Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beast Says: Watch out for Doggie Treats with Peanut Butter!

The FDA has reported dog treat recalls from PetSmart and Carolina Prime Pet. Info is on the FDA website at:
There are also listings for the many food products that have been recalled.
Share the info so nobody else loses a pet or loved one.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Support local business, they need us more than ever now

During these challenging economic times it is ever more important to support the locally owned and operated businesses in our communities. Madison Restaurant Week is January 25-30 and I encourage you to partake in the special menus offered by participating restaurants, and support the locals. I understand way better than most people how hard it can be to run a local business. Long hours, difficult finances, sacrificing family life, hobbies and free time; having employees who depend upon your ability to make their payroll so they can feed their families; and other local businesses depending upon your business for their success. Profits are evasive, if even attainable. A life's savings, retirement and home equity are all put on the line. Frequently personal health is at risk due to long hours, stress, poor diet and inability to exercise. All this to "Live the American Dream". (and people think it's a cake-walk having your own business--ha!) So now, when the going is tough, when jobs are being cut, when dollars are stretched thin, I urge you--PLEASE CHOOSE CAREFULLY how you use your disposable income. Support the local restaurant, coffee shop, bookstore, clothing retailer, hardware store and grocer. If we are not there for them now, they won't be here for us later when things improve. We can make a difference. Let's vote with our dollars.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

If there ever was one, today is a day to be proud to be American. President Obama was inaugurated today, just one day after we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. If you've been keeping up with Beast's kitchen, you know I'm not a political person, nor is Beast a political beast, nor are we particularly Gung-Ho Americans, but today, we're a touch prouder to admit we're Americans. There truly is hope for change. I wish my friend Sandra had lived to see this. She died from Breast Cancer almost 2 years ago. While I knew her Sandra devoted her work life to preventing discrimination in the workplace and to promoting equal rights. Sandra would have loved this time in America's history. So, I raise my glass in toast to the new President and to my good friend Sandra, who I miss dearly. Cheers!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy New Year and The Leftover Queen

OK, Beast is sorry...he took a hiatus for the holidays and has been banned from the kitchen recently because he keeps jumping on the counters and doing naughty things (now that Santa's come and gone...)
We apologize for our absence, but we have been thinking about posts for the Blog and have some fun things coming up.
We hope that you enjoyed your holidays and didn't indulge in too much cheer :) Beast found the cookie jar...naughty, naughty. Fortunately all he could do was knock it on the floor--it's got a cat proof lid, so he couldn't bust in and fill his chops.
So, what to do when you've got a family of two and tons of leftovers from the holidays? I know, I know, some of you are cringing--ugh, LEFTOVERS. Hey, some of the best chefs make wonderful things from leftovers. We had (that means Tim had) duck for Christmas and we've been making many ducky things since. We often purchase a large turkey, say 20 pounds or so and then get creative with what to make after the main meal. You'd think that would be challenging, but a 20 lb turkey should feed about 10 people, or 5 meals for 2 people...not so much after all.
Well, this year I was at the Dane County Farmer's Market a couple of weeks before Christmas and one of the farmers had duck, and goose, and I decided to make duck. I hate poultry in orange sauce so I searched for recipes and finally decided on baking the duck with my basic Herbs de Provence seasoning, which I use on chicken and turkey for roasted birds. I soaked it in brine for a day ahead of time to improve moisture. I did try a little bit of the duck breast, which was incredibly dark, and thick like steak. I must say it wasn't anything like the duck I've had in restaurants, nor was it like any other bird we've made at home. It was not real gamey as some people tell you, but it was not tender and falling off the bone like I prefer my poultry. The second time we had it we reheated it in the oven for about 1 hour and it seemed less tough, so although my thermometer said it was done the first time around...perhaps it could have used some additional roasting time. I always worry about overcooking and drying out poultry. With the rest we made: Rendered Duck Fat; Duck Cracklins--oh, yeah, baby...Tim was in Hog Heaven, oops, I mean duck heaven. He loves fat and skin, so duck cracklins are his new favorite snack. We also made Duck broth, Duck Salad with Cranberry Chutney, leftover Stuffing and Gravy Baked Pasta; and yummy Duck Soup. We froze a bunch of the broth, some of the soup, some of the diced duck and some of the soup ingredients to use for tacos, empanadas, frittatas, pot pie, etc. So, that Christmas Duck will feed us many meals and we will enjoy it later in the winter when we're looking though the freezer deciding what's for dinner. I've also been working on breads lately and had made a big batch of Parker House Rolls, which we only ate a few of and then I froze the rest. I had made a pomegranate raspberry sauce for the duck the second serving and had a bunch of that leftover so we made Pomegranate Raspberry Bread Pudding with the sauce and the rolls. YUMMY! Following are the recipes for the Baked Pasta and the Bread Pudding...hopefully they'll inspire you to save your leftovers and try something new next time you cook more than you need. Remember, you can always freeze the ingredients and then make the leftovers later when you're in the mood for them again. You don't have to use them right away until you're sick to death of duck, or whatever. Stop back again soon!
Leftover Stuffing and Gravy Baked Pasta
1 to 2 cups leftover stuffing
1/2 to 1 cup leftover gravy
1 cup broth
8 oz cooked pasta--whatever you have on hand
1 cup leftover veggies, cut into bite-sized pieces (we had brussels sprouts)
3 tbsp butter or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in casserole dish
Stir together all ingredients and place in casserole dish
Cover and Bake at 325° for 1 to 1-1/2 hours
Option: Add 1 cup diced meat. We truly didn't miss the meat in this, in fact, Tim didn't even notice it was all veggies :)
Pomegranate Raspberry Bread Pudding
4 tbsp butter
12 rolls or croissants chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup fruit sauce (mine follows)
6 eggs (yup, it's a custard...needs loads of eggs)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Melt butter in 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan
Combine fruit sauce, eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla and beat until well mixed and yolks are incorporated
Place bread cubes into mixture and let sit for 15-30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the moisture and become Happy Happy, as Emeril says. Stir occasionally to ensure the bread soaks up as much liquid as possible.
Place mixture into baking pan and cover lightly with foil. Bake at 325° for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes. Serve warm or cool and refrigerate for later use. You can also cut it, freeze it and take it out one yummy serving at a time :)
Makes 4-12 servings, depending upon how big you cut them!
Pomegranate Raspberry Sauce
1 pint raspberries
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
Stir together in saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened enough that it is syrupy and coats the back of a spoon