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Miso Soup...Western Style

I'm telling you right off the bat,I've never been a fan of Miso soup. Instant or the ones I have had at some sushi places really don't appeal to me. I want to like Miso,I really do.I hear people wax poetic over it and I never got the hype. I have had some terrific dishes with Miso as a component and have loved it!Just not the soup.There are so many benefits to Miso that I want to explore it more, on my terms.
Saturday I have a big last minute invite to a Gala at the Opera.I had been quite involved with them for some years, but have dropped out of the 'scene'. My aunt is still a grand dame on the social scene and quite the fashion plate. Pick up a magazine or social page and there she is. So what does this have to do with Miso? Not much, but I can't fit into any of my many ball gowns and need to eat light for a few days and drink tons of green tea. Not much notice is there? So trying to figure out a low cal healthy dinner with Certain Someone out with his boyz all night, I ventured to the new improved Hyde Park Produce. Since Co Op is no more and Treasure Island is still not ready, the expanded neighborhood produce shop was packed.It has everything. It reminded me of a mini Whole Foods with good prices. In wandering the aisles I found this.

I decided to revisit the Miso and have a light dinner. The instructions were simple enough. It takes no time and its essentialy simmering onion, Wakame Flakes, carrots, etc. in a broth or water(The Miso soups I have had before didn't have much in it). You add the Miso diluted slightly in water , but NEVER LET IT BOIL(or it loses it good properties). In quick research of Miso and Wakame I find its packed with health benefits( reduced cancer risks,restorative powers,etc). Wakame has been found to burn fatty tissue! I was amazed how this sea vegetable expanded!There's a lot of it in the world and we need to eat it up. Wakame if anything, was the only thing I ever liked about Miso Soup in the past and now I want to find other ways to use it like a Tofu Salad. My contraversial deviation was that I used chicken broth( I hear the gasps) rather than dashi. I know its not pure Miso Soup, but tough , I liked it!I also added some fried tofu cubes. A light refreshing lunch/dinner that I plan to consume until Saturday. I have changed my mind and homemade Miso soup is pretty good.

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Sweet Tart I Love You...Daring Bakers Challenge Lemon Meringue Pie

They look sweet and innocent don't they? Those are the ones you always have to watch out for

my mother always warned me!
In my four months as a Daring Baker I have never seen people get worked up over something as they did with this pie /tart .When Jen at Canadian Baker announced her topic as host this month reactions were varied. It seemed as if some were disappointed in this pies simplicity.But don't judge a book by its cover! A natural reaction after all of our creative juices were let loose on the Yule Logs prior. I welcomed the challenge as I love lemons and need to work on pie crust skills.A very nice crust I must say!

For the record I have not liked lemon meringue pie for most of my life. My mother loved it and used this recipe with Real Lemon. I found the taste weird. Every now and then I found a lemon dessert I liked, but for the most part I stayed away from it. Certain Someone admits its never his favorite flavor.He likes chocolate naturally! Give me lemons in my teas, salads, fish,etc. and I'll run to it. In dessert I approach with caution and may be just inclined to like it. The glamah gal I am decided to use those famous Meyer Lemons everyone goes on about. Expensive , but so juicy and good!Only the best for my tartlettes.All that said this pie/tart didn't disappoint. I loved it. I loved it so much I didn't want to waste any of tartlettes and tried to find them good homes while they were fresh. Time was of the essence because these babies only look and taste good young, but who wants an old soggy tart. So Hollywood, so 15 minutes of fame!Soon they would be all washed up and experiencing a meltdown.My greedy self popped a few over a time and even the Mister said they taste good. Those sweet thangs managed to seduce him for a moment.I could have dropped my tartletts ! So thanks Jen for zesting up our lives in this dreary winter.Next month we will move on to the next hot pastry.It may be sweet, it may be savory. Kind of like, do you gravitate to Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston.I myself like the femme fatale type.But we will always remember those pies. Check out the other Daring Bakers and see their experience.

Challenge Requirements:1. Pie flavor must be lemon

Allowed Modifications:

1. You may make either the pie or the Lemon Meringue Free Form Tartlets (recipe follows Lemon Meringue Pie)

2. You can compliment your pie with a sauce. For example, you can serve it with raspberry or white chocolate sauce.

3. You can use a piping bag to apply the meringue if you like

4. Decoration is up to you - lemon zest or fruit are totally acceptable.

5. High altitude modifications are allowed as long as you stay "true" to the recipe.

6. Conversion for certain dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan etc. is allowed.

7. Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in your region.

Lemon Meringue Pie courtesy of Wanda's Pie In The Sky by Wanda Beaver 2002

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:

3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces

2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar

1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt

1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:

2 cups (475 mL) water

1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarh

5 egg yolks, beaten

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter

3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:

5 egg whites, room temperature

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar

1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract

3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling: Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue:Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Daring Bakers Extra Challenge: Free-Style Lemon Tartlets(from "Ripe for Dessert" by David Lebovitz)

Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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Cream Limoncello

A few weeks back my blogging pal over at Proud Italian Cook suggested in the comment box for me to use my Meyer Lemon Syrup in making Limoncello. I decided in talking to my good friend Gabi that this would be perfect for her in our belated Christmas gift exchange. She loves it and mentioned a cream limoncello she had in Capri once. So with some Internet research I found the recipe.Can I just say this is some yummy brew. Limomoncello is relatively simple and the Cream version just takes some added steps. The debates out on the length of time required for it brew. All in all I steeped my lemon zest over 1 and half weeks. Added the cream sugar mixture and let it sit for another 1 and half weeks. Tonight I finally decided to bottle it up. Be careful with the straining as the use of milk or cream causes some curdling action. I used Everclear which has a very high proof, but the taste and smell are nonexistent which makes this perfect to showcase the lemons and not mention give you a good buzz!

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Improvisation Can Be A Good Thing

I wasn't planning on being home tonight , nor cooking.My catering job was cancelled due to water main break. Certain Someone had to fend for himself the night before with his favorite 'Cluck, cluck',Harold's Fried Chicken. I bet you he was anticipating it tonight too. No such luck. I took some frozen beef cubes and placed in the Dutch oven to roast a few hours until he came home.I knew I wanted to use these spices I picked up at World Market the other day.And this beautiful Swiss Chard that screamed healthy! I have a zillion cookbooks but still find myself referring to Internet searches for ideas .I love the look of Star Anise , but feared it due to bad experience with Chinese 5 Spice once. Chef uses it quite a bit in passed appetizers and seared tenderloin.So I wanted to revisit this spice. The meat was roasting nicely and called me to do something. I ground the Star Anise and threw it in. I saw on searches that cinnamon , star anise, and beef seemed to be a popular theme. I threw in some Sherry, vinegar, Soy Sauce, Thai Chili's,onions,and water to the pan. The result was a slow cooked caramelized melange of aromatic spices and tender beef. Certain Someone came home and sniffed the air. The one drawback was that he wanted his noodles and more of a sauce. No to worry. Although I said I was trying to avoid his 'Big Ass Food'( ie: noodles).He retorted who was I calling Big Ass! I added more water to the roasting pan to deglaze, and boiled up some noodles. The result was this.A rather good improvisation if I do say so myself. Even Certain Someone agreed.

Coco's Asian Style Beef with Red Swiss Chard
* this recipe was improvised so measurements were approximated.
1 lb beef cubes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2-3 ground Star Anise
1 cup sliced onions
1 bunch Red Swiss Chard
1 cinnamon Stick
2 Thai Chili's
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 Sherry
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups of water
Asian noodles

Roast beef cubes in oiled covered Dutch Oven seasoned with salt and pepper for 1 hour. Add sliced onions , spices,Soy Sauce, Sherry, Vinegar, sugar, garlic and continue to roast covered for another hour. Check pan periodically and add water as needed . You want a small amount of broth /sauce in the final product.
Wash and stem the Swiss Chard. Roll leaved and slice like chiffonade. Oil fry pan. Saute Swiss chard until just wilted. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Prepare noodles.
Assemble beef atop noodles. Top with Swiss Chard and drizzle with juices from the roasting pan.

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60 Minute Gourmet

I never throw anything out. My Mother thankfully kept a lot of good stuff I valued. My fashion magazines and books were stored in boxes.The fashion magazines have long since gone,but a lot of cookbooks remain.One of my first cookbooks as a pre-teenager was The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet(1979). Yes that's was the type of child I was.The late Pierre Franey collaborated with the late Craig Claiborne on this great book and others that changed the way America cooked at home. Pierre Franey believed many great gourmet dishes can be prepared in a hour with good preparation and well stocked pantry. He pairs a entree and a side on each page.I chose to make a cheese souffle , which I never made before,and he makes seem so simple.I paired this with another entree, since the souffle was so light.Rather than the Swiss or Gruyere cheese, and Parmesan ,that was called for, I used Gouda,Peccorino Romano and some chives for color.I chose Poulet Scarpiello (chicken in white wine)as the main entree. Can I just say I love making souffles. My first attempt was sloppy(need one big dish rather than individual ramekins) but I can see myself having fun with these.Pierres Franey took the fear of making these out. No more images of the famous scene in Sabrina where all the classes souffles fall. The taste was pretty good. Light and buttery. Certain Someone came home a little later than planned and was hungry. He ate all, but declared it wasn't his type of food( naturally it wasn't pasta or sausages for a change). Certain Someone went into the refrigerator for leftover SPAM. Yes we have SPAM. He loves it. I have come to tolerate it , but it has to be cooked crisp like bacon for me. I admit I was still hungry afterwards too. I ate another mini souffle. but still was hungry. The meal had a lot of flavor but was very light. And I don't think that's a bad thing as I want to cut back but eat well.
Souffle au Fromage adapted from The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet 1979
Pierre Franey
Cheese Souffle
1/4 Swiss or preferably Gruyere
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of butter
6 large eggs
4 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1/4 finely grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.Grate cheese into tiny cubes. It should be about 3/4 cup. Set aside. Heat milk to just about to boil.Butter your souffle dishes/dish with the 2 teaspoons of butter.Separate the egg yolks from whites.Put whited into mixing bowl to beaten stiff .
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan.Add flour and stir with wire whisk until smooth. Add hot milk to mix,stirring rapidly with whisk. Add salt,pepper,cayenne,nutmeg, stirring for approx 5 minutes.Blend cornstarch and water and add. Remove from heat.Add yolks stirring rapidly.Scrape mixture into a large mixing bowl and add Parmesan cheese. Beat egg whites until stiff.Add half the whites to the sauce and fold in with the whisk. Add remaining whites and grated cubed cheese and fold into mixture with rubber spatula.Fold until all is Incorporated.Pour and scrape mixture in souffle dish and bake for 20 min.

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I have series of books I love called Culinaria. These food encyclopedias focus on a country , break it down by region, and give all sorts of recipes, essays, photos,history,culture,and culinary information.A real treasure trove of information. I love these tomes because not only can I read about the familiar,but the non familiar.Culinaria was a concept by German publisher Konemann. I believe they were very expensive at first when published and went out of print. However I fall upon them from time to time in Borders and Costco at reduced prices. I have paid $9.99-$19.99 for these books . Some are hardcover and some reduced paperbacks. So far I have Spain, Germany, Hungary, and France.I love to pick up and read sections of these books, however have never tried a recipe.
One of the first dishes I mastered as a child was a simple flan, or Creme Caramel as I used to say( I was studying French). I love the simplicity and richness of this dessert. Its funny because flan and crema catalana( similar to creme brulees) may actually be attributed to the Spanish origins first.A possibility.Regardless I love this dessert. Culinaria shows a traditional recipe for flan , as well as fried flan( see something new to me!). Flan takes on many variations depending on the region .Who knew something so simple can become so interesting. Any way I'm hibernating today in this Chicago deep freeze , and what better comfort dessert.

Flan Al Caramelo adapted from Culinaria Spain 2004/2007
Caramel Custard
serves 4

* I added a splash of Cointreau for flavor
1 1/4 cups/250 g sugar
4 eggs , plus 2 egg yolks
2 cups/500 ml whole milk

Put half the sugar and 1/2 cup /125 ml of water in sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer until a thick golden syrup forms.Pour into the four ramekins so the bottoms are evenly coated.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F/150 C. Beat eggs, remaining sugar, and yolks. Bring milk to a boil and remove from heat. Allow to cool a bit and add gradually to the egg mixture.Pour into ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish and fill with water so it comes up halfway to the sides if the ramekins. Bake approx 45 minutes. Check to see if water doesn't evaporate and fill again if necessary.Remove custards from pan and allow to cool. Place ramekins in the refrigerator to continue cooling.
Before serving, dip the base of each ramekin in hot water, and carefully loosen the sides. Turn onto dessert plate and serve.

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Sausauge Making Part 2

Not another sausage post! When you find something fun you want to improve on it. Last week or so I attempted sausage making for the first time. Certain Someone loved them and ate them all up. We both agreed however we didn't care for the collagen casings. Maybe it was my cooking method. But we cut it away. Nevertheless who knew he would devour chicken sausage. I found natural hog casings on the Internet and decided to try them. They came dry packed in salt and I had to soak them for one hour.Natural Hog Casings reminded me of chitterlings( which I guess they are without the lings).
I took approximately 6 pounds of lean stewing beef and pork loin and ran it through the Kitchen Aid food grinder. Certain Someone and I had seen Tina Nordstrom make Swedish meatballs using pork and beef , and figured why not make our sausage this way. I added a leek to the grinder as well.I had made a seasoning in the spice grinder using juniper berries, a dried chipolte chile, mustard seeds, salt, brown sugar,garlic granules, and paprika. Juniper berries are common in marinades and German cooking. Next was the down and dirty part. I rolled up my sleeves to blend in my spices in the meat mixture. I attached my sausage hose and took one of the long hog casings. Amazingly that one casing was enough for all but a little meat! I still had about 11 more casings soaking I didn't want to waste. They ran about $3.25 but I hate waste!So I figured you could freeze chitterlings, I would freeze the casings and that and re soak for another time.And I still have another dry pack from the order. The hog casing is very thin but durable. I had to use the smaller stuffer, but they expanded to accommodate the meat nicely. If your squeamish about meat and casing which a lot of people are then you may have a problem. I'm all about the process and its great to learn how things we take for granted are made. I feel way better about eating it. These sausages cooked up great. The casings didn't slip, shrink or break way. They browned nicely. Certain Someone gave his approval. He has his supply for the mans weekend he planed. We are checking out the Boat Show(indoors) in this - 3 degrees weather outside.We can dream about summer days on the lake. And his games tomorrow. All in all it took me about 2 hours to process and cook. But that's me .

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When Life Hands You Lemons...You Make A Martini

Today mine, along with all the other Account Executives,clerical staff, etc., positions were eliminated. My company is under a reorganization under a new regime and we have been told we are free to reapply to a few new positions being created, and essentially let the chips fall where there may. I have anticipated this for a while, and the whole retail sector is rocky. Oddly I feel OK. I will reapply there, and else where.When one door closes another opens, and this is my wake up call to do what I love perhaps. I have been dabbling in PT food and wine jobs over the years to help make ends meet, and you know what 'I LOVE IT!". I'm grateful for my past opportunities, being hired directly by a legendary minority history maker,who has since departed this earth , but have always felt it was time to move on. I was stagnating in a place with no room for growth.I have amazing support from Certain Someone and my friends and family, who have all assured me I will be OK. So tonight I raise a rosy glass( Skane Aquavit and X Rated Fusion Liqueur) to my rosy future. I know I'm not alone in that these are hard times all over. The other day I visited the neighborhood supermarket that was in the process of closing. It was weird seeing the stores shelves half empty for quick clearance. I thought about the people who worked there, those who relied on this neighborhood store because no where else was close by, etc. Its all a domino effect. So I will chill this evening and wake up hungry and ambitious ready to start a new day, and a new life.

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Chicken,Leek ,and Wild Rice Soup

This is not a pretty soup, but its a pleasing soup. I love wild rice, and what better to pair wild rice with than some chicken? I've had my share of great chicken and wild rice soups on buisness trips to Minnesota. I decided to play on my own and come up with my own version. The thing about soup is that you can follow a recipe, but sometimes the best ones are ad lib.

I essentially took five chicken drumsticks and roasted them with a few strips of cut of bacon. Something about bacon used in cooking that just imparts a wonderful flavor and aroma. I cleaned and sliced one leek and added it to the roasting pan.I used my enameled Le Creuset dutch oven so it can go from oven to burner. I roasted the chicken and leeks for approx 1 hour to get a nice brown carmelization. I then transferred to pot to the burner and deglazed my pan with Sherry.I added dried shitake mushrooms,that had been soaking for the past hour and sliced,water, spices( herbs de Provence,ground sage,salt,pepper,a dash of sugar,etc.).I let it simmer for about another hour, with periodic stirrings from Certain Someone for his proclaimed magic touch.Around the last half hour I added heavy cream mixed with cornstarch for thickening.It didn't get as thick as I would have liked , but it was fine just the same.Certain Someone ate two bowls and was happy. I'm not a big soup person but he seems to like my soup concoctions. Now if they only looked as good as they tasted..

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Slow Cooked Apple Sauce ...Comfort Food Cook Off

Apple sauce is one of my favorite comfort foods. Ever since I was a child I could eat up jars of it. My tastes outgrew the commercial made canned and jar products.A blogger I love, did a post recently on hot spiced apples with all sorts of tips. I had been toying with making a apple sauce and I had come across this crock pot recipe. The only change I made was adding a cinnamon stick in addition to the cinnamon as it cooks. I can't describe the wonderful homey aroma that filled the air. The perfect aromatherapy for a lazy winter day. I plan to eat this alone or on top of Sunday pancakes or waffles.

This is also my entry for the Comfort Food Cook off. Now all I need is my spoon.

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Get Well Mama R...Apples and Thyme

Mama R is my surrogate 'work Mother' who always reminded me of my real mother( in looks and attitude). She was a great support to me the past few years as I nursed two terminally ill divorced parents ( I was a only child). She's the not only a a great colleague but a confidant and mentor. Mama R has been with our company since its inception and the stories she tells. You'll never find anyone more loyal, working or dedicated than her. She's the den mother I use as example to all these new young people entering the cosmetics world. In her early years she lead a glamorous life in the African American celebrity world as model. Her scrap books are filled with photos of her and her friends in New York City mingling with the likes of Sidney Poitier, and Harry Belafonte. She always told me " She had fun, but she was one of the good girls!". She took her time and found her man, a doctor, who she settled down with and had two great accomplished , professional kids. The past few years have been rocky for her health wise,but she was a trooper and worked hard . If Mama R took off, if was only because she had no choice. It seems our lives are always linked. When my father died on the hospice floor, she was just a few floors down below, in the hospital, recovering from her surgery.She immediately sent her daughter up to sit with me while we awaited my family to come. I was never alone. Mama R fretted and worried over me and my love life, career choices and work issues like my own mother and aunts would. She still does. She's been out of work for some time, and I really don't know if she will come back or retire for good. So much is going on. Mama R loves sweets and always was eager to try my food and share a recipe or so.I spoke to her on the phone yesterday and decided that she needs to fatten up.So I chose two types of cookies to give her. As I write this I realize this would be perfect for Apples and Thyme .I have always wanted to enter this event , but even 8 years after her death, its still to painful to write a full entry about my own mother.Mama R is alive and I pray she gets well soon.I hope she likes these cookies. Both came from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook with some slight variation one one. For the Oatmeal Raisin cookies,I used unsweetened coconut and Lyle's golden syrup rather than the maple syrup called for. I love these cookies and will make them again. I stuck to the original recipe for the Black and White cookie. These cookies turned out like puffy cakes( which they are supposed to). I pressed them down and iced the browned backs. They taste really good the day after. These should get Mama R fattened up and energized.

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Sausage Making...WhenThe Going Gets Tough, The Tough Make Sausage

Lets just say I had a crap day at work. One that makes me shake my head in wonder at people,their schemes, and motives.Enough said about that. To relieve my stress in a healthy way I decided to get out my new Baby Kitchen Aid,and tackle making sausages. I had ordered some collagen casings a while back and had boneless chicken thighs defrosting. I was nervous using the food grinder attachment , stuffer tube , and casings. I took out some onion, sun dried tomato, herbs, and spices to add to my dark chicken meat. I figured the thigh would be a little fatty and juicy to make a good sausage without adding anything.I tossed everything into the grinder tray and let it rip.Pretty fun! The casings gave me a bit of a problem, but I figured it out. Air pockets were another problem. No amount of smoothing helped. I read afterwards to poke a hole in the casings afterwards. I tried to twist my links and they wouldn't stay. This part I have to finesse. I should have tested a piece of the force meat in a skillet to test the flavors, but I didn't. The meat started expanding out of the non tied off casings as I cooked it.I ended up with a highly spiced sausage , that may have been to strong for some tastes( hello garlic and onion!). I found the casings a little chewy, and perhaps would like to try natural casings next time.However I can throw my always throw it a batch of sauce.All in all I'm pretty pleased with my overly ambitious self, and I had a few stress relieving moments.Now I'm just waiting for Certain Someone to fly home and give his critique. This will not be the last of my sausage making.

Note: I used perhaps a quarter of my collagen casings for a 3 large ground chicken thighs.I made about 7 generous links. I ordered my 34mm collagen casings from here. They have all sorts of sausage making supplies.

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The Brews Now Ready

In late October I posted about some spirits I was making for event. It takes three months to 'take'. Well today I strained them and bottled them(I still had technically had about 10 more days ).I made two brews. One Prickly Pear and one Plum.I opened the Prickly Pear first, I had cut the skins to release the rich fuchsia color. The liquid was bright and syrupy. And the taste fantastic! I loved it. Sweet and fruity. I can envision many a martini made with this as a base.I then opened the plum, which was lighter in color and not as syrupy. For some reason there was a fizziness which surprised me. The flavor was lighter and less intense, but still good. I can't decide which was my favorite( OK maybe the Prickly Pear). I even mixed the remnants of both in a larger bottle to even flavors out. I love making my own liquors. Next is a Cream Limoncello for my good friend. I came about this from a suggestion from a fellow blogger about my Meyer lemon syrup. In talking to my friend she mentioned she loved Cream Limoncello. So stay tuned.

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HHDD #17 Pizza... Apple Ham Red Onion Pizza on Whole Wheat Sage Flecked Crust

Joey at 80 Breakfasts chose Pizza as the theme of Hay Hay Its Donna Day.I'm admitting now that I borrowed this pizza from a local restaurant called Medici in Hyde Park. They have a sour apple,ham,red onion pizza with sun dried tomatoes. Unusual but good.I decided to try a whole wheat crust with cut up fresh sage instead of traditional dough. I also utilised a smoked Provolleta I couldn't resit that was shaped as pig , along with regular mozzarella. The sauce was some leftover tomato sauce in the refrigerator. I thinly sliced a golden delicious apple, red onion, and ham. The sun dried tomatoes were cut into thin strips.I topped the final product with additional sage leaves. This pizza is unusual but the components work. I feel the flavors develop more as it sits.

Here is my recipe for the Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Flecked with Sage:
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour and some for dusting and rolling out.
Fresh sage leaves cut thinly
Mix sugar and water. Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand until foamy for 10 minutes.Gently stir in oil and salt. Add both whole wheat and all purpose flours to mix.Add sage bits. Knead until dough holds shape into a ball. Place in a oiled bowl and cover for 1 hour until doubled in volume.Take out and lightly knead , divide in to 2 balls. Let stand and rise a additional 30 min or until double in volume.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out dough to your desired thinness.Spread sauce lightly over dough. Sprinkle some olive oil. Add some cheese, and the rest of ingredients. Top with more cheese. Rub fresh sage leaves in oil so they wont brown. Bake until cheese bubbles and browns. Approx 15-20 min.

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Odds and Ends...

I hate waste and relish creativity.These are some little condiments I've made with some leftovers, or produce that needed to be used immediately.By making these I've preserved some great flavors.
I bought a beautiful pineapple last week that has been sitting on my kitchen counter waiting for me. I didn't feel I'd get around to it and the word chutney came to mind. Chutneys are great strong flavored relishes that can used as condiment with all sorts of meats and fishes. I chopped up the pineapple, some ginger,large bulbed green onion, red onion,curry,rice vinegar, red chili flakes, cayenne pepper, garlic, and raw sugar. I cooked it down until the liquid turned syrupy. The end result is a fantastic , if not really spicy condiment that I will pair with salmon, chicken, or just plain meatballs. That's the beautiful thing about Chutneys, just throwing things together.
I had purchased some Meyer Lemons for a another recipe I had made. They are quite costly and I didn't want to waste a drop. I peeled the zest and followed this recipe.I cant stop nibbling on these. In this bleak Chicago winter they are a burst of sunshine!
I felt it was shame to waste that nice sugar syrup that had been infused with the Meyer Lemon peels. I had some SENCE rose nectar in the fridge that I added it to, boiled it down more and Voila!I can imagine adding this to a Champagne cocktail, soaking a pound cake, and incorporating it any other dessert.The possibilities are endless. Rose and lemon are major components to Middle Eastern food.
So for not a lot of money, I have three great condiments to add to my pantry.

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"Pastaless" Veggie Lasagna

New Year, new ways of looking at my food. I love lasagna. I make a huge batch of it about twice a year and all my friends and family love it. My mother taught me how.Her recipe was so good that people who didn't normally care for lasagna ,loved hers. Ricotta,2-3 types of meats,various Italian cheeses,egg,spinach, nutmeg,herbs and name it. It was so rich , good and fattening. I already feel as if I'm about to explode from all the Holiday baking and food blogging.I craved it but had to find a alternative. I decided to use grilled eggplant cut lenghtwise as my"noodle". I also made up my own sauce with a pound of ground turkey. I grilled up some zucchini as well. I made my cheese filling using my mothers version,but with fat free ricotta,part skim mozzarella, spinach(frozen,thawed,and drained of moisture), 1 egg, nutmeg, and Parmesan. I layered eggplant,the cheese filling, the zucchini , sauce,the cheese filling,and roasted red peppers, topped of with more eggplant, sauce,then grated mozzarella,Parmesan,herbs, etc.You get the picture. I'm not kidding myself that this dish is totally healthy,but one has to take baby steps first. Certain Someone whined 'Where's his noodles" and looked on skeptically as I ate mine. He opted for the leftover cream sauce from the night befores butternut squash ravioli,on top of some more pasta. He was to stuffed to try mine. All in all it tasted pretty good. Like a cross between Eggplant Parmesan and lasagna. I didn't miss the pasta at all.

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German Retro Cusine...Toast Hawaii

My Certain Someone introduced me to this retro dish back in Essen this past summer.I immediately thought "that's so 50's". Its a favorite of his because its easy to cook/assemble and tastes pretty good. I even had it here as a appetizer at Chicago Brauhaus . It lives on, and on...Toast Hawaii is a typical open faced sandwich one finds in Germany( great on the carb cutting) and has a fascinating creator and history.So if you have some ham lying around , put it on some toast, add a pineapple ring or two, some Gouda, and melt away.

Aloha kãkou und Auf Wiedersehen!

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New Year Traditions...Akkra,Greens,and Champagne

Happy New Year!

The other day I asked my friend Gabs what are the traditional good luck foods that they eat in Australia. She said they are not into to that as we Americans are. I got to thinking what can I do besides the normal southern style Black Eye Peas ,that we of Southern descent eat on New Years Day. I started thinking of my parents and in particular a dish my Nigerian father made at times. Akkra would be my new twist and variation of the routine Black Eye Peas . I never really got into all the Nigerian food growing up. It wasn't that it was not good , I just got tired of my father eating the same things all the time( 'soup' , fufu,and rice in all there different ways). I remember he brought these black eye pea fritters called Akkra to a school "Show and Tell", once on Nigeria. He added shrimp to them and they were a hit.I decided to add some other spices and green peppers to it. Dried shrimp,if you have it adds a great touch. My mother long since divorced from him made these from time to time as well.They are popular in Brazil and the parts of the Caribbean as well in slight variations. For New Years she was the traditional Southerner and made her Black Eye Peas and Collard Greens with lots of smoked meats. Don't forget the Champagne for good luck! Certain Someone and I picked up these deliciously gaudy glasses in Germany. See the dollar signs? They really should be Euro signs in todays economy.They are RITZENHOFF.And what appropriate glasses to ask for prosperity in the New Year!

So here's to a wonderful ,healthful,and prosperous New Year!

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