Flavorful and healthy

I’m on a new kick.  We all know I wander from one focus to the next like a hobo with no home but at least I’m not bored . . . or boring.  I’m always experimenting, learning new things, TRYING new things . . . and I like it.  Testing ideas is a good way to keep your brain in shape.

My latest is crock pot meat.  My first foray into “cook it slow” was chuck roast.  It was wonderful . . . and here’s what I did.

Add the meat to the bottom of the crock pot.  DO NOT add any water.  Trust me, you won’t need it.  Crush a garlic clove and toss that in.  Cut up a carrot and toss that in.  Add some chopped celery, onion, a tomato, red and green pepper . . . sprinkle in some rosemary and some thyme, add 2 tbsp cream sherry, 2 tbsp dry sherry and put the lid on.  Turn it on low and walk away.  This needs to go for about 8 hours.  Lift the lid every so often and poke the veges in around the meat.

When it’s done the meat will be tender and the vegetables will be worthless.  Pull out the meat, dump the rest through a strainer and toss the veges (I feed them to my chickens).  Chop the meat and put it away for later.  Put the juice (there will be surprising amount of liquid) in a separate container and refrigerate both.  When the juice has cooled completely you’ll be able to peel the fat off the top.

This is a great start for stew, soup . . . or eat it just the way it is!  It’s delicious.

If the sherry adds too much flavor, try using two tablespoons of sherry and half a cup of creme soda instead.  Both ways are absolutely delicious.  I haven’t tried it with root beer yet.  I bet that would be good as well.  I added a bay leaf to one batch.

To turn this into wonderful vegetable beef soup dice your veggies (all of the above plus one small potato and anything else you have in your veggie drawer – the latest batch also has cauliflower).  Saute all but the potato in butter, add the potato, the juice and the diced beef and simmer until the veggies are done.

I don’t add salt and I don’t add bullion cubes (mostly beef flavored salt) though you can if you must.  It’s flavorful and healthy and a good eat and it’s a really chunky soup, not mostly broth and few goodies.

Updated almond chicken

I’ve updated my almond chicken recipe.  There’s a lot of in-the-pan, out-of-the-pan, drain this, strain that going on and I’ve tweaked the ingredients just a bit (more flavor).

If you’re going to try the recipe, you’ll need; small frying pan, big frying pan, sauce pan, marinade bowl, paper towel for the fried amonds, wire strainer big enough to hold all the cooked veges, bowl to catch the oil when the veges are drained, something to hold the extra oil after the almonds are fried (I use a wide mouth half-pint canning jar so I can reuse the oil), a bowl to hold the raw veges until time to cook them, cutting boards (1 for chicken, 1 for veges), a good and sharp chef’s knife, a fork to stir the cooking stuff . . . I can see this is a recipe I’m going to have to video at some point.

The first step in the prep is hot soapy water so I can clean up as I go . . . hands, knife and cutting board after dissecting the chicken, veges cutting board, bowls as I’m done with them, pans as I’m done with them.  I’ve done this recipe enough times that when I sit down to eat, the only thing left to wash is what I’m eating out of and with.  Sweet.

Healthy and easy casserole

Tomato, onion, green and red pepper, broccoli and carrot.
Tomato, onion, green and red pepper, broccoli and carrot.

This is an easy and delicious way to get a mess of vegetables in an easy potentially low fat prepare-ahead meal. This recipe can easily be multiplied to feed more people. It’s an awesomely delicious and healthy lunch or dinner that I can prepare way ahead of time.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this dish a casserole as it’s just veggies and a frank. You could make this with any kind of sausage or hot dog. I use Painted Hill’s Natural Beef Franks but it would be lovely with other types of commercial cured sausage.

Rough chop half a tomato and put it in the bottom of an individual casserole dish. Make sure you use the tomato. It provides the moisture and the acidity that will balance the dish and make it delicious.  You can use a couple tablespoons of tomato paste.  If you do, add a half-cup of water for the moisture.

Layer a selection of vegetables on top. I’ve used onion, potato, broccoli, green and red peppers, carrot, celery, zuccini and use a different variety as the mood strikes.  You can even use potato, just cut it in smaller cubes so it cooks thoroughly.

Whatever vegetables you add should equal four or five times the volume of the meat.  Place your choice of vegetables on top of the tomato. Cut the sausage or frank up and put it on top and put the cover on.  This is the absolute perfect dish for a toaster oven, which is what I’ve got.  Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes.  Once the dish has cooled enough to eat, pull the lid and enjoy!

Korean beef

This is an adaptation of a Korean rice bowl recipe I found online. The first time I made it I followed the directions which called for cooking the meat first, then adding the veges but the very lovely beef I used came out so overcooked and tough I never did it that way again.

The original recipe called for a lot of stuff and I like fairly simple but great tasting food so I made some . . . uh . . . adjustments.

Make a marinade –

  • 1 or 2 crushed/minced/finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (I use tubinado instead – healthier)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (I use coconut aminos instead)
  • 1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch (leave this out if you want – it’s a make-you-fat thickener)
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry (optional but tasty)

Chop the beef in relatively small pieces and stir into the marinade until well coated.

Prep whatever veges you want. Cut the denser veges in smaller slices/pieces to even out the cooking. Use a carrot or two, a stalk of celery or two, some red pepper, some green pepper, a zuccini if you’ve got one, some broccoli if you’ve got some, half an onion. Pea pods would be good as would bean sprouts but add the bean sprouts right at the end when the veges are added back to the pan with the meat or they will overcook.

If you’re a minimalist, feel free to just use onion and peppers.

Stir fry the veges in a bit of olive oil. When the veges are not quite done, lift them out and add the meat reserving the marinade for later. When the meat’s is almost done, add the marinade sauce and layer the veges over the top.  Wait a bit to stir it all together. When the marinade has finished thickening and the meat is done, the dish is done.

Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on the top. Serve over rice if you like.

Easy and tasty almond chicken for two

This is my go-to recipe for just-for-me food.  It’s not super-quick to fix (about 20 minutes) but it’s delicious, packed with flavor and veges and, for the nutritional value in the meal, it’s uber-healthy.

I buy chicken thighs in the family pack size and zip them into sandwich bags, put them into a gallon zip bag and chuck them in the freezer.  I pull a thigh out in the morning and toss it on the counter.  By lunch it’s thawed and ready to use.

Skin and debone one chicken thigh per person. Slice the skin in strips and put the skin and bone in a small sauce pan with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water per thigh to make the required chicken broth.  This chicken broth is healthy and a zero dollar addition to the recipe from something you would have thrown away.  If you’re a broth purist, chop some celery and onion and toss it in as well.  I don’t see the need.  This dish is already max tasty, full of texture and flavor and excellent nutrition.

Slap on a lid and start it cooking. You want to bring it to a boil and turn it down to simmer while you’re prepping the rest of the stuff. Flip the bones over a couple times as it cooks to get as much flavor out as possible.  Because you’ve sliced the skin into strips, it needs zero attention.

Dice the chicken in 1/2 to 3/4″ cubes. Stick it into a marinade of (measurement is per chicken thigh) 2 tbsp soy sauce (or coconut aminos if you’re soy adverse), 2 tbsp Lee & Perrins Worchestershire sauce, 2 tbsp sherry (I use Sheffield’s creme sherry), 1 crushed clove a garlic and (optional and fattening so leave it out if you prefer) 1 tbsp corn starch.  The Worchestershire sauce adds a layer of very complimentary flavor and is not standard to the recipe.  One day I was short on coconut aminos and use the worchestershire to make up the difference.  I was so caught by the flavor combo I adjusted the recipe and haven’t looked back.

While the skin and bone are simmering, prepare these veges.  The measurements are per thigh so double for two, triple for three . . . 1 carrot peeled, cut in half lengthwise and slice in less than 1/4″ thick slices on the diagonal. Slice 1/2 a medium onion thinly. Slice a celery stalk on the diagonal.  (Because I mostly cook this recipe for just me and don’t need to impress anyone, I pull the celery bundle out of the vege drawer and cut the top of the bundle off  in thinnish slices until I have the amount I want, usually 3 or 4 cuts.)  Add some mushroom.  I like mine cut in sticks but do what makes you happy.  Add a little sliced pepper (both red and green).  I like pepper in almost everything.  If you’re not a pepper fan, leave it out. Slice a handful of water chestnut slices (canned) into sticks. Cut a handful of bamboo shoots (canned) in half lengthwise.  Once I’ve opened the cans I process everything in the cans and put them in zippies in the freezer so they stay good until I’m ready to use them.  You can break them into portions (1 snack zippy with both water chestnut and bamboo shoots) and pull the right number of portions out of the freezer when you pull out the chicken.

In a small frying pan, pour 1/2″ peanut oil and start it heating. When the oil is hot (add a single almond slice – when it starts to sizzle, the oil’s hot) throw in 1/4 cup of sliced almonds per thigh.  If you’re making more than two servings, use a bigger pan so the almonds have room to brown. Stir and shake until the almonds just start to change color. If you wait any longer they will rapidly turn brown and taste a bit burnt so be ready to pull them out of the oil just as they start to turn color.  I’ve eaten them that way and it isn’t bad, just not great so keep a close eye as you’re cooking them.

Pour the almonds and oil through a metal mesh (screen) strainer so the oil drains into a bigger frying pan. Drain the almonds really well (shake and wiggle) and spread them on a paper towel to stop the cooking and finish draining.

Once the peanut oil is again up to temp, toss in all the prepped veges and stir/shake a bit longer than it takes to turn the onions transparent. None of the other raw veges will be completely done yet but close.  The dish won’t be horrible if you slightly overcook or undercook the veges, and you’ll prefect this with practice.  You’re going to cook them again so don’t over-cook them now.

While the veges are cooking, use the screen to strain the chicken out of the marinade.   I dump the drained chicken into the small frying pan so the residual heat will start to bring the chicken up to temp.

Dump the broth from the chicken skin/bones into the marinade.  The hot broth will help bring the marinade up to temp.

Dump the veges out of the frying pan into the strainer over a bowl to drain off the remaining oil.  

Dump the chicken into the big frying pan. Stir until cooked nearly cooked through.  Don’t overcook.  Add the marinade/broth.  If you’re using a thickener, wait until it gets up to temp and starts to thicken before adding the veges back to the pan.  Don’t stir them in just yet. Dump in the almonds and cook the whole thing just a bit longer.  You don’t want limp veges but you do want thickened sauce and done meat.  This dish is better if they still have just a bit of a crunch.

If you like bean spouts, they would be a good addition. Add them when you add the veges into the pan with the chicken. Any sooner and they’ll be overcooked.


Perfect rice, the easy way

Pick your weapon.  Any shape or size, as long as you can get the rice in and out, it’ll work!
Fill it with rice
Fill with water (yup, with the rice STILL in whatever you’re using to measure).  You now have a rice and water mix.  Dump it in the cooker.
Don’t worry about the rice left inside, you’ll rinse it out in the next step.
Fill your measure with water one more time.  Add it to the ricer and water already in the cooker. If you’re good, all the stray rice will end up in the cooker instead of left in your measuring device.
Add a little bit of oil. It helps keep the rice from sticking together. I don’t know if this step is advised for sticky rice so you’ll need to check.
Cover the cooker and switch it on. When it switches itself off (or, in my case, switches to warm), your rice is done!

This method of cooking rice is super easy, no measuring cup required, though I take the lazy man way and use a rice cooker. You can, depending on your cooker, make any amount of rice you want, enough for one or more!

Pick your measuring device.  I’m not saying don’t use a measuring cup, but you certainly don’t need one with this method.  I’m using a small drink glass for my measure here.

This method works because it provides the right amount of water for the rice every time.

Fill your measure up with rice.  With the rice still in your measuring device, fill it up with water as well.  You now have a mix of water and rice in your measuring device.  Dump the rice and water mixture into the cooker.  Filling the measure with rice and water gives exactly the right amount of extra water.

The amount of water we’ve added won’t be enough, so we have to add one more measure full of water.  Remember, it doesn’t matter what measure you start with, just use the same measure all the way through and it will come out perfect!

Just so we’re really clear, you’re adding one measure of water and one measure of rice and water mixed.  I add the full measure of water after the rice and water mix to rinse the rice out of the measure so none is wasted.

Top it off with a drizzle of olive oil, put the lid on, plug it in and turn it on!   When it shuts off, you’ll have perfect rice!

Potato bombs

Plugging the bottom
Ready to pop in the oven.

Here’s how you make potato bombs.

Because I don’t have an apple corer, Wadly made me a potato coring tool out of a length of copper pipe.  This method requires an additional tool for pushing the core out of the pipe.

Core the potatoes.  Mine were really big russets so I cut them in half lengthwise before coring.  

Set the potato on its flat end and stuff it with your favorite potato partner (I used diced onions and bacon).  I used my push rod to pack down the diced onion, then added the bacon and packed it as well.  Plug the top with the other short section of core, skin side out.

Place the potato halves cut side down in a buttered baking dish.  Wrap the halves in bacon.  Mine took 1½ slices for complete coverage.  Toss the two remaining core pieces in the pan.   Waste not . . .

Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

If you’re barbequing and have good control of the temp in you grill, you can wrap these in heavy duty foil and cook them on the grill.  For full sized potatoes, turn them over at the half-way mark to distribute the bacon flavor.

You can’t beat this dish for awesome flavor.

Chicken over rice

I baked a whole chicken last week planning to make a big batch of my latest soup recipe so I could freeze some for quick meals. Yeah, that’s as far as the chicken soup idea went. I hared off in a different and equally delicious direction. 

I seasoned the unstuffed halved chicken with pepper and Bragg Organic Sprinkle and baked it skin side up for about 50 minutes. Don’t skip this step. Boiled chicken does not have the same flavor as baked or fried and that extra flavor is important. After baking, I put the whole chicken in a 5 quart pressure cooker with wine, water, pepper, onion and Bragg Organic Sprinkle. I didn’t pressure cook it, I just simmered it for a while to marry all the flavors.

After the chicken cooled I deboned and diced it and added it back to the liquid in the pan. After it cooled I divided the result into four zippered sandwich bags intending to put them in the freezer for later use.  I’d done this with turkey earlier in the year and it made a nice quick base for not nearly as delicious (trust me, it’s all in the prep and seasonings) turkey on rice.

When dinner time rolled around I put rice in the cooker and peeled and diced a carrot, a quarter of an onion, a couple parsley sprigs, a celery stalk and 1/4 cup each red and green peppers.  I sauteed a couple slices of bacon (chopped) and added the veges and a couple tablespoons of butter.

Once the veges were sufficiently tender I dumped in the sandwich bag of chicken, gave it a thorough stir and once it was heated through, covered it and set it on low to simmer while the rice finished cooking.  I served the chicken and veges over rice with a little more butter on top and it was delicious!  One cup of rice (uncooked) and one zippered sandwich bag of chicken with the veges makes 4 or 5 healthy servings.

None of the chicken made it into the freezer.  We’re eating the last of it as chicken/veges over rice today.  Mmmmm.

Chicken vegetable soup

Lovely color, beautiful flavor.

I made chicken vegetable soup yesterday and it’s truly delicious!  It’s  bright, succulent and satisfying.  Paired with garlic bread or corn bread, it’s also a low cost lunch or light dinner.  This is so good I will explore canning or freezing it for quick meals.

In a small frying pan, brown two chicken thighs in olive oil. Do the browning on med-low so the thighs are at least halfway cooked before transferring them to your sauce pan.

Add 2/3 cup white wine to the frying pan for deglazing.  I use Franzia Crisp White which gives a lovely mild slightly sweet flavor which is totally harmonious with the chicken and veges.

Pour the deglazed drippings and wine from the frying pan into the sauce pan.  Add a dozen brisk shakes of Bragg Organic Sprinkle (awesome with chicken and turkey), a diced celery stalk, 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, 1/4 sweet onion-diced, 1 carrot-diced, 1/4 cup each of diced red and green peppers and fresh cracked black pepper.

Add 2/3 cup water and the juice from the corn dip recipe.  Put the lid on and simmer until the veges are done but still slightly crunchy.  If you aren’t a fan of the corn dip recipe, put the contents of all three cans in a blender, liquify and divide into three.  Put the portions you aren’t using in a ziplock and into the freezer for later use.  Use in soup or chowder to bump the flavor.

Turn the heat off and remove the the chicken thighs.  Once cool enough to handle, remove skin and bone and dice the meat.  Add the diced chicken to the pan.  Bring to a simmer for a few minutes to heat the chicken through.

If you want to make chicken noodle soup, consider pureeing the rest of the ingredients before adding the chicken back to the pan.  Add your noodles and cook for the time necessary to finish the noodles.

Sans noodles, this makes 4 nice big bowls of soup.  If adding noodles, this should feed five or six.

One egg, two yolks

Big yolk in the big end and a slightly smaller yolk in the small end.

Here's a two-yolker split in half lengthwise. Yummy!

I bought a flat of jumbo brown eggs for hard boiling.  If you’ve never tried to peel a freshly laid hard boiled egg, you just wouldn’t understand.  The shell does not come off.  When hard boiled eggs are needed, and you want some sort of expectation that the eggs can be cleanly peeled, you have to start with old eggs.  Ours never last long enough to be old enough for hard boiling.

I was having a hard boiled egg and a bit of sharp cheddar snack yesterday.  I cut the egg in 4 lengthwise and was surprised to see two yolks!  Then today I was peeling eggs for egg salad and ran into another!  Wow!

My favorite recipe for egg salad is minced sweet onion, small diced kosher dill and mayo.  Mix the mayo with the egg yolks until all the egg yolk lumps are gone, then stir in the diced whites, pickles and onions.  Yummy.

A hamburger worth the time

We’ve got a quarter of beef in the freezer which means we have a lot of hamburger to eat.  That’s not a bad thing but it’s pushing me to expand my hamburger recipe repertoire.  Yesterday I came up with a stellar hamburger.

Mince peppers, red and green, and onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent.  In a bowl mix the hamburger with crushed rosemary, thyme, fresh cracked black pepper and the sautéed vegetables.  Form patties and fry in the pan you sautée’d the veges in.  I put a piece of Havarti cheese on mine but I think it would be just as good with pepper jack, Swiss or whatever.  AWESOME burger.  Even Wadly gave it lots of stars.

The other fish

Simmering to perfection

I’m making fish stock (soupe de poisson) to use in clam chowder.  I make it and store it in the freezer so it’s available when needed.

I scored a mess of half-off frozen fish at Shop n Kart yesterday including but not limited to ling cod, smelt, tilapia, head on prawns and some seafood mix which includes calamari and fake crab (pollack).  I ended up with enough fishy bits to make two batches of stock, so I divided it up and stuck half back in the freezer.  I don’t have a large enough stock pot to make two batches at once.

In this batch I have some whole fish, minus the gills and headed/gutted fish and prawn heads and fish parts simmering with parsley, onions, leeks, shallot, garlic, tomato, bay leaf, orange peel, celery, saffron, thyme and whole coriander.  I don’t think I left anything out . . . Hmm.  Maybe I should go throw in a couple rough chopped carrots.  Once this has simmered for four hours I will strained out the solids.  If there was somewhere I could put that stuff where the chickens could pick it over without the dogs getting into the bones, that would be a plus.  Hmm.  Time to ask Wadly for a temporary pen.

The last time I made bouillabaisse (chunks of fish, in-shell little neck clams, shrimp and scallops cooked in the above fish stock) I had some orange roughy in the mix of fish.  That is the most lovely tasting fish.  Mmm.  Maybe I can sweet talk my brother into grabbing me some the next time he comes for a visit.  He’s got a huge Japanese market where he lives and the orange roughy is fresh!

Orange Mocha

I bought some awesome free trade bitter orange peel chocolate at the health food store a while back.  It’s really awesome stuff but pretty darned addicting.  I’ve come up with a fairly nice liquid version.  Add equal amounts of sweetener (I use xylitol) and cocoa (the unsweetened baking kind) (adjust to taste – start with 1 tsp each) to equal amounts (1/2 cup) milk (or cream or half-n-half) and coffee.  Heat it up then grate in some orange zest.  Stir and drink. OMG is it good.

The beauty of water kefir

Brew, ferment, drink

I have a jar of water kefir grains brewing on my counter.  It’s one of the few natural things that will help right my system when I eat something I shouldn’t.  It will also chase off a cold if I drink it as soon as my throat start to tickle.

Water kefir grains are supposed to multiply, though mine don’t seem to do so at any visible rate.  That doesn’t seem to alter the effectiveness of the result so I’m not going to fuss about it.

I brew my water kefir with maple syrup and dissolved minerals in filtered 7.2PH water.  I sliced a chunk of unsulfered candied ginger into the water kefir grains mix and cover it with a piece of paper towel, stirring it twice a day while it’s brewing.  I can tell when it’s ready by the way it smells, though I suppose I could measure the brix.  Smell seems to work for me.  The speed of the initial fermentation is a product of sugar content and warmth.

After the grains have fed for a couple days I strain the liquid into a sealable bottle.  I add a few chunks of dried pineapple to the bottle of water kefir and set the cap on without tightening it down.  When all the fruit is floating (usually a couple days) I seal the cap.  Sometimes the fruit stays at the top, sometimes it sinks to the bottom, sometimes it does both and sometimes it hangs in the middle like little fruit jewels.

When I need a water kefir I uncap it over the sink (if properly sealed it WILL fizz as it is a fermented drink) and strain it into a glass.  It’s a lite pineapple/ginger beer filled with good-for-you enzymes and digestive bacteria.  What’s not to like?

Squash Season

A slice off the side of a cube of butter, some maple syrup and a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Awesomely delicious squash

In one of our rare outings, Wadly and I had dinner at one of our local eateries. They served squash wedges with a seasoned butter that made the squash taste like pumpkin pie. It was delicious. LouAnn says it was hubbard squash. I’ve duplicated the taste in both acorn and spaghetti squash.

Wadly will even eat this squash, and he is so not a squash fan.

This is a dead easy recipe.  Drop in a slice of butter, add a couple tablespoons of real maple syrup, sprinkle a little cinnamon and nut meg on top the butter and bake.

No-bake coconut macaroon bar cookies

Coconut macaroon bar cookies
Enjoy Life chocolate chips


As we all know, women can’t live without chocolate, but when you’re soy intolerant, a chocolate free life is almost the only choice you have.  Chocolate generally contains soy lecithin as the emulsifier which makes it a treat I have to avoid.  Fortunately, Enjoy Life has a product that doesn’t push any of my buttons.

I’ve done lots of things with this chocolate.  Around our house it makes a safe out-of-the-bag snack, great chocolate dipped pecans and a versatile chocolate coconut macaroon cookie.

To make this super-simple recipe, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler.  If you’re adding anything additional to the recipe, this is the point where you would add it.

After the chips have fully melted, stir in the coconut a half-cup at a time.   Keep adding coconut until you like the looks of the mix.  Use less coconut if you want heavier, more chocolatey cookies or more coconut if  you want lighter, more crumbly cookies.

Dump the mix out on a piece of aluminum foil and spread it out.  After it’s completely cooled, cut it into squares.

I’ve made these with a dab of butter for extra richness or with a couple tablespoons of milk or buttermilk (REALLY good) for additional lightness.  You can add an extract like almond or vanilla, maybe even mint.  I bet orange zest would be good!

If you aren’t gluten intolerant, you can use this recipe as the filling between thin shortbread type cookies for a totally different twist.  Whatever additional ingredient(s) you choose, add it to the melting chocolate before adding the coconut.

I’m going to try a batch with some chevre cheese mixed in . . . I bet that’ll be good!  Mmmm!  It should add a nice creamy tang.

Roast beef “sandwich”

Gluten free roast beef "sandwich"
Toast 2 slices roast beef topped by 2 slices pepper jack cheese

Saute peppers and onions

Eating out I’m faced with a 10% chance that I will inadvertently end up eating something I shouldn’t and creativity at home prevents me from feeling deprived or limited.  Because I can’t eat gluten or soy, and because I have to be careful of other foods as well, I’m continually trying different combinations that respect my limitations.

I like Subway’s roast beef sandwich (made without the bread), but the last time I was there I got glutened by careless handling of my order.  It takes two weeks to recover which sucks, so creating my own roast beef sandwich became a must.

Safeway’s Primo Taglio house brand of roast beef is really quite good.  I get it sliced the same thickness as deli cheese.  Lucerne has sliced pepper jack cheese.   With a bit of onion, some red and green pepper, a sweet Anaheim pepper and some cucumber and tomato, I get a sandwich that rocks.



Bison, and other stuff

We have a lovely local market that carries all sorts of not-so-mainstream foods as well as having a lovely selection of bulk foods.  I shop there not only because of the selection but because I’m supporting a local store.  They just increased their bulk food selection and they carry a really good range of gluten free products which is an additional plus.  They are my go-to-first food shopping place.  I shop at Safeway only after I’m done all my shopping at Shop-n-Kart.

Yesterday I was collecting bits and pieces for another batch of bouillabaisse inspired base for the clam chowder I make.  I make a big batch and store it in portions in the freezer and use that to add liquid/fish to my chowder.  It is SO much better than just adding water.  It takes the chowder from “oh, we’re having chowder” to “Oooo!  Chowder!”  It really makes that much difference to me.

Shop-n-Kart has a really good selection of head and tail on fish which is just what is needed for bouillabaisse.  Note to self, put in a request for orange roughy.  So I’m browsing away adding stuff to my cart as whim strikes me.  That’s the beauty of bouillabaisse.  I always check over the beef section (they carry family and restaurant packs of meat which are usually quite a bit less than what Safeway carries and can be packaged into the freezer so I can shop less often) to see if there’s a really good buy on rib steaks (my favorite), t-bone (okay but not nearly as good) or New York strip (what I usually end up with) and I noticed they have started carrying bison.  How cool is that?!  I picked out a lovely 7-bone chuck roast to barbeque.

I don’t know if you can call what I do with 7-bone chuck “barbeque.”  I smoke/bake it on a charcoal grill with all the coals pushed out to the outside edge.  It takes more coals (1½ to 2 times as many) but the result is fabulous.  Okay, I guess that’s barbeque.

I dried off the roast and rubbed both sides with finely grated elephant garlic, rosemary, thyme and cracked black pepper.  The elephant garlic grates into a paste that pretty much disappears into the meat when you rub it in.  Then I add the pepper, rosemary and thyme, rubbing it in.

I placed the roast in the center of the grill well away from the charcoal and close the lid.  The goal is to cook it to juicy tenderness, not charcoal the outside leaving the inside raw.

The first side cooks for about 20-25 minutes depending on thickness, the second side for 10-15.  It’s important to not overcook it.  The key to timing the turn and removal is in the appearance of the surface of the meat.  When the top of the roast’s outside edges starts to get shiny from rising moisture, turn the roast over.  You want to pull it off the grill just as moisture starts to pool on the top.  If you wait to long, the heat will drive all the moisture out and you’ll end up with a dry roast.

When you pull the roast off the grill, let it rest for five minutes before you cut into it so the juices have time to redistribute.

Our bison roast was beyond awesome, tender, juicy and flavorful.

I have used this same technique to smoke a rolled turkey roast for Thanksgiving.  Soak flavorful hardwood chips (I use apple or cherry) overnight.  Just before placing the roast on the grill, cover the charcoal with the soaked wood chips.  They will flavor the roast as it cooks and you’ll have delicious juicy turkey ham.

Potato butter

Terry and Lorr on the range

Our son and his SO came over yesterday.  After an afternoon on the range, we all went to dinner at a local restaurant specializing in slow cooked smoked meats.  I had blackened prime rib which came with a baked potato topped with a scoop of premixed butter, sour cream, chives and cracked black pepper.  It was AWESOME.  Whoever thought of mixing those together and serving it all in a scoop is a genius!  The ratio of butter to sour cream to chives to pepper was perfect!

OMG pressure cooker barbequed pork

Our local market had pork ribs on sale.  I had just picked up my stainless Presto pressure cooker from Walmart and was primed for a meal I could cook in my new toy.  Barbequed pork ribs sounded perfect.

The book that came with my pressure cooker had a recipe for barbequed pork, but I didn’t have all the ingredients AND some of the recipe ingredients are things I can’t eat so recipe ad lib was required.  The result was FABULOUS.

Here’s what I did.

I added one cup of water and 3 pounds of pork ribs to the pressure cooker and cooked it for five minutes.  That’s misleading.  If you’ve ever used a pressure cooker, you know it takes a bit of time to get up to temperature/pressure.  You start timing from that point, not from the point where you stick it on the stove.

After five minutes I set the pressure cooker in the sink and ran cold water over it until the pressure released.  I drained off the liquid (saved it for our dogs’ dinner tonight) and added 1-10 oz can of Safeway brand Southwest Style Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles, 1/4 diced onion, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup xylitol (birch sugar safe for diabetics), 2 tbsp maple syrup and 3 roughly chopped roma tomatoes.

After the pressure cooker came up to temperature/pressure, cook time was 10 minutes.  At this point you have to turn off the heat and let the temperature/pressure drop without any quick cooling.

After the pressure released, I pulled the pork out and reduced the sauce, stirring occasionally with my whisk.  The pork was served cubed with the sauce on top.  OMG.

With this I served oven fries.  Wadly cut two potatoes in wedges.  Ideally, 1 potato per person and 8 wedges per potato is good but go with what works for you.  Put the wedges in a bowl and toss in freshly ground pepper, sea salt, basil and olive oil.  Toss this combination and lay them skin side down on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet.  Cook at 400° to the done-ness you prefer.  I like them golden brown ~30 minutes.

This was easily the best meal we’ve had in a while.   It was awesome!

To this I will add . . . this recipe produces a fairly chunky barbeque sauce.  If you want a smoother sauce, puree the ingredients before adding them to the pressure cooker.


Awesome marinade

I’ve been working on a marinade for beef for a while.  I’ve finally got something I really like.  It’s soy and gluten free, low in sodium and really delicious.  The recipe will season two steaks but might stretch to three if the portions are smaller.  I can comfortably treat two rib steaks or three New York strip steaks with this recipe.  It would probably do steak for beef kabobs for a family of four.

Grate ½ a large bulb of elephant garlic using a fine grater.

Grate ¼ of a large yellow onion using a large grater.

Add ½ teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper and two tablespoons each of Lee & Perrin Worcestershire Sauce, red wine vinegar, maple syrup and Organic Tailgate Rub by Morton and Bassett of San Francisco (garlic, rosemary, pepper, parsley, thyme and marjoram).

Mix all that together thoroughly.  Add two tablespoons of olive oil and mix.

Put the marinade and steaks in a gallon ziplock bag.  Press out the majority of air and seal the bag.  Massage the bag until the steaks are thoroughly covered with marinade.  Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Take the steaks out of the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature.  Take the steaks out of the bag and scrape off all the marinade bits and dry the steaks (I use paper towels).

I cook these in a cast iron skillet on medium heat in butter until rare to medium rare.  Cook yours per your preferred method and degree of doneness.


Seafood Bouillabaisse Redeux

Months ago I made seafood bouillabaisse a la Julia Childs.  The leftovers were frozen in two-person sized lots for later use.  I’ve managed to put them to very good use.  I’m making seafood chowder using the frozen stock.

This one is really easy, but it does require some basic cooking skills.  Other than making sure the seafood is ready to add, the rest of the work is chop as you go.

In a sauce pan on medium heat, melt 2 tbsp butter.  Chopped three slices of bacon and add it to the pan.  While that’s cooking, dice a quarter of a large onion.  Before adding it to the sauce pan, stir the pan’s contents.  Layer the onion over the top and do not stir it in.

Chop 1/4 each of a red and a green bell pepper.  Before adding these to the sauce pan, stir the pan’s contents.  Layer the peppers over the top and do not stir them in.

Grate two well washed medium carrots, skin on (remove both ends).  Before adding the grated carrots to the sauce pan, stir the contents.  Layer the carrot over the top and do not stir.

Grate two smallish well washed yukon gold potatoes, skin on.  Knife off any bits whose look you don’t like before grating.  Before adding the grated potato to the sauce pan, stir the contents.  Layer the potato over the top and do not stir.

If you have frozen bouillabaisse, plonk the frozen lump down on top the grated potatoes and put a cover on the pan.  Turn the heat down just a little and keep an eye on the liquid level in the pan as the bouillabaisse melts.  You’ll want to pull the still frozen lump out when the liquid level reaches the right height (visible but not covering all the contents.  Stuff the remaining frozen lump in its container and stick it back in the freezer for your next foray into seafood chowder.  If you don’t have frozen bouillabaisse to add, use Kitchen Basic unsalted seafood stock.

This is the point where you will need to add tomatoes if you’re going to.  Adding tomatoes is completely optional.  You don’t want a lot of tomato, just enough to brighten the flavor.  Two smallish tomatoes or one large tomato should be adequate.  Remove the skin and chop.  Stir into the contents of the sauce pan.

It shouldn’t take very long for the potatoes and tomatoes to cook.  You’ll need to add your seafood shortly. Once you add the seafood, stir it as little as possible.  The more you stir the more you’ll break up the seafood.

Here’s the scoop on choosing seafood for this recipe.  You can add almost anything.  I bought a 16 ounce package of mixed seafood on sale ($1.99) at the market a couple weeks ago.  It had squid, cod, octopus, shell-less clams and muscles as well as some fake crab (which I chose not to use).  Half the mix, with the judicious addition of a dozen shrimp and a dozen small bay scallops, made an awesome batch of seafood chowder.

You can use salmon.  You wouldn’t think to use salmon in a chowder but it’s truly excellent.  Whatever fish you use, make sure you debone it.  You can use whole clams and mussels (well washed) as part of the mix.  I usually have  frozen tilapia on hand.  I cut the fillets across into 1″ strips and add with shrimp and scallops.  Whatever you decide to use, use a variety and add enough to make it a hearty seafood stew.

Here’s the bit on adding the seafood to the recipe.  Once all the veges are cooked through, you want to stir in the thawed and/or fresh seafood.  Turn off the heat, cover it and let it sit for about 20 minutes.  The residual heat will cook the seafood through without overcooking it.  Overcooked octopus is like chewing on rubber.  Correctly cooked octopus is delicious.  Some seafood loses it’s texture when overcooked, becoming mushy.

At the end of the 20 minutes, stir in up to two cups of milk.  I used almond milk, but whole or 2% milk works great as well.  Fold the milk in very gently and only add as much as you think you want.  Adding cold milk stops the cooking process to ensure the seafood isn’t overcooked.  Be careful stirring.  You don’t want to break up the pieces of fish.

This seafood chowder recipe, depending on how much seafood you add, will give five or six people a nice sized bowl.

A twist on split pea

I like soup.  If I make it in bulk I can freeze it in pints and have lovely soup when I feel like it.  I’m currently on a split pea kick.  Today is my fourth batch in the last couple months only today I added a new twist.

It looked so yummy . . .

The first time I bought ham for split pea soup I got the perfect ham with lovely flavor and not too much salt.  The resulting soup was eaten up REALLY fast. Ooo, it was lovely.

I was less fortunate with my second ham purchase.  It was a named brand loaded with salt which pretty much ruined the soup.  I still have some of that ham in the freezer and it took quite a while to get the soup eaten.  I will have to figure out what to do with it.

The last two times I made split pea soup I used a smoked sliced pork shank.  It is the perfect flavor.  The bone and skin add to the flavor of the soup.  You have to remove the bones and skin before serving the soup . . . or not.  Last time I just left the bones and skin in and we ate around them.  I’m not so sure I could do that feeding kids or guests.

This time I replaced half the water with Pacific Natural Food’s roasted pepper and tomato soup.  From what I can tell from taste testing as it cooks, this is going to be AWESOME soup!  <grin>

Okay, ingredients . . . 2 cloves elephant garlic, diced.  Use regular garlic if you prefer.  One medium onion (not a sweet onion, use a good strong flavored make-you-tear-up yellow) diced.  Two carrots, peeled and diced.  Two celery stalks including the leafy tops, diced.  Two bay leaves, some crushed peppercorn, some crushed allspice berry (I get them whole at the local market – use 3-5), a teaspoon of thyme, a sliced pork shank (~2 lbs).  Add a package of split peas (rinse them really well), a package of the aforementioned soup and a quart of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the split peas meet your standard of done-ness.  I like them falling apart but YMMV.

Add milk or heavy cream or a dab of sour cream to the bowls if you’d like just before serving.  Add some crusty garlic bread and you’ve got a great meal.

Variations . . . going on the principal there is no such thing as too many veges, add half a fennel root bulb.  It adds a really nice flavor.  Leeks are good as well.  Enjoy!

Update: The soup was absolutely fabulous.  I bet none of it makes it into the freezer . . .

It’s NOT an omelet, it’s everything but the kitchen sink

The tasty result
Sautéing onion, pepper, fennel and parsley
Everything except cheese folded into the eggs. Note how dry the mix appears. Everything's coated with egg but not floating in it.
Once you've dumped the mix into the skillet, shake the pan to level the mix.

My share with fresh tomato!

I make not-omelets pretty often.  This is a one dish meal that’s easy to make.  It’s the single pan equivalent of a frittata.  The ingredients are whatever I have on hand at the time.  If you’re careful matching the type of cheese to the ingredients, they’re a tasty way to handle many leftovers.  This dish can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner and it goes great with a green salad.

The base for this not-omelet  is 2 or 3 eggs and a one or two tablespoons of milk.  This dish can be sized up or down depending on the mouths to feed and leftovers to use.  The egg is just a binder to hold everything together.  It is not the star of the dish.

My favorite not-omelet includes onion, peppers, shrimp, tiny scallops, broccoli or asparagus and chevre, a mild and creamy goat cheese.

For this not-omelet I added sautéed fennel bulb,  onion, red and green peppers and parsley.  I also added chopped left over steamed broccoli and some of the sausage I had fried up for pizza.  I topped it with some pepper jack cheese.  I needed to use up the fennel and parsley and pepper jack.  Chedda woulda been betta but I was out and the pepper jack needed used up.

Here are the steps to this simple any-time dish.

In salted butter, sauté whatever you want to add.  I seem to always use onion, though I usually also include peppers.  Whatever you add has to be precooked.

Whip the egg and milk together with a fork.  If you’re adding a soft cheese like cream cheese or chevre, or you want to include sour cream, mix it into the eggs before adding the other ingredients.  Fold in everything.  I tip the sautéed veges in right from the pan, then reuse the pan to cook the not-omelet.

With the pan on medium heat, add some more butter.  Once it’s melted and coating the bottom of the skillet, tip in the egg mixture.  Shake the pan to level the mix and turn the heat down to low.  Cover the pan with a plate.  The goal is a  to gently cook the egg just enough to have it set and no more.  Using a cast iron skillet and covering with a plate allows excess moisture to escape.  If you have a pan with a tight fitting lid, set the lid on slightly askew so the dish can breathe away the excess moisture as it cooks.

And the most important thing . . . do not overcook.  If you shake the pan and nothing gives a wet wiggle, it’s done.  If there is just a tiny bit of wiggle at a spot or two on the surface, turn the heat off, cover the skillet and leave it for a couple minutes.  The residual heat should finish the job.

There is an alternative way to cook this dish.  I ate a seafood frittata at Sundecker, Boondocker and Green Thumb on Broadway in Seattle.  It was a truly awesome dish (crab, shrimp and scallops).  This was cooked in a small skillet.  At the “turn the heat down to low and cover” part, they instead put it in the oven to set the egg.  The frittata was then turned out on a plate and garnished with grated cheddar, tomatoes and green onions.  This frittata is the gold standard for my not-omelets.