Back on Track… I hope!

Life has been amazing the last year or so… very busy and very full of fun, family and food. This last year brought my beloved boys moving out and leaving me with a terrible case of empty nest, a wonderful new job as a visiting nurse which has left me fulfilled in so many ways, and it has brought me a wonderful new addition to our lives in the form of my grandson Dylan. He is the joyous oooops who has brought so much happiness and smiles to everyone who meets him. DSC06264

And Rob and I have been working on weight loss..
At Nicoles Wedding

And Nik and Aaron might have gotten older but they haven’t grown up… (HORRIBLE PIC Of them but it makes me laugh)
NIk and Aaron being Nik and Aaron

I found a couple of posts in my drafts section that I will be posting in a day or so. I have decided that I don’t need all the pics in each post and that was part of what was taking me so long to get posts up, then I lost track of doing it.. blah blah. So anyway, time to get back on track. Cant wait to show you what we have been cooking..


Boston Brown Bread

Okay I know I am early for St Patricks Day.  I actually started this post last year because we had to have St Patricks Day late due to school stuff, and then more school stuff caused me to be late in getting this post written.. But think of it this way..  now you are ready with recipes for St Patricks Day 2012!!  Add this to the Corned Beef post and you are all set!

So here is step one, perfecting brown bread.  Rob loves it.  The kids had never had it until I made it last year.  It was so good.  I will be making it again this year.  I used the same site I got the corned beef original recipe and got the recipe for this.   Here it is.   I have always thought bread in a can was just wrong for some reason.  I liked it and have fond memories of my grandmother bringing out that can and my grandfather complaining about how expensive it was, but eating almost half of said can.  We always got it with raisins.  This one I made has no raisins since Nik doesnt care for them.

Like making the corned beef this can be labor intensive.  But also like the corned beef.  This is much better than the crap you get from the store.  You do need a few ingredients but you can get them at most grocery stores.  I had to look in the organic section of my local Hannafords but was able to find everything we needed in one shopping trip.

Makes one loaf of bread
Butter for greasing the pan/can
1/2 heaping cup of rye flour
1/2 heaping cup of all purpose flour
1/2 heaping cup of finely ground corn meal (must be finely ground)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup of buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

First thing you need to do is figure out your pan situation.  Most recipes call for a coffee can but you can use a couple of regular 14.5 oz cans as well.  I had a pan that I got at a yard sale like a hundred years ago in a box of used cooking utensils.  I had no idea what it was and Rob said, hey you have a brown bread pan..  if you say so.  LOL  Here is said pan.

So the first thing you do with your pan is to butter the inside..  Nik to the rescue.. i know this is a disturbing picture but it makes me laugh..
BUT my pan was not working with the finger method.. so we had to go to the whole uber long sterile Q-Tips I had gotten a few years ago for cleaning wounds.  They are all individually packaged sterile Q-tips and about 6 inches long.. Perfect.

I think it would have been easier to just use cans but Rob wanted the pretty design.  So anyway, butter the pan/can.   And then wrap 2-3 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil around the bottom.

You want to end up with your pan/can looking like this.  Make sure it goes up atleast 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the pan/can.
Set your oven to 325 degrees to preheat.  Now get your water bath ready.  Take a stock pot that will fit in your oven and fill it about 3-4 inches up with hot water and set it to boil.
Keep it boiling while you get your batter made.  In a bowl mix your dry ingredients and the raisins if you want them.
In another bowl mix your wet ingredients.
Then mix them together.

Then pour no more than 2/3 of the way up the can.  This is important, not more than 2/3s of the way up!  It gets messy if you go too high trust me. 
As I am sitting her working on the post, Rob is trying to convince me that I need to make some right now!  HAHA  he saw the picture and said… ohhhhhhhhhh you should make some!  HAHA

So then you either put your cover on, or wrap it with aluminum foil.  Make sure you poke a hole into the top to release steam.
Put it into the water bath in your stock pot.   You dont want the water to be over 1/3 of the way up the side of the can, so take some water out if needed. 
Put it in the oven and set your timer for 2 hours and 15 minutes to steam.    Here it is once you check it after that time.. and you added more than 2/3s of the way up the can.  Dont do what I did.. just fill it 2/3 or maybe even a little less. HA
It was kind of a blow over and through the little hole.  It made a nasty pasty crap in the bottom of the pan.. so again.. only 2/3 of the way.  Once the toothpick comes out clean you are done.  Now take it out and put it top of the stove and let it set for 10 minutes.  Remove from the water and put on top end up on a cooling rack.   Let it cool for an hour.  Then take out of the pan/can.
Once fully cool it stays for a couple of days in the fridge if you wrap it up tightly with saran wrap.. or in my house it lasts for an hour or two because it gets sliced and served practically before it was out of the pan.  Top with butter or a yummy jam or corned beef, or whatever you want.  SOOOOOO good!
So moist and yummy.   This picture doesnt do it justice (I really need some food photography classes!!).  They look dry in this, trust me it isnt not!  In fact Rob is looking at the picture again and hinting again about making some.  LOL Its that good.  Never buy cannedl, when you can make it yourself.

Happy Steaming!

Corned Beef from Scratch

Corned Beef is a favorite in this house.  No two ways about it, Rob, Nik and Aaron would eat it every day.  No exaggeration.  I even have two in the fridge right now.  These pictures are from last summer and a whole batch of recipe pictures I found.  So the next few posts will have a ton of pictures!  Anyways…… like I was saying, they love the stuff.  So I came across this posting last spring a week or two before St Patricks day.   With some of the special ingredients and the fact it has to brine for 10-14 days, I knew it wouldnt be ready before the holiday so I put it aside.  We had our traditional St Patricks Day meal and that was it.. or so I thought.  The idea was stuck in my head.  I was in trouble.  It was stuck in the brain.. no getting away from it now.  So I jumped on to the google to find and buy the hardest to get ingredient.

“Pink curing salt, or sodium nitrite, goes by many names, such as Prague Powder #1 or DQ Curing Salt #1” (this is the quote from the original post, I need to give credit here) was hard to find.  Here is the link to where I got it online, dont take the 4 hours of research to make sure you have the right one, best price, etc.  Just go here or amazon, which will link you back to the site anyway.  I bought the lb package, which is no longer available, and we have made corned beef 5-6 times and hardly dented the bag, so a 4 oz bag should be enough for someone to just start off.  Anyway, this is what makes the corned beef pinky-red.  If you dont care if it is pinky-red or prefer gray corned beef you can forego the specialty item.  We happen to like it and the gray looks funny to me.   There I said it.  I am a corned beef snob.

I will warn you though, while this is totally worth it, it is not a recipe for the impatient.  Though this did teach me how to be patient, corned beef is not something you can whip together on a Sunday and have for dinner that night.. you might be able to have it a couple sundays away but it is something that takes patience and some fridge space to make.  And there are three steps.  BUT it can be prepared in an hour or so and put away in the back of the fridge for 10-14 day (or even longer I am sure but I have only been able to get Rob to wait 11 days.. I am hoping for two weeks on this batch.

First you have the make the spice mix.  We tried to traditional one that was on the original site but have since increased and decreased some ingredients to get the flavors we like.  Here is our spice mix.

Ingredients for the spice mix
Makes enough for 3-4 corned beefs but it stores forever so I wouldnt just make the whole batch.

1 Tbsp whole allspice berries
1 Tbsp whole mustard seeds
1 Tbsp corriander seeds
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp whole black pepper corns
2 tsp whole cloves
12 cardamon pods
3 inches of cinnamon stick broken into smaller bits
10 bay leaves crunched up
2 tsp ground ginger

Get all your ingredients together and get a medium frying pan.  A square sided pan would be better but i used a sloped sided to get better pictures.  Measure out everything but the ginger.

Put the spices in the pan and brown over medium heat until you can hear the mustard seeds start to pop.

Once toasted and you can smell them getting toasted put into your mortar (or if you dont have one, let them cool a bit and put them into a zip lock bag) and using the the pestle break up into smaller pieces.

You now have your spice mix.  Add the ginger and put aside.

Now for the meat.  What you normally buy for St Patricks Day is corned beef brisket but you dont have to corn just briskets.  In fact, plain brisket can be expensive.  In fact other than I MUCH prefer our homemade ones, making it yourself is more expensive than buying it already made.  I thought that was funny myself.   Anyway.  We have only corned (and this type of preserving and brining meat is called corning it) brisket and eye round.  We really prefer the eye round because it is so lean.   You have to get a thinner eye round, meaning not more than 5 inches in diameter, or you can get a thicker one and just use a meat tenderizer and pound it a bit thinner.   We usually buy brisket if we are serving it to someone else because alot of people like the fattiness of the brisket.  We are currently brining an eye round and another roast we had in the freezer, not really sure what type it is.  It is round and has a string around it. The men in this house aren’t picky, its meat and it is being made into corned beef.  They will eat it.

Making the brine

Ingredients for the brine
The original recipe was for a gallon.  We only make 1/4 gallon and can do 2-3 pieces of meat at a time in a ziploc bag, so this is for only 1/4 gallon but if you need more, just make some extra.  This is what works for the gallon size ziploc.
2 cups water + ice to make 4-4 1/2 cups
1/2 cup canning salt or sea salt (DO NOT use kitchen/table/iodized salt)
2 tsp pink curing salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp of brining spice

This is what the salt looks like in the package, like pink granules.  And it has a weird almost wet texture.

Bring all your above ingredients to a heat where the sugar and salts have melted .  Add 2-3 cups of ice cubes so that you have a total of 4-4 1/2 cups of brine.   DO NOT add to the meat until it is cold.
Now you have the corning brine.  Put your brisket, etc into a large bowl with a cover and cover the meat with the brine, or into gallon ziploc bags and then divide the brine up making sure you divide up the seasonings as well.  Let it sit for a week to two weeks in the fridge.

Dinner Time!!  You have waited your two weeks (okay atleast a week) and it is time to make your dinner!  Ready for the fun yet?  Take the meat out of the old brine and rinse it off.  No need to get all the old spice bits but you dont want the salty brine anymore.  That can go.
It will have this weird sheen to it.  That is normal.
Make a spice bundle with cheese cloth and 2 Tbsp of your remaining spice mix.
Put in a large pot with water, bring to a boil, turn down to a medium simmer and cook for 3 hours.    I usually have to add a bit more water somewhere in the middle.
After the three hours of a medium simmer, add your veggies.  For us I wash 3 lbs of new potatoes, 3 lbs of washed carrots (Rob LOVES carrots, so you could probably get away with just a lb or two), 2-3 peeled onions, a quartered cabbage and one turnip in large chunks.  Boil until all veggies are tender.  Drain and serve with butter.  And brown bread.  Which I will be posting in a couple days..
I love this.  I mean, yes it is labor intensive. I mean even writing this took a year.  Okay I am exaggerating but it did take forever.. but it is so worth it.  We have it every few months and it is so good.  I would love to make it more often but dont want to ruin the specialness of it! HAHA  Anywho.. If you dont try it, I hope it has struck a cord to try making new things..

Happy Cooking!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have I mentioned I love chocolate chip cookies.  I have been good about not doing too much baking lately but one of the girls at work made some this week.  I was good and I only had two.  But then I wanted more.  Then I joined Pinterest and found a pin that lead me to this link here.  It was all down hill from there.  These are mildly adapted from this recipe.

I know I have my recipe for Triple Chippers in here and they will always be my first love but not everyone like the sweet and salty like I do, so I had to try these.  These are pretty darn good.  Good enought that I made 2 1/2 dozen this morning, gave a dozen away and all that is left is the picture you see above.  I went out to take a picture and they were all that was left.  And I think that if Rob and Nik were still home, I might have not even had those left to take a picture of.  HA  That means that Rob, Nik and I had 1 1/2 dozen between the three of us.  Ummmmmmmm not good..   Well really good actually.  That is the problem.

So like I said it is mildly adapted from the website above. I usually try to go with the original recipe but this one needed a couple things and a couple of things I just like better.  So here it is.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen
3/4 cup salted butter, cut into chunks or already softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (or just two vanilla like the original calls for)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups (or one bag) semi or bitter sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

I never remember to take the butter out of the fridge so I just cut it up into chunks into the KitchenAide and let it sit for 10 minutes and then beat it until it is smooth, then add the sugars and cream them together.  Add the egg and extracts and mix until incorporated.

Dump in the rest of the dry ingredients and mix.  Add the chips and scoop out onto your stoneware!  I used my Pampered Chef medium size cookie scoop.

Bake for 10-12 minutes on the lowest rack in your oven.   Take out and leave the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

These would be good to make into ice cream sandwich cookies.  They are nice and thick and dont lose their shape.  They are chewy without being fall aparty.  So very delish!  And unlike Triple chippers they are not crunchy, which I like my chocolate chip cookies to be sometimes.  This gives me some variety.  You know.. that spice of life thing!

Happy Baking.

Brined Chickens (or Turkey)

Sorry people, no pictures on this one.  It is a recipe but also just a process about cooking poultry.

A few years ago I was watching one of my favorite shows, Good Eats.  Alton Brown is a great entertainer; funny, informative, and well, entertaining.  I love how he mixes science and cooking.  I get all giddy when he has a little demonstration of how flour and fat particles makes the best roux and thickener.  I especially like how he can make it all come together..  ah I am gushing.  Must be the Novocaine.  I had my wisdom teeth out today.  My mind is a muddle so I really can’t do homework right now.  Too much discomfort!  So what a great time to talk about roasting poultry.  Which is where I was heading with my talk of Alton Brown.  HA!

Soooo anyways he was showing how to brine and roast a turkey.  I thought.. ummmmmmmmmmmm soaking it in water, salt and sugar… odd.  So I tried it!  Had every turkey in the last 3 years brined.  Love it! Love it! Love it!  But I had never brined a chicken until this weekend.  May have to do it from now on.  Brining doesn’t just add juiciness, it adds flavor.  We have a brine we use but there is so much you can do with a brine to change it up.  Below is our current recipe that we use for turkey and used this weekend for the chicken(s, we made three to have left overs for chicken and dumplins).  There are hundreds of brining recipes out there but we have worked on this one for a couple of years and really like it.

One other thing we like about this is that we didn’t have to buy any special expensive equipment.  We just used a Home Depot bucket with a lid that we have dubbed the bringing bucket.   we brine the turkeys in it and it is the perfect size for a 15-18 lb bird or three 8 lb chickens!  Just clean it out well after use and let air dry.  Then it goes down into the basement until the next use.  If we had another fridge we would use it for corned beef too but since that has to brine for over a week and it would be too hard to keep that temperature controlled this bucket seems to be only for poultry.  HA

Water about 2 gallons (not an exact science here people)
1 1/2 cup kosher, canning or sea salt (I guess you could use iodized but I have never done so and canning salt isnt that expensive and what I use)
1 cup brown sugar
2 oranges
1 lemon
Bunch of fresh rosemary
Bunch of fresh thyme
Bunch of fresh sage
2 Tbsp Peppercorns
1 large onion cut into eights
1 bulb of garlic

To start off I take 3-4 cups of hot water and put it into a sauce pan and add the sugar and salt. Bring it to a heat to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Turn it off.  Take my pestle and coarse crack the peppercorns just to break them up a bit.  Again not an exact science, just a coarse crack.  Throw that in the hot brine.  Thick slice the oranges and lemons (we have use limes too which is good) and throw them into the hot water.  This helps to release the essential oils.

Pour all this into your Homer Bucket or what ever you determine to use. Add about 2-3 cups of ice cubes to bring it back to a cold temp.  I then kind of eyeball it and add enough water to bring it up to about 2 gallons of liquid.  I cut the bulb of garlic in half, the whole thing, just cut it across the thickest part horizontally and put the bottom half (the part that is going to stay together due to the root) into the cavity of the bird(s you may have to break it up a bit if doing more than one bird) and break up the top part and throw the half cloves into the brine.  Put half of the onion chunks into the cavity of the bird and break up the rest.

Now this is essential to using fresh herbs in brines or marinades.  You have to bruise or crush the leaves on fresh herbs to get them to release the flavor.  So I take half of my fresh herbs and make them a bundle and just bend, break and generally bruise them but rubbing them in my hands.  Stuff them into the cavity with the onion and garlic. Then I do the same with the rest and throw them into the brine bucket.

Now comes the hard part, put the bird in, breast side down.  Cover with a plate to keep bird submerged and add 2-3 cups of ice cubes. Place cover on top and put in a cool room (or if you have a fridge you can put it in the fridge).  Hard huh!  Now walk away.  Dont touch unless you are adding more ice to keep it cool.  Seriously.  No need to fiddle with it.  Just leave it for atleast 5-6 hours for a chicken or 8-12 for a turkey.  I usually do it for 24 hours for a turkey but as long as you give it the minimum you will see the difference.

Okay, now to cook!!  Take our bird out of the brine and rinse with cold water.  Put in the roaster you are going to use.  Set your oven to 425 degrees.  Trust me.. 425.   We don’t stuff our turkey cause we leave the things in the cavity (onion, garlic and herbs. Also sometimes stuff some of the citrus in as well) but if you wanted to stuff it there are safety precautions to use about making sure the stuffing is up to temperature.  I usually truss the bird up a bit so the wings don’t burn but you dont have to.  Put the roaster uncovered into the oven and set your timer for 20 minutes.  When the timer goes off turn the oven down to 350.  Then roast like you normally would.  I usually put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast about 1 hour into cooking and keep an eye out for correct temperature that way but use whatever technique works for you usually.

Once the bird is done, take it out and cover loosely to let the meat rest for 10 minutes. Then let the family attack the yummy skin.  It is usually a fight between Rob and Aaron, but if Mom is here, it is a free for all!  Then carve it up!  Makes amazing sandwiches the next day, or even better used for chicken/turkey and dumplins the next day.  Take all the meat off and make a stock with the bones. But that is another post……

Happy Roasting!!

But now I’m back…

No not from outer space! HA  I have had a couple people from work ask about my blog and a couple other people have asked about recipes so I am going to try posting atleast once a week.  I might not have as many pictures as before.. or even have pictures but I still loved posting my recipes and the fun I have in making them.   So this weekend I am going to be making some roasted brined chickens and using the leftovers to make chicken and dumplings tomorrow.  But todays recipe I am going to work on is called Double Coffee Browned Butter Blondies.   And I am using the coffee nibs we got in Honduras on our cruise as a special add on.

I will post the recipe tomorrow probably with atleast one picture but I wanted to let you know what is happening in the world of the Part Time Housewife.   Lets see, Aaron is in his second semester in college studying Landscape and Horticulture, Nik just started EMT school right after our cruise, and Rob is still waiting for his clinicals to start.  Oh and he has a new love affair with the Shark Steam Cleaner.  I should be jealous but the floors look better than they ever have, so I’m not!  HA

I am still in school, taking Leadership and Management in Nursing.  We just read 22 pages on budgeting, kill me now!  Nursing is going good. I do love it very much.  It is hard and I leave many days feeling inadequate but I am doing my best so that is all I can ask of myself I guess.

All in all life is good, interesting and busy.  We finally took the boys on that cruise we have been talking about for 2 years  and that was amazing.  I have to finish my Facebook posting of pictures today and work on our memory books!  Funny how life just gets away from you!  Maybe I will work on that now while the butter is defrosting for the blondies…. sounds like a plan.

and here is a pic of us on our trip

Catch you on the flip side.

Back on track!!!

Today marks a good day for a restart.  I hope to start posting again in the next week.  Hurricane yesterday, the boys turned 18 last week and school starts up again today for me.  Life is barreling along and i need something to keep my mind on the prize!  Not sure what the prize is but I do know it involves, my family, my friends, my new job and being the best Kim I can be..   So leave me a post about what you want to see next, main dish?  dessert?  side dish??  which ever one gets the most posts in the next three days will win. 
One thing I am going to do to make this more fun for me and less labor intensive so I can post more, is a few less pictures.  Part of the problem is that my new camera sucks and the old one got broken so taking 20 pics for each recipe is totally labor intensive and takes about 50-60 pics to weed through.  So I will be doing less pics!  You all know how to chop onions and veg and other than showing  if there is specific way to dice/chop/shred it wont have a full step by step..

See you all me your wish!

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