Jammin’

The blackberry jam I mentioned in my last post is fantastic.  From beginning to end, I have enjoyed the process.  I started ‘hunting’ blackberries when working in my grandmother’s expansive yard and thought it was a lot of fun, despite the my vine-scratched arms.  Anyway, I couldn’t decide what to do with all these berries–a pie? a sauce?  What to do?  So, my husband recommended we make the berries into jam and can them;  and I thought this was a great idea.

We set out to our local grocer and picked up a package of pectin, with thorough directions included, and a case of canning jars.  The directions were a little tricky, but the patience of my husband got us through it.  We set off on our adventure to ‘jam’ these blackberries.  We began by crushing the berries in a large bowl with a meat pulverizing tool and sieved the mush into a measuring cup.  Once we attained as much juice as we could, we added a bit of pulp to make it jam-y.  We used less pulp than recommended–mostly, because I think blackberry seeds are quite offensive when caught in your teeth–but I think we did well with our decision.  Regardless, the jam was canned and set up for 24 hours and we think it turned out wonderfully.  I think the 9 jars we got might not be enough until next year, even.

The benefits of utilizing foods nearby are tremendous.  It’s amazing that we made such a delectable treat with the berries of a plant that most people consider to be a trash plant or a weed and usually try to exterminate.  The hunt was fun, and we had a great time ‘jammin’ together (the process is a lot easier with two people, I think) and he even helped me pick a bunch of them.

Have you ever done something like this?  How did you do it?  I have a lot to learn.

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Pressing Quickly

Summer term is kicking up with several exciting classes. Yesterday we picked a substantial amount of Blackberries and jammed them! I thought the process would be more complicated, but really enjoyed it with the help of my husband. The jam has not set up for 24 hours yet, so it is yet to be determined how good it will be but I’ll definitely report back.

Catchup?

I know, I know…. my blog, which had hardly began, has already been so neglected.  I’m a bad blog-mom, I suppose.  Since school started I have been busy, busy, busy!  I am being schooled two days a week, but am at school, non-stop, for 14 hours a day.  It sounds like a lot, but the days fly by.  I feel like I have just began a class, when it’s already time to clean up.  I could not be more excited to be enrolled in the culinary department, so I think that I will be a very successful student.  So much has already happened at school.  We are already working in full uniform–baggy pants, hat, the works–and are producing foods.  I am using my knives and learning basic knife skills in a technique class and am already baking baguettes in a baking class, and I have been soaking up every minute.  I have been treating these classes like a lifeline, as though I need to know this information to live.  I get up-close and personal in demonstration labs and enjoy smelling, feeling, tasting and touching all these foods and understanding them, and what’s better?  I love it.  The “school experience” has been realized uniquely, and I am getting the best education my money can buy. (ha!)

My fall 2009 coursework:  American Dining Room Service, Russian Dining Room Service, Sanitation and Safety, Professional Baking and Culinary Techniques.  Each of these classes are interesting in different ways, but do seem to blur together after a few weeks.  I developed a ‘theme’ restaurant from A to Z and received rave compliments on it and found a happy place in Professional Baking.  I even managed to inspire my mother-in-law to try some new things in her own kitchen.  Knowledge is finally my power.
Tomorrow, I plan to join our own culinary competition team, which is slated to compete against the likes of prestigious schools like Johnson and Wales, Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu–that’s a big deal for our dinky community college.  Competition is exciting and gives me a chance to hone my skills on someone else’s food.  Moreover, I don’t have anything else to do with my time besides school, school, school.  I’m throwing myself into and want to get as much out of this experience as possible.  I’m one lucky girl for many reasons: supportive spouse, lovely home, engaging school life.  Ahh, this is the life.

On a much darker and sadder note, the largest oil spill of American history is taking places a few hundred miles off the coast of our bleach-white shores.  This is going to cost everyone and everything.  We will lose marine life, seafood and birds and our pristine beaches will be ruined.  The basic story:  BP, along with many other companies, have drilled in the gulf for as long as I can remember, but none have cause such catastrophic damage.  On April 20, a pipeline exploded due to a faulty emergency valve (which BP lobbied NOT to update/fix–and won!) and lost 11 men who had been on that particular oil rig.  At least 2 MILLION gallons of crude oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and still cannot be contained for another said “two weeks”.  Now, it’s been 14 days and we still don’t know why this rig just exploded out of nowhere and it comes at a pretty convenient time for elections… If you can read this, then you can do the math.  This tragedy has touched the hearts of thousands of people and I saw this yesterday.  We went to the beach yesterday for a reported “Pre-oil-spill beach clean-up” and hundreds showed up to help.  They were filling trash bag after trash bag, removing years of litter.  Locals have an attitude to take action and it’s beautiful to see folks fired up to help someone else beside themselves.  I will continue asking the universe for help and I sure hope it comes.

Today’s super easy recipe is my own special Meatloaf:
Tip: Feel free to adjust these ingredients to your own taste, but this has worked for me quite well.

Ingredients
Ground Beef (93%, 7%-95%, 5% works best.  The less fat, the better) about 1 1/4 lb.
2/3 C. Mirepoix(French term for 2 parts onion, 1 part celery, 1 part carrot)
1/2 C. Panko Bread crumbs (Easily accessible in most grocery markets, and delish!)
1 Egg, beaten before added
A generous squirt of ketchup (between 1/8-1/4 C., to taste)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Dry (not ground) Savory
Salt and Pepper To your Taste (TT)

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  It’s best to prepare a meatloaf with fresh (not frozen) meat.  I often use frozen meat, it’s not a travesty, but it’s still better to use fresh.  Anyway, Defrost or pull your meat.  Deposit into a large mixing bowl.  Add the Mirepoix, Panko Breadcrumbs, Egg, Worcestershire Sauce, Ketchup, Savory, Salt and Pepper.  Gently toss your meat amongst the ingredients, trying to not to squish the meat (doing so can change the texture of your finished product).  Make sure that all ingredients become homogenized in the mixture.  To form your loaf, I recommend making one huge ball then placing it in your baking dish and pressing down gently until you reach the size and shape you desire.  Remember, the thinner your meatloaf, the quicker it will cook.  Make sure the loaf is no more than 3 inches high.  Place in preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes.  Check the loaf at this point to determine how ‘done’ it is.  Ground Beef should be cooked to 155 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once you have determined your loaf is done, remove from oven and allow to rest about 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Happy Meatloafin’!

Save our Seashore

Keeping up with it all can be determinate

Thanks to cacaoweb.net I’m going to be able to share an easy, peasy! brownie recipe that most folks can make at home in a moment and on a dime.  I keep these ingredients in my pantry most of the time from other cooking and baking tasks.  WAIT… I still haven’t mentioned the best part.  These brownies will taste much better than boxed brownies.  We’ve been making them from box weekly, until I began cooking.
I’m going to go on with the recipe then, and we’ll meet at the jump…

Ingredients
3/4 C. Butter, unsalted
1+1/2 C. Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 Eggs
(For Ryan: You may replace these eggs with 3/4 C. med, firm, drained Tofu)
3/4 C. Self-Rising Flour
(or you can replace this with 3/4 C. All-purpose Flour + 1 tsp. Baking Powder)
A Pinch of Salt
1 C. Powdered Sugar

Directions
First, preheat oven to 350*F and grease your 13×9 baking dish to prepare it.  Melt the butter.  Beat the eggs with sugar, and add vanilla, flour, cocoa, salt and melted butter.  Add any tasty, various topping you like, such as nuts or candies.  Bake brownie mix at 350*F for about 20-27 minutes or until a toothpick removes cleanly from the center.  Cool the brownies and dust with powdered sugar or glaze with icing, whichever is handiest.

7 ingredients and 30 minutes later, you can be one happy munchster!


For those that remain interested, I’m fighting to get my school equipment but I know it’ll work out very soon.  My case worker has been dodging me or ignoring, whichever sounds less pathetic, so I’m going to have to take drastic measures.

Thank you cacaoweb.net for the recipe provided today and I’ll be bring you more tried and true tasties during the next posting at rachaelonia.wordpress.com.  Thanks for visiting!! : )

Preparation Rach

Enrollments have been made and, as I creep closer to the first day of school, I’m starting to become more and more excited about what’s about to come my way!  I found a friend that has participated an many of the classes that I will be taking this semester and beyond, so I’m glad to have some first-hand experience to help me.  If not helpful, at least the advice soothes my nerves.

Today, I’m going to get as much of the supplies as I can from the school bookstore.  I’m going to use government vouchers to get everything, so I hope it will be enough and work out.  In preparation, I’ve been making and compiling successful recipes that may come in handy later, although the sample menus which this culinary department serves does not come close to what I’m cooking in the kitchen.   The menus seem to have classic french cuisine with very technical components to dishes, so I doubt that my little cookbook is going to stand a chance…  I see recipes being covered by better recipes in the future.

I don’t have a recipe to share today, but will post last night’s “Late Night Brownies”, which Mike made from scratch.  We have been keeping a baker’s pantry, so when Mike’s muchies called out he was prepared to fight back with homemade brownies and they sure were tasty!!

This is understandably off-topic, but I did have one more bit that I wanted to mention today:

Boy, it sure can be tiring to see the demise of any ONE individual, such as one Tiger Woods.  The media has beat this poor man into the ground, but that’s not enough, is it?  Yesterday, I read that Woods was taking Ambien before sex with one of his mistresses, because “that Ambien haze” really did it for him.  I don’t know what’s going on with the poor man, but I don’t need to know and neither does the rest of America.  I know that I’m just perpetuating the story when I add one more hit to their steadily-moving ticker of website visitors, so I’ll vow to NOT look for the rest of the day.
Either way, I think this is going to be one of the saddest stories of 2010 and I don’t think that Woods will walk away unscathed from this, but I suppose that only time will tell.  Despite his suffering, I’ve got a pretty good Tiger Woods joke to leave you with today.

Here goes:  What’s the difference between a Cadillac and a golf ball?    Tiger can drive a golf ball 400 yds.

Pork and Green Chile Stew

My husband and I have been particularly drawn to several Emeril Lagasse recipes that I have found and I wanted to share one in particular that we LOVE!  Obviously, you’ll want to have some essence in hand, or we have made our own essence with original “Essence” ingredients to a taste which is more unique to our preference.

I recommend staring your pork butt, as you’ll just need to minimally cut onions, add spices and put it on to boil, then proceed to your chile recipe.  The chile recipe is a lot of fun and we always enjoy roasting the peppers on the stove.  I have made a couple changes from the original recipe, because we like it HOT, and I think that the pork could be substituted with beef, if you prefer but have not made this decision in my own kitchen.  I look forward to your input….

Chile Verde:

Ingredients
1 lb. fresh Anaheim Chiles
1lb. fresh Hungarian Wax Peppers (for a much tamer Chile, use Poblanos)
2 Tbsp Canola Oil
1/2 C. White Onion, chopped
2 T. Garlic, minced
1 T. Jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 tsp. Oregano, dried (Pref. Mexican style)
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cumin, ground
2 Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
3 C. Chicken Stock
1/2 C. Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Directions for Chile Verde:

Roast the peppers by placing them on an open gas flam, turning them frequently with tongs until all sides are  charred black (about 7-10 min.)  Alternately, the peppers can be roasted under a broiler, or on top of a grill)

Place the blackened peppers in a paper bag and let them rest until cool.  This should take about 15 min.

Once cool, peel the blackened, charred skin and removed the seeds and stems.  😉  Chop the peppers and set them aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring until tender.  This should take about three minutes.   Add the garlic, jalapenos, oregano, salt and cumin.  Cook for an additional minute, stirring.  Add the flour and cook, stirring without allowing the flour to brown or discolor, for about two minutes.  Add the chopped peppers, and stir well to combine.  Add the chicken stock, stir well, adn bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.

….THE PORK!

Ingredients:
1 lb. Pork Butt, trimmed of fat
2 Yellow Onions, quartered
1 Tbsp. Cumin, ground
2 Bay Leaves
2 tsp. Oregano, dried
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Black Peppercorns
1/2 tsp. Cayenne
Chile Verde, from previous recipe
Corn Tortillas
Diced, seeded tomatoes
Sour Cream

Directions:

Place pork butt, yellow onions, cumin, bag leaves, Oregano, salt, black peppercorns and cayenne in a larce saucepan

and cover with water by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil.

Lower the heat to medium-low  and simmer until tender, which will take 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Skim the surface to remove and scum that forms during cooking.  Drain in a colander

WHERE IT ALL COMES TOGETHER…

Shred the drained pork and return to the pot.  Add the Chile Verde and stir well.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook until heated through.  Serve hot on tortillas with cheese, sour cream and tomatoes or other condiments.

I love this recipe and I believe that you will too!

Hello world!

This is my fist blog posting!  I am working to get this blog looking good and grabbing your eyes.  Hello to the WordPress world and anyone else who has happened upon my blog.  Please feel free to comment or make suggestions on any number of topics or issues that will be discussed.