Any Kitchen Will Do

Give me a kitchen and I will cook.

Archive for the category “Seals’ Kitchen”

Seals Kitchen

seals kitchen history

If you notice the categories for each blog entry I make a Kitchen is always included. There are a slew of them now. Each time I decide on categories for an entry I pick the kitchen where the dish was made. Some kitchens I use are borrowed from friends or relatives, and some are part of the various places where we have lived.  They all possess a different set of tools and amenities, which translates to different challenges. When I started this blog the name came from the fact we spend time in many different places and I love cooking in any type of kitchen encountered. Over the next few months I am going to sprinkle you with posts about the different kitchens, giving you some insight and hopefully some laughs about idiosyncrasies of each kitchen.

I am going to start with the kitchen where I first began blogging – Seals’ Kitchen. The picture credit goes to Little B – she ran around the house taking pictures one day and I got a kick out of this one. It is a kitchen steeped in family history and cherished by many. When we lived in North Texas it was in the house where my mother-in-law grew up. Big D’s grandparents built and added on to the house over approximately sixty years, so in addition to having a lot of character, the kitchen was built to perfectly suit Grandma Seals. She was about 5’2” tall, and the counter was built to match. Compared to my 5’10” frame, I did a lot of stooping when cooking there – a problem mostly solved by using a stool. She was a popular baker and cake maker for the small community, so storage of tools for making special event cakes and goodies was apparent. Plenty of storage! The kitchen had a dedicated water heater for the sink, which made for a wonderful, endless supply of hot water. A plethora of power outlets were also available, allowing for all the appliances to sit out on the expansive counter space and be immediately ready. It also had a built-in kitchen table – when full the table could seat about ten people. The size worked well for big parties, as well as preparing food. A corner of the table was also often used to long talks a person or two, long homework sessions and art projects. When we lived there a lot of neighborhood kids came in and out to grab a drink or a snack, but we also had some quiet meals for just the three of us – me, Big D and Little B.

Little B had a lot of first in the kitchen – she turned one and two years old while we lived there. Her first forays into cooking happened at the top of her learning tower against the counter (the juicer was especially fun). She learned to crack eggs and stir and mix and eagerly watch things bake through the oven door. I don’t know if she will remember much of it when she is older, or even now, but I know her great grandmother’s spirit got a kick out of her experiences in the space.

The space was huge and open. Almost too huge – I often forgot where I put away less frequently used equipment and food. Getting down on hands and knees to reach the storage under the table was a funny site. An actual window above the sink made for some pleasant seasonal views when dishes were being washed (no dishwasher, but two big sinks were well worn of hot soapy washing water). It was easy to keep using parts of the counter and table, then use another part and another part. Suddenly, the whole kitchen was a mess and made for the need of some MAJOR clean up time. I never felt isolated in the kitchen – clear views of the stairway, entry into the bedroom hall, living room, dining room, back door and front door were available. You would have to try hard to miss something going on in the house if you were in the kitchen. I am sure that was an accident. Heh. I have very fond memories of the kitchen and the people that filled it during our time there. I can only imagine its impact on those who shared the space for sixty years.

Whole Wheat Pizza Rolls

I am a bit depressed. We have been in our new place for two days and our lovely gas stove is still without gas. Imagine my dismay when I realized all my plans for a cooking frenzy came to a screeching halt and the fridge/microwave marathon continues. But I have a kitchen! An actual kitchen and I can’t really use it. My own private hell, I say. I am very much tempted to go get a camping stove and carry on. Hopefully this is the last post from old stuff I stashed from the past. It begins in a way that is no surprise to most, with my daughter. I have a particular little daughter when it comes to sandwiches. The only sandwiches she will eat are peanut butter. Not peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and banana, just peanut butter. Occasionally she will eat a sandwich with meat and cheese, but I do not rely on her to do so because it happens so rarely. She likes a lot of foods, just not always at a convenient time, like when it is put in front of her. On top of her sandwich issues there was a little boy at her two day a week pre-school that was allergic to peanut butter. This means that making a quick school lunch for her by slapping together a sandwich is pretty much out of the question. My solution was pizza rolls. It is similar to the method I use for doing wheaty peanut butter apple rolls, just with a comPLETEly different taste. She likes them, they gives her some protein in the middle of the day and don’t cause problems for her schoolmates. When I asked Little B to tell me which type of roll she liked best she paused a moment and said both, but when I asked her which one she wanted for ever and ever (her latest phrase) she pointed to the pizza rolls. Score!

Whole Wheat Pizza Rolls

½ can Grands® Golden Wheat Reduced Fat Biscuits
16-24 Turkey Pepperoni slices
½ cup shredded reduced fat colby jack cheese
2 Tbsp Oregano
½ cup tomato or seasoned pizza sauce

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease large cookie sheet. Cut each uncooked biscuit in half. Roll out each half until each is about 4” in diameter. Place 2-3 slices of pepperoni on each round, keeping them about a centimeter from the edges. Spread each biscuit with about 1 tsp of sauce, sprinkle about 1 tsp of cheese on each and sprinkle with oregano. Carefully roll each biscuit until the opposite ends overlap*. Pinch open ends together in an attempt to contain the sauce. Place each roll seam side up on the cookie sheet, about an inch apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes until biscuits begin to brown.

*Next time I make these I plan on folding the biscuits in half and using a fork to pinch together the edges. Rolling them I think makes for easier toddler finger food, but if I am serving them to a mixed, slightly older crowd I can add more filling with the fold-in-half method.


Wheaty Peanut Butter Apple Rolls

I don’t usually rely on highly processed foods for much of anything when I cook. I try really hard to do the majority of my shopping on the outer edges of the grocery store, focusing on unprocessed foods. I am not perfect, but I hope this blog represents my desire to use ingredients in their most basic form. Now, on with a recipe that contradicts most of my efforts. I came across some canned whole wheat biscuits at the store the other day. Technically, they were along the outer edge of the store, so it was not like I sought them out. They reminded me of camping when I was younger and baking biscuits in a frying pan on a little propane camping stove. They don’t brown and cook thoroughly unless they get flipped halfway through baking. They always tasted so good after sleeping hard all night. Anyway, I was trying to figure out a way to give Little B some quick finger food fun while using ingredients I know she likes. Below is a snack with two of her favorite foods – apples and peanut butter.

Wheaty Peanut Butter Apple Rolls

1 package (8 count) Grands® Golden Wheat Reduced Fat Biscuits
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ apple, finely diced, leaving the skin on

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease large cookie sheet. Combine peanut butter, honey and cinnamon together. Cut each uncooked biscuit in half. Roll out each half into 4” in diameter rounds. Spread the peanut butter mixture on each round. Sprinkle apple on top of the peanut butter and press into the round. Carefully roll each biscuit into sticks, making sure the edges overlap. Pinch ends closed to seal roll. Place each roll seam side up on the cookie sheet, leaving an inch on each side. Bake for 12-14 minutes until biscuits begin to brown.

White Rice

White rice. I know. It is not very thrilling, but when you are in a hotel and limited to a small fridge and microwave and you really want to cook, you just have to go back to basics and build from there. I can do flavorful steamed veggies with our current set up, and there is always some good roasted meats at local markets. There still needs to be a starch, and a cheaper version than what can be found in prepackaged microwaveable bags. All you need is rice, water, a little butter and a glass bowl. Frankly, it takes about the same amount of time as on the stove top, but why compare if you are lacking a stove top, huh? Even when I do have a stove I may still make the rice in the microwave – it will give me more space on the stove and the rice keeps nice and warm in the microwave after it is cooked. Next time I will probably add some herbs and chicken broth to liven it up.

White Rice

1 cup enriched long grain rice
1 ¾ cup water
1 Tbsp butter
Pinch of salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl that holds at least four cups. Place uncovered bowl in microwave and cook on high for ten minutes. Without opening the microwave door cook for another 12-15 minutes 50% power. Let set in unopened microwave for at least five minutes. Fluff and serve. Cooking time may vary depending on the power of your microwave.

Hash Brown Cups

We are still living sans kitchen. I am starting to dream about cooking things that are sauteed, baked, seared, broiled and browned. Pretty much things you can’t do in a microwave. Speaking of brown…I like my hash browns brown. Some of them can be unbrown, but I like the crispy parts and the almost crispy parts the best. Especially with a little hot sauce, salt and pepper sprinkled on them. I first made these hash brown cups for a brunch when I was not going to have enough time before it was time to eat to cook them properly. I have not done it yet, but I am thinking of having a cuppy brunch some day – hash brown cups, eggy cups and maybe some cinnamon roll cups. Then I can be really creative and serve beverages in cups and everything will be just cuppy! Okay, now that tangent is out of me I can return to the hash browns. If you make them ahead of time a bit of the crispy may be lost, but they reheat just fine. The picture shows some I took out a bit early because I was running late for an appointment, so don’t do as I do, do as I say!

Hash Brown Cups

1 package (30 ounces) grated potato hash browns, thawed
1 cup finely grated parmesan
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic, diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive or canola oil

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Divide potatoes among 12 well greased muffin pan cups. Bake for about an hour until bottoms are crispy. The potatoes touching the pan will brown but the very tops will not brown much at all. Remove from oven and let cook for about 20 minutes. If you take them out too soon they may not keep their molded form, so avoid the temptation to take them out early unless there is actually a problem and smoke is pouring out of the oven.

Wheat Free Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Every time we move we try to do two kitchen related things: 1) find a person or household to honor with all foodstuff in the kitchen that may spill or break; in general, not survive storage and transport, and 2) whittle down our supply of perishable foods in the fridge and freezer. Most of the time I scour grocery stores for good deals and stock up when I find them, which means our freezer is often full of bulk items. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a coupon clipper and I don’t pour over the weekly grocery ads, but when I am walking through the store and find a deal I definitely jump on it. In addition to my frozen deals and steals there are odds and ends left over from recipes. You know what I mean – that recipe that did not quite need the last half cup of berries, or the one that called for only half a can of tomato paste. In my attempt to use up stuff in the freezer I came across ingredients left over from the holidays – pumpkin puree and whole cranberries. I know the chilly weather these foods remind me of is pretty much in the past this year, but I went ahead and came up with a lovely recipe using the frozen goodness. Although the ingredients seem to be off season, the results taste quite refreshing and tangy – very suitable to springtime. By the time the kitchen got packed up they were all gone!

Wheat Free Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

¾ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup brown rice flour
2 cups instant oatmeal, uncooked
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup pureed pumpkin
2 cups whole cranberries (pureed the berries should be about 1 cup)

Fill muffin tins with liners. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350F. Place oatmeal in a food processor and blend until it is a rough powder. Combine rice flour, oatmeal, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl combine pumpkin and yogurt. Set aside. In a mixer bowl using a flat paddle, cream together cane sugar and butter just until blended. Add eggs one at a time, making sure one is combined before adding the next. Add a third of the dry ingredients, then a third of the yogurt/pumpkin. Scrape the bowl well. Continue alternating the dry and wet ingredients until all is incorporated. Fill muffin tins about ¾ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are brown and beginning to harden. Makes 20-24 muffins.

Purple Hull Peas

It is really a good feeling when you can plant a garden and fill your freezer with the fruits of your labors. When you move around as often as we do and are not sure if you will be in one place long enough for a growing season, the second best feeling to reaping the fruits of your labors is to benefit from the labor of others. As I mentioned before, we are in the midde of a move…and one process part of each of our moves is the using of all things frozen. My efforts to use up our well stocked freezer supplies revealed a wonderful discovery. I found two bags of purple hull peas from the huge (and I mean huge – over an acre) garden of great Uncle James and Aunt Mary. Each year their garden is smaller and smaller – they are well into their 80s now – I only hope I can garden when I am their age. The purple hull peas are about the size and texture of black eyed peas, but they have a stronger, nuttier taste than their black eyed cousins. I like the purple hulls much better. I don’t recall ever seeing purple hull peas in a grocery store, but found them in abundance at farmers markets and local produce stands. Seek them out and cook them up in a pot. You will not regret it.

Purple Hull Peas

4 cups purple hull peas
1 cup black eyed peas (only because I had a bit in the cupboard)
1 ham bone
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp salt
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 quarts water

Combine all ingredients in a pot over high heat, making sure enough water is used to cover the peas. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat, but keep a low boil. Cook until peas are soft, about an hour. Remove from liquid with slotted spoon. Serve hot or cold.

Crispy Baked Chips

You want fries with that? Of course, but I shouldn’t…

Although I like a lot of foods that are good for me, I also crave some of those foods that are quite lacking in nutritional value. You know, oreos, macaroni and cheese, loaded baked potato and of course the fries. Yum! Usually made with processed potatoes and deep fried, they go well with burgers and ribs and under a pile of chili and cheese. An occasional small serving is no problem, but when they come so easily almost everywhere we eat out – and we eat out quite frequently – it gets harder and harder to resist. One way that helps me is to make some at home, which are just as good or loads better than those found in a restaurant. They cook up so crispy, and the seasoning begs not to be dipped in ketsup, but if absolutely necessary, I guess it could be done. These are chips, as in fish ‘n chips! These little guys taste like they could have been deep fried, but they are baked, much lower fat than their deep-fried counterparts, crispy and addictive! I served them up with mushed peas and some tilapia cooked in a skidge of oil and lime juice.

Crispy Baked Chips

4 small or 3 medium russet potatoes
2 Tbsp canola or olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
Dash of pepper

Wash and slice potatoes into thin wedges lengthwise, approximately 12 per potato. Soak slices in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 425F. Lay out wedges on a towel to dry, pressing down from above using another towel to get as much water off as possible. Place wedges in a bowl and sprinkle with oil, salt, pepper and garlic, tossing until completely coated. Spread wedges out in one layer on large cookie sheet. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes. Flip wedges over, rotate pan 180 degrees to ensure even baking and return to oven for 10-20 minutes. The second baking time varies so much because the size of the wedges may vary. By the time the first bake time is over the potatoes will be cooked – the second time is to ensure complete and utter crispiness. Serve immediately. The recipe can be easily doubled, just make sure you have sufficient cookie sheet space. If doubling the recipe and cooking on two cookie sheets, which probably means using two levels of the stove, you will need to cook them twenty minutes, then switch levels for the additional time to allow for even browning.


Red Tomato Salsa

Salsa! It is low fat, low calorie, low sugar and can spice up pretty much anything. I don’t think it can be beat on top of eggs, inside tacos or all around a tortilla chip. I have made it cold, warm, roasted, raw, green, brown (it was actually good) and of course, red. The raw red version is the one that most reminds me of the tex-mex restaurants I like the most down in Texas where I grew up. Each batch is a little different, depending on the quality of the tomatoes and the bite of the jalapenos. This version of salsa comes straight out of the fridge. It is raw, red and tangy. I made the recipe mild, but it could of course be spiced up with more jalapenos.

Tomato Salsa

4 large rip tomatoes, quartered
½ small red onion, roughly chopped
1 large or 2 small jalapenos
1 lime, juiced with meat included
3 cloves garlic
1 small bunch cilantro
½ teaspoon ground sea salt

If you have a big food processor, combine one tomato with the remaining ingredients and pulse until finely pureed. Add remaining tomatoes and pulse until roughly chopped. Refrigerate overnight and serve cold.

If you are going to use a molcajete combine the onion, jalapeno, lime meat, garlic and cilantro in bowl. Grind until all the ingredients are combined. Add tomatoes and continue grinding until combined and the tomatoes are of preferred mushiness. Refrigerate overnight and serve cold.

If you have a small food processor add ½ a tomato and all the other non-tomato ingredients. Pulse until finely pureed. Empty puree into medium bowl. Add tomato to processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Empty into medium bowl. Add tomato to processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Empty into medium bowl. All the tomatoes done? Now stir everything up in the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold.


Spatchcocked Chicken

To all those who have trouble cooking a roast chicken please continue reading, for I have a solution for you. To everyone who thinks they have made a good roast chicken you should also keep reading, because you may be wrong. Being able to roast a chicken is a good skill to have, but when you find a big one at the store there is always the challenge of getting the meat evenly cooked, considering the meat is not evenly distributed around the cavity. One solution is sticking it on a full, open soda can and letting the soda keep it moist while standing on end and cooking. The can method works, but to me the meat gets an odd flavor. It might have been the fact I don’t much like Dr Pepper, but it just tasted odd. Splitting a chicken in half and cooking it in an iron skillet results in an amazingly moist, flavorful chicken. Since the bird is laid down almost flat the meat cooks evenly so the dark meat gets cooked instead of running red, and the white meat does not overcook for the sake of the dark meat. It also maximizes exposure of the skin for crispiness. The first time I used the spatchcocked method I did not expect much of a result different from when I roasted with the bird whole. When we started eating it, not only were the herbs and spices more evenly distributed in the meat, but taking the bird apart and carving it up was easier, because it was flat and easier to manipulate. If you try it you will like it, and it is also great for helping to season an iron skillet! Enjoy!

Spatchcocked Chicken

1 whole chicken, 4-5 pounds
2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1 large lime
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
½ tsp ground sage
1 tsp ground thyme

Preheat oven to 375F. Place chicken on a cutting surface breast side down. Using a knife cut skin and meat down to the bone, following the spine. With a sturdy pair of scissors cut right along both sides of the spine to remove it. Turn chicken over and press down in the middle between the wings until the wishbone breaks and the chicken lays down almost flat. Take care not to push it completely flat to the point the ribs break – that is too far. Squeeze lime juice onto both sides of the chicken. Also gently pull skin away from the meat in a few places and drop some of the juice between the skin and meat. If you have fresh herbs you can slide a sprig or two of parsley, sage or thyme under the skin to add some extra flavor. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bottom (formerly the cavity) of the chicken. Place chicken in large iron skillet skin side up. Get your hands dirty by spreading the butter all over the skin side of the chicken, including crevasses, until it is all gone. Sprinkle salt, pepper and herbs all over butter. Cover with foil and put chicken in oven and cook for about an hour, removing the foil after about 30 minutes. The chicken is done when a thermometer reads 160 degrees and juices run clear. Remove from oven and let rest for about ten minutes.

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