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We Think You Should Steam Your Food. 

We want you to steam your food! 

We Think You Should Steam Your Food. 

Hey folks! Grant here.

Have you ever steamed bread? So many beloved bready things in the world—like Chinese steamed buns or Shanghai soup dumplings—are steamed instead of baked. However, as a culture, we got cemented into the idea that breads must be baked. We’re stuck in this notion that it’s not real bread if we don’t have the dark crust that comes from case hardening. But most people don’t realize that in baking bread you are steaming first.

If you bake bread in the Dutch oven, next time leave the lid on the entire time. If you really want to steam the bread entirely, mold a little dough along the lid to seal it. The bread will come out perfectly blond. It is soft, crustless bread. It’s every little kid’s dream.

Steaming is interesting to me. I’m particularly interested in why people boil food instead of steaming it. So many times I go to someone’s house for dinner and we all stand around the kitchen waiting for a huge pot of water to boil. Most of the foods they are making are going to be better off steamed, in a full humid steaming environment at 212 °F. Sure, if you are in a restaurant kitchen with lots of big boiling pots of water always going on a burner, it might be slightly faster to boil food. But if you are at home, boiling makes little sense. That’s why we did a video about why steaming is better than boiling.

We asked Dr. Douglas Baldwin to weigh in on the science of this for us. In the food science and high-end food world, he is a legend. (He is also the sweetest man in the universe.) Douglas is an insanely talented mathematician who has invented genuinely new areas in the industry. His book, Sous Vide for the Home Cook, was one of the first and still one of the best guides out there. He is genuinely obsessed with food and cooking, so having him work on a piece about the science of steaming vs. boiling was a natural here.

By the way, thinking about the science of cooking should lead you to choose the right tool. One that we use a lot in the ChefSteps kitchen is a Chinese spider. They are inexpensive and indispensable for safely scooping up foods out of boiling liquid.

If you’re looking for other useful tools like this, explore a restaurant supply store. Restaurant stuff is all metal and wood. It’s really kind of stunning. I like Dong Vinh here in Seattle, as well as the used section at Dick’s Restaurant SupplyEncore is an all-used restaurant supply store.

Keep cooking!
Grant

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9 Delicious Ways to Eat More Fiber

9 Delicious Ways to Eat More Fiber

By K. Aleisha Fetters | 

No chalky powders. No bland roughage. Just craveable foods that come with health benefits.

easy ways to get more fiberWhatever your health goals, fiber can help you get there.

In fact, simply increasing your fiber intake each day can help you lower your blood pressure, improve your body’s insulin health, and lose weight, according to research in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

And get this: It can often do so just as effectively as complicated diets designed to help you achieve those goals.

While the daily fiber goals for women and men over the age of 50 are 21 and 30 grams, respectively, most people eat only 15 grams per day, says Betsy Opyt, R.D., a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Naples, Florida.

And while increasing your intake of naturally fiber-rich foods, such as beans and whole grain breads, is a surefire way to achieve that number, they’re hardly your only option. Or the tastiest, for that matter.

Here, find three unexpected fiber-rich foods. Plus, knockout ways to prepare them and wow your taste buds.

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Fiber-Rich Food #1: Avocados

This tropical fruit has a reputation of being one of the best sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids—an essential fat that plays a protective role throughout the body, but that your body can’t make from scratch.

It even has more potassium than a banana. Potassium helps ward off muscle cramps and lower blood pressure.

But avocados are also rich in fiber. Just half of a creamy avocado provides more than six grams.

Ready to eat? There’s the obvious guacamole dip or the trendy avocado toast. But why limit yourself? Branch out and try any of these easy meal ideas.

easy ways to get more fiberBake avocado egg boats for brunch. Heat oven to 350°F. Slice an avocado in half, and scoop out some of the insides. Crack an egg into each avocado half, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with a side of fruit or salad.

Whip up a light and fresh pasta salad. Toss diced avocado with cooked whole wheat pasta, sliced cherry tomatoes, cooked chicken, and a little olive oil and lemon juice. Get the recipe for Lemony Pasta Salad with Chicken, Tomato, and Avocado here.

Make a vegetarian-friendly chili. Cook quinoa in a mixture of water, black beans, diced tomatoes, and spices. Top with avocado slices. Find the recipe for this incredibly easy one-pot meal here.

Fiber-Rich Food #2: Nuts

Nuts are a terrific source of fiber. Just one ounce of pistachios, pecans, or almonds has around three grams.

But nuts as a whole are one of the best foods for older adults. In fact, one review of 29 studies found that eating nuts is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.

Just make sure to eat mindfully and watch your portion sizes, since each ounce contains 160 to 200 calories, depending on the nut. And remember that one ounce of pistachios (49 kernels) is going to look very different from, say, almonds (23 whole pieces).

Sure, you can snack on nuts out of hand or toss them in salads. But if you’re feeling adventurous, we have a few suggestions.

easy ways to get more fiberRoast your own trail mix. Heat oven to 450°F. Toss ¼ cup unsalted almonds or other nuts with 1 teaspoon honey and ½ teaspoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 6 minutes. When the nuts have cooled, add fresh or dried fruit.

Create a quick peanut dipping sauce. Whisk together 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 1 tablespoon each rice vinegar, soy sauce, and water until smooth. For an easy weeknight meal, pair this sauce with No-Cook Peanut Chicken Summer Rolls.

Make a batch of cocoa energy bites. Mix chopped pistachios with no-sugar added almond butter, oats, chia seeds, vanilla extract, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Roll the mixture into balls and chill. Get the recipe for one of the best snacks you can make at home here.

Fiber-Rich Food #3: Berries

You know and love berries for their high amounts of vitamin C, which boosts immunity and helps repair tissue. But these antioxidant-filled sweet gems are also rich in fiber.

One cup of raspberries or blackberries, for instance, contains about eight grams—and only 65 calories. Blueberries have almost four grams per cup, and strawberries have about three.

Berries are wonderful fresh or frozen. In fact, they’re one of the best foods to keep in your freezer, according to nutritionists.

Try these berry-rich ideas to help hit your daily fiber quota.

Orange and Banana SmoothieMake a creamsicle-like smoothie. Blend frozen strawberries, orange juice, bananas, and plain 2% Greek yogurt. Get the recipe for this dessert smoothie that’s secretly healthy here.

Build a hearty quinoa breakfast bowl. Sprinkle blackberries over a bowl of cooked quinoa. Stir in some honey and plain nonfat Greek yogurt, and top with sliced almonds. Find the recipe for this high-protein breakfast here.

Toss together an Instagram-worthy salad. Top mixed greens with blackberries, chickpeas, and cauliflower. Drizzle with green goddess salad dressing. Get the recipe for this high-protein dinner here.

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Photos of avocado egg boats and trail mix: Jackie Q. Botto.


3 Reasons to Stop Drinking Diet Soda Today

3 Reasons to Stop Drinking Diet Soda Today

By Kevin Donahue | 

Stuck on the artificially sweet stuff? Here’s what you can look forward to when you put down the can.

3 Reasons to Stop Drinking Diet Soda Today You know regular sodas are sugar bombs. But that zero-calorie can of diet soda you crack open instead in the name of better health? It’s not as harmless as you think.

In fact, it might be the opposite.

No-calorie does not mean good for you, says Nathan Myers, R.D., a clinical dietitian at James J. Peters VA Medical Center in New York City. In fact, it doesn’t even mean you’ll have an easier time reaching your weight loss goals, which is why most people switch from regular soda to diet.

Here are three top reasons to break up with your favorite diet soda—right now! Plus, see ideas for healthier sips.

Reason #1: The Scale Will Tip in Your Favor

Ever since the very first no-calorie carbonated beverage—called No-Cal Ginger Ale—hit store shelves in 1952, marketers have spun fizzy drinks as a way to help weight-conscious folks reach their targets on the scale.

But as enthusiasm for diet soda grew, so too did Americans’ waistlines. And that caught the eye of health experts, who collectively wondered, “What gives?”

In recent years, researchers have focused on the role artificial sweeteners might play in the obesity epidemic, Myers says.

“Major studies show an association between diet beverage consumption and higher body mass index,” he notes. “This opposes the advice that consuming low-calorie beverages supports weight loss.”

But if no actual calories in diet soda are contributing to weight gain, what is?

Myers explains that researchers over the years have tried to answer this question with two major theories. The first, called “compensatory calories,” is when someone uses having a zero-calorie soda to justify other poor eating and drinking decisions. An example: “I’m having a diet soda, so it’s okay to eat these cookies.”

The second: addiction. Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar. Aspartame, for instance, is roughly 200 times sweeter than the natural stuff. The theory is that artificial sweeteners overstimulate taste receptors and make more nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables, less palatable.

“This second wave of research hasn’t reached the level of true consensus,” Myers says, but it has health professionals taking a hard look at artificial sweeteners.

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Reason #2: Your Risk for Serious Health Problems May Drop

Could soda cut your life short? Maybe.

Drinking two sodas per day—whether made with sugar or artificial sweeteners—was associated with early death from any cause, according to a new JAMA Internal Medicine study that followed 452,000 people over 16 years. In particular, diet soda consumption was linked to higher risk of death from circulatory diseases, including heart attack and stroke.

It’s not just your cardiovascular system that takes a hit. Another study found people who drink one or more artificially sweetened beverages a day were almost three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, compared with those who didn’t drink any.

And because diet sodas are tricking you into drinking and eating more, they’ve been linked to excess weight and related conditions like type 2 diabetes.

While the research behind diet soda and these health problems isn’t conclusive and is still ongoing, Myers says that your safest bet is to cut back on sugar and artificial sweeteners.

“Reduced consumption of foods and beverages with added sweeteners—artificial or otherwise—can potentially benefit everyone,” he says. “And especially folks over 50, who face the challenges of slower metabolism and increased risk of health issues like high blood sugar in the years ahead.”

Cutting down on artificial sweeteners might also rekindle a love of healthier foods, Myers points out.

“The nutritional quality of your diet may improve, as you cease drowning out the subtler flavors of nutritious foods,” he explains.

Reason #3: Your Bones Get Stronger

As we get older, our bones get weaker. Women over the age of 60, in particular, are at a greater risk for osteoporosis. Add in a daily glass of diet soda, and your chances only go up.

In an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, for example, women who drank diet or regular cola daily had nearly 4 percent lower bone mineral density in their hips, compared with women who didn’t drink cola.

Other researchers, looking at data from the Nurses’ Health Study, found each daily serving of diet or regular soda was associated with a 14 percent increased risk of hip fracture for postmenopausal women.

Here again, experts haven’t been able to determine how soda weakens your bones, although many suspect it’s related to the combination of added sugars, caffeine, and high phosphorus content.

Swap for These Healthier Sips

Want to play it safe? While your best beverage option is water, Myers has plenty of flavorful recommendations for those who want some variety.

“Naturally flavored carbonated water, or seltzer, is a popular option that can be free of both calories and sweeteners,” he says. He also recommends fruit-infused waters because they provide similar hydration benefits.

To make your own, add berries, citrus, cucumber, or mint to plain water. Another trick: Take a few frozen prunes—one of the best foods to keep in your freezer—and drop them into a glass of sparkling water.

“Diluted coconut water, unsweetened almond milk, and low-sodium vegetable juices also bring flavor to hydration with less than half the calories of traditional sodas,” Myers adds.

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Chefsteps 02

Time for breakfast!

Time to Make the Breakfast

Good morning!

I almost never eat breakfast. Too much food at the beginning of the day makes me sluggish. But if I go out for brunch, I always try the chicken-fried steak. It’s the gold standard of any brunch place.

My friend Carl is a chef whose dad owned a diner. He and I used to have chicken-fried steak-offs. We tried different kinds of beef and found out rib-eye is a waste of good steak. It’s too wet for chicken-fried steak. You want a tough, dry piece with that saltine-cracker crust.

Buy a super-cheap cut of beef. Pound it with a spiky meat hammer or a Jaccard meat maximizer. The old-school diners and butcher shops use blades to slice that cut of meat, which they call mechanical tenderization.

Then, use the standardized breading procedure. Give that meat a light dusting of flour, an egg wash, and then a layer of finely crushed Saltine crackers. Fry up the meat in a cast-iron skillet with about an inch of hot oil. It should take you about 3 minutes per side. Serve it with a Southern milk gravy, with sausage or not. When you make it right, that chicken-fried steak should be light and tender.

Chicken-fried steak, baby!

If you’re in the mood for some new breakfast ideas, we have some great new recipes on ChefSteps for you.

Back when I was 13, I did a job shadow in a hotel. That’s the first place I learned to make a big batch of hollandaise for the hotline every morning. And now we’ve made that hollandaise easy for you.

A couple of years ago, I started playing with boiling my omelettes. Daniel Patterson did this with scrambled eggs. It makes sense because the eggs instantly soufflé. Since  anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I took boiled scrambled eggs one step further and made omelettes. Now you can too.

People, stop cooking jam! Unless you need to make cases of jam that have to be shelf stable for months in your larder, start making freezer jam. It’s so bright in color and flavor. Once you have made it, you will never go back.

Of course, we have lots of breakfast ideas for you on ChefSteps already. Fluffy yeasted doughnuts, amazing chewy bagels from scratchKouign-Amann, and rich as f*$k biscuits—these are only the start.

Yes, some of our recipes do require a subscription to our ChefSteps Studio Pass for access. As Sam Sifton wrote in his NY Times newsletter, “Yes, you need a subscription to access these. In return, we won’t just keep working hard to bring you the best recipes in the world. We will get to keep working!” (Thanks, Sam!)

Remember, we love hearing from you. We have a forum for members on ChefSteps. And you can see our work on Instagram and Facebook. We answer questions and have inside information for ChefSteps Studio Pass members too. Talk with us.

If you are still thinking about breakfast, try this Irish mackerel breakfast from Jamie Oliver.  I’m always trying to get my wife to cook more. She LOVES this 5-ingredient cookbook that Jamie Oliver and his team published this year. I’m a huge fan.

When I want to go out for brunch in Seattle with friends, I usually tell people to go to Boat Street Kitchen. It’s still so great.

And finally, I just want to throw it out there—use fresh herbs in your breakfast right now. The herbs in my garden are going crazy: chives, tarragon, and marjoram. Use up your herbs before they disappear.

Keep cooking!

Grant

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Disclaimer

There are things, food, exercise and what not that are well worth sharing. I bought a Joule immersion cooker from Chefsteps, and I think it’s the best one available for us home cooks.

But I also want to note that I no longer support advertising out here. A lot of work for nothing.

So when I post the Chefsteps articles it’s because I think they are pretty cool. Same with the Silver Sneaker posts. I am a senior and just want to pass along some good advice. Once again, I don’t get anything for doing this.

I hope each time I have included the links to their sites and promotions.


13 Best Foods to Keep in Your Freezer, According to Nutritionists

This is from the Silver Sneaker newsletter.

13 Best Foods to Keep in Your Freezer, According to Nutritionists

By Christine Byrne |

When it comes to healthy staple ingredients, fresh isn’t always best. These frozen foods deliver key nutrients—and help you save time and money.

freezer foodsImagining delicious, nutritious meals is one thing. Prepping said meals? Well, that’s another story entirely. Somewhere between buying the right ingredients and carving out enough time to chop, measure, season, and actually cook is where those good intentions slip away.

“Time is one of the biggest factors that influences our ability to make healthy decisions,” says Emily Kyle, R.D.N., owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition in Rochester, New York. “I love anything that takes the time barrier away.”

Enter freezer staples. While there’s no way to eliminate meal prep completely, having the right mix of frozen ingredients all ready to go is key for anyone who’s both hungry and busy.

First, food keeps far longer in the freezer than it does in the fridge or at room temperature. That means you can buy things in bulk, or do one big grocery trip to pick up staples for a whole month and stick them in the freezer for later. Fewer trips to the store means a lot of saved time and energy.

Second, many foods in the freezer section come already cut, cooked, or both. At the very least, it means you don’t have to waste time washing and chopping, or cleaning a knife and cutting board. At best, it means all that stands between you and dinner is a few minutes in the microwave, or a little more time in a pan or oven.

Not sure where to start when it comes to freezer staples? We asked Kyle and other nutrition experts about the ingredients they always keep in stock.

The Meal Builders

You’ll always have the foundation for a quick, healthy meal with these frozen options that deliver whole grains and lean protein.

Cooked Grains

Your favorite whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and barley, can now be found already prepared in the freezer section. Or you can cook a big batch of dry grains one day, freeze individual servings, and thaw them in the microwave whenever you want them.

“All you have to do is microwave a bag before enjoying your favorite quinoa bowl or easy dinner side dish,” Kyle says.

These whole grains, which contain all the parts and nutritional value of the original kernel, help you meet your daily fiber quota. For women 51 and older, that’s 21 grams of fiber per day, and for men, that’s 30 grams, according to the National Academy of Medicine. Hitting these targets helps keep your digestive system humming and cuts your risk for heart disease. Bonus: Whole grains are also one of the best carbs for weight loss.

Fish Fillets

Fish is a great source of lean protein. Fatty fish like salmon and trout also pack a particular type of omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which helps safeguard your brain health. In fact, some studies show higher consumption of omega-3 foods is linked to a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least eight ounces of seafood, including fish, each week. But fish can be expensive, and its life in the refrigerator is short. Frozen, individually packaged fillets are often less expensive, and they cut the possibility of spoilage and waste.

“Pull out frozen fish in the morning, leave it in the fridge to defrost, then cook it when you get home at the end of the day,” says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness in New York. “I like to sauté or panfry fish, and add it into a soup, salad, stir-fry, or noodle dish.”

You can also make a delicious dinner with just three ingredients: salmon, Brussel sprouts, and lemon.

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Ground Meat or Lentils

Buy ground chicken, turkey, or beef in bulk, and divide it into smaller portions before freezing in airtight containers or bags. When you want to use a portion, transfer it from freezer to fridge in the morning, and it’ll be thawed by evening.

“When it’s completely thawed, prepare it as you like, and throw it on top of pasta dishes, salads, or stir-fries,” Rumsey says.

Ground meat is often overlooked in nutrition headlines, but these foods are prime sources of protein, a nutrient your body needs to repair cells, build muscle, and even fight infection. Watching your calorie and saturated fat intake? Look for lean ground meats.

Not a meat eater? Frozen lentils are terrific protein-packed vegetables that are incredibly easy to prep and can be used in place of meat in many dishes.

Meat or Veggie Burgers

“These are really helpful for quick weekday meals, as they take just a few minutes to defrost in a pan over medium heat,” Rumsey says. “They’re perfect to throw into a sandwich, or to break apart and toss with a salad to add a protein.”

Another idea: You can crumble the burgers up and mix them into tomato sauce to serve over pasta.

It’s easy to find protein-packed veggie burgers in the freezer section of your local store. Two popular options among dietitians: MorningStar Farms Grillers Original Veggie Burgers and Beyond Meat Beyond Burger. But you can also freeze your own homemade bean or turkey burgers—just cook a few extra the next time you’re firing up the grill.

The Nutrition Powerhouses

Struggle to hit your daily requirement of fruits and vegetables? These frozen options make it so much easier to get the produce—and nutrients—you need.

Bananas

Have you ever bought a bunch of bananas only to watch them slowly turn to black on your kitchen counter? Don’t let those ripe bananas go to waste! If you spot them turning brown, peel and freeze them before they turn totally black.

“You can toss them in the blender for a smoothie, or put them on top of oatmeal or yogurt,” Rumsey says. You can also let them thaw a little bit to use in recipes that call for mashed banana, like banana breads and muffins. Or slice and top them with a small dollop of dark chocolate spread before freezing for an easy grab-and-go treat.

Besides being versatile, bananas are a great source of fiber and potassium, which is an electrolyte that helps your heart beat regularly. They’re also easy to digest—a plus for anyone with stomach ailments.

Berries

“We know that raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are among the healthiest foods for us, but fresh berries can be pricey, especially when they’re not in season,” Kyle says. “Thankfully, frozen berries are available year-round and are often more affordable than fresh.”

Frozen at the peak of freshness, these berries still contain all of the important antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals their fresh counterparts offer. In fact, because fresh berries may lose some of their nutrients during transportation or on the shelf, frozen berries may be healthier.

Your heart, for one, may benefit. Women who ate blueberries and strawberries three or more times a week had a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack, compared with women who only ate the berries once a month or less, according to a large study in Circulation. Researchers credit flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that helps keep blood vessels open.

Kyle likes to stir frozen berries into yogurt, oatmeal, and pancake batter, or blend them into smoothies. Defrosted, they also liven up salads and salsas.

Cauliflower

“One of the most versatile vegetables, frozen cauliflower can be steamed, pureed, and more,” Kyle says. You can even put it into the food processor or use a grater to make cauliflower rice, which you can substitute for regular rice.

Her favorite trick? Roasting cauliflower straight from the bag, using just a little olive oil and some spices.

You can feel good about this timesaver, Kyle adds, because eating more cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli have been associated with lower risk for heart disease and stroke. They’re also thought to help tame inflammation.

Green Peas

Stocking up on frozen peas is a no-brainer, says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., a culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.

“Fresh peas often come with their shells still on, so they require quite a bit of prep work before you even start cooking,” she says. “Plus, frozen peas add a pop of bright green color to dishes, and they require basically no cooking.”

Try stirring them into pasta or rice dishes, like pasta primavera, pesto gnocchi, or lemony risotto. Just add the frozen peas during the last couple of minutes of cooking, and you’ve got an incredibly easy one-pot meal.

On the nutrition front, with just a half-cup serving of green peas, you’ll get four grams of protein and almost the same amount of fiber, plus a host of vitamins and minerals. And all for just 62 calories.

Prunes

Tart yet sweet, prunes—also known as dried plums—are one of Newgent’s go-to flavorings for drinks. Skip the ice cubes, and drop a few frozen wedges into a glass of iced tea or sparkling water.

Newgent also likes them for blended beverages. “I make a cocoa smoothie that has gut- and bone-health benefits thanks to frozen prunes, which I use instead of ice cubes,” she says. “Just blend milk, frozen prunes, and unsweetened cocoa powder, strain, and enjoy.”

The gut-health benefits come from three grams of fiber in just five prune wedges. And a daily serving of prunes may help slow bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women with low bone density, according to a study in Osteoporosis International.

Vegetable Blends

“Precut frozen vegetables can be added to any meal and only require a few minutes to steam on the stove or roast in the oven,” Rumsey says.

Buying vegetable blends is a great way to add flavor and nutrient variety without having to think about it. “I love to toss them into a stir-fry, grain bowl, pasta dish, or put them on top of pizza or a fresh salad,” she adds. “They’re especially useful in the winter months when fewer fresh veggies are in season.”

The Finishing Touches

With these foods in your freezer, you’ll be ready to make an appetizer, side, or meal topping in minutes.

Bread

“Keeping bread in the freezer means it lasts longer,” Rumsey says. That’s especially great news if you love buying bread or bagels from a local bakery. These fresh breads don’t have the preservatives that most store-bought sliced breads have, so they’ll go stale pretty quick at room temperature.

If you’re freezing whole loaves, be sure to slice them first. “You can take slices of bread right from the freezer and stick them in a toaster,” Rumsey says. “There’s no need to defrost first.”

Newgent also suggests freezing whole grain pita rounds to use in a pinch as a pizza crust or appetizer for last-minute entertaining. “They take up little space and thaw quickly,” she says. “Cut a pita into wedges, and serve with hummus. Or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and thyme, and then bake into pita chips to serve with salads or to pair with a fancy cheese platter.”

Hash Browns

It’s easy to find ready-to-cook hash browns in the freezer section, and they really come in handy when you’re in need of a starchy side to a meal—breakfast or dinner. Take them right out of the freezer, and heat them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil until they’re crispy.

Nuts

“Nuts have plenty of unsaturated healthy fats, which can help protect against heart disease,” Newgent says. “But you’ll lose some of the power of those good fats if you keep them at room temperature for months and months. That’s why they’re ideal for the freezer.”

Because they’re small and high in fat, nuts thaw pretty quickly—about 15 minutes at room temperature, or less than a minute in a pan or the microwave. Sprinkle a small handful of nuts on everything from salads to rice pilaf for a boost of nutrition, crunch, and flavor.

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly

SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 16,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here.

Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive content by logging in to or creating your online account here.


Free weights or Machine

What, exercise! If you eat,  you have to burn off those calories.

Summer is slowing down and I am finding time for Jonesing Food once again.

For those that don’t know me, I am and old fart that takes pictures of homes for a living.

Free Weights Versus Strength Machines: Which Is Best?

By K. Aleisha Fetters |

Both have unique advantages for your unique body—and your unique fitness goals.

free weights vs. strength machinesExercisers have strong opinions about free weights and strength machines—specifically, which they think is best. But the truth is one approach isn’t the best 100 percent of the time.

Free weights, including dumbbells and kettlebells, allow you to move freely forward and backward, side to side, and up and down, explains Ryan Campbell, a training specialist at Anytime Fitness of Southern Wisconsin.

Strength machines, however, are typically fixed to an axis, meaning your body can only move in one predetermined path.

Which you choose comes down to this fundamental difference.

Let’s take a closer look at which is best in different circumstances, so you get the best results every time.

Round #1: Which Is Better for Beginners?

Machines are approachable, particularly for people who are new to strength training. You need to know how to set them up, but most machines include instructions on them.

“You just hop on and you go,” says Susan Niebergall, C.P.T., a personal trainer and strength coach. “It’s in most people’s ‘safety zone,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

For newbies, she explains, getting in a basic workout can be as simple as choosing three machines and performing a circuit of three rounds. “That alone can help you leave the gym feeling good, more confident in yourself, and ready to take on more in future workouts,” she says.

With free weights, on the other hand, understanding form is crucial. “You need to learn good technique and how to properly brace yourself,” Niebergall says.

A great way to learn good form: Sign up for a few one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer to go over fundamental free-weight movements, including squats, lunges, presses, and pulls.

If you’re in a SilverSneakers class, your instructor will happily check your form. If you’re exercising by yourself at the gym, don’t be shy—ask one of the trainers walking around to quickly take a look at your form. At home, using your phone to video yourself exercising can be a great way to check out your form from all angles.

Winner: Strength machines

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Round #2: Which Is Better for Working Around an Injury?

Because machines allow you to move only in one specific path, they often target one or two muscles, letting the rest chill out. That can be good and bad.

Focusing on strengthening one certain muscle can be beneficial following injury or when addressing muscle imbalances. For instance, if you’re relearning how to properly activate your hamstrings or trying to shore up any weaknesses in them, machines will help you do that, Campbell says.

Machines are also great for letting you work around cranky hips, knees, or shoulders, Niebergall explains. You can strengthen the muscles that support them without overly stressing that joint.

The downside: When you zero in on just one or two muscles, you’re likely only developing one function of those muscles. A leg press machine, for example, strengthens your glutes so they can help you go from sitting to standing. But it won’t do much for the part of the glutes that helps you move from side to side.

Free weights, though, can adapt to your exact needs. Because there is no predetermined path with free weights, there’s more than one way to perform the move, Campbell says.

Let’s take squats as an example. Sure, there’s a difference between good and not-so-good form, but some people’s hips may do better with squats in a narrow stance or a wide stance.

For added resistance, some people may prefer the goblet squat, which require you to hold a dumbbell vertically at your chest, with both hands on one end of the dumbbell. But if that hurts your wrists, you can hold the dumbbell horizontally at your chest, with one hand on each end of the dumbbell.

To find your most comfortable position, you can simply adjust your feet or hands. The same holds true for other free-weight exercises. They are all modifiable to fit your exact body and goals, and don’t force your unique joints to move in ways that are painful.

Winner: Free weights

Round #3: Which Provides More Total-Body Benefits?

When you’re taking the stairs, getting up from the couch, or playing on the floor with your grandkids, there’s no axis supporting you. You are moving in all three dimensions, just like with free weights. Free-weight exercises train you how to coordinate various movements at once and treat your body as one functional unit.

“Over the long term, that is crucial for functional health, strength, and injury prevention,” Niebergall says. And since free weights get you on your feet and fighting gravity, they are also better at building bone density and strength, she adds.

However, for most people, the biggest benefit to moving multiple joints at once—and in real-life ways—is that it’s just so darn effective. “Most people are lucky if they are able to work out three to four hours per week,” Campbell says. “So, when you work out, you need to train the most musculature possible.”

Of course, you can mix and match strength machines so you’re hitting all the major muscle groups. But remember that these machines are training your muscles in isolation—you’re not coaxing your muscles to worth together in unison.

Winner: Free weights

The Bottom Line on the Great Debate

For overall strength, function, and health, free weights will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

But if you have a favorite strength machine, by all means keep it up. Just aim to mix in some free weights.

Also, if you’re new to strength training or want to focus on a given muscle, strength machines can be great tools for helping you reach your goals.

In the end, the best workout programs take advantage of both free weights and strength machines. Find your best combination with these resources:

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly

SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 16,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here.

Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive content by logging in to or creating your online account here.


Leg of Lamb Sous Vide

The holidays? Bah Humbug!! I am so tired of the same old Turkey & another spiral cut ham just makes me want to take a vacation. Prime Rib? Okay, but not this year.

Actually this is how I felt at Thanksgiving as I was wandering around the meat department of Costco. When what to my wondering eyes did appear? A nice big boneless leg of lamb.

Ah, lamb, a little bit gamey and a big bit tasty. Home went the lamb and then I discovered it was just the two of us for Thanksgiving dinner. So, Porterhouse steaks won out. Off to the freezer marched the limping lamb (that’s what happens when the bone is gone).

Time has passed, the Morlocks have risen and fallen and another 25 or so days have passed. It’s time to plan Christmas dinner.

A couple of the kids and a grandchild will be present so we decide this will be a simple dinner. Not days in planning, endless hours in preparation and weeks of cleanup to look forward to.

Now, where did I put the leg of lamb?

Now I enjoy a little lamb with my garlic. Here I cut about 4 cloves into wedges.

Then I attack the beast with my steely knife, even although it was already dead.

I stabbed it many times and in each slit I stuffed a wedge of garlic.

Then I applied the rub. I used dry mustard powder, salt, pepper, rosemary and some sage. I ground it up and patted the lamb down with it.

Ah, how to roast it I ask?  I’m not going to roast it says I.  I am going to throw it in a pot of hot water for many, many hours.

Souse Vide to the rescue. That handy little water heater that maintains and almost exact temperature for a very long time. I tried to Sous Vide artichokes once and it was a disaster. The bags opened, the chokes floated and I ended up pressure cooking the mess.

I decided to double bag my lamb.  If you have a Food-Saver or other vacuum freezer toy you know that you insert bag till it trips the sealer into operation. So, after I sealed the bags, I trimmed down close to the seal and sealed once more, giving me 2 seals on the same bag.

The 5 1/2 pound leg fit perfectly in a 12 quart food service tub (or use any pot big enough to hold said lamb). Attach Sous Vide and add water to cover and circulate. A small cooler would also work well.

16 hours later and a water temp of 135 degrees (medium rare) the bagged lamb is removed and is ugly (wet rub all over it & not a nice roasted look at all).

Remove the elastic web and use the juices from the cooked lamb to rinse off the rub. I had about 1 cup of juice so I added another cup of balsamic vinegar, strained and reduced the sauce.

Now I take the time to check out what the better half has been doing. Francene found this great idea of cooking (or I should say roasting) sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts together. A little tossing with olive oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper then roasted at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (or when tender and tasty). They were yummy. Even our Jack Russell & a guest Chihuahua gave their approval.

Retie the lamb, pour our balsamic vinegar-meat juice glaze over the lamb and roast for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees.

Time to serve. The meat doesn’t need to rest so it can be carved upon removing from the oven and gives us a perfect medium rare from edge to edge with an attractive crust.

Stormy, our daughter in law, added a great cornbread dressing and cabbage with bacon side to round out our Christmas Eve dinner. Clean up wasn’t much more that washing a few dishes and letting the dish washer clean 2 baking sheets and one cooling rack. It doesn’t get any better than this.


Tagged in: balsamic vinegarlambleg of lamb

Re Heat, Don't Re Cook

We have tried so many different ways to reheat a good piece of meat and yet not overcook it.

A couple of Christmases ago Francene gave me a Panini pan and Panini lid as a present. The difference between a ribbed pan and a Panini pan is the inside of the pan and lid has also been coated.

The secret is to reheat the meat the same way you would cook a Panini sandwich. You preheat the cast iron until it starts to smoke, then turn the heat off, lay the meat in the pan, and place the lid on top of the meat.

The cast iron will give out heat quickly, and the meat will be warmed but not raised above the original temperature; 129 degrees in this example. Let meat sit between the cast iron pan and lid for 4 to 5 minutes.

As you can see here, we still have a rare steak, as the crust has been toasted and dried out (the absorbed moisture from the meat while in storage has been removed).


Tagged in: paninireheat

Red Beans and Rice, Cajun Style

Cajun Red Beans and Rice, once a Sunday stable. Sunday was wash day, and chores day. It was easy to put on a pot of beans and throw in the ham bone from Saturday’s dinner. Red Beans and Rice is a meal, not a side dish and goes very well with a nice green salad.

You can use red kidney beans or red beans.  I prefer red beans. I also make a double batch and freeze a couple of quarts for a surprise meal down the road.

Here are 2 pounds of red beans that have soaked overnight. The soaking softens the beans as well as removing the sugars that cause flatulence.

The drawback to the traditional soaking is the loss of flavor.

If you choose to not presoak your beans, be prepared to add more liquid during the cook and to extend the cooking time.

Either way, sort through the beans to remove all floaters, and foreign stuff like twigs, sand etc.

The next step is to saute the onions, garlic and green onions.

One of the fastest ways to ruin the edge of your knife is to scrape the cutting board, here I use the back of the blade, maintaining the cutting edge.

The recipe I am following came from the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbooks dating back to the 1970’s. It should also be noted that this is a Cajun, not a Creole recipe.  Think of Cajun as country and Creole as city.

The recipe is located at the bottom

What prompted me to make this for dinner was a stop for a snack in Hubbard, Oregon, home of Voget Meats.  They make some of the best smoked sausages and smoked pork chops that have ever graced my table. In their showcase where these ham hocks and they they left with me, along with my beef stick.

about 20 minutes before the beans are finished, remove the hocks and let cool down, Strip off the meat and return the ham to the pot.

We served this with white rice and sprinkled a little green onion on top.

Earlier I mentioned that this was Cajun, not Creole. If it was prepared in a New Orleans restaurant then it would have been a fancier version, as there might be Andouilli Sausage, more peppers or additional hot, hot sauce.

Instead of the onions, the Holy Trinity would have been the base. Basil, sage, parsley would have added an additional layer of flavor. The list of changes could go on.

I feel if you want to really experience great Louisiana cooking you should start in the country and progress to the city.  I love it all, well maybe not Okra.

 

RED BEANS AND RICE
Serves 4-6

6 cups water
1 pound dried small red beans or 1 pound dried red kidney beans
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup finely chopped scallions, including 3-inches of the green tops, divided use
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 cups water
1 (1 pound) smoked ham hock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 cups freshly cooked long-grained rice (for serving)

In a heavy 3-4 quart saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans and boil briskly, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can soak the beans over night in water.) In either case, drain and rinse the beans in a sieve set over a large bowl. Set the beans aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy 4 or 5 quart casserole or stockpot. When the foam begins to subside, add 1/2 cup of the scallions, the onions and the garlic and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.

Stir in the beans and 4 cups water, the ham hocks, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are quite soft. Check the pot from time to time and, if the beans seem dry, add up to 1 cup more water, a few tablespoons at a time. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, stir frequently and mash some of the softest beans against the side of the pan to form a thick sauce for the remaining beans.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Cut the meat away from the bones and remove and discard the skin, fat and gristle. Cut the meat into 1/4-inch dice and return it to the beans.

Taste the beans for seasoning and serve at once, directly from a large heated tureen. Place the rice and remaining 1/2 cup of scallions in separate bowls and present them with the beans.

Note: In Louisiana, red beans and rice are traditionally made with a leftover ham bone and you may substitute a ham bone for the ham hocks in this recipe. Without trimming off the meat, cut the bone into 2 or 3 inch pieces with a hacksaw, so that the marrow inside the pieces will melt and flavor the beans. Add the pieces of bone to the soaked beans and water and pour in enough additional water to cover then completely. When the beans are cooked, remove the bones from the pot, trim off and dice the meat, and return it to the beans. Discard the bones.


Tagged in: Cajuncreolegarliconionsred beans

Flat Iron Steak crusted with Drunken Hazelnuts

Flat Iron or Butler’s cut is an incredibly flavorful steak.  It can be a little on the tough side as it may have a gristly fascia membrane that can be removed.

Flat Iron steak is not the same as a flank steak.

Here I am using a 48 blade meat tenderizer. The stainless blades are very sharp and leave very clean cuts into the meat. I am not a fan of pounding meat to tenderize it. Pounding is best used to flatten a piece of meat, generally a chicken breast.

Here you can see the small cuts

I cut one direction on side A  and the opposite direction on side B.

For a coating, I will be using Hazelnuts that have been soaked for a week in vodka. The Hazelnuts can also be used in baking cookies, Christmas cake etc..

Why do I have drunken Hazelnuts? Well I made a Hazelnut liqueur and didn’t want to throw away $50 worth of Hazelnuts.

The coating consists of 1/2 cup nuts and 1/2 cup of our homemade seasoned croutons.

Egg wash the steak and then pat the Hazelnut and crouton mixture onto and into the steak.

I am a huge fan of cast iron and use it whenever I can. Here the coating is browned and then the cast iron skillet and steak are placed into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes or until an internal temperature of 129 degrees has been reached.

Let rest next to a good red wine like our pictured Syrah. This doesn’t do anything to the steak but does help wet the appetites.

Slice across the grain and serve.

Served here with caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli and our bottle of Syrah.


Tagged in: broccolibrussels sproutscast ironflat ironhazelnuts

Slow-cooked Chianti Beef Stew - Part 2

In part 1 we selected our beef, cut it into cubes, seasoned and then marinated it with a whole bottle of Chianti

After marinating the beef, I caramelized 2 yellow onions and 4 cloves of garlic. I wanted to extract the sugars and condense them. This is a sweet dish using only the natural sugars that exists in the onions, garlic and tomatoes. Burner was set to medium.

Remember my sun dried tomatoes? I chopped up about 3/4 cup of them and tossed in. Use a can of tomato paste otherwise.

I then added a pint of our canned tomatoes and Basil.

Transfer onions, tomatoes etc to a small mixing bowl and transfer about 25% of the drained beef into the Dutch oven and turn the heat to high. Transfer browned beef to another mixing bowl and repeat ’til all the beef has been seared.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the reserved Chianti to deglaze the Dutch oven. Scrape all the great flavors from the bottom and sides.

The beef was salt and peppered when I marinated it so the only seasoning to add now will be the herbs. I used a tablespoon of our Italian mix.

Place Dutch Oven in a 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours, check tenderness, remove when beef is tender. Different cuts take different times. This is one of those dishes that you prefer a stew cut because the longer the cook, the better the melding of flavors.

This is a stew cooked to the consistency  of a good chili, not thinned

Ready to serve? If you made our tomato and spinach pasta, this would be an excellent time to use it.  The added flavors of the pasta along side the Chianti and tomato beef go great together.

Of course a second bottle of Chianti would also go well with this dish.

Enjoy.

Tagged in: beefonionstomato

Slow-cooked Chianti Beef Stew - Part 1

This is more Greek than Italian,. Maybe if Odysseus had been lured by the wonderful smell of this stew he would not have had himself bound to the mast but would have succumbed to the Sirens. He may have never returned to Penelope.

I am a fan of good stew beef but sometimes a bargain comes along and you have to make do :-).

I lucked out and found on sale Choice Sirloin Petite steaks for $2.99 a pound. Of course you need to expect the hidden fat but that just adds to the flavor.

Assemble your tools, good cutting block, beef, a good slicer and of course a bottle of Chianti. Medium price works great. If you are thirsty, have a beer instead.

Cut steaks into 1 inch cubes trimming excess fat at the same time.

After cutting, weigh the remaining beef. I had 4 pounds 10 ounces so I separated out 2 pounds and froze for a good Astoria Stew.

 

I like to weight the trash so I know what to expect in the future. I also like to weight the meat being used as it will help me determine the amount of seasoning and herbs used.

Trash pickup was 3 hours ago, bag the garbage to keep the rodents away. After all there will be 7 days to attract them.

Now I use a gallon zip lock bag to marinate the stew in. Pour in the entire 750 ml bottle of Chianti or any other red blend you like, add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Double bag and refrigerate for several hours. I prefer overnight.

Most of the time a recipe will call for 1/2 to 1 cup of red wine. We use an entire 750 ml bottle here.  Think of this as a Red Wine Stew instead of a Stew with Red Wine. There isn’t any comparison between the two. I would have still used the whole bottle if this was a normal 2lbs of beef stew.

Please go to Part 2 for the actual assembly of the stew.

 

Tagged in: ChiantiGreekStew

Good nutrition and good food for Fido

As some of you know, we lost a member of the family to cancer about 3 weeks ago. Max was our Golden Retriever and died at the age of 9.

It was a surprise!  He started getting very picky about his kibble, as he would just walk away after 2/3 of a bag or so of a brand or flavor. In the end, he would eat a doctored up bowl (could be gravy, pieces of left over steak etc,) only to turn his nose up on it the second feeding.

The cancer was discovered in a lymph node on his rear leg, and at that point in time he was given 2 to 3 months to live and that was accurate.

I have lost pets to old age and careless drivers, but not to disease. This prompted me to start doing some investigating.

After reading many articles regarding pet health, the bottom line always seemed to come back to nutrition and exercise. Pretty much the same as us.

The more I looked into pet nutrition, I realized that we had just taken the easy route,  we believed what was on the labels.

We  were also guilty of the old wives’ tales, kibble over canned, canned over kibble.  Probably from the wives of kibble companies and canned dog food companies. From what I gathered, you would be doing well to mix the two.

Max has left us, but Molly, our Jack Russell is still here. Her diet has already been changed. She is being fed supplements and vitamins, not just some fish oil for her coat.

She is also getting table scraps, or I should say, select table scraps. Remember that old wives’ tale, People food is bad for dogs. It’s a lie. Probably started by dog food manufacturers.

The left overs, or scraps are saved and supplement her regular meals, they are not treats from the table.

But some people foods are bad, like onions and garlic are bad, and apples are bad because of the high sugar content. But carrots and green vegetables are good. Just cook at little more for Fido and add to their kibble, NO, don’t add, but substitute a portion of their kibble.

Above all, don’t take my word for it, I’m not a nutritionist, but there are knowledgeable people on the web willing to share a wealth of research and not have a product they are trying to sell.

Here are a couple of sites to go to.

dog food ten scary truths

Dog Food Adviser

Kibble, chews and all that green stuff will not clean your dog’s teeth, Francene has brushed Max’s and Molly’s teeth on a weekly basis for the past year. We should have been brushing their teeth from the beginning, but we are learning as we go.

Do I think the dog food was the cause of Max’s cancer?  Well, I sure think it contributed to it. I do NOT believe our dogs’ nutritional needs were met because we believed the drivel written on the packaging.

Please do not believe that the high cost of designer foods are a guarantee of quality. There isn’t government guidelines that need to be followed and there isn’t any mandatory testing required.

There are bags and cans of good quality, medium quality and down right bad food available. Do some research, don’t rely on the labels and pay attention to your pet, you don’t need a vet to tell you something is wrong with Fido, they will do that themselves, you need the vet to tell you what is wrong.

Bottom line is if you love Fido, then take control of their diet instead of being at the mercy of the marketing departments.

Finally, why do we think they will be healthy and strong without exercise. Lying around eating bon bons doesn’t work for us, so why will it work for them?

 

Tagged in: dog foodnutrition

Cranberry and Orange Scones to compliment that first cup of Coffee

Francene and I were picking up a few items at our local market and there was a package of Cranberry-Orange Scones on the marked down table. They looked great and we hadn’t eaten so they looked even better.

A summit conference was held in the aisle and we decided that nice bowl of soup when we got home would be a better choice, and then we could make our own scones.

Now the problem with making your own baked goods is that there is only the 2 of us, Molly, the Jack Russell doesn’t count here.

We found a few good recipes, and the one that sounded the best was from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  We especially liked the comments section where one Einstein said the recipe makes too many scones (16), so make the recipe, shape, mold and otherwise prepare everything for baking, then freeze most of them to be baked at a later date.

Duh, why couldn’t I have thought of that.

Ina Garten’s recipe is here.

When I bake I always rely on a recipe. To me, cooking is an art form and baking is a science. This means there is less room for error and substitutions, so I generally get everything out and measured before I start. It is better to stop and go to the store before the mixing begins.

Scones have a heavy yet flaky texture, and this is due more to the way the butter is added and mixed then most anything else.

The butter needs to be chilled and cubed, then mixed at slow speed until the butter has partially blended. There should be pea sized chunks in the dry mixture.

When you add the wet mixture, do so on the quicker side and mix at the lowest speed until just blended. Do not over mix or you will end up with biscuits instead of scones.

In addition to Ina’s recipe I increased the cranberry’s another 1/2 cup and added 1/2 cup coarse chopped pecans. I didn’t have a nice 3 inch cutter so I shaped three 7 inch circles and one 8 inch circle, then divided them into 4ths.

I then did an egg wash with the orange juice added and sprinkled some raw sugar on top so the glaze would occur during baking.

Before baking, I wrapped three of the rounds and put in the freezer, we sure didn’t need 16 scones beckoning to us at one time.

After baking at 400 degree for probably 22 minutes, the round was removed from the oven and left to cool, the 4 sections then pulled apart.

The rest of the rounds will be separated before baking as the first method left the center of the round or the end of each scone 3/4 baked. Not raw dough, but not evenly baked either.

The final verdict:  Easier to buy at the store, but taste better when you do them yourself. They where great with the first cup of coffee.

Tagged in: cranberriesorangesscones

Citrus Chicken Tajine

Write an article about Tajine and suddenly you have make it. Francene cooked  this citrus chicken version and it was a delight.

Francene has a couple of Moroccan cookbooks and this recipe came from 150 best tagine recipes by Pat Crocker. (tajine / tagine both are acceptable)

Citrus Chicken Tagine – page 64

• Medium tagine

  • 1 piece (1 inch/2.5 cm) fresh ginger root
  • 1 piece (1 inch/2.5 cm) fresh turmeric or 1 tbsp (15 mL) ground turmeric
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp avocado or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 piece (2 inches/5 cm) cinnamon stick, 1 crushed fine
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 4 bone-in chicken pieces with skin (about 1 1/2 lbs/750 g)
  • 1 orange, sectioned
  • 1/2 cup whole dates
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice or orange flower water
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses or store-bought or liquid honey
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds

1. In a mortar (using a pestle), smash ginger, turmeric and garlic. Pound and grind until a paste is achieved. Or, using a small food processor, blend ginger, turmeric and garlic into a paste.

2. In the bottom of a flameproof tagine, heat oil and melt butter over medium heat. Add spice paste, cinnamon and cumin and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes or until paste is lightly colored. Add chicken and toss to coat in the spices. Cook, turning frequently, for about 7 minutes or until chicken is browned on both sides.

3. Using tongs, turn chicken so that the skin is up. Tuck orange sections and dates around chicken. Stir in orange juice, lemon juice and molasses and bring to a boil. Cover with tagine lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until chicken juices run clear for thighs and is no longer pink inside for breasts. Garnish with almonds.

A very easy recipe to follow and the kitchen aromas are just wonderful.

We had a six pack of chicken legs in the freezer and used them. On hindsight, I would not use legs, maybe bone in thighs or breasts cut into thirds. This isn’t finger food unless you enjoy yellow cuticles for a week. The turmeric will color and stain very easily.

We served the chicken tagine with a side of zucchini and a delightful tomato and cucumber salad.

Tagged in: chickencurryMoroccantajine

We made the dough, now what do we do with it?

We got our hands sticky, we did something different, we made pasta dough. Not just any pasta dough but dough that has sun dried tomatoes and spinach blended into it. 

Working with dough is pretty straight forward, nothing about it should be intimating. First thing I do after setting up my Kitchen Aid mixer and attaching the pasta roller attachment is to get my floured work surface set up.

I then split the single batch of dough into thirds.

Set the roller to 0, the largest opening and the mixer to slow, start running your ball of dough through it. Leave the roller at 0 until you have a consistent and smooth  ribbon of dough.

You may have to add a little more flour if the dough is sticky or spray a mist of water onto the dough if it is to dry and crumbly.  This just takes practice to get the hang of it.

Now start feeding the dough through the roller  and close the gap as well. I usually skip a number each time. 0, 2, 4, 6 the 7. You would stop before seven for lasagna dough, etc. I like my spaghetti like angel hair.

This is harder to do with a dough that has had anything like tomato or spinach added to it. The additional vegetable infusion makes the dough less elastic than plain pasta dough would be.

When you have your desired thickness attach the pasta cutter of choice, here I have the spaghetti cutter attached. On slow speed feed the pasta ribbons you made through the cutter and then hang to dry. Here I use a pasta drying rack, very expensive and folds up flat for storage.

Store your fresh pasta in the refrigerator, It’s hasn’t dried to the commercial pasta level and will mold if sealed in an airtight container and left or stored at room temperatures.

Fresh pasta will cook in just 2 to 3 minutes, not the 20 for dried pasta.

 

Here is our homemade pasta served in a quick marinara made with our own canned tomatoes and homemade meatballs. I got a little messy with the Parmigiano Reggiano

 

Tagged in: driedmeatballspastaspinachtomatoes

No Mom, no, please don't make me eat Brussels Sprouts

Okay, to the point. Every child hates having to eat those over boiled, mushy Brussels sprouts. They are tasteless and just not at all appealing.  Golly, this sounds like a lot of vegetables our parents cooked for us.

Francene hates boiled Brussels sprouts, I have a close friend that hates boiled asparagus, put these foods on serving plates and the skip right over them.

Francene’s son told her that he loved Brussels sprouts, but not boiled, roasted. Roasted till some of the leaves actually turned black.  So she tried sauteing them with, cut in half, a little EVO. salt and pepper. It’s one of her favorite vegetables now.

That friend and asparagus, bbq asparagus that is, loves those skinny little stalks now. A little EVO, salt and pepper, then placed on a hot grill right after the steaks have been removed. Cook until dark grill marks appear and the asparagus spears are a delight to eat.

What made these often avoided vegetables not only acceptable but enjoyed was that they weren’t boiled to mush then served. Roasting, grilling and sauteing gives us control of how long to cook, and visually we are making our decision to remove them from the heat based on caramelization, the oxidation of sugar resulting in a nutty flavor and brown color.

The internet is a great place to look up roasted Brussels sprouts and asparagus, as there are so many slight variations, adding garlic, different spices and herbs. I haven’t seen a recipe that didn’t look good to me as well as adding a little variety. I would also suggest that you cook them al dente.  I know I don’t care for mushy vegetables.

Brussels sprouts can be frozen and if bought on the stalk you will have the freshest Brussels sprouts available year round.

It is simple to do, cut off the stalk with as little stem as possible, remove and the soft leaves and then blanch the spouts in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, remove and give them an ice water bath.

Spread out on cookie sheets and freeze, then package into serving sizes. Vacuum sealed if possible.

Oh, those soft leaves, throw in the boiling water and cook for a few minutes. They are a great treat and way to get your dog eating their vegetables.

 

Tagged in: al denteasparagusbrussels sproutscaramelization

Pasta, green pasta, maybe red pasta, good pasta

The stuff you learn along the way, so simple now, why didn’t I think of it before.

We aren’t health nuts but we do like to hedge our bets a bit. For years I have made spinach pasta and sun dried tomato pasta, messy and wet pasta, pasta that wasn’t very good because of that spinach and because of those tomatoes.

See, I would make my basic pasta then throw in a handful of fresh spinach, the water in the spinach would then mess up the flour consistency and I would have to start adding flour till I had that nice ball of raw pasta dough.

For the sun dried version, I would throw in a handful of sun dried tomatoes in oil, and then start adding flour till it looked like pasta dough.

Doing this would always mess up the basic flour, egg, oil and water ratios. and I ended up with a boiled flour mixture that looked like pasta.

But now I have learned and it’s time to make a pasta dish and I said to myself ‘self, why not use your dried tomatoes, just put a cup of flour and 1/2 cup of dried tomatoes in the blender and get tomato flour’

Did it and I ended up with 1 1/2 cups of tomato flour. Then I said to myself ‘Don’t be corny, just get to the point and the point being to spread a 3 pound bag of power greens (spinach, kale and chard) on the drying shelves of your food drier and dry, then use the ground up greens with the flour’

It needs to be noted that 3 pounds of fresh greens produced 1 and 1/2 cups of dried, crumbled greens.

1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of greens, in the blender and now I have power greens flour.

From this point, I just made pasta dough.

recipe:

  • The power greens flour plus enough cake four to have three cups of flour
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8th teaspoon salt

Put all in a food processor and start processing, add water by the tablespoon  till you get a dough that sticks together, but isn’t sticky.

Put coarse dough on your work surface and kneed about 6 to 7 minutes, This helps with consistency and the ability to hold its’ shape by stretching and working the gluten in the flour.

Form a ball of dough, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For the tomato pasta dough, just repeat the above steps.


The mighty Tajine

I wrote a short piece on comfort food. Then I kept re reading it and re writing it & then trashed it. It just rambled on about what I think comfort food is. I think I realized it was more important to cook it than analyze it.

My short definition would be that comfort food be filling and simple, and to me it’s a one pot dish.

The pot often defines what will be cooked and the Tajine is a reflection of a region and style of cooking. The Tajine is a Moroccan cooking vessel. I can’t think of a Tajine without thinking of Moroccan dishes, curried chicken & lamb stews.

Francene and I are fortunate to have several Asian style markets in the area so when we shop for something like curry, we have more styles to select from than most markets have Mexican hot sauces. With so much variety to stir the imagination, we just have to experiment; both with flavors as well as technique.

A wonderful lamb tajine from Antony Worrall Thompson, on the bbc.com website.

In a world of instant cookers, rice cookers, pressure cookers and cast-iron enameled ware there is also that funny looking Tajine. In a world full of the above-mentioned cookers, why in the world would you want to use a Tajine?

Because it is versatile, a Tajine in the right hands can replace all those newly hyped cookers.

Saffron Chicken Tajine from ANDREW ZIMMERN July 2017 , Food & Wine Photo credit John Kernick

The basic Tajine is a clay pot and lid that has been enameled and fired. You should never use it over a high flame as it would crack and break. Since the Tajine style of cooking works so well, you can now get them in enameled cast iron from makers such as Staub and Le Creuset, and stainless steel from Cooks Standard.

It’s the funny looking lid that is the secret to Tajine cooking. The high peaked sides are for the steam and condensation to rise to the top and the inverted cupped top drips the moisture back into the center of your dish. Think of this as a non stop basting process.

We decided to go modern and get the stainless steel with ceramic lid and could not be happier. The stainless bottom is attractive enough to serve from and most of our cookware be it in cabinets, pantry or garage, we buy to cook with not set on display.

 

Tagged in: chickencurrylambMoroccantajine

Cream of Mushroom Holiday Soup

I was raised in the days of Campbell Soups: chicken noodle, alphabet soup, hearty chicken, and sometimes tomato soup. Oh and the dreadful cream of mushroom soup.

After a couple of my tantrums Mom only used the mushroom stuff in casseroles and probably didn’t tell us. Definitely not the days of full disclosure.

After getting caught putting those cooked mushrooms in my pocket until I had a chance to go to the bathroom, or having the mushrooms discovered in my pockets in the laundry, I can’t really remember which, Mom and Dad made sure I ate them thereafter.

Decades went by and I learned to saute mushrooms to serve alongside steak, I even learned that canned mushrooms weren’t the best for this.

Little by little this fungus made it’s way into my daily cooking, and if the kids wouldn’t eat them, then all the more for me. The only mushrooms I haven’t come to terms with are dried ones, usually a morel. That’s because they are always tough. It must be something I am doing wrong, but who cares as long as fresh ones are available.

Years ago, and that is what this story is about, I had made a Costco run, and if you don’t know about Costco then think of Sam’s Club. Anyway, I had purchased a container (1 pound) of Chanterells and a container of Criminos (baby portobellos), if you are an A personality, you can say portabella) (2 pounds) for upcoming Thanksgiving.

Well we decided to have Thanksgiving on an island instead of home and I had 3 pounds of mushrooms that would have probably grown more fungus while we where away. Oh, what to do?

I had never made mushroom soup before, so I read a dozen recipes on the Internet to get a few ideas. An hour later we sat down to one of the finest dishes we had ever eaten let alone made. And we froze a couple of quarts for when we returned, that is, if we returned.

I know this is titled Holiday Soup and that’s because after eating our delicious bowls of creamed mushroom soup, we went to Orcas Island in the San Juan’s and had a 9 month holiday. We did sneak back to eat those other quarts of soup in the freezer, and to pack.

My recipe for cream of mushroom soup is here. Try it, you might like where it takes you.

Tagged in: chanterellmushroomspotabellasoup

Cream of Mushroom Soup, Oh Yeah

Years ago I had to cook it, or throw it out. We where leaving town for the weekend and some how I had 3 pounds of mushrooms in the fridge.  1 pound chanterelles and 2 pounds  baby portabellas. This was the beginning of my love affair with fungi.

This is a large recipe so have some freezer space available, And, yes, this freezes wonderfully.

Start with a couple of coarse chopped yellow onions sauteed  till caramelized. Deglaze the onions with half a cup of white wine. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and then add the mushrooms, cover and simmer till the mushrooms have given up their moisture.

The onions and mushrooms have all been coarsely chopped, we want onions and mushrooms to break down and release their moisture, we don’t want to cook away the liquid.

   

Add 2 quarts of beef or bone broth, homemade is the best and homemade is also very healthy for you. Pour in the rest of that bottle of white wine plus some sage and simmer for about 10 minutes or so.

Be careful about the sage as to not overpower the delicate taste of the mushrooms. This should be a lightly seasoned dish and you can always add more. We grow our own sage and replace the container every year, so our sage would have considerably more flavor then that 8 year old bottle in your spice rack.

Since this is CREAM of mushroom soup, you need to add a thickener, for the richest taste and consistency add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Or substitute 2 cups of Greek yogurt.

Run through your blender for a very smooth soup, or use the boat motor if you like it a little chunky, your choice.

At this point, we do a final seasoning to taste, ladle it into our dishes, and enjoy something that tastes like it took hours to make.

If serving for a special occasion, garnish with a few thin slices of mushroom and a swirl of cream on top.

 

 

 

Tagged in: mushroomsonionssoup

Healthy Fried Chicken, ya, right.

Healthy Fried Chicken, now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

Bread your chicken and place in a cast iron skillet with cooking oil preheated to 350 degrees, cook, turn, drain and serve. Now there is the universal recipe for preparing fried chicken. Of course what you use for breading, or flour and seasoning is up to you.

 

I use an egg wash and Bisquick with Emeril’s SouthWestern rub added to it. I think you get a nice crust and good flavor. But in the end you still have fried chicken. Or should I say, chicken that has been cooked in hot oil. Not healthy.

Now there are many recipes that have you bake the chicken in a 425 degree oven till done, then cool and serve, and there are air fryers that don’t fry but cook with a very hot air and you still have to spray some oil on the food.

Unless I am missing something, we have:

  • Chicken fried in oil, not healthy.
  • Chicken air cooked with oil, sounds like you still get the oil, so what makes it any different than a well drained fried chicken, it’s drier.
  • Finally, baked fried chicken, another oxymoron, but healthier than the other options. But it’s baked chicken, not fried chicken. A crust doesn’t make it fried.

What makes fried chicken so good, well, it’s fried and has some of the oil adding another layer of flavor to it.

There has to be a way to get that good fried flavor and be healthy. Or so I thought.

Fried chicken night, I use a whole chicken cut up in my kitchen.  The back goes into the chicken broth bone bag, the liver, kidney and giblets get cooked, breaded and fried, and then Francene and our jack Russell fight over them.

For deconstructing a chicken I use a sharp boning knife and for splitting the breast I use a cleaver and rubber mallet.

I don’t like to swing a cleaver with other living things in the home and it’s hard to be precise.

Place cleaver at desired cutting spot and rap with a mallet. You receive super clean cuts, you don’t ruin you cutting board, and you don’t have bone chips in your meat.

Flour, egg wash and flour again, add wings, legs and thighs to your 350 degree oil and cook till toasty brown, repeat with breast halves.

Here is where we change directions. Place your partially cooked in oil chicken on a cooling rack placed on a baking sheet, place in a 435 degree oven and finish,

I baked for 20 minutes or so, I can’t be more specific because not all chickens are created equal.

Remove from oven, let set for 10 minutes and enjoy.

Was this a healthy fried chicken, of course not.

It was first cooked in oil.

Why go though the extra steps? Because I think it was healthier.

First we drained what oil we could, then we baked it.  When removed from the oven there was even more oil on the bottom of the baking sheet. Remember we cooked on top of a cooling rack, not sitting in oil on the sheet.

So, can we have healthy fried chicken, I think not. But we can make it healthier and still enjoy fried chicken. BTW it was very juicy.

Feel free to leave a comment.

Tagged in: chickenfriedhealthy

Wondra Gumbo is wonderful

Gumbo, Wondra, what the? Well, actually yes, they do work together and your Gumbo is still a Creole – Cajun dish.

Why Wondra you may ask?  The answer will be obvious once you understand what Wondra is. Spoiler alert, its explained near the bottom.

Now back to Gumbo, the most well known trait of a good Gumbo is the Roux, it’s this mixture of flour and oil , cooked until you reach the level of nuttiness and color you prefer. What isn’t widely known is that the darker the Roux, the more you cook the flour the less it acts as a thickener.

Enter stage left,  Okra and File, two classic ways to thicken a gumbo roux. In Creole cooking the Okra is more widely used and in Cajun cooking it’s File.

Back to flour, its flavor changes the longer it is cooked, and I prefer that very dark, chocolate color and nutty flavor that comes from a long cook. So my roux does a poor job of thickening the gumbo.

Francene just doesn’t like Okra unless it’s fried and File has a flavor to it.  A flavor that adds if used sparingly and overpowers if dumped in.

In a typical Gumbo recipe you would have a roux of 1 cup oil and 1 cup flour, cooked till you reach the desired color. Add your trinity and then add about 3 quarts of liquid, chicken or beef broth. Then add the goodies and simmer.

If the roux (remember, I like a dark chocolate roux) isn’t going to act as a thickener then you have to simmer to reduce the liquid otherwise you will be simmering forever, and your goodies will become mush.

For those that don’t know, Gumbo is actually a soup with more body similar to a stew.

I’ve added what I think is a reasonable amount of file, and it’s still too soupy. Well, Thanksgiving is closing in, and in the back of our minds, Thanksgiving recipes have been racing around, including gravy.

I have never hesitated using Wondra in a gravy, and it has never had that raw flour taste, so I reach into the pantry and grab the blue tube and go for it. Wondra flour is super fine so it doesn’t clump, mixes well, and gets you to where you want to go quickly.

I taste the Gumbo and it’s great, but why doesn’t it taste like raw flour, well it’s because the flour has already been cooked. And it is mixed with a malted barley so we have a finished taste right from the container.

If the flavor of the Gumbo changed any, I couldn’t tell and if so, it just might have smoothed out a bit.

So the moral of the story is to not be afraid to think out of the box, a tube may just be what you are looking for.

Tagged in: flourthicknerwondra

Adventures with Sushi

Sushi, raw fish, slimy texture, yuck and double yuck.

There are times in our lives that we just have to get a grip, suck it up and think that maybe, just maybe it’s time to escape from our preconceived  notions.

My first experience with Sushi was on a cruise to Alaska though the inland passage. There was a small spot  where you could get a small plate of that rice stuff. They called the little roll things, something like California Rolls.  I knew it wasn’t real Sushi because there wasn’t any raw fish oozing out and it wasn’t slimy. See, I am a man of the world. (You’re probably not laughing any louder than I am).

Well, the years rolled by and I didn’t give any more thought to Sushi until Francene took me to lunch at this strange little place that has a little train running along side the booths; and what was on the train? Neat little rolls of rice, seaweed and stuff.

What surprised me was that the stuff wasn’t a slimy eel sticking it’s head out of the roll, nor were there any dangling tentacles.

There was cooked shrimp and crab meat neatly tucked into that little roll of rice and seaweed.  Some of the rolls had the rice on the outside and some had the rice wrapped inside, There was avocado, cucumber, and lots of just tasty delights rolling past me.

Then Francene took me to lunch again at a different Sushi restaurant in Newberg, this one had all that I have mentioned, AND some of that fish stuff. AND, I ate some more of it.

Time to make Sushi at home, I can roll a bit of rice and some seaweed into a roll and make it look as good as what we find in restaurants. Well, I can at least do the first part.

Okay, if I’m going to do this I will need a Shashimi knife because we all know you need the right tools. And we always need a good excuse to buy another blade. Of course I later figured out I was making Sushi, not Shashimi :-).

I then made a trip to our local Asian grocery store, Uwajimaya in Beaverton Oregon.

There I found at least 50 different types of seaweed for Sushi, and a very nice lady who explained which types of seaweed were good and which ones weren’t as good. Next was the bamboo mats for rolling out the seaweed, and thank goodness there were only two to choose from. I bought two of the most expensive mats there, a whopping $1.75 each.  These are bamboo mats used to make your roll round, square, or to give a uniform shape.

Then to the condiments for Wasabi, or at least that mustard, corn starch and green food dye stuff that passes for Wasabi. Either way, it’s hot and tasty. I already had the sticky rice in the pantry.

Of course I also bought two sticky buns with BBQ pork to give me fuel to the next stop.

The mega mart provided some crab meat, cucumber and avocado and then I headed back home. The home freezer provided some nice shrimp and crab.

Later, back at the mega mart, telling a clerk about my adventures with Sushi,  she said something like   ‘Hey, did you check out the new Sushi Bar in the deli department?’.   I, of course just stood there with a manly know it all look on my face, and when they turned away I went to see what they where talking about.

I don’t spend much time in the fast food deli. Nothing against fried chicken under lamps, or any of that other stuff, although I have been known to get a broccoli salad or something similar upon occasion.

And there, right there on the corner of the Deli, close to the Starbucks (probably the reason I don’t go to that part of the store, a zillion dollars for a cup of coffee, I don’t think so.)See “When that first sip of coffee touches your soul“) was the Sushi display case, and there behind the case was the Sushi chef, and there in his hand, extended towards me, were samples of SUSHI, that tasted SO Delish!.

I now have a new favorite section of the store.

After my little adventure into fancy rice balls with a variety of yummy goodies, our interest has been perked and our taste buds tickled with anticipation. A little research and a whole new world has appeared and needs to be explored along with a lot of practice in having the final product look appetizing. I need to limber up these old and big hands, get the fingers a little more flexible. Or get Francene on the assembly side where her smaller and younger hands would be welcome.

Here is a quick list of types of Sushi, what they look like and consist of.  Picture below is a link to gurunavi.com and an excellent description of Sushi types.

Also from gurunavi.com

Read:How to Eat Sushi like a Native: 8 Sushi Etiquette Tips
Read:22 Things You Didn’t Know About Sushi

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Tagged in: gingerricesushiwasabi

Real Men Eat Quiche, some even make it

Quiche is basically a pie shell filled with an egg custard. Once we under stand how basic and simple it can be, we can get creative. I think the most popular is the basic spinach and bacon quiche, anyone can fry some some bacon and toss some raw spinach into a pie shell and pour the custard over them. About the only thing left to be creative about is how much salt and pepper. The great thing about a quiche is its simplicity and rather forgiving custard. For those in a hurry, just use the frozen pie shells found in any mega mart. Once I made my first real pie crust, and it was a failure, I was hooked on doing it myself. No stinking pie crust was going to get the better of me. How do you fail at a pie crust, too much butter and when blind baked it all slid to the bottom of the pan, bummer. BUT, you can always put some cinnamon and sugar on top and tell the kids its desert. So here I am, going to make a quiche, but also thinking I might like a Mexican / SouthWestern version, and while I’m at it, how about a cornmeal crust, after all I am also thinking about a good Tamale. For those that haven’t worked with cornmeal, it doesn’t hold its shape, it’s soft like a muffin.
After some time on the Internet I decided to make this a deep dish quiche, adding to the cornmeal’s limitations. What I came up with was a dough of 80 percent cornmeal and 20 percent flour, add some egg and cheese and it should hold its shape and not crumble. Yet still be cornmeal.
Cornmeal Crust: For one 9 inch spring-form pan
  • 2 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 to 8 ounces Cheddar Cheese, grated (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup reduced fat (2%) milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
I oiled and parchment papered the spring pan sides to help release and keep the crust together after baking and cooling. Use the 2/3’s of the crust mixture to build the sides and after it’s basically in place, use the remaining 1/3 portion for the bottom of the pan. I used parchment paper in addition to oil on the sides because if the cornmeal stuck to the pan sides, I would pull the cornmeal away from the filling. Just being safer than sorrier.since I still didn’t know how firm the crust would be.  As it turned out, the parchment paper adhered to the cornmeal and had to be pealed off.  As thick as the crust was though, a paring knife slid between the cornmeal and metal would have probably worked. Since I would prefer a thinner crust next time, I will stick with the  parchment paper. I like to use the outside of a measuring cup to shape and smooth the inside. Different sized of cups will determine the top to bottom radius of the crust. Now blind bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or it starts to brown in a preheated 400 degree oven, remove from oven and set aside. Chipotle Chicken Filling: Custard
  • large eggs
  • cups plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • cup milk
  • teaspoon ground cumin
  • teaspoon chili powder
Chicken Chipolte
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoon ground chipotle chili pepper
  • 2 to 3 boneless chicken breast,cut into 1/2 inch pieces 
  • cups Mexican mix shredded cheese
  • 1 can whole chiles
  • 1 can chopped chiles
Note: Chili powder and chipolte Chile powder is not the same. Chipolte is a smoked hot pepper, found in the Mexican spice section as whole chiles Cook chicken with chipotle chili powder until tender, season to taste. Combine yogurt, milk, cumin, chili powder and eggs and blend together. Layer your grated cheese, green chilies and chicken. 2 to 3 layers each. Pour custard over layered chicken and cheese, bake in a 325 degree oven for an hour.   Mix a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste with a southwestern seasoning of your choice, I used a variation of Emeril’s southwestern rub. After an hour in the oven spread a thing layer of paste and rub on top of the quiche. Return to oven for another 30 plus minutes. When internal temp reaches 160-165 degrees, remove from oven and let rest at least 40 minutes.   Even with waxed paper and spray the cornmeal crust may still stick. I have to strip paper off the quiche sides after the spring-form sides had been removed, I also used a thin slicer to slide between the crust and bottom of the spring form so the over sized quiche did not split. Cut into wedges and serve. My preference is to make quiche a day ahead of time, refrigerate and then reheat and serve. Firmer shape and a better melding of flavors. After the fact:  The chicken and chipolte flavors where very mild, yet distinct. A winner in our opinion. The crust came out nice and firm with a great flavor.  Just what I wanted to accomplish and now knowing this I would build the next version with a thinner crust. I would roll out the crust, between sheets of plastic wrap if necessary and piece into the spring-form. Easy to do, use spring-form bottom and sit on top of crust and trim around. The press edged inwards a bit and attach the spring side with waxed paper already oiled in place. Place trimmed strips of crust onto the sides and press to stick. Then take the surplus crust, roll out like a 1/4 inch rope and with an egg wash, press into the bottom seam between sides and bottom. This will provide a thinner and more aesthetic crust when the pie is sliced. I would also serve with a salsa served on the side.
Tagged in: chickenchipoltecornmealquiche

Wonderful Curry from Jamaica

The weather is getting cooler, and comfort food is most definitely on the horizon. Business also slows down this time of the year and I find I have more time on my hands then I care for.  I also find it difficult to cook for two, as I had too many years of cooking for a family. I am not one for leftovers, so the portions get bigger and bigger. So what can we do to keep fall and winter from becoming blimp season? Cook? Yes, cook. But let’s start by getting a bit more creative. You may wonder how being creative helps to keep the portions under control. Well, I may not like it so I really don’t want a week’s worth in the refrigerator.So, how about if we make something that onlytakesminutes to prepare. Now back to cooler weather and comfort food. I wanted Shrimp Curry, really what I wanted is the shrimp curry my father made in the 50’s and 60’s that seemed so worldly to a young boy. Yellow curry, that stuff from the spice isle.  On second thought, I can do better than that. Okay, lets make Shrimp Curry, but kick it up a notch. Most curry dishes are a breeze to make, really nothing to them and can be made in the time it takes to cook the rice. So how are we going to kick it up? Lets start by deciding what part of the world we are going to be dining, that will tell us more about our curry mix, How about Jamaica? Okay, that means a curry with a bite to it.
If you want really good curry, never go to the spice isle for a bottle of Shillings or McCormick’s curry. Get your Masala box out and start mixing, after all, all kitchens have a Masala box, don’t they? For those that are shaking their heads, wondering just what am I talking about.  Indian cooks have a spice box; this is either a large metal tin or carved wooded box filled with more tins or boxes filled with the individual spices used to build curries or masalas.
Curry is not a spice, but a blend of spices. We think of curry as being from India but native curry dishes can be found through the Caribbean, African coast, India and just about where ever ancient travelers and tradesmen ventured to in centuries gone by. At one time it was spice that was the universal currency, not gold and baubles. Well, maybe some silk as well. Back to dinner, there was shrimp in the freezer, some jasmine rice in the pantry and a door full of spices. A little later, after cruising the Internet I came up with a Jamaican Curry recipe that sounded good, all I was missing was some Fenugreek seeds. Darn, how could I not have had Fenugreek on hand, I’m sure you do. So my recipe from the net looked good, made it, and then started adjusting the spices till I got what appealed to me.
  • 2 teaspoons dry yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 teaspoons ground fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons All spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon  cayenne pepper
Combine all and grind in your spare coffee grinder. Yum. And its more than the 2 1/2 tablespoons I will be using. Now another spice tin, this one labeled Jamaican Curry, home made. Now for the dish itself.
  • 1 1/2 pound cleaned, shelled large shrimp
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 small red bell pepper finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of your home made curry powder.
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat olive oil and add onions and garlic along with the curry powder.  Saute till the onion and garlic are translucent and have lost most of the water. Add the coconut milk, tomato paste and simmer mixture for 5 to 7 minutes, add stock or water till you have the liquid consistency desired. I prefer a thicker sauce if serving with rice, thinner is for when eating a soup or stew. Now add the shrimp and red bell pepper, and cook at a simmer another 5 minutes or until the shrimp is as you prefer, and do a quick final seasoning. I never mentioned salt as I don’t think this dish needs any salt added to it.
Serve over rice, or add rice on top. Both ways taste the same, just a different presentation, Enjoy. I would pair this dish with a nice beer or light ale.  
Tagged in: chickencurryjamaicamasalariceshrimp

I say Knockwurst, you say Knackwurst

Or, this could have been called a sausage of two cities. In America we have regional areas that where settled by different ethnic groups.  For instance, you have the Cajuns and the Creoles, simplified into country folk and city folk.  Of course there is much more to it than that, but hopefully you get my drift. But no matter how you may wish to compare our regions, their history only goes back a couple of hundred years. We may have had our Civil war but that didn’t significantly alter the ethnic background of the local residents. This can’t said about Europe. Since this is about German sausage you need to realize that the German Empire is very old and has included many diverse cultures.  Parts of France and Spain to the South and West, Czechoslovakia and parts of Western Russia were part of the Bavarian States. It took WW I and WW II to define what what we now think of as Germany.
So when I say Knockwurst and you say Knackwurst, we may be talking about the same sausage. Each region made sausage, but there may have been a shortage of spice group A in region 1 so the same sausage took on a different flavor.  When you remember that spices where a commodity greater than coinage you can better understand how flavors and techniques moved about. And who can eat a coin? The flavors evolved back and forth across Europe but not always the ingredients.  Confused?   A bag of cinnamon is easier to transport that a sack of turnips, and less perishable. So while looking for recipes to make these two sausages I settled on a Knockwurst version, but to tell the truth, the same sausage could be called Knackwurst 100 miles away. The recipes I used as my starting ground came from the cookbook Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing” Book by Rytek Kutas.  It doesn’t matter which cookbook you select, or if you find recipes on the Internet.  Just don’t use the prepackaged packets of chemicals sold by’ Hunter supply outlets’.  Mix your own spices. Our knockwurst called for veal.  Veal is hard to find and expensive. It is also out of favor by a population that thinks it has been raised inhumanly.  So, let’s not talk about Chicken. To find a substitute for veal the best suggestions I found was to get extra lean pork, cut it up and soak in whole milk for a day or two.  Chicken could also have been used but then the sausage would have to be cooked to a higher temperature.
After all the meat had been ground and then weighed, it was divided into the different sausages that would be made. The only difference was the percentage of ‘Veal’ used.
Then the spices, dried milk, protein powder, etc as added and mixed in.
The knockwurst raw sausage stuffing was then bagged, tagged and put in the refrigerator to be stuffed another day. This was because the sausage was warming up and I had three more flavors to make.

Stuffing, cooking and smoking our sausage is here.

Tagged in: bockwurstGermanhomemadeknockwurstsauerkrautsausageweisswurst

Sausage Stuffing Day, a day to remember

So here is all this sausage mix in the refrigerator and I am starting to dread forcing all through the Kitchenaid meat grinder and out the sausage tube.  It’s Friday afternoon and I have a job to do.  No, a real job that pays the bills.  So I decide to stop by Cabelas on the way home. There is a sausage stuffer in Portland on Craigslist by the Sausage Maker but I don’t want to drive downtown on maybe a lark.
I should have. Now there isn’t anything wrong with the Cabelas machine.  It’s quite nice actually, but if I had gone down town I wouldn’t have bought the collagen casings and used what I already had, real hog casings. I have to say after using the collagen casings, never again. The Collagen casings where supposed to hold 50 pounds of meat, mine where gone in 20 pounds. They also tore, split and ruptured in ways I have never had hog casings do. Also the Sausage Maker was a newer design and on Sunday when we finally got everything together two of the stuffing tubes where stuck together.   I had to do the round-trip thing delaying our day. Maybe the Craigslist one would have worked out of the box (they said ‘new in box’) Back to stuffing.  The stuffer should be mounted, but to what?   Drill holes in my island or counter.  I think not.  We settled on using the potting table.  We washed it off of course with a work slab of new wood on top of it.  We also had it set up on the patio so we had our little gas fire going for heat and ambiance.
After learning from our casing mistake, we ended up with 25 pounds of 4 different sausages.  If we had cooked and not smoked some of the Bratwurst and Knockwurst we would have had even more variety. After all this whole adventure was to get some good German Sausage.  See, there is even a can of German Beer on the table. In hindsight I should have had a roll of kitchen twine on hand and tied the links. The twine could have been removed after cooking and/or smoking. Smoking was the next step for the Brat and Knock Wurst, I have three different smokers and feel the Smokey Hollow upright unit would be best for this.  The Green Mount Pellet smoker/grill had difficulty maintaining an even heat when set to it’s lowest range of 150 degrees.
I believe it is better to hang the sausage in a vertical smoker if possible.
But the sausage would have to be hung in the Smokey Hollow instead of layered on racks. That’s where the kitchen twine would have come in handy. I was very unhappy with the Smokey Hollow at first.   It is a closed system so the smoke doesn’t leave.  It just builds up and will eventually over smoke, and over smoking is bitter. I installed a damper so I could have better control. There is a difference between a heavy smoke and smoking for to long. But at the end of the day we had 25 pounds of sausage that will enjoyed for a long time unless family begs it off of us, or we force it upon them.
Tagged in: bockwurstGermanhomemadeknockwurstsauerkrautsausageweisswurst

Bockwurst, Weisswurst, the great White Sausage

These two sausages follow the same story of Knack and Knock. They are almost the same and sometimes called by the others name.  We made both and I will show both recipes here.
Spices mixed into the meat mixture
Spices etc, mixed then added to the meat mixture

Sausage BOCKWURST

Bill’s notes: I will only make 5 lbs of Bockwurst so all ingredients will be cut in half.  Since all the sausage recipes will be made on the same day, it will be easy to combine and then divide the eggs. Ingredients for 10 Lbs. 2 cups of whole milk 5 b. Salt 2 Lb. powdered dextrose 1 Tb. Mace 1 Tb. Ground celery 4 Tb. Onion powder 1 Tb. Ground white pepper 6 pcs. fresh chopped chives or green onions 6 pcs. Chopped parsley 1 piece grated lemon peel 3 fresh whole eggs 3 lbs. boneless veal 5 lbs. lean pork shoulder 2 lbs. pork trimmings GRINDING Grind all the meat through a 1/4″ grinder plate, adding all the ingredients, and mix. Place in food processor and emulsify. STUFFING AND COOKING Bockwurst is stuffed into a 24-26 mm sheep casing and made in links 4-6 inches long, then hung on clean smokes-ticks. (Do not use a smokestick that can stain the casings, as bockwurst is a white sausage.) Sausage should be placed into the cooker or water and cooked until the internal temperature reaches 152° F. (Be sure the water temperature is not above 165° F). Place cooked sausage under cold shower for about 10 minutes to reduce internal temperature to 100° F and remove to cooler overnight. This sausage also can be frozen and cooked as it is needed. Bockwurst also is made as a very fine-textured sausage (emulsified) in the Western New York area. It is very popular at Easter time and also goes under the name of “white hot dogs”.
Water bath cooked with my Joule Souse Vide

Sausage WEISSWURST

Ingredients for 10 Lbs. 5 lbs. veal 5 lbs. lean pork butts 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk 4 Tb. salt 1/2 cup soy protein concentrate 1 tsp. onion powder 1 tsp. dry parsley 4 Tb. ground mustard seed 1 Tb. ground white pepper 1 tsp. ground celery seeds 1 tsp. mace 3 Tb. powdered dextrose 4 cups ice water Grind meat through a 1/4″ or 3/8″ grinder plate. Add all the ingredients except the water and mix thoroughly until evenly distributed. Do not pack soy protein concentrate when measuring. Then place the meat in the food processor, adding water as you go, to help emulsify the meat. Stuff into a 32-35 mm hog casing and make into 5″ to 6″ links. Place into 160° F water and cook until an internal temperature of 150° F is attained. Then shower the sausage with cool water until the internal temperature falls to 75° F. Place in cooler overnight before using. After the casing had been filled and twisted I needed to cook them in a water bath. Since already had a souse vide that will maintain a water temp +- 1.2 degree I opted for that route.
It’s here that I watched all the links untwist and casing get ugly, but you should remove the casing from both of these sausages before serving.
Finishing up on a bed of sliced potatoes, onions and mushrooms, Francene is not a sauerkraut fan.
Of the two, we prefer the Bockwurst.  The Weisswurst has less flavor and more of a dry hamburger texture.  I wouldn’t throw it out though. It’s still good eats.
Don’t forget the hot, sweet mustard.
Tagged in: bockwurstGermanknockwurstsauerkrautsausageweisswurst

The Great Brat. No, not our child, the Sausage

Bratwurst, glorious bratwurst. The term has been used to label many different sausages.  Technically it is a sausage made from fresh pork or veal, or both. But for my purposes, it is that great linked sausage served by the Sausage Kitchen in Regensburg Germany.  And to be served over a bed of caramelized onions and Sauerkraut .
Bratwurst may be linked or roped, it can be frozen raw, it can be pre-cooked (generally in a hot water bat) or it may be smoked.  I like my Bratwurst well seasoned, spicy and tangy. The spices will include mace, cinnamon & nutmeg to name a few. The recipe I used  can be found here.  We graduated to a sausage stuffer instead of the Kitchenaid mixer. If you are going to make links, we found hog casing to work better. We were going to prepare 5 pounds smoked and 5 pounds pre-cooked, BUT I got carried away and smoked it all….YUM.
I guess I will just have to make another batch 🙂
One Bratwurt, one knockwurst and one Bockwurst sitting on sauerkraut and onions.
It’s difficult for it to get any better than this.   Oh yeah, add Mustard.
Tagged in: bockwurstbratwurstGermanhomemadeknockwurstsausagesmokerweisswurst

Why you should make your own sausage

I enjoy a good sausage; one with personality. It was about 20 years ago I started on a creative cooking adventure.   I added Paella, Gumbo, Jambalaya and even dishes that where about the sausage it self. I would read these recipes for inspiration & then head off to the mega mart for the ingredients. It’s here that the spice rack evolved (that and Alton Brown).  It was where I learned to dump last years paprika and replenish the can  with fresh.
So off I would go.  Where is the Andouille?   Where is the Chorizo?  If you can’t find it, use  smoked Garlic-ed sausage. That sure sounded vague. Speaking of Chorizo, there is a Spanish-Portuguese version and the Mexican version. They are not the same. I was getting frustrated.  I wanted to make these dishes and have them taste authentic.  No matter how good they turned out, I always felt a bit cheated. Cheated by America’s sausage makers. Here is where I started loving the idea of making my own sausage.  Homemade, ethnic sausage.  Not the stuff from the mega mart.  Not the same packaged links with different names that all taste the same.
What you put into it, is what you get
I have voiced my number one argument to make your own, the spices vs the chemical list, and second which could also be number one, the fat content. In the United states, any meat mixture containing over 30% fat can not be labeled sausage.  Keep this in mind when picking up a of hot dogs that conveniently does not say sausage on the label.

Make the sausage yourself and you control what goes into it.

Tagged in: bockwurstbratwurstGermanhomemadeknockwurstsausagesmokerspicesweisswurst

Wonderful Sausage, a dying art

Sausage, where would civilization be without sausage?  A poorer place indeed. I would say 99.9% of those reading this blog have never had to do with limited or no refrigeration.  I can’t find the picture of Skip and I standing next to the Ice Truck, but do have one that shows Mom getting milk from the Milk Truck.

The first refrigerator I can remember had a freezer about the size of a gallon milk container on its side. If you ever put anything into it, it stayed until the next global warming because it soon became iced in.

So, back to sausage. Man didn’t have a way to store fresh meat for very long so people found that cooked meat and salted meat would last much longer. They also convinced themselves aged meat became a delicacy. So man learned how to make sausage, chop the meat up, add salt and other seasonings. Then smoke it if you wanted to store the meat for the season.

Today, we generally do not make our own sausage, it comes from the mega mart, air sealed in plastic and containing an ingredient list that I can’t pronounce. The list containing everything but flavor.

The art of sausage making has all but disappeared for most of us. If you’re a hunter, then you will either have your game made into sausage for you or learn to do it yourself.  Even then you are missing out on the real treat, flavor.

The local game processor more than likely buys and then adds seasoning and preserving packets containing all the ingredients mentioned earlier.

I always used the stuffing tube on my Kitchen Aid meat grinder but with 25 pounds of ground meat looking at me, I decided to buy a 5 lb sausage stuffer from Cabelas, 12 miles away, so I didn’t have to wait for Amazon to have it delivered.

While shopping, I noticed a 10 to 12 foot section of wall with hundreds of little boxes with titles like, Cajun Andouille, Bratwurst etc, all with an ingredient list of chemicals that I can’t pronounce and a seasoning list that consists of ‘seasoning added’.

This is the reason why I called sausage making a dying art. Not the grinding and stuffing, but the chemical packets instead of spices.

Read a recipe instead of opening a package of chemicals.

I have mentioned that I use a cookbook of sausages.  I believe it’s a great starting place and there are hours of just enjoyable reading as well. “Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing” Book by Rytek Kutas.

This isn’t the only sausage cookbook.  There are many excellent ones available. But if you’re going to make your own sausage, then start with a cookbook, not a box of ingredients.  Also make sure you read the recipes a couple of times before embarking. Mistakes have been made and with a little investigation, can be avoided.

We make Andouille and use a Food Network recipe from Emeril Lagasse. We love it, but the first batch was horribly over seasoned, we re read the recipe.  The mistake is in the list of ingredients. They said.

  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ½ cup Emerils Cajun Seasoning
  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ingredient
  • ingredient

They should have said.

    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient
    • ingredient

or

  • ½ cup Emerils Cajun Seasoning

Second, third, and fourth batches turned out fantastic.

Casings to use: We have always used natural 32-36 mm hog casing. While purchasing the 5lb stuffer I talked myself into using the artificial casings. Big mistake. Others may swear by them, but to me they are just junk. They may work well with high end equipment making a continuous link or equipment that automatically squeezes and cauterizes the casing into links. But if you’re going to twist your own links, then stay away from this stuff, as it splits, tears and just doesn’t want to be handled after the stuffing.

And to make matters worse, the package said they would hold 50 pounds of meat, and mine were gone at the 20 pound mark and when compared to real hog casing, they are very expensive.

On twisting, if you’re going to smoke your sausage you can not twist into links and then hang, they will unwind. You must either smoke the links on racks or cook them on racks. Some sausage is water cooked, twisted links will unwind when floating in a hot water bath. I know.

If you want to hang your sausage, after all we always see sausage hanging, then I suggest you get a hand crimper and use sausage staples. After the smoking and removal from the smoker, you may cut off the metal clips.

I became so frustrated trying to spin sausage in and then out (sounds strange, but you spin link 1 up and away from you, link to 2 back and down towards you, repeat sequence for 3 and 4, etc.) it creates nice links only to have all that work undone during smoking or precooking. I  searched YouTube to see how that store bought stuff looks so perfect. Prefect making sausage machines was the answer, machines that cost as much as a car does.

At least now I don’t have to feel apologetic when someone sees my home-made sausage.

I will also have a Smoker Primer posted in the near future. I have 3 different smokers and although they all will smoke the protein, they each work quite differently.

Tagged in: bockwurstGermanhomemadeknockwurstsausagespicesweisswurst

Roast it, Smoke it, or Deep Fry it, a Thanksgiving Turkey Dilemma

  • Roast Turkey
  • Smoked Turkey
  • Deep Fried Turkey
  • Or, maybe a combo?

Thanksgiving is on the way, the trees are changing color, the weather is cooler, and we are already starting to think about the holidays. No, we aren’t buying Christmas ornaments or hanging lights yet, but we know what’s coming.

I have seen many Thanksgivings come and go, some with family, some alone, but always with the thought of turkey. I have probably cooked turkey just about any way possible, I have roasted them, stuffed them, smoked them, deep fried them with and without being stuffed with mote fowl. I have removed the entire carcass (except leg, thigh, and wing bones) double stuffed, and reshaped and roasted, but that’s another story.

But when all is said and done, my favorite bird is one that has been smoked and deep fried.

If you have ever deep fried a turkey you know the most dangerous part is placing the bird into the hot oil as then you can create boil-overs, and minor to major liquid explosions, thus burning the house down to name a few.

My way eliminates or at least reduces these concerns tremendously. Why, because you work with a dry turkey.

To start with, you must first brine the bird. Brining is the act of soaking the meat in a sugar and salt water solution overnight. This will not make the bird salty or sweet, it will just enable the meat to encapsulate the moisture so you don’t dine on dry, tasteless turkey, you know, that stuff we used to eat at Thanksgiving.

The brine is simply one cup of iodine-less salt, one cup of sugar, and enough water to cover the bird.

It’s cooking day, more than likely Thanksgiving day itself. It should be noted that this can be done a day or two ahead of time and just reheat the bird before serving. You will still have a moist bird.

Remove the bird from the brine and allow to drip dry for a minute. Then season the outside and cavity, and place the turkey in a heavy-smoked smoker for 20 to 30 minutes.

The deep frying will destroy the flavor of pepper and aromatics; that is why you add them during the smoke, to allow for a little penetration. We don’t want the turkey to smoke for very long, we are not cooking it, we are adding a flavor layer, and we are thoroughly drying the bird’s surface.

Now move the bird from the smoker to the hot oil, still lower the bird slowly and carefully. I once had a mild boil-over while the deep fryer was set up in the street, and that oil stain lasted a year or two

You will notice from the pictures that there is almost no bubbling of oil as the bird is lowered into the oil. BUT, that lack of surface water /moisture is still a presumption.

The rule of thumb is to fry the turkey for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes per pound, I go more towards the 3 minute per pound myself, but then I don’t buy the biggest bird I can find.

Remove the bird from the oil, and if possible hang above the post to allow all of the oil to drain from the bird.

Let rest, carve, and enjoy the praise for a job well done.

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Where oh where have all the good shows gone.

Where have all the shows gone and where did all the reality shows come from? After all, the first where real and latter, not so much.

Maybe I have always been a foodie.  It seems that I have always stopped channel surfing when I came a cross a food show.  Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet. He was a real kick, especially the size b onion. Then he stopped drinking. Oh well.

Who can ever forget Julia Child.  Such fun and we even learned something. To bad she bled out on Saturday Night Live.

The Iron Chef, Japan of course. I never learned how to do anything other than drive a spike through a live Eels head and filet it.  So much fun. Of course, sea urchin and fish brains never appealed to me, but I loved that program.

Then we had to make an American version of it. Just like the Magnificent Seven, the Last Man Standing, Outrage etc. Good, but not the same.

Later we had greats like Emeril Live and Barefoot Contessa. Jamie Oliver cooking in a 6 foot square London Flat, the kitchen was even smaller.

Jamie does have a YouTube show where he creates dishes with only 5 ingredients.  A must watch.

Ming Tsai’s East meets West.  Talk about a small kitchen, I seem to recall he used a portable station the size of a camp stove and table. But I loved the ceramic knife he used. Or Tyler Florence showing up to show some frustrated house wife how to cook eggs.  Food 911.

Bobby Flay can cook, whether you like him or not. My favorite show of his was Thowdown! with Bobby Flay. I loved it because he lost. No, I don’t wish Booby ill.   I just believe that show proves what this site is all about.

Bobby would create his Signature version of whatever, say Cioppino.  He was cooking against a San Francisco Chef that made his name making authentic Cioppino.   Well no wonder Bobby Lost.  You just can’t beat the real deal by adding chilis from New Mexico.

Now, to the present. I don’t think there is much worth watching anymore.

Anthony Bourdain didn’t teach us to cook, but his show was fun to watch. Too bad he left us.

I really don’t enjoy elimination reality shows (except for one). They all are talented Chefs creating stuff I could never duplicate and recipes that will never be shared, then they are kicked off the show.

That one elimination Reality show. Well that’s just the best show out there. It’s the one that inspires me, amazes me and entertains me.  Then they don’t eliminate someone for 3 shows, I scream foul.  When they do eliminate someone because they didn’t work well with another contestant, I scream foul.

Because they could still cook circles around the remaining CHEFS.   Yes, Chefs in uppercase.

I have never seen such talent as when I watch Gordon Ramsey’s MasterChef JUNIOR.  Darn,  those 8 to 12 years old’s sure can cook. That’s inspiring.

Leave a comment, share you views on today’s cooking shows.  What do you like and what don’t you like. Who knows, we may start watching it as well. Or even better, Food Network will read the comments.

Tagged in: celebrity chefscooking showtv

Artichokes, one delicious thistle

Artichokes, big, delicious artichokes. Boy have they gotten expensive. Sometimes I feel like a nice artichoke, I go to the produce section of the grocery store and buy something else. After doing a 3 minute research; it seems they are slow growers, take up a lot of space for what you get, and must be picked when ready to eat, not before or after. So, okay, artichokes are expensive.

Luckily we have a local outlet that occasionally has some beautiful artichokes for around 2 bucks each (2018). Beautiful is subjective, to me a great artichoke is of good size, a softball will do as comparison. They are of good color with maybe some freeze burn. They are firm when squeezed, not soft with open leaves.

A soft artichoke is past it’s prime, either on the vine or on the shelf too long. They have started to dry out.

There are many ways to trim and cook an artichoke. Some trim right down to the choke, but for us, we enjoy the meat on the leaves. We will discard the first couple of layers, then start scraping the underside of the leaves with our teeth. It’s perfectly alright to use either your upper or lower front teeth.

Some prefer to eat their artichokes with a dip, generally melted butter or mayonnaise. I am a mayonnaise fan and Francene takes hers straight.

Preparing the artichokes couldn’t be simpler. Cut off the stems at the base and about 3/4 of an inch off the top to allow seasoning and moisture to get inside the leaves. Now if for a party and you want them to look pretty, clip off the tips of all the top layer leaves and remove and discard the bottom 1 or 2 rows. We like to pour a tablespoon or so of Italian dressing into/onto the top and give it a chance to soak in.

The stems we cut off can either be discarded or peeled with a potato peeler and cooked and eaten as well. If you use the stem, trim off the bottom dried end.

There are several ways to cook an artichoke and we prefer steaming them. This can be done with either a steamer or a pressure cooker. Allow 45 minutes with the steamer and our ‘big’ artichokes take 15 minutes in the pressure cooker, high pressure. I am sure there is a time that would work with the new Instapots available.

Eating artichokes is pretty straight forward;  as I mentioned above scrape the meat from inside the leaves with your teeth until they get too small and become thistle. Remove the last of the leaves and use a spoon to scrape out the ‘choke’ bed of tiny thistles. The remaining cup, the heart, is the last and best of the meat, enjoy.

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Why Jonesing For Food

Jonesing, a craving or need for food, is something we can’t do without.  Jonesing For Food’s mission is to bring back some of the excitement over just good food.

In a world of Signature dishes, recipes that trace their roots back to a local dish and then are corrupted into a celebrity Chef’s ‘new creation.’ I felt it would be enjoyable to share stories and recipes that are closer to the original dish, and just maybe, much better than the new Signature creation.

Now I am not against fusion and blending of cultures, heck, we have been doing that since man got a move on. In recent times we can blame cheap air travel, a few years before it was war and war brides, before that some Royal Russian nephew was married to a French Princess to strengthen allegiances to stave off wars. Of course we can all see where that inbreeding led us. No, I don’t mean the Souffle.

We can enjoy a fantastic curry in an authentic (or our case, a modern version) tajine, we can enjoy almost any cuisine we desire. Why not make it authentic. It may take a little longer and we may decide we don’t really care for it. But that’s okay as long as we enjoy the trip.

For a Thanksgiving, many years ago I made a Turkey Mole. I spent hours tracking down the correct chilies, all evening blending the chocolate and spices, preparing the most fantastic surprise meal I could. I was divorced and had all my children there, my brother Skip and his companion, my lady friend as well. We set down to this fantastic turkey and I don’t believe a single one of us will ever forget that meal, it was that bad. Now those memories need to be cherished right along with the deboned and double stuffed turkey everyone raved about.

So crack open a cook book, do some internet research, and get brave, also remember the journey or trip can be just as good as the destination.

We have also provided some quick links to help you find content. First is a search bar (top menu), enter a word or phrase and all of our content will be searched. Two is the categories menu item (sidebar menu), looking for articles on Cajun, select it and go. Third is the everything menu item (top menu). Alphabetic and with pictures. Enjoy.

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Tagged in: jonesing

Bratwurst sitting on a bed of grilled sauerkraut and onions

The smell of bratwurst sitting on a bed of grilled sauerkraut and onions brings back memories that it seem like yesterday. We were sitting in the little cafe on the Danube River, the Wurstkuche Restaurant in Regensburg, Germany, also known as the Sausage Kitchen, eating our lunch.  My Dad showing us these lines on the wall that were high water marks from flooding of the Danube, a stone’s throw from the restaurant.

This was just a cafe to have lunch, not yet known as the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world. No, this wasn’t yesterday, it was 1955 and I was 8 years old.

Captain Dudley Jones, stationed at Regensburg, Germany, the year 1955, had been joined by his family, wife Billie and two sons, Skip and Little Bill; and along the way we added another member, Reuben, a full sized long haired Dachshund.

It must have been a Sunday, and we drove across the bridge for some sightseeing. We lived in a house across from the river from St Peter’s Cathedral. The picture I have included of the Bridge and Cathedral is almost the same as the painting my parents’ commissioned.

There are memories that just stay with you. Some 20 years ago I watched a travel documentary and the scene is from inside this restaurant. They are showing the high water marks from the Danube flooding and I excitedly start babbling, “I have eaten there! I have eaten there!” Then the cameras went outside and I knew I was right.

So I have decided it’s time for a good German sausage dinner. with real sausage, not stuff with something like Wilshire Farms on the label. Authentic German Sausage recipes made at home, eaten at home, and does it get any better than this? Yes, it does, but I don’t have the cash to fly over to Germany for lunch, so this will have to do.

 

 

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Tagged in: saur krautsausage

Bratwurst, Bockwurst and Knockwurst sausage recipes

Image by; Salt Lake City Weekly

This is part of a multi-part story of German Sausage, the type we ate in Germany in the 1950’s. Part one, was the introduction, with this being part 2. The next parts 3,4 and 5 will be the actual making, cooking and smoking of the sausage.

Sausage BOCKWURST

Bill’s notes: I will only make 5 lbs of Bockwurst so all ingredients will be cut in half. Since all the sausage recipes will be made on the same day it will be easy to combine and then divide the eggs.

Ingredients for 10 Lbs.
2 cups of whole milk
5 b. Salt
2 Lb. powdered dextrose
1 Tb. Mace
1 Tb. Ground celery
4 Tb. Onion powder
1 Tb. Ground white pepper
6 pcs. fresh chopped chives or green onions
6 pcs. Chopped parsley
1 piece grated lemon peel
3 fresh whole eggs
3 lbs. boneless veal
5 lbs. lean pork shoulder
2 lbs. pork trimmings

GRINDING Grind all the meat through a 3/8″ grinder plate, adding all the ingredients, and mix. Place in food processor and emulsify.

STUFFING AND COOKING

Bockwurst is stuffed into a 24-26 mm sheep casing and made in links 4-6 inches long, then hung on clean smokes-ticks. (Do not use a smokestick that can stain the casings, as bockwurst is a white sausage.)

Sausage should be placed into the cooker or water and cooked until the internal temperature reaches 152° F. (Be sure the water temperature is not above 165° F).

Place cooked sausage under cold shower for about 10 minutes to reduce internal temperature to 100° F and remove to cooler overnight.

This sausage also can be frozen and cooked as it is needed. Bockwurst also is made as a very fine-textured sausage (emulsified) in the Western New York area. It is very popular at Easter time and also goes under the name of “white hot dogs”.

Sausage BRATWURST

Bill’s notes: I will make the 10 lbs of Bratwurst the divide into two 5 lb groups and smoke one of them.

Ingredients for 10 Lbs.
2 cups or whole milk, ice cold
3 whole eggs
2 cups soy protein concentrate
1 Tb white Pepper
1 Tb. Mace
1 tsp. ginger
1 Tb. Nutmeg
4 Tb Salt
2 lbs. boneless veal
5 lbs. fresh pork shoulders
3 lbs. lean pork trimmings

GRINDING & MIXING Grind all the meat through a 3/8″ grinder plate. Place in a food processor adding all the ingredients (do not pack soy protein when measuring) until evenly distributed and emulsified. Meat should then be stuffed into a 32-35 mm hog caseing.

NOTE: Bratwurst is sold in three different ways: fresh, cooked or smoked. If you wish, bratwurst may be placed into the freezer right after it is made. It can be cooked just before it is used.

You may place bratwurst into a cooker at 160° F and keep it there until an internal temperature of 152° F is obtained.

If you wish to smoke bratwurst, place in a preheated smokehouse at 130° F with dampers wide open for about 1 hour or until the casings are dry. After 1 hour, close dampners to ‘A open, gradually increase the temperature to 165° F and hold it at that level until an internal temperature of 152° F is obtained.

In either case, after smoking or cooking, sausage should be removed and placed under a cold shower until the internal temperature is reduced to around 110° F.

If you are going to smoke bratwurst, add 2 level teaspoons of cure (Insta Cure No. 1) to the 10 lb. formula. (1 teaspoon for my 5 lb batch)

 

Sausage KNOCKWURST

Bill’s notes, I will only make 5 lbs of Knockwurst so all ingredients will be cut in half. Since all the sausage recipes will be made on the same day it will be easy to combine and then divide the eggs.

Ingredients for 10 Lbs.
2 cups ice water
1 cup non-fat dry milk
5 Tb. Salt
4 Tb. Powdered dextrose
2 level tsp. Insta Cure No. 1
5 Tb. Ground white pepper
1 Tb. Mace
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. coriander
2 Tb. Paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
7 lbs. boneless veal
3 lbs. pork trimmings or 7 lbs. boneless beef 3 lbs. pork trimmings

Grind all meat through a 3/16″ grinder plate, add all the ingredients and mix well. Place in a food processor and emul-sify

Sausage should then be stuffed into small or medium beef rounds or 38-42 mm hog casings. Place sausage on smokesticks, properly spaced.

SMOKING Knockwurst

Place in a smokehouse that is preheated 130-135° F with dampers wide open. Keep at this temperature for about 1 hour or until the product is fully dry. Smokehouse temperature then should be raised to about 150° F, applying smoke, and held there for 1 hour or until the desired color is obtained.
You may increase smoker temperature to 165° F and cook until internal temperature reaches 152° F without smoke, or you may remove to the cooker until the 152° F is obtained internally.

If you are cooking in water, be sure the water tem-perature is not over 165° F. NOTE: Knockwurst usually is not smoked very dark; however, this is optional.

Substitute for Veal

Today Veal is expensive, hard to find and not politically correct.  There are substitutes, some say just beef, other chicken or turkey and then there is pork. I picked this up from a European food site, use very lean pork loin and slice into the cut you need for veal, soak the pork loin for 24 to 48 hours in milk, supposedly you will come closer to the flavor and texture than other substitutes.

I especially did NOT want to use poultry as it must be cooked to a higher temperature than pork and in sausage, that may dry it out.

Most of the sausage I make are from the the cookbook ‘Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing‘ by Rytek Kutas. A couple of our favorites are his Keilbasa sausages and Breakfast sausage patties. Not to be confused with what you buy in the local mega-mart.

We have purchased lamb and beef from a local supplier, Kookoolan Farms, in Yamhill, Oregon. When you pick your order up you may select a cookbook from a huge selection as well as a bottle of their excellent Green Walnut Wine.

Tagged in: Germansausage

Green Tomato Relish or Chow Chow

As the nights get colder and our days get shorted those lovely tomatoes stop ripening and we are left with Green Tomatoes. Those hard and flavorless reminders of what will not come. Now is the time to make hard choices, try hanging them on the vine in the garage and see what happens, toss them in the compost bin, or make Green Tomato relish.

These tomatoes are generally not green beefsteaks or other large tomato that would lend itself to breading and frying. They are Roma’s, Willamette valley etc. They didn’t start growing on the vine until late in the season, so they didn’t have time to ripen before the season was over.

A few years ago we had a horrid season.  There were more un-ripened tomatoes than ripened ones. Very disappointing. I went on an internet search and discovered Chow Chow and Green Tomato Relish. The difference between Green Tomato Relish and Chow Chow is that Chow Chow includes cabbage and hot peppers. Over the years I have thought of making a true Chow Chow but opted for the easier preference of a semi sweet relish, much like a pickle relish.

We no longer buy pickle relish and use our tomato relish for hamburgers, hot dogs, tuna fish salad or anything you would use a pickle relish for.

The tomatoes can be orange or red, they do not all have to be green to end up in the jar.

The Green Tomato Relish is super easy to make. Simply chop tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, onions, and add salt, sugar and vinegar, mustard seed and celery seed. Combine all finely chopped ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes or more, then can the relish.

Use the following ingredient quantities and adjust for how many tomatoes you have.

  • 5 pounds green tomatoes
  • 3 red and 3 green bell peppers
  • 2 1/2 pounds onions
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons each of mustard seed and celery seeds

Chow Chow is a spicier southern version. The recipe I would like to try is from the internet site Taste of Southern. It takes longer to prep and cook but the results look fabulous.

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Last of the tomatoes, red and juicy, just right for crushed tomatoes

Too many to just eat, but not enough for a major canning job. We have canned tomatoes for sauce for years but there is always the end of season leftovers..

Here we are dealing with the last of the ripe tomatoes. Next we will deal with the green tomatoes still hanging on the vine.

All of our quart containers are in use so that helped with the decision to make some ‘crushed’ tomatoes with basil. Simply clean and quarter the tomatoes, then put a quarter of them on the stove and bring to a light boil with onion, salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste, we always blend our herbs after the individual tins have been filled (oregano, marjoram, basil, savory and thyme).

Turn off the heat and take the boat motor (hand blender) to the tomatoes to puree them..

Add the rest of the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

For canning, I used our last pint and half pint jars. Put a teaspoon or so of lemon juice and a sprig of fresh basil in the jar, then fill to 1/2 inch of the top and can as usual.

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Tagged in: freezingsaucetomato

Maque Choux is a Cajun dish that I grew up with

So, fall is officially here.  With all the fresh local vegetables that have been harvested, it’s the best time to make Maque Choux.   IMHO.

Maque Choux is a Cajun dish that I grew up with.  My Dad made it for our family & now my Mom, my siblings & I all enjoy making it for our families. It is rare for there to be leftover Maque Choux but it does taste even better the next day.

If you go out & research the dish, you will be surprised with what you find.  The diversity of the ingredients and the way the dish is cooked is surprising. I would say that each family has their own “Traditional “ version.   All others are to be rejected.  Really, though, you should go out & look it up. Some of the different ones look delicious and could be used as a main dish with the addition of the various proteins.

I am going to only give rough quantities as I do not measure when I make this dish.

  • 6 ears of fresh corn
  • One onion cut into thin ribbons
  • Tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • Butter –( unsalted) I use half butter & half olive oil (my arteries thank me for that)
  • Salt (kosher) & fresh Ground pepper

First you cut the kernels off the corn.  The first pass should just cut the top part of the kernels off.  Then you take you knife & scrape the remaining juices from the cob.  This is called “milking” the cob.

Next step is to put it over med high heat in your trusty cast iron pan.  Then add the butter & olive oil.  Probably  the amount is a quarter of a stick of butter & the equivalent in olive oil.  If I am feeling especially indulgent, I will use butter only.  It does give it a rich flavor.

I sauté that for a while until the corn starts to get tender and then I toss in the onions and tomatoes. After that a medium simmer for all the ingredients to meld together & until they are all cooked through.

Last you salt & pepper to taste.

I do invite you to cook this dish if you’ve not had it in the past.   I also know that there is the possibility that Feedback from my siblings & cousins might provide some wonderful variations as well.   Please let me know your Thoughts on this & happy cooking!

Francene (Conner) Jones

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Homemade Worcestershire Sauce, worth the wait

Moving time, the year 2005 and we moved to Dundee, Oregon. So much stuff, and so many boxes. Anyway after unpacking I loaded up the pickup with a stack of cardboard to be recycled.

I drove down to the tiny transfer lot and disposed of the cardboard. Then took the newspaper to the big dumpster for paper.

Well, I’m no dumpster diver, but the magazine on top looked interesting. Fortunately it was close to the opening and when I reached in, I saw it was more than one. It was three years of Saveur magazines, score.

If you haven’t read Saveur, then you’re missing out. It’s as close to the old Time Life Foods of the World in a modern, magazine form. I took them home and Francene and I had a grand time going through them, for the next several years. Then subscribed to it.

Now I haven’t ever been one to make magazine recipes, which is a good thing. I would be even bigger than I am if I did. But they have some great articles, and one was about what they used in-house and the condiments they made.

When it comes to sauces, I grew up with the usual steak sauce, A-1, and a bottle of Worcestershire Sauce. And of course mustard. One particular issue had Saveur’s recipe for Worcestershire Sauce and a pub mustard made with Guinness beer. Spicy Guinness Mustard, I made them both. Several times.

If your looking for a thin, delicate brew then double strain, want it like the store bought stuff, strain through a coffee filter (will take about two weeks as it's so full of good stuff).
Thick and creamy this mustard has a musty flavor from the stout. We have made it at eat 5 times, usually a double batch and give some to the kids.

These two condiments have evolved into probably the two most used condiments Francene and I use. The Worcestershire Sauce is thick and rich. and the Mustard is just right for everything we use a mustard for. Although we do still use Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard occasionally.

I have made The Worcestershire Sauce two different ways, first, I followed their instructions and the other way was to not strain, but blend everything into a thicker sauce. I love both variations. The Mustard has been made with both Guinness and Sheaf Stout. Both are excellent.

I highly recommend both of these condiments and also recommend you subscribe to Saveur. They also have a fantastic website. https://www.saveur.com/

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Leftovers, no, not leftovers again. Ah, Sous Vide leftovers.

Those dreaded leftovers, if they are a casserole or maybe a stew, chances are they will better on day two, All that time for the flavors to meld and get yummy.

But it’s not stew, it’s not a casserole, it’s a great T-Bone steak that was cooked to perfection, and I mean perfection. What are you going to do, how are you going to destroy that perfect rare steak. Well, you could eat it cold, maybe slice it and have a beef sandwich, but no. You want to eat the rest of last night’s steak, and you want it just as good as it was last night.

In all my years I have never found a way to have that steak as good tonight as it was last night. Until now.

The closest I ever came was to heat my panini pan and lid over heat till it smoked, turn off the heat, place the steak on the pan, then the lid on steak and wait till it stops sizzling, about 2 minutes. You now have a steak, warm inside and marginally more cooked on the sides. Good, but not the same.

Enter right, Joule, a sous-vide * see definition at end of article unit that will save the day. Now the internet and YouTube are full of sous-vide demonstrations, showing how it cooks the perfect steak, as well as countless other things. How this perfect 129° steak, ugly to look at is just the best meat you have ever eaten. Throw it on the grill for a minute each side and use a blow torch to crisp the fat on the edge.  Now you have a steak that is also beautiful to look at as well as yummy to eat.

But with all the articles and videos, I haven’t seen that leftover steak brought back to 129° and not overcook the meat until now.

We did the Joule thing to two great T-Bones, but I should have just done one. Too much food. So I vacuum-packed the two left over steaks and stuck them in the fridge.

Sort story, shorter. Next evening I heated the water, immersed the steaks, and thirty minutes later served them. I couldn’t tell the difference between the two night’s steaks.  Each tasted just the same. Now on the other hand, the broccoli and greens didn’t fair as well. But in the end. Two great nights of steak without night number two being a leftover night.

What is sous vide cooking?

From the Joule web site:

A video

From the Anova website:

What is sous vide cooking?

Once limited to the pros, sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results. High-end restaurants have been using sous vide cooking for years to cook food to the exact level of doneness desired, every time. The technique recently became popular for home cooks with the availability of affordable and easy-to-use sous vide precision cooking equipment like the Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker.

Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, refers to the process of vacuum-sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This technique produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method.

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Tagged in: leftoverssteak

The best kitchen knife you can have – Part two

Part two, continued from part one.

Sets of knives: My advice for what it’s worth, Do not buy a set of knives and do not buy a set of cookware. It may look pretty in the knife block, or hanging from the hanging pan rack. But that’s because half of them will never be used. Buy what you need and sometimes buy what you want.  A set of anything will include stuff you will never use.

Second piece of advice:  If you have a partner, do not make them conform to what you like. I am not a Cutco fan, but the handles fit my wife’s hand and she likes them. Francene is less likely to hurt herself using what she likes than using something that doesn’t feel right to her. Or using what I want her to use.

Knife brands I would recommend would be Henckel’s Pro, I don’t care for the International line from experience, They are just a knife set with a block, standard wedding present. The Shun Classic is good if you like their D handle.  One side is bulged to fit the hand better. So if you’re left handed you will need to special order them. If you don’t want to display them, then I would opt for the Shun Sora line.  Less money because they less fancy. The Sora line was designed for the restaurant line cook or sous chef.

Mac knives are excellent for the money.  They also come in many of the Japanese styles such as Nakiri and a wonderful birds peak paring knife.

Global knives are very stylish and have a metal handle that is textured for grip.

Victorinox, I still buy them. Wusthof Classics, makes probably the best flexible boning knife available.

The point is, you can buy some really good knives without breaking the bank.

I have list just a few of the many excellent kitchen knives available. Beware of the 10 best articles as these have been written to sell knives & not provide any real world advice.

High end knives: If you want to spend the money, go for them. Sure to impress the knowledgeable guest but won’t really slice and dice any better then a true professional knife.

Forschner by Victorinox, straight boning knife, I had it’s curved mate but seldom used it. Gave it to my son Trevor.

Every kitchen needs a boning knife. It can be used for so many tasks.

I have used it several times to de-bone a turkey, cut out and remove the skeleton from a whole turkey (except leg and thigh bones). Then double stuff to reshape the bird, roast, and when you serve, you cut across the grain and serve a slice of both turkey meat and stuffing together. Yummy.

It’s thin blade is just perfect for getting into joints or sliding around a curved shoulder blade.

Honorable mention, first Santuko style knife I ever bought.

The Spyderco Santoku. This knife really does the job. It’s a blend of the Japanese Santoku and Western Chef’s knife.

If I had to settle on 2 or 3 knives, this might be in the kit. Although it is seldom used anymore.

Replace with more job specif styles. I had two, gave one to my son Trevor (local sous Chef) who admits it’s still one of his favorites.

This I would give as a wedding present, with the advice that the glamorous knives stay in the block for display, but use the hell out this one. Great knife.

It is also a knife I would keep in an emergency pack.

Another Victorinox, a slicer with granton edge, to keep the food from sticking to the blade. Great handle, ultra sharp, just ask the emergency room.

This was a Christmas present from Francene, she saw how often I used my 50 year old slicer and surprised me with this.

The 50 year old Victoronix slicer, still super sharp and well used. Now supplemented, not replaced by a new 14 inch slicer with a granton edge.

These two slicers are used for so many chores with the number one use being slicing pork shoulder into strips for making sausage. The 14 inch length enables the cuts to be made in one stroke.

Joyce Chen, unless you need a serious Chinese cleaver / knife.  The Joyce Chen is light, thin and strong enough to be a cleaver and thin enough to slice and dice. It also holds a great edge.

Joyce Chen cleaver.  I had two of these and gave one to my brother. I stumbled across this odd tv show in the early 90’s, The Iron Chef, and was hooked with the first episode. Did I learn to cook from it?  No. Did I ever try to duplicate one of their dishes?  No. Have I watched every single episode?  Yes.

I have video’s of all the episodes and still go back and watch one when nothing else on TV looks good.

I loved watching Chen Kenichi wield his Chinese knife.  The things he could do with that thin bladed cleaver. This is an exaggeration because I don’t really know the real numbers, but it seams the Japanese use 40 different style blades and the Chinese use two. How do they do it?

Anyway, you can’t get the Joyce Chen anymore (retail) but there are many good knife/cleavers out there. Not to be confused with a 5 pound thick bone cleaver. Most of them seem to be in the $25.00 range.

Mine gets used mostly for prepping chicken, I like to halve my bone in chicken breasts and will set the cleaver where I want the cut and use a rubber mallet to give a firm tap.  The results are super clean cut with out damaging a more delicate knife.

Cutco again, but this one I love. We have tried other cheese knives, some with the fork on the end.

Doesn’t matter, this is the best out out there.

J.A. Henckels International set. Bread slicer.  Hey, it slices bread.  You don’t need to spend big bucks for that. Rest of set is in the garage.

Messermeister Ceramic Rod Knife Sharpener, 12-Inch.  I don’t recommend this as a primary knife sharpener or as a steel, but somewhere in between both. I have used steels for years but have switched to this ceramic rod. It will remove a bit of steel and will do a bit of sharpening while using it.

The fine edge of a properly sharpened knife does not dull easily, but the very edge tip will start to cant or roll to one side. A steel is used to straighten that edge out again.

All knives will need to be sharpened if you use them. When I first started sharpening knives I started with the kitchen sharpeners that were a godsend to the ordinary house wife, but should be banned and destroyed. I will even include the Chefschoice sharpeners in that statement.

Learn to use a stone or send them out. There is not a more dangerous a kitchen tool then a dull or badly sharpened knife. Not all knives get sharpened to the same degree.  The blade thickness will vary the angle of the edge as well as the style of the knife determining the angle of the edge. You may also have a single edge knife.

It takes time, practice and patience to properly sharpen a knife. But that edge should last up to six months as long as you care for the knife and use a steel to realign the edge. How long has it been since yours where sharpened?

Don’t replace the blade, sharpen it. Then if it won’t hold the edge, replace it.

I will do a post on knife sharpening.  If you choose to do it yourself.

Tagged in: knives

The best kitchen knife you can have - Part one

What are good kitchen knives?  They are the ones you will use.  I don’t care if they are stamped, forged blades or if they cost $50.00 or $500.00.

Stamped blade, forged, type of steel, Damascus style, It doesn’t really make a difference as long as they maintain an edge for a reasonable time and it feels good in your hand. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s recommended by Alton Brown or Emeril.

Below are my knives.  Some you will laugh at & some you will not. Under each knife I will give a little history about why it’s still around.

Knives with the name Forschner are made by Victorinox, the makers of the Swiss army knife. Some would say they are entry level, and by price, they are. I have 4 in use and gave my curved boning knife to my son, Trevor.

When I bought them, they where the knives you bought when you went to a restaurant supply as well as a cutlery shop. Of course, the years where in the late 1960’s. So are they any good? I’m still using them even though I have purchased knives like the Shun Reserve.  Victorinox knives are still sold by all the restaurant supply outlets.

Restaurant Chefs care more about utility than hype. These knives are put to the test daily.

Mine are stamped steel, wood handled with the exception of my Fibrox handled Slicer my wife bought me for Christmas, 2017. So I would say they are darn good knives. And they will hold an edge.

This post just became to long so it was split into part one and part two.

Forschner by Victorinox – This is the 10-inch chefs knife, a bit big for most home kitchen chopping blocks.  The 8 inch Victorinox is the standard for today home cook. I have big hands and when I want to slice and dice a lot, out it comes. This knife has stayed in the kitchen since new. It has been abused in ways that should be a crime, but it never gave up and I have come to love and pamper it.

My Shun Reserve – 8 inch chef’s knife with a big belly (large arc to the blade).  It feels good in my hand and is used more and more over the 8 inch Santuko.

It’s used when the 10 inch chefs knife is just to big. I bought it at the Kershaw / Shun factory (warehouse) sale in Tualatin Oregon.

I fell in love with it when I held it, and turned a blind eye to it’s ridiculous price.

When Francene isn’t using her Petite Santoku, this is in her hand.

Calphalon –  Not recognized as a professional cooks knife, I purchased it because of the price and I wanted a Santoku. I found it awkward at first, because of the handle shape, but then I choked up on the blade and used as it should be used.  Thumb and outside of the number one finger on the blade. I actually choke up on most of the big knives I use.  Just holding the handle doesn’t feel like I have the control I want.

This is a  pusher, not a rock and roller I grew to appreciate the grip. I have seen Santoku’s that appeal to me, but not enough to replace the one I have.

Calphalon Nakiri – This is NOT a cleaver, so don’t use it like one. I watched a YouTube of some person chopping the crap out of a chicken and telling us it was a cleaver.  Oh, the shame of it.

The Nakiri is a Japanese vegetable slicer.  You push the blade down and away from you. A very comfortable motion once you try it. This kitchen knife is here to stay.

Cutco –  I don’t care for them because of the handle shape, I have very large hands. I also can’t get them to hold an edge for very long. I think when you send them in to be sharpened by Cutco they put a micro serration on the edge so they appear sharper than  they really are.

Advertising hype, like surgical grade stainless steel doesn’t mean anything. But they are made in America.

Why do I have it, Francene likes it. It’s her go-to knife and she likes the way the handle fits. I even bought it for her.

Pairing knives, two Shun Classics – The larger one doesn’t have a heal cap because it was a promo knife. I purchased them at the Kershaw / Shun warehouse sale.

Shun makes a good quality knife, they hold an edge well and feel good when in use. The D handle is stocked in most stores in the right-handed version, but they may be ordered in the left handed configuration.

Wusthof makes a 3 inch drop tip paring knife that is used as a loss leader in most kitchen stores. It can generally be purchased for under $20.00. A steal if you come across it.

Kyocera ceramic paring knife – I used to watch East meats West and Chef Ming Tsai, who always used a ceramic knife.

It was to dream about, super sharp, almost never dulls. I wasn’t impressed with this though, and now it lives on the surplus shelf.

Imperial something or another –  Cheap serrated paring knife.  It would have been trashed years ago but I didn’t want to go through another divorce.

Something about discretion being the better part of Valor. I think Francene likes it, because it was probably her first kitchen knife she bought.

I purchased a J.A. Henckels International set –  Big mistake. It was just a weak moment while in the big box superstore. I do use the bread slicer and kept the paring knife to experiment with.

This knife was reground to have a single bevel edge. I find it great for jobs like pealing apples. If you ever regrind for a single bevel remember to do it for right or left hand.

The rest are in the garage box of stuff I don’t want in the kitchen, but haven’t gotten rid of yet.

This post just became to long so it was split into part one and part two.

Tagged in: knives

Roasted Marinara, thick and tasty

Canning season is here, so get Peter Piper’s Pickles picked and go to work. Well, we like pickles but not that much. What we do love is a great tomato sauce.

A great tomato sauce? Yes a sauce for all occasions, with a tomato flavor to knock your socks off. The only way that’s going to happen, is to use farm fresh tomatoes, and make it yourself.

We purchased our tomatoes, yes purchased. Our little garden consists of 10 tomato plants that get half the sunlight they need, great for our table use, some drying and a little canning, but not enough for the pantry.

We went to Wilco, a local farm hardware and supply for their once a year canning sale. We purchased 40 pounds of tomatoes, 20 pounds of onions, and a case of apples for Francene’s applesauce.

The preparation is pretty straight forward, but does take most of the day.

Pick your weapon of choice. I would love to tell you which one, but everyone has their preference and hand size. I opted for the Nakiri and a paring knife, and a 10″ chef’s knife for the onions. Francene used her 5″ Petite Santoku.

Half or quarter, depending on tomato size and remove most of the seeds. Also, do a very rough or large chop of as many onions as you would care to have in your Marinara sauce, same with bell peppers. We did probably 8 pounds of onions and 6 large peppers.

Now start the roasting, I use a little sea salt and some of our garden herb mix.  Place on cooling racks on baking sheets and roast for 30 minutes at 425° . Remove from oven and transfer to a container large enough to hold everything. Continue for the next several hours. If you know you will be seasoning towards a Latin flavor or Italian flavor you might as well have an appropriate drink or two along the way.

After everything has been roasted, transfer the roasted tomatoes, onions and peppers with a large slotted spoon leaving the liquid behind.

We now ran the batch through a food processor to achieve a coarse consistency. Then we brought everything up to a simmer on the stove top, seasoned to taste remembering that the final use hadn’t been decided. In other words, allow for a re-seasoning appropriate for the dish it will be used in.

Follow the canning instructions for your canning equipment. We show both the large pot and the pressure cooker. We use the pressure cooker as a second large pot.

We ended up with 12 quarts of marinara.  With that great hindsight most of us have, we should have gone for 24 pints of a very rich and thick marinara sauce. Probably about 1/3  of the way between a normal marinara and paste.

This allows us to use full thickness, or thin with water or use either stock or wine as a thinner.

I must add that I always just cooked my tomatoes, seasoned them and canned them. But my friend, Kris Horn, told me how she likes to roast the marinara ingredients and also adds what ever strikes her fancy at the time. You could add most anything like carrots, artichoke hearts etc. to end up with YOUR sauce..

I tried roasting and then freezing two years ago, cooking and canning last year, and this year roasting and canning. I think this will be the preferable way from now on.

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Tagged in: bell pepperscanninggarlicmarinaraoniontomato

Fishmonger, do you have one?

A fishmonger is someone who sells raw and fresh fish and seafood. Oh you have one, at the meat counter of your local supermarket. Technically you are correct, but ask them for some raw squid, or fresh Spanish mackerel. Now you get it?

Some of you are blessed with Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, or live on the coast, any coast. For the rest of us, good luck.

Now I’m not saying you can’t get good, fresh fish from Safeway or Publix. You can and I do. I also buy fresh wild caught Salmon and Halibut from my favorite mega box, Costco. But when you need something different, where do you go?

My local fishmonger,  Northwest Fresh Seafood,  is located behind a church, hidden away. It first opened to supply restaurants, and then remodeled to offer wines, etc. to a local clientele.

What made me stop, and really look around was the Cioppino I was going to make my wife, Francene, for her birthday.  We were also having her friend, Priscilla, over, but she is allergic to shell fish and a Vegan on top of that.

Good-bye shrimp, lobster etc. Hello clams, muscles, squid, firm white fish, etc.. On top of that I might as well start with a good fish stock. NOT that box of salty water they call fish stock, not a bottle of clam juice, but fish stock. If you look at their menu, at the bottom, you will see fish bones and crab shells.

Remembering Priscilla, I passed on the crab shells and got a huge Salmon head and a Halibut carcass. Not something I was going to find at the Supermarket. Now I am not a huge seafood lover but that fish stock was to die for. I still have four more frozen quarts waiting for the right dish. One was used in my last Gumbo.

Anyway, this is about finding a local fishmonger, if you can’t find them yourself, ask the Supermarket fish counter, as they are there to help you, not just sell what’s in the cabinet. I live in a very small town and have one fishmonger. Chances are you have one as well.

On a final thought, I posted their menu with prices. This picture was taken September 2018. Fish is labeled fresh, previously frozen or frozen. They have a high rate of sales so the product hasn’t been sitting around

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Paella, a peasant dish for Royalty

The weather is changing. Hot days and hotter nights are now growing bearable. Slowly motoring down a dusty road in the community of Cantabria, headed for the Basque region, we slowly discuss what would be a pleasant dinner, Ah Paella!

Horns honking rudely, Shaken from my daydream, I realize I am really going to Bed Bath and Beyond to replace the coffee maker. Bummer, I’m not in Spain, but Newberg, Oregon and it looks like rain.

But Paella still sounds good. I’ll stop at the fish monger, on the way home, yes, little Newberg has a fish monger. Originally to supply restaurants in the area, they expanded their little shop for the public. Their selection is great, They even have fish bones available so you can build your own fish stock, but that’s another tale.

Paella, the classic Spanish dish, traditionally cooked over an outside fire, with the best part being the crust formed on the bottom of the pan from high heat and caramelized rice. Paella really only has a couple of never changing elements, rice, sofrito and saffron. Everything else is up to the chef of the night.

Sofrito is like the Creole Holy Trinity, a flavor base that has been sauteed, and then added to the rice. In this instance it consisted of tomato, onion, bell pepper, garlic and pork.

For our Paella we chose chicken, a good smoked sausage, we used our Andouille but a nice chorizo would have gone well. Shrimp, squid tentacles and sliced tube (What is tube?) and a few steamer clams. Paella may be cooked on top of the range, or baked in an oven. I have cooked it both ways, and make my decision according to the weather, I haven’t tried cooking it over an open grill or fire yet.

The rice called for is plain long grain white. You can substitute brown but this will radically change the cooking times. White rice takes 30 minutes, brown rice, an hour for the liquid to be absorbed.

One of the cardinal rules, is never stir your Paella once it has been built. BUT, if you’re going to use brown rice, I suggest you go stove top. Cook the rice and sofrito for 30 minutes, then layer on the rest to prevent over cooking the chicken, shrimp, clams etc., and cook till the liquid has been absorbed. In the oven, you will be taking a chance on over cooking and drying out the goodies.

The first time you make a Paella, it will seem to be a lot of steps, but is rather simple when you read through the instructions a couple of times, and realize you are just preparing sides to be layered.

You may have noticed we changed skillets after the sausage. The chicken etc should be cooked over a high flame, and high temperature cooking will ruin a ceramic coated pan, so I grabbed my trusty 12″ cast iron skillet to finish the prep work.

The Sangria looked interesting but could never stand up against a good homemade pitcher of the good stuff.

Now to an actual recipe of sorts.

First thing, 1/4 teaspoon of saffron, mashed with a mortar or ground. Put it in a small glass and add 1/4 cup of hot water. Saffron purchased in the supermarket is about a billion dollars per thread. Excellent, and much fresher saffron can be purchased by the gram on Amazon, both Spanish and Indian. Read the reviews.

Then 1/2 pound of sausage, cooked in a high heat skillet; I like cast iron, with 1/4 cup olive oil. I like to have the skillet and oil hot enough to actually sear the sausage.  I believe the sear adds another flavor to the dish.

Remove sausage, cut into 1/4 rounds and place in a large bowl.

Add a 1 1/2 pound chicken, cut up and cook till toasty brown. Salt and pepper the chicken. When brown (remember chicken, rabbit, etc will cook some more during the Paella cooking period), remove and place chicken in the same bowl.

Wipe out remaining oil and add 1/4 fresh olive oil. Add the sofrito mix and saute till translucent and soft. The Sofrito should be 1 medium sized onion, chopped medium to fine. 1 large tomato de-seeded and chopped, 1 medium bell pepper, any color. Red bell peppers are sweeter than yellow, which are sweeter than green. And add a few ounces of pork chopped or cut into 1/4 squares.

If looking at my pictures, i used a larger portion of pork as a filler.

Lobster goes great but it doesn’t really ring our chimes, so we use more shrimp and add squid. Remove the shells and devein a pound of shrimp leaving the tails on. Clean the clams or mussels, about a dozen or so, and rinse the squid.

One of our favorite toppings are large scallops. If used, I will do a very fast high heat saute to just brown the sides in butter or ghee, but NOT cook them. If precooked they will be tough when the paella is finished. You might even hold them back, and put on top about the half way mark.

Get out your favorite 14 inch Paella pan; you don’t have a paella pan? Then use a heavy roaster, this works best in the oven as the surface size and shape doesn’t lend itself to stove top burners, but would over an open fire.

Put 3 cups of long grain rice into the center, spread the sofrito on top, and add 5 3/4 cups of boiling water plus the 1/4 cup water and saffron. Stir the mix, and bring to a boil. Once a boil has been reached, remove from the heat.

Now is the time to check your seasoning. Remember the sausage and chicken will be adding the spices that are inside (sausage) or cooked with, chicken, salt and pepper.

Don’t feel the need to over season dishes from other countries. It’s not the seasonings, as much as its the local ingredients, and the way they are cooked that make them special.

Now layer your meats, sausage first, then chicken and seafood last. Place evenly, this dish should look as good as it tastes. Sprinkle 1/2 pound peas on top, this adds both flavor as well as color. You could use artichoke hearts, etc.

Place on the bottom of a 400° oven and bake for 30 minutes, or place on a hot grill and cook over a medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the water has been absorbed by the rice.

When done, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then dig in.

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Season to taste, who's taste are we talking about?

Just who’s taste are we seasoning to? What do they really mean by ‘Season to taste’?

I read an article sometime back about this subject. They stated that if you gave 10 cooks the same simple recipe, you might get two that were the same tasting dish.

How can this be? First lets start with the very basics, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Well, what kind of salt. Kosher, Sea, Himalayan Pink, That Himalayan black (the stuff that tastes and smells like sulfur). What? I am being a nit picker. Okay, how about Morton’s table salt. Fine, you happy now? Well how about Morton’s with and without iodine? Point is, every salt mentioned tastes different.

Next we will go to that 1/2 teaspoon. Did you really measure it, or was it a double pinch. Measured it. Okay did you level the top?

Now that we have covered salt, what brand spices do you use? Are they fresh or are they the same bottles that came with the spice rack wedding present 15 years ago? And if in a bottle, probably not fresh anyway.

We grow herbs in our garden. Even dried they only retain the optimum flavor for maybe six months. What we grow is way to much for our normal use, but we have found at first harvest we dump all the old stuff ( usually in the tomato pots). Better than the garbage disposal , or even worse, the dump.

After our tins are full of fresh goodness, we put together one or two mixes (really just everything else grown that season and mixed together). Great for sauce bases or a good starting point. At this point I can promise you that a can of Hunts tomato sauce with 1/2 teaspoon each of herb 1, 2 and 3 will taste differently if made in different homes. Same tomato sauce, same herbs, right?

If you have been following what I have said, then I don’t need to answer that.

When buying herbs, we like to go to the bulk department and buy what we want. Oh, the bulk spices in supermarket A are probably from a different vendor than Supermarket B. Or go to a specialty store like Penzie’s we haven’t ever been disappointed and they carry variations of the same theme. Do you have any idea how many different curries there are?

So, back to ‘Season to taste’, that’s just what it means. Add a little more of this, that one is just fine. I would like a bit more salt, but the doctor says no. Please do NOT rely on the recipes list of condiments as gospel. Get started with what they suggest, a little more of what you like and a little less of what you don’t. Always taste the dish before serving.

Always remember that you can add little bit more, but it’s very difficult to take a little bit out. Also spicy does not mean hot.

If you love to play with spices and very flavor-able dishes, then buy a tagine and give Indian food a try. One of the best lessons you can learn about taste and spice is to learn about curry. One size does not fit all.

I will let you go with one more thought, who wrote the recipe and who was their audience? Betty Crocker? Some great starting points, but seasoned for the masses, their version of a shrimp curry dish is not at all like a shrimp curry dish from an Indian ethnic cookbook.

But when done, remember to season to taste.

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Perfect poached eggs

The coffee has brewed, the mugs are full and you’re a little bit hungry. A couple of poached eggs sound pretty darn good.

They also sound kinda boring. So lets get our skillet out, the one with a lid. Good start. Now didn’t Francene say something about a pound of chorizo she picked up, probably hiding in the refrigerator. So far this sounds like a good start.

Back from the pantry with a quart of last years tomato sauce and a can of chopped and stewed tomatoes. A plan has been made.

Break up the uncased sausage and start a slow cook, add the tomato sauce and stewed chunks, a little salt, a little pepper and cover. Simmer on low for 20 minutes to get all those flavors doing a happy dance. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks

Time for those eggs, carefully break and slide onto the sauce and put cover back on for a couple of minutes for the eggs to poach.

Whites are still semi soft, yoke looks perfect. Carefully spoon eggs and sauce into bowl and serve with a couple of warm tortillas.

So this is my take on eggs ranchero or Huevos Rancheros.

Sure sounds and looks better than a couple of runny eggs on a piece of toast to me.

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When that first sip of coffee touches your soul

Coffee, Java, Caffe and the list goes on.

I’m not one for sitting in line waiting to order some new creation from a trained barista and then pay a ransom for it. For me, a mug of dark roast served black and bitter makes my morning. Surprisingly the darker roasts are less bitter than the lighter and medium roasts.

If you have followed any of my ramblings, you may have noticed that I like a lot of different things. I may make a recipe twice if I really like it, but more than likely I will mix things up. I think I am good at a little of this and a little of that.

Well I like to try different things so when Francene stomped on my idea to build a still I pouted for a while, then decided that if I couldn’t make vodka, I would roast my own coffee. What does coffee have to do with a still? depends on if you like Black Russians or The 44 Cordial (homemade orange and coffee liquor).

After doing my due-diligence on the web, reading a ton of articles, and comparing every roaster out there, I narrowed the field to the Behmor 5400/1600 and the Gene Cafe CBR-101 roasters.

The Behmor is designed for the coffee drinker that wants total repeat-ability and being able to continually develop ‘their’ blend.  You can program  developed profiles making your roast more consistent.

The Gen Cafe on the other hand is just a robust roaster.  It doesn’t look like like a toaster oven and will generate interesting conversations. It will smell great on the patio. Yes, the patio, you don’t want it smoking in the house, worse than a cigar.

So the roaster showed up with lots of little bags of green coffee. After trying to keep perfect notes and never reading them again I realized what I really wanted was a good mug of Java, strong, black and bitter, and Francene likes hers just the same. So I roast two to three 1/2 pound roasts a week and now we have something different every morning.

Now the notes are just a list of what we don’t care for. So far, nothing is on the list.

So one week it might be

* Burundi Shembati Fully Washed 15+ Lot 38
* El Salvador Santa Leticia Las Ninfas Pacamara Full Natural

Next week it might be

* Ethiopian Washed Yirgacheffe Gr. 2 Dumerso Surafel Birhanu
* Costa Rican Tarrazu La Pastora
* Dominican Org. Ramirez Estate

I can’t enunciate them either, but it does look more impressive then ‘Bill’s morning blend’

If we find one roast a bit bitter and another too chocolaty we might blend them for a pot or two. Such fun, and we appreciate our morning coffee much more than we did when we had a 3 pound bag from Costco to go through

On a final note, the roaster can also be a multi-tasker, I have roasted almonds and pine nuts in it as well as coffee

After you have roasted your beans they should have at least 24 hours to degass. Like most foods light and air are not friends of your coffee beans after they have been roasted. I use the Mixpresso canisters as they have dials on the top to set a roast date and one way valves for letting carbon dioxide escape. Depending on the roast and the bean, degassing can take from 1 to 12 days.

Never grind or mill the coffee ahead of time as this also negatively affects the flavor we have worked so hard for. A fine grind will allow too much degassing too quickly as well as exposing the coffee to oxygen for too long, giving a stale flavor to your freshly roasted beans.

One of our desires is to use smaller trash containers and recycle more. We also have a small garden because our yard is small.

The used coffee grounds are acidic and are collected in a stainless steel kitchen compost bin and then spread around our roses, hydrangeas and rhododendrons. Our egg shells are crushed and spread around the tomatoes, as the calcium prevents bloom rot.

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Canning Apple Sauce with an Indian Flair

We do applesauce every year and we love East Indian cuisine.

I’m not going to tell you how peal and core an apple, or how to cook it or do the canning. What I am going to suggest is that you try replacing your own spice mix with a little Garam Masala.

This Indian spice mix is regional and chef specif. Different brands will be just that, different.

I like to buy bulk spices and this give you the opportunity to smell what is being offered. Garam masala generally is a mix of, or will include coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In other variations on garam masala, ingredients may include turmeric, saffron, fennel seeds, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, mace, star anise, tamarind, fenugreek, bay leaves or Malabar leaves.

The mix is wonderful and we found makes the applesauce a welcome side. Try adding a little and taste. Keep adding until a big smile appears on your face.

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Knives out of sight and less clutter

I have never liked having a knife block on the counter. Between hogging space to never having the correct slots I needed to come up with a solution. After a lot of internet searches and image looking,  I saw what would work for me. Then I built it.

Now before you go and say something like “I don’t have a woodworking shop” you should know that I don’t either. I make do with a cluttered garage and just move stuff around as needed. As can be seen, my workbench is an old card table and when I needed the varnish or polyurethane finish to dry I turned my sauna into a multi-tasker.

I didn’t have any plans, so I purchased the hardware, the drop down springs first . Then I mocked up a cardboard tray and started measuring front to back as well as drop till I know how to cut my plywood boards. Did a rough assemble and check everything for fit. I know most commercially built cabinets like mine are a standard size but I wanted to build the largest tray that would fit.

The knives are held in place with magnetic strips designed to hold knives against the wall, readily available on Amazon. At first I had a single magnet to hold the tray up but added a second one (now one at each end) for added safety. Quite scary when the shelf drops unexpectedly.

What I really like is that I can change knives as the need arises.   I built two more shelves and one is at the end of the counter and holds stuff plus a couple of knives I want handy but do not use on a weekly basis.

I felt so proud of myself I installed the third shelf under that clutter collector of a kitchen desk. This one is used to hold all those rechargeable devices, the tablets, phones etc.

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Gumbo with tomatoes, what did you say? Tomatoes?

I’m an adventurous soul and I enjoy good food. The one thing that doesn’t really appeal to me is to eat the same thing over and over.

The exception; now and again I will find a meal that just rings my chimes, but I didn’t write the recipe down, I’ll remember it. Ya, right. I made a cioppino that was to die for, a vegetation roasted lasagna so good the guests wanted to keep the leftovers. Not a problem my iron clad memory, and the fact that I got my inspiration from an internet recipe would ensure total recall, ya, for 10 minutes if I’m lucky.

And why can’t we ever find the internet recipe again, I typed in Roasted Vegetarian Lasagna the first time, or did I? Maybe I typed in lasagna with vegetables, or maybe I didn’t even type in lasagna, I probably typed in spaghetti with meatballs and the search engine found me the roasted vegetable lasagna instead. I’ll never know anything for sure, except it’s never been found again.

I digress, as this is about Gumbo, and the fact that there is only one way to make it, and that’s without tomatoes.  I should know this, I am married to a Cajun after all. I sat the bowl in front of her and noticing the tomatoes, she said ‘Tomatoes?’ I answered ‘Yes, tomatoes’ she started texting the question ‘Tomatoes in Gumbo?’  The replies from all those in the know ‘sacrilege’ . Goes to show what a group of western Cajuns know.

Now, if they had ever traveled east of Iberia they would have replied ‘Yes, tomatoes’. Point is that there are so many ways to make Gumbo you should never make it the same way twice. Like oysters?  Put oysters in it. If you are on a budget, keep it to Andouille and chicken, but if you need a stretcher, slice hard boiled egg into it. The only two things that you can’t do is burn the roux and not start over, and pass judgement before tasting.

Gumbo is technically a soup, although sometimes it’s thickened to a consistency of a stew. It’s always served with rice.

My tomato gumbo started with a cup of my prepared roux, heated until the oil was at hot, and then I added a package of my pre-made Holy Trinity and stirred till the aroma was heavenly. At the same time the chicken was sauteed along with a foot-long, homemade, Andouille sausage.

I then combined 1 quart of water and 1 quart of our homemade fish stock. What? You don’t have homemade fish stock? Then add a bottle of clam juice or just chicken stock to 2 quarts.

Now I experimented, as I found 2 cans of roasted tomatoes in the pantry as well as a can opener, and could feel Francene’s eyes boring into me. In they went. The eyes and the tomatoes.

Up to this point I haven’t added any seasoning because the Trinity was salt and peppered as well as adding garlic, making it really a foursome. I also had added the Andouille sausage that was loaded with our Louisiana seasoning mix and wine. To have added seasoning early on would have been dangerous. It’s hard to take out.

When the Gumbo was almost finished I added two pounds of shrimp and let it simmer a few more minutes. Here is where you would finally season to taste. We found it was already just right.

How was the Gumbo with tomatoes, well it’s all gone, so something must have worked. The Cajun, well she found a lot of Gumbo recipes that included tomatoes. She hasn’t apologized for doubting me though.

If you’re a Gumbo connoisseur then go to the World Championship Gumbo Cookoff in Iberia Louisiana every October.

https://www.iberiatravel.com/blog/article/8-gumbo-cookoff-secrets-success

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The Magic of a Good Meatball

This is pretty short and sweet. The misunderstood meatball, those semi-soggy, oddly-flavored things of meat we sometimes find floating in a store bought marinara sauce or dripping with a gravy of sorts.

Really sounds appetizing, doesn’t it. Well, it can be, even if you do use that store bought marinara sauce. The secret is in the meat. Good meat has good flavor on its own. Why try to disguise it with some brown stuff or bury it under the spaghetti. ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’ according to Patrick Swayze.  Your meatballs shouldn’t sit in shame either.

We try to grind most of the meat ourselves, but depending on what we are working with concessions can be made. Our meatballs are made with a blend of good beef, pork and elk, sometimes a little lamb finds it way into the mix. Generally a 2 part beef, 1 part pork and 1 part elk. Mix it up and add just the right amount of salt, we also add pepper.

I left you hanging with the just the right amount statement, but it depends on taste and volume. Taste, WHAT you want me to taste this bowl of ground, raw meat. Yes I do, but first make some very little patties, just one or two and fry them. Then taste them before you adjust your seasoning. These are little 1 inch patties.

Meatballs

We then make a couple of hundred 1 inch meatballs, bake them till just barely done. 10 to 15 minutes in a 350° oven. We also cook them on cooling racks so the fat will drip away.

After cooling we vacuum freeze them 18 to a bag. We like the meatballs to be on the small side, this allows them to participate in many dishes, especially soups. With good quality and mix of meats they can proudly stand on their own .

What we have now are meatballs that add another delicious layer to the dish they are added to. We use them in dishes from spaghetti to lemon grass soup.

 

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To sous vide or not to sous vide, that is the question

To sous vide or not to sous vide, well for those in a hurry and don’t want to read this great story, the answer is YES.

To understand what sous-vide is just type in sous-vide in any Google search and prepare to read about the swarm of new experts that will try to make the Wikipedia article sound originally theirs.

In a nut shell, it is low temperature cooking in a water bath with the food sealed in a vacuum pouch for extended periods of time.

Now I’m no expert, my brother, Skip asked me about it a year ago and I didn’t have a clue but when I read up on it I wasn’t impressed. I know how to cook a steak. Then my son, Trevor, a sous chef told me he just bought one, I read up more and after a bad experience with a Tri-Tip, I purchased one.

The sous-vide method cooks the food at its optimum finished temperature and without fear of continual cooking after the food has been removed from the heat. 129° is just that 129°. It also means that the food can sit in the water bath for a while after the perfect cooking has taken place.

A note of caution here, the long periods of time help the meat fibers break down so your steak is more tender than if just cooked over a flame. But you can break down too much fiber and end up with a steak you can cut with the back of a spoon, yuck.

My son purchased the Anova and loves it, My brother and I purchased the Joule from ChefSteps. The joule has more power, 1100 watts compared to the Anova’s 900 watts of power. But both do the same job in the same amount of time once the water temperature has been reached. The Anova is available bluetooth or wifi for using the app to control cooking. The Joule is wifi only, and has probably the best app available. The latest upgrade includes not only the recipes but what to expect if left in the water too long.

The Joules’ greatest weakness is that you need the app to use it, where the Anova can be turned on by a temperature set via buttons.

 

The T-Bone steak pictured here has been pre-seasoned with a small coating of ghee between the meat and spices (salt and pepper with a little savory). The ghee could be any oil or butter, very sparsely used only to hold the salt off the meat until cooking starts.

If you follow the picture story I have here, you will see that the great steak (a 1 1/2 inch T-Bone) looks pretty sad after it has been removed from the bath. I used a propane torch to sear the fat and Lodge’s Panni pan set. Lodge makes some of the best cast iron cookery available and their enameled coating is as good as any other I have seen.

On the subject of enameled cast iron, this stuff, if taken care of, will serve you, your children and then your grandchildren. The two middle sized dutch ovens I use are made by DescoWare of Belgium. At the end of it’s life the DescoWare trademark dropped and the rights and formulas for the patented enamels were sold to Le Creuset. Mine were handed down from my grandmother to mother to me.

Put pan and lid directly over the highest flame or temperature setting. When they start to smoke turn the heat off, put your steak in the pan and set the lid on top. Finally, get a small fan to clear the smoke detectors. When the sizzling ends or after 2 maybe 3 minutes remove the steak and be wonder struck.

You now have a steak as good and probably better then you will find in a high end steak house. Cooked perfect top to bottom with a beautiful sear on the surface. We served it with roasted Brussels sprouts.

Cooking the steak as I have outlined here shows what can be done with a sous-vide. The turning point in my deciding to buy the sous-vide was a six pack of Tri-tip I purchased from Smart Foodservice.

The Tri-Tip was my first cooking experience with the sous-vide, and it was just wonderful. Tri-tip is oddly shaped and varies in thickness, I have cooked more that I can remember and the best were usually seared then baked to TRY to get an even cooking to no avail, Tri-tip also isn’t known for it’s buttery tenderness. The sous-vide version was wonderful, perfectly pink on both ends, seared on the BBQ over a flame for a minute on each side.

I then tried to cook a couple of whole artichokes and after the recommended time the heat sealed bag had unsealed and the artichoke wasn’t even close to being cooked (185° water bath), and I had to put it in the pressure cooker to finish. So where the sous-vide may have its place; it won’t replace everything in the kitchen.

Just wait till I tell you about the 1 1/2 inch pork chops finished with a drunken hazelnut crust.

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Louisiana Andouille Sausage, making your own or that store bought stuff

Hopefully the title will tell you what I think about that packaged stuff. In the past I have purchased off the shelf and it has always been disappointing. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we decided to start making our own sausage, not just andouille but kielbasa, breakfast patties, stuffed pork sausage with jalapenos, the list goes on. Sure, you have to deal with casings, grinding meat and stuffing away, but the end results are sure worth it.

Sausage days are either when it’s gone and we need it or holiday meat sales. I was in the local supermarket and they had pork shoulder at $1.49 a pound, an okay price but to sweeten the deal it was buy one, get one. 2 little piggy’s came home with me.

One went into the freezer for some smoked pulled pork and the other for andouille.

I start by cutting the meat into 1 inch strips after removing the blade. Save the blade and all other bones for making your bone broth. You don’t make your own bone broth? Save the bones anyway and find some that does. Maybe they will share with you.

We use the greatest multi-tasker made, the Kitchen Aid mixer and a host of their attachments. It’s a great machine for the home cook. Grind the meat with a medium cutter and it goes pretty quickly. After grinding you mix in your seasoning. We use a slightly modified version or Emeril Lagasse’s Essence. We use 1/4 cup per 2 1/2 pounds of meat. You should then add 1/3 cup ice water (we use 1/3 cup red wine) per 2 1/2 lbs meat. Mix well and put back into the refrigerator for an overnight melding of flavors.

I suggest you start with Emeril’s Essence and then modify for taste or any other good Louisiana seasoning recipe. The secret to Andouille is like all Cajun and Creole cooking. Use what’s available and season to taste.

We cook with wine a lot, some of it even goes into the food.

  • Ingredients for Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
    2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    2 tablespoons salt
    2 tablespoons garlic powder
    1 tablespoon black pepper
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
    1 tablespoon dried thyme

Day 2, set up the sausage stuffer and load your rinsed casing onto the tube. Although one can do the job, two makes it easier. We do a limp stuff instead of filling the casing, this allows us to tie off separate links (yes, we can spin, squeeze and reverse spin but it’s hard to get separate links that way). To help the casing slide off the tube keep dripping water onto it.

I like links around 1 foot or a little longer. When using in a recipe the 1 foot link is just about right.

Next comes the smoking, this is what makes or breaks the sausage. In the beginning I smoked the links at around 200° but the sausage cooked too quickly with getting enough smoke. Now it’s set for 160° and takes about 2 hours to finish. Perfect

No respectable Gumbo is without a good, smoked andouille sausage. Andouille may be substituted for many recipes calling for a smoked sausage such as the Spanish Paella and Jambalaya.

This is a perishable product and we do not add nitrates so right into freezer for these.

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Roux the oven method, you won't rue the day.

How to make roux; more arguments, accusations of blasphemy and down right name calling have been attributed to the proper way to make a roux. First off, what is a roux and why do we care? Gumbo is why, with roux you wouldn’t have gumbo, well, maybe a few other reasons as well.

A roux is simply nothing more than heating oil and flour to make a thickener that also adds a layer of flavor. For classic French cuisine the roux will be a lighter color, a blonde. For Southern American cooking the roux will be darker, from a toasty brown to a dark chocolate color.

When used in Cajun or Creole cooking there are more opinions than cooks. The Cajuns use a lighter roux than the Creoles, what? it’s the other way around. Irregardless of who uses what, we first have to make the roux.

I have for years cooked the oil and flour in a cast iron skillet stove top. This makes a wonderful roux that you have complete control over, start to finish. So when you burn it and start over you only have yourself to blame. This method requires constant supervision, continuous stirring and scraping the skillet with a wooden (my choice) paddle. Do not answer the door, do not answer the phone, let the children wreck havoc. The roux comes first.

I think there are five different ways to make a roux including the microwave. I have slid over into the oven camp. To me I have the same control as stove top, and even finish the roux on the stove top. Simply put equal amounts of oil and flour in a heavy pot, preferably cast iron and bake at 350 degrees.

Sounds easy and is easy. But a little more hands on than that. I heat the oil on medium high and slowly whisk the flour in so it’s silky smooth and slightly bubbling. I then move the roux to the oven at 350 degrees and set my timers for 15 minute intervals.

Every 15 minutes I check and whisk the mixture. The flour will always keep settling to the bottom.

I did 4 cups each oil and flour so I could freeze 1 cup in zip-locks, thus my roux took longer to get to my desired color. Once it did get to the milk chocolate color, I removed the mixture from the oven.

Now on the stove top, I finished my roux the old fashioned way, untill I reached the semi-sweet chocolate color. Actually I removed the roux from the heat before I got there because the hot pot will keep cooking the roux. Many a roux has been ruined in the last 5 minutes because the cook forgot it keeps cooking and can still burn even though the burner has been turned off.

Cooking this way gives you your hands and a burner for the next hour or so. Go ahead, chop those onions, celery and sweet peppers. Sauté them to perfection, you have time while the roux is in the oven.

Now I have my roux for tonight’s dinner as well as the next 3 dinners that require a good dark roux. And if you did the Trinity at the same time your next three meals will be a breeze.

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Tagged in: Cajuncreolegumboroux

A very cool bar

What to do with an old sewing machine cabinet. This is a Model 22 Drawing Room Cabinet that held a Singer 66-1 sewing machine and the finish was in horrid condition. For the purist out there. The cabinet has a new use but has had absolutely NO modifications to it other than adjust the lift spring load

My mother purchased the cabinet and model 66-1 machine around 1960. It suffered from decades of old English furniture polish and served as a plant holder. I was able to bleach out the top surfaces and steel wool out the gray water mark damage. Although the pictures do not show the top, it’s as beautiful now as the rest of the cabinet. But I have no use for an old sewing machine.

I also don’t really have a use for a mini bar, but if I was going to keep this, it had to have some practical use.

Drink tray utilizes original sewing machine lift spring that has been adjusted for new tray weight. Also shown is the vintage 3 piece cane that has been attached to the drink tray to control the rate of vertical travel speed and to push tray back into cabinet. Drawers on the left hold bar tools, shot glasses and crystal tumblers.

The right side is a hidden door that allowed service to the drive belt. Here you can ‘hide’ the favorites.

When I first began the refinishing and conversion I researched electric lifts, hydraulic lifts etc. Besides being an expensive way to control lift, nothing I found would both fit and provide the needed amount to travel.  So I poured a nice one and decided that the conversion would have been done in the 1940’s to 1960’s, how would they have done it? probably adjust the lift spring tension, problem solved.

Tagged in: barliqueur

Eating around the world

The 60’s were coming to an end, and the 70’s were a time of many life changes. One significant change was that I married and by the mid 70’s had fathered my first child, Eric.

Prior to that, I was in the California National Guard for six years and five years of that as a cook.

I wasn’t formally trained as a cook. I was trained as a Combat Engineer. It may seem a bit strange going from being an engineer to a cook but once you understand that as a combat engineer I was trained to build roads and bridges, which generally were built between our front lines and enemy’s front lines. Or I was to proceed slowly across an open field sliding a bayonet into the soil looking for land mines to defuse. I wasn’t really into that.

They say to never volunteer, but out of boredom I did. Twice. First time was when asked if I would like to help out in the kitchen. I said yes. The second time, a couple of years later, I was asked if I would like to cook for the California Military Academy. I said yes again. It helps to understand that if I went on maneuvers with my company I would cook in the California desert and sleep under a truck, or I could go to Camp San Louis Obispo on the California coast, cook in a mess hall, and sleep in a four-man hut that was never full. And if that wasn’t sufficient motivation, with my company I could travel to the desert sitting on a wood bench in a two and a half ton truck, ride back in said truck and spend many, many hours cleaning our equipment. Or drive my 48 MG TC and later my 68 Plymouth GTX to camp and back home. A no brainier.

 

Bill and Sally on a drive to Santa Barbara, 1970.
My last national Guard summer camp, Camp San Luis Obispo, CA. 1969. I was a cook and for summer camps I went to San Luis Obispo to cook for the Officers Candidate School.
My last national Guard summer camp, Camp San Luis Obispo, CA. 1969. I was a cook and for summer camps I went to San Luis Obispo to cook for the Officers Candidate School.

This pretty well started my journey into cooking. After getting married I wanted to cook in the home, not be the grill chef, but cook some of our meals. Here is when I discovered and joined the Time-Life Foods of the World Cookbook club.

Once a month they would send me a new set consisting of a Storybook with some recipes, as well as a spiral bound recipe book. Talk about an eye-opener, as well as trouble for the waist. I was a big reader and
every month I delved into the stories. The stories were as tasty as the food you created from the recipe book.

The really wonderful thing about the recipes is that most were from local regions. There weren’t any Celebrity Chefs or Signature dishes, just instructions on to how to cook and to eat some might fine food.

I will admit that there were regions that didn’t interest me but others got me salivating just looking at the covers. (Regions??? From different areas of the world?)

I have all 27 sets and since starting Jonesing Food, they have caught my eye again. I am thinking about traveling the world on a weekly basis, choosing a dish and preparing it along with a description of the cook as well as a taster’s critique. Don’t worry about honesty, there have been many dishes I have made I will never make again and I am not afraid to
tell you why they are ghastly.

Foods of the World

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about The cookbook “Foods of the World”. For World cuisines, see Global cuisines. Foods of the World was a series of 27 cookbooks published by Time-Life, beginning in 1968 and extending through the late 1970s, that provided a broad survey of many of the world’s major cuisines. The individual volumes were written by well-known experts on the various cuisines and included significant contemporary food writers, including Craig Claiborne, Pierre Franey, James Beard, Julia Child, and M.F.K. Fisher, and was overseen by food writer Michael Field who died before the series was complete. The series combined recipes with food-themed travelogues in an attempt to show the cultural context from which each recipe sprang. Each volume came in two parts — the main book was a large-format, photograph-heavy hardcover book, while extra recipes were presented in a spiral bound booklet with cover artwork to complement the main book. The individual volumes remain collector’s items and are widely available on the secondhand market. The 27 volumes (in alphabetical, not chronological order) include:

1. American Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400332
ISBN-13: 978-0809400331
American Cooking by Dale Brown 1968 

2. American Cooking: Creole and Acadian;
ISBN-10: 0809400545
ISBN-13: 978-0809400546
American cooking: Creole and Acadian by Peter S Feibleman 1971

3. American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland;
ISBN 10: 0809400529
ISBN 13: 9780809400529
American Cooking : The Eastern Heartland by Jose Wilson 1971

4. American Cooking: The Great West;
ISBN-10: 0809400537
ISBN-13: 978-0809400539
American Cooking : The Great West by Jonathan N. Leonard 1971 

5. American Cooking: The Melting Pot;
ISBN-10: 0809400553
ISBN-13: 978-0809400553
American Cooking : The Melting Pot by Dale Brown 1971

6. American Cooking: New England;
ISBN-10: 0809400499
ISBN-13: 978-0809400492
American Cooking : New England by Jonathan N. Leonard 1970

7. American Cooking: The Northwest;
ISBN-10: 0809400774
ISBN-13: 978-0809400775
American Cooking: The Northwest by Dale Brown 1971 

8. American Cooking: Southern Style;
ISBN-10: 0809400510
ISBN-13: 978-0809400515
American Cooking : Southern Style by Eugene Walter 1971

9. The Cooking of the British Isles;
ISBN-10: 0809400383
ISBN-13: 978-0809400386
The Cooking of the British Isles by Adrian Bailey 1971

10. The Cooking of the Caribbean Islands;
ISBN-10: 0809400448
ISBN-13: 978-0809400447
The Cooking of the Caribbean Islands by Linda Wolfe 1970

11. The Cooking of China;
ISBN-10: 0809400359
ISBN-13: 978-0809400355
The Cooking of China by Emily Hahn 1968

12. The Cooking of Germany;
ISBN 10: 0809400375
ISBN 13: 9780890400379
The Cooking of Germany by Nika Standen Hazelton 1969

13. The Cooking of India;
ISBN-10: 0809400421
ISBN-13: 978-0809400423
Cooking of India by Santha Rama Rau 1969

14. The Cooking of Italy;
ISBN-10: 0809400855
ISBN-13: 978-0809400850
The Cooking of Italy by Waverley Root 1968 

15. The Cooking of Japan;
ISBN-10: 0809400405
ISBN-13: 978-0809400409
The Cooking of Japan by Rafael Steinberg 1969

16. The Cooking of Provincial France;
ISBN-10: 0809400294
ISBN-13: 978-0809400294
The Cooking of Provincial France by M.F.K. Fisher 1968

17. The Cooking of Scandinavia;
ISBN-10: 0809400316
ISBN-13: 978-0809400317
The Cooking of Scandinavia by Dale Brown 1968

18. The Cooking of Spain & Portugal;
ISBN-10: 0809400391
ISBN-13: 978-0809400393
The Cooking of Spain and Portugal by Peter S. Feibleman 1969 

19. The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire;
ISBN 10: 0809400324
ISBN 13: 9780809400324
The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire by Joseph Wechsberg 1968 

20. African Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400464
ISBN-13: 978-0809400461
African Cooking by Laurens Van der Post 1968

21. Classic French Cooking;
ISBN 10: 080940074x
ISBN 13: 9780809400744
Classic French Cooking by Craig Claiborne 1970 

22. Russian Cooking;
ISBN 10: 080940043x
ISBN 13: 9780809400430
Russian Cooking by Helen and George Papashvily 1969 

23. Latin American Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400367
ISBN-13: 978-0809400362
Latin American cooking by J. N. Leonard 1968 

24. Middle Eastern Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400413
ISBN-13: 978-0809400416
Middle Eastern Cooking by Harry G. Nickles 1969

25. Pacific & Southeast Asian Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400456
ISBN-13: 978-0809400454
Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking by Rafael Steinberg 1970

26. Quintet of Cuisines;
ISBN-10: 0809400480
ISBN-13: 978-0809400485
Quintet of Cuisines by Michael Field 1970

27. Wines and Spirits;
ISBN-10: 0809400340
ISBN-13: 978-0809400348
Wines and spirits, by Alec Waugh 

Supplements:

1. Menu Guide & Recipe Index
stapled Pamphlet

2. Supplement Number One
stapled Pamphlet

3. Supplement Number Two
stapled Pamphlet

4. Kitchen Guide
stapled Pamphlet

Tagged in: cook book

Red Beans and Rice, beans are beans and rice is rice, right?

Red Beans and Rice is not made from a can or box of seasoning.

I was 20 years old and visiting one of my friends and his Mother when the conversation turned to food.   Jim’s mother told me she was from the south.  To me it was the ‘south of what’? But she continued with stories about some great foods, and Red Beans and Rice in particular. Probably because that was what was on the table before us.

Now to me, beans were beans and rice was rice, but what I was eating sure didn’t stop there as it was just something new and wonderful.  I never did get a recipe from Doris, and didn’t really give a lot more thought to the subject, I just remembered how good it was.

A few years later after subscribing to the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook series, the Creole-Acadian issue showed up and like fate it seemed to drop open to Red Beans and Rice. Oh ya, my interest was on high.

Now I can tell you that there is no short cuts to this meal. It takes forever to cook and tastes like heaven when you scoop a mouthful.

I see recipes for all kinds of short cuts from our Southern Celebrity Chefs and wonder how they can refer to a few cans of red beans and some andouille from a supermarket as Red Beans and Rice.

Now when put down some store bought sausage I need for you to understand that I live in Oregon. You may find some great Andouille in a southern supermarket; I mean you have Trappy’s down there. We don’t.

I think the major sausage makers in our stores make one sausage, a form of kielbasa and then change the label if they include some liquid smoke, oh the shame of it.

So why this recipe is so great, time and ham hocks. Lots of ham hocks with lots of marrow and the time to cook it out of the bone and into the dish, then at the end you take the back of a serving spoon and mash some of the beans to create a fantastic gravy.

Go for it, you will not be disappointed. Please don’t take any shortcuts.

This recipe is straight out of the Creole and Acadian Time-Life Foods of the World series of cook books.

RED BEANS AND RICE
Serves 4-6

6 cups water
1 pound dried small red beans or 1 pound dried red kidney beans
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup finely chopped scallions, including 3-inches of the green tops, divided use
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 cups water
1 (1 pound) smoked ham hock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 cups freshly cooked long-grained rice (for serving)

In a heavy 3-4 quart saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans and boil briskly, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can soak the beans over night in water.) In either case, drain and rinse the beans in a sieve set over a large bowl. Set the beans aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy 4 or 5 quart casserole or stockpot. When the foam begins to subside, add 1/2 cup of the scallions, the onions and the garlic and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.

Stir in the beans and 4 cups water, the ham hocks, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are quite soft. Check the pot from time to time and, if the beans seem dry, add up to 1 cup more water, a few tablespoons at a time. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, stir frequently and mash some of the softest beans against the side of the pan to form a thick sauce for the remaining beans.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Cut the meat away from the bones and remove and discard the skin, fat and gristle. Cut the meat into 1/4-inch dice and return it to the beans.

Taste the beans for seasoning and serve at once, directly from a large heated tureen. Place the rice and remaining 1/2 cup of scallions in separate bowls and present them with the beans.

Note: In Louisiana, red beans and rice are traditionally made with a leftover ham bone and you may substitute a ham bone for the ham hocks in this recipe. Without trimming off the meat, cut the bone into 2 or 3 inch pieces with a hacksaw, so that the marrow inside the pieces will melt and flavor the beans. Add the pieces of bone to the soaked beans and water and pour in enough additional water to cover then completely. When the beans are cooked, remove the bones from the pot, trim off and dice the meat, and return it to the beans. Discard the bones.

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Tagged in: beanscook bookrice

Cheap Steaks or Holiday deals

We all love a bargain, I especially love a great bargain when it comes to steak. The holidays always bring out the good sales and this Labor Day has been no exception. When I can save over 50% of the retail price for something I would buy anyway, I go for it.

We all can go look through the prepackaged product, make our selection and enjoy. But what you need to know is the butcher. You don’t have to be friends, have him over for dinner or even know his/her name. You need to know how to be polite and let them know you appreciate their trade. Many a time when making a selection I will ask them to point out the item they would buy, and if it looks as good as what my selection would have been, take it. The butcher will remember you. If you are a jerk, they will remember that as well.

So, my choice option was either a 4 precut family pack on the shelf, or to ask the butcher to take care of me. I chose the latter. In Oregon it seems that the steak name, Porterhouse, is no longer used, as they are all T-bones. So I asked the butcher to cut me 8 steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick with as large of a loin as possible (Porterhouse’s). I came back 10 minutes later (always let them know that they can take their time) and picked up what I have shown here.

Now these are big steaks, but a slow cooked thick steak will always be tastier than a thin steak, and these are big enough that my wife and I will only cook 1 and share it.

Okay, 8 big steaks, what’s next. If you’re like most of us, you will have to freeze the meat for future use. Between my brother and my son, I have been introduced to Sous Vide, the act of cooking under vacuum. I was a doubter until I tried it, and have changed into a supporter. Now some claim that Sous Vide can cook everything, well it might be possible but I still enjoy many other methods.

What I am doing is freezing each steak as if it is to be Sous Vide. This is preferable to defrosting and then repackaging. If I choose to throw the steak on a hot cast iron skillet and finish in the oven, or toss it on the grill or cook it in a wood pellet grill/smoker I can. The meat will be ready to go with some salt and pepper on it.

First, I chill the meat till solid and brush with a thin coat of ghee, this will possibly add a sweet butter taste or not. I don’t really care for everything buttered. But what it will do is provide a layer between the salt and the meat helping to preserve the natural juices and moisture already in the meat. I only started doing this since I started packaging it as if the product will be cooked via Sous Vide.

So now I have added 8 beautiful steaks and 4 packs of 4 each Tilapia fillets. This puts you ahead of the game, good food and good cooking shouldn’t be rushed but you can shorten the time to prepare a great meal by prepping ahead of time.

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Tagged in: dealssteak

Those glorious Shallots

Shallots are a wonderful alternative to onions and garlic, true or false? Well the answer is both. Onions, garlic and shallots are of the same family but all taste a bit different and affect your breath differently.

We have always been onion and garlic people and only played with the shallots. Generally because they are expensive, well at least compared to onions and garlic.

This past couple of years we have added shallots to out home garden. Year one was the learning curve. You plant the whole container (starts) in one place and they overcrowd and stunt each other, spread them apart (year two) and you get a nice crop. The picture of shallots on the patio table was 1/2 the crop of one box from the garden store. These where planted in an above ground 15 gallon flower flower pot.

Shallots have a very delicate flavor and I wouldn’t waste them in a heavy dish. Substitute onions with shallots in a gumbo or stew and you have lost what the shallot has to offer.

Where we use them the most is in lighter soups, sautes and thinly sliced and layered on top of a nice fillet of fish, either paper wrapped or baked. They also are wonderfull thinly sliced or diced in a garden fresh salad.

Shallots can be handled much the same way as you would garlic, a nice slow roast at about 425° for about 40 minutes. Use right away or store in the refrigerator and use in vinigretts and sauces. These shallots will be much sweeter because of the caramelizing

We have also been experimenting with drying foods as a way to extend their shelve life and shallots have proven to be an exceptional experiment. Our dried shallots are used primarily in soups, don’t bother to rehydrate them as the soup liquid will suffice. Give them a quick chop and toss them in.

For storage, store fresh shallots in a cool , dry location and do not store onions and shallots next to potatoes as both expel gases that will promote the other to spoil quickly. Our dried sliced shallots are stored in an airtight container, we prefer the Airscape containers as they have a valved insert that you press down over the shallots, limiting the amount of trapped air.

If they are new to you, then give them a try when preparing a more delicate dish, we are sure you will be pleased.

Tagged in: garliconionsshallots

The local farmers market

15 reasons why you should stop and check them out. Almost all small towns have them.

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Tagged in: garliconionsproduce

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun dried tomatoes, well not really dried in the sun but close enough, besides no flies in the dehydrator or oven.

This is a pleasant way to spend some time outside and put the dehydrator to use after the herbs are dry and removed. Of course you can use your oven set to it’s lowest setting, generally 180 or 200 degrees.

Our pictures show us prepping Green Zebras, Dorthy’s Delight, Roma and Willamette tomatoes. Of all the varieties shown, the Roma’s have the least meat after fingering out the seeds. Tools needed, a couple of knives, one to cut the tomatoes into wedges or in half and the other, a pairing knife to remove the stem core. A long paring knife will work for all needs.

Wash the bird stuff off the tomatoes, slice tomatoes into desired sizes, use your finger (wash hands first) to remove the bulk of the seeds. That’s it. That was the hard part. Layer your dehydrator shelves or your cookie sheets if using the oven. Leave some room for air circulation (if using cookie sheets put a cooling rack inside to hold tomatoes off the sheet.

Herbs in the upper left being replaces with Green Zebra’s quartered and seeded.

Layers getting ready to be seasoned and then dried.

Tomatoes that have been dried to a leathery texture

Here is where you need to decide what you future uses will be. If to eat like jerky as a snack, you will want a little more salt. If to added to sauces and soups then less salt or you will over salt your dish right from the beginning.

You can also use finally chopped or ground herbs, or something like a salt less seasoning of choice. The choices are yours but a little preplanning will make the dried tomatoes more versatile.

Depending on method used, they will be dry when they get leathery. I prefer to remove all of them when most are dry and some are still with some moisture. I store them in a airtight container together and the drier tomatoes will draw moisture from the others. The tomatoes can also be stored frozen and if so, they can still be holding onto some moisture or less dry.

I re-hydrate in the sauce or soup they have been added to. I also do a coarse chop before adding them. I do not like sun dried tomatoes stored or re-hydrated in olive oil, they just seem oily and your adding more olive oil to your dish then may want.

Tagged in: driedtomato

The Holy Trinity

Cajun or Creole, to most of us they are the same. But if you live in Lousianna I wouldn’t say that too loudly. The food from this region is the best I have ever eaten. I just love the whole experience. For sake of space, I will call both types of food Cajun (even though they aren’t the same). Food from this region and style teaches us about building a meal. Blasphemy, to say throw everything in a pot. Cajun food is layered, a foundation, then the sill, then on and on. Then you blend the flavors. When possible, if I provide a recipe I will try to give both variants.

The best descriptive differences between Acadian/Cajun and Creole I have found can be read here. Even though I am married to a Cajun.

The Holy Trinity is the lowest part of the foundation. It consists of onions, celery and peppers (generally green peppers). I add a fourth component at this stage, and that is garlic. And I will probably add more garlic to some other layer as I go.

You will see that I have a mix of onions and a mix of green, yellow, and red bell peppers. Why? Because that was what was in the pantry, and needed to used up. Cajun and Creole food is about using what is on hand, you should never create the same Gumbo or Jambalaya, where is the fun in that? The mix consists of 2 parts onion to 1 part peppers and 1 part celery.

I used to be in a hurry and throw all of the trinity components into a food processor and chop away. Wrong, bad cook. All of the components are thin cell structures full of water. Over chop it and when you cook the layers you will end up with mush. Instead, take the time and do a medium to coarse chop and take your time. I would post on YouTube showing my fancy knife work, including the fancy blood spurting. But it’s kind of gross.

I have many skillets, but nothing beats the even heat of cast iron when cooking the Trinity. Over medium heat first add your oil, I used ghee* then add the onions and garlic and cook till translucent, and then add the peppers. Cook for another 5 minutes and finally add the celery, then cook for another 5 minutes, all over a medium heat and stirring more than occasionally.

What I show here is enough Trinity for 4 dishes. You usually cook 1/2 cup onion and 3/4 of a cup each of the peppers and celery.

What I accomplished this evening was creating the foundation for future dinners. I see all kinds of recipes for Gumbo made now, red beans and rice in 1/2 hour. Don’t even go there, you just can not make Gumbo, Jambalaya etc. on the fly. But if you take a boring evening and cook up 4 freezer bags of Holy Trinity/ Then some other evening or rainy Saturday make your Rue and freeze. Finish it off by getting some pork shoulders to make your own andouille sausage (not that garlicky, smoked stuff you buy in the store), and you will have the making for some truly fine food that can be assembled in a very short time.

*Ghee is a form of clarified butter that removes the milk solids from the butter, taste like butter but has a much higher smoke point then whole butter has.

Tagged in: bell peppersCajuncelerycreoleonionstrinity

Hang on little tomato

Welcome to the world of goodness, the great tomato. Have you ever eaten a fresh tomato, ripened on the bush and picked yourself so you know it’s freshness? Sadly for many the answer is probably ‘no’.

For most of us, the tomato is that tasteless commodity picked from the grocers shelf. Picked green and then gassed till red. Even worse is you only could chose between a table of Romas, Red Cherry and a couple others.

Every variety has a difference, maybe taste, maybe texture, the amount of solids, etc. Here is the list from Rutgers. To bad you have only experienced 3 or 4 unripened varieties.

Tomato’s from home gardens, farmers markets are only available for a short time every summer but they are plentiful. We like to dry them in our food dehydrator, cut in half with a little sea salt or salt less seasoning they make a great jerky like snack. Better yet, these dried tomatoes can be re-hydrated and added to many of our recipes.

Re-hydrated tomatoes will not have that same fresh look, but will have a great concentrated flavor, the flavor that only fresh ripened tomatoes can have.

Of course you can always sauce or dice them and then can them, or oven roast and freeze them. But drying the fruit (yes, fruit, not a vegetable) should be considered, a daily snack, easily stored, easily re-hydrated and just downright tasty in any way you use them.

Tomatoes can be re-hydrated with water or oil, generally olive oil. Our choice is water, usually the liquid already in the pan or soup base.

Dried

Green Zebra's dried and waiting for that next soup or sause.
Tagged in: driedtomato