Beka To Basics

Real Food Cooking

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.

The Gleaning

It feels rather ominous to use that word.  I can’t describe it any better than that, ominous.  Also ominous?

The Reaping

Maybe that’s what it’s making me think of.  But why would farming terms make me feel like something bad is going to happen?  Why are they used in horror movies?  Really, reaping and gleaning HAVE to come after sowing.  And ALL of it has to come before eating.

Enough of light philosophical thinking. 🙂

My CSA ended and I’ve had a week to think about it.  I really enjoyed it, but not at first.  You have to change the way you think about eating and deciding what to eat.  I have always thought about what I want, made a list, gone to the store and cooked what I bought.  It backwards.  You can’t tell what veggies to be ripe when you want them to be.  You can’t will it to be spring, with it’s strawberries and salad greens.  You have to work with what’s ready.

I was really resistant to that at first.  In fact, I hated it.  I thought every week – now I have to figure out how to fit all of this freaking food into my already made plan.  Wrong.  Try again.

Embrace it.  Realize that what you have actually makes it’s own plan.  There are SOME things you have to think about.  Like a bitter melon, or a quince, but there’s a reason so many eggplant recipes also have tomatoes.  They are ready at the same time.  Think about how we used to eat, before we had easy access to anything we wanted at any time we wanted.  We had to eat what we could find, when it was ready to eat.

Once I got over planning meals and then getting food and switched my thinking to getting the food and then making something with it, I really started to enjoy it.  It started to come really naturally.  Once a week, I would get an email telling me what was coming the next day and I already had a plan for the upcoming week.  Almost without having to think about it.  I’m telling you, it was liberating.  If food can be liberating, I suppose.  Maybe I’m blowing my experience out of proportion, but I figured I would share.

Now, back to THE GLEANING

After the CSA ended, my farmer (yes, I refer to him as my farmer 🙂 ), invited the share holders out to his farm. To glean.  So, to glean I went.  I got some extra veggies and two dozen eggs and enough garlic to last through the winter. That is if I don’t just roast it up and eat it like popcorn in one sitting.  Have you ever seen garlic on it’s stalk, drying out?  Yeah, I brought a bunch home. 😀











Featured in the Food Festival: Fat Tuesday.

Pies, Cobblers and Crisps Pt 2

Peeled Apples

I don’t always make dessert, but when I do, I choose Apple Crisp.

It’s delicious. And it’s perfect for the fall.

Besides Cobbler, this might be my favorite.  Or maybe it is and Cobbler is a close second.  I can’t ever decide, but Cobbler is another post, so maybe I’ll have figured it out by then.

The same basic recipe can be used for other crisps, if you happen to not be a big apple fan.  I don’t know how anyone doesn’t love apples, but I know they’re out there.  You can use any type of apple or pears, and probably any fruit that is considered a pome.  My favorite is the Granny Smith Apple Crisp.  I wouldn’t go for the stone fruits – they’re better in cobbler anyways – but strawberries are especially delicious in a crisp in the springtime.  I know it sounds a little strange, but I’ve made quite a few believers after serving them strawberry crisp!  I’ll convince you too!

  • 6 Apples – peel, core and slice them
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt – if you use salted butter, leave this out

Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg over the apples and stir to get a little bit on all the pieces.  Drizzle them with maple syrup.  mix the butter, salt (if using), sugar and flour together.  You should have a crumbly mixture, but if it looks more like cookie dough, don’t worry!  It will still taste delicious.  Crumble the dough on top of the apples and bake for 30 to 45 minutes at 350.  The apples and syrup will get bubbly and the topping will be golden brown and crispy.

If you don’t often have brown sugar, you can make your own!  Mix 1 cup of regular sugar with 1 tbsp of molasses until it looks like store bought brown sugar.  If you just don’t like brown sugar, use all regular sugar.  Sometimes, when I remember, I add 1 tsp of vanilla to the topping, but it’s still good without it.

Regular Sugar
Add Molasses

Mix to make brown sugar

As for the strawberry crisp.  Leave out the cinnamon and nutmeg and just drizzle with maple syrup.  Either version is amazing with ice cream.  Now if I could just find an ice cream maker…

Ice Cream!

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. 🙂

Chicken Cordon Bleu and Sweet Poatoes

This is another fancy dish, but it’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it and it’s so good.

The first time I made Chicken Cordon Bleu, I actually took chicken breast and pounded them until they were thin.  Dumb, and a lot of work and half the time I ended up with chicken pieces instead of an actual thin piece of chicken breast.  Well, I got smart and started to cut the chicken into thin slices.  Much easier and faster.  I didn’t take any pictures of this, but if you look up how to butterfly a chicken breast, I’m sure you can find something.

I ended up with 5 pieces of chicken, so that’s what this recipe calls for.  Just use as many ham slices and cheese slices as you have chicken slices and it’ll all work out. 🙂

Chicken Cordon Bleu

  • 5 thin pieces of Chicken Breast
  • 5 slices of Ham
  • 5 slices of Swiss Cheese
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian Seasoning = thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, sage, parsley (I actually don’t think that’s real Italian seasoning, but close enough, right?

Chicken Cordon Bleu before baking

Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Take one chicken piece and put a slice of ham on top – the ham should basically cover the chicken.  Put a slice of cheese at the bottom of the stack and roll it up and place it seam side down in a baking dish.  Repeat until they are all finished.  Season the top with Italian Seasoning and bake at 350, covered for about 20 minutes. It may take longer, depending on how thick your chicken is.

This is also really good if you bread it before baking or pan fry instead of baking.  I like baking because it’s easy.  If you bread and bake them, take the cover off the dish for the last 10 minutes to get the breading all crispy.

I also make roasted sweet potatoes that turned out really well and is a little different than the traditional sweet potato dish.  I know I’ve seen a similar recipe somewhere, but I can’t find it to be able to link back to it.

Roasted Garlic and Thyme Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 Sweet Potato, if they’re small, use two
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Pour some olive oil into a baking dish and crush the garlic into it.  Add thyme, salt and pepper and stir.  Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and put them in the baking dish.  Mix until all the pieces are well coated.  Cook at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and slightly crisp on the outside.

When everything is done, you have a really cute plate of food for dinner! Yes, I referred to my dinner as cute.

And the moment you’ve all been waiting for…


Yes, that’s right.

Chili since its chilli outside.

But first, I have to tell you about Wednesday.  It’s probably my favorite day of the week (well, not really, but almost). Why?  Because it’s milk day!!!  I pick up milk, come home, change into some PJs, and pour a giant glass of delicious milk.  Now that I’m all settled, milk in hand, I’m ready to tell you about Chili.  So, pour yourself a glass and take a seat.

I am not afraid of eating hot foods all summer. In fact, as everyone knows, I’m not even afraid of soup in the summer. I rather enjoy it.  But that’s already been established.  There are a few things, however, that I just don’t make until Fall has started and I don’t make them after Spring has begun.  I’m talking about the Autumnal Equinox and the Spring Equinox.  This is serious and I mean it.  Ask anyone who has requested one of these dishes in the middle of the summer.  They’ll tell you.  The answer is, “Wait until the Fall.”

I don’t know why I’ve established these rules, but it just feels right and now it’s a mini tradition.  Plus it’s fun to make people wait for it.

Chili is one of those dishes.  It’s one of my specialties.  Seriously, this isn’t the best chili ever.  It’s not even a real chili, in the traditional sense.  I guess it’s a type of American Chili.  I’ve been debating on whether or not to even share the recipe since it’s one of my favorites to make for friends and family.  But, I’m feeling giving today 😉 so here you go!

One more thing, the ingredient list is a little bit daunting. I know that. Use what you have and forget what you don’t.  It’ll still be good.

Beka’s Chili

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup baked beans (wanna make your own?  Don’t worry, I’ll have a recipe soon)
  • 3 cups kidney beans
  • 3 cups pinto beans
  • 1 1/2 cup corn
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or tomato paste

Are you ready for the seasonings?  I did warn you this list was long…

  • 2 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 2 tbsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • dash Nutmeg
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick – Broken in half
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Ok, now let’s take a breath.

Ready? OK.

Chop the veggies and saute in olive oil until they are almost soft.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the spices, except for the Vinegar and saute a little bit longer.  Add the tomato sauce.  Add all the beans and corn and a little bit of water or stock to loosen everything up.  Simmer this mixture while you cook and drain the beef and then add the beef in. Taste it and add salt and pepper as needed and maybe a little bit more of anything else it might be lacking.  Stare at your spice cabinet (ahem, wall) and something will jump out at you that just has to be added 😉  At least that’s usually my method.  Add a splash of Vinegar.

I recommend making this AFTER you’ve eaten dinner and waiting until the next day to eat it.  It’s much better that way.  Still good fresh, but better after a day.

So, there you have it! The Chili I make people wait for. I hope you like it as much as they do!

And a Kitty Cat picture, just ’cause I think she’s cute!

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