Friday, August 15, 2008

Cranberry Mustard

Condiments, talking about condiments in the fridge. Personally I like to have a lot of condiments available. That is probably why there is:

5 mustards - Chinese hot, coney island style with tomato bits, regular yellow, honey and my homemade cranberry. We are actually a little shy on the mustards, I usually have dijon and coarse brown as well!

4 jams - raspberry, apricot, apple butter, strawberry

both mayonnaise and Miracle Whip ( low fat on the mayo, full fat on the MW) Although I am a Mayonnaise kind of gal, there is a place for MW in my kitchen. Beside my Honey is a Miracle Whip kind of guy!

2 salsas - hot red and milder green

6 pickles/olives/peppers - standard dill, sweet slices, okra, kalamata olives, green with pimento, sliced pepperincini, sliced sweet yellow peppers

2 relish - sweet and dill

Of course there is addition assorted other stuff in there also, catsup, chili sauce, oil packed dried tomatoes, salad dressings, oyster sauce, black bean garlic sauce, Thai curry paste and I am fairly certain a few other things that I have failed to list.

A refrigerator really cannot have too many condiments because, they keep a long time, they are usually a low cost investment (save salad dressing, my quest is to never purchase again and only use homemade, cause it is really easy) and they can transform a rather plain or even boring meal into something with so much more flavor. For instance......

A ham and swiss cheese sandwich on whole grain bread is good, but a ham and swiss cheese sandwich with sliced sweet yellow peppers and cranberry mustard on whole grain bread is better.

Chicken tenderloins rolled in panko and baked quickly is tasty, but chicken tenderloins dipped in a quick sauce of 1 part mayo or MW and 1 part milk, with a tablespoon of any other thing in your condiment bank stirred in for a fresh flavor, then rolled in panko; are better.

Homemade dinner rolls are always delicious, but homemade rolls that have chopped olives and minced parsley in the dough, are wonderful. Make a mild garlic and mustard compound butter and they are even better.

Variety is the spice of life, and condiments are that spice.

They are also fun to make. We devoured the rhubarb and red grapefruit jam. There are 4 jars on the pantry shelf, and they will be parceled out to last. I will make 2 batches next year.

Next on the list to make, is a rhubarb chutney, then dried apricot and honey preserves.

I have been making homemade cranberry mustard for ages. It is something I make each year and my son gets a jar. He loves it. It is a simple process because I do not start from scratch and make the mustard, I use Grey Poupon, it is tried and true.

Cranberry Mustard

1 c dried cranberries
1/4 c water
1 T honey
1 8 oz jar Grey Poupon mustard

Bring cranberries, water and honey to a simmer. Cover and set aside to cool and hydrate the berries.

Combine the berries and the mustard in a food processor bowl. Process until mustard is smooth and completely spreadable. Scrape into clean leftover jars, attach lids securely. Place in the back of your fridge to age at least a month, longer is better. Keeps forever.

Makes 2 jars, one to keep and one to give!

Enjoy your day!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kitchen basics, roasted red peppers

When I was at Costco on Monday in addition to the coffee and butter (and lets be honest here, it is rare to not purchase more than 2 things in Costco, that is the joy of the place!) I strolled down the kitchen wares isle. I found a great grill pan. It is square and the grill ridges are just right. The ridges are not too high so the valleys are not so deep that they collect the juices of everything cooked and turn it into unmovable, unidentified food cement.

So I purchased one.

I have already used it, this morning to make "charred" red peppers. I love them. Simply place the peppers on the grill and let them char until the skin is burned and has burst. Then turn them to the other side and repeat. This will take 5 turns because a pepper is roughly square, or once the charring begins can be made to sit on the grill in a four sides kind of way. Then the top and then the bottom. By the time they are charred they will be hot! Remove the grill from the heat, let stand a few minutes and then simply drape a kitchen towel over everything and let the peppers smother in their own heat. This will loosen the skins somewhat and that will be a great help when it comes time to peel them.

Peeling peppers is an act of pure patience, for me anyway.

I want all the skin gone, and all of the seeds removed. But the simple process of peeling and seed removing is worth the end result.

Roasted peppers:

4 - 6 red peppers
1 grill pan OR use your outdoor BBQ grill
olive oil
freshly ground pepper
balsamic vinegar

Roast the pepper well, this means they will be black and it is OK because most of that comes off with the skin and you want some of the blackened flavor in the peppers. Let them "smoother" and cool.
Peel, removing all of the skin and seeds. Slice into 1/4 inch strips. Toss in a bowl with, salt pepper and about 2 T oil and 1 T vinegar. Keep in the fridge for using.

These peppers are great by them selves as a salad. But you can do so much with them.

How to enjoy, like you really need these ideas! If you like peppers you will use them anywhere you can, but this is my blog and I get to yak on.......

Roasted red pepper vinegarette

About 1 roasted pepper (it will probably be about 1/2 c of your finished product)
1 clove garlic minced
1 thin slice of onion, minced
1/4 c vinegar - your choice
1/2 oil - your choice
1 t sugar or honey or maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

If you like chopping, chop everything! Chop chop chop. Add to a container with a screw top lid, add remaining ingredients. Secure top and shake. Let sit 30 minutes or so to marinade, then place in the refrigerator to chill and be on hand. Or use a blender and transfer to your lidded container.

Makes about 1 2/3 c dressing

Add a layer of red peppers to a sandwich, or anything else you are eating!

Red Pepper Compound butter

1/4 c roasted peppers
1/8 t garlic salt
1 cube butter, softened.

Mash, puree or chop the peppers, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Beat in the peppers and garlic salt. Refrigerate until serving.

Use to make garlic bread, serve with baked potatoes. Toss with cooked vegetables or small filled pasta.

Enjoy your day!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CousCous Salad, delicious and diffeent.

Evening update: This process has never been made with 1 c dried couscous before, the serving I had for lunch was good, very good actually, but I would do the following to the salad when making it.

But before anyone applauds my virtue, trust me I make up for it in grains. Of all kinds, bread, rice couscous and of course more bread. Then I am happy to move on to cookies, pie and cake.

In my ongoing quest of less waste, I made a couscous salad. It started out last week to simply use up a bit of leftover whole wheat couscous. I added a couple of roma tomatoes and 1/4 of an english cucumber. Some crumbled feta and then moistened it all with some bottled vinegarette. Put it in a container and called it "lunch", and left for work. At my meal break, I loved it. It was cool (not cold, it was in my lunch sack not the fridge) and crispy and satisfying. I knew I wanted to make it again.

Freestyle Couscous salad

1 c water
1 dash dried onion flakes
1 chicken bullion cube
1 c whole wheat couscous

Bring water, onion and cube to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat.

2 large tomatoes, diced 1/4 inch
1 english cucumber, diced 1/4 inch
4 dried apricot halves, minced, 6 halves not 4, the sweet was very nice.
1/4 c dried cranberries, chopped
3/4 - 1 c crumbled feta
1 bunch parsley, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 shredded carrot
bottled or homemade vinegarette, enough to moisten but not make "wet"

When the couscous is cool, stir in all of the remaining ingredients. Use enough dressing to moisten but not "wet" the salad. The cuke and tomato will offer some juices.

Garnish each serving with sliced green or kalamata olives or mild pickled peppers.

You could play around with the dried fruit or leave it out. You could play around with the dressing or use up what is in your fridge on your way to making your own as soon as your stock of purchased is gone You could add olives or pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts. You could add tuna, or chicken or diced egg. You can freestyle this depending on what is in your fridge and what you like. YOU CAN MAKE IT YOURS. That is what cooking is all about.

I enjoy base recipes, you know the ones that allow you to make changes regarding what you like and what you have. They are really the way the previous generation cooked. It is how the family ate well and the kitchen budget was maintained. Every thing old becomes new again!

Enjoy your day!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Our Basic Beans, cook a pot of beans weekly

The bag contained cooked beans and ham for flavoring. I served it over brown rice and it was very good. A very nice meal. One we will have again.

I am now glad there are more flat frozen packages just like it. I plan on making up a batch of the basic beans with black beans and another with red beans. It is a great way to have more beans in our menu as well as have something that is as easy as heat and serve, when I get home.

I also learned something, although leftover white rice does not microwave well (I can never get it soft and hot in the microwave), brown rice does. I am not a big user of the microwave, but it is nice for a quick reheat. So I can cook up brown rice and serve it later if I want to. Or use it for a quick fried rice to use up leftovers.

But the beans were the star and I realized I should share the process. And it is a process rather than a recipe. You should cook the beans with your preferred method, stove top, pressure cooker or slow cooker. Beans are a little different for everyone. I had a hard time learning to cook beans.

Our Basic Beans

The day before take 1 pound pinto* beans, sort, rinse and then cover by double the water in a large bowl. Let sit on the counter, cover with a towel. Before beginning to cook the beans, drain, rinse well and drain again.

Soaked beans*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 large Roma tomatoes, washed and cut in half. Do not peel, do not core.
1 large or 2 regular potatoes, washed and cut in half. Do not peel.
1 or 2 ham hocks or ham bone, or other personal choice or kitchen stock
2 t salt
pepper as desired

Combine all ingredients in a large kettle, cover with fresh cold water by 3 - 4 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until done/soft.

This will depend upon many things! The age of your beans, the hardness of your water, the actual heat in your burner. Beans will be done, when they are done. To test, fish out one bean and smash it with a spoon, if it offers little resistance, the beans are done.

Remove pan from burner. Remove the ham hocks from the beans and set aside to cool. Remove the potato and tomato pieces from the beans and set them aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the potato pieces. Mash the pulp, and return to the beans. Repeat with the tomato pieces. Remove the meat from the hocks, mince the ham into 1/4 inch dice and return to the beans. Stir pot of beans well and taste for final seasoning. Season if needed/desired.
These freeze REAL well. It is nice to have a stash of frozen flat packages in the freezer ready to go. However I will label mine next time! This makes a large pot of beans with liquid, enough for about 6 1 quart bags for freezing.

* You may use any bean you prefer.

To serve, heat thawed beans and liquid to boiling. Serve over brown rice or corn bread for a quick, delicious and thrifty meal.

Have a great day!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rhubarb Preserves

I have been lazy/lost/tired/distracted/bored. Let's see, yeah that about covers it as far as the kitchen goes.

But I was determined to make the Rhubarb Red Grapefruit Preserves this morning. I put the rhubarb and grapefruit juice in the kettle, then added the sugar. I knew there would be no turning back at that point.

There are 4 jars of beautiful crimson preserves on the counter, they just finished "plinkging". A sound that I wait for after the water bath process.

In addition there is about 3/4 of a jar to eat now. That is the fun part, the small amount left over after all the jars are full. It is delicious!

Sunday Cafe Rhubarb Preserves

2 pounds crimson rhubarb, diced 1/4 inch
2 (organic) ruby grapefruits, juice from both and the zest from one
4 c sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large heavy bottom stainless steel kettle. Let sit 1 hour (or overnight). Prepare 5 8oz jelly jars and lids according to manufactures instructions. Place a plate in the freezer to check thickness of preserves. Bring preserves to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Continue to cook and stir 10 minutes, warning the preserves will boil up the side of the pan and may splatter you. It is important to stir constantly to prevent sticking and scorching. Place a small spoonful of preserves onto the chilled plate, the plate should cool the preserves quickly. If not thick enough for your preference, continue cooking. Check thickness again.

Fill jars to 1/4 inch from the top. Attach lids and rings, secure tightly. Place jars in boiling water bath, process 10 minutes. Let sit on counter to cool. Makes 4 full jars and some for now.