ksmith: (Default)

I think this was my best batch yet. About 3.5 quarts of gelatinous, medium brown goodness.
I had been saving roasted chicken carcasses for over a year and sticking them in the deep freeze. Yesterday, I excavated them all, added the one from this past Sunday’s dinner, and split them up between the 8 qt stockpot and 5qt-I-think soup pot. Added a load of celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves. A bundle of dried rosemary, thyme, and sage. Salt and pepper. Covered with water and let everything simmer for about 5 hours. At that point, the stock looked and tasted a little thin, so I strained out the veggies and bones, combined the stocks in the 8-qt, and let it boil until the level dropped about an inch and the stock had turned from medium yellow to medium brown. After the pot cooled enough, I stuck it in the fridge.

This afternoon, I skimmed off the very thin layer of fat, which was minimal and mostly consisted of the olive oil I used to coat the skin pre-roasting. Portioned the stuff into 4 cup and 2 cup containers, and stuck them in the deep freeze. I’ll use some in a week or so when I mix up a batch of bean and sausage stew.

I picked a decent-size bowl of meat bits off the bones. The meat is dry, but it still has flavor–I’ll add mayo and mustard and herbs and spices and chopped celery for an okay chicken salad.

Earlier this week, I made a loaf of my old standby banana bread. It’s such a forgiving recipe that I monkey with it constantly. I now substitute whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose–this results in a pretty dense bread. This time, I used 1 cup w/w pastry flour and a half-cup wheat germ. Toasted unsweetened coconut and walnuts. Dug out candied orange peel that I found on some store’s post-holiday bargain bin, and added that. A tablespoon of chai spice and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Because of the sugar in the peel and chai spice, I cut back the sugar in the recipe from 1 cup to 3/4 cup.

This loaf came out a little lighter, and the orange flavor really comes through. Good bread.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (utensils)

Yup, a food post. You’ve been warned.

Over on Facebook, Lynn Flewelling posted a link to an article about how pre-soaking beans prior to cooking was unnecessary. I perked up when I read it because I love bean soups and stews, but never made them because of the soaking step. Slow overnight soak or fast one-hour boil and soak? If you don’t do it right, you’ll wind up with bullets. It didn’t help that the one time I presoaked navy beans for baked beans, they came out hard and gritty. I just didn’t think I’d have success if I tried again.

But this article gave me hope, so. I found the recipe for black bean stew and set about chopping the onion because I knew I had a pound bag of black beans in the pantry. Except that when I looked, I found I didn’t. I did have a pound of navy beans. A year-old pound of navy beans–I remembered the day I bought them at Whole Paycheck, the good little organic shopper shoveling her beans into a bag…then sticking them on a shelf and forgetting about them. I knew beans aged and got tough over time, but I figured that all I risked was half an onion and some time. It was either try to cook the beans or use them as crust ballast for blind baking…except that I already had a couple of pounds of dried beans set aside for that purpose, yet more navy and pinto beans that I bought with every intention of cooking and never did.

Anyway, along with the onion, garlic, and chopped dried chile pepper, I added a teaspoon of ajwain (an Indian seed that flavors and also mitigates that issue with beans that we all sang about in second grade**), some herbs de provence, diced sun-dried tomatoes, celery seed. I didn’t add bay leaf because I didn’t have any, hence the other stuff.


just getting started

just getting started


Heated until it just started to simmer, then covered it and stuck it in a 325F oven. I figured that navy beans might take longer to cook than black beans, and I was right. I let them cook for close to two hours before adding the salt, checking them all the while–yes, they were absorbing liquid. Yes, they were getting softer:

getting there--about halfway through

getting there–about halfway through


After about three hours, I made tuna fish for dinner because I realized that the beans wouldn’t be done in time. Besides, anything stew benefits from sitting overnight, and I figured this would be the case with this stuff as well. I added salt and pepper–about 2 tsps salt instead of the single one called for in the recipe. Stirred and stuck it back in the oven.

At the three-three-and-a-half hour mark–the beans were still intact but creamy when chewed–I zapped the stew with the immersion blender and creamed maybe 1/3 of them.

almost finished

almost finished

I also added a large squirt of ketchup because I always add ketchup to navy bean soup, and a tablespoon of vegetable demiglace because frankly I still found things a little flat. Then I let it cool and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

Today, I added a can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and a little more salt. It is a very thick stew–if you wanted something more soupy, you could add stock or more diced tomatoes or water. I like it thick, so I heated some up in the microwave, stuck some cheddar cheese on top, and had it with a toasted roll.

the finished product

the finished product

It’s good. Yes, the beans have more flavor than canned or–from what I recall–presoaked. I was also struck by how well they remained intact even though they were very tender. Not mushy at all. Or gritty.

I bought black beans today, as well as lentils and white beans. Looking forward to making more no-soak bean dishes. They will need to cook longer, so I will have to be careful which recipes I try.


**also, Blazing Saddles


Mirrored from Kristine Smith.


May. 3rd, 2014 09:03 pm
ksmith: (utensils)

It was time to bake something sweet, so I settled on brownies. My usual recipe is one from Recchiuti made with melted unsweetened chocolate. But I uncovered some Callebaut cocoa that had been in the back of a cupboard for way too long, and decided to find something to use it in. Hence, Mexican Brownies, courtesy of Aaron Sanchez from the Food Network. They’re spiced with cinnamon and cayenne pepper. I also added a teaspoon of espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor, used white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, and added a half-cup of bittersweet chocolate chunks because I could.

Mexican brownies

Mexican brownies

I was reluctant to bake with cocoa because I assumed the flavor would be weak. But these brownies are really good. Different flavor because of the spices, with the cayenne pepper adding just a touch of bite. I added the 1/4 tsp that the recipe stated, but if you like really spicy chocolate, you could add 1/2 tsp. Or as much as you wanted, because you have thumbs.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (utensils)

After some delays, on Monday I finally got around to my first attempt at pear preserves.

I love pears, but I’ve usually been disappointed in preserves and jams made from them. Price doesn’t matter. Supermarket or boutique, the pear flavor has been weak to nonexistent; even added flavoring like ginger has been flat. I wasn’t optimistic about these pears, either. The neighbors had left them on the tree for a while waiting for them to ripen, but it stayed cool for so long that they had to pick them while still unripe. I think the prolonged chill adversely affected the flavor–after I let them ripen in a paper bag for a couple of weeks, they were okay, but lacked the usual rich pop you get from a tree-ripened pear.

Anyway, went with this recipe from Emeril because it looked simple. Then, I made changes. Added 5 small apples leftover from my other neighbor’s donation because I wanted to add some pectin for thickening. Together with the pears, that resulted in 8 cups diced fruit. I read the recipe comments, and decided to cut back on the sugar because the pears were so sweet. So, 3 cups instead of 4. Added a couple of teaspoons of salt** because salt reduces the need for sugar and helps bring out the flavor of the fruit. 1/3 c chopped candied ginger instead of 1/4 c. Zest and juice of two limes because no lemons. And a tablespoon or so of fresh diced thyme because I thought the lemony taste would work well with the pears.

You’re supposed to boil this stuff until the mixture “sheets off a metal spoon.” I may have let it go too long because I wasn’t sure how sheety the sheeting needed to be. In any case, the stuff thickened until it entered the marmalade/borderline candy realm, with pears, apple, and ginger all turning translucent. I shoveled it into 4 Bonne Maman jars–yes, I reuse them–and stuck it all in the fridge to cool.

pear-ginger-thyme preserves

It’s good. Different than anything I have ever had before. I’ve eaten it smeared on bread with Brie, on toast with butter. On a turkey and cheddar sandwich. It has a combo flavor–not quite any single thing, but a mix of the ginger, thyme, and pear. It’s waaay thick, like commercial preserves. I would make it again. Might even reduce the sugar a little more.

**thinking back, not 100% sure whether I added 1 tsp, 1.5, or 2. I used a half-teaspoon measuring spoon, so I know I shoveled a couple of times. I’m afraid I cook like my mom–a little of this, a little of that, and how much of this did I add again? So, salt to taste. Not too salty.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.


Oct. 31st, 2013 11:02 am
ksmith: (gold leaf)

Lots of apples.

Last week, one of my neighbors gave me a shopping bag full of apples from their tree. 17 pounds worth.

Yesterday, I dealt with them. A couple quarts of applesauce. Apple crisp. Today, apple nut bread.

I recommend the crisp recipe. I did substitute white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose when making the crumbs, and added a couple tablespoons of wheat germ as well. The crumbs may have turned out a little dry as a result, but they do have a nice, nutty flavor.

Lots of cooking over the last week. Autumn food, Jacques Pepin’s tuna w/ pasta (best tuna casserole ever, imo, and yes, I add the raisins), butternut squash soup and maple-brined pork loin roast (result: a very juicy roast that tasted a bit like ham).

House stuff took up a lot of my time. The basement guys came and fixed the window wells and filled All The Cracks. I cleared lava rock from a patch next to the deck, and planted some shrubs. Raked leaves. Set up appointments for more estimates.

Downloaded Gimp, which is freeware photo manipulation software. I’ve heard that it’s difficult to learn, but I would like to use it and try my hand at ebook covers for some short stories. I can understand paying to have a novel cover made, but it’s a little more difficult to justify the expense for a short story. I’ll see how well I do. If it proves a disaster, I’ll look into alternative coverage.

Raining now. Cool, dreary autumn. Trees that were still mostly green seem to have changed over the last two days–maples are either vermilion or a gorgeous deep gold, like butterscotch. Oaks aren’t as flashy, all tarnished brass.

Some folks have already put up their Christmas decorations. That just staggers me. Not ready for that at all.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (me)

Spent a week in the Portland Oregon area. Visited good friends. Did some research. Experienced the joy of driving twisty, winding roads. Really twisty. And winding. After a drive, my right leg ached from tension and brake-hitting.

This time, I actually visited scenic vistas.

Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park:

A view of Haystack Rock from Ecola State Park

A view of Haystack Rock from Ecola State Park

NB: Haystack Rock is that vaguely conical rock way in the back, on the far right of the photo. The other haystack-looking rocks are mere impostors.

The Columbia River Gorge (view from Crown Point Vista House):

View of the Columbia from the Crown Point Vista House

View of the Columbia from the Crown Point Vista House

Multnomah Falls:

A gorgeous day at the Falls

A gorgeous day at the Falls

Had lunch at Elephants Deli.

It was good to get away.

Came home yesterday–saw the Great Plains snowfall from the plane, and found 2.5 inches of wet stuff in the backyard rain gauge. Also found a very clean deck–the deck guy had powerwashed it on Monday. Tomorrow, he repairs what needs repairing. He thinks he’ll be able to coat/seal on Friday.

Also tomorrow, plumber installs new water heater. Meanwhile, I am planning the decluttering. It’s going to be All House All The Time for the foreseeable future.

Before I left, I picked the last of the tomatoes. Most were pretty green, so I bagged them and stuck them in the closet to ripen. Checked the bags yesterday and found about half were ready to go, so today I roasted them with garlic and balsamic vinegar. Had some for lunch with rigatoni, goat cheese and arugula. So. Good.

Busy days ahead.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (utensils)

I walked over to my neighbor’s the other day to return the empty peach basket, and he said “Don’t you want some more?” So I filled said basket again–5.5 pounds of mixed white and yellow. I wanted to make another batch of something different, and found a relatively simple recipe for chutney. I eat a lot of chicken, and thought a new type of sandwich spread/relish might be something nice to have around.

As usual, I tweaked. Used dark brown sugar instead of light. About 1/4 tsp salt instead of a pinch. A shallot and a small wedge of sweet onion instead of red onion.

I like a little heat, but not too much. So, I used two dried peppers. The bag wasn’t labeled–it just read “Dried Chili Peppers.” They’re about the size of my pinky and dark red, so I think they’re cayennes.

After blanching/peeling/pitting, I figured I wound up with a little under 5 pounds of usable peach. Because of that, and also because I found the white peaches a little tart, I bumped up the brown sugar from 1 2/3 cup to 2 cups.



I wound up with 7 half-pints, although the 7th is about half juice. I tried a little of it, and I really liked it. Just enough heat. Sweet, but not too. Nice bite from the ginger, and that special something from the cardamom. I’m planning on roast chicken for Sunday, and will try it then.

In other news, I will be at UW-Waukesha tomorrow for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. I have two programming items, a panel and a signing:

How a Book Gets Made (w/ Alex Bledsoe, John Klima, James Lowder, Steven H Silver)
Sat, 10:45 AM, N140

Signing Time: Sat 1:30 PM (according to the program pdf, signings are in the Commons Student Lounge)

Supposed to be a pretty nice day tomorrow, sunny and cool. Looking forward to the drive, and to seeing folks.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (utensils)

Don’t ask me where in hell the year has gone, because I don’t know.

Gaby is at playcare today, running with the pack (cue Bad Company). I was going to clean, but wound up doing laundry and baking instead. Neighbor-with-fruit-trees gave me a basket of white and yellow peaches, and while they tasted fine fresh, there were so many that I didn’t want to risk them going off, so I made a cobbler.

Sidebar to say that my absolute favorite Donna Noble line comes during her wedding, when her friend Nerys (sp?), who does give off a Bitch Vibe, complains that Donna made her wear peach. “But you are a peach,” Donna replies. “Fair of skin. Stone inside. Going off.”

Anyway. I had been planning to make the usual Bisquick cobbles, but I tripped over this recipe online and decided to give it a go. Blanched and peeled the peaches using the tomato method–which I guess is the peach method, too–by cutting an X on the bottom of each peach, then sticking them in boiling water for a minute or so, then shoveling them into a bowl of ice water. Let them cool for a few, then peel. Skin came off nice as you please:

skinned peaches

Peeled and sectioned the peaches:

Prepped peaches

Poured the melted butter and lightly mixed batter into a 13×9-inch baking dish. Added a few drops of Fiori di Sicilia to the batter because it really freshens the taste:

Butter batter

Brought the peaches to a boil with vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, and a few teaspoons of Grand Marnier, just to see if it would make a diff:

cooked peaches

Baked for about 45 minutes at 375F:

We have achieved cobbler!

House smelled great while it baked. Haven’t tried it yet–fruit and spices taste better after sitting a few hours, for all the recipes tell you to eat fresh/warm from the oven. I’ll have some tonight, with coffee.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.


Apr. 20th, 2013 03:35 pm
ksmith: (me)

It’s going too fast, but that’s life in general, isn’t it?

The house smells good. I had dug some round and flank steak out of the freezer and threw together some not-quite-beef-bourguignon. Sort of followed this recipe–I just lacked carrots, button mushrooms, or pearl onions, and I was supposed to use chuck, not round or flank. But I did have dried porcini mushrooms. So I soaked them in beef broth and added them.

Verdict? To a complete lack of surprise to some of you, I’m sure, the meat came out dry. There’s a reason one needs a stew-friendly, fatty cut of beef for this recipe. Lesson learned. At least I have plenty of sauce left–if I mince the meat and add barley, I’ll have a decent soup.

Had it with some leftover not-quite-colcannon, which consisted of halved Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes fried with lotsa onion and a little fresh thyme. That came out surprisingly well. Tasted good cold or warm, especially earlier this week when added to tuna, wilted spinach, and mustard-caper vinaigrette for a not-really-salad-nicoise.

Yes, I do often make it up as I go along. And sometimes, like today, I pay a price.

Sunny this morning, but chilly. High 30s. Long walk with Herself along the wooded trail. Signs of the week’s heavy rains abound. Mushy ground. Standing water. Grooves cut into the ground by fast-flowing water. Much of the water flowed east, toward the wetlands, which was a great place for it. Marsh life may do well this year as a result. I have seen cranes fly over. Heard them, too. Honk, honk.

There’s a different sort of goose hanging with the Canadas that congregate at the nearby park . Not a swan. Looked a little like these guys. Snow goose? Whatever it is, I hope that it finds some of its own. The Canadas seem to have accepted having it around, but come breeding time it may find life a little lonely.

On the way home, Gabster and I walked through the neighborhood. A couple of homes had deer figurines, large and tiny, in their front yards. Gaby would stiffen as soon as she saw one, and try to approach it until the stillness or lack of smell or something told her that they weren’t real deer. Such a huntress.

Looking forward to a long weekend in the city next week. I will drop by C2E2 for one day, my first comicon. A massage and tea at the Drake may also happen, though not at the same time. Got a little black dress for tea. Big girl shoes, which I will carry in my purse and put on in the lobby because they are about as stable as a toothpick bridge in a gale. They’re not even that high–kitten heels. 2 inches, maybe? It’s the style. Shoes made for sitting and sipping.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (utensils)

I’ve always liked them, but had never made them before. But I had an 8 oz bag of shredded unsweetened coconut in the cupboard that I needed to use,

I used a combo recipe, the NYT for proportions and the Serious Eats for the chocolate idea. I was a little short on coconut, but I figured I would likely wind up with a more moist cookie.


2.5 cups dried unsweetened coconut (8 oz bag)
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
couple pinches of salt, maybe 1/8 teaspoon
3 ozs bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Mixed everything in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Dropped the dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet with a 1.5 inch scoop. Baked at 350F for 20 minutes. That took the cookies a little past golden brown into brown, but that’s how I like ‘em.

These cookies don’t spread. At all. If you want a flatter cookie, dampen your hand with cold water and pat down the mound gently. Hit it too hard, and it will fall apart.

Coconut macaroons

They’re good. Not too sweet. Very, very light, in contrast to store-bought macaroons that I have had that had the look and consistency of very sweet, moist hockey pucks. The chocolate is a nice addition, but I think I will try lemon zest and a bit of juice next time. That should result in a very light, tart cookie. Good with coffee, and maybe vanilla ice cream.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

Too short

Mar. 16th, 2013 03:50 pm
ksmith: (leopard frog)

Saturdays. Always.

Cold morning, windy with a bit of sleet. Ice crystals. Took Gaby for a walk, then to the pet store big box, which she handled like a little champ. Very gentle play with the smallest dog I have ever seen, a 6-month old Yorkie that couldn’t have weighed more than a pound. A Great Dane pup that was all knees and paws. And, to my surprise, a warning grumble at a rambunctious Aussie-shepherd-like pup that tried to sniff too much too quickly. Left her in the car as I made a short grocery run. She kept dozing on the way home.

House smells of roasted vegetables, asparagus w/ garlic, carrots w/ onion. Cooked up some bulgar wheat with raisins and basil, which doesn’t taste as weird as it sounds. It’s cold and gloomy, with more to come tomorrow and with possible added snow on Monday. Getting tired of it. Warm sunshine. Want.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.


Jan. 26th, 2013 07:06 pm
ksmith: (utensils)

I can’t believe the day is shot already.

Judging from my headache, we’re in for a weather change. We got about an inch of snow on Thursday/Friday, so it actually looks wintry. More precip headed this way, but it will arrive in the form of freezing rain, which means possible ice accumulation. Downed branches and power lines. A good day to stay home. Hope the power doesn’t go out.

Spent the afternoon cooking. I’m always on the lookout for one-pot meals that combine protein and veg–I like making enough for the week because come Wednesday, shoveling something in a bowl and sticking it in the microwave is about all I can handle. Lately, I’ve been having some success with curried veg & bean recipes, with or without added meat.

A couple of days ago, I caught an episode of Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way on PBS-Create. He made a delicious-looking pizza using a round of flatbread as the crust, and mixed up a popover which he filled with apricot jam. He also made Orecchiette with Fennel and Tuna, which caught my attention because 1) fennel and 2) tuna.

This guy made it as well. He followed the recipe more closely than I did–I made it from memory, and forgot the pine nuts and raisins. Didn’t bother with the cheese or the additional pasta water. Instead I added dried tarragon, capers, and the zest and juice of half a lemon. Broccolini. I only added half as much pasta, and an additional can of tuna. Served it atop a bed of fresh baby spinach, which is my way of combining the hot food and salad on one plate.

All I can say is, damn, it was good. Many times I will make something and know it’s okay-but-not-great. This stuff, though–I would have happily paid for it in a restaurant. The tarragon really boosted the flavors, and fennel works well with fish. As for the tuna, I refuse to pay for the really fancy ventresca, but I do splurge on canned stuff from American Tuna. It’s line-caught, and doesn’t need to be drained. I used a can each of the plain, garlic, and jalapeño–it stayed chunky and had a nice taste. If you’re looking for canned tuna that actually tastes like tuna, give this place a try.

Anyway, this recipe is a keeper. I can see adjusting veggies depending on mood. The broccolini was a nice addition, but baby spinach or another type of green leafy veg might work

I even made dessert. Last year, I bought a mini-pie maker. I haven’t used it that much, but I did fall for a couple of the recipes. My favorite was the blackberry-ginger pie, a simple as breathing filling:

3/4 pint blackberries, rinsed and patted dry
1/3 cup granulated sugar
5 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely-chopped crystallized ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

You just combine everything in a bowl and stir until the berries are lightly crushed and evenly coated. I found three 6oz containers of blackberries at the store, so doubled the other ingredients. Put them in a glass casserole and let them boil away in the oven at 425F for about 20 minutes. Then I topped them with cobbler dough made with biscuit mix, and baked for another 20 or so minutes. Had it with vanilla ice cream. So good.

I am very full now. Just wish my headache would go away.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (apple)

apple cakeOkay. Apple Cake.

I made one for the first time around Thanksgiving. Liked it. Decided to make one today, but couldn’t find the recipe. Searched, found this one, and thought it looked good.

Adjustments. Decisions. I did have a springform pan, but it was a 9-inch. It was coated stainless, and the instructions recommended setting baking temps 25 degrees F lower than the temp in the recipe. It also had a different construction, that was supposed to be leakproof. However, the recipe recommended setting the filled pan atop a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet to catch leaks. I did that, even though I greased the pan with Pam instead of butter and didn’t really expect leaks.

Additions: I substituted 1/4 cup of the all-purpose flour with white whole-wheat. 1/4 tsp salt. The apples I had were a bit mealy and kinda flat, so I added a tablespoon of boiled cider to boost the apple taste. Couldn’t make something apple w/o spices, so. 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, a few scrapes of whole nutmeg, maybe 1/4 tsp. About 1/2 tsp grains of paradise. A 1/4 cup or so crystallized ginger chips.

piece o'cake

The cake baked for about 1 hour 20 minutes. It did pull away from the pan, and the top and sides were dark brown. But the consistency is odd, dense but light, a little custardy. It’s good enough that I will make it again, though surprisingly mild-tasting given all the stuff I added. I will not set it on the cookie sheet again, as the springform pan did not leak a bit. I think the cake would have come out a little more baked if there hadn’t been that layer of insulation between the pan and the heat source.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (seal of approval)

Made banana bread yesterday. It’s my go-to recipe, simple as drool, and fairly flexible with regard additions. This time, I pretty much turned it into raisin-ginger-spice bread, given that I added a good 1/2c or more of golden raisins and the balance of the tipsy ginger from last week’s cookies–maybe 1/3c. Also added cinnamon. Ground ginger. Some cracked grains of paradise. 1/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia, a damned strong citrus flavoring.

Ginger spicy tipsy bananas-in-there-somewhere bread

I worried that maybe I had stretched the forgiveness of this recipe with the amount of alcohol, but I just had a piece and it came out great. I mean, Damn. I waited almost 24 hours to cut into it–spiced stuff always tastes better if you let it sit for a time. It’s dense, with a smaller crumb, like a spiced, rummy pound cake. Heavier than usual, which I think has to do with the amount of rum I added–it moistened the batter, but didn’t soak the gluten. Or something.

Hope I remember what I did. Must make more tipsy ginger.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (christmas tree)

Spam header of the day: “A complete line of products for failures in bed.”
Not much of a market for those, I would think.

In Real Science(TM) news, a spider has been discovered that builds decoy spiders, legs and all, possibly to deter predators.

Hope everyone who celebrates had a good Christmas, and everyone who doesn’t a nice vacation day. Mine was quiet. Cooking got short shrift for a number of reasons, but dinner still turned out surprisingly well. The initial plan was roast chicken with mashed parsnips and roasted carrots, but I lacked the time/energy. So.

Peeled and chopped the parsnips and carrots into roughly equal-sized pieces. Added two chopped onions. A couple of stalks of wilted celery I didn’t want to toss. Mixed it all in a bowl and tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Sautéed on medium heat until almost but not quite soft. Added bone-in chicken breasts, herbes de Provence, and chicken stock, and braised until the chicken was done. Removed chicken. Mashed veggies, which by this point were mushy, with butter, cream, and a tablespoon of cognac.

I served this with stuffing, but it didn’t need it. Forgot the cranberry sauce, and didn’t miss it. The chicken picked up the flavor of the veggies, and stayed moist. Call it Braised Chicken Breasts w/ Puree of Root Vegetables. Whatever you call it, it’s a keeper.

In other news, WordPress site is still getting killed with spam. I’ve gotten more in the last couple of months than I did in the last year and a half. Akismet snags the bulk of it, but still. How many counterfeit designerwear sites are there out there?

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.


Dec. 23rd, 2012 10:37 am
ksmith: (utensils)

Made my first batch ever yesterday.

My go-to breakfast most mornings is cold cereal with fruit. I stick to as many “natural” cereals as possible. Organic brands. Low end of the sugar spectrum. The stuff can disappoint flavor-wise, and it’s not cheap. The granolas especially can turn out to be pretty pale and floury, and reliant mostly on sugar for taste.

A few mornings ago, as I emptied out a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Oats–five minutes in the microwave/good stuff–I stopped to read the thing and found a recipe for granola. Many were the ingredients, including ones that struck me as odd. Non-fat dry milk. Poppy and sunflower seeds. But I was planning to visit the BIG grocery store with the huge BRM selection, and decided to hunt down as many ingredients as possible and give homemade a try.

I left out sunflower seeds because not a fan. Added 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, 2 tsps cinnamon, and 1 tsp ground ginger. Dissolved 1 tsp kosher salt in the liquids before heating because baked things that don’t mention salt usually need at least some.

I used my biggest mixing bowl, the 4-quart yellow one from my ancient Pyrex 4-color collection. This recipe filled it almost to the top, and I had to take care while mixing so that stuff didn’t spill over the rim. I spread it out on one large cookie sheet, but after a half-hour realized that the layer was just too thick and shoveled some off on a smaller sheet. Baking time? About an hour, hour fifteen minutes. I overbrown everything because that’s how I like it, and I came pretty darn close to burning the stuff in the small sheet. But everything proved salvageable. I let it cool for a half-hour or so, then shoveled it into storage containers.

Verdict? I like it, but it’s an acquired taste. The browning helped. It’s not sweet–with only 1/2 cup honey, I should have realized it wouldn’t be. I could have doubled the cinnamon and ginger. Next time, I may try more additions–maple syrup, a little brown sugar. A tad more salt. Boiled cider. Vanilla. Right now, the overall flavor is grainy/toasty/nutty, like a bread or roll. I’d like to add a little dried fruitiness and yes, a touch more sweet. But it’s good as is, and I know what’s in it which is even better.

Serving size is about 1/3 cup, which seemed ridiculous until I remembered that I had munched on a scant handful over the course of baking and had to delay dinner because I felt too full to eat. So yes, 1/3 cup with a banana, milk or yogurt, and a few raisins thrown in make for a decent breakfast.

It’s a cloudy, cold Christmas Eve’s Eve here. Thursday’s storm gave us over an inch of rain but only a dusting of snow–the sump pump continues to pump on a regular basis, and the backyard is like a skating rink in spots. Dried lawn is coated with a layer of ice that crunches when I step on it.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.


Dec. 20th, 2012 07:45 pm
ksmith: (utensils)

Ultimate Ginger Cookies with rum-soaked ginger have been baked. I had used straight rum in the past to moisten this dough, which can prove crumbly and hard-to-work at times**, but hadn’t thought of soaking the crystallized ginger itself. Lisa Mantchev gave me the idea–she used bourbon as the soaking medium, but I decided to stick with dark rum because 1) it seemed to go with spice and ginger and 2) it’s what I had in the cupboard.

I didn’t measure. A few days ago, I made a 50/50 mix of soft diced ginger and hard crystallized ginger chips (both from King Arthur) and filled a 500ml glass container about 2/3 full. Added enough dark rum to cover the stuff, then snapped on the lid and let it sit on the kitchen counter until this evening.

Like Lisa, I used about a half cup of the tipsy ginger in the cookie recipe. I didn’t drain it well, just removed it from the container with a slotted spoon and waited until the rum stopped streamimg. Dumped it in the mixer. As the dough still seemed a little dry, I added gingery rum by the teaspoon until it held together better. Four teaspoons altogether. It doesn’t take much liquid to make a world of difference with this dough.

Note: I added more Kosher salt than the recipe called for, a half-teaspoon rather than a quarter-teaspoon. I love Ina Garten’s recipes, but I tend to think that she oversalts savory dishes and undersalts baked goods. I just think a little extra salt boosts all the other flavors.

I also added another extra ingredient–a teaspoon of grains of paradise, a pepper-like spice. I first heard of it on the apple pie episode of Good Eats. Alton Brown added a teaspoon to the pie filling, and I figured an equivalent amount would be the place to start with the cookies.

Results below. Yes, the cookies are different colors. The darker, less crackly ones baked on the lower shelf, closer to the heat source.

I usually try to let the cookies sit overnight before eating–spice cookies benefit from being allowed to age for a bit. But I was anxious, so I tried a small one while it was still warm. Very soft, thanks to the ginger soakage and the extra rum. Very full-flavored. I’m not sure if I was supposed to detect an alcohol kick or not–I didn’t. I did think that all the spice flavors were enhanced, but that the ginger blended with the other spices instead of popping to the fore. Part of the ensemble cast rather than the featured player.

I plan to try bourbon at some point, but I do recommend the rum. Brandy might work. Also wondering if a little brandied orange peel would be a good addition.

**It doesn’t help that I switch out 1 cup of all-purpose flour for white whole-wheat flour. The white w/w soaks up liquid more than the all-purpose.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (christmas tree)

Spam babble of the day: Accord stands out as the Coptis groenlandica which will jewelry this paper hearts with the earth.

Over at Lisa Mantchev’s website, Lisa has posted about her experiments with Ina Garten’s Ultimate Ginger Cookie recipe. Her apotheotic–is that a word/it is now–recipe involves soaking the ginger in bourbon for at least an hour, the result being her Boozy Woozy Timey Wimey cookies. I liked the sound of that, but alas I have no bourbon. I do, however, have dark rum. The ginger has been soaking since yesterday afternoon and the level of the rum has dropped a bit, which implies soakage. I will be baking later in the week, Thursday or Friday. I will post pictures.

King update: you still wouldn’t know he’s sick. He’s bouncy. Eating well. Barking at me when he wants his foods, dammit–I’m never fast enough. Likes to be outside in the cool. At his last checkup, his liver enzyme results came in just a hair above normal. He has a follow-up on Jan. 3 that will include an ultrasound to see how things look. The oncologist told me that it will just tell us where we’ve been, not where we’re going. Yes, I know. But right now, we’re at happy, bouncy, and eating, and that’s all good.

Snow. We haven’t had any yet. It’s been 288 days since measurable snow fall around here, which is a record. However, we are supposed to get hit on Thursday into Friday with anywhere from 1-5 inches. On the other hand, if the snow line twitches, we could wind up with rain instead. I wouldn’t mind a little snow. Snow means clean puppy feet. Rain means mud.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (utensils)

…here’s a link to a blog post by a woman who really worked at figuring out the best way to season a cast iron pan:

I wanted to understand the chemistry behind seasoning so I’d know how to fix this, but there is nothing that addresses this issue directly. A Web page on cast iron posted by someone similarly obsessed with the science gave me two crucial clues, the phrases “polymerized fat” and “drying oil”. From there I was able to find the relevant scientific literature and put the pieces together.

The conclusion? High-quality flaxseed oil, applied in 6 thin coats. Not a fast process, but the blogger is happy with the results.

I may give this a try. Or, I may make the switch to enameled cast iron.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (me)

A holiday for some of us, for which I am thankful.

Yesterday was a good day. Stuffing tasted great, a close facsimile of Mom’s but with added golden raisins, which works for me. A bit disappointed in the squash, which lacked that rich squashy flavor–can they be picked too soon? This one just lacked.

The cast-iron roast chicken was delicious, as usual. Onions, fennel, and leeks all caramelized, and the bird itself came out golden brown. My only mistake was in handling the brand-new cast iron pan. I should have removed the chicken and veggies right away, then added a little broth or wine or water to deglaze. Instead I let it sit until after dinner, which gave the detritus a change to cool and solidify and STICK LIKE LIVING HELL to the pan. I had seasoned it a bit prior to use–wiped it with cooking oil and put it in the 500F oven to heat. Given that and the fact that it was “pre-seasoned”, I thought things would be okay.

Sadly, no.

I was supposed to use a brush and coarse salt to abrade the gunk. After an hour of that, I gave up and committed the cardinal cast-iron sin of dish soap and water. Gunk dissolved in a snap, but since that likely took all the seasoning with it, I re-oiled the pan and put it in a 350F oven for a couple of hours. Who knows, I probably screwed that up, too.

Thing is, I have read and heard all the rapturous paeans concerning cast-iron cookery, but I have found that unless you use the pans consistently, seasoning becomes a chore more than a habit and the pans themselves a trial to use. I will likely give it one more try, but if it remains too much of a pain I will either go back to abusing my poor stainless steel casserole or looking into Lodge’s seasoned steel.

And yes, I know about using solid shortening for seasoning rather than oil, and setting the pans upside down over foil in the oven so that the excess drips out. There are, in fact as many methods of seasoning cast iron pans as there are varieties of pans. One could go cross-eyed as one tries to find definitive information on a Thanksgiving afternoon, scrubbing the &^%$#@ pan with one hand and typing keywords into search engines with the other.

Anyway, at least the chicken came out good.

I spent yesterday morning putting up the outdoor Christmas decorations: a couple of lighted wreaths on the house and lighted figures in and around the planter (a penguin, two spiral light trees, two reindeer). I didn’t feel like spending a chunk of Thanksgiving morning putting up the outdoor Christmas decorations, but near record-setting warmth was predicted–60s! Sunny!–and if you have to stand in the front yard and wrestle electrical cords, it’s better to do it in nice weather.

It was a good decision. By evening, the winds had picked up and the warmth had gone buhbye. This morning finds it about 30 degrees colder, still windy, and cloudy. At some point, the spiral tree that I had set up in the planter blew over, despite the four stakes I used to hold it in place. It will only take a few minutes to put right, but it’s that first blast of cold air I’m dreading. Maybe I’ll have another cup of coffee first.

It’s just nasty. At least it’s not snowing…although every once in a while, a few flakes drift past. I was going to get the Christmas tree today, but I just don’t feel like dealing with the cold and the wind, not to mention the crowds. Tomorrow will be bad enough, but I have to go out anyway so I will add “Christmas tree” to the list, along with garage wreath, gate wreaths, and maybe something for over the fireplace.

I love wreaths. I tend to leave them hanging until they’re brown and shedding needles like rain because I hate to take them down. Wreaths and gates. It’s a tic.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

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