Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Day -- Black Eyed Peas -- After supper edit

Last things first, here's a shot of my dinner plate with all of the traditional southern elements on it. Black eyed peas, greens, pork and corn bread. Served with a little sprinkle of hot sauce. Done and done. I won't have to cook again for a month.

Southern food traditions are not new to me -- I can and do eat grits now and then, for example.  But I've never tried the New Year's tradition of black eyed peas.  Research on the internet gave me two recipes that seemed within my skill set, and though there are lots of variations on this one, I stuck with a fairly basic approach.  It's based largely on a recipe by Emeril.   This all started when I walked into a local supermarket and saw a table stacked high with one pound bags of blacked eyed peas, marked down to $1.29 (from $1.59).

Last night, after chatting with my favorite teenagers on earth over Skype, I put the beans in a pot, added 6-8 cups of  water as directed on the package, and left them on the counter over night to soak.  This is how they looked this morning.  Drain and rinse.  Repeat.  Set the beans/peas aside.

Recipes of this type are guidelines, no chemistry involved, unlike baking.  Research had indicated that this could be bland, so I chose two different kinds of pork products to flavor it.  The thick sliced hickory smoked bacon -- about a half pound.  And a cup of diced leftover Christmas ham.  All the recipes I saw also called for at least one whole onion.  This is a large sweet onion.

This cast of characters photo (below) is a little misleading.  Because I used bacon, I never used the olive oil.  And since I used bacon and couldn't find a low sodium chicken broth, I didn't use the salt either.

Brown up the bacon, add the onion and ham and -- this is a lot -- 2 tablespoons of minced garlic.
Also add two bay leaves, a half teaspoon or so of thyme, and as much pepper as you like.

Cook all of this until you've rendered most of the fat out of the bacon and the onions are soft.

Add a full quart of chicken broth (4 cups) plus one cup of water to the pot.  Add the peas/beans at this point, and stir.  Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 25 minutes.

Remove the cover and continue to cook uncovered for another 25 minutes on medium-low heat or until the beans/peas are tender.  Adjust seasonings to your taste.  Variations include celery, red bell pepper, ham hocks, canned diced tomatoes and stir in torn up kale when 5 minutes of cooking time remain.  Serve as a side dish with greens, cornbread and a pork main dish.  Add rice to it and you can call it Hoppin' John, another traditional southern New Year's dish.

Or you can cut a small piece of cornbread in half and ladle up some black eyed peas over the top.  Add some hot sauce of your choice -- but be sure to get plenty of pot liquor.  And always remove bay leaf from anything you've cooked before you dig into it.  This was really, really yummy for lunch today.  It'll also be served with greens and a pork tenderloin for supper tonight.  And cornbread.  Which is a whole other story.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kielbasa, homemade kraut and squash

We have done a fair amount of experimenting with the various widely available sausages this outdoor cooking season.  We have discovered that even above the wildly popular bratwurst that our favorite is the kielbasa, Polish sausage.

So a couple of days ago I scored a couple of big Polish.  That day we had meat and I like to season the sausage by putting it on the grill along with the meat.  That grilled meat taste is incorporated into the sausage and then we try to take advantage of that in some later usage of the big sausage.

Which leads us to this evening's meal.  We have previously done some things with the spaghetti squash which were pretty much duplicated this evening.  Bake the squash, mix in some butter and fresh parmesan cheese and some fresh cut tomatoes and peppers.

The tomatoes and peppers don't exactly cook but the heat from the squash renders everything into a single dish.  Squash with tomatoes and some still slightly crisp peppers.

The new addition to the equation is homemade sauerkraut.
It was excellent.

The obvious question seems to me to be where does one obtain home made sauerkraut.

You make it yourself, that's how.

All of the articles I read said making your own kraut would produce a sauerkraut better than what you are used to when buying from the deli or supermarket.


It is easy but it does require some hand work.  I expect to soon enough provide a post with details as I prepare my second batch.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Let them eat cake.....

It was that kind of day.

Many thanks to all of my friends and family who sent birthday wishes my way.  It's not as bad as I had expected.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fresh Vegetable Medley

LH brought over some freshly picked green beans and zucchini this afternoon.  In this heat, we've been eating lighter, and I made a fresh vegetable stew for supper tonight.

I sauteed an onion with some garlic, added in a couple of small red potatoes, and started that all cooking in a little olive oil.  It needed some liquid and I didn't have any fresh tomatoes (which I think would have been good), so I poured the liquid from a can of diced tomatoes in with the vegetables,  I cubed the zucchini, cut up the green beans, decided to throw in the tomatoes after all, then added some spices.  Salt, pepper, parsley and oregano.  I had some fresh basil so I added that.  It was pretty tasty.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Cross blog

Because it is what I threatened to do.

I almost think this should go on the cooking blog.

Has anyone else seen these?
3 for a buck.  Which is pretty dang expensive for kraut, even "Quality Kraut".  But TOPWLH and the P-ster were going to go to the track today (I begged off, futbol don't ya know).  The deal at the track on the Fourth of July is free hot dogs.  The dogs are free but the condiment selection is severely lacking.  Our family tradition is to bring our own mustard (although anyone who knows me will know that I always maintain that the cheap yellow mustard is a GOOD mustard) and kraut.  Packing a tupperware container of kraut isn't THAT difficult but geez, singles?  Way, way easier.

Convenience rules.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Seafood Au Gratin

I wish we'd taken a picture of tonight's dinner, but we were too busy savoring it.  I want to preserve the recipe, though -- so I'm recording it here.  Full credit for the dish goes to North Country Woman.

It takes about 1 pound of a mix of shrimp, scallops and crab (imitation crab in this case), though any seafood would be fine.  She used pre-cooked shrimp and crab that were completely thawed, and fresh scallops.

Begin by sauteing about 1/2 cup each of mushrooms and onions in olive oil, season with garlic salt, seasoned salt and seasoned pepper, then place them in a casserole dish. (I think the quart and a half size works best.)

Next, make a white sauce with 3 Tablespoons of butter cooked for a couple of minutes (in a big skillet) with about 5 Tablespoons of flour.  Stir in about 2 1/2 cups of milk slowly, and cook the sauce until it just begins to thicken.  Add the sauce to the mushrooms and onions.  Add one generous cup of freshly shredded sharp white cheddar cheese.  Add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, mixing as you go along.

Next NCW lightly fried the seafood with a little olive oil, just to heat it through and shorten the baking time. What you do here depends on whether you're using fresh or pre-cooked seafood.  She was using a couple of recipes as guides, and one said to heat the seafood, the other said to add it to the white sauce mixture and it would cook during the last step.  (I probably would cook anything a little bit that wasn't pre-cooked.)  Add the seafood to the casserole.

Add 1/2 cup frozen peas, stir.

Dust the top of the mixture in the casserole with seasoned bread crumbs and paprika.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes  until it is bubbly.  Let it cool slightly before serving over puffed pastry shells. (She used frozen Pepperidge Farm shells.)  Serves 4 generously. Goes well with grilled asparagus and a fresh green salad.

Note:  JB liked this so much that he has devised a plan.  He's going to hide NCW until after TT leaves.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cashew Chicken

I've been hungry for cashew chicken since we returned from Florida. The cashew chicken available here is all cashews and chicken, and I like the version available in Port Charlotte that has plenty of vegetables in it.  So I made my  own for supper tonight.

Ingredient list:
  • One chicken breast, cut into smallish cubes, dusted with flour and seasoned with salt. (Chicken thighs would work fine, too.)
  • celery, sweet onion, green onion and 2 or 3 garlic cloves
  • baby bella mushrooms, snow peas and about 1/3 cup of cashew bits and pieces
  • five spice seasoning (if you have it), stir fry sauce, soy sauce and some cooking oil (I used olive oil -- I know, I know.)
Stir fry the floured chicken cubes in the oil over medium high heat, (corn starch would be more authentic) until they're mostly done.  Set aside on a plate, then stir fry the vegetables in the order listed in the same pan.  Season as you go along.  Add back the chicken, lower the heat and cover for a few minutes until the vegetables are at your preferred level of crispness.  We had it with some left over brown rice.  Serves two with a lunch serving left over.  Yummy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Low Carb Lunch

Sometimes my diet veers off course and I need to re-focus my efforts. And sometimes I think my metabolism changes. In either case, today I worked at getting a lot of healthy bulk into my lunch, in the form of fresh vegetable soup. I paired it with a wrap instead of a sandwich, making it a lower carb version of one of our favorite lunches.
It is the same soup that I've shown here before, for the most part.  I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, skipped the flour step and used whatever vegetables were in my refrigerator.
I added them to the pot in their order of density -- celery, carrot, onion, garlic, mushroom, tomato and corn.
When the carrots had lost their crispness, I added about half a carton of veggie broth and an equal amount of water, and let it simmer for 20 minutes to a half hour.  I used my favorite spices, including a half teaspoon of cumin, just for fun.  The bay leaf goes in last, and comes out first.  (You don't ever want to eat one of those.)  It made about 6 generous servings. The wrap has just 10 carbs, 4 of them fiber, and 50 calories.  It's an oat and multi grain mini wrap, but there are lots of different wraps out there.  This was actually a tortilla, and I heated it on my grill pan before adding ham and lettuce and tomato.  Some chopped cucumber or avocado would have been good on it, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Squash Spaghetti

This all started a few weeks ago when I was on my way into the local Rainbow Foods. As is the case at many grocery stores this time of year they had a display of locally grown winter squash near the entrance. I like squash, I am familiar with at least a couple summer squashes and I have often in the past prepared acorn squash, which is a winter squash. I was looking at the acorn squash when my eye was caught by the label on the big yellow squash, clearly a squash with which I had zero familiarity and which I had never ever prepared.

You might be able to read the label if you magnify the photo but here is what it says:

Spaghetti Squash: Cut squash in half, remove seeds, then bake at 350 (degrees) for 45 minutes. Remove strands with a fork. Toss lightly with butter, salt and pepper. Season to taste with parmesan or Italian seasonings."

I was intrigued by "remove strands(?) with a fork" and "Italian seasonings". I bought one. I baked it up one night while we were having, if I recall correctly, meat loaf. Sure enough, strands. We flavored it with butter and parmesan cheese and we both decided we liked it.

I went ahead and got another one and we took the hint given in the name of the squash and in the recipe directions and prepared a simple mostly canned spaghetti sauce. Again we both decided we liked it.

Today was a rainy and wet day, too cold to do much of anything, including the raking that we intended to do today. Instead we rounded up the ingredients again and set out to make Squash Spaghetti.
I have found that 45 minutes while the squash is baking is plenty of time to do the sauce. Therefore squash preparation comes first.

Here is a preparation tip which I found some place other than on the label, probably on the intertubes. You don't want to just lay the squash down and saw your way through. The texture of the squash makes that a difficult and possibly dangerous approach. Puncture the thing with a long sharp knife and then work your way around.
Again, that's more or less the way you approach the first cut on a pumpkin.

Look familiar?
Clean that all up and deposit the two halves on the center rack of the oven. No baking sheet or any thing of that sort required.

I learned most of the things I know about cooking long, long ago while I was a single man. I learned that if you can cook the whole deal in a single pan there will only be one pan to clean up after you are done. TOPWLH now does most of the clean up (hey, I do the cooking) and I bet she agrees that fewer pans is better than lots of pans.

So, one big pan, a medium large yellow onion cut into pieces, not diced, not chopped, I like onion, I want to able to taste a piece when I bite into it. But onion takes the longest to cook of the things going into the single pan, it comes first.
Next comes a large green pepper, cut into medium size pieces. See above for the reasons for choosing medium size pieces.
I just throw them right on top of the onions. The onions are moving along towards the state that I want them in for this sauce, the green pepper will take a little less time but my life cooking experience tells me that these two will both be cooked the way I want them to be cooked by the time I am done.

But, they are not cooked enough yet to just be allowed to be in the pan while I am browning the hamburger. It is a large pan so I sequester the onions and peppers and start cooking hamburger in the other half of the pan.
As soon as the hamburger is moving along pretty close to "browning" I add the most delicate ingredient, the one that is going to take the least amount of time to cook to the level that I want.
I know that all of the cooking guides say "saute the mushrooms". That works really well. This also works, at least it works for me. After a bit the parts start getting smooshed together and it starts to look like this.
The only thing missing from that sequence is when the meat looks sufficiently browned and all of the other pieces look sufficiently reduced I add the jar of sauce.

How do I define "sufficiently" as in "sufficiently browned" and "sufficiently reduced"? Cooking is an art, not a science.

OK, then, here comes the fun part. The squash comes out of the oven looking for all the world like, what? squash?
But, when you go after it with a fork it comes out in STRANDS!
It was a pretty large squash, we ended up with a couple of bowls of strands.
To which we added the simple spaghetti sauce giving us a meal of Squash Spaghetti.
We both love pasta, this will never completely replace pasta. But, it is good and it offers some dietary advantages over pasta. Very low carbs.

It smells good, it looks good, it is good.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Camembert tartelette

One of the highlights of our trip to Normandy was the food. And one of our favorites in Normandy was the Camembert tartelette which we had (twice) in Bayeux. After returning home we tried to recreate the experience on our trip to Michigan. We scoured the internet for a recipe for Camembert tartelette, obtained locally available products and hatched up a meal. It wasn't right.

I requested from TOPWHL and TCWUTH that my most recent birthday provide me with a surprise gift of tartelette pans. Be careful about putting TCWUTH on any such mission unless you are prepared to be the owner of the absolutely finest tartelette pans available anywhere in the world.

Thanks sweeties.

 I had identified what I thought were two problems in the Michigan effort. First, although plenty of good brie seems to be available out there, the camembert we eventually used was not of the highest quality. Second, the recipe we used seemed more to me to be a recipe for a cheese quiche. Too much egg. What I had in mind was a cheese tart, not a quiche.

I was at the supermarket recently anticipating what I would do when the surprise gift of tartelette pans actually appeared in my kitchen. I have some notoriety for having introduced the crescent roll crust pizza into the family menu, I was thinking that perhaps a crescent roll crust might be just the ticket for the tart I wanted to make.

And, voila, I found a recipe for a cheese tartelette on the label of the crescent roll container. The recipe was for a swiss cheese tartelette making 12 from a single container. I went ahead and tried to adapt. Here's what the adaptation looked like just out of the oven.
AND, it was tres tasty. We are both very happy with the result. We used camembert, upon reflection it is a cheese tart, there is absolutely no reason why the same recipe would not produce an excellent brie tartelette. We have been successful on numerous occasions at obtaining an excellent brie in Michigan.

Here we go then:

1 8 ounce can Pillsbury crescent rolls (either the dinner rolls or the seamless dough would work, I used the seamless dough)

8 ounces of Camembert or other smooshy cheese, the higher the quality cheese the better the dish. It is important that the cheese be pretty soft already as the melting of the cheese is integral to preparation of the dish.

Bacon. I used four strips of microwave bacon. Prepare this plenty in advance (a half hour or so) as you are going to want to be able to handle the bacon to break it into small bits.

A smallish amount of chopped green onion. I got one bunch (2 for a dollar) from Cub and it was about right (about 7 pieces).

1 egg

3 tablespoons whipping cream. Mine cost $2, maybe TOPWLH can use the rest in her morning coffee.

I also added some bottled sliced mushrooms

Here's what all of that looked like just before the next step. Everyone please note the spectacularly wonderful Le Creuset tartelette pans.
Heat oven to 375F.

Unroll dough, press into whatever pan you are using. I cut my dough into fourths and had to trim and adjust to make the four square pieces fit into my four round pans. The crescent roll dough is sufficiently flexible to allow this. The original recipe anticipates using a cupcake pan with a yield of 12. A larger tart pan might require use of the whole roll for a single tart.

Half of the cheese on the bottom. Then the bacon, the mushrooms and the onions.  Then the rest of the cheese.

In a small bowl beat the cream and the egg until blended and then divide the mixture evenly among the four tartelettes. This is what it looked like just after going into the oven.
Perhaps of further interest is a Pillsbury Kitchens recommendation I found on the internet version of the back of the can Crescent roll recipe:  Keep refrigerated dough in the fridge until you're ready to use it, cold dough is much easier to work with.  Have all the other ingredients ready to use.

And this is what it looked like coming out.
Bake 15 or 20 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the filling is set. Cool 5 minutes.

Improvements for next time. The cheese rind does not diminish from the taste but it does slightly mar the appearance. It would be easy enough to make sure that no piece of rind is at the top to the tart.

Cooling for more than 5 minutes is not an issue. We had ours with a large tossed salad, you don't need HOT with a tossed salad. A little bit cooler will allow the filling to set up a little bit more and should not affect your enjoyment of a Norman treat, the camembert tartelette.

Did I mention that we both liked ours a lot.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chicken Tenders

We ate chicken tonight -- I like the chicken tenders at the Cracker Barrel restaurants, so I Googled up a recipe for it. There are many out there, and they are all remarkably similar. I had 1.25 pounds of chicken tenders, so I used 1/3 cup of Italian dressing, a tablespoon of good lime juice (I only get the good stuff, just in case the occasion arises to make Key Lime Pie. Better to be prepared.) The recipes all called for a little bit of honey, though I suspect any sweetener would work, or even none at all. I don't keep it on hand here, but I had a single serving size from a dinner we had somewhere last week where JB had biscuits. Stir those three ingredients together in a small bowl.
Dump the chicken tenders in a zip lock bag and add the marinade. Squish it around some, then put it in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours. I put this together at lunch, so it was about 5 or 6 hours. Longer wouldn't have hurt, I'm pretty sure.
These take next to no time to cook. I put a little olive oil on my grill pan, and turned the heat to about medium high, just a little bit lower, until the oil got good and hot.
I set my stove timer for 3 minutes per side, and they were done. I cut a couple of the bigger ones in half, just to be sure -- raw chicken is icky. Overcooked chicken is tough. These were very moist but thoroughly cooked. I used a light honey dijon mustard salad dressing as a dipping sauce at the table.
I love my grill pan -- I use it a lot for quick suppers. Turkey burgers, for example. We have plenty of tenders left over, probably enough for at least two lunches of chicken sandwiches. (Chicken tenders are overpriced -- you can buy chicken breasts and cut them up with your kitchen shears for the same result. I wanted the convenience, so paid the extra this time. I also suspect that boneless chicken thighs would work with this, for those of you who like dark meat. They might take a little bit longer to cook.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Dinner in Norway

Just in time for Christmas to be over, I thought I'd describe what we ate on Christmas Eve in Norway. We had lutefisk, kjøttkaker or meat balls, mashed peas, bacon, potatoes, lefse and salad. Lutefisk is available here in my part of Norway in the stores around Christmas time, but I've been told that not many people here eat it on Christmas eve or Christmas day. With my cousin Unni we had pinnekjøtt, which is a west coast dish of salted, steamed lamb and julepølser, or Christmas sausage. I went against the advice many of my brother's friends gave him before he came to visit me, and made lutefisk.

After defrosting two pieces in water, I put them on an oven pan and covered them with tinfoil.

We cooked it for about 30 minutes in all, on 180˚C or 356˚F.

For part of our International Student's Christmas dinner we had lutefisk with mashed peas and bacon, and I thought it was really good. So I made it again with my dad and brother:

Bacon makes anything good, right? Even lutefisk.

This I made from a package:

Mashed peas in 5 minutes. "Accessories to the most traditional Norwegian meal time. Delicious" Sorry for the bad translation but you get the idea.

Now this was good, even though it came from a can:

That's the kjøttkaker. In brown sauce.

With some salad and curried potatoes (hey, curry's not Norwegian!) we had ourselves a great feast.

Except for the lutefisk. I ate mine but couldn't even look at the leftover fish afterwards. I think I'd had a smaller piece at the other dinner or something...I put butter on it too! I don't think I'm alone among Norwegians in not liking it though. It is a strange invention. Who makes fish soaked in lye a traditional dish?

Merry Christmas!