Monday, August 31, 2009

Campy Shrimp Scampi

Okay, I combined two titles into one that rhymes. Hey ... we resumed homeschooling in my neck of the woods today, so it’s back to rummy rhymes and amplified alliteration.

Today’s post is actually about my son’s camping trip (you'll notice that my blog title does actually mention "a little about life and family in the Pacific Northwest") as well as that succulent gift from the sea .. shrimp scampi.

Ah, shrimp scampi. How I love you. This, my blogging friends, is the dish that could quite possibly bring about world peace. It’s so wonderful, so fragrant, sooo utterly delicious that I think it ranks as one of the natural wonders of the world. Who could be grumpy eating scampi? It’s not possible, I tell you! I never get tired of eating scampi no matter where I am home or when traveling.

Speaking of traveling, we just returned from our annual summer trip to Washington. (Mr. It’s All Gouda and the littlest Gouda Girl having fun on the pier. Uh, no, that's not our boat. We don't have one. I will, however, accept one as a gift. Anyone? Anyone? *sigh*)

Hmmm ... annual summer trip. Doesn’t that sound so, I don’t know, like I’m from some old, old established family that spends its summers abroad. Truth be told, this was only our second annual trip to Washington. My soon to be 14 year old son attends a summer camp for kids with seizures up there in our neighbor state, and the rest of us hang out in Washington while he has fun at camp.(My camper is the one right underneath the plaque, wearing a dark jacket and sporting the mop of hair. Little bit tall, isn't he? Can you believe he's the youngest of that group of boys standing there? He's even taller than the camp counselors!)

Did you attend camp as a kid? I was way toooo shy to even consider hauling out the ol sleeping bag. Luckily, my kid didn't inherit his mother's hermit disposition. This camp is utterly amazing. It is the brainchild of Epilepsy NW, which is part of the National Epilepsy Foundation.

Every summer, kids in the Pacific Northwest partake in an all inclusive summer camp. The camp is staffed by adults well versed with seizures, many of them former campers themselves, plus they have nurses at camp to administer daily medications and take care of any seizure related occurances. My son attended for the first time last year and has looked forward all year long to attending again. Last year, I was so paranoid letting him attend. First of all, it is held out of our home state, about 4 hours away to be exact, in a remote area of Washington. Next, while he’d only be gone for 4 days, I’d not be able to contact him unless it’s an emergency, and even then it would be difficult. Lastly, I didn’t know ANY of the counselors or anyone attending. Still, my son's desire to participate outweighed my fears.

If you recall, this is the boy who defied the odds surviving a horrible illness 2 years ago. Coming that close to real peril changes one's overall outlook on life as well as parenting. Some things you hold onto closer like time together as a family, and other things you are more willing to try and take on. We do not sweat the small stuff any longer. Letting him truly "carpe diem" is paramount in my priority outlook. He really wanted to go to camp, and so off he went. I’ll never forget leaving him there last year. He barely waved goodbye to his “paranoid yet acting happy because she didn’t want him to know she was trying not to freak out” mother as he was already having fun getting to know his fellow campers. That's just how it should be ... that is, him being comfortable, not me trying not to freak out!

The camp really fostered his independence, and drove home what his mother has told him ... he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to. Fast forward to this year, I was not as crazed saying goodbye because his health has dramatically improved (only one small seizure since attending camp last year), I loved the positive impact it had on him, and I knew what to expect. Sure enough, when we arrived, I got a quick hug goodbye and then he pretty much took off to hang out with the other kids, some of whom he had hung out with last year. The four days passed by very quickly, and when we picked him up at camp, he started talking about attending next year. I just about burst with pride when he told me that he’d like to pursue being a volunteer counselor there when he is 18. Ah, the boy matures. Plus, thank God, his health is terrific. For that alone, I'm a very happy camper. Hey ... clever pun!

He's always been a really good kid ... thoughtful, mature, smart. Being at camp reinforces his good qualities ... friendly, good attitude, and positive minded. Plus, where else does he get to go rock climbing, hiking, ride some giant swing thing (I can't think of what that's called), and partake in archery lessons?He didn’t mind the rustic cabins, Spartan bathroom set up, remote location, or the fact that his mother wasn’t there to cater to his culinary likes and dislikes. He ate what was served and cleaned up afterward. Hmm ... let’s keep that theme going at home, shall we!(My oldest Gouda Girl ... twin to the camper and soon to be 14)

In contrast to his accommodations, the girls and I, along with Mr. It’s All Gouda, stayed at a lovely hotel complete with cookies in the lobby and restaurants in town. Granted, it was a small town, but lovely nonetheless. It was right on the harbor, and so we feasted on fresh, local seafood. My littlest gal loves shrimp, and I promised her on the ride home yesterday that I’d make her shrimp scampi for dinner tonight. I always keep my promises.Without further ado, here’s the scampi (loosely based on Ina Garten’s recipe ... love her food!) Oh, and this is gluten-free, too!

3 tablespoons clarified butter (can use regular unsalted butter)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (I removed the tails, too)
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley (save some for garnish)
½ lemon, zested plus the juice (save some zest for garnish)
½ cup white wine
buttered, cooked linguine
In a large, heavy bottomed pan (I used a dutch oven), heat the clarified butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and sauté for about 1 minute. Be very careful to not let the garlic burn. Add the shrimp, salt, and black pepper. Saute until the shirpm just turn pink, stirring often. Add the wine and sauté for about 30 seconds longer. Remove from heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Toss to combine. Serve over buttered linguine, polenta, cous cous, etc. Mine is served over gluten free linguine.Sprinkle with extra parsley and zest if you’d like. I like! Make yummy noises. Preparation this way produces shrimp that has that wonderful snappy like crunch when you bite into it. We need to come up with an adjective that adequately defines that feel in your mouth when shrimp is cooked to perfection. Whatever you call it, it's all gouda to me! :-)

One last thing before I leave ...

I barked out laughing when I saw this sign. We were driving along on our trip, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, when I see this sign. Look closely, now.Certainly nothing to laugh at. But wait ... what’s this next one say .... Oh Lord. You’ve got to be kidding ...And there you have it folks ... another reason NOT to pick up hitchhikers! Eat scampi instead! :-) Hmm ... I wonder who made the sign?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Slurpin' Good Blackened Chicken Fettucini! (It's gluten free, too!)

Mmmm ... here you go! Open wide and take a bite! My husband did his ravenous bear impression and chowed down on this recipe. CHOWED DOWN. I can tell when he really likes something because a) he sets a world record at speed consumption of the food, and b) he gets up and serves himself seconds. I suspect he likes to refill his own plate because he can pile on more food than his loving wife who doesn’t want him to overeat. I’ve been instructed to place this recipe on his repeat list.Do you maintain a “repeat” list? You know what I mean ... the lofty list of recipes that the family will actually eat again with gusto. The problem here is that although my husband all but licked his plate clean twice, the children in my life were not so enthusiastic. My girls did eat it without complaint and actually asked for seconds of the chicken. My son, well, he told me he wasn’t very hungry. Yeah, like I’m gonna buy that one. (eye roll) My son is not a fan of sauce. He’s not a fan of food groups that touch. This recipe does both. Despite his displeasure, I have absolutely no leftovers of any aspect of dinner. Therefore, this will get made again ... I’ll just keep the boy’s portion separate.

Credit for this recipe goes to Guy Fierri from Food Network. It’s full flavored, creamy, and delicious. If you like creamy, delicious food, this one’s will make your repeat list, too! Like most of us do, I did modify it just a bit.Plus, I made mine gluten free by using Tinkyada brand rice fettucini. See how lovely the rice pasta cooks up? Of course, if gluten is your friend, you can always use regular fettucini. This recipe is easy to make, comes together really fast (so have everything ready first!), and would also qualify to serve company. YUM!

The ingredients call for Blackening Seasoning. Have you "blackened" anything before? I’ve never made anything blackened before. Truth be told, I don’t even know if this qualifies as blackened because I ended up grilling it. Uh oh, I can hear the sirens from the the seasoning police now. Hey, officer, it was hot inside and outside, so I opted for cooking outside. Perhaps I could bribe them with a bite of this. Back to the seasoning ... I decided to make my own rub! I’m so glad I did; it’s "money" as Guy says.

• 4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I brined mine first)
• 1 tablespoon of canola oil
• 1 cup blackening spice (I made my own and used less than called for)
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons minced garlic
• 1 cup roughly chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 3 cups heavy cream
• 2 baby zucchini, halved, grilled and sliced (my garden addition)
• 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pound cooked fettuccine (I used gluten free fettuccine – awesome!)
• 1/2 cup sliced scallions

Before you begin, make sure all the ingredients are chopped and ready to go as this recipe comes together rather quickly. Also note that I grilled the zucchini at the same time as the chicken. While preparing your chicken, cook your pasta according to package directions. I used gluten free rice fettuccine and loved it. It needs to boil for about 10 minutes.

Pat the breast dry and dredge them in the blackening spice. Drizzle with most of the canola oil, saving some for the zucchini, and rub it in. Set aside while you heat up the grill. Fire up your grill to medium high heat. Grill chicken for about 4 minutes on each side, place on a plate and cover with foil while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Halve your baby zucchini, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with the remaining canola oil, and grill about 5 minutes per side. Remove and let sit while the chicken is sitting. Slice into bite sized pieces. I grilled these at the same time as the chicken.

In a saute pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add garlic and lightly caramelize. Then add the sun-dried tomatoes. Slice your chicken on the bias into medallion sized slices, and add them along with the zucchini to the pan. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.Add the heavy cream, increase the heat to a simmer, and reduce the cream sauce by half. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt, pepper, and pasta. Garnish with scallions and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.
Here is the recipe for the Blackening Seasoning. I LOVE this spice. It’s not too hot in the heat department, and it smells terrific. This would go great on fish, too. YUM. I found this recipe on and I’m so pleased with it.

• 2 teaspoons ground paprika (I used smoked paprika)
• 4 teaspoons dried leaf thyme
• 2 teaspoons onion powder
• 2 teaspoons garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 teaspoons black pepper
• 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to your taste
• 1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine ingredients. Put in a jar and store in a cool dark place. Shake jar well before each use.I just made a paper cone and spooned it into a recently empty spice jar. I love re-using jars in this way.Do you date your spices? I do. That way if something gets shoved to the back of the drawer, I know at a glance if it’s still palatable!

This mixture was, in my opinion, the star of this recipe. The aroma was so enticing, and the texture just blended right in ... no bits of unwanted texture anywhere. I really enjoyed concocting my own mixture. What’s your favorite spice mixture?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Garden Notebook!

Welcome to Garden Tuesday at It’s All Gouda. Today’s post is about starting and maintaining a garden notebook. Do you keep a gardening notebook? I’d love to hear about any type of gardening “record keeping” that you maintain.

I literally just started a garden notebook this week. In it, year after year, I plan to keep track of what I planted, how many I planted, where I planted them, the varieties that I liked, the ones that bombed, any soil amendments, diagrams of how-to’s, etc. My notebook is not fancy, but it will keep all my thoughts from jumbling around inside my brain. Plus, it will help me out as I slowly but surely become more and more forgetful! Another big bonus, at least I’d like to think it will be, is that I can pass this notebook onto my kids when they are gardening on their own.

I wish I had a gardening notebook from my grandma and mom, both of whom were amazing, amazing, AMAZING gardeners. Alas, I do not. The sad thing is that I know they would have written everything down for me, in deluxe detail, if I had shown interest when I was younger. Plus, in this day and age of electronic everything, I truly relish having things in their actual handwriting. But I digress ....So, all of you out there in garden land, let’s start keeping garden notebooks. To kick off this project, I simply drew a diagram of my garden, noting what I planted and where I planted it. That will help in several ways including planning “crop” rotation (ha, my little garden is hardly a crop, but you know what I mean) and staggered harvests as well as physical stuff like not planting tall bushy stuff in front of short hard to reach stuff.

I’m also just starting to save my own seeds. I openly admit that I don’t know what I’m doing. I am reading up on it, and am keeping notes on what I’ve done. Hopefully, when next spring comes around and I plant these saved seeds, I’ll be “wowed” that it worked. I. Hope.So far, I’ve only saved Bush Lake green bean seeds and curly leaf parsley seed. Oh, I was so excited when I shelled those dried beans. Did you ever see the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks? Do you remember the scene when he starts a fire for the first time, and thumping his chest and then raising his arms shouts out “I have made FIRE!!!”? Well, that’s how I felt when I shelled the beans. I mentally shouted out to all the neighborhood, “I have made beans!!!”I actually felt all warm and fuzzy inside, and my eyes might have teared up a bit. Yeah, I’m “special” that way.My favorite parsley plant took a beating this year when my hubby split it in half while yanking the hose to the other side of the yard. He duly apologized, and I did manage to keep the plant alive, but I knew it took a severe blow. I let it go to seed this summer, and thought I’d replant next spring. I basically just left it alone, letting it flower, and then dry up.Here I simply used my nail to “flick” out the seeds, and this is what I ended up with. I hope I did this correctly. I’ve got way more seeds than shown here.

The garden continues to do well. Many of the plants are now past their prime production days, but they are still producing food. It has been so wonderful to just step outside and gather what I need. I will miss seeing these things ...
Italia Sweet PepperZucchini BabeBusy Bee on BasilBaby Beans Keep on Comin’Year of the Sage

Monday, August 24, 2009

15 Seconds of Fame – TV Interview

My husband bought a new car yesterday evening via the “cash for clunkers” program. While he was there, the local news station showed up and interviewed him and another guy. It was fun to see his face on the news last night, where they broadcast the actual interview with him. He did a great job in front of the camera.

This morning, the news station did a revised broadcast and it just shows him at the dealership ... no speaking part. I've attached the link to the video broadcast below. My husband is the one in the black shirt. Our “clunker” was the green van, and his new car is the red Scion. At one point, it shows my husband talking on his cell phone ... he’s talking to me, giving me directions on how to get to the dealership to sign the papers. I, too, was on the news .... but only from afar and am not in this particular clip. I literally stayed away from the camera man. I hadn’t planned on going to the dealership with my hubby as I was knee deep in cooking and chores. He called and asked me to meet him there to sign over the title and get my name on his new car. So I rushed down there with my hair askew, minimal make up, and overall looking like I belong standing over a cauldron. Doesn’t it always happen that the news crew wants to film you when you don’t look your best!!

Here’s the clip: KGW News Look for Mr. Its All Gouda in the black shirt. That’s my guy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pucker Up ... Old Fashioned Homemade Lemonade!

Summertime is almost over, but we still have many sunny days left before Fall’s crispness nips our noses. Are any of you like me in that you want to extend summer as long as possible? What better way to do that than to make a pitcher of that old time summertime beverage ... homemade lemonade.Have you ever sipped a cold glass of homemade lemonade? I love the smell of it, the taste of it, the look of it, and the feel of the cold, wet glass in my hand. YUM.

This summer, I’ve tried to instill in my kids that although we live in a fast paced world, we need to honor and take part in good nourishment for our bodies. Taking just a little extra time to made something from scratch not only keeps us connected with healthy food, but also keeps us connected to each other. Plus, my lemonade lovin’ friends, it just tastes better.My kids helped me make this. They helped pick out the lemons. They felt the dimply marking of the fruit. They smelled the rind as I zested it. They helped juice the lemons. And, most importantly, we talked to and laughed with each other while we were making it. Sure, it took less than five minutes, but it’s a memory that I hope they’ll hold onto long after they drained the last drop of lemonade out of their glass.

This is so easy to make, and only calls for 3 ingredients. Come on, give it a try. You’ll be glad you did!

Homemade Lemonade (Makes 1 quart)
3 large lemons, at room temperature
1 scant cup sugar
4+ cups of cold water
Ice (If desired)

Wash and dry your lemons.Zest if desired, freezing the zest for future use in another recipe.Roll the lemon back and forth, pressing slightly to maximize their juicing potential. Cut in half.Using a citrus juicer, firmly push the lemons against it twisting back and forth until all the juice is rendered. My little juicer fits right over the measuring cup. You want about ¾ cup of lemon juice.Perfect ... exactly ¾ cup! Strain if any seeds sneak through!
Save those shells to use as dessert cup holders for lemon mousse or jello or whatever moves you.

Pour the juice into a large pitcher. Add four cups of cold water. Stir in 1 cup of sugar. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the sugar dissolves. Add ice if desired. Done! Serve! Enjoy!Oh. My. Gosh! You guys are gonna love this! It’s not overly sweet at all, nor is it overly tart. The best word is REFRESHING. In a big way. You could dress it up by floating lemon slices in the pitcher, or even adding sliced strawberries. I like it straight up and plain.I like to drink lemonade (and iced tea) out of jars! Do you call these jelly jars? We used to call them Mason jars or even canning jars. Whatever you call them, they work great. This 1/2 pint size is perfect for kids' hands, and work great for adults, too.
See what’s missing here? No bizzarro neon yellow color! Real lemonade is a cloudy, clear color with just a hint of pale whitish yellow.So, before summer slips away, make a pitcher of lemonade for yourself and those you love. It will be a hit, I promise!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Garden Tuesday – 08/18/09 - Bean Bounty

Happy Garden Tuesday! I’ve seen a big shift in my garden this week. Some of my items are now past peak, such as the peas and the lettuce. Other items are just coming into their own, such as the zucchini and tomatoes. Mmm ... garden ripe tomatoes. And yet other items just keep on keeping on, such as the herbs and the beans.Lordly, do I have a boatload of beans in my garden. I planted only two varieties: Pole Beans and Bush Beans. I’m most familiar with pole bean varieties, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that I like the bush beans better! I’m making an assumption that bush beans get their name from their shape ... they spread out low in the garden vs. climbing up a trellis. The ones I grew have great flavor and they were, to my surprise, stringless! I staggered my plantings, just by a couple weeks, and I’m so glad that I did that. I’ve been enjoying their greenie goodness for a while now.So, when it comes to bean preparation, are you a tail kind of person? I’m a tail person. I leave them on.Off with their heads! Obviously, though, I do snap the heads off. I spent many an hour snapping beans when I was a kid. I actually like snapping beans. It’s quick, easy, and not messy at all. If I close my eyes, I can transport myself back in time to sitting in the back yard of my childhood home, sitting in a lawn chair, and snapping bean after bean with my mom. I used to make her laugh by belting out spiritual songs while we worked. I can still hear her laughter. Sure do miss her. Maybe that’s why I like beans so much.

Anyway, when it comes to beans, I like simple preparations best. A quick toss with olive oil and garlic is enough for me. My family, however, likes a bit of butter with theirs, so I’ve adapted my tastes for them.Gather a meals worth of beans. I just use my colander when I pick them ... makes prep and cleaning that much easier. Snap off the stems and rinse thoroughly.Add to a boiling pot of water, and boil for about 6 minutes. I always put a little dollop of olive oil after adding the beans. I don’t know why ... my mother did it so I do it. It does seem to keep the veggies bright green that way. Alternately, you could steam them.

NOTE: Here’s an old wives tale tip for boiling veggies: If it grows above ground, add it to boiling water. If it grows below ground, add it to the water and then bring it to a boil! Works for me!While the beans are a’boilin’, in a sauté pan, sauté a thinly sliced, not minced, clove of garlic in a combo of olive oil and butter. Saute it just enough to take the bite out of the garlic.Remove from the heat, and toss in the cooked beans. Season with sea salt if desired.
Serve! Beans fresh out of the garden are a real treat. It goes without saying that these are gluten free (uh, I just said it though.) I could make an entire meal just out of beans! YUM!