26 October 2012

Go Big or Go Home

I promised to try a new food this month.  At first, I pansied out and bought a new onion (cebollita...who was I kidding?).  But that's not my style.  Why try a new food unless it's really new?  So I went big.
These are mushrooms stuffed with sardines.  Yup, you got it.  I am now a sardine-eater.  Omega-3s and all that.  But lest you think I'm braver than I actually am, there's also some bacon in there.
And some fennel, because who doesn't need another excuse to use a bulb of fennel?
Saute diced fennel bulb, onion, pepper and the mushroom stems until tender.
Rip open the sardines like a boss.  Give them a smell.
Mix it all up.  Add some spices and crumbled bacon.  Stuff it into some mushrooms.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350*F.  Serve with a coy smile and don't tell anyone what's in it.
Actually, there's no need to be sneaky.  They taste great.  I actually preferred the stuffing before it was surrounded by mushroom cap.  It tasted a little bit fishy, but for all I knew it could have easily been a can of tuna in the stuffing.  I would definitely make it again.

Sardine Stuffed Mushrooms (based on a recipe found here)
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 1/2 c chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 c chopped fennel bulb
  • any amount of mushrooms
  • 7 oz sardines
  • crumbled bacon, to taste
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • oregano
  • fennel leaves
  • flaked parmesan cheese, if desired
1.  Saute onion, pepper, fennel and chopped mushroom stems for about 7 minutes.  Turn off the heat.
2.  Add the sardines, bacon, and spices.  Stir until well mixed, breaking up the sardines if necessary
3.  Stuff the mixture into the mushroom caps.
4.  Sprinkle with parmesan, if desired.
5.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350*.

19 October 2012


The chili cheese fries of the northern climes, poutine is a nod to our maple leaf toting neighbors.
I have the unfortunate task of writing this blogpost right before dinner time.  I didn't think I was hungry until I started looking through these photos.  Poutine is a simple Canadian dish made of fries covered in gravy and fried cheese curds.  I took a little shortcut and just used shredded cheese, but don't think for a second that this route was any less tasty.

Start out with a greased pan.  Good high heat oils include coconut oil, butter, and animal fats.  I used bacon fat, because bacon and fries make a great pair.  The first secret to great oven fries is the oil - too much and they'll be soggy, too little and they'll stick to the pan.  You can see about how thick this pan was covered - this is the perfect amount.
I like my fries sliced thick.  I used red potatoes, but feel free to change up the potato.  Sweet potatoes are a great option too.  The second secret to great oven fries is to keep them from touching each other when you lay them out.  This also helps them get crispier.
Put these in the oven at 425* for 20 minutes.  When the timer goes off, take them out, flip them all over, then put then in for another 20 minutes.  You can see how the side that was on the bottom gets nicely browned.
In the meantime, grate some cheese and make the gravy.  Start by browning some flour.  The way to brown flour is to use a ratio that is 1 part fat to 1 part flour on a med-high heat.  The fat starts to bubble and fry the flour a bit.  If it's too dry, add more fat (once again, I used bacon fat).
Slowly add to this 2 cups of beef broth.  I used the bone broth that I canned earlier this year.  Add just a little bit at first and stir it to mix so that you don't get clumps of flour. 
Let this simmer until thick.  Add some salt and pepper and any other spices that sound good.  Maybe some thyme sounds good.  I added a little southwest seasoning to it since I'd sprinkled some cayenne on the fries.  Speaking of which, those might be ready to come out of the oven soon.  Ahh, yes.
Tasty crispy crunchy goodness.  Time to put it all together.

  • Bacon fat
  • 3 lbs potatoes
  • 3 tbs whole wheat flour
  • 2 c beef broth
  • S&P to taste
  • cheese
1.  Preheat the oven to 425*F.  Lightly grease a large pan.  Lay out sliced potato wedges so that none are touching each other.  Put them in the oven for 40 minutes, turning them over at the 20 minute mark.
2.  Brown 3 tbs of flour in 3 tbs of bacon grease (about med-high heat for 2-3 minutes).  Add in 1/2 cup of broth and mix well to prevent clumping.  Add the remaining broth, salt and pepper.  Simmer until thick.
3.  Grate some cheese (don't buy pre-grated cheese because it's full of additives to keep it from clumping).
4.  Assemble your poutine:  fries, gravy, cheese. 
It wouldn't take too many tweaks to turn this into a vegetarian or vegan dish.

16 October 2012

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

I'm trying to get in the spirit of fall.  Truth be told, I do like pomegranates and all they labor they entail.  That being said, the cold weather is already dragging me down.  We've already seen snow in these parts.
Look at the reds and greens in that salad.  It just looks Christmasy.  I'm not sure I'm ready for this.  Let's add some hot chicken to throw off that wintery feeling.
Start by juicing one pomegranate.  I would suggest using a blender or food processor on the seeds, aka arils (avoid the bitter pith).  I had had a long day at work and took some sort of perverse pleasure in the tedium of juicing each aril by hand. 
I ended up with about a third of a cup of juice, which I topped off to a half cup with some red wine vinegar (about 3 tbs).
I then added a half cup of extra virgin olive oil.
A dash of salt, some fresh cracked peppercorns, and a tsp of dried mustard finished this vinaigrette.
Put it in a small bottle and shake to mix (the oil will naturally separate out if left sitting, just give it a good shake before serving).
Pour this over a light salad garnished with pomegranate seeds.  For a little heavier salad, add some chicken.
Pomegranate Vinaigrette
  • 1 pomegranate (plus 1 more to garnish salad, if desired)
  • 3 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh pepper
  • 1 tsp ground dried mustard
1.  Separate the seeds from the pith of a pomegranate.  Discard the pith, put the seeds in a food processor.  Strain out the juice and discard the remaining solids.
2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the juice.
3.  Shake before serving.

05 October 2012


A mere seven posts from the last time I posted about monthly goals...time passes so quickly!

The problem with September is that I failed to review my goals mid-month, which means I forgot what most of them were :)
  • Start and finish a book.  Actually I started three books at once, but I did finish one of them.
  • Take a bath.  Ha!  Yeah right.
  • Let someone else cook.  For a full week, Kyle was in charge of food.  It was great, and by the end of the week, I actually felt like cooking again.
  • Can homegrown tomatoes – spaghetti sauce AND pizza sauce. It's a nice feeling to know that all those garden tomatoes are preserved for winter and aren't taking up fridge or freezer space.
  • Bachelorette party for one of my good friends.  Wow, was that a lot of fun!  It was a great weekend, and I think we gave the bachelorette a nice send-off to the married life.
  • Wedding. So much wedding!  A fabulous fall day, some lovely new people, and a night that went on to the wee hours of the morning. 
  • Make a soufflĂ©. This has still been on my mind.  It will definitely happen.  Maybe even in October.
 I might even be able to scrounge up some photos of the wedding, once I get them off my camera...

In the meantime, I've been seriously thwarted in my attempt to do some deep cleaning of the house.  I finally got some free time and a cold has knocked me on my butt.  Now that I'm starting to feel human again, hopefully I'll be able to make some progress.

Oh, and no ArtPrize this year.  Sadly, tomorrow is the only time I can go, and it's forecasted to be in the 40s and rainy, which doesn't sound like much fun.  Here are some things that I think I will actually be able to do, though:
  • Maintain the garden.  There isn't much left growing, but those last few tomatoes and peppers are still worth covering before a frost.
  • Go through all my papers and file everything.  Go through closets and bring clothes to Goodwill.  Dump all the crap I don't need.  Pare down my belongings.
  • Rack the blueberry wine.  It's been sitting in those lees for long enough.
  • Rearrange the book shelf.
  • Stay warm.  Stupid winter...grrrr.
  • Try a new food.  Not just a new dish, but a dish that uses an ingredient I've never had before.
Okay, I know that's a pretty wimpy list, but between work and extracurricular meetings and any social life that exists in cold weather, I think it will suffice.

Happy Fall!

02 October 2012

Instant Pickles

[Edit:  I later made this recipe again when dill was in season and put new photos in.]

This is my mom's tried and true recipe.  It tastes like the best parts of summer with the cool crunch of cucumber.  Kyle calls them Quickles.  I think that sounds like a bad clown's name.
That being said, they are pretty quick and easy.  Start with 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of sugar (you can easily go with a little less sugar) and 1 cup of water.  Put those on the stove to simmer.  Add 1 tsp of sea salt.

And 1 tsp of ground mustard.
While waiting for that to come to a boil, slice up the cucumbers.  To make dill pickles, add a couple dill heads to the bottom of the jar.  Also optional is adding a couple cloves of garlic. 
Alternately pack dill and sliced cucumber, packing tightly until the jar is full.
Boil the liquids until the sugar is dissolved.
When dissolved, pour the hot liquid over the cucumber slices until the jars are full.
Refrigerate until cool.  Voila!  Pickles.

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • [optional] fresh dill
  • [optional] garlic cloves
1.  Add the vinegar, sugar, water, sea salt and mustard to a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.
2.  While waiting for the pot to boil, slice the cucumbers and pack tightly into two quart jars (if using dill or garlic, put in jar prior to packing in the cucumbers).
3.  When the sugar has dissolved in the boiling mixture, pour over the cucumbers until the jars are full.
4.  Refrigerate until cool.