Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Salmon with Curried Creamed Spinach

I'm a new devotee of spinach. Like most kids, I hated the stuff when I was growing up, and it took quite a long while for me to acquire a taste for it as I reached adulthood. Even then, in the early years, I'd only eat it raw, as a salad or greens on a sandwich.
Somehow, though, about the time I hit middle age (that vague time frame when a person's metabolism shifts to put on the brakes, but too often fails to tell the appetite), I realized I should be eating more of it, even when the fresh stuff is not so pretty (ah, the memories of dread!). Thus, I have learned to enjoy the frozen stock, and creamed, curried is my favorite way to consume it. I've made it with a little more chicken broth, so I could have a nice sauce to serve it over rice, but for my parents, who are still not the biggest fans of spinach or curries, I've helped it by serving it with a tasty slab of salmon… The Bat can't resist a good bit of that pink fishy goodness.

So this is for The Bat.

Popeye would be proud…
Salmon with Curried Creamed Spinach

Ingredients:
2 10-ounce packages of frozen spinach, thawed, and some of the liquid gently pressed out
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs fresh (or frozen, thawed) salmon sides or filets, skin removed
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375º F.

(If you are cooking with raw spinach or raw mixed greens, you will want to stem & coarsely chop, then, in a large frying pan on high heat, quickly wilt the greens, then allow them to cool in a strainer, lightly pressing excess liquids out, before starting the rest of the stages).

In a large, oven-safe frying pan over medium-low heat, cook onions in oil until transparent. Add curry powder, chicken broth, and garlic, and stir until evenly distributed and curry powder is dissolved. Stir in heavy cream. Allow to simmer over low heat about 10 minutes, until it becomes very fragrant. Remove from heat. 

Combine lemon juice and melted butter.

Place salmon filets on top of the spinach mixture. Pour lemon-butter over the top of fish, allowing to drizzle onto the spinach. Lay slices of lemon over the top, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in middle of oven about 30 minutes (as soon as the spinach has been boiling and the fish turns opaque). Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 5 minutes before serving. 


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Salmon Scramble, or, Eggs You Can Pretend Are Naughty

I like scrambled eggs for supper. It's near the top of my list of comfort foods. My weakness, over the years, had been the traditional pile-on-the-bacon-and-cheddar scramble, but I've needed to cut out aged cheeses, and Pop and The Bat are looking at reduced fat and reduced sodium, respectively, so we tried a change-up.

This is really very simple, too. All you need is eggs, salmon, butter (or if you're cutting down on the saturated fats, canola or olive oil. I like using a wee bit of butter in the grander supply of canola, so I get the flavor of the butter in what I cook, but that's just the kid in me whose fondest memories involve a farm or a farm community. I likes me buttah.)

Oh, yes. You'll definitely need a frying pan, and, if you're as lazy as I am, a blender of some sort, too, but the blender is entirely optional, if you like whipping the heck out of a few eggs with a whisk or a fork.

You'll also need about fifteen minutes. 

And an appetite.

That's not a lot to demand, is it?

And, if you want to adapt up or down, on this recipe, think in these terms: 4 ounces of fish per person, and 2 eggs per person, plus one extra "for the pot" for each third person (1 person – 2 eggs; 2 people – 4 eggs; 3 people – 7 eggs; 4 people – 9 eggs; and so on).

Fish, eggs, gluten-free buttered toast, and green beans from Pop's garden. Life is good.

Salmon Scramble

Ingredients:

12 ounces of fresh (or frozen, thawed) salmon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
7 large eggs
2 Tablespoons melted butter (or 1/4 teaspoon butter melted into canola oil)
salt and pepper to taste
butter and/or oil for cooking

Directions: 

In a large sauté pan or frying pan on low heat, simmer salmon in a small amount of oil until the pieces turn opaque, turning once or twice with a spatula.

Scramble the heck out of your eggs until they are frothy, then mix in butter (or butter mixture), blend completely, and pour over the salmon in the pan. continue to cook over low heat  until the eggs are almost completely cooked – just a little runny. 

Remove from heat, stir a couple more times, and let stand in the pan for about a minute, to let the eggs completely set up.

Serve with your favorite toast and a colorful salad and/or vegetable side.

Almost done…just a little patience needed.
And be sure to set aside a little for your wee beasties, if you have them. Even if you have a cat like mine, who doesn't much care for fish. 
WAAAANT! 
She likes scrambled eggs a little too much, though.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Cornbread Bites



















Ingredients:
1 cup corn flour (masa harina)
1 cup corn meal
3 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large or extra large eggs
3/4 cup yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup melted butter (or oil)
3/4 cup buttermilk
butter for pans



Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.




Thursday, October 30, 2014

Little Green Monsters

Having a ball
I had the pleasure of the company of a young gentleman, today. Ilex, the younger brother of Asteroidae, came to play here after school. And, since there was a remote chance that he would be attending a Cub Scout party this evening, we decided to prepare some treats.

Ilex is still in middle school, and therefore with limited skills in the kitchen, so we went for the quick and simple -- puffed rice treats, in Halloween style. You probably have your own favorite recipe for those, often using the big brand name products. I find that, when stuffing the faces of already-sugar-saturated boys, spending the extra cash for a big, international label isn't really all that productive.  I used stuff from discount chains.

All I needed was crisped rice cereal, mini marshmallows, butter, some green decorative sugar, cupcake decoration eyes, and a gooey red filling (ordinarily I'd have used a can of cherry pie filling to make a heart amid the gruesome squidgy blood, but we made do with the raspberry syrup I had on hand, and thus, no organs).

The process is simple, too, especially if you have a handy-dandy ice cream scoop.


Crisped Rice Little Green Monsters

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
6 cups crisped rice cereal
1 can cherry pie filling (or other red, sticky, syrupy stuff – we used raspberry syrup, but you can also use strawberry or other red fruit jelly, thinned slightly)

cake/cupcake decorative eyes*
green decorative sugar in a wide bowl

Directions:
In a saucepan or a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Add the marshmallows, heat until completely melted (stovetop, it will take a few minutes. In the microwave, no more than 90 seconds, or, until the marshmallows expand to about twice their usual size). Stir until completely mixed, then add the rice cereal. Stir again until completely mixed. 

Half-fill the scoop with the cereal mix, press it up around the sides until you have a sturdy bowl-shape. Flip it out from the scoop, then fill the cavity with a cherry and some of the syrup (or, just your red syrup, if that's what you have). 

Sorry the pic is fuzzy. You should see the stickum on the phone.
a batch of tops

Take another hemisphere of the cereal mixture, press it over the top of the filled "bowl", and carefully compress it until it holds together and makes a firm seal. 

Squidged into a nice, firm ball of naughtiness, with only slight syrup bleed-out (fixed!)
Press a pair of pre-made sugar eyes into it, then roll it in green decorative sugar.

Repeat until you have used up all the mixture.

If you have to transport them, place each one in a mini baking cup, or even a muffin tin, so they don't stick together when they travel.

Try to feel absolutely no guilt at eating something which looks at you like this:

Admit it. You find me irresistible.


For what it's worth, we made 24 treats, start to finish and boxed to go, in less than 45 minutes, even with distractions.



*If you don't have candy eyes, you may opt to cut a few mini-marshmallows into 4 or 8 pieces, stick them on, and draw pupils on them with food coloring and a toothpick.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bringing Sweet to the Heat: Candied Ginger


The Bat is not the biggest fan of ginger, unless it's in a cookie with the word "snap" in its name. But when those cookies are on the menu, she's as goofy about our home-baked ones as Pop is... largely because not only are they crisp, like a good ginger snap should be, but because they bite back. I like to bring the heat. And my new favorite tool for that is homemade candied ginger.

Making the stuff is pretty straightforward, but you do rather need an accurate scale, a kitchen mandoline (or a lot of skill at slicing evenly, repeatedly),  and some real work time -- set aside a good two hours for the process. 

And ventilation. You will probably want to run a fan or open a window while you work with this. I love the smell of ginger, raw or cooked, but as it boils, it can be a bit overwhelming (it's not quite as bad as trying to dehydrate ghost peppers, but use caution, nonetheless).

Beyond that, it's just water and equal parts peeled fresh ginger and granulated sugar.




Candied Ginger

Ingredients:

5 cups water (about 1.2 liters)
Approximately 1 lb.  (0.453 kg) fresh ginger, peeled
Approximately 1 lb. granulated sugar

Directions:

Starting with a nice firm, sleek, non-wrinkly, large "hand" of ginger weighing a little over a pound. Peel it (if you're not sure how best to strip ginger nekkid, see this). 

Pour 5 cups water into a medium saucepan. Using your kitchen mandoline, slice ginger across the grain into 1/8-inch (about 3 mm) "coins", and place directly into the water. Cover, and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until ginger becomes somewhat tender, about 35-45 minutes.

While it is boiling, coat a cooling rack with nonstick spray, then set it over a jelly roll pan (sided cookie sheet) lined with parchment. 

When the ginger is softened, drain it in a colander, retaining the water.* 

At this point, you will need to weigh your ginger. Measure out an equal weight of sugar, and put that and the cooked ginger into the saucepan, adding 1/4 cup (.06 liters) water.

Again on medium-high heat, bring the ginger to a boil, and allow it to continue, uncovered, until the moisture is mostly cooked away (about 20 minutes), stirring often.

During the final stages, you will want to keep a close eye on it, as it goes very quickly from this

Mmm…juicy
to this.
Mmmm…crumbly.
When it reaches the dry, crumbly state, immediately remove it from heat and spread it out on the cooling rack which rests above parchment.  Allow it to cool, store in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to six months.



And, do you see all that crumbly sugar all over it, and falling down between the bars of the rack? Save it in another airtight container… you'll want to use it on top of cookies or pies, or to drop into a cup of tea. 


Or to nosh on when nobody is looking.

It's gingery, after all.


*The remaining water can be frozen in an ice cube tray and the cubes added later to tea – or other beverages – for a little zip.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Recipe Card: Grandma Heitmann's Pfeffernusse, and Variation on a Theme

The Bat's favorite dunker. Once upon a time, the family recipe used so much flour, comparatively, that it rivaled some masonry for sturdiness. We used this recipe, once, to make a gingerbread house which would not collapse, no matter how abused it got during the entire holiday season. Even the heavy-duty Kitchen-Aid mixer couldn't handle the last stages of mixing the dough, so it had to be stirred by hand with a very strong-handled wooden spoon.

But when we dunked these little gems into hot cider or coffee, we knew Christmas was upon us.
top line gives instructions: 10 min.  375º 
By following this recipe one can make a great honkin' heap of cookies, one tablespoonful at a time, shaped into balls or rolled out to 1/4- to 1/3
-inch thickness and cut into your favorite shapes. I think we made about 200 of those walnut-sized jawbreakers at a time. In later years, the Bat would often toss at least half the dough into the freezer, so we could continue to have fresh warm cookies for the next few months.

More recently, though, we've reduced our intake of coffee, cider, and other beverages worthy of dunking. This makes it hard to get our teeth through the traditional spicy stones. Therefore, The Bat adapted the formula (and halved it) so that we could eat the treats just like any other cookies, should the need arise. Of course, they're still awesome when dunked, but now mere mortals can partake of these fine treats without damage to enamel or jaw, when just snitched from the cookie jar. 

And, they do make pretty nice decorations on a Christmas tree, if, when you roll the dough out and cut it with your shaped cookie cutters, you drill a hole near the top at least 1/4 inch in diameter (through which you can thread a ribbon or string when the cookies cool). They resemble gingerbread cookies in color, and you can decorate them the same way, but they're more durable, and they don't really go stale, even when left out in the air, for several days. For any longer, though, if you want to use them as edible ornaments, seal them in plastic before hanging them up, or give them to the birds and squirrels when the tree comes down.





Grandma Heitmann's Pfeffernusse (modern, kinder-to-teeth variation)

Ingredients:

1 pt dk Karo Syrup [dark syrup]
1 c sugar [granulated]
1/2 lb butter [1 cup, unsalted]
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbs baking soda, dissolved in boiling water or coffee [just enough hot liquid to actually dissolve the soda – about 1 Tbs.]
1 tsp allspice 
3/4 cup ground pecans
8 c. all-purpose flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375º F.

In a large bowl, cream syrup, sugar, and butter.  Add eggs, soda liquid, allspice, and ground pecans. Mix in 6 cups of flour, then gradually add in the last 2 cups of flour. The dough will be very thick and heavy, so you will probably need to stir it in by hand, at the very last. 

Using a 1-inch scoop [or a tablespoon], drop in balls onto cookie sheet.  [You can instead roll out and cut into shapes, but will need to adjust baking time – watch for the edges to turn color.] Bake 11 minutes.  Cool on rack. 

Makes about 8 dozen walnut-sized cookies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Recipe Card: Lemon Squares

Every busy cook/baker/chef has a collection of favorite recipes. Back in the day, we wimmenfolk had boxes or books in which we tucked cards and cut-out pages from trusted sources, as well as, occasionally, from the pages of newspapers or magazines. These days, with so many of us living in limited spaces, or living a transient existence, it's hard to keep amassing those recipe cards, so we turn to the new media – to blogs, for example. 

Still, there are some of us who live the life of transition. The Bat and I, even having divested ourselves of several hundred lovely cookbooks (donated to the local Friends of the Library, for loan or sale as they saw fit), still have several hundred hard-copy volumes in our collection. And, even with all that, the treasure is not actually any particular book, but the stuff we wrote down for our own regular (mostly seasonal) use. I filled three cheap blank books with my tightest scrawls, so as to avoid losing family recipes.

The Bat had a little spiral notebook of cards for her most popular cookies. Somehow, it spent three years in purgatory, beyond our reach, beyond our ability to find it.

Then, in trying to fiddle with an electrical plug behind a six-foot bookcase, I happened upon that old spiral notecard book. Before I handed her treasure over to her, though, I took a few snapshots, so we'd have the recipes on record the next time disaster strikes...and it will. It always does.

I reckon I shouldn't publish all of them in one blog post, though, because then, I will have lost only a single small element when I screw something up online...and I will. I always do.

It's how I learn.

Since the cards are in Battish kitchen English (aka Mom's shorthand), as I post each one, I'll try to make sure to fill in any communication gaps there might be. Any explanatory stuff [in brackets] is my own, not from the Bat, so keep any negative comments about that directed at the snarky editor, not her long-suffering kitchen instructor.

So, without any further fuss, I present (wait. Play a fanfare in your head. This is worthy of a fuss)....


Lemon Squares

In case the picture isn't all that clear for you, the recipe goes like this:

Ingredients for cookie base:*

3 c. flour [that would be all-purpose flour]
1 1/2 c. shortening [I like using butter, but you can use your favorite solid shortening, if you lean that way]
3/4 c. conf. sugar [confectioner's, or powdered sugar]

Directions for cookie base:

Preheat oven to 350º F.
Blend well, and press into jelly roll pan [cookie sheet with sides, approx. 13"x18"]
Bake 20 minutes. 

[While that is baking – about halfway through this baking process – assemble the filling.]

Ingredients for filling:

6 eggs [large or extra large]
3 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. lemon juice

Directions for filling:

Beat together well [until slightly frothy. If you're energetic, this can be done by hand. If you're me, a regular hand-held mixer will take only a very short time]
Pour over crust & bake 20-25 [minutes] more. DO NOT overbake. Filling puffs while baking but flattens upon cooling. 

[Many other recipes recommend lightly dusting the top with powdered sugar. The Bat & I like our lemon bars with a tad less sweetness, a little more zip.]


*I like to add finely grated zest of one lemon to the dough for the base. But if you're not inclined to do so, it's still not a bad idea to zest the lemons before juicing them, then store that zest in an airtight container in your freezer, for some future recipe. It always seems, to me, to be a pity to waste something as lovely and aromatic as citrus peels.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Autumn Carrot Salad, or Life in the Slaw Lane



Today we had weather everybody else I know would describe as "lovely", but I, being the grouch that I am, found just a tad too warm. The whole week has been sunny and 82º Fahrenheit (28º Celsius – or, if you're acquainted with EclectEcon and his friends and neighbors, the "C" is for "Canadian"). While normal mortals like this sort of mildness of climate, I've been looking forward to the chill of winter, when I have really good excuses to stay in the kitchen and bake.

Meanwhile, tonight we had our usual Friday supper crowd – The Bat, Pop, and their best friends, Bill and Jackie. Earlier this month, I'd decided The Bat and I had become too complacent in our dinner planning, falling back often on bratwurst, or chili, or an easy roast. And, even though I have nothing against any of those things, I do like to shake things up a little, once in a while.

We had some nice tuna steaks I'd picked up at a Big Box Store Which Shall Remain Nameless, and I decided to do them up relatively lightly, but with some kick, so I worked a variation on this StayFitCentral recipe, based on (a) the fresh ingredients we had in the house, and (b) people's tastes and tolerances, and, when cooked, I served them up on a bed of fresh baby spinach leaves. Alongside that, I cut wedges of the spuds Pop dug from his garden, slathered them in olive oil, Mexican hot chili powder, and kosher salt, then popped them in for an "oven fry" treatment. I steamed a batch of Pop's garden green beans, then sprinkled lemon juice on them before serving...but there was one more thing I needed to make the meal (not counting dessert, which Jackie and Bill usually bring).

I needed a proper salad. Well, I needed a slaw. Especially since we had a gallon ice cream bucket half-filled with freshly-dug carrots from (you guessed it!) Pop's garden.

Bat originally proposed doing a straight grated-carrot-mayonnaise-and-pineapple slaw, but that just seemed too heavy, alongside all the other dishes, so I played a little bit, until I had what we all agreed was the ideal balance.

The advantage to this slaw is, it needs to sit and marinate at least an hour before serving, so you can fix it first and forget about it until all the other work is done and the table is fully set. Plus, you can make the dressing a couple of days in advance, if you wish (it's also not a bad marinade for pork, if you want to give it a try!).  I understand there are also shortcut packages at the supermarket, of grated carrots and shredded cabbage, so you can go there, if you have time, money, and inclination. But it's very simple, especially if you have a food processor handy.  If not, a good grater is a "must", and no other special equipment is necessary.

It's also very seasonal – the best cider is usually available in this area for a few weeks, starting mid-September, from a small family business. Sure, you can use the store-boughten stuff that's pasteurized until it's little more than a cloudy apple juice, but why not give a local farm or co-op a boost, where possible?

Anyway, here's to Life in the Slaw Lane.

Autumn Carrot Salad

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons your favorite brand honey mustard
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups your favorite local apple cider

1/4 head cabbage, chopped for slaw (about 3 cups)
2 medium-small tart apples (I like Jonathans), peeled, cored, and grated coarsely
4 or 5 large carrots, grated coarsely (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup dried cranberries


Directions: 

In a half-pint jar, combine the honey mustard, cider vinegar, and apple cider. Put lid on tightly, and shake until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Chill.

In a large bowl or a gallon zipper bag, mix together chopped cabbage, grated apple, grated carrots and dried cranberries. Pour dressing over this, stir or mix completely, and set in refrigerator to marinate at least 1 hour.

Serve chilled, ideally on a bed of fresh spinach or kale.



Note: If you really want this slaw to "pop" in your mouth, make it a full day in advance. The dried cranberries become tender and slightly sweeter, and all the flavors fuse into a truly zesty experience! (Like chili and spaghetti, it's better on the second day.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Awesome, Easy, Most Decadent Brownies You'll Ever Experience (Gluten-Free and from a Mix!)

It's a cause for celebration that Aldi has started carrying gluten-free products in their baking section. Especially nice: their brownie mix can easily pass for regular, fudgy, somewhat gooey, gluten-filled dark brownies.

And, they can be dressed up so very easily, to make the kind of brownies you spend lots of money for, at those chi-chi little bakeries.


Oh, trust me. You don't need to add anything to the new line of gluten free baking mixes from Aldi, but if you're of the school of "don't use paint straight from the tube," you can create something almost criminally yummy.  All you need is the mix (and the eggs, butter, and water it calls for), plus 1/2 cup each of coarsely chopped toasted pecans, coarsely chopped dried tart cherries, and semisweet chocolate mini chips.

Follow the instructions on the box, to make the brownie batter. Stir in the nuts, cherries, and chips, pour into brownie pan, and bake as directed on the box. 

It's that simple, and they're this sinful:


Ain't misbehaving. No, really. I ain't. Well, not much, anyway.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Still working on the components for a birthday cake, I needed a plaque upon which to write the birthday wishes.  I had considered doing a second batch of the chocolate sugar cookies, but I had run out of room in the refrigerator and freezer, and the dough for those required lots of room in both. Instead, I went for something I knew my mother would help me eat, so I wouldn't pack on more pounds (after having earned my 9-inch waist shrinkage this past two-year span). Needless to say, shortbread was a fine option, and very forgiving when one makes it with gluten-free flours.  (I use Bob's Red Mill GF All-Purpose Flour, but Bob's Red Mill also, now, has a GF 1:1 Baking Flour which has a character very much like the wheat-based AP flour)

In case you find shortbread cookies a little on the dry side (it depends upon my mood…and probably some sort of hormonal thing) you can easily frost these with your favorite frosting or icing. I topped the big cookie with my chocolate royal icing, and put the letters on it using wetted meringue powder, painted on with a brush, and then sprinkled with colored sugar.




Tender and Light Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2/3 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or your preferred GF all-purpose flour)
pinch kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325º F. (165º C.).

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or nonstick silicone sheet, ungreased.

In a medium or large mixing bowl, cream the butter (whip it up until it's light and fluffy). Continue to beat and gradually add in the confectioner's sugar, keeping it light and fluffy. At slow speed, mix in cocoa powder, flour, and salt.

When completely mixed, pat into a thick disc and wrap tightly in plastic, chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, to stiffen and temper the dough for shaping.

Remove from refrigerator, place on silicone sheet or parchment, lay a sheet of plastic over the top (it will keep the dough from sticking to fingers or rolling pin), and roll or pat dough to a minimum of 1/4 inch, or a maximum, if you're feeling wild and crazy, of 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into shapes (I like the easy solution: take a large knife and cut the cookies into bars, about 1 inch by 3 inches. But, if you're ambitious, cut them into fancier shapes with actual cookie cutters). If your cookies are on the thicker side, pierce them each a couple times with a fork.

Place about an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on rack.