Girls and Their Toys

I’m uber busy today – still playing catch-up after being out of the office for two weeks – but I thought I’d share some of my new toys with you.

‘Cause Christmas?  It was good to me this year.

I’ll skip the truly geeky stuff (the official BBC licensed, hand-painted glass Dalek and TARDIS Christmas ornaments) and the unbelievably adorable (the Winnie the Pooh sitting in a wreath with a honey pot Christmas ornament) (can you tell I love Christmas ornaments?) and get right down to brass tacks.

Spiral Slicer

Spiral Slicer

I’ve been seeing spiral slicers everywhere lately, and I finally said, “You know, I think I’d like one of those…”  My Better Half listens, and lo and behold – there was one under the Christmas tree.  I haven’t used it yet, but trust me – you’ll know when I do.  I’m finding the idea of butternut squash noodles and apple chips intriguing.

 Sous Vide Supreme

Sous Vide Supreme

Yup.

For the longest time, I couldn’t decide whether I lusted more for one of these or a Vitamix, so Beloved made up my mind for me.  I’m glad, because I. LOVE. THIS. THING.  It’s so damn easy to use – fill it with water and set the temperature at which you wish to cook your food, vacuum seal said food with some seasonings (and, in my case, fat – butter has been my choice every time so far), drop the package in the sous vide and walk away until you’re ready to eat.  I’ve used it four times so far – once with venison backstrap, once with a pork tenderloin, once with a beef tenderloin and once with a cold-smoked ham steak – and each and every time it produced incredibly flavorful and tender dishes.

Does anyone want to see recipes for it?  I know they’re not a common item in most kitches, and they’re just so ridiculously easy to use – what I wrote in the previous paragraph is pretty much it.  But I’ll be more than happy to post the venison recipe, which I’ve photographed, as well as more in the future if you like.

And finally, the gift that made me laugh the most.

Best. Apron. Ever.

Best. Apron. EVER.

Oldest Son really knows how to rock his mom’s apron collection.

And what did Santa bring you this year?

Pink Sauerkraut

Hello, there.  I’m working from home today because I have this thing about going outside when it’s -11 F outside, with a windchill of -40 F.

Just sayin’.

Anyhoo, this was part of our (new) traditional New Year’s dinner.  When I moved from Texas to Ohio in 2005, I was a bit perplexed my first New Year to find no displays of bags of black eyed peas alongside heaps of collard greens in the produce section of the grocery stores.  Instead, there were bags and bags of commercial sauerkraut alongside all of the pork in the meat case – it seems that up here, sauerkraut and pork are the traditional foods for the New Years.

Repulsed by commercial sauerkraut, I defiantly sought out the pitiful 1-pound bags of black eyed peas hidden next to the bags and boxes of rice.  I was by golly gonna have my black eye peas and cornbread anyway, thank you very much.

And so it’s gone every year I’ve been here.  Until this year, when I decided, you know, pork and sauerkraut just might be nice with some Hoppin’ John.  And that’s what we had.

(A note about the Hoppin’ John:  if you read the post I’ve linked to, you’ll see that I state black eyed peas do not need to be soaked.  I have completely reversed my stance about this, but we’ll go into this some more later this week.)

At any rate, around Christmas I decided if I wanted sauerkraut with my New Year’s dinner, I better get started and make some.  But rather than a traditional kraut, I thought I’d shake things up a bit and see what would happen if I used a red cabbage, a sweet yellow onion, an apple and whole allspice berries.

What happened was a vibrantly hot pink sauerkraut that is just delicious – crunchy and earthy, with a slight bite from the onion and just the faintest hint of sweetness from the apple and allspice.  It’s a news favorite here at the Sushi Bar.

Pink Sauerkraut. Add a beautiful splash of color to any dish with this vibrant and deliciously different ferment.

Click the image to enlarge

Pink Sauerkraut
Serves: 16
[i]Makes one quart[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • filtered water
Instructions
  1. Have ready a clean, dry, 1 quart glass jar.
  2. Toss the cabbage, onion and apple together in a large bowl until well mixed.
  3. Layer the cabbage mixture into the jar until it is about 1/3 full. Sprinkle some of the salt on top of the cabbage and pound it down with a wooden spoon or pestle until the cabbage begins to give off liquid. Sprinkle in a few of the whole allspice berries.
  4. Repeat layering the cabbage, salt and allspice, pounding in between each layer, until all of the ingredients are in the jar. Add filtered water to cover the cabbage if necessary. There should be about 1 inch between the top of the kraut and the top of the jar.
  5. Top off the sauerkraut with about 1/4 cup of olive or coconut oil to keep the cabbage submerged beneath the liquid, or use a glass weight. Cap loosely and store at room temperature (on a counter out of direct sunlight is fine) for 3 days, or until the kraut begins to bubble. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 22 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 364mg sodium, 121.9mg potassium, 5.5g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, 3.2g sugar, <1g protein

Fennel Breakfast Sausage

Another recipe!  Yay!

We’ve taken the last two weeks off from work, and considering the fact we haven’t had a real vacation since we got married (6 years ago today – Happy Anniversary Jan and Beloved), we really, really needed it.  Having all this time off has given us plenty of time to do wildly fun things like clean the garage,  stack 2/3 of a cord of firewood we had delivered, clean out one of our freezers and pressure can massive amounts of chicken and beef bone broths.

We live on the wild side, we do.

At any rate, it’s also given me the time (and more importantly, the motivation) to do some actual cooking.

When we first began buying whole, humanely raised, antibiotic-free hogs (has it been nearly 4 years?  It has), we had a good portion of the ground pork made into fresh sausage.  While the sausage blends that Whitefeather Meats offers are just delicious (I’m especially fond of their chorizo and hot Italian sausages), it does cost extra on top of the normal processing fees and you’re limited as to what kind of sausage you have in your freezer.

It took me two hogs to decided to get all of the ground portions of our hogs as just plain ground pork.  That way, I have plenty of unseasoned meat for things like burgers and meatloaves, and when I’m in the mood for a certain kind of fresh sausage, all I have to do is mix it up.  Really, it’s hardly any more trouble than opening a package and you control the ingredients you use, as well as the proportions.

I made this as part of our brunch New Year’s morning and boy, oh, boy – it is some of the best breakfast sausage we’ve had lately.  It is just so good!  In fact, while we were scarfing it down, Beloved said, “You know…this would be really good on a pizza.”  Like most men, he loves pizza, but he’s right – if you’re inclined to eat a pizza with sausage on it, this would be a marvelous choice.  It would also make a pretty darn good base for a meatzza, as well.

If you don’t eat pork, this would work well with ground turkey or lamb.  Omit the maple syrup, which is optional, and it’s Whole30 compliant, too.

Fennel Breakfast Sausage. Making your own breakfast sausage at home couldn't be easier; this sweet and savory version is just delicious.

Click the image to enlarge

Fennel Breakfast Sausage
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and gently mix. Using your hands, form the sausage into eight 2-inch patties.
  2. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Lightly fry the sausage until browned and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 329 calories, 24.2g total fat, 81.7mg cholesterol, 770.6mg sodium, 371.1mg potassium, 7.7g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 6.1g sugar, 19.4g protein