A Real Bargain!

Do you bake?  Well I do. ALOT. If you own a B&B you are constantly refilling the cookie jar.  As a result I have invested in heavy-duty cooking sheets and, up until recently, quality parchment paper.  Clean up is a snap and the parchment paper eliminated the need for using cooking spay on the sheet pans.

Several years ago I invested in a Silpat silicon baking sheet.  It was great but at $25 a pop I wasn’t inclined to purchase one for each of my sheet pans.

Then recently I learned about Amazon Basics.  Amazon Basics started in 2009 with tech goods but it has expanded beyond that.  Amazon watches what people are buying and comes up with its own version – usually cheaper.   And guess what they have available – yep, Amazon Basics Silicon baking sheets.  And the cost? Two for $12.95!  Two for the price of one!!! And if you are a Prime member shipping is free. I’d share the link but unfortunately it references my order.  Just Google Amazon Basics and look in the kitchen section.

I’ve had mine since the first of May so to be fair they only been in use for 6 weeks.  But so far they are performing as well as my Silpat.  I purchased two sets so I can bake four dozen cookies without having to wait for cookie sheets to cool.

Saving money and saving time – that’s my idea of winning all the way around!

And I’ll update this blog after Christmas when it is not unusual for me to make 40 dozen cookies!

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A New Sous Vide Keeper

It’s been almost six months since I got my hands on my SanSaire immersion cooker and, like most of my new toys, it has seen a lot of dinner prep action.  Two weeks ago I tried a new recipe and really loved it but didn’t take pictures.  In fact, we loved it so much I decided to make it again last night – this time with pictures.

This is another take on the ubiquitous stuffed chicken breast.  Only difference is this one is juicy, tender and  altogether delicious!

Chicken Breasts with Red Pepper and Mozzarella    Serves 2

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – about 5 oz each (note: if all you can find are the REALLY big chicken breasts I have cut them in half horizontally and it works)
  • 1/2 tbl. capers – rinsed and drained
  • 3 oz roasted red pepper

    Stuffed Chicken Breast Ingredients

    Stuffed Chicken Breast Ingredients

  • 4 slices Genoa salami
  • 2 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1 tbl. torn basil leaves
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 2 tbl white wine
  • 1 tbl butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set up your sous vide (immersion cooker) in the pot and preheat the water to 149 degrees F.  While the water is preheating, roast a red pepper over an open flame until it is lightly charred.  Place in a bowl then place the bowl inside a plastic bag and let rest for about 10 minutes.  This will facilitate the removal of the pepper skin.  Remove the pepper from the bowl and, using a spoon, scrape the charred skin from the pepper.  Cut the pepper into wide ( about 2 inch) slices and set aside. If you prefer, you could use purchased roasted red pepper and eliminate this step.  We enjoy the taste of freshly roasted pepper so I don’t mind the extra step.

Tear the basil into bite size pieces and set aside.  Slice the fresh mozzarella and set aside.

Laying the chicken breast flat on a cutting surface, slice through the breasts horizontal to the cutting surface.  DO NOT slice all the way through. You want to butterfly the chicken breast.

Next, layer one half the ingredients on to one side of the butterflied breast.  I start with the salami.then the mozzarella and finally the pepper, capers and basil,

Stuffed breast ready to be closed and placed in the cooking bag.

Stuffed breast ready to be closed and placed in the cooking bag.

Close the breast and press together.  Rub outside of breast with a few drops of olive oil and place them in individual bags.  Lower the bags into the water to remove all the air. Cook the submerged bags for two hours.

About 15 minutes before the chicken is done I use my mandolin to turn a zucchini into imitation pasta.  I slice up some garlic to go with the zucchini.  Just before I remove the chicken from the water bath I heat a bit of olive oil in a sauté pan, and, over low heat, gently  fry the garlic until it begins to toast.  I add the zucchini and cook until heated through.  While it is cooking I am preheating my cast iron pan until it is smoking hot.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the bags and pat it dry.  Be very careful to preserve the liquid in the bags. Add the 1 tbl olive oil to the preheating pan and as soon as it is hot, add the chicken breasts.  Sear on both sides until golden – about 30 seconds per side.  Remove the chicken to a warm plate, cover and set aside.  Using the white wine and reserved cooking fluids, deglaze the pan scrapping up any brown bits.  Cook sauce until slightly reduced.  Add the butter and swirl until the butter melts and is incorporated into the sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate the chicken and spoon some of the sauce over the top.   Trust me – you won’t even miss the pasta!

Stuffed chicken and zucchini.

Stuffed chicken and zucchini.

Posted in appliances, Chicken, Cooking, Father's Day, Food, Italian, meat, pasta, Recipes, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, sides, Sous Vide, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Man Winter is Making a Comeback

For the last several weeks the weather here at the inn has been a beautiful – in the eighties, a bit warm for April – very little rain and not too much wind, which is a plus for us this time of the year.  The hummingbirds have started arriving, the trees are all leafed out and our apple trees have budded.

And while that little voice in my head kept reminding me it is not safe to plant here until Mother’s Day, I ignored it and got busy in the garden.  I didn’t go crazy, I planted a few bulbs, filled a couple of pots with geraniums and put an Easter Lily in the ground.

I should have listened to that little voice.  I just checked the weather service and learned that  we have a weather warning “A significant late season winter storm will hit Northern and Central New Mexico Friday through Sunday.”  In addition to the significantly colder weather we can expect “rain, thunderstorms, snow and high winds during the period.” And yes, there was mention of a possible hard freeze.

Because we are in the Valley we may see more rain than snow. But if there is a hard freeze it will find us.

Last week I considered calling my HVAC guy to come and turn off the furnace and turn on the coolers.  But another little voice told me to wait.  THAT one I listened to. It’s a good thing I did!  The trip to the Farmers Market Sunday morning may be a bit brisk!

Posted in Bed and Breakfast, Farmers Markets, Gardening, Innkeeping, New Mexico, Southwestern Gardening, Southwestern States | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Recipe That Started It All

I have always loved to cook.  Even as a young girl I would be in the kitchen mixing up some jelly filled muffins to give to my parents as breakfast in bed (my Dad hated them – I was just way ahead of my time!)  During my mom’s VERY short stint as a sales person at Sears I was responsible for making sure I got dinner started after school.  The scalloped potatoes dinner has gone down in family history as the reason for my Mom’s short stint in retail.  To this day I cannot stand scalloped potatoes!

After I married I tried mixing some new dishes into the old standbys.  For the most part this was successful, tho my experience with Quiché Lorraine was a flop that lives on.  Word to the wise – never make a Quiché Lorraine with processed cheese and cheap bacon.  My only defense is that we were newlyweds and poor!

Then once we had kids the ‘new’ dishes included such things as fondue and crepes.  Most of the time there were a success – tho why my son thought we wouldn’t see broccoli in his milk glass still baffles me! And this from a kid who was a veteran eater of cold octopus salad by the time he was in second grade!

Around the mid 80’s our kids were a little older and I decided to get a bit more serious about my cooking.  So I subscribed to Cuisine magazine.  Anyone remember this magazine?  It was ultimately bought out by Gourmet.  The very first issue I received was April, 1984.  The issue had a section devoted to recipes using fresh asparagus.  One looked particularly good, Stir Fried Asparagus and Scallops.  Stir frying was not new in our family. George already had used his knowledge of Chinese cooking gleaned from the dad of his best friend in high school to prepare some fantastic stir fried meals.  We decided to try it out.

So here we are, 33 years later, and the recipe came to mind again.  Fortunately, the fish department at my grocery store had sea scallops – not always the case – and the asparagus had been abundant for several weeks.  So tonight we go back to the old days.  I can’t wait! And a crucial point about this recipe – you must have everything ready to go next to the stove when you begin.  This recipe comes together so fast that you don’t have time to prep between additions to the pan.

Stir-Fried Asparagus and Scallops    For 2

Ingredients for Scallops and Asparagus

  • 4 oz shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 tbl soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbl. peanut oil
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped pared ginger
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops – about 1 inch in diameter
  • 1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends removed and sliced diagonally into 1 inch pieces
  • 6  radishes, rinsed, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • sea salt

Cut mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices.  Combine the mushrooms, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact.  Add the peanut oil and heat until a bit of ginger sizzles when dropped into the oil.  Add the ginger and the garlic and stir fry 10 seconds, add the scallops and stir fry 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and stir fry until crisp-tender – about 2 minutes.  Add the radishes and stir fry two minutes.  Add the mushroom mixture and stir fry for about 30 seconds.  Add the sesame oil and toss to distribute.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Serve immediately.

The completed dish finished with a sprinkling of sea salt.

The completed dish finished with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Who says you can’t go back in time!

Posted in Asian Food, Cooking, Family, fish, Food, Meatless Meals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Day After

Another Easter has come and gone. The eggs dyed and eaten, the baskets filled with candy and left by the Easter Bunny on the credenza and the Lamb Cake  baked, decorated and  ready to be devoured.

Finished Lamb Cake

Finished Lamb Cake

I have made the same lamb cake for 45 years – one year I made a bunny cake instead.  Over the years I have perfected the operation.  Using a pound cake recipe instead of a yellow cake recipe was the first major breakthrough.  The denser cake kept the head from falling off.  A tragic event – especially if it happens in front of a small child!  Then about 13 years ago I came across a commercial bakery lamb mold at an estate sale, of all places.  Prior to this I had used the mold that belonged to my grandmother.  Made of thinner aluminum it did the job but I always worried about the cake releasing from the mold – especially the ears.  It was not uncommon for the ears to be reattached with toothpicks.  Covered with frosting no one was the wiser.  Since I began using the commercial mold the ears seem to release much more cleanly and still attached to the head!

The batter recipe makes more cake than the mold can hold so the rest of the batter goes into a mini loaf pan.  It bakes  alongside the mold.  This cake has become my B and B guest cake.  After it cools I use a serrated knife to cut it into the shape of an egg – one with a flat bottom!  I frost it an decorate it with jelly beans.  Guests can help themselves to the cake while my Lamb stays intact until Easter dinner. I also set the table Easter morning with plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and malted milk eggs.  Everyone loves a surprise visit from the Easter Bunny! Join us next year for your own slice of the egg!

Here’s a few examples of my Lamb Cake, and the one Bunny cake, through the years.

Lamb Cake ready for the Easter Table

My 39th lamb cake!

My 39th lamb cake!hrough the years.

Front view of the frosted bunny.

Front view of the frosted bunny.

Finished Lamb Cake

Posted in American Food, Baking, Bed and Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Easter, Food, PEEPS, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It all Started with Carrots

While doing my weekly shopping on Friday I spotted some really nice small carrots with the tops still attached, in the organic section of my produce department.  I usually don’t see carrots this small and with tops so I grabbed them.  I vaguely remembered seeing a recipe in one of my magazines for roasted carrots and made a spot decision to give it a try.  While still in the produce section I found some fresh sage that spoke to me so into the basket it went.  And yes, I shop from a list but sometimes fresh things just call your name and there is no use resisting!

After purchasing the carrots I decided to forgo my planned entrée in favor of a pork roast.  I knew I had a roast at home in the freezer – the other half of a loin I had purchased previously – so the protein was covered.

Sunday was a pretty busy day – some yard work and lots of laundry – but the carrots didn’t seem to complicated and there is nothing involved in seasoning a roast and putting it in the oven.

The original carrot recipe called for carrots, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  But then I spied an adaptation using maple syrup.  Pork and Maple Syrup – this had possibilities.  The more I thought about it the more I realized I really wanted to add a flavor profile to the pork.  The fresh sage came to mind.  And Dijon Mustard. This was going places.  I didn’t want to use the sage and the mustard as a coating so I butterflied the boneless loin.  My original plan was to slather the inside with Dijon Mustard, lay the fresh sage leaves on top of the mustard and roll the loin up. However, this would require a significant amount of sage and I was afraid it would overwhelm instead of enhance the roast.  So I minced six sage leaves and sprinkled them on top of the mustard.  Then I rolled and tied the roast.

Butterflied and tied pork roast with Dijon mustard and minced sage. ready for the oven.

Butterflied and tied pork roast with Dijon mustard and minced sage. ready for the oven.

I put a little grapeseed oil and butter in my very hot cast iron pan.  Once the butter had melted I browned the roast on all aides and placed it in a 350 degree F oven.  While it was cooking I peeled potatoes and the carrots.   I measured out the apple cider and maple syrup and set them aside.

When the pork had reached the desired internal temperature I removed it from the oven and boosted the heat in the oven up to 375 degree F.  I placed the carrots in the sauté pan with the melted butter and olive oil and seasoned them  with salt and pepper.  I sautéed the carrots on the top of the stove until they began to turn brown – about 5 minutes.  I removed them from the heat, added the maple syrup and apple cider vinegar and they went into the oven to continue cooking until they were fork tender – about another 8 minutes.

I served the pork roast and carrots with mashed potatoes seasoned with Penzey’s Garlic Shoots (they’re new, they’re fun, they’re made for experimentation!) It may sound like too many flavors going on in one dish but it worked! The original  carrot recipe calls for 1/4 cup chopped roasted cashews as a garnish.  I am not a fan of nuts so you won’t find them in my recipe.

Roast pork with sage, maple cider vinegar carrots and garlic shoot mashe

Roast pork with sage, maple cider vinegar carrots and garlic shoot mashed potatoes.

Maple and Cider Vinegar Carrots

  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb medium carrots – tops removed and peeled or scrubbed well
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbl apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbl pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large heat proof skillet melt the butter in the olive oil over moderately high heat.  Add the carrots, salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned, turning occasionally, about  3 to 4 minutes ( longer at altitude.)  Remove the pan from the heat and add the syrup and apple cider vinegar to the pan.  Be sure to coat all the carrots.  Put the pan in the oven and roast for 6 to 8 minutes or until the carrots are tender but not  mushy.  They can be garnished with chopped green carrot tops or the cashews.


Posted in American Food, Comfort food, Cooking, Entree, Family, Food, meat, Pork, Recipes, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast, sides, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tater Tots?

While we had a full house this weekend; our guests were here for a seminar and had breakfast meetings.  This allowed me to use George as a guinea pig for a potential breakfast entrée.  Thankfully most of his “guinea pig” experiences have been good!  While I envision this dish as a breakfast item, it could also work as dinner with a salad during Lent.

The latest copy of Food and Wine magazine features an article about waffles. Ones made with tater tots!  After getting over my shock at seeing a recipe containing Tater Tots in Food and Wine I decided it might be worth a try.

The magazine provided a basic recipe and ideas for three different toppings – Truffled Egg, Smoked Salmon and Caviar, or Prosciutto and Mustard.   The Smoked Salmon version was especially appealing as I had just snapped up a 16 oz package of sliced smoked salmon on sale for a ridiculously low price and it was calling my name.   I already had some caviar – the inexpensive stuff, not the roe that comes from Sturgeon – in the pantry.  All I had to purchase were the tater tots.

All in all , it turned out pretty well.  I made a few tweaks and will have to make a few more before it is ready for prime time. My waffle maker is actually the waffle plates that go with my Cuisinart Griddle/Panini maker so my waffles come out as one big square that can be divided into four waffles.  Two of the small squares (one half the big waffle) were enough per person.   I also discovered I  will need to add more tater tots than the 2 cups the recipe called for to get the full coverage I hope to achieve.  I adjusted the quantity in the recipe below.  Be sure to take the desired quantity of tater tots out of the freezer the night before.  I didn’t do this so  I had to resort to defrosting them in the microwave.  That definitely impacted the finished product. While the look many not be quite there it tasted great and it is definitely worth the continued experimentation!

Tater Tot Waffle with Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream and Caviar

Tater Tot Waffles with Salmon and Caviar Serves 2

  • 3 1/2 cups thawed frozen tater tots – take them out of the freezer the night before if this is a breakfast dish.
  • Sea Salt
  • 6 slices of thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • 4 tbl of sour cream – divided
  • chopped fresh dill  – or dried if you can’t get fresh
  • 2 small spoonfuls caviar

Preheat the waffle iron to medium high.  Spray the waffle iron with Pam or substitute cooking spray.   Spread 3 cups of the tater tots on the waffle iron and season with sea salt.  Close the waffle iron and cook until the tater tots get crispy – about 5 minutes.  Open the waffle iron and fill in any holes with the extra tater tots.  Close the iron and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes more.

Remove the large waffle from the iron and, if you have a square waffle maker, divide in half.  Place one half on each plate.  Top with the salmon, sour cream and sprinkle with dill.  Add a small spoonful  of caviar to each waffle. I passed additional sour cream at the table.

Note on the Truffled Egg version.  The recipe indicates you should poach the egg and place it on top of the waffle.  The egg should be topped with shaved fresh Black Truffle.  This is a little too rich for my blood.  My room prices would have to jump significantly to cover the cost of that Black Truffle!

Posted in American Food, appliances, Bed and Breakfast, Breakfast, Breakfast, Cooking, Family, fish, Food, Kitchen tools, Meatless Meals, Menus, Panini Grill/Griddle, Recipes, Salmon, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast, Smoked Food, waffle maker | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment