Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Comfort Food and Taking Care of Friends

I have a group of friends from my former work place that I always hope to stay in touch with.  Our common thread, among a few other things, is that we're all foodies in various and unique ways.  I guess you could say we're like the Foodie Wolf Pack of Eureka.  The Foodie Gang.  We roam the internet in search of restaurants and recipe's that are new and different.  We invent crazy recipes, cook them along with old favorites that come from our various family backgrounds.  We share them with each other and insist that others taste them as well.  We search the streets as we walk or drive around Eureka and Humboldt County for new restaurants to try.  We have our old favorites and new finds that we insist on sharing with each other and anyone else who is wiling to be pressured into joining us.  If we manage to catch on to something new and/or different, the pack is called out for the kill, or, actually just to go meet each other for a good meal to commiserate about our jobs and life and to make each other laugh a bit.

Unfortunately, recently one of the foodie crew was badly injured and had to have his jaw wired shut.  This is not a good thing for a foodie type person, especially the one of us who is an athlete and probably puts away 5000 calories a day and is still skinny as a rail.  Half of those calories are probably in Twinkies and Cheese Whiz on crackers, but I do know he also eats his fair share of good, delicious and healthy food as well.  So the foodie pack arose to action.  The artiste in the group came up with what sounds like a wonderful cheese and broccoli soup pureed for someone who can't open their mouth.  I never got a taste, but I trust from other dishes of his that I've had the honor of trying, that it was divinely delicious.  (I'll have to get him to share the recipe here on my blog.) Next was my turn.   I got the chance to jump on board with one of my favorite soups.  Mushroom soup.  I've been craving it, so what better excuse then to make a double batch of it to; one)  to feed our injured friend, and two) to treat my husband and I to this earthy, velvety heaven. (This is not the creepy canned gelatinous condensed stuff coming from the red and white can - this is simple homemade goodness)

If you'd like to give it a shot, along with my Mac and Cheese meat balls - read on.......

This recipe is adapted from Anthony Bourdain's recipe from his Le Halles Cookbook.
(Also available at Amazon)
This is my "doubled" version

12 tbsp butter (1 and a half sticks)
1 medium onion
1 large leek
24 ounces of mushrooms - I combined button, crimini and oyster
8 cups of chicken stock (homemade if possible)
several sprigs of flat leaf parsely
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces good quality sherry (don't use the cooking sherry crap - yuck!)
This is what I used:
In a large sauce pan I melted 4 tablespoons of butter and added the onion and leek.  I cooked them until they were soft and then added the mushrooms and remaining butter (the nice thing is you don't have to chop the mushrooms, although I did chop the oyster mushrooms because they're a bit tough on the bottoms. )  You let the mixture cook for about 8 minutes (to sweat) on medium high, making sure the onions stay translucent and don't brown.  Stir in the 8 cups of chicken stock and add the sprigs of parsley and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for an hour.

After an hour allow the soup to cool, then puree in a blender in batches.  Do this carefully so you don't spray molten hot soup all over your kitchen and yourself.  Once blended return to the pot, season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the soup back to a simmer and add the sherry.  You can serve immediately, but this soup is even tastier the next day.  Our injured friend liked it so much he was drinking it cold, straight out of the jar I brought to him.  I hope he took the time to try it warmed up a bit. It's even better warm.  

As I had said earlier, I doubled this so that I could share some with my husband for dinner, and also with a couple of the other foodie pack the next day.  (I like to feed people by the way)

My other half and I wanted something a little more than just soup for dinner.  I looked in the fridge.  Hmmm leftover blue box mac and cheese from dinner with my girls a couple of nights ago.  Cheddar cheese that had been sliced for sandwiches for our lunches.  Eggs.  A partial onion, and best of all hamburger from Pixie's Loleta Meat Market.  Local and delicious!  (Best burger meat EVER! If you live in Humboldt go see her for some hamburger and sausages.  They're the best!)
We took that fine hamburger (2 1b's.) and mixed in onion( about one small one finely chopped),  an egg, salt and pepper to taste.  We stuffed it with the blue box mac and cheese, topped the mac with bits of cheddar cheese and sprinkled it with a touch of allspice.  We formed this into balls and baked them in a 325 degree (convect bake) oven for 25 minutes.  (You should probably go with 350 on a non convect oven.)

Molten cheesy balls of love!  These things turned out to be some awesome comfort food!

 A most delicious dinner, and a great way to use up left over mac and cheese.  We served up Mushroom Soup, Mac and Cheese Meat Balls and a green salad topped with Russian Dressing.  We ended the night in a happy little food coma.
Happy Eating!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Mom's Cutting Board

This was my mom's cutting board.  It's older than I am.  My brother, who is 15 years older than me, made it for her when he was in grade school.  Even though I hated him at the time, soon after the death of both of my parents, he insisted I have it.  I'm not sure why.  I do treasure it though, and every time I find it in the dishwasher I have a panic attack.  Don't get me wrong, I still use it, but it's too precious to be anything but hand washed.  The back side of it has been used so much that it's indented.  It's like touching a piece of history, it's like being able to touch my mother across time.  I'm not sure why that's important to me, as my mother often weighs on my mind in a negative way.  She never had much faith in my ability to cook, and when ever I did succeed ,and she witnessed the success, she always seemed shocked.  I guess it's her lack of faith that spurred me on.  My desire to prove her wrong has made me succeed.  I will never be able to make a successful pie dough, because she made the perfect pie dough and has convinced me that I never will, but there are so many other things I can do that she would have never attempted.  Mole sauce from scratch, a daunting task, even for most Mexican's, at least from what I've been told.  I can make it, and have done so successfully.  Coq a vin, yes I can do that.  Quite simple actually.  I have made corned beef from scratch.  With the help of my husband I have made homemade pastrami, sauerkraut, mustard, and rye bread.  I have ventured into charcuterie and made duck prosciutto.  I have brined and smoked a chicken over charcoal by myself.  I've made birria stew, canned tuna and chutney of various kinds, baked pies, bread, cakes and much more.  So many things she would never have ventured into; things she didn't know existed.  Somehow she created this passion with her doubt, and somehow, I not only say "I told you I can cook", but I also share it with her through this silly little cutting board.  Her doubt created a passion, that not only makes me a pretty good cook, but it keeps me alive in times of despair.  When my heart is breaking, the kitchen, the hearth, is my safe place and cooking is my therapy.  There have been times when my creations have been destroyed, out of anger.  When this happens, it tears a hole in my heart.  I can't explain why.  I can't explain why food is so important to me.  It's way beyond nourishment.  It's way beyond nurturing for me.  It's an existence.  I need to cook to survive.  Not to just eat the food, but to create it.  To have that taken away would kill me.  So I shall continue to cook and create and I will never let anyone take that away from me.  I will continue to chop on that little wooden duck until the day I die. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

 It's been way too long since I've written anything on this sweet food blog o' mine.  I'm sitting here listening to Billie Holiday "All of Me" and trying to pull my head together after a late night of enjoying my Oldest Beauty's homecoming night.  I was the last in bed, waiting for her to get home from the homecoming dance, and for some unknown reason the first up. Of course!  It's a freaking weekend and I don't have to get up and go to work, so go figure!  Freaking middle age hormone crap!  Any Hoo.  I had this epiphany this morning that I need to get back on here.  I have ton's of pictures and recipes I've gathered to share, but what really hit me was that I need to share my reason for being here in the first place.  Why do I feel this need? It hit me, What I realized is,  it's coming up on the anniversary of my mother's death.  That melancholy seems to start building about this time. The last time I spent with her was our Apple Harvest Festival. Waiting for Cece to be born, 11 years ago. She was due any minute. She's her mother's daughter and does things on her own good time though. and my mother wasn't very patient about it (I am my mother's daughter)  So, why am I here?  I need to write. I need to cook.  I have made so many delicious things in the past year, all in spite of the complete turmoil of my life.  Which really isn't all that bad when you get right down to it.  I am married to one of the hottest men on the planet and have two incredibly beautiful and intelligent young ladies as daughters and have acquired two wonderful boys I can happily say to others that they're my boys.  Both absolutely wonderful in their own ways.  So here I am. 

Why am I so obsessed with food?  First and foremost?  My mother.  She was the queen of nurture.  When I think back about her there is so much that makes me angry (spicy)  But then I remember her smell ( so aromatic and sweet)  and her desire to please everyone in her world with her food.  (salty)  No one walked away from her home hungry unless is was their choice to do so.  There was always a full cookie jar and always a full refrigerator.  I have wonderful memories of my friends and my nieces and nephews friends showing up at the house and opening my mom's "fridge" and just staring at what might jump out and be eaten.  She lived to feed people.  And she did it well.  I struggle with my memories of her.  I still can't make pie dough because of her, but she gave me the desire and the need to feed people and to do it well.  I love her for that. 

My Dad on the other hand was the story teller.  He told the same stories over and over, but they never grew old for me.  They became richer in time for me. As they did for others.  This was a form of food for me as well.  They fed my imagination.  They fed my love for him. They were a tapestry.  I learned to live my life with him like it was a story.  The squirrel's dancing on his feet, the games of dice for cups of coffee at Don's, the sweet sparrow sitting on his finger.  My childhood was a wonderful dream because of that man.  I'll never stop missing him.  He was my best friend. 

So why am I here?  And what makes me so obsessed with food?  I honestly don't know.  These two people fed me heart and soul and they gave me something that makes me want to feed you.  Hospitality?  Kindness?  Love?  I'm not sure, but I do know  they both fed me and they gave me so much, so now I am here to feed you all of that love. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Getting Creative With the Left Overs.

What do you do if you have a hungry husband and a hungry step son who are working hard on your car and you want to feed them a good lunch, but all you have is one chicken thigh, a dab of pulled pork, one strip of bacon and a few strips of delicious bar b que steak left in the fridge?  Well lets see what we can come up with. 
First, I did this with the chicken, pulled pork and steak: (the chicken was slathered in Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce, the pulled pork was a pre-made thing I bought on a lazy night - the steak was my husbands BBQ magic, because he is King of the BBQ!)
Then I added some mayo and Dijon mustard:
In the mean time I fried up the slice of bacon:

There are 2 bacon pictures, because bacon is VERY important!  Don't forget that!  You never waste that last slice!
Then I pulled out some celery, onion and cheese to go with the mix.
While the guys did the test drive on my car I got the sandwich toppings ready and pulled out the various breads/tortilla's they may want all of this put in or on.

So yeah, lettuce, tomato, basil, bacon and muenster cheese, to be placed on a choice of buttered and toasted sour dough bread, hamburger buns, flour tortillas or corn tortillas.  Along with this:
Yeah, that's red cabbage.  It balances out the bacon.  (yeah right! - it adds crunch and it's good for you)
So how did this all end up?  For one thing the burger buns lost out, so those got put away.  Otherwise?
This was the wrap my husband ate - it was gone before I could get a picture.  I don't think he liked it?
This was the sandwich I made for Trevor:

He took it and ran and all I could hear from the other room was a vacuum sound.  When I came around the corner and asked how it was, I got a look like my dog gives me when I touch his food bowl and a "hmmm mmmm!"  I don't think he like it either?
So then I made mine - I decided to go taco and pulled out the corn tortillas - the artisan ones that are almost like homemade:
The meat is under the veggies, I promise!  It was delicious!  Sweet with the perfect amount of mustard to balance it out and the crunch of the veggies with the softness of the meats, um yeah!  Perfect!
So perfect that my husband asked for a little more, so I made him this - and managed to get a picture of this one before he devoured it.
Yeah, that's a toothpick and a pickle - I got all fancy schmancy, because I love him!  He seemed to like this as much as the wrap by the way. 
So that's how you feed two hungry boys with the bits and pieces of your leftovers - at least that's how it worked today.