Sunday, November 29, 2009

turkey carcass soup

Take a turkey carcass, preferably with some meat on it still, and definitely skin and fat, and throw it in a big pot or a crockpot. Cover with (filtered) water and simmer for hours. Season if you like, but I just throw in some bay leaves and dried minced onions.

Turn it off and let it cool a bit, then strain it. Pick the meat off the bones and chop it. Toss the bones, skin, fat, etc. If you want to refrigerate the stock overnight, I've heard you can scrape the fat off the surface then - but truth be told, that hasn't been my experience (this time, it was all gelatinous with a thin white surface that couldn't be separated really).

Put the crockpot back on.

Chop and saute a bit:
*the trinity (onion, celery, pepper)
*carrots
*garlic

Add to the crockpot with the chopped turkey meat.

Add spices (I used all dry and they were fine):
*bay leaves
*basil
*thyme
*marjoram
*rosemary
*black pepper
*oregano
*(salt - though I don't add)

Simmer for a few hours. Add frozen vegetables such as peas and beans for the last hour.

In a separate pan, boil water and cook noodles (I like egg noodles). Add a little olive oil after draining. I like to cook the noodles separate so that they don't turn to mush and soak up all the liquid when stored and reheated.

*****
This turned out really, really, REALLY good - perfect for the cold weather, and for my health.

I used only about half the carcass I came home with and froze the other half. I'm looking forward for more turkey soup later - and I think next time I'll make dumplings instead of using noodles.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

oatmeal dinner rolls

AWESOME. From here.

*about 30 rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups water or milk (I use whey or potato water)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey (or so)
  • 2 packages (or Tablespoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2+ cups white flour (as needed)

Directions

  1. BRING water, butter, and honey to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, add oats; let cool to 110 degrees (or more like 120 degrees if it's 55 degrees in your kitchen like mine).
  2. STIR together yeast, wheat flour, salt.
  3. BEAT oat mixture into dry (can use electric mixer or wooden spoon) until smooth. Add white flour until it's the right consistency.
  4. TURN dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10-15 minutes). Place in bowl and cover with towel.
  5. COVER and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk. (I put in gas oven - pilot keeps it warm)
  6. PUNCH dough down, and divide in half; shape each portion into 15 (1 1/2-inch) balls. Place evenly into 2 lightly greased cake pans or cookie sheets.
  7. COVER and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
  8. BAKE at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

carbo loading: how I know I'm a Yankee

I've always thought of Thanksgiving as a carbohydrate-loaded meal: stuffing, potatoes, rolls, pies, and various topping on various sides. Not a holiday for Dr. Atkins.

That said, I had no idea how truly carb intensive it is until I moved to the South. Because on top of all those things, there are the traditions of potato salad and baked macaroni! It boggles the mind!

To me, potato salad = Fourth of July and macaroni & cheese = from a blue box for a picky child. I lived on Kraft mac & cheese in my tween years because I didn't like my parents' cooking and I was semi-vegetarian - and oh yeah, I was a pain in the ass. I grew out of the blue box and recognize mac & cheese for what it is - a heart-stopping, artery-clogging extreme indulgence for only the most special of occasions. To eat it on the same day as pecan pie and sweet potatoes loaded with butter and deep-fried turkey - well, it seems INSANE.

And that, my friends, is life in the South.

L called me the other day as her personal bread-making hotline, and when I talked about taking the Oregon bar exam she said, "You cannot leave! The food in Oregon must be horrible!"

Horrible, I wouldn't say. But lower-fat, I will agree. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

tamale pie in the slow cooker

From Stephanie's wonderful crockpotting blog.

Filling:
Mix these all together. Spray cooking spray in crockpot and put in filling.

*black beans (sorry, I never measure, I'm guessing about 3-4 cups?; you could use a couple cans, or as I did - soak overnight then cook a few hours in the slow cooker - I season with cumin, basil, and oregano)
*corn (a can, drained, or frozen - I used about a cup but can vary)
*canned tomatoes (I used a can of Ro-Tel [generic] and about 1/3 can of diced tomatoes)
*onion (I sprinkled a bunch of dried minced onion that a friend left, but could use fresh chopped)
*cheese - about 1/2 c, shredded (can be omitted - not sure it really added anything)
*chili powder - 1 T
*cumin - 1 tsp (depending on seasoning of beans - if they're not seasoned, amp these up)
*paprika - 1/2 tsp

Topping:
I followed Stephanie's directions and I think it made too much topping, so I would halve this next time:
*corn meal - 3/4 c
*flour - 1 1/4 c (I used about 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and 3/4 c white)
*baking powder - 1 tsp)
*a little bit of sugar (maybe 1 T)
*1 c milk (rice milk was fine)
*1 egg

Combine dry ingredients, then add wet. Put on top of filling, and cook.

On high, in my pretty hot crockpot, it was done in about 4 hours. The top middle didn't really brown, but it got hard so that's good enough. It did stick to the crock, so spraying is worth it.

**
Comments -
As I said above, I'd cut the topping in half or so. The filling is really open to variation and you could throw in different vegetables and beans in whatever quantity.

In addition to the beans, you could add browned ground meat. If you don't brown, you could deal with a grease situation so I'd brown first; I think buffalo would be great.

It was pretty good, especially on a chilly day, and I hope it freezes well!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

food and its relationships

I think that for the vast majority of Americans, food is depersonalized. You go to a grocery store where you don't know anybody, having no idea where the food came from. You go to restaurants where you don't really know how they prepared the food, and it's usually handed to you in layers of wrapping through a window as your car is running.

Like all things, food is different in New Orleans. As a culture, we eat red beans on Monday. Even if you don't personally eat red beans, you know it's red-bean eating day. People here start talking about their next meal before they finish the one they're currently on. And in the line at the grocery store, it is very usual to ask somebody what they're doing with the food they're buying. We frequently swap recipes and ideas and share good deals with total strangers. It's our way, in part because there are no strangers in New Orleans. So even in the most depersonalized situation - rows of wrapped and sanitized foods from who knows where - it's pretty personalized.

I've stepped it up a notch, too. Farmers markets are an amazing source of information. Not only do I get to meet the people providing the food and know that it's local (though some of our local is pretty far, truth be told - some of those vendors drive a few hours), but they share the greatest ideas ever - recipes and culture.

Today I went to the grocery store up the road for a can of green chiles and an onion, and was startled at the tag on the onion: Peru. Now, no offense to the lovely people of Peru, but why am I eating their onions? And where do the chiles come from? I really like the grocery store because I think it does a real community service - most people walk there (which is good because there's no parking - I almost always walk or bike myself), and as a locally-owned business keeps revenues in the city - plus some of their products are organic. I'll shop there as necessary because I like supporting them.

And then this afternoon I went to the Food Coop, sort of. It hasn't really opened yet - won't until next year - but they are selling a few things. It's only 1.5 miles from my house so biking is the way to go (which is always a bonus for me) and they actually really had a great deal on some things. Organic raw almonds cost $12/pound at Whole Foods ($11.99) but at the coop, only $6.58/pound. Awesome. They were super disorganized and a fellow kept walking through shouting "I'm here to help if anybody needs it!" when it was apparent to me what needed to be done (weighing, labeling, etc.). Everybody kept asking my name and introducing themselves and trying to give me information I already have. They couldn't figure out how to make change, but they took my wishlist suggestions and asked my advice. I will be returning, definitely.

Living in New Orleans, I have long lost my expectation or even desire for things to run smoothly and efficiently. When I first moved here I was exasperated at all the U-turns I had to make to get anywhere (a plethora of one way streets and no left turn signs), but now I just roll with it. So, I have to make a U-turn. It's a metaphor for life in New Orleans. Rarely do I get where I want to go as I thought I wanted to get there, but always something wonderful happens and I meet all sorts of people along the way.

Rarely do I set foot in a "regular" supermarket now because I find it so depressing - all the trans fats and the clerks on food stamps and the harsh lighting and unsanitary baskets, they make me just turn around and walk out. I expect relationships to the people who provide my food, and I reject a cellophaned plastic world.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

bacon grease

I've always been frugal, but my current economic situation makes me take it just a step further.

When I made broccoli salad, I was shocked at how much grease came from the bacon that I fried up. I was frustrated because I don't buy the cheap crap - I got it on sale, but I got the kind without nitrates, not so processed, from "natural" farm. When I fried up the whole package, there wasn't that much bacon to use and freeze, and that bummed me out. But there was a whole lot of grease.

I tried to throw the grease away but when I put it in a plastic container of course it melted the container and spilled all over my back porch. So I poured it into a glass container, but then I got to thinking ... and next thing you know, I'm cooking eggs and vegetables in it. I haven't yet baked with it as an ingredient, but that might be next. The thing is that butter and oil are expensive, especially if you're trying to avoid GMOs and rGBH and THC and TNT.

Next time I'll think it through and drain it through a paper towel. Honestly I very rarely cook bacon, but this might make me more willing.

And yes, I feel like a proverbial Plains Indian, using all of the buffalo.

soups for chilly winter days

Sometimes it's shocking to me the things that I've never eaten. Going to the retreat last weekend was a great opportunity to try and share new things with people - I changed L's life by teaching her how to make her own bread, and K changed mine by bringing white chili. She uses a base/flavor packet from where she works, but a quick look on the internet reveals a number of possible recipes that I can make from scratch.

Here's Paula Deen's white chili recipe, and probably what I will try first with a few tinkers. In fact, I think I'll make it tomorrow since I think I have everything on hand. Yummm ...

And here's her lasagna soup recipe, which another member brought and it was SUPER yummy too. I don't think it would freeze well because of the pasta, but would be a great casual dinner with others, especially with a good French bread or crostini.

It's rainy and dreary and chilly, so more soup it is!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

borscht

This was long a stand-by for me - I love me some root vegetables, and then learned how to make it for real when I lived in Russia. But somehow it fell by the wayside. Yesterday when I went to the farmers' market, though, the beets called out to me provocatively. "Hey baby, you know you want to take us home." And there they were, so beautiful, so robust, so vibrant, so beety. And now they are in my fridge (and don't get me started on how upset I am that 2009 is The Worst Gardening Year Ever). So, back to borscht I go (though, there's there AMAZING beet/potato cold salad we used to eat in Russia that was to die for - that may be next).

****
Beef (or goat) meaty bones (make broth from them in slow cooker, drain fat, then add):

3 medium beets, peeled and diced
1 diced carrot
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded
can diced tomatoes and/or small can tomato paste
1 T lemon juice or vinegar
1 1/2 tsp dried dill (if don't have fresh - which is really far superior)
salt and pepper to taste

Toss it all in the slow cooker, give it a good stir and cover with water if necessary (and maybe a little beef bouillon if the broth doesn't look rich enough). Don't cook it too long or it'll all get mushy (I've never slow cookered it before, though I like not having to stir regularly).

[That's the easy & quick way; better to saute onion & garlic first and then toss it all in.]

Serve with sour cream or yogurt (сметана would be best but I've never seen it for sale here) and dark, grainy Russian bread.

Monday, November 16, 2009

goat stew

Modeled after this. Used to have really excellent goat stew (called soup) in Ghana but I want to put some vegetables in it. I think the important things are the tomato, a little peanut butter, chilies and garlic, and cooking the goat a long darn time.

1 lb of goat
1-2 large onions (include the trinity of celery & pepper if desired)
2-4 cloves of garlic
a jalapeno or small chilies
2-3 T peanut oil
2-3 T tomato paste
a bay leaf or two
1/8 tsp of cloves
1/8 tsp of ginger
1 dash of cayenne
salt and white pepper
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups of beef stock (I'll use bouillon) (add more water as necessary)
2-4 carrots (or some pumpkin or a yam), in chunks
1 pound okra
2 T peanut butter

Peel and dice the onions, and slice the carrots (or pumpkin).

Crush the garlic and chilies with mortar & pestle.

Heat up the butter to medium heat and saute the meat and onion, garlic, chilies for a few minutes (till onions are translucent). Put them in a crockpot.

Then add tomato puree, spices, lemon juice, and the stock.

Cook several hours in the crockpot (about 5 hours on high).

About an hour before serving, stir in vegetables and peanut butter.

Check the seasoning. I like it with white rice.

***
This turned out really good, though I'd go lighter on the cloves. It has a rich, deep flavor. Other vegetables would be really good too, such as green beans and zucchini (though added late, to make not mushy).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

Recipe from here.

INGREDIENTS:

* 2 cups granulated sugar (I put in 1 1/2 c but less than that and I worry they won't harden)
* 1/2 cup evaporated milk (or regular milk, or diluted half and half)
* 2 tablespoons cocoa (or more like 3 for me)
* 8 tablespoons butter
* 3 tablespoons peanut butter (2-3 T - I like PB as backdrop, not central flavor)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans
* 2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (I use regular oats, up to 3 c until it seems right)

PREPARATION:
Combine sugar, milk, cocoa, and butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, peanut butter, and chopped nuts.

Add oatmeal and stir to blend thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Makes about 4 dozen no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Survey

How does everyone feel about buying special ingredients for one recipe, knowing that the extra ingredients will probably not get used beyond the one recipe? Does it deter you entirely from making the recipe in the first place?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

stewed okra

I admit it: I'm a complete okra fiend. If I had to choose between chocolate and okra, I'm not sure which would win. It might be on my top 10 list (see Jenny's prior post), though I have a really hard time conceptualizing my diet like that.

One of the key reasons I love it so is that it grows like a weed in my backyard. For a few months of the year, it's the key vegetable of my diet. Because it's soooo darn good. And while I may be a Yankee by birth, I'm all Dixie in the kitchen.

Today's stewed okra was born of necessity: I'd been hoping to save up enough okra to pickle some more, but with the cooler weather I'm not harvesting enough. I had a bag of maybe 50 pods that was going down hill fast, and it needed stewing 911. And it is amazing. I meant to eat it with rice and white beans tonight, but it won't last that long.

****
In a cast-iron skillet, heat some peanut oil. If said skillet was recently used for sauteing andouille, bacon, or other such meats - so much the better. Erica at Bacon Concentrate waxes poetic on her love for pork fat, and let me just say: she's not wrong. But one of the best parts is that a little goes a long way.

Saute the trinity and garlic over low heat. (However, today I had used all the garlic, bell pepper, and celery in the beans and had none left. So it was just onions, which I had frozen when I got onions on sale months back.)

Add in the okra, sliced to about 1/4" thickness (or larger). I like a variety of sizes for a variety of textures. Stir it up good, let it heat up.

Add in a can of diced tomatoes. Sprinkle some Creole seasoning on the top. Stir well, and let it stew, stirring occasionally.

I probably let it cook for about 20 minutes, but then some okra stuck to the pan so it was done.

And soooooo good!!