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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What did those gals say they put in that dish?......

A few years ago we took the kids on a trip to the four corners area.  Our main goals were;  have fun, keep it on the cheap, see Mesa Verde and eat local regional foods everynight for dinner.  This was our best car trip ever.  The 4 of us packed into a Honda Civic for 8 days!  One afternoon after visiting the Aztec Ruins we found ourselves in Farminton New Mexico.  It was the day before Thanksgiving and the town was shutting down. We found a little hole in the wall Mexican food joint that had more 4x4's caked with mud parked out front than cars.  Oh yeah, this is the spot. Our little Civic was dwarfed as we pulled in next to the trucks.  We walked in just as the gals were closing down their little deli and asked if we could get something to eat.  They looked at one another, back at the 4 dirty, tired and hungry gringos, laughed and decided they would feed us what they had left over.  Fine with us, we were starving after hiking around all day so bring it on.  We sat down and a few minutes later 4 huge plates of food landed on our table.  Remember, we didn't get to order, they just fed us.  We dug in while those ladies smiled away at us.  I knew we were in for a true regional treat. We had all sorts of things, tacos, enchiladas, and tamales.  Matt and Laurel both had a stew of some sorts as their side dish.  Titus and I had some of the best refried beans I have ever had. Although the beans were excellent they didn't come close to what Matt & Laurel were served. They had Posole or Pozole it is spelled either way.  After eating I had a chat with the smiling gals behind the counter about the dish.  They gave me a few hints (in Spanish) but didn't reveal their true real secrets. Maybe they did but with my rusty Spanish skills I didn't get it all.  They charged us $20.00 and sent us on our way.  When we returned to Oregon I went right to work trying to make this wonderful dish.  I did refer to a few of my cookbooks and this is what I came up with.  It is now another family favorite and on the tops of the comfort foods chart.

Saute up l large diced onion with a few cloves of garlic in a large cook pot.  Add 1 1/2#  boneless pork shoulder, cubed and dredge in  1/3 cup of flour, brown the meat just a tad, you may need to add a little more oil.  Slowly add about 32 oz chicken broth. You want this to mix with the flour without clumping to thicken the stew.  Then add (2) 15oz cans of pinto beans with all liquid, (2) 7 oz. cans diced green chilies, a dash of cayenne pepper.   Add a little salt, pepper, cumin and mexican oregano to taste.  Bring to a boil and simmer real low for about 1 hour.  You want the meat to get nice and soft.  Then add (1) 29 oz. can of hominy. Let simmer for another 45 minutes. Adjust your seasonings and just before serving  stir in about 1/3 cup chopped cilantro. 
If you like, garnish with lime wedges, sour cream, cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro.  I personally like mine plain.  Serve with warm corn tortillas and enjoy.
The hardest part of this dish is keeping the flour from clumping, otherwise it is a cinch if you have the time to hang around the house and watch the stew pot for a few hours.  Ingredients are cheap and it is another one pot wonder for a cold evening.
We have plans to return to that area some day.  It is beautiful country with so many great cultural places to visit.  When we do return, we will try to find this place again. It was the best Mexican food I have ever had.

Friday, November 5, 2010

BEEF....It's what's for dinner

My friend Monica called me the other day.  She is listed in my cell phone simply as Beef.  Monica is an old farming friend of mine.  We use to see a lot of each other during my farming days.  We have been buying a 1/2 a steer from her family for about 17 years.  They grow wonderful grass fed beef.  I talk with Monica a few times a year now,  when I browse the growers market, when she calls to double check our beef order and when our steer is hanging down at our local butcher.    Monica is known to give me more details about our steer then I care to know.  Every year I make sure she knows we want our 1/2 from one of the largest steers they have.  Monica already knows this and tells me all about the one she has picked out for us.  We are talking custom here, hand picked just for the Watson family.  The hard thing is is that she will go on to tell me how friendly he is, always the first one at the top of the pasture for feeding, how sweet it is when he rubs his head on her shoulder.  And no doubt she will add what a great looking animal he is.  Ok, I don't really need all this info but I listen.  I listen because I really care where the meat comes from that I feed my family.  I don't purchase beef or pork from the grocery store.  I buy both these farm direct.  Remember, I have a degree in agriculture and I know too much about this industry.
Since I knew we would soon be getting another 1/2 of a very loving and kind steer I decided we better eat some beef.  So, that's what's for dinner tonight, again.

I had a busy day ahead including a job interview that I had to make myself presentable for. So once again, not a lot of time to cook.  I grabbed a London broil out of the deep freeze, crock pot off the shelf, and searched the pantry and fridge for ideas.  In the fridge I found a 1/2  jar of Trader Joe's red mole sauce.  Yikes!  How long has that been in there?  No idea but cider vinegar being the 3rd ingredient I wasn't going to worry too much about food safety here.  Besides, it is going to cook for hours while I am out running the kids around and checking out the possibilities for a very part time job (6 hrs a wk, just my style).  I'd never tried mole with beef.  I usually save this for chicken but what the heck, I had 20 mins. to figure this one out.

1 London Broil
1/2 jar of mole sauce (about 6 oz.) Save a little to add just before serving to add a good burst of flavor.
1/2 cup water
Turn crock pot on LOW and leave the house.

Upon our return home the house smelled wonderful, just like I was home cooking all day.  I checked the contents of the crock pot and found beef so tender, succulent and delicious I couldn't wait to eat.  I was shaking like a starving puppy.  Not to mention the kids, they were acting like the litter mates.
I cooked up 2 cups of rice, there was a lot of sauce there do dump on the rice so I knew I needed to make extra.
I served this with steamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower as well as a fresh pineapple I happen to have from last weeks shopping.
Eventhough everyone went back for seconds, we still had left overs.  I will use those over the weekend to make tacos.  They are going to be great.

Mole takes its name from the Mayan word "Moli" which means concoction.  It is a mixture of many ingredients from Mexico's Mayan and colonial cultures.   If you've never tired mole, I recommend it.  It's wonderful and apparently keeps well in the fridge.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh mom, In can't believe you made this! It's my favorite.

Sometimes you need to comfort your tired family with more than just hugs, a promise of an easy night and early bedtime. Comfort often needs to come in the form of food.  Thus the saying 'comfort food'. Everyone has their favorite.  For some it may be sweets, others carbs, maybe a peach that is so sweet and delicious it reminds you of being in your grandmothers backyard.  Whatever it is, we all have them and we all need them every so often.  My idea of comfort food is something delicious, gooey and usually contains more calories per bite than I want to think about. My list of comfort foods in endless.
 A few weeks ago one of my dear friends talked about comfort foods on  Facebook.  At the end she asked her friends "What is your favorite comfort food"  This was my response:

Once again, easy, most ingredients are in your kitchen, very little clean-up and rather cheap to make.  Best of all the family scarfs this down like a pack of wolves. 

Cook up a 1# package of elbow macaroni or those mini lasagne style noodles in a pot that is oven safe.  Be sure not to over cook, pull when they are just done. Rise and set aside

Cook up about 1# ground beef (elk or venison work great too) with 1 medium diced onion.  I like to use a little olive oil here to keep everthing from sticking and it adds a great flavor.  I also use the same pot I cooked my noodles in. 
Add 1 package frozen mixed vegetabels (carrots, green beans, corn etc) or cans of the like.
Add 1 can diced tomatoes, juice and all
1 small can tomato sauce.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, and a little mixture of dried herbs like an Italian blend of sorts.  If you have herbs in your garden like oregano, basil, thyme etc...use those!  Yum.
Let this simmer for a while to allow the flavors to blend.  You might need to add a little water to make sure your mix isn't dry.  You want it a little saucy.
 Cube up about 1/2# cheddar cheese ( I use medium, mild would be too bland and I usually don't have sharp around the house because I like it too much and I know I will eat it all).
Throw everthing, noodles, beef mixture and cheese, back into the noodle pot and stir untill well blended.  Add more cheese if you feel there isn't enough.  Remember we are going for gooey comfort here.
Sprinkle a little parmesean cheese on the top and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.  You want all the cheese to melt and a little crust to form on the top.

Serve straight from the pot to the plate and tada! you have dirtied one cook pot.  My son and husband like to put a little tobasco sauce on theirs. Sometime I will do the same.  Either way, it's good.

The other wonderful thing that happens when I make this dish is my 16 year old son will hug me and tell me how much he loves me.  Not sure why this casserole make him do that but that a comfort I will never pass up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's for dinner mom? I am sooooo hungry

So, yesterday I found myself running behind on my dinner idea.  I had a crazy schedule of picking up, dropping off and picking up kids from various places in town.(I only have 2 kids and I really admire people with more than that) So before I left home, I took a package of pork chops out of the freezer.  Needless to say we were going to do something simple and quick.  Which is just my style as I knew I wouldn't get home untill 7pm with two tired and hungry kids.  So my focus, as usual, was yummy, nutritious, filling and QUICK!  I knew if I didn't get food on soon the kids would fill up on Halloween candy (yes, teenagers do end up with that stuff!)
So, the answer to the What's for dinner? question is simple:

Thick cut pork chops, pan fried with a little of PENZYS (we will discuss them later) Northwoods Fire seasoning.
Steamed sweet potatoes that I seasoned up in the pork chop pan just before serving.  YUM!  No butter needed here folks just good old seasoned pork drippings.
Steamed broccoli  Served plain no butter etc....You will notice this is how I do 95% of my veggies.
Home made applesauce  The apples came from our tree and WOW what a treat.  Kids & hubby love it.

Besides the applesauce, I'd say this meal took me 15 minutes to make.  And best of all under $10.00 for a family of 4.  The meal was delicious and nutritious.  Clean up was a snap.  That is always a great way to end a busy day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My first attemp at blogging for food.

Bare with me here my friends.  Blogging is new to me today. As most of you know I am very computer challenged. I thought I could transfer my notes from my regular documents and post them onto my blog.  Maybe I can.  I need to figure this one out.