Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Super Simple Green Beans

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

Because I grow green beans in my garden--tender, tiny, French beans that are incredible--I am fussy about buying big, possibly old 'fresh' green beans in the grocery store. They don't taste the same as the French beans picked from my garden 5 minutes before they were steamed.

But this recipe can make any big ole green bean taste wonderful as well as frozen beans (such as the beans I froze last summer from the garden!).

Saute 1 small, diced onion in 2 T olive oil.

When onions are translucent, add 1/2 c chicken stock and 1 t thyme. Season with pepper; add salt sparingly depending on seasoning in stock.

Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 7-10 minutes.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Meyer Lemon Pudding--Wow

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

Oh, is this yummy. Marty brought back some Meyer lemons from Palm Springs. These lemons are so incredible-a blend of lemons and oranges. And they are huge!

So I made a pudding and it's a winner:

3/4 c sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
2 1/2 c milk
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1/8 t salt
the zest of one Meyer lemon
1/2 c freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1T butter

Mix together the sugar and cornstarch and then wisk in 1/2 c milk until smooth. Let stand for 5 minutes. (You can zest and squeeze the lemon while this is standing). Wisk in remaining milk and then add egg yolks, zest, and salt.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the pudding thickens, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and butter.

Pour through a strainer or steamer basket (I used a steamer basket) to remove zest from the pudding. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the pudding to keep a skin from forming. I cooled the pudding on the counter for about 15 min and then refrigerated. However, in that 15 min., I had to eat some of the pudding warm!

Mom used to serve us warm chocolate pudding on top of lady fingers. This pudding would be outstanding on lady fingers or drizzled over angel food cake. Tasty!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Creamy Date Rice Pudding

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

This is an incredible rice pudding! The secret ingredient: date crystals. These are dried dates that are in small chunks that look somewhat like Grape Nuts. We stumbled upon date crystals years ago when visiting the Palm Springs, CA area. The Shields date crystals can be used in baked goods, the famous Shields date shake, in granola, blended with my home made yogurt, you name it.

We bought a cookbook in New Orleans on our honeymoon and over the years, I've adapted a rice pudding recipe from this cookbook to my own by adding the date crystals (and a few other tweaks). The date crystals dissolve into the pudding and add color, texture, and incredible taste to the twist I've put on rice pudding.

1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice (this rice makes a creamier pudding, but any white rice will do)
1 qt milk
4 T butter
3/4 c sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 c date crystals (ok, you can substitute with other dried fruit but it won't be the same!)
5 eggs, beaten
1 t cinnamon

Combine rice and milk. Simmer over low heat until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the milk. I like this rice pudding creamy so I take it off the heat when it still has quite a bit of milk remaining.

Add butter, sugar, vanilla, date crystals, vanilla, eggs, and 1/2 t cinnamon. Pour into greased 2 qt casserole. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 t cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

We love this both hot out of the oven and cold the next day. It never lasts long at our house!

Shields Date Crystals:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Yogurt--Homemade, Of Course

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

Yes, I make my own yogurt. I can proudly say that I have not purchased yogurt in the 15 months since Nathaniel gave me a yogurt maker for Christmas. I make one-two batches a week. There is no comparison in taste between store bought yogurt and homemade. Homemade is so much better. And making yogurt is easy!

I love yogurt and eat it daily either alone or mixed with fruit or granola. Since I have been making yogurt, I also use it in dressings or toppings. I love the yogurt blended with tart cherry juice concentrate, almond extract and orange peel, maple syrup, honey and vanilla, or with fresh fruit.

And then there is the cost incentive: my yogurt maker turns out 8 small containers that would cost $6-7 in the store. I make it for less than $1.

My yogurt maker is by Donvier but you don't need a gizmo to make yogurt. A glass jar and a warm oven will do same thing.

To make yogurt, slowly warm, stirring occasionally, 1 qt. of milk to 180 degrees F. If you are using skim milk, add 1/2 c dried milk to help it thicken.

When the milk reaches 180 degrees F, turn it off and let it cool, stirring occasionally, to 110 degrees F. To 1/2 c of the warm milk, add 2 T plain yogurt. Ok, so you have to buy a container of plain yogurt to have a culture. (Or buy a powdered yogurt culture which comes with most yogurt makers). Someone gave me a pint of plain yogurt when they were cleaning out their fridge from their summer cottage and I poured it into ice cube trays, froze, popped them out and dropped into a freezer bag, and now each cube is enough for a batch of yogurt. After you make yogurt, you can use 2 T from that batch for the next 2 batches before it loses its' potency and needs to be replaced by a new culture.

Pour the blended milk and yogurt back into the rest of the milk and stir. I then pour this into the yogurt cups, set the timer for 12 hrs. (I like it thick) and that's it.

Oven method: pour the mix into a glass jar or bowl. If you have a gas oven, just put the covered jar or bowl in the oven and the pilot light will keep the milk at a constant temperature. 8-10 hours later, you have yogurt. For an electric oven, turn the oven on until it just begins to warm up and then shut it off. Ideally, you'd want it at 110 degrees F but most oven thermostats don't go that low. Put the glass jar or glass bowl of covered yogurt in the oven and let it sit 8-10 hours. Keep the oven light on if you have an electric oven; this adds a bit more warmth.

Microwave method: pour the mix into a glass jar or bowl. Cover. Wrap in a dish towel. Place in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds every 30-45 minutes for 4 hours. Set a timer to remind you to do this every 30-45 min (I give this advice having let too much time go by). This keeps the milk at about 110 degrees.

Greek yogurt is pricey and mine is excellent at a fraction of the price. To make Greek style yogurt, pour a quantity of yogurt into a cheese cloth-linked strainer, set the strainer over a bowl or pan and place in the refrigerator over night. The next am, the cheese cloth will contain the very thick Greek style yogurt and the bowl or pan will contain the drained whey. If you want 2/3 c of Greek yogurt, begin with 1 c of regular yogurt as approximately 1/3 of that amount will drain in whey (or drain away!).

Couldn't be easier. Making gyros? Here's the Greek style yogurt for the cucumber sauce!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jambalaya - from a bag

By Perry Washburn

At last night's cooking class, I told the guests about the "jambalaya bag" we keep in the freezer. In it goes that extra sausage patty, the leftover half of a chicken breast, the last pork chop no one ate. When it's full - a packed quart sized bag would be close to pound of meat - I make Jambalaya. In the recipe below, just substitute the contents of the bag for the crawfish. Or add it in, too. Trade shrimp for the crawfish. Here are the rules for Jambalaya: don't tinker with the ratios of vegetables, stock and rice. Because the veggies carry a lot of water content, they play a big role in getting the rice to the correct consistency. And, to me, Jambalaya MUST have sausage. Take out the sausage, and the andouille gods will haunt your dreams forever!

I will make a red jambalaya in my March 23 class. It does NOT use a roux. But this version WITH the roux is Carolyn's favorite.

Brown Jambalaya with Crawfish

1 pound crawfish tails
1 pound andouille or other smoked sausage
½ cup oil
½ cup flour
2 cups onions
1 cup celery
1 cup bell pepper
1 Tbsp garlic
1-2 Tbs fresh hot pepper (Cayenne, Serrano, jalepeno) chopped
2 cups rice (Uncle Ben’s converted)
2 ½ cups stock
1 tsp salt
½ cup green onions

Brown the sausage in small amount of oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Remove from pot. Don’t leave any little bits behind, or they will burn in the next step.

Make sure your vegetables are chopped, and right next to the pot.

Make roux: Add in oil to make ½ cup. Heat until hot but not smoking and add in ½ cup flour. Stir constantly over medium heat, 15-20 minutes or until the color is dark sandstone (a little darker than peanut butter). Do not walk away from the stove during this step. You can lose a roux in a heartbeat, ruining your meal, your day, your mood.

As soon as you reach the proper color, dump in the “trinity”: onions, peppers and celery, and stir. Don’t dally here, as the roux will keep browning until you stop it with the trinity. Add cayenne pepper and garlic and sauté until trinity is wilted.

Add crawfish, sausage, rice, salt and stock and bring to a boil, stirring well.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir: Turn over contents completely. (I know, you’ve probably been told to not stir rice, but it’s OK. Live dangerously!) Recover and cook for 20 minutes more. Turn off heat, add in green onions. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Great shared with friends over a beer!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Indoor Herbs with an AeroGarden

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

Being an avid foodie and gardener, cooking with fresh herbs is a real treat for me. But during the long months in northern Michigan where the garden is frozen, using fresh herbs requires either $$ at the grocery store for less than lovely herbs....or, for me....my AeroGarden.

A gift 2 Christmases ago from Alan, a fellow foodie, this thing amazes me. Because it's awesome! It really does do just as advertised. I have a version of an AeroGarden that holds seven seed pods. You must get the seed pods from AeroGarden as they are in a certain 'soil' product that holds the seeds and inspires them to sprout.

As you can see by the picture, the AeroGarden does not take up much space. It has two grow lights in the top 'umbrella' and an adjustable arm that lets me move the lights up as they grow from seedlings to plants. It does, of course, require electricity. The AeroGarden base is filled with water and the water circulates through the roots 17 hours a day while the lights are on. There are settings for herbs, flowers, veggies depending on what you plant in the AeroGarden. About once a week, I add more water or tablet fertilizer (supplied with the herb kit). There is no maintenance needed; just add water and cut the herbs!

I planted seven herbs in mid-December and currently, in early March, have a full crop of two kinds of basil, parsley, chives, dill, mint, and thyme. From planting to harvest is about six weeks so next year, I'll remember to plant in mid-November so we'll have herbs sooner in the winter. We actually cook herb-defensively--meaning we plan meals around what needs to be harvested so we don't lose any of the fresh herb opportunities.

The herb season for the AeroGarden can be 3-5 months if we harvest/trim correctly. Last year, I moved one of the basil plants to the regular garden in June and it continued to produce until our first frost in October so I got nearly 9 months of fresh basil from this one plant!

We have not purchased herbs in the grocery store since getting the AeroGarden. Why do so when we have it here?

is where you can get more info. These are also sold at garden stores or places like Bed, Bath & Beyond. A must for any northern climate foodie!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Corned Beef and Cabbage Updated

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

After stopping at Zingerman's deli in Ann Arbor for a corned beef sandwich--$11.50 for a 1/2 sandwich--we got hungry for corned beef. We love good corned beef but because we don't get home from work until after 5 p.m., we don't have time to prepare it during the week. On the weekends, we want to play in the kitchen with foods that need more fiddling--corn beef just needs time.

My rule with corned beef is to cook it long and slow. So I got out the slow cooker! I rarely use this but thought it would do what I wanted with the corned beef. And it did. I put the corned beef in the cooker, covered with water and added 1 t each of pepper corns and mustard seed, 1/2 t of whole cloves, and 2 bay leaves. I cooked the corned beef on low heat for 7 hours and then on high for another hour. It was perfect! The long and slow method let all of the fat cook out of the meat. It was tender, juicy, lean--and gone. We finished off a 3 pound corned beef in one meal! With this long and slow method, there is a lot of shrinkage. But I would have liked enough for a sandwich.

Our favorite accompaniment for corned beef is a blend of 1/2 part Dijon mustard and 1/2 part horseradish; mix portions to your liking but we use a lot! This is a very tasty blend that is spectacular with corned beef.

While Mom used to do a boiled dinner with cabbage and potatoes added to the boiling corned beef pot, I have updated the veggies. I roasted the Yukon Gold potatoes--tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 375 degrees F for 20-25 min. turning occasionally.

The cabbage was cut into wedges and steamed until a bright green and then tossed with a little melted butter and fresh dill (from my AeroGarden!), salt and pepper.

The presentation of the lean, red corned beef, the crisp, golden potatoes and the bright green cabbage was indeed an updated version of the Corned Beef and Cabbage we grew up on.