Friday, November 28, 2008

Corn Chowder

Corn ChowderThis is what I decided to make for the soup yesterday. Somehow the butternut squash soup had lost its appeal. I think because we had pumpkin pies, so I wanted to move to a different flavor profile, and thought corn chowder just might fit the bill.

Years ago, I was a great Make a Mix advocate. I knew I had one of the corn chowder recipes of theirs, but I didn't want to mak a mix! So I turned to my friends on the internet.

Mimi's Restaurant has probably one of the best commercially offered corn chowders out there. I decided to go see if they had a recipe. Amazing, but true they did! They not only have the corn chowder but others as well.

Here's the recipe:
Corn Chowder
(Yields 2 1/2 quarts)

4 tablespoons butter or margarine 3 cups frozen corn, thawed
6 tablespoons onion, chopped 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup celery, large dice 2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups hot water 1 pinch white pepper
2 cups raw potato, peeled and cut in 1/2" cubes 3 tablespoons flour
1 quart Half & Half

On medium heat, melt butter, then simmer onion and celery for 5 minutes until soft, but not brown.

Add water, potatoes, corn and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are barely tender.

Whisk the flour into 1 cup of the Half & Half, and stir into the soup. Add the remaining 3 cups of Half & Half. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the soup has thickened to a creamy consistency.

Correct the seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed. In order to correct the consistency or the soup you may add a little milk to make it thinner. To make the soup thicker, simmer another 5-10 minutes.

I didn't have room in the refrigerator to store the soup overnight, so I tried something different. Once I had added the half and half and stirred it together, rather than thickening it in the pot on the stove, I poured it into my crock pot. Put it on low and let it simmer all night. In the morning it was thick and ready to eat!

My mother-in-law had to have the recipe. Since she wanted it, I figured you'd like it too!

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

God is God

That title is adapted from a line in Cecil B DeMille's The Ten Commandments. Yul Brenner as, Ramses II, says to Nefretiri (Anne Baxter) "His God is God" when explaining why Moses is not dead. Why this reference on a food blog?

Well today is Thanksgiving Day here in America. A day set aside for family and friends and a usually huge feast with Turkey as the centerpiece. There are other machinations of the feast by all kinds of people, even some who have a taco feast instead of Turkey. The whole idea of the day is to sit down with people you care for, break bread, and show a large amount of gratitude for the blessings in your life.

Food. It is a basic necessity to life. It is different wherever you go. The wonder of it all, is that it is there. Food springs forth on its own, without a lot of help of man. If it is nurtured and tended to it yields a great bounty. Still, it is there. No need to manipulate the seed too much to produce great and flavorful things. God designed it that way so man would not only survive, but thrive.

The Monsantos of the world need to be stifled. Manipulating the food supply to manipulate the poor is an evil too difficult to describe for me. We must allow real farmers to grow real food. Instead of limiting the seed to one season and terminating God's plan. Farmers are good people. World wide farmers have been sold a bill of goods by large corporations only to find they have no crop with the seeds they saved from the prior years harvest. It is the circle of the harvest, to save seeds to use the next year. It is the basis for our gratitude. That God, nature or however you wish to label it, continues to work to provide for the planet.

Let's go back to that good harvest. Happy Thanksgiving all.

S'mee asked for a link to represent the evil that is being done by corporations like Monsanto. Here's one: Monsanto in India. It makes you wonder why there were terrorist attacks there against Americans recently. Also, this is a huge problem, not just being done by Monsanto, include Cargill, ADM and others. Also note, the first thing that was done when we invaded Iraq was to raid their seed inventories and have Monsanto take over farming and farmers.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

If I only had one cookbook the Joy of Cooking would be it!

Joy of CookingYes. If I had to limit myself to only one cookbook Joy of Cooking would have to be the one I would choose. Meredith, over at Simon and Schuster, offered to send me a new copy of the 75th anniversary edition, Joy of Cooking and I jumped at the chance.

And wow. I'm glad I did. Not only have they retested 4000 of the most beloved recipes in the book, but they've added 500 additional recipes. Back is butter! Pork fat and those wonderful ingredients cooks know make food taste better! This cookbook will teach you more than your grandmother! Because if your grandmother is like ours, she's forgotten techniques, or has the recipes in her head, and that doesn't help you especially if you live 500 miles away!

Do yourself a favor and add this one to your Christmas wishlist!

Some of the things I love about this book.

1. The section called Know your Ingredients. You can flip through the pages and learn about all kinds of neat ingredients. The chocolate section alone is so neat. It explains the difference between unsweetened, bittersweet, milk and white chocolates. Also the difference between a couverture and frosting.

2. Cooking methods and techniques. The section on high altitude cooking really helps one understand the problems altitude can create!

3. It has a great equivalents and substitutions section.

4. 4500 recipes! If you an't find it in here do you really need it?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving, Turkey, Dressing/Stuffing, Gravy, potatoes

I find it comforting that the day we have set as a day of gratitude is during the fall. Of course, it was the bounteous harvest that started it all I presume. This year we may all have a lot more to be thankful for than usual. Having a roof still over our heads, not being behind on credit card bills and the fact that most people in the country (California excepted) are paying less than $2 a gallon for gas are at the top of the list this year for most people.

I have spanned the web to see what special stuff people are cooking up this year. There will not be one link to anyone making savory cupcakes. No! Savory cupcakes are muffins folks! Cupcakes = sweetness and light. So on to the round-up of linkage:

First up? Apetizers!
Pinch My Salt has a delicious sounding Smoked Tuna Dip that will start your festivities on the right path. If, however, you are not a fish fan...
Erika at Tummy Treasure has a Walnut Gorgonzola spread that I'm now craving. Yep, this one is going on my table!

This year I have also decided that we need a soup. It hasn't been cool enough here to warrant a soup but the TopChef guys have me thinking. Small shot glasses filled with something smooth, creamy and tasty just might round out the appetizers perfectly. Mmmm. This Butternut Squash soup at Melting Your Mouth is just the right one.

The usual suspects: Turkey, Dressing, Gravy and potatoes.

My sister Cathi, makes the best mashed potatoes in the world. However, she hasn't posted her recipe online. The closest I could come was over at Elise's. Elsie suggests using a spoon to beat the potatoes after they're mashed. I know sis gets out her small electric mixers and gives it a minor twirl. Not too much!

Anne has the best roasted Turkey recipe ever! Who would have thought a traditional turkey recipe would come from Stockholm? Hey why not? It's delicious and moist, and adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson.

Stuffing is a hot topic. A debate worthy of congress, Cornbread or Sage? Oysters or dried fruit! The great debate indeed. I've decided to give my gal Grommie a nod this year. She has just learned she has celiac and is trying to make the necessary changes in her diet to eat gluten free. So this one's for you! Gluten Free stuffing from Shauna the gluten free girl.

Gravy. World over gravy seems harder to make than cold fusion. I have always found it easy, now jinxing myself for sure! A bit of pan dripping, a smattering of seasoned flour, wonderful broth, and voila! Gravy. For those of you needing further knowledge and skillz click here. The Rouxbe school has a great Thanksgiving meal planner. Step 14 gets you to the gravy segment. Watch the video and you'll have it down!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finally, Pear Butter

Pear Butter half pints
Pear butter, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, pears

Pear butter is as easy as Apple Butter, and when you make it like I did, it's even easier! You'll need a crock pot.

I looked for a recipe for Pear Butter after being at my favorite bread maker Con Pane. You see, Catherine has the most delicious Pear Butter that is served with fresh sliced bread as a snack. I had to try it and was smitten immediately. I bought three one ounce containers and headed home. Once they were gone, my love for Pear Butter had not been satisfied, and Con Pane is 80 miles away. What to do?

Look for a recipe, and make it myself. I chose to use a recipe I found at Coconut and Lime. It is simple and easy to do.

9 red or green Bartlett pears, sliced
1 cup pear cider
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon mace

I used nutmeg instead of mace. I did not use ginger. I added a vanilla bean to mine. And I used pumpkin pie spice from Penzeys instead of allspice.

So place all your ingredients in the crockpot with the heat setting on low:
Pear butter, pears sliced and ready to cook

After twelve hours, take the lid off. Cook for another twelve hours. The pears should be almost dry at this point, as the liquid has cooked down and you have the pears well cooked and ready to puree.
Pear butter ready to puree

Into the Cuisinart/ food processor of choice. Oh! Remember to remove the vanilla bean pod, as you don't want it pureed with everything else. Pulse the processor until the pears resemble a butter.

Pear butter, more puree needed Here you can see that it isn't quite smooth enough so go ahead and pulse a bit more.

Pear butter, pureed and ready to jar
Now we're talking. However, I must admit there was still quite a bit of juice and I did put mine through a sieve to remove most of it before putting it in the jars. Next time I make this recipe, I'm going to omit the Pear cider and see if it makes a marked difference. It's ready to put into jars. I did sterilize my jars, but did not heat seal the butter. I am going to keep it in the fridge until it's eaten up. Half pint jars don't last long around here!

Pear butter

The yield for 9 pears was 8 half pints. Not a bad yield at all. This was so simple, I think I am going to make these as gifts for neighbors during the holidays!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Rouxbe School

Months ago, possibly even a year ago I discovered Rouxbe. What is Rouxbe? An online cooking school. Not just any school and really good chef training school. Who should attend? Well, who doesn't want to hone their cooking skills? Why should I sign up? First off, everyone can learn or re-learn a long forgotten technique. In today's economic environment, it is an advantage to know how to take simple ingredients and make them fabulous! Where is the school? It's at your house! Rouxbe isn't some lame correspondence course that will take your money and you get nothing in return type of school though. They have video instruction, tests, reviews, drill downs and recipe submissions. They also have a great forum where you can get specific questions answered. How? Any time of the day or night at your convenience. Yes, this is your school.

I signed up before the school launched. It is the best money I thinkI've ever spent on the internet. Rouxbe is partnered with the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. No you are not going to get an online degree from Northwest. You are going to get the experience of their chefs and instruction through video and written formats.

The great news is that you can take it for a test drive and see if it really for you. Try it out for 30 days, if it works for you sign up. If not, you have not lost a thing, and gained a bit of free instruction. Me? I signed up for the lifetime membership and will enjoy this for a long, long time.

The knife skills suite is worth the price of admission!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Pear Butter

Over the weekend I made the best hostess gift ever. It was easy, and is so good, everyone will want to make it. But because the internet is giving all of us a trial during our fires, I can't post the recipe with pictures until later. Check back later today to see if things have changed. Hopefully it will be up before the day is out.

Type rest of the post here

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fern Oleta

I first met Fern when I was 17 years old. I had become smitten with her tall, lanky son. We had been dating just a short while when I was invited to dinner. I say dinner because that's what they called it. To me it was a feast. The table was filled with fresh vegetables, a big pot of chicken and dumplings, the requisite fresh onion, bread and butter, fresh sweet tea, and a pitcher of grape kool-aid.

Fern's husband was a farmer. He tilled the ground, and brought in fresh vegetables on a daily basis. Fern also worked full-time. She would come home at lunch every day and cook up a meal for munch and then return to work. She would then come home and fix an evening meal. Wow.

This was not something I had ever witnessed take place anywhere but my grandmother's house. It was part of Fern's life. Taking care of her family, working, and working hard. She did not work in a building, with air conditioning and desks, or a retail store (until later in her life), no Fern worked as a farm hand. She was born in Oklahoma, married at 14 and a half (mostly to escape raising her younger siblings) and moved to California with her husband in the mid-forties and began a life together that kept them working hard for nearly 50 years.

Fern began working in a potato shed. She cut potatoes for a living. Every day she stood for 9 hours in the same spot, cutting potatoes into pieces getting them ready to plant. After a few seasons of cutting potatoes, she added picking onions to the mix. While she was pregnant with her first son, she picked onions while 8 months pregnant. Then, when he was old enough he joined her in the fields harvests crops with his mom. Yes, very grapes of wrath here.

She moved on to the rose company where she spent days in the rose gardens budding roses. It amazed me that she spent so much time in the hot sun and still would go in at noon, cook, clean a bit and then return to the labor of the day only to come in at night and begin again. Her sons did not want for a thing. Between her and her husband they worked hard to provide for their family and put a roof over their heads.

That day I was invited to dinner, I was amazed at the meal presented. It was not for show, or to impress me, as I was only one girl her sons had brought home. I was welcomed and fed. The meal was delicious. I had never had anything so tasty in my life. Yes, I'd had frozen chicken and dumplings, gross representations of biscuits over cooked chicken, but never had anything I'd ever eaten before tasted so good. I was in heaven.

For years Fern tried to show me how to make a good pot of chicken and dumplings. You see I married her son. He liked them and so did I. Yet neither of us could replicate them! My daughters all ate them and loved them. Gramma Fern's dunklings were the best in the world! Finally someone had tried and was able to make them just like gramma's. The youngest one has finally mastered them and when she was here last weekend she a made a pot fo rall of us to enjoy.


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

Take one whole chicken and cover it with water to boil on low until fully cooked. I cooked mine for about 1 1/2 hours so it was really tender and made a good broth. Take the chicken out of the broth to cool. While cooling the chicken, combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl ad mix well. Next add the milk. Mix gently together. Allow the dough to rest for about 5 minutes to allow the gluten to start working. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into strips. Bring the broth to a boil. Drop strips into the boiling broth. They will swell up at first and then start to shrink as they dissolve and make the yummy gravy. Right after you drop the dumplings into the broth bone the chicken shredding it into bite size pieces. Drop into the pot. Let it cook for about 20 minutes. Serve.
Add the milk
Lightly mix with your hand

Cutting into strips
cooked dumplings
Ready to eat

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