Monday, June 30, 2008

Today's Hoekman Family Happenings

Jacob spending time with his Mommy.
Jacob at big brother Justin's swimming lesson. How cute does he look in his hat and big boy outfit?
Justin working hard and having fun in the sun.
Future Olympian?
That's our boy.
The new house now has "wall bones!"
John and Bob working hard.
John at work.

Tonight's Dinner - Parmesan Chicken

This is one of those recipes I have been making for so many years I can do it in my sleep. It still remains a favorite in our house.

Parmesan Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
Dry bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese, grated
Good-quality olive oil

Pound the chicken between sheets of wax paper until they are around 1/4-inch thick. Combine the flour and black pepper in one plate. On a second plate, beat eggs with a touch of water. On a third plate, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with flour, then dip in egg, and then dredge in bread crumb mixture, pressing lightly.
Heat about 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillt and cook chicken in batches on medium to medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil to cook more chicken breasts.
Serve with lemon wedges on the side to squeeze over chicken. This is also nice served on top of mixed greens dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Tonight I served it with fresh tomatoes and basil dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and pasta tossed with olive oil and a little garlic.

Amalfi Baked Lemons

JJ, a Foodie friend of mine gave me this recipe to try since she knows I have a lot of Meyer lemons to use from my garden. I made it this afternoon as an appetizer for David and I. Delicious, full of fresh flavors and simple to prepare. I baked them with fresh lemon leaves under each one which made for a nice presentaion and added flavor. I found the anchovies to be overpowering. I think next time I will omit them and sprinkle with kosher salt instead. Take into consideration that I am not a huge fan of anchovies to begin with, though do like a touch of their flavor in certain things. See recipe below.

Amalfi Baked Lemons (Limoni di amalfi coti al forno) serves 4
2 large unwaxed lemons
1 or 2 5 oz balls of buffalo mozzarella, sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
4 fresh basil leaves
2 anchovy fillets
2 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and freshly ground black pepper
optional: 1 dried red chili, crumbled
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Remove the ends of the lemons and discard them, then cut the lemons in half crossways, giving you 4 1-inch-thick disks. Now, using a small knife, remove the lemon flesh, leaving you with 4 hollow circles of skin. Basically what we're going to do is flavor the mozzarella and push it inside the lemon skin so that it absorbs the lovely lemon flavor when it bakes.Now, the mozzarella is obviously going to melt and ooze out when baked. In Italy, a lemon leaf is placed underneath each one to keep everything in place, but it's fine to use a square of waxed paper to do the same thing.
So lay a waxed-paper square or a lemon leaf on a cutting board and place one of your lemon skin "wheels" on top. Cut a piece of mozzarella to fit inside, then lay a basil leaf, half an anchovy fillet, and half a cherry tomato on top with a small pinch of salt and pepper. Add a little dried chili if you like. Put another slice of mozzarella on top - the lemon skin should now be filled up. Do the same to the rest of the wheels, place them on a baking sheet, and cook in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve with some hot grilled crositini. Simply scoop the mozzarella out, eat with the toast, and mop up any juices. Delicious!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Are You A Cat Lover?

Everyone knows David and I are. We have 4 little sweeties of our own. Aunt Vaden sent me the link to this video of a cat sanctuary in Southern California. It's such a wonderful place I wanted to share it with everyone. We all have a purpose and you have to love this woman and hers.

To view the video of this amazing place for our furry friends, go to

Today's Lunch - Caprese Salad

I made a Caprese salad for lunch today. Fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, cracked black pepper and good-quality olive oil. What could be more delicious and simple? Just slice tomatoes from your garden or local farmer's market, top each with a slice of fresh mozzarella (be sure it is fresh mozzarella, not those rubbery balls we all used years ago to make lasagna), top with fresh basil (I like to chiffonade the basil, some like to put whole basil leaves on top of each tomato), sprinkle with good-quality olive olive and freshly ground black pepper.

Notes: The presentation of this dish is spectacular and the taste amazing when you use a variety of colored and different shaped Heirloom tomatoes: red, orange, yellow, green, striped, pink, purple.

A Non-Profit I Am Very Excited About

In a time we are all concerned about the environment, obesity, what is in our food and where it comes from, and the high cost of food and gas I have learned about a nonprofit in our area that I think is wonderful. They are called Soil Born Farms and are organic producers. Their goal is to bring fresh affordable produce to locals. They are growing the produce locally on 25 acres they have leased from Sacramento County. Right here in my own backyard so to speak. They have also been in discussions with the regions largest developer, Angelo K. Tsakopoulis who took the nonprofit on a tour of potential farm sites on his properities. When you think of it, the cost of fuel alone justifies putting more farms in locally.

They have lines at their produce stands which includes even some of the top local restaurants such as The Esquire Grill and The Kitchen, as well as stores such as Whole Foods and the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.

But their mission goes far beyond feeding the affluent. Their main goal is to provide affordable, fresh vegetables to lower-income populations hit hard by the obesity epidedemic. The farm runs a farmers market in Del Paso Heights and farm stands at Head Start Programs.

It also runs Youth Corps, a volunteer program for students from 13 to 18 years old to help on the farm. The students learn to cook the food they grow, and they get to bring some home. Soil Born makes donations to food banks as well. I believe I read that about 30% of the produce is distributed that way. They would like to see it go much higher.

Their plans for the American River Site include an orchard, a kitchen and an outdoor classroom.

They have so many visions; they would like to see urban farms open up all around the region -- in exisiting neighborhoods and new ones. I think the possibilties for this non-profit are endless, and I for one am very excited about what they are doing. This is an organization I want to help by voluntering.

It's interesting, quite a few years ago, my neighbor Deborah and I were discussing taking a piece of county land right next to our community if the county allowed it, and turn it into a community garden. The county didn't go for it. Soil Born has taken the same concept, however turned it into a much bigger picture. One I support wholeheartedly.

Friday, June 27, 2008

This Morning in the Garden

The sun this morning in the smoke-filled sky. This was at 7 AM when I was in the garden watering.

Lillies of the Nile (agapanthus) These originally came from plants from Grandma Alice's house, and my parents house (the one I grew up in). They were in our yard at the bay area house for years. Before putting our house up for sale 8 years ago, we divided some of the plants and potted some to take with us to our new home. And here they are.

One of the hibicus we have left in the garden. They are hard for us to keep going here. There used to be quite a few in the garden, and this is the last survior. That is not completely true; Bob and Linda recently gave us a beautiful orange one. It's just lovely.
The crepe myrtles are starting to bloom along the inside fence line of the yard. The ones on the street side of the house are in bloom as well.

Rustic Plum and Port Tart

Today I tried a new recipe for a rustic plum tart with a Port reduction syrup. It's simple, quick to prepare and delicious! The only difference from the original recipe that I did, was I used a California Port instead of a Tawny Port. The Port I used is from Chateau Ruton who makes a Port that is not as sweet as most which I like. This is the recipe I used:

Port reduction with brown sugar and Allspice.
Plums and Port syrup in the crust, sprinkled with brown sugar. It's ready for the oven.
Right out of the oven. Sure smells good!
I cut it just a few minutes after removing it from the oven.
I served it topped with vanilla bean ice cream and drizzled with more Port syrup.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smoke Filled Skies

The 1000 plus fires here in California has filled the air with hazy smoke. In our area there isn't even a touch of a breeze, so the air quality is very dangerous right now. There is talk that by this weekend we will have some air movement that will lessen the thick smoke filled layers. I pray that is true.

The sun trying to show through the hazy, smoked filled sky.
I took this picture from the front of our house shooting down the street to my left. Where it looks over-exposed is actually hazy, smoked filled air. It is that low.
Dirty and ugly. We have stayed in the house as much as possible this week.


Justin having a blast jumping off the diving board.

Justin's swim instructor says that he is the only one so far that has the swim kick down correctly. The other kids kicks are more the tread water type at this point. Go Jus!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Roasted Chicken

Tonight we had roasted chicken for dinner. It's a favorite of ours. This preparation makes a moist, juicy bird, with crsipy skin every time. Best of all if you want to make gravy, the pan juices are flavored with herb, garlic, lemon and onion. Here's the recipe:

1 5 lb whole chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch of thyme, rosemary, tarragon, or herb of your choice (my fav is thyme)
1 Meyer lemon, halved (or any lemon you have on hand)
1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove giblets; rinse chicken, remove excess fat, and pat the chicken dry. Place in a roasting pan.
Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of the lemon and garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wings under the body of the chicken. Place the onion slices around the chicken.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours. When removed from oven, cover with foil for 10 to 15 minutes.

Want to make gravy? Remove all the fat from the bottom of the pan, reserving 2 tablespoons in a small cup. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the pan and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, until reduced, scraping the bottom of the pan. Combine 2 tablespoons of chicken fat with 2 tablespoons flour and add to the pan. Boil for a few minutes to cook the flour. Strain the gravy into a small sacuepan and season it to taste. Keep warm while you carve the chicken. Serve the roasted onions with the chicken.

Cucumber Sandwich Recipe

I have received requests for my recipe to make cucumber sanwiches. I originally received this recipe from my brother Ron years ago. It is definitely my favorite. Here is the recipe:

1/4 cucumber
1/2 teaspoon wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Softened butter
4 slices white bread
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh dill or dried dill

Peel cucumber, then cut into paper thin slices. Place in a colander and sprinkle with vinegar and salt. Leave 30 minutes.

Pat cucumber slices dry on papeer towels. (Make sure the are dried well.) Butter both sides of bread. Arrange cucumber slices on 2 bread slices. Season with pepper and dill to taste. Cover with remaining slices and press together. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out 2 from each sandwich. Arrange on a serving plate and garnish with dill sprigs if desired.

Hoekman Happenings

Great-Grandma Hoekman meets Jacob.
Great-Granpa Hoekman and Jacob.
Justin's swimming class grows and he is thrilled about it.
Kick those feet!
Justin doing the breast stroke.
Just watch me now!
Jacob and his comforting thumb.

Lumber for framing Jen and John's house.
Bob and John working hard.
That's a lot of lumber.
Justin having fun out at the work site.
Jacob sleeping in his new bedroom.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Learning to Play Mah Jong

I am learning to play Mah Jong. I have been curious and wanted to know how to play this game since reading Amy Tam's books. The version we play is an Americanized version which is not played exactly the same way as the Chinese version. There is a lot of jargon to learn as well as rules, and though you have to plan and think with this game (which I like) it is also a game of chance like all games are. Both Averill and I had a "teacher" helping us play each game. There will be many more teaching games which we play slowly, until I am ready to play in a fast moving group. Especially since you have to pay the winner of each game!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Current Stage of Construction - Jen & John's House

This is where things stood the end of last week. They are coming along getting the framing up. It's hard to believe that John & his Dad are doing all the work alone, except for a little help from Linda and David. They work hard out there all week.

You can see here how high they had to go up form ground level.