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Hen House CSA Week 3: Returning to our German Roots

This week’s CSA saw an almost too-colorful-for-words bounty of produce (as you can see) and an ingredient that made me probably just a little too excited: kielbasa. I like kielbasa. Like a lot.

Amongst the realm of sausages, kielbasa edges out bratwurst and sweet Italian as my favorite.

In fact, if it were me, I definitely would have just grilled up the kielbasa, threw them on the egg buns, added a little pepper relish and mustard and gone to town.

My wife, on the other hand, offered to make German food. So…we ate German food.

Kielbasa, cabbage, and spaetzle

 

Now, if you’re not sure what spaetzle is, it’s a German noodle (is probably the best way to describe it), but it’s got a more a dumpling-like consistency. They have a flavor kind of like a biscuit, but their small size means they cook quickly and, when you fry them in butter, get very firm on the outside and a pleasant, nutty flavor.

You will need:

Kielbasa and cabbage

  • 4 kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cabbage, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Spaetzle

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup milk
  1. First, start the kielbasa and onion cooking by tossing the sausage, onion, and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally.
  2. When the kielbasa is done cooking, add the cabbage and another pinch of salt. This will happen at some point while we are making the spaetzle.
  3. Now, make the spaetzle by mixing the dry ingredients together in one bowl and beating the eggs in a second bowl.
  4. Alternate pouring a little milk and a little egg into the dry ingredient bowl, mixing the entire time.
  5. Continue until the milk and eggs are gone.
  6. Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
  7. Use a spaetzle press or push the dough through a cheese grater with large holes to make the spaetzle. Add to the water.
  8. Repeat until all the dough is in the pot.
  9. Cook for 3 minutes or until the noodles are floating on the water.
  10. Once the spaetzle is done, drain and let sit until the cabbage is done cooking.
  11. When the cabbage is done, add the spaetzle to your skillet and make a hole in the center.
  12. Add the butter and let it melt, then stir so that the butter coats as much of the spaetzle as possible.
  13. Cook for another 2-4 minutes or until the spaetzle is slightly firm, give it a good stir to mix with the cabbage mixture.
  14. Serve and enjoy!

Oh, and as before, Hen House has supplied me with the produce from the CSA, therefore, this qualifies as a sponsored post.

Why Have Veggies When You can Have Gravy?

Well, week 2 is in the books and as you can see, Hen House has provided an amazing array of produce again! The Napa cabbage was crisp and perfect, the radishes red and firm, and the tomatoes were rich and juicy.

So naturally we decided to make biscuits and gravy.

I had thought about taking the Napa cabbage and sausage to make some American spring rolls. Use the tomatoes and egg buns for a little panzanella, and marinate the radishes to make pickles.

My wife wanted biscuits and gravy. So, we ate biscuits and gravy.

So, without further ado!

Hen House Biscuits and Gravy

You will need:

  • 1 pound Hen House sausage
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)
  • 1/4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Baking spray
  • 2 pop cans of Grands biscuits*
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to the temperature indicated by the Grands pop can.
  2. Put the sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat and brown until all trace of pink is gone.
  3. Once the sausage is ready, check to see how much grease is left in the pan. If there is at least a tablespoon of grease, you can omit the vegetable oil.
  4. If there is less than a tablespoon, add the olive oil and let it get hot.
  5. Add the flour to the grease and stir to make a paste.
  6. Add the milk and whisk until your flour paste is well-incorporated.
  7. Reduce heat to medium.
  8. At some point during the gravy cooking process, the oven will be preheated. When that happens, liberally cover a baking sheet with cooking spray. Put the biscuits on the baking sheet and bake according to package directions.
  9. Simmer the gravy until the biscuits are done, check for salt and pepper and serve.

* Yeah, I get it. Grands aren’t fancy, but it’s also hard to beat when you’re putting together a quick dinner, either.

Vegetarian Biscuits and Gravy

If meat isn’t your thing, you can replace the sausage in the recipe above with Morningstar Farms faux sausage (which you can buy at Hen House) and an extra tablespoon of vegetable oil.

You will first chop and then brown the Morningstar Farms sausage in the vegetable oil and then proceed with step 2 as normal.

Oh, and as before, Hen House has supplied me with the produce from the CSA, therefore, this qualifies as a sponsored post.

Slow Cooked Good Natured Family Farms Chuck?  Sure!

Remember last time we talked about the Hen House CSA? Well, now we’re going to get serious. What are we going to do with all our take!

This week’s bag star was, in my opinion, the Good Natured Family Farms chuck roast. A nice little piece of meat with plenty of gorgeous marbling just begging to be slow cooked in my ceramic

Dutch oven.

Begging.

If it were up to me, I’d go with an intense Asian flavor base: soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, bean paste, diced red pepper, celery and bok choy. This would be served over a bed of egg noodles and a side of green beans sautéed with few drops of sesame oil.

There’s only two problems with that: one, my wife’s not a fan of that flavor profile and two, in the CSA was some lovely chard and kale that I’d like sauté and serve with the roast. So, we’re going to go with a more American flavor base. We keep the soy sauce (for the umami) and garlic (because it’s garlic.) We’ll add just a little black pepper, a light dusting of herbs and a little lemon to round out the taste. On the side, I’ll sauté the greens in olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and garlic.

Hen House’s Good Natured Family Farms Simple-But-Delicious Chuck Roast

You will need:

  • 1 Good Natured Family Farms chuck roast (at least two pounds)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons each dried basil and dried time
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or lemon zest
  1. Combine a liberal amount of salt and pepper and flour.
  2. Coat the entire chuck roast in the flour mixture and let sit.
  3. Add the olive oil to the skillet and let it get hot over medium-high heat.
  4. Cook all sides of the roast for 45 seconds or until brown.
  5. Place the meat in a Dutch oven, ceramic pot or your crock pot.
  6. Add the soy sauce and stock so that the liquid comes up at least half way on the meat. If there’s not enough liquid, add more stock (or water if you don’t have stock.)
  7. Add the garlic, herbs and lemon to the stock.
  8. If you are using a crockpot instead of a Dutch oven, set the crockpot for low and cook 8 hours. Flip the meat halfway through.
  9. If using a Dutch oven/ceramic pot, bring the liquid to boil over medium-high heat, then cover and set the heat to medium-low.
  10. Cook for 3 hours, flipping the meat occasionally and ensuring that the liquid continues to boil gently.

Enjoy!

(Oh, and clearly the fact that I’ve not paid into the CSA program in exchange for this series of blog posts means that this is a sponsored post.)

Hen House CSA

It’s been a while since the Blog Well Done family has been part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. If you’re not familiar with CSA programs, you basically buy a share of a locally-owned farm’s output in return for a guaranteed amount of their output during the season.

The farm’s happy because they have cash flow and your belly is happy because you get some good vittles.

Yes, I said vittles.

Anyway, for years, Hen House has been featuring a CSA program that’s a little different than the CSAs we’ve joined in previous years. Their CSA program allows you to take shipments of several different local producers offering not just vegetables and fruit, but rice, meat, eggs, and other items, too.

I like the program a lot because it allows me to try different items from local producers that I might not otherwise eat. It also has helped the BWD family overcome our biggest objection to the CSAs of old: lettuce.

No, seriously. Our past CSA delivered us a lot of food we really like and a whole bunch of fancy lettuce we absolutely wanted nothing to do with. See, Mrs. WellDone loves salads, but doesn’t like bitter lettuce and I’ve always felt that lettuce isn’t food. Lettuce is what food eats.

Points!

How does Hen House get around the tyranny of lettuce? They have a point system for their CSA that means I never have to eat lettuce again! Instead of receiving the same bag of goods each week, at Hen House I get so many points and I can trade those points around to buy just the foods I want (or more likely, just the foods BWD, Jr. will eat.) Anyway, it’s a nice touch that I’d heard about, but never really considered until standing in front of the display for the first time wondering if I wanted 1 Good Natured Family Farms chuck roast or like 7 more bunches of chard. (Spoiler alert: I got the roast.)

With all that said, the next few months are going to be delicious. I was already pretty enamored with Good Natured Family Farms’ meats (I have no affiliation with them, by the way, I just like their stuff.) Now, I get to eat a lot more of it every week and tell you all what I did.

So please check back. There will be plenty to enjoy!

(Oh, and clearly the fact that I’ve not paid into the CSA program in exchange for this series of blog posts means that this is a sponsored post.)

Okay, so my friend Denise asked if I knew any recipes for a good marinara sauce she could use at an upcoming dinner party.  Of course I do and here it is…

Me and Marinara

The funny thing about me and spaghetti sauce is that I did not grow up in an Italian household.  If I had to point at one nationality for our home, I would said “Kansan” which is a lot like Missourian, but we have better college teams.  Still, despite the lack of an Italian grandmother who could pass on her famous meatballs the she brought over from the old country, in my house we ate A LOT of Italian food: lasagna, spaghetti, linguine, meatballs, and so on…

Still, despite all that, we do not have a tradition of the slow cooked Sunday gravy that made me drool during so many Sopranos episodes.  This is why, as I have come into my culinary own, I have had to strive to figure out to make slow cooked spaghetti sauce like the one to the right.  It took a while (and a few wasted cans of tomatoes) before I finally got it right.

San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

I thank Mario Batali for helping me get to the promised land on this one.  I have watched enough Molto Mario that I now know when it comes time to make marinara, there’s only one place to turn: San Marzano whole tomatoes.  There is nothing wrong with Hunt’s if you cannot find San Marzano, but these premium plum tomatoes that come from Italy have a richer taste and seem to be juicier, which is perfect when making marinara sauce.

Like I said, if you cannot find them (I could not for years until Whole Foods started carrying them and I was not going to pay Dean and Deluca prices for them) go with whole Hunts tomatoes.  I find they are the best non-San Marzano brand.

Okay, anyway, recipe time…

Recipe: Elegant Marinara

You will need: (meat ingredients written in orange)

  • 2 pounds ground chuck or 2 packages faux hamburger
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 4-6 strips of bacon, cut into rough pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (you will need 4 if cooking with meat)
  • 1 large white onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flake
  • 1 teaspoon salt + more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper + more to taste
  • 2 28 oz cans whole plum tomatoes
  • 3-4 leaves fresh sage, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 6-8 leaves fresh basil, chopped or 2 tablespoons dried
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsely*

* Please use English (not flat leaf) parsely.  The parsely is only there to make the sauce look pretty.  That’s why I use dried parsely…it brings no flava to the party!  Look at the picture above.  See the green?  That’s parsely…

If you want to make this with meat, preheat a skillet over medium heat.   Add the hamburger, break up with a wooden spoon and add the oregano.  Cook over medium heat, stirring every few minutes until the meat is thoroughly browned.  Wash with water and drain the fat if you are watching your weight.

If you are using faux meat, cook with oregano.

In a good size skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Add the bacon and cook until the fat has run out, usually 4-5 minutes.  Remove the bacon and discard.

Add two tablespoons of olive oil, even if you are cooking with meat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions, garlic, red pepper flake, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 4-5 minutes until the onions start to turn clear.

Add the plum tomatoes and their juice.  Now, you may notice they are still basically perfect little balls.  I highly advise against cooking them that way.  They might explode into little red balls of hot liquid, which means you need to burst them before the heat can.  You can either prick them with a fork or a knife or you can do the Mario Batali (and Chris Perrin) method of reaching in and squeezing them with your hand.  Just beware organic shrapnel!

Once the tomatoes are no longer spheres, bring them and their juice to a boil.  This may take up to 10 minutes.  Cover partially, leaving a hole for steam to escape (see the picture to the left).  Reduce the heat to medium and boil for 15 minutes.

Add the sage, basil and parsely and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the sauce has reached the required thickness.

If you are cooking with meat, add the hamburger back in and stir until warm.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Notes:

  1. The resulting sauce is going to be pretty chunky.  There are a couple of ways around this.  First, you can use a potato masher or an immersion blender or a regular blender to break up the tomatoes.  The choice is yours.  Me, I keep things chunky.
  2. If you are a compulsive stirrer like myself (you know, you can’t let the pot sit on the stove without giving it a stir) this is your recipe!  You basically cannot overstir the sauce and frequently stirring will keep the tomatoes and onions from burning on the bottom.
  3. I intentionally kept this sauce a little bland.  It’s a template.  Do with it what you want!  It’s yours now.  Me, I’ll add 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, another 2 teaspoons of red pepper flake, 2 teaspoons of black pepper, and a healthy pinch of salt.

First, of all, I wanted to give credit where credit is due.  My friend Daniel posted this recipe for Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce complete with step-by-step pictures.  I think his recipe looks absolutely fantastic and his blog style puts mine to shame.

I wanted to blog about his recipe earlier, but I had one slight obstacle: I don’t have a good vegan heavy cream substitute.  When we make homemade vegan ice cream, we use soy coffee creamer which is sweetened and tends to work well.  For a savory dish like pasta, I just do not have a good replacement.

Over the weekend, I wanted to try my friend Heidi’s recipe for vegan cashew cream, but I did not get a chance.  So, hats off to Daniel for his recipe and if you want to make vegan heavy cream, consider blending cashew pieces with a water a little at a time unti lit reaches the desired consistency.

——–

Also, my complements to Google.  In the targeted ads over there to the left, they’re actually advertising vegan products.  I appreciate that.

Using salt is one of the three most important skills in cooking, the other two being good knife skills and the proper use of heat.  For many, hearing that salt is a basic cooking skill will come as a surprise.  Given the linkage been salt and high blood pressure and other heart diseases, many home cooks have started to limit the amount of salt in their food.  These same cooks wonder why food at restaurants tastes better.

 

Salt does a number of very important things in cooking and baking.  First, salt helps to draw the juices out of meat and vegetables.  For proteins, this promotes crust formation when they are and it is why so many recipes state that meat should be liberally sprinkled with salt several minutes before cooking.

 

For vegetables, drawing out the juice does several things.  First, in sautés, it causes them to cook faster and more completely.  When adding them to a sauce, the salt will cause the vegetables to release their juice and add it to the surrounding liquid.  This will make the resulting food have a richer flavor.

 

In baking, salt has a number of useful functions.  It provides structure to baked goods by strengthening gluten (wheat proteins) and it helps to brown crusts.  Salt also prevents staleness by inhibiting or killing yeasts that are present in the finished product.

 

While all of this is crucial to preparing good food, the most important thing that salt does is fire the taste buds.  The tongue has different sets of taste buds, each of which are specifically designed for one type of taste: sweet, bitter, umami (savory), sour, and salty.  Without salt, one entire category of taste bud is underutilized or not utilized at all.

 

The common saying is that salt makes things taste more like themselves.  In a roundabout way, this is accurate.  Because the salt causes an additional set of taste buds to fire, the taste signals to the brain will be both clearer and stronger.

  

It bears repeating that the primary skills of a home cook are the use of heat, good knife skills, and the [i]proper[/i] use of salt.  Seasoning food is a balancing act.  The cook should strive to find enough salt so that the food tastes good without it tasting salty.  There is not a great margin of error when using salt in food: a little too much tastes as bad as far too much.  Still, in most cases, food can take more salt than the cook might think.

This is something I cooked up last night as I stood before my pantry trying furiously to figure out what to serve the boy and I.  At some level, I hate to even list it as a healthy recipe since it uses so many canned goods (high in sodium) but at the same time, it was pretty easy to throw together.  

On thing to note, as printed this recipe uses Fantastic ground beef replacement (technically I used the sloppy joe mix) which tastes amazing.  Even before I became vegetarian, I would use their taco meat instead of ground beef because I got the same flavor with far less fat and calories.  It has a place in even the most die-hard meat and potatoes family as long as it is used in Mexican foods, sloppy joes, and lasagnas where the texture of the meat is not 100% important because the texture is just a bit off.  If you do not have Fantastic or another meat substitute, feel free to use lean ground beef that you have washed before putting into the lasagna.

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of red pepper flake
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (red would work well, too)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 box of lasagna noodles
  • 2 cans of dice tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, sage mix)
  • 1 box of vegetarian ground beef replacement, prepared per package instructions
  • 1 can of low-fat or vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 can of black beans, drained
  • 1 can of chili beans, drained
  • 1 bag of low-fat Mexican cheese blend
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
  2. Put a pan on medium flame and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the red pepper flake and the garlic.  Wait 15 seconds and add the peppers, onions, and pepper. 
  3. While the vegetables are getting soft, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the lasagna noodles and prepare according to the instructions.
  4. When the vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes, a healthy pinch of salt, and the Italian seasoning.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce heat so that it bubbles, but it is not at a full roiling boil.
  5. Now is a good time to make sure the meat substitute is cooking.
  6. When the noodles are ready, construct the lasagna by first putting a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.  Then add a layer of noodles. 
  7. Mix the Fantastic meat replacement and the refried beans and spoon them onto the lasagna.  Add another layer of noodles.
  8. Mix the black and chili beans, then spoon them onto the lasagna and spread them out.  Add the final layer of noodles.
  9. Top with a good layer of the tomato sauce and the bag of shredded cheese.
  10. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts, usually 10-15 minutes.
  11. Serve on a plate with a good ladel of tomato sauce.

Enjoy!

Welcome back to another (slightly later than I would have liked) edition of Spice Week.  In celebration of the Spice Girls reuniting, this week is all about how to use spices in your cooking.

And yes, I realize that herbs de’Provence are herbs and not spices, but bear with me here.  They’re a handy little thing to have for cooking.

Firstly, what are herbs de’ Provence?  Well, they’re herbs…from…Provence, France…

Actually, herbs de’ Provence are a mixture of dried herbs all of which are typically found in abundance in the Provence region of southeastern France and typically contain rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay and thyme.  Sometimes sage or lavendar are added as well.  They are an earthy mix of herbs that are used to add a natural, woodsy flavor to cooked foods.

Use herbs de’ Provence with either very robust flavors like beef or lamb or when you want the herbs to be the star of the show like in herbed chicken or in brown butter sauce poured over cheese ravoli.  Why then?  Well, the herbs in question, especially thyme and rosemary, are very strong and can easily drown out mild flavors like most vegetables or seafood.

Here’s something I am considering doing with some of my herbs de’ Provence.

You will need:

  • One tube of soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup of flower
  • 1/4 cup herbs de’ Provence
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • cooking spray (yes cooking spray…)
  1. Make sure the goat cheese is fresh out of the refrigerator when you prepare this recipe.
  2. Cut the goat cheese into medallions about 1/3 inch thick.  If the cheese is very soft, spin the cheese and press the outer edge of the circle inwards to firm it up almost like folding the edge of a pizza crust.
  3. Mix the flour, herbs, black pepper, and salt together in a plate or wide bowl.
  4. Place the goat cheese medallions on the flour/herb/spice mixture and coat both sides liberally.  As you coat the medallion, press down gently to really get the herbs and flour to stick.
  5. Let the medallions rest in the refrigerator for 5 minutes while the skillet preheats over medium heat.
  6. Coat the skillet and saute two to four medallions over medium heat until the cheese/flour is golden.  This should take about 2-3 minutes per side.

Enjoy as is or tune in tomorrow for my advice on how to top the goat cheese.