Mom, Wife, Chef, Gardener, Dog Wrangler, Mom, Writer, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Mom, Creative Problem Solver, DIY Chick...figuring out life one day at a time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mom/Forager: mushroom mania

We are lucky enough to live in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest where mushrooms love to grow. Last year we had a good time hiking and foraging for mushrooms. Unfortunately this year, between the new baby and my husband's hours at work we haven't had any time for mushroom hunting. Plus, with it being October already and the frosts we've had, I was pretty sure we'd missed mushroom season this year.
Imagine our surprise when we were out walking our dogs the other day and my husband wandered off the trail and right into a patch of chanterelles! We picked all that we could find and brought them home. They were muddy but otherwise perfect.
chanterelles ready for drying.
I cleaned them up and most of them went on sheet trays and into the oven to be dried. After ten hours at 170 degrees (the lowest my oven goes) they are dried out and ready to be stored. A few of the mushrooms got set aside before drying and later on combined with some crimini I had in the fridge and made into my favorite mushroom application: stroganoff.
Stroganoff, to me, has always been about the mushrooms. That and the buttery egg noodles. Yum. I didn't have egg noodles this time, I used regular fettuccine, and I used some leftover pork instead of beef, but it still came out amazing. Here's how I make it.
Mushroom Stroganoff
Heat a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice half an onion and toss it into the pan. Let the onions start to caramelize, then throw in a lot of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, any type will do. Throw a big pinch of salt in on top of the mushrooms and let them start to cook down. After a few minutes add a clove of minced garlic. Once the mushrooms have cooked down and released their moisture, add a tablespoon of tomato paste, a heaping teaspoon of paprika and some fresh or dried dill and cook for a minute. Deglaze the pan with sherry or white wine, whatever you have lying around. Add a cup of water or stock and let come to a simmer. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste then stir in 1/4 cup of sour cream. Stir to incorporate, let sit over medium heat for a few minutes until the sour cream warms up and then serve over pasta or egg noodles. Yum! Cooked and thinly sliced beef or pork can be thrown in with the mushrooms.
Sorry I don't have pictures, the baby was fussy and I didn't take the time. But trust me, it's good stuff.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mom/Busy Bee: an apple, a pig and a squash walk into a bar...

Or maybe: an apple a day...
Oh well, the point of this post is (hopefully) the last big push of fall food preservation.
First off, three days ago was the much anticipated pig day. We are really lucky to have a friend in town who raises pigs and this is the second year in a row we've bought half a pig. Our half this year totaled 93 pounds of pork in various forms.
pig day!!!
We love doing this, it is so nice to actually know what you are eating and where it comes from. Plus, the pork is really good.
Second, I bought a case of apples at the farmer's market this weekend and we had to get them processed before they sat around too long. Luckily this was the weekend of Grandmothers (both my mother and husband's mother visited this weekend) so we had lots of help. Yesterday my mom and I made applesauce. The case of apples was a mix of three apples: Golden DDelicious, Jonathans, and Johnigolds. We took the Golden Delicious and cooked them down into sauce. They were pretty sweet on their own so I took half of the cooked down apples and pureed them then froze it in ice cube trays for baby food. The other half we left a little chunky and added some sugar and cinnamon for an applesauce that everyone will love.
Today my husband, his mom and I took care of the rest of the apples. We peeled, cored and sliced the apples then cooked them with cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg into apple pie filling.
Chunky apple sauce and apple pie filling
Now why half a case of apple pie filling, you ask? Well, blame it on Alton Brown. I LOVE Alton Brown, we're talking total geek girl crush. He had a pie episode where he put pie filling in tins and froze it into apple pie hockey pucks, then he took them out of the tins and put them in freezer bags and then when he needed to make a pie he had filling ready made. Pretty smart, right? So that's what we're doing.

apple pie filling getting chill.
 I ended up with six pies worth. Guess what family? I'll be bringing apple pie as my holiday food contribution this year!
My husband got creative and made us a pie for dessert tonight. But because he has to be all chef-y it's not a plain apple pie, it's a carmel apple pie.
Chef approved carmel apple pie
We have a few apples set aside for eating, because they are very good apples, and three Jonathans made it into dinner tonight, a lovely fall braised pork roast with apples and vegetables.
With my CSA box we have acquired a backlog of squash so a butternut squash, a small pumpkin and chunk of Hubbard got roasted today. I had originally intended for the pumpkin to get roasted and pureed by itself as pumpkin pie filling, but this pumpkin had way too much moisture in it, so all three types of squash got pureed together into what ended up as a very good squash puree. Not sure if it will be pie, but whatever it ends up as will be yummy.

Fall Braised Pork
1 2 to 3 pound pork roast, any tougher cut will do. (We used a picnic shoulder roast.) Salt and pepper the pork. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil into the hot pan and carefully place the pork in the pan. Brown on all sides then place pork in the slow cooker. Pour off the oil from the pan and hit the pan with a cup of apple cider. Scrape up any brown bits off the bottom of the pan and pour the liquid from the pan into the slow cooker. Add a bay leaf, several sprigs of fresh thyme and a few squirts of whole grain mustard. Add one more cup of apple cider and a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. On top of roast place a mixture of vegetables, I used celery, carrots, fennel, cabbage and apples. Cover and cook until pork is falling apart, about six hours on high.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mom/Fry Cook: Snack Attack!

So I'm hungry, the baby is soundly asleep and I find myself with actual time on my hands! Shocking, I know. And while there are several chores that need done, did I mention I'm hungry? I find leftover mashed potatoes in my fridge and leftover paneer from my saag adventures and suddenly a light bulb goes on in my head. No, not the refrigerator light, an idea light bulb. I remembered a recipe I had seen several months ago for an Indian style potato fritter and just like that my mind is made up. The recipe itself is easy and open to lots of interpretation.
Put leftover mashed potatoes in a bowl (I had about a cup and a half). Add paneer (roughly half a cup), crumbled and a spoonful of plain yogurt for moisture. Finely dice one jalapeno and add to the bowl, along with one tablespoon of curry powder and a little salt. Chop some cilantro and add in, and if the mixture is too moist add in a tablespoon or two of flour. The original recipe called for peas, sadly I had none.
potato fritter batter
Next, form the batter into golf ball sized balls and flatten slightly into pucks.
potato fritters ready for breading.
The fritters are now ready for a standard breading procedure. Flour, eggs, panko. I was out of eggs, which is shocking if you know me and my love of eggs, so instead I used some milk and plain yogurt that approximated the viscosity of eggs and seemed to work just fine.  Fry the fritters in a little oil until golden brown and crispy. I did a shallow pan fry, not a deep fry. I didn't have the amounts of oil lying around or the patience to clean up after a deep frying session.
crispy potato fritters ready for eating.
Drain on a paper towel and devour.
I made an easy dipping sauce of yogurt (again, I know) mayo, cilantro and lime juice, and salt of course. The original recipe called for chutney but that isn't something I keep around the house so I was fresh out.
They turned out yummy. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, just a little spice from the curry. Very addictive. I have eaten six and am putting the rest away before I hurt myself.
Snack attack definitely satisfied.

Mom/Gardener: a whole mess o' greens

So we have had our first frosts of the season and I'm trying to pull the last few things out of my garden, such as it was this year. With the birth of our first child this spring, it is understandable that we just didn't have time for a garden this year. What I did have was pots of herbs, peppers and tomatoes on the porch. Also some eggplants, but they never even got to flower, our growing season was so short this year. How short was it, you ask? So short that I got three whole cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes people, not big beefsteaks. I now have a window sill full of green tomatoes ranging from marble sized all the way up to golf ball sized. A few may ripen but I'm going to start looking for green tomato jam recipes.

green tomatoes
 I did manage to get some peppers this year. I grew jalapenos and tried out a new (for me) variety of bell pepper called 'King of the North' which is supposed to be good for cooler climates. We got a few bell peppers but they are small and a few jalapenos as well.
peppers picked but not pickled
I also brought in the last of the basil, which surprisingly did well this year. It is being made into pesto that will be frozen for use throughout the winter.

basil pre-picking. In back: Italian basil, purple basil, Thai basil. In front: lemon basil.
 That's it for my mini-garden this year. But the CSA box has turned out to be an amazing investment. I have had more than enough fresh, organic vegetables, enough to freeze some, and make baby food too. I ended up this week with two bunches of kale, a bunch of chard and a bunch of mustard greens and decided to make my favorite green concoction, saag paneer.
a whole mess o' greens
Saag panner has several steps but comes together pretty fast.

First bring a gallon of milk to 165 degrees, slowly and stirring it frequently. Once it is at temp, add 1/4 cup white vinegar and stir. It should start to curdle and separate.
curds and whey forming
Set curds aside off of heat for 10 minutes. Once the curds have set then dump curds into a cheesecloth lined colander in the sink. Allow the whey to drain off, then rinse the curds quickly under cold water. Let drain again, then fold the cheesecloth over the top of the curds and place a small plate and something heavy (like a can of soup) on top of the cheese. Let press for two hours or overnight.
Eventually you get this:
paneer done!
Okay, that was the hard part. Next, get a big mess o' greens and chop them up. (use the stems from the chard and mustard greens, discard the kale stems) Also chop up half an onion, two cloves garlic, and mince some fresh ginger if you have any, about 1 Tablespoons worth. If you have a jalapeno or other medium spicy chili then chop that up too.
Next, hit a large saute pan or skillet with some vegetable oil and toss in the onion, ginger, chili and chard stems. Hit with a teaspoon of salt and saute for five minutes, until everything is getting soft. Now come the spices: 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon turmeric and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Saute the spices for two minutes, or until they get nice and fragrant. Then add the garlic and all the greens. Stir these around until the greens just start to wilt then add 1/3 cup broth or water, your choice. Cover and simmer on low until the greens are all cooked down, it will take about twenty minutes.
Uncover and taste for salt, add more salt if needed and throw in another teaspoon of garam masala. Add the paneer, (which you have diced up right? I usually only throw in half a batch) and if you like it a little creamier you can now stir in 1/4 cup of plain yogurt.
Serve over rice, sometimes I add turmeric to the rice for a pretty color but you don't have to do that part.
Saag Paneer, yummy!
Enjoy the yummy, creamy, spicy goodness.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mom/Ant: More winter food projects

My poor husband just had three days off after three weeks of work. It was like a mini vacation. You would think he wouldn't even go into the kitchen after that much work, but being the food obsessed people we are, he very nicely decided to help me on some of my food projects during his time off. So yesterday we got down and dirty in the kitchen, (in a cooking way, not the even more fun way) and got several big projects out of the way.
Project 1: use the giant zucchini his mother gave us.
Okay, so this isn't getting me out of the innuendo hole I am digging myself, but really, all we did was shred it and make zucchini bread. Really! The zucchini yielded six cups of zucchini and so there is now 6 loaves of zucchini bread, one we are eating and five more wrapped tightly and in the deep freeze. Here are five of them:
The counter full of zucchini bread.
Project 2: Plums!
Our neighbor has a beautiful Italian Plum tree the sits on the border between our two properties. They don't like them or use them so last year they let us have half the tree. We were looking forward to them this year as well, only to go outside last week and find the tree already stripped. Someone else got to them first and I was devastated. Luckily we found a lovely vendor at the farmer's market who had cases of them for sale. We bought a case for very little money and then had a large case of plums to work with. This project had several parts.
Part one: baby food. I simmered a pan full of the fresh plums with a tiny bit of apply juice then pureed them through the food mill and put the puree in ice cube trays to freeze.
Part two: plum torte. This is my favorite way to use these. This torte is very like a coffee cake, and the plums sink to the bottom to form a jammy layer that is very delicious. (recipe at bottom of post)

Not the prettiest cake but so delicious.
Part three: freeze the rest. Nine gallon bags of washed and halved plums are now in the freezer. I am probably going to use some of them soon for jam. A friend promised me a recipe for a french vanilla plum jam that I am eager to try.

Project 3: Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Now I know this is usually a spring thing, but I found some beautiful strawberries on sale and we luckily have four very well established rhubarb plants growing in a corner of our yard. They were a very pleasant surprise the first spring we lived here. We had mowed the rhubarb down earlier in the summer when they had gotten too old and overgrown, but they came back and so I had a second crop of rhubarb to play with this year. I didn't get fancy, just used the basic recipe in the pectin box. It turned out delicious and I used half pint jars so it is perfect for gifting.

ten jars of ruby red jam.
It was a lot of work but it felt great to get all these projects done. I love putting stuff up for the winter.

Plum Torte
Total Time
1½ hours
11 Italian plums, halved and pitted 
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter, softened
cups sugar, divided
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2 eggs
tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. strained fresh lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and 1 cup sugar. Add flour, baking soda, salt, lemon zest and eggs; blend well.
  3. Spread batter over bottom of pan and arrange plums, cut sides up, on top. Mix remaining sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle over plums. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
  4. Bake for 1 hour or until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before running a knife around the cake and carefully removing the springform sides.
  5. Serve warm with whipped cream or at room temperature.