Tag Archive 'cooking'

May 21 2008

Quick and Dirty: Rhubarb Pie

Published by under Recipes

Rhubarb is in season, and that means if you go into your local supermarket (or to your local sister’s house), you’re probably going to see it featured front and center in the produce section. Rhubarb is not to everyone’s taste, but it has enough of a following that if you are on the hook for a dessert or something for your Memorial Day Shenanigans, a rhubarb pie is a low-fuss option. Especially if you don’t make your own pie crust. Like me. Because I suck at pie crust.

So, you’re going to need:

  • 5-6 good sized stalks of rhubarb. You’re going to want to end up with 6 cups of rhubarb pieces, and I find that this number of stalks will get you there. Look for stalks that are relatively thick, and don’t have too many crusty spots on them. Ideally, the outside should be smooth and have a nice sheen to it.
  • 2 pre-made pie crusts. They’re in the refrigerated section, near the canned biscuits.
  • 2 – 2 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 9-inch pie pan
  • Preheat your oven to 425°F (218°C).

Begin by washing your rhubarb and trimming off the ends. Then cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces – yeah, they look big and thick, but they’ll cook down. You’re going to need to have 6 cups of chopped rhubarb. Set aside your rhubarb pieces and get out a big mixing bowl. Put your sugar and flour in the bowl and mix it together.

Now, put one of your pie crusts into your pan and work it down so it’s snug. Put half of the rhubarb in it, then sprinkle half of the flour/sugar mix on top.  Add in the rest of the rhubarb, and then the rest of the flour/sugar. Don’t be worried if the filling is above the edge of your pan a bit, remember, it will cook down. Dot the top of the filling with the butter.

Once you’ve got all your filling settled and your butter dotted, put your top crust on and pinch the edges of the two crusts closed. If you’re the lady in my Betty Crocker cookbook, this is where you embellish the edge with twee little cutouts of leaves or a nice braid of dough, but if you’re me, this is where you press the edges with the tines of a fork and call it good. You also need to cut a few slits in your top crust so steam can escape. No need to make these huge, just a few little cuts will do the job.

You probably also want to cover the edges of your pie with tin foil (pain in the ass) or a nifty pie crust shield (usually costs only about $4.00). You’ll remove your foil or shield in the last 5 minutes of cooking so your edges can brown up. I neglected to cover my edges because I am Frazzle Brained Sally today, so mine are all dark. The pie’s still good, though!

Before you stick your pie in the oven, you could also give the top crust a LIGHT dusting of sugar. This will not only sweeten the crust, but make attractive sparkles. I normally do this, but see above re: Frazzle Brain Sally.

OK, time to bake. Stick your pie in the oven and bake it for about 55 minutes, or until the filling is oozing up out of the slits in the top crust. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut into it while it’s warm! Let it cool and give the filling time to set up and do it’s filling best.

Once cool, you can wrap the pie in aluminum foil and freeze it, if you’re someone who likes to hoard pies against the threat of cold winter nights. Once you’re ready to eat, pop the frozen pie (minus the foil wrapping) in a 400°F (204°C) oven for 20 minutes. Let the pie cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour before eating.

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Apr 23 2008

The Joes of Sloppiness.

Published by under Recipes

I shared this recipe with Mackers a few months back, and her review was that it is “too fancy”. I respectfully submit that Mackers is out of her damn mind. I still love her and everything, but she crazy.

This recipe comes to us courtesy of my old church’s cookbook (a wealth of easy and tasty treats), submitted by some God-fearing German woman who is probably dead, but even so, she wouldn’t want to be associated with this site, so I won’t publish her name. I will say, however, that her legacy of tasty sloppy joes lives on at my house, where I give a little “thank you” to her every time I make this recipe. It is easy and delicious, and good for a quick meal or an outdoor picnic. Scaling this recipe up and putting it in a Crock Pot to keep warm at a buffet is no problem at all, if you’re like us and have tons of food at your July 4 shindig.

What you will need:

  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 large onion (or 2 small cooking onions)
  • 1/4 c celery (optional)
  • 1 10 3/4 oz. can condensed tomato soup
  • 1/4 c ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (give or take, depending on how much you like Worcestershire. I love it, so I usually add more.)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Hamburger buns

Dice the onion and put it in a pan. Add the meat. Brown the onion and meat thoroughly and drain. Reduce heat to medium/medium-low. Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir together. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to put on buns. I check for doneness by scraping a bunch to one side; if it falls back too quickly, it’s not done. If it stays where I put it, for the most part, it’s ready. If your range is like mine (refuses to let go of burner heat), you’re going to want to watch this kind of carefully, and perhaps stir it a little more often to prevent burning.

Serve on paper plates with plenty of napkins. If you like your joes as slop-free as possible, consider cutting your sandwich in half before eating. The filling is much less likely to make a break for it.

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Mar 10 2008

Essential equipment.

Published by under Equipment

Everyone knows that pots and pans are necessary if you’re going to do any cooking outside of the microwave or toaster oven, but what else should a kitchen have to make cooking easier and less of a chore?

Here are the things I need to run my kitchen the way I want: with a minimum of fuss.

Silicone cutting boards: I used to use a wooden chopping block. It couldn’t go in the dishwasher and was a haven for germs. Then it broke when I dropped it on the floor. My mother told me to buy these, and she was so right. They are inexpensive, durable, and can go in the dishwasher. Four for $10 US at Amazon.

Wüsthof Come Apart kitchen shears: I use them to trim meat, “chop” herbs (much easier than using a knife), open packages, and subdue unwary intruders. The blades come apart for washing so nasty bacteria can’t hide up in the joint. And there’s a built-in jar opener. $19.95 US at Amazon.

KitchenAid stand mixer: Do not mess with the KitchenAid stand mixer. It’s pricey, but if you bake with any regularity, it’s a great help. There are a ton of attachments you can buy, from a juicer to a grain mill or a sausage linker, but so far I’ve stuck with my whisk, paddle, and bread hook. The prices vary depending on what model and capacity you’re looking for, but it’s worth it to save and get one. Amazon sells some refurbished models if you’re looking for a deal.

Good knives: I have a Wüsthof paring knife that is great to work with. It beats my other paring knives all to pieces and calls them sissies. It’s so much easier doing prep if you have knives that work with you, not against you. At the very least, invest in a good quality 8 – 10″ chef’s knife. You can use it for all kinds of things. Wüsthof makes good knives, but they’re expensive. If you’re looking for something more affordable, check out OXO or KitchenAid.

Slow cooker: If you really hate to cook, or are no good at traditional cooking, get a slow cooker. You can buy a decent one for $20.00 US. Add your ingredients in the morning, turn it on, come back 8-10 hours later and eat. There are many recipes on the internet for slow cookers, and many books you can buy dedicated just to making meals using this appliance. It’s great for cooking tough (cheap) cuts of meat and turning them into a moist, juicy entree. I own a 5 quart Crock Pot with a removable, dishwasher-safe stoneware inside, which makes it easy for washing up. Pick up some slow-cooker liners at the grocery store and clean up is even easier – just pull out the bag and toss it.

And, of course, no kitchen is complete without a cat (or animal of your choice) who can sneak up while you’re at the stove, park directly behind your foot, and then yowl when you step on her tail as you’re taking a boiling pot of spaghetti to the sink for draining. Fate serves this function in our house. She is very interested in everything that goes on in the kitchen.

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Mar 05 2008

Crock Pot ribs.

Published by under Recipes

Ribs are good in summer and in winter. Who doesn’t love barbequed ribs in the summertime? It’s a tradition! And it’s a hearty enough meal to get you through the cold winter nights.

The recipe for the ribs came right out of the little cookbook that came with my Crock Pot. I’ll tell you exactly how it’s written in the book and I’ll also add little notes on how I do it.

What you need, according to the book:

  • 3-4 pounds spareribs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) barbeque sauce

What you need, according to me, and why:

  • 3-4 pounds pre-cut country style ribs (you can buy a rack of spareribs, if you like, but you’re going to have to cut them into pieces to fit into the pot, and that is a pain. Buying pre-cut country style ribs is easier.)
  • Some kosher salt (this isn’t really a change, I just prefer kosher salt to iodized table salt. It sticks better. And I don’t measure because I’m not making a rub – the proportions don’t matter. I put salt on until it looks like enough. If you need a measurement as a guideline, no less than 1/2 tsp.)
  • Ground pepper (see notes on salt)
  • 1 med. yellow onion, sliced (no change, just specifying size and type)
  • 1 12oz. bottle KC Masterpiece Original (12 oz. of sauce is plenty. I like KC Masterpiece, I think it has a good flavor that stands up to long cooking)

OK, ready to cook? Got everything you need? Let’s go. Your prep time is going to be about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how quick you are.

First thing you’ll need to do is get your oven ready to do some broiling. If you don’t know how, refer to your oven manual. It’s generally pretty simple: get out broiler rack, place meat on, place in oven or in broiler drawer. You can skip this step, but your ribs won’t be as good. I don’t know why. They just won’t. I’ve tried it both ways, and unbroiled ribs lack something.

I have an electric convection oven, which means I put my oven rack on the second space from the top, push the button that says “Convection Broil”, close the door, and wait for a few minutes. Just make sure you have your broiler rack out on the counter and not in the oven, because we’ll need it for the meat. The meat we are going to prep now.

Mmmm. . . meat.

Raw ribs in package

I bought two packages of country-style ribs. At my grocery, that means I’ll get six ribs. Yours might be different. Anyway, open up that package and get your ribs! Put them on your broiler pan in a nice arrangement, leaving some space between. Sprinkle them with kosher salt and grind lots of pepper over them. Don’t skimp on the salt and pepper!

Raw seasoned ribs.

There, all ready for the broiler. You might notice that I’ve lined the tray of my broiler pan with foil. Cleanup will be that much easier. Don’t put foil on the top, though. Those vents have to stay open so the juices can drip down.

If your broiler isn’t ready yet, give it a few minutes. Mine is generally ready to go at this point, so I stick the ribs in and set the timer for 7 1/2 minutes. While the ribs are taking their first broiler ride, I slice the onion. Don’t worry too much about this – I try for around 1/4 slices, but if they’re a little bigger or smaller it’s not going to kill anyone.

See – two halves, sliced. Or being sliced. That’s my trusty Wüsthof paring knife. It does all my slicing.

Once your onions are sliced, go ahead and break them up and put them into the slow cooker. By the way, did you notice it’s starting to smell meaty in here? Mmmm.

Now all you have to do is wait for your timer to go off. Once it does, use a pair of tongs to turn the ribs to their other side, and put them back in the broiler for another 7 1/2 minutes. Use this time to do something constructive like surf the internet or read a trashy magazine. You know, improve your mind.

Ah. . . your ribs are broiled!

They’re only supposed to be browned. So don’t be alarmed if things are still looking a bit on the uncooked side. As long as both sides have a nice color to them, we’re okay. They are going to be pretty hot though, so use the tongs to pick them up. You want to put three into the pot, right on top of the onions. We’re going to layer these. Once you’ve got the first three in, douse them with half of the bottle of barbeque sauce.

There, a totally uncompensated product placement. Also note the presence of Bailey’s in the background. I like to have liquor on hand in case things get tense.

Once you’ve got your first layer in and doused, add the remaining ribs and pour the rest of the sauce on top.

It’s looking kind of gory in there, so hurry up and get the lid on. Plug in your slow cooker and turn it on. I started this kind of late in the day (11 AM), so I put mine on High, which means it only needs to cook for 4-5 hours. If you’re doing this before you head out for your nine-hour day at the office, set it to Low. Then it will need to cook for 8-10 hours.

When time is up and you’re ready to eat, carefully remove the lid (it might be hot, depending on your model, so be careful) and set it aside. Remove the ribs with tongs and place on a plate. Don’t be surprised if some meat falls off the bone and you have to go fishing for it – these ribs will be tender! You can spoon out some of the sauce that’s left in the pot if you want extra.

Things I might serve with these include: Sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, squash, and sweet corn. Also some kind of biscuit. Buttermilk, preferably. A nice loaf of home-baked bread never went awry, either.

But, if you’re a tried and true carnivore, just eat the ribs. Who’s going to know?


3 responses so far

Mar 01 2008

Bean Soup Recipe.

Published by under In The Kitchen,Recipes

Most of the time I take my recipes from books or off the internet, and I don’t mess with them. That’s because I am fairly ignorant of how tastes fit together and what compliments what and all that stuff that you learn by cooking a whole lot and paying attention. I don’t really pay attention. I look for certain ingredients or themes in my recipes that give me an idea of if I’ll like them, then I make them verbatim. If I like it, I keep making it. If not, I don’t. As I get more familiar with something, I might start tinkering here and there, but that’s pretty rare.

That being said, this is probably the first recipe that I’ve “made up” – meaning that I didn’t find the recipe anywhere. The Man really likes bean soup. I’ve been indifferent to it, mostly because the recipe I’ve been using is rather bland. It was basically beans, ham, onions, and water. Not much there for flavor. So, last night I decided to sit down in front of my cupboards and see what there was to make it better. Here’s what I came up with.

Bean and Ham Soup

One pound dry navy beans
2 cups diced ham (Use leftovers, or if you’re like me and don’t cook ham that often, buy pre-diced at your local grocery. Look near the lunch meats.)
One large yellow onion
Three cloves minced garlic (I just use the stuff that comes in a jar – not dried, but pre-minced. It’s in the produce section of my grocery.)
2 (10.5 oz) cans chicken broth
2 1/2 – 3 cups water
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt (see notes below)
1 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. basil
Grated Parmesan (optional)

Soak one pound navy beans in cold water overnight.
Drain beans and place in stock pot.
Dice the onion. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until browned. Add to pot.
Add remaining ingredients except Parmesan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until beans are tender. Add additional water during cooking if necessary. Remove bay leaves when cooking is complete, and serve topped with grated Parmesan, if you like.

You could also add several sliced carrots and several stalks of sliced celery. I didn’t, because The Man doesn’t like celery and he doesn’t think carrots belong in bean soup, but they will add a little more aroma and flavor.

Regarding the salt: You may need to add more or less, depending on what kind of broth and ham you use. The ones I used were pretty salty, and I didn’t realize that until the whole thing had been cooking for a couple hours. By that time it was too late to take the salt out and the broth was more salty than I would have liked, although The Man didn’t have a problem with it. Next time I’ll probably wait until the last half hour of cooking, give it a taste, and add the salt (if needed).

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