Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Pre-Show!!!

Shelby called last night, and as usual the discussion turned to Thanksgiving. It's really her favorite holiday of the year! She said that her goal this year is to learn to make bread.....then she remembered the bread I used to make and asked me about it.

I got that recipe sooooo long ago that it's in shreds right now....touch it and it turns to dust. But it's a great recipe and although I've seen it duplicated in many ways, I still make it the same. You start by making your "starter". Before commercial yeasts and baking powders were available, this is similar to how bread was made.

Bread Starter

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup very warm water
3 tablespoons potato flakes (See Note)

Stir together using a wooden spoon (never put a metal spoon in your starter)... ...and set out on the counter for 3 to 5 days. Stir it every day until you see bubbles forming at the top of the mixture. Then place it in the refrigerator for 3 days.
After 3 days, remove the mixture from the fridge and add the above ingredients again and stir. Leave on the counter 8 to 10 hours. Remove one cup of the mixture and throw it away, then put back in the refrigerator for an additional 3 to 5 days.

The next time you take it out, feed it....leave on the counter 8 to 10 hours, then use one cup of the mixture to make your bread or give it to a friend, putting the rest in the fridge for future use.
I know this sounds daunting, but I promise you it's not. I'll keep you posted on the progression of my starter, then we'll make bread together!
Important Note: Make sure when you purchase your potato flakes that you don't buy any that are flavored...not even with butter. You need the plain potato flakes,ok?

Ohmigosh....these are soooo good!

This isn't my recipe, it's Shelby's....she said she was going to post it, but never has. I made them last night and just have to share!

Shelby called me one night and said, "Mom, I just made these butternut squash fries and they never made it to my plate....I hovered over the pan and ate them all!" I decided to try them myself and they were awesome. Last night I decided to make them again, only this time I would cut them into cubes instead of the fries. They were still delicious, but I think I'll stick with the fry shape....they are thinner and crisp up better....and this recipe is very simple and very quick to make...more yummy than work!
First I use a potato peeler to peel my squash.........then I cut it right where it starts to "bulb out"........I scoop out the insides (like making a jack o lantern!).........then I cut them into cubes.....put them in a pan and drizzled olive oil over them, then added salt and pepper..........then I baked them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.
I love butternut squash and acorn squash.......they taste quite similar. I think that the next time I will try these with a little cinnamon and nutmeg....yummmm!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Coming Soon.............

I'd like to announce my Thanksgiving 2008 series.......since Shelby will be fixing her very first Thanksgiving dinner without me, I figured that doing this might save a little time on the phone on Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day. She is well prepared.....she just doesn't know that. She has been by my side for many, many Thanksgiving first she just watched and stuck her fingers in things....later she wanted to pour and stir.....then she wanted to chop (that was scary).....and then she wanted to do different dishes by herself.

I'm excited about her cooking her first one by herself...but I'm sure it won't hit me until she's not here at my stove just how hard it will be to cook my own. I will miss her, no doubt, and even though Evan has actually volunteered to wear her apron this year there will be a hole in this Thanksgiving. But I truly am excited for her to cook her first one by herself.....I can't wait for her to realize what a great cook she is. She is soooo much better than I was at her age!

I love you, Shelby.............and I miss you..........and I'm so excited for you and the life you are living.




PS - The first in the Thanksgiving series will be the cooking of the turkey. I have cooked them the way my Mom did....I've brined, deep fried and smoked.....and this year I think I've made a new discovery..............................check back for Tim Turkey, 2008! (The turkey for the series is courtesy of Shelby.........her last paycheck from Harbor's Edge)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Soup's On.........Again!

It's a Sunday thing....and it's nice to have leftover soup during the week. This Sunday it was Dennis' choice. As usual, he couldn't think of anything, so I gave him three choices: Broccoli and Cheese, Chili and French Onion.....he chose the latter and I was glad....I love French Onion Soup!

This time I decided to add a little twist and it turned out awesome! I started by chopping up my onions. I prefer this method versus the rounds....easier to cut!

I made a small batch, so I used two onions and a half stick of butter. I melted the butter and added the onions, a sprig of thyme, a bay leaf, 1 chopped garlic clove, salt and pepper. I let them cook on medium low for about 25 minutes until they were nice and carmelized. While the onions were cooking, I put the bread in the oven. I love the "Take and Bake" french bread at Food's delicious!I also shredded my cheese. I usually use slices of provolone....I love how it melts down the side of the bowl when you broil it. But this time I used's nutty and delicious, but you have to shred it. Then I added about a half cup of red wine and let that completely reduce. Next I added about a tablespoon of flour and stirred it in have to make sure that red wine is gone and all that's left are the onions and the butter or you'll have lumps! Once that's done, I added a quart of beef stock and two cans of beef broth (but you can use all broth or all was just what I had on hand).

Bring the soup back up to temperature and it's done! Next ladel the soup into bowls and float slices of the french bread on top.......cover with a nice layer of the shredded cheese, place on a baking sheet and broil for about 3 to 5 minutes....make sure you keep an eye on them!! The only thing left to do is eat!!!

It was delicious! I'll make it this way from now on!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner.........

They'd been trying to get up with us for a couple of days to give us some pills they'd ordered off the internet for Shugs.....she scratches NON-STOP and they said they had the cure. We'd been so busy we hadn't had a chance to connect, so I decide we'd invite them for dinner that night...last night.....who, you ask??? Shugs' Uncle Brad and Aunt Minda!!!!

Melinda got off earlier than Brad, so she came on over to help me prepare dinner......Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Roasted Vegetables and Yeast Rolls!!!!!!!! We had a blast getting things ready and taking pictures to post here! So here's how it went!

Herb Crusted Pork Loin (I will post the actual recipe at the end of this post.....we didn't use it, so we'll walk you through what we did!):

We got our aromatics together for the crust: rosemary, thyme, parsley, green onions (regular onions, shallots or leeks work just as well!!!), LOTS of garlic, fresh bread, salt, pepper and olive oil. I used my mini food processor, so I put the herbs in first and processed them until they couldn't process any more......then I poured them in the bowl and processed the bread (I used about 5 slices for this loin) and added it to the herb mixture. Melinda then stirred that while pouring olive oil into the mixture to form the "stuffing-like" crust. Next we sliced open the loin and spread the herb crust mixture inside....closed that up.....salted and peppered the top of the loin, then added the remaining herb crust mixture. Tah Dah!!!!! That's it!!! I baked it at 375 degrees until my meat thermometer registered 165 degrees, which was about an hour.

For the roasted vegetables, I sliced longwise zucchini and yellow squash into slices about 1/4 inch and put them in a large zip top bag. Then I sliced a tomato into four slices and added that....I also added green onions (Cut about two inches above the white part), red bell pepper and shitake mushrooms. Then I covered them with my marinade, which is simply Good Seasonings Garlic and Herb Dressing made with olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of the veggie oil and vinegar (I love it!!!). I made sure everything was well coated and let it sit until Dennis cooked them on the grill.........ooops!!!! We forgot to take pictures of him cooking the veggies!!!!!!!!!!!

After the pork loin came out, we covered it and let it sit and put the yeast rolls in the oven....15 minutes later everything was done!!! Brad sliced the pork and we all hovered over him with our plates! It was a delicious dinner with wonderful friends! Brad and Melinda, thanks for spending such a beautiful evening with us.....and Shugs thanks you for her pills....she's resting comfortably!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

He's nuts.....for peanuts!

Dennis absolutely has to have peanuts around to snack on......long before I met him he was buying 25 pound boxes of shelled peanuts so that he always had them around. These peanuts are so delicious the way he roasts them!

When he gets them home he separates them into zip top bags and puts them in the freezer. As he runs out of peanuts, we make a new batch.....and that's what we did last night at 11 o'clock!!

The only ingredients you need are the peanuts, peanut oil and popcorn salt (don't buy the flavored kind!). He spreads the peanuts out on a baking sheet and pours enough of the oil to coat them. Then he sprinkles on the salt and mixes them all up...then bakes them in the oven at 350 degrees for 18 minutes.

Once they come out of the oven, he pours them into a paper grocery bag so it will soak up the excess oil.....when they're cool they go back into the zip top baggy for future snacking. They're delicious!

I just realized I didn't have a picture of the finished peanuts and headed to the kitchen to get I walked into the living room, what do I see???? Dennis........eating peanuts!

Soup Kitchen Time!!!

It's chilly, gloomy and windy outside.....a perfect day for soup! Now you all know that I'm not a recipe follower, so there really isn't one for this soup. Everyone knows how to make chicken soup and everyone makes it a different way.....this is just one of the ways I've made it for years.

I used a package of cut up chicken (easier to get it to fit in the Dutch oven, but whole works, too!) and put it into the Dutch oven with cut up onion, the centers and ends of my celery (I just use them to help flavor the broth and the chicken...I add the stalks later so they aren't mushy), a whole head of garlic (plus some extra the garlic!), salt, pepper (the McCormick Pepper Medley) and several sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to simmer until the chicken is done!

Once the chicken is done, take it out to cool and scoop out the veggies, garlic and thyme stems. I throw out the celery and onions because they are too mushy. I let my broth cool (after it cooled down a little, I actually stuck it in the freezer for a bit) and spoon the fat off of the top.

I squeeze out the cooked garlic and add it back to my broth. Once the chicken is cool, pick it from the bones and add it back to the broth with cut up celery, onions, carrots, and peas....bring to a boil, then add Mahatma Saffron Rice (an old family favorite around here!).

It's important to stir the soup frequently so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom, but once the rice is done, the veggies should be done, too.....that means it's time to eat!

I spoon it into bowls and top with freshly diced chives. It was delicious! The saffron rice just makes this adds a pretty color, too!

Herb we go again!!!

One of the most enjoyable, yet challenging, things about cooking has been learning how to flavor my food! I was raised by a country cook, so our pantry only had salt, pepper, a jar of poultry seasoning and a jar of spaghetti seasoning (and I can guarantee you she had no idea what was in either of those jars!). I didn't see a head of garlic until I was well into my twenties and I didn't buy fresh herbs until I was into my thirties. When I thought about that earlier, I knew I needed to share with you some of my tips for cooking was herbs and spices:

1. Ground spices release their flavor more quickly than whole spices. Ground spices, such as ground thyme, rosemary or cumin, can be used in recipes with shorter cooking times or can be added near the end of cooking for recipes with longer cooking times.
Whole spices need a longer time to release their flavor. They work well in longer-cooking recipes like soups and stews.

2. Robust herbs such as sage, thyme and bay leaves stand up well over long cooking times, while milder herbs like basil, marjoram and parsley should be added at the last minute for best results. This is especially true for fresh herbs.

3. Making a soup or stew that calls for fresh thyme? Just throw the whole stem in. Once the stew is complete, dish out the stems...the leaves will have fallen off into your delicious stew!

If you're adding rosemary to that stew, throw the whole stem in and pull it out at the end.....the leaves won't have fallen off, but it's such a flavorful herb, it will have left it's mark behind!

3. Spices and seeds such as fennel, cumin, sesame seeds and white peppercorns may be toasted to intensify their flavors. Add the spice to a dry, heated skillet and toast until aromatic, stirring occasionally.

4. Does the paper skin on a garlic head drive you nuts! When I buy a new head of garlic, I hold it under running water and gently peel away all of the skin. It makes it so much easier to pull off a clove when you need it! And if you're making a soup or stew where you're using the whole head, you don't have to worry about garlic paper floating around in your soup!

5. When you purchase fresh herbs at the grocer, wash and dry them immediately. Then wrap them in a dry paper towel, place in a zip top baggie and refrigerate. Some herbs keep longer than others. If you notice that they might be starting to deteriorate, pull them out of the fridge and hang them up to dry! My favorite herb is basil and it has a very short shelf can extend it by removing the leaves and layering them in kosher salt...they keep quite well that way!

6. Most herbs lose alot of their flavor once they're dried. If your recipe calls for fresh, and all you have is dried, try doubling the amount called for and then add more after tasting. Generally, you use 3 times as much dried as you do fresh.....but that can vary with the herb and with your taste palate.

It took me a while to learn which herbs to use with which's a little help:

Basil: Only the leaves are used of the basil plant and it is available either fresh or dried. Basil adds a minty, clovelike flavor to sauces, salads and pesto. Basil is also a perfect compliment to tomatoes. It has a very short shelf life fresh, but it's easy to grow in the loves the heat, but it also loves lots of water! This is my most favorite herb of all!

Chives: Both the leaves and flowers of the chive plant are used. With an appearance of long grass, simply snip the mild onion-flavored leaves when needed. While you can use chives fresh or frozen, this is one herb that doesn't dry well, in my opinion. Uses include soups, salads, eggs, vegetables, chicken, soft cheese spreads, butters, sauces and fish. It's easy to grow, although it prefers the cooler weather.

Cilantro: Also known as fresh coriander or Chinese parsley, cilantro is used to flavor dishes ranging from Asian to Indian to Mexican. Use sparingly, though, as too much cilantro will give your food a harsh, soapy flavor. It's a must in salsas and I love it in chili! Easy to grow, but another one that prefers the cooler weather.

Marjoram: Only the leaves of the marjoram plant are used and are available both fresh and dried. Very similar to oregano, marjoram carries a sweeter, milder flavor. Marjoram makes a great addition to almost any meat or vegetable dish. I have to say it's one herb that I rarely use and I've never grown it.

Parsley: Only the leaves of the parsley plant are used to add a mild, fresh taste to most dishes. Both flat-leaf parsley (also called Italian Parsley) and curly-leaf varieties are available and are virtually interchangeable in dishes that call for parsley. I almost always have parsley on hand...another herb that prefers the cooler weather. Mine is just now starting to take off!

Thyme: Both the leaves and flowers of the thyme plant are used and are available either fresh or dried. Thyme adds a flavor that’s a little bit minty and a little bit lemony. Uses of thyme include beef, fish, chowders, soups, vegetables and tomato sauces. I love to grow this herb and it does pretty well until it gets really cold.

Tarragon: Only the leaves are used of the tarragon plant which are available either fresh or dried. A favorite in French foods, tarragon’s aromatic, licorice-like flavor makes a great addition to chicken, fish, eggs, butter, vinegars, and soups. I've grown this herb just once and it was easy to grow, but I don't often use much of it.

Oregano: Only the leaves are used of the oregano plant available in both fresh and dried. Oregano, which is a classic addition to Italian food, also adds a robust and pungent flavor to stews, soups, fish, lamb, pork, vegetables and vinegars. This is also an easy herb to grow, but like thyme, it doesn't grow year round unless you bring it into the house.

Rosemary: The leaves of the rosemary plant are available in both fresh and dried varieties and the stems make easy skewers that add a ton of flavor to shish-ka-bobs. Rosemary is an excellent herb to be used with pork, beef, lamb, fish, poultry, stuffings, vegetables and marinades. Rosemary carries a very bold, piney and perfumy flavor so remember, a little goes a long way. This herb is a piece of cake to grow....just plant it in the flower bed and it will get huge!

Sage: Both the leaves and flowers of the sage plant are used in cooking in both fresh and dried varieties. A must in most homes at Thanksgiving for the holiday stuffing served, you can also add sage to eggs, poultry, pork, beef, lamb or pasta. Another easy one to grow and it does well until it gets really cold.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Feeling a Little Crabby.......

I stayed so busy yesterday that it was 4 pm before I realized I hadn't taken out the steaks I'd planned to have for dinner. Opening up the freezer I saw the bag of crabcakes I'd made over the last few weeks and realized all was not lost!

Dennis and some friends put out several crabpots just down the creek all summer and caught more crabs than we could eat....although we sure tried! At one point, I had two shelves in the fridge filled with bags of cooked crabs, so we got busy picking them (well, Dennis did!) and filling up the bags with the shelled crab. I decided to make a bunch of crabcakes and freeze them for night just like last night! They keep well in the freezer and thaw out quite quickly! Some of it I put in small bags for using to stuff flounder, mushrooms and shrimp...and the rest I made into crabcakes, froze them on parchment paper on a baking sheet, then loaded them into a big bag for later!

Here's my recipe for crabcakes:

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely minced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1½ pounds jumbo lump crabmeat (you can use backfin, or whatever you like....I just hate shells, so I prefer the jumbo...still be careful and pick through everything!)
1½ cups fresh bread crumbs (made from 4 or 5 slices white bread with the crusts removed and
rocessed in food processor)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon Maille Old Style Whole Grain Mustard
1 large egg
½ lime, juiced (lemon works great, too)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Make the crab cakes in advance so they have time to firm up in the refrigerator before you cook them, unless you're planning to freeze them for later!

Heat a 2-count of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion gets kind of caramelized. Dump that into a bowl and fold in the crabmeat, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, egg, and lime juice, mixing just until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Shape the mixture into 6 fat crab cakes. Put them on a plate, cover, and stick them in the refrigerator to chill.

You can cook your crabcakes two different ways: If you prefer a nice browned crust, fry them up in some olive oil. Since I'm always trying to "cut the fat" (literally), I most often bake them at 350 degrees until firm....about 20 to 25 minutes.

Sooooo....what to have with the crabcakes? Well, there was some asparagus that would start to shrivel if I didn't cook them soon and some shitake mushrooms....I decided to just coat them with some olive oil, kosher salt and that wonderful Peppercorn Medley and have Dennis grill them while I baked the crabcakes.

It was a delicious dinner....quick and simple! I love to cook...but sometimes quick and simple works just fine for me!