Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homestead Barn Hop

monday's homestead barn hop

Winner Winner DUCK dinner!

It was dreary and cold again on Monday.  Just the right kind of weather for another hearty baked dinner.  I've had a duck in the freezer for awhile.  OK, a long while and I really needed to do something with it. 

I opted for a classic roasted duck.  I was going to go with an Asian spin but I decided to keep it simple.  The duck came with an orange sauce packet and I didn't even use it.  I warmed it up and sat it on the table and though it was very tasty, the duck itself was perfection and needed nothing more than a knife and fork. 

Hubs said this was one of his favorite meals I've ever made.  We've been married almost four years so I've made a lot of meals.  I'll take that one as a serious compliment.

Ignore all the Asian sauces in the picture below.  Didn't use them.

Roast Duck & Potatoes
1 thawed or fresh Duck (mine was 6.5 lbs.)
1 whole Onion, quartered
1 whole Celery Stalk, cut into small pieces
4 whole Garlic Cloves
3 Bay Leaves
Whole small Potatoes
Olive Oil
Fresh Rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare your roasting pan.  If you don't have a roasting pan (I don't), put foil on a large pan and then use a baking rack on top to suspend the duck.  You want the juices and fat to have room to drip out and away from the duck.  I always cover mine in aluminium foil so I don't have to scrub so much later. 
Thaw duck if needed then take out all the giblets from inside.  Duck is very fatty so make sure to cut away large chunks of fat and put with your giblets.  Save these to make delicious duck broth.  Also check duck for pin feathers, and if you find any, pull them out. 
Since duck is so fatty, you will need to score over the top half of the duck (breast side up) to allow the fat to escape.  Make very shallow cuts diagonally to keep from cutting into the meat in a diamond pattern.
Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the duck.  Next, stuff duck with the quartered onion, celery, garlic cloves, and bay leaves.
Since I didn't have any twine to truss the duck, I used bamboo skewers.  Basically just close up the opening you just filled with those yummy veggies.
Be sure to tuck the wings under the duck so they don't overcook.  My poor bird only had one full wing.
Place duck breast-side-up on rack and set the timer for 1 hour.
While the duck is roasting, it's time to start the potatoes.
Prick all over potatoes and put into a bowl.  Pour some olive oil over them, sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary.  Toss to make sure all the potatoes are covered with the oil and seasonings. 

When the timer goes off, take the duck out of the oven.  Prick all over the duck to allow fat to be released.  This will help make the skin nice and crispy.

Arrange the potatoes around the duck and place back into the oven.  Continue roasting until skin is browned and crispy and juices run clear.  Remove from oven and allow duck to rest for approximately 10 minutes.  This allows all the juices and fat to go back into the meat.

Here is the first slice...Perfection!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Reached 1000!

WOOHOO!  As of today, my little blog has had over 1000 hits!  

Thank you!  I am truly amazed and honored!  I hope to have lots more goodies for you so keep on reading! :)

Quick & Easy Immersion Blender Mayo

Earlier, I showed everyone how to make homemade Miracle Whip.  It was easy but it took forever.  Today, I think I have solved that issue. 

I made homemade mayonnaise with my immersion blender.  So easy and so fast!  I think it took longer to gather the ingredients than it did to make.

Next time, I'm going to make the mustard mixture from the Miracle Whip recipe and add it to the finished blender mayo for a quick and easy Miracle Whip recipe.  I'll post the results.

Immersion Blender Mayonnaise
1 large whole Egg
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard (I used Inglehoffer stone ground mustard 'cause it's what I had on hand)
1/2 fresh Lemon
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Oil
Immersion Blender
Wide-mouth Jar (one large enough to accommodate ingredients and Immersion Blender &  that allows for expansion)

Crack the egg into the jar.
Add mustard but do not mix.
Juice 1/2 lemon and add to mix, again, do not mix.
Add salt then oil and as before, do not mix.
Let oil settle then ease in the Immersion Blender.
Start blender and using a slow up-and-down motion, combine ingredients.
It only takes about 1 to 2 minutes to combine all together. 
When it is light and fluffy, take out blender, and there you have it.  Mayo!
If you want to get fancy, you can add garlic or other flavors to the mix.  As always, let your taste and imagination run free!  I think I  also add a bit of fresh ground pepper to the plain mayo for a little kick.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Budget Dinner-Beef & Noodles

I'm always looking for a bargain when I shop the meat counter.  This week I found a good one.  Big beef bones with a ton of meat labeled as 'dog bones'.  I've been know to ask for dog bones to make beef stock but I've never bought them with the intention of making them into actual dinner. 

I always giggle at people who will only eat boneless meat, especially chicken.  They have no idea what they are missing.  Cooking meat on the bone adds a richness to dishes.  Wonder if I could get them to try beef marrow?  Doubt it. 

Winter has decided to make an appearance again this year.  It's cold, wet, and dreary.  It snowed and rained all day.  Great day for a hot, satisfying dish like beef and noodles. 

I apologize.  I didn't think to take photos of the ingredients. 

This is an all-day dish so start early.  It's easy but does take some time. 

Beef & Noodles
Meaty Beef 'dog bones' or Beef Short Ribs (I used approximately 2 pounds of bones)
2 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 package Onion Soup Mix
1 can Beef Gravy
approximately 5 cups Water
1/2 cup Red Wine (if you don't have any just leave it out)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Dried Parsley
2 Bay Leaves
Black Pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Egg Noodles
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) Butter
1 teaspoon Dried Parsley

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or similar-sized pan.  Add bones and brown on all sides.
Sprinkle soup mix over bones then add beef gravy, water, and rest of ingredients and stir.
Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer.
Put lid on pan and let simmer until meat is tender. Make sure to check liquid and if it starts to get too thick before the meat is tender, simply add more water. 
Remove lid and continue to simmer until liquid reduces and becomes thickened.  If it's not thick enough, you can add a bit of cornstarch with water to thicken it.
You can remove the meat from the bones or leave it on. Your choice.
Keep warm.
Prepare egg noodles according to the package.
When done, drain and add butter and parsley and stir until butter is melted.
To serve:  Place a mound of noodles on plate.  Ladle beef and gravy into the middle of the noodles. 
Serve with crusty bread to sop up all that wonderful beefy flavor.  Any green veggie like broccoli or kale goes well, as does a salad. 
If you prefer, you can serve the beef over mashed potatoes, rice, or polenta.  I think it would be very tasty served over farro as well. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Omlette Muffins

Being a working stiff, I am always on the lookout for a quick and tasty breakfast.  As I've said many times before, my go to is eggs.  I've seen omelets muffins making their rounds on the Internet so I figured I'd give them a try.

I ate the first one fresh out of the oven yesterday and it tasted just like an omelet.  I ate one for breakfast this morning, fresh from the microwave, and it was just as good.  My co-workers were drooling and asking me about them.  That's always indicative of a success.

Omelet "Muffins"
Makes 6 to 8 "Muffins"
1-1/4 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Chopped Vegetables & chopped meat (I used onions, celery, tomatoes, red & green peppers, and Canadian bacon)
6 whole large Eggs
2 tablespoon Milk
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried Parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a muffin pan with generously baking spray or line with cupcake liners.
Mix cheddar cheese and assorted vegetables and meat.
Fill each cup 2/3 full with the cheese/veggie mix.
Crack eggs into a bowl. 
Add milk, salt, pepper and parsley and mix thoroughly using a wire whip or fork.
Pour egg mixture into cups, making sure to pour eggs level to the top of the muffin tin.
Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes until golden and puffy.
Let cool completely before you take them out of the pan.

I think next time, I will not use the cupcake liners.  The eggs stuck a bit but it wasn't too bad. 

You can easily multiply this by simply adding 1 egg per muffin cup.  Again, this is one of those recipes that can be easily modified to suit your own tastes.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Easy Huevos Rancheros

I eat a lot of eggs for breakfast.  My go-to is an egg-white omelet filled with a variety of veggies and cheese.  However, sometimes I crave something different.  I wanted something warm and spicy today so I whipped up Huevos Rancheros. 

Traditional Huevos Rancheros consists of fried eggs served on top of fried corn tortillas, covered in a  tomato chili sauce.  WAY too much work and fat for a morning meal in my opinion.  I came up with a much easier way to get the flavor without all the effort.

This recipe is for one serving but it can easily be modified for more.  Just add more sauce and eggs to the pan.  If you want a more filling meal, add a side of refried beans &/or rice. 

Easy Huevos Rancheros for One
1/2 cup Salsa
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 scant teaspoon Sugar
1/8 cup Water
1 large Egg
1/8 cup Cheddar Cheese
2 Corn Tortillas
Cilantro to garnish

Spray a small saucepan with cooking spray or wipe with a small amount of oil.  Combine salsa, cumin, sugar and water and pour into saucepan.  Bring sauce to simmer.
Crack egg and drop into simmering sauce, being careful to keep yolk intact. Cover with lid. 
Check egg and turn off heat when done to your taste.  I like my whites set with a runny yolk. 
Add cheese and cover to allow steam and residual heat to melt cheese.
While cheese is melting, place two corn tortillas on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for approximately 30 seconds.
Using a large spoon, scoop up egg, being careful not to break the yolk and place on tortillas. Spoon sauce around egg.
Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Sandy Spot and Succulents

Even though today has been pretty cool (it's only 39 at the moment), I'm dreaming of warmer weather.  Of course, this means I'm dreaming about my gardens and what I'm going to do this year. 

February is half over so it won't be long until I can start planting.  I have one area that's been in a sort of limbo since we moved here.  It's a flower bed beside the driveway.  Here is what it looked like when we bought the house.
As you can see, it looked pretty sad.  I pulled out all the scraggly flowers and such. 
The rest of the driveway has a Monkey Grass border, so I thought it made sense to continue the theme. This is how it looked when I finished.  Sorry. The picture is a little blurry but you can see it made a huge difference.
Last Summer I tried growing sun-loving herbs in this spot.  I planted rosemary, sage, leeks, lavender, and Thai basil.  The rosemary and sage did okay but never got very big.  The leeks, lavender, and basil didn't do well at all.  The soil is just a bit too sandy to hold water.  What to do?
As I've been looking through garden photos on Pinterest, I came across a brilliant idea.  I am going to plant a succulent garden!
Heat resistant? Check.  Low water needs? Check.  Easy to grow?  Check.  Beautiful?  You betcha!  I was so surprised to see how many beautiful varieties and colors are available. I think I may be able to salvage what, up until now, has been a bit of an eyesore.  The Lady-Across-The-Street will be so happy!
My spot isn't huge so obviously, I'll have to keep it a bit more simple but here are some samples at what I hope to do.  I love the lime green plant in the first pic, the spiky dark plant in the second, and the very colorful pink floral plants in the third.  Throw in a few Hens & Chicks and a couple Prickly Pear cactus (I want to eat them!), and it will make for a beautiful and colorful display.  I hope so anyway.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Strawberries and Cherries for Valentine's Day

OK, I couldn't stand it.  I'm keeping dinner really simple tonight (Stouffer's Lasagna, garlic toast and spinach salad. Hubs faves) so I had to make something tasty and pretty to celebrate. 

I had chocolate and maraschino cherries leftover from my Cherry Bombs and I saw a box of beautiful, red, ripe strawberries at the store this morning so chocolate covered strawberries and cherries it is!  I also spied some wafers in the pantry. 

These are just too easy to make.  Be sure to make the same day you plan to eat them.  They do not store well.
Chocolate Covered Fruit
Maraschino Cherries
Milk Chocolate Candy Coating
White Chocolate Candy Coasting
Assorted decorative sugars,  jimmies, sprinkles, nonpareils, chopped nuts, etc.

Wash strawberries and rinse cherries.  Dry completely.  Be very diligent about getting them as dry as possible, otherwise, the chocolate won't stick & any water will seize the chocolate.
Melt milk chocolate candy coating.  I use my mini Crockpot.  You can also melt it in the microwave.  If you choose the microwave, place chocolate in a microwave-safe container.  Set timer for 30 seconds and stir.  Continue to use 30 second blasts and stirring between until chocolate is completely melted.
Lay out a sheet of foil or parchment paper.

Dip fruit in chocolate, making sure to coat completely.  I use them stems to sort of roll them around and them support them with a candy fork or regular fork and tap gently on the side to let excess chocolate drip off.

Place on foil/parchment to dry.  Continue until all pieces of fruit are covered.

If desired, while the chocolate is still wet, you can sprinkle with sparkle sugar, nonpareils, chopped nuts, or jimmies. I used crushed strawberry Pop Rocks (why not?) and cacao nibs. 
Place in refrigerator until candy coating is set.  They are ready to eat at this point.
As you can see, I didn't use the white chocolate; however, if you want to decorate them with the white chocolate candy coating, following the above directions to melt. 

Take a baggie and snip a tiny hole by cutting a small piece off the corner and then pour the melted white chocolate into the baggie.

Working quickly, zig-zag/drizzle the white chocolate over the hardened milk chocolate.  You can be creative and make designs, initials, whatever you want. 
Refrigerate until serving.