Kitchen job one: Granola. Check.

Kitchen job one: Granola. Check.

Monday seems to have become my by-default kitchen day, but for the fact that yesterday it was a kitchen morning, as I had a work commitment Monday afternoon, so I got up and got at it early, mostly because I had to clean the joint up after the usual disaster that is Sunday dinner.

I don’t know why I make such a mess on Sundays. Dinner is maybe a little bigger than other days, but not that much. I guess it’s because I have never been able to train my children to rinse dishes and put them in the dishwasher after they finish a meal. Oh, well. I guess they could be selling drugs on a street corner. Though I do confess I wonder if they’ll die of malnutrition when I am no longer around to cook for them.

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From the cosmetic drawer to the kitchen. Good stuff.

From the cosmetic drawer to the kitchen. Good stuff.

It’s kinda weird to head into the bathroom and scoop up a spoonful of your moisturizer to saute something in, but I’ve done it.

That’s because I’ve become a devotee of coconut oil. Admittedly, I use it much more for exterior purposes than for cooking, but it’s handy to have when you’re out of vegetable oil, olive oil, shortening, and don’t want to saute in butter, as happened to me recently. (No, I NEVER run out of butter. I grab a bunch when it’s on sale and keep it in the freezer, and when I open the last pound, I buy some more. There are things of which one must just Not Run Out, and butter, coffee and vodka are three of those things.)

Anyway, coconut oil has 117 calories in a tablespoon (canola is 134, and butter is 102, while olive oil is 119), which is not out of line for other fats, but all that fat is saturated, if that’s an issue for you. Its smoke point is 350 degrees, same as butter or canola or olive oil, but unlike butter, it doesn’t brown as it heats in the pan, and like canola oil, it’s a neutral taste.

But it’s as a moisturizer and similar uses it gets the most use at my house.

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A twist on potato salad

August 5, 2016

Sweet potato salad (at 3 o'clock) with tuna poke, rice, and cucumbers.

Sweet potato salad (at 3 o’clock) with tuna poke, rice, and cucumbers.

Y’all know I love me some potato salad. My version of traditional potato salad (heavy on the mustard in the dressing; add a little ketchup, too, and lots of paprika) is my go-to comfort food. I make a pretty awesome German potato salad, and I’ve done a few versions with roasted potatoes in a viniagrette that aren’t any slouches, either.

But I’d never made a sweet potato salad. Until last night.

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Dehydrator, which I cannot get to turn right-side-up.

Dehydrator, which I cannot get to turn right-side-up.

I’m a sucker for a kitchen gadget, as you may have figured out if you’ve been reading my blog very long.

And not just gadgets. Small electrical appliances, too.

And now I have a new one.

How it was, was like this. The damned eGullet forum has a thread devoted to kitchen gadgetry and appliances. T’other day, it had an entry that noted Aldi had food dehydrators on their special “we got a truckload of these and they’re on sale cheap” aisle. For $19.99.

OK, I thought. That might not be bad. Never really thought about having a dehydrator, but it WOULD be easier than dehydrating stuff in the oven, wouldn’t it?

I looked when I was next at Aldi. No dehydrators. OK, I figured. Must not have gone everywhere. No biggie. Lived this long without a dehydrator, guess I’ll keep going.

So earlier this week I’m at Aldi because I’m out of half and half and cream and I needed a pineapple, and for two quarts of half and half and two pints of cream and a pineapple, that’s a total of five bucks saved over Kroger prices. And I turned down the special aisle and there it was. The dehydrator. $19.99.

So I bought the damn thing.

I mean, $19.99. Why not? I’d already saved five bucks that day, so really, it was just $14.99, right?

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All up in a pickle

August 2, 2016

Horseradish pickles. Hope they're as good as Boar's Head.

Horseradish pickles. Hope they’re as good as Boar’s Head.

Lord have mercy.

I have been in the kitchen, y’all, really, I have.

I have been pickling. Oh, and canning tomatoes.

In the past week, by my count, I have canned 11 pints of tomatoes; three quarts and a pint of tomato juice; seven half-pints of tomato sauce; 11 pints of Old South lime pickles; three quarts of sour pickles; and 12 pints and two quarts of horseradish pickles.

The shelves are starting to look full.

This all started because Child A asked me one evening as I was shelling peas for the freezer, “Mama, how come you never make any Grandpa pickles? As much as you like to can, I would have thought you would be all about making Grandpa pickles.”

"Grandpa pickles," waiting for taste-testers.

“Grandpa pickles,” waiting for taste-testers.

By way of explanation, “Grandpa pickles” are the name my children give to a salty, sour, slightly hot dill pickle, which my mother used to can by the metric ton, because Daddy carried ’em in his lunchbox every day God sent, to eat with his sandwich for lunch. They are a vinegar pickle, not a brined/fermented one like kosher dill, and they’re canned flavored with garlic and dill, and canned with a whole jalapeno in each jar. ¬†And my children will sit down with a quart of them and eat the entire jar at one sitting.

Once, in fact, when the kids were all up at Mama and Daddy’s, Children A and B gave Child C, who was at the time about 4, the jalapeno instead of a cucumber, telling her it was a “special cucumber.” She took a big bite and immediately screamed bloody murder.

My mother quickly came to investigate, and didn’t take long to determine what had been done. She quietly went downstairs, got two more quarts of pickles, fished out the jalapenos, and made Children A and B both eat one.

Child C, of course, thought that was just excellent.

My mother was pretty good on this Golden Rule thing.

Anyway, I got to thinking about that, and wondering why I never made pickles, because I love ’em. So I decided, OK, I’ll make some Grandpa pickles. And, y’know, since I really prefer sweet pickles, I’ll make some of those lime pickles. And, wow, wouldn’t it be great if I could duplicate those Boar’s Head horseradish pickles I love so much, particularly since those suckers are $4.99 a pop for a pint jar?

First up were the Grandpa pickles. I went looking for my Mama’s old recipe box — I have it here SOMEWHERE — in the hopes the recipe might be in there. It may well be; I haven’t found the box yet.

So I went online and found a recipe I thought looked similar to how I remembered Mama making pickles 40 years ago, and I went by that. It’s a very simple brine of half and half water and cider vinegar, with a cup of kosher salt to every gallon of brine. I packed the cucumbers and the jalapeno into quart jars, heated the brine, poured it over, sealed the jars, and processed 15 minutes, sometime during which I remembered I’d forgotten to add the dill seeds. (Mama always used a couple of florets of fresh dill flowers).

Opened a jar a few days later for Child C to sample.

“They’re close. They’re REAL close,” she said.

I take that as a win.

Lime pickles, soaking. These babies are SWEET.

Lime pickles, soaking. These babies are SWEET.

The lime pickles are by the recipe on the back of the Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime bag. Mama didn’t make those real often, but she did occasionally. These turned out pretty good.

So all that I lacked was the horseradish dills. At the market Saturday, one of the farmers had baskets of big, straight cucumbers, between 6 and 8 inches long and between 1 1/2 and 2 inches in diameter. Perfect for horseradish dill chips, to eat alongside or on a sandwich. They were $3 a basket of 6 or 7 cucumbers.

“How much apiece if I buy four of ’em?” I asked. He thought for a minute and knocked off a buck apiece. Sold.

So today, I got the cucumbers out of the fridge, where they’d been soaking in a dishpan of plain water overnight. Sliced ’em up. Put ’em back into ice water while I ran jars through the dishwasher and sterilized lids. Distributed garlic, dill seed (remembered it this time!), and prepared horseradish into each jar, packed in cucumber slices. Made up a weak brine of vinegar, sugar and water, boiled that, and poured over it.

My kitchen estimator has, by the way, gone to hell in a handbasket. I figured maybe a dozen pints of pickles, and whatever was leftover I could use in a cucumber salad.

A dozen pints did not put much of a dent in the dishpan of cucumber slices. I grabbed two quart jars that had also gone through the dishwasher, prepped those and packed them full. Still lots of pickles left. Damn cucumbers were like the loaves and fishes. I finally made a quart of refrigerator pickles and put the rest to another use (later post coming on that).

And I reckon I’m through pickling. Unless maybe I decide to pickle some beans or maybe some okra.

But we’ll have pickles with our sandwich when you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come over!



Puttin’ up

July 26, 2016

Pickles! First of several batches to do this week.

Pickles! First of several batches to do this week.

It’s that time of year.

Produce is flowing in (well, not really from my garden, but everyone who didn’t break their ankle and screw their garden for the year), and it’s time to fill up the canning shelves and the freezers for the winter.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing, little bits at a time, so’s not to put too much stress on the recovering leg. I’ve put up enough peas, I think, for the winter, just a few packages of peas at a time (not that peas are much work to put up). I’ve done eight pints of corn, and have corn to work up tomorrow that’ll be about that much more, which will be about all the corn I have room for. I’ve put up three half-pints of tomato sauce from the back yard garden, which is at least still yielding me lots of Romas, grape and cherry tomatoes.

Tomato sauce. From my own tomatoes!

Tomato sauce. From my own tomatoes!

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A new fritter!

July 25, 2016

Shrimp fritters with comeback sauce. Will be coming back to this one.

Shrimp fritters with comeback sauce. Will be coming back to this one.

Long time readers will have noted that I am a big fan of fritters. Zucchini fritters, corn fritters, okonomiyaki, potato pancakes, latkes, arepas, you name it, any combo of carb and veggies and/or protein you can make into a patty and pan-fry, and I’m on it.

So when I read about shrimp fritters with corn, I knew I had to try them. Even though they didn’t seem like they’d work, but I had the testimony of a fellow food poster that they, in fact, would.

So I set about thawing out some shrimp and trying them out to see.

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