Beef Stew

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Simple and hearty.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into ½ inch cubes

1 yellow onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced

2 Tbs tomato paste

¼ cup red wine

4-6 cups beef and/or chicken stock

4 medium carrots, sliced into rounds

4 medium potatoes (russet or gold), sliced into rounds

½ – ¾ cup frozen baby peas

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

flour for dredging

cooking oil

Procedure:

  1. In a large dutch oven heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat
  2. While the oil is heating, dry the beef with paper towels, season well with salt and pepper and lightly coat the pieces with flour
  3. Brown the beef in the hot oil, shaking off excess flour before adding pieces to the pot. Cook the beef in several batches and maintain the heat so the beef browns quickly but bits in the pan don’t burn. Remove the browned pieces to a bowl lined with a paper towel.
  4. In the same pot, adding more oil if needed, sauté the onions, mushrooms, and garlic on medium heat until everything begins to brown.
  5. Return the beef to the pot with the onions, mushrooms and garlic.
  6. Add the tomato paste and stir for one minute.
  7. Add the red wine and cook, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, for one minute.
  8. Add enough stock to cover the ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Bring the pot to just a boil, cover partially and reduce the heat so that the liquid barely bubbles. Simmer 1.5 – 2 hours, or until the beef is very tender. Add more stock if stew becomes too thick.
  10. When the beef is tender, increase the heat to medium, add the sliced carrots and potatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more.
  11. When the vegetables are just tender, add the peas and continue to simmer another 5 minutes.
  12. If stew is too thin, combine 1 Tbs cornstarch and 1 Tbs cold water in a small bowl and add to the stew, boil another minute or until thickened.
  13. Taste again for seasoning, serve with warm bread.

 

 

 

Eggs

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After months of checking an empty nesting box, fretting that we were doing something wrong, being bad chicken parents, we finally have eggs. Glorious, home grown, fresh chicken eggs.

Happy day!

Pancakes 101

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thick and fluffy and not from a box

A well-made pancake is a thing of beauty, for about five minutes, until it’s devoured. If you want fluffy, golden cakes, don’t use the mix in the box. Don’t settle for mediocrity!

The adage that the first pancake never comes out right is really the result of impatience. Proper pre-heating of your pan or griddle will ensure your first cake comes out just as gorgeous as the last. I start heating my skillet before I even begin to gather my ingredients. You’ll have to find that magic stove setting that works for you, but on my induction top, with the All-Clad skillet, that’s a 4. You’ll know you’ve got it right when bubbles are just beginning to pop in the center and the bottom is golden brown.

Pancakes

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbs sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 Tbs melted butter

  1. Preheat the skillet or griddle.
  2. In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and whisk thoroughly.
  3. In another bowl, add the buttermilk and eggs and whisk to combine.
  4. Melt the butter and add it to the buttermilk and egg mixture, whisking while pouring to evenly incorporate the melted butter.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently whisk them until just combined. The batter should be uneven and slightly lumpy.
  6. Place a small pat of butter on the skillet and wipe the surface with a paper towel.
  7. Ladle ½ to 1 cup of batter into the skillet, gently nudging the batter into a round shape.
  8. Cook just until bubbles begin to pop at the center.
  9. Turn the cake and cook until the underside is golden brown.
  10. Serve immediately or place the cakes on a paper towel lined plate in a warm oven, with another paper towel on top.

Notes:

I test to see if the pancakes are done by gently pressing a finger on the cake, once it no longer makes a squishing sound, it is done.

Add in any desired extras (blueberries or chocolate chips are favorites around here) by initially under-mixing the batter and then gently folding them in a few times at the end.

The buttermilk and baking soda are what really help these cakes achieve their height. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can use soured milk. Measure just under the 1 ½ cups of milk and add 1 Tbs plus 1 ½ tsp white vinegar, mix, and let stand about five minutes.

WALL-E Vignettes

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I received my own WALL-E miniature after seeing a cute picture of one on a Lifehacker article. Since he arrived I’ve been thinking of cute poses to put him. I decided to make it a regular series, and although my 50mm lens sometimes creates a photographic vignette, the title refers to the literary use. I started a flickr set and the photos should appear on the left hand side of this blog. Here is the latest photo, “Art”. I hope he brings you a bit of squishy cuteness.

WALL-E draws Eve

Photoshopped

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Last night I had my first official photo shoot as an unofficial photographer. A friend and her fiancé wanted some photos for their save-the-date cards and I offered to take them because I have no idea what I’m doing. She agreed, provided the Jimmy John’s sandwiches, and told me they wanted the pictures to be like a photo booth film strip. So I set up a basic background, stuck the camera on the tripod and clicked away. This morning I took my four favorite pictures and mocked up a photo strip in Photoshop. I wanted to experiment and see what could be done with the raw photos. This is just my own personal fleshing out of the idea, I’m sure the printer is going to do something else entirely with the photos, and I followed along with a Photoshop tutorial that I found on the Internet (because I have no idea what I’m doing).

Monkey Bread

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tender biscuits, coated in cinnamon sugar and baked with pecans and a sticky caramel sauce

Monkey Bread has been a standard in our family since before I was born. My Grandmother’s well-worn recipe card states that one of the ingredients is oleo, though I prefer to use butter instead of margarine. I have fond memories of eating Monkey Bread at her house, usually with some milk served in a Japanese tea cup. Later, it became a New Year’s Day tradition for breakfast. A few years ago, I began to make the Monkey Bread with home made biscuit dough instead of the canned dough from the grocery store. (Add biscuits to my growing list of Why Would I Buy That?) So, I have included a basic biscuit recipe and encourage you to not buy that stuff in the can.

Monkey Bread:

prepared biscuit dough
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 stick butter (or oleo)
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs honey
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Assembly:

  1. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a brown paper bag
  2. Pinch off a bit of biscuit dough and roll into a ball 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter
  3. Place about 15 pieces of dough in the bag with the cinnamon sugar, close it tightly and shake to coat the dough
  4. Place the coated pieces of dough in a bundt pan
  5. Continue pinching, rolling and shaking until all the dough is used
  6. In a sauce pan combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey and heat to combine
  7. Pour the mixture evenly over the biscuits
  8. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the top
  9. Place in a cold oven, set the temperature to 350ºF and bake until the biscuits are done, 25 – 30 minutes
  10. Remove the pan from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes and then invert the pan onto a large plate or platter

Biscuit dough: (a doubled recipe)
4 cups all-purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
10 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ cups milk

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl
  2. Add in the butter and cut it into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives until the largest pieces are pea sized
  3. Add the milk and fold until the mixture is just moistened
  4. Knead the dough a few times against the side of the bowl until just combined

yes, that's me

      King Cake

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      I was asked to bring a King Cake to the Mardi Gras party we attended this Friday.  This being my first King Cake, both making and eating, I took my charge seriously, did some research and decided that the basic milk bread recipe would be a great choice for this traditional offering.

        King Cake:

        Milk Bread:
        1 package dry active yeast
        3 Tbs warm water (105º to 115ºF)
        1 cup warm milk (105º to 115ºF)
        5 Tbs melter butter
        3 Tbs sugar
        1 large egg
        1 tsp salt
        2 cups bread flour
        1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour

        Filling:
        2 Tbs sugar
        2 tsp ground cinnamon
        3 Tbs softened butter

        1. Combine the yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.
        2. Add the warm milk, melted butter, sugar, egg, and salt and mix to combine.
        3. Gradually stir in the bread flour.
        4. Gradually add in the all-purpose flour until the dough is no longer sticky, but still moist
        5. Knead for 20 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
        6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
        7. Gently punch down the dough, knead it a few times, return it to the bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
        8. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.
        9. Spread the softened butter on the dough, combine the cinnamon and sugar, and dust over the butter.
        10. Roll the dough, from the long side, into a log. Pinch the seam, twist it several times and shape into a ring.
        11. Place the dough on a greased baking sheet, cover and let rise until doubled in volume.
        12. Preheat the oven to 375º
        13. Bake until the top is deep golden brown
        14. Remove the bread to a rack and glaze while it is still hot. Dust with purple, gold, and green sugar.
        15. Insert the trinket from the bottom before serving.

        Glaze:
        2 cups powdered sugar
        1/2 tsp almond extract
        1 tsp lemon juice
        1/4 cup milk

        Colored sugar:
        Place drops of food coloring in a glass bowl and, using the back of a spoon, spread it around the sides. Add about 1/4 cup of sugar and stir rapidly to distribute the color. Purple – 3 drops red, 2 drops blue. Gold – 4 drops yellow, 1/4 drop red

        Chili

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        Football and chili go well together. Chili and potlucks are equally well paired. Chili and cold weather? A perfect combination. Chili even goes well with jeans. This is my recipe, adjusted and developed over several years. Except, I never write anything down, so for this recipe (and as all chili recipes should be) you might see the words “some”, “a bit”, and “until done” a few more times than you might be used to in a recipe. My spice measurements are approximate. But, it’s chili and it welcomes impreciseness.

        What makes this chili special is the thinly sliced pork butt. This is the same cut of pork used in carnitas and pulled pork. It’s delicious, and that’s why I put it in my chili. You can, of course, omit it (but why??!!) or substitute any other manner of meat you’d like. You can also omit the meat entirely, should that be your preference.

        Chili:

        1 lb pork butt, thinly sliced (1/8″)
        1 lb ground chuck
        oil
        1 celery stalk, diced
        1/2 green bell pepper, diced
        1 yellow onion, diced
        4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
        3 cans of beans (1 pinto, 1 kidney, 1 red)
        3 cans of tomatoes (2 diced, 1 stewed)

        Herbs & Spices:

        Bay leaf (1)
        ground coriander (1/4 tsp)
        chili powder (1 Tbs)
        dry mustard (1 tsp)
        oregano (1 tsp)
        cumin (1 tsp)
        ginger (1/2 tsp)
        garlic (1/4 tsp)
        instant coffee (1 tsp)
        kosher salt (1 tsp)
        fresh cracked pepper (1 tsp)
        whiskey (Old Forester, some)

        1. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil on medium high. When hot, add in some of the pork and cook in a single layer until brown on both sides. Remove to a plate to drain. Continue to cook the remaining pork in small batches until done.
        2. Cook the ground chuck until well browned and remove it to drain with the pork.
        3. Reduce heat to medium and remove all but 2 Tbs of fat from the pan then add in the celery, green, pepper, and onion and cook until softened, about 15 minutes.
        4. Add in the garlic and continue to cook until the vegetables just begin to caramelize.
        5. Return the meat to the pot, along with the canned beans and tomatoes and add enough water to just barely cover.
        6. Season the chili with the herbs and spices.
        7. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered until the chili has thickened, the pork is very tender and the flavors have melded. 2-3 hours is best. Add more water if chili gets too thick.

        Notes:

        Any combination of thin sliced pork butt, thin sliced beef chuck, ground chuck, ground turkey, or other meats can be used. I prefer the texture combination of both sliced and ground meat. Likewise, feel free to mix up the types of beans.

        The herbs and spices listed are just the first round seasoning. Use your nose and your taste buds and season one or two more times throughout the cooking, usually with more chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt.

        Whiskey and instant coffee are two of the more unusual ingredients. If you don’t have whiskey, try about 1/2 cup of beer.

        Customize the spiciness after serving by adding hot sauce. I think Cholula goes especially well. This chili tastes even better the next day.

        Need corn bread to go with your chili? Try this:

        Corn Bread:

        1/2 cup sifted flour
        1  1/2 cups corn meal
        1 tsp salt
        1 Tbs sugar (or up to  1/4 cup, if you prefer sweeter)
        1 Tbs baking powder

        3 eggs, well beaten
        1 cup milk
        1/2 cup cream

        1/3 cup melted butter

        1. Preheat oven to 400ºF along with an iron skillet (I use a #8/10″ Lodge)
        2. Sift dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
        3. Add eggs and milk and beat with a wooden spoon
        4. Beat in cream
        5. When skillet is hot, add the butter and swirl to coat sides
        6. Pour in batter and bake until top is cracked and golden brown