Lunch Lady

Working outside the home I have become a maser at the lunch pail. The company where I work has a terrible lunch room.   It is in the basement so it is windowless.   A windowless room is like not having any  break at all to me.   When my lunch hour comes I am out the door pronto, rain or shine.    I am ready for a break from the office building.  I am ready to see what the world is putting forth.   Since I make the choice to leave the building  I could either go broke attempting to eat good lunches or have terrible health eating crummy lunches.   Neither have any appeal to me, so I am working hard at preparing interesting lunches that pack well. My grocery shopping now takes portability in to consideration.  I have dug out my oldest Tupperware items to hold my lunchtime treasures, since they really are the perfect size, unlike anything else I have found.

This last week I fixed an old-fashion roast beef sandwich spread from left over beef roast.   It was a kind of throwback to two of my grandmas.   One of them introduced me to sandwich spread and the other grandma gave me the meat grinder I still use to this day.

 

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I am sure you can use your food processor instead of an old-fashion meat grinder, but for me it a connection to my grandmas.

For those of you unfamiliar with sandwich spread, you grind left over roast.   Then you add chopped onions, celery,hard-boiled eggs, and pickle relish.   Lastly you add store-bought mayo.   For my modern version I added some red bell pepper and my favorite salt-less seasonings.   I put it on bread with lettuce for my lunch, occasionally I add a slice of Muenster cheese for a little variety.   For those of you having heart failure about toting something with mayo in my lunch, today’s mayo has enough preservatives in it that with a frozen blue ice it can safely to to lunch in a sandwich.  I don’t live in fear on that one.

Each day at noon, I head out to my truck where my lunch box awaits me.   Some days I eat at a local park.   Some days when  it rains and I sit there in my truck with a book and my lunch and read at the local park as the rain runs down the windshield.   Many days I go to a friend who has business with big windows and sit in her classroom and eat my lunch and catch up with her and other folks who drop by.

It was hard at first, but now I am getting the hang of this.  I am constantly on the look out for new or old ideas that will  make for an interesting lunch.   I am open to it it all from sandwiches, to salads and everything else in between. Thousands of folks do this daily and now so do I.

Easter Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

Each year we spend Easter with friends, and my job is to bring rolls.   Over the years I have brought rolls from various recipes, when I stumbled in 2011 the one that has been declared the winner.    It is based on a recipe I got from the following cookbook: A Montana Table, Recipes from Chico Hot Springs Resort by Seabring Davis.

It is a favorite such that when these arrive the women chatting in the kitchen are known to eat these  a quarter and a half roll at time.   Often by the time the actual brunch time arrives there are only a couple of rolls left   These rolls are decant in every manner, but once a year it is OK to make a small indulgence in half a roll.  If you fall off the “good” eating wagon, make sure you had something rare, tasty and enjoyed it.   Make it worthy of no regrets.

My Buxton Caramel Rolls

Ingredients:
Rolls:
  • about 3 cups good white flour (I use Montana Wheat White), extra as needed
  •  1/4 plus two tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, general all purpose
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Crisco
  • 1 egg, room temperature
Filling:
  • 1/2 pound butter, soften/room temperature (no margarine)
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (it should hold its shape when taken out of the measuring cup
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon ( 1 teaspoon general all purpose cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon) this is a critical secret I am sharing.
Topping:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Instructions:

Melt the Crisco and butter in warm water (120 degrees).   When it is at 110 degrees add 1 tablespoon sugar and yeast.   Set aside about 5 minutes.   You want a layer of bubbles on the yeast mixture (you are making sure that the yeast is active).   Add the room temperature egg, mix well.   (Do not use a cold egg!)

Set aside about 1/2 cut of flour.   In large bowl mix all dry ingredients except that flour you held back.   Add yeast mixture and mix well.   Using your hand add remaining flour until the dough cleans the side of the bowl.  Do NOT add too much flour as it will make your rolls dry and tough.     Rub with oil, cover bowl with plastic wrap and towel.   Allow to double in size, about 45 minutes.

Here is the topping in the pan before I put the rolls on it.   This will turn into a caramel topping as the rolls cook in the oven.

Here is the topping in the pan before I put the rolls on it. This will turn into a caramel topping as the rolls cook in the oven.

 

While the rolls rise make the filling and topping. Mix filling ingredients until like a paste and set aside.  Mix topping ingredients with mix-master until it reaches the consistency of a frosting  or a cream that will hold its shape when the beaters are removed.  Pour into a 9 x 13 pan.

It is a paste of cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar ready to be rolled up in to the spiral of the rolls.

It is a paste of cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar ready to be rolled up in to the spiral of the rolls.

When the dough has risen, dump out onto a floured board.   Roll  out into a rectangle 18×10 (yes I use a ruler, because you don’t want it to get too thin)  Spread with filling.   Roll up.  Cut into 12 equal pieces.   Put pieces into the 9×13 pan.

Yes there is a ruler on the bread board.   Making sure that the rolls are of uniform size is critical for even cooking.

Yes there is a ruler on the bread board. Making sure that the rolls are of uniform size is critical for even cooking.

Spray with oil, cover with plastic wrap and towel.  Let rise until double in size about an hour.  (they should nearly be touching)   Bake in preheated oven at 350 about 30-45 minutes.  It is about 35 minutes for me in the convection oven.

It is important to cover the rolls with oil and plastic to keep the rolls soft and make rising easy.

It is important to cover the rolls with oil and plastic to keep the rolls soft and make rising easy.

 

When you remove from oven, immediately flip plan, scraping any sauce left in the pan over the rolls.   Allow to cool slightly and serve.

These are for me some of the absolutely best caramel cinnamon roll that I have ever made or ate.

These are for me some of the absolutely best caramel cinnamon roll that I have ever made or ate.

 

A New One – Mustard Greens

This weeks Bountiful Basket includes Mustard Greens.   It is another one of the those things I would never in a millon years throw in my shopping cart.   I am too stingy with my grocery dollar.   Now that sense of thriftiness has caused me to figure out ways to use it because it is not going to go directly too the chickens.

I have done some reading and it is suppose to one of those greens that is great for lowering/keeping cholesterol in check.  A good reason to at least figure out how to incorporate some of it into my diet for the next week.

Here are some ideas for using up or experimenting with mustard greens.

Salads  All greens chopped can be included in toss salad.  Some like the robust Tuscany Kale of my last basket need to be finely chopped but it worked out just great as a way to work more of it into my diet.  It keeps your salads from being too much of bland “traditional” salad greens

Mashed potatoes I will chop up a small handful of any greens and include them when cooking potatoes to mash.   When and how much I throw in the greens depends on how they cook up.   Some I chop fine and throw in at the last minute others can go in near the beginning.   Greens generally have a “strong” taste and I don’t want them to overpower my mash potatoes,  but they have turned out to be a perfect dish to incorporate some healthy green veggies into.  My family now almost expects there to be green flecks in mashers.

Here is one of my favorite ways to cook greens and I will be trying this with mustard greens this week.

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic cut in half
  • oil  depending on the style I going for I will use either an olive oil or bacon grease if I am going for that southern take on it all.
  • onions – chopped small
  • pepper, green, red, chili, jalapeno, Anaheim, your choice.  chopped
  • greens – your choice,   I prefer my destemed/deveined
  • Cheese – optional

Procedure

  1. Press the cut side of the garlic around the pan you intend to cook in.   You want to give the hint of garlic but not over power your dish.
  2. Add oil to thinly coat the bottom of your saute pan.
  3. Add onion and your choice of pepper.   Saute until the edges of the onion pieces start to become translucent
  4. Add greens and cook until wilted but not until them become a limp, soggy mess.
  5. Plate and top with cheese of your choice.   I usually pick a milder cheese to complement the peppers I have chosen.   Some ideas include:
    1. queso fresco to take the edge off of  the hotness of Jalapeno
    2. Parmesan  to give it more an Italian flair.
    3. Feta – use sparingly if your greens have a stronger flavor or it could be come a clash of two strong flavors gone wild
    4. Mozzarella – top with graded cheese and few fresh diced tomato

     

Cooking with Eggs – Quiche

9eggsIf you have laying hens you learn to cook many ways with eggs.   You accumulate a large collection of good ways to cook eggs.   Quiche is one the house favorites here.   It is something I often serve to guests, who seem to enjoy it.   This is the recipe I use.

1 cup shredded cheese.   (Swiss, sharp cheddar, gouda, use something good)

4 slices of bacon, or diced ham   (you want enough to sprinkle across the bottom of your tart or pie pan without making it solid covering)

1/4 c. sweet onion saute until clear in good olive oil.

3 eggs, beaten

1 c. half and half or whole milk , or mixture of them.

1 T Dijon Mustard (now I have told you my secret)

1 unbaked pie shell in a 9 pie or tart pan

Preheat oven to 375.  Toss together in a bowl the cheese, meat and onion, then spread the mixture across the bottom of your pastry.   Combine the eggs, milk and Dijon mustard, wisk until well mixed.   Pour over the cheese mixture.   Bake 25-30 minutes.   You can tell it is done when a knife inserted comes out clean.   Enjoy!

Salvation Army of Food

Sometimes I think of our house as the Salvation Army of food.   I say that because our friends seem to share not only their garden’s abundance they can’t use but those things that they get, they are not sure what to do with.   My close friends know that I grew up in a home where we ate lots of small game that have never ate.   They seem to think with this background that there is nothing that I can’t cook.

Case in p0int every year we can depend on  our friends who purchased a 4H hog to give us  pork hocks.   It seems to them that pork hocks are just unimaginable for use.  I on the other hand have no problems with hocks.   Unlike the hocks you would find in a grocery store these are large, wonderfully smoked and meaty.   We turn out the standard fare Senate navy bean soup and a Caribbean bean black bean soup that can’t be beat.  Sometimes there is enough good smoked pork to make scalloped potatoes on one of those hocks.

Two days ago our 4H hog buyer  gave us  pork neck bones.   This cut of meat is not something you find every day at your supermarket or local butcher shop. Even I was a little befuddled as to what one does with this.   I ended up cooking them all day in the crock pot.   Then I deboned the meat and made with a red lentil and yam soup.   It was pronounced a keeper by husband.     It was a North African recipe and had a bit of feel of a curry.   I served it the next day to a guest for lunch.   It was a nice the second time around.

Thanks to my mom who would cook anything my dad brought home.  Thanks to my granny who said eat one bite of it, you don’t yet know if you don’t like it fixed this way.   Thanks to my grandma who cooked Sunday night dinner every week with new recipes from your cookbook collection.   You made me the broad-minded, adventuresome cook I am today.