Category Archives: Kitchen Talk and Tips

Frozen Steak? Just Grill or Pan Sauté It. Really! No Need to Defrost.

This is steak grilled from frozen. It was really good.

Not only can you grill (or pan saute) steak when frozen, many recommend it. I will update this post with references, but, for now, based on repeated experience as grilled by my husband Steve, here are the instructions for grilling frozen steak:

Heat the grill to high. Put the totally frozen steak over direct heat and grill for 5 minutes.

Flip, baste*, and grill for another five minutes. Lower heat and flip steak one more time, this time moving it up away from direct heat.

Baste one more time, and let the steak “roast” with the grill lid down, keeping the temperature at 350-375.

Use an instant read thermometer to monitor the internal temperature, checking every 5 minutes or so. Remove when at desired temperature and let rest at least 5 minutes per inch thickness. The attached picture shows steak done this way to 135 and then rested 5-7 minutes before slicing.

*For basting, we melt about a tablespoon of butter per steak. Once hot, we stir in 3/4 tablespoon  or so to a tablespoon of butter of Bondat Food’s Chocolate Chipotle Grilling Rub.

IMPORTANT: Keep a close eye to make sure the attached or dripping fat doesn’t catch fire and cause charring.

If grilling in cold weather, keep the lid down during the initial grilling to maintain high heat.

NOTE: This technique can be used inside using a heavy frying pan for the high heat part and the oven for the finishing roast period.

Want the Perfect Ham? Just Think Slow and Low

My slow-roasted 5.5 lb ham gave me 3 lbs sliced and plenty more meat and a bone for pea soup.

Finally! A totally foolproof way to produce the perfect ham, It is all about cooking it slow and low.

I had saved a 5.5 lb bone-in smoked ham that I purchased last spring from Lilac Hedge Farm and decided that it would make a great centerpiece for my annual July 4th gathering.

Given that cold-sliced made more sense for a picnic sort of fare than ham hot from the oven, I opted to cook the ham the day before, cool it overnight, and slice it the day of the party.

Since I had  a bit of an issue with dry ham with one or possibly two of the three (I had a crowd!) I cooked for Easter, I did some research in hopes of finding a way to ensure a juicy ham with a minimum of fuss.  I can’t find the website now, but someone posted about their friend who owns a diner, saying that the diner owner just puts the ham in a roasting or cast iron pan, covers it loosely with foil, and cooks it for 7-8 hours in a 275 oven. That’s it!

Since my ham was smaller than the one mentioned on the website I was consulting, I started checking the temperature with an instant read thermometer after 4 hours, with the ham reaching a safe 160 degrees or a bit more throughout in close to 6 hours.

Once done, I let it cool on a rack and them wrapped it up for an overnight in the fridge. Even then I could tell it was very moist, but when I carved it into as big chunks as possible and started slicing it on the morning of the 4th, it was confirmed: Perfection!  And it was delicious with no basting – but you can certainly add whatever sort of garnish or glaze that suits your fancy.

I am going to use this method for my Easter holiday meals from now on. For 2017, I have a bone in ham of just over 7 pounds, which will be plenty for my (relatively) smallish guest list of 7 plus my husband and me for 9 at the table. I’ll just pop the ham in the oven around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. and let it cook all morning into early afternoon to be ready, cooled a bit, and carved for a 3:00 or so meal time.  And I am already looking forward to some pea soup in the following weeks, too!

Kitchen Tip – great little knife sharpener!

Just a quick tip, here.  I have read all kinds of reviews on knife sharpeners and I am sure that, if one has knives worth hundreds of dollars, it may very well be worth investing in a top-of-the-line knife sharpener.  But, you know what works just fine for me?  A little Rada sharpener that cost a few bucks.

Check out how cleanly these tomatoes are sliced!

I also have a Rada Chef knife that I love that I purchased for $12 at a church fair.  It is on the light side, so I prefer another knife for some jobs such as mincing, but it is great for for slicing, chopping, and carving.  By the way, that is my other favorite knife in the photo.  Check this link to see the Rada chef knife:

http://www.radacutlery.com/Content/Images/large/R131.jpg

There – must get back to other things, but I have just sharpened the knife to slice the tomatoes and figured I’d take a quick picture and create a short post while I was thinking of it.  🙂

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham – Comfort Food!

THIS is comfort food.  If you are vegetarian, see the end of the post for how to adapt this recipe without losing out on all the flavors.  Although, I think this came out so very wonderfully because I used ham from the amazing ham I prepared last week using My New Favorite Ham recipe.

Click the recipe title to see the original recipe from which I started.
Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

Ingredients
An asterisk * means I made a change to or added an ingredient.

•    2 tablespoons butter
•    2 tablespoons flour (I used whole wheat flour)
•    1 1/2 cups milk via a 5 oz can of evaporated milk, 2 Tbsp of instant dry milk, and water to make 1 1/2 cups total.*
•    1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes (will use more next time!)*
•    Salt and pepper
•    1-2 tsp dried parsley *
•    2 tablespoon olive oil (for sauteing)*
•    2 medium onions, thinly sliced
•    1 cup chopped green bell pepper *
•    3/4 cup grated carrot *
•    1.25 lb of assorted potatoes, thinly sliced (I used what I had on hand)*
•    8 ounces/2 cups of cooked ham in about 1/2 inch chunks.*
•    1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese *

ingedients

The main ingredients. I just love all the colors.

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil a baking dish. In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat.

melting butter and pepper flakes

I couldn't resist infusing some red pepper flakes in the butter. I should have used more and will try using 2-3 times the amount next time!

Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.

ready to add milk to the base

The butter and flour ready for the milk.

Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in milk. Return pan to heat and bring to a simmer while stirring. When sauce has thickened remove from heat, season with salt and pepper (and I added parsley, as well)  and set aside.

Thickened sauce

Thickened to the consistency of thin pancake batter.

In a skillet, cook onions in olive oil (or butter if using original recipe ingredients) until golden brown.

onion and pepper ready for casserole

I sauteed the oinons until almost done to my liking before adding the chopped green pepper.  This is because I didn’t want the moisture from the pepper releasing into the oil before the oinions had a chance to start browning.  I cooked the mixture just a bit more, then stirred in the grated carrot and put it all aside until ready to assemble the dish.  I figured the pepper and carrot would have plenty of time to cook in the oven.

Spread one third (1/2 cup) of the white sauce in bottom of baking dish and top with half of the potatoes. Spread out half of the onion/veggie mix, ham, and one third (1/2 cup) of the cheese. Pour another third of the sauce  on that layer.  Add the other half of the onion/veggie mix, ham and top with the last 1/2 cup of sauce and remaining cheese.

before the final cheese

After the last of the sauce and before the last of the cheese.

ready for the oven

All set to pop in the oven!

Bake for 45 – an hour minutes  until golden and bubbly. Then, have at it!

This was really, really tasty.  Again, I do think that the leftover ham, with its sweet and spicy flavor, added tremendously to the flavor.  But, I think adding the green pepper and carrot gave a flavor boost to this old favorite, as well.

There is, of course, no reason why this can’t be made with a chopped up ham steak or sliced ham. For some sweetness, use pineapple or apple juice in lieu of water if using evaporated or powered milk, or sprinkle some brown sugar, as well as some clove powder over each layer.

And, if you prefer a vegetarian, or even vegan version, this seasoning method will work for you, also.   And, vegetarian or not, ou can also add more potatoes or other vegetables. Just be be sure to cook more watery veggies  down before baking the final dish so as to not add too much moisture.

If you want a “meaty” texture in there, use soy or seitan (wheat gluten) based protein items that have a smoky/ham sort of flavor. Also – when I was eating a vegan diet, I had no problem making a nice roux/white sauce with soy or rice milk, etc.  I think I actually made it with just flour, oil, and water a few times.  (Hmm, I will have to try that to make sure my memory is correct!)

All-in-all, this is a tasty and pleasantly textured dish, whether you follow the traditional recipe I link to at the top,  try out my version or experiment with my additional suggestions.  In the end, it is indeed one of those comfort food dishes that every cook should have in their repertoire.  Except for my friend Kathleen who can no longer eat onions.  I have NO idea what to substitute for that!

Fresh Pressed Olive Oil

I guess I could be considered a food snob or foodie, or both. Why? Because I pay a chunk of change, like $90 plus the shipping, every three months for three very modestly sized bottles of olive oil from Fresh Pressed Olive Oil.  But, you know what? The flavors of these olive oils that have been pressed recently from all over the world taste…out of this world.

Green was the first word I used to describe the flavor of the first olive oil I received from the club, and that descriptive has worked for all subsequent olive oils I have received.  Very green and fresh.  Some even have a bit of a bite – something not usually associated with olive oil.  And each batch does have its unique taste.  And so far, they have all tasted just heavenly.

Here is the latest. The color is amazing. Never mind the flavor.

Mind you, I don’t cook with the hi-test!  Steve and I enjoy it predominantly as a dip for bread – sometimes with some red pepper flakes and/or freshly ground black pepper added to the oil.  I always add a bit of this wonderful olive oil to just cooked pasta, and also  use a splash of it when appropriate to finish off a soup, stew, or sauce after it is cooked. And, of course, when summer is with us, I use only the fresh pressed olive oil with the fresh mozzarella cheese and just picked tomatoes and basil.

Another view. Hard to really show the wonderful green color!

Yeah – I know it is an extravagance.  $360+ a year for a small amount of olive oil. But then again, there are expenses that other folks see as necessities for them that I would never consider, so I guess it is all relative. Whatever, it works for me! And, it may just be worth a try for you.  🙂

New product recommendations!

I have still been too busy to take photos and post recipes, but I can recommend three kitchen products that I have purchased recently.  For product details, click HERE.

Here is the scoop: I got one of those Misto stainless steel olive oil pumps.  I LOVE it!  You pump it up by hand so it does not use propellants, etc. and you are not throwing out a container when it is empty – just add more oil.  It works just as well as those spray cans you can buy for one-time use.  The only difference is that you pump, rather than “hold and spray.”

The Misto can be used for other types of oil as well.   I just ordered another one to use for canola oil.  That one I will keep in the fridge.

There is less expensive Misto made of aluminum which is probably just fine since oil does not react with that aluminum.

Next item: A ceramic coated cast iron heat defuser.  WOW.  Unbelievable!  I LOVE it!  I got a 7 inch one and, along with saucepans of that and a bit larger diameter, it worked well with my 10-inch saute pan when I used it cooking breakfast sausages.  But the clincher is that twice, I used it when reheating stews and forgot them to the point of boiling for a bit.  NO burning.  NONE.

The added bonus is that it retains heat, so it also functions as an energy-saving device.  Once it is up to temperature, you can lower the burner a bit and it will still keep things hot. And, it will last WAY longer than those tin ones.  A winner all around!

And finally – soup socks! So, Steve was a bit confused when I told him I ordered soup socks.  And, it may sound weird, but theses are handy mesh bags in which you can put any veggie, meat, or bone items that you want to strain out of your stock or soup after cooking.  I just used one when making chicken/veggie stock.  I put all the veggies into it, tied a loose knot, and, once the simmering (well, I actually used my pressure cooker) was done, I pulled out the bag, let it cool, and then could easily squeeze all the extra liquid into the stock.

These “socks” can also be used for chicken bones, herbs and spices, or anything else you want to keep from infiltrating whatever it is you are cooking.

They are not very expensive, so some folks treat them as disposable, but I washed mine out and will re-use until the fall apart.  Why not?  🙂

Exploding glassware warning from Consumer Reports

I have been SO very busy…  but do hope to get back in the habit of posting here soon!  I am currently planning on doing my New Year’s Day Open House, so that will get me cooking up a storm.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this warning from Consumer Reports.  It seems that Pyrex and other top American brands switched materials to one that is more sturdy when exposed to the bumps and bangs when they are  being cleaned and put away at room temperature. However, changing the material may  not have been the greatest idea.  European companies still use the original material and those, along with old American Pyrex of the original material, stand up better in cooking situations.  You can check out the Consumer Report video by clicking HERE.

How to EASILY Peel Raw Butternut Squash!

FINALLY, an easy way to peel butternut and other winter squash!

If I am going to mash the squash, I’ll halve it, remove the seeds, and roast face down in a shallow pan for about an hour at 400 degrees then cool a bit and scoop out the cooked squash.  (By the way, the roasting gives the squash a wonderfully intense flavor.) BUT, what if you want to cook cubes of squash?  Here is how to do it, courtesy of a person going by the  screen name chromadome-ga who posted on this Google Answers thread in 2006.

  1. Bring a pot of water big enough to hold the squash to a boil
  2. Put the whole squash into the pot of boiling water and simmer for a few minutes until you can easily pierce JUST the skin with a toothpick or folk.  If you start smelling an aroma of cooked squash, it will be ready.
  3. Cool for a bit, cut into a few pieces, and peel.

    peeling squash

    Note the small ring around the edge from parboiling briefly.

  4. Remove seeds and cut into cubes or chunks as needed, and cook as directed in recipe.

P.S. (If anyone knows who chromadome-ga is, let me know! I’d love to be able to thank him or her directly!)

A Simple, Delicious, and Healthy Breakfast or Dessert – by Steve!

This morning, I was asking Steve about breakfast since I am stuck on crutches and having to keep my foot elevated for another week or so.  (Kind of fun in one sense:   Honey, what’s for breakfast??  A turn of events since it has become habit for me to do most of the cooking, etc. at our home.)

WELL, I think I should ask him to be in in charge of more meals even when I am better.  Check out what appeared when I asked for a dish of yogurt:

This was a lovely surprise. Thank you, honey! And a big thank you to Paul Faler for letting me come pick blueberries the day before my surgery. Those blueberries were hand-picked by me in Wakefield MA!

Steve is keeping the stove cleaner than I do, too.  Hmmm.  I’m liking this!  Maybe I’ll be singing a different tune when it has been close to the two months on crutches and the situation wears on the patience of us both.  But, in the meantime, this is turning into an opportunity in which we are both being remind of, or are discovering new things we appreciate about each other.  For example, he has been commenting often as to the time it takes to keep up with just the day-to-day chores that I usually do, and I am delighted by his attention to detail when preparing and serving meals and snacks. There are also Breton Electric-related issues that have come up and my needing help with volunteer committments I made before the surgery was scheduled.  Steve has been very patient and gracious about everything.

The best news is that we have been finding a lot to laugh about during what could be a very trying situation.  Thanks, Steve. I think I’ll keep ya.  So…what’s for dinner?  <smile>

Surgically-induced hiatus

Hi folks – I was busy getting my ducks in a row before being laid up, and I’m now limited to using my laptop for a number of days since I need to keep my left foot elevated after surgery. While I can (and do!) use the free version of LogMeIn.com to access my desktop computer in my study, with all my downloaded photos, etc., pain meds are making it a bit challenging to deal with creating final recipe posts right now. Never mind that I can’t cook right now.  🙁

I do have a number of recipes almost ready to post, though: A wonderfully easy yet exquisitely tasty salsa courtesy of my friend Denise Mallen, my Mom’s picnic chicken recipe, and….oh, I can’t remember right now and my files are in my study and I am on the recliner in the living room and fuzzy from pain meds. So, I’ll have to keep you in suspense.<grin>

Check back later – or sign up to get notified when I post. In the meantime – if in the area, don’t miss the Wakefield Farmer’s Market each Saturday 9-1 at Hall Park (I unfortunately had to miss it, today) and do your best to shop locally every day of the week!