Sunday, January 31, 2010

An Appreciation for New Tastes
I’m sure we all remember our parents’ well-meaning efforts to get us to expand our
culinary horizons as we were growing up.
Liver and onions?
Beef heart?
Pork and Saur kraut?
Stewed tomatoes and bread?
Canned spinach with vinegar?
Hm, guess my parents weren’t very successful with me at the time.
On the other hand,
they ended up being successful far beyond their wildest dreams as I did eventually learn on my own to embrace the new and unusual in food tastes and textures.
As I have grown older I have actively sought to expand my culinary horizons.
That has meant trying new ethnic restaurants in our Big 10 college town
as well as many new dishes.
Now, there are certain foods that I have decided
that I just don't like and don't have to like.
Foods such as saur kraut,
sushi (I just can't stand nori),
cooked spinach,
ham and bean soup,
chili with beans
(notice a trend here? I admit it, I really don't like beans),
and I'm sure that there are others that escape my grasp at the moment.
One food that I have tried in the past and really haven't liked is Brussels sprouts.
But this has been one food that I have been determined to conquer as I could sense that it had potential, if just given the chance.
I have, of course, blogged about Brussels sprouts before,
but I still felt that there was room for improvement.

My mise en place consists of
4 Brussels sprouts
2 slices bacon, cut into lardons
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
1 dash ground black pepper.

I had earlier discovered that separating the leaves of
the Brussels sprouts makes for a dish that is more palatable to me as this allows more of the sprout to be caramelized.

This takes some time, so I typically do this in the afternoon.

In fact, I often take the sprouts, a cutting board, a paring knife and a bowl

into the library so I can work on the sprouts at my desk while I watch the Food Network.

Once it is time to cook the dish, I first brown the bacon before adding
the Brussels sprouts leaves.

Then the seasonings are tossed in and
the Brussels spouts are caramelized.

All in all, this is a very quick and easy dish to prepare.
Of course, if you wish, you can simply cut each sprout in half before sauteing.

These sprouts were the perfect accompaniment to
Mustard Beef Short Ribs and homemade applesauce.

And the addition of the sugar was just what was needed to make this dish even better.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Snow Days and Chicken Noodle Soup
I know that some of my southern readers yearn
for the fluffy goodness that is snow.
Luckily for you,
I looked outside the other evening
to find that snow was falling from the sky and landing on the ground.
Huh, imagine that.

At least it makes it look a bit brighter outside at night.

Falling snow!

We ended up with about 3/4" of the white stuff on the ground.
Strangely enough,
this seemed to be enough reason for several area schools to close for the day.

Why, in my day we had to walk to school in a blizzard against a headwind.
Up hill.
Both ways!
Every day.

Er, yeah.

Early morning shadows.

The garden in winter.
Now, I'm sure that many of you may have noticed that here in the Foodie household we have the Foodie Blogger (me), the Foodie Daughter, the Foodie Boyfriend, and the husband.
I have commented before that the dear husband has yet to earn his Foodie designation.
And with food choices like these,
it seems as if it will be a long time before the husband does indeed earn his stripes.

The Foodie Daughter is sick,
so I pulled a container of homemade Chicken Noodle Soup out of the freezer for dinner*.
The dear husband eschewed that selection
and instead opted to have chicken noodle soup from a can.
He claims he doesn't like to have veggies in his chicken noodle soup.
Apparently he also doesn't like to have chicken in his chicken noodle soup either,
considering how stingy the soup company is with the chicken.
Now tell me, which one would you rather have:
the canned chicken noodle soup on the left
or the homemade chicken noodle soup on the right?
what's a Foodie to do?
*And in case you are wondering,
I found a container of homemade beef vegetable soup in the freezer for myself.
Pesky chicken allergy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Sunday Afternoon Treat
Apparently great bloggers think alike
because I just finished reading Rosie Hawthorne's post on making vanilla bean ice cream.
Of course,
the major difference is that she made a frozen custard
while I made vanilla bean ice cream.
Definition: a frozen custard is made with eggs in addition to cream and sugar and one claim says that this treat originated at Coney Island in 1919,*
while ice cream contains only dairy products, sweeteners and flavorings.
*Source, Wikipedia.

My mise en place for the vanilla bean ice cream is quite simple:
3 cups Half-and-Half
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped**
**Bonus: the empty vanilla bean was then placed in a container with some sugar.
This sealed container will allow the sugar to absorb the vanilla flavor.

Following the manufacturer's instructions, the ice cream was made within 30 minutes.
I then transferred the ice cream to a container and put it in the freezer to set up.

Now, after having made this wonderful ice cream,
why would anyone want to ruin it by putting a chemical-laden,
artificial-flavored, chocolate-like syrup on top?
I don't, that's for sure.
And a chocolate sauce is so easy to make you will wonder why you haven't been making your own all these years.
Start with 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips;
add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.

Melt in the microwave for 30 to 50 seconds.
My microwave has a "melt chocolate" button, so I just hit that.
The chocolate chips will not be completely melted.
That is all right.
Stir and they will melt.

Then add in enough Half-and-Half to make the ganache the consistency that you desire.
I added about 3 tablespoons this time.
Stir, stir, stir.

Silky goodness.
And this only took a minute or so to make.
Store, covered, in the refrigerator.
Just reheat in the microwave when you wish to use it again.

I think I need a taste test, don't you?


Friday, January 22, 2010

Christmas Wishes Do Come True - Eventually

Do you recall my Christmas wish?

Here's a little reminder for you.
Bags and bags of football uniforms sitting in my dining room.

Ta da!
They are gone.
And it only took until January 20th for it to happen.
But, I wonder where they went?

Oh, that's where they went.
To the great room.
I guess that's an improvement?
But what's that black lump in the back of the piles?

Ah, it's a sleeping kitty.

Cute little Minx.


And - finally - on January 21st, those pesky uniforms left my house.

At least until next season...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Special Dinner Out
Since my husband had to be at a meeting on our anniversary earlier in the week,
he made it up to me by taking me out to eat on Friday evening.
He even let me choose the restaurant.
That was nice because he would likely have picked Red Lobster.
I, however, chose Chapman's Restaurant and Bar.

We got to sit right next to the fireplace.

And look at that wall of wine.
I think I am in love.

My dear husband chose to start his meal with the Caesar salad.
The Foodie Daughter and I had eaten lunch here last week
and we had each enjoyed this lovely salad.

I decided to go a different direction and ordered the Mixed Greens Salad

with toasted almonds, sun dried cherries, Roma tomatoes,

hearts of palm, basil infused olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

The meal came with rolls and butter.

My husband also decided to order the 6-oz. Grilled New York Strip Steak with

shiitake mushroom butter, spice roasted sweet potatoes

and fresh vegetables.

He did ask to have Yukon Gold potatoes substituted for the roasted sweet potatoes.

The nice people at Chapman's were only too happy to oblige.

The dear husband was a very happy man.

He enjoyed his meal very much even though he generally doesn't like veggies.

I of course had earlier perused the menu online and already had a selection in mind.

I just hoped that they weren't out of it this time.

I was in luck.

I ordered the Sautéed Breast of Indiana Duck

in caramelized berry sauce

with potato lorettes

and fresh vegetables.

I had never had duck breast before and was anxious to try this new dish.

Honestly, if I didn't know it was duck, I wouldn't have guessed it was duck.

But it was tasty, tender and succulent.

The vegetables were good,

with summer squash, mushrooms, onion, cherry tomatoes, and carrots.

And as promised, they were fresh, not frozen.

The potato lorettes were essentially deep-fried potato puffs.

Sorry, Chapman's, but mine are so much better.

I would be willing to sell you my recipe.

Have your people call my people.

All in all, this was a lovely meal.

Truly, Chapman's is a gem in the vast culinary landscape of our town.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Anniversary Dinner

Tuesday happened to mark our 27th anniversary

and as the dear husband had to attend a function in his duties as president of his

chamber of commerce,

I was forced to rethink our anniversary dinner.

What to make,

what to make?

What would Rosie Hawthorne do?

To start with, I went to the grocery store with the idea to let the sales guide me.

Somewhere along the way I knew I would find a beef roast of some sort that would be on sale.

And I had the feeling that a beef bourguignon was on the menu.

Now I just had to find a recipe.

Of course I Googled it and found a recipe from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.

With apologies to Ina,

I then proceeded to butcher the recipe.

My mise en place:

thick-sliced bacon

beef roast





beef stock

kosher salt

black pepper

dried thyme

Shiraz wine


garlic cloves

tomato paste

After frying the bacon lardons, I seared the cubed beef roast.

This is important:

When searing meat in a stainless steel or cast iron pan,

let the meat "tell" you when to turn it.
When it releases from the pan, it is time to turn.

And not a moment before.

After the meat was seared and removed to the slow cooker,

the vegetables were then cooked in the same pan.

Then the red wine was added and the pan was deglazed.

Remember, we are fond of fond.

I chose to finish this dish in the slow cooker since my husband would not be home until late.

Towards the end of the cooking time,

I sauteed the mushrooms and added those along with

the beurre manie (butter and flour mixture)

to the slow cooker.

Can't you just see all the flavors?

This was delightful, served along with some buttered noodles.

And as a bonus, this dish was even better the next day.

Beef Bourguignon

A hearty beef stew nods to its early French peasant ...

See Beef Bourguignon on Key Ingredient.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Frosty Morning
I awoke to sunshine
and to see that it was a balmy 13 degrees outside.

Sounds like the perfect time to slip on some shoes,
grab my camera,
go outside and take some pictures?

I love this picture with the shadow of the tree against the back of the house.

Looks like a highway down in the yard.
Let's see:
There are deer tracks,
cat tracks
and rabbit tracks?

Interesting, considering that we rarely see rabbits around here with all the cats and coyotes running amok.

Frost etched in glass.

Please enjoy from the comfort of your temperature-controlled environments.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Dear Husband
It's hard to believe it's been 27 years.
And while we are at it,
why don't we celebrate by finally opening that bottle of fine Kentucky Bourbon we purchased last June?
Cheers, my dear.
And here's to another 27 years.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ham Days
The annual "Eight Days of Ham” (™ the Foodie Daughter) have once again arrived.
Fortunately for us, this time we had reinforcements.
The ham doesn't stand a chance.

My husband received this lovely 18 pound, Petit Jean Meats bone-in, smoked and fully cooked ham for Christmas.
We have never been disappointed by these hams.

The glaze for the ham is simple with a bit of mustard and equal parts pineapple juice and brown sugar.

The Foodie Boyfriend loves pineapple, so I skewered pineapple slices to the ham after I had scored the flesh with a sharp knife.

I baked the ham according to the directions on the wrapping, basting after the first half hour.
Interestingly, the directions that came in the box with the ham gave a shorter cook time.

Next year I will follow the box directions and not cook the ham quite as long.

This was still a lovely ham, though.

And don't worry, there was plenty left over for the remaining
Seven Days of Ham.

See, I told you.
I weighed out 1-1/2 pounds of ham for a ham loaf (front dish).
The remainder will be used for other dishes.

The Second Day of Ham
And the Third,
And the Fourth,
And the Fifth,
And the Sixth,
And the Seventh,
And the Eighth.
(It turns out that the Foodie Boyfriend really, really likes ham salad.)

I weighed out (what, me anal?) one pound of ham for ham salad.
I also have:
honey mustard
sweet relish
red onion.

I cut everything into a nice mince.
A food processor could be used, but then this would be more of a puree,
and that was not the texture that I wanted.

After tasting, I opted to add about a teaspoon of sugar to cut some of the saltiness from the mayonnaise.

Very nice.

I love ham salad on lightly toasted bread with a bit of Swiss cheese.
By the time the Eight Days of Ham had ended I had cut up, by hand,
about 4-1/2 pounds of the ham for ham salad.

The Third Day of Ham

Ham Loaf
My mise en place:
evaporated milk
ground dry mustard
black pepper
brown sugar
bread crumbs

The ingredients for the glaze are:
apple jelly
lemon juice
ground dry mustard
brown sugar

The food processor was used this time.

The Foodie Boyfriend suggested adding bacon to the top of the ham loaf, so I chopped up a couple of slices of cooked bacon and sprinkled that on top.

The glaze is added towards the end of the baking time.

This almost makes me sad that we only do this just once a year.

Apple-Glazed Ham Loaf

A sweet and tangy glaze tops this ham loaf.

See Apple-Glazed Ham Loaf on Key Ingredient.