Tuesday, November 29

Mushroom Pasty

Mushroom and Cheddar Pie

This 14th century French dish is a great stand alone or it goes well with a pot of soup.

Serves 4-6
Full time: 1 hour
You will need:

9" pie crust
1 small onion, diced fine
1 1/2 whole mixed mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 350

In a large sautéed pan sauté the mushrooms and onions in olive oil, until golden brown.

Drain well, when browned and turn off heat.

Mix in all remaining ingredients, except pie crust

Pour mixture into pie crust and place on cookie sheet

Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes and bake until crust becomes golden brown

When baked, remove and let set for 10 minutes

Sunday, November 27


Tomatokeftedes are a traditional tomato patty served in Santorini. They are a very popular dish which can be found across the island.

If you want the best ones every, there us a little restaurant by the docks, just below where the "sky cables" are. A Greek tour-guide recommended them and with out a doubt they are hands down the best thing I ever ate.

Of course, when ever I get a craving it isn't easy to pop on a plane to the main land, charter a boat to the island, and get them. So I have tinkered with my taste bud recollection and have come pretty close.

This will make a nice appetizer for 4 or a dish for just me.
Full time: 30 minutes (includes multiple cooking batches)
You will need:

15 oz can diced tomato
1 medium onion, diced fine
1 cup flour
3/4 cup fresh mint, chopped fine
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Frying oil approx 1 cup

Let us begin:

Drain tomatoes the best you can, then pour in a bowl

Squeeze tomatoes to create a slush like tomato substance

Mix in all ingredients, except flour

Being to add flour, a little at a time to create a paste which is moist but thick

Get a sauté pan with high sides heated over medium high heat

Carefully add in oil, you only want the oil to cover the bottom by approx 1/4" depth. Get oil heated

Once oil is hot, spoon 2 1/2 tbsp size balls of mixture into oil.

Cook until golden brown and rotate to do second side

Remove to wire rack while finishing.

Serve immediately for best taste, but careful the ones straight out of oil are extremely hot

Saturday, November 26

CRAFT KITCHEN: Making a Container garden

I often talk about gardening from a space called a container garden. Today I am going to show you how fast you can turn a space as small as 2 ft by 4 ft into a garden!

It is a good idea to plan ahead, start seeds 4 to 5 weeks warier than intended garden planting. Seeds are very easy to plant and take care of. Use old egg cartons to create individual plants and mini seed trays. http://gogreencrafting.blogspot.com/2011/06/seeding-in-egg-cartons.html

You will need: (for every 2' x 4' x 4" box)

2 pieces of 2 X 4 X 8
Staple gun or industrial stapler
Weed netting 4 X 4
Measuring tape

Let us begin:

Mark your 2 X 4s, you will mark one to cut in half, one to cut in half and then one half in half again. You need to end up with the following 3 pieces 4 ft long, 2 pieces 2 ft long

Next cut your wood, if your lucky you have an electric saw, or know someone with one. Some smaller hardware/lumber saws will cut them for you

To begin assembly, take one 2 ft piece and attach it to one end of a 4 ft piece. You want the 4 ft piece to be as close to the edge of the 2 ft piece as you can get it.

Attach the second 4 ft piece on the other end of the 2 ft piece, you now have on end of your container.

Attach the second 2 ft piece to the other ends of the 4 ft pieces, your frame is complete.

Add center separator bar (this helps keep roots from different plants from spreading into each other), to add this bar, gently bang it into place, if you want it closer to one side, as seen in photo, just tap it down where ever you want it. Once it is in place nail it in.

If desired you can add additional spacer bars, to separate it into smaller spaces, as seen in my photos

Carefully fold weed netting so it is doubled long way and staple to bottom of frame.

Flip over and fill with top soil, for this size box it takes 2.25cf of soil

Add plants and enjoy your garden!

 Here is a container garden in action! This one is made with three boxes place longways. Two of them have spacers and one is a solid planting space with no spacers.

Friday, November 25

Peppermint Meringue Bites

Peppermint Meringue Bites

Bites size puffs of flavor, these little guys are a holiday cookie classic.

Although, this recipe calls for red food coloring. I actually make three batches one red, one green, and one un-colored. I like the color assortment for holiday trays.

This makes 6 dozen mini bites or 3 dozen big bites
Full time: 1 hour 40 minutes (includes cooling/firm time)
You will need:

2 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cream of Tatar
1/8 tsp salt
Red food coloring

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 250

In a mixing bowl, whip egg whites into a foamy texture

Add in all ingredients, except sugar. Whip until fully incorporated

Now, while machine is going and sugar in 1/4 cup of sugar at a time.

Allow each to fully incorporate before adding next

Whip until peaks form

Transfer contents to a zip back (or pastry bag) and snip off tip

Line cookie trays with parchment paper

Place small little dollops of batter on the sheets, about the size of a walnut

Bake for 15-20 minutes until firm

Allow to fully cool on sheets before removing. About an hour

Carefully remove from sheets into airtight storage container

Wednesday, November 23

German Apple and Onion Soup

German style Apple & Onion Soup

It may sound like an odd combination of flavors but it actually is an amazing combination. This subtle sweet flavor of cooked onions really pulls flavor from the bitter bite of green apples.

I like serving this alongside some crusty baguette or a quiche. It's a great light broth soup which accompanies almost any meal.

Serves 4-6
Full time: 1 1/2 hours

You will need:

8 medium onions, cut in half and sliced thin
2 granny smith apples, corded and sliced thin
1 can frozen apple juice concentrate
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups apple juice
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp white pepper

Let us begin:

In a large pot sauté onions in butter until translucent

Add in frozen apple concentrate, white pepper, and apples. Allow juice to thaw and begin to boil

Add in stock and juice

Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer. Cover and cook for an hour

Tuesday, November 22

CRAFT KITCHEN: How to grow an Avocado plant from pit

Going green can be as simple as growing a plant for someone. One of my favorite things to do is to create new plants from seed.

Avocados are a perfect example of a great plant to grow and even gift.

Make sure you always use Organic avocados to do this, non organic will not sprout into viable plants.

1-To do this start with your avocado and carefully remove the seed. Use a spoon to dig it out so you do bot damage it.

2-Rinse the seed off with cold water to completely clean

3-Place seed in a cup of hot, not boiling water this will allow the skin to soften up. Let sit over night. Repeat for three nights

4-Using a sandwich size sealable bag, place the pit in a mixture of half potting soil and half sphagnum moss*.
include a small amount of water and seal bag. To much water will cause fungus so be sparing
* sphagnum moss is also known as peat moss

5-Place sealed bag in a dark spot. Check on it every once in a while, if it appears dry add water, if it appears to be developing fungus leave open and dry out, replace contents of bag with cleaned pit. If it does it again, this pit wad not meant to be a tree. Unfortunately try again.

6-After about two months you should see nice roots develop

7-Take bag out of the dark and set in a half lighted area this will begin the seasoning process

8-After a week move bag to a high lighted area

9-After two weeks (a total of 3 months) it is ready to pot

10-Place a course top soil an inch deep in the bottom of a clay self draining pot

11-Carefully dump the soil/moss contents of bag out into a stand by container

12-Move you pit, roots down and tree nub facing up into pot

13-Add soil/moss into pot

14-Let's sit on a window sill over night before watering

15-Keep plant in a well lighted area and allow to dry between watering

CRAFT KITCHEN: Gift from your Kitchen in a Bag or Jar

Both Gifts in a Bag and Gifts in a Jar, are a great idea for homemade gifts. They are easy, fun, and can easily be adjusted to anyone's personal tastes.

Traditional gifts are usually cookie recipes but it is easy to find countless other recipes out there. These recipes include: soups, pastas, side dishes, beverages, and even cocktails. In fact there is a whole line of books out there which is actually titled "Gifts in a..."

My favorite thing to do is to combine two or three jar/bags to create a rounded gift. My classic blend is a hot beverage and a cookie mix. This year I am doing S'mores Cookies with Snowman Soup! Try this to help make your holiday's Merry and Bright. pick your favorite cookie recipe out there and match it up with this classic holiday fun one:

Snowman soup is really just hot chocolate mix which is packaged with mini-marshmallows. Tie a candy cane around the outside and tie on a classic poem for Snowman soup:

Was told you've been real good this year.
Always glad to hear it!
With freezing weather drawing near,
You'll need to warm the spirit...
So here's a little Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water, sip it slow.
It's sure to do the trick.

Holidays are Coming..so are the Holiday meals!

As the year begins to come to a close, the holidays rapidly approach. Regardless of your religious, family, or country, it is the time of year that everyone has a holiday or two. And with holidays comes meals. Full meals filled with family, friends, large amounts of food, and drink.

Holidays can be stressful for some people, in fact there are several holidays that even have phobias! Seriously, medically diagnosed phobias brought on by the holidays. Deipnophobia, Cibophobia or Sitophobia or Sitiophobia, Geumaphobia or Geumophobia, are just a few phobias that have to do with eating, meals, and the holidays...this doesn't even include fear of Christmas trees, Santa, Hanukkah lights, turkeys, ects..,Most of these phobias are deep down and need serious help to overcome. They can be brought on by years of stress or even by one horrible incident. A great way to cut down on your chance of developing a phobia is to plan ahead, metal do over what the holidays will bring on. And try to work out any stress you have building in anticipation. I am not a medical professional, nor do I claim to have the ability to help these phobias.

What I can do is help make your holiday meal less less stressful. Trying to create the "perfect" holiday meal or memory is never an easy thing to do. We spend years a children growing up in our families holiday arrangements and then suddenly we have to create the same feeling. Questions about making traditional family dishes, how much food, what time should we eat, should I make more than one main dish? Are just a few things that you will need to deal with. The important thing is to sit back, relax, and plan ahead. Don;t wait until the week of to start planing. You want to start at least a week ahead to plan your menu.

Make a list of all recipes you will be making, how many they serve, how long they take, how much cooking space do I have, and what you will need. Once you have this all planned out ask yourself the following questions:

Start by looking at how many guests you will be having. Modify recipes you may need to double or cut down to ensure enough food without too much waste. I like to build in two extra people when planning meals, this will allow for last minute guests, or a little extra leftovers. Just remember to calculate in larger appetites so you don't run short.

Start by looking at you cook time. Are there things that can be made ahead of time? Breads and desserts can often be made a day before.

Some cold served sides can be made a day ahead, for instance cranberry sauce or apple sauce.
Stuffing can be mixed or part cooked a day ahead. Just remember if you are stuffing to do it right before cooking and not any earlier

Now remember that larger cuts of meat, full birds such as turkeys and ducks, need an hour of rest time after cooking before serving so, you get that nice little window of a free oven.

I actually do things like stuffing, breads, even boil my potatoes for mashed potatoes the day before.

Just make a time line and work with it, don't be ashamed to have a list where people can see it, i use post-its. It really does work.

This is a tough one, most traditional family meals include items you serve on a regular basis. The importance of making them special is actually all relative to what you consider special. Usually your plating or presentation is a great way to make things special. I like to use platters with a holiday theme and garnishes to elevate the plating.

Realize this is never going to happen1 I will never get my sauce or meatballs to taste like my Great Grandmother's cooking. No matter how much you try. It may come close but, it will never be spot on. So don't worry. Your Aunt's beans, In-law's eggnog, Mother's stuffing will always be a welcome sight at the table but, they will be your own. You can ask for the family recipe but, don't stress if it is slightly different.

Okay, seriously? I actually get this question often. The answer is anywhere. Just ask. People love to share dishes, on the web, in the office, in books, you can find them anywhere, Just ask. Traditional things like cranberry sauce can be found in multitudes on the web. (See November 2011 for mine) Some companies even include them on the packaging. Seriously, flip over a bake of chocolate chips and you'll see a cookie recipe. Pie filling has the recipe for pies on it, store bought dough even has pie recipes on it. And any dish considered a classic holiday favorite (think green bean casserole) is on the label, trust me, just look its right there.

If you want a special family dish, you usually want to ask the family social director. Not an insult, but everyone has that family member who knows everything going on, talks to everyone, tells 8 stories at a time, and always seams to "remember" that. This is the person to ask. Even if they don't cook, or cook well they have it.

If you want a special dish from a country, try the web and look up. Traditional dishes of....insert country. I usually do tons of research between web, books, and people I know before I set out to create my own.

The most important thing is to remember, just enjoy them. Holidays are a time to enjoy your family and friends. Don't let them overwhelm you. Just sit back, relaxe, breathe, and everthing will be fine.

Monday, November 21

Pub Style: Chicken in a pot

English Pubs have some of the best dishes in England. Opposed to American Bar fair, pub food dishes are meal sized, full of flavor and tradition. Hearty roasted chicken, Yorkshire puddings(recipe available http://eatingeclectic.blogspot.com/2011/11/bake-it-yorkshire-pudding.html), and tasty gravies.

This is one of my favorite style dishes. Chicken in a "hot pot" is filled with flavor, vegetables, a proper pan gravy, and bacon. This is a great dish on a cool night or when you want to relax in front of a movie and eat.

This will serve 4-6
Full time: 2 hours
You will need:

1-2 lbs chicken thighs, 6 or 7 pcs
1/2 lb. bacon (see below**)
4 celery stalks, diced large
2 russet potatoes
6 sage leaves
1 large onion, diced fine
1 package button mushrooms
1 cup chicken stock
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp dried basil

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 350

In a large sauté pan place 2 tbsp butter, along with the onion, celery, and mushrooms. Cook down just until they get soft.

Then transfer them to a large high sided casserole dish

Add the remaining butter to pan

In a large zip bag place 2 tbsp flour with salt, pepper, garlic powder

Now add in chicken pieces and toss around to fully coat them

Transfer pieces to sauté pan and brown them

While this browns let's get a few things ready

First cut the potatoes in half length wise, then cut each half in half, then chunk it up

**As for the bacon, if you take a pound of frozen bacon and cut it in half. You can then cut this half into inch wide segments. Save the other half pound for later by wrapping tightly in plastic wrap and popping in freezer.

If you want to go more traditional get slab bacon, crisp it up, then dice or crumble it

Back to the chicken, once it is brown transfer them to the casserole dish

Now carefully place the bacon into the hot chicken oil and get it nice and crispy

While this crisps up. Place the potatoes onto the chicken

Transfer the bacon to the casserole dish, trying to drain the drippings back into the pan

Okay, this next part happens fast so get all remaining ingredients except sage leaves ready to go

Into the drippings over medium heat add flour and spices. It will foam up a little. Continue to stir while it does

Now slowly pour in stock but keep stirring, it will thicken as you stir

Once it is a nice gravy consistency turn off heat and stir in herbs

Pour over casserole dish and top with sage leaves

Now cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours until potatoes are soft and fork-able

Serve with a nice bread or Yorkshire pudding to sop up all the juices