30 November 2008

The First Thanksgiving

This being our first Thanksgiving in our new home, it was supposed to be rather special. My parents, maternal grandmother, and New York Cousin were to come up to spend the day with us and partake of much festive deliciousness.

The menu?

~ Roasted Turkey ~
(Southern Living's 2005 Annual Recipes)
with pan gravy

~ Slow-Cooker Cornbread Stuffing ~
(Southern Living's 2005 Annual Recipes)

~ Paula Deen's Au Gratin Carrots ~
(Cooking with Paula Deen, Mar/Apr 2007)

~ Cook's Illustrated's Classic Green Bean Casserole ~
(Cook's Illustrated, Nov/Dec 2006)

~ Do-Ahead Garlic Mashed Potatoes ~
(Betty Crocker Magazine #225, Nov 2005)

~ Buttered Parsley Corn ~

~ Whole-berry Cranberry Sauce ~

~ Assorted Rolls and Butter ~

~*~

~ Fund-raiser Cheesecake ~

~ Splenda's The Great Pumpkin Pumpkin Pie ~


Alas, I started coming down with what was to be a most dreadful cold on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning was is such a state that I had to cancel Thanksgiving.

I celebrated my favorite holiday on the couch, hallucinating through Georgette Heyer's The Devil's Cub (Chivers Audio Books, 2004), extremely thankful for throat lozenges and facial tissues.

21 November 2008

Make Room for Turkey!

Have been trying to make some room in the freezer compartment for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients (and future Thanksgiving leftovers). Also, this close to a holiday, I try to limit my grocery shopping experiences. So far we've eaten a lot of soup, some roasted chicken parts, an indifferent casserole, and the most delicious steaks ever to come out of my kitchen.

This summer, we visited the Coventry Farmer's Market and bought, among other tasty things, some lovely grass-fed beef tenderloin steaks. We brought them home, oooohed over them and then stuck them in the coldest part of the freezer until we could think of the most fool-proof way to prepare them.

Earlier this week, tired of worrying about screwing up and creating chunks of shoe leather, I thawed the beef and made "Steak Diane." Used the recipe from Taste of Home's The Busy Family Cookbook (Reiman Media, 2007) as my base, but had to make some alterations to suite the ingredients on hand ...

I sprinkled the steaks with fresh ground pepper and salt and then let them sit while I cooked two chopped spring onions with 1/2 teaspoon Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard in two tablespoons of butter until the onions where wilted. I pushed the onions to the edge of the skillet, added the steaks and cooked them about 5 minutes each side (until they where crusty brown on the outside, but medium rare inside). I removed the steaks to a warmed plate which I put in the warmed oven and let them sit while I added generous tablespoon of lemon juice, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, two tablespoons butter, and fresh chopped parsley to the skillet. Stirred the sauce round until it started to thicken. Added the juices from the steak plate, stirred it a bit more, poured it over the steaks, and ate it all up with parsley-mashed potatoes and peas.

How did it taste? Tenderest, sweetest, most delicious steak I have ever cooked. Gives me hope that I don't need to go to a restaurant for good steak. Come June, we will be at the Coventry Farmer's Market with an ice chest and a fat wallet.

16 November 2008

Appetizing Autumnal Recipes

Borrowed the Betty Crocker Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook (Wiley, 2003) from the library last week just to see what there was to see. I already know what I'll be cooking (or getting other people to bring) for Thanksgiving, but I still like to browse the Thanksgiving cookbooks and cogitate upon future feasts.

Of course, I had to try a few recipes and now I'm not sure when exactly this book might return to work. Supposing there are no holds upon this cookbook and I renew it twice, then I might be celebrating Thanksgiving well into January. If this makes me a greedy librarian, then it also makes me a devoted cook.

So far, I have made:

Classic Waldorf Salad
Fast and easy. Kept well in the fridge for about three days (serves four? hah!). As suggested, I added unsweetened dried cranberries to the basic recipe and the tart chewiness was quite welcome. I would definitely try this again with some firm pears or golden raisins.

Sweet Potato Soup
Picked this recipe, because I wanted to play with my food processor. Followed the substitution notes on this recipe and used canned sweet potatoes instead of boiling and mashing fresh ones. Had great fun puréeing the potatoes. Overall, a nice soup suitable for breakfast or a light lunch. Excellent with pumpernickel toast.

Classic Mashed Potatoes (with garlic)
Let me just admit that it never occurred to me to throw peeled garlic cloves in with the cooking potatoes. Nor did I ever consider warming the milk before adding it to the potatoes. The boiled garlic melt into the potatoes when mashed and provide that delicious garlicky flavor without changing the texture of the dish. The warmed milk does, indeed, create a smoother mash. Learn something new everyday!

Next, I hope to try "Roasted Autumn Vegetables" with parsnips and brussels sprouts. I love roasted brussel sprouts and parsnips are one of those vegetables I would eat more of, if only I knew what to do with them.

13 November 2008

Lo, It Is Like Unto Ambrosia

I made the most delicious thing for breakfast, today. Creamy, smoky, buttery, sweet ... I drool just thinking about it. What was this deliciousness, you ask?

Grits.

Yes, grits. Yummy, yummy grits.

I made a serving of Quaker Quick Grits, but substituted leftover whole milk (from the yoghurt experiment) for half the water. When the grits were just about done, I stirred in a tablespoon of maple syrup and a tablespoon of Brummel & Brown. I then let the pot sit, covered, for about five minutes while I microwaved some bacon. I crumbled the cooked bacon into the grits and ...

Ambrosia.

One of the most delicious breakfasts I have ever made, I kid you not.

(And how did the yoghurt experiment go? Pretty well for a first attempt. The yoghurt is tart like my favorite Greek yoghurt, but a little runnier then I prefer. Next week, I might add in some powdered milk (as per the manual) to get a thicker yoghurt).

11 November 2008

Machine Love

For my birthday, I received much in the way of culinary wonderfulness. So much wonderfulness that I may never leave the kitchen again.

Alas, if I did not leave the kitchen, I would not be paid. And so would not be able to purchase delicious ingredients. Nor would I be able to contribute to the mortgage. Then the cruel despotic bank would foreclose. Leaving me without a kitchen to use my wonderfulness in ...

Sob.

But, seriously, my birthday giftses were pretty awesome:

KitchenAid Nine Cup Food Processor
Euro-Cuisine Automatic Yogurt Maker
Zojirushi NS-LAC05 Rice Cooker & Warmer
Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Lunch Jar
8.5 Quart Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Dutch Oven
Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run by Alton Brown
Feasting on Asphalt: The Complete First Season (DVD)

(Not culinary, but still delicious: Tsuneo Kobayashi's Emma: Season 1 and Lego Batman for the PS3)

Rice cooker, yoghurt maker, and food processor? Where do I begin?

With the food processor, of course, because I've used one before and am only slightly less intimidated by it than by, say, the rice cooker. For my first attempt, I made a rather nice black bean soup using the recipe for "Cuban Black Bean Soup" off the Kraft website. It was dead easy to make and tasted even better the second day.

Heartened by my success, I made a carrot spread based on the "Carrot-Raisin Pinwheels" Kraft recipe. I used the food processor to shred unpeeled carrots and then combined them with light cream cheese, peppercorn ranch, and golden raisins. Left overnight, the raisins absorbed moisture from the spread and plumped up quite nicely. I ate the spread on bagels and in multi-grain wraps with greens. Yummy.

Next, I think I will try "Carrot Salad with Cinnamon and Raisins" from Winnie-the-Pooh's Picnic Cookbook as the dish has been on my mind since our open house.

Moving on to other machinery, I have 2% milk fat Greek yoghurt and a half gallon of local whole milk (not ultrapasturized) laid in to start yoghurt making with ...

08 November 2008

Cucumber Sandwiches, I Love You

We held a small open house last weekend for my family so that they might come up and see our new house, peek through our medicine cabinets, deplore our choice of location, etc.

Aside from almost running out of food, the event went rather well. Yes, people came to my house and I almost could not feed them! The horror! Before my family arrived, I was worried I had made too much food. One hour in, and I was panicking because we were out of tea sandwiches and running low on veggies. Happily, when faced with a lack of sandwiches, my guests just switched over to baked goods and I was not disowned.
Cucumber Sandwiches
From Winnie-the-Pooh's Teatime Cookbook (Dutton, 1993). I bought this cookbook and its companion, Winnie-the-Pooh's Picnic Cookbook back in college when I was a die-hard Ernest-Shepard-Pooh-not-Disney-Pooh fan. I've used the Picnic Cookbook quite extensively -- the recipes for pecan chicken fingers, red-potato salad and carrot-salad with cinnamon and raisins are old favorites. Alas, I have not used the Teatime Cookbook so much for fear of Doing It Wrong. One is married to a British Person, you see. One does not wish to muff up Tea Time ...

Well, happily, the cucumber sandwiches were quite the thing. About as similar to the cucumber sandwiches of his childhood as I could get without a time machine or "real British bread."

To make these sandwiches, I ran the tines of a fork down the length of unpeeled English cucumber and then sliced the cucumber thinly. I put the cucumber slices in a colander lined with a tea towels, sprinkled them with salt, and then topped it all off with another towel and the largest, heaviest jar I could find. While I let the cucumber slices sit for about twenty minutes, I squeezed a bunch of lemons to make 1 cup of juice. Then I zested one of the lemon halves and combined the zest with Brummel and Brown. I also minced some cress and prepped the bread.

To prep the bread (Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White) I trimmed of the crusts and flattening the bread slices a bit by rolling them with a large, heavy water glass (no rolling pin). After the cucumber slices had soaked, I squeezed them out and put them in the pie pan with some fresh ground pepper and a little lemon juice. I let them sit in the lemon juice for about 3-5 minutes on each side while I buttered the bread slices (all of them). Then I popped the cucumber slices out and gave them a quick blot with a towel. I laid the slices on half the bread, sprinkled them with cress, topped them with the rest of the bread, and cut the sandwiches into triangles. Delicious!

Deviled Ham Finger Sandwiches
I combined American Neufchâtel with Underwood devilled ham spread, light mayonnaise, minced stuffed green olives, and Worcestershire sauce. I spread it multi-grain cocktail bread and then used a biscuit cutter to make them round (and get rid of the crusts). If I made these sandwiches again, I would butter the bread a little bit or use a different bread (bread was very dry) and add some horseradish to the ham spread as it needed a little kick.

King Arthur Flour Vermont Apple Dessert Bread
From last year's KAF "Mix ’n' Magic Baking Club." Came with a jar of caramel sauce, but I thought I'd keep that for ice cream. This tea loaf was very easy to put together and kept quite well. It had a delicious "autumnal" flavor that made the loaf hard to stop nibbling at. I did soak the dried apple bits in cider rather than water to enhance the apple flavor, but think the loaf would have been equally good without that alteration. It served eighteen, but I cut it up using the ridges of my bundt pan as portion guides and ended up with twice that.

King Arthur Flour Pure Bliss Fudge Brownies
Also from last year's KAF "Mix ’n' Magic Baking Club." Don't know quite how to describe these ... Moist, but not gooey. Dark, but not bitter. Thick, but not heavy. Delicious? Oh, yes. Jacques Torres's website is spot on when it says "Every bite is an explosion of luscious chocolate that will leave you wanting more." Pretty sure The Husband would eat these everyday if he could!

03 November 2008

Holy Flaming Pumpkins!



Uploaded all my jack-o'-lantern shots to flickr ... it's been so long that I'd forgotten carving some of them. Must try the kitty again next year, I think.

01 November 2008

Dumb Candy

Well, we survived our first Halloween in the new house. Had many more trick-or-treaters than at our old address and came dangerously close to running out of candy toward the end (the horror! the horror!). While most of our trick-or-treaters were middle school boys in their school sports uniforms (if pressed, I think they'd identify as "zombie") we did have a whole legion of what I think were storm troopers. Or space soldiers. Or something ...