Beka To Basics

Real Food Cooking

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Thanksgiving Leftovers

So… Thanksgiving was last week, so I’m a bit late to this party.  I’m sure most everyone has already dealt with and eaten their leftovers.  Maybe, the last few days were full of groaning about having to eat the same thing… again.  Maybe not.  I don’t know how many leftovers you get.  With two or more Thanksgiving dinners, I get a lot.  I’ve come up with a few recipes to change the food just a bit, in case you’re sick of plain old heated up Thanksgiving or turkey and ham sandwiches. Not that those options are bad.

First, I highly recommend you secure the turkey carcass from whoever cooked it.  Most people are ok with giving it up since they won’t use it anyways.  My family?  Grandma and I both want the carcass, so it’s good we have two turkeys. 🙂
When I get home, I put the carcass in the crock pot and make stock.  I actually use it three times before I throw away the bones.  I got  two gallons of stock and enough turkey for soup.  And I still had turkey slices for all the sandwiches I could want.

Split Pea Soup

This recipe is based on the Better Homes and Gardens Red Plaid cookbook (which I love)

  • 1lb split peas
  • butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large or 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt, pepper, marjoram, thyme, to taste
  • ham bone with meat attached
  • 1/2 gallon water

Saute the veggies in butter or olive oil until they are tender.  Add the peas, bone, water and seasons.  Simmer until the peas get soft and it sort of looks like baby food.  Seriously, I know I’m not making it sound very good, but it is.  When it’s ready, take the bone out, pull the meat off and put it back in the soup.  The meat will literally fall off the bone – just give it a rough chop and you’re all set.

Stuffing Dumpling and Turkey Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup or so of turkey (whatever you got off the carcass)
  • 2 quarts of stock
  • leftover stuffing
  • 1 egg
  • flour
  • butter or olive oil
  • sage, salt, pepper, bay leaf

Saute the veggies until they are tender.  While they are cooking, mix the stuffing and egg together.  Add flour, a little at a time until the mixture looks like a wet biscuit mix.  Add the stock, turkey and seasonings to the pot with the veggies and bring it to a simmer.  Form little balls out of the stuffing mix and drop them into the soup.  Let them cook for about ten minutes and enjoy your soup.

I also made Slightly Spicy Ham and Dumplings, lots of sandwiches and stuck some extra ham, a ham bone and the rest of my stock in the freezer.  These ideas might be a little late for this Thanksgiving’s leftovers, but lucky for you, the Christmas menu is extremely similar.  Let me know if you try them and what you think!


Happy Birthday Bread!

So, it’s official.  I haven’t purchased bread for a whole year!

I suppose it’s technically not really bread’s birthday, since people have been making bread long before I started, but it is a milestone for me. 🙂
When I first started, it felt like I would never get the hang of it.  I started to think that I would have to just cough up the extra money to buy bread that doesn’t have any weird ingredients in it.  There were a lot of flat breads because they just didn’t rise.  I had quite a few ‘flying crusts.’  That’s when there’s a huge gap between the loaf and the crust.  I also had some over risen bread that fell while it was baking. Others had huge gaps throughout the loaf.  Some were really crumbly, some were really dense.  Some tasted bad.  Most at least tasted good, but depending on the consistency, many became croutons or breadcrumbs instead of sandwich bread.  However, it got a lot easier as I made more bread.  Once I got a feel for what dough should look like for sandwich bread and what it should look like for buns or for pizza, I had a lot more success.  It also helps to understand what a recipe is saying when it describes the dough as loose or elastic.

It also felt like it was taking a lot of my time when I first started baking.  Now, I just work it into whatever else I’m doing.  Start dinner, mix bread, let it rise while I eat and then bake it.  I really only spend a lot of time baking it if I’m trying something new.  And for the weeks I really don’t feel like baking?  Well, there’s an easy answer for that… We don’t eat bread for a week.

It does take time to learn and get comfortable with baking bread.  It also takes time out of my day, even though I’m more used to dedicating time to it now and fitting it in to where ever it will fit.  It is totally worth it.  I don’t even want store bought bread anymore, the taste cannot compare to fresh bread and never will.
Next on the list is really learning how to cook a real sourdough loaf…

Cat Pic!


So, I love mole, but I don’t know how to make it.  I know that it is similar/related to adobo sauce, but, if my understanding is correct, it’s more time consuming and has more ingredients.  I have found some recipes online that look promising – I’m just not ready for the complications yet 🙂  I don’t really make a lot of complicated sauces.

This one turned out to be a whole lot easier than I thought it would.  It’s an Emril recipe for Adobo Pork Tenderloin.

I used chicken, instead of pork and didn’t marinate it since I planned on putting it in the slow cooker.  I made the sauce while cooking dinner last night and put the sauce, some chicken stock and tomato sauce in the slow cooker with the chicken.  Tell me why I always forget to turn on the slow cooker BEFORE leaving for work.  It’s just a good thing someone work close enough to home to come turn it on for me when I have a spacey moment in the morning. 😉

It looks like a lot of steps for a sauce, but really it boils down to this:

1) Heat the dried peppers to make them pliable.

2) Cut them and pour out the seeds.

3) Simmer them for a few minutes.

4) While the peppers are simmering, put all the other ingredients in a food processor and pulse until everything is a paste.

5) Add the peppers to the food processor and pulse.  Add some of the simmering liquid to get the consistency you need.
This made about a pint of Adobo Sauce.

In between these steps, I made spinach sausage casserole. Also easy.

Usually, casseroles require cream of something soup.  I can make my own, but sometimes, I just don’t feel like it.  I should really make a bunch and freeze them so they’re ready to go.  Anyways, I’ve come up with a replacement for casseroles for a quick fix.

  • 1/2 lb cooked sausage or chicken
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 or 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic
  • 1 cup cheese – I used fresh mozzarella, but cheddar is good too
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • salt and pepper

Mix it all together and bake it at 350 until it’s bubbly.

Roast Beast

A few weeks ago, my Mom wanted to know a good roast beef recipe.  I didn’t have one.  I could have made one up, but there are people who are way more qualified to do that sort of thing and there are plenty on the internet for the taking.  Don’t reinvent the wheel, right?  So, I sent her a link to one that looked tasty.

Well, since I shared that recipe with her, I have been craving my own roast beef (ask me why I didn’t just go to Mom’s house…).  But, because I’ve been making it a habit to buy meat once a month from Mt Vernon Farm, I waited.  Sure, I could have could have gone out a bought one at the grocery store.  The problem with that is that I really like the way the animal are handled at this farm.  I like their methods and ideology.  AND I really like the taste.  You can really tell that its fresh.  They have the best flavored lamb steak I have ever had.  Ever.  Even if you’re not a huge lamb fan, I bet this might change you’re mind. If you’re in the area, you can order from them or if you’re close enough, just stop by.

Back to roast beef.  I ordered a bottom round roast, just like the recipe says.  I couldn’t choose a cut with the layer of fat, but luckily, the piece I got had the fat.  I let it come to room temperature, which most people recommend for grass fed beef anyways.  I incised the meat and put garlic pieces in the cuts and seasoned with oil, salt and pepper.  Here’s where my problems began.  I stopped paying attention to the recipe.  While this isn’t usually a problem with soups or stovetop meals – roasting can be a different story.

I cooked the meat just as the recipe says, at 375 for 30 minutes.  Instead of turning the oven down to 225, I turned it down to 325…

I realized it about 30 more minutes in, and turned it down, but after a total of an hour in the oven, the roast was reading the temperature I was aiming for.  Well, the flavor is really good, but the meat is still tough.  It really needed to be more slowly cooked to become tender.  Oh well, I suppose that means I’ll just have to try it again. 🙂 Please excuse the non artsy photo, I had to scramble to get a photo before it was eaten.

I did make the best mashed potatoes though.  I added a clove of garlic, a few pats of butter, salt, pepper, chives and buttermilk.  The buttermilk is an awesome addition to mashed potatoes, so if you ever have the chance, try it.  The gravy turned out really well too.

In other news, my new favorite snack/dessert has recently become honey butter cinnamon toast.  Amazing.  Delicious.  You should try this one too. With a glass of milk.


You are what you eat

So, I have mostly kept my mouth shut about this year’s elections, propositions and questions going to the voters, but I feel like I have to comment on something at this point.  Proposition 37 appears to have failed in California.  If you don’t know what it was, it would have required labeling of genetically modified foods sold in the state.

Opponents of GMO labeling claim that there is no inherent difference between traditional crops and GMO crops and that labeling them will cause unnecessary fear and bias against the products with GMOs in them.   They have also said that labeling will cost the consumer a substantial increase to their grocery bill.  Don’t they have to have labels anyways?  How much would it cost to add another line to a label that they already have to print?  As for the fear and bias, I seriously doubt many people will stop buying certain products just because there is a GMO in the ingredient list.  Europe already requires GMO labeling and no significant difference in purchasing has been noticed.

PS.  The companies who export products with GMOs to Europe ALREADY print two labels – one indicating GMO ingredients, and another for the US.  Tell me if it would be more difficult to print one label or continue printing two…

I don’t know the answer about whether or not GMOs have any long term health issues or not.  Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  Some studies say your body can’t tell the difference between GMO and non-GMO, others have found it causes infertility and other health problems.  These studies go either way depending on who funded them, but I do believe everyone has a right to know if these ingredients are being used in their food or not and choose accordingly.  Just like I want to know if there are peanuts or trans fats and what vitamins are in the food I purchase.  In order to choose, you have to have complete information.  How can we really know what’s in our food if the labels aren’t accurate?

And yes, I know, this proposition was up for vote in California, not Virginia.  However, if one state requires it, then at least there’s a foot in the door for the rest of us.

There are ways to show that you support labeling in your own state.  You can find them here: Just Label It  and here: Communicating with Congress
If you’d like to know more, here’s a few links to get you started.  You might be surprised by what you find.

Posted in: Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, and Freaky Friday.

Using Other People’s Recipes

We all do it.  You can’t be amazing and original every night of the week.  😉

Recently, I’ve been trying a bunch of new recipes by other people.  The first one was French Onion Soup.  For some reason, when I was shopping, I had sherry stuck in my head for this soup, instead of the vermouth that it calls for.  So, I came home with sherry.  I also used three types of onions.  If I had to do it over, and I will, I would leave out the sweet onions and try it with vermouth.  It was really sweet.  Really good, but a bit too sweet for me.  It was awesome with baguette and gruyere melted on top though.

I used to try all new recipes exactly as written and then adjust it the next time I made it.  What I found out was that I didn’t actually re-make anything if I didn’t like it the first time.  So, I try to make changes the first time if I think it will suit my tastes better.

Like these Teriyaki Meatballs by Budget Bytes.  Don’t get me wrong, these look amazing as written, I just didn’t have green onions.  So, I shredded some red onion instead.  It was awesome and I think I’ll keep it.  The Teriyaki Sauce recipe is an awesome recipe to have.  I don’t think I will ever buy it again, this was so easy!

I also found this Healthy Living EBook Collection, many of which I’ve been thinking about buying anyways.  Now, I got a great deal!  I expect all the recipes in these books will be keeping my busy for a while.  That and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

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