Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chocolate pudding from scratch

I swiped this idea from Mark Bittman, modified to use some milk in place of cream, use the microwave, and (upon reflection) skip the raspberries he recommended. I'd make a double recipe for the full fam.  The version below will work for two or three eaters.

1 cup cream
1 cup 1% milk
2 ounces of dark chocolate
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt

Put the cream and milk together in a big measuring cup, and microwave on high for two minutes.

Cut the chocolate up with a knife into little pieces.

Mix the corn starch sugar and salt together in a cup or bowl.

Pour the cream into a pan on the stove, turn the heat onto medium, and add the chocolate.

Stir and stir until all the chocolate is melted.

Add the other three ingredients.

Stir and stir and stir until it gets thick almost like pudding ready to eat.  (It will be a little more liquid until it cools, but it should be getting close.)

Pour into little bowls or mugs because it tastes better that way.

You can add slivered almonds or bits of pecan if you are an adventure person like Nora, but not otherwise.  Or raspberries, like Mark Bittman, but I think the raspberries would be even better eaten other ways.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Regular spaghetti sauce with anything but spaghetti

Sometime very early in mom-life, I realized that children with forks could handle almost every kind of pasta better than than they could manage spaghetti.  Somewhat later, I realized that Susans with forks also benefit from this strategy.  

1 pound ground beef (Your mom strongly recommends for Laura's Lean or explicitly organic, on account of hormones and slime and ugh.  She even more strongly recommends the kind that's at least 90% lean, meaning no more than 10% fat.)
1 large jar spaghetti sauce
1 pound pasta (gemelli, rotini, fusilli, bow-ties, elbow macaroni, etc.)

Put the pasta water on to boil.

Put a dutch oven on another burner, turn on the heat high, and put the ground beef into the pan right away.  After a minute or two, start breaking it up with a spatula.

When the beef is all in little pieces, make sure you can get the lid off the spaghetti sauce.  If brute strength is not an option, try whapping the edge of the lid with the side of a knife a lot.

Go back to flipping and stirring the ground beef, watching for red and pink bits until there are absolutely none in sight.

If you took your mom's advice and got the lean beef, there won't be much grease in the pan. You can just add the sauce, stir a couple of times, and move the pan off of the heat.  If you didn't, go to the serpents' tooth directions below.

Put the pasta in the water and set a timer for the recommended number of minutes.

When the timer goes off, use a spoon to take out one piece of pasta, drop it in the colander, run cold water over it, and bite it to see if it's right.  

If yes, drain all the pasta.  

If no, cook another minute and check again.

Serpent's tooth directions
When the beef is cooked, if you didn't take your mom's advice and there's lots of grease, run the hot water in the sink until its really hot.  Leave it running while you put a colander into the sink and empty the beef pan into it.  Put the pan back on the stove, shake the colander once or twice, and then quickly toss the beef back into the pan.  Now you can add the sauce, stir a couple of times, and move the pan off the heat.

Put the pasta in the water and set a timer for the recommended number of minutes.

Remember the greasy colander?  Go back to the sink and run hot water all over the colander to get the grease off of it.  Now you can turn off the hot water. (If you turned it off before your mom said to, you'll get what you deserve and I won't even bother explaining about grease in sink pipes.)

When the timer goes off, use a spoon to take out one piece of pasta, drop it in the colander, run cold water over it, and bite it to see if it's right.  

If yes, drain all the pasta.  

If no, cook another minute and check again.

Baked Potatoes

Potatoes, large, labeled Idaho and/or Russet

Preheat oven to 400.

Wash the potatoes: not with soap, but with running water and your fingers in case some of the dirt that makes them into potatoes is still on the skin.

Put the potatoes in the oven on the rack, and use a fork to poke one set of holes in each potato.

Check after 45 minutes.

If you can see that the skin is a bit puckered, they're probably done.

To test further, you can:

  • Put on an oven mitt and squeeze one gently.  If it's feels soft like a baked potato, it's done.  If the skin is a bit hard, and feels like it's bending or breaking, it's definitely done.
  • Take one out and cut it open.  If it looks like a baked potato, with a bit of flaking of the white part, it's done.
Salt and pepper will make it better.  Butter or sour cream or grated cheddar cheese, better still.

Breakfast sausage in the oven

Other moms cook sausage in one frying pan while cooking eggs in another.  I would burn everything.  All the sausage you have ever eaten at home came from a hot oven.

Breakfast sausage links, usually labeled "original" or "old-fashioned" rather than "maple" or other odd things

Preheat oven to 400.

Put sausage in a glass pan in one layer.

Put pan in oven.

Leave for 15 minutes.

Then you can either cut it open to see if it's brown all the way through, or leave it in until it looks very dark the way Mom does it and you know for sure it's brown before you take it out.

Cooking it to almost black would have worrisome implications if you ate sausage more than once every three months. Used very sparingly, I think it's great.

Added Fact
If you switch the oven to broil after cooking this way, so you can do toast, expect the toast to get done extra fast because the oven is extra hot.

Added Idea
Look up how to cook bacon in the oven.  You need a cookie sheet and aluminum foil, and it's quicker than sausage. I don't have a method yet, but I've done it, and it's almost as good as pan-cooked and much easier to do it for six or more people.

Those spicy chicken bits in those lovely wraps

This recipe reconstructs one from the best cookbook I ever left at Kroger.  The original called for grilling the chicken, but that never turns out to be one of my options.  I should try using the broiler.

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into slices about an inch wide (or thighs done the same way or store prepped chicken fingers)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
a pinch of cloves
a pinch of cayenne pepper

More oil

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

spinach leaves
flat bread sandwich wraps or tortillas.

Check out the chicken and see if you need to do any cutting to get it the right size.

Combine the next seven ingredients in a glass or pottery bowl and mix well.

Add all the chicken and toss it around with your fingers until the stuff is on all of it and then wash your hands. Or use a spoon and spend three times as a long and still have to wash your hands afterward.

Cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Add a thin film of oil to a frying pan and heat until a tiny bit of garlic from the chicken bowl sizzles when you drop it in.

Add pieces of chicken, shaking each one a bit over the bowl to limit how much of the marinade comes along.

Turn them after a minute, and keep turning until they look really beautifully browned, maybe with some little black bits.  Then cut the thickest piece open to see if it's cooked-chicken color all the way through.  If not cook all of it a bit longer and test another piece.  (Someday I will amend this recipe with a better idea of how long to do this cooking.)

Move that batch to a plate, and do another batch the same way and a third if necessary.*

As soon as the last chicken is in the pan, pour the marinade down the drain and rinse the bowl well with water.  (This may not be necessary if Beau Weston is in another state at the time.  If you are sharing a house with Beau or someone else who will smell something good and want to try it as a sauce, it is essential.)

When the chicken is done, combine the cumin and yogurt, and then stir in the cucumber.

Make your wraps with a layer of spinach leaves, two spoonfuls of the yogurt/cucumber, and one of two of the chicken pieces.

* If the pan has brown bits stuck to it, that will actually make the food better.  If it gets completely black on the bottom and starts smoking, not so much.  In that case, between chicken batches, pour in a cup of water and use a wooden spatula to push along the bottom until most of the stuff comes off.  Pour all that stuff down the sink,and put the pan back on the stove until it looks very dry.  Then add new oil, and go back to cooking the chicken.  (BTW: adding water and scraping the pan is also called deglazing.  In lots of recipes, you keep the liquid in the pan and use it to make a lovely sauce.  Not this time, but it's useful to know.

Pork bits and carrots on spaghetti

This is pretty the only recipe I have ever made that needs actually long stringy pasta. There's a texture issue that matters. It's also my only sauce that is actually made in the microwave. It's fab.

1 pound pork boneless shoulder or boneless pork chops or pork loin (something you can cut into bits)
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch piec (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon "better than bouillion" or one bouillion cube
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 3/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

1 pound spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon grated parmesan

Cut pork into 3/4-inch pieces, removing any fat that's easy to remove.

Mix pork, carrots, onion and garlic in 2-quart casserole.

Cover tightly and microwave on medium (50%) 9 to 11 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes, until pork is no longer pink and vegetables are crisp-tender.

Stir in bouillion, basil, and pepper.

Cover tightly and microwave 20-30 minutes, stirring every 6 minutes, until pork is tender.

After the pork has cooked 20 minutes  put on the water the stove and start heating it to cook the pasta.

When you're sure the pork is done, mix cornstarch and water thoroughly and stir into pork mixture.

Cover tightly and microwave on high 1 minute 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until mixture thickens and boils.

While that's happening, cook the pasta.

Drain the pasta fully, then mix in first the butter and the parmesan.

Serve pork and vegetables over spaghetti.

Turkey/Navy Bean Chili over Rice

Two notes
This is a five-hour project.  It's not a vast amount of work, and you can do lots of other things while things simmer, but you have to be somewhere in the house to do the "stir occasionally" part.  It's perfect for the first cold, rainy weekend of the year.

Also chili is very mild: spice lovers could include a chopped jalapeno when they sauté the vegetables and double the chili powder.  The recipe I started with did that.

 1 lb bag of navy beans
1 lb ground turkey
2 cups uncooked brown rice (six cups cooked)
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 green pepper (diced)
2 stalks celery (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
1Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
shredded cheese (optional)
chopped green onion (optional)
sour cream (optional)

Put the beans in a pot with a quart of water.  Bring to a boil for one minute, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and leave to soak.

After two hours, drain and rinse soaked beans, then set aside.

Heat oil in stockpot over medium high flame. Sauté onion, garlic, celery, and green bell pepper s until onions are translucent and the other vegetables are slightly tender.  Remove from pot and set aside.

Add six cups water, soaked beans, tomatoes and spices to the sautéed vegetables,. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for approximately 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

After the chili has cooked for an hour, put the brown rice and four and a half cups water in a separate pan, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Set timer for 45 minutes.

Brown the turkey in a frying pan.  Drain and add to the chili.

The chili will be ready at the same time as the rice.

Serve in bowls and garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions and/or a dollop of sour cream.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ingredients that are good

First, I'm loving Bon Appétit's Seal of Approval list.  Since reading, I've started buying King Arthur flour and planning to buy Scharffen-Berger chocolate the next time I see it.  And Barilla seems likely to become standard pasta.

And then, some things about ingredients:

Land-o-Lakes is a coop.  I buy their butter because I like locally rooted capital, even if local is a thousand miles away.

At the rate I use sugar, maybe I should buy the pour-box instead of the bag.

Basmati rice is nice stuff.