Saturday, December 06, 2014

How Now Flu?

According to the enters for Disease Control and Protection we’re just at the beginning of what could be a fairly rough flu season. For starters, the dominant flu strain this fall has been a tough bug (called H3N2) that, in previous years, has caused increased hospitalization and death rates -- especially among the elderly, very young children and people with chronic medical conditions. Worse, this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t fully cover that nasty strain. Long story short, the virus mutated after the vaccine was already in production -- so the vaccine will be less effective this year than in other years.

If for some strange reason you haven't had your shot this year then do so as it will protect you from the other strains that are out there.

Second, add extra Vitamin C and some Zinc to your vitamin regimen. It will boost your immune system (C) and help lessen the symptoms(Zinc).

Wash your hands like a crazy person.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mashed Potato Leftovers

OK, leftover time. Everyone tries to find something to do with the turkey and there are a lot of good ideas. Pazole or other soups, casseroles, and pot pies. The lowly mashed potato usually get short shrift.

A great use for left over mashed potatoes is potato pancakes or in German, kartoffelpuffer. The basic recipe is just the potatoes, egg, flour and (sometimes) onion but I am kind of a fan of cheese as well and the kind of cheese is flexible. I like cheddar, Le Gruyere, pepper jack or even ricotta or cottage cheese.

Basic potato pancake

3 cups chilled leftover mashed potatoes
2-3 Tbsp chopped shallot, onion or scallion(green and white parts) if using
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp flour plus 1/2 cup flour for dredging
Extra virgin olive oil, butter, for pan-frying

If you are adding cheese then make it about 2/3s cup of you favorite shredded cheese.

In a large bowl, stir together the mashed potatoes, cheese if using, onion, shallot or scallions, egg and 3 tablespoons flour until combined.  Using a small ice cream scoop, tablespoon or your hands, divide the mixture into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a small ball then flatten it into a pancake about a 1/2-inch-thick.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter  in a large sauté pan over medium heat. (Add enough oiland butter to completely coat the bottom of the pan.)

While your oil is heating put the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in to a shallow bowl and dredge each pancake, carefully coating each side.

Fry the pancakes, in batches, until they're golden brown and crispy on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Add more oil and butter to the pan as needed between batches.  Resist the temptation to turn the pancakes too soon, you want a nice crisp crust. Transfer the pancakes to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately sprinkle them with salt.

Serve the potato pancakes topped with plain Greek yogurt or sour cream and garnished with additional chopped shallot, onion or scallions.

This will make 12 pancakes.

Note: Depending on the mashed potatoes you may need an extra egg if they are very dry or a bit more flour if they are overly wet to start with.  Also, if you are using a wet cheese like cottage then a bit more flour is needed.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Gosh, I have been terrible in neglecting this blog recently but I'll do better. Anyway, everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Minimonk is joining us today but it won't be a blowout. Game hens, dressing, mashed spuds, creamed corn, sweet potatoes, cucumber and onion salad, and fresh rolls, Punkin pie for desert or an apple tart.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

It is the 96th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that brought an end to World War I in 1918.  It was called Armistice Day.  Now it is the official U.S.  holiday to commemorate Veterans Day.

Let the veterans in your life know you appreciate their sacrifice.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Quick Butternut and Leek Soup

Fall is definitely here and now is the time when soup becomes the star of many a meal at
the Monk homestead. I have butternut squash in the basement and plenty of leeks still in
the garden so what better option than another variation on Butternut Squash soup.
Instead of the traditional onions, I'll use leeks and instead of milk or half-and-half I'll just use
chicken or vege stock. To make things simple I do it in one pot instead of roasting the
squash in the oven first.  (I am still without an oven but maybe Monday.)

Butternut Squash & Leek Soup

You'll need:
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and chopped.
2-3  tablespoons of butter
1 butternut squash, peeled, cut in chunks(the smaller the chunks the faster it will cook)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tsp Kosher salt
Depending on the size of your squash you'll need 2 - 3 cups of broth(chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream. I use Greek yogurt since that is pretty much all I ever have
on hand.
6 or so fresh sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)

Add the squash and the dried thyme to the leeks and stir to heat through for a few
minutes. Add just enough stock to cover the squash. Simmer over medium heat for 15
minutes or so or until the the chunks of squash can be easily pierced with a knife.
I use an immersion blender and blend in the pot until it is mostly smooth but you can
transfer it to a blender or food processor and give it a whir. Optionally, if you like it a bit
chunky you can just take a potato masher after it for a bit. Stir in the yogurt or sour
cream. Adjust salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Garnish with a dollop more of yogurt(or sour cream),  and maybe some fresh thyme leaves.

Note: You can, of course, use onions and garlic instead of the leeks and roast the squash
first. Roasting the squash brings out some caramel notes from the natural sugars and is
very nice if you have the time.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Día de los Muertos

It's All Saints Day and the Latina Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.

Frances Ann Day summarizes the three-day celebration, the Day of the Dead—

On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos;(spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos;(the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.

—Frances Ann Day, Latina and Latino Voices in Literature

Friday, October 31, 2014

Samhain and a New Year

Well it is Halloween and Samhain, the Pagan New Year. A new turn of the wheel starts tomorrow. I did my duty and voted today. I figure it was poetic to vote for the freak show we are about to see in the Senate on Halloween. We could be pleasantly surprised but I am not going to be betting in serious money on such an outcome.

I did get my new ovens ordered and it should be delivered on Saturday. If you haven't priced them double electric oven are very expensive, like we are talking 2 grand and up. I settled for a nice GE that has convection (fan oven for you Brits) in the top plus regular and just conventional in the bottom. I have convection in both upper and lower in the unit I have but I never used the lower for much of anything so I won't miss it all. If you are unfortunate enough to have to replace a double oven then beware that there are all kinds of little add-ons you have to pay for on top of the price of the oven itself. Measuring fee for the installer to measure and see if any modifications are in order...$69. Hall off of the old unit $20 and in my case removing the piece of wood I added to make the hole fit my current oven which is 110 dollars. Since I bought this at Home Depot another company will do the install but Home Depot will deliver. They advertise free haul off of the old appliance but that is only if the old appliance is already uninstalled which it won't be. So I've paid for everything and scheduled the delivery but have no word from the installers when they will appear.

So anyway, I broke down and bought a bag of Kit-Kat snack size if any trick-or-treaters show up....probably not. I can count on my two hands the number of T&T's we have had in the 33 years we have lived here but I am always ready and yes, the pumpkins are off the front porch as well.

I usually do pizza for Halloween night but that's out since I have no oven....