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    Monday
    Sep122011

    All In Good Flavor

    I grew up watching cooking shows.  I remember watching The Galloping Gourmet, Julia Child, Justin Wilson - The Cajun Cook, The Frugal Gourmet, and lots of others.  Then, there's Tony and All In Good Flavor!  I managed to record several episodes with my old VCR.  The quality of the recordings is pretty poor, compared to today's digital recordings, but I still like watching them.

    Here is part 1 of the "Mama Mia" show.  Tony's Mom makes cabbage casserole, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes and gravy.  Yum, yum!

     

     

    Here's the rest of the show where Mia gets into the action.

     

     

    Tuesday
    Aug232011

    Homemade Organic Blackberry Pie

    It's been blackberry picking time.  Usually I just freeze them in Ziplock freezer bags, but I do like to use them fresh when I have time.  I had the time yesterday to throw together a pie from scratch.  Since I grow my own berries out along the backyard fence, this is a frugal way to have some great eating.  The total cost of the ingredients was about $2.00 because I usually don't buy many name brand items. 

    I've spent over 30 years working in broadcasting and know first hand how the price of products can be stupid high because of all the advertising costs.  There are exceptions to buying store brands, of course, when needed for specific reasons.

    Here we go.  Making a pie crust only takes flour, shortening, salt, and water. 

            

     

    Measure 1 Cup of shortening and put it in the freezer.  It needs to be cold to make a flakey crust.

     

     

    Now mix together 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt.

     

     

    Get out the chilled shortening and cut it into the flour with a pastry cutter.  Cut until you have pea sized lumps in the dough.

     

     

     

    The trick to a tender pie crust is to not work with it any more than you have to.  Get a half cup of ice cold water and mix it into the flour.  Using cold shortening and cold water make the best crusts.  It was a warm day here as you can see by the melting butter on the saucer.

    Don't add all the water at once.  Depending on your measuring skills, whether you weigh your flour or use a measuring cup as I do, you may not need all the water.  Just mix it up until you have a soft dough.

     

     

    As soon as it holds together, stop messing with it.  Divide it into two blobs.  Put the blobs on plastic wrap.  Wrap them up and put them in the frig for 4 hours to overnight.

     

     

     

    Of course I didn't want this to be an all day or overnight affair, so I put my dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes while I went to check the mail, water the dogs, and have a beer.  (Oh great, my DSL bill went up $22 since last month...what the heck?  I'm going to have to call them about that!)

    OK, while the dough is chillin' like a villain, let's get the blackberries ready.  Put 4 cups of berries in our already dirty bowl (I love to cook, but hate to wash dishes).  Dump 1 1/4 cups of sugar (or Splenda), 1/4 cup flour, 2 Tablespoons of corn starch, and a dash of salt onto the berries.

     

     

     

    Mix it all up and then you are ready to roll out the dough.

     

     

    Spread some flour on the counter and rub some on your rolling pin.

     

     

    Roll out the dough so it will fill the pie pan.  Having extra dough hanging over the edges will be trimmed off.

     

     

     

    Now put the gooey berry mixture in the pan and trim off any overhanging crust.

     

     

    Roll out the top crust.

     

     

    Put the top crust on the pie, trim off the excess, and roll the edge of the top crust under the bottom crust edge.  Pinch the edges to seal in the juices.  Cut several slits in the top crust to let out steam as it bakes.  If you have a lot of dough trimmings, you can do what my Mom use to do.  Put them on a pan and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Bake the crusts for a snack while you are waiting for the pie to bake.  The crusts take about 15 minutes to bake.

     

     

    After cutting slits in the top crust you have a few options.  Put pats of butter on the crust.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Brush a little milk over the crust.  Brush with whipped egg whites.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Take your pick.  For this pie, I brushed a little milk on it, then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.  By using Splenda on the berries, the total added sugar was about 3/4 teaspoon (which will make my doctor happy...since I have Type ll diabetes).  Here it is, ready for the oven.

     

      

     

    I put the pie on an old pizza pan while it was baking just in case the juices escape during the baking.  It's easier to clean a pan than burned on pie goop out of the bottom of the oven.  Since I used a glass pie pan, I baked the pie for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees.  Just keep an eye on it, and take it out when it's golden brown.  In the meantime you can snack on some cinnamon sugar crusts.

     

     

     

    I didn't eat any of them since I put real sugar on them.  I let my son snack on them.  Here's the finished pie.  Some of the juices thought about escaping, but didn't make it over the barbed wire fence.  Still warm from the oven and smells so good!

     

        

     

    You need to let it cool for a while so it will set, otherwise it will be runny if it's too warm.  Exhibit A...the pie was still too hot and it caved in as I scooped out a piece, but still tastes good all the same.

     

      

     

    Jacob already had the Cool Whip out and got the first piece.

     

     

    Not much on presentation, I know.  But I wasn't making a TV commercial.  This was real life pie.  Don't let the idea of making a pie from scratch scare you.  It's so simple even little old ladies were making them before there was running water and electricity.  The best part is it's not filled with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup.  You can do it! 

    Tuesday
    Aug162011

    Grilled Chicken & Blackberry Cobbler

    Here's a post in GYSC spirit.  I used his skirt steak recipe and morphed it into a boneless, skinless, chicken breast recipe.  I have yard work to do before going to work later, so this will be more of a pictorial post, rather than instructional.  I'm sure it will be self explanatory.  Enjoy!

    First, pound out some chicken breasts.  I used a rolling pin instead of my sledge hammer.  I stuffed them with organic baby spinach and sharp cheddar cheese.  Rolled them up and held them together with skewers and toothpicks.  (Soak the skewers in water beforehand).  Then I drizzled them with Italian dressing.

     

     

    I put them on the grill and turned them every so often.  I misted them with water each time I turned them.

     

     

     

    They came out great.  Check out the homemade rolling pin a friend gave me last week.  He gave me a tote full of ice cube trays, kitchen containers, and this rolling pin was in the bottom.  I still need to ask him the history of it.  It has a separate wood insert down the length to either repair it or has something to do with how it was made.

     

     

     

     

    Since the meat didn't have any fat, it tended to be on the dry side, but was real good none the less.  It would have been perfect with some dipping sauce or maybe mashed potatoes & gravy so you could get a little gravy to moisten it up.

    I've been picking some blackberries this week.  I made some cobbler out of some of them.  I dug out an easy recipe that I got last year from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  She has THE best cooking site on the internet.  She is really a photographer amongst many other things, so the food pics are incredible!  You could spend months reading her recipes and stories of how she became an Oklahoma housewife of her Marlboro Man.  She now raises her kids on a huge cattle ranch, runs a bed and breakfast, and keeps up an awesome website.  I might add that she is a very talented writer and her site is fun to read.

    On with the cobbler...I used Ree's (The Pioneer Woman) recipe, except I used Splenda instead of sugar and I sprinkled some cinnamon on top, too.  Click on the link above for the recipe.  I had my wrinkled printout on the counter as I threw it together.

     

     

    Put the batter in a buttered pan.  I used a cast iron skillet, just as any good cornbread maker would do.

     

     

    Add the blackberries and sprinkle with sugar (or Splenda).

     

     

    Bake it for about an hour or until it is getting brown on top.

     

     

     

    Me and Jacob had it with "No Sugar Added" vanilla ice cream.  Milk or cream would be good, too.  It's really the best when it's still warm.  For leftovers, if there are any, I would recommend warming it up a little in the microwave.

    That's it for today!  Now to the yard work...

      

    Monday
    Aug082011

    Grilled Stuffed Skirt Steaks

    This is one of the tastiest things ever pulled off a grill!  GYSC at Economic Disconnect posted this recipe the other day and just looking at his pictures of it made my mouth water.  First I'll show you my Hillbilly way of doing it with stuff I had around the house, then I'll post a link to the right way...the GYSC way.  So don't go away yet!  This is so simple but gourmet quality.

    First, the ingredients.  Skirt steak, baby spinach, fresh mushrooms, cheese, and some spices.

         

     

     

    You could use a propane grill for this, a la Hank Hill, but for this I used lump charcoal and Hickory chunks.  I love the flavor of Hickory in my BBQ, so had to grab a bag at our local Wehner's Thriftway.

      

     

     Unwrap the steaks and lay out flat.  I just put plastic wrap on the counter.

     

     

    Next put some plastic wrap over the meat and pound out flat with a meat mallet.  Don't have a meat mallet?  No problem, Rachael Ray would use an 18" piece of 2X4.  Naw, that would be the girlie way.  Go out to the garage and grab your 10 lb sledge hammer and wash it off...it's not going to touch the meat anyway.  Be careful if you use a sledge hammer 'cause you can pound a hole right thru the meat!  How do I know?  I know.  Now that I think about it, the 8 lb sledge would have done just as good.

     

     

    Once the meat is flattened, or screaming "Uncle", in my case, load it up with the baby spinach.

     

     

    Next, I sliced up some mushrooms (or you can just buy pre sliced ones).

       

     

    Since I've already pounded my meat, I might as well cut the cheese, too! Instead of shredding the cheese, I took the easy way out and just cut it into pieces.  It's only going to melt anyway.

       

       

     Just keep piling everything on the steaks as you go.  So easy!

     

    Here's where I strayed a little bit from GYSC's recipe.  Why?  Because I think cooking is fun and I had some extra ingredients laying around.  I've been picking jalepenos from the garden, what would one hurt?  I sliced it up and sprinkled on top.  I had a half of red bell pepper in the frig, so chopped up a little of that.  I had a tiny tupperware with a few spoons of Curley's bar-b-que sauce, put that on, too.  And what would it hurt to sprinkle a little Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce on top?

     

     

    Now just roll them up like a burrito and tie them with string or twine.  OK, where's my string.  String, where are you?  I'll be damned if I'm going to the store for some string.  I lived here 13 years.  I KNOW I have some string.  Where the heck is all my string?  Oh my God, I've been hit by the string burglar!  What should I do?  What can I do?

    Ah, a 2 foot piece of cotton string in my shoe box full of tape and trinkets.  That will tie up one.  Think man, think.  Nothing.  Oh wait, what about the shoestrings hanging by the fire extinguisher.  I remember washing them and some New Balance running shoes.  After pulling them out of the washer, I threw the shoes away (they had been washed one too many times), but kept the washed strings.  There they are...they'll never lace another pair of shoes again.  Well, maybe a pair of baby shoes if I cut the lone surviving lace in half.

    Good.  Back to the kitchen to tie them suckers up!  I'm getting hungry...decided to sprinkle a little rib rub on them, too.

     

     

    Too bad there was a couple of sledge hammer holes in the meat, but they held together just fine on the grill.  I cooked some broccoli while the steaks were grilling.  I had a close call on the grill.  The coals were pretty hot and between going back and forth to the kitchen things started to flame up.  No time for picture taking!  They got some charring from the flames, which didn't hurt them any, but it wasn't my game plan.  If I'd been in the kitchen a couple of more minutes I would hate to think of what might have happened.  Flames were everywhere!

    The lesson is STAY WITH THE GRILL.  Either have somebody else make the broccoli or just skip it.  Here's the final product.  Absolutely delicious.

     

     

    All the goodies comes oozing out when you cut off a piece.  Yummy!  This is a piece for my son...he likes BBQ sauce on anything, but this steak didn't need any help.  GYSC made his smaller for individual servings, which I would recommend for presentation's sake, but the flavor was killer.

     

     

    Since I had good hot coals with hickory chunks going, I couldn't help but make some hickory burgers for later.  They were about 1/2 lb burgers when they started.

      

     

    They ended up being about 1/3 lb cooked and smelled so good with all that natural hickory smoke.

     

     

    Now head on over to GYSC's blog and see how these skirt steaks are suppose to be made!

     

    Sunday
    Aug072011

    Tomatoes for the winter

    Last Wednesday I was wishing I had a time machine.  I would have put these organic, red, little gems in it until the weekend.  But I didn't, so I had to get up early and do something with them before going to work.

    The quickest way to preserve them until winter was to freeze them.  There is more than one way to do this, but I'll show you how I did it.  It's very easy, just a little time consuming.  The time it takes is worth it to me for 3 reasons.  #1 - Nothing tastes better than homegrown tomatoes.  #2 - It's frugal and saves me money.  Organic produce can be rather expensive.  #3 - Come winter, and it's time to make a batch of chili, it will be convenient to grab a quart of tomatoes out of the freezer that are already peeled and quartered.

    First, put a pot of water on to boil.  I use my oldest most beat up pot. (Makes it still feel useful...good pot, come here boy, that a' boy, here's some water for you, now on the stove, good boy!)             

     

    Then get out all of your ice cubes and fill up the sink with water.  The more ice, the better.

    Round up your tomatoes.  I had some in the frig and some on the table.  Get 'em all together.

    I saved several of the biggest, best, ones for BLT's and salads.  Make sure to get all the stems off of them, too.

    Might as well multi-task.  Get out the bacon and fry up some for BLT's later.

        

    Once the water on the stove is boiling drop a few tomatoes in the water for a couple of minutes. This will cause the skins to crack and they will be easy to peel. I usually drop in 5 or 6 if they are small. The idea is to keep the water boiling. Most of my tomatoes had been in the frig, so they really dropped the temp of the water. In that case add fewer at a time and make sure the water is really boiling in between adding more.

    Once the skins crack, use some tongs and put them in the ice water.  Some tomatoes are stubborn and the skins won't crack.  DON'T cook them!  If the skins don't split after a while (3-4 minutes) take them out anyway.  This is the only "artistic" part of the process.  The amount of time will depend on the variety or type of tomato, whether they are room temperature or refrigerated, or whether you just picked them on a hot day and they are warm already.  Just go for it.  It will be fine.

      

    It would have been nice to have more ice.  The idea is to cool down the tomatoes quickly.  But that's all the ice I had on hand.  I'm not always known for my organization.  Maybe I should have been in Boy Scouts when I was younger.  I could have learned their motto of "Be Prepared".  (Is that even still their motto?  I don't know.)  Anyway, get all your tomatoes in the sink and keep turning the bacon!

       

    All that's left is to peel, core, cut out any bad spots, and cut them into chunks.  If they are really small, I leave them whole.  Medium ones get quartered.  Large ones get cut into chunks.  Do it however you like.  There's no right or wrong way to do it.  It kind of depends on what you will do with them later.  There will be a lot of juice, too, so try to divide it up as you fill the freezer bags.

            

    Just bag them up and plop them in the freezer.  Leave some room for them to expand as they freeze.

    I ended up with 8 quarts.  (The final picture was blurrier than this one so you'll just have to take my word for it!)  This winter when I make a batch of chili, I'll use 1 quart of tomatoes, 2 lbs of meat (ground beef or ground turkey), a bunch of chili powder, some chopped onion, chopped garlic, and chopped jalepenos if I want it spicey.  I also add 1 or 2 cans of beans (usually chili beans or kidney beans...sometimes black beans).  To make a big batch I just double everything.  It makes the cold, snowy winter nights in Kansas not seem so cold.