Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

You need

a brisket, if you get a whole one, cut it in half against the grain. The grain runs the length of the piece of meat.

two (if you are doing a whole brisket) gallon size freezer bags.

pickling salt

brown sugar

pickling spice (I could list off all of the spices you need but everything you need is in that one jar. You find it in the spice/baking isle around the canning supplies)

6 bay leaves

fresh marjoram and thyme (which I have left out when I didn't have it)


a pan or casserole dish

Clean off the brisket and trim the silver skin and some (not all) of the fat from the meat. Cut the piece in to two pieces against the grain. Set those aside.
In each of the freezer bags, put in 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of the pickling spice, 3 bay leaves, and a few sprigs each of the marjoram and thyme. Mix the contents of the bags and then place one piece of meat in each of the bags. Seal the bag and rub the spice mixture into the meat. Reopen the bags and fill with enough water that the meat is covered when you lay the bag on its side (sealed).

Make sure that bags are very well sealed and lay them in your pan or casserole dish, on their sides, and place in the fridge for 7-10 days.

Once a day during that time, you will take the bags out, give them and toss and place them back in the fridge, flipped (so that the side of the meat that was up, is now down). You will notice that the meat will start to feel firmer than when you purchased it. Also, it will take on a slightly grayish color. Don't worry, no germs can grow in that brine.

When you're ready to cook them. Take them out of the bags and give the meat a very good rinsing. You could even soak them in fresh cold water for a few hours to get the salt out.

You will need something pretty big and with a lid to cook them. I have cooked mine in my turkey roasting pan. You know, the green one that you have that you one use once or twice a year. Place some coarsely chopped carrots, onions and celery (parsnips and turnips are also awesome for this) in the bottom of the pan and then place the meat on top of them. Put enough water in the pan to cover the meat. Cook at 350-375F for about 3-4 hours. After that, quarter a head of cabbage (leave the core intact), and whole small red skin potatoes. Cook for another 2 hours or until the cabbage and potatoes are done and the meat is very tender. I mean tender like it pretty much falls apart.

Slice very thin and serve in bowls with the veggies from the pan. I use all of them, even the carrots and other root veggies that I started with. That are so yummy. Ladle a bit of the pan juice over top and serve with a good loaf of crusty bread for dipping.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why I love my compost bin

I love my compost bin. Well, not the bin itself. That could have been designed better. But the concept of composting is awesome to me. Somewhere between Live Earth and buying my first home, I decided I was green. Not true Kelly green or Forest green or even an Ed Bagley green. More of...well...a teal. I'm green-ish. I'm selfishly green.

One of the first things I bought with one of the house-warming gift cards I received was a compost bin from Target. I bought it there because I could purchase it online and have it delivered. I was great. I snapped it together in two seconds and had all of these grandiose plans of having a garden from which I would can and preserve my little heart out. Well, the garden stuff has been shelved for the time being. But I still use my compost bin religiously.

In my house, we eat a lot of veggies. Cooked, raw, salads, whatever. No, we're not vegetarians. But I do stock up on the salad-in-a-bag when I go grocery shopping. I'm trying to loose weight, OK? (more on that later). So we produce a lot of kitchen waste between the salads and the coffee maker which seems to perk nonstop. And I can either lug that out to the curb every Tuesday night or toss that into my compost bin to turn it into something that I can use later. Which would you choose?

What I toss in my bin:

Leaves from the big-ass tree that dominates my back yard

Grass clippings (those are really great. More on those later)

Coffee grounds and filters

Veggie stuff from the kitchen. I toss the cooked ones out there too, even though you're not supposed to. Just as long as they don't have butter or dressing on them.

lint from the dryer

paper bags, paper towel and toilet paper rolls

Fruit peelings

Shrimp and crap shells


What I don't toss out in my bin:





things with butter or fatty dressings on them

After two years, I still have my Target compost bin. Although I think I need to upgrade to a different multi-bin style. But it dawned on me, that I have tossed hundreds of pounds of kitchen and yard waste out there for two years and then composted and compacted down into a fraction of its former selves. Cool.

In the winter, when the snow is two feet high between my back door and my compost bin, I started this year with a plastic container just outside my back door for all of my waste. I tossed it out there all winter and let it rot and mold when it warmed a bit. That proved to be the best thing I could have ever done. Once the thaw came and I could see grass in my back yard, I started adding in the moldy stuff from the plastic container to my bin. Not all of it, just a couple of shovel-fulls with about the same amount of leaves that I only managed to rake into a giant pile last winter.

After a couple of days, I went out to check on the bin and give it a turn with my pitch fork (another housewarming gift to myself). Boy, was it hot! Steam started rising up from the middle of the pile as I turned it and when I touched the tines of the fork, I almost burned myself. It was perfect. Things got such a good start with that pre-molded kitchen waste that I was able to harvest some finish compost from the bottom of the bin and use it as mulch. Good thing too; I really need the room in the bin.

Even living between two neighbors and in the city, I'm never had a problem with pets or smells. There was some smell when I was adding in the moldy stuff from over the winter. Becuase I didn't poke any holes in the container for it to get air. But the smell wasn't terrible or garbage-y and it subsided very quickly. I do get bugs in the bin over the summer. Sometimes I will go out there and lift the lid and it's crawling with all kinds of bugs. But those are a good thing and I don't have an issue with ants. Thank God for all of that!

The rest of my neighbors on the my street all bag up their garden waste every year and makes the city come and take it. Seems like a shame to me. If I had the room for it, I'd take it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My "Clean out the Fridge" meatloaf

There's really nothing magical about making meatloaf. Certainly not mine. I've always looked at things like soup and meatloaf as an opportunity to clean out my refrigerator. You know that overloaded front door that contains the last drops of salad dressings and that bottle of hoisin sauce that you bought just to make the one stir fry. Here's where you clean it all out.

Oh and just so you know, I never measure, unless I have to.

  • A couple pounds of meat (beef if you're a hard-core carnivore, turkey if you want to maintain some semblance of healthiness)
  • A pint-size carton of Eggbeaters or a couple (2 or 3) of eggs (I haven't bought real eggs in a long time, so I'm more likely to have Eggbeaters or some egg substitute on hand)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • Chopped mushrooms, if you have them. If not, oh well.
  • a clove or two of garlic (none of that commie garlic powder crap)
  • a couple of slices of bread (NO bread crumbs!!). You might need as much as a half a loaf depending on how much meat you have.
  • Salt and Pepper (freshly ground, of course)
  • Catsup (yes, that is how I spell it)
  • Every single bottle from the front door of your fridge

Get your biggest bowl from the cupboard. You know the one that you use to make punch in or to make that army-feeding batch of cole slaw for your last cookout. Ground beef usually comes in packages of 3 lbs or so. So just dump that all in (you DO want left-overs, do you?). If your using ground turkey, that usually comes in packages of a pound or so. So, just buy a couple of packages. And if you insist that you need to cut either of those with ground pork, or sausage or lamb or whatever, then you need to move on. This is recipe is for those non-recipe following people.

So you dumped the meat in. Chop up your onions. Make sure they are small so your loaf with hold together. Same thing with the mushrooms, if you're adding them. Add in your garlic. Now look, if you're going to add in fresh garlic, make sure you've smushed and chopped it properly. No one wants to bite into a huge piece of garlic.

Now, I've skipped over a couple of ingredients on purpose. Go to all of those bottles that you've pulled out of the fridge. Mustard, barbecue sauce, Italian dressing, ranch dressing (everyone has that), hoisin sauce, hot sauce, that last bit of tomato paste. Whatever. Lets toss it in there. And look, I'm not saying that if you have half a bottle of something, that it should all go in there. This is for those tail ends that you don't know what to do with and can bearly get out of the bottle. Speaking of that, if you have a couple of drops in a bottle, lets crack (or pour) an egg into it and shake it up. That'll get it out. But don't be hung up on what goes with what. It's all flavor!

OK. About the eggs and the bread. Look, it's an by-eye thing. Sometimes I've added as much as 3-4 eggs (or the equivalent from the carton of Eggbeaters). Whatever you add, you need to add enough bread to counter that. Think of the bread like beans in chili. It's just another meal on the cheap. It extends the size of the loaf and you can feed that many more people. It's OK, I swear. Don't get snobbish on me now.

So take about 3-4 slices of bread and smush it between your fingers and break it up over the bowl. Then get your hands in there and start mixing. Does it feel too wet? Soupy? Add some more bread. Yes, bread crumbs would soak up the moisture your added from the condiments. But I've always found that it soaks up all of the moisture in the room. That's how you end up with dry meatloaf. Besides, I kinda like that mushy bread stuff. But then I like mushy stuffing for my turkey (but that's another show).

Once you've added enough bread that this mound of stuff is holding together in the bowl and you mix it, you're good. Get out your largest roasting pan or casserole dish or whatever will hold this mass and have enough room to hold all of the juices that will run from it as it cooks. But please! Whatever you do, do NOT put this in a bread loaf pan. I know it's meat LOAF. But doing that is just stupid.

Dump this all in your pan and form it into a loafy-ovally shape. Do pay attention the cracks. We want to minimize those. press and form it into a fairly tight shape and then get a small dish of water. Wet your hands and run them over the meatloaf a couple of times as you're forming it. The added water is a good thing. Squirt some catsup over the top of the loaf.

Then put this in a 350-375 degree oven until it's done. When is done? When your meat thermometer says so. And yes, if you don't have one, you are a loser.

When it's done, take it out and let it rest for about 30 minutes or so. Then slice and eat.

And if you don't like it, just didn't have the right stuff in your fridge.