Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Cooking "Gene"

There are those who enjoy cooking and food.  There are those who need to find food to eat.  There are various places in between.  In my family, some people have what we call the "cooking gene" while others in the same family do not have it. 

My aunt claims to be among those who don't have the "gene."  Her food strategy is that of a very good hunter and gatherer.  She can find and buy delicious and interesting prepared food all sorts of places.  She brings it home.  They unwrap it and eat it.  She remarkably skilled at this.  They do not suffer.  My sister claimed not to have the "gene," but is finding later in life an enjoyment in the kitchen which she didn't have until just recently.  

I think about food all day long.  I was well into my adulthood when I realized that the average person doesn't think about food the way I do.  But really, cooking every day is a lot of work!  It isn't just time in front of the stove.  There is shopping, planning, organizing, preparation, then clean up. 

I bring this up because I recently had a heavenly few days with many members of the Osborne family.  The wedding of Step-Son and the new Daughter-in-Law, as I've mentioned.  While I really enjoyed the experience of planning and preparing many meals, here's what went into it:

Thursday night:  Pork roast, salad, garlic bread and apple pie.  The roast came from a sale I shopped at several weeks previously and was waiting for me in my freezer.  I started defrosting it in my fridge a several days previous.  The day before I put my homemade roast rub on it and returned it to the fridge.  The afternoon I served it, I made a special trip home from my errands to make sure it cooked long enough.  The salad is a favorite of ours which I have never posted here, so that recipe will be coming up.  The garlic bread is a packaged thing I buy at Safeway.  But the Pie was gravenstien apple and homemade.

Friday morning:  cereal and juice and coffee.

Friday afternoon:  Roast chicken, homegrown green beans and salad for the ladies or those looking for a light meal and brats on a bun for those wanted a grilled thing or more meat.  We figure we served 20 meals.  Some just picked and ate a bit, but we went through some serious food that afternoon.  Thank goodness for my wonderful sister-in-law's help.  I only sent Husband to the store twice that day.

Friday evening:  Wedding reception.

Saturday morning:  Blueberry pancakes, bacon, and eggs.  Some of the guests were leaving that morning.

Saturday afternoon:  A new set of guests.  Thank goodness for left overs.  I pulled out quite a bit of stuff and let people pick and circulate.  I had the leftovers from the wedding reception and the left over wedding cake, which helped.

Saturday night:  Was going to be spaghetti, but Step-Son wanted to use up some meat they had so he grilled,  we made the salad again and garlic bread from the same source.

So here we are now several days past.  Step Son and Daughter-in-law are in Hawaii and I am still cleaning out the fridge and stove burners, wiping splattered cabinets and making a shopping list of staples that got used from the pantry.  What an wonderful experience, but I am still tired.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Use-The-Extra-Stew-Meat Soup

Everyone has left after a week of bliss culminating in the wedding our Step Son and our lovely new daughter in law.  I think they won't mind if I show a picture.

The house was packed with so many lovely and interesting people.
Husband is in the middle with his two brothers.  Yes, they came downstairs dressed alike.  Isn't it so interesting when you get family together?

Oh, and one more cutey picture,  because I can't resist.

Now, we are washing bath towels and bedding.  The extra stew meat is from Daughter-in-Law's frig.  She didn't get it used prior to leaving and brought it to us.  

Use-The-Extra-Stew-Meat Soup 

2 lbs stew meat, washed and dried.  I put a collendar in the sink, add the meat and rinse well.  Then I let it drain and dry it with paper towel.  If you don't do all this, okay.  Just what I do.   I I cut pieces a bit smaller because some of the pieces were too big.

A couple tablespoons olive oil in the pan.  Get it hot.  Add the meat and about a 1/2 cup of flour.  Mix it up and simmer until the meat browns.

Add a carton of beef broth, 1/2 cup pearl barley, 1/2 c. yellow split peas, 3 big carrots, cleaned and thinly sliced, and 1 red pepper, cleaned and chopped.

2 teaspoons of salt and a good tablespoon of minced garlic.  Several good shakes off the Tabasco sauce bottle.  We want some flavor here!

Simmer for an hour.  Or until the barley and peas are tender.  Stir a few times while it cooks. I like it thick.  Add more liquid if you like a soupier soup.

Remember to use the left overs. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

As Step Son is to be married tomorrow, and family is gathering, I am making happy occasion food.  Do you know what I mean?  Is there food that means fatigue or sick, happy or sad to you?  I realize not everyone has this relationship with food and life. This is my mom's recipe in her hand writing.  I can't remember exactly how I got it, when she gave it to me or under what situation, but I have had it for a very long time.

Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
1 1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. grated orange peel  (opt)
3 c. cut up rhubarb (1/2 inch pieces)
3 c. strawberries, sliced
2 T. butter 
A double pie crust

Arrange the bottom pie crust in a pie plate that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Combine all other ingredients and mix well.  Pour into prepared crust. 

Add top crust and crimp edges.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until done. 

Remember to celebrate happy occasions with happy food.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Roast Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I've been working on a recipe for Roast Garlic Mashed Potatoes.  This is not my mother's mashed potatoes, which in Paula Deen style, were so very rich with butter and cream.  They aren't perfectly creaming and smooth, either, in Martha Stewart style.  I have no problems with a few lumps in mashed potatoes.  Actually prefer it.

This started yesterday.  I roasted the garlic.  It's worth it because of the extra flavor and doesn't take that much time, but I do all my cooking after dark, so planning is necessary.  The total truth is that I don't like raw garlic in some things and sauted garlic is easy to burn.

Somewhere around 2 to 2 1/4 pound of yukon gold potatoes.  I'm going to say this many.

Peel them.  I use a paring knife and cut against my thumb.  What most people call a potato peeler, I use to peel carrots.  One of these days, I'll get around to another blog post about peeling.  I did lots of it at an early age.  My mother and grandmother picked and canned or froze produce all summer long.  I spent many a summer afternoon belly-up to the sink, peeling and slicing things, so let's just say I have a couple opinions about that. 

Cut each peeled potato in half, unless they are big.  Then, cut them in quarters.  Put them in a large sauce pan or small stew pot and cover with water.  I add about a good teaspoon of salt and start heating them.  At a slow steady boil, cook them until they stick easily with a fork.  

Place a big colander into the sink.  Turn on the cold water.  Carefully pour the pot, water and potatoes, into the colander.  I'm not sure why I do the cold water thing.  I'm not usually prone to old wife's tales, but it makes good sense to me that it is not good for the plumbing to pour boiling water into it.  On the other hand, maybe it's just fine.  That's just how I do it. 

Return the cooked potatoes to the same pot.  Add 1 T. butter, 2 T. olive oil and 1/2 cup  Tillamook Sour Cream.  You can substitute other good commercial sour cream if you don't live in the Pacific Northwest.  1/2 t. of salt or more if you like it.  Actually, I like a little more.   1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper. 

Mash with a potato masher.  The one on the right is just like the one my Mom had, I think.  I bought it at a garage sale.  But the one on the left is my favorite to actually use. 

Another option includes a food mill, which actually works pretty well for this type of thing.  They are functional, cheap, easy to find.  They go easily in the dishwasher.  I believe I bought this thing at the Goodwill on 78th just east of 99 highway. 

I like my masher, but I've also used my nice little Black & Decker hand mixer to mash potatoes many times.  So there is another option. 

Put the roasted garlic from the night before on the cutting board and give it a good chop.

Add it to the potatoes and mix with a big spoon.   

Actually, I've been thinking that this would be good with more garlic.  Next time, I may roast more, so don't be scared of this amount of garlic.  It is a really happy thing. 

Remember to trust me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Roast Garlic in Preparation for Roast Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Roast Garlic.
This is half a bunch of garlic, several cloves.  Leave the outside husky paper on to protect it.  1 1/2 T of olive oil poured over.  Toss with fingers or a fork.  Into a 375 oven for 10 minutes.

It's done when the tines of a fork make a mash. 

The dry outside husk is easy to remove once it is cool enough to handle.
  Before I go to bed, I'll clean up this and refrigerate the roast garlic mash for tomorrow. 

Here is what the outside husk looks like once pealed off.

And here is the good stuff.  Fragrant like cooked garlic and smooth like soft butter.

Remember that everything will be okay.

Eating Raw Dough and Forgiving Grandma

My grandmother firmly believed that it was bad for you to eat raw dough - bread dough, cookie dough and the like.  My grandmother was, let's just say, an opinionated worman.  It was difficult to say no to her. 

I rememeber my mother having fights with her about letting us eat dough.  My mother made noodles, bread, muffins, biscuits.  She was always busy.  And my mother actually encouraged us to eat the raw dough.  I think it was her little way of rebelling against a fairly firm and dominant person.

I have a house full of guests coming later in the week.  A family wedding this Friday.  More on that later.  I'm doing a bit a preparation in the kitchen and pantry for their arrival.  So here I am, mixing dough and scooping out fingerfuls straight into my mouth.  And telling my husband about this story.  He is rolling with laughter, having heard so many stories about my grandmother.

Here, today, Grandma, I forgive you for everything.  I know that you had many challenges and that your life was hard.  Having young children during the Depression must have been difficult.  I don't even know what all of those challenges were.  I wish that I had you here to tell me in a way that my mature mind could understand.  I regret that I didn't listen a little better and try to understand a little more when I was younger.  I know that you did the best you could.  Thank you for teaching me what you knew, protecting me, and feeding me.

Remember to forgive.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Comfort food at the Osbornes - Sage and Cheese Meatloaf and Roast Garlic Mash Potatoes

We are both a little down in the dumps tonight.  Nothing really.  Just tired.  A comfort food night is in order at the Osbornes.  This should actually feed 4 people, but it makes good sandwiches the next day if there are 2.

Sage and Cheese Small Meat Loaf
1 egg
3 T. chili sauce
1/3 c. commercial bread crumbs
4 T. shredded swiss cheese (Gruyere is also good)
1 t. dry onion
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. rubbed sage
1/8 t. pepper
3/4 lb to 1 lb ground beef

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Clean hands are the best tool.  Don't be shy about smushing this through your fingers.  It needs to be well mixed.  I won't tell anyone if you enjoy how it feels.  Take off your rings before and wash your hands after.  Just stuff we all learned in kindergarten.

Oh, and if you don't have chili sauce, Ketchup with a couple shakes of hot sauce is fine.  I'm not one to run out and buy an ingredient, just 'cause the recipe calls for it if I don't have a plan to use the rest of it.

Shape it into a slightly flattened ball.  Place uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 50 - 60 minutes.  This is not fancy.  You won't see it on Food Network.  But you can do it on a week night when you are tired.  And you don't have to go to the grocery store first.

I might mention that I've laid pieces of bacon across this prior to baking many times, but not tonight.  If you do that, cut them to fit and press them into the meat just a bit so they don't curl up as they cook.  I've also added a little more chili sauce and 2 more T. cheese on top once cooked and bake an additional 4-5 minutes. 

A little down in the dumps are you?  Here are your choices: 

  1. Mall therapy including a nice meal out.  Not a bad plan if it fits the budget, but does it really make you feel better?  My experience with that is it is very, very temporary.
  2. Go to bed and have a Pitty Party. I'm not one to criticize.  I've been there. 
  3. I don't know what?  Drink a bottle of wine.  Eat a carton of ice cream.  Not my thing so I don't know if that makes you really feel better... but my feeling is No!
  4. Or Sage and Cheese Meat Loaf and Roast Garlic Whipped Potatoes.
I vote for #4.  What do you think?

Oh, and if you make sandwiches out of this.  Good bread toasted, Ketchup or chili sauce or barbecue sauce, melt some mozzarella cheese on it.  A big pickle and a glass of milk.  I'm just saying.

Remember to feel good.

Oh, and the roast garlic mashed potatoes are next.

Oh, and this post is linked to the Hearth N Soul Blog Hop.

and Simple Lives Thursdays at Glowfglins

Check it out.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Snipping Green Beans

A comforting activity.  Wash your beans and let them drain in a collendar or dry them with a towel.

Take the end off, then the stem, with a little pinch and twist.  Green beans should be crisp and give a little snap as they break.  Then break each bean in two.  Leave them whole if you want.  This is how I do it.

Continue with each bean until you are done.  Have a little chat with someone while you do it.  Or have them help you.  If there is no one there to enjoy this with you, have a little chat with yourself.  This is the time of day when I reflect and get some perspective.  After a busy day with so many demands and activity, these simple tasks can give time to reconnect and feel good. 

Remember to do something that feels good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Italian Sauted Green Beans

Pick beans when they are small.  Big green beans aren't tender or tasty.  If you are buying them from the store or farm stand, take the time to pick out the smaller ones.  In fact, you should never feel embarrassed to pick through produce and get exactly what you want. 

Green beans are very good for you, easy to grow, and frugal.  Only the cost of a package of seeds.  More importantly, they provide a life long memory for the kids.  Talk about it: growing, picking and eating "our own" produce.  We find things under the bushes we want to look at.  Bugs, other plants, interesting things in the dirt.  It is fun and good for them.

Italian Sauted Green Beans
2 cups fresh green beans, snipped and cleaned.
2 big garlic cloves or 3 small garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. fresh ground pepper
1/2 t. dry oregano leaves (or 1T. fresh finely minced)
1 T. white wine, water, or broth
1 small tomato, diced.

Snip smallish green beans and break in half.  Wash thoroughly in a colandar.  Let drain.  In a large skillet, heat oil until a drop of water gives a medium sizzle.  Add beans and move them around with a spoon to coat.  Add salt, pepper, and oregano.  Increase heat to medium high and continue stirring for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and wine and tomato.  Stir to combine well.  Reduce temperature to medium, add a lid and steam for an additional 5 minutes.  

Just a few hints from someone with just a little experience. 
  • The beans should be well drained before they hit the hot oil.  Just saying.  If you are in a hurry, dry them with a paper towel.  Thank me later.
  • Get your hand wet under the sink then splatter a drop at the skillet to determine how hot the skillet and oil without danger to you. 
    • Keep a lid close by.  If it sizzles too much, put the lid on. 
    • With more experience, you'll get a medium sizzle without drama.  
  • Burned garlic doesn't taste good.  Many recipes add the garlic early in the saute.  I think add it late. 
  • The purpose of the wine is to give liquid to steam the vegetables softer and flavor.  If you don't like or don't want the wine, use water or broth. 
  • A drop of my favorite hot sauce isn't a bad idea if you like that sort of thing. You could leave the fresh ground pepper out and add more hot sauce.
Remember to make real food.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bush Beans in Raised Bed 2

Gardening was not really successful for me this year.  June in Washington was wet and cool.  My summer was taken up by the forced remodel.  A few things were awesome - blueberries, rhubarb, raspberries, blackberries, the herbs.   All now packed carefully in my freezer.  Others just didn't do much - peppers, strawberries, tomatoes.  I've got tomatoes now, but considering that there are 6 bushes, not much.

The beans are just now ready, in mid September.  Really late.  I planted these guys from seed one warm afternoon when I was on my own. 

Now, I have help. She's six and my favorite helper.  Her mom will marry Step Son in about a week.  She will be my step, step grand daughter.  I can't wait.  She calls me Meemaw.

I show her what size I want her to pick and turn her loose.  Look at her go!  She wants to cook with me every time I see her.  After the wedding, I hope to get a day with her to cook what she wants. 

Until then, we pick beans with our other favorite helper.  I remember similar activities with my own grandmother, now more than 40 years ago.  How is that possible? 

Not too bad of a mess of beans, do you think?

We've been looking through my cookbooks together, so I can see what she wants to make.  Anything with chocolate looks like the deal.  She likes the whole cupcake thing.

I talked to her mom about arranging our next play date, but she's a little busy planning a wedding.  Patience. 

Remember to pass along what you know.  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cannery Pier Hotel

A couple weekends ago we were able get away for three days and two nights to the Cannery Pier Hotel in Astoria, OR.  I can't claim that the town of Astoria is some fabulous tourist destination, but it is pleasant and quaint with some good restaurants and shops and many interesting places to walk. 

We've enjoyed this particular hotel many times when we've needed some relaxation or to escape some particular drama at home.  It is lovely in all sorts of ways.  Service to awesome.

I can also recommend the Gunderson's Cannery Cafe where we ate twice will there and have eaten before.  It is consistently good.

I'm a big fan of steamer clams and the ones we had there were really good.

We also enjoy a restaurant called Baked Alaska while in Astoria.  It is excellent.  We even had Thanksgiving dinner there a couple years ago.

The Cannery Pier Hotel has 3 vintage cars which you can reserve to take you to your evening destination and pick you up when done.  It's fun and something different. 

And Baked Alaska has some really yummy food. 

 The kids met us on Saturday. We walked around and saw some of the sights.  With the north Oregon Coast, you are pleasantly surprised and take advantage when the weather is really good.  

Miss Hailey has a hard time putting down the DS, whatever that is.

We walked around; saw things.  Astoria has an interesting history. The city was once known as the salmon capital of the world.  In the 1880s, 40 canneries lined the lower Columbia river producing canned salmon.  The old victorian houses still remain, along with other remenents of the past to explore and enjoy.  It was a happy day.   Remember to get out and take some time to relax.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Peach Preserves

Here is one way I'm preserving tastes of summer 2010

Peach Preserves
About 10 large firm but ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
6 cups sugar

Combine the fruit and sugar in a 4 quart pot.  Cover and let stand in a cool spot for 18 to 24 hours.  After standing, bring pot to boil, stirring frequently.  Bring slowly to 200 degrees F and continue simmering for approximately 40 minutes.  Continue stirring frequently.  The fruit softens and becomes more opaque.  The syrup thicks.  Skim off foam if necessary.  Or add a t. butter to help keep the foan down. 

Immediately fill hot, sterilized half-pint jars with preserves leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Wipe jar tops and threads clean.  Place hot lids on jars and screw bands on firmly.  Process in boiling water canner for 5 minutes.  Yield 6 half pints.

I had a little more which went into a bowl and into my frig.  It will sweeten my morning yogurt for a while.

Remember to enjoy yourself.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quite a Scream

I might have mentioned that there are a few peaches in my house right now and we are eating and preserving them. So, I’m peeling and slicing a peach and all of a sudden an Earwig comes out of the stem where it was picked and is sitting on the half-peeled peach. I let out a scream and nearly drop the peach.

Now, I’m not afraid of bugs. Earwigs, certainly not. I’m 51 years old. I do not scream. It was just a surprise. Fortunately, Husband and Step Son did not hear. I would have heard about it the rest of the day and a while longer than that.

With the knife, I flick the Earwig into sink, turn on the water. Into the garbage disposal you go, little bug. This is what you deserve for making me scream. What were you even thinking?

Remember to be unafraid.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pick the Peaches

I’ve done some pretty serious peach peeling recently. We’ve eaten a lot of them and made peach preserves out of the rest.

When I was in my early teens, I stayed with my grandparents in the summer quite a bit. The farm across the road from my grandparents farm was owned by the McGee family. My grandfather liked old man McGee and he liked my grandfather. They did many trades. One summer my grandfather said that Old Man McGee had given him permission to pick a few of his peaches. My grandfather explained very carefully that I am never to pick a farmer’s crop without permission. A farmer’s crop is money and picking it without permission is like stealing. But with permission, it was okay.

We got up in the morning and went out to the road to get the morning paper for Grandma. We reached across the fence, picked a couple peaches, and took them back to Grandma. She pour a bowl of Wheaties for each of us, the carefully slice the peaches over top. The sugar bowl was placed on the table along with the milk and we were allowed a bowl of Wheaties, peaches, sugar, and milk. Total bliss.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Left Overs

I have a total thing about left overs.  I don't like them.  Could have been the best meal ever the first time around.  Second time, I don't want them.  Don't like them.  I really have a thing about it.

Husband gives me a hard time about it.

I try to cook only the amount needed.  If I have too much of anything I try to send it with someone for lunch or rework it into something else.  Another thing I have a total thing about is wasting things.  My two things are not consistent. 

Let's just say I'm working on this. So tonight we are having left overs.  I've got Hominy Casserole, Chicken Enchiladas and Salmon.  Little bit of each thing.  All things we like.  We'll just warm it up.  

I'm telling myself that this will be alright because I'm making peach jam and don't have time to cook tonight.  Sound work. 

Remember to use your leftovers.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grandma Strecker's Old Fashioned Mince Meat.

This is the taste of my childhood.  Here is the recipe exactly as it was handed down to me by my mother.  'Nuff said.

Grandma Strecker's Old Fashioned Mince Meat Pie Filling.
1 1/4 lb hamburger, cooked
1 lb raisins
1 11 oz box currents
2 1/2 qts cooked tart apples, my mother prefer Gravensteins.
2 1/4 c. sugar
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. molasses
1/4t + 1/8 t. each cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice

Combine cooked apples and cooked hamburger.  Add remaining ingredients in a large stew pot.  Boil a few minutes.  Pack in quart canning jars and  freeze.  Makes three or four quarts.

My mother froze it in canning jars as mentioned.  See the photo.  I've only opened the freezer 3 times to look at this since I put it in there.  I love freezers.  My grandmother canned this, but you must not.  It could probably be done safely with a pressure cooker, but I do not have the expertise to tell you how.  The way my grandmother canned this is not currently considered safe, although they all lived long and vibrant lives with constitutions of a quarter horse.  Really.  Freeze it. 

And now the family pie crust just the way I was taught.

Just one thing more things.  Here is how my new local hamburger meat from the butcher comes wrapped. 
Cute huh?

Remember to make something special for those you love.