30 November 2014

My Mushroom Gravy

The first deer of the season.  It's tradition: fresh deer steaks for supper.  And it seems I'm always wondering how to cook it and trying something new.  The mushroom gravy I made this year turned out so yummy that this might just have to become part of the tradition too.  =)  I seared the steaks on both sides, then removed them from the skillet, made the gravy recipe below, and returned the steaks to the gravy to simmer.  Wish I'd had them in all day.

My Mushroom Gravy 
yield: about 3 cups gravy

2 cups sliced mushrooms (I had button mushrooms)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
2 cups broth (I had vegetable bouillon)
splash of wine or balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup yogurt (or sour cream if you like)
salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:  Melt the butter in a pan and saute mushrooms, garlic, and onions over medium to low heat until soft, stirring occasionally.  In the meantime make broth or warm it up if you have canned broth.  Add a splash of wine or vinegar (about 1 TBSP) to the broth for extra flavor.  Set aside.  When the mushroom/onion mixture is soft, sprinkle flour all over and stir in.  Cook a minute or so.  Over medium heat, add the warm broth, stirring to reduce clumps.  If the broth is warm, this will thicken up right away.  Add bay leaf and simmer a while.  Stir in yogurt and add salt and pepper to taste before serving.  Remove bay leaf.

We thought this would be good with ground meat added in, served over biscuits, or in any other way you like to eat gravy.  We had it with mashed potatoes on the side, which was delicious too.

27 October 2014

Curried Lentils and Raita

A simple recipe for curried lentils.  I don't think I ever make them quite the same way twice, but here's one incarnation that we enjoyed the other night with company.  All measurements are approximate--going by my visual memory.

The raita recipe is what I usually make to go along with curried lentils.  If you don't feel like it, plain yogurt is always good on top too.  But add in the garlic, herbs, and cucumber . . . ahhhhh!  Adds a new dimension to the pile.  Oh, and if you've got any chutney on hand, throw that on there too!

We almost always eat brown rice at our house, so this is pretty filling.

Curried Lentils

1 TBSP oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
1 bay leaf
1 3"-cinnamon stick
1 tsp ea. cumin and turmeric
1/2 tsp ea. ground mustard, ginger, and coriander
2 cups lentils
6 cups water
salt/lemon juice to taste

 Saute the onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until soft.  Add  spices and stir a few minutes until fragrant.  Stir in lentils and water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until lentils are tender (about an hour--if in a hurry, I cook them in the microwave in water first for 10 minutes or so), stirring occasionally.  Add more water as necessary.  When lentils are tender add salt to taste (1 tsp.?) and a splash of lemon juice.

Raita (Cucumber Yogurt Salad)

2 cups yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
small bunch of cilantro and/or mint chopped 

Stir everything together and refrigerate until ready to use.  How simple was that?!?  This is my basic "recipe"--like I said, all measurements are approximate and subject to change.  I use what herbs I have on hand, though if at all possible have both cilantro and mint.  In the summer I like to add a little chopped fresh tomato, and a little minced onion or chopped green onions never hurts.

11 October 2014

Pears with Blue Cheese

It's not rocket science.  It's just a simple, fast, delicious fall treat if you like blue cheese.  An un-peeled pear half with a dollop of blue cheese where the seeds have been scooped out.  Warm for 20-30 seconds in the microwave.  Eat with your hands.  Elevate with a drizzle of honey and/or a few broken pecan pieces.  

28 August 2014

This Year's Sauce (minus the long cooking time!)

It seems like I keep experimenting with tomato sauce.  I want something I can use on a pizza--not too runny--but not so thick that it wouldn't make a good, quick tomato soup.  Oh, and I don't want to have to spend hours and hours cooking it on the stove (i.e. unnecessarily heating up my whole house which is already August HOT).

Last year when I made sauce, I strained off some of the juice after the tomatoes were cooked but before they went into the mill.  I did that again this year, and I'm not sure if I just had meatier tomatoes, or I didn't mind my sauce not being quite so thick but the texture seemed perfect with no further cooking!  So, we ended up canning 5 quarts + 10 pints of tomato sauce, PLUS 3 quarts + 5 pints of juice that was strained off first (and maybe another 5 pints put right in the fridge to drink or use in soup this week).  

Yay, yay, YAY!!!  Two products at one shot and no long hours into the night of reducing the sauce.  I'm a happy woman, even if I still am up way too late waiting for them to boil in their hot water baths.

For future reference (or yours):

lots of tomato chunks 
peppers, de-seeded and chunked
onions, peeled and quartered
garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
fresh basil leaves----------------simmer altogether in large pots until vegetables are tender (add basil a little later than the rest)

When done cooking (30 min. to an hour depending on how big the pot is) strain tomato mixture in fine enough strainer to remove seeds then process through a food mill.  Save the juice!

Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste.  I used 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 TBSP salt and a tsp pepper for about 6 quarts of sauce.  So delicious!  I can't wait to see how it turns out on a pizza!  When I filled the jars, I used my parents' trick of adding a bay leaf to each one for a little extra flavor.  The juice I seasoned to taste also with sugar and salt before ladling into jars with a bay leaf.

Process in boiling water bath (40 min. quarts and 25 min. pints).

Go to bed and stop asking yourself if all this work was worth it.  =)

20 August 2014


I love summer cooking.  Especially when people are so generous in sharing their garden produce with us.  Steam some beans, boil some corn, slap some bread, tomatoes, and mayo on the table.  Dinner.  DONE!  (this is the sweetness after the beans have been picked in the scorching sun and the corn has all be husked and silked).

And then there's dessert:

Sorry cooking blog.  It's summertime around here and I'm not messing a lot with so much of a good thing.

01 August 2014

Greens and Beans

NOT green beans.  Sorry for the capitalization there--just wanted to be sure to clarify that the post title was not a typo.

Okay.  So we did buy a house, and it is a bit of a fixer-upper (oh, and way out in the country/mountains with somewhat unreliable internet service) so I haven't been doing a lot of new cooking around here or finding time to post about anything to this blog.  Disclaimers.  Check.

BUT, I was just snacking on some leftovers in the fridge, and thought this little recipe might be worth recording and sharing.  Use kale, spinach, chard, what have you . . . 

Greens and Beans

glug of oil
Handfuls of fresh greens, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
chopped tomato (fresh or canned)
2 cups black beans

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:  So simple, you probably don't even need this part.  Heat up the oil, toss in the greens and a little water and fry/steam them a bit before adding the garlic and cumin.  Stir and continue to cook a few more minutes.  Add tomato and finish cooking greens to your desired tenderness.  Stir in the beans and warm.  EAT THIS UP! 

I guess it's just a capital day.

Hope you ENJOY!

23 May 2014

Cuban-style Black Beans

I'm not from Cuba.  I don't claim that this is an authentic recipe.  But it was yummy and I want to record the recipe for my own future reference. 

My Cuban-Style Black Beans
yields: huge pot o' beans!

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 green pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, minced
2 bay leaves
4 cups dry black beans
12 cups water

Place in large pot over high heat.  Bring to a boil and let roll for two minutes.  Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for two hours.

Bring beans to a simmer after soaking, crack the lid, and let simmer for two hours until soft.  Remove the two bay leaves.  In a little oil over low heat fry the following:

1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

When soft, add:

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika

Fry a few more minutes until spices are fragrant, then stir this into the beans.  Continue to cook gently until you are ready to eat.  Add a TBSP of vinegar along with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over rice.  With sour cream and fried plantains if at all possible.

07 May 2014

Croissant Attempt

It seems like every cooking blog that has a post about croissants has the same story, and mine is no different.  Yes, I have thought of making croissants for awhile, but was too intimidated to try.  Yes, I did look at many recipes, videos, pictures, etc. before finally working up the nerve to do it.  Oh, and yes, they didn't come out perfect so I have to try again.  Sometime.

Actually, I can't complain too much.  It was an overcast, nothing-much-planned sort of day, and I enjoyed the challenge of a new baking project.  They came out looking beautiful and they tasted good too, even if the shape and texture weren't textbook perfect (as far as shape, I intended to make them straight as you see, but I didn't get them rolled quite as many times as is "correct").

Apparently, you can't judge a croissant by its cover.  The crumb is what makes it, and mine was a bit doughy with a few large air pockets rather than a nice, uniform honeycomb.  If you're interested, see nice croissant crumb pictures here.

Anyhow, there they are.  Or were, I should say.  All but the last two.

For future reference, I used 1/2 of this recipe and made 9 medium-sized croissant.  I've got several ideas for improving my croissants which I will share next time.  Don't hold your breath, though.  It could be a month or even a year off.  I welcome advice!

06 April 2014

Birthday Fare

One of my birthday treats to myself this year was making a favorite Turkish meal of mine (thanks to my sister-in-law keeping an eye on the kids!): red lentil soup, pogaca (with a literal twist!), and a nice salad of mixed greens, cucumber and green onions.

lentil soup (this needs its own post sometime)

& the pogaca with a twist

You may or may not remember a post I did back in December on these little cheese-filled Turkish pastries (complete with a pronunciation guide, by the way).  What often keeps me from making them is that it just takes so much time to prepare all the little individual pastries, especially when I have two kids who always seem to need/want a lot of attention between 4 & 5 o'clock.  I just cannot focus with a baby crying and clinging to my legs!  

Anyhow, as you can tell from the picture, I decided to simplify the process and hopefully get the same flavor by rolling the dough out as for cinnamon rolls, sprinkling with the feta cheese and parsley and baking it as a loaf.  Viola!  The texture and taste were spot on, and it took oh-so-much less time!  See the original "Pogaca" post for a link to the recipe I use.  And happy (birthday) cooking!

22 March 2014

A year ago, today

A year ago to the day, I was photographing and eating this:

An attempt at a brownie dessert that would taste like the Almond Joy candy bars my mom loves.  It was the day after her birthday, and I'd probably spent a week conceptualizing, looking up recipes, and finally executing the dish.  It was good, in an okay-sort of way I'm sad to say.  The whole thing had various issues, most of which I can no longer remember (which is why I wrote them down then) and which are pretty much entirely beside the point now anyway since I've given up after-dinner desserts for the season of Lent this year.

It's just kind of ironic that I had to find this in the archives now of all times.

Even if it wasn't that good in reality, I can still remember the idea I had of how it should taste.  Yum.  Oh, yummy.  

Anyhow, Lent.

Besides giving up the after-dinner desserts I also decided to attempt another culinary discipline (there were those breads two years ago).  This year, I'm choosing and eating four diffferent "peasant foods" for ten days at a time to equal the forty days of Lent altogether.  We started with rice and beans and have moved on to cabbage rolls.  Next up will be African vegetables and porridge for ten days, and then Asian noodles (perhaps).  

Let's not quibble over the definition of "peasant food", okay?  Between living temporarily in someone else's home, re-connecting with friends I haven't seen much in the past two years, mothering two small children, getting through all the end-of-winter sickness going on around here, and buying (hopefully!) a house, I frankly don't have lots of time or energy to be really detailed and conscientious about this year's Lenten discipline.  I stand by my old 85% completion rate, and we're skipping feast days (Sundays) this year.

So here we are.  Caught up in the middle of a lot of change again.  Watching and waiting.  Cooking.  Eating.  And somehow in the middle of all this watching, waiting, cooking, and eating we remember that it is really God we are watching and waiting for, and in the way we cook and eat we humble and discipline ourselves to be attentive to what God is doing.  Something big and history-changing and at the same time very deeply personal, I bet.   

God, we rest in you, trusting that beyond our knowledge the great mystery of Who You Are is still the essence that holds this whole world together and gives us life.  Amen.