From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Monday, December 28, 2015

A brace of meatloaf

I have only myself to cook for, but that doesn't mean I do cooking for a single meal.

Or even 2.

Nope, batch cooking is the only way to go.  I figure if your going to mess up the kitchen, get a bigger bang for your buck.

And when ground turkey is on sale, well, meatloaf just has to happen.

I made 3 loaves using 6# of ground turkey.  

I added the usually suspects, rolled oats, whole eggs, diced peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic, worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, parsley, etc.

3 loaves just filled the roasting pan.  I've learned to give the loaves enough room because the rolled oats absorb all the flavor juices (keeps the loaves nice and moist).

When cooled, the loaves were sliced and frozen, ready for quick suppers and sandwiches.  Lots of meals, and I only had to wash up the kitchen once.

Gotta love that.

How about you?  Do you cook small? Or make your own "fast food" like I do?

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Leftovers" stew

Thanksgiving was a nice no-stress event.  I roasted the turkey and sweet potatoes on Wednesday.

Thursday friends brought roasted carrots, dressing, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake.

All I had to do Thursday was make some gravy, heat up what needed heating, put out a dish of celery cuts & homemade pickles (yes, that one and only jar I successfully made in August), open a jar of cranberry relish, and voila.  


Friday I rested (and washed a lot of dishes).

Saturday I took the leftover sliced turkey, roasted carrots, gravy, added some boiled potatoes & frozen peas and 2C of frozen turkey broth and again - voila.  

A thick and hearty turkey stew to share with my Mom and her brother on "Leftovers Saturday".

Even the leftover dressing (which had been initially baked into a loaf) was sliced as bread and used for dipping as well as a savory platform for the cranberry relish.

The Hunger Games producers should have such success with sequels!  (Mockingjay Pt I - thumbs down)

Hope your holiday was a satisfying mix of fun, family and friends.


This morning (Sunday), more washing of dishes first and now simmering the turkey carcass with veg, herbs and spices to make more broth.

Turkey - the bird that keeps on giving.  Gobble gobble!

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Quick bean soup

It had been a long day outside in 40F temps and when I came in I wanted something quick, hot and savory.

Didn't have anything in the freezer ready to microwave (I've been too busy to batch cook).

I thought I still had a package of chili, the perfect meal, but -- no.  Dang!

When I was eating gluten I always had some cans of Progresso soups on hand for occasions like this.

I looked in the cupboard and saw I had a few cans of refried beans.  Hmmm.  I could fix them, layered up with chopped onions, cheese, salsa.... oh, it just sounded like way too much work.

As I was putting the can back, I happened to spot somthing on the label:

For a simple and satisfyiing soup, thin Goya Refried Pinto Beans with chicken stock or water to desired consistency.

Hey, now that sounded pretty good.  I had some frozen chicken broth (1C containers) so emptied the can into a pot, added in broth (about 3/4C) and stirred it until it bubbled.

I then tossed in a handful of kale shreds, let the soup simmer for 5-6 minutes while I grabbed some chips and a drink and VOILA!   Quick hearty lunch. (Too much for one meal actually. Well enough for 2 bowls.)

And let me tell you, this bean soup is waaaay beyond Campbell's  condensed bean/bacon soup to my taste buds.  Check the ingredients:

Cooked pinto beans, water, salt, soybean oil, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder (chili peppers & spices), natural flavoring.   (Look ma! Real ingredients. Lower salt and no MSG or fillers! LOL)

Compare to Campbell's:  (I've tried finding this info on the web, even Campbell's site doesn't show ingredients in their soups - anywhere.  Now why IS that I wonder?  Next time I'm at the store I'll copy the info and update this post.)

Bottom line - best quick bean soup I've ever had.  I'll keep a few cans in the cupboard.  If I'd had more energy when I made this I would have trekked downstairs and brought up some chopped Easter ham to add to the mix.  Next time....

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Got my groove back!

With fat Pat blowing and raining outside, I decided (one day ahead of planned schedule) to roast up the turkey I bought Saturday morning.

It was frozen at the store and its been in the 'fridge since then.  Package says to defrost in 'fridge 24-48 hours.  Well, ignore that!

It was 96 hours and there was still an iceball in the cavity and some of the giblets were icy.

So I made sure all the ice was out and then ran cold water through the bird for about 10 minutes.  When all the meat surrounding the cavity was supple, I popped it (along with the giblets & neck) in the broiler bag.

Chart says - 14-16# = between 2.25 & 2.5 hours.  Ignore that too.

This thing didn't start browning until 2 hours, and didn't start getting fragrant until 3.  Nice and brown then, but I let it sit in the hot oven for another 20 minutes.

After brought out and rested for another 20 minutes, I collected all the meat juices (almost 2 qts! man they really 'enhance' birds these days).

When I started to cut the bird it was obvious cutting wasn't the answer.  I just used tongs to pull it to pieces, like a pan of warm cinnamon rolls.  Succulent! Dark meat delicious and white meat creamy (benefits of roasting breast side down).

With all the pieces parts in the big bowl, I covered it with plastic wrap and set the bowl out in the breezeway to cool down before putting it in the fridge overnight.

Yep.  Got back on that horse and rode it all the way home.

I'll freeze the bones for now and pull them out on the next cool day to make broth.

Bring on the holidays!  Hmmm, I'm gonna need more turkeys....

==== next day:

2# 12oz white meat; 
1# 12oz dark meat; 
5# 4oz the rest (bones, giblets, neck, skin, cartilage, etc.)
3# 8oz (6.5C of 'drippings'/juices)

Total: 13# 4oz from a 16+# bird.

Wonder where the other 3# went?

Oh well, soup broth on Saturday!

========= Saturday update:  Turkey broth
for my records:  
4.5Q water; 
near 1Q boxed chicken stock; 
7C gelled drippings 
carcass et al & veg
= 11-2C bags of broth   --- best bang for my buck to date

========= days later:


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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Chicken broth

After Sunday's roasted chicken bones & meat cooled, I got right to making broth this morning.

The container of meat juices, bones, skin, cartilage, etc gelled solidly.  The plan was to pop it in the pot with the ususal veg and seasonings, add some water (very little, wanted to keep the flavor intense) and let it simmer all day.

After I put the gelled stuff in the pot, I had a brilliant idea.  Why not use a carton (1qt) of the Pacific chicken broth.  

(Now, let me digress here: to me broth is made from simmering bones, cartalige, etc for 10+ hours w/veg & seasonings, leaching out all the minerals, etc.  I think Pacific boils their organic chickens with some rosemary extract, then use the cooked chickens in their other products.  Then they sell the cooking water as broth. Really, that's all it tastes like.)

Anyway, I decided to use a quart in my broth.  Best way to use it up and it obviously DID have more flavor than plain water.

The quart still left about 3" in the pot.  Oh well, I grabbed the last quart and in it went.  I couldn't get another drop in that pot then.

I let the mix (heavily flavored with carrot, onion, celery, potato, bay leaf, garlic, pepper, parsley (darn, I didn't have any cabbage)) go all day. After it's strained and cooled, we'll see if the broth gels.

Then I made sure there were no bones etc. left in the meat andchopped it up for freezing -ready to add to future soups.  I got a tad over 20 oz of meat. Plenty for soup.

Glad I thought of the boxed 'broth'.  Once all that gets turned into REAL broth, I'll have at least 2* quarts of chicken broth (enough for maybe 5 pots of soup) and lots of meat for some hearty lunches during the colder weather.

* Turned out it did gel softly.  Too bad I only got 2 quarts of broth.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Roasted chicken

Found a whole chicken in the freezer from last Fall so thought I'd roast it up today.

I let it thaw for 5 hours, then opened the package, pulled out the giblet bag, rinsed the chicken with cold water then split the thing in half.

Trust me, cutting a raw chicken in half is NOT the song and dance you read in cookbooks or on the web.  *whew*  What a fight.

I won.

I put the halves in a broiler bag and let it roast for well over the alloted time.  

Just under 2 hours and the kitchen smelled like KFC - only better.

It pulled apart in sections.  Acutally when I grabbed a bone, the bone pulled out and then the tongs pulled the meat apart.

I ended up with lots of creamy, melt-in-your-mouth chicken and a container of skin, bones, wingtips, etc.

Looking at that container reminds me why I make turkey soup.  A turkey carcass got some serious bones!  Chickens - not so much.

I'll still simmer up the chix bones/etc and make a pot of broth with added veg and seasonings. But really, if I'm going to go through all the trouble, I'll take turkey over chicken for the bigger bang at the end.

Can't wait for some homemade chicken soup, though.  There is just no comparison with store bought.  I'll update this post when the broth is simmer up.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Success & Failure - Sunday in the kitchen

Sunday barely got into the 40s with cold North winds and (I kid you not) some snowflakes!

I knew it was going to be a cold weekend (the tomato soup on Saturday) and now even colder on Sunday.

I planned ahead and defrosted chicken breasts and a turkey to keep me busy.

First I prepped the turkey and got it into the oven.  I was shocked when one of my 2 Chicago Cutlery paring knives broke when I tried to cut the stupid darn plastic brace they use to hold the legs together these days.  Crap Crap Carp.  I've had that knife  Could not believe that it failed.
UPDATE:  Chicago Cutlery replaced the paring knife - gotta love a lifetime warranty!! 

Anyway, bird in oven, and off to the next dish: chicken'n'rice.

I used both Pacific organic products this time.  The condensed mushroom soup did the sauce proud in the pot of chicken and vegetables while the rice simmered away in their chicken broth.

Meanwhile, in the oven, a 14# bird roasted.

The kitchen smelled wonderful!!

After 2.5+ hours the meat thermometer showed the turkey was quite done so it was hoisted out and let set for a bit.

Soon the spicey chicken was done and the rice done.

The bird was dismembered and all 3 dishes where set into the sunroom to cool.  I opened the window and sliding door.  It was only 42F outside so it was just like putting stuff in the 'fridge.

All was hunky dunky so far (well, except for the knife).  When I went to bag up the cooled turkey - uh oh.  The juices in both dishes (dark and white) were undoubtedly PINK!  WTF??  This has never happened before.  I checked the oven thermometer often and temp kept between 325-350.  The time was good according to chart/weight. And the meat thermometer showed 180 in all the right places.

But this bird was underdone.  There was no getting around it.  Again, W T F ??  Well, there was nothing to do.  You cannot recook a cooled bird, so after 3 days of defrost, prep time, nearly 3 hours of roasting, and an hour of cooling/dismembering, the whole thing was bagged up - and put in the trash.  *sigh* But there is NO WAY I was going to risk me and Mom eating an underdone bird and getting sick.  

You just can't chose time/money over health. 

I should have listened to the paring knife.  It obviously wanted nothing to do with that bird.  

Thankfully the chicken'n'rice turned out.   
Saturday 10/24:  I was at Marcs.  The frozen turkeys have arrived.  A 16# bird now defrosting in the 'fridge.  

Ya gotta get right back on the horse else you'll lose your nerve. *heh*

(And, no I DON'T care that it's only a month until Thanksgiving; you just can't have enough turkey broth/ meat on hand for soups!) 

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Great soup - darn!

With temps in the low 40s and cold winds, it was a good day to heat up the kitchen.

I brought up 3 bags (about 10#) of this year's frozen San Marzano harvest and defrosted them in the 12qt pot.

As the clear liquid released I dipped that out (2 qts worth) until the tomatoes themselves began to cook up.

That heaping pot of 12q finally settled down at 4q in the bottom.

They cooked for about an hour and I kept mashing up chunks with the spoon.  When totally soft I forced them through a strainer and ended up with 9C (are you kidding me?) of sauce, perfectly velvet for soup.

I tasted the sauce.  Fingers crossed.

It was outstanding.  Really?  Yep.


Why?  Well last year's SM sauce wasn't all that lovely - a bit bitey/bitter and needed sugar.  Perhaps I hadn't removed enough of the clear liquid where the bitterness is.  Don't know.

All I know is that when I cleaned up the container garden earlier in the month, I'd totally decided to try my Mom's neighbor's Italian sauce tomato next year.  No more San Marzanos which as you can see in the top pic, are not all that meaty.  

Anyway, I was hoping for more justification by finding this year's batch un-noteworthy.

Unfortunately, it is absolutely wonderful.  I could have eaten it as soup right then.

But no, I guilded the lily by adding the soup seasonings: garlic, onion, celery seed, marjoram, thyme, salt, pepper and some roasted seranno powder.

Couldn't wait to fill a bowl, throw in some rice and call it lunch.  OMG it is so good.

Now, what the heck should I do next year?  Grow more SMs?  Switch to the untried Italian?  With a container garden there is only so much room.  

Still,  only 9C of sauce out of 140#  of toms (even though outstanding)?  Gotta chew on this over winter.  Thankfully I have another 13-4# (4 bags) of frozen SMs downstairs.  More soup soon! Yay.


Update Nov 2: cooked up those 4 bags of San Marzanos in the freezer (needed the space).  That batch turned out just like last year's.  Good, but not outstanding.  Now why IS that?  Only thing I can think of is that the 3 bags I used for the previous batch were the last ones and I let the ripe tomatoes sit in the breezeway until they got so soft I had to throw away about 5%.  Must have something to do with sugar development.  Oh well, like any good gardener/cook will tell ya - there's always NEXT time!  

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Quick Chicken'n'rice

In a previous post I expressed my disappointment with Pacific brand organic chicken broth.

That said, I found cartons of Pacific gluten-free organic condensed soups at Marcs.  Pricey at 2/$5.00.  Still, the ingredients** were excellent (although so were the ingredients of the boxed broth).  I like to have condensed soups on hand for casseroles, creamed chicken, etc. so thought I'd give them a try.

Yesterday was a great day to do it.  I'm sick with flu and wanted something hot yet easily digestable.  And quick. Chicken'n'rice was the ticket, but homemade chicken'n'rices take a lot of time.  Time to try the new soup mix.  

The condensed soup was nice and thick if rather pale and sorta bland (but then, I all canned soups are bland to me and I always add stuff).  I stirred in 1C water and it stayed nice and creamy, not watery.  By then I'd added parsley, turmeric, marjoram, thyme, black pepper, garlic granules, onion salt, sea salt and chipotle powder.  That turned up the flavor volume!

To that I shredded in 2 small pieces of grilled chicken, brought it all to heat and poured 3/4C over 1C of rice.

Ah.  Good stuff.  

There was almost 1.5C soup left, so I poured that over a container of rice and popped it into the 'fridge for a couple more servings.

I had also picked up a carton of the cream of mushroom and look forward to trying it at a later date.

Nice thing about these cartons, they are ultra-pasturized so there is good shelf life here (best used by date on both is end of 2016).  I'm sure canned soup last forever what with all the preservatives, but this has shelf enough for me.

All and all, I'm glad I tried it.  As for price, heck, a simple can of Campbell's condensed mushroom soup runs around $1.25 and the ingredients## are almost frightening.  So for double I get safe, wholesome and delicious.  Organic and all non-GMO.  Yum.  It won't cure the flu, but it was comfort food nonetheless.

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** (Pacific) water, chicken broth concentrate (water, chicken, rosemary extract), creme fraiche (cultured cream (milk)), cooked chicken, rice starch, rice flour, sea salt, chicken fat, garlic powder, onion powder

## (Campbell's) Chicken Stock , Wheat Flour , Chicken Fat , Chicken Meat Cooked , Cream , Corn Starch , Canola Oil , Corn Oil , Cottonseed Oil , Margarine , Chicken Mechanically Separated , Salt , Soybeans Oil , Water , Beta Carotene , Calcium Caseinate , Flavors Chicken , Chicken Powder , Dairy Blend Dried , Whey Dried , Food Starch Modified , Monosodium Glutamate , Flavoring Natural , Sodium Phosphate , Soy Protein Concentrate , Soy Protein Isolate , Spices Extractive , Whey , Yeast Extract


Sunday, September 20, 2015

1st pot of 2015 - veg soup

A week ago the breezeway was filling up with harvest and the 'fridge was filling up with market veg so it was high time to start making veg stock.

Into an 8-quart stock pot I filled 3/4 with chopped tomatoes and topped it with carrots, potatoes, yellow squash, green beans, hot & green peppers, onions, celery and herbs (mostly parsley, garlic, peppercorns).

Set on HIGH, it soon boiled and reduced quickly (about 15 - 20 minutes).  I piled in more tomatoes to fill the pot, brought it back to the boil (stirring to prevent sticking), reduced it to simmer, covered it (the lid has a steam vent) and let it go for 5 hours (stirring occasionally).

It was still very warm when I poured it all through a sieve to remove chunks and allow soft pulp to join the broth.

Then a 2nd pass (through a finer strainer) and I ended up with 4.5 quarts of rich vegetable stock for soups, etc.

It ended up a nice balanced flavor except that I had no idea that just one hot Hungarian wax (market bought) could fire up a whole pot like that.  Fortunately I know that a future pot of soup thick with veg and potato will take the burn down a couple of notches.

Today I made another pot of broth.  While that was simmering up, I used some of last week's pot and made up soup for lunch.  (It's only in the mid 60s today so a hot lunch would just the ticket.)

Oh yum!  
(P.S. The hot pepper did get toned down enough.)
(P.P.S. It was a mix of green beans, they tasted pretty good, but I could tell the difference between Contenders and the Blue Lake.)

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Friday, August 28, 2015

How too much SUCCESS made me FAIL

In 2011 I made THE BEST EVER B&B refrigerator pickles.  Quarts and quarts.  Everyone clambored for them.  I made so many I didn't have room in the 'fridge so I froze them in bags.  


I've never been able to make a good pickles ever since.

I tried in 2012 - deer damage, no harvest.  No harvest in  2013. I tried in 2014.

While I used the same variety cuke and the same syrup recipe, they always came out bland bland bland.

Never say die - I made 3 quarts this August.  Same disappointing results.  


I studied the original post.  No help there.

Then I studied my vegetable page posts.


In 2011 I grew cukes in the veg bed back by the shed.  I noted how much of a pain it was to haul water from the shed trash tub water (no barrels yet).  From a few posts I gathered I only watered the cukes every 2-3 days.  Hmmmmm.

In 2012 the deer arrived - so no harvest to speak of.

In 2013 I tried growing cukes in containers: bush types.  Not enough to eat let alone pickle.

In 2014 (last year) I grew Sweet Success vines both up the privacy fence and the deck trellis.  Four huge vines.  Over 120# of cukes!!!   So I made pickles.   I made a ton - gave them to clamboring fans.  And I disappointed them all.  BLAND BLAND BLAND.  I was so embarrased.  Had to compost all those in the 'fridge.

2015.  This year - fewer cukes, Sweet Success on the privacy fence - but enough to try again.  Made up 3 quarts.  FAIL AGAIN.  I'll have to compost them too.  WTF???

Back to the veg page posts.  Hmmmm.  Then the freaking light bulb went off.

OMIGOSH!  It was ALL MY FAULT.  Cukes are good.  Recipe is good.  But having the cuke vines up by the house had allowed me to water them every day (hose and/or rainwater).  That's why they got so big and crisp and made the best salads e.v.e.r.

But for pickles?  They were too wet!  So, using a couple of my last cukes, I tried another jar.  This time I did not add any ice to the sliced cukes and used 2-3x of salt on them.  I let them sit for 4 hours and look - almost a cup of liquid from 2 big cukes.  Had to rinse the cukes several times to get all the salt off, then used the wilted cukes to make pickles.

And then ---


< ======

You can see that these late season cukes, while billed as 'seedless' did develop some seeds.

But the pickles ?

Wonderful.  It was like 2011 in a jar.

Now I know the secret of my success - and failure.  Lots of water = great salad cukes but bland pickles (too much water in the fruit, no syrup/spices can penetrate).  All I have to do is really wilt the cukes before pickling. (BTW, the pickles, using the wilted cukes, were just as crisp as anything using the pickle crisp.  I love that stuff.)

Boy, I can hardly wait for next year!!!  :-)
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

More fun with food

Previously I'd posted about using duck shaped corn pasta to make a dish of 'quack'n'cheese'.

This past week my friend brought me some elbow shaped corn pasta and I had some nice mozarella on hand.  Hmmm.



So sue me....  LOL

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Onion & avo

Dani over at Eco Footprint posted how she found elsewhere how to keep a peeled avocado from going brown.

She kept her guacamole fresh and green with a slice of onion.

I like avocado in my salads, but only a little at a time (about 1/4 avo).

I used to put the rest of the avo in a baggie and then suck out all the air and it did pretty well overnight for the next salad, but not 100%.

So this time I put the cut avo in a bag with some cut onions (both for next salad) and after 2 days, (top pic) the avo was still lovely.

I used used more avo, put the rest back and 2 days later -- still a nice green avo!  Yay.

Now I won't be forced to a) use more avo than I want and b) waste less avo (they aren't cheap).

Thanks for posting this tip, Dani!  :-D

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Colorful culinary

I've not done anything special in the kitchen lately, but every now and then I snap a pic of some colorful creations. 

I find that I eat better when I serve up mixed textures and colors.  

How about you?  Do you feast with the eyes as well as the palate? 

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Savory supper

 I have NEVER understood why people say that mushrooms won't brown if they are crowded.

I throw in a bowl of sliced 'shrooms and brown them in butter all. the. time. with no problemo.

Sorry Julia.  

That said, I used those browned beauties to make up a batch of onion/mushroom turkey burgers on the grill this afternoon.

Served up with some sweet potato and garnished with lettuce, onion and fresh red pepper, it was a feast for the eye AND the palette!

Soup is good.  But as the days get longer and brighter (if not warmer), my food cravings are changing.  

More meat and veg, less soup and chips.

No complaints from me!

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Boxed broth

Buddy Dave convinced me to try a boxed organic, free-ranged chicken stock that he uses for cooking.


The box promised much.  Low sodium (like - practically none), free range, no additives, rosemary.  Sounded good to me!

Last week I made up a quart of chicken soup.  As the broth warmed up, I tasted it.  Hmmmm.  

Maybe heating up would awaken flavors. 

When it got to boiling, I added the usual suspects: carrots, potato, green beans, chickpeas and roasted chicken.

It all look pretty good.

Super easy.

But bland.  As in BLAND.  Did I tell you it was bland?

I had to add garlic, thyme, marjoram, black pepper, chipotle powder and (wait for it) - salt!

It made it much better.  But the broth didn't have any bottom 'notes' or 'highlights'.

I guess I'm totally addicted to my 10-12 bone broth made with veg.  My broth is so tasty you don't even need to make soup with it, a hot cup of broth on a cold day is a treat.

I'll use up the other 5 quarts (it comes in a 6-pack) in cooking.  But to make soup?  

Maybe in a pinch....  After all, it's way easier than making my own scratch broth.  

What I'll probably end up doing is using this boxed broth as a BASE for my OWN broth batches.  Because, really, home made is best.

How about you?  Have you ever run across anything ready-made that made you think maybe switching from scratch to fast?  If so, let me know!  LOL

Meanwhile, I'll keep on making my own luscious broth.  

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fun with food

Buddy Dave brought me some more corn pasta, one of which was a bag of little duck shapes.

I was surprised they kept their shape after boiling (al dente) and then a minute or so in the microwave until the cheese melted.

There you have it.  

A nice bowl of ..... waaaaait for it .....



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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Time change - and taste buds too

Don't know about you, but my taste buds change with the seasons.  Over winter I crave hearty foods, hot bowls of savory dishes filled with meats and carbs like rice and potatoes.

But when the time changes in Spring, it's like a switch is flipped and heavy foods lose their appeal and I start really craving for fruits and veg.  Makes perfect sense.

Like today, I wanted a hot lunch, but not in a bowl.  Yesterday I was at the market and was picking up lots of fresh stuff.  Great for a stir fry.

Can't beat a combo of browned mushrooms and onions in EVOO.  Added some julliene peppers, chard, almonds and chunks of zuchinni to saute.  Finally chicken and leftover corn spaghetti noodles.  Season liberally with smoked seranno pepper, garlic and black peppers and about a 1.5T of gluten-free soy sauce.  

Talk about YUMMO!  

Nice thing about this combo, if I leave out the soy sauce and throw in a couple tomatoes and Italian seasoning, it works great too.  

How about you?  Ready for those summer salads and cold pasta dishes?

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Soaking cereals

During these long cold winter days I love me a big bowl of steaming oatmeal in the morning.

For years it was just that - oatmeal.  When I got ill a couple years ago, I started adding flaxseed.

Now that I've got a good grip on avoiding gluten over the past 2 years, I've turned my eye toward another bug-a-boo - anti-nutrients.  I've been reading up a lot lately about phytates and phytic acid.

Short story, in olden days cereal grains and legumes were soaked for a long time before turning them into something folks could eat.  Even breads/biscuits etc used to be mostly made with sourdough.  Why?  It seems that anything that is a seed (grains, beans, seeds, nuts, etc) contains substances that try to inhibit them from breaking down in a digestive system.  After all, if fish, animals, birds, etc. ate all the seeds, soon plant replenishment would suffer.  So the plants developed seeds that not only allowed a high percentage (like tomato seeds, etc) to survive the process, but (and here's the kicker) grab on to stuff from the body to take out with them: iron, calcium, manganese, etc.

Tricky little devils.  However, a seed that impervious would never be able to germinate even at the end of the ride.  So husks/shells also contains phytase - an enzyme that helps neutralize the phytic acid under certain conditions (like a warm moist day).

Certain grains have lots of phytase to reduce the phytic acid.  Oatmeal, on the other hand, does not.  You can soak oatmeal for 24 hrs, it won't reduce much of the phytic acid. And as you know - I love my oatmeal.   

Enter companion soaking.  If you soak a low phytase cereal (like oats) with a high phytase cereal (like buckwheat - it's not a wheat and it has no gluten), you get way more neutralization.  So now I'm soaking my oatmeal these days.

I make up enough for 3 days at a time.  Into a quart jar I add 1.25C rolled oats, 2T buckwheat groats, 1T flaxseed meal and couple of heaping spoonfuls of chopped nuts.  I cover them with warm (not hot) filtered water, a few grains of sea salt, and 1T raw apple cider vinegar (acid activates the phytase - you could also use lemon juice, whey, kefir or buttermilk).  Jarring it up only takes a couple minutes and I've added only 2 new ingredients to my 'usual' old oatmeal: the buckwheat and the vinegar.

After 24 hours (my kitchen is cool, so I keep my jar on a rack over a heating vent - keeps the mix around 85-95F), I dump the mix in a sieve, allow most of the milky liquid to drain off and divide the soaked cereal into 3 portions.

To 1 portion I add about 1/3-1/2C fresh water, mix it up and microwave for 4 minutes on medium.  The other 2 portions go in the fridge.  After microwaving, I add some milk and either maple or agave syrup to the bowl.  Talk about a creamy, flavorful, filling, and (now) much reduced phytic acid morning meal.

I know that phytic acid has benefits and I've read up on them, too.  I doubt I'll be doing much other about it except for breakfast, though I'll keep soaking my beans as I've always done (they have lots of phytic acid too).  

Best bonus? Not only do soaked rolled oats quick much faster, I have learned that I really like the added toasty taste that the buckwheat groats bring to the table.

How about you?  Ever soaked your cereals?

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Loooong simmer - broth vs stock

Now that the driveways are cleared, I was able to trek over to the neighbor's and retrieve a turkey from her freezer.  (I buy 3 turkeys in October when they are on sale. But I don't have room to store them so the nabe's allow me space in their big deep freezer.  Swell guys, no?)

Anyhoo -- while so many were dealing with Thor, we enjoyed a quiet weather day, I roasted a 15# bird.

I did things a bit differently this time.  I roasted the neck/giblets right in the bag with the bird. Didn't think it would make much difference but easier than simmering them up separately.  Got 1.5Q of liquid.  

The next day that stuff was gelled like no other batch - not soft and wobbly, but stiff enough to slice.  I kinda felt sorry for the bird - look how little fat there was.  How did it ever keep warm?

Anyway, after some serious time out in the breezeway, the cold meat was stripped, the bones put into the stockpot (soaked in cool water with the gelled stock and 2T AS vinegar) then the usual suspects: 4Q water, carrot, potato, onion, celery, a tomato, garlic, bay leaf, marjoram, thyme, black pepper, chipotle powder, and parsley.  I even added that little bit of fat from the gell.  (Fat IS flavor, after all and can easily be skimmed off the broth when it's cooled.)

This time it's not gonna be a 5-6 hours simmer.  Nosirree.  I've been reading up.  Stock is when you simmer up bones without additives.  Broth is when you fortify it with veg, herbs and spices.  One chef said that ... if you can dish up the veg in your broth and they still taste good and have some texture, then you haven't simmered it long enough!  All the ingredients have to give themselves up to the broth.  Go 24 hours on the simmer.

Well, no way will I go 24 hours.  I don't like having the stove on while I'm asleep.  But 12 hours I can do.  It's on low simmer right now since 9:00 a.m. this morning.  Can't wait to update this post with results.  How about you?  Short simmer or long?  Stock or broth?


Update:  after 30 mins soaking bones in cool water w/AS vinegar and 10+hrs at the simmer, I ended up with clean bones, a mash of meat and veg, and 6 quarts of savory broth.  Ah, I can't tell you how great the kitchen smells right now.

I'll definitely do the long simmer again in the future.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

More meatloaf

As promised, here's what I did with that big buy of ground turkey:  a couple of meatloafs.

I used 5# of ground turkey.  Then I followed my old recipe from previous posts: mushrooms, onions, shredded zuke, diced peppers, worcestershire sauce, eggs, spices, oatmeal....

When everything was in the bowl and mixed as well as could be with a large spoon, I used very clean hands to do the final mix.  It seemed a little softer than usual so I added another 1/2C of oatmeal.  That firmed it up a bit.

It wasn't until the loaves were ready to pop into the oven and I'd just checked the actual recipe that I realized *DOH*  I was using 5# of meat, not 3# !!!!   Dang it!  No wonder it wasn't as firm as expected.  Not enough oatmeal, eggs, and spices.

Arrrrrgh.   Oh well, too bad, so sad.

Two hours later I had 2 nice loaves colorful thanks to the peppers and zukes.  I left them overnight in the breezeway (all covered - it was only 33F in there) to firm up. 

They sliced up well and took a half a loaf over to Mom who just loves meatloaf sandwiches.

Today, however, I didn't want another sandwich.  I had some greens that needed used up, so decided on a hot salad.

I browned up some thick strips of meatloaf and tossed them (artfully, no?) over the greens/onions and pomegranite seeds.

Pretty AND filling.  How about you?  How do YOU enjoy this king of comfort food?

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Kitchen catch-up

Like I said on the main blog post, when I'm not outside shoveling, I'm messing around in the kitchen.

Remember those 2 pots of beans I put to soak?  One of 15-beans (for soup) and 2# of red kidneys (for chili)?  Here's how they turned out.

As you know from a previous post here, I was disappointed with the batch of 15-bean soup I made.  That the beans were just not tender enough.

Well, lemmee tellya bunkies - this last batch turned out on Sunday  - per.fec.tion!  I swear I cooked them the same amount of time, maybe just 15-20 minutes longer, but these beans turned into but-tuh!  So smooth, so creamy.  The soup is the best bean soup I've ever made (and I've made a few pots in my time).

Then on Monday I made up a batch of chili from the beans simmered up the day before.  Again, I did something very very right.  Maybe it was the long cold outside that made me be more patient with the beans or what.  Maybe letting them cool overnight and then warmed up again when I made the chili.  I just don't know, but I ended up with some wonderful stuff here.  The beans and ground turkey just melted in the mouth.  Lucky me.

Then, against all odds, I won the triple crown, the trifecta:  Gluten Free grilled cheese!  Yes, you heard right.  After 4-5 brands of GF breads, I found the winner:  Rudi's GF multi-grain bread.  Now I don't know if I ever told you, but back when I was just cutting out modern wheat and switched to spelt flour, that I would buy Rudi's spelt bread.  Now why didn't I know that they also made GF bread?  Oh well, better late that never.  

Let me tell you I knew from the get-go that this was going to be a winner when I opened the bag.  It smelled nutty and yeasty and when the buttered bread hit the skillet it was just toasty fragrant.  The bread crisped up on the outside and was soft in the inside.  You can't ask for anything more.  Well, except for another one. LOL

This means I can make up a pot of homemade tomato soup now.  Previously I'd been putting it off because, after all, what good is even the best homemade tomato soup if you can't have a grilled cheese to dip into it.  I mean, really!

Yes indeedy.  It's been a great week in the kitchen.  And there's more to come.   

I lucked into a decent sale on ground turkey while out shopping between storms - enough to make up something savory - maybe this weekend. 

I'll keep ya posted.  Meanwhile, stay warm and be careful with all that comfort food these cold and bitter days.  Too much of a good thing ....!  Be good (this means you, Sue!  *snark*) :-D

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Split pea soup

As often as I make it, as often as I mention it in blog posts, as many pictures I show, I realized today that I've never actually done a post about MAKING split pea soup.  

Go figure.

Oh HERE I've posted about using the hand blender to turn the cooked soup into a luscious smoooooth velvet soup.

But not one that actually shows what goes into the soup.

So here ya go.  (Not just for you, you'd be amazed how often I look up my own recipes!)

It's pretty simple:

Sort 1# (2C) dried split peas for debris, rinse, and soak overnight, changing water half way through.

Drain and rinse the soaked peas.

What I usually do next (but not this time because I FORGOT!  Senior moment... *sigh*) is cover the peas with liquid (a mix of stock and water) so the peas are about 1/4" covered).

Then I would bring them to a boil and start skimming off all the white foam.  This is how you get rid of more of the phytic acid that the overnight soaking released.

After THAT I would add all the goodies:

1C each: carrots, celery, onions.  Then 1/2 of whatever amount of ham I had on hand, reserving the rest for later.

Then the obligatory bay leaf, garlic granules, thyme & chipotle powder (I do like my food spicy!).

Then just bring it all back to a boil, turn it down to simmer (watching now and then to keep the liquid from evaporating.

This batch took nearly 3C of liquid.  The veg will add it's own liquid as it cooks.  

When is it done?  Well, here is this batch after simmering for 1 hour (1st pic).  The veg now melt in your mouth.  The peas do not. They need a little more time.

(2nd pic) Look at this just 45 min later.  Now the peas themselves have pretty much 'melted' and there is clear liquid on top through which creamy peas bubble up.  A quick test for tenderness and everything is soft and lovely.  A good hand whisk would make this into nice soup.  But a hand blender just whips it into green ambrosia!

After the whisk/blender, I add the reserved ham.  It adds texture and more flavor to the soup.  Truly, this is my favorite of my bean & velvet soups.  Maybe that's why I never posted about it before.  It's so simple and so frequent this winter that it's ordinary - like making oatmeal for breakfast.  And who would want to read about that?  LOL  

(Here's something that should have been obvious, but it took me some time to figure this out.  OLD PEAS AND BEANS NEVER REALLY RE-HYDRATE/COOK COMPLETELY.  Since I've been making pea soup so often lately and buying peas a lot, I see now that peas I'd kept for *mumble* months/years made poor soup.  Today's split peas (soaked) cooked up in 1.75 hours - tender and delicious.  Maybe if I stored beans/peas in airtight jars when I bought them, they might be good after a year or two.  But now I try to use bagged beans quickly before they start turning into stones.)

There!  THE difinitive post about split pea soup.  (Except that I forgot to skim foam before adding veg - oh well.  Noted! LOL) 

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