Saturday, October 31, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #230

Patchouli says Happy Halloween! Even though she spends the night safe inside her screened in porch, she hopes you have fun!

This will be my entry for this week's Halloween edition of Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Luna at CatSynth.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cheese

Swiss Chard

Remember yesterday's polenta? Well, I had some leftover, and I had some gorgeous swiss chard from my CSA. Really, is there anything prettier than swiss chard?? It makes me happy just looking at it.

So, anyway you know the drill by now. I went out to Epicurious and found Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard. By the way, is anyone else wondering about the 150+ cookbooks that I have on my shelves, sitting there all lonesome like while I search the world wide web? It's just that it's so darn faster. I started pulling off books and looking at the index for swiss chard, you'd be surprised how little I found for it...or maybe not. But really, I had swiss chard, I had leftover polenta and within minutes I had a recipe using both. Win!

Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cheese

I didn't make the recipe exactly as written since I used leftover polenta. So I just skipped the whole cooking the polenta part. I didn't have grated mozzarella, I had those small balls of fresh mozzarella. So, I just sort of smooshed them around and tore them into pieces. And I didn't have a cute low sided casserole dish, which I think would have looked better. But still it was good. I love combination of the polenta and the swiss chard. Of course, the bacon and the cheese helped too.

Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard
Serves 8

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 pound Swiss chard, thick stems and ribs removed, leaves cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips

3 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal) or yellow cornmeal

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 cups coarsely grated low-fat mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil 2-quart glass baking dish. Heat oil in heavy large deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic and crushed red pepper, then chard; cover and cook until chard is tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Uncover; stir until any excess liquid in skillet evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring 3 1/2 cups water and salt to boil in heavy large saucepan. Gradually stir polenta into boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk ricotta and eggs in bowl; whisk in 1 cup hot polenta. Stir ricotta mixture into polenta in saucepan. Spread half of polenta mixture in baking dish. Spread half of chard mixture over. Sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Repeat layering with remaining polenta, chard, and cheese. Bake until puffed and brown on top, about 45 minutes. Cool 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Polenta with Bacon and Fontina

I apologize. I have not figured out how to make polenta look good. I just can't. But please ignore the somewhat vomity looking photo and stop and think. It's polenta. It's polenta with bacon. It's polenta with bacon and cheese. There. Feel better.

Yeah, with a title like that, you know it has to be good. And it was. Very good. I loved the addition of the whole corn in it, and of course the bacon, and let's not forget the cheese, shall we. Where did I find this gem, you might ask. From my go to book The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh and my go to website, Epicurious.

Polenta with Bacon and Fontina
Serves 6 as a side dish (unless one of your guests is me - then maybe 4 if you're lucky)

1/2 cup finely chopped bacon (about 4 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
5 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
1 cup (packed) grated Fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Sauté chopped bacon in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings. Add onion and garlic to drippings in skillet and sauté until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, corn, and bacon; bring to boil. Gradually add cornmeal, whisking constantly. Cook until polenta is soft and thick, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Add Fontina and Parmesan, stirring until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve hot.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Aren't We All?

A conversation I had with one of my higher functioning autistic students.

CR: I like your shirt, Mrs. G.

Me: Thank you! I bought it because it looks like a tablecloth.

CR: ?

Me: You know. The fabric. It looks like a fancy tablecloth, like in a restaurant with candles and cloth napkins.

CR: You bought a shirt because it looks like a tablecloth?

Me: Yeah. I know, I'm weird.

CR: That's okay, Mrs. G. I'm weird too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Chinese Fringe Flower

Chinese Fringe Flower

I know you're probably thinking, "Why is Pam posting a spring flower here when fall is in full swing?"

I'm not. This gorgeous flowering shrub is blooming right now. Isn't it lovely? I've looked it up online, and some sources say that it blooms in March, and then other's say that it blooms repeatedly. I'm going with repeatedly. I just love it, especially with the blue of my neighbor's house in the background.

Monday, October 26, 2009

4 Cheese Pizza with Basil and Garlic

White Four-Cheese Pizza

We have a new Italian restaurant that has moved into our part of town. So far, I have only tried one thing, their white pizza. Oh, we've ate there more than once, the problem is that I fell in love with this pizza. I can't bring myself to try anything else. It's everything I really want in a pizza...bread and cheese, oh and some garlic thrown in for good measure. Whenever my husband goes out of town, or goes away, or goes somewhere, and I'm left to fend for myself, I invariably grab this pizza. I was about to do it this week, when I stopped. What if I could make this for myself? Whenever I wanted it. Weekly, daily, whenever. The thought practically makes me giddy.

Problem number one, I had no pizza dough. Oh, I had some in the freezer, but I needed it NOW. Then I remembered my bucket of dough sitting in my fridge from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking...hmmm. So, I grabbed the book and yes, it has a pizza dough, but mine was just regular dough. But with visions of cheese pizza in my head, I didn't care. My dough bucket was about empty and it was time to make more anyway so might was well use it up.

It just so happens that I had been sitting on the couch thumbing through The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Freshwhile hubby watched Fringe, which is much better this season than last, but I still grab a cookbook to look at while it's on. Anyway, I remembered seeing a White Four Cheese Pizza with Basil and Garlic.

So, I made the pizza. Only I didn't have any goat cheese. So really mine was a three cheese pizza and I didn't have any basil because I just harvested my last batch and gave it to my oldest daughter because I am such a good mom. And I didn't make it on pizza dough, but on bread dough. It was good, but it was not Italian restaurant good. It wasn't the right blend of cheese and garlic. The bread dough for the crust though was definitely a win. It had this yummy sourdough chewiness to it. So, I'm going to try again. I will keep trying till I can have my favorite pizza whenever I want it!

White Four-Cheese Pizza with Basil and Garlic

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced

1 13.8-ounce tube refrigerated pizza dough (or whatever dough you have)
All purpose flour
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then coarsely chopped
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 450°F. Brush 13x9-inch metal baking pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil (I didn't do this, since I used a pizza stone). Mix remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in small bowl.

Roll out pizza dough on lightly floured work surface to 14x10-inch rectangle. Transfer dough to prepared pan; brush lightly with some of garlic oil. Top with mozzarella cheese and goat cheese, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Crumble ricotta cheese over, then sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake pizza until crust is golden brown and cheese melts, about 18 minutes. Drizzle remaining garlic-oil over pizza. Let stand 3 minutes. Do ahead Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Before continuing, rewarm in 350°F oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Cut pizza crosswise into 8 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 4 pieces for 32pieces total. Sprinkle with basil. Transfer to platter and serve hot.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekend Wine Reviews #8

Jacob's Creek
Jacob's Creek Shiraz, 2007, Australia. $5.49. They say: Medium bodied with generous aromas of pepper, licorice and plum. Leaving a soft-textured finish on the palate. We say: light, pepper is not too pronounced, weakish finish. Kind of generic, but pleasant. Buy again: yes, at that price!

Pescivino White Table Wine. Italy. $11.10. You know I am not above buying a wine for it's label alone. I am also not above buying wine for the bottle alone. This white table wine came in a fish bottle. It was pretty much what we expected, a nice white table wine. Very pleasant and drinkable, plus you end up with a cool fish bottle. Buy again - probably not, unless I need another fish bottle.

Dyed in the Wool Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Marlborough. $12.50 They say: exuberant and vibrant fruit flavors abound. Gooseberries, passion fruit and lime. Light and zesty. We say: citrusy, but weak, with a metallic finish. Buy again: no.

You may have noticed something different in the pics. Yep, Weekend Wine Reviews has moved inside. It is too cold to sit out on our porch, so now we have to sit in the house with the strains of weekend football in the background. Not quite as charming.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #229

Like every good model, Patchouli knows how to choose her lighting. She finds a soft evening glow very flattering.

This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Mr Tigger & The M-Cats Club.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard

Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard

On the day I decided to make Oktoberfest Beer Mustard, I also decided to make Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This decision was based on the conclusion that while I had all the stuff out and was in a canning mood, it would be just as easy to make two kinds as one kind. Turns out that is not exactly true.


I am, apparently, not coordinated enough to really successfully swing simultaneous canning events. In theory, it sounds like a wonderful idea, but in practice, not-so-much. Having both mustard simmering on the stove, one cooperating beautifully, the other rebelling, was stressful.

Mustard Seeds

This is the one that rebelled. This mustard was really thick before I even began the reduction process. There was nothing to reduce, really. But not knowing enough about canning, I thought that I should follow the directions completely. Except that when it said to bring it to a boil over high heat, there was nothing to bring to a boil. Imagine trying to bring peanut butter to a boil. That is what it was like. So, I sort of scorched it a bit, and then just let it simmer. The flavor is good though, and I imagine this with pork roasts, and brats, and all things porky. The recipe can be found in the book and online Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard.

Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard
Makes about five 4-ounce jars

1 bunch fresh sage
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1 cup white wine vinegar
Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1/2 cup liquid honey
1/4 tsp salt
5 (4 oz) glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Finely chop enough sage leaves to measure 1/3 cup and set aside.

Coarsely chop remaining sage leaves and stems to measure 1/2 cup and place in a small stainless steel saucepan with white wine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and pressing sage to release flavor. Remove from heat. Cover tightly and let steep for 5 minutes.

Transfer sage infusion to a sieve placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl and press leaves with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid. Discard solids and return liquid to saucepan. Add mustard seeds. Cover and let stand at room temperature until seeds have absorbed most of the moisture, about 2 hours.

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

Combine marinated mustard seeds (with liquid) and vinegar in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until blended and most seeds are well chopped, but retaining a slightly grainy texture.

Transfer mixture to a stainless steel saucepan and add lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, salt and reserved finely chopped sage. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by a third, about 20 minutes.

Ladle hot mustard into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Yasmeen from Healthnut.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cheese Tortellini

Tortellini Stuffed Squash

I wanted to end Tyler Florence Fridays with a recipe that I had bookmarked forever, Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cheese Tortellini from Tyler Florence: Stirring the Pot. First of all, I love cheese tortellini. I always have a bag of it frozen in my freezer. It is my go-to dinner when I am home alone. I boil it up and top it with a quick sauce of browned butter. That's it. Quick and comforting. So, I was intrigued with the stuffed squash, but especially intrigued with the cheese tortellini topped with a cheese sauce. There is no such thing as too much cheese in my book.

Let me say, the cheese sauce was wonderful. Well, of course it was, it was nothing but cream, garlic, thyme, and cheese. What's not to love about that? And all that cheesy creamy goodness on top of cheese tortellini was everything I imagined it would be. But stuffed into a I found the squash distracting, it didn't seem to add anything to the dish. And yes, I didn't have acorn squash, I had delicata, but I still don't think acorn squash would have made that much of difference. I think I would like this dish desconstructed. Serve the tortellini with the sauce and then maybe roast the squash for a side dish. So, if you are curious about this dish, I highly recommend the tortellini with the sauce, it's your choice to stuff it in a squash or not.

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cheese Tortellini
Serves 4

2 medium acorn squash (about 1 pound each)
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
1 garlic clove crushed
1 sprig thyme
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 pound cheese tortellini (store bought)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated parmesan cheese for topping
fresh sage leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Split the squash in half (cut lengthwise from top end to bottom end) cutting right through the stem so each half has a piece of stem attached. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Cut a small piece off the rounded bottom to give it a base to sit on. Place the squash halves cut sides up on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile prepare the tortellini mix. Heat a large pot of salted water to cook the tortellini in. In a separate saucepan heat the heavy cream over medium heat with garlic and thyme and reduce until thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Add the nutmeg and parmesan then melt over low heat. Cook the tortellini in the boiling water (3-4 minutes for fresh tortellini or follow directions of brand) and then strain and toss into cream mixture. some of the pasta water to thin out sauce if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and then divide amongst cooked squash cups.

Turn the oven up to 400 F.

Sprinkle the tops of squash bowls with grated Parmesan and a fresh sage leave and then bake in the oven for a further 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

This will be my entry for Tyler Florence Fridays!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grilled Steak Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Steak Salad

I think I have to add another chef to my short list of favorites. Really, there are just a handful of chefs that I routinely return to, and I think I need to add Sara Foster to that list. Whenever I page through cookbooks, I pencil or pen in a little dot next to the title, which lets me know that I want to try that recipe. I usually don't bother doing that in Sara Foster cookbooks, because I would basically be dotting every page.

Grilled Steak Salad

As I was flipping through Sara Foster's Casual Cooking: More Fresh Simple Recipes from Foster's MarketI found the perfect recipe for the switching of the seasons. A grilled steak salad, which featured some of the late summer early fall veggies. And perfect it was. It was seriously good. Usually when I grill veggies, I just toss them in some olive oil, with some salt and pepper. The addition of the balsamic vinegar was just the little tang that the veggies needed and one that I'll be using over and over again. The only changes I made were to cut the veggies to bite size and grill using a grill basket.

Grilled Steak Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Serves 2 to 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 6 ounce New York strip or rib-eye steaks
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut into 1 inch dice
1 red onion, cut into 1 inch dice
4 ounces baby bella or button mushrooms
sea salt

Rosemary mustard vinaigrette
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 shallot minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
salt and fresh ground black pepper

4 cups loosely packed mixed baby greens, washed and drained

Preheat gas grill to high.

Rub steak with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar on both sides. Sprinkle both sides with the pepper and half the rosemary. Set the meat aside to come to room temperature, while you grill the vegetables.

Put the bell pepper, zucchini, onion and mushrooms in a large bowl. Add the rest of the olive oil (2 tablespoons), vinegar (2 tablespoons), and the rest of the rosemary (1 tablespoon). Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add to a grill basket and grill for about 6 minutes, stirring, until they're tender, but still slightly crunchy. Transfer to a large bowl.

Season both sides of the steak with salt and grill for about 5 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of your steak). Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar, mustard, and shallot. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Stir in the rosemary and season with salt and pepper.

Add the greens to the vegetables in the bowl and toss with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette. Add steak and toss too, or serve the steak sliced on top. Add additional vinaigrette and salt and pepper if necessary.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Garden Tuesday - You Know What Fall Means??

It's fall.

You know what that means?

Time to collect the seeds.

Label them carefully and save them.

And then in the spring, completely forget where you put them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Black Bean Soup with Apple

Black Bean Soup with Apple

Guess what my peeps?! It's my fall break! Can I get a Whoop Whoop! Well, actually I'm not a Whoop Whoop kind of girl. I don't believe that I've ever Whoop Whooped, or a Yee Ha'd, or any other loud crowd sound that you can think of. I'm not a loud crowd sound person. I'm the one standing there quietly, studying the loud, boisterous people like they are some kind of zoo animal. So, anyway, can I get nice dignified, smile and nod, over my fall break?!

Since it's fall, it's all about soup. My very favorite bean, the humble black bean, is always stored away in my pantry. I used to have a fabulous black bean soup recipe that I used all the time, and then I lost it. I've spent years trying to find another black bean soup recipe to call my favorite. This one today sounded interesting, and it was..interesting. I like the addition of the apples and the ginger, but the allspice was overpowering to my taste. If I make it again, I'll omit the allspice and see. Oh, and you know, it was finished with a generous splash of my pepper vinegar. And please disregard my pathetic garnishing skills. You wouldn't think it would be so hard to artistically sprinkle some chopped chives on top would you?

Black Bean Soup with Apple
Adapted from
The Herbfarm Cookbookby Jerry Traunfeld
8 Servings

8 cups water
1 pound dried black beans
6 ounces smoked bacon, very finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 ribs celery, finely chopped
7 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground allspice (see note above)
5 fresh bay leaves or 3 dried
3 large tart apples, like granny smiths, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons sherry or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup or dark brown sugar
Chopped fresh chives for garnish

(Instructions are modified, because I made it in the slow-cooker). Combine the beans and water in slower cooker bowl and soak overnight. The next morning, add enough chicken stock to make the total liquid around 8 cups. Add the rest of the ingredients through the bay leaves to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. About an hour before serving add the rest of the ingredients, except for the chives. Serve garnished with the chives.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Wine Reviews #7

Coastline Paso Robles 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. $8.99. We say - Full, berry, with an interesting finish. Buy again - yes!

Paso Paso
Paso A Paso 100% Verdejo. 2008. Spain. $10.00. They say: delicate aromas of fresh picked peaches, bright citrus accents and delicious apple and kiwi flavors. We say: peachy, full mouth feel, long finish. Buy again - definitely.

Double Dog Dare
Double Dog Dare Chardonnay. California. Non vintage. $3.99. Another bottle bought for the name and the price! We say: not bad for the price. Light and pleasant. Buy again - yes, definitely!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #228

Smudge hiding
Shhhhh..he's hiding.

Where's Smudge?
The little birdies will never notice him.

Smudge is my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Kashim at Paulchens FoodBlog?!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Baby Eggplant, Olive, and Goat Cheese Frittata

Baby Eggplant Frittata

The other day, I was sitting on my couch and I decided to play a game. I got my huge The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh out (703 pages of recipes, people), and decided that I would just flip it open and make whatever happened to be on that page. Yes. That is my idea of game. That is what I do for fun. Sad, but true.

And, as you can see from the top, I turned to Baby Eggplant, Olive, and Herb Cheese Frittata. And guess what, in a whole destiny and fate kind of way, I had everything I needed to make it. I had exactly 4 eggs in my fridge (I know it kind of makes you shudder doesn't it..spooky). Well, maybe not so spooky, since I didn't have the herbed Boursin cheese that it called for, but I did have goat cheese.

And guess what?? It was wonderful. Seriously wonderful. Served with salad and some bread and you have an incredibly easy and light dinner. You can find the recipe online Baby Eggplant, Olive and Herb Cheese Frittata and I've included it here for you also.

Baby Eggplant, Olive and Goat Cheese Frittata
2 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 baby (plum-size) purple eggplants, stemmed, split lengthwise (I had longish, thin eggplants, so I just diced them)
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pitted brine-packed green olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 5.2-ounce package Boursin cheese with herbs and garlic, divided (or sub goat cheese)

Heat oil in medium 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant halves (or diced pieces), cut side down, spacing evenly. Cover; cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Whisk eggs, olives, basil, and salt in bowl. Sprinkle with pepper. Coarsely crumble half of cheese into eggs; stir to blend. Pour over eggplants, rearranging evenly in pan. Cook uncovered over medium heat until sides set and bottom begins to brown, loosening sides occasionally with spatula, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover; cook until set, about 7 minutes.

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Cinzia from Cindystar.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oktoberfest Beer Mustard

Oktoberfest Beer Mustard

Hi. My name is Pam, and I am a condimentaholic. Where is my support group? Can't you imagine us all sitting around, saying things like.."Chutneys. Oh man, don't get me started on chutneys." And.."It all started with one small jar of fig jam."

Seriously, when I open a cookbook, I almost always start in the back, because that's where the section on condiments and sauces usually is. That's the section I linger over, imagining little jars lined up in my pantry or on my fridge shelf. So, when I saw the sections on mustards in Ball Complete Book of Home PreservingI was instantly hooked.

Beer - it's a good thing.

Since it's October, I went with Oktoberfest Beer Mustard (cause I'm simple that way). This was easy and fun, and just look at my cute little jars! Really it's like Christmas for a confirmed condimentaholic like me. And even better than that, it tastes great, and it was way less expensive than buying those $6.00 little jars of mustard at the store!

Oktoberfest Beer Mustard
Makes about five 4oz jars (mine made 7!)

1 1/2 cups beer
1 cup brown mustard seeds
1 cup water
1/2 cup malt vinegar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 tablespoon onion powder

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the beer and the mustard seeds. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover it and let it stand for about 2 hours or until the seeds have absorbed most of the moisture.

Prepare canner, jars and lids (I recommend getting a good book on canning to read all about it, or use the internet to follow correct procedures).

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree the seeds and any liquid, until most of the seeds are chopped up. You want it to be a little grainy.

Transfer the mixture to a nonreactive saucepan (stainless steel) and whisk in the water, vinegar, brown sugar, dry mustard and onion powder. Over high heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently, stirring frequently, until the volume is reduced by a third, about 15 minutes.

Ladle the hot mustard into the jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space if needed. Wipe the rim. Center the lid on the jar. Screw the band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring the are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Far Out Man

View from Racoon Mountain
I love incense. It reminds me of the hippie head shops of my youth.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Hummingbirds

Not much going on in my garden this week.

Except for the hummingbirds.

They're migrating.

And they're hungry.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bacon and Bean Soup with Kale

Bacon and Bean Soup

Are you sitting down? Well, of course you are, you're on your computer aren't you? Except you know what, at my husband's place of work, in an effort to get people to lose weight, they have placed some of the computers at stations with treadmills! I think that's a wonderful idea, but it's kind of sad too, to think that we have come to that level of obesity. So, technically I guess you could be on your computer and standing up, walking or running!

So, anyway, the reason you should be sitting is because if you look carefully at the above soup, you'll notice something odd. Something you don't see often (never) on this blog. Yep, lima beans. See, I'm making an effort to use up pantry and freezer items. And in my pantry I found a bag of baby limas. They were organic, so I know I bought them, but when? And better yet, why??

Waste not, want not and all that, I used them. And guess what, this soup was great! I followed my basic bean soup formula, and added some kale. But what really set this soup over the top was two things. One, the bacon. The bacon was from a local farm and it was unlike any other bacon that I've ever had. It was unbelievably smokey. Seriously, I opened up my fridge and it smelled like a smokehouse. And chili pepper vinegar. Oh yes. I served the soup with the vinegar bottle nearby and with a generous drizzling, it was perfect. I believe that chili pepper vinegar is going to be my most favorite condiment ever! I'm making a black bean soup today, just to use more chili pepper vinegar. And I'm serving it with collard greens..again...just to use more chili pepper vinegar. I am in vinegar love, and lima bean like.

Bacon and Bean Soup with Kale
Serves 6-8

2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 lb dried baby limas, rinsed and sorted
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup smokey market bacon, diced
1 bunch kale, leaves chopped, (about 4 cups)
chili pepper vinegar (for serving)

Soak beans over night in 8 cups of water in slow cooker. In the morning, add enough water to bring it back up to about 8 cups (I don't throw out my bean soaking liquid, but if you do, add 8 cups fresh water). Add carrots, celery, onion, parsley, black pepper and bacon. Cook on low 10-12 hours. During the last hour, add the kale and salt to taste. Serve with chili pepper vinegar.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The New American Chef

The New American Chef

Do you remember when I pledged to buy no more cookbooks? I tossed that oath out into the blogosphere and it returned flying on a cosmic karma boomerang. What was on my cosmic karma boomerang, you might ask? Well, a cookbook, of course. And not just a cookbook, but an autographed cookbook, and not just an autographed cookbook, but an autographed cookbook, actually autographed to me!!!

To Me!

That's right, my new BFF's Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, sent me a cookbook, their cookbook! Remember when I posted about the anniversary of The Flavor Bible. As an appreciation, they sent me The New American Chef: Cooking with the Best of Flavors and Techniques from Around the World!

Oh my. What a cookbook it is! Well, first of all, I don't even know if I would call it a cookbook, it's almost more like a textbook. (Since I'm a teacher, we know how I feel about that). But really, there is so much to learn in this book. I am actually reading it cover to cover. It starts out with a 20 page introduction (which that right there should tell you something). It's all about how to learn to cook a specific cuisine. How to immerse yourself in the cuisine and learn to discriminate the flavors.

Some of my favorite parts are where Rick Bayless talks about learning to cook Thai. I highlighted one of his quotes (yes, it's that kind of book, you want to have a highlighter handy), "It is important to go into something with a completely open mind and to do what you are told. People laugh when I tell them that when I cook from other people's books, I literally follow every single direction. I measure everything out, cook exactly the way they say for as long as they say, and try to experience what they are trying to teach me. That is the way to learn a cuisine."

Where is my highlighter?

After the introduction, the book is divided into sections: Japan, Italy, Spain, France, China, India, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, and Morocco. Each section opens with an introduction to that cuisine. Again, this is about 20-30 pages of reading. Different chefs make comments and give suggestions. There is everything from techniques, to holidays, to menus, to a recommend reading list, and more! Then there is a handful of recipes from that cuisine.

I know that there are a lot of people, who do the Cook the Books, where they cook through an entire cookbook. That never really appealed to me, but with this book it really does. One because, there is not an overwhelming number of recipes, and two because I think I could really learn something.

Also, you know the whole cosmic karma boomerang thing that I mentioned in the first paragraph, well, let it be known that I am now pledging to buy no more shoes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #227

Chomp. Chomp. Snarf. Chomp. Nom. Nom.

What do you want? I'm busy!

Smudge will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Breadchick and LB at The Sour Dough.