Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Finishing the nixtamal for my fresh tortillas and it's chicken enchiladas for New Years's Eve dinner. I am pretty sure neither madam nor I will be awake at midnight. I actually think we should celebrate New Year on the Winter Solstice to be accurate anyway.

Everyone have a safe and happy New Year.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Variations On A Theme - Potatoes Gratinee

Madam had her Boxing Day luncheon for the ladies yesterday and I sliced way too many potatoes for the individual Pommes Dauphinois. Instead of wasting the potatoes I just put them in a bowl of water to keep them from darkening and I'll use them today to make a little less rich variation called Pommes Lyonnaise.  The Dauphinois is just layers of potato and Le Gruyere all covered with cream or milk and baked. My version of Lyonnaise loses the cream and uses chicken stock and adds onion to the layers of cheese and potatoes. Sometimes you'll find the recipe is identical to the Dauphinois and just adds the onion. Try them  all and see what you like. I'm being lazy today but there are a bunch on the web just Google "potatoes dauphinois" or "potatoes Lyonnaise" and you'll get plenty of options. Whatever one you pick make sure that it is simply potato, Le Gruyere and milk or cream for the Dauphinois and just potoato, onoin, Le Gruyere, and broth for the Lyonnaise. NO extraneous additions. BTW, don't bother to make either if you aren't going to use real Le Gruyere Swiss cheese.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mince Pies

Santa can come now as I have his mincemeat pies ready.

Happy Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. We have a couple of friends over this evening for kind of a pot luck. I'm doing a small prime rib and they are bringing a fish curry. It was a last minute thing since we were going to be alone so we figured why not get together.
Anyhow. got some baking to do since there will now be someone to eat it. I've got a pumpkin pie in the oven now and next will be small mince pies. Later I'll do an apple tart as well. I've had my Christmas pudding since the end of November and it has had a few nips of cognac over the weeks so it's ready. I've still bread to bake as well.

Everyone have a nice Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Sane versus Crazy

It's becoming clearer to me. This whole hubbub is not between the white and nonwhite and police and protesters. It’s actually between sane people and crazy people. It’s between people who believe in peace and justice and those that want to hate and see people that don't look and believe as they do as something less than human. The tragedy is that they will never change.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

It's a cool misty day here in Atlanta and a great day for something warm and nourishing.
Here is a nice recipe that meets this need and it has the bonus of being what's known as
cheap eats. It's also nice to have something simple while we are surrounded by all the
rich holiday food.
Traditional Red Beans and Rice fills the bill but to make it authentic you have to shell out
for some expensive ingredients like Tasso, andouille (smoked sausage) and smoked ham
hocks. It's delicious but so is this vegetarian version and while I am a huge fan of smoked
meats you don't really miss it in this dish. My small red beans(cranberry beans and not
the larger kidney beans) are all soaked and I'm ready to go. If you just really have to have
some meat in it just add a pound of diced smoke sausage(pre-cooked) or crumble in
some cooked bacon after you do the smashing bit.  Enjoy.

Vegan Red Beans and Rice
Makes about 8 servings


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped finely
1 medium bell pepper chopped
4 stalks celery chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
1 lb. dry red beans soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight, drained and rinsed
6 cups vegetable broth or water (I use 1 box of vegetable broth(4 cups) and 2 cups of water)
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 whole bay leaf
½ - 1 Tbsp smoked paprika or 1 tsp liquid smoke and regular paprika
Freshly cracked pepper to taste but don't be shy
Pinch cayenne pepper
6 cups cooked rice ( prefer brown basmati but white rice is traditional)
1 bunch green onions, sliced for garnish


The night before or early in the morning, put your rinsed and picked over beans in a
large non-reactive pot and fill with enough cool water to cover the beans by a few inches.
Set them aside to soak. I actually put 2 TBlsp. of salt in the soaking water (which will be
rinsed off) as it seems to keep the beans from falling apart. Sort of like brining the beans.

About 3 or 4 hours before you're ready to eat finely dice the celery, bell pepper, and
onion, and mince the garlic. Cook the trinity (celery, bell pepper, onion) in a large pot ( I
like a Dutch oven) in the olive oil over medium heat until softened (8-10 minutes). Right
before you think the trinity is done add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
In a colander drain the soaked beans  and rinse with fresh water. Add the rinsed beans to
the pot with the vegetables. Also add the vegetable broth or water, thyme, oregano, bay
leaf, smoked paprika, some freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. If you
don't have smoked paprika you can try adding a tsp or so of liquid smoke.
Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a full boil over high heat. After it reaches a boil,
turn the heat to low and simmer for at least two hours.  Stir the pot occasionally to make
sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Keep an eye out and don't let the beans get to dry.
If they look dry then judiciously add water.

After two hours (or longer if desired) the beans should be soft and tender. Mash some of
the beans against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon. This will thicken the pot
and make the classic, creamy texture of the dish. Remove the bay leaf and allow the pot
to simmer for about 30 minutes more to let it thicken.

This is usually served by putting the red beans in a bowl and topping them with a scoop
warm, cooked rice. Sprinkle sliced green onions over the top.

It's a good idea to have a bottle of hot sauce handy for those that like a bit more kick. I'm
a big fan of Cholula from Mexico(the one with the wooden ball top) but whatever your
favorite is is fine.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yuletide Blessings

For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December or Winter Solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year.  This special day is coming up tomorrow, Sunday, December 21 at 23:03 UTC (6:03 p.m. EST).  December may be marked by Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but for pagans the Winter Solstice is the time to celebrate Yule. Yule celebrates the rebirth of the sun and beginning of winter. It is one of the oldest winter celebrations known.

Originally the Christian calendar focused on Easter. It was only in the fourth century that the church decided Jesus Christ’s birthday should be celebrated. Since the Bible did not point to an exact date when Christ was born, Pope Julius I chose Dec. 25. It’s commonly believed that the church chose the date in an effort to replace the Roman Saturnalia and Pagan Yule celebrations with the Christian holiday.

Many Christmas traditions including dinner feasts, gift-giving, and decorative wreaths can be traced back to winter solstice rituals. For instance, for the Celtic druids, mistletoe was a sacred plant  called “All Heal.” Mistletoe was believed to cure illnesses, serve as an anecdote for poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft. People would hang it from their doorways or rooms to offer goodwill to visitors.  Ancient Celts would plant holly in their homes as a form of protection since the plants was believed to hold magical powers for its ability to survive the winter months.

So, regardless of which holiday (and there is nothing wrong with celebrating them all!) have yourself a Merry Christmas/Winter Holiday/Yule/Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.

A significant and fun fact about the coming solstice is that it occurs within about two-and-a-half hours of a new moon.

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.