Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pastina (or Glorified Leftovers)

My family likes pasta.  My day care kids especially like tiny pasta shaped like stars.  They will eat anything if it has pastina in it, which is great for me as we eat lots of vegetable based dishes. 
I had a quart of leftover Tomato Basil soup in the fridge which became Minestrone with the addition of a can of white beans, some sliced zucchini, part of a bag of mixed vegetables from the freezer, and some frozen spinach.  This in turn became Pastina, when I reheated the soup, and added a box of tiny Pastina stars to the pot.  This became Pastina Bake when I put the leftovers from that meal into a greased casserole, and topped it with parmesan and baked it in the oven.  Pictured also are the garlic twists I made on baking day.
So, from my lowly jar of leftover soup came four meals, plus the leftovers from the Pastina Bake went into Don's lunch box this week.  Something from nothing, it's a good thing!   

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baking Day

When I was not troubled with health issues, Tuesday was my usual baking day.  I would make sourdough angel biscuits to put into the refrigerator for the week, and bake bread, and maybe even some other sweet baked goods.  I like to bake bread and biscuits and things like that, but don't particularly like to bake cookies and pies and cakes.  It is fussy cooking, and I don't like to use the old measure and level off.  It's just too much pressure! 
Well, I am trying to get back in the groove.  There have been so many health setbacks, one right after the other, that I am having trouble getting traction again.  I have had to swallow my pride, and just work on adding one thing at a time to what I can accomplish in a day.  Thank God for my son Joel, I couldn't still work and be active in all the things we do if he wasn't there helping me. 
Anyway, I have added baking day back to my schedule this week.  It almost did me in to knead all that bread dough, but I did it!  My arms feel like noodles! 
I just perfected this wheat bread recipe, and it is so simple it will be my new standard.  The bread has wheat germ and two kinds of whole wheat in it, but the texture is very light, and soft.  The recipe makes three loaves, but I held out one third of the dough and rolled it out to make garlic twists to go with our lunch today. 
The bread is a buttermilk bread.  I pulled three cartons of buttermilk out of my fridge, and they were all expired.  The oldest one was dated in May!  I think cleaning the fridge day will be my next goal, because obviously I don't do a very good job of it.  I did have some dried buttermilk in my pantry, but it was no good also!
Did you know you can substitute regular milk and lemon juice for buttermilk?  You just add 1 T lemon juice for each C of milk to sour it.  You can also use vinegar, but I like the lemon juice better.

New Favorite Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

6 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 C warm water
dissolve yeast in water, and wait for it to bubble up, or proof. 

a stick and a half of butter melted
3 C warm buttermilk (or if you don't have any 3 C regular milk and 3 T lemon juice for substitution)
1/4 C agave nectar (can use honey)
3 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 C toasted wheat germ
6 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 C prarie gold wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine the proofed yeast, buttermilk, cream of tartar, salt, butter, agave nectar, wheat germ, and four cups of whole wheat flour.  With a bread dough hook, knead the dough until the gluten forms long strings of batter.  Gradually add in more flour and knead with the dough hook until all the whole wheat flour is incorporated.  Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead in the remaining 3-4 cups of prairie gold flour.  The dough should be very smooth and elastic, but still soft. 
Place in a well greased bowl, and cover with a damp towel and let rise for one hour in a warm place until the dough is double in size. 
Divide dough into thirds, and divide each third into three ropes of the same length.  Pinch the ropes together at the top, and braid the dough:  pinching the ends under and place in a greased bread pan to rise for 40-45 minutes. 
Bake in a 350 *F oven for 40-45 minutes or until browned and hollow to the touch.  Cool on wire racks, and while the loaves are still hot, butter the tops of the loaves.  Makes three loaves

Herb Garlic Twists

Take 1/3 of the dough above, and roll it out into a 12 inch by 10 inch rectangle.  Brush with 1/2 stick melted butter to which you have added 1 heaping T minced garlic, 2 tsp minced basil, and 1 tsp Mrs. Dash garlic and herb seasoning, and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  Fold the dough over in thirds, and seal the edge.  Cut crosswise into 24 strips.  Twist each strip twice and pinch ends to seal.  Place on a baking sheet and cover with a damp towel and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.  Bake in a 375*F preheated oven until twists are golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuna Puff and Roasted Pork Loin with Onions and Apples in Apple Cider Braise

I am in the thick of canning.  It seems that it all comes at once.  To slow me down further, we spent all weekend on the mountain getting firewood, and hunting.  Not that I'm complaining mind you, I had a wonderful weekend, but it put me in a canning crunch. 
When it gets crazy like this, I am not terribly motivated to cook meals.  I mean, I am already in the kitchen from daylight to dark as it is, I don't really want to be pushing things aside to prep and cook a meal.  The counter today was full as it was with jars of pickled vegetables, and spicy peach pickles.  
These two recipes are minimal prep, minimal dirty dishes meals.  The Tuna Puff are my husbands particular favorite.  He remembers his Aunt Loretta serving them when he was little, and it is a perfect time of year to have them, as the fresh tomatoes are in season.
I had a pork loin thawed out for this week's menu.  I like to braise them, since they are very low in fat. They come out moist and delicious cooked that way.  It takes only a few minutes to get it ready for the oven, and then it takes care of itself for the hour and a half it cooks in the oven. 

Tuna Puff

2 cans tuna drained
1/2 C mayo
1 C shredded cheese
2 T pickle relish (I used a dill one, but you could use sweet)
Sliced fresh tomatoes
6 pieces of bread

On a baking sheet, place bread and add a couple slices of tomatoe to each slice of bread.  In a bowl, mix tuna with mayo, cheese and pickle relish.  Divide up tuna mixture on top of the sliced tomatoes.  Broil in the oven until the puff is golden brown on top and puffy.  We had these yummy sandwiches with canned green beans, and bartlett pear slices. 

Pork Loin with Onions and Apples in Cider Braise

Pork Loin Roast
1 large onion cut in wedges
2 tart baking apples cored and cut in wedges
4 large carrots peeled and cut in chunks
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp herbs de province
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 C soy sauce combined with enough cider to come half way up the roast's side.

In a large roasting pan, place vegetables and pork roast.  Top the roast with minced garlic and herbs de province, salt and pepper.  Pour in the liquid, and carefully baste roast in liquid, so as to not wash off all the garlic and herbs.  Cover and bake at 350*F for an hour and a half, basting a couple of times.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Salsa Ole'

Drizzly cool morning, and I am in the thick of canning.  I was lucky enough to have access to tree ripe peaches from Utah.  Thanks to my friend, I got two boxes, and will be making quarts of beautiful peach halves, and some pickled peaches today.  Also on the agenda is the bread and butter pickles that I have already started earlier.  The cucumbers and the onion did some time in a gallon jar with canning salt and ice to draw out the excess moisture.  They will be extra crispy and hopefully not shrivel in the canning process.  Bread and butter pickling liquid has a high vinegar ratio, so sometimes it draws out too much moisture from the pickles and they are more like pickle prunes!
My friend Jennifer asked for my favorite salsa recipes, and I have three of them so far.  I use recipes I've found in my canning books, and usually add cumin to the recipe.  I made some this year using dried reconstituted chiles, and chipotle peppers.  It is very beautiful in the jar, and we can't wait to try it!  You can vary the recipes slightly as long as the recipe has an acid added like vinegar and lime juice.  The acid veg/non acid veg ratio needs to stay the same.  Basically, you are making veg pickles.   

Fiesta Salsa
7 C peeled fresh tomatoes (about 4 1/2 pounds) chopped
2 C peeled chopped cucumbers
2 C chopped banana peppers (you can take seeds out for mild)
1/2 C Anahiem or pasilla peppers that you've blistered on the burner and peeled and chopped
1/2 C chopped jalapenos
1/3 C minced fresh cilantro
3 T minced garlic
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp canning salt
1/2 C cider vinegar
2 T lime juice
Combine in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Ladle hot salsa in to sterilized hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe tops with a clean dishcloth, and process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Zesty Salsa
10 C peeled chopped fresh tomatoes (6 lbs.)
5 C Anahiem or Slim Jim peppers chopped and seeded
5 C chopped onions
2 1/2 C jalapeno or serrano peppers chopped and seeded (1 lb)
1 1/4 C cider vinegar
3 T minced garlic
1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro
3 tsp canning salt
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp Frank's hotsauce
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
Simmer 10 minutes. Ladle into sterilized hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe tops with a clean rag, and adjust 2 piece caps. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes (18 here).

Tomatillo Salsa
2 lb chopped tomatillos
1 C chopped onion
1 C Anahiem or other long green chiles chopped
1 T miced garlic
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
2 T ground cumin
1/2 T canning salt
1/2 T red pepper flakes
1 C cider vinegar
1/4 C lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle into hot jars with 1/4 in headspace. Wipe rims with a clean cloth, and adjust 2 piece lids that you've warmed in hot water. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes (18 for my altitude).