Friday, January 30, 2015


I have to be honest with you. I don't like moving out of my comfort zone. Heck, some days I don't like getting out of my pajamas and doing grown up things, but at my age, I have to admit that am actually a grown up. I am prone to getting panic attacks in social situations. Going to large parties and clubs where I don't know many people freaks me out. In some ways, social media has helped me get over the initial discomfort and awkwardness, simply because I've often had the chance to get to know people, and they me, before actually meeting in person. Sometimes that is all the push needed to get me out of my comfort zone to do something that scares me.

In a very uncharacteristic move, I actually applied to be one of the Ignite speakers at Fitbloggin in Denver this year. This week they announced the first seven people chosen, and I am lucky enough to be one of them. This both thrills and terrifies me. Will this event be something that transforms me from an introvert to an extrovert? Not likely. But it will help me grow. And hey. What's the worst thing that could happen? Last year I barked like my boy Bear to win a bag of dog goodies in from of a room full of Fitbloggin people. Speaking should be a piece of cake.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Southern Flavor, Lickety Split

I had a dilemma. A couple of dilemmas, actually. When I went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for my bolognese, one of the items I purchased was pancetta. The guy at the deli counter must have been new, because he over-sliced and I ended up with half a pound of pancetta instead of a quarter pound. So, what to do with all of this pancetta? My second dilemma is one that vexes me continuously. My refrigerator freezes my vegetables. I have had to ditch too many bags of salad greens because they get frozen. Moving the bags around doesn't seem to change the fact that greens get frozen in my refrigerator. I had a large bag of collard greens sitting there that needed to be cooked before the damage was irreversible. Pancetta, meet collard greens. Collard greens, meet pancetta.

Southern Style Collard Greens 

2 slices of pancetta, diced
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large bag of collard greens (I used Glory brand) very well rinsed *
3 cups chicken stock
1 t liquid smoke
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 red pepper flakes
3 T red wine vinegar

* some recipes suggest you soak the greens for 30 minutes before cooking them.

With your cooker set to saute,  brown the pancetta, rendering the fat, for about 3 minutes. Next, add the diced onion and sliced garlic and cook until soft, this should take about 5 minutes. Be careful that you don't let the garlic burn. Add in the rinsed greens, smushing them down in the pot, along with the stock, liquid smoke, Worcestershire, red pepper and vinegar.

Secure the lid to your cooker, and lock it in place. Set it for 20 minutes at high pressure.  After the cooking is complete, turn it off, letting the pressure release naturally.

Word to the wise, let it cool just a teensy bit before you dig in. "Pot likker" gets mighty hot. And it's mighty tasty. The steam was rising off the pot. These greens were so tender, they practically melted. And they didn't take 2 hours to cook, either.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quick(er) and Easy Bolognese Sauce - Oh, Yes, I Love My Kitchen Gadgets

The other evening, The Aussie and I were strolling down memory lane via Google Maps in satellite view. We used to work in NYC, which is light years away from the Texas suburbs. We love living in Texas, but we really miss all of the old places we used to go. Especially our favorite restaurants. It was good to see that some of them are still there, years later.

Our favorite Italian restaurant has changed, unfortunately. New name, new menu. I used to order the old restaurant's pappardelle with bolognese sauce. Oh, it was good.  In honor of the old restaurant and the many meals we enjoyed there, I wanted to make a bolognese sauce last night. Traditionally, bolognese takes at least an hour and a half to simmer on the stove. I have seen some recipes that call for 4 hours of cooking. I had (almost) enough time to make it on the stove, but I really wanted to see how it would come out in the pressure cooker. Brilliantly well, as it turns out.   

Bolognese Sauce

1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb ground pork
3 oz pancetta (or bacon) chopped
3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped *
1 onion, finely chopped *
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 cup red wine
1 cup stock (I used chicken)
1 T oregano
olive oil
salt to taste
1/2 cup milk

To Do:

* Being the gadget hound that I am, I put the carrots and onion in to my Ninja and blitzed them until they were very finely chopped. If you don't have any sort of food processor, finely chop the onions and carrots.

With the pressure cooker insert in place, heat up the cooker on saute. Add a small drizzle of olive oil and let it heat up. Put the pancetta in the pot and cook until fat starts to render off, about 5 minutes.

Next, add the onion and carrot mixture and the minced garlic, cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, to cook out some of the moisture.

The ground pork and ground beef go in next. Browning the meat should take about 10 minutes, and while it browns, use your spoon to break the meat in to small pieces. The tomato paste can be added halfway through the browning.

Finally, the red wine, stock, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, and a big pinch of salt go in. Mix thoroughly.  (Don't worry about the milk yet, it goes in after you pressure cook the sauce)

Double check that the gasket is in place, put the cover on your cooker, and move it into the locked position. Turn the cooker on to high pressure and set the timer for 30 minutes.  

Because I am impatient, I used the quick release method to let the pressure out of the cooker.  The beauty of electric pressure cookers is that you can't open the cover until the pressure is released.  They may not cook at as high a pressure as older style pressure cookers, but you won't have to worry about scaring yourself. *boom* They can make a very loud noise when you open them too soon. Not that I ever did that... nope... must have been someone else... *looks around whistling*

Once the pressure is released, open up the cooker. Select simmer, stir in the milk, and let the sauce cook down for 10 minutes or until it reaches a consistency that you prefer. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Please excuse the less than brilliant pictures. They just didn't design home kitchens with food bloggers in mind when they built our house.  If you aren't a fan of pasta, or if it isn't a fan of you, this sauce would be fantastic on spaghetti squash or zoodles.

If you are looking to prepare this on the stove top, use a heavy bottomed pan, such as a dutch oven, with a cover. Follow the same steps, but the milk can be added after about 30 minutes. Simmer on medium low for at least 90 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it isn't sticking on the bottom of the pan.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It's rich, hearty, and not too tomato-y. The perfect thing for a winter dinner.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Seriously? Yup. Seriously.

After having a blog for several years, I just figured out how to add tabs. Seriously?

Yup. I know. Seriously. So, one of the tabs I added is called "Cookbooks I Love." I am a self-described cookbook hoarder. Just the other day, a food blogger I know on FB asked if people still, in this digital age, use cookbooks. I responded that yes, and I had just bought four cookbooks (from BandN) and two e-cookbooks that day. What makes this all really amusing is that my husband is such a meat and potatoes type of eater. Roast it, bread it and fry it, serve some fries with it, and a small side of one of the few vegetables he eats with it. Why I have SO MANY cookbooks is really beyond me, but for the fact that I do enjoy reading a lot of them. I almost never follow a recipe exactly, so they are more there to keep me company while I cook, like cooking friends. Clearly, I have a lot of cooking friends.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Red Beans And Rice - But Not On Monday - Axis Of Ineptitude

Today's prompt for Axis Of Ineptitude is "Soup For The Soul." What better to feed the soul than something delicious, warming, and spicy, that could have been a family tradition, passed down from your grandparents.

From what I have read, traditionally, red beans and rice were cooked on a Monday, because Monday was laundry day, and the pot of red beans could cook on the stove without a lot of fuss. I don't know if that's how my grandmother's family did it, but they were from Louisiana, so I'd like to think they did. Now, I have to admit, while I did cook red beans and rice yesterday, I did not do any laundry. I also did not cook it on the stove. And it didn't take hours and hours to soak the beans and to cook. In fact, from start to finish, it took about two hours. In a pressure cooker. Yup. A pressure cooker. That means you don't need to soak beans overnight before you cook them. Hooray for gadgets.

My electric pressure cooker has different settings, including saute, so I started with the "trinity" of chopped celery, onion and bell pepper, about a cup of each, and cooked them down in a drizzle of olive oil (no, not bacon grease last night, although I could have used that), for about five minutes.

Next, I added a package of smoked ham hocks. That was a first for me, let me tell you. I stirred that around a little, then added a large link of andouille sausage, cut in to half in sliced rounds. Next in to the pot was a couple of bay leaves, a tablespoon of cajun seasoning mix, a tablespoon of dried oregano, and a tablespoon of garlic powder.

Finally, I added a pound of dried red kidney beans that I had rinsed off, a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, and 6 cups of water. Here it is, ready to put the cover on. It looks like a lot of liquid, but the beans will soak up a lot of it.

It's the final countdown.... Just kidding. I have the lid on and locked, and have set the cooker on high pressure for 90 minutes. I've read anywhere from 60 minutes to 90 minutes for timing, but since I didn't pre-soak the beans, I wanted to make sure they would be well cooked and soft.

After 90 minutes, presto. You have red beans and rice with amazing flavor. At this point, I removed the ham hocks. For extra yum factor, I sliced up some smoked ham and mixed that in.

Served over some hot rice, it's smoky, spicy, cream, meaty. Delicious. Truly, a soul warming dish. Not soup, but for the soul...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Capsule Kitchen - Could I do this?

I stumbled upon something that intrigued me today while I was searching for information about what appears to be a capsular kitchen. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything about this neat little Jetsons type kitchen, but I did find something else using the term capsule kitchen
I have no idea where this picture came from, it was in an email forwarded to me
As it turns out, there is a challenge put forth by a blogger, Be More With Less, to choose 33 items, food and drink. Water, spices, condiments and flavor enhancers, that you use in small amounts, etc, don't count as part of the 33. Then, you plan your meals around these items. The aim is to do this for 3 months. I thought it would be interesting to come up with my list of 33. I'm glad that spices and such aren't included, because I use a lot of spices in my cooking. I'm guessing that cooking oil isn't supposed to be included either, since you don't actually eat the oil.

dairy cheese
dairy milk
dairy sour cream
dairy yogurt
fruit banana
fruit berries
liquids coffee
liquids juice
liquids wine
protein almond milk
protein bacon
protein beef
protein chicken
protein eggs
protein lamb
protein protein powder
protein salmon
protein shellfish
seeds/nuts nut butter
seeds/nuts sunflower seeds
starch flour/bread
starch oats
starch peas
starch rice
starch sweet potato
starch white potato
vegetable broccoli
vegetable tomatoes
vegetable green beans
vegetable leeks
vegetable mushrooms
vegetable onion
vegetable salad greens

I am sure that I'm missing something that, if I didn't have it I would be absolutely devastated. Oh, crap. I left dark chocolate off the list. I can consider cream cheese a cheese, right?

Oh, to tie this in to today's Axis Of Ineptitude prompt, "gratitude," I am profoundly grateful for the abundance in my life. I have the opportunity to make a list like this, not wondering where my next meal is coming from. I am grateful that I have a stocked pantry. I am very blessed.

What would you put on your "33" list?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Axis Of Ineptitude Strikes Again - Book Quote

I never took French in high school. What is left of my three years of Spanish would enable me to ask where the bathroom is, but probably not understand the response I would receive to that question. So it's a bit strange that one of my favorite quotes is from a French children's book.

source Google images
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince