Monthly Archives: February 2006

Beef Stew Experiment

I’m writing down everything as I go, and even started typing in the recipe on my yet-to-be-published and linked recipe page, but then realized that I have no idea how this is going to come out. It might take a few tries before I have a recipe worth sharing!

I loved the onion and mushroom based recipe (see 2/14 post Not Your Mom’s Beef Stew) but didn’t want to do the “many hours” of stovetop beef stew cooking. And, I didn’t feel like getting the specific sort of beer called for. And, I wanted to use up a modestly sized butternut squash.
SO – I am creating a beef stew based partly on the onion/mushroom recipe and partly on Lorna Sass’s guidelines for a pressure cooked beef stew – and using butternut squash instead of the usual carrots and celery. (By the way, her recipe is great as is – I just wanted to experiment.)

…well…it tastes good. I added dried and fresh parsley, dried dill, and a Tbsp of lemon juice. Not sure yet, but next time I’ll try doing all the onions and mushrooms in the pressure cooker. This time, thinking they might cook down too much with the 15 minutes high pressure for the beef, I reserved half of the onions and mushrooms and sauteed them and added them afterwards. They are just a teeeeny bit too firm for this stew.

The butternut squash was fine – yes, 15 minutes high pressure is too much for it if you want chunks, but it turned into puree and thickened the stew when I stirred it after letting the pressure come down naturally.

Hmm – I might publish the recipe in “beta” form before trying it again, but with few onions and mushrooms and having them all go for the full pressure instead of reserving half to add afterwards. The true test will be when we have dinner. 🙂

Catching up!

I just posted an entry I started on Feb 14 – when I made the flounder dish. I didn’t realize that it would register as being posted the date I started it. Oh well, new blogger. 🙂

flounder fillets with crab, spinach and cheese

I had a can of crab claw (Byrd brand) that I got on sale. And, frozen flounder fillets. I buy them at BJs – very handy, two 1 pound packs per package. And, I felt like having spinach, too. And, as much as Steve and I always enjoy fillets baked with a fairly simple prep, I decided to try something different. (Remember, I was vegan for a number of years and am now still learning about cooking fish and other carnivore favorites.)

After poking around on the Internet, I found a few recipes for fillets with a crab filling, crab spreads and dips, and finally, some spinach and crab fillings. THAT’s what I wanted. However, the latter had egg in them, and Steve is allergic to eggs. (sigh)

Crab dips have cream cheese and I didn’t want that texture… I finally merged a few recipes and got a great presentation idea from one. I did a layer of fillets, a layer of crab/spinach mix, and topped it with a layer of fillets. Popped it in the oven and YUM! Easier than trying to roll up fillets. 🙂

I am determined to create a page with recipes that will be linked from this blog, so I won’t go into all the ingredient details now. Except that I used freshly grated parm-regiano for the cheese in the filling. (I was hoping to use up some ricotta, too, but it just didn’t fit.) But, I will say that I prepped the fillets the same way I do when baking them with no filling. I melt butter and add lemon juice (usually freshly squeezed, but bottled is okay) while the butter is warming on a low burner. This is important. Stupid me TWICE added the lemon juice after taking the butter off the burner. Of course the butter started coagulating! Anyway, I make some bread crumbs (yes, store bought work fine, too, but I am one of those people who actually save the old bread in a paper bag and then whoosh them through the food processor as needed. Actually, if you make your own breadcrumbs from whole grain breads, they will go rancid quickly. The whole slices stay fine once stale, but breaking them up must release the oils in the whole grains. My theory, anyway.)

ANYWAY…I dip the fillets in the lemon butter, then in breadcrumbs seasoned with dried parsley. And, provide lemon slices for garnish and extra flavor.
Okay, that’s it for now. I am way behind in my writing – I made this at least a week ago, I think!

Not your Mom’s Beef stew – w/ onions, mushrooms and beer

I’m following the recipe for a really cool beef stew from The Complete Meat Cookbook (see link to cookbooks.) Tons of onions and mushrooms, some carrots, bay leaves, thyme, garlic… And beer. Becks Dark or an Oktoberfest amber is recommended. Nothing to hoppy.

It is simmering, now. It says for an hour and 1/2, but I’ll check it in an hour. I usually make some version of a Lorna Sass pressure cooker beef stew, but wanted to try making it via the simmer this time. And the meat guy’s recipe already smells scrumpcious! If you happen to be vegetarian, I bet the onion and mushroom combo – and the whole recipe would work with seitan – just not the kind premarinated in too heavy a marinade. Although, tamari would give depth to a non-beef version.

It will be a while before it’s done, but the beer I selected is very yummy (had to buy a sixpack since it was not sold singly.) Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen Amber. Fruity. Definitely not lots of hops. Anyway, I’ll report later. I also have to write about a very cool flounder I baked with a crab/spinach/cheese mixture in between two layers of thin fillets.

Pasta with ricotta, arugula pesto, and chicken

I bought a big ol’ container of ricotta close to a week ago and wanted to use at least some of it. And, I wanted to try another variation of Rachael Ray’s Ricotta Pasta recipes. BUT, while wandering around online, I found a recipe by Rachael for pasta with arugula and walnut pesto…I just happened to buy, on impulse, the other day, a big bunch of organically grown arugula when I was at Wild Oats. SO – I wanted to find a way to use ricotta and arugula in one dish. And, I did! Oh, also, I had defrosted a pack of four chicken thighs that I had cooked quickly in the pressure cooker to add to whatever pasta thing I made. FYI about 1.75 lb with bone and skin ended up to be about 3/4 lb of cooked meat (I peeled the skin and excess fat before I cooked it and then took off the bone.)

Here is what I did: I had partially defrosted the chicken thighs – enough so that I could peel off the skin, and then put them in the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water and probably around a teaspoon of dried basil and brought it all to high pressure, let it cook for 8 minutes, sit for 4, then ran the pressure cooker under cold water to bring the pressure down. After cooling a bit, I de-boned the chicken and shredded it by hand.

Then I made the pesto. I followed Rachael’s recipe except that I used all of the garlic infused oil when pulsing the pesto in the food processor. (See and search for Penne with Arugula and Walnut Pesto)

Then, I mixed the pesto with 2 cups of ricotta (low fat), and, contrary to the Ricotta and Pasta recipe, I didn’t cook the onions but chopped fine and added raw for some crunchy texture.

Cooked the pasta (I used Healthy Harvest brand whole wheat spirals) and mixed everything all together – the chicken, pesto and ricotta, raw onions – along with 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigino-Reggiano cheese.

I say YUM! Although, folks more picky than I am would have pulsed the pesto a bit more or would have been more careful to remove the stems down to the leaf of all the arugula – there are a few stem pieces in there. But, hey, that is how you know it is homemade.

It made enough for 4-6 servings, depending on appetites with still some leftover, I bet.

You know, I really want to do a cooking show. One of these days, I will approach my local public cable station to see if anyone might want to work with me on that. Well, dreams start as dreams. 🙂

Pea Soup Rocks

I love pea soup. I especially loved my Mom’s pea soup. But, since her recipe box was at one of my siblings house since 2002, I didn’t have her recipe until now that it’s my turn to have the recipe box for a while. However, I have to say that what I have come up with is just as good, although I got some refining touches from her recipe.

I use Lorna Sass’s pressure cooker recipe (see cookbook list – and one of these days I’ll get beyond babbling about cooking and start posting the actual recipes) from her book Pressure Perfect. Page 45, I believe…

I added an extra cup water, about 2-3 cups potatoes in one inch or so chunks, used only one stalk of celery and one onion, and, along with the leftover chunks of ham from the very delicious Cook’s brand ham I cooked, I also tossed the bone in for extra flavor. Bay leaves, a bit of salt, etc. YUM! Some of the potatoes charred just a bit on the bottom, but it actually just added to the flavor and didn’t cause any taste or clean-up problem.

anyway, it was really good! Tonight, I think I’ll do a frozen entree thingy – Same brand as the Lasagna from BJs that I use. Trying the sausage/veggie/pasta one. Steve (husband) still thinks I am going to do something to use up asparagus and potatoes that are starting to “see too much” (growing eyes) but I think they will hold until tomorrow when the thick pork chops are fully defrosted. I just don’t like defrosting things in the microwave unless I really have to.

So, no cooking adventures this evening. I can concentrate on my bookkeeping adventures, instead.

Pizza crust still needs work

Well….so much for pastry-making talents transferring easily. Of course, transposing numbers when increasing the recipe by 60% didn’t help since I used too much water, then added to much flour to compensate… Although, except for it rising more than I wanted it too (It was supposed to be thin crust) it wasn’t terrible. The toppings were great, though. And using 2/3 full fat and 1/3 low fat cheddar does make for a nicely textured cheese.

I think I’ll try a whole wheat crust next, one that entails having it rise for few hours, etc…

computer crashed, but back again! Now – Pizza

Well, nothing like one’s computer crashing to delay blogging! But, I’m back, all is well and much data saved, and thankfully, it was my laptop not the tower. Although, the tower is pretty well backed up regularly. I lost my personal email address book, but it was too darn big, anyway. Quicker to rebuild than delete, one by one, all those old addresses from years back.

BUT – now, I am making pizza. I am embarassed to say that, at age 46, this is the first time I have made my own pizza dough. Well, that’s not quite true.

I worked at a pizza place for years when I was younger. For folks in my area, that’s Wakefield House of Pizza on Tuttle St, Wakefield MA. VERY good pizza as of the last time I got some from there. And, the owner, John Mavredakis, is a great guy. Working there got me through high school, college and part of grad school.

So, I of course sometimes made the dough, but that is not the same as making a small bit of dough at home for one 16 inch pizza! And, baking is not my forte. Although, the two times in my life I made homemade pies, including the crust, they came out really well. I think I somehow inherited my Nana’s talent for pie crust. Although, if this pizza crust doesn’t come out well, that will challenge that assumption! Making any dough or “crust” is intuitive since the measurements can’t be exact. It just has to feel right.

I have all the toppings chopped and sliced (onion, garlic, green pepper, shitake mushrooms, brocoli, peperoni – well, a fancy kind – and I will slice some fresh tomatoes right before assembling to save as much Vitamin C as I can, even though cooking will kill some of it) and I have shredded the cheese. About 2/3 part New York Sharp (nothing fancy, just the Shaw’s brand) and 1/3 part Cabot low-fat cheddar.

The last time I had some pre-made crust and did a pizza, I used the same regular and low-fat cheddar mix and it seemed that the low-fat added a texture (without the extreme gooeyness) of mozerella. Since my local market didn’t have low-fat mozzerella available, I figured I try this mix again to see if it works again.

Okay – time to experiement again. 🙂 Geez, why isn’t the spell check thing working? Well, never mind any typos!