April 19, 2014

Chicken Stock

IMG_8872a

IMG_8876a

IMG_8864a

    Chicken stock is a staple in my house.  It is a base for flavorful gravies, the beginning point of soup, an all around flavor booster, and pan deglazer.  For many years I purchased canned broth but I always needed more.  At one point, after stripping as much of the meat off a roasted chicken as my patience would allow, and then throwing the carcass away, I looked at those sad bones in the trash, I wondered if they had something left to give and decided I would make a stock.  I had previously tried unsuccessfully to make a turkey stock from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass but it was so weak in flavor that I gave up on stock making thinking that it wasn't as good as the canned variety until I had to find a use for my weekly roasted chicken.  If I don’t make a stock right away, I put the carcass in the freezer and make it as time permits.  I love the gelatinous quality of the chilled stock knowing that the marrow from the bones has infused the stock with nutrients and minerals (versus thin bodied canned broth).
    The first time I witnessed gelatinous broth was the year my father raised chickens for meat and his mom, my Slovakian granny, came to help him with his butchering and she put a big pot on the stove and boiled up the chicken feet.  The soup was solid after being refrigerated.  I wish I had her recipe for that soup that was thick with gelatin, though, at the time, I would not eat it being a picky and snooty teenager, but now I wish the old world recipe was not lost.  As a family, we did not need to survive on nutrient rich soups any longer.  It was and now the time of the grocery store and plenty.  I find it interesting mass food production is yielding food that is nutrient depleted in both the chemical processing and in the genetically engineered foods.  I take heart in my homemade broth knowing that I am not wasting and in some small way honoring the animal and my ancestors who knew how to survive.

Part 2 of the Chicken that Keeps on Giving series

Chicken Stock 
from a roasted chicken carcass

1 five pound chicken carcass or 2 smaller chicken carcasses
2 quarts of water or enough water to cover chicken
1 carrot cut into chunks
1 stalk of celery cut into chunks
1 medium onion quartered
2 bay leaves

Remove skin and discard, and remove remaining meat and set aside for soup, chicken salad, chicken pot pie, etc. (of course this depends on how much chicken was served at your chicken dinner).
In a stock pot or Dutch oven, place chicken carcass skin and the rest of the ingredients, cover with water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 1- 2 hours until the carcass breaks up easily.
Strain broth through a fine mesh strainer. 
If you like it extra clear, line your strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth. 

Portion off for freezing or use for a soup.

Golden Girls

IMG_5556

chickens in the perennial garden

April 13, 2014

Italian Style Meatballs

021

    Meatballs are the kind of food that brings happiness.  Daily I am asked “What’s for dinner?” and when I reply meatballs and…….it doesn’t matter what the second part is -- the questioner is instantly happy on the word meatballs – “yummmm.” 
    As a child, commercially pressed hamburgers were more common than hand formed meatballs.  Meatballs were part of our special homemade spaghetti sauce dinners where the sauce bubbled all day on the stove top.  Dad would fry them on the stove top versus baking in the oven. My sister reminded me of our father’s perfectly shaped meatballs and his penchant for frying the meatballs, as with many things he cooked, on high and the grease spattering. 
     While I love a tasty meatball, I do not favor all the handwork involved so I have a method that reduces the hand rolling time by using my graduated size cookie scoop to begin the molding process.  I have three sizes of scoops and I most often use the 1 ½ tablespoon middle size but sometimes I like the small (2 teaspoons) size for fun marble size meatballs and rarely do I make the larger size.
     Meatball recipes have many variations – my ideal Italian style meatball is moist, mildly spiced, and compliments mainly a red sauce and must be cooked in the oven.   

Meatballs
Makes around 20 meatballs

1 pound of ground beef
2/3 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of fresh bread crumbs
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon Italian blend spices or spice mix of your choice – basil is nice
1 egg slightly beaten
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F°.
Combine the ingredients with your hands being careful not to overmix.
Shape into walnut size or larger balls.
Place in baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes or until done. 

Loosen meatballs and drain off accumulated oil.  

Serve with spaghetti and red sauce:
quick and easy red sauce

011

016

013

014

7983326849_785f16db99_oaa
My sister's photo from Northern Italy - a view she saw eating lasagne from a cafe in Brunate.

April 1, 2014

Beer Can Chicken

034a

the waterfall

One of my favorite ways to roast chicken is on the grill with the chicken poked onto a beer can.  Beer can chicken makes a wonderfully moist and delicious chicken every time without the need for a spit or rotisserie. I always associate a roasted chicken dinner with taking time and being a special dinner.  The smell of roasted chicken evokes thoughts of comfort, warmth and caring.  When a chicken is roasting I often hear “it smells so good!” It is little wonder that grocery stores churn out hundreds of rotisserie chickens every day and are at their peak smelling point when the work day is done. By making beer can chicken at home you can control your flavor profile and have a delicious home cooked meal to share with your family and friends.

Part 1 of 3 of the Chicken that Keeps on Giving

Beer Can Chicken

1 roasting chicken - about 5 pounds
2 carrots peeled and chopped into pieces
1 stalk of celery chopped in medium pieces
1 small onion quartered
3 to 4 garlic cloves peeled and left whole
1 cup chicken stock, approximately
1 tablespoon oil of your preference
½ teaspoon sage
½ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon paprika*
Salt and Pepper

Preheat grill with a lid that can accommodate an upright chicken – gas, charcoal, or smoker. I use a gas grill.
Place beer can chicken holder in a 9-inch foil pan.
Scatter the chopped vegetables across the bottom of the foil pan and holder.
Rinse chicken and pat dry.
Empty about half of the beer out of can and widen the opening.
Put beer can in the holder and place chicken on top, legs down and inserting can into the chicken cavity.
Brush chicken with oil and sprinkle with spices, salt and pepper over the entire skin surface. I do this with the chicken on the stand.
Tuck in wings.
Place chicken on the grill.
Turn the burner to low that the chicken is over and lower the other side to medium high. 
Add the chicken broth to pan a little over halfway up leaving room for drippings.
Cook until an instant read thermometer reads 165°F about 1 to 1 ½ hours. 
Depending on your grill you may turn off the burner under the chicken.  Mine goes low enough. 
Remove chicken to plate without spilling the beer in the pan juices or splashing onto the chicken unless you want that flavor in you final product.

*Other spice combinations:
rosemary and lemon zest
granulated garlic and oregano
savory and garlic

any barbecue rub

IMG_8554a

March 17, 2014

Simple Chocolate Cookies

IMG_8256

IMG_8253

Simplicity is beautiful.  Sometimes I like to bake a cookie that is straightforward with standard pantry ingredients.  While I recognize the trend to layer in special ingredients to deepen and enhance flavors, I appreciate the subtle enhancements - perhaps a special cocoa powder or Tahitian vanilla.   More does not always mean better - I went to a fancy restaurant owned by a famous chef and ordered a dish that sounded delicious seasoned with rosemary, special olive oils, specific cheeses, etc. and it tasted like a rosemary branch.  Another time it was a basil extravaganza and then I thought these chefs are big names over quality and started doing my research more carefully.  Meanwhile the major food companies are flavor "blasting" with flavors boosted in a chemistry lab, frozen yogurt shops encourage one to load in sprinkles, fruit, cookies, granola and twenty other options into your bowl, and then there is the candy bars in everything trend.  If the options become overwhelming out there.  Stay home and keep it simple with these cookies. Dress these cookies up or dress them down, it is your choice.

Simple Chocolate Cookies
makes about 4 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
½ cup chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips
1 teaspoon baking soda 
½  teaspoon salt
1 ¼  cups unsalted butter
2 cups sugar 
1/4 cup sugar for rolling or dipping cookie balls into (optional)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ¼  teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit 
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, set aside.
Cream the butter and 2 cups sugar add vanilla and eggs and mix until light and fluffy.
Add dry ingredients, and mix well. 
Add chopped chocolate. 
Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes until the cookie dough is somewhat firm.
Use a 1 tablespoon cookie dough scoop to form dough balls and then roll or dip the balls in sugar.
Bake 10 -12 minutes . 
Cool on a wire rack.  

johnny jump ups

IMG_8254

IMG_2853

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_8274

IMG_8292

I sometimes have a craving for mint - chocolate mint, mint tea, mint chip ice cream, chocolate mint candies, peppermints - it is so refreshing and soothing.  The combination of chocolate and mint was fated -  I am certain these two wonderful plant products could not exist side by side without some person having the idea of mixing them together.  These cookies call for mint chocolate chips which are readily available in grocery stores.  For a quick chocolate and mint fix try these cookies.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

1 ¼ cup flour
½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
cups cocoa 
½ cups butter
¼  cups sugar
½ cups brown sugar
1-½ teaspoon vanilla extract
cups milk
12 ounces mint chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa, and set aside.
Beat the butter on medium-high until light and then add sugars, creaming well.
Add the vanilla and beat until smooth. 
Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternately with the milk in one batch, mixing well. 
Stir in the mint chips.
Chill dough for at least 15 minutes. 
Scoop the dough into round tablespoon-sized balls and place onto prepared baking sheet, press down on the dough balls slightly, and bake for 10-12 minutes. 
Let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheet, they will set up as they cool. 
Store in an air-tight container. 

IMG_8282

Untitled


bbbb - boulder by bee brook

March 14, 2014

Chicken Fried Steak with Milk Gravy

029a


    My husband loves Texas style food.  He enjoys that stick to your ribs and stomach filling quality.  While his mom did not prepare those kinds of food for him as she had had enough fried foods as a child, preferring a simpler dinner of tacos and chili. She says she thought there was only milk gravy until she married and learned otherwise.   
    My husband’s grandmother, Tommie's, method of cooking was to fry.  Tommie grew up on a ranch in West Texas watching her mother and grandmother cooking on wood fired stoves.  My mother-in-law remembers her grandmother getting up every morning and starting the fire and making biscuits and gravy without fail.  They would eat a large breakfast and Grandpa would take biscuits wrapped in a handkerchief with him for lunch while he was out working on the ranch. 
     My husband received from his grandmother a cast iron pan with this recipe for milk gravy taped inside for Christmas one year.  It is a real treasure to have her handwritten recipe, and the square cast iron pan is my favorite to bake biscuits in.


87656-PH-42-005
Great-grandfather, Tommie, mother-in-law at the ranch house where daily biscuits and gravy were made.
Chicken Fried Steak with Milk Gravy

4 cube steaks
¾ cup flour
¾ cup panko or white bread crumbs dried or fresh
Dash of cayenne if desired
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
½ cup milk
Additional ½ cup plus more, if needed, for dredging meat
Oil for frying.

In a shallow dish or a plastic bag, mix flour, panko or bread crumbs, cayenne, salt and pepper.
In a shallow bowl, whip egg and milk together.
On a separate plate put ½ cup of plain flour.
Dredge cube steak in plain flour, covering both sides, shaking off excess flour.
Put the floured cube steak in the egg bath, careful not to make too soggy, let excess egg mixture drip off.
Coat cube steak with the flour and panko mixture, making sure it is covered well.
Repeat with all the steaks, adding more flour as needed.
Heat a large heavy duty skillet over medium high heat and add ¼ to ½ cup oil.  Heat to very hot.  Fry each cube steak until golden brown of each side over a high heat (if you fry with lower heat, the meat and coating becomes very greasy).
Remove the cube steaks carefully with a thin metal spatula so not to tear off the coating.
Transfer to a sheet pan and place in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven until the gravy is done.

Milk Gravy

2 cups of milk
2 ½ tablespoons of oil
2 heaping tablespoons of flour
Salt and pepper to taste

After the meat is done, drain off excess oil leaving 2 ½ tablespoons of oil. 
Heat pan over medium heat, and add flour and mix together with the oil forming a roux.
Brown roux stirring up brown bits as you stir.
Slowly whisk in milk stirring constantly while mixture thickens. 
Bring to a boil and boil gently for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add more milk if too thick.
Remove from heat.

The milk gravy thickens as it stands. Whisk in more milk over medium heat until the desired consistency is reached.

Biscuit Recipe


069a

027a

024a

87656-PH-1800-008
Ranch house on rocks
87656-PH-1800-006
Ranch Living

87656-PH-1800-007


March 9, 2014

Multi Grain Pancakes

multigrain pancakes

079

Pancakes are my favorite breakfast food.  I love thick buttermilk pancakes, blueberry pancakes, crepes, my granny's thin pancakes and now these multi-grain pancakes!  They are everything pancakes are so supposed to be - soft, sweet, filling, and wholesome except these are hearty without being too grainy or to heavy with whole wheat.  These fill the craving for pancakes with the added benefit of being nutritious.  

Multi Grain Pancakes
makes 16-18 medium size pancakes

4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups whole milk
1 cup no-sugar-added muesli 
¼ cups  all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour (2¾ ounces)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons canola oil or melted and cooled butter
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk lemon juice and milk together in medium bowl or 4-cup measuring cup; set aside to thicken while preparing other ingredients.
Process 1¼ cups muesli in food processor until finely ground, 2 to 2½ minutes; transfer to large bowl. 
Add flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl whisk eggs, melted butter, and vanilla into milk until combined. 
Pour in milk mixture and whisk very gently until just combined (few streaks of flour and lumps should remain). 
Do not over mix. 
Allow batter to sit while pan heats.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat  (I use a square skillet). 
Add 1 teaspoon oil and brush to coat skillet bottom evenly. 
Pour ¼ cup batter onto 3 spots in skillet, using bottom of ladle to spread batter smooth if necessary. 
Cook pancakes until small bubbles begin to appear evenly over surface, 2 to 3 minutes. 
Using thin, wide spatula, flip pancakes and cook until golden brown on second side, 1½ to 2 minutes longer. 
Repeat with remaining batter, brushing surface of pan lightly with oil between batches and adjusting heat as necessary.

078

March 6, 2014

Vanilla Ice Cream - Philadelphia Style

055a

037a

    I love ice cream!  For my family, ice cream was as a regular treat while at the same time it was special.  Everyone looked forward to ice cream.  My dad loved his black walnut and my mom liked her chocolate or coffee, the kids - we loved banana split flavor or Neapolitan.   I grew up with 1/2 gallons of ice cream in the freezer, trips to Thrifty's or when we moved back east, Carvel's soft serve twists on a sugar cone became a staple.  What a better way to cool off in the summer than eating a vanilla or chocolate twist dipped in chocolate or sprinkles.  I always went for the vanilla with colored sprinkles.   Sometimes we headed to Farrell's or Swenson's or Friendly's for something even fancier.  My grandfather took me for ice cream and treated me to a Jim Dandy sundae for no reason except that he asked me to go - I really felt special as there were a lot of cousins and getting time alone was rare and special.  We all  looked forward to  ice cream.  A favorite story from my mom's childhood is how my grandmother would treat my mom and her siblings by taking the waxed cardboard rectangular 1/2 gallon of ice cream container and cutting it four big slices for each, cutting right through the paper.  I don't remember ever making homemade ice cream, maybe once at my aunt's house the same year they made homemade root beer.
     I was initiated into the allure of hand cranked ice cream by my husband's family.  They have special memories of hand cranking a churn and producing the delicious treat.  When they reminisce about it, ice cream making was an event - they remember cranking the churn, whisking raw eggs into the mixture, trying to churn without rock salt (it never froze), and  all the son's taking their turn at the crank.  With my ice cream history, I gladly accepted their enthusiasm for homemade ice cream.  My first ice cream churn was electric and it was a big loud maker that required  a steady flow of ice cubes and rock salt, and had to be churned outside as it was messy  or in the sink.  Then, I received my current churn with an insert that you freeze, pour the ingredients in while the paddle is moving and within 30 minutes a soft ice cream is ready.  I love this maker! 
    This is my standby recipe.  It is easy to make and tastes delicious.  The difference between Philadelphia style and other styles is that eggs are not used versus a custard style vanilla ice cream.  This ice cream is sweet and just rich enough to compliment many pairings.  I pair with cakes, pies, fruit and brownies.  It works well with a rich hot fudge, easy chocolate sauce, or decadent caramel sauce, marshmallow sauce or, my personal favorite, strawberry sauce.

Vanilla Ice Cream Philadelphia Style 
Makes about 1 quart

2 cups (473 ml) of half and half 
1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
2/3 (128 grams) cup sugar
Dash of salt
1  tablespoon of vanilla

Mix all ingredients together with a hand whisk or use an emulsifier hand blender.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.  The colder the base is the better.

Mix in your ice cream maker as directed.

ice cream

050

March 3, 2014

Easy Chocolate Sauce

048a

063a

Sometimes I like to make a chocolate sauce that is rich tasting but does not involve melting chocolate because either I don't have the chocolate or I don't feel like chopping chocolate and would rather make something easy without foregoing taste.  This recipe is easily made with pantry staples - sugar, cocoa, and evaporated milk.  It is best used within the week it is made as the sugar becomes granular after a few reheats.  Also, it does not harden with the cold from the ice cream like a ganache does.  
This recipe is from my sister-in-law who uses it as frosting on spice cake, her kids favorite birthday dessert.

Easy Chocolate Sauce
makes 1 cup

1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons butter
1 small can (5 ounces) or 5/8 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir sugar and cocoa over low heat for 30 seconds – do not let sugar melt.
Blend in butter.
Add evaporated milk, stirring constantly.
Turn heat to medium and bring to boil stirring constantly.
Boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and add vanilla.


061a

lake waramaug

March 1, 2014

Pizzelles

001

007


pizzelle and cappuccino


I was given a pizzelle iron as a gift and I left it in its box for a good while, until I ventured into the land of pizzelles.  I love waffles, cookies, and sugar cones so what could be better than this combination.  I can't stop making these cookies - I love their simplicity, the crisp texture and buttery flavor.  I prefer mine plain but I have made edible ice cream cups with them, filled them with whipped cream and served strawberry sauce on the side and filled them with caramel for a stroopwafel style pizzelle.  

Pizzelles
makes 3-4 dozen small cookies

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs
¾  cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or anise extract or lemon extract

Preheat Pizzelle Press while preparing the batter. 
Place flour and baking powder in a small bowl and stir to combine; reserve. 
Place eggs and sugar in a medium bowl mix with a hand mixer, mix on medium speed for 1 minute, until thickened. 
On low speed, add the melted butter and vanilla in a steady stream and mix until combined, about 15 seconds. 
Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 10 to15 seconds; do not over mix.
Lightly brush both the top and bottom grids with a flavorless vegetable oil  before baking.
Scoop about 1-1/2 – 2 teaspoons of batter and drop onto one of the patterned cookie grids; repeat to make a second cookie. 
Close the lid and cook as instructed by the pizzelle press you own.
Remove pizzelle from the press using a heatproof plastic spatula and place on a rack to cool completely. 
Warm pizzelle may be wrapped around the dowel form cannoli shells. 
Completely cooled pizzelle may be dusted with powdered sugar before serving.

212

214

Variations: Marble Pizzelle: Add 2 ounces finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate to the batter. Bake as directed.

pizzelles stacked


005

Untitled