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Chicken stock

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I think this was my best batch yet. About 3.5 quarts of gelatinous, medium brown goodness.
I had been saving roasted chicken carcasses for over a year and sticking them in the deep freeze. Yesterday, I excavated them all, added the one from this past Sunday’s dinner, and split them up between the 8 qt stockpot and 5qt-I-think soup pot. Added a load of celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves. A bundle of dried rosemary, thyme, and sage. Salt and pepper. Covered with water and let everything simmer for about 5 hours. At that point, the stock looked and tasted a little thin, so I strained out the veggies and bones, combined the stocks in the 8-qt, and let it boil until the level dropped about an inch and the stock had turned from medium yellow to medium brown. After the pot cooled enough, I stuck it in the fridge.

This afternoon, I skimmed off the very thin layer of fat, which was minimal and mostly consisted of the olive oil I used to coat the skin pre-roasting. Portioned the stuff into 4 cup and 2 cup containers, and stuck them in the deep freeze. I’ll use some in a week or so when I mix up a batch of bean and sausage stew.

I picked a decent-size bowl of meat bits off the bones. The meat is dry, but it still has flavor–I’ll add mayo and mustard and herbs and spices and chopped celery for an okay chicken salad.

Earlier this week, I made a loaf of my old standby banana bread. It’s such a forgiving recipe that I monkey with it constantly. I now substitute whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose–this results in a pretty dense bread. This time, I used 1 cup w/w pastry flour and a half-cup wheat germ. Toasted unsweetened coconut and walnuts. Dug out candied orange peel that I found on some store’s post-holiday bargain bin, and added that. A tablespoon of chai spice and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Because of the sugar in the peel and chai spice, I cut back the sugar in the recipe from 1 cup to 3/4 cup.

This loaf came out a little lighter, and the orange flavor really comes through. Good bread.

food

Revision cookies

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It’s going to be a few weeks before my alter ego has to get to work on JERICHO revisions, but I went ahead and made a batch of revision cookies anyway. I like to have food squirreled away in preparation for the long march to –30–: soups, burgers of various types, maybe a meatloaf. Chicken breasts and portions of fish. And home-baked cookies. I’ve tried making do with packaged cookies, and they’re not the same–I don’t feel like I’m having an end-of-the-day treat when I have one of those. There are some bakery cookies that I love, especially the whole grain-dried cranberry and cowboy cookies from Whole Paycheck. But in that case, I need to make a choice between a month’s supply of cookies and paying the mortgage, and if I don’t keep up with the mortgage, I won’t have a place to write. So, I bake my own cookies.

Ina Garten has a couple of cookie recipes that have become standbys, namely her Oatmeal Raisin Pecan and her Ultimate Ginger. I had a boatload of old-fashioned oats, and I love oatmeal cookies, so I opted for the Oatmeal Raisin Pecan…with a few changes.

  1. I substituted dried Door County cherries for raisins. I love raisins, but I wanted to try something a little different.
  2. Instead of all-purpose flour, I used 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and 1/2 cup wheat germ. The w/w pastry flour worked well when I made a loaf of post-first draft banana bread a couple of weeks ago–apparently it’s made from the soft wheat berry, so it’s higher in carbs, with less gluten and protein. Because of those characteristics, I have found I am able to use it as a replacement for all-purpose, at least so far. I am guessing that if I tried to make pie crust or some types of bread, the story would be different. But I’ve found the cookie and banana bread recipes to be pretty forgiving, so I will stick with whole wheat flours when I make them.
  3. I added about a cup of unsweetened coconut to the pecans and toasted the whole mess together.
  4. Spices. In addition to the cinnamon, I added 2 tablespoons Spice House chai spice. It sounds like a lot. But the directions state to use 1 tablespoon in a 6 oz cup of tea, so I figured that 2 tablespoons wouldn’t overwhelm a recipe that can yield 3 dozen cookies.

Verdict? The flour and wheat germ worked great–the cookies are moist and have a little chew, which is how I like them. I don’t like really chewy, soft cookies. The cherries are good, but a little on the sweet side. Next time I will use raisins or good dried cranberries. As for the chai spice, it added nice depth. I might back off to a tablespoon or a tablespoon and a half next time, though, because it is strong. I will see if the flavor mellows over the next few days.

Oatmeal-dried cherry-coconut-pecan-chai cookies

Oatmeal-dried cherry-coconut-pecan-chai cookies

food

No-soak bean stew

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Yup, a food post. You’ve been warned.

Over on Facebook, Lynn Flewelling posted a link to an article about how pre-soaking beans prior to cooking was unnecessary. I perked up when I read it because I love bean soups and stews, but never made them because of the soaking step. Slow overnight soak or fast one-hour boil and soak? If you don’t do it right, you’ll wind up with bullets. It didn’t help that the one time I presoaked navy beans for baked beans, they came out hard and gritty. I just didn’t think I’d have success if I tried again.

But this article gave me hope, so. I found the recipe for black bean stew and set about chopping the onion because I knew I had a pound bag of black beans in the pantry. Except that when I looked, I found I didn’t. I did have a pound of navy beans. A year-old pound of navy beans–I remembered the day I bought them at Whole Paycheck, the good little organic shopper shoveling her beans into a bag…then sticking them on a shelf and forgetting about them. I knew beans aged and got tough over time, but I figured that all I risked was half an onion and some time. It was either try to cook the beans or use them as crust ballast for blind baking…except that I already had a couple of pounds of dried beans set aside for that purpose, yet more navy and pinto beans that I bought with every intention of cooking and never did.

Anyway, along with the onion, garlic, and chopped dried chile pepper, I added a teaspoon of ajwain (an Indian seed that flavors and also mitigates that issue with beans that we all sang about in second grade**), some herbs de provence, diced sun-dried tomatoes, celery seed. I didn’t add bay leaf because I didn’t have any, hence the other stuff.

La:

just getting started

just getting started

 

Heated until it just started to simmer, then covered it and stuck it in a 325F oven. I figured that navy beans might take longer to cook than black beans, and I was right. I let them cook for close to two hours before adding the salt, checking them all the while–yes, they were absorbing liquid. Yes, they were getting softer:

getting there--about halfway through

getting there–about halfway through

 

After about three hours, I made tuna fish for dinner because I realized that the beans wouldn’t be done in time. Besides, anything stew benefits from sitting overnight, and I figured this would be the case with this stuff as well. I added salt and pepper–about 2 tsps salt instead of the single one called for in the recipe. Stirred and stuck it back in the oven.

At the three-three-and-a-half hour mark–the beans were still intact but creamy when chewed–I zapped the stew with the immersion blender and creamed maybe 1/3 of them.

almost finished

almost finished

I also added a large squirt of ketchup because I always add ketchup to navy bean soup, and a tablespoon of vegetable demiglace because frankly I still found things a little flat. Then I let it cool and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

Today, I added a can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and a little more salt. It is a very thick stew–if you wanted something more soupy, you could add stock or more diced tomatoes or water. I like it thick, so I heated some up in the microwave, stuck some cheddar cheese on top, and had it with a toasted roll.

the finished product

the finished product

It’s good. Yes, the beans have more flavor than canned or–from what I recall–presoaked. I was also struck by how well they remained intact even though they were very tender. Not mushy at all. Or gritty.

I bought black beans today, as well as lentils and white beans. Looking forward to making more no-soak bean dishes. They will need to cook longer, so I will have to be careful which recipes I try.

 

**also, Blazing Saddles

 

food

Brownies!

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It was time to bake something sweet, so I settled on brownies. My usual recipe is one from Recchiuti made with melted unsweetened chocolate. But I uncovered some Callebaut cocoa that had been in the back of a cupboard for way too long, and decided to find something to use it in. Hence, Mexican Brownies, courtesy of Aaron Sanchez from the Food Network. They’re spiced with cinnamon and cayenne pepper. I also added a teaspoon of espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor, used white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, and added a half-cup of bittersweet chocolate chunks because I could.

Mexican brownies

Mexican brownies

I was reluctant to bake with cocoa because I assumed the flavor would be weak. But these brownies are really good. Different flavor because of the spices, with the cayenne pepper adding just a touch of bite. I added the 1/4 tsp that the recipe stated, but if you like really spicy chocolate, you could add 1/2 tsp. Or as much as you wanted, because you have thumbs.

food weather

Pesto and stuff

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Busy morning. Took Gaby to playcare. Then it was off to the dentist.

After that, farmers’ market at the place from which I’ll be getting my CSA veggies. It was a very small market–it would fill only a tiny corner of the Sauvie Island market. But they had small freezers of beef and pork, honey, popcorn kernels, eggs, spinach and salad greens. I stocked up on said spinach and greens, and added a small bag of popcorn, pork chops, Italian sausage, and uncured bacon. A dozen eggs.

Of course, I had bought a pound of arugula just the other day. It wasn’t going to make it through the week, so I jammed it into the food processor with 4 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, half a cup each of grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts and olive oil. Presto pesto.

Arugula pesto lacks the weighty flavor and aroma of basil pesto. I find it brighter–some folks complain that it’s “grassy”–and lighter. The pound of arugula rendered down to about 3 cups of pesto, which is a good amount for breaking down into single/double serving sizes in either tiny containers or ice cube trays. I went with tiny snap-top containers because I wanted to protect the stuff from freezer taste as much as possible.

It’s still cold–upper 30s today–but we’ve had some thawing and rain. Most of the snow is gone, and the sump pump has been working its little heart out. No sign of sprouting greenery yet, and most nights are still below freezing. But maybe, maybe, we’ve turned the corner.

Lunch was a toasted half a whole grain ciabatta roll with smears of homemade hummus and fresh pesto. It was really good. Garlicky, but really good.