Monday, December 10, 2012

Fishing for ideas to avoid wasting food

Ordinarily I’m writing about dishes we make with the meat we raise here on the farm, or garden veggies we raise, or some combo thereof . . . this is a little different tack, as it involves fish, which we don’t raise OR catch.

Our neighbor, who is an avid fisherman and hunter, gifted us with a large bag of frozen coho salmon. I thawed out this monster portion of fish with trepidation – we love fish, particularly salmon, but this was about 3 pounds or so of fish – could have fed six people! We had a meal using two of the smaller filets that came out of the thawed pile, but there were two enormous chunks – probably 1 ½ - 2# of filets that I had cooked and then wondered what to do with. I have never before made chowder, but I like it, so I looked up a bunch of recipes for fish chowder, making mental notes about things that sounded good to me. Here (approximately) is what I put together, which turned out to be a quite-savory fish chowder. Darrell whipped up a batch of his corn muffins that incorporate more of our good garden corn – warm from the oven, they were a great complement to the chowder!

Fish Chowder
1.5 – 2 # cooked fish (salmon, some sort of white fish, whatever you have), deboned and broken into bite-sized chunks
4 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
2 medium to large carrots, cut into chunks
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 chopped garlic clove, or teaspoon of chopped garlic from a jar
1.5 quarts of chicken broth (or, if you have or want to make fish stock . . . )
¼ # or so of fresh salt pork, cut into small pieces
1 package of frozen corn, or one can of corn (I used frozen corn from our garden)
1 – 2 Tbs of dried oregano (to taste)
1 – 2 Tbs of dried parsley (to taste)
Couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce (to taste)
1 good dash of Worchestershire sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
4 Tbs flour
3 Tbs butter

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, on low heat, brown the salt pork until crispy. Add the chopped onion and celery and sauté until tender; add the chopped garlic and sauté for about another minute.

Add the broth or stock, stirring to loosen up the bits from browning the salt pork. Add the chunks of potatoes and carrots, the corn, oregano, parsley, salt & pepper, Worchester sauce, and Tabasco sauce (careful with this, as it’s spicy hot and you can always add more). Simmer this until potatoes and carrots are tender. Add in the chunks of fish and keep on the heat for a little while more just to release the fish flavor into the rest of the mixture.  If you want to eat this right away, go on to the finishing steps, but most chowder recipes reference that it's better the next day. I refrigerated this overnight at this point, then did the finishing step the next day to have a hearty lunch on a cold day.

Finishing: (Begin re-heating the chowder while you do this step)
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan; slowly add flour to make a roux. Stirring constantly to prevent lumps, add the milk and cook until it begins to thicken.
Add this flour/milk thickener to your heating chowder and stir in well. Add the heavy cream and stir in well.
Reheat the chowder on a low to medium heat to just bubbling, stirring frequently to keep the creamy broth from sticking. Serve hot. This recipe should serve 5 – 6 people. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Turkey transformed to Turkey Pot Pies for the freezer!

After our Thanksgiving gathering (turkey, Darrell's fabulous stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, butternut squash  and creamed corn from the garden, fresh cranberry/orange relish, homemade applesauce, the Fall Harvest Salad, and the ubiquitous Crescent Rolls without which my step-daughter could not survive Thanksgiving dinner), I pulled all the meat off the carcass and put the bones in a big pot to simmer for several hours, creating a wonderful broth.
I spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon cooking carrots in some of that broth, cutting up turkey into bite-sized pieces, adding corn (from the summer garden) and peas, and then blending the broth, left-over potatoes and stuffing into a thick and wonderful gravy to create the pot pie filling (see our recipe for Turkey Pot Pie for all the instructions here).

Sunday afternoon, Darrell made pastry crusts and we assembled pies, ready for the freezer. Yum! Easy-peasy winter meal that can bake in the oven while we're out doing chores!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fall Harvest Salad with Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Beets

I created this for a Thanksgiving 2012 get-together, wanting to focus on hearty fall garden veggies. It was a big hit at the table!

One small Butternut squash, cut into cubes (or half of a medium squash)
20 Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and cut in half
One small beet, cut in halves or quarters
3-4 slices of bacon, fried crisp, drained and cooled, broken into small pieces
One smallish head Romaine lettuce, split into quarters and chopped chunky
3-4 smaller leaves of kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup Grated Parmesan cheese
Brown sugar
Vegetable or olive oil
Balsamic or Red Wine vinegar
Coarse black pepper

Toss Butternut Squash cubes in a little oil in a bowl to coat them and spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of your chunks) or until nearly done. Return to bowl and add about 1/3 cup brown sugar and a pat or two of butter, toss to blend and melt butter, return to baking sheet and roast for about 10 more minutes, or until just barely tender all the way through. Don’t over-cook – you don’t want them mushy. Return to bowl to cool. Chill before mixing.

Toss Brussels Sprout halves in a little oil in a bowl to coat, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, remove and toss/turn over, and roast for several more minutes, until they are nearly tender – again, don’t over-cook. Better that they be a little crunchy in the salad than not. Return to bowl to cool. Chill before mixing.

Beet can be roasted or steamed until just tender. If you prefer roasting, cut it in half or quarters and roast with the Brussels Sprouts, then slice into small julienne strips after it cools.  Chill before mixing

Put dried cranberries in a small bowl and sprinkle lightly with a little of the balsamic vinegar. They will absorb a little of the liquid and not be so chewy, and they will absorb the flavor. Once the cranberries are tossed and coated with the vinegar and have absorbed for a few minutes, you can add them to the roasted squash while it continues to cool.

Toss nuts in a little honey and toast in a slow oven (250 degrees or so), for about 10 minutes. Watch carefully, as nuts will overheat and burn, especially with the sugar from the honey on them. Cool completely.

Put chopped/torn greens and sliced green onion into a large salad bowl. Add the Bacon, Cranberries, chilled Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and julienned Beet, and honey-toasted nuts. Sprinkle with some coarse black pepper (to taste) and Parmesan cheese. Add the Brown Sugar Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste. Toss lightly before serving.

Brown Sugar Balsamic Vinaigrette
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
¾ cup vegetable oil
¼ tsp. salt (maybe a little more)
½ cup brown sugar (or a little more)

Blend ingredients in jar with a tight cover that can be shaken well.  Add enough salt to balance the sweet. The measurements for this dressing are estimates, as I was just adding and mixing. May have actually had a little more brown sugar. Taste until you like the balance of tang to sweet.

This jar of dressing will probably dress at least twice, if not 3x the salad ingredients listed above. Store unused dressing in the refrigerator.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Monsters in the Garden . . .

So I've been working on digging the potatoes out of the garden before it freezes - finding a couple of dry days in a row so they can lay in the sun and dry and harden off has been a real challenge. At least we're getting some moisture back in the ground after the drought this summer, but all the rain is wreaking havoc with finishing up in the garden - no idea if it will dry out enough to till down all the new weeds that have sprung up with the rain, or if they'll just have a big head start next spring!

Anyway, found this odd potato which looks like the maw of some undersea creature, ready to gobble up any small thing that comes its way. Don't know what it was eating underground - maybe grubs and such.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Odd Pods, revisited

Last year, I was bemused by the strange looking seed pods that formed on our radishes after they had gotten overgrown and flowered. I posted a photo of them then, and had mentioned them to someone recently who said the pods, when they're fresh and green, are good to eat! Raw in salads or such, or sautéed lightly was what I was told. So this past Monday, right before going traveling for 3 days, I was doing some last-minute gleaning in the garden and looked at the radishes. There are still lots of the pretty little white flowers, but many of the flower stems had beautiful green pods. I picked one and ate it - not unlike a sugar pea in its pod! And a very subtle taste of radishes as an after-note. So I harvested a bunch of them, put some in a salad for dinner that night - nice little crunchy addition! The rest are in the vegetable crisper - don't know how long they'll keep and be usable, but it was fun to try another idea to get even more yield out of the garden!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Homemade Ketchup!

I picked a bunch of tomatoes over the course of a few days, then cooked them down, ran them through the KitchenAid strainer to remove the skins and seeds (in the blue bowl) and got this lovely pulp (in the glass pitcher). Love that strainer attachment!

Darrell then strained that through a cotton bag (pillow case) to get rid of all the extra water, then seasoned it and made 18 pint jars of ketchup from a recipe in an Ohio Amish cookbook. The recipe calls for a huge quantity of pulp, but he recalculated and makes this batch with about 4 1/2 quarts of drained pulp.

This late in the year, I don't know if I'll get any more tomatoes off our plants - a slight frost caught me off-guard a couple of nights ago - weather forecast said it wouldn't get colder than high 30s, so I didn't cover the plants. Some damage, but probably can pull some tomatoes to ripen in the garage if it ever stops raining. I'd like to can some more tomatoes, or do the same process as with the ketchup, only can the strained pulp as paste - not sure that's going to happen, though!

Can't believe the garden is almost done! Still have beets out there, which I've been pulling, and any we don't get to will go to the hogs. Need to dig the potatoes, but the rain right now is preventing THAT from happening. Still a lot of kale, and pumpkins galore, which he is feeding to the hogs and we are giving to friends with kids for Halloween. We need to can some pumpkin for pies and such, too, so canning isn't done yet!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Surviving and Thriving - Serendipitous Broccoli!

Late spring, when I finally got the garden planted (about 2 -3 weeks later than planned!), I put in 4 broccoli plants. Within a couple of days, some little creature had munched them all down. When I was tilling the garden, little weeds were sprouting in the area they had been in, so I ran across it to clean it up and turned up the little stub that was left of one, still rooted in the soil it had come it. I looked at it and realized there was a little leaf and some green in the stem, so I re-planted it, watered it and watched to see if whatever had decimated the 4 plants came back. That didn't happen, but this little plant was so set back, I figured I would be lucky to get any broccoli off it at all. I looked at it a week ago (early September!), while doing some weeding, and there was no sign of any heads forming, but the plant had grown large and healthy-looking. This Saturday, I re-checked - lo and behold, not one, but TWO nice big heads! Apparently the little surviving stub managed to put out two main stalks (for the uninitiated, you usually get one large head on a stalk, then, after you cut that, the plant continues to produce side stalks and smaller heads until hard frost). Two main stalks on a plant is unusual in my experience. So before cutting these beautiful heads, I had to take a photo. With chicken distribution Saturday and doing tomatoes all day yesterday, I didn't get them cut. You can see the faint yellow where they were getting ready to blossom - pretty tiny little yellow flowers when that happens!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Canning Tomatoes - YUM!

Today I turned out 18 pints of salsa and 7 quarts of canned tomatoes. Love, love, love all the great stuff you can make from tomatoes! Hopefully we'll get enough tomatoes to can more just for whatever, and make juice and ketchup. Cooked down a small amount of sauce after canning, intending to make a pasta and ground lamb "something" for dinner . . . fat chance, as the big draft horses decided to take a tour of a couple of pastures/fields they weren't supposed to be in, so by the time we had rounded them all up, it was late and we were tired and hungry - we had popcorn for supper! Hardly ever eat popcorn, so that was actually kind of fun!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Salvaging Corn

When the first two rows of corn came ready in the garden, we had our grandson here and no time to process. After he was gone, I picked half the rows and got a bunch of corn in the freezer, but the other half of those rows sat there as hay had to be put up, last of the pickles made, etc. So, I was thinking this over-ripe corn would just go to the piggies. But then, we remembered creamed corn, so I did an experiment and made a lovely small batch. It was so good that last night I picked the rest of the over-ripe corn, boiled it, cut it off the cob, mixed in cream, milk, butter, a little sugar and a little salt, and spread the mixture out in glass pans and roasted it in a 300-degree oven for about an hour and a half, maybe 2 hours, until the liquid reduced to carmelized goodness. That will make a wonderful alternative vegetable choice this winter!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pickles, Jams, and other Goodies

The garden is really kicking in now . . . kale has been in for weeks and yields lots of good salad greens, greens to use for other purposes (steamed, or in omelets, for example); wax (yellow) beans are producing nicely and I'm thinking of pickling some of those; beets are lovely, first two rows of corn is ready to be picked, steamed, and frozen; pickling cukes are producing like crazy and I just processed what will be the last batch for us this season; and have had a few tomatoes, although not enough yet to go into a canning frenzy on those. We are out of nearly everything "tomato" from last season - canned tomatoes and salsa are gone, there's one jar of juice, and a couple jars of ketchup left . . . restocking is vital!

Darrell has made blueberry jam and peach jam, and is planning on peach pie (YAY!) and freezing the rest of the peck he got last week.

Last night I dug up a few potatoes off the Kennebec row and made scalloped potatoes with ham from a picnic shoulder from one of our Berkshire hogs - so yummy, and the left-overs make a great, quick lunch for both of us.

I spent a lot of time in the garden this weekend getting caught up on weeding and tilling - the recent, blessed rains had the little weeds popping out all over! Plus I actually got a major weed-through on the asparagus rows done - it's a challenge and entails crawling on hands and knees under the asparagus ferns - not a perfect job, but the rows are cleaner than they've been for awhile!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gardening in 95+ Degrees is not fun!

I have been managing, barely, to keep on top of the weeds in the garden. There are some open spaces where I had intended to plant buckwheat to be a cover crop, but that's not done yet. Maybe tomorrow morning when it's cool. This morning, I got the strawberry bed weeded, some large weeds out of one row of the asparagus (two rows to go - sigh), tomato plants tied up a bit more (I'm determined to not let them get away from me like last year, where I had vines and tomatoes all over the ground!), and odd weeds plucked from among many of the row plants.

Darrell says I plant like I golf, with a slice - notice how everything curves off to the right in the rows. I prefer to say that it's a graceful, organic arc, as I'm not a linear person. Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Strawberries coming on!

We had to replant our strawberry patch last year, as we had allowed it to grow together into a huge mass and couldn't keep it weeded. After a year or two of weeds gaining, we just plowed it down and started over with three rows of new plants. This year the new plants are coming on great, and yesterday I picked the first berries - got about 4 quarts or so. Strawberry shortcake for supper tonight!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pancetta from Coach Stop Farm Berkshire Pork!

One of our customers, Jon, just sent me this GORGEOUS photo of pancetta he cured himself in a curing chamber using the side pork from one of our great Berkshire hogs. He says, "Sweet, salty porky goodness." Looks so yummy, I want to print out the photo and take a bite! Nice job, Jon!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Italian Sausage & Rice Casserole in a Skillet

While I was traveling a couple of weeks ago, Darrell made up a simple skillet dish for himself. He made it again yesterday, so I asked him to construct a recipe - when we cook, we tend to just use ingredients until it looks/tastes good, so sometimes actual measurements are hard to come by. These are his best estimates of what he has put into this skillet casserole . . . experiment to suit yourself!

1 onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp white or black pepper
Oregano and parsley to taste
1 ½ cups rice
3 ½ cups water or chicken stock
Salt to taste
1 lb hot Italian sausage
Parmesan Cheese, coarsely grated

Chop onion as desired, sauté in a bit of olive oil until just transparent.  Add celery, cook until limp, add garlic, then add herbs to taste.  It will make a difference if you’re using fresh or dried and your preference.  You may also add a little basil or any other herb you desire.  I don’t add any salt because I use a chicken base that adds plenty of salt but if you’re using water or canned stock, you’ll need to add salt.  Add the rice and stir in with the vegetables for just a minute, then add the stock.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer about an hour or until the rice is as tender as you like it.  Meanwhile, brown the sausage lightly in a separate skillet, drain off excess grease.  I use a bulk sausage, so I crumble it while browning.  If you are using stuffed sausage, cut into bite-sized slices before browning. When the rice is nearly done or done, add the sausage, stir it a bit, then stir in about a cup of coarsely grated Parmesan, more or less depending on your taste.  You can also leave out the cheese and add as a garnish to suit individual taste.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dry-Rub Ribs for Summer Grilling Season

It seems appropriate to share this on the front page of the blog right now - nice weather has been so "early" for so many of us that thinking about grilling has become action for many. This is a simple recipe that will knock your socks off when you taste it. When we do ribs on the grill like this for company, we also usually have home-made potato salad, corn on the cob (in season), and usually make home-made ice cream made with cooked custard from our eggs. If this doesn't gear you up for summer grill meals, nothing will!

Fabulous Dry-rubbed Ribs - grill or oven
One Rack of Pork Ribs
Package of Breakfast Sausage seasoning (dry spice mixture - butcher shops have it) or any pork seasoning you like (generally has some sage in it)
One Lemon, cut in half

Liberally rub the ribs with the dry seasoning and let stand about an hour
Place ribs on grill or on baking sheet in the oven.
(When grilling, use a cover - indirect heat grills work best, but if you use charcoal, avoid flameups if you can.)
Roast with one side up for 20 minutes, turn
Roast with other side up for 20 minutes, turn
Squeeze the juice from 1/2 lemon over the side you just turned up (liberally)
Roast for 10 minutes, turn
Squeeze the juice from the other half lemon over the side you just turned up
Roast for 10 minutes.
Remove and cut between ribs into pieces. Serve hot, but they're great leftover (cold or warm), too.

May be eaten with barbecue sauce, but for those of you like me who don't like ribs soaked in red sauce, these are fabulous just as they are.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A lovely Mediterranean chicken salad for lunch!

Friends were coming for lunch yesterday. When we first made the plan (it's March in Michigan), I thought "a yummy chicken soup from one of our chickens, along with some homemade French bread, will be just the ticket!" Then, watching the forecast on Monday, I realize the temp will be in the 80s on Wednesday (this was a record-setter for our area!), and that hot soup and warm bread was probably not the way to go. So I re-visited the menu.
Fortunately, my mom collects recipes for me out of the paper, and on Sunday I had gotten the March Dash insert. It had a Mediterranean Chicken Salad recipe than sounded interesting. Of course, being me, I had to alter it some - partly because there are a couple of ingredients that I just don't care for (tarragon and olives) and partly because I didn't have exactly what the recipe asked for, so I substituted. Served on large leaves pulled off a head of Romaine lettuce, this was a wonderfully tasty, cool lunch on a hot day, with some of our home-canned peaches on the side!

Mediterranean Chicken Salad
(original recipe from Dash)

6 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar (I used Balsamic vinegar)
1/2 tsp dried tarragon (I used some dried "herbs de province")
1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (I used the bottled kind, as I'm too Dutch to waste a whole lemon for half a tablespoon)
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I used yellow, as I don't care for or have Dijon)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (I found myself adding a little more pepper while eating, so I would likely increase this next time)
1 (3#) rotisserie chicken, diced (I used the breasts from one of our birds, which I had baked with a citrus blend seasoning on the outside.)
1/2 cup orzo
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes, because I prefer them)
1 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained (I cut them into halves or quarters, depending on size)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, pitted kalamata olives 

1. Combine oil, vinegar, tarragon, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to blend.

2. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with ¼ cup dressing.

3. Boil orzo in a large pot of salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse under cold water to cool and drain well.

4. Transfer orzo to a large bowl. Stir in remaining dressing and toss to coat. Add chicken, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives. Keep chilled until lunchtime.