Sunday, December 27, 2009

Judy's Pepper Jelly

Judy's Pepper Jelly is a favorite treat in my house.  Judy was a student of mine.  Prior to starting our business, I worked as a business management and computer aps teacher for a small college.  At some point, the administrators of the college had the bright idea that I might be able to teach public speaking in addition to business.  I was a good business teacher and a devoted Toastmaster -  so done deal!  That is another story, but Judy was one of my public speaking students. 

One of her assignments was to prepare a demonstration.  It was the pepper jelly that she demonstrated.  I've been making it ever since.  Now, I make it as gifts for my family members.  When people come over, they expect to be served it.  It is interesting how we all have affects on each other. 

Judy's Pepper Jelly
6 1/2 c. sugar
3 Bell Peppers, (Green, Red, and Yellow)
8 oz can jalapeno peppers, chopped and drained
1 1/2 c. Apple cider vinegar
2 pouches pectin

Puree the green peppers in the food processor.  Drain the liquid through a sieve now to get a jelly consistency.  If you don't, you'll have a syrup consistency which isn't bad.  We like the jelly.

Combine the pureed peppers and canned peppers with the sugar and vinegar in a large kettle.  Boil 6 - 10 minutes, stirred farly regularly.

Turn down the heat and add both pounches of pectin.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil and cook an additional 3 minutes.

You'll need 4 prepared pint canning jars.  Prepare canning jars by running them through the dishwasher or washing them very well in very hot soapy water, rinsing well and letting them air dry.

Every tool you use while canning needs to be very clean.  That includes spoons, ladles, everything.  You can't go wrong by running every tool through the dishwasher first, but this type of canning was being done long before dishwashers. 

You'll also need 4 prepared  lids and bands.  Prepare lids by placing them in a skillet with a half inch of boiling water.  Make sure they lay in the skillet in a single layer.  Boil them for a few minutes.

You may also want to consider having one of these funnels especially for filling this type of jar and a lifter for lifing the jars in and out of boiling water while canning.

Use your ladle to fill each jar, leaving 1/2 inch from the top of each jar unfilled.  If you have any extra, pour it into a bowl and use it now.  It doesn't last long in my frig.

Use a clean tool to lift the lids from the boiling water and place them on top of each jar.  My kitchen tongs work well for this.  Add the band and screw it down.

Place each jar in a large jettle and fill with boiling water to just below the lids.  I do this from my tea kettle.  Turn on your stove and bring the water back to a constant boil for 8 minutes longer.  Lift the jars from the boiling water and set them on a towel on the counter. 

As they cool and the lids seal, you may hear a popping sound.  If you press with your thumb in the center of the lid and there is any give, they are not sealed yet.  After they seal, there is no give when you press on them.  Store them in the pantry.  Use immediately if any doesn't seal.  I rarely get to keep one.  I give them away.

We eat this by placing a bar of cream cheese on a plate and spooning the jelly over top.  Then people dip into it with crackers.

I still have contact with Judy and plan to tell her I've blogged about this.  Judy, when you read this, leave me a comment, please.  By the way, my kids thank you for this recipe.

Hope you enjoy this.

Visit with my Mom

I'd like you to meet my mom.  She lives in an assisted living facility some 70 miles away.  My sister lives close to her and does a great job of helping her.  It is my turn today.  My sister and her boyfriend have left her with me for the day while they visit other relatives.

My mother has had a number health issues that have left her with difficulty communicating.  She says individual words and phrases, but can not engage in actual conversations.  I believe she understands what I tell her, but her responses are usually, "yes", "no", "I don't know" or "maybe."  There is sometimes a bit more. 

I decided that if we were to spend the full day alone together, we needed a language that was not verbal.  Of course, that was cooking.  It is from my mother that I get my love for it and my love of food in general. 

We made Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon.  We had a grand time.  We laughed and played in my kitchen.  Various of my family came through and participated.  My wonderful step-son came through to hug her and to tell her how good it smelled.  She held my stepson's new son.

At night, we ate like kings and queens.  

What a wonderful day.  Many people will remember it.  Thanks Mom.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve Lasagne

My mother was a wonderful and committed hostess.  She entertained all the family on Christmas Eve, again on Christmas Day, then the big one on New Years Day.  All in a 1000 square foot house and a very small kitchen.  Then, she rested until Easter.  No wonder I am a nervous wreck around the holidays.  My mother was perfect.  You'll meet her in a couple of days.  No really.  Check back. 

But I am working on making life simpler for me, though.  I've been trying to create a Christmas Eve tradition, something memorable and nice that I can prepare early in the day and cook off later.  A couple years I made a lasagne, but true to my up bringing, it had two types of meat and a homemade sauce.  Not easy.  Not fast.  This year, I'm making a much easier lasagne.  So this blog is not about a recipe.  This recipe is readily available many places.  It is about feeling good and being happy.  It is about enjoying the people around me and the life we've created together.

Christmas Eve at the Osborne's Lasagne
Brown 1 lb of ground beef, drain any fat.  Add 1T. minced onion, 1/2 t. garlic powder and 1t. dried oregano.

In a bowl, combine 2 eggs, 1-15 oz container ricotta cheese, 2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese.

Cook 12 lasagna noodles until almost cooked.  Drain in a colandar and cool a bit by running  water over them in the sink.

Put them back in the pan and add a couple T. veg oil.  Toss the noodles in the oil making sure none stick to each other.  They'll be easier to handle if they are each coated with the oil.
Now,  add 1-15-oz jar of your  favorite spagetti sauce to the meat and stir to combine.  Put 1/2 c. of the meat mixture in the bottom of each of two small lasagne pans which have been sprayed.  Spread out the sauce. Top with one layer of noodles. 

Add a layer of the cheese mixture to each. I recommend dropping  spoons of it, then spreading with a small spatula. 

Another cup of meat mixture over each and spread it.

Then the last of the noodles on top.

The last of the sauce on top of that.  Sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese over all. 

Cover both with aluminum foil and into the frig. 

Now I'm off to the kid's house.  And see what I got to do with my extra time!

Decorate cookies with the 6 year old granddaughter and babysit the littlest one while mom did some last minute stuff. 

Good to not be stuck in the kitchen.  Maybe I'm learning

Remember to be happy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chicken and Noodles

My mother used to call whole chicken "stewing hens",  but she also called them "fryers".  I guess it depended on what she planed to do with them.  I don't fry chickens, although that is a perfectly wonderful thing to do if you want.  I roast them and stew them.

My current price point from whole chickens is $.79 per pound.  When they come on sale at that price, I buy one or two or three on sale.  There is a part of a shelf in my freezer reserved for them.  I take out any from a previous purchase and put the new ones in the back.  This is a lot of protein for a little money, so my recommendation is to learn things to do with them that please you and that your family will eat.

My Mother's Chicken and Noodles starts with a stewed chicken. 

In a large dutch oven, the whole chicken and enough water to cover him, approximately 6 cups. 

You'll need 3 stalks of celery, 1/2 a large onion cut in pieces.

 Season him with 1 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper, 1/4 t. sage, and 2 bay leaves.  I'm also adding 1 T. of  chopped fresh thyme leaves because

  I have a nice thyme plant in my greenhouse. 

I'm using 1 t. dry Rosemary because I accidently killed the rosemary plant when I was a bit inconsistent with my greenhouse watering about a month ago. Dry rosemary should be crushed in your hand to break up before adding. 

Cover the pot and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  At the end of that time, bring it to room temperature or cool it in the frig until ready to make dinner. 

If you can cool it, some fat will settle on the top which you can remove with a slotted spoon.   This picture is not attractive, but it shows that the fat rises and can be scooped off. 

Now you are ready to make dinner. I'm 5 ft 2 inches, so I often put things in the sink to get them lower while I work on them.  Here I have my collander in my large bowl and have lifted the chicken into the collander.  In my other sink, I have another bowl which I will use for the skin, bones, veins, etc. that I remove. 

With my hands, I'll break the chicken apart.  Any thing I want to eat, stays in the collander.  Anything I don't want to eat goes in the bowl in the other sink. I end up with clean chicken in my collander.  What drains through the collander is good broth which will go back in my pot.

I use the slotted spoon to remove anything that remains in my broth which is the remaining liquid in my pot.  A fancier cook might strain the broth, but I don't bother.  The chicken goes back in the pot and the pot goes to the stove.

Now, 2 t. salt, 1 t. chicken granules, 1/2 t. dry sage, 1 cup frozen peas and 2 carrots peeled and sliced.  Bring it back to a slow boil.  By the way, if you are using chicken from another source, the meat of a whole chicken is aproximately 4 cups of meat. If you do, though, you will sacrifice some flavor by not having the homemade broth, so add more chicken granules.  I don't recommend this, just an option

Cook the soup for 10 minutes.  Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning if you wish. 
Add the homemade noodles made the previous day.  See the previous post.  And yes, I've snacked on a few.

But, Caution.  You will not be happy if you use ordinary noodles!  These noodles are special.

 Here I've attempted to photograph the noodles only to find my favorite sous-chef ready to help me, and perhaps catch a snack.

After adding the noodles Continue cooking for another 15 minutes.  At this point, my husband comes down sniffing the air and looking happy.   

Yum.  Dinner tonight and lunch for a few days. 

Remember to be grateful.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Homemade Pasta

My mom made the best pot of chicken goodness with home made pasta.  She called it noodles.  So this dish is Chicken and Noodles.  It is one of those things that are good the first night but gets better after some time in the fridge, so it will be a good quick reheat lunch during Christmas week. 

Here is the Noodles.

2 Eggs,
1/4 c milk

3/4 t. salt
2 c. all purpose flour

Blend with a whisk, then switch to a big spoon.  Keep working it to combine into a smooth stiff dough.

Push it with the back of the spoon.  Or switch to my favorite kitchen tool,  clean hands.  Press down with your palm or thumbs, then turn it and press down again and turn it.

At this point, please take the time to stop and enjoy this stiff, but really elastic dough.  Remeber playing with play-do or clay as a a child?  Didn't it feel good?  Go there now.

When the dough is fully incorporated and smooth, flour a board and place your ball of dough on the board.   If you are not experienced rolling dough, no worries.  This kind of dough is very forgiving.  Turn the ball over until it is coated with flour all over.  Then, lay your rolling pin on it.  Roll in an X pattern, down and right to up and left.  Then, down and left to up and right.  Stop.  Don't hurry.  Turn the dough over on the board.  Add more flour whenever needed to keep visible flour on both sides of the dough. 

Yes, I rub this dough just like I rub pie crust. Check out the posts on pie crust if you need more on this procedure.  Stop and feel the dough under your fingers.  It is dry, cool, smooth.  You are making something wonderful out of very humble ingredients, eggs, milk and flour.  This kind of stuff makes me very happy.

Continue this process.  Roll in an X pattern.  Flour the dough.  Turn it over.   Flour again.  Rub it with your hands and feel good.

This starts to work into a fairly thin dough.  Don't worry about perfection.  If it starts to be hard to turn over, remember that you are going to cut it into strips. 

If it isn't perfect right now.  That's okay.  Just keep working it.

And working it. If it gets hard to turn over, stop and have a nice deep breath.  Don't be in a hurry.  Try folding it in half, turning it over, then unfolding it.  My mother put her rolling pin in the middle of it, folded it over her rolling pin, then turned it over.  Darn, should have taken a picture of that.  Next time.

Remember to flour it and rub it.  I have strange fantasies at times like this.  I'm a sculpter and this is

 my work of art, which I am creating out of flour, egg, and milk. 

I have this whole zen thing about working dough.  If I can do this, think what else I may be capable of.  Or how about this?  Be the dough.

My board is 18 inches by 18 inches, if that helps to get some scale.

Enough.  Time to cut noodles. Cut the dough horizontially in half and lay one half

on top with the cut edges lined up.  Add more flour  between the layers if there isn't a little bit of visble flour there already. 

Now cut the two layers together vertically.  There are now four pieces. 

Lay two on top of the other two so that the points of the two cuts meet and the cuts line up vertically and horizontally.  Remember to flour between the layers if the dough hasn't stayed very dry and floury. 

You'll be cutting noodles soon.

Cut as thin of slices as you dare, cutting carefully through all layers.

Take your time and enjoy this.  Remember to take good deep breaths.  This can be very

pleasureable.  Don't let this stress you out.

Cut it all.  With your fingers, carefully separate the slices.  Sprinkle with flour again, if it feels at all sticky.  Use a small knife to separate any pieces that didn't get cut all the way through.  Feel it all and fluff them or toss them until you are sure they are separate from each other, dry, and floury. Just for kicks, taste one!  I can't say they taste good, but I just love eating raw noodles.  There is something so tactile and sensual about it. 

Cover the board with a clean dry towel and leave it alone for about 24 hours or at least overnight.  Use them only after they have dried.  I mean like it breaks in half, brittle.  This should happen in 24 hours or less.  You may want to toss them or turn them over 1/2 way through the process to make sure they dry.  If you aren't going to use it before 24 hours,  put them in a gallon zip lock bag.

Oh, I am very happy right now.  This stuff makes me so happy. 

Check back for the chicken part of this dish.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dinner on the Table Every Night

During the mid and late 60s, my mother worked, mostly office-type jobs.  This was very rare.  Most of my friend's Mothers did not, but she did.  I think it was difficult for her.  I remember little tidbits of difficult times when she didn't like her job or didn't like people she worked with.  When she felt overwhelm, overworked, underappreciated, underloved.

The advantage for us was that she was home when we left for school.  The disadvantage was that she was still at work when we returned.  We developed as self-reliant people.  Really to a fault.  Fortunately, there was always a safety net to fall into.  We returned from school with some meat  or other frozen delight defrosting in the sink for dinner and something for us on the kitchen counter.  Rice Krispy Treats, Toll House Cookies, Oreos.  When she made a cake, she made extra icing.  We spent the next few days coming home to a graham cracker spread with icing.   This was before icing came in a jar.

Not all of our treats were sweet and not all were on the counter.  Develed eggs in the frig sometimes.  I remember a while when I was really in to mustard.  I ate slices of bread with mustard.  But I also went through a phase of saltine crackers with mustard.  There is a saltine cracker box in my pantry this very minute.  I adore salt and the crispness and dryness of crackers.  Pickles and olives.  Oh, my.  Home canned pickles are fine.  My mother and grandmother made lovely pickles and relish.  But little bits picked up on trips.  Heavenly pieces from other places,  Seattle, Bend, Newport, Eugene.  Where ever they went, for any reason, food came back.

At night in the early 70s, she took accounting classes at the local community college.  My father was uncomfortable and worried with her away at night.  I remember them arguing about it.  During the day in the 70s she was the secretary at the Middle School which was called Junior High at the time. She arrived home from work in a flurry of activity and excitment in the evening with a plan for our dinner.  I remember a warm and bright house with the radio playing in one room and the T.V. in the next.  I remember my mother and father happy to see each other eager for the evening ahead.

My mother was the Queen of Casseroles before me.  Always had a plan for dinner with a main dish, a salad and a side dish.  We often had a simple desert.  We watched an hour of TV as my mother cleaned up and then went to bed.  Starting again the next day.

If I could be a fly on the wall at this point, looking back, these would have been very humble meals and humble evenings.  My sister and I remember them happily.  I realize now that life was hard for the adults, tiring, stressful, frustrating.  They did not have what they deserved or desired.  But they did not expect others to provide what they wanted. They forged ahead to create the best future they could .

I live in a more complex world now.  A bigger house.  We own a business.  Many strains and difficulties.  And yet I strive to create the same environment for those I cook for.  I fall short.  Many nights I feel inadequate.  I wish I could go back and seek the wisdom earned by my parents in earlier years.  But I can not.  I pray to the Simplicity Gods for help.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cooking to feel good/ Chicken Stir Fry

Hard day today.  Nothing bad happened.  I'm just making some changes in my life right now and I come home tired and a little overwhelmed.  So I could finish wrapping Christmas presents.  I could working on Christmas decorations (still not even started).  But no, I'm going to cook to feel good.  Something about cooking straightens me out, gives me perspective, makes me happy.  So here gos

The sauce
3T. Soy Sauce
2 T. Rice Vinegar
2 T. Hoisen Sauce
1 T. Honey
2 T. White Wine
2 gloves Garlic. 
1/2 t. fresh grated ginger

Take the time now to smell it.  Yummy.
The chicken

About a 1 1/4 pounds boneless chicken breasts.  These are tenders, but regular ones that have been cut into slices would be fine.  I could use a utencil, but no, I pick each one up with my fingers and hold it.  Soft and pretty.  What a lovely thing, and yes, I'm weird.  But I'm starting to feel better already. 

1/2 of the sauce into the chicken.  Turn the chicken in the sauce with your fingers to coat.  You could use tongs if you want.  Let it set at least 15 minutes.  Longer if you have it.  Turn the chicken in the sauce from time to time and remember to enjoy yourself.

The vegetables..

This is chopped onion, brocolli, snap peas, carrots and shredded red cabbage.  But use any combination of vegetables you like.  I use stir fry as an opportunity to clear out the vegetable bin.

Add a Tablespoon of my favorite sweet chili sauce to the remaining sauce. 

A Tablespoon of canola or peanut oil in the pan and heat it to medium high.  Start laying the chicken pieces in the oil.  But this time use the tongs.  If you've ever put cool stuff in hot oil, you know why.  Cook the chicken, turning them, for 5 - 10 minutes depending on the size of pieces until just cooked.  Remove them to a bowl. 

Add another T. oil and the vegetables.

Starting to feel pretty good.
Add the reserved sauce and cook until vegetables are just slightly crisp.  Go ahead and pick one up with your fingers and put it in your mouth. 

The husband calls down to me "something smells pretty good!"

Now you need some rice.  Some people have trouble cooking rice in a pan.  You don't need a rice cooker.

2 cups water and 1 t. salt in the pan and bring it to a full rolling boil.  That means when you stir, you can't stir it down. 

1 cup of rice and spring for the good stuff in a 5 lb sack.

Add the rice to the boiling water and stir it just enough so that all the rice is wet.

Slam on the lid and immediately turn down the heat to low. 

Now don't peak, don't touch it, stay away from it.  Cook on low for 15 minutes.  Lift the lid and fluff the rice with a spoon.  Add a Tablespoon of butter and close the lid again until you are ready to eat.

 I promise you perfect rice every time if you do this.

Husband comes in with a happy look on his face, sniffing the air.  Seems like something was wrong before, but I can't remember what.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Easy Baked Shrimp

I just love all kinds of shell fish.  My favorite is crab, but I like any thing that swam or crawled on the ocean floor and will unashamedly suck out any bits of goodness I can get shortly after dunking them in melted butter.  Shell fish, "seafood" as he called it, was a special treat for my Father, also.  As a special occasion, we would go to a Chinese restaurant called the Bamboo Terrace where he would eat batter fried shrimp.  We would blissfully chomp away at pork chow mein while he ate his shrimp.  Sometimes, we got a Shirley Temple. 

I think that the most memorable times in child hood for most of us are times when our parents were happy.  So many young parents I know think they are giving quality times to their children by giving them "things".  My parents gave us very little that was material, but they created people who could do things for themselves and felt secure and safe, because that was who they were themselves.  Somehow that sounds better, myself.

I buy medium shrimp, several pounds at a time when it is on a good sale.  They package it for me in 1 lb packages which I immediately put in the freezer.   For what I do, I see no reason to pay extra for the large shrimp or prawns.  If you feel otherwise, go ahead.   

When I'm getting ready to cook them, I take off the wrapping and put the frozen chunk in my best colander in my sink.  I turn on the faucet and run warm water through, turning them with my fingers from time to time.  They thaw in about 10 minutes. 

I'm, oh, just a little compulsive about cleaning shrimp.  For each one, I pull off the shell.  Then I go after the little black vein that runs on its back from head to tail with a small knife.  You can buy them cleaned already if you prefer. 

Like most recipes I make, this is original, but started out as a combination of several other recipes I've seen and evolved into this. 

Easy Baked Shrimp
2 T. Olive oil 
1 T. Butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. white wine 
1 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined. 
1/4 t. dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 t. dried sage
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 c. parmesan chees
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs or standard commercial bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In an oven proof pan combine oil, butter, garlic and wine.  I love my porcelain coated cast iron skillet, but any type of pan that takes the heat will do.

Lay the cleaned shrimp in the pan so that they cover the bottom as one layer, tossing them slightly to coat them with the liquid.  

Combine the herbs.  Crush the rosemary between your fingers to break it into smaller bits.  If you must use another method to break up the rosemary, an herb grinder, or whatever, go ahead.  But you are missing the pleasure of having rosemary hands.  You deserve pleasure, don't you? 

Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the shrimp. 

Combine the cheese and bread crumbs and sprinkle evenly over  top of the shrimp. 

Place the pan in preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes.  Take out the pan and turn each shrimp gently.  We'll disturb the bread crumbs, but that's okay.  Return it to the oven and bake an additional 5 minutes or until shrimp are pink and bread crumbs have browned just a bit. 

This is a nice thing to toss with pasta.  My husband likes it over rice.  Big surprise, I like to pick each one up and dump it in cocktail sauce, but if you know me, you knew that.

Here it is with brocolli and a cornmeal muffin. 

Remember to have fun.