Thursday, December 31, 2015

ALOHA from the Instant Pot!

More unbelievable goodness from the Instant Pot: Soft, sweet, pull-apart Kalua Pork that takes 75 minutes in the magic pot as opposed to eight hours underground! AMAZING!

Instant Pot Kalua Pork

3-4 lb. pork shoulder, seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup beer
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 large bay leaves

Brown the seasoned roast in the olive oil, then add it and everything else to the IP and cook 75 minutes on Meat/Stew with NPR. Remove bay leaves and shred the meat with two forks.

After making the Kalua Pork, I saved the cooking liquid (as I always do!), chilled it overnight, removed the layer of fat on top, and ended up with three cups of flavorful stock. Then I decided to try the rice function on the IP. I cooked two cups of long-grain white rice in the liquid for 12 minutes at low pressure (the default mode on the rice setting).

The rice came out perfect and very tasty, but it did scorch pretty badly on the bottom. I haven't had that problem with brown rice and other grains, especially when you grease the pot with a little oil first. Maybe it doesn't happen when you just use water, or maybe I should do the pot-in-pot method next time. I will keep experimenting with that and report back.

In the meantime, I fried this flavorful rice in a large skillet in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil along with one shredded carrot, four sliced scallions, two cloves of minced garlic, a cup of frozen peas, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and one whole egg. Then I served the Kalua Pork on top. Make your own take-out, yo!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A New Holiday Classic Pops Up

There has been this Tip Hero video going around Facebook for a caramel and chocolate-drizzled popcorn that looked so easy and so good, that I just had to try and make it myself. Actually, I made it for some friends for a post-holiday get-together and gift exchange, and now I think I might make it every year! It would certainly be perfect for a treat for my work colleagues...or just for ME! Mwa-ha-ha!

Holiday Popcorn
(Source: Tip Hero)

To make the popcorn:
2/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or 6 T)

1. Heat the oil in a large pot with a lid over med heat. Add three or four of the kernels to the pot and put the lid on.
2. When they pop, add the rest of the popcorn kernels and put the lid on again. Immediately remove the pot from the heat for 30 seconds. (This is to ensure the kernels are all about the same temperature so that they will pop almost at the same time).
3. Put the popcorn back on the burner, shaking the pot back and forth. It should take about two minutes for the popcorn to pop without burning or leaving too many spare kernels. When it takes several seconds between pops, it’s ready.
4. Immediately pour into a large bowl and cool to room temperature. This should make about 12 cups of popped popcorn.

To make the caramel corn:
12 cups popped popcorn
2 cups almonds (also good: peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (6 oz) salted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup 60% chocolate chips
2 teaspoon vegetable oil

1. Heat the oven to 250F.
2. Once the popcorn is made, combine the following ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat: brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Stir while the butter and sugar melt together and let the mixture come to a boil, about eight minutes, then let it boil for two minutes.
3. Stir in the baking soda and remove the pan from the burner.
4. Put the popcorn and the nuts in a large bowl and pour the sauce over and mix well. Line two half-sheet pans with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Divide the popcorn mixture between the two trays.
5. Bake 60 minutes, stirring each pan every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.
6. Put the choc chips and vegetable oil in a bowl or microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave 50% power two to three minutes, stirring every 45 sec or so, until completely melted.
7. Drizzle the chocolate evenly over the caramel corn on both pans. Let the pans sit at room temperature for three to four hours while the caramel corn cools down and the chocolate sets, then break apart into clusters.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Instant Pot Tutorial Videos

My beloved friend Kurt received an Instant Pot for Christmas (perhaps gifted by yours truly), but he's scared of it. So I decided to try something new myself to walk him through it, and to show him that the magic pot is nothing to fear. I had a big package of chicken thighs to deal with, so I just threw them in the pot with whatever seasonings caught my eye--basically, whatever was nearby, and I could grab quickly: seasoned salt, pepper, granulated garlic, ground celery, dried Italian herbs, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Oh, and a half an onion, chopped. Then I added a generous cup of chicken broth, put the lid on, turned the knob to seal, and hit the poultry button which defaults to 15 minutes.

Since the scariest part is opening the pot, I decided it might be a comfort to my best friend (and maybe to you, dear reader) if I made some real-time videos to show him that no one dies when releasing the pressure. (This is not your momma's old pressure cooker!)

Video #1 (Opening the pot):

Video #2 (The big reveal):

Video #3 (Ready for crisping under the broiler):

Video #4 (Out of the oven, crispy and gorgeous!):

Video #5 (Gilding the lily):

After making FIVE Instant Pot videos for Kurt yesterday, he complained that I hadn't started at the very beginning. Apparently, he needed a video tutorial of me putting on the lid and pressing a button. Sheesh. Then I ended up making a quick soup with the leftover chicken broth, so here are a few more videos.

Video #6 (From the top):

Video #7 (Soup, Part I):

Video #8 (Soup, Part II/Finale):

Friday, December 25, 2015

Instant Pot Primer and Resources for Newbies

MERRY CHRISTMAS! If Santa brought you a new Instant Pot for Christmas, I have info to share to help calm your nerves and bolster your courage to jump in and try it out. First, read the manual and do the water test, then make something easy, like boiled eggs (eggs on the trivet, cup and a half of water underneath, 4-6 minutes on manual, quick release and into an ice bath). Or if you have a steamer basket, make potato salad: Peel and cut potatoes in one-inch chunks--enough to fill the pot about 2/3 full--then place them in the basket and put four whole eggs on top of the potatoes, and cook on manual for four minutes (that's right--four minutes!), then proceed with your favorite potato salad recipe.

The first thing I made in the IP was a pork roast, and another friend who just got her pot did the same thing. A 3-4 lb. shoulder will take 50-60 minutes on manual after you brown it on all sides, season it as you wish, and add at least a cup and a half of liquid (beer or broth) with it in the pot. I also love to add sliced onion, chopped garlic, and a couple of cups of sauerkraut, or use Latin flavors instead and make some killer carnitas for tacos or burritos. YUM!

Invaluable Instant Pot Resources:
As far as cookbooks go, I recommend Great Food Fast by Bob Warden. I also HIGHLY recommend watching many YouTube tutorials. My favorites are from Simple Daily Recipes--the hostess is a hoot and half! Also, check out the websites Pressure Cooking Today and Hip Pressure Cooking. But the best advice I have for newbies is to join the Instant Pot Community here on Facebook. Everyone is so nice and helpful with giving ideas and advice. I post here all the time, sharing recipes and photos and asking questions of my own.

Indispensable Instant Pot Accessories:
1. STEAMER BASKET (Pop the handles off this one, and it fits perfectly!)
2. SPARE SEALING RING (I like to have one for savory foods and one for sweet/delicate things as strong flavors can transfer.)
3. GLASS LID (I use this when slow cooking or making yogurt.)
4. SILICONE MINI-MITTS (Perfect for getting the hot stainless steel insert out of the pot.)
5. CHEESECAKE PAN (There are those who claim that only a six- or seven-inch pan will fit, but I have this set, and the smallest, eight-inch fits perfectly for a slightly larger cheesecake to share with others--if your self-discipline is that strong!)
But most IP folks have one like this:
Or this:
6. PIP BOWL: You probably already have one of these anyway, but you'll want a small, heat-proof bowl--Pyrex or stainless steel--for cooking things "pot-in-pot." Like six inches in diameter, I guess? I bought a SS one at Home Goods for two or three bucks.
7. BAMBOO STEAMERS (These may not be “indispensable,” but they are great for making potstickers/dumplings.):

Happy Insta-Potting newbies!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Cookie Swap 2015: Christmas in Russia

I never feel like the semester is over and it's truly winter break until the Padulas' Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange is upon us. And every year, Janice and Domenica seem to raise the bar, and the event gets more and more fabulous! For 2015, the theme was Christmas in Russia, and it was amazing. BEHOLD the photographic evidence thereof.

From top to bottom, you can see:
1) The gorgeous table setting
2) Hello from the other side
3) This year's cookie assortment (with my favorite milk from Vermont)
4) Roasted Marrow Bones with Onion, Caper, and Dill Relish, Cornichons, and Rye Bread
5) Beef Pirozhki
6) Left to right: Kutya (traditional Christmas wheat berry pudding), Smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche, Caviar, and Fresh Dill, a Russian caramel, and a cookie shaped and decorated like a mushroom
7) Ukrainian Beef Borscht
8) The co-host's boyfriend...and kitchen help, Marcus! :-)
9) A dish with salmon, mushrooms, rice and crepes inside pastry with a beautiful wreath design on top--I think it's called Kulebyaka
10) Inside the Kulebyaka and a potato pancake stuffed with meat and mushrooms called Kolduny
11) Russian Honeycomb Cake
12) Inside the incredible cake: Puff pastry, cream, tart cherries, and dark chocolate ganache
13) Slice of the cake
14) The packaged cookies (and my friend, June and Martie, chit-chatting--which is the best part of the party, of course)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Stuck on Potstickers

I have been craving dumplings lately, and they no longer seem to carry the big bag of frozen ones at Sam's Club...or anywhere in town that I can find. So screw it, says I! I'll make my own! These are pork, mushroom, garlic scapes, Tuscan kale, and carrot potstickers that I crudely fashioned with my own two hands. They ain't pretty, but they sure is tasty! ‪Oh, and I used the "steam" function on my Instant Pot for the first time. Worked great!

Of course, I used odds and ends that I dug out of the fridge and freezer, but feel free to substitute whatever you have rattling around your kitchen. Ground chicken would be great or turkey sausage instead of pork. Swap cabbage for the kale, green onions and a few garlic cloves for the garlic scapes, white mushrooms for brown, etc. Use what you have!
Instant Pot Potstickers

Cook together until the meat is browned:
1 lb. pork sausage
4 oz. Baby Bella mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup garlic scapes, finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1 cup Tuscan kale, chopped

Stir in:
2 tablespoons Bulldog sauce (or hoisin or oyster sauce)
1 tablespoon ponzu sauce (or soy or teriyaki sauce)
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sriracha, or to taste
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 package wonton wrappers/skins 

Let filling cool before forming the dumplings. Place a generous teaspoon of the filling on each wonton skin, dip your finger in a small dish of water, then wet each side of the square. Fold together and shape as you desire. Steam for eight minutes in the IP then NPR (or in a covered pan on the stove top with perhaps a half cup of water). Serve with a dipping sauce of rice vinegar, ponzu/soy/teriyaki sauce, and sriracha (stirred together, amounts to taste). I estimate you'll get about 48 dumplings.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


I've had my so-called "magic pot" for just over a month now, and I finally got brave enough to attempt my first whole chicken. (Well, it was actually half of a GINORMOUS bird raised by my friends on their local farm.) It came out tender and delicious, plus I got a quart of gorgeous and savory chicken broth as a bonus!

Here's what I did: I seasoned the bird with Cajun spice mix and browned it in a large skillet first, then cooked it for 18 minutes on the poultry setting, and let it sit for 15 minutes before releasing. Oh, and I put two cups of water with two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs in the bottom of the pot, then on top of the trivet, I put a lemon, an onion, and a head of garlic (all cut in half), and then the chicken on top of those things to keep it up out of the broth. (I had to fold the bird a bit to tuck it into the pot in one piece.) You can see how it was beginning to fall off the bone when it was done! 

Sunday, August 09, 2015

My New Favorite Gadget: The Instant Pot!

I belong to several Facebook fermenting groups, and in one of them, people were going on about a thing called an Instant Pot, which is a multi-cooker/electric pressure cooker. So I purchased one when Amazon had their big Prime anniversary sale, and received the Duo60 7-n-1 a little over a week ago. Since then, I read the manual and recipe book, and watched I'd say about a thousand tutorials on YouTube, and I was mentally ready to give it a go. I did the initial steam test, and all seemed well. The hardest part was figuring out where the condensation cup goes!

So, here's what I did for my inaugural IP meal: I had a 2 3/4 lb. pork shoulder roast which I cut in half, seasoned and sautéed both pieces on all sides in the pot in a little olive oil, then removed the meat and sautéed a sliced onions and two cloves of minced garlic. I put the meat back in, added a pound of drained sauerkraut, a little Worcestershire and soy sauce, and a cup of water. I set it to Manual for 50 minutes,

When the pressure dropped (naturally), I fished out the meat and kraut, and in the collected juices (or at least a cup of them), I cook about six medium cubed potatoes in the remaining broth for five minutes on Manual to make mashed potatoes. TA-DAH!

Friday, July 10, 2015

When in Doubt, Nuke a Potato

Culinary Tip O' the Day: When you are wandering around the kitchen trying to find something quick and easy to make for lunch or dinner--and you just can't face another sandwich--nuke a couple of skin-on potatoes (speared with a knife) for ten minutes, then start digging around your fridge for miscellaneous toppings. Leftover grilled veggies? Awesome. Part of a rotisserie chicken? Use that. Throw some sort of cheese on there, drizzle with the dregs of any type of dressing or marinade that you have rattling around, and VOILA!

My version for lunch today was a little Mexi-cheese blend of which I found a quarter package in the deli drawer, part of an onion that was malingering on the counter (chopped), a grilled sausage (sliced), a drizzle of buttermilk ranch dressing from an almost empty bottle, and some leftover Savoy cabbage slaw on top. TA-DAH!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Low Carb and (Nearly) Gluten-Free...and You'd Never Know It!

I went to Aldi the other day, and they had this GINORMOUS, nine-pound pork shoulder roast on sale for $1.99 a pound. I bought it, split it, and froze half of it for another meal. Then I trolled the internet for recipe ideas (search terms: "crock pot" and "pork roast") and found a good one on Skinny Taste. I used their recipe as a jumping off point, made a some additions and adjustments, and it turned out great! I just love it when the crock pot does most of the work for me.

For a side dish, I saw this loaded cauliflower bake scrolling by on my FB newsfeed recently and thought it looked pretty yummy, despite the fact that I hate cauliflower. My diabetic roommate is still trying to cut carbs (and it wouldn't hurt me, either!), plus, I figured the pulled pork and cauliflower mash would taste yummy together...and I was right! All the flavorful additions would fool the most ardent cauliflower hater like me. This meal is also low carb, and if you used gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos (or just omitted the soy sauce), and gluten-free beer or just vegetable broth alone, it would also be gluten-free. So maybe this dinner will help you keep some resolutions while still feeling indulgent.

Crock Pot Balsamic Pulled Pork 

1/2 cup beer
1 teaspoon vegetable soup base
1 onion, slivered
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey

Pour the beer into the crock pot, stir in the soup base (or you can just use 1/2 cup of vegetable broth instead), and add the slivered onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

In a large skillet on medium, heat the olive oil. Season the pork roast with Cajun seasoning, then brown on all sides. Place the browned roast in the crock pot and pour over the balsamic, Worcestershire, soy sauce, and honey. Cook for about four hours on high (or eight hours on low), or until it's tender enough to pull apart easily with two forks. If you are around the house while it's cooking, flip the roast about once an hour so each side gets to soak up the savory liquid.

When it's tender, pull the pork, and return it to the delicious broth and let it go for at least another half an hour or so on low. Serve over mashed potatoes or cauliflower, or soft polenta for an entree, or make a killer sandwich with it!

Loaded Mashed Cauliflower Bake

1 medium head cauliflower, leaves and core removed, broken into florets
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped green onions or chives, divided
6 slices of chopped crispy bacon, divided (don't you DARE use "bacon bits")
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Cajun seasoning and black pepper, to taste

Place the cauliflower florets in a microwave-safe dish with a lid and add the water. Cover and microwave for 12-15 minutes, or until cauliflower is completely tender and mashable. Drain and mash with potato masher or pastry cutter to desired consistency.

Stir in the sour cream, mayo, a half cup of the cheese, one tablespoon of the green onions or chives, and half of the chopped bacon. Season with the granulated garlic, Cajun seasoning, and black pepper. Taste the mixture and make any adjustments you deem appropriate.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Top with the remaining cheese and bacon, and bake for another five minutes until the cheese is completely melted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the rest of the green onions or chives.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pipes frozen again? Might as well have a drink!

We have been experiencing some brutal wind chill factors lately (down to about 25 below!), so I have been staying up all night, stoking the fire, checking on the heaters, and monitoring the pipes. I made the mistake of taking a three-hour nap on the couch at 6:30 this morning, and when I awoke, the hot water in the kitchen had frozen just as the cold water had done two days before, despite my vigilence. Not to panic, I employed a brilliant but very complicated system of pipe thawing that even professional plumbers can't fully appreciate. Observe my Pots and Pans and a Hair Dryer Methodology (patent pending).

Suffice to day, Old Man Winter has me frustrated and completely exhausted. Other than ripping up the kitchen floor to get to the currently inaccessible pipes that keep freezing up on is, the most immediate solution simply must involve a cocktail. I hardly ever drink, but when I am driven to it by the torments of home ownership and vicious weather, my poison is a an icy, tart, citrusy margarita. And I declare the official margarita of this bleak midwinter and frozen plumbing: The Blood Orange and Ginger Winter Margarita.

The recipe comes from Honest Cooking, and it is simply delicious. Now that interesting citrus is plentiful, you can easily find fresh blood oranges for this drink. I would also recommend that you use a high-quality, microbrewed ginger beer for this. I love Maine Root's Spicy Ginger Brew, which has a real kick to it, and just might defrost your wintry disposition.

Blood Orange and Ginger Winter Margarita
(Source: Honest Cooking)
For garnishing all drinks:
1/4 cup blood orange juice
zest from one blood orange
1/4 cup granulated sugar
slices of blood orange for garnish, optional

For each individual drink:
2 ounces blood orange juice
1.5 ounces tequila
juice from 1 wedge of lime (I use half a lime)
3 ounces strong ginger beer

Place 1/4 cup blood orange juice into a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine blood orange zest and sugar. Dip the rim of a glass into juice first and then into the sugar mixture to coat the rim evenly. Fill the glass with ice.

In a cocktail shaker, combine one cup of ice with two ounces blood orange juice, one and a half ounces tequila, and the lime juice. Shake vigorously. Pour into the prepared glass and top off the glass with ginger beer. Stir and enjoy!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Golden Globes' Goodness!

I'm obsessed with movies and movie award shows, so I made golden foods for tonight's Golden Globes telecast: Turkey thighs glazed with honey and my new favorite Green Mountain Mustard (Clove Encounter with Garlic and Oregano), buttery, scampi-style egg noodles, and this lovely spinach salad, which is an homage to one my dear friend Rob often makes.

My version has beautiful local spinach, slivered shallots (Rob does not use these), spiced pepitas (Rob uses cashews), mushrooms and garlic sautéed in butter and white wine (or Vermouth, if you have it), crumbles of Castello Blue (Rob prefers goat cheese), finished with a drizzle of balsamic (I used maple balsamic) and garnished with hard-cooked eggs (and those golden yolks--also my addition to Rob's "recipe"). SO YUMMY! This makes a lovely side dish, but it would also be perfect for a lunch, or as a hearty and savory vegetarian entree.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Porcine Perfection Per The Piggery

I bought a small jar of smoked pork rillettes at the co-op the other day from a place called The Piggery in Ithaca. When I went to their Facebook page, they had posted an idea for a soup made with winter squash, onions, potatoes, and kielbasa. That sound perfectly yummy, so I made my own way with it today in the crock pot. I added lacinato kale for color, texture, and extra nutrition. (Sidebar: Can you believe it's kale from the garden that I planted at my friend Janice's this year? It was picked in October. I adore a long keeper!)  Oh, and this is another gluten-free recipe, if that matters to you.

Crock Pot Squash, Potato, Kielbasa, and Kale Soup
(Source: inspired by an idea from The Piggery, Ithaca, NY)

1 box frozen winter squash puree, thawed
1 quart (up to six cups) pork stock--or use half beef and half chicken
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons (up to a 1/4 cup) finely-chopped cooked bacon
4 medium to large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon paprika (swap out one teaspoon of smoked paprika if you like)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. kielbasa, halved then sliced
2 cups chopped kale
1/2 cup cream, optional

Put the thawed squash and a quart of stock in the crock pot. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the chopped onion until tender and translucent and just starting to take on color. Scrape the cooked onions into the crock pot. Add the bacon, the potato chunks, the paprika, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about four hours on high or eight hours on low. (At this point, I strained out more than half of the potato pieces and took my stick blender to the soup to thicken it, then stirred the whole potato chunks back in.)

When the potatoes are done, brown the kielbasa pieces in the skillet, then add them and the chopped kale to the soup. You may wish to thin it with another cup or two of stock to a desired consistency. Finish by stirring in a little cream if you wish. Taste to correct seasoning. Serve piping hot.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Fiery Fermentations to Fight Future Frosts

Winter can be a very long stretch, especially here in the North Country, and especially without a lot of seasonal fresh foods to cook and eat. But thank goodness for long keepers like cabbage, kale, and root crops! I may not be doing a lot of canning right now, but I can still do a little fermenting in the bleak midwinter.  First of all, I made two quarts of fiery kimchi. Though it's below zero outside and the house is cool, if you place the jars in the path of the kerosene monitor, you'll be bubbling away in no time!

My second fermentation project may have me crossing over into witch's brew territory. This is fire cider or fire tonic or master tonic, and if you renounce your faith, join a coven, and drink a bit of this every day, apparently you live forever...or something like that. We'll see in a month or so. But even as I was shredding the fresh horseradish, it was clearing my sinuses, so it's making me healthier already!

I used the following recipe, which is extremely similar to every other such recipe on the interwebs. The only changes I made were to use half as much horseradish (I simply had to quit halfway through the grating of the root as it was killing my eyes and nose, so I cried "uncle"), and to use fresh tumeric not ground. I scrubbed it well and grated it along with the horseradish and ginger at the beginning.

Fire Cider
(Source: Foodie with Family)

1 large horseradish root, about 7 inches long (scrubbed very well)
1 large ginger root, about 7 inches long (scrubbed very well)
1 large onion, root and stem end removed and peeled
1 large orange (I used a blood orange because I had one on hand)
1 lemon (I used a Meyer Lemon because that's also what I had on hand)
16 cloves of garlic, peeled
2-4 habanero peppers, stems removed (I only used two small ones, split in half)
1 tablespoon ground turmeric (I used fresh tumeric, about the same amount as the ginger)
raw apple cider vinegar
raw honey

Grate the horseradish and ginger roots (and fresh tumeric, if using). Roughly chop the onions, orange, lemon, garlic, and habanero peppers (I cut the habaneros in half but did not chop them). Stuff everything into a half-gallon glass jar with a tight fitting lid or divide evenly between two quart sized canning jars. (I sterilized my jar by pouring boiling water over it before filling.) Sprinkle the turmeric in on top, dividing evenly between the two jars if using quart jars. Pour the raw apple cider vinegar in over the contents, allowing it to settle in through the crevices and adding more so that the contents are submerged. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the rim of the jar, then screw the lid tightly in place. Let the mixture sit in a dark, cool place, allowing it to marry and infuse for four weeks, shaking once daily. (I have not been shaking mine, as everything is suspended beautifully in the jar.)

After one month, pour the contents into a muslin or cheesecloth lined colander positioned over a stable pot. Let it drain for 30 minutes, then gather the corners of the cloth, twisting and squeezing until you cannot release any more liquid. When it's fully strained, add honey to the liquid to taste and pour into a sterilized wine bottle, flip-top bottle, or canning jar. (Tip: You can find gorgeous, inexpensive bottles and jars at T.J. Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshall's.) Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year, shaking well before using.

Some people take a shot of this stuff every day to help them stay healthy, especially during cold and flu season. I think it smells great, but if I can't bear to drink it straight when it's done, my plan is to mix it into a Bloody Mary and also to whisk it with olive oil to fashion a vinaigette for a salad. Other fermenters have also advised me to save the strained solids, and dehydrate and grind them for a zesty seasoning blend. I might try that! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A Cozy Bowl of Cross-Cultural Comfort

So I was watching a rerun of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives one night, and Sammy's Bistro in my old stomping grounds of Park City, UT made this crazy bowl of Indian/Southwest fusion comfort food that they called the Savory Chicken Bowl with Rice. There wasn't a recipe on the Food Network web site, so I watched the demonstration a few times, and thought to myself, "I could probably recreate that...or something close to it." And I made it in the crock pot to boot!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Savory Pulled Chicken Curry Bowl with Jasmine Rice, Tomatillo Aioli, and Crispy Tortilla Strips. I know, it sounds like all kinds of bizarre, but it's soooooooooooooo good! And it's even gluten-free, for those who care about such things. This is one I'm going to make again and again.

Savory Pulled Chicken Curry Bowl with Jasmine Rice, Tomatillo Aioli, and Crispy Tortilla Strips 
(Source: adapted from Sammy's Bistro, Park City, UT via the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives)

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken Curry:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, peeled and minced
4 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 quart chicken broth
salt, to taste

Tomatillo Aioli (stir together the following ingredients to combine):
1 cup prepared tomatillo salsa (mild)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves

steamed jasmine rice

chopped fresh cilantro leaves

crispy tortilla strips (corn tortillas sliced thinly, fried in vegetable oil in a large skillet until golden then drained on paper towels and sprinkled with salt)

In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, poblano peppers and onions. Sauté until the vegetables are tender and just starting to turn golden. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two. Scrape this mixture into a slow cooker. Brown the chicken thighs in the same--unwashed--skillet (in two batches to avoid crowding the pan and steaming the meat). Add the chicken pieces to the slow cooker.

Sprinkle in both curry powders, the paprika, onion powder, and pepper. Deglaze the skillet with the chicken broth, scraping up all the browned bits (the fond, if you will). Pour over the veggies, chicken, and spices, add a couple good pinches of salt, and give everything a stir. Cook for about three hours on high or six hours on low, or until the chicken is tender enough to pull apart with two forks. Check seasoning and add more salt if needed.

Serve chicken curry drizzled with tomatillo aioli over steamed jasmine rice, sprinkled with chopped fresh cilantro, and garnished on top with crispy tortilla strips.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Only 167 days until summer!

Tonight, we had a little taste of summer in the dead of winter: Teriyaki pork steaks (broiled in the oven instead of grilled) and a healthful, tasty salad of barley, chickpeas, sugar snap peas, and sunflower seeds, with fresh dill, little nuggets of tangy goat cheese, and a spiced vinaigrette. DELISH, and by itself, it would make a perfectly hearty lunch or vegetarian entree in the warmer months. If you don't have barley, you can use farro, quinoa, or even brown rice. I also chose to swap out sugar snap peas for green beans and goat cheese for the feta, and I added a few cloves of minced garlic, because it seemed wrong not to. So go crazy and have fun with it!

Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad
(Source: Bon Appetit)
Serves 4

8 oz. green beans, halved crosswise (I used 12 oz. of frozen sugar snap peas steamed in the microwave)
kosher salt
1 cup pearled, hulled, or hull-less barley
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 15.5-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
4 oz. feta, crumbled (I used little bits of goat cheese to garnish each serving instead)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, optional

Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about three minutes. Using a sieve or a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water. Return water to a boil, add barley, and simmer until tender (refer to packaging for timing); drain. Let cool on a baking sheet.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook sunflower seeds, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; let cool. Toss green beans, barley, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, feta, dill, lemon juice, garlic (if using), and toasted spice vinaigrette (recipe follows) in a large bowl.

Toasted Spice Vinaigrette
(Source: Bon Appetit)
Makes about 1/3 cup

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing, until fragrant, about three minutes. Let cool, then chop. Whisk with oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made four days ahead. Cover and chill.