Tuesday, December 27, 2005

In Winter, I Cook

When the last of the garden has died and the snow begins to cover the ground, I turn to the kitchen and bake like I'm sending every last Girl Scout to Europe.

One winter I found a great deal on graham cracker crusts at Sam's Club and bought like 100 of them, give or take. I was making a few cheesecakes a week for the rest of the winter. What I couldn't eat I brought to work and pawned off on my coworkers. They all thought that I was being especially nice to them, like I really liked them or something. No, actually, I was compulsed to bake them even if I didn't want to eat them, and I just couldn't see them go to waste.

I get that baking obsession every year the temperature drops. I think it is an instinctual thing. I actually think my body is preparing for hibernation.

This year is no different. I have been baking dozens of cookies. I'm making cookies even though there are still plenty left over from the last baking session. I have two dozen cookies sitting on the table right now, and I still made mango cobbler tonight for a snack. And now that I have the clay pot cooker, well, I have two chickens in the fridge right now cooked and needing to be eaten.

I think I have a problem. What I need is to go find me a nice bunch of homeless people that I can drop off food for.

So, as you have guessed, my blog will be morphing into a cooking blog for the winter.

Now I will leave you with my latest baking compulsion - dog biscuits.

This is my own recipe. I usually look at a bunch of different recipes trying to decide which one I will make, and in the end I just wing it.

1/4 cup bulghur wheat
2 1/2 cups flour (or more as needed)
2 eggs
1/3-2/3 cup rolled oats
1/8 cup flax seed
1/8 cup vegetable protein
1/8 cup wheat germ
1/2-3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1 1/2 cups boiling water

Mix all this together. It should resemble bread dough. Add more flour if it is too sticky. Roll out onto floured area and cut the dough into desired sizes and shapes. I had bone shaped cookie cutters, but your dog really isn't going to care what they look like. You could just cut them into strips.

They should be baked in a 325 degree oven for about 40-60 minutes. They will be dry and hard when done. Cool and store in a non-airtight container.

My dogs highly approved!! Four paws!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Kitchen Must Haves

(I originally did this post on my main blog Syllogism, so if you visit me there, you probably already read it!)

I heard about clay pot ovens about four years ago on NPR's "Splendid Table". She always talks stuff up on that show so much, I once had an over whelming urge to rush out and spend $30 for an ounce of vanilla beans. Luckily my sensibility prevailed, but I do still wonder what all the hype is.


I looked for clay pot ovens in department stores and specialty shops and discovered that they are both very hard to find and very expensive if you are lucky enough to locate one. Not wanting to spend $50 on something I wasn't even sure would outlast the fad stage of kitchen gadgetry, I left them for another day - the day that I make my millions.

There is a second hand shop in our town that I absolutely LOVE!! It is one of my favorite places to buy clothes and they always seem to have the household stuff that I have trouble finding other places. And the clay pot oven was no exception. They had three of them! I bought one today for $10. Isn't it great looking? SSB loves the Aztec style symbols on the pot, I love the utilitarian shape - the bottom nests perfectly in the lid for easy storage.

I immediately washed it out (you can't use detergent; you must use either salt or baking soda to wash it). While it was soaking in water (you need to soak it in water for 10-15 minutes before putting the ingredients so it will keep your food moist while it cooks) I chopped up a sweet onion, a few potatoes, and a few stalks of celery. I also ground some rosemary and thyme in my mortar and pestle (another kitchen must have!). Once the pot had soaked up enough water, I threw some apple cider drink mix in the bottom, piled in a cut whole chicken, sprinkled it with sea salt and the ground spice, then dumped in the chopped veggies with some baby carrots. On goes the lid and into a cold oven. Turned on the oven for 450 degrees (100 degrees hotter than you would usually cook the food at) then I left to run some errands. And I almost made it back in time!

So yeah, there was a little burning involved because I stayed out too long. BUT it was still AWESOME! The chicken was so tender that it just fell off the bone. And it was still pretty moist considering that it had overcooked. There was no added oils to cook the chicken so it is healthier. Plus the way that the chicken is cooked enhances the vitamin and mineral content in the chicken giving it the beneficial properties found in chicken soup.

Doesn't it look delicious even if it is a little, er, toasty?

IT WAS! The apple cider mix was a great inspired touch, too!