Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Slow Cooker Curried Butternut Apple Soup

In the Fall and early Winter, available produce changes. Sadly, real tomatoes go away and life becomes cherry tomatoes. Frozen corn and peas replace fresh. However, a few new items are worth attention. Gourds, yummy gourds, begin to show up. Sweet potatoes come to the market as well. The trick is using them for something other than pumpkin pies and baked acorn squash with butter and brown sugar.

Do not get me wrong. I love both of those dishes, but life should include more. Otherwise we are doomed to brown sugar sweet potato casserole with marshmallow for the rest of our lives.

Try this recipe for a fall or winter evening after work. It tastes as if you nursed it all day, it causes all the comfort food nerves to fire, and it fits the slow cooker paradigm.


One butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped in 2-3 inch chunks.
One small onion, diced.
Two Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped in 2-3 inch pieces.
One carrot, peeled and cut in 2 inch lengths.
3 to 6 cups vegetable stock.
2 cloves peeled garlic.
2 to 3 teaspoons sugar.
2 cups half and half.
1 rounded teaspoon high quality, mild curry powder.
Salt and pepper to taste.


Put the squash, onion, carrot, and apple in a small slow cooker crock. Add the garlic and enough stock to almost cover the ingredients.

Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Use a stick blender to puree the ingredients until smooth.  Add the half and half and puree the mixture until very smooth. Taste. At that point, the soup will be a bit tannic (bitter). Add the sugar and blend again. Add the curry and blend. Taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer uncovered on high for about 30 minutes to an hour mellow the dairy taste.

The goal is a barely sweet, savory soup in which the predominant taste is the squash and a mild hint of curry.

Serve with cheesy toast and enjoy.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Early Fall Pasta With Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

In the Ozarks, the change from Summer to Fall occurs with fits and starts. For three or four days the nights may be crisp and then you wind up sweating at mid-day by the end of the week. Try to imagine falling leaves and 85 degrees.

Regardless of the weather uncertainty, the produce available predictably changes. I welcome acorn squashes, pumpkins, the first of the new crop potatoes. Unfortunately, the variety of green vegetables begins to rapidly decrease. Suddenly we find ourselves back to truck delivered broccoli, green beans, and kale. One vegetable I begin to revisit is Brussels sprouts.

This recipe is a variation upon one I saw in the New York Times. I urge you to try it. You will want to work it into your winter rotation.


12 ounces of Bucatini
8 to 16 ounces Brussels sprouts, chiffonaded
2 shallots sliced thin (or 2 Tbs. air dried shallots)
4 or 5 baby bella mushrooms diced
4 slices thick bacon, sliced against the grain in quarter inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. Italian herbs
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
salt and cracked pepper
Parmesan cheese, to garnish




 To ciffonade the Brussels sprouts, cut them in half lengthwise. Lay one half flat side down, and starting at the leaf top end, cut thin slices from the bulb. Continue until you reach the solid root end. Repeat for the other half, and so on.

Put a pasta pot of salted water to boil.

While the water reaches temperature, place the pieces of bacon in a large, cold skillet and put the skillet over a medium low burner. Cook the bacon to light brown and remove the meat from the pan. Reserve the bacon fat. 

When the water boils, drop the pasta in and cook 10 to 12 minutes until al dente
While the pasta cooks, add the mushrooms (and shallots if fresh) plus the Brussels sprouts shreds, in that order, to the hot bacon grease. Cook two minutes, then add the garlic and herbs. Season well with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, while stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts wilt and soften. Add the bacon bits to the skillet and stir. Check the seasoning and add salt as necessary.

When the pasta reaches al dente, reserve a half cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the vegetables in the skillet along with the reserved pasta water. Mix well as the heats blends the flavors. Check the seasoning and adjust.

Drizzle the blended pasta with EVOO and mix. Serve to pasta bowls and garnish with shaved Parmesan or Romano.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Spicy

Many Asian restaurants offer some form of sweet and sour xxxx. Once in a while the dish is actually quite good. Sadly, most of the time all you get is sweet gooey meat with tired vegetables. I assume you want something different from that.

This recipe reduces the calories by avoiding battered and fried meat, by reducing the oil, and by using fruit juice rather than sugar as the prime sweetener. Furthermore, browning the ingredients enhances the flavor. 


1 can pineapple chunks packed in pineapple juice, drained and juice reserved
1 stalk of celery, sliced at an angle
1/2 onion, peeled and sliced in chunks
1/2 sweet pepper, seeded and large diced
6 ounces thick sliced ham, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 can baby corn pieces, drained
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice
4 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sriracha
1 clove garlic, minced and turned to paste
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 rounded Tablespoon corn starch
1 packet Splenda or 1 teaspoon sugar


Spray grease a large non stick skillet, add the ham to the cold skillet, and heat over medium heat without moving the ham. Cook the ham until it begins to brown, stir and allow to brown further without burning. Remove the ham from the skillet and keep warm.

Add the drained pineapple chunks to the same skillet with its fond and brown the pineapple without moving it. Once the pineapple has begun to brown, flip it and brown a second side. Remove the fruit from the pan and keep it warm.

Spray the pan with more spray grease and add the remaining vegetables. Cook and brown the vegetables without stir or turning.

While the vegetables brown, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust the balance.

When the vegetables begin to brown, toss and stir them to place a different side down. Continue to cook until the vegetables are close to crisp but cooked.  Add back the ham and pineapple to reheat.

When all has reheated, stir the sauce well and add it to the pan. Stir the skillet contents as the sauce bubbles and thickens. Be sure to coat all ingredients. Serve over rice.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Early Summer Flavors

My beautiful wife keeps a small herb garden for us on our back deck. What you see are chives, marjoram, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, mint, basil, and sage. Unlike some, we don't eat the marigolds , but they add color.

Since I have not posted in a while, I thought I would post a blog which emphasizes these summer flavors.

Let's start with the protein. I vacuum packed boneless, skinless chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and some thyme.

I put the chicken in a sous vide at 165 degrees for 3 hours.

Meanwhile I made ice cream. I processed a quart of blackberries I bought at a farmers market. I poured the puree into a fine mesh sieve. I used a wooden spoon then to express the juices from the seeds. (Note: this process is tedious. When peaches come into season, this recipe gets easier.) To the juices I added a cup of heavy cream and a simple syrup made from 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. You heat the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves completely, then cool the syrup to room temperature. When cool add the syrup to the fruit and cream mix. The mixture goes into the ice cream maker. When the mix is stiff, pour it into a vessel and freeze it.

After I made the ice cream, I made pesto. Pick the leaves from enough stems to make two packed cups. You will need nearly twice as much basil as this to reach the required amount.

Process the basil with two large cloves of garlic and three Tablespoons of pine nuts. When you have a well minced mix, begin to add olive oil in a stream as the processor runs. Continue to add oil until you have a texture similarly to a loose but not liquid gravy for biscuits. Mix in by hand 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. (Do not add salt until after the cheese is added!)
 I changed that basic recipe in two ways. I used a lemon olive oil and I used a parmesan, asiago, romano cheese blend.

At dinner time, I put a half cup of Orzo in a sauce pan and added enough chicken stock to cover it plus the juices from the sous vide chicken. I cooked the orzo over low medium heat to the al dente stages then added the salt and pepper needed.

Next I broke the woody part off the stems of fresh asparagus. Just before serving, I seared the asparagus in neutral oil over high heat until barely done.

I slathered the chicken that had been resting under foil with pesto and sliced it. (I should have sliced the chicken and plated it, then poured pesto on top of it as a sauce.)

On the side, I served a tomato, radish, and cucumber salad dressed with an herb blend from Penzys called Sunny Paris, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. The cucumbers and radish came from a farmers market. It is too early for farmers market tomatoes so I used a cherry tomato blend.

After dinner, Nancy and I enjoyed our blackberry ice cream.

Now you understand the title of this blog entry.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Tex Mex Turkey Feast

When Nancy and I were newlyweds, we had to watch what we bought and spent very carefully. This caused us to learn to use and love various dishes.

As an example, in those days, the early to mid 70's, flank steak and skirt steak were very inexpensive. We bought them and taught ourselves how to fix them. We learned to love them. In the recent past both have become trendy and expensive. Fortunately, we can still afford them.

Another example, that applies to this post, comes from the post Thanksgiving deep discount sales on frozen turkey that happened back then. We would buy a couple of the smaller birds and keep them frozen until we needed a meal for more than just us.

And because these birds were not Thanksgiving birds, we didn't always prepare peas and onions or serve cranberry sauce.

That leads to today's experiment. Yes, nearly live, I am attempting a new feast, Tex Mex Turkey.


One batch queso (Click here to see recipe)
One batch guacamole (Click here to see recipe)
One 8 to 10 pound turkey, carefully and safely thawed
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
A small pinch of ground chipolte

For the Dressing

One and a half stale baguettes, diced or cut up to crouton size
One small onion diced small
2 stalks celery diced small
1/2 sweet bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1/2 stick butter
1 Tablespoon Sazon seasoning
1 large bay leaf
2.5 to 3 cups chicken broth

Method for the Dressing Prep

Combine all the ingredients except the bread in a medium sauce pan and bring the mixture just to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and then add a large pinch of additional salt.

Pour the salty broth over the bread croutons and mix well. The mixture should be quite damp. Remove the bay leaf. Place the dressing mix in a casserole with a cover and refrigerate until time to bake.

Method for the Turkey Prep

Spatchcock the turkey (remove the backbone, trim off the wing tips and Pope's Nose, use a knife to split the breastbone cartilage, and flatten the bird). Pat the inside and exterior dry. Combine the salt and spices and mix well. Sprinkle the spice mix over the inside and outside of the bird.

Roasting the Turkey

Put the oven rack in a low middle position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (390 if using convection).

Place the bird, skin side up, on a wire rack sitting in a sheet pan. Place the sheet pan and rack with turkey in the oven and roast 11/2 to 2 hours and an instant read thermometer exceeds 165 degrees. Be sure you check both the breast and the thigh. (Note: Many people will prefer 180 degrees internal temperature)

While the turkey roasts, make your batch of queso.

Remove the turkey from the oven and tent it with foil . Allow the turkey to rest while the dressing bakes.

Place the covered casserole in the oven and bake 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

While the dressing bakes, make your pico de gallo and, from it, your guacamole.

Slice the turkey when the dressing comes from the oven. Serve the bird and dressing with hot queso and a side of guacamole.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Beer Braised Beef and Onions Stew

This post will be a variation on a New York Times recipe post last week. I wanted to try it because it resembles a beef in stout with pickled walnuts I did years ago in England after watching an Anthony Worrall Thompson cooking show.

This recipe works because the large amount of onion sweetens the stew and balances the acid and bitter of the beer. Serve it with noodles, rice, or polenta as an alternative to mashed potatoes.

By the way, the hot mustard is essential!


3 to 4 pounds beef stew meat in 1.5 inch cubes ( I used chuck roast that I had trimmed to remove silver skin and excess fat)

3 large red onions, sliced thin

1 Tbs. kosher salt

1 tps. ground black pepper

2 tps. sweet paprika

1 tps. ground coriander

1/4 tps. ground cinnamon

1 Tbs. tomato paste

1 cup Belgian style Ale like Blue Moon

2 cups beef stock

6 bay leaves

6 sprigs fresh thyme

4 sprigs fresh parsley

1 pat of butter

1 Tbs. EVOO


In a large bowl, combine the cubed meat, the salt, the pepper, the paprika, and the bay leaves. Toss the mixture well. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 12 hours.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Melt the butter in hot EVOO in an enameled dutch oven. Working in batches brown two side of the beef cubes and remove them from the dutch oven. Reserve the bay leaves for later use.

In the hot fat and fond cook the onions until they go limp and turn to golden brown while keeping a careful eye not to burn them.

Push the onions to one side and add the tomato paste, coriander and cinnamon. Mix well and cook until the paste turns dark. Add the flour and stir and mix as the mix cooks another minute. Add the beer and stock and mix well.

Tie the reserved bay leaves with the thyme and parsley using kitchen twine. Add it to the pot juices.

Add the seared beef plus any juices to the pot.

Bring the mixture to a simmer and place in the oven. I partially covered the mix with a cartouche.

Cook two and half to three hours.

Before serving add water to loosen the stew, if necessary.

Serve with salt, pepper, paprika, and parsley garnish. Serve with a side dish of hot Dijon mustard.