poem and I can't wait!

wish me luck!