Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mwahahaha, Happy All Hallow's Eve!

Hello, Friends

I have discovered a renewed love of Halloween. I spent a better part of the day decorating my front yard, arranging one ghoulish display after another, planning for the maximum effect of scary and yet fun. My mom carved three pumpkins, I carved one. We created an arch with lots of lights and spiderwebs. A huge spider took over the swing, contained only by caution tape and regular feeding of little kids. Hehe... We installed black lights in the outdoor lamps and lit tiki torches in the garden. Orange and purple string lights draped through the bushes and flowers gave an eerie look to the yard. What fun...

I will post pictures in the morning.

Beuno Nuit, Avec Amour

Monday, October 22, 2007

To Soup or Not To Soup

My hubby was sick a couple days ago, nasty cold, cough, cough, ahhhhchoo. One of his favorite soups is Beef Barley Soup. And canned soup is just not good enough for my, off to the store I went for beef, barley and veggies.

Here is my creation:

Jimi's Manly Beef & Barley Soup

1 cup barley, uncooked
4 cups water

Olive oil
2 1/2 lbs stew meat, cut in 1/4 cubes (approx)
1/4 c flour
salt & pepper, to taste
3 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 small minced onion
10 to 12 cups beef broth
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
4 c. assorted frozen veggies (peas, carrots, green beans)

1. Put barley and water in a pan and bring to boil, allow to boil for approx 30 minutes.

2. While barley is cooking, dice stew meat into small bite size pieces. Toss with flour, salt and pepper.

3. In a dutch oven, heat olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes; then add the flour-coated stew meat until stir til nicely brown.

4. Drain barley and set aside.

5. Add beef broth, veggies, spices and barley. Simmer for 45 minutes.

This was a quite tasty and quickly prepared soup. Next time I am going to roast fresh veggies and meat to add a more caramelized rich flavor.

Bon Appetit

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Splash of Vodka Here, A Pat of Butter There

In anticipation of beginning culinary school on Nov. 26th, I have been ferreting out new kitchen adventures. Reading blogs where no blog has been read before...mmm, yea. Whatever! So, one of my favorite online magazine sites is Cook's Illustrated. They have this wonderful experiment kitchen where they actually use science to explore it's effect on food. Pretty cool!

Their test kitchen confronted the sticky and frequently too stiff issue of homemade pie crust. I have always been a bit apprehensive when it comes to making pie crust. I have made a couple of traditional pie crusts and while they turned out okay, they were nothing to write home about. Cook's Illustrated did an awesomely simple study of the effect of the liquid used in constructing a pie crust. Their goal was to find a liquid that could be used instead of water, to be able to still affect the gluten in the flour but not turn it into a pasty or stiff mess. The science behind it is actually quite fascinating. They discovered that alcohol could replace the water in the recipe. Alcohol contains a percentage of water with the ethanol wearing off during cooking. So, you get the 'wetness' of the liquid without all the effects of the water. Hence, the Vodka Pie Crust...

I used the recipe, sans sugar, to create a crust for a chicken pot pie. This crust was buttery, flaky, tender, absolutely the best crust I have ever had in any pie. It was silky, pliable, and easy to work with. It is a very forgiving recipe, since I didn't follow it exactly word for word. It will be my main pie crust recipe for the rest of my life. Truly, I am so excited to actually not be afraid of making pies anymore. My brain is already making a list of things that can be put in a pie. Sigh, the possibilities are endless!

In the article, they also point out that other flavored alcohols can be used to substitute for the water, like bourbon for a pecan pie or brandy for a peach pie. Mmmmm, yum! Read the article, it was a learning experience that will increase my baking time in the kitchen!

Bon Appetit!

Baa, Baa, Black, umm, Brown Cow?

I got me a hankerin' for Shepherd's Pie today. So, I made it for lunch and it was yummy! I am quite proud of myself as this recipe used only two pans...I am usually the one to use every pot and utensil in the kitchen while free-form cooking. I used a large oven proof frying pan and a small stock pot for the potatoes. If you like your food with a spicy kick, you could add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes while cooking the ground beef. Also, some of the measurements are approximate because I don't usually measure while free-form cooking. So, feel free to adjust where needed. And if you are wondering about the title, traditional Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb while this version is made with well,...cow, er, beef. :o) Somehow though CowHerder's Pie just doesn't sound as appetizing. :o)

Tam's Shepherd Pie

12 medium red potatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 cup margarine
salt & pepper to taste


1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 small minced onion
salt & pepper to taste
1 pkg au jus mix
3/4 to 1 c. water
1 small bag frozen peas and carrots


shredded cheddar cheese, about 2 cups or so

Put the red potatoes in small stock pot or large sauce pan. Cover with water and boil until a knife slides into them gently. Drain potatoes and put back in same pan. Add cream, margarine, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mash them puppies up. Set aside.

Preheat oven broiler to 450 degrees.

In large frying pan, heat the olive oil and brown the ground beef. Add garlic, onion, salt and pepper, cook for a couple of minutes allowing onion to soften. Drain oil. Sprinkle the packet of au jus powder over the ground beef and add water, stirring to dissolve the mix. While cooking the ground beef mixture, add the peas and carrots. Allow this mixture to come to a boil and then turn heat down to medium high. You want to reduce the 'gravy' so it doesn't overwhelm and water down the other flavors as well as cooking the veggies til they are tender but still crisp.

Once the sauce has reduced some, pull it off the heat and make sure the mixture is spread evenly in the pan. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the ground beef. Then sprinkle cheese on top of the potatoes for a nice cheesey cover. Place pan under broiler until cheese is bubbling and brown, maybe 5 - 10 minutes.

For a complete meal, I serve this with a green salad and sourdough.

Bon Appetit

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Bananas & the Chocolate

Once upon a time there was a lonely bunch of bananas just aching for a more meaningful life. Looking around from it's perch on the countertop, it spied a tin of chocolate but not just any chocolate...Scharffen Berger Powdered Chocolate. One of the finest chocolates in all the land. That is when the banana bunch knew what it's purpose, nay, destiny was to be... Chocolate Banana Bread. Here is a link to the original recipe at Joy of Baking ~

Alas, I didn't take any pictures (it wasn't around long enough). :o) Be careful to fold the ingredients together until just moistened. This will keep the chunkiness of the bananas, chocolate and nuts. It also keeps the crust glossy instead of dull. This stuff is eye-rolling yummy!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cold Day Warm-Up

I found a recipe in Woman's Day magazine for an easy four ingredient Sausage and White Bean Soup....this is not that recipe. Alas, I was at the doctor's office and so the magazine had to stay there. But the idea stuck in my head until today. I woke up to find a somewhat cool and blustery fall day in this here the bellybutton of California. Voila, one perfect made-for-soup day! So, soup I did make...this is only the second time I have made soup truly from scratch so I was quite pleased when it came out so well! Enjoy!!
Italian Sausage and White Bean Soup

2 c. dried white beans, prepare according to pkg
2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 – 2 tsp sea salt


3 lb. mild Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, diced
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 beef bouillon cubes, dissolved in ½ cup warm water
10 cups of water

1. In the last stage of cooking the beans, add 1 – 2 tsp sea salt and 2 tbsp Italian seasoning.
2. Brown sausage over medium heat until almost done. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add diced onion to pan and sauté until soft. Drain on paper towel. Set aside.
4. Seed and dice tomatoes. Set aside.
5. When the beans are done with the second cooking, do NOT drain.
6. Add 10 cups of water and three beef bouillon cubes.
7. Add sautéed onions and diced tomatoes. Bring to simmer.
8. Slice sausages into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to soup and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

I served it with fresh cornbread. You could also garnish with green onions, sour cream, or shaved parmesan.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Raspberry, Cherry and Peach, oh my!!!!

So, my first post is going to be about alcohol. But, not just any alcohol...

Sweet-tart raspberry yumminess! Framboise ~ that nectar which is surely of the Divine! If you have never had Framboise, it tastes like a mouthful of tart raspberries with the edge of savory ~ truly best served in a dark Brit pub over Scotch Eggs and fresh Crisps. Delicious! My favorite by far is the raspberry but the cherry, or Kriek, is quite a tasty treat, too. This lambic creation is also available in peach, or Peche. Lindeman's is more sweet than tart, which I prefer.

"Framboise (from the French word for raspberry) or Frambozenbier (Dutch) is a Belgian lambic beer that is fermented using raspberries. It is one of many modern fruitbeer types that have been inspired by the more traditional kriek beer, made using sour cherries.

Framboise is usually served in a small glass that resembles a champagne glass, only shorter. Most framboise beers are quite sweet, though the Cantillon brewery produces a tart version called Rosé de Gambrinus that is based on the traditional kriek style. The Liefmans brewery uses Oud bruin beer instead of lambic to make its high quality framboise beer, resulting in a very different taste. Recently, Framboise has become popular outside of Belgium, and can now be found in pubs and supermarkets all over the world." ~~ Wikipedia

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