Dinner’s on!

Back into the swing of cooking I go this week.  The last three or four weeks have been a whirlwind of night meetings and weekends away.  It happens every once in a while, but it throws off the cooking mojo.  To bring the mojo back we have a nice spicy week ahead.  Next week is the first week of our first CSA.  Once that begins, my menu planning will start the day after CSA pickup day (which is a Tuesday) so that I can incorporate whatever goodies end up in our box.

This week’s menu swap hostess is Sea from Book of Yum and the topic is Pizza, something just about everyone loves!

Sunday:  Peanut barrel for a bunless burger and a side of fries

Monday:  Korean Kalbi grilled, wonton soup, broccoli stir fry and fried rice, or maybe I will make broccoli fried rice.

IMG_9631

Tuesday: Ethiopian – injera is fermenting on the counter now, doro wat with one of my brothers organic free range chickens, pintos Ethiopian style and a side of yellow peas and potatoes spiced up to fit the party too.

Ethiopian: collards, beans and beef over Gluten free injera

Wednesday: Pizza – we have a couple of GF crusts to compare and plenty of fresh mozz, maybe we will do calzones if we are feeling snazzy

Thursday: Pasta toss with grilled asparagus, shaved Parmesan, grilled red onion, grilled chicken breasts and fresh herbs.

grilled asparagus and chicken pasta

Friday:  heading North to the farm for a fun weekend along with the Leland Wine and Food Festival.

i’m out

Menu of the week Feb 9th: Chocolate!

Ah Chocolate!  You either crave it all the time, or not so much.  I am in the not so much category, but I do like my chocolate, it just has to be good chocolate.  I don’t crave it.  I am more of a salt than sweet tooth.  If there is any week to like chocolate, this is the one.  Since this week includes Valentine’s Day, I will embrace chocolate in souffle form and pair it with raspberry (chocolate is better with raspberry don’t you think?), but I am also using chocolate in a savory dish.  As long as we are on the chocolate topic, if you haven’t seen Like Water for Chocolate, you really, really must (esp if you like cooking and Mexico) and see it in the undubbed original Spanish version with subtitles.  Do not watch the dubbed version, you lose everything.

chocolate souffle

Our host for the menu swap this week is M-Elle of Cooking and Uncooking .  I am certain there will be some great gluten free chocolate desserts posted this week, so check them out.

Sunday:  Smokey pork (our pork) on the charcoal grill, low and slow in the sunshine. Potatoes Dauphiniose with both sweet and local potatoes plus Gruyere and grilled asparagus.  I am using my Mexi rub and added  cocoa powder, coriander and brown sugar to the rub.

Monday: Homemade pizza!  Deep dish or thin crust, to be determined.  Using our canned tomatoes and our frozen tomato paste and herbs from the indoor garden for the sauce.  No homemade mozzarella yet, but soon!

Tuesday:  Vietnamese crab and tofu soup with a Vietnamese cabbage salad and maybe attempting scallion pancakes.

Wednesday: Pesto Risotto and grilled salmon with spicy black butter

Thursday: Gumbo with okra, tomatoes, andouille sausage and chicken over rice (maybe dirty rice maybe not)

Friday: Indian, pork kofta curry balls (based on the linked recipe), rice, dal and maybe I can work a cabbage potato curry dish in there too.  I recently had a great one at our local Indian restaurant, the potatoes were tangy with lots of cilantro and black mustard seeds in the dish.

Saturday (Valentine’s Day): Cheese fondue appetizer with Whole Foods Sourdough GF  bread and apples for dunking,  Scallops (for me, fish for Eby) with beurre blanc sauce and angel hair pasta, green salad with sustainably raised hearts of palm, tangerine supremes, red onion and a dijon viniagrette , chocolate souffle with raspberry eau de vie whipped cream Going to eat the Trader Joes GF flourless chocolate cake I forgot I had in the freezer for emergency dessert needs when traveling.  We made a raspberry puree with a bit of Grand Mariner to go with it.  L.Mawby Sparkling wine from Leelanau County. Martini’s and cocktails instead of wine.

Menu of the Week Nov 17th: Rutabagas and several stories.

I am a bit behind on this post.  This always happens when I am gone for the weekend, get back late and then Monday night I had to attend a “Arbonne” party.  If you want to know what that is, I will be happy to hook you up with my friend who is just getting started.  She loves a good road trip.

So, I know you all have been waiting to see what the secret ingredient is (even though you may have glimpsed at the header – put that out of your mind).  Rutabaga, that is what we are experimenting with this week.  Now, the only time I really have eaten rutabaga, or swede as it appears to be called in the British Isles, is in pasties, a specialty (perhaps the only one aside from any deep fried vegetable and I mean any) of the UP or Upper Peninsula of Michigan as we Michiganders call it.  The part that borders both Lakes Superior and Michigan.  A really beautiful part of the state.  You should go there.  I think of moving there sometimes when I want to leave normal society.  At any rate, pasties are everywhere up there.  The miners used to take them for lunch.  They are a pocket pie filled with (typically) beef, onions, carrot, potato and rutabaga.  There seems to be only salt and pepper in there, no such thing as herbs in the UP a hundred years ago I guess.  They are often served with gravy (always from a jar I am sure) but the Yoopers (think UP-ers) insist on ketchup with theirs.  I have no love affair with ketchup.  None at all.  Ok, maybe occasionally with a tator tot that missed the buffalo sauce.  But really, that’s it.

At this point you are thinking… all this info and we haven’t gotten a menu yet and it is the day after menu day.  Well folks, that is what a long day on the road and a strong vodka cranberry juice does for you, well, me.  Ester at Lilac Kitchen is this week’s host and who we have to thank for my long pastie post!

So, on my way home this eve I stopped by the store for some much needed groceries and knew that it was rutabaga/swede week and found myself staring at not one, but a box full, in the fresh starches isle (near the tators).  I debated.  I walked away.  I walked back.  I picked one up and resolved to attempt a pasty.  I will attempt the best pastie ever.  One with herbs.  And garlic.  No ketchup.  Maybe gravy though as I am a sucker for a sauce.

So, now you know about pasties (pronounced paasties – like Pa in Little house in the Prairie).  You have to watch out when you say the name or you will get some thing that only women in strip joints wear.

Menu time now.

Ok, maybe not yet.  The reason we were back late on Sunday was because we were returning from our pig butchering weekend.  We have a pig share of sorts which I will blog on in a new post but have blogged on it here before.  This year’s piggies were named Speck and Parma.  We had the entire 3.5 hours back which was more like 4.5 hours due to black ice everywhere and many collisions along the way, to think about how we wanted to cook our first pork dinner.  By the time we got home it was late and we were hungry so we made ground pork in a miso sauce and fried rice.  We have a total of 1.5 pigs in our freezer now.  Seem a bit extreme?  It might be.  We aren’t sure yet.  The bacon is getting cured in Traverse City aside from a 5 lb piece that I cut off to try curing ourselves.  So by butcher, I mean butcher.  The pig was shot and gutted by our bee keeper Julius.  It then hung for a day until we arrived on a Saturday afternoon to start slicing.  He does have a ban saw, thank goodness, but we do all the trimming, tell him what cuts where and wrap and label it.  I cut the tenderloin out myself, three times.  It is very humbling.  I am extremely thankful for our good fortune to hook up with these great folks: A raspberry and sustainable everything farmer who works on cherry harvesting equipment, his wife and a cherry/apple farmer who is also a large bee keeper.  No the bees aren’t large, just his operation, rather the honey operation.  We bought some honey from him while we were there.  Thankfully I haven’t needed a hot toddy yet this year, but I am ready when I do.

Ok, now on to the menu.

Saturday:  I didn’t really cook all of this, but my brother (and friends) did for a dinner party while we were up there.  It is definitely blog worthy.  It was all wheat free.  It was all local, every bit of it, except the cheese and crackers, which I brought.  I always travel with cheese and crackers.

Apps:

cheese and crackers

spicy pickled dilly beans

fresh pate made from our friends freshly butchered pig – I hate hate hate liver and loved this stuff.  Will find recipe soon.  I think the fact that it didn’t have much liver in it made all of the difference.

salad : local greens with balsamic dressing and slices of seared pheasant breast

entree:

local organic free range chicken breasts stuffed with pheasant and chestnut force meat – a meat stuffing of sorts – with a morel mushroom supreme sauce

sides:

sauteed brussel sprouts

leek tartin minus the crust to make it gluten free

roasted small potatoes with rosemary and garlic (i made this one)

roasted butternut squash

dessert:

homemade spelt  pumpkin pie from scratch, local pumpkins and all (the spelt is grown and milled in MI too)

to drink

our friend’s hard and sweet cider – they just opened their hard cidery, Tandem Cider,  a month ago and have 5 varieties of hard cider as well as tasty sweet cider.

I tell you, it was Thanksgiving.  Really.  Great friends, great food, all grown or raised by us or my dad.  I really can’t ask for more than that.  Honestly, it is the norm up there.  That is one reason we want to move back.  I am so making that pate and I have never said that before.

Sunday:  Ground pork in a miso sauce and Steamy Kitchen Jaden’s fried rice posted on Elise’s Simply Recipes.  Only we cheated.  We had no leftover rice – a big no no.  So I used Sushi rice and didn’t cook it all the way.  Sushi rice is so strong and sturdy that it worked just fine.  We used Martin Yan’s quick Chinese book for the pork.  It was really tasty!

Monday:  Mexican shredded pork stew (with ancho chiles, roasted garlic, chipotle and red chile) over rice with black beans (with green chile and garlic) and brussel sprouts ( I was craving brussel sprouts and decided to forgo the Mex theme for some extra green yummies.)

Tuesday: Corn, Crab and Potato chowder with a bit of bacon and mashed sweet potatoes as the thickener.  On the stove right now.  Whoops. I totally scourched it.  To the point of having to pray that it doesn’t taste burnt and moved all the non burnt items into a new pot.  That also comes with drinking a strong vodka cranberry and blogging.  Luckily the crab, cream and milk had yet to be added.  There is no burnt taste, soldiering on, will eat when the post is finished.

Wednesday:  Trader Joe Chicken Sausages with spinach sauteed in a pasta toss with asparagus, dried tomatoes, parmesan and pine nuts.

Thursday:  Moletes de papas y queso  (potato masa torpedoes) and fish enchiladas with tangy tomatillo sauce via Rick Bayless.  Will use the rest of Monday’s black beans with green chile and garlic too.  Or if enchiladas don’t strike me, we will grill the fish.

Friday:  Pasties!  My pasties will have grass fed beef (if I can get to the bottom of the freezer), and all the normal veggies plus herbs, lots of them.

i’m out

Menu of the Week: Strawberries…. a fruity memory

Bardenhagen Berries

I love strawberries!

Unless I do something with frozen strawberries, like make a margarita with them to make room in the freezer for this year’s batch, I will be passing on using any fresh ones. Why when I love them so? Because in Michigan, strawberries won’t be ripe for another month at the earliest. The strawberries in the store here are all from FL and CA and taste like cardboard.

My cousin and uncle have a strawberry farm in Leelanau and I spent many years working the strawberry packing season at 7 am. I even hoed all 10 acres three times one summer instead of waiting tables. I am used to eating my fill of strawberries all morning long, fresh from the field, unwashed, dew still attached. But now I don’t live as close, so I don’t eat as many. I miss them and look forward to them every year.

Packing strawberries involves taking the berries that have been picked into little wooden quarts from the field carrier and putting them into cardboard boxes that hold 8 quarts. These flats are delivered every morning to the local stores and restaurants.

My cousin doesn’t do a u pick. He has migrant families that arrive every year, eager for the season to start. He also has a top of the line migrant camp where they live for 4-5 months (they work the cherry and apple harvest too). These are ranch style houses with a long covered porch. The farm provides them with housing, water and electricity and work. I love walking by the camp when it is full of families. Loud Tejano music playing, terrific cooking smells wafting about, fresh tortillas everywhere, the kids are playing and people are laughing. Kinda like walking down a small street in Mexico. Most of these families have been coming back to the farm for years and are from Texas.

As you can see, strawberries hold quite a memory for me. Without the migrant labor, this farm would not function. I am thankful for them and the lives they lead. And thankful for strawberries. I really ate at least a quart a day for 3 weeks. Then when cherry season started, I ate a lot of those. I wouldn’t trade the life I had growing up for anything. Growing up on a farm gave me so many experiences that I will always tap into and cherish. At the time though, I would have loved to move back to the city, if you asked me when I was 12 after a day on the potato harvester in the hot dusty sun on a Saturday when ever one else was playing.

collage of fruit

Well now. After all of that, I guess I am going to go downstairs to the freezer and find a frozen bag of last year’s berries and whip them up with some rum or tequila. I owe them that. Often I pay them with freezer burn. Not really a fair exchange.

This week is a crazy one for me. We have our Michigan Envirothon state competition event in the upper Peninsula and I will be up there most of the week helping. The university hosting it already told me that they have some celiac students and are happy to provide me with gluten free options in their cafeteria. I perked right up with that one as I was not looking forward to working 12 -16 hour days and eating out of my cooler in the hotel.

Terri of the Faking it Gluten Free Style blog is hosting this week’s menu swap, so pop on over to her site and check out all the menus and ideas!

Saturday: Italian

Homemade frozen spinach and ricotta ravioli with marinara. Freezing your ravioli’s works great, unless you let them thaw slightly before tossing in boiling water. Then you have one giant ravioli dumpling as they are all stuck together.

Sunday: Korean take out

Yuk gae jang soup from the local Korean restaurant down the road. Homemade beef broth, strips of tender beef, green onions, zuc, mung bean noodles, onion and chile! This soup is comfort food to me, brothy and spicy hot. Survivor Finale night – popcorn for a snack.

Monday: Wing cook off. Why not? Everyone needs to do this once in a while. We will make some Buffalo style along with a homemade buttermilk blue cheese dressing and some Asian style with a lemon grass chile garlic coconut sauce. Maybe some spicy peanut dipping sauce. Tonight might be the right night for a frozen strawberry bevy.

Tuesday: Grilled fish (what ever looks good) with kumquat chutney/sauce (I still have to create this one), grilled polenta and grilled asparagus. Edited to change to blackened red snapper Caesar salad with grilled polenta croutons.  Kumquats will have to wait. I love me some kumquats!

Wednesday – Friday: Sault Ste Marie MI, no cooking for me!

Bardenhagen Berries!

i’m out

Appetizer of the week: Morels

Ah morel mushrooms….

morels

It is spring here in Michigan. We had a really long winter and once winter leaves and the lilacs are about to bloom, it is my favorite time of year – wild morel mushroom hunting season. Yes, you hunt morels, you don’t find them. You stalk them, creep up on them, stop and stare, pause and pounce on morels, leaving the root behind for next year’s spore action.

three morels

I mentioned it is spring, but Mother Nature has been confusing lately and giving us a 75F day and then the next week is below freezing at night. She has confused the morels too. Normally I wouldn’t expect to start hunting for another week or two and I actually have time off planned to go visit the farm/friends and fam up in Leelanau at the end of May, but when I was raking the lawn this week, I almost raked a cluster of morels.

morels up close with morels

In my yard, yes. Oh bleaders, I did the mushroom dance immediately (one must do the mushroom dance when you find your first mushroom). I think my BF was a bit surprised at my reaction. It is the happiest day of spring when you find your favorite mushroom anywhere, much less in your lawn. I have had a lot of trees (that were dying) removed from my backyard over the last 5 years and have lots of woody mass in the backyard still. Every year when I wash any morels I have found, I carefully save the rinse water and pour it out in the backyard along the fence, hoping the spores will cultivate and that the mushroom gods will smile upon me again.

morels in the yard

It’s working. I found my first morel in my yard 3 years ago when I was rototilling the garden plot. Every year they have been in a totally different location. Last year I found 8. This year, I found 20 30! A  1/2 pound.  I am cooking them up tonight in a most cherished appetizer. Unless you have mushrooms coming out of your ears, then you don’t find very many and to me, they are best eaten alone, with just a few accompaniments.

I prefer them two ways: one way coats them in a light dusting of flour first, the second is cooked the same way, no dusting. Usually I have some wild leeks to go along with it and often find morels and leeks side by side in the forest. However, my backyard is lacking in wild leeks, for now. Often when hunting morels you will find a wild stalk of asparagus and we always slice that up and toss it in too. I found three spindly spears of asparagus in our newly established asparagus patch at the back of the garden. So, the appetizer will be as follows:

morel hunting

Fresh Morels, sliced in half (rinse and inspect for bugs first), lightly dusted in flour of your choice. A stalk of asparagus, sliced thinly like a green onion. Butter – no olive oil for this one. Salt, pepper and thyme – fresh from the herb pot. One clove of garlic, or use a wild leek if you have one, minced – the leek sliced thin.

Melt the butter, toss in your dusted morels and when they are about halfway cooked through, add the rest of the ingredients. Let the morel get a bit crispy – it locks the flavor in behind the flour coating. Eat immediately.

Or the other way, melt the butter, toss in your halved morels (rinse and inspect for bugs first), asparagus, garlic and seasonings. Cook just until the mushrooms have wilted a bit and give off their juices. Immediately pull from the heat and eat the mushrooms using your favorite bread to soak up the juices.

Elixir of the heavens.

sauteed morels

i’m out