Kitchen Workhorse

We have a Sunbeam Power Plus stand mixmaster that we got 38 years ago when we got married. It was a big splurge at the time.  Both RangerSir and I enjoyed baking and so we used some of the wedding gift money and got a little crazy.

The Sunbeam has been the workhorse in our kitchen that has outlasted every other kitchen appliance we have owned.   I have occasionally looked at the current Kitchen Aid with some lust, but the price has always made me step back and wonder what could it do, that my trusty old workhorse could not do.   My Sunbeam probably has more metal gears and a more substantial motor than what is found in today’s stand mixers.

I recently used it to make a new dinner roll recipe.   I enjoy making bread by hand and have done so for years.  I decided with this new recipe, that I was going to try using my stand mixer as called for in the recipe.    The directions called for me to knead the dough using hooks/paddle for 20 minutes.   I wasn’t sure that the old girl could handle the length of time and the challenge of a yeast dough.  I marched forward and the old workhorse did not fail me.

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The recipe was for flaky dinner rolls with many layers of butter and dough.  They turned out nicely, though I must admit I missed the process of kneading my dough.  There is something sort of calming and peaceful about it.    Do you have an appliance in your kitchen that keeps on plugging along?

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Joy of Cooking

In 2017 it was reported that for the first time Americans spent more money eating out that at home.  I am not sure if that means they also eat more meals out or not since dining out can be more expensive.  Surveys report that we also eat more meals today somewhere other than at a dinner table than ever before, be it a plate on our lap in front of the TV, or on a breakfast bar reading our emails.  I get it because when I worked the corporate life we too ate out or picked up carry out often because it was easier than getting home late and making something to eat.  I enjoyed cooking but it was restricted to free time, mostly weekends that I tried to pack everything else into as well.   Now that I am retired I find myself discovering once again the joy of cooking.

 

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I love to use the chef’s knife and chop.   It is one of those things I find relaxing.

 

I am experimenting with new and old recipes.  I am pulling cards out of the recipe box my grandma wrote for me in her handwriting all those years ago. I am looking at my collection of cookbooks and browsing them for something new to make.   Of course, we can not exclude the recipe apps and Google.   Some of what I am cooking is Midwestern comfort food, some dishes reflect the different places we have lived, other meals are ethnic foods from around the world,  some dishes are healthy, other times what I make is just for special occasion splurging,  some are fully from scratch and sometimes it will be a store box or can that I doctor up.

I invite you along on this journey as I share some of what I make.  Sometimes it will be a recipe, other times just a photo of the dish, or the dinner table.   I hope you enjoy and are inspired.

 

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I like to measure out everything now, as a way to make sure I have all the ingredients before I start.   I did not do that before, but now I am not likely to drop everything and run to town to the grocery to get a missing ingredient so has become an important step

 

 

 

Cooking for the Love of It

I love to cook .   I recently saw a survey that said people now spend more on dining out than at the grocery.   It is something I have a hard time getting my head around.   I think it is so because I not only love to cook, I love to feed people.    To me cooking is part art, and part escape.  Definitely an expression of love.  When I cook I get to vicariously by making a meal go to other places and make things that I might never get a chance to taste otherwise.  Today I had a roast and a busy schedule full of work,so I wanted a recipe that I could crock pot this and turn it into something fun.   I went  online and sought out a  new recipe using the ingredients I have on hand.    I found a recipe that I truly wondered how it would turn out, time was running out and because I had everything I went with it.   My rule of thumb is the first time  on any recipe is by the book, so I did just that.   By lunch time   I  had decided that pie was in order  to go with my roast dinner and put together a cherry pie.

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My baking creation today, cherry pie.

Tonight when RangerSir got home he was greeted by the smells of our crock pot roast and his eyes feasted on a cherry pie worthy of Instagram.    I put a dinner feast  on the table worthy of the love for RangerSir.

Patience and the Pie Lady

I have been making pies for Thanksgiving for years.   When I used to host Thanksgiving I would make upwards of 10 pies that my guests could pick from not only for dinner, but to take home, or if they were staying for future meals over the weekend.    Now that I no longer host dinner, I have been bringing pie for years to dinner that RangerSir and I attend.

To some pie making would be chore, a challenge, or something that you pick up from the local store or bakery.   For me baking pie is a favorite creative pastime.   I would rather make pie than any other sweet or dessert.   My Grandma Virtue was known for the pies she made when worked at the county home years ago.   My Aunt Leola always had pie with awesome flaky crust when we stopped to visit her and Uncle Sherm after a pilgrimage to visit the folks in Illinois.   So though I can’t remember sitting with either of them to learn about pie making I think I come by this talent honestly.

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RangerSir rolls out his pie crust

This year I nearly cut the tip of my thumb off and ended up in the emergency room.   I have been since been told to keep it clean and dry, and to function without a thumb, until it heals up some.    This has kept me from all sorts of things including pie making.

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He has it right and is putting it in the pan.

RangerSir, who enjoys cooking/baking, stepped up to the plate telling me he would learn to make pies.    It took a great deal of self-control and patience to not cuff him along side the head, while telling him pie crust is an art, and not as easy as they make it in the cookbook.  How did I tell him that making pies was a quiet time I reflected on Thanksgivings of past, and who we had been with and who was now missing.  It was my time and my art.   Yet  I agreed to help him through the process to make our pies for Thanksgiving.

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Adding the cherry pie filling.

Now the test of patience was on not only for him who thought I should leave him to his own devices, but also for me to not get caught up in what I was missing out.  How do you explain to someone what the mixture looks like when cutting in the fat to the flour or how much water you add to the crust, when I know it is right by touch?   He was a bit of a saint when he begrudgingly stepped back when I said can I touch it so I could put my good hand in to feel the pastry for just a few seconds and pronounce it right, even if we had put in twice as much water as the recipe called for.  We made two pies last night and I thought my hair  would catch on fire from my brain cells scrambling as he rolled out the dough “all wrong”, but overnight the pastry fairies worked in his brain and he was doing it exactly as I wanted the next morning when we made the last pie. He was a bit miffed when I told him we were mixing up two pie recipes to make this year’s mandatory chocolate pie, but he went along without complaint.    Though to him making a three-layer chocolate pie was unnecessary, but when the sprinkles went on in the end, he was pleased with his results.   We worked together as I coached him on the art of lattice pie and that it really was necessary on a cherry pie.

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He is a darn good lattice top maker.

The pies are all done now.   They look absolutely perfect.  Though we have not tested them out the crust looks flaky and is perfectly brown.   It was a trial, but also a reflection on how we can work together and support one another.   I asked him if I could take pictures and blog about the pie making.    He agreed knowing that I would not share this with the world if I wasn’t thrilled with the end.   He had my back on pie making and I was his partner into new territory.

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Here they are the pies ready to take to Thanksgiving dinner.   

 

 

Crazy for Corned Beef

OK that title is a little crazy, because I would not say we are crazy for corned beef, but we do enjoy it at our house.    We live near Butte, Montana a town rich in Irish history.  According the 2010 US census it is the most Irish town in the country with over 23% of the people having Irish heritage, as opposed to Boston where just under 20% of the folks claim their Irish roots.    I could talk about the crazy St. Patrick’s Day traditions, but being the foodie I am I will skip over it all to the Irish-American dish corned beef.   I call it Irish-American because it did not come from Ireland, but became a staple of the Irish who immigrated to the USA.

I grew up eating corned beef and cabbage.  The beef my mother bought in the Midwest was that nasty stuff you bought in a sealed plastic bag with brine and pickling spices.   It was salty, fatty, and well-preserved in that cryopack bag.   Not much nice I can say about it except it was dinner and it filled our stomachs.    Here in Butte you will find that the local meat shop actually brines the brisket in their own recipe.   The brisket here is fresh and lean.  If you have never had an opportunity to eat fresh corned beef it is  a completely different animal than that thing from the plastic bag.

We bought our corned beef on Saturday and we could not wait until today to fix it.    We made the “traditional” dish of corned beef and cabbage on Sunday.   Our version is a bit of an updated recipe.   We highly recommend the cooking of your corned beef with Guinness, though in a pinch a good stout will work.    We have also learned that unless you like your veggies cooked to mush they should be cooked separately in some of the juices.  A favorite recipe for this can be found on the website Steamy Kitchen, and here is a link to the recipe we use.

Guinness Corned Beef with Cabbage

So after doing the corned beef and cabbage we had some leftovers that we made in to a chowder to go with the chilly rainy day we had today.   It was a new recipe for us Corned Beef and Cabbage Chowder from the website The Foodie Affair.   It was a flexible recipe that could be made with or without leftovers.   We opted for the leftover version using our potatoes and carrots along with the broth and corned beef from Sunday.   We added some fresh onion, celery, some more cabbage and beef stock along with the milk base.   I serious had some reservations but I can tell you this is going to be a new favorite with us.   Both RangerSir and I agreed it was well season and worth repeating, though not as often as we would like due to the scarcity of corned beef.

Corned beef and Cabbage Chowder

What did you cook for St.  Patrick’s Day?   Did you include corned beef in your day?   If so how did it turn out?    If it wasn’t so great, might I suggest you bookmark this page for next year.

Photo Challenge Day 3 – To Do List

This one was one I wanted to do but with a twist. I didn’t want it to be a chore list, or a list of all the things that needed to be crammed in to this month.   Instead I wanted it to be a list of the sweet treats that I would like to make.

I got lucky tonight and this is exactly as I took it.   No Photoshop help at all.

I got lucky tonight and this is exactly as I took it. No Photoshop help at all.

I am not sure how many of these I will actually get made this year, as I am back full-time for the this month and next.   It is the busiest time of the year for my employer and hence my free time gets pretty scarce.  With this list there is a starting place if I get some free time.

Menu Planning

I am one of those folks who does menu planning. I think like home cooking it is a bit of a lost art.  Menu planning is something that takes time and if changing things up bothers you can become a bit of an albatross around your neck; creating more stress when its purpose is just the opposite.   I do menu planning for one of several reasons.

First I don’t work in town and hence don’t grocery shop but once a week.    If I plan to serve interesting well-balanced meals that I need to have everything I might need in my pantry.  My pantry is well stocked with staples: flour, sugar, can goods and a freezer with beef, pork and lamb.    Perishables like milk, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and bread constantly need to be restocked along with what we have used up since our last time at the grocery store.   Shopping with a plan helps to ensure not only do I have what I need, but  I don’t end up throwing things out because  they have spoiled from lack of use.   It also helps keep us from going crazy buying things we really don’t need or are likely to use just because there is a sale.

Second I hate leftovers.   I can’t imagine eating the same thing two days in a row.    This for me means planning how to repurpose a meal so it is not the same.   I often cut my meat in to two or three pieces before I cook it.  If we have pork roast one night,  the leftover will be split and we will have pulled pork  or Cuban sandwiches then the next possibly chili verde.   It is highly likely one night a week will be smorgasbord of leftovers.   No matter how well I try I do end up with leftovers.   Usually it is a little of this and a little of that.  Sometimes it enough for another meal and that goes into the freezer for a future no cook night.   With my leftover tidbits, not enough of anything to make a meal, but when it is all served at the same time with a new veggie for fruit salad thrown in makes a nice meal.

Lastly we like to eat a wide range of foods and have an adventuresome palate.   We are always looking for a new recipe to try.   After work if we don’t know what we are going to make with the recipe handy , we have a tendency to fall back on the same old things.  Also Montana is not the place to come if you are looking for restaurants to sneak out to feed your need for serious ethnic cuisine fix.  Good authentic ethic foods is made in the home with ingredients you horde from online shopping or trips to the cities where there are ethic neighborhoods with grocery stores that stock what you need.     Montana is the place where beef is king, but don’t be surprised to be fed elk, antelope and lamb.   Our season are too short and growing many veggies that the rest the US sees as normal is hard here , as a result it is carnivore heaven.   Meat and potatoes is the main fare here.   We enjoy a good piece of meat, but it just doesn’t have to be roasted or broiled.   It can be wrapped in the spices of the world and served in ways that meat  is a piece of the total menu, not the over running piece of whole meal. Some nights we even do a meatless meal.

Menu planning is a Sunday evening chore for us.   RangerSir and I sit around and talk about what we are hungry for.   Possibly what one us has an urge to make.   Once that is decided the plan mode kicks in,  where we suggest what we might do with the other parts of the cut of meat if we make x or y.   We spend some time on our Kindles surfing the net for something that looks good and printing off recipes.   Once done we stack them in to make order, make notes about sides.   Look at the ingredients list and compare it to what we have on hand.   Monday night is shopping night, and we eat one of those frozen meals we have on hand.   The rest of the week we work our way through the printed out recipes, sometimes shuffling them base on time and preference.   Occasionally things really change up and the roast that was supposed to make three meals only makes two then we move in to full comfort food mode, making a simple soup, burgers or dinner salad with what we have on hand.

Menu planning isn’t for everyone or every family, but if you have thought you might want to try it, I hope you will give it a shot.   Like  every other kind of planner, customize it up and get it to work for you, not the other way around.