Friday, May 27, 2011

French Dip Sandwiches

When I'm not admiring our wee little piggies and adorable lambs, smelling the roses or lilacs, blogging about the bucolic joys of raising a few farm animals, and simply enjoying country life...

...I sometimes have to work, both on the farm and off. I believe in trying to always be prepared (try being the key word here -I don't always succeed!), so when I go anywhere, I always try to remember to take a knitting project (so waiting is a pleasure and not a pain) and food -yesterday a parfait of granola, yogurt and a dollop of Apricot-Pineapple Jam (click here). On days when I know I'll be gone all day and getting home late, and when I have the foresight and forewarning to plan for it, I rely on my slow cooker.

Last night we had French Dips, something I absolutely love but haven't made for quite awhile. These are one of the simplest things in the world to make, and incredibly satisfying in a very lip-smacking, finger-licking, dripping-dipping sort of way. In the past, I made these rather often, and they were always a big hit with the kids at all ages and stages, so I am not sure why it's been such a long time since we've had them. It's probably because there is simply only so much room in my brain and I get distracted by new foods and recipes and FORGET some of our old favorites. Anyway, whatever the reason or lack of, last night's dinner was greeted with cheers from all...and it practically made itself, which was a reason for me to cheer!

Beef Roast in Broth

2-3 lb. rolled beef rump roast (from the lamb for beef swap (click here) we did)
1 quart beef broth
2-3 bay leaves
1 t. - 1 T. Worcestershire Sauce

Place in crock-pot (a shepherdess' best friend) and leave to cook on low 8-10 hours. Remove and slice roast.

Serve on rolls with yellow mustard and additional condiments of choice, along with bowls of beef broth for dipping (Au Jus, if you want to sound fancy, though my offspring have taken French and I haven't, so they were not so much impressed as condescendingly amused with my terrible pronunciation). We had a surprisingly good (for this time of year) honeydew melon with these sandwiches, but a green salad would also be great.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pear-Vanilla Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

The lilacs are blooming! While feeding animals in the mornings now, I smell the fragrance of the lilacs, hear the joyful sounds of the barn swallows, see the lambs kicking up their heels in the orchard, and I can't help but pause and appreciate the wealth of all that we have here.

Monday is Memorial Day, the beginning of the season for grilling meat over the fire pit and eating outside under the old rambling lilac tree. Lilacs always remind me of my grandmother, charming homespun things, and old-fashioned cooking, like the foods in The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook.

Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing the famous and beloved Little House books when she was in her sixties. She was in her nineties when she died in 1957 in the Rocky Ridge farmhouse in Mansfield, Missouri where she lived most of her life, and which is preserved and maintained as a memorial to her and her life there. This cookbook is a collection of her recipes from a scrapbook she'd compiled, as well as photos of the preserved farmhouse with anecdotes of her life -it is absolutely charming!

Laura's famous gingerbread cooling on the counter (photo by Leslie A. Kelly)

The one recipe from this cookbook that I make over and over again is Laura Ingalls Wilder's Gingerbread -a favorite of hers (and mine!). Alongside the recipe is her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane's story of making this cake for the very first time. I personally adore gingerbread -plain, with ice cream, whipped cream, or (THIS is SO good!) with lemon frosting and a bit of minced candied ginger sprinkled on top. It occurred to me that it would also be AMAZING as an upside-down cake, and that pear-vanilla jam and gingerbread were really meant to be together.

Pear-Vanilla Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

In 9 inch round cake pan, melt 1/4 c. butter (in preheating oven) and then add 1 c. Pear-Vanilla Jam (click here) and set aside to make gingerbread cake batter.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Gingerbread

1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter or shortening

Add: 1 c. molasses

Mix together:
3 c. flour
1 t. each ground allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg
1/2 t. salt

Mix in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup:
1 c. boiling water or very hot coffee
2 t. baking soda

Add flour-spice mix and water-soda mix to creamed sugar and mix well. Pour gently over jam in cake pan (or a greased and floured pan if not making an upside-down cake). Bake 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Invert onto a large plate immediately. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kidney Stew

"It's not the load that breaks you down. It's the way you carry it." -Lena Horne

As a young couple, my husband and I were often, by our nation's standards, 'poor'; we have been unemployed while doggedly seeking employment, we have bounced checks, been at a loss as to where money desperately needed was going to come from, and many times simply had to do without. We have heard the dead silent response to our worriedly whispered, "What are we going to do?" and we have, more than once, had to pull items from the grocery bags until the check-out ticket total matched the dollars in our wallet. Growing up, both of our individual families went through periods without much money; my father was a farmer and his was a contruction electrician and the seventies was a tough times for both of them. After years of hard work and good fortune, we now finally find ourselves (for the time being and relatively speaking) financially secure. I've always advised my kids that the only way to be financially secure is to live slightly below your means, whatever those means may be, though I know first hand, when your means are not enough for your basic needs, this is pretty useless advice. Though having money has never made us happy, I know the lack of it has often made me terribly miserable; as Bernadette Peters says in The Jerk, "It's not the money -it's all the stuff." Currently in this country almost 14% of the population, 1 in 7 people in the US, are receiving food stamps and I am pointedly and personally aware of the chasm between The Haves And The Have Nots (click here) living side by side in our society. I don't want to glamorize poverty, but I can honestly say there are lessons and experiences only gained by having to learn to get by. One gain from ourselves, or our parents and grandparents, living without is the family recipes for getting through hard times. Yesterday, when I was making up our weekly menu, I asked for family input and my oldest daughter (recently returned from Austin, Texas and her own personal experiences with Not Having and Hardship) requested we make Kidney Stew, a family recipe for diced kidneys in a German-style sour sauce. This recipe is from my husband's childhood; he learned to make it from his mother, who learned to make it from her mother. When my mother-in-law made this in the seventies, kidneys were cheaply bought. Raising our own meats as we do now, we utilize all parts of the animals, including the kidneys. This is not a glamorous dish but a favorite family recipe enjoyed equally whether living in poverty, or with plenty.

Kidney Stew or German-style Kidneys in Sour Sauce

Prepare kidneys by peeling and then soaking in salted water or water with 1-2 T. vinegar for one hour (optional, if you know the freshness and source of your meats). Remove all fatty bits and then dice beef, pork or lamb kidneys: 1 beef kidney, 4 pork kidneys or 6-8 lamb kidneys for a family of five.

Heat: 2 T. each butter and canola oil

Dice: 1/2 - 1 onion
Saute onion until lightly browned, 10 minutes or so. Add diced kidneys (drain if they were soaked) and continue cooking until pinkish-brown, 5 minutes or so.

Add: 1/3 - 1/2 c. flour
Brown lightly.

Stir in:
1 1/2 c. water or stock
2 T. vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Dash Worcestershire Sauce

Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and make a smooth sauce. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes. Add more water, if needed and/or vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over toast, rice, potatoes or noodles with a small pitcher of vinegar for those who want to add more at the table.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Baja-style Shrimp or Fish Meatball Tacos

In the hopes of life being a bit less crazy-making and a bit more manageable, I try to make, and shop for, a weekly menu. When I do this well, I am one-step ahead of the daily 'what to make for dinner?' dilemma, and we spend less at the grocery store. I try and balance meals from a dozen basic meal types or types of dishes: pasta, rice, meat and potatoes, soup, sandwiches, pizza, ethnic, crock-pot, vegetarian, beans, fish and shellfish and meatballs. For last week's menu I was torn between making Goan Meatball Green Curry or Baja Shrimp or Fish Meatball Tacos (I shopped for both). Since I made the Goan Curry last week, I'm planning to make the Baja Shrimp or Fish Meatball Tacos this week.

Baja-style tacos invite themselves to be included in my meatball-a-week project. I usually make Baja fish tacos with breaded and pan-fried tilapia fillets, and Baja shrimp tacos with peeled and deveined large shrimp seasoned with chili powder and cumin and lightly sauteed in oil. It is a very small step from shrimp and fish, to shrimp and fish meatballs. If you've never had Baja-style tacos, the basic components are fried or grilled fish or shrimp, warmed corn tortillas, mayonnaise with lime juice, fresh salsa, shredded cabbage or lettuce, and bits of diced onion, jalapeno and cilantro, if desired. This is what I plan to do:

Shrimp and/or Fish Meatballs
1 1/2 lb. minced shrimp (peeled and deveined) or fish such as tilapia (or a combination of the two)
1/2 c. (plus or minus) plain bread crumbs
1 beaten egg
2 T. salsa
1 T. canola oil
1 pressed garlic clove and/or 2 T. minced onion
Form, chill, fry and drain.

Mix: 1/2 -1 c. mayonnaise with juice of 1/2-2 limes

Shred: 1/4 head of cabbage or iceberg lettuce

Warm corn tortillas: one at a time, wet hands and rub on both sides of a corn tortilla to just barely moisten both surfaces. Place on a warm-hot griddle and cook just till blisters a bit and begins to change color but do not cook crisp. Stack on a cloth on a plate until all are cooked allowing 3-5 tortillas per person.

Purchase or make a fresh Pico de Gallo tomato salsa.

Finely dice: 1/4 - 1/2 (preferably sweet) onion, 1-2 jalapeno peppers (fresh, or fire-roasted small can), and cilantro leaves -optional but I almost always include one or more of these additions.

Assemble or fill warmed corn tortillas with shredded cabbage (or lettuce), meatballs, salsa, optional additions if included, and drizzle with lime-mayonnaise. Serve with corn chips and more salsa.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cooking with Apricot-Pineapple Jam

Remember the Apricot-Pineapple Jam (click here) I made back in August last year? As the new growing season (which all too quickly will turn into preserving season) begins, now is the time I take stock and begin planning for next year. What worked and what didn't, what was too much or not enough, and what should be changed, eliminated or added this year. I begin deciding which kinds, and how much, jam I should (allow myself to) make, and I was thinking about how Apricot-Pineapple Jam is more than just a condiment for toast. I would like to share with you some of the ways I use it in cooking.

1) Besides slathering it on toasted homemade bread for my breakfast (click here), biscuits and scones, or with PB on pancakes, it is also delicious as a topping for rice and bread puddings (click here), and ice cream.

2) To serve on Irish Soda Bread (click here), mix in a mini-food processor: 1 c. jam, 1 minced shallot and 2 T. Jameson Irish Whiskey.

3) An Upside-Down Jam Cake like this (click here) made with Apricot-Pineapple Jam is scrumptious!

4) I make a glaze for broiling ribs and other meats by mixing 1/2 c. jam, 2-4 T. soy sauce, and 1-2 T. white wine or rice wine vinegar. I add 1 t. each grated ginger and minced garlic if I think of it, or not if I don't or am in a hurry, and then I baste the meats with the glaze during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking time. We had lamb ribs with this glaze a couple nights ago and (as if there could be any doubt about it) they were incredibly good!

5) To make basic muffins into extra-yummy jam muffins, I fill the paper-lined muffin cup 1/4 full of batter (a couple tablespoons), add 2 t. jam, and then fill it to 2/3 full with more muffin batter and bake as directed. Yum!

6) I haven't made this yet, but I am convinced that Apricot-Pineapple Jam with Chili Sauce will make a great sauce for meatballs like these Beef Meatballs with Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce I recently made (click here), or as a sauce for baked chicken wings or riblets.

7) I absolutely adore this Asian-style Apricot Salad Dressing, especially on shredded cabbage salad served over warm rice. I blend in a mini-food processor: 1/2 c. jam, 1/4 c. rice wine vinegar, 2 T. soy sauce, 2 pressed garlic cloves, 2 T. honey, 1/2 c. canola oil, 2 t. sesame oil, and then stir in 1 T. toasted sesame seeds.

I hope everyone is enjoying our lovely weather this week! I'm off to weed the strawberries now -and to think about strawberry jam and wee little lambs and all the joys of summer.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sheep, Spinach and Strawberries 2011

The sheep are once again in the orchard, their own little bit of heaven here on earth...

...the spinach is growing and very soon we will have daily garden salads...

...and the strawberry blossoms promise an abundance of fruit. I can hardly wait!

The seasons change, and here we are almost full circle again.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Anjum's Goan Meatball Green Curry

Last week, I checked out Anjum's New Indian cookbook from the library. Before this, I hadn't heard of Anjum Anand, "The Indian Nigella Lawson" and the host of The Cooking Channel's Indian Food Made Easy (we don't get the cooking channel, which is probably a good thing because I can see myself eventually watching cooking shows 24/7). Wow -this is a great Indian cookbook! The recipes are pretty straightforward, and she includes a bit of cultural and historical context -Goa was colonized by the Portuguese for 450 years and their food shows that influence.

Each recipe has a photo -all really good photos- and the Green Curry Meatball recipe immediately grabbed my attention. Aside from the fact that this is a meatball recipe, and a curry recipe, and a lamb recipe, and a one-pot meal recipe, and that it is OH SO GREEN, I knew that the combination of coconut milk, cilantro and these spices would be fabulous together. They are, AND it is super easy to make. My photo is not so vibrantly green as the professionals -I suspect they clicked on an incompletely cooked portion to capture the green of fresh cilantro- and of course no photo can convey the amazing aroma in your kitchen of this curry cooking -you'll just have to make it yourself! This is a friendly curry, exotically but not overly spiced or hot, and I love the brightness of the cilantro and tamarind with the lamb. AND it is just as good, or even better, when reheated. Do try these meatballs.

Anjum's Goan Meatball Green Curry

Adapted from: Anjum's New Indian -Recipes from Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand
Serves 6

Mix in food processor:
1 lb. ground lamb
2 large slices white bread, crumbled
1 egg
1 t. each garam masala, cumin and canola oil
1/2 t. salt
Form 1 inch meatballs. Chill.

Heat in large skillet:
1-2 T. canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
Fry until browned.

In blender, make a paste:
1 inch piece ginger, grated
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 green chilies (I used Serrano chilies), deseeded and sliced
1/3 13.5 oz. can lite coconut milk
1 t. each garam masala and cumin
1/2 t. salt
Add coconut paste to browned onions and cook 5-10 minutes, stirring every so often. It will get thick and may begin to stick towards the end.

Puree in blender (I didn't wash the blender after making the paste):
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. cilantro leaves
Add to skillet. Rinse blender with 1 1/2 c. water and add this also to skillet. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes.

Add 1 t. to 1 T. tamarind paste (or lemon or lime juice) to taste, and then add meatballs. Cover and cook 20 minutes more on low heat. Serve with Basmati rice and mango chutney.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Falafels and Tandoori Rabbit

Falafels are the vegetarian equivalent to meatballs, crispy little fried morsels of spiced ground chickpeas. They are quite good all on their own with a yogurt sauce for dipping, or ketchup in the case of my children when they were very young. I made them the other night to serve with Tandoori rabbit -and I made both the rabbit and the falafels the extra-super-easy way. Falafels are not that difficult to make from scratch, as Nicole at Arctic Garden Studio shows (click here), but I must admit that I used a mix that's sold in the bulk section of both my local grocery store and food co-op.

Mix 2 c. falafel mix and 1 1/4 c. water. Let sit 15 minutes. Form balls and deep fry. Ta-da: falafels!

Tandoori rabbit (or chicken) is just as easy. Mix 2 T. to 1/2 c. Patak's Tandoori Paste with 1/3 -1/2 c. yogurt. Coat rabbit or chicken pieces with mix in a gallon Ziploc bag and leave to marinate several hours to overnight. Bake, uncovered at 350-375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Serve the rabbit with rice, mango chutney -I absolutely love making this chutney, so much so, that I generated quite a surplus and I had to force myself to NOT make any for awhile- and a vegetable (nappy carrots from the grocery story was what I had on hand). Serve the falafels with a yogurt sauce -I made the yogurt-tahini sauce from an earlier post of mine, The Middle East on a Flatbread (click here) -and pita breads.

Yogurt Tahini Sauce

1 c. yogurt
2 T. tahini
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cherry-Almond Granola

The crab apple tree is laden with blossoms, and my mind immediately translates the flowers into rows of half-pint jars filled with crab apple jelly. I will use less than ten percent of the crab apples produced to make jelly, leaving the rest for the wildlife. Yesterday, I made another pan of these (click here), and this pan of cherry and almond granola. My oldest daughter likes to simply eat this granola of a Ziploc bag while she's working, but I'm looking forward to granola and yogurt breakfast parfaits. This is a variation of my favorite granola recipe -I gave the Date-Pecan Granola recipe in an earlier post (click here).

Cherry-Almond Granola

5 c. thick-cut oatmeal
1 1/2 oz. pkg. sesame seeds (about 1/3 c.)
3/4 c. apple butter
1/3 c. Lyle's Golden Syrup
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 c. whole almonds
1/2 t. salt
2 T. canola oil
Mix all together in a large roasting pan and roast 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes until golden brown. I repeatedly set the timer for 10 minutes, decreasing the time to 5 minutes towards the end, otherwise I tend to over brown it, which is a huge disappointment. Cool and add 2 c. dried cherries. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One Baa-d Truffle!

It is a (relatively) well-known fact that I have no problem (usually) eating cute and cuddly animals, but I can't quite bring myself (yet) to bite off this little guys head. Yet. He is a truffle after all, and I'll only be able to resist the chocolate temptation for so long.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Abuelita's Sopa de Albondigas

This was what I took to work today for my lunch: pint canning jars of sweet ice tea and the Grandmother's Meatball Soup I made on Saturday. A totable jar of soup makes a great lunch, and this is very easy, quite flexible, and so delicious. I started with Christina Gonzalez's recipe featured in the recent issue of Sunset magazine and then adapted it to my larder and inspirations. Here is my version of this classic soup.

1/4 - 1/2 lbs. ground beef, pork or chorizo
1/2-1 c. cooked white rice
1 egg
pinch each of salt, cumin and chili powder
Mix well. Shape into small balls. Chill.

3 quarts chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 - 1 T. salt
1 T. oregano
Bring to a boil. Add vegetables.

2 red potatoes, 2 small zucchini, 1/2 onion, 4-6 brown mushrooms, 2 carrots
Peel and/or scrub, and diced small. Use more, or less, vegetables as the mood, and what you have at hand, dictates.

Simmer until tender. Add optional additions (if adding) and meatballs, and simmer until done.

Optional Additions
1 c. cooked garbanzo, kidney, or pinto beans (I didn't add any this time)
lamb or goat heart and kidneys, diced

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to Ewes!!!

Our grass is SO LUSH now. Today, it rained off and on, and it was still cool enough I wanted a coat for going outside. Nevertheless, I insist that summer is here. Why? Because the barn swallows returned today. Just as their leaving marks the beginning of winter for me, their return marks the beginning of summer. They return, the same as my mother who winters in Mexico does, sometime between May Day and Mothers Day. The sound of the barn swallows flitting in and out of the open barn windows is the background hum of our summers here and their return brings great joy and happiness to my heart.

After keeping our two newest lambs inside and separated for over a week, they joined the rest of the flock today. I worry about the wee little things -the bigger lambs are a bit rough and pushy, the pastures are so big, they don't know about electric fences yet......I'd prefer to keep all young things (incidentally, tonight is senior prom night for my youngest) totally safe and protected forever, but you can't keep little lambs (or teenage girls) locked up forever. Before putting them out with the rest of the flock, I brought my other two ewes in and they all had the sheep equivalent of a mini spa treatment: they got their hooves trimmed and...well, with all the good spring grass and the nice wool on my ewes, they needed what shepherd's call crutching or crotching...I sheared their butts. Happy Mother's Day to Ewes!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beef Meatballs with Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce

I was really put off by the idea of grape jelly and chili sauce mixed together. Somehow, I just wasn't convinced it was a very good idea. I've seen this recipe many times but until now, I've simply passed it by. Last week though, I was blatantly eavesdropping as one woman was giving the recipe to another and telling her how amazingly good and easy it is. I finally decided I should give it a try, and make it for my weekly meatball recipe. I am so glad I did; these two seemingly weird ingredients meld to make a delicious sauce for meatballs.

Beef Meatballs
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 T. parsley, minced
1/4 c. milk
1 egg
1/2 t. each salt and Worcestershire Sauce
Mix, shape, and chill meatballs.

Brown in 2 T. vegetable oil in a hot skillet. Remove meatballs to crock-pot (or a plate if finishing this on the stove top).

Add a 12 oz. jar of chili sauce and a half pint of grape jelly to the skillet. Stir until the jelly is melted, the browned bits are stirred up, and the sauce comes to a simmer.

Add sauce to meatballs in crock pot (or add meatballs back to skillet and cook on the stove top 20-30 minutes to finish), and cook in slow cooker on high 2-4 hours.

I served these Saturday with homemade macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and sourdough bread and everyone gave them the thumbs up, "Yeah, they're really good."

The next day, Sunday was warm and heavenly, the first day of May -and in my mind the beginning of summer. My girls celebrated by lying on the shop roof and sunning themselves, and I celebrated by making a cherry-cola ham dinner. Our salad didn't come from the garden, but the truth is that the beginning of our growing season is the leanest of the fresh-from-the-garden eating season. Instead of a garden salad for lunch, I ate leftover meatballs with leftover mashed potatoes two days in a row, and I can only say that I"m so sorry I didn't make this recipe sooner.