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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rice, that's nice!

   I love rice. My husband? Not so much. The boys? Yeah, they love rice, too. So I do get to make it often, but just like most foods I do not serve it in consecutive meals. That's the trick with hubby-dearest, just mix it it up among noodles, or pasta, and potatoes, and I can slip it in. And he has to have some kind of sauce or gravy to drown it in. Seems his mother put him on a diet some years ago, along with herself, and they ate nothing but plain white rice, morning, noon and night. Well, that would turn anybody off. And naturally, as in all fad diets, they both regained the weight they had lost, and then some, and now my husband has an aversion to rice. Ya think?
   So, in order to serve rice, it has to be either fried, you know, Chinese style, or Spanish, which I am not a fan of, or loaded with gravy--I am in for that, for sure!
   The perfect rice is not converted, which is partially precooked, or (heaven forbid) instant, and not those boiling bags that are also partially precooked. NO, NO, NO! Real rice is (at least for this lesson) long grain white rice. We'll do brown rice and maybe risotto, or even wild rice another time, but today, its just good old plain long grain white rice. Of course, I am aware that brown rice is the whole grain, white rice has had the bran removed, and with it many nutrients, but this is not a nutrition lesson, here. Okay, it is also true that some parboiled rices have been "treated" to return some of the lost nutrients back into the rice, but the "treatments", you know, man messing with nature, often leads to other problems, so for this blog we are sticking with plain long grain, although inferior to brown, white rice.
   There is one trick to making perfect rice: do not peak! Measure the water into a deep saucepan 1 cup water for every 1/2 cup rice.. The end product is measured by the amount of water you use; in other words, to make 2 cups of cooked rice you need 2 cups of water and 1 cup of raw rice. You may add salt to the water, 1/2 teaspoon per cup of water, but that is totally optional, and if you plan on making rice pudding, I suggest you omit the salt. I also usually throw a tablespoon of butter in it, as well. Don't know why, just have always done it and 99% of the time I don't have a problem with my rice. Yes, I must admit, once a while my rice goes awry! And yes I get the pun!
   Okay, so you measure your water into the saucepan, add the butter, and the rice. Add the salt when the water begins to boil. Give it a good stir, tightly cover the pan, lower the heat to the lowest setting so it will simmer, and set your timer for 15 minutes. When the timer rings shut off the heat, if you have an electric stove, remove the pan from the burner. DO NOT LIFT THAT LID UNTIL AT LEAST 5 MINUTES PAST THE END OF THE COOKING TIME--Trust me! I also have the luxury of having glass tops for my pots, so I can watch the little grains get their steam bath. If, however, during the cooking time, especially toward the end, you smell burning rice, please remove the pan from the heat, trying to scrape burnt rice from the bottom of a pan is not any fun--ask my husband. Many times burning rice is due to an ill-fitting lid which allows too much steam to escape too quickly, so please be sure you use the right lid for the pan, and do not use your power burner, if you have one, but use the low BTU burner, or simmer burner.

   Yes, I know, I can go on and on, can't I? After the 5 minutes of sitting off the heat, open the lid. You should see a level blob of rice with "pock" holes across the flat top. So far, so good.  Here's what it should look like:



Now insert a fork anywhere in the rice and fluff by lifting the rice from the bottom of the pot with a slight wrist twist. Continue fluffing until all the rice is loose.



 Finally, here's what the pot should look like when you hand it to the dishwasher:



    Ahh...perfection!
   For more information on rice please visit the USA Rice Federation. Under the consumer tab they have recipes galore!.
   Please share your rice experiences. I love hearing from all of you!
































Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chocolate Pudding--Oh, My!

   Many, many years ago I discovered a recipe for chocolate pudding from scratch. Yes, even way back then I liked to experiment and make things from scratch, as my grandmothers did. Something about measuring and combining various ingredients just thrills me; more so when they actually come out edible; even more if they come out delicious!
   It was quite an easy recipe: sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt (just a pinch), milk, butter and vanilla. Mix all the dry ingredients, stir in the milk over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring (I use a whisk). Boil and stir one minute. Remove from heat, add the butter and vanilla, stir until the butter melts into the pudding. Pour into a serving bowl, individual bowls, or a pie crust. Lay a piece of clear plastic wrap right on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. This also helps keep the pudding creamy. Serve warm in about half an hour, or chill until ready to serve.
    Prepare yourself for the best pudding you have ever tasted. Not overly sweet, and you can adjust the amount of cocoa to make it richer, if you prefer. You get it--its your kitchen. 

Chocolate Pudding 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2-4 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)-
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5-1/2 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter (solid)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  This is best served with real sweetened whipped cream. I usually make this pudding to fill a graham cracker crust for a pie. Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the pie, after chilling for at least 4 hours; slather it with whipped cream, add shaved chocolate, crushed chocolate wafer crackers, chocolate chips, or anything you can think of. My "baby" just adores this pie. Any chocolate lover will too.
  I will post a photo soon. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

When I frost this baby, I'll post that photo, too!


Aunt Barbara

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Preparations Part I

   Thanksgiving is almost here. Probably the biggest food holiday of all! And a tradition in this country since 1621. Or so we are lead to believe. I am taking an early American History class and things I am learning now are news to me. Maybe because when I first learned history I was a child, trying to find out who I was, and my place in this big world. Certain things evaded me. Okay, many things evaded me. And I have learned that the talking point headlines of yesteryear do not paint an accurate picture of everything that was going on. But I am not going to go into a history lesson here, that's another blog out there, somewhere. I thought that over the course of the next few days I would share with you some of my recipes, and, well, whatever else may pop into my head that I think you might find entertaining, or maybe educational. We'll see where it goes, how's that?
   Let's start with cranberry sauce. All while growing up I remember cranberry sauce, jellied, sitting in a bowl in the shape of the can it came out of. My mom would slice the roll into 1/4 inch slices, so when you took some cranberry "sauce" there would be a round slab of red stiff jelly on your plate. That's how I thought cranberry sauce was supposed to look.
   Then, when I got a little older and ventured to other family's thanksgivings I learned there was something call "whole berry" cranberry sauce. Mixed in the "jelly" were berries of the "cran" variety, and this stuff did not come out of its can in a formed lump. Very interesting and dang, good!
   Fast forward about a hundred years, years that included both the jellied and whole berry versions on my Thanksgiving table. Then, just about five years ago I decided to make my own cranberry sauce. They wouldn't sell bags of whole cranberries by the truckload if this was a difficult task. So I bought my first bag of cranberries and set out to make my own.
   Upon researching how to make cranberry "relish" I was shocked to see most recipes required on three ingredients: cranberries, rinsed and picked through for mushy ones or the occasional stem, water, and sugar. Of course some recipes got exotic, so I quickly dismissed those. A few recipes included orange, either grated peel, or strips of peel, and/or chopped up orange segments. That sounded interesting.
   So you wash and pick through your three cups of cranberries while you have one cup of water and one cup of sugar on the stove. the sugar-water concoction come up to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. I quickly realized is a light syrup. Interesting. I grated the peel of half an orange, and cut slices from the other half, avoiding the pith (that bitter white stuff under the peel but before the flesh), like you do for marmalade. When the sugar-water comes to a boil, add the cranberries and the orange peel. Keep it up to a boil, stirring.
    Within minutes you will start hearing this popping sound. The cranberries are bursting, letting their pectin go, just stir and continue on for ten minutes, if you want a little tighter concoction just stir and boil until the stuff gets thick, however, it gels up pretty good without much help. Remove from the heat and pour into a glass bowl or container. Allow to fully cool to room temperature without covering. Then when it is room temperature, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
    Upon completing my first batch of whole berry cranberry sauce I looked at my husband and said, "I cannot believe we have bought this all these years and it is so easy to make." We have never bought it again. I usually buy a big 3-pound bag once a year. Take out what I need for Thanksgiving, and then seal the bag and toss it in the freezer. You can use these babies in muffins and scones without thawing them out, just add more sugar to your recipe because they are bitter in their natural state.
    So next time you want cranberry sauce, why not give it a try? I'd like to see some of your cranberry recipes if you want to share. I'm always looking for ideas.

Whole berry Cranberry relish



Monday, November 7, 2011

November

    We've made it to November. I cannot understand when I was young I thought a year took FOREVER to go by; now, as an adult, time just flies by so fast, it almost seems impossible. Youth may be wasted on the young, but time? The older you get, the faster it goes.
   We never even covered all of the food celebrations for October, and now, since I have started taking classes again, I am not making any promises for covering all the celebrations for November, either.
   November starts out being Georgia Pecan Month; Good Nutrition Month; National Peanut Butter Lover's Month; National Pepper Month; Raisin Bread Month; and finally Vegan Month. Not as power-packed as October, but a nice variety, wouldn't you say?
   The first week is National Fig Week. The second week celebrates Split Pea Soup.There are no weekly celebrations for the third and fourth weeks, probably because we will be coming up to Thanksgiving, and with all the food we Americans traditionally prepare for this celebration of our blessings and family, what would the point be to use an entire week on just one food? Whomever designated these food celebrations was thinking!
    November 3rd was National Sandwich Day, and I posted that fact on Facebook, which started a conversation of favorite sandwiches. One of my friends, who shares wonderful recipes with me, posted that her favorite sandwich was Beef on Wick. I had to ask what Wick was, as I never heard of it. My friend replied with an internet link on the sandwich and the Kummelweck roll that makes this roast beef sandwich so special' it also is called beef on Weck.
    Kummelweck rolls are similar to kaiser rolls, but are shaped differently and topped with a salt-caraway seed mixture. The sandwich is a traditional sandwich from Buffalo, NY. Apparently Buffalo is not just known for its wings. Who knew? Probably people from Buffalo.
   I ended up making the Kummelweck rolls from the recipe my friend sent. Although they seemed to look like the pictures I've seen, I, personally was not impressed. Next time I try to make them I am not going to make them only 2 ounce pieces of dough. I would have preferred if they were bigger, like twice as big as they came out. I do not know if I messed up, as I have never had them before. I will try them again, just making them larger.
      I had made a roast beef on Sunday for dinner, well, hubby made the beef, I made all the sides, but we had leftover roast beef, and it was delightfully rare. Hubby lubed up the commercial slicer we have in the kitchen (thank you, Grandma!) and sliced the beef extra thin. I even made homemade horseradish, which also needs some tweaking, but overall, it was not a bad attempt at beef on weck.