Sunday, February 24, 2013

Brownies with Frozen Homemade Yogurt

I hadn't made brownies for a while so I whipped up a batch.  

Walmart Brownies

6 tbsp butter (less than 1/4 cup)
4 rows or 8 ounces Waterbridge Extra Dark (or Dark) Chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup flour
1 cup toasted chopped nuts

Melt butter and chocolate.  Whisk in sugar and vanilla.  Beat eggs in one at a time. Add flour and beat 2 minutes or until batter loses it's grainy texture and smooths out. Mix in the nuts. Pour into parchment lined 9x9 pan and bake 35 minutes at 350ºF. If the brownie sticks to the knife when it's cut, it wasn't quite done. Give it a few more minutes next time. If it's dry, it's over done.

Homemade yogurt is so much better than store bought and so easy it's a shame not to make it. Plug in yogurt maker so it warms up. Put 1/4 cup water in glass yogurt container and microwave 2 minutes.  In a double boiler (pot and bowl works too) heat milk to 180ºF. When milk reaches 180º, put boiler in cold water and cool milk down to 110ºF.  Stir a spoonful of yogurt into the warm milk.  Empty and shake excess hot water from glass container and pour warm yogurt mixture into it. Put in yogurt container for 4-8 hours. Short method: heat milk to 110 ºF, stir in spoonful of yogurt, put in yogurt machine. If using yogurt starter, follow directions on starter package. Usually that means just add starter to warm milk.

Now to turn that fresh yogurt into a mouthwatering dessert.  

Orange Frozen Yogurt

2 cups yogurt
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 orange zest chopped (all way around orange with zester)  
1/4 tsp orange oil (optional, zest only works fine)
1 package gelatin (gives better texture)

Reserve half cup of milk, put remaining ingredients in ice cream bucket and mix with immersion blender. Put 1/4 cup reserved milk in glass container and microwave to boiling.  Put gelatin in 1/4 cup reserved cold milk and stir to mix.  Pour hot milk into cold and stir till all is dissolved. Pour into ice cream bucket. Mix and put in ice cream maker. When  it's done put it in the freezer for a couple of hours to finish firming before serving. Otherwise it melts really fast.

Chocolate Butter Cream Icing

Soften 1/2 cup butter and cream in stand mixer (it looks whiter when it's done).  Sift 1 cup icing sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder into butter. Cream together. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp milk and cream. If it's too thick it will tear the brownie while spreading, too thin and it runs off the brownie. Lift parchment and brownie from 9x9 pan and set on cutting board.  Apply frosting and cut into 9 pieces, 16 if everyone's on a diet.

Put 2 scoops frozen yogurt into a bowl, a piece of brownie on top and serve. Enjoy euphoric exclamations from one and all. 

Paprika Chicken with Lemon Pepper Sauce

Chicken was reasonably priced today so I finally brewed my stock and made good use of it in this dish. Asparagus was also on special so I bought a bunch of that too.  I planned to make a lemon sauce to go with the asparagus but it turned out to be heavenly with the chicken. I think my plating is starting to come together now too.

The other night Gordon Ramsay was on tv and showed how to make stock correctly.  Turns out I was doing more than necessary. All I had to do was put the bones in a pot with carrot, celery, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaves. I also added the ends of the asparagus since I had them. Fill with water and bring to a boil.  Here is the secret. After about 5 minutes skim the foamy impurities off and dispose of them. This makes a nice clear stock. Boil only 30 to 45 minutes. Ramsay floated a slice of bread over the surface to remove the fat.  All I had was stale bread I was saving for croutons but I tried a slice. It didn't seem to work but time will tell.  If there isn't a layer of fat on the stock in the morning, it worked.

The stock was ready before I started cooking  so I could use it to make the sauce. I peeled potatoes and got them boiling and pounded my breasts to double in size.  I wanted something different this time so I put 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, fresh ground mixed pepper and 1 tsp flour in my mortar and mixed it up. I shook the breasts in the bag to coat them evenly. Then I dropped them into too much hot oil which splashed on my hand. I immediately held it under cold running water and fortunately was fast enough that it didn't burn. It hurt though!

I put a tablespoon of butter in a small sauce pan and a teaspoon of flour on top. I mixed it up and let it bubble for a minute before taking it off the heat. I added some fresh stock and whisked it in.  I added enough stock to thin the sauce then added lemon juice, salt and ground mixed peppers. Back on the heat and balance out the stock, lemon juice and salt before plating.

I have an asparagus pot complete with wire basket so I got it out.  I'd only used it a couple of times and I filled it half full of water, which took forever to boil. I'm starting to think in the kitchen now so I tried just putting an inch of water in the pot and steaming the asparagus. That worked much better. I took the asparagus out while it was still quite crisp so it could finish cooking in the extra virgin olive oil.

I plated the potatoes, meat and asparagus in that order. I put lemon sauce over the asparagus  and around the chicken breast.  I took a bite of the asparagus and it was nice and lemony as would be expected.  The potatoes had enough salt for a change. The chicken breast with lemon sauce simply sang. Really. I took a bite and heard music, it was that good! It was so much better than usual because of 3 things.  Better flavor in the stock from skimming impurities. Asparagus in the stock and only salt, pepper and paprika on the breast so it wasn't muddied. I already can't wait to make it again.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Brined Pork Sirloin

I was going to make chicken and use the bones to make stock but when I got to the store I found boneless skinless chicken breasts were on for $11/kg and bone in skin on breasts were also $11/kg. I'm not paying the same amount for bone in meat as bone out meat, that's ridiculous! Also, bone in chicken breasts should be about $7/kg so somebody made a mistake. I should have called the manager over and asked him to confirm the price but instead I just walked down to the pork section and bought a small roast for $4.

I went home and put 4 cups of cold water in a bowl and added 

Pork Brine per cup water

1 tbsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tbsp molasses

I used the immersion blender to dissolve the salt. The roast must be completely covered with liquid and put in the fridge. I brined the pork for about 3 hours but it can be left for up to 2 days. I dressed it with 4 bay leaves, a sprig of rosemary and one of thyme. Then I roasted it at 300ºF for about 2 hours till the internal temperature reached 170ºF 

Mashed potatoes and frozen corn with fresh carrots complete the dish and I added Fern's Ketchup as the condiment. Fern was looking forward to chicken so he was surprised at the pork but he like it anyway.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

White Cake with Caramel Sauce

I made a simple white cake which I was going to frost with butter cream icing but Fern offered to make caramel sauce.

Simple White Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cream butter and sugar, beat eggs in one at a time.  Add remaining wet ingredients and beat. Add flour and baking powder, mix.  Pour the batter into a loaf pan lined with parchment and put in the oven 35-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean of batter. A few crumbs are good, it means the cake will finish cooking outside the oven as it cools.

Fern's caramel sauce was grainy so I won't detail it here.  I haven't succeeded in making a good caramel sauce yet myself, so I'll leave the sauce till I make a successful batch. It tasted good and the cake was terrific!

Ginger Pork with Pineapple Peanut Sauce

I found a pack of sirloin pork chops on sale at the store so I picked it up and immediately started thinking about how to season it. Maybe thyme and rosemary? I wasn't sure till I took the garlic and onion powders out of the cupboard and saw the ginger.  Now that would make an interesting pork dish so I mixed up a rub:

Ginger Pork Rub

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground mixed pepper
2 tsp flour

coat each chop and put in a pan of hot oil.  I turned and rotated them so they were evenly browned.

Mashed potatoes were nothing special, just butter and milk whipped in with a fork.  I never seem to get enough salt in the water and always have to add more to the potatoes. The carrots and frozen peas were done in the microwave because steaming them doesn't add enough to warrant the extra work. Broccoli is another story. 

Once I had everything cooking I had some extra time so I pulled the pineapple pieces out of the fridge and put a tsp of flour in a small sauce pan. To the flour I added 2 tsp of oil and mixed it into a paste which started to bubble a bit. After a minute to cook off the flour taste, I took the pan off the heat and added a tablespoon of canned pineapple juice, quickly followed by 2 tablespoons of milk.  Next I added 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a tsp of soy sauce. It was too thick so I thinned it a bit with more milk. I added a few pieces of pineapple and the sauce was complete.  Here is the complete list of ingredients:

Pineapple Peanut Sauce

1 tsp flour
2 tsp oil
1 tbsp canned pineapple juice
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp soy sauce
3 tbsp pineapple pieces

Fern complained the dish was under seasoned so it needs more soy sauce or salt or salt on the meat. He managed to clean his plate fairly thoroughly so once it had enough salt it was really good! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Southwest Chicken Revelation

I had two chicken breasts in the fridge from 2 days earlier so they had to be eaten today.  When I've kept chicken an extra day it smells a bit .... unappetizing even though the stores best before date still has another day to go. I mixed up some:

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tsp kosher salt (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne

and put a couple of teaspoons in a plastic bag with a couple of teaspoons of flour.  I find that if I use a straight herb mix it tends to scorch in the pan, flour tends to brown. It probably has something to do with the carbohydrates in the flour but I don't know for sure.  Anyway, flour gives a better result. I coated the flattened breasts and put them in a hot oily frying pan. I turned them a few times to get even browning and fully cook the center.  

Mashed potatoes should need no explanation other than don't use an immersion blender to mash them, it turns them into a thick paste no one wants to eat. I steamed my vegetables and finished them in extra virgin olive oil but still managed to over cook them.  

While I was waiting for the breasts to cook in the center it occurred to me that a sauce doesn't have to be cooked, it can be like a condiment. That was the revelation. If I get some mayonnaise and add a little lemon juice to freshen it up it should make a nice counterpoint to the spice rub on the chicken. So that's the white stuff on the chicken, lemony mayonnaise with some fresh parsley to distract the eye from my disgracefully mushy vegetables. Fern liked it, "It would have been better if the mayonnaise was home made."
"I thought of it while the chicken was cooking and mixed it up in that spare moment.  It was that or nothing.", I replied.
"In that case, it was good."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pineapple Coconut Chicken Curry

Boneless skinless chicken breasts were on special and I felt like curry so I grabbed a pack and headed home. First, I put rice on to cook. Then a diced onion caramelized and removed from the pan. Next, a finely diced stick of celery was sweated then removed from the pan. The chicken was diced and seasoned with:

1 tsp flour
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt

I seared the chicken all round then added 2 tablespoons of curry powder and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper. I rolled the chicken around in the curry powder and added 1/4 cup chicken stock to make a thick slurry. Next add 1/2 can of coconut milk and 1/3 can drained pineapple pieces. Bring to a boil and add the sweated vegetables back in.  Add frozen peas and I had some frozen diced sweet peppers from the garden so a few of those went in to. I added a dash of oyster sauce but I couldn't taste it directly so I'm not sure if it helped the dish or not. Didn't seem to hurt anyway. I brought it all to a fast simmer and reduced the liquid by half.  

While the curry was boiling down I grated a carrot, sprinkled white balsamic vinegar on it, added a few raisins and ta da! A lovely salad garnish. It was nice but would have been better done with rice wine vinegar and sugar or maybe Kirin, a Japanese citrus  vinegar. (but I don't have any) I think it almost looks like a composed dish which means I am making progress. We both cleaned our plates so it must have been good!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Snapper with Quick Rub

Snapper was on special and I was in a fish mood so I bought a nice fillet. I suggested french fries but Fern had bacon for breakfast and that was enough grease for the day, so it's mashed. Carrots and broccoli done in the steamer, stopped in cold water and finished in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. I used my kitchen pliers to pull the bones out of the fillet, there are always a few in the center head end of the fillet. I didn't have any seasoning made so I quickly mixed up in the mortar:

1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp flour 

give it a quick mash with the pestle to break up any lumps and generously season both sides of the fillet. Shake excess off and lay the fillet in plenty of hot oil.  Timing depends on thickness so just watch the change in texture as it cooks.  Turn it over to brown both sides. Serve with fresh lemon juice. My snapper was a little over done but not dry so it was quite delicious. A nice quick meal.

ak-mak whole wheat crackers

Yesterday I bought a box of ak-mak whole wheat crackers to try with some brie cheese.  Imagine sesame flavored dirt cracker with brie.  Would probably go best with mud pie, real mud. I won't even give these away. There isn't anyone I hate enough to make them eat these crackers.

Marble Cake

We just finished off a batch of chocolate chip cookies so I felt like something new.  I found a marble cake recipe that looked easy and good enough to be worth a try.  My first mistake was forgetting to warm up the oven which meant the batter didn't go directly in the oven. I also didn't work fast enough transferring batter and mixing in the chocolate.  This resulted in the baking powder losing it's carbon dioxide before the heat could seal it inside. Next time I will divide the batter and mix in the chocolate before adding the baking powder to both halves. That should make it lighter.  

The second mistake was following a recipe I knew had to be wrong. The recipe said to put it in a 350ºF oven for  1 1/4 quarter hours. I looked at the amount of batter and the ingredients again and to me it looked like a 25 to 30 minute baking time but the recipe clearly called for much longer.  So of course I threw personal knowledge and experience out the window and blithely followed the recipe. It had been in for just over an hour when I looked at it and decided it must be done.  I took it out and tested it with a toothpick, which came out clean unsurprisingly. Following is what I did, not what I should have done. (reserve baking powder for last, chop chocolate chips, bake 25-30 minutes)

Marble Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp orange rind

I creamed the butter, then the sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time and added vanilla. Add flour and baking powder (reserve baking powder instead) and mix.  Add salt, milk and mix. If batter is a little too thick add extra milk. Next I divided the batter and added the orange rind to the larger half and the chocolate and chips to the smaller half.  I poured half the orange batter into a 9 inch ring, added all the chocolate batter and topped it off with the remaining orange batter.  Then I drew a knife through the batter all the way around the ring to give the marble effect. I put it in the oven for 65 minutes. (way too long).

The outside of the cake was crisp like biscotti but the inside managed to retain enough moisture to be edible. It was quite good, the orange came through and the chocolate was better than I expected. I took thin slices and buttered them so they were quite pleasant to munch on. It will be gone by the end of the next day, that says it all!


Who doesn't have spaghetti once a week? No doubt there is someone but he is a rare breed. For the first time I'm using mild Italian sausage instead of ground pork and extra lean ground sirloin for the beef.  Overall I had about 600gm (1 1/2 pounds) sausage and 900gm (2 pounds) beef. Other ingredients:

Spaghetti Sauce

1 liter (1 quart) crushed tomatoes 
1 can tomato paste
1 can Aylmer tomato soup (if Aylmer not available, leave out, don't substitute)
2 onions
2 sticks celery
3 carrots
3 cloves garlic
7 mushrooms
1/2 cup diced sweet peppers
2 or 3 bay leaves

I started by dicing and caramelizing 2 onions then removing from the pan.  Next I sweated the carrots, then the celery and garlic and finally the mushrooms. I sliced open the sausages and browned the meat followed by the ground sirloin.  Finally, everything went back in the pot with crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Aylmer tomato soup, 1/2 cup diced sweet peppers, 2 or 3 bay leaves, salt and pepper.

When I first put everything in the pot there was very little sauce and it was pale or clear, not red.  I had hours to let it simmer so I didn't put anything else in. About 2 hours later the featureless sauce had developed a satisfying red color. Who knew? (real chefs) Obviously I still have lots to learn. 

I'm using Barilla pasta and freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese on top. Yum!

Pork Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Oddly enough, pork tenderloin was the best value today, so of course that's what we're having.  I  picked up some mushrooms and intended to hit the liquor store for a bottle of white wine. In a surprise twist, I forgot the liquor store and had to use red wine instead. I set the tenderloin in some cold water with 2 tsp salt and 2 tsp molasses blended into a brine. It would be in brine for at least an hour which is enough to improve the flavor a little bit so it's worth doing.

Mashed potatoes with butter, salt and milk shouldn't need explanation. The vegetables were done in the microwave because frozen peas and fresh carrots do fine in it. I took the tenderloin out of the brine and cut it into 2 inch pieces. Set the piece on end and pound flat.  When meat is pounded flat it is much easier to cook through without burning the exterior.  In a plastic bag I put:

Pork Rub

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp flour

Without the flour the herbs scorch instead of brown which doesn't improve the flavor. I shook each piece to fully coat it then put it in plenty of hot oil.

In a small sauce pan I seared the sliced mushrooms in butter then took them out of the pan.  I added 1 tsp flour and enough oil to make a thick paste which I let bubble on the heat for a minute to cook the flour taste off. Then off the heat I whisked in 1 ounce of beef stock and 2 ounces of red wine. I brought that to a boil and let it reduce for a while.  When the sauce was thicker I added the mushrooms, a pinch of salt, some pepper and a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce. I set the cooked tenderloin medallions on warm plates to rest while I finished the vegetables with extra virgin olive oil.  Then I plated everything and put the sauce on the pork.

Just a hint of molasses came through on the tenderloin but it was enough to lift the whole dish. A really good feed without too much effort.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Seasoned Chicken Breast

It was a chicken day and I didn't have time to mess around a lot.  I quickly boned the breasts, got the skins cooking and bones in the oven to make stock.  I pounded the breasts flat and seasoned with:

Chicken Rub

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
mixed pepper
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp flour

Coat the chicken and drop into a pan with plenty of oil.  Mashed potatoes shouldn't need explanation.
Carrots and broccoli were done in the steamer and finished in extra virgin olive oil. I put Fern's ketchup on my chicken, it was nice.  Fern had his straight from the pan and loved it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Breaded Pork Cutlet

It was a white meat day so chicken, fish or pork.  I didn't feel like fish and the chicken wasn't on special. There was a package of tenderized pork cutlets for less than $3.  I can work with that and the price is right! I picked it up, got a few more items and headed home.

Last time I made breaded pork I used left over egg whites and corn flour which resulted in a tasty, crunchy, battle hardened crust. Literally, it went tink tink when I hit it with my knife! This time I used wheat flour, in a plastic bag I put:

Pork Cutlet Rub

1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder (unfortunately I was out or I would have put it in)
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme 
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp flour

I shook the cutlets in the bag and set them aside. I whipped an egg in a bowl and readied another plastic bag with Alpine Bread crumbs.  Panko or any bread crumbs will work but I put my stale alpine bread in the food processor to produce a wonderful nutty panko like breading.

I had the potatoes on boiling and the carrots and broccoflower  ready to go in the steamer.  My frying pan was hot with plenty of oil. I used one hand for the egg and the other hand for the breading to pan.  One at a time I dipped the seasoned cutlets in egg to completely coat them then shook them in the bag of alpine bread crumbs. Drop the end of a breaded cutlet into the deepest oil and drag it and the oil up the pan, then drop the cutlet in the oil. This should prevent it from sticking. Repeat with next cutlet. I set the vegetables in the steamer and took a breath.

I had to rotate the cutlets over the heat in the center of the pan to brown them evenly. It probably took 10 minutes to fully cook the cutlets at a bit over medium heat.  I drained and mashed the potatoes and when the veggies were almost done I ran them under cold water to stop cooking and put them in a pan with extra virgin olive oil to reheat. 

I plated everything and dressed the cutlet with a dollop of Fern's homemade French Canadian ketchup containing tomatoes, pears, onions and spices. The breading was crisp, not armor like and the seasoning was very good. The alpine bread comes through as a nutty crisp coating, excellent on almost anything! Overall, a very good  meal.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

So many eggs, so little time

Fresh from my butter tart success and the recent resumption of egg production following the molt I decided to try my hand at a quiche. I made a batch of pastry as per the butter tart recipe which makes one double layer or two single layer pies. I preheated the oven to 400ºF then turned it down to 350º when the pies went in. Roll out and lay two pie shells in pie plates. Press down into the plate, crimp the edges with a fork and trim the excess all round. Finally, prick with a fork all round so the pastry doesn't rise too much. An additional step to get the flakiest possible crust on the bottom is to brush the inside of the pie with butter before adding the filling. I didn't bother this time and the bottom is a bit dense.

I had about 150gms of shrimp, 6 strips of bacon and one shallot for both pies.

I fried the bacon so it was completely crisp, any soft bits would give a slimy mouth feel in the quiche.  Dice a shallot and caramelize.  Drain cooked shrimp, I just used machine peeled. My pie plate will hold 4 cups of liquid but by the time a crust goes in a rises a bit, 3 cups is all it really holds. I broke 6 large eggs, my chickens eat all they want so their eggs are humongous, into a 4 cup measure. I had at least 2 cups of eggs. Beat the eggs, then in went the shallot, shrimp and bacon broken up. Stir. Fill to 3 cups with homemade yogurt (or cream or milk), stir and pour into one pie shell. Repeat for second pie shell.  Bake 45 minutes or until the center barely jiggles when moved. It should finish cooking out of the oven as it cools.  

I keep the pies in the fridge under plastic wrap and reheat pieces for breakfast at 300ºF in the toaster oven. That's a really nice breakfast.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ginger Chicken with Coconut Peanut Sauce

Chicken had to be the meat tonight but I was in the mood for something completely different.  I boned the breasts and flattened them to double in size then coated them with spice rub.

Ginger Chicken Rub

1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground mixed pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp flour

Coat both sides of the breasts and lay in plenty of hot oil. 

Carrots and broccoli were done in the steamer and finished in the pot with xv olive oil.  Plain white rice. 

Coconut Peanut Sauce

Put some oil or chicken fat in a sauce pan and add a tsp of flour.  Make a paste and cook the flour taste off for a minute. Add an ounce of chicken stock and 1/4 can coconut milk. Heat to bubbling and add a tablespoon of peanut butter and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Taste. If it needs salt add soy sauce. Add more coconut milk and peanut butter if needed to fill out the flavor. Serve and devour.

Fern liked this as much as I did and it was a really nice departure from the norm. Less than an hour to prepare.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Turkey with Stuffing

We had roast beef yesterday so tomorrow will be beef stewish something. That means white meat tonight.  Turkey breasts were on special so I picked a small pair and headed home.  Perusing the pantry I discovered a box of Uncle Ben's Stuffing I bought at Christmas as a just in case. I've certainly had better stuffing than Uncle Ben's, but I didn't make it.  I actually like Uncle Ben's stuffing and it's easy to make so once in a while I'll have it instead of potatoes, rice or pasta.

The carrots and 'colorflower' were done together in the steamer then finished in the pot with xv olive oil on medium low heat. Follow the instructions on the box of stuffing and for the turkey breast I mixed up 

Turkey Rub

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp flour
fresh ground pepper

Coat all sides of the breasts and fry in plenty of oil.  I served mine with Fern's ketchup. It was all very nice and the stuffing was a nice break from the usual potatoes or rice. I think the turkey was a bit drier and tougher than chicken, but very good none the less.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Roast Beef

A beautiful Angus round roast was marked down to clear, so I cleared it!  I wanted an easy to prepare meal so I paired it with frozen peas, fresh carrots and mashed potatoes.  I even managed to scrape out a little gravy.  It would take almost 2 hours to cook this roast at 250ºF so I got going right away. I seasoned it with the last of my 

Beef Rub

1  1/4  tablespoons paprika
1   tablespoon kosher salt
1   teaspoon garlic powder
1/2   teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2   teaspoon onion powder
1/2   teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2   teaspoon dried oregano
1/2   teaspoon dried thyme

then seared it all round in a frying pan before putting it on a roasting rack in the oven. I timed the vegetables so the roast would rest under foil for 20-30 minutes.  If a roast of any type is sliced open when it's hot from the oven, all the moisture will escape as steam and the meat will be dry. Let it rest under foil for a while and the moisture stays put.

I did the peas and carrots in the microwave in chicken stock then finished them with xv olive oil.  Mashed potatoes with butter and milk.  The gravy was made in the roasting pan by adding a tablespoon of flour and extra oil to make a paste.  Cook the flour taste off then add beef stock or chicken if it's all there is. I had to use chicken stock this time but since I had pan drippings to work with I managed to make it work.  I added a quarter cup red wine, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and a pinch of salt.  I cooked the wine for a while then tasted it. The flavor was a little weak because of the chicken stock.  I decided to add some protein in the form of homemade yogurt, a heaping tablespoon more or less.  It worked, the acid raised the flavor and milk solids lent the body.  The only problem was  the milk solids tend to leave small lumps so to impress anyone the gravy needs to be blended.  At home I worry mostly about taste so I served it lumpy and Fern didn't seem to notice.  The condiment is creamed horseradish.

The meal was wonderful, much better than I set out to make. Just doing things the right way turns out good food. The secret is knowing the right way and applying that knowledge without thinking.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pork Tenderloin Medallions

I was in more a beef mood but pork tenderloin was the best value so I  bought the smallest one. I cut it into about 1 1/2 inch long pieces which I stood on end and pounded flat.  I seasoned them with:

Pork Rub

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder

Coat the pieces and fry them in plenty of oil. I fried some mushrooms and green peppers then finished them with a little chicken stock to pour over the medallions.  It wasn't particularly successful. It might have been better if the green pepper was diced smaller and the meat served on top of the green pepper. Or maybe it shouldn't be on the plate at all. Mashed potatoes and steamed 'colorflower' finished in xv olive oil complete the plate.  A tasty inexpensive meal in under an hour.

Frozen Homemade Yogurt with Peanut Butter Cookie

We love ice cream but it's just too much fat for our middle age diets.  I have tried using commercial yogurts for frozen yogurt but they always leave me missing something, not sure what but they don't have it.  Homemade yogurt has it. Homemade plain yogurt tastes good by itself, it doesn't need sugar or flavoring to be palatable.  It's a lot easier to get a good result when I start with ingredients that taste good. 

To make yogurt I use a double boiler to heat the milk to 185ºF then quickly cool it in cold water to 114ºF, add a spoonful of previous batch and put it in the yogurt maker overnight. I have a Yolife yogurt maker with a tall lid so I can use 1L mason jars instead of those stupid baby food jars. Conceivably I could make 4L of yogurt at once with this machine, should I ever have the need. I prep the jar by putting half a cup of water and putting it in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Empty the water and the jar is preheated and ready to go.

I made frozen yogurt once before with homemade yogurt but it was grainy.  To see if I could prevent the ice crystals I used a packet of gelatin in 1/4 cup milk, stir to dissolve then add 1/4 cup boiling water. Stir till gelatin is dissolved.  Fill with milk to 1 cup, add 2 cups yogurt, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla and blend then churn. The smooth, creamy result can be seen in the photo above. Delicious success!

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour

This is the recipe from Joy of Cooking, which I highly recommend as a first cookbook. Preheat oven to  375ºF. Cream the butter, which means beat it till it's soft (melting or warming it won't work).  Add small amounts of brown sugar and cream. Continue till all sugar is creamed.  Add egg, peanut butter, vanilla and beat in.  Add flour, salt, baking soda and mix. Drop 24 cookies onto 2 cookie sheets and bakc for 15 minutes or till some edges are very brown. Normally peanut butter cookie dough is pressed with a fork to give the characteristic look.  I forgot to do it this time but the cookies tasted just fine. So go ahead, rebel, make peanut butter cookies with smooth tops!

The best thing about this dessert is that it has no fructose which is sugar that doesn't register with the brain so you want to keep eating it.  Very bad for one. The frozen yogurt has an almost lemony tang which the cookie cuts the acid perfectly.  If the grand kids come over, add strawberry jam over their yogurt for extra sweet that children like.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Snapper with Beet Greens and Borscht

This winter I have been trying fresh vegetables I never tried before instead of relying on frozen peas and corn. I don't like bitter so kale is out till I know how to cook the bitter out. Today there was nothing in the fresh green produce at a reasonable price except beets. I made beet greens before but neither of us liked them, probably because I didn't know how to treat them.  Since then I saw a show on how to cook them so I decided to try again.  Snapper was on special so I picked up a nice filet for dinner.

I only had beef rub mixed up in the cupboard and I was a little late already so I used that instead of mixing my southwest rub. The southwest rub has a few more and slightly different ingredients than the beef but it should work fine. I bought a bunch of beets with greens so I peeled and diced up the roots and folded the leaf along the stem then cut the stem out of the leaf with one quick slice. That is key because the stems are far more bitter than the leaves.  

I started with half an onion diced and caramelized.  Then I put the beet roots in and sweated them a few minutes.  I added beef stock to cover the beets, a little salt and pepper and put it on the burner to simmer.

Got potatoes boiling and put the carrots in the steamer.  I wasn't sure how long the beet greens would take to cook but they were thick and more papery than spinach so probably minutes not seconds to cook.  When the carrots were half way done I added the beet greens and turned to the snapper.  I got my pliers out and removed the few bones from the thick center head end of the fish.  The tale end is narrow, thin and usually boneless. I seasoned both sides with:

Beef Rub

1  1/4  tablespoons paprika
1   tablespoon kosher salt
1   teaspoon garlic powder
1/2   teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2   teaspoon onion powder
1/2   teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2   teaspoon dried oregano
1/2   teaspoon dried thyme

and put it in a hot pan with plenty of oil.  Snapper turns opaque as it cooks so it is easy to see visually when it's time to turn over the filet. The second side cooks much faster than the first so it pays to watch it. 

The beet greens were much softer but still had some texture so I ran them and the carrots under cold water to stop cooking. Once the fish was in the pan, I put the carrots and greens on the burner with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil on medium low heat to finish cooking.  Once on the plate I added a few drops of lemon juice to the beet greens.

My southwest spice rub is better on snapper but the beef rub was just fine. I'm not sure if the lemon juice helped the beet greens but they did taste good.  Fern liked them better than cooked spinach and I can make them again. Cutting out the stems is key.  The borscht was nice, I used my homemade yogurt instead of sour cream. Overall, a pretty good February meal made entirely of fresh local food.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chicken with beans and carrots

Nothing fancy here, I pounded the breasts flat and shook them in a bag with 

2 tsp flour
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

then fried them in a well oiled pan.  I steamed the carrots and added the beans 10 minutes later.  Mashed potatoes the usual way. Salt, butter and milk. Before the beans were fully cooked I ran the pot under cold water to stop cooking.  When the meat was almost done I put the vegetables back on medium low heat in extra virgin olive oil. It was all very nice but now that we're used to really good food, merely good isn't good enough. I think next time I'll reduce the amount of flour in the rub and see if that brings out the herb flavor more.

That's the trouble and promise with learning to cook, you can never go back to the way things were.

Pork Medallions in Mushroom White Wine Sauce

Pork tenderloin was on special and I picked one up for less than $4!  I cut it into 1.5 inch pieces, stood them on end and flattened them.  I shook them in a bag with some salt and set them on the counter. Potatoes were boiling away and I was going to do the carrots and peas together in the microwave. I prepped them as well as slicing the mushrooms and dicing a shallot.  

The sauce started with shallots caramelizing. Take them out of the pan and add the mushrooms.  Get a good sear and take them from the pan.  Next two teaspoons of flour and enough oil to make a paste.  Cook the flour taste off for a minute then add an ounce of chicken stock and two ounces of white wine. Add some salt, pepper, fresh garlic and fresh parsley amd a pinch of mustard powder. 

I didn't taste the sauce before serving it which was a mistake.  It looked delicious but tasted anemic. I'm not sure where I went wrong not developing enough flavor.  Maybe I should have made the sauce in the pork pan while the meat was resting or maybe the mustard masked flavor instead of adding to it.