Monday, January 25, 2010

Slow Cooker Madness

Last week I decided to develop a friendlier kitchen relationship with my slow cooker. It sits proudly on the shelf, day after day, year after year, even though I choose other cooking vessels over it, time and time again. Oh yes, once in a while I will choose to leave a pot roast braising all day when I am not home, or let my spaghetti sauce with meat slowly simmer. Other than that, I have willingly snubbed the slow cooker. Last week I learned it has been in it's best spot all along. On the shelf.
First off I tried making Boston Baked Beans. I soaked the Northern white beans all night, then put them in the slow cooker the following morning,covering them with homemade chicken stock, and ingredients to make one of the tastiest Boston baked beans I have ever produced. However, my slow cooker has a mind of its own and did not stand up to the test. After 8 1/2 hours of slow cooking, the beans were not tender. Let me suffice that after leaving them to cook all that night, and all the next day to dinner time once again, those damn beans never got tender. They went into the garbage.
Yesterday I decided to try one more time, this time making soup. How hard could that be for my slow cooker to step up and hit a home run? I am the optimistic one. This was more successful than the beans, but truly, I could have made it in less time in a pot on the stove. Here is the recipe as I made it in the slow cooker. It was very tasty, and I will make it again. However next time I will leave the slow cooker sitting proudly on it's shelf where it truly belongs and choose a cooking vessel I can use on my stove. Trust I will be cooking up those Boston baked beans again very soon, and they too will be cooked the good old fashioned way.
Slow Cooker Potato Cheddar Soup
Peel and slice 4 large potatoes. I suggest you slice them very thin. Slow cookers are what they boast to be - slow cooking. Put them in the slow cooker pot and pour in 1 to 1 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth. You can use low-salt canned chicken broth or water. Cover and cook on high for about 2 to 3 hours until the potatoes are just tender. Cold be longer. Slow Cookers also are testy.
Transfer the potatoes and the cooking liquid to a blender container (may have to do this in batches) and toss in 1 large clove garlic. Blend to a smooth consistency. If you like chunk of potato in your soup, only put two-thirds of the potatoes into blender.
Put the potato puree back into the slow cooker and stir in at least 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used an extra aged sharp white which was good, but did not add the nice orangish color of a regular cheddar), another cup of broth, and 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives. Cover and cook on low for about 30 minutes or so, until the soup is well heated. add extra broth at this point if the soup is too thick-do it to your liking. Get the consistency you enjoy the most. If you left 1/3 of the potato slices break them up with a fork at this point. Season with a lot of pepper. Salt if you find it necessary, however I think the cheese is salty enough. Right before serving, stir in 1 cup of sour cream, heavy cream or half and half. Myself, I used nonfat sour cream. It added the creaminess to the texture, but did not add the rich flavor real sour cream, or cream would have done. Serve in individual bowls, and top as you like - bacon pieces, crumbled cheddar...load it up with more flavor.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Day with Jacob

Jen and John needed to do some things at Jen's Dad's house Friday so they dropped Jacob off earl yin the morning. Granddad David set the train up for him. He spent the first part of the morning laughing as he watched the train go round and round and tried to feed all the cats some of his Jr. cheese puffs.

He thought the tunnel Granddad created with a dining room chair was fun.

I know this is where you turn the train on and off. When I wasn't looking, he turned the speed all the way up. The sound it made and how fast the train went scared him. He left the controls alone after that. Smart boy.

Sharing Poopie's water with him. Ugh!

Jacob then decided he wanted to rearrange my walk-in pantry. He has good taste; he started with the Ghiradelli and Scharfen Berger baking chocolate shelf.

He loves to arrange things. Also put things into a bowl, then take them out and stack them. then repeat, repeat, repeat. he spent a lot of time pouring miniature marshmallows from plastic cup to plastic cup as well.

Zooming around the house on his race car with his favorite blankie.

We took a walk to the park, and then we walked over to Auntie Theresa's house where we played out in her big backyard with Hula the pug, and Jacob had fun inside with a wind chime and Uncle Shawn's telescope. Well, looking At the telescope, not through it at this point. (I was not good at snapping pictures this time around.)

I was lagging taking pictures, and Jacob stopped and waited for me. He is too sweet. The day went by way too quickly.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Belated New YearDinner weith the Hoekman's

Jacob ate his dinner early. he was so tired from their San Diego trip he took a long nap that afternoon, and then he went to bed very early.

Steamed asparagus with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Jennifer's festive table and the food waiting for the diners.

Jen marinaded and John grilled New York steaks.

Baked Shrimp Scampi. (See recipe in post below)

Baked Shrinp Scampi

Last night we celebrated New Year's belatedly with Jen, John, Justin and Jacob. Jen had the menu planned and I just helped her prepare this dish. David and I loved it. I look forward to making this at our next dinner party. Thanks Jen!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with 3 tablespoons good olive oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash 1 1/2 sticks softened unsalted butter, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup minced shallots, 3 tablespoons minced parsley, 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes,1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 extra-large egg yolk,, 2/3 cup panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch gratin dish (Jen used a 9 by 13-inch baking dish), arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under the broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Ready for the oven.

Ready to serve. We did not put it under the broiler. I think I might try that next time. Delicious!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bringing in the New Year 2010

Christmas Day Moments 2009

Santa came!!

He and his reindeer were hungry and thirsty too!

Christmas morning coffee. Oops!jen forgot to put the carafe in the coffee maker. The adults weren't tired!

I think Jacob is going to like Santa coming every year.

John playing with Justin's skaeboard Wii game.

Ponsettia's; Prosecco (champagne or sparkling wine), cranberry juice and triple sec.

Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bob

David, John, Jen, Justin, Me and Jacob

Bob, Linda, Jen, Jacob, Justin and John

Jen's Christmas dinner table

Caesar salad with creamy dressing and bacon

The prime rib, was it delicious!

Lots of whole garlic cloves stuffed between the bones and the meat

Ready for the table......

My plate.

Jacob ate ice cream for dinner. Hey, it's Christmas!

Jacob LOVED the flying helicopter Justin got from cousins Erin, Rob, steven and Mackenzie. He would just laugh in delight when it landed, and squeal as it flew through the air. He's pointing up to it.

Laughing in dlight as he watches the helicopter fly around the living room
Jen rocking Guitar Hero.

Yeah Baby

Christmas Eve Moments 2009

Some guys made a ice skating rink on part of the pond and played hockey on it the next day.
Jacob is entralled with Great Grandpa George's train and town, which now belongs to Justin.

EXCELLENT cabernet sauvignon. mmmmmmm

Justin welded this statue with Grandpa Bob's guidance. How cool is it?!

Jacob loves the remote control car from cousins Erin, Rob, steven and Mackenzie.

Playing with blocks from Granddad and Gram Gram.

Justin wove this basket for his parents in school.

Blocks are getting taller and taller - go Jake!

Justin and a nutcracker form Granddad and Gram Gram. Jus loves nutcrackers.

The ship form Great Uncle Ron and Great auntie Deb. Justin loved putting it together and the giant octopus that came with it.

Jacob playing police chase, the siren was blarring.

John gave Jen Guitar Hero 5. She really rocks it. The rest of us not so much. Though Granddad did pretty good.