Saturday, February 23, 2008

How to use up a bunch of fresh eggs without really trying

Even tho we don't really notice the lengthening days, the hens sure do! The backyard girls are all finished molting and back online and the pullets, who have yet to go thru a molt, are picking up production, too.

We don't use artificial lighting so this winter we've been averaging around 50% on egg production -- out of 20 layers, we would collect between 9 and 11 eggs each day. (Production did drop during two spells of bad weather but only for a day or so each time.) This week tho we've collected 2 dozen over our previous average. We sell extra eggs but it's too cold to set a cooler out with an on-your-honor money jar and we're hardly home long enough to put the 'eggs for sale' sign up at the end of the road so I've been pulling out all the recipes we like which use 6 or more eggs.

That means we have a few jars of lemon curd in the refrigerator and a plain old-fashioned pound cake sitting on the counter to spread it on. I made a pan of Chile Cheese Squares with some of the inexpensive cheese I've been able to pick up at a nearby grocery outlet Sharp Shopper. (Boy, I like that store!) Those squares are good warm or at room temperature and they freeze great, too.

And for lunch (our main meal), we like an herb and cheese soufflé or a frittata with a loaf of homemade bread and either a side salad or some steamed fresh spinach from those cold frames DH has going now. There was a time I hesitated to tackle a soufflé but I discovered it's more the idea of the thing than the actual process that scared me and once I made one I lost my fear.

My Baked Southern Grits recipe only uses 4 eggs but I consider that a lot for a side dish and when I have extra zucchini and eggs both on hand, I make Zucchini Cheese Squares. Since I freeze shredded zucchini, I don't have to wait till summer to make it.

Angel Food Cake is another favorite sweet tho we're beginning to prefer a Daffodil Sponge Cake as it lets me use up the whites AND the yolks, plus makes a pretty, tasty cake to boot. It's part angel food and part yellow sponge cake so it's a marbled yellow-and-white. I'm planning to make several for different events this spring as it looks sensational on a plate with a few fresh blossoms for decoration. And it's low fat with not that much sugar compared to other cakes the same size.

Daffodil Cake (Marbled angel food and yellow sponge cake)

1 cup Sifted cake* flour
1/2 cup Sugar, divided
4 Egg yolks
1/2 tsp Lemon extract
10 Egg whites, at room temperature
1 tsp Cream of tartar
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

Sift flour and 1/2 cup sugar together 3 times; set aside.

Beat egg yolks at high speed with an electric mixer 4 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Add lemon extract; beat at medium speed an additional 5 minutes or until thick. Set aside.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time; continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Sprinkle one-fourth of flour mixture over egg whites; gently fold it in. Repeat procedure with remaining flour, adding one-fourth of the mixture at a time. Divide egg white mixture in half.

Fold vanilla into half of egg white mixture. Gently fold beaten egg yolks into remaining egg white mixture.

Pour half of yellow mixture into an ungreased l0-inch tube pan; then gently add half of white mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining mixtures. Gently swirl batters with a knife to create marble effect.

Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan carefully. Let cake cool in pan 40 minutes. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula; remove from pan.

Variation: For a plain sponge cake, do not divide egg white mixture in half. Substitute vanilla extract for lemon extract.

*Note: I regularly use unbleached all-purpose flour and cornstarch as a substitute for the cake flour called for in this recipe. I place 2 tbs cornstarch in the bottom of the measuring cup. Then I spoon in all-purpose flour to fill the cup.

Source: The Southern Living Cookbook (1987)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Zucchini Cheese Squares

3 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup Bisquick or other biscuit mix
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp celery salt or other seasoned salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
4 eggs, beaten

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into well-greased glass baking dish. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes.

6 servings.

Leftovers freeze well for lunches, etc. Serve topped with salsa. Can add a 1/2 cup chopped ham or cooked sausage to make it more of a main dish. If using frozen shredded zucchini, squeeze the thawed squash to remove most of the water or the batter will be too wet. Can also substitute yellow squash for zucchini.

Baked Southern Grits

1 tsp. salt
4 cups water
1 cup quick grits
6 tbs butter
1 cup milk
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, American, etc.)

Add salt to water, bring to boil in medium saucepan. Stir in grits slowly, keeping water at a brisk boil.

Remove from heat, stir in butter and milk. Cool to lukewarm. Beat in eggs and pour into 2 quart greased casserole.

Bake at 350 F. for 1 hour or so. Sprinkle cheese on top, cook ten minutes more until golden brown.

Variation: Cheese Grits - stir in additional 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese before baking. Top with other 1/2 cup cheese towards end of baking time as directed above.

I've used mild/medium/sharp/extra sharp cheddars, American, Monterey jack, jalapeno cheese(excellent!), or blends of these and other cheeses that I had on hand. They all tasted great!

Individual portions freeze well. I can't say how the whole casserole would fair as I've never tried freezing it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Anything Goes Frittata

6 eggs, beaten (may use 8-10 eggs for more servings or planned leftovers)
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 cups diced potatoes
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
up to 1-1/2 cups cooked vegetables, diced or chopped (this is where the leftovers come in)
1/2 cup or more shredded cheese, your choice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Melt butter and add oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet. I use a cast iron skillet. Toss in potatoes and onion and stir occasionally as they cook over medium heat. Stir in garlic. Prepare other vegetables, if using -- they should be in bite-sized pieces. Add when the potatoes are almost done and stir to heat. Add salt and pepper to beaten eggs in separate bowl.

Sprinkle cheese over top and pour eggs over everything, still cooking over medium heat. Stir through once to blend then let cook as is. Cook over medium heat till eggs begin to look set along edges, at least a couple of minutes. Then place skillet in oven and let bake at preheated 350F. for 15-20 minutes. The more eggs used the longer it will take. You may sprinkle with additional cheese anytime during the baking process if desired.

The frittata can be eaten warm or at room temperature. It's good for lunch the next day, too, and will freeze well. It's a very forgiving recipe -- use the vegetables you like and toss the others. Use what you have on hand fresh or use up cooked leftovers. Add that last bit of cooked ham or crumble those two strips of bacon or even a few bits of chopped steamed spiced shrimp or crab.

Lemon Curd

This is the recipe I use most often as it uses quite a few eggs (a good thing around here!) and makes enough to share.

2½ cups superfine sugar*
½ cup lemon zest (freshly zested)
1 cup lemon juice (note that bottled juice may contain sulfites)
¾ cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into approximately ¾" pieces
7 large egg yolks
4 large whole eggs

* If superfine sugar is not available, run granulated sugar through a grinder or food processor for 1 minute, let settle, and use in place of superfine sugar.

Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl, stir to mix, and set aside about 30 minutes.

Heat water in the bottom pan of a double boiler or medium-sized metal bowl, until it boils gently. The water should not boil vigorously nor touch the bottom of the top double-boiler pan or bowl in which the curd is to be cooked.

In the top section of the double boiler, beat the egg yolks and whole eggs thoroughly but lightly with the whisk. Slowly whisk in the sugar and zest, blending until well mixed so that the mixture is not lumpy. Blend in the lemon juice and then add
the butter pieces to the mixture.

Place the pan over the boiling water in the bottom pan. Stir gently but continuously with a silicone spatula to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens and will coat a metal spoon (about 8 minutes) or till the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F.

Remove the double boiler pan from the heat. Continue to stir gently until the curd thickens (about 5 minutes). Strain curd through a mesh strainer if desired to remove zest. (I usually leave it in. This step will also remove any cooked egg bits that show up.)

Allow the curd to cool to room temperature. To prevent a ‘surface skin’
from forming while it cools, place a clean piece of plastic food wrap down onto the surface of the curd or cover the bowl. (I store mine in glass jars with a glass lid and wire bail.)

Refrigerate up to 4 weeks or fill freezer container(s), leaving ½-inch headspace, and freeze up to 1 year. To thaw, place freezer container in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Taunton Press, publishers of one of my favorite magazines -- Threads, gives a recipe it calls foolproof that sounds pretty good, too. I have to admit, the first time I made lemon curd, I had to strain it tho now I don't have that problem. Same recipe so I think it was my technique that needed work but if you have any fears about ending up with bits of cooked egg in your curd, try this recipe from "Fine Cooking."

Plain Old-Fashioned Pound Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6-8 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract or lemon extract

In a large electric mixer bowl, cream butter. Add sugar and blend till no longer grainy. Add eggs, one at a time, blending at medium speed after each addition. Add flour and beat for 3-5 minutes. Add extract(s) during the last bit of blending.

Pour into a 10" greased and floured tube pan or Bundt pan and bake in preheated 350F. oven for 60-75 minutes. Test with a toothpick inserted in the middle after 1 hour. Remove from oven when done and cool in pan for 5 to 15 minutes. Turn out onto cake plate. Let cool completely before covering.

Note: This recipe is just fine with 6 eggs but if you have a lot on hand you can use up to 8 eggs without altering the other ingredient amounts. Pastured eggs will give a beautiful bright yellow color to the cake.

This cake freezes well: sliced, whole or in sections.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Herb and Cheese Soufflé

2 cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 whole eggs, separated
2 cups Swiss cheese or other preferred cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
fresh ground white pepper
dash nutmeg
2 tablespoons Madeira, optional

Make a parchment paper or aluminum foil collar that extends 2" above the outside rim of the soufflé dish. Do not grease soufflé dish or collar.

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and stir in flour. Cook 2 minutes, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add milk and cook, while stirring over low heat until smooth and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.

Beat yolks lightly in a medium mixing bowl and stir in a little sauce to temper the eggs, then add the remaining sauce. Stir in cheese, herbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and Madeira.

Beat whites to soft peaks and fold a quarter of them into the sauce. Fold sauce gently into remaining whites.

Pour into prepared soufflé dish and bake in 350°F oven 35 minutes until lightly browned. Carefully remove collar and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chile Cheese Squares

12 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
12 ounces cheese, grated
1/2 cup green chiles, diced

Combine eggs, flour, baking powder and salt, mixing thoroughly. Stir in cottage cheese, grated cheese and chiles. Pour batter into well greased 9x12-inch baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut into 2" squares and serve either warm or at room temperature. To freeze, cut and cool then package for freezer.

Makes 12 main course servings or cut in smaller pieces for an appetizer topped with a spoon of thick salsa.

Note: Use any preferred cheese or combination of cheese -- jalapeno cheese is good as is cheddar, monterey jack or colby. Swiss works well but parmesan might be too salty/strong, probably be better to combine it with another cheese.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Drink Mix Dyeing

Strawberry-flavored Kool-Aid® was DS's beverage of choice to take to our annual Superbowl party and when I looked in the cabinet to see if that flavor was on-hand, I realized I had way too many packets just sitting there. I also had part of a Romney fleece that I really needed to do something with so I did a little dyeing exercise.

My dyeing notebook is full of samples from previous drink mix dyeing trials so I had a pretty good idea what colors I could hope for. But that bright yellow at the top of the photo was a real surprise!

Running counter-clockwise from the surprise yellow, grape-flavored Kool-Aid® brand unsweetened drink mix yielded the purple. It usually comes out fairly dark so this batch was consistent with previous samples. I used 4 packets of drink mix dissolved in 1 quart of simmering well water (limestone issues) and included 1/4 cup white vinegar in the blend. I dyed about an ounce of washed fleece, pre-soaked in water and mostly separated into locks. My scale is "not approved for commerce" but still fairly accurate. I put the glass jars in a large slow cooker that had about 1" of simmering water in it. The temperature setting was on low and I set the filled jars on a small rack that fits in the bottom of the slow cooker. Placed the lid on the slow cooker and let it "cook" until the dye was exhausted (water was clear in the jars).

Next up is the small amount of lighter purple (almost grey in the picture) which is a bit that I stuffed into the container when I was finishing up and realized I had some extra fleece ready-to-dye and nowhere else to put it. It didn't take up nearly the color as the earlier wool.

The dark pink to the front of the photo came from 3 packets of a flavor called "Raspberry Ice." I don't think it's available any longer -- see, I knew I needed to use some of those for dyeing. Who knows what they would taste like after all that time on the shelf?!. Followed the same method as for the purple wool.

The light orange was dyed using orange flavored Kool-Aid® drink mix, of course. It's one of the few that seems to me to yield a "true" color. I followed the same method described above.

I used 3 plain lemonade flavored Wyler's® soft drink mix packets to get that very light yellow in the front of the basket with my wool cards. I only dyed approximately 3/4-ounce instead of the ounce for other colors because I knew the lemonade usually yielded a very light color and I wanted to improve the saturation. Not sure it really made any difference in the final color when I compared it to a batch I dyed previously with the lemonade drink mix. My experience with Kool-Aid® lemonade has been the same.

The light peachy-orange fleece in the same basket was dyed with an orange-pineapple flavor Kool-Aid® drink mix called, I think, "Oh Yeah Orange Pineapple." Same amounts and method as previously described.

The bright yellow wool at the top of the photo was dyed with a Kool-Aid® drink mix called Man'O Mango Berry. It was a surprise because the drink color is more of an orangey red and yet it gave the brightest, best covering drink mix dye job I've had and is yellow. Most drink mixes yield a range of shades but this one covered the wool very well all over. And I don't normally expect the color of the prepared drink to be the same color as the dyed wool but any of the red shades (in terms of the prepared drink color) have yielded some shade of red in my previous experience. So I thought this one would follow that line. Shows me what I know of food coloring! Now if only some of the other colors dyed that strongly!

Shrimp Curry (aka Shrimp a la Gourmet)

This is the best way I know of to use up a small amount of leftover steamed shrimp and yet manage to serve 3-4 hungry shrimp-lovin' people.

It's a very forgiving recipe, too. Out of tomato juice? Substitute tomato sauce thinned with a little water or run canned tomatoes with their juice through the blender. Wanna use up those odds and ends of cheese? Substitute another cheese or a combo of cheeses for the American called for -- just remember, processed cheese will melt smoother than natural cheeses. Need to stretch it to serve 5 or 6? Add another cup or so of cooked rice. I always use at least 2 cups of cooked rice (my preference is for brown) tho the original recipe calls for only 1 cup. And, as for the shrimp, unless I'm using salad shrimp, I chop the shrimp into 2-3 pieces each and often only have a cup instead of the 1-1/2 cups called for. Of course, more shrimp is always acceptable! Even canned shrimp (rinsed) will do in a pinch.

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup processed American cheese, cubed
1 1/2 cups cooked shrimp, peeled
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup bread crumbs, buttered

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, blend flour into butter until smooth. Gradually stir in tomato juice. Add salt, curry powder, thyme, pepper and cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly, over moderate heat until thickened and bubbly hot.

Reduce heat, add cheese, and continue stirring until cheese is melted. Fold in shrimp and rice. Adjust seasonings to taste. Spoon into a greased casserole dish and evenly sprinkle with buttered crumbs.

Bake, uncovered, in a slow oven (325F) for 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly hot and crumbs lightly browned.

Source: Richmond Receipts: Past and Present by Jan Carlton, attributed to Beth Buckle (Mrs. James)

Fish with Lemony Soy Glaze

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sherry
1 1/2 pounds fish steaks
6 cloves garlic, crushed
6 slices fresh ginger root, quarter-size
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon green onion, minced
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

In a 2-cup microwave measuring cup, mix the soy sauce, sugar and sherry. Cover and microwave on high for 1 minute, stir to dissolve the sugar. Place fish steaks in a single layer in a dish. Add half the soy sauce mixture, along with half the garlic and half the ginger to the fish and marinate 20 to 30 minutes, spooning the mixture over the fish a few times during the period.

Preheat the broiler or grill. Combine the remaining soy sauce mixture with the remaining garlic and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and allow to reduce to about 1/3 cup (3 to 4 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and, with a fork, remove garlic and ginger pieces, pressing to extract sauce. Stir lemon juice, green onions and sesame seeds into reduced mixture (it's now a glaze) and set aside.

Transfer fish from its marinade to the broiler and broil fish pieces about 3 inches from heat until lightly browned and firm (8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness) turning once. Or, grill the fish, if desired. Serve each portion topped with glaze.

Source: Washington Post 7/20/94

Monday, February 4, 2008

Pan-Grilled Fish Burritos

Pan-Grilled Fish Burritos with Chipotle Cream

1 cup frozen or canned corn, drained
1 cup cooked brown rice (can sub white rice, if desired)
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup onion, chopped
1 avocado, chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup yogurt
3 tablespoons chipotle chiles canned in adobo, pureed
1 pound tilapia fillets (can sub flounder or other white fish fillets, if desired)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 large flour tortillas

If using frozen corn, cook until tender, drain and cool. Add rice, beans, onion, avocados and lime juice and stir gently to combine. Set aside.

For chipotle cream, combine sour cream and yogurt, add pureed chipotle peppers.

Combine seasonings with oil and brush fish on both sides with mixture. Grill in grill pan 4-5 minutes until flaky. Warm tortillas till just pliable; add fish and filling; top with generous amount of cream; roll and serve.

If you don't have (or like) chipotle peppers, you can substitute 3 tbs of a favorite salsa or taco sauce.

Modified from "In the Kitchen" a free local monthly foodie paper - March 2007 edition.

No menu plan this week -- we're winging it

My sister is away on business so this is my week to stay with my mother. DSis and I and several other family members have been sharing this job since Mom came home from the hospital after her stroke in early December. I'm finding out this week how much of the work usually falls on my sister -- she does live next door to Mom while I'm about 7 miles down the road, but, boy, am I appreciating DSis more this week!

What does all that have to do with menu planning? Well, I'm trying to juggle 3 meals a day for Mom and myself or whoever might drop in. And she has a lot of visitors over a week's time. Plus, DH and DS are learning to fend for themselves or, more accurately, raiding my supply of OAMC stashed in the freezer. These are the times that strain the grocery budget -- at least at our house.

In the freezer I have about 4 dozen cornish pasties made with ground meat, in this case venison, and shredded white potatoes and chopped onions. I made them last week when I was recovering from the "ick" we all shared during January. Since I had managed to make more dough than filling (why does it always come out uneven?), I sliced a kielbasa and used it with some nectarine mustard to fill the last of the pasties. Those last few are all for DH as DS has decided most sausages are not for him.

Then there's the supply of individual vegetable-beef soup bowls (probably an even dozen now), several multiple-piece packages of individually-frozen oven-baked crispy-battered chicken. (note 3 hyphenated compound words in a row -- a new record) Add 6 egg and cheese burritos, a dozen beef and black bean burritos, and several tv dinner-style frozen dinners with a main dish and 2 veg and I think they'll make out okay. Plus, if they hold to past performance, they'll both manage to eat lunch at Mom's most days and DS will eat dinner there every night as DH will bring him by on his way to work each weekday.

There's a thread running this week on a site I frequent, Fractured Frugal Friends, asking about fish cookery. The person that started the thread mentioned she'd been reading about how 3 fish-based meals each week could improve one's health and she wondered how many times people served fish and some of the preparation methods. That got me to thinking as, in that small survey pool, we seem to eat fish a lot. Well, compared to other posters, I mean. Once a week we have some type of whole fish or fish fillets, either fresh or, more frequently, frozen. Sometimes we have shellfish and there's always canned tuna and salmon. So I've been trying to write down our favorite recipes that use some type of fish and I'm going to try to add at least one new recipe using fish to our menu sometime this month. I worry about getting in a rut with meals but I hardly ever think about expanding the fish side of the menu.

So this week's menu planning will probably become this week's menu after the fact if I even manage that. Here's hoping next week will be better.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Project Laundry

Project Laundry List is an interesting site with more information about hanging the laundry. It's a non-profit organization dedicated to demonstrating how simple changes in lifestyle can reduce energy demands.

While viewing the site, I came across lists of blogs that discuss clotheslines. Who knew it was such a popular topic? Apparently plenty of other people enjoy the ritual act of hanging laundry and/or the results of line-drying. The blog Living in a Toxic World was where I first found a link to Project Laundry List.

There were quite a few mentions of city ordinances and restrictive covenants that keep folks from blighting the neighborhood with clotheslines or hanging laundry. I'm very glad to live where my linens can fly free and I wish everyone who wanted to could have a clothesline. Hanging my clothes out to dry never felt like a subversive act before.

Hanging clothes on the line -- drudgery or a simple pleasure?

After the delay caused by yesterday's ice storm, I couldn't wait to get the sheets washed and out on the line this morning. I love hanging the laundry! Even when I hate it -- it's too hot, too cold, not in the mood, whatever, once I get the basket out there and start pegging those towels on the line I'm feeling more cheerful. Sick, huh?

We've always had an electric dryer but dryer sheets can't compare with the smell of fresh air-dried laundry. And I like how absorbent and, yes, even how rough, cotton bath towels are after hanging on the line.

And, of course, a clothesline and its regular use offer other benefits such as reduced electricity consumption and the associated cost. Lowering our carbon footprint and all that. But for me it's also about the peaceful feeling I can tap into. The simple act of carrying a basket from the laundry room to the backyard, laughing at the "backyard girls" who come running when they see me come out the door (they're just sure I've brought them a crust of bread or maybe an apple core), and then the peaceful feeling that steals over me as I pick up each piece, shake it out and pin it to the line.

It's a very methodical task for me and the view from the backyard is all about grass, trees, hills and, in the distance, mountains. A few deep breaths while I'm working and cares just roll away. Must be the fresh air.