Caring. About Food.
A Playing With Food and Mom & Me companion journal
with tips, recipes and musings
about how I tempt my Ancient One's palate.
Click Here for Introduction.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
As of May 1, 2010...
...Blogger will no longer allow FTP publishing. Updates to this blog, if they should occur, can be found at This section of the journal will also remain at in it's domain directory, so accessing links should not present a problem.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
No More Cooking for Mom
    As you may already know, my mother died on December 8th, 2008 at approximately 0709. As you also know, I didn't do a lot with this section of The Mom & Me Journals dot Net, even though it was always my intention to do more. Thus, I'm not sure this is the right time for me to officially close out this section of the journals. I suspect, as time continues, I may have more to say about Mom, her food habits, and recipes I devised for her delight. We'll see. In the meantime, be assured, the main section of these journals continues; you can access it through the immediately previous link in this post.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Hoisin Pot Roast
    Over the last few months, beginning sometime in December, I think, I've cooked more than a few pot roasts. Aside from the fact that I've been trying to keep my mother in beef in order to bolster her hemoglobin/hematocrit and keep her anemia at bay (which hasn't actually been successful), my mother is, at heart, a meat-and-potatoes (sans all other vegetables until about six or seven years ago) kind of girl. As well, I love a good pot roast especially when a variety of root vegetables (for us it's potatoes, carrots and onions; neither of us likes turnips or parsnips) and some peppers and celery stalks have been simmered with it over the last hour or so of cooking. And, the gravy! I'm not really a fan of gravy, but, when it comes to pot roast, bring that ladle a little closer, please!
    To keep my mother's senses alert, as well as my own, I've been experimenting with a variety of simmering liquids. So far I haven't ventured from starting with a basic beef broth out of a can; I've been adding a variety of other flavor enhancing ingredients, though. A couple of weeks ago, contemplating our second pot roast of the year, I was seized with the idea of leaning toward an Asian flavored roast. I decided to add Hoisin sauce (Dynasty's brand; although if you're curious about different varieties of Hoisin, give this page a try) and some other additions to the beef broth.
    Here's a list of what I added to the called for 1 cup of beef broth:    I also fooled around with the minced vegetable mixture called for in the Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition (pgs 667-668) recipe, which holds the basic instructions I follow when making pot roast. Instead of measuring the onions, I simply chopped 1 small-medium yellow onion, 4 large cloves of garlic, 1 whole green chili (also known as an "Anaheim pepper" and about a 1/2 cup of celery and threw them into my food processor for mincing.
    I was expecting the roast to be imbued with a smoky Asian flavor after simmering. What I got, though, was better than expected. The "Asian" influence metamorphosed into a rich, extremely beefy, flavorful roast. The gravy I made from the simmering liquid (after straining out the dregs of the minced vegetables) was almost too beautiful to eat: A deep sienna with a touch of Van Dyke brown...and savory, oh my! This is the kind of pot roast of which I've dreamed; it's the kind of pot roast that you think only food stylists can create with non-food items for commercials!
    The roast was huge, between four and five pounds. More than half ended up in the freezer. In order to preserve the flavor of the meat I spread the minced vegetable dregs over the roast before wrapping it for freezing. I also froze what was left of the gravy, about two cups, considering that my additions had increased the "called for" simmering liquid by 100%. A week later we had our first "left over pot roast" meal from what was in the freezer. It was even better than the first time and, by the way, the gravy froze and thawed like it knew what it was doing. So did the left over chunked vegetables I'd also frozen: Carrots, a medium Bermuda onion, two medium sized halved red potatoes and a green bell pepper sliced into 4 strips. I warmed everything in the oven instead of the microwave because I'd wrapped the left overs in aluminum foil for freezing but, also, in order to scent the house with the aroma of the warming dish.
    By the way, although the above mentioned recipe recommends turning the roast every half hour, the day I made this version was a partial wheelchair day for Mom, she was still battling her cold and I was running on empty. I managed to turn it after the first half hour. Soon after that initial turn, though, Mom decided to take her nap and I couldn't resist collapsing on the couch for a "short" nap. Two hours later...well, the roast was fine and so was I. Pot roast is very forgiving, it seems.
    For those of you who've never attempted pot roast but are interested, this particular roast took four hours of simmering to reach it's personal perfection. Because the roast hadn't been turned as per the recipe, the "top" of the roast developed a thin, deep brown crust. The meat, throughout, though, was fall-apart tender and retained an inviting prime-rib pink inside. I should also mention, the cook book recipe above recommends a very low, almost inactive simmering temperature. When I make pot roast I use what I imagine is a slightly higher temperature: "3" on a burner marked from "Low (1)" to "High (11)". This keeps the liquid visibly active but not jumping.
    Yes, I intend to continue experimenting with simmering liquids, but, I have to say, I think I've hit upon our "family recipe" with this one. It's definitely a keeper and repeater!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Christmas 2007 Recipes
    Since the Sauerbraten recipe resides in the 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking {page 668-669} I won't challenge the copyright and publish the recipe here. A few comments I want to make about my own preparation.
  1. Our roast marinated a little over five days. I read somewhere that the longer the roast marinates, the deeper the flavor, which I'm sure is true. One recipe I chanced across on the web recommended a seven day soak; another a 14 day soak. I guess I was well within outer marinating limits.
  2. I used a chuck roast measuring a little over four pounds. It took four hours on barely a simmer (which the recipe recommended) to braise the roast to the point of almost falling apart.
  3. I did, indeed, add 1/2 cup of crushed gingersnaps (out of the box; a generic brand) to the gravy. I imagine some people would enjoy the flavor. My mother did. It was a little too sweet for my taste.
    • Regarding this step, I reduced the liquid left from roasting a bit too much, although no more than the recipe called for, down to "2 to 3 cups". At this stage, the sauce without the gingersnaps was what I consider a good consistency for a slightly thick meat sauce. Adding the gingersnaps thickened it almost immediately beyond the point of what I would consider likable gravy. Take into consideration that I'm not a gravy fan and rarely make or serve it. This gravy, though, was so thick it could have been served as a meat pudding side dish.
    • I did not add the suggested "1 tablespoon red currant jelly or brown sugar" to the gravy.
    • I did not sieve the gravy in order to smooth it, thus, it was hearty with bits of pan drippings, meat and the minced vegetables used to flavor the braising liquid.
  4. Although the recipe recommends browning the roast "over medium-high heat", I found this a little too hot for the described subtle, 20 minute browning "on all sides". Almost immediately after placing the roast in to Dutch oven, I removed it, turned the burner down to medium (my burner setting goes from "Low {1}" to "High {11}" with "Medium" falling at the sixth setting), gave the pan about 10 minutes to cool, then browned the meat.
  5. I used gin instead of crushed juniper berries. I bought the gin in one of those "single serving" bottles and added the entire bottle to the marinade. I think that comes to 1.5 oz, maybe a little more. I'm not sure this made much difference in the final flavor.
  6. Some months ago I had a bad experience with using dry red table wine in a beef stew. Although I followed the recipe's recommendation for the amount of wine to add, the stew had such an overwhelming wine flavor that Mom and I found the it inedible. This time I used red cooking wine, which I assume is a somewhat lower grade than table wine. To my taste, it was perfect.
  7. I followed a pot roast family tradition in that I added large chunks of traditional pot roast vegetables to the roast during the last hour and a half of cooking, as follows:
    • potatoes, quartered, an hour and a half before the end of the braising;
    • chunked carrots at an hour before the end; quartered Bermuda onions at 40 minutes before the end; a quarter of a head of cabbage, cut in half, 20 minutes before the end.
    None of the vegetables overcooked or fell apart at these time limits.
    I found the Rum Date Sauce recipe for the dessert on the web on the page linked to its name. I read through several recipes, including commentary on some of them, before I decided on this one. I chose this because of the use of cornstarch, and very little at that. I doubled the recipe and followed it exactly except:
  1. I used chopped dates instead of raisins.
  2. I used dark brown sugar instead of granulated sugar.
  3. I used blackstrap rum, the darkest rum available.
  4. We stored the left over sauce in the refrigerator, heated it in the microwave for a minute on high a couple of days later and used it again with great success.
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Family Date Bar Recipe
    This recipe is not a typical date bar recipe, although it's the first one to which I was exposed as a child, so it came as a shock to me, several years later, that most people think of date bars as a sort of date jam baked between layers of a sort of oat streusel. If you like dates, this is the date bar recipe you want to try. A woman for whom I used to babysit made these. This is her recipe. When I asked her for it, she wrote it from memory onto a blue index card. I've never seen its like, before or since, outside our household, so I'm betting that she originated the recipe. Sometime within the next few days I'll be making this with dried apricots and toasted, slice almonds; and serving it with an Brandy Apricot Sauce, based on the above Rum Raisin Sauce recipe, but substituting Apricot Brandy for the rum, Apricots for the raisins and using granulated sugar instead of dark brown sugar. I'll report back on the results.

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/8 tsp salt

Other Dry Ingredients:
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups chopped dates
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Dry Ingredients Preparation:
    Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and spice.

Wet Ingredients:
3 eggs
½ cup butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla

Wet Ingredients Preparation:
    Beat butter and sugar until fluffy and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat with each addition. Add vanilla and beat a little more.

Inclusion Preparation:
    Add the flour, baking powder, salt and spice mixture to the wet ingredients a little at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula. Stir only until moistened.
    Quickly fold in dates and nuts.
    Pour batter into a 9" x 13" baking pan lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray.
    Bake in preheated 325° oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.
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Sunday, May 13, 2007
I want to be sure and get these Mother's Day recipes down...
...before I forget them.
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Fresh Raspberry Cobbler Recipe

Preheat oven to 375°.

Fruit Prep:
36 oz (dry ounces) fresh raspberries
½ cup flour
½ rounded cup sugar (white sugar is best)
grated zest from about ¾ of a lemon

Toss raspberries, flour and sugar in bowl. Grate the lemon zest over the bowl. Retoss the mixture. Some of the raspberries will come apart and mix with the flour and sugar. Don't worry about this; it'll make a rich filling. Dump raspberry mixture into a 2 qt oval gratin dish.

Bisquit Crust:
1 cup white flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ heaping tsp Allspice
6 Tbl stick margarine or butter
¾ cup milk

Whisk together all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut in magarine until mixture looks like meal with some coarse crumbs and some fine crumbs. Add milk and stir with a flat wooden spoon or rubber spatula just until mixed. Drop spoonfuls or spatulafuls of dough on top of the fruit mixture.

Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until crust is deep golden brown and raspberry mixture is bubbling.
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Sauced, Baked Meat Recipe

Preheat oven to 300°

Sauce Ingredients:
1 7 oz jar Dynasty Hoisin Sauce
¼ cup light soy sauce (Kikkoman is a good brand for this recipe)
1 Tbl grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, slice and smashed or 2 tsp garlic powder

When I made this on Mother's Day, 2007, I had about three quarters of a jar of Hoisin Sauce in the refrigerator, so I made up the difference with a ginger/soy Asian vinaigrette.
Whisk sauce ingredients together.

Spray with cooking spray a 13 x 9 glass baking dish. Arrange 3.75 lbs. of beef loin tri-tip strips in the dish. Pour in the sauce. Turn and brush the meat so that each piece is well covered. Tightly cover the baking dish with aluminum foil Bake for three hours. Turn the oven to 350°. Turn the meat in the baking dish. Return the meat to the oven uncovered and bake for an additional hour.
Remove meat from oven. Allow to sit at least 15 minutes. Before serving, spoon or drain the fat off the meat. Transfer meat to serving platter (if you wish), set it on the table and dig in.
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Friday, January 12, 2007
Some Damned Good Banana Bread
    What makes this banana bread so good is that it has a story behind it.
    This is the second time in a month I've purchased bananas with the intention of letting them ripen, then making banana bread. I forgot about the first batch, swinging in the fruit basket, and they ripened to the moldy liquefaction, which I noticed when observing some sort of sticky substances dropping onto other fruit in the baskets below. A few days later I came home with replacement bananas...
    ...about which I forgot until yesterday. They were blackened and had begun to host mold on the skin, but no liquid was evident in the bag. "Why not," I reasoned, "just peel the mold off with the skin? I'll bet the fruit inside is so ripe it's only fit for banana bread."
    That's when I noticed the winey smell. I think I mentioned that yesterday. Or, maybe that was mentioned to my mom, not you. Anyway, I do remember commenting on this to Mom and saying, "This bread should have a really robust flavor."
    My mother saw fit not to comment except with raised eyebrows. She likes banana bread, you see, but it had better be so rich with banana flavor that it could pass for the fruit. Her favorite way of eating bananas is out of the skin, slightly soft. She doesn't like banana flavoring in other foods, except in well appointed banana bread. I'm this way about bananas, too, only more so; I won't eat the banana raw unless it's just this side of green. So, it's not hard for me to find appropriate banana bread recipes.
    The last try was straight out of Joy of Cooking, and was good, but needed some work, primarily because of our high altitude. I made no adjustments and it showed. It's primary attraction is that all the liquid comes from bananas, except for the inclusions of eggs. Thus, it is loaded with bananas.
    I wondered, though, if, somewhere along the line, I'd bookmarked any promising banana bread recipes. Sure enough, there was the one I was destined to use, with enough alterations so that I can confidently publish it without citing the would be too confusing if I did that, anyway, because my changes, while they seem to be minor, turn out to be important.
    This recipe also features all fluids from bananas and eggs. Here it is. I'll talk about it, later.
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Damn Good Banana Bread Recipe

Dry Ingredients:
1⅓ cups unbleached, high altitude, all purpose flour
⅔ cup unbleached, high altitude, wheat flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Other Dry Ingredients:
¾ cup (or more, to taste, I think I used close to a cup) finely chopped walnuts.
scant ¾ cup brown sugar

Dry Ingredients Preparation:
    Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl (which will be your final mixing bowl).

Wet Ingredients:
2 cups mashed overripe bananas
¾ cup butter
2 jumbo eggs

Wet Ingredients Preparation:
    In a separate bowl cream the butter (which should be room temperature or a bit warmer, but not liquid) and brown sugar with a mixer until it looks a little like whipped cream.
    Mix in eggs one at a time (I did not beat them, first) with mixer. Stir in mashed bananas until well blended. Yes, the mixture will look ooky...the butter and bananas will not combine smoothly. Don't worry about this. You don't want them too because part of the magic of this recipe is what happens to the bread as the small chunks of banana bake into it.

Inclusion Preparation:
    Stir banana mixture into flour mixture. Stir enough to moisten. Fold in walnuts. A note on the walnuts: My preference, often, this loaf included, is to chop the nuts so fine that they're like a coarse meal. This releases oils, thus the flavor. In banana bread, this makes a BIG difference.
    Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. This recipe well fills, not too little, not too much, a flared, 9¼" x 5¼" x 2¾" aluminum pan; a pan that is part of Mom's original collection of fruit cake baking pans and was originally purchased on Guam or previously. It and its kin remain my favorite loaf pans. For reasons discussed later in the recipe, it is smart to line the pan with overlapping aluminum foil, heavy gage, and grease (or, as I did, Pam) the interior of the lined pan.

    Bake in preheated 350° oven for 60 minutes or until the loaf has raised, is golden brown and a thin skewer inserted one inch from the center of the loaf comes out clean. In my oven, it took exactly 60 minutes. The crust was an attractive Burnished Old Gold brown. The loaf had been scenting the house delectably for the previous half hour.
    If you did not line your baking pan with aluminum foil, let the loaf cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Immediately wrap the loaf securely in aluminum foil and put it up to mellow for 18 - 24 hours. I usually also encase it in a large plastic bag and close the bag securely, just to "make sure". I recommend doing this with all quick bread loaves. It enhances the moisture, texture and flavor.
    You may need to increase amounts of leavening ingredients or decrease, slightly, liquids, for this to work perfectly at lower altitudes.
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    The use of brown instead of white sugar, by the way (I always use the darkest brown I can find), adds a hint of caramel, which enhances the banana flavor. It reminds of me eating fried bananas on Guam. These bananas were the local variety, closer to plantains, really, except the color of bananas. We had three prolific trees on the swampy side of our house. They were small, pungent in both aroma and flavor, very firm even when very ripe and could be stored (on the tree) almost forever. One of the local desserts, which Mom occasionally cooked for us, was peeling these ripe, firm bananas, splitting them lengthwise, rolling them in brown sugar and frying them briefly in a hot skillet full of sizzling butter.
    You'll also notice that this recipe doesn't include vanilla. It wouldn't hurt if you want to add a teaspoon, but I don't think it needs vanilla; the bananas, finely chopped walnuts and dark brown sugar give this load a superior flavor.
    Our loaf ripened overnight in its aluminum foil plaster. I tried a piece just a half hour ago. Oh, my, my! At room temperature, without any kind of smear, this bread is perfect. It is moist and firm, highly fragrant and flavored, its texture much enhanced by the addition of whole wheat flour. It has some heft. It is not melt-in-your-mouth cupcake sweet bread, although it's plenty sweet. You have to chew this stuff...and reap the benefits!
    So, needless to say, I'm pleased with this one and want to be able to refer back to it, so I'm cybermortalizing it here.
    If you like banana bread, you've gotta try this. I recommend, though, you let your intended bananas go at least until the skins are completely black...perhaps it is not necessary to wait for skin mold. If skin mold happens, though, never fear. That's where my bananas were at. I discarded none of them. Although I can't attest to the flavor of the winey smelling fruit, in the bread, the condition of the meat only deepened and ripened the banana flavor.
    No, Mom hasn't tried it yet. She's not up. I'll report back.
    I did, by the way, use real butter. When I type "butter", I mean "butter". Otherwise, I'll type something else.
    I think I'll slice myself another piece before I go over to the main journal and direct visitors here.
    Mmmm...even the bread smells like wine. I assure you, though, it does not taste like wine.


Thursday, November 23, 2006
Oh my! Our house smells like Carnivore heaven!
    The pot roast is just beginning its second hour. Our house is so fragrant my mother has arisen twice to comment on the wonderful aroma since she went down for her nap at 1615. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've cooked a pot roast. I don't think my mother ever did a classic pot roast, either. Her roasts were always done in a pressure cooker. She's throw all the accompanying vegetables in there with the meat, a bay leaf and a generous sprinkling of seasoning salt and let 'er rip. By the time it was done, while the meat may have been good, the vegetables were crumbly and barely distinguishable from one another; rather like canned. I liked my mother's roasts, but I can tell you, her roasts never smelled like this! She always made gravy for my dad, but she was never good at it; thus, after the first try when I was probably just beginning to eat solid food, I eschewed her gravy. No one else ate it, either, that I can remember; except my dad. Whatever juice leaked out of the plated roast was enough for me. And, anyway, our family was not big on potatoes. If a starchy side dish seemed to be required, and it rarely was, it was white rice, usually Minute rice, for which I didn't care, either.
    This meal, though, the one begin prepared as I write, is going to be completely different than our typical born-into-family roast dinners:
  1. First, the pot roast isn't being pressure cooked. I've never used a pressure cooker and can't imagine every needing one.
  2. I followed a recipe, as much as I am able (which means I made only a few adjustments) since I'd never made pot roast. This recipe appears to be a winner.
  3. Although I have decided to cook the vegetables with the meat, which the recipe doesn't cover, I'm using my own technique to do this to keep the vegetables from turning into mush:
    • The vegetables have been cut into large chunks and include: 1 russet potato, one and a half carrots, 2/3 of a green pepper, 1/2 a Bermuda onion, some left over Portabella mushroom slices.
    • I'll add them as follows: Potatoes: one hour before the roast is done; carrots: 45 minutes before it's done; Onion: 1/2 hour before it's done; green pepper and mushrooms: 20 minutes before it's done.
  4. I used bacon fat to brown the roast.
  5. The simmering liquid includes a cookbook suggestion: After browning the roast, add approximately 2.5 cups of finely chopped (I used a food processor) onions, celery and carrots, to which I added 1/2 a finely chopped green chili, sizzle them in the fat until they "begin to color", then add beef broth (canned; I've got home made chicken and vegetable broth in the freezer, but not beef broth), a bay leaf and, the recipe suggested, fresh or dried thyme. Instead, I used a bouquet garni; 1/2 tsp per pound (the roast is almost four pounds, I used 1.5 teaspoons, knowing that dried spices are extremely concentrated and can sometimes be overwhelming). For body, I added 1/2 tsp. allspice. You can't really tell it's there, but when I don't use it the meat and juice aren't quite as rich. I also splashed some apple cider vinegar into the liquid; not a lot, maybe an eighth of a cup. Oops, hold on, time to turn the roast.
  6. Although I salted (kosher salt) and peppered (four peppercorn blend) the roast before browning, salted it very lightly, since the canned beef broth and the bacon fat both contain salt.
    As per the recipe, I'm keeping the liquid on a low simmer, using a tight fitting lid. Our dutch oven's lid isn't particularly tight, so I wrapped aluminum foil around it to create a better seal. I just turned it for the third time (turn every 30 minutes) and it's beginning to yield nicely to the fork.
    It has always been a policy of mine, when cooking for my mother, to find the most aromatic way to do it. There's something about the flavor of favorite simmering foods that heightens alertness and enjoyment, I think. I also think that this is particularly important for Ancient Ones. Despite all the information that tells us that our Ancient Ones lose their senses of smell and, thus, taste, especially since my mother forgot that she used to smoke, although I noticed this before, as well, food fragrances remain, for her, not only enjoyable, but a reliable way to increase her moment-to-moment alertness and interest in life. Thus, I was both surprised and pleased to notice that in Dr. Thomas' book, What Are Old People For?, when describing Green Houses, he talks about the importance of communal kitchens, residents helping with the cooking and the production of tantalizing food aromas throughout the day. You get the idea that he is four-square against institutionalized food, even if it's handier. Access to all the delights of cooking should be available to all Ancient Ones, he believes. I believe I agree with him. I've noticed it's salutary effects over and over on my mother.
    As well, it is also my belief, and my experience, that trying new foods, playing with spices and surprising taste buds with strong, unusual flavors, far from being either wasted on our Ancient Ones or not appreciated by them, are, rather, part of the spice of life that shouldn't be deleted from anyone's life until the smell and taste of food makes them sick or turns them cold. To this, though, I have to add a caveat. During the times in the last four years when my mother was so ill she lost her appetite, she continued to appreciate kitchen produced fragrance. She may not have wanted to eat much, or anything, of what I cooked, but the aromas always brightened her up. If the fragrance was coming from a soup, or something creamy like More Than Mac & Cheese, it wasn't uncommon for me to be able to get a little down her gullet.
    I don't know why we underplay the importance of food in our lives, especially considering that food is fraught with all kinds of emotional connotations, over which we have little to no control, considering that most of them were formed when we were too young to remember and encouraged when we were too young to object. I think that it is especially tricky to consider food of no more importance than simply sustenance when we take care of Ancient Ones. While it's true that dementia may make it seem to appear that our Ancient Ones have very little, and corrupted interest in food, make them a part of a holiday family feast and you might be surprised at the lively consequences.

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