G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 47– Fruits & Vegetables, Stuffed Pumpkin & Roast Chicken Dinner


Wow! Just wow! What a busy summer it was. Visited my youngens, and grand-youngens, twice. Had to tend my veggie garden, do a little fishin’, and of course attend that necessary blessing/evil, the job. Couple that with cooking for pot-lucks, friends, and family, and you can begin to understand how I had so little time to put anything new in the blog.

But don’t despair; I’ve got a new laptop, and summer vacation is over. So class, get out your pens, pencils, erasers… Jim, Jim! Don’t you dare snap Beth’s braw-strap. And girls, if any one of our young men should snap your braw-strap, you have my permission to throw them in the river, even if there’s snow on the ground.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, today’s lesson, and it’s a good one. How may of you have eaten acorn squash. No, Linda, making that awful face won’t get you excused from class. And besides, you just might find you really like squash, when prepared right. What’s that? Your Mom always made hers by boiling and then mashing it with a ton of butter and brown sugar? Well if she added egg, evaported milk, cinamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger to it, and then baked it in a pie shell, there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s not what we’re making. This pumpkin recipe takes the wonderful texture and flavor of roasted pumpkin, and matches it to the savory goodness of bread stuffing. And with those great flavors, we are going to add a succulent, juicy, and tender roast chicken. Now who wants some of that!

Oh, I see all of you have your hands up now. Very good. Wanna see what it looks like? Well read on my intrepid chefs-in the-making.

Acorn squash is a nutrient rich, and delicious member of the winter squash family. It is inexpensive, stores well in the pantry, and is versatile enough to be presented as a main course, a side dish, or as a desert. For this meal, we will use it as a side dish. Here’s what you’re gonna need:

1 3 to 4 lb. whole roasting chicken
1 large acorn squash, green, orange, or some combination of the two
1/2 cup salted butter, divided into two halves
Kosher salt
1 gallon of water
3 tbs. Powdered Thyme
3 cloves garlic
Black pepper
2 tsp. rubbed sage
2 tsp. paprika
3 tbs. granulated garlic powder
2 medium sized onions
4 slices stale bread
3 cups chicken broth
2 eggs
5 medium russet potatoes
3 strips bacon

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F.
In a three gallon soup pot, or two gallon zipper, freezer bag, mix 1 cup of salt into 1 gallon of water. Add the thyme and granulated garlic. Stir until the salt is dissolved.

Rinse and clean the chicken under cold running water. and place into the water, making sure the bird is completely submerged. Seal, and place into your refrigerator overnight. This is what it looks like:

Salty brine infuses the chicken with moisture and flavor.

Ok. Now that we have our bird brined overnight, and supper is in two hours, let’s get the rest of this meal made. Remember to get all of your ingredients together in the order in which they will be used.

Now that we have our ingredients, let’s prepare them. First, we’ll prepare the veggies. So peel and slice the potatoes (yes, that’s a giant potato, and I only needed one for the meal); then wash al slice the celery, cutting off and discarding the ends.

Remember, tuck in that thumb.


I like it!


Take those chopped and chunked veggies an put them into the roasting pot.

Now we take on the chicken. See that bacon in the above picture, you know, the one with the chicken and bacon in it. Cut that bacon across its width, into thin strips. Now we’re going to make thin slits downward, into the chicken breast, on both sides of the breastbone.

notice that I’m pushing those strips of bacon right into the slits. Those pieces of yummy bacon will make the meat more juicy, and give an unmistakeable smokey nuance to the chicken. Can you say yum? C’mon, let me hear it.
Stuff any leftover bacon under the skin, smoothing it as flat as possible.

Take those remaining herbs and combine the in a small bowl. Mix ’em up. Add a little salt, and fresh ground pepper to the mix. Ok, now rub the outside of the bird with butter 1/2 of the butter. And yes Tom, you have to use your hands. Take a pinch or two and sprinkle it all over the bird, top, sides, and bottom. Pour 2 cups of broth into the roasting pan, place the bird on a rack, and into the pan. Here’s what that looks like.

The bird is ready for the oven. Let’s get the squash prepared. First, cut off the top, and using a fork, scrape out all of the seeds and discard them (or make into pepitas).

Half of that broth has already been pored into the roasting pan for the chicken.
But isn’t that squash just gorgeous?


Take the bread, place each slice on top of each other and cut into cubes., on a clean cutting board of course, and cut into cubes. place the cubes, and one stalk of clean, sliced celery into a mixing bowl. Add chopped onion, sage, salt, black pepper, the eggs, and 1 cup of chicken broth, then stir until well combined.

Jack, how are we going to get the stuffing into the squash? What’s that? A little louder so the rest of the class can hear. Yes, that’s right. We’re going to stuff it in with the fork. Very good. Stuff it in so that it’s packed. It will expand as it cooks, but will come out of the hole a bit, brown, and look just yummy.

Mow that your squash is stuffed, place it pointy side down, in a ramekin dish, and cover loosely with foil. Place both the chicken, and the squash into the oven. Now, just walk away for about forty minutes. Play a game of darts or something.

Alright class. The forty minutes has passed. it’s tie to do what, Jim? That’s very good. We’re going to check the chicken temperature. so take your meat thermometer, the one that’s calibrated, and push the tip from the center of one side of the chicken breast, down next to the leg joint. What’s it read 145 degrees, well that’s not hot enough. Pop it back into the oven, with the door closed for another twenty minutes.

So now what’s it read? 165, time to take it out. Carefully remove the chicken from the pan, and set it onto your clean cutting sheet. Let it rest for about fifteen minutes or so. Take the squash out too, and set it aside. While it’s resting, remove the potatoes and celery from the pan and onto a 2 quart pot. Cover with broth from the pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Let it cook for the fifteen minutes that the chicken is resting.

Now, pour off that juice into a suitable bowl. Add the remaining butter to the spuds, along with a quarter cup of milk, and mash until silky smooth. Put the smashed spuds into a serving bowl and keep warm. Put the broth back into the pot that the potatoes were in. don’t worry about any left over potato in the pot. It will help thicken the gravy. Bring that to a low boil. While it is heating, in a cup, add two tbs of cornstarch to three tbs. of water. Stir until smooth. Slowly pour this slurry into the boiling broth, while stirring. When it has thickened, remove from the heat into a serving vessel.

Ok, carve that bird. Serve up portions of everything to everyone and enjoy with your favorite beverage.

When I sat down to eat, I also put a heaping helping of both the squash, and stuffing on my plate. It was all soooo good. I think I was stuffed after it was eaten. My wife said to me that this chicken was the juiciest, and most tender that she ever had eaten. Go ahead ask her.

To be absolutely truthfull, I have made roasted chicken that was as juicy, and as tender. But the brine, and bacon lardoons really added to the meat flavor. And that squash was the perfect accompaniment. I gave my wife the mashed potatoes, and ate only the squash and dressing. It was that good. And I do love good mashed potatoes.

In October, I’m going to show you how to treat your kids to their very own, yummy, edible jack-o-lanterns, that will taste a whole lot like pumpkin pie. Until then, eat well, eat healthy. And remember that wonderful quote; “There is no success outside the home that can compensate for failure withing the home.

From the Kitchen of G.W.North

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 46– Fruits & Vegetables, Warm Chicken Casserole


Hey everyone, did ya miss me? I know I felt guilty for not posting more recipes and techniques. My life has been non-stop busy for the last month-and-a-half. I won’t go into everything I’ve been up to. Let’s just say that there were a few pot lucks in there, a veggie garden to prepare and plant, flowers to plant, spring cleaning, the job, a public playground to help build, church, wife, and staying in touch with my grown children and grandchildren, etc. But enough with the excuses. You don’t care about that.

For this lesson, we are going to combine fruit, protein, and veggies to make a delicious, warm casserole that is full of great flavors, each complimenting the other. The individual ingredients just don’t seem like they should be put together, but they do. Let me show you what we will be working with.

Canned Chicken & Grapes
We used a quality canned chicken product with large chunks of tender white meat. The grapes are seedless, wonderfully sweet, and cut in half lengthwise.

Yes Emma, you have a question? What’s that? you’ve never heard of eating chicken and grapes together, especially that nasty canned chicken.

Well, I remember a time when I was with my best freind, out in an ice shack, fishing through a 4 foot, by 2 foot hole sawed through 3 foot thick ice. The ice shack was toasty, but we weren’t having much luck catching any fish. As noon approached, I accidently kicked a can of chicken through the ice hole. Now, the water was only about 5 foot deep. My good freind yelped “That was our lunch, you idiot.” We were both older teens, and called each other names regularly. That’s just what guys do. Anyways, he said with a stern voice; “Go down there and get that can of chicken.” I told him he was crazy. I wasn’t going to jump into that hole for a lousy can of chicken. And then, my good freind, a guy who I normally thought was a fairly intelligent guy, dove into that icy water and retrieved that chicken. He made a great and noisy exit as he clamberd out of the hole, with some choice words for me. But you know what, the chicken still tasted terrible, though I nearly laughed myself silly at my buddy’s antics.

And, so why are we using canned chicken? Believe me, this stuff I’m using is well seasoned, tastes like chicken, is tender, cheap, and very convenient. It’s nothing like what was retrieved from a hole through the ice so many years ago. It just works in this recipe.

Oh, and when you drain the liquid from the can, save it. It makes a flavorful addition to chicken soup. It’s simply chicken broth.

So, on with the lesson. The sweetness of the grapes perfectly ballances the salty chicken. Trust me. It’s a match made in cullinary paradise.

What else in in there? After we’ve tossed the chicken and grape halves together, we will wash, slice, and add celery to the mix, again tossing lightly.

Next, we’ll be adding Our aioli. What’s an aioli? It’s a flavored mayonnaise. Everyone knows that (Ok, I didn’t know it until I learned it from the Food Network Channel several years back). Our aioli is a combination of good mayonaise, sour cream, and onion powder. It tastes similar to ranch dressing, but thicker and cleaner.

All mixed together

Now we carfully fold the aioli into the chicken mixture until all ingredients are evenly coated.

Bill! Put that spoon down. We’re not finished yet. But we’re getting there. Now, we will add the 2nd to the last ingredient, Colby/Jack Cheese.

Let’s fold all of that cheese into our casserole. Oh, don’t worry, Fred, it’ll all fit.

See Jill, it all fit. What’s that, it was Fred who said it wouldn’t fit? Are you sure? Ok then. Let that be a lesson to you. Pay attention and you won’t be confused next time.

We have but two more steps. We have to warm this delightful casserole, and then top with crushed potato chips.

Wait, hold the phone. My dear wife just commanded me, er, um, just suggested that I tell everyone that we prefer Lay’s brand Potato Chips for this dish, though we have tried several brands.

Ok Honey, I told them about using Lay’s spud chips. What’s that, you want a bowl of orange sherbert? But I’m in the middle of writing this. All right, but then you have to let me finish this.

I’m back. Now, where were we? Oh yeh, we have to gently warm this casserole, top with broken chips, and then warm it again before serving.

Really folks, it doesn’t get much easier than this. This casserole provides the goodness of fresh fruit and veggies, high quality, low fat protien (except for the cheese and mayo), and outstanding flavor. Here’s what the finished serving looks like:

Looks good enough to eat, doesn’t it. My dear wife adores this stuff. I’m pretty fond of it myself. And I know, that once you try it, you will love it too.

But remember what this blog is all about. Take this recipe, and learn from it. You now understand that sweet and savory go suprisingly well together. so try substituting canned Mandarin Oranges for the grapes, or cubes of freshly sauteed pork for the chicken. add finely chopped onion instead of onion powder. In short, play with it and make it your very own.

For our next lesson, we will make the humble potato into a work of art. Ever hear of cammel-back potatoes?

So until then, eat healthy, and eat well. And don’t forget that golden rule, “No Other Success Can Compensate for Failure in the Home”

G.W. North

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 45– Fruits & Vegetables, Vegetable Sides


Hi everyone.  Ready for a great new lesson?  I have got a great meal planned for tonight.  Due to the fact that New York Strip was on sale for $3.95 per pound, as a slab (yes that’s cheaper than ground beef, Martha), I have the makings of a great meal, with great veggie sides.

See, you didn’t believe me when I said I was going to give you some great vegetable side dishes that will make for a great meal.

Now calm down everyone.  I’m going to show you how to make just two of an endless variety of vegetable side dishes that will pleas the most discriminating of tastes.  And best of all, this is an inexpensive meal that is fit for my wife.

Hey, wadaya mean it’s just the wife.  My wife is my life, and is to be treated with the utmost respect.  She is of more worth than any King, Queen, or president, period.  And if you don’t treat your wife that way, then you are not treating her right.  But hey, this is a cooking lesson, so let’s not digress.

What I am planning is  New York Strip Steak, grilled to perfection over hot charcoal, with a foil-pack of buttery carrots and zucchini, and finally, diced potatoes roasted to smoky perfection.  And here’s how we will do it.

First, I light my fire.  At my house, I don’t mess with charcoal fluid.  I simply lift the bottom grate, the one that the charcoal sits on, and place four sheets of balled up newspaper in the bottom of my Webber Kettle charcoal grill.  I then pour enough used cooking oil onto the paper to let it soak in.  Then, place the place the grate back on top.  Cover the grate with charcoal, and light the newspaper with a long-neck lighter through the bottom air vents.  Now, place the top grate in and just walk away.

Peel and wash one russet potato per person.  Dice into bite-sized cubes.  Place the potato cubes into a pot with just enough water to cover.  Add 1 tsp. salt to the water.  Place the pot over medium-high heat and cover.  Bring to a boil and let boil for ten minutes.  Drain and set aside.

While the spuds are cooking, wash one zucchini squash, and two carrots.  Cut the stem-end off of the zucchini, and slice 1/2 inch rounds.  Peel and cut the ends off of the carrots, and cut into similar sized rounds.  Then cut the carrot rounds in half, as they won’t cook all the way through by the time the zucchini is done.  

Next, place the zucchini and carrot slices onto a 2 foot long slice of heavy duty aluminum foil, shiny side in.  Add 2 tbs. of butter, and a dash of salt and pepper to the veggies.  Fold the long ends of the foil toward the center, and roll the foil together from the ends, downward.  Now, fold the open sides inward, joining the top and bottom foil sheets together so as to fold them together.  Fold twice, pinching the seams hard to seal.

Lightly butter a cast iron pan and add the potato cubes to it.  Take the pan and foil pack to the barbecue grill.  Place the pan directly over the fire, and the foil off to the side.  Cover with the lid, that of course has the vents open.

Image

Now don’t those potatoes look gorgeous after five minutes or so on the grill?  That foil pack is just steaming away, cooking the carrots and zucchini to perfection.

Prepare your steaks by lightly seasoning both sides with salt and pepper.  Stab the seasonings into the meat with a fork.  Stab it all over.  Now go and check your potatoes.  They should be ready to turn over.  Make sure to cover the grill after turning over the potatoes.

Ok, now that the spuds are turned,  Let them cook for another three minutes.  After the three minutes have elapsed, Use a very good hot pad to remove the potatoes from the grill, pan and all.  Pour the potatoes onto a plate and set aside.  Turn over the foil pack.

Place the steaks directly above the charcoal and cook for three minutes with the cover on.

Image

  Flip them and cook for four more minutes.  Remove the steaks and foil pack from the grill to a serving platter.  Close all grill vents to smother the fire.  You can use that charcoal again.

Dinner is ready to serve.
Image

I am so sorry for the lack of quality in that last photo.  I just couldn’t get the camera to focus in the light that was available.  But you should be able to see how colorful, and deliscious this plate of food really is.  If not, put your nose to the screen and sniff real hard.  Maybe you’ll be able to smell the great aroma.  Although, that never seems to work for me.

The beauty of this meal is that it has outstanding flavor, ingredients, and nutritional value.  And at the on-sale price that I got this meat, it’s a cost effective meal as well.  By cooking the squash and carrots in the foil, we essentially steamed them, which is the most flavorful way of cooking veggies, in my opinion.  The meat was grilled over and open fire, which let most of the fat drip down into the charcoal, which in turn created that flavorful smoke that gives fire-grilled meat that superb flavor that we all know and love.  And finally, the potatoes picked up some of that smoke flavor, and were browned beautifully, without a lot of fat.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson, and will make it soon.  You can cook any number of vegetables in a foil pack.  I’ve even been known to throw a fresh-caught and cleaned brook trout in a foil pack with butter, potatoes, and carrots, all seasoned with a little butter and salt.  Delicious.

So, as always, until the next lesson, eat well, eat healthy.  And remember that profound statement spoken in years past by a truly inspirational man, which I have been improperly quoting, David O. McKay; “No Other Success Can Compensate for Failure in the Home”.

G.W. North

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 44– Fruits & Vegetables, Corn II


In our last lesson, I spoke more about what corn is, and exposed you to various ways to cook it.  So for today’s lesson, I will give you a lab exercise, in other words, I give you a recipe to make that features corn in a truly wonderful way.  Janet, what’s your favorite way to eat corn?  On the cob. with butter and salt.  That’s definitely a favorite of many.  Bill, how about you; what’s your favorite way to enjoy corn?  You like it mixed in to a salsa.  Interesting, and tasty.

So, have any of you had corn pudding?  No?  well you’re in for a treat.  This dish will combiner a couple of techniques that we have used.  We will be using flour and eggs to thicken the dish into a firm custard with great flavor.  If your enjoy comfort food, then this recipe is for you.  But I won’t tell you to make it often.  This is a dish to make for a special occasion, such as Thanksgiving, or a holiday.  It is rich and high calorie.  But then again, so is lasagna.

Veronica, do you have your 8X8 casserole dish, or a 9 inch cast iron pan?  Good girl.  We are ready to start making our corn pudding.  Here are the ingredients:

6 tbs. unsalted butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk

5 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

5 large ears of corn, husked (If fresh corn is unavailable, use one 15 oz. can of sweet corn, and creamed corn.)

Preheat your oven to 350′ F.

If using fresh corn, coarsely grate 3 ears of corn into a large bow.  With a sharp knife, holding the remaining ears, one at a time, vertical, slice the corn kernels into the same bowl.  if using canned corn, and cream corn, simply pour each into the bowl.  Melt the butter and add it with the remaining ingredients into the bowl with the corn, and stir together to form a batter.  Pour the batter into the buttered casserole dish, or cast iron pan.  Place into the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  Serve directly from the pan or casserole dish with some good, fried chicken, or come country style pork ribs. 

And I know that some of you won’t yet know how to prepare fried chicken, or country style ribs.  We’ll get to that when we start talking about meats.  So this dish would be great to take to a pot luck, or family gathering, where everyone is bringing something.

Our next lesson will feature our final corn recipe.  What will that be?  Hmmmm.  I think we’ll use a kind of corn that you may be unfamiliar with.  I’m thinking that hominy will show you just how versatile this veggie is.

Until then, remember, eat healthy, eat well.  And don’t forget my favorite quote: “There is no success outside the home that can compensate for failure within the home.

G.W. North

 

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 43– Fruits & Vegetables, Corn


Hello everyone.  Today, I’m going to give yo a real lesson, something you can use now, and in the future.  I promised all of you that I would give you the knowledge to become a skilled cook.  I can’t do that by simply giving you recipes.  So, instead of just a recipe, I am going to teach you about some of the techniques that can be used to prepare corn into wonderful dishes that you will be proud to serve.  We are also going to learn about corn, what it is, and how it can be used to make so many things.  So get your pens and pencils ready and sit up straight.  Here we go.

Corn is a grain that acts like a vegetable.  So let’s start with how it can be used in that form.  Sweet corn is the kind of corn we think of when we want to serve it at barbecues, and with chicken.  It is readily available still on the ears, normally called – corn on the cob, and both as a frozen and canned product.  It can be cooked in a host of ways, such as on the grill, steamed, fried, boiled, baked, and put into soups.  It is also great when made into corn pudding, and creamed corn.

Sweet corn is a starchy grain with substantial amounts of sugar in it.  It comes to us by various, descriptive names, such as “peaches & cream”, sweet corn, yellow corn, shoe-peg corn, etc.  Each of these types vary in how sweet they taste, but are all fairly sweet.  Let’s start with corn on the cob.

Corn on the cob is corn that is still attached to the ear of corn, or corn-cob.  It can be found still in the husk, and already shucked (with the husk removed) and packaged.  When purchasing corn on the cob, look for bright, firm corn kernels that are plump and juicy.  Corn that is not fresh will lose moisture and flavor, and can be tough to chew.  I always by my fresh corn still in the husk because it gives me more cooking options.  Plus, I save and dry the corn husks to make home-made tamales. 

Once you’ve selected your fresh corn, you have multiple cooking options.  The goal is to heat the corn sufficiently to kill any microbes that may be lurking around, while still providing a crisp, and flavorful ear of yummy corn to everyone at the table.  So ow do we accomplish that goal?

Here is a list of ways to cook corn on the cob: grill over hot coals, or gas, steam, boil, microwave, bake.  Which is the best method?  In my humble opinion, they are equally good.  You only have to understand how each of them work.

My dear mother always boiled her corn for at least fifteen minutes.  The corn was very tasty, but had lost some of its crisp texture.  And until I was on my own, and experimenting with food, I thought that her corn was the standard for all corn on the cob.

In my wife’s family, they also cooked their corn on the cob for ten minutes, and no more.  The corn was crisp, and had more flavor than what I was used to.  That became my new standard.

As time went on, I was exposed to corn that was steamed in foil, with butter.  Usually, it was overcooked, and somewhat mushy, but had fair flavor.  I tried that technique, but baked the corn for only ten minutes at 350′ F.  That corn was very tasty, but also very similar in flavor and texture to the corn that was boiled for ten minutes.

Next, I was introduced to corn that was removed from the husk and grilled over charcoal.  It was Ok, but usually was a little scorched, not my favorite technique.  But others love it, and who am I to say that it’s wrong.

All of these methods involve cooking the corn with the husk off.  My daughters learned from their own friends that corn could be grilled with the husk still on.  The corn was simply soaked in a bucket of water for 30 minutes or so, and then placed over the hot charcoal and turned every few minutes until a total cooking time of 15 minutes had been reached.  The corn was cooked by the steam trapped inside the husk, and it tasted about like corn that had been boiled for ten minutes.  But it was a great way to prepare corn outside on a hot day.

Finally, I was wondering one day how it would be if I cooked corn in the microwave.  So I removed the husk from an ear and put it into the microwave over for five minutes, on high.  It was Ok, but a little overcooked.  So for the next ear, I left it in the husk and cooked it for the same amount of time.  It was perfect, again, just like the corn that was boiled for ten minutes.  I found that this cooking technique works wonderfully when you want to cook a single ear, or maybe two, for a quick lunch.  You don’t have to dirty any pots or pans, or wait for water or the oven to heat up.  But it is a very ineffective way to prepare corn for a large crowd, as you can only fit, maybe three ears of corn in the microwave oven at a time.  You can boil ten ears or more in a big pot.

So, now you understand that no matter how you cook your corn, if done properly, any of the above techniques will give you about the same quality, and flavor.  You just have to decide which method is best for the occasion.  If it’s winter, and your want a little extra heat in your home, fire up the oven, or put a pot of water on to boil.  The extra moisture in the air will be a good thing.  If it’s a hot summer day, fire up the grill.  Just make sure that the corn has been soaking in a bucket of water for thirty minutes before you start cooking it.

Try these techniques, and the different varieties of sweet corn that are available as fresh ears, still in the husk.

In our next lesson, we will talk about sweet corn, off of the cob, and how to remove it if it’s still on the cob.  Until then, eat well, and eat healthy.  Remember my favorite quote: “There is no success outside the home that can compensate for failure within the home.”

G.W. North

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 42– Fruits & Vegetables, Award Winning White Chili


Ok, class quiet down.  Missy, please put your phone away.  No texting in class. Seth, do you have enough gum for everybody?  I didn’t think so.  Besides, you won’t need gum after reading today’s lesson, ’cause it’s a yummy one, and possibly, in my humble opinion, the very best way to cook up a mess of veggies.  Today, we’re talking chili!

Now I know what you’re thinking.  You can pick up a can of chili anywhere.  There are several brands on the supermarket shelves that you only need to open up, put in a pan, and heat.  Then you’re good to go.  But I’m telling you right now, there is no comparison to any chili you get in a can, and a good bowl of red, or white chili.  What you can make at home is so much more flavorful, and full of good, healthy, nutritious, and delicious ingredients, and tastes so amazing that stories have been written about it.  And if they haven’t, they should be.  Jamie, honey, that’s your assignment for this week.  I want a short story written about chili on my desk by next Thursday.

Alright then, let’s get to it.  Chili is a dish that was originally made from beef, and chili peppers, by cowboys driving herds of cattle.  As you can imagine, the chuck wagon didn’t carry as many good things as your local grocery store.  They could carry lightweight items such as herbs, spices, dried chilies, and a bit of water.  They made what could be easily cooked on the trail, in a pot, over a cook fire.  The cast iron dutch oven was the pot of choice. 

So what went into the cowboy chili?  It was a simple dish of cubed beef, chilies, water, and spices.  If the crew was lucky, maybe there was a nearby farm where they could get an onion or two.  Usually, beans weren’t part of the recipe as they took a long time to cook.  Time was not something a drover could spare to spend on meals that required long cooking times.

The chili we see today has evolved by regional likes into a dish that often contains multiple kinds of beans, tomatoes, onions, several kinds of peppers, sometimes rice, sometimes corn, or masa harina (corn flower), and even chocolate.  There are recipes for red, white, and green chili.  There are recipes that will burn from the roof of your mouth, right down to the soles of your feet.  And there are recipes that are so mild, they are almost tasteless. In my class, you will get lots of flavor, with moderate heat.

The chili recipe I give you today, combines flavors that are common to chili, with healthy ingredients that will make take you to your comfortable place.  I developed it for a local chili cook-off, where it won first place in its category.  Unlike most of the white chili recipes that I’ve tasted, it tastes like chili, not like chicken soup with a couple chili peppers thrown in.  Before cooking it, take a look at the ingredients, and try to imagine what they will taste like, before you add them.  Smell the herbs, the spices, each ingredient.   Play the flavors around in your mind.  By doing this, you’ll be teaching yourself an invaluable tool that will help you become the chef you want to be (oh, and “chef” means chief of the kitchen, and in your own house, you are the chef)

 

Remember the rules; gather your ingredients and tools, and make a plan of attack. Make sure your knives are sharp, and your mind is clear.  Are you ready yet.  Then let’s make some trophy winning chili.

G.W’s Trophy Winning White chili

Ingredients:

* 24 oz. (3 cups) Great Northern Beans, cooked

* 24 oz. Pinto Beans, cooked

* ½ cup Salsa Verde (available in most grocery stores)

* 1 large white onion, diced

* ½ cup chopped green onion

* 1 tbs. Sriracha brand Pepper Sauce

* 2 tbs. Coriander,  ground

* 1 tbs. Cumin, ground

* 2 stalks Celery, sliced with leaves

* 1 ½ lb. Ground Beef (80/20 grind)

* 2 tsp. Kosher Salt, or 1 ½ tsp. table salt

* 3 tbs. fresh Cilantro, chopped

* 2, one-inch Serrano Chile Peppers, minced

* ½ tsp. white pepper, ground (or you can use black pepper)

* 2 cups heavy cream (1 pint)

* ½ cup Masa Harina

* 3 tbs. cooking oil

 Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the diced onion.  Sauté over medium heat while stirring until the onion begins to soften (about 2 minutes).  Add the ground beef and flatten out.  Let cook for about 5 minutes and then break it up.  Stir and cook until the meat has lightly browned.  Add the remaining ingredients, except for the Masa Harina, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for two hours, stirring every twenty minutes or so to prevent the chili from sticking.   Taste the chili and correct the seasoning to your taste (add more salt if needed). 

   Place the Masa Harina into an eight ounce cup along with just enough water to form a thick paste.  Stir with a fork until all the lumps are removed.  Slowly stir in two tbs. more water.  This is called slurry.  Stir the Masa Harina slurry into the chili, and again cover.  Let it all cook over low heat for an additional ten minutes.  Stir and test to see if the chili is thick enough for you.  If so, then you are ready to serve up a bowl- full or two to your family.  But remember, like all great chili, this is even better the next day.  So if you can, cool it in an ice bath and place in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s dinner.  Serve it with some good cornbread, or nachos, and some great, sharp cheddar cheese, grated of course.

Enjoy your chili with family and friends, or if they’re not around, with your best dog.  So until the next lesson, eat well, eat healthy; and remember my favorite quote;

“There is no success outside the home, that can compensate for failure within the home.”

G.W. North

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 41– Easter Treat, Amazing Finger Gelatine


Wow!  This year has been crazy so far.  Time and money are at an absolute premium, leaving little time for all of my projects.  I took a stab at tapping maple trees and came up with about enough sap for a cup of maple syrup (but it tasted really good).  I’ve also got a few novels that I’m working on, a house to keep up, and a wife that needs my attention.  And then there’s the skype time with my kids and grand-kids.  Throw a forty hour work week into the mix, and we have a recipe for a very busy blogger.

That being said, I feel I’ve let you, my readers down, and feel a bit guilty about it.  So here’s a recipe that’s easy to make, not very expensive, and is loved by everyone who has tried it.  It’s not my recipe, but is publicly available, but not used by as many people as it could be.  So, just in time for Easter, I give you Knox Blocks, a treat for your tastebuds.

Knox Blocks is a recipe that was made by the Knox Gelatine company and makes a finger gelatine that tastes just like the gelatine you are used to, rather than the super concentrated kind you get from using less water in a standard gelatine recipe.  The beauty of this gelatine is that it is stable at room temperatures.  You can pick up a piece with your fingers and eat it like a licorice stick.  Knox Blocks makes a fast, and great snack for kids while they’re sitting in a shopping cart, or in the back seat of your car.  They’re great any time, and not just for kids.  Just ask my family.

Here’s how you make them.

Ingredients:
3 pkgs gelatine, any flavor you want.
4 packets Knox brand Unflavored Gelatine
2 cups boiling water
2 cups ice-water

Lightly grease a 9 X 12 rectangular cake pan.
Heat 2 cups of water to a rolling boil.  Turn the heat down so that the water is gently boiling.Dissolve the gelatine and unflavored gelatine in the boiling water.  Stir for two minutes to make sure it’s completely dissolved.  Add the two cups of ice water and stir until mixed in.  Pour the gelatine into a 9 X 12 cake pan and place into the fridge to cool for about 2 hours.  Remove from the fridge and cut into 2 inch squares.  Remove from the pan to a platter and serve.

You will love the texture of these finger gelatine squares.  We have egg-shaped molds that we fill with the liquid gelatine.  After the gelatine has set, we un-mold beautiful finger-gelatine eggs that are nearly see through.  We make up several flavors, like strawberry, lime, orange, grape, and lemon.  We often change the flavors, and sometimes get creative.  We half fill the mold, let it set in the fridge until firm, and then fill the rest of the way with another flavor.

Just be assured, however you make them, your crew will love them.

So, until the next lesson, eat well, eat healthy.  And remember my favorite quote;
“There is no success outside the home, that can compensate for failure inside the home.”

G.W. North

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 40 – Fruits & Vegetables – Citrus Base


If you haven’t read lesson 39 yet, you really should.  You will be rewarded with an amazing carrot cake recipe.

For this lesson, I’m not going to give you any pictures.  What I am giving you is a recipe that I created just two nights ago.  My wife and I loved it.  I served it up to company last night and they asked me to make more.  This stuff is sooooooo good.

What’s that Angie”  You want me to stop talking and get on with the recipe?  Well alright then.  But first let me state that this mix of fruits can be so easily altered, and adapted to everything from fruit smoothies, to a home made frozen fruit-pop, to a sauce topping for cooked shrimp or pork kabobs.  I made a punch out of it.  This recipe makes enough punch for two adults.  Alter the amounts as needed by doubling, or tripling the ingredient amounts.

Ingredients:

1 blood orange

1/2 lemon

1/2 lime

1/8 cup plain yogurt

2 cups water

Sugar or your favorite sweetener to taste

Peel the blood orange and place into a blender.  Squeeze the juice from both the lemon and lime halves into the blender.  Add the yogurt, the water, and cap the blender.  Blend on high for thirty seconds.  Chill until ice cold and serve in a nice glass.

Last night, I forgot to bring the yogurt and substituted a banana.  Everyone loved it.  Personally, I liked it better with the yogurt.

To turn the basic citrus mixture into something else, simply omit the water, and add other ingredients to make it work for your application.  For instance, if you want to turn it into a glaze for grilled shrimp, add 1/ tsp. of salt, and brush it onto the shrimp kabobs as they cook over hot charcoal.

Another tasty way to make this a glaze would be to add garlic powder to the fruit ingredients, along with a little chopped onion, and brush it on chicken before baking it to perfection.

You could also make this into a wonderful relish by adding some blueberries and maybe cranberries to the mix, and gently pulsing it.  Then use it over pancakes or waffles.

I’m thinking this would be great mixed with some whipped cream to make a fruity moose.  Oh the possibilities are endless.  But first, try it as a punch.  You will instantly fall in love with both the natural red color from the blood orange, and the flavors that blend into perfection.

Until the next lesson, eat well, eat healthy.  And remember:

“There is no success outside the home that can compensate for failure within the home.

G.W.North

 

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 39 – Fruits & Vegetables – Carrot Cake


What!  Carrot Cake!  How does that fit into our category, fruits and vegetables?  i mean, it’s cake!
Hold the phone Alice.  This lesson will show you that veggies are much more versatile than most people would ever think.  They can be used in savory dishes, as wonderful sides, in soups, and in deserts.  We are simply using a sweet, and nutrient rich veggie to make a desert.  So, here’s how we’re going to do it.
Carrots are a member of the class – root vegetable.  They are starchy, and store much of their energy needs in the form of starches and sugars, all located in the root, that part that we eat.  Similar vegetables include turnips and rutabagas, beets, potatoes, celery root, onions, etc.  In fact you could easily substitute some of these for the carrots in this recipe.  I would be willing to substitute beets for the carrots.  I think it would make a very colorful, and tasty cake.  I just might have to a bit of experimenting.  But don’t worry.  This recipe is delicious, and has been proven by baking the cake, and serving it to a great number of people, with its wonderful cream cheese frosting.

This cake uses two leavening agents to make it rise to perfection, baking powder, and baking soda.  The baking soda reacts with slightly acidic carrots, and crushed pineapple, balancing the batter and allowing the baking powder to do its work.  Remember way back in the lesson group where we worked with quick-breads, and I told you that if you add acidic ingredients, you have to ballance the batter by adding an alkali.  This recipe is a perfect example of that principle.

The eggs in the recipe add body, loft, and improve the crumb, binding together the starches to the pineapple and pecans.  The yolks also emulsify the cooking oil, allowing it to blend with the other batter liquids.

The original recipe I was given for this wonderful cake had so much cooking oil in it that you could squeeze the finished cake like a sponge, and oil would drip out.  I took one bite and through that cake away.  Soooo, what do you think I did to solve the problem?  No Freddy, I didn’t rub it around in my hair to slick it down.  Not all of us live in the fifties.

Karen, how do you think I solved the problem?  What’s that, add more flour?  I could have.  But then I would have had to add more of everything else.  I didn’t want to do that.  Too much math involved.  Instead, I decreased the amount of oil in the recipe by half.  I baked the cake and it came out moist, tender, and very tasty.  To this day, I use the altered recipe, and everyone who eats that cake is happy that I do.

Here’s the ingredient list:

Dry Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger (optional)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (optional)
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (optional)

Wet Ingredients:
3/4 cup oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1 tbs. dark molasses (optional)
1/8 cup pineapple juice

Fruit & Nut Ingredients:
2 cups finely shredded carrots (about seven carrots)
1 cup chopped walnuts, or pecans
1/4 cup crushed pineapple

Assemble your ingredients. 

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the oil and eggs into a large bowl and whisk until well blended.

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Add the cinnamon into the batter.

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  Add the pineapple and 1/8th cup of pineapple juice.  This make it easy to blend these ingredients into the batter.  Combine all of the dry ingredients into the same bowl and whisk until blended. 

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Fold in the grated carrots, then the remaining fruit & nut ingredients. The final batter looks like this.

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Grease and flour a 10 inch spring form pan, or a 9 X 12 cake pan.

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After pouring the cake into the pan, bounce it lightly to remove any air bubbles.  Now, pop that baby into the oven for an hour.

Ok, the cake is baking.  Though the cake is yummy enough to eat without frosting, his cream cheese frosting compliments the carrot cake so perfectly, that it’s almost ridiculous not to use it. 

Now I have to confess something.  No Angie, I don’t smoke cigars behind the woodshed.  My confession is much more serious.  I made the frosting wrong and took my final picture for this lesson with the sub-standard frosting. So the picture you see isn’t what the cake looked like in the end.  What I had done wrong was try to make my frosting from memory.  I added twice the butter than was called for in the recipe.  It tasted great, but was too soft, and too thin.  After frosting the cake and taking the picture, my dear wife pointed out my mistake.  She dug out the recipe  and I perused the ingredient list.  I had all of the correct ingredients, just double the amount of butter needed.  So I removed as much frosting as I could from the cake and put it back in the bowl.  I doubled the remaining ingredients and mixed everything completely.  The frosting came out silky smooth and tasted wonderful.  I spread that frosting on the cake, very artistically I might add, and took it to a church pot-luck.  It got eaten ridiculously quick and got me rave reviews.  I even had one lady tell me she didn’t like carrot cake.  But if the cake looked like it had good frosting, she would take a piece and eat the frosting.  She ate all of my carrot cake and asked me for the recipe.  You will get the same kind of responses from this cake.  Just remember, my version, as good as it is, is just a starting point.  You can change it.  In any case, here’s the frosting recipe.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
3 cups Powdered Sugar
3 tbs. whole milk
½ cup sweet-cream, unsalted Butter
16 oz. Cream Cheese

Melt butter.  Add the cream cheese and stir with wire whisk, or beat with electric beater until well combined and smooth.  Combine the milk and powdered sugar.  Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Slowly Mix the powdered sugar syrup into the cheese mixture until all is silky smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Heat to room temperature before spreading.

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Until our next lesson, eat well, eat healthy. And remember:
“There is no success outside the home that can compensate for failure within the home.

G.W.North

G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 38 – Fruits & Vegetables – Vanilla Baked Sweet Potatoes


Remember way back in lesson 1 or so, when I suggested that you learn to recognize different herbs, spices, and flavorings? Well I hope you took that advice to heart. Today’s lesson is Vanilla Baked Sweet Potatoes.

Now Jamie, what do you mean, yuk? Have you ever eaten sweet potatoes flavored with a hint of good vanilla? I didn’t think so. So shush!

Now i know that there are a host of people out there who don’t like sweet potatoes. I mean, they’re orange, or yellow, or something like that. I’ve also heard them described as slimy. I ask you, is that any way to talk about one of the powerhouses of nutritious vegetables?

Do any of you like pumpkin pie? Yes, that would be all of you. Good. Did you know that cooked and mashed sweet potatoes can be used in place of cooked and mashed pumpkin to make that pie. Of course then, it’s call a sweet potato pie. But you would be hard pressed to tell any flavor or textural difference; and both are delicious.

So, if you want to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the nutritious, and delicious sweet potato, look it up on line. That’s not why we’re here.

One warm summer day, while I walked beside a shimmering brook that teemed with the flash of rainbow trout, a beautiful young maiden came up to me and said; “Kind culinary master, I have discovered a wondrous way with which to prepare that most noble of veggies, the sweet potato.

Being the kind culinary master that I am, I said gently to the lass; “Get out of here woman! You’re scaring the fish; and I want fried brookies tonight.”

Ah, no. I’m just kidding. But in truth, my eldest daughter did call me on the phone and said something like; “Dad. I just made this recipe with sweet potatoes and tried it out on my room mates. They said that my new recipe made the best sweet potatoes that they’d ever had.”

My dear daughter also loved them. I had to have the recipe. But that part was easy, as my daughter, just like me, loves to share good things.
So what is this magical recipe, you ask? Come closer. I don’t want to have to repeat myself. The secret is pure, vanilla extract. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

Enough foolishness, G.W. These people want to know what you have for them.

“That’s either my conscience telling me to get to it, or my wife. Either way, on with the show.

This recipe uses the subtle flavor of vanilla to enhance the natural sweetness of the sweet potato. And yet, it’s not cloyingly sweet like the sweet potato casseroles that you grew up with, swimming in brown sugar and topped with marshmallows. No, these flavors are gentle, refined. This is almost a savory dish, but not quite, that will tickle your taste buds, and the back of your sinuses with the aromatic flavors of sweet potato, vanilla, and butter.

Ingredients:
2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 stick of butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

Use a small portion of softened butter to coat the bottom and sides of a round casserole dish.

Now, peel and slice the sweet potatoes into thin rounds, like you would for fried potatoes. After the potatoes are sliced, arrange them in layers. Notice how I started the bottom layer in a kind of flower, or star-burst pattern. This is so that when the casserole done, and inverted onto a serving platter, you will have a pretty flower that sits on top. Artistic, ain’t I. I was taught by a rascally groundhog.

Anyway, keep layering on the sweet potato rounds with pats of butter sprinkled on every layer, like in the pictures below.

Finally, after all of the sweet potatoes are layered into the dish, they are almost ready to be baked, but not quite yet. Pour two tsp. of pure vanilla extract into a small container. Now, carefully drizzle the vanilla all over the top of your casserole. Cover the dish securely with aluminum foil, shiny side in, and place into a 375 degree F. oven.

Bake this delicate sweet potato dish for forty-five minutes. At the end of the cooking time, remove the dish from the oven and let it cook for about ten minutes (or use a couple hot pads). Invert turn upside down) the casserole dish over a suitable serving platter.

Now I was going to show you this picture of a beautiful mound of sweet potatoes, all sitting atop of each other to form an elegant display, with a floral design on top, like what the sweet spuds looked like in the first photograph. But both gravity and viscosity conspired against me. After inverting my casserole onto a platter, and removing the dish, my beautiful sweet potato artwork slid sideways in every direction. it seems that sweet potatoes don’t stick firmly together as do white potatoes. And kids, I’m just not showing you that picture. Fortunately, the potatoes all stayed on the serving platter and filled the hungey bellies of our guests, who didn’t care about the presentation after the first bite. They just wanted those sweet spuds. I was able to salvage pieces of cooked sweet potato slices to again form that flower that was supposed to grace the top of my vanilla-baked sweet potato casserole.

Ah well.It just goes to show you that no matter how much you know about cooking, not everything you make will come out perfect. Sometimes, you just have to settle for something that tastes great.

Next lesson, let’s talk about my unique, and scrumptious egg rolls. But know in advance, once you try these, you might not be able to enjoy those served on the Chinese Buffet, especially with the pineapple sweet and sour sauce that goes with them.

Until then, eat well, eat healthy. And remember, “There is no success outside the home, that can compensate for failure within the home.”

Seeeeya; G.W. North