New Year Resolutions

     Here it is 12.31.09 9:30pm. I am on call tonight, and will probably just stay home. While many friends will be gathering for the entry of the new year, it is kind of nice to just be solitary and quiet. A time for reflection.
This past year was not extra special, nor extra sad. Just an uneventful period of time. And that is not bad - uneventful is just fine with me. The year before my dad passed away, so that year was difficult, both as an adjustment for my mom and because I relied on my dad's advice. For a man with only an 8th grade education, he went on to be a successful business man. He could fix just about anything. And when I had trouble understanding physics, he could explain it to me. Maybe not with formulas, but by using practical and everyday examples. And his instinct for business was very admirable. I'm afraid I did not inherit that instinct!!
     So instead of bemoaning my solitary status tonight, I thought I'd look to what I'd like to accomplish for this blog in 2010. 1) I think the biggest item on my list is to learn more about photography ( should be an obvious goal, right?). 2) And to learn more about HTML, etc. What may be second nature to the younger set, we "older" ones haven't necessarily learned. Not because we weren't taught, but because we thought we'd never make use of the things available on a computer. Oh, I have used a computer for years, but never had need to make a powerpoint presentation, use excel spreadsheets, etc until recently. Now that I would like to use this info, I have to go back and bone up on it.
     The rest of my resolutions would be the usual - eat right, live right, spend as much time with family as possible, be less stressed, exercise.....Ho Hum.
      Maybe I will try to make one small change each day or week. I tend to be a procrastinator when it comes to making lifestyle changes. That usually means I like to add too many deserts and breads to my table... and partake of them. Along with that is a nasty aversion to sweat. I have to push myself to get past the sweat thing, then I don't mind it. It becomes more about the accomplishment than the sweating. And along with THAT is a sense of accomplishment. I guess that means I should focus on the goal and not the inconveniences required to get there. I'll work on that, too.
     I hope all of my readers and friends have a very happy and prosperous 2010. Look for the good and you will find it. Take time to enjoy family and friends and life. Too quickly time passes. Memories are forever, let's make many good ones.


Vegan Italian Sausage !?

     Vegan Italian Sausage, calls to mind not much pleasant, I think. But, in desperation, that is what I had for lunch today. I had no time to cook last evening, so I had to scramble to get lunch ready before work. I think scrambled - as in eggs - may have been a better choice. It should be said that I am not a vegetarian, and I don't think I could do that all the time. I like my chicken too much. Beef and fish I could do without. Chicken, shrimp, and the occasional crab legs and scallops not so much. My youngest son, however, is a vegetarian. I know there are ways to get complete proteins, but I worry that he is not eating enough, nor getting complete proteins. (Ah - an idea for a future post!!). And so we are working on expanding our recipe choices. I use the word 'we' loosely, as I am the one finding recipes, but he does not cook them. There are a few 'go-to' recipes for him and that's pretty much it.
     In trying to have some vegetarian fast food in the freezer, I came across Morningstar brand Italian Sausage, and so begins my story.

          To prepare these, I chose to pan fry them. The package says they can also be microwaved. I assumed the pan frying would add flavor, as I would be cooking them with my onions and peppers. I cooked my onions the way I like them - long and slow, then over higher heat to sort of caramelize them.

     When the onions were about 3/4 cooked I added the red bell peppers and cooked them together - still over low heat and covered - for about another 5 minutes.

     When it was time to turn up the heat, I added the sausage and cooked everything together over medium high heat. Package says to cook sausage for 9-11 minutes. This I did along with turning several times.

     I served this meal on a slice of 9 grain bread, not homade. I don't care for all the bread that comes with, say, a Hoagie roll. To me, less is more when it comes to bread for a sandwich.

     Now, I imagine you are wondering about taste and texture. I suppose a true vegetarian may find these sausages appealing. For myself, the texture was too dry and they did not have the 'Italian sausage' flavor. It seemed to me, most of the familiar seasonings were missing, not just too little of them. I don't know if one could make their own vegan sausages from TVP crumbles and add more fats ( which isn't vegan I guess) and spices. This may be an area to explore. One bite that had too few onions and peppers, seemed to taste of beans. I guess that might be expected, but it is also when I decided there really needed to be more seasonings in the link.
     Summary: if you are a vegetarian looking for something to replace a sausage link for a sandwich, these would work. My suggestion would be to add lots of onions, peppers, or anything with lots of flavor. I would consider these links to be there for their form, not their flavor. For my sandwich I used 1 slice bread, 1 sausage link, 2/3 red bell pepper and 1/2 medium onion. I had a soft drink and desert (small), and I was hungry within 2.5 hours. Normally, I would be happy with a late supper.
     I think I will do a post or 2 on vegetarian cooking and the ethics of vegetarianism. There are supposedly health benefits to this life style, but, as I said, I like my chicken, eggs, cheese, milk, shrimp, yogurt, ice cream, beef stroganoff, lamb kabobs..............


Sriracha Garlic Chili Hot Sauce

     I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Our family was able to be together for Christmas Eve. This year is a bit easier than last. It is the second Christmas since my Dad passed away. My boys and myself and my Mother gathered at her house, my brother was not able to be here. Christmas night, the boys and Mom went to his house - I had to work and so missed out.
     We didn't do a great deal of decorating this year, just a few lights inside, no tree, but a few decorations. In my house, it is too dangerous to have many pretties out and about. My cats delight themselves in mischief, and anything that rolls, tips, hangs down or has a new smell is fair game for their shenanigans. I received a ceramic pot with 3 amaryllis for my birthday earlier this month. The pot was very nice - the flowers just starting to grow. Alas, a cat decided the pot was where he wanted to sit. I'm not sure how it happened, but the pot is no more. I had to rescue the 3 flowers and re-pot them. I think they will be OK, but the pot is beyond repair.
     I made the oreo truffels with white almond bark trimmed with chocolate. And just dipped in chocolate almond bark.

They were a huge hit. That recipe is a keeper. Also made fudge and peanut brittle - both from recipes my Home Ec teacher gave us waaaaaaayyyyy back in junior high.
     I found a recipe for Sriacha -glazed chicken with onions on recipeezaar and thought it sounded very good. But I had to find a recipe for sriracha sauce, as I've never seen it in a store around here. There are several recipes out there, but I decided to try one listed on whiteonricecouple blog. I have modified their recipe a bit to fit what I had on hand. If you would like to find their recipe on the link above, search for Chili Garlic Hot Sauce - Cult Sriracha Style.
                                                 Sriracha Glazed Chicken

This sauce is both hot - depending on your sriracha sauce - and sweet. If you want a hotter sauce, you might serve hot peppers or extra sriracha on the side. This serves 4. Cooking is fairly quick, prep time is about 20 minutes.

2c cooked rice
3T hoison sauce - I prefer to double the sauce part of recipe. That is the hoison, catsup and sriracha
1T catsup
11/4tsp sriracha sauce - or more if you like. Know how hot your sauce is before adding even the 11/2tsp. I have some peppers that are HOT to hot-mild. Depending on the amounts of each I use, the sauce can vary wildly in scoville units!
11/2tsp oil
11/2c thinly sliced onion rings
1T fresh minced ginger or 1tsp dried/powdered ginger
1T minced garlic or 1tsp garlic granules
3/4tsp curry powder - optional. The curry adds a nice note, I think. I made this with and without the curry. My family preferred less curry.
1# boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1" cubes, or into thin slices or single servings. Cooking times will vary, obviously, depending on thickness. If using a single portion size, partially cook the meat first. Reason - you don't really want to overcook the sauce.
parsley or chopped nuts - of your choice - for a garnish

Prepare rice without oil, salt or seasonings.

Combine the hoison sauce, catsup and sriracha sauce in a small bowl

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over high heat. When shimmering, reduce heat to medium-high

Add onions, stir for about 1 minute and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and sweat the onions for about 5 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium high. Cook and stir onions until slightly golden. I add this step because I prefer the taste of the onions this way.

Agg ginger, garlic and curry. tir well. Add chicken and saute about 6 minutes until chicken is done. Adjust cooking time for thickness of meat.

Stir in the hoison mixture and stir well.

Serve sauce with garnishes, if using.

                                                      Sriracha Sauce ala whiteonricecouple

1c thai chili peppers. I use what I have on hand. Generally I have Aji limon, and several other Aji species, 
   Jalapenos, Habanero, etc. The flavor of the sauce is not "authentic" with these - but I can't find thai chilis
   here, and I have never raised them. For a milder sauce, use milder chilis.

4-5 med cloves garlic, minced
2 med shallots Again, in my area I can't always find shallots. I generally substitute green onions - a poor
   substitute, but it's what I can find. ( a story - all my shallots were accidentally tossed when I had to get a
   new refrigerator this fall. How I cried to lose all my fresh, beautiful garlic and shallots)
1T oil
2-8 oz tomato sauce.  Flavor will vary with less or more. Start with the lesser amount. If you find the sauce is
   a little "off", add a bit more and taste again, until you find the amount you like.
1T Fish Sauce. Spy sauce is a recommended substitute, but I really recommend trying to find and use Fish

3T Rice Vinegar
3T sugar

Rinse chilis and stem. You can seed them, which is supposed to reduce their heat. ***REMEMBER - always wear gloves when working with chilis. Mince chilis - mincing will make for a smoother sauce.

In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add garlic and shallots.Saute about 1 minute - don't burn the garlic.Reduce heat slightly if you are afraid you might.

Add tomato sauce and peppers. Bring to a simmer and maintain. Add fish sauce, vinegar and sugar. Stir well.

Simmer about 5 minutes to soften peppers.

Remove from heat and cool completely.

Reansfer to a blender and blend until smooth or as close to smooth as possible. Use liquefy mode if your blender has one.

Taste, and adjust seasonings. This may be tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar or water. Blend after additions. Pour into a clean glass jar. Tighten lid securely. Store in refrigerator and use within 1 week.

     I hope you enjoy these recipes and the variations possible, just by changing a few ingredients or amounts.
And thanks to the whiteonricecouple for a great sriracha recipe.


untitled due to illness

Sorry for no post tonight. Really under the weather. Hope to be back up by Sunday. I'm supposed to work a double Christmas Day and work 'till 7pm Saturday and Sunday. Posting will be late that night.

Wishing all a very merry and blessed Christmas filled with happiness, family and the true meaning of the day. And all the best for the New Year.

See you Sunday night.
Annie and the gray cat


ice fight in the nursinghome

     This post has nothing to do with food. It is a story told by a co-worker that I thought was hilarious. To set the stage, the gentleman involved - we'll call him "Pop"-  is confined to a wheelchair. He is cantankerous, domineering, opinionated and prefers to not deal with any issue: A "Wife or kids will take care of everything" sort of guy. He jokes and teases, though is often sarcastic and people don't know how to "take" him.
     So the setting is a nursing home. The cast of characters - several residents in wheel chairs and possibly an aid (that part is unclear). Pop finds the ice machine unattended. This is a gift not to be missed and he grabs a handful of ice. Surprisingly(?), after throwing the ice at several fellow residents, said fellows also begin throwing ice. It seems 3 or 4 took part in this incident. When asked why did he start this? Didn't he know someone could have slipped and gotten hurt? What was he thinking? Reply - "It was fun"
     If you have ever worked in or visited a nursing home, you'll know this is not the expected behaviour. (There are several commentaries that could be made here about quality of life in a nursing home.) I say "good for them - to find a way to brighten the day." Sometimes we forget that nursing home residents are people, and their days are terribly boring. Sometimes they are not treated very respectfully. If you can get past the idea of the slipping hazard, can't you just see a group of old folks in wheelchairs in the midst of an ice fight? Reliving their childhoods? Maybe, but I think it just goes to show that the people we relegate to such places often still enjoy a good time. We laughed and laughed at this tale.
     And this morning, a padlock was found on the ice machine.


Shrimp Stock and Jambalaya

    It's snowing!! Our first snow that is sticking to roads. No ice, though my son who lives 2 hours north of here had trouble getting out of his apartment's underground parking because of ice. We just had a dusting. I always dread the first snow, but once it's here, then I'm OK

(I'm keeping my kales as long as possible - just a bit of color. They have survived 15 degrees so far. They are kept close to the house for protection.)

     Two years ago, my youngest son enrolled in a cooking school in Chicago. He did not start, for reasons I'll not go in to. But, we had purchased several "professional" quality teaching manuals from Le Cordon Bleu and Culinary Institute of America. We got these as much for me, as for my son to look over. Instead of returning all of them, I decided to keep the CIA books. They all were very good to teach the why's and wherefore's of cooking, and they are great references. I also refer to my collection of cookbooks if I want to learn something. Usually, the combination of books will give a clear picture of what I want to know.
     Such was the case in point when I started making Jambalaya today. I wanted to read about stocks, especially seafood stock. First I looked to CIA Professional Chef to learn a bit more about stocks. Did you know that there are 3 basic kinds of stock - white, brown and fumets?
                          White stocks are made by combining ingredients with a cool liquid, usually water, and simmering them over a low heat.
                           Brown stocks are made by browning the bones and mirepoix first in a bit of fat. They can be roasted in the oven or on the stove top before simmering.
                          Fumets are sometimes called essences. They call for sweating or smothering the main ingredients before simmering. Often white wine is used.
     The mirepoix mentioned consists of 2 parts onion plus 1 part celery plus one part carrot.  For the Jambalaya I am making, a traditional "Cajun mirepoix" would be 2 parts onion plus 1 part green bell pepper plus 1 part celery.
     For my Jambalaya, I want a shrimp stock. The CIA books did not address this exactly as I wanted, so I consulted my Paul Prudhhome cookbooks. He suggests a seafood stock of any combination of fish and bones. Not being a fisherman, nor big on fish period, I have on hand only shrimp shells. Any time we have shrimp, I save the shells to make my version of stock. I follow Prudhhomes version, sort of. So for my stock I am using approximately 1/2# shrimp shells. (A friend brought me some fresh frozen shrimp from South Carolina recently. These shrimp are going into my Jambalaya.)
                                           My Shrimp Stock
1/2# shrimp shells
1 clove garlic, unpeeled and lightly smashed
1 small-medium onion, unpeeled and cut into quarters.
About 6c cold water

Put all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and simmer as long as possible - up to 4 hours. Add more water as needed to keep at least 4c liquid in pot.

     My stock is simmering upstairs now. Ir smells wonderful.
INTERRUPTION!!!! My middle son just got home. He is the pilot who lives north of here and it's been awhile since I've seen him. But, alas, mom is not a big draw, so he has already gone to a friend's house. But, he'll be back for supper.
     So, back to my Jambalaya. Ingredients include Tasso, anduille and shrimp. I have no Tasso, and have never seen it in the stores in my area. I don't remember seeing it at Dierbergs, either (an upscale supermarket). I am going to use a regular ham today, though I often leave it out. I had a piece of ham leftover ao, in it will go. I also have no real anduille, so I am using an anduille style sausage from Johnsonville. And my fresh-frozen shrimp from South Carolina.
     Those shrimp need to be peeled and de-veined.


    To devein, slice the back of the shrimp shallowly. If you lay the shrimp on a cutting board, you can scrape out the dark vein - which is really the intestine. If you are holding the shrimp, use the tip of a knife to "hook" the intestine and remove it completely. See pics above.

So now my stock is ready to strain and use, shrimp is cleaned and ready, now it's time for the rest of the story.
                                                              My Jambalaya        

Seasoning Mix ( from Paul Prudhhome cookbooks)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2tsp white pepper
1/2tsp dry mustard
1/2tsp cayenne pepper(I prefer less)
1/2tsp gumbo file - optional
1/4tsp cumin
1.4tsp black pepper
1/4tsp dried thyme leaves
Combine seasonings and set aside.
*(Mr Prudhhome is very big on using more than 1 kind of pepper. He says there is a difference in flavor. Obviously there is between red and black pepper. I had not known there was such a thing as white pepper until I started using his cookbooks. And so there is a difference, though not so pronounced between white and black pepper.)

For Jambalaya

4T margarine
3/4c ham - Tasso is preferred and authentic.
2/3c anduille sausage (authentic) or Kielbassa. I use Johnsonville anduille style sausage
3/4c chopped onion
3/4c chopped celery
1/2c chopped green bell pepper (here is the "Cajun mirepoix"
3/4tsp chopped garlic
1c uncooked rice (If following a Prudhhome recipe, he almost always uses converted rice. I have always used regular white rice. If using brown rice, I would cook it about half way done before adding to Jambalaya)
2c shrimp stock - mine is made without salt, so be sure to check to make sure salt is to taste.
 1c extra stock to add if needed.

Use a large, heavy skillet and melt margarine over high heat. Add ham and sausage and cook with stirring 5 minutes. Scrape up any browned bits.

Add onions, celery, and green peppers. Stir. Add seasoning mix and stir well. Cook 10 minutes and scrape up any browned bits.

Stir in rice- yes, uncooked rice now. Cook 5 minutes, scraping bottom often. Add stock.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer  partially covered about 20 minutes, until rice is mostly tender. Add more stock if needed. Remove bay leaves. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are just pink and slightly curled.
Serve while hot.

Serves 4 or maybe 5.
Prep time for stock is about 4.5 hours, including peeling and deveining shrimp.
Prep time for Jambalaya is about 45 minutes, cooking 45-50 minutes.

I served this with green beans (for my mom who is watching her carbs - the Jambalaya had plenty), and Corn Maque Choux (corn and onions with a bit of sugar, carmalized. My version then has Co-Jack cheese and a little milk added in and melted (also not on my mom's list of things to eat, but she had a tiny bit)). Lightly buttered garlic bread was also served.

      My middle and youngest son were here for supper, then off with friends. I had to laugh when the middle son  came back just a few minutes ago - he was hungry for another piece of strawberry pie! That's all he came back for - a piece of pie to take back to his friends house. I guess that is a compliment to my pie! That will be a recipe for another time, as my strawberry pie is handed down from my grandmother and is unlike any other strawberry pie I've seen.
      I hope you enjoy this Jambalaya. It has been a favorite of ours for some time. Please let me know.

Another Post Wednesday, just in time for Christmas. Bye for now.



Holiday Pot Luck with Meatballs and Oreo truffels

     Our potluck was ...filling, far-ranging, international, filling, delicious, fattening, merry, and filling. We had sooo much food - yet the 8 of us ate most of the food. We were good, though, and we saved plates full for the midnight shift! The 3 varieties of meatballs I brought, however, did not make it to that shift - we ate all (72) of them. I guess they were good. And for any cook, that's what we want.
     This time of year, our pathologist, reference lab,  and the local doctors always  send fruits and cookies. It really would be nice to hear a thank you throughout the year, rather than everything coming at once. But hey, at least we get a thank you.
     My primary job is Microbiology, and because I had been out of that discipline for several years, I am still playing catch up in refreshing my knowledge of antibiotics, organisms means of resistance to those antibiotics, and how to test for that resistance.I think it is fascinating, learning how such "invisible" organisms cause such trouble. MRSA is the number one wound pathogen we see, but we have also seen the "flesh eating bacteria" Group A Strep. That patient very nearly died - and it was the only time I have ever had a doctor tell me that what we found was directly responsible for saving a patients life. In the lab, we don't hear about our patients very often unless we have a good working relationship with the doctors. Our hospital is small, so we know all the doc's and they know us - by sight and name. I think that's important.
     Anyway - this all has nothing to do with food.
     A sales rep brought truffels in yesterday.
                                          OREO TRUFFELS - flavored or not
They were made with crushed oreos mixed with cream cheese and dipped in melted white almond bark. Chocolate almond bark was drizzeled over them as a decoration. They were VERY good and fattening.
A bit of vanilla, almond extract or mint flavoring can be added to give a slightly different flavor. And the chocolate bark could be the main coating with the white as decoration. A truly versatile treat.

These pictures will shoe how I made these truffels without the aid of a food processor - which would really be faster and easier. Above, I separated the chocolate cookie and scraped the filling into a separate bowl. I then put the cookies in a plastic bag and crushed them by rolling them with a rolling pin.

Next I beat the cream cheese with the filling. Then added the crushed cookies. Here is where th processor would be a huge help. The mixture was too thick to beat with a hand mixer. It was much easier to mix by hand!

    Roll into balls about 1tsp mix. Place on wax paper and let sit approximately 45 minutes.

    After cooling, melt your almond bark in a double boiler. Stir while melting. Don't let the bark get too hot and don't let any moisture get into the bark.

A photo of how NOT to melt chocolate. This is a formless STIFF mass of chocolate that tasted great - I had a bit of mint in it, but was not "dippable"                     
     The finished product tasted wonderful and incredibly rich. My help may have gotten a few garnishes of chocolate too thick, but the flavor was there!

     From today on, I will be posting on Wednesday and Saturdays or Sundays. Hopefully more, but we are working overtime more and I feel I can do a better job here by posting twice weekly. That way you'll know when to check for new material. And maybe be surprised when there is more. This will also allow me more time to catch up on blogs I enjoy. A winning scenario, I think.

     See you Sunday.  Good cooking.


Greek,Indian and Moroccan Meatballs

     Happy Birthday to me!! Yesterday was my birthday. Had a very nice day, supper with my son who is still at home and his girlfriend. My mom made supper and my son baked the cake. We had meatloaf - just hamburger seasoned with LOTS of garlic and onions and a bit of tomato juice and baked. Also had mashed potatoes and corn. Simple, plain eats, but comfort food! Desert was a spice cake with cream cheese icing and strawberries.
     BUT...my son had a wreck that pretty much totaled our car. I had not planned on another car payment just yet. At least no one was hurt - he and the other driver were both alone. Our car was T-boned and sheared off a street sign.Right front passenger wheel is now bent into the car at about a 45 degree angle. Happened at the end of our block - and the other guy is our neighbor!
     On a lighter note, tomorrow the lab is having out Christmas pot-luck. I was assigned to bring "something exotic". So it was decided a selection of meatballs would best fit our menu. They will be a quick bite-size snack throughout the day. I have decided on 3 recipes - a Greek meatball with a cucumber sauce, a Moroccan kofte with a tomato-raisin tagine, and a Kofta Masala recipe. I print them here and hope you enjoy them.

                                                Kofta ( Indian  Meatball)

**For the koftas
2 slices white bread
2/3c milk
1# hamburger - not real lean
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fresh chili, seeded and finely chopped - or a bit of dried chili to taste
2tsp ground coriander
1tsp dried mint leaves - or 1T fresh
1T salt - this is not a misprint, I cut back and found them needing salt.

Soak the bread in the milk briefly, then squeeze out the moisture. In a large bowl, put all ingredients for kofta. Mix very well with your hands - more than would normally be done for Italian meatballs. A food processor can be used instead, if you prefer.

Divide into 24 pieces, about the size of a walnut. Roll into a ball and fry until just done. Their cooking will be completed in the sauce.

**For the sauce:

3T oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2tsp ginger paste- or very finely chopped ginger
2tsp garlic paste - or very finely chopped garlic
1T ground coriander
11/2tsp cumin
1/2tsp tumeric
1/4tsp chili powder - NOT spice for chilli - you want a dried and ground chili. I use New Mexico chili.
1 small can of tomatoes - or fresh - or frozen, as I use in winter.
2/3c water
1/2tsp salt, or to taste
1 black cardamom pod, split open and seeds removed.
4 whole cloves
1 2"  cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves, crumpled
2T yogurt
2T ground almonds

Heat oil in large pan - medium heat - and fry the onions until just soft. Stir often. Add the garlic and ginger and fry 1 minute. Add corinader, cumin, tumeric, chili and stir.


Add tomatoes. Here I need to explain something. In the summer, I do not can my extra tomatoes - I freeze them! I do not wash them (but I keep my tomatoes of the ground, so they are not filthy. I bring them in and put them in freezer bag, removing what I need to cook with. )

  After a fer minutes, rinse under warm water and skins slip off

skins off and ready to chop

Chopped and ready to use. Sorry pic is dark.

Add water, salt, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves.Bring to a boil, turn to med-lo, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
If you are unfamiliar with cardamom pods, see picture below. There are 2 kinds of pods- green and black. The black is a larger pod as you can see. To remove seeds, crush lightly and separate seeds from shell.

I really need to learn to take better pictures!

Whisk yogurt GENTLY with fork and add ground almonds. Almonds can be ground to a fine powder or you may be able to find almond meal in a well stocked natural foods store.

When almonds are added, stir again GENTLY. Stir mixture GENTLY into the sauce and simmer another 10 minutes. Do not let sauce boil!!

Serve meatballs with a little sauce. We are eating these just like this, though they would be best with fresh naan (Indian bread) or a cardamom scented rice.

                                              Moroccan Meatballs with Raisin Tagine (sauce)

**For meatballs (kofte)

1# ground lamb. I didn't have lamb today, so I used 1/2# ground beef and 1/2# ground UNSEASONED pork.
1/4tsp nutmeg
1/3tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp ginger powder
1/2tsp pepper
1tsp salt
1 egg
2slices white bread moistened with milk
oil for frying

Mix all ingredients for meatballs and mix well by hand. Roll into 24 meatballs and fry, turning over, until done.

**For tagine (sauce)
4 white onions- med- chopped fine
1/2tsp salt
1 cinnamon stock
1/2 tsp cumin
1c finely chopped tomatoes with their juice or 1c tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar

Cook onions in oil until soft. Add remaining ingredients and simmer about 15 minutes. Add meatballs and simmer another 15 minutes. Add a little water if sauce gets too thick. Serve with bread.

                                             Greek Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

** Meatballs

3 slices white bread moistened with milk
11/2# ground beef, lamb, or combo beef and pork
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1T dried oregano
1tsp dried mint
11/2tsp white vinegar
2 eggs
1/4tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp salt
1/2tsp pepper

Make meatballs as in other recipes. Cook, and drain on paper towels.

** For sauce

2c plain yogurt, drained slightly
1c seeded and diced cucumber
3cloves garlic, minced - can use instead: 1/4-1/2tsp garlic powder
salt to taste.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Allow to stand 1/2 hours to blend flavors.

Please let me know what you think of there recipes. They are composites of several very similar recipes available on the web and in ethnic cookbooks.


Japanese - Korean Recipes Make a Meal

     I am so excited! Today was cold but sunny. Since I was off work today, I was able to monitor the passive solar collector my son made for me. It is 3x6 feet and made with soda cans painted black, and with their bottoms drilled out. Lined up, they act as heat transfer tubes. Temps outside did not make it to 29 degrees, but my heater was kicking out air into the house at 87 degrees. I am very well pleased. If you would like info, please leave comment and I will get some web addresses to you.
     Today's meal was, once again, made with what I had on hand. That being, a piece of beef, part of a daikon radish, new potatoes from my garden and onions. Plenty for a meat to go with the kimchee  I made a few weeks ago. I apologize that I have not had pictures to go with the last few posts, camera is under the weather.I hope to have things back in order very soon. 'T'il then, I hope the recipe will suffice.
     This meal is a collaboration of Korean and Japanese foods. In the past, these two countries has serious issues with one another. But their foods can compliment one another.
                                                    Cabbage Kimchee
I have tried, and have in my possession, a number of Kimchee recipes. I had never tried this food until a young woman of Korean background lived with us. Purchased Kimchee she found OK but not like she remembered. Her Grandmother always made Kimchee in fall, and stored it in the ground over winter. I do not have that "luxury". The first recipe I made was too vinegery and wasn't very spicy. I finally found a recipe at Saveur.com.       Following is my version of their recipe - my version because my son at U of I frogot to bring me the Korean ingredients needed. Still, it is not a bad version. And it is not so vinegery.
     1/2c Kosher salt
     1 medium Napa cabbage, quartered lengthwise. Leave core intact and discard the outer leaves.
     1/2 lb Daikon radish
     1/3c dried red chili powder - or to taste. I used New Mexico chili powder and my Kimchee is not very hot, even for me.
     1T fish sauce
     (recipe calls for salted shrimp, which I did not have. I omitted them and I am sure final product suffers.)
     1/2tsp sesame seeds
     10 Korean chives cut into 1" pieces. (I did not have chives, let alone Korean chives, so I used Green onions)
     5 cloves garlic chopped and mashed into a paste
     (3 scallions are called for, I omitted)
     (3 sprigs Korean watercress called for. I had no watercress of any kind, so omitted. I did add 1/4tsp peppercorns to give a peppery flavor)
     1 11/2" piece ginger finely chopped and mashed.
     1/2 large carrot peeled and julienned
     1 Asian pear cored and julienned. I had no Asian pear, so I substituted a regular pear - still fairly hard

     In a large bowl. combine salt and 3/4 gallon water, stirring until salt dissolves. Add cabbage and massage salt water into the leaves. Be careful not to tear the leaves apart. Drain. Rub an additional 1/8c salt into the leaves all the way down to the root. Put into a large, clean bowl and allow to sit several hours until leaves soften. Rinse well and drain. Set aside.
     Beat all remaining ingredients together. Beat well. Take a bit of seasoning paste and rub into leaves.Start with inner leaves and work outward. Repeat with a dash of salt between each layer. Reserve about 1/5 paste. Put cabbage into a very large bowl (a good size jar is recommended. I did not have one to fit the length of the cabbage, and so used a large bowl) Press down on the leaves. Top with reserved paste. Cover with 2 layers of plastic wrap and let kimchee sit at room temp 4 days. NOTE: This recipe does not call for any liquid to cover cabbage. All other reciped I have do. I departed from the Saveur recipe here and added filtered water and vineger (3:1) at the end of the 4 day period.. As a result, my kimchee has a bit of a vinegar flavor. ALSO: remember, this is a fermented product. The reason for the plastic wrap is to allow gasses to escape.
     At the end of the 4 days, uncover to release gas. This is where I added the vinegar water. Original recipe does not say to do this . It says to recover and refrigerate 4 days longer before eating. According to Saveur, their version of recipe will keep 6 months. I have had my version in 'fridge 6 weeks now, and flavor id not too sharp yet.


Above are the cabbages,cut. The daikon and spices and the cabbages with spices added.

                                                         Korean BBQ Beef

     6T say sauce, reduced salt if you prefer
     2T vegetable oil
     1T seasoned rice venegar
     at least 2 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
     2tsp sesame oil
     3/4 lb beef, sliced very thin

Mix liquid ingredients together for marinade. Add sliced beef and marinate at least 1 hour up to 3 hours.

Heat a skillet over high heat. Add beef in single layer. Cook about 2 minutes per side, or to your taste for doneness. do not over cook.

Remove beef to a heated boel for serving. If preferred, add a bit of cornstarch mixed with water and add to leftover marinade along with 1/4tsp salt to make a sauce. Pour over beef.

                                               New Potatoes in a Sauce
This recipe is a take on one from The Japanese Kitchen by Hiroko Shimbo found on p.248

Clean, but do not peel about 12 small new potatoes. Dry well. In order to cook evenly, either be sure all potatoes are the same size, or cut so they are Melt 2T butter in a pan and heat to moderately high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add potatoes and fry, with stirring about 10 minutes until almost tender.

Meanwhile, make a glaze using: 2T saki or a white wine
                                                3T mirin (do not substitute or omit)
                                                1T sugar
                                               11/2T say sauce
Add glaze to potatoes and stir often until potatoes are tender.
Add salt if you prefer. A Japanese garnish might include minced shiso. I have never seen this herb, but it is easily grown from seed. I use parsley, if I really want to garnish.

                                                        Sweet Onions

Slice 1 large onion into very thin rings. Saute, over fairly low heat, in 2T butter in a covered pan. Shake pan occasionally. After about 15 minutes, remove lid, stir well and raise heat to medium or medium high. A bit of sugar or wine (maybe 2T wine or 2tsp sugar) can be added to help the carmelization process. Cook about 10-15 minutes until a deep golden brown. Be careful not to burn.

To serve this meal, serve meat and potatoes side by side. Top with grated daikon radish, onions and sauce( if using). This is not a heavy meal, but filling. I have served green beans along with this, also.


Cold Weather Drinks and a Frozen Fruit Salad

     Searching for an idea for meals tomorrow led me back to my cookbook collection. I've not counted them, but I guess I must have close to 100 of them. Several are church or Junior League editions, which are the source of many good ideas. I tend to not follow any recipe exactly, mainly because of my or my family's tastes. Ethnic recipes I follow more closely than "American" ones. Here are my takes on several common recipes:

                                                Wassail (Spiced and non-alcoholic, which I guess is really not Wassail anymore)

For 6 servings:

6 sticks cinnamon
14 whole cloves
2 whole allspice berries
Tie in cloth bag and simmer in:
1/2 gallon apple cider (I guess you could use hard cider, I've never tried this)
1c cranberry juice
1c red wine (I prefer a sweet wine, but I do not always add this)
sugar to taste (usually about 1/4c suites my family)
Simmer all together for about 15 minutes or a bit longer.
Serve with cinnamon stick as stirrer.

This is a recipe a friend gave me years ago. I don't know where they got it, not from whom. It is very different, I have never had anything like it. But maybe I'm just not generally drawn to tomato juice based drinks.                                     Buttered Tomato Juice

1-46oz can tomato juice
2 small cans beef consomme' ( I have used 21/2c hot water in which 2 beef bullion cubes have been   
1 soup can water
1/4tsp Tabasco sauce (or other favorite hot sauce)
2tsp Worchestershire sauce
1tsp prepared mustard (I am not a huge mustard fan, so I generally put in just a bit less - maybe 3/4tsp)
2T butter (NOT margarine)
lemon wedges for garnish if desired

Combine all ingredients, except garnish, and stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Serve in warmed mugs.
Serves 10-12

Here is an idea for a frozen salad that I found unique. It is a frozen fruit salad and that is the only name I know it by.                                      Frozen Fruit Salad

11/2c sour cream
3/4c powdered sugar
1/8tsp salt
2tsp lemon juice
1/2c sliced maraschino cherries
20oz can crushed pineapple
3/4c sliced seeded grapes
1/2 banana sliced and slices cut into halves
(if I have no banana, or for a change, you might try substituting a few mandarin oranges, peaches or pears cut into small pieces)

Combine the sour cream and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in salt and lemon juice. Add fruit and stir to evenly coat. Spoon into paper muffin cup lined muffin tins and freeze. You should be able to get 12-14 servings from this.



A Madhur jaffrey and Yumana Devi re-arrangement

     My vegetarian son was home for supper tonight. In looking for a recipe, I had to rely on what I had in the house. There was an acorn squash, delicata squash, chayote, rice, beans, tempeh and TVP. Perfect for constructing a vegetarian meal. And I usually turn to my  Indian cookbooks for inspiration. Tonight was no exception. Following are my interpretations of recipes from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian and Yumana Devi's The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.

                                          Squash in an Indian Style
1 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite size chunks
1/8tsp cumin seeds
1/4tsp corriander seeds
1/4tsp nigella (kalonji) seeds - I had none, so I made a very poor substitution of 1/2tsp onion powder
1/8tsp fenugreek seeds
red chili flakes or whole peppers to taste
1.8c canola oil

Heat oil in skillet on medium-high and add seasonings above (except onion powder if using). stir for 30 seconds. Add squash and stir, cooking for 1 minutes. (Add onion powder and stir). Turn heat to low, cover pan and cook with occasional stirring, for about 35 minutes or until tender.

Stir in: 1/2tsp salt or to taste
           2tsp brown sugar
           1/4tsp Garam  Masalla
           1/4tsp ground amchoor or lemon juice (find amchoor powder in an ethnic grocery store)

Squash may be mashed lightly or left in cubes, which is our preference.
Serves 3

                                                         Dal and Rice

1/2c brown rice - any whole grain could be used, though - rinsed and drained
1/2c lentils or dal of your choice, rinsed and drained

Cook separately until tender.  To the rice, add and stir in before cooking:
                   1 chicken boullion cube
                   1/8tsp cinnamon
                   1/8tsp ginger powder
                   1/8tsp asafetida powder ( a poor substitution is lemon juice)
                   1/8tsp corriander powder
                                             To the dal, add and stir in before cooking:
                    1 chicken boullion cube
                    1/2tsp garlic powder
                    1 tsp onion powder

While the rice and dal are cooking, make a sauce to go over them.
                     1 12oz can chopped tomatoes or 6 medium fresh tomatoes, peeled       
                     1tsp salt
                     1/2tsp garlic powder
                     1 tsp onion powder
                     1/2tsp garam masalla
                      1tsp brown sugar
Cook until slightly thickened.

We also like a topping of carmalized onions. Take 1 onion sliced into thin  rings and cook slowly in 3T butter or ghee. Cook until quite soft. Then raise heat slightly and brown lightly.

To serve this meal. combine rice and dal in a bowl. mix well. Serve sauce and onion topping on side. Squash is served as a side dish.

I have served with a bread - mini pitas are my choice. Butter with a seasoned butter of 2T butter, melted, and 1/2tsp garlic powder  3/4tsp onion powder  1/4tsp garam masalla. Heat through in a non-stick pan, turning once. Serve warm.


Turkey Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and Lasagne

     Awoke to a light dusting of snow - first of the year. Temperature was just at 32 degrees and rising, so snow was gone by 9:30am. Temps didn't get above 37 today and windy. Anything goes tonight and tomorrow, but no accumulation of anything is expected. I'm not sure I'm ready for winter - even though it's been cold, windy, cloudy, and rainy lately. Ah well, now there is plenty of time to plan for next year's garden and time to cook.
     The other day I threw together some stuffed peppers from things I had on hand. We thought they were really good. Next day I made an improvised lasagne that was tasty also.
                                                Turkey Stuffed Peppers

2 large green peppers
3/4c Quinoa
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 chopped fresh tomatoes or 2/3 can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 tsp salt
21/2 tsp Mortons Natural Seasoning or Spike or Mrs. Dash
1c cooked turkey (I used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving that I  had frozen.

Parboil the green peppers: Place in a sauce pan with boiling water to cover and cook 10 minutes. This not only reduces final cooking time, but also takes away the bitterness that is often found in green peppers. When parboiled, remove from water and set aside.

Rinse Quinoa and cook in 11/2c lightly salted water about 30 minutes until tender.

Saute onions and garlic about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and seasonings. Add turkey and heat through. Remove from heat and set aside

When Quinoa is tender, drain if necessary and add to onion mixture. If this mixture is too soupy, cook it down. I had to do this and finished product did not suffer. When mixture is the consistency you like - we prefer fairly soupy, a sauce like consistency - stuff peppers with mixture. Place peppers in a lightly greased casserole pan so peppers fit fairly snuggly. Pour any remaining sauce mixture over top of peppers.

Bake at 350 degrees until heated through, about 20 minutes. Or microwave on high about 8-10 minutes.

Serves 4

                                                       My Lasagne

A 2qt casserole, lightly greased

3 lasagne noodles, cooked and cut in half

3/4# hamburger, well cooked and seasoned with 1 tsp garlic powder
                                                                   and  2 tsp onion powder
8oz mushrooms - your choice. White button mushrooms, baby bellas, shittake or a combination

4oz 2% small curd cottage cheese
1/8c Romano cheese, shredded
1/4c Parmesean cheese
1/4c Mozzarella cheese
1/4c smoked Mozzarella cheese
             Mix all cheeses together and set aside.

2c spaghetti sauce - I prefer my Grandmothers' recipe, any you like will do fine.

In casserole, layer noodles - 2 per layer, meat, cheeses and 1/3 sauce.
Sprinkle a bit of extra Parmesean cheese over top and heat through in either a 350 degree oven or about10 minutes in microwave on high.


Leftover Ham and Turkey, Grape Dressing witha Cajun Twist

     Isn't it always the case that there are leftovers after any family gathering? At least, my family just can't seem to get the quantity right. Only so many kids or siblings will take food home with them. Then we must become creative with leftovers.
     The turkey we had yesterday was seasoned with a Cajun spiced butter mixture that was placed under the skin. I really got lazy and cooked it in the crock pot. I did baste it periodically. When it was done, I removed meat from bone, made a gravy of the drippings and put meat in the gravy to keep warm. Drippings had a bit of red wine added, and was thickened with cornstarch. I think I overcooked the turkey a bit, it seemed drier than I would have thought from a crock pot.
     We also had a ham - just a plain old grocery store ha seasoned with brown sugar and pineapple and warmed in a "turkey bag". A gravy was also made from these drippings. If you have never had ham gravy, it is a bit salty - too much so for my taste. Otherwise it would be great with ham flavor.
     Third star of the meal was a sweet potato casserole. Before you say "aghhhhh!", please read the following recipe. This casserole DOES NOT contain marshmallows. It actually tastes like pecan pie. While we use it as a vegetable, it would make a good desert because it tastes so much like pecan pie. Do try it!
                                                Mama's Sweet Potato Bake
3c cold mashed sweet potatoes (prepared without milk or butter - just the potatoes)
1c sugar
1/2c milk
1/4c butter or margerine, softened
3 eggs
1tsp salt
1tsp vanilla

1/2c packed brown sugar
1/2c chopped pecans
1/4c flour
2Tbsp cold butter or margerine

In mixing bowl, beat sweet potatoes, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, salt and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a 2qt
greased baking dish. In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over potato mixture. Bake, uncovered at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until golden. Knife inserted will come out clean.
Serves 8-10.           Recipe can be doubled and put in a 9x13 pan.    Reheats well in a microwave.
Sorry I have no photos of preparation.

     Following is the dressing recipe I use. It is not for everyone, as it is a bit of a sweet/savory taste not to everyone's liking.
                                               Annie's Dressing

12 slices stale bread - I use plain old white bread, though a good bread like Pepperridge Farms would work.
torn in small pieces

1c celery, chopped fine
2 onions, chopped fine
1/3c butter or margarine, melted and celery and onions sauteed in it. Stir in the following spice mixture:
3/8tsp garlic powder
1/4tsp pepper
1/4tsp basil
1/4tsp thyme
1/4tsp sage
1/2tsp Cajun spice mix
1/4-1/2 tsp salt.
Add to bread pieces and stir well..

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4c red wine
1/2c chopped and toasted walnuts. Add to above and mix well.

Soak 1/4c raisins in 1/4c warmed red wine. Add to mixture.

Add 1/2c grapes cut into pieces.
Stir everything well. Put in 2qt greased casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

To reheat for leftovers, a bit of water or stock may be added.

     Tonight we added a BBQ sauce to some leftover turkey and had sandwiches and chips.
Tomorrow, the leftover corn, peas, green bean casserole and mashed potatoes will go into a Shephard's Pie.
( couldn't be simpler to throw together: Brown as much hamburger as you like, add whatever leftover vegetables there are - without sauces, season liberally with garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper, add 1 can cream of mushroom soup (thus the green bean casserole) and top with leftover mashed potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees about 40 minutes.
     The extra ham will go to sandwiches and a Ham and Noodle Casserole:
                       Cook 8oz wide egg noodles and drain.
                       Stir in: 1 medium sauteed onion, 1/2c sour cream, 2c cooked ham (warmed if leftovers), 1/2tsp caraway seeds, pepper and paprika to taste.   The original recipe called for 2eggs to be stirred in and then baked. I like it the way I mentioned, and it is way quicker to prepare.

How do you deal with all the leftovers?


turkey seasonings

     Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have lots to do - cleaning and cooking and wash. The boys will all be here, and my oldest son is bringing a friend from Ivory Coast, Africa along. It will be an interesting day, I'm sure. Of course the young man will be peppered with questions about his homeland. And I will have to ask about the food! Such an opportunity is not to be missed. I do hope he isn't allergic to cats!!!
     We will be having turkey, of course, and I am thinking of trying a different way of preparing it. I will season it (a turkey breast only) under the skin, brown it well in a cast iron pan, then finish cooking in a large crock pot. I have heard this will work, so I'm hoping... Seasoning ideas I have gathered include )Cajun : onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, thyme, and red pepper, black pepper and salt to taste.  ) something a bit more Mediterranean in taste, I guess, as the recipe is similar to the Cajun but uses less garlic and has a bit of toremary added  )for a taste of the islands: a turkey brined with brown sugar, salt, rum, liquid smoke, onion, ginger, thyme, chiles, allspice berries, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, pepper and then roasted,  )a supposedly Cuban marinade of garlic cloves, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, butter, sour orange juice- substitute lime juice) placed under skin and marinated 24 hours and then grilled  ) a smoked turkey seasoned with garlic salt, paprika, pepper and for the liquid added to the drip pan: chicken stock, vermouth, soy sauce.
This liquid with the collected turkey drippings are then thickened with cornstarch and Madeira. ) a cider glazed turkey roasted with apples onions and herbs. Glaze is unfiltered cider, sugar and butter. There is a gravy made with drippings, butter and wine.
     I am inclined to try the smoked turkey, nut I don't think I'll have time to watch it. It supposedly can be smoked in the house (!) if you own a pan that can  be "tented". Since it is going to be quite cold tomorrow, I don't think I want to experiment with anything that may necessitate opening windows to let stray smoke escape. And, I don't have the alcohols needed.  I think, then, that I will season my turkey with garlic, onion powder, chiles, salt, and apples. I will bake the turkey in the oven in a "turkey bag", but glaze it with the cider glaze under a higher heat to brown and crisp the skin and make a grave with the drippings. I'll let you know how it works.
    I would enjoy hearing how others have prepared their meals.

    Hope everyone has a very enjoyable day. And even if you must work, that your time off will include great times and great food.


Mexican Eats and Old Memories

     What a beautiful fall day with warm temps and lots of sun. Many neighbors were finishing raking leaves and some also were burning them. My town offers city wide leaf vacuuming so residents do not need to burn.
     I would offer a better solution - shred and compost them!I am a huge proponent of growing your own food. And the first rule: take care of the soil. The best way is to compost all yard and food waste and grow green manure and cover crops.There is lots of info out there on gardening for those who are interested. And, over the winter, as I start planting my seeds, I will be adding posts on gardening. I hope to show how and where our supermarket food could come from, if raised locally - say in our backyard. A few days ago I started some micro greens and had hoped to have pics to post by now of sprouted seeds. Unfortunately, the gray cat of title fame had other ideas. He chose to dig in the pots. Soo, after Thanksgiving I will replant.

Toulouse, aka gray cat in the garden. He really does think he owns the entire house. But, once again, the 5#, 17 year old  cat had him on the run  today.         Actually,  she had him cornered and on his back as she terrorized him.                                                                                                                                            

    Today was not a day for cooking. Instead my youngest son and I had lunch at out local Mexican restaurant. I tried their drink "Horchata", which they describe as ice water with rice and sugar. It was very   sweet and had a very different flavor. It really was not bad, though for me a little would go a long way.         
I think there was a new cook on duty today. I got their dish Polla Sinoala, a dish of grilled chicken with         zucchini,  red and green peppers with rice, beans and tortillas. It is a dish I have enjoyed for the flavor of the  meat and the vegetables were always just a bit beyond crisp-tender. Unfortunately, today it seemed the         chicken was not grilled with the usual flavors. It was not the golden color it always had been. It was more the  color, texture and flavor of unseasoned microwaved chicken. Unappealing visually and in taste. The peppers   were OK, but the zucchini were mushy and not to my taste at all. I should have sent it back, but a table of 10 had given their orders as we were getting our food - and that was just in our back area of the dining room. I just   did not want the delay. The beans and rice and peppers did a pretty good job of disguising the chicken. I simply did not eat the zucchini. I think it will be awhile before going back. But, I guess I really did                 the  restaurant management no good service by not telling them of the below average quality of the meal. If      too many people are dissatisfied, say nothing yet do not come back, they are unable to take action to correct the  problems and keep customers.                                                                                                              

     My son, the pilot, arrived home for the Thanksgiving Holidays this afternoon. When you don't get to see your kids very often it is easy to forget how tall they are. I am only 5'5". My 2 oldest sons are 6'4" and         6'41/2". They live away from here, so I do not stand next to them often any more. sigh. Yet they are              wonderful young men. My youngest is also wonderful, but only 5'11" and he lives in my town. I get to see him at least once a week. yeah!. They will all be here for Thanksgiving Day. While they are here, there will be      noise and laughing and teasing, and it will be great. While the pilot is home, there will be lots of his friends in 
and out.                                                                                                                                                       
       When the boys were little, this was the house where all the friends congregated. Often there would be 6 or 8 boys here. I did lots of baking then. I kept cookies and ice cream treats on hand always. Since our        basement has a large family room in it, that is where they spent their time. They often played "Golden Eye", or "Mario Kart", or any number of other nintendo games. They even took the legs off an old couch and put it up on concrete blocks so they could have stadium seating. That way, more kids could get a good view of the TV in less space! We still have the old games and gaming systems - maybe future grandkids will be interested in  the old toys of their parents! lol!     Thanks for the memories!                                                                                                                                                                                      


Making Homade Sausage

     My cousin called today to ask if I wanted to make any sausage this year. Last year was my first time to try this. It was great. My cousin was a meat cutter and has all the tools and the space at his place, plus he has a smoke house. I'd like to share this with you, for those who have never had this experience.
     First the meat is needed. My cousins hunt, so much of the sausage they make contains deer meat. I used beef and pork. My sausage is approximately 2/3 beef and 1/3 pork (50 # and 30# roughly) to which was added approximately 10 # fat. My meat was purchased from a local meat market, but family friends butcher their own beef and pork. I have never been present for butchering, not even when my Grandpa did, so I can't say much about that. I think they shot the animals, hung the animal from a stout branch and slit the throat to drain the blood. Blood was captured to make blood sausage, which I always refused to try as a kid. The animal was skinned and cut up. I remember my mom and aunts talking about having tongue, sweetbreads, brain, liver and head cheese. I don't remember these on my Grandmothers' table. and I would not have eaten them if they were. It used to be that the intestine was cleaned and sausage was stuffed in it. Now a natural casing is used and is edible.
    My cousin has a shed equipped with a cutting table, knives, water and stove, so that is where the action takes place. Meat is cut in to fairly small chunks with knives that are frequently sharpened. They cut through that meat so easily. My cousin checked for dullness, maybe 4 times before I finished cutting my meat - I now understand the term razor sharp and how chefs cut tomatoes so easily!
     Once meat is cut it's time to grind it into a fine hamburger-like consistency. The beef is ground separately, then ground a second time alternating beef, pork and fat. Then comes the seasoning and mixing. The spice mixture is a secret, even my cousin does not know it. His wifes' father "invented" the recipe and only he knew it until he passed the recipe on to one of his sons. It is now known to 2 people, one in my generation and one in the next. Only once have I tasted a summer sausage similar in taste, and curiously, it was from a butcher shop just 10 miles from my town!   So, spice mixture is sprinkled onto meat and mixed in really well. Ir is then checked for moisture. I was surprised how wet the meat is before stuffing. My cousin added probable 10 cups water to the meat mixture before he decided it was just right. It does work the arm muscles mixing that amount of meat. And I did it myself!
     The stuffing machine he uses is an antique! There are newer models available, but prefers the old one best.It was a 5 person job to stuff sausage. (There were 6 of us working that day, making sausage for 6 families. I had the least amount of meat by far! That's a lot of meat and work.)  One person loaded stuffer with meat mixture, one threaded casings on to nozzle through which meat exited, one wound stuffed sausage into a rope-like arrangement, one cut sausage into correct lengths, one hung sausage until my cousin took it to smokehouse.
     Meat was hung in smokehouse and smoked with hickory wood for 4 days. It was then hung in a cool shed, away from sun and animals for 3 weeks before I could bring it home. At my house, it was hung a further 2 weeks before it was dry enough to put in freezer. This is a cured sausage and the smoking further cures it, but we have always stored it in freezer.
     I have been calling this sausage, but mine was more like hot sticks. The sausage uses a different size casing that is much larger than the one I used. What I have is more the size of the round jerky sticks you see in stores.
     Needless to say, all of this is done in late fall so that the temperature is, hopefully, in the 40's. This weekend is one weekend of deer season, and probably in early December the next batch of sausage will be made.
     It used to be that several farm families from my mom' old stomping grounds used to get together for sausage making (and making hay and any other farm activity where many hands made light work). Now these families have "separated" and each is making sausage at their respective places. The last year it was a community affair, something like 2000# sausage was made in several different flavors, and several cows and hogs were butchered into steaks, etc.
     Still, at my cousins, we had 4 generations present. My mom and aunt, myself and my cousins, My cousins kids and grandkids. It was great seeing everyone working together and helping where and when needed. The 2 smallest ones present were just month old and slept through most of the "goings on". The next 2 had their own issues that day, as one cousin tried to shut the other in the smokehouse. Their grandpa had to keep a close eye on them! Good thing there was no wood smoking in there at the time.  And when we had the first batch of sausage done, we had lunch before starting the second batch. We worked until late afternoon. And, of course, then things had to be cleaned. But it's all part of it.
     I certainly do not know the nuances of sausage making. But I will try this again. Between myself and my cousins, we have quite a few recipes for different sausages. I think we will try several small batched of various recipes this year.
     One of the young women I work with and her family butcher their own meat. If you have never had farm raised beef or pork, I really recommend it. There is just something about knowing the farmer and how the animal was raised. And you know the meat is fresh-----as long as you trust the meat processor to return to you the same meat you brought in. Very important to get your own meat back - I know from experience that it does not always happen. But that's infrequent.
     Let me know your experiences with butchering or making your own sausage. I will post some recipes in a later post.