Monday, April 27, 2020

Cooking from "Scratch"

Cooking from scratch is sometimes simple, sometimes complicated. It requires a mixture of experience and knowing what flavors work best with each dish. The southern, down-home recipes on this blog are designed for the new cook as well as the very experienced. All it takes is a little time in understanding the ingredients and steps.

I offer you recipes that I prepare often or recipes that are family traditions. I will tell you in advance if it is one that requires a bit of thought as I sometimes do not measure exact ingredients. These you can experiment with easily and none of them are complicated. That's the best part of scratch cooking, you can claim the dish as your own.

Note to new cooks: from scratch means you start with basic ingredients where nothing is pre-mixed and you have to measure the quantities.

Of course, there are recipes from others that have proven just too good to not share. Like the Best Breadmachine White Bread. It would be wrong to keep that to myself. Then there are those that are simply links to articles I've written elsewhere but they take you directly to the recipe.

We discuss using fresh vegetables, making your own seasonings, growing your own herbs and how to use them. I hope you stay for a while and enjoy using the recipes and suggestions. Leave a comment or share something. I will post the recipe with full credit to you if you do.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bacon-wrapped Wild Trout

Organic and wild... bacon wrapped wild-caught trout inspired

One the best things about a trip to Louisiana is a trip to West Wego in New Orleans to get fresh fish and shrimp. All wild-caught. Of course, another fresh fish outlet is in Simmsport, Louisiana at Coco's (http://www.yelp.com/biz/cocos-seafood-and-fish-market-simmesport). But this trout was purchased whole, fresh and very clean in W. Wego. I did have to scale it...

This recipe was inspired by author John Hemingway and was found at this page: https://huckberry.com/journal/posts/provisions-hemingway-s-bacon-wrapped-trout. I didn't change much except to add a sprinkle of garlic powder. Everything on the plate is either wild or organic. The only oil came from the bacon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole trout, wild-caught
  • 2 slices organic bacon
  • 1/4 cup organic cornmeal, yellow
  • salt (I use pink)
  • pepper
  • a sprinkle of garlic powder
  • 1/2 fresh lemon cut in quarters


Wash trout and remove scales. If the pan you will use is too small, remove the head from the fish and maybe the tail. Leave the rest whole. Dry but leave just a little moist.

Mix the cornmeal and seasonings in a bag and mix well. Add the trout, twist the tops of the bag closed and shake so that the fish ends up covered completely.

Wrap the bacon around the fish and make sure it is touching on all sides of the fish. Two slices should cover the entire surface.

Heat your skillet until it is very hot then add the fish. Secure the bacon so that the fish stays wrapped.

Fry on one side for five minutes and then add the lemon juice of one quarter.

Turn fish to other side and repeat.

If your bacon did not brown on fish in places just take some tongs and hold it down for a minute or less.

I served this dish with red potatoes: cut in half, rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with pink salt and fresh ground pepper then steamed. And a fresh salad with organic tomatoes and half an avocado. No salad dressing, just a little lemon.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Gator Sausage Gumbo with Royal Brand Super Long Grain Rice

Gumbo with Bernard's alligator sausage, langoustine and Royal super long grain rice

Visiting my hometown, Alexandria, is usually a priceless shopping and dining experience. Two or three years ago my cousin and his wife introduced us to Bernard's where you can purchase super quality foods like alligator sausage or filets, live crawfish or dine at his restaurant. The Po'Boys are the best I've ever had. I think they make their own seasoning blend. They do not have a website but the products are all over Louisiana. The main restaurant is in Cottonport and if you are nearby you will not regret stopping in for a meal.

Locally, I get some of these items from Big Rick at City Foods Wholesale http://files.ctctcdn.com/1caab65d301/616aa3cd-dfec-4950-b61d-ea725525e3f9.pdf. What a gem when you can't make the 2000-mile trip to the land of all good food... City Foods has other exotics like alligator filets and elk sausage so click on the link to get the .pdf price list. He also has Mary's organic chickens along with whole pigs and regular meats, spices and condiments. On Saturdays you can get samples because that's when he grills.

This is my quick version of Louisiana gumbo. You can sub any sausage except Italian which has the wrong seasoning for southern style. The langoustine (baby lobster) was purchased at Costco where you get a fairly large bag for a reasonable price. I get the whole thing but vacuum seal portions.

Honestly, if you are watching your cholesterol this gumbo is not for you. It is a nightmare actually, lol, with the processed meats and shellfish. But it is healthy in that these ingredients are real foods and are fresh and freshly made. Enjoy.




Instructions:
Make roux according to link and set aside.
Put equal amounts of water and chicken broth in suitable sized pot. 
Add the okra mixture and bring everything to a boil.
Add roux.
Add the tomatoes and sausage. Bring to a boil and cook until sausage is nearly done.
Add langoustine.
Add cayenne pepper and file to taste
Cook until thickened

Cooking rice

One of my favorite instructors was Maple Woo who taught our Chinese cooking class at the local college. She taught techniques that I still use thirty years later. For instance, how to de-fat a duck for roasting by hanging it suspended so the fat will drip out. But the most useful thing was how to cook perfect rice. I have the recipe on another page but will list the instructions here just for convenience.


  • Any amount of any type of rice (I use a jasmine, Royal super long grain mostly. It is an Indian brand)
  • Water to cover for washing
  • 1/2 inch water for cooking


Place rice in a bowl and cover with water. Scoop rice into to hands, rub together and let fall back into the water. Drain water and repeat until water is clear.

Leave rice in bowl and put in enough water to cover. Let soak for 1 hour.

Using a pot that will hold all the contents and cook without boiling over, place rice in. Add 1/2 inch of water (1/2 inch is half of a finger joint).

Bring to a boil and cook until only large bubbles are forming. Turn fire to lowest setting, cover and then steam rice until done. Please do not stir. It is not necessary to stir rice.

A Quicker Method:

Wash rice well. Place in proper sized pot and cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil and cook until only large bubbles are forming. Cover, turn heat to lowest setting and cook until done. This procedure eliminates the soaking which is why you need more water.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How To Make Perfect Rice


A bowl of perfectly cooked rice

How to Make Perfect Rice
By Ethel James Powers


Rice should never be boiled in more water than it can absorb. Here is a simple method to make perfect rice every time no matter which grain size/shape you use.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Instructions
things you'll need:
  • 1 cup long grain white rice*
  • 1 quart pot with lid
  • Salt (optional)
  • Strainer
  • Cold water
*1 Actually, you do not have to have exactly 1 cup of rice, you can just pour any amount into an appropriate sized pot.

But, to make things simple, measure one cup of rice into a bowl. Wash Rice by rubbing between palms and letting rice fall back into the water. Drain the water, add more and repeat until water is almost clear. If you are in a hurry, just do it once.

2 Drain rice by letting it fall into a strainer. If you do not have one, just carefully drain off water with your hand as a guard to keep rice from falling out of bowl.

3 Return rice to bowl and cover with 1/2 inch of water. You can easily measure by inserting your index finger into bowl until the tip of it touches the top of the rice. 1/2 of the first joint in your index finger is 1/2 inch. Let the rice sit in the
clean water for one hour.

4 After an hour, drain the water from the rice. Put rice in the quart pot and add 1/2 inch of clean water. You can add a pinch of salt, if you prefer. Put the pot on the stove over medium heat (flames should not be beyond the bottom of the
pot). Let the rice cook until only large bubbles show. Immediately, put lid on pot and turn flame to the lowest point. Let rice cook until it is done.

5 You can tell rice is done when all water is absorbed and it looks fluffy. If it is soggy, there was too much water added. At this point, just put it in the microwave on a plate to get rid of the excess. It will be sticky but not mushy.

6 Rice soup: With leftover rice and rice that is stuck to the pot, add 1 bouillon cube, 1 green onion stalk and enough water to fill pot almost 3/4 full. Bring to a boil. Beat 1 egg and drizzle it into the boiling stock. The egg will separate into
small ribbons. Add shrimp for an extra treat. This soup is similar to Chinese Egg Drop Soup. Soup is done when rice is no longer stuck to the pot.

NOTE: if you are using the no-soak method (using 1 inch of water), simply put the rice in appropriate sized pot, cook until only large bubbles are left, then cover and cook on lowest setting unti rice is done.

Tips & Warnings...

This is an excellent rice to make stir fried.

If you do not have time to wait the hour for the rice to soak, add 1 inch of water to the rice instead of the 1/2 inch. Cook in the same way as above.

To clean the pot after removing rice, make Chines Egg Drop Sour or simply soak the pot in cold water. The rice will expand and loosen. Do this after cooking any grains like oatmeal and other cereals and grains.

Keep an eye on the rice when it is first put on to cook. You don't want all of the water to cook out before you put on the lid.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Canning Okra and Tomatoes

Delicious Okra and Tomatoes
Summer is almost here and lots of seasonal vegetables will be available for canning and okra is one that is best purchased fresh and in season. If you like it the following recipe is the one that you will have to can every year because it will disappear fast.

Growing up,everyone got involved in the process during the summer when school was not in session. My dad used to drive my mom and whoever else was available to pick fresh peaches, apples, peas and okra. 

We never ate breakfast before we left because, first of all, it would be between 3 and 5 AM when we would leave. Secondly, breakfast of fresh, juicy and sweet fruit right off the tree was unbeatable. We always ate our fill. In those days, Lancaster and Fresno, California had the absolute best peaches on earth! We didn't have to look for "organic" because most produce was grown without many chemicals and trees were old and established.

I do miss the gigantic, super sized okra of the land of my people, Louisiana... but California has some great products that local farmers are putting much care into growing. So, last summer I joined a co-op and discovered we have great okra locally.

I am sharing my mom's recipe for "putting up" okra, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions. It is a mixture that is simply satisfying no matter how you use it: as a base for gumbo, as a side dish or main dish with shrimp and/or sausage and/or corn. One thing about corn, though... use organic, please. Most corn sold is a GMO product so looking for certified "not GMO" is going to work better for you health-wise.

NOTE:  this recipe uses freezing as the canning method. My mom used to do a water bath exclusively and we never had a problem. But these days, using a pressure canner is recommended. Since I have not used my pressure canner at all I opted for the Food Saver vacuumed-sealed freezing method.

I use Kirkland canned organic tomato products sold at Costco.

INGREDIENTS:


  • 6 pounds fresh organic okra
  • 4 cans of organic tomatoes, plain, unseasoned
  • 4 medium organic onions
  • 3 large organic bell peppers
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Organic olive oil or coconut oil
  • Quart sized freezer bags
  • Food Saver to vacuum seal (optional)


METHOD:

Wash all vegetables thoroughly.

Cut the okra into bite sized pieces. If the knife does not slice through it easily, discard that pod of okra and continue cutting up the ones that are not hard. Use a large bowl to hold the pieces.

Cut up onions and toss into bowl with okra. Small chunks are okay, they don't have to be too small.

Cut up the bell pepper and add to the okra and onions. Again, small chunk size works well.

Open the four cans of organic tomatoes and toss into the bowl with the other vegetables. Using a large spoon or your hands, mix up the vegetables until all or evenly distributed.

Put mixture into a large pot or pan (I use the turkey roaster because it is long and flat rather than tall). Start with a cup of oil and mix until all are coated nicely. Add more oil to your taste and continue to stir. Turn on low heat and cook until bell pepper and onions are nearly cooked through. Be careful to avoid scorching. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cool to room temperature.

Spoon mixture into quart bags. Try not to leave any air space. At this point, seal the bag and let mixture cool more. Put into freezer and it will keep for up to six months.

To make mixture store longer, put the quart sized filled bag in a vacuum sealed bag using machine's instructions for sealing.

RECIPE SUGGESTION:

Okra and Tomatoes with Shrimp and Sausage, Louisiana Style


  • 1 quart of okra mixture
  • 1 pound large shrimp, washed and peeled
  • 1 sausage coil or two regular links, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 can organic yellow corn
  • 3 oz organic tomato paste (1/2 can)
  • Hot water
  • Hot, cooked rice


In a large skillet, saute shrimp and sausage until shrimp is pink. Add corn and stir until corn is heated. Add okra mixture and tomato paste. Last, add hot water to make a little "red" gravy or to the consistency you like. Cook until everything is hot. Serve over hot, cooked rice.

This dish serves as a main dish or a hearty side dish.








Saturday, February 14, 2015

Non-Gluten Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burger With Organic Homemade Mayonnaise

Non-Gluten Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burger with homemade, organic mayonnaise
There are many recipes for non-gluten burger buns this one is just as delicious and you won't even miss the bread. Plus it uses one of the best recipes for homemade mayonnaise available. Load it up with other sliced veggies and you have a healthy indulgence. Serve with super yummy oven baked fries. Links to both recipes are listed.

INGREDIENTS:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees...

Rinse ground turkey, pat dry between paper towels. Add seasoings but do not overwork to avoid toughness. Loosely form turkey into patties sizes a little larger than lettuce leaves. They will shrink during cooking.

Brush baking pan with pan coating. I use a heavy iron skillet. Place patties in skillet and bake until browned. While the turkey is baking make the mayonnaise. Click on the link above to get recipe and instructions. 

Remove turkey from skillet and place on paper towels to drain.

Place a lettuce leaf on a plate, spread with mayo. Place patty on leaf, top with tomato and avocado.
Fold leaf over and secure with toothpick.





Lemon Coconut Snack Cake (Delicious Single Serving)

Microwave snack cakes ... delicious and so much yum with so little effort. And to prove it here is my experience with one this morning.

I needed an image to go with this recipe so I automatically went to stock image sites to purchase one. Not much luck. After about 20 minutes it was apparent that the one I needed should have been taken yesterday before I gobbled it down. So at around 21 minutes it occurred to me that I should just go bake another one and take the photo myself. The most time involved would be 5 minutes. Sometimes I just need to make sure all my gears are engaged BEFORE I get out of bed ...

This cake is absolutely delicious and lemon lovers will only regret that it will not cool down fast enough so you can avoid the inevitable hot tongue/kitchen dance. For new cooks, this will bring you into gourmet land on steady feet. So lets get to the recipe.

Please note, while this recipe uses all organic products and is vegan, it is not gluten free. Feel free to use whatever type of flour you have on hand. 


Lemon Coconut Snack Cake

  • 4 tablespoons organic pastry flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (non-aluminum, it will say so on the can)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt flakes)
  • 4 tablespoons full fat coconut milk (can should list total fat as 25 to 30% or more)*
  • 1 teaspoon dried organic coconut (I used Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (peel)


Mix first four ingredients in a bowl so all the ingredients are mixed well. Add the coconut milk and make sure all dry ingredients are moistened evenly. Add the coconut and lemon zest. Mix lightly. Pour batter into ungreased coffee mug. It needs to be a regular sized mug and not a coffee cup. Bake in microwave for 1 minute. Top of cake should appear dry. If it is not, add up to 30 seconds more.

If you are able to resist, let cake cool and then top with whipped topping. Trader Joe's has a delicious vegan non-dairy topping that you will love.

*About full fat coconut milk. It is not the same as the coconut drink although you can bake with both. The full fat coconut milk is thick. When you open the can you should see that there is a thick part like whipped cream with liquid around it.

The brand I used for this cake was Savoy and it is 30% total fat. It is 70% coconut with rest water. Avoid brands that list a lot of ingredients. You don't need the extra things and they pretty much are not good for you. There are a lot of brands so don't be afraid you won't find it, just choose the one that meets the criteria.

Healthy Eating- Pancit With Nettle and Shrimp

Healthy Eating- Pancit With Nettle and Shrimp
What is Pancit? It is a stir-fried noodle dish that can customized to the tastes of individual cooks. Put together somewhat like fried rice, it is easy to prepare and takes very little time. For a formal definition: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-pancit.htm.

What is Nettle? Stinging Nettle to be exact. My backyard is covered in it from the winter rains. It is a weed to some and an herb to the rest of us. It is both medicine and food. As a medicine it treats prostate problems, arthritis and many, many other conditions. But as a food I can tell you it is delicious as a stir fry or added to other greens. The first time I used it I added it to kale and was they tasted so good there were no leftovers. Read more about Stinging Nettle here: http://www.herballegacy.com/Vance_Medicinal.html.

I should confess... it was the group Herbal Healing I belong to on Facebook who told me about using Nettle. Read their comments here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/2426239459/permalink/10153727004334460/.

I don't hesitate in eating it because the backyard has had very few chemicals applied to it. It used to be a haven of fresh fruit with peaches, oranges, apricots, plums and grapes. That is when my dad took care of it. Now I realize why, when he retired, he was out there all day.

I also remember my mom working in her garden and coming back inside almost in tears when she planted, weeded or harvested her crops. The Stinging Nettle would get a hold of her and make her miserable. So please be aware that unless you cover your arms, hands and feet really well (long sleeves, gloves, socks and shoes) you are going to be stung mercilessly. Frankly, I don't mind but I do wear gloves... it makes it easier to grab a bunch and pull them up.

But if you have arthritis getting stung helps with the pain you experience from your condition. You can read about that in the first link. So, without much more a-do, here is the recipe for Pancit With Nettle and Shrimp:

NOTE: This recipe looks a lot more involved than it actually is. It is a fast dish to prepare especially if you slice and chop ahead of time...

*I try to avoid Soy products but when I do use them it is the organic variety. Be aware that most soy products in the United States are GMO products. Braggs Liquid Aminos is a great substitute for regular soy sauce because it is certified non-GMO.


INGREDIENTS:


  • 2 packages Mung Bean Threads
  • 9 jumbo shrimp (washed, peeled and de-veined)
  • Chicken or pork stock or both (try to avoid bouillon or non organic store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (this does not include the sea or pink salt listed below)
  • Organic olive oil or coconut oil (about two to three tablespoons)
  • Fresh Stinging Nettle (about a colander full)(soak, wash and then cut off bottom of stem)
  • Handful of cilantro
  • Toyomansi (soy sauce with Calamansi) or soy sauce and lemon juice to taste*
  • Black sesame seed oil
  • Smoked paprika
  • Sea Salt or Pink Salt
  • Powered Turmeric
  • Black pepper
  • Other seasonings to taste can include red pepper, thyme, dry mustard, dry ginger and garlic
  • Slice tomatoes, cucumbers and lemon wedges for garnishes
  • Large skillet or wok ( the skillet should be able to withstand high flame)

OPTIONAL ADD-INS:


  • Snow peas
  • Green onion (both tops and bottoms)
  • Chicken, diced 
  • Pork, diced
  • Cabbage, shredded
  • Celery, sliced thinly
  • Carrots, sliced or julienned

In a medium pot, add the stock and bean threads. If the liquid does not cover the threads, add water so they are barely submerged. Add salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, cut into 3 inch long sections using scissors or a knife. Set aside.

Season shrimp with salt and spices.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Be cautious, coconut oil has a low melting point. Toss in seasoned shrimp. Toss and cook until they have medium brown edges as in the photo above.

Add cooked bean threads. Continue to toss and cook. Add additional veggies if you are using them. Toss and cook. Add Stinging Nettle and cilantro. Cook until wilted, it won't take long. Season to taste. Add Toyomansi or soy sauce/lemon mixture to taste, about like you do when you are eating fried rice.

Serve with slice tomatoes and cucumbers on the side.

This dish freezes well.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Simple Plain Roasted Chicken for Beginners

Simple Plain Delicious Roasted Chicken for Beginners

For new cooks, cooking a yummy roasted chicken is simple. Don't think you have to rub it in all sorts of seasonings and chemicals to make it delicious and tasty like the ones at your grocer's or supermarket giant. All you need are seasoned salt and black pepper and even the pepper is optional.


  • Ingredients:

  • 1 organic whole chicken any size
  • Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • Black pepper (fine to medium ground)


Heat oven to 375degrees. Move oven rack down to the next level so chicken will cook in the center of the oven.

Wash chicken all over, drain and pat dry. Sprinkle chicken all over and inside with the seasonings.

It doesn't matter if you use a roasting pan or open pan with rack... cook chicken for 1 1/2 hours or until juices run clear. A good way to tell is to move the drumstick. If it pulls away from the body easily then it is done. But use the 1 1/2 hours as a marker. Or use the chart below as a guide:

  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1 to 1-1/4 hours
  • 3 to 3-1/2 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours
  • 3-1/2 to 4 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours 
  • 4-1/2 to 5 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1-1/2 to 2 hours
You can use the juices from cooking to make a gravy. Easy gravy is to add some water to the juices, bring to a boil. Put two tablespoons or more of organic cornstarch in a cup and stir in a little cold water. Quickly add the cornstarch to the boiling liquid, stirring, and cook until thickened. It doesn't take long.

Serve all with mashed potatoes.