Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Musings: Cooking with MOPS

Last night, I did a cooking demo for a MOPS group at Cayenne Kitchen and I have to admit that I had a great time, despite a short period of thinking "why did I decide to do this?" during the planning stages. The MOPS are not a tribute band for British Invasion-era songs, nor were they carrying buckets of suds. MOPS are Mothers of Pre-Schoolers.

Giving the gnashing of teeth that I often hear about how people don't cook at home as much as they used to, I worried just a little bit about how I could make my ideas simple enough without resorting to too many processed foods. The MOPS had asked for fast, simple recipes, and I decided that I'd demonstrate some salsas and flatbread and created recipes specifically for the demo.

I had a fleeting moment when I wondered if these moms were just looking for a night out and didn't care what the demo was, but as they arrived and started talking about the items on sale at Cayenne, I felt a little bit better.

During the demo, I was even more pleased when the questions starting coming. How much fresh ginger could be used in the salsa? Could the flatbread be made with whole wheat flour? Did my cast iron pan need to be seasoned, or did it come pre-seasoned? Could you make the flatbreads a day or two ahead?


Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna noodle casserole is something that I grew up with, and I still like it. I usually cook completely from scratch, but I don't mind using the original-recipe processed foods to make traditional comfort food like this once in a while.

But of course, I can't leave it completely alone. Here's how I made it the last time:

Tuna Noodle Casserole

12 oz. package of bow tie pasta
1 family size can of cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 pouches of tuna
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup grated colby cheese

Cook noodles per directions, leaving them a bit undercooked, since they'll be in the oven afterwards. Drain the noodles and in the warm pot add the soup and cream cheese and stir until the cream cheese melts into the mixture. Add the tuna and peas, and stir to break up the tuna as desired.

Put the mixture into an oven-safe casserole and top with the grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and begins to brown and the mixture is bubbly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BOTD: Graham Crackers

The other day, I was thinking that peanut butter sounded like a good snack, and my next thought was graham crackers. And I didn't have any. I was about to put them on the shopping list when the thought struck me that I ought to just make my own. How hard could it be?

The first recipe I found had a whole bunch of vegetable shortening as the first ingredient. Okay, I'm not terrified by shortening, but I figured I could do better. The second recipe had so much sugar that it sounded more like a cookie than a cracker. I was hoping to find something a little less sweet than regular graham crackers, not more sweet.

The third recipe looked like a perfect graham cracker. If you were feeding prisoners in solitary confinement.

Rather than search for recipes that might not exist, I decided to wing it. About all I used from the recipes was that proportion of 1 teaspoon of baking soda to three cups of flour. This may not be the absolutely final version of this recipe, but it's it's awfully close to what I was looking for.


Monday, March 29, 2010

What's Cooking: Whimsical Cheesecake

This article was first published in the April issue of the Left Hand Valley Courier.

I like to bake, but my cake decorating skills are lacking. Some of the baking books I own have instructions for creating the sort of flourishes you see on wedding cakes, but that’s not really my style.

So when I got “The Whimsical Bakehouse,” I was pretty excited to see decorating styles that were more, well, whimsical. I started my adventure with the chapter titled “Simple Cakes” with something called Ode to Jackson Pollack.

Before I started on my decorating challenge, I needed a cake, and the Pollack instructions suggested three different cheesecake recipes. I went with the Mocha Chocolate Chip Cheesecake.

The base of the cake is a chocolate cookie crumb crust. Use any handy recipe for a chocolate cookie crumb crust, or take a look at my previous post here. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 10-inch pan.

The book specified a 10-inch cake pan, but I didn’t have one that large, so I used a 10-inch springform pan instead. And really, that’s a little less scary when it comes to unmolding a cheesecake.

If you do use a springform pan, cover the bottom and up the sides with aluminum foil to prevent water from seeping in during baking.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chocolate Cookies for Crumb Crust

In the April issue of the Left Hand Valley Courier, my "What's Cooking?" column included a recipe for a mocha chocolate chip cheesecake and decorating instructions from the book The Whimsical Bakehouse. The recipe in the book included the instruction for making the cookies that are used to make the crumb crust, but I had to leave that out of the newspaper article because of space.

While you could certainly use any commercial cookie for the crust, I think these are a much better choice. They're not as sweet as most commercial cookies, which is good because sugar is included in the making of the crust. These would be fine dipped in chocolate, or with a filling between two cookies, but they're a little plain on their own.

While my article in the Courier was all about this particular recipe, the decorating instruction in the book are clear and even better, they're useful. I'll probably never need to decorate a wedding cake, but there are plenty of ideas here for making fun and quirky cakes that I'm likely to want to make.

Adapted from "The Whimsical Bakehouse" by Kaye Hansen and Live Hansen

8 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 cups flour
pinch of salt

With an electric mixer. beat the butter and sugar to combine, then add eggs and vanilla, beating until well combined.

Sift together cocoa, flour and salt, and add these dry ingredients all at once to the butter, and mix on low until combined. Chill for10 minutes, then roll the dough into to logs on a floured surface. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill for 2-3 hours, or overnight.

When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Slice the logs into pieces about 1/4 inch thick and arrange them on the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 14-18 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

To use these cookies as a crumb crust:
3 cups cookie crumbs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Smash the cookies to crumbs or whizz them in the food processor to make the crumbs.

Add the sugar, stir to mix, then add the melted butter and mix well.

Press the mixture into your pan firmly...and continue with your recipe.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

BOTD: Cheese Twist Breadsticks

After a hiatus from baking breadsticks, I'm back on that track again. This time it was breadsticks with cheese. If I was making bread or soft breadsticks, I'd normally choose real cheese, but for crispy breadsticks, I thought that a cheese powder was a better choice.

I used the same bread recipe as for my frying pan flatbreads, but let the dough rest in the fridge overnight rather than using it right away.

I let it sit on the counter for about a half hour while the oven was preheating to 350 degrees. But 325 degrees probably would have been better.


Friday, March 26, 2010

BOTD: Frying Pan Flatbreads

What culture doesn't have a flat, bread-like food? Tortillas, naan, pitas, wonton wrappers, crepes, lefse, pizza, matzo, english muffins, injera, pancakes, lavash, arepas, chapati, funnel cakes... okay, maybe the last one is a stretch. But I've just scratched the surface of the many flatbreads from different regions of the world.

You could spend a lifetime perfecting the flatbreads of every culture. Some require special ovens. Some use specialty flours and spices. Some rely on technique. But while all the flatbreads have their special nuances, there are similarities, too. So a failed flatbread of one type could be a perfect flatbread of another type.

A flour tortilla that's a little too thick could be a lovely pita bread. A pita that's too big and bready could make a nice pizza base. So if you're experimenting flatbreads, you can't really go wrong. Make them the way you like them, and once you're comfortable with the process you can move along to authenticity.

The other great thing about many flatbreads is that the leftovers can be transformed into easy snackfoods. When I have leftover pita-like breads, I cut them into triangles (usually 6 per pita) and I bake them until they're crispy. They're nice little crackers. And you can make them healthier by using some whole wheat flour in the dough, if you prefer.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Three Quick and Easy Salsas

All salsas benefit from a little resting time, to let the flavors meld a bit. These can be made the day before and refrigerated. If you don't want a soupy, drippy salsa, drain the liquid before serving. Leaving it in the salsa while it rests will help the flavors mingle a bit.

All of these salsas can be made chunky, finely diced, or blended. If you prefer a smooth salsa, a stick blender is the ideal tool for the job.

For any particular ingredient, you can add more or less, or leave it out. It's up to your tastebuds. My goal here was to make three different salsas, all with few ingredients, and to make each salsa with a different main component, color, and type of heat, and to do so without repeating any specific ingredient (except salt) among the three recipes.

The instructions for all three salsas is pretty simply. Prepare the ingredients, mix them together, taste for seasoning, and adjust as needed. That's it.


Great American Bake Sale

My friends at Cayenne Kitchen at 372 Main Street in Longmont, Colorado are participating in the Great American Bake Sale benefitting Share Our Strength, and some of my baked goods will be there, waiting for you to buy them. (Please buy them. They need a good home.)

The bake sale will be held on Saturday, May 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you live nearby and you like to bake, consider joining the Cayenne team and baking some items. There's still pleny of time to sign up.

If you don't live nearby, you can check out bake sales in your area, or make a direct cash donation.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sunday Sauce

I just got a copy of Michael Symon's "Live to Cook" and of course I was excited to try some new recipes. And of course, I was thinking that I'd find something to write about for the Left Hand Valley Courier, for my "What's Cooking?" column.

I've adapted a lot of baking recipes for the column, so I thought it would be a nice change to make a savory dish. I settled on the Italian Braised Beef with Root Vegetables. It sounded good, the recipe looked simple enough, it didn't require any strange ingredients or special equipment.

Better yet, the beef recipe uses celery root, which is a little different, but readily available at our local grocery stores. I like the idea of introducing a new ingredient or method or gadget in my articles, so this recipe seemed perfect. I was about to gather ingredients for the test recipe, until I noticed that the recipe required 2 cups of Yia Yia's Sunday Sauce.

What the heck is that?

A little more reading enlightened me. It's Simon's grandmothers's red sauce. The sauce is the base for several recipes in the book, but Symon wrote, "But of course it's fantastic just served on pasta and topped with torn fresh basil."

But of course.

The sauce is a long-cooking one - eight hours - so it's not like I was going to be making the sauce and the beef the same day.. For a brief moment, I considered substituting something else in the beef recipe, but Symon said that the sauce was critical to the dish. If I'm going to evaluate the recipe, I'd better make it right. I decided to work on sauce and think about the beef later.

Since the Courier column has a limited amount of space, I doubt I'd have enough room to write about the sauce and the beef. But, oh, that beef looks tasty. There's no way I'm abandoning that for a simple sauce. So I'll be making the beef later, for an upcoming issue of the Courier. Meanwhile, here's the sauce:


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sweet Pickle Relish

Last fall, after an online conversation about HFCS, I took a look at all the condiments in my fridge to see which ones had any.

Since I do most of my cooking from scratch, I wasn't worried about what I'd find, but I was curious. Out of everything, the only items I found that listed HFCS on the label were ketchup and sweet pickle relish.

Well, okay, I don't use either one excessively, but I figured I'd give homemade versions a try. My attempt at ketchup ended up tasting more like barbecue sauce. So that's still a work in progress.

But I was pretty happy with the pickle relish. I actually like it better than the commercial stuff.


Monday, March 22, 2010

BOTD: Harvest Grains Loaf

Recently, I bought a grain mix from King Arthur Flour called Harvest Grains Blend.

However, I thought I was ordering something else. What I wanted was the Ancient Grains Flour Blend which includes amaranth, millet, sorghum and quinoa flours.

But I didn't realize my error right away. I stashed the bag in the fridge until I wanted to bake with it. I opened the bag expecting to see a flour, but instead, it looked like birdseed.

Harvest Grains Blend includes whole oat berries, millet, rye flakes, wheat flakes, flax seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and midget sunflower seeds.

It looked a little crunchier than I wanted, but the bag was open, so I figured that I'd give it a try. It's an interesting combination of nuts and seeds, and it's all whole grains.

I put a cup of the mix in a bowl, added a cup of hot water, covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight. I figured that would soften the grains that could soften, and it wouldn't hurt the rest.

Here's today's version:


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Home Made Spaghetti

Home made fresh pasta is simple enough, but it's more fun with gadgets. In this case, it's the Pasta Press attachement for the KitchenAid stand mixer. The press makes spaghetti, rotini, and several sizes of hollow pasta including buccatini and rigatoni.

The press attaches to the front of the mixer and it extrudes pasta in a variety of shapes depending on the die you use. Sort of like a cookie press, but pasta dough is much stiffer.

This recipe is based on the Basic Egg Noodle Pasta recipe in the booklet that came with the Pasta Press. But really, pasta is something you can make without a recipe if you know what the pasta dough is supposed to feel like.

Traditional recipes start with a pile of flour on a countertop. You make a well in the center of the pile, then one or more eggs go into the well and are slowly mixed into the flour until it's a dense dough. While you can roll out and hand-cut softer pasta doughs, I've found that the pasta machines work better with a denser dough. It should come together and be kneaded, but it's not soft at all. It more like a really chilly pie crust dough than like any sort of bread dough.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

BOTD: Crispy Sesame Breadsticks

Breadsticks can be made many different bread recipes. This is the one I happened to use this time.

14 oz. (by weight) bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1 cup cool water

Toasted sesame seeds (or other toppings, your choice)
Quick Shine or egg for eggwash

The first five ingredients went into the food processor, and while the processor was running, I poured in the water as fast as the flour could absorb it, and then kept processing until it was nice and elastic, stopping now and then to check the dough.

I use instant yeast, and I buy it in bulk and use it often, so I had no doubt that it would activate during the process. If you don't use instant yeast or you aren't sure the batch you have is good, you can add the yeast to 1/4 cup warm water with a little of the sugar added in, and wait to see if it foams up. Add that  to the food processor first, then follow with 3/4 cup cool water.

The reason cool water is needed here is that the action of the food processor blade heats up the dough. If warm water was added, it could get too warm and kill the yeast.


Mexican-Style Hot Dogs

While I miss the variety of food that was available in my old hometown of Chicago,
I did find one very interesting gem here in Colorado.

Grilled, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, topped with beans, tomatoes, mayo, onions, ketchup and cheese, with add-your-own extras including hot sauce, relish, grilled jalepenos, and pickled jalepenos are hard to beat.

Pretty, aren't they?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Corned Beef Patties

Hard to believe, but we still had corned beef left over from my ahead-of-the-holiday cooking...and today I decided to do something completely different with the beef and the last bits of veggies. So it all went into the meat grinder. Yes, the meat grinder. Because, why not? I'd never tried putting cooked meat through the meat grinder, so that was good enough reason.

I figured it needed some binder, so I added egg and I thought mustard would be a nice flavor, so I put in a dollop of grainy mustard. I probably should have added some bread or cracker crumbs, but I didn't,

I had enough to make 4 burger-sized patties. I put them in a nonstick pan with a little oil and let them brown well on one side. They were still a little soft and a bit tricky to flip, but they didn't fall apart. After the second side was browned, they held together a lot better.

The texture wasn't like a burger, it was more like salmon patties. And the color was a similar pink. They got a nice brown crust, which was nice.

If I make them again, I'll probably add some bread or cracker crumbs so they bind better, and maybe some chopped onion or scallions. The mustard way a nice touch, so I'll keep that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

BOTD: Dutch Oven White Bread

This is a really simple bread, but the method is a little different. In some ways, it's easier than that other easy bread (I'm looking at you, no-knead) except for the kneading part. But if you've got a stand mixer or a food processor, the machine does the work for you.

And this method gives you a nice loaf of bread that you can eat the same day.

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (one package)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup semolina flour
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the first 4 items in the bowl of your stand mixer, stir, and let it sit for ten minutes, until it's foamy.

Add the flour, salt and olive oil, and first mix, then knead on medium speed until elastic.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Cow-Herder's Pie

So, I made my corned beef early this year, because I didn't feel like waiting. We'd already had corned beef hash, but there was a bit of that left, and I wanted something different. So I bought some ground beef, cooked that, added the corned beef and some peas and carrots, then let it all simmer for a while with some tomato juice I had left over from something else, and a dash of worchershire sauce and salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, I boiled (in two separate pots) some potatoes and some celery root. I added a lump of cream cheese (also leftover) to the celery root and whizzed it with the stick blender. Add the cooked potatoes to that, mashed, tasted, add added butter and milk.

I put the meat mixure into a round baking dish and topped it will dollops of the potatoes, and chucked it into the oven to brown the potatotes a bit. And that was it. New dinner from leftovers. Why cow-herder's pie? Because there was no lamb to make it shepherd's pie.

Musing: Here Comes Mr. Bunnycake!

I am an admitted sucker for interesting cake pans. So when I saw the 3-D Bunny pans at Cayenne Kitchen, I had to indulge myself.

I already have a 3-D lamb cake mold, so I figured I might as well have the companion piece. The lamb cake turned out well in the mold, despite the fact that cakes at high altitude can be tricky.

The bunny is a pretty small mold, which is good, too. I usually don't need to be baking huge cakes. I think the lamb mold that I have is a little larger, but it could just be the shape. I haven't checked the volume of the two. Heck, I haven't even unwrapped the bunny yet.

Oh, and the picture came from my scanner. I thought it might look interesting.

The neat thing about these 3-D molds is that they bake the whole 3-D shape in one piece. I have other molds that bake two sides separately that need to be glued together with frosting. That's fine, too, but this is a whole lot easier and there's no risk of the two pieces sliding or coming apart.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pie to Seven Decimal Places: 3.1415926

In honor of Pi Day (3/14) I decided to create a geeked-out recipe.
This pie has:

3 different fruits
1 basic pie crust recipe
4 ingredients in the crumb topping
1 nutty ingredient
5 unique layers (bottom crust, three fruits, crumb topping)
9 added flavors in the fruit layers (3 in each)
2 ingredients in common in all the layers (butter and sugar)
6 (or 7) ingredients in the pie crust recipe, depending on whether you count water as an ingredient, and whether you round up (the next digit is 5.)

Enough math, let's have pie.


Pi Day is Coming!

Tomorrow is Pi Day (3/14) so I might as well post about pie today.

Such A Pretty Apple Tart
Based on Amy Findley's Freaky Good Apple Tart available at the Food Network website.

What I really liked about this tart was that the pre-cooked apples offered such a texture contrast compared to the ones on top of the tart. And it's alse very, very attractive. It takes a bit of time to arrange the apples on top of the tart, but it's well worth the effort.

Since I used a variety of apples, even the filling had texture constrasts. Some of the apples inside had nearly disintegrated and they became the mortar that held the rest of the apples together.

Also, since this pie doesn't have cinnamon as is so typical, the flavor of the apples really shines. The vanilla is also a very nice touch. If you really must have cinnamon with your apple pie, I'd suggest a cinnamon ice cream or whipped cream. Or mix cinnamon with the sugar you sprinkle on top.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Sourdough: Catching the Wild Yeast

I learned how to make sourdough before I knew it was supposed to be difficult to capture a wild yeast. Since then, I've read all sorts of directions that include things like potato water, milk, sugar or commercial yeast. I suppose those things could work. But it seems to me that the simplest approach is the best. And at its simplest, all you need is flour, water, and a little time.

I've started sourdough cultures with white flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, and spelt. I've also revived dried sourdoughs. Right now, I've got six cultures in my fridge, and the oldest is over ten years old. I don't consider myself a sourdough expert by any means, but I've got a decent amount of experience with the stuff.

When I'm starting a sourdough culture, I use roughly equal parts of water and flour in a clean jar. I like to use pint jars because they're easier to store in the fridge when they're not needed. I start with about a tablespoon of each of water and flour, and I stir it well. A little air in the mix seems to help it. I leave it on the counter, covered with a towel or cheesecloth. Whenever I pass by, I give it another little stir.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Farro: A Taste Test

Farro, also known as emmer wheat, is an ancient variety of wheat. I first heard of it about a year ago when someone on Food Network used it. Apparently it's a little more common in Italy, but my local grocery stores certainly didn't have it.

When I spotted a bag of farro at an ethnic market, I had to buy it. It came packaged in a cloth bag inside a vacuum-sealed plastic bag, so I couldn't see what it looked like until I got it home. But that certainly didn't deter me from buying.

A quick search online told me that farro has more fiber than wheat, that it's good warm or cold, and that it's good in soup. In some areas, it's ground and used for bread, which makes sense, since it's a type of wheat. Once source said that farro pasta can have an odd texture that some people find unpleasant, but since the grain itself was hard to find, I don't imagine that I'll be running into a lot of farro pasta at the grocery store.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

BOTD: Caraway Medium Rye

Sometimes rye bread is just what you need.

Around here, there aren't many options when it comes to rye flour. About all I can find is one brand of stoneground rye, so I usually order just order from King Arthur Flour, where I can get a larger variety of ryes. 

This recipe would probably work just as well with any type of rye, but obviously the result would be different.

Since rye doesn't have the gluten needed to make a loaf of bread, bread flour plays that role here. But even with the bread flour, rye breads can be a little tricky for new bakers, because it stays a bit sticky, even when it's done being kneaded. So the tendency is to want to add more and more flour, but then it just turns into a dense loaf.

A properly kneaded rye dough will be a little sticky, but it will also be elastic enough stretch nicely.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Corned Beef and Cabbage

After you've pickled your corned beef, you need to cook it.

Eveyone's got a favorite recipe; mine is fairly simple, but it does include one slightly odd ingredient.

In the past, I did a slow-cook method. After we moved to high altitude, I bought a pressure cooker for things like dried beans, and I thought that it might work well for corned beef. I never looked back. I like it better cooked in pressure cooker than any other method I've tried.

This time, I used my electric pressure cooker, which is a little different in that it regulates the heat on its own and it doesn't let off steam as it cooks, so it doesn't lose as much liquid as the stovetop pressure cooker that's constantly releasing steam.

My favorite veggies to go with corned beef are carrots, cabbage and potatoes, but you can certainly pick your own favorites. I cook the corned beef first, and while it rests, I cook the veggies in the same cooking liquid.

I cooked the corned beef with a quart of water, three tablespoons of pickling spice, and (here comes the weird ingredient) a quarter-cup of red wine vinegar.

Since I cook the veggies in the same broth later and I don't like fishing bits of bay leaf and odd crunchy bits out of the cabbage, I put the spices in a big teaball so it flavors the liquid but I can take it out later without having to do any straining.


Monday, March 8, 2010

BOTD: Cinnamon Apple Bread

Every once in a while, I come up with an idea that works even better than I expect. This was one.

When I opened the oven door, it smelled like an apple pie was baking. The finished bread has a subtle apple flavor; some people noticed it, and others just tasted the cinnamon. It's a very soft, fluffy bread, and not overly sweet, just how I like it.

I used homemade applesauce, because I had it, but commercial applesauce would be fine. I'd suggest going with an unsweetened sauce.

This bread is great plain, with butter, or toasted. It would probably make an interesting French toast.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Gadget: Bean Frencher

Today, I did a product demo at Cayenne Kitchen, and one of the gadgets I was demonstrating was a green bean frencher made by Chef'n. It lookes like a strange shoehorn, but it's nice little kitchen gadget.

Honestly,  never thought that I'd buy a bean frencher. But then again, the only bean frenchers I'd ever seen before were crank models that were meant for serious production. That would be handy if you were canning or freezing the harverst, but a lot more than I'd want to store for the occasional times I'd want French-cut green beans for dinner.

So up until now, I've bought frozen French-cut beans when I wanted them.


Friday, March 5, 2010


While canning is usually a summer or fall sport, cabbage is usually plentiful and really, really cheap in grocery stores in March, just in time for corned beef and cabbage on St. Paddy's Day. Why not take advantage of the sales and make some sauerkraut, too?

Sauerkraut is amazingly easy to make. All you need is a big non-reactive container, cabbage, salt, and maybe a little bit of water. And some patience. Some people like to add caraway seeds, but I prefer to skip those because I'd rather add them to recipes where I want them and leave the kraut plain.

If you're going to make sauerkraut, you probably want to make a lot, and most recipes I've read suggest that you start with about 25 pounds of cabbage. That sounds like a huge amount, but it's only about five large, solid heads of cabbage and makes about 6 quarts or 12 pints of finished kraut.

The bigger problem is where to store this massive amount of cabbage while it's fermenting.


Water Bath Canning

No matter what it is that you're canning in a boiling-water bath, there are some steps that are universal.

Water bath (or boiling-water) canners are inexpensive and usually include a rack that helps to hold the jars upright and keeps them from bumping each other. Many also come with extra items, like a jar lifter, a canning funnel for making jar filling easier and cleaner, and a magnetic lid lifter for removing the lids from the simmering water.

If you don't have a water bath canner, you can use a large pot with a rack at the botton to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. A cake rack will work. Make sure the pot is tall enough so the jars will be covered with water by at least two inches during the entire processing time. Also, it needs to be tall enough so that it won't overflow while at a rolling boil


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pickling a Corned Beef

Making your own corned beef isn't hard, and once you've figured out the process you can adjust the seasonings to you liking. You can buy a pickling mix at the grocery store or make your own. Most storebought pickling spices don't include hot peppers, so if you want a spicy corned beef, add the red pepper flakes or your choice of hot peppers as desired. Some recipes add interesting flavors like ginger and cinnamon, but at the beginning you might want to stick with a basic mix, with or without the added spice.

I've made a few corned beefs (and corned turkey as well) and I'm still fiddling with the details, but this is the current project.

First, you need to buy a brisket. I was lucky enough to find a whole cryovaced brisket at a great price, so I decided to buy that and carve it up myself. But you can buy brisket that's the size you want and use that.

The only required item you might not find at your local grocer is pink salt. This isn't a fancy salt that you sprinkle on food, it's a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite. The bright pink color is added so you don't mistake it for regular salt. You can buy it online from sausage-making suppliers.

You can make a pickled beef without the pink salt, but it won't be the distictive color and the texture will be different as well.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Maple Walnut Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Perfect for breakfast on the run or at the table. Although I wrote the recipe for bars, you can use this recipe for muffins as well.

Nuts are optional.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder and salt. Mix well and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy with an electric hand mixer. Add brown sugar and beat until combined. It should be light and fluffy Add maple syrup and beat until completely combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add applesauce and vanilla and beat until well blended.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix gently by hand until it is blended. Do not overmix. Add nuts and mix just until well distributed.

Spread the batter into the pan and even out the top. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool completely before slicing into 24 squares.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Maple Pecan Biscotti

These biscotti are the traditional shape and size, but they’re lighter and not as hard, so you can eat them without dunking in a beverage.

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two quarter-sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda and mix well.

In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and maple syrup with an electric hand mixer. Add eggs and beat well after each addition.

Add dry ingredients to wet, and mix until blended. Add nuts and mix until well incorporated.

Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a log about 12 inches long. The logs will spread and flatten as they bake, taking on the traditional biscotti shape. Place each long onto a separate quarter-sheet pan and bake on the center rack of the oven at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and firm.

Remove sheets from the oven and let cool slightly, until logs are cool enough to handle. With a serrated knife, slice logs into pieces about 1 inch thick. If the slices crumble, the logs are too hot. Give them a little more time to cool for easy slicing. Place slices cut side down, back onto the baking sheets. Return sheets to oven, and bake another 10-15 minutes, until they are lightly toasted on both sides.

Remove sheet from the oven and move slices to a rack to cool completely.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Turkey Meatballs

The maple syrup adds a sweetness to the meatballs that nicely compliments the slight hint of heat from the red pepper flakes.
1 pound ground turkey
1 cup finely crushed crackers (more, if needed)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 large egg

Olive oil

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Place a large nonstick frying pan on medium heat, and add a drizzle of olive oil.

In a medium bowl mix turkey, cracker crumbs, maple syrup and egg. Mixture will be soft, but should hold together well. If the mixture is still too moist to hold its shape, add more cracker crumbs. Form into 12 meatballs and fry until golden on all sides in frying pan. If needed, raise heat to medium-high.

When meatballs are browned on all sides, remove from pan and set aside. Lower heat. Put butter in pan and melt. Add flour and stir until well combined. Cook on low- to medium-heat until roux just begins to color. Add chicken stock and stir until smooth. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and several generous grinds of black pepper. Return meatballs to pan and continue cooking until meatballs are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes longer. If gravy reduces too much and becomes too thick, add water as needed. Taste gravy and adjust seasonings.

Serve over warm egg noodles, rice, mashed potatoes, or whatever you prefer. Pass extra red pepper flakes for those who prefer a spicier dish.

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