Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

It’s been awhile…

This mom thing has been keeping me crazy busy. I cook whatever I can come up with that takes less than an hour and will feed three hungry people. So much for low carb eating! We’ve been living on pasta and fish sticks lately. However, Sebastian is getting older and I’m finding more time to play in the kitchen. This past week was a baking adventure, Oatmeal cookie bars with an apricot filling. It needs some work so I’m not going to write up a whole post on it but it was at least a start at baking something other than fish sticks. 🙂

I’m going to attempt to post more but who knows how that will work out. In the mean time, we’re still alive and kicking!

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Motherhood and Cooking

It’s amazingly hard to find time to cook when you have a new baby. Sebastian Erik Salas was born September 22, 2015. He weighed 7 lbs 8 ozs and was in perfect health. He’s now a couple of days away from being three months old and I’m finally finding some time to cook again. This past week I did a roast duck with a honey glaze and tonight I took the carcasses and made a duck and rice soup. While both of those are nice and made from scratch, I’m finding that I’m also leaning a lot more heavily on pre-made items such as canned crescent rolls. I hope that once Sebastian is a bit older I’ll be able to go back to making everything from scratch but for now, I figure I’m doing good to get anything cooked at all lol.

Now, that being said, here’s a couple of pictures of my boy because he’s awesome 😀

 

This is when we were still at the hospital.

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This one he is six weeks old. I just love his expression. He’s such a ham.

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And that’s my boy and that’s what my life revolves around right now 😀

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Americanized Sopa de Fideo

This is a recipe that’s been in my family for a long time. I think my mom said it started with my grandmother. It’s always been a favorite. I have no idea where the name came from since it really has very little to do with real Sopa de Fideo which is a Mexican noodle soup. This is more like a very thick stew with ground beef and veggies, the noodles are almost incidental lol. Either way, everyone I’ve ever fed it to really liked it. 🙂

I haven’t made it in a long time because when Jene and I are eating low carb, the noodles and the corn aren’t usually included in our diet. I made a batch of it Wednesday evening and we both enjoyed it so much that when I asked what Jene wanted for dinner tonight, he asked for more. I had no problem with that 😀

This recipe makes enough to feed six people for one meal and uses a 12″ skillet.

Recipe

1.5 lbs ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1/3 lb box of thin spaghetti, broken into 1″ pieces

1 large bell pepper, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

2 cans diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 can whole kernel corn (do not drain)

1 TB chili powder (or more to taste)

salt & pepper to taste

16 oz package of sliced american cheese

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and onions over medium to medium high heat. If you use 80% lean beef, do not drain the grease. If using fattier beef, drain most of the grease but not all of it. Scoot the beef and onions to one side of the pan and add the broken spaghetti to the empty side. You want to let the noodles fry in the grease until they start to turn a nutty brown.

Add the bell pepper, celery, tomatoes and corn. Sprinkle with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Stir carefully, the pan will be full. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally until the noddles are al dente. This should take about 15-20 minutes. There should be enough liquid in the pan from the tomatoes and corn to cook the noodles. If it starts to get too dry, add a bit of water.

When the noodles are tender, layer on the slices of american cheese and allow to melt. Then it’s ready to serve.

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As you can see from the picture, I ate before I decided to write this post lol.

We really like this dish because it gives you lots of veggies to go with the meat and cheese. If you want to kick it up a bit, you can either use a hot chili powder (I use mild) or add a jalapeno with the bell pepper.

 

 

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Chicken Shawarma, Tzatziki and Pregnancy

For those of you who read my blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted in quite awhile. That’s because I haven’t been cooking. I haven’t been cooking because I haven’t been eating. But the reason I haven’t been eating is that I’m pregnant!! I’m at week 13 right now and slowly getting to the point where I can keep food down again.

Jene and I are both very excited about the baby. However, I’ve been very sick and if I have eaten, it’s mostly been take out because I eat whatever random food item sounds good at any given moment lol.

Tonight, in honor of feeling better, I’m actually cooking dinner. We’re having chicken shawarma with tzatziki and rice. Both are recipes from other sources rather than my own creations but they sound good and are relatively simple to make. The chicken shwarma recipe comes from the New York Times and is baked in the oven. The recipe can be found here. The tzatziki recipe is from Epicurious.com. That recipe is found here.

One of the most difficult things about being pregnant has been that garlic and I are NOT friends. Amazingly, I was able to make both recipes with garlic today and not throw up 😀 I did do a couple of minor tweaks. Instead of mincing the garlic I used my microplane to grate it. I can handle the flavor of the garlic better if I don’t bite into pieces of it. I think that grating it also does a better job of spreading the flavor through the dish. One other tweak is that the tzatziki recipe calls for draining regular yogurt but I used Greek style yogurt. This yogurt has already been drained and is nice and thick. It makes the whole process much easier.

I picked these dishes to make tonight because chicken is one of those foods that is easy to digest and I love the creamy coolness of tzatziki. Besides, yogurt is good for my tummy too. Jene is going to bring home some pita bread and we’ll cook up some rice. I’m thinking about seasoning the rice with some turmeric and onion while it’s cooking. I have some fresh turmeric in the fridge that I think would give the rice an interesting flavor and pretty color.

For now, I’m resting on the couch. I don’t know how much posting I’ll be doing but I’m going to try to do better. I’ve found that right now I can only stand for about half an hour before I get woozy. Hopefully the baby and I will reach an accommodation soon and I can get back to normal 😀

After dinner notes: This set of recipes rocks. To go with the chicken I made a pot of jasmine rice. I added some very thinly sliced onion, 3 whole cloves, 2 cardamom pods and about a teaspoon of grated fresh turmeric root. It gave it a beautiful golden color and a very rich flavor. I’ve included a picture too.

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This will definitely be a recipe that stays in our rotation. I’m very pleased with the afternoon’s work.

 

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What kind of recipes would you like to see me post?

I started this blog with the intention of sharing my cooking experiences and recipes. I’m not sure I’m sharing much that’s worth sharing.

I do have recipes but I wonder if too many of them are too complicated for most people to want to bother with. So I thought I’d ask and see if any of my readers have comments on what they’d like to see. I know there are a few of you out there watching me plod along lol.

Do you guys think I should invest in a good camera and take more pictures?

Do you want more very basic stuff and less advanced stuff?

Do you want more or less insight into how an idea pops into my head?

Do I need to include more steps as to how I make a creation go from brain to table?

Do you want to hear more or less of the scientific side of things like lacto-fermentation or cheese making?

I find myself not posting things I make because they seem too simple for people to be interested in them or they’re not quite perfect. Do you want the super simple and not quite perfect stuff?

Please PLEASE let me know what you think. I need some direction to go with this.

Thank you! 🙂

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Pickled Eggs

Up until a few months ago, I thought pickled eggs where probably something the devil invented. I’d only seen them in big jars at room temperature at bars. The liquid was cloudy and the whole idea of a room temp egg just plain frightened me. I was SO not going there.

However, my NRA Instructor Counselor, Dave Matthews, made a batch of pickled eggs. Since I knew the province of them, I decided I probably wouldn’t die. Not only didn’t I die, but they were completely awesome! So I’ve been meaning to make a batch of my own for the last few weeks. I finally go around to it tonight.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a website that lists six different recipes for pickled eggs. I picked the Dilled Eggs recipe to try. And of course made a few changes lol.

Recipe

12 eggs, hard boiled and peeled.

1 1/2 cups of white vinegar

1 cup of water (from other projects, I advise not using tap water)

3/4 teaspoon dill weed

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1/4  teaspoon mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon onion juice or minced onion

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic or 1 peeled garlic clove

 

Bring all the ingredients except the eggs to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pack no more than one dozen peeled, hard-cooked eggs loosely into a warm, pre-sterilized quart jar. There needs to be plenty of pickling solution,  enough to completely cover the eggs. Pour the hot pickling solution over the eggs in the jar, cover, and refrigerate immediately.

After making the eggs, the eggs require some time to season (i.e., pick up the flavors from the pickling brine). Keep them refrigerated at all times. If small eggs are used, 1 to 2 weeks are usually allowed for seasoning to occur.  Medium or large eggs may require 2 to 4 weeks to become well seasoned.  Use the eggs within 3 to 4 months for best quality.

My changes… instead of using onion juice or minced onion, I used very thinly sliced shallot, about 1 small shallot. Then I added three shishito peppers that I had cleaned. They’re a VERY milk pepper so you could use a spicier pepper if you wanted some heat. I also doubled the amount of garlic.
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Here’s what they look like in the jar. My apologies for the blurriness but my hands have been really shaky lately. At some point I suppose I should invest in a standard camera and tripod lol.

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Frond and why it’s a good thing

Many of you might have run across chefs making reference to the “frond” in the bottom of the pan when cooking. It’s one of the situations where if you look up the word you know exactly what they mean but they have to use a stupid word for it. A frond is basically the brown sticky bits in the bottom of the pan left over after you sear a piece of meat.

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If you look in between the pieces of meat in the pot, you’ll see that there’s a nice brown layer on the bottom of the pot. That’s the frond. It’s pretty much all the tasty meat juices caramelized down onto the bottom of the pot. There’s a lot of good flavor in it so you want to preserve that flavor. The best way to do this is called “deglazing.”

Once you have the meat seared on all sides (over medium high heat in an oiled pot) you remove the meat and add a liquid to the hot pan. You then use a spoon to scrap the meat bits loose into the liquid. This releases all that flavor into your cooking liquid. Be careful because the pan is very hot and the liquid will steam up and boil right away. For today’s dish I used red wine.

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Here you can see where I’ve added the red wine to the pot and scrapped the bottom with a spoon. There’s still bits of frond stuck to the pot but that will loosen up as the short ribs braise over low heat. I started with about half a bottle of red wine then added a quart of beef stock and two 15oz cans of diced tomatoes for the cooking liquid for my short ribs. The beef was seasoned with a smoked salt and black pepper before being seared. I’ve seasoned it with caramelized onions, garlic, bay leaves and herbes de province. After letting the meat simmer 4-5 hours I added some chunks of celery, carrots and mushrooms. It cooked for another hour or so then I thickened the gravy and served it over garlic mashed potatoes. It was very tasty.

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Wild Mushroom Risotto

At it’s most basic, Risotto is a rice dish. What makes it stand out is the amazing texture and consistency that can be achieved if it’s done properly. The first part of making a good Risotto is the rice. You need a short grain, Italian rice called Arborio. There are a couple of different kinds of Arborio and I prefer one called Carnaroli. This variety gives you an extended time between reaching done and edging into overdone. It also has a higher starch content which makes the risotto creamier.

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This picture is what a finished risotto looks like. That creamy texture is NOT from added cream, it’s just from the long process of slowly adding liquid and stirring to develop the rice’s natural starch.

So here’s the basic recipe I use:

1/4 cup minced onion

2 TB olive oil or 1 TB olive oil/1TB butter

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

5-6 cups stock (kept warm in another pot)

grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot heat the oil (or oil/butter) and add the onion, gently cooking until the onion is translucent. Add the rice to the pot and start stirring. You will be heating the rice until the outside of the grain is translucent but there is still a white core in the center of the grain. At this point add the white wine (or 1/2 cup broth if not using whine) and stir until it is completely absorbed. Next, start adding the broth 1/2 cup to 1 cup at a time. I use a large soup ladle that is probably 6-8oz. After you add a bit of broth keep stirring until the liquid is all absorbed. You will keep doing this until the rice is done. This rice should be slightly al dente. That means, take a little bite and see if it’s still a bit chewy. NOT crunchy, but a little chewy. If it is, it’s done. You will probably have some broth left over but it’s better to have too much instead of not enough. The final touch is to add a bit of grated parmesan cheese for flavor and salt and pepper. This is entirely up to you.

Now, for the wild mushroom part.. I bought five kinds of wild mushrooms, Lion’s Mane, Abalone White, Black Trumpet, Chanterelle and Hedgehog. I sauteed them up the night before and put them in the fridge over night. Then I added them to the rice right at the end to heat up. I used chicken stock for this particular batch but the beauty of risotto is that you can do just about anything with it. Use veggies such as aparagus or broccoli. Seafood like shrimp and scallops… There are all kinds of combinations. The biggest key is to add these things at the end to avoid over cooking and or watering down the rice.

So that’s it. Risotto isn’t that fancy, it just requires some time and patience. 🙂

 

 

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Three Cheese Day – July 18, 2013

I’ve always known I was a bit crazy but now I know I’m REALLY crazy. My niece Samantha is visiting and I wanted to spend a day making cheese with her. I wanted to do cheese that she could taste within a day or two because she’s only got another four days with us. So I pulled out my copy of Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making and Mary Karlin’s Artisan Cheese Making at Home.

I was going to make Lemon Cheese and Queso Fresco from Ricki’s book and Traditional Mozzarella from Mary’s book. Things went a bit awry when I realized I did NOT have any thermophilic starter for the Mozzarella. Fortunately the milk was only up to 70 degrees so we put the pot in an ice bath and changed over to making Ricki’s 30 Minute Mozzarella. (Thank god for Ricki, none of my other books had a recipe that didn’t use thermophilic starter!) Obviously, I need to go buy some thermophilic starter.

Being that I was completely exhausted that day I managed to over heat the milk for the queso fresco as well. I went off and cried for a bit. Then came back and made cheese. More on that later in the post.

The Lemon Cheese came out more crumbly than spreadable. Perhaps it was too much acid. Honestly, I don’t care because it still tasted awesome and I’ve already eaten the whole batch.

The Mozzarella came out perfect, even if I did forget to add the salt. I just had a piece now and the flavor is good and the cheese it tender. I thought about brining it but decided that I’d rather just eat it fresh with some home grown tomatoes.

The queso fresco is what caused my “melt” down. (Cheese humor, sorry lol) I was heating the milk on my induction cook top. It’s just a single pan item that I plug into the wall. It works best with steel pans. If you’re not using steel, you need a metal insert that will heat up instead of the pan. It’s just a round thing with a handle on it. I was using a steel pot coated in enamel and the milk didn’t appear to be heating.

A couple of months ago, I had dropped my insert behind the chest freezer. I was using an enameled steel pot and thought maybe the enamel was causing the problems. So I went fishing for the insert. I had to crawl under my dining table to get to the back of the freezer. Then I got my arm stuck behind the freezer. Then my niece decided it would be really funny to take pictures of my ass stuck in the air while I’m starting to panic like a trapped animal. While having visions of chewing my own arm off, Samantha finally helped me move the freezer just enough to free my arm. And no, I still didn’t have the insert either. It’s stuck between the freezer and the cooling coils on the back. I’m getting ready to dismantle the back of the freezer when Jene comes home. He calmly assesses the situation and rocks the freezer forward so that the insert falls out. Bloody strong men get on my last nerve sometimes. (I mean that with lots of love but I’m jealous because I wouldn’t have had the strength to pull that off.) So I go to start putting stuff back under the table and have a full box of half pint jars (with filling) land on my arms. Now, normally that wouldn’t have been so bad but I was BADLY sunburned from the day before. I screamed, Sam and Jene laughed and when I finally got the box off my arms, I went to my room and cried. Jene did apologize for laughing at least.

So… all that effort and I come back to find out that not only has my milk heated while I was busy being dumb but it’s gone OVER the temp. At which point I melted again. Took the milk off the heat and put it on the counter. Then proceeded to ignore it for an hour or two while I finished up the mozzarella and lemon cheeses.

I got lucky because once the milk got close to temp I put my culture in, then the rennet and actually got some really nice cheese out of it. Still, I am NEVER going to try and make three different cheeses all at once. I don’t think my brain can handle it.

Samantha did say she had fun and learned a lot. She even suggested to her mom that they make cheese for the farmer’s market back in KS. (Mom said No!) I learned a lot too, like don’t bite off more than you can chew! (that’s another cheese(y) joke)

So here’s some pictures of what I made…

This is the lemon cheese. As you can see, it’s crumbly. But I managed to eat it all in two days. 😉

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Here’s my mozzarella. Today I cut some up and ate it with homegrown cherry tomatoes. Personally, I think this batch was MUCH better than my last batch. This time I left the lipase powder out and there was no sour after taste.

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Finally, this is the queso fresco. As you can tell, I couldn’t wait to eat some lol. It’s solid but crumbles nicely if you want it to. It’s also got a nice tang to it.

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Chicken and Broccoli: Perfected!

I wrote the other day about roasting veggies before putting them in casseroles. I think I even mentioned trying it with Chicken and Broccoli. Well, I gave it a try tonight and WOW! It came out fantastic!

So the steps for perfect Chicken and Broccoli..

Make your own cream of chicken soup

Roast the broccoli at 500F for about 15 minutes

Follow the recipe as otherwise stated.

Those two simple changes create an amazing depth of flavor and make it a much better dish. Jene, who is notorious for not noticing changes, said that he noticed it and really liked it. This pleases me greatly.

Now, I will mention that with making your own soup and roasting the broccoli, prep time is probably about an 45-60 minutes but that also might just be because I’m slow moving. I’ve learned that it’s better to take my time to cook stuff and be able to enjoy eating it than it is to rush around and then feel too awful to want to eat. I suspect a faster person could do the prep in 30 minutes and then 30 minutes of baking.

Enjoy!

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