My mom adventures in Fort Collins


Internet world: Help my mom with her K-Cup problem
March 2, 2016, 9:19 am
Filed under: Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I am resurrecting my once-beloved-now-ignored-writing platform to take to the streets.

You think that the talk of the town would be the Super Tuesday results, but you’d be mistaken. My mom has just sent me this email.

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Holy crap, right? I can’t believe it either. Take a minute and process the tragedy of what this woman is saying. She’s purchased some junky K-Cups that create Turkish coffee when she most certainly wants good old fashioned American coffee. She’s done everything in her power to rectify the situation, so now she’s taking to the streets. Of course, the streets in this case are Facebook. And her request is that I do it for her since SHE DOESN’T HAVE A FACEBOOK ACCOUNT.

Well, I’ll be. That’s quite a conundrum. She can’t access an easy way to ascertain if others are having this same problem complain publicly, so she has asked for my help.

And help her, I will!

This is my mom. She’s a kind lady, and all she wants in the world is a damn cup of coffee that doesn’t have grounds in it. HELP HER! Have you had the same problem? Did you suffer in silence?

IMG_8044Thanks in advance for your compassion and advice.

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Garden harvest: Zucchini

We are approaching the time of year when it is best to come up with a few recipes using the produce from the garden, lest your kitchen counter become overrun with an army of vegetables that scorn you for planting them and not eating them.

The challenge: Three large zucchinis

The challenge: Three large zucchinis

Zucchini is a funny vegetable in that it literally grows like a weed.  Where one moment it seems like a finger-sized zucchini is peeking out from under the enormous leaves, then you blink and you have a 4-pound behemoth that your child wants to rename Pinky and use as a doll. I eat so much zucchini in the late summer that I don’t ever want for it during the rest of the year. Typically, I do some zucchini bread, zucchini & onion foil packets on the grill, or I can sauté it with olive oil and other spices. Since I had very large zucchinis (where do those buggers hide?), my preference would be zucchini bread. However, I presently have a non-operational oven. So, the challenge was use up all of the zucchini without using the oven.

Here’s what I came up with: Zucchini noodles (or “zoodles”) & Zucchini fritters 

Both of these recipes are quite adaptable, and you can improvise with new spices or different ingredients. I’ve shared the basic recipes, and then I will include some other thoughts based on what worked and what didn’t for me. Both include prep time, though, so neither of these recipes could be categorized as “quick,” though the active time for the zoodles is less than 20 minutes.

Do you zoodle? Well, neither did I until recently. My sister-in-law had been telling me that you can turn zucchini into noodles, thereby rendering them “zoodles.” I am sure there is some very fancy way of doing this that you can read about on the internet, but here’s what I did.

General zoodle recipe:

  1. Julienne zucchini into long strips
  2. Place the zucchini strips in a salt water solution for about an hour so that they can get bendy-flexy like real noodles
  3. Drain thoroughly (leave them in a colander for at least 5 minutes)
  4. Stir fry them in a pan with a bit of oil
Here are my zucchini strips after they had soaked in salt-water, and then were drained: completely bendable

Here are my zucchini strips after they had soaked in salt-water, and then were drained: completely bendable

When you use the zucchini “noodles,” I was told that you could use whatever sauce you would normally put on noodles. A peanut sauce sounded really good to me, so I whipped up a truly simple one.

The ingredients for a basic peanut sauce: peanut butter, vinegar, garlic powder and red pepper (and water--not pictured)

The ingredients for a basic peanut sauce: peanut butter, vinegar, garlic powder and red pepper (and water–not pictured)

Since I only made “one serving” of zoodles, I didn’t need much peanut sauce. I used about 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter (I happened to have some peanut butter that I made from honey roasted peanuts), about 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar (I used Sherry vinegar), a pinch of garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne, and about 1/4 cup of water–added in increments.

On med-low heat, I started with 1/8 cup of water and the other ingedients, then I stirred. As the sauce comes together over the heat, you may need to add more water to thin it out.

On med-low heat, I started with 1/8 cup of water and the other ingredients, then I stirred. As the sauce comes together over the heat, you may need to add more water to thin it out. You’ll need to stir frequently.

I added some scallion greens, chopped cilantro and a bit of lime as garnish. I must say, I fell in love with zoodles cooked up in peanut sauce.

zoodles in peanut sauce, with cilantro & scallion garnish

zoodles in peanut sauce, with cilantro & scallion garnish

Zucchini fritters are a nice way of staying clear of any comparison to actual vegetables. If you like your zucchini barely recognizable, then these are for you. These fritters are adapted from a recipe I received years ago for veggie burgers using both zucchini and yellow squash. Here, I skipped the yellow squash and just used zucchini.

General zucchini fritter recipe:

  1. Shred zucchini, carrots and onion
  2. Sauté the onions first in a non-stick skillet for about 5-7 minutes with a bit of olive oil, then add the carrots and zucchini and continue stirring for 5 additional minutes.
  3. Add salt and minced garlic, and sauté for a few more minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and drain any excess liquid from the pan (if necessary)
  5. Add egg, some grated cheddar cheese, whole oats, additional spices, and stir to combine
  6. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour
  7. Remove from fridge. Form the veggie-oat mixture into small balls, and coat in flour
  8. Place in a non-stick skillet with olive oil. Press down on the balls to flatten into patties, and fry on each side 5-7 minutes on medium heat

Now, I had a LOT of zucchini, so I’ll share how much of everything that I used, but keep in mind that this makes an enormous batch. Also, my zucchini were big, so I took out the seeds. If you use smaller zucchini, you don’t have to bother seeding them.

Seeded zucchinis--I used two large zucchinis for this recipe

Seeded zucchinis–I used two large zucchinis for this recipe

I am in love with my food processor, so I let that baby do all the hard work. Along with the two seeded zucchinis, I shredded one large onion and three carrots. Also, because I happened to have red pepper, I threw that in this recipe as well. If I ever shred red pepper in my food processor again, I’ll peel it first… that didn’t work so well.

After all the shredding is done, start by sauteing the onions for a few minutes, then add the remaining vegetables

After all the shredding is done, start by sauteing the onions for a few minutes, then add the remaining vegetables

Sauteing everything first does bring out a lot of the liquid. I added about 1 tsp. salt (though my original recipe called for soy sauce), and that may have pulled out some liquid as well. I also added 4 cloves of garlic (love the garlic, but that may be too garlicky for folks, especially if you feed it to kiddos). Before turning off the heat and adding the oats, I found that I needed to drain the liquid, and I just did that over the sink using my lid.

Can we pause here and I can show you my little wheely garlic mincer contraption that my brother got me?

Can we pause here and I can show you my little wheely garlic mincer contraption that my brother got me?

It's an interesting device. You basically load the thing with garlic cloves that are halved or quartered, then you roll it around and a blade inside gets the garlic all minced. Open the top, and presto--finely chopped garlic!

It’s an interesting device. You basically load the thing with garlic cloves that are halved or quartered, then you roll it around and a blade inside gets the garlic all minced. Open the top, and presto–finely chopped garlic!

After you cook everything, you will turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients. I added two eggs, two cups of rolled oats, and I happened to have green chile cheddar cheese (I used way more than I needed to, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of shredded cheese). Since the cheese was a bit spicy already, for spices I added 1 tsp cumin and 2 tsp chilli powder. Then, you mix everything up and put it in a large bowl to chill for at least an hour.

Voila! Shredded veggie and oat goop!

Voila! Shredded veggie and oat goop!

So, an hour goes by, and you want to get your fritters going. I need to prepare you for this:

Once the patty-making begins, you will have very messy hands... VERY messy

Once the patty-making begins, you will have very messy hands… VERY messy

Using a tablespoon or two of oil in your pan, add the mounds of floured-veggie goop and press it down so that they form patties. You want these patties to be thoroughly cooked on the inside (not overly wet), so do about 5-7 minutes per side on medium heat.

Crispy on the outside--these are the zucchini fritters of your dreams!

Crispy on the outside–these are the zucchini fritters of your dreams!

I had already eaten dinner that night (see “Zoodles” above), but I had to have a little plate. The majority of the fritters have been eaten in the days since as lunch-time leftovers.

This big batch made a little more than a dozen zucchini fritters

This big batch made a little more than a dozen zucchini fritters

As far as reheating goes: If you microwave them, they are delicious but soggy. The best way to crisp them back up would be to stick them in the oven or back in the frying pan for a few minutes. However, I am a simple lady, with simple nourishment needs.

Zoodles & Fritters: I think I did okay for the self-imposed zucchini challenge. I’d love to hear from any readers on their thoughts for no-bake zucchini recipes, or really any use-up-the-garden-produce thoughts at all. Thanks for reading, everyone!



Kitchen success: Good ol’ sloppy joes

Just stop and recall from your memory the lyrics to Adam Sandler’s Lunch Lady Land…

Do you have it stuck in your head yet?

I found this great recipe for Sloppy Joe’s on thekitchn.com over here, and I have tried it with and without the “secret ingredient” (okay, okay, it’s mushrooms). Though I very much enjoy the mushrooms, not all kids do. To ensure that the sauce is saucy enough, if you forego the mushrooms you may want to add another can of tomato sauce or a bit of water (and adjust your seasonings accordingly).

Start by browning 1 lb. of ground beef (more is nice if you opt not to include the mushrooms)

Start by browning 1 lb. of ground beef (more is nice if you opt not to include the mushrooms), and remove from the pan to drain on paper towels

Onions and celery to start, a "standard" beginning

An onion and two celery stalks to start, a “standard” beginning

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Add a 10 oz package of mushrooms.The mushrooms do add an interesting element–this is not your standard Sloppy Joes recipe after all!

Add two cloves of minced garlic. Return the ground beef to the pan and add a 8 oz. can of tomato sauce, 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tablespoon of sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Let the meat and sauce mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes to let the flavors meld, but check to make sure you have enough sauce and adjust accordingly. (I learned the hard way that the mushroom-less mixture doesn’t have enough liquid, and wound up with a pound of burnt sloppy joe’s.) Alternatively, you could always do this part in your slow cooker and allow the mixture to cook on low for an hour or two.

You collaborating partners: ketchup, tomato sauce, worchestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, sugar

You collaborating partners: ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, sugar

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The finished product: saucy, savory, delicious Sloppy Joe’s

And the best part? This makes the perfect freezer meal. They also travel very well in ziplock bags over to a friend’s house (think: new baby, recent surgery, big move, etc.).

Put the meat mixture in a freezer bag and freeze flat, then deliver to a friend along with hamburger buns

Put the meat mixture in a freezer bag and freeze flat, then deliver to a friend along with hamburger buns

Sometimes comfort food is the perfect food!



Kitchen success: Sausage and “superfood” soup

You know me, I don’t speak “superfood” very often. But this delicious soup has two secret weapons.

Red lentils

Red lentils

Kale

Kale

I got the inspiration for this soup from the amazing (ah-may-zing!) vegan foodie website, Ohsheglows. Now, this is neither vegan nor vegetarian, but it easily could be–here is the link back to the original recipe if you care to take a look. My version does include soaking the lentils (though you don’t have to, I just like to do this so that it soaks up less of the broth when you cook it–lentils are like sponges that way), so including soak time, it will take about 2 hours to prepare, but most of this is not active time. Active time is about 20 minutes. Totally worth the time, and it makes a ton.

Ingredients:

The yummy ingredients

The yummy ingredients

  • 1 cup dry red lentils, soaked for about an hour, then rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sausage links (preferably Linguiça sausage), casings removed
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Qt. chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add onions and cook for a few minutes. Throw in the sausage, breaking it into smaller pieces as it browns.

Sausage and onions

Sausage and onions

Continue until sausage is nearly cooked through, then add the garlic and celery. Stirring occasionally, cook until celery softens (about 5-6 minutes). Add cumin, chilli powder, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Add stock, water, tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add kale, and simmer for a few minutes more.

The finished product, packed with flavor and vitamins

The finished product, packed with flavor and vitamins

I served it with a slice of homemade bread–not homemade by me, though. Made by Cory, even better!

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It’s likely you’ll have leftovers, and when you reheat it you may need to add a little water to give it more broth (lentils=sponges, remember?). I’ve tried the vegan version and then once tried it with chicken broth in place of the vegetable broth (though still without the sausage). I must say, the broth truly is delicious with or without any meat at all, but, you know me: you can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but you can’t take the Wisconsin out of the girl. Just two links of sausage will hearty-up the broth like nobody’s business.



Kitchen success: Eggplant patties
My plate full of patties, with another eager eater across the table from me

My plate full of patties, with another eager eater across the table from me

My mom frequently sends me recipes. If I cooked a different meal every night of the year, I might not get around to trying everything she’s sent me. These recipes are mostly in the form of “clippings,” so I’m sorry I can’t source this one any better than a photocopied page that says Sandy’s Eggplant Patties. My guess is that it’s from a Penzey’s spice catalog, because the recipe specifically mentions Penzey’s spices… but of this, I can’t be sure. However, you can be sure that these are tasty and a great alternative to chicken patties for the little ones. My kids will actually eat these–TRUE STORY!

Tools: Non-stick skillet (the bigger the better), 3-qt pot for boiling, food processor, mixing bowl, potato masher

Ingredients: 1 eggplant (peeled and cubed), 2 cups panko breadcrumbs (separated), 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1 egg (lightly beaten), 1 garlic clove (minced), 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, vegetable oil for shallow frying (separated, about 1/4 cup)

To Prepare: Bring water to boil in the 3 qt. pot. Add eggplant and cook until tender (about 5 minutes). Remove from the water and let rest on a paper towel-lined plate. Of the total amount of cooked eggplant, reserve about 1/3. With the remaining 2/3 of eggplant, pulse in the food processor.

Pulse 2/3 of the eggplant in the food processor

Pulse 2/3 of the eggplant in the food processor

Place all of the eggplant together in a large mixing bowl, and add 1 cup of the breadcrumbs, the cheese, egg, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mash together with the potato masher, then form into patties.

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The mashed together eggplant/breadcrumb/cheese mixture

Put remaining 1 cup of breadcrumbs on a plate. Coat each patty with breadcrumbs on both sides.

Plate o' breadcrumbs and the eggplant mixture

Plate o’ breadcrumbs and the eggplant mixture

In a skillet, heat some vegetable oil. Fry the patties in batches. Carefully flip each patty after about 2-3 minutes. Then cook the other side until golden, about 2-3 minutes.

Behold: the patties!

Behold: the patties!

Prep time: 20 minutes

Skillet time: about 6 minutes per batch

Makes about 10 patties, depending on size

Serve with marinara sauce, alongside garlic cheese bread or a side salad.

I served mine with a thicker homemade tomato chutney, and I had goat cheese & carmelized onion toast to go with it--YUM!

I served mine with a thick homemade tomato chutney, and a side of goat cheese & carmelized onion toast



Ambitious in the kitchen: Fleischbrook (AKA Kraut burgers)
Fresh from the oven--Fleischbrook

Fresh from the oven–Fleischbrook

Food, food, glorious food. I think most people can agree that certain foods can evoke memories in ways that no other image, smell, photo or story ever could. For me, so many childhood memories are evoked with the simple deliciousness of fleischbrook. Due to a quick google search, I learned that these simple meat and cabbage-filled bread rolls are also called kraut burgers, Bierocks or Runzas.

Ground beef, italian sausage, onion, cabbage + bread dough= delicious

There is a three part process to the Fleischbrook. 1. Make the bread, 2. Make the filling, and 3. Prep and bake. Since there is so much involved, it’s nice to have help. Wait, clarification: It’s nice to have adult help. Kids are awesome, and they’ll love helping you roll out the dough, but every time I’ve made these I’ve found that it’s helpful to have a fully engaged partner.

Here's a photo of one session with my wonderful mother-in-law (I've also enjoyed making them with my brother and my dad, and years ago with my grandma)

Here’s a photo of one session with my wonderful mother-in-law (I’ve also enjoyed making them with my brother and my dad, and years ago with my grandma)

Here’s my bread recipe, à la Betty Crocker.* You start with 3 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 3 Tablespoons of sugar, 1 Tablespoon of salt, 2 Tablespoons of shortening, and 2 packages of active dry yeast in a large bowl (I just put it straight into my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl). Add warm water (120-130 degrees) and beat for 1 mintue on medium speed. Stir in about 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is easy to handle. Knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes. When dough is smooth and springy, place it in a large oiled bowl (oiled with about aTablespoon of olive oil). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 40 to 60 minutes (or when doubled). Dough is ready if indentation remains when you stick two fingers in it. Now, for the second rising. The key to using this bread for fleischbrook is to allowing for the first rise, and then dividing your dough into small bun-sized dough-balls for the second rise. This makes the dough much easier to work with. I have used whole wheat pastry flour at times, but I find that using solely white flour is the most nostalgic for me–HA! After you divide your dough into golf ball-sized dough balls, place on a greased baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. You’ll want to leave plenty of room for these puppies to rise, so it will probably necessitate two baking sheets. Let rise another 35 to 50 minutes, or until double. Now, those dough balls will make for perfect bread-wraps for your filling!

Here’s my filling recipe, à la my dad. You will need a dutch oven (or huge skillet) and a small pot for boiling the cabbage in batches. As far as filling ingredients go, you can play around with this but I used approximately 1 lb of ground beef, 1 lb of mild Italian sausage, one large onion (diced), one medium head of green cabbage (chopped into postage stamp-sized pieces) and salt and pepper to taste (my dad insists on lots of pepper and his diet demands no salt). While you brown the meats and sauté the onion in your dutch oven/skillet, boil a few inches of water in your other pot. After the water boils, throw in the cabbage, and retrieve with a slotted spoon once they are softened. Place the cabbage bits into the skillet along with the meats and onion. Sauté together, testing for spices, and remove from heat. This mixture should be moist but not saucy. If it’s a bit saucy, keep cooking to evaporate any remaining liquid.

The mixture is heavy on meat, but you can even make a cabbage-only version

The mixture is heavy on meat, but you can make a cabbage-only version (of course, my dad sautes the cabbage in bacon fat, so I don’t know if I’d call it a “vegetarian” version)

Now comes the rolling, filling, folding and baking. Like most dough, you’ll want extra flour for the rolling process. You can also melt some butter to brush on top just before you pop ’em into the oven at 350 degrees. Since everything is already cooked, we’re less concerned with interior temp than the outer dough shell, so check for a golden crust. My prep method, in photos.

Rolling the dough

Rolling the dough–you’ll see imprecise is just fine, you’ll want the diameter around 8″ or so

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Add about 1/2 cup of filling

I go for triangles--flop over one side, then another.

I go for triangles–flop over one side, then another.

Stretch the third side to completely cover the remainder--pinching corners to secure.

Stretch the third side to completely cover the remainder–pinching corners to secure.

Throw them on a parchment/sipat lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, flipping half-way through

Throw them on a parchment/silpat lined cookie sheet with the folded side-down and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, flipping half-way through

*If you want to skip the bread making adventure, buy yourself some frozen Rhodes dinner rolls (not the heat-and-serve kind, but the let-’em-rise kind) and start from there.

This recipe made me about 30 average size meaty-filled bready delights. These little fleischbrook keep amazingly well in the freezer. You can slip them into a freezer bag, then reheat from frozen at 350 for 8-10 minutes. I will apologize profusely for misnaming these, but I never studied German. My grandmother was German-Russian, and any google search did not reveal this exact spelling. I think “fleisch” means meat, and I see that another term for what I’m trying to make here is “bierock” so I wonder if I am actually trying to say: FLEISCHBIEROCK, and my family always pronounced it “fleisch”-BROOK (as in “brook”–a place where one finds trout). Hmm. In any case, if you decide to try it, enjoy!

What are your favorite food traditions? Do you have all-consuming family-food preparation days? 



Feeling Fall: Pumpkin soup
November 1, 2012, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I know that people mock the overuse of pumpkin this time of year, but not me. While not the World’s Largest Fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte (really, who is?), I love assorted other pumpkin foods: pumpkin bars, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and, of course, pumpkin soup. A good friend gave me this recipe, and I have to say that it’s a gem. You can use pureed roasted pumpkin (from a pie pumpkin, or sugar pumpkin), or canned pumpkin–either way, it’s delicious.

The pumpkin soup, in all its tasty deliciousness

The first time I made this soup, I roasted my own pumpkins. These are pumpkins I got from Miller Farms way back in September. (Yes, I’m still talking about the produce I got from Miller Farms–I’m so going back there next year!) I tried various ways to roast it, and the easiest is the one I actually didn’t try–just fork the pumpkin several times and stick the whole thing in the oven. If you are not feeling adventurous (if throwing an entire pumpkin in the oven qualifies as “adventurous” for you, then welcome to my world), just do what I did and hack the pumpkin into a few pieces and roast it at 450 for about 25-30 minutes (whenever the flesh is tender).

I tried a variety of methods–hack the pumpkin into quarters and roast, peel and cut and boil–and it’s definitely easier to avoid peeling the skin off. Next time I’m going to roast the pumpkin whole. (Wish I’d known that trick before I roasted my hacked up pieces.)

After your pumpkin is roasted, scrape the flesh from the skin, ditch the seeds and stringy parts, and puree this in your food processor. You may now begin in earnest.

The pureed fresh pumpkin will look slightly less orange than canned pumpkin… I’m not exactly sure why, though.

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons butter

1 diced medium onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups of pureed pumpkin (a little more is better than a little less)

32 oz of chicken broth (or vegetable broth, either work fine)

1 teaspoon of fresh thyme

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup heavy cream

The finished product, with the severed heads as proof of my hard work

Directions: In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Saute the onions in the butter until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, and stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add all the remaining ingredients, except the heavy cream. Allow this to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove bay leaves, and blend the soup (using either an immersion blender or a regular blender, don’t forget to vent). Test for spice, and add the heavy cream. Remove from the heat and serve.

The pumpkin soup has a very big fan!