18 December 2014

Improv Challenge: Red & Green

I did think about making a red-and-green bundt cake for December's Improv Challenge but, aside from an egregious use of food coloring, I couldn't see what that could bring to the table. So I went savory and dye-free with this simple dish of chicken, tomatoes, and green olives! And capers! And fresh herbs! Which are also green!


Chicken Thighs In Tomato & Olive Sauce

Yield:4-8 servings
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 06 hrs. 00 mins.
Total time: 06 hrs. 10 mins.

Ingredients

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 Tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup pitted green olives, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper, as needed
  • Additional fresh herbs for garnish

Instructions

  1. Add the onions, tomatoes, olives, capers, and fresh herbs to the slow cooker insert.


  2. Nestle the chicken thighs into the tomato mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a few sprigs of thyme and oregano, if desired.


  3. Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve garnished with additional herbs.


The tomatoes, onions, and chicken will make more than enough liquid so don't even think about adding broth to the pot! The chicken comes out very tender and the sauce is very flavorful, although it is a little runny so feel free to thicken it before serving.



17 December 2014

Bake All the Fruitcakes!

A few years ago, I bought a copy of the DVD Cooking with Paula Deen, The Complete Collection (2005-2012) for a ridiculously low post-Christmas price. I'm not a huge Paula Deen fan, but I've enjoyed many of her recipes and the DVD seemed like a good buy. It collects every page of the magazine from the first issue in 2005 through the end of 2012. It's searchable, bookmarkable, printable ... and (most important of all) contains all the recipes my mother and I shared back and forth when she was still a subscriber. Au Gratin Carrots? Yes. Horseradish Mashed Potatoes? Yes. Mushroom Lasagna? Yes.

And all five totally awesome fruitcake recipes from the November/December 2008 issue! I say totally awesome, but I've only made one of the five -- the fabulous "Tropical Fruitcake" with pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts, and white rum -- so how can I be sure of the other four?

I guess I'll just have to bake more fruitcakes this winter! The "Traditional Fruitcake" doesn't interest me -- that's the one my mom bakes, so I know it's perfectly fine -- but I'm really looking forward to trying "Plum Ginger Fruitcake" (the batter is infused with green tea!) and "Cranberry Walnut Fruitcake" (because who doesn't love cranberries and walnuts?). Can't quite make my mine up about "Ambrosia Fruitcake" as I'm guessing, flavor-wise, it's supposed to be reminiscent of ambrosia salad and I just remember that my uncle's ambrosia was deathly sweet.

Baking three fruitcakes requires a serious laying on of supplies, so I started totting up a list of ingredients I'd need:
  • 16 cups flour
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 5 cups candied orange peel
  • 4 cups chopped pecans
  • 4 cups sliced almonds
  • 4 cups chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups chopped macadamias
  • 4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 4 cups candied pineapple chunks
  • 3 cups chopped dried apples
  • 3 cups dried cranberries
  • 3 cups chopped dried plums
  • 2 cups candied citron
  • 2 cups crystallized ginger
  • 2 cups candied lemon peel
  • 2 cups glazed red cherries
  • 1 cup raisins
I already own some of the ingredients, but it's a good thing we're in the heart of Baking Season and so many ingredients are on sale! But where am I going to store it all??

14 December 2014

Pie for the memories

When I remember my Grandma G, I remember a woman who liked dancing and having good time. Not for her the domesticity of the kitchen, which is a little odd, because I must have eaten at her house quite a lot as a child. I remember many meals of dinners of meatloaf with brown gravy, canned vegetables, and instant mashed potatoes. And picnics with hot dogs and canned baked beans -- the kind that had the chunk of ham fat in it -- and potato salad covered in slices of hard-cooked eggs.


And lemon meringue pie. My Grandma G had a terrible sweet tooth. Doughnuts, snack cakes, ice cream, chocolates -- she loved them all. But she didn't bake much. Except that lemon meringue pie. My father remembers a six month period in which she was always baking bread, but that stopped as abruptly as it started and was a distant memory by the time I came along to eat ham and cheese sandwiches in her kitchen. Mostly, my Grandma kept her kitchen stocked well stocked with Hostess and Entenmann products. And she was generous -- never turned up at anyone else's home without a box of cherry cheese danish or frosted doughnuts.


But the lemon meringue pie. That she baked. And it was lemony and light and as perfect as lemon meringue pie can be.

So. I thought, this weekend being the second anniversary of her death, I'd bake a lemon meringue pie. Can't bake Grandma G's pie, because I don't have the recipe, so I used the recipe in my red-and-white plaid Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. It's more likely she found hers on the back of a cornstarch or sugar container. Or the newspaper. She was always clipping things from the newspaper.


My pie was both a little burnt and slightly runny, but that's okay. Memories of her pie give me something to strive for. A measuring stick against which to measure all other lemon meringues. And, yes, maybe the pie I remember is better than that pie ever really was, but that's fine. We polish the best memories until they are diamonds and forget or forgive the rest.