Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Greetings all on this beautiful Halloween night. This year was a quiet Halloween. For this year we didn't participate in the usual festivities, running around the neighborhoods begging for treats; I could give several reasons why, but instead I will just show you what we did do. The boys were treated to a very special Halloween trick meal...We started the night with a quite artfully put together salad of eyeballs and hairballs...
Then I stirred up a quick batch of goblin guts...
and completed the meal with some
deliciously bloody mummy fingers.
To wash this ghoulish meal down the boys had
day-old bathwater to drink....

...and for dessert they were served a delicious scoop of freshly dug graveyard mud complete with worms and bugs.
Hope your ghouls and goblins had a horrificly terrific Halloween night. Mwwaahahahaaaa!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fresh Baked Bread

In an effort to eat fresher food we have decided to try not to buy staple items from the store that I am relatively sure that I can make at home. So bread, and tortillas are now handmade instead of bought. Some days it is difficult when we have run out of these items and time is short. It has really made me more aware that consistency is very important. Baking bread has to happen at least once a week in order to have it in the house on a regular basis. I have really been enjoying bread baking except when it is rushed. So we are experimenting with freezing bread dough, and possibly freezing baked loaves of bread in order to help out with time. With that being said, my last batch of bread is one that I just came up with the other day because I just wasn't in the mood for white bread. It is a rather large batch.

Whole grain French Bread

Making a Sponge:
2 cups of flour
2 cups of water
3 tbsp yeast(I use instant)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup of corn meal
1/2 cup cracked wheat
Mix the above ingredients into a very large bowl. It should be quite liquid, if not add a little water until it is not dry. Let it sit in a warm draft free area for 1-2 hours

Making the bread:
After this time the sponge should be bubbling and rising in the bowl. Add to it:
8 cups of flour
2 - 3 cups of water
2 tbsp molasses or honey(molasses adds color and flavor to the bread)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 -3 tsp salt
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Alternate adding the water and the dry ingredients so that he batter does not become too dry. If the batter is too wet add a little flour until it is not sticky and can be kneaded. Some people recommend taking the dough out and putting it on a floured surface to knead, I just keep it in the bowl for the first rising. Knead it for 10-15 minutes until it is no longer sticky, add a little flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Rub a little olive oil on the dough ball and let it rise covered in a draft free area for an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Punch down dough and shape into loves either in a pan or free formed like a French bread. Let it rise for 20 minutes or so. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. This recipe will make 3-4 large loaves.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Best Biscuits

This is my favorite biscuit recipe because it is a very large batch that is also very versatile, and the only one that I have managed to get to work right to make light fluffy biscuits that rise when you cook them. It comes from a Bed and Breakfast in St. Joseph Louisiana that was shared in a cookbook by Chef John Folse; a cookbook that has become somewhat of a cooking bible to me. It is my go to book to use as a base for many of my recipes. I typically do not usually follow recipe directions, but this book gives me a good starting point.

Angel Biscuits
5 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
1 package of yeast(dissolved in 4 tbsp warm water)
2 cups buttermilk
4 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add shortening and mix until the flour mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add dissolved yeast and buttermilk and mix until the dough forms a ball. Roll out dough to 1/2inch -3/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out biscuits, continue rolling and cutting until all the dough is used up. Brush with butter and place on a baking sheet and cook for 12-15 minutes. The dough can be made a few days in advance. And baked when needed.

Also, you can bake until just slightly underdone and freezing for later by warming them in a 500 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Okay, so my adjustments to the recipe:
Sometimes I will substitute whole wheat flour for some of the recipe, or wheat germ. I use 3 cups of whole wheat or 1 cup of wheat germ for substitution.

Instead of shortening, use butter or lard. Better flavor and more natural.

The recipe says to use a pastry blender...I have found that the flour mixture can be combined better using your hands that way you get a feel for the texture you are looking for; it is messy, but kind of fun. Just make sure you have washed your hands. :)

Regular milk is okay, Buttermilk is good, but 1/2 and 1/2, or whipping cream make a richer batter.

I like adding nutritional yeast for flavor...1/4 to 1/3 cup works well. Not at all necessary.

The Fall holiday shapes were used just because the cookie cutters just happened to be on the cabinet....It made breakfast fun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Navy Beans with Country Ham

Navy bean cooked with ham and served with a couple of slices of French bread is one of the most simple, and most delicious meals when the weather starts to turn cool. There isn't much to putting it together so it doesn't require a lot of kitchen time unless you are also making the bread to go with it.

Navy Beans With Country Ham
2 lbs of Navy Beans
2 large onions chopped
1 large bell pepper
3-4 stalks of celery
1-2 tablespoons of butter
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 Bay leaves(take out when you serve the dish)
Ham...I use a small amount of meat for flavor about 1/2 lb.
salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce

Soak the beans overnight or do the quick soak method on the bag. Start the beans cooking and let them cook for about an hour on low.

Chop the vegetables and saute in butter until translucent and the edges are beginning to brown. Add to the pot of beans. Also, add seasonings.

brown ham in the pot that the vegetables were in. When browned add meat to beans and deglaze the pan and add this liquid to the pot of bean also. Let it cook for 20 minutes to an hour, test for seasoning and adjust.

Serve in a bowl with a couple of slices of fresh bread and enjoy. Hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce can be added to taste after being served.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The King's Road

Over the years I have experienced many kinds of music, I enjoy listening to many different kinds, each has their own appeal. It was a big part of our lives growing up in South Louisiana. There is a festival to be found in every part of Louisiana celebrating every part of our culture and heritage. A couple of my favorite festivals are music centered, Festival International, and Festival Acadian (this one is this weekend). Festival Acadian is the celebration of the Cajun culture good food, good music, and lots of dancing...always a great time to spend the day with family and friends hanging out at Girard Park in Lafayette Louisiana. Festival International is a week long festival in Lafayette also. It happens in April every year and brings together bands from all over the world. It is a great way to sample many, many cultures and traditions, and it is a week long party. I guess I am feeling quite nostalgic right now, this weather always does that to me now that I am away from home. When fall and spring come around it has always meant it was time for outdoor activities and gatherings. I guess this is a big part of why I have become so fond of the Taylor Farmers Market. Through the growing season local people set up to sell their harvest, but they also gather for the great bands and musicians, both local and visiting. Anyway, to get to the point of my story, the music has all been wonderful over the past couple of years, but this year we were introduced to a band the I am particularly fond of. It was a group called The King"s Road. They are a trio from Scotland and Ireland. The music they played was traditional folk from Scotland, Ireland, and America, but it was done in a more contemporary style...and what a style it was. They played several different instruments including guitar, mandola, banjo, mandolin, cello, and harmonica. The music was wonderful, and beyond that Alister, Rab, and John added their own bit of history, humor, and life to the music that gave it more depth and richness. We were able to see them play twice while they were here. Once at a house concert which was wonderful because we actually got to meet and talk to the musicians and one of their wives who is an author of Celtic historic fiction, which I am looking forward to reading sometime in the future. The next day was spent out at Taylor Farmers Market. It was a lovely day to just sit out in the grass and listen to the music while the kids played. The boys really enjoyed the music, to quote my five year old..."That was awesome! The baby likes Floddens Field and Ms. Hamilton, it has worked well as a lullaby several times, they are very soothing. So a little tribute to The King's Road, the music highlight of my summer for 2010. Thank you for a lovely memory, and I hope to be able to see you, and enjoy your music again in the next few years. We can't wait for you to return for another concert in the future. Blessings and best wishes to you and your families.

If you are interested in hearing some of the music they played you can go to their MySpace page at:

We really enjoyed all the music, but I think my
favorites are Pilgrims in the mist, Doon the Brae, Floddens Field, and Ms. Hamilton.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Gumbo Time!

Gumbo...South Louisiana Cuisine

Growing up in South Louisiana has been one of the best parts of my life. I absolutely love my home and my heritage. The people, the culture, the is a place that is beyond compare and the top of that list is the food that we have grown up with.

When the temperature turns cool everyone gets ready for Gumbo. It is a time to enjoy the cool weather gather family and friends and enjoy good food, good music, good company. Today is our first gumbo of the season. I really enjoyed spending the time getting everything together and cooking it outside on our burner, which is nice because I was able to watch the kids, enjoy the weather and was not stuck in the kitchen all day.

Usually our first gumbo is chicken and sausage gumbo, but our local CSA has provided us with great fresh okra, and peppers so instead it will be shrimp and okra.

A good gumbo is only as good as its ingredients and the time, care and love that is put into it. It is not something that can be rushed to the dinner table. This dish is slowly cooked for several hours so that all the flavors come together for a wonderful food experience.

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
1 pint jar of roux
5 quarts of water, stock, or mixture of both
2 lbs Shrimp
3 lbs Okra
1 can of chopped tomatoes with juices
3 large onions chopped
2 bell peppers chopped
4 stalks of celery chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic chopped
a pot of cooked rice

First start the roux and water boiling in a pot. Be sure to stir until the roux is completely dissolved in the water let it continue to cook while you prepare the other ingredients.

Then satue the onions, peppers, celery and garlic until translucent. Transfer most of the vegetables to the pot of roux and water.

Cook the okra with the rest of the vegetables for about an hour until it is no longer slimy. (a tablespoons of vinegar will help to reduce this. Add the tomatoes and cook for 15 -20 more minutes then add to the gumbo pot.

Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Let it cook on low so that the flavors can come together. 15 minutes before ready to eat add the shrimp. Test for seasoning, serve over rice and enjoy.

A slice or two of fresh french bread is also a great addition.

Note: this recipe makes a lot of gumbo so be sure to invite someone to share it with you, and any leftovers are a special treat, because it is always better the next time it is heated up.