Thursday, August 28, 2014

When life hands you a gazillion tomatoes...can marinara !

 The tomato gods have been very good to us this year. The Romas especially have been loaded and gorgeous and  just keep on coming.  Because they are so much meatier than big tomatoes, they are perfect for making sauces.  I had quite a few big tomatoes too and put those through the Vitamix to pulverize all the skins and seeds.

When canning marinara (spaghetti sauce),  I like to cook the sauce down  long and slow, on low heat. So I use my biggest crock pot. It is big enough to cook 5-6 quarts of sauce, which is perfect. It takes a lot of tomatoes to make sauce.  I probably used 15-20 pounds to make this batch.

 Any good marinara starts off with onions and garlic. About 2 large or 3 medium sized yellow onions and about 3-5 cloves of minced garlic.  Finely chopped and sauteed in a bit of olive oil. They don't really saute in a slow cooker, lol, but you get the idea. I start the cooker off on high and start chopping.  Along with the onions, you'll want some beautiful bell peppers.

 These beauties were so fresh !!  I picked them the same morning I made this.  I used 4 big bells.  Nicely diced, as you can see.

 I often shred a carrot or two to put in my sauces, but not when I'm canning them.  You want the acidity when canning, and that's what the carrot does to the sauce. It neutralizes the acid. 

 Then I took all the big tomatoes, washed them and cut out any and all yucky spots or bruises.  My husband walked in and said--WHAT are you doing ?? as I was sniffing a tomato to be sure it wasn't smelling of rot where I'd cut a chunk off.  lol  I sniff and I taste and I scrutinize.  I NEVER peel tomatoes if I can get away with it.  Most recipes will tell you to peel them, and it's true that sometimes the skins can be tough and stringy. But if I'm saucing, I just throw those bad boys in the Vitamix and pulverize 'em.  Problem solved.

  Because I like my sauce chunky, I hand chopped all the Romas.  It's not a chore. Almost a mediation.  My big french knife makes quick work of it. Dice away!

 Toss all of it together and this is what you get.  It's a thing of beauty, innit ?

 Next I add spices...salt, pepper, oregano, basil. Not too much...spices will fade in the high heat of canning and I like to be able to spice my sauce as I'm using it anyway.  Years ago, when I cooked at a sweet little place in the Pacific Northwest called Tomaso's Tomato Pies...I learned that when you put dried basil in a large batch of sauce you need to add a little brown sugar to offset the bitterness that may occur. So, I always do that. Just about a quarter cup or so.  You can leave this out if you don't want any added sugar. I would recommend that you go really easy on the basil though. I grow and dry my own herbs and have a tendency to be a little heavy handed with the ones that I especially love, like basil.  Stir all this together, put a lid on it, and let it simmer at least a good 10 hours.  I left this batch go overnight because I wanted it super thick.

  As you can imagine, my house smelled wonderful.  Tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano...Italian air freshener !! lol

  First thing the next day, I got  my jars and lids  ready, ladled that yummy goodness into hot jars a half inch from the top, wiped the rims down, put the lids on and screwed the bands tight, and put them in the pressure canner. 

  (Do we need a Cliff Notes tutorial on using the canner??)  This is for Charlotte-- 
 *** Before you start filling jars, put  about 3 quarts of hot water into your pressure canner and set it on med high heat.   Then put the filled jars into the canner, making sure the jars aren't touching each other. (The number of jars you can get in it will depend on the size of your canner. My Presto canner holds 8 regular mouth quarts or 7 wide mouth quarts).  Once all the jars are in, put the lid on the canner, but not the little pressure regulator--leave it off.  Make sure the lid is on securely and watch for the steam to start coming out of the stem that the regulator sits on. When the steam is coming out steady, this is called "venting".  You want to vent the cooker for at least 10 minutes. At the end of that time, set the regulator on it, watch the pressure cock pop up and the temperature gauge will start to move.***

 I can my marinara at 10 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes.  At the end of 25 minutes at 10 pounds,  turn off the heat and leave it alone. When the pressure has dropped to zero, you can take the regulator off (!! Make sure it is at ZERO !!)  Then you can take the lid off and take your jars out. Set them on doubled up towels on a counter where they won't have to be moved for 24-48 hours.  No draft.  The sealing process will complete, you'll hear the little PINGS! of the lids sealing.  Resist the urge to dance to this music.  lol

  Before you store them (after 2 days)  wipe the jars down and label with contents and date. Don't not label them because you think you'll remember what it is.  DATE AND LABEL.  Always.

  You can add mushrooms or even meats to these, but if you do it will change the processing times. I LOVE mushrooms in my marinara, but I put them in as I'm cooking because I like them best fresh. I don't like the texture of canned mushrooms, not one bit. (Yes, I am a picky eater).   I like canning a basic plain sauce because that gives me more freedom to use this pantry item in more ways in different kinds of foods.   Sometimes I like sweet Italian sausages with my pasta, but again--I like that fresh too. I very rarely make a meat sauce for pasta, so I would never go to all the extra prep and time to can meat sauce. But that's just me. Lots of canners wouldn't do it any other way.   

  You can do what you like. As I always say, one of the reasons I love to cook is because I get to make up my rules as I go.  

  Freedom, baby.

Bon Apetit !

Monday, August 25, 2014

Perfect for a hot summer supper (or lunch !) Gazpacho

 (There's an awful lot of superfluous stuff in this picture....)  LOL

  This time of year it's hot, the humidity is high and tomatoes and peppers and cucumber are running amok.  We had some strangely cool weather and now it whip-lashed us back into the hot hot dog days of summer. High nineties temps with heat indexes at 110 and more.  I picked tomatoes this morning at about 9:30 and it was already so hot you could barely breathe.

  Today's recipe is a wonderful way to use up fresh produce while making a healthy and delicious supper that's a little exotic, but sure to please.  You can play with the ingredients a little,  there are lots of recipes for this soup.  The basics though, are tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers.  If you have those, you can make gazpacho.  

  The recipe I use calls for lemon or lime juice, but I started using white balsamic vinegar instead and I love it.  I also put a whole jalapeno with about half the seeds removed in it. It gives it the tiniest bit of an after bite, which I love.  DISCLAIMER:  When I say "the recipe I use"  you know it's a lie, right ?   I am the most undisciplined erratic cook in the world.  When I get it in my head to cook something, I might look up a couple of recipes...take part of this one and part of that one...oh LOOK!!  SHINY!!... see something else in the cabinet or garden and think, oooo...I'll bet that would be good in this !  Sometimes I end up with something nothing like the original and sometimes I get a super star hit. It's always good (usually, lol)  but I have made it my own (Assuming I can remember it next time I want it again.  When I'm not maniacally throwing stuff around, I write it down.) Sometimes.

  So...while it's fresh in my mind, let's go.

  This is what I got out of the garden today
 Lots of beautiful ripe meaty Romas and the bottom layer in that basket is all heirloom  big tomatoes. Bell peppers, jalapenos, and a few onions.  Oh, and an egg.  But that's got nothing to do with this soup.  lol

  Ingredients you'll need:

  4 cups tomato juice (home canned is best, but...)
  2 cups diced tomatoes (I have a Vitamix, so I don't peel the tomatoes.)
  1 cucumber peeled and diced
  1/2 cup onion, chopped
  1/2 cup celery, chopped
  1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
  1 jalapeno, finely chopped (discard at least half the seeds)  (or don't, if you're adventurous)
  2 green onions chopped
  2 garlic cloves, minced
  3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  2 tablespoons olive oil
  salt and pepper to taste.

 Today I also threw in a handful of fresh parsley and a small handful of fresh basil.  
  Because I could.

You want to seed the cucumber.  I hold back about 1/3 of each of these vegetables to chop finely and throw into the soup bowl . The rest goes in the blender. I don't save back the garlic, I run that through.  Nobody wants a mouthful of THAT.  lol  Some recipes blend all the soup.  Some make it really chunky.  I like to land in the middle somewhere.  So, into the bowl (a covered bowl you can refrigerate this all in)  go a bit of pepper, cucumber, onion, celery, green onion and tomato.  All the rest goes  in the blender.

 Alright, I know.  I'm just bragging now...  lol

Whir it up, run until smooth.  Pour it into your bowl of chopped veggies and mix well. Taste it. Add more salt or pepper if needed.  Put the cover on and stow it in the fridge. It tastes better if it can chill at least 5 or 6 hours, or overnight. But it will be good no matter what.

 Serve it up with some french bread or crackers and cheese or anything you want, but keep it simple. It's too hot to get too excited!  

Bon Apetit !

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pad Thai for supper, anyone ?

Mmmm...who doesn't like Pad Thai ?  

  There are as many recipes for pad Thai as there are cooks in Thailand. I was surprised to learn that it is not the heralded exotic dish that we Americans think it is (..."signature dish of Thailand"), but more likely something you'll find at a casual meal or off a noodle cart.  lol  It's easy, it's nutritious and it looks real pretty on a plate.  It's also easy for me to make with items that I keep in my pantry. 

  You can get really strict about the ingredients (tamarind sauce, fish sauce...) or you can play it by ear. Lite Soy sauce or tamari in place of fish sauce.  Rice vinegar and brown sugar in place of tamarind sauce.  I always keep bean sprouts in my cupboard for making egg foo young when my chickens are laying lots of eggs.  I almost always have rice noodles in there too...just because I do. 

  Here's how I made the pad Thai tonight :

  Bring a pan of water to almost boiling and put the dried rice noodles in and turn off the heat. Set aside and allow the noodles to soften. When they are soft, drain and rinse in cold water.

  I like to make my own ginger peanut sauce for this dish.  It's really easy--all natural peanut butter (yes, the kind you have to stir), brown sugar, powdered ginger, garlic powder and a little hot pepper.  I add a little soy sauce too and put it all in a pan over low heat. You'll want to add water and stir until it's a medium consistency.  Play with this recipe and find a way to make it your own. I usually add crushed peanuts to it. Sometimes I throw in a splash of rice vinegar. Stir and taste.  Stir and taste. It will look something like this:

 You can use a variety of vegetables in this dish. Put some sesame oil (or any oil) in the bottom of your wok (or big skillet)  and stir fry :

  Thinly sliced onions
  Thinly sliced cabbage
  red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  snow peas
  leftover chicken, shredded
  tofu, pressed and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  a little cilantro, if you like it (I do!)
  canned or fresh bean sprouts (I put about 2/3 of the can in the pad Thai and save the rest to put  in the spring rolls)

  When these vegetables are crisp tender, add the noodles and a dollop or two of that peanut sauce you made.  Also add some unsalted peanuts to the mix, just for fun.  Push the vegetables to the side and break in 2 or 3 eggs  in the space by themselves. Scramble them up and once they're set , mix them into the noodles.  Taste it.  If it needs more,  put another dollop of the peanut sauce in there.  Garnish it with cilantro (if you're so inclined) or chopped peanuts.  It's beautiful.

 Tonight I was feeling really ambitious, so I also made spring rolls.  Spring rolls are just egg rolls with no meat in them, basically.  You can buy egg roll wrappers at almost any grocery store these days.  They do take a bit of time, and you want to cook them last because they are best hot.  That said, I usually chop the veggies and get that cooked, seasonings and all and then set it aside. Then I start the pad Thai and while the veggies and stuff are cooking, I start putting together the rolls. I make all the rolls and put them on a piece of waxed paper dusted with corn starch (so they don't stick and tear to pieces when I'm trying to put them in the oil.) Don't forget about the pad Thai-- (I know, I know--we're juggling a little here). Finish it up per the above directions and put a lid on it and move it aside.

  Basic ingredients for the rolls are thinly sliced onion, thinly sliced cabbage, finely shredded carrots and the rest of those bean sprouts and some chopped red pepper.  I put this in a skillet with some sesame oil ( as little oil as you can) and garlic powder, black pepper, soy sauce and powdered ginger (or fresh if you have it--I was out).  Cook over medium high heat until the cabbage is slightly tender.

I added a little cilantro too.  Why not ?  lol

Then roll about a tablespoon or 2 of filling up in an egg roll wrapper.  Don't overfill.  Roll it up like a burrito, tucking in the sides and edges. 

I make a small cup of a slurry of cornstarch and water to use to "glue" the sides and tip of the wrapper after I've rolled it up.  You don't want it  exploding open in the hot oil.  lol

 Once you've got them all done, heat a pan of oil (I used canola) deep enough to submerge the spring  rolls and let them cook until golden brown. Take them out with tongs and cool on a wire rack over paper towels. The first batch will barely brown, but the batches after that will brown quickly, so keep an eye out.

This picture is a little dark, but you get the idea.  Dip them in some of that peanut sauce and voila !!  YumYum.

Bon Apetit !

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What's for supper ?

 It's that time of year again.  Eating goodies from the garden, canning and dehydrating tons of stuff.  Trying to work in a kitchen that looks like the location of the apocalypse. Of course, life doesn't just stop because I have work to do.  People still get hungry, cooking still needs to be done, and so it goes.

  On this particular day, I was canning carrots.  And dehydrating carrots. 25 pounds of organic carrots, more or less. And supper time was looming.  Whatever I fixed, there was gonna be a side of carrots tucked in there. lol

  I remembered that a couple of weeks ago, when a friend took me to lunch in St Louis  "on the hill" (Italian neighborhood) we shopped and hit several markets. I didn't buy much, but what I did get was good stuff...salami made  on the premises, fresh mozzarella, some white balsamic vinegar...and a tube of premade organic quinoa polenta.  Normally I make my own polenta., although I have yet to make quinoa polenta from scratch.  Turns out it's as easy (?) as making regular polenta, you just sub some quinoa for some of the corn meal. How about that ??

 Anyway, I thought--aha! Polenta for supper. So, I pulled the stuff from the fridge.  I opened one of my last jars of marinara sauce and gussied it up with some extra basil and fresh garlic.  I went to the garden and picked kale. I searched the fridge until I found some of the wild mushroom the boy had brought over last week.

(Isn't this a thing of beauty??)  I carefully washed the parts as I sliced them...they will keep a long time if you keep them dry. This is one of my favorite mushrooms,  called chicken of the woods. a nutshell, the ingredients list is:
 quinoa polenta (either store bought or homemade)
 marinara (canned, fresh or whatever suits you)
 kale -chopped into bite sized pieces
 onions and garlic- chopped into small chunks
 mushroom of your choice (wild, chantrelles, portabellas, whatever)
 Olive oil 
 shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese to top

 First,  slice the prepared polenta into about half inch thick pieces. I like mine browned in some hot oil. Then I set it aside in a warming oven to keep it ready.

 Then I put together the marinara in a small saucepan...add ingredients to your hearts desire. Extra fresh basil, garlic , even black olives, thinly sliced.  Make it the way you like it.  make yourself happy. When it is good and hot, cover and set aside.

 Then, saute the onions, garlic and mushroom pieces together in a big heavy skillet.

When they are close to done, throw in some big handfuls of the chopped kale. You will braise the kale in the fat and water put off by the mushroom cooking.

 Look at those succulent pieces of mushroom, would you ??  Keep stirring until the kale is crispy cooked.  At this point you can season the mixture with some sea salt and fresh ground black pepper if you like. (I like.  I always want black pepper on everything). lol

 When it's finished, you can start building your plate... polenta on the bottom, marinara next, kale mixture on top. A little freshly shredded parm will set it off  perfectly.

 This is a nutritious, simple and satisfying dish that will leave you wanting to try all different kinds of combinations of toppings.

 Since I had a gazillion tons of carrots chunked and in a bowl, I made a pan of honeyed carrots to go with this.  It was a hit.

  So, there you have it.  I'm thinking about trying to make polenta ahead of time and freeze a few batches of it.  I don't know if it freezes well, but there's always one way to find out.  lol

  Have you made it and frozen it ?  Let me know.

Bon Apetit !

Monday, June 23, 2014

Eating from my pantry...

 Well.  The test is here. Can we eat out of the pantry/freezer/hen house, supplemented with what little is coming out of the garden right now?

  Let me digress...

 In the event that you may not know what has been going on around here at Honeysuckle late January, I was rear-ended at an icy intersection, resulting in a  moderate case of whiplash.  My neck and shoulders hurt, I could barely turn my head from side to side.  Could have been much worse. I started treatment by chiropractic and massage therapies.

  On February 1st,  I slipped and fell on icy steps going off my back deck to let the chickens out one Saturday morning.  Went down like a ton of bricks.  Wound up with a fractured right distal radius.  (Of course I am right handed).  Wore a sling for 5 days waiting for the swelling to go down, then in a cast and sling for 4 weeks.  At the end of that, I went in for x-rays, hoping to have the cast removed and get to wear only a brace.  Fat chance.  I had overused the arm--(I swear, I tried to not use it. Husband and son were doing almost everything for me. I was useless.)-- and the bone had slipped at the fracture, so a new cast went on for another 6 weeks.  Finally it came off. The soft tissue damage to the hand and wrist were extensive though, so I was having a lot of pain and still couldn't use it much. I have been in physical therapy trying to regain some strength and use of that hand. When I started, I measured ZERO grip strength.  Now, 8 weeks later, I am up to almost 12 pounds. He told me it could take up to a year for it to fully heal.  Good grief.

  On May 24, my husband and I were coming home from a restaurant in a nearby town when he drifted off at the wheel, causing us to go off the road and when he tried to steer back onto the pavement, the car went into a spin, spun across 2 lanes, hit a deep ditch and  rolled the car.  It could have been so much worse. We flipped into a freshly plowed field. The car smashed on the roof, and then flipped back over onto the wheels.  The line of cars coming toward us as we spun across the road was stopped by the vigilant driver of the first car--an off duty EMT and his girlfriend. So, nobody hit us coming from the other direction. We missed the big electrical pole at the edge of the field. The EMT ran over to us and started checking us out. I had a lot of glass on me, but seemed to be relatively okay. My husband however, was hurt.  The EMT got into the backseat and stabilized his head against the headrest, telling him to not move. They had called 911 the minute we rolled, so ambulances were on their way. They took us to the local hospital, who then transported us to a larger trauma hospital about 45 minutes away.  After much ado, it was determined that I was just bruised and banged up. My husband has a fracture of the T-3 vertebrae. He is in a cervical collar and front and back brace. He has been off work for about a month. In 2 weeks he goes back to the doc and hopefully they will take the brace off and give us an idea of when he can go back to work. We have exhausted his vacation pay and sick leave, and as of this week, there is no more money coming in.

SO.  I am not a prepper. I have made that clear to people often.  I do keep a fully stocked pantry and freezer. I consider this common sense. I try to live frugally, because we really don't have much money. I would probably live this way even if we did.  It's what I was taught. I have always thought of my pantry as a back up plan of sorts. I have tried to stock it as though I could walk in there any time and we could always eat, no matter what. In my mind, it was always about being stuck out here in snowstorms, or if a tornado should knock out power and make going to the store know, that kind of thing. Or any kind of emergency that might come some day. Some day has arrived.

 Without his income, we are living on about a thousand dollars a month. Our bills are around 1100. We  don't have much savings to speak of, as we live, like many people, from paycheck to paycheck. Recently I had managed to cut our living expenses by several hundred dollars a month. Thank goodness. We had only 2 car payments left, so now that the insurance company has settled that loss, there's another 300 a month off.  We happened to find an older used car to replace our totaled one, and with the taxes and license, it cost us about 2/3 of what we got for a settlement. So, we have that little extra money too.  It's all going to work out.  Assuming my husband gets back to work at some point.  We have been really blessed with friends who have offered to help us out financially and we could pay back slowly when we can.  So many offers of love and support !!  If you think that doesn't make it all so much easier, then you've never been in this situation. I thank God every day for my friends and family.

Back to the pantry. The theoretical emergency arrived. I started searching through the pantry and making meal plans. What do I have in there and in the freezer and how many meals can I come up with...without ever having to go to the grocery store ?  So far--84.  Breakfast, lunch and supper. The other day a friend gifted me with some packages of meat from her freezer.  I have been doing alright though....although all the chicken and pork that was in the freezer is almost gone. There is still catfish in there. And the things from my friend.  And lots of frozen fruits and other things that I have frozen from my garden. My pantry shelves  (as you can see in my header) were pretty full.  It's starting to look a little empty in there.  I am down to my last 6 pounds of oats. But I still have lots of beans and rice and other dry staples. I make my own bread, and am going to try making tortillas soon. I still have a fair amount of flour and sugar, plenty of spices stockpiled as well as vegetable oil and pickled goods.  All my tomatoes are used up from last year.  I still have some green beans, and sweet potatoes and butternut squash. A couple of days ago, I made an awesome chicken fried rice main dish that fed us well. I used some leftover chicken from a whole chicken I had roasted (from my freezer--not the hen house!!). In typical frugal fashion, we had a wonderful chicken dinner, then I boiled the carcass for broth to make soup,  and used the leftover meat for the chicken fried rice. 3 good meals from a five dollar chicken.  I still have one more chicken in the freezer, plus a package of thighs and legs and a package of boneless skinless breasts.

I made granola the other day. For breakfast, we have options of oatmeal, eggs and toast, smoothies, or granola with almond milk.  For lunches, I have tuna from the pantry or egg salad sandwiches or peanut or almond butter sandwiches with some fruit.  Or salads.  I have approximately 20 pounds of pinto beans in there which I plan to can some more soon because I used the last jar of those too. We had bean burritos.  I can use that and some rice and make beautiful taco salads.  Suppers have been as simple as soups or as complicated as  stir fry or cold soba noodle salads.  We are still eating well, even though I haven't spent a penny at the grocery store in over 4 weeks.  We are also used to eating meatless meals several times a week. That helps. I think if your family isn't used to that, it would make it a lot harder. we are not vegetarians, but we eat less meat all the time. more fish and chicken.  And rarely as a main dish...usually incorporated into a casserole or a stew or something like that.  I am using more and more of my dehydrated vegetables.  I am taking the time to plan meals and use up the stores that we have. Then, when the dust all settles, we will slowly begin to build the stores back up.  The same way I got it ready for this, I will have it ready for the next.

  It's just common sense to have a stocked pantry. Do you know that big box grocery stores only carry a 3 day supply of food on their shelves?  In the event of a catastrophic storm or epidemic or oil emergency (what if trucks couldn't deliver??)-- and you couldn't buy food...WHAT WOULD YOU DO ?

 It's a question that bears consideration.

(Bon Apetit, baby!!)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Old fashioned Oatmeal Spice Cake

 This is one of my favorite last minute cakes to bake with stuff that is always on hand. The recipe I have came from my childhood neighbor, given to me at my wedding shower. (The friend who had the shower bought me a beautiful recipe box and asked all the invitees to bring their favorite recipe for a new bride.) lol  Even though I was only 17,  I'd already been cooking for years, but I got a lot of nice recipes and a little piece of each of these women to keep with me through the years. It was a lovely thought--we should do this kind of thing more often. Sharing and caring...the gift that keeps on giving.

 Anyway...I hadn't made this cake in a while. I was baking things like Italian Cream Cakes, Mandarin Orange Cakes, German Chocolate Cakes.  Fancy Almond Espresso Cakes. Nothing as everyday and ho-hum as an old spice cake.  Then one day I was looking through my old recipe box and came upon this recipe and thought--I should make one of these.  I haven't had a spice cake in years...nobody makes them anymore.  Then there was a potluck or a birthday coming and I whipped it up. Everyone,  and I mean EVERYONE raved about it.  At least 4 people said--you HAVE to make this for my birthday !!  And a new legend was born.  lol  Thank goodness, it replaced that wonderful, labor intensive, expensive Italian Cream Cake as everyone's ask-for cake.  lol

  Here the list of ingredients:

1 1/3 cups boiling water
1 cup oats (whole or quick--not the microwave stuff)

 1 cup sugar
 1 cup brown sugar
 1/2 cup shortening (I use butter mostly, but original recipe called for shortening) 
 2 eggs

1 1/3 c flour
 1 tsp each--salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon

[The ingredients for the broiled topping: 1 stick butter, melted - 1 cup brown sugar- 1/4 cup evaporated milk- 1 tsp vanilla- 1 cup coconut-1 cup nuts (pecans or sliced almonds) ]

Okay--first pour the boiling water over the oats, mix with a fork and move it outta the way.

Then, I sift the dry ingredients together and put it aside.
That would be flour, salt and spices.

 Then, in a good sized bowl, put your shortening, sugars and eggs.

 Then get your mixer out and whip these last things together until good and creamy. Then pour in the softened oat and water mixture and mix that in well.  Then add the dry ingredients and mix together until smooth and well incorporated.

  Bake in a 9x13 pan at 350 degrees until done.  Takes about 30-35 minutes usually.

 Take out of oven when done and in a small saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and evaporated milk. When that's all melty add the cup of shredded coconut and a cup of the nuts of your choice.  Stir to mix well. Spread this out over the top of your still warm cake, and place it under the broiler.  Watch it carefully and don't let it burn !  It will make a lovely crispy caramel-ish topping.  I can't really give you a time on the broiling, because God did not see fit to create all broilers equal. lol  I sometimes have to turn mine a couple of times to brown it evenly. 

  Let it cool and serve. It's a lovely cake and I think you'll like it, if you're the type that likes spice cakes.

Bon Apetit !

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A wonderful Wednesday supper...

It got pretty hot today...and humid as all get out. Apparently this was good weather for catching catfish though, as my son came by with 5 gorgeous catfish,. and left me 4 big beautiful fillets to cook for supper.   For the record, it's not always my favorite fish, but the stuff he pulls out of Beaver Dam State Park's lake is beautiful white meat, firm and clean...almost no fish smell at all.  Beautiful stuff, and he showed up just in time, before I had gotten anything out of the freezer.  lol

I decided to bake them, with a lemon pepper and herb mixture, a little butter drizzled over the top. Major yum. The herbs I used were just home grown oregano and basil. You could do anything you want.

I have a nice bunch of kale out in the cold box, along with some spinach, lettuces and chard.  I marched out there and cut a nice big bowl of kale, with visions of making a bruised kale salad.  This is a wonderful hot weather salad, easy to make,  and very satisfying. I chop or tear the kale leaves into chunks, put it in a big bowl, and pour about a quarter cup of olive oil on it, along with a little sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. I love kale.

 After you have the kale and extra virgin olive oil in the bowl, start massaging the leaves and working the olive oil into the leaves.  It takes about 5 minutes of massaging (or bruising) to get the oil worked in and you will feel the leaves begin to soften. They'll also turn a gorgeous dark vibrant green. Once you have the oil all worked in, juice about a half a lemon (taste after you put it all together--you might need more. lol  I used a whole big lemon tonight...the Irishman thought it was a little heavy on the lemon, I thought it was perfect.  I added the salt and pepper and lemon and mix well. You can add nuts (sliced almonds or pine nuts), dried cranberries, coconut chips (organic, unsweetened--so they actually taste like coconut!!) and / or  sunflower seeds.

It's a wonderful tasty salad so full of nutrition it'll curl your toes.  lol

  Then I made a rice dish that is an old friends stand by recipe from way back when.  Put about 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a big cast iron skillet.  Pour in 1 1/2 cups of uncooked brown rice. Over medium heat, saute the rice until it pops and gets all golden brown.  Then add some diced onions, celery and carrot. Small dice. Saute that a bit until it starts to cook, then add 3 cups of water, dried basil, salt and pepper to taste. Bring it to a boil, then turn heat to low and put a lid on it. It will take about an hour (45 minutes, maybe?) to cook. When it's done, you almost have a meal in itself. It's one of the Irishman's favorite ways I cook rice.  
...and there you have it.  A great Wednesday night supper.  Fish, Rice and kale salad. 

 Bon Apetit !