Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisps and Beautiful Cheeses with Friends!

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What is better than cheese and crackers with friends on a sunny afternoon?

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Fruits and olives, beautiful cheeses and fresh whole grain bread and crackers take this afternoon snack to a whole new level!

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Fresh ripe papaya taste like honey and sunshine!

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These crackers are melt in your mouth fantastic. So much flavor in wholesome ingredients makes this guilt-free snacking at it’s best.

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Lesley Stowe, Raincoast Crisps are my new favorite cracker!

These are unique, delicisious and worth the trouble to find!

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These photos with the sun streaming in bring back memories of great conversation and joy with friends.

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Fine dining does not have to be complicated.

Some of my finest culinary moments have been born of the simplest ingredients!

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Don’t forget to put the love into it to get the most of your food and friends!

Kitchen Gold

003Veggie Pantry diaries

This is not sexy food. It’s not flashy or photogenic, for that matter. It is also not fattening, unhealthy or expensive and it is the one of the most important ingredients you will ever use.

It is flavor. It is, as a former boyfriend used to say, “food from nothing”.

The current economic climate as it is has forced us all to make changes in our eating habits. Whether we dine out less or buy less expensive cuts of meat we are all cutting back.

Some may see this as an inconvenience; I choose to see it as a long overdue necessity and a personal challenge.

Marie Antoinette noticed centuries ago that the peasant children who played in the sun and ate unfettered farm food fared much better than cloistered royalty who consumed predigested culinary creations from the royal kitchen.

Today we have it backwards. The wealthy have access to organic food and nutrition information and the bloated masses consume food created in laboratories with double digit shelf life.

The abundance of land and animals has driven the American diet into historically uncharted territory.

The American kitchen’s staple the frying pan gets a lot of use while the rest of the world uses a stock pot.

A stock pot is a magical cauldron which draws flavor out of humble ingredients and gives life to an otherwise listless meal.

Nutritious though beans and legumes are they can come up flat if not prepared with a skillful hand.

And when you consider that modern civilization was built on the backs of labor fed grains and pulses, there is no doubt as to the powerful life sustaining protein and nutrients packed inside these tiny nuggets.

With little more than 6 or 7 ingredients you can create the base to grand meals fit for a king.

With less than $35.00 I went to the grocery and picked up a few items and will prepare nutritious, tasty and filling meals.

The items purchased include carrots, shallots, garlic, celery, white wine, onion, parsley, bay leaf and lemon.

Years of hanging around the kitchens of my European forbearers has taught me a few things.

No. 1: the best part of the meal is often times stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Some cultures have a name for this stuff. My Eastern European grandmother used to call these scrapings, “shkrepkies”.

Whether it was animal or vegetable, you know what I mean. I used to love to soak up the goodies with leftover bread or scrape them off the bottom of the pan with a spoon.

That is where all the caramelized richness of the meal left itself while the rest of the juices hovered above; hinting at what lie beneath.

No. 2: It takes time to make a good meal when you don’t have a lot of money to spend.

Now, my grandmother, by the time I was born, had plenty of money and plenty of time but that didn’t seem to affect the way she prepared a meal. There was no such thing as waste in her kitchen and the cheaper the ingredients the better.

She made her own ketchup. She made beer and she had a garden. She made her own horse radish and her own pickles.

From her I learned that eating well was not the exclusive domain of the wealthy and you didn’t need meat to have a healthy meal.

I learned to get flavor out of everything and celery and carrots could be sexy!
When you slowly sauté carrots, celery, onion, shallots and garlic in a bit of oil they caramelize.

The sugar in the veggies turns brown and gets sticky. They become rich and abundant with flavor. Throw some white wine into the pan and it becomes even richer.

By adding water and Bay leaf you then develop a kind of sauce. After 6 hours on the stove at a slow boil you really begin to get something.

Place this pot in the fridge over night and wake early to put it back on the stove and toss in 1 lemon quartered and you’ve added a sophisticated layer of complexity to the flavor. In addition add your favorite herbs. I like parsley and sage.

The second day, allow the pot to boil another 8 hours then separate the solids from the stock and store separately. I do this for versatility. You can eat the veggies, puree them and use them in sauces or add them to rice or lentils or potatoes for a side dish.

The stock should be considered gold in the well kept kitchen.
The time spent creating this elixir will allow you to create a meal when lacking in resources or elevate your main dish to stellar status.

This recipe is a great base for soups and any vegan/vegetarian meal that you want to prepare. I will use it for gravy and sauces at my Thanksgiving dinner table.

This technique, learned in the kitchen of an immigrant with a 6th grade education, is the foundation of French haute cuisine.

With some patience and lust you can create luxury from a pauper’s purse.

Ingredients:

10 medium sized carrots peeled and chopped
10 celery stalks cleaned and chopped
1 large shallot peeled and chopped
1 large onion peeled and chopped
6-7 large garlic cloves peeled and chopped
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 cups white wine
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
Fresh parsley (to taste)
Dried sage (to taste)
Salt to taste

Method

Day One:

In a medium to large sized stock pot add the oil and begin to heat the pot.

Then begin to add, celery, onion, shallot, carrot and garlic.
As these begin to simmer add dried herbs stirring constantly.
Place a lid on the pot and allow to simmer on low heat. Stir occasionally and expect to see browning after 1-2 hours.
When the first signs of browning occur ad 1 cup of white wine and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
Then add 3-4 cups of water. Turn the heat to low and allow to cook for 2-3 hours adding water as needed.
I like to fill my pot to just an inch or two under full.
Allow to cool and place the pot in the fridge over night.

Day 2:

Place the pot back on the stove and add wine and water if needed. Add Bay leaf and add 1 lemon quartered with peel. Allow lemon to cook no more than 2 hours as it can become bitter if it stays in too long.
Add any fresh herbs toward the end of this process for maximum flavor.
After about 6 hours strain the stock into a storage container and place the veggies in a separate container.
Now you have stack which you can freeze for later use or store in the fridge for immediate use.

Infused Oils and Hopes for Holiday Gifts

pantry diaries curry

This is a photo of curry in my garden. I bought it just because I thought it was pretty. I had no idea what I would do with it. I never knew that curry looked like this. Now that I see it and smell how wonderful it is I want to do something creative with it. I am sure that there are Curry Cupcakes in my future! But for now I will be experimenting with the infused oil idea.
Since I started my garden I‘ve had illusions of grandeur. Or rather, should I say dillusions.
I have had big ideas about giving gifts at Christmas; gifts of infused oils and alcohol decoctions. In an effort to be thorough, of course, I went on line. I’ve learned about mold and rancidity. What I thought would be easy and practical, given the abundance of herbs in my garden, has turned into an exercise in futility. Fresh herbs go bad very quickly when packed in oil.
It is important to eliminate air, moisture, and light and to maintain sanitary conditions on all utensils and containers used to keep and prepare the oils. After much research and inquiry I have come upon recipes which will insure the safety of your recipients and the enjoyment of all who partake in your generosity!
There are hot and cold methods and the general consensus is that refrigeration is necessary to maintain freshness. Creating an air-tight seal is extremely important to slow the oxidation process.
So, will I will be experimenting and will keep you updated on my progress, successes and failures. Hopefully, by the time the holidays roll around, I will have some beautiful oils to share with family and friends!
Cold Infusion (Blender Method)
This technique for cold infusion is best used with herbs, roots, citrus zest and fresh Chile peppers. Because these products may add moisture to the oil making it ripe for spoilage, the velocity of the blender will release their essential oils and they can be refrigerated immediately after preparation. Combine the oil and the flavoring ingredients in the blender cup and blend at high speed until the product is liquefied. Leafy herbs can be quickly blanched in boiling water and then shocked in cold water to help preserve their color and give the finished oil a pleasing green appearance. Roots such as horseradish, and ginger should be grated or chopped to fully extract flavor in the blender. Fibers from roots should be strained before bottling. Straining other ingredients is optional.
Hot infusion
The use of heat to release flavors is the best way to make infused oils with dry spices. It is also good with roots and woody herbs. The heating of the oil and flavor ingredients makes the finished product more sanitary and less prone to spoilage. It has the further advantage of making the flavor of some spices like cumin and curry more rich and complex the same way that toasting them does. To create a hot infusion, combine the oil and the flavor ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a moderate flame. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer. In most cases a temperature between 180 and 200°F is sufficient to release the essential oils of flavoring ingredients. Higher temperatures tend to give the oil a “cooked” taste and may caramelize or scorch the flavorings. Strain if necessary and bottle in sterile containers while still hot. Seal and allow to cool. Refrigerate oil after it has reached room temperature.

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