Food

Roasted Cranberry Sauce

One of Oregon's food exports is the cranberry, accounting for about 5% of the nationwide harvest. This year, we bought some local cranberries to make into cranberry sauce. My first time ever. Historically, it was Dad's job (which he relished a lot) to make the cranberry sauce. His was usually ground up with oranges, sugar and nuts. I always tried some, but never LOVED it. But when I saw Nick post a Roasted Cranberry Sauce recipe, I had to try it. Since I don't have any Triple Sec around, I modified it a bit, but it turned out great. I made it last night so it could mellow in the fridge overnight before the big day. And I daresay, this is the best cranberry sauce I have ever had. Sorry, Dad.

Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Candied Pecans (Adapted from Macheesmo, where it was pretty heavily adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe)
Makes about 3 Cups, easy to double or triple though.

Cranberries:

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (or 1/4 t. dried)
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh sage, minced (or 1/8 t. sage powder)

Sauce:

  • 1/8 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 Cup orange juice
  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 Cup currants (you could sub raisins, but chop them roughly so they aren’t so big)
  • Pinch of salt

Pecans:

  • 1 Cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 Cup sugar

Instructions:

  1. Mix cranberries, oil, 1 C. sugar, and herbs together in a bowl. Roast at 425°F for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.
  2. While cranberries are roasting, mix sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove cranberries from oven and add to the sauce pan. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. While simmering the sauce, mix the pecan ingredients and spread on a baking sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes at 425°F.
  5. Remove nuts from the oven and stir as they cool. Place cooled pecans in an airtight container.
  6. Chill sauce overnight in fridge. Serve heated or chilled, topped with pecans.

Spicy Mediterranean Chili

Recently I participated in a chili contest and this is the recipe that I came up with. I was feeling like making something different than your standard run-of-the-mill chili, so I went with a Mediterranean theme. I was hoping to win the hottest chili award, but I did not. But talking with the two others chefs at the contest who had the other two spiciest chilies, I think it was agreed on that mine was the spiciest. I think that some people just tried two chilies, and voted for the spiciest of those two or something. The one that won was not even remotely spicy. I think it was rigged. Anyway, I digress. I had it all made up and ready to go, but it was lacking a little depth in flavor, so I added a handful of Guittard dark chocolate. That did the trick. It turned it from a rosy red to a nice brown and gave it that je ne sais quoi I was hoping for. Chocolate and chilies are best of friends, right? My chili recipe from last year was not good enough to repeat, but this one most definitely is. If this isn't hot enough for you (on a scale of one to habenero, I give it a four), you can always add a habenero or even just some hot chili sauce.

Spicy Mediterranean Chili

Original recipe by Vernon Mauery

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 4 jalepeno peppers
  • 3 cherry bomb peppers
  • 3 sweet banana peppers
  • 2 large (or 3 medium) red bell peppers
  • 4 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 C. prepared garbanzo beans (~3/4 C. dry)
  • 2 C. prepared black beans (~3/4 C. dry)
  • 1.5 oz. dark chocolate (or bakers chocolate)
  • 1 lb. bone-in lamb shank
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • salt
  • water
  • olive oil

Directions

T-8 hours:
Rub salt on lamb shank and place in crockpot

T-4 hours:
Wash tomatoes and skin them. The easiest way to do this is to blanch them or roast them until the skins come off nicely. Dice them and add them to the crockpot.

Wash peppers and then roast them. The bigger peppers will take longer. Make sure that most of the pepper is charred or the skins will not come off easily. As they come off the grill (or broiler), place them in a covered container to continue to steam themselves. With protective gloves on, skin and core the peppers. You can keep or discard the seeds as desired. Dice the all the peppers except the bell peppers and add them to the crockpot.

Add about one cup of water to the grated carrots in a saute pan. Cover and simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Remove lid, add bell peppers and continue to cook until most of the water has evaporated. Pour mixture into a food processor and puree. Add puree to crockpot.

Add diced onion to the saute pan with about 1 T. olive oil. Saute for 4 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Add mixture to crockpot.

Add the prepared garbanzo beans, with their water to the crockpot. Discard the water from the black beans and rinse them before adding to the crockpot.

Add cumin, mustard. Add salt as needed (depending on the saltiness of the beans and how much salt was on the meat.)

T-1 hour:
Pull the meat out and coarsly shred it with two forks. Put meat and bone back into the crockpot.

Add chocolate and stir until melted and dispersed throughout. Adjust spices as desired.

Serving Suggestion:
Serve with pita bread, chopped green olives, and feta cheese.

Nouveau Baked Beans

When you think of baked beans, you usually mentally insert Boston at the front. These are not Boston Baked Beans. More like Chickpea Popcorn or something. They make a great, tasty, healthful snack.

Nouveau Baked Beans

  • 2 C. cooked garbanzo beans (~ 3/4 C. dry beans, prepared)
  • olive oil
  • seasonings

Coat the beans in olive oil and bake on a cookie sheet at 425°F for 15-17 minutes or until starting to brown. Take care, the beans hiss, spit, pop and jump while baking. You may want to stir them part way through. Remove beans from oven and toss with seasonings. Try salt and pepper, curry powder, cumin, or any other flavor you like. Eat as an appetizer or add to a salad. Mmmm.

Roasted Garbanzo Beans
Roasted Garbanzo Beans

The Caring Carnivore

Last night, Lauren and I watched Food, Inc. because it was the next thing in the queue. I had put it on the list quite some time ago, but had forgotten about it until it showed up in our mailbox. I know that half the point of the movie is to shock, shame, coerce, cajole, or otherwise convince you to save the planet and shun The Man. In this case, The Man is a few corporate agriculture giants that deliver the vast majority of the 'food' everyone in America eats. We are talking of companies like ConAgra, Monsanto, Tyson, etc.

Artisan Breads Every Day and Sourdough Pizza

Over this past year, I have been testing recipes for Peter Reinhart's new book, artisan breads every day. The goal of this book was to find a way to get the full flavor that delayed fermentation offers, but to make the preparation time shorter. Or something. I don't know, because with the delayed fermentation plan, you mix the dough and then bake the next day. Not a lot of involvement in the middle.

Praise for Heirloom Crops

Saving seeds
Saving seeds

In 2008 and 2009, we purchased seeds from Seed Savers and have been saving them. Last year, we saved some pea seeds (Green Arrow), some tomato seeds (Bloody Butcher) and some sweet pepper seeds (Tequila Sunrise). This year, we expanded the varieties and also saved some green bean seeds (Empress), and more tomato seeds (Siberian and Stupice). The King of the North sweet pepper seeds were not quite fully developed, but there are still some left in the package from this year's planting. The mini sunflower seeds were some volunteers in our garden, likely planted by our neighbor's trained squirrels. The sunflowers may or may not germinate next year, but I think the rest of the seeds will.

This year's growing season in Portland was longer than last year and much more productive. We ended up at the end of the season with a tub of tomatoes and peppers. We had several meals with fresh picked green beans. Since it was good for everything else, the peas were not happy. They died out a little too fast in the warm weather. I think it was the week of 100+°F that did them in. But we saved plenty of seed for next year. I think the King of the North peppers would have done better, but they were hit hard by a slug infestation early on. The slugs ate half the leaves on the plants, forcing them to spend energy on growing new leaves instead of peppers. But we did get some small ones by the end of the season. I think this year may have me giving up on leaf crops for a while. After two years of failure on the lettuce front, we tried swiss chard this year. It grew, but never got very big, so we didn't pick any. By the time we did pick it, it was very tough and a little bitter. Next year, I think we will focus more on the beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers. Oh. And the basil. That failed miserably too. I finally gave in and picked up some starts from the farmer's market.

Next year, I think we will start the tomatoes and peppers outside in a makeshift greenhouse so they can get more sunlight and yet not freeze at night. I learned that peppers need warm nights to grow and tomatoes need some chilly nights in order to not get too 'leggy' like ours did this year, growing in our house. We will see. I had quite a green thumb as a child, but I also had parents that knew their way around a garden to make sure I didn't kill things. On my own, the garden is much trickier. :)

Mary's Bread

This post is dedicated to my dear sister, Mary. She has five adorable, but picky-eater kids. She buys a bread that her kids would describe as manna. They eat it by the loaf at her house. When our family was at my parents house over Thanksgiving, I learned of this and was enlisted by Mom to help find a recipe that Mary could make on her own rather than buy.

Mary's Bread
Being the whole grains nut that I am, I could not condone a pure enriched flour recipe (which is what said manna contains). The ingredient listing was along these lines: enriched wheat flour, water, sugar, salt, yeast, potato flour. We tried to make something like that, but our first take tasted more like cotton than manna. I am pretty sure a bit of salt would have done wonders for it, but I think some whole grains could have added some more flavor too. The next thing we tried was the homemade buttermilk rolls recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill Potato Flour. But since that 24 oz. bag cost nearly $6, I thought we should try making it with mashed potatoes rather than potato flour. Sorry Bob. Anyway, the rolls tasted great. Lauren thought they tasted funny, but I thought they were fine. I am going to say any funny flavor was Mom's whole wheat or her powdered buttermilk.

Anyway, I used that recipe as a start for Mary's bread. It was oh so soft and very tasty. I figured this was as close to bread candy as you could get and still have whole grains in it. Anyway, I guess I have managed to sell my own brand well enough that my kids will eat anything that is labeled as "Daddy bread" and tell me it is delicious. This is the first step to making this bread. Talk it up. Let your kids know that Uncle Vernon slaved for days in a hot kitchen trying recipes to get the perfect one. You could even tell them that I baked a loaf to send you, but their cousins snarfed it up so fast that there was nothing left to send. Make them want the "Mommy bread". After you have them craving it, go ahead and bake it. There is no other smell like fresh baked bread. Even bread that tastes bad smells good in the oven. If it is something that your kids enjoy, you could have them help you bake it. This gives them a personal vested interest in the final product and should set a positive prejudice in their minds toward the bread. And if nothing else works, tell them it will make Uncle Vernon cry if they don't try it and like it.

Mmmm. Buh-licious bread!!

Pain a l'Ancienne

Pain a l'Ancienne

Finally a crust and crumb that I can brag about. This is a loaf that I started as part of a Toastmasters speech. The speech was about how to make the best pizza dough ever. Since for demonstration purposes, the pizza dough and the pain a l'ancienne dough are identical to start with, I figured nobody would notice. Really the only difference is that the pizza dough has slightly less water in it, which makes it less sticky to the point that you can handle it. The pain a l'ancienne dough is so sticky that you really don't want to touch it unless you are armed with copious amounts of flour.

Practically perfect chocolate chip cookies, my foot!

Our oven is slowly dying. When we bought the house, the inside glass panel on the oven door had one crack that extended from the top to the bottom of the pane. After I started baking bread, I wanted to get some steam action from the oven. One day, I accidentally dripped a single drop of water onto the open door. Sizzle, sizzle, POP! another crack was added to the pane which now has a triangular shard ready to pop right out if you pressed on it.

This is all in addition to the bad prognosis that the doctor oven gave us last time he visited. The igniter died and we had it replaced. We asked him how much a new window for the door would cost and he said it would not be worth it—just replace the oven. Oh, I almost forgot, when the house was still under the 'homeowner warranty', the oven went on the fritz and we had to have the front control panel replaced. The oven light still bugs out on us now and then, but hey, it's getting old.

Happy birthday to me!

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About a week before my birthday, Nicole and Nathan both came down with nasty head colds. I didn't need a crystal ball to figure out that this meant Lauren and I would likely be sick on my birthday. What we didn't count on was that Nicole and Nathan would still be sick as well. It turns out that by my birthday, my symptoms only included a sore throat in the morning, but Lauren was really not feeling so well. I can tell she loves me because she still cooked up a nice birthday dinner of roast chicken, homemade stuffing, broccoli, and a spice cake with cream cheese frosting for dessert. Mmmmm.

I have found my struan

About one week after I checked out Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book from the library, I decided to start my own wild yeast whole grain sourdough starter. I figured this was some easy business since people have been using wild yeast starters since the beginning of time. Oh, not so, my friends. My first try failed. I am going to point my finger at the vinegar bottle as the culprit. You see, I was trying to follow the 'Pineapple Juice Method' but I didn't have any unsweetened pineapple juice (or sweetened for that matter). The reason for adding the juice in the first place is to raise the acidity level of the mixture so the leuconostoc bacteria won't take over before the lactobacillus and wild yeast get a good start. I figured one acid was as good as the next and substituted a diluted acetic acid solution for the citric acid solution. After 10 days, all I had was a funny smelling slimy goop. I decided to start over. This time I used diluted lemon juice instead. After about 6 days I had definitely captured some wild yeast.

Best darn 100% whole wheat bread ever

I think the title says it all. After having read The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart, I really started making some tasty breads. I have tried the Pain a l'Anciene, the amazing Pizza Napoletana, Foccacia, Pugliese, Anadama bread, and Multi-grain Bread Extraordinaire. They were all very wonderful (and I plan on continuing to make them) but I was left feeling somewhat unfulfilled. For several reasons: I want to eat healthy, and too much white bread is not good for the body; I have more whole grains on hand than white flour and it would be nice to know how to make tastier breads with just the whole grains; people before G.A. Bockler survived without white flour, why can't I?

I found my answer when bumbling around on Amazon, looking for things to round out my wishlist. I was rating items so Amazon could give me better suggestions of things I might like (which it does a fairly poor job at), when I came across Peter Reinharts's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor. Wow! Does he ever deliver.