Monday, December 20, 2010

How to have an herb garden in an apartment in North Dakota in the middle of winter

While we're waiting in Grand Forks, ND for the move to the next base in a warmer climate (Las Vegas), my husband and I are living in a 'garden level' apartment. This apartment doesn't include a deck, but the plus side is that there aren't any stairs. So how do I maintain my herb garden? In the summer I leave the plants in the 2nd bedroom window, and they did just fine. But as the cold of winter set in, I had a problem. If you don't want your plants to die or go dormant in the winter here, you have to move them indoors, away from a window. The windows might get drafts, and mine have ice on the outer corners. But how will they get sunlight? As most of the days here in the winter are cloud covered, you would have to get a growing lamp. I got mine from online, and you can find a company here. The picture that you see above is my little set up, when we went on vacation. I usually kept them in the 2nd bedroom and plugged and unplugged the setup myself, but of course when we left we couldn't have the light on all night when we were gone. So I went to the store and got a timer. Presto! Now all I have to do is water them. I keep Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Parsley, Oregano, Chocolate Mint and Lavender. the trick is to keep them small and trimmed by using alot of the herbs in cooking. I like to use a little bit of each (except mint and lavender) on parboiled fish. Its great having fresh herbs, especially since they're so expensive and often wilted at the store. Let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Beef Short Ribs- Crock Pot Style

A couple of years ago my Mom finally gave me this recipe, as it is one of my favorites growing up. Great for a cold day, the meat slow cooks for approximately 8-10 hours, making the house smell delicious when you come home. We always make garlic mashed potatoes, and some sort of vegetable (a nice salad pairs well) as side dishes. You can also make a gravy out of the juices left in the crock pot after you take out the meat, using whatever thickener you prefer. I personally still haven't gotten the perfection of gravy down, but I'm still working on it. I would recommend not substituting boneless short ribs for this recipe, I did that this last time because there weren't any bone-in at the grocery store, and it just didn't seem the same. The meat will fall off the bone after cooking for all of you bone squeamish people.

Beef Short Ribs- Crock Pot Style
for 2 people
  • 3 packages of Beef (bone in) short ribs.
  • 2 small cans of sliced mushrooms, drained. 
  • 1 package lipton onion soup mix
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 4 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp seasoning salt (approx)
  • optional: some garlic powder or minced garlic
Place ingredients in crock pot. Cover with water, but barely. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. When finished cooking, drain fat off top. Take meat out and put in serving dish with a lid. Take juices and put in a saucepan for gravy. To make gravy with cornstarch, mix cornstarch with cold water, and pour in until desired thickness. Use as gravy for meat and mashed potatoes, as needed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pecan Topped Sweet Potatoes

Apparently Sweet Potatoes and Yams are two different potatoes- I found this out as I stared at the two in the produce isle. I finally decided that sweet potatoes looked weird, like regular potatoes, and that the orangey yams were the way to go. So even though this recipe says Sweet Potatoes, use Yams. I got this recipe through a friend who posted the website on her Facebook page. I can't wait to try some of Pioneer Woman's other recipes!

Pecan Topped Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4
  • 2 whole medium yams (or actual sweet potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  •  1 cup of pecans (chopped from the store is easiest)
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/3 stick of butter

  1. Wash 2 medium yams and bake them in a 375-degree oven until fork tender, about 30-35 minutes. (It took mine wayyy longer, be prepared for 45 minutes to an hour). When they are finished cooking slice them open and scrape out the flesh into a large bowl.
  2. Add sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. With a potato masher, mash them up just enough—you don’t want it to be perfectly smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, add brown sugar, pecans (chopped if they aren't already), flour, and butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash together until thoroughly combined. ( I used my hands, its always easier to make sure everything is combined).
  4. Spread the sweet potato mixture into a regular baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.
  5. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Pancetta and Pear Bread Stuffing

When hunting around on the internet for stuffing, I came across this recipe from The New York Times. Interesting. . . stuffing muffins? Tried it, and I love it. The husband is a fan of mushy stuffing, but I love crispy stuffing, and this recipe is perfect for the crispy lovers. The original recipe calls for Chanterelle mushrooms, but the only ones I found at the store were dried, so I substituted, as can you. Also, make sure you really stuff the stuffing into the muffin tin, because I didn't and they tend to fall apart when you take them out after cooking.Think Pear is just too weird for stuffing? Don't! You can barely tell it's an ingredient, and it keeps the stuffing moist.

Pancetta and Pear Bread Stuffing
Serves 4
  • 1 large loaf firm white bread
  • 1/2 lb of  mushrooms (I used Baby Bella, a carton that was 8 oz)
  • 1/3 pound pancetta, diced small
  • 10 tablespoons butter, more for greasing muffin tins
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (about three)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I approximated, probably put in more, it still was good)
  • 1 pear (firm, ripe varieties like Bartlett or Anjou) diced up 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup minced chives (a little less works)
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 cups turkey stock.

  1. Tear bread into small pieces and set in roasting pan or bowl. To dry bread, cover with paper towels and leave out overnight. Or, place on a baking sheet in batches and lightly toast. Set aside.
  2. Wash and trim the ends off the mushrooms. Slice some thickly, chop others. Set aside. 
  3. Place pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook slowly until fat is rendered, about 7 minutes. Remove to a large plate.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons butter to fat in pan and turn heat to medium high. Add onion and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just soft. Do not brown. Remove to plate holding pancetta.
  5. Add 3 tablespoons butter to pan. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and quickly sauté until starting to brown. Remove and add to separate plate.
  6. Add wine to pan and cook over medium high heat until wine reduces by about half. Pour remaining liquid over mushrooms. Wipe out pan and add remaining butter. Add pears and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Sauté pears over medium high heat until they begin to brown slightly. 
  7. In a large bowl or roasting pan, add sautéed ingredients to bread. Toss lightly to combine. Add herbs and toss again. Slowly pour one cup stock over mixture and toss. Add more broth to make a very moist stuffing. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. 
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter muffin tins and fill each with stuffing, pressing down so each cup is well filled. Top each with one tablespoon stock. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, until a golden crust forms on bottom. To serve, use a butter knife to remove each stuffing muffin and invert onto the plate.
You could use this stuffing to stuff the turkey, and buy an extra pear to hold the stuffing in. But personally I like to have a stuffing-less bird.

Garlic Artichoke Spread

This recipe comes from a book called "The Garlic Lovers' Cookbook Volume II." It was created for the City of Gilroy, the 'Garlic Capital of the World,' and their annual Festival. Personally I love Garlic, and I couldn't wait to get this book on Paperbackswap. I made this as an appetizer for Thanksgiving, and it was delicious! I tweeked the original recipe to be put on top of bread.

Garlic Artichoke Spread
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 cans (approx 10 oz each) quartered artichoke hearts, drained.
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup real mayonnaise (I used a little less, to make it stay on the bread)
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • Dash of Tobasco
  • A couple of twists of pepper mill
  • baguette
  1. In a food processor with metal blade, chop garlic and artichoke hearts until medium fine. (I don't have a food processor handy, so I just used a good ol' knife and cutting board and cut them up.)
  2. Place in a bowl, and add remaining ingredients, excluding baguette. Mix thoroughly. 
  3. Slice up baguette, and toast in the oven. Put oven temp to 350 degrees. Scoop up spread and put on the toasted baguette slices. Put in the oven, and cook until mixture starts to melt/turn golden brown on the top. Check after 10 minutes.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nugymama's Bean Soup

Nugymama is Hungarian for Grandmother, and she would make this soup every now and then and we would love it. We would also eat fried flat bread scoured with garlic (or in mine and my dad’s case whole cloves are eaten), which is called Langos, on the side.
When making this dish, it’s best to get a smoked shank from the store, as that gives the soup a smoky flavor. Sometimes I’ll use only the shanks, take them out and de-bone them, then put the meat and the bones back in. If there’s more people, you can add diced ham as well. I want to let you know right away that this recipe is not an exact recipe, the only way to get this was to watch my Grandmother make it, and of course she never uses the same amount of ingredients, but always has fantastic results. So experiment!

Nugymama's Bean Soup (for approximately 2 people)

  • 1/2 cup pinto beans
  • Smoked ham shank or/and ham steak cubed
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 parsley root (or parsley leaves) chopped
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • couple of cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup pinch noodles (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • flour
  • paprika
Put beans and enough water to cover into a large pot, and bring to a boil. Strain after 5 minutes of boiling. Repeat. Put back into pot, and add water to desired height in pot. Add meat, carrots, parsley root, bay leaf, garlic (leave a little bit for later), celery, and onion. Bring to a boil. Simmer on low for approx. 2 hours. Add noodles.
Then make the thickener. In a frying pan, put in oil and last bit of garlic. Add small amounts of  flour until it is not too loose, and not too dry. Keep stirring the oil mixture so that it does not burn. It will be golden brown when it is ready. Add a dash of paprika for color. Set aside until noodles are cooked.
When noodles are finished, add a little water from soup pot to thickener pan (or from sink if you want it to be thinner) stir to combine, and add to soup. Wait a few minutes for flavors to blend, and then the soup is ready to serve!

Pinch Noodles
  • Flour (1 cup to start)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
Combine the flour, salt, and egg. Keep adding flour until the dough is tough. you can roll it out, or use your palm to flatten it. Pinch off little pieces, and add to soup. This can be made ahead of time and dried.

Hi! I'm a pilot that also enjoys cooking.

Not that its a new idea or anything, but I just wanted to share my experiences with those that are interested. I'm always down for trying something new, and as time goes on, I would like to eventually use my blog as my own personal cookbook (Ah the truth comes out). So enjoy, and I promise eventually I will get/use a camera and document the goods.