MIREPOIX for THANKSGIVING PREPARATION

It’s Thanksgiving week! The food prep can be overwhelming at time, but over the years I’ve found ways to make Thursday more enjoyable without breaking my back.  I did ALL the shopping this morning and one of the first things I did was ALL the tedious chopping for my stuffing vegetables and gravy vegetables. I did a little research and found out I have been using a combination of several methods for years. Mirepoix from the French is plainly diced vegetables cooked with butter (generally) on a gentle heat without browning until soft and flavorful. You are not trying to caramelize, but blend and sweeten the flavors to use as a base for other foods.

A traditional mirepoix is 2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part carrots. This traditional base is then built and layered upon to enhance flavors for building stocks, soups, stews and sauces.

To make mirepoix: Rinse, trim, and peel vegetables — typically two parts onion to one part carrot and one part celery — then chop them into uniform pieces. The shorter the cooking time of your recipe, the smaller the pieces should be, so that they effectively infuse the foods with flavor.

There are of course different names and combinations of vegetables based on the culture. Similar flavor bases include:

  • the Italian soffritto, The Italian version of mirepoix is called soffritto is a base of finely chopped parsley and onion sauted in lard, but most modern cooks substitute olive oil or butter. Garlic, celery, or carrot may also be included. According to the Italian restaurateur Benedetta Vitali, soffritto means “underfried” and describes it as “a preparation of lightly browned minced vegetables, not a dish by itself.”
  • the Spanish sofito, There are many different versions of sofrito, but the basics are green and red peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro.
  • the Portuguese refogado. Refogado is a Portuguese-style sofrito featuring onion, garlic, saffron, tomato and smoked paprika.
  • the German Suppengrün (leeks, carrots, and celeriac), means soup greens in German, and the Dutch equivalent is soepgroente. Soup greens usually come in a bundle and consists of a leek, a carrot, and a piece of celeriac. It may also contain parsley, thyme, celery leaves, rutabaga, parsley root, and onions. The mix depends on regional traditions, as well as individual recipes. The vegetables used are cold-climate roots and bulbs with long shelf lives. Suppengrün act as herbs and impart hearty, strong flavors to the soup or sauce, providing a foil for other strong tasting ingredients such as dried peas and beans or pot roast. Large chunks of vegetables are slow cooked to make flavorful soups and stocks, and are discarded when the vegetables have given up most of their flavor. Finely chopped Suppengrün are browned in fat and used as a basis for a finished sauce. The vegetables may also be cooked long enough until they fall apart, and may become part of the sauce or pureed to form the sauce.
  • the Polish włoszczyzna (leeks, carrots, celery root, and parsley root), A typical set of soup greens, known as włoszczyzna, the Polish word for soup vegetables or greens and literally translates to “Italian stuff”, used in Polish cuisine: carrots, parsley root and leaves, leek, and celeriac. Bay leaves and allspice grains are also shown. Queen Bona Sforza, who was Italian and married Polish King Sigismund I the Old in 1518, introduced this concept to Poland. A włoszczyzna may consist of carrots, parsnips or parsley root, celery root or celeriac, leeks, and savoy or white cabbage leaves, and sometimes celery leaves and flat-leaf parsley.
  • and here in the U.S. we use the standard mirepoix, the classic and most common French combination of onions, carrots, and celery, typically in a ratio of 2 parts onion to 1 parts each carrot and celery as well as the Cajun and Creole holy trinity that replaces the carrots in the standard mirepoix with bell peppers and sometimes the French duxelles (mushrooms and often onion or shallot and herbs, reduced to a paste).

Though the cooking technique is probably older, the term “mirepoix” dates from the 18th century and is credited to the chef, Charles Pierre Gaston Francois de Levis, duc de Levis Mirepoix who was the field marshall and ambassador and member of the noble family of Levis, lords of Mirepoix.

 

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING MENU vs. A TRADITIONAL MODERN MENU

As I was selecting a Thanksgiving Menu this year I was struck by the thought that much of the menu may not have even been at the first Thanksgiving which prompted me to do some research.

According to HISTORY.COM much of what we eat today for Thanksgiving is vastly different from the First Thanksgiving.

As I was selecting a Thanksgiving Menu this year I was struck be the thought that much of the menu may not have even been at the first Thanksgiving which prompted me to do some research.

Today for many Americans, their traditional Thanksgiving meal includes many “seasonal” dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that truly spans cultures, continents and millennia. Thanksgiving itself dates back to November 1621. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. But, it wasn’t until 1863, during the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of plenty. Historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

The first autumn harvest for the newly arrived Pilgrims corresponded with the Wampanoag Indians autumn harvest celebration at Plymouth. This event is widely regarded as America’s First Thanksgiving. Much of the local fare would have been from the Indians harvest.

In November 1621, now remembered as America’s “first Thanksgiving”, although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time. The festival lasted for three days.

No exact records exist of the actual menu, but Edward Winslow journaled that after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful the colony’s governor, William Bradford sent 4 men hunting for wild turkey, which was plentiful in the region and common food fare for both the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians. It is also possible that the hunters also returned with ducks and geese. He was organizing a celebratory feast a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit.

Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. As for the dressing or stuffing, herbs, onions and nuts may have been added to the birds for flavor.
The first Thanksgiving’s attendees almost certainly got their fill of meat. Winslow wrote that the Wampanoag guests arrived with an offering of five deer. Culinary historians speculate that the deer was roasted on a spit over a smoldering fire and that the colonists might have used some of the venison to whip up a hearty stew.

Local vegetables that likely appeared on the table include onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas. Corn, which records show was plentiful at the first harvest, might also have been served, but not in the way most people enjoy it now. In those days, the corn would have been removed from the cob and turned into cornmeal, which was then boiled and pounded into a thick corn mush or porridge that was occasionally sweetened with molasses.

Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and, of course cranberries, which Native Americans ate and used as a natural dye. While the Pilgrims might have been familiar with cranberries by the first Thanksgiving, they wouldn’t have made sauces and relishes with the tart orbs. The Pilgrims would surely have depleted their sugar supplies by this time. Records show that adding sugar to cranberries and using the mixture as a relish didn’t actually happen until about 50 years later.

Because of their location and proximity to the coast, many culinary historians believe that much of the Thanksgiving menu consisted of many seafood entrees that are no longer on today’s menus. Mussels in particular were abundant in New England and could be easily harvested because they clung to rocks along the shoreline. The colonists occasionally served mussels with curds, a dairy product with a similar consistency to cottage cheese. Lobster, bass, clams and oysters might also have been part of the feast.

Whether they were mashed, roasted, white or sweet, potatoes were not at the first Thanksgiving as they had yet to arrive to the north American region. Present on the menu would have been turnips and possibly groundnuts.

As for pumpkin pie, pumpkins and squashes were indigenous to the New England area, but the settlers hadn’t yet constructed an oven and lacked both the butter and flour to have made a pie crust. Some accounts do imply that early settlers improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes. The lack of sugar and an oven would have also eliminate pies, cakes or other desserts from the menu.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

Pilgrims didn’t hold their second Thanksgiving celebration until 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.

TRIVIA THOUGHTS
Turkey, because it contains tryptophan often gets blamed for the drowsiness and the need for a nap after the big Thanksgiving meal, but studies suggest it is really the carbohydrate-rich sides and desserts that allow tryptophan to enter the brain.

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusett Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.

New York, In 1817, became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition.  In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln, finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

It was Abraham Lincoln who scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when FDR moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends.
Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.

Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.

For some scholars, the jury is still out on whether the feast at Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States and many Native Americans take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially to schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar events are held in other parts of the country. Historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among other European settlers in North America that actually predate the Pilgrims’ celebration.

Save

KITCHEN SINK FRITTATA

Frittatas are one of the best vehicles for leftovers in my opinion.  So many people make frittatas out to be their arch nemesis, but for me frittatas are the best way to clean out the refrigerator before grocery day. They really are fairly simple, it’s just about the right proportions, seasoning and NOT over baking.

There are 3 main things to remember when making a frittata and then a few more things to remember.

  • The first is you need plenty of flavor, so if your leftovers are bland be sure to add extra seasoning that compliments your ingredients.
  • The second is to make sure your ingredients don’t fight each other. For example, you don’t want to combine liver and onions with hot wing chicken.
  • The third is to make sure your egg mixture is sufficient enough to cover your proteins and that your cheese choice compliments your proteins. I ABSOLUTELY recommend using a cast iron pan for ALL frittatas for an even bake.
  • The most important thing to remember for a fluffy frittata is to use FULL fat dairy and cheese whether it’s milk or sour cream. The full fat makes for a richer custardy texture. I personally like a rich buttermilk. Adding anything less than full fat is like just adding water.
  • If you’re not using leftovers, be sure to use FULLY cooked proteins and/or any vegetables (things like ham, tomatoes and mushrooms) that could release excess moisture while baking. tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • Bake just until set, DO NOT OVER BAKE!

KITCHEN SINK FRITTATA serves 4-6

2 cups chopped proteins
1/2 cup chopped vegetables
6 LARGE eggs
1/4 cup of WHOLE milk
appropriate seasonings, to taste
3/4 cup grated cheese
2 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat oven to 350° .
  • Melt butter in cast iron pan.
  • Whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings.
  • Mix together the proteins and vegetables.
  • Stir in the majority of the cheese, reserving some for topping just before serving.
  • Pour egg mixture over top making sure to cover everything.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes until JUST set.
  • Top with remaining cheese and serve immediately.

CHILI BOURBON/WHISKEY BALLS and a WHISKEY-BOURBON tutorial

CHILI BOURBON WHISKEY BALLS
2 pounds fully cooked boneless ham (I use ham steaks)
1/2 pound boneless pork chop
1/2 pound bacon
1 cup Panko crumbs
1 cup whole milk
2 LARGE eggs, beaten

  • Cut ham, pork chop and bacon into bite size pieces less than 1 inch.
  • Transfer to a jelly roll pan and freeze for 30-60 minutes.**
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Coarsely grind meat from freezer into a medium mixing bowl.
  • Whisk together the milk and eggs.
  • Add bread crumbs to milk mixture until well blended and absorbed.
  • Lightly combine pork and bread crumb mixture until consistent.
  • Shape into golf ball sized balls.

**NOTE Freezing before grinding does two things 1) the meat retains its moisture and 2) the machine won’t clog up during the grinding process.

SAUCE
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup Bourbon (I have also been known to use SEAGRAMS which what we usually have on hand)
2 tablespoons chili sauce

  • Whisk together all ingredients and bring to a SLOW boil.
  • Pour off 1 cup of sauce for reserve and keep warm or reheat just before serving.
  • Add ham balls to remaining sauce and gently stir to coat for a couple minutes.
  • Remove ham balls from sauce pan to baking rack inside jelly roll pan.
  • Bake 30 minutes, brushing occasionally with sauce from sauce pan.
  • Serve with reserved sauce.

NOTE: This recipe is ALSO good with beef meatballs.

BOURBON VS. WHISKEY – What is the difference?  This is something I always wondered about and my dad used to use them fairly interchangeable, but I never knew for sure so decided it was time to look it up.  It’s pretty interesting so I thought I’d share what I found with you.

Bourbon’s origin is not well documented with many conflicting claims and legends, not all credible. While bourbon is credited back to the French originally, American Bourbon has many rules that distinguish it from all others. Despite the 95 years of no bourbon production in Bourbon county originally due to first prohibition until a small refinery opened in 2014, it is still the best known area for bourbon production.

Bourbon is a corn base whiskey. By U.S. standards it must contain a minimum of 51% of corn, be produced entirely in the U.S., be aged in NEW charred oak barrels, and be distilled at specific volumes, aged at specific volumes and bottled at specific volumes.

In 1964 the United States Congress adopted a concurrent resolution that declared bourbon be a “distinctive product of the United States”. They asked that the United States agencies to take action to prohibit the importation into the U.S. of any whiskey designated as bourbon whiskey.

Legal Definitions of Bourbon vary from country to country, but many trade agreements require the name bourbon to be reserved for only those products made in the U.S.. The U.S. labeling and advertising regulations only apply for the products made for the U.S. and do not apply to those made for export.

There is no specific duration for the aging of Bourbon with the exception of STRAIGHT bourbon. Straight bourbon has a minimum aging of two years and if aged for less than four years must include a statement of age on the label when called STRAIGHT bourbon. STRAIGHT bourbon can also have NO added coloring, flavoring or other spirits. Using added colorings, flavorings or other spirits is BLENDED. Blended bourbon must contain at least 51% STRAIGHT bourbon.

Since the barrels can only be used once in order to call it bourbon, they are sold off to foreign distilleries to be used to produce other products. Often they are sold to Canada, the Caribbean, Scotland, Ireland and Mexico for manufacturing other barrel-aged products such as barbecue sauce,, wine, beer, hot sauces and other spirits. These barrels are saturated with 2-3 (sometimes up to 10) gallons of bourbon still which can influence the flavorings.

Whiskey, also spelled whisky has a debatable history. Despite all the debate it seems to boil down to regional language issues. The spelling whiskey is common in Ireland and the United states while the spelling whisky is used in most other countries.

Whiskey is generally aged in charred white oak wooden casks and is made of fermented grain mash (generally a combination of barley, corn, rye and wheat) which can also be malted after first being distilled in a copper vat. The copper removes the sulfur based compounds that give it an unpleasant flavor. While there are a variety of different still types today, they still have copper innards to remove the unpleasant sulfur based toxins.

After distillation whiskies are aged in wooden casks of primarily American and French oaks. Whiskies undergo a six point process that contributes to its final flavor. The six processes are extraction, evaporation, oxidation, concentration, filtration and colouration.

In order to use the term scotch whiskey, it must be distilled in Scotland.

Whiskey, like bourbon is strictly regulated throughout the world with typical unifying characteristics regarding the classes and types of fermentation of the grains, distillation and aging in wooden barrels.

Chemical distilling itself dates bake for certain to the Greeks. Much of early distillation was not for alcohol, but for medicines. In the 15th century distillation processes spread to Ireland and Scotland where the practice of medicinal distillation spread into alcohol distillation by monasteries. When King Henry the VIII dissolved the monasteries (1536-1541) Whisky production moved from a monastic setting to residential and farm settings as the monks, newly independent people now needed a way to earn money.

Early whisky was not allowed to age and was a brutal tasting spirit as it was very potent and not diluted. Over time whisky has become a much smoother spirit as it is now aged and diluted.

As with all things, whisky became considerably more taxed when England and Scotland were merged in 1707 by the Acts of Union. By 1725 most of Scotland’s distillation was shut down or forced underground because of the high taxation. They were known to hide scotch whisky in coffins, under altars and any available hidden space to avoid the revenuers. It was at this point that whisky became known as moonshine as distillers took to preparing and operating their stills at night when the smoke could be hidden in the darkness.

During the American Revolutionary war whisky was used as currency. George Washington himself operated a large distillery at Mt. Vernon.

There is still much taxation worldwide on both the distillation and purchase of whiskies.

During the American Prohibition 1920-1933 all alcohol was banned with the exception of whisky that was prescribed by a doctor and sold through a licensed pharmacy. I’m sure Walgreens is VERY thankful for this as their chain grew from 20 stores to over 400 stores.

So as you can see, it is all as clear as mud! So ALL bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbon.

Save

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR PRESSURE COOKER

Cooking under pressure requires much less liquid than conventional cooking methods since there is less evaporation. You can always use more liquid than recommended in a pressure cooker recipe, but never use less. The whole concept of pressure cookers is simple. Water or any cooking liquid comes to a boil at 212° at which point it produces steam. Steam is hotter than boiling water and can reach approximately 250°. Trapped steam builds up putting approximately 10 to 13 PSI (pounds per square inch) on food, making it cook by at least 25% faster. For this reason there are a few VERY important things to remember.

  • Begin cooking under pressure over a high heat.
  • Once the pressure cooker comes up to pressure, lower the heat to a low heat setting so that it maintains the pressure without exceeding it. If pressure appears to be dropping, raise the burner up slightly. This is easy when using a gas range, but if you are cooking with an electric range you will need to use two burners; one on high heat to get things going; the other on low to maintain the pressure.

Pressure cookers cook quickly since they use the pressure created from the built-up of the hot trapped steam in the pot. Because of this there are a few important things to remember.

  • Always use at least 1 cup of cooking liquid.
  • Never fill the pressure cooker more than half way full with liquid. You can always reduce liquid by boiling off excesses later until you reach your desired consistency.

Even though steam doesn’t weigh anything, it needs space in the pressure cooker to build up. For this reason always remember:

  • Never fill it more than two-thirds full with food.
  • Never fill it more than half full with liquid.

The key to cooking with a pressure cooker is timing.  Timing is as important as developing pressure. Once you have reduced pressure according to the recipe directions, be sure to set a digital kitchen timer for the recommended cooking time. Remember:

  • All cooking times are approximate and might be understated, but it’s always better to under cook something than overcook it.
  • If food needs to be cooked longer, do so in 1-5 minute intervals under pressure.
  • The harder (tougher) the food, the longer the additional time!

Size really does matter when it comes to recipe preparation. A few important things to remember are:

  • For consistent results, cut foods into pieces of uniform size to promote even cooking. Large pieces of meat take considerably longer to cook than say smaller cubed pieces as do pieces with bones.
  • When mixing foods, such as meat, potatoes, and vegetables, begin by cooking the meat, say halfway, release pressure then add the potatoes; cook then for 2/3 their recommended cooking time, and at last add the quicker cooking vegetables. You may need to follow this “stop and go” routine several times, but it’s important so that the food retains its texture as well as flavor.
  • For extra flavor, brown or sauté foods first just like you would when cooking with conventional cookware. For instance, brown the meat and vegetables for a stew, before adding other liquids and cooking under pressure. Be sure to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits clinging to the bottom with a small amount of wine, broth or even water, so they are loosen, adding flavor to your food, as well as discouraging scorching.

Rapid or Natural Release? Unlike your great-grandmother’s pressure cooker, an important safety feature of today’s pressure cookers is that they can’t be opened until you completely release the pressure from the pot. 
Depending on what you’re making, you will release steam, and therefore pressure, from your pressure cooker by either using one of the two following methods:

The Natural Release Method: when cooking tough or large cuts of meat, remove the pressure cooker from the heat source and let the pressure dissipate on its own as the pressure cooker cools down. This can take up to 30 minutes.

Quick Release Method: when cooking most recipes that contain foods that are softer, read the owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to release pressure as soon as the food is done cooking. The easiest way to do so, is to move the pressure cooker from the stove to the sink and run cold water over the top side of the lid and pot until the all the pressure is released, taking less than a minute.

You can adapt your favorite recipes for the pressure cooker pretty simply. Even though the pressure cooker is best suited for cooking foods that require long cooking times such as soups, stews, and beans, you can cook almost anything in it. The following are a few hints for adapting conventional recipes to the pressure cooker:

  • Prep ingredients as called for in the conventional recipe.
  • Make sure you are using enough liquid to create steam (usually a minimum of 1 to 2 cups).
  • Try and match the conventional recipe to a similar pressure cooker version and adjust the ingredients and cooking time accordingly.
  • Cut back on the cooking time at least 25%, up to 50%. Remember, you can always go back and cook the food longer if need be, while overcooked mushy food cannot be saved!

Make sure you store your pressure cooker correctly. The most convenient and best way to store your pressure cooker after using it is to place the lid upside down, on top of the pot. Always wash the pot, lid and rubber gasket by hand with soapy, warm water; dry well before putting away. Make sure to check that the safety valves are clean and unobstructed and that the rubber gasket is always pliable and flexible before inserting it under the lid. DO NOT STORE IN A CLOSED SEALED POSITION.

Save

AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE – HAPPY 4TH OF JULY

Independence Day or 4th of July as we call it has only been a federal holiday since 1941, but of course the tradition dates back to 1776 when the Continental Congress voted on July 2nd in favor of Independence. Two days later delegates from all thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and celebrated their independence and the birth of a nation on July 4th.

Since July 4th falls in mid summer, the celebrations major focus usually includes leisure activities, parades, concerts, backyard barbecues, games, bonfires and family gatherings culminating in fireworks later at night.

When the Revolutionary War broke out back in 1775, a few colonists wanted complete independence from Great Britain. These colonists were considered to be the radicals of their time.

However, more and more colonists came to believe in favor of independence. Many because of Thomas Paine’s famous writing “Common Sense” which he published in early 1776.

In June 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion that called for the colonies’ independence. A heated debate followed and Congress postponed the vote to his resolution. At that time they appointed a committee of five men, Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), John Adams (Massachusetts), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Roger Sherman Connecticut) and Robert R, Livingston (New York) to draft a formal statement justifying the break from Great Britain.

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Independence in a near unanimous vote. New York abstained, but later voted yes.

John Adams wrote to his wife that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” He believed that the American Independence celebration should occur on July 2nd since that was the day of the vote to secure it and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dies on the 4th of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Before the Revolutionary war, colonists would hold celebrations in honor of the king’s birthday. These celebrations included the ringing of bells, bonfires, parades and speeches. After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence these same colonists celebrated the birth of their independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a symbol of the end of the British hold on America and a triumph to their new found liberty.
Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777. Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence.

The war was still going on and George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.

After the Revolutionary War and to this day, Americans continue to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allow the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. Over the years, the political importance of the holiday has declined somewhat, but IndepThe most common symbol of the holiday is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States.

And did you know New York City has the biggest fireworks display in the United States and that three U.S. presidents died on July 4?

Save

CREAM SOUP SUBSTITUTES

Casseroles tend to call for a can of some form of “cream of” soup.  Since those soup tend to be full additives and preservatives I came up with some quick and easy substitutes that are homemade as you needed.

CREAM SOUP SUBSTITUTES

Do you hate buying canned soups for use in recipes? Do you want something healthier and less costly?  These recipes make perfect substitutes for 1 can of soup.

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk or other liquid (as specified in variations)

  • Melt the butter in heavy saucepan. 
  • Blend in flour and salt. Cook until bubbly. 
  • Remove from heat and gradually stir or whisk in liquid. 
  • Return to heat and cook, constantly stirring until smooth and thickened.

VARIATIONS

  • Cream of chicken: Use 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. chicken broth as the liquid. Add 1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage.
  • Cream of celery: Saute´ 1/2 c. chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion in the margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
  • Cream of mushroom: Saute´1/4 c. finely chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion in margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
  • Tomato: Use tomato juice as liquid. Add a dash each of garlic salt, onion salt, basil, and oregano.
  • Cheddar cheese: Use milk for liquid. Stir into the finished sauce 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/4 tsp. dry mustard.
  • Cream of shrimp: Drain the liquid from a small can of tiny shrimp into a measuring cup. Fill cup with milk to measure 1 cup of liquid. Add a dash of pepper, onion salt, curry powder, and paprika to the finished sauce, and stir in the shrimp.

HAPPY HOMEMAKER & MENU PLAN MONDAY

I can’t believe it’s Monday again already! I had a cyber/virtual productive weekend cleaning up photo files and ridding my computer of unnecessary “space holders”.  But now it’s time to link up with Sandra over at Diary of a Stay at home mom and Laurie at I’m an Organizing Junkie for Happy Homemaker and Menu Plan Monday.

THE WEATHER OUTSIDE
THIS MORNING:
Just in time for spring, it’s cold and rainy here again.  I hate those false nice days that fool you into short sleeves and sunny days.

FOR THE WEEK:
Pretty much the same, but less and less promise of sun and more and more promise of dreary skies as the week progresses.

TO DO LIST
TODAY:

  • Dr. appt. and hospital prep for hubby’s upcoming surgery
  • errands
  • groceries

THIS WEEK:

  • Laundry
  • EBAY
  • Cleaning

CURRENTLY READING

TELEVISION & DVR

  • Perception
  • Vikings on the history channel (hubby has a thing for Norway)

but I’m still working off the DVR from last week.

  • Castle
  • Scandal
  • Justified

PLAY TIME (If I can find any)

LMBO at that possibility.

A few recipes from last week never got made so they are on this week’s menu again.
 Menu Plan Monday hosted by Laura at I’m an Organizing Junkie


BREAKFAST
DINNER
DESSERT
MONDAY
Oatmeal with Fruit
C.O.R.N. or Y.O.Y.O.
TUESDAY
Bagel & cream cheese
EXPERIMENT NIGHT
WEDNESDAY
Yogurt with Blueberries & Granola
Chicken Fricassee

THURSDAY
Scrambled Eggs with cheese & Toast
Moroccan Roast Chicken

FRIDAY
Yogurt with Blueberries & Granola
White Bean Gratin
Couch Potato Bars
SATURDAY
Bacon & Eggs
Coffee Meatballs & Noodles
SUNDAY
Pancakes French Quarter Pork & Beans


LAST WEEK’S RECIPE LINKS

NEW RECIPES I FOUND THIS WEEK TO TRY IN THE NEAR FUTURE

  • Pineapple Skirt Steak

MY FAVORITE PHOTO FROM LAST WEEK

Whiskey knows she’s not allowed in the kitchen while I’m cooking and tried to hide out under the table.

BLOGS TO CHECK OUT

I keep looking for new and inspiring blogs, but honestly so many have huge ad sections or pop ups nowadays that just annoy me!

HOMEMAKING TIP

A few hints for successful slow cooking in your crock pot:

  • Don’t stir unless a recipe specifically tells you to.  Removing the lid lets a significant amount of heat and moisture out which can change your cooking time.
  • Add dairy, seafood and fresh herbs at the end of your cooking time,  
  • Dairy products will break down and/or curdle if cooked too long.
  • Fresh herbs will turn black and lose their crispness if cooked too long.
  • Seafood is something you want to only cook until done or it will fall apart.
    • For best results browning beef before cooking in the crock pot makes for more even cooking.


    ON MY MIND LATELY

    WAY TOO MUCH!


    PRAYING FOR & INSPIRATION

    WAFFLED FRENCH TOAST

    How about a little Waffle history?

    Waffles have actually been around since the 9th century.  Waffle irons were first used to make communion wafers (waffle means wafer in Dutch).   Designs on waffles have been around since the 13th century, often using the family crest as the design.

    Thomas Jefferson spent time in France as the Ambassador and became enamored with waffles. He was said to have brought home a long handles waffle iron and held waffle parties in his home regulary.

    Belgiam waffles should actually be Brussels waffles, but the gentleman who first brought them to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 didn’t believe most people knew where Brussels was so he began calling the Belgium waffles.  Ironically what we know as Belgium waffles do not even resemble the yeast (we tend to use baking soda here in America) waffles made in Belgium.

    In another turn of irony, we owe the ice cream cone to a waffle maker at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair when he helped out the guy in the next booth selling ice cream who ran out of cups.  Hence the waffle cone was born.

    Here is a little bit of trivia about one of the most famous waffles, Froffles from 1953.  You may know them by their nickname, Eggos.  The nickname due to their eggy flavor stuck and they were re-branded in 1955 as EGGOS.

    WAFFLED FRENCH TOAST serves 8
    1 cup milk
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 tablespoon butter, melted
    1 teaspoon PURE Vanilla
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    2 large eggs
    16 half slices day old sourdough bread

    • Coat waffle iron with non-stick spray and pre-heat.
    • Whisk together the milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and eggs.
    •  Place bread pieces in a baking dish.
    • Pour egg mixture over top, turning pieces to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.
    • Places 4 pieces on hot waffle iron. Cook 3-5 minutes until golden.
    • Serve with Maple Syrup

    Making something out of nothing ~ A SOAP tutorial



    We’re all trying to cut a few corners these days and conserving all the scraps just makes sense.

    • Save up your old bars of soap, making sure they are dry slivers.
    • Use your grater or chopper to make small pieces. Or like me I eventually give up and use an old ziploc and a meat tenderizer.
    • Put them in a sauce pan with 8 ounces of water for every 1 1/2 cups grated slivers and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. They should blend together like a smooth pudding.
    • I added a hint of lemon extract and green food color also.
    • Pour into molds. I like to use an old ice cube tray for a smaller decorative soap for the guest bathroom or this should make about 3-4 medium-sized bars.
    • After they are set up, pop the bars out of the molds. If they don’t come out easily, stick them in the freezer for 4 hours or overnight, or until they feel dry when you touch them. Then they will pop out easily.
    • Air dry them without their touching each other for 2-3 days.

    SALT the finishing touch

    It’s not a question of whether to salt food, but when, how and what salt to use.  We are no longer forced into a plain iodized table salt world when we cook.  Keep in mind though that while these up and coming salts can add great flavor, they can also be quite expensive, but are great for those special dishes and needs to be used sparingly.

    Iodized salt (white table salt) that we were all raised on has its place, but is quite boring in today’s world.  Visit any spice shop and you will find at least a dozen other salt options.

    No matter the size and shape (fine crystals, coarse crystals or flakes) you use, the subtle differences are n the flavor and these differences depend on where the salt originated from and the minerals present  in the salt.

    Kosher salt is popular among chefs because it has no additives and dissolves very quickly despite its larger grain size. Kosher salt is very popular for rubs.

    Sea salt, made from evaporated seawater) is available in both grains and flakes and is quite often used as a finishing salt in the flake form.  Maldon flaked sea salt from the shores of Essex, England is quite popular and a great finishing salt for sea food.

    For me, salt “FLAVORS” are a personal thing.  I have my favorites like Hawaiian red and Black Sea Salts, Himalayan Pink, French Grey Sea saltShallot Salt or Makrut Lime Sea Salt, but am always looking for new infused flavors to try.

    SALT WORKS has a good guide to help you learn more about the individual salts and their uses.

    CHICKEN ala BAD DAY

    I was having one of those days with trying to get my aunt to a specific appointment at a specific time.  You know the type that she wasn’t (or wasn’t able to) cooperating, the weather was storming, it was hot and muggy and I was just plain getting worn out dealing with her.  We were supposed to have leftovers tonight, I had planned it that way knowing I would be gone dealing with her, but someone, who will remain nameless decided that it looked better for lunch.  So when I got home I rooted around the crisper and the pantry trying to throw together enough dinner for tonight and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.  My uncle asked what I called this and I said Chicken ala Bad Day.  He asked if I would post it to my blog and I said yes, because guess what?  They want me to make it again and it turned out REALLY good.

    CHICKEN ala BAD DAY
    3 tablespoons butter
    2 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
    1 large bunch green onions, sliced thin
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 cup champagne vinegar 
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    2 tablespoons molasses
    salt and pepper to taste 
    1/2 pound green beans, trimmed 
    1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced

    • Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
    • Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces.
    • Saute’ the onions and garlic until they soften and brown, about 5 minutes.
    • Add chicken pieces until golden brown on both sides. 
    • Pour in vinegars and molasses.
    • Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken is well glazed.  I removed the chicken and then added mushrooms and green beans and sauteed them in the remaining sauce creating a great accompanying vegetable.
    I was going to use soy sauce when I discovered I was completely out and so I looked up substitutes.  I found this and it sounds like a great mix that I plan to try soon.
    Soy Sauce Alternatives
    If you are looking for a substitute for soy sauce which can be stored for sometime, here is a concoction which can be used for a month, if stored in the refrigerator.

    Prepare garlic vinegar
    5 garlic cloves
    ½ a quart of boiling white wine vinegar
    1½ tablespoons of peppercorns 

    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    +/-5 tablespoons blackstrap molasses (a spiritous mixture of rum and molasses)

    • Add garlic and peppercorns to vinegar and  let it stand for 3 weeks.
    • After 3 weeks,  add onion powder and ground ginger to 1¾ cups of the strained garlic vinegar. 
    • Next add +/-5 tablespoons. Take care to add the blackstrap based on how sour or sweet you want it to be. 

    This soy sauce alternative is actually the best choice for those who are on a low sodium diet owing to blood pressure or cardiovascular issues and also makes way for the health benefits of blackstrap molasses which includes regularization of bowel movement, arthritic pain relief and restoration of color to graying hair.