It’s Apple Time

Wow. I just came back from the Farmers Market and the apple harvest is definitely in full swing. Reminds me of climbing Mr. Huntley’s tree when I was a kid and getting first pick of anything I was brave enough to reach for.

But that also reminds me of another tree I just HAD to climb, got to the very top of and then froze in panic and couldn’t climb down. I am not sure how long I was in that tree before my father found me (actually probably heard me) and talked me down, but at the time it felt like light years. And to make matters worse the best trees were always in someone else’s yard. So when one did get stuck it required a decibel level approaching a storm warning siren before help arrived. Well needless to say I found other past times on the ground.

But back to apples. There are so many varieties to choose from. We eat a lot fresh from the store, preferably chilled in the refrigerator. I do have a favorite easy quick recipe I will share with you if you want a dessert.

It begins with one of my old friends “puff pastry”. I truly don’t know what I would do without puff pastry and phyllo dough. They both are miracle ingredients in the kitchen. If you haven’t used puff pastry before you will find it in the freezer section of your market. There are usually two sheets in a box. Thaw one in the bag it comes in and return the other to the freezer.

When it is pliable enough to unfold without breaking, lay it out on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Gently roll it with a floured rolling pin just to cover any crease marks. Sprinkle with a mix of cinnamon and sugar mixed together. Using your fingers roll an edge all the way around the pie crust. With a fork or a pastry docker prick the dough all over the surface.

Peel and core 6 or 7 of your favorite crisp apple. Slice into thin slices and place into water that has lemon juice squeezed into it. Meanwhile, crush 2 cups of Italian style almond cookies.
Drain the apples and pat them dry. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar according to the tartness of the apples. Loosely pile the apples in the tart shell, sprinkle with almond cookie crumbs and dot with 4 Tbsp. butter pinched into small pieces. Place in preheated 375 degree oven about 30-40 minutes or until apples are soft and puff pastry is cooked on the bottom and edges are brown. If you have a pizza stone preheat it and bake you apple creation on it. They work beautifully and the crust will be flaky and golden brown.
A large dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream will top this off perfectly.

It’s a simply recipe but it works and it showcases falls great apple harvest.

PART 3 COOKING AHEAD FOR BUSY DAYS

Hope your holiday was enjoyable. The weather finally decided to cooperate and let us out of the house towards the end of the three days. It was so hot at first it was just not “outside” weather as far as I was concerned. But finally we got some rain and it cooled down and turned into a beautiful last two days. Very nice.

I hope you had time to look at your menu planning. Here are the last few recipes for the menu I suggested for to you:

TORTILLA CRUSTED FISH
Serves 4

2 #        Alaskan Halibut , boneless, skinless
2           Eggs, beaten with 2 tbsp. water
1           Cup all-purpose flour
4           Cups tortilla chips, crushed in a plastic bag

Cut the Halibut (or other firm white fish) into strips. Lightly dust each strip in the flour. Spank off any excess flour. Then dip in the egg mixture. Then dip in the tortilla chip crumbs. Lay the fish strips on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until frozen.
Once frozen, package, layering with clean parchment paper between each layer of fish in a container. Top with plastic wrap, and a lid or foil. Label and freeze.
To prepare: Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. May also be fried in a skillet coated with vegetable oil. about the same amount of time.

BROCCOLI, RICE AND CHEESE CASSEROLE
SERVES 4

3 1/4             Tbsp. White or yellow onion, minced
3/8                Cup butter, melted
8                    Ounces frozen broccoli, broken apart enough to mix
3/4                Cup Minute rice, not cooked
8 5/8             Can Cream of celery soup, condensed
4                    Tbsp water
1/4                Cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4                Cup Condensed milk

Blend ingredients together, add to container.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Either add lid or foil.  Label.  Baking instructions- Bake at 350 degrees appx. 45 minutes, until bubbly and rice is cooked.

CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO AND BASIL
CREAM SAUCE
SERVES 4

1            Tbsp. olive oil
1            Red bell pepper, diced
2            Cloves garlic, minced
1            Tbsp. flour
1            Pint Half and Half, warm
1            Cup basil, fresh, minced
4            Tbsp. Sun-dried tomatoes, drained, minced
1            Tsp. salt and pepper
1/2        Tbsp. Roux (see below)
12          Jumbo Pasta Shells, cooked, drained
2            Cups Ricotta cheese
4            Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1/4        Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1            Egg, beaten

Cook the shells in salted water 2/3 the required amount of time, drain and set aside on parchment paper.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the diced red pepper, and cook until the pepper is tender.  Add the garlic, then stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in the heated half and half, 1/2 cup of the basl, the sun-dried tomatoes, half the salt and pepper.  Cook and whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens and comes to a simmer.  Add the roux and continue to simmer gently for 5 minutes longer.

Mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, half the Parmesan, the remaining basil, egg, remaining salt and pepper.  Fill the shells with this mixture.

Place the filled shells in your container, pour the sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.  Cover with plastic wrap, foil or lid.  Label and freeze.  Reheating instructions – Remove plastic cover, re-cover with foil, and bake in preheated 350 degree oven about 30 – 40 minutes, until hot and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

ROUX
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour

Heat butter over medium high heat. Add flour all at once whisking vigorously. When mixture thins and starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and whisk slowly.  Cook until you smell a toasty aroma then cook 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.Roux can be used immediately to thicken a liquid that is at or below room temperature. To thicken a hot liquid, allow roux to cool to room temperature, or refrigerate.Tightly wrapped, roux can be refrigerated for up to a month. Simply break off pieces and use as needed.(Adapted from FoodTV.com)

 

BREADSTICKS
SERVES 4

1        Package oven ready pre-baked breadsticks 8 or more to
             a package
1        Package of pre-cooked bacon, with at least as many slices as
you have breadsticks.
2        Cups brown sugar, or as needed

Spread brown sugar out onto a piece of parchment paper. Microwave the bacon wrapped in a paper towel on low for 30 seconds just until soft.  After letting the bacon cool enough that it won’t melt the brown sugar,  press one side of the bacon into the brown sugar.   Wrap the bacon in a spiral fashion stretching it end on the bottom side of the bread sticks.
Secure with a toothpick if necessary.  Wrap, cool and freeze.  Place in plastic bag, label.  To prepare, unwrap, place on baking rack in preheated 375 degree oven, and cook for about 20 minutes, until bacon crisps up, but doesn’t burn.  Let cool a few minutes, then serve.  (May add 1 tsp.of chili powder to the brown sugar if desired.)

Variations:  Add 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 package breadsticks.  Mix softened butter and cheese, then brush each breadstick.  Wrap and proceed as directed on breadstick package.  You may also use a baguette, cutting it horizontally, and spread the butter,cheese mixture over both halves and place the halves buttered sides together; then slice diagonally into 4 pieces.  Wrap each piece in plastic wrap, then foil and place in a ziplock bag.  Label and place in freezer.  Cook as instructed above after opening each of the four pieces and placing on a baking sheet.

BREAKFAST TORTILLAS
12 tortillas

1 1/2           #Breakfast sausage, such as Hillshire Farms, bulk package type
12                16 inch flour tortillas
1                  # Frozen hash browns, shredded type
3                  Tbsp. Olive Oil
12                Eggs, large, beaten with 6 Tbsp. water
12                Ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
Optional–
4                  Ounces your favorite salsa
8                  Ounces canned green chilies, diced, chopped,drained

Fry the sausage in a large skillet.  Remove to large bowl.  Add the oil and potatoes and fry until any moisture from potatoes is gone.  If using salsa and green chilies, add them to the potatoes.  Remove to bowl with sausage.
Scramble the eggs in a separate skillet to keep them light and fluffy.  Set aside to cool.
Briefly warm the tortillas in the microwave on low for 1 -2 minutes wrapped in a clean cloth towel.  Lay a tortilla on a work surface, add 1/12 of the meat/hash brown mixture to the shell, then top with 1/12 of the egg mixture.  Sprinkle with 1/12 of the cheese mixture.  Fold both sides in, then the bottom up halfway and roll into a burrito.  Wrap in foil and label, then freeze.  To cook, loosen foil, place in microwave on half power and microwave for 1 – 3 minutes, depending on your microwave.  You may choose to lightly wrap tortilla in a lightly dampened paper towel to prevent tortilla from becoming tough, it depends on your microwave.  They may also be baked wrapped in foil.

I hope you enjoyed these last three weeks of recipes.  I also hope you have decided to dedicate a day to “cooking ahead” and have looked at your favorite recipes, or maybe have been exploring options of new recipes that you want to try.  Just remember, you will be rewarded with time spent at the table with your family enjoying a meal that you prepared and the best part will be when you aren’t running all over the kitchen trying to get dinner on the table after a crazy busy day.  You will have a great meal waiting for you in the refrigerator, all you have to do is finish cooking it.

Until next time, cook something you love, for someone you love.  And pray for our world, we sure need a lot of love and prayer right now.  Pray for all the children who are suffering, and so desperately need food and love, I do wish I could bring them to my table to eat.  Let’s feed one another and show love that way.  Food is so much better than violence.

PART 2-COOKING AHEAD TO SURVIVE BUSY DAYS

I hope you had a nice week. Did you look at your favorite recipes and gather them up to use for your first menu? Let’s continue where we left off. When cooking anything, anytime, it is imperative to remember basic food safety rules.
1- Cold food must be kept below 40 degrees and hot food must be kept above 140 degrees. Clean any countertops and food mats before you begin preparing anything. Keep your work are uncluttered. Clutter leads to accidents. Do not cross contaminate, keep meats on a tray on the lowest shelves of your refrigerator, with vegetables and other items above the meat.
2- Never thaw food on the countertop. Thaw it in the refrigerator, which helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.  That means you will need to plan ahead and allow adequate time for thawing.
3 -Putting food in the microwave to thaw it does a serious “no no” to the quality to most meals.
4- Go through all the recipes and make a grocery list from each item from each recipe.
You will see after you list all the items you will have some of these items in your home pantry. Those items you want to highlight, so you don’t accidently purchase something you don’t need. But make sure you pantry items are fresh. Check those spices to ensure their freshness, and look at that flour if it hasn’t been purchased recently and/or kept in the refrigerator.  And the same thing for OILS.  Left out of the refrigerator at room temperature, any oil will go rancid.  Smell them to determine if they are useable.  (And while your at it, the same goes for your perfume.  It will also go rancid because most perfumes have some type oil in them..)
Before you go to the store to do your shopping, make sure you have adequate room in your refrigerator and freezer to store the amount of food you will be bringing home. And be sure you have some sort of shallow tub and a large bag of ice to keep prep’d items cold as you need them.

Another important trick to notice and note while making your grocery list is — if you are buying (example) 5 onions, note it this way:

5 onions —
2 minced –  example  recipe #1
1 sliced into rings   #3
1 chopped  #4
1 large dice  #5

The reason you are doing that is you will know when you start doing your prep that you need to mince 2 onions, slice one into rings, chop 1 and cut one into large dice. It will save you time later and you won’t have to re-read each of your recipes to figure out how to process the vegetables you are buying. You can even go as far as numbering each recipe and writing a number to coincide with the recipe on the container that holds the ingredients for that recipe. Remember you will be doing all your prep before you begin to cook.

If you shop at the same grocery store all the time, you will have some idea of the layout of the store. Try to list your items to coincide with the isles of the store. That way you are not bouncing from one side of the store to the other. List all the produce together, all the meat together, and as close as possible, list canned goods etc., by isle starting at the door you enter in finishing nearest the checkout stand. Put all the frozen food together, all the dairy together. These two will be the last two sections you will stop at.
If it is a really hot day (as it has been where I live, it just seems to melt me right down to my shoes everytime I go outside) I suggest taking one or two coolers and buying a small extra bag of ice and putting some in the two coolers for the frozen items and dairy  and  a cooler for the meat. Remember to keep meats and produce/dairy separate.

Salisbury Steak with Mushrooms and Madeira Sauce
Serves 4

4 Slices bacon, cooked, drained, chopped
2 Slices white bread, crusts removed
1/4 Cup milk
1 3/4 # Ground beef
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce – low sodium
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 # Mushrooms, brushed clean, sliced thinly
5 tsp Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour (or other fine rice flour)
1 cup beef broth, low sodium
5 Tbsp Madeira wine
1/4 Cup Chives, minced, set aside for garnish

Dice bacon, cook, drain and set aside. Reserve bacon fat. Add butter to the skillet and heat to medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute about 4 minutes. Add half the beef stock to the flour (add the stock to the flour, not the flour to the stock or you will have lumps) and make a slurry.
After the mushrooms have browned and released their liquid, add the stock/rice flour slurry and whisk to thicken and also release the “fond” from the bottom of the skillet. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the remaining stock and the Madeira and cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from the heat. Taste for seasoning.

Add meat to a mixing bowl. Remove crusts from bread, soak in milk until soft. Squeeze out excess milk, crumble with hands, add to the meat along with salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and mix until thoroughly combined. Shape into 4 oblong patties about 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick. Remove them and cool them down in the refrigerator.

To freeze, place the cool patties in your container, pour the mushroom sauce over the top. Garnish with the chives. Lay plastic wrap directly on top of the entire meal. Then either wrap in foil, or if you have a lid, place the lid on. Add the label.

Heating directions: Thaw in refrigerator. Remove lid and plastic wrap. Heat in preheated oven at 350 for 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes covered with foil.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
SERVES 4

4             White baking potatoes, peeled, washed, cut into medium dice
3             Cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp      Sea salt
1/4         Cup fresh parsley, washed, leaves minced
5 Tbsp.  Butter
5 Tbsp.  Herb and garlic flavored cream cheese spread (such as Rondelle)
Place a stock pot with water on to boil.  Make sure you have enough water to double the amount of potatoes you are going to fix.  Add salt.  Add the potatoes and the garlic to the cold water.  Bring to a medium boil and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes.  Check at 12 minutes.  Do not boil the potatoes rapidly as it will cause them to fall apart and become waterlogged.  You want them to be cooked but not dissolve in the water.  Drain them when they are done, return them to the hot stock pot, and return to the burner which you have turned off.  Let them dry out for about 10 minutes.   If you have a food mill or ricer, rice them into a large bowl, including the garlic.  If not, a hand masher or electric mixer can be used.  But take care not to over-process the potatoes, as it will cause the potatoes to become gummy.  Add all the other ingredients ad one time.  Gently stir in the cheese, butter, salt, pepper and parsley.  Let the potatoes cool, place in container.  Put plastic wrap on top of the potatoes, then add lid or foil,  and label.

Reheat:  Remove plastic, recover with foil.  Preheat oven to 350.  Heat in oven on baking sheet at 350 for 30 – 45 minutes, depending on how many servings you have fix and if you have brought the potatoes to room temp. before you put them into the oven.

When you reheat the potatoes, fluff them by raking a fork back and forth across them, don’t over mix them with a spoon.  It will make them gummy.  If they seem dry,  at this point, it is fine to add cream, milk or reduced stock.

If you choose to add a couple of your recipes and pick a day to cook before next week, let’s briefly discuss a game plan.  Let’s just do a quick once over…

Make your grocery list by isle, and include each recipe.  That will save time.
Purchase or designate freezer containers with lids, square is best.
Plan your menu so multiple heat sources can be used at the same time.
Do all your preparation first before you start to cook.
Keep cold food items cold.
Start items that take the longest cooking time first.  Save items that don’t have to be cooked, just some sort of prep., for last.
Undercook – if it is completely cooked when you freeze it, it will be over cooked at dinner time.
Make sure everything gets labeled.
If there is an additional item you will need to purchase before the meal can be served  NOTE it in large writing beside the item on your menu.

Next week I will finish the recipes and then we will talk about shortcut to getting this all cooked in one day.

Until then, happy cooking.  And remember if you are cooking something your family really likes, make 2,  just undercook one.  And freeze  one.  Label it.

COOKING AHEAD TO SURVIVE BUSY DAYS

I think of all the classes I have taught over the years the one’s that have been the most popular and the most well attended have been the ones that were themed on cooking ahead or bulk cooking. With school starting and everyone with busy schedules, it gets difficult sometimes to find time to prepare dinner and then get everyone around the dinner table to share a meal. But we all know that those precious times of sharing the family meal provides an avenue of communication that can’t be replaced. So for those of you having a difficult time scheduling the shopping, preparation and meals, I hope these next few weeks will help you find a way to spend that irreplaceable quality time with your family and not go through drive thru to do it.

The first step is to decide what you actually need to accomplish. Do you need help at breakfast, with lunch, with dinner, or with all of these. What does an average meal consist of for your family? A protein, a vegetable, a salad and a desert? What types of protein will your family eat? Most families have favorites. Whether it’s casseroles, BBQ, your favorite recipe that you’ve fixed a million times and they eat every last bite of it every time. Those are the recipes you want to pull out first, and start to build your menu around. From those base recipes, I will try to help you find some others that have been popular over the years and are family friendly.  In future blogs, we will talk about recipes that more palate specific to individual likes rather than across the board.

Then the next thing to work on is make a menu based on how many nights (days, lunch’s, breakfasts,) you will be trying to prepare food for. This is all going to have to be based on freezer space but also on how much time you realistically have to cook the items.  So plan accordingly. If you only have a small overhead freezer on your refrigerator, clean it out, get rid of the things you have in bags that are “surprise” leftovers, (yes, we all have them-the things we are sure we will remember what they are, and that we don’t need to label, and after a month get pushed to the back and forgotten, only to be discovered, and they become the “OH MY GOSH, WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?” surprise leftovers. We are all guilty of it.

I am going to show you a sample 5 day menu. I say 5 days because most families have activities at least 2 nights, or just enjoy eating away from home a couple nights a week or will clean up leftovers.
Notice that there are numbers and notes after each main item, we will discuss this below.

 MONDAY –            CHICKEN TENDERS —–#1-Bread, freeze, but will not cook until dinner

                                   HASH BROWN CASSEROLE —–#2-Combine, will not cook until dinner

TUESDAY               BAR-B-QUE PORK SANDWICHES ——#3-Pressure cooker, crockpot or oven
                                  BAKED BEANS——#4-Partially prepare (onions) and finish at dinner
WEDNESDAY       SALISBURY STEAKS——#5-Stovetop
                                  MASHED POTATOES—–#6–Stovetop
THURSDAY           FISH FINGERS——#7-Bread, freeze, but will not cook until dinner
                                  BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE—–#8-Stovetop, oven at dinner

FRIDAY                   STUFFED SHELLS—–#9-Stovetop, finish in oven at dinner                                    
                                  BREAD STICKS—–#10-Prep.only, no cooking until dinner
BREAKFAST BURRITOS – #11-Stovetop— 
Let’s take a minute and look at the above menu.  Let’s assume starting from the top to the bottom these are numbered one through 10  and the Burritos are a stand alone but numbered  recipe 11.  One thing to try to accomplish when you plan a menu is taking advantage of more than one heat source, meaning something cooking on the  stove top, items that can be fixed partially and not cooked at all but are prepared so that you have a very quick preparation on the day you set aside for your cooking, and that you will  finish the item with minimal effort at the selected dinner time.  We need items that will be cooking in oven, items that can cook in the crockpot, items that can cook in the pressure cooker.  That way you can have more than one entrée being prepared at a time.
Look at which items take the longest to cook.  Which items have multiple steps, such as #9, the shells have to be par-boiled before
you can begin to stuff them.  The pot must be put on to boil the water, which will take some time.  Each recipe has steps, and by analyzing these steps, you can make the cooking day go much faster.  Each week for the next 5 weeks, I will put up a couple  recipes from the above menu and we will discuss how to prepare it, how to analyze it, what steps to take to execute the recipe in as short a length of time as possible.  Then on the last week, we will discuss how to put it all together, making a grocery list, and then hopefully you will have substituted some of the above with your favorite recipes, and you will be ready to spend a day in the kitchen that will give you many free nights in the future. You will have to convert them to the number of servings appropriate for your family.
Italian Style Breaded Chicken Tenderloins   #1
Serves 4
1# Chicken Tenderloins, rinsed, patted dry
2 Cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 Cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, fine ground
1 Cup Regular Flour
3 Eggs, beaten 3 tbsp. water
Other items you will need, parchment paper, baking sheet, freezer bags, plastic wrap, 4 shallow pans, 1 fork
Rinse and pat dry the chicken tenderloins.  If they have a tendon on one end, cut it off.  Combine the grated cheese and the flavored bread crumbs in one of the shallow pans (if you cannot find flavored bread crumbs, make your own by adding your favorite Italian Seasoning mix to plain bread crumbs).  Place the regular all purpose flour in one of the pans.  Crack the eggs and place them in one of the pans, then beat them with 3 tbsp. water.  Place the pans in a line with the all purpose flour closest to you, then egg wash, then bread crumb mix.  Then have a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper at the end.  Dip each chicken tender first in the flour, spanking any excess flour off with your hand, then into the egg,coating well, lift up and let it drain, then into the bread crumbs.  Press down to help the crumbs adhere to the chicken tenders.  Lay them out on the baking sheet, and continue until you are finished.  Cover lightly with a top layer of parchment.  Wrap all around with plastic wrap, and freeze overnight until firm.  Once firm, remove from baking sheet and carefully place in a plastic bag separating layers by parchment paper or put in a square container with a tight fitting lid, and also separate with layers of parchment paper.  Label.
Hash Brown Casserole  #2
Serves 4-6
Bake in preheated oven on 375 for 45 minutes, cover last 30
1 Package Frozen Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 onion finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, fresh, washed, minced
5 3/8 oz. can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/4 Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/2 Cup Sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
Topping: 3/4 corn flakes, 2 tbsp butter melted,  2 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
non-stick spray
4×8 casserole dish
Mix hash browns, sour cream, 4 tbsp. melted butter, shredded cheddar cheese, minced parsley, soup and onions together.  Spray a 4×8 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Pour mixture into casserole dish.
Melt remaining 2 tbsp. butter,  add cornflakes and remaining 2 tbsp parsley.  Mix well, remove from pan and cool.  Place topping in a plastic bag to cool.
Place plastic wrap directly on top of the casserole so no air can penetrate it.  Add bag of topping.  Cover with foil or a lid. Label.
Barbecue Pork or Beef  #3
Serves 4
Reheat oven or microwave on low heat cycle
2 Pounds Beef Chuck Roast or Pork Roast
Salt and pepper to taste.
Dry BBQ rub is desired.
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Onion, cubed
16 oz. Your favorite BarBQue Sauce
1 Pressure Cooker
or 1 Roaster and your oven
Trim the roast and cut into 4 inch cubes if using a pressure cooker.  If using a roaster, cut the meat into 2 inch cubes.    Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown he meat cubes, taking care not to crown the pan.  Do as many as your skillet will hold but leave ample room for the meat to fry.  If you over crowd it the meat will steam, not brown.  Remove the browned meat as you go and add them to the roaster or pressure cooker.  If using a roaster, preheat the oven to 300.  Add enough stock to come about half way up on the meat.  This will prevent the meat from drying out during cooking.  Add the cubed onion.  Lay a piece of parchment paper that has been cut to fit the inside diameter of the roaster right down on top of the meat.  Cover and bake in the oven until meat is very tender, about 60 minutes.  Check for tenderness.  Remove the meat and the onion (discard the onion) and from the stock at the end of the cooking time.  Put the stock on the stovetop, bring it to a boil, and reduce it down to about a 1/2 cup or less.  Shred the meat with two forks, cool.  Add the BBQ sauce to the reduced stock and cool.  Mix the stock and meat together. Containerize, placing plastic wrap directly down on the meat so there will be not air contact.  Label.
If you are using a pressure cooker, follow the manufacturers directions, mine on high pressure, will cook in about 20 minutes.  The process for reducing the stock is the same,  And from there on it is the same.
BAKED BEANS #4
Serves 4
Bake on 400 when serving until hot
2 16 oz. cans baked beans
1 Onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 sliced bacon, diced
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 cup your favorite Barbecue Sauce
1 tsp. yellow mustard
Add all ingredients together.  Place in container.  Cover with plastic wrap directly on the beans.  Then either place a lid on the beans, or cover with foil.  Label.
There are two of the five days to look at.  If you find recipes of yours for any of the five days and want to replace or change something, feel free to do so.  Next week we will finish the other three days recipes and then start working on the grocery list and the best way to tackle preparation of these this in one day.  In the mean time, if you are cooking something for an evening meal that you think will freeze well, why not make two.  Don’t completely cook it.  And be sure to add the layer of plastic wrap to help prevent freezer burn.  AND LABEL IT.
Talk to you next week.  Happy cooking.  By the way, had a wonderful lunch at Jasper’s Restaurant this week.  What a great host and Chef Jasper is.  He treated myself and my guest Francesca Scilla from Italy to a wonderful lunch.  He and his staff and food are simply the best.  If you haven’t treated yourself to Jasper’s yet you just don’t know what you are missing.

SUNDAY BREAKFAST. A HAPPY WAY TO START THE WEEK.

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I love to enjoy Sunday morning, just moving slow, reading the paper, making breakfast, enjoying the fact that I don’t have any other schedule than enjoying being with my sweetie and our cats. Hopefully the weather is nice and we can sit out on the deck and enjoy our coffee and eat our breakfast too.

The collaboration of deciding what to cook is usually determined by what is in the refrigerator. If one of us happens to purchase a special item that we want to fix, then that is the center of the meal. Otherwise, the star is what happens to thaw, be in the refrigerator already from a prior meal in the not too distant past, and whatever is on hand that lends itself to a quick saute’ and finish in the oven. This hash recipe was born out of exploration of my pantry and refrigerator. I often fix this, it is so tasty, and it can be changed to include/exclude what you want or have available. I always have white potatoes. I always have some type cheese, ham or some type sausage, (Italian usually, and it’s one of my favorites in this). Add to that any or all of the following—potato, meat, bell pepper, fresh spinach, cherry tomato, onion, garlic, shredded cheese, artichokes, mushrooms and avocado – add the avocado just before serving.

First thing to remember, get all your ingredients ready before you start to cook the hash, and when you dice the ingredients, cut them all the same size (except the onion and garlic). By cutting all of them the same size, they will be added by which ones need to cook the longest, such as the potato, and mushrooms. Then the bell pepper, meat, artichokes, cherry tomatoes, etc., and finally, top with the cheese at the end. Just before serving, top with avocado wedges. YUM YUM.

You can see from the pictures that I was really lucky and had both Italian Sausage and ham on Sunday. So the ham went in the potato hash, and I fried the Italian Sausage. I usually cook the Italian Sausage in a pan- just add a little water and cook until it is evaporated, then brown it and then check to make sure it is completely cooked through. Par boil the potatoes for a few minutes, really cuts the cooking time in the skillet, and you can do that while you get all the other ingredients ready for your hash.

The other delightful surprise on Sunday is to add almonds, pecans, pepitas, cranberries, and any other favorite nuts that you like to your pancakes when you mix them. What a tasty crunch that will make. You won’t believe how good that is.

Well school is starting, how about a few weeks of cooking ahead recipes and a few how to tips? Would that be something that would interest anyone? Let me know if you would like a few tips from Chef Norma. Be glad to make a few blogs on it.

YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BELIEVE WHO WAS IN MY BIRD BATH

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I promised you last week I would show you the visitor we have been having under our bird feeder and now at our bird bath. I guess no one told this young lady that she is a little large to be sharing the drinking fountain with the rest of the little birds, so up she jumps, and there she stands until she is through drinking. I don’t live in the country. But there are days when I have to shake my head to be sure I am seeing correctly. It doesn’t seem to even bother her when my husband goes out to fill the feeders. She just wanders off a little into the tree line, waits for him to fill the feeders and spread extra sun flower seeds on the ground from the “magic” bucket. As soon as he gets no more than three feet towards the house she is back out of the trees and happily eating and scratching away.

For the second year a finch built a nest under our upper deck in the spring. The nest had two tiny eggs in it. I am amazed that they can get under the screening because it is pretty tightly screened to protect the deck above it from bugs. But momma managed it. She squeezes in between the wall and the screen frame. Well today I heard two birds just carrying on like something was really distressing them. I opened the door on the upper deck, went outside and could see two finch’s in the trees dancing around, flitting from branch to branch, onto the fence, off the fence back to the tree, onto the ground, darting under the pine tree. I was pretty sure the babies had left the nest beneath me. I would have loved to have peeked between the boards on the deck, but mother finch managed to tuck that nest into the only corner that isn’t visible looking down through the boards. I went downstairs and peeked out the door and there they were. Two little guys flitting back and forth frantically between the porch floor and the screen. Mom was trying to get them to squeeze through the same little opening she used and they just couldn’t figure it out. There is a ceiling fan (not running of course) right below them, and she flys up and sits on one of the blades and coaxes them and instructs them for all she’s worth. No luck. They aren’t budging. Last year she had 5 babies in the same spot. The screen sections are quite large and are on hinges so they can be dropped down and be cleaned in case something gets dropped through the floor cracks above. Last year the only way to get so many baby birds out was to lower one of the screens. But I didn’t want to scare these two little guys and I still had hope mom could PEEP them out. An hour later after watching them frantically run and flitter the length on the porch between the boards , I gave up and got the ladder. But rather than completely drop the screen down I was able to force one corner near the nest to hang down about 4 inches. It seemed safer to me and apparently mom was ok with it too. As soon as I went back into the house she was back on the fan blade talking to them again. I watched for a long time from a window in another room. One of the little guys went to the edge, looked down, backed up as if to say “That is a looong way down if my little wings and feathers don’t work” ..sat down. After what felt like an eternity to me, I gave up and went about my business.

I am happy to say though, when next I checked the little pilots had flown the nest and successfully landed I hope in the blue spruce tree.

It has amazed me at how much my eyes have seen, how much my ears hear, and most of all, how much my heart has been blessed now that I take time to look at the beauty God has given us. This world is so beautiful in so many simply things. I wish all people could free baby birds instead of fighting with their neighbors. Peace would be so wonderful for all the children of the world………….

I spent so much time with the birds today we had a wonderful salad for dinner with shrimp, sliced steak, egg, blueberries, peaches, carrots, cucumber and tomatoes. It was wonderful and just right.

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THE FIGHT OF THE BLUMBLE BLEES

I am still harvesting herbs, trying to think of a million ways to preserve them short of hanging them from the ceiling in every room in the house. I just hate to think of any of them going to waste. So I freeze them, make pesto out of them, give them to the unsuspecting neighbors. I am even making Herb Oil. It really is delightful, and we will get to that shortly.

BUT,,,,,, there seems to be this guard bee in the yard. I have no idea what kind of a creature it is, but it is BIG, REALLY BIG, and it does stand guard over parts of MY garden. He/she and I need to come to an agreement that it’s quite OK for me to carry on out there cutting whatever I need without having to dive back and forth worrying about this very large bee thing coming after me. Now I’m not timid by nature,, but I sure as heck am not stupid either. And this thing is BIG. And it doesn’t look like it is playing around. When I get too close to an area that it is circling, it really dives close to my head. It starts to come after me, stops, turns the other way (almost as if it is saying “scared ya didn’t I” or “do you really want to make me mad lady?” ) and then turns instantly, hover in midair, and comes right back. It is lightning fast. And on the return trip I give in and run like a sprinter back to the house. I would take a picture for you to appreciate, but he/she is much too quick and besides, I am not sure it wouldn’t come swooping down, take my camera and drop it on my head.

Now, back to herb oil. It is quite easy to make. It will last for several weeks. But there are safety measures you need to be aware of for making herb oil. Wash all you herbs well, and dry them one whole day hanging. The moisture must be gone. The reason for this is moisture in the herb oil can cause botulism. It cannot grow in the oil if the herbs are dry and the containers is dry. So be sure that you have a completely clean and dry container and dry herbs. Fill the container with herbs that you have bruised to help release some of their essential oils, and them fill the container with your choice of oil. You may choose to use extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, or another NON GMO oil. But choose an oil that is light in flavor so it won’t over power the herbs. Let them sit overnight up to a week in a cool dark place capped tightly. Check the flavor occasionally to see if it is as strong as you desire. Then strain the oil through a fine strainer with cheesecloth into a “dressy bottle” of your choice that is equally clean and dry. If you decide to put a piece of new herb in the bottle to dress the finished oil, that is fine, but make sure it is clean and dry before you add it. It will last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator that way.

The oil is so good drizzled over pasta, with a grind of sea salt, pepper and grated cheese. Imagine how good the rosemary oil is drizzled over lamb just off the grill. How about just added to red pepper flakes, garlic powder and a grated cheese, a little lemon juice, for a bread dipping oil. There are so many uses, it won’t last long.

Until next time, cook something you enjoy. Food is the path to happiness. Peace can be found over the table, feed your neighbor instead of making war.

Join me next time for a look at some other visitors to my yard. You won’t believe who has been in my bird feeder.

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