Man I have been busy! I haven’t been able to blog much as over the summer I have been a part of all the Holy Sacraments according to the Catholic Church. Even though it’s not a sacrament, our summer started with my husband changing jobs. After the month long transition process my mother was given Last Rites just before passing. My daughter then decided she wanted to be baptized. My other daughter was married weeks after that. These were a much needed joyous occasions. We took communion the first Sunday of each month as usual and now the one baptized is preparing for Confirmation. I love my Catholic roots but find myself in an Evangelical Free church both as worker and worshiper nowadays. Both family and church family have helped me greatly through the ups and downs of summer .
Summer, as far as cooking, was spent either at the grill or on autopilot going over some of the hundreds of recipes already in this blog.
Now that it’s autumn and Jeff and I celebrated our 14th anniversary I’m ready to leave a crazy season behind and get back into my diva groove. It’s good to be back even though I’ve got to start with the “quick and easy” recipes. By Thanksgiving I hope to get more elaborate.
Quick and easy doesn’t mean it won’t be good and tasty! Complexity doesn’t necessarily have to take all day. With these ingredients you’ll see why:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 each, red, yellow and green bell pepper sliced in lengthwise strips
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced from pole to pole
- 1 Turkey Polska Kielbasa Sausage cut in 1 cm slices on the diagonal
- 1/2 can chunk pineapple (half the juice too) equaling about 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons apricot preserves, or hot pepper jelly, or a combination of both
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- a pinch each of garlic powder and crushed red pepper flakes
- a handful of leaves of escarole lettuce, roughly choped
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet pour in your olive oil and when it’s nice and hot add the onions and peppers. Stir them around until the edges turn golden brown. Add in the sausage and keep stirring. When the vegetables get quite brown, pour in the soy sauce, the pineapple and juice to deglaze. spoon in the preserves and/or pepper jelly (I used equal amounts of both). Let it melt in, reduce and thicken to an unctuous sweet and savory sauce. Add the last three ingredients to season and you are ready. Double the recipe to feed a crowd of 6 to 8. You can get this dish done in less than 30 minutes so try this when ever you are on the go or get home late or just plain don’t want to be on your feet in the kitchen. Prop those dogs up and enjoy a movie with the family.
Cooking “en papillote” has been a fancy way to steam vegetables and light meats and fish for decades. Even back thousands of years folks were wrapping their fish and veggies in banana leaves and steaming them over hot coals. It’s great fun to open the paper or leaves for that big reveal. There is such a waft of good food smells when you crack open the package and everything inside is so sumptuous and tender from this gentle yet efficient means of steam heating. I had never tried this before but found this to be way more fun than regular steaming.
In this version of cooking I used:
- 1 tbsp butter per package
- 1/3 cup chopped onion per package
- 1/2 a small squash or zucchini cut in thin strips per package
- 2 small frozen salmon fillets per package
- Seasonings per package (a pinch of paprika, 1 smashed garlic clove, salt and pepper to taste)
- 2 10″x 10″ parchment paper sheets.
To assemble, put the onions all around the bottom of one half of parchment, then place the squash strips on top of them making little support beams for the fish. Place the two fillets of salmon on the squash, place the butter on top of everything, season well then seal the parchment sheets together by twist folding every half inch of the perimeter of the parchment until it is completely sealed all around.
You could cook this in the oven but I put mine on the grill on foil with offset heat sources at either end but not directly under the parchment packs. after 20 minutes I did move the packets under more direct flame for about 6 minutes until I started to smell the onions cooking. I shut off the fire once the packs appeared to be inflated by the steam inside. They stayed that way until I served them at the table. I wouldn’t want to serve them until the risk of super-heated steam was gone. About a ten minute rest period took care of that
Opening your own ballooned pack of fish and vegetables is like opening a birthday present! That puff of steam really enhances the experience when it all comes out at once to your nose. The onions on the bottom made a caramelized base for every thing else to rest upon, The squash was still slightly crispy but glazed in the melted onion. The salmon was tender and flaky, spiced just right and done to perfection throughout. All of the flavors really infused well with one another and the juices that precipitated from the steam were like a condiment to soak up with the fish. All of it was nicely spiced and so delicious, we ate our packets up in minutes. My friends and I really enjoyed experimenting with this method. It was great how this dinner of intrigue actually turned out…not the prettiest but absolutely delicious! Bonus; clean-up was mostly throw away and a bit of rinsing. Now if only my family would try this. How can you not love salmon?
We got a bit of a cold snap today with temps around the 50’s. Jackets were called for to block the chilly winds. A warm bowl of soup was the next order of the day so I conjured up something warm and creamy and comforting; creamy corn chowder.
To make this rich and tasty soup I started with these ingredients:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp bacon grease/ butter
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 1 large rib of celery finely diced
- 1 carrot thinly sliced
- 1 cup frozen, or freshly cut corn
- 1/2 red pepper finely diced
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 2 medium baked russet potatoes peeled and finely diced
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp parsley flakes
- a pinch of ground thyme
- a pinch of ground sage
- 2 cups water
- 1 and 1/2 cup milk or half and half
- 1 cup chicken broth (or a bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup boiling water)
- 1 cup chopped greens.(I used red and green lettuce mix from the garden)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
This looks like a lot of ingredients, but half are seared vegetables and half are the liquids and spices (I combined the spices and cornstarch into a bowl to add it all at once). You add them in that way, preparing the vegetables in the pot with the oil on high heat, just searing the edges about three minutes. Add the potatoes along with the seasoning mixture, stir it all in for a few seconds to let the herbs bloom a bit and the corn starch stick to the vegetables. Right away add the water and stir until the bottom of the pan cleans up a bit from the seared vegetables and spice mixture. Let those caramelized flavors brew into the water, add the other liquids, and let everything simmer together for about 30 minutes. All the individual ingredients add their own special pizzaz.
Let the pot of soup cool for about ten minutes before serving and get ready for a mouthful! With everything cut in tiny pieces in the beginning, everything in the end is sufficiently intermingled with everything else. The result is so much flavor throughout each bite and each bowl you won’t believe it! Warm, rich, savory, sweet, bright, satisfying and delicious; this soup’s got it all.
Quiche has a long history dating back to the late 1300’s and maybe earlier. Quiche, a French word actually is of German origin and called “Küeche“, in English, cake. In English cuisine, recipes for quiche appeared in an early cook book of the day written by the chefs of King Richard II called “The Forme of Cury”. These custard pastries were made with meat or fish in a custard and baked in a pastry. Today we add cheese and other vegetables like onion or spinach.
Whether in King Richard II’s time or today, all I know is that quiche makes a breakfast everyone in my family enjoys and I can make one on a Saturday morning in about an hour with things I already have in the pantry and ‘fridge. If there are eggs, cheese, meat, vegetables, flour, butter or shortening and spices this can happen. Today I used:
- 6 farm fresh eggs
- 4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (about a cup)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 cup broccoli chopped in very small pieces
- 1/2 cup cubed meat (I used ham)
- a few dashes each: salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley flakes
- 1 pastry shell in a deep dish pie plate
First, preheat the oven to 375° and prepare a pie crust either store bought or using the method (this makes two shells) in the link in the last ingredient. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs and combine all the other filling ingredients. Pour everything into the prepared pastry shell and carefully transfer to the oven’s top rack and bake for 50 or 60 minutes or until the eggs are set. It’s OK if it is a bit jiggly but no liquidity.
My sister in law made these when we visited them in Houston on Valentine’s Day and I absolutely fell in love with this side dish. I could even make a meal out of it if others didn’t have to have some too. What makes these “potatoes” Paleo, is they are potatoes at all but cauliflower. Toss in some bacon, cheese, and sour cream and you’ve got a carbless companion to any roast or steak. I made everything in one large frying pan using these proportions:
- Three slices of bacon
- 1 cup water
- One large head of cauliflower
- one tablespoon butter
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese (about one cup)
First fry up the bacon until crispy and crumble it in small pieces. Drain off the fat leaving one tablespoon in the pan. While the bacon is cooking, steam the cauliflower in the water and butter (I do it in the microwave covered and on high for 3 or 4 minutes) until it is nice and tender. Pour off the excess water and place it in the pan with the bacon fat. Mash the cauliflower until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes…with lumps of course. Stir in the sour cream, season with salt and pepper, maybe some freshly minced garlic if you have it and top with the cheese and bacon. Place a lid on the pan until the steam of the cauliflower causes the cheese to melt and dig in!
A while back Mr. Delicious and I bought a portion of a grass fed cow. We have a freezer full of a nice variety of meat now…some of the best meat I’ve ever tasted. Even the cheaper cuts turn out to be something special. I’ve already posted a recipe for Swiss Steak made with the round. It was so good I had to make another one. I did it the usual way, pounding and pricking, salting and searing, adding flour then liquid, then onions and mushrooms and letting it braise for hours in the electric skillet. Being a rather large piece of meat there was plenty left over.
You could never overcook round steak. Cooking it only makes it more tender and that’s what makes it the perfect meat for a hearty soup.
I began by cutting up the remaining steak into tiny cubes. The gravy made by braising the steak really offered tons of good flavor so I made sure to reserve a bit of it to add as well. In a heavy enameled pot, I sauteed the usual vegetables…carrots, celery, and onion. Frozen green beans cut in small segments were also added. I want this soup to have good body so I sprinkled about three tablespoons of flour over the vegetables, stirred it all in and let it cook a minute or so to form a brown layer on the bottom of the pan.
A few more seconds and this brown layer could turn to a burnt layer so I quickly poured in some water to capture this perfect stage of golden brown and prevent it from going over the edge. The water soon began to blend everything together and thicken. I added the rest of the water, totaling two quarts then added the meat and remaining gravy with all of its sumptuous flavor. At this point some final seasoning needed to go in the mix.
Red wine added a deeper color as well as deeper flavor so about a quarter of a cup went in. As the soup began to boil, two teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon of pepper didn’t hurt. Finally, to give it a hit of zippy tang I added about three tablespoons of A-1 sauce (I would never put this on a steak but I love how the stuff adds brightness to sauces and soups like this).
All that this soup needed now was to simmer and let its variety of colors and flavors blend and become a very special tasting soup. In the wintertime in St. Louis (or really anywhere) enjoying a soup like this is a perfect way to stay happy and warm.
Hey, tuna casserole can be classy! Why, I believe James Bond himself would approve of this dish. I will share this culinary secret if you promise to stay home one evening and cook this meal instead of going out and spending your hard earned money. Should you accept this mission, read carefully to learn how to save money, get your kids to eat vegetables, and allow yourself to kick back and watch the six O’clock news.
First, boil some noodles for ten minutes…a one pound package of wide egg noodles in salted water. As they cook, saute in olive oil, one carrot, two ribs of celery with the leaves, an onion, and a clove of garlic all finely sliced and diced and cook until the onion shows some golden brown color.
With the noodles drained and put back into the pot, open two cans of tuna (tuna packed in oil has much more flavor but a few more calories) and one 15 oz. can of diced tomato. Add these ingredients with all of their juices to the noodles and stir.
Shred 4 or 5 oz of jack Cheese and dump that into the pot as well. Season everything with salt and pepper. Add a touch of half and half cream…about a third of a cup. Heat the cream until it bubbles around the edges, add 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, season again with some , salt and pepper, and a bit of garlic powder. Shut off the flame and stir everything together. With the oven preheated to 400° pour everything into a 13″x 9″ baking pan in an even layer and pack it all down a bit.
The biggest secret to the success of this mission is using home made bread crumbs, The food processor makes this step a breeze. Using four or five slices of old bread ends, hopefully some good quality bread like French or sourdough, break it in pieces and pulse it in the processor until you’ve made a little more than a cup and a half of fine crumbs (I used some day [or two] old home made bread). In a bowl or pie plate season the crumbs with salt and pepper, maybe some herbs you like, drizzle on some olive oil, add 1/4 cup of Parmesan and toss everything together. It should still be a fluffy light mixture
Congratulations on the success of your mission! In the last 45 minutes, you’ve not only saved yourself about thirty dollars, but you’ve gotten your family to eat four vegetables, fish with its valuable omega three fat, And so what about the cheese, this meal tastes superb! Now you have time to enjoy the rest of the evening and as a bonus you might even have enough casserole left over to take to work tomorrow.