Tuesday, November 23, 2010

West Coast pictures

Friends and family asking for pics,

Here's an update on the New Mexico trip!

Roadside cooking ...

It's cold in the California mountains! 

Jumped in the Pacific at Coronado where the SEALs train. 

We slept in the car ... and believe me, in the mountains at night - it gets very, very cold! 

Sunrise in the desert is gorgeous, but it's awfully hard to drive East in the morning! 

It's warm and sunny ... I hear it's snowing in Washington?  

never ever facetious,

Mrs H

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Thanksgiving Trip

Dear friends of the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the world where it is dark and snowy right now,

I am in the desert and it's sunny here. 

A few days ago, Mr H and I turned our house keys over to some trusted family members to housesit and left to stay with family in New Mexico for Thanksgiving.  We drove down the California coast on Highway 1 to see the sights and spend some time together on the road.  We both wanted to go on a road trip together before Mr H leaves for the Navy this spring, and this was the perfect opportunity. 

However, a trip involves food - good, solid homemade food.  I had one day in which to do all my prep for the trip, so my little sister Mandatory came to help me.  I couldn't have done it without her flying around the kitchen at lightspeed!  Due to extenuating circumstances, I had to do all the trip prep in one day and without any sleep the previous night ... I had to use Mandatory's energy to keep me going!

We made a lot of food for the trip down, knowing that we wouldn't eat it all and we would eat it while in New Mexico.  The advantage of having a well-stocked pantry and making everything from home, and having lots of canned stuff is that I only had to go to the store to buy five things.  I packed foods that could be easily cooked on our propane grill on the side of the road, or eaten in the car while driving.  Here is the menu we used:

Home canned pear compote, boiled eggs, pumpkin bread
Cherry muffins, sausage balls, applesauce
Scrambled eggs, bacon, applesauce
Cinnamon rolls, sausage balls, pear compote

Hot sausages/homemade buns, potato salad, canned pears
Navy bean soup, oatmeal bread
BLTs, potato salad, canned nectarines
Egg salad sandwiches, applesauce

Navy bean soup, salad, cherry turnovers, bread
Hamburgers/homemade buns, avocado/lettuce/tomato/onion, s'mores
Hot sausages/homemade buns, potato salad, canned pears

Tuna salad sandwiches, carrot sticks, boiled eggs

Carrot sticks, chex mix, cider/grape juice, cookies, pumpkin seeds, boiled eggs, water jugs, dried apple chips

We made a bunch of bread to take (remember, thanksgiving is coming and we need bread for stuffing!) and some bread to leave at home for the kids watching the house. 

Hot dog and hamburger buns ...

Packed lots of canned stuff for the trip and Thanksgiving, with newspaper between the jars.  Traveling from sea level to 7,000 ft elevation did not affect the jars at all. 

Mandatory rolled out a few batches of cinnamon rolls - I owed her a few pans for helping me out, so we had to make plenty!

Caramel rolls are a tradition in my family, so we made a big batch of caramel slurry and poured it in the pans before putting the cinnamon rolls in to rise. 

I tried to pack most of the food in hard containers so it wouldn't get smashed in the cooler on the four thousand mile trip. 

We made a batch of marshmallows for s'mores, and candied yams on Thanksgiving.  I think store-bought marshmallows are disgusting, but believe me ... homemade is a different beast all together! 

It took us twenty minutes ... to lick the spoons and the bowl!  It is so sticky!!  I'll have to post the recipe. 

Enough chex mix to take, enough chex mix to leave some at home!

I didn't have any pretzels to mix with the chex, so we made whole wheat crackers to mix in - some salty, some garlicky, and a separate batch with cinnamon-sugar.

A day or two before I had made bean soup for dinner, and reserved a quart to take on the trip.

We packed two coolers: one full of cold things, like eggs and mayonnaise, and the other full of non-refrigerated foods, like cookies and dried apples.

The food worked out well on the trip down, even though we didn't end up eating much of it; but we are all enjoying it here in the mountains in New Mexico!

Well, back to vacationing in the sunshine!  Mr H's brother and his wife just had their first baby a few days ago, so we are all enjoying the glow of a newborn - and I am a first-time aunt! 

have fun in the snow,

Mrs H
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Cinderella's Pie Pumpkin

Dear wintery friends,

When we bought our apples this year in Grandview, we also bought a few pie pumpkins.  Mr H loves pumpkin pie, so I deemed it wise to can a few so it would be pie-ready. 

Pumpkin is too dense to be canned pureed or mashed.  It must be canned in cubes, and processed in a pressure canner.  This recipe applies to Winter Squash as well. 

Use sweet pie pumpkins.  Wash them well.

Clean out the seeds (save them for roasting!). 

Slice open and peel. 

Cut into 1-inch cubes.  Put in a stockpot and fill with clean water.  Bring to a boil and boil for two minutes. 

In a weighted-gauge pressure canner:

Pints, 55 minutes. @ 0-1,000 ft 10 lbs PSI.  Above 1,000 ft 15 lbs PSI
Quarts, 90 minutes. @ 0 - 1,000 ft 10 lbs PSI. Above 1,000 ft 15 lbs PSI. 

Here are instructions for a dial-gauge pressure canner

Enjoy your pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving!

Mrs H

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Who doesn't love a good home remedy?

Dear friends,

My friend Miz Carmen shared with me a home remedy, given her by a friend.   This master tonic recipe - Carmen calls it Fire Cider for reasons that will soon become obvious - is packed with nutrients and vitamins to combat colds and other illnesses from developing in the body.

Everybody who has tried it is wowed by not only the overwhelmingly overwhelming flavor but by its seemingly miraculous anti-inflammatory, preventative, and healing powers.  However, anybody familiar with vitamins, multi-vitamins, and the benefits of eating properly (think: lots of fruits and vegetables) would be unsurprised by how well it works.

Use only organic ingredients.

Louise M's Master Tonic (aka Fire Cider)

1 or 2 hot peppers (habanero, cayenne, etc)
Ginger root (about 1 large root, peeled))
Garlic (several bulbs)
Onions (several large)
Horseradish (large chunk of root, peeled)
Cilantro  (1/2 to 1 large bunch)
Turmeric (ground powder)

Chop finely in a powerful food processor.  (You may want to do this outside.  The smell is very pungent!)

Fill glass jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with the mixture, and fill the rest of the way with organic apple cider vinegar, unpasteurized, with "mother".  (You can usually find this in the health food section of grocery stores.  Do NOT use regular cooking apple cider.)

Use a plastic lid - no metal.  (This is to avoid problems with the acid and the BPA in metal lids.)

Shake, allow to steep 6 - 8 weeks in a cool place, then filter through cheesecloth or mesh strainer.

Be thorough!  There shouldn't be much left when you finish. I used my hands to squeeze the last drops out.

Take 1 tsp at a time, with food if you like, several times a day.  If you're serious about fighting a cold or warding off a cold, take with slices of raw garlic, amounting to total of one clove per day.

For maximum effectiveness, eliminate sugar while taking tonic.

Enjoy your tonic; if you're in the area and you stop by my house, be sure to ask for a sample (if you have the courage!).  

Cheers to good health,

Mrs H

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Simple, Cheap Bean Dinner

Howdy friends,

Here is a recipe for a cheap and easy dinner.  It's an all-day crockpot cooker, and the beans need to be soaked overnight (unless you opt to use canned beans, but then the overall cost goes up by quite a bit!).

Since the grocery store workers in the Pacific Northwest are planning to go on strike, us city folk may need some dinners that take dry-good staples that we can have on hand for a long time!

Common bean question answered: Doesn't salting the cooking water make the beans tougher?  No; Cook's Illustrated ran a test and found that salting the cooking water not only didn't make the beans tough, but made them tastier and less prone to burst during cooking.

Hearty Bean Soup Primer

1.  The night before: measure the beans out and soak overnight in the crockpot (don't plug it in).  Use plenty of water.
Or, the morning of: (this method makes a better cooked bean) mix the beans, seasonings (see below) and salt with water to cover by an inch or two in a stockpot.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until beans are soft, about 2 hours.
How much?  As a rule of thumb, I estimate about 1/4 to 1/3 c beans per person (depending on how much your people eat).  Mix the bean types - navy, black, pinto, etc.

2. If you soaked the beans overnight, then in the morning: rinse the beans in the crockpot.  Cover with clean water.

3. (If you boiled the beans in the morning, move them and their seasoned cooking water to the crockpot now.)  For both methods, now add to the crockpot vegetables: chopped onion, chopped pepper, chopped celery, chopped carrot. Other vegetables: If you want to add potatoes, green beans, peas, or softer vegetables like those, add them nearer to the end so they don't dissolve!
How much? Use as much or as little as you want to beef up the soup.  Frozen is fine.  I had some frozen, chopped vegetables in boil-proof foodsaver bags, so I boiled these to soften and then added to the mix.  If you are going to be home during the day and able to give the pot an occasional stir, you don't need to soften the frozen vegetables at all.

4. Unless you opted to boil the beans with the spices in the morning, then now add spices: salt, bay leaves, crushed garlic cloves, black pepper (lots and lots of pepper for a spicy, savory dish!), Italian seasoning, sage leaves, and anything else you want to put it. How much?  In all honesty, just few different herbs and a lot of black pepper make a very savory stew.  If you aren't sure how much to add, aim to under-season and then add more to taste towards the end of cooking.  

5. Add meat: since it's just the two of us, I added a small Cornish game hen.  You could add a medium-size chicken, chunks of stew meat, ham hocks, chunks of ham, etc.  If you want a vegan dish, leave the meat out and towards the end of cooking, you could add tofu, fried tofu, or just have the beans.   How much?  How ever much you want; a little fat will add some body and flavor to the soup.

6.  Let it simmer at low temp all day, 6 to 12 hours.  If you are adding softer vegetables or tofu, remember to do so soon enough that they heat through and cook before serving.

I hope you enjoy this tasty dinner as much as we did!

Mrs H
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weights and measures - more or less critical factors!

Dear faithfuls,

as you know if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, when baking I always weigh my flour (actually, I always weigh everything because that's easier than getting out measuring cups, and when I weigh I don't loose count!).  I emphasized this rather strongly when talking about bread.  

There is nothing wrong with eyeball cooking*; that's how I do most of my cooking.  Eyeball baking is fine too, if you really know what you're doing.  But if you want precise measurements, especially for flour, forget about measuring cups.  There are as many old wives tales about measuring flour as there are about determining the sex of a baby before birth.  

Just stick with the scale; unfortunately, it never lies! 

Here is a useful table of weights & measures for common ingredients.  Grams are generally more accurate.  Keep this table handy on the fridge or a cupboard (if you click the photo, it will open on a separate page if you wish to print.) Increase the quantities if, like I was growing up, you are part of a large family and have never used "one" cup of anything.  

There are many food-scale options available; some, like mine, are quite simple. Some will calculate calories, have pull-out displays, timers, or do backflips.  Most hold up to about 10 pounds.**

You can find these tables in many cookbooks, but I pulled this particular one from America's Best Lost Recipes

Thanks for letting me weigh in on this! 

Mrs H
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* Eyeball cooking: when you just dump ingredients in, either gauging the measurement with your eyeballs or willy-nilly.  
** I was kidding about the backflips.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Speedy dinner? That's the ticket!

Dear friends with a life,

Thanks for laughing at my lame pun.  This is an easy dinner to make; one of my favorite features about it is that it can easily be modified based on what I have on hand.  It can also be mixed up in the afternoon and left on the counter until you're ready to put it in the oven.

Tuna Noodle Casserole (or as I inadvertently called it, Tuna Nooda Casserole)

6 ounces (3 cups) pasta (I used wheel pasta)
Water and salt for cooking pasta
1 can (6-1/2 – 7 ounces) tuna, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup sliced celery (optional)
1/3 cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped green pepper or jarred roasted red pepper
¼ cup chopped canned pimiento or olives (optional)
½ teaspoon salt or seasoned salt
½ tsp Italian seasoning
1 can (10-1/2 ounces) cream of celery or mushroom soup
½ cup milk OR 1/3 c dried nonfat milk beaten into ½ c water
4 ounces (1 cup) grated cheddar cheese or chopped process cheese
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted (optional)

Cook noodles in water according to package directions; drain and turn into large bowl.  Add tuna, mayonnaise, celery, onion, green pepper, pimiento, seasoning and salt; combine and set aside.  In small saucepan, stir together soup and milk and eat through.  Add cheese and heat, stirring, until cheese melts; add to noodle mixture and turn into 2-quart casserole.  If desired, top with toasted almonds.  (At this point, you can put a lid or cover on the dish and let sit for a few hours before baking, if you wish to mix it up in the early afternoon.  I haven’t tried letting it sit all day.)   Bake uncovered at 425 deg 20 minutes.  Makes 6 servings.

I covered the casserole dish with a lid and then mixed up the following side dish: 

Rosemary Red Potatoes
(Based on the recipe in the 2006 Taste of Home, p 248)

5 red potatoes, quartered
1 small onion, quartered and then halved again
¼ c olive oil or Misto olive spray
1 sprig rosemary
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp Ozark seasoning, Italian seasoning, or salt

Combine all, toss to coat. Put in foil-lined baking pan (15x10x1”).  

Instead of tossing them, I used the Misto olive oil sprayer to grease a foil-lined pan, then put in the vegetables and sprayed them again with the olive oil, then sprinkled on the seasonings.  I got the Misto at Bed Bath & Beyond; you fill it halfway with olive oil and pump the lid a few times to build up enough pressure to get it to spritz like regular canned stuff.  

Bake at 425F for 30 to 40 minutes.
4 servings

Sweet Baked Apples (I prepped these while dinner baked, and put them in the oven as soon as the casseroles came out.)

This was my favorite dessert to make growing up, because it is so easy.  My mom taught me the recipe, and you can add more sweet spices, ice-cream, crumbly toppings, or whatever you like.  

Apples (one per person)
Brown sugar

Cut the core out of the apple.  Insert a piece of butter, pack in brown sugar, and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Place in a pan (foil-lined if you want to save dishes).  Pour in water to cover the bottom of the pan.

Bake at 350 for 30 - 45 minutes, depending on the size of the apples; until they are tender when pricked with a fork. Serve in bowls; spoon the liquid from the pan over the apples.

Optional streusel filling: mix melted butter with white flour and sugar for a crumbly topping or filling.

If you have leftover apples the next morning, chop them up and put in a bowl with the leftover liquid.  Serve pancakes or crepes.  

Bon appetit! 

Mrs H
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Vultures don't waste anything, not even random Thanksgiving leftovers

Dear friends,

As you all know, I live by two mottoes.  The first is: The more the merrier. The second is: Waste not, want not.

The first has nothing to do with this blog, but the second is more applicable.

There are plenty of things to do with leftover turkey - sandwiches, casseroles, soups - but what about all those bones?  After all, you paid for them!

Don't throw out your turkey carcass after Thanksgiving dinner this year (not that anybody would ever dream of doing such a wild thing)!  Instead, use it to make a delicious turkey broth, for delicious turkey noodle soup.

This is a basic stock recipe.  Modify according to your tastes, desires, haves and have-nots.

If you have room, you can store the turkey carcass in the fridge overnight (don't hesitate to break it up to get it into a smaller bowl or bag).  Or, if you have a fairly efficient clean-up crew, your hands will be free to set this up on the stove to percolate while you enjoy pie.  It takes about as long to get it cooking as it does to clear a space in the fridge!

Turkey Carcass Broth

After dinner, remove the majority of the meat and any remaining dressing from the turkey.  Don’t worry about getting it all off; after cooking, the bits of meat can be removed from the bones and added to the soup.  Refrigerate if you are going to cook it the next day.  Remove the wishbone to dry, if you are going to use it later for making a wish!

Put the broken turkey carcass and skin into a large kettle or stockpot.  Cover with water and add (if you wish):

2 tsp salt (you can add more later if you want)
About ½ teaspoon pepper, to taste or optional
2 teaspoons garlic powder, or about 1 tablespoon crushed fresh garlic
1-2 teaspoons curry powder, to taste or optional
½ onion, chopped
2-4 ribs celery, chopped

Cover kettle or stockpot and simmer for 1 to 12 hours.  I like to let it simmer at a very low heat overnight for a richer, more flavorful broth.  Remove carcass and set aside, strain broth and refrigerate (you may need to set the bowl of broth in an ice -bath to cool down as demonstrated with the beef broth, so that it doesn't heat your refrigerator up too badly).  The fat will harden on top of the broth; remove the fat and discard.  

Pick any meat from the carcass; now you can throw the bones away. 

Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup

Put the homemade broth into a large kettle or stockpot.  You can either saute the following vegetables in a little fat, or just add straight to the stock.  

Add chopped vegetables of your choice, such as carrots, onions, celery, cabbage, potatoes, peas, beans, corn, canned tomatoes, frozen mixed veggies, green beans – whatever you have on hand.

Add some diced-up leftover turkey.  I do not like to add the following to soups because they bloat and get soggy after a few hours, but you can serve the soup with or over: egg noodles, broken spaghetti noodles, rice, barley, etc.  If the soup is thick and chunky enough, you could serve it over crisped stuffing (spread leftover stuffing on a greased baking sheet and bake or broil in the oven for a few minutes).  Season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic and, if needed, a couple of chicken bouillon cubes. 

Glance through your leftovers and see if you have any miscellaneous scraps to toss in - other cooked vegetable dishes (green bean or creamed corn casserole, yams, roasted potatoes), meats (bits of ham), etc. 

Simmer about 30 – 60 minute or until vegetables are cooked. Thicken with leftover  gravy and mashed potatoes. 

May your table be stocked this Thanksgiving! 

Mrs H

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