Evening Meal

Sloppy Joes

Appurtenant to yesterday's blog post, here is how I have made sloppy joes. 


Sloppy Joes 

This would feed eight people. I made this amount thinking of leftovers.* 


2.5-2.75 lb ground round

1 medium onion (about a cup, small or fine dice)

1 yellow or red bell pepper, small or fine dice

15 oz unseasoned tomato sauce (not British tomato sauce, which is just ketchup.)

6 oz tomato paste

1/2 cup warm water

@3 tbs brown sugar

@1 tbs Kirkland Sweet Mesquite seasoning (a similar style of barbecue seasoning would do.)

@1 tbs chili powder.


—Brown meat with onions and peppers. Drain, saving liquid for soup or gravy, if you like. 

—Stir in the paste, let it cook for a couple minutes, then use the paste can to add the warm water. 

—Stir in the tomato sauce and seasonings. You can try adding less brown sugar; we thought this amount balanced things well in the end. 

—Simmer at low heat with a lid on for 10-30 minutes, depending on the time you have. 

—Add a little more seasoning after tasting, if you like, and stir well. You might like a little freshly-ground pepper.

—Serve on warmed or toasted buns. I like dill pickle slices on mine.


*Making a half recipe would take 1.3 lbs ground round, 8 oz tomato sauce, half everything else. You can use chuck or sirloin; the moisture content and total volume will be slightly different.


Slow food or convenient food? No. Both.

You probably know I generally have the time and inclination to take the long slow path toward dinner. I will spend all day making stock for sauce and soup. I don't mind making a thing to make another thing. Sometimes I roast heads of garlic, separate them, and put them in a jar with oil to use later. Etcetera.

Also, I have cookbooks from several eras, and I like to try the baking recipes. But that doesn't mean I don't buy Duncan Hines cake mixes several at a time when they're on sale, to use once in a while when I'm in the mood.

I don't like making cake with them just straight according to the recipe on the back. The cake is fluffy, but doesn't have much depth. You can do all sorts of things to them, though, and the company which produces them knows that, always offering new recipes to encourage people to buy them.

Mom, who cooked from scratch more than most moms in the 70s, sometimes made cookies with them, and this is a week I'm thinking about Mom, so I did, too.

But before I did that, I pounded some roasted garlic cloves in the mortar with oregano and thyme I picked a few weeks ago, and some sea salt, and smeared it over split chicken breasts to cook for dinner later on. After several hours, I roasted them at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes. We ate those with roasted (15 minutes at 400) zucchini and yellow squash, and then also strawberries and raw baby carrots because my son finished dinner for me. He will steam a vegetable, but not if it doesn't have to be.

DSC_3671I keep the herbs in a bag like this, then just shake some out or crumble a bit of stem to get what I want.

DSC_3672These chilled in the refrigerator all afternoon, then I took them out to start warming while I preheated the oven.

I buy big packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips at Costco, but stock up on these other varieties, plus nuts and coconut when they're on sale before and after holidays. I just keep them all together in a big storage container. I put 1/2 cup of each of these chips in with the cake mix.

The cake mixes generally want two eggs and 1/2 cup melted butter or oil to make cookies, and you can add a little flavoring. Some come out sweeter than others. They take a little longer to bake than most cookie recipes, at 350º.


The garlic mush, with the addition of a little olive oil before roasting, made a nice bit of crust over the chicken.

There is a little chicken left. One of my sons and I both cut a portion from our chicken breasts before eating, then he bagged the remainder for me to use for soup stock. This, and also cost per portion, and also better flavor, is why I buy chicken parts that have not had their bones removed.

PS: When I roast a whole chicken, I freeze the neck to use later. There is my special tip for you; chicken stock or soup tastes better if you simmer it with the neck.

Paprika My Heart

Yes, well.

I saw this recipe a couple days ago and it intrigued me, so I tried it this afternoon, with just a few tiny changes. I'm very happy with the result, and will definitely make it again.

20140611_161316 This is three large tomatoes instead of six Romas, garlic cloves, red and yellow onion, and red potatoes. I added smoked paprika sea salt and black pepper, and a splash of olive oil.

The recipe called for eight skinless chicken thighs in a 13x9 pan, and a little Spanish cooking chorizo, as well. I used my French oven, and put in one link of sausage, and six bone-in thighs, cooking the other two separately. I left on the skin, and used Costco Tuscan Seasoning instead of oregano with the smoked sweet paprika, which I was generous with. I did not score the thighs, but brushed on a bit more olive oil.

Let me just say that I prefer cooking with meat that still has bones in it, and I also think it's better to remove the skin after cooking, if you don't plan to eat it. If you wanted to do that, you could rub the seasoning under the skin.



Cannelloni with...no garnish!

Cannelloni takes a really long time to prepare. So I just stuck it on a plate and dug in. I made it because I watched Lidia make it on PBS the other day. Here is the ricetta. Only because of the terrible, terrible cold, I had to make a few changes. Once I was back in the house after a shopping trip on Sunday, I was not going back out until proper winter returned. Which is tomorrow.

I made beef broth instead of chicken, long story but uninteresting, I'm sure. I had no mortadella or celery. Seriously, forgetting the celery? A week without celery is a week with less-than correct cooking. For me. I had fresh lasagna noodles from Jungle Jim's, and just cut them to the correct size. And I used Romano and a really good provolone instead of Grana Padana, because that was disappeared into the refrigerator somewhere instead of in the cheese drawer. Yes, I have a cheese drawer.

For the marinara I browned some smashed garlic cloves in olive oil, added a large can of whole tomatoes and a squinch of tomato paste, a little salt and peperoncini, stirred it around for awhile, then added a few shakes of dried Sicilian oregano. For the beef broth, since I had no celery, I threw in some baby turnip greens. And here are unedited phone pix of some of the process.

I roasted some marrow bones and a big soup bone for this. Of course I gave one of the marrow bones to the dog, then used the rest. Marrow bones are one of a dog's main reasons for loving life.



Forgot to mention I used kale instead of spinach. I like it better.





Post-modern pizza

I'm a lousy Italian-American. I'm not really into pasta, and I don't like tomato sauce in everything or cheese on everything. I'd rather just mush up tomatoes with stuff and use that, if tomatoes are the thing to be had. I'd rather just eat a tomato. And so I'm also not a great fan of pizza. I like bread with tomatoes and olive oil on it. If you add a poached egg, that's even better.

Well, but on the other hand, there's always all the pizza or pasta ingredients here, plenty of garlic, etc. For the boys, pepperoni is a staple.

So sometimes I get out bread and sauce and cheese, pepperoni and onions, and if we have them, pineapple, green peppers, and black olives for the kid who likes those, and the boys make pizzas. And then I raid the condiment shelves in the refrigerator for mine.

Tonight we had naan and roti, and they had pepperoni, onions, and mozzarella. And sauce, of course, a good one from a jar. The Indian bread cooks into a good pizza at 425 degrees.

I love goat cheese on pizza but I don't buy it very often; I never get through it all in time. So I quickly caramelized onions, mixed a little sour cherry preserves into white fig jam (thanks, Karen, because the fig on its own would be too sweet without a stronger cheese,) and topped it with regular not-very-old Gouda. On my other piece of roti I used black olive tapenade, basil pesto (Kroger Private Selection for the winter win,) spicy salami, and a little asiago.

The salami pizza was perfect. The jam one was almost; it really wanted a more aged gouda or maybe a smoked one. It would be good with goat cheese, too. Another thing I don't do right; I don't eat it very hot. People have a tendency to eat everything either too hot or too cold, by my reckoning. Except cocktails, which they never make cold enough.

The drink is Basil Hayden's bourbon with a little PAMA and bitters.

Panpizzahalf the pizza is for tomorrow. and we are on paper plates this weekend, because of a water pressure thing.


It's pie season! (full quiche ahead)

I'm so sorry about the terrible title.

I don't like the contemporary custom of blathering pages'-worth of how my friend's sister makes this great thing I wanted to try before getting down to the actual thing someone came to the website for. But this isn't really a recipe page. It's always been more just about enjoying food. Still, here are messy phone pictures of quiche-making, and 600 words of blather and general instructions after that. If you want more details about any of it, let me know. 20130924_160717
20130924_160717 20130924_174212

Making pie is something that brings me great joy. I'm hoping to perfect a gluten-free one soon; I have rice flour that works just fine for sauces and puddings, but pie crust needs something else added. When my daughter visits, I want to give her things she remembers from childhood but can't enjoy anymore.

I have several regular pastry dough recipes I use depending on my mood or what I'm using it for.  Some of them have an egg or a bit of vinegar or both. Today I made the most basic pie dough that I learned from Julia Child, but since I'm using only a bottom crust, I've set aside the extra for something else.

Instead of using a pie weight, etc., for prebaking the shell a little bit, I just stick an old metal pie tin down over it. Five minutes at 425º, remove the tin, three minutes more. Prick it with a fork again if it tries to swell up.

My Quiche Lorraine filling is adapted from BHG. But I've made it very seldom lately since only one other person still living with me enjoys it. I should rectify that because I'm tired of making foods only for others' tastes. Actually, I've been making quiche since I was about 14, pretty much the same way all along, with only slight modification. I use two cups of half and half, but occasionally heavy cream, and two cups of cheese; a combination of Jarlsberg and Gruyere.

Instead of mixing the cheese into the eggs and cream, I put it over the bacon and onions in the pie pan, set that in the oven, usually on a cookie sheet, and then pour the custardy stuff over it. Slowly.

The basic-basic pie dough is two cups all-purpose flour, a large pinch of sugar, two large pinches of salt, a chopped-up stick of super chilled butter, and three tablespoons of shortening. Also, 3/4 cup of ice water. If you want to mix all-purpose flour with some cake flour, it'll be more tender and you can use all butter. Massage the butter into the flour with your fingers, add the shortening, rub together some more until it's all pea-sized, then toss in the ice water a little at a time, scrambling with a fork. As the dough comes together, pull the larger clumps out onto the counter, add a bit more water to the rest until it's all good clumps. Then knead it on a floured surface for a minute until it's smooth, wrap it in wax paper, and chill it for two hours. You can then roll it out to 1/8 inch for a bottom crust. There will be enough with these proportions for a top crust, as well, but I like to roll it all out together so the pan gets its full due, then cut away the extra.

Never bake a buttery pie crust that is not well-chilled. It will slump and be sad. So if the pie dough has gotten too warm, put the pan in the refrigerator for a few minutes before baking.

Okay, so I cut myself on the grater. I always do. You can use a food processor for both the dough and the cheese, and sometimes I do, but I have a need to always be able to prepare everything without the aid of the jillion electric appliances I own. And I really like chopping and stirring and sprinkling, now that I am not doing it nightly for eight hungry people.

If you make quiche, let it cool for at least half an hour, better an hour, before cutting and serving. It looks a little puffy when you take it out of the oven, but will flatten after a few minutes.

Oh, hey there, would you like some delicious soup?

Weirdly, I got really bored of cooking for awhile. I think my verve is back, though. 

Last night I used the stock I made from the Christmas duck. It made the most delicious soup! I don't have a real recipe but can share the process. 

1/2 lb canneloni beans, boiled for two minutes, soaked for an hour, and drained. 

Half a large onion, diced, three cloves of garlic, minced, three sliced carrots and a shallot, sauteed in about 2 tbs of duck fat and another tbs olive oil. As they began to soften, I added the drained beans and about a quart of duck stock. Absolutely chicken or vegetable stock would work, but they would not be the same at all because duck stock is magical. 

I simmered that for an hour with a lid on, and then turned it off. 

I chopped 8 slices of pre-cooked Hormel thick-cut bacon and heated them with 3/4 lb chopped fingerling potatoes. (As the bacon brought very little fat to the yard, I added 2 tbs of butter. Fresh bacon would eliminate this need.) When the potatoes were nearly done, I added them with the bacon (drained,) to the soup, and brought the heat back up to finish cooking for a few minutes. Then I stirred in some chopped bok choy and added salt and pepper. You could add cabbage or kale, instead. 

13 - 1

Roasting all the things and making tomato soup

is what I do these days, pretty much. If there's even a possibility it can be roasted, I will roast it. I got a roasting book from the library to add to my roasting knowledge. If I like it, I'll tell you about it. 

By the way, the "recipe" on this page is near the bottom in bold italicized type. A brief template to use however you like.

Last week I roasted the one eggplant that grew in my garden, with some tomatoes and peppers I grew, and onion and garlic I didn't grow. (I added the onion after I took this photo.)


They were just drizzled with olive oil, a little pepper, and a few specks of salt. 

Here they are roasted:


And all I did then was put it all in the food processor and puree it into an insanely delicious dip for bread or crostini. Which we ate on the deck a couple nights later, when it was still warm.


Another time recently, I roasted delicata squash, yams, garlic and onions, mushed it up, heated it in chicken broth, and then processed batches of that for a very delicious and simple soup. Today I did the same thing for tomato soup.

The tomatoes on these pans were all picked green and allowed to ripen on the dining room table over the past two weeks. I roasted soft peppers at the same time, so I can preserve them for later, but they weren't added to the soup. The onions and garlic were, though. 20121008_145734

I used beef broth I made a few weeks ago and froze, but followed the same pattern as for the squash and yam soup. That's because the boys won't eat it unless it is pureed fine enough to give to a six month-old. So, heating it before processing it seems to do the trick. 

It was the finest beef broth I've ever made. I hope to make more next weekend.  20121008_165321

If it were just for me, I'd have added the seasoning (Kirkland Rustic Tuscan Seasoning; use about 2 teaspoons of whatever you like for a quart of broth and 4-6 cups of roasted vegetables,) warmed it, and eaten it this way with croutons and a little cheese. But...these other people here are tiresome about such things. Bring to a boil, simmer for 20-30 minutes, then process in batches in the food processor or blender. Taste for adjustments. Use whatever stock you like, but make it a rich one.

After I pureed it, I decided it wanted a pinch of sugar and a couple dashes of salt. This is highly dependent on your stock and tomatoes. The late season tomatoes want a little extra help. 20121008_175119

For a nice finish, swirl a bit of heavy cream into it. I ran out of cream this morning, sadly, so I added a sprinkle of very aged Gouda with my croutons. :-) 20121008_180151

Garden Dinner

Last night I chopped a variety of tomatoes and two Marconi peppers from my garden for a pasta dinner. Here are some phone photos of how that went. :-)

Yes, that's sausage on the same cutting board. Well, they were all being cooked together for a sizeable period of time, and of course I washed it anyway before doing the tomatoes. You just gotta use common sense. I never cut meat on the wooden cutting board at all, though. 

So there's about 2 lbs of tomatoes, 1 medium onion, 2 sweet garden peppers, 3 cloves of garlic, one pound of sausage. 

I cooked the sausage for about 5 minutes with a tablespoon of olive oil, then added the onions, peppers and garlic, and let them soften as the sausage continued to cook. The liquid they added to the pan assists with that. Then I added 1/4-1/3 cup of sweet vermouth. Any red wine that isn't too dry would do. Dry vermouth would be fine, as well. You can put that stuff in just about anything. Not a really cheap one, though; those are sorta sharp.

After that bubbled for a couple minutes, I added the tomatoes, a sprinkling of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of Kirkland Rustic Tuscan Seasoning, and put a lid on for a few minutes.

If this were just for me and not the kids, I'd have eaten it just like this, with a piece of bread and a little cheese. I'm not a big pasta fan.

But the boys would say, "Ew, it isn't really sauce." So I added a couple large spoonfuls of tomato paste, let it simmer for a few more minutes while the pasta cooked, and then finished it with a couple splashes of cream, and a couple dashes of salt and pepper.

For chunky sauce, you want a noodle that'll pick it up nicely. Rotini would work as well.