Post #403 2 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Spring Onions

August 14, 2015 at 3:54 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #403 2 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Spring Onions

Today’s post is late because today was a very busy day in our household.  We started early, leaving the house at 8am and the dogs looking confused.  We had errands to run in Annapolis and wanted to try to beat the traffic as much as possible.  And wouldn’t you know, our GPS took us the long/wrong way to our destination, and at one point, I’m trying to navigate our Jeep SUV down a one way street with cars parked on both sides and a narrow driving lane that left us both gasping and shaking as we emerged unscathed but sweating.  As soon as we finished the first task, the following tasks rearranged themselves and suddenly half of what we wanted to do didn’t seem nearly so important anymore and could easily be done closer to home.  So back to the Eastern Shore we ran.  Once everything was done, we arrived home with lunch in tow and it was nearly 2pm.  But all the tasks but one were done, and that one I can do tomorrow.

Okay, now on to a kitchen hack.  Quite a while ago, I read on the internet (and they can’t put it on the internet if it isn’t true, can they?) that if you cut spring onions about an inch to an inch and a half above the roots, and put the roots in water, they’ll re-sprout and you can harvest them.

So what are spring onions?   These:

Spring_Onion

They go by different names, but most commonly they’re called Spring Onion, Green Onion, or Scallions.  The root bulb is typically non-existent, but there is one variety that does have a larger root ball the resembles a very small onion.  Unlike what I used to believe when I was a kid, these are not just immature onions, but a different plant altogether.  They have a milder onion flavor and every part can be used from the white stems just above the root, all the way to the end of the hollow green leaves.  They can be used whole or chopped into pieces of any size you like.  You can put them raw into salad, or float them as a garnish in a soup (put them in just before serving), or can cook them into sauces or other vegetables.  I’ve recently started adding them to fried cabbage where they give the dish a whole new level of flavor.

Up till recently, I’ve always just tossed the roots and never thought of it again.  But I’ve been reading a lot of kitchen hacks on the internet over that last few months and one stuck in my mind.  For those who aren’t aware, a “hack” whether it’s a kitchen hack, a life hack, or a writing hack, whatever kind of hack you got, is simply a short cut for doing something complicated or a way to use something in a way you never knew before.  One of those kitchen hacks was about the Spring onion.  If you cut the stalk right about where the lower red band is in the picture above, and stick them into a container of water, they will grow again.  Really and truly, they will.  You can get another 3 or 4 crops out of them.

Last Tuesday, I decided to make a pork roast for dinner.  I made rice to go with it and decided to make fried cabbage.  I cut one bunch of Spring onion into it, then plopped the root bundle into a plastic cup of water I was using to sprout another bunch.  After four days, this is the result.  They’re the bunch in the front.

Spring Onions

By the way, that’s Buddy in the background wondering what the heck I’m doing in the kitchen and hoping something drops on the floor for him to eat.  It didn’t so the poor guy went hungry.  So I’m going to do this from now on.  It’s like getting free onions!  And free is always good with me.  The bunch in the back I’ve harvested twice now since the middle of July.  At one point the stalks were over two feet high and getting in the way.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard you can do the same thing with Romaine lettuce.  Can’t wait to try that one cuz we love salad in our house.

One use for Spring onion (since we’ve got so much we have to use them up) is a wonderful dish called Spring onion pancakes.  You’ve seen these at various Chinese restaurants and they’re so good.  You’d think it was as easy as making a pancake batter and adding the chopped onion but it’s not.  It’s not hard, but it is a step or two above easy.

  • 1 3/4 flour
  • 3/4 cup self rising flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 bunches spring onions thinly sliced

Combine the 2 flours in a large bowl. Stir in the vegetable oil. Pour in half the boiling water into the flour and begin stirring immediately, then use your hands to combine into a dough.

Add the remaining boiling water as needed. Cover the dough and let it rest for 2 hours.

While the dough is resting, wash and dice the spring onions.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead briefly, then cut into thirds and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Roll each of the three sections of dough out into a flat piece approximately 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick. (If desired, you can make a thinner pancake, about 1/8 inch thick)

Brush the pancake with a bit of oil, and sprinkle with spring onion pieces. Roll up the pancake and cut into 7 – 8 pieces.

Use the palm of your hand to flatten each piece. Roll out again.

Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet. Shallow fry the pancakes until both sides are golden brown, being sure to sprinkle with a bit of salt during frying.

While cooking, press down on the center with a spatula to make sure the pancake cooks.

Serve whole or cut into wedges. Serve plain or with soy sauce or another dipping sauce if desired.  I use these as a side for chicken or pork chops.  I also like them cold for lunch with a little sour cream, but I’m strange that way.

Spring Onion Pancake

So, before we left for our errands this morning, I took out some chicken to thaw so I could grill that up and make the spring onion pancakes.  By the time we got home, the chicken was thawed and I put it back in the fridge.  Over the afternoon, as I worked on various things, including this blog, my energy level started dropping.  It’s come time to make dinner.  Here’s what we’re having:

pepperoni pizza

Have a great weekend and as always

Enjoy

Post #402 Repost: Breaking News

August 12, 2015 at 8:46 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #402 Repost: Breaking News

A year ago actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life due to depression.  Shortly after that, I wrote the following post outlining my own lifelong struggle with depression.  His death brought Depression to the national conversation for a time and there is movement forward in learning and treating the disease.  I felt it was worthwhile to rerun that post.  Feel free to share as you choose.  As always, thanks for reading my blog.

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Today’s post is not about food.  By now, everyone has heard of the death of Robin Williams.  He suffered from depression which led to an addictive personality.  He chose to end his life on Monday, the 11th.  A lot has been said about depression in the past few days, and I hope more will be said in the upcoming days.  Most people are talking about how said it is that he couldn’t reach out for help.  Some are saying how sad that he felt the need to end his life.  A few are talking about how cowardly it was for him to take his life, that he didn’t die of a disease but by choice.  I’d like to share something I’ve only told a few people before.

I’ve battled depression my whole life.  I’ve never been professionally treated for it; I’ve never taken drugs for it, unless you count chocolate; I’ve never had therapy for it apart from long talks with sympathetic friends about other subjects.  Oddly, I also have an optimistic personality and with everything I’ve experienced and read, I manage my depression pretty well.  But every day I have to decide if today is a day that I beat the dragon or the dragon beats me.

Depression isn’t something that makes sense.  It’s not a physical disease, but it can make you hurt physically.  It’s not strictly an emotional disease although it can reduce you to tears in no time flat.  It’s not completely a mental disease, but it will capture your brain in a spiral that sucks your soul down.

I once spent several months forcing myself to get out of bed each day.  All the best advice said tomorrow will be better, so I’d wait until 12:01 and say, “Well, it’s tomorrow, and it’s not any better.”  Then I’d go to sleep in despair.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I weighed in at about 130 pounds while standing just shy of 6 ft.  I wasn’t eating enough because eating just seemed pointless.  I would eat only when others were watching me so they wouldn’t know how much I was hurting.

I once wrote a poem I titled “The Color of Loneliness.”  To me, it was indigo, dark and impenetrable.

That’s the deal with depression.  It makes you fell completely helpless.  It makes you feel weak.  It makes you feel empty.  It makes you feel like the entire universe is empty, there is no joy.  It makes you feel “not good enough.”  It doesn’t matter what you know about yourself, or what others tell you about yourself.  The dragon is always there telling you nothing is worth it.  The pain of depression can be overwhelming.  It can engulf you so that all you can see is the dragon and nothing else.

I was going through my ultra religious phase at the time and learning that as far as God was concerned, I was worthless.  Even the lesson “But I love you anyway” got twisted by the dragon to mean the exact opposite of what was intended.  I would huddle in my bedroom for hours at a time just shaking in despair until some obligation would force me to get up and get out.  I put on my social mask and played like everything was perfect in my life, despite the fact that I was broken in ways I thought no one could understand.  Even those people who came close to suspecting were put off by my “You don’t understand.”

Every time I bought myself something new, whether it was a book or a shirt or a boxed pizza kit, the dragon was always there whispering I didn’t deserve it.

Finally, one day, I decided it was time to end the pain.  I don’t remember how I was going to do it.  I tried to get what small affairs I had in order.  There wasn’t much.  I was still young, barely in my twenties, so I had no appreciable debt.  I had even fewer belongings.  Really, all I had to do was decide the date and time, and write the note.

Death, as such, has never scared me.  I’ve always believed that life is terminal; you’re not going to get out of it alive.  But the manner of death has always bothered me because I don’t like pain.  Who does?  Apart from the Marquis de Sade?

So, it came time to write the note.  And that’s where I stopped.  How in hell could I explain this to anyone so they’d understand and not be upset?  I couldn’t.  I tried for days and was left with nothing.  And for the first time in my life, I felt hope.  I felt the dragon go silent.  I started wondering why it was so hard to write that goodbye note, and the only answer I could come up with was that I was here for a reason.  I just had to find that reason.

I still battle the dragon every day, but I’m happy, or fortunate, to say that most days I win.  Once in a great while, the dragon takes hold, but I’m a little wiser to his antics now and can usually shake him off.

Millions of people suffer from depression, clinical or otherwise.  There are thousands of groups in our communities, online or physical, designed to help every facet of society.  One that means the most to me is The Semicolon Project.

http://projectsemicolon.org/

The semicolon is a grammatical device that looks like a comma beneath a period.  It connects two sentence clauses into one sentence.  It can also act as a comma separator in lists where the items are longer than single word.  It means that the author chose not to end the sentence.  I draw one on my left wrist (I’m right handed, so  . . . . ) periodically to remind myself that I chose not to end the sentence, and to help others not to end their sentences.

 

semicolon too

 

Ending your sentence, or giving in to the dragon, is not an act of despair or cowardice.  I’ll never attempt to judge another’s pain or their decision regarding it.  I’ll mourn the loss.  I’ll continue teaching and reaching out.  I’ll do what I can to make this place better until I get to the other place.  I simply pray and hope they’re in a better place.

To Robin William, if you know what I’m saying, you gave us laughter, and fun, and tears, and moments of gasping joy.  Thank you and please be at rest.  Your dragon is gone.

With heartfelt gratitude and immeasurable delight, I say again:

Enjoy!

Post #401 5 Make Ahead Slow Cooker Meals

August 10, 2015 at 10:23 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #401 5 Make Ahead Slow Cooker Meals

When I graduated high school, I decided not to go to college immediately and took a little time off to work and get my feet on the ground.  I started working at a factory in my home town that made blue jeans.  I started by working in the shipping dept filling orders, but eventually became responsible for entering the inventory into the computer as it came off the line.  I liked working there because I knew 50% of the people in the place, and I was able to re-establish old friendships with people I’d lost contact with.

One of those was a young woman from my church.  We’d known each other for a long time but had lost touch.  She invited me over for dinner after work one night to catch up.  She had a small(!) apartment near the factory so we walked to her place one afternoon.

“I hope you like turkey!” she said as we stepped inside.  I smelled the delicious aroma of roasted turkey and was floored.

“When did you have time to make a turkey?”

She grinned.  “I made it a few weeks ago and froze the leftovers.  I came home at lunch and put a bag of it in the crock pot to reheat.”

I don’t recall anything more of the dinner, and she eventually married a marine I knew and moved away.  But the thought of using the crockpot to reheat frozen meals was an eye opener for me at that time.  Don’t judge me too harshly.  It was the late ’70s and I was only 19.  The idea stayed with me ever since.

Everyone knows how easy it is to use a slow cooker to make meals; everyone knows how easy it is to freeze those meals.  Till that day, I never knew how easy it was to reheat a frozen meal in a crock pot.  Of course, the first time I tried it, it was a disaster.  I had some frozen spaghetti (does it seem like spaghetti features a lot in my life?) in a zip lock sandwich bag.  Before I left for work, I put a cup of water and the bag of frozen spaghetti in the crock pot and turned it on low.  When I got home from work, I was greeted by the smell of spaghetti and the happy fact that I wouldn’t have to make anything for dinner since it was already done!  I changed and cleaned up, took the top off the pot, and found the bag had split from the heat and spilled its contents into the water.  The sauce had thinned out to a soup like consistency, and the noodles had swelled to twice their normal size.  I pulled the bag out and was about to resign myself PBJs for dinner, when the luscious aroma hit me again.  I stirred it around and the starches from the noodles thickened the sauce a little.  I tasted it and it was still delicious, just not the same consistency as it was originally.  So I went with my first plan and had a salad and slightly watery spaghetti and called it all good.  And started using stronger bags.

But that leads to another aspect of slow cooker cooking: the make ahead meal.  These have gotten pretty complex over the years.  It used to be as simple as soup.  Now you can pre-make beef stroganoff or chicken fajitas.  It takes some organization and stronger freezer bags, but you can make up a week’s worth of meals in about two hours.  So I’m going to ignore the bags and the organization and just give you some of my favorite recipes.

1- Applesauce BBQ Chicken

  • 2 boneless chicken breast, cut into large cubes
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (your favorite)
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 small onion sliced thin (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  To cook:  empty zip lock bag into crock pot with 1/4 cup water.  Cook on low for six hours.

2- Beef Barley Soup

  • 1 pound beef, cubed
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (any type)
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup uncooked barley

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  To cook: empty zip lock bag into crock pot with two cups water.  Cook on low for six hours.  Serve with crackers.  Salt and pepper to taste.

3- Lemonade Chicken

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 small can lemonade
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  The lemonade can be thawed first.  To cook: empty zip lock bag into crock pot with 1/2 cup water.  Cook 6 hours on low, uncover for last two hours.  Serve with rice or noodles.

4- Aloha Pork

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks with juice
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar (I’ve used fruit infused vinegars for a different flavor)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  To cook:  empty zip lock bag into crock pot with 1/4 cup water.  Cook on low for six hours.  Remove pork and pineapple and shred.  Return to juice sauce and mix.  Serve with rice.

5- Western Beef

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can kidney or red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/s cup tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  To cook:  empty zip lock bag into crock pot with 1/4 cup water.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  Stir ingredients at one hour intervals.  Serve with corn tortillas in any form at all.

Enjoy

Post #400 Handy Eating

August 7, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #400 Handy Eating

Before I start, let me just say Thank You! to everyone who has stuck with this blog thing for 400 posts!!  Every hundred post mark seems like a milestone I never expected to see.  So thanks again.  I’ve had fun and I hope you have too.

When I was still working in an office atmosphere, one of the most pressing cooking concerns I had was what to cook for lunches at work.  Like offices everywhere, we were limited not only in space, but in appliances.  There were three “kitchen” areas, one that was right next to my office, and the other two located at various points on the floor.  There were fridges in each of them, coffee makers, microwaves, and one had a soda machine, snack machine, filtered water, and a small ice machine.  I usually brought a salad with some leftover meat on it, or went to the cafeteria downstairs.  My problem was there was so little time for eating.  But it was a question on everyone’s mind.

Some people resolved the issue by buying lunch all the time.  Others resolved it by skipping lunch altogether.  Some, like me, brought leftovers, salads, lunches from home.  Still others bought pre-fab hand-held nuked sandwiches designed to fill the tummy and empty the wallet.  I’m referring, of course, to:

hot-pockets

Don’t get me wrong.  Hot pockets and their ilk fill a niche in the food market.  They’re handy; cost effective when bought in bulk; serve their purpose.  For me, a six-foot 190 pound guy, they don’t fill me up with one, or even two.  It takes three and sometimes four which eliminates their cost effectiveness.  (Sort of like eating on 6 oz tub of yogurt.  I eat one and try to feel not-hungry, only to reach for the Oreos about three minutes later.)  Once, a young lady in my office put a hot pocket in the microwave and misread the instructions.  She set the timer for 15 minutes, then walked away from it.  suddenly, we all smelled smoke, and the smoke alarm went off.  I went to look, and a young man was at the sink with a blackened carbonized rectangle, cursing softly about people leaving things in the microwave, etc.  I was happy it was taken care of, but when the young lady, who is a friend of mine, confessed to me what she had done, I started laughing about it.  I still laugh about it.  I’m chuckling now.

Handy heated sandwiches that are carried easily have been around for a very long time.  I won’t go into a long history, but if you think about it, you’ll figure it out.  Think empanadas.  Think pasties.  It’ll all come to you.  The thing is, it’s all been around for a long time, long before mass produced frozen conveniences.  So people were making dough filled with stuff and baked to take with them for a long time.

It’s actually really easy to do.  There are shortcuts, but you have to use the right short cut.  Who remembers these?

sandwich maker

They were advertised as the best thing to make sandwiches since the bread slicer.  My mom bought one.  It was terrible.  One of the recipes was for an apple turnover.  You were supposed to take two slices of bread, put applesauce between them, put them in the machine, and wait for it to cook.  Bingo!  Three minutes later you had this terrible tasting icky hot handful of apple sludge.  None of the other recipes worked any better, although the grilled cheese came close.

The best shortcut is to use refrigerated tube dough.  I prefer to use the bread loaf dough rather than those that are pre-cut.  This way I can size the hot pocket sandwich any way I want to.  Take one tube of french bread loaf dough and roll it out with a rolling pin to a 6 inch x 8 inch rectangle.  Cut it into four equal pieces.  Then scoop a quarter cup of your favorite filling (more about that in a moment) into the center.  Fold the shorter edges into the center, stretching the dough to make sure they meet.  Then fold the long edges into the center making certain they overlap just a bit and pinching the edges to prevent leaks.  Place them seam side down on a baking sheet that’s been sprayed with cooking spray.  Brush an egg wash over the top, and bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Cool to warm and eat.  To store, cool completely, wrap in plastic, and freeze.  To reheat, wrap in a slightly damp paper towel and microwave in 30 second increments until warm.  The damp paper towel will help keep the dough tender.

hotpockets1

So what do you fill them with?  What are you in the mood for?  I’ve made them with blueberry pie filling to have homemade Pop Tarts.  I sprinkled a little sugar over the top before baking for extra sweetness.  You can also use meats, cheeses, vegetables, or chocolate.  Really, it’s only limited by your imagination.  Just try to make the filling as dry as possible so it doesn’t leak out the crust.  One of these days, I’m going to try a cheesecake and fruit filling to see what happens.  One time, I used left over beef taco meat with the seasoning, and put tomatoes and cheese in it.  It was slightly too wet, so wasn’t a perfect success, but what a great flavor.

When trying a new filling, one I’m experimenting with, I tend to make one first, to see how it’s going to turn out.  If it’s a success, I make more and freeze them.  I like cold meats and stews, etc. so I don’t always reheat these.  To my taste, they’re fine just thawed and at room temperature.  They’re also pretty decent thawed and still chilly.   I wonder what they’d be like filled with brownie batter?

Enjoy

Post #399 The Amazing “New” Superspice!

August 5, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #399 The Amazing “New” Superspice!

When I was in college, I was bored with all the “regular” chicken dishes and wanted to find something exotic.  That really means something I’d never made before using spices I’d never heard of.  So I looked through my cookbook (still had just the one) and found one that looked intriguing.  I can’t remember if I made the dish for myself alone, or for others, but it turned out really well.  It had fresh tomatoes cooking in it.  It had rice.  It had onions and garlic.  And it had a spice called turmeric.  Everyone liked it and called it a success.

Turmeric has a peppery, earthy flavor and a bright gold color.  Anything it touches turns yellow.  It’s grown mostly in southwest India so it figures prominently in that cuisine.  It’s considered a less-expensive alternative to saffron.  It’s a root from the ginger family, and like ginger, it can be used fresh or powdered.

Turmeric was first used as a dye, but through some complicated machinations over several years, it became a spice.  It’s used throughout Asian cuisine, but as I said earlier, it’s primarily used in Indian and Pakistani cuisine mostly in curries.

The spice has a long history of medicinal uses.  It’s used in teas, poultices, and its juice is used topically for skin ailments.  It’s long thought to be beneficial for stomach and intestinal distress much like ginger.  If legend is to be believed, it can cure problems with the heart, liver, stomach, intestines, sprains, open wounds, and headaches.  Studies on its curative characteristics have just started recently and do not support the legendary claims.  But the same can be said for ginger and garlic.  You have to be careful in assigning almost magical properties to herbs and spices.

However, it’s been around for centuries and the stories have been told for centuries.  So maybe there’s something there.  Just don’t eat too much of it because it can be an irritant in the digestive system.  Trust me.

So, here’s the chicken recipe I made.  I hope you like it as much as I did.

Turmeric Chicken –

  • 4-6 large chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 small onion roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 cup chicken stock

In a large skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat olive oil.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the turmeric over the olive oil and stir to blend.  Add the chicken, skin side down, searing for 5 minutes.  Turn the chicken over and cook for another 5 minutes and remove to a plate.  Add the onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and tomatoes and cook for one minute.  Add the chicken skin side up and carefully add the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Cover and simmer for ten minutes, then move the lid to partially cover and cook for another twenty minutes.  Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to stand for five minutes.  Serve warm over rice, or noodles, with a fresh salad.

Enjoy

 

 

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