Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reading, Planning, Dreaming - Garden Catalogs

This is a test of a new program for the Blog.

Thanks for bearing with the trial & effort.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Repurposing that Potato Soup - "Potato Soup Frittata"

No I have not lost my mind!  Remember that easy potato soup recipe I recently posted?  Well this morning while thinking about Brunch (it's Brunch on Sundays), I came across about a cup of the soup in the 'fridge.

I had a moment of clarity - fed undoubtedly by a good deal of high octane coffee - I thought that the leftover soup with its bacon bits, tiny chunks of potato and cream would play well with eggs and cheese in a fluffy frittata.

Here's the preparation.  It is delicious and fluffy and full of potato flavor. I will do exactly the same thing next time I make Cream of Potato Soup.



One cup of leftover Cream of Potato Soup (it will be nice and thick the way cream soups get in the refrigerator - you want that)

Two egg whites (I had them in the 'fridge because I had made mayonaisse the day before)
Four large eggs

A pinch of Baking Powder

Two or three chopped scallions

Hot pepper rings - the "sandwich style" in the jar - If you don't like spicy, just leave these out

Four Tablespoons of butter


Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium sized cast iron pan
Sauté the green onions and the hot peppers in the butter

Whisk the egg whites, the eggs and the left over soup in a bowl - whisk well to incorporate everything

Whisk in the Baking Powder

Pour the whisked mixture into the hot cast iron pan, over the scallions and peppers
Give the whole mixture a stir to incorporate everything

Cover and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes

Lift up and check the bottom of the frittata, if it is brown, invert the frittata out onto a large plate

Drop the remaining butter into the cast iron pan

Slide the frittata back into the pan, top side down

Let it cook for another five minutes or so.

Remove pan from the heat and let it stand for five minutes

Slice and Serve

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Worrying, Simplifying and Soup!

Well, I have been complaining about the need for Winter to get on with it already.  My demands have been answered!  And then some.  Twelve degrees overnight; 22 during the day - yes, thank you, that's Winter!

So, now like the good homesteader/gardener I am trying to be, I am in a panic over the cold frame!  After the whole thing crashed in a wind and rain storm in the Fall, we reconstructed it as a long box with the heavy translucent plastic we used enclosing the entire box. We raised the "roof" of plastic to about 15 inches above the dirt. The theory is that the higher the ceiling, the warmer the frame will stay.  It is sealed tight all around and, during this cold snap, I am obsessed with it.  The torture is that I can't actually see into it clearly, so either everything is frozen solid and dead or the structure is working and the temperature inside remains above freezing. Opening it would be supreme stupidity, so fingers crossed, the structure works.  If it hasn't,  I have learned something for next year.  Fingers crossed.

Simplifying, downsizing and de-cluttering

The projects continue.  Last night we put out six or seven contractor's bags from the third floor office/library cleanup. The floors are done and cleaned up beautifully.  We continue to work up there but now the work is much more fun - hanging art, going through the library shelves and dusting books and making the stacks look nice (OK for me that's fun!), and yes, getting rid of even more unused stuff.  With a cold snowy weekend, I predict this room will be done very soon.

Cold Weather Comfort Foods

A few days ago, I  noticed that we had a lot of potatoes down in the cold storage (our basement) - many of them looked like they should be used soon. It was very cold. Cream of potato soup seemed the clear answer.

Recipe:  Cream of Potato Soup

The beauty of this recipe is its flexibility.  Use onion - or leeks or green onions; bacon is great but ham works well too.  A little sautéed celery, with leaves, adds a nice flavor too.  If you don't have chicken stock, use water and maybe season a bit more. The non-negotiable here is richness.  Use the heavy cream. Use the butter. It's a cold weather treat.

Ingredients (what I used last time at least):

5-6 medium size potatoes (whatever is hanging around), peeled and chopped
Two medium leeks, dark green ends cut off, sliced vertically, washed and chopped
Two small garlic cloves, sliced
Three or four slices of bacon - I had thick cut for this preparation - chopped
Three to four cups of low salt chicken stock
Three to four tablespoons of butter
One cup of heavy cream


Cook the chopped bacon in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven - use medium heat, you want the bacon to give off a good deal of its fat.
When the bacon is darkening a bit and you have a good amount of bacon fat, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and put the bacon bits aside for later.  Put  the chopped leeks, the garlic, and the chopped potatoes into the pot and add a tablespoon or two of butter.

Toss everything together, let everything sizzle for awhile - here you are getting good flavor into the potatoes.
After about 3-4 minutes of tossing and sizzling, add the chicken stock to cover everything
Bring the stock to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover the pot and let it cook for 20 minutes or so or until your potatoes are fork tender.

When the potatoes are done, mash some and stir the mixture. You can use an immersion blender here too but don't blend everything because you want a little bit of chunky.
Add the cream and the remaining butter, along with the chopped bacon and
salt and freshly ground pepper.
Fantastic! It will warm you up and is a meal in itself.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What's Cooking over the Cold Weekend?

A Question

What's everyone thinking about cooking now that the cold weather has arrived?

So far, my menus over the next 4 days include, but are certainly not limited to:

1. Individual Mac n Cheese mini-casseroles with a side of sauteed bitter greens
2. Venison Chili with all of the fixin's
3. Roasted Beets, greens, and goat cheese salad
4. Cream of Mushroom Soup
5. Roasted Marrow Bones with toasts
6. Red Sauce, Meatballs, and spaghetti

I'm thinking about baking some apples that we have in the basement cold storage.  And since I have buttermilk from a recent batch of butter, I think some corn muffins would be just the thing. Of course, another round of Maple Syrup Oatmeal has to be made, and I'm pretty sure one breakfast is going to have to include sausage gravy and biscuits. Break out the Hot Chocolate too!  I love cooking in the cold weather!

How about you?

Some Food for Thought

Here's an idea:  Read  every label of the processed, frozen, and canned products you pick up in the supermarket for a couple of shopping trips. Count how many have High Fructose Corn Syrup as an ingredient.  I guarantee you, you will be shocked - not only by the number, but by what products have it as an ingredient!  Yes, it's "just like sugar" - as the commercial says - do you want sugar in everything you eat?
This situation is crazy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Comforting Low & Slow Short Ribs; Simplifying Update

Recipe:  Pimenton & Caraway Short Ribs with Egg Noodles

This is a delicious recipe adapted from the new cookbook, "Canal House Cooks Every Day".  It was easy and it is absolutely wonderful the next day when the flavors really incorporate.  The square egg noodles are called, "Pot Pie Noodles" by the Pennsylvania Dutch folks.  They are perfect in this recipe.  Also, your oven will be on low for three hours, so you will be getting some warming up from that, too, so it's a win-win!

Ingredients for 4 - 6 servings

For the Ribs

4 pounds meaty short ribs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, thickly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons pimenton
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine

For the Noodles

1/2 pound egg noodles (the square pot pie noodles if you can get them, or regular egg noodles)
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees; season the short ribs all over generously with salt and pepper.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large enameled cast iron or other heavy, oven proof pot with a lid over medium high heat (a heavy Dutch Oven type pot works best; there's a lot of liquid in the recipe)

Brown the ribs in the oil - work in batches, don't crowd the ribs.  Transfer browned ribs to a tray or platter.

Reduce heat to medium; Add the onions, garlic, pimenton, and caraway seeds to the pot
Cook, stir occasionally; let the onions soften - this will take about 15 minutes
Push everything to one side of the pot; add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly until the paste gets a bit darker - this will take about 2 minutes.
Stir the onion mixture and the tomato paste together.

Return the ribs to the pot; make sure to pour in any juices from the ribs too
Add the wine and enough water so that the ribs are half submerged.
Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a simmer.

Cover the pot and braise the short ribs in the oven until the meat is fork tender.
This will take about 3 hours.

Remove the pot from the oven

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook until tender.
Drain and return the noodles to the pot.  Stir in the butter and the parsley - add a splash of water and toss well.  Season with salt.

Arrange ribs and noodles on a platter.

Simplifying Life - The Efforts Continue

Here in Philadelphia we are experiencing day after day of gray, damp, certainly warm for the season, but chilly in that "wet" way; it's just awful weather.  Along with the short days, it is a nightmare scenario for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - which frankly, I think, is most of us!

So I've decided to try to find things to make myself happy - feeling bright and shiny although bright and shiny it ain't. I've been doing a lot of cooking; a little baking (the oven from hell continues to play games with me); and a lot of organizing, re-organizing; and de-cluttering. It's not making me feel like I've spent the day in the sunshine, but it is improving my environment and de-stressing my interactions with it.

Simplifying Tip for this Week:  If you have, as we do, boxes of  generally small, little used, low priced items that you no longer want or have never really used, you can pack up your car with the boxes and go sit at a Flea Market and try to sell these things individually.  Or, you can become a seller on Ebay.  I love Ebay.  I visit it a lot when I am hunting for something in particular.  However being a seller on Ebay requires a good deal of commitment and trips to the Post Office.  I believe it is more useful when you have large items, especially those that are worth a significant amount of money, to list them on Ebay. For those boxes of miscellaneous little things - if you want to take the easy approach - DONATE.  Organizations like Goodwill will come to your home with a truck and take your boxes.  For this you will get a tax deduction, which just may be equal to or surpass what you would make at a flea market!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Simplifying Year: Care to Join in? No Knead Bread Redux

Happy 2013!

First of all, thanks so much to those who wished us good holidays and hoped we'd have a wonderful time at our "new tradition" Christmas Eve dinner with some of our closest friends.  It was wonderful and it definitely took the edge off of  some of the loss we were feeling.  And we had a wonderful start to 2013 at our good friends lovely Larken Springs Farm ( Good friends and food, snow, quiet, farm animals, beauty - it always does the trick.

Here at Il Moya, we have decided that 2013 will be, the Year of Simplifying Life. So, a new area of interest for the Blog this year will be a discussion of the principles of simplifying.  How to do it, the pluses and the pitfalls, and how we really decide what we need.   I have often talked about our growing knowledge of Urban Homesteading and Self Sufficiency practices and much of what we are learning from our education in those areas leads us to realize that there's too much "stuff" in our home. So, those boxes that are filling up the basement?  One more round of peeking in and they are going to a charity.  Those closets that are spilling over with clothes we haven't worn in years?  They are going to get emptied.  The "big" built in storage in our office/library is really packed and right now, I feel that we'll need to work up to that!
Our new rule of thumb starting this year will be:  When something comes in, something goes out.  Now I know what you are thinking, we already recognize that there are exceptions to this rule - and those will cause us to have to take pause and evaluate.  For example, we are both avid readers and lovers of books - and I especially love cookbooks, which I read like they were novels. Books will be a tough one.  We're just not sure yet.  I do know that we have a large collection of cookbooks that are in those basement boxes because we somewhere along the line needed space for new books and we realized that we didn't use them.  So, we already have some books that will be donated to a good home.
A big issue for us is kitchen and cooking ware.  Those basement boxes?  They are pretty much filled with kitchen gadgets.  The more you cook - especially if you love it and practice at it - you realize that you really only need certain equipment, and you're good to go. For example, in the attached recipe for home made bread, I use our cast iron mussel pan to bake my loaf.  As a matter of fact, cast iron is something you want to consider owning - if you don't already. It's worth moving other pots and pans out to add cast iron to your kitchen.  It is incredibly versatile and hard working and provides a wonderful finish on foods.  It only needs a bit of care to keep it performing beautifully; we make eggs in ours - something that many folks think is impossible.

So, I am thinking that this highlights the First Principle of Simplifying in the Kitchen:  Does a gadget or item have more than one use?  Is it versatile?  How many other uses does it have?  Have you ever tried using it for other purposes and, if not, do you want to keep it around?

Let's learn from each other, and let's start with the Kitchen!

Name a kitchen gadget that you find to be extremely versatile, and share the many ways that you use it.  OR/AND
Name a kitchen gadget that you use for only one thing, one that you find that you move around a lot when you are not using it, and think about what other roles it could play.

Let's hear from you!

Homemade No Knead Bread
Note:  this recipe is an adaptation of the no knead bread recipe made famous by Jim Lahey. It first appeared in the New York Times in 2006.  I have had inconsistent results with it over the years.  I love the idea of it, but don't always think I get the bread intended.  This recipe appears in the new cookbook (I was gifted it, and I am very happy!), "Canal House Cooks Every Day". I believe some of the slight tweaks made by the authors works very well. The bread making is really dependent on passive time - your time prepping it is really minimal and believe me, it is delicious.  Once you get the technique down, you can start to adapt your own additions to the bread.

Makes one large loaf:


3 - 3 3/4's cups all purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting; Canal House calls for 3 cups, but when I made it, I needed the additional 3/4 cup of flour.  But this is often based on weather, the flour itself, and other factors so you have to look for the consistency explained below. Start with 3 cups.

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons water


Whisk together flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl
Add the water and using a wooden spoon, stir until blended
The dough will be shaggy and sticky.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for 18 hours (yep 18 hours, no knead remember?).  Find the warmest spot - closest to 70 degrees - you have in your home. We rarely ever reach 70 degrees in our home in winter, but find the warmest place, but do NOT put it directly on or in front of a heat source!  That just causes a skin to form on the dough and it does not help the process of proofing.  Trust me!

The dough is ready when it is dotted with bubbles.  Flour your work surface, dump the dough out of the bowl on to the floured surface; sprinkle with a little more flour and using a dough scraper or your hands, fold it over itself once or twice - no kneading!  Loosely cover the dough with the plastic wrap from the bowl and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle the work surface lightly with flour; using a pastry/dough scraper (now THERE's a versatile kitchen gadget) shape the dough into a ball (you can use your hands a bit, too). It doesn't have to be perfect, but you want a seam side and generally a ball like shape, but you don't want to play with the dough a lot. Put a clean towel on your work surface (not terry cloth), sprinkle with with some flour and place the dough ball on the towel, seam side down.  Sprinkle some more flour on the dough ball and cover with another towel (again, not terry cloth).  Let it rise for 2 hours.

When it is ready it should have increased in size (ideally doubled) and will not spring back when you poke it with your finger.

At least 30 minutes before the rising time is up, preheat your over to 450 degrees and put the pan and lid  that you will be baking the bread in into the oven.  Use cast iron, pyrex or ceramic. As mentioned I use a cast iron mussel pan.  A Dutch oven will work beautifully as well.

When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven, and dump the dough from the towel into the pot seam side up.  It will look like a mess but just shake the pan - using your oven mitts of course - and it will settle in nicely.

Cover the pot with the lid and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake until the loaf of bread is browned - about 15 - 30 minutes - in my experience generally around 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool on a wire rack.  Sharpen your bread knife.  This bread has a fantastic crust.  Enjoy.