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My mom’s recipe, of course.  However, I will state here that I have had Boeuf Bourgignon in France, its birthplace, and this is better.

Boeuf bourgignon

1 lb frozen or fresh pearl onions
6 slices bacon, diced (raw)
1/4 c butter
4 lbs cubed chuck or rump roast beef
1/4 c brandy
1.5 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 cups burgundy
2 c small whole or sliced mushrooms
1.5 c beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 c parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t dried thyme
1/2 c ketchup
3 chunked carrots (or a small bag of babies)
6 T flour
1/2 c cold water

Brown onions and bacon in dutch oven, remove and reserve, leaving fat in pan.
Brown meat in reserved fat, add brandy and cook a couple of minutes. Add everything else through the carrots, including the onions and bacon. Simmer, covered, 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender. Mix flour and water and add to pot to make gravy, heat through, and serve. Makes 8-10 servings. Serve with noodles or rice, or you can cut up and add some potatoes to it during the cooking and serve it as a one-dish meal.

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For a brief time I was a guest columnist here but life interfered and I’ve been gone quite awhile. It’s been too long. And as my title implies, I have reasons but no excuses.

In January 2008 I got a new job — incredibly challenging. Six weeks later, my mother — who had always been healthy, strong and vibrant and who was 10 years younger than my father — was diagnosed with terminal, metastasized lung cancer. In the middle of this, I started questioning whether or not I wanted to stay in my then-relationship. (I guess the “then” gives away what my decision ultimately was.) My entire life was in upheaval and everything that was not necessary to move forward got put on hold — including the writing.

By March, I’d pretty much decided to leave the relationship but was putting off the actual exit until we could see what effect Mom’s chemo would have on her prognosis. In June, she had her last chemo and was doing so well we were all convinced it had worked wonders. False hope: it shrank the lung tumor but every other tumor grew in the meantime. However, during the time we thought it had worked well enough to make an actual difference in her timeline, two things happened: I told my ex I was leaving, and, that same week, I met face to face someone I had happened to meet online the week before — and knew as soon as I laid eyes on him that I was supposed to be with him forever.

She deteriorated quickly. She died on August 31. Four days before, on her last lucid night, she met the man I married four months to the day later (last Saturday, in fact), and he was with me when she died. I have not begun to assimilate her loss nor the joy my new husband brings me, but I am trying to look both of these huge changes in my life squarely in the eye and take whatever they have to offer.

My mother was a gourmet cook and taught me well. She’d love the idea that I was sharing my recipes here: she not only sent me hundreds of recipes over the years but every time she found a new kitchen gadget she liked, she bought four of them — one for her and one for each of her children. She was a generous woman, and in the name of that generosity, well, I’ll try to get back here more often and share the culinary wealth.

Iced Spiced Ginger Bars

Bars:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teas baking soda
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas ginger
1 teas cloves
1/8 teas salt
1 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
Frosting:
1/3 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teas vanilla
3 or 4 tablespoons water
Oven 350. Grease 13×9 pan. Blend all bar ingredients at low speed until moistened than at medium speed for 2 minutes, bake 350 for 20-30 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool in pan.

For frosting: medium saucepan over low heat, cook butter until light golden brown, stirring constantly. Add remaining frosting ingredients, mix until smooth, pour over bars and allow to harden. Makes 36.

Enjoy!

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Mushrooms are not everyone’s favorite  food but if you love mushrooms you may have wondered,  ” How can I store them for later?”.  Whether you buy them fresh from the store or a vendor or you pick them like we do, you may find yourself wanting to keep some around for later.

Here in the Pacific Northwest varieties of mushrooms are available about 10 months out of the year but specific varieties may only last for a couple of months.  So I did some research on how to keep them around well past their sometimes limited seasons.

The first place a person may look to keep those fungi from going away to soon is the freezer.  If you plop your favorite shroom into the freezer raw you will be disappointed.  When thawed they will best be described as mush.  Inedible mush at that.  So is the freezer out then?  No!  The mushrooms must be sauteed first.  By cooking them, they can be frozen with acceptable results.  There are other methods that may produce a superior result.

Options for preserving mushrooms:

  • Drying
  • Canning
  • Sauteing then freezing

First, it should be stated that not all species of mushroom can be preserved at all.  For those that are of a very high water content they will not tolerate any of these processes.  An example of a species that can’t be preserved is the Shaggy Mane.  It is an abundant mushroom and easy to distinguish.  It does have one of the highest water contents of any edible mushroom.  Making it  delicate and quick to spoil.  Most edible mushrooms can be preserved, however.  Although results will vary from one type to another.

Drying

Mushrooms being prepared for drying should be sliced into small pieces.  The dryer the mushroom species the larger you can leave the pieces.  Similar to how you would want them as an ingredient in a dish.  For drying you can use a dehydrator.  It should be noted though that in drying mushrooms it is more about air flow and less about heat.  Using the oven for example, even on low heat, is not a good option. You aren’t trying to cook the mushrooms.  In fact in a warm dry environment hanging them out in the sun is a great way to preserve them.

After drying the mushrooms,they should be stored so they can’t draw moisture.  Sealing them in a jar or a bag can work fine.  For the best results I recommend vacuum packing.  There are techniques used with both bags and jars that will give good results.

When it is time to use the mushrooms, you can just add them to a moist dish.  If you are using them alone or adding them to a dry dish placing the mushrooms between two moist towels for a few hours will bring them back to their previous glory.

Canning

The mushrooms whould be sliced into small pieces.  The size is really more about making it easy to handle and pack them.   Some  will cook them first (called hot pack) but I have heard and think canning them raw is the way to go.  The canning process will cook them and cooking mushrooms too mush will harm their texture.  You pack the jar full and add about an inch or so of water. To preserve color add ascorbic acid and I use 1/2 tsp of salt in a pint jar.  It is not recomended that any jar larger than a pint be used.  Put the lids on the jars as you would canning anything else.  Put the jars in the canner with the appropriate amount of water.  They should be cooked for 30 minutes at 10-15 pounds of preasure.

These will last years canned and are ready to add to your favorite recipes.

Freezing

Probably not the best choice but if you want to freeze them make sure you saute them first.  The freezing process seems to affect the texture somewhat.  If you find the result tolerable then it is an easy quick way to store your mushrooms.

The sauteing process for mushrooms is a little differnent than with many other items you may wish to saute.  The process is a dry saute using very little fluid, especially in the beginning.  At most a little oil in the pan to keep anything from sticking and whatever spices you like.  The process is a lot like the searing of meat.  After the pieces are sealed up, they will tolerate moisture without harming the texture of the mushroom.  Adding fluids too soon will make them mushy or slimy.

Once the mushrooms have cooled, they can be put in a freezer bag or wrapped in butcher paper and tossed in the freezer.

The longest I would expect out of this would be a few months without freezer burn or other adverse effects on the mushrooms.

For those who love mushrooms being able to keep them around longer is like having Christmas year round.  Okay, maybe I exagerate but I hope these techniques will help you keep your mushrooms around as long as you like.

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This is a guest blog post by Damien Riley of Postcards from the Funny Farm.

It was a crazy weekend with mother’s day, my wife’s birthday, and this being the moving week we go into our first purchased home. I got this crazy hankering for fondue and steak bits on skewers. Apparently it sounded good to my wife as well because she started looking for recipes right away. Fondue is great because you all sit around a bowl and your food bumps and touches as you gather the cheese over the meats. We really enjoyed creating our own style of this recipe. The original reference is here. Should you choose to make it yourself, let us know how you liked it!

PREP TIME 15 Min
READY IN 15 Min
SERVINGS & SCALING

Original recipe yield: 28 servings
INGREDIENTS

* 1 1/2 cups milk
* 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cubed
* 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
* 1 (1 pound) loaf French bread, cubed

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large saucepan, cook and stir the milk and cream cheese over low heat until cheese is melted. Stir in Parmesan cheese and garlic salt; cook and stir until heated through. Transfer to a fondue pot or mini slow cooker; keep warm. Serve with bread cubes.

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I’ve written about my love for canned Venison before.  There is not a better meat dish, in my opinion, than one made with canned Venison or Elk.

However, I know the process for canning meat can be quite intimidating and time consuming.  In an increasingly hectic world those words are like garlic to a vampire.  Interesting reading but “Keep that stuff away from me.  I barely have time to read about it much less make it.”

Yeah, I get it.  As much as I love to cook with it, I find myself in that same predicament.  We were fortunate enough to get some Venison this year but I haven’t had time (or more like, made time) to can it up.  So I thought I would share another option that actually saves a little time over the old canning method.

Pressure cooking.  Instead of canning it up for later, cook some of it in the pressure cooker and make one or two dishes with it in the near future.

How does that save time?

Well, pressure canning is so long and drawn out because it is a storage method.  Very handy and probably the best way to store meat long term.  Pressure cooking gives you the result without messing with the jars and all the prep work.  Pressure canning has about 90 minutes of cook time per batch.  That’s after you get it up to pressure.  That’s not including all the prep and finish work in order to be sure you have a well preserved product.  On top of that I normally make 2-3  batches at a time. So it takes up a full afternoon.

Pressure cooking is different.  Same cooker but much faster results.  No jars to mess with.  Just get the meat ready, make sure your canner is clean and ready to go and presto, you have cooked meat in a fraction of the time.

For example I will take my Venison trim, cube it up into 1/2-1 inch squares, toss it into some water in the canner (about 1 quart) and in 20 minutes of cooking time it tastes like I slow cooked it for four hours.  You can do the same with roasts or Beef or Pork or even whole chickens.  Anything that will stay together through the cooking process can be pressure cooked. (yes, someone will probably come up with an exception)  The cooking times and amounts of water vary with the cut and type of meat, as well as, whether you want soup stock.  Here is a handy chart for a quick reference.

Time Chart

Now as it says on this chart, you will want more water for weighted canners as this chart is designed for valved canners.  Also, more time means more water.  The canner can not be allowed to run out of water and no more can be added during cooking.  You can put a quantity in and boil it to see how long it lasts.  That way you won’t run it dry.

The meat comes out tender and full of flavor.  Even otherwise tough bits of trim are ‘melt in your mouth’ tender.

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I hope everyone’s Easter was great.  We had a nice gathering where everyone managed to gain more weight in one day than they had gained or lost in the last week.  That was just from the aroma.

We had the Sweet and Tangy Ham again.  It has become something of a hit with the family.  I know they will eventually tire of it but I am pleased with the response it has received.

Stuck in a rut you say, well if it’s not broken why fix it.  Don’t despair, even I, with my limited expertise in and around the kitchen will have more new recipes to share.  For now, I just want to relax and enjoy what was a nice successful meal and gathering.

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It was commented by Seriouswriter (a contributor here), sometime ago, that I should try coating a ham with a 50/50 mixture of brown sugar and mustard. Being distracted by all life has had to offer, it has taken all this time to give it try.

Last night we had some family over for dinner and I thought about this recipe idea. I made a few adjustments and whipped up the glaze (also called a mop) just before putting the ham on the BBQ. The initial review of the sauces smell and flavor was a bit lackluster by my wife, who thought the experiment should wait for a dinner without company. I, however being as stubborn as any mule within sight, went forward with the plan. I thought the sauce was perfect and loved the aroma.

The ham was a Butt half ham weighing about 9 pounds. I laid the ham on the BBQ with the cut side pointing to the side. A person could put the cut side down but I thought that would dry the ham out more. All of the other sides have been through the smoking process already and are able to withstand the heat without as much moisture running out into the flames. Since this is a fairly large piece of meat, I used an indirect cooking method. My BBQ has two burners, so I placed the ham over one burner and used the other to provide the heat. If you don’t have that option make sure you turn the meat two or three times during cooking (Not a bad idea anyway). If you are using briquettes, try to keep the pile to one side and the meat on the other. The downside of cooking such a large piece of meat is that the bottom gets the most heat through the whole cooking process. It could be a bit overdone on one side if you don’t have some way to shield it.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water ( just enough to dissolve to dry ingredients)
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Mustard (I used a spicy deli variety)
  • 1/4 tsp Cloves (ground)
  • 2 Tbs Honey (optional)
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder or 1/2 clove of Garlic (optional)
  • 1 tsp Horseradish (optional)

In a small sauce pan bring the water to a boil and add the brown sugar and spices. After stirring these in and bringing it back to a boil add the mustard. Give it a few minutes to simmer and the mop or sauce is done. Take it and the ham to the preheated grill. Place the ham on the grill and mop down the ham with the sauce. Use a basting brush or your hand to apply the sauce (have a towel handy). Close down the lid and let it cook. Your target cooking temperature is 325 or so, although mine was more like 375 for most of the cooking time. I use a meat thermometer to gauge its progress. The internal temp should be 160 plus and on the 9 pound-er I cooked, this took 4 1/2 hours. The ham should also be mopped with sauce at least 3 times during the cooking process to keep the outside moist.

Our ham turned out very good, even my wife liked the finished product. I kept some of the mop so that it could be used as a sauce on the ham at the table. The outside does dry out a bit but the inside was juicy and tender as could be. It was a big hit. Thanks to Seriouswriter for pointing me in the right direction. It worked great.

Good luck with your next ham dinner. Let me know how you adjusted this recipe for your tastes.

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