29 January 2008

Unexpected Coleslaw Find

I was at my parents’ house recently when I noticed my mom’s shelf of cookbooks. I realized that my mom had a cookbook on wild game, and I was curious to see what it recommended regarding wild duck preparation. My brother, Chris, recently returned from a hunting trip with my Uncle Phil in Louisiana. He brought home several wild duck breasts and some homemade duck/venison/pork/whatever sausage. I was excited to read the author’s thoughts on preparing the wild duck. Well, to my surprise, I ended up flipping to a page in the back (must’ve been the side-dish section) about Coleslaw.

Now, I realize that it isn’t exactly coleslaw season, but the recipe immediately caught my eye because it included fennel. I am not a huge fan of traditional creamy coleslaw, so I am always looking for new recipes that deviate a bit from the traditional. Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables. I think it is the most under-appreciated vegetable. The texture is reminiscent of celery and the taste is of very mild black licorice. It is terrific raw, but it is also dreamy when roasted or braised. I am sure there are a million ways to prepare fennel- what is your favorite? So when I saw this recipe, I thought - why not coleslaw?

My refrigerator is brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables that need to be used up – so lucky for me, I had nearly all the ingredients on hand to throw this dish together except the fennel seeds. I do think this coleslaw would benefit from the addition of fennel seeds (the recipe creator must have known what s/he was doing!). However, if you are skittish about too much licorice flavor, maybe it is better to leave them out. My dad, who is the ultimate coleslaw fan and taste-tester, pronounced this recipe “quite good”. I don’t think it was a 5-star rating; however, my dad is so obsessed with another coleslaw that I make that I am not sure any recipe could live up to it. Don’t worry; I will share that recipe with you in the future.

Millie hoped I would share some coleslaw with her, but instead she got a dog treat. How could I resist her face?
Wildwood Fennel Coleslaw
Serves 6-8
1 small head cabbage
1 small fennel bulb
2 carrots, peeled & grated
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 T fennel seeds, toasted and ground
3/4 t salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Removed the tough outer leaves of the cabbage and fennel, and slice them very thinly, discarding their cores. Combine in a large bowl and mix with the carrots and onion. Add the remaining ingredients and toss.
Let sit in the refrigerator for one hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve chilled.

28 January 2008

Delicious Simple Food: Soup & Salad

Last night, having just said goodnight to J, I was unable to fall asleep. While we were on the phone, I was drifting off to dreamland, so the problem wasn't lack of sleepiness. What was running around my mind in circles, preventing sleep? Was it the stress of returning to work on a dreary Monday? Was it missing my boyfriend whom I won't see for another couple weeks? Was it indigestion?


It was Creamy Baked Potato Soup. Not that I don't miss you terribly, J, but for some reason soup was weighing on my mind last night. I blame Amy Finley, winner of the Next Food Network Star contest. I had her show on while napping yesterday, and I vaguely remember a warm potato leek soup being made. That dish planted the seed that bloomed into tonight's dinner. As I tossed and turned in bed, my mouth was watering over a deliciously smooth, pale concoction with a healthy topping of grated cheese and bacon pieces. I am pretty sure if I had potatoes other than baby redskins, I would have jumped out of bed and whipped up a batch of soup.

Fortunately for me, the soup was just as delicious during daylight hours. I have never made potato soup before, and I was basically experimenting as I went. When I stopped by the grocery on the way home, I knew I wanted russet potatoes and leeks. I also decided to buy another package of bacon in case I didn't have any at home. I am not incredibly tempted by bacon on its own, so I like to have a package in my fridge ready to go into dishes as needed.

I broke out two of my Christmas presents for this soup. I used my new enameled 5 quart cast iron French oven and my new Kitchenaid Immersion Blender. The French oven is nice, but where has this immersion blender been all my life?! It is amazing. I can make creamy, thick, pureed soups with nearly no effort. I cannot wait to find more ways to use this blender.

The soup is fairly rich and hearty, so I needed to counter-balance it with a salad. This weekend at the Worthington Winter Farmer's Market, I purchased some beautiful baby greens. I threw together a very quick salad of baby greens, sliced steamed beets, a sprinkle of feta cheese, lightly tossed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Ground Black Pepper and Maldon Sea Salt. I love Maldon Sea Salt on salads - try it sometime. The salad was the perfect complement to my soup.

Josie's Creamy Potato Soup

6 slices of bacon, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, thoroughly cleaned, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 large russet potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
1 quart chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
black pepper
reserved bacon
thinly sliced green onions
grated cheese, Cheddar or Colby are good

Cook the bacon on medium high heat in an enameled cast iron French oven until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain using a slotted spoon. Discard all the rendered bacon fat except 2 teaspoons. Add the onions, leeks and thyme to the French oven. Allow the onion mixture to sauté for about 7 minutes, until soft and barely beginning to turn golden. The onions will pick up the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the oven. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon occasionally to lift off the brown bits. Add the potatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook about 20 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. Using an immersion blender, thoroughly blend the soup until thick and creamy. You can leave some chunks if you like. Stir the heavy cream into the soup, add salt and pepper to taste.

I like to garnish the soup with a little grated cheese, the reserved bacon and sliced green onions.

25 January 2008

King Arthur Flour & The Quest for the Perfect Pancake

Last weekend (before attempting to remove my finger) I decided to surprise J and whip up pancakes for breakfast. Neither J nor I are big sweets people - we especially aren't morning sweets people. However, I think we both agree that a little bit of sweet with a well-made pancake nicely complements our savory breakfasts. J doesn't believe in box mixes for pancakes. Unfortunately for me, I haven't had any Bisquick in the house for a couple years so I haven't really tested his taste buds. I am dying to know if he could really tell the difference. Regardless, it is good for me "cook outside the box" and try recipes I wouldn't normally notice.

When I am searching for a recipe for a classic but simple baked good, I almost always first look to my copy of The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. I find it to be incredibly reliable and informative. It also covers every single baked item I could imagine, which makes it a nice starting point (especially for a somewhat inexperienced baker, like me). I know the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book has garnered a ton of attention, but I still like starting with the original book. Besides, I have no use fgor whole grains in my pancakes. Since I only eat them once in a blue moon, I figure I can splurge with the AP Flour.

Sadly, it didn't occur to me to take a picture of these pancakes. I can tell you that they were very fluffy and thick. The vanilla flavor was subtle but delicious. For the record, I highly recommend eating pancakes slathered in butter and sprinkled with brown sugar (none of that horrible syrup stuff for me!) with some form of breakfast meat (sausage patties are my personal preference). Gramma W. would be proud to know that I am sharing her brown sugar method with the world.

The Simple But Perfect Pancake
from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

makes 16 3-inch pancakes

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
2 t pure vanilla
3 T butter, melted or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups (6.25 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 t salt
2 t baking powder
2 T sugar or 1/4 cup malted milk-powder* (I used the sugar)

Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla until light and foamy, about 3 minute at high speed of a stand or hand mixer. Stir in the butter. (I did this all by hand)

Whisk the dry ingredients together to evenly distribute the salt, baking powder and sweetener. Gently and quickly mix into the egg and milk mixture. Let the batter relax while griddle is heating (or overnight in refrigerator). The batter will thicken slightly while resting.

Grease and preheat the griddle. The griddle is ready if a drop of water will skitter across the surface, evaporating immediately; if you have an electric griddle, set the temperature between 325 and 350 F. Drop ¼ cupfuls of batter onto the lightly greased griddle. Cook on one side until bubbles begin to form and break, then turn the pancakes and cook the other side until brown. Turn over only once. Serve immediately.

* Malt, rather than sugar, is what sweetens most commercial pancake mixes. For the typical "diner" taste, try malt in your pancakes instead of sugar.

22 January 2008

Knife Safety 101

So I cut myself pretty bad while (attempting) to chop jalapeños yesterday. I have lots of fantastic posts brewing in my head, but I am typing one-handed at the moment. I promise I will be back soon (with freshly sharpened knife in hand!).

In the meantime- here are a couple useful knife safety sites:

Safety Tips: Safety with Kitchen Knives

Kitchen Safety

20 January 2008

Crunchy Granola the Kathleen Daelemans Way

My sister has me thinking about granola. Count me as one of those people who hates cereal with milk, but I do enjoy eating it as a snack sans milk. If the cereal is granola, then it must be extremely crunchy and not have a lot of fruit in it. I have a dirty little secret. I want my granola to taste exactly like the boxed stuff from Kellogg's. The Kellogg's Low Fat Granola without Raisins Cereal (sold in the lovely kiwi green box) is the apex of all things granola for me. I do break down and buy it for snacks at work occasionally, but like most things, I would prefer to make it at home.

So now L has me on this quest to find the perfect granola recipe. It turns out she has the same dirty little secret (maybe it is in our genes?). She started a whole thread on the CLBB about finding the perfect granola recipes. The thread inspired me to try out the Kathleen Daelemans recipe I remember seeing way back when on her FoodTV show Cooking Thin. My roommate, Erica, at the time bought her book - for all I know Erica made this granola when we were living together! So it only took about 7 years for it to come full-circle.

This is a very basic, low-fat recipe. I decided to make a half-batch, but the recipe below is for a full batch. I do know that this isn't my perfect recipe yet. However I do think it is a great start. J for one seems to really like it - I am going to experiment further and send some home with him. I think I could add a touch of fat to the recipe for a nicer "mouth-feel". So the next time I make this, I am going to add a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil to the syrup mixture. I loved the flavor of pecans in this granola, but I didn't bother chopping them at all. Next time, I would like some smaller pieces of nuts - I am going to try slivered almonds for sure. I also might ponder throwing some dried cherries or cranberries in. I think I could handle the fruit in this granola. Lastly, I must point out that I think it is imperative to add the salt. It really perks up the flavors and allows the rich nuttiness of the granola to shine through.

As I fiddle with the recipe I will report back. Thanks to Hammster for pointing out the recipe!

Crunchy Granola Recipe courtesy Kathleen Daelemans

1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups rolled oats
2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, or slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and reserve.
Combine brown sugar and water in a 4-cup microwave proof glass measuring cup or bowl. Place in microwave on high for 5 minutes and cook until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from microwave, add vanilla extract and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts, and brown sugar syrup mixture. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Spread the granola onto cookie sheets and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden and crunchy.
When the mixture comes out of the oven, it is still very pliable. You may choose to add in dried fruit as a finishing touch at this time. When granola has cooled completely, store in an airtight container.

18 January 2008

Teabread Review: To Molasses or Not to Molasses

Post 2 of 2 - The bread has been eaten!

I thought I loved molasses. I grew up eating the most amazing Gingersnap cookies in the world that get their deep, rich flavor from molasses. I grew up eating baked goods that my mom felt could always be improved with a dab of molasses- especially her homemade breads. So I never considered that I didn't like the flavor of molasses. Well... now I am not so sure. This bread, when it is first out of the oven, has a very strong molasses flavor.

Normally I enjoy taking a quick taste of a quick bread batter before it goes in the oven - not this time! The flavor was just too molasses-y. Since the recipe calls for a "frosting", maybe I expected this bread to be sweeter than it was. Well, it just wasn't. I actually think it would be good used to make a turkey sandwich- weird, huh? I ate a piece with a dab of cream cheese smeared on it and drizzled with a bit of honey and thought it was best this way, but I wasn't sure if everyone would like it. Fortunately, not everyone has my taste buds.

I took half of the loaf to work, and I decided not to frost the teacake (mostly because I was running out of time). Instead, I brought in butter and honey and offered them up to my co-workers. I didn't get a single taker on the honey - and only some of them wanted the butter. They all seemed to love this bread on its own. The overall response was that it was so moist and flavorful (and no strong molasses taste to anyone but me!) that it didn't need anything else.

I also took a few slices to Natalie, my sister-in-law, who also happens to be my veterinarian. Crash and Millie had an appointment for their annual check-up this afternoon. So I figured might as well take her some baked goods while I am at it (Joe probably inspired me sub-consciously since he is always giving out his baked goods). The last little bit was saved for J who arrives tomorrow afternoon. He asked me to save him some after reading yesterday's post.
So I guess the bottom-line is that I am in the minority on this bread in that I didn't love it. I suppose I shouldn't complain, right? I will say this, it was an incredibly moist bread. It also looked really pretty to me. I think I might try to make it again but substitute some maple syrup for the molasses. It is always fun to experiment...

17 January 2008

Martha Stewart's Pumpkin Molasses Tea Bread

Post 1 of 2 - I will be back later once I taste the bread!

So as I previously mentioned, I recently purchased the two new Martha Stewart cookbooks that contain recipes from Martha Stewart Living. I decided to whip up a quick bread tonight using one of the many recipes that caught my eye in Volume 2: The New Classics. This Pumpkin Molasses Tea Bread is pushed over the top with a Honeyed Cream Cheese Frosting. I had nearly all the ingredients on hand to make this out of the pantry, and I think my substitutions will work out nicely.

I love quick breads because they are just that - quick. When I am not in the mood for cookies or sweets, a nice fruited quick bread often quells my baking urges. Fortunately for my waistline, my co-workers are happy to be my taste-testers. I do enjoy baked goods, but I don't need them in my house all the time! One of my co-workers has recently been commenting that I have only been bringing in cookies lately- what happened to all the breads? Well, I am going to surprise her tomorrow with a bread! She recently started working quite a bit with my department, and I have to keep her happy so she is ready when I need her!

As usual, I will show my changes to the recipe in parentheses.

Pumpkin Molasses Tea Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting
from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: Volume 2 The New Classics

Makes 1 nine inch loaf

We used apple juice to sweeten the bread, but this recipe is equally tasty made with orange juice or cranberry juice.

Soft butter, for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cooked Pumpkin Puree, or canned (I used canned)
2 Tbs apple juice (I used orange juice)
1/2 cup roughly chopped dried cranberries (I used a combo of raisins and sultanas)
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup honey

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan; set aside. In a med bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat molasses, sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and apple juice. Add flour mixture; mix until combined. Fold in cranberries, and walnuts. Spoon mixture into prepared pan, and bake until cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let the cake sit for about 10 min. and then turn the bread out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.
3. While bread cools, make frosting. Combine cream cheese, and honey in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until smooth and well combined. Once bread is completely cooled, spread top with frosting. Serve.

16 January 2008

About that Chicken Stock

Without further ado, I bring you Chicken Stock 101. Okay well I am not sure I should be considered the authority on chicken stock, but I can tell you what I like. I think many people are convinced that making stock at home isn't worth the time or effort. Well, I am here to tell you that it is not hard to make and it is worth every ounce of effort.

I don't remember my mom not making her own stock. I specifically recall the mad-dash to get the bones and juices in a huge stockpot immediately after Thanksgiving dinner. We always ate early on holidays, and the aroma of bones simmering away in a stockpot still reminds me of a quiet holiday evening. Well, maybe not always quiet, but a holiday evening nonetheless. Honestly, I don't love the smell of stock simmering, so don't feel bad if you don't like it either. I think some people are comforted by it; I am just sort of overwhelmed by it.

First and foremost, you need to start with a chicken carcass. The more the merrier. If you have the space, and you like to do things in bulk, use a couple carcasses and a huge stockpot. Unfortunately, I do not have the space for gigantic stockpots, so I just make stock every time I have bones. Yep, absolutely, 100% every time. I don't think I have ever wasted chicken bones since living on my own! And if a girl in college can make time for chicken stock, well, then you have no excuse to use the canned stuff!

So this is the method:
Add chicken bones, drippings, skin, pieces, parts, etc. to large stockpot
Add left over aromatic pieces, peels, skins, etc. to the stockpot (onions, carrots, celery, parsnips)
Cover with cold water
Throw a couple peppercorns in if you feel like it
Bring to a boil, reduce to a very slow simmer, cover and ignore for a long time.

Seriously. That's it. You don't need to measure, you don't need to stir, you don't need to think. Usually I start this process in the evening and leave it at the very slowest of simmers on my stove until I get home from work the next day. Of course, proceed at your own risk- I suppose this does come with the risk of fire. If you think about it, you skim the ugly foamy stuff off the top of the stock, but if you don't think about it, it won't ruin anything.

So when I get home from work the following day (so the stock has had essentially 24 hours at the slightest of simmers), I set up a "sieving station". I let the stock cool for awhile and begin to ladle it into a very fine strainer set over another stockpot or pan. Periodically I need to discard the solids that accumulate in the strainer. Typically, I just dump this stuff into a nearby dish to cool before I throw it away. There are several recipes that say you should use cheesecloth in your strainer to catch every little bit of "impurity". Personally, I don't care - but if you do care, definitely use the cheesecloth! After all the solids have been sieved out, I put a lid on the pot and stick it in the fridge.

I leave this in the fridge for another 24 hours. This step allows all of the fat in the stock to rise to the surface and solidify (see below).As you can see in the picture, it is a fairly substantial layer of fat. As we all know, fat contains tons of flavor. I have saved this layer of fat before - I use a fork to lift the fat off the stock, and I put it in a small container and freeze for later use. Of course it is not purified the way that commercial schmaltz would be, and I don't know if this is recommended, but I have cooked with it and survived. I have only ever used it in very small amounts when a dish needed a bit of fattiness added to it (like refried beans).

If you don't want to save the fat, don't worry about it. Just lift it off with a fork while it is still cold and throw it away (see below).
After the fat has been removed, I put the pan back on the heat to further reduce the stock. This is based on your own preference, but I would rather freeze several small, condensed portions to save space. Basically by putting the stock back on the heat, you are evaporating more water and reducing the stock to have more flavor. So eventually you could make it thick enough that you have a stock base to use. I like freezing the stock in one cup containers, but it is really up to you. Just keep in mind that this stock will be very rich so you can water it down when you use it in a recipe. Also, don't freak out if your stock looks like loose jello. This is what you want! It means the natural gelatin found in the bones and other chicken parts has leached into your stock. The quivering liquid jiggle of homemade stock really sets it apart from its store-bought counterpart.


Book Lust: "Quick Vegetarian Pleasures"

This post is supposed to be about chicken stock. And I promise I will get to that eventually in a follow-up post, but first I must discuss tonight's dinner. My friend, ErinM, from the CLBB and I were chatting about some vegetarian cookbooks she acquired during the holidays. She was asking me which recipe she should make... and I must admit I was totally selfish in my choice- I specifically picked the recipe I wanted to eat. I was hopeful she would make it, love it, and give me the recipe. Lucky for me, my evil scheme worked out and I got a delicious meal! If you are reading this Erin, thanks for being the guinea pig and typing the recipe for me.

Based on this one meal alone I want Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin. It is simply titled Rice, Brocooli and Feta Cheese Sauté, and the simplicity is why I am enamored. I have made several "skillet meals" that included vegetables and rice in my life. I was sort of skeptical - how can she make these very few, simple ingredients taste new and interesting. Well count me as a believer. I only made a few, very minor changes to the recipe, and it is delicious. I am not a vegetarian, but I do believe in incorporating vegetarian meals into my routine. This recipe is going to be a keeper- especially since I think the left overs will make fantastic lunches at work!

I marked my changes in parentheses next to the recipe, but I think the most important change that I made to the recipe for me was to add a squeeze of fresh lemon to my dish at the very end. It cut through the rich saltiness of the feta cheese and brightened the whole dish- so good!

Thanks again to ErinM for posting the recipe!!

Rice, Brocooli and Feta Cheese Saute

From Quick Vegetarian Pleasures, Jeanne Lemlin

1 Cup white or brown rice (I used brown)
2 Cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp veggie/canola oil (I omitted)
1/4 cup olive oil (I used more like a tablespoon, 2 at the most)
4 garlic cloves minced
2 medium tomatoes cored, seeded and diced (I didn't bother seeding or coring)
1 bunch broccoli stalks peeled and cut into bite size pieces (about 5 cups)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup water (I used white wine instead)
1 cup feta cheese crumbled (I used about 2/3 cup instead)
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the rice water salt and oil in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat (I just used my rice cooker, making my measurements based on the appliance). Lower heat to simmer and cook until all of the water is absorbed (20 min for white rice, 45 for brown). When done, remove from heat and keep covered.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic 2 minutes stirring frequently. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and saute 2 minutes more. Add broccoli and oregano, toss well. Pour in water and cover the pan. Raise heat to medium high, cook 5 minutes or untl the broccoli is tender but not mushy. (remove cover occasionally and toss)

Stir in the hot rice, feta cheese and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

14 January 2008

The Best Chicken and Noodles Ever!

Woohoo!! I managed to keep my promise and get some roast chicken out of the oven and onto my Blog. I have to say that the chicken that had been in my freezer for lord-knows-how-long left something to be desired. But I didn't want to waste it, and they say old chicken is fantastic for soup. I somehow doubt they mean freezer burnt chicken, but when life hands you lemons, you make Chicken and Noodles!

Here is where I should back up and explain my philosophy on Chicken and Noodles. I don't believe in Chicken Noodle Soup. I believe in something much closer to a casserole or stew. I don't want a bunch of clear broth... I want a deep, rich, thick concoction that sticks to your ribs and satisfies your soul. Every year on my birthday, my mom makes me Chicken and Noodles. When I lived in Portugal and she visited me, I asked her to make me Chicken and Noodles. For me it is the ultimate comfort food but not the typical Chicken Noodle Soup you grew up eating.

I started off by roasting the chicken for the meat in the Chicken and Noodles. I knew that I wouldn't be using the stock from these particular bones to get Chicken and Noodles on the table for dinner. My mom definitely raised me to believe that stock needs to be cooked for a very long time to taste good. I have no idea if she is right or wrong, but I do it her way. Fortunately for me and my Chicken and Noodles craving, I happened to have a couple containers of homemade chicken stock in my freezer waiting to be used up.

I recently purchased The Martha Stewart Living Cookbooks (Volume 1 and Volume 2). I decided to see how Martha would roast a chicken. Her basic recipe in the first volume is, well, very basic. But it is a nice place to start. I decided to use her method even though my chicken was cut into pieces. She has you line a roasting pan with thick onion slices. Then you place the chicken atop the onions, schmear with butter, salt and pepper and roast. She has a couple more steps that would be nice to flavor a whole chicken (sticking a lemon inside the cavity, etc.), but I decided not to bother with flavors other than salt and pepper. I did use the onions as my "roasting rack" and thought it worked quite nicely. Her recipe also includes a gravy made from the roasted onions that have absorbed all of the delicious chicken juices that looks divine. The next time I am really roasting a chicken, I think I will have to try the onion gravy with a pile of homemade mashed potatoes.

Once the chicken was on its way to being roasted, I needed to get the rest of my soup components together. This was pretty easy since you can do everything mostly simultaneously. I put a large stock pot on to boil to cook some local Amish Noodles (integral to this recipe in my opinion). I also put a smaller pan on medium heat with a mixture of olive oil and butter, so it will be ready to soften the veggies. I finely chopped a variety of vegetables from my fridge - sweet onion, carrots, parsnips, green onions, and celery. I add them to the pan on medium heat and allow the vegetables to sauté. In order for this to be a quick cooking dish, I need the vegetables to cook on the stove... so take your time and allow them to get really tender. By the time the noodles and vegetables are cooked, the chicken is ready to be shredded. You can toss everything into a casserole pan, add your stock and pop in the oven with breadcrumbs on top. It is a fabulous quick meal if you have any left over cooked chicken around.

Tomorrow I will fill you in on chicken stock the way my mom taught me.

Chicken and Noodles

16 oz Amish Egg Noodles or Kluski, cooked al-dente
2 cups chopped sautéed until tender vegetables (any combination of carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, mushrooms, etc.)
1 cup chopped sautéed until tender onion
1-2 cups cooked chicken (roasted, poached, grilled, etc.)

Combine all ingredients in a large casserole dish. Add enough chicken stock to barely cover. Sprinkle the top with homemade seasoned breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes covered, bake for an additional 15-20 minutes uncovered until browned on top.

This method is incredibly flexible. Yesterday I had a bizarre Cream of Blah soup craving, so I added a can of Cream of Mushroom soup to my casserole. It hit the spot!

13 January 2008

Roast Chicken, Sort of...

I have good news and I have bad news. Bad news first, right? I didn't roast a chicken. I know, I know, I promised. And trust me, right now all I can think of is homemade Chicken and Noodles (which, in my house, begins with roast chicken....). Alas, the roasting did not have time. But, I swear the chicken was waylaid for an excellent reason.

Hence the good news, J was having so much fun with my nieces that we were seriously delayed in getting home and cooking. L lives about 2.5 hours from me and had never met J before. So we planned on going down for lunch and only staying for a little while. Well a little while turned into over 4 hours... which meant we didn't get back to Columbus until well after 6:00. J was starving so we decided to postpone roast chicken and go out to dinner.

I was totally fine with this on two levels. The first (and least important) is that my chicken wasn't thawed yet anyway. The second (and most important) is that I had no clue how J would act around my nieces. He was so cute, and they really seemed to like him. The nieces are pretty young (2.5 and 14 months), and I wasn't sure how they would react to "Aunt Josie's Friend". By the end of the afternoon, I was in the kitchen with L sampling a very tasty pound cake she was baking and J was in the living room with kids crawling all over him. I think the day was quite successful, chicken or not.

So after dropping J off at the airport a little while ago, I realized that I am a little bit congested (if you don't like the weather in Ohio, wait 5 minutes because it will change). I decided I really do want chicken and noodles goshdarnit! But my whole chicken was still solid as a rock in the fridge so I made a quick game-time decision to throw the whole chicken back in the freezer. Instead I took out some chicken pieces I found in the freezer (by found I mean I have no idea who put them there... probably an ex-roommate from way back... scary thought, eh?). The pieces are currently thawing in ice water on my counter. I hope to have them thawed and ready to roast for stock and soup before the end of the day. I will keep you posted.
(Go Giants!)

10 January 2008

Unrelated to Food

Holy crap there is a woman I am dealing with at work that is driving me to drink tonight. I will not be cooking.

Stay tuned for more food this weekend... J wants a roast chicken!

08 January 2008

National Championship Hangover

So last night was the OSU/LSU National Championship game. I am not much of an Ohio State football fan (someday I may delve into this further but today is not the day...), but I am a football fan. Or, at least, I am a football fan compared to the public at large. My family is what one might call obsessed with football. The men in my family all played football, including college ball. Even L is nuts about college football. I just didn't inherit the obsessed gene. My obsessed gene took a decidedly summerish stance and zeroed in on baseball. But I digress. This is about food right?

So last night my older brother, C, had people over to his house to watch the Big Game. I knew he was making chili, which isn't my favorite food. So I decided to offer to bring cornbread since I was craving it. I called L to get her favorite recipe (read: one that tastes like Jif boxed mix which we both love). Well surprisingly, L doesn't have a favorite recipe! So I was left to sifting through my cookbooks... a tough job but I muddled through and came up with Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's Your Basic Cornbread from Big Flavors of the Hot Sun.

I thought the cornbread was quite good. It was extremely easy to throw together at the last minute (I love recipes that encourage you to not over-mix!). It is a very dense bread and was maybe a touch dry, but I slather enough honey butter on it to disguise any dryness. I think I would use this recipe again without much tweaking. I do think it would be interesting to sub some honey in for the white sugar. However, I made the recipe as written so that is what I will type.

PS Aren't the latest dog pictures adorable??

Your Basic Cornbread
Big Flavors of the Hot Sun
Sometimes the only thing you really want with a spicy meal is a good, plain, hearty hunk of old-fashioned cornbread, and this is the version that I like best. A bit on the sweet side, it goes great with just about everything, particularly with hot and spicy foods.

Makes about 12 thick pieces

4 cups AP Flour
2 cups Yellow Cornmeal
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
4 large eggs
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8" x 12" x 2" baking pan.
2. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, and oil.
4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, then add the melted butter. Stir until just barely mixed.
5. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until the top of the cornbread is brown and a cake tested inserted in the center comes out clean.

06 January 2008


I had a weird Sunday. I started out sleeping in later than usual (after 9:00 - that never happens!!). Then I needed to get my act together to meet my older brother for the Ohio State/Northwestern basketball game. It started at noon, which is a really annoying time food-wise. I had a pretty filling breakfast of scrambled eggs with Laughing Cow Light cheese mixed in. I always mix one egg with three egg whites and the dogs get the left over yolks. I think they can tell when it is the weekend and expect this little treat. After the game, I was starving and just grabbed some leftovers from the fridge.

Apparently watching basketball wore me out (or maybe it was J calling me at nearly 2:00 AM last night!), and I crashed after I ate. I took a solid 3 hour nap. It felt really good and I could have stayed on my comfy chair for another 3 hours I think. But I dragged myself out of the chair so I could make some food to take for lunch this week at work.

Since I made the taco meat yesterday, I knew I was having tacos tonight for dinner. So I started an assembly line to make two somewhat similar dishes. The first, which I mentioned yesterday, is my taco topper- slaw. The next dish came from the CLBB- Quinoa Corn Salad with Cilantro, Chives, and Lemon-Lime Dressing from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook. I figured the flavors in the two dishes were very similar, so I could kill two birds with one stone and make them at the same time.

The quinoa salad is divine. It will be a perfect picnic salad in the summer. I can also see many easy variations to this dish. You can learn more about quinoa here. I used an heirloom variety that I had in my cupboard - Inca Red. I like the pretty red color. Honestly, I can't remember if there is a significant taste difference between the common quinoa and Inca Red quinoa. Anyone have an opinion? Anyhoo, I am happy I made this salad. It will be a cinch to grab it for lunch during the week.

Quinoa Corn Salad with Cilantro, Chives, and Lemon-Lime Dressing
Rebar Modern Food Cookbook

Grains are often overlooked in the salad department. This cool, south-of-the-border salad is an excellent alternative to rice in a Mexican spread. Quinoa was one of the acient staple foods of the Inca civilization and is now being cultivated in the U.S. It has the highest protein content of all the grains and is also a very good source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, B vitamins, and vitamin E. Quinoa is quick and easy to cook. The only fussy part involves an initial rinsing to rid the grain of bitterness. One of the many endearing qualities of quinoa is the cute little spiral impressed upon each individual grain when it's cooked...you have to see it to believe it!

Serves 6

1 cup (240 ml) quinoa
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt
2 1/2 cups (600 ml) corn, fresh or frozen (I used frozen organic)
1 small red onion, minced (I used a sweet yellow onion I had on hand)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (I used 3)
1/2 red pepper, finely diced (I used yellow)
3 tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice
3 tbsp (45 ml) lime juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped cilantro
3 scallions, minced
2 tbsp (30 ml) finely minced chives (omitted)
1 tsp (5 ml ) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) Tobasco sauce, or to taste (omitted)
(I added some chopped cherry tomato at the end for extra veggies)

Step 1:
Place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse thoroughly with cold, running water. Bring water to boil in a small pot, add the quinoa and salt and bring to a boil again. Cover and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered for an additional 5 minutes. Strain off any excess liquid and spread the quinoa out to cool on a tray while preparing the remaining ingredients.

Step 2:
Steam or lightly saute corn until just tender and cool to room temperature. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss. Season with additional salt, pepper or hot sauce to taste. Serve with fresh lime wedges.

05 January 2008

The first of many Mexican inspired meals...

My most favorite food in the world is Mexican. Someday, I will be the girl with the Mexican Food themed wedding. I am a regular at a local Mexican joint - to the point that they ask where I have been if I miss a weekly appearance. I love spice. I love flavor. I love heat. So where should I start but with a shout-out to my childhood (thanks Mom for introducing me to "Middle American Tacos") and my favorite cuisine- Mexican.

When I was a little girl, my mom would make hard-shelled tacos on a fairly regular basis. She usually browned the meat with some chili powder and maybe a little onion. We stuffed the hard taco shells with the meat and piled on the typical toppings - shredded iceberg lettuce, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and store-bought salsa. It sounds incredibly plain to me today, but when I was a child this was our "adventurous meal". I think I owe my mom a big thank you for opening the door to Mexican cuisine. If we had left it up to Dad, I don't think we would have had our taco bar dinner...

So I essentially pick up where my mom left off. I still use the ground beef of my childhood, but I jazz it up with more extreme flavors. My toppings have changed drastically as well. No longer do I crave the pale shredded lettuce of my youth... now I want the crunch of purple and savoy cabbage, the spice of raw jalapeños, the zip of fresh cilantro. Most importantly, I need the astringent flavor of fresh lime juice on my taco.

So tonight, I decided to brown up some ground beef for tacos. I like to freeze the meat for quick weeknight dinners. I just pop some into a freezer bag when it is cooled (I freeze in fairly small portions since I am only feeding me). I like to squeeze out all the air so that the bag lays completely flat. Then I label it and stick it in my freezer... perfect for an easy weeknight meal. I thaw it in the fridge the day before and heat in the microwave.

DISCLAIMER: Do not trust me on heat levels! I am notorious for telling someone "oh, it isn't that spicy-hot" only to have them want to kill me (After they finish guzzling their glass of milk).

Josie's Taco Meat

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 jalapeños, chopped finely
1 serrano pepper, chopped finely
1 lb ground beef (I use a fairly lean mix that we get from a local farmer who butchers a whole cow for our family)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 T hot chili powder (I used Penzey's because I have it on hand)
2 t ground jalapeños
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 t freshly ground coriander seeds (I keep a spice grinder on my counter with coriander seeds because I love them freshly ground so much)
pinch of ground cumin
1 t ground chipotle pepper
juice of 2 limes (about 2-3 T)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Sauté the fresh peppers and onion in the olive oil on a medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, until soft and beginning to turn golden. Add in the ground meat and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Allow the meat to cook without stirring much so it actually begins to brown. The meat will look grayish at first, but it will turn golden brown if you allow it to continue cooking. Depending on the amount of fat in your ground beef, here is where you drain off the fat. I like to dump everything into a colander and let the grease drain out. I add it back to the skillet without any additional fat. At this point, add all of the dry spices to the meat. Mix the spices into the meat thoroughly. At this point I taste the meat to see if it needs any additional spices. Once you are done seasoning the meat with spices, add in the lime juice. I like to deglaze or scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to get up any tasty brown bits. The lime juice helps loosen those tasty bites. Turn off the heat and add in the chopped cilantro. Stir to combine.

At this point I let the mixture cool for freezing, or I make tacos! Here is my current favorite taco topping:

Josie's Taco Slaw

1 cup shredded purple cabbage
1 cup shredded green or savoy cabbage
1/4 cup onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
4 chili peppers, chopped (a mix of jalapeños and serranos is great)
juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl about 30 minutes before eating. The cabbage will soften if you let it sit longer. This is awesome on its own or on top of any taco. It is also especially good on fish tacos.


So I am contemplating starting a Blog... mostly to make my sister feel better about starting her own. As a brief introduction, I love to cook. I want this Blog to be mostly about cooking. I will post new (to me) recipes and reviews, as well as small tidbits about my life.
To start out - here is the cast of characters:
Millie - my very sweet, occasionally hormonal, rescue dog. She is half Lab and half Boxer, and she was the first dog that is mine all mine.
Crash - my huge, protective, obsessive-compulsive Great Dane. The poor boy is allergic to most everything, so I try to keep his kitchen snacks down to a minimum.
J - J is my boyfriend who lives in far away lands. I love to cook for him, and fortunately for both of us, he loves to eat.
I am sure there are more names and people who will pop up. I will try to fill you in as they appear...