Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings

Ben had talked about making Chicken and Dumplings in the crock pot. I started thinking about it and found a recipe for the dumplings I wanted to try. In the past dumplings have been gut bombs, dense and chewy or like wet biscuits and unappealing. I founds something a little different to try but first I have to make the stock.
I know that canned stock is readily available but I had none and I did have a lot of frozen parts in the freezer so that's what I used.

To 8 quarts of water in a large marmite I added one large onion, unpeeled and cut in half, 2 carrots chopped, a celery bottom trimmed from the package we bought, a teaspoon of cracked pepper, thyme and a bay leaf. I also added 1 heaping tablespoon of chicken base and 2 tablespoons of salt.

Dumplings are about ready, steamed and light

I had 4 chicken breast bones with some meat attached and a chicken back.

All in the pot and simmer, not boil, for about 2 hours. Taste for seasoning, filter and set aside.

To make the Chicken and Dumplings:


1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 teaspoon chopped chives
1 egg mixed with
1/2 c buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients then add egg and milk mixture. Do not over mix, set aside for a few minutes.


2 carrots chopped 1/4 inch
1 onion chopped 1/4 inch
2 stalks celery 1/4  inch
1/2 cup or less flour
2 T butter

4 Quarts of broth

Saute veggies in butter till onions sweat and add flour.  Pour in broth and allow to come to a boil. Drop dumpling batter by teaspoonful as they will expand x 3 or so. Cover pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes to steam dumplings. Needed a bit more salt but overall very tasty. Dumplings were light as pillows and a perfect texture.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Eating Kansas City

We motored to KC this weekend with good friends, the Kavans. Our main mission was and IKEA run and visiting the boys as well as the annual Art Fair.

I asked Ben for some mom and pop places for BBQ this trip and settled on Woodyards. Great place, smokey, picnic tables and great BBQ at a fair price. The special tonight was a full slab of baby backs for $16.99. We had a 3 meat platter with burnt ends , pulled pork and sausage. Yum,  and with the sides, so much food! Great atmosphere and great company for sure. I will definitely hit this place again.
Of course we went for the Art Fair and it was great with a lot to look at.

Drinks with the kids at the hotel lobby after hitting the liquor store to pick up Brenda's Bluecoat Gin and some Hard Root Beer!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Potato Crusted Fish

A while back Ann Burrell on her TV show made a Potato Crusted Halibut.  I made this version using Mahi Mahi from Trader Joe's. A much more available fish in these parts but I think the result was about the same.

Basically you sliced the spuds as thin as possible with the mandolin and then laid them out in overlapping layers on parchment paper, place your fish in the center and wrapped it all up like a package using the paper to help roll the fish. Yukon Gold potatoes were used and on her show she used an infused olive oil to brush the potatoes. The infusion was made with bay leaf, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and fennel seed. This was brought to a boil then set aside for an hour to infuse.

The picture here tells the story and I need to try for a thinner cut in the spuds but overall this worked well.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Weekend in Des Moines

We spent a relaxing weekend in DesMoines with good friends Matt and Lori just to catch up and make future plans. They are great travel buddies and we are talking about doing another domestic adventure next year late spring, early summer.

Of course, I couldn't show up empty handed so I made a couple of batons to take with us. Light and airy, I think I am getting the hang of this crusty French loafery(?)

I also made some Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls late Friday and froze them to take with us for Sunday morning.  Here is the problem with taking fresh french loaves on a road trip early Saturday morning....I got up several times in the wee small hours to manage the dough and I was really beat the next day, all day. It is well worth losing a bit of shut eye but....

Lori made some quick meals that were really tasty but this dressing on the romaine really caught my attention. She used Demaris Phillips recipe from the show Southern at Heart. I liked the spicy end notes and the unusual combination of capers in the mix.
  • Dressing:
  • 1 ounce drained capers (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
  • Small pinch ground cloves
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
    For the dressing: Mince the capers and the garlic; add the salt and use the back of your knife to grind into a paste. Add the paste to a medium mixing bowl along with the mustard, mayonnaise, sesame oil, cayenne and cloves. Whisk to combine. Stir in lemon juice, and add pepper to taste.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Using What You've Got.....again

Stuff just seems to pile up in our fridge and Brenda is a tough task master, literally expecting a hot meal when she comes home! Please someone,  rescue  Seriously she gets a little miffed if I haven't cooked something and trust me, it's tough coming up with a meal every night. We do not eat out much at all.

So I had a 1/4 sliced flat iron steak cooked medium, about 6 large Cremini mushrooms leftover from another project, a little bit of Blue Cheese and Parmesan and a boatload of tomatoes. What to do?

A while back there was a great eatery called 'Ryan's Bistro' in Omaha and it was fantastic but short lived as the owner was a restless yuppie and soon sold the restaurant to decay. One thing remained in my head from that place though was the Steak Pasta dish with lovely tender chunks of tenderloin and mushrooms laced with cherry tomatoes and served in a light cream sauce flavored with chunks of blue cheese.

Ok. I got this. I have a fully stocked pantry of staples so cream, butter and pasta was on hand.

First I chunked up the mushrooms and sauteed them in a bit of butter and olive oil. Next I added the tomatoes, about 3 2 inch ones cut up and let them hang a bit before adding about 1/2 cup cream, 3/4 cup of skim milk and 2 ounces of left over cream cheese. I placed 2 crushed garlic cloves in the sauce to steep a bit. I added about 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. The whole thing thickened up surprising well to the point I had to add a bit more milk to thin it down.  I added the steak at the end with the crumbles of Blue Cheese just  heated through and served it all over our favorite pasta (Fiber Gourmet). It was really good.

And my lovely bride? Happy wife, happy life. Of course she complained about the way it is making her fat (it is not) but really with the sensible servings and lo cal pasta, watered down cream it turns out to be a bout 500 calories per serving. Not bad.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Eating Omaha...Le Voltaire

It is Restaurant Week in Omaha and a lot of local eateries are offering Prix Fixe menus to showcase some of their fare.

We are taking advantage of several of these with friends and our first foray was to a local French eatery called 'Le Voltaire'. This is an established French cuisine that is simply off our radar for some reason. We haven't been here in years. It has a a great bakery and pastry shop next to restaurant run by the chef. 

Our menu included a choice of

FIRST COURSE (choose one of the following):
  • Escargots de Bourgogne: a french classic | parsley | garlic butter
  • Goat Cheese Toast | blueberry chutney
  • Bowl of French Onion Soup
SECOND COURSE (choose one of the following):
  • Red Wine Braised Beef Cheeks
  • Petit Tender: balsamic onion confit | blue cheese
  • Papillotte of Salmon | tarragon-capers butter
THIRD COURSE (choose one of the following):
  • Crème Brulee a la Vanilla
  • Bread Pudding | caramel sauce
We all had a fair sampling of most of the menu. The Baumer's were in tow so each of us had a different appetizer. The big winner was the soup. Brenda deigned it the best she has had. I had a taste and it was delicious. Very cheesy, a lot of bread and the broth was just great. I had the snails which were tender and loaded with butter and garlic. Plenty to soak up with the slices of French baguteet on the table. Cindy had the goat cheese toasts and they were good as well but not my first pick for a savory meal.

Next,  the main course. None of us ordered the fish but it looked fantastic served at other tables. Mike and I ordered the Beef Cheeks and were not disappointed with the tender meat and vegetables in a red wine gravy. A lot like my version of Beef Bourguignon, a lot like it. The ladies each had the steak which turned out to be a thick cut of Flatiron and it was quite tasty. Interestingly, they were not asked how they wanted it cooked so it came to the table rare to medium.

The desserts were fantastic. The bread pudding being made with leftover croissants and a delightful caramel. I missed the creme anglaise I get at The Upstream though.  All and all a five star night with great company.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Art Collecting Weekend

We were invited to a Pottery Show in Ft. Calhoun this past weekend. I was looking forward to a nice drive in the country and some great woks of art. We were not disappointed and I wound up purchasing a nice piece for the house. I have been interested in the last few years to add some Art pieces to our house and this would be my first  major purchase.

It's a rather large vase with a horse theme lid. The artist, Pam Daly was present (the show was at her home) and explained the significance of the horses (therapy for having to put hers down after 30 years) and the work was impressive and fit with our general ambiance.  I was a potter at one time in college and fondly recall the High Fire 'parties' we held as we fired up the Raku kiln once or twice a year and made a grand day of it. It was hot, sweaty and exhilarating work with the occasional disappointment as a piece imploded upon impact with the damp straw or whatever burnable medium we fired with.  Pam was kind enough to show me around and let us see the kilns and talk about firings. The ladies were bored to tears I am sure but didn't let on.

We met some nice folks, looked at a lot of great art and admired a beautiful country home. I was tripping down memory lane and Brenda...well not so much but its always wonderful to spend time together anywhere we go.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Using What You've Got..

Last night Brenda was late and I had a way too long of a nap after work. Groggy and knowing dinner would be expected regardless, I was searching for anything I could whip up considering I had take nothing out and it was meatless day so I took inventory:

3-4 cups corn off the cob, cooked
1 pound frozen shrimps, med
3 hamburger buns, getting stale

I searched one of those website for a recipe but Corn Chowder came to mind so I set out to turn these disparate ingredients into dinner.

Corn Chowder

2 T butter
2 T flour
3-4 cups skim milk
3-4 c corn
1 t thyme
1 t chipotle powder
1/2 c cream
3/4 cup shredded cheese
1/2 t tumeric for extra color
Salt and pepper

I made a roux with the butter and flour, cooking it till pale gold then adding the corn to give it a bit of color. To this add the milk and allow to thicken. I used the immersion blender to make a smooth soup with some rough cut corn and added the rest of the spices.


I cubed the hamburger buns and placed them in a skillet with 1 T butter and a good glug of olive oil. Sprinkled the whole thing with Garlic salt and Parmesan and allowed them to toast, shaking the skillet frequently.

I added the shrimp to boiling water, peeled them and chilled.

Serve the chowder with croutons and float a few shrimp on top. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Weekend of Family Feasting

This weekend, Nicholas came to town and cooked Ramen. A simple dish but a long time to prepare. The broth takes about 12 hours to complete alone. Ben decided to make Alkaline noodles to go with so the boys were in charge of the kitchen.

The results:

Assembled Ramen, not your dorm room cup o soup.
 All the accompaniments to the painstaking broth includes soft boiled egg, shredded chicken and sliced pork roast, a variety of sauces, marinated mushrooms and of course noodles. It was a  tasty and satisfying dinner with great company.

The very night of the dinner I prepared 4 lamb shanks for a slow cooking experience. First, after the shanks thawed from the freezer, I browned them thoroughly in  cast iron skillet (on the outdoor grill) and then placed them in the crock pot for 10 hours with:

1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Dijon
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
4 cloves garlic crushed
4 large sprigs of rosemary
2 carrots diced

The next morning, after the meat came off the bone, I strained the drippings and skimmed the fat, added 2 cups chicken broth and poured it into a roux I made with 2 T butter and flour. To this I added a package of sauteed pearl onions and 8 ounces of Cremini mushrooms quartered.

I served it with Greek potatoes and sauteed Broccolini.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fruit Compote for Pork... Figs and Cherries

A while back when Jill brought me cherries, she said her mom was looking for a fruit dressing for Pork.

A very long time ago I visited Alice Water's restaurant in Berkley, CA called  'Chez Panisse'. At the time it was a prix fixe menu for the night and we chose a night based on what we could afford. It wasn't cheap.

The night we were there, a lovely roasted pork was served with a fig and cherry compote. Last year we bought so many figs that I had quartered some and froze them and as they sit in the freezer along side the cherries I am posting my version of Alice's magical dish. Now understand this, my children are sick to death of roasted pork with fig and cherry compotes as it was my go to for any occasion and catering job.  Some of friends were so enamoured of the sauce they took it home for an ice cream topping.

Now I apologize to Joy in advance if she can make sense of this as I rarely measure, taste everything and cook by the seat of my pants most times. In the past I used Oregon canned fruits but they no longer can figs.

1 -2 Cans of Cherry juice as a base
Juice of a lemon
Pitted cherries, a pint maybe?
Fresh quartered Figs (I like the dark ones)
Sugar, start with a quarter cup then go up from there.  Honey?
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Suggestions , ginger or a pinch of nutmeg or allspice, peppercorns, red wine or port, orange zest? 

Adjust the seasoning as it cooks to add more sweet or spice. 

Combine this and let the fruit macerate and cook till the fruit breaks down a bit then thicken this with cornstarch till the consistency you like. Taste, Taste and taste again. I remember being a bit disappointed as the cherry juice does not carry as much flavor as I hoped but I did not want the artificial flavoring so messing with the spices can really augment the flavors.


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