Cooking

Kitchen Tools: Dutch Oven

When it comes to slow cooking or low heat cooking in the oven, you just can’t beat the Dutch Oven.  If you are a fan of Country French cooking, you should consider getting one.

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I have made Beef Bourguignon in various types of cookware–covered casserole dish in the oven, crock pot, and stew pot on the range top–but nothing compares to using a Dutch Oven which allows braising and simmering of the bacon, beef, onions, carrots, etc. on top the range and then moved into the oven for the slow cooking process.

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There are a few things to consider before buying and using a Dutch Oven.  Dutch Ovens are heavy. You have to be confident that once it is full of hot food, that you will be able to move it about as is needed.

All exposed bits of iron on your Dutch Oven need to be oiled to keep it from rusting. I use a light vegetable oil for this task. If your Dutch Oven is enamel coated iron, the enamel coating can chip. If it chips the iron beneath can rust.  If your Dutch Oven is only partly enamel coated, same thing goes—all exposed bits of iron need to be oiled to keep from rusting.

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You have to give it time to transition from hot to cold and cold to hot. Fast changes in temperature can cause cracking or chipping of the enamel glaze.

It is because of the very thick, heavy walls of the pot that make it so good for slow cooking at a very consistent temperature. It is the kind of cooking that requires you to slow yourself down. The cooking cannot be rushed.

Once you have the Dutch Oven in the oven, you can use that cooking time–sometimes hours–to prepare the rest of the meal. Or you could have a nice cup of tea and relax.

A Dutch Oven isn’t as user friendly as a crock pot—and it is heavy; but, you won’t be disappointed with the results if you follow the recipes and treat your Dutch Oven with the care it requires.

 

 

Chopped Chicken Livers

I don’t use a recipe, I have been making it for so long. I do it by taste. I tend to make too much of each of the ingredients (except for the liver) So, I often boil all 12 eggs in a carton—what I don’t use in the chopped liver, will get eaten by someone in our family. I chop and saute a whole large onion even though I know I will not use it all in the chopped liver. The reason being, the size of ingredients often vary, so I add small amounts of ingredients at a time mix it up and taste and adjust from there.

1 ½ – 2 lbs of chicken livers

Boil 1 dozen eggs (may only use 4, 5 or 6 based on taste)

1 large sweet onion (may only use about half of the onion)

Few tablespoons of organic vegetable oil (safflower or other mild flavored oil—olive oil is too strong) used to saute the onion and moisturize the Chopped liver.

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Broil the chicken livers in the oven until quite dark so they will be done all the way through. Set aside to cool.

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Hard boil the eggs and set aside to cool.

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Saute the onion in the oil until the onion is translucent. Be sure not to set the heat to high—you do not want to brown the onions it can make them take on a bitter taste. When done, set aside to cool.

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Take all of the livers and place them in a wooden bowl for chopping.

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Resist the urge to use a blender, food processor or chopper—the chopping method does affect the flavor and it takes the right amount of oxidation to get the right liver taste.

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I use a wooden bowl and a single blade mezzaluna (a special curved blade with handled-sometimes there are multiple blades). Why the single blade? Well mostly, a matter of preference, because stuff can get stuck in between the blades of a multiple blade mezzaluna. I have had the same wooden bowl and mezzaluna for almost 40 years (I bought them during the first year we were married).

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Chop the livers until you get a coarse texture but not bigger than a pea. Then add 4 of the hardboiled eggs (if you have closer to 2 lbs of livers, start with 5 eggs) and chop those into the livers. Add about half of the sautéed onions straining out the oil (you may have to add more later if the chopped liver is too dry–keep in mind the oil will add more onion flavor).

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When you get the right taste and consistency by adding additional ingredients, salt and pepper to taste.  Some people like the chopped liver at room temperature and others like it chilled. I suggest trying it both ways to figure out your preference. Serve with toast points or a variety crackers.

Banana Walnut Bread

Have some really ripe bananas? Try Banana Nut Bread!

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That is the scenario that we faced this past weekend. What to do with 7 really ripe bananas. Well we didn’t turn them all into nut bread, but we did use some of them for that purpose.  We used a really simple recipe, but  it does take some planning ahead. The eggs and butter should be at room temperature—so they need to sit out of the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The walnuts taste a lot better if you roast them in the oven first—it releases the natural oils.

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Ingredients

1 ¼ cup of unbleached organic all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine salt

2 large eggs (at room temperature)

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted organic butter (at room temperature)

1 cup of sugar

3very ripe bananas peeled and mashed should be about a cup

½ cup toasted walnut pieces

Directions

Sift the flour, baking soda & salt into a bowl and set aside.

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Put the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl (or glass measuring cup) and whisk until blended and set aside.

Brush Butter or oil onto a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Pre-heat the oven for 350 degrees F.

I always sift dry ingredients just to make sure there are no lumps.

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Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (You can use a stand mixer or a hand held electric mixer)

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Slowly pour the egg mixture into the butter while using a mixer until it a smooth blend.

Add the bananas mixing until blended. (the mixture may look curdled, that is ok)

Using a rubber cake spatula, mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts and transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the pan cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

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Turn the bread out on a wire rack to completely cool.

After it is cool, wrap in plastic wrap. For the best flavor serve the next day.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 

Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

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This little adventure all started, because we had some over ripe bananas in the house. So we started brainstorming about how to use them (besides making smoothies–which we also did).

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Ingredients

4 eggs

2 cups of milk

1 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

4 cups cubed French Bread (we used stale oatmeal bread)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 bananas sliced (we quartered them length wise and then cubed them)

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Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan

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In a large mixing bowl, mix eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the bread, bananas and chocolate chips. Let stand for 5 minutes so the bread can soak up the liquid mixture.

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Pour into prepared loaf pan.

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Prepare a water bath for the loaf pan to sit in. Line a roasting pan with a damp kitchen towel. Place bread pan on the towel inside the roasting pan. Place roasting pan on oven rack. Fill roasting pan with water to reach halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Challenge yourself to use left over fruits and vegetables. You will save money while expressing your creativity.

Enjoy!

Quiche Lorraine

This is a lovely custardy quiche!

Ingredients

1 pie crust uncooked                                      2 cups cream
1 cup shredded Swiss Cheese                      ¾ teaspoon salt
8 slices of bacon                                            ¼ teaspoon white sugar
½ cup minced onion                                      1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 eggs beaten

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Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Place bacon in a large skillet, fry over medium heat until bacon is crisp. Add the onion and cook until onion is translucent not brown.

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Drain bacon and onion on paper towels, then chop bacon in large pieces. Sprinkle bacon, cheese and onion into pastry shell.

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In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, salt, sugar and cayenne pepper. Pour mixture into pastry shell.

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Bake 15 minutes in the Preheated oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake an additional 30-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean.

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Allow quiche to sit for 10 minutes before cutting the quiche into wedges. I like to serve quiche with a salad of field greens.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

When you are carving a pumpkin for Halloween or Fall Festival, you have to scoop the seeds out anyway, so you may as well collect them up and roast them.

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You don’t have to wash the seeds, but you can if you want. If you wash them, don’t dry them off too much so the salt and spices will stick to them. If you don’t wash them, you can put 2 teaspoons of oil in a small bowl and coat the pumpkin seeds lightly in oil.

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Pre-heat the oven for 300 degrees.

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While the oven is heating up, take the pumpkin seeds and arrange them on an oiled sheet pan in a single layer. You can add salt and any kind of spice flavor that you want. We used curry powder and cayenne pepper. Cook for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

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Apple Cake

Autumn is the perfect time to make apple dishes. I have Ida Red Apples in the house, so I substituted them in this recipe that calls for Fuji or Gala apples.

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Ingredients
2 eggs
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ cup oil
6 medium Gala or Fuji or Honey Crisp Apples
2 Cups Flour
2 Tablespoons Baking Soda

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Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and oil. Peel and slice the apples and add to mixture in bowl (coating as you add apples to keep them from turning brown.) Mix together the baking soda and flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl.

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Mix well (best with a fork) until all of the flour is absorbed by the wet ingredients. Pour mixture into a greased one 9×12 or two 9 inch round pans.

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Bake for approximately 55 minutes.

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Possible Presentation Ideas
Place a scoop of vanilla ice Cream next to a slice of cake and then drizzle with caramel syrup

Tri-Color Stuffed Bell Peppers

I have never been a carb lover, so reducing carbs while cooking, feels very natural. I eat rice, pastas, noodles, and potatoes in very small amounts. I do love most vegetables and really love cauliflower as a substitution for rice. Sometimes when I make this dish, I use half rice and half cauliflower. I feel very comfortable changing it up each time.

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 serves 6:  6 large Sweet Bell Peppers, 2 each color yellow, orange, & red, washed and dried

Stuffing:

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup chopped orange/red mini sweet peppers
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup cauliflower, finely chopped or riced
or
1 cup cooked white or brown rice (omit if using cauliflower)
Garlic Powder to taste
1 tablespoon dried Tuscan Italian seasoning
Fresh ground black pepper

12 oz of Marinara Sauce for topping

Cut the tops off of the 6 large Bell Peppers. clean out the seeds. Set peppers aside.

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Dice the onion, mini sweet peppers, and celery and set aside.  Using a deep skillet or pot, brown your ground beef then add the chopped onion and peppers, and cook for a few minutes.

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Add the cooked rice and/or riced Cauliflower, marinara sauce, rub the Tuscan Italian seasoning into the mixture, season with salt and pepper.

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Drain if necessary. Mix well. Stuff peppers with this mixture.

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Place peppers in a Crock Pot/slow cooker or deep baking dish.

Top each with a couple tablespoons of ketchup or marinara sauce.

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Slow Cooker Method: Cover slow cooker and cook peppers on LOW for 6 hours or HIGH for 3. Peppers are done when they’re very soft and tender and the meat mixture is very hot all the way through. Serve.

Oven Method: 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Homemade Chunky Applesauce

Perfect for pairing with pork loin roast or pork chops.

INGREDIENTS

I used 4 large Ida Red Apples –because that is what I had on hand.

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2 tablespoons unsalted organic butter

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons Sugar

2-3 Tablespoons of Water

 

DIRECTIONS

Peel, core and cut the apples into ½ inch chunks

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add apples, cinnamon, sugar, and two (or three) tablespoons of water.

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Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, Ida Red apples do not cook down as fast as some apples do, so I cooked for about 20 minutes. If it looks too wet, take the lid off and let some water evaporate.

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Serve warm or chilled. Keep in the refrigerated if you are not using right away.

 

 

Spaghetti Squash—Pasta Alternative

Spaghetti squash is an easy to cook alternative to pasta when preparing Italian food—a great low carb substitute base for sauces—including tomato, pesto or white.

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It takes couple of minutes to prepare and about 20 minutes to cook. Take the squash and cut it in half length wise. Clean out the seeds and loose fibers.

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Place cut side down on a microwave safe plate. Cook on high for 20 minutes.

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Let the squash sit and cool a few minutes..

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When you can handle it, take a fork and scrape at the inside of the squash, the inside should string apart into long fibers.

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Place the squash fibers on a plate and cover with your favorite sauce and enjoy a low carb Italian meal.

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We always keep a block of parmesan cheese in the refrigerator, because a little bit of fine grated parmesan cheese adds just the right finish to many recipes.

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