Canine Karma

Sophia:  Do you smell that?

Penny: Yum! But you know that when Tracy bakes, she never shares with us.

They were wrong this time.  The oven was filled with puppy treats today.  I haven’t made dog bones in a long time, the last time they were holiday gifts for my doggie owner friends and family.  I did not do a cost calculation, but I suspect that my batch of bones, made with ingredients I would eat myself, probably cost less than the high-end grocery store versions I usually buy. They were easier to make than cookies and smelled delicious.  The Philosopher thought they were people cookies!

I know you are reading this and trying to figure out if you are really about to read a recipe for dog cookies.  Here’s the thing.  Rachel and I write about how we use our kitchens to support and build our community.  In my house, the puppies are a pretty integral part of our lives.  They are our cuddle partners when we watch movies.  They bask in the sunshine with us while we eat lunch on the patio.  They hike with us to keep us fit.  And help us meet neighbors and members of our new community while at the dog park.  We don’t chose to break bread with them in the same way as our human friends, but caring for their needs is a small price for the benefits they offer us.  So, today I baked dog treats.  Jump on the bandwagon.  Your puppies will love it!

I adapted a few basic cracker recipes to create these.  I still have a large selection of gluten-free flour from our diet, so I integrated them into the recipe but you could use a mix of whole wheat and unbleached white flour or only plain flour. Doing a little research revealed that while garlic can be harmful to dogs in large quantities, in small amounts is repels ticks and fleas, naturally.

First, mix together the following dry ingredients:  2 c flour (1/2 c garbanzoflour, 1/2 c brown rice flour, and 1 c unbleached white flour), 1/2 c old fashioned oats, 1 t baking powder, and 1 t garlic powder.  Add 1 c of peanut butter (Use the real stuff, the oil should separate.  It’s better for you and better for the doggies!).  Next, I added 1/2 c chicken stock and 1/2 c water.  I did not have homemade stock, so I diluted it with water.  If you make your own stock and can control the seasonings, use a full cup of stock here, the pups will love it.  I found that my dough needed a little more flour, so I floured my counter top and mixed more into the dough by hand.  I rolled the dough out til it was approximately 1/4 inch thick.  I used a pizza cutter to create biscuits.  If you have an appropriate cookie cutter and these are for a gift, use it here.  I have seen fire hydrant and biscuit-shaped cutters, but my dogs don’t know the difference.  And you readers would think I was even crazier if I baked cookies in perfectly cute shapes.

 

 

 

 

These guys didn’t spread out at all.  So you can put them together closely on the cookie sheets.  Pop them in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  I found that the thicker cookies took closer to 20 minutes, but some were thinner and were crisp and golden after 15 minutes.  I removed the thin ones after 15 minutes and popped the rest in for a few more minutes.  If you are more careful at rolling out the dough than I was, you can likely resolve this problem.    Place them on a rack to cool.

 

 

 

My pups tasted the recipe.  I received barking good reviews from the doggies.  This made exactly enough to fill my dog treat container.  I know it’s hard to tell, but I have two happy customers here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take good care of your canine community.  It’s good for your kitchen karma.  Another great way to take care of your doggie friends is by reading my friend’s blog or by liking her facebook page.  She’s an excellent dog trainer, volunteer, and owner.  And a great, engaging writer.  Trust me, you will learn something and your pups will thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

KitK Cooking Extravaganza

 

This post is sadly delayed.  Rachel and I spent a glorious couple of days together early in August.  We went to see my friend Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen perform at Columbus’ Pecha Kucha.  We explored the Columbus Zoo with the Philosopher’s family.  We ate fabulous breakfasts at Skillet and Northstar.  All in all, I would say it was another Karma in the Kitchen reunion success.  And like last time, Rachel and I cooked.  A lot.  I roped Rachel into joining me in the sweaty world of canning.  I ordered extra tomatoes from The Sippel Family Farm to make tomato chutney.  I scoured the local peach and blueberry options to make jam.  And I purchased tons of Snowville milk and cream to make homemade ricotta.  Oh yes.  We stayed busy in the kitchen!

First, we prepped tomatoes for tomato chutney.  We used this recipe as a base, but we significantly reduced the amount of sugar (by half).  Here’s what we ended up doing:

8lbs of tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (the easiest way to do this is score an X on the bottom of a tomato, drop it in boiling water for a few minutes and then put in cold water.  The skins should pop of easily.  Then remove the core and chop.)  , 2 heads of minced garlic, 2 chopped onions, 1c brown sugar, 1/2c white sugar, 3c apple cider vinegar, 3 limes, zested and juiced, 2T fresh minced ginger, 4t dried hot pepper flakes, 2t cumin, 1c golden raisins chopped roughly by hand, and salt and pepper to taste.  We combined the ingredients in a stockpot and simmered all day.  I think it took about 5 hours for the chutney to finally thicken.  Stir it often, as the sugar will make it scorch easily.  We ladled the chutney into 1/2 pint jelly jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace.  They were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars of chutney.

 

Next, Rachel and I prepped peaches and blueberries for jam.  We peeled, cored, and roughly sliced 10 pounds of peaches (save the peels!).  We added 2 quarts of blueberries, washed well.  3 lemons were zested and juiced and added to the fruit.  We added sugar to taste, I prefer a slightly tart and less sweet jam.  So for our fruit, we added about 5 cups of granulated white sugar.  The fruit simmered happily on the stove until thickened.  I used a bit of Pomona’s Universal Pectin near the end to finish firming it up well.  Test for firmness by putting a bit of jam on a spoon and popping in the freezer for a few minutes.  When you have reached your desired firmness, you are ready to can.  We used 1/2 pint jars, placed 1t of bottled lemon juice on top of the jam after leaving 1/4″ of headroom, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars and a good sized bowl to go with our dessert that night!

I know you are trying to figure out why you should save your peels.  Well, here goes.  We simmered the peach peels with sugar and water making a simple syrup.  We then combined the strained syrup, fresh mint, sparkling water, a dash of fresh lime, and Middle West Spirits vodka together for a fabulous after dinner cocktail.  You should definitely save the peach peels!

Lastly, we made a batch of homemade ricotta using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.   Her instructions are so clear and easy to follow, I am not going to retype them for you.  But I am going to insist that you drop what you are doing, grab some local milk, and MAKE RICOTTA CHEESE.  Immediately.  Rachel and I were sneaking bites while the ricotta was still straining.  We just couldn’t help ourselves.  We decided that a piece of bread, topped with a smear of ricotta and some tomato chutney was a fabulous way to begin our dinner.  The play of the sweet and spicy chutney against the creamy goodness of the ricotta kept us reaching for more.  And more.  Happy faces all around that evening.  And into the next days lunch.  And breakfast.  And snack.  And dinner.  Oh ricotta.  You made us so happy!

 

 

 

 

 

A quick glance at the table reveals that I also made my infamous tomato tart.  Now, I bet you wish an invitation to our dinner party had graced your door, huh?

But I haven’t even covered dessert yet!  You should know that a meal like this requires a beautiful, tasty, butterfat-laden dessert.  Unfortunately you will have to go without a picture, but trust me, this recipe for a ricotta cheesecake should not be ignored.  The only changes to the directions were made because the recipe made more filling than my pie pan allowed, so we filled two small oven-safe glass bowls also.  We also popped an oven safe bowl filled with water in the oven to produce a nice, steamy environment for our baking dessert.  You should immediately forget everything you ever thought you knew about cheesecake.  Cream cheese has nothing on this heavenly light, slightly lemony dessert.    Perfect for leftovers!  We dolloped some peach and blueberry jam and ate to our hearts content under the stars of an August night.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

Ah Rachel.  Never is my kitchen karma so great as when I have the perfect cooking partner.  It’s comforting to know she’s willing to experiment with me.  Tasting something again and again.  Tossing in a little of this and a little of that until we both find our own recipe nirvana.  We work well together also, Rachel and I.  While I chopped onions and minced garlic for the chutney, she was peeling and coring tomatoes.  While she peeled peaches and washed blueberries, I was at the store for a few forgotten items (ok, ok.  I ran to the store twice in 20 minutes for twice forgotten items!)  What’s great is that cooking is the perfect way to catch up on the last few months.  A phone call here or a gchat there is great, but nothing beats a sweaty, sticky day in the kitchen to learn about new friends, new apartments, new jobs, and old stories.

This is going to be my last post for awhile.  The Philosopher was offered a job at UNC Chapel Hill and I am currently packing up our belongings, getting estimates from moving companies, and selling our collected stuff!  I hope to be back to blogging and cooking by the beginning of October.  Our new city has a year-round farmer’s market that is apparently in the top ten nationwide.  I would certainly say that the south sounds welcoming to me!

Unfortunately, we are also having to say goodbye to our dear friends and neighbors.  While Columbus is a great town for many reasons, the people whose lives have intersected ours have truly made this city our home.  From old colleagues, to new classmates, neighbors, children, doggies, and coworkers, we have been fortunate to have our lives filled with amazing people that have loved us and supported us.  We have many warm memories and many homes that we plan to visit again soon.  A piece of our hearts and our lives will be left in this town and we truly have you all to thank for it.  While we welcome the challenge of forming a new community in NC, we will continue to stay connected to those people who made the Bus our home for 2 years.  Thank you all!  We love you dearly!

Stick in your thumb, pull out a plum…

My what a good pie am I! 

Little Jack Horner was not my inspiration for this, instead it was a lovely surprise from friends.  The Philosopher and I met friends for breakfast one morning and on our way I received a text message asking if we would eat plums.  They were kind enough to bring us a portion of their fruit CSA share-which turned out to be a huge bag of plums!  We ate a few fresh for breakfast and snacks, but I quickly realized I would need to take more drastic measures if I was going to use them all before going bad.  Here’s the recipe:

Pie Crust

1 1/2 sticks butter (cold, cut into small pieces)

2 1/4 c flour

1 t salt

2-3 T ice water

Put flour  and salt in food processor and add pieces of butter.  Pulse until pea-sized pieces form.  Pulse in iced water one tablespoon at a time.  When the dough begins to stick together in a large ball, stop pulsing.  Do not over process.  Remove, pat into ball and flatten slightly.  Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least one hour.  This can be chilled longer, or frozen and used later, if desired.

I should stop here and tell you.  These are the directions.  I opted to ignore these.  You should not.  I decided that my food processor would be a pain to wash.  I thought using my super awesome blender was a good idea.  I was wrong.  My crust was ok, but I definitely fell in the category  of over processed dough.  Also, when I rolled it out, it tended to crumble in some areas.  Overall, not my best pie crust.  The good news?  It was still better than that talking dough-thing makes 🙂

After the dough has chilled, divide into two and roll out into two circles large enough to fill your pie pan.  Place one in the pan and prick with a fork.  Then add your plums.  I sliced and pitted enough plums to fill the pie pan.  I am not sure how many, but just keep slicing until you think it looks about right.  You really can’t mess this up too badly.  I then took the plums out and put them in a bowl.  I added a about 2 T corn starch and sugar to taste.  The corn starch will help the juices of the plums to thicken, hopefully keeping your crust from becoming a soggy mess.  I also added a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Throw the plums back in the pan and cover with the rest of the crust.  Make sure you cut vents in the top for steam to escape.   Brush the top with an egg wash (one egg beaten with 2 t of water) and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 375F for 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

So, since my crust was a little crumbly, I had to make a few changes.  Thankfully, I own small leaf-shaped cookie cutters.  I rolled out the dough and cut out the shapes and used them to cover the plums.  I then added the egg wash and sugar. The leaves ended up looking a little more like stars, but it had no effect on the length of time it took the two of us to devour our dessert.

I served the pie hot with freshly whipped cream.  While my crust may not have seemed perfect, it was flaky and buttery.  Which is pretty much all you want out of a pie crust, right?

The best part of this story is how the simple act of kindness from a friend allowed me to pass on the act of kindness to another.  The Philosopher and I ate one piece each of pie after I made it.  The next night we were spending time on our neighbor’s porch.  This summer we have gotten to know most of the people who live around us and have really begun to enjoy evenings spent together.  We grab a glass of wine and find ourselves laughing and enjoying the soft breeze while the sounds of dogs barking and children giggling fill the darkness around us.  On this evening, I brought over the pie and was able to engage in the communal act of sharing the autumn harvest because of the kindness of our friends.  That’s a little bit of kitchen karma.

Finding My Path

If you ask my mother, my interest in cooking was not apparent early in life.  In fact, she would tell you that it probably seemed likely that I would sustain existence with ramen noodles and frozen dinners throughout my adulthood.  While it didn’t seem like I was paying attention, I think I must have been.  I remember standing on a chair in the kitchen with my grandmother as she baked (I usually had more flour on me than was in the cake).  I was an active part of my family garden and recognized the fruit of my father’s hunting skills and my mother’s passion for canning. In my dining past I have transitioned from the woman who ate nearly anything, to someone who was slowly removing meat from her diet, to someone who didn’t eat meat, to someone who sometimes ate fish to whatever I am claiming today.  Suddenly I realized that when I was stressed out, I went to the kitchen.  I don’t exactly remember when I started worrying less about recipes and more about flavor, but it was all about the process.  For me cooking has been a winding road that has been filled with multiple influences and opportunities to grow and develop.  Without realizing it, all those small influences on my culinary life helped shape and develop the way I view cooking and eating today.  Thankfully, the road keeps winding and new influences and flavors keep challenging me.

Now, my kitchen offers a peaceful place where I get to joyfully play with new ingredients I have never heard of, feel at ease preparing food with items that have become foundations for my cooking, can consider the impact my choices have on the environment and larger societal concerns, and can share in my love of food and eating with my family and friends.  I think this begins to suggest how I see karma acting in my kitchen.

Rachel and I became friends a few years ago and this opened a new path for my journey into cooking.  We would often call each other and I would say, “Rachel, I got some awesome eggplant today.”  She would reply, “Tracy, I have some leftover butternut squash that should be used soon.”  Before you knew it, we had created a basic outline of a meal verbally that would come together in our kitchens.  Rachel and I always seemed to be able to marry our styles of cooking to work together to make something lovely.  This process began my kitchen creativity path.

This past year, my spouse and I (“The Philosopher”) purchased a share of a CSA for the first time.  A CSA refers to Community Supported Agriculture and is a system where one supports a local farmer by investing in a share of the farm’s bounty at the beginning of planting time.  A CSA helps local farmers share some of the risk of their trade and I have the opportunity to support a fellow member of my community.  Further, my CSA has offered me a breadth of produce that I have never seen in my grocery store or would not have considered purchasing and cooking before.  Who knew patty pan squash were so delicious?

I truly feel that cooking is a means of bringing people together.  The idea of breaking bread with loved ones; sharing in a time of feeding your physical body while talking, looking into one another’s eyes instead of a computer screen, and reconnecting and communicating with one another can be so fulfilling.  Many of the best conversations I have ever had were over a meal.  The Philosopher and I often find ourselves bringing together a crew of coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and others who have often never met one another together for a meal.  Soon the common thread of a food breaks away tensions and meaningful conversation begins to flow.

Finally, cooking is means of relaxing for me.  There is something therapeutic about measuring, chopping, tasting, mixing.  I have found that most kitchen disasters really aren’t that bad.  Outside of burning or spilling, I have rarely met a kitchen error that I didn’t eat anyway.  I think that the final realization that I couldn’t mess up too badly was the release I needed to really let go and cook.

How do you find karma in your kitchen?  I am not going to pretend to have all the answers.  I will suggest that for me, when cooking no longer felt like a chore and instead began to feel more like this opportunity to act positively; to engage with my community and the environment, to bring wellness to my family, to offer a gift of kindness to a neighbor, to speak in a language that transcends differences, to use my time and energy for the sake of my loved ones-this is when it began to feel more like karma.  When my kitchen began to be a place for positive energy, the opportunity to create change, and impact health-that’s when I began to find karma in my kitchen.

My Cooking, My Karma, Myself

Welcome to Karma in the Kitchen!  My name is Rachel and I am one of the two fabulous contributors to this brand new cooking blog.  Tracy, my cohort, and I have decided to use our first posts to introduce ourselves, talk about our philosophy of cooking and how discuss how that relates to the name and purpose of this blog.

I guess you could say that I’ve always been a bit of a foodie.  Growing up, I would eat pretty much anything placed before me, and as the daughter of a college professor in the Chicagoland area, I was exposed to dozens of different types of cuisines and a vast variety of foods.  We had traveled to Europe twice before I was eleven.  I experienced Russian caviar for the first (and it looks like only) time at the tender age of seven.  I regarded this exposure to different ethnic foods as the norm.  I wasn’t aware that some people only ate certain types of food and did not experiment with things foreign to them.  I was also always a prodigious veggie eater.  My mother tells me that once I started eating solid foods fulltime, I was always asking for raw vegetables.  I would grab whole carrots from the icebox and gnaw on them while watching cartoons.  My favorite snack at my aunt’s house was pickled okra.

The summer before I started 9th grade, we moved to a house in a new neighborhood.  Being in this new neighborhood gave us access to cable channels we hadn’t had before, namely, the Food network.  Now this sounds crazy, but that summer I did watched nothing but the Food network, and through this watching I learned to cook.  My mother was a decent cook, but her mother had trained her that anyone who could read could cook, and so basically anything my mother wanted to cook, she needed to find a recipe for.  I found this sort of blasé, and really wasn’t interested in following detailed instructions to produce food.  But a couple of the programs on Food Network, “Ready, Set, Cook” and “Cooking Live with Sara Moulton”, provided me with the confidence that I needed to get free of recipes, learn to experiment, and really understand the basics of cooking.  I would sauté, marinade, and grill to my heart’s content, and to rave reviews from my family.  By the end of my 9th grade year, I was half convinced I should go to culinary school.

I tell people that I learned to cook from the Food Network, and they kind of roll their eyes, but it’s the cold hard truth. “Ready, Set, Cook” was like a scaled down Iron Chef or Chopped, with two professional, but not famous, chefs competing with the oddly collected contents of a basket, and did so with the help of an audience member.  Audience members would also judge the cooking.  This inspired me to use whatever we had sitting around to create an interesting and tasty meal.  “Cooking live with Sara Moulton”  was a live cooking show with viewers calling in with their cooking questions.  So Sara would be cooking something awesome and then answering totally unrelated questions from viewers.  I learned a lot from what she cooked as part of the show and also many of the callers questions were my own.  I tried for a while to come up with a good question, but never thought of anything fabulous enough to merit actually calling Sara.  She’s still the coolest (http://saramoulton.com/home/).

In college, I didn’t really live with a kitchen until I was a senior, so by that time, I was pretty excited about being able to make things for myself again.  I stumbled upon a new technique.  I no longer felt the need to cook from instinct for every meal, but I did occasionally have the desire for a certain type of food (gumbo, pad thai, red beans and rice, corn chowder, etc).  I didn’t want to follow one recipe (how mundane), so I would search the internet for several recipes, and break it down to the basic ingredients and then make additions that made the most sense to me.  This lead to a lot of brilliant meals, and I would save my scribbled slap-dash recipes, but looking back at them, I sometimes have to concentrate to figure out exactly what I was trying to cook with it.

I think it was around this time I realized that cooking was lots more fun if you had lots of people to share it with.  I had always cooked for my parents in high school, I cooked for my roommate and friends in college, and when I headed off to grad school the trend continued.  I loved making good food period.  And sometimes I knew I was the only one who was going to want a buffalo chicken turkey burger or eggplant potato pancakes, but most of the time, I wanted to share what I was cooking.  And this love of cooking and bonding together while chopping and sauteing is where Tracy and I became excellent friends.  Naturally, since we live in different states now, this blog is partially our way of continuing that spirit of cooking together and for others. The central ethic of our cooking together was to use what we had around first, add the necessary ingredients, and end up with a delicious meal.  And when others stumbled upon our cooking community, we were sure to include them and often were reassured of what we already knew: it was good.

Of course it’s always nice to be complemented on your work in the kitchen, however I think this where I call forth the concept of karma in relation to cooking.   The good I present to you from the fires of my kitchen should inspire you to return the favor.  Or at least enjoy yourself and look forward to committing more acts of community with me in the future.  I only dabble lightly in Eastern religions and have a very basic understanding of karma: essentially what you send out, be it good or bad, will come back to you in some way. Truth be told, I do not find the world to always be this fair, but I think when it comes to cooking and sharing meals, there can’t possibly be a downside.  Furthermore, if you extend the art of cooking to your whole relationship with food (i.e. the sustainability of your food choices), it extends the reach of your karma.  Karma in the Kitchen is intended to speak to all of this; of course the recipes, but also the food choices, the need to keep extending the table, and the centrality of food and eating in a healthy society.

It is telling that our society is record-breakingly fat and yet individuals are increasingly lonely and isolated.  Cathy Erway, noted food blogger and author of ­The Art of Eating In, reflects on how human civilization is rooted in the shared meal.  She goes as far to say that, “When you sit at your desk eating alone, or eat as you drive alone in your car, you’re chipping away at eons of development in human civilization.” Which leads me to say, that I hope you, our yet undiscovered reader, find inspiration here to keep civilization together, that our words and experiences (and painstakingly taken pictures) move you to host a dinner party, join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, try new recipes, start up a dinner club, organize a potluck at work, and, all in all, find ways to enrich your own karma in the kitchen.

More from me soon, cheers.

-Rachel