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Showing posts with label Bettertarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bettertarian. Show all posts

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Screams and Sprouts; Ginger Scallops/ Pea, Carrot, Dill Sprouts/Sage Flowers/Mulberry Gastrique


Illustration of Scallops and Sprouts Salad w/Mulberry Gastrique


I wanted to discover the delicate side of my growing garden and I had a wonderful learning experience in sprouts.  I am at the thinning phase for some, so I thought it would be fruitful to see what I could develop with some of the freshest springtime ingredients available, literally in my own yard.  The birds hadn't eaten all of the Mulberries from our tree just yet and I was able to procure a full cup, from which I made the Gastrique.
 I reduced the berries and honey with a little water down to about 3 tablespoons, then added the aged balsamic, reducing again to about 2 tablespoons.  I used a good aged balsamic and wildflower honey.  Fresh ginger, lemon, organic extra virgin olive oil and Irish butter also make an appearance.  I used slices of ginger to scent the olive oil before searing the scallops.  I added the Irish butter after flipping the scallops and getting the caramelization on the tops.  I made a simple vinaigrette using the organic olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, sage flowers, cracked pepper and Fleur de Sel. I garnished with microgreens from my homegrown Brassicas.
 The recipe turned out wonderfully, though the stencil of the pea shoots could have been better.  I wanted to share the above photo of how my mind sees recipe ideas and ingredients before becoming a finished product. Grab some sprouts from your garden and have at it, it's a most rewarding experience.  Micorgreens can have upwards of 40 times the nutrients of regularly grown greens, bigger isn't always better!






 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

A 'Moss' Beautiful Gardening Idea



Freshly harvested Moss helped to elevate my planting vessel!
Turn an ordinary, inexpensive and planting suitable vessel into a work of art, with Moss.  I harvested this moss from our church yard, by a prominent tree, near the resting place of one of my little brothers, Keith.  Going to the church is always such a bittersweet destination, Alas, I digress, my Dad and one of my big brothers is there too.  In fact, generations of Smiths and Bergers are.  They are in a better place now and that comforts me, when I miss them sorely and feel despondent.  

I carefully peeled tufts of the softest and most durable sections of the expansive patch for my project.  
The moss is plush and feels like memory foam underfoot and beckons for you to take off your shoes and scrunch your toes in it and feel like a kid again.  Highly resilient and masterful for retaining moisture, moss is a versatile and beautiful plus textured plant, appealing to several senses at once, in a most flattering way.  

With a little creativity, a little moss can go a long way.  Have fun with it and stay tuned to see what I've planted here when it starts to peek above the soil.  The moss used for this featured project, is actually remnants of another project idea, coming up soon, I'm elated with those results as well!

Recipe:

A  plastic container, basket or bowl, with holes preferably

A knife or other sharp object to make small holes for draining 

Fresh moss

Planting soil

Desired suitable plants for vessel

Take a few moments to carefully bore several holes in the bottom of the vessel for draining.

The design will of course vary by container, but for this one, I simply tore off pieces to plug the larger holes on the container, on all four sides.  You want the pieces to fit somewhat snuggly in each of the holes.

Once desired pattern is achieved, carefully fill the vessel with potting soil.  

Plant your desired seeds for your personal needs. 

Enjoy the project and the bounty. 


  

 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Pantry Chicken and Broccoli 'Lo Mein'



Feeling like takeout, but want to stay at home and save some money? This recipe is easy to execute and full of bold and delicious flavors from the Orient. These ingredients are probably in your pantry and freezer already. The Lo Mein in this recipe is actually spaghetti, left over from a spaghetti dinner I made on a Friday night, two weeks ago.  The uncooked spaghetti was in a large sealed zip bag, but I wanted to go ahead and rotate my pasta stock, so I built a dish around it. Buying the 2 lb. package really saves!  
Some thawed chicken breast, frozen broccoli, peas and carrot blend, and some baby corn come together and BOOM! you've got a delicious one dish meal with all the right moves! 
The black sesame seeds are an added plus, but not necessary, the plain will do just fine.  I used some liquid aminos in this recipe to supplement some of the soy sauce and shave the sodium, just a bit.  I don't worry too much about it in this dish, because the amounts are spread across at least 10 servings.  
Some water chestnuts are a  great inexpensive way to add mega crunch and texture, just a thought!

Recipe:
1 1/2 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips, then cut into 1 inch, bite sized pieces
1 lb. spaghetti noodles, cooked according to instructions, in salted water, just short of al dente, about 7 minutes.
1 lb. frozen broccoli, thawed
1 c. frozen peas and carrots, frozen
1/2 can baby corn, drained and cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 c. reduced sodium soy, plus 3/4 c. water or stock to make 1 cup.
1/3 c. liquid aminos 
1/4. c. pure cane sugar
3-5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 to 2 tsp. Sriracha or to taste
2 tbs. cornstarch, plus 2 tbsp. water to make a slurry
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. ground ginger 
SPST
Olive oil for drizzling
Sesame Oil for garnish, optional

Instructions:
In a medium hot skillet drizzled with olive oil, brown chicken in batches.
SPST. (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
While pasta cooks, add the thawed broccoli. After 7 minutes, drain and shock in cold water.
Add pasta and broccoli back to spaghetti pot and drizzle with scant amount of sesame oil and keep warm on the lowest setting.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine soy, water, aminos, sugar, ginger, garlic, Sriracha and corn starch, set aside.
 After the chicken is all browned, add back to skillet , add sauce ingredients from bowl and bring up to a boil
to thicken, then turn off heat.
Add peas and carrots and baby corn, stir.
Pour chicken mixture over pasta and broccoli.
Over medium low heat, fold until evenly coated and veggies/colors are distributed as evenly as possible. 
Check seasonings and adjust as desired. 
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle lightly with sesame oil.
Sliced Green onion will make an excellent garnish also. 




Saturday, July 18, 2020

Mixed Berry Sake Jam w/ Cardamom, Preservation Elevation



Canning and Preserving our harvests from year to year and season to season allows us to enjoy the same joys of one time to the next.  Aside from the traditions of our families or through newly found practices, many have come to embrace our foodstory with the ways we make it last. I am relatively a novice with spunk. Canning and the preservation of food has always been a part of my life, since I was a girl.  I participated in those long and arduous days, produce and our livestock had to be prepped for the long winter months.  There was a position for every one of us.  All the toils and efforts were worth every drip of sweat and sometimes tears, because I had made friends with the hogs, even given them names, silly little girl me.  I knew that those were labors of love and provisions to sustain our family. Our family is comprised of  generations of farmers and land holders. The efforts almost like the Fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper and reminiscent of House Stark's mantra in Game of Thrones, Winter is Coming! Our Dad, in all his wisdom and hard work was definitely the Ant.  Plus, we live in a rural and rough in the winter village, a far off land even, because our nearest town is 10 miles away, one way, one road really and the going most certainly got tough, if not impossible, at least by car.  
I love traditional things, but I also like being inventive and having recipes I write include my personal expressions of who I am.  This jam is one such offering.  I infused this strawberry and blackberry jam with Sake and Cardamom.  My sister Bonnie and I picked the blackberries on Sunday Morning together, down in a hollow, near their hunting cabin.  This is also the place where I found my first Morel Mushroom, some years ago.  
After we looked at the garden kept by Bonnie and her husband, checked the crawfish traps in the creek and admired their fish in the manmade pond, we set off to pick the blackberries that the birds and a very vigilant black bear hadn't eaten.  
The day was heating up fast and the viable berries were mostly a memory.  At least the bear did the dangerous job of making a path through the bush, laying the thorny, prickly and hurty tendrils or canes that held vibrant gems to each side, so we were able to get in closer to the treasures towards the back of the bushes.  We ended up with about 1 pint, for which I was grateful and wanted them to have a most excellent outcome. We hope to catch the next flight of berries that for now, are but crimson, hard and unripe.
I ordered the Cardamom pods straight from Sri Lanka at the beginning of this year.  I enjoy Cardamom.  It is a must have for my Roasted Pumpkin Cream Pie recipe, freshly ground with my Mortar and Pestle.
The aroma and flavor is fruit forward with warm, lemony notes, inviting and much brighter than pre- ground.  
The following recipe is purely simple and delicious  There are only a handful of ingredients, easy to acquire, and not requiring too much time.  I didn't add pectin to this recipe either,  the seeds have natural pectin that is released during the cooking and mashing process.  After the hulling and slicing of the strawberries, the rest is smooth sailing.  I hope you enjoy this as much as my family and I did.
Recipe:
5 lb. strawberries, washed, hulled and trimmed of tops, larger ones cut in half or quartered, depending on size.
1c. pure cane sugar
1/2 c. Traditional Sake
6 Cardamom pods, in a small cheesecloth pouch
1 pinch of Himalayan Salt
Juice and peel of one lemon 
Combine fruit, sugar and salt in a non reactive cooking vessel and let sit covered for 1 hour or overnight.
When ready, add remaining ingredients except Sake and bring up to a boil over medium high heat, in a heavy bottomed, non reactive saucepan or pot. 
Once boiling, reduce to medium and cook for about 15 minutes.
Using a potato masher,  press and mash the berries, but leaving some chunkiness for texture.
Cook until jam is reduced and thickened, about 45 minutes.
Add the Sake during the last 20 minutes of simmering to help retain the flavor.
Let sit in fridge overnight to thicken more after cooling at room temperature or add straight to canning jars as per instructions and method.  
If you let it sit overnight, determine whether the desired thickness is reached , if not simmer a bit longer, 5 to 10 minutes more at a time and bring up to temperature and continue canning as per instructions.
Remove Cardamom pouch and large pieces of lemon peel before placing in jars.
Makes 12 half pint containers with enough left over for an 8 oz. jar to consume now!  
Refrigerate ready to eat jar for up to 6 months.











Thursday, July 9, 2020

Triple Cheese Burger: Muenster, American and Pepper Jack


There's a great burger waiting around virtually every corner and summertime is the perfect time for burger recipes worth the effort and here is one for the books.  The awesome part about this Triple Cheese burger is that it's completely meatless and is rocking two whole portobellos with a Beyond Meat® Burger sandwiched in between three slices of cheese, all bringing different elements of deliciousness to the table.  
I am rather fond of the Beyond Meat Beyond Burger™ for many reasons.  I like the option of meatless and less meat days and this burger fits the bill for a great fill in.  I won't say substitute, because this meat option stands on its own, full of flavor and fantastic texture. They are composed of pea proteins and a welcome smokiness, they even give the appearance of a burger cooked medium well. They are a bit expensive for a crowd, so using all mushrooms would rock too.  I've swapped it in on my pickiest girl, Genesis, and it went over very well. She didn't comment, one way or the other, but she ate it and afterwards said that she enjoyed it.  Although the results were not the same the second time around, I announced it before I served it and the girls were like "Mom, we're not Vegans". I expressed to them that I wasn't trying to turn them into Vegans, as much as I was trying to show them that there are plant based meat alternatives and that we can have plant based meal days as well as an omnivorous diet respectively, Bettertarians, consciously making adjustments towards better choices, decisions and health. 
Executing this recipe is breeze and you can dress it up or down any way you choose.  I used some gourmet greens I had on hand from another recipe, but you can use iceberg, bringing fresh crunch.  The portobellos are to me, best cooked on a grill pan, easily allowing excess moisture to escape.  The Beyond burger will take approximately the same time, so all you'll need to decide is what three cheeses you want to use, or not, of course it's up to you.  
This is certainly an indulgent burger, but not guilt ridden. It's easily 1/2 to 3/4  fewer calories and fat, than a full on triple meat and cheese burger, you're welcome.  Make your next meal POP with some delicious and nutritious alternatives to your meaty meals, you may be surprised at how great they taste. Now if you really want to get the crowd going, throw in some BACON! That usually wins over the last leary souls, afraid to think outside the box, the fast food box, that is.  
Recipe:
Portobello mushrooms, large, trimmed wiped clean
Liquid Aminos, optional
Beyond Meat™ Burgers, they come in packs of 2 and 4
3 types cheese, I chose one mild, melty and stretchy, one traditional and one with spicy kick 
Burger Fixins (lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mayo, ketchup and mustard), as desired
Hamburger Buns
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Olive oil for drizzling

Directions:
Marinate the Portobellos(2) in 2 tsp. Liquid Aminos for 15 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
Brush mushrooms and Beyond burger with olive oil and place on hot grill or grill pan.
Start the mushrooms on the flat side.
Once mushrooms start to release their water, It's time to flip, about 5 minutes.
SPST, both burgers and shrooms.
While the proteins cook, prep the rest of the burger.
Lightly grill or toast the buns, drizzled with olive or a smear of plant butter, optional
Add cheeses during the last 2 minutes. 
Assemble burgers and make some memories! 






Beyond Meat Burger, World's First Plant-Based Burger, Vegan, No ...





Thursday, June 25, 2020

Jewels on the Virginia Nile by the Cupful



Aside for the much needed change of scenery and time to re-center, this past week brought some pleasant surprises along with the rain that hung out there for the whole trip.  I am a coffee appreciator and lifelong fan. I happened by this robust and flavorful caramel noted brew at the supermarket in Clarksville, the town on the bustling Buggs Island Lake.  
This is a superb place for relaxing, water skiing, wakeboarding, camping and the fisherman alike, from leisure to pro sport, walking or by boat, the activities of this area are bountiful and the atmosphere is magical.  The above is a picture of the coffee I discovered and just had to try.  I am an advocate of local, small businesses and believe in doing my part, when and where I can.  The object in the front is a piece of driftwood I found on the shore behind our cabin. I find it full of character and as a piece of natural water/nature made art.
The coffee itself is from a small batch roastery called Lake Gaston Coffee Company, situated in Littleton, North Carolina.   Lake Gaston is a manmade lake with about 35 miles of shoreline.  It is situated near Buggs Island Lake or John H. Kerr Dam, which is a  50,000 acre reservoir. It was constructed between 1947 and 1957, as a means of hydroelectricity and flood control.  This massive lake extends into North Carolina. I admiringly call it The Virginia Nile.
Lake Gaston Coffee Company offer both Arabica whole bean and ground roast in an array of flavors and intensities brewed from beans from all over the world, including South and Central America and East  Africa.  They also offer teas, wine slushies, Lattes to go, Farm Sciences CBD oil and much more! They even have a small coffee shop located in Littleton.  
I have fallen in love with this fabulous bag of coffee and I am eager to try more.  Good news should not be kept to oneself, so I thought I'd share it with you.  Stay tuned for more updates on products and coffee talk.  This roast was indeed as described with a satisfyingly hearty flavor and true notes of caramel chews and toothpicks made from cherrywood.  
Anytime is a good time for coffee in my book and the constant cool showers and uncharacteristically, inclement weather, presented the perfect storm for trying a new hot beverage. 
 I generally go for medium roasts, since I drink quite a bit of it, but this Buggs Island Lake Columbia grind, with my skimmed down amounts, was just a darling!  I've provided a link for your discovery and enjoyment.  This micro-roastery is a real gem.  https://lakegastoncoffee.com/ 







Sunday, June 7, 2020

Rice Balls w/ Anchovy and Pineapple





I made rice balls for the first time during these last several weeks, at the request of my youngest and Anime fanatic, Bronwyn and they are a real treat.  The best part about them is that they are virtually a blank canvas for any toppings you can dream up.  This particular version features two ingredients that I think work really well together as far as flavor contrast and balance goes.
 Since this was a spur of the moment request, I didn't have any smoked salmon or crab to top these off or bury in its center, as the initial recipe suggested.  Bronwyn wanted them plain anyway, so no buried treasures of simmered ginger infused pork or spicy beef was anywhere in sight.  I topped my rice balls with delicate and umami forward portions of canned anchovy and complimented the saltiness with the sweetness of freshly cut pineapple pieces.  The black sesame seeds provided a nice nuttiness and  pop of color.
Sticky rice is a rather labor intensive dish, though it is not difficult.  The most important factor is rinsing the rice to remove the starch. It must be done so many, many times.  There is a particular variety of rice traditionally used for this by the Japanese called Sushi rice, also known as glutinous rice, which is sticky when cooked.  For this recipe, I chose to use Jasmine rice, though it is not as sticky when cooked as the suited rice.  It did however perform well.
For this recipe, I simply vigorously rinsed the rice several times and cooked according to the indications on the rice label, but I use 1 1/2 cups of water for every 2 cups of rice.   I then drizzled the rice with mirin mixed with seasoned rice vinegar, while in front of a fan, constantly tossing and turning the rice for even coating.  Afterwards, I took portions of the rice and attempted to shape them into the traditional triangles, but opted for the balls, because they were easier.  lol.
We used low sodium soy, smoked tamari and Thai Chili Sauce for dipping.

































































Monday, March 30, 2020

Foraging: Morel Mushroom Flatbread

 Old Macdonald had a farm, we learned from way back and if he made flatbread, this would be it.  This flatbread's components are staples and part of everyday farmlife.  We have the grains or bread of course, then we have the meaty, earthy and nutty flavor profile of the morels, then we have our dairy cows with the butter, a little duck fat and a bit of garlic sauteed with the mushrooms, then removed to provide the perfect kiss of goodness. 
I actually used large butter flavored refrigerator biscuits to create the flatbread, creating a delicious and time savvy flavorbomb, with a lid on the stovetop pan to create a mini dutch oven.  After being flipped, the flatbread will reach a crispity, texture filled, crusty bottom, caramelized and to your standard's perfection.  This a recipe perfect for small hauls or when you want something to showcase the mushroom's delightful aromas, texture and flavor. Feel free to toss a few fresh thyme leaves or edible flower petals for an over the top, spectacular presentation! For best results, allow biscuits to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, for ease of stretching.

Recipe:
In a medium nonstick pan over medium high heat, melt 1/2 pat of butter and about 1/2 tsp. duck fat.*
Swirl pan to combine and add mushrooms, about 1/4 c. cut in half and 2 smashed cloves of garlic.
Saute for about 2 minutes.
SPST . (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Meanwhile, take 1 of the jumbo butter biscuits mash and stretch with hands until about 2 1/2 times its normal size, and about 1/4 inch thickness.
Push mushrooms together in pan, remove garlic, making sure textured sides of morels are facing down, then cover with dough.
Turn temperature down to medium heat.
Place a plate or tightly fitting lid over pan to cook/steam the dough.
After about 3 minutes, remove lid and carefully flip flatbread over (you may press on top lightly to ensure mushrooms adhere to bottom) and cover again.
Cook until bottom is slightly crisp and golden brown, but not burned, check as needed.
Place on paper towel to absorb any excess oils.
Makes 1 flatbread.

*If you do not have or want to use duck fat, olive oil, schmaltz (chicken fat) or bacon renderings will make great variations.


If you would like this recipe and future posts delivered right to your mailbox, simply join us by adding your email in the subscription section at the top of the web version!  Thanks in Advance.

Best,
D. Smith :)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Lemony Pistachio and Cardamom Shortbread

I ran across this gorgeous, practically brand new, vintage cookie mold from the 80's by "Brown Bag Cookie Art", at the goodwill store.  The Scottish Thistle design is incredibly ornate, imparting the same design onto your dough.  I had been thinking about shortbread, shortbread cookies and such, as it was around the holiday.  Shortbread was to be included with the cookie bundles I planned to give out to my family and friends. 
Somehow, my cookie plan's applecart was upset, partly because the kids were eating them as fast as I could bake them, and also from some erratic time management or should I say mismanagement! Anywho, the cute little brownies were the first baked and first to go and It seemed as if I was making myself more stressed than necessary, considering how crazy stressful  the holidays can be.  So, to save the ship, I chucked the cookie plans overboard and settled for only the shortbread.   I had not made shortbread before, so I started out with some extensive reading and researching my older cookbooks and magazines for earlier versions as well as its origins and history.
Once I satisfied my curiosity, I was able to create a recipe exemplary of my experience and desire to have it represent my style, which brings us to the recipe below. 
My mom and I enjoyed it with hot tea and coffee and my daughter enjoyed them with her cocoa. Heck, we enjoyed it by itself!   I was certain that the shortbread was even better the next day and it disappeared quickly, which is a good sign.

Lemon juice imparts brightness and tang, plus antioxidants and vitamin c. I had both ground and cardamom pods on hand and they complement lemon very well, mimicking the same flavor. This last restock,  I ordered the cardamom pods from Sri Lanka, always having some on hand because it is a key ingredient in one of my other quite popular and well received dishes I create, Roasted Pumpkin Cream Pie. 
 I used my mortar and pestle to crush the pod, which I remove and grind the little lemony, warm spice pebbles on the inside. The smell of freshly crushed cardamom is AHHmazing! It puts the pre ground stuff to shame compared, even the more expensive kinds.   This is a no fuss recipe, big on return, simple and inexpensive.  Aside from maybe the cardamom, all the other ingredients are pantry staples.  I like to use Pistachio extract because it imparts a very cherry flavor profile, but you may use more vanilla in its place if you like.

Recipe:
2 c. plus 1/4 c. AP flour, unbleached
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt, I used Himalayan Pink salt, fine grain
 2 stick plant butter or margarine, I used almond
1/2 c. pure cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp. fresh Lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp. pure Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Pistachio extract
1/2 tsp. ground Cardamom

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325*F.
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients until well mixed.
In another bowl, cream butter and sugar, then add extracts, juice and zest.
Combine wet and dry ingredients and turn out on lightly floured surface.
Knead for several minutes until smooth and press into cookie mold.
Make lots of holes in the shortbread all over.
Bake until golden, about 40 minutes, if using a ceramic cookie mold, 25 minutes for metals.
Let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack and allow shortbread to cool completely before serving.
Cut along lines into wedges.
Serve with coffee or hot tea or as is. 
Serves Many.




Monday, March 9, 2020

Saying "I Do" To What Matters Most

I love the invite of Spring just around the corner.  As a sufferer from SAD, the warmer, sunnier, brighter days induce a feeling of hope and positivity, that I can get nowhere else.  The little buds are forming on the trees, as they have been for weeks, mind you, while various flowers and bulbous plants are peeking their little heads above their cozy leaf covered beds.  Mother nature's growth hormones are in full effect.
It is now time to start tiny seedlings indoors, row by row, prepping them for the transition to our outdoor gardens and beds.  Soon, we will be digging, hauling, hoeing and making raised rows and anthills, to foster the best possible outcome for our magnificent homegrown produce. The pruning and gardening gloves, shears and clippers, will be our decided gear.  Aprons will have smears of the fertile and viable soil, especially along the tops of the pockets, and our shoes will show telltale signs of earthen activities.  We will have salad greens abound; tomatoes and cucumbers as well as violet and crimson berries; aromatic herbs and fresh accoutrements to a menu bursting with vitality and life.
The majority has embraced a more organic and virginal form of growing, using minimal additives if any at all.  Awareness is taking hold and this year, there will likely be more gardens or newly ordained 'farmers' than ever.  From the roof tops of cityscapes, to the marginal plots newly designated, the revolution will ensue.  We will assert ourselves as conscious consumers and bolster our confidence with our hands, turning sweet nothings into delicious somethings.  We will compost. We will engage in sensual congress with our progenys, our grow spaces.
These growing stations will not only provide sustenance and foster our most primal instincts, but also exercise our minds and bodies and quench our souls.  Some will be learning canning and dehydrating techniques for the first time, while others are hardened veterans and already have their preservation plans mapped out, like clockwork.
Fermentation will yield such ethnic delicacies as sauerkraut, Kimchi, pickles and Kombucha, full of viable prebiotics, probiotics and flavor. Jams, jellies and preserves, oh my.  Sweet, savory, tart and briny all have a place at the table. Feelings of accomplishment and confidence will spring forth proverbial sunshine, to reflect onto all we do.  We will get to know our foodstory more than ever.  We will share, we'll feast, we'll preserve, we will fellowship.  We will be Betterthaneverians. Do you like the way that sounds? I know I DO!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Best .Oatmeal .Cookie. Ever.

This is one of my most cherished recipes. I created it in 2012. The book in which it was written, was a gift from my sister Brenda, meant  to house such treasures of this very caliber.  Sometimes, we are afraid to step outside of our comfort zone and open our vulnerabilities to the world, especially when dealing with cooking and what our personal idea of what is "good" really is.  This is one such time, but since I am not yet global per se, I feel the best way to obtain such status, would be to let the world in on one of my best kept secrets.
This recipe was misplaced in my sea of culinary journals and sketches for years.  I ran across it this past summer, luckily because my family had inquired about it for as long as it was missing.  I was advised to keep it to myself, but here we go....
Be advised, this cookie is dangerous. One bite will lead to another, then another, and more. Before you know it, you will be in 3 cookies deep and wondering how the heck you got there. You will bade for time, until you may shamelessly have another.  You will want to give out some as gifts, freeze some, anything to feel better about becoming a cookie monster. Try this recipe if you dare.  I will leave this recipe on my website for a total of 23 days. Why 23? One of my lucky numbers is 23. After the specified time, it will be removed promptly, to return to my personal recipe file, to only be baked by me alone.  I would take advantage of this opportunity if I were you.  Feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this post. For more exciting and informative  content delivered right to your mailbox, enter your email address and hit the submit button at the top of the desktop version. I'd love to have you join me!

Recipe:
3 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. rice flour
1 1/3 c. cake flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. butter, softened, unsalted
1 large egg
2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. unsulphured molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Mix dry ingredients together well in one bowl and in another, cream together butter, egg, molasses, sugar and vanilla.
Incorporate wet ingredients into dry  gradually, in a folding fashion, until evenly blended.
Drop by heaping teaspoons or roll into balls about 1' in diameter and place on a well greased cookie sheet.
Bake until golden, about 13 minutes. For a softer cookie, cut cooking time down to 11 minutes.
Let cool slightly before transferring to wire rack, then cookie vessel.
Makes about 5 1/2 dozen, depending on size.



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

That's Just 'Souper', Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Sage Soup for the Soul

It's Fall and the weather is finally starting to realize it.  This summer past has been a scorcher, the hottest on record as a matter of fact.  The leaves have long reflected change, partly because of the drought, their colors mottled with striations of yellows, limes and browns.  They present crunchy underfoot, falling in the day's cool sunlight, their last hoorah!  Fall, sweet Fall, welcome. You bring my birthday, and the things I love most about the seasons; chilly crisp air, sweet, warming baking smells and spices...my favorite time of year.  Better late than never, am I right? 

A friend inquired about what I could do with a pumpkin, dropped during decorating, but viable. She utilized the seeds inside by roasting and seasoning.  The following recipe is what I did with the pumpkin meat, after roasting it off for approximately 40 minutes, drizzled with olive oil and lightly sprinkled with kosher salt. My friend was pleased with results and so was my family of tasters.  I served this with everything bagels, toasted and smeared with some Plant Butter, Coconut, it's delicious. I've also tried the Almond Plant Butter and it's Ahhhmazing too! Bettertarian by design.
.
The following recipe will help kick Autumn into full swing. Unlike some of the traditional Pumpkin soups, this one isn't the type to stick to your spoon like ice cream, it is a thinner, broth based soup with a small amount of milk.  Of course you can adjust as desired, by adding less broth or milk, but I find this way most pleasing.  The thicker ones are to me like baby food from the jar, delicious I'm sure, but just not my favorite. Alas, you can decide for yourself and enjoy the delicious results.


Recipe:
4 cups Roasted Pumpkin*
5 cups chicken or veggie stock
3 tbsp. yellow onion, diced
2 tbs. Vermont cultured butter or other butter, plant or animal based
2/3 c. milk, I used 2%
1 1/2 to 2 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 Sage leaves
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Immersion Blender, optional but Optimal

In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, heat to medium high and drizzle with olive oil.
Add butter, then onions and cook until translucent and fragrant, stirring often, about 3 minutes.
Add stock and pumpkin and use immersion blender to combine and smooth.
If you don't have one, you can press the pumpkin through a sieve before adding to pot and that will aid in creating a creamy, but not thick texture.
Check Seasonings and SPST.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer for several minutes.
Stir in chiffonade of Sage.
Remove from heat and stir in milk.
Place back on burner and simmer for several more minutes, taking care not to let boil.
Serve with toast, crackers or everything bagels.  Great as is.
Serves 6 to 8.

*Note:  I used the regular carving type pumpkin for this recipe, the sugar pumpkin or 'pie pumpkin' featured above is for decoration and other uses, including but not limited to pies, baking vessels, serving bowls, etc...




Friday, June 28, 2019

Fish Tips For the Summer!

I have done my share of cleaning fish, especially over the past 5 years.  I cleaned and butterflied  about 26 fish yesterday alone! My brother in law has really gotten into his hobby, when spare time permits.  He works for a paving company, making roads, both private and public, driveways and parking lots better and safer for us as drivers.  For that I would like to send out a big Thank You on behalf of motorists everywhere.
We have access to many fishing outlets here in these beautiful mountains.  Where we live is the second oldest incorporated town in Virginia, second only to Jamestown!   We are residents of the Leesville Dam and Leesville Lake area, plus there is Goose Creek and other waterways and ponds to choose from.  Goose Creek is where many people enter the river to float into the Staunton River, which runs by our  nearest town and my high school Alma Mater, Altavista.
There is avid hunting in this area as well, full of wilderness, full of life.  We have bears, coyotes, bobcats, rattlesnakes, moccasins, both water and copperheads, too many  deer, even the rare black coyotes, which is just a product of genetics.  I saw one that had been hit in the road one morning, it looked like a skinny bear cub with a dog's face. I was only able to glean  this description going about 45 mph, on my way taking the kiddoes to school.  When I came back through, it was gone, taken for its coat or picked up by VDOT, the first theory probably the most accurate.
Luckily, one of  my sisters and her husband, who is an avid hunter and "angler" came through and got out to investigate and clarified my best guess, having never seen one before.  But Yeah, the phrase "Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My" for sure.  This area is amazing from  the nature and natural beauty standpoint.  The people are pretty solid too.
Back to the lesson at hand, tips and tricks for cleaning and deboning smaller or pan sized fish, because let's be honest, we are not always going to bring home a whopper, plus these  are most the flavorful in my opinion. I like to use a small pile of salt to help anchor my grip on the fish. This way, you can scale this guy more efficiently, which is the first step if the fish has scales.   I line my cleaning station with cardboard if possible, any will do, empty pizza boxes are perfect for this kind of job, absorbing all the excess yuck while you work.  After scaling, you are free to remove the head and entrails.  The featured fish is a white perch.  This my technique to butterfly your protein. Gloves are advised, particularly for the hand holding the fish while you work.

I lay the fish on its back  and hold it like a book I'm about to start reading.  I start at the top and carefully but firmly, make a cut through the bones along where the rib bones meet the back bone. I cut all the way down til I get to the stomach area.  I then lay fish on its side and place a hand firmly on the top run my knife down along the backbone, all the way to the tail.  The fish should lay flat at this point, like an open book.


At this point you can carefully remove the rib bones and the largest sharp part of the fin on the left side shown. Note:  I am left handed so this whole plan is flipped for you right handed souls lol.
You can remove the rib bones by carefully sliding your knife under the bones at the top or bottom of the ribs and working the knife upwards or downwards, pressing against the ribs.  Repeat on opposite side.  Scrape belly flaps to aid in extracting bones from this portion.  Normally, I would use my filet knife also,  the chef's knife is to cut through the bone, but it fell down behind the damn sink.  Drat!
After you remove all the yuck with a few good swishes and salted soak, at least 1 hour, your fish is ready for whatever comes next! Well, gotta go, just got a mess of fish from my fisher guy/bnl Will, back to the lab I go, because, "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect." I'll always remember that banner Mr. Temples, our beloved band director put up in the band room, he was possibly the best band director to ever live, just Phenomenal! Today's Catch of the Day, Bass! Stay tuned for fresh, new recipes featuring these 'puppies'.


The remaining bones are easily pulled out with the fins.  Extreme Caution Advised, especially for Children and Inattentive Adults!


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Ending Discrimination: The Ugly Food Movement


We as consumers, naturally want the 'best' and 'most' for our buck, or at least what we perceive as such.  Now that is all fine and dandy as certain things go, for instance; we wouldn't pick up a loaf of sandwich bread that is already smooshed or a carton of eggs with cracked ones or even a box from the shelf, that has either a razor type slash or is slightly marred in any way.  
This of course is understandable, but sometimes this attitude makes certain very special produce a target to be forgotten.  We all love the perfectly round and bright tomato when picking our fruits.  We want to eat the rainbow and the colors to match. We want the stuff of legend and much falsity like the burgers and food scenes we see on television and in ads. We want the straight, perfect carrots like the ones Bugs Bunny always had.  The banana must be free of bruising and the pepper should sit upright when placed on the table.  You get the drift.   The 'ugly' produce is left in back or never even makes the cut when the buyer checks the crates or boxes.  Poor little veggies... "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

A simple truth, resonating from words, centuries past.  Let's give these loving morsels a chance, your carrot cakes,veggie medleys, casseroles and risottos will taste the same, if not better. Especially if you're going to cut it up anyway.   Better because we are doing a service to the energy it takes to grow produce.  Better because of the land usage and care the farmer, commercial or residential, has put into the finished product.  Better because the poverty levels in the United States are still rising. Children are hungry during the summer without school breakfasts and lunches to supplement.  
We are at the helm of  being some of the most wasteful consumers in the world.  We snub the ugly produce, while some long only for basic sustenance of a meal, that they didn't have to wait days for...
We must set aside the superficiality of our exacting standards, as far as food image is concerned. 
On a lighter note, the people in the know, myself included, are fine with the imperfect produce and are  able to cop these babies at a discount, saving upwards of 30  to 50% off, which for any economically savvy individual means lower food costs for the family. I think their design makes them special and unique, individuals among minions. Betterthaneverians. Not to mention the fun you can have guessing all the things it resembles. Thanks! And while you're at it, get on board and enjoy the bumpy, gnarled, Siamese twin looking ride! Be kind to the "Ugly" and "Imperfect" Produce and it will certainly be kind, delicious and money saving to you and for you! 
Stop Hating, Start Eating.  

Monday, June 10, 2019

5 Cheese/Pepperoni Keto- Fabulous Stuffed Chicken Breasts


I had a hankering for something stuffed, creamy and cheesy; these Italian inspired gems are a good fit.  Prep is relatively easy and the kids loved the results.  This is also a recipe your kiddoes or tween can help you with.  I served this chicken with a cauliflower mash to round out the meal and complement the cheeses. A green salad adds a great, fresh crunch, plus essential vitamins and minerals.  Making sure the breasts are proportionate to one another will ensure smooth sailing and a fantastic meal you can enjoy and be proud of.

Recipe:
6 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless and about 6 to 8 oz. each
1 pkg. deli sliced or bulk  pkg.pepperoni
12 slices Provolone cheese
1 8oz. pkg. Italian cheese blend
EVOO
Italian Seasoning
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)

Preheat oven to 375*F.
Carefully make a slit along side of each chicken portion, without going all the way through.  You are essenially making a pocket for the cheeses and pepperoni.
Each chicken portion gets :
2 deli sized or 6 small pepperoni
2 slices Provolone Cheese
1 Pinch Cheese Blend
Layer ingredients, then fold in half to insert.
After all breasts have been stuffed, place in baking vessel sprayed with cooking spray or drizzled with olive oil.
Arrange chicken evenly spaced and drizzle with olive oil and SPST.
Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning.
Bake covered about 20 minutes, then remove foil.
Cook until chicken starts to turn golden and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Continue until cheese is melted and internal temp. reaches 165*F.
Let stand for several minutes before serving.
Goes well with Cauliflower Mash, (cauliflower steamed or cooked in chicken stock, then SPST, little cream or milk and butter, optional)






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Smokinhotchef
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