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  I had recently scored on cases (no, not just cases, 9 cases, and there were plenty more) of outdated yogurt.  I'm sure many of my readers just threw up a bit knowing that they ate cheese and naan made with outdated yogurt.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 forever....it 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 rise....now 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 while....no, 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 onion....it 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 variants....in 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% savings....so 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 ...in 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.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

We've Made It to Winter

Hey All,

Wow, the last few weeks leading up to the holidays have flown by.  Winter is officially here, we've only had bits of snow, but I'm definitely in hibearnation mode.  The joints are a bit achy, the thought of going out in the cold makes me shiver, and I can't seem to drink enough hot beverages.

OK, that's a really dramatic take on winter, but that's often how I feel about it.  When I was younger, I loved the snow and all the great  things it brought.  These days, I see walks that need shoveled, difficult driving, the inversion that Salt Lake has become infamous for, and far too much time indoors in dry air.  The gardens, if they haven't already, are rapidly dying and I am relegated to the markets for food.....

So yes, energy levels have been low and stress has unnecessarily built up.  The good news, this holiday has me relaxed and back on track.  2 days of mostly sleeping and not doing anything with a splash of company thrown in, a day of mostly laziness but with dim sum at Hong Kong Tea House, a nice soak and sauna, and today, a bit of shopping that has me energized to keep making our home a place of wonderful food.

So let's dig in.  This time around, I'm only going to talk about recipes for which I have pictures and unless I deviated wildly from the recipe, I'll leave only links.

Chicken Korma, comes to us from a college friend.  Our history is really something, a couple of really good fights, but an enduring friendship that has stood the test of time.  I'm lucky to have a great friend who also shares a love for wholesome meals with her family.

My dish isn't quite as pretty as the picture in the link, but the flavor was spot on.  I think I just cooked it a bit too long.  Despite my cooking prowess, I'm often one to leave the crockpot going for way too long and making some delicious sludge.

 Moroccan Pot Roast with Dried Cherry Couscous, was another of those recipes that randomly flew by on Facebook and I had to hunt it down.  This meal was delicious!   My only complaint was that the flavors became a bit bitter when eaten as leftovers.  This recipe also calls out for Ras el Hanout, as I talked about earlier, a properly stocked spice cabinet can make just about any one of these exotic sounding spice blends....here's an easy recipe from allrecipes.com.

Finally, in the "new" category this round, is a potato soup that kinda came out of nowhere.  The boys went out on a goodwill mission to Laramie, Wyoming.  Its one heck of a drive and our first real weather of the season was kicking in.  With it being cold, I had absolutely no desire to leave the house, but I knew they'd be hungry when they got back.  I figured a comforting bowl of soup with croutons and bread would fit the bill.

I cut up 5 potatoes and put them in the crock pot with 4 cups of water, 2 tomato and chicken bullion cubes, some powdered onion (I normally use fresh, but I didn't have one in the pantry), and garlic.  I turned it on high and let that cook for several hours until the potatoes were boiled and I could mash it all up a bit.  At that point, I threw in some celery and baby carrots, a sprinkle of thyme, and let that cook on low until they were about an hour out.  When they were about an hour out, I added some cheese curds and mozzarella balls that were leftover from the symphony.  While all this was going on, I decided to give breadmaking a shot.  It wasn't perfect, but it still tasted good.  We managed to get food in us and get them calmed down after a harrowing journey just in time to go out to the club and have the DJs no show.  I can't say they no-showed;  the show was supposed to start at 9:00pm, we left the club at 11:30pm, and through the modern luxury of Facebook, I learned the DJ showed about 12:30am....you know just in time for last call.  A disappointing evening, but I did have a nice day of solitude in my kitchen.

I'm also excited to announce that I finally got a tiffin.  It dawned on me that metal won't work in the microwave for warm dishes, so I'm on the hunt for a perfect sized plate to slip in there.  In the interim, I have a shallow bowl that will work just lovely.  The dual compartment also leaves me thinking I'll eat a bit more roughage this winter.....suddenly, a beet salad for a work lunch doesn't seem so impossible.

Its also cooler weather, so that means tea.  I love a good strong cup or two of medium roast coffee in the morning, but coffee is not an all day thing for me.  I think part of this is my continued battle with insomnia, which seems to get worse during the winter months.  I also don't care for cocoa throughout to the day....as a nice treat here and there, I enjoy it, but its just too rich, heavy, and sweet for an all day sip.  So along with the tiffin, I've been keeping my eye open for mugs with built in infusers....  I've had two gripes with the one's I've seen:  a) plastic...tea is meant to be enjoyed with ritual from ceramic, I even shun glass when it comes to tea, b) price tag - I'd be OK with $20 for a good ceramic one, but for plastic with a metal strainer....yeah, um, NO!  Today, while I was cruising Global Supermarket for tea, I decided to have a look at their kitchen supplies.....lo' and behold, I found my mug, a nice porcelain one for Husbear, and my tiffin....they also have a steamer set that I'm eyeing to start doing at home dimsum for easy weekend brunches.

I hope you all are keeping warm this winter.  I've managed to warm myself up and keep my head screwed on....


Sunday, November 9, 2014

I'm back!

Hey All,

As you saw, we were down with this delightful little cold that has been going around. There is nothing quite like a mucus filled illness to turn grown men into cranky babies. Food was up and down during that time. I will say, I have relearned the joy of Papa Murphy's Pizza. It used to one of those things we ate a lot of in college. A few days ago, Paul brought one over as a quick fix. I think we cooked it right, as the crust was that perfect spongy crunchy that I like in pizza and the flavors were great!

Shopping has been dismal, as I plain flat haven't had the energy to shop.  That should change this week.

In amongst, though, I did get some cooking done. Albeit things were a bit more complicated during another busy and hectic work week than I like. The good news, the crazy with work is likely behind me. Now, I am faced with the task of cleaning up documents and implementing lessons learned. Its actually an enjoyable part of the job, as it usually doesn't fail a deadline or leave anyone hanging with important things.

So first let's recap from where I left off. With the past couple of weeks being what they were, these are more the highlights than anything else.

A creamy cauliflower soup (Thanks for the idea, Lisa!) was great during one of the first cold days of the season. I don't have any pictures, and it needs some tweaking for the crockpot, but it ended up being great. Couple that with a good loaf of bread from Stone Ground Bakery, which is just around the corner, and it was a very satisfying hearty meal.

The curried chicken salad was one that fed us for a suprising number of days. I visited lots of recipes on the web and concluded that its pretty much like any other chicken salad, but with the addition of curry powder. I did half and half to taste of Vindaloo curry from Market Spice and the stuff from the supermarket.  I added the usual culprits of chives, raisins, almonds, and halved cherry tomatoes.  I also used half and half sour cream and may for the base.  I think the mayo is a must here as it adds a bit of sweetness that cultured dairy on its own does not.

The chorizo and peppers was a bust.  If I were to do it again, I'd opt for a fajita.  Something about a chili type thing on spaghetti didn't work for me.

Somewhere along the line, I found the dregs of a bag of chicken wings.  So I decided to make wings and "rippin" chicken.  The Popeye's ads have been tormenting us, as we both love their chicken, but unfortunately the nearest one that doesn't require a boarding pass is some 30 miles away. I also still had the peppers from the chorizo and peppers, so I diced a couple of those up in a pot with 50/50 sugar and vinegar, garlic, sliced ginger, a shot of Shriracha, and a bit of cornstarch to make a sauce:

I cut the chicken like this:

 I dredged it in my secret blend of 1 cup flour, 1 Tblsp. cornstarch, and some salt.  After the chicken was dredged, I threw the flour mixture over the wings and shook to coat.  Then off to the deep fryer....

That's all that was left of the poor chicken....it sure tasted good!

Up next was a find from Recipe Girl.  It isn't kind to say, as I do like how she cooks, but she is mostly facebook fodder to inspire my own cooking.  This Lemon Chicken Parmesan, in particular struck my fancy.  The way the parmesan, lemon, and past come together, and the richness of the breaded chicken made for a fantastic meal.  I made this one ahead, having everything in the baking dish ready to be finished.  I did a few things a bit differently, the pasta, butter, lemon zest, and parmesan all got mixed in the baking dish.  I had pre-breaded chicken breast fillets (which I paid less than I would have for chicken without the breading, mind you...my frugal sense hasn't gone completely out the window!), so I just deep fried those and generously sprinkled with lemon juice.  I will add the lemon slices are an absolute must....it presents nicely, and if you cook the dish covered and then brown the cheese under the broiler, the whole dish gets perfumed with lemon.  It was delicious!  Here's a picture, I even did a bit with the plate to make it look nice :)

Last but not least was this Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa.  Carl joined us for dinner this night.  Along side was plenty of local beer and lots of great conversations.  Read this recipe a few times before you make it.  If you do it right, you'll only dirty an extra pan to make the quinoa.  I didn't read it a few times and ended up destroying the kitchen with the prep.  Again, I prepped this ahead, had it ready to go in the oven and then broiled it off at the end.  I should also mention that cajun spice is really easy to make for a fraction of the price.  Once again, Allrecipes.com comes to the rescue with this Cajun Spice Recipe.

This is how the dish looked on the plate.  The picture in the article does it perfect justice for how it came out of the oven:

So now for the week ahead:

Chili!  The weather is turning colder, so its a perfect time for chili.  I adapted this White Chili Recipe from Pat and Gina Neely for the crock pot.  I didn't have the peppers and didn't feel like going to the store, so I substituted some roasted hatch chilis I had in the freezer.  I also used the ground turkey I picked up on sale instead of chicken.  I also did half canned black beans and half peruano beans.  I stayed true to the other seasoning and I'm glad I did.  Its in the crock pot now for tomorrow and it tastes and smells delicious.

Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.....not much to say about this one.  Its easy to prepare and great cold weather comfort food.

Veg 1 and broccoli. This is another staple in our house and I've written about it here.  Start a pot of rice, a quick toss in the pan, and dinner!

Spaghetti and clams.  This is one that husbear makes and I love it.

Pot roast.  This Morrocan Pot Roast came across my facebook feed and it sounded good.  I also just happened to score on couscous the other week.  I'm going to substitute dried cranberries for the cherries, but I'm sure it will be good.  This is one we'll just throw in the crock pot and enjoy.

I hope you all are healthy and well.  If you haven't already done so, get your flu shot to ensure a healthy winter season!

Lotsa Love,