Archive for the ‘cooking’ Tag

08-18-2016 Journal – Summer Cooking!   Leave a comment

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Fresh and delicious shrimp.

Do these shrimp look good to you?  They were just as delicious as you might think or so says my better-half.  She’s a shrimp junkie going back many years and considers herself an expert.  I tried just one and really couldn’t disagree.

Summer time meals are something special around here and are to be enjoyed and relished whenever possible.  While I’m not a big fan of shrimp or lobster I do love just about everything else that the ocean has too offer.  I experiment when possible to come up with new flavors and textures with my seafood.  This week we picked up those shrimp and a large haddock fillet just for me.

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To make things a little more interesting I poached the fillet in habanero wine.  I made this wine a few years back and it carries with it a delicious flavor and heat. Once the poaching was completed the fillets were dropped onto the grill to give them a little crispiness.

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Just sooooo good.

Then it’s off to the table with a side of fresh corn-on-the-cob and a glass of Chardonnay.  Cherry tomatoes picked just before the meal and chilled are a perfect addition.  That beer in the picture belongs to my better-half.  She considers any beer she drinks as her Chardonnay.

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The garden continues to flourish now that we’ve had a few days of rain to help perk things up.  I picked this collection of hot peppers (Serrano, Fresno, jalapeno, and Anaheim’s) today because tomorrow is salsa day and I want them as fresh and hot as I can get.

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I’ll be slicing and dicing all of the other salsa ingredients this evening in preparation for tomorrow.  This is the best part of Summer for me without a doubt.

OLE!

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06-03-2016 Journal – More Garden Time!   Leave a comment

Now that the weather has taken a warmer turn I can really start enjoying my Spring and Summer. I love digging in the dirt but even that gets a little old after a few weeks. We been having warm nights and even warmer days and the plants in the garden are really taking off.  I’m even amazed at how fast the plants seem to grow here in Maine at this time of the year. I think the plants know they can’t waste any time in this short Maine growing season.

Here are a few photos I took over the last couple of days at plants that were only inches tall ten days ago. Granted I planted seedlings and not just seeds but even with that being said the amount of growth has been amazing.

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‘These chives began blooming in May.’

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Look at this oregano plant. Ten days ago it was an inch high and now it’s growing out of control.  I’ll have more oregano than I’ll know what to do with when I’m ready to make my first batch of pasta sauce.

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I’m also seeing some really healthy growth with the pepper plants. I planted more hot peppers this year than ever before and from the initial start it looks like it’s going to be a great summer for them. Currently I have seven types of hot peppers planted. There are Jalapeños, Ghost’s, Cayenne’s, Serrano’s, Kung Pow’s, Anaheim’s, and even a few Thai chilies. I certainly look forward to using a mixture of those peppers in the preparation of my chili and a few batches of salsa later in the summer. To be sure they’ll be plenty of heat to go around. 

This rhubarb plant broke through the ground in mid-May and it’s now over five feet high and going strong.  More rhubarb jam and pies are in my immediate future.

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The last one I can show you may be the biggest hit of the year for the neighborhood.  This catnip plant barely survived the winter but in three weeks it’s grown to be almost two and half feet tall.  The neighborhood cats haven’t discovered it yet but OMG when they do the fun will really begin.

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If all of these plants keep growing at this rate it will a gardening year to remember.  Lots of sunshine, water, and TLC make all of the difference.  Now back to the deck for a delicious hot pepper margarita, chips, and salsa. 

LIFE IS GOOD

05-28-2016 Journal – Salsa, Salsa, Salsa!   Leave a comment

Now that the garden has been planted I have extra time on my hands for other things. I noticed a few days ago that we seem to be running out of our homemade salsa.  We both love salsa so much and eat on average a quart every two weeks or so. My better-half insists on putting it on and in everything she eats so running out is not an option.  I’ve had a newly developed recipe that I’ve been waiting to make and this is the week to do it.  This recipe is called ‘Six Pepper Bean Salsa’. 

It even sounds hot and trust me it really is.  I’ve gathered together jalapeños, habaneros, Serrano’s, Thai chili, black pepper, and finally Ghost peppers. Add black beans and chili beans and a host of other ingredients and there you have it.  I even managed to harvest some early chives from my garden as well. During the summer months we always try to have at least one item from the garden in every meal.  So let’s get started.

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‘Slice & Dice with rubber gloves.’

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I usually wear very think rubber gloves when messing with hot peppers. I tried the normal latex gloves but they weren’t getting the job done.  Thick rubber from then on assures me of no more burning body parts. Then I gather the necessary jars, lids, and pots and boil them thoroughly.

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Everything must be boiled to keep things as sanitary as possible. That’ll keep contaminated jars from becoming a problem later on.  Next I begin the cooking process and the adding of a little heat.

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‘Dried habanero and chili peppers.’

Finally the salsa is ready for canning. I know canning seems complicated but it really isn’t.  The process is simple and easily managed. The more often you do it the easier it becomes.

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And here’s the finished product.  Thirteen quarts of really delicious salsa that is also hot enough to get anyone’s attention.

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EASY PEASY

01-07-2016 Journal–2016’s First Salsa Day!   Leave a comment

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What do you do when you’re bored?  Everyone seems to have a few ways of dealing with boredom and so do I.  When I’m bored it’s usually being bored with the people around me and occasionally with life in general.  Over the years I’ve  had a very low tolerance for boring people up until the time I finally became one.

It’s only January seventh and I’m already going a little crazy being stuck in the house for most of the day.  I read a quotation once upon a time and it’s stuck with me over the years.  I’m not sure who the author of the quote was but I still find it pertinent all these years later. “Everyone is a bore to someone. That is unimportant. The thing to avoid is being a bore to oneself.”

Help Me!  I beginning to find myself really effing boring.  I plan every year to have a sufficient number of chores and projects to help me through these long winter months.  My biggest problem this year is I’m not the least bit motivated to do anything. The situation started becoming a real problem this week which forced me into taking immediate action yesterday.

The one thing that always helps me to get my mind right is to cook something. I made a quick trip to the supermarket and picked up all of the necessary ingredients and spent one evening watching Netflix and dicing jalapeno peppers, Serrano peppers, and habanero peppers. Then dicing piles of red and white onions, sweet bell peppers, parsley, and cilantro.  Yesterday was to be the first Salsa Day for 2016.

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‘First prepare the jars and lids.’

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I started by adding all of the ingredients together and allowing them to cook slowly. Then the hard work began as I seasoned and tasted, seasoned and tasted, and using a variety of hot peppers set the level of heat I was looking for.  I wanted this batch to be as hot as possible but not so hot that people couldn’t eat it.  It took a while but I was pleased with the results.

I also love the flavor of beans and use some combinations of them in many dishes. Since the salsa I was making is Roasted Corn & Black Bean I needed a way to add bean flavor without having the salsa look like a three-bean salad. I took three varieties of beans and pureed them into a heavy slurry. I slowly poured the slurry into the pot and hoped for the best. I also hoped that slurry would thicken the consistency of the salsa as it cooked.  I really didn’t want to use tomato paste because the flavor is almost too strong. 

After all was said and done here is the result.  Thirteen quarts of Roasted Corn & Black Bean salsa that’s hot enough to make your head sweat and bring tears to your eyes.  Just the way I like it.

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My boredom disappeared almost immediately and one thing is for certain. The flavor of this salsa is as far away from boring as you can get.

Bring on the chips it’s time to eat.

07-27-2015 Journal–Dill Pickle Day!   Leave a comment

Every summer about this time I donate one day of my time to the making of dill pickles.  I’ve loved dill pickles for most of my life and if I do say so myself, I make one helluva pickle.  Mine are a bit different from the store-bought variety since I pickle the cucumbers in a dill brine accompanied by a selection of sliced habanero’s and jalapeno’s.  The results have the best dill flavor I can supply with enough heat to make your head sweat. 

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My better-half isn’t a big fan of the dill flavor so I’m relegated to making one small batch each summer that will usually last me most of the winter.  I have a couple of other people in the area who are also big fans of dill and I make enough to keep them supplied as well.

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The process begins with a 48 hour bath for the cucumbers in lime water.  This will help keep the pickle slices crisp after the canning process has been completed.  While the cukes are soaking I slice up a sufficient amount of habaneros and jalapenos to add to the mix.  I was able to pick up a package of fresh dill yesterday and I’ll place a small sprig in the top of each jar. It’s mostly for decoration purposes but in addition to that I also add dried dill to the brine.

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After the cucumber  slicing, dicing, and jar  packing, the final product is covered with dill brine and capped. Then into a boiling water bath to help seal the jars and to precook the pickles.  Then it’s on to the cooling rack for a few hours and here’s the finished product.

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Thirteen pints of some truly hot and tasty dill pickles.  Good for any occasion or you can just sit and eat a jar while watching a movie.  If possible and if we have a good supply of cucumbers I may make a second batch of Kosher Dill pickles later this fall. It’s a totally different flavor of dill and I love it as much as these.

* * *  NEWS FLASH * * *

Today is a big day for us.  Today is our Independence Day from cable TV.  All of the companies equipment has been removed and will be shipped back in a few days.  The account was closed after the typical games these companies insist on playing.  They offered me a 50% reduction in my monthly rate if I would reconsider and stay with them.  I asked only one question. If they could afford to do that so easily now it must mean they’ve been overcharging me for years.  We agreed to disagree and that was that.  Good-bye, Good Luck, and get the hell out Dish Network.

* * * HOORAY FOR US * * *

0912-2014 Journal Entry – The First Fall Update!   Leave a comment

Today will be a general update on a few of the useless things I’ve been doing or trying to do.  I’m happy to report that the highchair restoration has been completed.  It was a relatively simple project that took only a week to accomplish.  The last posting on the chair had me sanding my heart out to remove the old layers of paint, stain, and shellac.  Once that was completed I then pulled out my handy-dandy Dremel tool and wire brushed all of the hinges and other hardware. Fortunately I was able to remove almost all of the corrosion.

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I discovered quite by accident that this highchair was made from an assortment of woods glued together and painted.  This made my staining job a bit more difficult but I persevered. The results were satisfactory but not as good as I’d hoped.  Once the stain was on then came three coats of a good polyurethane and a few days to let it dry. 

I installed the new modified safety straps which put me one step away from completion. The toughest part of the project was finding the proper decals for the chair.  The original had some sort of cutesy puppy on it which I immediately sanded away.  A little too lame for me or any kid who might eventually be using it. After visiting a few dozen websites and a few actual retail stores I found two  stickers that I felt were acceptable. I installed them yesterday and officially declared this project complete.

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Now to the garden which is slowly coming to an end. I harvested the remainder of the kale yesterday.  I picked the plants, cut and cleaned the leaves which left me with a large bag full.  The process included washing the leaves twice, blanching them all in boiling water, dropping them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process, and finally a last thorough washing.   A spin dry in the good old Salad Spinner and it’s into the vacuum bags and then the freezer. The process took a little longer than I liked but it’s important to keep the food as clean as possible at all times.

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‘In the Garden’

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‘In the Wash’

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‘Into the Freezer’

Another week and I’ll start the final cleanup of the garden to get it ready for winter. That includes removing all of the fabric from the frames and composting the entire garden with three or four inches of prime compost.  Once that has been rototilled in I can concern myself with the remaining yard cleanup and storage of all lawn furniture and equipment for the winter.

Just another slowly fading Summer week here in Maine. 

08-29-2014 Journal Entry– More Garden News!   Leave a comment

As the summer continues to wind down we’re slowly preparing for the end of the garden and this years growing season.  We still have a few tasks that need to be completed before I take it down for the last time. We have what seems to be an endless supply of cherry tomatoes this year which we’ll be eating steadily until the first frost.  My better-half has taken steps to can a few quarts of those tomatoes and they’ll be delicious during the upcoming Maine winter. Even though they’re canned they taste better than those hot house selections available in the food stores.

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This is the first year we’ve grown black beans and I have to say they grow fast and in great numbers.  We spent a hour yesterday shucking the beans and delivering them to the dehydrator.  We can store them for a longer period of time once they’ve been sufficiently dried.

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We also planted three varieties of kale which are in need of processing in some fashion. Earlier in the summer we blanched a quantity which went directly into the freezer.  I harvested what I thought was a large quantity of kale leaves yesterday thinking I would dehydrate them and store them in jars much like dried parsley.  Then they could be used in soups or sprinkled on almost any food as a flavor enhancer.  I really do love the smell and taste of kale and look forward to using it as often as possible. Unfortunately once dried and crushed my large pile of leaves turned into a single quart jar full.

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‘Picked’

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‘Blanched’

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‘Iced’

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‘Finished Product’

I’ve been maintaining  a fairly accurate record of what our garden has produced thus far and I’ll be posting that list within a week or so.  I feel the need to brag a little because this garden has produced more than we could ever have hoped for.

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As you can see the concord grape wine has taken one more step towards final bottling.  It looks and smells wonderful and I managed to sneak a taste and it was excellent. A few more weeks and this batch will be finished and bottled.

08-25-2014 Journal Entry – Kimchi For Me!   1 comment

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‘Korean Kimchi’

With the Harvest season in full swing I’ve been wanting to come up with a recipe for something new and out of the ordinary.  I’m tired of the same old things and need to step out of the proverbial box if I can.  I reached back into my past for inspiration and actually found some.

Having spent a few years in the Republic of South Korea I was introduced to hundreds of dishes I couldn’t have ever imagined.  Some were killer and some were more than a little disgusting.  After my first year there I was able to adapt my pallet to a much more exotic range of foods.

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One thing in particular that at first glance turned my stomach was Korean kimchi, a foul smelling concoction that is eaten by every Korean at every meal. It smells to high heaven and is as hot as blazes. It’s a fermented Korean cabbage dish covered in a smoking hot red pepper mixture and fermented in clay pots buried in the ground for a month or two. Sounds pretty nasty I know but I eventually I came to like it a great deal. Thankfully, once you’ve eaten some of it you can’t smell it on the breath of others which was a blessing when you intended to spend time with native Koreans. It was a learned survival technique.

I decided I’d make an attempt to create a kimchi dish that had less stench, more flavor, and still have a decent level of heat. Much of the kimchi available here in the US is a milder Americanized version with a medium heat level for the faint of heart. I also have an real aversion to eating food that’s been left to ferment in the ground. I prefer something a bit more sanitary.

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Step one was to purchase ten pounds of good old American cabbage and a quantity of good quality habanero peppers.  Instead of fermenting the cabbage I decided to pickle it to allow for longer term storage.

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I shredded the cabbage into smaller than normal pieces to make it easier to handle when filling the jars.  I grated the onions and fresh ginger, mixed it together with the shredded cabbage and minced garlic.  I’ve developed a pickling mixture of jalapeño vinegar and a handful of other spices and seeds which I think should mimic the Korean flavor pallet.  I decided to make only six pounds of the mixture in case this first attempt failed.

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As you can see the end result looks good but will it taste good?  It’s been a week since I completed the batch and I’m about to give it my taste test.  It has that familiar pungent aroma and the level of heat is exactly where I wanted it to be. I’m pleased to announce that the flavor is a little sweet with a serious bite of vinegar. The spice mixture works well with everything else and of course the habaneros are working their magic. I’m a very happy person. This will make an excellent side dish for any meal and could even be used as a relish of sorts for hot dogs, hamburgers, and the  occasional taco. 

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‘Actual Korean Kimchi’

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‘My Version’

I look forward to many meals with this dish as a main component. I do anticipate a few adjustments in future batch’s to increase the heat and to refine the flavor to be closer to the original.  Cooking is such fun.

06-05-2014 Journal Entry–Mexican Food!   Leave a comment

I’ve been a lover of good Mexican food for years and after meeting my better-half (a good old down home Texas girl) and traveling to Texas on a number of occasions I was hooked.  During my recent trip to Dallas I was taken to this Mexican restaurant by my nephew who assured me I would be getting authentic Mexican fish tacos.  I was excited for the meal and as we arrived I could hardly wait.

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True to his word the fish taco’s were to die for.  We ate two huge plates of tacos, chili beans, and rice.  They drizzled an outrageous jalapeño cream sauce over the tacos that was so damn good it makes me hungry just thinking about it.  Four gigantic peach margaritas later and we were destroyed.  We slowly and safely made our way home and sat for hours because we just couldn’t move. 

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They also supplied us with chips and salsa which was good but the Verde sauce was the best.  It was not quite a salsa and not quite a sauce.  It also wasn’t quite hot enough for me so I decided upon my return to Maine to create a version of my own.

My better-half and I made a visit to a local South of the Border restaurant after my return to fulfill my ongoing taco obsession.  It only made me want to create that Verde sauce even more. I thought about it on the way home that night and the next morning I was off to do some early food shopping.

I found the tomatillos, jalapeños, and pickled green chilies to which I added a few spices, some onions, a little jalapeno vinegar and cooked it all until soft.  I threw it into a blender and liquefied it for five minutes and OMG.  My eyes began watering as soon as I took the lid off of the blender.

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Later that day the better-half made a pan of enchiladas over which I sprinkled a cautious amount of the hottest thing I’ve ever created.  It was mean, nasty, smoking hot, and freaking delicious.

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I was able to can almost a dozen jars of this sauce and it will definitely be used sparingly and as often as possible. I’m already planning the next batch so I can turn down the heat a little to make it palatable for all those so-called lovers of hot food who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be able to handle this sauce.

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“The Finished Product”

10-04-2013   Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of both the Cooking and Food channels. Being a huge fan of food makes it almost a requirement. Without a large assortment of food the human race would cease to exist in short order (no pun intended). 

I’ve been a cook for most of my life and to this day maintain a large handwritten recipe book with family recipes and many of my own that I use on a regular basis. Nothing fascinates me more than finding a new dish that I’ve never experienced and attempting to remake it “my way” and then share it with friends.

Needless to say everyone who enjoys cooking thinks their family recipes are the best and that their mothers and grandmothers are the final word on anything food related. I fall into that category myself not so much with my mother’s cooking which was only so-so but with my grandmothers which was sooooo good.

I thought today I’d present you with a short trivia challenge on food and cooking related items. As with any other subject there’s thousands of trivia items available to stump and puzzles us all when it comes to food. Here are 10 that I found somewhat interesting and I hope you do as well. The answers will be posted tomorrow so you can check and see how you’ve done. Have fun with it and then go eat a sandwich.

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1.  In which American city is the greatest amount of ketchup consumed?

2.  Who said: “Never eat more than you can lift”?

3.  What was the first commercially manufactured breakfast cereal?

4.  How many pounds of dry saffron does an acre of crocus plants yield?

5.  Under federal food labeling regulations, how much caffeine must be removed from coffee for it to be called decaffeinated?

6.  What are the five most frequently consumed fruits in the United States?

7.  What snack food commercial was pulled off the air in 1970 because of complaints from an outraged ethnic group?

8.  What popular lunch and snack food did an unidentified St. Louis doctor develop in 1890 for patients requiring an easily digested form of protein?

9.  What do Eskimos use to prevent their food from freezing?

10. What eating utensil was first brought to America in 1630 by Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop, who carried it around with him in a specially made, velvet-lined leather case?

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I selected these questions because I felt they could be answered easily if you just think about them for a moment.  I could be wrong so check back tomorrow.