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Real Food Cooking

Archive for the category “Fall Cooking”

You are my pumpkin

Sometimes, you get home after 8. It’s dark and has been for the past few hours. Work was stressful, traffic sucked, it’s cold and all those things on your to do list have taken a back seat to the fact that it’s after 8 and you are hungry.  Really hungry. Anything in fridge to reheat? No, of course not, because you didn’t think that far ahead this morning.

Pumpkin to the rescue.

I made this in less than 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Soup

  • 1 can or 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 or 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk, cream, or coconut milk (optional, but oh, so delicious)
  • 1 or 2 tsp salt, depending on how salty the broth is
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp thyme

Add it all to a pot and let simmer. Pair with grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches and you have a 10 minute, very comforting meal. IMG_0194


Fall is here

And you know what that means… SOUP’S ON!!!

I’m sure you know by now, I’ve been eating soup all summer.  I love it too much to give it up for any amount of time, BUT the cooler weather means I can start feeding it to everyone.  I had to share my excitement about soup, even though the recipe I’m sharing tonight is not, in fact, soup.

A few months ago, I purchased a cook book all with only slow cooker recipes, Crock On.  I’ve been really happy with the recipes I’ve tried so far.  It definitely has my recommendation.

I made the Pineapple Pork Loin.  I liked this one because it doesn’t require anything to be cooked or seared before putting it in the slow cooker.  A lot of recipes do, and it really does add to the flavor of a lot of dishes, but sometimes, you just want to put everything together and let it do it’s thing.

Like this one – Just take a pork tenderloin, pineapples, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme and add it all together and let it cook.  This is the second time I made it and this time, I added onions ’cause I like ’em!  When it’s cooked, shred the meat and eat.
IMG_0217The greatest things about this is how much it makes and how many different things it goes with.  I cook (but not really, because the slow cooker does all the work) once and have meat for lunch sandwiches, a pork and veggie dinner AND these egg rolls filled with pineapple pork and Havarti cheese.  SOOOO GOOD!  If you’re wondering if I made the egg roll wrappers, I did not.  I haven’t graduated to that level of awesome (yet).  But maybe someday.

The egg rolls with a cabbage (from my back yard garden yay!!!), carrot and onion slaw and creamy vinaigrette made for a nice dinner.

Creamy Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 crushed small garlic clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger

Mix it all together and use as a salad dressing.


Sour Beginnings

So, I think I’ve neglected to introduce you all to Wally.

Wally is a friend that I neglect. A lot. Well, maybe he’s more of a pet. In any case, I get the worst friend/pet owner award. Ever.

The last time I saw Wally was when I attempted this. And before that, was this. That was in March. It’s December.

I think I remembered to feed him in April, but like I said before. It’s December.

He has been sitting in the back corner of my fridge, alone, cold, unused. For Months.

I really thought I had killed him. I mean nothing can live without eating for eight months. I decided it was time to find out and…

Wally - the sourdough starter

Wally – the sourdough starter

Bam! HE’S ALIVE!!!!

Wally, the sourdough starter made it. That’s him a few hours after being fed, all happy and bubbly.

And yes, I named him.  He IS like a pet – you feed him, change his water, take him out, put him in a crate (jar) and in return you get to make sourdough bread, or muffins, or pancakes, or cinnamon rolls. Why Wally?  It just felt right. 😉

If you’re not sure about sourdough, it works something like this.  You “catch” yeast from the air by leaving out a flour and water mixture until it starts to bubble.  When it starts bubbling, add more water and flour to feed the yeast.  When you’re ready to make bread, or whatever you’re making with it, use the starter instead of store bought yeast. There are a lot of recipes to make a sourdough starter, but you can also buy one from plenty of online stores. Or just ask me, I can give you a Wally Jr.

IMG_0796Some people use enough of their starter to leave it out and feed it twice a day.  Well, when I started mine, I knew that wasn’t going to be for me.  Luckily, you can store the starter in the fridge and pull it out once a week or so to feed and/or use some.  That sounds more like me. And I was really good about it for a while. Until I wasn’t.  So he sat, and sat for a long time. Probably plotting his revenge.

I pulled him out of the fridge late last week because I was inspired by a Sourdough PancakeIMG_0797 recipe that was posted to my facebook news feed. I read it thinking, this is so easy.  There’s no waiting.  Usually sourdough takes overnight or at least a few hours. I know, I know, all bread takes time, but sourdough is different.  And by different, I mean much slower.  Wally has taught me a lot of patience.

Well, when I saw this recipe for sourdough pancakes, I really had to make them.  Saturday Morning, I mixed all the ingredients, fried some pancakes and sat down to eat.  They. Were. Sour.  I think the amount of sour in the starter is directly related to how angry he is for all the neglect you’ve put him through.

It’s ok though.  Wally and I? We made up and I made the same sourdough pancake recipe on Sunday.  He was MUCH happier on Sunday and the pancakes had the perfect touch of sourdough taste to complement the cinnamon and syrup topping.

Since then, I’ve made Sourdough Crepes and Pan Cubano.  The latter isn’t fully sourdough, because the second rise uses added yeast.  The recipe doesn’t even call for true sourdough starter, but I used mine instead of making a mini starter like the recipe instruct.  What to do with Pan Cubano?  Well, Cuban Sandwiches of course!


Linked to Freaky Friday.

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!


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.


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.

Pies, Cobblers and Crisps Pt 1

It’s hard not to think about dessert as we get closer to Thanksgiving.  Yes, I said it, we are getting close to Thanksgiving.

I’m not actually a big pie fan, but I do have a really good pie crust recipe.  I was inspired to write about it when a friend of mine told me about going apple picking this weekend.  This crust recipe is partly my grandma’s and partly my own.  She uses Crisco and I really don’t like Crisco.  I like butter.  So, butter it is.

Pie Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (or lard, or a mix of both) softened slightly
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp ice cold water – you can leave the egg out completely and just use 5 tbsps of ice cold water

You can do this by hand or with a food processor.  I think the food processor is easier.  You can keep everything cold more easily since your hands aren’t in the mix, but by hand works too – just touch the dough as little as possible.  Put the flour and butter and pulse until it looks grainy.  Add the egg and water and pulse until the dough sticks to itself and forms a ball.  Keep in mind that sometimes you might need a little more flour, sometimes a little less.  1 1/2 is a good place to start and a lot of the time it will be just right with that.  When the dough forms a ball, you’re done, time to stop.  I usually put the dough in the fridge for a little while to make sure its good and cold before I cook with it.  Roll half of it out for the bottom of the pie, put it in the pie pan and put your filling in, then roll the rest out for the top.

Or if you’re like me and don’t feel like rolling everything out twice, just roll out the whole thing and fold the extra over.  I could call it lazy, but we’ll go with rustic.. yes, it sounds much nicer that way.  Rustic.

As for the filling – you can take your pick!  Pumpkin, Apple, Strawberry, Cherry, Raisin Pecan…

Cook the pie at 350 until its done.  Sorry, I don’t have a time since I don’t know what you’re putting in it. 🙂

You’ll be able to tell though because the filling will be bubbly and the crust will be golden brown.

Carnita Soup

I’m not even sure Carnita is a word. I know Carnitas is, but Carnita?  If it’s not, I guess we can just call it Sopa de Carnitas? Maybe?

You’re going to like this one, its so easy. And perfect for a cold day. Like today.

This one seriously takes so little work and is ready when you get home because its made in… you guessed it, the slow cooker. 🙂 Have I mentioned how much I love my slow cooker?

Carnita Soup

  • 2 or 3 lb Pork Loin
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 pepper (red, yellow, green, it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 jar of salsa
  • 3 or so cups of black beans
  • stock or water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp taco seasoning

Chop up the pepper, onion and garlic.  Put everything in the slow cooker and add enough liquid to cover it and cook it on low for about 8 hours.  The pork will shred when its cooked through and ready to eat.

Cooking with a Pumpkin

And I mean a real pumpkin. Not from a can, but from the ground grown on a vine and picked then put into my oven, pumpkin.

Yep.  It was my first time.

I’ve cooked with squash before and pumpkins are basically big squashes, yes?

What I’ve learned is that cooking pumpkins and carving pumpkins are different.  I kind of knew that already, but hadn’t really tested the theory.  I’ll tell you what, it’s been tested now and I would never want to cook a carving pumpkin.  They don’t have enough ‘meat’ to them, it’s all string and seeds.  Cooking pumpkins have a lot more of the squashy part to them than the carving ones.  Which is good, because that’s the yummy part.

It’s actually quite easy.  You cut the top off the pumpkin and then cut it in half and put it in a baking dish, cut side down and roast it for about 40 minutes until you can put a fork through it easily.  Take it out, let it cool and scoop all the squashy parts out and either mash with a potato masher or a food processor.  I had a small pumpkin, but I ended up with 2 pints of punkin goo and a bunch of seeds to roast. 🙂

So, what to do with all that Pumpkin?  Well, I decided to try this Coconut-Pumpkin Soup. I made very few changes, like I sauteed the veggies in butter because let’s face it, everything is better in butter.  I also thought I had gotten coconut milk at the store, but I had actually picked up coconut cream.  Since it’s slightly sweet, I left out the brown sugar and just added about a tbsp of molasses to make up for the missing flavor.

This soup is so good. I cannot even tell you in words how much I enjoyed it, so I fully expect everyone to make it as soon as possible so you can experience it yourself.  I’m including a picture, but I have to admit, it doesn’t do it justice at all!  Believe me, it looks and tastes so good!

Featured in What’s in the Box?

I plan to use the rest of the pumpkin puree for pumpkin pancakes this weekend. 🙂

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