Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eat your carrots...they're good for you.


Please forgive this fuzzy photo. This is from my old point-and-shoot. I've added this recipe to the list as "deserving of a new and better shot"

All of my life, I've hated cooked carrots. Even as an adult, I had mastered the art of picking out carrots from peas... carrots from stews... I only liked raw carrots!

When I saw this recipe, on America's Test Kitchen, I made a decision-- I wanted to make this recipe and see if I could overcome my childhood aversion to cooked carrots.

Simply put, this is delicious. This is easy to make. This tastes very good! Oh, and I've made this recipe with sweet potatoes, and that's really good! I've used some variations-- savory rosemary and garlic... and I've even used orange juice.


You'll need carrots, peeled and cut... sugar, butter, salt, low-sodium chicken broth, fresh ground black pepper (optional, I didn't use it) and fresh lemon juice.

You'll want to use a 12" skillet with a lid. Cook the carrots in the broth, and 1/3 of the sugar, until they are just fork tender, then remove the lid and allow the liquid to reduce to about two teaspoons.

You add the rest of the sugar, on a high heat, and coat and turn for maybe 2-3 more minutes. Remove from heat, and add the fresh lemon juice. You can garnish these with ginger, rosemary, herbs, if you wish. Me? I liked them plain and simple.

I served these with Meat Loaf. My husband was very happy-- he loves vegetables. We both felt that these were cooked, just right. Not mushy... slightly crunchy in the center. Sweet. Yum!! I love cooked carrots, this way.


I hope that I can help to convert those of you who don't like cooked carrots. Give 'em a try. Go on! Here's the recipe. :




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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blue Plate Special-- The very best meatloaf recipe. I promise!


I've made this meatloaf several times, since I first posted it.  It's such a comforting dish. This is a more recent photo, where I made individual "mini meatloafs" so that I can reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes.

 
 My photography has improved, since I first photographed this, with my old point-and-shoot.

I had no idea that this meatloaf recipe would become my #1 most viewed blog post of all! Every day, people are internet searching for "The Best Meatloaf Recipe" and this is where they end up.  I'm so glad that you found me! I have made so many different meatloaf recipes, over the years.
 For years, I made the Quaker Oats version, with canned cream of mushroom soup. Truth be told... I think it's yummy. But that was BEFORE I swore off processed foods and canned cream soups.

This recipe is one I've made for several years. It's from Food Network, "Sarah's Secrets". Unfortunately Sarah Moulton's show is no longer on the air, but I still love this recipe!

The secret is using a mixture of beef, veal and pork. NOTE: I understand if you don't want to use veal. I only buy grass fed, free-range red meat, these days.  If you don't want to use veal, use beef and pork.  There is such a different flavor and texture, compared to using just ground beef. If you use all-beef, then the meatloaf tastes like a big burger. If you use turkey, the meatloaf will be very dry-- unless you use a panade. At that point, you've changed the recipe so much, that I cannot guarantee success!   What makes this recipes so full of flavor is the marjoram and thyme. I like the idea of cooking the onion and garlic, instead of adding them to the mixture raw. I'm not wild about hot sauce, but it works in this recipe.

If you hate meatloaf.... I hope you will reconsider this version. If you have your own recipe, and believe yours is the best ever--stick around. I want to share a tip that I learned on America's Test Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated). It changed how I cook my meatloaf, and it makes cleanup so much better.

Ready? You'll need a baking sheet, foil and a cooling rack. Trust me.
The full recipe is on the bottom of this page.


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Souffle meets pudding-- Lemon Pudding Cake


These are recently shot photos of this recipe.  Below are (embarrassingly) older shots, taken from my former point-and-shoot camera. I'm working on a new post, with much better pictures. As soon as it's finished, I'll post a link to it!

 
 I apologize that this photo is fuzzy and not up to the standards of my more recent work. This was taken with my former point-and-shoot camera. One day, I'll re-shoot the recipe, but the outstanding flavor and success of this makes up for the fuzzy photo.  --Debby--

I just love it when I try a new recipe, and it turns out exactly like the picture in the magazine! Even better, when the recipe delivers unanimous raves about how good it is. That makes me very happy.

That's exactly what happened when I decided to make the Lemon Pudding Cake recipe in the April 2009 issue of Cook's Country Magazine. If you've never heard of it, this is a sister magazine to Cook's Illustrated. In general, I'm not a huge fan of "Country Cooking"-- for the sole reason that I don't want to expand my waistline at an alarming rate. This magazine, however, has opened my eyes that there are country recipes beyond fried chicken and gravy (which I love, but rarely eat). There are color photographs (unlike Cook's Illustrated) and some really great recipes. I also subscribe to their online magazine subscription.


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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chicken in a Hole-- and my cooking mojo is back!




Finally! My head cold is healed, for the most part. My cooking mojo is coming back. This sure was lousy timing for me to be chosen as random blogs on two foodie blogrolls. Great! Newbies must think that the only I can cook are breakfast.

Forgive me! All I could eat were eggs, oatmeal and cream of wheat! Besides, my husband (who is culinary impaired) can make those things-- and nothing more! Honest! Come back and visit later. I promise I'll cook things a lot more challenging. Really. But, thanks for visiting...and not leaving a comment. Sniff.

Today, Spring is in full swing in Monterey, California. I don't mean to upset those of you who are freezing cold-- but it's in the mid 70's, and the cover to my Weber is coming off. Today, I am grilling a turkey! Well, let's call them "turkey parts". I bought a turkey breast and two legs. Consider this my maiden voyage to grilling turkey for my first time.

I'm also grilling asparagus and I'm going to see if I can replicate something I absolutely love-- oak grilled artichokes. Oh, how I love those! Restaurants charge about $7.00 a piece. I paid less than a $1.00 for locally grown 'chokes. I believe I have to steam them, then grill with olive oil and balsamic. I'll see if I can make a nice garlic aioli for dipping! Don't hold your breath-- today, I am in "self-taught grilling school".

I just did some Spring Cleaning in the bedroom-- fresh bedding, towels and disinfected all bathrooms. I do not want germs to reignite my illness, thank you very much. I got hungry... as, in I want to eat now. The last few days, I've been eating very little (quick diet is the only reward).

I hunted around and remembered I had some sour dough bread that needed to be eaten, or turned into croutons. Hmmmm, eggs and toast?

A childhood memory popped up-- cook eggs inside slices of bread? What's that called? I can't remember! Eggs in nests? Toads in the hole? Whatever! I lightly coated my skillet with olive oil, and used a biscuit cutter to make holes. What do I do with these? Toast 'em!



My son, who was devouring an industrial sized bowl of cereal nixed me on an offer for a plate of these-- until he saw hubby and I sitting down to enjoy.



Kids. At least I got to photograph them. At first, I didn't even want to blog about eggs....again!
Flipping his eggs weren't as well executed as ours. Don't pay attention to ugly egg whites. (Yes, I'm highly critical of my own work.)
I just love to dip my bread in egg yolk. It's so unlady-like, but I can't help myself.
I don't think I need to post a recipe for this, now do I? But, if you can remind me of what this is called I'd appreciate. I'm feeling old and forgetful.

I really just wanted an excuse to blog about something and to say that my cooking/baking mojo is back! Yes, I can cook!

Hang in there-- I've had plenty of time to view my fellow bloggers recipes. I have a long list of things I want to cook and bake. Coming into season, in the Salinas Valley are Driscoll berries. Oh yeah! I live ten minutes to their cooler, where I can buy freshly picked berries at wholesale.
I just bought more herbs to plant and I'm schmoozing "Mr. Fix-It" into building a raised garden bed for me. He's not going for it. Maybe I should ask Donna, at My Tasty Treasures for tips. Yikes!

I'll be back-- especially if the Meyer Lemon pudding cakes turn out, as I hope that they will. That's dessert-- unless I read more blogs. I could change my mind 50 times by then.

Oh, I'm feeling so much better! Oh. I think I'll skip eating eggs for a while. My cholesterol is okay, but there are so many fresh vegetables and fruits to choose from.

Later!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Artichoke & Sun-dried tomato frittata-- and two great blogs to visit



My appetite is still "wary" of most food. My body is fighting off this illness, so I'm still not at 100% full power. My husband is still pretty sick (against my advice, he did not get the "booty shot") from the doctor. I feel bad for him, so I decided to make something quick and not too spicy.

Frittatas are a quick meal, so that's exactly what I did. I didn't photograph each step, because I think frittatas are pretty easy to make. Tonight, I found 1/2 onion that had to be used, so I decided to caramelize them. I had a can of artichoke hearts, and some sun-dried tomatoes.

To me, frittatas are just like fixing an open faced omellete-- only the broiler does most of the work. After letting the eggs (six of them) "set" on the stovetop, I let the broiler finish off the top, until golden brown... just 2-3 minutes-- then added cheese for about a minute.

Speaking of cheese-- I have a confession to make. I'm not wild about goat cheese --GASP-- Wait!I didn't say I don't like goat cheese. I do think a little bit goes a long way. Okay? Goat cheese, caramelized onion and figs -- that's a tasy combo. Tonight, I used fresh mozzarella; it's what I had, anyway. I toasted some sour dough bread, with a little rasberry preserves.

Mmmmm, gooey cheese. Gotta love it. I also like leftover frittata-- room temp or reheated. It's a great way to use up leftovers and faster than making a quiche. This dinner hit the spot.

I've been out of the kitchen for a few days, so I wanted to share two food blogs that you might not know about.

First, "The Caked Crusader". I love the title of that blog! If you love cake (and I most certainly do), you will enjoy the recipes, photos and witty postings. I chuckle when I read this. Then again, I have a very soft spot for British humor. I've been to the U.K. many times. Should I inherit money from a rich relative (that I don't know about), I'd live there part-time. Wear a bib, before visiting at: http://thecakedcrusader.blogspot.com/

The second blog I've recently discovered is "Culinary Types". This blog is brilliantly written and I am hooked. I am honored, and humbled, that "Culinary Types" pays a visit to my beginner blog. Such royalty!

I just had to share these newfound treasures with my foodie friends. I hope that you pay each of them a visit, and that you will enjoy their blogs as much as I do. I don't have my own personal blog award badge to give you-- but please know, that I am a fan of yours. Kudos to you!

I hope that tomorrow I will find my cooking "mojo" again. I'm already seeing the first crops of strawberries surfacing in the Salinas Valley. Oh, how I love strawberries!

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Spring Fever, a cold and a quiet kitchen




Monday morning, I woke up feeling "off". My throat was feeling a little sore and I felt physically drained. By the end of the work day, I was in bed within 30 minutes of getting home. All I wanted to eat was a bowl of Cream of Wheat, with cinnamon sugar. My husband, "Mr. Fix-It" can't cook (he says that it stresses him too much). But, he was able to follow the directions. I could hear my boys foraging in the kitchen for their dinner, because I was down for the count.

I work at a public high school, so I'm working in a petri dish. Who knows which student passed on their cooties, when they hand me their cellphone and want me to talk to their parent-- giving their student permission to go home "sick". It's a miracle that my immune system has kept me from having in a cold for so many years.

By Tuesday morning, things were getting worse. My voice began to sound raspy, like "Demi Moore". I could not muster enough energy to cook. My appetite was gone and hubby was going down, very sick, along with me. Husband stayed home on Wednesday, and I went to work. My immune system surrendered by late afternoon. I went to the local Doc 'N The Box and got a shot in my booty, some antibiotics and Won-Ton soup, with vegetables, from a local Chinese Restaurant. I could not eat solids, because my throat was on fire.

I'm home, today. The cold got me! A part of me really wants to make something tasty to eat. But my body has no energy.

It's a beautiful Spring day, today. So, I've decided to post a few pictures of my backyard. This weekend, my husband planted tomato plants and some kitchen herbs for me. He might not be a cook, but he's got a green thumb. I give him credit for my herb garden-- such that it is. Our tomatoes have to be grown in containers-- we learned the hard way.

I have to admire my husband's recycling of cat litter containers. It works!


A friend made my redwood herb cart. I can sheel it around and water it, with ease.

I'm standing on our back patio and looking up to our hilly yard. This is the perfect place to grow a garden-- or so we first thought. My hubby set up a drip irrigation system and planted 24 gorgeous tomatoes plans, one year. That's when every gopher and mole in the Salinas Valley swooped in, and stole our plants. Arrrrrrrrrrgh!

So, standing on top of the hill, you can see our 1100 sq.ft. house, and our container gardens.

It's so pretty up here. There are no neighbors behind us-- total privacy. One day, if we can finally afford to buy this house (we're renting it from a generous family member) we hope to add a hot tub.
At the top of the backyard is a spectacular view of the Salinas Valley (this photo doesn't do justice to our view). This is an agricultural area that grows lettuce, strawberries and other crops, under the labels of Fresh Express, Driscoll Berries. This area is called "Steinbeck Country", for those of you who are fans of John Steinbeck's books.

To the right, is a view of the "McMansions" that were selling at $1.3 million (and up), during the real estate craze-- and have now plummeted to about $750,00. C'mon down! Unemployment, in Salinas, is at a whopping 22%, though.

Here is why we no longer try to garden up on our hill. The battle of the gophers became more than my husband wanted to deal with. He tried horse manure, animal urine, smoke bombs, destroying the underground runs...and, finally, traps-- all to no avail. The dirt is very "clay" and not hospitable to gardening, as is. If we get to buy this house, then maybe we'll invest in raised garden beds.

The Olallieberrie bush is the only thing that the gophers don't seem to gnaw on. Yes, they are blooming! These berries are sweet and tart and make delicious pies-- around May/June.


I had to pick up my antibiotics, so I decided to stop (on the way home) to shoot some photos of the Salinas Valley-- it was such a beautiful day. Jump in with me!

This is the Spreckels exit. A local artist paints these wonderful larger-than-life paintings for lots of the local businesses. This is "The Farm", where I buy fresh, organic vegetables for great prices. Straight ahead is Monterey (see the coastal fog?). I love living in the sunbelt! I can't wait for "The Farm" to reopen, soon!

I love this boulevard-- that leads to the Historic town of Spreckels, California (yes, as in sugar).

I love the early morning mist at this time of the morning. This view is looking towards our subdivision, where we live. These crops will, most likely, end up all over the United States-- at your own grocery store.

My horse and I have logged many miles in these hills. This is cattle country and a state park, too.

This is it! The historical town of Spreckels. Don't blink...you might miss it. This is my "secret" post office. No lines, no waiting...old style wooden P.O. Boxes. Everybody knows everyone.
The large building is a grocery store. I've been in it, twice. It's...dated. I think the Jello boxes date back decades. Spooky. The woman who owns it doesn't smile. She scares me!

This area sure is purty. There are so many other photos I shot, that I'll upload (as soon as I figure out how to do a slide show).

Home again-- signs of spring, in my front yard:


Our state flower-- California Poppy



Our rosemary bush, blooming (and the buzzing of bees)



Lupines. These look like purple carpets in a few more weeks.


My rose bushes are budding!


The wisteria vines are budding, too!

I'm on the road to recovery. I think that my antiobiotics are kicking in. Just enjoying some California sunshine has helped me feel better. Hubby just left for the doctor. He wants "the works", just like I got.

Maybe I'll find the energy to cook tonight. It's been three days of no time in the kitchen-- except for the microwave. My son says that locally grown asparagus are on sale for .99 cents a pound.

Whoo-hoo! I love Spring!

Achoo. Sniff.



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Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Planned-Overs": Chicken Salad Sandwiches and Homemade Honey Wheat Bread



Last night, I watched a Barefoot Contessa episode that I had recorded. Ina made chicken salad, using her "secret ingredient" of tarragon. Yes!!! I had a little too much cooked chicken for the Chicken & Mushroom with Balsamic Cream Sauce dinner I had made, the night before.

Ina served her sandwich on a beautiful whole wheat bread. That got me to thinking-- lately, I've been disappointed in the tasteless (and expensive) commercial bread I've been buying. I decided it was time to start baking bread again. Every time I bake bread, I wonder why I wait so long!

I am not a master baker of bread, by any means. I read blogs with the most beautiful Artisan bread photos-- and I vow that I will practice this art, when I have more time. In the meantime, I've learned a few simple tricks that have yielded pretty decent bread. I will admit, though, that I no longer use a bread machine. Mine broke, and that's when I realized how easy it is to use my Kitchen Aid Stand mixer. Unlike some true bread baking experts, I don't particularly want to knead my dough by hand!

Anyway, let's start with the bread. I used a recipe that has never failed me over several years:

Honey Wheat Bread (you will see the entire recipe at the bottom of this post, via "Key Ingredient").

Besides my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, and the dough hook, I use a "Dough Doubler". Let me save you some money-- you can buy these at King Arthur Flour's website, like I did. Or, you can find out that most restaurant supply stores sells these buckets. They're what restaurants and caterers use to prep, store and tote ingredients in. That way, I no longer have to dig out a big bowl and bother with using plastic wrap. I recently read that a shower cap works great. I'm getting ahead of myself, again--

I preheat my oven to 250F for a couple minutes, then turn it off. This makes a nice draft-free place for me to let my dough rise.

I use Bread Machine rapid rise yeast, by the way. There are all kinds of yeasts, but I'll stick to the basics (and that's about all that I know anyway).

To begin, I added sugar and the yeast to warm water and set that aside. Next, I added the evaporated milk, water and whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur flour, by the way). I let the KA mix it, and let it rest for 15 minutes...and, as usual, I cleaned up the mess and got the oven warmed.

Next, I added the unbleached white flour and let the KA mixer do all the kneading for about 5 minutes.

I like to use a light layer of olive oil, and then I placed the dough and turned it to coat. That's when my husband said he was going to hit the jacuzzi, and I decided to join him.

45 minutes later, I was ready to "punch" the dough. I've read enough bread bakers advice, that I should not take that literally! I am gentle about that.

My kitchen is not much larger than a postage stamp, so this is what works well for me:
I place a wet dish cloth on top of my cutting board, to keep things from slipping around. Then I place one of my nifty plastic cutting mats on top, sprinkle some flour and that's where I fold the dough and work out the bubbles (and say a little prayer). I love my bench scraper (or whatever you might call it) for so many things. Here, I like to cut the dough in half.

Here's where I wish I had saved those shower caps from hotel rooms! I used plastic wrap and put these back into the oven for the second rise-- 30 minutes.

I removed them before preheating the oven (obviously) and filled a small pan with water and set it on the very bottom rack. I read that this helps to make "steam". True or not, I find that my bread turns out moister, so that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

There is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread, is there? Well, maybe cinnamon rolls, but home baked bread is so good!

Now let me introduce you to a gadget that I have owned for years. These aren't sold any longer, as far as I know. I've seen people on eBay, bidding furiously for these-- mine is not for sale:

How cool is that?! Want to see it again?


The slicing guides are in different colors, so that I match the electric knife in perfect alignment! That's how these slices look so perfect:

I am happy to report that this bread is a winner!

Right about now, the men in the house are hungry. I'd better get busy with the chicken salad:

Simple-- cooked chicken, celery, salt &pepper, fresh tarragon and -- if you know Ina Garten-- "Good" Mayonnaise. Ina, please get a clue-- nobody wants to use bad mayonnaise! I can't find Hellman's Mayo where I live. So, it's Trader Joe's.

I really wanted to add scallions to this, but the men said "no"! Secretly, I would love to add dried cranberries-- maybe tomorrow, for my lunch.

Right about now, I can feel the men anxiously waiting for lunch. I got to working fast... a little more mayo, some lettuce.... here! Lunch is ready:

I actually didn't eat one of these. I'm not a HUGE fan of mayonnaise. The boys loved it.

Me? Somebody has to eat the "heel" of the bread. I guess I'm a heel (ark, ark, ark):


This is delicious bread! I hope that you try it.




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