Winter Treat

 I made this hot cocoa mix with every intention of giving it out in little jars for Christmas treat gifts but then I tasted it and since I’m nothing if not spectacularly selfish, I hoarded it all for myself. The end. 

Mocha Cocoa Mix 
recipe from Better Homes and Gardens

You need:
3 cups nonfat dry milk powder 
1 1/2 cups sugar 
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder 
2/3 cups instant espresso powder 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 cup chocolate chips

Buzz everything together in the food processor until it is all a nice, finely ground powder. To make your cocoa, heat a mugful of milk or water until very hot, stir in some cocoa mix. The official recipe says to use 1/3 a cup but that seemed like a lot to me. I do fine with just two heaping tablespoons full. Top with marshmallows or whipped cream. Give some away as a gift if you must. Or hoard it for yourself; I’m not judging. What I like about this mix is that it’s not spectacularly sweet (until you add your mallows or your cream). It’s warming and has that lovely coffee flavor I so adore. It’s a nice little sipping treat while knitting. 

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Thanksgiving, in Pictures

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T
hanksgiving Prime Rib (I wish I had taken a picture of it sliced up because man, it was so amazingly tender and delicious. Erik did a great job making it on the smoker).
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Rustic Potato Rolls 

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steamed carrots with herb butter & green bean casserole 

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Gluten free dressing (simple dressing recipe with onions, celery, mushrooms, chicken stock, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, hot chicken stock, and diced up gluten free bread – the bulk of which was comprised of Udi’s gluten free baguettes but I also used the end pieces of a loaf of Udi’s gluten free multi grain bread)

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Gluten free sweet potato pie on left, pumpkin pie with buttermilk crust on right 

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dinnertime blahs

It’s been so difficult to get excited about dinner lately. I don’t feel much like eating or coming up with menus so we’ve been winging it a lot. For this dinner, I made it because I read a description of it on XoJane and since it sounded very good and very easy (if I’m not stuck in the kitchen for hours, I have more time to knit things and that is very, very good) so I made it. The End.

Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions and Avocado

You need:
a smallish pork belly (we happened to have a piece that was the perfect size for the two of us plus some leftovers I can use for tortas)
ground cumin
ground coriander
kosher salt, pepper
garlic (either powder or slices of fresh, I used powder because I’m lazy)
black beans (I like my low sodium cans of black beans but feel free to make your own with dry beans)
white onion, diced
Jalapeño or serrano, chopped
garlic cloves, minced
avocado, diced
chopped cilantro, salsa, corn tortillas for serving

Trim up your pork belly if you need to but leave a decent size fat cap on it. Score the fat. In a bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and coriander. Spread this mixture all over both sides of the belly. Cover with plastic and let it hang out in the fridge overnight (or 12-14 hours). When ready to bake, set your oven to 425. Let the belly hang out on the counter while you wait for the oven to heat. Place it in a roasting pan and let it roast at 425 for an hour. After an hour, drop the temp to 300 and baste the belly a little with the rendered fat. Let it bake until a knife inserted into the belly goes in real easy. It should be tender and really nice and browned and yummy.

For the beans: in a pan, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Saute your onions, jalapeño, and garlic until the onions are softened. Dump in your black beans. Season with salt and pepper and cook until heated through. Serve the belly in slices with the black beans and with chopped onion, cilantro, avocado, salsa and corn tortillas.

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and if you have leftovers, make a torta:

Smear a crusty piece of bread with mashed black beans, top that with monterey jack cheese, add some sautéed onions to that, then layer heated up leftover pork belly slices on top of those, then top that with a fried egg. Smear the other half of your bread with mashed avocado. Eat.

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Goodbye Cake

Goodbyes suck. Even when they’re accompanied by cake. So we’re losing a fabulous nurse at my workplace. She has decided to leave cold, snowy Wyoming to live on the beach in California. I mean who in their right mind would make a decision like that? Leave all this for the beach? Smart people, that’s who. Still, I am going to sorely miss our current Public Health “dream team.” Our current group has been a really good fit for awhile now. It’s such a great change from working with people who exhaust and irritate you to working with people who make you happy to get out of bed and come to work just to see their faces (and I’ll admit it has been a boost to the old self esteem because Shelley laughs at all my jokes no matter how dumb they are. I am now and will always be thoroughly convinced that I am HILARIOUS. Shelley deems it so thus it is true.) So we couldn’t send her off with a store-bought cake so I made one. If you’re going to make a goodbye cake that will ensure that the person you are saying goodbye to will miss you, this is the one to make. It’s a perfect Fall cake, it’s dense yet moist with warm spices and it has all the components I know Shelley likes: carrots and cream cheese icing. I took a gamble that everyone would be okay with the presence of pumpkin because I have a suspicion that Erik is the only person I know who hates pumpkin with the fervor that he does. If anything, I hope the memory of this cake will mean she’ll come visit us on her trips home. I may make more of these in the future to make sure we can lure her back once in awhile. Cake as a Shelley lure. That works for me.

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Pumpkin Carrot Cake
recipe by Ben Starr 

You Need:
to make a meringue first:
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 Tablespoons sugar
In your mixer, place the egg whites. Fit the whisk attachment and let it start whipping up. Add the sugar slowly when it begins frothing, then add the cream of tartar. You’re looking for stiff peaks but don’t overheat it. Pop this in a small bowl and set it aside until you’re ready to add it to your batter.

For the cake:
2 sticks butter, softened at room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling please)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups grated carrots
2 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons  cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oven to 350 and prepare your baking pans. I made this cake in a standard nonstick 9×13 rectangular pan and still had enough batter leftover for like, 4 cupcakes. Butter & flour (or use baking spray) and grease that thing like your life depends upon it. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together all your dry ingredients. Set aside. In your

(now clean) bowl of the stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy and well blended. Add in the egg yolks and beat until combined. Add in the pumpkin and vanilla and combine. Add your carrots and blend on low speed until combined. Then add your dry ingredients and blend until no traces of dry stuff are left. Add in the egg whites mixture gently with a spoon and stir until everything is all combined. Put your batter into whatever baking receptacle you’re using, smooth the top, pop it in the oven. Bake until a cake tester (my trusty toothpicks!) comes out clean. Let it cool for a few minutes then turn it out onto a cake plate or wherever it’s going to land when you finally ice it. Cool completely before you frost it.

I used a standard cream cheese frosting to frost it but apparently cream cheese frosting isn’t a very good decorating medium (too thick, wouldn’t pipe) so I ended up making a real quick buttercream to do up some roses on top and called it good. Use whatever recipe you like for frosting. But I do heartily recommend adding the following candied nuts to the cake. It pushes it way over the top from amazingly good to the most spectacular cake you’re likely to have ever eaten.

Candied Nuts
recipe also by Ben Starr

You need:1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon water

In a deep sided pan, combine everything and then bring to a boil and stirring constantly, let it boil until it is a deep brown. In candy terms you want hard crack stage which you can test by placing a drop of your mixture into a small cup of cold water. If that drop turns hard, then it’s ready. You have to be prepared

to work quickly here because sugar can burn fast. Anyway, when the mixture is ready pop 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or whatever kind of nut you’re into) into it and mix fast to get the nuts covered. Drop the nuts onto a greased sheet of parchment paper laid on a cookie sheet and let it cool completely. When it’s cooled, drop the hunk of candied nuts into a bag and beat it up to get chunks of candied nuts. Use this to decorate your cake. Or use a little of it to decorate and then eat the rest like a mad woman like I did. (Sorry I’m not sorry.)

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A Quickie

Boss’s Day muffins! Because, as I told Shel-dog, all edible gifts are great gifts. I liked these muffins so much that if I weren’t so pleased with having to wear smaller pants (because I’m not stuffing my face with delicious muffins on the reg) I would have seriously re-thought giving these away. Erik asked if he could have one and I turned into this guy while I firmly denied his request:

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Nooooooooooooo muffins for you!

To be fair, they have gluten in them and they’re banana (which he hates) so it wouldn’t make sense to give him one even if I were so inclined to share these gloriously delicious treats. If you’re in need of a boss’s day gift, consider these! Or make them and eat them all yourself, I’m not judging. 

Banana Nut Muffins 
recipe from Love and Cupcakes

You Need:

2 cups flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
4 bananas (I used 3 large ones)
1  cup brown sugar 
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled 
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1/2 cup pecans, chopped 

Topping:
1/2 stick melted butter 
1/4 cup chopped pecans 
1/3 cup brown sugar 
1/4 cup flour 
pinch of salt 

Heat the oven to 375. Line 2 muffin pans with muffin papers. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, mash up two bananas. Toss the other banana(s) into the mixer and whip it with the brown sugar. Add in the melted butter, eggs, vanilla and combine. Mix in the dry ingredients then mix in the mashed bananas and nuts. Spoon into your prepared pans. 

To make the topping, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. I have to pause a second here because I realized, while typing this, that I made a mistake on my topping and instead of using 1/2 a stick of butter, I used a whole stick (1/2 cup) and that’s why my topping didn’t turn out crumbly like it’s supposed to. Instead mine was liquidy. Since I didn’t realize it at the time, I pressed on and spooned my liquid topping on my muffins and baked them that way. I thought they turned out SUPER FABULOUS. A tad messy, but certainly tasty because butter is a good thing. But if you want to do it right, your topping should be crumbly. Spoon your topping onto the muffins. Bake for 20ish minutes until the muffins are cooked through. 

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Breakfast, bitch!

I’m sad, people. Because there will be no more new Breaking Bad. Ever.

This was basically me after watching the finale: Image

And how do I handle such utter despondency? Food, duh.

Because breakfast cures all my emotional ills and because Pioneer Woman is a freaking genius, tonight’s breakfast for dinner is huevos in a hole. It’s just so brilliant and tasty and it’s a quick meal to make. It wasn’t very long at all before I was shoveling eggs, tortillas, beans and salsa into my face. Quick and tasty is all I want in life, sometimes.

Huevos in a Hole
recipe from The Pioneer Woman 

You Need:

corn tortillas (I used two per huevo instead of the recipe’s 3)
huevos
shredded pepper jack cheese
oil
bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
refried beans
salsa
cilantro, chopped

Using a biscuit or round cookie cutter, cut out holes in the middle of four softened corn tortillas. I popped mine on a hot comal real quick-like then cut my holes out. Heat up a Tablespoon or so of oil in a large cast iron skillet or on a griddle. Place one tortilla on the hot pan, crack an egg into the hole (yes your egg whites will probably run all over but it’s cool). Put a little salt and pepper and a little shredded cheese on the egg then top with your other tortilla. Cook until the egg is cooked through, flipping once halfway. Your tortillas should get nice and golden and slightly crisp while the egg cooks. Repeat for as many of these as you feel like eating. Serve with refried beans, crumbled bacon, cilantro and salsa. You can even crisp up the little tortilla rounds and eat them, too.

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The Best Dinner I Have Had Recently

I’m talking a salad for dinner. And not the “I’m dieting and eating salad and sad about eating salad for dinner” kind of dinner salad. I mean a bloody awesome, full of flavor and heartiness type of salad for dinner. The kind you can get excited about because you feel healthy eating salad but a little naughty at the same time because there’s bacon! and cheese! and salami! and a super flavorful garlicky dressing to go with it! Not the dieting kind of salad is the best kind of salad, in my opinion.

Italian Chopped Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing 
recipe from The Kitchn 

You Need:
romaine, chopped
roma tomatoes, chopped
red onion, diced (they soak theirs in cold water but I personally enjoy the sharp bite of raw red onion so however you like them, you do you)
sliced cucumber (I added this because we needed to get that cucumber eaten)
a couple bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
mozzarella, cut into small cubes, as little or as much as you want
some Genoa salami, chopped
a can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
some chopped up, roasted chicken (I seasoned some boneless, skinless thighs with Italian seasoning and garlic with a drizzle of olive oil on top and roasted them in the oven then sliced them up)

For the Dressing:
2 or 3 large garlic cloves
olive oil
red wine vinegar
a good sized pinch of sugar
a medium sized squirt of Dijon mustard (a teaspoon maybe?)
mayo (I used mayo instead of the egg yolk they ask for originally because I don’t trust the grocery store eggs enough to eat raw. So what, I’m a weenie, sue me).
a dollop of plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
salt and pepper

Toss all the dressing ingredients in your blender or food processor and blend together until creamy and blended together. I honestly can’t give you exact measurements for what I did – when I make dressing I tend to just toss and stir and hope for the best. I know I shook a good amount of red wine vinegar in (a couple Tablespoons worth, perhaps?), used a big spoon and dumped in a good sized dollop of mayo and a smaller dollop of the yogurt and I streamed in the olive oil and just whizzed it until it was the right consistency for me (it won’t be gooey like bottled dressing. It will be a lot thinner than that) and I just tasted and adjusted the amount of salt and pepper I thought it needed. If you’d like exact measurements, visit the link above to The Kitchn.

Toss your salad veggies together then top with your beans, meats, and cheese. Drizzle dressing over all and eat.

 

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Man food! Wild Food!

When I was a kid, my uncle shared with me his life philosophy “keep it simple stupid.” Those few words have stuck with me since and become something of a mantra. I just don’t try to church up what don’t need churchin’ up.  Fresh trout is one of those things  that doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles to shine. Western Wyoming may seem lacking in a lot of things like traffic lights and basic shopping opportunities but we do boast world class trout fishing on the Snake, Grey’s and Salt rivers.  Trout fishing is in itself a simple endeavor; dangle a tasty morsel or imitation morsel in front of a peckish Cutthroat or Brown and in turn make it into your very own meal. That is where this story starts, with a nice pink-fleshed Snake River Cutthroat,  filleted and awaiting consumption.  So here goes, pan fried trout with fried potatoes.

ingredients:

2- trout fillets

1/2 -cup flour  (I use potato flour)

1 tsp- cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp- salt

 

1- large potato

1/2- white onion

1-tsp salt

1-tsp cracked black pepper

 

Start with two fresh skin-on trout fillets (preferably procured by your own hand);  sprinkle salt and pepper over fillets and roll in flour, covering both flesh and skin side of fillets in a thin flour coat.  I use potato flour out of necessity due to gluten intolerance (plus it browns and crusts up amazingly), but wheat flour works just as well.  Now you’ll want to skip peel one large potato leaving some strips of skin on it slice into 1/4 thick slices and thinly slice  half an onion, place these into a  preheated frying pan over medium heat with 2-3 tbsp  of your favorite cooking oil. Allow potatoes to crisp, occasionally turning as they begin to brown. When potatoes seem about half done turn your attention to the trout. In a separate preheated pan also over medium heat and containing 2-3 tbsp of cooking oil place the fillets skin side down, leave the fillets alone until the edges begin to crisp and curl (about 3 minutes or so) Now turn the fillets flesh side down and cook for a similar amount of time, cook until a golden brown is achieved  where the fish contacts the pan and the flesh begins to appear flaky.  Keep an eye on the potatoes throughout this time turning until they and the onions are internally  soft with crisp browned surfaces. Drain excess oil on a plate covered with a couple of paper towels and serve immediately. For best results drench fried potatoes in a generous amount of ketchup. Feeds one hungry man.

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Guest post by Erik

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gluten free breakfast

Because dude, isn’t breakfast the greatest thing ever? These waffles are on the cover of that gluten free cooking book I keep going on and on about and they’re primarily what made me pick it up in the first place. My ongoing nervousness about the limitation of gluten free foods has pretty much dissipated entirely, thanks to Kelli & Peter Bronski. As long as everything tastes as good as this, I may transition entirely myself, instead of hoarding flour based goods for me to eat…

Gluten Free Waffles
recipe from Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking 

You Need:

1 3/4 cups gluten free flour blend (see previous post)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 separated eggs
1 3/4 cups milk (I used buttermilk the second time I made these- both ways turn out fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, melted

Start your waffle iron to heating.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the egg yolks, milk and vanilla and mix together. Add in the melted butter and stir it in well. Whip your egg whites up separately until stiff peaks form. Fold these into the batter. Cook your waffles however you cook them in your particular waffle maker. Serve with fruit and butter and real maple syrup (you need the syrup unless you like slightly savory waffles – these have no sugar in the batter). I made a quick mixture of sliced nectarines and blueberries to top ours. They were delicious, obviously.

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we’re cookie monsters

It has been more hit than miss lately with our ongoing gluten free baking experiment. I was very pleased to find that something so simple as chocolate chip cookies and brownies are both delicious in their gluten free state. In fact, I would go as far as to say I think I enjoy both more as gluten free than not. There’s a slightly nuttier and richer taste to the cookies and the brownies are insanely moist and fluffy. It helps that I finally found a great GF flour blend courtesy of Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking. I love this book so much that I’ve kind of kept it from the library for about 2 months now. I keep renewing it but I think I’m going to have to just purchase the Kindle edition so I can always have it on hand to refer to.

This flour blend has been successful in recipes that don’t come from the book, like this one for chocolate chip cookies. The book cookies look perfectly lovely but I like mine to have a little more substance; I like them a little less flat and crisp. The fact that this flour is working well in all of the recipes that I’ve tried is a godsend to me and proof of how versatile this little book is.

Artisan Gluten Free Flour Blend
recipe from Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking 
for 3 cups you need:

1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup sorghum flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup potato starch (not the same as potato flour – it’s a different animal)
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of potato flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Mix together well and store in the fridge. I used the quadrupled recipe and that lasts us a good long while. Use this flour to make gluten free chocolate chip cookies:

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies 
recipe from Land O’ Lakes 

You Need:

2 1/4 cups gluten free flour blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 cup of butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (we like semisweet)

Heat the oven to 375. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum together in a bowl. In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy and well blended. Add your eggs one at a time. Add in the vanilla. Slowly add your dry ingredients and blend together. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by large spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets (or just ungreased baking sheets), space them 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly golden brown (about 10 minutes). Let cool for a couple minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. If you don’t want to bake up all these cookies, I freeze the dough. I like to form them into little dough balls, place on a parchment lined plate and freeze them solid, then put the frozen dough balls into a freezer bag. They bake up just fine like you would if they were fresh made dough. Or bake them all at once and eat them all in one day, I’m not judging you.

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