Sunday, November 27, 2011

The High Holy Day of Gluttony is over!!! Now what to do with all those leftovers?

  I didn't actually wake up this morning with any intentions other than maybe a bit of sweeping up and straightening... LOL  Alas, then I turned on my computer and well, here we are!


  One thing I love about these big eating holidays is that there are almost always leftovers at our house. This is partially due to my diligent "no plate left unfilled"--ever--strategy.  

  I think that one of the worst nightmares I have is that I throw a party and there isn't enough food.  So, naturally, I cook enough (as my mother used to say) for Cox's Army (whatever that was).  lol In my due diligence, I cook more than I need to almost every time, because obviously, more is better.  And then when the smoke clears and the dust settles and everyone is gone, I have loads of stuff to figure out what to do with. 

 This year, as I carved the turkey--(And when I say carved, I mean ripped that sucker to pieces!!) I had my trusty stockpot sitting there in the sink, so all I had to do with every bone or piece of deliciously roasted skin (and wings) was toss it over into the gaping maw. (sorry, but I don't hardly ever get the chance to say gaping maw, and this was probably it for this year).  When my 2 turkeys (one was 20lbs and the other 10) were stripped and the succulent moist pieces were in my biggest crockpot, I filled that stockpot with water and set it on the back burner on low.  And there it sat, all day long. Both of my sisters-in-law kept wanting to turn it off,  because they obviously don't know the secret of a good stock. lol One of the secondary benefits to cooking all those bones for hours, besides leaching out all the mineral-y goodness, is that it softens them even more than the initial roasting and makes them suitable doggie treats. And before anybody gets excited, I will say here and now that I ALWAYS give my dogs chicken and turkey bones and they have never had a problem. (Well, except the one time that Caylee got a short bone wedged sideways in the back of her mouth and I had to risk life and limb to stick my hand in there and pull it out. I got it and she didn't bite my hand off.  Success!!!! lol

  Anyway, this year I decided to can my turkey broth instead of freezing it, as I'm trying to move away from using the freezer for anything but the essentials.  I lost a freezer this year, and frankly, don't want to replace it if I don't have to. And I probably don't.  lol  I am drying and canning more stuff than ever.  The picture above is the canned turkey broth--7 pints with turkey chunks in them and 4 that are just plain broth. Nothing much goes to waste in this house.  Anything the dogs or chickens can't or won't eat, goes into the compost, which goes into the garden, and so the cycle of life continues.

 I canned this the day after Thanksgiving, and we have a mudroom that is uninsulated and good for storing things in that need to be kept cold. So I had set the stockpot out there overnight.

 The day after Thanksgiving, I made a shepherd's pie out of leftover turkey and gravy. The Irishman had been out cleaning up the garden and brought me in a basket full of tiny odds and ends that got missed, like carrots, beets and turnips. Oh, and a small potato. I chopped them up, added some onion and garlic. Threw in a couple of handfuls of chopped turkey meat and cooked it all together. Added just enough gravy to make it wet.  Took some leftover stuffing and lined a pie plate, poured the mixture in and topped it with crumbled chunks of dressing. Baked it at about 350 for maybe 25 minutes and VOILA!  supper.

  Yesterday we had little turkey sandwiches on leftover rolls. My SIL brought Sister Schubert rolls from Sam's and they really were good...sweet and yeasty. You put them in the oven for 10 minutes and they're done.  I put a little mayonnaise on the bottom of the roll, piled them with turkey and topped them with cranberry sauce. They were awesome. The Irishman ate 3 of them. I had one with some of my kimchi on the side.

   I managed to put 2 pies into the was a pumpkin and one was a regular 2 crust peach pie. They weren't touched. We had so much dessert...and everyone was so full...well--you get the picture. lol  The Irishman finished off what was left of the lemon meringue last night.
  We still have cookies and a part of a peaches and cream pie sister baked chocolate chip cookies. and hers might be some of the best I've ever had.  Oh yeah, I think there's still some bread pudding too, that my other SIL baked.  It rocked, with a vanilla butter sauce on top.  I'm thinking I could slice it up and toast gently on the griddle and it would be like french toast for breakfast,  Basically the same ingredients, right??

  I will bake another peaches and cream pie soon and do the recipe on here. I came up with it by the seat of my pants when I was baking the peach pie. I was afraid that I didn't have enough filling for my deep dish pie crust, so I opened a jar of canned peach slices from our trees and threw it in. Of course, then I had too much filling for one pie and not enough for two.  So...I looked in the fridge saw cream cheese and sour cream, and the rest is history. You will be knocked out by this recipe, if you're a cheesecake fan....

  Okay.  I need to go look in the fridge and figure out what we're having for dinner.  :)  Might be a turkey pot pie in our immediate future!

 Bon Apetit!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You can make your own bread!

Thought I'd write a post today on bread making.  The weather is cooling down around these parts and though I get out of the bread making habit in summer (when we eat more sandwiches--go figure!)  I can think of nothing more heavenly than a steamy bowl of soup or stew with a slice of home made bread slathered in butter.

 I've recently been using the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day recipe. It's extraordinarily easy and suits me The loaves are small, and not really enough for a family, but you can always make them bigger and cook them longer and feed everyone. Or make several at a time.

 Now, you all know I love my bread machine, but truth be told, I have missed the mechanics of baking bread. Since this particular recipe doesn't include kneading the bread, it still lacks some of that. BUT...I still get to handle it a little and watch it setting on my counter rising and smell the beauty of it that is all yeasty and glorious.  So, I'm going to put the recipe on here, and you can try it and let me know what you think.

  The only thing I needed that I didn't have was a pizza peel. It's a shovel looking thing with beveled edges and a short handle that you let your dough raise on until time for it go into the oven. The reason for not raising it right on the cooking surface is that you want to heat the baking stone before you put the loaf to be baked on it. I happened to have a Pampered Chef baking tray that I use for this. (Pizza stone kits from department stores are much cheaper, I promise--but my daughter-in-law had a PC party and I had to buy something.  lol) The stone gives your loaf that beautiful brown crispy bottom crust and allows the loaf to cook evenly throughout.  However. I did happen to have some leftover glazed tiles that are about 12x12, that my wonderful son tiled my bathrooms in. You cannot bake on those, but you can sprinkle them with cornmeal and put your dough to raise. (A rimless metal cookie sheet would work as well.) And so I did.  And one day, I will break down and buy the other thing, because I'm sure it's easier. But not today. 

  Looking at the bowl in my fridge, I would guess that this batch of dough will make about 4 small round loaves.

  You'll need:

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)
1 1⁄2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
6 1⁄2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel
   In a large bowl, measure  flour. I use a mixture of whole wheat and white and usually throw in a little wheat germ (because that's just how I roll), lol  In a separate bowl or large glass measuring cup, mix the water, yeast and salt.  Mix it good, I use a large wooden spoon and mix til it's together.

 Now, cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, and preferably up to 20. This gives the yeast a chance to grow and develop those wonderful flavors we love. When this part is done, you can either hack off a chunk and bake some--OR put the dough into a covered bowl in the fridge. Don't put an airtight lid on it though...the gases need to escape. I used an old big square Tupperware with one side of the lid left unsnapped.

 When you make bread, there are a couple of things to remember.
 * Hot water will kill yeast. Lukewarm is the best.
 *When you handle the wet sticky dough, keep your hands wet and it will be easier.
 * It needs to be warm in your kitchen and not drafty. (Turn off the ceiling fan!)
 *Set the bowl to raise where it won't be disturbed.

Now. After you make the dough, it needs to "nap" at room temperature for anywhere from 2-20 hours. You just cover it up and leave it alone. The little yeastie beasties will grow and the dough will swell and it will go it's merry way. While you do whatever else needs doing. You'll want to find a bowl with a cover to store whatever you don't bake in the fridge. Then, on days when you need to make another loaf, pull it out, hack it off and put the rest back in for next time. When it's time to bake, put it on your peel, let it sit about 40 minutes and into the oven. Easy Peasy.

  Once you decide it's time to bake,(at LEAST 2 hours after raising) you need to get your spot ready (pizza peel, bathroom tile, whatever you're using). Liberally sprinkle the surface with corn meal. This helps keep the dough from sticking to the surface. Cut off a hunk of dough with a serrated knife, about the size of a grapefruit for a one pound loaf.  With wet hands, stretch and fold the ends under until you have a ball. Place it on the surface, making sure there's plenty of cornmeal underneath.  Set it in a warm place and let it rest for 40 minutes. The dough will raise some more.  About halfway through, put your baking stone in the oven to preheat. You will have your oven at about 450. Put a large baking sheet on the very top shelf and pour hot water in it to create steam (about a cup and a half is enough).  You'll want to bake your bread on the middle shelf.  20 minutes later, pull out the shelf with the stone and slide your loaf onto the stone. Help it along if it won't slide easily. I worry about jiggling mine too much and making the bread fall, but somehow it never does. This bread is not fragile. And it will raise some more in the oven. (Again: I am positive that actually using a pizza peel or a rimless metal cookie sheet, would work better than my tile. But, I've never been known to do things the right way, if I can do with what I've got.)  lol

 Next, you want to dash a bit of flour onto the top of your loaf and using that serrated knife, slash an X or a tic tac toe into the top of it. Not real deep, but deep enough to mark it.

  So, slide your loaf onto the stone (I pull out the oven shelf-the stone is too hot to handle easily) and  close the door as quickly as possible so you don't lose all that nice steam that's building up. That steam will give you a crispy chewy crust.

  Bake it about 30 minutes (depending on the size you hacked off in the first place), check it for color and tap the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, it's done!

  Let it cool on a baking rack, if you have one. I jury-rig that too, usually, as I have a baking pan roaster that has a small metal rack in the bottom.  I can almost never let mine cool all the way, as I want a warm piece of bread slathered with butter. If the Irishman's home, it's even worse. He almost stands beside the oven with a butter knife in his hand!

 Once I made this bread a few times, I could do it with my eyes closed.  Very simple ingredients, no sugar, and a beautiful loaf of bread.  I think you'll like it. I bake a loaf about every other day.

  *** I have been experimenting with adding ingredients like seeds and flax and herbs. So far, I've been doing it loaf by loaf. Today I made a new master batch, and put sesame seeds and flax seeds in it. I put wheat germ in too...just because I can.  ***

 Bon Apetit!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Let's SALSA! everybody!!!

 Any salsa endeavor absolutely MUST begin with the reddest, ripest juiciest tomatoes you can find. I grow my own, own course, so it's often a matter of getting enough of them ripe and gorgeous at the same time to make a batch. I usually use a mixture of romas with regular tomatoes, because the Roma tomato is very meaty and less watery, thus making for a thicker salsa. Being the goof that I am, I usually hand chop all my salsa ingredients too, because I like the texture better.

  So--here's the ingredient list to start making your own salsa, better than anything you can buy!  Because I "guesstimate" so much, these ingredients are pretty close, lol.  The best way to do your salsa is to taste it as you go. If it needs more salt, put more in. I also add ingredients depending on what is in my garden.

  Tomatoes--ripe and red --15 pounds (+/-)
  Onions--yellow--10 pounds
  Green and yellow bell peppers about 6 large
  Jalapenos--depends on how spicy you like your salsa, but at least 6 good sized fresh jalapenos
  1 full head of fresh garlic, minced
  Fresh cilantro and parsley-I use both, but you can leave them out if you don't like the taste of cilantro.
 Ground cumin
 Black pepper
 Sea Salt
 lemon juice, fresh or bottled, or you can use white vinegar-about a cup

As you can see in the picture, I only had some yellow peppers this year, so that's what I used. I'll make at least one more batch before the season's over, and I'll use green bells then too. (And yes-this is the amount of jalapenos I used in my batch.)
NOTE: You will want to have rubber/latex gloves on hand for chopping and seeding the jalapenos. If you don't wear them, the pepper juice will scald your hands and you will be sorry!!!!  Be very careful, because of the weather this year, the peppers are exceptionally hot.
  Right about now, I get out my big blue enamel water bath canner and fill it about 1/3 full of hot water. Put the lid on it and set it on the stove and turn up the heat. Because there is lemon juice/vinegar/hot peppers  in this recipe, it is safe to use the water bath canner to can this tomato recipe. If you are canning plain  regular tomatoes, always use the pressure canner to be safe from botulism.

  Using a good sharp knife and cutting board and lots of counter space, core and chop your tomatoes. I never peel tomatoes for salsa...more nutritious that way and less work. lol  Dice them into half inch cubes and throw them into your biggest pot (I use my dutch oven). BTW--you do know not to ever cook tomatoes in aluminum, don't you??  I have a cast iron and a stainless steel dutch oven. 
 Peel and dice the onions the same way, maybe even a little smaller.Toss 'em in the pot.
 Same for the bell peppers, seed and core and chop finely. If you use greens and yellows, it looks really pretty
 Now put this pot on the stove and turn on the heat to medium. While it is heating up some, go ahead and chop the cilantro and garlic and parsley. It should look about like this: by now:

  Gorgeous, isn't it?

  Now, put your rubber gloves on and get those jalapenos on the cutting board. Gently slice off the stem end and slit them lengthwise down the middle.  Using your gloved finger, take all the little seeds out and put them aside. Depending on how hot you like salsa, you can add some or none or a lot of these back in. But for now, take 'em out. Dice the green pepper part finely and dump into your simmering pot. Stir well.

  Bring to a slow simmer and keep on the heat for about 20 minutes. Put in the lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Is your kitchen smelling wonderful yet?

   You're going to want to can this salsa in pint jars. I like the widemouth jars, but any will do. Wash and scald the jars, get a saucepan of boiling water going and put the rings and lids in it to soften the rubber seals and sterilize them.

  Taste your salsa and see if the spices are right for you. If not add a little more.

   Fill your jars with the hot salsa, leaving about a half inch of headspace. I can fit about 8 pints at a time in my canner.
 Check your canner and see if the water is boiling yet
 Take the lids out of the boiling water, and after wiping off the tops of the jars, put on the lids and screw the rings down tightly.

  Make sure the boiling water is 1 inch over the tops of the jars, and bring to a hard boil. Boil for 25 minutes.

Then take the jars out of the boiling water bath, using a  jar lifter, and set them on the counter on a thick heavy towel (I use a bath towel for this). The jars will begin to seal, you'll hear a little PING! within about 5 minutes. Leave them be for at least 24 and preferably 48 hours, to completely cool and finish the sealing process. Then label and store in a dark cupboard.
 Aren't they gorgeous? Aren't you proud of yourself?
 I make extra hot (2 jars)  for my son, who thinks he is invincible. LOL  This year I put 3/4 of the jalapeno seeds I'd removed into his 2 jars. We'll see if they're hot enough for him this year!

  Bon Apetit!

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's that time of year again....

 ...and the Dragon Woman has been busy as a bee.

   In spite of the brutal heatwave here in the midwest, my garden is miraculously producing many things, although some have indeed fallen by the wayside. The cucumbers have burnt to a crisp. The squash is suffering, and the summer squash have all but disintegrated. The 'maters have lost a lot of their beauty, but are still putting out enough fruit that I have canned some, eaten a lot and given away a few.  I have enough in there on the counter to make a batch of salsa today. I canned some whole ones, some diced ones and some with okra and onions in them.  The potatoes are looking good, and I stirred the mulch around in the Red Pontiacs and found some really good sized ones.  The basil needs to come out, the second planting of green beans needs to go in, and it is so hot out there that I can't imagine doing either. Today is like the 6th day in a row of dangerous and excessive heat, with no end in sight. For the second time this summer. We got a few days off in between.

I'm just finishing my breakfast/'lunch...that summertime treat of a bacon, mayo and fresh tomato sandwich on good whole grain bread. Oh it the best food on the planet or what? lol  I have some more beans to can in there and salsa to make and then I will call it a day. I've been doing household chores and playing around a lot. Gathered eggs this morning and fed the chooks. Hung laundry on the line, and it is almost dry by the time I get back to the house.

  One of my favorite dishes this time of year is sauteed fresh green beans with garlic. It is easy and delightful. I start with a mess of fresh beans 
 This, of course, is more than one mess. lol  Aren't they beautiful?  You want to leave them whole, and use the youngest beans you can find. I nip the stem end off them and wash them and let them drain a bit. I mince fresh garlic...and I use a lot, because we love it. In a heavy skillet, (I always use cast iron, or my heavy gauge stainless steel wok), I heat enough olive oil to make the skillet good and slippery, but don't overdo it,. You can always put in more oil anytime you need to--can't take it back out!  Put in the beans and turn the heat to medium high. After a bit of swishing the beans back and forth and they start to sizzle, put in the minced garlic.
You want the beans to be bright green and crispy cooked. Don't cook them too long, or you'll have A) Burned garlic--yuck!  and  B)  mushy green beans. When they're done to your taste, grind black pepper and sea salt on them. Serve them hot and enjoy!

  I know this is a short post...but I'm getting back in the water toe at a

Bon Apetit!