Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ginger Carrot Soup

I'm an unabashed sweets lover but I've had enough sugary things for a while. Now all things savory and healthier are calling me and I'm wanting to serve those foods that have more nutrition.

When I told Ole Sweetie-Pi we were having ginger carrot soup he nearly had apoplexy.  That piece of information prompted him to lift the lid of the soup pot, stir the ingredients around into a whirling vortex, taste a sample, grimace in pain, and then go hide in the living room. Honestly, he can be so dramatic.  It didn't stop him from eating a whole bowl of it though when I served it to him, grins.

This ginger carrot soup is subtly warm from the fresh ginger and pepper, with a pleasing sweetness from the fresh carrots and orange juice. The onions, I think, help to balance out the spice and the sweet.  This pureed into a nice thick soup, though to be honest, I only used one box of  vegetable stock, which was less than the five cups called for.  I wasn't about to open up a second box just a cup of stock. I could have made up the difference with water, I suppose, but I found the thickness of the soup to be pleasing and just went with it. 

I would and will definitely make this again. I'm pretty sure after eating all those carrots I'll be able to read in the dark without a flashlight.  Ole Sweetie-Pi said he could pass on eating this again, but I don't know.  I think he's still recovering from the shock.

Ginger Carrot Soup
Earthbound Farm Organic

2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
1 piece (3 inches long) fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 cups peeled, sliced carrots
5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sour cream, as garnish

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, heat the oil.  Add the ginger and the onion and cook until the onion is translucent. 

Add the carrots, vegetable stock, and orange juice and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, allowing the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender or allow the soup to cool slightly and puree in batches in a blender. 

Return the soup to the pot and add the seasonings:   the pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.  To serve, add a small dollop of sour cream on top.

For more information about making this soup ahead or serving it cold, click on the link I provided under the recipe name.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mahogany Beef Stew and Never Fail Biscuits

Doggone it's been cold here.  We probably don't have as much snow on the ground as some of our southern and western cousins do, but we sure have plenty of the low double and single digit temperatures.  Once we get chilled, the cold goes to the bone, and it seems to take forever to thaw out.  (Have you ever noticed that in some places folks use the colloquialism  unthawed, such as unthaw the meat, when they really mean thaw? I digress but felt a need to point it out, grins.)

It's a good day to turn the oven to bake something hot...

and set a pot on the stove to simmer something long and slow and comforting...

It was just one of those days when no one minded the kitchen being heated up.

For a short while during the Depression years, my grandfather cut wood for a living and, in conjunction,  my grandmother ran a small boardinghouse of sorts where the workmen could stay and she'd feed them. She provided very simple fare she told me, but her baking powder biscuits were a staple, and her biscuits were her pride and joy.  To this day I don' t know of anyone who can make them higher or fluffier or more golden.  I can still see her knobby knuckles, splayed fingertips, the heavily veined hands, working the flour and lard together until "it felt just right."  Brows furrowed, no measuring, just working quickly.

I did not inherit the baking powder biscuit gene.  I have to give my beloved, sainted grandmother credit; she did try to teach me.  I made rocks, hockey pucks, door stops, cannon ballast, but not biscuits.  I gave up. years passed.  And then I saw this recipe on Allrecipes.  And you know what?  They're just as advertised.  They are no fail!  I've made them a dozen times at least since discovering them and every time they have risen beautifully, are tender and flaky, and taste (not quite like Gram's, must be the lard!) good.

Cold weather inspires heartier meals.  I like cooking with wine; it makes the recipe seem so much more elegant, but I mostly cook with white wine, sherry, the occasional Merlot, and of course champagne in my mimosas.   As I'm not a huge beef eater and as Ole Sweetie-Pi isn't much for gussied up food, red wine stays on the shelf until it becomes vinegar.  So, when I found this recipe for Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce on Epicurious I didn't have the recommended Cabernet Sauvignon  and had to substitute Merlot.  I think the Cabernet might have been a better choice, as this stew was a bit too sweet for my tastes, but Ole Sweetie-Pi gave it a big thumbs up.  This stew has a decidedly different, but delicious, flavor because of the hoisin sauce ~ sweet, rich, hearty, winy.  It's not the beef stew I grew up with, but one that I would make again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peppermint Brittle

Peppermint is one of the flavors and scents I associate with this holiday season.  I don't have the confectioner's gift of candy making and debated whether or not to post this as this recipe is so simple, but it's one of those that simply wins your heart if you like white chocolate and peppermint.  Two ingredients, and you have a delightful confection in a matter of minutes.  Ole Sweetie Pi's eldest daughter Erin has declared this  is "to die for" and even Ole Sweetie-Pi, who's not much of a sweets eater, can't seem to stay out of this candy dish.

Peppermint Brittle

2 pounds white chocolate (I used white chocolate chips)
30 small peppermint candy canes

Line a large jelly roll pan with tin foil, set aside.

Unwrap the candy canes and, in batches, put them inside a zip lock bag.  Using a rolling pin, meat mallet, or other similar heavy object, give the candy canes a good smack, breaking them into small pieces, but not into dust.

Melt the white chocolate.  There are a couple of methods.  One is to put the chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl, and on medium heat, heat them for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Personally, I have better luck jimmying up a double boiler a pot filled with simmering (but not boiling) water, with a pyrex-type bowl set so that the rimmed lip of the bowl is over the edge of the pan.  (The bowl is not resting inside the pot of hot water; it is above the water.)  Stir until the chocolate is mostly melted, remove from the heat source and continue stirring until all the chips are melted and the chocolate is smooth. Take care not to allow any water inside the chocolate, or the chocolate will seize, become quite disagreeable, and you will have to start over again.

This starts to set up pretty fast, so working quickly, mix in the broken candy canes into the white chocolate and give it all a good stir to combine.  Pour the mixture onto the tin-foiled lined cookie sheet and spread in an even layer.  Let cool in the refrigerator, maybe an hour or so.  When thoroughly cool, remove the pan from the fridge and give the pan a sharp smack on the counter to break up the candy.    I use a knife and try cutting it into regular sized pieces, which doesn't exactly work,  but I find that I don't get as many itty bitty irregular pieces.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Maple and Banana Nut Pancakes

It's been a little bit since I've had you over for breakfast, so when I woke up this morning, I decided to make a pancake recipe that caught my eye a short while back.  Now that I have this picture posted, I wish I had sliced up some bananas to pretty up the plate and to show that these really are banana pancakes and not  look like all the other pancakes I've posted on this blog, but hindsight is 20-20.  I'm going to have to ask you to use your imagination here.

Gosh, these were good; Ole Sweetie-Pi and I liked these a lot.  They remind me of  banana bread, so if if you like banana bread, I think you'd like these pancakes.  The maple that is added to the batter adds the right amount of sweetness, sour cream makes them tender, and the banana flavor, while present, is subtle.  I like the addition of the whole wheat flour; to me it revs up the nutrition as well as deepening the flavor. 

These were a little tricky to cook; I ruined the first half dozen I tried (recipe states it makes 14 four-inch pancakes). Even though I had the heat on medium, the first batch burned rather quickly and badly; the second batch didn't burn quite so badly.( I presume it's because of the high sugar content of the maple syrup and the bananas.)  I  reduced the  heat to a medium low, thinned the batter a tad, reduced the size (to the four inches recommended in the recipe, grins)  and it seemed to work much nicer. 

Maple and Banana Nut Pancakes
(Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

2 eggs
1 1/2 to 1 1/3 cups milk
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons butter, (one half stick)  melted
1 ripe banana, mashed

In a good-sized mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, stirring to blend.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until forthy, then whisk in 1 1/3 cups of the milk, the sour cream, maple syrup, melted butter and mashed banana.  (I used an egg beater here to mix the wet ingredients and to further mush up the bananas.)

Make a well in the dry ingrdients and add the egg mixture.  Stir, just to blend, taking care not to overmix.  You may want to add a little more milk, a drop at a time, to achieve a desired consistency.  The batter will foam up, that's okay, it's supposed to.  Let the batter rest for a couple of minutes.

In the meantime, preheat a large skillet or griddle on medium high heat. (I found this to be too high.)  Butter or oil lightly.  Drop the batter by heating tablespoonfuls and cook until the pancake bottoms are golden and bubbles are popping on the surface, about one minute.  Turn and cook the second side one minute more.  Repeat with remaining batter.

This is best served with warmed maple syrup.  You can heat a small, microwave safe,  pitcher of it in the microwave for about 30 to 60 seconds, or gently in a saucepan on the stove.  Your food will stay warmer longer and taste better with warmed maple syrup.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chicken Costa Brava

All righty, now here's something that's a far cry from our typical New England Yankee fare, Chicken Costa Brava. I'm always on the lookout for new chicken recipes as we eat a lot of chicken here, but we're also limited in what new recipes are tried as one of us (hint: not me) is reluctant to try new combinations of flavors and new ingredients. I can't lay claim to knowledge of what prompted me to try this, as the addition of cumin and cinnamon to a chicken dish was deemed to have a dubious welcome, but surprise of all surprises, we both enjoy this.

I found this recipe on Allrecipes and I see that reviewers refer to the flavors as being a party in your mouth, having complex flavors, or having a melody of flavors. I like the description of a melody of flavors, as I can taste each ingredient individually, the sweet, the salty, the earthy and spicy, each full and bright, like individual notes, and yet they come together in perfect harmony. Okay, enough musical allusions.

I followed the recipe as written, with the exception of reducing the amount of chicken to only four thighs, which made for a lot of sauce. As a result this was probably more like a stew, but I just love the sauce poured onto rice.

If you'd like to spice up your life just a little, here's the recipe.

Chicken Costa Brava

1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained, liquid reserved
10 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion cut into thick chunks
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups black olives, drained
1/2 cup salsa
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
salt to taste

Drain the pineapple and reserve the liquid. The directions say to sprinkle with salt, but are not specific as to what gets sprinkled with salt, the pineapple or the juice. I personally added it to the juice so that it could cook with the chicken when the liquids are added.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then add the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides.

Combine cumin and cinnamon, and sprinkle over chicken. Add garlic and onion; cook until onion is soft. Stir occasionally so that the onions and chicken don't stick and burn to the pan. Drain excess oil and grease.

Add reserved pineapple juice, tomatoes, olives, and salsa. Cover, and simmer 25 minutes.

Mix cornstarch with water; stir into pan juices.

Add bell pepper, and simmer until sauce boils and thickens. Stir in pineapple chunks, and heat through.

And believe it or not, I think I might even like a little more cumin and cinnamon in this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pork and Beans Spice Cake

We've had our first official snowfall this season, two inches of snow that is here to stay . It fell softly, pristinely, flurrying, in dizzy spins , obscuring the view of the hills that make our valley, cloaking everything in white silence. It was a day to cuddle up, watch some old movies, and eat cake and drink hot coffee.

My thoughts turned to spice cake. Specifically, pork and beans spice cake. Yes, you read it right. Pork and beans. In a spice cake. Now, don't get all oogly on me here. While this sounds like an unlikely combination, this is a delicious, heavy, but moist cake, with a subtle flavor of cinnamon. If I didn't tell you about the pork and beans, you'd never guess, and you'd like it, too. I think it's an overstatement to call this a spice cake, but what's in a name, right? And besides, what else are you going to do with a cup and half of leftover baked beans.

Before I share the recipe that I found on Recipezaar, I'd like to say that I deviated from the directions a bit. The directions say to mush up the baked beans and a can of crushed pineapple, leaving a somewhat chunky appearance. I cannot do that. I put mine into a blender and puree the two ingredients together until smooth. It's a textural thing. It's a visual thing. It's because of a book I read while I was in grade school.

When we were in grade school, we had to read a biography called Mrs. Mike written by Benedict and Nancy Freeman. The story is set in the early 1900's and is a love story that takes place in the Canadian wilderness, and details the hardships of a young Canadian Mounty and his young bride. One episode describes the young couple at a long table shared by other diners. The details escape me, but I think snow must have been boiled for water, and a tin cup of it was being passed around for everyone to take a swallow. When it was passed to Mrs. Mike, she looked into it and saw a single baked bean floating in it. She passed the mug to the next diner. After 45 years, I still cannot get that revolting imagine of the one baked bean floating in a shared tin cup of water. And I cannot have bits of baked beans bobbing about in my spice cake.

Pork and Beans Spice Cake

16 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) pork and beans
8 ounces crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
4 eggs

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick butter) at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1-pound box confectioners' sugar
1 16-ounce bag pecans, finely diced, reserving one half cup for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease and flour two cake pans. The original directions do not include the size; I used two 8 inch x 2 inch pans, but found the cooking time listed to be too short. A 9-inch cake pan would probably be better.

In a blender of food processor combine the baked beans and the undrained can of crushed pineapple. Process until it's a smooth puree. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the eggs, sugar, and oil. Beat at medium speed for two minutes.

Add the bean-pineapple mixture and beat until combined.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Because my pans were smaller than what was probably intended, I baked mine for an additional 15 minutes or so and had to cover the cakes with tinfoil to prevent overbrowning.)

Remove from pans and cool thoroughly on racks.

To make the frosting: For the smoothest frosting, make sure that your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature so that when you beat them there won't be any hard chunks. Put the cream cheese and butter in a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the vanilla, beat to combine. Add the confectioners' sugar, stirring with a spoon to combine in the beginning to prevent the sugar from flying all over your workspace, and then using your mixer to thoroughly blend together. Add the chopped pecans (remembering to hold back one half cup).

When the cakes are cooled, level the tops of the cakes if you need to, and place the topside of the cake facing the bottom of the plate (bottomside is facing up towards you). Frost. Do the same with the second cake. Frost the top and the sides. With the one half cup of reserved pecans, liberally sprinkle the top.

Once again I deviated. I did not use an entire 16 ounce bag of pecans; I used walnuts because that's what I had. Also, because nuts are expensive and I'm the only one who enjoys them in baked goods, I eyeballed a generous amount and sprinkled them just between the layers and on the top.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Candied Orange Peel

I love citrus. I love citrus more than chocolate. I go weeks and months without eating anything chocolate (chocolate Easter candy lasts until Thanksgiving, gasp!), but show me something with citrus and I get all weak-kneed and weak-willed.

In this house, holiday breakfasts usually are often comprised of eggs Benedict and mimosas. I like freshly squeezed orange juice and it such a small extra effort that it's no bother to me. The nice thing is, I have the peels of half a dozen oranges just beckoning to be used, and the candied orange peel is the way I make frugal use of the entire orange.

So why has it taken me so long to discover my new favorite sweet, the candied orange peel? I cannot begin to fathom the reason, but now that I have, I am in orange heaven. If you like those jellied orange slices so often sold in drug stores, or occasionally seen in boxes of better candies, I can virtually guarantee that you will love these. The pungent, tart orange flavor is sweetened with a sugar coating, a little chewy bite that explodes with flavor. If you can boil water and make a simple syrup, you will have no problem making these delicious orange slices that look so fancy but are so easy. And what to do with the orange flavored simple syrup after you've boiled your orange peels in it, use it for sweetening tea, of course. Nothing gets wasted!

I found my recipe on the Foodnetwork, and I really like it. The entire peel is used, pith and all. In the past I peeled the orange using a vegetable peeler, but I've decided I like this method better. I prefer the thicker slices and the more assertive orange flavor. If one wanted to, these slices could be dipped in melted chocolate, a beautiful and delicious presentation. These candies last quite a while, about two months or more if tightly covered and refrigerated, but I attest to it; they don't last that long here.

Candied Orange Peel

6 thick-skinned Valencia or navel oranges
4 1/2 cups of sugar plus extra for rolling
1 1/2 cups water
Peel the skin and pith of the orange in large pieces (preserving orange for another recipe). Cut the peel into strips about 1/4-inch wide. Put the orange peel in a large saucepan with cold water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat. Once it starts to boil, pour off the water. Repeat 1 or 2 more times depending up how assertive you want the orange flavor to be. Drain. Remove the orange peels from the pan.
Whisk the sugar with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 to 9 minute, or until it reaches 230 to 234 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. Add back the peels and simmer gently. Cook until the peels get translucent, about 45 minutes. Resist the urge to stir the peels or sugar crystals may form. If necessary, swirl the pan to move the peels around. Drain the peels, reserving the syrup for tea, if you wish.
Add maybe a 1/4 to 1/2 cup in a medium bowl and add the orange peels. Roll the peels about in the sugar, coating them thoroughly. Dry on a rack for several hours. Store in a tightly covered container.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving with Liz

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My friends, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, as I know we surely did. I just wanted to share several recipes I made at Thanksgiving time and I'm grouping them in one post, as I prepared these for Ole Sweetie Pi's sweet and lovelyl daughter, Liz.

For the first time, Ole Sweetie-Pi's youngest daughter, Liz (aka Lizard, an unpleasant nickname for this most charming young woman) shared the meal with us. We were just so delighted and excited to have her and were literally giddy with pleasure (picture a 60+ male being giddy, grins, but I swear Ole Sweetie-Pi was!). Much to do, much ado, as the beloved Liz is allergic to animals (can you say we have five cats and cat fur hidden in every imaginable nook and cranny in the house and you can see the fur fall from their little bodies as they brush past you, grrrr!) as well as multiple food allergies. The poor darling, I don' t know how she manages so well. I'd have a quivering bottom lip and feel quite put upon.

It's a whole new world when one has to be gluten free, soy free, egg free, corn free, dairy free, no fresh apples, plums, almonds, peanuts, white potatoes, beef, and I forget what all else, but the list does go on for a bit. Thank heavens she can at least have turkey and sweet potatoes, I thought! And the menu for her was built from there.

For a little snack, as dinner seemed to be running late, I had made some cashew butter. I went online and found an Emeril recipe, and served this delicious butter on rice crackers (purchased at a health food store). If you like the taste of peanut butter you'd probably like this as the flavors are similar. It's easy to make and so much less expensive than buying it. And Liz tells me it was better than anything she's ever purchased.

You can double click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.

Cashew Butter
(pictured lower right)

2 cups unsalted, roasted cashews
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar, optional (I used honey and kept adding it until I found a balance I liked)
In a food processor or blender, combine the nuts, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the salt, and the sugar, if desired. Process on high speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and process to desired smoothness. Taste for sweetness and seasoning, adjusting to personal taste. Transfer to a bowl to use as a dip, spread, or in other recipes, or place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

My Notes: I used my blender, and either my blender is old and not very powerful or I should have roughly chopped up the cashews first to make them easier to blend. I definitely needed more oil to make a smooth butter, but can't tell you how much more I added. I just eyeballed it, frequently stopping to scrap it down, adding drops at a time and continued to blend it until it looked right. Oil does rise to the top after it sits a bit; it just has to be stirred back in before using it.

No white potatoes for Liz but she can have rice. I made my favorite rice recipe, adapted from Recipezaar. I didn't take a picture (too much going on, tripping over beleaguered and pitiful cats and constantly "dirty" hands and didn't want to goop up my camera) but the only changes for this recipe was I added a good half teaspoon of ground cumin and a finely diced shallot, and omitted the butter. Liz and I loved it; you may recall that Ole Sweetie-Pi has the rice-lice association (pulling a big frown here).

Vegetables weren't really an issue, just nothing creamed or with cheese, of course. I did make my favorite Thanksgiving onions which I will post another time because they deserve to be spotlighted.

Dessert presented its own challenges. I made the traditional apple and pumpkin pies for me and Ole Sweetie-Pi, loaded up with all the bad stuff of course, but boy they were good. But for Liz? Do you know how hard it is to find something that sounds delicious but doesn't have gluten, dairy, soy or egg in it? I spent hours looking on the Internet, and finally adapted this recipe.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free Pumpkin Custard (pictured on the left hand side)

1½ cups of rice milk
4 tablespoons tapioca (next time I'll grind it fine)
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
1½ cups of solid-pack canned pumpkin or cooked pumpkin
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the rice milk, tapioca, and xanthum gum until smooth and then the remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine. I used an 8 x ll inch baking dish and baked the custard for about 45 minutes. The custard never became what I would call "firm" but I don't think it should be; after all it is a custard and should have some jiggle to it. Cool before scooping out and serving.

I took a spoonful of this and this really tasted pretty good. Liz said she really liked it. The texture is a little different because of the use of xanthum gum and the tapioca (and I definitely should have finely ground the tapioca as it left little "pebbles" in the custard, grins) but it did set up nicely. The rice milk does not have a big flavor, so the flavor of the spices showcased nicely. Now if we could only find a dairy free, soy free whipped topping, it would be perfect!

Lastly, for lunch on Friday, because I had to work, I wanted to slow cooker something for Liz, so she could have something warm and wonderful. She mentioned that she loves spicy foods and has a great fondness for chilis. Well, as luck would have it I found a delicious butternut chili recipe that all of us enjoyed (even Ole Sweetie-Pi who swears he doesn't like vegetables!). Will wonders never cease? I arose at 3:30 a.m., chopped up some vegetables, opened some cans, and set it in the slow cooker. At 6:30 I came downstairs (I am lucky enough to work full time from home) to turn the slow cooker on, and viola, lunch was in the works.

Butternut Chili(pictured upper right)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each cumin, chili powder and ginger
1 medium red or sweet onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
1/4 cup diced, canned jalapeno peppers, drained
2 14-oz. cans black beans, rinsed, drained
1 14-oz. can white Northern beans, rinsed, drained
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

Drizzle the olive oil in the bottom of the cooker; add the garlic and spices and stir to combine.
Add the remaining ingredients. Gently stir with a wooden spoon so that you don't mush up the beans. Cover and cook on low for five to six hours.

I took out a chunk of squash and pierced it for tenderness with the point of a sharp knife. Once the knife easily pierced the squash, the chili was done.

I served this without lime, but I think a nice splash of lime at the end would have been a perfect addition and was probably the flavor that I felt was lacking in an otherwise healthful and flavorful chili. A dollop of sour cream would have been excellent as well (sorry Liz!).

Sweetie-pi with his youngest daughter, Liz. What a pair!

Cashew Butter on Foodista

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bean, Kale, Linguica Soup ~ A Spin on Portuguese Kale Soup

The first time I had Portuguese kale soup was about 35 years ago, when my husband and I spent our honeymoon on Cape Cod (Massachusetts). It was the soup du jour of the many restaurants we visited, and once I discovered this hearty and satisfying soup, I ate it du jour; I just couldn't seem to get enough of its spicy broth, brimming with beans, vegetables and garlicky linguica.

I wasn't going to post this soup, even though it's a personal favorite. I have a recipe from one of my local Cape Cod cookbooks that says their recipe is "authentic" and that is the measuring stick I gauged my soup against. But then like homemade chicken soup, is there one definitive recipe. No, they all are; the same, but different. So, I will not call my recipe an authentic Portuguese kale soup, but certainly in spirit, it's a close cousin.

Pretty much I like a hard and fast recipe to follow, and have great angst over swapping ingredients, but soups invite personal interpretation. I have made this recipe so many times, I do not measure the amounts anymore, and that's the way it is with most homemade soups like this, don't you agree? I'll give you my best guesstimates, the rest is personal preference.

Bean, Kale, and Linguica Soup

8 ounces dried white beans ** (rinsed, drained, soaked overnight)
8 cups chicken broth, more or less depending on how brothy you like your soup
3 carrots peeled and cut into discs
2 large onions, chopped
1 bunch of kale, washed under running water, then roughly chopped, removing the hard stems
1 pound linguica sausage, cut into discs
1 tablespoon vinegar
(Diced potatoes, celery, which I do not include)

Essentially, it's throw all the ingredients in a large stock pot and cook, covered, over medium heat until the beans are done, 45 minutes to an hour. Test a bean for doneness. Add the kale and once the kale is done, soup's on. The kale may have to be added in batches, depending on how large your stock pot is, but it will cook down (the way spinach does). You'll want the kale soft, but not mush.

Thinking of spinach, if you don't like kale, spinach is good. I think you could also use endive.

If you don't have linguica sausage, kielbasa would make a nice substitute.

**If you don't want to bother with soaking the beans overnight, there's no rule that says you can't buy the white beans in a can, rinse and drain, and save all that soaking time, which will also reduce your cooking time. Historically, I break with tradition and buy the dried beans that are labeled a 17-variety mix, following the soaking directions on the back of the package.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Buttermilk Scones

I so enjoy a nice breakfast; it can help set the tone for the entire day. On the weekends I like to have a little something special, luxuriate over it with piping hot coffee and chatter away with my Ole Sweetie-Pi. Today the something special was scones.

I thought I didn't like scones as the ones I had in the past were just glorified biscuits with dried fruit tossed in for color. I like biscuits, don't get me mislead you into thinking otherwise (chicken gravy and biscuits, yum yum!!), but scones sound so romantic and biscuits sound, well, provincial. Little did I know that scones do not have to be like biscuits; they can have a quality that is uniquely and deliciously their own.

I have several favorite scone recipes, and this buttermilk scone is included. I originally found the recipe in The 150 Best American Recipes cookbook, by Fran McCullough & Molly Stevens and was found it on line at the Joy of Baking website. These scones are voluptuous and beautiful. They are tender, sweet, flaky (somewhere between biscuit-y and cakey), buttery rich, and do not need any additional adornment.

Sweetie-Pi and I both agreed, these are good!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Refrigerator Potato Rolls

Growing up, bread was served at virtually every meal. It was the store-bought, squishy kind, but it was there, slices piled high on a plate with homemade butter beside it. When dining out, it was customary to have a bread basket of crusty rolls or the soft fluffy rolls served as part of the meal.

Nowadays, with all the anti-carb hype, bread has lost its status as a mealtime staple. Even here we have bread primarily for French toast or the occasional sandwich; we rarely see bread baskets in restaurants. Times do change. Yet, the much beloved tradition of homemade rolls at the holidays is still very much alive. At holidays, my mother always made homemade rolls, usually cinnamon rolls, which were my favorite (and to this date, I cannot make them as good as I remember hers to be). I cannot consider a holiday or family gathering without homemade bread; it's ingrained.

The rub, though, is multi-tasking cooking. I have a wee Victorian with just barely enough room in to change my mind. When cooking and baking a big meal, space and time is a premium commodity. Sure, I can bake cakes or pies the night before, have the vegetables peeled and ready to be cooked, get my slow cooker involved for slower cooked mashed potatoes to free up a burner for the half dozen different vegetables and sauces I am wont to prepare. It seems no matter how much I do in advance, there is always a last minute rush to get everything hot on the table at the same time.

Especially the rolls. They have to be hot. I want to split one open, see the steam still rising, and the butter melting and spilling out. The thing with bread (and especially rolls because now you have to take the time to form them into shapes) is that they take precious time. Unless you make refrigerator rolls, of course.

I found these perfectly delightful rolls on My Kitchen Cafe. Melanie swears these are perfect and her absolute favorite to date. After trying them for myself, I think these are indeed excellent. These golden globes are beautiful to behold and toothsome (having a bit of a chew to them). I didn't try them as a refrigerator roll because I didn't plan far enough in advance to be able to bake the next day, but potato rolls make an excellent refrigerator roll. (As a matter of fact, my cats also liked them; they broke into my bag and bit into every single one that I had left over, naughty cats!) These rolls will be part of our Thanksgiving celebration this year.

Perfect Dinner Rolls

1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 egg, lightly beaten for glazing

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the water, oil, sugar and yeast, and allow the yeast to dissolve.

In a separate large bowl, add the flour, potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes), and salt. Stir to combine the ingredients.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring as you do so, until well combined. Continue to stir until the dough all comes together.

Then on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough, about six to eight minutes. This dough has a rough feel to it (because of the potato flakes) so it will not have the smooth silky feel of other non-potato doughs, even after eight minutes of kneading, but it will loose its shaggy appearance or an under-kneaded dough.

Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour and a half.

After the dough has risen, deflate it by punching it down. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. For the pieces into balls, either by cupping your hands and rolling it on a smooth, unfloured surface. Here's a U-Tube link that really explains it better than I can.

As the balls are formed, transfer them to a parchment-lined or lightly greased rimmed baking sheet (aka jelly roll pan). Once all the rolls are formed, cover lightly with greased plastic wrap (I usually tent with aluminum foil because I don't want to risk the wrap sticking to the dough and deflating the dough when I remove the wrap). If you are making the rolls for immediate use, allow the dough to rise in a warm area until doubled, about one hour.

If you are making the rolls for the following day, do not let them go through this second rise. Instead, cover them with the greased plastic wrap and place directly in the refrigerator. Take the rolls out 2 hours before baking to allow them to come to room temperature and complete the second rise.

Beat the egg, and with a pastry brush glaze the tops of the rolls.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the rolls for 15 minutes, or until a beautiful golden brown.

This recipe makes 12 ample-sized dinner rolls.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stuffed Meat Loaf

Who says meat loaf isn't company worthy. Let me assure you that when it's a meat loaf stuffed with savory, cheesy, vegetable goodness, it certainly is. I've been eying this recipe in Mario Batali's Molto Italiano for some time and finally with the cooler weather when heartier meals are more welcomed, I decided to put this together. I won't kid you, this meat loaf takes a little bit of time to put together, but it's not difficult. This was my first time putting it together and it probably took me an hour's preparation. Next time, because I know what to expect, the time will be much shorter. Plus, this is something that can be prepared earlier in the day and put in the refrigerator until you're ready bake it.

Let's start with the ingredients.

Stuffed Meat Loaf

1 pound ground lean pork
1 pound ground lean beef
2 cups, plus 3 tablespoons, fresh bread crumbs
1 cup pecorino Romano cheese, grated
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces baby spinach, stems removed, washed dried (I used frozen spinach, defrosted in the microwave, and removed excess water), blanched
2 carrots, cut lengthwise into about 6 slices each, and then boiled until just tender
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
6 slices Prosciutto di parma

2 sprigs rosemary (I used a couple teaspoons of dried)
1 cup water

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Putting It All Together

In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, 2 cups of bread crumbs, pecorino Romano, eggs, salt and pepper. Using your impeccably clean hands, mix gently but throughly. Cover and refrigerate.

In the meantime, either blanche your fresh spinach in a salted boiling water, dipping in the leaves just until they're wilted. Dry on paper towels or spin dry in a salad spinner. Add the carrot slices to the still boiling water and cook for about ten minutes, drain, and set aside.

Combine the 3 tablespoons of flour with 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Dust your work surface with the mixture. (Here is where I parted company with Mario's directions. I used a long sheet of tin foil because I wanted to use my tin foil to help me roll the meat loaf in the next steps.)

Pat the meat mixture into a thick rectangle, about 16 inches by 6 inches on the dusted work surface. (I use a ruler specifically reserved for cooking.) Lay the spinach leaves over the meat, leaving a half-inch border on the short sides.

Lay the carrot slices over the spinach, lengthwise down the rectangle.

Add the prosciutto and the cheese. ( I forgot to take a picture of the cheese, but I think you have the idea.)

Now, starting from the long side, roll the meat up as if it were a jelly roll. Using the tin foil, simultaneously lift the two opposite long ends and gently turn and roll the raised edge to the inside. You'll have to run your hands down the length of the cylinder to help shape it and keep it tight. Repeat until the roll is complete.

Ta dah! You might want to give it just a little extra pat and make sure that the seam is pinched together.

Add one cup of water to the bottom of your broiler pan and the rosemary sprigs.

Now, because you were clever enough to use a sheet of tin foil as your work surface, you can cradle and lift the entire rolled loaf onto your broiler pan rack and gingerly roll the roll onto the rack so that it doesn't break apart.

I had to put my loaf on diagonally as it was too long for the broiler. Pour 1/2 cup of extra virgin oil oil over the entire length of the loaf.

Bake for approximately 1 hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. I checked at the end of one hour, and the internal temperature of my loaf was 180, so it was probably slightly overdone. If you have an insta-read thermometer, I'd start checking at 45 minutes.

Look at that golden crispy crust on this meat loaf. The house smelled absolutely sensational as it was baking. Five cats and an Ole Sweetie-Pi just couldn't stay out of the kitchen. My mouth was watering the whole time.

To remove from the rack, you'll need a thin spatula to release the underside of the meat loaf from the pan. I didn't have any real issue, and was able to move the entire loaf without breaking it. The pan juices made a nice gravy; I deglazed the pan, added some additional seasoning and thickening. Oooh, this was good.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Spinach and Onion Couscous

I was out grocery shopping the other day and picked up a big jar of tri-colored couscous. This is a fairly new discovery for me, but one which I've enjoyed, especially in this recipe. It makes a quick, different, and delicious side dish, faster than potatoes or pasta, and equally as versatile. I think the first time I had even heard of couscous was on the old the Galloping Gourmet show (remember Graham Kerr?) and long since then associated couscous with being gourmet, ergo out of my skill set. I forget now which TV chef showed me I could make it, but once I saw how easy it is, couscous has been in my pantry every since.

As my groceries were being rung up, the cashier looked at the bright specks of yellow, white and orange, turned the jar to face me, and said, "What is this?" "Couscous," I said absently, trying to organize my groceries on the conveyor belt. (I like my dairies to be together, the meats together, canned items, together, etc. No mixing and matching, please.) "Yes, but what is it?" she asked again. "I'd was wondering the same thing," the lady in line behind me said.

I started to give an encyclopedic description by saying it's pasta, often associated with Africa, made with semolina flour, and changed my mind. "You know how pasta comes in different shapes, right?" Nods and noises of affirmation followed. "Well, couscous is like little pasta seed pearls. At it's simplest, add hot chicken broth, wait five minutes, and you have pasta."

And yes, it is really pretty much that simple. This side dish is subtle in flavor (as pasta sans tomato sauce tends to be) and relies on the added ingredients to give it texture, flavor and color. No surprise, Ole Sweetie-Pi won't go near this (won't even try it) as he has that infuriating looks like rice-lice thing going on, even though he knows he loves pasta, spinach and onions. **Sigh**

I found this recipe on Recipezaar.

Spinach and Onion Couscous

1 medium onion chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 14.5 ounce can chicken broth
1 10-ounce package chopped, frozen spinach
1 10-ounce package couscous
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup toasted pecans

In a saucepan, cook and stir onion and garlic in hot oil until tender.

Add the broth and spinach; cook and stir frequently until the spinach thaws.

Bring mixture to a boil and stir occasionally.

Add in couscous; stir to combine.

Cover, remove pan from heat, and let stand 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Add remaining ingredients; stir to combine.

Serve immediately.

Now at this same grocery store, on a different day, as I was checking out, the bagger was a young woman. She was wrestling with a medium sized bottle, trying to decide which bag to put it in. She read the label, looked at me, and said "What is vanilla extract?"

My dear fellow bloggers, if ever you think what you do doesn't matter, that this is just a hobby, a place to store recipes, I beg to differ.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cranberry Chutney

I truly do like that well-known cranberry jelly that comes out in a big whoosh from the can. That ruby-colored jelled cylinder has been a Thanksgiving tradition in the familial home for as long as I can remember and there is still, on different occasions, a time and a place for it in my pantry.

However, this is now one of my cranberry traditions at Thanksgiving and New Years. Do not confuse cranberry chutney with cranberry jelly or cranberry sauce. It would be akin to comparing lightening with a lightening bug. Really~it's that big of a difference in flavor. This chutney has big flavor and texture. There's tart from the cranberries, sweet from the sugar, heat from the ginger and cayenne, and lots of texture from the walnuts and the few whole remaining cranberries. As I said, there's a lot going on here.

This is a good keeper; it will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator if stored in an air-tight container. This makes a fair amount, maybe 2 1/2 to 3 cups or so, so if you wanted this would make a terrific little hostess gift in those adorable half pint canning jars.

And do you want to talk about turkey sandwich?! Oh my. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry chutney, maybe a little mayo, and we're talking something good!

This is easy to do, simply put all the ingredients in a medium sized pan, cook on low, stir occasionally. Let it cook, allow the flavors to meld and you're loving this.

Cranberry Chutney
(from Best of the Best from New England)

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup nuts (almonds or walnuts, medium to finely chopped)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (I used finely minced fresh garlic)
2 cups cranberries (rinsed and sorted)

Combine all your ingredients in a medium-sized sauce pan. The cranberries will burst as they are cooking so you may want to use a long-handled spoon to stir to avoid being splattered. Sugar burns hurt (believe me!). Cook over low heat or until thick, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely before serving, storing any extra in an air tight container. Will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

This is how mine looked after only 20 minutes of cooking. The chutney held its shape well in the spoon, and from experience I knew it would thicken even further after it cooled. It's possible that the low heat on my stove may not be as low as the heat on yours so you'll have to use some judgment as to when to take it off the heat.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Slow Cooker Ginger Orange Chicken

I like citrus and chicken together; they have a natural affinity for each other, each providing a venue to compliment the other.

Ole Sweetie-Pi and I are battling the doggone cold that seems to be going around and the last thing I wanted to do was stand around and fuss with cooking. So out comes my slow cooker to rescue me.

I saw this recipe on the Kraft's Food website and decided to try it. I'll reprint the recipe as they have it and put my minor changes in parenthesis. We liked this; it has a pretty assertive orange flavor because of the marmalade, and it's a bit spicy from the generous use of ginger and the pinch of red pepper flakes.

Slow Cooker Ginger Orange Chicken

1/2 cup KRAFT Original Barbecue Sauce (I used a Thai sesame ginger teriyaki sauce)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup orange marmalade
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (omitted because of the teriyaki sauce)
8 bone-in chicken thighs (3-1/2 lb.), skin removed (I used boneless, skinless thighs, removing as much visible remaining fat as possible)

Stir barbecue sauce and flour in small bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Add all remaining ingredients except chicken; mix well.

Pour sauce mixture evenly over chicken in slow cooker. (Do not stir.) Cover with lid.

Cook on LOW for 3 to 5 hours. Serve chicken topped with the sauce.

Though it's not obvious in the photograph, my chicken was falling apart at the end of five hours, so I think even on low my slow cooker may run a little hot. (Once I saw how falling apart the chicken was, I used a scoop to serve up a couple of whole thighs for you.) I probably should have checked this at four hours, but I read that every time you open the lid on the slow cooker you need to add 30 minutes to the cook time. I have no idea if that's true or not, but I'm willing to pass along yet another urban legend, grins.

This makes a lot of sauce which goes great on broccoli and would be equally good on plain rice.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cranberry Pork Chops

Cranberries seem to be in real abundance this year and when they're available fresh, this is a nice little autumn dish that I look forward to making. It's pretty simple, straightforward, no unusual ingredients, subtly flavored in spite of the presence of cranberries, but with a hint of a sweet-tart flavor that I enjoy.

I'm going to give you the recipe as it was presented and then I'll share my thoughts.

Cranberry Pork Chops
(from the Cape Cod Cookbook by Jean Childress)

6 center cut pork chops
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup fresh cranberries
salt and pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
1 orange, sliced thin, for garnish, optional

In a skillet or fry pan large enough to hold the pork chops without crowding, melt the butter and add the oil. Add the pork chops and brown on both sides. After browned, remove pork chops to a separate dish and drain the excess fat. Return the pork chops to the skillet and add the salt and pepper and brown sugar, cranberries, and water. Cover and simmer for one hour. Make a slurry by combining the flour with a little water, stirring out any lumps, and then gradually adding to the pan, stirring to combine. Continue stirring until thickened. Garnish with the orange slices.

OK, my thoughts. One hour simmering is much, much too long. I had chops that were a good 3/4 inch thick and they were done in 30 minutes or so (it took a bit for the cranberries to cook and burst). I'm pretty sure that if I let them go for an hour, I could've made a silk purse out of the chops. My only other thought is that there's really not a whole lot of sauce so if you'd like more than a couple of tablespoonfuls, I'd suggest doubling the sauce ingredients.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mrs. Marks' Gingersnap Cookies ~ The Widow's Mite

I was going to save this post for closer to Christmas because it's a bit of a Christmas story, but these cookies are so good that I wanted to share them now with you. Plus there's a bit of a tie-in at the end.

I used to work in an insurance agency in Plymouth, Massachusetts (America's Hometown says their slogan, although their are other towns that were discovered and settled long before Plymouth, but it's still a catchy slogan), and there was quite a mix of clientele, ranging from descendants of the Pilgrims to immigrants , the financially secure, to those who struggled.

One of my clients was a dear old lady, a widow of some years, living on her meager social security check. She drove a 15-year-old Chrysler that would hiccup and puff clouds of blue smoke as she drove. Once a week she would come in and collect the soda cans we made a point of saving for her and cash them in for their five cent return deposit. For her, every nickle mattered, but we hardly cared, tossing them away. What is a nickle?

At Christmastime, clients came in with gifts for "the girls." There were big pots of perfect ruby red poinsettias purchased from the best florist, huge tins of buttery Danish cookies purchased from the best bakery, boxes of gourmet chocolates wrapped in gold foil and silk ribbons purchased from the best candy store.

About a week before Christmas, Mrs. Marks drove into our parking lot. I watched her from the picture window beside my desk. Her old Chrysler came to an abrupt stop when she hit the tar berm at the end of the parking space, a blue cloud of smoke settling around her. There seemed to be some flustering in the car, but eventually she rolled out the front seat. I got up from my chair to go to the agency's kitchen to retrieve the trash bag of soda pop cans we saved for her. When I came back in, she was already at the counter, smiling, eyes shining, wishing a softly-spoken Very Merry Christmas to everyone.

In front of her, laying on the counter, was a plain white paper plate filled with a dozen or so cookies, wrapped in clear plastic wrap. The wrap didn't cling to the flimsy paper plate, and she neatly tucked it underneath to make a prettier presentation. "I just made these this morning for you girls. " She pushed the plate towards me.

I lifted up one side of the plastic wrap and selflessly took only one cookie. She watched me as I bit into it, trying to glean every nuance of expression. A pause as the deep flavors registered in my brain and in my mouth. I think "WOW!" must have been written on my face. "These are excellent!" I declared.

Mrs. Marks' Gingersnaps are excellent, the very best I ever had. There is no skimping on spices and no skimping on flavor. They can be made soft by slightly undercooking, made crisp by longer cooking. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've made these. And every time I eat one, I think of that beautiful lady, giving the very best she had, from her heart.

Let me share the recipe, just as she wrote it, on the back of her electric light bill envelope.

Ginger Snaps

1 cup sugar
3/4 c shortening
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda (she means baking soda)
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cloves1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
a little additional sugar for rolling balling of doughs into

Mix all together. Roll in small balls and dip one side in sugar. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grins. Her directions are as frugal as she was.

Okay, so I slightly change the method. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening. Add the egg and molasses, mix well. Sift together the dry ingredients and gradually add to the wet, just until blended. Do not overmix. Take small pinches of dough and roll into balls about the size of a small walnut (these cookies will spread).

In a separate small plate or bowl, sprinkle maybe 1/4 cup of sugar. Roll one side only of the ball of dough in the sugar. Place sugared balls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. I tend to like my cookies a little on the soft side so I start checking at ten minutes baking time.

And while we're on the subject of giving from the heart, I'd like to take a moment and acknowledge several fellow bloggers. I made it to my 100th post (four posts ago, grins) and along the way, these wonderful, beautiful ladies have gone far above and beyond in sharing their time and friendship with me. They have extended their hand in friendship, encouragement and inspiration and cheerful camaraderie.

Cooking is a soulcraft, I think. Those who love to cook for those they love and care about are nurturers. Once we have taken our first breath, it is our mother's breast and heartbeat that we crave. And once the babe no longer needs the breast, we still continue to show our love through the foods we prepare and present. The loving heart still beats and we still crave its comforting sound.

For my friends (in the order that I met you),
Trish, at The Mad Chemist and Schemmelhos
Coleen at Coleen's Recipes
Ang at Gulf Coast Gram
Chaya at Sweet and Savory Says It All and Have The Cake and The Bad Girl's Kitchen

I want to give you a small acknowledgment for the greatest gift, your friendship. Bless you and all you do.

And many blessings to my fellow foodies and bloggers. You give cheer and sustenance and lift up those around you. I pray that your hearts beat long and strong.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Easy Baked Stuffed Pork Chops and Carmelized Apples

Now this is a recipe I made way back when, maybe 30 years ago or so. It used to be on the back of the Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing bag, has since been removed, but I still make this from time to time, and it's still a favorite. It makes a nice presentation and one that I prepare when I was something just a little extra special for the family.

I've pretty much used the stuffing recipe that's on the Pepperidge Farm website with a couple of changes indicated in parenthesis.

Easy Baked Stuffed Pork Chops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 inch x 5 inch loaf pan, set aside.

Lightly brown 6 pork chops (bone in, boneless, loin, center cut, your choice), in butter or oil, not cooking all the way through. You're looking just to give it some color. Place chops in prepared loaf pan, standing the pork chops in a rows down the length of the loaf pan.

Prepare stuffing mix.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) chicken broth (you may not need the entire amount)
4 cups herb seasoned stuffing
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
A good pinch of Bell's Seasoning (optional)

Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet or a deep sauce pan over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add the broth and heat to a boil. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the stuffing mix and apples, stirring until well combined. Taste for seasoning. I like to add a little extra Bell's Seasoning because I like the flavor of sage, and I think the pork chops can use the little added flavor. The other note I'd like to make here is that you may not not need all that broth. The last time I did this, the stuffing was way too wet; I would go with half the amount, but that's personal preference.

Now, with a spoon (and probably your hands), lightly pack the stuffing in between the rows of pork chops, so that you'll have stuffing, pork chop, stuffing, pork chop, stuffing, etc. The stuffing will expand so don't pack it in too firmly.

Bake at 350F for one hour or until done, depending on how thick your chops are. When ready to serve, scoop out a pork chop with the stuffing.

I often serve pork with apples; the two flavors just seem to go together so well. This time I made a simple caramelized apple.

Caramelized Apple

Really, this is just too easy, not a recipe per se, but a method. A friend of mine from Kentucky shared her family's recipe with me.

Four apples, peeled, cored, and sliced as if for a pie. (Granny Smiths are good for this as they stand up to cooking.) Add a quarter cup of brown sugar, two tablespoons of butter. Put all into a frying pan and heat through over medium heat. The butter and the brown sugar will melt, making a wonderful caramel coating for the apples. Cook, stirring frequently, until apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon if you want. It's really that simple. This makes a nice change from applesauce and a delicious way to use up apples.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gingerbread Waffles

I'm enjoying a week's vacation at home this week, just puttering about, doing all those little things I've been putting off. I love being home, having become more of a homebody in my middle years. My wanderlust seems to have wandered off, grins, as I find peace and comfort in my little home.

Being at home, though, doesn't mean I give up "vacation food," those foods that are just a little unique, a tad more special, than our ordinary fare, and become a part of our vacation memory.

So, this morning, I was thinking about breakfast. If I were dining out this morning, what would I want to have, I wondered. I found the perfect solution, Gingerbread Waffles at Inn Cuisine. Honestly, as Ole Sweetie-Pi and I sat at the breakfast table this morning, each enjoying our waffle, it was as if we were whisked away to some romantic inn. There was heavy frost on the grass, breezes blowing the maple leaves from our trees, making the leaves dance and skip about the lawn, inside, the cats cozying by the heat. Coffee was waiting. And yummm.. the aroma of warm gingerbread tempting the nose and the belly... The next time I serve these, I think I'm going to pull out all the stops, flowers, music, tablecloth and napkins, the special little things that vacation memories are made of.

These waffles are light, very tender, warm spicy, sweet enough on their own, (maple syrup would be too much, in my opinion) and with a pat of butter, simple and delicious. However, I would like to dress these up; they would be good with a lemon sauce with maybe a scattering of raspberries or a dollop of whipped cream.

Gingerbread Waffles

Preheat your waffle iron. Have ready three separate bowls.

In a large bowl combine:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

In a medium bowl mix together until light and fluffy:1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk

Then add and mixed until combined:
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a small bowl beat until egg white forms stiff peaks:
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg white

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix.

Fold the stiffened egg whites into the batter.

Gently pour batter onto your preheated waffle iron and bake according to the manufacturer's directions.

Serve with topping or sauce of choice.

Close your eyes and dream those wonderful vacation dreams.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Simply Great Chicken

I visit all of your wonderful blogs and see so much delicious food that my must-make recipe folders are literally bulging and bursting. There are recipes that don't make it to my folders, however, and those are the ones that look especially delicious, easy and quick, perfect for those nights when I don't have the time or inclination to spend a lot of time in the kitchen but still want to prepare something nice.

Here's a three ingredient recipe that I think that at first blush many would pass by. However, don't let its simplicity deceive you; it's so simple and so delicious that the recipe has earned its name. I discovered this keeper recipe on Bunny's Warm Oven. Carol, who's an absolute doll and one of three fabulous cooks, posted this on Bunny's Warm Oven. If you haven't visited with them before, I hope you do because, as I mentioned, there are three fabulous cooks, each preparing a recipe for a portion of a meal so that we have the benefit of seeing a whole meal. A trio of delicious recipes in every post!

Simply Great Chicken

About 3 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (I've used both thighs and breasts)
1 ( .7 ounce) packet of dried Italian dressing mix (such as Good Seasonings)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12 inch x 9 inch pan and set aside, and/or it may be preferable to line your dish with aluminum foil as the sugar tends to caramelize while baking.

Rinse chicken, pat dry with paper towels.

Combine and the dried Italian seasoning mix and the brown sugar, mixing together well.

Dip and press the chicken pieces into the mixture, coating front and back and place into your prepared pan, topside of the chicken facing up. Any extra coating that remains can just be sprinkled over the chicken.

Carol says to cook for 50-60 minutes or until chicken is done. I do that as well, but during the interim, I turn the chicken over a couple of times and spoon the resultant saucy melted brown sugar mix over the baking chicken allowing, with the final turn leaving the topside facing up for the last bit of baking. I want to get as much of that flavorful coating as I can.

Carol, I want to thank you again for such a delicious share. I've already made this recipe twice and am looking forward to it again and again!

Monday, October 12, 2009

For Ingrid: Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas

Ingrid, here it is ~ a really nice cinnamon roll recipe that I believe your family will love. This Paula Deen recipe makes 15 medium sized rolls, works up pretty easily, with ingredients that are typical to most pantries and kitchens. I hope my pictures and my narrative will help you serve these delightful rolls for your family's Christmas breakfast and many more!

First the ingredients.

Paula Deen's Cinnamon Rolls
For the Dough

1/4-ounce package active yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons if you're using bulk form)
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter or shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided

Get all all your ingredients and any tools you might need. As I use my ingredients I put them away so if anything is left over I know it's one that I inadvertently admitted, grins.

Start by scalding your milk. Boil over medium heat; you will notice a skin forming, which is just the milk fat that has cooked. You can just scoop it out and discard. I then melted my butter in the heated milk and set it aside.

While the milk was scalding, I microwaved the wave, tested with an instant-read thermometer. The directions on my jar of yeast said to proof in water between 100 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I had heated the water too hot, cooled it down by stirring in an ice cube, took out any water added by the melting ice cube.

Add the yeast and stir quickly to combine. Within moments you will see the yeast start to "bloom," meaning that it's active and good to use.

Once the yeast is fully proofed, it will look nice and foamy. This will generally take about 5 to10 minutes. If your yeast does not fully bloom like this, throw it away and start over.

In a large bowl mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Sift the dry ingredients in as you add them to remove any clumps or lumps.

Add the yeast mixture and give it a good stir. The batter is loose, but heavy.

The directions say to add in the remaining flour, but I would exercise some caution and not blindly follow those directions. There is 1 1/2 to 2 cups of flour remaining. Start with one cup, give a good stir until it's well incorporated. Take a look and see how sticky it still looks. Then get your hands involved here because you need to feel how wet and loose the dough is. I sift additional flour in with one hand and massage it in with the other, turning and mixing the whole time. Now as I've stated previously you make not need all the additional flour called for, but depending on the humidity of your home or the amount of moisture the wheat had while it was out in the fields, you may actually need more. The only way you are going to be able to tell is by the feel of the dough.

You are looking for that balance where it loses its gloppy, wet look and acquires a craggy, raggedy look that will not stick on your surface when you begin to knead it. Keep in mind that you will be using additional flour on your work surface, so it may be better to err on the side of too little flour because you can add it in while you're kneading. Unfortunately, the photo above was after I had dumped my ball of dough on my dough linen, patted it out, and flipped it front and back to flour to begin kneading so there's a light dusting of flour on it.

What's really important here is that I'd like you to note just how raggedy and rough the dough looks.

Kneading is going to take care of that! I start by folding my dough into a neat little package. I fold it in half and fold it again.

And then with the heels of my hands at the edge of the dough that is closest to me, using my upper body strength, I push the dough away from me, as if I were trying to push it through the linen. Give it a really, really good push. It's almost like those old timely washer women with their washboards, if you know what I mean.

You should now have an elongated piece of dough. Fold in half, and half again, and give it a quarter turn.

You want to work all the dough around the clock, working each side, by folding and turning, and kneading.

You may need to add a dusting of flour to your work surface and the top of the dough to prevent it from sticking.

Most directions say knead for 5 to 10 minutes. I think, unless your Superman and you have arms of steel, you'll want to knead for the full ten minutes. Once you have adequately kneaded your dough, it should look nice and smooth and luxurious.

Put your dough in a well buttered bowl, flipping the dough over so that it doesn't stick and let it rise for 1 to 1/2 hours, or until doubled. I use my oven, with a hot bowl of water beneath it, and the oven light on. (Yes, I know my oven needs to be cleaned, but I'm always using it!)

My dough rose in about an hour. Once it's doubled, punch it down. Let the dough rest for five minutes or so because it will make it easier to work with.

For The Filling
1/2 cup butter, melted, plus additional for pan
3/4 cup sugar, plus additional for pan
2 tablespoons cinnamon
3/4 cup walnuts, pecans or raisins, or a mixture, optional

Once again lightly flour your work surface and a rolling pin, and the top of your dough. Roll the dough into a 9 inch x 15 inch rectangle.

Generously spread the melted butter on the dough. Sprinkle on the cinnamon, sugar, and the nuts or raisins if you are going to use them. (I didn't use all the butter or all the cinnamon-sugar mixture called for, because for me, it's just too much.)

Beginning at the long end that is facing you, evenly roll the dough into a cylinder towards the opposite side. It helps to use both your hands and roll both ends simultaneously, evening up the edges as you roll as best you can.

When you reach the end, pinch the ends together. I also give the cylinder another couple of turns to try and smooth the edges to stop the rolls from unraveling when I cut them or as they rise.

Generously butter a 15-inch x 9 -inch baking pan. Sprinkle in a little sugar and cinnamon on the bottom. Slice your cylinder into 15 one-inch-wide slices. My linen has one-inch markings on it so I just follow the lines. Otherwise I'd use a ruler to try and make the slices as even as possible.

Because I was doing the second proof on my counter top, I covered with plastic wrap. The directions said to proof for 45 minutes. My kitchen tends to run cool, it took about an hour.

You can see how the rolls are now touching.

Somewhere during this time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. When ready, bake your rolls for about 30 minutes, or until a nice golden brown. I start checking my rolls at 25 minutes and then check every couple of minutes for doneness, first by sight, and then by lightly tapping a roll with the back of a knuckle to see if the roll sounds hollow. If there's a hollow sound, it's done.

For the Glaze
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-6 tablespoons hot water

While the rolls are baking, make the glaze. Combine the first three ingredients together and mix well. Add the hot water, one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition until a desired spreading consistency is achieved. I only needed two tablespoons, but you may like a thinner glaze. When the rolls are slightly cooled (maybe ten minutes or so), lavishly spread on glaze.

And so, we have it. Cinnamon rolls.

Let me pluck the last two roses of my garden and join me at my table. Tell me about your day and what's in your heart. I want to hear all you have to say.

A nice hot cup of tea or coffee and hot cinnamon rolls await you.