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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leftovers by Design: Ham

I am spending more time than usual in my kitchen nowadays, as much as 10 hours a week just canning, freezing, curing, and drying food destined for storage. Despite being in the kitchen so much, I don't have a lot time or energy to cook meals, so I do what I can to prepare large batches of basics that I can reuse in meals for days to come. This week, that's meant baking a 6 lb portion of ham, several squash, and a couple sweet potatoes plus a couple bunches of chard sauteed in bacon fat for Sunday dinner. Here's how I'll get at least three more meals out of the leftovers:
  • Leftover chard and some of the ham will go into Monday's no-crust quiche.
  • The ham bone went into a pot with some water, celery ends, and chicken broth leftover from that afternoon's canning to become make broth for of a slow cooker ham and bean soup that I'll start on Tuesday morning. Monday, I soaked a double batch of white beans, so I can make a big batch of soup and pressure-can half of it (it would freeze well, too) or cook half the beans in water and use them for a bean and marinated bell pepper salad (I haven't decided which I'll do yet).
  • The leftover squash and some more ham go into a stovetop mac-and-cheese on Wednesday.
All of those meals will in turn make good leftovers themselves for lunch the next day. In fact, we find that quiche, soup, and most casseroles improve overnight. None of these secondary meals takes more than 20 minutes of prep time, leaving me with more time to make pints and pints of pickled peppers and make a batch of Wimpy's Delight (the web site should credit Helen Witty, as the recipe is copied word-for-word from her book The Fancy Pantry).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Supper

Sometimes it takes a bit of desperation to try a food that you have convinced yourself that you don't like. For me, it was cooked bell peppers. Until almost four years ago, I couldn't stand them--even the smell of them cooking made me gag. Then, after our son Luc was born, my friend Katie brought over a dish that changed all that for me. Her recipe for Chicken Paprika came from The Big Book of Casseroles by Maryana Vollstedt, a Eugene cookbook author. Since that comforting postpartum supper, the dish has become a favorite of ours and one I look forward to making this time of year, when the local bell peppers finally, finally ripen before succombing to frost and rain. (What I finally realized is that it's cooked unripened peppers I can't stand.)

Here's my adaptation of her recipe. I made it last with a 7 pound chicken and simply doubled everything.

Chicken Paprika with Red Bell Pepper
Serves 4-6

1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons paprika, divided
1 chicken (3 to 3-1/2 pounds), cut into serving pieces (reserve back and neck for making stock)
4 tablespoons oil or fat appropriate for frying: sunflower oil, ghee, lard, schmaltz
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium red bell peppers, cut into 1-2" squares
ground pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup sour cream, creme fraiche, or quark

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flour, salt, and 1 teaspoon paprika in a wide, shallow bowl. Toss chicken pieces in mixture to coat and reserve excess flour. In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan, melt oil or fat over medium high-heat. Brown chicken, 5 to 10 minutes per side. Remove to a plate. Reduce temperature to medium. Add onions and pepper and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining paprika, pepper, and remaining flour and stir until the flour coats the vegetables. Add stock and stir until thickened. Return chicken to pan, cover and bake until chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 50 minutes. Blend in sour cream and bake, uncovered, 10 minutes longer. Serve with spaetzle, rice, or egg noodles.

Sweet corn fresh right from the cob has always been a summer favorite of mine, but I just tried Michael Ruhlman's recipe for Baked Butter Corn for the first time recently and loved how it makes the most of the starchier corn of fall. This is such an easy way to prepare corn, I now it will become a regular part of my fall cooking repertoire. I may try it with frozen sweet corn in the winter, too.

My son loves fruit sauces...apple sauce, pear sauce, peach sauce...as a baby he lurved stewed dried apricots mashed into a sauce. When I had a bunch of pears to process last week, I originally planned to follow this recipe for Pear Butter, but Luc so liked what we had by the end of Step 2 that I just stopped and canned it up. Later, if I decide I still want some pear butter, I can always open up a quart or two of sauce and cook it down. Or, I can keep doing what I did this morning and making pear sauce muffins.

Spiced Pear Sauce Muffins
Makes 24 mini muffins or 12 full size muffins

3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cups white pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup Rapadura or packed brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup unsweetened pear sauce
1 cup pecans or walnuts (3 1/2 ounces), coarsely chopped

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin pan.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then add butter, a little at a time, whisking until mixture is creamy. Stir in pear sauce then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened. Stir in nuts and divide batter among muffin cups. Bake mini-muffins for 15 minutes, full-size muffins for 20 minutes. Cool on rack. Keeps for a day in an airtight container or freeze for a month.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Montavilla Food Co-op?

On Monday October 19th from 7-9 pm at the Montavilla Food Co-op Working Group will meet at at the Montavilla Methodish Church, 232 SE 80th Avenue, to discuss starting up a co-op in the neighborhood. They have already hooked up with some Olympia folks who help people start co-ops and Lori Burge the development person at Peoples Food Co-op will be there to give her input. They want to have a storefront co-op and that they figure it will take about three years to pull that together, so in the meantime they will have a buying club. If you're interested in helping with this effort but can't make the meeting, join the group's email list.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mom used to make these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies when I was a kid and when I had a hankering for them years later, she sent me a scanned copy of the Libby* ad she clipped decades ago that included the recipe. A little heavy on the refined flour and sugar for my tastes these days, I set to making some of my usual changes: substituted whole wheat flour for some of the white, Rapadura for the refined sugars, and coconut oil for half the butter (the last change I make primarily for flavor). I don't remember if the original recipe included oats or not. Today, we were out of rolled oats and I used barley flakes instead, which worked just fine. Dried cranberries and chopped roasted hazelnuts make tasty additions. That's my boy, "sneaking" a dollop of cookie dough. Freshly canned tomato juice on the right.

1 cup white pastry flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups Rapadura (or 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup white sugar)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cooked and pureed pumpkin or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
2 cups chocolate chips (I prefer bittersweet)

Preheat oven to 375F. Sift together flours, baking soda, spices, and salt, then mix in oats and set aside. Cream butter, coconut oil, and sugar in a large mixer bowl until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and pumpkin and mix until well incorporated. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture with mixer set on low, then add chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for a couple minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

* Libby is owned by Nestle and does not make an organic canned pumpkin. I have been super pleased with the Farmer's Market brand of canned organic pumpkin puree.