Thursday, January 26, 2012

Recipe: Leftover Beef Pot Pie

Okay... The pie was officially "Delicious!"
Glad I made two b/c the first one only lasted 15 minutes!!!

* * * * *
So, Hubs has been on the road a lot lately. And I've been more-or-less trapped in the house (Not entirely: I did manage to *start* pruning one of my plum trees *and* I did do a bisque-firing! But that's a separate post!) (Maybe?!).

Anyway, I figured - /sarcasm/ after having to endure all that *dreadful* restaurant food (on his *dreadful* expense account!) /end sarcasm/, he might appreciate a Home-Cooked Meal.

What I wanted was asparagus with hollandaise sauce and some kinda BEEF.

What I ended up with was broccoli crowns with (Knorr-mix) hollandaise sauce, (heavily marinated) london broil with bearnaise sauce [bearnaise sauce = hollandaise + dried tarragon, btw], and "Cheaters" mashed potatoes (pre-made/nukable from the 'frigerator section of the store).

Normally I'd throw the london broil on the gas grill - but the weather wasn't cooperating - so I dragged out my "George Forman Wannabee" Contact Grill.

Now, I don't care WHAT the advertisements say, or how pretty the pictures on said advertisements look, a Contact Grill does NOT give the same results as a BBQ or Gas Grill! Not even close!!!

Low-Fat? You bet'cha! It squishes ALL the grease (="juiciness") out of the steak and, well, let's just say that the results are less-than-satisfying...

But at least the super-buttery goodness of the bearnaise sauce made it *almost* edible! We managed to gnaw our way through about half of the steak. The rest got bagged and tossed in the fridge. I tried to nosh on it for lunch the following day but - let's be honest - it just wasn't that good!

But I hated to waste it... I thought about making another soup (Gee, really?!), but then I settled on Beef Pot Pie!

As it turned out, I still had about a pound of stew meat left in the freezer + (I'm guessing) about a pound of chewy london broil. So that was the foundation of today's creation (which, incidentally, I started yesterday - but I think the whole thing could be done in one day).

Okay, enough yammering! Onto the Recipe:

QT's Leftover Beef Pot Pie

Yields two 9" deep-dish pies

  • 1-2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 lb leftover london broil, cut to bite-sized
  • 1 lb stew meat cut down into bite-sized chunks
    (Or you could just use 2 lbs of stew meat)
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh minced garlic
  • 2 shallots, chopped (optional - I happened to have 'em on-hand)
  • 3-4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6-8 baby carrots, cut into thirds
  • A few shakes of whatever all-purpose seasoning (I used Lawry's steak seasoning)
  • 1 Tbs white sugar
  • 16 oz broth (I happened to have leftover chicken broth in the fridge. I suspect beef broth would be even better!)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 can (~14 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1-2 cups dry red wine
  • Frozen veggies (I used appx 1/2 cup ea of peas+carrots and white corn)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs tarragon (or, to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper - if you think it still needs it
  • Crusts for 2 x 9" Deep-dish pies (I'm not domestic enough to make my own!)
  1. Chop your meats into bite-sized chunks (I found the stew meat to be a little too large).
  2. Heat up a large, heavy pan (I used 3-1/2 qt dutch oven) with 1-2 Tbs olive oil.
  3. If you're dealing with raw stew meat, toss it into the pot and brown it in the oil, on high heat. Sprinkle a few shakes of seasoning salt on the meat, as it's browning (If you've got pre-cooked meat - add that toward the end of the browning-stage of the raw meat).
  4. Turn heat down to medium and add the onions, shallots, celery and carrots. Saute 'til the onions are limp.
  5. Once they're translucent, turn the heat off and sprinkle sugar on top. Let 'em rest and "sweat" for appx 5-10 mins.
  6. Turn heat back on to medium-low and toss in the mushrooms. Saute 'til brown.
  7. Dump in appx 1/2 of the dry red wine to deglaze the pan.
  8. Then dump in the broth and bouillon cubes - mix thoroughly and increase heat to medium.
  9. Then add canned tomatoes (including liquid), mushroom soup and bay leaf.
  10. Bring to a light boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for an hour. Taste-test it. Add tarragon and the rest of the wine. Taste-test it again and adjust accordingly (I went a little crazy with the tarragon!).
  11. Continue to simmer for another hour or so (until the meat is tender). I think I let mine simmer for 2-3 hours, to be honest.
  12. At this point, I stopped and put the pot in the fridge overnight (Hubs was still out of town!), but I did "taste-test" a whooooole lot of "stew" - enough that I considered it Dinner! ;-)
  13. The next day, heat up the stew on medium-low heat. Add whatever frozen veggies your heart desires. Just get it heated up, at this point. You really don't need to do any more "cooking!" (and you want your frozen veggies to remain recognizable!).
  14. If necessary, make a roux with 2 Tbs flour and enough water to make a paste. Dribble the flour paste into the stew, stirring constantly, until the mixture achieves a nice, thick "stewy" consistency.
  15. Get yourself two deep-dish pie crusts (I cheated and went with frozen) and "Tops" for the pie crusts (pre-made rolled-up crusts, from the 'fridgerated rolls section of the store!). Defrost 'em - a bit - if necessary (You want 'em to be pliable).
  16. Fill the pie-crust bottom to "just below the rim" with the beef mixture (don't forget to remove the bay leaf!).
  17. Moisten the edges of the lower crusts with water, then place the top crust on top. Crimp the two crusts together and cut-off any excess.
  18. Cut vent holes in the top
  19. Bake in a pre-heated 350* oven for appx 35 minutes, or until golden brown (Mine ended up taking 50 mins in my cheesy nuker/convection oven @ 325* So much for it taking *less* time!).
Here are the pies - before baking:

If I manage to snap any "After" shots, I'll prob'ly just post 'em at the top (b/c inserting photos into blogger is a pain!)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Not a Damn Thing...

Okay, here's another "Blah-Blah-Blah" Nothing Post!

So, if that's not your cup-o-tea, then just "Delete" and move-on, k???

Rain. Cold. Blaaaahhhhhhh!!! And I am feeling utterly and completely un-motivated this weekend.

:::sigh::: I never even made it out to the Tiki Shack / Studio, as planned.

I *did* accomplish some stuff last week, though. Hubs has been b*tching about the cluttered mess in the garage (Which is... Well, maybe *slightly* more than half-my-fault! But he's got sh*t out there, too!!). So I called Joysey-Friend-K (who has a Sickness: She *loves* cleaning! Like, for PLEASURE - How sick is that?!). She kept me company as I proceeded to "De-Hoard" one of the larger shelving units in the garage.

That was actually kind of comical. See? Sometimes I shop at Smart & Final (which is a "Restaurant-Supply" kinda store), and I have a tendency to pick-up things like paper-plates and disposable drinking cups, in bulk. Sometimes I sort-of purchase said items when I'm not 100% sure I need 'em! (Ooops!)

I think you know where I'm going with this...

Holy sh*t! I could feed an army with my stash of paper plates, cups, lids, plastic-cutlery and NAPKINS. Good GAWD did I have napkins! (I had so many, I actually had to throw a couple of packages out - it really was *that* ridiculous!). I also "stuck-to-my-guns" with my De-Hoarding mindset and (with K's help!), managed to convince myself "I am NEVER going to use this" for a rather large number of items!

Now, the tool-bench is piled high with stuff for the Goodwill. Yay!!! Of course, Hubs *hates* it when I take-over his tool-bench - but let's hope that the Much-Neater-Shelves will offset this (temporary) annoyance!

Ironically, I have since "replaced" practically the Exact Same Quantity of 'Goodwill Stuff' with 'NEW Stuff!!!'

Yesterday, I hooked up with BFF-S and dropped a boatload of money @ IKEA. And that was kinda fun. Now bear in mind that I absolutely HATE shopping (you couldn't drag me to a shopping maul mall unless you pointed a gun at my head!) (And even at that, I might actually prefer to be shot!!!). Somehow or other we ended up burning FOUR HOURS at IKEA. I swear, they must pump-in some kinda trance-inducing gas, or pipe subliminal "Buy-me-Buy-me-Buy-me" messages through the store!

When we started out, I was thinking "Oh, I just need to buy a new duvet cover (@ $39.00)..." Well, $300 later... Like I say... I pretty much just substituted my big pile of Old Stuff with New Stuff! (But it's GOOD stuff!)

I did get my duvet-cover (couple of 'em, actually). And I bought a new lighter-weight, "Down Alternative" (=Machine-washable!) comforter. And quite a few tchotchkes for the bathroom (including a trio of GORGEOUS aqua-colored glass vases).

New Bathroom Tchotchkes!

...And I bought some kitchen-organization krep. To be fair, I did pick-up a couple-three cool-lookin' clamp-on-cork kinda bottles that I plan to use whenever I get around to finishing my Limoncello (Oh, Jeez - I gotta do something with that!).

Cool, huh?

I'd saved the original vodka bottles, but I think this'll look much better. Kinda has that "Homespun" look, right? Anyway, I just went back to the original Limoncello recipe and it's definitely time for me to add some sweetener. I'll post more about that - once I tackle it.

(Trying to keep my Ramblings separate from "Content" after all!)

Other than that, things have been pretty quiet on the home-front. I've mainly been cuddling the dogs in front of a fire, most evenings (Did I mention that it's cold and wet outside?! And that I freaking HATE winter?!).

Nah, this is a time for "Indoor Sports." Today's Big Excitement: Firing up the old laptop and purging all personal-stuff off of it. Whenever Friend-P house-sits for me, she likes to have access to a computer so she can keep-up with FarmTown/FarmVille/Yada-Yada. While I totally trust her, I just don't think it's a good idea to have all my personal financial data accessible, so I generally lock-up my laptops (I *have* to lock-up the work laptop - per company policy - but I always stick my personal laptop in the same cabinet). Anyway, now the old Toshiba can safely be left-out...

Boring-Boring-Boring, I know! Maybe things will liven-up a bit in the coming week... We'll see. But sometimes it's nice to have a complete "Nothing" weekend!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Recipes: Leftover Corned Beef Soup & Creamy Asian Turnip Bok-Choy Spinach Soup!

I *did* mention that Friend-P mentioned that it's National Soup Month, right? Suuuuuure I did!

I am, like, TOTALLY celebrating it! And - what with this frickin' Arctic Cold Weather we're having - it seems most appropo, if you ask me!

Did you know that you can basically clean-out your fridge by dumping the contents into a sauce-pan filled with broth and call it dinner???

I understand that some people already knew that. I - OTOH - did not (What can I say? I was raised by wolves!)! (Srsly! I thought the ONLY soup in the world came from a can labeled "Campbells!")

So please join me in Celebrating this Exciting New Discovery, k???

So the other night, I whipped out my trusty old Crock Pot and we celebrated St Patty's (Paddy's lesser-known cousin, Patricia) Day, early. We had Corned Beef and Cabbage and it was "Pretty Okay."

The thing about corned beef is: it's basically a crap-shoot in terms of the quality of the meat you're gonna get. I *think* it's basically the same "cut" of meat, and it's basically "cured" the same way, and I always "cook" it the same way (low and slow, in liquid)... But sometimes it comes out super-tender; sometimes it's kinda tough; and other times (like Tuesday) it's "somewhere in between." (Let's just call it "chewy!") Might have something to do with the fact that I gravitate toward the "less-expensive" package - but whatEVAH. It tasted good - it just had to be sliced thinly!

Well, Hubs is generally good for "leftovers" for one day - and that's IT. He's not real imaginative with making sandwiches, or assembling multiple ingredients (in fact - come to think of it - I think he skipped leftover CB&C altogether, this time - Hmph!). And - since I honestly don't know *how* to cook in quantities suitable for TWO - well, leftovers tend to overwhelm us most-of-the-time..!

There have been occasions where I've managed to recycle, say, a chicken into Chicken Salad and Chicken & Dumplings. Then - when the dumplings are gone - I've made Chicken Pot Pie from the remainder... Chicken's easy that way! There are LOTS of things you can make with a leftover chicken.

Corned beef? Well, not so much! You can make sandwiches, obviously (and I did!). You can reheat last night's CB&C and have the same dinner, again. Or - you can run it through a meat-grinder with potatoes and make fresh Corned Beef Hash (my dad used to make that - Mmmm!).

Well, I was totally embracing the whole "National Soup Month" thing and figured that add'l cooking-in-liquid couldn't possibly hurt, right? So I figured I'd try to make soup.

QT's Leftover Corned Beef & Cabbage Soup
Yield: Appx 4-5 generous servings (depending upon how much you had leftover, obv!)

  • Leftover Corned Beef, cut into spoon-sized chunks
  • Leftover cooked cabbage, chopped to spoon-size
  • Leftover baby carrots, cut into thirds
  • Leftover turnips (yes, I cooked the CB&C with a large cut-up turnip - instead of potatoes - and it was good!)
  • 1/2 "newly" chopped, fresh onion (b/c the leftover onion was just gnarly)
  • 1/4 of a head of fresh cabbage, chopped into 1/2-3/4" chunks
  • 1 (14 oz) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 of a bag of frozen peas + carrots (or whatever frozen veggies you happen to have on-hand)
  • 1 quart Beef broth
  • 1-2 Tbs butter
  • Smidge of Olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 C Dry red wine
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Heat the butter - with enough Olive Oil to prevent burning - in a large, heavy-bottomed pan (I used my 3-1/2 qt dutch oven). Saute your "fresh" stuff (onion and cabbage) over medium-high heat 'til it starts to limpify and get translucent. Add half of the red-wine (to de-grease the pan).
  2. Chop your leftover corned beef, cabbage, carrots, turnips into spoon-sized chunks. Once the onions/cabbage in the pot are limp and translucent, add the leftover corned beef, veggies, and canned/diced tomatoes to the pot. Continue sauteing, stirring constantly, 'til they're hot.
  3. Dump-in the Beef Broth. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes (stirring occasionally). Taste-test it. Add salt/pepper/whatever suits you.
  5. Toward the end of cooking: Add frozen peas + carrots (or whatever) (better to add the frozen stuff @ the end of cooking, so it retains it's color/flavor). Add the rest of the red wine...
  6. Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Serve hot.

It really was surprisingly delicious (and I've frozen a couple of servings for later)!

* * * * *

Okay, let's go back to the Farm-Share "Game" now, shall we?

I have, yet, ANOTHER New Love in the Vegetable Realm (Yes, I think this will be a recurring theme: "QT's Most Favorite Vegetable of the Week!"): Baby Turnips!

Again, turnips are "one of those things" that I never *ever* would have purchased of my own volition. And, in fact, Baby Turnips are something you will almost-never find in your local grocery store! But they really are delightfully tasty!

A couple of weeks ago, the Farm-Share sent-along a small bunch of Baby Turnips and - Surprise (NOTTT!!!), more Baby Bok-Choy (which will - most likely - never be named as my "New Favorite Vegetable" - but whatEVAH!).

I've already determined that I actually *do* like Baby Turnips. Although - it looks like I never posted about 'em before (:::gasp!:::). Normally, I'd quarter the baby turnips *and* chop-up the turnip-greens, and saute them in olive oil with a bit of fresh garlic and sea salt - yummmm!!!

Well, this time around, I let the turnips sit in the Crisper (aka "Rotter") too long and the greens were no longer usable.

And - what with this being "National Soup Month" and all - I figured I'd consult Google and see what (if anything) could find in terms of "Turnip Soup."

As luck would have it, I found this: A recipe for Cream of Roasted Turnip Soup with Baby Bok Choy and Five-Spices!


Well (if you hadn't figured it out by now), I *suck* at following other people's recipes. But I used this as a "starting point" and here is what I ended up with:

QT's Creamy Asian Turnip Bok-Choy Spinach Soup

Yield: 3 generous servings

  • 5 baby turnips, diced
  • 2 small heads baby bok choy, stems chopped, leaves reserved
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cabbage
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch fresh spinach, de-stemmed (combine with bok choy leaves)
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh white mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 can (14 oz) chicken or vegetable broth
  • Chinese 5-spice (to taste)
  • Soy sauce (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2+ Tbs Hoisin Sauce (from the Asian Food aisle of the grocery-store)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs Sour Cream
  1. Dice the turnips into small (1/2") chunks. Chop the bok choy (white) stems into 1/4" strips. Reserve the green leaves and combine with the spinach leaves.
  2. Over medium-high heat: Saute turnips and bok choy stems in olive oil (although I think peanut oil might be a better choice), til things begin to soften.
  3. Add onions, garlic and ginger. Continue to saute 'til translucent/limp.
  4. Add the mushrooms, saute 'til lightly brown.
  5. Add the spinach/bok choy leaves and stir 'til reduced.
  6. Add the broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 'til everything is soft. Season with Chinese 5-spice, soy sauce, Hoisin sauce and black pepper (to taste).
  7. Simmer on low for 20-30 minutes 'til everything is very soft.
  8. Remove from heat. Hit it with an immersion blender 'til mostly smooth. At this point, it is going to be a *very* unappetizing shade of dark greenish-brown. Add 2 Tbs of sour cream and 1/2 cup of heavy cream to make it appear more palatable.
  9. Reheat and serve hot.
Goes nicely with a "Dark & Stormy!" Spiced rum and Ginger beer! (Ginger BEER - *not* Ginger Ale!)

To be honest, the final product looks a lot like my Creamy Leeky Spinach Mushroom Soup (I forgot to take a picture of today's recipe - but it really does look the same!). But it definitely has a more "Asian" flair to it. And - truly - it is *quite* tasty! One of my better recipes, IMHO :-D

You *do* have to "Let Go of Preconceptions" though.

See? For me, anyway, if I'm eating a "green" soup - my brain is expecting "Split Pea!" but my taste-buds are defying that! (Hubs experienced a bit of that phenomenon with the Leeky/Spinach soup!). But if you set that aside, you'll find that these are both VERY tasty soups!!!

Yep. Me = Happy! Hope you try it and like it, too!


Winter has arrived *sigh* - but it's still National Soup Month!

Rumor has it that Winter has finally arrived, here in (not-so) Sunny Northern California. It seems that the Alaskan Storm Front that has Seattle all socked-in with snow:


Well, it's sending Seattle's cold and dampness down to *us* (dammit!). Although, to be fair, we really DO need the rain (it's been a very dry winter, thus far). But I could do without the arctic chill, thankyouverymuch!

(Nighttime temps in the 20*s-30*s - Jeesh! What-up wit' dat?!!)

(And yes, I *am* a Winter-Weather-Wimp!)

And I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that I'm not gonna be pruning my fruit trees anytime soon :::sigh:::

I did spend a little time in the Tiki Shack o' Perpetual Summer, last night. I've got a few items in greenware stage: Couple-three Doodad Trays; a Very-Belated Christmas Ornament (hand-print of my neighbor's baby); a bunch of clay-beads that BFF-S made; and I've started making little "jewelry" thingies: Ceramic earrings and pendants. Not sure if my attention-span will allow me to make many of those, but it seemed like a fairly simple thing to crank-out...

It's gonna be the "crimping on" of the make-it-into-jewelry part that's gonna drive me batsh*t crazy (Plus, I need to find/order the split-rings and earring wires, and findings and whatnot).

I want to start a few more smallish items so that I can justify a bisque-firing. Heh! But I don't want to venture outside - after dark - cuz it's COOOLLLLLLDDDD out there!

Works out better when I head out in the late-afternoon and get the heater cranked-on ahead of time. Then, I think it's kind nice to lose track of time and get lost in whatever I'm working on!

Maybe tomorrow........... (Ooh - and I'll even remember to take/post some pics - What a concept!).

Okay, well, that's enough Rambling Blah-Blahs... I did make a couple new soups, so I think I'll start a New Post (Heyyyyyy!!!!!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recipe: Cranapple Jam (Yummmm!!!)

So, lately, I've been spending my evenings torturing myself by either flipping through seed catalogs (aka "Garden Porn"), or reading my Ball Blue-Book of Canning.

Neither activity is particularly "Seasonally Appropriate!" But I did stumble across a very tasty-sounding couple-of recipes that involved Cranberries and Apples. Yummmm!!!

Now I am an absolute FIEND when it comes to "Sweet 'n Sour" flavor combos. ESPECIALLY Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (which, clearly, ain't happ'nin' anytime soon!). So Cranberry+Apple sounded *most* intriguing!

And, happily, our grocery stores *do* still have fresh cranberries. On "Manager's Special" even @ $0.99/bag. So I bought four bags! (only needed a bag-and-a-half for this recipe and, honestly, probably could've gotten away with using just one!)

But, alas, I think I'm finding that these "Fruity" kinds of jams *can't* be canned in my pressure-canner. But, I suppose that's okay 'cuz I've still got my [questionably] Trusty Old Steam Canner...

I did opt to surf the 'net to find a suitable recipe. And I found one on, here:

I pretty-much stuck with her recipe, with only a few minor tweaks, which I will capture here:

Simple Good & Tasty's Cranberry Apple Jam (with QT's low-sugar mods)

Adapted from Food in Jars

Yields 7 half-pints + 1 12 oz. jar


  • 8 C Apples, chopped into 3/4" chunks (I'd go with 1/2", next time) (and - BTW - appx 12 medium Granny Smiths = 8 cups, chopped. In case you were wondering!)
  • 4 C. fresh cranberries (rinsed and remove any squishy gnarly ones)
  • 1/2 C dried, sweetened cranberries (Craisins) (My addition!)
  • 2 C packed golden brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 C Splenda (orig recipe just called for 4 C sugar)
  • 1 C. water
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon (orig recipe called for 1 tsp).
  • ½ C. lemon juice
  1. Start heating a small qty of water in the bottom of your canner and toss the lids in there to warm up. Your jars, of course, should already be sterilized (I used the "Sterilize/Heated Dry" Cycle on my dishwasher)
  2. Peel, core and chop your apples into 1/2" chunks (I used my Handy-Dandy Apple-Peeler Thingamabobbie and my new Oxo Apple Corer).
  3. Toss 'em in a pot-full of cold water with a generous squeeze of lemon juice (so they won't turn brown while you're still peeling and chopping!).
  4. Cranberries: Rinse and remove any stems and/or squishy cranberries
  5. When your apples and cranberries are Good-To-Go, toss 'em in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add sugar, water and lemon juice to the pot.
  6. I ran out of ground cinnamon, so I mostly-crushed 2 sticks of cinnamon, wrapped 'em in cheesecloth and tossed that into the pot (Heh! Don't forget to remove it!).
  7. Over medium-high heat, mix everything well and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to medium and continue to cook appx 5-10 mins.
  8. Turn heat to low, toss in your Craisins, and let it simmer 'til the apples start to shrink a bit, the mixture reaches a deep crimson color and achieves a "jammy" thick texture. This actually took awhile (like ~ 45 mins, I think!). You're relying on the natural pectin in the apples and cranberries to provide the jammy-ness - so I'm guessing the time will vary from batch-to-batch.
  9. I opted to check for "set" by scooping up a spoonful, placing it on a plate in the fridge and letting it chill for appx 5 mins. When I could hold the spoon vertically with no jam glorping off, it was "done." (and, like I said, it took quite awhile! In fact, I found myself squishing some of the apple chunks to kind of expedite the process!)
  10. Transfer the hot jam to your hot jars. Clean the rims, add the lids and rings.
  11. Move your canner over to the hot burner, add the appropriate quantity of hot water and canning rack, transfer your hot jars to the canner and process, according to your canner's directions, for 10 minutes...

New Addition to my "Weapons of Apple Destruction" arsenal!
Oxo Apple Corer (does a damned fine job!)
I used my apple peeler/corer as *just* a peeler this time.

4 cups of fresh cranberries
8 cups of chopped apples (too coarse, IMHO)

Consolidated Fruit

Starting to cook down...

Cooking down, ever further.
It actually got even darker than this!

Into the canner................

Lids popping most gleefully

This actually filled my pre-selected quantity of jars PERFECTLY! (and that NEVER happens!). 1 pint jar, 1 12-oz jar and 5 half-pints.

Can't WAIT for it to cool. Hell, I might even bake up a fresh loaf of bread for this!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Gardening / Yard Chores

I haven't "blah-blah'd" about the garden in awhile. But then again, it *is* winter, so it's not like there's a whole helluva lot going on, right???


Back in September, I did start some Cool Season Veggie Seeds in the bathroom window. And, in November, Friend-P brought me some Broccoli and Cauliflower Seedlings. P's seedlings did make it to the Straw-Bale Beds (and they're still alive - although not "productive" yet). I think, back in December, I managed to plant *my* seedlings into my raised beds (and a couple-three ended up in the straw-bales), but my seedlings were still very tiny and tender - and it appears that *something* has munched-on the majority of them :::sigh:::

I do have lousy luck with starting sh*t from seed (yet somehow, I keep trying!!!).

LOL - I also sowed a bunch of "greens" seeds in the tops of my raised, upside-down, planters - out on the patio. Mesclun Mix, Lettuces, Spinach. But then, the "anticipated rains" never came so.... Well, nothing's happening there! (maybe later???)

I also direct-sowed a bunch of other seeds in my raised beds: Peas (nothing happened there!), and some beets, carrots, radishes, and maybe some turnips. I have seem some "action" from the radishes and carrots (although those might have been "leftovers" from my summer planting!). But everything else is pretty much, well, "Nada!" (for lack of a better term!)

Thankfully, I never have "high hopes" for the Winter Garden! And I never even bothered setting-up the greenhouse this winter (since all of my "marginals" have outgrown the size of the doorway! They all live under a bedsheet, clipped to wooden stakes, behind the Tiki Bar).

Nevertheless... Even though the Winter Garden isn't, necessarily, "Productive" - there are still chores to attend to...

Dormant Spraying: We have several fruit trees. Three peach trees (one early-bearing white peach, one late-bearer yellow/"normal," and one "I'm not sure what it is" b/c I had stuck a stick in the ground, after pruning the peach trees, and it kinda took root on it's own!); Two plum trees (Satsuma and Santa Rosa); One Dwarf Bing-Cherry Tree; One Dwarf Blenheim Apricot (that I think might be dead); One Apple tree (which is a grafted 6-variety tree); And one Dwarf Meyers Lime Tree.

Two of the peach trees *definitely* have Leaf Curl. I believe this is a fungal thing and cannot be cured. It *can* be "kinda" kept at bay with repeated dormant sprayings (but it will, eventually, kill the trees). The plums also get something "similar" to leaf-curl - but it is caused by aphids in early spring. Again, this can be curtailed with spraying. Everything else seems fine...

Nevertheless, Dormant Spraying is a Very Important Winter Task. I mix the goop (Lilly Miller Microcop + Sta-Stuck + Dormant/Horticultural Oil). According to "Mr Ed." at Wegmans Nursery - Spray Schedule (and Mr. Ed was my Horticulture Teacher in High School!), Fruit Trees should be sprayed three times, every winter - but BEFORE the buds begin to swell (which, technically, means late November, December and January. Usually, by the time February rolls around, the buds are beginning to swell and it's too late!).

Wellllll... We missed November (as we usually do). We also missed December (being sick for the last two weeks didn't help!). So that brings us to January! I did convince Hubs that we needed to spray TODAY - before the rains kick-in (starting mid-week, next week, from the sounds of it). So we did manage to get at least ONE spraying in. But I'm gonna push for another one at the end of this month, if we can manage it, before the buds start to awaken! (Our last frost date is, typically, sometime in mid- to late-February)

Plus, there's PRUNING to do! *Lots* of pruning! TONS of pruning!!!

Usually, by now, Tree-Pruning chores are complete (which makes sense, actually. Not much point in spraying tree-branches that are gonna get hacked-off, right?), and I can generally concentrate on other Yard Clean-up Chores while Hubs sprays. Things like: giving a serious haircut to the New Zealand Flax, planted outside the back-door (which is obliterating our view of the pool!), Digging/dividing the Birds of Paradise (which I will pawn-off on my neighbors!); cutting-back and digging up (and giving away or selling) the Cannas and their ever-multiplying rhizomes; and hacking-back the Morning Glories which are threatening to completely engulf the yard!!!

Well, today, while hubs sprayed the fruit-trees, I concentrated on hacking back the Morning Glory Vines. I *barely* put a dent in it, yet still managed to completely fill the Green Bin. :::sigh:::

And we've got rains (and SUPER-cold weather) predicted for all of this week, so I kinda doubt I'll be pruning the fruit trees anytime soon (Oooops!).

Hopefully, we'll get another Not-So-Cold spell in the weeks to come - then I can deal with 'em!

Yep. There's still TONS to do (with very little "Immediate Gratification") in the garden! But, in the meantime, the winter seed catalogs have arrived, so I can entertain myself with "Garden Porn" and I will, undoubtedly, end up ordering a boatload of seeds which I will *attempt* to start in the house - only to feed the snails, come early spring...!

Sometimes it sucks being an Optimist!!!

So anyway, that's the Latest 'n Greatest from My Garden (Such as it is!). More to come, I'm sure...!

Random Ramblings: New Computer and Yard Chores

Old Toshiba on the left
(I used it so much, I wore-off the silver paint!)
It was a Workhorse - and I have no complaints, but "It's Time..."
Brandy-New Dell on the right (Niiiiice!!!)

So I mentioned, the other day, that I was having some laptop issues... My machine (A Toshiba Satellite Pro something-or-other) (Gift from Santa Hubs, several years ago) was starting to overheat and shut down randomly.

The machine was over 4 years old and it really never gave me any problems. And I abused the hell out of it. Couple of Hubbie's favorite phrases (Hubs is a "Desktop Guy") are: "You are very hard on your computers" and "You have bad luck with laptops!" And the latter used to be true (Due, primarily, to the former!). Until he bought me the Toshiba. That machine really was a workhorse and was a lot like Timex in that "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking" (and if you remember that phrase: "Thank you for being old like me!").

Hubs seemed rather distraught when I first told him I was having issues ("I paid Good Money for that!"). But then he calmed down, a bit, when I pointed out that "Google sez the Life Expectancy of a laptop is appx 3 years. We beat that, okay?!!"

Honestly, I thought it was rather "polite" of my Toshiba to give me 'warning' before it completely took a sh*t (unlike my previous HP laptop - which completely fried itself with NO warning. I couldn't even get to the hard-drive to back-up my stuff!).

Anyway, as soon as I knew there was trouble-brewing, I did run a full back-up. And then I consulted my good friends at Yelp, to find a good computer repair shop. Thankfully, there is one - right around the corner - that got rave reviews. So I took it over there the MINUTE the shop opened, the next morning.

So, what is it with these "Hardware Geeks" and their utter and complete lack of a sense of humor? I mean, yeah, when I showed up I did look a bit bedraggled in my leggings and Harley shirt (it was 8:00am ferchrissake!), but it's not like I was a full-on candidate for People of Walmart or anything (I mean, hell, I brushed my hair and teeth - at least)!

So I sashayed into the place with my laptop in-hand and explained the problem: "It's been starting to overheat, a lot, lately - and when it does, it just shuts itself off without warning. The fan is working, and I sprayed it out with air, but I suspect there's lots of dust and crud on it. I hope all it needs is a good blow-job." :::smile:::

He gave me the *strangest* look and remarked that that was the first time he'd ever heard it referred-to in that way.

(internal :::eye roll:::)

Well, he got one of his geeks working on it, "We'll call you back in a few hours..."

They determined that the fan did need to be replaced (and, yes, it was encrusted with sludge and dust-bunnies!). The hard-drive appeared to be fine (got lucky there!). But - due to the overheating issues - there was some damage to many of the internal components, and the motherboard was about to go. Cost would be appx $200.00 to repair - but the remaining life-expectancy (even with repairs) was only gonna be about 6 months...

So yeah, realistically, it really didn't make sense to throw any money at that computer when I could buy a new, bottom-of-the-line laptop (that would be at least equal to what I had) for like $100.00 more. (And, of COURSE, they do sell computers at their shop. But - based on the Yelp Reviews - I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and not *assume* that they're just trying to "push" a new computer on me)...

So, PC Repair-Guy asks me "What do you want us to do?"

"Well, I'm only into it the $39.00 Diagnostic charge, right?" ("Right") "What say you just duct-tape it back together so I can use it this weekend. I wanna do a bit of research to see what I can find since I get discounted pricing on laptops through my work. I'll definitely want to talk to you - because you 'see' the repairs all the time. So, like, if I think I wanna get ABC brand, and you know that ABC brand is sh*t 'cuz they're in your shop all the time..." blah-blah and he seemed agreeable to that. He also suggested that I provide him with info on the PC's I *do* find and he'd see if they can price-match, yada-yada...

Of *course* I wasn't gonna end up with the bottom-of-the-line. But I did set $450.00 "cap" (knowing it was gonna end up closer to $500.00!). I did go back, that night, to retrieve my laptop. I also did some preliminary web-surfing (including looking at my Employee Discount sites), and I'd printed-up a spreadsheet comparing about half-a-dozen different models/prices of laptops. I also made notes for what I considered to be my "Bare Minimums." (2 GHz, 4 GB RAM, Windows7, Non-Glare screen, Bigger HD, ~$500 or less)

I think, upon my re-appearance in the shop, armed with my spreadsheet... And my mention of the fact that I work in software design... I guess maybe he decided I wasn't "People-Of-Walmart" person, after all (Well, that and the fact that I was prepared to spend $450-500 on a new computer). Or maybe it was just the fact that it was no longer "First thing in the morning!" - but he seemed a lot more personable at that point!

Oh, and then I had mentioned (after b*tching about the expense of a new laptop) "I still need up upgrade my SmartPhone" and he got ALLLL excited about that. "Who's your Carrier?" "Verizon" and - oh gee what a coincidence - they are affiliated with authorized Verizon yada-yadas... So we got to talking about different phone models (right now I am vacillating between the Motorola Droid RAZR and the Galaxy Nexus). He was an iPhone Guy - but his Top Geek, an Android Dude, had a Galaxy (and he was most eager to show his phone to me). Annnnnd... Whenever I'm ready to buy - please let them know and they'll see what kinda deal they can get for me...

I'm okay with that. But first I wanna do the Touchy-Feely thing @ the Verizon Store...

Annnnnnyyyywaaaaaayyyyy... Long Story Short (HA!). They ended up customizing one of their in-stock Dell laptops (added more RAM, gratis), and meeting my price-point. No, it's not top-of-the-line, but it's "pretty decent." Runs Windows7, AMD 1.8-2.4 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB HD... And it was $449.99 (woulda been under $500.00 if we hadn't added the wireless external back-up drive!)

And, incidentally, I felt that was a "very fair" price. It was less than what Dell has on their site (for that specific model). And it was "in-line" with what I was finding thru my searches (with Employee Discounts and/or what I could find at BestBuy/Tiger Direct, etc. - who did not have the exact-same model/configuration). I'm sure, if I wanted to spend a buttload of time on it, I probably could have located a "marginally-better" price - but, overall, I felt the deal was "very fair" and I am satisfied (I guess this means I have to add a posting to Yelp. Yes, I will!)

I put it through it's paces this morning by doing the following, simultaneously: Running 2 browsers, playing an MP3 (on Real Player) while running a video (on Windows Media Player), AND running Spotify (it was a cacophony - with all the "sound apps" running!), WHILE transferring files from my external HD, AND editing photos, AND playing with an xls spreadsheet all at the same time. No problems with performance (although my brain was about ready to explode with that many windows open simultaneously!)

Yup. I'm pretty happy with the new beast. I've had Dells before, and they seem pretty damned sturdy. (Don't EVEN get me started on my "Why I hate HP" rant. HA! The PC Guy tried to steer me toward some of the HP's they had in-stock [that another customer ordered, but changed her mind!]. As soon as he showed them to me, I held up my fingers in the sign of the cross and backed away - literally!). Anyway, I think I'll be pretty happy with this one.

I spent the ENTIRE EVENING, last night, downloading and installing all of my software, and getting my desktop arranged to my liking. Then, this morning, I started bringing some of my files back-over from my external hard-drive. The Toshiba had a 150GB HD (and I'd filled less than half of it), but I still had a lot of "crap" on it. I figure since I've got a Shiny-New machine, I want to keep it "somewhat neat" (for now, anyway!).

But - that's a roundabout way of saying that I didn't bring over the latest batch o' pics from my latest "Culinary Adventures." Not sure if I'll ever get around to posting the Illustrated Versions of the last couple of recipes. I suspect you'll survive (assuming anybody even *reads* this blog - HA!).

Although... If you DO read the blog, you might want to make note of the fact that I am now trying to segregate "substance" (i.e. RECIPES, GARDEN UPDATES, etc.) from "Blah-Blah-Blah" (who really gives a rip?) stuff (i.e. This Post!).

In fact, if I find myself getting long-winded (you know, kinda like NOW???), I'll probably end-up "breaking up" the posts so - if you choose - you can skip my Random Rambling and just focus on stuff that might interest you! HEYYYY!!!!

And with that thought: I'll probably END this madness. But I will mention that yesterday's PLAN of tackling Yard Chores never happened (Hubs interrupted me by suggesting we take the Christmas Lights off the house - which actually *was* a good idea!). I did start to tackle some of my chores today - but maybe I'll yammer about that in a separate post, hmmm???


Recipe: QT's Squashy Butternut Pumpkin Soup

As promised, I am posting the recipe for My Very Own / I-Made-it-Up-All-By-Myself Soup Recipe.

It came out "pretty darn good" I think. I wouldn't call it the "Absolute Bestest Soup in the Whole Wide World," but it was quite tasty - and it cleared out my fridge and countertop! Win-Win!!!

Look at me, gettin' all "Martha Stewart" with the swirly cream and parsley sprig!
(The roasted, salted pumpkin seeds were a very tasty addition!)

QT's Squashy Butternut Pumpkin Soup

  • Olive oil
  • 2 Tbs golden brown sugar
  • 1 small butternut squash (I forgot to weigh it!)
  • 1 small pie-pumpkin (appx 2.5 lbs) (I suspect canned pumpkin would work, too)
  • 4-5 shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 regular onion, chopped (since I had leftovers, I put 'em in!)
  • 3 stalks of chopped celery (mine was kinda squishy - doesn't matter!)
  • 6 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 6 small red potatoes
  • 2 cans (@ 14 oz) chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2+ tsp Hungarian-style sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp grated (dried/powdered) ginger
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • Nutmeg (a little goes a long way)
  • 1 cup Crema Casera, Creme Fraiche or Heavy Cream
  • Salt & white pepper, to taste


  1. Peel, de-seed and dice the squash (instructions here) and pumpkin (not as easy!) into 1/2" chunks. This is a very labor-intensive (and boring) process so call a friend and chat on the phone while you're doing it - otherwise, you'll want to give up! If you wanted to be lazy, you could probably substitute canned pumpkin (Cheater!) - but I couldn't tell you how much. When it was all said and done, I ended up with 6 cups of pumpkin+squash cubes.
  2. Chop the shallots, onions, celery and carrots
  3. Peel and chop the potatoes into 1" chunks
  4. Heat some olive oil in a large, heavy pan. Add the onions, celery and carrots and saute on medium-low heat 'til the onions start to turn limp and translucent. Turn the heat to low and add sugar and a sprinkling of salt. Let 'em "sweat" for appx 5-10 mins.
  5. Turn the heat back up to medium and add the squash/pumpkin chunks, then the potatoes. Stir 'em around and saute for maybe 5 mins 'til they begin to soften
  6. Add 2 cans of (chicken or vegetable) broth. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil. Then turn down to low and simmer 'til the carrots/squash/pumpkin/potatoes get all mushy. (Looks like the carrots are taking the longest...). Might take a couple-three hours.
  7. After everything gets mushy, grab your immersion blender (or let it cool and pour it into a blender/food processor, in small batches). Puree 'til thick and smooth.
  8. Season with sweet paprika, salt & pepper + nutmeg and tarragon, to taste.
  9. Add cream, re-heat and serve.
  10. Garnish with a swirl of thick cream and a sprig of fresh parsley - or get all crazy and sprinkle some toasted pumpkin seeds on top.

I like how the slow-cooking of the onions brings out a hint of sweetness (of course, the addition of brown sugar doesn't hurt!). And the pumpkin is also naturally sweet. This seems like it should be a fairly light (yet still "filling") soup.

Post-Script: Originally, I thought it might make a good "cold" soup. So I tried it, cold, the next day. I suppose, if it were a bit thinner, it might be okay. OTOH, I've never been much of a "cold soup person" (if there is such a thing!), so I'm just leaning toward "It's better, served hot!"

(Just don't forget the pumpkin seeds! They really are a wonderful addition!)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gardening Blah-Blah and New Recipe Tease!

So today I figured I'd better get my butt outside and start tackling some of my Garden Chores. Fruit trees were supposed to have been sprayed with dormant oil + copper last month (and again, this month - and yet AGAIN, in February). Our peach-trees *do* have leaf-curl and the spraying is necessary to *slow* it's progression.

I also need to give some serious thought (hell, more than "Thought" - let's try "ACTION") to pruning these bad-boys! But morning temps have been in the low-30's, and I still have a touch of snively-ness! So I'm hesitant to venture out in the morning.

Okay, let's kill some time in the kitchen then, shall we? (I actually *wanted* to kill some time in the Tiki Shack - but I knew if I did that, NO Garden Chores would get-done!!!)

So, okay... Let's tackle the Farm-Share, instead!

I have discovered, yet, *another* New Love: Shallots! Kind-of almost a cross between fresh-garlic and onions. They have the onion tanginess/sweetness, with a touch of garlic pungency (at least that's my interpretation!). They seem like they'll make a very nice addition to today's recipe...

Yummy Shallots!

I think I may have purchased shallots, once, at the grocery store - when I had a recipe that called for them, specifically. And I felt like a complete Doofus because I had to ask the produce dude what/where shallots were!

Shallots will be playing a "supporting role" in today's recipe, but I thought I'd make mention of the fact that I think I really do love them.

And, I said it before (and I'll prob'ly say it again!), I really-really love the Farm-share because it's making me get all SUPER creative in the kitchen. It's almost become a "Game" - trying to stay ahead of the deliveries and figure out New and Exciting Ways to dispose of all these [delicious and healthy] Veggies!

Also - according to Friend-P's Facebook post - it's "National Soup Month" (Who decides these things, I wonder - or maybe I really don't wanna know!), so let's just combine all sorts of good things and try to come up with some MEGA goodness, 'k?!

So TODAY I am "going solo" and will be creating my Very-Own Brandy-New Recipe withOUT consulting ANY other recipes, okay? (Aack! Flying without a net!!!)

Here's what I started out with: Baby pumpkin-pie pumpkin (that I bought, back in October!, thinking I was gonna make pumpkin soup); a small Butternut Squash that came from the Farm-Share about a month ago; Shallots (from yesterday's Farm-Share); some excess onion slices (leftover from the Bacon-Onion Jam); a bunch of carrots; some old, limp celery; and some almost-squishy small red potatoes (I cut off the eyes and I'm gonna plant 'em in the backyard!).

Later, I will post the Final Recipe. Not sure if it will include pics (since I don't want to clutter-up my hard-drive 'til I get a new computer), but I WILL post the recipe later - after I assess it's palatability!

Now, it's early-afternoon and I *hope* the yard has warmed-up enough for me to tackle my garden-chores!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Recipe: Bacon-Onion Jam (Updated / Final)

Laptop is still sick. It's home now - but I have to shop for a new one - so I'm gonna minimize my "futzing around" with pictures for the time-being.

I'll post the "Illustrated Guide" to Bacon-Onion-Jam-Making (and the "Baptism" of my Brandy-New Pressure Cooker!) in a later post...

For now, I wanted to post the "adjusted" version of my Bacon Onion Jam Recipe (before I misplace my notes!!!). And please excuse the weird background colors, I copied/pasted from the original recipe and I can't figure out how to nuke the color w/o spending waaaaay too much time editing html)

This is what I Actually Did:

QT's Bacon Onion Jam (Final)

Yield: 4 and 3/4 (almost 5) half-pint jars

  • 1 lb Applewood Smoked Bacon
  • 7 Medium Onions, sliced thinly (I mixed up yellow and red - but it really didn't make any difference!)
  • 4-5 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 2 Tbs Golden Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup fresh brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup Dried Currants
  • 1/4 cup Golden Raisins
  • 1/8 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/8 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/8 cup Maple Syrup (I ran out of syrup! So I supplemented with:)
  • 1/8 cup mild Agave Nectar (or Honey would work)
  • 1-2 tsp+ Smoked Paprika, to taste
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste (optional - I didn't add any)


  1. In a large, heavy pot, fry the bacon 'til brown and barely crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain and cool. Reserve the bacon grease.
  2. Saute the onion and garlic in appx half of the bacon grease (add more, if needed). Cook, over medium heat, until it starts to limpify - appx 10 mins.
  3. Add Brown Sugar and a sprinkling of salt. Turn heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally until translucent, appx 15 mins.
  4. Chop the bacon into 1/4-1/2" chunks (the first attempt: I did 1/4" x 1" strips and they were too big)
  5. Put the bacon back in the pan and add coffee, currants/raisins, vinegars and syrups. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Then immediately turn down to a simmer.
  6. Simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally (to prevent sticking). Add water, if needed (I didn't need it).
  7. Keep cooking 'til the mixture is a rich, deep brown and you can no longer distinguish the bacon from the onion (that never happened - the bacon was always "distinguishable" so I recommend chopping it into smaller chunks to begin with). It should have a thick, jam-like consistency.
  8. Let cool for 20 minutes. If desired, run thru a food processor to finely chop and blend the jam. Food processor/chopping wasn't necessary (the onion got pretty-well obliterated with all the cooking!) (but start out with smaller bacon chunks).
  9. Return to the pot. Cover and refrigerate, overnight.
  10. The next day, remove the majority of the (now solidified) fat from the top of the jam. Use a teaspoon and scrape off all the white fat from the top. Dig down a little, under the top layer, because there's more congealed fat hiding just under the surface. It's not necessary to remove ALL of it, but get as much as you can!
  11. Turn heat to low and add salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Cook on medium-high heat, bring it to a boil and immediately turn down to "simmer" until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  12. Check for "set" (grab a spoonful and put it in the fridge for 5 minutes. Hold the spoon vertically - if the jam doesn't drip off, it's "set").
  13. Transfer jam to sterilized jars and process in a pressure canner @ 15 lbs for 10 minutes (I actually think 10 lbs for 15 mins might be a bit better for the final jam's consistency).
Additional Notes: 8 onions was waaaaaay too much for my Big Ol' Dutch Oven (I think it's a 3-1/2 qt - It would hold a gallon of liquid, if you filled it to the brim). The total quantity cooked down a LOT though.

Okay, I think that's it! The jam tastes positively PHENOMENAL!!! I could eat it straight out of the jar (but it's soooo much better on sourdough!)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No Post Tonight - Other than "Ain't I Clever???"

After I spent the better part of today cooking (Apple Chips came out fine - and the Onion-Bacon Jam looks promising, so far)... And after taking a bazillion pictures (Crappy Droid pics - as well as some Decent "Real Camera" pics)... And after transferring them all to my laptop...

My laptop started acting up. Booooooo!!!

Nothing serious (I hope), but it wants to overheat and shut itself off at random intervals. So I'll be taking it to a computer repair shop tomorrow. I think the cooling fan is probably jammed up with dust and crud. But I'm not hedging my bets. I'm running a full back-up of my hard-drive tonight and minimizing the "strain" I put on The Beast...

So Mini-Post tonight and, hopefully, tomorrow I'll be able to do my "Cooking Frenzy Wrap-Up" (including *updated* Onion-Bacon Jam Recipe *and* halfway-decent pictures!).

Tonight's post: Do you ever find yourself REALLY annoyed when you've printed up a recipe, and you're making a mess of the kitchen and either keep misplacing the recipe? Piling crap on top of it? Slopping chicken broth, spaghetti-sauce, apple-juice, whatEVERS on your print-out and obliterating the text???

Nah. Didn't think so!

Here is my most-clever and ridiculously simple solution:

It's a magnetized clip thingie-doo. I just tack it to the metal range-hood and clip the recipe-paper into it! It's up, out-of-the-way, unlikely to get slopped on, and easily readable!

Freaking Amazing!!!

Only caution there is: Don't hang it directly above whatever pots/burners you're actually cooking with because - "Duhhh!"

And no, you can't sue me for your own stupidity if you DO do that and burn your house down! ;-)

More tomorrow.....................................

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Recipe: Apple Chips

Man, I *must* be feeling better! Three posts in one day???


Okay, I still had quite a few apples leftover from the past couple of Farm-Share Deliveries. And I bought a bag of Granny Smiths at the grocery store. Figured I'd drag out my apple peeler/corer (from Santa) and food dehydrator (which has been gathering dust in the garage), and make a batch of Apple Chips!

"W-A-D: Weapons of Apple Destruction!"

Pretty simple, actually. The bowl contains 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (to prevent browning), and a tablespoon each of Sugar and Splenda, plus a teaspoon of ground cinnamon (to make 'em taste good!).

Peel and core the apple.
Then slice the apple in half so you get apple "crescents"
Toss the apple crescents in the water/lemon/sugar/cinnamon bowl for two minutes...

Make a minor mess
(Ooooh! Compost!!!)

Place the apple crescents on the dehydrator shelves
(make sure they don't overlap)

12 apples filled 6 shelves of the dehydrator...

Pop the lid on the dehydrator, turn it on and let 'er rip!

I popped 'em in at around 9:30pm. I'll probably rotate the shelves and, maybe, flip the slices over in the morning (ooh - just invert the shelves - duhhh!!!).

I figure it'll probably take 12-16 hours for the apples to get nice 'n crispy.

I'll report in, tomorrow!

Recipe: Bacon-Onion Jam

Okay... Since that last post got too Rambly! Here is what I have come up with for the Bacon-Onion Jam that I will (hopefully) attempt to make tomorrow:

I'll do the Crappy-Droid Picture-Taking and post the results (including final yield), when I make it!

Note: This recipe has been updated! Recipe: Bacon-Onion Jam (Updated / Final)

Adapted from D's and YumSugar's Recipes

D's Recipe here:

YumSugar's Recipe here:

And since it is an "Adaptation" I am calling it "My Own!" :-)

QT's Bacon Onion Jam

  • 1 lb Applewood Smoked Bacon
  • 6-8 Medium Red Onions, sliced thinly (I might mix up yellow and red)
  • 4-5 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbs Golden Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup fresh brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup Dried Currants (or I'll probably use Golden Raisins)
  • 1/8 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/8 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup (the real stuff)
  • Smoked Paprika, to taste
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Extra Water


  1. In a large, heavy pot, fry the bacon 'til brown and barely crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain and cool. Reserve the bacon grease.
  2. Saute the onion and garlic in the bacon grease. Cook, over medium heat, until it starts to limpify - appx 10 mins.
  3. Add Brown Sugar and a sprinkling of salt. Turn heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally until translucent, appx 5 mins.
  4. Slice the bacon into 1/2 - 1" chunks
  5. Put the bacon back in the pan and add coffee, raisins, vinegars and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Then immediately turn down to a simmer.
  6. Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally (to prevent sticking). Add water, 1/4 cup at a time, appx every 25-30 mins.
  7. Keep cooking 'til the mixture is a rich, deep brown and you can no longer distinguish the bacon from the onion. It should have a thick, jam-like consistency.
  8. Let cool for 20 minutes. If desired, run thru a food processor to finely chop and blend the jam.
  9. Return to the pot. Cover and refrigerate, overnight.
  10. The next day, remove the majority of the fat from the top of the jam.
  11. Turn heat to low and add salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Cook on medium-low heat until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  12. Transfer jam to sterilized jars and process in a pressure canner @ 15 lbs for 10 minutes.

Serve on warm, crusty sourdough with softened brie cheese. Or on crackers with goat cheese. Or maybe on a nice, juicy, grilled steak (Yummmm!!!!)

Non Sequitur: Artichokes and Bacon Onion Jam

Okay, first I shall yammer about Artichokes...

A rather strange vegetable, the Artichoke. It's actually a flower. More specifically, a species of thistle from the Sunflower family. And it *is* rather daunting - as a food - if you're unfamiliar. But, trust me, they are delightfully delicious!

It actually was one of my favorite foods, when I was a kid. I'd come home from the sitter (back in MY day, we didn't have Day-Care, we had Baby-Sitters!), late in the afternoon, and whenever I heard the familiar "chit-chit-chit-chit" of the pressure cooker, I would shriek most gleefully "Arrrrrrtichooooookes! Yayyyyy!!!"

Over the dinner-table, we would often wonder about WHO was brave enough to actually eat the first artichoke (According to Google, artichoke-eating has been going on for a verrrrrry long time! Like, since Ancient Greece). Whoever it was, we were glad they *did* eat 'em 'cuz they are splendiferously tasty!

And - they're a huge California crop - so they definitely satisfy the "Locavore" in me :-)

So I picked up a couple of Jumbo Artichokes at the store the other day - and that's what I had for dinner tonight. Now, you'd think I woulda dragged out my Pressure Cooker (what with my Happy Childhood Memories and all), but I figured I'd just steam 'em instead. Takes a wee bit longer, and they aren't *quite* as tender, but it seemed like the most expedient approach.

I'd like to thank Kaylyn's Kitchen for posting her Artichoke-Prep tips. First, I found her post on pressure-cooking (which, obv, I didn't follow tonight!). Then I found her "illustrated guide" to preparing an artichoke - which I *did* follow. And - "Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!" - The splitting and de-hairing prior to cooking was a FANTASTIC suggestion!

I don't do anything fancy to my 'chokes. Basically just steam 'em over boiling water with a TBS of lemon juice (If I'm feeling *really* exotic, I'll toss a whole clove of garlic into the water). Then, after it's cooked, I peel the leaves, dunk 'em in Mayo (or butter) and enjoy 'em "plain." The heart, of course, is the BEST part (even better - now that I don't have to peel "hot hair" off of it!) Maybe I'll try her "Mom's Dipping Sauce" at some point but - like I say - I prefer them plain.

So that covers Artichokes!

Next-up: Bacon-Onion Jam.

At the Canning Club Jam Exchange - back in November (and, Gee, I guess maybe I didn't blather about that - weird!) - there were appx half-a-dozen ladies who came to my house, the Saturday after T-Giving. Now, there was no "Formal Planning" nor were there any specific "Rules" for the Exchange. Nor did we even know how many people were going to show up! But everybody basically arrived with munchies to share, and several different jars of jam to exchange.

Amazingly, the Exchange worked out perfectly because everybody brought the EXACT-RIGHT number of jars, so that everybody got to go home with the EXACT-SAME selections. I have NO idea how *that* happened - but it was absolutely perfect!

Anyway, we had lots of "normal" stuff. Plum jam, Persimmon jam, Strawberry jam... Then some interesting "combos" like Orange-Cranberry Jam, Nutmeg-Apple Conserve, Raspberry-Rose Jam... Then lots of cool Relishes and Chutneys like Tomatillo Chutney, Roasted Lemon Chutney (delicious on my leftover turkey!), Pear-Corn Relish... This is, by no means, a complete list - but my point is: it was a super-nice variety!

Now one of the things I got was a small jar of Onion Jam. I'll be honest, my initial reaction was "Onion Jam???" - as I smiled and said "Thank you!" That just sounded too weird for words - to tell you the truth! But one of the gals posted on the Cannig Club page that she had served D's onion jam with brie cheese, at a party, and that she got nothing but Rave Reviews.

Well, the other night (as I was still dying from the Worst Cold Ever), I wanted to eat something that might actually *penetrate* my sinuses - and maybe even reach my taste buds! So I opened up the jar of onion jam. I toasted a hunk of crusty sourdough bread, heated up some brie cheese, and schmeared the cheese and jam on the bread. That was my dinner and - let me tell you - it was UNBELIEVABLE!!! We're talking full-on "OH. EMM. GEE! I *must* have this recipe!!!"

I Googled-around and was surprised to find LOTS of onion-jam recipes.

One that sounds particularly interesting (and I probably will try, at some point) is Onion and Rosemary Confit.

There are also a couple of Red-Onion Marmalade recipes floating around. One from Joy of Cooking and One in the Ball Blue Book Canning Guide.

(And there are even some intriguing-sounding Bacon-Onion Jam recipes out on the 'net)

I was beginning to think I was going to have to attempt to "cobble together" a recipe from multiple sources - and wasn't sure I could successfully duplicate it because it had a very savory, "smokey" flavor to it. But then D pointed out that she *had* blogged her original recipe here.

Yayyy D!!! (Who seems to be another QT! Hey!!!)

Well, subsequent "discussions" on the Canning Club FB page have led me to believe that BACON needs to be added to D's Recipe. 'Cuz Bacon makes EVERYTHING better, right???

So I think that, tomorrow, I will be busting out my Brandy-New Mandoline Slicer *and* my as-yet UNUSED Pressure-Canner, and brewing up a batch of D's Smokey-Onion (+ Bacon!) Jam.

When I started this post, I was thinking I'd post my proposed recipe here - but I think I'll put it in a separate post because - Surprise!! - this one has gotten a bit long-winded.

Yeah, that NEVER happens! ;-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Leeky Love! Cream of Leeky Spinach Mushroom Soup

First off: Yes, I am starting to feel *almost* human again. I've still got some lingering sniveling and hacking going on. And I'm still scared to venture OUTSIDE - for fear that The Black Death will come back with a vengeance! Nevertheless, I think - maybe in the next day or two - I should start to feel almost normal again!

And since "Outdoor Activities" are still out of the question, I am back to finding forms of entertainment in the kitchen. Hubbie seems pleased with that - at least!

Yesterday, I made a HUGE vat o' chili. It wasn't particularly noteworthy (mostly came from a pre-packaged dried soup/beans dealy-bob). The only noteworthy quality was that it ended up making well-over a gallon of chili (Holy sh*t!)!

I figured, since the package had Crock Pot Directions, it oughtta fit in my crock pot (I know... "Silly me," right?). Nope, I had to drag out my steam canner and use it as a stock pot b/c I didn't own a pot big enough to contain all that chili! So I am experimenting with "Freezing" chili for future noshing........

Today, I realized that I've got a couple of deliveries' worth of Farm Share Veggies in the fridge (and another delivery coming on Friday!), so I'd best dispense with what I've already got. I *do* hate wasting veggies, after all...

And - because of the Farm-Share - I have discovered a New Love: Leeks (Something I never, ever, would have purchased before)!

Farm-Share Abundance included: Spinach, Onions, Baby Bok Choy, and my beloved Leeks. I also had an 8 oz package of fresh mushrooms that wasn't gonna stay fresh much longer. I figured I'd throw everything together and make some kinda soup. And, to be honest, I am mighty pleased with the results!

QT's Cream of Leeky Spinach Mushroom Soup

Unfortunately, I don't have *exact* measurements (like cups or oz), this is one of those recipes where you just kinda toss in whatever you've got! But if you scroll the the bottom, I have kinda/sorta "condensed" the recipe into something almost-usable!

First, remove the roots and green leaf/stem/whatevers off of 3 good-sized leeks and slice 'em into thin little donuts. You only want to use the white and pale green part of the leeks. Toss (better yet - Compost!) the roots and stems.

Chop up 1/4 of a yellow sweet onion and add that - if you are so inclined.

Then, separate the green-leafy parts from the white stalks of a head of bok-choy. Set the leafy parts aside and chop up the white stalks into small, 1/4" wide strips.

Then mince a couple of cloves of garlic.

Leeks and Bok Choy get sauteed first

Then, slice up the bok-choy leaves into smaller (spinach-sized) pieces. And rinse and remove the stems from the spinach, Combine all the leaves together and set 'em aside for now...

Then slice up your 8 oz of mushrooms and set those aside as well...

Spinach and Mushrooms, waiting patiently

Now heat up some Olive Oil in a medium to large sauce pan (I opted for my large dutch oven - after yesterdays Chili Overload!). Add the Leeks, onions, garlic and bok choy stalks to the olive oil and saute on medium heat 'til everything is starting to get limp and translucent - but not brown.

I ended up adding a tablespoon of sugar and a sprinkling of sea salt, then turned the heat to low and let it sit and "sweat" til everything was pretty limp, but not brown or crispy (maybe 5-10 mins?)...

Feelin' flaccid!

Then add your leafy stuff and mushrooms and continue to saute on medium heat. Heat, stirring constantly, 'til the leaves get all limp and shrively, and the mushrooms start to brown.

At this point, you might want to add a sprinkle or three of your favorite seasoning salt...

It's all steamy (not blurry!), and it smells divine!

Then add appx 1/4-1/2 cup of white cooking wine to deglaze the pan (burn off the oiliness).

Add a couple of 14.5 oz cans of broth. I opted for chicken broth, but vegetable broth would be just as good...

Blorp blorp!

At this point, I let everything simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes. I wanted everything to get super-soft and gushy.

The next-to-last step was grabbing my immersion blender and pureeing everything until it was a thick and fairly smooth consistency. The leeks and leafy veggies got obliterated, but the mushrooms wouldn't fit under my immersion blender - which was actually kinda cool! I like the mushroom "chunks!"

The final step was adding a cup of crema casera: Smooth, thick table-cream that I found in the refrigerated "Mexican Food" section of the grocery store. It's about the consistency of sour cream - only it's not sour (although you could probably use sour cream. Or even regular "heavy cream").

Return to the stove and heat for a few more minutes, then serve...


QT's Cream of Leeky Spinach Soup (Recipe sans commentary!)
Makes 4-5 generous servings

  • 3 large leeks - roots and dark-green stems removed. Chop the white/light green parts into into thin slices
  • 1 medium-sized head of baby bok choy
  • 1/4 of a sweet yellow onion - finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 cloves of fresh, minced garlic
  • 2 cups (appx) of fresh spinach - stems removed (it was a generous "bunch" of spinach)
  • 8 oz of sliced fresh white mushrooms
  • 1 Tbs white sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of white cooking wine
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) of Chicken or Vegetable broth
  • 1 cup Crema Casera (or heavy cream)
  • Seasoning Salt (optional)
  • Sea salt and fresh-ground pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil
Separate the leaves from the stalks of the bok choy. Reserve the leaves. Chop the bok choy stalks into smallish (1/4") chunks.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce-pan. Over medium heat, saute the leeks, bok choy stalks, onion and garlic 'til translucent. Turn heat down to low, add 1 TBS of sugar and a sprinkling of sea-salt. Let the mixture "sweat" for appx 5-10 minutes 'til limp.

Turn the heat back up to medium and add the leafy greens and mushrooms. Saute 'til the leaves are limp and the mushrooms are starting to brown. Season with salt, pepper, seasoning salt, to taste.

Add 1/4-1/2 cup of white cooking wine to burn-off the excess oil.

Add broth. Bring to a light boil then immediately turn down to low and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until everything is soft.

Remove from heat and - using an immersion blender (or food processor or blender) puree the mixture 'til fairly smooth and (hopefully!) thick.

Add one cup of cream and stir into the soup. Re-heat, then serve.

This is a very-very tasty and surprisingly filling soup!

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