Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chicken Confit with Acorn Squash in Duck Fat

We are getting a lot more chicken due to our new CSA provider, Meadow Heaven.  I still love Mint Creek but the BF was a bit tired of Lamb and creative dishes with offal are a bit much sometimes.  Ok, ok... I know it's good for me but I just can't do it! lol.  Needless to say, the cats were eating well when Mint Creek was our CSA. *grin*

Anyway, another thing I don't like too much is dark meat chicken.  I know it's supposedly the best part, a la the BF.  But, for me, I never liked it that much.  You know why, right?  It's the veins.  *shudder*

But, I have found two ways I can eat dark meat.  One is when I take the meat from the chicken and make ground chicken (it is much better than buying ground chicken).  The second is new as of yesterday and it is chicken leg confit.  It is so good, that I can even get over my weirdness with the chicken leg.

Confit is the french term for meat preserved in fat. Normally it is the fat from the animal but I used duck fat.  I like the flavors and I got a great price on a "bucket of fat" from our local butcher.   The best part is that once you have this stored off in your fridge, you can put a quick dinner together whenever you are short on time.

Fancy in less than 15 min - how cool is that?  The bad part? This is a multi-day process but does not take a lot of time on most days.  

Chicken Leg Confit

  • 5 chicken legs
  • 2 tablespoons salt (coarse kosher)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • duck fat or lard - enough to cover the meat
Day 1: Marinate the chicken - approx 10 min.
Mix together salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves and garlic.  Rub the mixture onto the chicken legs covering as much of the meat and skin as possible.  Place in a covered container or zip lock bag and store in the fridge for about 48 hours.

Day 2: salty massage - 5 min? or less.
Pull out the chicken, give it a quick rub.  Or not. I completely forgot about them for the whole 48 hrs. :)

Day 3: cook - approx  2 hrs.
Take the chicken from the fridge and scrape off the seasonings, saving them off to the side.  Preheat the oven to 300 F while waiting for the duck fat to heat up in a pan.  Once the fat is heated, place the chicken in the pan and brown the legs all over.  Put the legs into a ovenproof dish, where the legs fit snugly.  Add the seasonings that you saved off.  Cover with duck fat and place into the oven, let it cook for about 2 hours, turning them very carefully every once in a while.   Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temp.   Put legs into a container that can be covered,  I use a glass-lock box in a rather large size.  At this point you can layer the legs if you like, then cover them completely with fat.  Place in the fridge and you can pull it out to eat any time between now and 6 months from now.

Six months later:  re-heating the legs
So, if you still have it in the fridge six months later -- I'm impressed. I only managed to wait 2 weeks before I broke into it because I didn't get a chance to cook anything for dinner.  There are two options for reheating the legs:  1) oven method: heat oven to 450 F, pull out the chicken from the fat, cook for 5 min. 2)  pan method: put the legs with a little bit of the fat into a fry pan and slowly bring up to heat.   Takes a bit longer but then I don't have to heat up the oven for two legs. 

You can save and reuse the fat for more confit or something else.  So even though you have covered it in a lot of fat, you are not going to be wasting it.  I took a little spoonful of it cold from the fridge the other day -- but I am a oddity in that I like to eat fat. :)

Normally duck confit is served with something that is a bit on the sweet or sour flavor as a side dish.  As the confit tends to be a bit salty, I like something that is naturally sweet to off set the flavors. 

Acorn Squash with Mache and Walnuts

  • 1 small acorn squash - cooked
  • 2 handfuls walnuts (or however much you like)
  • 2 handfuls mache (or spinach or another green)
  • a bit of the duck fat from the confit if you wish
To cook the acorn squash:
Cut squash in 1/2 - if you have a sharp enough knife (if not, cook the squash for about 20 min and then cut it).  Put a pat of butter in each half. Cook the squash in a 350F oven for 20-30 min until squash is soft to the touch.

Cut squash into bite size pieces.  heat pan, put the walnuts in the pan and dry roast them.  about 5 min, shaking / stirring the nuts so they do not burn.  Add the squash.  if using the duck fat - put about a teaspoon or so in now.  Give a quick stir.  Add the greens and once it has wilted you are done.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sort-of Oatmeal / sort-of Porridge.....

all in all a nice, quick and tasty breakfast.   I wish I could say I thought of it but lately I've just been playing with recipe books and other peoples on-line postings. 

The coconut porridge recipe from The Wholesome Home is really good.  We used a bit more coconut and whole milk instead of coconut milk.  The BF would like some cinnamon added -- but all in all it was brilliant.  10 min (or less). 

Warm and filling before going out into the lovely winter weather we have been having.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to store fresh herbs

Ok... I know, I know.  There are lots of ways to store fresh herbs and I've tried them all.  I've always ended up having to toss the last bits of herbs because they have gotten brown/black and soggy... and very gross.

Some of the methods that sort of worked are: 

  • Wrap them in a paper towel and then place them in a Ziploc and store in the fridge.  This worked well enough but the last bits always dried out, if I remembered to keep changing the paper towel.  If I forgot, well, then I got a sticky, gross, green paper towel.
  • Put  a little bit of water in a glass or bowl and place a plastic bag over them and place in the fridge.   It also worked well enough as long as I remembered to change the water... otherwise I was going to end up with green sludge in the glass/bowl (way gross!) and it was STINKY!
Ok.... as you can see ... there is a theme... I do not remember to do anything.  And, I don't always use the herbs right away.  So, I'll do up some cilantro and not use it for a week.  When I go back to get the cilantro - poof - no usable herbs.  So sad.

So... I decided to do a experiment that worked.  The cilantro in the pictures are both over 3 weeks old!  And, it still tasted fresh and cilantro-y.  Yea!!

Ok.  So the way to do this is....

- take a bowl or glass  (the glass works better) and put a wet paper towel in.  Not drippy, but a bit more than damp. 
- put your herb in the glass (do not mix them up or you end with with a weird smelling / tasting herb blend.  I did this with cilantro and parsley ... and well, I don't know what it was at the end of the 1st week. *grin*)
- put a Ziploc freezer bag on top, so that it covers all the way down to the base of the glass.  You can use a regular plastic bag but the freezer bag works best --- perhaps because it protects from the fridge smells?  Or keeps the humidity constant?  I know that the herbs lasted longer and smelled more like a herb.

Anyway.. that's it.  Use your herbs need to keep adding water, or change paper towels or any other random work.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yay! Browntrout, Mixteco Grill and La Creperie

I feel like such a foodie. LOL.  I've actually been to quite a few of the restaurants on  Michelin's Bib Gourmand winner's list.    Here is the article from Chicago Tribune.

Apparently Michelin's little elves go ... "Under cover of darkness Tuesday night, ... stealthily sprayed the image of Bibendum (the formal name of the Michelin Man, from a Latin phrase meaning, "Now, let's drink") on the sidewalks in front of 46 Chicago restaurants."  

 So of course, I had to run over and take a picture!   Who knew that the Michelin Man had a name?

My all time favorite restaurant, Browntrout,  uses sustainable foods and even grows their own herbs.  And we were just there last Friday to celebrate my birthday! 

La Creperie is a crepe place... of course!  And, I celebrated my birthday on Thursday with a friend there.   It is a bit of a no-no for me since ....well, crepe's are usually made of wheat.  They do have a buckwheat option which is quite good and I usually do that. (at least it's gluten free and non-grain.) 

The trifecta would have been complete if we had gone to Mixteco at any point last week...does it count that I talked about it on Saturday in Indiana? ;)

I'm just so happy that restaurants I love are getting recognized.  I hope this doesn't mean that I won't be able to go there again because they will be too busy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pork Chops Saltimbocca with Sautéed Spinach

We had this for dinner tonight... I was going to post on something else but it was SO GOOD that I just had to share.  Sorry I don't have any pictures buts we just ate it way too fast... it is that yummy.

I've made this twice now and I think the modified version is much better.  But then again I love prosciutto and while I thought the original recipe from Gourmet is very good - I just needed more cheese and prosciutto. :)

Note about the cheese:  Apparently there is Fontina and Fontinella, do not confuse the two, they taste very different.  Although both will melt well and if you accidentally brought Fontinella (which I did the first time I made this) it still tastes good. Fontina is much richer and creamer, so I think it tastes better. ;)

Pork Chops Saltimbocca with Sauteed Spinach

  • 2  pork chops - boneless works easiest, but I've done it with bone-in as well.
  • 2 sage leaves, finely chopped (can use dried - about a 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 very thin slices Italian Fontina 
  • 2 thin slices prosciutto (1 ounce) 
  • 3 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped 
  • 1 (10-ounce) fresh spinach, stems discarded (or less depending on how much you like spinach)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Pat chops dry and cut a deep, wide pocket in each pork chop.  Sprinkle sage into each pocket and stuff pockets with cheese and prosciutto. Season with 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. (You don't want to over salt as the the prosciutto is quite salty as well)

In a ovenproof skillet, heat butter and cook one side of the chops until it is golden brown.  Flip over, put on some more prosciutto (a slice or so), cheese and a bit of sage.  Stick into the oven to roast.

Roast until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

While chops cook:
Heat butter in a 5-qt pot over medium heat. Sauté garlic until pale golden, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Plate pork and spinach.  Drizzle a little bit of lemon juice on both.  Serve.

Friday, October 29, 2010

How cool is this? Women butchers

The GoodEater Collaborative had a posting about women now going into the butchering field (again).  I know that we don't have many butchers any more in the states.... but it's good to think that perhaps times are a changing.

Here is the article:

In Heels and Backwards – Women Butchers Break Bones and Barriers | the GoodEater Collaborative

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chicken Paprikash (sort-of) with Bell peppers

I made this for my sis, Coco, for dinner as she is in surgery recovery mode.

A great recipe that re-heats well and has that warm, comforting feel to it.  We don't eat it with pasta or rice so it's more like a soupy stew...but you can put it on top of something if you feel the need. I know the sis is going to do so. :)

Anyway ... Coco.. here is the recipe like I promised you.

Chicken Paprikash with Bell Peppers

  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 teaspoons paprika 
  • 1 chicken (3 to 3-1/2 pounds), cut into serving pieces (skin off or on, depending on what you like)
  • 4 tablespoons fat/ghee for frying 
  • 1 medium onion, sliced 
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into 1-2" squares 
  • ground pepper to taste 
  • 1-½ cups chicken stock 
  • 1 cup yogurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
Preheat oven to 350F.

In a bowl, mix salt and paprika.  Toss in chicken and coat.

In a dutch oven, heat up fat on high/medium high heat.  Add chicken to pot, being careful not to crowd the chicken .  You may have to do several batches.  Once all the chicken is browned (see picture).

Reduce to medium heat and put in the onions and bell peppers.  Saute until onions have softened, about 5 min.    Add black pepper and anything you may have left over in the bowl you had placed the chicken in.  Do a quick stir.  Add chicken stock and chicken.  Bring up to a simmer.  Just before placing into oven, add yogurt.   If using sour cream or creme fraiche, wait until chicken has cooked and add at the end as I'm not sure how either of those will cook down in the oven. 

Place pot into the oven and bake for about 50 min. 

Serve... in a nice bowl or with something traditional like spaetzel. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gambas al ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic)

This is one of the quickest and easiest dishes.  I'm not even sure it really needs a recipe!

After all the key ingredients are garlic, parsley and shrimp... not too much to it.  I know a lot of recipes that have you put the whole thing in a terracotta dish and place it in the oven.  This is not one of those recipes... because, as you know, I'm lazy.

So, what do you need?  Ideally a really good cast iron pan, as it just gives that great flavor and holds up the heat well.  If not, a good frying pan will work. 

Gambas al ajillo

Shrimp in Garlic 
  • 1/2 pound shrimps or prawns, shelled and de-veined
  • 1 handful of italian parsely, roughly chopped (1/4 cup approx)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (more or less) of red chili flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic (more or less),  crushed
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter
Heat up the butter.  Add shallots and salt, cook until shallots are soft (about 1 or 2 minutes).  Add garlic and chili, and give a quick stir.  Add shrimp and cook until pink / cooked. If you cook it too long, shrimps get rubbery, so keep a close eye on it.   It should only be 2, maybe 3 minutes.   Pull off heat, toss in parsley and put in a serving dish (so that you don't keep cooking the shrimp from the heat of the pan).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Patatas bravas

I love potatoes. While we do not eat them often, perhaps once in 3 or 4 months, I prefer to eat Patatas Bravas to almost anything else...even french fries! And to those who know me well, know I was a french fry addict.

The tangy, spicy tomato sauce is just so much better than ketchup... although there is a great restaurant called DMK which makes it's own house ketchup that is pretty spectacular and they have grass fed/finished burgers that are SO good. ummm...I just ate and I'm hungry again. ;)

Anyway.. back to patatas bravas...the first time I had it was at a small place in Madrid called Jaime's that has some of the best food... the bravas and the gambas...the champiñones (mushrooms)....  oh, my goodness, so good.  We went back two nights in a row!

Patatas Bravas

Potatoes in Spicy Tomato sauce

  •  2 lb potatoes, any kind
  • lard or some fat for frying
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 teaspoons sweet paprika (pimenton)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (more or less) cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup of water
Peal and cut the potatoes into bite size cubes (about 3/4 inches).  Rinse, drain and dry the potatoes.

Keep the oil to the side and warm while you make the sauce.  Or you can make the sauce first and keep that warm.

Heat oil/fat for frying, take out 2 tablespoons for doing up the sauce once the oil is hot.  Once the oil/fat is hot, cook the potatoes (as if you were making french fries) in batches. Set to drain on a paper towel. 

Start up the tomato sauce by using the 2 tablespoons of oil/fat once and bring it up to heat. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add garlic, cayenne, paprika and saute for about 2 minutes on medium low heat.  Add tomatoes, bay leaf, 1/3 cup of water and cook until tomatoes break down to a sauce like consistency.

Put the sauce on top of the potatoes and serve. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chorizo en Sidra

Chorizo en Sidra in Madrid, Spain at a lovely little tapas place
The BF's favorite dish!

Spanish Chorizo is very different from Mexican Chorizo. While I like both of them very much, I don't think you can substitute Mexican for Spanish Chorizo and get anything of Spanish dish. 

Spanish Chorizo has such a distinct taste and mouth feel... that I wouldn't want to substitute.  But, if you cannot find it and do not wish to order online,   Cooks Thesaurus suggests kielbasa, pepperoni,linguisa (hotter) or other dry-cured pork sausage as substitutions... and you can have a go with it if you want.  Just note, they say you can sub mexican chorizo as well, and I can tell you that would not work at all for this recipe.

So what are the differences between Spanish and Mexican Chorizo?

Spanish Chorizo:
  • lower fat content
  • more finely ground
  • deep red in color because they contain pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • seasoned with sweet paprika and garlic
  • cured, rather hard like pepperoni or salami
Mexican Chorizo:
  • higher fat content, chunkier ground
  • seasoned with chili peppers and vinegar
  • not cured, more like breakfast sausages in consistency

Chorizo en Sidra

Chorizo in Cider 

  • 3 teaspoons butter or ghee
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika or pimenton (if you can get it)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 chorizo, sliced diagonally (I do thin slices, since it cooks faster and the cider melds into the meat better but you can do as you wish)
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat the butter in a saucepan over low heat, add onion and cook until translucent.  Add paprika and cook for a minute.

Increase heat to medium and add the cider, stock and bay leaf to the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add Chorizo and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add vinegar and stir.  Add parsley, season.  Serve.

Note: for the cider - if you can get Spanish cider, brilliant!  However, if not, I've used Woodchuck Granny Apple Draft Cider and it works out well.  It has the bite that some of the sweeter hard ciders don't - which is what you are looking for - something with a tang.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

For Joe - Albondigas

The meatballs for Tapas night were done a bit fast and so some broke up a bit.  The secret to the meatballs not breaking up is to place them in a well oiled pan (or even better a non-stick pan), cook on medium low heat and wait.  You are waiting for each side to cook through and get a nice crust before turning them to the next side....and to make them a bit small.... golf ball sized or so. 


Meatballs in tomato sauce

Meatball ingredients:
  • 6 oz ground pork
  • 6 oz ground beef or veal (If you are going to use veal, please use rose veal which is humane )
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • salt and pepper to taste
 Tomato sauce ingredients (spicy):
  • 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or sherry)
  • 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes (or diced) or approximately the same of fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your heat level)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed.
Combine the pork, beef/veal, garlic, spices and egg. Mix by hand refrigerate, covered for 30 minutes. (you know I didn't do that part. *grin*  But, it may make it a bit more solid to work with.)

Heat butter/ghee on medium heat and add onion, cook until translucent, about 3 min. Add garlic, cook for about a minute.  Raise the heat to high, add wine and bring to boil.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste and stock.  Simmer for about 10 min.  Add cayenne.   Keep on a very low heat, just so that it stays warm and start up on the meatballs.

Take meat mixture and make golf ball sized meatballs.  Heat ghee or butter in pan and place meatballs in pan taking care not to let them touch.  You may need to make multiple batches.  Cook for about a min or so on each side or done to your taste.   Once all the meatballs are done, put them in the sauce.  Add peas and bring up to temp on medium low heat. 


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tapas Night

A few nights ago I made tapas for dinner - because I had planned to cook and I was going to cook.  No matter that I had come home late from work and wasn't prepared at all for the feast.

Tapas night
And since it was not very well planned dinner - it was quite late when we ate and not all the dishes planned were made.  But as you can from the "Tapas Night" picture - there is a good quantity of food. Starting at bottom center and going clockwise: Chorizo en sidre (in cider), Patatas bravas (potatoes in tomato sauce), Albondigas (meatballs, actually meatball in this case. *grin*), Gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic butter sauce).

Scallops and chard
We were suppose to have Acelgas con pasas y pinones (rainbow chard with raisins and pine nuts) but just didn't have enough time.  I made it a few days later with scallops but I don't think the flavors worked as well as it would have done with the Tapas meal.

I would say if you plan to make a tapas dinner give yourself a hour or two.  Most of the stuff I made was quick - but there is a lot of cutting, chopping and basic prep that needs to be done and well ... tapas is all about little samples of food.  So, lots of dishes.

And if you are motivated to make Tapas - more power to you!  Here and here are a sites I like for quite a few dishes - I haven't tried them all but the ones I have tried turned out good.  I also recommend ordering from La Tienda as they have a great selection of Spanish meats that you can get delivered.  I ordered the Iberico + Serrano Duo for the BF a few Christmas' ago, which he liked very much.  They also have proper Spanish Chorizo - which we use to order but lucky for us our local meat market, Paulina, carries it now and so I don't have to plan too far ahead.

Since Chard is currently in season and has been looking very bright and fresh at the farmers' markets, that is the first recipe I will post up.  And, as I've been slacking for a bit... I'll make this easy on myself and just post up a recipe in the next few days for the other items from Tapas night.

Acelgas con Pasas y Pinones

Chard with raisins and pine nuts

  • 1 lb chard
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (unless you are like me and like more)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small red onion or shallot - sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
Wash the chard, trim and shred the leaves into bite size pieces.
In a cup, set raisins in some boiling water to rehydrate - this should just take enough time for the chard to have cooked through.
In a frying pan over medium heat, lightly brown the pine nuts and set to the side.

Heat butter, add onion and cook over low heat until softened. Add garlic.  Saute over medium heat for about a minute until garlic is fragrant.  Add the chard and give a quick stir.  When the char wilts, add the raisins (strained of the water) and the pine nuts.  season and serve.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Great egg hunt picture

So, the Boston Globe had a great "egg hunt" picture and the Atlantic this time line article about the egg recalls.

Last month the nation wide recall of eggs seemed to bring some level of awareness of just how bad our food system has gotten.

Will it change how we buy things? perhaps for some people.

Will it change how we process our food.... unfortunately, I think not.  According to the Atlantic article, DeCoster the owner of the chicken farm "has done business in Turner, Maine, his hometown, for over 60 years—and has incurred a decades-long list of violations there. DeCoster's history of legal cases in Maine demonstrates that the more recent labor, environmental, and public health offenses are part of a long pattern that continues today, and in several states."

If you have 60 years worth of can you possibly still be allowed to process food?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three marinades for Flank or Skirt Steaks

I love both Flank and Skirt Steaks.  They are both very economical and tasty cuts of meat and while I use them interchangeably for cooking purposes - they do taste a bit different.  Saveur has a great little piece on "Know Your Cuts" which define the difference between Skirt and Flank.

All of the recipes grill the steaks and I'm lucky in that I have a lovely cast iron grill pan.  But, you can broil it if you don't have a way to grill the steak up.

The first one is from Alton Brown, who I love for introducing me to the science of cooking.  He has this great Skirt Steak recipe that is brilliant for both taste and speed.  Most of the marinades require some time to both tenderize the meat and meld the flavors.  This one said a hour - but I didn't marinade it at all - and it was still very tasty.

Skirt Steak

  • 1/2 cup melted butter - cooled
  • 1/3 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 large cloves garlic 
  • 1/4 cup lime juice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 tsp brown sugar or honey (optional)
  • 2 pounds inside skirt steak, cut into 3 equal pieces  
Puree everything (except the meat!) in a blender.  Put the marinade on the meat.  Grill.  Eat. Yum. 

So this is Emeril's recipe for Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce which we had for dinner tonight.  It does need some time to marinade into the meat.  I did a hour - but I do think that Emeril's recommendation for a minimum of 3 hours is true enough.  I did end up changing this quite a bit.

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 5 large leaves of basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 large shallot or 2 small ones
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red chili pepper
  • skirt steak
In a blender or food processor, put butter, vinegar, lemon, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper, chili and blend into a nice paste.  Take 1/2 the paste and marinade the steak.   Grill the steak.  Plate and spoon over a bit of the left over paste.  It will melt into the good!

This recipe is from "Earth to the Table" by John Ash and works really well as fajitas.  Since your grilling anyway - pop on some bell peppers and sliced onions... and you are good to go.  Who needs tortillas? :)  I haven't found a great solution to olive oil in cooking for recipes like this which need to be marinated for a long time.  Since the moment you stick this in the fridge the butter, coconut oil or palm oil solidifies.  As soon as I figure out a option... I'll let you all know.

Flank Steak in Lime-Chipotle Sauce

  • 1/2 tablespoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce ( more or less depending upon your heat levels - this is very mild because the BF can't do too hot.)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup hearty red wine (I usually use a Merlot or Rojas ... depending on what had been opened)
  • 1/2 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
  • steak
In a large bowl, mix chipotle, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, wine, and tamari and blend well.  In a zip-lock bag, put in the steak and marinade. Marinade the steak for at least 4 hours but it works best overnight. Once you are ready, cook up the steak. Slice thinly, against the grain.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

GMO Salmon... yup.. that's what we need

Discovery News published a article today about how the FDA is getting ready to approve the sale of genetically modified salmon for consumption.

I don't understand why we keep mucking around with plants and animals with traits that aren't even within the same species/genus.  At least in this case we stuck with another fish. :)    But, do we really need to make fish grow faster?  For what? 

I know I am completely wacko about GMO -- but I don't think anything we have done to date has proven completely beneficial.
  • The corn and soy GMO's created so that they are "Round-up ready" has introduced a new, stronger variant of weeds that are able to withstand Round-up.   
  • In North Dakota, GM canola plants have cross pollinated with wild plants.   see here
  • There are concerns that GMO food can cause/promote food allergies (see here for a list of some of the benefits and concerns from the Human Genome Project).  Either due to allergen genes being placed into a product.  Say peanuts into wheat.  Or, a new allergen being created due to the modification.  Since the US does not require labeling - there is no way to know if a food source is a GMO and/or what has been added.
  • Aside from impacting bio-diversity - we may also be changing the macro environment.  By the cross pollination that is occurring, we cannot say what it is doing to both the wild plant and/or animal life. What are the impacts to wild life such as birds to the new "wild" GM plants found in ND?
  • And do I really trust agri-business to make sure that what they are selling me is real food.  Here is a 2003 article from Seattle PI where they state that "pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche, which manufactures the dyes, provides salmon manufacturers with swatches of pink hues arranged in a fan formation, much like one would find at a paint store. They call it the "SalmoFan." Dye for the selected shade is then added to the salmon's processed food pellets."  This was done to fool customers into thinking that they were buying wild salmon not farmed. 
In our focus to produce as much food as we can - we have with "traditional" (agri-business) farming produced foods that are less nutrient dense than they were before we mucked around them.  And, still the information isn't out there to the average person that only by eating heirloom / organic are they going to be able to get all the nutrients that should be available in a vegetable or fruit.   What are the implications of a GMO product in the food chain to both us and the planet at large?

If these fish get accidental released into the wild -what will it do to our wild salmon populations?  And, do I really believe that there won't be a accidental release? From this 1997 report ... "Escapes of Farmed Salmon from Pens: Just this year, 300,000 Atlantic salmon were released into Puget Sound when their pens were accidentally ripped open. In Norway, where as many as 1.3 million salmon escape from farms each year, one third of the salmon spawning in coastal rivers are not wild, but escaped salmon. ..."   1/3rd of the salmon spawning in 1997 were not wild! What does that make the numbers now??

Per the Monterey Bay Aquarium... farmed salmon is on the do not buy list because of accidental releases, parasites and diseases being transferred to wild salmon, waste being directly released into the oceans...etc. And yet... we want to add to this by putting GM fish into the mix.

It makes me so angry that we are so short sighted. :(

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pork Braised in Cream

I have discovered that pork braised in milk / cream is incredibly tasty. May not be the best looking meal - but OMG so yummy.

I had grown up eating pork which is tenderized using vinegar and is also tasty but there is a acidity to it that sometimes I'm not in the mood for.   But with milk, the meat is tender and no acidity. A win/win.

So, here is one of the recipes I have for pork braised in milk/cream.  Since it's the one in the picture... it seemed like a good choice. no? :P

Pork Chops Braised in Tomato Cream with Mushrooms

  • 2 pork chops 
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped (canned are fine, Roma or caprese) 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 1/4 cup porcini (which I didn't have so I used fresh Shiitake) 
  • 1/2 cup button mushrooms (or baby portabella)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt
  • pepper
In a nice sized pan, melt the butter and brown the pork chops.   Once the chops have a nice brown to them,  add the white wine to deglaze the pan.  Let the wine simmer for a minute or so, add the tomatoes, cream, porcini mushrooms, salt and pepper.    Simmer, covered (with a slight gap to let the steam out) for 45 minutes.  Turn the chops a few times during the 45 minutes. 

About 10 minutes before your timer goes off for the chops, saute the button mushrooms in a pan with some butter.  Check the chops, they should be tender.  If so, add the sauteed mushrooms to the pan and simmer uncovered for 5-7 minutes so that the flavors meld.  If the meat isn't tender, continue to braise until ready.  Check on salt and pepper.  Serve.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grilled Salmon with Basil Cream sauce and mixed colored beans

I was working late today and seafood is always so quick and easy.   So it was the quick wander through my favorite cookbooks to see what I wanted to make and I found a odd recipe using basil with salmon.  I've had parsley and cilantro with Salmon.  But, I do not recall ever seeing a Basil and Salmon recipe.  And, well, my garden Basil is quite full... with the idea that I will make pesto soon.

So, this is a fairly easy recipe - since I didn't have everything the original called for... I did end up adapting it to meet my pantry's offerings.  I made many substitutions and so can only give you what I made which turned out quite well.

If you want the original it's in From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine. The actual title is "Grilled Salmon with Roasted White Corn Salsa and Warm Basil Cream" but we didn't have the Corn Salsa as we don't eat grains.

Salmon with Basil Cream Sauce

  • 2 6oz pieces of Salmon 
  • 2 - 3 tablespoon ghee or butter, melted but not hot - since you are going to be using it for the marinade and you don't want to cook the fish before hand
  • dried parsley (mostly because that is all I had - but if you have fresh that would be good too)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • handful of basil leaves, chiffonade or roughly chopped (depending on how fancy you want to get)
  • 1/8 tablespoon (eyeball it) of chopped green onion (whites only) or shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine (dry)
  • 1/4 cup water (if you have stock even better but ours was all frozen)
  • 1/8 cup chopped Roma tomato (optional)
Put 1 tablespoon of ghee/butter, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl or zip lock bag. Mix and then add the salmon.  Leave to marinade for a bit - 20 min or so.   In the mean time, chop up your other ingredients.  Prep your grill pan or outdoor grill so that it is nice and hot.  Put the Salmon to cook - depending on thickness from 4 -8 min each side.  I usually do only do the side with the skin on it so that the other side doesn't get stuck to my grill pan and place a lid on them so that the heat cooks the Salmon all the way through.

While the Salmon is cooking. Pull out a fry pan and on medium heat put the remaining ghee/butter in the pan. Once hot, add onion and garlic and brown it lightly.  Add white white (carefully! I usually lower the heat to nothing so that I don't accidentally start up a fire. ).  Bring up the heat to medium, add water/stock and simmer until it is 1/2 of the volume. Add basil and let it wilt a bit.  Add cream and lower heat so that the cream doesn't burn.  Mix for a bit until the basil has flavored the cream - say 2 - 5 min.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.   If you decided to put the tomato in, you would do so now.  Since you don't really want the tomato cooked - but warmed with the cream sauce.

Plate the Salmon, put sauce on top and your good to go. 

Now if you want to make the beans.... it is so easy! They are just steamed and tossed in some butter/ghee with onions and garlic.


Beans in butter

  • beans - green, wax, purple - whatever looks lovely at market 
  • 3-4 tablespoons ghee or butter 
  • water to steam the beans 
  • finely chopped green onion or shallots or regular onion (if you used the white for the salmon, you can use up the tops easily enough) 
  • 1 clove garlic - finely chopped 

Steam the beans until they are cooked to desired consistency. Set aside. Heat ghee/butter in a pan and once hot add onions and garlic. Cook until lightly brown. Add the beans and give it a quick stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Done! So easy, breezy and yummy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomatoes, Tomatoes everywhere

It is finally tomato season and Chicago's Green City Market has been having a lovely showing of tomatoes.  Big tomatoes. Little tomatoes. Red Tomatoes and green. 

But apparently - I took pictures of only little ones.  The Golden Honey are really wonderful.  And the Mexican Midget - aside from the funny name - has the strongest tomato flavor I have ever tasted.

I used some of the Mexican Midget's for a shepherds pie I made the other day and wow!  Tomato flavor with very little liquid.  

You know how sometimes you have to cook down a large tomato to get that tomato essence?  That pop of tomato flavor?  Well, these little babies are great for that pop and still let me be a bit of a slacker.

And, some non-tomato tomatoes, such as these. The lovely, pineapple ground cherry.   Which I've been eating like candy. So yummy!

Below is my current collection of tomatoes.  Yellow Roma's at the top are from my neighbor Jill.  As are the small round orange cherry tomatoes.  The big red tomato is a heirloom and probably a Black Krim. The yellow ones at the bottom are unknown at the moment - but very very good.  And the ones at the very right that look a bit like baby Tomatillo's... are my collection of pineapple ground cherry and actually taste like pineapples! So cool!

I was hoping for tomatoes from our garden - but that didn't happen this year. I love fresh off the vine tomatoes.  Perhaps next. 

The farmer's market is the next best thing.  If you have a market going .... and tomatoes are up.... see if you can get any of the heirlooms or sort-of heirlooms.

Green Zebras while technically not a heirloom are lovely, eating tomatoes, sweet and so very juicy.
Cherokee Purple are another one I grew a few years back and are tasty eating.  These are great for cooking as well. A soft tomato-y taste. Not like the Mexican Midget's. :)

The lovely lemon shaped ones at the bottom in the picture above (yes, yes, I know ... I have to find out what they are) are nice and crisp and went well with the milk braised pork we had for dinner tonight.

Jill's yellow Roma's don't taste like Roma tomatoes to me but are very good and if I had a ton of space to plant all the tomatoes I wanted... well, they would make my list.

As you can see... I am a tomato head at the moment. It is such a short lived season. Between that and all the berries -- I'm in fruit heaven.  Thankfully, it is a short season. *grin*

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blueberry French Toast - Gluten Free!

I found a new site that is brilliant.  The person had posted up a coconut flour based blueberry french toast that turned out SO GOOD!

Since I didn't change a thing (shocking!).

I'm just going to link to the recipe at
Grain-Free Foodies and you can just check out the rest of their stuff.

Here is also a picture that the BF took of our breakfast this morning...

Bacon is from Twin Oak Meats which is SO YUMMY.. especially when we can get their peppered bacon. OMG!  If you get a chance... it is so good! I try every week to get some at Green City Market ... if only I was a morning person!  But, sometimes - we get lucky - and get a package of the pepper bacon.  This was the regular streaky bacon - which is also good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peas and pancetta...

We made peas and pancetta for dinner the other night and it was SO YUMMY!  As you can see, in the top left corner,  the scallops were the main.

I do love how quickly one can cook up scallops and have a "nice" dinner.  You know, the dinners that you go out and pay heaps of money.... and think...yummy!

This is one of those meals. And, quick too! How much better than that can you get?  I will say the meal itself is a bit on the salty side - since pancetta is salty and well... so are scallops.  But, flavor wise, a great combo - especially with the creaminess of the scallops in mushroom cream sauce.

I got the recipe from Michael Symon's cookbook "Live to Cook" - which I thought was a great name and so had to buy it.  Ok... so I did look inside first to see if there was anything that I would be willing to cook and eat.  Lucky for both of us -- there were heaps of stuff that looked yummy! After all, how can you not buy a book that has a whole chapter dedicated to pickles?! :)

Peas and Pancetta

  • 1/4 pound Pancetta, thickly sliced and then diced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 cup peas (I used frozen and thawed but I would love to taste this with fresh peas)
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped)
  • Kosher salt (or sea salt)
In a saute pan, cook the Pancetta until crispy.  about 5 min. Add shallots and garlic - sweat  - about a minute. Add peas, if using thawed peas - just until they are warm. If using fresh, until they are cooked. Remove from flame, toss in parsley.
Taste - add salt if needed. 

Now, Michael Symon uses orange juice in his version. I'm sure it is good but we were/are avoiding the extra sugar. And, I don't really think this needs the sweetness.  He also suggests putting this dish with fish such as grilled salmon or halibut.  But, since we have scallops - well - you know how that goes.

Here is a picture of the finished product.... thanks to the BF for both pictures. Otherwise, you would have none. I'm really trying to get better about taking pictures... sigh... but ... this involves planning... or some such thing. ok... it needs a camera too.

The two little round things... are tomatoes from the farmer's market.  They are called sun gold tomatoes which were last weeks favorite tomato.

This week...... well... I guess, I'll have to take pictures and let you know. :) 

Friday, August 13, 2010

thai chicken vs. thai basil chicken

I've made multiple versions of Thai chicken now and I still don't see a significant difference between Thai basil chicken and Thai chicken (from the recipes I have tried).

Here is one I like best which is from The Atlantic (I think but I cannot find it on their site anymore).

Thai Meat Salad

  • 5 ounces lean pork or chicken, hand-minced, This is an important step, and takes about two minutes with a sharp knife. Chop until meat is very fine and resembles ground chicken or pork. The texture will be much better than machine ground meat.
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 3 shallots, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large handful fresh mint, coriander and spring onions, in roughly equal parts, chopped OR 1 cup of Thai basil or holy basil (Italian doesn't taste right but can be used if you wish) slivers
  • 1 Kaffir lime leaf, rolled up and then sliced into tiny slivers (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (more, if you like it sour)
  • 1.5 to 2 tablespoon good fish sauce (I use a bit less since I don't like fishy)
  • ½ teaspoon roasted chili powder
  • a handful of cashews (optional)
Heat stock and garlic in a small pan and season with some salt (and sugar - if you use sugar - I do sometimes put in a drop of honey if it tastes like it needs sweetness but for the most part I don't bother)
Add minced meat and cook quickly, stirring, until the meat is fluffy and cooked through--about 3-5 minutes is all you'll need.
Remove from heat and add lime juice, fish sauce, chili flakes, and taste. There should be a sweet, salty, spicy and sour balance. If not, adjust.
Toss with fresh herbs and shallots. Cashews if you wanted to have a crunch.
serve immediately.

If you are pressed for time... the minced chicken works well enough.  It really does taste better if you chop up the meat yourself - but this is such a nice quick meal - I have totally slacked on occasion and used ground chicken instead of doing it up myself. :)

You can put these in lettuce - for lettuce wraps.  Or eat it plain like we tend to do.  Boston/Butter lettuce works well as it has nice big leaves.

A nice side to this is a cucumber salad.  We got a lovely Persian cucumber from the farmer's market last week and I have to say it is one of my favorite variety of cucumber.  I just slice it up with some rice wine vinegar, a drop of honey and some shallots diced up.  If you have some nice tomatoes that would be lovely in there as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Big Agra - whoo whoo

Ok, this shouldn't be new to anyone.... but apparently the National Cattlemen's Beef Association used marketing money generated under the Checkoff program for lobbying purposes.  Both the NY Times and the Atlantic had good coverage on the misuse of funds.

What I don't understand is why the beef industry even needs to be in the checkoff program.  Since the program is suppose to "improve the market position of the covered commodity by expanding markets, increasing demand, and developing new uses and markets" - I don't see where beef doesn't have the market covered.  Aside from soy-burgers (which really isn't a beef alternative) -- what is the competition?  Don't they have the market cornered on beef?

No wonder we don't have real farmer's anymore ... it's impossible to out spend the large businesses.  The only good thing out of this is as the Atlantic put it we can "Chalk one up for this administration's attempt to be transparent".  I honestly don't think we need to be providing subsidies to agri-business.  Once food becomes a production process and people are removed from it, one doesn't know how much is propaganda and how much is real (as in this case with Fair Oaks Farms who promote themselves as a small family run farm but until I read the article and found out it wasn't - which kinda pissed me off since I made a major effort to find their brand at one point).

Another rant done. :)

Basically, get to know your local farmer, buy local, organic - as most small farmer's are organic and sustainable (too expensive to buy all those chemicals).  :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why? Why do food processors put sugar in everything?

So, I can no longer buy my from my favorite bacon vendor.  I am so sad.

I use to buy bacon from Wallace once a month as that was how often he came into the city.  So, last go I bought a lot of bacon not knowing that he had changed his recipe for curing bacon.  Apparently, it was a choice between nitrates and/or sugar.  I do not know why that is the choice.

But, cane sugar doesn't agree with me.  And, really, I don't want sugar in my diet from sources that do not need sugar.  I just don't get why we have to put sugar in everything! no wonder we all get fat.

Anyway, I'm now on a quest for a new bacon provider.  Sigh... more work.

I'm actually asked the BF what he thought about possibly making my own bacon. but that would definitely be more work. *grin*

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beef and cranberry - a odd combo that works

So, we just got back from holiday and have no veg in the fridge but we are never short on meat.  One of the nice things about being in a CSA and having a freezer to store all the bounty - is that you are never short on food. Anyway - I pulled out some pot roast and took stock of what we had -- dried cranberries that I normally use for salads, onions, garlic, 1/2 bag of frozen peas.... umm. It was going to be tough.

Off to the web I go to see what I can find to make with my meager rations.  I found this recipe on BBC Food that might actually work.   OK, I wasn't going to use the recipe exactly - but then again - when do I?  I must say, at the end of the day - YUM. it works.  However, I did go to the grocery store and that helped as well.*grin*  Since the picture made me think of mash potatoes and well, once I get something like that in my pea brain... well, I had to go shopping.

So, too make mash potatoes that are lower in carbs - do a percentage of the "potatoes" with cauliflower.   I made ours with 2/3 cauliflower and 1/3 potato and lots of butter, cream and cheddar cheese.  The BF dislikes the taste of cauliflower, but he did like this version.  So, if you are minding your carbohydrate intake but do not like cauliflower, this might be a option. It does taste great with this stew.

Braised Beef with Cranberries

  • 1-2 pounds braising steak/pot roast cut into 1" pieces
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups stock (beef, chicken, veg, even plain water will do)
  • 4 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons for browning beef and onions

brown beef in butter or bacon fat, pull out and set to a side.  You may need to brown the beef in batches, depending upon how big your dutch oven or oven safe pot is. Then, brown onions
once onion are browned, add the wine and give it a good stir.  Basically deglazing the pan, by getting all those nice dark bits from the bottom of your pan into the sauce. Add in stock, beef, cranberries and bring liquid up to a simmer.  At this point the liquid should be covering the beef. Cover pot loosely and cook on low heat for a minimum of 1 1/2 hrs.  You want the liquid to be a low bubble and just enough venting on the cover so that it doesn't boil in the pot. 

Note: the amount of stock and wine is based upon how much sauce you want and how long you want to braise the beef.  I braised mine for about 5 hrs and so used a lot more stock and wine.

Cranberries - you need to look at the ingredient list carefully on dried cranberries.  Actually, dried fruit in general, since they tend to add sugar and sulfur to the product.  Health food stores usually have dried fruit that does not have sugar added and is sulfur free.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm slacking...

but this did entertain me, even has paleo refs! How great is that? :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pulled Beef Short Ribs

ok, ok, ok... I don't know why I've been making such time intensive meals the last few days.  But, I had a taste for short ribs.  And, all the recipes I have had carrots in them.   One thing we didn't have are carrots.  Apparently, I've been on a carrot kick and the BF is somewhat sick of them.  So, I was banned from buying carrots this weekend at the farmer's market.  *grin*

We did have onions, beer and lemons.  OMG - this ended up SO good!  But, it is a LOT of work compared with other beef short rib recipes.  I use two different pans for this. 1) cast iron skillet to brown up the ribs and 2) cast iron Dutch oven for the braising - but if you don't want the extra clean up you can do it all in the Dutch oven.

Also, you can break this out into multiple days which we ended up doing by accident.  I didn't realize that separating the meat and bone would make so much of a difference in both taste and ease of eating.  Although, I'm sure you can figure out the later when you have the short rib still on the bone.  If your doing this all in one day, it will take about 5 or 6 hours.

Beer Braised Pulled Short Ribs

  • 3 pounds beef short ribs
  • 1 good porter - I highly recommend Bell's
  • 1 really large onion (or two normal sized ones) - sliced thinly
  • 2 garlic - sliced thinly
  • 3 thick slices of lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 celery stick - chopped roughly
  • parsley (if you have fresh great! you just need a few sprigs - if not - about 3-4 tbsp dry)
  • chicken stock or water - enough to cover the short ribs well (approximately 3 cups)
  • bacon fat - enough to brown up the beef and saute the onions

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Salt and pepper the beef and brown in a pan. I use two different pans for this, a fry pan to brown the beef and a dutch oven to braise the ribs. If you choose to use only the dutch oven, then pull out the beef and set it on the side and then saute the onions.  Otherwise, heat up the dutch oven while the meat is browning and saute the onions.

Add garlic to the onions and stir it for about a minute.  Add beer to onions and garlic mixture, cook down a bit (about 5 min).  Add beef and bring liquid to a soft boil/simmer.

Place pot in the oven for 2 hrs.  And, if you are like me and working from home - back to work you go. Otherwise - do whatever you would normally do for the next 2 hours. TV anyone? 

Pull it out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature so that you can handle the meat.  You can even pull the meat out and place it on a separate plate to cool.

When you can easily hold the meat in your hands - remove the gristle and bones. Place the meat in one container, the bones in another and the gristle in the garbage. If you are doing this over multiple days, place the meat in the fridge.  

Put the bones into the dutch oven with the juices/liquid that has been there from the braising
simmer/low boil the bones and liquid until liquid is 1/2 to 3/4 gone (this is a few hours - depending upon how high you have the heat).

Strain the liquid and add the meat which you have either pulled by hand or you can pull with a fork
cook until liquid is all gone.

Now you can do this in many stages over a few days and it will taste better for it.  The lemon isn't overwhelming - but it does make the house smell lemony.  Which is a good thing, no? ;)

I really need to get a new camera so I can take pictures of the food... but that is on hold for a bit.  So, I'll just put up random images unless the BF is sweet and takes a picture of the meal.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mutton! Mut-ton! Muuuuuttttttttoooon.

When my cousins were in from India and my sister's were taking them out for a meal post some sight-seeing event .... they would inevitably ask if the restaurant served mutton.  Now, mutton is a very popular meat in India and so they were quite shocked to find out that hardly anyone serves mutton in the US.   They were also surprised that we ate so much beef.

Now, we are catholic... (well, culturally) ... and so beef isn't the same taboo it would be for someone who is Hindu. But, Indian's in general don't tend to eat a lot of beef in India.

Anyway - guess what we got in our CSA yesterday? Mutton! LOL.  Sure, when the cousin's aren't here to eat any.  However,  my mum should enjoy the curry I'm making for tomorrow.   But, as always - I did hack it up a bit.

The BF helped cook it and laughed when I said to put in a bit of peanut butter. *shrug* we didn't have any peanuts in the house and after shopping already half the day -- I just didn't want to go to another store.  :)

Here is the recipe. You are welcome to hack away at it as well. It is a lot of ingredients - sorry!  Remember, it's Indian food - you can ad-lib all you want and measurements of ingredients is very optional.

Mutton Curry

  • 2 1/2 pounds meat from shoulder or leg of mutton
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (more if you like spicy)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped/ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped/ground peanuts
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon white poppy seeds (khas khas)
  • 3 brown cardamom pods (I only had green so that was what was used)
  • 8 small green cardamom - seeds pulled out from the husk and crushed  (I only used 3, since I had done up 3 already)
  • 14-16 peppercorns
  • 8-10 cloves (whole)
  • pinch of nutmeg powder
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons coconut (desiccated - no sugar added)
  • 2 inch piece of ginger - chopped roughly
  • 12 - 13 medium garlic cloves - sliced / chopped roughly
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • 2 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 1/4 cups yogurt (use a thick yogurt like Brown Cow or FAGE - whole cream)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes - liquid separated
  • 1 teaspoon garam masalla
  • fresh coriander leaves

whew. now that you have all the ingredients. you do right?

Here is what you do with all of that....

Cut the meat into 1 inch cubes and put to the side.

In a pan over moderate heat, toast the coriander powder for a few seconds.  Add almonds, peanuts (if you substitute with peanut butter, wait until later when putting everything in the blender), cumin seeds, poppy seeds, 3 whole cardamom pods, cloves, peppercorns, nutmeg, coconut --- stir until you smell the aroma of roasting spices. (about 1 1/2 min). Toss in the ginger, garlic and red chili powder and toss the whole thing (well, not the pan) into the blender.  Add some water and blend until a nice paste like consistency.  

Heat the ghee/butter in a pot (fairly large pot as you are going to be adding loads of stuff to the pot). Add onions and the crushed seeds from the cardamom to the pot. Saute until onions are browned. Add the blended spices and turmeric powder, mix and fry for 4 to 5 minutes. Add yogurt a bit at a time, allowing any liquids to cook out.  Or, if you are lazy like me - dump it all in and then stir until all the liquid is gone - but it is not quicker and might be even more work - since you can not let yogurt cook on too high of a heat as it will break up and you need keep stirring or else it will break up.

Once yogurt has dried up - add the tomatoes (no liquid) and stir up.  Cook until tomatoes have softened, it should be fairly dry still at this point. Something like a puree or thick sauce. Add meat, stir. Add tomato liquid, stir. Make sure that meat is covered by the curry - if not - add water until it is nicely covered.
Once it starts to simmer, cover and cook for 2 hrs.  Stirring occasionally. 

Sprinkle garam masala and chopped coriander leaves. Stir. Serve.

If you want you can make it more curry like by adding water 1/2 way through the cooking process.  Or more dry - by not adding water and allowing for the last 1/2 hr to cook uncovered.  Or to continue cooking until you get the liquid consistency you want.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cartoon Thursday

I'm not so sure I can find a cartoon for every Thursday... but, I'll make the attempt. :)

This is from a comic strip called Committed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Orleans duex

We had some andouille sausages I wanted to use and as you know, I'm in a New Orleans kind of mood. So, I was browsing the Gumbo Pages and found this recipe that uses andouille sausage. Now, I have to admit to being very bad and hardly following the recipe at all. I was planning to and I will do so next time. But, this version came up pretty darn good.

Black Eyed Peas and Andouille Sausage Soup/Stew

  • 1/2 pound black-eyed peas
  • 2 Andouille Sausages  - pan fried and cut into bite size pieces
  • 5 oz ham (I had some left over in the freezer from a dinner we had done up a bit ago)
  • 6 cups beef stock (well that was what I had in the fridge since we had just done up some beef stock)
  • 2 tbsp Cajun spices (I used Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning )
  • 1 large onion - chopped finely
  • 1 large bell pepper - chopped finely (red since the BF doesn't like green, go figure)
  • 2 bay leaves handful of parsley leaves - roughly chopped
  • butter to saute
In a hot pan, saute the onions and bell pepper in butter until onions are softened, about 5 min.

Add Cajun seasoning and give it a quick stir. Add bay leaf, stock, black eyed peas - simmer for about 10-15 min.

During the simmering time, cook up the sausages and cut them into bite size pieces.

Put in sausages, ham and parsley.

Simmer for a few min - until the black eyed peas are done to a consistency you like.

We did eat it with a wee bit of sourdough bread that I got from Gene's. Best sourdough I've bought outside of San Fran.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Orleans

Yes, yes, I know - everyone has something to say about BP, the gov't and the oil muck-up.

I have been telling the BF that I feel that we need to go down to NO to support the businesses there. Can you imagine the lousy luck - Katrina, Jindal, BP. The triumvirate of tribulation.

Here is a article about P & J who will now be importing oysters from the west coast to LA.Can you imagine? A company which has been around since 1876 - being forced due to this fiasco to buy from the west coast.  And, you know that NO people pride themselves on their seafood.  Now chefs in NO are finding creative ways to deal with the loss of seafood.  But, chicken livers?  I don't like oysters but I don't think that chicken livers and oysters taste anything like each other.  I actually kind of like chicken liver. *blush*

Anyway - due to my affinity of what is going on down in Louisiana - the BF has been having a New Orleans themed meals (for the few meals I've cooked this week - god, but I hate painting!) .

Here is a recipe for Shrimp Etouffee that I got from Gumbo Pages which is based on a combo of  Mom's recipe and Perry's .

Shrimp Etouffee

  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup minced bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1 cup cold water (more if you wish more soupier mix)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Creole seasoning blend, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tomato - pealed
Heat the butter in a saute pan and saute the onion, bell pepper and celery until the translucent. Add the Creole seasoning, thyme, oregano, bay leaf - quick stir it to just warm up the spices a bit. Add tomato, stir it up. Add water. Simmer for about 10 - 15 min.
Once the liquid is almost gone - add in the shrimp. Cook it through.  You know shrimp are done once they are nicely pink - but pull off as soon as that happens or they will get rubbery. Since we aren't eating rice - I tend to make my sauces a bit thicker - hence the "once the liquid is almost gone".  If you want a soupier mix, just keep more liquids. Or add more water.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

WI and the new prohibition

WI has been having ongoing debates about raw milk.  Apparently their Senate passed the resolution to allow the sale of raw milk but the Governor vetoed it - even after he said he would not veto the bill.

I do like this cartoon from WI State Journal

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Another reason to buy heirloom vegetables

I tend to do random Google searches while waiting for things to finish up.  One day a friend of the BF had stated she looks for nutrient dense foods.    So, what the heck, I looked up nutrient density and foods... and this Times article from 2/2009 popped up.  With a header of: "Eating Your Veggies: Not As Good For You?"  --- you know I was definitely going to read it.

Apparently vegetables from supermarkets are have less nutrients than they had even 50 years ago. The article covered what Davis wrote in his 2009, Journal of HortScience, article - but having read Taubes - I needed more information/documentation to make sure it wasn't just this one off scientist saying the sky is falling. (see below - while there is quite a lot of references to Davis' work, there are quite a few other studies done that appear to validate his theory).

You can read the information for yourself... but here are the highlights:
  • due to mass production of farming, we are producing more food with less nutrients in them
  • chemical fertilizers - which organic farmers don't use - grow plants faster and so they are less nutritious than organic foods
  • heirloom foods tend to have higher nutrients because they have not been mucked around with as much as "normal" vegetables / fruits 
  • the earlier a fruit / vegetable is picked and the longer it is stored, the more vitamins and minerals it looses 
  • chicken has "twice as much fat as in 1940, a third more calories and a third less protein" (easy reads #3) - this is entirely based on what it eats and the fact that it is cooped up without access to the outdoors.  Another reason to buy free range, organic.
It bothers me that we are not told how much of a change in quality we are getting - just because we have quantity.   It is like going to a all you can eat buffet - you get a lot of crap food for a relatively cheap price.  But, at the end of the day, you have eaten crap food.
I realize that organic, heirloom, free range, grass fed / grass finished is more expensive and hard to find - but don't you think it is so much more worth while to eat something that nourishes your body?  I'd rather eat a small good meal than a large crappy one.  But, buffets wig me out on a lot of different levels - germaphobe that I am.  :)

------------------------  More info  ----------------

Easy reads:
  1. Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?
  2. CHARTS: Nutrient Changes in Vegetables and Fruits, 1951 to 1999 
  3. It's supposed to be lean cuisine. So why is this chicken fatter than it looks? (This was a odd ball find - but I couldn't resist putting it in the blog.  I figure I wouldn't be able to do so for another posting...and it was just too good not to pop it in)
  4. Fruits and vegetables aren't what they used to be 
  5. Declining Nutritional Value of Produce Due to High Yield Selective Seed Breeding. 
  6. Critical Issue Report: Still No Free Lunch 
Technical reads: 
  1. Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?  - this has the full article by Davis with the graphs and additional documentation. 
  2. Effect of agricultural methods on nutritional quality: a comparison of organic with conventional crops.
  3. Comparison of the Total Phenolic and Ascorbic Acid Content of Freeze-Dried and Air-Dried Marionberry, Strawberry, and Corn Grown Using Conventional, Organic, and Sustainable Agricultural Practices
  5. Characterization of soil quality: Physical and chemical criteria
  6. Soil fertility management and insect pests: harmonizing soil and plant health in agroecosystems
  7. istorical variation in the mineral composition of edible horticultural products.
  8. Agriculture and Climate Change: Real problems, false solutions
  9. Trade-offs in Agriculture and Nutrition
  10. Influence of Organic versus Conventional Agricultural Practice on the Antioxidant Microconstituent Content of Tomatoes and Derived Purees; Consequences on Antioxidant Plasma Status in Humans

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bacon cookies... yum

I know... two posts within a day!  But it has been a busy day!  Between the book shopping and chicken stock making... I decided to make cookies for my neighbors who are wonderful enough to mow my lawn.  And, cookies always seem to be a nice thank you.  

So, I decided to make bacon spice cookies with some left over bacon fat that we had stored in freezer.  It looked like a interesting recipe and I thought that since we were well stocked on bacon fat that this might be the time to use up some of the collection.  OK, so it is a multi-functional cookie. :)

The BF voted them yummy but would like some chocolate in them sans spice.  So, I will have to play with the recipe and chocolate.

Here is the recipe.  It isn't a BACON flavor - rather a nice smokey spice cookie - some what like gingerbread with a smokiness.

Bacon Fat Spice Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 1/2 cup bacon fat 
  • 2 tablespoons molasses 
  • 1 egg
Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and spices in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add bacon fat, molasses and egg, pulse until mixture forms a soft dough. Make into small balls, about a tablespoon of dough, and place them on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten balls slightly - with your hand or a fork.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 min, until they are browning around the edges. Cool and store in a airtight container up to 1 week.

And if you still have a lot of bacon fat left over, like I do, you can season your cast iron pans.

Since I was heating the oven anyway for cookies - I put some bacon fat on the cast iron pan and stuck it in the oven while the oven was heating up and some of the time the cookies were baking.  It doesn't turn rancid, at least it doesn't for us. But, then again, I use the cast iron pan for everything and wash it with soap (shock!).   :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Great Find

One day while awaiting the BF's release from work  (when we use to ride share and I would finish up but could not leave the doofy 'burbs), I wandered into the local library to look at cook books.  Now, the local library has books that are outdated or whatever that they sell in a little corner for $1.00 or less.  And, wandering through the collection I found a old new york times recipe collection book that has proven to be wonderful. 

I realized while perusing this book that all the recipes called for butter and real ingredients.  Which is basically what I am looking for - old recipes - ones where people cooked real food. 

So today, the BF and I went to the local used book store and we ended up buying 3 old cookbooks.  One of the books called "The June Platt Cook Book", looks brilliant and I can't wait to cook from it.  Written in 1958, Ms. Pratt's preface is brilliant.  Here is a bit that I think aligns with what we are trying to do:  "Methods and equipment have changed considerably in the past few years; some of the changes I agree with, others I ignore.  Purchase the best ingredients - and hope you can afford them - for good olive oil, vinegar, cheese, cream, and fresh eggs make all the difference....Seek out a first-class butcher, fishmonger, green grocer....when you cook with wine, brandy, or a liqueur, use the same quality that you would serve at table." 

Another entertaining thing about this cook book is that she has a random mini history lesson just before each section.  For example, in the soup section, the preface has a bit about Louis XIV having such a fondness for soup that he required four different soups at each meal. Who knew? I guess he really liked soup.

So, if you have a local used bookstore and a bit of time,  I highly recommend looking at old used cookbooks. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

New Page :)

Just to make things difficult, I put up a new page. We've been getting lots of questions on what we eat.  Since we don't eat pasta or rice, what can we possibly be eating?

Well, there are a lot of foods that are low in carbohydrates and are not processed junk.  So I put up a page on what we eat / don't eat - and why.   It's a work in progress so feel free to comment. 

Since I have family in from India, I haven't posted as often as I would like.  Part of the reason for the new page is for them.  Both my cousins have diabetes and hypertension - such a constant part of Indian life now.   And I was telling them about our food choices and how much of a difference it has made in our lives.  Not just weight related - although both of us have lost quite a bit of weight; health wise we are both in better health now than when we started on our primal journey.

LOL. I love the words "primal journey" - doesn't it sound like a trip to somewhere exotic?  And in some ways, it is.  It is a trip to a new and healthier me. :)  Ah, now I sound like an advert.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chicken Makhani

Butter Chicken - aka - Chicken Makhani is the BF's favorite dish.  It works really well as a stew-like dish.  Since we don't eat grains, this is one of the few Indian dishes that translates well into a low-carb meal.  I shred up the chicken after it has cooked up so that it has a bit less liquid/curry.

I like to buy a whole chicken and cut off the meat.  This gives me the bones to use for making stocks and it is very economical.  I freeze the bones, wing, skin - whatever I haven't used for the curry in a ziplock bag.  Then, when I have collected enough chicken bones - we have a chicken stock making day.  A nice weekend event. :)  Last go, we ended up with 24 cups of chicken stock for the freezer.

Chicken Makhani

  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (cayenne)  - or less as it is quite spicy
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 4 green cardamon pods
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 lb skinless, boneless chicken, cut up in chunks
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 tablespoons cream (optional)
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
In a large bowl, mix almonds, yogurt, chili powder, ground spices, garam masala, ginger and garlic. Add tomatoes and salt, to bowl and mix. Add chicken, mix well and set aside

On medium heat, melt butter in a large pot (a stock pot works well). Add onions and cool slowly until browned, about 10 - 15 min, stirring frequently. Add chicken mixture and cool until chicken is done, stirring occasionally.

Once its all cooked up, if you had placed any bones, pull them out. Take two forks and shred the chicken if you wish. Add the cilantro, mix well.

If there is still a little too much liquid, cook on low heat until you have the desired thickness. Once it's at the consistency you want, add the cream if you wish.  This gives it a richer taste.

  1. Yogurt: The best yogurts for this are thick, either Greek style or full cream like Brown Cow (which I prefer for Indian food).   
  2. Ground spices:  I tend to grind all the ground items together in a coffee grinder and then dump it into the curry, which makes all the spices uniform. 
  3. Chicken: If you are cutting up a whole chicken for this dish, save off the wings or the leg bones and cook them in the curry, pulling them out before serving. 
This dish went over really well with the family last weekend and if you are having a lot of people it is a pretty frugal meal for a large crowd.  And, if you make rice for your carb eating guests - there is even more chicken for you!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Got Milk?

I love milk... now.  As a child, I wasn't a big fan of milk and so when I grew older I choose not to drink it except for in my coffee (...ummm... coffee! ).  I didn't understand how the BF could possibly have drank a gallon of milk over the course of a day in the 'time before me'.  He told me he would buy milk by the gallon fulls and finish it off without it going bad.  And, here I am having a 1/2 pint go bad over a two week period.  LOL.   I just didn't get it.

Then I had real milk.  OK... not REAL milk, which is non-pasteurized and non-homogenized (  But, it was my first experience with milk not from a grocery store.  Where the cow is pasture raised and the milk is low-heat vat pasteurized and non-homogenized.

Blue Marble Farms was providing samples at the green city market. And, well, everyone loves free samples, right?  So, into the queue I go.  Thinking, yeah, yeah, it's milk... but .. the line is only a few people versus the 10 or 20 there earlier ... so... what the heck.  OMG. It was so good!

Blue Marble was forced to close. And, I haven't found another farmer since, who has meet my expectations of milk and cream.  However, these guys are my current vendors for milk products:
  • Traders Point Creamery for yogurt and chocolate milk (they don't sell cream because they keep it all for their ice cream)
  • Kilgus Farms for cream.  And while I would prefer to buy Kilgus farm's chocolate milk, they only make 2%.  Why?  oh, why?  Fat is good for you! Just not on you. :)
  • Castle Rock - but they aren't sold at the local store or at the farmer's market, so it is only when we go to Green Grocer that I am able to buy their products 
So here are some stats on milk and why grass fed is SO much better for you, the environment, and the cows. You choose what you want to buy - but for me - it's grass fed all the way.

for you:
  • tastes better
  • better omega 6: omega 3 fatty acids as you can see from the graph below which I got from here 
    • you are trying to get more omega 3 than 6, as omega 6 is fairly easy to get in our high-processed food world.  the ideal ratio is 2:1, most Americans are getting 15:1 as a best case scenario. here is a pretty good on line ref:  Omega-6 / Omega-3 essential fatty acid ratio  or University of Maryland Medical center 
    • omega-3 have been proven to:
      • reduce inflammation 
      • help prevent chronic diseases, such as 
        • heart disease 
        • arthritis
        • high blood pressure
        • asthma
        • IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
      • It may also help with cognitive and behavioral health. And with normal growth and development, as there are such high concentrations of omega-3 found in the brain. 

  • grass fed cows have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years, versus 2-3 yrs for conventionally (usually CAFO's - Confined animal feedlot operations) *
  • healthier animals
  • no hormones or antibiotics
* life expectancy info: Garnsworthy, P.C., The environmental impact of fertility in dairy cows: a modeling approach to predict methane and ammonia emissions, Animal Feed Science & Technology, 2004. 112: 211-223.
    • since the cows are eating grass, you do not have the issues that are involved with grain fed
      • no run-offs of pesticides or fertilizers into the water
      • no need to ship food to the animals
    • decreased soil erosion and increased soil fertility (all that manure is left on the pasture to fertilize the grass - unlike CAFO's where the manure is collected (one hopes) and shipped - although from what I have read, it appears that most CAFO's just leave the cows in the muck. yuck!)