Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fried Strawberry Rhubarb Pies

As promised, here are the fried pies.

The filling from yesterday was a bit thin for this, so I added about a tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in a couple tablespoons of water to it. I heated it over medium heat in a saucepan until it thickened. let it cool, and used it to fill the pastry. You could use anything to fill fried pies-I have frozen lemon curd on hand-I should have tried it. Oh well, maybe next time.

The crust is just standard pie crust pastry.

It helps to cut the circles and place them on a baking sheet to chill in the fridge before filling. I always give them another quick roll before dabbing the filling in the centre. Seal them well with a fork and fry in very hot fat. If your fat isn't hot, they will absorb too much and be greasy.

Drain them on a rack over a pan to prevent them getting soggy (don't use paper towels). Make a glaze of confectioner's sugar and water and pour over still-hot pies. Cool before serving.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Danny's Blue Cheese Dressing

Danny helped me develop this recipe and he did most of the jar shaking to emulsify the dressing-I thought it only fair to give him credit.

We worked with what we had in the fridge, and it turned out fantastic.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup yoghurt, drained through cheesecloth for a couple hours to thicken
1/2 cup creme fresh (look, I am soooo, not going to look up the French spelling-deal with it)
1/2 cup whole milk
2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
(about) 4 oz. blue cheese (I used Amablue, from Iowa. I know Maytag blue has the great reputation, but this was half the price and good enough for a four year old's palette. It was good enough for the 48 year old as well).

Chop the cheese into tiny pieces and put everything in a jar with a lid. Let your kid go crazy shaking it. After he's exhausted and goes off to read comic books in bed, sneak the dressing into the blender for a quick mix. You want to keep some of the pieces of cheese.

Chill before serving.

Sicilian Cauliflower With Fettucini

I should have used homemade pasta for this, but I was just too tired. There's a lesson in that-keep the freezer stocked with homemade pasta! Anyway, it was still a successful recipe that even Dannypants enjoyed.

I get into a rut with cauliflower-roasted with olive oil and paprika, curry, or steamed and served with butter and salt. I've never made a cauliflower bake that I've liked (or eaten one, honestly though my husband enjoyed one coated in Stilton in a pub somewhere in London that I can't quite remember-but come on-it was coated in Stilton, I should think that would save even the worst cauliflower bake). Growing up, my mother put raw cauliflower in salads because she'd read somewhere that it would help with weight loss. I never could stomach more than a piece or two of the stuff raw-it didn't seem worth being thin.

Enter, a child that is in love with cauliflower. Danny would eat cauliflower raw, probably to the point of illness. Boiled and mashed, roasted, baked in a flabby gratin-he doesn't care. When we go shopping each week, I let Danny select 1 vegetable and 1 fruit-within reason. I'm not buying ten dollar a pound cherries in December. Not surprisingly, he usually likes what he selects, the exception being those "baby" kiwi that look like grapes. The idea is that they bred all the acidity out of them, which sounds great-if you like a cloyingly sweet kiwi. We couldn't eat them, though Danny really did give it his best effort. Anyway, this week cauliflower was affordable and that was the choice.

Until I read THIS recipe, it would never have occurred to me to include raisins and anchovies in the same dish. It worked. I honestly wondered what I was about to serve my family, but it really came together nicely. I substituted sunflower seeds for the pine nuts and I toasted my own breadcrumbs from sourdough bread, but otherwise, I followed the recipe and ended up with a great new way to serve cauliflower. I think this might be the dish that changes the way I feel about cauliflower.

I served it with a spinach salad for which Danny made a wonderful blue cheese dressing I will share in another post.

Rhubarb and Custard (and Strawberry)

A new twist on an old traditional favourite. This year, I used some frozen strawberries to stretch the two slender stalks of rhubarb in hopes that Danny might eat it (he hasn't quite developed a taste for tart things). Worked as predicted, he tried a spoonful of the filling and declared it "perfect." I guess I can't ask for much more than that.

Usually, I roast rhubarb and you can see an earlier recipe for rhubarb and custard HERE. The rhubarb sorbet was pretty magnificent as well.

The sauce I made today is really a loose jam and I plan to use the extra as a filling for fried pies later in the week (if it lasts that long). I didn't do exacting measures because I was working in such a small batch. I often don't measure precisecly when making sauces/jam that won't be going through the canner. This is forgiving as you just keep cooking it until you get the thickness you want. A little more or less water isn't a big deal. Here's aproximately what I used for the rhubarb-the custard recipe that follows is a bit more exacting.

For The Rhubarb/Strawberry Sauce:

2 cups whole frozen strawberries
2 long, slender stalks of rhubarb (they were quite young, so I didn't bother peeling them) chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water

Put it all in a pot and cook over medium heat until reduced to a suitable thickness-I like mine as a loose jam, but if you overcook it, no big deal, just thin some down in a pan before serving it.

For The Cornstarch Custard:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks. Slowly, whisk -in the milk over medium heat. Bring to a boil, cook one minute longer and remove from heat. Whisk-in the butter and extract. Pour into a heatproof bowl, press clingfilm onto the surface and puncture in several places with the tip of a sharp knife. Cool at room temperature ten minutes, then in fridge twenty. Remove film, stir and transfer to smaller container. Cover and stir again in another half hour. If cooled, pour into serving glasses and layer with sauce. Cover well until serving time.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Inexpensive Fun

I really wanted to take Danny to see the Harlem globetrotters this weekend, but the cheapest tickets were $21.00 and we just can't (I won't) spend that kind of money entertaining a four year old. So we went to Morril Hall instead (The natural history museum at UNL) and the whole family got in for ten bucks and parked right in front. Much better.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Neat Camera Tricks

Still figuring out how to use the new camera. What I would ever want the negative feature for, I can't say-but look how weird it is. Ooooooh, freaky.

Veggie Paella

When my mother-in-law visited India, she brought back quite a bit of saffron and I was a happy recipient of some. This is such good quality stuff, I almost feel guilty using it for anything as simple as a paella. Still, it has a shelf life, so I'm using it (you can only bake so many saffron buns) and really enjoying it.

You can ask a hundred different cooks and get a hundred different paella recipes. We thought this one was quite good, but I really only added the veggie chorizo because I had a bit leftover from another dish and didn't want to waste. It didn't add much to the dish, and you could easily omit it.

It was really my day for finishing off odds and ends-the last of my Basmati rice, half a bag of frozen peas, a couple bunches of scallions. I love when I can use up every last bit of something-I almost feel like a competent homemaker.

You Will Need:
1/2 teaspoon saffron soaked in 1/4 cup water for at least two hours
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 small carrots thinly matchsticked
2 red peppers, thinly matchsticked
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
2 bunches scallions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 Italian Roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cups cooked peas
Veggie Chorizo, if desired
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup Basmati rice

In a large pan that has a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, garlic, peppers, and peel. Cook until softened-about five minutes. Drain the saffron and add with paprika to pan. Add the rice and cook about a minute, stirring to coat the rice well. Add the tomatoes and cook another two minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Boil two minutes, then add the peas. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook ten minutes. At this point, stir to prevent the rice from sticking and check to see if it needs more water-it should not be all absorbed. Add up to 1/4 cup more water if needed. Add parsley, replace lid and cook another 5-7 minutes until water is absorbed. If using chorizo, add the cooked sausage at the last before serving.

Homemade Butter With Apricots

We had a few dried apricots leftover from the pate, so I soaked them, chopped them and worked them into a stick of homemade, salted butter. The sweet/salty thing works great, perhaps too great as Danny keeps asking if he can have a spoonful of butter-he doesn't even want it with a cracker or piece of bread.

You could puree the apricots smooth if you don't like chunks of fruit, but we kind like it this way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Apricot Pate de Fruit-Completed

They worked beautifully, and set-up in a couple hours. Danny declared them excellent.

Recipe, HERE.

Apricot Pate de Fruit-Day One

I won't know until tomorrow if it sets up or not (it needs to chill overnight) but I'm optimistic. I'll post the recipe when they are completed.

The recipe was kind of vague ("Cook until thick") which isn't helpful with candy making, but I think it is going to work. This recipe called for gelatin (cheating) and even if it works, I fully intend trying it with powdered pectin and that little tub of glucose syrup I have sitting in the pantry waiting to be used.

It took a whole pint of my precious apricot preserves from last summer-so it had better set!

In the morning I'll cut it in squares and roll in sanding sugar. If these keep well, I might send them out for Easter instead of the usual cookies and chocolates. Keep your fingers crossed.

They sure do smell delicious.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Raisin Rolls Baked In Toaster Oven

These are just a basic white bread with raisins, but my oven isn't tall enough to accomodate loaves. I baked these in 9 inch glass pie plates. Although I could only do one dish at a time, they were fine-took about twenty minutes.

They do tend to brown up a bit on the top and as I had a similar reaction with the cake yesterday, I think it really might help to use the convection feature-I'll try that tomorrow.

Although I have a new oven on the way to me, it is still good to know the toaster oven can handle bread-it might be handy when I don't want to heat up the kitchen in July.

Bean Salad

I'm going to serve this over rice for dinner with sour cream and tortillas. It would also make an excellent cold salad, or filling for a wrap.

You Will Need:

1 small tin black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small tin garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
8-10 tinned Italian tomatoes, seeded and drained
1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Olive Oil for cooking
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mild chili powder

In a large pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until just soft. Add everything else and cook for a few minutes longer for spices to absorb. remove from heat, and either serve immediately or chill for later use.

Monday, March 23, 2009

We're Fine

But I could kill Mr. Eat The Blog.

I was waiting for him to get home in the storm and I look out the window and see an unfamiliar truck pull up. I didn't have my glasses on to see who was driving. My heart jumped because really, for a second I was convinced he'd been killed on the road and they were coming to tell me.

By the time I was through screaming at him he probably wished he had been killed on the road.

Seems Mr. Eat The Blog dropped his car off at the mechanic for repairs and borrowed his truck. I guess he forgot to mention it.

I really, really hate this weather, particularly so early in the season.

First Trip To The Storm Cellar

*update-it IS a wall cloud, it has been confirmed by a storm spotter.

We just came back up, but I suspect a new warning will be issued at some point before this night is over. Glad I cleaned out the storm cellar, but it still has a dirt floor, cobwebs, etc.

Danny did great-he's in charge of flashlights and the weather radio. Mr. Eat The Blog is...and I say this with love, a complete idiot. He's driving home while there are warnings all around southern Lancaster county where he works. They just reported 128 MPH straight line winds to the south of where he works. As I said, I love him, but he's an idiot.

We still have power, but it just started getting windy again and raining. Looking out the window, I see what to my un-trained eye sure as hell looks like a developing wall cloud. I dunno, I think I'm headed back down-I gotta trust my gut on this stuff.

I guess Danny's right-asparagus brings tornadoes. Last time I made asparagus there was a tornado and today I made some and well, look at the weather report.

70 MPH Winds? That's A Hurricane!

I'm sitting here watching all the topsoil blow away and hoping we don't lose power. We have our first severe thunderstorm/tornado watch of the season underway. It would actually figure, seeing how the tornado damaged siding/front porch from last June were replaced last weekend. I'd like to enjoy them for at least a week, 'ya know? Man, that wind is fierce.

In other news, we ordered the new oven and it is arriving around the 6th. We spotted the one we wanted at the Nebraska Furniture Mart-but I loathe that place. So we jotted down the model number and asked Ernie's if they could order the stove and meet the price-turns out they can. Super-duper. Even better, I'll have a brand new oven to get filthy cooking that other leg of lamb for Easter.

I did bake a small cake in the toaster/convection oven today and it worked out fine. I'd forgotten how well that thing worked (DeLonghi) but then I remembered it cost quite a bit when we bought it a decade ago. I do remember Mr. Eat The Blog dragging me off to the expensive kitchen store in the Back Bay (Boston) to buy it, but that was before you could get every oddball make of kitchen gadget on the Internet. Anyway, it fired right up and worked great. It has a convection/dehydrator function that I'd also forgotten about, so maybe some fruit leather is in my future.

I'm going to go open up the storm cellar for a good airing out now-just in case. I don't really believe the Universe would send us another tornado, but keeping the storm cellar clear and batteries in the flashlights probably isn't a bad idea anyway. Maybe I'll make myself a cup of coffee while I'm at it-in case it is a long night. I should probably finish off that carton of malted milk balls too-it would be a shame if those fell victim to a severe storm.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dry Potato And Pea Curry

Quick, delicious and uses up those last few red potatoes sitting in the bin.

From Curry And Chilli Cookbook

You Will Need:

2 tablespoons ghee
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, cubed small
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup green peas
2 tablespoons chopped mint

Heat ghee, onion, garlic and ginger in a large pot and cook until onion is soft. Add the turmeric, chili powder, cumin, garam masala and potato. Stir until potato is coated with spices and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the water and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add the peas, stir well and cover again. Cook another five minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the mint and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

(Another) Chickpea Curry

I know, I know-how many ways can you make chickpea curry? Well, actually this one is somewhat unique as it calls for paprika, which I've never run across in Indian cookery. So there, unique.

It certainly came together fast, which was great because after spending the day at the circus, I really didn't feel like complicated cooking.

From Confident Cooking Curry and Chilli [sic] Cookbook, Bay Books, Australia

You Will Need:

1 tablespoon ghee
2 onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 lb. tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
14 oz. tin chopped tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon garam masala

Heat ghee in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic cooking until onion is soft. Add the chili powder, salt, turmeric, paprika, cumin, and corriander. Cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and tomatoes. Simmer, covered on low heat for 20 minutes. Stir in the garam masala. Cover and simmer another ten minutes.

I served this over rice.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spiced Grape Compote

Over vanilla ice cream, this was the perfect dessert after a spicy tofu and red curry dinner.

You Will Need:

About a pound of grapes cut in half-I mixed red and green
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
6 whole cloves
12 whole peppercorns

Over high heat, whisk the sugar and water together until it is dissolved and comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add spices and simmer until syrup thickens and coats the spoon (about ten minutes.

Remove from heat, strain out spices through a fine sieve. Place grapes in a heatproof dish and pour the syrup over. Cool slightly, then chill several hours or overnight before serving.

The Beauty Of The Rice Krispie Treat

They were never one of my favourite sweets, until the oven broke. Now, I find myself turning to them often as a quick dessert, but I can't resist jazzing them up.

I laugh a bit at recipes that specify "use the freshest marshmallows available." That is pure idiocy. Go ahead and use the ones that are all clumped together in a ball-you're only going to melt them anyway.

I've found that melting chocolate into the butter/marshmallow mixture makes them taste better (well yeah, no kidding, eh?) and they seem to keep a bit longer as well. You can reverse the proportions for white and dark chocolate depending what sort of a mood you're in. I've topped them with melted caramel as well as malted milk balls, though the milk balls got a bit chewy after a day or so. I haven't tried mixing powdered malt directly into the mixture-but there is always next week.

You Will Need:

6 cups marshmallow
6 cups rice cereal
4 tablespoons butter
3 squares melted white chocolate
2 squares melted bittersweet chocolate

Melt the butter and marshmallows over low heat in a large heavy pot. Remove from heat, stir in the white chocolate and mix in the rice cereal. Mix well. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Press in firmly. Pour bittersweet chocolate over top in drizzles. Let cool. When firm and chocolate has dried, cut into squares and wrap tightly in clingfilm.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spinach Pasta

You know how it is, once you discover how great a new appliance is, you use it every day for like, a year. Expect a great deal of fresh pasta in the coming months.

These were really special, and bear no resemblance to commercial "green" noodles. As an aside, I was speaking with someone yesterday who is my age and has never eaten spinach. I don't know why I find this so astounding, but I do. I promised to bring her some calzone next time I make it, but it dawned on me that pasta might be an easier introduction.

This made a very generous amount of pasta with plenty for freezing.

You Will Need:

1 box frozen spinach-cooked, drained and squeezed dry of all liquid in a dishtowel
3 extra large egg yolks and 1 whole extra large egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup semolina flour
2-3 cups all purpose flour, plus about a cup extra for dusting before putting through rollers

In a bowl, beat the eggs until very light. Beat in the water, oil, salt and half the spinach. When spinach is broken up somewhat, add the rest and beat until well distributed without any clumps. Beat in the semolina. Beat in just enough of the all purpose flour until it comes together. At that point, remove to a floured work surface and add flour by hand, kneading it in until you have a very stiff dough. You will really get a workout, but give it a thorough hand kneading of about five minutes.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and let rest 20 minutes.

Because of the spinach, it will be a bit sticky so you'll need to generously flour each piece before running it through the pasta maker, and again before sending it through the cutting blades. After the pasta is cut, drag it through the flour one more time and set it on a rack to dry off a bit before freezing or cooking. I let mine sit about two hours and it was fine.

I did not cook these at a full rolling boil as I was afraid they might be delicate. Turns out they were not, and held together fine. I'd put them in boiling water to start, but then reduce it to medium high for the next eight minutes or so. It will depend how thick you ran them, so check frequently until you reach the desired tenderness.

Really, I had no idea what I was missing-these green noodles rock.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hubby Undermining My Homeschooling Efforts

From the next room my son calls:

"Mama? What is the name of Thor's hammer?"
"Thor's hammer?"
"Yes. Papa said it is "Whack a mole", but I don't think that's right.
"Sigh. Mjollnir. Not Whack-a-mole."
(Husband calls from next room) "I knew it was mole-something."

Anyone know how to say "Papa is an idiot" in Old Norse?

Salmon With Maple/Balsamic Glaze With Warm Fruit

You can tell it is Lent in Nebraska-the grocer had Scottish Salmon for $7.99 a pound. My Scotsman does not care for salmon much (stranger still, being from Seattle and all) but had to admit is was pretty tasty prepared this way. Personally, I think it is dill he dislikes more than salmon, so I avoided the typical preparation of dill and capers in butter sauce.

A one pound fillet fed three of us generously with vegetables, fruit and rice. The glaze may be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge until needed-then, simply warm it through and pour over the fish.

For The Glaze:

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
6 dried figs, halved
6 dried apricots, halved
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium heat. Cook until reduced to a syrup (should reduce by about 1/4). Cool, then cover and chill until needed, or use immediately.

For The Fruit/Vegetable Side:

Olive oil3-4 tablespoons
6 stalks celery, trimmed, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 small hard variety apples (I used Gala) cut into eighths
A handful of red grapes
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
Salt and Pepper

For The Salmon:

Rub both sides of salmon with olive oil. Heat a pan (cast iron is best) over medium-high heat and cook about 4-5 minutes per side until done. Drizzle with warm maple/balsamic glaze

Blackberry No-Bake Cheesecake On Blueberry Zweiback Crust

Still without an oven, so it is another inspired no-bake dessert.

You Will Need:

For the Crust:

1 package Jacobsen's Snack Toast in Blueberry
6-8 tablespoons of butter

Crush the toasts, mix with melted butter and press into pie dish. Chill.

For The Filling:

1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 cup whipped cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the cream and set aside. Beat the cream cheese with the sugar until very light. Beat in juice and extract. Add the whipped cream and continue beating until very smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust.

For The Topping:

4 cups frozen blackberries
1/2 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

Bring to a boil and cook over moderate heat until it reaches the gelling point. Remove from heat, chill completely before using to top cheesecake.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Absurdly Long Recipe Alert! Two Cheese Ravioli And Sauce

Get Your Rolling Pin
Make some ravioli
Serve it with sauce
Or plain with butter
Look, no filling leaked out in the pot! That's some good ravioli sealing
Get your mother-in-law to give you her fancy, Italian pasta maker.

A while back, my mother-in-law brought me her old pasta maker as a gift. I promptly put it in a cabinet and forgot about it. I'd always rolled pasta with a pin, and it never really dawned on me that the machine would be easier-I thought the results would be purely cosmetic.

The disk in my neck was killing me today, so I dragged out the box and decided to try it. Somewhat amusingly, there was a note from TSA in the box saying they had inspected it (I guess it probably did seem like a big heavy metal object to be carrying in checked luggage) and found everything in order. Curiously there was also a sheet of paper with a recipe for pasta on it that was not in my mother's hand. I'm wondering if the inspector was a jokester. "Franco's Pasta" does not sound like my mother-in-law's sort of thing. Anyway, I cleaned it up and tried it out for these ravioli and well, what do you know-it is easier! Thanks, Anne!

I didn't have a recipe (except of course for the mysterious Franco's) so I improvised one based on my regular egg noodles exchanging semolina and adding a tablespoon of olive oil. It worked well, though I would use just slightly less salt were I to make it again. Mr. Eat The Blog thought it was just right, so perhaps that is a matter of taste.

The filling was equally improvised based on what was in my fridge. That ended up being cottage cheese, some Pepato cheese and chopped parsley. This was perfect to serve with a red sauce.

I suppose it is now dangerous that I have discovered how easy making ravioli is with the help of a pasta maker-I see some salmon/tarragon ravioli in the immediate future.

You Will Need:

For The Pasta:

3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg (I used Extra large) Reserve egg whites for brushing the ravioli closed
3 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon salt (less if you like)
1 tablespoon olive oil
(about) 3 cups semolina flour

For The Filling:

4 cups 4% cottage cheese (any size curd will do-I had large) drained through cheesecloth in a strainer and then squeezed dry of most liquid. If you plan ahead, it can drain in the fridge overnight.
1 cup (This is quite a bit, I know) finely grated Pepato cheese (sheep's milk with peppercorns) or any hard cheese you prefer.
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

Mash it all together until it is well blended-can be made a day ahead.

For The Sauce:

I don't think I've ever made the same spaghetti sauce twice, but this one was particularly good-and meatless.

2 tins of 28 ounce whole Italian tomatoes
4 tins of 15 ounce tomato sauce
1 tiny tin of tomato paste
Olive oil-about 4 tablespoons to start-may need more
1 cup chopped olives (I used Kalamata and Sicilian)
1-2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
8 carrots, peeled, and chopped small
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
a handful of fresh, chopped parsley
A generous grinding of fresh black pepper

Sauce Instructions:

In a large, heavy pot (not aluminum) heat the oil. Add the onion, carrots, garlic, pepper, bay leaves, spices and pepper. Cook over medium heat until softened. Add the tomatoes (and juice), sauce and paste. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a very slow simmer. Cover and cook several hours. I let mine go about five. Give it a stir once in a while. Taste, adjust seasonings if needed and add more olive oil if you prefer a richer sauce.

I try to cool my sauce quickly in numerous shallow containers to avoid food borne illness. What you don't want to do is put a massive amount of sauce in a large container in the fridge-that's how bacteria breed. You can combine the containers after they cool, but give them twenty minutes on the counter in shallow dishes (pyrex works great) and then chill in the fridge.

This sauce also freezes quite well.

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until very light. Beat in the water and salt. Slowly add the semolina by hand until you have a stiff dough. You may not need all of it, or you may need more, so go slowly-you can always add more if it feels sticky as you knead. The dough should feel very stiff. Knead it for a few minutes then wrap it in clingfilm and let it rest for twenty minutes. This will make it easier to handle, so really, don't skip this step.

You'll still need to roll the dough a bit in pieces before fitting it through the pasta maker, so get your biggest, heaviest rolling pin. Mine is a monster from France I call, Rabelais. Hey look, do I tell you what to name your rolling pin? Yeah, I didn't think so.

So once you do a couple initial passes through the machine keep tightening the gears until it is quite thin. You'll be folding the pasta over so it really shouldn't be too thick. When you have a nice long sheet, lay it out on a good work surface. Place small amounts of filling in the middle of the ribbon of pasta about two inches apart. Brush all around the mounds and edges with the beaten egg whites and then carefully fold the dough over. At this point, you need to get the excess air out by pressing along the edges of the filling. Use a knife to cut and trim them and then set them on a parchment lined baking sheet as you work. Repeat with remaining pasta. Cover tray lightly with clingfilm and chill until ready to cook. If freezing, place them on a plate in the freezer for a few minutes until firm and then transfer to freezer bags.

Cook in boiling water until tender (mine took about 9 minutes).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Onion Rings

I made both onion rings and chips tonight in my continuing effort to get the stove as filthy as possible before getting rid of it. No, I'm not really doing that, but I have been forced to cook on the range top as the oven is broken. It really irritates me to no end that repairing it would cost more than a new oven. I haven't rushed out to replace it because, much like everyone else, I'm waiting for deflation to hit. What's more, there just isn't a whole lot of choice in electric ranges if you don't want a glass top (I don't). Anyhoo, I fried up a batch of onion rings from a new recipe that turned out beautifully.

You can find the recipe HERE and he has a wonderful tutorial along with it. The batter almost sounds too simple, but they fry up just lovely. I fried in Canola oil because the Canadian rapeseed cartel managed to hook everyone in the US with their "healthy" oil that smells strangely of fish when heated to high temperatures. I like to imagine farmers in Alberta (hi, Becky!) sitting about laughing at the dumb schmucks in the US frying their onion rings in stinky oil whilst they enjoy theirs in luscious beef tallow. It's true that chips always taste better in Canada-the memory of a chip wagon in Niagara Falls being the only thing we have to sustain us through the heart-health madness overtaking the US. Well, and the whiskey. Don't be such snobs, there's nothing wrong with blended whiskey. My great uncle had a shot of whiskey every night before dinner, convinced it was good for the heart-and that was before all this heart-health rubbish. Jokes aside, the recipe at the link suggests vegetable oil has too low a smoking point but olive oil is OK? I don't know, that isn't my experience, even with the cheap Pomace grade, and the Canola worked just fine. What's more, I strained it and intend to re-use it as it didn't change colour or pick up any off odours (save for that fish smell, but that's just the nature of the stuff). I'd say use your frying experience as a guide.

So right, where was I ? Oh yeah, the onion rings. Marvelous. Do try them.

If you happen to have a sourdough starter at home, try THIS recipe with the toss-off. Also excellent.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Look At The Pretty Noodles

This really is a thrown together dinner. I had half a package of Chinese noodles, some tofu, carrots, a wedge of cabbage, ginger, and a red pepper. I tossed in some parsley and water chestnuts at the last.

How do you give a recipe for something like this? Instead, I'll give you the recipe for the marinade and you can use whatever vegetables you like.

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon black bean garlic paste
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
4 tablespoons hoisan sauce
2 star anise ground fine
a few red pepper flakes

Place it all in a measuring cup and then add:

Enough Canola oil to bring the marinade to 1 cup.

Place in a large plastic freezer bag with the vegetables and let sit a few hours until you are ready to make dinner.

One other tip, which is probably obvious but I only recently realised it-when making a noodle dish, cook the noodles, drain them well and then briefly stir fry them in oil to separate them. Then, add the rest of the stir-fry and mix well.

Fluffy Strawberry Pie

I know you're wondering how I made a crust without a working oven. After Christmas, Danny talked me into buying him a tin of gingerbread cookies because the container was shaped like a train. It was 70% off so I bought it for him. I removed the sealed bags of cookies and tossed them in the pantry figuring I'd find a use for them.

I crushed 2 cups of gingerbread cookies and mixed them with 4 tablespoons melted butter. I pressed that into the pie plate and chilled it.

You Will Need:

1 pre-made crust of your choice
1 cup pureed strawberries
1/4 cup water
1 3 oz. box of strawberry gelatin (lemon would have been better, but I didn't have it)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (measured before whipping)whipped
Fresh strawberries to decorate

In a saucepan, combine the strawberry puree and water. Bring just to a boil and stir in the gelatin. Stir to dissolve. Remove from heat, stir in the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Chill until mixture mounds on a spoon.

Beat until fluffy (it really will puff up in volume). Fold in the whipped cream. Pour into pie crust. Decorate as desired and chill several hours or overnight.

Eye Magazine

I picked up a year's worth of these at a library sale and thought I'd share some of the finer pop culture points of 1968. You know, this just makes me want to make hair rollers out of old frozen orange juice containers and look at a lava lamp. I didn't have a lava lamp-I did have some cool posters.Yeah, my sister tried that-she had green hair all summer. It went well with the fake orange tan stuff.
Hey, I never thought of using Wonder Bread as a path to my husband's heart. Damnit-all that fussing with home baked artisan breads when i could have picked up a loaf of Wonder.
This almost reminds me of the old Herbal Essence bottle.

Ooooh! 8-tracks!
To steal a line from the furniture row ad-"That's just not natural."
"Candy" Bergen before she was the "Widdah Malle." Gosh, what was she in that photo, like 16?
Great news everybody-alienation is dead. Look, it says so on her sleeve button. Whoo hoo!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sharing A Pair Of Earphones

Because my crummy speakers don't work well. You can't see it in the photo, but we have a large desk with two monitors on it-because we're geeks.

I introduced Danny to Schoolhouse Rock, and he really dug it. I was a bit older when these were made, but I remember thinking they were pretty good at the time. Looking at them now after so many years, they seem even better.

The only problem is that I now have "Conjunction Junction" ringing in my head.

This And That

Danny calls his afternoon tea, "This and That." As in, "Mama, can I have my little this and that?" Since it is a long time from lunch until dinner, This and That is usually around three or four, depending how late Danny naps.

Most of the time it is something like crackers and jam with a glass of milk, or some cheese and fruit. Sometimes we have a piece of chocolate, but it is almost never a full-fledged dessert because we often have something after dinner. It is, as the name suggests, whatever I have on hand.

Sometimes, I get it all wrong, and what I think will be spectacular gets wincing from Danny as though I were trying to feed him nails. What you are looking at is strawberry granita, sweet yoghurt cheese, and fresh strawberries. There's some white and dark chocolate as well. I ask you, what could anyone possibly not like here?

I still think the granita was exceptional and the cheese lovely, but Danny was less impressed. Guess I'll stick to the familiar basics from now on as he liked neither this nor that today.

Your tastes are probably more sophisticated than a four year old's, so here's the recipe:

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
3 cups pureed strawberries

Bring the water and sugar to a boil, whisking until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Puree the strawberries in a blender until smooth. Combine and pour into a glass or metal tray and place in the freezer. Stir every 40 minutes with a fork until it becomes hard. Scrape into a container and store tightly covered for a few days.

Schnitzel And Noodles

Depending where you're from this will either be a cutlet, schnitzel, or chicken fried steak. In Northern Illinois where I grew up, this would be called schnitzel. In Wisconsin, where the population is largely German, they would laugh at calling this a schnitzel. More likely than not, a German from Wisconsin would call this, "An Abomination." They prefer to grill or broil their steaks.

We missed a turn for the highway Sunday and ended-up near our favourite Omaha butcher. Six bucks later, Mr. Eat The Blog was on his way home tightly clutching his meat. Steak. He was tightly clutching his steak.

With the oven broken I was kind of limited in preparing it without setting up the grill on a freezing cold day. I don't have a great deal of experience with frying steak because it just isn't something my mother did. I do remember her being appalled by our Hungarian neighbour next door who pretty much breaded and fried everything from steaks to organ meat. I think I must have been channeling Mrs. S when I made this because paprika sauce isn't exactly the sort of thing we ate at home either. At that point, I just went ahead and made my own noodles because heck, if you're frying a steak and making a complicated sauce, you might as well make noodles.

Mr. Eat The Blog really enjoyed his dinner. Danny enjoyed the noodles with some leftover vegetarian chili on top, and I was able to get a few forkfuls of salad without too much harm. I cook beef so infrequently (you thought I was going to say, "rarely", didn't you?) that Algy The Dog was dancing around the kitchen trying to make sure I noticed him (dogs aren't subtle, are they?). I did remove the breading before giving him some, but I don't think he minded.

I adapted the recipe for the sauce from the one HERE.

Makes 2 Servings:

You Will Need:

Noodles (my recipe HERE)

1 generous rib-eye steak
1 egg
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 cups all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

For The Sauce:
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 onion, finely sliced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (don't use smoked paprika for this)
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan combine the onion, wine and bay leaf. Boil over high heat until almost all the liquid has reduced. Add the stock and reduce until it is half a cup. Add cream and paprika. bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened (you want the sauce somewhat thin). Adjust salt and pepper and stir in butter. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm until needed.

Make Noodles.

Make Schnitzel:

Between two pieces of waxed paper, pound the steak until it is very thin (about 1/4 inch thick-thinner if you can get it). Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a deep frying pan.

In one shallow bowl, place a beaten egg. In another bowl place the all purpose flour. In a third bowl, the Panko crumbs. Salt and pepper the steak and dredge it in flour. Dip the steak in egg and then dredge in the Panko crumbs. When oil is hot, place it in the pan and fry about three minutes on each side (but watch it, because frying isn't an exact science).

Serve over noodles with sauce. Impress people (except Germans from Wisconsin because they will still laugh at your steak).

Vegetarian German Potato Salad

Admittedly, imitation bacon bits won't give this the oopmh (or should I say, oompah, being German potato salad? Gosh, the jokes are getting lame around here, eh?) of real bacon, but it is still quite good and suitable for vegetarians.

You Will Need:

Boiled red potatoes (about 2 lbs.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2-3 tablespoons imitation bacon bits
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
Salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes (can be done ahead) and set aside
In a large frying pan, heat the oil. Add the pepper, onion and caraway seeds. Cook until softened over medium heat. Add the bacon bits and potatoes and cook until bits soften and potatoes are well coated with oil. Remove from pan and place in a a large bowl.

In a measuring cup, mix the vinegar, sugar and water. Pour over salad and mix well. When well coated, transfer to another bowl with a slotted spoon leaving behind excess dressing. Adjust salt and pepper. May be chilled until serving time and then quickly re-warmed in the microwave or on the stove top.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I Love Sears

No, they aren't paying me to say that. I truly love the store, particularly when they start doing clearance sales. I went there to look at stoves (struck out) and ended up buying three new dresses for less than they would cost used at Goodwill. What's more, they don't smell like mildew and cat piss.

I've been dropping weight so quickly (funny how that happens when you can't eat, eh?) that I really don't want to invest any real money in clothing. Besides, I know that as soon as I'm feeling better (I'm staying optimistic on that front) I'll gain it all right back. I wouldn't want to invest real money in clothing anyway-it all gets ruined from the hard water in the laundry.

You can also shop the Sears sale on-line. I've ordered from them before, and they often have deals on free shipping, so it is definitely worth checking it out. Two of the dresses are short sleeved jersey knits with belts, and one is a lightweight sleeveless chiffon dress that has a sort of retro-30's look. It is a small floral in brown and pink which is to my mind the perfect colour combination. All floral dresses should be brown and pink-if I'm ever elected Queen Of The World, I'm gonna make that a law. I would have picked up a couple of halter-top sun dresses but some genius designer got the idea that they would stay up better with a band of rubbery stuff applied to the top. I wasn't going to take the risk it might be latex, so I had to pass them up, but if you don't have a latex allergy, they have some awfully cute dresses for around eight bucks.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

And This Year's Garden Will Contain...And Bonus Sick Chicken Post!

...a number of oddball items I swore I wouldn't plant. Eh, that's what you get for letting a four year old pick seed packets.

Black Crimean heirloom tomatoes
Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes
Roma tomatoes
Multi-coloured bell peppers
Bright orange bell peppers(California Wonder Orange)
Shelling peas (heirloom Green Arrow dwarf variety)
Cherry Belle radishes
Royal Burgundy Bush Beans
Little Marvel peas
More varieties of basil than I can count, including the Thai kind
Borage (purchased solely for freezing the flowers in ice cubes to dress-up a Pimm's cup. Gosh, I'm my mother's daughter, aren't I?)
Red Onions

We'll see how it goes.

Bonus Fun-we went to the farm supply store to see the first of the chicks and ducks and to pick up our USDA Backyard Biosecurity Calendar-aka, "The Sick Chicken Calendar." I did a long-ish post at the other blog last year, but it was so positively inspired, I'll reprint it here.

Dirty Birdie in The Sky, Why'd You Die In My Backyard?

When you visit farm supply stores this time of year many are selling chicks and ducks. Knowing this, the USDA dumps tons of literature and calendars there, free for the taking. Always looking for an interesting opportunity to educate the youngin’, I grabbed a calendar.

In what is probably a sign that I’ve lived in the country too long, I didn’t even notice the "how to identify sick birds" section-but Danny did! I should have figured "Backyard Biosecurity" would have something to do with sick birds.

"Why does that chicken have a runny nose?"

Yep, that’s one sick chicken. Long, long ropey-snot hanging to the ground in waterfall fashion. Still, a free calendar is a free calendar so I placed it back on the nail I’d hammered into my kitchen wall as the designated "calendar spot" seven years earlier and went back to cooking (not chicken). Sure, I guess snot-nosed infected poultry aren’t typically the sort of thing one wants to look at where they prepare food, but free is free, and if I get any runny-nosed chickens stumbling about I’ve my calendar at hand to help with the identification process. I’m inclined to think if I had a chicken with a booger waterfall I’d know it was sick without the helpful photo, but I guess they want to drive home the point.

So I know, you’re curious now. I wrote a little song about keeping birds safe from disease:

If your little birdie is lookin’ sort of dirty

Call your vet.

If your poor old chicken has a cough that’s really kickin’

Call your State poultry diagnostic lab.

If your duck has green diarrhea, droopy wings, and doesn’t see ya’

Take her out.

And wash your hands.

If your bird’s eggs are gross misshapen

And the wattle’s really gapin’

Take it out

(And scrub your shoes with disinfectant).

If your rooster’s not so large and has a thick nasal discharge

Call the vet.

If the swans begin to sneeze it might be Exotic Newcastle Disease!

Call a vet!

Some creepy genius guy from MENSA

Caught Avian Influenza

When he stuffed and mounted a pheasant head

And now poor Einstein’s DEAD!

Don’t play with dead birds your find in the wild!

And don’t eat them either.

If you must handle a dead bird with your fingers or your toes

Please don’t go rubbing your eyes

Or pick your nose.

Get some water. Get some soap. Call the State!

Why did the chicken cross the road? Who knows? He might have been sick!

Don’t take chances

Call the State!

And wash your hands.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Time To Start The Seedlings

Tomorrow, we'll make the annual trip to Earl May so Danny can select a few packets of seeds. The day I found out I was expecting, I had been at Earl May buying seeds, so we've sort of kept the tradition by going there (to the same store) each year. I don't buy the bulk of my gardening supplies there as it is too expensive, but they do often have unusual varieties of vegetables and herbs.

After we hit the Earl May, it is off to the farm store to visit the newly arrived chicks and ducklings. I would love to keep ducks (duck eggs are wonderful) but without somewhere to bring them in at night, they wouldn't stand a chance against the owls. Oooh, don't get me started on the dang owls and the incessant "hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo" all night outside my bedroom window. I was up every half hour last night due to the bloody things.

I really don't have the energy to garden on the scale I'd like, so I try to plant only what I know we will enjoy. One year, I planted dwarf white eggplant-they were lovely, but grew like crazy and lets face it, there's only so much we can eat, and most people don't want any. That's why I don't plant courgettes-you always end up with too many and no one likes them (which is why people bake them in bread-to disguise the fact that they are disgusting).

It seems that for our family, bell peppers and tomatoes make the most sense. Early in the season I can do peas and scallions. I also go a bit overboard planting basil because I love it. My thought is that too many peppers or tomatoes are easily canned whereas too much broccoli rabbe is simply too much. I promised Danny we could plant nasturtiums as he's intrigued by edible flowers (don't worry, I gave him the lecture about how eating random flowers (mushrooms, berries, etc.) can kill you). I like nasturtiums because the leaves are edible as well (they are somewhat peppery tasting).

Luckily for Danny, we have squash bugs here and I can't plant them (found that out the hard way). I don't hate squash with the same intensity my son does, but I'm the sort of person that grows them for the blossoms-or at least I did before the squash bugs showed up.

Last year, after the tornado we still had a few tomato plants that were determined to produce fruit, which was amazing considering the hail damage. I figure if they can do well under those circumstances, we should do even better this year.

Anyone planning to grow something unusual?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Still Without An Oven

-but the range and microwave still work. I haven't resorted to anything from Cooking In A Bedsitter, but I might yet.

Tonight I served pan-fried Brussels sprouts with black olives, feta cheese, chick peas, and garlic over rice. No one starved. Dessert will be crepes with whipped cream and strawberries in syrup. Not too shabby, eh?

I do have a DeLonghi toaster/convection oven packed away upstairs somewhere. We did look at ovens this weekend just in case it can't be fixed. Prices have come down quite a bit-I was really surprised how good of an oven you can get for a small price. My cheapskate tendencies have me thinking it might be worth waiting even longer (I suppose this is what everyone else is thinking as well). Anyway, I'll dust off the old toaster oven if need be, but it has been interesting seeing how long I can go without it. Mr. Eat The Blog reminded me that we did in fact go a couple of years without an oven, but that was long ago and I didn't bake bread then.

Anyone have recommendations for an electric oven/range that they like that isn't a GE?

Monday, March 02, 2009

All That From A Package Of Chicken Thighs?

Since I do not have a working oven at the moment, most of what we eat is being prepared atop the range. Today, I had a large package of chicken thighs which by the end of the day yielded:

6 cups shredded cooked chicken for tamales/tacos, etc.
About 4 litres of stock
1 cup of rendered chicken fat (I tossed the cracklings because I'm not suicidal-no one should eat that)

Tomorrow, I'll reduce the stock to glaze because it stores easier.

I think I got my money out of the chicken thighs, which were kind of expensive because of the way they are fed, treated etc. As rarely as we buy chicken, it seems worth it to me, and thighs are the cheapest cut (even cheaper than the whole chicken). Mr. Eat The Blog likes dark meat, so it works out well for us.

Poodle Dog Update

Algy is still with us, and it appears, on the mend. We figure he passed a stone. I've had kidney stones and if it hurt me, can you imagine what it must feel like for a male dog? Poor dear. No more bloody urine (yeah, I know this is a food blog, sorry) and he seems much more comfortable. He's still on pain medication for another day, so we'll have to see how he does after that, but he really does seem much perkier.

We know he is getting pretty elderly and this did kind of force us to consider what lengths we want to go to keeping him going, but it seems that the crisis has for the moment passed.

If only everything in life could be so easily solved with a mega dose of antibiotics and some pain pills.