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All posts in June, 2013

Step 1: Find a good recipe. It took some searching and some review-reading, but I found this one a few years ago and enjoyed it very much! Traditional Gyro Meat

Step 2: Mess with the recipe! Why? Especially if I already know that I enjoyed it as written?

  • Because it’s my kitchen, I’m the one doing the cooking, and I can! Only my judgment counts in my kitchen, unless someone else is doing the cooking.
  • I couldn’t find ground lamb, so I’m using ground goat instead. That should be a fine replacement!
  • I don’t see the point in removing the wonderful, flavorful onion juice and just using the tacky leftovers.
  • I don’t see the point in getting out the big food processor on this hot afternoon to chop the onion, then either let it dry on there before using it again later, or take the time to clean it before using it again later–so I used the shredder side of my box grater on that onion, and tossed the juice into the meat right along with it.
  • The recipe calls for only 1/4 t salt?  For 2 pounds of meat? Really? I used a teaspoon.
  • Grind the rosemary? It’s a hot day and I don’t feel like getting out the mortar and pestle. Besides, after it’s had a chance to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, that baby is going in the food processo, right? Won’t that grind the rosemary enough? I think so.
  • Let’s see … how many cloves of varying sizes will amount to a tablespoonful of minced garlic? Ah! About that, or so! Smash, peel, remove stem end, chop … hmmm … it seems to be more than a tablespoonful, and it’s not really minced, but it IS going into the food processor later on, right? Right!

Step 3: Go on from there. In this case, finish the recipe as written, then refrigerate until the next day … or the next.  Since there are only two of us doing the eating, this is a good time to freeze half of it for later!

Step 4: The next day… or the next … make the Tabouli and the Hummus and the Tzatziki to go with it. Start early in the day because chopping is exercise, and it’s a hot day! Better to let the refrigerator do the middle-of-the-day work this time.

Step 5: Right before eating time, pull a hunk off of the bread dough that’s been hanging out in the fridge this week, and make pita pockets, wrapping in a towel in a basket to stay soft and warm.

Step 6: Simultaneously, shave off thin slices of that gyro loaf and crisp them up in a little butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.

Step 7: Set everything out on the table, and let everyone assemble their own version of the ever-popular Gyro. Enjoy!

I was told “This is the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten” by the birthday friend who requested it, and my husband, who wasn’t at all fond of cheesecake, went back for seconds after eating his polite sliver. Ha! I love it when I get him to take a bite of something he doesn’t like, then discovers that he does like it after all! I did the same thing with Split Pea Soup! 🙂 Anyway, he’s actually requested it several times since, so I’d say it’s a winner.

I actually combined two recipes to get what I wanted, and adapted a bit–so I’d say that this would count as an original recipe. From the first, I adapted the sponge cake bottom (and top!) and from the second, the actual cheesecake part. When I discovered that I didn’t have a pan big enough to fit my springform pan into for the bain marie, I decided to bake it in a regular cake pan with parchment on the bottom so it’d come out, and cut the recipe in half. So, this is what I did. You can, of course, double it and use the more traditional 9″ springform pan, if you’re feeding a real crowd.  This one fed 7 and still left enough over for breakfast for the two of us.

This certainly could be done gluten-free, either with a substitute flour or with a different crust entirely.

Cake base & top:
• 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 extra-large eggs, separated
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 Tablespoons ghee or butter, melted
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch cake pans.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter that, as well, then lightly flour.
2. In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
3. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl and beat with the mixer on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry).
4. Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes.
5. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 Tablespoons of the sugar and beat until thick light yellow ribbons form, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla.
6. Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until no more white flecks appear. Blend in the melted ghee.
7. Fold about one-third of the whites into the batter, then the remaining whites. Don’t worry if you still see a few white specks, they’ll disappear during baking.
8. Gently spread out the batter over the bottom of the pan, and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown.
9. Leave the crust in the pan and place on a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on while you prepare the cheesecake batter.

Cheesecake filling:
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Wrap the outside of the cake pan with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides.  The cake pan isn’t going to leak water into it, but the foil also helps to even out the temperature.
2. Place the cream cheese into a mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes  or until smooth, soft and creamy.
3. Add the sugar, beat for 4 minutes more or until sugar is completely incorporated, no grit. Add the salt and vanilla, beating after each addition.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
5. Add the sour cream, beat until incorporated. Add the heavy cream, beat until incorporated. Remember to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, and scrape up any thicker bits of cream cheese that have stuck to the bottom of the mixer.
6. Pour into cake pan, right over the cake that’s already there.
7. Place the cake pan into a larger, deep pan on top of a folded towel in the lower third of the oven. Pour boiling water into outer pan to approximately half the depth of the cake pan.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until done.  Cake will still look moist in the middle and jiggle a bit.
8. Turn off the oven, and open it just a little—like an inch or so.  A wooden spoon inserted at the top will do well.  Leave the cake in there for an hour, letting it cool slowly with the oven.  This will help prevent cracking.
9. Place other cake layer on top of cheesecake and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
10. To unmold, slide a knife around the edges of the cake, then flip it onto a serving plate.  Apply heat to the bottom of the pan briefly to loosen.  I have placed a pot of soup on it because it was handy, but some people would use a blow dryer.  A hot dishrag works, too.  Imagination is a fine thing in cooking!
11. Serve plain or with fruit toppings.

My Favorite Cherry Topping:
1 can tart cherries, drained, reserve juice
¼ – 1/3 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine the juice from the cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the cherries and almond extract. Cool. Makes about 1 3/4 cup.

It has occurred to me that I may well seem rather inconsistent in my choices, particularly when it comes to food. Ideally, we’d be eating nothing with GMO’s, everything local and in-season, everything from fresh, pure ingredients and nothing processed, period.  This is not our reality, and may never be.

Like most people, I have to pick and choose what will go into my body and into the bodies of the people I feed. This morning while making breakfast http://allrecipes.com/recipe/banana-frittata/detail.aspx with a few frozen strawberries sliced in for a little something different, I looked at that bag of frozen strawberries and thought about the salmonella-contaminated organic frozen berries that turned up out west, the bananas shipped across the country to reach us, and the GMO-contaminated wheat in Oregon. I realized anew that it is simply impossible to know without doubt that what you’re eating is actually safe, for us or for the environment. Since we need to eat daily, that’s a scary thought! We literally take our lives into our own hands with each bite that crosses our lips. How to decide what risks to take? How to decide which risks must be avoided at all costs? How to deal with the results? As I pondered, I realized that I actually do already have a decision-tree already in place.  Consciously or not, I ask myself a few questions before making a decision.

  • Is this product likely to make an immediate, long-lasting, or profound difference in my health or the health of those whom I love?
  • Is this something that I tend to use a lot of? Or is it a rarity in our house?
  • Can I do without it? Do I want to?
  • Is there a viable alternative?
  • Is this produced locally, or is it shipped from who-knows-where?
  • What would be the impact on our budget if I chose the alternative?
  • Is this product something that we need, or is it something that we want?
  • What about packaging–the amount and the material?

My thoughts turned to the milk I was using in our frittata, where it came from, why it might be risky, and what our current alternatives are. First, this is milk in a recycleable glass bottle from a smaller, grass-fed dairy the next state over. It is pasteurized and homogenized. It is not claimed to be organic. It does claim to be free of artificial hormones. Other than the organic, grass-fed milk in quart-sized paper cartons at the food co-op that cost twice as much, it’s probably the best we can do right now. I’d prefer fresh, raw, local milk–but we live in West Virginia, where that is illegal. This is one of the few states where you can’t even legally share ownership in a cow!

Our options are to stop using milk products entirely until we can get a cow of our own, or to use the standard store milk in plastic jugs, or to buy organic milk from a large dairy conglomerate (also in the grocery store), or to continue with our current choice. Considering the time we have behind us already, having consumed the mass-produced milk all of our lives, it seems to me that stopping milk consumption entirely for the few months remaining before we begin milking a cow would be nothing but a useless gesture. It would have little or no effect on our health, so why bother? On the other hand, if there’s something better and available that isn’t significantly more expensive, why NOT bother? My choice is the bottles, because it is relatively local, the containers won’t leach anything unwanted into our milk, and it’s simply the best we’re able to do right now without sacrificing too many milk-dependent dishes to count.

How do you make decisions about what goes into your kitchen and your body? Do you ask yourself an important question that I’ve missed?

Eric has been asking for enchiladas for several weeks now and I’ve just cringed inside. We’ve always made them using the canned enchilada sauce and I absolutely detest it! It makes me want to do the kid thing of wiping off your tongue with your hands & spitting all over the place! Fortunately for me, Marybeth Harvey posted a recipe for enchiladas made from scratch, in the 30 Days of Scratch Cooking group on Facebook [and gave me permission to post it here], so I’m giving it a try! It certainly sounds like an improvement to me … personal notes/adjustments are inside [square brackets].

PLUM2G

This is the small pan!

I of course forgot to drain the tomatoes for the filling, so it was a little squishier than it should have been.  I used a combo of half Cheddar and half Monterrey Jack cheese, for what I consider the perfect meld of flavor and meltability. My pan is 9×11 and I fit 8 in there, so did the 8×8 as well with four more.  We’re swimming in enchiladas, and I have four tortillas left!!!  And I’m glad.  This is so much better than canned sauce!  I’ll need to tweak the seasonings a bit for our taste, as it’s a little on the bland side, but has a very nice flavor.  I think that adding some canned chiles would do it.  I’d say that this is a keeper!

Recipe by Marybeth Harvey

Sauce:

  • ¼ c butter
  • ¼ c flour
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbs dried onion
  • ¼ tsp black pepper [I always use freshly ground mixed peppercorns]
  • 2 c broth or bouillon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 oz reconstituted tomato paste

Filling:

  • Chicken breast – cooked and shredded
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 can drained diced tomatoes or spicy diced tomato
  • Handful spinach

15 – 17 small tortillas–I made 2/3 recipe Mexican Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas using 2/3 c home-rendered lard

Shredded cheese

  1. Cook 2 chicken breast in crock pot with 2 – 3 c water, cool and shred. [I poached a whole cut-up chicken on top of the stove, using 3 c homemade chicken broth from the freezer plus 2 cups water, used just the breasts, and used 2 cups of the resulting broth in the sauce–I froze the rest of the cooked chicken in the remaining broth]
  2. Make the Sauce: Melt butter in sauce pan, add flour and cook 1 minute to thickened. Add spices, broth and tomato sauce. Cook till thickened. [I didn’t have dried onion, so just added about 1/3 c onion instead]
  3. In another pan: Place creamed cheese, chicken, tomatoes and spinach into a skillet to cook. After spinach is cooked add ½ enchilada sauce. Cook till bubbly.
  4. Spray bottom and sides of 9 x 13 baking dish [I buttered the dish]. Assemble enchiladas by placing ½ c mixture in tortilla, top with cheese, roll and place seam side down in baking dish. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.
  5. Bake for 1 hour at 350. If needed, broil for a few minutes to brown cheese. Serve with sour cream and salad. Double recipe and place one in freezer for later use! You can also leave the spinach out of the mixture and add it when rolling enchiladas. Works fine that way also.

PLUM2G

I have proven to my own satisfaction that technique, not recipe, is key for pita bread that puffs. I used 5-minute-a-day bread dough! Rolled it out while the pan heated, no rising, didn’t even get to room temperature. Into the pan over medium, no oil. Bubbles … flip … puff! Filled with hummus, leftover rotisserie chicken, tabouli, and olive feta from the farmer’s market. Yum! Too bad we finished the tzatziki yesterday!

“When you’re taught to love everyone, to love your enemies, then what value does that place on love?”  This was posted by a friend on Facebook.  It sparked a conversation between us, which I received her permission to share:

Me: The value is incalculable!!!! It’s lifechanging, and worldchanging!!!

Friend: Yes it is. But you don’t just hand it out to the undeserving like milk to the village cats. “Love thine enemy” is f’n retarded.

Me: Oh, yes, I do. Everyone is born needing and deserving love, and remain that way no matter what. Liking and respecting are very different things. Love is the breath of life itself, and I don’t have the right to determine who deserves it more or less than the next person. I’m simply responsible for sharing and helping it spread and do its transforming business. Just IMHO

Me: who needs it more than the enemy? nobody.

Friend: I reserve mine for the worthy. My love is a gift, people have to earn it.

Me: Nobody can earn a gift. A gift is freely given, not a reward.

Me: I love you, Friend!

Friend: Well, do people walk around passing out presents to everyone and their Uncle? Nope. If you gift someone with something, it indicates value, not just for the person receiving it, but for yourself as well. At least in my opinion.

Me: A smile is a gift. A passing comment to a stranger in the grocery store is a gift. Directly looking at a person can be a gift. So yes, I do walk around passing around gifts “to everyone and their uncle.” You never know what will inspire someone to live up to love.

Me: A present is a reward for being in a close relationship with me, personally. I give very few of those. Gifts, I spread with wild abandon! hehehehehe

Friend: Well, i’ve been fucked over by too many ppl who i gave my affection and love to, who didn’t deserve it. I’m much more careful these days. And assholes don’t even deserve my time, much less anything else. They made their own beds, if they’re unlovable it’s their fault, and not my problem. But i love your giving nature, lady.

Me: Gifts cost absolutely nothing to give, and they fertilize my soul.

Me: Been there, done that. Thankfully, healed and grew past it. I could tell you stories! LOL!!! I got to the point where I wanted to be in relationship with NO ONE EVER AGAIN … and learned to never say never as I married my third husband. We grow in love every day, even after 13 years.

Friend: Yup. I’m very compassionate and giving and will remain that way…until someone screws me. Then i might forgive them, which is always better for yourself, in the long run. Or i cut my losses and move on.

Me: I know that you are, and while I may not know your exact circumstances, I do know your hurt and I do know how that affects everything you do, think, and feel. It makes you doubt yourself and your own judgement, making it far easier to push people away than to embrace them. But you’ve grown through the pain and you are healing. You are a beautiful person and I do love YOU, personally.

Friend: That’s all very true, you DO know me! lol I love you too, lady.

Me: Remember: Love is the positive, life-giving power of God/goddess/universe. Affection is human emotion which ties one soul to another. While they may be intertwined at times, they are very different things, with very different roles. By loving ALL, I am increasing the positive energy of the entire world, imperceptible as that may usually be. By sharing affectionate love with an individual, I am empowering them while demonstrating my power (which may seem scary/threatening to those who perceive themselves as weak) … which they may accept or reject, and that’s their issue to deal with and mine to decide what to do about. Make sense?

Friend: Indeed it does. Well said, Deb.

Me: Thanks. Serendipitously, I was planning to write something along these lines on my blog today (did you notice that I FINALLY started a blog? LOL!!!). Do you mind if I post the conversation as is, removing your name? I honestly was praying/meditating on how to begin it when this popped up!

Friend: No probs! Do you have a link to your blog?

Another Deborah original recipe for your enjoyment. Remember, as with most of my recipes, all measurements are approximate and to your own personal taste.  I did not measure anything as I went–I’m telling you approximately what I used as I eyeballed it!  Enjoy your time in the kitchen, and everywhere else!

PLUM2G

Our little chicken, served with tabouli, hummus, tzatziki, and bread for dipping. I don’t know what kind of bread it is. I made it up. If asked, I’ll post the super-simple instructions.

 

I started with a little 3.75# spring chicken that I got from Working-H Farms at the Morgantown Farmer’s Market.

I washed it, salted it inside and out using Celtic Sea Salt and let it sit in the fridge uncovered for a few hours to dry out. While it was chilling, I mixed up:

  • 3 T butter
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 t oregano
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from 3 lemons

Helpful hint: whisk in the lemon juice little by little so you don’t have a ball of butter flying around your bowl!Ask me how I know … anyway, after I had it all emulsified, I spread that on a small plate and refrigerated, then after it had solidified, I stuffed pieces of it under the skin all over the chicken.

Onto the rotisserie with the little guy! Of course, most of the self-baster dripped out pretty fast, but it still worked. To the remaining butter/lemon mixture, I added:

  • the juice of one more lemon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper

I warmed it over low heat to just melted and used that to baste Mr. Chicken a few times after the first hour of his rotisserie journey just for the heck of it. Result? Just enough flavor to enhance, not overpower, that fresh young chicken flavor. Score! 🙂 If you try it, let me know how it worked for you!

Well, I’ve got some yogurt going–my second batch ever!  I bought some yogurt that I like at the Mountain People’s Co-op, and a quart of grass-fed milk, two weeks ago.  I made my first batch of yogurt soon after and it turned out very nice!  We haven’t been eating it much for some reason.  Usually in the summer I make smoothies pretty much every day but I’ve been slacking off.  I’ll be making tzatziki today so using some of what’s left, and I DO want to make smoothies, so I got another quart of that good milk last Saturday, and it’s becoming yogurt today.

Yogurt is easy!  Heat the milk to 190f, cool to 105f, pour a little of it into a few spoonfuls of yogurt in a little bowl, whisk it together, whisk it back into the milk, pour it into jars.  For the culturing time, I lay 2 bath towels crosswise on my oven’s shelf, place my roasting pan mostly filled with very warm water on top of that, place my jars in the water, and wrap in the towels.  Leave it there for several hours.  I’ll be checking it at around 6 hours, I think.  And I wound up leaving it a bit longer.  Ya never know for sure!  I’ve read that it’s 4-12 hours.  I guess it depends on the culture and on the temperature.

This is an original Deborah recipe, and they have everything but the kitchen sink that you might want in a sweet roll … except sweet roll dough!  It’s for just 2 rolls, so you can multiply to make as many as you like.  There are no real measurements, since you can adjust it to fit your tastebuds and quite honestly, these measurements are truly approximate (I didn’t measure anything, I’m simply telling you what it looks like I used), but I’ve found that guidelines usually work best, anyway. 🙂  As always, please read completely through the instructions before you begin.

For the topping:

  • 2 t butter
  • 1 packed T each light and dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 t frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 t honey or real maple syrup
  • pinch of Celtic Sea Salt
  • 1 T chopped toasted pecans

Over low heat, bring everything except pecans to a boil for a minute or so, then pour into two buttered 4-ounce ovenproof cups. Sprinkle in pecans.

For the buns:

  • 2 T plumped raisins (put them in water to cover, bring to a boil, and turn off while you prep everything else–start this before the topping)
  • A glob of 5-Minute-a-Day bread dough–I used the whole wheat version, but used 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all purpose flour when making it–a bit less than softball-sized as it came out of the bowl, which was about baseball-sized after handling it a bit.
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T each light and dark brown sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon

Roll or pat out your dough to a strip about 3″ wide and no more than 1/4″ thick–it should be at least a foot long. Spread with butter until you’re happy with the thickness. Mix together the sugars and cinnamon, then spread evenly over the butter. Arrange drained raisins over that, as evenly as you can. Roll from long end, then sorta scrunch the ends in so it’s closer to 2″ long. Cut in half down the equator and place in your prepared cups & pat down a little so the cups are nearly filled side-to-side. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise for about an hour, until dough is peeking above the cups by about 1/4″ or so. Bake at 350 f 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Let them sit a minute or so then run a knife around the side (just to be on the safe side) and invert each on a small plate and enjoy!

I posted this originally in a closed, private Facebook group of people focused on cooking from scratch.  A few asked if they could post on their wall or in their blog, and before I knew it, a friend had shared it on my wall before I even had it posted there!  I laughed.  Anyway, cooking from scratch is a radical act! I’m proud of each one participating!  I love you all.

I’m seeing a pattern over the course of time that’s brought us to where we are now and I don’t like where it’s going. This is about food and women and power … and this doesn’t begin at the beginning, nor does it reach the end.  It’s a rather bare outline, in fact.

1940’s Women enter the workforce en masse, just as they did during WWI, but didn’t go back home afterwards, this time; also replacing healthy fats with hydrogenated shortening and margarine … which we’ve been taught to see as empowering women and improving health, but in actuality beginning the process of taking the power of feeding and influencing their families FROM women and putting it into the hands of government

1950’s advent of box mixes and TV Dinners … a natural progression from Mom being at work all day, resulting in impaired nutrition for her family and reduced family interaction

1960’s community water fluoridation … learned from Hitler that it will control the masses by dumbing them down by impairing thyroid function

1970’s more pharmaceutical intervention–popularizing “the Pill” and the TSH test for pituitary hormone rather than thyroid hormones, with replacement being T4 storage hormone only, rather than the comprehensive whole-gland treatment which had been widespread, cheap, and effective, resulting in underdiagnosis and poor treatment … interesting that artificial sweeteners became really popular during this period, as well … did we REALLY gain more control over our lives, or less?

1980’s the microwave oven, which kills whatever is put into it and steals nutritional value from the food and even the water … yes, food heats quickly, but at what cost? Organized sports took off to a whole new level during this period, as well. Children who until now had been playing in the back yard under somebody’s Mom’s watchful eye were now finding themselves in much larger groups with a very different type of supervision and lots of rules instead of lots of imagination in play.

1990’s GMO’s quietly come on the scene, while aspartame is pushed relentlessly … no calorie sweetener that’s apt to keep you in the doctor’s office for as long as you manage to live, while you inexplicably continue to gain weight along with pain and illnesses … by now, most families REQUIRE two incomes just to make ends meet; parents of either gender have comparatively little influence on their children’s upbringing

2000’s we trade freedom and our bill of rights for “security” due to a very skewed gov’t propaganda campaign following 9/11, wind up the decade with threatened financial collapse which feeds into that trend

2010’s people are finally finding out about GMO’s and how toxic they are, but the masses have become largely incapable of knowing or caring (remember the fluoride & aspartame?), while being fully occupied by “bread and circuses” (fast food EVERYWHERE and game shows with million dollar prizes and reality TV, etc.) … and states are beginning to threaten to take away children from families who apply for food stamps

I realize that this is US-centric. I realize that it’s different in other countries. I also realize that the US has worked very hard at spreading all of this all over the world and, despite massive clout, may not have been quite as successful as hoped … yet …