Sunday, October 11, 2015

Grape Sauce

Hey All,

Can you believe its been since May that I wrote?  My love affair with food has been ongoing, as has my love affair with canning and preserving all the wonders that our little parcel of land produces.  You all may remember the carbor.  A couple of the grape vines have started producing.  Unfortunately they aren't table worthy grapes....they are small and riddled with seeds.  Both the black and white varieties were tasty, but full of seeds.  Before anyone gets up in arms, one of the best grapes I ever had was a young catawba brought to me by a friend, the bunches were heavy with small berries, while full of seeds, they were delicious!  My grape were similar.....although I don't know if I'll find a grape that quite captures that grape jelly flavor like her's did.

I'm flush with jam for the winter months, so I need to get creative with my fruit.  Plum sauce is a personal favorite, but grape just doesn't seem like the proper fruit for that.  A quick search of the almighty google and I found a recipe for Grape Sauce.  In my mind, this should be sweet, fruity, and mildly creamy, with a hint of wood.  So off to the internet to find biryani masala recipes....  I came across this recipe, which sounded right for a masala since it contained everything but the kitchen sink.  I broke a lot of it down into useable portions and also used what I had... 

3/4 bay leaf
3/4 tsp fennel seed
1/4 tsp anise seed
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp coriander seed
1/2 tsp caraway seed
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp pandan extract
muddle that all together in mortar and don't have to grind.

I substituted 1/4 tsp pandan extract for the stone added a lovely creamy flavor that was out of this world. Hint:  Pandan is what gives jasmine and basmati rice its unique flavor.

To make the sauce:

1/2 lb grapes
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp biryani masala
Juice of 1/2 lemon
 boil for 10 min.
Slurry through fine wire strainer.
To the juice, add slurry of 1tsp cornstarch, return to boil and can.

When all was said and done, 6 jars:  4 for my pantry, 1 without a sealable lid in the fridge, and 1 to go to a friend in Seattle, the leftovers went to the recipe below.

I roasted some chicken breasts with a quarter cup of the sauce, pulled it out ten minutes before finish and sliced it, poured remaining sauce over, sprinkled with blue cheese and put under a low broiler for 10 more minutes....served with rice and green was pretty fabu!

I'm ashamed to admit I don't know what a muscadine tastes like (I've smelled it, but only tasted the wine), but in my mind this captures it, a sweet, woody, slightly spicy flavor, with a hint of cinnamon....

Monday, May 25, 2015

Watermelon Memorial Day

Hey All,

Can you believe its been 2 months since I posted?  Where does the time go?  Oh that's right, a challenging job and traveling and having life as it were!  I'm listening to a preview of #32 from Discopolis's podcast.  This podcast was released shortly after my first trip to San Fransisco since we last talked.  Disco had an extra ticket to see Above and Beyond....we did, and it was epic.  I wish we had had a bit more time.  I had a phenomenal trip!  I got to finally see Delores Park, did a full lap of Chinatown, including Chinese bakeries that had chocolate dipped macaroons the size of my fist....  After Disco and I parted company, I got to spend the rest of the weekend with Matt....Matt brings out a side of me that is crazy and fun;  I can't wait to see him again this Fall.

So let's get to the meat of the matter, or the rind of the matter as it is.  Let's talk about a great Memorial Day weekend and why it is.

Most of my readers are savvy enough to know that today is about remembering the deceased.  As I grew up, there was an extra emphasis on the military veterans that gave it all, but we remembered all our deceased family and friends.  In the morning, I'd play in the pep band during the parade, run home and change into something presentable, and then it was off to the cemetery to decorate the graves of deceased loved ones with flowers picked from the hillsides.  It was usually Trilliums and Dog Toothed Violets in Mason jars.....once in a blue moon we'd run across a higher elevation patch of shooting stars.  I think those usually went on Great Gramma's grave.

I'm a bit older now, and a bit more jaded.  I wish I were at home to put a bouquet of carnations on Gram's grave, a bouquet of shooting stars on Gramps' grave....  Memorial Day isn't quite the same excitable time as it used to be.  It used to mark the end of the school year, movement into summer, a life changing move to college....  Nowadays, its about remembering loved ones, missing them dearly, and realizing that I'm still in this life taking care of the veteran's of war and the issues they have as a result.  I guess its my lot in life, its just really hard to have it aggrandized.

We spent Sunday cleaning up the patio.  Its a great space, its just gotten slightly overrun from neglect and especially aggressive vinca.  The previous owner of our home was a stonemason, so we have lots of crazy bits of stone to put to use.  One re-purpose I'm especially proud of is taking the old "bench stone" and turning into a serving table.  We had to invert it to get it to set right on the table base we found in a back doing so, the natural layering of the rock made for a perfect serving surface, you can tuck ice all around the food, it gets crazy cold.  It's really cool, here's a shot of today's brunch:

No worrying about coolers or anything....just YUM! for everyone!

Since watermelon was crazy on sale when I went shopping, we had quite a lot of it.  The menu was:  Sourdough Biscuits, Mulberry Jam (the bit that didn't fit in the jars and has been kept in the fridge), $0.99 fresh pineapple (no seriously, that's what I paid for the whole pineapple), Watermelon ($0.20/lb, I bought one in mind for weekday breakfasts, cost me a whole $0.59), Strawberries (a big spend, $1.59 for the pound), cucumbers (3 big ones for $0.99, I used half of one) and tomatoes (0.79/lb) drenched in Italian Dressing ($1.29 for the 20 oz big bottle, I used maybe an 1/8th), and in the very corner are the dregs of the 2nd to last jar of pickled mushrooms ($0.125/lb on the shrooms, probably $1.25 if I include the cost of the jar, they turned out so epic.  I'm pretty sure it was the baby dill, scored for $0.25 a bunch that made them so good).

I was left inspired by the watermelon.  I didn't realize until not too long ago, my Mom always used to have a Watermelon Rind Chutney recipe in the front of her recipe box.  I'm not sure how much of the stuff I ever ate, but I'm sure it was delicious.  I'm proud to say I've taken her pickling prowess to a new level!  I come from a long line of preservers and canners.....I'm so VERY proud to continue that tradition!

A few years ago, I worked with an Accountant named Lisa.  Initially, she terrified me as one of the "elite" that worked upstairs.  It took working together on one project to learn that she was a great, no-nonsense gal to work with and also that she loved preserving and canning.  I was just getting my orchard/gardens going, but we did get to exchange a few jars.  Among them was a Watermelon Relish (and I can't forget the jalepeno jelly).....gosh it was delicious!  I put that on every kind of sausage that summer and enjoyed it immensely.  Sadly, I no longer work with Lisa, but if LinkedIn isn't lying, she's still doing great!  I'm happy to see her succeed and keep on canning and really is a life skill.

So here we are, at the start of summer, with a ready-to-go patio and watermelon.  I channeled my Aunt Pattie today.  I have fond memories of her sitting on the dock at Placid Lake, MT preparing fruit for pies and canning.  After brunch, I pulled out a bottle of wine (Clos Du Bois Calcaire chardonnay, only available at their vineyard) and started prepping while we chatted and enjoyed the sun....  In no time, I had the watermelon rind worked down and ready to go.

I found this recipe at that sounded about right.  Its a bit more work that I'm used to, but why the heck not for delicious relish to go on dogs over the summer.  I only had 2 cups of shredded melon, so I cut it in 1/3.  Here's a cut and paste of the ingredients:

I boiled the chopped melon rind in the water for 3 minutes and strained.

While I was waiting for the initial water to boil, I mixed the sugar, vinegar, mustard, turmeric, ginger, salt, and celery seed and brought it to a boil and removed until the burner was cooled to simmer....I just let that devil simmer the whole got crazy syrupie so I'm all kinds of excited.

Then into the brine went the boiled watermelon rind for 30min of simmering.....that's when I started writing looked like shredded paper in a Co-SO3 bath....LOL!

After that, I loaded it into a pint jar and realized I was just a hair short, so I topped it up with finely diced cucumber.  I've seen all kinds of crazy mixes of cucumber and watermelon rind, so I' figured 25% cucumber will be just fine.

Then into the water bath....normally around here, it would be 15 min, but with the raw cucumber I opted for 20min.

I was quite worried that it would turn out to be some kind of poorly colored brown mess....thankfully no, the turmeric has turned it into a beautiful and delicious looking sunset relish!

Here's to a great summer, everyone!  Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Naan Ya Business!

Hey All,

So its been a while.  Winter was rough, no?  Late winter greeted us with lots of visitors, a renewed desire to leave the bear lair, and good healing and realizations on both our parts.  We also adopted a rescued pit bull puppy a few weeks ago.  We've learned he's surprisingly young for the shape he was rescued in, but will likely not get much larger.  He's been a bundle of fun and joy, albeit very destructive joy :)  His story is heartbreaking, I hope we can provide the happy and healthy home he needs to fully enjoy the rest of his time on the planet.

What does this all have to do with Naan?  Well, other than the circumstance, I'm not sure much.  About a week ago, I attended a local gathering of "those people".  Being a social gathering, of course, food was in order.  I had recently scored on cases (no, not just cases, 9 cases, and there were plenty more) of outdated yogurt.  I'm sure many of my readers just threw up a bit knowing that they ate cheese and naan made with outdated yogurt.  The funny thing about cultured milk products is that they are actually safer the longer they sit.  The increased acidity and "good" bacteria population overruns the "bad" bacteria and actually makes it safer.  The downside is that flavor goes out the window, depending on storage conditions, things may be sour, bitter, or otherwise funky....hence the reason well aged cheeses are aged in carefully controlled conditions, to make sure the flavor is going to be good after all that time.

 In this case the yogurt had turned into a cheesy mass that tasted like vinegar!  Why not turn it into cheese and naan.  Naan, as tricky and mysterious as it seems to the western world, is really a very simple bread made with yogurt or sour cream.  So here's the recipe that I've been asked for repeatedly, BTW, another batch is in the oven proofing right now!

So where does the pit bull come into play?  The night before I set out to make the naan, he devoured my prized sourdough starter, so I had to use regular yeast....I'll share both ways to do it:


1 pkg yeast (2 Tblsp starter if using sourdough)
1 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp salt (I prefer non-iodized since iodine can kill yeast)
1 cup hot water (I believe its 110°F, I just know its when my tap is running too hot to touch)
4 oz (1/4 cup) yogurt....the fancy greek varieties that are running around contain cheese cultures as well so they work very well)

Mix together and let set until able to touch.  It should start to get foamy on the top.  If you are worried about your starter messing things up, just the starter, sugar, and water in the bowl until it springs to life.

3 Cups flour

Mix for what seems like will form a ball, keep mixing until it starts sticking to the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto floured surface.  Flour the top, and knead, adding flour....eventually, despite how much flour you add it will stick...its now perfect.  Coat a bowl with oil, roll the ball into it, making sure it doesn't stick anywhere.  Cover!

Let this is the tricky part.  Rising, I've learned is a very sensitive process and requires an inordinate amount of heat.  Conventional wisdom says put it on the counter covered for a, you need heat, not like 350°F heat, but much warmer than your kitchen.  I put it in the oven with the light on for 2 hours if using packaged yeast, 8+ hours if using sourdough.  It should double in size and have noticeable bubbles throughout.

No need to punch down, what you are going to do next is plenty violent, but not enough to require another rise....pinch the dough in half.  Then pinch each half into 3 pieces, giving a total of 6 pieces.  Pat, squeeze, and knead the dough into a respectable round, about 1/8" thick.

Gently fry on an ungreased skillet.  The heat is tricky to get the hang of...I've burned plenty of naan until I learned let the skillet warm up (again for what seems like forever) on medium heat.  Then place the patted out naan on the skillet and cover, a few minutes later it will start to look like bread and puff up....flip it over to brown the high spots and VIOLA!

A fun variation on this is to make peshwari naan.  Traditiona peshwari contains onions (very few, finely chopped), raisins to taste, and coconut.  I mix these in when kneading.  The last batch I made, the pit bull had consumed my dessicated coconut earlier on, so it was just raisins and was still really tasty!

I'm sure the possibilities are endless, I've got an old apple that should probably be shredded into some naan with cinnamon and a pinch of clove......just an idea.

I've been keeping my binder....there are lots of recipes to share, just been under the weather.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

What a week....

Hey All,

So what a week.  The first full week of 2015 brought all kinds of crazy.  There was a RIF at work that was bittersweet.  While some of the paranoia inducing folks are gone, lots of hardworking good people were also taken out in the process.  Also, there was an officer involved shooting that affected one of the communities to which I belong.  My commentary is minimal about both happenings for two reasons:  1)  I'm not entirely sure what to say and find that letting my confusion be my guide usually works well, and 2) some of the initial reactions are entirely unpopular and liable to hurt feelings.  The whole thing has me a bit confused, looking for direction, and not entirely sure I like what my inner voice is telling me.  The inner voice is telling me to remain calm and stay the course.  So all of that aside, the kitchen continues to run smoothly!


Let's recap since the last installment:

Rice and Egg Bake, while creepy in appearance has been quite enjoyable both fresh and as leftovers.  I have misplaced the cook book and can't find anything similar on the web, but here's a picture:

If you search for Egg and Rice bake, there are lots of this one, you mix the yolks with powdered mustard and basically make upside down deviled eggs in the rice.  A note here, if you are using fresh eggs, conventional wisdom will tell you that your eggs won't hardboil.  That is hogwash, the trick is to shock the eggs in cold water immediately after cooking, causing the membrane to shrink from the shell.  Also, peeling under cold water helps keep the eggs from sticking.

The rest of last week was good eating!  I'm happy to report the steam bun dough made for delicious peirogi.  The bit of sweet and the hearty bite of over-risen dough was a delight.

The Week Ahead

So shopping this week was actually slightly impressive.  Pork loin was on sale for $2.49/lb;  $26 later we have 4 just right sized roasts.  Not bad at all.  I didn't hit NPS this week, so I paid a bit more for some stuff, but all told I was only into Smith's for $45.  My target is $50 a week and >30% I'm on target!

Beef stew and pork chili will be nice considering we are supposed to get weather again.  Hearty soups and stews are wonderful when its cold and dreary.

Tater Tot Taco Bake flew by my facebook feed.  My only gripe is that this recipe ends up costing more than most meals I make due to the specialty canned goods and cheese that is not on sale.

Chicken with plum sauce will be an experiment.  Last summer, PL brought me some early season plums from up north.  It wasn't enough for jam, and neither myself nor Husbear care for fresh plums, so I made a jar of plum sauce to store.  It came out last weekend as part of a Dim Sum tea party for his daughter who was returning to her Mother.  I think I'll just crock pot the mess and serve with rice and veggies.  The other option would be to fry up pre-bredded patties and pour it over that, but the sauce may be just a bit too heavy for that.

Since the sourdough starter refuses to die....and trust me, in the past two weeks its a wonder it hasn't, I'm going to give Kraut Bierok a shot.  This is one of those recipes that goes way back in my mining, German, blue collar heritage.  This will make a substantial quantity, so the leftovers will go into the freezer.  I'm also going to make a curry ketchup to go with these.  While ketchup in itself would be delightful, I think curried ketchup will be amazing.  To make curried ketchup, just mix curry powder into ketchup to taste....and remember the flavors will intensify greatly the longer it sits.

I'm also patiently waiting to see if my parents managed to get the German Strudle recipe down for sharing.  Its another high carb, high fat, poor people food, but has been a special recipe in my family for generations.  If they get it figured out, I'll be sure to share it.

Not quite as lengthy this week.  I hope 2015 is finding you healthy and well-adjusted.  So far, its off to a crazy start, so I'll keep cooking!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

New year, same stuff....

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope 2015 has greeted you well.  As for me, the holidays were bittersweet....I worked hard, said the final goodbye to a co-worker who is moving on to new things, worked a crazy schedule, and got a ton of much needed rest.  I'm sad that the resting part is over and the year ahead will bring even bigger challenges than 2014.

The Holiday

The holidays themselves were wonderful.  I pretty much just pattered around the house, cooked, baked, enjoyed the occasional get together, and enjoyed a lot of booze.  I also received the 2 items on my Christmas list, lots of great edible goodies, gift certificates, and cash.  I'm still humbled at the gifts this time of year.  I've taken a rather utilitarian tact in that I don't gift unless expressly asked.  That's not to say during the year folks don't receive random things like a meal, a much coveted office supply, home canned goods, etc, its just that I often find the holiday stress of trying to find the perfect gift over the top....and well, folks who know me and are important in my life understand this.  We'll make the most of the time we do get to spend together and if a super special gift is needed/wanted, we work to make it happen.

That said, here's the things I wanted:

The Thug Kitchen cookbook is one of those trendy/kitschy things I simply couldn't live without.  It reads like a sailor's journal of swear words, and I love it.  The working kitchen is no place for polite words....  It is pretty no-nonsense, although there are a few things in there that make me turn my nose up as hipster.  Overall, though, it is a great read with great ideas, generally sensible, and vegetarian.  Now I'm not a devout veg, but I do like to try and work a veg meal or 2 into my weekly meals.  As they point out, we all eat too damned much meat as it is....and meat is expensive, so you see my thought process here.

The Alaska Airlines retrojet model holds a special place in my heart.  I love special liveries on aircraft.  I find the Alaska retrojet to be especially beautiful, the interior is no exception.  The gentle tip of the hat of an old school paint job on a new multimillion dollar machine makes me very happy.  This one in particular;  we flew this jet to our wedding in 2013.  Enjoying my first first-class flight on Alaska for our anniversary also reminded me that I should commemorate the good fortune that we got to fly on such a beautiful bird on such a special weekend.  This model plane now sits alongside my Southwest Airlines 737, commemorating my many long trips to Vancouver, WA in 2014, in my cubicle as a reminder of some of my favorite flights.


So let's talk about some entrees that I've made recently that have been delicious:

First up is this Chicken and Mushrooms with Balsamic Cream Sauce from Centercut cook.  This was another that flew by my facebook feed that I bookmarked.  To make it simple, I deep fried prebredded chicken fillets, making the gravy ahead of time.  I served it with butter-herbed rotini and green beans.  Butter-herbed pasta is super easy, make the pasta, drain it, while it is still warm, add a tablespoon or 2 of butter, plenty of salt, and chopped fresh herbs.  If you are feeling especially adventurous, a shred of good Italian cheese adds a bit of depth.  Just toss that together and serve.  I had just a bit of leftover gravy, that will be served on pierogi this week.  Here's how it looked:

Orange Chicken was a quick throw together.  As mentioned, we scored a helluva deal on fritter chicken.  Fritter chicken isn't useful for much beyond a base for sauce.  So I made ahead this Orange Sauce from Rasamalaysia.  I steamed up a bowl of Normandy blend vegetables, deep fried some of the fritter chicken, and poured the sauce over the top and served it over crispy chow mien noodles.  I've found this is the best way to make good Chinese fare.  I mentioned it before, if you try to put it all together in a crock pot, it turns out like crud.

We also did a batter fried fish with Asian fruit compote.  A huge tip here, if you want your batter to be crispy when cooked, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for each cup of flour.  Batter frying often escapes me and makes one heck of a mess. 

First let me start with the compote....this was literally what was in the pantry and fruit bowl, a can of mangosteen (chop those tender seeds, they hold all the flavor), a can of loquat, and a fleshy, but oddly shaped kiwi.  I drained the canned fruits, scooped the kiwi out of its skin, and rough chopped.  It needed a dash of salt and a squirt of Sriracha to make a wonderful spicy compote for the fish.  Despite the mess and trouble getting the batter to set right until the oil was hot, I did find something useful to do with the leftover batter:  make hushpuppies....  I mixed in cornmeal until the batter would stick together and dropped that by spoonfuls into the hot oil.  I'd give the presentation on this a zero, but it sure tasted good....fruit compote on the fish and cocktails sauce on the hushpuppies.

Now let's talk dumplings!  I started a sourdough starter about 2 months ago, and its still going strong.  It has made some fantastic breads, such as rosemary fantans, plain white bread, lots of sweet rolls, Dutch Apple Bagels, Banana Nut Bagels, and Orange Sesame bagels.  One of them that I photographed are the Orange Sesame bagels just before baking:

Its also that time of year where I am having a love affair with hearty finger foods such as those typically served at Dim Sum.  We've only had one outing to our favorite dim sum place, but I did pick up some frozen dim sum and got inspired to see what it took to make these delights.  Interestingly, most dim sum is very labor intense, but beyond that quite easy.  Steam buns, in particular fascinate me....they are glossy on the outside, but light and flaky and absorb the flavor of whatever you put into them.  A bit of research and I found this recipe for steam bun dough:

1 pkg yeast
1/2 cup warm water
    mix together and let get frothy

  mix together:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (substitute 3/4 cup flour with 2 tablespoons cornstarch sifted together, so in this case you'd need 1 1/2 cups flour and 4 tablespoons cornstarch, measure to make the difference)
3 Tblsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Add 1/2 cup warm milk to the yeast and mix the mess together.  The trick here is the 10 minutes of kneading.  If you don't knead it long enough, it doesn't turn out so well.  Coat in oil and let rise until doubled (this takes a while if you use sourdough starter like I do).....then roll into a great big rope and cut off bun sized pieces and steam for 20 minutes (parchment is essential here!), keep in mind they will about double in the steamer.  I did a batch where I rolled fresh cut scallions into the rope (delicious! I may try a roti paratha using this dough as well)....if you want to do something fancier like a pork boa, just roll it out quite thin until it starts to break, cut to size, and put the filling in before steaming.  Remember to pinch the dough well or it will come undone!

As an example, here's a Barbacoa Bao....I had leftover beef barbacoa and green crud (cilantro and onion), so figured why not.  Here it is going into the steam:
Here's one with a bite out of it:
These were downright amazing!  I'm so glad I've found this recipe.

If you want to use the dough for wontons and the like, just let it rise overnight, it won't puff as much when you steam it and still be delicious!  I also found that frying over medium heat prevents it from puffing a whole bunch.

The Week Ahead

So with the chickens laying again, we need egg ideas.  If you have any, please send them over.  I inherited most of my Mom's cookbooks.  I was beside myself when she told me she was going to get rid of them.  The collection in question is totally retro chic and chock full of great recipes. 

Among this fortress of cooking was, "The Egg Cookbook".  Its a simple paperbound little book chock full of egg information (ask me about egg grading, and yes, half of our fresh ones are only A) and recipes.  One recipe that caught my eye was Rice and Egg Bake.  Its more or less deviled eggs baked in a tomato and pepper rice....I'll have to report back.

Pierogi with leftover balsamic cream sauce.....I'm using the steam bun dough well risen so it doesn't puff a bunch.  For the filling, I mashed 3 small potatoes with buttermilk, cream, salt, and shredded parmesan, and ran some onion, chicken, apple cider vinegar, thyme, and garlic through the chopper.  I'll put those together later tonight.  So far, it smells amazing and I'm having flashbacks to the delicious sour cream sauce on the pelmini at Anoush Deli in Vancouver, WA.  One of these days I should write about Anoush....what a weird hole in the wall but once folks recognized my face I was part of the family.  I'm pretty sure I met the Russian mafia there.....

Shepherd's Pie - Husbear will make this one, he has a distinct picture and flavor in his mind.  Interestingly, he was worried about needing corn, but I have a can in the pantry....  It was intended for salads, but thus far, I haven't been able to touch the canned goods I got for tiffin salads.

Fajitas - easy, duh!

General Tsao's Chicken - Similar to the orange chicken.  I need to find a good recipe for General sauce.

Bonus!  It Caused a Stir

Egg Fu Yung

6 eggs
1/2 onion, finely diced (a bunch of green onions, white and green parts works too)
1/2 cup finely sliced celery (cutting at a 45-degree angle is visually appealing)
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts (substitute finely shredded cabbage, bok choy, napa cabbage, or similar)

Mix altogether until the egg starts to froth.  Fry on medium heat by 1/4 cupfuls....make sure to mix well before each frying or you will get veggie patties and egg patties, not that either isn't delicious!

You can also add up to 1/2 lb of cooked, cooled, and finely chopped meat if you'd like.  When its on sale, I love Chinese sausage in this.

There are a handful of tricks to make it cripsier, if you'd like.  The easiest is to add 1 tsp. cornstarch per egg to the mix.  The other is to fry the fu yung, then aggressively steam it by adding a couple tablespoons of water to the skillet and covering.

I was shocked when I finally figured out my favorite brown sauce for Eggs Fu Yung.  My favorite Eggs Fu Yung, made by China Garden in Missoula, MT, always came slathered in a delicious starchy brown sauce, a recipe which I could never find.  The closest thing I've found is McCormick brown gravy mix.  Here's the picture that caused a stir:

So 2014 was a very strange and crazy year.  I'm hoping that the new adventures and thinking I'm trying to adopt in 2015 work to my advantage.  I hope you all will also have a fantastic new year and the years of the past are remembered fondly.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

For Leigh and Lee, I love you, don't ever forget it!

Hey All,

OK, so its Saturday, and today was the big meat run for the month and I feel broke as shit.  $0.50 for fritter chicken, at 20 lbs, still feels like rape....Did I ever mention that spending money on groceries makes me want to throw up?

So the truth is, I haven't been raped and I'm not sorry.  I just really hate the "big meat" trips to the market.  It makes me feel dirty for spending so much.  Beef costs a helluva lot, chicken, not much better, and pork, is actually on sale, but by the time I made it to the store with pork on sale I was worn out!

In usual fashion, let's revisit some recipes.....

Bourbon chicken....this devil made a chicken and a sauce that was delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that Husbear nuked some edamame to enjoy while we steamed vegetables.  I had a moment of genius where I realized that the reason my crock pot Chinese had been turning out like drek, was because I was crocking the vegetables too.....Moral of the story, dont' do it!  Steam the vegetables in the microwave and dredge them in the sauce.  In the case of the bourbon chicken, I added the cornstarch slurry and let it set for 1.5 hours.....then threw the steamed veggies in and pulled them out with a slotted spoon.....YUMMO!

Now for why I'm writing this.  This week has been hell on our marriage....Husbear got hit, on his bicycle, no major damage, thank GOD, but we're still on a witch hunt!.....I've been working hard, but the reality that I'm losing my support teams is hitting like a ton of bricks!

Shopping today, as mentioned, was not the usual $50/week.....its because of these trips that it's OK, but damn....I hate spending $493 on food, even if it goes in the freezer for 2 months.

Now for the recipe for Rangoon Dip....Leigh (my Husbear) and Lee (a friend's ex) both think its worthy of publication.  Its a pintrest thingy.....normally, pinterest makes me kind a crazy, but this one, just screamed, "Make it!".

1/2 pound lump crab (imitation crab works, but don't over cook)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan reality, about 2 oz solid....My how grinding works and save a fortune!
3 Tblsp, green onion
2 Tblsp, Worchestershire sauce
2 Tblsp lemon juice, or juice of 2 limes, as I did tonight
1 teasp, hot sauce....siracha is my favorite
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. Old Bay spice....this one can be made from your pantry.  Google that shit....I'm tired and crabby!

Mix the mess together....the original recipe says 350°F for 20 min...bullcrap!  Shred some mozzarella over the top and broil on high until it gets a crust.....

Fry wonton skins on the highest setting of your deep frier....the oil must be hot....drip them off on paper towels and put them in a brown paper bag...the should be great tomorrow....

Ugh, tired, sad, challenged....I won't take a break from this, but yeah, life, much like gloss, rhymes with hair...

Good night,


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Standby....a theme for a week

Hey All,

First let me say thank you to all my viewers.  I've topped 4000 all time views, and have been averaging about 8 hits a day.  THANK YOU!  Interestingly, in the past week, China has taken the lead for origination of hits.  I remember back when I got my first European hits, I was thrilled.  Now I'm slowly starting to fill in the map of the world.  I think its pretty cool to know that my writing and cooking have reached around the globe.

So let's recap last week:

On Monday, I was going to use the last pork steak to make a pork chow mien.  I got all the shopping done, pulled the pork out of the fridge, and it smelled uniquely of rotten almonds.  So, yeah, um, no, pork chow mien didn't happen.  Instead, we used leftover turkey and made turkey club sandwiches.

The chickens, sans one very sick hen that is in isolation, have been laying again, so I decided to make a quiche.  Quiche is surprisingly easy.  Its pretty much 6 eggs, vegetables that will cook well, and a pastry shell.  The swiss chard has been continuing to grow well into this very warm winter, so I used that, a bit of onion, leftover shredded cheese, salt, pepper, a sprinkle of thyme, and a sprinkle of rosemary. I also had some deli ham that I picked up on a free promotion, so I layered that into the bottom.  I sprinkled some leftover shredded Parmesan over the top.  Because the chard was so much, the Parmesan sat on top of the leaves and created a nice frico effect.  It was tasty! 

We also had some leftover pie dough, so Husbear rolled it out.  We make a pretty good team when it comes to pastry.  I can't make and roll it very well, and he doesn't do well with rolling and fluting the edges.  This isn't some of my best work, but on a weeknight, I'm more interested in my food tasting great than looking nice.  If pie crust isn't readily available, I use a pat in pan recipe, similar to this one.  Pat in pan crusts aren't flaky and delicious like the one's Husbear makes, but they are entirely functional for quiche.

Wednesday had Husbear running, so we did a chicken ranch from Papa Murphy's.  I'm really glad we've picked this one up again.  It makes for a nice easy meal and the quality is far superior to the delivery guys.

I don't remember what we had on Thursday....and Friday was a handful of martini's that left me sound asleep.

I've also been playing with sourdough.  I started the starter the week before Thanksgiving.  I've been feeding it regularly, making breads of many varieties throughout the weeks.  Breadmaking has required patience and a much more relaxed approach than normal.  The good news, things have been turning out great.  I've been using quick dough type recipes of the generic type:  1 cup hot tap water, 2 Tblsp starter, 3 cups water, 1/2 tsp. salt.  For regular bread, I add 1 egg, 1/4 cup oil, and 1 Tblsp sugar.  For sweet breads, I add 3 Tblsp. sugar, 6 Tblsp melted butter, 1/4 cup powdered milk.

The hardest part has been getting things to rise.  I'm slowly learning that sourdough does things on its own time and requires just the right amount of heat.  I've been putting the dough in the oven with the light on overnight, then punching down, shaping, and letting rise another 2 to 4 hours.

This morning, we had cinnamon rolls.  I haven't made these in years, and they were delicious!  The filling was 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teasp. cinnamon.  Most recipes I found included a bit of flour in the filling mix, but I didn't use it.  A tip when cutting, use a piece of thread to pinch the roll rather than trying to cut with a knife.  That way you don't lose the shape.

Over the top, 8oz cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, softened and creamed together.  1/2 tsp vanilla mixed in, then 1 cup of powdered sugar.  I really like the extra butter in this recipe as it negates the need for a slab of butter over the roll.  Here's what it turned out like:

The week ahead has me using some old favorites:  Anaheim shrimp scampi (avocados were $0.79/ea), quiche (because eggs are plentiful right now!), and turkey tetrazinni (the last of the leftover turkey).  Also, I'll be trying Spend with Pennies - Bourbon Chicken this week.

Also, a big reminder to be watching your grocer's apps and ads.  This is the time of year that I find they are often in a "giving" mood and you can stock a pantry with ease.  This past week, I picked up 4lb bags of sugar for $0.99 each (limit 4).  That was a huge saver, as typically you can't find bags of sugar for under $1.50.  Other steals this week on niceties:  $1.99 for 16 oz of mixed greens, I can usually do better on lettuce, but its been expensive this season, $1.29 for a bag of 3 scones, $1.37 for a bag of 6 bagels, $0.75 for a tub of pumpkin spice cream cheese spread, $0.43 for a bag of peas, carrots, and broccoli, and $0.21/pint for milk.  I'm sure the price on the milk doesn't figure out in the end, but a gallon of milk is always too much for us, so $0.40 for milk for cooking vs. $2.50 for too much that goes bad, works quite nicely in my budget.

I'm also happy to report that the tiffin is forcing me to make great and healthy lunches.  This past week, I had a salad with every meal which has left me feeling much better in the afternoon and evenings. It has also made lunch a much more enjoyable affair....the days of plastic containers full of leftovers, hastily thrown into my day sack are over.  Now I am eating meals filled with fresh fruits and veggies and reasonable sized portions of high-fat foods.  Even better, my budget is staying intact!

I should talk about the sick chicken, since I mentioned her.  The hens recently started laying again.  I'm slowly catching on that they have a good period every year that they do not lay and then it resumes like normal.  One of them began acting funny, staying away from the flock, just laying around, not doing much of anything.  I watched her for a few days, and finally took action when she was laying on her side not moving much at all.  A look over her and her belly was red and swollen.  I have seen egg bound chickens and broody chickens, but nothing like this.  A quick consult with a vet friend and I learned its likely something to do with the resumption of laying.  It would stand to reason that something is quite wrong with her girl parts, whether she isn't passing the egg properly, or if she has something else going on causing the improperly formed egg to pass into the abdominal cavity.  Either way, she's got one heck of an infection.  The prognosis isn't super good, but I figure we owe it to her to give recovery a shot.  The first couple days, I managed to force some antibiotics into her, then she fought me too much...the past two, she's been consuming the liquid, but very little.  Husbear bathed her and cleaned her isolation pen last night and she's acting really sick today.  The course of antibiotics is complete on Thursday, at that time we'll have to decide if she's healthy enough to return to the flock or if we need to make end of life arrangements including a necropsy to determine if the rest of the flock has any risk of getting sick.

I hope you all are enjoying the winter months, staying warm and healthy.