Saturday, June 26, 2010


We are carnivores again, though we have cut way back on our meat consumption to maybe one or two days per week. I am fine with that. I am conserving.

Yesterday, I removed from the freezer about 16 ounces of meat that I used previously for meatballs. My intention was to make a nice meatball and bean soup with cannellini beans, tomatoes and spinach, but Janet looked at me funny and said it was summertime and therefore too hot for soup. What? It's only about 90 degrees here lately. Anyway, I may still make a vegetarian version of the soup because that sounds good to me, summer or not.

So with my soup plans out of contention for the moment, I thought I'd cook sausage, egg, and cheese burritos for breakfast. I was frying the meat for burritos when Janet asked if we were having blueberry pancakes. I supposed we were now, so I mixed up a batch of pancake batter from a pretty good recipe I have that is composed of flour, an egg, milk, baking powder, butter, a little sugar, and some cinnamon. I used Bisquick in the past, but I think that product is only flour and baking powder with some other unpleasant ingredients anyway, so I don't buy it anymore.

Over time, I have found a few tricks for making pancakes, and they are: Pancakes like a very hot skillet. The first batch of cakes may not brown the way you want them to until your pan is good and hot.

Do not stir the batter too much. A few lumps are okay. And keep your pancakes small. A couple tablespoons of batter is really all you need, as large cakes are more difficult to manage. I already cooked the meat in my skillet, so it was heated properly. Now I was ready to cook my pancakes.

I heated a few drops of oil in the pan for a moment to discourage sticking, and in went my batter. I like to add my berries at this point, a handful or so on the top of the cake. Blueberries and their moistness will cause the pancakes to cook more slowly in the middle, so you have to keep that in mind when using fruit in pancakes or regular cakes or cobblers, et cetera.

Actually, I completely forgot to add the berries to the first batch of cakes, so I made a sandwich of pancakes, sausage, an over-easy egg, and a little syrup. Yes, it was good, and I enjoyed it. The second batch (I make two pancakes at a time so I have room to flip them) I remembered the berries. Then I started thinking: why not add the meatball mixture to the pancake batter and blueberries to make a sweet and savory pancake? The saltiness of the meat along with the sweetness of the berries and the syrup made a fine juxtaposition. Now I am full of breakfast goodness, and I'm thinking of taking a little siesta before heading to the ballpark this afternoon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mountain Pies

Last night, we had a few people over for spaghetti dinner and drinks. After surfeiting ourselves with pasta, we went back outside and continued sitting around a fire we built earlier in the evening until a good thunderstorm found us at about midnight. It rained for at least an hour, but I was not surprised when I awoke this morning at about six to find a few still-smoldering coals in the firepit. I had a lot of nice pieces of firewood left that I chainsawed yesterday afternoon, so I decided to make a pot of coffee, have a little Bailey's, and rebuild the fire.

As I sat there in the backyard on the swing over several hours this morning, relaxing and drinking my coffee, listening to the birds and the residual raindrops falling from the leaves, I had a very good idea: I decided to dig out the Mountain Pie irons from the shed to cook my breakfast outside in the fire (mostly.) We live in a wooded area, our yard heavily, so with my Pie irons in hand and a large amount of woodsmoke in the air, I might as well have been camping on this Sunday morning.

Mountain Pies have been a part of my life ever since I can remember anything. As a child, at my Aunt Georgia's place out in the country, building fires up on the hill was standard practice during family get-togethers. So was making Mountain Pies. Now, a Mountain Pie is a thing of beauty. The only kind I ever remember as a kid were pizza MPs, filled with sauce and cheese, maybe pepperoni, I don't recall, and that suited me just fine, but the fillings are really only limited by the maker's imagination.

I baked the irons in the fire for a time to get rid of whatever might have been on them from sitting in the shed. As the irons cleaned, I threw a few eggs into a pan and scrambled them just until they formed. I could have cooked them in a pan over the fire, but really I just thought of that. Anyway. I then sprayed the irons with non-stick and placed one piece of "buttered" bread on each side of the iron. I added a bit of my scrambled egg, a slice of good old American cheese and a few slices of tomato, closed the irons, and placed them back into the fire. The Walrus, who is a bread fanatic, enjoyed the Pie making, also. He ate the crusts sliced off by the irons.

So there I stood in front of the firepit on this already warm and humid North Carolina morning, flipping the irons occasionally to ensure even cooking because Mountain Pies will burn if you don't give them the attention they require. It was like a sauna out there, really, especially after I stoked the fire again, but I rather enjoyed the morning, a commingling of woodsmoke and fire, good coffee, sweat, and Mountain Pies.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pierogi Pie and Peach Cobbler

Friday night is always a good night for pizza and beer. Last night, I decided to make my old favorite standby, the Margherita, and I cooked a new one--Pierogi pie--based on my cuz Stacey's suggestion. I already had a mashed-potato-and-spinach mixture in the freezer from a prior dish, and I used that for the bulk of my topping. Before I added my potatoes, I drizzled olive oil on the crust for more flavor. I also diced a little cheddar from a one-pound hunk in addition to some bagged shredded cheddar that needed to be used. Turned out pretty good, but it needed something, perhaps caramelized onion, perhaps a little red sauce atop the taters. In the past, when Janet made pierogies, she always cooked a mushroom sauce with sour cream, and that would have been good drizzled over the finished pie. As it was, I added a little bit of ranch dressing, and it suited me fine.

One simple change I made this go-round was the addition of flax seeds to my dough mix, and they added a nice flavor and chew to the crust. I always pre-bake the crust until it browns somewhat before I top the pizza and finish cooking it, and the crust seemed to cook a bit faster with the seeds. I almost burned it. Pre-baking the crust, I have learned, always ensures a crisp, not soggy crust, and that is important. I have also been adding Pasta Sprinkle, a dried-spice mixture to the dough mix, and that also imparts good flavor. So this morning, I had pizza for breakfast before I walked the dogs for the first time in awhile, and it was good. More in the fridge for snacks. I like snacks.

A few days ago, Janet and I ventured to the Farmer's Market to restock our supply of fruits and veggers, and she bought a half bushel of peaches. By today, the remaining peaches were ripe and ready. We have been thinking about peach cobblers and peach pies all week, so today we finally decided to make a nice peach cobbler. Depending on the variety, peaches can be a chore to peel and deseed. I was lucky today, though, and the skins peeled off easily in great sheets. In addition to about four cups of sliced peaches, the cobbler contains just a few other ingredients: milk, sugar, flour, and butter. The recipe called for one cup of sugar and one stick of butter, but we halved that, leaving the dessert still plenty sweet. The edges browned nicely, and the peaches are warm and moist. I might have another taste in a minute, but I'll add a little ice cream. Pretty good.