Home In Disarray

November 25, 2014

Butternut & Apple Stuffed Endive Spears

Butternut and green apple stuffed endive
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  Something to do with gathering together with family for the first time in months, telling stories, eating, drinking, and laughing just feels so perfectly cozy and autumnal.  In my family, Thanksgiving is an all-day event.  We always get to my in-laws early to help cook, and snacking starts shortly thereafter.  The problem is that many of the snacks are so filling and heavy, that by the time dinner comes around, I’m too full to eat my favorite Turkey-Day foods!  You don’t have to only put out heavy items like full-on cheese boards, I much prefer a simple, bright, and flavorful appetizer that can be prepped days ahead of time, and then quickly and effortless assembled in a few minutes when your guests arrive.  Bonus points for it being gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo, low fat, and relatively low carb. The chevre can be entirely omitted for vegan guests. That means that all of your guests will be able to enjoy these gorgeous spears that are filled with little gems of autumnal vegetables.  
3 tablespoons healthy cooking oil (I prefer olive or avocado oil)
1 large yellow onion
1 granny smith apple, peeled and cubed
3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 clove grated garlic
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds(pepitas)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
4-6 heads endive
2 oz chevre (goat cheese)
*Caramelize your onion – Cut onion in half and then into thin slices.  Place in a skillet that’s been preheated over low (2/10) heat with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil.  Break up onion with a wooden spoon, and sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over the top. Pour 1/4 cup of water into skillet and allow to cook, stirring and adding splashes of water occasionally, until onion has turned a shade of golden brown. Remove from heat.
*Prep your squash and apple mixture – Peel & core your apple.  Cut into approximately 1/4″ cubes. (Approx. 1.5 cups)
*Cut the stem end off of your butternut squash. Using a sharp peeler, first peel off the rind, then the green veins, if they are present. Cut approximately 3 cups of squash into 1/4″ cubes.
*Preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat (4/10) and drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil.  Add your butternut squash and saute, stirring occasionally for approximately 5 minutes.
*Add apple and a pinch of kosher salt, and continue cooking for 2 more minutes.
*Peel and grate ginger and garlic using a rasp-style grater, like a microplane, then add to squash and apple mixture.
*Add 1/4 cup water, and stir to combine.  Continue cooking for an additional 2-5 minutes.  When squash and apple appear to be softening, grab a spoon and taste them.  If they are tender, remove from heat and allow to cool.  If not, continue cooking until they are.  Adjust salt if necessary.
*Toast your pumpkin seeds – in a small skillet over low (2/10) heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds.  Stir or shake to coat, and add garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and a healthy pinch of salt.  Stand over seeds and stir regularly to keep them from burning.  Once they’ve crisped a little and begun browning, remove from heat and pour out onto a paper towel to absorb any errant oil.
*At this point, your onion and squash mixture can be put into airtight containers and refrigerated for up to 4 days.  The pumpkin seeds can be store in an airtight container at room temp for 2+ weeks(they never last that long in my house).
*Assemble – Cut the bottom ends off the endive, and lay them out on a plate.  On a square plate, I like to alternate top to bottom, on a round plate, they look great arranged like the petals of a flower.
*Spoon a couple tablespoons of your squash mixture into each leaf, favoring the greenish tip end.  Add a few strands of caramelized onion and then crumble just a little chevre over the top and sprinkle a few pepitas over the top.  These stay good at room temperature for hours, but they won’t last that long!
 Butternut and green apple stuffed endive
November 21, 2014

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato


This was delicious.  But first, let’s talk a little about grass fed beef, and how it differs from conventional beef.

Conventionally fed cows are born and live on/in fields until they are weaned and old enough to be moved to a feedlot, where they generally live in pretty deplorable conditions and are fed a grain mixture designed to help the steers put on weight fast.  And they do.  Feedlot beef are generally slaughtered between 12-18 months of age.  And they have to be.  The grain mixture that feedlot beef are fed is not what their digestive tract has evolved to handle, and the grains begin fermenting in their gut, and acidify things far more than they’re capable of handling. The grains actually slowly poison cows by making it so the lining of their digestive tract allows bacteria through into the rest of their system, and they get blood infections.  As a result, feedlots generally feed prophylactic antibiotics to keep the cows from dying of sepsis prior to being slaughtered. So the steer are generally far less healthy overall.  Add in to that the type of fat that they put on while eating a high grain diet is Omega 6 fats, which are not great for you, and feedlot beef is overall a really pretty awful option.

Grass fed cows are born and live on/in fields until they are ready to be slaughtered.  Since they’re not being fed a mixture of grains designed to fatten them up(strange how cows have a tendency to get fat when they eat lots of grains, just like humans), it takes them much longer to get up to the desired weight. As a result, they live 2-4 years, and generally end up tougher, you know, because they are able to move around and use their muscles.  The grass-based diet allows the cows to gain weight slowly, and the fat ratio (O6:O3) is much healthier, both for the cow and for the people who eat it.  Anyway, how this affects the end product is fairly simple… the meat is tougher, leaner, a little gamier (think a combo of conventional beef and lamb) and the fat that it does have tends to be healthier.

When cooking a grassfed steak to medium-rare, it can be difficult to get a truly tender end-result.  Grassfed beef is great for long, low and slow cooking, but a quick and rare preparation will give you a tough shoe leather-esque meal, not good eats.  An effective way to still get a tender result with a perfect medium rare is to cook it in a water bath, sous vide. You can hold it at 135 degrees for 6 hours, during which time, enzymes in the meat begin to break it down and it tenderizes, giving you a result quite similar to a conventionally raised steak, without any of the terrible feedlot baggage.

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato (serves 4)

1-1.5lbs grassfed steak
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 strips bacon, chopped and cooked until level of desired crispiness is achieved.
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 green onion, green part, chopped
sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
prepared horseradish

*Liberally season steak with pepper (not salt) and vacuum seal (you could also add thyme, rosemary, etc to this if you wanted to get fancy.
*About 6 hours before you want to eat, place in a water bath set to 135 degrees, and let it hang.
*About an hour before you want to eat, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, scrub your sweet potatoes, half, and place cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet (I used some avocado oil)
*Bake your sweet potatoes until tender, this took mine 45 minutes.
*Prep your toppings and enjoy a glass of wine or an apertif in the mean time.
*When the sweet potatoes are tender, turn over and cut a line down the middle of them.  Split as much as possible and sprinkle inside with your crumbled bleu cheese. Return to oven until cheese has begun melting.
*Preheat a pan you don’t mind getting very hot over high heat.  I like using cast iron, but a stainless or carbon steel pan would probably work like a champ as well.
*Remove your bag from the water bath, remove the steaks, and dry off using paper towels.  Do not salt.
*Sear the steaks by placing in the (literally) smoking hot cast iron pan without any oil.  Leave be for 30 seconds or so. When the steaks are seared enough, they should release from the pan and be easy to pick up. When this has happened, flip, and allow to sear on the second side.  Remove to your cutting board.  No need to let them rest, the juice is already distributed where it should be.  Slice and salt liberally(remember, your beef hasn’t seen a bit of salt yet).
*To plate, place your potato half on a plate, top with remaining ingredients. Place your portion of steak on your plate, salt again (this is a great time to use finishing salt), add a bit of horseradish, and enjoy!

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato
November 18, 2014

Birthday Cake Booze Balls

Birthday Cake Booze Balls

I really tried to come up with a more elegant name for these, but this is what happened.

After a recent conversation with someone wanting birthday cake flavored caramels (I have no idea how to make this happen, unfortunately) I spent some time researching what the flavor combination of “birthday cake” is, unsuccessfully.  But I did find out that Oreo makes a birthday cake flavor, and even though they have to be purchased on Amazon (I couldn’t find them locally) they’re not any more expensive than regular Oreos at the grocery store.  So there’s that.  I have this recipe for midnight chocolate bourbon balls (I have not yet shared this, but it’s on the list) which use normal Oreos as the base, so adapting this for a different flavor profile was easy enough.

I spent some time trying to decide what the right liquor was for these, and I went with the obvious choice, the cheapest birthday cake flavored vodka I could find (and yes, there are multiple companies that produce this flavor obscenity, which is incidentally incredible mixed with some fresh squeezed meyer lemon juice).  I did a test batch, and decided that they’d have better depth of flavor with half bourbon and half birthday cake vodka, so that’s what I went with for batch #2.

Birthday Cake Booze Balls (Makes 35)

1x 15.25oz package birthday cake Oreos
1/2 cup powdered confectioners sugar (plus 1/2 cup+ for rolling)
2 tablespoons corn syrup
4-8 tablespoons combination of liquors

*Empty your Oreos into a food processor, and pulse until they’re uniform in texture.
*Pour out into a bowl, and top with powdered sugar.  Mix in until fairly uniform.
*Add corn syrup (this holds them together) and mix until fairly uniform.
*Pour in 1/2 your booze. Stir.  You don’t want your mixture to be wet.
*Add in liquor a little at a time until you get a texture similar to cookie dough.
*Scoop out portions (I think I used a 1/2 oz disher scoop this year, but in the past, I’ve used 2 teaspoons) and drop them into a bowl of remaining powdered sugar.  Roll them around, pick up and roll between your hands to adhere powdered sugar and make them more evenly round.
*Set on a sheet pan or something that can be covered (they probably won’t stick together, so if you’re ok with strange shaped ones, you can stick them all in one big container on top of each other)
*Cover, hide, and let cure for 4+ days.  During this time the flavor will mellow and they will firm up a little.  I have to stash these in our spare bedroom so Craig doesn’t eat all of them before they’re cured.
*No need to bake, just enjoy!

Birthday Cake Booze Balls
Birthday Cake Booze Balls
Birthday Cake Booze Balls
Birthday Cake Booze Balls
Birthday Cake Booze Balls
Birthday Cake Booze Balls
Birthday Cake Booze Balls
Birthday Cake Booze Balls
Posted in: Baking, Candy, Cooking, Food
November 17, 2014

The joys of living with an escape artist

Helo the malamute

The post that a facebook friend of mine made this morning about her husky escaping reminded me of some of the fun times we’ve had with Helo escaping.

Like is common with many northern breeds, Malamutes have a natural predilection to run.  As animals that have been bred for centuries to want to travel great distances, the idea of living within one person’s house or yard is a little distasteful. So begins the saga of Helo escaping.
The first time was when I was dogsitting our friend’s dog Sophie, and I left all 3 of the dogs out in the yard while I got distracted by something inside.  When I went to bring the dogs inside, only Boris came to the door, and I realized that Sophie and Helo had tunneled under the fence.  Boris never wants to leave.  That time, someone probably 15 houses up caught Sophie, and Helo kind of hung around his buddy til I made it up in my Jeep and lured them into it with treats.
The second time Sophie and Helo tunneled into the next door neighbor’s fenced-in yard, and were pretty easy to collect.
The third time was a bit more dramatic.  It was a lazy Saturday morning, and I was in my pajamas.  We are talking slippers, PJ pants, no bra, and an XL t-shirt with a picture of a wolf on it.  I opened the gate to go to the side of the house and drop something in the yard waste, but it did not latch behind me, and Helo bolted.  Boris stayed in the yard.  So I closed the gate, and ran after Helo.  There were 2 old men walking toward me, and I yelled at them to grab my dog.  They didn’t.  Then I realized what a psycho I must look like – I was running down the middle of the street in rainbow pajama pants, slippers, no bra, and an enormous t-shirt, with what must have looked like a photo of my dog on it.  Totally crazy lady.  I ended up chasing Helo for a few minutes (I am out of shape.  Keeping up with a dog bred to run is not something I’m capable of), and then lost him.  I went back to the house, grabbed my car and a container of treats, and started driving through the neighborhood.  40 minutes later, I spotted him.  I threw the car in park, jumped out, and tried to coerce him to let me approach him with treats.  He got all skittish, split, and I nearly cried.  Until I saw that he was running for my car!  I had left the door open, and he was so excited to go for a ride that he jumped in!  But when I made it back to the house, he didn’t want to get out.  I’d open up the back door and go to grab him, and he’d hop into the front seat.  Close the back door and open up the front, and he’d get in the back seat.  Craig watched all of this from the window and said it was like watching the 3 stooges.  I eventually made it back into the house with him, and all was well.
Helo and Sophie, busy NOT escaping
The fourth time was the worst.  It was early December, already very dark out, and pouring down rain.  A friend of mine was over, and we were going to be eating dinner as soon as Craig made it home from the gym.  I let the dogs out and went to pull something out of the oven.  A few minutes later (it really wasn’t more than 3-4), and when I called them back inside, only Boris came.  Helo was nowhere to be seen.  I threw on some sneakers and went out with a flashlight.  Instead of finding Helo, I found a hole under the fence, into our neighbor’s yard, which is not fully fenced.  So I threw on a hoody (it was close-at hand), grabbed a flashlight, some treats, and took off.  I found him on the next street over pretty quickly, but couldn’t catch him.  It was the greatest game of keepaway ever for him.  I was livid.  He ran right up to someone getting out of their car, and I begged them to grab him, but they didn’t try very hard.  I slipped on some rockery or stairs in someone’s front yard and sprained my ankle pretty badly.  Luckily, I had enough adrenaline flowing that I was able to keep chasing him.  It was rush hour and he was headed towards a pretty busy street.  Luckily, Craig was on his way home with his friend, and they both found me and joined in on the chase.  Helo did make it out to the main road, but Craig and I were finally able to trap him, and get ahold of him.  By the time we made it back to my car, my ankle was hurting so bad that it was difficult to push in my clutch.  But we got home, and I elevated and iced my ankle.  I wasn’t able to put real weight on it for 2-3 days.  The next day, I got a crutch, and hobbled out into the yard to refill the hole that he had dug. I found 4-5 different holes in various stages of completion, all in secluded spots in the yard.  He had been planning this jailbreak for some time, working on holes bit by bit.  That little shit made a premeditated escape.
The fifth, and most recent escape was when Craig’s mom came to drop of something for our yard, opened the gate, and Craig came home at the same time and let the dogs out, not knowing that his mom had opened our gate.  Helo took off, made it out to the main street, and hid behind a landscaping truck that was stopped at a light.  Luckily, the landscaper saw him, and gestured wildly to relay that information to Craig, who managed to sneak up on him.
Soooo… the combination of insane intelligence, forethought, predilection for adventures, and looking like a really terrifying creature are the perfect storm of extremely frustrating escapes.  In my experience, people are always willing to grab the 40lb German Shorthaired Pointer, but want nothing to do with grabbing the collar of an 80lb hulk of a dog that looks like a wolf.
Posted in: Dogs, The Creatures
November 13, 2014

I make pretty cakes

Homemade cupakes

I mean, not always.  But most of the time, I can usually pull it together enough to assemble a presentable cake.  I will be honest though, sometimes, a pretty cake actually isn’t.  I ran across these photos from Craig’s grandmother’s birthday this summer.  I had intended to make a double layered lemon and raspberry cake, and had a last-minute request for chocolate.  The cake, while a little… err…. unconventional, was universally well-received.

As a result of layer reshuffling, guest list, questionable weather forecasts, and poor time management, I ended up with too few evenly baked layers of lemon cake, and had to do what Craig’s aunt referred to as “corrective icing.”  We all had a good laugh when it was cut open!

A few weeks later, we brought cupcakes to Craig’s coworker’s bbq.  I had been meaning to experiment with a few new ideas and old recipes (I find that sometimes something that I thought was good a few years ago is a lot less impressive as my tastes evolve, I am a snob), so I made a few different options.

Those options were:
*My standard chocolate (of course), hollowed out, filled with dulce de leche, and a creamy milk-chocolate egg white buttercream
*An oldy (but with some tweaking, still a goody) Orange cupcake, filled with (an experimental but effective recipe for) creamy orange curd, and half-and-half orange and vanilla bean mousseline buttercream.  I also experimented with using frosting plugs inside my piping bag with great success for this one.
*Heavily modified version of my strawberry rhubarb cupcakes adjusted to take peach puree and peach chunks (it all tasted pretty peachy), with a mascarpone whipped cream stabilized with some instant vanilla pudding, garnished with peach slices, so people know what the flavor is.
The cupcakes were very pretty.  And they all held up to the hot weather.  It was a success.
My next foray into cupcakes will be making them for a baby shower that my friend is throwing.  We’re doing (chocolate again) cupcakes with a pink raspberry buttercream, and meyer lemon cupcakes with a meyer lemon curd and yellow meyer lemon buttercream.  They should be tasty.
Posted in: Baking, Cooking
November 6, 2014

“Why do you hate your blog?”

woman Lumberjack costume

So the other day, Craig asks me “Why do you hate your blog?” to which I replied “I don’t.” Then he mentioned that I hadn’t posted in 6 days.    I told him that I needed a bit of a breather after attempting the post a day thing for October (unsuccessfully) and that I was too busy making venison stew and drawing a beard on my face to post.

This is really more of an excuse to share my lumberjack costume than it is to post any useful or otherwise interesting content.
Posted in: Misc
November 5, 2014

I hosted a caramel making class for a bunch of strangers!

Caramel Making Class

I’m part of a Facebook group called Buy Nothing Bothell. It’s a simple concept, people post things up (along with their general location) that they’d like to give away, and people who are interested in them, comment and ask to be considered.  The gifter then lets the person who has “won” know, and they take the conversation to private messages, where the gifter gives the giftee their address and they make arrangements for the giftee to come pick up the item, usually from the gifter’s porch.  It’s a simple concept, and feels a little safer that Craigslist free ads, because you have access to the person’s name and facebook profile.  There are numerous Buy Nothing groups in the area, but based on what I’ve heard from friends, Bothell has the “best” one.  Numerous great things have been gifted, including a working espresso machine, a Wii, tons of Halloween costumes, dishes, baby stuff, a trampoline, etc.  I have given away a dresser, knife block, baking pans, light fixtures, and hundreds of caramels.  I’ve personally had the luck of “winning” a couple purses, an electric roaster, a fondue pot, and a set of hot rollers.

Sorry for the quality of the photos guys, they’re phone pics.  I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off and just couldn’t get it together enough to take many photos with my real camera.

Photo by Mary-Leah Bryson Moore

A couple of months ago, someone who has an apple tree in her yard posted saying that she’d love to learn how to can, and she has all of these apples to use.  This blossomed in to an experienced canner offering to host several of us and teach us how to can.  We all brought equipment and ingredients, a few people on the group donated some canning jars, and someone brought a huge crock pot of chili.  We turned it into an afternoon/evening of processing apples, and at the end of it, we each had 2 quarts of apple pie filling, and 4-5 half pint jars of a couple different apple jams, in addition to some frozen apple sauce.  It was a pretty great ordeal.  Fun was had by all and we walked away with delicious food, new skills, and new friends.

Each time I gave away caramels on BNB, I got requests to share my recipe(which I am happy to do) and comments about how people don’t know how to make caramels.  So I had the genius idea to offer a similar get-together to the apple thing, but there was LOTS of interest.  I created an event page, and the initial 6-8 that I figured I could “handle” quickly turned into 14, as I found that you cannot block RSVPs.  I eventually had to use all caps to write “do not rsvp” in the event title.  But as can be expected(let’s be honest, I was hoping!) 4 people didn’t show up.  Thank goodness!

The way we did this one (and I’m hoping to do a few more, and refine the process) was to post what ingredients were necessary, and have people volunteer to bring stuff like corn syrup, cream, butter, pumpkin pie spice, real food, etc.  It ended up working out in the end, but having a third of the people dropping out had potential to be disastrous.  I made sure we had extra corn syrup, a ton of granulated sugar, and a little cream.  For refreshments, I made some focaccia, got a tub of jalapeno artichoke dip (yum) and made a crock pot full of mulled wine.

Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger

My husband packed up the escape artist dog (Helo) and got the hell out of Dodge, then guests began arriving.  We had a few snacks, I gave a quick rundown on sugar temps, crystallization, and talked about the importance of an accurate (or at least consistent thermometer), then we got down to business.  I cooked a batch of caramels, and showed the women what different temps of boiling sugar look like, the extreme frothiness when adding your cream, etc.   The first batch was a success.  The second batch, I didn’t add enough initial water to, and got sidetracked, so of course, I taught everyone the lesson of not burning things.  One of the women has her own caramel recipe that she wanted to also make, so she made that.  And we had a good lesson in the importance of thermometer consistency.  Her thermometer at home is calibrated differently to mine, so when she cooked to the exact same temp as her home thermometer reads, using mine, her temperature was overshot, and the caramels are closer in consistency to a sugar daddy candy.

Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger

All-in-all, we made 5 batches of caramels: my standard French Grey Salt, Coffee, Pistachio, Pumpkin Spice, and Jackie’s plain.  I was hoping to have enough time to cook up a batch of Toffee Popcorn Crunch while the pans of caramels cooled, but time was flying and we’d have been there til after 8 if we had tried to make that happen.  After the caramels cooled sufficiently, we got to cutting and wrapping.  Let me tell you, wrapping happens A LOT faster when you hate 10 people involved.  I’m about ready to start hiring the neighbor kids to come over and wrap candies for me.  I’ll pay them in sugary treats!

Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger

After all was said and done, we each walked away with:
12x espresso
12x salted
6x pistachio
12x pumpkin spice
24x plain

And of course!  Recipe:
Chewy Caramels (makes 64)
1.5 c granulated sugar (300 g)
.5 c light corn syrup (150 g)
.25 c water (enough to moisten sugar)
1.25 c heavy cream
4 Tbs (.5 stick) butter
.5-1.5 tsp salt
Espresso:3 Tbs instant espresso
Pistachio:1 cup hulled pistachios
Pumpkin Spice: 100g canned pumpkin, 2tsp pumpkin spice

* In a 3 qt or larger heavy bottomed pot, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water, being sure not to splash granules of sugar onto the sides of the pan
* Combine cream, butter, & salt in microwave safe container, nuke until butter is melted and cream is warm, stir.
* Cook sugar mixture over medium-high heat to 250°, wash sides of pan down with wet pastry brush, and cook to 290°.
* While stirring, slowly add warm cream mixture to sugar. Cook to 243° (or whatever works with your thermometer), remove from heat, and pour into greased loaf pan
*Allow to cool, unmold, cut, and wrap

If you are considering actually making these, please refer to a previous blog post that I made (but ignore that recipe, I have since fine-tuned it).  There are notes regarding how to test for temp and what to do if the temp isn’t quite right.  On my personal thermometer, the target zone is 243.  Whatever thermometer you have may be off quite a lot.  If your thermo is at least quality, it will probably be consistent though, so once you figure out that thermometer’s sweet spot, stick with it!

Posted in: Candy, Coffee, Misc