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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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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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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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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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.

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