Saturday, November 30, 2013

Meatball-Lima Bean Stew

This stew from my childhood really is so much better than it sounds!

Warm and hearty, this stew is wintertime comfort food at its best. And the leftovers are even richer and more flavorful the next day. I like to serve this with crusty bread or rolls, but it is equally satisfying as a solo dish.

The recipe includes directions for homemade meatballs which can be cooked right in the stew, but you can also save time by using purchased frozen meatballs. Or you can make the meatballs ahead, and add them, pre-cooked, right before serving.

Meatball-Lima Bean Stew

Large Lima Beans
  • 1 cup large lima beans, rinsed
  • 4 cups cold water
In a large pot, bring the beans to a boil. Boil two minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, one hour. (Optional step: drain liquid into a measuring cup. Discard; replace with the same amount of fresh water.)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour*
  • 1/2 cup cold water
Whisk flour into water to form a smooth paste and pour into the bean pot. Heat and stir till liquid thickens, forming a gravy.

*For gluten-free stew, omit this step. Thicken stew after baking by adding a slurry of 2 T. cornstarch and 2 T. cold water. Stir over medium heat till the "broth" turns to a sauce.
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 can (or 2 cups) diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
Pour lima beans into a large oven-proof dish. Add vegetables and seasonings. Cover and bake for an hour and half at 350 F. Add [uncooked or frozen] meatballs and bake 45 minutes more. 

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs*
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup milk
Mix thoroughly with your hands. Shape into balls of desired size. You can let them cook in the hot stew, or bake them (in a pan with sides!) for 10 minutes at 350 and refrigerate or freeze them to use later.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Deviled Eggs & Familial Customs

Growing up, I mostly associated Deviled Eggs with springtime and Easter. It was the perfect use for all those hard-boiled eggs that had cracked when young children dropped them into the dye cups with too much exuberance. Weren't deviled eggs supposed to have tinges of pink, blue, or green along the edges?

But here in Kansas, deviled eggs are considered appropriate for any and all holidays, potlucks, picnics, whatever. Grocery store delis sell platters of freshly deviled eggs all year round.

When I was young, my mom had an objection to eating anything named after the devil, so we switched to calling them Sunshine Eggs. But now I am in good company: young Katy Perry was also not allowed to call them "Deviled Eggs", or to eat Lucky Charms!

Many cooks prepare deviled eggs without measurements. While I am all for instinct and experimentation, this is one dish where I prefer consistent results every time. I've had too many disconcerting potluck experiences, I suppose. And my recipe is rather basic. In the South, they like to add pickle relish or stronger spices, but I like my eggs smooth and just slightly tangy. If you like gourmet eggs, think of this as a stepping-stone to more exotic things. Add capers or Cajun seasoning, hot sauce or dill--whatever floats your boat!

Deviled Eggs

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 tsp. prepared mustard
  • dash black pepper

Slice each egg in half lengthwise. Gently "pop" yolks into a medium mixing bowl. Arrange whites on a plate, or in a container lined with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

Using a fork or pastry blender, smash the egg yolks until they are fine crumbs. Add seasonings and mayonnaise and mix well.

To fill whites, spoon filling into a decorator tube or bag, or a zip-lock with one corner snipped off. Pipe into egg whites, sprinkle lightly with paprika, and store (covered) in the refrigerator until serving.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Pies

Isn't pumpkin a funny word? One of those words that looks and sounds sillier every time you repeat it.

This recipe uses pumpkin from a can, though it works just as well with pumpkin--or any winter squash--you've cooked yourself. (Canned pumpkin is actually a variety of butternut squash, anyway!) If you decide to bake your own pumpkin, I recommend processing it in the blender to ensure an even texture.

The important thing about canned pumpkin is not to confuse it with the can of "Pumpkin Pie Mix", which is already seasoned and sweetened and takes all the fun out of it.

Pumpkin Pies (makes two 9" pies)

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large (29 oz.) can pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 (12 oz.) cans evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk)

Mix eggs and sugar with an electric mixer. Add pumpkin and spices and mix thoroughly. Add milk gradually and beat till well blended. Mixture will be very thin!

Pour the filling into two unbaked pastry shells*.

Bake pies 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes. Cool before storing in the refrigerator.

Serve chilled, with a dollop of whipped cream.

*For a gluten-free dessert, pour filling into a greased baking dish. Place dish in a water bath and bake as directed for pies.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tapioca Pudding

My gluten-free sister is heading here for the holiday, so I am cooking up some treats she can enjoy on her vacation. Tapioca pudding is good warm or cold, so she can sleep in as long as she likes and still have a delicious breakfast waiting for her when she's ready. :)

Since tapioca pudding doesn't last long at our house, I made a big batch.

Tapioca Pudding

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. minute tapioca
  • 2 eggs
  • dash salt
  • 5 cups milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

In a large pan (3-quart or larger), whisk together the sugar, tapioca, eggs, and salt. Let sit for five minutes.

Add milk and mix thoroughly. Stirring constantly, heat to a rolling boil. 

Turn off heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and cool. Pudding thickens as it cools. 

Serve warm or cold. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Real Hot Cocoa

I promised everyone real hot cocoa this morning.

The recipe on the Hershey's container is fool-proof, and the variations are pretty much endless. I enjoyed mine with equal parts of strong coffee for a breakfast mocha.

Family Hot Cocoa

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • dash of salt

Mix in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil two minutes. Add:

  • 4-5 cups milk (I like to use 2% or higher)
Heat to desired temperature, but do not boil. Remove from heat. Before serving, stir in:
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla
Ladle into mugs and serve. 

Garnish with one or more of the following:
  • marshmallows
  • stick cinnamon
  • whipped cream
  • peppermint candy cane "stir stick"
  • sprinkle of ground cinnamon
  • orange zest
Refrigerate leftovers. You can heat a mug of cocoa in the microwave in the time it takes to make toast. An instant before-school breakfast! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Piquant Pizza: Losing the Pepperoni

What says "Friday" like pizza?

It took more than a decade, but I've finally found a vegetarian pizza my husband and I can both enjoy.

I sprinkle mozzarella over the sauce (a can of crushed tomatoes seasoned with oregano, basil, garlic, minced onion, salt & pepper, and 2 T. olive oil). Then I layer on some fresh spinach, sliced kalamata olives, purple onions, and crumbled feta cheese. Tonight I had some marinated artichoke hearts, so I threw them on as well. I dusted the top with Parmesan and baked it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Happy Weekend!

Chilly Day Chili

Dark red and light red kidney beans, beef, onions, peppers, canned tomatoes, garlic and chili seasonings, slow simmered to bring all the flavors together...

A cold front came through last night. And we had to hustle to get the kids to two different concerts at schools in opposite directions. If ever there was a night for hearty, simple, one-dish chili, last night was it.

Chili is so versatile. You can serve it alone, or with cornbread. With saltines or oyster crackers or tortilla chips. On a baked potato or with a dollop of mashed potatoes. To encourage my youngsters, I served Fritos this time. And jack cheese, and sour cream.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Getting Cultured: Yogurt

My grocery store had a sale on milk the other day, but the expiration dates are coming up a little too fast. I made a batch of hot cocoa, a pot of tapioca pudding that disappeared in no time, and still there was plenty of milk in my fridge.

But, behold! There was also a partial tub of plain yogurt! What are the odds? I hadn't made yogurt in... years? But I already painted a hallway this week. And sorted out tubs of toys to give away. I attended a screening of a new feminist film last night, and I was feeling courageous this morning.

* * * * * * * * *

So... I poured a half gallon of milk (2%) into a big pot, whisked in a cup of powdered milk for extra body and protein (please don't ask how long that box has been sitting in the back of my cupboard), and heated it till the surface got bubbly (180-190 F). I took it off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees. I decided I want my kids to enjoy this batch too, so I went ahead and added some sugar and about a tablespoon of vanilla.

When the milk was cool enough, I scooped a cup of plain yogurt into my blender, and added a few scoops of the warm milk. I mixed it on a slow speed till the yogurt was well blended in. I added some more milk and blended it again. Then I poured the mixture back into the pot of milk and whisked it all together.

I turned the oven on at the lowest temperature (150?) and set some clean jars on the oven rack to warm while I got out some clean lids. Then I ladled the warm milk into the warm jars and stuck the jars back in the oven*, which I turned completely off.

I left the light on inside, partly because it releases just a tiny bit of heat, and partly so I wouldn't forget the yogurt till tomorrow morning. Because I would do something like that. Like the leftover corn that sat in the microwave overnight instead of making it to the dining table the other night. Yeah. I want my yogurt cultured, not decayed.

I popped the jars in the oven before rushing out to my kids' school this afternoon, and literally pulled them out on my way out the door headed back to their school after dinner. In the warm oven, the yogurt was ready in just four hours.

I've been doing some reading on the science/chemistry of yogurt, and I want to experiment with different temperatures next time. I took my first course in biology last spring, and am now more curious than ever about the magic that happens in my kitchen.

I mean, seriously. What kind of magic makes this possible??

*If you need your oven for other things, you can also grow your yogurt in an insulated picnic cooler. Find a spot where it won't be jostled or disturbed while the yogurt works its magic. I usually add two extra jars filled with hot tap water, just to help maintain an even temperature. Nestle them between the jars of milk, close the lid, and wait.

Cranberry Salads

What do you like to do with cranberries? These three holiday side dishes have been popular at our house over the years.

I've experimented with cranberry sauce variations, but always return to the recipe on the Ocean Spray bag (pictured). The jello salad is refreshingly tart-sweet and allows the texture of the raw berries to come through. And Frozen Cranberry Fruit Salad is almost a dessert: cold, creamy, colorful, with a medley of flavors and palatal sensations!

Whole-berry Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce 

1 bag berries, rinsed and sorted
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Bring a boil. Simmer 5-10 minutes and ladle into jars. Cool and store in refrigerator.

Cranberry-Strawberry Jello Salad

1 (12 oz.) bag cranberries, rinsed and sorted
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. boiling water
1 small box strawberry jello
1/2 c. cold water
1/2 c. chopped fresh or frozen strawberries, optional

Process raw cranberries in blender till finely chopped. Scoop the pulp into a mixing bowl and stir in sugar. Dissolve jello in boiling water. Add cold water and stir into berries. Add strawberries, if desired. Chill till firm.

Frozen Cranberry Fruit Salad

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits
3 medium-firm bananas, sliced
2 cups cranberry sauce (or one can whole-berry sauce)
1/2 cup sugar
1 carton Cool Whip, thawed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Drain pineapple juice into a medium bowl; set pineapple aside. Add bananas to the juice. In a large bowl, combine cranberry sauce and sugar. Remove bananas, discarding juice, and add to cranberry mixture. Stir in pineapple, whipped topping, and nuts. Pour into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch dish, or divide into individual serving cups. Freeze until solid. (Remove from the freezer at least 15 minutes before cutting into square servings.)

Makes 12-16 servings

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Making a Meat Pie

Today's project was a meat pie.

In northern Michigan, they make single-serving "pies" known as pasties*. Though I've never learned to make a proper pasty, this dish combines many of the same elements and is equally satisfying: tender dough wrapped around a hearty and savory filling of veggies and meat.

I stuffed my pie with hamburger and a medley of vegetables, using a savory white sauce for the "gravy".

I started my filling with about a pound of drained browned beef, a diced onion, and some chopped green pepper. For seasoning, I threw in some salt, black pepper, and a beef bouillon cube.

After the onions were cooked, I stirred in about two tablespoons of flour, added one cup of milk, and turned up the heat. I stirred it until it thickened, and added one can of mixed vegetables. I happen to like this [pictured] combination because it has potatoes in it. But you could tuck in any veggies you like.

I set the filling aside and set to work on a pastry crust. I made enough pastry for a double-crust pie and lined a 10" pie plate:

Instead of a traditional fluted pie crust, I rolled the top crust and cut a circle nearly the size of the plate.

Then I just folded the edges of the bottom layer over the top, pleating as necessary.

I poked some steam holes in the top and baked the whole creation for 50 minutes at 350 F. Now the whole house smells good!

*Pasties: pronounced "PASST-eez". The very best pasties come from Cousin Jenny's, in downtown Traverse City. I usually get the vegetarian ones when I visit because they are simply amazing. The best comfort food ever.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holiday Cranberry Juice

We love cranberries! As soon as they go on sale around Thanksgiving, I buy what seems like a cart full. And this juice is one of the first things I make. I usually make a big batch, to get all the mess out of the way at once.

Holiday Cranberry Juice 

  • 1 bag cranberries*, sorted and rinsed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3-5 whole cloves

Bring everything to a boil in a large pot. 

Simmer berries 10-20 minutes. Carefully strain through sieve and/or cheesecloth. This part is messy. Sometimes I do a preliminary step, letting the fruit drain in a colander before pressing the remaining pulp through a fine sieve. (It is perfectly acceptable to use a sieve large enough to let the cranberry seeds through. They will sink to the bottom of the cups, anyway.)

Bottle up the finished juice in tightly sealed jars and keep refrigerated until use.

*For each bag of cranberries, you'll end up with about 3 cups of concentrated juice.

Holiday Cranberry Juice can be served multiple ways. My son looks forward to sipping it in front of the fireplace on a winter evening, and it's a fun alternative to cocoa for holiday gatherings. Here are three serving suggestions:

  • Heat to a simmer with a bottle of apple juice. Simple, delicious, and you can adjust the ratio to suit your tastes. You can do an equally balanced cran-apple, or mix it up: increasing the cranberry tastes more decadent, while using more apple is economical and child-friendly.
  • Pour into a large pot and mix in apple juice to taste. Thinly slice one orange and one lemon and float the slices in the juice. Throw in more cloves and another stick of cinnamon if you feel like splurging. Heat to a simmer and ladle the citrus-laced juice into mugs. 
  • The citrus variation above, plus a generous splash of red wine. A delightful way to warm up your adult guests!

Seasons of Life in Jerusha's Kitchen

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose..."

Over the years, my approach to menus has varied according to my family's needs.

Mom taught me to cook from scratch, to can and freeze fresh produce, and to modify recipes to boost nutritional value. When I was first married, I had to scale down my menus to fit just two people. (I made a batch of jam that sat in the cupboard for years!) I was learning my new husband’s preferences (trying not to take his honesty too personally), experimenting with new appliances and cookware, and trying to stock a spice cabinet without breaking the budget.

The next year I was mixing up baby food in the blender. I adapted my diet while pregnant, switching to skim milk and lowfat cheese while bumping up the iron-rich foods to combat my anemia. The year after that I had two little ones and I was desperate for kitchen shortcuts. My mom bought instant pudding and instant mashed potatoes--I needed more foods like that! 

I studied easy recipes and used a cake mix for the first time since childhood. I discovered stovetop stuffing. Combined with diced chicken, fresh vegetables, and cream soup, it was pretty good! Jambalaya and cornbread out of boxes? Why not? For Thanksgiving, I even bought a pre-roasted frozen turkey!

I joined a casserole swap group.  I experimented with mega-cooking, bought a pile of pans for the freezer, and discovered through trial-and-error which foods are the best candidates for frozen storage. We were still figuring out the grocery budget. Sometimes we ate chicken nuggets, or boxed macaroni and cheese. My kids had standards, though. Chef Boyardee ravioli did not impress. :)

Then came our years of homeschooling, when my kitchen was part schoolroom and I cooked on autopilot while answering questions and keeping the kids on task. I learned more about food, about my ingredients and where they came from. And I began to involve my kids in shopping, in gardening, in preparing the foods they enjoyed and trying the unfamiliar. Once in a while, we even made our own pizza. More often though, our pizza arrived in boxes on days when I'd been in particularly productive outside of the kitchen!
This year, all the kids are in school for the first time and I've had more time to play in my own kitchen than ever before. I am remembering just how much I enjoy cooking, for its own sake! I'm baking again. I've even found time to start a cooking blog! I've kept a few of our favorite shortcuts; they are on standby for weeks like this when two kids have to be at two school concerts on the same night in opposite directions immediately after dinner!

So there is a time for shortcuts, and there is a time for finishing touches. There's a time to simmer a stock for hours, and there's a time to open a can. 

In whatever season of life you find yourself right now, don't be afraid to embrace it as you take care of yourself and the people close to you. 

Homemade Crackers

Last week I restocked the cracker jar. Crackers are fun to make and my children look forward to grabbing one for a snack when they get home from school. Even my Cheezit-loving husband likes these! The cheddar crackers disappeared in no time, so I made a new batch this morning, tweaking the recipe for a little more texture.

Wheat Crackers
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4-6 Tbsp. milk

Cut butter into dry ingredients. Add 1/4 milk and stir till dough comes together (use the rest of the milk if mixture is still too dry to clump). Dough should be very dense.

Lightly flour the counter and roll dough thin, to about 1/8". Prick all over with a fork. (You can do this step before you pop the crackers into the oven, but it's easier to do it before cutting them.) I've been cutting my crackers out into fun shapes with small cookie cutters, but you can also use a knife to cut squares, rectangles, or diamonds. Arrange pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes or till crackers just begin to brown. (The thinner they are, the faster they will burn, so keep an eye on them!)

Cool crackers on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container. (If they are not completely crisp, crackers will keep longer stored in the freezer.)

Cheddar Crackers
  • 1/3  cup cold butter*
  • 1 1/2 c  unbleached flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • dash white pepper
  • dash celery salt (optional)
  • 2 cups finely shredded extra sharp cheddar
  • 6 Tbsp. water or milk

In a large mixing bowl, cut butter into dry ingredients. Add cheese and lightly toss till cheese is coated in flour. Stir in liquid. Mixture will still be crumbly. At this point you'll have to get your hands in there and work the mixture until it forms a ball. Don't despair, it will come together eventually. :) Pat the dough into a chubby disc.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Lightly flour the counter and roll dough thin, to about 1/8". Prick all over with a fork and cut into desired shapes. (Or roll dough into two logs, wrap and chill thoroughly, then slice into rounds with a sharp knife.)

Bake crackers on an ungreased cookie sheet about 10 minutes (400 F).

Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack. Store crackers in airtight container in a cool place or freeze for longer storage. 

My husband enjoys these all by themselves, but they are also marvelous topped with spiced pear butter.

 * If you use a whole stick of butter instead, the dough will be softer, but the result will be more like pastry.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pear-Walnut-Gorgonzola Salad

The kids love pear season, and so do I. Pears disappear off our counter so fast!

I made this grown-up salad for my birthday a few weeks ago and it's become my new fall favorite. I can't wait to make it again--after a trip for more pears, of course. It makes a perfect weekday lunch for two.
  • A big bowl of greens (leaf lettuce and spinach was a great combination)
  • Slices of sweet red onion
  • A handful of toasted walnuts (pecans would be good, but walnuts say "autumn" to me)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Chunks of yellow-ripe pear
  • A generous topping of Gorgonzola crumbles
  • All drizzled with tangy raspberry vinaigrette



Welcome to Jeri's kitchen blog!

Working with food has long been soothing to me. I have been known to get home from vacation, drop off the suitcases, and head straight to the kitchen counter to bake zucchini bread. In the midst of post-vacation stress, I instinctively went for the most relaxing activity I could think of!

In culinary diversion I find the perfect balance of science and art. Like any kitchen, mine can become a disaster area, but more often it is more often a familiar respite. 
A place for imagination and creativity. 
A place to celebrate the seasons of the earth and connect with the traditions of my people. 
A place to nourish myself and my loved ones. 

Strawberry Crepes with Cream Cheese Filling
I hope you'll feel nurtured here.

I hope you'll find inspiration.

Jerusha's Kitchen is not about perfection. It's not about the cheapest, the simplest, or the most gourmet. It's not about being the most healthy, most organic, most natural, most green, or most sustainable. Adapt the recipes you find here to fit whatever criteria are important to you. Just remember:
Jerusha's Kitchen is about having a good time, being kind to ourselves, and showing the people close to us that we care. 

May your kitchen be magical, too!