Chinese New Year and Robbie Burns Menu of the Week Jan 26th: fennel/anise

Sunday was Robbie Burns’ birthday.  If you have never been to a Robbie Burns party, you really should go, or host one.  I have done both.  Make sure you have lots of scotch, kilts and people willing to read poems and get sappy.  We didn’t have one to go to this year, and I didn’t remember in time, so I will do an honorary Robbie Burns night sometime this week to celebrate Scotland’s most beloved poet and my Scottish heritage at the same time.  This picture is just before I found out I had Celiac about 3 years ago.

Ginger at robbie burns

Chinese New Year!  That starts at midnight on the 26th, and well, it seems worthy of a couple of meals since we couldn’t pick just one.  I don’t have any Chinese friends here in town, strangely enough as we have so many students from China at Michigan State Univ down the road.  Korean and Thai (aquaintances) we have covered, but no Chinese.  Will make that a goal for the new year. So we are branching out on our own for the festival and going the extra mile for some of the dishes.

Just as a reminder, Mardi Gras starts soon too, as long as we are festing.  I love a fest.

This week the menu swap’s lovely host is Manda of Asparagus Thin and the theme she has chosen is licorice flavor or fennel/anise.  Ironically I hate anything with a licorice flavor, including the Greek liquor whose name escapes me at the moment.  However, I love fennel, both the seeds and the bulb and really enjoy anise when used in small background quantities, like in Vietnamese Pho.

Menu this week:

Saturday: Italian: Center cut pork roast rubbed in fennel, rosemary, garlic and sage with lemon asparagus risotto (Jamie Oliver’s risotto recipe, we actually have 5 of his cookbooks home from the library right now)

Sunday: Localvore meal: Chicken Chile Verde with organic chicken from my bro, canned green zebra tomatoes from the garden, frozen roasted green chiles from the garden and Michigan Great Northern Beans, garlic was local too, but not the onions or cilantro.

Monday: Chinese New Year: Hong Shao Ji and it has anise in it as an added bonus and is red, a good luck color for the New Year.  Fried spring rolls will also make an appearance as well as 100 Flower Blossoms using Jaden’s mom’s recipe (including crab) at Steamy Kitchen.  I just love Jaden’s sense of humor, photography, recipes and her blog.

Tuesday:  Chinese New Year continued: Spicy Lacquered Duck using duck breasts unless duck is on sale at the store.  Rice and Baby Bok Choy with shrimp from Rasa Malaysia to accompany.  Rasa Malaysia is another great go to Asian cooking blog with beautiful food porn shots too.

Wednesday:  Robbie Burns night at home: “Oat Cuisine” (har har) Horseradish crusted salmon with whole grain mustard cream sauce I guess we will need some braised leeks to go with the salmon.

Thursday: Pasta night: spinach ravioli (we hope) from the forgotten freezer stock with a chunky tomato sauce with loads of fresh basil from the basement greenhouse pots.  They might be filled with meat and cheese too.  Hopefully they thaw properly and don’t stick to each other. That will teach me to cryovack my pasta.

Friday: Ethiopian:  Sik Sik Wat with pork instead of beef and some Misr Wot and collard greens, feeling in a spicy mood and need to use up the batch of Berbere I made last summer.

Happy eating and Happy Chinese New Year and happy new US administration.  Lots to be happy about this week.  Don’t think about the snow.

i’m out

Menu of the Week Jan 19th: (One year of menus) lentils and dal

dal curry with yogurt and cilantro

This week marks one year of posting menus, posting them every week but a couple that we were on vacation or out of town for work. Wow! I keeping thinking I should just go back and recook the same menus, but there are so many more things to experiment with, so many new flavors to try, that I can’t. I have tried not to repeat much in the last year. If we did, it was usually on the off menu day (like a Saturday) or with a slight variation.
You have no reason to be, but I am proud of myself. I might be a little too organized these days. Someone says, hey let’s go out on Friday and I think, no, I already have that meal planned and posted and was looking forward to it. I typically just go out to lunch.
I digress.
This week’s ingredient highlights are lentils and dals and this week’s host is Sea over at Book of Yum. She has a great blog and is always posting wonderful looking international delights that even I can’t pronounce. Make sure you check out her menu as well as the many others that will be posting their menus. I love dals and have a variety of lentils in the house right now. Unfortunately my sweetie won’t even look at them, so I will be eating them alone. Since I have Monday off, I have decided to make an Aloo Dal for my lunch. Added to that, we are going out for Brunch (today/Sunday) to our favorite local Indian restaurant, Sindu’s, where I can typically eat everything that is not naan or deep fried. On Sundays they have dosas! I love dosas! And I love an occasion to go out to brunch, my friend Patty’s birthday. There will be dal there too and plenty of other lentil dishes and I plan to indulge.

Sunday:  lunch: Sindus with friends; dinner: Polpettone Ripieno, with Glutino spaghetti, homemade marinara and arugula salad

Monday MLK Day off:  lunch: aloo dal; dinner: Jagerschnitzel (with our pork) with rotkohl and maybe, maybe some spaetzle too, although I have a tough time making decent gf spaetzle – but I do have gf gnocchi in the freezer and that would be a great substitute.  If make them I will add dill as I am still in a dilly mood.

Tuesday: Singapore noodles with chicken and spring rolls – using brown rice vermicelli for this dish

Wednesday: Corned beef and cabbage, pulling from the freezer stock and I need to use it before it
goes on sale in March again.

Thursday: On the road for work

Friday: Grilled herbed cod, grilled asparagus and grilled polenta

grilled asparagus and grilled polenta

Unfortunately I have no pictures of any of the dals I have made in the past, so you get grilled polenta instead. Thought I would post a pic since I just made it for lunch and it is tasty!
i’m out

Menu Swap January 12th: Locally grown, raised or made

heirloom tomatoes

We are working on our way to become true localvores.  We are at heart.  Living in Michigan it is simply not possible to cook the way I want to cook with all things local.  For example, tropical anything will not grow here.  We do have a shrimp farm about 20 miles away, but other than that, shellfish – not local.  Outside of exotic ingredients, we do try our best to go as local as possible as often as possible. By local I mean about a 220 mile radius, within the Michigan borders and including the farm I am from, which is about 220 miles away.


Items to choose from that are local and in our house right now: Leelanau Raclette cheese; Leelanau fromage blanc; Farm Country Cheese House aged sharp cheddar cheese from Lakeview; garden canned tomatoes; frozen garden green chiles; potatoes from our garden; my dad’s farm or my friend’s farm; shallots from the garden; garlic from my brother’s garden;apples from the farm; pears from the farm; frozen cherries and strawberries from my dad’s and cousin’s farm; dried cherries; cherry juice concentrate; a full winter herb garden in my basement with the exception of thyme which died; wine and sparkling wine; hard cider; fresh cider; local beer (for Eby); apple eau de vie (apple schnapps); canned tomatillos from the garden; pork from our pig; including bacon; free range, organic chickens and pheasants from my brother’s farm; beef from my boss’s farm (grass fed); local lamb; homemade jam from my friend and aunt (using local fruit); maple syrup from my brother; salsa from friend; corn tortillas; tortilla chips; potato chips; sauerkraut made up North; bread and butter pickles and pickled dilly beans made by me from the garden; honey; sugar (made from sugar beets in Michigan’s thumb – we are shaped like a mitten); free range organic eggs; carrots; black beans; dried tomatoes from the garden; frozen chopped garlic scapes and frozen morel mushrooms from the woods.   Imagine when summer harvest rolls around and the garden is producing!  My broccoli crop failed this year and my beans didn’t do so well, so we have virtually no frozen garden veggies.  The rest we ate already.

yum, tomatoes! and pork

I really am amazed at how much we have that is local.  We do search for it, but the items mentioned above are not specialty items that we went to a store to find, they are just what we have available in Michigan.  Michigan is agriculturally the second most diverse state after California.  We grow a lot of dry beans, fruit and veggies.  I do consider myself to be lucky.  Luckier than most when it comes to food as I come from a cherry and potato farm that has morphed over 30 years into a cherry, specialty apple and farm market potato farm.  My brother farms with my dad and produces free range organic chickens, ducks, heritage turkeys, pheasant and on occasion, quail.  We co-purchased with my brother this fall a Dexter heifer (a cow in waiting) and a Jersey Dexter steer and they are eating nothing but the hay my brother raised this year.  The farm has changed in so many ways since I went to college many years ago.  I think it is much more sustainable now, more diverse and more interesting.  Interesting enough that we plan to return to it one day.  Aside from cherries and apples there are also grapes, blackberries, raspberries, currants, apricots, pear and peach trees on the farm.  Some years I get up there during the various seasons, some years I don’t and dearly miss my fruit.  I always have apples though, they hold pretty well in our basement and in the farm’s walk in cooler.

apples potatoes

If I didn’t have all these resources at arm’s length (or a 3.5 hour drive one way) and I didn’t have a farmer’s market 3 blocks from my house, and I didn’t have a huge garden in my back yard, I would shop at my local coop and farmer’s market even more as I believe in spending my money locally and supporting local farmers.  I would need a bigger food budget though.  It is not cheap to buy this way when it comes to protein purchases, but it is healthier and I know who raised my food.

Jr and Unna heritage chicken 4 weeks

My spices, well, those are in the exotic category as they just don’t grow in this climate.  I do oddly enough have a Meyer lemon and a key lime tree in my basement under greenhouse lights.  I am preparing for global warming when MI is the temp that FL is now.  They are not doing so well.  They know they are in Michigan.  So, avocados, spices, some veggies and all citrus come from out of state.  I am ok with that.  I am working on neutralizing my footprint, but because of my need for limes and grapefruit and red chile from NM, I will always have a foot print.

collage of fruit pheasant at the farm

Our cooking goal this week is to use at least 50% of locally sourced ingredients.  To do this in my 200+ radius, I had to include Canada as Ontario is only 100 miles away.  They are included as I wanted to incorporate some fish and I was more in a perch mood (fits with the Deep Fry Friday) than Whitefish.  Whitefish fishing season is typically closed during January anyway.

I decided to go to the East Lansing food co-op (ELFCO) first and see what local produce they had available before completely planning our menu.  Guess what they had there?  Nothing, zero, zilch for local produce.  It was all from California.  Plenty of local dairy though, so I stocked up on that, plenty of chicken, duck and pork too.  Zingerman’s cheese and Calder’s milk and butter. I then went to Foods for Living which is like our co-op but bigger and more expensive than Whole Foods – nothing for local produce.  I expected to find kale, cabbage and maybe fennel and brussel sprouts somewhere.  So that is why we now have the 50% goal.  I guess it is about 10F and snow snow snow here in mid Michigan.  We need more greenhouses!

What we are cooking this week:

Sunday: Potato, bacon, leek soup.  We will use local milk, 2 local cheeses, potatoes and our own bacon for this one.  Only the leeks are not.  Ironically I have leeks in the backyard but they are the size of a pencil and under 2 feet of snow.

Monday: Mignon’s de porc a l’ail from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles book.  Pork medallions with a garlic confit.  We will roast purple potatoes with garlic and rosemary and a brussel sprout gratin with raclette to round out the meal.  All the ingredients for the pork we have locally, wine, shallots, garlic, parsley and homemade demi glace that I have in the freezer.  Only the brussel sprouts and some olive oil are not.

Tuesday:  Dilled potato salad with horseradish creme fraiche, grilled 1/2 chicken and some green beans.  The dill, horseradish, potatoes and chicken are local.

Wednesday: Lamb curry with tomatoes and potatoes over rice.  Rice and spices will not be local.

Thursday: Guajillo spiced pork from Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday.  This is crock pot cooking at it’s best.  The dried chiles and onions will not be local, but the pork, tomatoes, garlic and potatoes will be. OR we might try to make tacos al pastor with our pork.  We watched Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) in Mexico last night and I can’t decide between the two dishes.

Friday: Fish and chips!  Fried perch, dusted with rice flour and lemon zest, fresh cut fries and a fennel slaw.  Fennel, rice flour and lemon are not local, but perch and potatoes are.  Oil to fry in also not local.  This is part of the continuing Deep Fry Friday series.  Send me your deep fried posts!

So, what is cooking in your kitchen this week and what were you able to find that was locally grown, raised or made, to add to your menu? Sometimes this time of year you have to look a bit harder, but it might be more worth it.  In summertime it is easy to find local produce.   In wintertime you might have to search out that farmer who sells milk to the health food store, but they need your business all year long as we want to keep them around.

What’s cooking in the gf blogosphere:

Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness was able to visit her farmers market and had a few good finds like apples and carrots.  Those of you in Southern climates are lucky!  Cheryl is supplementing her farmers market finds with her garden goods, some fresh and some frozen. I love the idea of Nightshade soup – it sounds so dark and dangerous.  She also has socca on the menu which I have yet to try despite wanting too for over 2 years.

Sea of Book of Yum has some delicious looking Jjapchae noodles posted to make me drool.  She is always featuring some tempting looking Japanese food and this week Korean too.  I love paneer and the tomato cashew gravy she plans to make sounds great for a cold night, even if it is not that cold, it sounds good.  She didn’t mention Wednesday night, I wonder what she has going on?  Secret plans?  Do tell us!

Manda of Asparagus Thin has been thinking about starting her own business, so anyone with tips – drop her a line.  She has left the sweet world of decorating cakes she can’t eat and is cooking up an international storm, as usual.  I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I have to say, if she showed up with the Boston Creme Pie she is planning on baking, I wouldn’t hesitate to eat it.  Haute lamb stroganov is on the menu too – I am curious about this one and love anything with stroganov in it’s name – who doesn’t? 

M-Elle of Cooking and Uncooking is starting a new Tasty Tuesday feature (starting with pot pie – ummm) and looking for posters.  For all of you with super crazy schedules this feature will allow for leftovers the next day.  A ginger peanut stir fry is planned for later in the week and well, you probably all know how I feel about ginger – spice of life!  I can’t forget to mention her falafel dish too – it sounds great!

Angela of Angela’s Kitchen is loaded with local produce from visiting farmers markets and her garden this summer and meat after buying grass fed beef this fall.  She will be incorporating canned, dried and frozen produce into all of her meals this week.  The tomato relish has me intrigued and the sesame chicken with bok choy is something I have been craving.  Angela is a busy woman!  I really don’t know how all of you with kids and celiac keep up on the cooking and blogging.

Wendy of Celiacs in the House will be using some homemade frozen pesto to zing up her meals as well as some frozen tomatoes.  Pesto in the dead of winter is such a great way to feel like summer will show up again.  Fondue with pound cake is on the menu to end the week and she starts her week with a great sounding pasta dish (with pesto).

Karen of Gluten Free Sox still has some garden goods hanging out to use, but let’s jump right to the crawfish etouffee using locally made boudin shipped in from Louisiana via a friend.  Does your friend need more friends?  I figure I need about 8 hours to get to Karen’s house for dinner, so maybe she can plan accordingly.  Chicken piccata is later in the week and such a great dish, lots of flavor, easy to make. The herb garden is alive and well and will be adding to the dishes of the week.

Scrumptious of In My Box has collard greens to use!  I can see mine out the window, they are frozen.  Falafel is on the menu here too as well as lentil spinach curry which sounds like comfort food to me.  Lots of tofu mixed with greens and this is one healthy, tasty menu.  Will you tell us what brand of GF buckwheat soba noodles you found?  I can’t find any in MI.  I would figure that after this week the fridge should be nice and clean and ready to be reloaded.

Elizabeth of Modern Gal plans to use some local grass fed beef this week and using it in a couple of dishes, like the crockpot beef and vegetable stew.  The apple ginger coleslaw caught my eye, you probably know why.  It sounds fresh and crisp.  She is relying on her freezer stock and is working on cleaning it out.  Must be a January theme in prep for Chinese New Year or the US Inauguration as several of you are highly motivated to clean up and eat up!

Ester of The Lilac Kitchen gave me some great tips on cooking up French Fries/chips, which I will use on Friday this week.  She gets a box of veggies from her local organic store every week and they stress using local produce, what a bonus.  It sounds like she is hoping to get her own garden started next year to add to the veggies she has cooking this week.  I noticed leeks on the menu, they are a great winter vegetable, esp with potatoes!

I always wish we could just head over to each others houses after reading all the great menus.

chickens in the morning sun

my family's farm house

Happy eating!  Don’t forget to post your menu swap next week with Book of Yum!  Lentils and dals are the theme!
i’m out


cashew, macadamia nut, almond and coconut brittle with fleur de sel and cayenne

How can something so delicious be so easy to make?  I would have been making brittle for years if I knew I could do it in under 30 minutes.  I might have made it earlier, except that, I had no cravings for brittle until now.  I am not quite sure what inspired me suddenly perusing the internet for brittle recipes, but once I did, I had to make some, but make some my way.

pumpkin seed, almond, pine nut brittle with red chile

“My way” meaning, it needed a bit of spice, a kick if you will and something to balance out the sweetness. I really don’t have a sweet tooth, but if something sweet is balanced with something salty and has a bit of spice too, I am in. I recently made some caramel truffles with fleur de sel and that is what likely set me on my way, the fleur de sel. It was a perfect end to a bite of delight. If it worked for chocolate, it will work for brittle too.   And it did.

I made a triple batch for starters, as the effort seemed too much for one cup of nuts. After that, I went a little crazy and did some smaller experimental batches. Two of those and then one more triple batch a week later as I had a lot of nuts and needed more brittle to give away for gifts.

First batch: Pumpkin seed, pine nut, almond brittle with NM red chile and fleur de sel
Second batch: Macadamia nut, almond, coconut brittle with cayenne and fleur de sel
Third batch:Coconut cardamom cayenne brittle with fleur de sel – for a friend with nut allergies.
Fourth batch: Cashew, macadamia, almond and coconut brittle with cayenne and fleur de sel.

Coconut cardamom cayenne brittle macadamia nut, almond, coconut brittle with cayenne

I think I can take a week off from brittling now. Yes, I know, I just made a word up. Every once in a while you just have to make a word up.
First, toast your nuts, or not, I like a toasted nut better, but you don’t have to.  These are pre-toasting.  I won’t show you the pic of the post toast. Needless to say, I severely burned the nuts I roasted for the first batch and had to re-roast. I am pretty good at burning nuts thanks to my uneven heating oven.  They went to the squirrels.  The second post toast I have no photos of.

nuts for toasting for brittle

Brittle with Fleur De Sel and Cayenne

3 cups nuts of your choice or unsweetened dried coconut
3 TBS chilled diced unsalted butter
3 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 tsp cayenne – more or less to taste – I like it hot.
3 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (keeps the sugar from seizing)

candy thermometer or temperature probe if you have one – it’s not necessary, just easier

Toast your nuts if you are a nut toaster. If you have a silpat, get two or three of those out and place them on your counter overlapping. If not, use three large cookie sheet size sheets of foil, over lap them slightly and butter them lightly with unsalted butter. The silpat needs no butter. In a bowl, combine nuts, diced butter, baking soda, fleur de sel and cayenne pepper. In a 3 quart pot, add your sugar, water and cream of tartar. Bring to a boil and let it cook until it is an amber color – this will be around 350F to 370F if you have a thermometer. It takes much longer to get to this point with this triple batch than with 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup water. Ten to 20 minutes. No need to stir the sugar mixture, but I can’t help myself, so I do. As soon as the color starts to darken, be on red alert and ready to go in an instant. Once it appears to be the color of honey or medium amber, cut the heat and immediately stir in the nut mixture, stir fast and stir hard. The mixture will sizzle and bubble up and act very excited in a happy way. Once incorporated, start pouring it out on to the buttered foil and spread as fast and thin as you can.  Admire your work and let it cool while you clean the pot. The easiest way to clean the pot and spoon is to fill the pot back up with water and bring it to a boil. Sugar of course dissolves in water. No scrubbing. No work.
Once the brittle is cooled, about 10 minutes more or less, you can start breaking it up into whatever size pieces you want. This brittle will keep in a sealed container for at least a month if your nuts were fresh. Try making it last that long, I dare you. Make sure you give some to your dentist, just in case you eat too much of it.

cashew, macadamia nut, almond and coconut brittle with fleur de sel and cayenne

i’m out