Saturday, August 24, 2013

Clam Chowder

There are lots of different kinds of Clam Chowder. New England Clam Chowder is cream based and very thick. Some of it is so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. Sort of seems like a heart attack in a bowl. Then there is Manhattan Style Clam Chowder, which is a lighter tomato based soup.
Then there is the Hatteras Style. Hatteras Clam Chowder is all about the clam broth and seasonings.

A lot of Clam Chowder, whether Manhattan, New England or Hatteras Style contains bacon.  Mine doesn't. Bacon is totally unnecessary and tends to dominate.

I don't actually live near the sea, so I make this with bottled clam broth, and canned clams. This makes it an easy pantry dish even in the heart of winter when  we're snowed in and can't get out to the store.

So here is my take on Clam Chowder. It is made with lots of fresh herbs.

Almost Hatteras Style Clam Chowder

3-4 cans of chopped clams
24 oz of clam broth
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1-1/2 cups diced potato

3/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrot (more if you love carrots)
3/4 cup chopped celery
2-3 teaspoons dried Italian Seasoning
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried
one sprig of fresh rosemary (if you don't have it fresh, it is OK to leave it out)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
olive oil
                                                                                    salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, throw in the potatoes and begin to brown them a little. Cook the potatoes for about 5 minutes. Add the onions, cook them for another 4-5 minutes, add the carrots and celery, dried herbs, fresh thyme and rosemary. Keep cooking. Don't worry about a little light brown crust stuck to the pan, but be careful not to burn anything.  When it looks like everything is starting to seriously stick to the pan, deglaze with about 1/4-1/2 cup vegetable broth and scape up the brown bits.

Add the clam broth and heat to a simmer. Open the canned clams and drain the broth into the soup. Test a potato and the carrots to see if they are nearly tender if yes, then proceed. If not, then let them cook a few minutes more. Add salt and pepper as desired. I use about 1/4-1/2 t. each. When all the broth gets hot and the vegetables are cooked enough for your taste, add the clams.

When the soup returns to a simmer, throw in half the parsley and give it a stir. Use the rest to garnish the individual servings.

This was an excellent dinner served with fresh baked bread and a salad.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why Gnomes Cook

I cook at home nearly every night. It isnot always interesting food or photo-worthy, but it is usually tasty and mostly healthy. I don't necessarily cook because I love coooking, but I do like to eat and I like to know what I'm eating. This is what real food looks like:

I don't eat fast food. Fast food is terrible for you. And once you realize what's in it, it's pretty gross, kids.

Here are some recent reasons revelations about what is being feed to humans by the corporations these days:

What's in your burger? It's not meat.

How about the chicken McNuggets? What the hell is that stuff, anyway?
Another link to photos of what is hiding in McNuggets.

To be fair, it is probably all Chicken Nuggets made from conventionally grown chickens. Chickens and livestock are fed GMO corn and various additives. Chickens are fed ARSENIC and other chemicals to make them grow and to color the meat to make it look good. Do you find arsenic to be appetizing? I don't.

USDA standards do not allow arsenic in organic-chicken feed. So buying organic offers some protection.

How about some yummy GMO's? Eat them at your peril.
GMO Links to tumors , the toxic things GMO do to your innards

So I cook at home using organic ingredients. Restaurants and packaged foods you buy at the grocery store are full of bad chemicals and GMOs.

The mainstream news doesn't usually report on how toxic the food is. In fact they are into refuting the benefits of organic foods. But if you want to know more, do some of your own searches on the internet. Here are some older articles I have collected about what you are really eating.

Monday, August 19, 2013

It Came from the Freezer

We have lovely fresh green beans from the garden and needed something to go with. So Veggie Burger it is. These home made burgers are good and freeze well.

I found this recipe on the Food Network. To be frank, I don't like Guy Fieri. I find his shows unwatchable and most of his food is unappealing, but this is a good recipe, perhaps because it originated with his vegetarian sister. I have made a few changes in the recipe. I use kidney bean instead of chickpeas, and leave out the artichoke hearts. Sometimes I leave out the egg and use a substitute.

I made some fresh buns and with a side of organic fries, it is filling and even somewhat healthy.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Making Bread

I make all of our bread. Why? Because that way I know exactly what's in it. I only use organic flour. My bread doesn't contain any hidden dairy or animal products or unpronounceable chemicals. One of the most revolting ingredients in commercially made bread is L-cysteine, which according to this article is sourced from human hair. 

Mix this bread up about once a week and have fresh rolls or loaves every day!
This is my everyday recipe, adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The book contains lots of information about bread making and many recipes.

Equipment that can be helpful includes:
A very large bowl to mix, rise and store dough. I use a 5 quart stainless steel bowl.
A Pizza or baking stone. You can bake directly on the stone, no pans to clean.
A pizza peel. This item is optional, but I use it as a surface on which the dough can rise before baking and way to transfer the bread from the oven to the cooling rack.
A pastry scraper, to move the dough or baked rolls, substitute a metal spatula until you become a dedicated breadmaker.
In a large bowl mix together the following ingredients in the order they are listed.
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons yeast
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup oat bran*
  • 2-2/3 cup whole wheat flour*
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups bread flour or all purpose flour*
Place water in a very large bowl. Stir in yeast and salt. Stir until the yeast begins to dissolve. Add the bran and whole wheat flour. Mix well. Use a whisk for as long as it works. You may need to switch to a spatula when the dough gets thick. Finally add the last 2-1/2 to 3 cups of bread flour. Stop adding flour when the dough is till sticky and wet. DO NOT Knead. Just mix everything together.

The goal is a rather loose, moist well-mixed dough. You do not want to add so much flour that the dough is dry or stiff. 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a pot lid. Allow the dough to rise for two hours. After the dough has risen, place the bowl in the refrigerator for one hour or more. Although you can begin making bread immediately after the dough has risen, refrigerating the dough will make it much easier to handle. 

When you are ready to make bread, remove the dough from the fridge and tear off a piece of dough. Form the dough into a round loaf or into large rolls. I make rolls and use about 1/3 cup or a nice handful for each roll. Make as much bread as you need and put the rest back in the fridge, covered. I usually cover with a piece of plastic wrap and a large pot lid. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the loaf or rolls onto a generously floured pizza/bread peel or cutting board. Let the dough rest while the oven comes up to temp, 20-40 minutes, less time for rolls, more for a loaf. 

Bake the bread on a pizza or baking stone for best results. Alternatively, the bread can be placed on a cookie sheet to rest/rise and then slide the cookie sheet into the oven when ready.
Bake rolls for 12-15 minutes and a loaf for about 30-40 minutes. 

Loaves can also be made in a bread pan. This amount of dough will make make two loaves. If making loaves, let the dough rise again for at least an hour, or up to two hours if the dough comes from the fridge. 

Notes: ***The dry ingredients (bran, WW flour and bread flour) in this recipe equal ~5-1/2-6 cups total. You can vary the ingredients somewhat as long as you keep the wet to dry ratios the same. For example, use more whole wheat flour and less bread flour, add 3 T flax seed in place of the same amount of flour, use up to one cup of oatmeal instead of flour or eliminate the bran and use an equal amount of flour instead. Just strive for about 5-1/2 total cups of any variety of flour/bran/flax/oatmeal.

I think this is the easiest bread in the world because I always have dough on hand and can form and bake rolls in about 1/2 hour. I make the dough about once a week and like the book says it takes only a few minutes a day to make fresh crusty bread. The book will provide a whole lot of fine points about equipment, mixing, and forming the loaves along with many recipes.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Singapore Sling

You were expecting maybe a drink with an umbrella in it?

No, this is just my take on Singapore Noodles.
We had a really delicious version of this dish at Cafe Asia in Roanoke, VA recently. So I am going to start working on making it at home. I found a recipe in World Vegan Feasts that gives me a place to start.

The ingredients included some julienned vegetables, some tempeh, rice vermicelli, curry powder and turmeric.

Since I stayed pretty close to the published recipe, I will not repeat it here. Once all the vegetables are prepped, the cooking doesn't take long, but the prep took me a very long time. It was good, but not yet great. Needs tweaking.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Broiled Salmon with Sesame Noodles and Organic Kale

Asian Salmon Cake Sandwiches with a Fresh Garden Salad,
French Fries and a little Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo

chopped tomatoes, I use cherry tomatoes
finely minced onion
finely minced jalapeno pepper 
lime juice

I always make it fresh and only enough for one meal. The proportions are not critical, but approximately 2 parts tomato to 1 part each of onion and jalapeno, the juice of a lime and as much cilantro as you like. 
Pico goes with fish, on chili, or any kind of Mexican food like tostadas, burritos or quesadillas. Or just eat it as a salad.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Asian Salmon Cakes

Asian Salmon Cakes are a dish I like to make when we have cilantro growing.
I usually serve them with Sesame-Peanut Noodles.
This dish began after we ate some tuna burgers at the Roanoke Food Co-op. They were pretty tasty, so I tried to replicate them at home. I decided to substitute salmon for the tuna as a healthier option. As time went by, I tweaked them to my taste and here is the result.

The noodle dish contains a lot of things I like mixed together very roughly based on some sesame noodles I ate once at Whole Foods.

I have added some substitutions (in parentheses) for anyone with peanut allergies, although if you are completely allergic to nuts, these are not good dishes for you.

Asian Salmon Cakes

2 cans (or packets) of salmon, or leftover salmon, flaked, about 6-8 oz.
1/3 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts (cashews)
5 chopped scallions or 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon Thai seasoning
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup Panko, plus additional panko to coat the cakes
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together, including 1/2 cup of the panko. Form into 6 patties. Heat oil over medium heat. Put some panko onto a plate. Dip each patty into panko to coat before placing it in the pan to cook. Cook on each side until golden brown. Serve with a slice of lime.

Sesame-Peanut Noodles

1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts (cashews)
1/4 cup finely minced onion or green onion
1 grated carrot
2 T. finely minced green or red pepper
1 finely minced jalapeno (optional)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
Chopped cilantro to garnish

Place all of these ingredients in a large bowl and mix them together.

Cook 6-8 oz of spaghetti noodles in boiling water until al dente.

While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce, by mixing together:

3 T. soy sauce
1-1/2 T rice vinegar
1 T smooth peanut butter (tahini)
1-1/2 t sugar
3 T sesame oil
1 t. Thai seasoning

I use a whisk to mix these ingredients together. Otherwise it is hard to mix in the peanut butter (or tahini).
Have the sauce ready when the noodles come off the heat. When the noodles are cooked, drain them and dump them into the large bowl with the chopped ingredients. Pour the sauce over while the noodles are still hot and toss everything together. Add cilantro if you like.