Jul
05

Mmm, Cookies

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I’m not much of a sweets eater, but I do like my ice cream, some pie, and cookies. Cookies are probably my g0-too; after all, they’re the perfect grab-and-go snack. And when it comes to cookies, my favorites are probably shortbread and peanut butter. This week. They are, of course, subject to change.

I wanted cookies the other day. It was a serious jonesing. The last cookies I made were shortbread, and though I love them, I wanted something different. It just so happened a peanut butter cookie was popping up all over my Facebook feed. While cookies and my FB feed are exactly strangers, there was something different about this peanut butter cookie. Actually there were several things different about this peanut butter cookie recipe.

No flour

No butter

No salt

No baking powder

No baking soda

Of course I shared this recipe, and apparently I was one of the last to know about it. It’s been around for a long time. Who knew? (Yeh, probably everyone but me.)

I had to try it. I call it 1-Cubed Peanut Butter Cookies. (The 1 should be followed by a superscript 3, but I can’t figure out how to do it here. Ergo, spelling out “cubed.”) Why, because you use 1 of three items. Here’s the recipe. Don’t blink.

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, beaten

That’s it. Seriously.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Shape into balls, put on parchment lined cookie sheets, light press down, and put the fork marks on each cookie. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Ovens will vary.

PB CookiesIt works! And they taste good!

Since this was my first time making these cookies, I followed the recipe . . . for the most part. I did top with a light sprinkling of turbinado sugar before baking.

I did buy commercial peanut butter to make these cookies. I usually make my own PB, but I had doubts if it would work in this recipe. Although some recipes for homemade peanut butter call for the addition of oil, I don’t My PB is just peanuts whirred to buttery oblivion. Most commercial peanut butters contain at least one type of oil, and I wondered if that oil was necessary for this cookie dough to become cookiefied. I’ll probably try a batch using my peanut butter and see what happens.

You’d think I’d be happy this recipe worked and provided me with a good cookie fix. And I am. I’m especially happy for those looking for a wheat-free cookie. But it has got me to thinking if there are other cookies that can be made this way. There may be experiments in my future.

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Jun
23

Onions on Ice

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The other day I went to pull out an onion for a dish I was making. Nope. Not a single onion. I was sure I had at least one the last time I checked. Should have checked one more time.

Now you might think that’s no big deal. And in the whole scheme of things, it probably isn’t. But I am a big fan of onions. I love them raw. I love them cooked (most ways). They’re players in many of the dishes I make, especially soups and stews. And while I included them in my mirepoix cubes, there are times when I want just the onions.

The next chance I had I went to the store and picked up a couple of bags. When I opened the first bag, it was evident I needed to do something with them right away. Some were past their prime. They were certainly usable, but I needed to cut away parts. I dehydrated some for onion flakes and onion powder. And I wanted to freeze some.

Now that was the problem. When I’ve frozen them in the past, they clumped together and had to be pounded apart. Either that or plop the whole thing in the pot. Yes, I know that’s why they tell you to freeze such things on a cookie sheet first and then put in a container. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have room for a cookie sheet in the freezer. There had to be another way.

And there was. Now this may be common knowledge, but I’d not heard of it before. While I didn’t have room for a cookie sheet, there was definitely room to squeeze in an ice cube tray.

Sorry about the lighting.

Sorry about the lighting.

So I took out my Genius Nicer Dicer Fusion and chopped up a couple of onions and put the pieces in an ice cube tray. My theory was that the water in the onions would make the pieces freeze together. Then I’d pop out the cubes and put in a container. When I wanted onions, I’d simply take out a cube or two.

Good theory. But first I had to deal with the onion smell, and these onions had a lot of smell. Before putting in the freezer, I covered first with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil. It worked.

IMG_0117

The next morning, I anxiously took them out of the freezer.

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It worked!

Kind of.

While some stayed in a cubish form, others broke apart. But that’s fine. They’re still individually frozen.

As I said, this may be common knowledge, but it was new to me. I’m already thinking of other things to freeze this way.

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Jun
10

Iced Tea and Facebook

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Facebook has proved to be a valuable tool in locating missing things, people, and pets. And now, iced tea.

Yes, you read that right, though more technically, iced tea bags. And to be specific, Luzianne Family Size Cold Brew tea bags. You might remember the deep passion I have for these little bags of bliss. If not, you can read about it here. In the time that’s passed, it hasn’t changed. What has changed is their availability.

I was not surprised I couldn’t find them here in the Adirondacks. There’s a lot I can’t find here, but I digress. So as usual, I returned to Walmart to place my order. And what do I find? “Currently unavailable.” What? Are you kidding me? I signed up to be notified when they were back in stock, but that was not helping me now.

The next logical step was to check out Amazon. The least expensive I could find at the time was $8.00/box. That’s for 22 tea bags. As much as I crave it, I could not justify the expense. Yes, I was being an adult.

But that’s where being an adult ended. My next move was to Facebook, where I complained (okay, whined) about my inability to find them. What happened next was completely unexpected. People posted they’d check their local stores. Some even searched the Internet for other sources, which I checked up on. To digress a bit–what the heck is up with shipping costs. Sheez. But then came the really unexpected–“Message me your address, and I’ll send some.” And when I offered to pay, most refused.

After a few days, my counter looked like this.

IMG_0083That’s 17 boxes of my beloved tea bags. That amounts to 374 tea bags–all thanks to the generosity of Facebook friends. I think they actually can be considered friends now. Especially since so many made sure to tell me to let them know when I ran out, so they could send more.

Incidentally, the day the last package arrived, I got an e-mail from Walmart. They’re back in stock.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to celebrate National Iced Tea Day with a glass of Luzianne.

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Jun
04

Cycling Chefs

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If you’ve read The Enabling Cook very long, you know one of my passions is fighting hunger. It is a travesty that a country such as the United States has so many people at food risk. Some reports say 1 in 5 children are at food risk. This is our future generation–our future–at risk.

You also know I like to bring to your attention ways you can help fight hunger. And that is the purpose of today’s blog post.

ChefsCycle_logo

For almost 30 years. chefs and restaurants have raised millions to fight child hunger in America. This weekend kicks off their latest efforts, Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry. June 7-9, chefs will ride their bicycles from New York City to Washington, DC. Next weekend, June 14-16, chefs will ride from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Each trip is approximately 300 miles!

Now I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I could ride a bike that far. Actually, though they say you don’t forget how to ride a bike, I’m not so sure. It’s been decades since I’ve been on one. Well, at least one that actually moved. Though I can’t ride, I can make a donation. They’ve made it so easy. Just go to Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry. You can learn about the campaign and the chefs participating. You can even pick a chef to support. Click “Donate,” and select the level you feel comfortable at. A donation of $10 can provide up to 100 meals! That means for every dollar you donate, 10 meals can be provided! Imagine what a relief that will be to those at risk. Their goal is 100,000 meals.

I hope you’ll take some time out of your day to visit Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry. And please make a donation if you can. After all, no matter how much we plan for adversity, it can strike us and our families much harder and more quickly than we can imagine. Before we know it, we could be one of those individuals and families at food risk. There is no donation too small. Remember–$1 can provide 10 meals.

Ride on, chefs. Well done.

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Jun
02

A Dinner Dilemma

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I channeled my mother last night. Not a bad thing, but it was frustrating. Mom made dinner almost every night when I was a kid, and most times without complaint. But sometimes . . . maybe more than sometimes . . . she lamented how difficult it was to decide what to fix for dinner. It was often during those last few days before Dad got paid, and there were slim pickings in the refrigerator and freezer. But no matter how hard it was, she figured out how to make each dinner.

I never really appreciated how hard that decision could be until I was on my own. Yes, I was sometimes frustrated at trying to decide what to cook, and I’m cooking for one! Last night was one of those nights. I looked in the fridge, and nothing caught my fancy. Oh it wasn’t that my freezer or refrigerator contents were lacking. No, that wasn’t it. I’d made chili a few days before, and there was plenty left over. In fact, I’d had some for lunch, so I really didn’t want it for dinner. And while I’d not thawed anything, I could cook something frozen to done in either my NuWave Oven or electric pressure cooker. But I wasn’t in the mood. Just as I’d decided to fix my g0-to answer for such a dilemma (eggs and home fries), I hit on another option–soup.

Okay, I know I make soup a lot, but I like soup. Plus it was rainy and chilly (didn’t get out of the 50s), and soup seemed perfect. But I wanted something different. I took a closer look at what vegetables were in the fridge. Hmm, 2 or 3 stalks of asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, onions. Kind of limited. Took a look in the freezer. A few weeks ago, there was a sale on carrots and corn. Blanched some and put in the freezer. Yes, that’d work. Now what about the broth. Grabbed some chicken stock and soy sauce. To the stove.

 

Soup

I decided to leave out the onion this time. I’d never put brussels sprouts in soup before, so I was kind of clueless about how to do it. I decided to cut them in half to speed cooking. In about a tablespoon of butter, I briefly sweated the broccoli and sprouts. I added the stock and a couple tablespoons of soy sauce. When it came to a boil, I added the frozen corn and carrots, as well as red pepper flakes. As it cooked away, thought about other things to add. I wanted noodles, but I didn’t have any. Or so I thought. Duh, spaghetti. So I added spaghetti.

As I always say, check for seasoning. It needed more soy sauce. Keep in mind, the soy sauce serves double duty. I used it in place of salt, and I wanted the taste, too. So I added a bit more. In all, I probably added a little less that a 1/4 cup of soy sauce. It also needed crushed black pepper.

The result? Well, you can see it above. What you can’t see is how good it was! Even surprised me. In a way, it was kind of like a Chopped challenge. And I won!!

Take a look at what’s in your refrigerator in new ways–for you. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you come up with.

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May
28

Welcome to Howling Wind Bucket Farm

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For the past several years, I’ve planted gardens. I had 2 plots at home and usually 2 plots at the community garden. When I checked out this place, I asked about having a garden and was told yes. That got me excited, of course. I bought a raised bed frame and waited for the time to plant.

Then I changed my mind.

For a variety of reasons, I decided not to do a raised bed this year. Instead, I decided to go the container route. Though most are in buckets, I have some planted in tubs and planter pots as well. I started some herbs in cut down 2-liter soda bottles. Here are a couple of early photos of Howling Wind Bucket Farm.

Garden 1

Garden 2I’ve planted tomatoes, banana peppers, peas, green and yellow beans, onions, radishes, carrots, potatoes, chard, and jalapeños. I also have oregano, basil, catnip, and sage growing. I couldn’t find many seedling options, so except for the banana peppers and tomato plant, all were started from seeds–or eyes in the case of the potatoes. I want to find another container and plant more radishes.

As for the name Howling Wind Bucket Farm, well, this is part of a wall of trees behind my house.

IMG_0034When the wind blows, which it does often, it howls. Well, to be more accurate, it sounds like a train. But Howling Train Bucket Farm doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I know a lot of people think they can’t have a garden because they don’t have space. And that’s true in many cases. But if you can get yourself a container of some type, some soil, and seeds or seedlings, you really can have a garden. It doesn’t have to be huge to help you eat better and save money.

 

 

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May
19

Mirepoix Cubed

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After a busy and stressful week, I decided to take last weekend off and do things I enjoy–like reading cookbooks. That is one of my favorite ways to relax. As I looked through one, I found a recipe for carrot, celery, and onion bouillon. Many will recognize that mixture as a mirepoix, the basis of many soups, sauces, and other dishes. Since I love soup and make a lot of it, it only follows that I make a lot of mirepoix. It’s not a long or complicated process, still it does take time I could spend doing something else. And for some people, it might mean they’d pass on homemade soup and reach for a can. Shudder. According to the recipe, all you had to do was chop the ingredients, whir in a blender with water, and freeze in ice cube trays. When completely frozen, pop into a freezer bag to have at your beck and call. I went to bed that night determined to make some the following morning.

But then the brain kicked in.

When you make a mirepoix, instructions usually call to sauté the vegetables in a bit of butter, oil, or a combination. Not only do you get the flavors of the vegetables, it’s enhanced by the sauté, adding another layer of flavor. I tried to think of how to get that flavor using the recipe’s instructions. Though you might be able to do so if the combination were dehydrated and then powdered, I couldn’t think of a way to get it in ice cube form. Maybe I should pass.

HPIM1577

But no. There had to be a way. And then it came to me.

Sauté the veggies first. Okay, that’s easy enough. And that’s exactly what I did. I took a carrot, a stalk of celery (including a few of the leaves), and an onion. I chopped them and sautéed in a bit of oil, just as I do most times I make a mirepoix. When finished, I turned them out onto a dish lined with a paper towel, so some of the oil could be sopped up. I patted them a bit more and let them cool a bit.

The rest was according to the original recipe. I put the veggies and cup of water in a blender and whirred away. Then into a 12-compartment ice cube tray. One carrot, celery, and onion–plus one cup of water–filled one tray. After 24 hours, and most likely sooner, they were completely frozen, so I transferred them to a freezer bag.

Of course I couldn’t wait to try them. So the next day I pulled together a mushroom and veggie soup using the cubes. And it worked great! I used 2 cubes for a smallish (technical term) pot of soup.

I know many people store homemade stock in ice cube form. And truth be told, if I had the freezer space, I might do so, too. But in the meantime, I think I’ll make a few more bags of mirepoix cubes. Saving time can be a good thing.

Mushroom Veg Soup

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May
05

Playing Favorites

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The other day someone asked what my favorite kitchen gadget is. Now this person knows me well. Especially my love for kitchen gadgets. He knows I’m often glued to QVC for all-day cooking products. Not that I buy much. I’ve become a much more prudent gadget shopper. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like looking at them.

I think I shocked him when I told him what it is. After all, I own some high-end kitchen appliances and gadgets. Still, when it comes right down to it, my favorite is my Ball collapsible funnel.

1440010732Seriously. As a matter of fact, I almost panicked when I couldn’t find it after I moved. Me thinks I need to get a back-up funnel.

So why do I consider this indispensable? Well, for me it’s a necessity when I’m canning. But to be honest, I probably use it more to fill jars for storage than for canning. I love using glass jars to store dry goods, such as beans. (Hmm, this may explain why I don’t seem to have as many jars as I once did.) It shows off what’s inside, and it gives me easy access to determine when it’s time to buy more. While some may find it a simple task to open the bag and pour the contents into jars, well, it’s not always easy for me. Pouring through the funnel into the jar is easy peasy.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I often prepare foods so there are leftovers. When possible, I like to freeze soups in jars (make sure to leave plenty of headroom, and use jars with straight sides). Using the funnel makes it an easy process. I sometimes freeze soup and other leftovers in FoodSaver bags. Standing the bag in a large measuring cup or something similar and using the funnel to fill makes for a much less messy fill.

It may not be fancy, but this funnel has probably saved me hours in cleanup. And the fact it collapses for storage is frosting on the cake. So that is why it’s my favorite kitchen gadget. I just hope the Danish dough whisks and the “meat” fork don’t get jealous.

 

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Apr
12

I Need a Bigger Cookie Jar

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Except for ice cream and the occasional pie, I’m not big on sweets. When it comes to baking something sweet, my go-to of late have been cookies. Though I’ve baked cookies for as long as I can recall, it has increased since moving, as has all of my baking. I’m chalking it up to actually having room to do so.

The other day I was sitting around, wanting to make cookies but not sure what kind. I’d replenished some of my spice blends (ras el-hanout, curry powder, and za’atar) and wanted to use some of the same spices I used for those. That included cardamon, because, well, I’ve become a bit obsessed with it. And I thought about the orange spice cake I made a while ago. I wanted those spices as well.

After some experimenting, I ended up with my Spice Cookies.

Spice cookies and teaThe ingredients include vanilla and cinnamon extracts, ground cinnamon, ginger, ground pepper (seriously), ground mace, and ground green cardamon. You’ll see there is no baking powder, so they don’t really spread or rise. After forming the dough into little balls, roll them in turbinado sugar.

Despite the number of spices included in the cookies, the predominate flavor is cinnamon, a flavor familiar to and liked by most people. You can always adjust the spice amounts to your liking.

Though I’m usually not a dunker, these cookies are perfect for dunking. I find they stay together better than many cookies used for dunking. And when you dunk them in tea, the cookies add a very nice spice element to the tea.

Here’s my Spice Cookie recipe.

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Mar
27

Soup with a Far Eastern Twist

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A few weeks ago, I read about a contest sponsored by Healthy Solutions Spice Blends. You selected the spice blend you wanted to use, and they send you a package of that blend. While the idea of first prize was tempting, I was most anxious to try a new product–and support a woman-owned company. Then there’s that thing I have for options.

I can hear it now. “Uh, a commercial spice blend? Aren’t you the one always pushing for making your own?” Yes, and yes. I do make my spice blends. That’s my choice, because I want to know everything that goes in them. But I’m also a realist. Most people probably don’t make their own blends. Sometimes they don’t know where to begin, feel they don’t have the time, or believe it’s more economically feasible to purchase already made blends. As long as you get what you want, and it inspires you to cook, I really can’t argue with that.

Anyway, I selected the Pork and Poultry Rub blend. According to the package (.97 ounces), it contains dehydrated onion, tomato, and parsley, as well as orange peel, spices, and cranberries. There’s also less than 1 percent canola oil used for processing. My mind went first to making a sausage to use for wontons. But if you read my last post, “Repurposing Food,” you’ll see I first used it as part of a rub for chicken. It worked really well for roast chicken, and it added a nice flavor component to the “chicken jelly.”

Let’s just say the wontons didn’t work out. Operator error. So I decided to turn to soup. You all know how much I love soup. I was able to use the mixture I made for the wontons to make 1-inch or so meatballs. That was the easy part.

Asian Meatball Soup

Asian Meatball Soup

For the broth, I used chicken stock with some rice wine vinegar. I added some bok choy, because I like it and had some. The other day I bought 5 pounds of carrots, so I was surely going to add some. But I didn’t want them to look like the carrots I put in almost every other soup. So I halved them and julienned them. And since I wanted mushrooms and had actually grown my own oyster mushrooms, I added some of those, too.

HPIM1559

And along the repurposing food line, I made rice a few nights ago and had some left over. Yes, into the pot it went. I served myself a bowl and stirred in some gochujang paste. How much? Let’s just say my sinuses were clear.

The soup was fabulous. And the meatballs had a great flavor. Of course I tested before making them into meatballs, and the spice blend added a nice touch.

So my opinion of Healthy Solutions Spice Blend? Keep in mind I’ve only tried the Pork and Poultry Rub. It made an excellent rub for my chicken, and I’ve no doubt it would be the same for ribs, loins, and other pork cuts. When you’re trying to cut down on fat in your foods, you’re usually advised to add flavor through herbs and spices. Sometimes that’s all you’re told and left on your own to find the combinations. Many products are chockablock with additives. Healthy Solutions Spice Blends contain no MSG, salt, or sugar. I am bothered, however, by the general ingredient “spices.” I want to know what’s in my food, and though I understand proprietary recipes, this concerns me. Probably more than it would most folks.

They have several blends available, and I would like to try some of their other combinations. Check out their website. Maybe there’s something that inspires you to cook or grill.

Here’s the recipe for Asian Meatball Soup.

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