Easy Kimchi

January 20th, 2015 by ailynhoey@hotmail.com

2015-01-08 18.19.35-2     2015-01-08 18.34.26      2015-01-08 18.33.50

Although I have loved kimchi for years, the idea of making fermented foods has always seemed a bit daunting.  How do you know when it’s good or if it’s rotten? Which method to use? I read differing advice as to how to do it – weighing down the tops with stones, bags of water etc. I tried a few ways before reading about a technique that seemed much simpler and has yielded great results.

Prepare the vegetable mixture and pack it tightly into a clean Mason jar, leaving at least an inch at the top. Screw the lid on, leave it out on the counter for three days, and then into the fridge for at least a week, preferably a month or two or three. Bubbling is normal and if it’s off, it will smell truly vile.

I made a kimchi this way and it was fantastic.  Since then I have made a variety of fermented vegetables.  Cabbage with roasted jalepenos, cabbage with oregano, onion and carrots, and Savoy cabbage with cumin and dried guajillo, pequin and pulla chiles sent from family in Texas. I just made spiced pearl onions and am eagerly looking forward to trying them.

A friend over the hill makes fermented vegetables as well, and it is always a treat to exchange a jar or two. We get to try each other’s creations and add yet more variety to our collections. Nearly every day my husband and I eat a little (or a lot!) with lunch or dinner.

In addition to being delicious, fermented foods contain healthful digestive enzymes and probiotics. Fermentation is also a great way to preserve an abundance of vegetables during the growing season. Several of the books I have found helpful are, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther and Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Easy Kimchi

1 head Napa cabbage, cored, thinly sliced and then chopped

1 bunch scallions, sliced, including green stalks

1 daikon radish, peeled and very thinly sliced

3 carrots, peeled and grated

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1/2 – 1 tsp chili flakes

1-2 tbsp sea salt

large handful cilantro chopped (optional)

Place all ingredients in bowl. Pound with wooden hammer, stone pestle, meat hammer or squeeze with clean hands to release juices. Pack into wide mouth quart size Mason jars, pressing down very firmly so liquid covers the cabbage. Leave at least 1” space between cabbage and the lid.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for three days before putting in the refrigerator.  Enjoy after one week or even better, in several months.

 

School Lunch / Mini Energy Muffin Recipe

January 7th, 2015 by Alexis Mullen

Packing school lunch can be daunting and frustrating when you open the lunch box and find it still full when your kid returns from school.  I’ve devised a school lunch plan for my family that really works.

IMG_0353

I bought a lunch box for my daughter that has compartments.  It’s called a YumBox and is great for 2 reasons 1) it saves on wasted plastic bags and washing separate tupperware 2) my daughter loves it because it has compartments to keep everything separate.

Here’s my motto – a grain, vegetable, fruit, protein, and treat in each day’s box.  For the vegetable I always jazz it up a bit.  For example, with a cucumber I always add a bit of salt and vinegar so that it marinates and becomes more like a pickle by the time she eats it.  I find that little things like adding tamari, vinegar, butter, or salt go a long way in the vegetable department. Also, every morning I show her what’s in her box so that there are no surprises.  She usually get’s pretty excited and wants to eat some of it then but we put it away and then she can anticipate and get excited for her snack at school.

As an activity to do together my daughter and I make (healthy) treats to put into her lunch box.  This way she has a stake in what’s in her lunch.  She finds a treat packed that we made the night before and feels a connection to what she is eating.  We’ve made many different types of “treats”.  Here’s the recipe for mini energy muffins that we made yesterday.

MINI ENERGY MUFFINS

1 cup multi-grain hot cereal, 1/4 cup wheat flour, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup almonds, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup dried apricots, 1/2 cup dried dates, 1/4 cup buttermilk powder,  1/2 cup wheat bran, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey, 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 eggs, Optional: pineapple chunks or apple pieces for a “surprise” at the bottom of each muffin.

Place all the dry ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse until nuts and fruit and broken up but not completely ground.  Add the wet ingredients and blend until a sticky mass forms. If desired place a “surprise” of a pineapple chunk or apple piece on the bottom of each muffin.  Use a spoon to drop into mini muffin tins and bake @ 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, or until just beginning to brown on the top. Makes 24. Delicious for adults and children!

Repurposing Leftovers

October 28th, 2014 by Alexis Mullen

I really enjoy making new dishes out of leftovers.  I like it for 2 reasons: 1 it’s efficient and requires less work the next day 2 I like the challenge of coming up with a new meal from the same ingredients.

Yesterday I made a wonderful beef brisket with hasselback potatoes, and a quick saute of broccoli and swiss chard.

IMG_1801

Today I re-purposed that meal into a flavorful meaty vegetable stew.  It was quick, satisfying, and delicious.

Here are the recipes: (use enough of each ingredient for 2 meals)

DAY 1

BEEF BRISKET

1 beef brisket, vegetable oi, pepper, garlic cloves, an onion, a few apples or dried apricots, thyme, 1 tbsp cider vineger, stock, about 1 cup red wine, sugar

Rub brisket with pepper and minced garlic cloves.  Sear on both sides in a cast iron frying pan.  Remove to a crock pot.  Add the onion and thyme to the fying pan and cook for a few minutes then add either the apricots (diced) or peeled and diced apples. Add a couple tablespoons of sugar and cook until carmelized.  Then add the wine and stock and simmer together for a few minutes.  Add to the crock pot and make sure the brisket is mostly covered by the sauce adding more stock as needed.  Add the vinegar.  Cook until tender – usually all day.

Alternate version – bake the brisket in the oven for 2-3 hours at 350 degrees F until the brisket is tender.

HASSELBACK POTATOES

Slice fingerling potatoes almost all the way through at 1/8 – 1/4 inch intervals.  Make a mix of minced garlic, olive oil, butter, and salt and brush onto the potatoes.  Bake at 375 degrees F for about 45 minutes until tender.

BROCCOLI and SWISS CHARD STIR FRY

Chop broccoli and swiss chard into pieces.  Put into large frying pan with a few tablespoons of water and cook covered until the chard is wilted then remove the cover and cook until the liquid is evaporated.  Then add some olive oil and salt (smoked is nice).  Saute for a few minutes.  Lemon juice is nice to drizzle over the top too.

DAY 2

MEATY VEGETABLE STEW

All the leftovers from day 1, can of chopped tomatoes, a few carrots, some cabbage (optional), 1 onion, water or stock, olive oil, garlic

Chop and saute the onion in a soup pot.  Chop and add the carrots.  Mince and add the garlic.  Chop and add some cabbage if desired. Add the diced tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes.  Pull the meat into bite sized pieces and add along with  any leftover sauce from the meat.  Add water or stock (usually about 4-5 cups for 4 people) to cover the meat and veggies.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes then add the leftover chard and broccoli stir fry and potatoes (break them up).  Cook for another minute or two.

 

 

Chunky Creamy Butternut Squash Apple Soup with Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits

October 14th, 2014 by Alexis Mullen

IMG_1710 IMG_1712

Butternut Squash Soup is really easy to make, but takes a little time because it’s best if you roast the squash before adding it to the soup. Everyone makes a pureed butternut squash soup, but I think that a chunky one is nice because you can taste the individual flavors of the apples, squash, onions, and carrots but the flavors compliment each other so nicely.  The biscuits are adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookbook, which I highly recommend for anything baked from sweet to savory.  They are made just like making pie dough.

Chunky Creamy Butternut Squash and Apple Soup: enough for 4 people as a main meal1 butternut squash, 2 medium onions, 4 cloves garlic, 2 apples, 2 large carrots 2 tbsp butter or olive oil, handful of fresh sage, 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp cider vinegar, 3 cups vegetable broth or water and bouillon, 1 cup milk or cream, handful of parsley, 1 tsp red curry paste (optional for a unique flavor)

Chop butternut in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out.  Rub with olive oil and salt.  Roast face down @ 375 degrees F for about 45 minutes until tender.  Meanwhile heat oil or butter is large soup pot.  Add chopped onions and fry for a few min on med-high heat.  Add peeled and chopped apples and chopped carrots and some salt.  Cook on med-low temp until the apples are soft and carrots are beginning to soften.  Mince the garlic and sage and add to the pot.  Add the red curry paste if desired.  Cook for about a minute.  Add the vegetable broth and simmer until everything is really tender.  When squash is done cool and peel skin off.  Add to the simmering soup pot.  Use a fork to roughly mash the squash into the soup.  Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes.  Add the honey, cider vinegar, and milk or cream and stir all together.  Salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving add the parsley.

Cheddar and Black Pepper Biscuits

1 1/2 cups white flour, 1 1/2 cups wheat flour, 2 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1-2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, 1 cup milk or buttermilk

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl including the grated cheese.  Stir in the vegetable oil.  Use a sharp knife to cut the butter into 1/4 inch or less squares then toss into the flour mixture. Stir in the milk or buttermilk.  Use your hands to gather into a large ball and refrigerate for about 1/2 hour (if you have time). Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and then roll the dough into a square that is about 3/4 inches thick.  Use a knife to gently cut the biscuits into your desired shape.  Separate the biscuits slightly then bake for about 20 min @375 degrees F until starting to brown on the top.

 

 

MY FIRST JOB AS A COOK

August 15th, 2014 by ailynhoey@hotmail.com

 

I have no formal culinary training, but my love of cooking started early.  As a child, it was great fun to help my mother in the kitchen.  She would do things like grease the pan and encourage me to do the harder steps of a recipe. When I was nine we lived in Victoria, TX for part of the year for my father’s work as a pipe organ builder. The public library there was the largest I had ever been in, every week we would go and check out a big box of books.  I was in heaven – able to read as many cookbooks as I wanted. Prior to that, my exposure had pretty much just been to Betty Crocker.

 

Eventually my mother went to work in the pipe organ shop as well, and offered to pay me $1 for every meal I cooked for the family. I loved this – the cooking and earning my own money. Thus began my passion for cooking.

 

110                                              116

 

Recently I have been enjoying witnessing my 2 1/2 year old son’s interest in cooking. He insists on cracking open, scrambling and pouring his own egg in to the frying pan every morning. I hope he continues to enjoy cooking and derives pleasure from it as I do.

 

I still love getting ideas and inspiration from cookbooks, trying new foods, cooking with fresh local ingredients.  I really enjoy the timing and coordination of everything.  For me, my daily time in the kitchen is a creative grounding experience. My hope is that Audio Chef will contribute to a more enjoyable cooking experience by helping to make your time in the kitchen relaxing and efficient.

 

Recording Audio Chef

August 4th, 2014 by Alexis Mullen

photo 2photo 3photo 1

Audio Chef is recorded in our home kitchens using a computer, unidirectional headset microphone, and the audio recording program Audacity.  It took a lot of trial and error to perfect the recordings.  This is because we wanted to keep it sounding real and authentic with background noises of cooking. But the background noises had to be quiet enough that they were not overpowering our voices. Because we are recording while actually preparing the meals ourselves, this proved quite challenging. We tried several different techniques before finding something that worked. Another complication is that we need to be able to move around the kitchen and have our hands free to cook with. We tried a wireless headset microphone, a microphone connected to our iPhones, and a handheld microphone secured in front of our cooking area.  None of these worked quite right.

At last we tried a unidirectional headset microphone with a long cord connected into our computers. The mic picks up our voice clearly, a little bit of the background noise can be heard, and we are free to move with the long cord. My husband Devin has a lot of home recording experience and he was able to tweak the audio in the end to create the desired result by filtering out any unwanted noise.

Compressing the audio was another whole learning process because some of our audio recordings can run up to an hour in length – that’s a lot of MB! So we compressed the audio into MP3’s and the files are stored with a data storing website called Parse until you click play and it downloads onto your phone.  This keeps the size of our app much smaller than it would be if all the audio files were included in the app. That’s our recording process in a nutshell.  We also do our own photographs.  More about that in another post.