Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkins, Treats, and Critters good and bad

Well, here we are in the middle of October with the cooler temps, rain, and pumpkins gracing every corner.

I always feel so sorry for the neighbors who get their pumpkins on the porch steps before all the others, why?, because they usually get them smashed right away.  I used to think what a waste, until I saw the squirrels feasting on the mushy pulp....btw, we have way. too. many. squirrels. this year! I have been harboring some really nasty thoughts about them which include guns, poison, and traps.  I have read that I'm not alone in my thoughts, the squirrels mated in abundance last winter due to the very mild temps, so some areas are being overrun by these bushy tailed rats. 

The Bad Critters:

Anyway, enough about squirrels.  Oh wait, did I say that I have the small red type living under my deck, also a few chipmunks, and a rabbit?  After my dog died from old age, she was such a sweetie, the local varmints have taken up residence.  Of course it doesn't help that all my neighbors have dogs to protect their yards leaving mine the most exposed.  A few years ago, I had a family of skunks and a family of foxes who all wintered under my must be nice there, perhaps I can pipe in some music too.  I called the local "critter removal" guy and he successfully trapped them and relocated them far, far away (I'm hoping!) least they haven't  returned yet.

The Good Critters:

Here's a photo of my dog, the big Lab.  The Border Collie belonged to my daughter, but she stayed with me for a long time.    (As I recall, my daughter stayed with me a long time too.)   Someday, I'll post some stories about my animals.

This is a photo of a photo so it's not so clear.  Weren't they just simply the most adorable girls?!

Two of the BEST dogs in the world.  Gone but never forgotten.

Okay, so when I saw the,  thrice run over by the neighborhood teen driver, squashed pumpkin pulp that the squirrel was eating, I got my pail and shovel and scooped up a  bit for myself..."that critter can't have it all",  I said to personne/no one.

Here's what I made:    Pumpkin Bars

These bars have a graham/nut crust with a soft custard-like pumpkin filling.  I decided to do without the extra calories of a nut and streusel topping, and just sprinkled a little powdered sugar when it had cooled down.  If you like moist food, then you'll love these.

 Click here, where another person has already done the searching on the web for you,  highlighting many varieties of pumpkin treats....this will save lots of time, and give you some good ideas.  My bar was basically the #1 on the list but without the topping.  Next time, I'm going to make the #14 on the list, it sounds sooooo yummy.  Hmm, pumpkin AND chocolate.

Good luck in finding your own local source for mashed might be right outside your door!


P.S.  I hope you realize by now that I didn't take the squirrel's food.  :-)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Return to simple

"sans greed"

I love Paris and I love great food...

I am fortunate to be able to partake in both....

My first cookbooks were those of Julia Child, where I began to learn to cook and bake.  It wasn't quite like the movie Julie and Julia, but I did a lot of reading and trying.  I had my successes and failures, but I was learning. One of my near misses burned the nylon stocking off my legs!! As I was turning out the creme brule on to a plate, the hot syrup splattered all over my legs.  The dessert survived and I served it to my dinner guests without delay. I didn't tell a soul, but I did excuse myself to go wash off the sticky substance. I guessed that Julia Child would be able to relate to me on that!!

 I learned through the years that keeping it simple was the key.  Simple is all about fresh, top quality, and clean tastes. I try to avoid any processed foods, if at all possible.

I skip the aisles in the middle of our grocery stores....just walk the perimeter for the fresh fruits, meats and fish, and the dairy.  You can be in and out very fast.  Of course for a variety of tastes, the pantry will need to be stocked with spices.  But if you don't have those spices, a hot potato with a good butter melting on top is still super, as Joel Robuchon states in the video below. 

All this is leading up to the video linked below.  The bistro/brasserie is alive and well in Paris.

Great food is available and at reasonable prices.  The food is simple, well executed, inventive and delicious....what more can one ask for.  The up-and-coming chefs are committed to the food and the more casual dining experience, they aren't looking to make a fortune or open many fancy restaurants around the world....we should all be able to go out and find great food, and don't forget the wine. 

I think this Anthony Bourdain episode is one of my favorites, if you haven't seen it before give it a try.  It's 42 minutes of mouth-watering enticement.

I've gotta get myself back to Paris soon!  I'm making my list.....


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

See it through to the end

Thanks to some of you who still frequent this spot, even tho' I have not.......I've got to do better.

Do you use your food, bones, scraps right down to the last little bit?  I bet some of you are great at not wasting anything.  I'm always trying to improve....

I frequently buy rotisserie chickens when shopping for my meals,  but until recently, I threw away the bones/carcass.  What a waste!  I really love homemade broth/stock for cooking, so now I freeze them until I have enough to make a quart or more.  Of course it's very easy, at least, I keep it easy.

Here's all you need to do.

Put all the chicken bones in a pot and fill it up with water just to the top of the bones.  I add some onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.  Then, bring it to a boil.  Next, turn the heat down so the water will simmer.  Simmer it for one hour.   That's it!!!

Pour the stock through a strainer.   Put the stock into a container to freeze for whenever you may need it.  The bones from one rotisserie chicken will make about one quart/litre of broth.

Here is the strained stock/broth.  It's nice and brown because I throw in the roasted skin of the chicken and any juices that were in the take-home sack.

I don't stop with chicken.....I also make fish broth.

I buy a lot of shrimp...mmmm, yum, I love shrimp.

I cook the shrimp for my dinner quickly in a frying pan with a little seasoned butter and olive oil.  As I eat the shrimp, I save all the shells in a freezer bag in the freezer until I have enough for making about 2 cups of stock.  You can save as much as you want, it won't matter.

Make the stock the same as above for the chicken.   Just add water/wine to the shells plus seasoning, simmer for 45-60 minutes, strain, and freeze. 

** If you want a stronger tasting broth, boil away more of the water.  Make it taste to your liking.

I have about 12-15 shrimp shells in 2-3 cups of water when I started.

At the finish of 45 minutes, I have about 2 cups of broth.
The fish broth above was especially flavorful because I added about 1 tablespoon of my compound butter mixture "Cafe de Paris".

I am planning to make a fish stew using the broth to cook pieces of salmon, cod, and more shrimp.  It will be great with a big hunk of crusty French bread on an upcoming cold evening.

Happy cooking!