Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stir Fry Beef and Spinach with Noodles

Many years ago, in 1994,  I was a finalist in the National Beef Cookoff, sponsored by the Cattleman's Association...I will forever think of this time in my life whenever I hear this song

I didn't win, but I got an all expenses paid trip to Little Rock, Arkansas (visit summary: a lot of Bill and Hillary Clinton and TCBY Yogurt, which was founded there.  Not much else)  But I also got to know what I affectionately called "the beef people" pretty well.   I  did a lot of press with them,  because even though I didn't win, a hugely pregnant woman engineer fit right into their marketing plan and that is how I learned about this recipe.   The beauty of this recipe is that is as simple as spaghetti sauce from a jar, but yet it is not.   If you don't have sirloin tip steak available, just make it with hamburger.    It is really, really good.   And it can be "what's for dinner" on a Tuesday night, in 30 minutes. 

Alpha Delta Alpha Cookbook

In 2005, my sorority published a cookbook in honor of the 25th anniversary of it's founding at Michigan Tech.   I didn't know it had even existed until recently, and one of my sorority sisters mailed it to me so I could scan it in and share it.   So here it is!  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Coconut Cream Pie

Last Sunday was Easter, and it sure doesn't feel like Easter around here.  The weather is still very much winter.   It's 18 degrees out this morning, for example.   It's been snowing the past few days.  My daughter had to work, so she wasn't able to come for Easter dinner, and my son is at college, and my family was out of town, so I invited some friends over instead.    I have always loved coconut cream pie, but I realized I had never made one before in my life.   I recently picked up Zingerman's Bakehouse Cookbook and it's described as one of the first pies for spring. 

First of all, I tried their pastry crust recipe, which is an all butter affair.   I wasn't overly impressed,   it came out tougher than my typical shortening based crust, but I did learn a great tip in their  directions.   They suggest that when the crust is crumbly, stop adding water and turn the mixture onto the counter and push out sections of dough with the heal of your hand once....they call it "schmearing, and then fold it back on itself with a bench scraper.  Sure enough, this technique made the crust hold together! 

Otherwise, I did love how this pie came out. It's got both coconut milk and toasted coconut in it.   Here's my take on their recipe....

Coconut Cream Pie

1 9" single pie crust, blind baked
1 1/4 c. unsweetened flaked coconut  (had to buy at People's Food Coop, check health food stores)
3/4 c. granulated sugar (their recipe included an addition 2 T., don't bother.  Must have been a remainder from an industrial sized recipe)
1/4 c. corn starch (ditto,  theirs had an additional 1.5 t, not needed)
1/2 t. kosher salt  (their recipe called for sea salt)
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1 can coconut milk (the kind you use for Thai recipes, not pina coladas.  Their recipe called for 1 1/2 cups and since the can I had was slightly less than that, I wasn't willing to open another for a little bit more)
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 T. butter (I used salted, don't keep unsalted around)

For Whipped Cream Topping
1/2  pt. heavy cream  (original recipe called for 12 oz.....that would be way too much!)
2 t. vanilla (original recipe called for 1/2 vanilla bean seeds, I didn't bother)
2 T. granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 300 F.  Spread coconut onto a cookie sheet.   Toast in the oven for about 5-10 minutes, stirring a couple times, until golden brown.   In a medium saucepan, stir sugar, starch and salt.  Add the milks and the egg yolks, whisk to combine.  Cook the filling until it thickens and comes to a boil.   Continue to cook for 1 minute while stirring.    I was a little nervous because there was no temperature called out and I like to use a thermometer for this, but it was just fine. Reserve 1/4 c. coconut for topping.  Remove from heat and add remaining coconut, vanilla add butter and stir. Pour filling in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and let it cool for 30 minutes at room temperature

Stir mixture again and pour into cooled pie crust.   Cover with plastic wrap again and press into filling, refrigerate for 2 hours.  To make whipped cream, put ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer and using whisk attachment, beat on high until firm peaks form.   Top pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut.   Enjoy!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

DIY Beeswax Wraps

Every once in a while, I embark on a project that becomes an ordeal.   Like the time I made veal demi-glace from scratch which I realized was a colossal waste of time, especially after I lost it all when the power went out and my freezer thawed.   I just don't really need veal demi-glace that bad, and if I did, I can buy it right from Bob Sparrow at Sparrow's Meat Market himself.    Likewise, you can just buy these from me and save yourself lots of time and money.   I just posted this listing in my Etsy shop.  Here is my tale of how these came to be...

Many of my crafting ideas come to me when I have the day off from work, so last summer, while on vacation, I came across this blog post about DIY beeswax wraps and decided I wanted to make my own.  The ones you can buy locally are $18 for a set of 3, and I didn't want to spend that much, so I reckoned I could make them cheaper.   Plus, I had a long standing dream of making my own oil cloth someday....yes, I realize that is a strange dream....but I get weird ideas like this all the time.    So, instead of just spending $18, I decided to spend $24.63 to buy beeswax, jojoba oil and pine resin on Amazon.   I wasn't sure where I could get pine resin, but I know it is the stuff you put on your hands when you are bowling or playing baseball, so I bought a container.    Many months went by before I actually set out to make this craft.  I got down to it last weekend, and discovered a) I already had a bottle of jojoba oil in my craft room from some other craft I forgot to do and b) sports rosin doesn't melt.  Evidently there's more than just pine resin in sports rosin.     Off I head to the natural food store to try to buy some pine resin, because herbalists use it for salves and ointment.  I even tried the sporting goods store again, thinking perhaps they sell sticks of it for baseball bats.   Yes, but it is pine tar, and it is black.  That wasn't going to enter my friend Dave...

Everyone should have a friend like Dave.   I have known Dave since we were both college students at Michigan Tech, where we worked in the computer center together.  Dave is the kind of guy that when he gets curious about something, he goes and figures it out.  For example, here is how he figured out solar power.    So I figured Dave would know where to get some pine resin....and of course he did, because last year he decided to make some pine resin glue for his boots.  (and you thought I had strange dreams because I want to make my own oil cloth!)  He told me he had some left over that he harvested.   So, I set aside the day of crafting to meet Dave at the Corner Brewery in  Ypsi to pick up his stash of pine resin and have a few beers ($10).   Finally, I set out to melt the resin, and there was just too much stuff in it to make it work for wraps.   I needed PURE GRANULATED PINE RESIN.  Another $19.95  later on Amazon, and now I am ready to start!  Total cost of project is now up to $54.58. 

I followed the directions as written in the blog post, and started melting the pine resin in a double boiler.   It takes about 20 minutes, stirring regularly with a wooden skewer.  Pine resin sticks to everything.   Then, I added the beeswax, and the pine resin immediately solidified and the process had to start all over again!  What works better is to just mix the beeswax and resin together from the start.  There is no reason do it separately.   The blog post said that it would make 4 12"x12" wraps, but it didn't for me....maybe because my cloth was thicker, it only made 2.   

Here is the recipe:

DIY Beeswax Wraps
2 T. granulated pine resin  (18 g)
1/4 c. beeswax pellets
1 T. jojoba oil

Preheat oven to 225 F.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Heat resin and beeswax in double boiler until melted, about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.   Add oil and stir.   Paint on cloth until evenly covered.  The wax will solidify as you paint it on.   Place in oven until all wax is melted again, and then take it out of the oven and place other piece of fabric on the top and flip it over.  Use oven gloves, it will be hot!  Press down on new piece of fabric to soak up excess wax.   Remove original cloth and cool on clothes rack.  Repeat with second cloth using remaining wax, softening in oven to insure uniform waxing over surface.

After the resin and wax is melted, add the jojoba oil.  I forgot for one batch and had to throw them out.   They will be too stiff.  Also, don't forget to put the cap back on the jojoba oil or you can spill it all over the counter.   Luckily I had another bottle available ($5.99) .  My hands were real soft, except where the pine resin stuck to them.   Also, had to throw out my brand new Kitchen Aid plastic measuring spoons ($16.65) because pine resin really likes to stick to plastic, I have learned.   Instead, just weigh it out....2 T. is 18 grams of pine resin.  Since I had my scale out now, I noticed my kitchen looked like something out of Breaking Bad.....

Pine resin is flammable, fires love beeswax, and I am standing around my kitchen in my PJs.  How would I possibly explain this to the fire department if I needed to call 911?  Better be careful to keep the flame away from it all.     Hours later, my wraps are now cost of $77.82.  Thankfully, I realized that I should take off my wedding ring before resin attached itself to my diamond and I didn't pour anything down  the sink which would have required a plumber, or these wraps could have cost much more.  I did have to throw away the paintbrush after ($7.00) so the total cost is now $84.22!!!  Good thing I didn't spend the $18 originally!   The good news is now I am selling the wraps for $8 on my Etsy store, so you don't have to make them.   Also, now that I have a lifetime supply of pine resin, I guess it is time to start making pine resin salve

Happy Crafting!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Buffalo Chicken Salad

A few weeks ago, I was shopping at Arbor Farms, a local grocery store here in Ann Arbor, and I was impressed with a couple salads in their deli.   I posted my take on one of them last month, Olympic Salad, and then I experimented with another one I saw there inspired by buffalo wings.   I love buffalo wings!    I knew I'd have to try my hand at making this salad. 

First, I needed to make some cooked chicken.   I often make some chicken breasts this way on a Sunday and use them whenever I need chicken in a meal.  I put them individually in bags in the freezer and so I can take out however many I need for whatever I am making.   They are great in sandwiches or with salad or in a casserole.     

Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 T dried rosemary
2 T dried parsley
1 T kosher salt
1 c lemon juice
3 T olive oil

Butterfly the chicken breasts by cutting them in half to make 2 pieces.  This helps the chicken cook evenly without drying out.   In a ziplock bag, add remaining ingredients, mix well.   Add chicken and make sure it is coated evenly,  marinate for a few hours or overnight in the fridge.   Turn the bag every once in a while. 

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Lay the chicken breasts on a cookie sheet, and pour remaining marinade over the top of chicken.  Roast for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Buffalo Chicken Salad
(serves 2)

2 lemon herb roasted chicken breast halves, sliced into strips
1/2 red pepper, seeded cut into 1 inch strips
1/2 red onion, sliced pole to pole
1 stalk celery, cut on the bias
1 peeled carrot, also cut on the bias
1 oz. blue cheese crumbles

Mix ingredients together in a bowl. 

Buffalo Dressing

4 T light mayonnaise (you can use regular as well)
2 T Franks Red Hot sauce (or more if you like it spicy)
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place all the ingredients in a small jar and shake until blended.

Add dressing to salad and mix well. 

It came out wonderful!  The sturdy vegetables held up well so I could make it ahead for work week lunches.  Added bonus:  even with the cheese,  a serving of it is only 3 WW points, if you are counting points. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Olympic Salad

Here it is, almost the end of the month of February, and I am just making it across the finish line for my goal of a monthly blog post.   I have been busy with a lot of travel and haven't had the chance to spend as much time as I would like in the kitchen.   I finally had the opportunity to try to recreate a salad I saw in the deli case at Arbor Farms Market,  a local health food store.   I'm not sure if it called "Olympic" because of the colors of the salad or the Greek inspired ingredients, but it came out totally delicious.    And if I make it with fat free feta cheese, it is 0 WW points per serving!   I'm cooking lunch for our upcoming Growing In God day of renewal at church for women, and it is my plan to offer a variety of prepared salads, including this one!   It's a keeper....

Olympic Salad
(serves 2)

1/2 hot house cucumber, peeled, quartered and sliced
1/2 container cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 T chopped parsley
1/2 c. Greek olives from olive bar, with garlic halved  (reserve brine)
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
4 oz. feta cheese, diced
juice from one lemon

Mix all salad ingredients together, add brine and lemon juice and toss until coated. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Red Lentil Soup

Will a lentil soup change your life?   I think this one will...

I knew it was a winner when I made it late on a Sunday after a pre-Christmas dinner at my sister in law's house where we all ate way too much pizza and fudge and peanut butter kiss cookies and we needed a little something later in the evening.   I whipped up a batch and my "meat and potatoes" twenty something son proclaimed it "really good" and ate the rest of it.   It takes 30 minutes to make!  Next test was the vegetarian friend Patty who said that not only was it the best lentil soup she ever tasted, it was in the top 5 soups she ever had.   Those are some pretty wonderful compliments, especially coming from a soup that doesn't take all that long to make. 

I started with a recipe from America's Test Kitchen, which looked good, but had some pain in the a$$ things about it, like spiced butter.   I didn't have time for that.    Why not just put those spices in the soup?  Here is how I've made it.....3x now and I can see I will keep on making it for a long while.   For the vegetarians, just substitute the chicken broth for vegetable.    So good!

Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped fine
Salt and pepper
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
10 ½ ounces (1 ½ cups) red lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus extra for seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, and lentils and bring to simmer. Simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft and about half are broken down, about 15 minutes.

Whisk soup vigorously until it is coarsely pureed, about 30 seconds. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and extra lemon juice to taste.

Ladle soup into individual bowls, sprinkle with  paprika and cilantro, and serve.