Monday, January 30, 2017

I Finally Did It !!!!

What, exactly is it that I finally did, you may ask....  well, I'll tell you!  I have mastered the art of making my own beautiful wooden spoons!  Back in July of 2015, when I was just starting my blog, I wrote about all my beloved wooden spoons, and about how I wanted to make my own someday.


Here they are, my first three spoons!!

I've wanted to work with wood for years now, and I found a place close enough to my home that offered classes, so I took basic woodturning and a cutting board class and totally fell in love with all of it.  I proceeded to buy a nice middle sized lathe and some basic woodturning tools, and along the way have been trying to get all the tools I think I need to get started on some projects into my shop.  I still need a good band saw, a planer, and maybe a drum sander, and I think I'll be happy for now.

Anyway... there was also a wooden spoon class that was scheduled I was hoping to take, but it was cancelled, and after I thought about it, I decided it wasn't the way I wanted to go with my spoons anyway.  They were making them by using a jig on the lathe and doing spindle work on the handles first, then using the jig to secure the spoon in a different way so you could gouge out the business end of the spoon with a bowl gouge.  It works fine... I saw pictures of some of the spoons.  They were beautiful, but too perfect.  I don't want perfect!  I can go anywhere and buy a perfect wooden spoon.  I have LOTS of them already.  I want my spoons to be handmade, not machine made.  I want them to look somewhat rustic and like they've been around a while.  So, in the end, I decided that class wasn't really what I wanted. 

That's when my brain went into the "how am I going to make it happen now" mode.  I figured it couldn't hurt to just use my common sense, apply the basic knowledge I already have, and be brave enough to try.  The worst that could happen is some big disappointments and wasted wood and time.
I went for it.

At a local woodwork supply store, I found some beautiful Ambrosia Maple and Cherry that I thought would make strong, beautiful spoons.  I took it home and used some of my own wooden spoons as templates, the ones I love the shape of and look of the most.  

I cut them out with my scroll saw since I don't have a band saw yet.  After that, it was lots of hand work.  LOTS!!! My hands have never been so tired.  I had 7 cut out ready to finish, but I could only get three of them done before I was done in. 
They are all made out of Ambrosia Maple.  The small one is 6 3/4 inches long, the medium one is 9 inches long, and the big one is 11 1/2 inches long.  I was really pleased with how they came out, and I'm relieved to know I can actually do this without someone teaching me.  I can only get better at it as time goes by.  These have already sold.  I have wood to make about 18 to 20 more, which is exactly what I'm going to do as soon as I have time to get them done, because I need some for ME!  I also want to use some of the scrap wood to make some spreaders... for jams, butter, soft cheeses.  That will be another challenge.  I don't know if I can do that or not, but I'm determined to try!

The problem with all this is... it's all I'm thinking about right now.... it's all I want to do!  But I have other things that demand my attention and I can't do this 24 / 7 like I wish I could!
Balance... it's all about balancing things out.  I can do it, I can.... I can....

Creamy Chicken and Dumplings

Oh, yum! 

I really enjoy a big steaming cup of chicken and dumplings.  Now, I know there are plenty of ways to make this, and plenty of people who like them plenty of different ways, but I like mine simple and creamy.
I don't want a clear broth, and I don't want onions or carrots in it... I just want chicken and dumplings swimming in a thick and creamy pool of deliciousness!

I've been making chicken and dumplings almost this way for over 35 years.  When I first learned how, I made it good and proper, boiling a hen, deboning it and using the broth from it as the starting point, but now I just create my own broth and use rotisserie roasted chicken I get from Sam's Club. They're huge, delicious, and only five bucks each and I use half of one each time I make it.

For the dumplings, I combine 1 1/2 cups of  Pioneer Baking Mix, 1/2 cup milk, 1 heaping tablespoon of dried parsley, and some black pepper together in a bowl. 

I mix it all up with a spoon until it sticks together and then finish forming it into a dough with my hands, shaping it into a ball as it comes together.  Here, I'm showing what I use to cut them out so they're all the same size.. so they will all cook at the same rate in the broth.  You can make them bigger, but the bigger they are, the longer it takes them to cook and the fewer you will get out of the dough.  You can always double the dough recipe and put twice as many dumplings in if you want to, which I often do, but today I was in a hurry.

Next, I press the dough ball flat on my cutting board.  I don't flour the board or anything, it never sticks...

I cut them all out and put them aside in a little pile.  Once I've cut out all I can, I just pick up the scraps and form another ball, press it flat, and do it all over again, repeating this until I've used all the dough up.

Once I have them all cut out, I cut each one in half...

and roll it into a ball, then press on it to flatten it a bit.

Here's one next to a quarter so you can tell how big they are.  You don't have to cut them in half if you don't want to, I just like them to be the perfect size to fit in my spoon. 

I cover them with plastic wrap so they won't dry out while I get the broth going.

I use 2 (32 oz.) cartons of reduced sodium chicken broth...

and 1 container of Knorr's Homestyle  Chicken Stock.

This is on high heat because I want it to come to a boil.  I'm adding a heaping tablespoon of dried parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and some coarse ground black pepper.

While I'm waiting on the broth to start boiling so I can add the dumplings to it, I get the other stuff ready that still needs to go in.  This is 1 can of Cream of Chicken soup and 1/2 cup of whole milk.


Beat vigorously until the soup is creamy and the only lumps you can see are the chicken in it.

Then I give the chicken a rough chop,

and whisk 2 egg yolks in a bowl with a fork.


When the broth comes to a good boil, drop the dumplings in one at a time.

They grow and get fluffy, and then they get denser as they cook and shrink some. Once they're all in there, reduce the heat to a moderate simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring gently a few times to move them around in the broth.

After 10 minutes, I like to fish one out with a spoon and test it for doneness.


Then, using my wonderful handy-dandy slotted Kitchamajig I've had for a million years, I remove them all from the broth and threaten my husband with something, anything horrible I can think of, so he won't eat them before I can get them back into the pot!

Next up, drizzle the egg yolks in while stirring the broth, same as you would if you were making egg drop soup.

Once that's done, add the soup/milk mixture in.

Then the chicken goes in....

and finally, the dumplings go back in.  Yes, they survived and I didn't have to kill my husband.

Give it a good stir, let it simmer for about 5 minutes so the chicken can get good and hot,

and it's ready to eat.

I like to put lots of black pepper on mine right before I eat it. 
I recommend tasting it before you add any salt.  I never add any extra salt, even using reduced sodium chicken broth, but go right ahead and add some if you want it saltier after tasting!!






Sunday, January 22, 2017

Skillet Apple Pie Biscuits

I'm on a cast iron skillet cooking kick!  Here's a recipe I found that looked like something my husband would really like, so I decided to give it a go.  It looks so good, I just couldn't see how it could possibly not be!

Here it is, right out of the oven, laughing at the two ding-a-lings standing over it, fork in hand, drooling and waiting for it to cool enough so they don't burn their mouths...

To get started, I melted a stick of butter and mixed brown sugar, cinnamon, & nutmeg together in separate containers.

Then I brushed some of the melted butter all around the bottom and sides of my 10 inch skillet.

I went with these biscuits, but I think any type/brand would work just as well.

It's important to get premium pie filling, it has much less liquid in it, more apples.


I put the pie filling into a bowl and cut it up into smaller pieces.

Then dipped each biscuit into the butter to coat the entire surface - this is a messy step, but it's kinda fun.

Then I sprinkled some of the brown sugar mixture on the top and sides of each biscuit before putting into the skillet.

Next, I arranged the apples over the top of the biscuits,

Poured the remaining melted butter over the apples,

Sprinkled the remaining  brown sugar mixture over the top, and baked.

While it was baking I made the simple glaze that goes on after it comes out of the oven.

Done!!

I drizzled the glaze on immediately after removing it from the oven.

I asked my husband to rate it, between 1 - 5 stars.  He gave it a 4.5.  Why? He said he'd like it better if the biscuits weren't so big and "biscuity".  Sooo.... next time I make it, I'll quarter the biscuits instead of placing them in the skillet whole and I think that will solve the problem.

Here's what I did differently:  I used canned biscuits,  I didn't use the optional nuts, I added a little cinnamon to my glaze, and used heavy cream instead of half & half or milk as called for to make the glaze.  I don't think it would be necessary to double the glaze recipe, but I guess if you're really big on the glaze part, it could make you happy!

Here's the original recipe, which comes from Melissa Sperka at melissassouthernkitchen.com

Skillet Apple Pie Biscuits
Author: Melissa Sperka
Serves: 8


Ingredients

·         8 frozen buttermilk biscuits, thawed or homemade buttermilk biscuits
·         1 [21 oz.] can premium apple pie filling
·         1 stick [1/2 cup] butter, melted
·         ½ cup light brown sugar
·         1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
·         1 tsp pure vanilla extract
·         ⅛ tsp nutmeg
·         ¼ cup walnut or pecan pieces [optional]

·         Glaze: [double if desired]
·         ½ cup powdered sugar
·         2-3 Tbsp cream or half & half or 1-2 tsp whole milk

Instructions

1.     Preheat the oven to 375°F. Melt the butter, and brush on all sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
2.     In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until blended.
3.     Dip each biscuit in the butter, and sprinkle all sides with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Arrange side by side in the skillet.
4.     Cut the apples in the pie filling into smaller pieces, and mix in 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla. Arrange over the biscuits.
5.     Pour the remaining butter over all and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar on top.
6.     Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden and puffy.
7.     Mix together the ingredients for the glaze. Drizzle on top.
8.     Serve hot.




Friday, January 20, 2017

Yellow Squash Frittata with Beef & Onions

I'm crazy about frittatas!  Once you figure out the basics for making one, you don't need a recipe, you can just throw one together with whatever you have on hand.  I had some tender little yellow squash to work with today, and I love squash and eggs together. 

Here it is, just waiting for me to cut into it!


The Step by Step:
One medium onion, into the skillet which had a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in it. 


Once the onions were getting some good color on them, I added the diced up yellow squash and just a little more olive oil.


Then I added salt & pepper and cooked over medium heat until the squash was tender.

This is the end result, so I just set this to the side while I moved on to cooking the meat.

I browned a little over half a pound of lean ground beef with salt, pepper, and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce until it had some nice color on it, little crunchy bits here and there...removed it from the skillet and set it aside.

I combined 5 large eggs, 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, and 1/2 cup milk and whisked it together well.


Next, I added about a cup of grated cheese, salt & pepper, and some garlic powder and Italian seasoning.


I coated my 10 inch cast iron skillet with olive oil (this isn't the same skillet I cooked the onions, squash, and meat in), and, after mixing the veggies and meat together, poured them into the skillet and spread evenly.

With the burner on medium high heat, I poured the egg/milk mixture over the top.

Then I sprinkled it with a little more salt and pepper and some smoky paprika.  It may seem like I'm over-salting this, but I'm not.  This dish needs salt at every stage of cooking.  I cooked this until the edges just began to puff ever so slightly and started to appear drier. Then, I moved it to the oven to finish cooking.

After 10 minutes of baking in a preheated 400 degree oven, I sprinkled a mixture of grated pepper jack and Colby jack cheeses all around the outer edge and returned it to the oven.  I lowered the temp to 350 and baked an additional 8 - 10 minutes, until the edges were nice and puffy and the center was set, with minimal "jiggle".


After allowing it cool in the skillet for about 5 minutes....

it was time to eat!


This was baked in a 10 inch skillet.  I'd say we did a pretty good job of almost polishing the whole thing off, considering there are only 2 of us!  We both salted it again on our plates after tasting.  It just needed a little more salt, but it was mighty good!

The options for what to throw into a frittata are practically endless.  The trick to a good frittata is to get a good liquid to solids ratio so it cooks evenly and the center sets before the bottom overcooks.  The egg part will become rubbery and unappetizing if it cooks for too long.