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Phrases That Should Be Banned From TV Food Shows

Well, I’m snowed in…actually, mostly ice, so it’s even more dangerous to go out…so, I’m watching some food shows on TV. Honestly, I think I’m going to have to find something to binge watch on Netflix, instead. As much as I love to cook and travel…as much as I enjoy seeing places around the country, and around the world, where I would love to go and eat…I am about worn out on the tired cliches, the sexual innuendos, and the mixed up references.  In my opinion, today’s editors are not up to the job, writers believe that sex and cliches sell, so they use the excuse be lazy, and the on-air talent is woefully lacking on the ability to believably deliver lines. (There are a few exceptions, for instance Alie Ward: believable, beautiful, and knows how to deliver the lines. And Samantha Brown, on the Travel Channel, could deliver the hokiest line and make anybody believe it.  And I am worn OUT on competition shows…especially those that involve kids and/or cupcakes. Ugh!

Over the last couple of years, I have found a few phrases that irritate me the most. First, the sexual innuendos. Anything that uses a variation of  “a flavor explosion in my mouth”. I don’t want to hear about what happens in your mouth, unless it involves a strictly descriptive remark like “It melts in your mouth.”.

Second, the cliches. “It’s the best thing I ever ate.” Overuse and incorrect use of the word “literally”, as in “My mouth is literally on fire.” No, it isn’t, or we would be throwing water on you and calling 911. “You can NOT go to [fill in the city] without going to [fill in the eatery] and trying [fill in the dish].” Yes, I can.

Next, the mixed up references, like “Even a blind squirrel can get the right time twice a day.” Say what?! Okay, it’s “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut, once in awhile.” and ” Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”. If you don’t know the correct phrase or its proper usage, then skip it!

Finally, here’s one that Andrew Zimmern really owns, and it’s really irritating. If you KNOW that you are eating something that most people would find particularly nasty, even if you have developed an affinity for the flavor, please don’t try to convince us that it’s okay and make up words to describe it. For instance, if it’s an organ meat and you describe it as “livery, tinny, metallic, irony”, or  you eat a bug and describe it as a “custardy puss-bag”. Or how about the intestines, and you remark that you can tell that it’s the lower intestine, because it tastes like “that end” and, in fact, you think it tastes like there might still be “a bullet in the chamber”…and then you add: “BUT IN A GOOD WAY.”!!! Andrew, you can’t convince someone that something tastes like farm animal feces, but that that is a GOOD thing. I’m sorry, there is no good way for something to taste like excrement.

Please, food and travel oriented channels, find some new inspiration. Get some competent editors and writers. Hire people because they can deliver the lines well, not because they win some silly competitions (and by the way, we don’t need to watch the hiring process.). Kids are cute, but not when they are precocious kitchen prodigies. You can only do so many baking competition shows and keep our interest. Are you getting the point that competition shows, in general, are being WAY overdone? Well, they are.

As for the phrases, this goes back to the writers, editors, and perhaps the on-air personalities, depending on if they are allowed to ad-lib lines: cutesy alliteration, cliches, and especially all the sexual innuendo, need to be curtailed. If I have to hear that chubby woman with the messy hair refer to what’s happening in her mouth, or to her body, because of a bite of food, and then giggle about it, one more time, I’ll throw up.

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Soup for One from Home Canned Pumpkin

Home canned pumpkin

Home canned pumpkin

I have several pint jars of pumpkin sitting in my pantry that I canned after Halloween this year. I decided to pop open a jar and make some soup!

First, I drained the liquid from the pumpkin and transferred it to a small saucepan.

Drained pumpkin in a sauce pan.

Drained pumpkin in a sauce pan.

(If you substitute store-bought canned pumpkin, you might need to ADD a little water, as it is “solid pack”, meaning that it has had a bunch of water removed.) Then I added about 1/3 cup of buttermilk and a pinch each of powdered ginger, garlic powder, salt, fresh black pepper, and ground coriander.

Spices and buttermilk added.

Spices and buttermilk added.

I combined those ingredients until smooth, using a hand blender, while I brought the soup up to temperature over medium-high heat. I decided to add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of half’n’half and blend that in as well.

Blended, with half'n'half added.

Blended, with half’n’half added.

To have a little more fun, I added croutons to the glass canning jar that the pumpkin had been in, and topped them with about a 1/4 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese.

Croutons and Gruyere cheese.

Croutons and Gruyere cheese.

I poured the soup over the cheese and croutons and stirred. It was stringy with hot cheese and tasted like a soup and grilled cheese sandwich, all blended together!

Soup!

Soup!

Obviously, you could just eat the soup, without the croutons and cheese. You could vary the flavor by changing the flavor of croutons and/or the type of cheese. Also, you could vary the spices added to the soup. Cumin, instead of coriander; mustard powder, rather than garlic; add some chicken stock for a non-vegetarian option. It’s a versatile little soup that you can spice to suit your tastes, plus it’s quick and easy! Enjoy!

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Traditional Scottish Shortbread

32 year holiday tradition!

32 year holiday tradition!

Well, I thought I had documented this recipe somewhere before, but I could not find the entire process anywhere. So, this is it! I was reading food magazines and cookbooks when I was a kid (along with comic books). In 1983, Cuisine Magazine printed an article called “My Father’s Scottish Shortbread”. It was a beautiful remembrance of a woman’s Father and his tradition of making Scottish shortbread, by hand, and how he passed it along to her. I kept that magazine and faithfully re-read the article every year and followed the process religiously for decades. Eventually, I lost the magazine. Then, with age, my hands started having trouble with creaming the sugar into cold butter and then working in the flour. I have, in the last few years, adapted to using my KitchenAid mixer to make the dough.

Creaming sugar into COLD butter.

Creaming sugar into COLD butter.

You just have to make sure the butter doesn’t warm and soften, or it will separate. Once you start the dough, you need to work steadily until it is back in the refrigerator.

Also, the tradition was to make the shortbread only between around November through February or March. This was when the cows were brought in from pasture for the Winter and they switched from eating a variety of plants to eating grain. “Summer milk” is less consistently flavored than “Winter milk”, so goes the butter. However, with today’s milk production practices, that isn’t really true anymore…unless you get your milk from a friend’s cow and make your own butter.

The recipe is deceptively simple. Just four ingredients. But the process is a little more intense. And, unless you are really good or have someone make you a frame, the dough may not have the same dimensions every time. The important part is to get the thickness pretty uniform, about 3/8″, and the length and width in dimensions the one side can be marked off in one inch increments and the other side in two inch increments.

Dough rolled out and scored.

Dough rolled out and scored.

Then you use a straight edge and score the pieces and mark each with the tines of a fork, three times. This is both for decoration and prevents the dough from puffing up during baking. I roll my dough on parchment or wax paper.

Ready for the refrigerator.

Ready for the refrigerator.

Make sure you have a refrigerator shelf clear and transfer the dough to it. I carefully slide my dough onto a cutting board to move it to the fridge.

Using cutting board for dough transfer.

Using cutting board for dough transfer.

The dough needs to chill for at least 30 minutes; otherwise, the cookies will spread when they bake. When ready, you carefully break into pieces and bake.

THE INGREDIENTS 

1 lb real Butter (I use lightly salted)

1 cup Sugar

4 cups unbleached All Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon Salt (1/2 tsp, if using salted butter)

DIRECTIONS

Cream the sugar in the cold butter, until well blended, but still cold. Add the flour until the dough is starting to come together. It will be crumbly. Don’t overwork it. Using you hands, press it all together and compact it into a dough. Overlap a couple of pieces of wax or parchment paper. Roll dough out and form a rectangle about 3/8″ thick and about 10″x 15″. That can vary. See notes above. Mark 1″ x 2″ pieces, score the dough and prick each piece three times with the tines of a fork. Transfer to refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Chillin'.

Chillin’.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the dough on ungreased cookie sheets leaving an inch or so between them. Pop in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Immediately turn oven temperature down to 275F. Do not open the door for 30 minutes! What you are looking for is a sand color for the tops and lightly browned on the bottom.

Light brown bottoms.

Light brown bottoms.

Sad colored tops.

Sad colored tops.

You make have some ready before others, depending on size and thickness. It may take 40 to 50 minutes to finish cooking each batch. Reheat oven before the next batch goes in, but don’t forget to adjust it back down as soon as the dough goes in the oven. Remove to wire racks to cool. They smell great, but need to cool to really be good. Enjoy!

 

 

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Finally Made Wrangler Jelly!

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

It’s been about three years ago, that I pinned an interesting sounding recipe on Pinterest to my “MMMFoodies Canning Stuff. https://www.pinterest.com/mattmmille/mmm-foodies-canned-stuff/ Even though the recipe called for canned crushed pineapple, I had a fresh one and I was going to try it. Well, I wound up using that pineapple for something else and that recipe sat there, unused…except that it was one of the two most re-pinned recipes from my collection!  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/516928863450185549/

Well, it’s getting down to freezing temperatures overnight, in my area, and I just picked a few small poblanos and a couple of small, green tomatoes ahead of the freeze. Looking at them, the Wrangler Jelly recipe came to mind. I had the canned pineapple and pectin on hand, so I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe as linked above with the substitution of the poblanos for the jalapenos and the addition of the little green tomatoes. I chopped all of them fairly fine.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

The recipe says to add all the ingredients, except the pectin, and bring to a boil. Then add the pectin and boil for one minute. In my jelly and jam making experience, I always held back the sugar until the boil was reached,

Bringing the ingredients together.

Bringing the ingredients together. (Including seeds from ONE of the peppers.)

…added the sugar, returned to the boil, added the pectin and brought back to the boil for one minute. I don’t know if it makes a big difference, but that’s what I did.

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure... glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure… glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Bringing back to a boil with the sugar added.

Bringing to a boil just before the sugar is added.

After canning, I actually got 4 half pint jars and two 4oz jars. I always prepare more jars/lids/rings than what is called for in the recipe, for just such a situation. (The recipe said it would make the 4 half pints.) I tasted a tiny bit that was left in the pot, and the cayenne pepper plus the poblanos made it plenty spicy! I think the green tomato will add a small citrusy component and a touch of added texture…and probably accounts for some of the excess volume.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

My plans for this batch include a cream cheese and Wrangler Jelly appetizer with crackers at Thanksgiving, maybe some glazed pork chops, and possibly a Wrangler Baked Brie. This may not be the best jelly for your morning toast, but I don’t think I will have any problem finding uses for this versatile little jelly! And I may gift a jar or two. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to make it…it was so easy! If you decide to save this recipe, don’t put it off…make it! And enjoy!

Update: I may have to try this again and add the sugar at the same time as the other ingredients…or something. The jelly didn’t really set and I have more like a candied relish product; sort of like that pineapple topping used on ice cream sundaes. It will still work for some of my intended recipes, but I would still like to figure it out!

Hmmm...still tasty, but didn't gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

Hmmm…still tasty, but didn’t gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

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2015 Muscadine-Grenache Jelly

Grenache-Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Grenache-Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

I foraged some grapes again this year. Initially, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to get enough to do anything with, when I found that my usual “big producing spot” was practically bare this year. Luckily, a couple of other spots were very productive. I wound up making a 5 gallon batch of muscadine-blueberry wine ( I had eleven pounds of fresh blueberries in the freezer.) The rest of my grapes sat in the fridge for weeks. I knew I would run out of time to enter anything into competition at the state fair this year, so I just didn’t rush.

Grenache, front. Muscadines, rear.

Grenache, front. Muscadines, rear.

In the meantime, my wife bought some Grenache grapes for some function and never used them, after I told her they were not seedless.

Grenache grapes.

Grenache grapes.

So, I wound up with about 3 lbs of muscadine grapes and about 2 lbs of the Grenache. The grenache have a kind of mild Concord flavor, so I thought they would just add a little intensity to the grape juice.

I followed my recipe from 2013 ( https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/wild-muscadine-grape-jelly/ ) and wound up with 8 1/2 pint jars and a single 4 oz jar.

The results!

The results!

Should be enough to give a few away and get through the Winter.

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Ratatouille…Sort Of

It doesn't HAVE to be a vegetarian meal...but it could have been.

It doesn’t HAVE to be a vegetarian meal…but it could have been.

Time to put together a Crock Pot vegetarian meal with some items I have laying around. I particularly want to use an eggplant that is still good, but might not last much longer. I went with a ratatouille…sort of. There’s eggplant, of course, and onions; but, instead of the other Summer vegetables, I went with Yukon Gold potatoes and acorn squash. I guess that pushes it from a Summer to an early Fall version of ratatouille. Vegetarian comfort food…enjoy! (But it doesn’t HAVE to be vegetarian! My plate wasn’t!)

Ingredients:

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, large dice

1 large eggplant, peeled, large dice

1 large acorn squash, peeled, large dice

1 medium to large sweet onion, peeled, large dice

1 can petite diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Directions:

Set up Crock Pot and preheat on “low”.*  Prep vegetables. I put eggplant in a colander and toss with the Kosher salt. As I prep the other vegetables, I just toss them on top of the eggplant.

The veggies.

The veggies.

By the time I’m done, the salt has had time to draw a little moisture and bitterness out of the eggplant. I then toss all the vegetables together and rinse under cold water to remove the excess salt. Enough salt will hang on so that no additional salt will be needed, unless it needs adjusting before serving.

Add all the vegetables to the Crock Pot, add the tomatoes, and sprinkle the herbs and spices over the top.

Ready to cook.

Ready to cook.

Make a couple of holes and bury the bay leaves. Drizzle in vinegar and honey. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring every couple of hours.

After about 4 to 5 hours on "low" setting.

After about 4 to 5 hours on “low” setting.

Ready to serve,

Ready to serve,

Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve with rice or pasta, if desired.

*(After about 4 hours, maybe a little more, I decided to turn the Crock Pot heat setting to “High”. In retrospect, I probably should have started on high and lowered after an hour or two. On this particular occasion, it was 4:00 p.m. and I wanted to have the stew ready for dinner.)

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Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Rice and Gravy.

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Rice and Gravy.

Fairly regularly, my grocery store has lamb shoulder chops on sale for around $5 per lb. Personally, I love a good medium-rare lamb chop. Mint jelly? Okay, but not necessary. Shoulder chops, though, aren’t the nice meat lollipop that the regular chops are, and probably not as tender. That is likely the reason why most of the recipes I see for the shoulder chops call for braising.

Braising is basically browning meat, deglazing the pan with some kind of liquid, adding some additional liquid to come about halfway up the meat, covering and simmering on “low” for usually a couple of hours. Maybe longer, depending on the size and cut of meat. This works best with cuts that have some bone, cartilage, and/or fat and that tend to be tougher cuts, like beef chuck roast or pork butt. You wouldn’t want to braise something that is already tender, like a filet mignon or ribeye. Also, additional herbs, spices and vegetables are often added to compliment meats with a stronger flavor profile. Milder flavors would be overpowered.

The lamb shoulder chops that I started with were about 1-1/2 lbs total; three chops, fairly thin. I salted and peppered them, while a tablespoon of olive oil heated over medium-high heat in a deep skillet that has a cover (for use later).

Browning lamb shoulder chops.

Browning lamb shoulder chops.

I browned the meat on both sides and then removed it from the pan. The temperature was a little hot, so I moved the pan off heat and added a few crushed and peeled garlic cloves. After a minute or so, I added a broken up stalk of celery and a handful of little carrots and returned the pan to the heat again.

Some garlic cloves and veggies for flavor.

Some garlic cloves and veggies for flavor.

After the veggies had browned a little, I deglazed the pan with about 3/4 of a 12 oz bottle of homemade hard apple cider. (You could use regular apple cider, a commercial hard cider, apple juice, or dry white wine. Added a teapsoon of beef base (or 1 beef bouillon cube).

A bottle of hard cider and some beef base.

A bottle of hard cider and some beef base.

Next, I tossed in a sprig of rosemary, a few sprigs of parsley, and about 6 or 8 juniper berries. I love juniper berries in braised meat dishes, but if you don’t have any, you don’t need to make a special trip to the store for them. It’s okay to skip them.

The next step is to add enough water to make sure the liquid comes about halfway up the sides of the meat, but don’t cover it. Bring the liquid to a good simmer and lower the heat to just maintain a light simmer.

Liquid brought to good level; let the simmer begin!

Liquid brought to good level; let the simmer begin!

Cook until the meat is “fall off the bone” tender…depending on the thickness of the cut, an hour or so, more or less. Mine were pretty tender in an hour. I turned the chops in the liquid after about half an hour. If you were doing these in a Crock Pot, I would do the browning through deglazing on the stove and the put everything into the Crock Pot on a high setting for 2 to 3 hours.

After a little less than an hour.

After a little less than an hour.

After cooking the meat, I removed it from the liquid. I kept the carrots and celery, because I like them, but you can discard them, if you prefer.

Remove meat from the liquid.

Remove meat from the liquid.

They could also be blended back into the liquid after straining and removing the fat, to help thicken the gravy. So, I strained the liquid through a fine mesh strainer to remove small solids, herbs, etc.

Refrigerate to solidify the fat.

Refrigerate to solidify the fat.

Strain the liquid.

Strain the liquid.

The liquid went into the refrigerator for a couple of hours, to chill. The fat will turn solid and can be easily lifted from the surface.

Remove the fat.

Remove the fat.

Okay…after a couple of hours in the fridge, I was ready to bring things back together for dinner. First, I decided to add the carrots and celery back to the gravy, so I put those in a small pot.

Adding gravy back to the veggies.

Adding gravy back to the veggies.

The gravy had congealed, so I microwaved it for one minute, to make it pourable. I added that to the veggies and used the immersion blender to combine it all, until smooth.

Blending the gravy to make it smooth.

Blending the gravy to make it smooth.

Then I added a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch to about a cup of cold water, while the gravy heated on the stove. When the gravy began to simmer, I added the cornstarch slurry.

Making a cornstarch slurry.

Making a cornstarch slurry.

After that thickened a bit, I added the meat to the gravy. Next, I added enough water to the gravy, so that I could simmer all of the meat in it.

Simmering the slightly thickened gravy and the meat together to heat through.

Simmering the slightly thickened gravy and the meat together to heat through.

Once  it was all simmering, I moved it to a burner on “low”, to maintain a slow simmer. I set a timer for 15 minutes to give the meat time to heat through and the gravy time to complete any additional thickening. Served with rice (See top photo). One note: watch for small bones! I had a few that were easily spotted, but I did have one fragment that was about the size of a grain of rice. This was, however, delicious! Enjoy!

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