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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Random Food Fridays - Smoked Meat and Guilty Pleasures

Ahhh. Smoked meat. I know that my ancestors cooked meat over an open flame and likely smoked and/or salted it for preservation. Is there a smoked meat gene? I mean, I've known a few vegetarians who eat bacon. Bacon! (Bacovegetarians?) I suspect it is in most of us to like the smell of smoke and meat. I don't eat meat on a daily basis, but when I do, it has often come into contact with smoke and flame of some sort. We enjoy the great smoked meats from the Roxie Deli in our neighborhood, but we also like putting the burn to our meat at home. One of my favorite guilty pleasures is hot dogs. A good quality dog, juicy and garlicky, is the perfect delivery system for most of my home-canned condiments. A good hot dog is sausage after all.

The meal above features good turkey smoked sausages along with tangy greens and the best baked beans ever. The greens were prompted by my farm box. I had no room in my fridge and needed to cook up a lot of the veggies quick. These greens feature sauteed green apples, shallots and turnips along with the turnip greens and a big bunch of chard. They are seasoned with a bit of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Yum!

The beans are left over from my parent's big 50th wedding anniversary party. I'm the only one who eats beans at my house, so a big pot of beans usually gets made for a big occasion. These also contain enough delicious fat that eating them all by myself would just be a bad idea. I've got to spread the calories around! I made two big crock pots full and had one leftover. If you try this recipe, you can add spice if you like. I knew that I needed to make it mild for the party, so I set a bottle of Tapatio hot sauce on the side. That's the red stuff you see on my dinner.

These beans have so much meat, they are almost anti-vegetarian. I think my vegetarian friends might consider making this dish with a veggie substitute that would add a smoked flavor. I've had good results from adding texturized vegetable protein bacon bits. When they cook in liquid, the texture is very much like real bacon.

Baked Beans
1 lb. of bacon
1 lb. of ground beef
8 oz. ham
1 purple onion, chopped
2 tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 16 oz. can pinto beans
1 16 oz. can great Northern beans
1 16 oz. can red kidney beans
1 16 oz. can garbanzo beans
1 16 oz. can black beans
1 large can baked beans
3/4 cup ketchup (I used my homemade fruit ketchup!)
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Chop the bacon. Cut the ham into small cubes. Heat a large pot and brown the bacon, ground beef and ham together. Do not drain. When the meat is cooked through, sprinkle with the chili powder and garlic powder and stir to combine. Open all the bean cans and drain the kidney and garbanzo beans and add to the meat. Add the remaining beans along with their liquid. Add the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and pepper. Stir to combine. Place bean mixture in a crock pot and set to cook on low all day and eat when it is convenient for you. Serves a whole bunch of people and has numerous calories.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Random Food Fridays - Boozy Pears

This week's entry is a quickie. I've been very busy getting ready for my folk's 50th wedding anniversary party. Strangely, I didn't so much focus on the food as on getting all Martha Stewart on the decorations. I've spent most of the last two days sewing table cloths. I'll share some pictures next week and you can help me decide if the focus on the decor was worth it.


The pears on my kitchen floor reached critical ripeness phase and needed to be used or donated to the compost pile. I opted for a use that didn't require any finesse with the peeling and chopping. What you see here should become vanilla pear liqueur. It is steeping in a dark closet and will get strained and bottled in two week's time. I understand that it should be aged a bit after that, so it should be at it's peak around the holidays. I'll post a review as soon as tasting commences.

This is not much of a recipe, but here goes:

15-20 ripe pears, sliced off of the core

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 of a vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

1 really big bottle of cheapity-cheap store brand vodka

Mix 1 cup of sugar, vanilla bean and seeds and a couple of cups of the vodka in a big jar and stir or shake to dissolve the sugar. Add the pears and top off with the vodka and the additional 1/4 cup of sugar. Shake to distribute sugar. Place in a cool dark place to steep for two weeks. Strain through coffee filters and bottle. Age for a while and then enjoy.

I'll give tips on mixing after we taste. Cheers!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Random Food Fridays - Soup's on

Yay Fall! Yay soup weather! Yay sweet potatoes and leeks and tarragon - Oh My!

Eat soup!

Soup is good for you!

Soup is anything you want it to be!

YOUR soup is the BEST soup!

Try soup! You will not be sorry!

Golden Tarragon Soup
¼ cup olive oil
3 leeks, white and light green part only, sliced and washed
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large garnet sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 medium yellow potatoes, cubed
2 medium yellow crookneck squash, cubed
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. dried tarragon or 1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
1 cup of cooked chicken, cubed (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large stockpot and add the leeks, celery and carrots. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and stir to combine and coat with oil. Add the chicken broth, chicken, tarragon and add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until veggies are tender. Serve with corn bread.

6 servings, 188 calories

Monday, September 6, 2010

Butternut Squash Pizza

Sometimes I hit one out of the park. This is such an occasion.

I write a recipe column for my department newsletter. Our deadlines are about a quarter ahead, so I've been working on seasonal recipes for the fall. My column includes a kid's corner with recipes intended to get families in the kitchen making foods that are fun and delicious. There are so many possibilities! I mean, fall is the harvest after all! What could be better for kids than pizza? And the kids get to mess around with their own dough and put on their own toppings. It's a sticky, delicious and edible craft project!

I tested this recipe this weekend and shared it with our friends Darcy and Mark. We had a great time noshing on pizza and a yummy tortellini salad (made by Miss Darcy) while we adventured in our roll playing game. At one point, Darcy said, "I can't stop eating this!" That's when I knew I had a winner! Mark even asked for the recipe! (Here you go!)

Butternut Squash Pizza
For the dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil, divided use
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix the warm water, sugar and yeast and allow to rest until frothy. Using a spoon or mixer, add the flour and salt and 3 tbsp. olive oil. When the dough becomes stiff, change to kneading by hand or to a dough hook on your mixer. Knead until smooth and elastic - about 5 minutes by machine or up to 10 minutes by hand. Place the remaining olive oil in a large bowl. Add the dough and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and set aside as you prepare the topping ingredients. (The dough can also be stored in the refrigerator for future use. You will just have to take it out early enough for it to come to room temperature before making the pizzas.)

For the topping:
4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (1/2 inch)
1 yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced
2 or more cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1 tbsp. or more fresh sage leaves, sliced into slivers
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 12 oz. package of Trader Giotto's Quattro Formaggio, or a blend of grated Parmesan, asiago, fontina and provolone cheeses to equal 12 oz.

Saute the squash, onion and garlic in the olive oil over a medium-low heat, until the squash becomes fork tender. This should take 10-15 minutes. Add the sage leaves and season generously with salt and pepper. Allow to cool slightly.

To assemble pizzas:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Divide the dough into eight pieces, or make two large pizzas if you are in a hurry. Spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray or brush with olive oil. Flatten out the dough with fingers and place on the cookie sheet. Spoon some of the squash mixture on to each pizza and sprinkle with cheeses. Bake, one cookie sheet at a time, in the very hot oven until puffy and nicely browned on the bottom - 7 to 10 minutes. Allow the pizzas to stand for a few minutes before serving.

This makes two big or 8 mini pizzas. One serving is 1/8 of this recipe and is about 550 calories.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pear Pie

I have a computer paper box full of pears on my kitchen floor. My mom and dad live in a gold rush era orchard. There are two very old house foundations, a cistern well and numerous fruit trees from the golden, olden days. Pears and plums are the most common and are still quite productive considering their age. This year's moist spring and mild summer made for trees loaded with fruit. In fact, most of the pears I collected came from a large branch that had broken and fallen to the ground. My mom says that it probably had an assist from the local wildlife who have also been enjoying this year's bounty.

You'll see the plums later when I process the 25 lbs. that are currently in gallon zip locks in the freezer. Plum and pineapple jam is one of my all time favorites. We haven't really made good use of the pears before now. I think the first time my mom tried to use them, they were full of ants and worms and she decided they were no good and assumed they would continue to be no good. On my last visit I picked one and started eating. My mom looked at me waiting for me to gag and spit. But, ahhhh, it was good. They are bumpy and funky, but not buggy or wormy. Now, they are rapidly ripening on my kitchen floor.

I want to get busy preserving these guys, but first, PIE. I got the idea for this pie from Farm Journal's Country Cookbook, but I didn't really didn't follow their recipe. They get the credit for the idea of crumb topping and flavoring the pie with orange. The rest is all me.

Pear Pie
Two prepared pie crusts, unbaked
8 cups peeled, cored and cut up pears
Zest and juice of one lemon
Zest and juice of one orange
1 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line two pie plates with the crust and set in the fridge to chill while preparing the pears.

Combine prepared pears, zests and juices, 1 tbsp. flour and 2 tbsp. sugar and stir to combine. Divide into the two prepared crusts.

For the topping, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut butter into small pieces and toss into the flour mixture. Combine butter and flour mixture until it resembles sand. This can be done by hand or in a food processor. Divide the topping between the pies and spread across the pears. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until the fruit is soft and bubbly.

No calorie calculation on this one. Enjoy!

PS. Fruit pies are breakfast approved.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Random Food Fridays - Jam Sauce

I had such big food plans for the week. Excellent plans, that included pictures and instructions, and I had hoped, inspiration. I got as far as this chicken on Tuesday night and the plans all changed. One quick trip to the ER later and serious cooking is off the table for a while. Here's the story: I sharpened my favorite knife to break down this chicken. I really like to cut up my own chicken. I hate the little shards that are left behind when the butcher does it with a saw. I got my chicken all seasoned and sauced and in the oven and was cleaning up when I cut my finger while drying the knife. I've never had any experience like this before. I'm very respectful of my knives. I'll be even more so now. I have three little stitches and will get them out in 12 days. Meanwhile, I'm at a negative for manual dexterity.

I'm really glad we saved the chicken. What you see here is a leftover plate, which I ate on Thursday. When I got my cut, I knew it needed medical attention, but my first thought was "I just put that chicken in the oven! What am I going to do!" I called Mr. Dwayne, who raced home from A-1 Comics before he even made his purchases. (You see how loved I am!) By the time he got home, the chicken only had 15 minutes to go. With this kind of injury, I expected to be stuck at the ER for hours. In the end, we decided to just wait for the chicken and eat before heading out. I can report that they got me in and out of the Morse Avenue ER in about an hour and a half, and Doctor Jim was awesome. He assured me that I did very well even though I am a big baby on the inside.

Enough about me and my damaged digit! We're here to talk food!

I have discovered that I can make a delicious and varied BBQ sauce by combining the following:

1 cup jam
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 tbsp. dried chopped onion
1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

For the chicken you see above, I used my lemon, pineapple and rosemary marmalade as the base. I've used this same sauce on thick pork chops or country style pork ribs in the crock pot, but with my plum and pineapple jam. You can make any combination of meat and jam you like. Do season the meat well with salt and pepper. Add garlic powder too, if you like. I baked this whole, cut up, chicken in a 9 x 13 pan in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes. I love serving this chicken with fragrant brown Basmati rice. I think the jammed crock pot pork tastes great with mashed sweet potatoes. The sauce combines with the meat juices to make a tasty gravy.

Until we share a table again - Jam! It's not just for toast anymore!