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Friday, August 27, 2010

Canned meat and more !

We have been so busy with the garden, camping and, well, just life ! But I wanted to brag about our dinner last night!

We can meat ! Back in the day, this was used because there was not sufficient storage or refrigeration when farmers butchered. We, however, like the convenience of the canned meat for a nice dinner on the fly.

The canning does take a little time. We usually watch for roasts (pork or beef) on sale, and then can. It is so simple, just cut the meat into small pieces (or sometimes the butcher will do it for you). Sutff them into a jar as tightly as you can, add a little salt, and pressure can them. I have to admit, the meat does not look very pretty in the jar, but it does taste good !

So, dinner last night was a quick stroganoff. I just sauteed 2 cloves of garlic, one small chopped onion, about a cup of mushrooms, and a cup of red wine together. Stirred in a quart of canned beef, salt and pepper, and let it simmer until the sauce had thickened. Then, just stir in about a cup of sour cream at the end, and serve over buttered noodles. Dinner in half an hour !

So, camping last week, we discovered the joy of grilled pizza, and what a great way to use up some left overs! Our "leftovers" usually have a decidedly Italian slant anyway, so pizza isn't a big stretch. We had some left over spaghetti sauce, pesto, goat cheese, mushrooms, bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms. This all made for some excellent pizza. And it was so easy, we are going to do it again with some friends this weekend. Well, we won't make them eat leftovers :).

Chocolate chip cookies tonite. And peeling more tomatoes in preparation for the great salsa run in September !

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yummy Garden Stuff

So now is the time when the garden is exploding with yummy goodness. Yesterday, I pulled out 10 hot thai chilis, 6 jalapenos (some of which turned red and will be REALLY hot), 2 red peppers, a couple dozen brussel sprouts, a big bowl of Swiss chard and about a pound of green beans. We know we can't eat all of this before it spoils, so freezing and canning are in progress ! And that doesn't include the approximately 10 pounds of tomatoes we picked Saturday.

I will freeze the hot peppers for when I make salsa later. Since we cook and can the salsa, it won't hurt the peppers to be frozen. Tomatoes we either blanch, peel and freeze (for salsa) or process through the food mill (for sauce). We can then do the canning all at once, instead of doing small batches several times.

But, the chard we ate. You really do need to boil it, it cannot just be sauteed like spinach. But, with a little salt, pepper and butter, it's still fresh and good. I just grilled some lemon pepper tilapia with it, and some corn we received from a friend. It was a nice, light summer dinner.

Tonight we will have BLT's, green bean salad and tomato salad. Ray's favorite way to eat green beans is really very simple. You boil the green beans for just a couple minutes, until they are bright green, but still crispy. In a big bowl, mince 3-4 cloves of garlic, and add some extra virgin olive oil, and butter. Toss the hot beans in this mixture, add salt and pepper, and pop into the fridge. They are really good.

The tomato salad is equally easy. I made a quick homemade balsamic vinaigrette, which was just balsamic vinegar, olive oil (about equal parts), salt, pepper and minced garlic. I halved a bunch of cherry tomatoes, and diced a small onion very fine. We just keep it in the fridge and snack on it !

Monday, August 9, 2010


Boy, does our house smell like chicken !

We tend to get involved in these complex endeavors on the weekend, which makes the weekend seem not much like a weekend, with all the work involved !

A friend had given us some big chicken backs from his "harvest" last year, along with a GIANT chicken. In an attempt to clear some space in the freezer, we decided to make some homemade chicken stock this weekend. This is one of Ray's favorite things to do. His phrase is "Let's make a vat of (fill in the blank here)". So far, we have venison stock and italian sauce in many containers in the freezer. But, since we are clearing space, we are canning the stock rather than freezing it, which adds another layer of complexity to the process.

Stock starts with the chicken backs, water, carrots, celery, onions, herbs and spices. And a LONG day of cooking, which was probably not the smartest way for us to do this, in the middle of summer on an extremely hot day. We also baked the giant chicken. So the house was filled with the wonderful smell of slow cooked chicken all day long. I think maybe neighborhood dogs were crowding the driveway, as you could smell this all the way down the block !

To go with the chicken, I had originally planned creamed leeks and bacon. Then I started thinking about champ, which is an Irish potato dish with leeks and lots of cream. I didn't have cream, but I had sour cream, so I boiled potatoes, then sauteed the leeks in bacon fat and butter, and whipped them all together. I think Ray ate a pound of it !

Canning the chicken stock tonight, so dinner will be chicken salad sandwiches and marinated tomato salad. Perfect for a warm day in a warm kitchen !

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The "Chopped" Freezer Challenge

OK, so I LOVE cooking shows. BIG surprise. But the competitive ones are my favorites. And like any armchair gourmet, I sit in my living room and say "I could do that better!"

So, Ray issued me a challenge in order to get the freezers cleaned out for hunting season. He pulls three random containers out of the freezer each week, and I need to construct a meal from them, like the TV series "Chopped" on the Food Network.

Last night was the first challenge, and the ingredients were smoked pork, sweet potato soup, and hummus. And just for fun, some leftover pink frosting.

The hummus we just ate on toasted baguette as an appetizer. For the main dish, I made a smoked pork pad thai, and used the sweet potato soup as a sauce. We didn't really care for the soup when I first made it. It was a Thai flavored soup that had peanut butter in it. Unfortunately, the peanut butter seemed to take over all of the other flavors. But, in the "Chopped" pad thai, it was quite good. I added chopped red pepper, onion, celery, garlic and cilantro, some canned bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, and red pepper flakes. Made some pad thai noodles and stirred it together with the soup. It was really good.

I used some refrigerator crescent rolls and made small macadamia nut pastries, and frosted with the left over pink frosting. It was left over from some cookies I made for a bridal shower last year..about time we used it !

Ray ate so much he still wasn't hungry at breakfast today ! Must have been good.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Ice Cream Maker

Just a short note to BRAG about the new ice cream maker I received ! It was a nice surprise gift, for no reason.

It is VERY fancy. It has it's own refrigeration unit, so you don't have to pre-freeze a bowl or get 20 pounds of ice to make ice cream. We tried it after the end of our camping trip on Sunday.

Me being me, of course, plain old vanilla was NOT an option for the first try. Using ingredients we had on hand, and a new ice cream cook book we acquired at Half Price Books, I made honey goat cheese frozen yogurt. This was one of the most interesting tasting ice creams I have ever had. Definitely, if you don't like goat cheese, you wouldn't like this.

But, we do like goat cheese. And, for me, it is ice cream I can eat, because I am lactose intolerant. The consistency was more like soft serve ice cream, even after being in the freezer overnight. I made a quick raspberry sauce with the leftover raspberries from a batch of Sangrito....yummm ! Here is the recipe:

1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup honey
4 ounces of goat cheese
Juice from one lemon
4 ounces Greek yougurt

In a small saucepan, heat together water, sugar, honey, and lemon. Bring to a boil, then turn to simmer, and simmer 5 minutes. Let cool completely.

Blend together half of the syrup, the goat cheese and the yorgurt until smooth. Stir in the remaining syrup, and place in ice cream maker. Process as normal.

Contest recipes next week, and the final version of the goat cheese brownie recipe !