Thursday, November 24, 2011

...And Many Gobbles to You


I like to turn every holiday into a food driven holiday, but this one originated with sharing food.  The older I get, the more I love Thanksgiving.  As a young teen, I was not quite as ecstatic.  One year, I ate pickles off a veggie tray before leaving my aunt's house to go back down the street to my grandma's house and pick at whatever food was there.  That was an awesome year for me in general....

Tomorrow I will let you know just how effing fantastic today is.  Spoiler:  there is a pig.  Spoiler counterpart:  said pig will not be involved in any weird rituals.

And if you need a bit of reading or something to listen to if the family becomes too much and you need a mini-escape.  Read my post at STA about turkeys.  Or listen (and maybe even subscribe) to the newest edition of my podcast, Lip Smacking.  This week's episode is a little love and a little hate concerning food shows on TV.

BTW:  Did you know it is REALLY hard to make a hand turkey on you computer?
Plus side:  I found out that paint now has a crayon function.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mushy Peas

Wow, I seriously can't believe how much of my time is being eaten away with this job.  That's cool, because I am going get some awesome arms out of this with all the lifting.  Not that I have flabby gross arms right now, but they will be looking pretty awesome by the new year.
Have I mentioned that I am making the food for my father-in-law's church Christmas dinner?  Well, I am.  So I've had to test new recipes.  He requested it be English/Dickensian in nature.  That is a new realm for me.  I know mushy peas aren't really Dickensian, but I wanted something bright and vibrant for the table that wasn't just a salad.  I know this sounds like bad baby food, but seriously, so delicious.  I think the key is leaving some of the peas whole so you get little bursts of sweet goodness.

Mushy Peas
1/2 med onion, diced
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
12 oz frozen green peas, thawed*
1/4 C vegetable or chicken broth (low sodium)
1/4 tsp rubbed sage
salt and pepper

   Heat oil over med heat.  Saute onions until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook ~1 minute.  Remove from heat, add peas, broth, and sage.  Use a potato masher to mash peas about 2/3 of the way.  You still want some that are whole.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Heat over medium before serving.
   Serves 3-4.

*If you find a package of peas that is 1 lb (16 oz), it will definitely serve 4 people.  You may need to up the broth to 1/3 C.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

That's Amorade

So sorry about not posting the last two days.  I was in training for my new ultra-prestigious job............. riiiight.

Ok, so, this drink quickly became our favorite drink after the first time we made it this past spring.  We altered the original recipe (simply called an Amorade) and our version is spectacular!  Seriously.  It sounds a little crazy when you read the ingredients, but it is great.

That's Amorade
1 1/2 oz Amaretto
1 1/2 oz Triple Sec
juice of 1 lemon
tonic water (~5 oz)
2-3 dashes lemon bitters

   Squeeze juice of lemon halves into a shaker, drop one half of lemon into shaker.  Add amaretto, triple sec, and ice.  Shake.  Pour into a glass with ice.  Top with tonic, add bitters.
   (This can be made in the glass and just gently stirred up, too.)
   Makes 1 drink.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday Redirect

It has been a couple weeks since I sent you over to Save the Artist.  There are so many exciting things happening over there that it is about time I directed you that way!

  1. We have relaunched the site and it has some awesome new features.
  2. Currently, I am writing a series of the top 10 American food icons, as I see it.  It's a rather unique take on the subject.
  3. Yesterday, our first podcast went up and it features yours truly awkwardly rambling about coffee.
  4. There is a coffee contest going on with the chance to win a $15 Starbucks gift card.
  5. We are looking for contributions of any kind from our readers!  Photos, paintings, poems... anything!
So please, take a look around and get involved with our growing community.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Steak House Shepard's Pie

I was watching Cooking for Real a while ago; Sunny Anderson was making some version of a shepard's pie.  Maybe it was traditional, I don't remember, because I had the idea for this.  I thought of combining all those wonderful elements of a steak house dinner into a single dish:  garlic mashed potatoes, steak, creamed spinach, and bleu cheese.

Steak House Shepard's Pie
1 1/2 lbs ground sirloin
1 onion, chopped
1 C green peas (thawed)
1 10oz pkg frozen spinach (thawed and most of water squeezed out)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 lb potatoes
2-3 cloves garlic
3/4-1 C milk
2-3 Tbsp butter
1 C crumbled bleu cheese (~4 oz)
1/4 C parmesan
salt and pepper

   Heat about 2 tsp oil over med heat.  Saute onions 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add meat, brown and break apart.  When meat is cooked, add peas, spinach, worcestershire, and rosemary.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   (If you like, peel the potatoes.  I left the skin on.)  Cube potatoes, place into a large pot with peeled garlic cloves and about 2 tsp salt, cover with cool water.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.  Drain.  Mash with a potato masher, add butter and milk.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Spoon meat mixture into an even layer in a 13x9 baking dish.  Sprinkle bleu cheese over meat.  Top with mashed potatoes.  Sprinkle with parmesan.
   At this point, cover and refrigerate or bake immediately.
   Bake uncovered at 350 deg F for 20-25 minutes.  (Add 10 minutes if refrigerated.)
   Serves 6-8.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Pound Cake w/ Cream Cheese Buttermilk Glaze

Do you ever have that overwhelming urge to bake?  I do.  And pumpkin has been mysteriously absent from my fall menu so far.  There was a can of pumpkin lurking in my pantry, though.  Begging to be used.  I thought about just making a pumpkin pie but I didn't have any of the canned milks required.  Pound cake seemed to be the natural alternative.

I looked at a lot of pumpkin pound cake recipes.  Many of them were very similar to my regular pound cake with the simple addition of pumpkin instead of milk.  So I just substituted pumpkin for buttermilk.  I could tell the texture wasn't quite right; the batter was too dry.  So I added some milk and it was perfect!  While browsing recipes I saw a cream cheese glaze and a buttermilk glaze; both sounded fantastic so I combined the ideas in my own way.

Pumpkin Pound Cake
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temp (1 stick)
1 C lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
4 eggs
1 15oz can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1/2 C buttermilk*
1 tsp vanilla
3 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
cooking spray and white sugar
Cream Cheese Buttermilk Glaze:
2 oz cream cheese, room temp
2.5-3 Tbsp buttermilk*
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

   Cream together butter and sugar.  Incorporate eggs one at a time.  Add pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla.
   Combine flour, baking powder and soda, spices, and salt.  Add to pumpkin mixture in 3 batches.
   Pour into a 10 in bundt pan that has been liberally sprayed with cooking spray and then coated with sugar.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 55 min-1 hour.  When a toothpick is inserted into the center of the cake and comes out clean, the cake is ready. 
   Cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto plate.  Cool completely.
For glaze:
   Combine cream cheese and sugar until smooth and lump-free.  Slowly whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until smooth.  Start with 2.5 Tbsp buttermilk; if it is stiff or thick, add a little bit more.
   Drizzle over cooled cake.
   Serves 16.

*If you don't have or don't like buttermilk, you can use whole or 2% milk.  But buttermilk does help the cake to be very tender and the glaze is soooo delicious, you should use it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pineapple Soy Chicken Skewers

Today I begin my adventure to become a butcher.  A real butcher.  Of animals for consumption.  Seriously.  Yeah, yeah, yeah... I have to, like, stock deli meat for a while.  But whatevs.  I'll do it.  Kroger may not be the ideal work, but it's a start, and maybe I'll get a discount on groceries?  That would be awesome.  My education, my degree, my once-high hopes of curing cancer (just kidding, I never wanted to do that)--I have officially abandoned all that science jazz.  So.... yay!

If you want to celebrate this hard and fast change of career choice on your own personal time, I suggest a mid-fall luau.  And I suggest you serve this chicken.  You could make this the main dish for a Hawaiian or Polynesian inspired meal or serve it as a party food. 

Pineapple Soy Chicken Skewers
2 lbs chicken cut into large pieces
1 20oz can pineapple chunks in juice (you can use fresh if it is season)
1/8 C soy sauce
1/8 C white vinegar
1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper

   Combine pineapple juice from the can (~3/4 C) with soy, vinegar, and oils.
   Lightly salt and pepper chicken.  Toss in marinade.  Marinate for 1-8 hours.
   Skewer chicken with pineapple chunks. (If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before skewering and cooking chicken.)
   Set broiler to high and place rack about 7 inches from top.  Place skewers on a broiler pan or baking sheet.  Cook for 3 minutes, turn skewers over, cook another 3 minutes.  (Or you can grill them.)
   Reduce marinade by 1/3 over med-high.  Pour over cooked chicken.
   Serves 4-6 main dish.  8-10 as an hors d'oeurves.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Edamame and Ramen Salad w/ Carrot Ginger Dressing

I don't know about you, but I love soy beans: bright green, nutty, and packed with good-for-you things.  I seriously wish movie theaters sold huge bags of the salty pods instead of popcorn.  They are not something I cook with often because they are not always available around here.  Sometimes the stores have them, sometimes they don't, and sometimes they have only one brand and they are unnecessarily expensive.  But last weekend, I went to the (nice) Kroger near me and they had 1 lb frozen bags of them on sale!  So I snatched up a few and I was a very happy girl.

Edamame and Ramen Salad
2 3oz blocks ramen noodles (flavor packet discarded)
1 lb shelled soy beans (the steam-in-bag is very nice)
1/2 an English cucumber chopped, 5-6 inches
4 scallions, sliced on a bias
Carrot Ginger Dressing:
1 C grated carrots
scant 1/4 C water
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp chopped, fresh ginger
1 tsp hot pepper relish or your favorite hot sauce (optional)
1 tsp minced garlic

   Break up noodles while dry.  Cook in 4 C boiling water for 3 minutes.  Drain.  Allow to cool.
   Cook soy beans according to package directions.  Salt while still hot (if not already salted).  Allow to cool.
   In a blender, combine ingredients for dressing, except salt.  Puree until mostly smooth or the carrots are at least a very fine grate.  (The water may not incorporate fully, don't worry about it.)  Salt to taste.
   Toss noodles, vegetables, and dressing together.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Just before serving, squeeze some lime over the top.
   Serves 4

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fried Vegetable and Turkey Dumplings

I think I was 16 or 17 when my mom and I started making dumplings.  Our first venture took all afternoon.  Getting the folding technique down was... interesting.  We just had a picture to go off of and I am pretty sure it took two of us an hour and half to make 4 dozen.  Now I can knock out 4 dozen by myself in 30-40 minutes (depending on distractions.) 

You can fill these with a variety of things.  I have made many, many variations.  But I do think white meat turkey or chicken works best (if you use meat) because they are low in fat.  This means they cook quickly and there isn't a lot of oil to make the dumpling soggy from the inside.  Pork is really good, but using the store bought wonton wrappers, the amount of fat doesn't allow them to keep very well in a buffet/snacking type setting.  So, if you use pork, eat them right away.

Fried Vegetable and Turkey Dumplings
1 pkg square wonton wrappers
1 lb white meat turkey, chicken, or soft tofu
1 1/4 C finely shredded green cabbage
1/3 C grated carrot
1/3 C grated broccoli stalk (peel stalk before grating)
1/3 C minced red bell pepper
1 egg
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
vegetable oil

   Combine turkey, vegetables, egg, cilantro, zest, salt and pepper.  Cook a small patty to test seasoning; adjust seasoning if necessary.
   Lay out a few wonton skins, keep the rest covered with a damp paper towel to prevent drying.

Filling and Folding Steps (reference picture below):
   1.  Place a rounded teaspoon (about 2 level tsp) of meat mixture in the center of the wrapper.
   2.  Dip a finger into water and run it around the edges of the wrapper to dampen.  Bring opposite corners together.  Pinch.
   3.  Bring a side corner up to the center and pinch sides together.  Do the same for the 4th corner.
   4.  Gently press down on dumpling to remove excess air pockets.  Pinch sides back together if any of them gap.

   Place finished dumplings on a baking sheet covered with a damp paper towel. Dumplings may be assembled and kept in refrigerator for 3-4 hours before cooking.
   In a large skillet with a lid (non stick is best), heat some oil (~1 Tbsp) over med/med-hi heat.  Place dumplings flat side down in oil.  Cook 1.5-2 minutes until bottoms are browned. 
   Add about 1/4 C water and immediately cover with lid.  Cook 2-3 minutes.  (This steams the dumplings to fully cook them.)  Repeat for batches.
   Serves with peanut sauce (this this sauce with some extra vinegar and water) or other dipping sauce.
   Makes 3.5-4 dozen.  They will feed 8-16 people.  (Err on the side of caution and make a lot, they tend to go fast and people usually want more.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chili Cornmeal Chicken Tenders

Every once in a while it is really fun to eat like a kid.  That is why I made chicken tenders last week.  But these were so good, that I don't think they should be classified as "kid food".  Sure, kids would loooove these, but they are sophisticated enough for grown-ups.  I like to think of myself as an inbetweener for that area... one of those child-adult hybrids that precariously balance responsibility with ridiculousness. 

Chili Cornmeal Chicken Tenders
4 chicken breasts, cut into 3 or 4 equal strips (or 12 tenders)
3/4 C flour
2 tsp chili powder (divided)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 eggs (beaten w/ 2 tsp water)
1/2 seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 C stone ground white corn meal
vegetable oil

   Combine flour, salt, garlic and onion powder, black pepper, and 1 tsp of chili powder on a plate.
   Combine bread crumbs, corn meal, and other 1 tsp chili powder on another plate.
   Coat chicken with flour.  Shake off excess.
   Roll chicken in eggs to coat.
   Coat chickens with bread crumb mixture.
   In a large deep sided skillet, pour oil so there is a depth of 1/4 in.  Heat over med/med-hi.
   Fry chicken 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Do this in batches.  Keep batches warm on a rack on top of a baking sheet in a 225 deg F oven.
   Serves 4.

I think these tenders are delicious with plain old yellow mustard.  But serve with whatever sauce you like.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tomato Braised Pork

I know I do a lot of braised pork recipes.  It is so delicious, comforting, and affordable.  This version is sort of region neutral.  It has eastern European overtones but also a strong Southwestern/Mexican influence.  Really, it could be applied to any cuisine.  You could make this into wraps, sandwiches, tacos, tamales, serve it over potatoes, grits, couscous, or even a salad.  (Seriously.)  This is recipe is for 2-3 servings, but it is easily multiplied for larger parties.
Tomato Braised Pork
3/4 lb boneless pork (roast, shoulder, country ribs, etc.)
sweet paprika
salt and pepper
1/2 lrg onion, roughly chopped
1 C crushed tomatoes
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp hot pepper relish (optional)*
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp bacon fat or oil

   Cut pork into chunks roughly 2 in x 2 in.  Season with salt and pepper.  Liberally rub with paprika.
   Heat fat or oil over med heat in an oven proof skillet or pot with a lid.  Sear pork.  Remove from pan.  Add onions, saute 4-5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients.  Add pork back to pan.
   Cover with lid and place in a 300 deg F oven for 40-50 minutes.  Uncover and cook another 20 minutes.
   Shred pork.  Reheat if necessary (This can be made a couple days in advance.)  Serve as you like.
   Serves 2-3.

* I used a homemade hot pepper relish that is basically just a variety of fresh chilies pureed with oil and a little water.  You could use half of a med sized chili, like a jalapeno, minced or a 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes, even a few dashes of hot sauce.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chinese BBQ Meatballs

These tasty little meatballs were my contribution to this year's Halloween party, but they would fit on any party table.  Sweet, sour, spicy, savory with an Asian spin, this hoisen barbecue sauce will compliment any meat you like.  You could even use nice plump shrimp or bites of seared salmon in place of meatballs.  (I used ground turkey because it was on sale.)

Chinese BBQ Meatballs
1 14-oz can tomato sauce (tomato puree)
1/4 C hoisen sauce
2 tsp lime juice
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp pasted garlic
1 tsp honey
1(+) tsp sriracha
turkey meatballs:
2 lbs ground turkey (~90/10)
1 lrg carrot, grated
1 egg
1 Tbsp ground coriander
salt and pepper

   Combine ingredients for sauce.
   Combine ingredients for meatballs, be sure to not over mix the meat.  Cook a small tester patty to make sure seasoning is correct.  Form into ping pong sized balls. 
   Heat oil over med-high heat.  Sear meatballs on all sides.  You want a good crust but don't cook them all the way though.  Do this in batches for best results.
   Gently toss meatballs in sauce in a 13x9 oven safe dish.  Cover.  (If making ahead of time:  At this point, store dish and bake just before service.)
   Bake covered at 375 deg F for 10-12 minutes.  (15-17 minutes if dish has been stored in refrigerator.)
   Makes 3 dozen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creamy Root Vegetable Soup w/ White Beans

Hearty and healthy is always the best combination in my opinion.  Sure, fatty, greasy food is sometimes a necessity and I will not hesitate to indulge if the time is right.  But for everyday?  I would much rather have something incredibly satisfying and not feel guilty about it afterword.  This soup is rich and thick with a creamy texture and it is made (almost) entirely out of vegetables.  Cheap vegetables in fact.  Serve with some good bread and curl up on a cold night.

Creamy Root Vegetable Soup w/ White Beans
1 lrg onion, chopped
2 lrg carrots, peeled and chopped*
1 Tbsp oil
1 lrg sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 med-lrg white potatoes, peeled and chopped
5 C water
1 tsp vegetable base (veg bouillon)*
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
2 14-oz cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 C half and half or thick buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp hot or sweet paprika

   Heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onions and carrots until tender, 5-7 minutes. 
   Add water, potatoes, veg base, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper.  Cover simmer over med/med-low heat for ~30 minutes.  Until potatoes are soft and just start to fall apart on their own.  Pull out bay leaf.
   Use an immersion blender to puree soup.
   Add beans, dairy, and paprika.  Cook 10-15 minutes, until beans are hot.
   Serves 4.

*If your carrots taste a little bit tinny (just not as sweet as they should be), add 1 tsp honey before pureeing.
**Don't have vegetable base?  Use 3 C veg or chicken broth and 2 C water in place of the 5 C water.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rosemary and Sundried Tomato Honey Wheat Bread

Bread is something that I have always wanted to be able to make really well.  I have tried several kinds of breads, but they never work out quite right.  However, I am pretty damn good at one particular recipe.  I use it for pizza dough and focaccia.  And then I had the rather brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) for this bread. 

You don't need any fancy equipment or unusual ingredients.  This is just a lovely, simple, rustic bread.  The day I made it, we had it along side a hearty vegetable soup.  After a couple days, so it had firmed up more and was not quite as soft, it was perfect for steak sandwiches.

Rosemary and Sundried Tomato Honey Wheat Bread
2 C whole wheat flour
1/2-3/4 C AP flour (possibly a little more)
1 pkg fast rise yeast
3 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 C hot tap water (just as hot as your tap will get)
1/4 C finely chopped sundried tomatoes (not in oil)
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
extra virgin olive oil

   In a large bowl, add whole wheat flour, yeast, honey and hot water.  Stir to combine.  Allow to proof for about 5minutes.
   Add tomatoes, rosemary, and salt.  Slowly incorporate all-purpose flour until dough forms a ball and is only slightly sticky to the touch.  Turn dough onto a lightly flour surface.  Knead for 6-8 minutes.
   Place in an oiled bowl (about 2 Tbsp oil) and roll dough in oil so it is coated.  Cover with a warm damp towel, place in a warm dry place.  Let rise for 1 hour.
   Sprinkle corn meal on a baking sheet.  Punch dough down, and form into 2 balls.  They should settle down a little and be about 6-inches in diameter.  Let rise for another 20-30 minutes.
   Brush with egg. 
   Bake at 400 deg F for 20-22 minutes.  (When bread is browned and not squishy to the touch, it should be done)
   2 rounds (enough for 8 sandwiches or enough for about 12 as a bread side)