Let me remind you of…Lemon Chicken

But first…I shall recount my day.

It is Saturday.  At 9:30 AM my 17-year-old son comes into my room, sits next to me on the bed where I am still sleeping, and–while cuddling the cat–informs me that he has  been up since 7:30 AM, has showered and washed his hair, and is ready to “do something.”  Dressed in the new long sleeve American Eagle shirt that I got him (at 40% off on the back to school say, mind you), he is looking sharp.  And awake.   So, I head down stairs to make a cup of coffee and find that he has already unpacked my Starbucks VIA (I gave up on coffee makers long ago) and put the little packets in the stainless steel creamer pitcher from my grandmother, just like I do.  Clearly, he has already had his cup.

While sipping on my coffee, I make a few calls to family member on the other coast and catch my mother first.

“It is a beautiful day and Drew and I are going to go do something,” I tell her.

“Isn’t it a blessing to be able to say that and with confidence?” she asks.

It is, I agree.  A beautiful day.  Feeling better.  Mother and son time.

Soon after, we head downtown to the Farmer’s Market where we have an early Ethiopian lunch.  The most tender chicken, golden potatoes, and red sauce with nutmeg and cardamom to soak up in the spongy flatbread or injera. 

A delicious Ethiopian lunch at the Bellingham Farmer’s Market.

Tummies full, we stroll through the market, stopping to smell Red Barn’s heavenly lavender soap slices (made by a now retired math teacher) and admiring the heirloom tomatoes at Tiny’s Organic.  It is a beautiful,  warm early fall day and so we head on to our next destination: Stimpson’s Nature Reserve.

Once onto the trail, we pass the beaver pond and hike up a steady incline for a three-mile loop that will take us deep into the forests so typical of the Pacific Northwest.  Tall cedars and hemlocks line a trail that has become dusty after a dry summer…okay, that parts not so typical.   Sunlight streams through the dense forest.

Waiting for Mom to catch up.

Next on our agenda?  My famous Cowboy Cookies, per his request.  (Bonus recipe below, although no lemon is involved).  🙂  Once home, he settles onto his computer, I find a move on HBO (Sommersby) and the baking begins.

A couple of hours and garage cleaning spree later, it is nearing time for dinner.  We contemplate going to the store for some salmon, but he suggests we just “make something we have here.”  Smart boy.

I check the freezer.  “Mini-tacos, tilapia with Cajun seasoning, or chicken?” I offer.

“Chicken,” he replies.  Very smart boy.

I take two skinless/boneless chicken breasts out to thaw and know just what I will make–after we return from walking the dogs, that is.

Two tired and happy dogs later, I wash my hands in warm, sudsy water and am ready to get cookin’.   I scrub and quarter the Yukon Gold Potatoes and rinse and slice the narrow leafed Lacinato Kale from my bi-weekly Acme Farms and Kitchen local and organic Produce Box.  Both go into pots of boiling salted water.

“It’s going to get loud,” I warn before pounding and tenderizing the chicken breasts till they double in size.  I set half a stick of butter in a large skillet to melt while juicing a Meyer lemon. Some of the juice gets poured over the pulverized side of the chicken so that it soaks into the nooks and crannies and the rest gets added the butter in the skillet.  After flouring the chicken breasts on both sides, I place them in the pan to brown.   I sprinkle a little garlic salt on one side and when ready to turn, a little kosher salt on the other.  When the chicken breasts are nearly done, I add a few fresh rosemary leaves from my herb garden to the chicken breasts.

Meanwhile, more butter, kosher salt, and rosemary leaves are added to the potatoes.  The kale is plated with a dab of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.

We eat.  He is hungry and quiet.  Soon, however, he comments, “The chicken is good!”

“It’s easy,” I tell him.  “Lemon Chicken.”

“But what’s that flavor?” he asks.

“The rosemary?” I suggest.

“No, that flavor on the chicken?” he probes, indicating that something more must be making the chicken so tasty.

I take another bite and can taste what he means.

“Fresh squeezed lemon juice,” I tell him.  “It’s amazing how well pure lemon juice goes with chicken,” I say and he nods in agreement.

I promise to show him how to make it next time.  So easy.  So good.

He cleans his plate.

“There is more of everything,” I tell him.

“I think I’ll just have a little dessert now,” he says.

That means Mom’s homemade Cowboy Cookies and Grandma’s Cake Batter Ice Cream.

What else is a growing boy to do?

Cowboy Cookies
1 c. sweet cream butter with salt (microwaved for 15-seconds)
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 c. old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
1 c. rice crispies
1 c. sweetened flaked coconut (optional but chewy good)
1 c. Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cream brown sugar, sugar, and butter.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and beat till well-blended.  Add flour one cup at a time with soda and salt.  Stir in oatmeal, rice crispies, coconut, and chocolate chips.  Drop by 1 1/2″ cookie scoops onto baking stone or greased cookie sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes.  When you smell ’em they’re done!  Makes three dozen yummy cookies.

Chewy cowboy Cookies. Chocolate, coconut, rice crispies and oats.

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A Little Kind of Funk

I’ve always been happy, and proud, of my home.  It has been a labor of love, a matter of pride that I bought it and decorated it completely on my own.  For ten solid years, I have had no desire to move or live anywhere else.  Until last Friday night.  I’ve never cared before that I don’t have all the upgrades.  I’ve been in many beautiful, larger, finer homes and have never felt less satisfied with mine upon returning home.  But something about the fact that this women, living a similar lifestyle, in a similar neighborhood, and with comparable square footage, also enjoys black quartz countertops with flecks of mica that light up like stars, stainless steel appliances, mahogany cabinetry and wood floors, contemporary porcelain sinks, expansive windows (and that was just the downstairs), gave me pause for the first time.  Suddenly, I became aware that her home makes mine scream “entry-level!”  I know I am lucky to be where I am, I know it’s not healthy to covet, but there you have it.  I’m in a little kind of funk. 

Helleborus, daffodils, and Winter Hazel from the garden. In bloom now.

So I remind myself, that part of what I love about my home, is its large backyard adjacent to the tall towering pines of a green belt.  I have invested a lot of money turning this blank canvas of a yard into a lovely garden through the purchase of topsoil, various trees, shrubs, roses, grasses, fruit trees, perennials, and more.  I have invested back-breaking hours of labor that saw me through a divorce and earned me a bulging disk from removing sod, carving out curved beds all along the perimeter, shoveling top soil and mulch, planting and moving, planting and moving again, weeding and raking, and so on.  But, after ten years in my home and yard, the intensive labor is losing its therapeutic value or perhaps the therapeutic value is now lost on me.  And, the luster of everything shiny and new is wearing off.  Again, I know I have it good.  I am thankful, really I am.  But…

By now, you are probably thinking, “Uh, I must be on the wrong blog!” or “What does all that have to do with lemons? Besides feeling bittersweet?”

Well, at the same time these thoughts and feelings have been rising to the surface , I have been wanting to post about what’s in bloom now in my absolute favorite shade of yellow for the garden: lemon chiffon.  You may remember from my Which Hazel is for You? post that I am not a fan of the  bright yellow forsythia color, but I do love the soft yellow of Winter Hazel and the 100 daffodil bulb blooms that I planted last fall and am now seeing for the first time.  I suppose I could have just skipped to the chase and featured those blooms and those blooms alone, but I couldn’t help but want to write about all that went with getting to the point of harvesting them on a Sunday evening after a beautiful sunny, but somewhat perplexing day. 

Winter Hazel blooms, buttery yellow in a cup.

So, while allowing myself the luxury, er, necessity, of doing what I’ve always loved: working in the yard and pruning (great therapy) and making beautiful bouquets (reaping the rewards) to share with the office tomorrow (bringing joy to the world),  I also weed out those pesky little white flower clumps and purple clusters of leaves that mimic every other new plant so well,  before they can seed and choke out the plants that I want to grow.  And while I weed, I sort through thoughts.  Then, I cut back the roses, hydrangea branches, old perennial seed stalks, and overgrown Mid-Winter Fire Dogwood.  I prune the winter-burned leaves and branches of the Razzle-Dazzle Chinese Witch Hazel, and finally rake all the debris and add it to the compost.   I take a break to make my son gourmet gouda mac and cheese, steamed asparagus, and brownies.  I take a few Ibuprofen for the stiffening lower back.

And just before dusk settles in,  I focus in on selecting what’s in bloom now  for the bouquet.  Still, as I cut and arrange, I find myself wondering, “If I move someday soon and downsize the backyard for a few homey upgrades, can I take the prize Messel star magnolia and the Ryan’s weeping Snow Bell trees?  Can I have the pots of Razzle-Dazzle Fringe Flower that need winter shelter and tender loving care?   And the Winter Hazel whose arching branches of lemon chiffon bells bring me such joy in early spring?  Surely no one would miss them with all the other specimens ready to fill their place. 

Nothing says spring with more abundance than a bouquet of lemon chiffon Winter Hazel branches, buttery daffodils, Chartreuse Euphorbia heads, and nodding Hellebores Orientalis and Niger blooms in aubergine and eggplant.

Perhaps I am entering a new phase, one that will take years to transition into.  Noticing my garden friends, enjoying them while I can, but coming to the realization that the sheer amount of upkeep is beginning to infringe upon other things I might want to do with my time and space, both physically and monetarily–like blogging, or travel, or taking pictures, or exploring other forms of creativity.  But for now, I hope the flowers I bring to the office tomorrow do bring others a little joy.   And I hope the Vitamin D that I absorbed from the sun today kicks in real soon!

A boquet from my garden. Note: the daffodils appear a little overexposed. Their petals are very pale yellow like the buds and centers are medium yellow. Soft and lovely.