Completely off topic

For those of you who know us we own a bengal/tabby cross cat. She’s adorable and a complete monster. She destroys all plastic, TP and paper towels in her domain and has a total need to tip over every cup in the house. Despite all of this we love her. So here’s an updated pic of Mystique Queen of the Universe.

Beef and Bean Falafel

Like a lot of people my sweet husband and I are trying really hard to reign in our weight a little. It’s not like we have an amorphous blob thing going on, but we both have a few pounds we’d like to say goodbye to. As part of this we’ve been looking for dishes where we can work a little more fiber into our diets without giving up flavors that we love. Last night a combination of hunting around for something new I could do with beans and a left over hamburger patty lead me to a falafel which I’m happy to share. Though to be technical falafel is usually a vegetarian dish a patty made of mushed chickpeas and deep fried, ours is based on small red beans and a little bit of beef and pan fried. I loved the result. Falafel is often served in a pita with cucumber sauce. We had lovely cucumbers from our last Bountiful Basket, so made the cucumber sauce and then served sauce, falafel and some nice tomatoes and greens wrap style in a warm whole wheat tortilla. It was killer. I’d definitely make this one again, and it features Ultra Gel since that was a great way to keep the patty together during cooking!

We were anxious to eat so I forgot pictures last night, but I’ll take some of the leftovers a little later and toss them up here.:)

Beef and Red Bean Falafel

1/4 lb ground beef

15 ounces small red beans

1/2 cup cheese (I used Montery Jack)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tablespoons chopped green onion (About one good stalk)

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 egg

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and take for a whirl until the beans are smushed and all herbs and spices well mixed. Form into six oblong patties. Pan fry in olive oil, about 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked all the way through.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

8 ounce plain yogurt – greek style is best

1 medium cucumber seeded and diced

juice of one medium lemon

1/2 small red or white onion

1/2 tsp ground cumin

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel

Everything goes in the food processor until well mixed. How smooth it is is upto you. I like mine a little chunky so tend to use little pulses versus just turning on the machine and letting it go. Serve with falafel or other savory dishes. Cover and refrigerate to store.

Yummy!

Jana

(Cross posted over at Cornabys)

Bountiful Baskets Co-op

Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op

I’ve been interested in the idea of food co-ops for some time. For those who aren’t aware the idea of a food co-op is a bunch of people who purchase food products together so they can buy in bulk and share the reduced cost. So it’s a good way to get inexpensive produce, but even more importantly they buy from local growers and the produce travels no further than your direct region. I’m a big fan of eating as local as possible both because I like supporting local growers and, even more importantly, because the food tastes better! I don’t think it’s the case with some things, for instance I have no idea where my baking powder is produced and I don’t think being shipped hurts it, but when it comes to fruits and veggies I like to start in the back yard and work my way out.

All of that is a long introduction to my experience this last weekend with the Bountiful Baskets co-op which serves Utah, Arizona, Texas, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada and Washington. The system is pretty easy. They list what’s available where and collect donations on Monday and Tuesday of any given week. Then on Saturday of that week you show up at your location with a big box and collect your produce. The basic basket can be organic or non organic and is half fruit and half veggies. Then there are additional add ons like bales of carrots, breads or other weekly specials. I found the whole thing simple and for my $25 donation (prices are $15 for non organic and $25 for organic) I got a grundle of stuff:

cherry tomatoes
strawberries
oranges
apples
pineapple
2 heads lettuce
celery
2 bunch radishes
2 cucumbers
fennel
broccoli
5 pounds of garnet yams

And I’m likely missing more. My basket runneth over and everything has been so yummy. I’m pretty sure we’re going to try again next week. Maybe this time we’ll add bread to the list and dump strawberry mango jam on it.:)

Here’s contact information if you want to give it a whirl:

Bountiful Baskets Webpage
– For ordering and seeing what’s available week to week.
Bountiful Baskets Facebook page – They have some fun recipes here.

Jana Brown (Cross posted to Cornabys)

Chicken Chili

I know we vanished for a while, but things got all busy like.  We have lots of posts to share from our time in Disney, so watch for those coming soon.  Today, though, I’m sharing a simpler recipe.  It’s been rainy and cold in Utah, which has kept me thinking soups, stews and chilis.  One of the best chili recipes I have is for a chicken chili which we made last night.   I like this chili because it’s way easy, very fast and has a lot of flexibility to it.

Chicken Chili

1 small red onion, diced

1 lb cooked and cubed chicken

1 pint salsa (pick your heat)

15 ounces canned northern beans

15 ounces canned other beans (black, red, kidney all work well)

1 cup cheese (pepper jack if you want even more kick. I like colby)

In a large sauce pan combine a small amount of olive oil and the red onion.  Cook until onion is tender.  Add chicken and salsa and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Drain beans and add beans and cheese to chicken mixture.  Warm through 5-8 minutes.  If needed add a splash of milk or a spoon of Ultra Gel to get to desired consistency.  Serve warm.  This goes well with a nice sourdough or wheat bread.  Heat level on this chili can rang from very mild to fry your tastebuds depending on the salsa and the cheese.  For a richer chili you can also chop up some thick sliced bacon and cook it with the onions.  Yummy!

Jana

Dry Aging Proof

So, a while back a great experiment was attempted in our house.  The Great Dry Aging Experiment.   As we reported then this was a great success.  The part I left out of that though was that it was only the start of what I really wanted to do.

You see, I had my heart set on cooking a great big standing rib roast, but there was no way I was going to do my first dry aging attempt on such an expensive piece of meat.  So after that point I asked my sweetheart to keep her eyes open for sales on the cut of meat that I wanted. 

In February comes the pseudo-holiday of Valentine’s Day.  The way Valentine’s Day is treated in our house deserves a whole post of its own – but it’s not really food related so I’ll skip that bit here and you’ll just have to bug us if you don’t know the story already.   But the other side effect of Valentine’s Day is that expensive roasts like a standing rib go on sale.

A standing rib roast is basically a big old piece of prime rib with the rib bones still attached.  You can have the butcher remove the bones for a cheaper price per pound – but you will lose the flavoring of cooking with them and the ability to keep them for later.  We got a four rib roast for about $45.

An easy way to measure how much to buy, is to plan on each rib feeding two adults.  Now that we had the rib it was time to prepare the dry aging.  This was done just like before, the meat was unwrapped, rinsed, gently dried and then stored on a rack on a cookie sheet in the outside fridge covered with paper towels.  I changed the towels once each day and just let it sit for four days.

Dry aging works like this.  When meat is fresh it’s very tender but not too long after its butchered the muscle fibers begin to contract causing the beef to become tougher.  Fortunately, there are enzymes in the meat that can be stimulated to increase the tenderness and dry aging is a good way to do that.  In addition the dry aging, in my opinion, strengthens the essential taste of the meat making for a better flavor. 

If you dry age for a long time you will probably have to trim off the outer layers that may have dried to much, or even started to grow a slight mold.  This is a normal process of dry aging and not harmful to the meat, just not good to eat.  But since we generally only give it four days or so we cook with the whole roast.

The best way to cook after dry aging is very slowly.  I wanted to cook it at 200 degrees until it reached about 120 degrees in the center of the meat, let it rest on the counter until the internal temperature went up to about 130 degrees and then blast it for 15 minutes at 500 degrees to form a nice outer crust. 

Fully cooked roast before carving

Fully cooked roast before carving

However, I _WAY_ under estimated the amount of time it would take to cook at the low temperatures.  After two hours in the oven I realized that I was never going to make dinner time at this speed so I cranked the oven up to 350 to finish the main cooking.  Once I got the temperatures I wanted I rested the meat and did the crust like I wanted to.

Next time I’d start cooking way earlier since the slow cooking will also improve the tenderness of the final product, but I don’t think any of the people at that dinner would complain about the final product.  The roast was delicious and the pictures I’ve left around should prove that to you. 

Ribs removed and full roast revealed.

Serving was easy, cut the ribs off, then slice the roast and serve.  The ribs can be for later.  As in, for me, for later.  And they were.  I have to say the ribs were delicious all by themselves the next day for lunch. 

Sliced and on the serving plate. Delicious!

All in all, this is the final proof for me of the dry aging experiment.  Anytime I have a good piece of beef and the time to do it I’m going to dry age it to improve the flavor and tenderness of the finished dish.

Chunk ‘o meat

by bunny

OK so the Superbowl was last weekend, and the Superbowl is nothing if not an excuse to eat unhealthy food.  The Golds Gym ads during the show are proof positive of that attitude if you don’t believe me. 

For me and my house we decided to cast free from the diet for a day and make finger foods to munch during the game.  Our menu was hot wings, egg rolls, baby back ribs, chips and dip, cookies, jelly bellys, and a token nod to health, baby carrots.

Most of the stuff was either made by friends who were attending our party or purchased at the store, but the one thing that we really put effort into making for the party were the ribs.  

I had done ribs before so I knew what I was getting into but we did try something different this time.  The basic plan for the ribs is 1)  add a dry rub to the meat and refrigerate for a day or two, 2) add a braising liquid to the meat and cook slowly for 3 hours, 3) remove and reduce the braising liquid until it’s thick enough to add back to the meat as a glaze, 4) carmelize the glaze under a broiler or on the grill until ready to eat, 5)  eat as many as you can stand.

The dry rub I used this time though, was a different recipe than I had tried before and I’m not very happy with it.  It’s a rub I had actually made a week before for some steaks.  It was wonderful on the steaks but far to peppery for the ribs, especially when served with hot wings. 

The rub consisted of: 

3 Tbl Paprika 
2 Tbl black pepper corns, ground
3 Tbl salt (I used kosher salt)
3 Tbl garlic powder 
2 Tbl onion powder 
2 Tbl whole coriander, ground
2 Tbl dill weed
2 tsp. Cayenne pepper

It was wonderful on steak.  I recommend it.   Next time I make ribs though, I’m going back to Alton Browns dry rub recipe.  It has a much sweeter flavor and works with the pork instead of fighting it like I felt this peppery mix did. 

His recipe is:

8 Tbl light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 Tbl salt (come on, it’s Alton Brown, of course it’s kosher)
1 Tbl chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp jalapeno seasoning
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp rubbed thyme
1/2 tsp onion powder

Once the ribs had braised and been glazed they looked like this:

Pre Cut

 And after they had been cut and put into a bright green bowl they looked like this:

Yummy!

The Great Dry Aging Experiment

by Bunny                          

 Have you ever been to a restaurant where they list how long they have dry aged their steaks?  I’ve seen that before and always wondered what they really meant, and why the heck they would bother.  Still after a little research and watching a Good Eats episode where they did it I felt like giving it a shot myself. 

The first thing you do when you dry age your meat is get a good piece to start with.  We picked up a nice boneless roast from the grocery store.  I was hoping for a standing rib roast, but that will have to be another time.  The next thing you do is unwrap the darn thing and put it on the drying rack.  This is a cookie sheet with paper towels on it and a cooling rack over that.  This keeps the meat out of any moisture.  Then you loosely cover it with another towel and put the whole thing in the fridge.

Yup, I thought it was crazy too.  It made no sense to me at all.  My whole life I’ve been told to cover the food before storing it and be especially careful with raw meat.  But this just goes right into the fridge.  You can further cover the meat if your fridge is crowded and you are worried about cross contamination – but we have an outside fridge with enough room for things like this from time to time so I just left it covered with the towels.

You should change the towel on the meat every day.  The whole point of this exercise is to remove all the surface moisture from the meat.  We dry aged our roast for about four days.  Every time I went to change the towels I would get more and more nervous thinking that I had ruined a perfectly good piece of meat.  It was looking shriveled and was picking up a stronger aroma as the days went by.  The aroma wasn’t bad at all – just a stronger meaty smell than I am used to when I open up a package of meat.

Finally, the day came when I was going to cook it.  I chose to go with the low temperature method.  After rubbing the now scary looking roast with oil I coated it with kosher salt (sticks to the meat better because it is full of flat sided crystals) and fresh ground black pepper.  This went into a Pyrex dish and was covered with a tent of heavy duty aluminum foil.  The oven was set at 200 degrees F and I just walked away for a while.

About three hours later, I put in a probe thermometer to test the meat, the temperature at the middle of the roast was around 118 degrees F and the roast had changed from a scary dry looking thing into a lovely plump looking dish.  The baking dish had collected the runoff from the roast and the house smelled heavenly. 

I pulled the roast from the oven and wrapped it in the heavy duty foil I had used as a cover before.  This kept it cooking.  Since I had the thermometer in already I just left it in and watched the temperature rise slowly over the next twenty minutes until it stabilized at around 140 degrees F.  Meanwhile, I scrapped up the leftovers from the baking dish and added some water and cooking Marcella.  This I set to boil on the stove top in a small sauce pan to make a topping for the dinner.  I also cranked the oven temperature up to 500 degrees F.

Once the sauce was almost reduced by half I decided it was way to strong and so I dropped the heat and added some cream to smooth out the taste.  At the same time the meat went back (unwrapped now) into the hot oven for another 10 minutes.  This was to create a crust on the outside to give a texture contrast to the meat. 

Once it came back out was the moment of truth.  Would this method work and would it be any good?  Well after slicing into the roast I was delighted to see a beautiful pink and red center with a wonderful crusty edge.  A quick snitch told the rest of the story.  

Wonderful looking roast.

Dry aging the meat had increased the, well, the meatiness of the flavor.  Instead of a good roast, I had a really good roast with a stronger flavor than usual.  The cooking methods left the insides moist and tender while the outside toothy and ever so slightly crisp.  It was a great roast.

The final plating is presented below.  We combined steamed green beans with a baked sweet potato (note that this is a real sweet potato and not a yam) for a balanced and delicious meal. 

The final plating. YUM!

All in all I have to highly recommend dry aging for that special dish you have coming up when you have time to prepare for it.  The major drawback is knowing that I would want a roast in 4 days, but when you do know that it is well worth the extra effort.

Olive Garden Review

Place: Olive Garden

Location: State Street and Main, American Fork, Utah

Time: Lunch

Kitty Paws=-12…scratch, bite, hiss, meow.

Kitty’s Comments:

For some of the rest of the US today is a holiday, but I’m one of the working slubs who is still slubbing.  It’s actually okay as I have plenty to do and would really rather have time off when the weather is nice enough to go out and enjoy the sunshine.  Anyway, my sister called and invited me to join several siblings and my mother for lunch at the local Olive Garden.  I had doubts as I’ve had some iffy experiences with Olive Garden before, but I went with it.

The place was packed and busy, but they got us in pretty quickly.  In total we had 7 adults and 8 kids under the age of 9.  Once seated we apparently disappeared off of the radar.  We sat and sat waiting for our waitress to show up.  Eventually she did and got the orders for drinks, mostly water, and again…disappearing act.  Remember there are 8 hungry small children and 7 hungry adults including one expectant sister-in-law.  Finally one sister tracked our waitress down and suggested, mostly nicely, that having the drinks, salad and breadsticks at our table just might keep WWIII from breaking out in the back corner.  Another 10-15 minutes later and the waitress followed up on the suggestion.  The breadsticks were fine, they’re always fairly okay and I like the garlic butter on them, though at least two of the baskets we got had over cooked breadsticks in them.  If only I’d know this was going to be a theme.

For my actual meal I decided I’d had enough carbs in the breadsticks I’d consumed and went for the Venician Apricot Chicken, advertised as a grilled chicken breast in an apricot citrus sauce with broccoli, Asparagus and grilled tomatoes.  It sounded really good, but what I got was a rewarmed grilled chicken breast in an apricot/citrus sauce which was too sweet and had a bitter aftertaste on a plate of over cooked vegetables.  The tomatoes were mush, the asparagus crunched in a horrid over cooked way and the broccoli was screaming for mercy.  The basic Olive Garden salad was the best part of the meal and that’s saying something.

Asking around the best meal was apparently the cheese ravioli and the soups were declared as a little above adequate.

Check time followed and again we waited and waited and waited for the checks, then we waited and waited and waited for them to be run and to get our card/change back.  If this is the typical service it’s not a wonder there are lines, because the people in their seats can’t get out without it being a 2 hour ordeal.  When you’re here, you’re family indeed…

Add to that finding that my Mother’s van had a dead battery which had to be jumped in the parking lot and I’m pretty sure to be more dissatisfied with my experience something or someone would have had to catch on fire!  (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but sheesh.)

I won’t be going back and I hope they choke on my mandatory gratituty.

Kitty

Will The Real Stand Mixer Please Stand Up

by Bunny 

Like we mentioned before, a few weeks ago our KitchenAid stand mixer bit the dust.  It was making an ugly noise and the mixer would keep sticking.  Sounds like a stripped gear right?  Well that’s what I thought too.  After opening up the case and peeking inside our fears were confirmed.  There were metal shavings everywhere inside the gear housing and one of the gears was seriously deformed.  Crap.  I had to get my paws all gooky to make bread because of that gear.  We use this thing all the time so it’s loss was a big blow to our kitchen productions.  Besides a new 6 quart mixer is pretty darn expensive.  

However, the good news is that in opening up the mixer and locating the gears I realized that this is a project that I might be able to do.  After a bit of Google-fu I was able to locate a parts list for our older model and identify that the worm follower gear was the one that looked shredded up.  Figuring that if that one gear was messed up I ought to replace it, and the two gears it was touching and see if that did the trick.  The parts list yielded up part numbers for the worm follower gear, the worm gear, and the bevel gear.    

Next came a bit of EBay-fu (ah,who am I kidding, I just clicked the Buy It Now! button on the auctions) and the gears were paid for and on the way to my house.  Last night when I got home a little box was waiting for me with my brand new replacement gears.  Now came the fun part.    

Tools required:    

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver (the thinner the better this is going to be a pry tool)
  • Needle nose pliers
  • LOTS and LOTS of paper towels (this is a _messy_ job)

   

Here is how it goes.  First remove the screw from the back of the label band on the mixer and set it and the band aside.  Then remove the four case screws from the mixer and gently remove the top of the casing.  This exposes the motor, the drive shaft, the control electronics and the gear housing.   The gear housing is held down with four screws as well.  Remove them and gently lift up the gear housing to reveal all the fiddly gear bits inside.     

The worm gear is the easiest part to remove, so just lift it out of the casing taking care to keep the two brackets on either side of the worm gear shaft from falling off.  Set that out on a towel somewhere because if you don’t you’ll have to clean whatever you put it on.  The grease inside here is a food grade machine grease and it is really sticky goopy stuff.  Probably be awful to try and get out of clothes and takes some effort just to get off your hands.    

Next the bevel gear and the worm follower gear.  First you have to remove a locking clip from the top of the bevel gear.  I had to pry it gently up with a screwdriver before I could even get a grip on it.  Then I put the pliers beneath it on either side of the shaft and gently wiggled it up until I could grip it and slide it off the top.  This brought a whole mess of the grease with it too.  I put the clip aside and started on the bevel gear.    

This also took the pry and wiggle approach to get it to slide off the shaft.  At this point I should probably emphasize to be careful doing this.  It does take a bit of force to slide the gear up.  I have to recommend that you don’t do what I did and launch the gear right off the top of the shaft high into the air above your head and then stand there frozen waiting for it to land.  I was afraid to look up to see where it was in case it wanted to land in my face.     

Once I had located the bevel gear, cleaned up the grease spots on the floor and put the gear aside I looked at the worm follower gear.   This gear is held in place with a little pin driven through the shaft.  It was easy to pull out and set next to the locking clip.  Once the pin was out the worm follower gear slid easily up the shaft and off into my hands.  All the gears are below with both the old and the new gears.  From upper-left to lower-right they are:  the bevel gear, the worm follower gear, and the worm gear.    

Old and new gears placed side by side

  

The hard part was now over.  I was able to clean out most of the icky metal shavings from the gear housing and reverse the process above to slide the gears back into place.  The reassembled gears looked like this.    

I was able to do a low speed test just by holding the worm gear in place and it all meshed nicely and turned the way it was supposed to.  I replaced the housing and the case and tried it again, but this time stepping all the way up to full speed.  The gears just purred and every thing looks great.  Of course, the proof will be in seeing how well it works when we put a bread dough or something stiff in the mixer to work with.  And of course, how long it will take before any more repairs are needed.   However, at this point the $47 expense verses the cost of a new 6 quart mixer looks to be a really good trade off.  

   

  

Our Catfish Experiment

Camera shipped yesterday, so hopefully that means we can start attaching more consistent pictures in the nearby future.

Anyway, just a few blocks away from our house is a lovely Fresh Market grocery store.  It used to be an Albertsons, but recently switched and I have to admit I like the switch.  I was a dedicated Maceys girl when I lived in Orem, but moving further north has stranded me firmly between the two closest Maceys stores and neither of them is particularly close.  Fresh Market is an Associated Food Store chain and the quality of what you can get has gone steadily up.  In particular I’m fond of the deli and the butcher at this store and I make sure to swing by both every time I shop.

Over the weekend this swinging by found me going home with two pounds of catfish nuggets, which is to say raw pieces of unbreaded fillet.  They were two bucks a pound and we’re working on getting more fish into our diet.

For cooking methods I mashed up a combination of things some of which worked and some of which not.  We braise Salmon often, so I thought to use this method on the catfish by spicing it and making a tinfoil packet of it and tossing it in the oven.  The idea was fine, but after 30 minutes at 450 degrees it still wasn’t done and I was HUNGRY.  So we pan fried for an additional five minutes and the combination turned out nicely.  We served up the fish with an asparagus and tomato side and some nice rye wheat rolls.  Bunny liked making a fish sandwich the best and said it made him feel like he was in the South, so I think we managed pretty well.

If I did this again I’d decrease the amount of fish I cooked at once, I did all of it because it’d been in the fridge too long to freeze.

Spice Mix

1/4 cup melted butter

1 – 1 1/4 cups olive oil

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary

1/2 tsp tarragon

Mix to combine.  Brush on fish before baking or before and during pan frying.  Cook fish through until lightly flaky.  Will easily cover 2-2.5 pounds of small fish fillets or pieces.

Kitty

« Older entries
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.