In My Kitchen – April 2019

In My Kitchen – April 2019

Well, as one blogger wrote last month, this should be titled Not In My Kitchen. Why, because I haven’t been very inspired to spend quality time there. Do you ever get that way? The grey days are getting to me and I hunger for fresh tomatoes, basil, grilled food, and a glass of rose sipped on a deck warmed by the sun. Alas, it is not to be for several more months.

Meanwhile the garden provides wonderful lettuce, and kale…lots of kale.

Arugula, radishes, and lettuce

To maximize the deliciousness of that lettuce I purchased a new salad spinner. The old one threatened to jump off the counter whenever I used it and inspired the dogs into fits of barking.

Austrian Technology

The new one is by Mueller from Austria and it is very well made, in fact they mention European craftsmanship in their brochure. While placing my order on Amazon they suggested that other folks who have made this purchase also bought a container for storing the lettuce (those Amazon folks are clever and devious). Anyway, I fell for the sales job and purchased it as well, and I am very happy I did. It does seem to keep the lettuce fresher for longer. I feel a little less guilty because I’m not buying those plastic clam shells of lettuce from the store. I’m on a kick to reduce the amount of plastic that flows through the house, which is very difficult.

Anyway, here it is:

Lettuce keeper

It has a tray in the bottom where you can put a few drops of water. It stores a generous two dinners worth of salad, and we eat a large portion each meal.

 

Lettuce

Lettuce Keeper

All in all I think it is quite clever.

We are eating a lot of wonderful main meal salads.

Typical salad

Also new in our kitchen is this electric kettle. We drink buckets of tea and I find the electric kettles heat water faster than one on the stove, and it lessons the disaster of a kettle boiling dry. A common happening if you (or I) get distracted. Unfortunately they don’t seem to be terribly well made and we have already gone through 2 in the last 12 months. Maybe we just use it very frequently. Hopefully, this one will be different as it was more expensive. We shall see.

Electric Kettle

Meanwhile, soups and chili seem to be on the menu frequently.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Best Ever Chili Without Beans

In My Kitchen is this lovely tea towel, made by my friend Wendy to commemorate our Alaska trip last summer.

Alaska tea towel

And that is about it for this month.

In My Kitchen is part of a monthly review of kitchens around the world. Each month is a fascinating glimpse into what is new, I have learned so much about new ingredients and utensils from reading the posts each month. Do stop in, it’s hosted by Sherry of Sherrys Pickings. And please chat with us about what is new in your kitchen and in your part of the world.

March – Deconstructed Wanton Soup

March – Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Why is this deconstructed? Because it has all the delicious parts of pork wanton soup, but without the wanton wrappers. Leaving those out makes it both gluten free and low carb. I was inspired by a recipe for egg roll soup and thought…why not wanton? This is a lighter version of regular wanton soup, without the wanton wrappers. It’s perfect when you want a quick, healthy, vegetable laden and warming bowl of soup for lunch or a light supper.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound of ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon of neutral oil like grape seed
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 cup of shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of scallions, sliced white and light green portions
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 baby bok choy, rinced and sliced thinly
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil for drizzling when serving
  • chopped cilantro for serving

Method:

  1. Heat the 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a large stock pot or saucepan over medium heat and sear the ground pork until browned.
  2. Add the carrots, garlic, ginger, mushrooms and scallions. Saute until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, and fish sauce.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the bok choy, cook until softened, about 5 minutes. It should still be bright green. if the white stems are large, add them first and cook for a few minutes before adding the tender greens.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup with Wantons

If you want a heartier meal for dinner, extra bulk can be added with a few steamed wantons. A request from the husband when serving for dinner. I found the lighter version perfect for me.

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday would enjoy this, especially anyone wanting to cut down on the carbs. Angie hosts Fiesta Friday and this week her co-host isJhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. It’s Fiesta Friday #270. Click the link to read interesting posts about cooking, crafts and gardening.

In My Garden – March 2019

In My Garden – March 2019

What happened to February?! It simply disappeared in a flood of rain and grey skies (plus we were traveling the first week). In any case, it simply flew by without me getting in front of my computer to write about it. With the cold and wet weather, there hasn’t been much change in the garden. We are having an unusual amount of rain, or at least it is unusual compared to the last few years. Normal for the Northern California coast, Fort Bragg area, is about 40 inches. That is compared to the SF bay area where it is about 28 inches. The mossy low spots in the yard feel like a wet sponge, they squish when you walk on them. My sandy, fast draining sol is saturated. One small blessing is the absence of mud.

Along with the rain we’ve had hail, and even snow once.

Hail on the back deck

The result is some sad looking plants.

Unhappy Baby Blue Eyes

Prevailing garden lore claims that the best time to plant in Northern California is the fall, but I think I will reconsider the recommendation in light of the damage (and death in some cases) of those plants I set in the ground last autumn. Everything planted last spring seems to be surviving well.

This will be a quick update since the cooler weather has slowed down any new growth, with the exception of the bulbs.

The pollinator meadow, which was seeded last fall, will need thinning soon.

Pollinator Meadow

And the raised bed garden is producing lots of wonderful salads. It’s just warm enough during the day for the cool season veggies to be happy.

Raised Beds – cut and come again lettuce and radishes

The peas  are also happy in this weather.

There is a dry gully at the edge of our driveway, no longer dry. Under that protective basket is/was a small veronica bush planted last fall. It liked a moist spot but probably has been drowned under current conditions.

Dry Gully?

Casey and Quinn are overjoyed with their own personal pond for cooling off after a game of catch.

Casey and Quinn in their own personal pond

January – Curried Carrot Soup in the Electric Pressure Cooker

January – Curried Carrot Soup in the Electric Pressure Cooker

I couldn’t believe how flavorful, creamy, healthy, quick and easy this soup was to make in the electric pressure cooker. Mine isn’t an Instant Pot, which I know is all the rage. But it is very similar and works exactly the same way. You could, of course, make it on top of the stove. It will still be delicious and I will include directions for that as well.

This soup is dairy free, gluten free and vegetarian; qualifying it  it as vegan. The creaminess comes from coconut milk with additional richness and flavor from peanut butter. Curry paste and ginger add a touch of spice.

Curried Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

(serves 4 generously, 6 not so much)

  • 8-10 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can of coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of vegetarian broth or water
  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped cilantro for serving

Method:

  1. For the electric pressure cooker – add everything to the pot and set the timer for 15 minutes. When done, let it cool down naturally for 10-15 minutes. Then carefully release the pressure. When cool, blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt to taste. Top with cilantro for serving
  2. For the stovetop – saute the onions and garlic in coconut or other oil until soft. Add the carrots, coconut milk, broth, ginger, and curry paste. Simmer gently until the carrots are very soft. Add the peanut butter and stir to melt it. Cool before blending smooth. Top with cilantro.

Curried Carrot Soup

I am going to take this soup to Fiesta Friday #260 hosted by Angie, the co-hosts this week are:

 Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens

January – Homemade Red Wine Vinegar

January – Homemade Red Wine Vinegar

Did you know you can easily make your own vinegar from any partial bottles of red wine sitting around? Amazing red wine vinegar at a fraction of the price of those imported ones at the gourmet store, and just as good.

In fact, I think homemade red wine vinegar is miles better than the best commercial brand, and only takes a little patience on your part. As well, it a a “live food”, fermented by you. If you have leftover bottles of red wine after pouring a glass or two from the bottle (the wine really isn’t much good after a couple of days whatever method you use to preserve it), this is the way to reduce your waste and get something delicious from your kitchen. Not to mention the cost savings.

My initial crock of vinegar started because of the win of an “instant wine cellar” at an auction and benefit about 4 years ago. I won 100 bottles of wine, some of them very expensive from small boutique vineyards, quite a wonderful windfall. Hooray! Most of them were leftover from auctions and benefits of past years, we were very excited. But…they had not been stored properly; and many of them were “over the hill” or “corked” once opened and sampled. It’s discouraging to open three bottles of expensive wine just to get one that is drinkable. We ended up with dozens of bottles of spoiled wine (that should have been wonderful), but were starting to turn to vinegar. So, what to do? I couldn’t stand the idea of chucking them down the drain.

Enter My Pantry by Alice Waters, plus information from the internet. I was inspired.

Making your own red wine vinegar is easy, white wine vinegar…not so much. I don’t recommend mixing red and white wine together (although Alice does) when making your own vinegar. Start with a simple red wine vinegar. I understand white wine vinegar is much more difficult to get right and haven’t tried it yet. We usually don’t have as much white wine left over since I often use the remainder of the bottle for cooking.

This recipe takes something that you were going to throw away, plus a touch of living vinegar, to make something that will give your food a ton of flavor. No leftover wine? No problem. You don’t need expensive wine, just something hearty and full bodied for the best vinegar.

What you do need a starter or “mother”. What’s that? Mother of vinegar (MOV or Mother for shorthand purposes) is a fermenting bacteria culture used to make vinegar — an acetobacter that develops in fermenting alcohol and converts the ethanol into acetic acid (what gives vinegar its sour taste) in the presence of oxygen. If you have a friend who makes vinegar ask them to share their mother; otherwise do as I first did and use Bragg Natural Vinegar as a starter.

Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

It was even on sale after the holidays.

Bragg vinegar

You can make a small batch but why not make a lot.

Vinegar Crock

I started with a large crock. But I had a lot of leftover, going bad, wine. You can scale up the following basic recipe.

For a smaller batch, say almost a bottle, go with:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups wine (feel free to combine the dregs from several bottles)
  • 1/4 cup of starter vinegar with mother.

Method:

  1. Pour your leftover (not from people’s glasses) wine into a clean wide mouthed jar or crock.
  2. Add starter vinegar.
  3. Mix it all up
  4. Cover with a clean fine mesh towel (secured with a rubber band or string) and let it sit at room temperature, stirring vigorously when you think of it, until a thin, gelatinous film starts to form on the surface. That will form into the mother. You may see it 7-10 days after you begin the process, the time be will dependent on the temperature where it is stored. Start tasting after a month but it may take longer. Be patient. My larger batch took almost 5 months but it is worth the wait.
  5. Once it tastes more like a smooth vinegar and is to your liking, strain (I use a coffee filter) it into bottles and seal. You can then add more wine to the leftover mother in your crock or jar or start with more Bragg vinegar to start the process again.

Note: Do not use cheesecloth to cover your fermenting container. The holes are too big and you will end up (as I did) with vinegar flies about the size of gnats in your curing vinegar. I had to throw the entire first batch out. I now use a clean tea towel tied securely around the top.

Red Wine Vinegar

Your vinegar will be slightly cloudy, but that is because it is alive.