Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Oh yeah, winter ?? Take THIS !

 Winter.  Overstaying it's welcome.  Well...

 I usually try to buy local and seasonal as much as I can. But when my local-ish (when you live out on Honeysuckle Hill, nothing's really too close, lol)  Aldi's store had California strawberries on sale for 99 cents a pound, I had to act.  I bought 8 pounds, thinking I'd bring them home, take the stems off, wash thoroughly and freeze them whole, to use in smoothies or pie or something. And I did do that...with about 6.5 pounds of them. The other pound and a half, I sliced as well and mashed a bit and decided that nothing would brighten up my winter doldrums like a nice strawberry shortcake for dessert. 

  I got the strawberries ready and put them in the fridge. I added just a scootch of sugar because A) They were already pretty sweet and B) it helps develop the juiciness you want for shortcake.

  Next--the shortcake.  I am an old purist sometimes when it comes to recipes for things like this. And by that I mean that when I think shortcake, I am NOT talking about those nasty little Twinkie dough things they sell in the store. I'm talking about the way my dirt-poor granny made desserts, and she usually made them from everyday things that she magically transformed into something else.  In this case, it was biscuits.  There were only a couple of rules. Biscuits had to be made with butter and they had to be  made with buttermilk. Nothing else would do.

  To turn biscuits into something magical,  all it took was a little extra sugar  (for shortcakes)  or the addition of sugar and cinnamon (to make cinnamon biscuits).  When she made shortcakes, if strawberries weren't in season, there were always peaches or blackberries or even cherries in the pantry that she'd canned from the summer. Any of those fruits make a glorious dessert, with a little whipped cream on top.


  This is an easy biscuit recipe .  Imagine my surprise when my dear friend Mary from South Africa sent me (upon my begging request)  her recipe for scones. I was all pumped up to make what  (in America) we call scones, and when I looked at the recipe I realized that this was my granny's biscuit recipe.  lol  It's perfect. For biscuits I make them according to this recipe, for shortcake, I add extra sugar and then sugar the tops as well.

 Heat your oven to 450 degrees.

 In a medium  bowl, combine :
                                               2.5 cups unbleached flour
                                               3.5 tsp. baking powder
                                               1 Tbsp. sugar (add 3 more for shortcake)
                                               1.5 tsp. salt
                                               1/2 tsp. baking soda
                                               1/2 cup butter

  I always mix up the dry ingredients before putting the butter in. I also cut that stick of butter into small cubes before adding it. The I use my pastry blender to cut in the butter until the mixture is crumble.  Then stir in :
                                               1 1/4 cups buttermilk

 Stir until just combined. Overworking these kinds of dough will make them tougher and less flaky. Once it's combined, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface (I use a sheet of waxed paper) and knead the dough 5 or 6 times -AND NO MORE. 

  Then pat it out to about 3/4 inch thick for biscuits or more like an inch thick or a little better for shortcakes.  Cut with a biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet. You want the edges of the biscuits touching each other. 

  Bake these at 12-15 minutes for biscuits and a little longer for shortcake (because you made them a little thicker).  They'll be a beautiful golden brown when done, top and bottom.

  Now.  When I'm feeling particularly decadent, I will make these desserts with warm biscuits that I have sliced in half, lightly buttered and then spooned the strawberries on.  It goes like this:  bottom of the biscuit--butter (or not) --  strawberries--a bit of whipped cream--biscuit top--more strawberries--top with whipped cream.  And please please please, y'all...DO NOT SULLY THIS GORGEOUS DESSERT WITH A FAKE WHIPPED TOPPING OR COOL WHIP.  Not that I think you would...but just in case.  LOL

  In case you wondered if all we eat around here is dessert...here's what was on the supper menu that night.  Chicken and vegetable kabobs with quinoa.

Because it was a halfway nice day, we grilled the kabobs outside on the grill.  It was a very healthy and very tasty meal. 

Bon Apetit !

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Will this winter ever end ?

This was the early part of January.  Bleech.  Even then, we'd had too much snow and cold for way too long. 

 It was good weather, however, for comfort foods, like this veggie pot pie.

On January 21st, I was rear-ended at an icy intersection. Not a real bad accident, but enough to cause me some whiplash injury and my neck and shoulders giving me a bit of trouble.

 Then, on February 1st, this:

 On my way out to loose the chickens in the morning, I slipped on a patch of ice (that I had been avoiding for weeks), and fell and broke my right wrist.  Of course. My RIGHT wrist.  After 5 days of waiting for the swelling to go down, they were finally able to remove the splint and put a cast on it. For 3 weeks, at which time they would remove said cast and x-ray it and go from there. Hopefully putting a soft brace on it to heal the rest of the way. Because it was a non-displaced fracture. A nice straight across the big bone break The distal radius. 

  The best thing about the cast was that at least my fingers were freed. lol  I was having a hard time with that splint going from almost my finger tips to my elbow. Can't do anything.  This was a little better.  I tried  to abstain from using it, and it did hurt, so that helped some. Still...when the time came to get xrays again, the non-displaced bone had displaced. It slipped.  Possibly from my overusing it and partly from the swelling going down enough to let the cast slip.  Sigh...no brace for me. back into another cast.  I tried to be a good sport about it...

...but when nobody was looking, I cried.   Scared that because I'm in my 60's it's not going to heal. That I won't be able to do things. That they will have to do surgery and put a pin in it, because that's the next step.

  Starting to feel like 2014 hates me.  lol

 The bottom line here is...

 Aglio y Olio
 Old Fashioned oatmeal Spice cake
Orange Ginger Chicken

   ...bottom line is, I still cook, we still eat.  And I have to ask for help with so many things, it's either going to kill me or liberate me, I'm not sure which.  lol

  Today is March 13th. We just had what might be our last winter storm. Not as much snow as they predicted, but cold and howling winds and rainy icy mush.  Yesterday temps were in the high 30's. Today is heading for 60.  My first batch of heirloom seeds arrived.  We are debating about the potato order.  Should we just buy the locally available stuff, or pay out the nose for the certified seed potatoes. Sigh...

  I smell spring in the air. It's a little chilly out there right now, but I don't care. The windows are open, the furnace is turned off. I am going to do a little cleaning. Within reason (cough).

  I go back to the doc on Monday, to look again and see how things are. It doesn't hurt as much as it did (most of the time), so I have high hopes. Can't wait to get this heavy stinky cast off me. LOL  The other day it smelled like garlic.   :)

  Hopefully I will get back to putting some new recipes on here.  The oatmeal spice cake maybe for starters ? or have I posted that before...hmmm...maybe I'd better check.  

Happy Spring, people !!!!  7 more days.

Bon apetit !

Friday, January 31, 2014

Bye Bye, January ! (And not a moment too soon)

ALTHOUGH...look at the beautiful new hat and scarf my friend Sharon crocheted for me !!  I feel like I'm living in a parallel Universe here...front of me, back of me...lol  They are just beautiful, and made with love--always the best kind of present.  Thanks Sharon--you made my night!  Perfect for these cold winter days !



  January's end.  Finally.  This has been a rough winter and is only about half over.  Today brought some cold temps and freezing rain.  It was grey and yucky and even the chickens didn't want to lay.  I took them out a couple of handfuls of chopped lacinto kale to give them some greens to supplement their layer feed and scratch grains. I think I will make them some nice oatmeal tomorrow morning...they sure love warm oaties on a cold winter's day.  It's supposed to warm up to 41 tomorrow (for just one day and then the temps plummet again), but it's also supposed to rain. So...still beats a foot and a half of snow though.

  I made a carb loaded spaghetti and marinara for supper tonight, along with some soft garlic bread sticks. It was comfort food at it's finest, perfect for a freezing wet night.  I love making marinara with lots of good stuff in it--garlic, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots and black olives.  And my home canned tomato sauce, of course. The colors are gorgeous, the reds so vibrant.

A beautiful vegetarian marinara that is loaded with organic nutrition and flavor.  That reminds me, I need to get more garlic tomorrow, because you KNOW I used all the garlic I could get my hands on for the bread sticks and in the marinara. lol

  The bread sticks were easy...as I used the bread machine to mix the dough and let it rise in there too. Then I pulled it out,  divided the dough into about 16 balls and shaped the balls into ropes and put them to rise again for maybe 25 minutes and they were ready to go into the oven. Halfway through the baking time I brushed them with melted butter mixed with minced garlic. Shut the front door! They were marvelous.  And I didn't take any pictures of them, but I'll make them again and post pictures and recipe here.


  I harbor no delusions that February will be a blessed relief from the weather. It may well be worse. But at least it will put us a little closer to spring. Before you know it, seed potatoes will be ready to plant, seeds will be getting their starts, and the garden beds will be anticipating their spring dressings of compost and manure.

  And I'm sure we'll all be wiping the winter cobwebs from our brains, ready again for the spring renewal and awakening that saves us at the end of every long cold winter.  Especially the ones like this one where we've had record cold and snowfalls.

  Alrighty. I'm off for the evening. Watching a Kevin Spacey movie called Shrink.  I'll let you know!

Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hey! It's my 5 year anniversary at Dragon Woman's Kitchen!!

And the angels are dancing!!    lol

  The Actual Anniversary was January 13, 2009. 5 years and exactly 2 weeks ago (on a Tuesday).  I can't believe I've been writing this for 5 years.  Not a lot.  Not enough.  But still, suiting up and showing up enough to keep it going. And loving it.

  This picture is a pot pie that I made tonight to take to our vegetarian potluck out at the La Vista Ecological Center, where we are part of a discussion group that meets twice a month.  We have random potlucks, and the food is always heavenly.  This one is a vegetable pot pie with a rosemary biscuit crust. I got this recipe for biscuits from a dear friend.  (Thanks Mary!!)

 I didn't feel like making pastry, which is how I usually do pot pies: top and bottom crust.  I just happened to have buttermilk. Voila.  I used a Xmas  cookie cutter to make the angel shapes. I patted this dough out a bit thinner than I do when making regular biscuits, so there was a leftover pan of little rosemary angels that I took along as well.

 I rummaged around in the fridge and pantries and came up with:

2 stalks of celery
1 nice onion
3 medium carrots.

  In my big cast iron skillet, I made a mirepoix of these three vegetables in a small amount of olive oil.  This sauteed for about 10-15 minutes on low while I peeled a smallish  butternut squash.  I scrubbed and cubed 2 medium red potatoes, skins on.  I rescued the end of a head of garlic that was about to be on it's way out and minced that.

 Put these things all into the skillet together and stirred them up and let them cook a bit. I had some crimini mushrooms in the fridge, so I sliced up about 5 of those too.  I had some lacinto kale all cut up in the vegetable drawer that I use for smoothies, and so I threw in a couple of handfuls of that.  I pulled an organic gala apple out of the fruit bowl as an afterthought, and washed, cored and chopped that into the mix. A little sweetness, and I love both apples and onions AND apples and squash together, so how could I go wrong?  I seasoned this with a little salt and black pepper, some hand crushed dried basil from my garden, then added a little water and put a lid on it.  (Right before putting the biscuits on, use a little thickener of your choice and make a bit of a gravy with those vegetables. Add about 2 tablespoons of butter make it a rich gravy)

  The biscuit dough is easy peasy...

  2.5 cups flour
  1 Tbsp. sugar
  3.5 tsp baking powder
  1/2 tsp baking soda
  1 tsp. salt
  1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary (I used dried)
  1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  1  1/4 c.  buttermilk

Stir together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it's all fine and crumbly. I slice the stick of chilled butter into 3 pieces lengthwise. Flip it over and cut it 3 times again. Then slice it into tiny cubes and put into the flour.  It mixes easier this way. Once that's done, stir in the buttermilk, mix well.

 I use a piece of waxed paper on the counter, sprinkle it down with corn starch, and dump the ball of biscuit dough on it. Knead it 5 or 6 times and no more.  Pat it into a circle about half an inch thick. Use the cookie cutter (or a biscuit cutter, or a drinking glass) and cut the dough shapes.

Put the vegetable mixture into an oven safe baking dish.  Arrange the biscuits on top and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the biscuits start to turn golden brown and the vegetable mixture is all yummy and bubbly.  After it's done, bake the rest of the biscuits on a baking tray.  I melted some butter and brushed the hot biscuits with it as soon as they came out of the oven.

 I wanted to make star biscuits, but couldn't find the cutter.  lol  So--angels it was  (either that or snowmen). lol 

  And here  it is, fresh out of the oven, biscuits brushed with melted butter.  It was sooo good--everyone loved it.  The apples added just the perfect touch of sweetness. It was rich and satisfying and oh-so-tasty.

  And pretty.  Did I say pretty ?  lol

  And healthy. All the vegetables were organic. The squash, potatoes, rosemary and carrots all came from my own organic gardens. This dish is easily made with whatever you happen to have on hand...the possibilities are endless.

Bon Apetit !

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014...here we go !

I'm going to start off by saying that it's been a bit of a rocky start to the new year. And by "Rocky"  I mean ...blizzards,  MINUS 35 degree wind chill temperatures, bird murders,  2 guys who forgot it was my birthday who live in my house, days with the real time temps in the negative double digits (like -14) and all around craziness.  Today is Wednesday, and the last time I was off the plantation (as it were) was last Saturday. Which isn't really that big a deal, but I like the dramatic sound of it.  We went to a city about 2 hours northeast of us for New Years Eve and came back home the next day, just ahead of a serious snowstorm that dumped about 6 inches of snow on us. About 3 days later, the Polar Vortex came through and hit us with another 13 inches.  The temps have been unbelievably cold for us, and none of that snow is going anywhere. Today is back up in the mid 20's, and might even hit 28. We'll see...

  They finally got my road semi-plowed. The Irishman got out yesterday for work, but not Monday. He got out today too, and the boy is out as well. Both have trucks. I have a little Ford Focus, and it's not going anywhere.  lol Even though they have run the plow down the road, it's treacherous, and I am not going to risk running off the road and getting stuck.

  Okay, that said...there has been some cold weather cooking going on around here.  I made a big pot of Vegetable Beef soup the day the storm was coming and we finished that off.  Then I made a big pot of white chili last night and it's about gone, between supper and lunch.

  Today I am going to make a crock pot Thai Garlic Chicken dish...and I'm going to start it as soon as my camera battery charges up.  lol  I have reached that place where I cannot cook without my digital camera at my side.  

It starts like this:
 The recipe called for 6-7 cloves of fresh garlic, minced. So...I used 13.  Right ??

  I looked at several recipes for this dish and finally picked one and then reworked it to suit me. Which is what I often do, and probably what everyone doers.  Here's the list of ingredients:

  5-6 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  Ground black pepper
  3/4 cup low sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
  3/4-1 cup honey
  1/4 cup pure molasses
  4-6 cloves fresh garlic minced **
  1 tbsp. crushed basil  (or you could use fresh leaves, rolled and sliced thin, if you have it)
  1/2 - 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  1 tsp ginger (I used ground ginger because I don't have any fresh)
  1/2-3/4 cup catsup--(I used my home made and canned bbq sauce.)

  So, we start by peeling and mincing all the garlic your little heart desires.  My little heart desired a LOT today, so I minced about 13 cloves. I mixed all this up in a 4 cup measuring cup, to keep it simple. Put all the ingredients EXCEPT the chicken and black pepper in the bowl/measuring cup and mix it well.

 Looks pretty yummy, doesn't it ??

  Then take your cutting board and cube all the  chicken.

  I used my big crockpot today for this (because I can't find my little one.  lol)  I sprayed it with olive oil  to help (hopefully) with the cleanup.  I put all the cubed chicken in and then peppered it good, stirring and stirring it until I distributed it evenly.

  Then, just pour the mixture of goo over it and stir until all the pieces are well coated.  Turn the crockpot on high and go do something else for a few hours.  Me??  I just got 3 new huge Rubbermaid totes that I'm going to put all the Xmas decos in.

Now, I've put the lid on, will let it cook on high for about an hour (as my chicken was partially frozen) and then turn it to low. It should be done in about 4 hours, maybe 5, depending on how big you cut the chunks of chicken. Mine are probably 1x1 inch cubes. Mostly.  :)  When the chicken is done, make a thickener with cornstarch and water and pour it into the crockpot. Stir it in well, turn it back on high and let it go until it thickens. Shouldn't take long.

 See you later...before it's all done,. I will cook some brown rice and steam some broccoli  and that will be supper.  I have to make bread today too, and granola.   I'll be back with pictures of the finished project and platings.   See Ya !!!!

  Okay...here it is.  Thai Garlic Chicken served over brown rice with a side of beautiful steamed carrots and broccoli (with a half an onion thrown in).  Lordy, lordy--was it ever good.  I will definitely make this dish again.  Easy, healthy and delicious !!

Bon Apetit !

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One last post for 2013

  Looking for a simple elegant dessert for the holidays (or any time) ?  My all time favorite is Creme Brulee.  The very first time I had it was 22 years ago in a lovely restaurant in Northern California called Larrupins. A magnificent little place out in the middle of nowhere on the coast, north of Eureka on Humboldt Bay. Their menu  changed daily with entrees from whatever was available and fresh that day. They had an appetizer board you could get that had several cheeses and roasted garlic and homemade whole grain baguettes, toasted just right. And some kind of fruit...pears maybe or apples.  Ahhhhh...even thinking about that place gives me the goosebumps.  My friend Craig was playing jazz there a few evenings a week, and I went along and we had some dessert there, and he suggested the Brulee, and I had never tasted it before. 

 OH. MY. GOD.  I thought I had died and gone to food heaven. Every bite nearly made me cry with joy. And for a long time, I was sure that the only way you could reproduce that experience was to go to Larrupins and order it from their menu.  lol  That only a true culinary genius could produce that marvel of cream and sugar and whatever other magic was in there.

Not so. I started nosing around when I had bought too much heavy whipping cream one year at Christmas, and to to my delight found tons of recipes.  And they were varying degrees of simple.  The very easiest and one I use mostly came out of a low carb cookbook. They made it with splenda, which I would never do, but it is a really good easy recipe.

 I made it for our little Christmas Eve supper this year, because I knew it would WOW! my guest, but mostly because I wanted some.  lol  We don't eat a lot of dairy, but this is the exception. So--let's go!

 You'll need (for this size recipe) 4  oven safe custard dishes.  I use a Corning 7 oz dish, some recipes call for a smaller shallow ramekin, but we don't mess around when we eat Creme Brulee.  lol  I bought them in a set of 4 and they work great.

 You'll also need:

 2 cups heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
Brown sugar to taste

First, put the cream and vanilla in a heavy saucepan and heat until warm. Watch it and don't overheat.

Next, put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and mix well. I use a whisk or a fork.

Then pour this into the saucepan and mix together thoroughly, Use a whisk.  Divide the mixture into the 4 ramekins. Take a 9x13 pan and put about 1 inch of hot water in it, place the filled ramekins in it and put in a preheated 300 degree oven and cook until set.  This will take about 45-50 minutes.

When they're done, you have 2 options.  Personally, I like mine cooled completely, chilled and then topped at the last minute before serving. But you can serve them, right out of the oven too...sprinkle a little brown sugar on top and put under the broiler until the sugar crystallizes. Unless you're me.  Of course, for Christmas one year, Santa brought me a lovely little Brulee torch that runs on butane and I have a ball torching the tops of it, just like Julia Child.

 You could also top it with raspberries or caramel, but I like the purist version of it with just the smidgen of caramelized sugar on top.  And every time I have ever served this, people thought I walked on water...and you KNOW I always like that.  lol  It is incredibly rich and silky and an absolutely beautifully elegant dessert to serve to anyone who is NOT lactose intolerant. 

  Bon Apetit !

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Home Grown, Home Made Tomato Soup

 Mmmmmm...I love tomato soup.  Since I was a little girl it was my favorite, summer winter spring or fall. Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.  When I was a kid (circa 1950's) that meant Campbell's Tomato Soup out of a can, with a grilled Wonder Bread and American cheese sandwich.  Things have changed some since then (my palate, for one) but I still love those two paired up.

 Since I grow and can all manner of tomatoes,  and I love making soup, it stands to reason that I would make my own tomato soup, just like every other soup I eat.  A friend asked me recently if I had a recipe for tomato soup and I said "Sure" without even thinking.  The truth is, I make soup by the seat of my pants (doesn't everyone?)  and don't really have a recipe per se... but like any good con artist, I can come up with a plausible story in the blink of a eye.  LOL

Any soup worth it's salt starts the same way: chopped onions and celery and garlic.  This is the secret of a solid soup base, in my book. I usually "sweat" the onions in the heavy bottomed pan first by themselves.  Then add in a little butter or olive oil and the celery and garlic. Stir them about and let them cook a little while you finely chop a couple of nice carrots. Cook the carrots with the onions and stuff for a dose of magic.  That taste and smell is out of this world. PLUS--carrots tone down the acidity of tomatoes and make them a little easier on your gut.

  For this batch of soup I used a pint jar of tomato sauce, a quart jar of diced tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste (because I wanted to).  I also used a quart of my own canned vegetable stock.  I can stock (chicken, turkey, vegetable) every year.

4 Tbsp butter**2 onions, thinly sliced ** 1 carrot, peeled and chopped** 2 stalks celery, chopped** 6 cloves of garlic (or less) coarsely chopped** 2 -3 quarts canned tomatoes** fresh or dried basil, about 2 tsp.** pinch of sugar** salt and pepper to taste** 4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock** 1/2 tsp Allspice ** 2 cups heavy cream or half and half.
Melt the butter in large pot. Saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic--about 10-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Add basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the stock and allspice and simmer for about an hour.
I use my stick blender to then puree everything. Sometimes I add a can of tomato paste. Taste it and see. Then add the cream and adjust seasonings (salt mostly, because I never know how much I put in the canned tomatoes. lol) Heat it through, but do not boil.
That's about it. Oh...and sometimes, instead of half and half or heavy cream, I will melt a half a box of cream cheese into the soup. It makes it so rich your head will spin.


 When I make grilled cheese sandwiches, I use homemade whole grain bread.  2 or 3 kinds of sliced cheeses (my favorites are Havarti and Muenster) .  Butter the bread on one side, lay butter side down. Arrange the cheese on both slices of bread. Thinly slice an onion, a tomato, black olives--put on top of cheese. Close up sandwich and grill to golden brown on both sides.

  Eat with a lovely bowl of that tomato soup and you will be thinking you've died and gone to heaven.

 You'll never buy canned soup again.

Bon Apetit !