Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cooking with Refrigerator Finds - May 23, 2012

It all started with this half jar of peanut butter left in our fridge.  My wonderful mother-in-law, Mary Ellen likes natural peanut butter which we had for some occasion and then forgot.  I love peanut butter, but I’m all about the high sugar very crunchy brands like Skippy and Jiff on sliced apples.  But, you can’t just throw away a half jar of good peanut butter.  Fortunately, it made a wonderful peanut sauce that I put on chopped cabbage with roasted peanuts sprinkled on top.

 Natalie’s Peanut Sauce

1 tsp. chopped ginger
2 finely chopped shallots
¼ c. plus 1 T. peanut butter (or more to taste – I like crunchy)
1/8 c. rice wine vinegar
1 ½ T. soy sauce
1 T. Szechuan sauce
3 T. honey (or more to taste especially with natural peanut butter)
up to ¼ c. sesame oil (or vegetable oil if you don’t have it)

Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Adjust to taste.  Pour over a head of chopped cabbage or noodles and garnish with chopped green onion and peanuts.

If that’s not your style, there is always the traditional peanut butter cookie!

Peanut Butter Cookies

½ c. sugar       
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. peanut butter
¼ c. shortening
¼ c. softened butter
1 egg
1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt

Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, butter and egg in a bowl.  Then stir in other ingredients, cover and refrigerate two hours.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten with a fork dipped in sugar creating a crisscross pattern.  Bake 9 – 10 minutes and cool 5 minutes.  For a great treat, sandwich a scoop of chocolate ice cream between two of these and roll the edge in chopped nuts or toffee.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Who Ever Heard of Left Over Beer? – May 13, 2012

 OK, I admit that most people don’t need to look for a way to use up beer.  I, however, never learned to drink it and my husband, John has pretty much become a wine only drinker as well.  So, when we have parties or friends come to visit, we often end up with unusual beers left for no one remembers how long in the back of the fridge.  This is especially the case at our property in Pendleton County where someone left a case of Corona last year. 

We went to Pendleton County this past weekend and my husband decided to take advantage of the great weather by bringing along his Dutch ovens.  Dutch oven cooking is a lost art that we discovered at an event at Locust Grove.  You cook food in the iron ovens over an open fire or charcoals with more of the heat source on the oven lid (see the lid with coals on top in the bread photo below).  My husband now has an 8 inch and 12 inch oven, so I decided to use a bottle of the beer and make bread in the smaller one.  Here is the recipe adapted from a website created by Phil Mahan:

Dutch Oven Beer Bread

3 c. self rising flour
3 T. sugar
1 T. onion flakes (I replaced with Penzey’s shallot salt)
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. dried garlic (or spice mix of choice)
1 12 oz. light beer

Mix all dry ingredients.  Add beer and mix together forming into ball working as little as possible.  Flatten into the bottom of a well greased Dutch oven, place lid on top and place on coals with twice as many on top.  It will be finished in 25-60 minutes based on the heat.  When done, it will be browned on top and make a “thunk” noise when hit on the bottom.

So, while I was making this, my husband used the larger Dutch oven to make Chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas that were fresh from our garden.  This recipe is delicious:

Chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas

½ c. white wine
½- ¾ tsp. Saffron
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. pepper
8-9 small chicken thighs
6 oz. sliced chorizo links
1 T. olive oil
1 ½. cup chopped onion (1 large)
4 minced garlic cloves
1 ½ cups long grain rice
2 c. chicken broth
14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes in their juice
¼ - ½ cup chopped roasted red pepper (kind in a jar is fine)
2 ½ cup sugar snap peas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees or place Dutch oven on coals and heat well.  Mix wine and Saffron in small bowl and set aside.  Combine spices and rub on chicken.  Saute chorizo to render fat and remove.  Add oil and chicken and cook 4 minutes on each side.  Pour off all but 1 T. oil and add onions.  Cook 5 minutes and add garlic for 1 minute more.  Add rice, stirring to coat and then add wine and scrape down anything from sides and bottom.  Add broth, tomatoes with juice and peppers.  Stir in chorizo.  Place chicken pieces on top, skin side up and cover well.  You can add aluminum foil if cooking indoors and your lid is not tight enough.  Bake 25 minutes.  Stir in peas, salt and pepper to taste and return lid to cook another 10 minutes or until everything is done.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Mulberries are Falling! - May 9, 2012

Once a year you can easily find a delicious treat falling from the trees.  I don’t have mulberry trees in my yard, but I have always been able to find them in public places near by.  I am a runner, so I usually know it’s time when I run through a purple splat on the sidewalk, but if you watch throughout the year in walks through local parks or around your neighborhood, you can identify mulberry trees and watch for their ripening.  This year the ripening is early (many years I gather mulberries around Fourth of July).  I was fortunate to find a couple of trees with low hanging branches in Seneca Park.  The low hanging branches are important if you are gathering in a public location.  In this case, you can lay down a sheet or plastic sheeting and shake the lower branches including those you can reach with a stick.  If you are lucky enough to have a tree in your own yard, you can lay the sheet under your tree and leave it there for the berries to fall.

When you bring the berries home, clean them and discard the unripe berries along with any leaves.  You will notice that each berry has a small green stem where it was attached to the tree.  I used to worry about this and spend time cutting each one off, but since then, I have discovered that these just cook away and no one will know they were there.

I only make one thing with mulberries.  It is a true sign of Spring for me.  It is mulberry crisp.  You can also make this recipe with rhubarb, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries.  I especially like a combination of rhubarb and strawberry.

Mulberry Crisp

1 c. plus 1 ½ T. flour
½ c. brown sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
12 T. butter
½ c. rolled oats
6 c. mulberries
1-2 c. sugar
1 T. corn starch
½ orange
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Cut in butter.  Add oats and mix until crumbly.  Put in fridge.

Toss mulberries with sugar and cornstarch.  Add ½ tsp. orange zest and juice from ½ orange along with vanilla.  Pour mulberry mixture into baking dish or several small ramekins.  Top with crumble mixture from fridge.  Cook in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 25 minutes if small or 45 minutes if one large one.  Serve with ice cream.

If this isn’t your thing, you can cook mulberries in just about any recipe where blackberries are used including muffins, pies, and jam.  Have fun and write back about your success.