Kel’s Grass-fed Meatloaf

Kel’s Grass-fed Meatloaf

Meatloaf is a favorite of ours, and it’s so easy to make, we wonder why we don’t enjoy it more often. We were inspired by the high quality ground beef that we purchased from Joy Dolcini — a 4th generation cattle rancher in Sonoma County. We were surprised at their affordable pricing, and happy to go “in” on the purchase with two other families. Knowing where and how our beef is raised has made a big difference in our choice to eat beef. Grass-fed beef is much healthier than the corn-fed beef raised by the large, corporate cattle lots, because it is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fats. After all, cows are naturally meant to eat grass, not corn. Healthier cows, make healthier beef.

It’s been a cold, December day. Gray and chilly. We brightened at the sight and smell of tonight’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and left the dinner table warmed and nourished.

Ingredients

2 eggs
2 lbs lean organic ground beef
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2/3 cup homemade bread crumbs (see recipe below or use your favorite store-bought)
1 to 2 teaspoons dried basil
1 to 2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 generous pinches of kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (or more to taste)

Recipe

Preheat oven to 375℉. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix, folding in the ingredients with both hands until completely combined. Place meatloaf mixture into bread pan (8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5) and bake for 40 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, spread ketchup to cover the top and finish baking. Let cool 5 minutes. Cut thick slices and serve with mashed red potatoes. Leftovers are great for meatloaf sandwiches!

Homemade Breadcrumbs

Place 4 to 6 slices of wheat bread directly on middle rack in a 200° oven for 20 minutes (or so) until dry but not browning. Let the bread cool on the rack. Using a food processor: First break up dried slices of bread then place into processor and pulse until bread crumbs form. Add seasonings to the crumbs in the food processor: about one teaspoon each of salt and pepper and two teaspoons of dried oregano, and pulse briefly to mix.

Homemade Pie

Homemade pie is a yummy labor of love, but let’s face it — making pie dough causes a bit of a mess and can be frustrating.

The key?  Be fearless and no matter what happens, forge ahead. A homemade pie is worth the effort when you see eyes light up at the sight of it and when friends and family “ooh and ahh” as they bite into a buttery, flaky crust and sumptuous filling.  Pie making is as creative and artistic an endeavor as a watercolor painting or pottery project. My family lineage goes several centuries back to England where the Philpott family made their living as pottery makers and merchants, so somewhere in my genetic makeup is a strong inclination to create with my hands. Baking and cooking are the activities that inspire my creative side. When given the choice between a birthday cake and a birthday pie, my daughter chose an apple-pear pie to celebrate. The pie and glass pie plate were part of her birthday gift, and now she is working on her own pie making skills.

Pie-making is an art that you can develop with your own style; however, it also takes strategy.  Below are “tips” I have learned from family, cookbooks, trial and error, friends, cooking shows, and more trial and error. I hope they are helpful to you too.

Ingredients for basic pie crust (Pate Brisee) are:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teas. salt
1 teas. sugar (I use 1 tablespoon)2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter (keep in fridge until ready to use; good quality organic butter works best)
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup ice water (put ice cubes in with the water as well so it is good and cold)

Makes enough dough for one pie with bottom and top crust, or for two pies with single crust.

If you have one, use a food processor, and if not, a pastry cutter works just as well. I often make my pie dough one or two days ahead of time and keep if refrigerated before rolling it out and baking with it. (It can also be frozen in an airtight container.)

In food processor fitted with blade, mix flour, salt and sugar with just a few pulses. Cut each cold stick of butter into 8 cubes and place around flour mixture in food processor. Put lid on and pulse until mixed — it doesn’t take long — less than 30 seconds. You want to see small pieces of butter chunks in the flour, but it should look like coarse cornmeal. As the food processor is running on low, slowly drizzle in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of ice water through the spout on the mixer lid (so that the water streams onto the outer edge, and doesn’t collect only in the center). I usually need to use 1/2 cup, but if it’s a rainy day my dough doesn’t need as much water. The dough should begin to clump very quickly (just seconds) as the water mixes in with the flour/butter. Stop the processor (it’s important not to over mix) and pour out dough onto large sheet of wax paper, and with your hands press it into one mound. The pie dough will still look like it is crumbly until you start molding it with your hands, so don’t worry if it comes out of the food processor in pieces, that is a good sign you will have a flaky crust. After pressing and molding it into one large mound, cut into two equal pieces and put the second piece onto a large sheet of wax paper. Press each mound of dough into a small, flat disc, wrap snugly in the wax paper and put into the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour before you roll them out. The key is working with cold butter, and then chilling the dough before you roll it out.

After the dough is chilled, roll it out on a cool surface dusted with flour – enough flour to keep it from sticking and easy to work, but don’t overdo it either. Make sure you dust your rolling pin with flour as you go.  (Tip:  if your kitchen is warm, you can chill your counter surface or rolling board by placing a cookie sheet on it filled with ice). For a 9” pie, roll to about a 10 ½ inch diameter.  To prevent the dough from tearing, start by pressing the chilled disc of dough with your hands, then use rolling pin to finish. Roll from the center and out to the edge in sections to create a circle. Place rolled pie dough for bottom crust into your pie shell and place back into the refrigerator to chill again (about 20 minutes). To transfer the pie dough onto the pie plate simply roll the pie dough onto your rolling pin and unroll into the pie plate.  Do the same with the upper crust if you are using one (you can roll out the upper crust, lightly dust with flour, fold it in-half, and lay it on a sheet of wax paper or a plate and put it in the fridge and it will unfold onto your pie when the filling is ready). Then prepare your filling, take the pie crusts out of the fridge to assemble and bake according to the recipe you are using. Tip:  Always bake a pie in a preheated oven according to the recipe.

If your dough breaks apart, just pinch it back together again – no one will every know, and your crust will still be deliciously unforgettable.

Maple Pecan Pie

This pie is one of my favorites to make and to eat. It turns out glossy and dark-brown and is just perfect with the basic pie crust recipe below. (I always double the recipe because it is a single crust pie and might as well make two!) I have adapted this recipe from a lovely cookbook published by William-Sonoma:  Pies and Tarts.

Ingredients

Doubled:

Basic pie pastry for 9-inch shell                     Basic pie pastry for two 9-inch shells

(see recipe and tips below)

3 eggs                                                              6 eggs

1 cup (8 fl oz) maple syrup                             2 cups (16 fl oz) maple syrup

¼ cup (2 fl oz) dark corn syrup                       ½ cup (4 fl oz) dark corn syrup

¼ cup (2 oz) sugar                                           ½  cup (4 oz) sugar

¼ cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted               ½ cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted

1 teas. Vanilla extract                                      2 teas. Vanilla extract

¼ teas. Salt                                                      ½  teas. Salt

1 ½ cups (6 oz.) pecan halves                         3 cups (12 oz.) pecan halves

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out pastry and line pie plates. Set aside in refrigerator while making filling.

In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs until blended. Add the maple syrup, corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, vanilla and salt; beat until thoroughly combined. Coarsely chop pecans, leaving them in large pieces, and stir into the maple mixture. I like them in large pieces and prefer doing this myself than to using the smaller pecan pieces also offered in stores; however you can leave them as whole pecan halves, which makes for a pretty pie, but makes for chunky bites.

Pour pecan mixture into the pastry lined pie plate and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F.  Bake until the filling has puffed up and set around the edges, but the center is still slightly soft – about 20 to 25 minutes longer. Let pie cool for a few hours.

Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Transitioning to Fall: Vegetable Soup

The key to great soup of any kind is really good stock. You can use a vegetable or chicken stock from the grocery store to make this soup, but if you are inclined and have the time to simmer your own, it will make all of the difference. I like to use chicken stock because the flavor is richer and balances the vegetable flavors.

Chicken Stock Ingredients

2 medium or one large yellow onion
1 red onion
2 heads of garlic
3 stalks celery
3 large carrots
2 roast chicken carcasses
Salt

Cut onions into quarters, leaving the skin on; Cut garlic heads in half; wash and coarsely chop carrots and celery into large pieces. Place vegetables into large stockpot, place two roasted chicken carcasses on top, and add water until it covers the ingredients. Bring to full boil, lower to simmer with lid on for 1 ½ hours. Let cool a little, then strain stock into another stock/soup pot, bring to boil, then lower to a simmer to reduce the stock liquid about 1 inch. Add salt to taste (i.e. 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons).

Fall Vegetable Soup

Fall Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup Ingredients

12 to 16 cups chicken stock depending on how much soup you want to make. I make extra and freeze it for a busy winter week. (See above recipe or use your favorite store bought)

3 carrots – medium to large
3 medium red potatoes
3 turnips (peel outer skin if winter turnips – it’s bitter)
1 medium star squash
1 medium to large zucchini
1 to 2 small crookneck yellow squash
Bunch of washed spinach with stems removed
1 to 2 teaspoons (to taste) Dried Oregano
1 to 2 teaspoons (to taste) Dried Basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Fall Vegetable Soup

Fall Vegetable Soup

Wash and dice carrots, turnips and potatoes in large bite sized chunks and set aside in a bowl. Wash and dice the rest of the vegetables and set aside. In soup pot, bring stock to low boil and lower to simmer. Carefully add carrots, turnips and potatoes with large spoon (so you don’t get splashed with hot stock) and raise heat to bring back to a simmer, then lower to hold at a simmer for 7 to 8 minutes. Add the rest of the veggies and the dried herbs and simmer 5 more minutes. Test/taste the vegetables which should be al dente, like pasta – not too soft. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and good local bread.  I made one of my favorite fall/winter recipes for cornbread from the Joy of Cookings recipe for Buttermilk Cornbread. An easy addition to this soup is to add cooked pasta (don’t cook the pasta in the soup), which makes it a hearty main dish.

Tailgate Party with Baked Fried Chicken and Raspberry Cake

Smiling teens!

Smiling teens!

Baseball was my first love. I could find a game anywhere. Sometimes it was just catch for two, find a third and you’ve got a game of pickle, add a fourth and you can shag pop flies, one more and it’s time for batting practice. Rainy days were spent reading the box scores and memorizing my heroes’ stats from the back of their trading cards. My mother would tell you that my love for reading was found in section 796 of the library — that’s where the baseball biographies dwell.

Zack's Storytelling.

Zach's Storytelling.

I grew up in the East Bay and in the 70’s we had The Amazing A’s with Reggie, Rudi and Rollie leading the charge to three World Series titles. I did not realize what a truly amazing feat I was witnessing at the time. I’ve since witnessed many more great accomplishments and met several stars of the diamond but my most thrilling moment was meeting Hank Aaron. It was 1974 and he had just broken Babe Ruth’s home run record. The whole world was talking about him and I could tell you the number of hr’s and rbi’s he’d hit the last several years. He was on an appearance tour for Magnavox TV and my Dad handled the Magnavox account for the Oakland Tribune.

Father and son at the game.

Father and son at the game.

Not usually a glamorous job but this week he was tasked with picking up Hammerin’ Hank at the airport and ushering him around the Bay Area for the day. Hank’s wife’s birthday was coming up so he needed to pick up a gift in the mall. Store policy did not allow the cashier to accept an out of state check (she was not aware that she was standing before baseball royalty), so my father wrote out a check for Hank’s $114 Seiko watch. Hank wrote him one in return, which my father never cashed. I’ve now got that check safely tucked away with other childhood memories.  I was a wide eyed and speechless 6 year old taking it all in.

Kelly and I have four teens between us and are always trying to find interesting activities to coax them out. We’ll do anything, we even played guitar hero for an evening to get them over. My Mom’s birthday was last week and I decided it was time to take everyone to an A’s game. We not only got the four of them but they brought friends.  My Mom was thrilled with the turnout; we had enough to make our own team (nine of us) to celebrate her birthday. The game did not start ‘til 7p.m. but Kelly and I started in the kitchen at 7a.m. for our pre-game feast. We made a tangy potato salad with a French dressing, a savory beet salad, Kelly’s Baked Fried Chicken (recipe below) and a beautiful sponge cake (recipe below) with raspberry icing (raspberries from Tolay Farms) drizzled artfully over the top. We made agauas frescas with watermelon to wash it down.

Our own gang of nine.

Our own gang of nine.

The A’s won a thriller, my Mom had a  great evening, the kids ate, drank and were generally merry. We were then treated to a spectacular fireworks show. All in all the evening was a tremendous hit!

Kelly’s Baked-Fried Chicken

My kids loved this when they were little. It is a favorite of mine too.

Ingredients:

Chicken:

From your butcher (if you can and have the time), get a free-range chicken and ask them to cut it into 8 pieces or pick up the pieces you like best at the counter. (Getting it from the butcher is “greener” because you avoid the Styrofoam and plastic packaging.) One chicken will serve five to six people.

Kelly's Chicken-- Yumm!

Kelly's Chicken-- Yumm!

Quart of buttermilk

Seasoned flour:

2 Cups flour mixed well with two teaspoons of salt, one tablespoon of paprika, and two teaspoons of ground black pepper (add more or less to your taste).

Seasoned breadcrumbs

Use your favorite store bought or  make your own.  I follow the Joy of Cooking recipe: place dry slices of bread directly on middle rack in a 200° oven for 30 minutes or so until dry but not browning. Let the bread cool on the rack. Using a food processor, break up dried slices of bread and pulse until bread crumbs form. (I used one slice of bread per chicken piece). Add seasonings to the crumbs in the food processor:  about one teaspoon each of salt and pepper and two teaspoons of dried oregano.

Egg wash: Lightly scramble six eggs with two tablespoons water (for 8 pieces).

Olive oil (for baking pan)

Olive oil spray

Salt (Kosher or sea salt)

The key to really good baked-fried chicken is making an assembly line. (Pie plates work well for this because they have a flat bottom and deep enough sides to hold the flour and breading mixtures.) Preheat oven to 425° and set up five stations:  Large bowl with chicken pieces and buttermilk (let soak in the refrigerator overnight ahead of time if you like); then next to the bowl place a baking dish/pie dish with flour mixture; next to that place a baking dish with egg wash; then place a baking dish with bread crumbs; finally, at the end place a roasting pan or large casserole dish with olive oil drizzled liberally on the bottom.  For each chicken piece soaked in buttermilk, place in flour and turn to coat both sides, then place in egg wash and turn to coat both sides, then dip in bread crumbs and coat both sides. Place breaded chicken onto a large oiled roasting or baking pan. Sprinkle each piece with Kosher or sea salt, then spray the tops of each piece with olive oil spray. Bake for 25 minutes at 425° then lower temperature to 375° for 20 to 25 more minutes. (Chicken juice should run clear when pierced with a knife when done.)

The cake was a hit-- Zack had thirds, but who's counting.

The cake was a hit-- Zach had thirds, but who's counting.

Retro Raspberry Sponge Cake

This is a charming, old-fashioned cake with homemade raspberry icing that drips down the sides. I am craving it again as I right down the recipe. We had organic raspberries on hand from Tolay Valley Farms through our weekly CSA, which inspired the idea for this cake. The best part is the homemade raspberry icing, so if you wish, use a boxed cake mix and make the frosting instead. If you want a truly retro, old-fashioned cake, then use the recipe below and enjoy! This cake is perfect for making a day ahead, which is what I did for our A’s game tailgate picnic.

Amazing Retro Raspberry Cake

Amazing Retro Raspberry Cake

Sponge cake:  I looked through several cookbooks and decided on the following recipe from Joy of Cooking (1980) and the cake turned out just beautifully.

Ingredients: 1 lemon, granulated sugar, all purpose or cake flour (I used all purpose and it worked well), 6 eggs at room temperature (this is really important to do – let them sit out for an hour), boiling water, double-acting baking powder, salt, vanilla.

Preheat oven to 350°

Grate 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and in a small bowl stir lemon zest into 1 cup of sugar.

Separate the six eggs by placing yolks into large mixing bowl, and whites into electric mixing bowl or other large bowl to use later with a hand-held electric mixer.

In the large mixing bowl with the yolks, beat the yolks until very light with a hand held whisk. Gradually beat in the sugar/lemon zest mixture. Beat in ¼ cup of boiling water and let cool a minute then mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Sift before measuring 1 cup of cake flour (or all purpose) then into a medium bowl resift the flour with 1 ½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Gradually add this flour mixture to the yolk mixture with a spatula until blended.

Whip the egg whites in electric mixing bowl or with an electric hand-held mixer until they are stiff but not dry (when you lift the mixing blades up and a peak forms and stays it’s ready.) Fold the egg whites with the spatula using swift strokes moving from the center of the batter, down and up along the side of the bowl until the cake batter is just lightly blended but don’t over mix it. Pour cake batter into 9-inch tube pan that is NOT greased. (It works best to use a tube pan with a bottom that detaches.) Bake 40 to 45 minutes. Cool upside down – if your pan doesn’t have resting points on the rim that let it stand above the surface to cool, then place it on an inverted funnel or drink bottle (not plastic because that will melt.)

Raspberry icing: I created this recipe by combining two recipes – one for raspberry sauce and one for fruit icing.

Raspberry sauce (The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook)

Ingredients: 1 pint raspberries (2 cups), ¼ cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, pinch of salt.

Combine all ingredients into small nonreactive saucepan and heat on low for about 7 minutes until berries release their juices and start to break down. Using a rubber spatula, press the berry mixture through a fine sieve (discard the yucky solids). Let sauce cool and keep in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes about ¾ cup.

Raspberry icing: Mix ½ cup raspberry sauce (see above) with 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, then beat in 3 tablespoons soft butter and ½ tablespoon lemon juice. Add enough sugar to thicken, but keep it runny enough to drizzle over cake.

To ice the cake, use a hand whisk to dip into the icing and drizzle liberally over the cake, letting it drip down the sides, layering the drizzles until they form a thick icing on top.