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.