Friday, March 23, 2012

Staying Sharp

Staying sharp is essential to many things. Maintaining relationships, keeping the house clean, blogging, cooking, working, the list goes on. When the little guy arrived, sleep became a luxury and I found myself becoming less sharp. So as I adjusted to the new routine and new responsibilities I looked for new ways to keep myself sharp. I took out my NY Times crossword puzzle books, did the daily Sudoku, and tried to take on blogging challenges. I won’t say that my brain was totally sharp upon my return to work, but I’m getting better! Just don’t judge me when I ask, “What day is it again?”

Like keeping your mind sharp to be more effective, keeping your kitchen knives sharp can boost your efficiency in the kitchen. I love to chop vegetables. Give me a huge pile and a sharp knife and I will happy chop, dice, and mince my way through. After a few years of enthusiastic chopping, however, my knives were starting to lose their edge (literally). Knife sharpening is one of those things you know you should do, but never get around to doing.

Enter Patti Small and On the Edge Knife Sharpening. With Patti around there is no excuse for having dull knives in your kitchen. Since 2008 she has been sharpening kitchen knives (along with other equipment as well). From her home base in Bolton, Massachusetts, Patti travels to farmers markets, specialty stores, and other locations to sharpen on the spot. Her specialty is hand sharpening kitchen knives. Prices are very reasonable - a little maintenance goes a long way in extending the lives of your cutlery. Her sharpening skills are in high demand – make sure you get to the market early in the day to drop off your knives!


Patti was at Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland, MA for the Winter Farmers Market this season. One Saturday I packed up my knives and the little guy and headed out to the market. Don’t worry, the hubby carried the knives and I carried the baby. Those things don’t mix! We arrived at the market and headed straight to see Patti and drop off our knives. After a quick assessment, Patti added our knives to the queue and gave us an estimate of 45 minutes. She put her headphones back in and got to work. We ventured off to make the usual rounds and treated ourselves to an early lunch from our favorite vendors. When we returned laden with bags of bagels, brisket, Doves & Figs jam, and eggs our knives were packed in individual sleeves and ready to go.

When we got home, I took out all the vegetables I could find and started chopping. Wow! What a difference! The knives were like new – perfectly sharpened making chopping, mincing, and dicing a breeze. Just make sure to pay attention! What might have been just a little scratch with your old knives can be a three band-aid cut with your sharpened knives.

So the next time you end up with sore arms from tackling a chopped vegetable dish, check the On the Edge Knife Sharpening website, wrap up your knives, and go find Patti. You’ll be so thankfull that you did!

Disclaimer: I paid a discounted rate for my knife sharpening in exchange for posting about my experience. As usual, all opinions are my own. Patti also gave me permission to use photos and information from her website, Photos not marked were taken by me.

And if you find any typos, please excuse me. The brain sharpening is still a work in progress. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feastie Photo Contest: Eat Write Retreat 2012

As I look through my four years of food photos (too many to count!), I am amazed at the variety of foods I've cooked at home. From sushi and tempura to smoked meats to sinfully gooey Flour sticky buns. I"m practically clawing at the screen wishing it was scratch and sniff!

I'd love to go back to Eat Write Retreat again this year to continue to expand my horizons. New photography skills, writing tips, cooking techniques, and especially new friendships. While I have many favorite photographs, I'll enter this one into the ring and hope that you enjoy it as much as I do!

Besides being a picture that deserves scratch and sniff, this was one of my favorite things I've baked. I present to you Flour Bakery's Throwdown winning sticky buns right from my kitchen. For the original post, click here.

Thanks Feastie for the opportunity to share my photo and have a chance to head back to Eat Write Retreat!

If you are looking for recipes, check out Feastie for a fun way to browse and find delicious new recipes to add to your collection! If you are looking for a fabulous food blogger conference, don't miss the fun at Eat Write Retreat.

Back in the Kitchen: Lindsay Black Ripe Olive-Crusted Salmon served with Green Olive Cous Cous

This is my entry to the contest hosted by Lindsay Olives to win a conference registration to Eat Write Retreat. I had a fabulous time last year and would love to attend again. I hope that you enjoy my post and that I am able to attend EWR12 thanks to Lindsay Olives! 

Eating olives in Spain!
I have never met an olive that I didn't like. From eating them off the tips of my fingers growing up in St. Louis to small plates at the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, I love olives. Family get-togethers aren't complete without a relish tray of pickles and olives to start and our pantry is never short of them. They are a constant in our house and make appearances in many meals.

Lindsay Olives Naturals
Have you ever met someone with olives framed on their dining room wall? Many people hang vacation photos of people, we hung vacation photos of olives.

I challenged myself to use often-used ingredients in a new way to create something delicious for the Lindsay Olives scholarship contest for Eat Write Retreat. After a few months of not cooking, I'm back in the kitchen enjoying the time to be creative. While I don't have unlimited time to spend concocting in the kitchen, with a little bit of planning it is possible to create delicious new dishes to enjoy. I take advantage of  the little guy's nap time and daddy time to prep my ingredients. Then the little guy gets some attention and at the next nap time I cook!

This recipe was a one nap and after bedtime meal. Even though the hubby and I did not eat until almost 9 p.m. we still enjoyed the delicious new flavors of the dish. The flavors and textures created a balanced dish that was, according to the hubby "tasty". He called the salmon "scrumptious" and liked that he got an olive in every bite of the salmon. The olive crust was a little salty, a little sweet, a little tangy, and a little spicy. The creamy flavor of the sockeye salmon was a perfect contrast for the crunchy complex flavor of the olive crust. The sweet and tangy flavor of the cous cous was an excellent complement to the salmon. We both cleaned our plates and wished that there were seconds.

Thanks Lindsay Olives for this opportunity to cook with your delicious olives. And thank you for your generous sponsorship of Eat Write Retreat and scholarship contest. I had a wonderful time meeting you last year at Eat Write Retreat and learning about your family-owned company and 100 years of producing delicious California olives!

Lindsay Black Ripe Olive-Crusted Salmon served with Green Olive Cous Cous

Serves 2
1/2 teaspoon Lindsay black ripe olives, diced
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon orange juice (fresh squeezed)
1 teaspoon chopped thyme (stripped from stem and chopped)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depends on your tolerance for spice)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 - 1 pound salmon fillet
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the broiler in the oven
Place oven rack 6-8 inches below broiler
Line a baking sheet with foil
Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil on the foil
Place salmon skin side down on the oiled foil (if salmon has skin)
Rub the top of the fish with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
In a small bowl, mix together olives, orange zest, orange juice, thyme, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt

Add breadcrumbs and use your hands to combine the mixture well
Spoon mixture onto the top of the salmon and press down with hands, covering the entire piece of fish

Broil for 4-6 minutes for a 1-inch thick fillet (check after 4 minutes)
Fish should be opaque on the outside, it will continue to cook after coming out of the oven

Green Olive Cous Cous

Serves 2
3/4 cup plain cous cous
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped green olives (Lindsay Naturals)
1/4 cup golden raisins
Approximately 2 tablespoons of orange juice (fresh squeezed)
1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme

Measure raisins in a measuring cup, pour orange juice into measuring cup with the raisins and set aside

In a medium saucepan, bring water and olive to a boil over medium-high heat
Add cous cous, stir, cover and remove from heat
Let stand five minutes and then fluff with a fork
Stir in chopped olives, thyme, and the raisins and orange juice
Serve warm with salmon


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