Thursday, July 31, 2014

THE VALUE OF A WELL STOCKED PANTRY, FREEZER & FRIDGE

Arrived home yesterday afternoon after a morning of errands at several stores and finally at Costco for paper products, etc. (it's the "etc" that kills the budget at Costco, I need to invent "Costco Blinders.").  About 2:05 received a text regarding unexpected (but oh so welcome) guests for dinner.  It was about 2:15 before the time of 6:00 was set.  So hubby and I put our heads together (we were determined to use what we had on hand and NOT go back to the store) this is the time when a well stocked pantry, freezer and fridge comes into play.  Here is the menu we quickly came up with - probably not the menu I would have prepared had I had more time to plan but it worked out great.  I don't have too many photos today as I was busy fixing and not shooting photos but I will post the recipes.

Wednesday Dinner for Seven

Carrot Sticks & Spicy Ranch Dip
Assorted Drinks

Green Beans w/Bacon
 Vermicelli Nests with Onions & Tomatoes
BBQ'ed Marinated Pork Cubes with Peppers & Onions on Skewers
For the more discriminating diner, Plank Fries & Chicken Nuggets, lots of catchup!

Homemade Dinner Rolls with Honey Butter

Blackberry Sour Cream Pie with Whipped Cream

Freezer - Pork loin completely sealed in plastic so we just filled half of the sink with warm (not hot) water and put the loin in to defrost. Also had a jar of homemade chicken stock, put that in the water too. Had a pkg of blackberries, the fries and chicken nuggets (keep on hand always for the discriminating diner, AKA, my sweet grand-daughter).

Pantry, pkg of Spicy Ranch Dip, canned beans, yeast, bread flour, vermicelli nests, honey, sweet onions, catchup & bottled marinade.

Fridge, drinks, tomatoes & peppers (from the garden), sour cream, whipping cream and pie crust (all leftover from the Friday night dessert for Alzheimer's Idaho) butter,  crumbled bacon, carrots and sour cream.

I made the pie first as it needs to cool, it is served cold.
The pie shell is baked until lightly browned before filling and still has some time to go in the oven so it is really important that you place foil around the edges when baking. 

Tip: Make the crust thicker than normal for this pie because the crust bakes for a very long time.

Out of the oven, ready to set aside and cool and serve with homemade sweetened whipped cream (or whatever you choose to top it with, Cool Whip, cream in a can, etc).

Blackberry Sour Cream Pie
8 servings

Ingredients:
Pie crust for one pie - use your favorite recipe, buy crust or use purchased pie crust in the tin.
16 oz Frozen blackberries or about 3 1/2 cups fresh
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450°
Frozen berries may be thawed or set out for about 20 mins
Prepare your pastry and bake in oven until just starting to turn brown - do not overbake
Turn down the oven to 350°
Combine the sour cream, salt, cinnamon, sugar, flour & vanilla
Very gently fold in the berries until combined, be careful not to tear the berries
Gently spoon the berry mixture into the prepared pie shell
Tear narrow strips of foil and & fold over the edge of the pie crust so it will not burn - leave on for the rest of the cooking time.

Bake for approximately 60 minutes, the pie is done when it is nice and bubbly all across the pie - it will set as it cools. Put on a rack and let it cool before serving. This recipe is so much better with fresh berries (or better yet wild berries, isn't that right Bernie?) but is still very good with frozen berries.

Green Beans with Bacon & Onions
 
The green beans are about as easy as it gets and people love these simple canned beans! You can use regular bacon but I keep the Costco product on hand (see yesterday's post) - always.  I do not like it as is, it's value to me is as a low-fat, low calorie big flavor enhancer. The flavor needs to coaxed out with heat so for the beans (I used two cans of French cut green beans) I put two full tablespoons into a sauce pan, let the bacon cook for awhile then added some diced sweet onions and let them cook until the onions are translucent then add the beans (do not drain), bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and let them just cook and become flavorful.
Two more quick and easy items - homemade rolls and the vermicelli Nests.

I had a recipe for quick rolls using the super fast yeast but I did not have that product on hand so I went hunting and this is what I found - hard to believe but these are delicious and only take 30 minutes!

30 Minute Dinner Rolls

Ingredients
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (either bread flour or all-purpose will work)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the warm water, oil, yeast, and sugar. Allow the mixture to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Mix 2 cups of the flour, the salt, and the egg into the yeast mixture using a dough hook. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour 1/2 cup at a time.
  4. Shape dough into 12 balls and place in a 9x13 pan. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops are just golden brown.

Honey Butter is just a ratio of 3/4 butter (softened) to 1/4 honey, whip until combined.




Vermicelli Nests with Onions & Tomatoes

(Sopa seca de fideos)



1/2 Pound vermicelli or angel hair nests - no substitution

2 large tomatoes, peeled and small dice (do not need to seed)

1 medium sweet onion, small dice

1/4 cup good olive oil

2 cups homemade stock



Put 1/2 of the oil in a medium fry pan, brown the nests on both sides (be careful not to burn) you want them toasty brown not dark brown, remove from the fry pan and set aside. Add the remainder of the oil to the pan and cook the onion and chopped tomato until the onion is translucent.  Add the chicken stock and the browned vermicelli nests, put the lid on the pan and cook until the liquid is absorbed about 20-30 minutes.  Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you like. Enough for (4).

Carrot sticks w/Spicy Ranch Dip - follow package directions and let sit in the fridge for a few hours for the flavors to meld and serve with fresh veggies.

Marinaded Pork & Veggies -  when thawed trim fat off the pork if necessary, cube into nice size cubes and put in Zip Lock bag with the marinade and turn the bag over every once in a while. When ready put the pork in a colander to drain the excess marinade and then string the cubes on the skewers with veggies, we used chunks of sweet onion and bell peppers. Bar-b-Que until the pork is done. One of my oh so adorable grandsons asked twice for "more chicken."

Resource
Bacon, Costco
Recipe for Rolls, Kitchen Meets Girl, Link
Homemade Chicken Stock, Link

Thank you for stopping by!
 

Monday, July 28, 2014

FRESH CORN CHOWDER

Tis the season for fresh corn on the cob!  I live in the Treasure Valley of Idaho and even though I live near the Capitol of the State (Boise) we are surrounded by farms and about now a zillion little corn stands (usually the back of a pick-up) pop up.  Yesterday my hubby and I were out and about and we stopped at such a place.  There was a pickup and two cars and a few women and when hubby got out an adorable girl of about nine walked up to him and I overheard her say "Good afternoon sir, isn't this a lovely day?" Seems as though the crowd at the stand was the farm family and the little cutie pie was the designated greeter, farmers are smart.  He bought a big bag of corn!
I was a little hesitant to do this post as this is something I just make - no recipe and I have never before measured for this dish.  If it needs a little more of this or that I just add it as I go along. I am one of those cooks who, unless it is baking, consider recipes a suggestion! I measured today so here it is.

This photo is my way of getting corn off the cob without hurting myself or getting it all over the kitchen.  I just put a small bowl upside down in the bottom of the big Tupperware bowl and then slice off the cooled corn. I, of course used the method to cook corn as was seen on my blog post of July 23, 2014.

Cook five (6 if they are med) big ears of corn (or more if you like more), then remove the corn from the cobs and set the cobs aside.  If you add additional corn, you will probably have to add more milk.

I used my favorite copper sided pot to cook this in and the measurements on the inside of the pot are metric, it is a 5 liter pot and I filled the pot to the two liter mark and I believe that is about 1/2 gallon of 2% milk.

Place the cobs into the milk - this step is what makes this chowder so good the cobs infuse the milk with this wonderful corn flavor.  Bring the milk to almost a boil and then turn it down and let it simmer away while you chop the rest of the ingredients.
 I used three medium size potatoes (just wash, do not peel) two medium sweet onions and then I went to the garden and picked two jalapenos and snipped some chives, thyme and parsley.  Unless you like spicy DO NOT add the jalapenos.  Turns out my two were hotter than normal and our chowder was REALLY spicy.
This is what your pile of veggies should look like - it is important that the potatoes and onions are the same size dice - I use one of those inexpensive box choppers and even though I have two different sizes of Cuisinart (which I sill use) but when I have a small job like this the little box is my go to, I will provide a link in resource.
This is one of my favorite items at Costco.  I think I could write a cookbook using this one ingredient. It is low in fat and calories, has 3 grams of protein in a tablespoon and is very inexpensive.  One tablespoon is 35 calories and two grams of fat.  When I need a quick green veggie canned French cut green beans and some chopped onion make a very tasty dish very quick.  The trick to using this product is to do something to it to coax out the flavor, heat will do that.  In the case of the beans I just put a tablespoon or two in the bottom of a deep sauce pan, turn on the heat and stir it and let the flavors escape before you add some finely chopped onion, cook for awhile and then add the undrained, French cut green beans.
I used my second favorite pan (thank you Drew and Dawn) to cook the veggies, herbs and bacon.  You will need to use a pan that has a big cooking surface, like a big frying pan.  Just drizzle about a tablespoon or so of EVOO into the pan and when it gets hot add two tablespoons of bacon and cook to coax out the flavor then add the onion and the herbs and stir and cook until the onion starts to go translucent then dump in the diced potatoes and let it cook until the potatoes are almost done, stirring occasionally. Once the potatoes are almost done, remove the cobs from the milk, add some salt and pepper to the milk and then put the cooked corn and the cooked veggies into the corn infused milk.  Stir to distribute and let it get hot but not boil and then turn down and let it simmer until the potatoes are done. Check again for seasoning.  You do not have to thicken this chowder as the corn and the potatoes are starchy.  If it needs more milk, add some, if it needs more corn, cook another ear and add that.  It's your chowder, do what you want!
Bon appetit.  On a warm summer night my hubby likes a cup of this with a BLT or just a bowl for lunch with some sliced tomatoes from the garden and maybe a slice of toasted baguette, no butter just a crunchy piece of bread. 

Here is the recipe as I measured today:

Corn Chowder
1/2 gallon of 2% Milk
5 large ears of fresh corn, cook the corn, remove from the cob and retain the cobs
2 medium sweet onions, diced
3 medium potatoes, diced
2 Tablespoons of real crumbled bacon
A heaping tablespoon each of fresh thyme & chives, chopped
2 Tablespoons of parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

As far as the herbs are concerned you could of course use dried herbs so I think use what you like.  Herbs de Provence would be good, if there is a particular flavor you like then use that herb - make the chowder your own.

Resource

Bacon, Costco
Bee Plates, Deb Mores, pattern Buzz Buzz

Thank you for stopping by.
 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A NOD TO CANADA & ALZHEIMER'S IDAHO SUPPORT GROUP DINNER

If you follow this blog you know that one of the things I do is make the dessert for the Alzheimer's Idaho (local grassroots organization) monthly support group meeting which meets on the last Friday of the month.  Since  I am still filled with warm, fuzzy feelings from my recent vacation (Alaska & beautiful BC) I thought I would make them tea treats for dessert.  Inasmuch as this is dessert and not afternoon tea, I just made a selections of four sweet items, no savories they will have just eaten dinner.
*A BIG THANK YOU AGAIN TO BUTCHART GARDENS FOR FEATURING THIS POST ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE!
 

Butchart Gardens Ginger Scone (makes 10)
1½ cups All purpose flour
1tsp Baking powder
1tbsp White sugar
¼ cup Crystallized ginger (chopped)
1/3 cup Unsalted butter (cubed)
2 Medium eggs (fork beaten)
½ cup 2% Milk


Method
Set oven to 350°F
Blend flour, baking powder, sugar and crystallized ginger together.

Use hand cutter to blend in butter cubes until crumbly.
Add eggs and milk until all ingredients are combined (being careful not to over mix).

Drop by large tablespoon on parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush the tops of the scones with an egg wash and then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until light brown


Tip: I chop the ginger with a mezzaluna and then take some of the flour and sprinkle on the ginger and move it around so it all gets some flour - this will keep the pieces from sticking together in a lump and ensure good distribution in your dough.
A very simple way to make little tarts is to make your favorite pie crust recipe (in my case I only needed a few so I just made 1/2 a recipe), cut out little circles, bush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar and bake.
They puff up beautifully when they bake and then using a piping bag top each with your choice of item, I choose Meyer lemon curd.


After putting the little tart bites in the fridge to set the curd, pipe them with some sweetened whipped cream.  Here we have the tarts and the scones. The little tarts are good with a myriad of toppings.

To go with the scones some Butchart Gardens strawberry jam and some clotted cream. Real clotted cream is very easy to make if you remember 8 hours before you need it to put the cream in a low and slow oven.  If not a good substitute is "faux" clotted cream.
Only three ingredients needed for the faux clotted cream - sugar, whipping cream and sour cream. 

Recipe:
 Substitute for Clotted Cream 
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream 
Directions: Using a whisk attachment for your mixer, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Remove from mixer and hand whisk in the sour cream and confectioners' sugar until just combined.  Store in fridge.   
Sugar cookie crust fruit tarts were next. After making the dough press into your molds.  I only needed (8) so I also made a big square one to give to my son and his family for their dessert last night.
 I find it easier (much) to use a pastry bag to fill the tarts.
 Here are the little ones.
And the big tart shown as I am in the process of "painting" the fruit with the apricot jam mixture.  Not only keeps the fruit looking fresh but give it a glossy, professional, finished look.


Recipe:
Ingredients for Sugar Cookie Crust
 3/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cornstarch

Cheesecake Filling
16 oz cream cheese, room temp
8 oz mascarpone (or faux, see recipe below) 
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 small pkg Jello instant cheesecake pudding mix
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Fruit
Seedless grapes
Sliced strawberries
Sliced kiwi fruit
Blackberries

For Glaze - 1/3-1/2 apricot jam plus 1T water or more depending on the thickness of your jam.

Spray individual tart pans with the non-stick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350°F, rack in the middle. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of your mixer and use the paddle attachment and cream together butter and sugar for 5-7 minutes - it really needs to be 5-7 minutes.  Then add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cornstarch. On low speed incorporate dry ingredients. Mix until smooth, the dough will be thick.

Scoop up about 2T of dough and roll into a ball in your hand.

Press the cookie dough in the bottom of the tin (spray them with non stick spray) way up the sides of each tin. Be sure to have the dough uniform in thickness, it is better to be a little thicker than too thin.

Bake 10-12 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.  While still hot if the dough has baked up too high to allow a good well for the filling, take the end of a wooden spoon and tamp down the dough.

Remove the cookies from the tins and set on a rack to cool.

Cheese Cake Filling
Place the cream cheese and mascarpone in a bowl and blend until creamy using your mixer.

Add in the sugar and pudding mix and whip until combined.

Add in the cream until desired consistency.

Pipe or scoop cheesecake filling into cookie tart.

Top with assorted fresh fruit.

Place the apricot jam & water into a pan and heat just until melted and stir to make it smooth.

Let the apricot solution cool just a little and then paint fruit with a pastry brush.

Store in the fridge until ready to eat.

  Tip #1: I have a love/hate relationship with mascarpone cheese because invariably even though my local store carries it just seems like every time I need it they are out and so I just make a "faux" mascarpone and save myself some grief.
Mascarpone Cheese Substitute 
Ingredients: 

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese (I use the softened) 

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

 2 1/2 tablespoons sour cream



Directions: Combine well and use in recipes calling for Mascarpone cheese.

Tip #2: NO NOT substitute low fat cream cheese or sour cream in this recipe DOES NOT WORK!

Tip#3: Grab your little bowl of apricot jam and water and your brush and sit down and take your time brushing the fruit.  This is not hard but you don't want the jam mixture to drip onto the tart filling so I find sitting down while doing this makes it so much easier and you get a little time off your feet too!


Ah, last but not least the wonderful Butchart Gardens tea trifle.  This is not a published recipe but I did drop a little hint in my first photo.

Resource

Candied ginger, online, specialty stores and Trader Joe's
Wilton round tip #2A used to fill the tarts
Wilton star tip #2D for whipped cream
Wilton tips and bags, Walmart
Mrs. Earls Meyer Lemon Curd, specialty stores and online
Tea pot, Leeds pottery creamware, specialty stores and online
Cake stand for tea trifle, Home Goods
Tea Tray basket, Target
Individual cups for trifle, Walmart
Tart pans, Williams Sonoma
Butchart Gardens strawberry jam, at their store in BC
Butchart Gardens Link
Two tiered stand and red plates, HomeGoods
Birds Custard Powder, Available at Cost Plus and other stores that carry international products and online.
Ginger scone recipe, Published by Butchart Gardens 
Battenberg lace napkin, Marshall's  
Alzheimer's Idaho Link 



Thank you for stopping by

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

AMAZING WAY TO COOK CORN - WATCH THE VIDEO!

This is a first for me as I have never posted a link to a video but when our dear friend George sent us this video we knew we just had to try this way to fix corn on the cob and when we tried it worked just like the video.
Could not be easier, decide on how many ears you want to cook, in my case 2.
I did vary a little from the instructions here - in the video you are shown to cut the end off the corn after microwaving but since it will be very hot I decided to cut it before cooking to minimize the handeling of the hot corn and it worked great. Might try it the other way next (cut after cooking) but our corn was cooked perfectly!
In the microwave for (4) minutes per ear, we had two so (8) minutes.
Now here comes the magic part, using a hot mitt you just squeeze the end and out pops the corn, cooked perfectly and you did not have to shuck it and no pesky silk to remove.  There were only a couple of pieces of silk that easily pulled away from the cob.
It is VERY HOT so be careful but I just put in the corn holders and let it cool a little while putting my dinner together.  A local store has been having the decadent French President Sea Salt Butter (from Normandy) on sale and it is perfect with corn because you butter and salt in one application.  Corn is such a summer staple and this makes it so easy.  All of you friends who live in the Sacramento area you know what I am talking about with that wonderful Sloughhouse corn that you wait in line for and get big brown bags full to share with your friends and neighbors. We have good corn here in Idaho but I confess every summer I think about Sloughhouse corn and fresh tomatoes from the garden for dinner! So good!

Here is the link to the video: Corn

Thank you for stopping by!
 

Monday, July 21, 2014

VANCOUVER ISLAND - GREAT PLACE TO SPEND A FEW DAYS ANYTIME OF THE YEAR

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe that the (3) iconic places in Victoria are, the Empress Hotel (this photo) Butchart Gardens featured on my last post and of course the beautiful Parliament buildings. The Empress is so beautiful however when I post travel tips I try and post the bargain places and the Empress is definitely not a bargain place - more like a great place to celebrate special times like a special birthday, anniversary, etc.  Afternoon tea at the Empress is amazing but a little pricey. Here is the current afternoon tea menu:


AFTERNOON TEA

$59.95
Fresh Strawberries with Empress Cream
Smoked Salmon Pinwheel with Dill Cream Cheese
Roasted Bone In Ham with Tarragon Dijonnaise
Free Range Egg Salad Croissant
Cucumber & Ginger Mascarpone on Butter Brioche
 Moroccan Spiced Coronation Chicken on Marble Rye

Freshly Baked Raisin Scone with Strawberry Jam & Empress Cream

Pistachio Raspberry Dacquoise
Tropical Fruit Lamington
Earl Grey Mascarpone Tea Cup
Valrhona Chocolate Cremeux Tart
CitrusVanilla Shortbread

AFTERNOON TEA ADDITIONS
ROYAL TEA

Complementing our world renowned Afternoon Tea,
Royal Tea offers an additional tier of three local Salt Spring Island cheeses,
a glass of tawny port and fresh honey harvested from
the honeycombs of Chef’s honey garden.
An additional $30 per person

SPARKLING WINE
Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay Brut $14
Villa Teresa Prosecco $14
Cipes Rose Pinot Noir Brut $16

Children are half price and they do offer a senior rate of $29.95.  My husband is not a "tea" kinda guy but he will have tea on Vancouver Island because he knows that pleases me and also that it is a tradition. If tea is not your thing and you are not staying at the Empress and just want to see this lovely place then I would suggest going to the hotel and having a drink or two at the beautiful Bengal Lounge.

Parking can be a problem in the old part of Victoria but there is public parking on the west side of the Empress. They also serve lunch and dinner in the lounge. Beautiful place to relax after some shopping/sight seeing in Victoria.  I might suggest that the Grand Grapefruit Cosmo is pretty darned good. Also remember all prices are in Canadian dollars and depending on the exchange we do get the benefit of having a little stronger dollar. The cash registers in Vancouver and Victoria are set up to give you change using American dollar exchange rate. It is not necessary get Canadian money.  Watch out for those Loonies and Toonies - which is the nickname for the $1 and $2 coins - it's easy to leave way too much tip! The Toonie is gold in the center. The Loonie came first - it has a picture of the common loon on the coin and when they came out with the $2 coin later, well, it very quickly became the Toonie!


Lots of ways to get around the historic district from hop-on, hop-off buses to trolley and carriage tours.  The clippity-clop of horses hooves is a summer sound in Victoria. Once again, this is not an inexpensive way to see the city - 30 Minutes will run you  $100 and if you want to really have a long nostalgic ride it will cost you $225.


A much less expensive option is one of the hop-on, hop-off buses. This particular bus for a one day pass is $29 adults, $25 seniors and for a two day $37 & $32. Great way to see this historic city.
 A particular favorite this trip was a visit to The Robert Bateman Centre.  It was not open the last time we visited Victoria so we were eager to see the gallery. If you don't know who Robert Bateman is, he is a Canadian wildlife artist, nature painter and environmentalist.  I think of him as a Canadian Robert Redford but his art is not making movies but making beautiful paintings.  I gave my husband a print of his famous buffalo painting entitled "Chief." The tour does not take long, the cost is $12.50 adults and $8.50 seniors.  It was so wonderful to see so much of his original art work.  Another clever thing that they have done is that when the art work has a bird in the painting you can press a button and hear the sound of the bird.  My husband and I were alone in one of the rooms and did simulcast bird noises! The center is located on the harbor across from the Empress in the old Steamship building. There is a gift shop downstairs as well as a restaurant (not part of the Centre) and a Starbucks. We had a cool drink on the patio of the restaurant and watched the boats and water taxis. 


The many pubs are great places to eat and they too can be a little pricy but if you are looking for a less expensive meal we had dinner one night at The Old Spaghetti Factory which was very good and simply dripping with hanging baskets of beautiful flowers as are all the businesses in the historic district.  I also need to mention, if you don't want to wait in the summer, make a reservation, even at the Old Spaghetti Factory.  Our last trip was in March of last year and reservations were not necessary.

Last but certainly not least are the beautiful, historic Parliament buildings. I apologize for not getting a better photo and for the wires that were attached to some repair items but these buildings are simply beautiful.  Located adjacent to the Empress and looking right at the harbor. They offer several different tours, unless you are taking a group tour reservations are not necessary.  Here is a link to their webpage: Parliament Tours
They also have a small gift shop and this is a great place to find reasonable souvenirs.

Thank you for stopping by.