Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This concludes our vegetable chapter!

*phew* Getting there. Trying hard not to be distracted by NaNoWriMo plans.

Yes, I do know someone whose mother blew the door off a microwave with a squash. I also know two people who have blown up pies (including the glass pie plates). And I, myself, blew up a pizza stone. Cooking can be dangerous.

I feel a little odd writing about steamed vegetables, because I never ever steam veggies. Ugh. I guess I should add that to my to-test list. But still, ugh. Flavorless!

Steamed Vegetables

When food is steamed, it is cooked in a pot with a tight-fitting lid and with a small amount of water. The food is suspended above the water with a steamer basket (or with a plate stacked on a bowl, or other ad hoc device.) The water becomes steam, and the steam cooks the food.

Cooking vegetables in steam is useful if you need to remove all butter and oil from your diet. There are some disadvantages to cooking with steam, however. First, because no oil is used in the cooking, and because no browning of the food occurs, the results will not be as flavorful as sautéing, baking, or broiling. Second, it is easy to overcook foods, because you can’t watch the food to judge its doneness. Third, if all of your water boils away and you continue to heat the pot, you can permanently damage the pot.

With that said, you can treat steaming much like you would treat sautéing (#): use it to cook bite-sized pieces of almost any vegetable. Once cooked, you can season and eat the veggie as a side dish, or store in the refrigerator for a few days to then pop on top of salad (#), toss into a quick pasta (#) or curry (#) or soup (#) or omelette (#) or. . . The sky is the limit!

Baked Vegetables

When you have a half hour to get dinner on the table and want a hands-off way to cook some flavorful veggies, try this. Preheat the oven to 350. With just about any vegetable wash or peel, and cut it into slices about ½ inch thick. Roll these slices in some oil (preferably olive), lay them in a single layer in a casserole dish or a cookie sheet with edges, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 20 minutes.

If you want more veggies, make it two layers thick and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Leafy greens and broccoli don’t cook well by this method, but squash, zucchini, root vegetables, and eggplant do.

Potatoes, of course, are known for being baked whole. You can bake just about any large root vegetable whole. Just be aware that it will take longer to bake a whole vegetable - up to an hour, or longer. Poke a few fork holes in your large vegetables before baking, to prevent it from exploding. (Potatoes don’t usually explode, but when they do, they can make quite a mess.) To bake larger vegetables, see Baked Winter Squash, #, below.

Baked Winter Squash

Cutting raw squash is difficult, so the best way to deal with it is to avoid cutting it as much as possible until it is cooked. With smaller squashes, this means cutting the squash in half, scooping out the seeds, and baking. Bake at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet until a fork easily pierces the squash through the rind. This will take at least 40 minutes. You can cook it cut-side up, or cut-side down. If the squash is to be eaten as a savory dish, sprinkle the cut side with a bit of salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil (preferably olive). Leave off these additions if you intend to use your baked squash for pie.

For larger squashes, such as pumpkins, you need only cut a dime-sized hole all the way into the hollow interior so that it does not explode while cooking. (And make no mistake: a squash will explode if you do not cut a hole in it before cooking. I have heard of a microwave door being blown off by an inexperienced cook messing around with squash.) Once the squash has had a hole cut into it, bake at 350 degrees until easily pierced by a fork. This may take an hour or more. Remove the seeds before serving.

Baked squash can be served as a plain vegetable, topped with brown sugar, salt, pepper, or maple syrup. It can also be served mashed. To mash, scoop the pulp into a pan, add a little water or milk, and mash with a potato masher

A large squash will generally contain more pulp than you will want to eat for dinner. Cooked squash freezes beautifully, however, so you can pop it in the freezer and reheat as needed.

Dishes such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin French toast require pumpkin puree. For this, you need a blender. Simply put pulp and a little water in a blender and blend until you have a paste. This paste can be frozen for later use.

Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are edible, but they are not as tasty as the smaller “sugar pumpkins” which were bred for cooking. Some squashes, such as hubbard squash, taste even better. In fact, if you read the ingredients on a can of “pumpkin”, often you will see that it isn’t actually pumpkin in the can at all, but another sort of squash!

Broiled Vegetables

Broiling is just like baking a single layer of vegetables (See #). The difference is that broiling imparts a grilled flavor.

With just about any vegetable, first wash or peel, and then cut it into slices about ½ inch thick. Roll these slices in some oil (preferably olive), lay them in a single layer in a casserole dish or a cookie sheet with edges, sprinkle with salt and pepper. (If this is your first time broiling, see #) Move the top oven wrack so that the food will be just three or four inches from the heat source. Set the oven to broil, and cook the food until it starts to develop small blackened spots. If necessary, flip the vegetable slices over and repeat.

This method works particularly well with red peppers. In this case, broil the peppers whole. Cook them, turning occasionally, until the outside of the peppers is entirely blackened. Then, in a bowl of water, peel off the burned skins. Discard the stems and seeds, douse the cooked pepper in olive oil, and delight in a tasty Italian treat!

Mashed Potatoes and Other Vegetables

Potatoes are not the only veggie that taste good mashed. Just about any root vegetable can work nicely. You can also mix vegetables. For instance, you can cook a beet along with potatoes to make hot pink mashed potatoes. Mashed yams or sweet potatoes are particularly good.

Scrub or peel your vegetables, and chop them into rough chunks. (The smaller the chunks, the faster they will cook.) Cover with water in a pot, and set them on high heat until the pot boils. (Caution: the starch in root vegetables will make the boiling water more bubbly than normal, and the pot can easily overflow.) Once boiling, turn down the heat just enough to maintain a gentle boil, and let the veggies cook for about 15 minutes. You will know the veggies are done when a fork will go through a piece with little resistance.

Then, drain the water. (You can use the pot lid to hold the veggies in the pot while you pour out the water, if you don’t want an extra dish to wash.) Add a splash of milk or a lump of butter to the pot, and mash with a potato masher. Add salt and pepper to taste. Other spices, such as dried garlic, are also nice to add.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Up past my bedtime. . .

I'm gearing up for NaNoWriMo and distracting myself from this project. Silly me. So I glued my butt to the chair and cranked through a couple more veggie recipes.

Stir-Fried Anything!

Once you have mastered the previous recipe, sautéing multiple kinds of vegetables in the same pan together (#), you can add meat or tofu, and any sort of Asian sauce to the recipe to make a complete stir-fried entrée.

Meat, raw and boneless, cut into bite-sized pieces. Or use cooked meat. Or use baked tofu (#).
Vegetables, cut into bite-sized pieces
Any sort of jarred stir-fry sauce
Any flavorless oil, such as canola.

First, if raw meat is being used, sauté the meat (recipe #) in a little oil until it is fully cooked. Remove the meat from the pan, add a little more oil, and sauté the vegetables (#). When the vegetables are almost, but not quite cooked, add the meat back to the pan, (or add the cold cooked meat or the tofu) and add enough sauce to coat everything. Continue to cook until the vegetables are done. Serve with boiled grain (#).

Sautéed and Steamed leafy greens

Leafy greens tend to be more delicate than other vegetables. With the exception of cabbage, which can hold its own against even some of the most tough root vegetables, leafy greens should generally not be tossed in a sauté pan with other types of vegetables.

Leafy greens range from being so delicate that they are suitable in salads, to cabbage, which needs a fair bit of cooking. Here is a list of some common greens, from tender to tough:

“baby” greens of any sort
Lettuce of any sort
Beet greens

For what to do with raw greens, see Leafy Green Salads, #, or Coleslaw #.

Although the Southern treatment of collard greens might give you the impression that greens need to be cooked until they are mush, leafy greens are actually better for you if cooked with a light hand, cooked only until the leaf has wilted and the color intensified. With the more tender greens (including lettuce, which can, in fact, be cooked) you barely have to introduce the greens to a hot pan in order to cook them.

Greens should be stiff (not limp) and green, with no yellow or brown on the leaves. Some greens, such as kale, have a tough rib in the middle of each leaf that you may want to exclude from your dish. If you don’t use the ribs, you can chop them finely and include them in balls, patties, and loaves (recipe #).

Washing greens can be a hassle. I suggest that you first tear or chop the leaves before putting them in a salad spinner or large bowl. Then fill the bowl with cold tap water. Stir the leaves with your hand - and then using your hand, push the leaves to one side while you pour the water down the sink. (Or if using a salad spinner, lift the basket from the water.)

As you pour out the water, look for grit at the bottom of the bowl. If grit is present, rinse the greens again. Repeat until no more grit comes out of the greens.

Greens can be chopped up however you please, but a particularly nice way to chop them is to roll up a bundle of leaves and then slice the bundle, creating long ribbons of leaf.

Greens that are destined to be cooked can be washed, chopped, and then frozen. Cook frozen greens just as you would fresh greens.

To sauté greens, you need a pan or pot with a tight-fitting lid. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pot on medium heat. Wash the greens, but don’t worry about drying them off. Add them to the pot with water still dripping from the leaves. Begin stirring the greens at once. (Tongs are particularly useful here, but a large spoon will do the trick if your pot isn’t overly full.)

Spinach will wilt at once under this treatment. Be prepared to get the spinach out of the pot immediately when it looks done. Otherwise, you will have mushy, bitter spinach.

Vegetables in the cabbage family (from beet greens to cabbage) will take a bit longer. After a few stirs in the oil, if they start to look dry or stick to the pot, try adding a few tablespoons of water to the pot and putting the lid on, to steam them. Taste them every two or three minutes to judge doneness. And just as with spinach, get them out of the pot when they are cooked.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a side dish, or over toast for breakfast!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back from Vacation

*yawn* I swear I did nothing today but shop for food. I got to chat with Anne Marie at the farmer's market about the cookbook. The book is creeping towards completion. Here is the current state of the veggie section.


If you don’t like vegetables, chances are you were put off from them because as a child you were forced to eat overcooked or canned vegetables. One might as well say “I don’t like music” after having only ever listened to Rosanne Bar sing the National Anthem. If you have so tragically been put off of vegetables, I hope you will give them another chance.

If you need more fiber in your diet, don’t go for boxes of grain-based foods that are advertised as “high fiber”. Eat more vegetables. (Or fruits, or whole grains such as barley - see section #.)

For the most part, cooked vegetables are best when gently and minimally cooked so that the color of the food is intensified, the texture still crisp, and the aroma appetizing. Such minimal cooking will also preserve as much of the vegetable’s nutritional quality as possible. When vegetables are cooked too long, they become gray, squishy, lacking in nutrients, and nasty.

For recipes involving raw vegetables, see the salad section (#).

If you have a vegetable that you have never before cooked or eaten, or if you are new to cooking vegetables, start with the sautéed vegetables recipe (#).

Choosing, Cleaning, and Storing Produce

Fruits and vegetables should be firm and brightly colored. Leaves should be green (no yellow or brown spots) and stiff. A vegetable that is squishy, limp, or fading in color is going to taste poorly and won’t have many nutrients. A vegetable that has any mold on it should be thrown away.

Most fruits and vegetables keep best in the refrigerator, with some exceptions. Bananas should not be refrigerated. Nor should tomatoes, because cold temperatures cause them to lose their flavor. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, and onions can be kept in the refrigerator, but will also do well in a cool, dark cupboard. Winter squashes and pumpkins can be stored for months in any cool place that doesn’t freeze.

All produce should be washed or peeled before being cooked or eaten, even if it was grown organically. Root vegetables should either be peeled, or scrubbed with a scrub-brush or a clean scrubbing sponge. (Scrubbing sponges can be put through the clothes washer in hot water to clean them.) Leafy greens need to be submerged in a bowl full of water to remove grit. Pour the rinse-water out and examine the bottom of the bowl for grit; if any remains, rinse again.

After washing, leafy greens can be chopped and stored in the freezer if they are eventually going to be cooked. However, and greens that are destined to become salad should not be frozen, because the leaves will become limp when they thaw.

Sautéed Vegetables

Sautéing (or stir-frying; see ##) is possibly the best way to get to know an unfamiliar veggie. Sautéing brings out the flavor in food quickly. And, importantly, when you sauté vegetables, you can taste them as you cook.

If the vegetable that you wish to cook is a leafy green, skip to recipe #.

1 or 2 cups of almost any vegetable, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pinch of salt
A sprinkle of black pepper
1 tablespoon of oil, preferably olive

Heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Toss in the vegetables, salt, and pepper. Give them a stir every thirty seconds or so. As you cook, periodically taste what you are cooking. Note how the texture and taste change. When the texture and flavor seem to be at their best, remove the pan from the heat, and as quickly as possible, get the veggies out of that hot pan!

Many a vegetable dish has been overcooked because it has been left sitting in a hot pan. For particularly delicate vegetables, such as broccoli, you may want to get the vegetables off of the hot pan before they have reached their peak of texture and flavor, because even out of the pan, they will briefly continue to cook.

Once you have mastered sautéing a single vegetable, the next step is sautéing multiple kinds of vegetables in the same pan together. (#)

Sautéing Multiple Kinds of Vegetables in the Same Pan Together

For a more complex side dish, multiple vegetables can be cooked together in the same pan. Some vegetables take longer to cook than others, so you must approach this with a bit of a strategy. Firstly, don’t try this with an unfamiliar vegetable. (Try the sautéed vegetable recipe, #, above, to familiarize yourself with the vegetable first.)

1 or 2 cups of almost any vegetable, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces. Keep the different vegetables separate.
1 pinch of salt
A sprinkle of black pepper
1 tablespoon of oil, preferably olive

Start off by noting which of your vegetables will take longer to cook. You will add the vegetables to the pan in order from those which will take the longest to cook, to those which will take the shortest. It takes some practice to know exactly when to add in each new vegetable. Don’t be disheartened when you end up with perfect carrots and overdone broccoli - call it a learning experience, and try again next time!

You can jazz up a mixed pan of veggies even further by first adding some chopped onion to the hot oil, and then adding some chopped garlic. And to get fancier still, see the recipe for stir-fried anything (#)!

The following is a short list of common vegetables listed from long cooking times to short:

Bean sprout
Peas (frozen)

Once you are comfortable sautéing multiple vegetables in the same pan, you can proceed to the recipe Stir-Fried Anything! (#) to make a quick main dish in one pan.

Stir-Fried Anything!

Once you have mastered the previous recipe, sautéing multiple kinds of vegetables in the same pan together (#), you can add meats, beans, and/or sauces to the recipe to make a complete stir-fried entrée.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Rolling right along now! My list of recipes that I have yet to test is down to a reasonably small size. I'm at the point where I am happy to abandon recipes that were taking too much research time, such as kale chips. I just couldn't replicate my one success with that recipe.


Everything in moderation, including moderation! Here are some desserts and naughty snack foods that offer some “good for you” ingredients, while still being decadent.

Oatmeal Cookies (or Oatmeal Bars)
(quick treat, or make in advance)

This recipe makes about 25 cookies. Cookies can be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for several weeks, and even longer in the refrigerator or freezer. When you make your own cookies, you know exactly what is in them, and you can tinker with them to make them a little more healthful, if you desire, by adding such things as dried fruits or nuts.

1 stick of butter
3/4 cup brown (or white) sugar
1 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups oats (rolled or quick)
(optional) 1 cup raisins, other chopped dried fruit, or chopped nuts
(optional)1 tsp vanilla
(optional) ½ tsp cinnamon or other pumpkin pie spices
¼ tsp salt

Let the butter and eggs come to room temperature. (If you are in a hurry, put the wrapped sticks of butter under your clothes, against your skin for a few minutes!) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the butter is soft (but not melted) put it in a mixing bowl along with the sugar. Use a fork to “cream” the butter. This means that you smash the butter through the tines of the fork, mixing it with the sugar as you go. Do this until the butter and the sugar are combined.

“Creaming the butter” is the most difficult step in making many baked goods. It can be done with an electric mixer, if you have one. The reason that the butter can’t be too soft in cookie recipes is because melted butter will cause the cookies to be too flat and too crispy.

To the creamed butter, add the eggs and vanilla, stirring until the eggs are beaten and thoroughly mixed in. Then add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, mixing well. Next, add the oats. The mixture will be very dry, and you may have to mash it with your hands to work in all of the oats. Lastly, add the optional dried fruit or nuts by pressing them into the dough with our hands.

Spoon out rounded tablespoons full of this mixture onto an ungreased baking sheet. As they bake, these little balls will melt and expand into the size and shape of cookies, so leave enough room for them to grow!

Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes. You will want to remove them from the oven when they still seem undercooked, because they will continue to firm up after being removed from the oven. As soon as you can use a spatula to remove them from the baking sheet without breaking them, move the cookies to a plate so that they can cool.

This mixture can also be made into bars. Simply pour the cookie dough into an ungreased 13 by 9 inch baking pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Energy Bars, a.k.a. Rice Crispy Treats Gone Wild

This recipe is a variant on one that is a favorite of cyclist and Tour de France rider Christian Vande Velde. Essentially, it’s a Rice Krispy treat, but it has a lot more fun stuff in it. Substitute in your favorite dried fruits and nuts, and take it with you instead of a prepackaged energy bar with unpronounceable ingredients.

Note: if you plan to take these along on a hot bicycle ride, don’t use chocolate chips. They’ll melt in your pocket and make a mess!

4 cups of any puffed grain cereal, such as Rice Krispies
1 ½ cups dried fruit
1 cup of seeds or chopped nuts (try a combination!) and/or chocolate chips
½ cup tahini or peanut butter
½ cup brown or white sugar
½ cup honey or maple syrup

First, coat a large chopping board or large casserole dish or large plate with butter. Find a water glass or a clean jar with a flat bottom, and butter the bottom of this as well. Then combine the cereal, fruit, and seeds/nuts/chocolate in a large bowl. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey/maple syrup, sugar, and peanut butter/tahini. Stir the sugar mixture constantly so that it does not burn. When it bubbles, pour then liquid over the dry ingredients and stir until coated.

Watch out: hot sugar can cause nasty burns! Use caution if children are helping to make this recipe.

Transfer the gooey mass of stuff onto the buttered surface. Then, use the buttered flat bottom of the jar or the glass to smash it out into a flat shape. Once it’s about ¾ inch thick, leave it to cool for an hour or so. Then slice with a knife, and store in an airtight container.

Cinnamon Toast (quick treat)

This is a great treat for children. First, lightly toast some sliced bread. Butter the bread liberally, then put it on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle it lavishly with brown or white sugar, and cinnamon (or Pumpkin Pie spices, recipe #). Cook this under the broiler until the butter and sugar bubble. (Or use the toaster, if you have a toaster oven.) Remove from the heat and let cool before serving.

Caution: When using a broiler with bread, you will need to stand and watch, because when it starts to brown, bread will very quickly start to smoke and blacken. Make sure that small children are out of the room, because you must cook on high heat with the oven door partly open. Always pull out the oven rack to get to the bread. Do not reach under the hot oven element.

Hot Chocolate (quick treat)

Packets of hot chocolate are expensive. Instead, keep a jar of baking cocoa in the cupboard. For each serving, you will need:

1 cup milk
1 tbsp baking cocoa
1 tbsp brown or white sugar, or honey, or maple syrup
(optional) flavorings: mint extract, almond extract, vanilla, cinnamon
(optional) marshmallows

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir the milk occasionally until it is too warm to dip your finger into. (Or use the microwave - but be warned that your milk may unexpectedly boil and spill out all over the microwave. Don‘t test the heat with your finger.) Then whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Continue to stir and heat until the hot chocolate is just starting to steam. Add optional flavorings. Pour into mugs, and add marshmallows.

Pouring from a pan usually results in a mess. You can minimize the damage by pouring over the sink, and by pouring down the back of a spoon, to direct where the liquid goes.

Dessert Bread Pudding
(cook in advance)

This dessert recipe is great for using up stale bread. If your bread isn’t stale, toast it first.

6 cups of torn-up stale or toasted bread (6 slices of sandwich bread)
6 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
3 tbsp butter
2/3 cup brown sugar (or white sugar, or ½ cup maple syrup)
1 tsp cinnamon (or other pumpkin pie spices)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 dash of salt
½ cup chopped pecans or other nuts (optional)
½ cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)

Put the torn bread into a large casserole dish. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar, beating together with a fork or whisk. Then add the milk a little at a time, continuing to stir. (The cinnamon needs to be persuaded not to form lumps.) Add the eggs, and beat them in. Melt the butter before adding. Add the vanilla and salt.

Pour the wet mixture over the bread. Use your fingers to dunk any bread that remains dry. Bake until firm, which may take an hour or longer, or until the center of the pudding reaches 160 degrees.

If you cook this in a loaf pan, then cook the loaf pan on top of a cookie sheet to catch the overflow.

If you wish to make this dessert even sweeter, reduce the above sugar by half, and top with the following sauce:

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/3 cup white sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of salt

Melt the butter in a small pan, and whisk in the flour. Give the flour a couple of minutes to cook, and then add the milk. Boil this for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Then allow to cool a bit, and add the salt and vanilla. Pour over the warm bread pudding, and serve.

Fruity Bread Pudding (milk-free)

This dessert bread pudding is pure comfort food. It’s as tasty as pie without all of the work. And, oddly, since most bread puddings are based on a custard of milk and eggs, this recipe contains no milk. Eat it hot or cold, by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This makes enough for about four hungry people.

1 20 ounce can of pineapple, peach, or other canned fruit, plus the liquid from the can
3 or 4 cups torn-up stale bread
2 eggs
¼ cup butter
½ cup sugar
(optional) 1 diced banana, apple, pear, or other fresh fruit
(optional) ½ cup raisins or other dried fruit, or nuts or seeds
(optional) pumpkin-pie spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon

If the canned fruit is in large pieces, cut it up into bite-sized chunks. Beat together the eggs, sugar, and the liquid from the canned fruit. Combine this with the bread, fruit, and optional ingredients. If the bread is particularly dry, give it ten minutes to soak up the liquid, stirring once or twice. Then put the mixture into a baking dish and bake at 350 until the pudding is firm all the way through, or when the center reaches 165 degrees.

I Love My Veggie Burgers!

We ran out of carnivore products tonight, so I had to wing it. Although Chris was decidedly "meh" about this meatless creation, I liked it. And Gabe not only devoured his portion, but ate half of what was on Chris's plate as well. So, I am adding it to the Balls, Patties, and Loaves section.

Veggie Burgers

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy veggie burgers! This recipe was a hit with my three-year-old. As with the other recipes in this section, this can be made as balls, patties, or as a loaf. Try it with a side of reheated grains (recipe #) and topped with Instant Drizzle (#).

1 zucchini, grated small
2 eggs
4 oz grated cheese
¾ cup canned or frozen beans (recipe #)
½ cup or more breadcrumbs
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
(optional) some chopped onion, garlic, and/or spices - whatever you like! See the spices section (#) for ideas.

If using canned beans, drain them. If you have time, chop the beans up a bit; if not, just add them whole. Squeeze the water out of the grated zucchini before mixing it with the beans, eggs, cheese, and optionals. Add breadcrumbs ¼ cup at a time, until the mixture clings to itself and can hold whatever shape you press it into. Heat some oil in a frying pan on medium, and cook as patties for about 8 minutes on each side.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Breakfast Chapter

This stuff is going to need a more careful third iteration, but at least it's coming together at a fast clip.


Breakfast, tragically, is all too often breakfast cereals, which are expensive and full of refined carbohydrates and tons of added sugar. Runner-ups for bad breakfast ideas include oatmeal (which is a wonderful food on its own) that comes in little packets (again, expensive, and full of sugar), single servings of flavored yogurt (another wonder food that contains obscene quantities of sugar, and is expensive), “breakfast bars” (again, expensive and loaded with sugar)

Meals of this sort are a wasted opportunity to eat whole grains, fruits, and especially vegetables. All of that added sugar leaves people hungry for snacks halfway to lunch, and leads to terrible health problems.

For egg recipes, see the Egg section (#). For toast, see recipe #. For a Southern breakfast gravy, see recipe #.


Plain yogurt is an exceptionally nutritious food, and has a refreshingly tangy flavor that pairs nicely with fruit. A bowl of diced fruit topped with yogurt makes a great breakfast. Toss in uncooked oats or nuts for some crunch. If you like a sweeter yogurt, drizzle some honey or maple sugar on top, or add a spoonful or two of jelly.


If you have fruit, yogurt, and a blender, you can make a smoothie - just toss diced fruit in with the yogurt, and blend. If the mixture needs to be wetter in order to blend well, add a splash of milk, water, or juice. Want it colder? Add ice. Sweeter? Add sugar, honey, maple syrup, or jelly.

Want to sneak some vegetables into your smoothie? Add a little kale, or other greens. (This is particularly easy if you have some washed and chopped in your freezer.) Got half a can of pumpkin puree left over from yesterday’s Pumpkin French Toast? Add that. Or add raw, scrubbed carrot.

Almost any smoothie can be improved in its consistency by adding a banana, if you happen to like banana.

Cold Cereal

If you can’t bear to part with breakfast cereals entirely, but want a healthier or more filling breakfast, you can try combining your boxed cereal with oats, which are delicious raw. Other things you can add are dried fruit (cut into small pieces, if necessary) and nuts (cut or smash them up, if you like.) For convenience, all of these things can be mixed together in a Tupperware box and kept in the cupboard.

(quick meal)

Oates are one of the best possible things you can eat. They are highly nutritious and high in fiber. Oates are edible both raw and cooked. Oats come in “rolled” and “quick” varieties - quick oats being rolled

This is how to make a single serving of oatmeal in the microwave. Oatmeal can also be cooked on the stove top.

Rolled or quick oats
Milk or water
(optional) pinch of salt
(optional) sweeteners such as sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses
(optional) pumpkin pie spices, such as cinnamon or cloves
(optional) dried fruit, such as raisins, dried apple, chopped prunes, dried cranberries
(optional) chopped nuts or seeds, such as pecans, or flax seeds

To make a single serving of oatmeal in the microwave, put the desired amount of oats into the bowl, along with whatever optionals you want. Pour just enough water or milk over the oats to cover them, and stir. Microwave for a minute or two, until the oatmeal softens and absorbs the liquid. If the oatmeal is too solid, add more liquid. Add additional optionals to taste.

Oatmeal can also be topped with yogurt or fresh fruit.

Toddlers love oatmeal. Fix it with less water so that the oatmeal has a doughy consistency, give it a few minutes to cool, and it can then be eaten by toddlers as finger food - or it will stick helpfully to the spoon.

Universal Pancakes (quick meal)

Contrary to popular belief, in baking, it is not necessary to measure out ingredients exactly. As long as you don’t mind your baked goods turning out a bit differently from one batch to the next, it is perfectly acceptable (and fun!) to improvise with ingredients and quantities. This is especially true of pancakes. You can use what you have on hand - from leftover oatmeal, chopped or pureed fruits, and even some vegetables.

For best results, mix together all of the dry ingredients first. Then stir in the wet ingredients, just to the point that the batter contains a few lumps, and cook immediately. The batter should be just wet enough that it can be slowly poured. If it is too dry, add more liquid; if too wet, add more flour.

At their most basic, pancakes need only two ingredients, in approximately the following ratio:

1 cup flour (of any sort, but whole wheat is preferable)
1 cup liquid

For the liquid, milk is traditional. However, you can also use fruit juice, or pureed fruit or vegetables (such as canned pumpkin). Combinations work well.

But by themselves, those two ingredients make tasteless pancakes. For more flavor, add the following:

1 tsp sugar (of any sort)
1 pinch of salt
a bit of vanilla or pumpkin pie spices

To add protein, add:

1 egg

To reduce sticking on pans which don’t have a non-stick surface, add:

2 tbsp oil or melted butter

For lighter, fluffier pancakes, add:

1 tsp baking powder (or baking soda, if an acidic ingredient such as orange juice or honey is used)

Add flavor and get more nutrition by adding:

1 cup canned, pureed, or grated pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, beet, turnip or other vegetable, or mashed banana (overly ripe bananas are even better!), or grated apple or pear. Or add a cup of cooked oatmeal.

Finally, you can add extra chunks to the batter, or sprinkle them into the still-gooey pancakes after you have poured the batter onto the griddle:

Up to 1 cup chopped nuts, seeds, chopped fresh or dried fruit, fresh or frozen berries.

Heat the griddle or pan on medium heat. Flick a few drops of water on the surface of the pan to gauge the temperature. When the drops of water skitter around on the pan, the temperature is just right for cooking pancakes. (Water drops that just sit there indicate that the pan is too cold, and water drops that evaporate immediately indicate the pan is too hot.)

Pour the batter into pancake-sized dollops on the griddle. After five minutes, use a spatula to lift one pancake. If the pancake is browned underneath, flip all of the pancakes over, and continue to cook until both sides are browned.

Pancakes can be kept warm on a plate in the oven at the oven’s lowest setting. Serve with butter, maple syrup, honey, or jelly.

Pancakes can also be frozen to save for later. Use parchment paper between pancakes to keep them from sticking together when frozen. Frozen pancakes can be reheated in a toaster or under the broiler.

Breakfast Bread Pudding
(cook in advance)

This casserole makes a filling meal for a whole family. Only the eggs, milk, and bread are necessary - everything else can be substituted with other things or left out. This recipe is also good for hiding vegetables in, if you have picky children to feed.

The necessary parts:
6 cups of torn-up stale or toasted bread (6 slices of sandwich bread)
6 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
(optional) Other spices of your choice, including sage, rosemary, cumin, garlic, or whatever sounds good.

(Optional) Add up to two cups of any of the following:
ham, cooked chicken (recipe #), cooked bacon (recipe #), cooked sausage (recipe #), or other cooked meat
Cheese, grated or cut into cubes
Chopped or grated vegetables, including onion, summer or winter squash, greens, or peas

Mix together all of the ingredients, and pour into a loaf pan (which will be filled to overflowing) or casserole dish. Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour if you use a loaf pan, or 30 minutes if you use a casserole dish. The pudding is done when it has become solid all the way through the middle, and a sharp knife stuck in the middle comes out mostly clean. To take the guesswork out, you can also use a thermometer. The pudding will be done when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Cook this casserole over a cookie sheet to catch any overflow.

French Toast

French toast is the perfect way to use up stale sliced bread, or sliced bread that may have been in the freezer a bit too long, warmed up in the toaster, or otherwise thawed. Exact measurements aren’t necessary. For a very small batch of French toast, whisk together:

1 egg
½ to 1 cup of milk
A pinch of salt
(optional) pumpkin pie spices (recipe #) or a dash of vanilla

Heat a griddle or pan on medium heat. Flick a few drops of water on the surface of the pan to gauge the temperature. When the drops of water skitter around on the pan, the temperature is just right for cooking French toast. (Water drops that just sit there indicate that the pan is too cold, and water drops that evaporate immediately indicate the pan is too hot.)

Melt a tablespoon of butter onto the pan, if it isn’t non-stick, and then place the soggy bread on the pan. After five minutes, use a spatula to lift one. If the French toast is browned underneath, flip all of the toast over, and continue to cook until both sides are browned.

French toast can be kept warm on a plate in the oven at the oven’s lowest setting. Serve with butter, maple syrup, honey, or jelly.

French toast can also be frozen to save for later. Use parchment paper between the slices of toast to keep them from sticking together when frozen. Frozen French toast can be reheated in a toaster or under the broiler.

Pumpkin French Toast (quick meal)

This variant on French toast uses canned pumpkin, or canned squash, or canned sweet potato, or home-made versions of any of these. The added sugar and pumpkin-pie spices will give this the flavor of pumpkin pie. Use the French Toast recipe and the following ingredients:

About ½ loaf stale, fresh, or thawed bread
½ of a 15-0z can of pumpkin
1 egg
½ to 1 cup milk
Pumpkin pie seasonings of any sort (optional)
1 tsp brown or white sugar (optional)
1 pinch of salt

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sauces Chapter!

Sauces and Gravies

A piece of meat, a serving of boiled grains, and a sautéed vegetable can sit on a plate together and be a lovely meal. But add a sauce, and this meal of individual elements can be elevated to something more unified and divine.

Instant Drizzle

This sauce is so easy to make, it feels like cheating. Drizzle this on fish patties (recipe #), baked chicken (recipe #), meatloaf (recipe #), sautéed vegetables (recipe #), or even hamburgers (recipe #).

1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp yellow or Dijon mustard

Whisk these together. Then use it as a dip, or a spread, or for a fancy effect, drizzle it over your food before serving.

Universal Gravy

This recipe can be used to make many different sorts of gravies and sauces. The combination of a fat, flour, and liquid is also used to make the sauce in many sorts of stews (recipes # and #).

1 tbsp fat, such as butter, bacon grease, chicken fat, or oil
1 tbsp flour
1 cup liquid, such as chicken stock, beef stock, milk, or tomato sauce. (Use less for a thicker sauce, or more for stew liquid.)
Salt (omit the salt if using a salty broth)
Other spices (optional)

In a skillet on medium heat, heat the fat until it is melted and hot. Add the flour, and whisk it around for a few minutes. Then add the liquid, continuing to whisk. Bring the sauce to a boil and then continue to simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. (It will thicken even more after it cools.) Season to taste with pepper and salt. (Though salt may not be necessary if you started with a salty broth from a can or made from bullion.)

Thick Beef Gravy (quick ingredient)

2 tbsp of fat from beef pan drippings, or drippings from cooked hamburger, or butter or oil
2 tbsp flour
1 cup beef broth

Follow the Universal Gravy directions (recipe #).

Chicken Gravy (quick ingredient)

2 tbsp chicken fat, butter, or oil
2 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth (recipe #)
(optional) 1 cup milk

Follow the Universal Gravy directions (recipe #). Add milk to make the gravy Southern-style.

Southern Breakfast Gravy (quick ingredient)

This, served over toast or biscuits, makes a hearty Southern breakfast.

2 tbsp butter, or bacon or breakfast sausage drippings
2 tbsp flour
1 ½ cups milk
½ to 1 cup cooked, chopped bacon (recipe #) or breakfast sausage (recipe #) (optional)

Follow the Universal Gravy directions (recipe #). OR, cook some chopped bacon or sausage until done, remove some of the fat from the pan if necessary, and then continue making the gravy in the pan without removing the meat. Add lots of pepper for a traditional Southern taste. Serve immediately. When reheating leftovers, add a little more milk.

Enchilada Sauce (quick ingredient)

Use this with reheated chicken, tortillas, and some grated cheese to make quick soft tacos.

1 tbsp chicken fat, butter, or oil
1 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth (recipe #)
1 cup tomato sauce, OR 2 tbsp tomato paste and ½ cup water or chicken broth
(optional) minced onion or garlic, as much as you like.
1 tsp cumin
hot pepper to taste

Sauté the optional onion in the fat, add the optional garlic, and then follow the Universal Gravy directions (recipe #). Season to taste.

Cheese Sauce
(quick meal ingredient)

Cheese sauce is a good topping for pasta or vegetables. Use it to make that all-time favorite, mac-n-cheese (recipe #).

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 cup grated cheese (any kind)

Follow the instructions for Universal Gravy (recipe #). Remove the pan from the heat. Then, when the sauce has stopped boiling, sprinkle in the cheese and stir until melted. Do not boil the sauce once it contains cheese, or the cheese will curdle into unfortunate lunps.

Basic Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes
(prepare in advance)

When tomatoes are in season, it’s a great time to buy lots. Save them for year-round recipes by turning them into tomato sauce. Tomato sauce freezes beautifully. You will need freezer bags or plastic boxes for this.

You may want to peel your tomatoes first, for a smooth sauce, but this step is optional.

You may want to leave your sauce unseasoned if you are making lots for later. Then, when you thaw out individual containers of sauce, you can try out different spices. Tomato sauce can be used for more than just pasta: Mexican and Indian dishes are just two other types of food that can be made with tomato sauce. (recipes # and #)Tomato sauce can also go into soups (recipe #) and stews (recipe #), or can be used to braise pot roast (recipe #) or smaller pieces of meat (recipe #).

lots of tomatoes
a little bit of oil

You will need two pots on the stove, a bowl of cold water, and a slotted spoon. Start by filling the smaller pot with water and setting it to boil. In the larger pot, which will be your sauce pot, put a few tablespoons of oil and set to a medium heat.

Place as many washed tomatoes in the boiling water as will fit. Watch for their skin to split. Once the skin splits, use the slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes into the bowl of cold water. (You can use ice to keep the water cold, or refill from the tap as necessary.)

Once the tomatoes in the cold water have cooled enough to handle, squeeze the tomato out of its skin and into the sauce pot. Discard the skin. Repeat, until you have peeled them all (or you have filled your sauce pot.)

If you decide to make sauce with the tomato skins on, just put the washed tomatoes directly into the sauce pot, and start cooking them.

Stir the tomatoes and continue to cook them until they are soft enough to be mashed with a potato masher. When they are mashed to your satisfaction, the sauce is done. Let it cool before going in the freezer. Or, you can add whatever seasonings that you like, and eat it right away.

If you prefer a thicker sauce, continue to simmer the pot with the lid off, stirring occasionally, for up to several hours.

Marinara Sauce
(quick meal)

Marinara sauce is the standard Italian tomato sauce that is served over pasta. Here are some variations:

Marinara from Canned Tomatoes. Combine one small can of tomato paste with one or several cans of crushed, diced, or whole canned tomatoes. Heat on the stove or microwave. Add Italian spices and season to taste. Serve over pasta.

Marinara from Frozen Basic Tomato Sauce. Thaw out the desired amount of your home made tomato sauce (recipe #) either in the microwave, or on the counter or in the refrigerator. Heat on the stove or microwave. Add Italian spices and season to taste. Serve over pasta.

Marinara with Ground Meat. Sauté the ground meat of your choice in a little oil until browned (recipe #). Add chopped onion or garlic if you desire. Add to this one small can of tomato paste with one or several cans of crushed, diced, or whole canned tomatoes. Add Italian spices and season to taste. Serve over pasta.

Marinara with Vegetables. Sauté the chopped vegetables of your choice in a little oil until slightly wilted. Add to this one small can of tomato paste with one or several cans of crushed, diced, or whole canned tomatoes. Add Italian spices and season to taste. Serve over pasta.

Tomato-Paste Pizza Sauce

If you are making pizza, either from scratch, from store-bought dough, or if you are making pizza bread, you can use marinara sauce as your pizza sauce. However, marinara sauce is a bit watery as a pizza topping. This recipe makes a thicker sauce that is less likely to leave your crust soggy.

Usually when vegetables are canned, they lose nutrition. Tomatoes are an exception to this rule, however, and tomato paste is the most nutrient-rich form of tomatoes you can find!

1 small can tomato paste
¼ cup water
Dried or minced garlic to taste
Dried or minced onion to taste
Other Italian herbs to taste, such as oregano or basil
(optional) sugar to taste

Mix all of the ingredients, then use in your pizza recipe.

Meat Chapter

Universal meat recipes! Carnivores, rejoice!

Meats (and Fish)

This section deals with just about any type of meat that you might want to cook. This does include chicken, However, for whole chicken, or bone-in chicken, see the chicken section (#).

Sautéing, Pan-Frying, and Stir-Frying Meats and Fish

Just about any sort of meat can be cooked in a pan, provided it is cut into flat strips (such as steaks) or smaller pieces. Steaks, pork chops, or boneless chicken breasts can be cooked in this manner (however pork chops tend to get dry, so for a better pork chop recipe, try braising the meat (recipe #)). Bite-sized pieces of meat can quickly be cooked through in this manner, and then turned into fajitas (recipe #), beef stroganoff (recipe #), or stir-fry (recipe #); or the meat can be just partly cooked (to add a bit of extra flavor) and then finished in a curry or stew (recipe #) or soup (recipe #), or braised (recipe #).

Simply put the pan on medium heat, add a teaspoon or two of oil (to prevent sticking), and add the meat. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper if you like. Then watch as the color of the meat starts to change around the edges. When this change gets about halfway up the meat, flip the meat over and continue cooking for about the same amount of time. Then cut one of the larger pieces of meat in half to make sure that the interior of the meat no longer has the color of raw meat. (However, beef steaks, unlike most other meats, are typically safe to eat when still pink in the middle.)

Some things to keep in mind: the flavor of the meat will be most intense where it has become browned and crusty. If the meat is too crowded, or if a lid is put on the pan, then the meat will steam instead of browning, and it won’t taste or look as good.

Small pieces of meat can be tossed around the pan a bit with a spoon or spatula, if you don’t want to fuss with turning over each individual bite-sized piece of meat. But do try to let them sit undisturbed for the first few minutes in the pan, so that at least one side of each piece has that nice browned surface.

Fish needs a particularly light touch when cooking, as it cooks fast and overcooks easily. When the fish breaks apart into flakes at the touch of a fork, it is cooked.

Browned Ground Meat (ingredient)

“Browning” ground beef means putting the meat in a hot pan and cooking it until it is cooked through, and somewhat crumbly. Browned ground meat is an ingredient that can be used in such recipes as chili (recipe #), tacos (recipe #), marinara sauce (recipe #), and beef stroganoff (recipe #). For other ground meat recipes, see the Balls, Patties, and Loaves section (recipe #).

Ground meats ideally should be used or frozen within 24 hours. Frozen ground meat should be thawed in the refrigerator (or the microwave), and once thawed, used immediately. Never thaw ground meat by leaving it out at room temperature. Always fully cook ground meats (no pink beef!). Ground meats are particularly dangerous because any pathogens which were on the surface of the meat (where they would have more easily been neutralized by cooking) have been mixed evenly throughout the meat.

Ground beef comes in different varieties, made up of different parts of the cow. Generally, the fat content is printed on the label. And generally, the cheaper the ground beef, the more fat it contains. When you cook ground beef, the fat will “render out”, becoming grease. For most recipes, you will want to drain this out of the ground beef so that the meat browns properly, and so your leftover chili or marinara sauce doesn’t end up with an unappetizing layer of grease congealed on top.

Uncooked sausage can be squeezed out of its casing and browned just like any other ground meat. Like fatty ground beef, some types of raw sausage (such as spicy or mild Italian sausage) will have a bit of fat that renders out while cooking.

For just about any other type of ground meat (sirloin, pork, turkey, chicken, and even buffalo) there likely won’t be much fat to render out. So when browning these meats, use a bit of oil in the pan to keep the meat from sticking.

To brown ground meat, put a pan on medium heat, add a teaspoon or two of oil (or leave out the oil if you are using fatty hamburger), and add the thawed ground meat. Then use a spoon to chop up the lump of meat and spread it around in smaller lumps in the pan. Continue to periodically stir the meat and break the chunks into smaller bits until all of the meat is brown and crumbly. Check for doneness by breaking open the largest lump of meat in the pan. The interior of the lump should no longer have the color of the raw meat.

Keep this in mind when browning ground meat: if the meat is over-crowded in the pan, or if a lid is put on the pan, the meat will steam instead of forming a brown, flavorful crust. Steamed meat is gray and less tasty, but still perfectly safe to eat.

To drain fat from ground beef, periodically tilt the pan, and scoop out the liquid fat with a spoon. Do not pour this hot grease down the sink, because it will clog the sink! Instead, spoon this fat into a bowl and leave it to sit on the counter until it cools and solidifies. Then, discard it in the trash, or save it, sealed and refrigerated, for up to a week, for use in gravy or to sauté vegetables.

Ground meat can be jazzed up by seasoning with salt and pepper, or, better still, by cooking it with some minced onion or garlic.


Bacon is a cured meat, but it can still carry dangerous pathogens, and so must be cooked to eat.

Cooking bacon is just like browning ground beef that contains a lot of fat: use a pan on medium heat, and periodically scoop out the rendered fat. Lay the strips of bacon side-by-side in the pan, and flip them over every couple of minutes. When the bacon starts to get a bit crispy, lift it out of the pan and (to soak up some of the grease) onto paper towels.

Do not pour the scooped-out grease down the sink, because it will clog the sink! Instead, spoon this fat into a bowl and leave it to sit on the counter until it cools and solidifies. Then, discard it in the trash, or save it, sealed and refrigerated, for up to a week, for use in gravy or to sauté vegetables.


Sausages come in two types: cooked, and uncooked. Cooked sausages, such as hotdogs, only need to be heated because they taste better hot. These types of sausage will typically say “fully cooked” somewhere on the label. Fully-cooked sausages can typically be kept a few weeks unopened in the refrigerator (check the expiration date) or indefinitely in the freezer. You can heat a cooked sausage just about any way you like: in the microwave, in boiling water, under the broiler, or in a pan with a bit of oil. Frozen cooked sausages can be tossed directly into hot water for heating, and may cook up decently well with any of these heating methods.

Raw sausages, such as Italian sausage, are typically sold alongside ground meat in the butcher section of the store. These sausages need to be cooked or frozen within 24 hours, because, like any ground meat, surface contaminants on the meat have been thoroughly mixed up into the sausage. Raw sausage can be cooked by any method, so long as the sausage is cooked all the way through. Check for doneness by cutting a sausage open and inspecting it on the inside. There should be no hint of raw meat color on the inside of the sausage.

For a more flavorful sausage, cook the sausage in a pan like any whole meat (recipe #), or cook it under the broiler (section #).

In addition to being cooked whole, the sausage meat can be squeezed out of the casing (the tube) and cooked like ground meat (recipe #). You can use this method to cook up spicy or mild Italian sausage for marinara sauce (recipe #) or to add to a bean-and-kale soup (recipe #), or to cook up a breakfast sausage to add to southern-style gravy (recipe #).

Braised Meats

Ironically, because Americans have been on a low-fat craze for a few decades, the pigs we eat now have been bred to be particularly low in fat. For this reason, pork chops tend to become dried out and awful when cooked in a pan like steak. To compensate for this, when cooking pork chops, after browning them just a little (recipe #) add some water and chopped fruit to the pan, and cook at a medium or low heat with the lid on. This steams and boils the meat which keeps the meat moist. This technique should work for any type of meat. For braising larger pieces of meat, see the Pot Roast recipe, #.

For braising pork chops, pear and onion are a particularly tasty combination. Apples also work well. Canned fruit and its liquid should work nicely, too. Or dried fruit, plus extra water to rehydrate it. Tomato and onion, or tomato and olives and work nicely with just about any meat.

When the pork chops are cooked through, you can mash up (or blenderize) the cooked fruit and use it as a sauce. Don’t hesitate to throw in spices, such as curry or pumpkin pie spices (recipe #).

Pot Roast (cook in advance)

Pot roast takes several hours to cook, but is very easy to make. This method takes a tough piece of meat, such as a chuck roast, and slowly cooks in a little liquid (also known as braising, see recipe #) until it is tender, moist, and flavorful. This is a great recipe for cooking in advance on a weekend. Not only is pot roast good with side dishes like mashed potatoes or broccoli, but leftover pot roast can be frozen and reheated, or used to make chili, sliced for sandwiches, or added to soup or other dishes.

Pot roast requires a large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. It can be cooked on the stove top, or, if the pot is oven-proof (made entirely of metal) in the oven. If your pot is thin, the oven method may still work.

The larger the piece of meat, the longer it will take to cook.

You will not need a meat thermometer for this recipe. The meat is done when it comes apart with a fork - which means it is well in the safe temperature range. However, a meat thermometer can help prevent the meat from being overcooked. If the meat is cooked for too long, or at too high a temperature, it will be dry.

2 to 4 pounds of chuck roast, or other tough piece of meat.
1 tbsp oil
1 onion
½ to2 cups of a liquid (or a combination of liquids), such as tomato juice or sauce, a small can of tomatoes with the water included, red wine, beef stock or broth, etc.
(optional) 4 cloves of garlic
(optional) chopped vegetables, such as carrot, potato, or parsnip.

Sprinkle all sides of the meat with salt and pepper. If you like garlic, cut the garlic into quarters, poke some holes in each side of the roast with a knife, and insert the garlic into the holes. If you are using the oven rather than the stove top, preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

On the stove, heat the oil in the pot on medium to medium-high heat. Brown each side of the meat in the oil - this will take about three minutes per side. This makes the roast more flavorful. If you are in a hurry to get the meat in the oven, you can skip this step. While the roast is browning, chop the onion into large pieces.

Take the roast out of the pot, and put the chopped onion in. Then place the roast back in the pot, on top of the onions. The onions keep the meat from resting against the bottom of the pot, to ensure that it cooks evenly. They also add flavor to the meat.

Pour the liquid over the meat, and heat on the stove top until the liquid boils. Then, place the lid on the pot, and (if you are cooking this on the stove top) turn down the temperature to low. (You may have difficulties getting the temperature low enough if you are using a gas stove. If this is the case, you can try using a ring of aluminum foil to raise the pot higher from the flame.)

If you are using the oven, then transfer the pot to the stove.

A 4 pound roast will take from 4 to 5 hours to cook.

Optional: when the meat is done, remove it from the pot and add the chopped vegetables to the liquid remaining in the pot. Simmer the pot until the vegetables are tender, and then scoop them out using a slotted spoon. This makes a nice side-dish to be served with the meat.

Pot roast can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. The cooking liquid can be used as a sauce as-is, or can be combined with a fat and a flour to make a thicker gravy, or can be reserved for use in chili or soup. If you put the liquid in the refrigerator, by the following day all the fat will have formed a hard crust at the surface that you can easily skim off. Reserve that fat for use in gravy or to cook other foods in, such as potatoes. If you wish to freeze the meat for later, let it cool, and then freeze it in slices.

******done at what temp???

Pulled Pork
(cook in advance)

“Pork shoulder“, also known as “pork butt” or “whole Boston butt” is a large and economical cut of meat. It needs to be cooked slowly over a long period of time in order to make it tender and flavorful. The process takes a while, but the results are mounds of perfect pulled pork. This is a great way to feed a crowd of people. Leftovers can also be frozen for later.

Pork shoulder ranges in size from four to seven pounds, and a pound will make enough meat for up to four sandwiches. If you cook a large pork shoulder, you will need a very large casserole dish - preferably with enough room so that the meat is not touching the sides of the pan. If you do not own a large casserole dish or roasting pan, a disposable aluminum pan will do.

You will also need a container to brine the meat. While this could possibly be done in the casserole dish, it’s much less messy (and less likely to splash raw meat juices in your refrigerator) if you use a container with a lid, or a two-gallon Ziploc bag.

“Brining” is the process of soaking a piece of meat in brine, which is salt water. In this recipe, the salt water not only helps to carry the flavors of the sugar and spices into the meat, but it adds moisture to the meat, which will prevent the pork from drying out during its very long cooking process.

This recipe requires that the meat first be brined for at least eight hours, and then that the meat be cooked for 1.5 to 2 hours per pound. So, you will either need to start brining the meat in the morning of the day before, and cook the meat all night; or you will need to brine the meat all night and then cook it all day.

A probe-style thermometer with an alarm is a good idea for this recipe, to take out the guesswork of when the meat is done. While the pork will be cooked and sliceable at 170 degrees, the pork will become “pullable” only as it reaches 200 degrees. But if you are in a hurry, 185 degrees will do.

This recipe is just one of many ways to make pulled pork. It is not necessary to use exactly the spices listed here. Wet recipes use barbecue sauce rather than a dry rub, and many recipes do not call for brining at all. Pulled pork can also be cooked in a slow cooker.

The meat: one pork shoulder, from 4 to 7 pounds

The dry rub:
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar

The brine:
4 tsp dry rub mix
2 bay leaves
½ cup salt
½ cup brown sugar
8 cups of cold water

First mix up the dry rub; then mix up the brine, starting by adding the salt to the water and stirring until as much salt is dissolved as possible. When the brine is ready, put the pork shoulder into the brining container, and pour the brine over the meat. If not all of the meat is submerged in the brine, then you will want to flip the meat over halfway through the brining process.

Put the container of meat and brine into the refrigerator. If your container is not leak-proof, you may want to set a towel on the shelf under it, to absorb any spills.

When it is time to cook, set the oven to 225 degrees. Notice that this is only 25 degrees higher than the temperature that you want the meat to hit!

Pour the brine down the sink. Coat the meat liberally on all sides with the dry rub mix, rubbing it in with your hands as you go. Then place it fat-side-up in the casserole dish or roasting pan, and insert the thermometer probe. Set the thermometer’s alarm to ring at 200 degrees, and put the pork in the oven.

If in the final hours, the temperature of the meat seems to be going up too slowly, turn up the oven temperature to 250 degrees. Your oven may be running cold, and you should test it later with an oven thermometer to see what temperature it actually is.

When the meat is cooked, you can either pull it apart immediately, or you can leave it to cool in the turned-off oven until the temperature reaches 170.

If there is a lot of fat in the pan, drain the pan before pulling the pork. Also remove the fat from the top of the meat and discard before shredding the pork. Then “pull the pork” by holding the meat down with one fork, and ripping off chunks of meat with another. If the pork needs more flavor at this point, sprinkle on more of the dry rub mix.

If it is going to be a few hours before the meat is eaten, refrigerate it, and reheat in the microwave, or in a 350 degree oven until the meat hisses and smells delicious. The meet can also be frozen for longer storage.

Serve on bread or buns, with mustard, barbecue sauce, pickles, cole slaw (recipe #), and/or lettuce.

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Year's Resolution

Yeah, yeah, it's hardly New Year's, but I'm ready for a resolution. The dang cookbook must be done by November, so that I can participate in NaNoWriMo.

That should be doable. Things are coming together nicely now. And if I can get printed copies made in time, I can use the cookbook as my Christmas gift to everyone, too.