Monday, November 26, 2012

Cinnamon bread tree

Sharon found a recipe for a festive looking cinnamon bread.

As written the recipe makes four trees each of which would serve 8-10.

I found this approach simpler than the more traditional cinnamon roll.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crispy Phyllo Spinach Tartlets

First attempt at crispy phyllo spinach tartlets turned out to be "a learning experience" that turned out well enough in the end. I have not worked with phyllo much in the past and didn't realize that it required thawing which takes many hours to do right. I tried to accelerate the process in a 200 degree oven, but I think this resulted in drying out the dough and creating a lot of tearing.

The filling was tasty. I am tempted to try some dried cranberries in place of the sun dried tomatoes next time. I didn't have a good tartlet pan so I used some Corelle bowls. This made four large tartlets, which seemed like two servings worth. Next time I would use the small bowls.

The leftovers were ok, but these were much better fresh.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts -- FAIL

I tried out a recipe for roasted brussels sprouts but something went horribly wrong.

I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them at 400 for 40 minutes. Maybe they were a little smaller and more open than "traditional" brussels sprouts, but they ended up really charred.

I turned them when they still had 15 minutes left, I turned them and they were starting to show some color.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stuffed chicken thighs

Had a first go at chicken thighs stuffed with a spinach parmesan stuffing.

Overall, I liked how the chicken turned out. It produced a lot of sauce, so it would have been good to serve over something that could use the sauce (rice, pasta, steamed veggies, ...).  I also think it would have presented better sliced in 3 or 4 slices to show off the stuffing.

Persimmon Apple Crisp

I adapted a recipe from Chow for apple crisp to make a persimmon apple crisp that went over very well at a little gathering we had yesterday. I wanted to make this both gluten free and tree-nut free, so I went with oat flour rather than wheat flour in the topping.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Experimental semi-paleo Waffle recipe

Having tried a recipe for almond meal waffles that were only partially successful (didn't hold together well, and didn't have quite the right mouth feel), I decided to experiment today. My dear wife got me Cooking for Geeks and The Science of Good Food for my birthday, both of which I consulted for waffle wisdom. I also googled around a little.
My plan was to try half wheat flour / half almond meal, leaven by whipping the egg whites and yolks (seperately) and a pinch of baking soda / powder,  use bacon drippings for the fat and salt, and experiment a little with the liquid. When beating the egg whites I added a teaspoon of sugar per a suggestion I found online.
So, this is what I ended up with...

Waffles Vorax:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ideas for a holiday party

Starting to plan for a holiday party. 
Here are some ideas Sharon found...

Hot spinach artichoke dip

Beef mole

Whole menu

Make-Ahead Christmas Recipes

Crispy Phyllo Spinach Tartlets -- done

Stuffed Chicken Thighs Braised in Tomato Sauce
Tried this. Worked ok. Would be better served over something that could use the sauce. 

Roasted Fall Vegetables in Cheddar Crust

Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole

Apple Sausage Stuffing for Your Turkey
Tried this twice. Pay attention to not letting it burn on top (if cooking on the side).

Chocolate hazelnut snickerdoodles

Rainbow Tie-dye Christmas Wreath Bundt Cake

A Christmas Baking Tradition: Tree Breads -- done

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

Colorful Swirl Cookies

Festive Cabot Cheddar Tree

Reindeer Feed

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the queue: things I want to try ...

Here is a running list of things I want to try sometime soon...

Cooking veggies in the fireplace

Had a fire in the fireplace and decided to experiment with roasting some veggies in the coals.

Scrubbed two potatoes, an apple, and a carrot and rubbed them with some bacon drippings.

Placed them on a sheet of aluminum foil with a couple sprigs of rosemary.

I tried setting the potato in front of the fire, but it didn't really get hot enough.

So as the fire was dying down to coals, I just set the thing in against the inside wall and piled a bunch of hot coals on top.

I should have waited until it reached 210 degrees, but the coals seemed to be cooling off, and I was ready to eat at 204. This left the potatoes a little crunchy, but still cooked. The carrots were ok. But the Apple was amazing with a noticeable hint of rosemary.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pot Roast -- What's up Chuck

Browned chuck after salt and peppered
Had a nice piece of chuck roast that I decided to use to make a pot roast based on this recipe.
This was almost the last piece of meat from our first of two shares from our meat CSA.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Roasted Squash Soup

I have a lot of tromboncino squash and this got me thinking it would be good to make some soup. I found a nice recipe for squash soup from Alton Brown. I had roasted the squash earlier and frozen it while I was waiting for a batch of chicken broth that I didn't botch. (Note to future self: if you are going to simmer broth overnight, safer to do it in a crock pot than on the stove.)

The other nigh I had roasted another chicken, and so yesterday I made broth, and today I had broth to make the soup -- and that is just what I did. Ha!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stir Fry in Seattle

Pork dish in the wok
I spent the weekend with a friend in Seattle and we had a number of culinary adventures. I brought some lovely tomatoes and peppers from home that we were drowning in. So our goal was to come up with some simple dinners that would make good use of them. On the final night, we picked up some lovely pork at the farmers market and made a stir fry in a wok.

This worked well on all counts. Easy to prepare, quick to cook, looked and tasted great.

We made a dredged the pork in seasoned flour. And added a sauce of corn starch, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Roast Chicken part To-matillo

I used the dark meat and broth from the Roast Chicken we made the other day to make some tomatillo soup.

  • Brown the dark meat from one roast chicken.
  • Set aside and shred.
  • Saute an onion and some garlic.
  • Add some diced tomatillos, roast carrots, and red pepper. 
  • Add four cups chicken broth.
  • Heat to a simmer and simmer 15 minutes.
  • Process in batches in food processor.
  • Reheat and add shredded chicken.
  • Before serving add herbs (basil and parsley).
  • Add a dollop of sour cream.

It was very tasty and pretty easy.

Next time: Actually process the soup in batches rather than seeing soup leak out around the sides of the food processor. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Apple-Pear Butter

We've been getting biweekly fruit deliveries from Organics to You for a few months. Since we had built up a bit of a collection of different varieties of apples and pears, I decided I wanted to try making an apple-pear butter (if such a thing existed). With a quick google search, I found plenty of options.

Ultimately, I adapted a recipe from for the version I ended up going with. We only had about 4 pounds of apples and pears, so I had to modify it.

Apple-Pear Butter

2 pounds pears
2 pounds apples
2 cups apple juice
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
juice & zest from one lemon

(I substituted 1 Tbsp of Jeff's powder deuce for the ground spices.)

I peeled and sliced the fruit with the food processor, added the rest of the ingredients, then cooked it on the stovetop for about half an hour.

I had been expecting the fruit to soften and break down, but it didn't go quite as I was hoping. So, eventually, I ended up passing the cooked fruit through the food processor again. Then it had the consistency of apple sauce and I returned it back to the stovetop to cook it down.

I let it simmer for about 45 minutes or so over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it was good and thick. Then I transferred the apple pear butter into jars. It cooked down to just over 2 pints, so I didn't bother to cook it in a hot water bath. I'll just pop the jars into the refrigerator.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Low carb burger

We've been experimenting with low-carb stuff.
So I wanted to make burgers, but decided to skip the bun.
Mixed into the ground beef some wheat germ, almond meal and grated Romano cheese.
While I was grilling the patties I grilled some onion slices on the side.

After flipping the burger I put on a little BBQ sauce and a slice of cheese.
When the burger was done I put a little water in the pan and put a lid on to melt the cheese.
Garnished with a slice of tomato and some slices of avocado.

Had to eat with a knife and fork, but other than that it seemed to fill the burger need.

Roast chicken

I got a nice looking whole chicken roaster from Natures. I don't recall ever actually roasting a chicken so I decided to try an simple whole roast chicken recipe.

I coated the raw chicken with a mixture of salt, sugar, and Powder Douce.
I let that rest in the fridge for a day.
Then stuffed the cavity with 5 crushed garlic cloves and 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary from the garden.
And roasted in a preheated 500 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Then down to 450 for 15 minutes.
There were no drippings to speak of. so after about 15 more minutes at 425,
I basted with 1 Tbs of melted butter.
Then 15 more minutes.
The temp probe wasn't up to 180 yet, So it took 10-15 more minutes for the temp to read 180.
Then out of the oven to rest for 20 minutes.

After removing the wings, I cut it in half lengthwise and served each half on a plate.
That was a lot of food!
We ate most of the white meat, but ended up not touching the thighs and drumsticks.
We took the meat off them and put it in the fridge for tomorrow.

With the carcass I am working on stock, based loosely on an Alton Brown recipe.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canned Tomatoes

I've been suffering from a bit of insomnia, so it totally wiped out my energy this week; I hardly managed to do anything productive. Today, however, I finally had some energy and I decided I wanted to deal with our growing pile of tomatoes. Between our CSA and our tomato plants, we had a pretty large backlog.
I first made a batch of tomato sauce. Since I mostly used cherry tomatoes, I used the easy method where you just throw the clean tomatoes into the food processor and turn them into juice then cook them down until they're sauce. (I found the method at this website.) I turned five heaped pint baskets of tomatoes into three small jars of sauce.

Then I did a second batch of diced tomatoes from the larger tomatoes. (I used the method from this website.) I peeled the tomatoes and Jeff cut them into small pieces for me and added a bit of basil from the garden. Then we added lemon juice and put the cut tomatoes into the jars. Though, I don't think we smashed the tomatoes down enough in the jars, so there's a big gap now at the top. So, I don't really know if they worked or not. They all sealed, so perhaps they're OK. I may pop them into the refrigerator just in case.

I have finally gotten the hang of using the reusable canning lids. It's best not to put the rubber seal part into the hot water bath because it expands and then doesn't fit jar properly. I just keep them at the side and add them as I put on the plastic lid. The rubber ring doesn't come in contact with the food.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Summer sauté

I hit upon a summer sauté that was a hit with the wife.
I didn't measure anything, so these are my best estimates ...

  • One leek sliced.
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • One zucchini cubed.
  • Two fully cooked sausages (I used italian with cheese)
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 3 fresh tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Grated romano cheese
  • Some fresh basil
  • Spices to taste (I used Dukes Powder II)
  • 1/4 cup Sour cream

To prepare:

  • Heat olive oil and butter in a large heavy sauté pan. 
  • Brown sausages. 
  • Add leeks halfway through browning. 
  • When the sausages are browned remove from pan and add zucchini.
  • Cover and cook and fairly high heat for a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile cube browned sausage and tomatoes.
  • Uncover, add sausage and tomato chunks. 
  • Add Almond meal, Romano cheese, basil, and spices.
  • Once it's all bubbly goodness, remove from heat add sour cream.

Serve it up.

The cheese, sour cream, almond meal, and juices from the veggies combine to make a creamy sauce.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Summer dinner party

We had a couple friends over for dinner on the day our CSA basket arrived. Let's see what I concocted...

Left to right:

  • Cold salad of tomatoes, cucumbers,  mozzarella, and basil tossed with sesame seed oil, lemon juice and white balsamic vinegar. 
  • Roasted Italian Trombolino Squash sautéed with collard greens, beet tops, and toasted pecans, topped with sour cream and peach salsa
  • Pan fried chicken breasts drizzled with a reduced port sauce. 
  • (not pictured) Corn with butter and grains of paradise or long pepper. 
  • (not pictured) Watermelon. 
Overall, I was pretty happy with the meal. In particular, the squash and greens was a nice experiment. I like the pale yellow color with the deep greens. Our guests seemed to have fun experimenting with grains of paradise and long pepper in grinders at the table. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Black Sauce Experiments

We made some Black Sauce in a medieval food class I took this weekend. I used it up last night.

So I made some more this evening to have with some meat and cheese. This batch I made with almond meal, red wine vinegar, my pepper spice blend, ginger, and galangal.

I want to do some experiments to determine My Favorite Black Sauce mix
  • bread crumbs | almond meal | hazlenut meal
    • Toasted | untoasted
  • round pepper | long pepper | tail pepper | grains of paradise | a blend
  • red wine vinegar | white wine vinegar | cider vinegar | balsamic | verjus
  • ginger | galangal | both
  • whole thing cooked | fresh 
I don't think I will try all 900 combinations. 
I suppose I'll do two passes of varying individual variables and just keep my best choices to date. 
I still need to decide which order to test the variables. 

Update (7/21/2013):

I tried making black sauce at a recent camping event using gluten free bread crumbs and did not like the result. Eulalia speculated that in the process of toasting the GF bread crumbs the xanthan gum  became bitter. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vanilla Extract

Ran out of vanilla the other day, so I thought it would be a good time to make some vanilla extract.

Unfortunately it won't be ready for 2 months.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No knead bread

Sharon found a recipe for No Knead Bread that I thought I would try. Here is the first attempt ...

It was very tasty with jam and butter. Has also made good sandwich bread.

Mac 'n' Cheese

Here is today's take on Mac 'n' Cheese:

Start with some chard, kale, basil, italian parsley, thyme, ham, aged white cheddar cheese, a zucchini, a bunch of tomatoes, butter, milk, and a box of mac 'n' cheese (in this case white cheddar from Trader Joe's).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What to do with a CSA basket

Here is what I did with my latest CSA basket from Pumpkin Ridge.
Each week we get a basket and a page of recipes that relate to the week's contents. 
A while ago I developed a pretty routine way of processing my veggies by default. This helps when I am not inspired to do something specific, nor feeling adventurous on the day the basket arrives. One of the keys is to get everything into a state where it will last until it is to be used, and processed to the point where it can be used as an ingredient. 

Some things just need to get bagged and put in the fridge (zucchini, cucumbers, fresh onions, peppers). 

Potatoes can get put in a basket or roasted. 

This week I didn't get much that needed blanching (broccoli, chard, spinach, ...). If I did, I'd blanch or steam, drain, chop, and freeze. 

Lettuce gets washed, spun dry and put into a vacuum canister, and a couple of storage containers for use in the next day or two. 

Many veggies get my basic roasting treatment: cut into similar thickness pieces, toss with olive oil, and roasting salt. Roast in a 425 degree oven, turning every 10 minutes until done. 

Beets in olive oil and spices ready for heat
Beets roasted

Carrots ready to go

Carrots roasted

Then freeze or use. Think about how you put them in your freezer container so you get get out enough for one recipe without having to defrost the whole container.
Use in salads, sauces, stews, soups, .... Actually I go about it the other way around. I ask myself, is there any reason not to add some roasted veggies?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sweet and Sour Pork redux

I made a second try at sweet and sour pork. This time I managed to take some pix and a few liberties. 

You can read a little about my previous try here

I gathered up a bunch of things that looked good. 
Zucchini, roasted carrots, roasted red peppers, chard, kale, onion, peaches, pineapple

I had marinated the port the night before, and kept it in the fridge. 

 They got a quick dip in seasoned flour and almond meal then into 350 degree oil in batches.

Lots of veggies, peaches, pineapple, and prepared pork.

Serve it up.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Peach Salsa

In my not-as-yet-yet-hopefully-not-never-ending quest for a peach salsa recipe that will supplant my addiction to Trader Joe's Smokey Peach Salsa, I tried a recipe for smokey peach salsa from someone who sounds similarly afflicted.

Next time: I'll probably try to get closer to the recommended ingredient list. I didn't get my hands on chipotles or a habanero chili, but used jalapeños.  I also opted for herbs from my garden (parsley and basil) rather than cilantro. I also wasn't so good at getting the peach chunks small enough (because I first read it as 1" chunks rather than 1/4" chunks).

Scallions and onions from the garden

Process the peaches: peel, pit, partition

Blend half the peaches, tomato paste, herbs, hot pepper

Much chopping required.

Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Add chunky bits: peaches, tomato, lime juice

Good thing I didn't use a smaller pan.

Salsa all jarred up.
Update: next batch was much more mild, and quite tasty.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kookoolan Farms

Just a quick note that someone recommended I check out Kookoolan Farms. Seems like a great source for pork.

Millions of peaches

Peaches are here! Maybe not millions of peaches, but that was the song we kept singing.

We picked up two 26-pound boxes of peaches at Justy's Produce. They were not quite ripe when we picked them up last Tuesday (6 days ago). But today they seemed just about perfect. So we let the canning begin. We used the same basic approach we did a couple years ago, except this time we tried to fill the jars a little fully of peach slices.

Sharon blanched the peaches for 1 minute then dunked them in ice water to loosen the skins. I'd then peel the skin off and slice the peach. If it was ripe, and produced a nice slice it would go into one bowl. Otherwise it would go in the "jam bowl". Sharon would usually process three peaches into the ice water then attend to other canning stuff while I caught up.

Once I got enough for a jar full of peach slices, Sharon would pull a jar from the hot water bath and fill it with peach slices, then pour in a light sugar syrup (4 cups water, 2 cups sugar). The reusable canning lid and rubber ring would then come out of the little pot of simmering water and top the jar. Once ringed, back in the hot water bath it would go. 

Once I got 4 cups of "jam peaches" they would go into the food processor with 2 cups of sugar an a little lemon juice. 

We wanted a stove with at least five burners specifically for canning.

 The water bath with jars of peach slices.

Here is two batches of jam just starting to simmer.

It requires pretty constant attention until it cooks down to a happy consistency.
Then into little jars and another hot water bath.

And the fruit of a day's canning.

For lunch, peach slices and chocolate ice cream!