Monday, May 31, 2010

Banana Crumb Muffins

My basic thesis is that the simpler things are usually better and cheaper.  I reject that fast food or prepared food is cheaper and it is certainly not good food.  That premise denies common sense - that a company can produce food cheaper than I can.  There may be economies in bulk buying and bulk production, but every company makes a profit or goes out of business.  Every business plan attempts to add value to a product and charges for the value added. 

So make it yourself.  If you don't know how, learn.  The process of learning is rewarding and improves the quality of life.  Costco muffins are (1) not good, (2) not cheaper and (3) does not improve the quality of life. 

Banana Crumb Muffins
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt.
1 cup ripe banana, mashed with a fork (2 or 3 bananas)
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1/3 c. butter, melted

1/3 c. packing brown sugar
1 T. all-purpose flour
1/8 t. cinnamon
1 T. butter, melted.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Combine bananas, sugar, egg and butter and mix well.  Stir into dry ingredients.  Filled sprayed muffin cups 3/4 full.  Combine the topping ingredients.  Divide it evenly over the top of the muffin batter.  Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until done. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Not U Momma's Chicken Casserole

Food is love is tradition.  Yes, I know I'm weird.  But, my mother made nothing like this.  I am comfort cooking today. 

For starters, I need a roasted red bell pepper.  Clean a sweet pepper of your choice and break it so that it lays flat.  Rub olive oil all over it and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Stick it under a broiler, watching it until its skin blackens. 

Pull it out and let it cool until it can be handled.  The skin has separated from the rest and will easily pull away leaving a much more flavorable version of a pepper.  Don't skip this step.  It is worth it.  Finely chop this and set aside. 

2 T olive oil, 1 shallot finely chopped, 1 stalk celery finely chopped, 1 carrot finely chopped.  Just a couple things about that:  First, this is a shallot.  A shallot is an onion with much milder flavor.  I prefer them.  I grown them some years.  This one came from my local produce company.

Second, I'm a little dense.  I've only recently figured out that celery is not a local crop and I am trying to buy more local food.  I've decided not to buy it again for a while. 
Chop everything as finely as possible.  Texture is an important part of cooking, even simple and humble food like this. Cook it until is is very soft and a little browned.  Set aside.

Now in another skillet,  2T. butter melted,  Add 2 T. flour and stir with a wooden spoon.  Then 2 cups whole milk.  Whisk it fairly constantly.  As the milk heats,the flour will thicken it.  If there are lumps, work them out with a back of a spoon or smush them with a wisk  Add another cup, this time 1/2 and 1/2.  Yes, I know.  Add the chopped pepper, the sauted vegetables.   It's creamy rich but needs some seasoning.  Add 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper.  Add 1/2 t. worchestershire sauce

This is 3 chicken thighs which were roasted, skin and bone on with just a little olive oil and salt a couple days ago for another dish.  Bone and skin is discharded and the meat chopped and into the sauce it goes along with 1 cup of cooked rice.

A big bunch of parsley from my garden.  Chopped finely and into the mix. 

Then I turned it all into a casserole dish and into the oven at 350.   It simmered stove top for about 20 minutes, so 15 minutes in the oven is plenty.  Every thing is cooked.  We are just looking for the sauce to set up and the flavors to combine. 

I know these things aren't gourmet meals, but they bring people to the table. 

They are comforting.  They remind me of a safer world.  But this is not my mother's chicken casserole.  

Remember to take good care of yourself.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Holiday Burgers

While we are planning the construction work related to the water damage, I'm doing a lot of comfort cooking.  The insurance company will pay 70% of the dining out bill, quite frankly, we want to eat at home.  So here we are, a quiet weekend with a lot coming up next week and our nerves a bit on edge, I'm cooking comfort food. For me that is grilling, casseroles, and soup.  More soup and casseroles to come.

These are burgers which I have made for many years for special gatherings.  I think of it as my own, but looking at my notes, it appears that I have modified a 1999 magazine article from the Quick Cooking Magazine.  

Holiday Grilled Burgers
1 c. (4 oz.) shredded mexican style cheese.  
1 can (4 12 oz) sliced mushrooms, drained and finely chopped
1/3 c mayonnaise, the real thing and good quality
6 bacon strips, very good quality, cooked and finely chopped. 
2 lbs ground beef
1/4 c. shallot, finely chopped
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic finely minced
1/8 t. chipoltle pepper tabasco sauce
Good hamburger buns, toasted at the last minute
lettuce leaves from the garden
tomato slices.  

One trick to making burgers with lots of ingredients is that everything should be chopped very finely.  Big chunks don't hold together on the grill well.  The Mayo binds it together so don't skimp and use the real thing.  A little extra would be fine if you don't get a smooth and cohesive mixture. Combine all ingredients prior to the buns.  Clean hands are the best tool for this job.  Keep smushing it together until completely incorporated. 

Then pat together patties.  A sheet of wax paper between the layers of patties.  Chill them as cold as they can get in the fridge.  This helps them hold together on a hot grill. 

When you are ready, get your grill screaming hot.  On go the patties.  A few minutes on both sides.  I do medium to medium well when I make them myself on a grill even though I prefer a little pink on meat.  Just seems like a good idea. 

These burgers turn out moist on the inside.  The high heat of the grill and (let's face it) the fat content makes a crust outside that is appealing and satisfying.  The big eaters may like a slice of cheese melted over top and extra condiments.  For us ladies, a good bun, a tomato slice and lettuce leaf from the garden.  Today, I'm serving it with husband's favor bbq chips, potato salad - my mom's recip, our favorite green salad (See  No Dessert.  No excuses.  Just didn't make one. 

Check back for pictures of the event. 

Remember to take good care of yourself.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Home, My Hiding Place.

I've been gone for a while, gone from my blog, gone from yoga, gone from other things.  We had a major plumbing problem and a flood in my wonderful house, my haven, my safe place.  Life has an interesting way of sending  us the lessons that we need in the severity that we are able to handle.  Yes, I know that I am safe and loved.  But some how, there is a part of me that feels too vulnerable to the outside world.  I have always built a little nest around me that I could come to for protection and safety, a place to feel good.  I left the house as normal too early in the morning.  There was no problem then.  I came home to make our lunch to find a disaster, water everywhere.  

I called my husband's cell.  He answered and I said, "I need you home.  It's an emergency."  He said, "I'm on my way and hung up."  He didn't question me.  He didn't doubt me.  There was no hesitation.  I spent the next few minutes trying to turn off the water.  I was finely successfull at turning the water off about the time he arrived.  We spent the next 4 or 5 hours working together using our rug shampooer to vacuum up water.  We literally swept it out the door.  It was everywhere.  My hardwood floor is ruined. 

I cried and had a sizeable pitty party.  I drank a little wine.  But here is an observation or two:  First, he was there in a flash.  It is important to know who you can count on in life.  Second, it is important to know that together we can do anything.  We have proven it over and over again.  We are incredibly different people.  When we work separately or against each other, we can just devastate ourselves. But when we work together, our varied styles and our opposite talents, skills and abilities create a sort of synergy.  Anything is possible.

So now, we have an insurance claim.  Thank goodness for good insurance.  It appears that everything is covered after the deductible.   Another lesson to be learned.  We will general contract the repair work ourselves.  This is who we are.  We own a construction company.  We can do this.  We will be okay.   

It appears that some of the work will need to be done with us out of the house.  Our insurance covers a motel room if we have to be out of the house and 70% of our bill eating out if we can't cook in our own kitchen.  I don't want to leave my house.  But ultimately, I know we will be back, bigger and better.  The wood floors will be replaced,  The wet spots will be dryed.  The damaged door frames and dry wall will be replaced.  We'll get through it. 

And like other challenges that we've been through.  And there have been a few.  We'll emerge better and stronger than before. 

I love my husband. Remember to tell the ones you love. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lemon Chicken with Caper Sauce

I've always made some version of Lemon Chicken.  Everything from supper quick and easy to restaurant quality, there are dozens and dozens of easily accessible recipes.  I've experimented with and modified many of them.

Last night, I just wanted to play and feel good.  I didn't really have the time to do it, so we ate late.  Poor patient husband.  He came down sniffing the air, like usual and I knew I was likely 30 minutes off.  He said "I'm hungry and that smells great."  Then he waited, well not that patiently.  And ate more than half of it.  Sorry dear.

Lemon Chicken w/ Caper Sauce
4 bone in chicken thighs, skin removed
1/2 sage
1/4 salt
3 T. Flour
1/8 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. cream
1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 large garlic clove minced
1 large lemon, jested and juiced
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. cream.
1 T. capers, drained and chops 
8 oz pasta,  cooked, drained, add a little oil and toss

Combine sage, salt, flour, and pepper in one pie plate. 
Put 1/2 c. cream in another.  Roll each piece in cream, then in flour mixture. 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Place chicken skillet and cover, cooking at medium high. 

A few minutes into cooking, use a fork to make sure the chicken isn't sticking to the skillet or loosening it.  In about 10 minutes (more or less depending upon size or thickness of pieces), turn each piece over when the chicken is well browned.  Continue cooking as the other side browns.  Keep covered most of the time and loosen with a fork as needed.

When chicken is well browned on both sides, remove the chicken.  Add the butter with a whisk, move it around as it melts.  Scrap the bottom of the pan to loosen any residue from the chicken.  There is a lot of flavor there. 

Start the pasta cooking here.  Also, add the lemon juice, garlic, zest and wine to the melted butter in the skillet and stir as it heats.  As it starts to simmer add the cream and whisk.  Make sure everything is well combined and isn't sticking to the pan.  Add the capers. 

Return the chicken to the pan and reduce the heat to medium low and cover.  
When pasta is cooked and drained, turn it into a serving dish.  Put chicken pieces on top of pasta and pour sauce over top.  Yum.  



Sunday, May 9, 2010

Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream (4 qt.)

Homemade ice cream was made regularly during the summer when I was growing up.  Mom made the mixture; Dad manned the freezer.  During those years they had a hand crank freezer.  Let's just say there is a little bit of work involved in making ice cream this way.  

My daddy was not a big guy, but he was a serious dude.  When he did something, a lot of energy went into it.   But as it began to get harder, it would be more difficult to turn the crank.  I remember my daddy bent over the freezer on the covered patio just turning away.  When it got too difficult, he would ask one of the children to sit on top of the freezer.  Mom would bring towels or a pile of newspapers to put on top of it.  Then the child would sit on that.  You knew you were a big kid when you were allowed this honor.  
I have my mother's old recipe.  I remember asking her for it during a conversation in the car and her rattling it off while I jotted it down.  But I make a better ice cream.(I say that only because I know she won't be seeing this, but it is true.)  Sorry Momma.

Osborne Backyard Vanilla Ice Cream
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. + 2 T. flour
1/2 t. salt
5 c. milk (2 % or whole)
4 eggs, beaten
4 c. cream or 1/2 and 1/2
2 T. vanilla

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large pan.  Gradually stir in the milk, careful to whisk out any lumps.  Cook over medium heat approximately 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. 

Gradually, temper the eggs by slowly adding 1 cup of the hot mixture into the ends.  Slowly add the egg mixture back into the pan while whisking.  If you just dump it in, you'll have little bits of scrambled egg in your ice cream.

Take your time.  Then slowly pour it back into the pan.

Cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Add cream or 1/2 & 1/2 and vanilla. 

Stick in the frig until it is fully chilled.  The colder it is when you put it in the freezer, the faster it will make

Freeze in an ice cream freezer per manufacturers directions.

I sometimes add some instant coffee and chocolate sauce to this recipe for a treat that is just over the top good.

More info coming, check back. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rhubarb Pie

I've been bad all week and it's only Wednesday.  The rhubarb pie thing started this morning when I had the idle thought that I'd love to make one and I'd love to eat one.  This was one of my estimating days.  I have two jobs for my company.  One job is as commerical HVAC estimator.  I look at plans and estimate our costs, submitting our bid to general contractors.  That was today.  The other job is operations manager.  I oversee certain functions of the operations of our business. 

Anyway, about the time I started thinking about Rhubarb Pie, I started smelling it.  The tart and the sweet together.  The little tingle at the nose.  All day I smelled it as I worked with plans and my scaling ruler.  I never said I wasn't nuts.

By mid afternoon, I knew I'd be skipping yoga and making a rhubarb pie.  I rushed home complete obsessed with the idea.  I've known people who have trouble with pie crust.  I was destined to make pie crust.  I have pie crust karma.  I simply love the stuff.  To me, it means a comfortable, warm and safe house where everyone is happy and everything will be okay.  Obviously, my mother made a lot of the stuff when I was a kid and that's where all this emotion comes from.  I still have hopes that I am influencing someone in my life this way.  We'll see. 

But the recipe is no mystery.  It is the one inside my old reliable cookbook.
2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
2/3 cup shortening.
6 T. ice cold water.

Flour and salt into a large bowl.  Then the shortening.  I promise you ice water is best. I literally start with water with ice in it and measure the water into the bowl.

Mix with a spoon for a little while, but soon your best tool is clean hands.  Take off your rings, wash your hands and dive in.  It feels good.  Squish it together then press down with your palm. 

When it is fully incorporated, cut it in half.

Now the fun part.  Flour the center of your board. Don't have a board?  Wash your counter well and do it there.  My board is marble, but my mom used a wood board made by my dad.  We called it the Bread Board.  Don't let this be about something new to buy.  People have been making pies since before there were stuff to buy.
A sprinkle of flour on the top and use the rolling pin to make a flattened circle.  Roll first from the upper right corner to the lower left corner. 
Then roll again to from the upper left corner to the lower right corner.  Turn it over and turn it a quarter turn.  Sprinkle with flour again and roll again.  Part of my rolling ritual is to rub the top with my hand each time.  The surface should be cool and dry.  If it is at all sticky or moist add flour and rub. 
Here is one of the many places in life that you have the opportunity to enjoy yourself.  Take the opportunity.  Be the dough.  Feel the zen of the dough.  

Continue until you have a thin pie crust.  Fold it in half and lay it in a prepared pie plate.  You can prepare it by spraying it with cooking spray or just dip into the shortening with fingertips and rub the pan with shortening. 
4 cups rhubarb, cleaned and sliced.  I've got it in my colander.  The colander is in a bowl in my sink.  Pour the kettle of hot water over the rhubarb.  Actually, I dumped it into the bowl to soak and soften for a few minutes while I rolled out the other pie crust.  Then I drained off the water by dumping the rhubarb back into the colander. 

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 egg with about 2 t. of cold water.  
I whisked it a bit with my new french whisk.

Combine the sugar, flour, softened rhubarb and egg mixture in the bowl and turned it into the crust.

Lay the top crust over.  

And crimp.  Cut away the extray crust.  Make sure to eat a little of the raw dough.  It's good for you. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes at 350 degrees or until the top is lightly browned. 

You may notice to the left of this picture that I have a helper.  He is really never far away, but he is particularly helpful when he thinks there is food.  Can't imagine why he would think he is going to get anything!  Yummy and just what I needed.  The taste of spring. 
My mom made Strawberry Rhubarb Pie which was our all time favorite.  I have her recipe.  As soon as local strawberries are ready, you know what I'll be doing.  Good medicine for whatever is ailing you.  Remember to take your medicine.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pacific NW Stew

I'm working on a recipe for Pacific NW Stew.  I'm interested right now in wondering where my food came from.  I've discovered that no local beef is readily available in grocery stores, so we've ordered a 1/2 a beef from a local rancher.  But there is local fish and seafood.  I toyed with a fun attempt at seafood stew this week which tasted good but wasn't quite right.  I've carried servings to work this week in my small crockpot and turned it on mid morning.  It has been nice and bubbly hot by lunch. 

Husband ate it without complaint.  If I can get the same ingredients, I'll be doing it again  with improvements next week with more of the same ingredients going into the freezer for later.  I've decided the freezer is my new friend.

Husband and I took a lovely drive to the beach on Saturday.  We are about 1 hour away most directly, but we aimed for a town slightly south and ended up with a 1 1/2 hour one way drive.  It occured to me that I could have brought the big ice box and bought fresh fish or dungeonous crabs from the local fish people and brought them back to my new friend, the freezer, at modest cost.  Why did I not think of this before?  It isn't that hard.

We stopped for a delicious meal of steamer claims, french bread, and white wine and came back home happy. Check back for the new and improve NW Stew recipe.

I'm a lucky girl to be from the Pacific Northwest.  There are so many worse places in the world and so many people who have a worse life.  Use local resources.

Remember to be happy and grateful with where you live. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Monday night left over roast

I worked a little late and got in just in time to head out to yoga.  No time to start a casserole.  When I return, husband is on the couch watching a documentary about Yellowstone National Park.  I start the oven, and pull out one of those refrigerator biscuit tubes.  I pull out the chicken from last night.  I go to the pantry for a jar of chicken gravy. 

Yes, this meal violates all my rules.  You'll probably think poorly of me because I had those things. This isn't one of those beautiful and perfect blogs.  This is a real life blog.  Yoga night blog.   

On goes a pot of brocolli.

A biscuit, chicken meat warmed in the microwave, gravy heated in a sauce pan on the stove. 

Supper on the couch with husband watching documentaries.

As I clean up, I starting chopped bacon and vegetables.  It's going to be soup for tomorrow.  I've got some Alaska cod and some wild Oregon shrimp.  The veggies are from Diane's Produce.  I'm going to call it Pacific Northwest Chowder.  Check back. 

Remember what's important.  

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Roast Chicken

We've been through some hard times in the last couple years, mostly struggles with our business, that left us at different times, tired, discouraged, and less savory things.  Husband and I have nearly opposite skill sets, talents and abilities.  When it works, we create huge synergy.  When it doesn't, it can be disaster. 

But now, as things start looking better, and we start to re-evaluate our lives, we find that we are stronger for the experience and grateful for the little pleasures.  I'm not sure where we ever got so off track, but we are back, and better for it.  We certainly remembered that we knew how to make hard decisions.  And we knew how to be frugal.  My local store has stewing chickens for $.79 / lb every so often.  When they do, I stick a couple in the freezer.  This is a lot of food for the dollar.  And find me something more satisfying than sitting down to roast chicken on a Sunday night. 

Herb roasted chicken
2 small limes, washed well
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup fresh oregano, cleaned, leaves removed from stems, and leaves finely chopped
1/4 thyme leaves, cleaned and picked
1 stewing/roasting chicken, washed well with soap and water, rinsed and dried ( pick off anything on the chicken that you don't want to eat)
2 T. butter, melted
1/2 t. coarse sea salt

Finely grate peel from one lime.  Juice that lime and compost what remains.  Slice one garlic clove and mince the other.  The minced garlic and butter goes in the juice. In the cleaned cavity, start stuffing the 2nd lime which has been quartered, the sliced garlic, and the oregano leaves. 

Slowly pour the butter/juice mixture over the chicken rubbing it with your hands and turning it to coat every part.  As Paula Deene say, "I believe in rubbing my meat, hee, hee." and I do too.  All jokes aside, I insist on taking the time to enjoy this process.  What is the hurry?  Pour any remaining liquid into the cavity.  Sprinkle the thyme leaves and salt over it all.

Once you are satisfied, set him in a roasting pan.  Place him in a 375 degree oven. Now, back outside to enjoy the yard. 

And my favorite gardening buddy.

Dash in for a bit to check the chicken.  The whole house smells lovely.  It will be done in approximately 1 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 170 and juices run clear.  Let stand for a few minutes before slicing. 

By the way, we are still eating salad with homemade ranch dressing from a previous post.  The difference is that the bunnies are getting full or the lettuce in the raised beds are growing faster than they can eat it.  We may actually get to eat some soon.

The beginning of a good evening.

Remember lifes important details.  And remember to enjoy them.