Working From Home

Larry is one of the lucky ones who has been able to work from home during these crazy, chaotic times.  He was even allowed to hire a new assistant to help him out.

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Sad Signs of the Times

Colorado, like most of the United States and much of the world, is officially on lock down because of this COVID19 mess.  We are still allowed to go out to the grocery stores and pharmacies, and anything that is deemed essential, but that is it.  Even though we are allowed to go the grocery store, there is not a whole lot on the shelves to buy though.

This is Sprouts. These are the bulk bins where you can help yourself with as much as you need.  EMPTY!  Even the bins themselves are gone.

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The bins that did have food items in them were already pre-packaged for you.  You get what you get. Period!  I bought a bag of couscous.

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These shelves are usually filled to the rims with pre-packaged items.  Not today.

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I got what I could and what I needed at Sprouts, then went to King Soopers, our main grocery store.  Things were even worse at King Soopers.  I asked the checker if this was helping at all.  She said NO.  During these hours, the store is FULL  and super crowded with people who are the most vulnerable.

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Now they have even marked off where people are supposed to stand for “social distancing”.

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I hope no one has the munchies.  This is the snack aisle.  Most of the munchies are all gone.

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You didn’t want any jam or jelly with your bread did you?

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No eggs or cheese for omelettes today.

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It’s a good thing I think fresh is best.  Nothing frozen at the moment.  I got the last bag of frozen corn and two bags of frozen peas.

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This is perfect if you are vegetarian or vegan, but we carnivores are SOL.

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At least they did have toilet paper, but you can only buy 1 at a time.

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So now the Government has decided to start helping out businesses and workers with checks and loans to help get everyone through these tough times, but sadly, for many, no matter what is given in aid, it is NEVER enough.  The checker at Sprouts said “I wish we were getting money to cover our rent for a full year” even though she is still able to work and collect her normal paycheck, unlike so many others who are not able to do that right now.  I honestly hope we can all pull through these tough times, but I have some very serious doubts.  All I can say is God, help us!  We certainly need it.

Stay safe everyone.

When You Can’t Go To the Pub, Bring the Pub To You

I think most of the world is shut down at the moment due to this coronavirus mess, and no one is allowed to go out for anything “non-essential”.  Being a social butterfly, this is killing me.  I am going stir crazy.  That being said, going out for dinner, unless it is to go or for all my British and Australian friends and rellies, take-away, is just not happening right now.  So ….. Since we can not go out, I made some “pub food” at home.   I made some sausage rolls and served them with some leftover potato salad and green beans.  Typical pub food without the pub,  served in the comfort of our own home, safe and socially distanced from the world outside.

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Pub-Style Sausage Rolls

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8 oz ground pork

1/4 cup onion, chopped fine or 2 TBSP dried onions – I used dried onions

1 tsp salt

2 tsp garlic

1 tsp each dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil, dried marjoram

1 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

basic go-to dough

 

Basic Go-To Dough

1 1/2 cups flour

6 TBSP cold butter, cubed

dash salt

1 egg

5-6 TBSP heavy whipping cream

 

In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter and salt together until it resembles crumbly sand.  Then add the egg and the cream and continue to mix together until it forms a ball.  Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour before working with it.  When you are ready to work with he dough, lightly flour your work surface, divide the dough into equal quarters and roll the dough to about 1/4 in in thickness.

 

Preheat the oven to 400* F or 200*C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For the sausage, mix all the ingredients together well .  I find mixing everything by hand works best.

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Divide the sausage into 4 equal parts and shape into log rolls that fit the size of the dough.

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Carefully roll the dough around the sausage, burrito style, folding in the edges as you go.  Pinch the ends together then dip your finger in water and gently “glue” the seams together, forming a tight seal.  Place the seal side down on the baking sheet.  Make an egg wash ans generously coat the entire sausage roll with egg wash.

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Bake for about 30 minutes or until the sausage rolls are golden brown.

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Now pour yourself your libation of choice and enjoy an imagine you are sitting in your favorite Irish pub.  If you like, you can serve this with a little honey mustard or some Dijon mustard on the side.  You have now brought the pub into the comforts of your own home.  Slainte!  This sausage roll is light and flaky and just melts in your mouth.

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Guinness in the Stew, Guinness in the Bread

When I made my Irish beef stew for St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Stew I had some of the Guinness leftover.  Neither Larry or I like Guinness, so I knew we were not going to drink it.  But I did not want to waste it either.  So once again, I put on my creative thinking cap and came up with a great way to use it.  I put it some brown Irish soda bread.  It came out great.  I know, it looks like a cake, but it’s a bread.  It’s best when it is served warm with butter on top.

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We are going through all our leftovers, and since we still had some Irish stew, why not serve it with the Irish soda bread, right, and of course some red wine as well.

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Irish Brown Soda Bread

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2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk – I use the dried buttermilk mixed with milk

1 1/2 cups Guinness stout

additional oats for topping

 

Preheat the oven to 425* F.

Spray a round baking pan with cooking spray.

 

Mix together all the dry ingredients in one bowl and all the wet ingredients in another bowl.

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Once everything is thoroughly mixed together, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine well.  You will have a thick batter.

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Evenly spread the batter in the baking pan, then top with more of the oats.

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Bake at 425* F for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400* F and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until the bread is done.  When the bread is done, turn the oven off, crack the oven door open and let the bread cool while still in the oven.  Once it is cooled, slice it, slathe it with butter and enjoy.  This is good as a side dish or even as a breakfast or snack bread too.

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We Are Supporting Our Local Businesses

In these crazy days, life has been put on hold, indefinitely.  Though we have plenty of food to keep us going for quite some time, and yes, I can make just about anything, we also feel it is important to keep the businesses open and operating as much as possible too.  Because we want to help our local businesses, we decided it was a pizza night.   It’s not much, but at least it is something.  We should all support our local businesses as much as possible in these tough, chaotic times.  They need us more than ever right now.

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What Am I Going To Do With the Leftovers?

You all know how the Queen and I are very close.  We are the bestest of buddies.  She has been showing up in my kitchen a lot lately; a lot more than usual, because of this whole COVID19  stuff going on.  Most of the world is going threw this same thing, and sadly, most of us are all stuck at home, with nowhere to go.  Larry is one of the fortunate few (for now) and he can still go into work, although he is not going in as frequently, which means he is not taking lunches with him so much either.  And this means, I have even MORE leftovers in my fridge than normal too.  So I have to get even MORE creative with my leftovers than usual.  But that’s OK.  I LOVE these creative, culinary challenges.

Not long ago, I made some Southwestern ahi tuna steaks that were oh so good.  Southwestern Ahi Tuna Steaks  I liked the green chili and corn sauce so much for the tuna that I made it again, but this time I made some pork empanadas from the remainder of our smoked pork that I pulled out of the freezer.  As good as the sauce was with the tuna, it was even BETTER with the pork and the empanadas.  Smoked Pork and Vegetable Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa  Most definitely, a do-over!

This time around, the whole meal was comprised of leftovers – leftover pork and beans, leftover couscous, the pork in the empanadas, and the red pepper coulis as well.  Parmagiano Crusted Pork Chops  It may not have been the most ideal combination, but somehow, it all magically came together just fine.  That, AND it also cleared out some space in my fridge for even MORE leftovers to come.  🙂

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Since these are all made from leftovers, I am not going to give the actual recipes again, but I will show how I made them instead.

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The thinner you can make your dough, the flakier the empanadas will be.  However, you do not want to make your dough so thin that it will not hold your filling either.   I rolled my dough to about 1/4 ” in thickness.  Also make sure your surface has enough flour to ensure the dough does not stick to it when rolling it out.

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When the empanadas are made, put them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to an hour before cooking them.  Make sure you seal the edges well, so the juices don’t run out and make your dough to mushy.  You can either bake them or pan-fry them.  I have done both, but I prefer to pan-fry them.  I think they come out lighter, crispier and flakier if they are pan-fried.  If you are going to bake them, add an egg wash to them before baking them.  That will help brown them up.

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I love empanadas, and make them quite frequently.  It really doesn’t matter what I fill them with either.

Don’t let these tough times get to you.  Look them in the “eye” and rise to the challenges they present.  We will all get through this.  We just need to be strong and hang in there.

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It’s a Soupy Kind of Day

When it’s cold and there is a thick blanket of snow covering everything outside, the best thing to make for dinner is a warm, thick chowder to help take off the chill.  I took some ham our of the freezer and decided to make a ham chowder.  Chowders are my favorite soups and it was just the perfect day for a chowder.  It was most definitely a soupy kind of day.

 

When I make soups, I like to make them nice and chunky and loaded with stuff.  With my soups and chowders, you KNOW what’s in the soup.  You can see all kinds of hearty goodness and you can actually see lots of ingredients, unlike store bought soups, where they often leave you guessing.  This chowder is loaded with big chunks of ham, potatoes and vegetables.  I used carrots, onions, broccoli and to spice it up just a tad, I also threw in 1 jalapeno pepper.  I made my own ham stock and chicken stock too.  It was a simple meal that just hit the spot.

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Ham Chowder

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5-6 cups, cooked ham, cubed

3 large carrots, cubed

1 onion, diced

2 TBSP garlic

1 small of head broccoli, cut into small florets

1-1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed or quartered, depending on the type of potatoes you use – I used the golden fingerlings

1 jalapeno, diced fine – optional

6-8 cups broth – I used both ham and chicken

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil and butter

1 TBSP fresh herbs, chopped fine – I used sage, thyme and oregano

1/2 cup flour – or more or less depending on how thick you like your chowders

1 cup heavy whipping cream

 

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In a big soup pot, get your oil and butter hot, then add the vegetables and saute for about 7 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the carrots and potatoes are semi tender.

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Add the ham, the broth, the seasonings and the flour.  Mix everything together well.  Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.  Add the cream and the herbs and mix everything together well.   Adjust the seasonings if needed and add a little more flour if you like your chowders thicker.  If you are adding more flour, make sure to incorporate it very well and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.  There is nothing worse than getting a mouthful of uncooked flour in your soup.

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Once everything is ready, it’s time to soup it up.  It is the perfect feel good, comfort food for a cold wintery day.  It warms you up from the inside out.

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