Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Texas Scotch Eggs

Scotch eggs are a delightful thing - not only can they be made to satisfy keto, but they're an excellent way of stretching expensive meat by wrapping it around a cheaper egg. The latest round I've made includes a handful of this and a handful of that from the garden, which makes it even more rewarding for me. Like meatloaf, you can change the ingredients every time and still get a good meal.

12 eggs for boiling
1 more egg for the meat mix
1 pound country sausage
1 pound hamburger
1 tbsp lemon zest (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp fennel
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried, to taste)
1 thai pepper, seeded and diced fine
1 handful sage leaves, diced (or 1-2 tsp dried, to taste)
1 tsp mesquite-smoked salt

First, hard-boil eggs. Easiest to put them in a pan with cold water, heat it to a rolling boil, then take off the burner, put a lid on it, and let sit for ten minutes.  Then drain hot water, add cold, and let sit so they cool to non-burning temperatures. Repeat as necessary.

Second, peel the eggs. Easiest if you get a paper plate lined with paper towels, and a teaspoon out of the silverware drawer. (Yes, the eating kind of teaspoon, not the measuring kind.) Roll the egg on the counter until the shell has cracked into several portions, then flip the spoon over so the curve of its bowl matches the curve of the egg, and work it underneath the shell. This will allow you to lift and peel away large amounts of sheel much easier than picking it it with your fingers. Rinse each egg to remove any tiny shell fragments, and let dry on the paper plate.The dryer your eggs are, the less slippery they'll be.

Third, preheat the oven to 350 F. Set out a baker's half-sheet or two cookie trays, lined with aluminum foil or silicone mats for easy cleanup.

Fourth, chop the herbs and toss into a large mixing bowl, crack the egg into the bowl, and then add the spices and the meat, and mix thoroughly. I don nitrile gloves and mix by hand, because then I can just move on to step 5... and no sausage under my fingernails.

Fifth, divide the mixed meat in half. (Just ram your fingers down the middle of the bowl to make equal halves.) Then divide again, so it's in quarters. Given you have 12 eggs to cover, this means each lump must cover three eggs. Scoop out roughly 1/3 of a lump, and form it into a ball in one hand. Then mash that ball flat with the other hand. pick up an egg, place it in the center, and wrap the meat around it. You may need to squish the sausage mix around some in order to get even and complete coverage. Put the meat-covered egg on the cooking tray.

Sixth, pop the meat-covered eggs into the oven for 25 minutes. 20 will probably do, but I like 25. Pull out very carefully, realizing you're going to have a puddle of grease in the bottom of your tray(s). Stick the tray on the stove burners to cool down.  If you want, you can make the mustard sauce to go with them.

Mustard Suace

1 egg
1 cup mayo
1 Tbsp ground mustard, or 1/4 cup prepared mustard
a couple of strips of sundried tomato (optional)

Mix everything but tomato in a saucepan, then bring to simmer, stirring frequently. As soon as bubbles start poking up (or the sauce dramatically thickens), you're done. Remove immediately from heat, and pour into a bowl to serve. Garnish with sundried tomato strips.

Work well served hot, or served cold.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why does getting better hurt so much?

At the rehab center's gym this morning, I was working away at the weight-machine and corestix portions when I observed a bunch of elderly folks toddling toward the yoga studio room. Good for them!

Then I went to do my free weights, and discovered that the ladies and gents had taken off with all one the one, two, three, and four-pound weights (except one lonely one-pound weight sitting abandoned at the bottom of the rack.)I gulped, and looked at my discharge instructions. Well, they do say "increase weight as condition improves." So I picked up the five-pound dumbells, and proceeded to try to do two my two sets of ten in every range of motion with them.

Oh, my stars and garters. Ow. That felt almost like I was back in the beginning of physical therapy. On the other hand, it wasn't actually injurious, and perhaps I had been taking it a little too easy...

I'm now lying on the couch, trying to decide if I'm a masochist or just really well trained by a succession of physical therapists. Because I know when I next go to the gym, I'm going to do that again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bacon-wrapped stuffed dates

I had these, many years ago, as an appetizer for a chef's tasting menu. Since then, I've been looking for the best recipe to recreate 'em, and I"ve pretty much found it.

A few notes:

1. Pick a mild, soft blue cheese. Stay well away from anything crumbly, or "salad-ready". In fact, if you really can't abide blue cheese (though you may be surprised, when it's in this), then a Camembert, brie, or Gorgonzola will work as well.

2. Use medjool dates. No, really. They're juicier, taster, and... as they're larger, they're easier to work with. Easier is better. And get the ones with pits; they're jucier, and you're gonna be cutting them in half anyway.

3. Find the bulk-bin nuts section for your slivered almonds. You can get twice as much as you need for a half to a a third of the cost of buying 'em pre-packaged. And given that you're going to be using roughly a quarter of a cup... we're talking spending 75 cents here, not $3.50 for a fancy package

Blue-cheese  & almond stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates.

32 Medjool dates (just get a pound, and save the money, get the ones with pits in.)
1 small wedge soft blue cheese (Somewhere around a cup?)
1 pound thick bacon.
1/2 cup slivered almonds (You won't use it all, but you won't run out.)
Pepper grinder
Mesquite-smoked salt (optional)

Cut each date open lengthwise, and pull out the pit. The tray on which you're going to cook these is a great place to store the split-open dates - and if you have a silicone sheet, it makes cleanup so much easier!

When you've gotten all your dates de-pitted, wash all the sticky off your hands and the knife. Now, drop 2-3 pieces of slivered almond in each date (4 for the really big ones, 1 for the really small ones.) Cut the cheese into small chunks, and then stuff each date & close it back up. (Soft cheese makes it easy to adjust the amount needed to the size of the date, and stuff the rest in the next date down the line.) You're aiming to have no empty space, and no cheese oozing out.

Wash all the gooey off your hands and the knife, and put away the rest of the dates, blue cheese, and almonds. Come back, and place about the number of toothpicks you need on the cutting board, plus a couple extra. (You're about to have raw-meat hands, and don't want to contaminate the jar.) Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Open the bacon package, and cut the chunk of bacon into thirds. (The original recipe called for quarters, but that's just fussy, finicky, and more bacon is better.) Then, wrap each stuffed date with a piece of bacon, and secure with toothpick. Place on baking sheet when done.

When finished, wash the grease and raw meat off your hands, then grab your pepper grinder and add a dusting of pepper to the top of the bacon, followed by a light sprinkle of mesquite-smoked salt. (If you're grilling, skip the salt, keep the pepper.) Pop tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Put away the tiny bit of leftover bacon, clean the knife and area thoroughly. You're now ready to make the rest of dinner and there's only one cutting board and knife that need washing.

When the appetizers are done, give them 5 minutes of resting time so nobody burns their mouth. Or, you know, let the appetizer-snatcher beware. Can be served cold, but better piping hot.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Gardening in Texas

Ah, Texas. I just had one of the contractor's guys ask very, very politely if he might have a few of the Thai Peppers growing outside my back door. Please, ma'am. Might I have 4? I didn't grow any this year...

The pepper plants are, ahem, prolific. I happily gave some away (they're still unripe and green, but they're already hot.)

And then a friend brought a sprig of catnip with her to dinner. Kili is now ensconced on a chair where the kitten can't get at her easily, sitting on her catmint, stoned as can be.

She also brought her latest round of plotting for the extra back yard I have... perhaps a trellis shaped like a quonset hut, for squash and melons, convertible to a hoop house for some things like citrus that can't take the coldest parts of winter? And what do I think of a fig tree? Or pallet gardening?

...I think these plans are more than my remaining shoulder and knee can handle. But together, together we can take on the world! Muahahaha!

(Okay, the world of gardening. In north texas. in our yards. Take on, at least. Conquering remains to be seen...)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


I love hot running water. I have turned down jobs that were off-grid, because I did not want to live without hot running water, refrigeration, and electricity.

I have been out of Alaska for... six years, now? Still feels like just the other month.

I have been in Texas for a little over a year.

I have just finished a long, hard, hot morning of yardwork. And taken a lukewarm shower. And for the first time in my life, I liked it lukewarm instead of hot.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fat Head Pizza

Sarah Hoyt recommended the Fat Head pizza crust recipe to me, as low carb and yet tasty. I have to agree, this is the first pizza crust of the low carb variety I've run into that is actually as good as the wheat-based version.

One minor note: it's incredibly filling. I didn't have parchment paper, so I patted it out by hand on a silicone baking sheet into roughly a 9x11in crust. I loaded it up with toppings, hoping it'd be enough with a salad... and between Peter and myself, we had half a leftover pizza and leftover salad.

Definitely a keeper... and good enough for company! I loaded it up with straight tomato paste for the sauce, sauteed bell pepper & onion strips, chopped basil out of the garden, the last of the pepperoni in the fridge, and some sausage, then added a little oregano and plenty of mozzarella on top. The recipe called for 5 minutes more of baking, but I hit it with 30 seconds of broiling to give the cheese topping that proper touch of browning and faint blackening on the toppings that poked through.

Monday, June 5, 2017

One cookbook too many...

I like cookbooks; they're entertainment for me. For example, Gordon Nelson's Lowbush Moose (And Other Alaskan Recipes) is a wonderful collection of stories of places and people in Alaska, and the recipes that bring them to mind. The Rocky Mountain Wild Foods Cookbook neatly avoids the problem of so many other edible plant guides by providing ways to make what you find into a tasty dinner, not just a handful of munchies on a hike or survival "Eugh! This is why we domesticated all the alkalines out of our salad greens!" rations.

Hank Shaw's Buck Buck Moose is an excellent collection of recipes to make hooved wild game delicious (and I like supporting him, after all the years he's put into more stories, ruminations, explanations, philosophies and recipes on his website.)

And then there's the cookbooks I go to often for recipes. The first is Prof Noakes' Real Meal Revolution, which is the fruit of two South African ultramarathoners taking on ketogenic lifestyle and cooking. The recipes are a healthy version of the food my darling man loves, and tasty enough it's worth the trouble of translating grams, Celcius, and courgettes into American english. Then there's Dana Carpender's 1000 low-carb recipes. (Best one-star review ever on Amazon: "This is just a compilation of all the best of her prior cookbooks!" Yeah, that sold me!) And Stephanie O'Dea's More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow.

Unfortunately, I just got another cookbook... and when I went to put it on the shelf, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. The poor thing collapsed, and wiped out the next shelf down, flooding cookbooks and reference books everywhere across the floor. Just because it's going on 20 years old, and has been disassembled and reassembled across at least 4 moves...

Off to to our itty bitty town hardware store for some brackets, and busting out the cordless drill! (Itty Bitty Town's hardware store is staffed by a couple old guys who are masters of jerry-rigging, and a couple high school kids whose farm boy origins mean they're pretty possessing of clue despite their age. They can't compete with Big Box Store in the nearby city on price or selection, but they're masters at suggesting which duct tape and how to rig the bailing wire, and completely unflappable when someone comes in with pajama bottoms, bathrobe, and urgent need for some plumbing bit.) I cleaned them out of their inch and a half brackets, and couldn't resist a magnetic retrieval tool on the way out. (Vision of where a screw might end up with feline assistance were dancing in my brain.)

By the time my darling man and I were finished, both shelves aren't going to move until the entire structure gives way. And the cats only got a little stepped on. And... I reluctantly thinned out a stack of books I'm not going to re-read, and cookbooks I'm not going to use again because I've gotten the one or two good recipes I use memorized. (They're lovely books, but too high-carb for us, now.)

I shouldn't be eyeing the empty space and contemplating my next cookbook... but Hank Shaw's Duck Duck Goose is calling my name...