Sauces and such
In my twenty years of professional cooking I had great knife skills. While other cooks I worked with cut themselves on average about once per year I had a once every four years average, and the cuts were never serious. When I cut myself last night on my Oxo mandoline I burst out in a short string of obscenities. My little finger on my right hand apparently was not paying attention to the razor sharp blade that was slicing cabbage like a paper shredder. It was a real attention getter and hurt plenty while bleeding according to the laws that say, “When you cut out a chunk of flesh, you will bleed profusely!”
Of course it happened towards the beginning of dinner prep making the rest of the meal a challenge to prepare. There was zucchini to cut into bite sized cubes, sans fingers. There were onions to chop and eggplant to slice. It was all quite hindered by the creeping thought of, “You will do it again if you are not careful!” from that little voice that is supposed to protect us. This little voice however was just irritating me on this occasion. Dinner prep did get done, albeit much slower than usual. The paper napkin that I wrapped my bleeding finger in needed a replacement soon. I went upstairs for a bandage and was again reminded of the diabolical minds that package bandages in those impossible to open wrappings. They probably do tests with a hidden camera on volunteers who cut themselves then try to open a bandage packaged by maniacs while the test observers are laughing their collective asses off behind oneway glass.
For the next hour I tried my best to keep the poor little pinkie elevated to slow the bleeding and throbbing having thoughts of where was that protective mandoline guide that would have saved my finger the pain and my mind the turmoil? Then it occurred to me that I would have an interesting couple of days ahead as I engaged in my travel/food writing at the computer. It’s not enough that the bandage gets in the way but the cut is toward the tip of my finger making typing as smooth as a soccer player kicking a ball with a foot in a cast. It can be done, but it hurts and doesn’t go so well.
I always like to look on the bright side of things and it occurred to me that with this cut I now have four years of cut-free chopping, slicing and dicing ahead if history is any indicator. To avoid any knife work over the next couple days while my finger heals I could just go out to eat or cook heat-and-eat foods…yuk! When it comes to typing I will just have to blunder through the pain and discomfort hoping for a speedy recovery.
There is a lesson to this mistake that says; “Those who don’t use proper protection shall type hindered for days and shall type badly.” So my friends take care of thy digits and don’t be stupid when handling sharp objects while preparing dinner or you will type like meeeeeeeee.
A Farewell to Blogging
When the bill came for blog hosting I was in shock! How could I justify paying $359.64 on a blog that has made less than $100 since it was started in November 2012? That doesn’t include the upcoming bill in December for email subscriber services for around $150. I have enjoyed developing recipes and writing about good and healthy foods for this last thirty-three months but the writing is on the wall. In a month or two I’ll probably shut it down and move on to travel/food writing as a freelancer.
Before that fateful day comes I’ll continue to post when the spirit moves me and my schedule allows. It takes four to five hours to put a blog post together, and I’m amazed at the women bloggers I have met that juggle kids, home and blogging. If you have enjoyed the recipes and writing I am glad for that. I am also glad to have discovered my love for writing and am grateful for this blog showing me that path.
Please help yourself to the recipes while they are still available. Looking back here are some of my favorites you might want to try.
In the soup category the winners are:
Royal Trumpet Soup
In the main dishes section the winners are:
Aztec Slow Cooker Turkey
Salmon Rice Bowl
Grilled Portabella Sandwich
One Pan Wonder-Shrimp Fried Rice
Lamb and Mushroom Stew
Okay, after all that looking back I am getting hungry! Time to go upstairs and fix a fast and furious lunch with some corn tortillas and feta cheese that need to get used up. It is possible some miracle could happen and I get the assignments us bloggers hope for and I’ll keep it going, but don’t hold your breath. I hope you all continue to visit and comment on my blog over the next several posts before the end. Look for my posting once per week if time, and inspiration allows. Until then, eat well and treat your fellow mankind well too.
The weather is beautiful and it’s time to think Spring. Do you like those simple at home happy hour appetizers? I’ve got a spicy good one for you that is very easy to make and goes well with beer, sake or wine. Edamame is just soy beans in the pod and when cooked right can be great! If you like sushi and have gone to a Japanese restaurant you have probably seen edamame on the menu. Lucky for us it’s easy to find it at most grocery stores in the U.S. and it’s easy to prepare. This little green taste treat is good for you too. Here’s the nutrition breakdown for plain edamame:
one cup serving has 8 grams total fat, 9 mg sodium, 676 mg potassium, 15 grams total carbs, 17 grams protein, vitamins C and B-6, minerals including iron, magnesium and calcium.
For years I have simply boiled edamame, drained it and sprinkled it with kosher salt, but for the love of all things spicy I came up with a bold and hot version that just takes a few minutes to make. Since you will want to be out on the deck in the sun using that nice outdoor furniture you bought why not decorate your table with this lovely duo of beans and beer for your outside happy hour? As always I welcome your comments and suggestions.
10 ounces frozen in-the-pod edamame
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce, or soy sauce see note
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, optional
Cook frozen edamame in water per the directions on the package, and drain but don’t cool.
In a sauté pan add chili-garlic sauce and oyster sauce and cook while stirring for one minute. Add edamame and cook stirring for two to three minutes then transfer to a serving dish. Top with sesame seeds if desired.
If you don’t have or can’t easily find oyster sauce regular soy sauce will work, but it will be a bit thinner sauce that you toss the edamame in. It will also be less sweet since oyster sauce has a little bit of sugar in it.
Today I am back in the kitchen after a four day trip to Monterey, California to see my nephew. I really enjoyed the redwoods in the hills above Santa Cruz, and the beach too. where he took us. It was great to bask in 75 degree weather before coming home to a high of 30 degrees with winds up to forty miles an hour. I believe it’s about the coldest day this winter when you figure in the chill factor. Where oh where is Spring?
I have been super busy all day but found time on my trip to the bank and post office to get groceries for a couple of projects I had in mind. I wanted to bake more kale chips even though it’s not a typical fast and furious recipe. The secret is to do kale chips when you are hanging out by the oven to turn the chips halfway. The most work is cleaning and seasoning the chips which took me about 15 minutes. After that it was 30 minutes in the oven and now I have great tasting kale chips for the next few days unless they are munched in one session of mad munchies fever!
As for the recipe it is simple. Wash, dry and cut into chip size pieces. Drizzle about a tablespoon or two of olive oil on the chips that are spread out on a sheet pan. Sprinkle your favorite seasoning salt, or plain salt on them. Grind some fresh pepper on them, or use something fun like red pepper, or jalapeno powder. Toss them around in the pan almost like tossing a salad to distribute the oil, salt and pepper. You can even rub in the oil a bit while tossing. Pop in the oven at 300 degrees.
Turn the chips and arrange so they are not touching after 15 minutes in the oven. Rotate the pans at this point. Turn heat down to 250 degrees and cook until crisp(about 15-20 minutes) then remove from oven to cool. Now you have great tasting, healthy kale chips for lunches and snacks. They go great with red wine!
So give slow food a try if it fits your schedule, it’s worth it once in a while.
It’s been a busy week here a the fast and furious test kitchen with lots of great things from my favorite farms. I’ve been getting the tastiest farm fresh lima beans ever from K.P. Huber’s Farm in Kingsville, MD. These are the best looking and best tasting lima beans I have ever bought! At $3 per quart sized basket they are a deal.
Just up the road at Wilbur’s Farm I’m getting great organic produce that my garden doesn’t have, or is struggling with. They have the sweetest white corn I have ever tasted, and everything they sell is certified organic. I like their potatoes, onions, green beans, eggplant, and zucchini. I just made a lovely ratatouille last night from their zucs, and eggplant and my tomatoes. Good stuff indeed. If you have not tried making ratatouille you should. It’s good hot the night you make it and if not overcooked it’s quite good at room temperature for leftovers. It stays fresh for several days after cooking too.
Tuesday was a big day for me as I was able to drive down to Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. There I walked the farm to see if what I have read is true about Joel Salatin turning the farm world on its head by developing sustainable methods of raising cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits and more on his 450 acre family farm. It seems all true, and I witnessed happy cows in a beautiful pasture, and happy pigs in the woods about a mile up the hill from the farm house.
I bought a chicken from the farm store to test in the FFC test kitchen tonight and tomorrow night. Tonight it’s a French style roasted half chicken with fresh garlic and dried rosemary. Tomorrow night it’s Filipino Chicken Adobo. Come September 16th I’ll visit the farm again to be guest chef for Joel’s family, the farm workers and apprentices for dinner. That night I plan to cook the same two chicken dishes for all 21 people on the farm. Lucky for me the cook, Brie, will be helping me in the kitchen.
With all the great tomatoes my garden has been putting out I decided to buy some salad greens to pair with them. Last week I had some leftover bread from our supper club dinner and decided to turn it into fresh croutons. These are better than store bought by far, and almost as addictive a Doritos for munching. It does help if you use good bread like a whole grain loaf, or even ciabatta works well. I made another batch today and took a sample across the street for Wendy and Mary at Moore’s Orchard to taste and both of them liked the croutons a lot. Therefore I share with you now another fast and furious cook original recipe to try in your kitchen. This will take about 15 minutes to make , and lasts for 2-3 days if you don’t eat them all the day they are made.
As always, please try the recipe and comment on my blog.
Pan Toasted Spicy Croutons
2 1/2 cups day old bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano, or mixed italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or fresh thai peppers sliced thin
optional, 1/4 teaspoon salt
optional, 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Add oil to saute pan and heat on medium low for 10 seconds or so.
Add the bread and toss well to distribute the oil on the bread cubes.
Continue cooking on medium to medium low for 5-7 minutes tossing or stirring every minute or two.
Add oregano, and chili and cook for two minutes on low heat.
Remove from saute pan to a sheet pan to cool for 3-5 minutes before adding to a salad.
Use regular olive oil in place of garlic infused and add 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder with the chili and oregano.
finely shredded parmesan cheese is a nice addition at the end. Just add after the heat is off and toss or stir well to distribute the cheese.
Great with soups or salad.
Cooks best if your saute pan is big enough to keep the bread cubes at just one layer. If the pan is too small the cubes will stack up and won’t brown properly.
One of the best parts of moving to our home in North Baltimore almost three years ago was being across the street from a 150 year old peach orchard(Moore’s Orchard). Each summer around the Fourth of July the peaches are ready for us lucky consumers. When the first peaches become available one has to be vigilant, because instead of the usual sandwich board sign advertising said peaches on busy Joppa Road there is a less visible sign that goes up on the less busy Peach Blossom Road. This is because there aren’t a lot of early peaches to be had and the rush of buyers would wipe out the store in no time at all.
This year I was looking most every day from the first of July on and was thrilled when I spied the sign pronouncing the beginning of the season on July 5th. These first peach varieties are small but very juicy and tasty indeed. I promptly bought two $5 bags of each type (yellow and white), and took them home to wash them up and test. Even though they were only the size of a tennis ball they packed big flavor.
Way back in 1979 I lived in the small mountain town of Frisco, Colorado amongst an assortment of old hippies, ski bums, old timer locals, and people fleeing the boredom of the plains states. They were an interesting colorful bunch indeed. It was there on a warm summer’s day two of my new found friends invited me across the street from the Moose Jaw to partake in a party with daiquiris made from scratch. It was there that I learned the right way to make a daquiri with fresh lime juice and honey instead of sweet and sour mix. Sure you could use the sweet and sour mixes sold in liquor stores to whip up one of these frozen drink delights, but once you taste this method you will never again want that sweet and sour chemical crap in your daiquiri again.
It was at this party that we indulged in peach daiquiris and strawberry daiquiris until the perfect mix was obtained. Sure it was tough duty testing batch after batch, but we were young and full of ambition. The end result other than getting our daily requirement of fruit for the week was all of us agreed this was the way to make a frozen daiquiri hence forth. Therefore I will now share with you the magic recipe for the best frozen daiquiri you will probably ever taste.
I have made some changes in the recipe, actually just one change. For sweetener I had previously used honey, but it was always difficult to get it to blend into a frozen drink properly. Now I use Agave Nectar that the good folks at Sugar in the Raw gifted me at Eat, Write, Retreat food bloggers meeting in Philadelphia last month. Agave Nectar dissolves much better than honey and works as well or better in this drink. Rum is optional if you don’t drink alcohol.
Frozen Peach Daquiris
2 cups peeled and sliced fresh juicy peaches
2 to 2 ½ cups crushed ice
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar
4 ounces rum
In a capable blender add the peaches first, then the ice, lime, agave and rum. Blend until all ingredients are pureed. This will vary depending on your blender and size of crushed ice. Top with a slice of fresh peach and enjoy. Repeat if hot and thirsty.
Strawberries work well with this recipe too.
You can use frozen peaches or strawberries with half the ice and enough water to make it all blend properly.
My new Osterizer classic beehive blender that I just bought worked great!
Even though I was gifted Agave Nectar from Sugar in the Raw the ideas and recipe expressed are my own.
I am blessed with an aunt who has survived 93 years on this planet, and teaches me much about the world. She is in excellent health due in part to her eating habits. When I visit her in Fairhope, Alabama I ask questions pertaining to her longevity and good health. I consider her in excellent health because she can see well, hear well, walk well, drive a car somewhat well, and can eat well. She is in a state of health I aspire to be in at that age should I be so lucky. Here are some of the things she has told me about living healthy. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day, preferably organic. Walk most every day,(she has a dog that she got partly to get her out of the house for walks every day when she might not be otherwise motivated).
Attitude is everything. My aunt has not had a cushy life. Her first husband was weird and harsh. She divorced him back in the 1950’s and then carved out a career in social work, leaving geology behind. Her second significant other committed suicide shortly after having a stroke in 1997. She has weathered it all with grace and humility.
One of the aspects of her life that keeps her young and active is her social network of fellow writers, singers, church members, and neighbors. She plays the drums in a local band. She is a published author and, meets weekly with a local writers group. She belongs to a local improv group that meets just to have a good time, not to perform for the public. She quit her singing group because she was just too darn busy!
She is an inspiration to me on how to retire, and live well. Even though she doesn’t have much money she lives a richer life that most people I have ever met. I treasure each chance I get to fly down to Alabama and hang out with her for a couple of days for more life lessons, and stories. On this trip she has shared with me her recipe for Gluten-free Cornbread Muffins that we ate with a bit of omega-3 enhanced butter substitute spread this morning. If you are looking for a gluten-free muffin recipe, or just a good cornbread muffin recipe try this one. Who knows you might make it to 93 also if you eat these.
Aunt Jule’s Gluten Free Corn Muffins
1 cup Hodgson Mill stone ground flour
1 cup Uncle Bob’s gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 teaspoons Clabber Girl Baking Powder
1 1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
Mix dry ingredients
In a separate bowl whisk eggs and oil, then add milk.
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix just until blended.
Drop by tablespoon in muffin cups, and bake in a 450 degree oven for 18 minutes or until lightly browned.
This item is used in so many things I prepare in my kitchen that I have it in the fridge most of the year. Very easy to make and so useful. You will never need to buy garlic infused oil again. It lasts about two weeks in the fridge, and the cloves are great tossed with pasta.
1 cup olive oil
1 bulb of garlic, smaller cloves are better than big ones
Cut ends off of garlic cloves and take all skin off before cooking on low heat for about 6-8 minutes. Use a saute pan that is small enough for 1 cup of oil to cover cloves. Garlic will have air bubbles coming off the cloves like champagne bubbles. Do not let the cloves turn brown while cooking. Remove from heat and let cool. Oil and cloves will stay fresh in a covered jar for two weeks or more in the refrigerator. This has many uses as an oil or for the cooked cloves. I like the cloves in hummus, pasta or pizza. I use the oil for sauteing or dipping bread in.
1/3 cup oil, either olive oil or salad oil
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar, either Spectrum or Braggs
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs, or fresh if you have it*
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic or shallots, optional
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Mix dried herbs with vinegar. Add garlic or shallots if using and mix well. Add oil, mix well. Can be used right away, but gets better after being refrigerated for a day.
If using fresh herbs try 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh oregano plus 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme.
Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1 cup of warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Mix flours and salt together in a mixing bowl. Mix all ingredients for 8-10 minutes. I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for 8 minutes on slow speed, and 2 minutes on medium speed. Put into large oiled bowl and let rise for 2 hours. Punch down dough and let rest for 5 minutes before kneading. Knead for 3-5 minutes by hand adding flour to keep it from sticking to counter top. Put into oiled baking sheet or cut in half and put in loaf pans. Let rise until doubled in size. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.