Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tap Dancing

Since I have all the grace and coordination of a giraffe being born, we all know I do not mean the kind that involves special shoes and a Shirley Temple hair style. But rather dancing with excitement over TAPS! I got a new hot water dispenser/tap for christmas and it was installed today. While he was here I had him install a new kitchen sink tap as ours was acting up and really, I had never liked it. The new one is purtier and has a pull-out end right from the main tap that sprays. I was so overjoyed and excited that he laughed at me and said "You sure are easy to please!". Yeah, well first impressions can be wrong bucko because I am the high maintenance queen. Don't let the fact that I also amuse easily fool you. Ruby was hilarious. She barked the first few minutes but that quickly gave way to her wiggly joy at having company. She kept trying to sneak close enough to give him kisses. I am sure she gave him a few good snottings. He was a good sport though and didn't seem to mind. At least she didn't try to climb under the cupboard with him. When she got tired of that she insisted on sitting in my lap. Not very comfy on a kitchen chair, but we all have sacrifices to make. It felt very much like balancing a bowling ball in my lap. Just a note though, actual bowling balls don't try to put their tongue up your nose. Just saying. I have had a few emails and a comment or two asking for recipes. When I try the dutch oven no knead bread I will post that recipe here. As for the soups - I don't really follow a recipe when I make soup. I usually make stock by chopping up carcasses from roast chickens and simmering them with any bits and bobs I have thrown in the freezer (you know, wing tips, trimmings from chicken pieces, backs that I have removed from breast pieces, etc.). I don't always throw veggies in at this stage any more because they end up in the trash barrel. I would rather add my veggies later on and consume them. A few peppercorns, maybe a quartered onion, some salt. I might add some rosemary or thyme. Parsley stems if I have them. Let this simmer for as long as you want. I say a minimum of an hour, longer is better. Strain the bones and stuff out and chill. The next day, you can scoop the fat right off the top. Do so, and discard. Then heat the broth just until liquid and strain again through a fine mesh strainer (to get all the bone chips and stuff out). Next saute any veggies you would like. Mainstays for me are onion, carrot, and celery. When they start to soften, I add any grains (barley, for example) and saute for a bit. Then I add the broth. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the veggies and any grains are done. Sometimes I add pasta, but I prefer to use small soup pasta like stellini, orzo, or ancini de pepe. Other pastas get gigantic and mushy and frankly don't freeze as well. Most often I need to fortify the soup with some packaged bouillon powder. The powder alone is chemical and fake tasting, the broth alone is a bit weak. Together you get a nice well-rounded taste and texture. Notice there is no extra meat in there LOL. You can saute chopped meats with the veggies or add shredded cooked leftover meat at the end. Most times I just leave it out, unless I am making beef barley or something specifically to use up leftovers. Nothing against meat per se, but after freezing and reheating the texture often leaves a lot to be desired and I don't miss it so why bother? I like a lot of different textures and colours in my soups in general. Hence the different grains and beans and things. For the red lentil soup? I have posted a recipe on Recipezaar. Since making it I have found I really like stirring in a bit of shredded cheese even to eat as a thick soup. But then again, I like melted cheese in just about anything. Heck, I like melted cheese by itself. Ta ta for now, I wanna go and play with the sprayer on the tap - tee hee!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No soup for you!

Actually, there is LOTS of soup for everyone. One roasted capon (which is the size of a monster chicken) made a lot of rich, tasty broth. Enough for one batch of mixed soup (the capon broth, carrots and celery and onion, little bits of barley and israeli couscous and quinoa and multi-coloured orzo, and a handful of chickpeas). One batch of basic chicken noodle with no veggies (which DD and DH gobbled up like they haven't eaten in a year). One batch of red lentil soup that is mostly lentils and tomatoes but nicely finished off the rest of the broth. Everything was dished out into containers - well, except what the peanut gallery ate - and cooled, and will be frozen for reheating later as lunches or quick dinners. I love soup. I could eat a different home made soup every day. A steaming bowl of soup love, some crusty whole grain bread, and maybe a salad (one could also add some pickles or beets or olives to nibble if we want to go way over the top) and I am a happy camper. DH and DD like soup, but don't share my affection for veggies. I guess lone broth with maybe noodles and some thin shreds of meat doesn't sound like a very good dinner. Too bad for them, then. I don't know why, but I have been in a beany/grainy mood lately. Lentils. Chickpeas. Barley and cous cous and quinoa and brown rice. I bought some kasha last night and can't decide if I want to eat it as is (added to cereal maybe?) or cook it alone, or in a combo with something. My mind keeps telling me to add it to some beef broth with onions. And breads! I could eat an entire loaf of whole grain artisan bread every day. My favourite are the kinds that have a thick, crispy crust and the inside is full of holes, the strands inside almost floss like. Most places add a lot of sugar or honey to cover the taste of whole wheat. I don't want a soft smudgy loaf that looks like a poorly baked zuchini bread. I want a crispy, flossy bread made with fresh whole wheat flour. Or a nice dense rye bread. Or a good sourdough. Or.....well, you get the picture LOL. Maybe I need the B-vitamins or something. There is a recipe I want to try, for a no-knead bread that is baked in a "dutch oven" - basically a heavy pot. I have heard that it produces the crisp crust I am looking for, and I have seen whole-wheat adaptations. My only problem is that while I do have a dutch oven, it is NOT a heavy cast iron or enamled version and I am not sure if the handles and knob are oven safe. I have been keeping my eyes open for a cast iron/enamel version, but they are quite pricey. I have seen some in good brands and in colours I like, and I have seen some at a good price but not the colour I want. I am cheap AND picky, which if you ask me is a diabolical combination. I have set aside some of my birthday money for just this purchase. I have decided exactly how much I am willing to spend for the PERFECT one for me. And let's face it, it might take a fire sale to get the kind I want in the colour I covet. I guess I am willing to wait. In the meantime, since I am not especially fond of the dutch oven I already have and it doesn't hold any sentimental value, I might just go ahead and try it. If it doesn't turn out to be oven safe, then I guess I have lost nothing and gained some shelf space, right? Maybe I should notify the neighbours that if they see me lob a smoking, melting pot out into the snow to just ignore it. Ah heck, let them deal with it if it happens. It wouldn't be the first time I jetisonned something out the front door and surprised a neighbour walking by. It's part of my charm ;).