Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In the Handmaiden's Kitchen

From my last post, y'all know we've been snowed in for the last bit of time. Oh, the 4 wheel drive trucks can get out, and the snow plow has been through, but my brother's van only has wet pavement tires and they don't handle snow at all, let alone snow on top of ice. So here we be. Yes, cabin fever has set in amongst most of us, potentially making us irritable and nasty, but so far we've avoided that.

So I've been in the kitchen cooking and baking. I had a bunch of onions that were just beginning to get soft and then sprout. I needed to find something to do with 'em. I turned to my trusty pile of cookbooks (I love reading cookbooks in the wintertime), and found a recipe for slow-cooker carmelized onions. Hot damn! Just the thing for these onions. And it could not be more simple: cut up a bunch of onions (I did about 8 or 10 of them), toss them in the crockpot, toss in 1/4 pound of butter (that's a stick of butter to you), and let them cook on low for 12-14 hours until they turn a rich, deep brown. Use them to make a carmelized onion soup, use as flavorings for stews and soups, use the butter juice in them in rice, use them however you want. They're great! I used to make carmelized onions on the stovetop, but believe me, the crockpot method is superior as you don't have to worry about them at all, they won't burn or scortch.

Then Michael got on to batter breads, lord knows why. He found a recipe for Oatmeal Batter Bread and I made it. Man, this is a tasty bread! Very healthy for you too iffen you don't pig out on it. Michael found the recipe online, so I'll pass it on to you thataway. If you are like me, and while a good cook, immensely capable of screwing up yeast breads, try batter breads. You don't have to knead them, but you are using yeast--at least it is sort of an introduction to baking with yeast. And do make this recipe--it makes a delightful flavorful loaf of bread. For fun, I'll also be trying this recipe, English Muffin Bread. I love English muffins but have never made them.

Then, because I was reading a novel about a Chilean woman in San Francisco during the gold rush who made money by selling her empanadas to hungry miners (Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende), I decided to make empanadas using a recipe I found in Craig Claiborne's New York Times Cookbook. While the filling was delicious, the dough was tough and hard--entirely my fault as I'm the world's worst dough-maker. I have never made a good dough, ever. But a snowed-in February means I've got the time to at least learn more about making dough, even though the husband and brother might have to suffer through it. :) Anyway, I won't share that recipe with you, there's other ones available on the web here. Claiborne's recipe called for 3 TBS of raisins in the filling, which, along with the garlic, onions, tomato, ground beef, black olives and spices, made such a savory filling. YUM.

I wanted to make something with some of the fruits I dried this summer: peaches, nectarines, apples, apricot-plums, raisins, blueberries. Good grief, just typing in those lovely fruit words made my mouth water. In my How to Dry Foods book I found a recipe for German Pancake which sounded like just the thing for a light lunch. It turned out to be delicious and wasn't overly sweet until we put some blueberry syrup on it. :) Here's the recipe:

German Pancake

Boiling water
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped dried apples, apricots, cherries, dates, figs, pears, raisins or dried currants
6 TBS butter
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
Lemon juice and powdered sugar or berry jam or jelly, if desired

Pour boiling water over dried fruit to cover. Let stand to soften 5 - 15 minutes; drain. (DON'T throw away this water--it makes a wonderful fruit tea!) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In preheating oven, melt butter in a 13" by 9" baking pan, checking frequently to avoid scorching. (Or melt butter in the microwave, high for one minute.) In blender, combine eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. Blend lightly to mix. Add flour. Stir in softened dried fruit. Pour into baking pan on top of the melted butter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until puffy and golden brown. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and powdered sugar or serve with jam or jelly.

This was a delectable treat, heavenly with the blueberry syrup. We each had a piece or so and Michael had more of it for dessert after dinner.

Besides these treats, for dinners we've had barbequed ribs, venison stew with carmelized onions over brown rice, and parmesean chicken. We ain't all about beans and polenta, though that's one of my favorite meals.

Today it'll be back to some soup or another. I love soup and could basically live on the stuff. I don't know what soup I'll make yet--but something bean and bacony would be delicous. Cooking is fun, messin' in the kitchen is fun. Most of the times, things turn out not only edible but healthy and delicious, but there have been times when I've had to compost the results. Par for the course, since we don't learn without making mistakes.


Anonymous said...

hush girl! You are makin' me hungry.......
sounds delicious. I can't print anything off, got to get some more ink..printer says i have enough but the page comes out blank so I guess it must have dried up or something......wish I could write but these ole arthritic hands don't write too good any more so don't let the recipies get lost. soon as i get some ink I am gonna print it off........

Patricia said...

Hey Charli,

Dinna fesh. I'll send you a copy of the German pancake recipe. Easy and tasty!

Andrea said...

I can't think of a better thing to do on a snowy day than cook! We've spent the *3rd Snowiest February* on record baking breads, culturing yogurt, sprouting seeds, roasting turkeys and enjoying last summer's bounty of canned fruit and pickled veggies. I too spend evenings reading through old favorite is my grandmothers 1930's edition Better Home and Gardens.

kathy said...

I do my carmelized onions in the crockpot too. I am thinking about onion soup as I have some onions that are going soft and I hate to waste any. Thanks for the inspiration.

Suzanne said...

ohmystars i made the crockpot onions. bestest ever. thank you

Hey,Hey,Paula said...

My son-in-law's mother taught our grandchildren how to make these. She was from Germany. Even though she has passed on, they have the sweet memories and the spotted recipe in their collection.

Thank you for sharing!

Joanne said...

Yum - this pancake recipe looks good. Thank you for posting it - we have a lot of dried fruit and get eggs for free, so this will work great for us.

In Christ,
Joanne in MO