"Piehole" in Midwestern means "mouth," as in "Shut your piehole." Preferably we shut it on some tasty home cooking. We love to grow, market, buy, cook, bake and grill so we can feed our faces, chow down, pig out, scarf & whatnot. I'm a born Midwestern home cook posting foods and recipes that show up in front of me, because like all Midwesterners I eat what's put in front of me. Pull up a chair. What can I get you?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lavender and Candied Ginger Shortbread Recipe

There's a reason why only two pieces of this shortbread survived for the photo. Making shortbread is very easy.

Lavender & Candied Ginger Shortbread (makes1 9x9 pan)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons of dried culinary lavender buds, crushed
1-1/4 cup white flour
dash of salt
1-2 Tablespoons of water
3 Tablespoons of very finely minced candied ginger (also called crystallized ginger)

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add lavender, flour, and salt to the bowl. Beat until combined. Mixture will be dry. Slowly add water until the mixture is slightly moistened (the mixture should stick together slightly). By hand, mix in the candied ginger.

Press evenly into a 9" square pan. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes. It will still be light, but beginning to turn brown on the edges. Remove from oven. While still warm (but not hot!)  cut into squares. Let the shortbread cool completely before removing it from the pan. Store in cookie tins or freeze for up to several months.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pink Lentil Vegetable Soup Recipe

Tired of dark, muddy lentil soups, I made this brighter, lighter, and tastier version with vegetable scraps, pink lentils, and spices of India: It's also a make-ahead recipe. Serves 4 to 6.

1-1/2 Tablespoons light-tasting vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, crushed
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned are fine)
1 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 rib celery, slice
1/2 cup dried pink lentils, picked clean
2-inch stick of cinnamon, broken
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
8 to 10 whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons chickpea flour (regular white flour can be substituted)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cream, or coconut milk (don't omit!)
freshly cooked basmati rice
1. Heat the oil in a soup kettle over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and onion, and cook until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vegetables, lentils, spices, and flour.

2. Gradually add the water and mix well. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the lentils are fully cooked but still hold their shape, 18 to 20 minutes. Uncover, and using a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup of the vegetables and lentils, and set aside. Puree the rest of the soup.

3. Add the salt, sugar and lemon juice to the puree. Stir in the cream and the reserved vegetables and and cook on gentle heat until piping hot. Ladle into bowls and top each serving with basmati rice. 

Note: Steps 1 and 2 can be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated; wait until reheating time to add the seasonings, cream, and reserved vegetables.
-Recipe from Laxmi's Vegetarian Kitchen by Laxmi Hiremath, 1995.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What's Hominy Good For? Spicy Posole Pork Stew

I bought cans of hominy because I thought I should, not necessarily to cook with. But then I tasted in a Southwestern restaurant the pork and hominy stew that's like a taco party in a bowl except it fills you and warms you to the core. This is the red or rojo version and it's blender-easy. . .and it's even better on the second day. The meat can be chicken or pork.

Posole (Hominy Stew) (serves 4)
3 dried ancho chile peppers
3 dried arbol chile peppers
1/4 cup chopped white onion
3 cloves garlic
a pinch of cumin
2 whole cloves
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Soak the chile peppers in two cups of warm water until they're rehydrated, about 15 minutes. Stem and seed them. Place all ingredients plus 3/4 cup of their soaking water in the blender and blend until smooth.

1 28-ounce large can or 2 14-ounce cans of hominy, drained and rinsed and placed in a pot along with 2 cups of water
1 pound of pork or chicken, cooked and shredded or cubed
1 lime, halved (don't omit the lime)

Heat the hominy and water to simmering. Pour the ancho chile mixture into the pot with the hominy and meat and simmer for 15 minutes. Prepare any garnishes you have: recommended: tortilla chips, shredded lettuce, cubed avocado, shredded cheese, chopped onion, cilantro, sliced radishes, sliced jalapeno, dried oregano.

Ladle into bowls, giving each bowl a squirt of lime juice and let your guests top their bowls with garnishes.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Easy Cheap Black Bean Burger Recipe: Homemade is Better

Ow, $4.99 for four Morningstar Farm black bean burgers when you can make five  in five minutes with a $1 can of  black beans and a 79 cent can of chopped green chiles in a blender? Easy, even fun. The cornmeal coating adds crispness. Using chiles means no salt is necessary. Satisfying anytime and good in a bun. In my photo it's on a white corn tortilla and served with salsa.

Easy Black Bean Burgers (makes 5 burgers)

1 can of black beans, undrained
1 can of green chiles, undrained
1 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup cornmeal for dredging
3 to 5 Tablespoons of vegetable oil for frying

Dump beans, chiles, crumbs and beaten egg into a blender; blend until well-mixed. Pulse-blend if you like your burgers to have chunks of bean. If not using a blender, mash the mixture until it's the texture you like.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet, over medium heat. Place cornmeal on a plate. From the mixture, form 5 firm burgers. (Tip: Wet your hands between forming each burger). Dredge each side of each burger in cornmeal; place in hot oil in the pan. Fry burgers until cornmeal is browned and outside is crisp, about 5 minutes on each side, turning them carefully with a spatula. Remove from pan and serve.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Elusive Recipe Found: Tomatillo-Chile Soup

I'd made this soup and liked it and scoured the Net for the recipe but it's not there; it's in Mollie Katzen's 1997 cookbook Vegetable Heaven. One of your neighbors probably grows tomatillos. Or you can buy canned and try this puree-style soup. Serve with cubed avocado and tortilla chips. Makes "six intense servings." Freezes well.

Tomatillo-Chile Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped onion
4 medium-sized fresh poblano or Anaheim chile peppers OR 2 bell peppers plus 1 seven-ounce can of diced green chiles, chopped
2 heaping Tablespoons of minced garlic
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
2  Tablespoons chile powder
2 or 3 cans of tomatillos, drained, washed, and chopped; or 6 cups chopped fresh tomatillos
4 cups water
2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar or honey

Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add to the onion saute the chiles (and/or peppers), garlic, salt and chile powder and mix well. Then cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatillos, cover, cook for another 10 minutes or so. Add the water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 miniutes longer. Puree in a blender or food processor and return to the pot. Add sugar or honey to taste, and correct the salt if desired. Serve hot.

I note on my recipes the dates I cook them. This recipe is marked 2/14/00 and 3/16/03. And now that I've found the recipe at last -- again and more often!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pasta with 0 Calories is Here

Shirataki noodles, made from yams, have 0 to 15 calories and 4g carbs per serving, and you don't have to boil them. Discovered through the popular diet books Wheatbelly and Hungry Girl, I found them refrigerated near the tofu at Wal-Mart and bought 4 eight-ounce packages of different brands and shapes, spaghetti and fettuccini. Most have 0 calories; the 15-calorie "Pasta Zero" brand includes a bit of chickpea flour to make it opaque and slightly more familiar to Americans. Forget portion control: I eat the whole eight-ounce package just as I used to eat eight ounces of pasta daily until my cardiologist said to cut it out.

Shirataki noodles make one demand: They must be rinsed right out of the package. Those imported from Japan have a smell considered enticing over there but Americans call it fishy. Be brave: It rinses out in a colander or strainer in 1 minute. Then heat a non-stick skillet and toss the noodles over medium-high heat 2 minutes until they're dry. They are ready. Or you can heat them in a microwave for 1 or 2 minutes, or boil them for 3 minutes, as if they were ramen. They are bland so I sauce them up with Alfredo sauce (pictured), the only calories in the whole pasta bowl, and as I said I eat the entire half-pound package myself knowing my noodles are calorie-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, fat-free, soy-free, low-carb, and vegan, and it doesn't get any better than that.

Pictured is Nasoya brand Pasta Zero Plus shirataki fettucini, $1.97 for 8 ounces.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Strawberry-Coconut Cookies: Paleo Gluten-Free Recipe

I read the book Wheatbelly and it was too extreme, but I gave up white flour and white sugar for a while, yet still wanted cookies. This is the problem-solving recipe (makes 24 to 30 cookies). Coconut oil subs for butter, maple syrup for sugar. The nice thing is, you eat one and are satisfied.

Strawberry Coconut Cookies

1 cup firmly packed almond meal
1/2 cup of coconut flour and
1/4 cup of ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/4 cup diced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1 egg (optional, but the cookies hold together better)

Whisk flours, baking soda, salt and lime zest together. Pour in the coconut oil and maple syrup; stir until almost combined. Then stir in strawberries, coconut and vanilla, and optional egg. Mix until no more flour is visible. Refrigerate dough while the oven preheats to 350 degrees and you line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop a tablespoon of dough onto prepared pans; pat into cookie shape. Bake 11 minutes. Refrigerate the dough between batches.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cauliflower Steaks: Who Knew?

Just out of the oven
Friend was talking but all I remember him saying was "cauliflower steaks," two words I never before heard put together, and, curious, I bought a cauliflower, cheap and nutritious but I had no recipe for it that everyone loved besides breaking it into florets and roasting. Looked up and made a recipe derived from the magazine Bon Appetit. The link will take you the cauliflower steaks recipe, complete with sauce and relish--essential, I think, to the dish. You can roast the tomatoes and garlic cloves with the cauliflower.

Low fat, low-carb cauliflower steaks--when they're browned in a pan, roasted until tender, and then served with a black-olive relish and roasted tomato sauce--they don't look bad at all, do they? Dare to try them. The black-olive relish makes a great pasta sauce. The leftover florets I cooked, mashed and served as low-carb "mashed potatoes." Truly a versatile vegetable I'll use more often now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dash Greek Yogurt Maker Review

Dash Greek Yogurt Maker; 9" tall, 6"wide
I love yogurt's protein and calcium but was buying and recycling 52 plastic containers a year and that was not sustainable. Long ago I'd made yogurt quite easily and with no gadgets because my stove had a pilot light. No more. So I shopped for an electric yogurt maker. I wanted:
  • little to no preparation. Just dump the milk and the starter in the thing, and press. There's one like this, by Cuisinart, for $125. It also chills the yogurt after its eight hours of cooking.
  • my counter space. I have no counter or storage space, period. Those classic yogurt-making models that have 6 little cups in a circle take up a lot of room. So does the Cuisinart.
  • no little pieces, cups and caps, nothing hard to clean or easy to lose.
  • no hot BPA-ridden plastic to warp and poison us; glass containers preferred.
  • a choice of whether I'd make Greek or regular yogurt.
  • Results. with canned pineapple
  • a reasonable price. (It'd take almost a year to eat $125 worth of yogurt.)
I found that there is no machine that gives you readymade Greek yogurt at the end of its cycle. To home-make Greek yogurt there is one inescapable step, and that is to drain the yogurt through a special strainer so it becomes thick. You can buy a Greek-yogurt strainer. Trouble is, by itself the strainer will cost you, like, $26 plus shipping. A colander or cheesecloth will not work well.

I settled on the all-plastic (but BPA-free) Dash Greek Yogurt Maker, bought for $39 on eBay, because the price was reasonable, the parts were few (the base, two containers, strainer, and a lid; it comes in pink or blue), is lightweight, and I wanted the Greek option. I am extremely pleased. It includes a recipe booklet, and it's all very simple with easy cleanup and its own fridge-storage container, and all parts nest in the base when not in use. Its cord is very very short -- perhaps 12 inches. I don't mind this; keeps it safe.

There are some steps involved. You must first scald the 5 cups of milk in a pot and let it cool to 90-110 degrees. I use my candy thermometer for accuracy. I was reluctant to take the time and dirty a pot for this. After tasting the yogurt, I don't mind cleaning the pot. And, the other necessary step: The yogurt must be poured into the strainer and drained. The runoff is called whey. If your yogurt gets too thick, stir some whey back in.

I use 2 percent milk, organic and not, and set the timer for 10 hours and the result is the same: mild, creamy and delicious: like cream cheese. Half a cup is satisfying. It doesn't have that "chalky" or gelatinous quality of store-bought yogurts. I want to say that I am very critical of my kitchen tools and never buy a new kitchen item lightly. Glad, for several reasons, that I bought this. Greek yogurt, twice as concentrated as regular, delivers more calories (160 per half-cup) but far more calcium (25 percent of Daily) and protein, 16-20 grams.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Baked Not Fried Steak Fries: Recipe with a Trick

Crispy outside and creamy center -- but not fried! The hot-water trick is from Cook's Illustrated.

Crispy Baked Steak Fries

2 large russet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Wash russet potatoes, peel if desired, and slice them into the shape of steak fries, about 1/3 of an inch thick.
2. Fill a large bowl with hot tap water. Place sliced potatoes in the water for 10 minutes. Water will become cloudy.
3. Remove and drain sliced potatoes and towel-dry them pretty thoroughly -- or else they won't crisp up.
4. Lay a sheet of foil over a baking pan or pizza pan. Pour olive oil onto the pan. Pile the potato slices onto the oiled pan and toss until all are coated with oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Separate the potato slices so they are not touching. Place in hot oven and allow to bake for 40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes.

Sometimes rather than use salt and pepper, I toss the raw potatoes with Cajun spices.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Better Than Brownies: Lower-Fat Blondies Recipe

Blondies are the butterscotch version of brownies, and I did not believe I could ever love them more than brownies, but now I do thanks to this lower-fat recipe found in a recent Cook's magazine. They turn out moist, chewy and with a chocolate bar chopped into it, and nuts. Note: They really ARE best if you wait 2 hours before cutting into them.
These blondies will melt in your piehole.

Lower-Fat Blondies (makes 16)

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1-3/4 cups packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg plus 2 large-egg whites, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Chopping the chocolate bar.
1-1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9" pan with foil sprayed with vegetable oil spray.
2. Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together in a bowl. In a large bowl whisk sugar, melted butter, egg and whites, vanilla, and vinegar together until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture, chocolate, and pecans with a rubber spatula until just combined. Don't overmix. Batter will be thick.
3. Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake 17 to 20 minutes until toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely, about 2 hours (I challenged this and they truly are BETTER and easier to cut if cooled completely), and cut into serving pieces.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bake Some Pretzel Sandwich Buns: Recipe

If you have a bread machine with a Dough setting, this recipe from a recent King Arthur catalog is easy and fun to make, the brief hot-water bath making for chewy, hearty results.

Pretzel Sandwich Buns (makes 10)

1-3/4 cups (14 ounces) of water
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon of salt
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons of dry yeast

1. Mix and knead these ingredients by hand into a dough, or put them in a breadmaker set to Dough Cycle. When it's ready:
2: Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until doubled, about one hour.
3. Lightly punch down the risen dough and cut into 10 pieces. Shape these pieces into balls and place on a greased baking sheet, cover, and let them rest for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and in a large pot prepare the water bath:

2 quarts of water
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup baking soda 

and bring it to a full boil. Drop 5 dough balls at a time into the water bath. Cook for 30 seconds, remove with slotted spoon, and place on baking sheet. With scissors or a knife cut a one-half inch deep "X" into the tops of the bun. Sprinkle each bun with sea salt if you like.

Bake 20 to 24 minutes until they are deep dark brown like a pretzel. Cool on a rack.