Saturday, November 30, 2013

Braided Tuna Loaf

It's always a good thing to have a can of tuna in the pantry on a boat, just in case you don't have any meat hanging out in the fridge waiting to be used. I'm not a huge fan of tuna, probably a result of excessive amounts of tuna noodle casserole served at the dinner table when I was growing up. That being said, this recipe is one of the few that I really like and graced our family table when my kids were growing up. The sauce is one that will merit a separate blog entry when I get some time but for now it will do here.

Braided Tuna Loaf

1 Recipe of Cheddar Drop Biscuits on the sidebar, using only 2/3 cup milk and no cheese.
1 can of chunk white tuna
2 Tbl minced onion
1 beaten egg, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c shredded cheddar





Begin by making the recipe of biscuits on the sidebar, using only 2/3 cup of milk and no cheese in the dough. Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it's about 10" x 14". Mix tuna, onion, 1/2 of beaten egg, salt and pepper and cheese. Spread evenly down the middle third of dough. Using a sharp knife, make cuts through the dough from the outside edge just to the filling at an angle, making 6 or 8 slanted strips.





Fold the strips over alternately to make a braided top. Mix remaining egg with a little water and brush over the top. Bake at 400° for 20-35 minutes or until golden brown. While it is baking, make the cheese sauce.








No Measure Cheese Sauce

This cheese sauce is a variation of a standard white sauce, which is also wonderful to use for so many other things like potato soup, cream of mushroom soup, sausage gravy, or macaroni and cheese. It's one to master for sure!


Melt a hunk of butter in a saucepan on medium. The size of the butter chunk will determine the quantity of sauce you end up with. 4 Tablespoons will yield about 1-1/2 cups of sauce.









Add enough flour to make a very thick paste, and stir until the butter separates from the pan and kind of chunks up.











Add milk a little at a time, stirring hard with a wire whisk in between. The first addition should leave it looking a bit like mashed potatoes.











The second addition should leave it looking a bit like frosting.











The third addition it will be thick white sauce. If you're making it for a recipe that needs thinner sauce then just add a little more milk and whisk.











Add at least a cup of grated cheese. Use your imagination, and all the leftover chunks of cheese in your fridge. The more the merrier. You can use swiss, cheddar, american, cream, havarti, parmesan, just mix them all together in there. Add salt and pepper to taste.








Serve the braid in thick slices with the cheese sauce over top. A side of brocolli is great with this.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Aunt Betty's Pumpkin Bread

Disclaimer: If you are on a diet, if you are only eating healthy, or if you're an Al Gore fan and are trying to be a vegan, stop here and go to another post.

Every holiday in my family as I was growing up involved trips to my Aunt Betty's and she is, to this day, one of the best homestyle cooks I have ever known. As kids we would eat the obligatory plateful of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and green beans, but it was only so that we could be allowed the only treat we really wanted, Aunt Betty's pumpkin bread. It would plop on our plate thickly sliced and, as we grew older, with a dollop of lemon curd or a thick spread of cream cheese slathered on top. The tradition continues in my own family, where pumpkin pie almost always takes a back seat to pumpkin bread.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, mainly because you get the benefit of family presence without the aggravation and stress of presents and the money behind them. This Thanksgiving will be one of the few that we aren't with our kids and grandkids, although it seems to be happening more often as they get older and have other families involved in their holiday celebrations, so it seemed fitting to remember the holiday with a rainy baking afternoon. I hope that this recipe will become a tradition of yours as well.

If you're not a baker, the secret to all quick breads and muffins is what is called the two bowl method. This means that you mix all of your dry ingredients in one bowl and all of your wet ingredients in another bowl. You preheat your oven and get your pans ready and then the instant that you're ready to bake you mix those two bowls together quickly, just until the dry ingredients are mixed in and aren't visible anymore then put them immediately into the oven. If you overmix the bread or muffins will come out tough, and if you let it set for awhile they will be dense.

 Aunt Betty's Pumpkin Bread

3-1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 rounded tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3 C sugar
1 C chopped pecans or walnuts
4 eggs
1-1/2 C canned pumpkin
1 C vegetable oil
2/3 C water


 Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. When I make this on the boat I cut the recipe into 3/4 or it won't fit in either my bowl or my oven. A  half recipe will make two small 8 x 4 loaves, a full recipe will make three 9 x 5 loaves or four 8 x 4 loaves. I also sometimes make these in 13oz coffee cans which for some reason leaves the bread without a hard crust and makes nice loaves to wrap and give away. A full recipe will make 3 of those cans. Be sure to wash well and grease well and remove any plastic film labeling.



 Mix all the wet ingredients in another bowl with a whisk. Sorry for the blurry picture here but we're having a bit of bad weather and it's hard to keep the camera still when the boat is rocking all over the place.








Prepare your pans. When I'm using foil pans or regular bread pans I spray them with non-stick spray and then line the with waxed paper and spray lightly again. If I'm using the coffee cans I spray them well and dust them lightly with flour.

Preheat your oven to 350°







 When the oven is preheated, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir quickly with a wooden spoon, just till the dry ingredients are no longer visible.










Divide the batter evenly among your pans and put them in the oven.  Bake them until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. This can vary wildly depending on the pans you used and your oven. If you use dark pans it will take less time and you may have to lower the oven temp just a little. If you use aluminum pans it will take longer, as will the coffee cans. It will take somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes.



Cool the loaves on a wire rack until just barely warm to the touch  and then turn them out and peel off the waxed paper. Resist the temptation to turn them out early as they will crack. These can be frozen and will actually taste better after being frozen, so I often bake a half dozen or more loaves and keep them in the freezer for gift giving at Christmas. Enjoy!







Thursday, November 21, 2013

The evolution of fridge organization

When we first bought this boat, one of the things I knew I had to get under control was storage of food in the fridge. When you have a top-loading fridge the size of ours, you have to have some sort of organization so that you can find things without emptying every single thing out one by one to find the item you need.


My first effort was some stacking baskets. I was pretty happy to find them because they fit exactly in the space, they allowed air to move around things so that they stayed fresh, and they had handles to lift things out with. The problem with the baskets was that they took up a lot of space themselves, limiting what we could fit in the fridge. Some items were so big that you could only put one per basket, not an efficient way to go. The baskets got moved to other places that they fit better, like on the shelf behind our companionway steps to hold winches, clothespins, etc.


The second attempt was large Ziploc bags, the blue ones with the handles, the ones intended for storing sweaters, etc. The large size are exactly the height of my fridge from the grate to the lid. I sorted everything so that there was a bag for cheese, a bag for butter and sour cream and cream cheese, a bag for lunchmeat and other cooked meats, and a bag for raw meat. The other side of the fridge had a bag for salad veggies and a bag for larger veggies like onions and potatoes.

This arrangement works really well. It is easy to see what is in the bags, and easy to lift them out by the handles. You can lift one out that you need and close the lid so you're not leaking cold out and letting frost-making humidity in. I've been doing this for awhile now, but I'm finding one problem with the arrangement. The bags sweat from the humidity and start to smell so you have to either wash them frequently or replace them with new. Washing really large plastic bags is difficult in a boat sink, so I started looking for another option.


I found these Chico mesh bags on amazon.com and decided to give them a try. They make different ones for different vegetables, depending on how much moisture they need to stay fresh. I ordered some Flip and Tumble ones to use for butter, cheese, etc. The only thing that I've kept in the plastic bags is the raw meat, to protect everything else in the event that some meat should leak. The mesh bags take up almost no space themselves, they have a drawstring to lift the bags out with, and they pop in the washer with our clothes when they get dirty. So far they seem to be doing the trick and I'm pretty happy with them.  Stay tuned for the long-term review though.  All fridge organization is evolving!







Monday, November 18, 2013

Colors

"I lack the magnificent richness of color that animates nature. "

Paul Cezanne 

One of the most wretched things that has happened to food in this country is the stripping of its natural colors to replace them with artificial hues that simply do not exist in nature.  For instance, wasabi. Wasabi is a root that is similar to horseradish. So much so, that what you buy as wasabi paste in most cases is really horseradish flavored with mustard and colored with bright green food coloring. And I do mean bright. When my husband ordered some tuna seared in sesame seeds at a restaurant a few weeks ago, it came with a scoop of "wasabi paste" which was the most flourescent thing I've ever seen on a plate intended for human consumption. Why, I asked myself, would you want to mess with nature's unbelievable colors for something that looked frighteningly like nuclear waste??

With this in mind, here is what's on the menu tonight: chef salads with the bounty of nature's colors available this fall.


Start out with a layer of spring mix greens, or my favorite, chopped romaine. On top of that, layer some thinly sliced cucumbers, sliced baby carrots, sliced or chunked red, yellow or orange bell peppers, and cherry or grape tomatoes if you want. You can stop here for an awesome salad, or you can add the meat ingredients for your chef salad.








I added sliced smoked ham slivers, sliced and slivered roast chicken breast, hard boiled egg slices, cheddar cheese, and topped it off with some drizzled ranch dressing. Add a side of homemade Vienna loaves and some of the best organic strawberries we've had this year and you have a whole meal with very nearly every color in the spectrum. 

I have heard that if you want to eat healthy, just eat every color of the rainbow every day. I don't know if that's true, but it would make you happier, I'm sure.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Apple Pie Tart

This tart gives you the flavor of apple pie and the aroma of cinnamon wafting around your boat with slightly less effort. It's a pretty impressive dessert for guests, and it also makes an excellent breakfast treat with coffee.  I used the apples that I bought at the Oriental Farmer's Market here in Oriental, NC, a mixture of three different kinds, all tart. You can peel the apples if you want, but I left the peel on for a bit more flavor.

For crust:

1-1/3 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup butter flavor shortening or unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice water

Sift flour, measure, and sift again into large bowl along with salt. Add shortening or butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or using 2 knives until the mixture is coarse. Add ice water and stir quickly with a fork until the mixture comes together into a ball and cleans the side of the bowl.  Roll out to a circle about 13" round. Roll loosely around rolling pin and transfer to cookie sheet lined with foil and then lined with parchment.  Set aside.





For filling:

2 large apples, any tart variety
2 Tbl lemon juice, fresh if available
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbl butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts.







Wash apples and quarter. Cut seeds out and slice cross-ways very thinly into bowl. Add lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Toss together until well mixed.











Place apple mixture on center of crust, leaving about 2 to 3 inches around filling. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Melt butter and pour over the filling. Fold crust partially over filling, leaving a circle  exposed in the middle about 3 inches.

Bake at 375° for 35-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender when poked with a sharp knife. Let cool for 10 minutes.




For frosting:

While the tart is cooling, mix 1 cup powdered sugar with just enough milk to make it drizzle from a fork, adding a teaspoon at a time. The mixture should be thick but still able to run from the fork smoothly.
Drizzle the icing across the tart in decorative lines and serve either warm, or let cool completely. If serving as a dessert you can add a scoop of ice cream.

 

Orange Chicken

This is one of our favorite recipes. The flavor is rich and spicy and the mixture of textures and flavors are a treat for your taste buds. The original recipe is from cooksillustrated.com which is still the best cooking site out there in my opinion. It does cost a few pennies to subscribe to the site for a year, but the recipes all include a "why this works" section, and detailed step-by-step instructions for fail-safe success. I also like this recipe because if you're having guests, as we were last night, you can prepare everything and keep it warm for a few minutes while you clean up. This is pretty important on a boat so I look for recipes that allow me to do that. There is the disadvantage of the deep frying smell in the boat, but for the taste of this recipe I'll put up with that!

Orange Chicken

Ingredients
1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup orange juice (2 medium oranges)
1.5 tsp grated orange zest (from one orange)
8 strips of orange peel 2" x 1/2" from 2 oranges
6 Tbs white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 minced garlic cloves (1 Tbl)
1 inch piece grated ginger (about 1 Tbl)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbs cornstarch plus 2 tsp
2 Tbs cold water
8 small whole dried red chilis (optional)
3 egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups peanut oil

Directions

Trim the fat from the chicken, cut it into bite-sized pieces and place in a ziploc bag.










Combine the chicken broth, orange juice, grated zest, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and cayenne in a sauce pan. Whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved. Measure out 3/4 cup and pour into the Ziploc with chicken; press out as much air as possible and seal the bag, making sure that all pieces are coated with marinade. Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes, but no longer.

Bring the remaining mixture in the saucepan to a boil over high heat.  In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch with the cold water; whisk cornstarch mixture into sauce, stirring constantly.  simmer  sauce, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in the orange peels and chilis. the sauce should equal 1-1/2 cups. Set aside.

Whisk egg whites in a pie plate until frothy. In a second pie plate, whisk together baking soda, cornstarch and cayenne pepper until well combined. Drain marinated chicken in colander or large mesh strainer; thoroughly pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place half of chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat; transfer pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly.







Place dredged chicken pieces on wire rack set over baking sheet; repeat with other half.  Let chicken dry.

Heat oil in deep, heavy pan to 350°.  Carefully fry chicken pieces in small batches until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Place on large plate covered with paper towels and keep warm in the oven.







When ready to serve, reheat sauce over medium heat until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add chicken and gently toss until evenly coated with sauce. Serve immediately over rice with a side of steamed broccoli.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chicken and Dumpling Recipe


I did a post the other day about Chicken and Dumplings but I didn't have the bandwidth to do a full recipe post. Someone requested the recipe, so here it is sans picture step directions. The next time I make it, I'll collect some pictures and add them in.






Chicken and Dumplings

I make this in a pressure cooker on the boat, but you can use a regular stew pot if you wish.

1-2 pounds chicken, either on the bone or chunks of boneless skinless.
Onion
Garlic
Carrots
Celery
Chicken broth
Salt
Pepper

In a large pot melt a couple tablespoons of butter. Add an onion, cut in half and then each half quartered. Add a couple cloves of garlic minced, or a teaspoon and a half of the jar minced garlic, some salt and coarse pepper to taste, and sautee until onion is clear. Add a cup of carrots in chunks or baby carrots whole and chunks of celery. Add chunks of boneless skinless chicken or you can also use whole pieces and remove the bones later. Add 6 cups of chicken broth. Process the pressure cooker per directions in the manual, cooking 5-7 minutes and cooling under running water. Or cook in a stew pot until chicken is just barely done. Do not overcook because you will cook it for additional minutes while the dumplings are cooking.

While the chicken is cooking, make the dumplings.

1 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbl butter
1/2 C milk.

Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt through a sifter. Add butter and mix in with a wire whisk until crumbly. Add milk and stir until it forms a thick dough.

Bring chicken to a boil. Drop the dough onto the boiling liquid by tablespoons. Cover and reduce heat to a low simmer. If you're using a pressure cooker, you can lay the lid on but don't screw it down tight. Do not put the rocker on the top, let the steam run free.  Do not lift the lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Check the dumplings with a cake tester. The tester should come out clean. Serve immediately.

Tips: You can mix herbs into the dumplings, or parmesan cheese for flavor.

Lasagne

Disclaimer: This is not one of my "look just follow the picture directions and you'll whip this up in no time" recipes. This is a "oh look it's going to rain all day today and we need to have the oven on to keep warm" recipes. It's not hard, but it is complicated. Because it's complicated, I'm not going to have my usual amount of pictures detailing each step. So here we go.

Lasagne

This recipe makes one 9 x 5 loaf pan. You can double it if you want to fill a 9 x 13 pan for a pot luck. There aren't many quantities, because there seriously isn't much of a recipe for this. I've given you approximate measures.


Flour
3 eggs
Garlic salt
Pepper
Minced onioin
Minced garlic
1 container of grated parmesan cheese.
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 15oz container of ricotta
1 to 1-1/2 cups milk
1 medium jar of spaghetti sauce, flavor of your choice
2-3 Tbl butter
Recipe of homemade noodles or 4-5 no-cook noodles, or 4-5 cooked regular lasagne noodles

You will make each of 4 components, set them aside, and then assemble the whole lasagne: noodles, parmesan sauce, ricotta filling, and spaghetti sauce.

 Make one recipe of Homemade Noodles in the sidebar at the right. You can also use the no-cook lasagne noodles (saves water, propane, and time), or regular cook lasagne noodles. If making them from scratch (worth it), cut the dough into four balls and roll them into long rectangles that are just slightly smaller than the pan. Boil 2 of them at a time for just a few minutes. They don't take long to cook.






Make the parmesan sauce:
Take 2 Tbl of butter and melt it in a small saucepan. Add 3-4 Tbl finely minced onions and a tsp or two of minced garlic (I use the pre-minced in olive oil in the jar). Saute until the onion is clear. Add just enough flour to make a thick paste. It will be about 4 Tbl, but I don't measure. I just keep adding it and stirring until it's thick. Next, add enough milk slowly, while stirring with a wire whisk over medium heat, to make a medium thick white sauce. Add enough grated parmesan cheese to make a thick sauce, somewhere around a cup. If you like a lot of parmesan, add some more. Set aside.


Make the ricotta filling:
Take a 15 ounce container of whole milk ricotta cheese and put it in a bowl with one egg, 1-1/2 tsp garlic salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella. Mix it well. Set aside.







To assemble, pour enough spaghetti sauce (yes from a jar or make your own if you wish) on the bottom of the pan to cover it.











Add one of the noodles, or enough of the no-cook noodles to cover the bottom.












Next, spread some of the parmesan sauce over the noodles.















Next, spread some of the ricotta filling over, using about a third of it. Sprinkle it with mozzarella. Repeat the layers.








Repeat the layers again, ending with a noodle , parmesan sauce, and mozzarella only on the top layer. Use a lot of mozzarella on the top.


 Bake at 375° for 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy along the edges. Let it stand and cool for a bit before serving or it will be too runny. Do not skip this step or you'll waste your whole effort This recipe is particularly good if you make it the day before, cook it half way, then finish cooking it the rest of the way the day you're serving it.





Tips: Put the loaf pan on a foil-covered cookie sheet because it will spill over and it will save you cleaning the oven.  Also watch it while it bakes and cover it loosely with foil if starts to brown too fast or too much. This is a meatless version, but you can add ground beef, ground sausage, or whatever other meat you want to the spaghetti sauce.

Serve it with warm bread and salad.