Wednesday, February 9

Make a roux- casserole makeover

If you ever cook from scratch, and I mean really from scratch - no cream of x soup or bisquick, you must be able to make a good roux. A good roux is the secret weapon of almost anything creamy. gravy, sauces, soups...

In case you don't know, a roux is a mixture of equal parts flour and fat. First you put the fat of your choice (butter or meat drippings work best) in a pan over heat until melted, hot and browned to the level you desire.  Secondly you slowly add the flour a little at a time while whisking. Picky cooks sift the flour first to "ensure" a smooth end product. Since I'm not that picky, I just whisk ferociously. After the flour and fat form a cohesive mixture slowly add in your liquid of choice, usually broth or milk. Again, add slowly, a little at a time whisking vigorously and checking for consistency.   Tada!

Anyway, this is an important element of my cream soup makeover dishes.  The hardest thing is the one can each of mushroom and chicken cream soups, but I found a solution!

Chicken and Rice Casserole
mushrooms diced (1 can of sliced canned or 4 fresh ones
*2+ Tbs rendered chicken fat (I used the stuff that was on my chicken broth after refrigerating it)
*2+ Tbs flour (white flour is best- one of the only uses for white flour in my house)
*1 1/4+ c chicken broth
*1 1/4+ c milk
*1/2+ tsp poultry seasoning
*salt and pepper to taste2 1/2 c cooked brown rice
6 hard boiled eggs diced
2 cans sliced water chestnuts
2 c cooked diced chicken
1c mayo (sour cream would work if you are opposed to mayo)
1/2-1 loaf crumbled bread
1/2 c (1 stick) melted butter (I usually skimp here.

1. Warm the chicken fat in a skillet while dicing mushrooms. Saute mushrooms in skillet for a while. Spoon out shrooms with a slotted spoon leaving as much fat as possible. Put shrooms in 9x13 or bowl. (I mix the ingredients in my 9x13- no need to dirty another dish. )
2. Make roux. Add stock first, then milk. when creamy gravy sauce thing reaches consistency add seasonings. Salt and pepper liberally since you aren't adding cream soups.
3. Mix rice, chicken, mayo, diced eggs, water chestnuts, and sauce in 9x13 with shrooms till thoroughly mixed.
4. While melting butter, crumble bread into a bowl. Pour butter over and toss till well coated. Pour over rest of casserole.- If you are lazy or don't have the bread, breadcrumbs will work in a pinch.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or thoroughly warmed and bread is crisp.

Saturday, February 5

Cookies for Breakfast?

I saw this recipe at Heavenly Homemakers. It had to be worth a try. We are getting tired of chocolate chip banana muffins. (I never thought I'd say that but my DH pick up groceries for me - I know, he is wonderful- and succumbed to his craving for bagels leaving me to eat two dozen muffins. I should have brought them to school with me.)

If anyone ever wants to try a recipe but doesn't want to make it herself, give me a call. I'm forever looking for new nutritious things for breakfast for a hubby who eats while checking e-mail and weather then runs.

Breakfast cookies

1 c melted butter- olive oil worked just fine
1/2 c honey- reduced from 3/4c- they are sweet enough
2 eggs
1 t each salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and vanilla
1/2 c buttermilk or kefir
2 c flour
2 c rolled oats
1c rasins

Soaking- Mix oil, flour oats and buttermilk. Soak overnight then add the rest of the ingredients, mix thouroughly and bake.

Regular way-
Mix oil through buttermilk. Then mix in grains. Finally fold in raisins.  Scoop onto baking sheet in heaping tablespoonfuls. (I ending up with 14 cookies per batch. They are big but I wanted to be able to take just one for a snack. )Bake 350 for 15 minutes. (Don't over bake them. They start to taste burnt quickly and that is no good.) Cool on a rack for 3-4 minutes. . - Seriously, they are really really hot.

Next I want to try cupcake quiche- maybe I can use wonton wrappers.

Thursday, February 3

Biscuits and Gravy

Yesterday was a snow day.  Even Justin was stuck out home most of the morning. It took him two hours to shovel out our driveway. We don't have a long driveway.  One of the drifts was almost up to my waist.
 On a day like that, what sounds better than comfort food? So we made Justin's favorite breakfast- Biscuits and Gravy. From scratch of course.

We've been searching for a good recipie for both biscuits and sausage gravy for a while. We finally found both. On the same website.

However, before I give you the recipe I have one more hint. If you have a little one at your house who demands attention when you are trying to prepare supper, prepare as much as you can when they are happy to play by themselves or during nap time. For me that meant making the biscuits and refrigerating them and making the roux. Or if you don't to make the biscuits completely, mix the dry ingredients, cut in the butter and refrigerate that.

Without further ado, Biscuits and Gravy via  Mark Vogel

    For the biscuits: • 2 cups all purpose flour • 4 teaspoons baking powder • ¼ teaspoon baking soda • pinch of salt • 3 oz. cold butter, diced • 8 oz buttermilk
Combine and sift the dry ingredients. Gently knead in the butter.  Add the buttermilk and knead on a floured board just enough to bring the dough together.

It is vital that you knead gently and no more than is necessary or you will develop the gluten in the flour and make the biscuits tough. Good biscuits are as much a function of technique as ingredients.

Form a flat mass with the dough and cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter.  Don’t make them too high or the outside could become over browned by the time the inside is cooked.

Place them on parchment paper on a sheet tray and then into a preheated 400-degree oven.
Start the gravy immediately. It should be done close to the same time as the biscuits, which is when they are golden in color.
    For the gravy:• ½ pound ground breakfast sausage. • 2 tablespoons butter • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour • 3 cups cold milk • Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the sausage until it is cooked and has released as much of its fat as possible.  Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and do NOT drain the grease. You’ll need it to make the roux. (I said this was delicious, not health food).

You should have about 2 tablespoons of rendered pork fat.  Add the butter and melt it.  Then add the flour a little at a time over medium heat, constantly whisking.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Now start adding the cold milk a little at a time, whisking incessantly.  Toward the end of the milk add the sausage back in. When you reach the desired consistency add salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the biscuits in half, pour the gravy over them, and enjoy one of the most embracing and comforting taste sensations known to man.

     A few points here.  The perfect roux has equal amounts of fat and flour.  If for some reason your sausage renders noticeably less or more than two tablespoons of fat, adjust the amount of flour accordingly. If you end up making more roux you will need more milk so have extra on hand.  Make sure the roux is cooked on no more than medium heat. We do not want to burn or brown the roux, just cook out the floury taste. Four things are necessary to assure a smooth, lump-free gravy. You must constantly whisk the roux and the gravy throughout the process.  You must add cold milk to the hot roux.  You must incorporate the milk a little at a time. And finally, keep the heat at no more than medium. You can adjust the consistency however you like, but a thick creamy gravy is the target viscosity.