Friday, May 15, 2020

Truffled Chicken Liver Pate, The Beefeater and The Cable Guy

Picture taken among Rosemary and Sage, in my Herb Garden.
This is a photograph of my first Aspic.  An aspic is in essence a meat flavored jelly.
The artwork is achieved by using foraged violets, wild strawberry flowers and fresh chives and sage from my herb garden.  The Pate is sealed below the aspic and the artwork. 
My recipe is simply chicken livers that have been simmered in stock, aromatics like garlic, onion, bay leaves, fresh black pepper and cardamom.  The poached livers are then blended with real butter and some truffle oil to achieve an unctuous and delicious spread, blooming with flavor and perfect for easy entertaining.  Aspics hit their peak in the 50's and 60's, but still appear on dinner tables around the world.  They have roots as far back as the Medieval Ages.  
I remember when a group from our high school went to England during the summer of 1992.  I was 15 at the time and escstatic that my parents were able to let me participate.  Traipsing about England with my class mates and Advanced Science teacher Ms. Cothran and her daughter Dawn was an amazing experience.  Ironically enough, the Queen was visiting the Americas at the time of our trip. We spent about 2 1/2 weeks abroad, touring notable places like Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London, Big Ben and Shakespeare's home with Anne Hathaway where we sat in a beautiful garden full of flowers and swung in a wooden swing, priceless! 
  We had dinner one evening on the Thames at The Beefeater, 'Drink Ale and Wassailing', singing, laughing and eating with our hands, alongside Henry VIII.  As part of the dinner theatre, we dined and fellowshipped in the tavern, lasting around 2 hours.  We had this potted meat appetizer, mild and spice forward, to spread on the crusty bread at our tables.  As a Culinarian, this ranks among my greatest food experiences ever!  I still have the menu as part of my memorabilia from the trip.  I'd love to go back, but will settle for taking the kiddoes to Medieval Times, here in the Americas. 
 There is a scene in The Cable Guy starring Jim Carrey as Ernie 'Chip' Douglas and Matthew Broderick as Stephen Kovacs, written and directed by Ben Stiller, where Chip takes Stephen to Medieval Times for dinner and I was immeditately catapulted back to our night on the Thames, though there was no jousting, nor was there the loquacious and animated tirades, by the dark comedy character.  This location is also where Chip does his rendition of Silence of the Lambs with his chicken skin! Hilarious.
An evening like this would be hard to recreate at home, without enlisting the help of actors, stuntmen, trained animals and animal trainers, arena rentals and lots of sand, so I sure hope we will at least be able to attend within the next several years, before the kiddoes turn 18 and think their mom drags them to lame events, or not. We will just have to see.  In the meantime, I think I'll track down another copy of The Cable Guy and get my laugh on. The one I have is a hot mess of strategic scratches that prevents us from enjoying it.   Interestingly enough, the 1996 character Chip speaks of the coming of an advanced "Information Super Highway" that has replaced most interpersonal contact and a society that does most of its interactions via  televisions and telephones.  Hmm.....curiouser and curiouser!  

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Hip Hip HooRAMEN!

"These are a few of my favorite things..." I probably have about 19 different kinds of Ramen. Aside from being attracted to the colorful marketing, they come in handy if I feel under the weather. My favorite is Kimchi. The kids are completely consumed right now by Anime, especially Boku No Hero Academia and Naruto.  Consumed may be an understatement, they are obsessed! I am the same way about X-Men.  Marvel Comics and everything about it, is my muse.
 The Kids are partial to what the characters eat as well, constantly commenting on what the food illustrations look like,  Onigiri, Sashimi and Ramen bowls being examples. The kids fantasize about how good the dishes must taste.
I made a Ramen Bowl for Bronwyn this weekend past, with the eggs and runny yolks, fresh chives from the Herb Garden, a slice of Prime Rib and lots of broth! She loved it and went right back into her zone, tummy full of edible love and Ramen, looking to the next time I'd present for her again.  The kids love having a chef/mom.  I love that I can accommodate the ideas that pop into their heads.   We even have our sets of chopsticks, not the throw away kind, but custom, personally picked sets from a selection of many.  We get them from the Asian market, where we travel a half hour to go, it's our favorite!

There are so many types of Ramen, it has become somewhat of a hobby.   I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ones, anxious to try and compare to others I've had, but I end up not wanting to eat them.  I like knowing they are in my possession, ready to enjoy and pretty inexpensive.  I've only tried one in particular that I put on the do not ever buy again list.  It came in a small foil container, complete with either an egg or piece of tofu.  I read the ingredient call for sodium, calories and fats and thought there was  no way it was accurate.  I prepared and ate some of it and the nightmare began.  I had a serious anxiety attack from the shock to my system, I thought I was going to die.  There was just too much sodium, fat and calories.  I felt sick to the stomach and out of my mind.  Seriously.  I won't even tell others about them because I care what happens to them. This occurred about 2 years ago, but I will never forget the day I was almost 'Super Saiyoned'
 by a noodle bowl.  
Luckily, there are virtually hundreds more to try and the list keeps growing.  The latest ones I found to be pretty awesome are of the Japanese variety called Sapporo Ichiban.  The ones pictured directly above are Korean, they really delivered on the heat and had a good mouthfeel as noodles go.  I was schooled in Noodle by Maruchan in college and they have a special place in my heart.  The beef version is the only kind my daughter Genesis will eat, sans an occasional Chili flavor.  My daughter Bronwyn is just getting over her head over heels, whirlwind  romance with Yakisoba, she is recovering nicely.  Nowadays, she will just take them plain, no bells, no whistles, just Chicken flavored broth and noodles, don't forget the custom chopsticks, gotta have the chopsticks...and a fork.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Raspberry Filled Donuts, Just Add Sharing!

I was excited about the first time I tackled raised donuts and was pleased even though my version appears a bit different from the blog post that helped influence it.  Jenni Fields' Copycat Raspberry Filled Donut recipe and several others was a reference.  Her site is and she has many wonderful recipes for baking as well as dinners and great photography.
The kiddoes and my other tasters were satisfied with these delicious and pillowy pastries.  The tangy raspberry filling was courtesy of the Walmart Bakery, giving shortcut to the overall time for my recipe.
 The ingredients are on hand and only require your commitment to the time it takes for the dough to rise.  Homemade donuts are well worth the wait.  Next on my list, Lemon filled donuts!! Happy Baking and remember, Sharing is Caring, especially when it comes to indulgent sweets! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Sloppy Joe-Jacks and other Places to Hide Veggies

Sloppy Joe has been around for a long time, saving dinners across the country, by providing a quick and wholesome meal, meaty and saucy, tangy and filling.  Now, more than ever, we need to make every meal count and also make sure we are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals our bodies need, especially our kiddoes. I found that I can fortify certain meals with non traditional, nutritious ingredients that can pack a mean punch of antioxidants and fiber, plus slews of good for us nutrition.  One such ingredient is pumpkin. 
Pumpkins, which are a member of the Squash family, is full of substantial, nutritious benefits like vitamins A, C and E, B2, protein, beta carotene, manganese, fiber, folate, antioxidants that help thwart free radicals, plus it's inexpensive! Most households probably have a can or two left over from the holidays past and if it is just PLAIN pumpkin, it can be added to many of our everyday or tried and true recipes we already serve our families.  I found that I could add it to sloppy joes and not rob the dish of its integrity and go virtually undetected by the picky eaters, adults included.  I call them 'Sloppy Joe-Jacks', as in jack o lantern, as I came up with this fusion around Halloween of last year.  You can add anywhere from 1/4 to 2/3 cup to 2 lbs. of prepared sloppy joes, making a exponential increase in its nutritional density.
Other places pumpkin goes well and may be added is chili, taco meat blends, beef stew and even mac and cheese.  Butternut squash puree goes well blended in with Broccoli w/Cheese Sauce and chunks of butternut squash also blend well in casseroles containing cheddar cheese.  Various types of beans are also awesome mashed and blended with many other proteins to stretch and keep you fuller, longer.  White beans will blend well with ground poultry and pork, while brown to black beans will be suitable for beef and other red meats. 
Be creative, if the color can blend, blend it in, TASTE it of course and adjust seasonings as needed.  Fresh herbs really bring brightness and freshness and added health benefits to any dish, so definitely consider some when planting for your family this spring! 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Spinach Tagliatelle and Fettuccine w/ Country Style Sausage

This is an easy and most flavorful pasta dish that I created 'on the fly' one day, for a late evening dinner.  I used on hand ingredients with the least effort, as it was approaching the wind down time for the kiddies and we were finishing up a hectic day.
 I used a country style sausage originally bought for breakfast and decided to use two different pastas because the spinach tagliatelle wasn't enough for a meal on its own.  I had some heavy cream on hand, but I like to mix 2% milk or evaporated milk with it, to shave off some of the fat.  I find that this works well for my family.
This sauce may be prepared in the same way as a bechamel , stirring in a cup of the cooking liquid. The al dente cooked pasta is tossed with it at the end and sprinkled with a little cheese, toasted bread crumbs or both. 
1 lb. country style breakfast sausage, cooked and drained
1 lb. total, spinach taggliatelle and fettuccine, cooked al dente in salted water
1/4 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. 2 % milk or evaporated milk
1 c. pasta water
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chopped yellow onion
2 tbsp. AP flour
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
Olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)

To make the bechamel, use the same pan you cooked the sausage in, leaving about 1 tsp. of the rendered fat.
Add butter.
 Add about 1 turn of the pan of olive oil to make sufficient amount to 'cook out' flour over medium high heat.
Add onions, and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 4 minutes.
Sprinkle flour into pan and cook for about 1 minute, scraping up browned bits as you go.
Add milk and pasta water, then cream and garlic.
Bring up to rolling simmer, then reduce to medium.
The sauce will thicken as it cooks, about 5 minutes.
Once the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon, stir in the cheese and sausage.
Fold pasta into sauce and simmer for an additional 2 minutes to finish the pasta.
Remove from heat.
Garnish with toasted bread crumbs, parmesan, olive oil or fresh herbs  as desired.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Foraging: Fried Morels

 One of the simplist and most delicious ways to prepare a morel mushroom is to lightly batter and fry them.  Some of tasters liken the flavor to that of chicken. That may be why they are referred to as "Hickory Chickens".  I find the taste quite unique and most appeasing, slightly umami with an earthy and woodsy appeal.  They aren't slimy at all, as some may think.  They have a sturdy texture, especially if some of the water is taken away.  Prep is a simple as a soak in salty water for about 5 to 10 minutes, to kill the critters that may be dwelling there, then squeeze gently, like a sponge and place on paper towels to soak up excess moisture, as per Mama Fisher, my bestie R.D's mom, second mom to me for almost 25 years.  She's has always been an authority on morels.  She and the family hunted them for decades out near their cabin in the woods.
Morels are one of her favorite things, but they haven't been as prevalent on the properties as they were in the past.  I thought of her  immediately after the initial excitement of finding them occured. I made sure I put some up for her, since we can't travel to deliver them fresh because of the quarantines.  I want her to have that same feeling she used to have back when she found them with Papa Fisher, walking the woods and finding arrowheads too! She is near and dear to me and I am so grateful she made my best friend, life partner and confidant.
Below are some of the many morels we scooped up over the hunts so far, some are far easier to see than others.  Usually where there's one, there's another, just look carefully around.  They are perfectly camouflaged sometimes on the forest floor!

Recipe: Dredge lightly in lightly seasoned flour, whole or cut in half.
Fry in desired oil until desired crispiness.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

TacoBell's®Triplelupa®: A Socially Distanced Review

So, my daughter's birthday was coming up and she was full of anxiety and dread, thinking about  how it would be hard to have a 'good birthday' when there is so much going on in the world, school being suspended, the Covid-19 pandemic and all things worrisome at the age of 13.  I wanted to cheer her up a bit, and I needed to go out for supplies, so I offered she come with, on the condition that she remained in the vehicle, for all stops. She agreed, so I thought she may like to go get some Tacobell, one of the kids' go-to on the normal monthly occasions that we would get takeout.  We went through the drivethru and ordered the newest addition to the menu, the Triplelupa, we both had one, hers was a combo.  She doesn't care for tomato and loves the Diablo sauce. She thought her sissy would enjoy the cinnamon twists more, so she saved those for Bronwyn. Genesis is a kind and gentle soul, always thinking of others and usually full of cheer. I sanitized  my hands and the money, then my hands again. When parked, I would use bottled water and napkins, then sanitize again, still thinking about touching the money, Sheesh!
We parked in the Walmart parking lot to consume our contraband. We ordered for the crew back home too. The package was nicely warm.  The shell was nice and crisp, not greasy tasting or too chewy and what was supposed to be hot was and what was cold, cold.  The lettuce was crisp and the tomatoes firm.  The cheese sauce had a bit of spice on the section where it was located. There are three.  I never broke it apart, because I didn't want my hands all over it, then going into my mouth.  The beef was seasoned properly and the same all the way across.  There were a couple of extra sauces, making the segments a little different each, but it ultimately all tasted very similar.   I liked it and so did Genesis.  Maybe we were hungry, maybe a little excited to break from the home food norm, maybe it was really good.  We agreed that we would order the Triplelupa again, though we don't know when that opportunity will be.
The Triplelupa is reasonably priced, around $3.50.  We had answered the commercial's beckoning and went in for the kill.  We parked easily 200 feet from the nearest person or vehicle.  I only cracked the windows, just in case any cough germs blew by in the wind.
After chatting and nibbling with Gen for several more minutes, it would be time for me to make my way into Walmart for our essentials. Her meal and Sirius Satallite Radio would keep her company, while I jetted in, to get out.  I went equipped with my trusty homemade sanitizer, jazzed up with 7 essential oils, including cinnamon oil, (that I initially bought for making homemade lollipops, that never happened) for extra germ fighting and soothing relief for superwashed hands.
I super sanitized the cart with wipes and speed walked through the least populated areas, picking up butter pecan ice cream and rainbow sherbet for an early surprise, and the Addams Family movie, in case we weren't allowed out when her birthday arrived, days later.  I also grabbed some Snickerdoodles from the bakery.  I sanitized yet again. These items would serve as her birthday treats, early edition, uncertain as to what the days ahead would bring.
I had managed to get some smiles and laughs from Genesis and I was thankful.  She had been a bit apprehensive about anything going well in light of our nation's current crisis and expected nothing really other than more gloom and peril, I assured her these times would not last always and that we would overcome this as we have many other scenarios with dire straits.  Faith in God and country, in that order, helps.
  A special shout out to the Triplelupa, for assisting in saving my daugther's birthday, little things do mean a lot. What would have been a most likely a soon forgotten moment under normal circumstances, became THE moment, that all the bad things went away and a beefy, crunchy, cheesy and 'Diablo' sauce doused menu item, became an unlikely hero.  Yo Quiero Tacobell.

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D. Smith :)