December 18, 2008

Kitchen Woes- but Tasty Joe-Joe's

So, it probably one of the most food-tastic times of year, but I'm, sadly, out of the loop. My kitchen remodeling..or should I say demolishing, is taking FOREVER! At this thankful time of year though, I am thankful that now there is drywall over the bare joists. Yay! The next step is painting. However, there's still no floors, sink, counters, stove, you know, things that make a kitchen a kitchen. Good new is, I have become very skilled cooking on a hot plate, master of a toaster oven, and so thankful for my weird electric skillet/crockpot device that is actually like a mini-kitchen all by itself. My sad thing is that we're basically on subsistance-food mode, so holiday cooking is really beyond what we can do camped on the kitchen table.

So, my foodie posts are mostly wanna-be's right now. Like I wanna-be cooking, and am not so much. :(

I have, out of necessity, bought store-bought cookies, which I very rarely do when I have a working oven. As you know, I'm very picky about what sort of ingredients will go in my belly. But I've found some goodies. If you haven't tried Trader Joe's Candy-Cane Joe Joe'! They're very tasty! Think Oreo's, with crushed candy-canes in the filling, AND without the High-Fructose Corn Syrup! What's not to love? The only thing is they're seasonal and will disappear after the holidays, so it's a get 'em while they're hot sort of thing.

Anyway, I wish everyone a Happy Holidays, and Happy Cooking!

November 3, 2008

Gravad Lax

So recently I bought this cookbook entitled Swedish Cooking- from where else? Yes, Ha. Ikea. However, upon flip-through, I could tell this was not a commercial giant watered-down frozen meatball cookbook! It was also not dumbed-down Swedish cooking for Americans (I HATE books like that!). It has a recipe for Blood Soup. YES! Blood Soup! Any cookbook that has enough culinary gumption to include a recipe for blood anything must be bought -at once.

So now I am the proud owner of Swedish Cooking that includes Svartsoppa, but that's not what I feel like talking about today. What I feel calling to me today is...Gravad Lax.

I love Salmon. I think I started loving Salmon when I lived in Alaska and people kept giving me free Salmon for my freezer which I found to be infinitely better than the free moose-meat that started taking over my freezer. I have discovered though, that I prefer the variety of non-cooked salmon dishes to cooked. Give me smoked salmon lox, gravad lax or salmon sushi rather than a cooked fillet any day of the week. So, it is in homage to raw and semi-raw salmon, that I present the following recipe from my wonderful new cookbood entitled Swedish Cooking that has Blood Soup, (printed in Germany by Naumann & Göbel Verlagsgesellschaft mbH). I'm going to paraphrase the instructions and my comments are in *stars*

Gravad Lax (serves 4) *that's about 1/2 lb fish per person, which seems like alot imo*

3 bunches fresh dill, chopped fine
4 T salt
5 T sugar
2.25 lb or 1kg salmon, boned and filleted, with skin on. *This equals 2 pieces*
1 T. peppercorns *grind*
mustard seed to taste *grind*
allspice to taste *grind*

Spread half of the dill on a plate and lay one half of the fish skin side down in the dill. Using half the salt and sugar, rub into the fish. Then season with the black pepper, mustard and allspice. Repeat with the remaining half. Fold up both pieces with the skin on the outside, wrap up and chill in the fridge for 3 days.

*One point is a little obscure with the you put any fresh dill on the flesh of the fish? I think that according to the recipe, the dill might solely be for the skin of the fish- which doesn't get eaten, by the way. However, I love dill, so I think I'd use some on the flesh as well.*

After 3 days of marinating in the fridge, you "extract the marinated salmon from its skin and the spices" (love it!) and slice thin. It is recommended to be served on crispbread with mustard-dill sauce. The sauce is as follows:

Dill-Mustard Sauce
5 T sweet swedish mustard *substitute spicy brown and add sugar to taste, it's sort of a honey-mustard taste- that would work too actually :)*
4 T. vinegar
3 T sugar
1 t salt & .5 t pepper (or to taste)
3/4 c oil
2 bunches dill, chpd fine

Blend the mustard, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper together and beat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the oil slowly and whisk to incorporate. Stir in the dill and keep cold.

Well, that's that. If you ever wanted to make your own gravad lax, now you know how. It's very tasty, I love it. No, I'm not doing photo today. I'm in an anti-camera mood, mostly because I'm redoing the kitchen and it's a total disaster area- no floors, walls, counters, stove, nothing. Makes cooking interesting! Sorta like camping- but in your house and no s'mores.

I need to find out how to make smoked lox. I know that you use a cold smoke, - hot smoke would cook the fish and you'd have jerky, but I'm sort of a noob when it comes to the ways of do-it-yourself smoking. I'll have to research it further. One day, I'm going to own my own smoke-house where I will be able to produce all sorts of smoked delicacies! One day! Oh, speaking of smoked fish, have you ever had smoked trout? or smoked whitefish? Delicious.

Enjoy the Gravad Lax!

October 21, 2008

Lovely Lentil Curry and Brown Sweet Rice

I've fallen in love with brown sweet rice!! The texture is unique, the rice literally "pops" in your mouth with the similar feel of a good barley. I don't really feel the need to extol the vast and varied virtues of eating brown rice, it's been done before..perhaps not with such seriously superb alliteration though, hehe.

However, I do want to tote the virtues of brown sweet rice because it's sooooooo darn tasty! I've tried a few methods for cooking this type of rice, but I think the best method is the boil/steam method. What you do is this:

Bring a generous amount of water to boil, add washed rice and boil until when you taste it, the texture is nearly done. This will vary depending on the age of the rice, hardness of your water, etc, so you really do have to taste it! Then you'll know for next time. Anyway, next... Strain it, put it back inyo the pot on the warm burner, put a lid on it and let it steam in it's own heat for about 10 minutes. You won't be unhappy with the results.

Anyway, I've been promising a friend of mine that I would post something nice and lentilly for him to try. Lentils are like legume fast-food. They're super fast and easy and nutritious to boot. They get a bad rap in some circles for whatever reason. I once read this cookbook on Middle Eastern food and the author had put in a little song translated from Arabic about lentils. It went something like:

"By the life of my father, by the life of my father I will not marry the poor man who will tell me to pound the lentils in the morning. By the life of my father, by the life of my father, I will marry the rich man who will tell me to pound the pastry with fat."

So I remember lady, you've still got some guy telling you to pound on something and now you're pudgy to boot.

So now you know that lentils are wrapped up with that great little ditty in my mind which probably has it's own psychological definition or something. See what I get for reading too many cookbooks?

Back to the cooking bit.

Lovely Lentil Curry

Wash 1.5 cups of lentils, and simmer until soft. This is a fairly generous portion of lentils, about 6 to 8 people's worth.

2 T virgin coconut oil (of course you can use something else, but this has nice flavor)
2 t. whole cumin seeds
1/2 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground turmeric
2 t. black mustard seeds
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and pepper, red chile flakes to taste
1/2-1 cup coconut milk - Use fresh or powdered and use it to adjust the consistency.
dessicated coconut -optional, but tasty
cilantro, chopped

Fry the cumin and mustard seeds in the coconut oil until the mustard seeds begin to sputter and the cumin release it's fragrance, then add the powdered spices. Add the onion and fry until golden, then add the garlic. Stir for a minute and add the cooked lentils, then coconut milk, dessicated coconut if you're using it, salt and pepper and red chile flakes to taste. Cook for a few minutes to desired consistency, perhaps a little soupier if you're serving with brown rice, perhaps a little drier if it's being served solo, add cilantro to taste and serve.


September 25, 2008

Sweet Potato Curry

Sweet Potatoes and good together!

I made a curry last night that I want to share. It has all the principles of a family keeper. It was fast,fast, fast, easy and fast. It's so tasty, and the kids loved it. As in I actually got a "Wow, Mom, this is delicious!" Did I mention I got compliments from the in they ate it all. I almost fell off my chair. On that virtue alone, I post it here. Maybe one of you may be so lucky and get empty bowls without whining!

I based the curry I made on a recipe I found online. Here is the link if you're interested in seeing that version. One of the main differences, I didn't puree the onions in a food processor. I also added chicken because I was making a main dish, not a side dish or vegetarian main. I think it would certainly be delicious without the meat. I also used candied ginger. You could use fresh ginger, but the candied was really superb. Candied ginger has this sweet heat, it really added depth of flavor. This recipe serves 5.

1 onion, chopped
a few pieces of candied ginger, chopped fine
1 T virgin coconut oil (substitute butter, ghee or olive oil)
1-2 t. garam masala + .5 t. whole cumin (I make my own garam masala, but you could use any nice blend of warm spices)
salt and pepper to taste
1 to 1.5 cups coconut milk. Unless you're using fresh, in which I say bully for you! I really recommend using the powdered coconut over the canned stuff. The flavor is so superior, you will forever pooh-pooh the can.
3 smallish sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked. Use more if you're making this vegetarian.
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chunked (use breast if you prefer)
3 T fish sauce (nuoc mam, nam pla..etc) If you're veg., use soy sauce.
2 t. turbinado sugar, or to taste

Start the onions working in the coconut oil. You want a little more than translucent, but not really brown. Add the ginger, then the spices. Let this cook a minute or two to take the raw off the spices. Add the coconut milk and then the sweet potatoes, chicken, fish sauce and sugar. Put a lid on it and let simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender.

I served this over a mixture of brown rice and beans (from the garden! hehe). When you use chicken, the meat naturally creates some more broth, so if you prefer a drier curry, I would add mostly cooked brown rice and beans or lentils towards the end of cooking and let them soak up some of the broth. Or add raw lentils straight to the curry, they themselves will soak up moisture. Just check it periodically to make sure there's enough liquid to cook everything nicely.

The sweet potatoes were so good! They developed this silken texture, it was almost like silken tofu with sweet potato flavor. MMMM!

I have to boast and show a picture of some of my latest garden goodies. :)

Boast, boast, boast


August 21, 2008

Now that's what I'm talking about!

I've been waiting all summer for the tomatoes to be ready and now they're here! Yay! There's nothing in the whole world like a tomato off the vine. I have had some real growing experiences this year with my garden, learning alot about the joys and pitfalls of growing food plants. Here are some of the pests, other than weeds, that I've come into battle with this summer.

I nearly had one tomato stripped clean by a tomato hornworm. I can't believe how big that thing was or how many leaves it could eat so fast. As soon as I noticed the top of one of my tomato plants deprived of leaves, I went looking for it. I found it by it's own weight! As soon as I touched the branch it was on I knew because it was so heavy! Unbelievable. Luckily for me, I noticed it quickly and before it ate the whole thing. The plant bounced back, grew new leaves and is now producing. From what I hear, and I believe it, they eat so fast that you most often loose the whole plant.

Another pest I came into contact with is the dreaded squash vine borer. I had two squash plants, one zucchini and one summer squash essentially killed by them. Well, I saved the plants with squash surgery, but they were so mutilated that they won't produce any more this summer, so it prettty much amounts to the same thing. Squash vine borers are revolting creatures that look like maggots. They chew into your squash plants vine and start eating their way up and you know when all of a sudden your beautiful, healthy plant just completely wilts overnight.

Unfortunately, I am too much of a novice gardener to know what had happened quickly enough to extract the borer before it ruined the plant. It took me two days to find out what happened, and by the time I cut into the vine and removed the grub, the damage was done. I buried the vine to encourage new roots, and they're both still alive, but they died back to just a few leaves as opposed to a huge fruit bearing vine, but oh well. Now I know about it, and will know what to do for next year. One thing about gardening, I'm learning, is that you really have to jump in and get your feet wet to learn.

The zucchini on the left weighed over 2.5 lbs! Crazy! And it still was sweet and tender, couldn't believe it. The eggplants are really yummy, and not bitter.

Another pest I had land on my poor squash, again, was the Mexican bean beetle. I saw these bright yellow, spiky things crawling all over one of the plants, and it looked like they were eating the leaves, so I physically removed them. Found out they were the larvae of the Mexican bean beetle, which looks like a yellow ladybug when mature, and is actually a member of the ladybug family, but one of the few non-friendly ladybug types. Usually ladybugs are good, the red kind anyway, they kill aphids that suck the juice out of your plants.

Mmm, raspberries. Didn't have any problems with them, I think their prickles take care of that themselves, and they were tasty!

I grew a beautiful sage plant. The leaves are huge!! If you've never had fried sage leaves, this is the time to try this wonderful delicacy. Pan-fry sage leaves in butter or olive oil, either as is, or dusted with a little flour, until crisp. You will marvel over the oh, so delicate taste, which is quite unlike fresh sage, and the crisp, buttery texture. They cook quickly, and the flavor goes nicely with beurre noisette, in my oppinion. I've seen them offered as is for hors d'oeuvres just by themselves, or as a garni for meat or grain like polenta or scrapple. Try them yourself, see what you can do with them. They are definately a summer-time treat, or anytime you can get nice fresh sage.

Anyway, happy summer eating and gardening!

July 23, 2008

Really Good Vegetable Curry

So I had this post all ready to go and I added the photos like I normally do, put in the captions and it all went to hell in a handbasket. And because blogspot autosaves your work for you, which is usually a good thing, all my recipe goodness was lost. I have to tell you it made me so mad I haven't even thought about a redo for a week now.

However, I felt that I should move on with life, and so I'm going to attempt the remake of my last post, however I'm sure it won't be as witty or clever and will be but a poor shadow of it's former self, but such is life when the computer eats your homework.

This first picture is a show-off because I just can't believe that I'm growing anything that lives, much less is producing tasty things I can eat. It is amazing! I want a pair of overalls and a straw hat, pronto! Actually, really I do, it's like the perfect gardening getup. Anyway, so here one of my zucchini plants doing it's thing. I love it!

Ok, so the original purpose of this post was to talk about this really awesome vegetable curry that I found from Gordon Ramsay, who I really like actually. Not the hyper-obnoxious American TV persona, but the Gordon Ramsay who you find from British sources and is a damn fine chef. So one of the mystiques of looking at him from British sources, is translating the recipes. Once we get past the obvious, like courgette=zucchini, the mystery of this recipe was an ingredient called madras curry paste, which is something I'd actually never heard of. I love when that happens! So after a little research I found out that it is a dry spice masala, mixed with a little fresh ginger, garlic and vinegar to form a paste. It's actually sold pre-fab in England, and I'm sure you could order it, but you can certainly whip up your own and stick the extra in a jar in the fridge, which is what I did.

Madras Curry Paste

Madras Curry Paste

2.5 T coriander seed
1 T cumin seed
1 t black mustard seed
1 t black peppercorns
1 t red chile flakes
1 t ground turmeric
3 garlic
1 T ginger, grated
3-4 T vinegar
Toast the coriander, cumin, mustard and peppercorns in a dry skillet until they start to release their fragrance. Be careful as they can scorch easily. Next grind the toasted spices, or grind in a mortar. If using a mortar, pound in the garlic. Add the chile flakes, turmeric, grated ginger and moisten with the vinegar until a nice paste consistency. That's all there is to it!

Now for the vegetable curry. I'll post the original, and then I'll tell you what I did. Not because I wanted to mess with it, but because I use what I have on hand, and a good method will embrace that, which it does, so experiment!

Easy Vegetable Curry

2 T oil (I used butter)
1 banana shallot, chpd (I used onion)
1 garlic, chpd (more!)
1 sm celeraic, peeled and chpd (Didn't have this :( Hard to get where I am, next year I'll grow my own!)
sea salt and bl. pepper
3 T madras curry paste
few cardamom pods
1 gr. pepper, deseeded and chpd (I used Hungarian Wax chiles from the garden)
1/2 cauliflower, cut into florets (I had some frozen cauliflower)
400g can chpd tomatoes
1/2 head broccoli, cut into florets (Ihad some nice mixed veggies, edamame, corn and red peppers and some fresh swiss chard that I used instead)
1 large courgette, chopped (Zucchini fresh from the garden)
250ml container Greek-style yogurt (I used Kefir)
chopped fresh cilantro if you want

The method is such, heat the fat and start cooking the aromatics, onions, garlic and chiles, then when they're soft, add the curry paste and cardamom. Next add the celeraic and the cauliflower since they would take the longest to cook, or whatever you're using that would take the longest. Salt and pepper- a little water if the pan is getting too hot. Next add the can of tomatoes, and the other veggies. If you're using greek-style yogurt which is very thick, add a can of water to start it to stew. Since I was using kefir, which is much thinner, I added just a little water, put a lid on the pot to capture the steam, and let it stew in it's own juice since the kefir was going to thin it out considerably. When the veggies are tender to your desired degree, on low heat, stir in the dairy and cilantro.

That's all there is too it. Very tasty!

I've noticed that Gordon Ramsay has a little how-to video of this curry circulating around, so if you want to see it, it's available. The only annoying part is that the camera-man focused mainly on his face and upper torso, but not so far out that you could see what his hands were doing- or the pot for that matter....hello, cameraman, we want to see the food! But other than that, you can get a fairly good idea of the method.


July 9, 2008

To the Farm, in dream if not reality

Hungarian Wax Peppers (rather chiles)

I've been living in suburbia and cities my whole life, with brief visits to the very rural part of Louisiana where my husband spent summers on his Uncle's farm. That hasn't stopped me from realizing that I've been bitten by the farm bug.

Maybe it happened because I love the country. Maybe it happened because the more I read about food production the more I realize that I want to have control over mine. Maybe it happened because I've always wanted to live in a zoo. I have no idea. However, I do know, that sometime in the future, I will have my farm. Until then, I will continue to learn what I can, dream what I may, and have fun with my garden.

I had this sort of surreal experience the other day. I was in Costco, and I discovered that they've created a huge walk-in cooler space for milk and eggs. So I walk through these plastic swinging door-thingies, and I'm in the cooler space, and it's quieter in there, and all around me on gleaming steel shelves are gallons of bright and shiny milk containers, and cartons of eggs, bundled two-by-two in plastic-wrap. As I picked up a gallon of milk and my hand closes around the cold, plastic handle, and grab a bundle of eggs that I couldn't even check to see if they were cracked, I just got this awful, bone-deep sensation of wrongness, of knowing that this was not natural, this was the farthest thing from natural, and with my skin crawling, just wondering what on earth was in this stuff? I started to balk, but unfortunately, or fortunately, or whatever, I sucked it up because where else am I going to get food? I vow, that someday soon, my food predicament will change. I vow that all my eggs are coming from my own happily scratching chickens, not stuffed and caged critters fed whatever crap makes them spit out the most eggs in the shortest amount of time without keeling over. And my milk will be from happy, pastured animals, chewing on whatever they chew on, the milk split between my family and theirs. Sigh..the dream.

The reality...I ate my first home-grown zucchini tonight...I should have taken a picture, but I didn't think about it. I cut it from the vine, cut it into sticks, dusted them in some flour, and fried it in olive oil. Sprinkle on the salt and my-oh-my. It was heavenly. The flavor was so mild, it was pure zucchini divinity. It really tasted different. Maybe because it ripened on the vine, maybe because there were no chemicals used in it's production, maybe it was the varietal. I really don't know the reason.

What I do know, is that I can't wait for my first yellow summer squash. I have one that's only a few days away. I have delicious, brightly colored swiss chard that I am starting to use in many different things. I also have young green tomatoes and baby eggplants growing. It's so exciting to see them start to produce fruit. Amazing!

My first real yield of anything was Hungarian Wax Peppers...they're really chiles. They are early producing here in the northeast, and prolific! I was very pleasantly surprised, they've gotten a big jump start over the sweet peppers I've planted, although the plants themselves look fairly identical. I've got tons of little babies after bringing in a bunch just a few days ago. They have a nice flavor, a grassy, sharp heat when raw, especially with the seeds, but mellower, losing that bright, sharp edge when cooked. I'm going to start pickling them. They seem like they would be perfect for it.

I'm sort of amazed at how much I am loving growing food! I love the planting, the watering, less keen on the weeding, but I know it's necessary, so I do it. I am eagerly awaiting the next fruit of the vine, so to speak. I'll keep you posted.

June 30, 2008

My Favorite Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake is one of the delectable delights of strawberry season. There are a few different versions on the same general theme, the biggest difference in the varieties seems to be in the style of cake that comes with it. I will label the two main varieties as the "sponge-cake variety", and the "short-bread variety". I prefer the short-bread variety, and this is my favorite recipe.

2 cups white flour
1 T. b.powder
3/4 t salt
3 T. sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
About 1/3 cup milk
4 cups strawberries, sliced, cut in half, or crushed mixed with a little sugar
enough butter to spread on the cake generously
heavy cream

Heat oven to 450*. Mix dry ingredients, and cut in butter with 2 knives or a pastry blender until it resembles corn meal.

The butter cut in

Next add the egg, then add enough milk to make an easily handled dough.

Complete Dough

Next pat the dough into a 1/2" round. Alternately, you can make a rectangle and cut out individual rounds or squares.

Dough rolled 1/2"

Baked pastry

The next step is to split the cake while hot and butter it generously. You can do this in one piece, or in smaller slices, it's up to you. Sprinkle with sugar and fill with berries.


Whip up some cream... Mmm I love whipped cream.

The complete cake

For serving, top the shortcake with berries and whipped cream, or pass plain cream. My Mom and Gram used to eat this with milk, so there's a few ways to do it. This recipe makes 6 servings.

June 24, 2008

Kefir - a picture tour

Kefir is a cultured milk product, and a wonderful probiotic. It's much less temperamental than yogurt culture, and has a pleasant taste that I think is more akin to sour cream than to yogurt. Taste ranges from very mild, to quite tangy, depending on the proportion of culture to milk. Fermentation time also helps determine the taste of the final product. It is perfect for smoothies and lassi since it's not firm or jelled. Rather it's thick, more like crème fraîche, and very drinkable.

One thing I love about kefir, other than the health benefits, is that it's cultured at room temperature, and you don't have to boil the milk before you add the kefir culture. I simply add the kefir culture, or "grains" to milk from the fridge in a clean jar, put on the lid, and use the next day. Once the kefir is done, it's easy to make a new batch. Watch:

Kefir after 24 hour fermentation

Kefir curds and grains

I've poured the contents of the jar into a strainer with a bowl underneath, so that I can strain out the kefir culture from the kefir.

Straining the Kefir

As you strain, you will start to see the grains emerge from the kefir.

Beginning to see the grains

They rather look like bits of cauliflower to me, however, the texture is sort of more on par with a gooey gummy bear. You don't rinse them off, as you run the risk of damaging them. Simply strain and place into your new milk. These little guys like to eat, and grow quickly. I'm amazed at how many grains I've had to give away in the weeks that I've had them. I was told that they will eat you out of house and home if you let them. However, I've learned to be ruthless. I like my kefir mild, and that means less grains, so I have to get rid of the extras. They are edible, for those of you who really want a probiotic kick.

Kefir grains

Strained Kefir ready to go

The finished product. I swirled the glass so you can see that it does have legs, it's fairly thick, but not jelled. I love to make rosewater lassi with this, it's perfect on a hot summer day. Normally made with yogurt, the kefir works wonderfully. Take 2 cups of kefir, add a teaspoon of rosewater, a crushed cardamom pod and a bit of ground black pepper. Add some honey, jaggery or sugar and sweeten to taste. Pour over ice, or blend with ice in the blender, and you have delicious kefir lassi.

Aren't yellow poppies pretty? I love summer!

Another great use for kefir, especially for the stuff that's a bit tarter than you like (too many grains!) is to make a marinade for chicken. Use your favorite garam masala, the kefir and a bit of salt and pepper and let it all set for a few hours in the fridge. I love it! I have an aversion to grilling chicken with the skin's so flammable, it chars, it's fatty, but the chicken can get dry without it. I've found the kefir gives the meat wonderful flavor and keeps it moist so you can lose the skin. It's really tasty. Grilltastic, even!

Anyway, I definitely recommend kefir. It is a delicious, versatile cultured milk product, super easy to maintain and keep happy and productive, and fantastic for your internal flora. I'm glad I started keeping the little buggers. They're better than hermit crabs or sea monkeys, I swear.


May 28, 2008

It's easy to make kids happy...Cone Cupcakes

Kid-tastic Cone Cupcakes

Here it is... Voilà! or is it Eureka? Either way, this is the perfect Kid Party Cupcake!!!

Isn't it frightful? My son's kindergarten class loved them!!

One box of cake mix made enough for the whole class. The method is easy. Fill the cupcake cones about 1/2-2/3 full. I used that vanilla cake-mix with the colored bits in it, usually well-received by the kids AND those garishly colored ice-cream cones to add to the effect. These cupcakes cook quickly, only about 20 minutes. The biggest trick for me to figure out was how on earth to bake them so they don't fall over? Well, I used a glass lasagna pan and carefully placed them in that. It worked fine, none of them tipped over. I cooled them on a wire rack as normal.

For the maximum kid-love I used half-chocolate, half-vanilla frosting, dabbed on the little sprinkles that came with the frosting, and draped on a gummy-worm for a truly kid-tastic effect.

They're horribly delicious

Talk about sugar-bombs, but they certainly are colorful!

Enjoy!...well, at least your kids will.

May 22, 2008


Picture of Ski Queen Gjetost sold in the US

I have been made me a happy camper :)

Oh, before I start, I created a new look to the blog...I actually went in and changed the code..pretty simple to do, but I still get all excited about it. Me...changing code. Haha!

Anyway, back to the food. I've started making my own kefir, so I'm getting into things dairy, and on one of the message groups I belonged to, someone who shall remain anonymous, yet lauded from afar, mentioned that you can make Gjetost from whey AND provided the link for an awesome site that I hadn't been to in years that now possesses said information.
I did not know that you could make Gjetost from whey, and you can do it at home, rather easily! And I love Gjetost, it is the weirdest cheese on the planet. It is brown, soft, salty and sweet, it tastes like caramel cheese or like cajeta cheese.

Ski Queen Gjetost on Toast-hehe

This is the link to how to make Gjetost. It's located on a site called FANKHAUSER'S
CHEESE PAGE which has some other really cool recipes for cheese like blue cheese and marscapone, mozzerella, and feta.

Gjetost Cheese Making Page


Photos gratefully lifted from the Norwegian Cheese website.

April 26, 2008

April Showers

So I've been a bad blogger, I realize that. But sometimes life gets in the way of peaceful moments to myself when I can sit and type and revel in foody things. I haven't been completely off my game, it's not like I've stopped cooking. I've made a few nice lasagnas - hubby's fav food and all, and I have a minute to sit and reflect on the art of making lasagna. I used to think that it was an involved process, but really, they're quite simple to throw together. I've picked up a few tricks along the way that I'll share.

First, the noodles. You have slight variations in noodle shape, but nothing drastic. Pick your favorite dried pasta. I've been using whole wheat pasta noodles because I try to watch my fiber intake and keep it at a good level- which can be easier said then done, but I don't find it effects the lasagna negatively. I don't pre-cook my noodles. Now don't get me wrong, I used to, but honestly, now I can't be bothered. It comes out just as nice without the pre-cooking. The trick is to thin down your sauce a bit with extra water, and then let the lasagna set after cooking, and you're good to go.

I like to use italian sausage as my meat of choice. I'm just not a big fan of ground beef, but I do love meatballs. Go figure.

I like to use spinach mixed with caramelized onions and eggplant cooked in olive oil and garlic as nice vegetable additions. I don't even get murmuring from the kids on this- probably because they don't know it's in there. haha

I use ricotta cheese, and if that's not possible I use homemade chenna cheese made from a gallon of milk and a few tablespoons of cider vinegar. It's super easy to make and makes a delicious alternative to ricotta. Please don't even think cottage cheese. No kidding, I once ate a lasagna that was made with cottage cheese and pimento spread (ten points if you know what that is). No, I am not making this up! However, if we're sticking to a sort of traditional version, you'd be better off with the ricotta or chenna.

Sometimes, I like to mix the ricotta with a little salt, beaten egg, parsley, things like that. Sometimes just a little salt. Sometimes a bit of garlic. Sometimes some parmesan or grana padano or chevre.

Ok, the assembly. Put in a generous amount of your watered-down sauce on the bottom of your pan. Put in the dry noodles, don't worry if they don't meet the whole way, they will expand so it's ok to allow for that.

Next is the meat layer. The meat is usually the heaviest component and if you put it up top it will press on your other stuff and squish it out. Now you can leave it just a meat layer, or put some veggies on top of the meat, or some cheese if you want a 2 cheese layer, a little more sauce, it's up to you.

Next, another layer of noodle. Put your ricotta, then sauce.

Top noodle, sauce and then shredded mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake at 350* for about an hour. Try and tent the foil or it will stick to the cheese and that's a sad thing. After baking, let it set, I'd say at least an hour. The longer you let it set the better, as it will firm up considerably and not be all oozy when you cut into it. I've even made a lasagna a day in advance, reheated it before serving the following day and it was perfect. But whatever you decide, leave enough time for it to set-up properly or you won't be happy with the results.


March 18, 2008

Beef Shanks

Meat is a blessing, in my not-so humble opinion, and as such, I take great pains to learn how to utilize every cut. It's part of my personal philosophy on the usage of meat. However, this knowledge comes especially in handy when there's a sale, with meat prices such as they are. I was very pleased the other day to find a sale on beef shanks. The shank is the portion of meat that comes from the legs of the animal. They are round cuts, with a marrow bone, very easy to identify. Being a leg-portion, and therefore well-used muscle, the shanks need a long, moist-cooking process to tenderize and become palatable. When they're done, though, oh heaven! Shank meat is amazingly delicious, rich and flavorful, and the opposite of dry and stringy.

A few tips on preparing shanks. I always wash and dry my meat before use, I think that's especially important for a shanks since there might be bone dust on them.

Then salt and pepper the meat well, and then dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.

Next, give them a really good browning and remove them from the pan.

What I like to do next is have ready a rough chopped mirepoix, that is, carrots, celery and onion. Alot of times, I like to make my shanks in a sort of osso bucco style, however I don't feel required to stick to any one recipe, and I can used the finished meat in a variety of ways, however back to the action.

Rough-cut Mirepoix:carrots, celery and onion ready for the pan

After I remove the meat from the pan I brown the veggies. I like to get a really good caramelization on the veggies, and then add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste and get that cooking.

Ready for the tomato paste

Then deglaze the pan with red wine, add the beef shanks back to the pan and bring up to about half-way up the shanks with water or beef stock, and bring up to a simmer. Put a lid on it and pop it into the over at 350* for and 1.5-2 hours, even longer, depending on how tough the beef was to begin with. Flip the meat over every 30-45 minutes so you can see how it's coming along, and so each side gets equal gravy opportunity.

This is pretty much a standard osso bucco recipe, with the exception that veal is the meat most often used for that dish. Served with a gremolata, you'd be on your way to osso bucco heaven.

Beef shanks, however, can be eaten in a few different ways. Serve with potatoes, rice, noodles or bread, or use as a base for other recipes like beef stew or chili, or make into an interesting stroganoff. The veggies can be left whole or pureed with the gravy. No matter what you decide to do with it, it will be delicious. Sorry I don't have a picture of the finished product, but we ate it. hehe

And don't forget the marrow for all you marrow lovers- you know who you are.

February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

I just have to wish everyone a Happy Leap Day! It only happens once every four years you know. I've always found this day interesting, a testament to bad mathematics and keeping with traditions...even if said traditions are not as efficient as they could be. But hey, if we as a society placed great emphasis on efficiency over tradition, we'd all being using the metric system, driving hovercraft that run on gravity and speaking Esperanto. No worries on that, so fear not, all you inch-and-pound-loving masses out there!
No recipe today, sorry kids, just a snarky commentary on Leap Year. Be good!

February 25, 2008

Candied Orange Peel

This book really has useful information

My oh My! This has been a crazy month, I tell you. Maybe you've noticed my conspicuous absence, and maybe you haven't, but I've missed me! lol Even today I don't have alot of time to chat, so I decided to post a vintage recipe for candy. I love my old cookbooks, filled with food from a bygone era. Food definitely has fashions, and recipes go in and out of style. Also, frugality is a fashion that comes in and out of style as well, depending on the economics of the times. I personally respect recipes that are frugal, and come up with clever uses to make the most from our food. All food is life and I feel that I owe the life I consume, and I have a responsibility to, at the very least, make the best use of it we can and not waste. So that's why I appreciate recipes like I'm going to share for Candied Orange Peel. Yes, as in peel, that you normally throw out, being made into something tasty! That's my kind of frugal.

This cookbook, part of a set, belonged to my Grandmother, and my Mother thought she remembered that they were obtained via coupons that were given out at grocery stores for purchasing food back in the day. Edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, the director of Culinary Arts Institute, (unfortunately, I couldn't find out any other information about said lady and said institute apart from other cookbooks) my book was printed in 1954, but there was a copyright for 1941 & 1949. It really has a wealth of useful information, such as tables of sugar temperatures, syrup tests, how to blanch nuts, clarify syrup, make fondant and marzipan, spin sugar and dip chocolates. I think that candymaking is sort of a fickle, and laborious process and that's probably why it's mostly bought today, rather than homemade. However, with the increase of questionable ingredients in our food supply, it might be kinda nice to know exactly what's in the candy we eat. So worth making at home kids!

Candied Orange Peel

4 large navel oranges
cold water

Peel oranges and cut the rinds into pieces of uniform size, about 1 inch long, by 1/4 inch wide. Place in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring almost to the boiling point, but do not boil. Pour off the scalding water and repeat this process two more times. Add to the peel its own weight in granulated sugar, cover with cold water, and boil until no sirup shows in the saucepan when it is tipped. Spread on a buttered platter, and roll in sugar when partially cooled.

Lemon peel may be candied in the same way.

The peel of oranges, lemons or grapefruit may be candied in larger pieces as halves or quarters if a longer cooking time in the sirup is allowed. Dry thoroughly before packing in airtight containers.

February 5, 2008

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hershey's Chocolate Town Cookies "They're Different!"

This is the recipe for the best chocolate chip cookies in the Universe, Multiverse, or any Verse you can come up with. I don't like soggy, cakey chocolate chip cookies, and these cookies are the the cure for that. Delicate and crisp, mmm pure chocolate chip cookie delight. This old bit of paper has been the recipe that my Mom and my Gram have used for my whole life- I know you can't tell by it's wonderful, pristine state of preservation. Anyway, I'm not sure how old this recipe is, and I'm not telling you how old I am, so...go make some cookies. They're good, but use butter. Shortening is nothing but a blob of goo assaulting your recipe with it's fatty taste!-lessness!!!

Hershey's Chocolate Town Cookies

Cream...1/2 cup shortening (Butter, butter, butter!!!!)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, ...until light and fluffy

Fold.......1 egg well beaten and beat entire mixture

Sift.........1 cup and 2 level tablespoons sifted flour, 1/2 teaspoon soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt

Add........Sifted dry ingredients to creamed mixture and stir in 1/2 cup chopped nuts, 1 package Hershey's Semi-Sweet Dainties and mix thoroughly.

Drop.......By small spoonfuls on greased baking sheet.

Bake.......In moderate oven 375* F, about 10 minutes.

Yield.......50 cookies.

January 25, 2008

Yogurt and a How-To

Left to Right: Greek-style cow's milk yogurt, Sheep's milk yogurt, Goat's milk yogurt

I have a love for cultured foods, and by cultured I mean fermented, probiotic, or otherwise microorganism enhanced and wonderfully metamorphosed food. Researching cultured foods of the world has become a passion of mine, and I've been working on collecting information for a cookbook on the topic. But enough of that! Today I want to talk yogurt.

Yogurt is probably one of the easiest things in the world to make. There seems to be a lot of mysticism surrounding the process, and lots of gadgets you could buy to make it "foolproof". I think it's relatively foolproof without the gadgets, to be honest, and I'll tell you how I do it. But first, I bought a few interesting types of yogurt to contrast and compare my findings. The yogurt was made from sheep and goat milk. I couldn't resist. I wanted to see what the taste and texture differences were between the two, especially since I've never tasted sheep milk before. I also tried a cow's milk greek-style yogurt as well, so three different types of milk were represented.

The sheep milk yogurt was made by the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company located in Old Chatham, NY, which is less than 125 mi from my location in southern Westchester, so I appreciated the almost-local nature of it. I also really liked that it is made from plain sheep milk and cultures, and that's it, no stabilizers or additives. Texture was nice and smooth. That said, I was very wow'd by the "lamby" taste to the milk. Having never eaten a sheep dairy product before, that lamby taste is something I've only ever associated with lamb meat, so it threw my taste buds into a bit of a connundrum. I can't say that I liked it, but to be fair, I think I'll have to try it again now that I know to expect the lamby taste .

The goat milk yogurt was made by Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery located in Sebastopol, CA. It says on the carton that it was the first goat milk dairy in the US to be designated Humane Raised and Handled, which is very much appreciated. This yogurt does have tapioca and pectin in it, which I wasn't particularly happy to see, but to be fair, I have never made yogurt from fresh goat milk, so I'm not sure if it perhaps sets up very runny and needs a bit of a firming agent. Anyhow, the texture was smooth, and firmer than the sheep yogurt. I really liked the taste. It was tangy and delicious. It wasn't unusual to me as I eat and enjoy fresh goat cheese quite frequently and the taste is along those lines.

The Greek-style yogurt that I tried is the Trader Joe's brand. I very much appreciate that their dairy products are rBST free, and that there were no added ingredients, except for nonfat milk. I really liked the texture, it was creamy and thick, and would work as a delicious sour-cream substitute. Adding nonfat milk powder is a trick you can use to thicken yogurt without adding non-dairy thickeners, which brings me to the how-to portion of todays entry.

How to Make Yogurt

1 qt. milk
Plain yogurt of your favorite brand containing live cultures
dry milk powder, optional

The most important thing in making yogurt is to have clean utensils. This will include your hands. Bring the milk to a boil in a pot that has a lid, and then remove from the heat.

Let the milk cool until you can stick your finger in the milk and count to 10 before it's too hot to stand.

Whisk in 2-3 T. of your plain yogurt into the milk. If you want thicker yogurt, whisk in 1/4-1/2 cup or dry milk powder.

Put the lid on the pot and put in a warm place for about 5 hours. What I use for a warm place is my oven that I turn on the lowest it will go for a minute or two, and then turn off. If your oven isn't gas with a pilot light, wrapping the pot in a towel to keep it cozy might be an idea, or just wrapped in a towel on your counter if your kitchen is very warm . Keep in mind the whole idea is the same as rising bread...warm let's the little cultures grow and turn your milk into yogurt, hot kills them, and cold makes them inactive. Use your best judgement, and if you look after 5 hours and it's still milk, don't go crazy, just re-use the milk and try again.

Remove to a container with a lid for storage in the fridge.

Don't forget to leave a little bit in the container to use for your next batch!

Some variations to think about:

Add lemon zest, juice and a bit of sweetener to the milk, and then add your culture, proceed as above, and voila! lemon yogurt. You can make vanilla and chocolate yogurt in this fashion as well.

A delicious Indian variation is to use condensed milk, which you can boil down yourself if you so choose, and jaggery, which is unrefined sugar. Dissolve it in the hot milk, let it cool to the appropriate 10 second temperature, and then add the culture and proceed as normal.

After the yogurt is done, stir in some of the fruit jam of your choice for flavored fruit yogurt like you could buy in the store.

Like to make homemade butter? Fresh buttermilk makes really tasty yogurt.

I love to eat yogurt plain with some honey drizzled on it. Heavenly!

January 16, 2008

Microwave Bacon Rocks!

I'm a crunchy bacon person, and I'm telling you, there is probably no better way to cook brainlessly easy, perfectly crisp and crunchy bacon, than to cook it in the microwave. I don't consider myself a microwave cook, I don't use the microwave for anything really, other than to reheat food- oh, and melt chocolate. I do use it for that. But I absolutely love it for bacon!
When you use a skillet, there are always places that are softer than others. Baking bacon in an oven is a fairly standard way to make large quantities of bacon, and actually, if you want to keep the bacon grease, I would recommend it. It's super simple, you put your bacon strips on a half-sheet pan, and bake it in the oven until the desired doneness is achieved. However, for breakfast bacon quick, easy and relatively mess free in the morning, the microwave is the way to go.
I use a microwave plate thingie that I don't even know how I ended up with it, but it works beautifully. I've also used a regular plate with satisfactory results, so no specialty equipment is required. So here is a step-by-step to make perfect microwave bacon.

Step 1: Choose your plate

Step 2: Place a paper towel, then bacon on the plate

It doesn't matter if your bacon overlaps a bit, as shown here in the photo. Too much overlapping and they might start to stick together, but this is fine.

Step 3: Fold the edges of the paper towel up and over

The biggest hazard, in my opinion, of cooking bacon in the microwave is the potential for bacon grease dripping all over your turntable. However, folding the edges of the paper towel up and over, as shown, doesn't allow the greasy paper towel to touch the turntable at all, and so voila! No greasy mess.

Step 4: Place a paper towel over the bacon and tuck under the edges

You want the top paper towel to be tucked under the bacon and lower paper towel as the weight will keep it in place, and again, no hanging edges or grease mess.

Step 5: Cook by increments. This is after 2 minutes

If your microwave is über powerful, you might want to cook by 1 minute intervals. Some people like to eat their bacon in this limp, floppy format. However, if this gives you the heebies, press on!

After 4 minutes

After 6 minutes

For me, this is almost perfect. One more minute I think...

After 7 minutes

Ah, crunchy bacon perfection. Let the bacon sit for a minute- it gets crunchier as it sets, and if the paper has stuck to it for any reason, it will come off as it cools. Remove the bacon and throw out the paper towels. That's all there is to it! The best part is, you get bacon quickly, and no messy microwave. Enjoy!

January 11, 2008

Braised Lamb

Browning Lamb Neck Bones

When I was growing up, lamb was considered a special occasion meat. At 2, 3 or even 4 times the cost of beef or more, it wasn't economical. However, with beef prices raised to where they are, I am constantly suprised (happily, that is) by just how affordable lamb has become.

I love braised lamb dishes. I love lamb shanks and using meaty lamb neck bones in a variety of ways. These were once, and heck, still are, considered the more undesireable, and therefore less expensive cuts of the lamb. However, in my oppinion, there are no undesireable parts. Everything depends on how you prepare the meat. I love these cuts, because through the moist cooking process, the meat becomes just meltingly tender and oh, so flavorful. It's lovely.

So, the other day I was in the market, and I came upon lamb shanks AND meaty lamb neck bones and was stunned to see them for approximately $2.50 a pound. Done. Sold. Market happiness. I brought them home and made some delicious braised shanks. There are unlimited variations on how to make this dish. It's a fairly standard methodology, with variations on ingredients. However, I'll share how I made the ones in my, sadly, fuzzy photo. Bad camera.

Braised Lamb Shanks

3 or 4 lamb shanks - 1 per person is common, but that's alot of meat for me, personally
2 med, or 1 large onion
3-4 cloves garlic
3-4 carrots
1/2 c. red wine, or to taste
3-4 T. tomato paste diluted in 1/2 c. water. Feel free to use other types of tomato product, this is just what I had on hand. Canned or fresh tomatoes will produce alot of liquid which would be perfect.
1/2 t. allspice and 1/4 t. nutmeg or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Throw in some fresh thyme if you have it, or italian parsley

Start browning the lamb shanks in a little butter or olive oil. Really let these things go to a nice, dark golden brown. This usually takes between 15-20 minutes.
Remove the shanks unless you have a lot of room in your pan, and start cooking the onions. When they have softened, add the carrots and then garlic. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, if the onions haven't already, add the tomato product, and the spice. Add the lamb back in, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1&1/2 hours, or until tender. If you want a thicker sauce, let it simmer for 1/2 hour with the lid off. Adjust your seasoning and there you go!
This is great with a starch of some kind, such as boiled potatoes, cooked rice, noodles, or even a nice baguette. You want something nice and neutral that will pair with the sauce. Enjoy! :)

Braised Lamb Shanks

Ooh ooh! Did you notice? I can now add captions to my pics! Hooray for me! I feel so accomplished.

January 4, 2008


Have you ever had Bärenjäger? (spelled Baerenjaeger without the umlauts) If so, you know the love. If not, then you are in for a treat because this is some delicious stuff. It's like liquid honey- with a kick. It comes in a bottle with a cap shaped like a beehive. How great is that? But you know me, I need to know where this stuff comes from, and can you believe it? I found recipes to make your own. Apparently it's pretty common in Germany.

It's an old Prussian drink, in fact, according to some information from Germany, it is the national drink of East Prussia. It's based on an ancient drink called Meschkinnes, which was a honey homebrew that farmers made. In Germany today, it appears to be more oftenly called Bärenfang, which means Bear Bait, however I've seen Meschkinnes too. Maybe it's a regional thing, I'm not sure. Bärenjäger, meaning Bear Hunter, is what this drink is called in the States, and actually appears to be a brand name from the Teucke & König Company. It was created, and I couldn't find out when to my dissapointment, by the Teuke & König company back when they were the Teucke & König Bear Trap Company. Honest! As in made bear traps- to catch bears in. Apparently, they dropped the business of making Bear Traps and just kept up the Bear Hunting Juice. I even found a couple of poems- in German- dedicated to Bärenfang but they really didn't translate well. I also found some testimonials, and recipes for mixed drinks using Bärenjäger which seems to be the most readily available brand for purchase in the States. However, what I really wanted to know was how to make my own Bärenfang. Hehe. This is what I found.

This was found on the Ostpreuß website and was translated in an erm..interesting way by google translation.

Meschkinnes ist ein ostpreußischer Seelentröster

250 g Blütenhonig, ½ Liter Wodka, 1 Zimtstange, Schale einer ungespritzten Zitrone

Den Honig in etwas Wodka bei milder Hitze auflösen, dann kalt werden lassen. Den restlichen Wodka, die Zimtstange und die dünn geschälte Zitronenschale dazugeben. Bei Zimmertemperatur etwa eine Woche lang fest verschlossen stehen lassen und dabei täglich gut durchschütteln. Anschließned den Likör in eine Karaffe füllen und verschlossen und dunkel aufheben.

Na dann: Prost!

Meschkinnes is a ostpreußischer Revitalising

250 g honey, ½ liters of vodka, 1 cinnamon stick, a cup lemon ungespritzten

The honey in a little vodka with mild heat dissolve, then cold. The rest of vodka, cinnamon stick and the thinly peeled lemon peel add. At room temperature for about a week are tightly closed and the daily well to churn. Anschließned the liqueur into a carafe and fill locked and dark repeal.

Well then: Cheers!

Now let me try to translate the translation. What this says to me, is that on low heat, you dissolve the honey in a just a little of the vodka. Then let cool. Add the remaining vodka, cinnamon and lemon peel to a sealed container that you agitate everyday for a week. Then strain off the sediments and decant into a clean bottle, seal it, and store in a dark place.

Another version I found comes from the website of the German Embassy in D.C. Yay for diplomacy!


2 cups honey
1 pint grain alcohol
2 cups plus 4-1/2 teaspoons Moselle wine

Carefully heat the honey until it has turned to liquid. Remove from heat. Stir in the alcohol, then add the wine (or water). Fill into bottles and let the liqueur stand for several weeks. The longer it stands, the better the taste.

Mmm. Sounds straightforward enough.

Another version was described to a blogger named
Schneelocke. The ingredients were "rape" honey, "lab" alcohol that was 98% pure, distilled water and nothing else. That alcohol sounds serious, since 35% alcohol is 70 proof! Also, I'm not sure what type of honey that is, but here, you can read for yourself.

One more version found here: is entitled East Prussian Bärenfang and is pretty much the same type of recipe. The differences here are along with the honey and vodka, you add a cinnamon stick, a vanilla bean, 4 cloves and 1/2 a lemon peel. This recipe recommends a period of 8-10 days for the infusion, and then decanting.

One interesting way to use the Bärenfang was in a cup of hot tea, or with hot water. Sort of a honey hot toddy, and supposedly good for colds and other winter-time ailments. I'm telling you, that sounds fantastic right now because I've been freezing my butt off for the last two days.

Anyhow, that's about enough on that! I hope you get to enjoy some of this honeylicious liquor sometime soon, and if you've ever swung a stein while singing Ein Prosit then Zicke-zacke, zicke-zacke, Hoi, Hoi, Hoi!