Friday, June 1, 2018

Braised Chicken Leg Quarters with Sunday Pan Gravy

I could probably eat this easy, every-day-recipe once a week and not regenerate into food fatigue. In fact, I made it four nights in a row! It's all about that rich and creamy pan gravy. Spoon it over mashed potatoes, rice, or a simple stuffing. Sop it up with a biscuit! Serve with a side of cranberries.

Prepare it a day ahead and pop it in the fridge. Bake the next day and you have a great meal befitting company. There is no need to saute the chicken, but do use a metal pan, not ceramic or glass, since you need to put the pan on the burner to create the gravy.
Leg quarters, consisting of a leg and a thigh, are the least expensive parts of the chicken. I can usually find a pack of three for about three dollars! That's a bargain! They also often come in ten-pound bags, but they are rarely uniform in size, so be wary.

This is more of a "process" than a recipe. I highly recommend Bell's Poultry Seasoning. I think it is the best out there. Do try to use the wine. It's easy enough to find a cheap bottle of white wine in any grocery store. You do not have to use cream. Evaporated milk would work just as well. I love Wondra flour for making any kind of gravy. If you do not have access, mix equal tablespoon parts butter and all-purpose flour. Add by the teaspoon until you reach the desired consistency of your sauce.

  • 1 chicken leg quarter
  • 1/2 red onion, diced (about two ounces)
  • 1 thinly-sliced carrot (about one ounce)*
  • 6 tablespoons chopped celery (about two ounces)
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, needles removed
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 medium clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Chicken stock
  • Dry white wine
  • Cream (2-4 tablespoons)
  • Butter/olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons Wondra flour** 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Liberally season the leg quarter well on both sides using poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Scatter the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic on the bottom of the pan. Place seasoned chicken on top. Drizzle with oil and put a few pats of butter on top. Surround with rosemary needles and thyme sprigs.

Pour in enough chicken stock to cover chicken by 1/4. Pour in enough wine so total liquid reaches about 1/2 the height of the chicken (not the height of the pan!).

Bake,  uncovered,  for 30 minutes. Liquids will have evaporated.  Add a bit more chicken stock to attain original level the of liquids. Return to the oven and continue to bake another 30 minutes or until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone on the leg. See photograph.

Remove from oven and place chicken on a plate and cover with foil. Remove the thyme and rosemary. Place the pan on stove over low heat.  Add a bit more stock followed by cream. Stir in Wondra flour until desired consistency is reached.

*If you prefer soft carrots, you may first want to microwave them for 30 seconds or so.
**The rule of thumb is one tablespoon thickener per one cup liquid.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

New Soaps!

PURE HONEY. The name says it all. Clean and fresh with a bit of skin-loving goat milk. An incredible face bar before ending the day and going to sleep. I am very proud of this bar. No natural colors. We need more bees!  Do you agree?

SWEETGRASS. Green. Fresh. Clean. Herbal. Sunny. Delightful. Be happy!

LOVELY LAVENDER. Not at all medicinal. Clean and light. It may be too light for those who expect an overwhelming, cloying,  artificial scent. A blend of essential natural oils and fragrant oils.

MOON. If you enjoy the alluring scent of musk, you will appreciate this bar. Tempered with a soft,  powdery scent ... it is as mysterious as ... the moon. Why do we see only one side of the moon?

ORANGE/SANDALWOOD. Personally, I love anything sandalwood. Top notes of bold blood orange warmed with middle notes of sandalwood and a kiss of patchouli. Intriguing. Adult. Sophisticated.

COWBOY. Think leather. Think saddles and wool blankets. Hand-stitched boots. Sweat-stained Stetson hats. Horses. Sweet, cold water from canvas canteens! You provide the red bandana. Giddy-up! The cowboy in your life needs this soap! Lasso it while it lasts!

GINGER AND BERGAMOT. Very clean and fresh!

All soaps are handcrafted in small batches by me using plant-based oils. Great as shampoo or for shaving.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Tuna and Egg Salad

When was the last time you changed how you made tuna salad?

I thought so!

This tuna mix is more for a salad than a sandwich. The bread just gets in the way. It would be delicious stuffed into a tomato. Or simply served atop a few large lettuce leaves surrounded by slices of tomatoes and avocados. Place a small mound on a salad dish surrounded by a sunburst of Ritz crackers. If one must insist on bread, I suggest an open-faced sandwich like that pictured above.

I have always used celery in my tuna mix, but it is not something I always have on hand. Instead, I substituted sliced water chestnuts which gave a bit of a crunch I enjoy. Mayonnaise with lemon is now readily available in most supermarkets.  Or just use regular mayo and a bit of fresh lemon juice. Always use Albacore tuna. Nothing compares.

  • 1, 10-ounce can Albacore tuna in water, well-drained and blotted with paper towels
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts, minced or 1/4 cup sweet onion, grated (I prefer the green onions)
  • 1 small stalk celery, finely chopped or
  • 1/2 can water chestnuts, rinsed and drained, cut into quarters
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise with lemon, add more if needed or to your preference
  • 2 teaspoons dill pickle relish, not sweet relish
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Remove egg yolks and set aside. Chop egg whites. In a medium bowl, combine drained tuna, egg whites, celery or water chestnuts and onions.

In a small bowl, blend together remaining ingredients. Taste and re-season if necessary. Add to tuna mixture. Gently blend. Add more mayo if needed. Taste and re-season if necessary. Crumble in reserved egg yolks. Gently blend. Serve as desired. Even better the next day!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Pork Spare-Rib Soup with Sauerkraut and Vegetables (Kapusta) in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

When one thinks of spare ribs, pork or beef, one ordinarily thinks of barbecue with the meat slathered in rubs and tangy, peppery tomato-based sauces. I do not.  My heritage hails from Eastern Europe and Russia where pork ribs would be slowed cooked with onions, sauerkraut, and potatoes until the meat was unctuous and fall-off-the-bone.

I can still see my grandmother on Sunday family gatherings opening her oven door to inspect two slabs or pork ribs tied with string, one on top of the other and filled with sauerkraut and onions and then served with a side of mashed potatoes and that delicious gravy it rendered. Food is always best served with a large side or two of good memories!

Last winter, pork ribs were on sale, so I grabbed a slab intent to make a soup of which I had no recipe. My goal was to try to duplicate a wonderful pork soup I enjoyed in a small Michigan town. After some googling, I really did not find any. They are rare. But, lo and behold, I found many pork and sauerkraut recipes. In Poland, it is called Kapusniak. In Lithuania, it called Kapusta.

I spent a good week pouring over different recipes taking note after note. Below is the recipe I created. It capitalizes on the most common of ingredients to be "authentic." And then the not so common ingredients, such as fennel, caraway and allspice berries. I have also suited it to more American tastes, hence it does not use straight sauerkraut. Instead, the sauerkraut is rinsed and squeezed so it is not so acidic or briny. Use fresh sauerkraut, not canned. 

My associate at work, who is skeptical about sauerkraut, deemed it lick-the-bowl delicious.

I made this in my small, 12-cup Instant Pot pressure cooker. If you do not have a pressure cooker, just simmer on the stove, covered, for a good two hours or so. In the pressure cooker, it is done in 30 minutes!

Many recipes also use Kielbasa, but I only recommend that if you have access to authentic smoked Kielbasa that is not sold in sealed plastic. Some use mushrooms, fresh or dried, but I find mushrooms in the pressure cooker come out rubbery.

At any rate, do not omit the spices--and that includes the dill! Sour cream could be an option---but when is the opportunity of sour cream ever an option!

And do garnish with the bones!

  • 2 lbs. pork spare ribs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups diced potatoes (I used baby golden, some left whole, others cut in half)
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 small head of cabbage, shredded (optional)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup fresh sauerkraut after it has been rinsed and squeezed dry
  • 1, 10.5 ounce can beef broth
  • 1, 10.5 can chicken stock
  • 2, 10.5 cans water or more to just cover meat
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2-3 whole allspice berries
  • Dried dill
  • Sour cream 

Rinse the spare ribs. Pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, make a slit under the silver skin on the backside of ribs. Grab and rip it off. Cut ribs into 2-rib sections. Set aside.

Place onion, carrots, potatoes, celery, garlic, cabbage (if using) and sauerkraut in bottom of Instant Pot. Throw in caraway and fennel seed. Mix. Salt and pepper to taste.  

Arrange pork ribs on top of vegetable mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Slowly add beef broth and chicken stock against the side of the pot. Pour in water, about two cans or so, just until it comes up to the pork or the 10-cup mark. 

Cover. Make sure the vent is on "seal." Press "soup" button. Increase time to 30 minutes. Allow to rest 30-40 minutes before "venting" and removing the cover. The pressure button is usually down by then.