Sunday, March 31, 2013

Proper Asparagus

We are now in the midst of stinky pee season! That's right ASPARAGUS!!! Little spears of green goodness that make even the cat look at you like "Holy shit, your piss reeks!"

I love the stuff and most children do not. My kids especially do not. Lots of adults hate it too. I hear all sorts of bitching about how it is too stringy, or too tough or too mushy. Most just have never had properly prepared and/or properly chosen asparagus. You shouldn't have to smother it in butter cream sauce just to eat it. I mean, I like butter as much as the next guy and I love a good Bearnaise, but sometimes you just want to taste spring coming, and gross out the cat.

So lets start with the buying process:

Step one- Go to your local store. I do not condone violence in the parking lot, although you may be tempted as there is always that one asshole who decides to back out without looking...*sigh*... nevermind.

Step two- Go to the produce department. Do not run over little old ladies in the process. As much as you want to. I mean, really, do you need to take up the whole aisle inspecting a single grapefruit!?!

Step three- Locate asparagus and do not get side tracked because your kid ran off and found the blue berries. This is a regular occurrence. I will one day lose it and duct tape my daughter to cart. It is hard to be mad at her, as she eats large quantities of good stuff, but it gets tiring after a while. Meanwhile if my son ran off in search of a fresh fruit or vegetable, I would throw a damn party.

Step four- pick out some asparagus and look it over thoroughly. For the love of Jebus, don't look at the asparagus and say that bigger is better. Guys, this is the one time where size matters...but bigger ain't better. It is tempting because everything else in the produce section, for the most part anyway, more is better. You want a big head of lettuce, a large bell pepper or a big juicy apple. Not the case with asparagus. This goes for Brussels sprouts too, but we will save their preparation until the come into season in the fall. We begin spring with reeking pee, and end it with mustard gas. GOD I love the growing season!

 Here is what you are looking for:

Thin, relatively stiff spears with closed tops. If they have open "flower" tops, take a pass. If the spears are white halfway up the spire, take a pass. (Unless it is white asparagus, but that is different, and a total DUH on anyone that confused the two) If the spear is bigger than your thumb, take a pass. I have massive hands so I go with my ring finger, and if you too share the hands that can palm a full size watermelon, I suggest the same guide. If you have fingers like Andre the Giant, may he be at peace, I would find someone else's hands.

Like I did! This is my friend Jeannine's little piggies. She makes a great hand model! And the woman can pick her spears. And if you think I  have a dirty mind...I taught her everything she knows! HA!

Standing ovation for Jeannine!


Lets address color now. They should be a rich green color, similar to broccoli stalks. They might be a touch lighter and should get lighter towards the base. The very bottom can be white, that is okay, but the majority of the spears should be a rich green. If they are yellow-ish, or brownish, pass on those. The tips should be dark green, and they may have a touch of red brown on the "flower" end.

Check out this pic I stole from Wikipedia.



See the two sets in the middle? THAT is perfect. They are slim, and green all the way to the base. This will make them tender, sweet and fresh tasting. The others are not bad, by any means but they are not the best. You end up cutting off more as waste, leaving you with less anyway, so you paid more per pound to end up with less to eat? Totes dumb.

Now, you go home, hopefully with no bloodshed.

What to do with these pee stinkin' beauties?

You have several options. You can use a Bearnaise sauce. Google recipes, there are tons. If you have never made it, it does take a little finesse but a good one is so worth the million and a half fat calories you will eat because of it.

You can steam, you can roast, you can fry, or you can boil. They are pretty flexible. Any place you would use green beans or the like, asparagus will work too. It is something very easy to do, but easy to royally fuck up too. As a rule of thumb, less cooking is better.

Here is what I do, but as always, experiment away with what you like best.


Wash them. Even if you buy organic you should wash produce.




Then snap off the white ends if their are any. If nothing else slice off the ends because they are dry and hard. 



Toss in a little olive oil.




Place on a foil covered cookie sheet, and sprinkle with seasoning of your choice. I actually use some Badia brand Fajita seasoning. There is nothing but spices in it (like no maltodextrin or powdered anything) and there is no cumin in it, that I can tell anyway. I just like the balance of the spices. I saw someone use Montreal Steak seasoning. Click here for the recipe! Whatever you like. They would be good with just garlic butter. Let's face it, if you put garlic butter on it, it could be horse shit and people would eat it. Same goes for deep fat frying. 



Roast under a broiler until the asparagus starts to get brown and crispy on the edges. They should take on a much more intense spring green color. For the amount I used, I roasted for about 20 minutes. Be sure they are not piled up on one another, but are one layer deep to they won't cook right. I almost didn't get a picture of them cooked as you can see, they were snatched up so fast I caught my friend Meag's hand as she goes for more. They were delightful!!


I still get a thrill when I see these cooked for the first
time in the spring. Gorgeous!




Now since I am writing this on "Easter" I have to point out that so many religions have different things that are part of this season. But the underlying thing here is rebirth. For Christians it is about the resurrection. For Jews, Passover. For Wiccans, Spring Equinox. For Pagans, fertility and other such activities which vary based on the particular brand of pagan they are. Both my children were born in March, and now I have a brand new niece also born in March to my sister and her husband. (I have to post a picture later, the baby is too stinking cute.)

Are picking up on a theme here? Birth, rebirth, rising, new life etc.

So I have decided to rename this season something everyone can appreciate.

Happy Sexy-Time Season! May the new season bring new things, and lots of practice making new things.

Shalom all!

Posted on http://beingfrugalbychoice.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Loin of pork, log of yumminess

Again, back to pork.

I am working on another blog post but I can't do it until I have final pics, so I am going to share my recipe for  Lime (or Lemon) pepper pork loin. Simple and quick.

This recipe is great on pork, chicken or fish. I have done beef in it, but it would do to add more vinegar to that then this recipe calls for.

You can, if you think ahead, put some pork chops/loins in bags and add this marinade and then freeze. Then all you gotta do is take it out of the freezer, and it is already seasoned.

Start with a bowl. Add one part Lime or Lemon juice to one part water. For each part of that, add 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

Then add in equal quantity, ground thyme, garlic, onion powder, and as much fresh cracked pepper as you like. This takes some trial and error. Marinate for at least 4 hours. This is simple enough that you could do it first thing in the morning, and put frozen loins in with it and it should be thawed AND seasoned by the time you get home 8 hours later.
Two pork loins walk into some marinade...

Then stick it on the grill, and cook until it reaches 165 degrees internal temp....

Bull shit.

Thanks to modern aseptic techniques, the reason for cooking pork was to avoid passing along a parasite known as trichinosis. The cases in the US last year were about 12 (yes, that is two more than 10, not a misprint nor am I missing some exponent), and they were all traced back to people eating game meats, or wild pork, not pork from the supermarket. Although officially I have to say that you take a risk if you don't cook the meat all the way through, it is safe to eat slightly pink-in-the-middle pork. Let's be honest, you take a risk just by breathing, or sitting on the toilet.



If you use pork loins, as I like to, cook until they are pink in the middle or about 145-155 degrees, depending on your pleasure. It is similar to medium to medium well in beef. However, when grilling them, pull them off the grill at 5 degrees short of your intended target.

But why, you ask?

Simple...no one like dry pork. (that's what she said)

Pull the meat off the grill 5 degrees shy, cover with foil and let it rest for 10 whole, excruuuuuuuuuuuuuciating minutes. It will coast in that last 5 degrees from the residual heat in the meat. You should always do this, with all meats (except fish, explanation later) because by letting it rest, it allows the juices in the meat to redistribute and balance. Know what happens if you skip and go right to cutting?

I'll say it again....NO ONE LIKES DRY PORK.

All the juices that you worked so hard to keep in the meat, flow out faster than money in the national treasury. (Usually on other pork belly projects, but I digress) The molecules that make up the juices are very active because the energy from the flame is being transferred to the cells in the meat, causing all sorts of activity, creating friction, which creates heat inside the meat...which is what cooks the damn thing. Okay, totes nerd alert, but you learned something right?

I didn't get a shot of the meat when it first came off the grill, or when I served it as it never is still long enough after resting for me to get a shot. My daughter is a pork fiend remember? Use your meat thermometer, and you will do just fine. If in the future I get some shots, I will post them for you so that you can see what it is you are aiming for.

Enjoy your loin!

Cheers!








Monday, March 25, 2013

My Potato Soup Recipe has been Leeked!

Its cold outside.

FUCKING cold outside.

Here in Rochester, last year it was 75 degrees, and the grass was growing. This year, is what would be considered a normal year and it is very cold outside. The thing is the sun is out, so it is a major tease. What makes me sad is the fact that a "normal" year here involves a freak snow storm on Mothers Day. Punxsutawney Phil is in a lot of people's cross hairs right now.

In order to emotionally pad myself from this reality, I created a soup that is like a security blanket that you can hide under until the worst is over. I plan to come out sometime after Mothers Day. Call me Linus.

In the meantime, here is the recipe.

Living Room Blanket Fort Baked Potato Soup

Leeks (Be sure to clean the right way, see further down)
White or Gold Potatoes
garlic
celery
chicken stock
flour
heavy cream
whole milk
bacon
shredded cheddar cheese
Spices

I shall preface this an say, as I always do, please take this recipe and make it your own. Don't like celery? Don't use it. Like cabbage? Throw some in. You learn best by doing, and the more you mess with stuff, the better it gets for you, and that is the whole point right? Cooking is like sex. If it isn't horrible the first time it is at least lack luster. The more you do it, the better it gets and the more creative you can be with it. As it gets better, the more you want to do it. This may lead to one of two things; an increase in homemade meals, or a lot of unintended pregnancies. (or just a lot of nooners) Or both.


Start by cleaning your leeks. If you have never used leeks let me tell you a bit about them. They are basically giant green onions. The End.



 The problem with it is that they grow in layers in sandy soil so that as they are growing they trap grains of sand and dirt in between the layers. You have to do the following:

 Cut off the ends and discard. (preferably in the compost pile)

See all the individual layers? You will find hidden dirt in there
faster than Perez Hilton can get dirt on Lindsay Lohan.

Slice in slim layers, and put in a bowl of cold water and separate the layers in the water.








The leeks will float. The dirt will sink to the bottom. When you see the amount of gunk in what you thought were clean vegetables....I imagine you may look twice at vegetables.




See the dirt in the bottom? Ick. 


Saute the leeks in a little olive oil. If you are using fresh garlic, add it now. Sweat these until soft. Add them to a stock pot.



Chop the potatoes into chunks and add to the pot. Cover with 3/4 chicken stock and 1/4 water. Simmer until the potatoes are soft.


In a bowl, add one small carton heavy cream, an equal amount of whole milk, and for every part heavy cream add 5 tablespoons of flour. Use a whisk to mix thoroughly.


This is the point where you can add any additional spices. I like to add ground thyme, seasoned salt, sage, salt and pepper. Add whatever you like, but you might not need anything. The leeks add the onion flavor and the garlic balances it nicely. If you didn't use fresh garlic add your garlic powder now. I would not recommend skipping it unless you really like onion flavor. 


That bottle of hydrogen peroxide is not there intentionally.
I do not recommend adding it to food.
I just went grocery shopping and the person loading
my bags put it in with the rice-a-roni. So this
is where it has sat for several weeks.
Add to the pot and stir to combine. Do this slowly to avoid lumps.

You will need to simmer this until it thickens to your liking.

Now fry up some bacon. You want 1- 2 slices per serving. Up to you how you want to do it. I leave it more whole, but others like to crumble it. Like I say, whatevs.



Drain on a paper towel. 

Add some cheddar cheese to the top, a slice of bacon or two, and some scallions and VOILA! A soup you want to eat naked. Well, if you do, be careful. Molten cheese burns.   



Cheers!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cabbage Cabbage Everywhere...

...and ne'er a Kraut to eat it.

So St. Patrick's day is over. Once we are all done nursing the hang overs we acquired, (or at least your hang over; I am too old to drink like that anymore) we are left with cabbage everywhere from the corned beef and cabbage we made for dinner. Or what you made for dinner. Not being Irish I don't get it. I am however a Scot and we know our winter vegetables.

And our Whiskey...so I guess I do have something in common with the Irish. ;)

I can't help but see that heads of cabbage are cheap as dirt right now because of the holiday. So in the interest of using something that I can get cheap, I tried out some recipes. Here is the first...Second will come soon.

Orange Teriyaki Pork and Cabbage

1 medium sized head cabbage, shredded (you slice first, roast and then shred, so don't just shred)
Teriyaki sauce
Orange juice
Orange zest
Honey
Pork loin, cut into bite sized pieces
Brown Rice, steamed
Onion
Carrot
Broccoli florets
Add whatever other vegetable you like

Set your oven to 450 degrees. Then slice the cabbage into....well, slices. Drizzle with olive oil, honey, and sprinkle salt and pepper.

Roast in the 450 degree oven until the cabbage just starts to caramelize. Then remove from the oven. You are looking to convert the starches in the cabbage into sugars but you want to keep them crisp. Nothing worse than soggy cabbage. Okay, maybe there are worse things but soggy cabbage is really gross. Like having no TP in a public toilet with no one around. Or the mom sneeze that sneaks up on you. That's right, you moms know what I am talking about.


Slice your pork into pieces, and saute until cooked through in a little olive oil. I added some garlic powder and onion powder to this. Just a little, so half a clove of fresh and maybe one shallot if you want fresh. 





Once the pork is cooked, if you need to drain then do so now.



In a bowl add the juice and teriyaki sauce to your liking. This is where you get to play mad scientist (can I get a BWHAHAHA!). Add some honey to sweeten. This whole saucing process is really up to you. You can, and I have, used some strange things, but this is about what flavors you want to come out of the dish. We love orange chicken, but like the orange flavor, and not so much the really sweet stuff the pseudo Chinese food places sell you. So I squeeze an orange and then zest it, add the teriyaki, an itty bit of honey to balance the citrus, salt, pepper, garlic and if it is just my husband and I eating, some red pepper flakes. Nothing like a little spicy pork. (that's what she said)


 Add the sauce to your pork and cook it until it starts to caramelize a little, and cook down. Then add your cabbage. If you are adding other vegetables, you may have to cook them first, like the cabbage. (Stuff like parsnips, or rutabaga).

Any other things, add, and cook til they are just steamed so they stay crunchy.



You can serve this with brown rice, as I did or you can serve alone. The flavors are so fresh, and the crunchy textures are great. AND....you are getting tons of fiber, and lots of vitamins, and in a way that your body can use them. Vitamins and minerals are far more effective when gotten from food sources. But you don't have to think about that, just the fact that it tastes good.

This is one of many recipes I will do with cabbage over the coming weeks. I try to use what is cheap. Right now, a head of cabbage can be gotten for less than a dollar.
However, I will not substitute with stuff at the sacrifice of it tasting good. My point here is that if you won't eat it, then what the hell is the point of doing it? It then becomes waste that is making this whole thing not worth your time, and I would not insult your intelligence in that way.

I will, however, continue to tell cheesy jokes.

Cheers!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Crockpot Heaven or Squeezing the Nickle til the Buffalo Shits

Alrighty guys, you have seen me take a whole chicken and make money in the form of chicken stock appear as if by magic right? Well, I have a proposition for you. And not a creepy one like Indecent Proposal...

What if I told you, that you could make, from a single whole chicken or Turkey (or just the breast) 2 separate meals that would feed a person for days? You say no way, I say trust the red headed viking on this one. (That being me, for those playing the home game)

Here is how it goes...Get yourself your preferred bird. A whole turkey, a whole chicken or just parts of said chicken or turkey, it matters not, as long as it fits in your crockpot. You want whole pieces, like with bone and skin attached. This just won't work with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I like breast as much as the next guy but....

You can take them, still frozen if you like, and put them into the crock pot in the morning. If using a big, dense bird, put the crock pot on High before you leave the house to go and rule the world. If they are fresh or in pieces, put it on low. You can gauge this yourself as you know what your crockpot is capable of. Mine could ignite jet fuel from 50 paces, so I stick to low. Leave it there until you come home for dinner. Check to be sure that it is done before you serve, but that is about it. Badda-Boom, you got roast poultry for dinner. You can pair it with whatever you like. I like to do salt potatoes and carrots. You'll see why in a minute.

Once everyone has had their fill, strip off the meat remaining. Put it in a container and put it in the fridge.

Take that carcass, put it back into the crockpot with the remaining juices still in there. No need to clean the damn thing if you're going to just put it back in there. Music to my ears. Add water until it is near the top, turn it on low and leave it there. I leave it all night on the "keep warm" setting and then turn it up to high in the morning when I leave for whatever I am doing that day.

When you get home, you will have a pot of poultry stock. At this point this is the most work you will do.You gotta strain the crap in there. Get the bones out and other unsavory things. Put the stock back into the crockpot. I get back in the afternoon so I have time to do this and let it cook again before dinnertime, but if you don't get home til dinner time, cook the stock overnight, and do the strain step in the morning before you leave the house. Make the soup so it is ready for the 5 o'clock kitchen rush.

Strained and ready to go. 

I forgot I had these potatoes so they are all wrinkly
and weird. I waste nothing, so in they went. 

Remember those potatoes and carrots I made? Yeah, whip out those leftovers and the leftover meat and throw it in the crockpot with whatever else you like in a soup. This time around I didn't have enough left over veggies to add, so I went all fresh. You can use just about anything here, turnips, parsnips, beans, etc. What do you have in the fridge that won't last another week? Use it, you might be surprised. I never make it the same way twice. I season with garlic, onion, thyme, sage, and seasoned salt. You do whatever blows your kilt up.

Let it cook the crap you added to it, and now you have soup.




BUT WE'RE NOT DONE YET, Y'ALL!

I have been reading many a blog over the years with recipes and I came across one that added, of all things, mini ravioli to her soup. Here is the link for her recipe. She calls it ASS or Awesome Sarah Soup. Girl after my own heart right there.

I usually add egg noodles to the soup to add that extra something. I had never thought to use ravioli.  BRILLIANT!!

Well, THAT'S a craptastic picture...

Nom Nom Nom

And there you go, as soon as the ravioli (or noodles) are cooked through you can serve. It is wonderful, and it cans up nice too...that is if it doesn't get snarfed down before I can get it to the jars. This soup feeds us for a several days worth of lunches after the main dinner has been served. It is healthy, and homemade, and great on a damp western NY day with Rochester gray skies. It makes use of parts you would throw away, and it is a great way to squeeze every last bit out of the money you spent on the poultry.

Cheers!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shameless Plug for My Basset Hound

https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/MollyMcbutter/abc-basset-hound-rescue-spring-blast-2013


Above is a link to my fundraising page for the rescue I got my beautiful basset hound, Molly Mc Butter through. I have been volunteering and such with them for over 2 years now. They are well run, and are an all volunteer organization, so all the money goes to the dogs. I have fostered scores of dogs over the past two years, and I have seen some of the worst atrocities committed against these innocent beings.
This is my Molly, used as poster child for the entry way to
an event. 

I tell the story of Holly, one of the dogs that come with a group we brought up from Tennessee. I happened to be the one that drove down and met the transport in Tennessee, as this bunch came all the way from Texas, and a horrible back yard breeding situation. If you do nothing at least read Holly's story so you are aware of what is happening to dogs in the southern US. There are no gory pictures, and I don't go into gory detail about it either, there is no necessity for that level of shock value, but it gives you an idea of what we face. We started taking bassets from other rescues over a year ago, and the requests keep pouring in. So much so that we can't keep up. We want to help them all but we can't. We are one of the few rescues that does long term hospice care as well. Our resources are limited, and we do need continued support to help as many as we can. This particular trip, and the subsequent vet care for them has topped 25 grand.

If you can, please donate a buck or two, as every tiny bit helps us. I don't want to see more Hollys than I have to, but if that means giving another sweet basset peace, comfort and love for their remaining years, so be it.

Share on every network you can and spread the word. I appreciate every share and forward.

As an informed consumer, here is the link to the website so you can fact check. I wouldn't recommend them if it wasn't well organized and above board. And as a recognized 501 (c) 3, all donations are 100% tax deductible.

If you live in the Upstate NY region, I encourage you to come to our Spring Basset Blast, April 27th in Rochester. The information is on the website. Last year, we had 300 bassets, OFF LEASH in the indoor arena we rented. Most were dogs we have rescued over the years. I don't cry easily, but I do when I see it.

Here are some photos of the babies we've worked with over the years:
This was one of my first fosters,
Charlie Brown. He was just a baby
and such a character!

This is Fenway, and he was left outside to roam his neighborhood
unsupervised. He was picked up and we took him, but he had
to be taught how to live inside with humans...

Lissie is in front, Mae is in back. Lissie was Mae's Mommy
and they both went to loving homes. They were so thin and
were not house trained at all. It took weeks but
we got them adoption ready. 


This is the dog formerly known as Norman. He came in with Holly.
He was so underweight, riddled with fleas, heartworm, and had an infected
neuter site due to the hack job neuter what was done.
He had to have his scrotum completely removed, as it was the size of a softball.
We weren't sure he would make it through the surgery, with his heartworm
being advanced, but he did.

This is Norman, now called Theo, recently.
He is healthy and just about perfect.
This is what we do.
This is Blue, turned over to the rescue because the was
"too much work" and they didn't want him anymore. He
was one of the best behaved dogs I ever fostered.

This behemoth using my Molly as a pillow was my personal favorite
Flash. He was my first, a show quality basset, that tipped the scales at 90lbs.  Just so
you have a comparison, Molly is 36lbs. Average basset is 40-50lbs.

This is Flash now with his new Mommy. She got him
Goggles to wear when they go hiking. He had cherry eye
surgery and it was recommended that he be kept indoors all the time to
keep him from getting stuff in his eyes. His Mom, after renaming him
 (a very appropriate) Moose, went and had several sets of
 goggles made so he can
go outside and hike with his mom, and not worry about
 damaging his peepers.
That is dedication. 

And this is just my testimony as to why I think Bassets are
the best.