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(her)Ring in the New Year

ikea-herring

Many good things happened in 2016. Positives notwithstanding, however, the year had a few pretty craptastic events that tainted many of the days. Several unpleasant-if-mundane realities occurred — things that happen to everyone but had an extra layer of, well, crap.

After much deliberation, I have determined the cause to be herring. Specifically, the New Year’s pickled herring.

Eating pickled herring on December 31 and the next day (superstitions only work if you cover all possibilities. . .) is the only New Year’s tradition I have observed without fail since childhood. There’s a little quirky history behind it that I love — acknowledging the uncertainty of the future while hoping for good fortune.

Rewind to the last day of 2015 when I found myself without a jar of pickled herring. Dashed to the closest grocery store. While I couldn’t tell you the name of the brand that’s ubiquitously available, I can tell you it wasn’t stocked at this store. Something told me what was available was inferior, but I bought it anyway. Inferior it was. Mushy, not much flavor, and way too sweet.

Well, look how that turned out.

Determined not to let this unpleasant fate befall another year, I planned and purchased with intent and purpose: A month ahead I took advantage of being near IKEA, cooler in the car.

In the words of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, “Hallelujah, noel, be it heaven or hell, the Christmas we get we deserve.” Clearly the sentiment extends to the following week’s holiday. And I, for one, am starting 2017 with forethought and positive action.

May the new year bring you unexpected opportunities for joy and ample rewards for your efforts.

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Christmas Cooking Surprise

My first go at making Parmesan Mousse went well, but the surprise came in the spoils.

egg-parm-surprise-1

Onions and rosemary are cooked and steeped in heavy cream. Their flavoring work complete, they’re strained out and discarded. Looking at the strainer, I couldn’t help but take a flavor-filled bite. Some of the parm clings to the onion bits.

Hmmm. Grab a small leftover potato. Slice up a tomato. Combine and heat in the microwave, then broil for a few minutes in the toaster oven. In between those cooking steps, soft-cook an egg (I did a 6-minute steam). Top potato-tomato mix with cooked onion spoils and the egg.

egg-parm-surprise-2

Sometimes I surprise myself — in this case, delightfully so!

Here’s another quirk: The onions are mild since they’ve been well cooked; a good choice for me because I don’t like strong onions in breakfast dishes. But then I generously topped the dish with Frank’s Hot Sauce. . .

Merry Christmas to all; may the day bring you happy surprises.

 

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Stock Up!

Have you noticed? Lately I’m compelled to add exclamation points to my headlines. Maybe I’m just that excited about the holidays. In this case, the reason was to make it ‘sound’ like a short-order cook calling out from the kitchen.

broth

Big batch of stock from turkey and chicken bones – Chickey? Turken? Whatever the name, it is yummy and we’ve got a lot of it. I’m thinking butternut squash risotto, because wait until you see the size of the butternut squash I bought at — surprise, not! — Costco!

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Kale and Farewell! (No, I’m not going anywhere)

OK, I’m only posting this because I’m mad about the title I came up with! It’s the serendipity of two unrelated things happening on the same day.

Silly me, a little fun for you.

 

kale

The last of the season’s kale. Note the frost. Into a batch of green soup.

yogurt

And, it appears, the end of the yogurt maker. Farewell, faithful companion. While the machine itself is more than two decades old, I’ve only used it regularly for 5 or 6 years. And by regularly I mean once a week. Really. We eat homemade yogurt most days.

But from the consistency of this yogurt, well, looks like the heating element has finally gone kaput. The hubs used his infrared temp thingie and it registered only 78 degrees. That won’t do.

Now you know what’s on my Christmas list.

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Time for a Cool Change

Frighteningly unseasonable weather well into November meant the green pepper plants kept producing until just a few days ago. Experience warns the appearance of great bounty precedes a painful-down-to-the-soul crash; it’s a false joy.

green-peppers

But waste is pointless, so stuffed green peppers for several days it is. With a side of impending doom.

And then on to new and other things.

Recently I came across the website of a fabulously named restaurant in Land, Oregon: Viking Soul Food. As a midlander, the Northwestern United States does not come to mind when thinking Nordic. But it is, and there you are.

My thoughts were already pointed due north. A year of Nordic cooking, perhaps. Yes, a year of Scandinavian cooking has a better ring to it. However my half-Swedish cousin rarely fails to remind that Finland, from whence my side of the family comes, is not technically part of Scandinavia, ergo it’s erroneous to claim the heritage. That’s why I hang with the German cousins.

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Big Tomato — It’s What’s for Dinner

big-tomato

The original plan was to make a honkin’ big batch of Pasta alla Vecchia Bettolana using the jumbo can of plum tomatoes. But then stuffed green peppers sounded good, too, what with the green peppers being garden fresh. That should leave just the right amount tomatoes for standard-issue spaghetti sauce. Fortunately, this last stroke of brilliance hit when standing at the meat counter so a pound of the good Italian sausage made it home without the need for a second trip. And the four cans of tomato sauce in the pantry could be called into action.

The results: Eight meals of Pasta alla Vecchia Bettolana, ditto spaghetti sauce, now in the freezer, plus stuffing for four meals of stuffed green peppers on hand. One or two less meals to plan each week for a goodly while. Zero cans of tomato anything in the pantry.

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How Did That Pan Out?

oven

The default cake pan for this kitchen is a Bundt pan. I bought it long ago. Not knowing better at the time, I bought a black one. The purported positive theory was things bake faster in black–save time, save energy. Well, the outside bakes much faster but I’ve always had a problem with  super crispy outer edge and a still-gooey center.

So when I saw a post on Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Facebook page about using a baking sheet under a baking pan not just to catch bubble-over but to change baking dynamics, I decided to give it try. Oddly, the post noted that baking time would likely be affected but didn’t note in which direction.

oven-cake

For me for this cake, it increased baking time by about 10 minutes. Most importantly, the edge did not get crunchy. The hubs was pleased. This is his fav: poppy seed form cake. He maintains, however, that the center was still a titch gooey and requested a retrial. Yes, dear. Finish this one and I’ll bake another.

All in all, the experiment did pan out.

What has not panned out recently is the photo program on the ol’ PC. If it does open at all, it crashes, so please forgive the less-than-average images. As soon as I can find a solution, I’ve got a bunch of things to post. After eons in publishing, I can’t bring myself to publish anything beyond these two raw images.

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Keeping It Fresh

lemon-juice

For several months I started each day downing a glass of tepid water with lemon and honey. Somewhere on the interwebs, no doubt several somewheres, this is touted as the fountain of youth, the elixer of good health, etc. Why not try? Well, the hubs lasted about two weeks. I stuck with it until I could no longer stand the delay it caused between feet hitting the floor and coffee.

The end came sometime after the purchase of more lemon juice. For many years, I’ve had it in my head that the hubs doesn’t like lemon very much. He’s asked several times not to use lemon in dishes so I add it to my serving only. Clearly no reason to keep fresh lemons in this house. So here I am trying to figure out how to use up a substantial amount of lemon juice. Hesitantly, I suggested lemon bars. Not a big personal favorite, but not something avoided. He was enthused. I was confused.

After putting a little thought to it, I realized he doesn’t like lemon in savory dishes but he does like lemony desserts. Whereas, I like lemon in savory dishes and respond meh to lemony desserts. He cooks meal regularly but I can’t recall him making a dessert aside from instant pudding; with detailed instructions, he can bake chocolate chip cookies using dough I’ve made.

So lemon bars it will be, no doubt repeatedly. Who knew?

 

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Available in Four Sizes. Maybe Three.

ramekins

No-bake goat cheese cheesecake. Doesn’t that sound good? Use 6-4 oz ramekins or jars. Hmmmm. Don’t have that, but I do have this assortment. Since it’s no-bake, no problem with variety of sizes.

goat-cheesecake

The blue ramekin is the only 4 oz one of the bunch. Unless the little glass bowl is too; I’d have to measure.

Make a graham cracker crust. How about a Biscoff crust, thank you very much. And the expiration date on the sweetened condensed milk is sell-by date, right? That stuff has a long shelf life.

Improvise and conquer, that’s my desert-making motto.

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