Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nothing Exciting

Really, nothing exciting.  Just made a batch of chicken stock as I was all out.  Also, I've got a batch of yogurt doing its thing.  My last batch didn't work again, not sure if there wasn't enough yogurt left to start the next batch or if it was too old.  Regardless, I bought new starter so this one should be just fine. I'm just itching for spring to really settle in and the plants to start growing again!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Minestrone, now with Orca Beans!

Soaked and cooked, before going in the soup
Calypso, aka Orca, beans are just so beautiful.  I can never resist buying them when I see them, but then I end up not using them because I so rarely cook beans.  I must be experiencing a form of spring cleaning because I'm feeling like I need to clean out my pantry and my freezer to make room for new foods.  Last night I set a pound of the beans to soak and today made a double batch of minestrone soup.  I used 3 pints of vegetable stock and 1 of chicken stock, and all of the bean broth, and am canning 7 pints of soup.  There's still plenty in the pot for eating over the next day or so.
Mise en place

I'm now out of chicken stock and down to my last 2 pints of turkey stock; I guess I will need to make more chicken stock very soon.  There is also another pound of Orca beans to play with!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Duck Soup

Did I mention that my husband roasted a few ducks on Saturday?  Well, I used the leftovers to make a pretty decent duck soup.  No turducken this time, though, as I generally only cook a turkey once a year.  For this one I made stock with the duck bones, onion skins/ends, salt and a bay leaf.  After that, I made a basic mirepoix, then added the duck livers and sauteed them as well.  This was combined with the stock and the leftover duck meat.  Once it had cooked for a while, I added a cup of farro.  For spices, this one had salt, pepper and winter savory.

While eating it last night, the 12 year old found a piece of the liver and asked me what it was.  Trying not to say anything that might make the 8 year old stop eating was challenging.  We resorted to sign language, the 12 year old got the message and other did not.  Don't ask what's in it.  Just eat.

This morning I am canning the leftovers.  5 pints in the pressure canner for 75 minutes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Birthday Fondue

I had to take about 8 photos before I got the drop at the right time!
In previous years I have made a chocolate cake of one sort or another for my husband's birthday.  This year it seemed like a good idea to try something different.  We hadn't had fondue in a while so I thought that might be a nice change.  I made a chocolate pound cake using this recipe which was the perfect density for dipping (and staying on the fondue forks).  I also bought strawberries and marshmallows but the marshmallows were just overkill so we didn't open them.  The fondue was a simple ganache with milk chocolate, cream, butter and vanilla.  (Heat 1 c. cream to boiling, pour over 1 c. milk chocolate chips, whisk, add 1 tsp. vanilla and 2 T. cold butter, whisk.)

For dinner, my husband roasted a couple of ducks and I made a mixed rice dish and green beans for sides.  Plus we rendered another 3.5 pints of fat.  I've been using the duck fat in biscuits, which are just plain awesome.  It's handy stuff to have around.  After all that yummy ducky goodness I have the fixings for a batch of soup which I'll make at some point soon.  Maybe I'll actually can something while I'm at it.

Two years ago it was 80 degrees this week.  Our yard was a riot of edible weeds.  This year it's cold, and grey, and not a single sprig of anything.  And we're expecting a big storm in 2 days.  So, no fresh pestos, no salad garnishes. Not yet, anyway!

Friday, March 14, 2014


This is something I've been meaning to make for a while.  I've been making yogurt for well over a year, but for some reason I've been hesitant to make skyr.  Not entirely sure why.  When we were last in Iceland, the 8 year old ate some as a dessert, with chocolate chips, and declared it fabulous.  It was fabulous.  It IS fabulous.  So says the same 8 year old after just tasting today's first batch.

I used this recipe, a gallon of organic skim milk, and a little bit of the rennet I had from the queijo fresco.  In the beginning it's just like making regular yogurt, but I must admit I've never had to ladle whey off my yogurt before.  Then it sat overnight in the fridge in some cheesecloth to drain and ended up something with the consistency of clotted cream.  That's skyr.

In a blender, I put a handful of blueberries, a tablespoon of triple berry jam, and about a cup of skyr.  I did not add any liquid, which made blending harder but made the final consistency thicker, more of what I remembered.  This, topped with some chocolate chips, was my recreation of that much appreciated dessert.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Finally, A Day Off

Usually, I'm a pretty busy person.  Lately, though, the degree of busy has been raised exponentially.  I'm not sure why.  I am working basically the same amount, but I seem to be home less overall or, when I am, I just can't get the energy to do much more than the basics - laundry, grocery shopping, getting simples meals on the table.  I can't figure it out.  So the one thing that has really suffered in all this is my cooking-hobby time.  That's why there hasn't been anything canned in a long time, and I haven't baked any bread or made pasta or anything.  I have managed to make yogurt on a semi-regular basis.  That's about it.

This week I don't have any shifts, which is a welcome change.  The reason I don't have any shifts is that both kids have concerts this week.  One is in the orchestra and one is in the band and of course their concerts and rehearsals are on different days.  It made it easier for me to just not work this week.  I still have to go in for meetings and stuff but that's during the day so I will be home in time for all the important things.  One of the advantages of the shift work I do is that as long as I reach my quota for clinical hours worked by the end of the year, I'm OK.  If I want to take time off, I have to bunch all my shifts up into a shorter period of time.  I'll be doing that even more this spring because I really want to take more time off in the summer.  I'm already ahead by quite a bit.

Since this week is going to be framed by concerts, not a bad thing at all, mind you, I'm getting a lot of cooking done today so we will have plenty to eat on the days when I won't have time.  Today I made a lasagna that we will eat tomorrow.  I'm currently making a pot of chicken soup for tonight and will make a batch of homemade macaroni and cheese as well.  I have a plan to turn the leftovers from a roasted pork shoulder into burritos for Wednesday.  Hopefully the avocados will be ripe by then!  I think that's enough for the next 4 days, don't you?

One last little tidbit of info - in the chicken soup is a bulb of celeriac, from the farm share.  Yes, the farm share that ended in October.  Celeriac lasts a long time.  I still have a few turnips as well, but I think I'll use them another time.  Maybe the next time I have a couple of days off.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Limited Ingredients, Small Kitchen

We just got back from skiing for several days.  It's become an annual tradition for school vacation week.  Five of us (sometimes more) share a condo with a small kitchen.  It's always a little iffy about how well stocked the kitchen is in terms of pots and pans, sugar, spices, and utensils, but we make do.  Making our own meals saves us so much time and money and then we know what we're getting and that we're going to like it.  Generally, we go grocery shopping for the whole week before we get anywhere near the resort, figuring (correctly) that the groceries get more expensive as we get closer.  I don't usually plan meals that far in advance but, for this, it's necessary.  Generally there isn't an outdoor grill, so everything has to be made in the oven or on the stovetop.  Here are some of the go-to meals:

spaghetti or some sort of pasta with sauce made from lamb, garlic and cilantro with a salad;

burrito night, which involves ground meat, enchilada sauce, shredded cheese, guacamole (basically avocado, cilantro, and garlic - see how efficient that is?), sour cream, rice, salsa and a can of black beans.  We ran out of tortillas so some of us just had burrito bowls;

BLT night, so more lettuce, toast, bacon (the rest gets used for breakfast or, in this case, a little went into the black beans);

and this year I tried something new:  chicken cordon bleu.  I had chicken thighs, but they weren't boneless, and sliced cheese and ham that we had for lunches.  After I boned the thighs, I wrapped each around a little cheese and ham and then just baked them.  Sure, they would have been better with bread crumbs and a little white sauce, but they were pretty good as is.  As an added bonus, because I couldn't bear to throw out those bones with all that meat on them, I made a batch of chicken soup.

Leftover Chicken Soup

chicken thigh bones with some meat attached
salt and pepper
chopped up baby carrots
leftover rice (from burrito night)
leftover green beans (from CCB night)

Make the stock from the bones with salt and pepper, remove the bones and keep the meat.  Add the leftovers and heat through.  Reheat when ready to eat.

We decided that in the entire history of that kitchen it was probably the first time someone made soup from scratch in it.

Before baking
Dessert was another thing that required some ingenuity.  Some members of our party impulse-bought a bag of frozen berries.  We didn't need them for our oatmeal because we ran out of oatmeal long before we ran out of fresh fruit.  Since I didn't want them to go to waste, I attempted a crisp.  But again, no oatmeal.  Barely any sugar, for that matter.  No flour.  I did have Cheerios and butter.  We crushed the Cheerios and cut in softened butter with knives and put that over the berries that were in a buttered dish and sprinkled with 3 packets of sugar.  This was baked at 375 for 30 minutes and served with a little ice cream.  Unusual, but tasty in a breakfasty kind of way...

After baking