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Monday Menu – Garden Eating

May 18, 2015

As summer approaches, so do thoughts of fresh tomatoes, peppers and other garden goodies. While many use the crockpot in the winter time, it’s also ideal for summer use – there is less heating up the kitchen, and it allows time outside when it’s nice and there is so much to do!

For many the garden is a source of food in the summer and beyond. Here are few recipes using garden produce.

Berry Bliss Cake – (click on link!)

Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef or pork
1 lb. ground turkey, rabbit or lamb
1 1/2 C onions — chopped
1 C celery — chopped

1 C green pepper — chopped

1 C red pepper — chopped
1 jar Heinz Chili Sauce — 12 oz
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T vinegar
1 t salt
16 hamburger buns
Brown meats and drain fat, then add onions, celery and green pepper.
Cook slowly until veggies are tender but not brown.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer covered 30 minutes.
Makes 16 servings
CROCKPOT:
Brown meat and veggies as above, then add remaining
ingredients and pour into Crockpot. Cook low 8 hours or high 4 hours.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

2 Tbs chopped garlic
2 large green bell peppers
3 small onions
2 cups hamburger
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup rice
2 cups water
1 1/2 jars of spaghetti or marinara sauce

Cut peppers and onions (depending on how you like them) into large pieces. Add all ingredients in large cooking pot. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, then cover and reduce temperature to med-low and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Remember to stir often. You may also put this in a
crockpot on low for 4-5 hours.

You may need to add more water as it cooks- depending upon how thick or thin you like it. This is a very hearty dish that serves 6-7.

Salsa:

Serve with tortilla chips.
This recipe has been scaled to make: 20 servings

Ingredients:
20 large tomatoes, chopped
5 onion, chopped
2-1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
15 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon lime juice
5 tomatillo, diced (optional)
salt to taste
5 jalapeno pepper, minced
Directions:
1. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, tomatillo, and salt to taste. Mix well. Add 1/2 of the jalapeno pepper, and taste. If you desire your salsa with more of a kick, add the remaining 1/2 jalapeno. If you are satisfied with the salsa’s heat, do not add the remaining jalapeno pepper. Cover the salsa, and chill until ready to serve.

Another: Easy Beef Taco Skillet

Eggs For Breakfast Or Any Time

May 15, 2015

Eggs aren't just for breakfast, but it's a good start! I came across a little book I thought readers might be interested in, particularly those wanting more confidence in their egg cooking skills, as well as those who might think eggs are limited to over easy and scrambled. Oh no! Donna Leahy has an awesome book called Eggs for Breakfast: Delicious, Healthy Recipes to Jump-Start your Day: A Chef’s Guide to Cooking Eggs with Over 50 Easy-to-follow Recipes.

It’s more than just a cookbook. Did you know you should store eggs large end up? It helps the yolk remain centered. The egg labels are addressed, from organic to free range to pastured and more. The parts of the egg are addressed, impressive to me as this is often ignored. The only thing I noticed that seemed left out – French toast! That’s ok, because what’s included is good information, covering the basics for cooks just learning (or review and tips for those more advanced!).

Tips for awesome scrambled eggs are included, as well as soft cooked, poached, hard cooked and so much more. Baked eggs, coddled eggs, classic recipes…it’s all here. Quick breakfast ideas abound that are cheaper than the drive thru and little more time than it takes for a morning shower.

Explore the egg…dozens of different ways! This is a collection of recipes befitting our eggs…our hens would approve!

Bacon Jam

This bacon jam is included as part of the egg muffin recipe but is delicious served on toast with a wide array of egg dishes. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

1 1/2 pounds bacon, cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces, at room temperature

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Line a large baking sheet with 2 layers of paper towels and set aside. Add bacon to a large skillet (or use 5-6 quart cast iron Dutch oven) and heat over low. Cook the bacon, turning as needed, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is lightly browned all over, about 12-15 minutes. Use tongs to transfer the bacon to the baking sheet to drain. Allow to cool slightly. Finely chop bacon. Set aside.

Pour off all but about a tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. Discard the remaining fat or reserve for another use. Add the butter and heat until melted, about 1 minute. Add the onion to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the 1/2 cup water, vinegar, muscovado sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, allspice, thyme and black pepper, bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, for 2 minutes. Add the bacon and stir to combine.

Cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the liquid is almost completely evaporated and the mixure is brown and has a jam-like consistency, about 13-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the olive oil. Allow the bacon mixture into a sealable container and refrigerate for up to 4 weeks. Serve at room temperature or transfer to a pan and rewarm gently over low heat if desired.

Food Safety Is Not Going Away

April 7, 2015
Remember that greens and veggies, as well as chicken, can carry pathogens.

Remember that greens and veggies, as well as chicken, can carry pathogens.

Food safety is no joke. It’s not a joke to those who get sick, it’s not a joke to those trying to prevent consumers getting sick, from production to plate. Farmers, processors and the government inspections do not come into your home kitchen, the last stop to consumption. Can we do better? Some say yes.

Some say emphatically yes! Recently Ms. Christine Bruhn made some comments to Meatingplace.com – some may dismiss this as a “big food” thing. Don’t. For the safety of your family, your kids, those joining you for dinner, don’t dismiss that last link. This is not, as some think, a blame the consumer thing. This is a reality that food is not sterile, and keep the consumer from getting sick is good for everyone thing.

Many can tell who won last season’s Dancing With the Stars or what the latest box office movie is, or the latest from the Kardashian gossip, but miss on what’s in their own home.

What we consistently found is people have heard of salmonella, they know chicken is one of the sources of salmonella, and they know salmonella can make you really sick. And some say they have had salmonella. But seldom do they believe it is what happens at home. They believe it happens at a restaurant or at someone else’s house, but not at their house. There is a time delay. People generally believe what they ate in the last day or so is what made them sick. Salmonella takes more time. It’s not just what you ate yesterday, but what you ate three or four days ago. With some pathogens, such as listeria, it can take more than a month to manifest. – Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research, Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis

These pathogens are everywhere. They’re on bulk food and organic food alike. After all, in a strict sense, they are naturally occurring and organic. That doesn’t mean that it’s something we want on our plate! Proper cooking, proper handling, proper serving is important.

Undercooking is a larger problem than I had realized. We stuck the thermometer in and found 40 percent of our participants undercooked their chicken. It looks white and they think it is done.

Fifty-two percent of the people who barbecued or grilled their chicken were below 165 (degrees Fahrenheit). And the average was 18 degrees below. Even people who were frying or stir frying, 41 percent was undercooked, and it was undercooked by 14 degrees.

Even people using thermometers to verify doneness were undercooking. They are using dial thermometers, and some are as much as 40 degrees off. They did not realize that the thermometer needs to be calibrated. The recommended practice is you fill up a cup with ice and water. It should read 32 degrees Fahrenheit. There is a knob, and you use pliers and twist. You have to do that periodically. – Christine Bruhn

Many of these little things used to be taught in high school home economics classes. Times change, and such things are no longer considered important, until it affects your home. It should be much more important than celebrities and reality television!

Thanksgiving_ChickenThe good news is it’s not too late. If you’ve never had a home ec class, start ‘homeschooling’ and learning now! Proper kitchen habits can be learned! If you’re not sure, take a refresher and learn about safe kitchen habits. It’s too important of an issue to put off, and unlike that passing interest, it will affect you every day.

Learn about your food. Learn about preparation. Practice. Good nutrition, healthy food and safe habits don’t happen by accident, but food safety problems sure do.

Recently at a meeting of farmers market members, the point was made that while many are tired of talking about food safety, food safety is an issue that is not going away. We strive to do better, and need consumers to keep up!

Pssst. Guys…grill commandos…weekend warriors…make sure your skills are tip top before grilling season gets in full swing!

Take the Mystery Out of Pork

April 6, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve featured a book on here, but here’s one for pork fans. Pure Pork Awesomeness. Written by Kevin Gillespie and David Joachim, this takes a celebration of pork to a whole new – and delicious – level! With recipes from Spain, Scotland and beyond as well as the USA, it’s an awesome way to eat around the world and around the hog.

Hampshires are dark pigs with white belly bands.

Hampshires are dark pigs with white belly bands.

It’s a book for homesteaders, gourmet folks, hog fans and good food fans.

There’s the Good to Know tips and tricks where you learn extra things not only about bacon and ham but lard, salt pork, pigskin and more. The recipes are divided by the part of the pig it comes from, so shoulder recipes are grouped together, loin recipes, ribs, belly and so forth are together.

If I was going to be picky there’s an error on pig identification of some white pigs listed as Hampshire, but kudos for an attempt at connecting farm to fork! Of course a part of me is biased at seeing the good comments about heritage breeds. Certainly volume is needed to keep bacon and ham easy access for everyone, but I admit liking the old breeds to.

The authors delve into pork labels, from all-natural to pastured to locally grown. “No hormones: The Feds don’t permit using added hormones in any type of pork production (or poultry production, for that matter). Whether or not you see this label, pork does not contain added hormones.” Little facts like this remove the mystery that so often the media tries to raise.

Stories from the author’s use of the pork and recipes used are interesting, and there’s a lot of information packed in the “Good to Know About” sections. For example, regarding pork shoulder:

Full grown hogs weigh about 250 pounds. The shoulders of the animal support most of that weight. The shoulders are also physically smaller than the hams (the hind legs) so the shoulder muscles get worked even harder. The more a muscle is worked, the tougher it gets. Translation: Shoulder meat is tough meat. Since pork shoulder is so tough, it’s best for slow cooking methods like braising, slow roasting and smoking.

While I would point out a full grown hog is much bigger than 250 pounds, in the context of market hogs, the author is right that 250 pounds is when hogs will go to market. Other random tips from the book – don’t freeze pork loins.

Transglutaminase is also called meat glue,and that’s exactly what it does: It glues meat together in the absence of starch or other binders. It’s a harmless enzyme. Look for it online at shops such as modernistpantry.com

The recipes from around the world – well don’t say I didn’t warn you about finding a whole hog before reading this book! From Serrano Ham Croquettes to – oh where to start in the bacon and sausage sections! Yum. Yum and Yum.

If you love pork, if you’re learning, if you’re wanting to learn more about pork  here’s a book to check out. And a recipe to try. From the chops to jowls and ham hocks, learn to use the whole hog as our grandparents did, but in recipes fitting of today.

My Mom’s Pan-fried Pork Chops with Sawmill Gravy

4 boneless pork loin chops, cut from strip end, each about 3/4 inch thick and 5-6 ounces

kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 cup lard

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups chicken stock (page 26 of the book has a recipe)

Season both sides of the pork with salt and pepper and let them sit so they are nice and wet, about 15 minutes.

Place the flour, cayenne, garlic powder and 2 teaspoons salt in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine. Dip the pork chops one at a time into the flour mixture and shake off any excess. The chops should be completely but lightly coated. Reserve the flour mixture.

Add 1/4 inch depth of melted lard to a 12 inch cast iron skillet and place over high heat. When the lard begins to smoke, add a pinch of flour to the hot oil; it should ‘pop’ and turn brown when the oil is hot enough. Add the chops to the skillet in a single layer, leaving a little space between them, and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the sides start browning, about 3 minutes. Adjust the chops to make sure they are cooking evenly and when they are deep golden brown, after another minute or so, flip them and continue to fry until light golden brown on the second side, about 3 more minutes. The internal temperature should be 140* to 145*F (The temperature will rise a few degrees as the meat rests.)

Remove the chops from the pan, place on a plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Take the pan off the heat and, using a large spoon, carefully tilt the skillet and spoon out the excess fat and discard. Leave enough fat in the skillet to completely cover the bottom, about 1/4 cup. With the skillet still off the heat, whisk the reserved flour into the fat, making sure all the flour is completely absorbed and dissolved into the fat. Return the pan to medium-low heat and whisk constantly until the mixture is golden, about 3 minutes. Continue whisking and add the cream and chicken stock until thick and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Stir any juices that have collected from the chops into the gravy and add the chops back to the skillet, turning to completely coat with gravy.

Good to know – Four steps to perfect pan gravy: 1) scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan; that’s your flavor base right there. 2) stir enough flour into the hot fat for the mixture to look like wet sand, and whisk the flour constantly to completely dissolve it and prevent lumps. 3) Cook this mixture, the roux, long enough to cook out the flour taste but not so long that the fat separates back out from the flour. About 5 minutes will do it here. 4) Add cold or room temperature liquid to the hot roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.

What If You Don’t Want GMO Apples, Potatoes?

March 24, 2015

800pxFruits_veggiesRecently the news has been plentiful about the approval of GMO potato and apple varieties. Many folks are in full panic, outrage or combat mode. None of these are going to help your food choices, whether that is lowest cost, GMO or nonGMO or organic.

A few comments from a Facebook page of the NonGMO project:

The FDA is owned by the Big Ag and Big Pharma …I wouldn’t take anything they say or recommend as truth or in my best interest…ever!!

So if they’re not labeled, it’s not safe to buy or eat any apples. Sure is hard to feed your family healthy, safe food. Thank goodness for local farmers’ markets.

So an entire department that was developed to insure food safety is tossed because they won’t do what some want? So if the FDA issues a food recall due to allergens, and you have that allergen (or your child) then you ignore it because they can’t be truth? The number of recalls from which no one got sick is incredible. The tons of food and if 50 people get sick it’s headlines. Certainly that is serious, but it’s 50 out of 310million. Life altering? I’m not so sure.

Every one of us have food choices that are overwhelming to think about. Do you want to buy direct, farmer’s market, grow it, grocery store, super center, restaurant? Fresh, dried, canned, frozen, prepared to reheat or served? We have brand name and generic, vegan, vegetarian, regular food, and many other descriptions. Gluten free. Then comes the GMO discussion.

If you don’t want GMOs that is a choice. Is it fear of things said online? Do you feel after looking at both sides honestly, that it’s true? Are you willing to overlook genetic status for cost, or does it depend on the type of GMO? Some people decide that the GMO issue is mostly in food not for people, or in small amounts of human food so it’s not a concern. Others decide that they’re still not comfortable with it, and want to avoid it. Some folks will choose some things nonGMO and others are less of a concern.

We have those choices. Be informed about what GMOs are, and for your own peace of mind, decide where that factors in with your food choices. There are no commercially available GMO tomatoes, peppers, wheat, meats.

We learn about a computer, a car, an appliance in our home. Shouldn’t we learn more about the food we eat – food brought into our home every day?

FDA Problems and Solutions

March 23, 2015

Many folks are frustrated with the FDA – what they approve and what they do. An example of this is a recent comment:

fda is just a lobby group for agrichemicals, pharma groups anymore. needs to be disbanded and reformed with no one allowed that has any ties to these groups allowed in upper-level positions. also no money/funding from any outside sources. such a clear conflict of interest.

What if there was no FDA?

600px-Swiss_cheese_cubesWithout FDA there are no recalls for food items that have incorrect labels, possible food allergy contamination and other food safety issues.

Without the FDA there is no longer rules of what can and cannot be used as ingredients in food. There’s no regulation of the drug industry. There’s no advice or guidance on medical devices or radiation emitting products. When you or your child or family member needs a blood donor, there’s no one to screen and test that it’s as safe as it can be. There is no regulation for cosmetics and pet foods – melamine anyone?

Are we willing to throw out the good things done because of approval that some disagree with?

“By the time Sinclair’s book appeared, Americans had been fretting about food safety and debating food and drug regulation for more than fifty years.” Maureen Ogle – In Meat We Trust

The Pure Food and Drug Act was signed in 1906. That puts it the mid 1800s when people started clamoring for food regulation – which has done nothing but increase. Now…now let’s throw it all away because the agency doesn’t do what *I* want?

Shall we, then, also toss out labels, warnings, recalls when food contains allergens? Shall we look the other way when truly harmful things are put into food, because no one is regulating it any more? Many are upset at FDA approval of genetically engineered foods – but does that mean in abolishing the agency there are no standards?

With some wanting to push for legally doing away with such agencies, think carefully before agreeing to such things. They were put in place for a reason, they have specific jobs to do.

And the consequence of having those things not done affect millions.

 

Liquid Irish Treats

March 16, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATis more than Ireland that is green in the middle of march! Most of the recipes here at the blog are of the edible kind, but here’s a special treat in liquid form, just in time for dressing in your finest green and talking in an Irish accent (many poorly but forgiven!).

Ireland has brought the Irish potato, as well as many contributions to the agriculture world, food and so much more.

And what’s Ireland without music?! Celtic Thunder knows a little about the Irish musical influence, posted here in remembrance of George Donaldson and for a touch of Ireland.

Here are some Irish treats, in liquid form from Steven Earles, of Eastside Distilling.

“With each successive year, consumers are getting more sophisticated in their beverage choices – they want quality and variety,” says Earles, whose company experiments with a variety of flavors in its drinks, such as Cherry Bomb Whiskey and Below Deck Coffee Rum.

“These days, women, for example, make up a much greater share of the whiskey market, which experienced an increase in sales by half a billion dollars from 2013 to 2014. Much of this new market is looking for a new direction.”

•  Dropkick Murphy Coffee: Inspired from the popular Celtic punk band, this feisty coffee has the buzz and kick many enjoy in kicking off an extended night of celebration.

1 ½ oz. Burnside Bourbon
½ oz. Below Deck Coffee Rum
2 tsp. vanilla simple syrup
Coffee
Whip Cream
Ground cinnamon

In a coffee glass add Burnside Bourbon, Coffee Rum, and vanilla simple syrup. Fill glass with coffee leaving about 1/4 room. Top with whip cream and then a few dashes of ground cinnamon. You can garnish with lucky clovers!

•  Blarney Stone Kiss: A popular attraction in Ireland, the Blarney Stone gives those who kiss it – which requires an acrobatic, back-bending approach – the gift of the gab. The following shooter gives you the same …

1 oz. Burnside Bourbon
½ oz. Cherry Bomb
2 tsp. lime juice
Lime wedge

Add all ingredients to a shaker, chill hard, and serve in a shot glass. Garnish with lime wedge. Since most people won’t be able to kiss the Blarney Stone on St. Patrick’s day, make sure to take this shot and then “kiss” (bite) the lime wedge after.

•  Adult Shamrock Shake: Many of us have fond memories as a child enjoying the McDonald’s Shamrock shake on St. Patty’s Day. Consider an adult version.

1.5 oz. Portland Potato Vodka
1 oz. Peppermint Bark Liqueur
.5 oz. Irish Cream
½ scoop vanilla ice cream
1 scoop mint chocolate chip ice cream

Add all ingredients in a blender a cup of ice. Blend for 10 seconds and serve immediately.

•  Irish Mule: There’s a Moscow mule, made with vodka, and a Mexican mule, made with Tequila – now, here’s an Irish take …

1 ¼ oz. Burnside Bouron
2 tsp. mint simple syrup
Ginger beer
Lime juice
Mint leaves

In a tumbler over ice add Burnside Bourbon, mint simple syrup, a splash of lime juice, then fill with ginger beer. Stir together and garnish with mint leaves.

•  Emerald Elixir: Who says you need a thick and heavy Guinness to raise a glass to St. Patrick? Why not something light, green and refreshing to attract the luck of the Irish?

1 ¼ oz. Portland Potato Vodka
½ oz. Midori
Lemonade
Soda water

In a tumbler over ice add Portland Potato Vodka and Midori. Fill to the top with half lemonade and half soda water.

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