Poor man caviar

January 28, 2014

If you’re not in the 1% bracket and can’t afford caviar and toast points, I have a southern replacement. CORN BREAD AND PINTO BEANS! YEE HA! Ok, coming off my carb high… Cornbread has got to be one of the simplest “breads” to make. There’s no rise time involved. A few simple ingredients, a hot pan, a hot oven and 30 minutes later you have a “loaf”. I used Pioneer brand cornmeal. I tried using Bob’s course ground cornmeal, but I could never get it to incorporate the other ingredients in a recipe, so I went with a finer grind of cornmeal. I used the recipe that’s on the cornmeal bag, but unfortunately they don’t have it listed on their website.

imageFresh out of the iron skillet that was greased with black forest bacon fat.

imageNot the best photo because I was hungry, but here’s how I like my cornbread-split, buttered, and smothered with pinto beans.


Justin! Put down that egg!

January 24, 2014

Some local pasture raised egg choices

These are too good to waste on the neighbors house. I’ve been studying up a bit on eggs. While “cage free” eggs are all the rage, the term cage free has no meaning. It’s not a regulated term like “certified organic” it’s more like the term “natural” which has no meaning either because it’s not regulated. While “pasture raised” as far as I can tell is not a regulated term, it does seem to have some industry protection in that true pasture egg producers would raise holy hell at an industrial commercial egg farm if they used the term.

Pasture raised eggs are those that are from chickens that are raised on smaller farms where the chickens are given a minimum of 108 square feet of rotated pasture space each to cluck and socialize, root for worms, grubs, bugs and peck. Birds from large commercial farms have their beaks trimmed so they don’t injure other birds in close quarters.


Note how deep orange the yoke is compared to a commercial factory egg.

One advantage to the pasture raised eggs is the additional protein the birds ingest from the bug buffet they are entitled to on a daily basis. The additional protein is transferred to the egg making it more nutritious. Also the egg just taste more “eggy”. Much like how a heirloom tomato tastes much more like a tomato than the bland tomatoes found in most stores.

Chickens will produce eggs on their own, but to make them more reliable layers, they need supplemental feed. I won’t go into all the details about the horrors included in some feed like PCB’s, mercury, etc. but the quality of the nutrition of the feed is obviously important as the feed is transferred eventually into the egg you buy in the store.

$6.99 a dozen seems to be about the price to pay for top of the line pasture raised, non GMO, organically fed eggs (price from my local Whole Foods). There are different classes of pasture raised eggs such as organic fed but may contain GMO feed, or non organic feed. The price declines with the decline in the quality of feed as non GMO, organic feed is the most expensive feed. The increase in price of pasture raised eggs is also due to the increased labor involved in pasture raising chickens as opposed to keeping them in small, stress inducing cages. Locally, Whole Foods has several brands of pasture eggs ranging from~$4.99-$6.99 a dozen. I also found them at this co-op for $4.99 a dozen for medium-size. You don’t have to be a member of the co-op to purchase the eggs. Pasture raised eggs are also available at Central Market and some Kroger’s. Many come from Vital Farms. If you want to check how your egg rates, here’s a list of many egg producers.

Ikea you with this! (or the clever cleaver)

January 22, 2014

imageThis is a great tool in the kitchen. It’s not a meat cleaver but a vegetable cleaver. Clever? Yes. It has more heft than a chef’s knife, but not as heavy as a meat cleaver so those chopping jobs don’t get too tiring. It’s great for slicing vegetables and smashing garlic, or for slicing through that frozen chub of breakfast sausage or venison that a friend gives you (hint). And it’s $12.99 at Ikea. (Ikea has since updated the cleaver so this photo is not representative of the actual cleaver but I have bought the new style and it is just as good.)

Baron Mundi?

January 22, 2014

imageNo, actually Barramundi. It’s a mild, almost buttery white fish that I see for sale occasionally. Low in fat and calories, high in protein, and omega 3 fatty acids. It is now my favorite fish. I usually prepare it in an iron skillet broiled (in a toaster oven!) in a little olive oil. Served with some pre-steamed carrot and green beans, sometimes brown rice that I pre-cook. To reheat the rice, I throw it on top of the steaming vegetables in the steamer, and the rice grains are large enough that they don’t fall through the steamer holes. When the preheated skillet is hot, I add the olive oil, fish, and toss the steamed vegetables and rice on top of the fish and throw it back in the broiler for 10 minutes. Takes about 15-20 minutes tops, uses just a pot, steamer and pan.

Lunch at Casa Don

January 22, 2014


It lives!

It’s been a while. Just for grins I thought I’d update this blog. Today’s lunch was pretty easy to assemble. I had a stack of corn tortillas that I decided to fresh fry crisp in moderately heated canola oil. I tend to overheat oil for frying, but I think I got it right this time. I had on hand some homemade chili (grass fed ground beef, red onion, crushed and minced garlic, chili powder, cumin seeds, tomato paste, catsup, Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, filtered water) and some homemade Pinto beans that were brined overnight in salted, filtered water (pintos, red onion, chili powder, cumin seeds, catsup {see a pattern?}. Topped it with mixed baby greens and some fresh cilantro and freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin Spanish olive oil.

Lunch at Chez Donald

December 13, 2011

Wild Yukon River Salmon, Wild Rice with sauteed Porcini mushrooms, mixed lettuce with Super Cherry tomatoes, mustard based cooked salad dressing.

Now that I have more free time on my hands (thank you Texas Legislature, et. al!) I’m cooking more at home. Whereas I usually ate lunch out, many days I now cook it at home. So, like it or not, I’m getting more time in the kitchen. Today’s lunch I got quite a deal at Central Market on the salmon, about a two foot fillet for $7.50. The wild rice cooks to a nice light purple and was on sale at Sunflower Market, and the dressing I made from a 1938 and a 1954 forest fire tower recipe book.

I’m really liking this old recipe book as the recipes are designed for simple provisions that would be stored in a forest fire tower and structured to feed one or two people. My latest successes are the salad dressing, a bread recipe and a biscuit recipe. My previous failures at baking were due to too hot an oven as falsely indicated by the oven dial, and not hand kneeding dough for a minimum of 10 minutes. Both these corrected, I’m happy with the results.

I never really liked the salads I made in the past as they seemed bland most likely because of the simple vinaigrette dressings I’d make to dress the salad. I shied away from store bought mainly because of calories and ingredient lists that looked like a manifest for a chemistry lab. The dressing is quite simple: butter, flour, milk, egg, salt, sugar, mustard, vinegar. I didn’t have any dry mustard on hand which I think the recipe calls for so I substituted yellow mustard and cut back on the vinegar. Takes about 10 minutes to make, and keeps in the fridge for days.

The bread recipe I tried was simple too: yeast, water, butter, flour, milk, salt, sugar. The biscuit recipe: water, butter, flour, baking soda milk, salt, sugar. Pretty much what most cooks would have in their pantry and fridge. The biscuits take about 20 minutes from start to finish, the bread about 2 hours. I highly recommend you take a look at how it was done in the great forests decades ago. I bet it smelled great in the pine forest with baking bread in the oven!


The dough after 10 minutes of kneading by hand has obtained a silky texture. It will rest, covered in the baking pan for an hour to double in bulk.

The dough, having risen for an hour, is ready to be placed in a “moderate” oven.

The finished loaf fresh out of the oven after 40 minutes of baking. When properly baked it will emit a hollow sound when tapped.

A tip of the hat to Trader Joe’s

September 7, 2011

I was surfing the net and came upon Trader Joe’s web site. There’s a bit of excitement and speculation in foodie land Dallas, where people are anticipating the location and opening date of the first Trader Joe’s in Texas.
As I was perusing the site I stumbled upon their recipe link. As I was a bit famished from my morning walk I was ready to eat with little delay.

As luck would have it I had almost everything this simple recipe required:
1 loaf TJ’s Crusty French Bread, torn into pieces
6 TJ’s Eggs
1/4 cup TJ’s Milk
1 cup TJ’s Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage (pre-cooked), sliced (or TJ’s Veg. Sausage-less Sausage)
1 cup TJ’s Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
TJ’s Spices (optional)

Well almost everything save for all the TJ brand ingredients. And of course I was making this for me and not a platoon that the recipe would feed. So I took some crusty bread from Central Market that was past its prime. I hate that I go and buy a beautiful loaf of bread and get about two slices off of it before it turns into concrete. I zapped it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften it so it doesn’t explode into shards when cut with a knife. It was still tough but I had a solution to that. I managed to cut two slices off the loaf and put them in my trusty #3 Wagner iron skillet. Then I poured a little fat free milk on the slices to soften them further. A half pat of butter on each slice and into a pre heated oven at 350 while I mixed the other ingredients. One egg for me please, along with some salt and fresh ground pepper, a little left over pre cooked spicy beef patty from Central Market crumbled into a small bowl along with some thin slivers of red onion and some “grated” sharp cheddar cheese and some more non fat milk. I used a bit of milk to stretch the egg mixture so it would cover the bread in the pan. Eggs have an incredible ability to absorb or incorporate a great deal of moisture or ingredients. I put “grated” in quotes because I didn’t use a cheese grater but a serrated edged bread knife that rendered the same result if you slice the cheese thin enough.
Popped it into the toaster oven, set the timer for 25 minutes, and out comes a cheap, relatively quick meal using that leftover bread.

As it came out of the oven. Not quite done yet!

Plated, ready to serve. I flipped it over and grated some sharp chedder using the knife shown and let the cheese melt on the hot dish.