Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tasty Camp Stew(s)

This weekend the husband and I went camping. It was our first camping trip of the year after having a previously scheduled trip canceled because I was sick. We were lucky to have beautiful weather all weekend.

I like to have tasty food when I camp (technically I always like to have tasty food) but I also don't like to have to put in a lot of effort cooking once I am there. After many years of trial, I have designed a menu that is tasty but also involves minimum cooking/cleanup effort (in fact dishes only have to be done with breakfast).

Here's what I make:
Friday night dinner - Sausage Stew
Saturday breakfast- Grits with Cheese and Bacon, Donettes (I only eat donettes when I'm camping so it's quite the treat)
Saturday lunch - Hot Dogs (or Polish Dogs) cooked over the fire, chips
Saturday dinner - Beef Stew
Sunday breakfast - Scrambled Eggs with Cheese, Home-style Hash Browns with chopped Bacon and Onion, more donettes
Anytime there is a fire - Smores (made with Peanut-Butter Cups)

I like to do all my prep work before I leave home. I chop the onion for the hash browns and the hot dogs, chop and par-cook the potato for the hash browns and assemble both of the stews.

For the sausage stew, I use a lot of the ingredients, and flavors, that I use for a crab boil, just minus the crab.

Here's the ingredients for the Sausage Stew:

1/2 of a kielbasa, cut into large chunks
2-3 good size red potatoes, cut into eighths
2 ears of corn, each cut into four pieces
4 green onions, chopped
2 Tablespoon butter
Cajun Seasoning

I tossed all the ingredients together.

Then wrapped them in 2-3 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Here's the ingredients for the beef stew:

8 tiny carrots, scrubbed and chopped (the skins are really thin so they don't have to be peeled)
8 small red potatoes, quartered
12 small crimini mushrooms
20 frozen pearl onions
12 cloves garlic
3/4 pound beef stew meat
2 Tablespoon tomato paste
4 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from the stems
12 sprig fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
truffle salt (cause that's how I roll)
black pepper

I combined all the ingredients except for the liquids, sealing my packet on three sides.

Then I added the liquid.

And completed the packets.

I made sure to label them, because the two stews look an awful lot alike.

For either of the stews, I wait until the fire has some nice embers, then place the packets near/in the embers turning them (being careful not to poke a hole in the packets) every fifteen minutes.

Usually, the sausage stew takes about 1 1/2 hours and the beef stew takes about 3 1/2 hours. However, this time, because of the weird set-up for the fire (it was open on two sides and I just wasn't used to it) both stews could have used more time.

To eat, I borrowed the husband's Leatherman and sliced open the packet. The packet turns into a bowl for the stew.

With both meals, the potatoes were not quite cooked through (but they were cooked enough to eat). And most everything else was delightful.

The only exception was the garlic in the beef stew. It was still really hard (which is sad because I LOVE the creamy flavor of the roasted garlic) but it still provided a great flavor to the stew.

Overall, I was delighted with all the food for the weekend (and the husband was glad that he didn't have to do too many dishes).

We had a great weekend. Unplugged and enjoying nature. The only downside, just look at the dirt on this dog.

Here's a closer view.

That is just not right.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Curried Chicken Salad

Last week I came home exhausted almost every night. Between my full cooking schedule and the triathlon training, I am felling a little worn out. With the tiredness, I ended up ordering in a bit more than I like so I decided to be proactive and do some extra cooking on Sunday.

Here's the ingredients:

4 chicken breasts (the meat from a rotisserie chicken would work well here too)
1/2 of a red bell pepper (I used the rest in the shrimp tacos)

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

1 cup of celery, diced

a bunch of grapes, halved

2 spring onions, diced
2 Tablespoon curry powder

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

I started by baking the chicken breasts. I used frozen chicken breasts from Costco that I cooked right from their frozen state (following the instructions on the bag).

While the chicken cooked I prepped the rest of my ingredients and stirred them all together. Once the chicken was cooled I diced it and added it to the mix. Then, into the fridge it went.

On Monday I served this with lettuce leaves, crackers and some cherry tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.

On Tuesday I ate a little for lunch, then the husband ate some for dinner while I was out. Finally the husband finished it off on Wednesday while I was at tri-training (a sure sign that he liked it).

All-in-all, five servings of a really tasty salad, all for less than 30 minutes of active cooking time in the kitchen. I love that I was able to eat and provide a tasty home-made meals with minimal weekday effort. It was like having my own personal chef!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shrimp Tacos

Lately I have had a craving for shrimp tacos. There is a local taco place that makes a pretty fair version, but since I am trying to cook more at home I have resisted the urge to get them.

So, when I saw that I would be getting cabbage in my box this week, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to make my own.

Here's the ingredients.

2 limes, juiced, divided
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
30 or so smallish shrimp
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
1 mango, julienned
creme fraiche
white corn tortillas

I started by marinating the shrimp in half of the lime juice and the adobo sauce (whenever I open a can of chipotles I stick whatever I have left in the can in the freezer, so I almost always have adobo on hand). I set this aside for about 20 minutes.

While the shrimp marinated I worked on the cabbage slaw. I combined the cabbage, red bell pepper and mango along with the juice of 1/2 a lime and a little salt and black pepper, then set it aside.

To grill the shrimp, I skewered them the long way through the entire shrimp so that they would be a bit straighter when they were done.

I sprinkled the shrimp with a little salt then grilled the skewers for about 3 minutes on each side. While the shrimp cooked I warmed the tortillas, wrapped in wet paper towels, in the microwave for 30 seconds.

When everything was ready I created tacos by spreading each tortilla with about a Tablespoon of creme fraiche, a bit of the cabbage slaw and a few shrimp.

How was it? Well, these were quite good. The slaw was maybe a tiny bit too limey but overall really tasty. With a couple of tweaks (less lime, a little more spice) I could see these going on the permanent repertoire.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Poker Night Grub

Last night the husband and I hosted our (almost) monthly poker game. Before we get to the game, we always enjoy drinks and dinner. Most everybody brings some food to share and I always try to make something (although I have been accused of being a lazy chef at times)

Last night we had an international smorgasbord with pizza, Thai food and I made some salsa (and a tasty dessert, but more on that later).

I had to buy some jalapenos and a lime but I got the rest of the ingredients in my box this week.

Here's what I used:

2 tomatoes, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 limes, juiced (I added a second after I took the picture)
1/2 red onion, diced and 1/2 vidalia onion, diced (also not pictured)
kosher salt
2 avocados, diced

A few hours before the gathering I combined the tomatoes and jalapenos (I took the seeds out, but left the membranes in so that I would get a little heat but nothing too crazy) along with the lime juice. I stirred it together, tasted it and thought "hmm, something is missing here". That's when I realized that I had forgotten the onion, so I tossed that in too, tasted it again and added a healthy pinch of salt and the juice of another lime.

Just before my guests were due to arrive, I diced and gently stirred in the avocado (I didn't want to add it to early in the day in case the avocado turned brown). I tasted it again, added and pinch more salt and then it was good to go.

This is my favorite chip and dip bowl. I got it for a steal it at a garage sale a few years ago.

The salsa was pretty tasty. It could have used some cilantro but the husband has an aversion to it and I would have liked a little more heat, but some of my guests do not like the spicy stuff.

Now to that dessert I mentioned earlier. The last two CSA boxes that I have received both contained peaches. Now I love peaches, but a couple of years ago I spent a week at Quillisascut farm school. One morning instead of making breakfast, we went to a nearby orchard and picked our breakfast directly from the plum, nectarine and peach trees. Ever since than I have been a little ruined for peaches. If I get a peach that does not have great flavor or texture, I'm out, I don't want to eat it at all.

Well on Thursday, I tried one of the four peaches that we received in the box this week. The flavor was okay but the texture was no good. I knew then that the remaining peaches were destined to be cooked rather than eaten out of hand.

Somehow, I settled on ice cream. It seemed like an application where the sub-par texture of the peaches wouldn't be a problem. Plus I had an ingredient on hand that I knew would be a hit with the peaches, lavender.

I have three ginormous lavender bushes in my front yard (this is just one of them) and I have been eagerly waiting for them to be ready to use.

They are so close to blooming and this is the very best time to use the buds.

I adapted a recipe for peach ice cream from Williams-Sonoma Ice Creams and Sorbets.

Here's the ingredients.

3 medium peaches, peeled and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon lavender buds
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream (divided use)
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a spice grinder I combined the sugar with the lavender buds whizzing them together until the lavender was pulverized into the sugar (the smell of this is so nice). I combined half of the lavender sugar, the corn syrup and peaches in a large pan and heated it until the sugar was dissolved. Then I transferred this to a bowl.

To the now empty pot I added the half-and-half and 1/2 cup of the cream and brought it to a simmer. Meanwhile, in another bowl, I whisked together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar. When the cream was warm I removed it from the heat and then slowly whisked it into the egg yolk mixture, adding just a bit of the hot cream at a time so as to not cook the eggs. I poured this back into my saucepan and cooked it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard was thick, about 5 minutes.

I poured the custard through a sieve into a bowl and then stirred in the peach mixture, the last 1/2 cup of cream and the vanilla. Then I covered the mixture and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day I poured this mixture into my ice cream maker and when it was done working it's magic I transferred it to a plastic container and stashed it in the freezer to freeze through.

Now this was good. The lavender and peach combined beautifully. I could (and probably will) make this over and over again this summer (and next summer and the summer after that...).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What's in the Box?

1 bunch Purple Radish
1 Celery
1 Red Bell Peppers
2 Red Tomatoes
2 Hass Avocados
1 bunch Baby Carrots
1 Napa Cabbage
1 bunch Walla Walla Sweet Spring Onions
1 pint Strawberries
4 Yellow Peaches
2 Ataulfo Mangos
.7 pound Green Grapes

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flat Iron Steak Sandwich

Once again tonight's meal was inspired by the Serious Eats Cook and Tell. This weeks theme: Sandwiches!

I am of the opinion that sandwiches always taste better when someone else makes them. I think that is because a truly great sandwich has a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps. So if you can enjoy the final product, without all the effort, it is just tastier.

Before I get started on the sandwich, I must introduce you to my kitchen clean-up helper.

This is Jones. He is almost 11 years old. He has been taught that he is not allowed in the kitchen while I am working (except for, as you can see, his paws). He is very helpful at cleaning up when I am done.

I created this sandwich over the course of a few hours, so I don't have a photo of the ingredients all gathered together. But here's what I used.

2 yellow onions, sliced and caramelized (see below)
1 small flat iron steak, grilled, rested then sliced
a handful of lettuce, julienned (I used red lettuce from my garden)
1 Roma tomato, sliced
horseradish sauce (made from 2 T sour cream, 2 T mayonnaise, 1 T horseradish and 2 T garlic chives, chopped)
3 ounces Seastack cheese (see below)
2 small baguette rolls

For the caramelized onions I warmed a little olive oil in a pan then added the sliced onion. Once it was sizzling I turned the heat down very low (but high enough that I could still hear it sizzle). I stirred the onions every 10 minutes or so.

Here they are at the beginning.

This is after one hour.

This is after two hours.

The smell of onions caramelizing is just delightful.

I thought about using blue cheese for the sandwich (blue cheese and steak is a pretty classic combination) but then I saw that the store had Seastack cheese from Mt.Townsend Creamery and decided that was definitely the way to go.

Seriously if you have not tried this cheese (and you like cheese at all) you have to try this.

To compose my sandwich, I sliced the baguette in half and slathered each side with horseradish sauce. Then I piled on some lettuce, a few slices of Seastack cheese, some grilled flat iron steak, some caramelized onion and a few slices of tomato.

How was it? Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum. Admittedly it was a little difficult to eat (fillings falling out and what not), but it was sooo worth it. So good. Totally worth the time and effort that I had to put into making it myself. The only thing that would have made it better would have been for someone else to make it.

My New (Tiny) Garden

Today I did some planting. In the herb garden I added rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and basil (I already have sage, chives, garlic chives, mint and oregano growing). I wanted to plant some nasturtiums but the plant store did not have any.

In the back yard I added a very small container garden in an area where we are thinking about planting beds next year.

This is our shed (yep, the husband and I are pretty artsy), with the pots right in front.

On the left I've got roma tomatoes, jalapenos, corn (which I have doubts about) and red beets.

On the right I've got cherry tomatoes, "kung pao" peppers, white beets, and brussel sprouts.

I don't know if any of it will produce produce, but it'll be fun trying.

At the very least, this tomato should ripen up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Asian-Grilled Chicken with Stir-Fried Vegetables

It has been a very busy week for me and I'll admit, I've been a bit of a lazy chef this week. Today was my at-home paperwork day (and triathlon training rest day) so I had more energy for cooking tonight.

After a quick perusal of the crisper drawer I was rewarded with shitake mushrooms, a whole bunch of green veggies (including a zucchini that had seen better days that went in the bin rather then the meal) and in the meat drawer some chicken. I decided to put a quick marinade on the chicken and stir-fry some veggies.

Here's the ingredients for the chicken:

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon honey
a healthy squeeze of sriracha
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 chicken breasts

I combined all the marinade ingredients in a ziploc bag. Then I trimmed my chicken and cut each breast in half horizontally so that they were thinner and would cook faster. I set this aside which I worked on the veggies.

After about 15 minutes I removed the chicken from the marinade (reserving it for later), dried them well with paper towels then tossed them on my hot grill. When it was done I set it aside to rest covered with foil while I cooked the veggies.

Here's the ingredients for the veggies:

On the left are the veggies to top the chicken on the right are the veggies for under the chicken (that will make more sense later).

8 or so shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
4 green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup dry sherry

1 shallot, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
12 sprigs asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch spinach

In a small saucepan I warmed the sesame oil and then added the mushrooms and green onions to saute.

When they were just about cooked through I added the sherry and then put it back on the heat and let it cook until the pan was almost dry.

While this was cooking I added just a little more sesame oil to a large saute pan then tossed in the shallots, green onions and asparagus. When the veggies were cooked almost through I added the reserved marinade (making sure that it boiled for at least a minute since it had raw chicken in it) and then the spinach.

Now I was ready to plate. I made a little bed of rice, then topped that with the stir-fried asparagus combo, then topped that with grilled chicken, then topped that with the shitake mushrooms.

How was it? Well I think I would give this dish a solid "B". It could have used more garlic, especially in the mushrooms, a little soy sauce wouldn't have hurt anything (but their was none in the pantry) and I could have been a little more heavy handed with the sriracha. For the most part the husband enjoyed it too, but I did get a "was there spinach in this" when we were done. I can't get anything past him.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Asparagus and Green Garlic Soup

Last night I had my first Triathlon training session in the pool. I knew that I was going to need to eat before I swam, but I wanted something light and quick to make. Soup and salad fit the bill perfectly.

Earlier in the day I had been doing a bit of research about the green garlic in my box (because I had never used it before and I wasn't sure what to expect). Most resources said you could use it just as you would use garlic, but to expect a milder flavor. I wanted to really highlight the flavor of the green garlic so I kept my soup very simple, just five ingredients (I'm not counting olive oil and salt and pepper).

Here they are:

2 shallots (mince about a tablespoon for the salad, chop the rest)
3 bulbs green garlic, divided
a large bunch asparagus, stems trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
about 2 cups chicken broth
a couple tablespoons of cream

I minced a half bulb of green garlic (about 2 teaspoons) then set it aside. Then I chopped the remaining green garlic (bulbs and the light green part of the stems) along with the shallots (you don't have to take a lot of time chopping this nice because it's all going to get pureed at the end anyway). I sat a large saucepan over medium heat and heated up a little olive oil. When it was warm I added my chopped shallots, green garlic and a good pinch of kosher salt.

I let this sweat (saute without browning) for a while until the shallot was translucent. I added my asparagus and enough broth to just cover. Then I let this simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the soup was cooking I started on my salad. Here's the ingredients:

1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
a big pinch of sugar
salt and fresh ground pepper
a handful of salad greens
a few radishes, sliced thin
a few carrots, sliced thin on the bias
a couple of sunchokes, peeled and sliced thin (these aren't in the picture because they were a last minute crisper drawer find)

In a bowl I whisked together the shallot, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. While continuing to whisk, I drizzled in the olive oil to create an emulsion. At this point I tasted the dressing and decided to add the sugar. To the bowl I added my greens and sliced veggies and then tossed everything together.

At this point my soup had been simmering away and the asparagus was nice and tender. I added a splash of cream and then used my stick blender to puree the soup. A blender would have made this a much smoother puree, but I happen to like a little bit of texture in my blended soups, plus the stick blender is easier to use and clean.

I seasoned the soup with salt and pepper then topped the soup with a drizzle of olive oil and some of the minced fresh green garlic. I served the soup and salad with a piece of Parmesan-topped toast.

How was it? Well I am now a true believer in the power of green garlic. It is my mission to search this stuff out and use it every spring (the only time it is available). I make asparagus soup a lot (my clients love the stuff) and this just added a really nice flavor to the mix. The salad was also delightful (I'm really happy I found the sunchokes, they are so good in salad). The husband really liked everything too, which is a little surprising because he is not a fan of salads (unless they have lots of ranch dressing).

Dinner was so easy to make, we finished in plenty of time so that everything could settle before my swim (Mom always said to wait an hour after eating before getting in the water). So I guess I accomplished my mission of light and quick to make (with the nice addition of tastiness)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What's in the Box?

The great thing about the CSA with Full Circle Farm is that they allow you to switch up to five items in every box. Unfortunately, this week I neglected to make any changes so I ended up with a few things that I would normally not get (specifically the spinach and mustard greens because the husband REALLY does not like them). So, cooking this week may be a bit more of a challenge. We'll see.

.34 pound Salad Mix

1 Bunch Spinach
1 bunch Red Mustard Greens
.75 pound Roma Tomatoes
1 Green Bell Peppers
1 bunch Green Garlic

1 bunch Baby Bunch White Turnips

.75 pound Asparagus
.2 pound Shiitake Mushrooms
4 Yellow Peaches
4 Braeburn Apples

1 pound Strawberries