Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hamburger Gravy

Hamburger Gravy on Homemade Low Sodium Bread
Rummaging through the freezer a couple of days ago, I came across a languishing package of ground beef. All kinds of possibilities, but I was feeling lazy. So I made one of my husband's favorites Hamburger Gravy.

When we were first married, he introduced me to the combination of ground beef and cream of mushroom soup a "delicacy" that I'd never had before. As the years went by, I added fresh mushrooms, onions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and beef broth. Little by little, the cream of mushroom soup faded into the background and eventually disappeared.

He still loves the stuff, so I make it every once in a while. It's quick, simple, and pretty tasty even though it’s now low sodium. Not bad ladled over slices of bread, baked or mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, and even popovers.

There’s no official recipe. And it can be adjusted to your particular tastes or what’s in your pantry or fridge. I usually add fresh sliced mushrooms but sometimes resort to the unsalted canned mushrooms from Healthy Heart Market. I use Kitchen Basics or Swanson unsalted beef broth. To intensify the beefy flavor, I’ll also add a packet of Herb-Ox salt-free dry beef granules. You could use some cream or milk along with broth to give the gravy a creamy consistency. Or even add some sour cream at the end. If you want, you can even make a chicken/turkey version. Just change the broth and seasonings.

Hamburger Gravy Meal on My New "Dinnerware"

1 lb fairly lean ground meat
Approximately 1 cup chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Fresh or canned mushrooms
1-2 tbsp flour (quantity depends on how thick you want your final gravy to be)
2 cups no-salt-added broth
1-2 tsp low sodium Worcestershire sauce

Add salt-free beef broth dry granules
Substitute ½ cup - 1 cup milk or cream for some of broth
Add ½ cup sour cream just before serving

Brown ground beef along with chopped onion . Add oil if needed. Add garlic and mushrooms. Once all vegetables are softened, add flour and cook for at least two minutes. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine. Simmer over low heat until thickened. Add additional broth if needed.

Ladle over slices of bread, baked or mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Old Fashioned Roast Pork

Old Fashioned Roast Pork

A few weeks ago my daughter mentioned a pork roast recipe from Cook’s Country that she wanted to try. It sounded interesting, so I decided I would try it too. I searched for the recipe online and found it HERE.

The things that made this recipe different are the cut and the technique used. The end result is a delicious roast pork that is nice enough to serve guests. But instead of a loin, it uses the humble and inexpensive pork shoulder or Boston butt. In order to make a sliceable roast, it must be boneless.  I had a bone-in pork shoulder in my freezer. After thawing, I de-boned it. Annoying but not all that difficult. Boneless shoulder roasts are often on sale (especially around Cinco de Mayo), but lower priced bone-in roasts can be found even more frequently.

The boneless shoulder roast is tied into a compact package and then roasted low and slow (7 hours altogether). Shoulder roasts are not lean, so they don’t dry out like the more upscale loin roasts. Most of the time, they’re used for pulled pork or carnitas. The cooked roast is chilled overnight and sliced the next day, once the meat has firmed up. The pan juices are saved for reheating the roast the next day.

Ready to cook - In the Nesco
Things I did differently: First of all, I didn’t salt the roast. I also didn’t roast the pork in the oven. Instead, I used my small Nesco roaster  (It was too hot for the oven). I also didn’t use fennel seeds in the herb crust. (The online recipe I followed didn’t include them.) As mentioned above, I de-boned a roast, so I browned that bone, added some water, and made about 1 ½ cups of pork broth to add to the drippings. And, I used a 3 pound roast rather than the 6 pounds (I used the same amount of herbs, however). As a result, I didn’t cook my roast as long as the recipe stated. Finally, I just winged the gravy. I combined the drippings, the pork broth, about ¾ cup apples juice, and reduced them a bit.

I only reheated what I thought we could eat at one meal. The leftovers made great hot pork sandwiches with gravy. All in all, this is a great technique that produces an outstanding pork roast from a very humble cut. Perfect for a special dinner.


From "Cook's Country by America's Test Kitchen," episode 105

6 lb boneless pork shoulder, fat cap trimmed to 1/8-inch thick (I used a 3 lb roast)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt (I omitted)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaf
1 tablespoon fennel seed, roughly chopped (I omitted)
2 large red onions, cut into 1-inch wedges (I only used 1 onion)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup apple jelly
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Tie the roast 3-4 times crosswise, and once lengthwise.

In a bowl, combine garlic, pepper, salt, rosemary, sage and fennel seeds. Rub this mixture well into all surfaces of roast.

Place meat in a roasting pan. Place pan, uncovered, in preheated 300°F oven for about 3 hours.
Add onion to pan around the meat. If there is not much fat in the pan, add the optional oil. Return pan to oven for 3½-4 hours more.

Transfer meat to a dish. Transfer onions to a bowl. Pour drippings into a 2-cup measure. Add water to bring up to 1½ cups. When meat has cooled to room temperature, wrap meat and onions with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight along with drippings.

Remove fat from cold drippings and place in a saucepan with onions, cider, apple jelly and cider vinegar. Bring to a simmer.

Slice cold roast, and layer in baking dish. Pour ½ cup of drippings over pork. Cover dish with foil, and place in a preheated 350°F for 40 minutes until hot. (I reheated just enough for one meal at a time in the microwave.)

Bring drippings up to a boil and reduce for 15 minutes until dark, thick and syrupy.Pour sauce over the meat.(I made my own gravy/sauce.)

Ready for Slicing

Monday, September 1, 2014

Harvest Wheat Bread

KAF Harvest Wheat Bread -- Fresh from the Machine!

This is my new favorite bread. I've made it several times now, and I just can't get enough of it. It's hearty, tasty, and filled with good things. Plus, it's a recipe that's made for a bread machine (although it can also be oven baked). It's from the good folks at King Arthur Flour.

I don't know why it took me so long to find it, but I'm sure glad I finally did. It's got my favorite bread ingredient -- cracked wheat. Plus whole wheat flour and sunflower seeds.

I've changed it a bit to make it low sodium and to accommodate my preferences. To keep the bread from staling quickly, I use coconut oil and honey instead of olive oil and sugar. I also add a tablespoon of lecithin granules with the liquid to help slow staling and a tablespoon of orange juice concentrate to counteract the bitterness sometimes found in whole wheat breads. I only use 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds and add 1 tablespoon each of golden flax seeds and sesame seeds. I also substitute 1 cup of white whole wheat flour (minus 3 tablespoons) for one of the cups of bread flour. And, I halve both the yeast and salt measurements. (To make it completely salt-free, I'd suggest using no more than 1 teaspoon of yeast and watching the rising dough carefully to avoid over-proofing.) For more tips on low sodium bread baking -- in a machine or not -- check out this link to an earlier post. Or this link.

Because I use more whole wheat flour than the recipe calls for, I make sure I have a spray bottle filled with water nearby and check the dough several times during the kneading process. Whole wheat flour is notorious for soaking up liquid, so I often spritz the dry dough while it's kneading.

This bread makes great toast and fabulous summer tomato sandwiches. I bake it in my Zojirushi bread machine because it's summer and hot. But I'm sure it would turn out just as well baked in an oven.

Here's the recipe.


1/4 cup (1 3/8 ounces) cracked wheat
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) boiling water
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) olive oil (I use coconut oil)
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar (I use either 3 tbsp. honey or 2 tbsp. hone & 1 tbsp. molasses)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I use 3/4 tsp.)
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I use 1 c. bread flour & 1 c. white WW)
1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional) (I use the gluten)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (or whatever combinations of seeds you prefer)
2 teaspoons instant yeast (I use 1 tsp.)
(I also add 1 tbsp. each of granular lecithin & orange juice concentrate)

Combine the cracked wheat and boiling water in the pan of your bread machine, and let the wheat soften for 30 minutes.

Place the remaining ingredients into the pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Program the machine for the basic cycle, and press Start.

Check the dough's consistency about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle, adding additional water or flour to form a soft, smooth ball of dough. Allow the machine to complete its cycle. Cool the bread completely before serving. Yield: one loaf.

KAF Note: To bake bread in the oven, program your machine for the dough or manual cycle. When the cycle is complete, remove the dough, and place it in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 1 hour, or until it's crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf registers about 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out of the pan, and let it cool on a wire rack.