Friday, August 29, 2014

Schools Days

Sorry for the break.  School has started and I  have had to switch gears; from lazy no real time constraints to deadlines popping up everywhere. So I have gotten a daily planner in order to remember what I did yesterday and what I am doing to day and what my deadlines are.  Remembering has become a lost art for me.  If I don't write it down, well then I am in trouble.  I have lived by sticky notes up to this point....but I keep losing them.

We Kent and I are have gotten that much closer to being empty nesters.  We moved our youngest to Brown John University last weekend.  I am so excited for my baby, she is having the time of her life.  I know some of the shine will wear off, but at this point she is happy were she is at.
My middle child will be moving out the middle of September.  She has a cute little apt. in an older complex that has a ton of large trees.  Whew losing two at a time is a little overwhelming.  But I still have my oldest and that is fine, he fixes the cars and is helping us renovate the Camper.

I created, if you will, a new recipe that my hubby loved.  He is not a big pasta salad eater, thinks it is "chick" food.  But he loved this!  So give it a try and let me know what you think.  Please leave a comment so that I know I am not alone in this world!  LOL


Pasta Salad Your Way

1 lb of cooked, rinsed and cooled pasta (orzo style pasta works the best I think)
1 4-6 ounces of soft goal cheese- room temp
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut lengthwise
1 cup of diced cucumber (I like the hot house of english, they are the ones wrapped in plastic)
1 cup of diced zucchini
1-2 heaping T. of good mayo
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Mix the warm pasta with the cheese, keep mixing gently till the cheese is melted and combines.  Now add the remaining ingredients.  I use the mayo to loosen the mixture as needed.  Let this sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving.

You can add cooked chicken to this or diced ham for a protein hit.  If you really don't like goat cheese (sigh), then you can use cream cheese.  Make sure it is room temp or it will not mix easily with the pasta.

I like to spread this out on a large platter instead of a bowl.  Looks really pretty and it is easy to serve from.

I am heading out right now to do our Back to School Cook Out.  The rain has cleared off, the temps are cool and the blue sky is peeking out.  What a great day for August!













Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Poultry & Pork

Another day at the Old Town Farmer's Market done and done.  We had cloud cover which kept the soon to be heat at bay for a couple of hours.  The wind blew gently over where I was cooking....my hubby doing anything that I asked.  We had bottles of Ice water, and a hot grill heating up, it was going to be a good morning.

First off we cut chicken breast length wise so that they would cook evenly and quickly.  Be carefully doing this, but it a great way to cook chicken fast so that it won't dry out.  Add salt and pepper to the meat and place it either on the grill or in your wonderful cast iron skillet, we did both.  The grill did cook the chicken faster, but it might have helped if the burner under the skillet had been on high, once we did that then the cast iron started bringing on the heat.

In the second skillet on the grill we browned sweet Italian sausage.  I did want small crumbles, but a bit bigger pieces, so I did leave it a lone and broke up only the really big chunks.  Once that was browned I did add some onion and let it cook a bit longers.
Cooking on your cast iron on the grill, gas or charcoal keeps the heat and mess outside. I serve in the same skillet, looks rustic and nostalgic.  Better to wash only one pan than pans and bowls and serving pieces.









I tried to leave the meat in bigger than normal pieces for this dish.  You can use any type of sausage you like, hot or sweet or plain.                                    



Pasta & Sausage

1 lb of sweet Italian Sausage
1/2 small onion diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, smashed and diced
1 lb of mini bow tie pasta prepared according to package, drained and set aside
a bunch of basil, chopped
3 oz of Pecorino Romano Cheese, shredded-you can sub Parmesan if you find Pecorino too strong
Salt and Pepper to taste

Make your pasta, set aside
Brown the meat in a skillet over medium high heat, once it is browned add the onions and garlic.  Continue cooking for another minutes or so.

Combine the meat and pasta in a large bowl.  Add the basil and cheese and stir to combine.  May add a splash of olive oil to finish it off.


Creamy Chicken and Orzo

2 chicken breast cut length wise into a total of 4 pieces, season with salt and pepper
1/2 lb of orzo
1 cup of water
2 small zucchini, diced
1/2 small onion diced
1 cup of diced cherry tomatoes
1/2-3/4 heavy cream
salt and pepper
crust bread from Crust and Crumbs

Grill or brown the chicken remove from heat and set aside.  Add the orzo and the cup of water, bring to a boil, reduce.  Add the vegetables and simmer till orzo is almost cooked.  Add the cream and heat this up, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve with the bread.

It's that easy!































Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tomato Jam and a New Friend

We had a great day at the Old Town Farmers Market yesterday.  It was warm, but not blazing hot, and there was a gentle breeze that helped keep it cooler.  People were enjoying the good company, the fresh food and veggies.  My daughter and I were at the Chef's Table getting ready for our cooking demo,

Often when I hit the market to demo I have very little idea of what I am going to cook.  I try to let what is available at the vendors create the recipe.  I do bring some basics, today I brought cooked Orzo and chicken....not sure as of yet what I was going to do with it.

I get to the market about an hour before the demo and walk around picking up veggies from different vendors, I found fresh basic and thyme, small sleek zucchinis, fresh green beans and glorious fresh cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes looked like small red, yellow and black gems.  I also bought fresh Thai basil and cilantro, I am making fresh spring rolls for dinner tonight.


So, I have my idea for what I am going to cook....Pasta salad with fresh sautéed veggies and pan seared chicken.  I will also add fresh basil, thyme, lemon zest and juice, and to bring it all together cream cheese.  It seemed to be a big hit since we did run out, which is always a good thing.  There is a recipe but it can be tweaked for your personal taste, change the veggies, the meat and instead of cream cheese try goat cheese or feta cheese.  Make it your own.

Vendors I used this Saturday- Kansas Home Grown, Her Produce, La Tradition, Crumb and Crust

Where does Tomato Jam fit into all of this?  As it turns out I met an old friend that was also a new friend.  As we were cleaning up an attractive lady came up to me, excited to see me, I love that, so few people are excited to see me, lol.  She had been coming to the market for two years in hoping to see me, and well, we just missed each other.  Two year ago I had brought my homemade Tomato Jam and cooked with it and she loved it.  Cameo had made the jam but then lost the recipe and was desperate to make it again.

She found me yesterday and we hit it off.  So here is the recipe from yesterday and the Tomato Jam recipe and a couple of canning sources.

Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

You can change out the pasta from orzo to your favorite, but give the orzo a try.  I think the orzo lends a certain flavor to the over all dish.  Orzo looks like a rice, but it is a pasta and it's name means rice like. This pasta cooks in around 5 minutes, don't over cook it, it cooks that fast.
You can use different veggies but the recipe will reflect what I did at the Market.


1 lb of orzo pasta, cooked, rinsed and cooled, so do this first
vegetable oil
2 6 inch zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 brick of cream cheese, room temp
1 bunch of fresh basil, about 10 leaves, rolled into a tube and sliced into ribbons
1 t. of fresh thyme leaves
1 lemon, zested and juiced, reserve both for the salad
salt to taste
4 chicken breast, boneless and skinless


In a 10 inch cast iron skillet, heat over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium.  Add about 3 T. of oil to the pan and then cook each vegetable one at a time, once they are slightly charred or tender crisps remove to a bowl.  I cooked the zucchini for about 3 minutes, the green beans for 4 and the tomatoes about 2.  Once you have the hot veggies in the bowl add the cream cheese so that it can soften, set aside.
Add 3 T. of oil to the skillet and add the chicken breast.  Leave the chicken alone and let it brown. Keep the heat at medium.  This will take about 5 minutes.   The meat will stick to the pan until it is brown then it will release and that is when it is ready to flip.

Add the veggies to the orzo and stir to mix the cream cheese, add the lemon zest and juiced, add the fresh herbs and salt to taste.  Slice the chicken into bite size pieces and toss into the salad.

This can be served warm or cold.  Serve with crusty bread.

Amy's Tomato Jam- From Marisa McClellan and her cookbook " Food in Jars"

Ingredients
  • 5 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 8 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon red chili flakes
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Stirring regularly, simmer** the jam until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. This will take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours, depending on how high you keep your heat.
  2. When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.
  3. When time is up, remove jars from water bath and allow them to cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year.
Notes
*The finished yield on this recipe varies depending on the kind of tomato you use, the width of your pan and the finished thickness to which you cook it.
2010 yield: 4 1/2 pints; 2011 yield: 3 pints; 2012 yield: 2 1/2 pints
**In my kitchen, the word simmer means to cook just below a boil. There should still be a few bubbles, but it shouldn’t be splashing all over your cooktop. If you cook at lower temperatures, the cooking time will increase.
Food In Jars is a great cookbook for the first time canning experience.
Preserving by the Pint is her new book.  These two books will give you the basics and because they are small batches you will not be overwhelmed.  Any questions?  Head them my way.

Who is canning this summer?  What are you canning?  
















Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Food Rules

I have been working on my up and coming cooking class syllabus.  As you might remember I teach a middle school cooking class at our private school, ( I am the food service manager which is a fancy title for lunch lady).  I love working with these kids and showing them how to feed themselves and their families.  I love trying to get into their heads and talk to them about how vital it is for them to learn to cook, a skill that is one generation from vanishing.

I see the lack of cooking skills all around me.  Kids will only eat chicken, if it breaded and fried (nuggets). When we did a baked lemon glazed chicken leg, the younger grades did not recognize it and were put off by the fact that it had a bone in it.  The lunch room helpers had to take the meat off for them, they would not pick up the chicken leg.

The only beef they like is hamburgers, and ground beef turned into tacos or nachos.  They loved steak fingers which is a beef product that is breaded and flashed fried.  When I made a really great tasting meatloaf I think I had, maybe, 20 kids take it.  I had someone tell me just recently that feeding this large of group of kids items that they will eat is like trying to hit a small moving target.  I will be honest, I do want to pull my hair out.

So I am left with the challenge of feeding kids new and exciting foods that they will consume with gusto.  I also have some marketable swap land for sale down south.  Ain't going to happen.  And truth be told it is not my job to teach these kids how to eat, that really does belong to the parents.  I know how hard it is to teach kids to eat anything put in front of them.  You come home, maybe from working, maybe from being a hard working at home mom, and the last thing you want is a food fight.  I had two of the worlds pickiest eaters, I understand.

When all is said and done though we are responsible for teaching our kids how to eat.  Both of my picky eaters, who are young adults now, eat salad, fruit, spinach, tomatoes, and their taste buds are developing.  I put food in front of them everyday for years that they would not eat.  But they saw it. I would change things again and follow the French Food  Rules for feeding kids.  Take the battle out, leave the expectation in and don't engage them in the fight. And Stand Firm!



I love this poster,by Ms. Le Billon it would be on my fridge and microwave if I had small children at home again.  Karen Le Billon has written about this subject and I would follow the poster if I had to do it all over again.  She has a ton of resources and there are a couple of books that I would recommend.  And remember apply the ideas to your family, the rules may need some tweaking and that is okay, tweak away.

Jamie Oliver also has some good resources, I have his cookbook. 
I use a couple of his recipes for my cooking class.  Crunch Garlic Chicken Nuggets and Sizzle Beef with Green Onions and Black Bean Sauce.  I have yet to have someone not eat either of these.  Once they cook it the students will try it.  I usually make a double batch because it disappears so quickly.  I love this cookbook and would highly recommend it.  Use the cookbook and get in the kitchen with your kids and make dinner together.

Once again this year as a lunch lady I will be trying new things, and see if I can get the students to purchase and then enjoy scratch cooking.  I have my fingers crossed.

Crunch Garlic Chicken Nuggets or Strips- serves 2
Garlic Chicken
  •   1 clove garlic
  •   1 lemon
  •   6 saltine crackers
  •   2 tablespoons butter
  •   4 sprigs of fresh Italian       parsley
  •   sea salt
  •   freshly ground black pepper
  •   2 heaped tablespoons all-       purpose flour
  •   1 large free-range egg
  •   2 skinless higher-welfare    chicken breast fillets
  •   olive oil
Directions:

Mince the clove of garlic, zest the lemon and reserve the lemon for later, crush the crackers and chop the parsley fine. Melt the butter and mix all of this together till combined.  Pour this out on to a plate.

On a second plate add the flour and salt and pepper.  In a bowl whisk the eggs.  Now you have your dipping station for your chicken.

Cut the chicken into nugget size pieces.  Dip the chicken into the flour, then the egg, then the cracker crumb mixture, pressing the crackers into the chicken.

In a non-stick skillet pour about 2 T. of olive oil.  Let the pan and oil heat till it shimmers.  Add half the chicken and cook till golden, flip to the other side.  4-5 minutes on the first side 3-4 on the second.  Have a warm oven to place the finished nuggets to keep them hot.

Chicken is cooked once and internal temp of 160 is reached.  Remember there will be a little bit of carry over so I pull them when they are about 155 and the oven will also continue to cook them.

When ready to serve squeeze some fresh lemon juice over them.  These really are good and easy.  You double of triple the recipe for the needs of your family.



The first time around this dish may look a bit intimidating, but it can be very easy to put together.  Once you have the first time under your belt it will be one of your go to meals, I promise.

Black bean sauce is found in the ethnic aisle of the grocery store.  It is fermented black beans, it is very pungent and a little goes a long way.  Yet the flavor it gives a dish is amazing so do not skip it. Keep it is the fridge and add it to vegetable stir fries or any other dish you would add soy sauce to, just start out with small amounts.







Sizzling Beef with Green Onions and Black Bean Sauce- 
serves 2

Salt and Pepper
1 cups of cooked rice cooled
1 -1 1/2 lbs of flat iron steak
1 red bell pepper
1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger (can use abut 1 t. of dried, but the fresh is the best)
2 cloves of garlic
2 green onions
1-2 t. of red pepper flakes
1 bunch of cilantro or flat leaf parsley if you don't care for cilantro, I love the stuff
1 handful of fresh snow peas, or asparagus or any other quick cooking green veggie
1-2 T. of vegetable oil
1 T. of sesame oil
2 T. black bean sauce
! t. soy sauce
2 limes
1 egg

Slice the meat against the grain into thin strips.  Cut the red pepper into thin strips.  Peel both the garlic and ginger, (use the back of a spoon to scrape the peel off the ginger), then slice them thinly.  Finely dice the green onions using the whites and about half way up of the greens.  The top third of a green onion can be very strong.  Chop the cilantro including the stems, but keep them separate from each other.

In a bowl add all of your veg including the garlic and ginger, keep the cilantro leaves separate, but do add the stalks.  Add the sesame oil and red pepper flakes and mix till everything is coated.

Now you are ready to stir fry.....heat a cast iron skillet ( 10 inch or 12 inch) with the vegetable oil till the oil shimmers.  You want this very hot and the cast iron will hold the heat and not cool off as much when you cook the food.  Add the bowl of veggies and move everything around the pan for 2 minutes, remove the veggies to a bowl and cover.

Add a bit more oil, let the pan heat up again, then add your meat.  Let this sit for a minute, then move it around, then let it sit for another minute.  Once the meat is cooked to your satisfaction, remove it to the bowl with the veggies and cover.  We like ours rare, but it will continue to cook in the bowl.

Add more oil, crack your egg into the pan and break it up, add a teaspoon of soy sauce and then the rice. Keep it moving till the rice is hot, turn your heat off. Spread the rice out into the bottom of the skillet and pour your veggies and meat from the bowl over the rice, do not stir.  Sprinkle your cilantro or parsley leaves over the top, squeeze a bit of lime.  Serve the rest of the limes with the dish at the table.

I love serving out of my cast iron skillets, it looks great in a campfire sort of way and I only dirty one dish.

Again once you have done this, the second time is a breeze.  You can double or triple the recipe to fit the needs of your family.  Also you can change this up, do this with chicken or pork or even tofu.  Use what ever veggies your family likes, add more if you like.  Please don't skip the black bean sauce it is what makes the dish.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Quick and Fast Meal!

Spicy Korean-Style Pork Medallions with an Asian Slaw


I made this dish last week at the Old Town Farmers Market.....and it was a hit.  I cleaned the pork, sliced it into the medallions and flattened them out.  I caramelized them in a hot cast iron skillet, my favorite cooking utensil.  But the meat can be cooked on a grill just as easy.  I love cooking outside and keeping the mess out there.


You can raise the heat on this dish by adding more hot sauce.  I added Thai Sweet Chili sauce to the dressing for the slaw; I did not want the sriacha sauce to be the only flavor.  I like the tang of  of both the hot and sweet over the crisp cabbage.  Savoy or Nappa cabbage are great choices, but you can use regular cabbage, and I did at the demo, just cut it very thin so that it will break down.

Give this dish a try over the weekend and wear the crown of a great cook proudly.

Monday, June 30, 2014


A Used Kitchen is a Dirty Kitchen – But It’s Worth It!

I have cooked two huge meals in the last two days.  I doubled the recipe for one of the meals in order to feed our family and a friend with her three adorable small children.  The recipes* turned out great.  They were both easy to make and will be a lot quicker to prepare the second time around.  The best part was they tasted good… better than good.  I mean, really good.  Unfortunately, I have discovered over the years that the resulting mess is directly proportional to how tasty the meal is.  After I finished, the kitchen looked like a starving, and slightly sadistic, wolverine had worked his way from one end of it to the other.

Once the meal is through, its time to call “The Clean-up Crew”; you know, those people that come in a flash and scour your kitchen.  Some call them kitchen fairies.  I call them slave-labor family members! 

I will be the first to admit that I am not the housekeeper my mother was and still is.  I can go to bed with dirty dishes still hanging out on the counter, pots and pans soaking in the sink and the counters a bit crummy.  Sorry.  I’m just being honest.  I do strive to be more like my mom (gee did I say that out loud?  Yep…), but I usually fall short.  Once I prepare and cook one of these really great meals I am exhausted.  So you ask, “Why cook, then?”  Why? Because my family then sits down, spends time together and eats.  So if that means dirty dishes, so be it.

But once the meal is finished we do try to clean the kitchen. We clear the table; get the dishes loaded and the dishwasher splashing away. I try to get everyone to give me fifteen minutes of their time to clean, but sometimes even that is a singular struggle.  I get it; we are all tired.  But we also all want to eat!  So everyone helps out in the end. 

One thing I do know is that eating at home in the long run will be cheaper and will be far healthier.  Right now Denny’s is running an ad about their four-dollar meals.  Okay, start with four bucks, add a two-dollar drink, tax and a two-dollar tip.  You are up to eight dollars and some change; then there is the time it has taken and the gas as well.  You have a clean kitchen, high blood pressure and that extra twenty pounds around your middle.  Then that extra twenty grows each year as you eat out more and consume easy and cheap food.

So cooking at home can mean an especially messy, blasted kitchen.  But it also means real family time, far more healthy food and an overall lower cost. 

*The recipes can also be found on my Pintrest page, Recipes to Try... 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Clean Kitchen...

This has been a pothole of my life.  I can clean the kitchen up perfect...I scrub the sink, the stove and the counters and than within minutes a tornado has gone through and thrown food and bits of debris everywhere.  I don't want to cook in that mess!!!!  Nor do I want to take an hour to clean it all up then to cook and mess it all again only to clean it again!!!!!!!!!  This is a war and I have lost the battle.  I am too tired, hurt too much and have fallen into the pothole and can not get out.  I think I will lay down and just give up.  Only I can't give up can I????  People want to eat and have cooked food...why?????????


So two weekends ago, a miracle happened, my daughter Clare...(who by the way just won a scholarship competition and has a full ride to John Brown University, Thank you God), attacked and cleaned the kitchen, I mean cleaned it.


Before
  
Before
Before
Ignore the floor it has issues





  
There is a table!!!

We have now kept it clean for 14 days!  It is work for everyone...but everyone likes the results so maybe we can fill this pothole in and keep this up.  Clare, myself and Kent have been working hard on keeping this going.  I am hoping that once we are use to it we can then move to another part of the living area.  

Last nights dinner turned out really well.  




 It came form a Papered Chef cookbook called Grill it Quick, and this was a quick recipe and turned out really well.  We all had seconds.

Greek Islands Steak Salad

The Steak- 1 1/2 lb beef flank steak or two flat iron steaks
1 T. olive oil ans 1 T. of kosher salt and 1 T. of fresh cracked pepper

Rub this well into the steak.  You can grill this out when the weather permits, I did it under the broiler.  You can do it on the stovetop as well.  But under the broiler leaves next to no mess to clean up, cooking it on the stove top leaves grease splatters everywhere.
Line a sheet pan with foil, lay your well seasoned steaks on there and cook them for 14 minutes on the first side (or heat your boiler up for 15 minutes then you start with 7 seven minutes a side).  Turn and broil for 4 minutes or until your level of doneness.  We like our steak very pink, but either end is a bit more done for those we like shoe leather.

The Dressing-this plays a big role in the over all flavor
3/4 c good olive oil
1/3 c red wine vinegar
2 large cloves of garlic, pressed
zest from one lemon
1-2 t. of dried oregano
1/2 c of pitted kalamata olives (the purple ones)- rough chopped
1/4 c of chopped pepperoncini peppers-these are a mild yellow pepper that add a lot of flavor
Mix this well, taste for seasoning add salt and pepper to your taste.  Set aside

The Salad-I mixed this in a large bowl, then laid it out on to a large platter
6 or more cups of spinach-it will wilt down when you dress it.  I used closer to 10 cups
1 c of diced cucumber-use the ones that are wrapped in plastic.  They are called hot house, English, or seedless cucumbers.  They taste better, don't need to be peeled and allow you to have good manners since they are also called burpless cucumbers.
Mix 1/2 the dressing with the above mixture. Set the remaining aside for the moment.

1 large brick of feta cheese broken into bite size pieces- hold this back, don't mix it with the spinach.

The assembly-
On a large platter lay out the dressed spinach.  Top with the bite size feta.
Remove your meat when it is done and allow it to rest for ten minutes covered with foil.  Slice the meat thin against the grain.  Lay the meat on top of the spinach salad.  Drizzle more of the dressing over the top of the meat.  Serve!!!!


 This recipe was a nod towards spring, I think it will be here, right?