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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Single Portion Beef and Chicken


 Ground Beef or Turkey and sautéed onions:  Brown the meat and add one large onion chopped.  Add salt and pepper to taste. (if you don't want to chop an onion you can use dehydrated onions. (1/2 c dehydrated onion soak in 1 cup cold water for 15 minutes. drain liquid and brown). Cool the mixture. Pack into a plastic ice cube tray, use your fingers to firmly pack down the meat and onions. You want to remove as many air pockets as possible.  Freeze. When frozen pop them out of the tray and seal in freezer bag for storage.

What to do with these single portions? Thaw and add to spaghetti sauce, noodles, rice or beef soup.

Chicken: When chicken is on sale and you have a large quantity. Cook all the chicken in the oven in a large covered roasting pan. Season with sage, salt and pepper. When the meat falls off the bones cool and remove the bones. Save all the liquid and fat for future soup. Spread the meat onto a large cookie sheet. Yes, the meat will be greasy, that's good. Freeze the mean and break into portions for single servings approximately four inch by four inch portions. Place in bags and store in the freezer. The fat on the meat will keep it fresh for up to six months in the freezer but it is best used within three months.

What to do will all that chicken fat she are saving? That fat is a wonderful flavoring. Use it instead of butter in rice or noodles. It's ready to make gravy for mashed or baked potatoes. I'm sure you will think of other uses. It's very convenient sitting on top of the stock you will use to make chicken based soup.

Parsley - Sage - Rosemary - Thyme - Garlic - Onions: Soup is at your finger tips and ready in the time it takes to make canned soup. Scrap off the layer of fat (make sure to keep it in a baggie in the freezer for gravy and as a flavoring). Open a can of mixed veggies, drain and add to the stock. You can add rice, noodles or dumplings. (remember that self rising flour? mix with water to a thick paste and push through a sieve into the boiling soup for spaetzle.) Don't forget the song and add the spices listed above.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

COOKING FOR ONE - BEEF



If you get that Home Alone face I find my biggest problem with dinners for just me is meat. Meat, unless it's hamburger patties or hot dogs just doesn't come in single servings. I like spaghetti, but I don't like noodles frozen in tomato sauce. Yuck! So I either eat several meals of spaghetti in a row or don't bother.

 I experimented with making and freezing leftovers but as I said earlier some things just don't freeze well. Noodles being one, potatoes another. Frozen potatoes are to be avoided at all costs. They turn granular and pasty. Noodles tend to soak up the liquids around them making the dish dry.

In this post I'll deal with beef.


Ground Beef Base
 Brown the beef and add one large onion chopped.  Add salt and pepper to taste. (if you don't want to chop an onion you can use dehydrated onions. (1/2 c dehydrated onion soak in 1 cup cold water for 15 minutes. drain liquid and brown). Cool the mixture. Pack into a plastic ice cube tray, use your fingers to firmly pack down the meat and onions. You want to remove as many air pockets as possible.  Freeze. When frozen pop them out of the tray and seal in freezer bag for storage.

Now when you want spaghetti with meat sauce you can cook the noodles, thaw two ice cubes of beef, add yo
ur spices (I like to use chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, parmesan cheese, garlic and a little wine in my sauce. It's runny but yummy!)

You could decide you want a flavorful taco salad or taco dip (that's salad without the lettuce). Just add taco seasoning to the beef. Layer with chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, grated cheddar cheese, guacamole and sour cream. serve over lettuce or eat with crisp tortilla chips or spoon onto soft tortilla for a yummy wrap.

Beef Pot Roast
Pot RoastCook a one to two pound roast as follows. In a frying pan set on high head sear all sides of the roast until brown. Transfer the roast to a covered roasting pan and add: 1 packet dry onion soup, 1 can cream of mushroom soup and 1/2 can of water, 1 cup wine, salt and pepper. (This is my recipe,
if you have one you like use it just remember to add no vegetables)  Set the oven to 300 degrees and slow cook until the meat falls apart. Cool. Now using a 1/2 C measure, portion out just the meat into freezer containers. cover the meat with the gravy. This is what you freeze. To use, cook the vegetables you want to add to your meat like potatoes and carrots in a steamer. Thaw the beef in a glass bowl in the microwave and combine the veggies with the meat.  Now you have a ready stock of  pot roast for dinner.
Arrow Containers
Arrow Freezer Pint Containers




I like Arrow Plastic Stor - Keeper Freezer Storage Containers.  I like the Arrow because the lids seal well and easily. Although they say you can microwave in them, I do not. The shape of the container is such that I can easily turn out the contents after running a little warm water on the bottom. 


Monday, November 25, 2013

Yummy Cranberry Orange Bread - Super Easy

Quick Cranberry Orange Bread
Sunny Yellow and Red Cranberry Orange Bread
Yummy Cranberry Orange Bread - Super Easy

I love Cranberry Orange bread and it's a must on the Thanksgiving and Christmas Table. But I hate making it because it is so putsy! You have to zest the orange and then squeeze the orange and hope you get 3/4 of a cup of liquid. They you have to chop the cranberries! Those little buggers roll all over the place. So this year I set out to make this simple.

Here's my simple solution that makes mouth watering Cranberry Orange bread without the hassle.

What you'll need to get out:
A blender or food processor
Pampered Chief Food Chopper
One of those hand choppers  - A KitchenAid chopper will set you back about $19 and it's well worth it. The one I use and love is a Pampered Chef, $39. I like it because it comes apart completely making it easy to wash. Now you're wondering why we need both the blender and the chopper. Here's why: You can't control the blender or food processor the way you can the little hand chopper. Easy.

The recipe

1 Navel Orange liquified in 1/2 cup water
1 Egg
1/4 C Butter
3/4 C Sugar

2 C Flour
1 1/2 tsp  Baking Powder
1 tsp  Baking Soda
1 tsp salt
1 C (this is a generous cup) chopped Cranberries

Variations: You can add nuts. I don't because we have nut allergies in the family

Let's deal with the Orange and the Cranberries first.  To liquify the orange cut it into chunks. Remove the stem and the end where there is a lot of peal. I use navel oranges because they have no seeds and the skin is thin and the white part of the skin is not as bitter. If you do find a seed, remove it. Place chunks in the blender with 1/2 cup of water and set to liquify. Same directions for the food processor.

Now lets chop those cranberries. Using the hand chopper place a bunch of berries inside, invert on a cutting board and depress the chopping blades 6 times. This will give you large chunks of berries that are perfect for the bread.  I used the word "depress" but actually you whack the plunger to drive it into the food. Think of something you don't like when you whack, it's a great stress reliever.

Now let's build this bread.
Put all the wet ingredients into your mixer and mix until blended. Dump all the dry ingredients into the wet, yup, all at once with the exception of the cranberries. Mix to form a stiff batter. Now fold in the Cranberries and bake at 350º for 60 minutes.  (The test for doneness is to stick a toothpick in the center of the loaf and have it come out clean,) Cool in the pan till cool to the touch then turn out onto the counter and cool the rest of the way. Wrap in foil or plastic. It will be ready to eat the next day but I never can wait that long. The flavors will be fully developed in 24 hours.



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blue Cheese Chicken - Super Easy and so Yummy

Chicken coated with blue cheese dressing
Blue Cheese Chicken
Blue Cheese Chicken

MOURH WATERING JUCY CHICKEN

This is so delicious! The chicken just melts in your mouth and the blue cheese adds the perfect note of spicy. Now of he secret - it's super easy to make! You can use chicken breasts or any cut up chicken. In the picture I used a leg and thigh.  Here's how:

Blue Cheese topping: 
3/4         Cup Daisy Sour Cream (we need this to be thick so it sticks on the chicken, and Daisy is the thickest)
1 1/3      Cup Hellman's Mayonnaise 
1 tsp      Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp   McCormick Dry Mustard 
1/2 tsp   McCormick Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp   Salt
1/2 tsp   McCormick Ground Black Pepper
4 oz       Kraft Blue Cheese Crumbled

Mix all together and set aside.  This will be very thick.

2 chickens cut up (12 pieces)

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Skin the chicken. I like to remove the bones from the breasts and cut each breast into two pieces.
Salt the chicken lightly and arrange on a cookie sheet or large pan. Chicken pieces should not overlap.
Using a spoon liberally coat each piece of chicken.  Bake for 40 minutes. Make sure to use a kitchen thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 170˚ I use a Taylor small instant prob.

Additional ideas: Instead of blue cheese try herbed parmesan cheese:  Substitute parmesan cheese for the blue cheese and add 1/2 tsp of poultry seasoning - just as yummy.



Monday, January 28, 2013

5 MINUTE BREAD - YOU HAVE THE TIME

Bread, Home Made Bread, White Bread, Home Made White Bread
Home Baked Bread 
This post is for those of you who are afraid of making bread or don't have the time.  5 minutes is all the time you need.  Interested yet? read on.

Bread is the staff of life and a truly portable food. Born of flour and a little micro-organism yeast.  Yeast is found everywhere in the air, on fruits, and on our bodies. How man came to understand and use yeast is unknown. A reasonable guess would be that beer was the first use for yeast. Ancient man could have left a mixture of wheat and water too long and when the carbon dioxide bubbles and alcohol formed they created an interesting fragrance and the curious human drank it.  There is even a theory that beer is the reason for civilization.  Then, tired of eating unleavened bread, someone dumped more flour into the beer mash and baked the result - bread was born.

The economics of bread is as astounding as the simplicity of the recipe. Grocery Store bread costs $2.75 for a 2 pound loaf, flour is around $2.59 for 5 pounds that will make 5 pounds of bread.  If your family goes through 2 loaves of bread a week your yearly bread budget is $286. If you made your bread, you would cut that cost down to $108.  Not only would you save money but the bread is better tasting and has no additives.

Bread is made from 4 basic ingredients: Wheat Flour, Salt, Yeast, Water. Simple and tasty. You will notice there is no sugar in basic bread. That's because the starch in flour will break down into simple sugar and feed the yeast. This happens rapidly. Salt retards the yeast growth a little and gives bread a finer texture and better flavor. Simple! The yeast I recommend be bought in 1 lb bulk packages of dry-active yeast and not the little envelopes that tend to contain yeast that is not interested in rising. Yeast should be stored in the freezer to keep it alive and active.

Now to make the bread.  5 minutes, I promise.
One 5 quart ice cream pail or any 5 quart container with a lid
From the tap - 3 cups hot water
Dump in 1 T yeast and 1T salt
Dump in 6 1/2 cups of flour
Stir with a spoon to moisten all the flour - dough will be wet
Bread Dough
The Bread Dough looks lumpy but is completely moistened
Let sit while you go watch an hour of TV
bread dough rising
After the dough has been able to rise - it is double in bulk
Wet your hands and punch down the sticky dough, bang the container a few times to get it down.
rising bread dough.
punched down dough, you can see the finger prints! 

Snap on the lid and stow the dough in the refrigerator overnight.  The dough will stay good for 3 days in the refrigerator so no hurry.
bread dough
Safe in the ice cream bucket and ready for the refrigerator.
The dough will continue to rise and fall without any intervention while it is in the refrigerator. This will release the sugars from the starch of the flour and give the bread a silky texture. There is no kneading with this bread, all the kneading is accomplished while you sleep.
Refrigerated dough has a silky texture

When ready to bake: you will need 2 one pound bread pans or one 2 pound bread pan
Grease the pans

Wet hands and pull out the dough and shape it into loaf shapes (dough is cold and never touches anything but your hands and the bread pan.) and place in pan(s), Grease the top of the loaves to prevent them from drying out. Let them rise about an hour.
dough just peeps over the edge of the bread pan

Pop them into a pre-heated over at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. When done, the loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when thumped. Turn the pans on their side to cool.  Cooling on the side allows the bread to come free from the pan and it also changes the direction of the carbon dioxide bubbles in the bread ensuring even cooling.
Golden loaves rest on their sides to cool 


 Substitutions: (loaves will require more rising time and will be denser )
2 Cup rye flour for 2 Cup white flour + 2 tablespoons of molasses
1 Cup wheat germ for 1 Cup white flour + 2 tablespoons of molasses
1 Cup Oatmeal for 1 Cup white flour
3 Cups whole wheat flour for 3 Cups white flour



Saturday, January 12, 2013

BEST EVER BANANA BREAD FOR 100 YEARS

BEST EVER BANANA BREAD FOR 100 YEARS
Banana Bread in pan
Fresh from the oven - Banana Bread


"Best Ever" An amazing claim but true! This is such a simple, flavorful bread.  This recipe has been in my family for over 100 years! In my recipe box it is labeled  "Best Ever Banana Bread" and it is.  It is best eaten the second day but most loaves don't last that long.  This simple quick bread is a treat both winter and summer. Some simple rules about quick breads: Unlike muffins, quick bread batters need to be beaten to completely fragment the fruit, fat and flour mixture. Use a hand mixer and even though you can mash up the bananas with a fork, avoid the temptation and break out the hand mixture.
Banana Bread: Sugar, egg, fat, vanilla, bananas mixture
Mixture of Banana, Fat, Egg, Sugar



Quick breads are 'dump' breads. What the heck, you say? Dump recipes do not require special treatment or order for ingredients to be added. You start with the wettest, mix them and then dump in the dry.

Measuring using the hollow of your hand
Hollow of my hand with 1 tsp of baking soda
Measuring for quick breads is not an exact process. You can use your hand. I always measure this way for recipes that are somewhat forgiving, candies are the exception to the rule. Candies are exact and any deviation will result in a disaster.  The hollow of your hand is 1 tsp. See the example picture. I like this way for salt and baking soda and powder as they tend to have lumps that will spoil the product. In my hand I can crush all lumps and insure the eater will not find a surprise lump of soda.


 If there are components of a quick bread that need to remain whole, like nuts, stir them in last.  A bit of good news is that grocers place ripe and over ripe bananas on sale, often selling them for a pittance. Usually it is the color of the peal and not the ripeness of the banana that sends them to the sale isle. This  bargain and should be scooped up and turned into the tasty treat.  Banana bread freezes well and I always feel elegant when I know there are a few loaves tucked away in the freezer. Be sure to freeze them is freezer bags when the loaves are cold. 


Ready to go, here's what you need.  Oven at 325 degrees and it will bake for 1hour 15 minutes.
3 over ripe bananas (remove only the bad spots)
1C sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla (the vanilla will point up the banana flavor)
1/4 C fat (I use butter and if you are fat averse you can omit it - the loaf will be just a little chewier)
2 C Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Banana Bread Batter
Finished batter ready for the bread pan

I put the first 5 ingredients in the bowl and beat it until it is a fine mixture. Then dump in the rest and beat into a batter. It will be somewhat lumpy just make sure all the banana is blended.

Banana Bread, First slice
The first slice of Banana Bread
This is a somewhat stiff batter. pour into bread pan and bake.  Your home will now be filled with the fragrance of banana bread, let it cool before you dig in. It's hard to wait but it will be worth it.

Variation: if you want to add something special - add the zest of one orange and nuts are always welcome.
For spreads, Nutella is amazing for the chocolate lover - a little sweet for my taste. I like cream cheese,  it is subtle and compliments the bread.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter and Soup and the Why of it All

Calico Bean Soup: Ground Beef base, Beans, Barley, Tomato. 
We all love soup, warm and dense winter soups. I am partial to the soups with veggies and grain in them. I'm not as fond of soups with pasta. So Chicken and Rice, Beef Barley,Vegetable Beef, Corn Chowder, and Calico Bean are all at the top of my soup list. These are the soups that have a dark savory multilayered flavor system that make them so very satisfying.

Soups are easy to make. There is a little secret, of course,  to the spices and vegetables that add the multi layers and healthful support to soup. If you remember the song Scarborough Fair, by Simon and Garfunkel, you have most of it. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Add to that sautéed onions and minced garlic you have the rest. Below I have listed what they bring to the soup. I have also listed the vegetables common to soups and how they fit in the sweet, savory, pungent, and acid of soup.

Parsley -Parsley is a good source of antioxidants, folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Proclaimed health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties and a boost to the immune system.
Sage - It's uses as an anti-sweating agent, antibiotic, anti-fungal, astringent, antispasmodic, estrogenic, hypoglycemic, and tonic are documented.  In a double blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial, sage was found to be effective in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. See, those ancient folks knew what they were doing. 
RosemaryRosemary contains a number of potentially biologically active compounds that are antioxidants. It has been used for centuries to improve memory. 
Thyme  It has antiseptic and anti fungal properties. Oil of Thyme or Thymol is the active ingredient in Listerine. It also has antibiotic properties and before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages.
Onion (Leek) - They are known for their anti-inflammatory, anticholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. For a more delicate and warmer flavor, substitute Leeks for Onions. You will be amazed at the subtle over and under tones. 
Garlic - This is a virtual pharmacopeia. It is an antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agent. Thought to lower cholesterol and remove plaque to name some of the cardio-vascular healing properties. 

Wow, no wonder soup is a "souper" - healthy food!  And it's so easy to make. So let's get started!

General measurements:
1/2 gallon water (two cups less if you do not use any grain such as rice or barley)
1 lb of meat (do not count bones)
1 C grain
1-4 C vegetables
Base of 1 C diced onions, 1T minced Garlic 1 tsp each of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Salt and pepper to taste (begin with 1 T salt you will need more. (You can also use 4 bullion cubes instead of salt for a richer flavor)


All soup begins the same way. For every 1/2 gallon of liquid: sauté 1 cup onions, 1T minced garlic in oil (I like Pompeian light olive oil  ) till onions are transparent. Add to liquid along with 2T Parsley, 1tsp each of Sage, Rosemary, Thyme. 

A word about raw and cooked meat.  
Raw
Raw beef needs to be seared on all sides. This greatly improves the flavor of the meat. Soups that start with raw meat will need to cook all day long so they are good crock pot candidates. Raw Chicken: It is best to cut up the chicken or start with cut up chicken. Remove parts that have tiny bones like the back and wing tips. This will save you lots of time fishing them out of your soup. Blanch the chicken before you add it to the soup pot. I like to put my cut up chicken in a colander and pour boiling water over the pieces. That is enough to remove excess blood and fat that will be unattractive in the soup and it will improve the flavor of the chicken. Then add the Chicken to the soup pot and again, cook it all day long. 

Cooked
Add the cooked meat to the soup pot as is. There is not need to do anything other than cut it into chunks.  The time the soup cooks is greatly reduced to an hour. 

Ground
Ground meat is browned and added to the soup pot. Cooking time will be the same as for the Cooked Meat soup. 

Vegetables - 1 cup of each chosen
I like to divide them into two categories: sweet, pungent and neutral. The sweet vegetables for soups are peas, parsnips, carrots and squash. The pungent vegetables are Brussels sprouts, peppers, broccoli, and celery.  The neutral vegetables are corn, green beans, lima beans, spinach, and okra.  Use only one sweet vegetable and pungent vegetable in any soup. You want them to own their flavor layer. 

Grains - 1 cup
Grain adds thickness and personality to soups. My favorites are rice, potatoes and barley. Quinoa and whole oats are two other options. They add texture and chew to the soup. 

Acid - about 2 T do it to taste These are added last, just as the soup is ready to serve as they are the most fragile of all the flavors. 
Yes, a good soup needs a source of acid. Tomatoes, lemon and lime are the three acids I like to use. It is the pairing of the Acid with the meat that makes the soup distinctive. (If you use Tomatoes as your acid source, use one can of chunk fruit.

For a beautiful Chicken Rice soup use 1 C of chopped spinach for your neutral vegetable, diced carrots for your sweet and 1/2 cup of finely chopped celery for the pungent. Use 1 tsp of lime juice with a little lime zest. When you serve it, float a dollop of sour cream with grated ginger . This is a elegant soup and very colorful. It tastes great and is eye candy as well. 

There you have it. The basics for soup. Try it out and mix and match the ingredient lists for soups that are your own.