Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fennel and Orange Slaw with Mint

We ate at the Chinese Restaurant last week, and they had a Cambodian coleslaw type salad on the buffet.  It had leaves of mint in it, and was surprisingly delicious.  I had never thought to pair cabbage with mint before.
We have been eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables lately.  We adore fennel, and when we can get good fresh fennel, we buy it up to make poached fish, or to put into soups.
If you have never had fresh fennel bulb, you are in for a treat.  It is similar to celery in texture, but has a mild licorice flavor to it.  It is great fresh, or roasted, or in soups.  The fronds are pretty, and although I doubt that they add much in the way of nutrition, I always chop up a few and add them in any fennel dish.
We are avid participators in the Bountiful Basket program.  It is a volunteer food cooperative, and offers fresh food at low prices.  We just got our Bountiful Basket for the week, so I needed to make room for all the new fresh goodies that came in our basket, I scoured through my full bins for things to use up, and this is the salad that was created, in honor of that delicious Cambodian slaw.

Fennel and Orange Slaw

3 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced thinly
3 oranges, royaled*
1 English cucumber sliced
1/4 C fresh mint leaves
reserved orange juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
fennel fronds for garnish

Cut the fronds and core end off of the fennel bulb, and cut it in half lengthwise.  Cut out the tough core, and slice in half moon shaped thin slices, and place in a large salad bowl.  Add all remaining ingredients and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  This is great served with roasted pork, or would be an awesome picnic salad.  It's very fresh, and low calorie.
*A royaled orange:  Cut both ends off of an unpeeled orange.  Then standing the orange on the cut surface, you can remove the peel and pith from the orange.  With a paring knife, cut the orange slices out keeping close to the membranes.  When all the slices are liberated, squeeze the orange juice out of the orange "guts" and into a bowl to use for the dressing.
Royaling fruit is a great method.  I use it to add citrus to salads. If the citrus in my fruit bowl on the kitchen table starts to look a little soft, I will royal all the fruit, and put it and the juice into a canning jars to put in the fridge.  It's amazing how quickly that cold fruit gets used up once I do that!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Making Chicken Stock Second Method

If you've read my blog before, you know that I use rotisserie chicken from the store often.  I figure if they can roast it for me for the same price as a raw chicken, I will let them.  I will let you in on another little secret:  I have an aversion to raw poultry.  It grosses me out!  I hate the smell, and the feel of it.  I really hate it when it's not cleaned good, and you have to pull the pin feathers, or clean leftover guts out of the body cavity.  I have a hard time eating chicken after handling it raw, it just bothers me.  So, I buy it warm and roasted and smelling delicious from the store.  There, I've admitted it!
After I pick all the meat off of the chicken, I put the skin and bones in a zip lock bag, and it goes in my freezer.  That way, when it is a cold day, or I am bored, I can pull it out and make stock.  I had three bags full of chicken bones, and I put them in my big 15 quart stock pot.  I filled it up to about two thirds, and added a handful of black peppercorns, and about 5 small bay leaves.  Because the chicken was seasoned before being roasted, this will have a slightly different flavor than the stock I made in the previous post. It is made from roasted meat, so it will have a darker color than stock made from poached chicken.
I clamp a lid on the pot, and put it on my simmer burner to cook there all day.  It takes all day to get it to that fall apart stage, where the meat and gelatin have all been gleaned from the bones and skin.  After it is done to that stage, I pour it through a colander into another huge stock pot.  All of the bones and skin and little bits of meat have given their all to the stock, and along with the peppercorns and bay leaves, it goes in the trash.  Now I have a huge pot of stock at my disposal.  I usually put it into canning jars, leaving 1 1/2 to 2 inch headspace, and just freeze it using a plastic lid made to fit canning jars.  I am at a limit to my freezer space, so this time I will can it.
When canning any low acid food, such as meat stock, you need to use a pressure canner.  Be sure to follow the directions from the manufacturer of your canner, and use the recipe guidelines from a reliable source, such as Ball Blue Book, or Kerr Canning Guides.  You can get recipes online, but be aware that not all sources are reliable.
So, I used the parts that would have gotten thrown away normally, and made seven glorious jars of stock.  It is more flavorful than the stock in a box, and if you figure in the cost of the seasoning, and the jar lid, it still costs only pennies to make!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Canning Chicken, Making Chicken Stock I

Chicken has been an incredible value this week.  I found chicken breast for $.99 and I stocked up on leg quarters for $.89 a month or so ago.  In the next few posts, I will show three different methods for making chicken stock, and soup.  I am making a chicken soup base today, but I will also be making a Chicken Cacciatore, and possibly a White Chicken Chili if I have enough chicken and stock.
Now, I know that chicken stock is readily available, and of high quality, but it is extremely easy to make your own, and costs just pennies a jar.  Once you start making your own, you'll never go back to store bought.  There is a depth of flavor, that you just can't buy in a box.
I recently got a new 8 quart pressure canner/cooker, and the method I'm showing you today is made easier by using my pressure cooker to make the stock.  I could most certainly make it by simmering it slowly all day in a stock pot, and I'll show you that method next time, but it took less than an hour to get the chicken to that fall apart state needed for stock making.  I'll be using this method far more often than the cooking all day one to be sure.
I make my stock using no added salt, but you could certainly use salt in yours.  Just be sure if you plan on canning the stock instead of freezing it that you use canning and pickling salt, not table salt.  Iodized salt and canning don't mix.
So I started this batch of Chicken Soup Base with a package of leg quarters.  The dark meat in legs and thighs makes a superior stock in my opinion, but I also make stock from breasts.  The color will be a lighter lemon yellow versus a more orange brown that you get from the dark meat.
This package of meat was 5 pounds, and it was $.89/pound.  I had purchased it a while back, and stored it in the freezer for stock making day.
After browning the leg quarters well in a couple T of olive oil, I removed the chicken and placed the jar rack back in the cooker with the chicken on top of it.  This elevates the meat, while still circulating the liquid, and keeps the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Then I added 6 quarts of water, a handful of peppercorns, and about four small bay leaves.  That is all.  You will be amazed at the flavor this will render.  This processed for 35 minutes at 10 pounds of  pressure.    I let the cooker sit for five minutes off of the heat, and then ran cold water over it in the sink, and removed the weighted gauge before opening it.  Note that this method is only used when cooking in the pressure cooker, and never when it is being used as a canner.
Now it is just a matter of picking the meat off of the chicken, and straining the stock.  To the hot clean jars, I added carrots onions and celery, along with the meat from the leg quarters.  I don't fill the jars more than half way, so that there is plenty of stock to cook homemade noodles, or spaetzle, or dumplings in when I heat it up to serve it.
While I was filling the jars, I have a stockpot full of the chicken stock on to boil, and I've added the proper amount of water to my pressure canner, and the jar rack, and have that on the stove also.  I have put my lids and rings together, and they are waiting in hot water for when I need them.  If the lids are kept hot, the rubber will have a better chance to seal. I'll drain off the water at the last minute, and have them handy.
Now the chicken stock is boiling, I take great care to ladle the hot broth into the jars, leaving a 1 inch headspace.  After the jars sit for a couple minutes, I will skim off the fat at the top, and add enough broth to come up to the 1 inch headspace amount again.  With a clean towel that has been soaked in hot water and a little vinegar and rung out, I carefully wipe the rims of the jars, and place the lids and rings on.  Working with a towel over my hand, because the jars are extremely hot, I screw the lids down tight and carefully place them down in the pressure canner.  The canner lid goes on and the weight, and they process for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure.  After processing, I will let the canner come back to normal pressure before I remove the weight, and set them on a towel to cool.  I like to remove the rings and wash the jars after pressure processing.  They leak a small amount of liquid, and should be cleaned before storage.
I prefer to store the rings back on the jar.  I am careful to place them on loosely, so I don't disturb the seal of the jar.  I don't like to have to keep all those rings elsewhere, and I feel it helps protect the jar rim if it should get bumped around.  Once they are chipped, they are no good for canning.
So, here is the finished product.  The package of three leg quarters made 8 quarts of chicken soup base. Figuring in the vegetables and the herbs and spices, and also the lids, it still only comes to $.89 cents a quart jar.  It is so worth the time and effort!

Snap Pea Salad
Snap Peas were a good value at the store this week. Also vine ripened tomatoes, so I made this fresh salad for lunch today:
1 C Snap Peas cut in half

3 vine ripened tomatoes cut in wedges
1 C Carrots peeled and sliced on the mandolin 
1/2 Red Onion sliced thin
1/2 C Feta Cheese
1/4 C Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 t Mrs. Dash onion and herb seasoning
1/8 t tajin seasoning
drizzle olive oil
you can find tajin seasoning in the produce section, it is a latin flavoring for fruit, and adds a tangy citrus flavor.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Turkey International: Hungarian Turkey and Cabbage Casserole, Dutch Turkey Waldorf Salad

It is a challenge to come up with new recipes for turkey, as we eat it often due to my dietary restrictions.  You can only eat so many plain turkey sandwiches before it becomes boring.  If it were colder out, I would get out a whole turkey from the freezer.  I stockpiled several last Thanksgiving time.  The thought of roasting a whole bird for most of a morning in my already hot kitchen is almost more than I can stand.  So, I rely on the roasted turkey breast that they sell in our local grocery store.  I carefully pull the whole breast off the bones, and put the bones and bits of meat still clinging on,  along with the skin, in a stockpot to boil away while I finish the rest of my turbo cooking for the week. 
I deli slice half of one whole breast for sandwiches, and put it in a tupperware in the meat drawer.  I will add a couple teaspoons of the broth made from the bones to the meat to make sure it makes a moist  and tender meat sandwich.  This is a good tip for any kind of roasted meat that you are going to use for sandwiches.  The other half gets diced for the Hungarian Turkey and Cabbage Casserole.  The other breast gets divided: 4 cups get diced for the Waldorf Salad, and the rest shredded to make homemade turkey and noodles on Thursday.
So, for my twelve dollars of already prepared meat, I have four meals plus leftovers.  Three dollars a meal!  Not a bad meat choice for our tight budget.
We love cabbage in any preparation in our house, either cooked or raw, or as sauerkraut.  This is a variation on a traditional Hungarian side dish.  It is simply shredded cabbage cooked in butter and added to cooked noodles.  I have adapted it to include mushrooms and onions and leftover meat.  It is good with turkey, but you could also use diced beef roast, or pork.

Hungarian Turkey and Cabbage Casserole
6 T butter divided
1 diced onion
2 C mushrooms sliced
1/2 head shredded cabbage
1 qt/box chicken or turkey stock
1 C diced turkey
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 C milk
2 T cornstarch
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 box cooked and drained short cut pasta like shells

In a large dutch oven or chicken cooker skillet, sweat the onion and mushrooms until onions are translucent in 3 T butter.  Add shredded cabbage, and stir until it starts to wilt.  Add caraway and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  In a measuring cup blend the milk with the cornstarch until it is dissolved.  Stir into boiling stock until it thickens.  Stir in the remaining 3 T butter to finish the sauce, and pour over cooked pasta.
At this point, you can cool and store it to heat in the oven later in the week at 350*F until bubbly. 

Turkey makes a wonderful Waldorf type salad.  I use apples and dried fruits and toasted nuts in it.  My daycare kids love it.

Turkey Waldorf Salad
4 C diced turkey
1/2 minced onion
1 C celery diced
1/2 C chopped dried cherries
2 apples cored and chopped (anything you like, I used a tart pink lady apple)
1/4 C chopped toasted nuts

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, and top with dressing:
juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/2 C Greek yogurt
1/4 C orange juice
1/2 T orange zest
1 tsp sugar or stevia, or to taste
1/2 tsp cardamom

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mexican Style Pickled Vegetables

We love the flavor of cumin seeds.  This is a hotter version of pickled vegetables.  I have slices of jalapenos in it, and a more spicy pickle than the plain Italian kind.  It will need to sit on the shelf a good six months to fully develop it's deliciousness.  Super easy, it's a boiling water bath canning project.
I cut up the vegetables after work, and then stored them in a covered container until nap time this morning.  While the girls are sleeping, I made the brine, filled the jars with vegetables and spices, and processed it.  I have enough for another canner load of it, but will save that until tomorrow.  I have more carrots, onions and chilis left, so I'll add another head of cauliflower to make it enough for a whole load.  The vegetables will be fine covered in the fridge until then.

Mexican Style Pickled Vegetables
2 pounds carrots peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
6 sliced jalapenos
3 Anaheim chilis deveined and chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 Passia peppers deveined and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 chopped onions
2 C chopped celery

Into each sterilized jar, place 1/4 tsp each of cumin seed, coriander, black peppercorns, and mustard seed.  Add 1 small bay leaf, 1 dried chile de arbol, and 1/2 T minced garlic.  Fill jars with vegetables, packing as tightly as possible.  Add 1/8 tsp pickle crisp to each jar.  Top with boiling brine liquid:
3 C white vinegar
3 C water
1 T canning salt
Release air from jars by using a chopstick inserted in several places in the jar.  Readjust the liquid to achieve 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth, and screw on lids and rims.  Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath canner, starting the time when the water reaches a good boil after the jars are imersed in water.  Place processed jars on a thick towel not touching each other to cool.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pressure Cooking Chicken Cacciatore

My husband and I went garage sale shopping last Saturday.  I had to go get blood drawn, and we were up and out earlier than I needed to be there.  I have been trying to find a tricycle for my little kids, so we went down and copied addresses and hit six or seven sales.
We made out pretty good.  I found a folding toddler seat with a tray just exactly like the one I already have, some Disney movies for the kids to enjoy, a great Taste of Home Cookbook, and a pressure canner.
I have the exact same model of pressure canner, except mine is a 22 quart, and this one is an 8 quart. That means I can use the new one to pressure can smaller batches of food in less time, because it doesn't have to build up pressure to fill the 22 quart space.  I was SO excited to find it for three dollars.  It is in like new condition, and the rubber seal was still good, to my surprise.
I haven't used it for canning yet, but I tried it out to make supper tonight.
Pressure cooking is an excellent method for tenderizing and getting slow cooking food done quickly.  It is a wonderful way to cook dried beans, rice, stews, and fricassee type meals.
I had a little bit of trepidation about pressure cooking.  When I was growing up, my Mom used her pressure cooker often.  My father was a hunter, and fisherman, so we had lots of wild game to eat.  Instead of chicken, we ate sage grouse.  We had elk steak and roast instead of beef.  My mother was not so creative in her cooking style, so often she would pressure cook meat like elk roast for meals.  I don't think she browned the food before pressure cooking it, or used a lot of seasoning, and it always was bland, grey and tasteless.  However, that chchchchch sound was a part of my daily experience as a kid, and I decided I'd try out my "new" cooker for supper tonight, mostly just for old time's sake.
I had some chicken leg quarters thawed out for dinner, and some pasilla peppers that needed used up.  I decided to make Cacciatore, or Hunter's Stew. This is a meal that was put on the back burner before the hunters headed out to the field.  It is served over a starch like pasta or rice, and is a delicious recipe, especially with the dark meat leg pieces.  It is a slow cooker favorite of mine, but you can make it in the pressure cooker in less than an hour, prep included.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

3 T olive oil
4 Chicken leg quarters
1 diced onion
4 stalks celery diced
3 passia chili peppers diced, seeds and ribs removed
2 pkg sliced button mushrooms
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 bottle red wine (I used a petite syrah)
1 small can tomato paste
2 pints/small cans tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Season leg quarters and brown in the pressure cooker with the lid removed.  After the chicken is browned well on both sides, remove the chicken to a plate, and add the vegetables.  Saute until the onions are starting to soften.  Add the garlic and spices, and deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up the browned bits with a spatula. Add the tomatoes, and season to taste.  Nestle the chicken back in the pan and put on the lid.  Cook on high heat with the weighted gauge on 10 pounds.  When the gauge starts to chitter, reduce the heat slightly and cook for 25 minutes.  This will take a little practice to know where to turn it to so that it still chitters, but doesn't get so hot it blows off too much steam.  I have pressure canned for years, so I know exactly where to set it to maintain that happy medium.  Turn off the heat, and let the cooker stand for 5 minutes on the burner.  Carefully move the closed cooker with the weighted gauge still on to the sink, and then run cold water over it.  Remove the weighted gauge.  When no more steam escapes the valve, it is safe to open the cooker.
You will be amazed how deep red the sauce is, as the tomato's natural sugars have caramelized.  It is called the Maillard Reaction, in technical terms, and it spells big flavor.  The chicken comes out moist and fall off the bone tender in this short amount of time.  The wine, tomato, herb and garlic flavors have permeated the meat because of the pressure applied.
Honestly, It took less than an hour, even with chopping vegetables and browning the chicken included. I will never cook Cacciatore in my slow cooker again!