Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Corned Beef, home made style!

And yes, there was CONSIDERABLY more meat than that, J. just put the cabbage on top to cook in our slow cooker!

I looked through a lot of recipes for home-corning beef brisket, and settled on a variation of Sally Fallon's in Nourishing's really a cultured food, like pickles, in her recipe!


First, I needed BASIC WHEY--easy peasy!

1 large carton plain yogurt with active cultures--not Greek yogurt because it's already strained!  
Put several layers of cheesecloth or one clean bandanna or other soft, fine cloth in a strainer, suspend over a bowl, and dump your yogurt in it.  Leave it to drain overnight and voila', basic whey!

(I salt the now-thick yogurt and add garlic or herbs for a spreadable cheese or dip--yummy!)


Now the CORNING:

1 2 or 3 lb. beef brisket--we get grass fed beef from Quarter Ridge Cattle, and it's marvelous--the recipe calls for it to be frozen 14 days and then thawed, I imagine to get rid of any bacteria or bugs?  Fallon doesn't say...but we did it anyway!

1 cup whey
2 C. filtered water
4 T. sea salt
2 T. mustard seed
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced (my addition!  We love garlic...)
6-7 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 t. red pepper flakes

I pretty much doubled everything else because you want the brine to cover the meat...and I needed more.  If you just have a small hunk of brisket, plan accordingly.

Mix seasonings (including salt) and rub onto both sides of the meat.  Mix whey and water and pour over meat (and actually I mixed the seasonings into the liquid, which worked fine.)

Cover and marinate at room temp for about 48 hours, give or take, turning the meat several  times a day to make sure the brine reaches everything.  (Some people do this for considerably longer, 10 days or so, and keep the marinating meat in the refrigerator--that works too.)  I used a heavy enameled iron stock pot which let me get at the meat easily and kept the kitties and any other critters out!

The meat looks a big gray after its bath...not to worry, that's what it's supposed to look like.  As long as it smells good, the liquid isn't ropy, and you've turned it often, it should be great.


Apparently Fallon means for this to be eaten raw, since it's in her raw meat appetizers section, but we opted for the more traditional handling.  (Yeah, no thanks...)  SO, the next morning we discarded almost all the brining liquid, reserving the seasonings, put the meat in our slow cooker, and covered it with water and the herbs and spices.* 

This is the only recipe I found that called for whey, often used in home pickling, but it sounded like a great I did it!

We put the lid on and brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat.  2 hours or so before dinner, J. added the big old wedges of white cabbage you see up top.  When that was tender, we dug in, HAPPILY!

*If you use the larger amount of salt some recipes call for, you need to wash off excess salt, and then even discard the cooking water--happily it was fine without doing that!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Crawfish Bisque--it's soup season!

The Starving Artists Cook Crawfish Bisque!

NOTE: this is from our old LiveJournal version of Starving Artists, too...slowly moving things here!

I love the lobster bisque at Ventana’s Gourmet Grille *...but Ventana’s is closed on Mondays, as I wrote this, and for some reason Thursday is lobster bisque day). (If you’re ever in town, I recommend a visit! )

Anyway, what we had on hand was frozen crawfish meat. Joy of Cooking has a recipe for Crawfish Bisque, but it assumes you start with, well, mudbugs. Crawdads. Crayfish. Crawfish. Whatever! And the recipe reserves some of the critters to stuff for garnish.

I really wanted the taste of lobster or shrimp bisque, so decided to combine, expand, and experiment–as I usually do. (Who actually follows recipes unless you're baking?)  Crawfish is ever so much less expensive than lobster, by the way, unless you live by the sea, and it's very, very tasty!

One thing I learned, though, was that it’s not such a good idea to fill the blender container 2/3 full of hot soup stock and turn it on high without a REALLY good grip on the lid...

Ever see a geyser? Volcano, maybe? Yes, I made “Crawfish Vesuvius”...

This recipe requires doing several different things at once, so my knight rode his white charger into the kitchen at my cry for help and cleaned up the mess on the counter...and under the microwave...and all over the blender...and his 7-day vitamin container...

With a SMILE. Bless the man!

I kept cooking...


Here are the basics!

1 lb. crawfish meat (tails, fresh caught, frozen, etc.) (or shrimp, or lobster) (We found crawfish tail meat at our local grocers and also at the little fish market out by the Missouri River. A buddy gets it at WalMart--it's not hard to find.)
(If you have to prepare your own, shell them and saute lightly with butter and finely chopped onion, then grind.)

1 ½ C. chicken or other soup stock (I had mostly veggie, with a bit of chicken flavor)

1 sweet onion, chopped

3-4 ribs celery and leaves, chopped

2 cloves garlic (the recipes didn’t call for garlic but I know us...)

1 bay leaf

Since this was crawfish, I added a bit of gumbo file herb–I had it on hand! Maybe ½ t.

Freshly ground peppercorns–we like the medley of several different kinds

A little sea salt...we try to cut down, so just a wee tad for us, thanks...

2 C. half and half, warmed

½ C. sour cream (optional. You can just use extra half and half or milk, or yogurt*)

1/4 C. sherry (I didn’t have this, so I used white wine. It was FINE.)

4 T. butter

1/4 C. chopped or grated onion

A goodly sprinkle of paprika, maybe a half teaspoon, more if you like (had smoked on hand, yum...)
Another sprinkle of nutmeg.

OK, so I may have made this a bit more complicated than it needed to with me here!

Chop the onion and celery and put them into the soup stock with a couple of cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, the gumbo file, the pepper. Simmer, covered, for half an hour, then remove the bay leaf and puree in the blender.

A little at a time.
Not on high speed.

Meanwhile, melt the butter (or butter/canola mix, like we use) in a small skillet, and cook the finely chopped or grated onion till soft. Add the crawfish meat and keep stirring till it’s warm.

Warm the half and half, then stir it into the stock, along with the optional sour cream. (I just like sour cream!)

Put half of the crawfish and onion mixture in the blender, with half the warmed half and half, and whir. Carefully. With a tight lid.

Add to the pot of stock you’ve put back on the stove, and repeat with the other half. (You can use a hand grinder if you prefer, or a Cuisinart if you like high tech.)

Now, add the white wine or sherry, about a half teaspoon of paprika, and the nutmeg. Stir, and summer gently for a few more minutes...

Some recipes suggest adding flour or bread crumbs to thicken, but this was plenty thick enough. I think I had more meat than they normally use, and we avoid grains for health reasons.

Seriously good, seriously rich. This is not low-cal eating, here, folks...

We were at Costco last week and looked at their already prepared lobster bisque...and then remembered the taste of this. We weren't even tempted, we'll make our own!


If you really do prefer having a more complete recipe to go buy, this book looks like a good possibility: Fine Kettles of Fish: A Treasury of Seafood Chowders, Bisques, Soups & Stews  It's IN there...

Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 700 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More makes me want to hit the road in search of the perfect bisque...but ya know?  May have found it in our own kitchen!

* The Taste of Missouri site is the brainchild of my good friends and webmasters at it out! If you're in the area, I can recommend the places they've featured. And hey, you'll find my website and blog there, too!

*  As noted you can substitute yogurt for the sour cream--whole milk yogurt is about 160 calories in a CUP, and 2 TABLESPOONS of sour cream is 60 calories--so 480 calories for a cup of sour cream.  More fat, too...and yogurt offers more calcium, so your choice!)


The crawfish in the illustration was done years ago for one of my books--I don't even remember which one, now! It's watercolor on Fabriano cold pressed paper...

Squash Soup! (or in this case, pumpkin...)

The weather gets nippy and we begin to crave soup, soup, and MORE soup. But different.

(NOTE:  this recipe was originally on our LiveJournal version of Starving Artists,  but since we just came into a free post-Halloween pumpkin, I'm making it that way.  clean out, cut up, and steam pumpkin till tender, just like the squash...)

This one is rich and delicious as well as different...I made it with a twist, this time. Chicken! (Yes, more things to do with a roast chicken, though this one was hickory smoked...somehow the thought of that lovely smoky flavor with this particular soup recipe just sounded right!)

As usual, we ate fresh hot chicken as soon as we got home with it–that hickory chicken smell was too tempting!–then J. pulled the meat off the bones for me and I boiled the bones for soup stock...again rescuing about another cup of meat in the process.

Alternatively, we use breakfast sausage, browned, which is luscious! 

This is delicious without meat, too, though, so if you prefer a vegetarian version just leave it out!   The squash itself is wonderfully good for you--check out the info here:

You’ll need:

one large sweet onion
a winter squash (we like butternut squash for this--and of course if you can get organic, all the better)
1-2 cloves of garlic (or the jarred, minced stuff)
5-6 cups of soup stock, preferably home made
1 C. or so of diced chicken, unless you’re skipping meat
Or saute and crumble breakfast sausage--about a lb.
1 T. butter or olive oil (organic, if you can swing it!)
dash of sea salt
a generous grating of fresh pepper

and (optional) about a half bottle of hard cider
dollop of sour cream or plain lowfat yogurt, also optional
dash of hot sauce, optional squared...

Peel and chop the onion into about ½" pieces, and brown lightly in the hot oil–you can use the pot you’re going to cook the soup in, if you like. Add the garlic. Keep stirring while you slice and dice the squash...

It’s not easy to deal with (winter squash has a tough skin, which some of us could use!), so get the longest-necked butternut squash you can fine–the neck has no pith or seeds, just good eating that’s easiest to get at! Cut into rounds and peel, then dice. When you get to the body of the squash, scrape out the pith and seeds, then peel and dice the meat as normal.

(I’ve got a buddy who doesn’t waste a thing–he cleans the seeds, toasts them, and eats them for crunchy nutritious snacks. They’re REALLY good, but there aren’t a whole lot of seeds in a squash. Maybe if we do a pumpkin later...)

(And of course, we can put the leavings in the compost heap--we don't waste all THAT much...)

You can of course use any winter squash you prefer–acorn, turk’s head, whatever...this is just fairly simple, delicious, and almost always available at the store.

So. Dump in the soup stock, cider, and squash, along with the meat, and any seasonings, and simmer till the squash is soft.

Squish up as much of the squash if you can with a potato masher or big spoon (if I’m doing the vegetarian version I just toss it in the blender, but I don’t much care for puree’d meat. Reminds me of baby food...).

Serve with that optional dollop of sour cream or yogurt and an artful swirl of hot sauce and dive in! It will warm you from the inside out...

This is SO good, I made another version of it...we'll share it soon!


Oh my–I wonder if there’s a similar recipe in this book!?

(And sorry, you can't actually look inside unless you hit the text link above--I just couldn't manage a different view of it!)

I love the picture of the pumpkin bowls on the front! (Guess our butternut squash would make pretty small bowls, though...)

I went looking for the soup tureen I remembered, which would be such fun to serve this in–shaped like a big pumpkin–and instead found Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens at Winterthur (Winterthur Book)! WOW. As someone in love with our history and with good food, this is terribly tempting...I still want to go to Winterthur, in Wilmington, Delaware!

Wonder if they have reproduction tureens in their museum store?  (Sorry for the long link, I hope it holds!)

There is EVERYTHING on’s a recipe for organic butternut squash soup from the Hippy Gourmet!

What fun...

And of course I have things there slideshows for artists, mostly, here:


As always, we'd love to hear what you think--going for that Five Chef's Hat rating, y'know...


For the artists out there...the illustration was done on hot press Fabriano watercolor paper, with burnt sienna ink and mostly Kremer Pigments watercolors.  I blotted the wash while still wet to give some definition to the shape of the squash...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Savory Sausage-Stuffed Squash--say THAT 3 times fast!

We've shared a stuffed squash recipe here before, with maple syrup...this is a more savory version and it was GOOD.  (Check the link!)

J. does the maple one, so he turned the savory version over to me--I improvised!

You'll need:

1 acorn squash, preferably organic
2/3 lb. breakfast sausage of your choice (not links, of course!) or make your own from ground pork
2 stalks celery
1/2 sweet yellow onion (Vidalia's good!)
1/2 C. cheese of your choice, cubed; I had provel on hand, but cheddar would rock, too
1/2 C. Greek yogurt or
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste; we use organic Pepperman, a sea salt and variety-of-peppers mix)

(Grated carrots and chopped mushrooms would be a nice addition if you have them)

Cut squash in half and take out seeds and pulp (you can roast these if you wish)
Steam, bake or even (gasp!) microwave squash till tender--I put them in a pan, cut side up, with about an inch of water, put on a lid and steam till done

Meanwhile, saute and separate sausage in a big skillet (I know, I'm lisping again) till brown and set aside to drain and cool.

Dice celery and onion and cook in sausage drippings till transparent and even lightly golden. (You can use oil or butter if you prefer, but the drippings are pre-seasoned and I hate waste.)  Mix with sausage meat in a large bowl. 

Mix in yogurt (or egg, if you prefer) and cheese; if you're going strictly Paleo, use the egg and skip the cheese

Press into squash "bowls" and bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

This is SO good--we finished the leftovers the next morning for breakfast!  (It was great cold, too...)

Hearty, filling autumn fare!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chicken Tagine

I don't remember whether I discovered Moroccan food on the Mark's Daily Apple site after we got into Paleo/Primal lifestyle, or when we went to the Marrakech Cafe in Kansas City, but at any rate, I'm hooked!  (Marrakech is currently closed, looking for a new location, or I would have included a link!)

At this time of year with fall in the air, these rich, spicy dishes taste especially good.  So here's MY take on:


3-4 organic or cage-free chicken breasts, cut into chunks
4-5 carrots
1 1/2 sweet yellow onion
1 sweet potato
2-3 garlic cloves
1 C. dried apricots, quartered
1/2 C. raisins, more or less

Make more if you like, these are just guidelines!

Marinade/Cooking Spices

1/2 C. olive oil  (light or EVOO, your choice.)
1 t. ground cinnamon (yes, cinnamon!)
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. garlic powder

1 t. coarse ground black pepper
1 t. sea salt
1 T. ketchup or tomato sauce, optional
sprinkle of cayenne, optional

Again, you'll want to tweak the spices to your own taste, I do.

An hour or two before cooking (or earlier in the day if you're more organized!), mix oil and spices in a big bowl and stir in chicken chunks.  Leave them alone together to get acquainted.  (And no, most recipes don't seem to call for marinating this way.  No idea why...)

Cut carrots in rounds, onions in chunks, sweet potato in squares.  Slice garlic cloves or use your garlic press.

Put another splash of olive oil in a heavy pan and heat.  I usually start the carrots first, because J. likes them very well done, then add the onions, sweet potatoes, and garlic.  Saute till soft; a wee bit browned is good.

Add extra spices if you like...I put more cumin and pepper in the veggies, plus a sprinkle of cayenne.  I added a tiny bit of water and about a T. of ketchup or tomato sauce for moisture, and put the lid on.

When the vegetables are almost done, heat a heavy skillet and brown the chicken chunks in their own this point the smell is delightful!  It took two skillets-full to brown all the chicken...don't get them overdone, just lightly browned--breasts can get really dry.  Ick.

Dump the chicken in with the vegetables along with any leftover marinade, and give them another 10 minutes or so to finish cooking the chicken through.  Again, not TOO long.  Dry chicken, bleh.

You can cook this dish in a traditional Moroccan tagine, which is both the name of the dish and the cooking vessel, but mine is too small...alas!  Tagine--the vessel--is a flat plate-like bowl with a cone-shaped lid, made of pottery.  Very cool...but mine would make enough for one.

Serve as is, over rice or couscous if you're NOT going Primal, and maybe with a side dish of Moroccan cabbage, carrot strings and onions...though I decided enough was enough, tonight!

Granted, this is a pretty starch-and-sweet-heavy dish, so we don't have it too often, but what a TREAT on a chilly, gray evening.

Moroccan Vegetables

If you DO want the Moroccan vegetables, season with the same cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, salt and black pepper; saute them lightly in sesame oil, then put the lid on till tender...delicious! 

Be wildly traditional, serve with sweet mint tea like they do at Marrakech...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Garlic Dill Pickles--the Old-Fashioned Way!

You're right, this IS an old painting done years ago when I pickled with vinegar!  My computer with all my images is in the shop...
I've been experimenting with pickling and brining and fermenting, as mentioned in this post, and last week our good buddy R.E.--he of the gorgeous organic garden--brought us 6 gigantic cucumbers of a new variety that gets huge but not bitter or tough.

Faced with THAT much bounty, all we could do was pickle!  I made a fresh cucumber, onion, and tomato salad in apple cider vinegar and Joseph made his famous sweet relish the usual way with sugar, vinegar, spices and all, but I couldn't resist brining some garlic dills to see how they turned out...and did they ever!

I love the idea of brining or fermenting need for steamy hot kitchens that way, and I love the free probiotics!  So I checked in all my books and ended up using the basics from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods.

First, I got out my basic brine I keep on hand for those delicious krauts--


6 T. fine grain sea salt (or 9 of coarse grain)
8 C. water

Combine and stir still dissolved.  Tough, isn't it?  Some recipes call for heating the water and then letting it cool, but that seems a bit...silly.  If you know of a pressing reason for doing it that way, let me know!



This is a bit loose for an actual recipe, since it depends on how many pickles you have. 

These cucumbers were WAY too big to use'd practically need a 55 gallon drum!  So I sliced some into rounds and cut some into spears long enough to fit into a wide mouth pint jar, leaving an inch of headroom. I figured on filling 5 wide-mouth pint jars, so I just kept slicing till I had enough.

Some people suggest submerging the pickles in ice cold water for half an hour, unless they're fresh-picked.  I skipped that step...

I'd previously pickled some garlic, so I put 2 cloves into each jar and a couple of sprigs of fresh dill.  If you want, you can use 1 tsp. of dill seed instead.

SO.  Pack your pickles, garlic cloves, dill, etc. into the jars, cover with brine, leaving about an inch of headroom, and weigh  the vegetables down so they stay below the level of the brine.  You can use a smaller jar lid, a very clean round stone, or commercial fermenting weights, but do keep checking every day to make sure the vegetables are well covered.

Cover with a lid and let nature take its course--3-7 days depending on your weather (things ferment faster in warmer weather.) I "burped" mine by removing the lid once a day and to check their progress.  Then transfer to the fridge and enjoy!

* NOTE: To keep my pickles crisp, I put one clean oak leaf in the bottom of each jar!  Yep, you can use oak, grape, raspberry, or even black tea--it's the tannin that does the job.

** NOTE #2:  Sometimes home-brined veggies can develop a thin, whitish skim on top of the brine...that's kahm yeast and it doesn't hurt a thing (unless you're allergic to yeast.)  Skim it off before storing, though, because eventually it can affect the flavor.  If the brine gets slimy or ropy, toss it--but that's unlikely!

We had ours with Joseph's delicious organic-beef burgers last night...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Garlic Gorgonzola Dressing

This recipe is my best attempt at “reverse engineering” a recipe used by a Virginia restaurateur who I knew only as Ben.  He used to run Ben & Mary’s Steak House in Warrenton, VA. He sold that place and bought Dean’s Steak House in Front Royal, VA.  Based on recent reviews of Dean’s I gather he’s either retired, passed away, or otherwise moved on from there as well since it sounds like it’s gone downhill.  He had an interesting innovation in that he did not add the cheese directly to the dressing.  Instead, he’d pour what was essentially a garlic dressing over the salad and added crumbled Gorgonzola on top of that: a nice presentation, as they say in the chef biz.

I once asked him for his recipe – I promised that I would never share it – but  he very politely refused. Fine, Ben: if you won’t share yours, I’m happy to share mine

¾ C mayonnaise
½ C sour cream
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, pressed
1 T parsley
1 T apple cider vinegar
½ T lemon juice
¼ t sea salt
4 or 5 oz package Gorgonzola crumbles

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly with a whisk except the cheese.  Gently fold in the cheese and store in the fridge for at least an hour before using. It tends to get thicker the longer it's kept, and it becomes the consistency of a dip after a day or so. If you prefer it pourable, it can be thinned with buttermilk.

I prefer Gorgonzola over regular bleu cheese (which I find rather harsh), but only because it’s available locally and is a bit less expensive. The absolute best bleu cheese for salad dressing is Roquefort. That requires a trip into KC and costs about $25-30/lb but it is absolutely exquisite. For some reason, unlike the Gorgonzola, when used in this recipe it tends to get thinner the longer its kept rather than thicker.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We've been fermenting vegetables at home!

These are incredibly healthful, full of vitamins, minerals and probiotics...but MOST important is the fact that they're delicious.  I experimented this time  and used red and white pink!

Tsukemono (Japanese kraut) 

1 med. head of cabbage, shredded (I used red AND white this time for a pretty magenta!)
1 bunch green onions (or sweet onions, or I used garlic chives this time...)
2 T. fermented wheat-free organic Tamari sauce instead of soy sauce, and this time I used coconut aminos, which seemed to give it that smoky flavor...)
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 T. sea salt
1/4 c. basic whey (I strain plain yogurt, which makes more whey than Greek, which is already strained. This time I added a little of the juice from a jar of Bubbies kraut too, since I didn't quite have a quarter cup of whey...)

Combine everything in a large bowl, cover and let sit for 30 minutes...halfway through, pound with a wooden mallet, knead, or otherwise make sure it's getting juicy.

Transfer to a large mouth Qt. jar, press down to make sure liquid covers, leaving 1" space at the top. Cover tightly with lid or airlock. (As noted, you can use a large cabbage leaf tucked in to hold everything down. Gonna try that next time!)

Leave at room temp 3-7 days, in the first day or two open the jar and keep pressing down firmly to make sure liquid covers it, then transfer to cool storage. YUM.

You can add bits of carrot or beets, if you wish, too...really good!

Oh yeah...the jar WAS full, but I've been...checking it, yeah, that's the ticket!  Checking...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Semi-Paleo Chicken Asparagus Roll-Ups

Chicken, asparagus, cheese & a lemony crust – what’s not to love? I adapted this from Monica’s recipe on I switched from a Panko flake coating to one of Parmesan cheese with a little shredded Parmesan/Romano/Asiago (which I call PRA cheese), but if you want to be pure Paleo, eliminate the cheeses and make your own mayo from olive oil. 

Since this was kind of spur-of-the-moment, I cut the recipe in half and baked it in our convection toaster oven.


1/2 c mayonnaise
3 T Dijon mustard
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 t dried tarragon
1 t ground black pepper
½ t salt

24 spears fresh, young (thin) asparagus
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 slices provolone cheese

½ c grated Parmesan cheese
2 T shredded PRA cheese


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. (The original recipe said 475 but our toaster oven doesn’t go that high.)

Mix together the first six ingredients and set aside.

Place a chicken breast between two sheets of wax paper on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound the chicken breast with the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. (Note: I’ve never been able to get them down to ¼ inch – the best I seem to be able to do is about ½ inch but that seems to be thin enough.) Repeat with the rest of the chicken breasts.

Remove lower stems from asparagus (this is done by bending the stalk until it finds its own natural breaking point) and discard. Cook the tops in the microwave on high until just tender, about 1 minute.

Place a slice of Provolone on each chicken breast, and top the cheese with 6 asparagus spears per breast. (Note: I didn’t have Provolone so I used Provel – a sort of pizza cheese – and it worked out well.) Roll the chicken breasts around the asparagus and cheese, and place seam sides down in a greased baking dish. With a pastry brush, apply a generous coating of the mayonnaise mixture to each chicken breast, and sprinkle each with the Parmesan and PRA cheeses.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is browned and the chicken juices run clear, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Minestrone! Who Knew?!

A recipe from our old Starving Artists on Live Journal--from 2010!  It sounds good, even though it is more a wintry soup.

We’ve been cleaning house and digging through the mess that’s our storage room, allowing me to FINALLY get at my old bookcase. It’s been with me since I lived on our farm–as well as most of the books in it. What fun! Like meeting up with old friends...

I was delighted to find not only the original 1954 compilation of my favorite cooking author of all time, M.F.K. Fisher (The Art of Eating, now out in a 50th Anniversary edition) but the original 1942 war-years How to Cook a Wolf. I LOVED that book when I first discovered it in the 70's. (And hang in there, I'll be mentioning it more in coming articles!)

Fisher writes with humor, courage, and common sense, and not a trace of self-pity for hard times and making do. (Both books are in better condition than many new books, and just as timely.)

What to do when the wolf’s at the door? (A feeling some of us know rather well, at times...)

COOK IT, of course!

So what does that have to do with minestrone? It’s a hearty peasant soup, and inexpensive to make, but I always thought I didn’t care for that particular dish. I’ve tried it in numerous places, and my response was generally a resounding "MEH."

Her recipe DID sound good, though, and I had most of the ingredients on hand, since it just calls for bits of this and that...and it was a gray, cold winter day just begging for a hot bowl of soup...

She says you can add beans (white or navy-style) OR NOT, and add pasta OR NOT, so since the minestrones I’ve tried always had both, I decided to give the OR NOT recipe a shot.

Oh. My.


I’d just made a stir-fry, and had scraps of outer cabbage leaves, onion, carrot, celery tops and more left...rather than waste it, I started a soup stock. We had about a cup of organic tomato/squash soup left in the fridge, so I threw that in, a spoonful of the Beef Base I’ve talked about here before.

Sooooooooo...we had a head start. When I drained out the vegetables, the resulting stock was already pretty luscious. That was the deciding factor–minestrone it was!

And here it is...tweaked to my own kitchen, of course:

The Basics

½ lb. good bacon (we use nitrite and nitrate-free stuff) or a piece of salt pork diced or leftover fat ham.
1 small onion or ½ large one, chopped
1 stalk chopped celery
2 C. Tomatoes, diced (OR 1 can of those gorgeous all-natural fire-roasted diced tomatoes)
1 handful chopped parsley, if fresh or 1 T. Dried
1 t. oregano
1 t. sweet basil
or a nice shake of Tuscan Sunset, from Penzey’s Spices, yum, or your favorite Italian herb mixture
(I had some of our homegrown parsley to throw in--I'd chopped and frozen it last fall...)


Sauté the meat to render out a bit of fat; crumble bacon and set aside, and put the vegetables in the meat fat to glaze and soften.

Add the tomatoes and their juice to a big saucepan or stockpot, and add the vegetables and crumbled bacon/salt pork/ham.

Fisher says to stir in 2-3 quarts of water, but if you’ve got a good soup stock, as I did, add that instead. I added a can of all natural beef stock, too. Simmer, while you:

Put the below veggies through a vegetable grinder, Cuisinart, or just chop them with a sharp knife, which is what I did. I’m not big on noise, and I like to sit and chop...

1 more big onion (or two, we like onion, too!)
1 potato, skins and all, or a couple of small, tender young red ones, which I did
1-2 cloves garlic (Of COURSE I used 2. Big ones!)
½ small cabbage
3 carrots, if you like them–I do, J doesn’t, much, so I just used the half cup of chopped ones we had on hand
2-3 more stalks of celery

handful of spinach, if you have it
handful of green beans, ditto

(I had neither, so I didn’t add them...)

(And no, I don't know why this is in two stages...Fisher said to do it, so I did!)

She didn’t say to do this, but since I had the skillet handy, I sautéd the rest of the veggies before adding them to the soup pot...seemed to make them richer tasting. A nut-sized chunk of butter (I always wanted to say that! NOT a peanut. More an English walnut in the shell...) added to the pan gave me enough fat to fry them in, too.

Er, “sauté’” Forget I said fry...just lightly browned and softened...

I popped them in the pot and let it simmer 45 minutes or so, with a salt needed, actually, but I added a quick grinding of sea salt to my bowl...

If you’ve got other leftover veggies, throw them in too...I think almost anything but parsnips (which I love but might be a little too sweet) would work, here...leftover squash? Sure. Bell peppers? Why not. I had three little limp green onions left from our enchiladas the other night–I cut them into rounds and into the pot they went!

When the soup was done we ladled into gorgeous handmade bowls we got for Christmas, made by Jeff Walker, a local potter . (If you’re in the neighborhood, you can find it in Excelsior Springs, MO, at Willow Springs Mercantile, because I didn’t do it justice, it was full of soup!)

We topped it with a small handful–er, all right, a generous handful–of leftover pizza cheese and the grated Asiago, Parmesan, Romano mixture we love, and let it melt.  Nothing else was necessary, though you might like a small salad...

Thank you, M.F.K. Fisher! I didn’t exactly use her recipe, but I learned that Minestrone can be REALLY GOOD.


The painting is watercolor on Fabriano soft press watercolor paper, with just a touch of ink here and there...I got  to use the gorgeous new brushes recommended by my dear friend Laura Frankstone in this post: I am SO pleased with them! As she says, they hold lots of paint and have killer points...they just DANCE!

**You can find more on these brushes, as well as M.F.K. Fisher's lovely The Art of Eating, in my Amazon store, here: --and yes, I do earn a tiny commission on anything you buy from my store or anything else you choose while you're there!  I ONLY put things in my store that I personally own or love, nobody sends me things to review or other freebies, so you know I'm honest about it!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Herb Encrusted Rib-Eye

First of all, get good meat.  We get ours from Whole Foods but what you don’t want is the feed lot raised stuff.  You’ll need two rib-eye steaks, about two inches thick (1-1 ½ pounds each). Yes, the picture is of a roast: this recipe will also work very well with small (3-5 lb) roasts or prime rib. Kate's sketch is of a beautiful Christmas roast from a couple of years ago.

2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, minced
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T lemon juice
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T Worcestershire sauce (Note: I now use Pickapeppa sauce to avoid high fructose corn syrup.)

Herb Mixture:
2 T Herbs de Provence
1 T parsley flakes
1 tsp dried minced garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon pepper


Insert a meat thermometer into each steak – this helps with handling as well as allowing you to determine when they’re done.  Combine the glaze ingredients and pour over steaks, being sure to cover them thoroughly.  Combine the herb mixture and sprinkle heavily over each steak, ensuring they are completely covered.  Place steaks on a rack in an ungreased roasting pan and bake uncovered at 325° for about 45-50 minutes or until meat reaches desired doneness.  Remove to a warm serving platter. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serves four.


1.  The herb mixture can be prepared in larger quantities and stored in a glass jar.

2.  The glaze can also be prepared ahead and refrigerated – just be sure to return it to room temperature before using.

3.  I cook these in our little convection toaster oven that has a tray that sits below the rack.  Rather than remove them to a serving platter I simply turn the oven off to let them rest.  This works just fine and also keeps the cats away from them.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Joseph’s take on Ratatouille!

I introduced J. to this lovely dish a couple of years ago, but he’s really taken off with it. I like his better than mine, now...sooo nice to smell that aroma wafting in from the kitchen as I type!

After my first husband passed away, I missed cooking for someone besides myself–so I arranged to go one day a week to my friend Patti’s after she got home from work, and one day to my cousin Keith’s family to keep my hand in! Ratatouille was always a big hit, and among the most-requested entrees. I’ve even cooked it for a dinner party at Jim and Ginger Nelson’s, who own Olde English Garden Shoppe. That’s where I show my art, and they carry some fantastic goodies, including Lemon Curd with their own label (but imported from Jolly Old England!)–drop by (though I won’t promise ratatouille there at the shop...)

This dish always made a hit–it’s hearty peasant fare with a slightly sophisticated air. The word is Occitan, apparently–that’s a language spoken in Southern France, the Occitan Valleys of Italy, Monaco and in the Aran Valley of Spain, according to Wikipedia–but also from the French touiller–“to toss food.”

Soooo–FOOD FIGHT, anyone?!?! ;=)

More from Wiki here:

I used to serve this over rice, or by dipping a chunk of bread into the broth, but mostly do without grains these days to avoid carbs that don’t come with much nutritional value. You need feel no such compunction, of course! (Home made bread. Crusty. Soaked in this luscious broth...ohhhhhh....)

*Ahem.*’s J’s delicious version, with my notes..

The chef's in the kitchen, starting the ratatouille!

1. 2 lbs sweet Italian sausage

Into the soup pot, once browned!

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 pkg “Stop Light” peppers – one red, one yellow, one green, chopped (If you’re looking to save money, three greens will just work fine.) Kate’s note: but it’s not as pretty...
1 small eggplant, chopped

2 summer squash (yellow or zukes or both), chopped

J. cutting the eggplant into bite-size chunks

Extra virgin olive oil

Spices to taste – garlic, basil, oregano, fennel
Note: as each item is browned, it is added to a large pot on low heat on the back burner. To brown this much you either need a BIG skillet (ours is an antique made of pressed steel, 13” in diameter) or you can do it in smaller batches and then dump it all together to finish cooking. (Otherwise it just sort of steams...)

Brown cut-up sausage in oil.

Brown onion and peppers in oil and grease from sausage. Add the herbs and spices. We almost never measure these – just whatever looks and smells right.

Brown eggplant – you will need to add more oil as eggplant is very thirsty. When eggplant is almost done, add the summer squash and brown them both together.

Everything should now be put in the large pot which you will leave on low heat for at least a couple of hours prior to serving.

Go ahead, taste it! You KNOW you want to...

It can be served as-is, though I may add a little good pasta sauce (Victoria Organic Tomato & Basil* is my favorite, though we can’t seem to find it locally–look around, it’s worth it!) and some Parmesan/Romano/Asiago cheese.

Kate’s Note #1: By the way, the traditional version says tomatoes are *mandatory.* Ooops. I don’t put ‘em in when I make it...anyway, it’s hard to saute ripe tomatoes.

Kate’s Note #2: The French chef often uses Herbes de Provence for this, a delightful mixture that usually involves rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and sometimes lavender flowers and other herbs, with the thyme flavor usually dominant. (According to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia at, some cooks maintain that lavender is an essential ingredient of true herbes de provence.) But since the mixture sold by this name didn’t come into existence till the 1970s, I’d say use what you like and call it what you want. I guess “Herbes a lá Joseph” works here!

Kate’s Note #3: If you can stand NOT to eat this the same day, it gets even better overnight, as the flavors “marry.” You can also remove most of the fat, which rises to the top when cold. (There will be a lot less fat, of course, if you’ve opted for turkey instead of pork sausage.)

If you’re wondering what the heck Vidalia onions are (J. just said “EVERYBODY knows what Vidalia onions are!” What an optimist...) you can check out their official site, at

Here’s a bit of history from their site: “Did you know the discovery of our now-famous sweet onions was actually a fluke? Farmers in the 1930s were disappointed with results from traditional row crops like cotton and tobacco. Looking for a new “cash cow,” they planted onions. Imagine their surprise when the fledgling crop turned out sweet instead of hot like regular onions!

In the early 1940s, the State of Georgia built a farmers’ market in Vidalia. It was located at the junction of many of the state’s most bustling roads, and word soon spread of an amazingly different onion, repeatedly described as “those sweet onions from Vidalia."

(Hey, I can still remember when you could ONLY get them for a brief period during the year, and they had to actually come from Vidalia, Georgia. Life is good, I can get them here in Missouri, almost any time...)

* The organic tomato sauce we love can be found here, if your grocer doesn’t carry it–ours doesn’t!
Victoria Organic Tomato Basil Sauce


For you artists out there--the illustration was done with ink and watercolor (sepia ink on the veggies, black on the wire basket), one of my favorite combinations--so much so that I did a CD on the technique, and started a Flickr group pool for artists with similar interests. You can visit us here, and see art from all over the world!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

KC Strip Oscar

As part of our mostly-Primal lifestyle (hey, nobody's perfect!), I’m subscribed to “It’s Paleo” which, among other things sends me a daily Paleo-inspired recipe. One of these was a recipe for Ribeye a la Oscar, which, instead of Hollandaise, called for Sriracha-enhanced sour cream. Primal/Paleo is supposed to be completely without dairy, and granted Hollandaise has butter which is also dairy, but there’s a lot less of it.

Anyway, I decided that one thing this recipe did have right is a bigger piece of meat than the little (albeit tasty) filet Mignon which is called for in the original Filet Oscar recipe. I opted for KC strips. So here’s my first attempt at KC Strip Oscar.

And yes, given the size of the steaks, we had leftovers.

KC Strip Oscar

KC Strip Oscar
Makes 2 servings

2 KC strip steaks, room temperature marinated in a little olive oil & garlic
1 bunch asparagus
1/2 pound lump crab meat
Hollandaise sauce (see separate recipe below)

Trim the asparagus by bending in half until it breaks and discard the lower half.

Boil asparagus in salted water, 2 minutes for al dente, longer if you like it softer, which we do.

Make the Hollandaise and set aside someplace warm. (I just turn off the heat, add a little cold water to the lower pan to reduce the heat further, and cover.)

Grill the steaks to desired doneness. For us, this takes almost no time at all, we like our meat that rare.

Turn your broiler on high. (I use a toaster oven.)

Place each steak on its serving plate, top with four asparagus spears followed by the lump crab meat.

Pour half of the Hollandaise on top of each steak.

Place in the top shelf of the broiler. Do not close the oven, and watch them closely. Remove as soon as the Hollandaise begins to just bubble. Needless to say, the plates will be hot.

Makes 2 servings

2 egg yolks
1 T lemon juice
Dash of salt
Dash of hot sauce (I like Cholula)
4 T butter

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat – do not let it boil.

Whisk the egg yolks, lemon juice and salt in the top pan of a double boiler while bringing water to a boil in the lower pan.

Lower the heat to low and let the boiling subside somewhat. Place the upper pan over the boiling water and whisk the mixture rapidly and continually, being careful not to actually cook the eggs. As you can see from the picture, I started off with just a bit too much heat so the sauce got a bit granular. Still tasted good though. Julia Child has a recipe for Hollandaise made in a blender. I may give that a try next time.

Once the yolks begin to thicken, SLOWLY add the melted butter. This should take a couple of minutes: too fast and the sauce won't thicken. Once all the butter is added, add the dash of hot sauce and remove from heat.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Portobello Pizza

Since going Paleo and eliminating grains from our diet, one of the things I missed most was pizza. OK, dairy isn't strictly Paleo, but it's borderline acceptable, and everything else on it is good.


As many large Portobello mushrooms as you would like pizzas with stems & gills removed. I usually figure on two per person. Choose large, deep mushrooms that will hold more stuff.

Sauce – I use Bertolli Organic Olive Oil, Basil, & Garlic. There’s always a lot left over from a new jar, but there are lots of uses for this stuff.

Your favorite pizza toppings – shredded mozzarella, chopped pepperoni, olives, onions, peppers, whatever. If you want to use sausage (which I did in the picture) you should pre-cook it or you will have possibly undercooked pork and definitely way too much grease dripping off your pizza. I don’t measure the ingredients, just kinda eyeball the mushrooms I have and make enough topping mix to fill them. If you make a bit too much, it goes well on a salad and should keep in the fridge for a few days.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

To make:

Mix together the toppings in a mixing bowl. Add a little olive oil to give them a bit of cohesion.

Line the mushroom caps with sauce and pile on the ingredients as high as they’ll go and still hold together. As the cheese melts they will shrink down.

Bake on a rack at 350 for about fifteen minutes – the cheese should be melted and slightly browned, and the mushrooms should be tender. We have a toaster oven with a pan that goes beneath the rack to catch any drippings and it works very well, but a rack inside a baking pan will do if you’re using a standard oven. If you don’t have a rack these can be done in a baking pan, but you might want to bake the mushrooms by themselves for a few minutes to dry them out before stuffing them.

Here's the result, less one bite which I took before remembering that I really should take a picture if I'm going to post this!

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