Tuesday, March 12, 2013

This Past Week at My House

Spring is just around the corner! I am so excited about that. However, winter wanted to make it's presence known this past week, but my town decided to fight. We received little more than a dusting of snow. However, we went to Charlottesville, Virginia for an overnight trip and that area received 9-12 inches of very heavy, wet snow. There were tree branches down all over, and utility companies were working hard to restore power to their customers. By the weekend it was melting fast in the 60 degree weather!

This past week I have worked on a place for a corner desk I bought a year ago. I haven't been able to find it a home where I will actually use it. This week I placed it in a corner of the living room.

This is the livingroom without the desk.

I put the recliner on the other side of the room, took away the sofa table, placed the desk where the recliner used to be, and added a picture above the table/lamp.

Here is a closer pic of the desk/chair and lamp.

I would like to add something to the wall beside the desk, and a few knick knacks on it. My plan is to mainly use the desk for my Bible studies.

I was in the market for a food processor. I have never owned one, except a 5 cup model that attaches to my mixer. On Macy's online store, I found this closeout model. It is an 11 cup Cuisinart, for only $89.99. I do love a great deal! Everyday I try to find some excuse to use it. It is so powerful, and more important, the learning curve to use this thing is very low. Perfect for me!

I have been using an online company: www.cutleryandmore.com to build my cookware collection. I have found some fantastic deals with this company. I usually get my items two/three days after I order, and they are always in excellent condition. They have a Deal of the Week, so I always check them out each Monday morning. If you go to Amazon.com and search for cookware, at the bottom of the page is an ad for Cutlery and More and if you click on that, you will save an additional 20% on your purchase.

I read that garlic should be stored in a cool, dark place in a container with holes. It needs to breathe.

I made the Pioneer's Woman "Green Bean Casserole" this past week. It is on page 218 in her cookbook.

Start with your green beans...

Pour on a rich sauce made with onions, garlic, bacon, pimentos, cream, cheese, chicken stock, butter, and seasonings.

Bake at 350 degrees till it's bubbling. This is in a whole other league from the cream of mushroom soup/french fried onions green bean casserole most of us are use to. I was not impressed with it as a leftover...just didn't look appetizing.

I made my own hoagie rolls this week. I calculated each one cost me 33 cents! (one looks more like a sub roll!)

Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thursday's - It's Thyme to Cook

This week I have watched Ina Garten's show, "The Barefoot Contessa" like a preschooler hooked on Dora the Explorer. Her show comes on three times a day, and I think she is amazing.

I have to admit I've developed a slight obsession with Ina Garten, but not in a weird way. I want her to teach me how to cook well. Growing up I watched Julia Child's show so I have a special affection for her, but Ina's style is much more approachable. She makes cooking look not only easy, but she gives me hope that I could pull off a great meal without my hair standing on end like Chef Anne Burrell's hair.

Both Ina Garten and Julia Child write about the importance of making your own stock. It's used in many of their recipes. According to Julia, you have white stock and brown stock. The difference is not the type of meat, but the roasting or braising of the meat, bones, and vegetables prior to the long simmering time (about 4 to 5 hours). These two techniques make the stock brown.

I've never made my own stock and really could not see a reason to, as store bought is so available and easy to use. However, once I made it, I could really tell the difference between the two. Store bought stock tastes like flavored, salted water. Homemade stock, that is made from fresh ingredients, adds so much depth of flavor to a dish. It's as easy as putting the bones/meat of poultry/beef/veal, any vegetables you'd like (root, such as turnips are not recommended), and an herb bouquet bundled in cheesecloth into a big stockpot. Season with salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover ingredients by about two inches.

Simmer together for 4 or so hours, skimming off any fat that comes to the surface. Strain out all the ingredients (best accomplished by pouring contents through a colander into another pot). When the liquid has cooled, strain it through cheesecloth into a clean pot. Pour into storage containers and refrigerate. The next morning skim off any fat that has collected on top, and freeze, if not using immediately. Lesson learned: Don't throw jellied stock down the drain. It's actually a good thing when it jells.

A cook's best secret ingredient...homemade stock!!

I had some leftover turkey and used my homemade stock to make individual turkey pot pies. These were a first for me. Ina Garten says if you can perfect a pot pie recipe, then you have a dish you can use with great variety, such as adding crab, lobster, vegetable, etc.

I made my filling with homemade stock, cream, onions, garlic, rutabagas, carrots, green beans, and a little cheese sprinkled on top.

The crust was made in the food processor: whole wheat flour, very cold butter, and ice water. Just mix salt and pepper, the flour/butter in the processor till the mixture is crumbly. Add ice water slowly, while processor is on, till a ball of dough forms. Wrap in plastic and chill for half an hour. Then roll out slightly larger than the pie pan being used and place on top of filling. Brush dough with egg wash, slash top to vent, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Lesson learned: wrap any leftover dough in plastic and freeze for next time. No need to throw away enough pastry dough to make an apron.

I actually didn't get to bake these until the next evening. I just covered with foil in the fridge. The next evening I baked at 350 degrees until the crust was golden and the filling was bubbling. So delicious!

This week I learned that homemade stock really makes a difference in the outcome of a dish. It adds a depth of flavor that cannot be achieved with packaged stock. I also learned to not be afraid to make my own pastry dough. I even used soft whole wheat flour, and it was still tender and flaky. Both of these cost less to make homemade than to buy, so you are saving money too!

Have fun cooking!