Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

I should know by now that everything my kids say isn't always correct or true.  Titus had told me he was bringing home a friend for the weekend and that he is vegan.  Well, he wasn't even a vegetarian!  When I asked about the confusion I was told that he claims 'vegan' for the school lunch program so he won't have to eat the scary meat they serve there.  I can relate to that choice.  Guess I never thought about it for our kids, I just ask that they don't eat anything with beef in it.  I hope they make good choices when buying lunch at school.  When we discuss it, it sounds like they do. 

So the weekend didn't turn out as healthy and meat free as I had originally planned.  We had spaghetti with meat sauce, elk back strap (thank you Johnson Family) bacon & eggs,  and yep, chicken.  Since I bought the ingredients for the vegan chocolate mousse I decided to go ahead and give it a try.  My sister gave me this
 recipe and it was excellent! 

7 oz. semi sweet chocolate (I bought good quality bulk stuff)
3 oz. bitter chololate
12 oz. silken tofu
1/2 c. chocolate soy milk
2 tbsp. kalhua
sea salt, just a tad.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler, heat soy milk to a simmer, combine warm ingredients with remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Mix with a hand blender or put it all into a food processor.  Mix until everything is combined and tofu is no longer recognizable.  Pour into bowl and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.
I made the mistake of tasting as I was making this.  Not a good idea.  It tasted like tofu.  So I added about 1 more oz. chocolate, 1 more tbsp. kalhua, and a little more chocolate soy milk.  It still tasted like tofu. So I poured it into a bowl and tossed it in the fridge.  After dinner we brought it out and dug in.  By this time the tofu had absorbed all the chocolate flavors, the mousse had set to a nice firm consistancy and it was delicious!  Everyone loved it, the thumbs were up for doing this one again.  I am also thinking that since I added a little more of everthing, next time I will throw in the remaining 2 oz. of tofu that was left over (the tofu I buy comes in 14 oz blocks).
This is a great lower fat recipe for the holidays.  A good "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" dessert.

Friday, December 3, 2010

the 4 B's of a good dinner

When the local butcher calls us to see how we'd like our friendly steer butchered I always make sure we have plenty of stew meat. In my opinion, it is the next best thing to a pound of ground beef when one is in a cooking frump.  Often during the holiday season I find myself in such a frump.  I can easily plan for the Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Years meal but can't seem to think of what to do for dinner tonight.  This is where stew meat & burger some in handy.
Being that it never got above 28 degrees yesterday, I decided it would be nice to turn the oven on to heat the kitchen up.  After looking through the fridge, freezer and a few cookbooks, I decided to make Beef Carbonnade.  My family loves this dish.  How could one not love this dish?  It has beef, bacon and beer in it and is a cinch to make. It was the perfect choice for a day like yesterday.  With all the snow we were getting, I knew I'd be out plowing our road serveral times.  I could make this, toss it in the oven, and pay very little attention to it.  Plus it did a great job warming the kitchen.                                                       

                                                            BEEF CARBONNADE

Cook about 1/2# of bacon in a oven proof dutch oven.  Remove bacon when crisp.  Cook up 1 to 1 1/2 # stew meat in the bacon drippings, adding a little salt and pepper, brown meat on all sides and remove from pot.  Add 1 large diced onion to drippings and cook about 10 minutes. Turn heat way down and slowly stir in 3 tbsp. of white flour, slowly stir in 1 can broth ( beef, veggie, chicken).  Then add, 3 tsp white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp. sugar, a little thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 1 can of beer. Use a light beer nothing dark.  Stir in beef & bacon and put into oven .  Cover and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 325 or until beef is real tender.  Occasionally check your pot and give everything a good stir.  Discard bay leaf.  Serve over hot cooked egg noodles.

Beef, Bacon, Beer.  Yum.  The fourth B of the meal was Brownies.  Just your basic box mix but oh they were sooooo good!  After all the turkey we had been eating, all of us were happy to sink our teeth into some beef.  Unfortunately, there are no left overs for me to enjoy for lunch today.  I take that as a good sign and a comliment as well.  Guess it is turkey soup for me!  Even the brownies are gone, yep the kids hit those hard.

The kids are bringing friends home for the weekend.  I always love it when the house is filled with kids.  Often they will help me cook or just take over the kitchen completely, well Titus and his friends will.  Laurel and her friends get as far as making the cookie dough then they are bored.  Hum......go figure.  This weekend one of our guests is vegan.  This is always a little tough for me.  Vegetarian is easy, but vegan makes things a little harder.  The kids seem to have a lot of vegetarian friends, guess it comes with the territory (they go to school in Ashland).  Today I will  pull out my vegetarian/vegan cookbooks and get to work.  I already have a few yummy ideas.  Around here we seem to do a lot more vegetarain meals in the summer. Normally, I try to do at least 1 a week but that doesn't alway happen.  So, this weekend will be a weekend of very healthy living.   My sister recently sent me a recipe for vegan chocolate mousse.   I'm going to try that tomorrow.  Bye bye bacon, bye bye beef, bye bye boxed brownies.  The beer can stay!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ike is Omma (Titus talks about chicken)

I am guessing that most of you are done with poultry for a while.  I know my family is (we managed to devour the 14# turkey that Donnie & Denise gave us on Thanksgiving). Although I made a lot of great turkey dishes, and we are now down to one huge pot of soup, I don't think I can get away with tossing a chicken on the dinner table for some time now.
This is hard for me because chicken has got to be my favorite.  For Titus it is beef, Laurel pork, and luckily Matt doesn't seem to care. 
I was talking with my friend Katie yesterday and as usual, the topic of food came up.  Katie and I have a very similar background.  She studied agriculture at Oregon State, I studied at Cal Poly.  We met about 10 years ago while I was working for the ag research station in Medford.  Katie worked with pears (one of Medfords hot commodities, oh wait, I take that back it is now subdivisions on prime agricultural land) and I worked with the  hay guys.  Actually, I was hired to work on a project that I had to swear to secrecy and not talk about.  But, I still got to drive those great combines, run the baler, buck hay,weigh alfalfa from different trial plots, move irrigation pipe and a ton of other fun in the hot summer sun things.  Katie got to perform great experiments on pears and spend time in the giant walk-in cooler as well as out in the field.  Yesterdays conversation lead us to the Food Inc. movie and soon we were talking about chicken.  First our fears of chicken then to how we like to eat it.  Despite it all, we both throw down (locally grown Oregon) conventionally raised chickens on the kitchen table.  We decided the best and easiest way is to do rosemary-lemon chicken with a whole bird.  This reminded me of the last rosemary chicken dinner I made.  It turned our rather tasty.

Bake chicken pieces with sliced lemon and fresh rosemary (mine was recently frozen under 1' of snow but it still had flavor).  While that was cooking I made our favorite "spaghetti rice" dish:
Saute up about 1/2 serving of  broken up (1" longish) regular spaghetti noodles in (a lot of) butter and olive oil in a large skillet that has a lid.  Get the noodles nice and brown.  Add diced onion, garlic, salt & pepper.  Add 2 cups white or brown rice,( I often mix the two) diced veggies like carrots, broccoli, squash, etc...what ever you have that needs to get used up.  Put in about 4 1/2 cups liquid.  I use water and chicken broth if I have any.  Cover, turn heat to low and cook just like you'd cook regular rice.  When the chicken is done, toss the cooked lemon & rosemary into the rice mixture and let it absord the flavors for a few minutes.  Sure the lemon & herb has absorbed some of the chicken fat but that is what makes the rice so delicious!  It's winter, go for it.  I served this with a green salad and once again I had a simple, inexpensive meal that the family loved.

OK, farm memory here.  Often we raised our own chickens on the farm.  One afternoon when I had a beautiful home-grown frier on the kitchen counter, Titus came up to me with his thoughts.  He was about 5 years old at the time.  Now for those of you who don't know Titus, he had a terrible speech delay and it was often hard to decode exactly what he was trying to get across to us.  He finally showed me what he wanted by pulling a lemon out of the fridge and dragging me out to the herb patch where he pulled up my favorite rosemary plant, dragged me back to the kitchen and proceeded to stuff the chicken with the lemon and 1/2 of a very large rosemary plant.  Thus our family love for rosemary chicken began.  Titus has always been my foodo kid.  Even as a youngster he was adventurous when it came to food.  It has always amazed other people what and how much that guy could eat.  It has served him well because he is planning on going to a Culinary Arts School after graduation.  I asked him if I could go with him, he said NO!  Oh well.  My heart is in agriculture and I suppose always will be.  Someday, maybe with my friend Katie, I will venture back into the ag world.  I have a few ideas with food & farms and teaching people how to be self sufficient that I'd like to put into practice some day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Plan to walk an extra mile if you make this

As we all know, the holidays are not  the time to diet or watch what one eats.  Well maybe watch as in watch how much I can eat today.  As usual, I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner already full.  I am a picker and I can pick a meals worth before the food is even done.  Needless to say I over ate, drank too much good wine and contiunued to do this all weekend long.  Oh I love the holidays!  The 4 of us shared the holiday with our friends Donnie & Denise at The Pinehurst Inn.  We came home Thursday night with a lot of leftovers, including a whole turkey.  Friday afternoon I got right to work.  The top family request was a turkey pot pie.  So I decided to go ahead and make this for the kids & hubby.  I wish I had paid more attention to the quantities of what I put into this because it was the best one I have ever make.  I will do my best to repeat it.  I made enough for one large casserole dish hoping we'd have leftovers (wrong) and one smaller casserole dish that I will freeze.   I use only a top crust so this is a very simple and fast dish to make.

                                                             Jen's Turkey Pot Pie

Saute up 4 diced celery stalks, 4 diced carrots, 1/2 chopped onion in about 1/2 stick of butter.  I actually used a pan that had a little bit of bacon fat in it that was left over from breakfast (yum).  Cook until tender.
Add 1 can corn, 1 pkg frozen peas and about 6 cups diced turkey.  I used both white and dark meat.  4 peeled and diced potatoes.
Add about 2 cups chicken broth.
Adjust your seasonings; salt, pepper, garlic thyme etc... depending on what was used when you cooked the turkey.
Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Mix 4 tbsp. flour into 1 cup milk, blend well.  Slowly add this to the vegetable & turkey mix.  You want it to thicken up a little.
Pour into casserole dish.
Now for the you'll need to walk an extra mile part:
The crust is make in a food processor, quick and easy
Put 2 c. flour (yes, I used all white flour here) 1/2 tsp salt, 2/3 c butter,  3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese pulse together while slowly adding about 4 tbsp cold water until mixture forms a ball.  Remove from processor and roll out in a thick slab to cover your casserole dish.  Don't trim any leftovers, simply fold over around the inside edges.  My crust was close to 1/4' thick.
Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 or until the crust is a golden brown.  Remove and let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. 
***Remember, I didn't put all the mixture in.  I still have some left over to freeze or maybe make another smaller pie for dinner tomorrow.
As we sat down to our dinner pie and movie that night I knew I'd have to walk the extra mile the next morning to make up for all this rich food.  OK, I admit, I was feeling a little ill by now.  When I finally crawled out of bed at 7:30 Sat. morning I saw a beautiful site, SNOW! and lots of it.  After a few cups of coffee and last nights dinner fresh in my mind,  I was on my way with my xcountry skiis, dogs and a smile on my face.  Why walk when you can ski?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Not your Grandmas Cherry Pie Recipe

Yesterday the kids and I went over to our friends Donnie & Denise's place.  They own and operate a beautiful B&B down the road from us.  This is the same place Matt & I got married over 19 years ago.  We were helping them prep for todays big Thanksgiving feast.  We made stuffing, cranberry sauce, 10 pumpkin pies, preped the onions for the greenbean dish, crumbled up the blue cheese for the salad, made soup, drank wine and made a mess.  It was a fun day.  The four of us are also helping them with the dinner tonight then celebrating together once all the guest have gone. 

While taking a lunch break by the fire, somehow we started talking about cherries.  Back on the farm, we had cherry trees in our front yard.  A lot of cherry trees. The cherry trees seem to bring back a lot of farm memories.  Maybe it is all the photos we have of the kids picking and eating them. Or Matt trying to chase the starlings off his favorite fruit.  Maybe it is all the canning I did with them.  Not sure. We also sold a lot of the cherries at market and once I let the kids sell them at the end of the driveway.  This was a day to remember.  They had their friend Jacob over and the 3 of them picked and bagged cherries for over an hour one morning.  They made a sign and walked to the road with the little red wagon loaded down with bagged fruit.  Titus and his friend were just out of 1st grade and Laurel was heading into kinder.  They were out on the driveway jumping up and down trying to flag down every car that drove by.  I'm sure these three little cuties were hard to resist.  I was amazed at how many people stopped to buy the cherries (I sat on the front porch watching and let them do this on their own).  When they were done I had them divide up the wad of cash they made.  They got $9.00 each!!!  I'd never seen three farm kids so excited.  That night as I was doing my last round of goodnight kisses, Titus had me sit and stay, he had a plan he wanted to run by me.  He took my hand, smiled, looked over on his night stand where his hard earned $9.00 sat and said "Mom, I think I am going to find myself a wife and head on down to California."  Well, OK. Titus.  I guess the kid is ready to start farming on his own now.  He had plans for the future and I was happy for him.
So with the memories of cherries fresh in my mind I bring to you this wonderful cherry pie recipe.  I have made it many times for both Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as a lot of summertime pot luck parties.  It is a keeper.

                                                  MACAROON CHERRY PIE
Mix together 1 egg, 2/3 c. evaporated milk.  Add 1/2 c. sugar, 1/4 flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp almond extract beat until smooth then add  2 1/2 c. flaked coconut.
Put 1 can of cherry pie filling into an unbaked pie crust.  Or make your own with fresh, frozen or canned cherries.
Pour coconut mixture over pie filling.
Bake @ 375 for about 40-45 minutes.
Very simple, very delicious, and VERY rich so a little goes along way.

Basic cherry pie filling
Mix 1 1/3 c. sugar with about 1/2 c. flour.  Stir in 6 c. pitted tart pie cherries.
If you are using regular eating cherries cut the sugar WAY back, maybe 1/2 c. depending on the cherries.

Basic pie crust for 10" pie
1/2 c. butter, 1 1/3 c flour, 1 tsp salt, 3-4 tbsp water.
Cut  butter into flour & salt untill butter is about the size of peas. Sprinkle in water 1 tbsp at a time while fluffing mixture with a fork.  Form into a ball then roll out and fit into pie pan.

The farm was a wonderful place to raise the kids.  I just hope that the years spent there bring as many fond memories to them as they do to me.  Sometimes I really miss the place but then I think back on the work load and I get over that real fast.  We tried planting cherry trees here on the ranch, it didn't work.  Think I will stick to raising apples and berries.  Just like the kids, they seem to be growing  just fine here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Beef, venison or elk...they will all work for this one.

So,  last night one of my very best friends in the world called.  During our chat she told me that she follows my blog, this blog.  Wow!  People actually read this?  Great.  Linda did have some advice for me about saving money in the kitchen.  Being that she is a single mom of two boys I couldn't wait to hear what she had to say.  It was simple:  Stay out of the kitchen and you won't spend any money.  Hum, I thought, I can't really do that besides I love being in the kitchen and everyone knows how much I love to cook.  Our conversation soon changed and we were off to better subjects than food, kitchens and dirty dishes. 
The next day when I was thinking about my friend and our conversation,  I got to thinking about great dishes that require very little time in the kitchen yet taste like you were there all day...Ah, my kind of meal. The one that kept coming to mind was one I have done many times, everyone loves it and it uses beef (you all know by now that my freezer is full of this). Another 1 pot wonder, easy clean-up and rather inexpensive to make, even if you don't have half of a friendly, beautiful, kind steer in the deep freeze.
I got this from the paper years ago so I can't take credit and it is one I didn't change because it is so good.  It is from a gal down in Etna doubt a rancher.

                                                CAN'T BE BEAT POT ROAST (true)
                                                              Gail L. Jenner

One 3 to 4 pound beef chuck roast  (this also works well for venison and elk)
1 tbsp canola oil
1/3 c. sweet Marsala wine
2 tsp. dried crushed basil (or fresh if you have it)
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 c. plum preserves (I used the plum jam I made from our plum trees)
4 potatoes, peeled & cut in wedges
4 medium carrots cut into bite size chunks
1 large rutabaga peeled and cut into 1' chunks
1 medium onion cut into large wedges.
Preheat oven to 350.  Brown meat on both sides in a 6-8 qt. dutch oven
In small bowl stir Marsala wine, 1/3 c water, basil, garlic salt and pepper.  Pour over meat.
Cover and bake for 11/2 hoursMelt preserves and our over meat.  Add pototoes, carrots, rutabaga and onion around the roast.  Cover and bake about 1 more hour, untill meat is super tender
If you like, make some gravy with the drippings to use over the potatoes.

So, very little time in the kitchen.  One could even squeeze a good hike or horseback ride in while cooking this.  Also, great for these cold fall/winter days as it warms up the house as well as the belly.

I miss my friend Linda and even though we grew up together I don't think we ever cooked together.  Hopefully in the very near future that will change.  I realize that with a lot of the friends I have, food  plays a major role in our friendship.  We get to talking about trying different things then decide to make a party out of it.  The one I have yet to do is the tamale one.  Maybe I'll save that for the next time Linda and I are together.  Sounds like a fun filled day in the kitchen to me.  Maybe make a few margaritas to go with the tamales.  Yep food, fun and friends.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't forget the apples mom.....

The holiday season is here and with that brings family, friends and FOOD!  When I look back on past Thanksgiving meals I find myself remembering who we shared the day with, where we were, what we were doing and naturally what we ate. All Thanksgivings are memorable in their own way.  We have been to Oklahoma, Texas or Arkansas to be with family, Portland to be with friends, stayed home and shared the day here with friends and family.  Always something different.  Last year we were in Costa Rica  trying to escape the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes etc and eating rice and beans instead.  One year, and this is the one the kids still laugh about, the four of us were on a great road trip.  One of those Watson style trips with very little planning, just see where we end up.  On Thanksgiving Day we went to the Grand Canyon, saw the sights, had a great picnic lunch and traveled on.  That night we ended up in Las Vegas.  We got ourselves a room and decided we should get some dinner.  None of us were in the mood for a big Thanksgiving meal so we looked around the area and found a Sonic Burger Drive up.  The kids went crazy.  Let's go there for dinner. please, please, please!!!  What the heck, why not? We aren't fast food people and had never been to Sonic before.  So we pulled up and ordered up.  Yep, we had fast food for Thanksgiving dinner.  A real treat.  But I must admit, it is the one we will always remember. We pigged out on burgers, tots, fries (had to get the potatoes in) and other delicious items off the menu.  Then we topped it off with some sort of special Sonic dessert.  The best clean up.  The left overs.  We piled back into the car all full,  happy and laughing at what we had just done.  We drove back to the hotel, went for an evening swim then headed back to our room for some t.v. with endless stations to choose from.  Another treat for us because we don't have endless stations at home, we get no stations at all.  We went to bed that night happy and thankful.  Happy that the four of us were together sharing this day and thankful for all the wonderful experiences we have shared as a family.
A few days after we got home Titus approached me and brought up our Thanksgiving meal.  Said it was the best but he missed his cheesy apples.  So, the next day I made them.  I made this dish for the first Thanksgiving dinner we had here on the ranch.  My mother-in-law from Arkansas brought the recipe with her and shared it with me.  It is now a family favorite and a must with any holiday meal. 
3/4 c sugar, 1/2 c flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/3 c water, 1/4 c butter, 1 c sharp cheddar cheese, 6 peeled, diced Granny Smith apples, t tsp. lemon juice
*Combine sugar, flour & slat, cut in butter untill crumbly.  Stir in cheese and set aside
*Combine sliced apples with lemon juice and put into a greased casserole dish.
*Sprinkle chhese mixture over apples.  Bake uncovered about 40 min. @ 350.

This year the four of us are finding ourselves on our own with no real plans for the big feasting day.  Last night we were tossing out ideas of what to do, where to go etc... Some real whoppers came up.  One thing I know for sure is that cheesy apples will be there with us.