Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Holidays for Me...It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...Usually Not..

Good Morning.  When my niece Abby, and I created this blog, I never thought I would be including my life's stories, as well as some of my reflections.  But, all of this is an important part of who I am, and sharing them with you is just as important.  There is happy, there is sad, there is nostalgia.  This post is really quite deep, and I dwelled for quite a long time whether to post it or not.  You notice the first line really relates to Thanksgiving evening, and that's I first starting writing this piece.   I wrote, and rewrote, put the story aside, took it back out.  So, here it is to share with you.  It is very heartfelt...more than you will ever know.

Well, another Thanksgiving is over...everyone has visited, everybody's been fed, the dishes are done, the leftovers put away, eaten or delved out for the company to take home.  Thanksgiving and Christmas can be very bittersweet for many of us...I know it is for me.   I remember as a kid having some not so pleasant Christmas's.   I wish I could say every one was great, but it wasn't.  For whatever reason, my mom would be capable of causing angst during a holiday, making it not very pleasant for the rest of the family.  I really think she suffered emotionally, whether it was her childhood, or her teen years before she married my dad.  I do know that she was very close to her mother, who died a few days before my mom's junior prom.  This has never left me, because my mom told me she wore her prom dress to her mother's funeral.   My mom was very fair, though, and made sure all of us kids got the same amount of presents.  This was a quality that all three of us kids clung to, and still do, today.  Her wrapping was perfect, the presents were always stacked beautifully, but again, many times the holiday was ruined because of something that would affect her.  Then I went into marriage with my late husband, who wasn't fond any holiday, particularly Christmas.   He wasn't spiritual either, and Christmas to him was nothing but a marketing scheme.  I really couldn't disagree to a point...having holiday decorations out in stores in August is pushing it, even in my book.  But, every holiday seemed to come and go, and, he was never too keen about going back to the Midwest to our families either.  Yes, I had my friends here, but they had their own families to celebrate the holidays with.  I felt pretty isolated, which would cause me to feel not only depressed and lonely, but worse, alone.  I pretty much lived this way for 26 years, always hoping the coming year would bring some sort of miraculous change, but it didn't.   Also, my dad died in 1987, and my mom in 2002.  There were times I would pick up the phone to call them, only to hold the receiver in my hand, reminding myself they were gone.  Talking to someone you love in one's mind, or even out loud, only goes so far.  I guess my dilemma was that I depended upon others too much to bring me happiness.  But, how "does" one find inner peace, security and happiness within themselves?  Is it something we're just born with, is it something we have to work at, is it something that one day, we just say, Eureka, I got it!   I kept trying to work through these emotions, only to find myself in the same place.   I would love nothing more than to be with someone who shares the same passion I do at holidays.  To go for a sleigh ride, to cut down a Christmas tree, to be somewhere in the snow, and drink hot chocolate.  A dear friend of mine has always dreamed of a Norman Rockwell-type holiday with her family, but every year seems to miss the mark.  She gets rather melancholy on the rare occasion she talks about it...it sounds like it should be so easy to achieve because she has a lovely family.  But, what should change to make it happen, what can she do?  We always seem to find ourselves in the same spot, then say "next year will be the year" only to find here it is, next year, and we're in exactly the same place.  I remember being on a trip with a friend probably about 8 or 9 years ago.  We went to Connecticut the first week in December.  Driving into Ridgefield, there was a colonial home with candles lit in each window along with a wreath framing each pane.  It was snowing, and it was like being in a Christmas card.   Arriving at our destination in Salisbury that afternoon, they were just about to begin their tree lighting ceremony.  I mean, really, I was like a little kid, I was so excited.  But then, reality set in when I got home, and even though the memories lingered, I embraced them so hard as if I could "will" the whole scene back to where I lived.   And, what is something "I" have always dreamed about during the holiday?  Being invited to a grand cocktail party...semi-formal, waiters bringing trays of hors d'oeuvres, music filling the air.  It's never happened, but every year, I always have it in my mind.   Do I set myself up for something that is too hard to achieve?  Or, perhaps I don't know the right people, or I haven't networked enough over the years.  It's downright hard for me to simply enjoy the holiday.  In addition, I also have regrets not having children, so therefore, no grandkids to share the Easter Bunny, Halloween or Santa.   I keep telling myself to get out there and make the best of it, cause every year that goes by that I don't, is another year that I'm older.   Maybe someday I'll get it...I want to get it, because I don't want to be unhappy.  But sometimes I feel like I have exhausted all of my avenues....where "do" I look for whatever it is I'm looking for?  What is the "it" that I'm lacking?   This is not the lightest reading, but I have met others in the same situation, and if this story helps you to know that you are not alone out there, then my blog has served a purpose.  Although this is something we can't cook in our kitchen, I believe it "is" something we can procure in our hearts...it's just that the recipe is quite long, so it may take some time to finish.  I just hope I have all the ingredients...


My mom, dad, me holding spice, our dog, my brother, my sis and her then boyfriend, now husband

Recipe #34: Delectable Cod Cakes...You May Never Want to Go Back to Crab!

There's nothing better than a good crab cake, until you experience a shell.  Sort of like eating egg salad...it's great until you bite into an egg shell...then it's all over, at least for me.  With every bite afterwards, I feel like I'm navigating an egg shell land mine.  I had the pleasure of going crabbing with my neighbor last summer.  He had a boat in the marina not even a mile from where we lived, and we didn't have to boat miles, like you do with some fishing expeditions.  He had the cages and the boat, and I thought, gosh, this will be great!   Okay, so my license was $25.00 and the turkey wings I bought from the grocery store were $23.00.   I thought, $48.00, but, this will be good.  We were going out at 6 a.m., 12 noon, 5 p.m. and 7 the next morning.   I'm not used to getting up at 5 a.m. anymore, and it was a push, but I was excited for all the crabs we were going to catch...I was ready!   Regulations for Puget Sound are 5 males per day per person and they have to have a length of at least 6 1/2"; that tells you how old they are.  To make a long sad story short, in our four trips, we caught about 70 crabs, 50 of which were female, not good, and of the 20 left that were male, 8 were legal to take, and that was between the two of us, and to top it off, my neighbor lost a cage when it got tangled up in some ropes.  I took my 4 crabs, picked through them THREE times for shells and set out to make crab cakes.  They were excellent...until I got a shell, as did my friend in his.  How can that be, as I was swearing under my breath...well, it was.  So my solution is below, and I have made these time and again.  And, the beauty with cod is no shells, no bones.  They..are..great!  Once you make these, you may never go back to crab cakes again...

1 1/4 lbs cod                                                                    2 tbsp butter
salt, pepper, paprika                                                      l large egg, beaten
1/4 cup sliced scallions                                                  2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice                                                2 tbsp Dijon mustard
6-7 tbsp breadcrumbs                                                   2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
5 shakes hot sauce (optional)                                      1/4 tsp salt

Heat oven to 400.  On a baking sheet, I place a piece of aluminum foil, and fold all the edges up.  That way I don't have to clean the pan.  Place cod on foil.  Slice butter very thin and place in a few places on fish.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika.  Bake about 10-12 minutes.  Place on a plate lined with paper towels and cool.  In the meantime, add the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir until blended.  Crumble the cod into the mixture...you don't need to break it very small.  Sort of like crab cakes, really, as large as you want the pieces to be.  Form into patties, and with this amount of fish, you should get 5-6, (see below).   Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and put in the frig for a few hours.  In a large skillet, heat about 2-3 tbsp canola oil on medium/high heat.  I use a pancake turner to place the cod cakes into the pan.  Cook until brown on one side, flip to the other side, and do the same.  Place on a plate lined with paper towels.  Serve with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, or I eat them just as they are.  Bon appetit!






Sunday, November 23, 2014

Recipe #33: Cream Cheese and Apricot Almond Puff Pastry Braid

Puff pastry is the greatest...you can do so many things with it, and no matter what you do, the presentation is always lovely.  Though I show many pictures below, this braid is easy to make.  I did a step-by-step as I did with the apple galette so those of you who are daunted by this recipe will see that it's not that difficult.  I have always been a lover of apricot, though apricot pastry filling is rather hard to find.  Locally, I get it at Metropolitan Market.  As a rule, grocery stores carry lemon and poppyseed pastry filling, and all are in a 12 oz can under the brand SOLO.  Back in the 60's, when my mom used to make filled cookies, she would use apricot and prune filling.  The SOLO company is located just outside of my hometown Chicago, and when my mom was buying this filling, it was then under the name BOHEMIAN KITCHEN and the filling came in a plastic container such as cottage cheese.  Just a little bit of culture.  Some of you may wonder why pastry filling instead of a jar of preserves?   Pastry filling is thicker and holds its shape instead of spreading all over your baked goods. 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted                         1  4oz pkg cream cheese at room temp
1 egg yolk                                                                         1 12oz can solo pastry filling, or a
3 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp white sugar                           jar of your favorite preserves
   and 1 tsp cinnamon mixed together                        1 tsp pure almond extract
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water, for egg wash            sparkling sugar for top of braid*
slivered or sliced almonds, optional          

Have the white sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, mixed together.  Also have your eggwash in a small bowl, ready to go.  Mix cream cheese with the egg yolk and almond extract until fully blended.   Unfold the sheet of puff pasty onto a lightly floured surface with the seams going vertically.  These will act as your guidelines when you are cutting the strips for the braid.  Roll out pasty into a 11x14 rectangle, with the 11" being your horizontal measurement.  I use a pizza cutter to trim, see below.   Roll dough onto rolling pin and place on parchment lined baking sheet, (although the picture shown is for a pie crust, the concept is still the same), see below.  Spread cream cheese mixture down the center row of your pastry (you should still be able to see all three seams), see below.  Sprinkle half of sugar mixture on top of the cheese, see below.  At this point, if you are using preserves, you will probably use about 1 1/2 cups.   Put spoonfuls on top of sugar mixture.  Spread over all of sugar with offset spatula, see below.   Sprinkle rest of sugar on top of preserves.   With a pair of kitchen shears, cut 1 1/2" strips at an angle down each side of braid, stopping just short of seam on each side of preserves.  Starting at top, lay one strip on braid, brush a little egg wash at end of strip where the next strip will overlap on top.  Continue down braid.  Fold top and bottom of pastry into braid.  Brush entire braid with egg wash to seal all strips and sprinkle entire braid with sparkling sugar, see below.  Bake at 400 for about 25-30 minutes, or until braid is brown on top.  Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes.  Slide braid onto cooling rack.   Bon appetit!

* you can get sparkling sugar locally at qfc and met market
 










Friday, November 21, 2014

Recipe #32: Roasted Apple & Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon & Sherry

I remember having my first taste of butternut squash soup.   It was back in 1989 and my late husband and I were staying at the Westin in Whistler, B.C.  I thought it was the most heavenly thing I had ever had, with its sublte notes of sherry and nutmeg.  I decided to play around with different flavors and came up with this a few years ago.  This was also at the time when bacon was really coming into favor with a lot of foods, so I threw it into this as well. 

2 gala or golden delicious apples, peeled,             1 butternut squash, a little over 2 1/2 lbs, halved
   cored and chopped                                                        lengthwise, fibers and seeds removed
4 pieces of bacon                                                        1 onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock                                                  1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup dry sherry                                                      1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg, divided

In a large sided baking pan, add about 1/4 cup water and place squash face down.  In a small bowl, mix apples with 1 tbsp. canola oil and 1/8 tsp of the nutmeg.  Place on small cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place both pans in a 375 oven.  Bake squash about 45-55 minutes, or until tender.  Bake apples for about 20 minutes, or until you can put a knife through.  Remove both from oven and cool.  Scoop out flesh from squash and place in a bowl.  You will need about 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups.  In large saucepan over medium heat, saute the bacon until just before browned.  Add the onions and cook until tender...5-7 minutes.  Transfer bacon/onion mixture to food processor.  Add squash and puree until smooth.  Place mixture back into saucepan and on medium-low heat, add the chicken stock and stir.  Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.  Stir in the half and half, sherry and the other 1/8 tsp nutmeg.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bon appetit!

I grated some fresh nutmeg around the bowl, and had some caramelized onions left over from making another recipe, so placed in the middle of the soup for presentation...






Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Recipe #31: Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Sometimes I get a little tired of making a pumpkin pie for the holidays...now mind you, I said "sometimes".   Granted, the pie is a lot lighter, so instead of a huge piece of pumpkin pie with a huge dollop of whipped cream, you have a not-so-huge piece of this scrumptious cake.  It goes down very easy, and I have been making it for years.   Today wasn't such a great day, as the first cake I made went in the trash.  My best guess is that I forgot half of the oil.  The taste was the same, but when I cut a sliver to see what the inside was all about (I could tell by putting pressure on it) it wasn't happening.  So, back to the grocery store to get more pumpkin and diced pineapple, staples I don't readily have in the pantry.  This is a lovely cake, and the recipe below makes a 9" layer cake. But, you can cut the recipe in half, as I did, seen in the picture below.  There is a small amount of maple syrup in the cake, though more in the icing.  But, don't expect the icing to taste like PURE maple syrup, which, by the way, you should be using instead of the stuff that pretty much everyone likes that is made of corn syrup.  It gives the icing just a hint of maple sweetness to cut a little of the tartness of the cream cheese.  By the way, most cream cheese icings use a 50/50 ratio cream cheese to butter.  I always use more cream cheese than butter, just to give the icing a little more kick. 

3 1/2 cups flour                                                       1 cup canola oil
2 1/2 cups sugar                                                      4 eggs
3 tsp baking soda                                                    1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon                                                       2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp each ground cloves and                              8 oz crushed pineapple, drained well
    ground ginger                                                     1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, fresh ground is best
1 cup chopped pecans                                            1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350.  Butter and flour two 9" cake pans, or use the flour/oil spray.  In mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, soda and spices.  Add the oil, eggs and maple syrup.  Beat well.  Add pumpkin and pineapple, (I put the pineapple in a sieve, and press a number of times to get most of the juice out).  Stir in pecans.  Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely.  Bon appetit!

MAPLE CREAM CHEESE ICING

12 oz cream cheese                                              1 stick butter
1 box powdered sugar                                          1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp maple syrup                                               1/4 cup pecans, optional

Mix cream cheese, butter and salt in mixer.  Add maple syrup.  Incorporate powdered sugar.  If desired, put pecans in food processor until fine.  Sprinkle over top of cake after iced. 

 
 




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Do You Do With All That Food?...

Is what I'm asked often.  I "have" cooked a lot of food lately...probably too many things for just starting out on a food blog.  I've always enjoyed cooking, though...in fact, four out of the five people in my family do, or did, in the case of my mom and dad.   My sister, however, would rather be in her kitchen enjoying a glass of wine, versus making something with it.  But, back to the million dollar question...where "does" all that food go?  Do I eat it...nope, not a lot.  I might have something here and there, but for the most part, once I get done cooking or baking something, I have little desire to eat it.  Now don't fret, that's not to say I don't love what I'm making....but if I do pig out, it's usually on the chocolate side of things.  So where does the other 99.9% of that food go?  Well, most of my neighbors have benefited from it, at least they say they have.  That would be Nancy, Cindy, Steve and Marsha, Sibyl, Scott and Don.   Then my dear friend Deon comes over to taste many things, and I sent him home with leftovers.   Let's see, I just brought treats to Dawn in Customer Service, Amy in the Meat Department and Cindy in the Produce Department at Fred Meyer.   All of my friends at Marine View Veterinary Hospital have had food delivered to them many times over...Linda, Sam and Dr. Jon, who graciously share with their co-workers.  I have had one of my friends down the street, Susan, come over when I have made things, but being a avid baker herself, she doesn't make too many trips down here.  The small walk would do nothing to burn the calories I'm trying to feed her.  I have left food for my friend, Sheri Jo, who is a Manager at my Bartell's Drugstore, and my little family at Boehm's will benefit big time in the coming weeks.  In fact, they will be receiving a pumpkin pecan cake with maple cream cheese frosting tomorrow, which will also be on my blog tomorrow.  Will I have a piece?  Probably only a sliver, because the majority of my appetite will be fulfilled by, you guessed it chocolate, and what better place to do that than at Boehm's!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Recipe #30: Beef in Red Wine Sauce with Wild Mushrooms

Yes, you could loosely call this a beef bourgignon, but there are a few steps taken out...there is no garlic, no bouqet garni (a bunch of herbs tied together), no marinating the beef overnight.  If ever you wanted to make a beef bourgignon, but were too afraid because of the work, this is not as daunting, and I have lots of pictures to guide you along.  This is an excellent recipe and I eat it on its own...no egg noodles, no rice, just in a bowl with a spoon.   I decided to try the mix of mushrooms...perhaps they don't make too much of a difference, but as a friend of mine would say, "sounds good, briefs well!".    My grocery store had some tri tip steaks on sale yesterday...probably the best beef I have ever used for this recipe.  You don't want to go super lean, because even though the meat will be tender, it will not taste nearly as luxurious as a good piece of beef with a little marbling running through it.  Well, here we go...

2 1/2 lbs sirloin, chuck or trip tip, cut into                  4 pieces of bacon, chopped, or cut into pieces
     1 1/2" cubes                                                                        with a kitchen shears
1 large onion, chopped                                                     1/2 lb assorted mushrooms, white, cremini
1 carrot, diced                                                                          shiitake, portobello, cleaned and sliced*
3 tbsp flour                                                                         4 tbsp butter
bacon fat                                                                              1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups burgundy or chianti                                       1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper                                                                  2 tbsp tomato paste

First off, you want to have your meat out of the fridg at least 2-3 hours so it can get to room temperature.   If your beef is cold, when it hits the hot fat, the whole thing goes down the drain because you're instantly cooling the fat in the pan.  I also use two of my largest skillets for browning the beef.  You never want to overcrowd your pan, and I usually don't have enough patience to brown the beef in batches.   My largest skillet is 12" with virtually no slope at the bottom, so there is great usable space.  My other pan is 10".   Accordingly, I would put 2 tbsp bacon fat in the larger pan and 1 tbsp bacon fat in the smaller pan when it comes to browning the beef.   If you don't have 2 pans, or both of your pans are small, adjust accordingly.   So, pretending we have my pans, use the larger one for now and brown the bacon.  Remove to a small bowl.  Using the fat in the pan, add 2 tbsp butter and saute the onions and mushrooms for about 10 minutes on medium heat, (see below).  Put in a medium bowl.    Put another 2 tbsp bacon fat and 1 tbsp butter in the larger pan, and 1 of each in the smaller pan.  With heat on med/high, brown the beef on most of the sides, (see below).   When all beef is browned, empty the beef from the smaller pan into the larger one and add the carrots, but just leave the smaller pan..don't wash.   Stir the carrots with the beef for just another few minutes, (see below).  Add the flour and stir until you see no white at all, (see both below).  Turn off heat and transfer the beef/carrot mixture to a dutch oven.  Add the onion/mushroom mixture.  Take your beef broth and pour into both pans.   Scrape up any of the brown bits, called fond, because this adds great flavor to the recipe.  I use the back of a pancake turner.  Dump soup from both pans into dutch oven, then add wine, salt, pepper, thyme and tomato paste, (see below).  Cover dutch oven tightly and simmer over low heat (or in a 300 oven) for 2 1/2-3 hours.  At that time, I usually add another 1/4 cup wine and stir.   Simmer with the lid off for another hour or so.  Bon appetit!

*The mushrooms are as follows clockwise starting at upper left-hand corner..white, cremini, portobello, shiitake.  Also, remove most of the gills (the underside) of the Portobello and notice no stems on any mushrooms.

 
 
 




 
get the beef nice and brown...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
make sure to stir until all the flour is incorporated...you can still see a little here...
 
 
this is just before I add the tomato paste...
 
 
you can see how much this has reduced after 3 hours...
 
 
yum...
 
 
                yum, yum...


yum, yum, yum!!!















 

































Friday, November 14, 2014

Things I Can't Do Without in my Kitchen, Part 7

Ah, my gravy separator.  My friend from work, Deb Buchan, introduced me to this gadget and I love it.  Yes, I have the oxo brand where you put the rubber plug in the spout, but I've always been intrigued with how this one works, although it's not rocket science.   The biggest advantage, though is this lifesaver holds 4 cups of juice vs. 2 with the oxo, and if I make a large turkey, I need this capacity.  I have also been known to use both, but that's when making nearly a 25 lb. turkey, and that's not every day.    My pick is made by Swing-A-Way, the company who makes the hand-held can openers.  It's along the lines of a flour sifter in that you pull the handle, but in this case, it opens a covered hole in the center of the bottom of the container, letting out however much liquid you want, with the fat staying on top.  It's a little easier to clean as well, as you don't have to have a specific brush to clean a spout.  It also has a holed cap on top that catches pieces of things you may not want in your gravy...thanks, Deb, I think of you every time I use this thing!

My rolling pin.  I bought this rolling pin probably 18 years ago, and at the time when it was new, it was a one piece pin with handles.  I never did like rolling with my hands to the side, so I had my late husband saw the handles off, and there you have it, I had a rolling pin that was simply a large wooden dowel rod.   It's also about 20" long, so it doesn't make indentation marks in my dough.  And it's not heavy, and it's a snap to wash.

My next "can't do without" item I don't use as much as some of my other picks, but when I'm rolling out a dough, that's where they make their entrance, and they truly shine.  I don't know about you, but my dough usually ends up thicker in the middle than on either side.  I place these rings around either side of my rolling pin and you have even dough all the time...all, the, time.  They are made by Casabella, and they are called silicone rolling pin spacer bands...in essence, they are big rubber bands  I think I got mine at King Arthur Flour, but know you can also buy them at Amazon.  These are great for rolling out pie dough, shortbread, sugar cookies...you simply pick the thickness you want for your dough.  Cleanup couldn't be easier...


 
 
 
the blue ring is 3/8", the green 2/8", the yellow 1/8" and the red 1/16"


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recipe #29: Caramel Apple Salad...Yes, and You'll Love It!!!

When my sister, brother and I were kids back in Chicago, many times our dad would surprise us in the fall with caramel apples.  They would be covered in caramel and chopped peanuts, and would be placed upside down in a large cupcake paper with words saying "Affy Tapple".   It was such a nice treat, and I coveted those things.   A friend passed this recipe along to me about 23 years ago.  Bridget said, "try this recipe, it taste just like taffy apples."  Well, I was skeptical, but made it anyway.  And, because I know you're probably skeptical as well, I would like you to make it anyway.  I wouldn't steer you wrong, and it does get quite addictive.  I eat bowls of this stuff when I make it.   I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

16 oz can diced pineapple                                     4 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup sugar                                                         1 1/2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp flour                                                            8 oz container Cool Whip
1 egg, beaten                                                         3 apples sliced, (I wouldn't use granny smith)
1 1/2 cups roasted, salted Spanish peanuts

Drain pineapple, saving juice.  I put the pineapple in a sieve and place over a glass measuring cup.  I also press on the pineapple to get more juice out.  Stir pineapple and marshmallows together in a medium bowl and set aside.  Combine beaten egg, pineapple juice, flour, sugar and vinegar in a medium saucepan and whisk on medium heat until thickened.  You need to whisk constantly, but it should come together in about 5 minutes or so.  Cool (I place in a shallow flat bowl so the mixture will cool quicker, see below).   In a large bowl, combine the mixture with the Cool Whip until blended...I use a large slotted spoon for this.   Add marshmallow mixture, apples and nuts, and stir to combine.  Chill for at least 2 hours.  Bon appetit!

This recipe is dedicated to Kris from Salt Lake City...




 
 
 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Recipe #28: Angie's Greek Chicken...Baked Chicken with Butter, Lemon & Oregano

Thirty-four years ago, I worked with a beautiful Greek woman named Angie Malouhos.  This was at our corporate offices in Elk Grove Village, near Chicago.   She was striking at 60, had a model's figure, wore dresses every day and reminded me a little of both ElizabethTaylor and Suzanne Pleshette in her looks.  She had striking blue eyes and black hair (dyed of course), styled in that 60's look...actually, I just now spent 20 minutes trying to find a picture of what I'm talking about, and low and behold, I found it on Elizabeth Taylor, (see below).  She had one ritual every Saturday, and that was to take the train to Marshall Field's in downtown Chicago.  Most times she wouldn't buy anything..she was happy just looking through the store.  Angie would have me over for dinner often, and lived with her sister, Celia.  They always fought like cats and dogs, and it was quite entertaining to listen to the banter back and forth.  Also, one thing I would always get a chuckle out of, but thought it was a smart idea, since the two of them lived alone, was that they had a pair of men's workboots outside the front door.  Sort of the illusion that a male lived inside.  Angie would make her Greek chicken when I came over for dinner, and sometimes would do the same with pork chops.  She also made a lovely one layer graham cracker cake with chocolate frosting, and if any of you know of this recipe, can you please drop me a line?  When I got married in 1985, I moved from Chicago to San Francisco, and Angie gave me the recipe so I could continue the tradition...in my heart, I would have rather stayed back in Chicago.  She was one classy dame!

One 3 lb chicken, cut into pieces                                      4 tbsp butter, plus another 2 tbsp
1 tbsp olive oil                                                                             zest and juice of one large lemon
1 heaping tbsp dried oregano (make sure                        1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
    it's good...if not buy a new container)                           3 large carrots, peeled and sliced, see picture
3 potatoes, washed and cut into wedges,                          salt and pepper
    see picture

Wash chicken pieces and pat dry.  Heat oven to 475 (no, that's not a mistake) and have a large low roasting pan ready to go.  The roasting pan I show below is the only one I have...sides should be a little lower if you can.  In a medium flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together butter, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper.  Dip each chicken piece in lemon mixture, one at a time, and place in roasting pan.  Do the same with the vegetables.  Pour remaining liquid evenly inside pan.  Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour...keep an eye on the liquid...if you need more you can some water or even some white wine.  When chicken and veggies are done, remove from pan and place on platter.  Put roasting pan on stove and with both burners on low, add the other two tbsp butter to thicken the juices.  If you need to after this, add some water, but don't make gravy so thin that it won't have any flavor.  Adjust salt and pepper.  Serve separately in a bowl.  Bon appetit!


This is a dead ringer for Angie's hair....


raw chicken and veggies


roasted and ready to eat...


Angie would be proud!


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why Don't You Open a Bakery? Part 1

I love to bake, I love to cook, though pies and breads were never my forte.  Could I make them?  Yes.   But I stayed away especially from bread.  Why?   Because there's nothing like homemade bread that has been out of the oven for about 15 minutes...give me a stick of butter and I'm good to go.  I started this blog back in September and since then, am amazed and grateful by the number of you who have looked at my recipes and what I have to say.  But, back to the title of this story, which also brings me to tell you why my friends usually say "squirrel" when I start talking, because I go in several directions at one time.  My mind just works at a furious pace, and even my one friend from work, Lisa, told me one time, "I am used to people talking in one direction, and then going in another, but I can't keep up with you!"  I love Lisa.  Anyway, since I joined Facebook shortly after starting my blog, it has been suggested that I write a book, it has been suggested I open a restaurant, but the other day was to open a bakery.   Opening a bakery.   My biggest stumbling block would be getting up at midnight so I could open by 6 am.  Over the years at my past and only job, an airline, I worked as early as 4:30 am and worked as late as 1 am.  When I first came to Seattle, I worked a 5 am shift.  There was a place on the way to work called Chuck's Donut and they opened at 3 am, so many times, I would stop and get a few doughnuts for me and a woman I worked with, Teddy.  She always wanted a custard filled, and there was something about getting donuts just an hour after Chuck's opened.  But, the downside was that at 7 am when I would sit down to eat what I bought for myself, there was David eating his pot roast, with his shoes off.  Somehow the whole bakery ambience went out the window, so I waited until my next break at 9.  But then I worked a swing shift, and went home at one in the morning.  There were the bakers at Chuck's, already an hour into making everything so they could open at 3.  Sometimes I didn't know whether I was coming or going.   Opening a restaurant.  I have always had a very hard time depending on people, and in a restaurant, you have a lot more people under your command than in a bakery.  I have dealt with the public most of my life, and there's something to be said for getting a job at a nursery and doing nothing but watering plants.  I have some idea of what is involved with running either a bakery or a restaurant, and there are a lot of parts...sort of like working at the gate for a departure of a flight at my previous job.  Everything has to come together in a certain amount of time.  I remember working with my friend, Julie, at the gate a long time ago, and when we were down to the last half hour before departure, she got in this don't talk to me, don't look at me mode.  Now granted, back then, you usually had 2 or 3 people working at each gate for a flight, and the name of the game was to work together.  But there were those who were just better alone at this task, and at the time, since we had the luxury of more than one person working a flight, I gladly stepped back and let Julie do her thing.  And, I always marveled at how she got the whole thing done, sort of like getting a box, wrapping it with paper and tying it with a bow...in short order...was she the best team player at the 13th hour, perhaps not, but the flip side of that was watching someone do what they needed to do like a well-oiled machine, and that was Julie.  But, back to the bakery story, as I have "squirreled" again for about the 4th time......part 2 coming in the future.....

Friday, November 7, 2014

Recipe #27: Cream of Broccoli & Roasted Cauliflower Soup

I love broccoli...I love cauliflower.  Have I ever roasted broccoli, no, cauliflower, yes.  So I decided to combine the two soups and by roasting the cauliflower, the soup has a little more rustic feel and taste.  I gave some of this to my neighbor the other day, and she loved it.  But, she also thought it was extremely rich, thinking that I had added lots of cream.  Truth be told, the soup only contains 2% milk.  It's a great, hearty soup, without all the guilt.

1 lb broccoli, cut into florets                                  1 lb cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp butter                                                             1 medium onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped                                            1 shallot, chopped
1/3 cup flour                                                             3-4 cups chicken stock, depending on how
3 cups 2% milk                                                           thick you like your soup
salt, pepper and 2 tbsp olive oil

Place broccoli and 1/4 cup water in casserole or bowl covered with plastic wrap and microwave about 3-4 minutes until al dente.  Depending on your microwave, check at 3 minutes, and adjust time accordingly.  Heat oven to 400.  In a medium bowl, add cauliflower and olive oil, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine, then place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown on tops, (you can see that on the picture below).  Remove from oven.  In a dutch oven, melt butter on medium heat and saute onion, celery and shallot, about 5-10 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook gently, about 5 minutes.  Gradually add milk, chicken stock and salt and pepper and heat through, about 15 minutes.  Add broccoli and cauliflower and stir to combine.  At this point, I usually take about two cups of the soup and put in my Nutribullet, or you can you use a blender, to liquefy the soup.  Pour back into pot.  I personally do not like a totally cream soup, but if you do, go for it and liquefy the whole thing.  Bon appetit!




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recipe #26: Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Aparts in Vanilla Glaze

No, it's really not monkey bread, if you've ever made that.  Instead of pouring a butter sauce over all of the small pieces of yeast dough after they are placed in a tube pan, in this recipe each piece is dipped in butter first, then rolled in a sugar/cinnamon mixture and made in a 9" pie pan...I happen to have a 9 1/2" pyrex pie pan, which works out perfectly.  And the beauty of this recipe is that in addition to being totally addictive, you can slice it just like a pie...you don't have to pull it apart piece by piece if you don't want to.  By cutting the pull-apart into slices, you can actually see the marbling on the sides.  But, you don't have to cut it either.  You can revert back to going piece by piece by piece until you have just about finished the whole thing, like I nearly did!

2/3 cup warm water                                             1 tbsp active dry yeast, almost two envelopes
1/2 cup flour, plus 1 cup flour                             4 large eggs, whisked in a bowl
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 cup sugar                           2 tsp salt (I use kosher)
1 stick butter, softened                                         3/4 stick butter, melted
   just short of turning liquid                                1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Pour water into the bowl of a stand mixer.  I use my insta-read thermometer for the temp of the water and as a rule, try to do 100 degrees.   Sprinkle yeast evenly over water and let sit until foamy, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Using a whisk, blend until smooth, then whisk in 1/2 cup flour to form a paste.  This may take a minute or two as there should be no lumps.  Let rise in a warm place uncovered (I turn my oven on for a few minutes, then turn off) until yeast mixture looks a little sunken, about 30 minutes.  Add the eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, butter and flour to yeast mixture.  Using the dough hook, knead for 10-15 minutes, scraping the bowl a few times, until all of the ingredients are incorporated.   Turn out dough onto an unfloured work surface and knead by hand until smooth, 2-3 minutes.  Transfer dough to a bowl and cover with damp towel or plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Punch down dough.  Put the melted butter in a bowl.  Brush butter on the inside of the 9" pie pan.  Stir 1 cup sugar and cinnamon in another bowl.  Roll dough into generous 1" balls, should be 45 (I line mine up on a cookie sheet, so I can keep count).  Dip each ball into butter, then the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Place in pie pan, moving inward with each row.  You should have 4 rows, with the top row only having one ball, (see below).  If not, don't worry.  Sprinkle with any remaining cinnamon/sugar and drizzle with any leftover butter (I had a just a little butter left, so melted another 2 tbsp).  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let dough rise, about 1 hour.  Heat oven to 350.  Unwrap dough and place pie pan on baking dish, in case of dripping over.  Bake until golden brown and inserting a wooden skewer or shish kabob metal skewer comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes.  Cool in dish about 15 minutes, then spoon glaze over all.

Vanilla Glaze

1 cup confectioners sugar                                    1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, melted                                            2 tbsp milk (preferably 1 or 2%)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk butter, milk, salt and vanilla (I use the pan I just melted the butter in).  Put confectioners sugar in a small bowl.  Add butter mixture.   Whisk until smooth.  Best to make glaze when you take the pull-aparts out of the oven, as it may thicken up otherwise.  If so, thin with a little milk.  Drizzle over all.  Bon appetit!

after baking with the glaze


look how the glaze seeps through every opening...yum, yum



after cutting a slice, you can see the individual pieces





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Things I Can't Do Without in My Kitchen, Part 6

My 4 Mirro cookie sheets and my huge rolls of parchment paper. 

I've had my Mirro cookie sheets for about 30 years.  The larger sheets are 14x17, the smaller are 12x15.  The Kirkland brand (Costco) parchment fits perfectly each way for these sheets.  What do I love about these particular cookie sheets?  First, they are made of heavy aluminum, so you don't hear them warping in the oven.  Second, they have flat sides with no lip so no trimming of parchment paper needed.  Third, they are angled at both ends so you can grab them easier.  I wouldn't trade them if someone were to offer me a hundred bucks.  Also, I just did some digging and it looks like Mirro ceased to exist in 2003.  Come to think of it, I think my pressure cooker was a Mirro.   But, what I also found, for any of you who are interested, is that Amazon.com sells a similar cookie sheet that was also recommended by America's Test Kitchen.  It's a Vollrath 68085 Wear Ever Aluminum 17 7/8x14 cookie sheet and sells for $31.00.  Yes, I know that isn't exactly cheap, but what's the saying, "you get what you pay for."  And the reviews on Amazon are glowing.

My kingdom for Kirkland brand parchment paper.  I usually buy four rolls at a time.  I absolutely LOVE the stuff.  If you bake a fair amount, you will appreciate this huge roll, and the fact that it also has a cutter, and the fact that it's not folded in a package.  Not only do I use it for baking cookies, I roast vegetables on it, toast nuts on it, make granola on it and steam fish in the oven with it.  The burning point is also fairly high.  I can't really think of anything else, but for the fact that I LOVE IT!!!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Recipe #25: Mashed Potatoes with Buttermilk, Sour Cream & Bacon

There are mashed potatoes, and then there are "mashed potatoes".  After you're done making these, they won't require anything else, not even butter on top, although I wouldn't put it past someone to do it...I would.  These are great with meatloaf, chicken, pork.  And what's not to like about mashed potatoes?

1 1/2 lbs russet or red skin potatoes                  3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp sour cream                                                  3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 tbsp butter                                                           1 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried minced onion, optional

You can either peel potatoes, or leave with skins on.  Wash thoroughly and cut into large even pieces.  Boil on medium in a large saucepan with 1 tsp salt added to the water, about 30-45 minutes.  Drain potatoes with lid askew.  Keep potatoes in pan.  Add butter first and mash into potatoes until blended.  Add remainder of ingredients.  Taste for salt.  If you like a little creamier potato, add a 1/4 cup regular milk.  Bon appetit!

I used both unpeeled red skin and russet potatoes as you can see in the pictures.  Some of the red is the bacon...






Recipe #24: My Meatloaf Topped with Ketchup Brown Sugar Glaze & Bacon

There must be a zillion meatloaf recipes out there, and I guess if I were looking at this particular recipe, but made a meatloaf I already liked, I would be hesitant to try it.  That said, I have been making this particular meatloaf for the past 20 years.  It doesn't have anything bizarre in it, no special preparations...it's just a really good meatloaf.  You can choose to top it with the glaze and bacon, just the glaze, just ketchup, or if you prefer, nothing.   But do make it...I think you will agree that's a great recipe.

This recipe is dedicated to David Chesterman

2 lbs ground beef (I use 90/10)                                   1/2 lb ground pork (not pork sausage, just
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine                                       pork that has been grinded, no spices
1 small carrot, chopped fine                                                and should have some fat)
2 eggs, beaten                                                                  2 stalks celery, chopped fine
1/4 cup 2% or whole milk                                              1/2 cup bread crumbs, seasoned or not
1/2 cup ketchup                                                               2 tsp dry mustard
6 strips of bacon, cut in half                                          2 tsp salt
glaze, below

Have a 13x9 pan lined with double tin foil ready to go, (if you are used to using a 9x5 loaf pan and want to use the bacon here, there will be too much fat and it will go over the sides of the pan).  In a large bowl put both meats and mix together with your hands so they are incorporated before you add the other ingredients.  Add remainder of ingredients and mix thoroughly with your hands...should take a minute or two.  Place the meatloaf in the pan and shape into a loaf.  At this point, if you don't want to use a glaze or the glaze/bacon,  bake in a 350 oven for 1 1/2 hours.  I take either two pancake turners, or a pancake turner and a very large offset spatula to take meatloaf out of pan and onto a cutting board or plate.  Let rest about 10 minutes before cutting.  If you are using glaze, I use a brush to put the glaze on the top and sides of meatloaf.  If using glaze and bacon, glaze first, then starting at top of meatloaf, place one strip diagonally, then another strip diagonally on the other side and keep going.  It doesn't need to be perfect, and even if it is, it may very well shift somewhat during baking.  Brush remainder of glaze gently on top of the bacon.   Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.  Bon appetit!

KETCHUP GLAZE

1/3 cup ketchup                                                        2 tsp dry mustard
3 tbsp brown sugar

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk or fork.