Friendly Red-Dragon Stew

Lesser known are the milder, calmer, non-carnivorous dragons.  This doesn’t mean they are any less interesting, but they are far less dangerous to the random traveler, and potentially more hospitable to those they meet.  Their temper can still flare some, but they are less prone to fiery outbursts and devouring man and beast.  May this warm, hearty, mildly fiery stew connect you with those dragons of the friendlier kind … or at least warm your belly.

Vegetable-Lentil Slow-Cooker Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2c red lentils
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1-1/2c celery, chopped
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1t salt
  • 1t parsley
  • 1t oregano
  • 1/2t paprika (smoked works best!)
  • 1/4t cayenne pepper
  • 6-1/2c vegetable stock

Instructions:

  1. For same day cooking:  place all ingredients in a slow cooker cauldron and pour in vegetable stock.  Cook on high for 5 hours, or low for 8 hours.
  2. For next day cooking:  prep everything except the garlic and seasonings.  Store in root-cellar or appropriate substitute. On the next day, dump everything into the cauldron (base ingredients, seasonings, and broth), and cook as above.
  3. In preparation to cook another day:  add all ingredients — except for broth — to a large magically zipping bag and place in ice box.  When ready to use, remove the bag, dump contents into slow cooker, and add broth. Cook on high for 5-6 hours, or low for 8-9 (low can be better for frozen).  Since the frozen contents may be uncooperative with being “dumped”, a brief period of thawing may be wise.

Slaad Soup

In the middle of the colder months, it can be nice to get some compilation of vegetable ingredients together, but too often they can come loaded with potatoes, rice, and other bulk imbuing starches.  This aims to be something more salad-like in nature while also being warm and comforting against any chill in the air … or under foot.

Spinach and Kale Soup (aka Slaad Soup)

Ingredients:

Cashew Cream

  • ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours up to overnight
  • 1 cup water (not for soaking)

Soup

  • 2-3T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1-2 carrots, diced
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1T Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ – ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2T apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2-3 green onion stalks, sliced thinly
    • and/or replace with bell peppers
  • 3-4T sesame seeds
  • 1C chopped mushrooms

Instructions:

  1. To prepare Cashew Cream: Drain and rinse cashews a couple times. Pour into a blender along with water and blend, scraping the sides as needed, until totally smooth. Set aside.
  2. To prepare Soup: Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for a few minutes until softened.
  3. Stir in spinach, kale, carrots, and garlic. Season with Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 2-3 minutes more or until garlic is fragrant.
  4. Pour in vegetable broth, and mushrooms, and stir to combine; if adding bell peppers, add now. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until greens are wilted and carrots are tender.
  5. Remove soup from heat and stir in lemon juice, vinegar, and cashew cream. Soup can be served as is or blended using a food processor or blender for a richer, creamier soup.
  6. Garnish soup with green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Crunchy Pork Chops of Savoriness

Hello again!  This cook blogger (clogger?  coogger?  No…) still exists!

This is short, sweet, and to the point.  I have finally found a way to cook pork chops that do not disappoint me.  Previously, I managed very dry chops.  Dry chops are great if you are trying to make a saddle, shoes, or want to show someone how much to dislike them joining you for dinner.  Moist, savory chops are how you tell your mouth that you love your taste buds.

My chops have been about 1″ – 1-1/2″ thick.  Obviously, this needs to be altered for thinner chops.

  • Use an oven-safe pan (like cast iron)
  • Heat about 2T oil in a pan; get it warm, but not smoking
  • Preheat boiler to High
  • Set top rack to one position down from the top
  • Rinse chops; pat dry; sprinkle with salt
  • Place in pan, salted side down; cook for about 4 minutes this way
  • Crank burner to high
  • Salt current-upside of chops.  Dash with a bit of pepper and rosemary*
  • Flip and cook for about 3 minutes
  • Stand chops on their fatty side (or non-bone side) and cook for about 2 minutes
  • Place chops salt/pepper/rosemary side down; pepper and rosemary the current up-side
  • Place chops in oven and cook for 4 minutes
  • Flip chops; cook for 3 more minutes
  • Remove and let rest for 3-5 minutes

Enjoy very moist, savory chops.

A variation of this, which is where I started is the following, adapted from an Alton Brown recipe:

  • Adjust oven racks to have to lower rack one up from the very bottom; and top one down from the very top
  • Set broiler to high
  • Use an oven safe pan
  • Oil the chops, lightly coat with salt, pepper, and I always add rosemary
  • Cook for 3 minutes on the lower rack; flip and cook for 3 more
  • Cook for 3 minutes on the upper rack; flip and cook for 3 more
  • You might want to do 4/4/3/3 for better doneness; sorry, only experience will guide this
  • Cover and rest chops for 3-5 minutes
  • Again… enjoy.

* See, there’s that rosemary thing.

2d6 Rolls of Munchies

The bread recipe I keep carrying on about has other variations that I haven’t fulled explored. Recently I attempted rolls and felt like I had a whole new Class Trait that I’d never explored.  Of course, learning more that baking is scientific, I carefully measured things out to yield 24 rolls.  The original recipe calls for about 12 rolls from the entire dough but I decided that those Troll-sized rolls might be a bit too much to go with a meal.  My current pattern is to take half of the dough and make a loaf of bread, and then use the other half to make 12 rolls in an 8×13 pan.  The pan helps the rolls keep a taller profile; I tried half of the original batch on a cookie sheet and they rolls were more the shape of mushroom caps.

The rolls are simple (following my 1 loaf, 12 rolls method here):  divide half of the dough into 4 equal parts.  Using a scale here helps.  Then divide each of those lumps into 3 equal parts; using an even smaller scale here helps.  This may sound a bit retentive, but it helps the rolls to bake evenly.  Bake for 25 minutes at 350F.  Let cool until safe to handle, and I usually remove them from the pan with a plastic spatula (won’t scrape the pan) and then cool on a cookie rack.  These can be frozen just fine.

Baking is science, not improv.

My results so far:

  • Wheat recipe:  nice light rolls.
  • Spent-grain recipe:  dense rolls; not interested in repeating.
  • Molasses wheat rolls:  I can see why these were a cousin’s favorite

I may repeat the wheat rolls with some rosemary in them.  I’m a wee bit of a rosemary addict.  (Tip:  don’t snort it…)

I imagine these rolls could be replicated with other bread starters.  Eh?  Eh?  (Let us know how it turns out…)

Return of the Bread

The bread has returned after much trial and error.  No small amount of wandering in the wilderness of doughy ignorance was required to at long last arrive at bread that summons as expected, every time. The former incantation involved measuring by cups, and experimentation brought me to the following spell ingredients, some using weights:

The Dough

 

  • 22 oz (by weight) white flour (pref. all-purpose)
  • 1t salt
  • 1-1/4C starter
  • 1-1/4C + 2T warm water
  • 1/2C vegetable oil

The dough should be a smooth consistency that doesn’t stick to your fingers like The Blob. Finding this consistency can be a matter of trial and error. If it dough is too sticky, add flour one tablespoon at a time until it is not longer desperately clinging to your fingers. If the dough is too dry, use the same approach but with water.

Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a damp towel, and keep in a warm place for 12 hours.

When summoned, it will be a large mass that can then be kneaded and split into twin loaves.  Again cover with a damp towel.

The remainder of summoning is the same.  I think I’ve discovered that 50 minutes in the oven is ideal.

Variations

Oatmeal Cranberry Bread!  I make the dough with an additional 2T of molasses.  After the first rise, I then add 1C Oatmeal, and 1/2C Cranberries (in the form of ‘Craisins’).  Make into loaves.  Let rise.  Bake.  It summons splendidly.

Mimic Shirred Eggs

Shirred eggs.  Baked eggs.  “Fried eggs in the days prior to a fancy cooktop on which skillets could be placed to fry things.”  Slow fried eggs with toppings.

I attempted a proper recipe at this and found the need to prepare the oven a bit annoying — because I had no other need to use it (heating these days is from the Central Dragon, not a constantly running hearth).  After scrying the alternate realms for a bit, I realized that the way I prepared these was basically “slow fried eggs”.  The objective isn’t to “fry” the egg, have it “over-{any} style”, or make “sunny side up”, but cook it through “low and slow” so the toppings settle in, the cream doesn’t curdle, and everything firms up nicely.

I accompanied these with toast, as is proper.  When baked, I baked them for 12m, added the cheese, then baked for 3m more.  I didn’t time this on the stovetop, I eye-balled it.  Ow.

What went in the pan:

 

  • 2 eggs
  • 1T heavy cream (half-and-half would work, but not light cream)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chives
  • paprika
  • Gruyere cheese

What else went in the belly:

  • toast
  • a wee dob of mint jelly, “on the side”

I used a very small cast iron pan for this (the #2).  It fit everything perfectly.

Warm the pan on a burner on really low heat. I set my gas burner on a 3, so maybe a 2 for an electric?

Crack eggs individually into a cup and add into the pan.  (Good practice to catch a bloody-egg before it touches other ingredients).

Drizzle with cream.

Season with salt, pepper, chive, and paprika. I used savory instead of salt and pepper in one attempt. General “seasoning” seems to be the thing. For the chives I have a jar of freeze-dried chives which you should be able to get at any store. They’re great for a oniony taste without the hassle of an onion. In this case, also without the moisture of bulk.

When the eggs look almost done, crumble the Gruyere over them. Feta could also work. I read about Parmesan and mozzarella, but I think Parm is too subtle in flavor and moz is probably too stringy and wet. Something crumbly, dry, and pungent is nice. Blue Cheese would work too.

Let cheese melt a bit and “plate”.

I started toast going at “about the right time” so it would be toasted and buttered right around the time the eggs were ready.

An alternate version of this is to put a piece of ham (slab, obviously) at the bottom of the pan. That might be where baking this is better. But for just eggs, the stove-top approach was really easy.

At least this mimic doesn’t bite back… unless you season it to do so!

Painless Portabella Pizzas

Mushrooms.

My frequency of using them causes them to be more mush than ‘shroom in my ice-box.  So my experiences with portabella remain limited, even novice.  I’m a level 1 ‘shroomer.  Hence, this inspiration comes from the back of a mushroom container.  Clever huckstering in the marketplace to prompt the purchase of additional ingredients!  That Grocers Guild has a groove for guile…

But simplicity!  This could only get easier, and less tasty, by removing ingredients.

  • 4 portabella mushroom caps, gills removed (But why a spoon, cousin…)
  • olive oil
  • minced garlic (or finely chopped/diced)
  • 1-2 tomatoes halved (stem to ‘the not-stem end’) and sliced thinly
  • mozzarella cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • (red pepper flakes)

So simple.  So simple.

Stoke your stove to rage the oven up to 400F.  Kindly assault the concave side of the decapitated mushrooms with olive oil.  Decorate with gobs of garlic, sprinkles of salt, and puffs of pepper.  Trim with tomato (this is where I found the halved tomato made this easier).  Muffle with mozzarella.

12-15 minutes singing in the steely stove should bring these to melted mozzarella magnificence.

Of course, if you enjoy these with pain, ravage with red pepper flakes at your discretion.

When Dragon Meets Pig

Dragons are notoriously hungry and they don’t approach their meals delicately.  So it is no surprise that they shred their victims prior to consuming them.  For me, to make this a little easier, I decided to slow cook it.  Descending upon it from on high and using my imaginary talons would not have worked so well.  And then I’d heve been yelled at for making a mess in the kitchen.

So, instead, I followed this recipe for slow-cooked pulled pork.

To top it, I read a few recipes and concocted this for the BBQ sauce:

  • 2c ketchup
  • 2T cider vinegar
  • 1T cumin
  • 1T garlic powder
  • 2t ground coriander seed
  • 1t chipotle powder
  • 1t black pepper
  • Put all in a pan. Mix. Warm over low/med-low heat until it bubbles. Stir. Cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

I really enjoy pork and chicken in this stereotypical southern style.  This comes out as no exception to that.  The pork recipe yields a moist, slightly sweet, nicely seasoned meat.  The sauce has the right kind of heat and tang to it to make a perfect accent.  Not quite dragon fire, but heat is noticeable.  And so… dragon meets pig.

Chocolate Sauce of …

How really to describe chocolate sauce, especially one that works out so nicely.  This one uses cream, but I could see it using a coconut or almond alternative.  That I should try at some point to see how those flavors play in this.  I’ve been making this for a few years as a drizzle for angel food cake, and recently as a way to make my own chocolate sauce for mochas.

  • 1/2 C Baking Cocoa
  • 1 C Granulated Sugar
  • 1t Cinnamon
  • 1/2 C Water
  • 1/4 C Heavy Cream (Light works as well)
  • 1T Kahlua

In a small saucepan [1] combine the cocoa, sugar, cinnamon and water.  Mix well [2].  Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir constantly for 5 minutes once it boils.  Remove from heat and add the cream and kahlua.  Let it cool completely [3] and then store it in a tight sealing container.

And now for some notes.

[1]  I use a saucier.  This is far from being fancy, more of an accident, but now I can recommend it and seem fancy.  This distributes the heat well, but also by design it is a lot easier to stir in.  If you get the right shape one, these are also great for steaming things in (with a basket) or heating soups in.  Mine in an integral part of my cooking routine for a lot of things outside of sauces due to the distribution of heat.

[2] Yeah right.  Ever try to mix cold ingredients?  Just turn the heat on and stir.  Ideally you have it all mixed before this boils.

[3] I find this is easier to pour when molten.  I store it in a 1 pint Ball jar, and put a spoon in it prior to pouring in the hot liquid.

When making a mocha with this, I’ll use about 1T of the sauce — maybe 4t.  It’s all ‘ish’.  I’ve also taken to putting a few drops of peppermint extract to have my own peppermint mocha.  Yum!

Squash Randomly Stuffed

Yesterday I had the task of baking some acorn squash.  Of course, my first thought was that it would be incredibly boring alone.  Arming myself with random accessories, I went to work.

First up, onion, always have to have onion (it was about 1 cup total).  Diced well, it was.  Eyes watered, they did.  Finger check reveals all are intact, so that went well.  +10 XP for not slicing any fingers!

Next, cashews and Craisins.  Those were set aside to top the squash.  The dosage:  “enough”.  They are accents, so keep that in mind.

Finally, barley.  It had to have some substance to it.  I decided to be bold and not cook it at all before hand.  This, right here, was the very thing that prompted me to muse I hope this doesn’t taste like crap.

From this point, there’s what I did and what I’ll do the next time.

What I did:  Halved two acorn squashes.  Scooped out seeds.  Placed in appropriately sized casserole dish.  Liberally drizzed with olive oil.  Filled with mix of barley and onion.  Topped with craisins and cashews.  Poured a little maple syrup over each (2T?).  Baked at 400F for 1 hour covered.  Covered is important here to keep the moisture in — or you’ll end up with barley pebbles and that does taste bad.

What I’d do the next time:  put the barley in first and make sure it is covered, covered, covered by everything.  Completely.  I might even put 1T of water into each squash cavity.  The barley cooked but, heh, barely.  The barley on top was crunchy — which was not all that great.  It was edible, but not all that great.

Otherwise, this was awesome.  Perhaps adding some apple would be good too.  That would add more moisture and help the barley cook.

But the best part is that this was relatively fast.  The largest effort, in order was: (1) prepping the squash, (2) dicing the onion, (3) washing my hands to get the onion juice off.

And there you have it:  Squash Randomly Stuffed which did not taste like crap.