The Humble Pot

A cheap cut of meat and some aromatic vegetables. This used to be thought of as a poor folks dish. An inexpensive way to feed a lot of mouths for little cost. Slow food revolution, back to basics cooking, whatever you want to call it, this pot of humble beginnings is what it’s all about. I haven’t seen it make the comeback that it rightfully should, but in time I’m sure it will.

A rich aroma that passes through the house gets anyone within reach feeling hungry. The warmth of the oven makes the kitchen a cozy place to wander in and stay. Second only to bread, a dish made in a single pot can warm a house and gather everyone to the kitchen before they are called for the meal.

I am not talking about hotdish (for you non-Minnesotans, casserole) although, those can be good and an easy way to use up leftovers, a humble pot dish is so much more. In the way of comfort food there is really nothing better. The meat- super tender and juicy, some of the vegetables- cooked down until they reach a rich, flavorful sauce, the rest have soaked up all sorts of great seasoning. Everything mingles together in one pot. No single ingredient more important than another (except salt, that rules all).

Recently, I have been making these more and more. Mostly because I work full time in town and still want a decent homemade meal for my family. A humble pot dish can be started the night before or morning of and placed in the oven with a timer and left to cook for the better part of the day. Some people use crockpots for such dishes. I do sometimes, but more often than not, I find it is not roomy enough to get the full potential from the ingredients inside. The vegetables need space to cook down and work with the added liquid of choice. I prefer to use cuts of meat that have the bone in tact, not only does it add richness to the dish but it also adds more nutrients too. Even a small roast or bird take up a considerable amount of space when coupled with vegetables and broth.

For all of these dishes I use a heavy enameled cast iron pot. The whole thing can go into the oven, lid and all. The lid is important; a foil covered dish just doesn’t make the same results. I think it has something to do with how the lid retains more of the steam and helps the insides to keep a more even temperature… or I am just full of it. It’s just a guess. In addition to the collection of cast iron skillets in my kitchen, I also have a variety of these pots as well. In a perfect world I would set up a pot for each weekday on Sunday, place them in the fridge and have them ready for the week. Maybe someday, if we end up with an extra refrigerator, right now there is no room in the one we have.

I must admit, not every humble pot I make looks very pretty, in fact most don’t. The taste more than makes up for the lack of visual appeal. Honestly, over time the look doesn’t change but the dishes start to look better and better just because of the anticipation of the deliciousness to come. I know it’s possible to make such a meal vegetarian style, I have yet to make one as such. Considering we just made the last chicken in the freezer, this may be something to look a little closer at. I can and have “offed” a chicken on a meal by meal basis, but it’s not something I would like to make a habit of. I would like to stretch the beef supply as long as possible. I really don’t want to have to start getting meat at the store. I could. I don’t want to.

The method is simple:
Start with a combination of aromatic vegetables, most common around here is onions, carrots and celery in a 2:1:1 ratio.
Sauté the vegetables.
Add any herbs, spices or seasonings.
Add meat. ( a cut with the bone in tact will produce more flavor and nutrition)
Add dry rice, par cooked beans, or raw potatoes or squash.
Add liquid. (water, broth, wine, beer etc.)
Cover and cook slowly until done.

With this simple “recipe” there is an endless amount of meals that can be made.

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Made With Crystalized Honey

Yes, another cookie recipe and Oatmeal Raisin at that. They are another “healthy” cookie as far as I am concerned and these ones are among the top.

If you have ever bought raw honey, you have most likely had at least a little crystalize on you. It’s ok when this happens. A hot water bath and it will be good as new. I tend to buy raw honey a few gallons at a time. While it’s still fresh and in it’s most liquid state, I portion it into jars for easier handling. In time, the honey crystalizes.

Crystalized Honey
Crystalized Honey

The first time I had wanted to make these cookies my butter was froze, so I had to wait. The second time I tried to make these the only honey I had left was solid. I wasn’t waiting any longer for these cookies.

To hell with it! Solid honey it is!

They actually turned out really well and I have been making them like that ever since.

Oatmeal Raisin

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, made with honey
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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, made with honey
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Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup Butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup Honey that has crystalized
  • 1/4 cup Molasses
  • 3 each Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 2 cup Whole Wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cup Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1 1/2 cup Raisins
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, honey and molasses.
  2. With the mixer on low, add the remaining ingredients in the order listed.
  3. Mix to combine.
  4. Scoop the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Recipe Notes

*This dough keeps well raw in the refrigerator or freezer for baking later.

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Caramelized Onion Pierogies

I admit I had never had a pierogie until I met my husband. In fact I had never heard of them until then. After having the store-bought ones I was on a mission to make my own. They couldn’t be that hard. It’s basically a mashed potato filled ravioli. I can make ravioli. When they are homemade there are many more filling options too.

Perogie1

I began working on what I would call a traditional filling; onion and cheddar. It was good. Nothing too exciting. Then I moved to this one. It is still in the traditional realm, but has a little more flavor as far as I am concerned. Since then I have made them with blue cheese and bacon instead of the onions. I also tried one with some spinach and chevre cheese too. Both were delicious! I measured nothing in those recipes, so the next time I make them, if I remember to measure, I can share those filling recipes too.

The filling recipe below is double what is needed for the dough listed. I did this for a few reasons:
1. It is easier to work with a medium sized batch when you are learning something new. Too small can be less forgiving and too big, well who needs that much on hand.
2. I like to make the pierogies, but I also like to use the filling in a few other things. It works well in a pot pie recipe I came up with, as well as making potato patties.

Perogie2

When I make pierogies, I use my pasta roller to roll the dough and my ravioli cutter to seal and cut them. This means mine are square not the traditional half circle shape. They do sell these, what look to be handy, little pierogie cutter/maker/press things. It would require rolling the dough, cutting it into circles, placing one circle on the “press” at a time, filling the circle and pressing. I won’t say I don’t want one, because I do. But in a time sense of things, the ravioli cutter is much faster. I only have to roll dough once, because there is no extra scrap to reuse. I can also fill all 40 pierogies at one time.

Once they are all filled and ready for cooking, they can be cooked right away and eaten or froze raw to be cooked later.

 

Perogie3

Caramelized Onion Pierogies
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My husband is usually the one in charge of cooking the pierogies. I tend to have them burnt on one side and ok on the other or under done or any combination of. When they aren't burnt they are quite delicious!
Servings
40 perogies
Servings
40 perogies
Caramelized Onion Pierogies
Print Recipe
My husband is usually the one in charge of cooking the pierogies. I tend to have them burnt on one side and ok on the other or under done or any combination of. When they aren't burnt they are quite delicious!
Servings
40 perogies
Servings
40 perogies
Ingredients
Filling
  • 1 each Yellow Onion chopped
  • 4 each Garlic clove minced
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb Potatoes mashed
  • 2 each Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
Pasta
  • 2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat flour
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tbsp Butter melted
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 each Eggs
Servings: perogies
Instructions
Making the filling
  1. In a medium sauce pan, warm the oil. Sauté the onion until it has just started to caramelize.
  2. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the onion is fully caramelized
  3. Place the finished onions in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the remaining ingredients.
  4. Whip the filling until everything is well incorporated and the potatoes are not lumpy.
Making the pasta
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the water, eggs and butter.
  2. Add the flour and knead until smooth. This will be a soft but stiff dough.
  3. Set the dough aside to rest for 15 minutes.
Assembly
  1. Divide the dough into two. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough "pasta" thin. One piece will make the tops and one for the bottoms. I like to use my pasta roller for this. The settings on mine are 1-6. One is the widest setting. I start with one and quit on 3.
  2. Once the dough has been rolled thin place about a tablespoon or so of filling on one of the halves. Space the filling evenly.
  3. Place the second piece of dough on top.
  4. Using a ravioli cutter and cut each pierogie. If you space the filling carefully there will be minimal trimming, leaving next to no extra. This way you don't need to re-roll any dough.
Cooking
  1. Warm a sauté pan and add a little butter; enough to coat the bottom of the pan and keep them from sticking. Place the pierogies in the preheated pan and sauté until they are golden brown on each side.
Recipe Notes

Serving
We always accompany these with sour cream (and hot sauce).

Notes on This Recipe
*When making the filling, make sure everything is room-temperature. If the potatoes or onions are too hot, they may cook the eggs. Not good.
*The filling can be made days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.
*The filling recipe listed makes twice the amount needed for the dough recipe.
* The flour can be all all-purpose flour or all whole wheat if you choose. You will need to adjust the water accordingly.

 

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Chocolate Cake Done Right

The animals are all doing fine and I am almost ready to give Mike the joy of doing all the chores. I just can’t quite get myself to stop yet. I still have 4 weeks until the baby is due so I am trying to “take it easy”. So for the next little while I suppose I will do some baking and get some meals in the freezer so after baby is here I won’t have to do much cooking for a little while. Not that cake is a meal or will end up in the freezer, but it’s a good place to start.

I know what you’re thinking, pregnancy craving and your favorite version of chocolate cake. Well, your wrong about the craving, if anything I would like a cake doughnut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles, with a big hot cup of coffee and not having to share either one. (The little boy seems to like coffee and doughnuts just as much as I do these days. It’s our Sunday treat.) As far as your favorite chocolate cake this probably isn’t it but it just might change your mind.

Choc Cake Done Right

This is a simple, super moist, super soft, chocolate cake that is best left iced in a basic chocolate buttercreme and of course topped with rainbow sprinkles.

Choc Cake Done Right

Nothing fancy.

Choc Cake Done Right

A little old fashioned.

Choc Cake Done Right5Absolutely delicious!

Choc Cake Done Right4

Chocolate Cake
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Chocolate Cake
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Ingredients
  • 3 1/3 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 3 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 3 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 cup Buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 4 each Eggs
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 3/4 cup Coffee
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Sift together all of the dry ingredients.
  2. In a separate bowl combine all the liquids.
  3. Then add the liquid to the dry ingredients.
  4. Whisk until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between two, 8 inch cake pans that have been greased.
  6. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or so. (Until done)
  7. Allow the cakes to cool completely before removing them from the pans.
Recipe Notes

** It is very important that all of the liquids are the same temperature!**

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Chocolate Buttercreme Icing
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Chocolate Buttercreme Icing
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Ingredients
  • 1 lb Butter
  • 2 lb Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Heavy Cream
  • dash Kosher Salt
  • dash Vanilla Extract
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine everything in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until smooth
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Homemade Egg Noodles in Chicken Soup

It has been so cold and windy lately. Perfect weather for bone broth and soup. I have been making chicken broth regularly this winter. The little boy and I drink it like tea on these cold days. I have been wanting to make some homemade noodles lately, but then what to do with them? It’s time for some hearty Chicken Noodle Soup.

First things first; I put Lola in the craft room. One, I needed the counter space for making noodles and two, I didn’t want her to see me thaw and boil a chicken.

I don’t like to use chemicals in the house, usually I don’t find the need for something so harsh. In the event that the kitchen counter or other room in the house is used for an animal operating room or something of the sort, I bust out the bleach and give everything a good scrubbing before continuing. I don’t need scratch grains or pin feathers in the noodles.

Semolina Flour Egg Noodles
Semolina Flour Egg Noodles

Then it was on to making the noodles. I have a few different noodle/pasta recipes that I use depending on what I am doing with them. For soup I like egg noodles made with semolina flour. It’s a more course flour; about the texture of a fine table salt, not as thick as cornmeal.

For the soup itself, I start by making a simple bone broth using the whole chicken, skin meat, bones, the whole nine yards, toss in some carrots, celery, onions, garlic and salt. I let this simmer for a few hours at least. I then strip the meat from the bones and put that in my soup pot.

Chx Soup1

I strain the broth and put about 1 quart in the soup pot with the meat and reserve the rest for later use. You can use all the broth if you wish. I only use a portion because we won’t eat a batch of soup that big and I don’t like to can it once there are noodles in it- they get too mushy.

I then add fresh chopped carrots, celery, onions, parsley and a bay leaf or two. Bring this to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft but not mush. Add the noodles and simmer for about 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Chx Soup3

You may have noticed I didn’t give any amounts for anything except the quart of broth. It’s soup. I measure a lot of things but what goes in soup is not one of them. This I find to be personal preference. Some like all sorts of chunks and some like mostly broth. If you like chunks add lots of vegetables and meat if you don’t, use less. A little common sense and it will turn out just fine.

This is not some fancy sort of soup. It is good old fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup. When cooking with a real bone broth rather than bullion or something similar there really doesn’t seem to be a need to get crazy fancy. It will have great flavor as is. Too often any more, people are wanting to put their mark on something that has been done a million times over. It is not always necessary. Let the darn soup just be the classic goodness it already is!

Chx Soup2

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