Sunday, January 24, 2010

Black Eyed Peas


Black Eyed Peas, a classic Southern staple, are traditionally made on New Years Day to usher in and bring luck to the new year.  These were not made on New Years Day.  This Vegetarian Slow Cooker has never made or even tried black eyed peas before today.  Black eyed peas were but one of  the abundant varieties of dried legumes featured in the Winco bulk bins. Accomplished Southern cooks say that making these correctly results in a bean gravy.  They are supposed to be filling and comforting.  Traditional recipes always involve a meaty ham hock and, more often than not, a lot of sausage. This adaptation tries to create a similar, if not perfect, replication of the flavors from those absent meat components.

The beans were soaked from afternoon until just before bedtime.  Then everything was tossed in the crock and they cooked on low all night and through the morning.  They were ready at late lunch time. 

Winner, Loser or Meh

These were very good.  Not having had the original, I can't make an informed comparison, but I loved these! They were so soft and tender.  The sausage was just okay - not my fav.  I can't tell how much the Boca sausage added to the flavor of the bean gravy. Uncle Meat & Potatoes, a major bean lover, enjoyed these very much as well.

Recipe:

I used a 6 quart crock for this

Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb dried black eyed peas
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 Tbls white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbls brown sugar
  • 1.5 ounces imitation bacon bits (about 1/2 a jar)
  • 8 oz package of Boca meatless breakfast links, cut into chunks
  • Kosher salt to taste, about 2 tsps
  • 2 Tbls butter or margarine
Soak the beans overnight covered by 2-3 inches of water. Drain the bean water and add the soaked beans, 6 cups of water, and all other ingredients.  Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ooglash


What the heck is this you ask? The entire extended family, aunts and uncles alike, love, love, love a 50's style ground beef concoction Grandma Yan made as a weekly kitchen staple while they were growing up. She calls it "Goulash". The entire family calls it "Goulash".  When assorted family members venture back to the Owens Valley for a visit, they call ahead and request a huge pot be on the stove when they arrive.It was time for a meatless adaptation.

This Vegetarian Slow Cooker called her Grandma today to get the original recipe. " Oh...you know, it's all the same stuff that's in stuffed peppers," she said, and proceeded to talk enthusiastically and appreciatively about her new blanket.  At an appropriate break in the conversation, she was asked for specifics about the recipe. She quickly rattled off a proportionless list of ingredients, and without missing a beat, changed course, gleefully recounting her adventures with the new blanket. At the next conversational break, she was asked about ingredient proportions and said absently, "Oh, you know, a bunch of ground beef .... a can of tomatoes in the blender....," and then went right back into blanket revelry. For those who might not have guessed, she loves the new blanket. 

Research on authentic Goulash reveals it to be a Hungarian chunk beef stew that usually has potato as the starch component.  There are numerous Americanized versions of Goulash, and they all have ground beef and starches ranging from potatoes to macaroni, but never corn.  There is only one thing unilaterally common to all Goulash recipes, be they American or Hungarian, and that is paprika. Yan's "Goulash" has no paprika. Its only starch is corn.

For search engine purposes, calling this Goulash didn't seem right and renaming it  "Goolash" seemed even worse.  So because everyone in the family loves Yan's recipe, but especially our recently departed Uncle Oog, (yes that was his real family nickname), its new Vegetarian cyberspace name is "Ooglash".

Winner, Loser or Meh

Three authentic family members love this and have eaten the entire batch in under 20 minutes. Yes. All.Of.It. Grunting Junk Loving Teenager, the one with the broken leg whose wisdom teeth were removed yesterday, jumped the gun and started back on solid food as soon as this was finished.  He had two bowls and returned to his temporary couch ridden life of pain relievers, warm saline oral rinses, jello, and Madden NFL 10.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes, second only to Oog in his love for the original recipe,  has declared it "very, very good." Ya think?

Recipe:

I used a 6 quart crock pot for this

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled, diced
  • 2 green peppers, seeded, diced. (I used one green and one red pepper)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can tomato puree, Italian style
  • l lb bag frozen sweet corn
  • 2 12 oz packages frozen Morningstar Farms Grillers Crumbles
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onions and peppers until onions are translucent and peppers are softened.  Add garlic and saute for a minute or two more.  Add this and all other ingredients (yes put the stuff in frozen) to the crock.  Stir. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 7-8.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mandarin Orange Curd


Family Grays Anatomy bonding night. There is no question that this experiment in curd was inspired by Grandma Yan's Lemon Curd, a drop dead winner if there ever was one.  Confession: It was equally, if not more inspired, by the fact that it was already 6PM and there was nothing in the crock on this fifth day of unrelenting wind and rain.  No crock plans had been made, pantry supplies were low, and the cook is tired. Auntie EQ had some aging Mandarin oranges lying around, Gray's would be over by 10 PM, so this became tonight's dessert plan by default.  Announcements were made by this Vegetarian Slow Cooker that a new curd would be started. Silently, Auntie EQ got up, reached into the freezer for her stash of rice flour, and started working on a new batch of Scottish shortbread.  The unspoken symbiotic bond between us grows stronger each day.  Keep in mind that culinary inspiration such as this is usually not based on considered and informed flavor profiles. Let's hope for the best and expect the worst.


Winner, Loser or Meh 

The flavor was mild, light, barely present orange.  I doubt this would happen with an orange like a Valencia.  Mandarin oranges are very mild as it is. It also curdled slightly (see photo and edges of the Pyrex) so the instructions to whisk once after an hour will need to be modified and it should be whisked every 15 minutes.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes liked this better than the Lemon Curd, claiming it was less sweet.  It had the exact same amount of sugar as the Lemon Curd, so I am not sure what he was tasting.  The rest of us like the Lemon Curd best.  This experiment needs work.

Recipe

I used a 5 1/2-6 quart crock for this

Ingredients
  • Juice and zest of 4 Mandarin oranges
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 Tbls butter
  • 4 eggs
Turn crock heat to high. Pour enough very hot tap water into the crock to go 2/3 up the outside of an empty 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (or similar heat safe bowl). Put orange juice, zest, butter, and sugar into the 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (or other heat safe bowl) and set it inside the hot water filled crock. Cover the crock with its lid and cook for about 30 minutes, until the butter and sugar have melted and dissolved. Stir the orange mixture well. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Add a few tablespoons of the orange mixture to the beaten eggs while stirring vigorously to temper the eggs before adding to the orange mixture in the crock. Then, slowly pour the egg mixture into the orange mixture in the Pyrex while whisking the contents of the Pyrex. When everything is well blended, cover the Pyrex with foil. Cover the crock with its lid and reduce temperature to low. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, whisking after about an hour. Towards the end of the cooking time, whisk well and test to see if it is done. It is done when the orange curd coats the back of a spoon. Makes about 3 cups. This will keep for about 3 weeks, covered in the fridge.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Glazed Carrots



What's up Doc? More vegetable side dishes.  One pound bags of organic baby carrots were $0.99  today.  Auntie EQ has a few tablespoons left of home canned Orange Marmalade made by her brother, Treasured Landscape Visionary.  Hopefully the combination will be a match made in heaven. 

Winner, Loser, or Meh

These were good.  We all liked these. They have a  light natural sweetness to them.  If I make these again, I will add a little fresh ground nutmeg just before serving.  If you are expecting a heavy syrupy style glazed carrot dish, this is not your recipe.  If you want a light natural and slightly sweet accompaniment to a meal, these are the ticket.

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2 -3 quart crock for this

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 2 cups very hot water
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 3 Tbls butter or margarine
  • 2Tbls pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 3 Tbls orange marmalade
Put first 3 ingredients in crock. Cover and cook until carrots are tender about 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.  Stir in remaining ingredients and cook on high for 30 minutes.  Serve.

Bavarian Red Cabbage (Sauerkraut)



Time for some vegetable side dishes to be used with meals later this week.   This is a variation of a classic subtle sauerkraut  recipe accompaniment to pork dishes. Butter or margarine and some soy sauce was substituted for the traditional bacon grease. It can also be chilled and served as a cold side dish.

It's cheap and easy.  Everything can be tossed in the crock in the morning and left to cook on low all day.  It can also be started in the afternoon and left to cook for a few hours on high.

Winner, Loser, or Meh 

These were very good.  I just really wanted traditional pork sausages to go with it.  I am saving this batch for tomorrow's dinner. Uncle Meat & Potatoes liked this and wants some Polish Sausage to put it on. I may be off to Trader Joes in the morning to find some mock pork sausage.  Any readers who want to chime in with some great tried and true mock pork sausage recommendations will be greatly appreciated.

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2 - 3 quart crock for this and it was packed to the brim.

Ingredients:
  • 1 small head red cabbage, cored and sliced into strips
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, diced
  • 1 cup very hot water
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbls butter or margarine
  • 1 1 /2 Tbls sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
Add all ingredients to the crock. Stir. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Serve.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lemon Curd


A year after leaving for college, and shortly after moving into an apartment, loneliness and homesickness settled in for a long unwelcome stay. Longing for the comforts of my childhood haven, a call was made to Grandma Yan  (Yan 1, Yan 2, Yan 3).  Her comfort and advice frequently sought, she administered a loving dose of laughter and good cheer. She was asked to send a few easy recipes so that the mastery of inexpensive home cooking could begin.  A few days later, an envelope arrived with an assortment of her left hand written recipe cards. French Onion Soup, Clam Chowder, and Lemon Curd were amongst them.  On the card for Lemon Curd, she noted: "Delicious!  Eat this with cookies, (or biscuits as they are always called by the English)  and a good hot cup of tea."   Over the last 30 years, her sound advice on this matter has been taken often .


This is an experimental crock adaptation of Yan's Lemon Curd.  It was assembled in a few minutes using fresh lemons from Meticulous Yard Man Neighbor's backyard tree.  The batch was left in the crock to succeed or fail during tonight's airing of American Idol auditions.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

This is simply divine.  So much simpler, easier, and foolproof than the double boiler stove method. Three of us ate warm spoonfuls while making love sounds. Uncle Meat & Potatoes and I  had visions of  eating this warm, slathered over shortbread, during tomorrow night's continued  American Idol tryouts.  Auntie EQ suggested we mix it with Greek style yogurt because "it would be more healthy".  I scowled. Uncle Meat & Potatoes announced he would pick up 'Nila Wafers on the way home from work. Accepting that she was outnumbered,  Auntie EQ came to her senses and reached for her privately printed family recipe collection which has a top secret authentic Scottish Shortbread recipe, one that came over on the immigrant's boat. (Cheat:  The secret ingredient is rice flour) Living for tomorrow!

Recipe:

I used a 5 1/2-6 quart crock for this

Ingredients
  • Juice and zest of 3 large lemons, unwaxed (Like the ones from the backyard)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 Tbls butter
  • 4 eggs
Turn crock heat to high. Pour enough very hot tap water into the crock to go 2/3 up the outside of an empty 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (or similar heat safe bowl). Put lemon juice, zest, butter, and sugar into the 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (or other heat safe bowl)  and set it inside the hot water filled crock.  Cover the crock with its lid and cook for about 30 minutes, until the butter and sugar have melted and dissolved. Stir the lemon mixture well.  In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Add a few tablespoons of the lemon mixture to the beaten eggs while stirring vigorously to temper the eggs before adding to the lemon mixture in the crock. Then, slowly pour the egg mixture into the lemon mixture in the Pyrex while whisking the contents of the Pyrex.  When everything is well blended, cover the Pyrex with foil.  Cover the crock with its lid and reduce temperature to low. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, whisking after about an hour.  Towards the end of the cooking time, whisk well and test to see if it is done. It is done when the lemon curd coats the back of a spoon. Makes 3 cups. This will keep for about 3 weeks, covered in the fridge.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ranch Potatoes


This was a complete experiment, not expected to turn out well.  It was never planned as a serious contender for today's evening meal.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes and Auntie EQ went to Grunting Junk Loving Teenager's football awards night.  The Spinach Fluff had been consumed, Auntie EQ had a pasta and cheese casserole and then there was a mad dash out the door  for the awards.  The potatoes would be finished sometime after 9 PM, around the time everyone was scheduled to return.  When they returned, Uncle Meat & Potatoes asked for some potatoes.  We dished up some bowls.

Winner, Loser or Meh

Everyone had 3 bowls.  I guess they were our dessert.  I thought the flavor was a bit too strong from the ranch mix and maybe it needed less of it, in fact I would have preferred potatoes alone smothered in butter. Everyone else seemed to think it was great.  Note, I had 3 bowls, too.  It was being consumed so fast, I was afraid there wouldn't be any left for a picture.  There are loads of sauce with this, even after the potatoes are consumed.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes wanted crusty bread cubes so that he could pretend the sauce was fondue.  He's likely to get his wish tomorrow.

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2 - 3 quart crock for this.

Ingredients:
  •  2 lbs red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
  • 1 envelope ranch dressing mix 
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • salt & pepper to taste
Spray crock with no stick spray. Put potatoes in crock pot. Mix the ranch mix, cream cheese, and soup together in a bowl until well blended.  Pour over potatoes.  Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours.  Stir and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

French Onion Soup


The rain started today.  Six full days of heavy rain are expected, perfect soup crock weather. In omnivore times, this Vegetarian Slow Cooker made French Onion Soup on a near weekly basis.  It always started with the prior night's crock pot roast juices.  Creating a fabulous French Onion Soup without an animal base has been a challenge.  A small batch was tried last week, using crock Vegetable Stock as the broth component. It was way too sweet and did not have the intense rich flavor of an animal stock.  Today another attempt was made using Vegetable Better than Bouillon and some soy sauce as the broth base.  Do not be intimidated by the length of the instructions below.  This has got to be one of the easiest things to make in a crock.  It is very forgiving.  Start the onions the night before or in the morning.  Even letting the onions sit in the unplugged crock for a few hours or overnight in the fridge won't hurt it.

Most of French Onion Soup fun is the wondrous crusty melty cheese top.  The weekend at Uncle Meat & Potatoes and Auntie EQ's was perfect for taking advantage of their working oven. If you don't have a broiler or oven to finish off the crusted cheese top, add the cheese to the bottom of the bowl, then the crouton, and ladle steaming hot soup on top.   It won't look as spectacular, but it's still a good eat.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was very good.  Good enough to write and post about. We had it for a late lunch and everyone ate it all up very quickly with little conversation until their individual two cup soup crocks were empty. My only complaint is that the Vegetable Better than Bouillon has an intense celery seed like flavor and I was not thrilled to end on those bitter notes. It was, however, infinitely better then the version last week.  Any readers who know of a drop dead wonderful substitute for beef broth in vegetarian cooking, please pass on your finds.  I'd love to try them. 

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this

Ingredients:

See and use Caramelized Onion recipe for the base.  The following amounts for this batch of onion base was cooked overnight on low until it reached the color in the picture below:
  • 3 Tbls butter
  • 5 large onions, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled, minced



After the Caramelized Onion base has finished, add to the crock the ingredients below. Cover and cook on high for about on hour:
  • 1 Tbls soy sauce
  • 6 cups vegetable broth (Vegetable Better than Boullion and water)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
After this has enough time to get simmering hot, add:
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • pepper to taste
Cook the soup covered while the broiler is started, and the below items prepared:
  • 3/4 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 6 slices crusty french bread or 12 large garlic croutons made from single slices of baguette 
Ladle soup into oven safe bowls.  Top with bread slice to fit or two croutons to fit.  Cover with 1/6 the cheese.  Place all bowls on a cookie sheet and place under broiler until the top is brown and melted.  Remove tray from the broiler and using oven mitt place each bowl on a room temperature plate. Serve immediately.