Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pasta with Clam Sauce and Baked Acorn Squash, Lentil Soup with Ham Hock and Leftover Squash

My husband loves red clam sauce.  I love it too in that I don't have to remember to get the hamburg out of the freezer, and it is easy to get supper on the table in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta. 
We took the kids to the Son Harvest Pumpkin Patch, my cousin's farm outside of Riverton.  The kids all picked out a pumpkin, and we got several kinds of squash.  Among them were two huge white acorn squash.  We all love acorn squash, so we took it home and cooked it for supper. 
Acorn or any other squash is super easy to cook.  I just wash the outside with warm soapy water, and cut it open lengthwise.  I have an old silver serving spoon that is very sturdy, and I use either that, or the icecream scoop to remove the seeds and strings.  I then place the squash halves in a glass baking dish, cut side up, and season with salt and pepper, and a T of butter in the cavity.  I put that in the oven, and fill the glass dish with water at least 1/4 of the way up the sides of the squash.  Bake for at least 1 hour at 350*F.  To serve it, just scoop it out and top with a little butter and pepper, or even some grated cheese.  It is sweet and delicious! 
We only cooked one acorn, but had half of it left over, so I used it in the Lentil and Ham Hock Soup.  It adds lots of vitamin A, but also makes a great thickener.  I have also used it in my cheese sauce for Mac and Cheese.  It is a great vegetable for that, because kids eat it without ever knowing it is in there.
Below are two great examples of easy meals that rely on pantry staples.  I could cook either one anytime, as I always have dried pasta, canned clams, tomatoes, dried beans, and frozen ham hocks on hand. 
Even if you think you don't like seafood, try this sauce.  It is delicious!

Red Clam Sauce

2 T oil
1 white onion peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp old bay seasoning for seafood
1 small can tomato paste
1 T minced garlic
1 5 oz can of chopped clams and their juice
1 quart diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown onions in oil.  Add paste and let it brown a bit.  This carmelizes the sugars and makes a deeper taste to the sauce.  Add minced garlic, and juice from the clams.  Scrape the pan to loosen browned bits, and add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer until pasta tests done.  I always serve this with Linguini, and fresh grated parmesan to top it.

I use my crock pot a couple times a week.  It really saves me, because in a quiet moment when the girls are taking their morning nap, I can get supper going.  Then at the end of the day, when I am pooped from chasing toddlers, and doing chores, I can just open the lid, and serve up the meal. 

Lentil and Ham Hock Soup

In a large sized crock pot, place:
1 pound lentils that have been washed in a strainer and picked over (sometimes there are stones)
1 white onion chopped
3 large carrots peeled and diced
1 green pepper diced
1 red pepper diced
1 jalapeno pepper diced
1 C celery diced (including leaves)
1 large ham hocks
2 quarts V-8 or tomato juice
2 quarts water
flesh from 1/2 cooked acorn squash
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp Adobo Seasoning (a blend of salt, garlic, and spices found in the spice section of the grocery)
Ground pepper

Cook on high for 8-10 hours.  Before serving, taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Remove ham hocks, and cool.  Using a fork, remove meat from the knuckle, and return it to the soup.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Scones and Making Dumplings 101

For my friend Sammi:  A new scone recipe.  If you love snickerdoodles, you'll love this moist light scone.   It would be really good with some maple butter, or I liked it warmed up with just a little butter.

Cinnamon Sugar Scones
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 t baking soda
Combine sour cream with the baking soda in a small mixing bowl.  Set aside.
2 1/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1 t baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 t salt
1/2 C cold butter
2 t cinnamon
garnish with addition cinnamon sugar before baking
Preheat oven to 350*F.  Combine dry ingredients except cinnamon.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender until it resembles fine bread crumbs.  Whisk egg and cinnamon into sour cream mixture, add flour mixture and stir until it just comes together in a ball.  On a pizza stone, or baking sheet, pat dough ball out into a circle about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut into wedges, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.   

I love chicken and dumplings.  We always have stock on hand, and I have cooked chicken or turkey in the fridge at all times, too.  I just make a thick chicken gravy and add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, or the leftover cooked potatoes, carrots, and onions from a roast and some peas from the freezer.  Then comes the dumplings, which are so easy.

Butter Dumplings
2 eggs
1/2 C all purpose flour
6 T softened butter
1/2 t salt
1 pinch ground nutmeg

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and add the flour and mix.  Into this mixture, beat the butter, salt and pinch of nutmeg to make a smooth batter.  Bring the soup to a boil,  Drop half teaspoonfuls of batter into the gently boiling soup.  Cook 6 to 7 minutes at least. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Homemade Noodles

I used to make noodles often when we were first married.  We lived on 800 bucks a month, so anything I could do to stretch our budget, I did.  We bought and stored 50 pounds of flour at a time, and we lived on a ranch where there were chickens, so we had access to eggs.  It was a long trip to town, and most of it on unpaved roads, so if I ran out of something, I had to improvise.
Noodles are easy, but require some upper body strength to roll.  I think on my next trip to town, I'll have to invest in a pasta roller, so I can get them to come out thin and smooth.  Even though my noodles today were not what I used to be able to do, (they were a little lumpy and too thick) they were still delicious.  I don't know why I every started using dried!
So here's my noodle recipe.  If the dough is too dry, add a little T of water at a time until it feels the right texture.

Egg Noodles
1 1/2 C all purpose flour  (I use 1 C white, and a half C wheat to make them more nutritious)
3 large eggs
a scant tsp of salt
fresh pepper to taste
Pour the flour on a clean and dry countertop, in a pile.  With the back of the measuring cup, push out the center of the flour to make a well.  It will look like a volcano crater.  Make sure there is flour surrounding the well on all sides, or your eggs will leak out, and it will be infinitely more messy.  Crack the eggs into the well, and season with salt and a grind of fresh pepper.  With a fork, start stirring the eggs, incorporating a little flour at a time until a dough ball forms.  Knead it gently to clean the board of all remaining flour, and cover with a bowl and let rest ten minutes.  On a lightly floured board, roll the dough with a floured rolling pin as thin as humanly possible, (or run it through a pasta roller).  With the dough lightly dusted with flour on both sides, fold it over in thirds to make a long rectangle, and slice into thin noodles.  Separate, and cook in either boiling salted water, or add to chicken or beef soup.  Cook fifteen minutes or until noodles are floating and tender.
You can also put this dough in a colander and pushing it back and forth across the holes to make spaetzle.