Applesauce

Well, here it is, October already, and we’re all dressed up for Halloween at the Sushi Bar – it’s just so much fun.

The fall harvest is beginning to wind down a bit; we picked up our last CSA share this Saturday.  There’s still an abundance of stuff at the farmer’s market, though, and the cool weather crops are doing just fine.  We now have two large boxes of winter squashes in our basement larder (more about that to come).  We’ve also discovered the most wonderful apple orchard not too far from our other farmers – they make the most incredible apple cider I’ve ever tasted.   While the orchard has has to cancel their “pick your own” days this year because of the drought this summer and a bad hail storm at the beginning of September, they still have plenty of apples (and cider!!) for sale…so we made applesauce.

Lots and lots of applesauce.

Twenty pints, to be exact, which we promptly canned and stuck – yup – in the basement larder.  I’d never made my own applesauce before, and now I’m wondering why; it is just drop-dead easy – especially if you have a food mill.  You don’t need a great big one (unless, of course, you’re planning on making 20 pints of the stuff like some crazy people) – a small mill will work just fine.  Or you can push the applesauce through a fine-mesh sieve, but that’s just a little too labor-intensive for me.

I realize most people aren’t going to want to make 12 tons of applesauce – we canned just over two pecks of apples – so this recipe calls for a mere 3 pounds, which will yield 1 quart of tasty, tasty sauce, especially if you use a variety of apples.  A variety of apples will give the sauce a lovely depth of flavor that is lacking when just one type is used, and if you choose sweet apples, it is quite likely you will not need any added sugar.  Our sauce was made out of Jonathan, Jonagold, Melrose, Holiday and Cortland and not only is it superb, it needed no additional sweetener at all.

Both The G Man and The Young One love it, so there you go.

Note:  There’s no need to peel or core the apples; in fact, you shouldn’t – the peel lends a lot of flavor to the sauce and the core is where all of the pectin is, which helps keep it nice and thick.  It also gives the applesauce a nice, rosy hue, depending on the types of apples used.

Applesauce
Applesauce
Applesauce

Serves: 8 half-cups
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds assorted apples – the sweeter the better
  • 1/2 cup water
Instructions
  1. Remove the stems from the apples, and quarter them – do not peel or core them. Add the apples and water to a large stock pot that is large enough to hold all of the fruit with room to spare, as the apples will expand as they
  2. cook.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle.
  4. Working in batches, push the cooked apples and liquid through a a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the skins and seeds, or process through a food mill (again, discarding the skins and seeds).
  5. Taste; sweeten if needed. Makes 2 pints or 1 quart and can be frozen or processed in water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 88 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 2.2mg sodium, 182.2mg potassium, 23.5g carbohydrates, 4.1g fiber, 17.7g sugar, <1g protein

 

Squash Noodles

Last. Day.

Omigod.

Of course, today’s motivational email discusses how you should continue with the diet beyond the 30 days if you’re still experiencing cravings/haven’t seen the results you want, but I’ll address that later – perhaps tomorrow, but more likely next week.  Let’s just suffice to say that I am very proud of myself for making it the entire 30 days.

Yay, me.

As a final meal tonight, we’re having TC, my Young Diabetic Friend, over for dinner.  He and Beloved have been hoarding a couple of 6-week dry-aged grass-fed ribeye steaks – I have a beautiful bison filet with my name on it – and we’re grilling them up tonight.  I’ll make us a nice green salad and perhaps roast some okra, since it’s one of TC’s all-time favorite dishes.  We’ll have a good time, and they can help me do something with this quart of blackberries in the fridge and the rest of the half-peck of peaches that really must be used now.  I also have to bake a cake and make some gum-paste flowers for a cake I’m decorating for a little girl’s birthday, so it’s going to be a busy – but pleasant – evening.

For my last recipe of the Whole30, I’ve got something pretty darn simple.  I haven’t had pasta in over two years, but I’ve never been much of a pasta eater (I do like rice noodles in Asian dishes).  Sometimes, though, nothing beats a plate of warm, comforting spaghetti…which, when you think about it, is really more about the sauce than the noodles, anyway.

Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, but it has its drawbacks:  it can be a little on the sweet side (which I don’t really care for when it comes to a pasta dish), and when it’s out of season, it can be pretty darn expensive – in our local grocery store, winter squashes can run upwards of $2.99/lb., and most of them don’t weigh less than 3 pounds.  That’s a lot of money for a simple spaghetti dinner.

Summer squash is a great alternative, especially in the summer months when it’s so abundant and just dirt cheap.  It is also every bit as simple to prepare as a pasta substitute as spaghetti squash.  All you need is this:

Julienne Peeler
A Julienne Peeler

Photo courtesy of Oh, She Glows

Yes, that would be a julienne peeler, and it works on just about any vegetable, not just squash (just use caution when peeling particularly hard vegetables like sweet potatoes, or the peeler may slip and you’ll end up peeling more than the food…ouch).  You can pick them up just about anywhere that sells kitchen supplies; we got ours at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and you can also purchase them from Amazon.  They’re not at all expensive, and they’re dead simple to use – it’s just a vegetable peeler with teeth.

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a technique or method – when I made this, I topped it with some of Alex’s excellent Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce that I had stashed away in the freezer, but I imagine it would be good with just about any kind of pasta sauce.

Note:  Yes, the recipe calls for an entire tablespoon of salt, then more salt at the end.  Not to worry; the salt used at the beginning of the recipe helps draw the moisture out of the squash (zucchini, in particular, holds a lot of water), and will be rinsed away.

Squash Noodles
Squash Noodles
Squash Noodles
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 3 large summer squashes, yellow or green
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Using a julienne peeler, peel the squashes, including the skins, all the way down to the seeds. Discard the core.
  2. Place the strings of squash in a large bowl and toss with the tablespoon of salt; set aside for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a fine-mesh sieve, drain the liquid from the squash and rinse to remove the salt. Turn the squash noodles onto paper towels and lightly squeeze dry.
  4. Melt the ghee in a skillet or sauté pan large enough to hold the squash noodles over medium heat; lightly cook the garlic for about a minute. Add the noodles and sauté, tossing and turning constantly, until the squash is heated through, about 2 or 3 minutes. Season as needed with salt and pepper.
  5. Divide between two plates and top with your favorite pasta sauce.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 88 calories, 4.4g total fat, 10.2mg cholesterol, 879.3mg sodium, 853.6mg potassium, 11.3g carbohydrates, 3.6g fiber, 7.1g sugar, 4g protein.

 

 

Meat for Tacos

Don’t forget about my giveaway for not one but two copies of the paleo cookbook for kids, Eat Like A Dinosaur!  Contest ends Saturday at midnight.

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Jolly and The G Man came over for dinner Tuesday night, and I had to come up with something quick and reasonably easy – what Meema wants to spend all of her time cooking when she can be playing with an adorable little boy? – as well as something we’d all enjoy (Jolly, along with The Young One, is one of my “picky eaters”).

So we had tacos.  Jolly and G had theirs on soft flour tortillas, while Beloved and I had ours wrapped in large leaves of romaine lettuce.

I like to make my own taco seasoning, because you never know what will be in the pre-packaged variety – many brands contain added sugars, milk solids, wheat flour or corn starch, and MSG.  Homemade is not at all hard, it’s cheaper and it tastes better to boot.  And if you’re like me, you have everything on hand so whipping up the seasoning mixture is no problem at all (some day I’m going to have to post photos of my spice cabinet).  I like to use ancho or chipotle chili powder in my taco seasoning, but regular old chili powder will work just fine.

This recipe will season two pounds of ground meat.  Does it have to be beef?  Nope – it’ll work well with ground turkey, ground pork, ground goat; I’m not sure about lamb at this point, but will be soon since we’re going to buy a spring lamb this year.  You can halve the mixture for one pound of meat, or you can quadruple it and save it in a plastic container so you won’t have to mix it from scratch the next time you want to use it.

I had about half of the two pounds of meat left over from our taco night – I used a little of it in my scrambled eggs this morning, and topped it with salsa.  Yumm-o!  (Yes, I’ve decided to channel my inner Anne Burrel.)  I still have quite a bit left, so I’m going to have to think of something different to do with it; I’ll let you know what it is.

As for these babies – leave off the cheese and top them with a nice salsa (no sugar added!), chopped tomatoes, sliced ripe olives and a good homemade guacamole, and you’re in Whole30 heaven, Mexican-style.

Note:  Your taco meat will be a little drier with a homemade seasoning, because there is no thickener and no need to add water.  If you like, you can add a teaspoon of arrowroot powder or tapioca starch to the mix and stir in a 1/3 cup of water while cooking.

Meat for Tacos
Meat for Tacos
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds ground meat
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Brown the ground meat in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high eat with the onion and the garlic. When the onion begins to turn soft, but the meat is not quite cooked through, add the spice mixture, working it into the meat with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned and fragrant.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 303 calories, 23.2g total fat, 80.5mg cholesterol, 463.2mg sodium, 383.8mg potassium, 2.9g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, <1g sugar, 20.1g protein

 

Ghee

Sorry for my absence yesterday, but I’ve just been incredibly busy.  You may notice, however, that I did manage to get the March theme up, and since green is my absolutely favorite color, I’m quite happy with it.

But onward and forward.  Today what I have isn’t so much a recipe as a procedure:  how to make ghee.

Clarified butter and ghee are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing.  Clarified butter is butter that is melted and has the water and milk solids removed (and thereby removing the lactose and casein), leaving only the butterfat behind.  When prepared properly, clarified butter is more stable than standard butter containing water and milk solids – it has a higher smoking point and a longer shelf life.  (Supposedly, clarified butter will last for up to a month without refrigeration if it is kept in an airtight container, although my personal experience shows that to not necessarily be true.)

Ghee has quite a long history, as it has been used in Indian cooking for many thousands of years, and can be fairly expensive in stores.  It is merely clarified butter that is simmered for a period of time, allowing the milk solids to gently brown, giving the butterfat a slightly nutty taste and a lovely golden color – it is simply delicious.  It is also incredibly easy to make yourself, although you must watch it carefully so the milk solids do not burn.

And since the lactose and casein are (mostly) removed, it doesn’t bother me as much as standard butter does, allowing me to enjoy it occasionally.  Which makes Jan a very happy camper – I’ve missed butter more than I realized!

Ghee
Ghee
Serves: 64
2 pounds of butter yields 1 quart of ghee; a serving is 1 tablespoon.
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy, non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat and continue heating until foam begins to appear on the surface. You can skim the foam off, but it is not necessary.
  2. Lower the heat slightly, and simmer the butter for 45 to 50 minutes, or until all of the milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan and become brown, and the butterfat turns golden and has a slightly nutty fragrance.
  3. Line a mesh strainer with a triple-layer of cheesecloth, or an unbleached coffee filter, and strain the butterfat into a clean, 1-quart glass jar, taking care to keep the milk solids out of the ghee.
  4. Cool completely and cap tightly; the ghee will keep for many weeks if refrigerated.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 102 calories, 11.5g total fat, 30.5mg cholesterol, 1.6mg sodium, 3.4mg potassium, <1g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, <1g sugar, <1g protein.

 

Perfect Prime Rib

Actually, it should just be “perfect roast” but since the first time I attempted this method it was with a stupidly expensive bison standing rib roast (and that’s what the picture is), I thought I’d go with that title.  But I’ve since used it on a grass-fed eye of round roast, and it came out perfectly too.  In fact, I’m so enamored with this method of roasting red meat, I plan to use it tonight with a rolled rump roast and then some time soon with a small venison roast I have stashed in the freezer.

I used to be very, very nervous about roasting beef.  Oh, give me a cheap cut like chuck or arm roast and I’ll cook it to a melt-in-your-mouth turn in the slow cooker, but the mere thought of roasting a more expensive cut like prime rib always gave me the willies.  And for good reason – no matter the time or temperature the recipe I chose to follow called for, the darn things would always come out either way too rare or horribly overcooked.

Paula Deen’s “Foolproof Prime Rib” recipe?  Uh…no.  The end result was a dismal failure; I just should have chucked the thing on the table raw, it was so incredibly underdone. (I have since read this method only works well in an electric oven, which might explain it since I have a gas range.)

At any rate, when I finally got the courage to cook the bison rib roast that had been lurking in my freezer, taunting me, I found one of those obscure, badly designed, looks-like-it-hasn’t-been-updated-since-1999 sites complete with cutesy little animated GIFs and seamless tiled backgrounds devoted to bison/buffalo recipes.  Buried in this site were the directions for roasting a bison rib roast, so I decided to give them a whirl.  And by golly, the darn thing came out perfectly – the exterior was lovely and roasted, while the interior was a juicy, tender and uniform pink.  I was so thrilled with it that a couple of days later I cooked a grass-fed eye of round roast using the same method, and it came out perfectly too.

I’m sold.

One caveat, however – this method calls for the use of an oven-safe meat thermometer.  My oven came with a probe for this very purpose; you plug the probe into the oven, then place it in the meat, set the probe to detect the proper internal temperature of the meat, then set the oven temperature and you can walk away and forget all about it – the oven turns itself off when the meat comes to temp.  If your oven doesn’t have this handy little feature, you can buy oven-safe meat thermometers that will do essentially the same thing (well, except for turning the oven off).   Just make sure it’s designed to go in the oven, and is not an instant read thermometer.

Note:  The nutritional information lists this at 621 calories per serving.  It’s prime rib – you’re not going to be thinking about your diet when you’re eating it.  Hopefully with a glass of good red wine and Roasted Squash with Apples, Fingerling Potatoes and Bucheron Cheese.

Perfect Prime Rib

Perfect Prime Rib

serves 10

5 pounds prime rib roast, beef or bison
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Pat roast dry with paper towel; rub with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place roast on a vented roasting pan and set in the middle of the oven.

Roast at 400 F for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and open the door, leaving the roast in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes.

Place the probe of an oven safe meat thermometer into the center of the roast; take care that it is not touching bone, fat or gristle. Close the door and set the oven to 200 F.

Continue roasting until the thermometer reaches 130 for rare or 140 for medium rare. Remove the roast from the oven and loosely tent with foil; allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Nutrition (per serving): 621 calories, 50.1g total fat, 154.2mg cholesterol, 127mg sodium, 691.7mg potassium, 0g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 39.7g protein.

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Posted in participation with Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday