6/29/2012

How to hard boil an egg

How to Hard Boil an Egg

Last night, I asked one of my clients (who happens to be under 5 years of age) what I should cook for dinner tonight.  He wanted "chicken on the bone, cooked round eggs, and strawberry cupcakes."  I interpreted this request as fried chicken (I have lived in the south for a big portion of my life), hard-boiled eggs, and the cupcakes.

When I delivered this dinner, with the chicken golden, the cole slaw creamy, and the fruit salad fresh, what was remarked upon the most was how well the hard boiled eggs were.  No green ring around the yolk, the yolk firm yet not dry.  At that point I had my 2nd request regarding my blog.  How to hard boil an egg.

Here you go.

Start with fresh, good eggs.  I know that the white eggs at the huge store are cheap, but, in the case of eggs, you get what you pay for.  I actually thought I was allergic to eggs for years.  Then I got chickens.  I can eat those eggs.  Now, I know that you might not have chickens, but you have farmers markets or organic options.  Whatever you want.

Take the eggs and place them in a pot.  Fill the pot with cool water to cover the eggs by 1 inch.  Place pot on stove and cook on high until the water boils.  Remove the pot from the heat.  Cover the pot with a lid and let it sit for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, place the eggs under cold running water until they have cooled off enough to handle.  Peel and enjoy.  The fresher the egg, the harder it is to peel, however.  Good luck.

P.S. - I'll put the recipes for the chicken and cupcakes on later.

6/28/2012

Baked Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Baked Pasta with Vodka Sauce

 

I love summer.  I like having all of the kiddos home.  I miss them during the school year.  I toy with the idea of home-schooling the lot of them (I have done it for a couple of the kids for a short time.)  I like spending time with my kids, almost every day.  Today was not one of those days.

Don't get me wrong.  My kiddos are polite and kind (although not always to each other.)  They are hard workers.  They don't expect me or PoppaH to give them things without working for them.  They are smart and funny.  Today, however, I just wasn't in the mood to be the mom.  Too much drama.  Too much.

I needed an easy, comforting meal and so did they.  So, baked pasta, salad and bread (yes, I made bread again) seemed like the thing to do. Here's my recipe http://ahawker.blogspot.com/2012/06/french-bread.html  I don't actually measure when I make the pasta, so the measurements won't be exact - just do what sounds good to you.  For the salad, I used spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumber (from the garden!), marinated mozzerela, and artichoke hearts.

*note on 07/2014*
I have started sautéing spinach or kale in the meat after the meat is browned.  My kiddos love it.  I am adding it as optional to the recipe and adding a couple of pictures.
I have also gotten away from bottled sauce.  I make my own and add cream to the sauce, about 1 cup cream to 2 cups sauce. (I don't actually add vodka, but you can if you want.)  Bottled is fine, though, do what you want, just keep cooking!

Baked Pasta with Vodka Sauce

1 pound of pasta - I used penne - cooked
1 jar (25 oz.) bottled vodka sauce
1 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
1 bunch fresh spinach or kale, chopped (optional)
1 1/4 cups (loose pack) mozzarella cheese, grated
1 1/4 cups (loose pack) cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 13x9 pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Brown Italian sausage in a frying pan, drain.  Add the spinach or kale, if using, to the meat and cook just until the greens have wilted (it won't take long.)


In a large bowl, add the sausage and greens, if using, to the cooked pasta.  Add the jar of vodka sauce and stir. (you want the pasta to have a lot of sauce because much of it will be absorbed while baking)  
To the pasta mixture, add a handful of mozzarella and a handful of cheddar cheese. I think this is about a cup.  I have big hands.  Put the whole mixture in in the prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle the remaining cheeses on top.  
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the cheeses are bubble and the pasta is hot through.

Ignore the drama around you and enjoy your meal.

6/27/2012

Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Stuffed Sweet Peppers

On Monday (soup day) I knew that I wouldn't have time to cook on Tuesday or Wednesday.  I still needed to feed the 2 families that I cook for (one is mine).  Ever have that dilema?  Of course you do.  We all do.  That is why "take-out" is so popular.  We don't always have time to cook, and yet, our families insist on eating EVERY SINGLE DAY. Amiright?

Years ago my sister told me about a class that she attended on preparing meals to freeze.  It takes a lot of effort (she would double 15 recipes and end up with 30 frozen family meals, the over-achiever.)  I admit that I never did that much work, but every once in a while I would find a recipe that freezes well, double it when I made it, and *shazam* I would have a pre-prepared meal for an unforeseen future meal.

Growing up, I never liked stuffed peppers that my mom made.  I don't like green bell peppers because they taste bitter to me.  I also never liked the greasy hamburger in the peppers.  For this recipe, which I DO like, I use red, orange, or yellow sweet bell peppers - they are actually ripe and not bitter like green ones.  I also use ground turkey because it doesn't have the greasy feel that I don't like.  Because of this, this turns out to be a fairly low-cal recipe.  According to my computer calculations, one serving is only 373 calories.  Add a few boiled potatoes or pasta if you like, a salad, and you are doing well.

This is one of those recipes that freezes extremely well and holds up well to being made a day or two ahead of time.  So go ahead, make it when you have time and cook it later or freeze it or double it.

Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Peppers:
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 cup bread crumbs, seasoned or unseasoned
1 cup liquid egg substitute
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 large sweet bell peppers, halved vertically and seeded

Sauce:
2 cups prepared marinara sauce
2 cups diced tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Heat oven to 375 degrees if cooking these as soon as they are assembled.

Coat a 13x9x2 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, combine turkey, bread crumbs, egg substitute, diced onion, sage, thyme, salt and pepper.
Fill each pepper half with an equal amount of the turkey mixture. Place in the baking dish.
In a large bowl (I actually just rinse out the meat one and re-use it for the sauce), combine all of the sauce ingredients.  Pour over the peppers.
If freezing the meal, wrap tightly, label with the instructions, and freeze for up to a month.
To cook the frozen peppers, thaw in a refrigerator for 2 days and then follow the insructions that come next.
Bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes or until sauce is bubbling, peppers are tender and meat is done.  Cover with foil and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

California, San Fernando Mission

California, San Fernando Mission

 

In our Mormon culture, boys are strongly encouraged to serve a 2 year mission.  They basically donate 2 years of their lives (they are not paid to do this, they save their money and their family helps), go where they are told, do what they are told, follow a bunch of very strict rules, and serve others.  For 2 years.  When they are 19.  You know, the age when most teenagers think the universe revolves around them. (yep, I said it)

My son, Joseph, turned 19 a few months ago.  He has wanted to serve in this way for a very long time.  He has worked toward it and overcome many obstacles to do so - more than I would do.  Many times, through a long and difficult process, I thought he would say "Forget it.  This is too much."  I know I would have.  But through each obstacle and hoop he was asked to jump through, he just said, "I'll do whatever is asked of me.  What's next.  I just want to serve."  He is a better person than I.

In May, he was asked to serve for 3 months in the New York, New York North mission.  He started in Manhattan - with no training - as a full time missionary on May 22nd.  In that time he lost his grandma (May 28th) and was not able to attend the funeral because of his commitment to service.  He handled it in a very mature way.  On Sunday, he learned that he would be coming home on Tuesday - after 5 weeks of service.  On the same Tuesday (yesterday), he learned that he has been called to serve for 24 months in the California, San Fernando Mission.  He will report on July 5th to the MTC (missionary training center).  That's next week.

Next week.

He is excited.  All of the family is excited.  All we have to do is get him different clothes, raincoat (although it is in the desert), plane tickets, books, and a bike.  A mountain bike.  By Thursday.  July 5th.  With a holiday thrown in there just to make it interesting.

So, if you see a Mormon missionary, smile.  Don't run.  Don't hide.  You don't have to listen to them if you don't want to.  But be nice.  They are someone's son or daughter.  They just want to serve in any way you need.  They are figuring it out.  They are missing home.  They are growing up.  They are learning that the universe doesn't revolve around them.  Say hi.  Offer them a glass of water.  Think of their families who miss them.

6/25/2012

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup


It's a rainy, blustery day here in verdant Connecticut.  We found out that our puppy and our chickens are afraid of thunder.  The puppy got a little TLC.  The chickens are, well, chickens. 

Since the temperature has dropped, although the humidity makes up for it, I thought I'd make a pot of soup.

When the younger H's smelled the onions and chilies sauteing, they got very excited.  They love this soup.  It is a lot of ingredients.  It is, however, an easy soup.  You just start dumping things in the pot.  I usually make quesadillas to go with it, you know, tortillas and cheese - the Mexican version of grilled cheese sandwiches.  True comfort food.

Tortilla Soup

2 Tbs. cooking oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (4 oz.), chopped green chilies
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz.) beef broth
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
1 can (10 oz.) tomato soup
1 cup water (I usually just fill the empty tomato soup can)
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 tsp. coriander
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 or 2 cans (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh (off of the cob) or frozen corn
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup Monterrey Jack or cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup cooked chicken, cut in cubes - optional

In a stockpot, saute onions and chilies in oil until tender.  Add minced garlic and heat briefly.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.  That's it.  This serves my family of 6, but 4 of them are teenagers, so it could serve up to 8.

6/24/2012

Any Fruit Cobbler

Any Fruit Cobbler


I'm missing my mom today.  She passed away on Memorial Day this year (an appropriate day since my mom loved her holidays.)  So many times, while growing up, we would come home from church to the smell of something cooking in the crock pot.  Since dinner would already be ready, Mom would whip up - effortlessly, it seemed - a little something sweet for after dinner.  My Dad loved his sweets.  So did Mom, but she wouldn't eat them with the family.  I would always catch her sneaking them later, though.  One of our favorite desserts was cobbler.  She usually made it with a quart of home-canned cherries.  Sometimes it was peaches.  What ever she used, it was so good.  I used to think it was magic.  She would spread the batter on the bottom of this old, round, flowered casserole dish (you know the one.)  Then, she would pour the fruit on top of the batter.  But when the cobbler was done, the fruit was on the bottom with the juice all thick and sweet and the batter was on the top, all golden and crisp!  Magic!

When I got home today from church, I smelled the few ripe peaches I had on the counter.  Dinner was ready (not in a crock pot but the willing effort of PoppaH), so I thought I would whip up a little something sweet for after dinner.  This is Mom's recipe, written down years ago.  I used fresh fruit instead of canned/jarred, but the batter is the same.  Thanks, Mom.

Cobbler (I doubled the batter in the pics)

1 quart canned fruit with juice OR one quart sliced fruit sprinkled with 1-2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup shortening (I have used butter or oil with good results)
1 teaspoon vanilla

If using fresh fruit, peel and slice and sprinkle with a little sugar (1-2 Tbs.)  Set aside so fruit can form a little juice.

Mix the remaining ingredients together - no particular order - until you have a thick batter.

Butter a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish on the bottom and sides.  Spread the batter in the bottom of the dish.  Put the fruit with juice on top of the batter.  Dot with butter if desired.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes or when a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean.

 

6/22/2012

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie

 

I love pie - who doesn't?  However, I don't make very good pie crust.  My sister does.  She makes the MOST excellent pie.  If all pies joined together and formed their own empire, my sister would be the Supreme Empress of the Kingdom of Pie. *cue royal-esque music*  She has given me recipes for various pie crusts that she has made with wonderful results.  I think she leaves out an ingredient every time for me. (that's my story and I'm sticking to it)

The pie innards, however, I rock at.  So, I buy pie crust-in-a-box.  Sue me.

Blueberries are in season here in New England. New Jersey, which is in the "tri-state" area, is a huge grower of blueberries. Remember, my western friends, New England states are small so NJ is pretty close.  With all of this blue abundance, I thought I'd make a pie.


Blueberry Pie
this is my sister's recipe, so it's pretty awesome


Two Crust Pie Crust (just do what you have to do)
5-6 cups blueberries
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter (don't substitute...really)
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon milk or cream
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, water, and 3 cups berries in saucepan.  Cook on medium heat until it thickens and boils.  Cool slightly.  Stir butter and lemon juice into cooked filling.  Keep kiddos with spoons out of filling.

Place pie crust into pie pan.  Add remaining berries (2-3 cups) in bottom of pie crust shell.  Spoon cooked berries over raw berries in pie crust.  Quickly cover with top crust.  Crimp the edge and vent the top.  Brush the top crust with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 - 45 minutes, until pie is golden brown.

French Bread

French Bread


I love to make bread.  I love the way it smells before, during and after it bakes.  I love to get my hands in the dough.  When I am sad, tired, overwhelmed, or harried, I make bread.  There is something about the smell and the process that relaxes me.  I have made bread since my kiddos were little.  Now, wherever they are, when they smell bread (think cinabon, mall, bakery) they think of me and of home.  It's a little psychological jab that I truly enjoy.

Tonight I am making French bread pizza for dinner.  To make the pizza, just slice the bread in half horizontally, slather with your sauce of choice, sprinkle cheese, add whatever toppings you want, and bake until it is hot and bubbly.  But first, it's all about the bread.

Don't be afraid.

French Bread
it really is no-fail
recipe makes 2 loaves

2 1/2 cups warm water (I just use it from the tap)
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. dry yeast
2 Tbs. oil (I use canola or olive)
1 Tbs. salt
6-7 cups flour (I use white for this)
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, stir sugar, yeast and water.  Let this stand until the yeast bubbles.

To this add 6 cups of flour (spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level.  If you scoop the flour with the measuring cup, you pack the flour and your bread may be too dry or not rise properly), salt, and oil.  Knead with your bread hook or stir and knead by hand.  Add the rest of your flour if needed. (the stickier the dough, the lighter the bread)  Let the dough stand 10 minutes.  Stir down.  Repeat this process 5 times, which will take 1 hour. (I have done this as few as 2 times and as many as 10 with good results.)


Divide in half.  Roll or pat into two rectangles - roughly 9x12 inches.

Roll into a jellyroll, rolling from the long side.

Arrange both loaves, seam side down, on a large well-greased or parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Let rise 10-20 minutes.  Make slashes on top of loaves and gently brush on beaten egg.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Cool.

 

6/20/2012

Texas Oven Roasted Beef Brisket

Texas Oven Roasted Beef Brisket


This is what I made last night for my family and the other family I cook for.  It is not a quick dinner, but it is low maintenance.  Plus, your house will smell like glory - so good.

Texas Oven Roasted Beef Brisket

2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 bay leaf, crushed
4 (or so) pound beef brisket - I think mine was 7 pounds
1 1/2 cups beef stock

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make a dry rub by combining the first 8 ingredients.  Rub the combined seasoning all over the meat - that's why it's called a rub.  Place the meat in a roasting pan and put in oven, uncovered, for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add beef stock to the roasting pan and cover the pan tightly.  Lower the temperature of the oven to 300 degrees and continue cooking brisket for 3 hours more, or until fork tender.  You can cook this longer, but not shorter time.  I have cooked a larger brisket (about 10 pounds) all day at 250 and it came out fine.  The brisket last night, though larger, was only cooked the 4 hours and came out fine.

Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes before you slice it.  Slice across the grain.

6/19/2012

Baked Salmon and Ratatouille

Baked Salmon and Ratatouille



My family doesn't eat much fast food.  We haven't been to McD's in over 3 (I'm editing this in 2017, so make that 10 years)years - ever since my youngest did a science experiment on food decomposition and McD's food didn't.  My sweet town of Ridgefield doesn't even have any drive-through fast food joints or reliable cell phone reception.  That's right.  None.  You can get a hamburger and fries, you just have to make it yourself, or go to a restaurant and actually get out of the car where the burger and fries are NOT served in a bag, they are served on a plate.  Nice concept, amiright?

We can get fast food in our area, we just have to drive 15-20 minutes (one way) to get it.  At that point it is no longer fast food.

I hear a vast congregation sighing "But what do you do?  What do you feed your family?"  I'll tell you, we cook at home.  Yep.  That's right.  We cook at home.  All of us - including PoppaH and the 4 younger H's - cook...from real ingredients...not from a box...using a knife...pots and pans...oven and stove...herbs...fresh stuff.

Last night we had Baked Salmon, Ratatouille, and rice pilaf.  It took 30 minutes start to finish. Really.

Baked Salmon

Salmon fillet (the big ones from Costco - I have a lot of mouths to feed)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Worchertershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder OR 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic OR, if you can find scapes use those - just throw them on top of the salmon

Place the salmon in a baking pan (13x9 or larger).  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over fish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.


Ratatouille

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large eggplant or 3 small eggplants, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced (I don't like green so I use red)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 green zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1-2 teaspoons Herb de Provence (optional, but I like it)
Salt
Pepper
Fresh Basil, chopped

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat.  When hot, add the eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through.  Lower heat a little and add the onions and bell pepper.  Cook until the onions soften, then add the garlic, stirring frequently.

Add the tomatoes, lower the heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the zucchini and yellow squash, taste and season well with the herbs and salt and pepper.  Cook for 5-10 more minutes, until the eggplant is cooked through and the squash softens.

6/17/2012

Father's Day

Father's Day

 

Today is Father's Day.  This year it is bitter-sweet.

The bitter part is that my dad passed away in March and I miss him.  He was a great dad.  He had a wicked sense of humor, was a great outdoorsman, and loved his family.  I grew up listening to "Bean and the Jackstock", being called Udlick (quite the nickname), and hearing boy scout songs ALL the time.  He was a dad who loved all of my bring-home pets - tarantulas, horn toads, puppies, frogs to name a few.  He loved my mom and all of us.  I miss him.

The sweet part is that I am married to PoppaH.  He is a great dad.  He has a wicked sense of humor, is a brilliant scientist, and loves his family.  My kids have grown up listening to Harry Potter, being called many funny names, and hearing classical music ALL the time.  He is a dad who loves our pets.  He loves me and all of his kids.  I love him.

6/16/2012

Sweet Cherry Jam

Sweet Cherry Jam

 

Okay.  One of the things that I like to do is can stuff.  I've been doing it for years.  I grew up watching my MommaF canning stuff.  She grew up watching her MommaC canning stuff, and so on.  Things that you can yourself taste better.  I don't know why - it just does.  Maybe it's the little extra love you add when you know that your family will enjoy your stuff later in the year.

This week, I got a couple of pounds of sweet cherries and a couple of pounds of Ranier cherries.  Now, most recipes (and the recipes in the box of pectin) say that you must use sour cherries and that all measurements need to be exact.  Hmmm.  Whatever.  Here is what I did.


First, I pitted the cherries.  This is a pretty messy job, so I did it inside of a paper bag.

I had about 5 cups of whole sweet cherries and 5 cups of Ranier cherries.


Then I chopped them all up in my food processor, making 3 cups of each kind of cherries.  I added the juice of 1 lemon to each batch of cherries.

In a large pot I, I placed the 3 cups of Ranier cherries with the juice of 1 lemon and a package of pectin.  When this came to a rolling boil (that is a boil that doesnt stop when you stir it), I added 4 cups of sugar (I know, that's a lot of sugar, but it's jam.) and 1 teaspoon of vanilla (I use good Mexican vanilla).  When it comes to a rolling boil again, time it for one minute while stirring.  Take it off of the heat.  Put the jam in hot jars, place lids (that you have had in hot water for a few minutes to soften the seal) and rings on the jars and tighten.  I put my jam jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, then place on a towel on the counter to cool.  Don't place right on the counter because the temperature difference can make the jars break.  I know many people invert their jars to get a seal.  I don't.  I don't want to mess with the quality of a something that my family is going to eat.

I repeated this whole process with the sweet cherries, with the only difference being that I added a teaspoon of almond extract and omitted the vanilla.  This made 6 jars - 8 ounce each - of each kind of jam.
My son scraped the pot of each to try on a piece of bread.  He approved.