I posted a video of this apple corer/peeler/slicer last November, but I’ve been using it a lot of late to make baked apple slices. It is just the coolest and funnest tool.
First you use the lever to stick the unit to the counter. Then you release the handle so you can draw it all the way back. Next, spear the apple’s center on the prongs.
Here’s a little video of how it works—note that it was clumsy to turn the crank and video the action at the same time—which caused part of the peel not to be…peeled. That doesn’t usually happen. And it is easy to just slice off that bit of peel with a sharp knife.
I cut the apple in half and then separate the slices. The core will pull off the unit easily.
The baked apple slices were and are delicious.
Next up: a new compost pail. This one is stainless steel so it won’t rust. And it is made from one piece of metal, so the joins won’t rust. The handles are really sturdy and won’t come off. And in that big top, there are TWO carbon filters: a square on in the very top, and a round one at the edge. Reviewers online say the filters last 4 months and longer.
You can see the depth of the top here.
The round filter fits into groves on the inside of the top—so it will stay put and not fall into the compost.
AND, the unit holds more than my last one, so there are fewer trips out to the compost bins back of the garage.
There are daffodils EVERYWHERE in my yard, and they are so pretty with their bright, happy flowers dancing in the spring breeze.
It started with thinking about a dessert I could give to a visiting friend that we could both eat.
Baked, whole, cored Granny Smith green apples. We both stuffed the cores with butter and maple syrup, but my friend could add dried fruit and spices if she liked. And she did.
They needed something cream after baking, so I bought a pint of Haagen Dazs vanilla as it is the ONLY ice cream in our local grocery store that isn’t full of fake ingredients and additives. It’s still…real food.
I moved on to using my apple corer that peels and slices and baking the thin slices with butter and maple syrup. Delicious.
But I’ve got a fair amount of frozen fruit in the freezer, so why not add those to the mix?
Peaches, cheeries, blueberries, and strawberries…
And this pan produced 4 rich desserts topped with the HD ice cream.
YOU could add spices…
Like cinnamon and/or a little nutmeg.
Or toss with sugar, which I don’t use.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. I didn’t cover my pan.
Creative Cooking: Roasted Cauliflower and Garlicky Green Beans
Note: oops. I wrote this post back on April 12 and forgot to post it the next day. That would be about the time I started having issues with a crowned jaw tooth that needs either a root canal or to be pulled. I’ll try the root canal first, even though I’m so not a fan of root canals. But the tooth is the last tooth in line and provides a lot of chewing territory. Life is full of bad choices one has to make, but we make them and move on.
The other day I went to grill some lamb chops at noon, only to realize the propane tank was empty and had to be replaced.
Here’s what I had for lunch anyway:
I pan fried the lamb chops in my cast iron skillet and roasted a cauliflower head. Lamb has good fat it renders quickly, so no extra fat is needed in the skillet.
For the cauliflower, I started to heat the oven at about 400 degrees, and while waiting for the oven, I just sliced the cauliflower head into “steaks” about an 1/2-inch thick, put them on a flat pan (covered with parchment paper), sprinkled with salt and herb mixtures, and drizzle then with a good olive oil. I also use my convection oven feature, but you don’t have to. Convection makes the oven hotter faster. Indian spices are also really good when roasting cauliflower—I wish I could use them.
After about 10 minutes in a really hot oven, check the cauliflower to see if the bottoms are browning and turn them over. You want the pan to be hot as the beautiful browning comes from the bottom, not, so much, the top. Don’t let the bottoms burn in a hot oven.
It does not take long to cook cauliflower at high oven heats—maybe 25 minutes or less.
I order my olive oil in gallon jugs from Organic Roots—and it is absolutely delicious. Mostly I just use it to dress salads, but I did use it for this cauliflower, and it was really good. Olive oil is pretty fragile, so I never sauté with it. And a jug like this one lasts me, living alone for the most part, about a year.
Also, know that most olive oil you find in the supermarkets has been ”cut” with inferior veggie oils. You can research that for yourself, and there is plenty of information about that problem with olive oil and, also, with honey. Commercial seed oils are so not healthy for you—and you can research that problem for yourself too.
I’ve really enjoyed buying frozen packages of these organic string beans (and corn too) all winter. I just put what I want for few days in a saucepan, cover the beans with water, bring to a boil, and drain immediately. Then I have ingredients to add to a meal or to salads.
Once drained, I dress the warm beans with finely chopped garlic, herbs (dill is lovely), salt, and the Organic Roots Koroneiki olive oil. One could add other ingredients as well: chopped onion, some sweet red/orange/yellow peppers, etc. Just use what you have on hand.
In this meal pictured above, I also had already cooked some of the frozen corn (also heat just to boiling and drain) so I just combined the beans and corn.
I replaced the propane tank when it finally stopped raining. The new one is really heavy to drag up the hill to the back deck—but I managed. It’s also heavy to lift to the spot on the grill where it hangs, especially as that spot is under a permanent shelf that gets in the way. But this time, all went really well, and I grilled some hamburgers Saturday to put on my lunch (which is now my main meal of the day) salad.
Boy did those hamburgers smell good. Like, sun and summer.
I like having what I think of as ”assets” in my kitchen.
The leftover gravy from the recent lamb shanks and leeks cooked in the Instant Pot would be such an asset. And I knew I would have that leftover gravy, so I planned for it by making sure I had a package of meat to use, just as I knew I had those garlicky green beans in the refrigerator when I made the lamb shank dish in the first place.
I will often add other ingredients to assets to make new and different meals. And in this case, I made a rich and hearty soup that extended the life of the gravy. A soup is a whole new asset in and of itself.
First, I defrosted a packing of lamb stew meat—part of the whole lamb I get in the fall. I could also have used ground lamb. Or even, ground hamburger.
I chopped up some additional savory veggies (onion, carrot, celery) and sweated them out in my Creuset cast iron enamel pot—using beef tallow as my sauté fat. I added herbs and salt, of course. And when the veggies were starting to color up/carmelize a bit, I added in the meat—which cools down everything.
I cooked that mixture until the meat started to brown and most of the liquid in the pan was cooked out.
At this point, I add in the leftover gravy, more water to make the ”soup,” and a package of frozen mixed veggies I had in the freezer.
Heat the soup until it comes to a hot simmer, and it is basically done. Look at that gorgeous broth color.
I didn’t add something white (potato, cauliflower, rice) as the gravy was thickened with sprouted rice flour in the first place. But what is fun now is to add things into your bowl of soup.
In this case, I added some grated mozzarella cheese and some pasta cooked on the side before I added the soup.
If you add pasta to a big pot of soup, it cooks ”out” pretty fast—in that it dissolves into the broth—as you reheat the soup—which means you lose the ”al dente” of the pasta. Here I used a bit of rice pasta macaroni—as that is what I had on hand that also needed to be used.
And, as I don’t want soup where the whole of it has been repeatedly reheated (that’s a histamine issue, in part) I only heat what I’m going to eat for a meal. I also don’t want for soup to hang around very long (another histamine issue), so I opt to freeze portions to have in the freezer for other meals. Plus, by freezing some if needed, I don’t get tired of a big soup and can move on to other cooking/eating.
I added in some raw heavy cream for another bowl of soup. What gets added into or onto a soup is only limited by a lack of imagination. One could add bacon crumbles. Or top grated cheese with some chopped green onions. Or add different spices: like hot pepper, cumin, any of the Mexican or Indian spices. Or add in beans. Or do all of the above. You could also put the soup over a bowl of noodles or spaghetti and top with whatever goodies float your boat at the moment.
The main goal is to have rich, nourishing food that makes you feel happy when you eat it.
My daffodils are up and some are blooming. I picked this bunch Tuesday in the pouring rain after running an errand. They are still beautiful and fresh today, Friday. And I have so many daffs that I will have flowers in the kitchen for some time now.
And—local peep—right up the hill from me is Golden Brook Flower Farm where the greenhouses are full of gorgeous flowers. This sweet bunch of tulips came to my house Wednesday and are also still just gorgeous today. Look at that beautiful tulip color. They came with very long stems, too, so I could have used a tall vase for them if I had wanted to.
Yesterday I cooked two lamb shanks and leeks in the Instant Pot—and increased the cooking time to 40 minutes this time. The shanks were tender to the bone with the addition of 5 minutes. And the meal was delicious and produced leftovers.
I cooked the carrots separately, drained them, and added them to a bowl big enough to hold the whole recipe when ready to be combined. I added the garlicky green beans (see earlier posts) I had on hand to the carrots while the lamb and leeks cooked. I browned the shanks in the Instant Pot in beef tallow while the 2 large leeks, with some chopped garlic and salt, cooked in lamb fat in a pan on the stove—lamb fat saved from an earlier lamb dish. When the leeks were golden, I added some water that would pick up all the browned (not burned) goodness in the pan. When the shanks were brown, I added the leeks and garlic, about 3 cups of water, herbs (a dried Provence mixture that includes some rosemary and lavender), salt, and several tablespoons of sprouted brown rice flour to thicken (you could use flour), and cooked for 40 minutes. I let the pot sit for 15 minutes after the 40 minutes were up before releasing the steam. I always turn off the ”keep warm” button as there is no need for it.
Then I just combine all the ingredients and enjoy my meal. I’ll have enough for one more meal with the second shank—and I’ll reserve the extra broth and make a soup with it and some fresh lamb meat pieces I had in the freezer. I’ll sauté those with savories and more veggies and will have a nice soup for at the very least another day. Or, two.
I’m hand sewing binding on the last baby quilt and will mail two quilts to a niece soon now. The larger one will be for her little girl toddler. Pictures will follow receipt of these two quilts.
And now I’m making fun Churn Dash blocks from all those strips I cut. It’s a good thing I’m happy making these blocks as there are A LOT of cut strips in the two sizes I need—along with a lot of cut center squares and fabrics reserved for more of those. These are all Cotton+Steel/Ruby Star Society fabrics from my stash—and the goal is to use them up and/or combine the remnants with the rest of the stash.
It is just so fun to combine these fabrics to make cute 7 1/2 inch finished blocks. I’m thinking 90 blocks, or 9 rows by 10, which will make a good lap-size quilt. Of course blocks will be moved around a lot along the way.
There is actually a lot to look at to figure out block placement. The color, dark and light placement, the centers, the intensity (or not) of the block.
Betsy Maislen, from Vermont, came to visit for a few days.
And to pick up a sewing machine she bought from a friend here. Her old machine, with which she started quilting, finally died.
Going from a very old machine to the Janome 8900 has been like going from a Model T car to a space ship for Betsy. It was so fun to watch her delight as she began to sew on her new machine.
We set up a sewing station for her downstairs:
And she went home with this top for a baby quilt—Wendy Sheppard’s ”Whirlygigs,” found in Simply Moderne magazine, No. 26.
I really like how the white squares are forming a very interesting pattern in the center of this baby-sized quilt. There are just so many geometric shapes that titillate the eye in this pattern: x’s, o’s, paddles.
I worked on the longarm while Betsy was here—and finished quilting and trimming ”Pot-Pourri 3.” The binding went on after Betsy left on Tuesday and after I had done my weekly cleaning/laundry tasks. So I now have hand sewing for night tv watching.
Here’s a sneak peek at one of the Churn Dash blocks for ”Eye Candy 3.”
Some days before Betsy came, I got really hungry for a pasta salad. I have to use rice pasta, but I’ve gotten used to it over the years. It is softer and if overcooked can get gummy. I love to use crisp veggies in a pasta salad: celery, onions, carrots, colored peppers (red, orange, or yellow). I add some roasted meat, like chicken. And those tiny organic green peas that are in the freezer section. And lots of herbs—with good olive oil. Sometimes I add some grated mozzarella cheese.
I didn’t have green peas or roasted chicken on hand, so I fried a small cube steak and but it up. I put the salad on a bed of mixed lettuce, and it was delicious.
For the leftovers, and after a trip to the grocery store, I added a hamburger patty and the little peas.
And while she was here, Betsy got roasted lamb, baked potatoes with raw butter, tiny new asparagus, and baked apples with vanilla ice cream. (Haagen-Dazs vanilla is the only ice cream I can find that has real ingredients and not a lot of fillers meant to substitute for actual cream.) And, for lunch before she left, we had a big green and veggie salad with meat from a just-cooked spatchcocked chicken.
First think yesterday, AC and I did the errands—after it warmed up just a bit. It was 6 degrees!!! here on the hill this morning.
On Fridays, I pick up my weekly dairy from Fresh Off the Farm.
But today I stopped by Hannaford’s first to get one of their organic chickens. I seem to be roasting a spatchcocked chicken fairly frequently this winter—about every 10 days or so.
On the way to FOTF, I stopped to fill up Girlie with gas—she was nearing the half-full mark. The bill was under $18, and I can’t remember the last time I topped her off. It’s been quite a while—several months at least. She is now plugged in so her battery will get filled up again. When I reviewed records during the tax process, I could see that since April 24th when I picked up Girlie (Toyota, Prime, Rav4 plug in hybrid), I have not yet spent $100 on gas. She plugs into a 110 volt outlet in the garage, and, no, I have not seen a big increase in my electrical bill. Plus, I got a $7,500 tax rebate on my fed taxes.
I had, on hand, a butternut squash from Hope’s Edge (local CSA) that also really need to be used. Roasted butternut squash cut into cubes and roasted is like eating candy—they are densely sweet and yummy.
And in short order, there was…food…for a Friday main-meal lunch…and for leftovers for supper, for Saturday, and probably Sunday lunch.
The wings and the drumsticks are my favorite pieces. I just gently boiled the Brussel sprouts, but when drained, I topped them with raw butter and some Penzey’s Sunny Paris.
For the butternut squash—which cooked alongside the chicken in a separate pan as the squash does not need as long a cooking time as the whole chicken (which using convection heat takes the chicken about 45 minutes). I check the chicken at about 35 minutes and baste with the pan juices.
***Roasting Butternut Squash***
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and seed it, then cut ”rings” of about 1 inch down the length of each half. Turn a ring on its side and slice off the peel. Cut each peeled ring into chunks and put these chunks on a baking pan covered with parchment paper for easy cleanup. (I have not used aluminum foil for cooking in about 20 years—it is toxic.)
Chop some garlic into fairly fine chunks and add to the squash. (Garlic falls into my category of ”there is no such thing as too much.”)
Herbs make this dish sing—and the best go-to herb for this dish is fresh rosemary. In the absence of fresh rosemary, use strong herbs or dried herb mixtures you like. Don’t use too much oregano though. It is the wrong taste for this dish; its strength would mask the sweet taste.
Sprinkle with salt—I like to use a little coarse ground sea salt. Go easy on coarse salt. And drizzle with a good olive oil. I use a spatula to mix all the ingredients.
Pop into the oven (350) and keep an eye out, especially if convection is used. When the cubes are sizzling and starting to caramelize, take the pan out. You can always pop it back into the oven for a few minutes to reheat if you need to. It usually takes about 30-35 minutes in my oven. Watch, as you don’t want the cubes to get too soft—so a higher heat and shorter cooking time works best. The convection makes the heat higher—so if you don’t have it, maybe roast without the chicken at about 400???
AC’s current crop of toys has long been reduced to shreds of their former selves.
Thursday when AC and I ran the errands, I stopped by our local Loyal Biscuit to replace his puppy harness as he had chewed the front strap into two pieces when he was a puppy. The strap has been held in place by duck tape for the past 2 1/2 years. It was time for a nice adult harness, since his chewing of inappropriate things seems to have stopped. He will be 4 next month.
I got the harness ok—a really nice one. But I also came home with the three toys you can see leaning against the green bed. The two flat toys (each with two squeakers) were left over from a package of five over a year ago. I hesitate to give him toys with squeakers as I need to be around to retrieve them when he gets them out of a toy.
The green frog is made of a really tough material, stronger looking than a heavy canvas. The tan ”bone” is meant to be chewed. And the elephant has some sort of plastic in the ears that crinkles. I assumed all of the toys would be dismantled in due order.
I set them up while AC was outside and let him in to see them.
It is clear that I am easily amused. He had all but one of the squeakers out while I ate lunch. I think there were 6 or 7 in all.
It is now Saturday, and we had a lovely snow day all day yesterday. I completely quilted and trimmed one of the baby quilts yesterday, and in a bit now I’ll go put on the binding and label. AC hung with me on his bed in the quilt room yesterday, but played with his toys when we went upstairs for lunch.
I think he loves the green frog the best. He carries it everywhere I go—up and down the steps as I move around the house. AC has some sort of rule that if he travels the stairs (up or down), he needs to bring a toy with him. That’s hound behavior I think. Or, retriever of some sort. Terriers don’t really carry things in their mouths all that much.
By yesterday, the toys showed his intense interest. As fast as I pick them up, he drags them out of his play bucket and puts them at my feet. I think his goal is to entice me to enjoy the toys with him—which does happen with his balls.
Uh oh! He breached Frog’s seams.
I’m eating lunch late today, Saturday, as I went out to retrieve my weekly raw cream and some kale for soup. I made the broth this morning—using the package of frozen chicken bones I defrosted over night and the fresh bones from the leg of lamb I cooked Wednesday. I’ve never mixed up bones—but the soup broth is really lovely.
As usual, I packed the developing soup with lots of veggies, and I added 4 chicken thighs as well. The kale almost didn’t fit, so I had to add it a little bit at a time when the liquid level dropped a bit while the veggies cooked. Finally all the kale melted down into the soup pot.
And here is my beautiful bowl of lunch-time soup—with the meat taken off one of the thighs that cooked in the pot.
While I ate, AC played with his toys. Elephant lost a leg, but the ears still crackle. And Frog’s seams have been breached further, and the squeaker removed. I used to restuff toy bodies and sew up the seams, but no more. It’s a total waste of time.
And now AC is taking a little rest in his bed. He was asleep until I walked over there with the camera. If I move, he knows it.
He’s rested now, and is ready ”to go” again. It’s time for me to pull off some of the soup for my dinner and to store the rest in the refrigerator. And to clean up the kitchen and make a cup of coffee to take to the quilt room—after AC and I take out the compost bin to the containers back of the garage.
Slowdown Farmstead, on Substack, has some lovely, lovely writing. Tara’s farm is in Canada, somewhere near Ottawa. Her post this morning was all about making and storing bone broths—a task she does in the summer and where she makes enough for the whole year. I learned two really interesting pieces of information I didn’t know: don’t make the broth in a stainless steel pot because it will leak a little of the metal, which can be toxic if you get too much over time, AND use glass bottle containers with NO SHOULDERS as they can and do break in the freezer—something I’ve had happen many times now. She mentioned a brand name of jars she has found work well.
Remember the chicken carcasses and bones I’ve been freezing?
I have two now, plus some chicken bones added in from other meals. It’s time to make chicken soup, so I defrosted the bones last night.
*Note that I cook by method, so just read the whole recipe, then if you must, create a list of what you need or would like.
Today dawned with icy slush and rain, so the trip I was going to make to get some chicken thighs to add to this soup will not happen—especially after my morning police call (to see if I’m ok) said ”Stay Home today.” And when I ventured out to the garage, I saw why: 2 inches of slushy ice rested on the driveway. It will freeze later, and…oh my.
So, I’ll make the soup from what I have here in the house. First, cover the bones with water, add some salt, bring everything to a bubbling hot, turn down to a simmer for at least 40 minutes. (You could also add savory veggies at this point, but I’m in a hurry as today is also cleaning/laundry day, and my veggie supply is limited. Note that after cooking you would discard these savory veggies.)
Yes, those are the giblets wrapped in paper—which I had to remove. But look at all the lovely fat coming out of the bones. Skim as needed.
Meanwhile, assemble the veggies you want to have in the soup. Here’s what I had on hand. I’m eating the rainbow today! The radicchio is going in as it needs to be eaten, and I thought its bitter taste would add some interest. I later added in some frozen corn too. I’m finding in winter I would rather have these organic frozen veggies than the tired veggies shipped in her from the other side of the world. I wish I had some celery though, especially with a chicken-based soup.
I will saute these in the duck fat I keep on hand. And I will use a big dollop, probably about 1/4 cup, as I do not want my veggies to burn in the pan. And based on a lot of research I believe clean animal fats are really good for you. (See Mary Enig and the Weston A. Price Foundation for more information.) Except for really good olive oil and coconut oil and red palm oil, I avoid the plant-based oils. I cut the greens off the 3 leeks before I took this picture. More on leeks down the page.
Leeks are in the allium family—along with all the onion and garlic vegetables. This family provides us rich sources of the sulfur that has been so depleted in soils. And sulfur is crucial to good health. Some cannot tolerate the allium family—if you can’t, you likely know that by now. (If you are interested in the sulfur issue, go to Stefanie Seneff’s web page for more info—she runs a research team out of MIT.)
Leeks can have some dirt in the end toward the upper green stem—so take a close at the inner layers of the stem so you can rinse out the dirt. Or, put the cut bits into a strainer and wash the dirt off there. Don’t be afraid of getting some dirt into the mix if you see some on the cut leeks in your pan. Remove and rinse the offending piece then. Actually, there are lots of goodies in dirt, and too many of us don’t get these critters anymore, which is why swimming in ”wild water” is a good idea. I cut mine in half and ruffle the green end to check for dirt. If the dirt isn’t gritty, which I don’t want, I don’t get too picky.
No dirt here:
AC is well aware of everything I do at all times.
With these veggies, I want to saute the veggies that need more cooking first (leeks, onion, garlic, carrots, cauliflower), and then add in the more tender veggies—in this case the cabbage, the yellow squash, the red pepper, and the radicchio. Frozen veggies go in last. Remember to cook down the veggies, without burning, until they start to turn golden and ”grunge” is forming in the pan. Then start adding in the more delicate veggies, turning and stirring until they, too, sweat out and melt down. Last, in a cooking whim, I added about 1 1/4 cups of short grain brown rice and turned it around in the hot veggies for a bit—just to give it some flavor too. Too much rice, and the mixture will become thick and lose its liquid—just add more water after all is cooked.
Here I added some ladles of broth to stop the cooking and to get all the good grunge loose in the pan. A big ladle like this one is a go-to tool in my kitchen.
I strained off my broth. Look at the beautiful color, even after only 40 minutes of simmering. And the trip to the garage was to put the kitchen garbage in the bins out there. Chicken bones will smell in a few hours.
I now clean my pot and put all the ingredients into it, including the frozen green beans and corn.
Bring the pot up to a simmer so the rice cooks—taste as you go along—it will take about 25 minutes to cook rice. Otherwise, simmer until the carrots are soft—that doesn’t take long. DON’T COOK TOO FAST OR TOO HOT. Taste to check on the herb and salt levels. If you wanted to use fresh herbs, here’s where you would add them.
When the rice is done, the soup is done. So, ladle up yourself a bowl and enjoy!
Tomorrow I’ll probably buy some boned chicken (I would prefer thighs) and add it to the soup. So I’ll just refrigerate the pot of soup when it cools. To this basic soup, you can also add a bit of cream. Or, an egg yolk beaten into a bit of some hot soup in your soup bowl to give a velvety smooth texture and lovely taste. Then add more soup. Added cheese is nice. Without the rice, putting hot soup over noodles is nice.