Monday, December 28, 2009

Lazy Day Braised Pot Roast

This recipe comes from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, which has some interesting recipes in it. I turn to it from time to time, but it seems like there are a lot of ingredients that are not typical pantry fare, so I don't end up trying the recipes. Then I forget what ingredient it was that I needed, or what recipe the ingredient I picked up was for, and so I still don't try the recipes. I think my system needs some fine-tuning.

Anyway, I got a couple roasts out the other day, when we thought we might be having company for dinner. Good thing I didn't cook the roasts, because they didn't show up! It did give me some time to look for a new recipe to try.

Number One isn't a fan of roast, so I'm hoping this is a good one. He says they are "too dry" but maybe this one will be different...The cider vinegar is interesting; I'm eager to see how it turns out. I'm typing this up and publishing before I know the results...I will update after the roast is done and dinner is served!

Oh, and I always spray my slow cooker insert with PAM Cooking Spray before I put the ingredients in there--it helps to prevent that stubborn, stuck-on stuff that's so hard to clean.

After Dinner Update: The pot roast has a nice flavor, it cooked just over 6 hours. I think it could have cooked longer (the potatoes were not quite as mushy as I like), but Number One disagrees. He said this roast wasn't too dry, but he thought if it cooked longer, it would have been. Who knows.

I can tell you: that weird little beurre manie? While it sounds like a nice idea for making gravy, it just didn't do a darn thing for mine. I started out turning the crock pot on HIGH as directed, whisking away, but after 10 or 15 minutes of Nothing Happening, I gave up and dumped everything into a saucepan. On high heat. Still nothing (or not enough for me to call it gravy).

I had plated the roast and vegetables and stuck it in a 200 degree F oven to keep warm--thank goodness. Finally, Number One asked if he could take the meat out and serve the boys. Of course. I tried longer to make the gravy, I really did, whisking in front of the stove while everyone else ate and I knew my portion of dinner was getting cold. I whipped up another mixture of butter and flour, whisked it in, the gravy boiling away (hoping for a bit of reduction).

Still not enough to call it gravy. I gave up. I poured some into a bowl, and as you can see it is just thin thin thin. I am disappointed in the gravy ordeal, which normally isn't a problem for me. But, thankfully my dinner wasn't quite cold, and the gravy was flavorful if not thick.

I'd make this again. I'll just plan an extra hour for the gravy-making time.

Lazy Day Braised Pot Roast

This is lazy because there's no browning, no fussing. Just load up the cooker and later in the day thicken the flavorful juices collected in the crock. This recipe has much more liquid than the others, and that is the basis for your gravy. The meat stays moist and tender, just the way we like our pot roast. It is just as good the next day.

Serves 6 to 8

Cooker: Medium oval or large round or oval
Setting and cook time: LOW for 6 to 8 hours

One 4-pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed of as much fat as possible and blotted dry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large carrots, cut into 3-inch lengths (I peeled mine)
4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves
3 cups water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Put the roast in the slow cooker and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Add the carrots, potatoes, onion and bay leaves. Pour the water and vinegar over the meat and vegetables. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

2. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a heated platter and cover with aluminum foil. Turn the cooker to HIGH. You will have about 3 full cups of liquid. In a small bowl, mash together the butter with the flour to make a beurre manie (using a fork or small food processor, mash or pulse together until the mixture becomes a semi-firm mass). Add to the hot liquid in the cooker and stir with a whisk until melted and the liquid thickens. Ladle some gravy over the meat and vegetables and serve the remainder in a bowl.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taste & Create XXVI: Dukkah

For this month's Taste & Create, hosted by Nicole of For the Love of Food, I was paired with Simran of Bombay Foodie. I was all set to make her Pav Bhaji, some authentic "street food" from a place called Juhu Beach. All I had to do was order the pav bhaji masala from The holidays distracted me and I didn't get the spice mix ordered.

So I decided to take one more cruise around Simran's blog. And I found this very interesting blend of spices and almonds that Simran had been looking for while in Dubai, called Dukkah.

And when she mentioned Dubai, I just had to laugh, because this blog gets a lot of hits from Dubai, believe it or not, but they are not searching for recipes--nine times out of ten they are searching for "bad indian girls." Hee hee. I'm sure they're disappointed when they click over here, but some of them actually look around for a few seconds!

In case you didn't know, we eat a lot of bread. I usually try to have at least one fresh loaf of Artisan bread around. We love bread with olive oil. And this Dukkah is something you eat with bread, dipped in olive oil, then dipped in dukkah. I think it's fate. I can't wait.

I started off toasted everything at about medium heat, but that proved to be a bit hot for some of the more delicate spices, so I ended up down at low, then just dumped everything into my nearby Black & Decker Handy Chopper (mini food processor)~perfect size for this job~as it came out of the pan! I can honestly say I had never toasted peppercorns before, but I did it...I started to "toast" the salt, but it just didn't seem right, so I stopped. Also, if I couldn't tell if the spices were getting toasted, I really just went by smell--when they were fragrant enough to smell, but weren't burned, they were done. You really have to pay attention!

When I blended everything together, it looked like some grainy sort of sand in a bowl, but it smelled interesting.

And I can tell also tastes interesting. I think it may be an acquired taste, but I'm doing my best! There is something about it that makes you want to eat more and more (that would be the highly addictive quality Simran mentions below!). Just a little salty, but I know that's my fault!

I think...I think I like it! Yes, I like it. It just takes a little while to decide.

Did I grind everything up small enough? I don't know...maybe one of the Dubai guys can break away from their porn search to let me know!

Simran's Dukkah

1/4 cup almonds (I used slivered almonds)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon peppercorns
8-10 dried mint leaves (I used just under 1 teaspoon of mint flakes, not sure the leaf to flake equivalent)
1/2 teaspoon fennel (I used fennel seeds, aka anise seeds)
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

The key to making dukkah is : line up all your ingredients, toast each of them separately in a heavy non-stick pan till they are fragrant and lightly roasted, then put everything in a blender and grind coarsely. This is your dukkah. Now dip your bread in olive oil, then dip it in dukkah and indulge. A final word of warning: this can be highly addictive.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pollo a la Poblana con Hongos

Early this month, we met some friends of ours a new-to-all-of-us Mexican restaurant called Tequila's. If you can find one near you, make plans to go there. Everyone loved what they had for lunch. I loved my Pollo a la Cazuela so much that I am on a quest to replicate it. And that's where this recipe comes in. The Pollo a la Cazuela is "Breast of chicken cooked with mushrooms sauteed in sour cream."

I came home and scoured my Mexican cookbooks for chicken with mushrooms. I found this recipe in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. Although it doesn't include sour cream, the luscious Poblano Cream Sauce was an instant selling point for me.

As luck would have it, the store was out of poblano chiles, so I used canned whole green chiles, sliced them into strips and skipped the roasting/peeling/seeding part--quite a nice shortcut, actually! Number One was able to pick me up some good mushrooms though, so I used a mix of shiitakes and baby bellas.

I was planning to make this dish Christmas Eve, then our plans changed and we joined some people for a grilled salmon dinner. So I pushed the dish to Christmas dinner, for which we were planning on some relatives joining us, but that didn't happen and we ended up eating leftover ham instead.

So this year, it is our fabulous Day After Christmas dinner. Since I had already made the sauce on Christmas Eve, I added some water and cream to thin it a bit. I also ended up cooking the dish in the oven for between 5 to 10 minutes longer, to make up for the sauce being cold. It seemed to work.

Although this does not have the same flavors as "Pollo a la Cazuela," it is delicious! The poblano cream sauce is wonderful with the mushrooms and the chicken is very tasty. Number One and I loved this, Sawed Off said it was yummy and H-Bomb said he "liked it a little." I must say that H-Bomb ate all of the chicken we put on his plate. We will definitely be eating this again.

And, I will continue my quest for the Pollo a la Cazuela recipe! Aren't you all lucky?

Chicken Breasts with Poblanos, Mushrooms and Cream

These chicken breasts are one of the simplest, dressy (yet gutsy) crowd-pleasers you can prepare. The poblano-cream combination that has popped up in several of my recipes makes an entree appearance now--to great advantage. The mushrooms lend an earthiness to the sweetness of the cream and rich spice of the chiles. I love to spoon a little Classic White Rice onto the plate, or Green Poblano Rice for a more special touch. Not-too-oaky Chardonnay or Viognier is the perfect libation.

Serves 6, with about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of sauce

For 2 cups Essential Poblano Rajas
1 pound (6 medium-large) fresh poblano chiles (OR about half of a 27-ounce can of Hatch whole green chiles, drained and sliced into 1/4-inch strips)
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme)

1 cup whipping cream of creme fraiche
6 large leaves epazote, if you can get them (I can't)
Salt, about 1 teaspoon, plus a little for sprinkling on the chicken
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus a little extra for garnish
6 medium-large (about 2 pounds total) boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
3 cups (about 6 ounces) sliced mushrooms (preferably shiitake, oyster or some delicious wild variety--chanterelles are great)

1. Making 2 cups Essential Roasted Poblano Rajas. Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning occasionally until blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for open flame, about 10 minutes for broiler. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand 5 minutes. Peel, pull out the stem and seed pod, then rinse briefly to remove bits of skin and seeds. Slice into 1/4-inch strips.

In a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high, then add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until nicely browned but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and herbs, toss 1 minute, then stir in the chiles and heat through.

2. The sauce. Scoop about 1/3 of the rajas out of the pan and onto your cutting board. Roughly chop them and set aside. Add half of the cream and the epazote to the skillet, simmer over medium for about 5 minutes, then scrape into a food processor or blender. Add the remaining cream and process (loosely covered, if using a blender) until smooth. Taste and season with salt; stir in the cilantro and the reserved chopped rajas. If necessary thin with a little water (or chicken broth) to the consistency of a medium-thick cream soup.

3. The chicken and mushrooms. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry the skillet, set over medium-high heat and measure in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil. Dry the chicken breasts on paper towels, then lightly sprinkle both sides with the salt. When the oil is sizzling hot, lay in the chicken breasts in an uncrowded layer (you may have to brown them in two batches). When lightly browned on one side, about 2 minutes, flip and brown the other side. Lay in a single layer in a gratin dish or a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish.

Return the skillet to the heat (there should be a light coating of oil left; if not add a little more), add the mushrooms, and stir until nicely soft, about 5 minutes, depending on the variety. Strew them over the chicken breasts, then spoon on the sauce.

4. Finishing the dish. Cover the baking dish lightly with foil and bake until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce is beginning to brown at the edges, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro (thinly sliced epazote is enticingly aromatic as a garnish here, too), and carry right to the table, baking dish and all.

Advance Preparation: The sauce may be completed through step 2 a day or two ahead; cover and refrigerate. Step 3 may be completed early in the day you are serving (store everything covered in the refrigerator), then complete step 4 just before you are ready to eat.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chicken Chasseur

Chicken is the ultimate fall-back food for me. If I don't have any plans for dinner, or any meat thawed, chicken seems to thaw fast in the microwave without starting to cook, and it's usually delicious. So that's what I seem to turn to time and again. (unless I turn to mac & cheese from a box. but that is another story...)

Yesterday, I was so busy I just hadn't thought about dinner. I pulled out my Food & Wine Quick from Scratch Chicken Cookbook. This dish quickly caught my eye, and I'm so glad it did.

It's relatively easy to put together, and the results are fabulous. Indeed, we have another entry for Chicken in a Fabulous Sauce right here, folks! I will admit, it took longer than the advertised "30 minutes," but it's worth it. Just start a bit earlier than, ahem, 5:45PM...

H-Bomb loves mushrooms, so he loved this dish. He ate a second helping of mushrooms and even ate most of his chicken despite being sick! We served it with, what else, Artisan Bread for mopping up this fabulous sauce!

There are various measurements of salt and pepper added here and there throughout this recipe. I didn't measure, just added some here and there when called was perfect. Measure if you must!

Incidentally, this dish is on the cover of the cookbook that I have, and I just couldn't get a pretty picture of this last night! It would have helped if I had remembered the parsley...oh well. You're just going to have to trust me that this is delicious. Again.

Chicken Chasseur
A French classic that never seems to go out of style, this dish combines mushrooms and chicken in a tomato and white wine sauce. The name, literally "hunter's chicken," harks back to a time when game birds and mushrooms from the woods were a natural autumn combination. Prep time: 6 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes Serves 4

1 tablespoon cooking oil
4 bone-in chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 pounds in all)--I used 2 1/4 pounds of thighs because that's what I had
1 teaspoon salt, DIVIDED
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, DIVIDED
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons flour
6 tablespoons dry vermouth or dry white wine (I used wine)
2/3 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes, drained (I used diced tomatoes)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. In a large, deep frying pan, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook until browned, turning, about 8 minutes in all. Remove. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan. (I didn't pour off anything)

2. Add the butter to the pan and reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to moderately high. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are browned, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the wine and bring back to a simmer. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, thyme and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices. Reduce the heat; simmer, covered, until the chicken is done, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Wine recommendation: This earthy dish is perfectly suited to the rustic charms of a country red wine from southwestern France. Look for a bottle from one of the various appellations in that region, such as Cahors, Madiran, or Bergerac. Or simply choose a lovely Merlot! (I added that last part, can you tell?)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Maggie's Favorite Cranberry Cookies

This recipe comes from a beloved children's book, Cranberry Christmas by Wende and Harry Devlin. When we were growing up, we had both Cranberry Thanksgiving (with a delightful Cranberry Bread recipe) and Cranberry Christmas, both books bright and artful. Lovely pictures, good stories, in the back! I loved these books, and I love these cookies!

I really need to track down our old copies of these books, I know my boys will love them. And I can just see H-Bomb wanting to decorate a Christmas tree with seashells, the way I always wanted to...

The cookies are tangy and not as sweet as you'd expect them to be. Just right, and an interesting addition to the traditional Christmas cookie spread.

also pictured, Butter Cookies

Maggie's Favorite Cranberry Cookies
From “Cranberry Christmas,” by Wende and Harry Devlin, 1976

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 Tblsp lemon juice
3 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries, stemmed and chopped
1 cup chopped walnuts
raw sugar crystals, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375. Measure flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a bowl; stir with a fork to mix.

Cream butter and sugars in a large bowl till fluffy; beat in egg, milk and lemon juice. Stir in flour a little at a time, until well blended; stir in cranberries and walnuts. Drop dough by teaspoons full, about one inch apart onto greased cookie sheets. (or parchment paper) Sprinkle each with some raw sugar.

Bake 15 minutes, or till firm and golden. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tomatillo Chicken

I've been meaning to try this Tomatillo Chicken recipe ever since I saw it in the September issue of Everyday Food magazine. Some things just take time to come together. This recipe isn't too labor intensive, although I will admit it took me longer than 15 minutes of prep.

If you've never worked with tomatillos before, you just remove the papery husk, then the fruit will be sort of sticky. I've found that barely warm water is helpful, and you can just rub the sticky stuff off with your fingers. Not too bad, just remember that tomatillos are a bit fragile so don't get carried away scrubbing.

I also had to cook my chicken in two batches (I used a couple 1.5 pound package of thighs because that's what I had). Other than that I followed the recipe, using the hominy out of curiousity, but leaving out the cilantro both because I forgot about it and also because I'm just not a fan. Sorry, cilantro.

Oh, and I also only used one jalapeño, most of the seeds removed, because I have two young boys who occasionally don't like "spicy" foods. And honestly there's no telling what will trigger the "too spicy" response for the oldest one, sometimes it's just too much plain black pepper. This from a boy who used to eat raw serrano peppers out of the garden. It boggles my mind too.

There was one thing that confused me: at the end of the recipe, during the simmer, it doesn't tell you to reduce the heat on the burner. I reduced the heat to just over low. (I could still hear the chicken simmering) I felt like they wanted me to, even though it wasn't explicitly stated.

This chicken is excellent. Tangy and delicious. Even H-Bomb liked it, and Number One and I ate more than our share. So good.

Tomatillo Chicken

Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

2 pounds tomatillos (husks removed), washed and halved
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut into 10 pieces (wings reserved for another use)
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 jalapeños, chopped
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 can (15 ounces) hominy (optional), drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. In a food processor, puree tomatillos, set aside. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pot, skin side down. Cook until browned on one side, 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

2. Add jalapeños and onion to pot and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatillo puree and hominy, if using; season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken, skin side up, in sauce. Cover pot; simmer until chicken is cooked through, 22 to 25 minutes. Stir in cilantro; season with salt and pepper.

Chicken Fried Steak & Gravy

Chicken Fried Steak is a favorite of mine to order in restaurants, usually for breakfast. There's just something comforting and familiar about it, especially if it's good. I don't think we've ever made it before though.

This recipe comes from Betty Crocker's Country Favorites. The recipe description reads: This fried steak and gravy dish, popular in Texas and throughout the Southwest, was invented out of necessity on cattle drives. To feed hungry cowboys, trail cooks would slice beef off a hind quarter, tenderize it by pounding it with a meat cleaver, roll it in seasoned coating and fry it hot sizzling oil like chicken--hence it's name. If you'd like to save a bit of time, substitute cubed steaks for the round steak.

Whatever the recipe's origins, it is delicious. And pretty easy too. The other night we served it for dinner, with mashed potatoes and salad.

Chicken Fried Steak
6 servings Prep time: 35 minutes Start to finish: 35 minutes

1 1/2 pounds boneless beef round steak, about 1/2 inch thick
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
1 cup soda cracker crumbs (28 squares) [we used oyster crackers]
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Milk Gravy (recipe below)

1. Cut beef into 6 serving pieces. Pound each piece until 1/4 inch thick to tenderize. (we put the beef into a ziploc bag, then pounded it for much less of a mess)

2. Beat water and egg; reserve. Mix cracker crumbs and pepper. Dip beef into egg mixture, then coat with cracker crumbs.

3. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook beef in oil 6 to 7 minutes, turning once, until brown. Remove beef from skillet; keep warm. (We kept our steaks warm on a plate in a 200 degree F oven)

4. Reserve drippings for Milk Gravy. Make gravy and serve with steak.

Milk Gravy
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk

Measure reserved drippings (from step 4 above). (I didn't measure. I just tipped the pan up, eyeballed the drippings, and decided it didn't need more oil. You can measure if you'd prefer). Add enough vegetable oil to drippings, if necessary, to measure 1/4 cup. Return drippings to skillet. Stir in flour and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly to loosen brown particles from skillet, until smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Slowly pour milk into skillet, stirring constantly. Heat to boiling over low heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Frozen Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie

Sweet and Savory Says it All

The first comment I must make, is, in my humble opinion, this pie should not be frozen. We could not wait for it to freeze so we ate when it was creamy and almost like a mousse. It was unbelievable. I do know that it is good frozen because I have had similar pies like this but for a whole different treat, try it both ways.

What is nice about this pie is that you can put it in the freezer and have it ready, if company drops by, or if you want to treat yourselves.


1 1/2 cups heavy cream

4 ounces semisweet chocolate squares, chunked

Chocolate crust - my favorite is made from a cream filled chocolate cookies. Regular chocolate cookies work well, also. If you can buy these, you can use the ready-made. This time, I picked the crust up, when I was shopping.

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

3/ cup smooth peanut butter


In a small bowl, combine a half of the cream and the chocolate.

Microwave this, very carefully, checking every twenty seconds. I would put it on a medium temperature. When, taken it out, it should be gently stirred until is is smooth.

Place chocolate over crust.

Freeze for 40 minutes.

Prepare filling:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.

Whip 1 cup whipping cream until stiff. Beat half of whipped cream into peanut butter mixture until well mixed.

Add remaining whipped cream.

Spread filling evenly over chocolate mixture in crust.

Freeze for 30 minutes.

Carefully spread remaining chocolate mixture over top and decorate if you would like. You could use chopped peanuts, sprinkles or chips.

Freeze overnight. Remove an hour before using.

Fresh Flowers

I can't remember where I ran across this recipe, but it works every time!

I love fresh flowers, but I don't love paying for them only to watch them wilt and die in less than a week. With this simple solution, my flowers stay fresh for well over a week, sometimes up to 2 weeks! It's amazing, and I really feel like I am getting my money's worth from a beautiful bouquet.

We had a bouquet of flowers on the kitchen island for our housewarming party, which was on October 17, and I finally tossed them out around the 1st of November! This really works.

Simple Flower Solution

In a 4-cup measuring cup, add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Fill to the 4-cup line with lukewarm water, and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Pour into your vase, trim about an inch off of the flower stems, and arrange them.

If you need to replenish the water, just mix up another batch and use it to fill your vase.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nutty Orange Coffee Cake

I saw Paula Deen make this coffee cake on the Today Show back in October, but haven't made it yet. It looks so good, and it was fun to see Paula shoving a big piece of it in Al Roker's mouth. Cute! And it just looks so darn easy and delicious.

I was thinking about something special to make for our Christmas morning breakfast this year. Initially I considered our family's Christmas Morning Rolls, but honestly I have mixed results. I decided to try these.

I'll report back after Christmas! I wish I knew if I could put this together ahead of time and just throw it in the oven when we wake up...any thoughts? I don't know if I'm brave enough to try it without some kind of backup plan in place.

What will you be having on Christmas morning?

This coffee cake is fabulous! So orangey and delicious. I didn't make it Christmas Eve for several reasons, the number one reason being I just didn't feel like it. It was pretty easy to throw together in the morning, and we ended up finishing with our gifts early enough to go to a brunch, so we took the cake with us. Everyone loved it.

Nutty orange coffee cake
from Paula Deen via The Today Show

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (pretty finely chopped)
2 teaspoons orange zest (didn't measure, used zest from about 1/2 an orange)
Two 12-ounce cans refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 count)
One 8-ounce pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar (I didn't sift)
2 tablespoon fresh orange juice (I used juice from 1/2 an orange)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-cup Bundt pan.

In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar, pecans, and zest; set aside.

Separate the biscuits. Place about 3/4 teaspoon cream cheese in the center of each biscuit. Fold each biscuit in half over the cheese, pressing the edges to seal. Dip the biscuits in melted butter, then dredge in the granulated sugar mixture. Place the biscuits curved-side down, in a single layer in the hollows of the Bundt pan, spacing them evenly (do not stack).

Place any remaining biscuits around the tube, filling in any gaps. Drizzle any remaining butter over the biscuits, and sprinkle with any remaining sugar mixture.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Immediately invert the cake onto a serving platter.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and orange juice, stirring well; drizzle the glaze over the warm cake. Serve warm.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Orange Rosemary Roasted Turkey

Can't believe I forgot to post this recipe from our Thanksgiving dinner! This turkey would also make a lovely Christmas dinner extra special.

This was the highlight of our holiday table, moist and delicious and perfect. Everyone loved the turkey. It was so easy to get ready. I had already made Homemade Gravy the day before, so I didn't have to mess with preparing gravy while everyone was waiting for dinner. The next time, I will definitely try the Orange Rosemary Gravy (recipe soon!). I had actually planned on making it after dinner, but I was so tired that I simply forgot, and then I fell asleep and then it was too late. Next time!

I did add a can of broth before I put the turkey in the oven, honestly I think it could have used another half-can or more.

Orange Rosemary Roasted Turkey
Hands-on time: 15 minutes Total time: 3 hours, 40 minutes (includes resting) Serves 8 (with leftovers)

2 onions, cut into wedges
2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
8 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 small oranges, halved
1 12- to 14-pound turkey, giblets removed (our turkey weighed over 18 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (if needed)~I added 1 can of broth to the pan before roasting
Fresh fruit and herbs for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large roasting pan, scatter the onions, carrots and 2 sprigs of rosemary; place 4 orange halves in the corners of the pan, cut side up.

Stuff the turkey with the remaining 6 sprigs of rosemary and 2 orange halves. Tie the legs together with twine and tuck the wings underneath the body. Place the turkey on top of the vegetables, brush with the oil, and season with 1 teaspoon salt.

Roast the turkey until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. (Cover the bird loosely with foil if it browns too quickly and add the broth to the pan if the vegetables begin to scorch.)

Carefully tilt the turkey to empty the juices from the cavity into the pan. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for at least 25 minutes before carving. Garnish with the fruit and herbs, if using. Reserve the pan and its contents for the Orange-Rosemary Gravy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lentil Soup

It's been soooo cold here, and snowy even, it just makes me want to curl up with a nice, warm bowl of soup. Today, the soup that was calling my name is Lentil.

For excellent soup recipes, especially for a classically vegetarian soup, I always count on Mollie. This recipe comes from her classic Moosewood Cookbook. (I have both the original version from the 1970's and the 15 year anniversary edition, the latter is where I found this recipe).

The only change I made to the recipe was stirring in a few chopped spinach leaves a few minutes before serving. The drizzle of red wine vinegar was a revelation, it really added that little something extra that we didn't even know we had been missing! Try it, and you'll see.

Lentil Soup
Preparation time: about 1 hour Yield: 6 to 8 servings This is a very easy fat-free lentil soup that just about cooks itself. Only one pot is needed, so cleanup is easy.

3 cups dry lentils
7 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
6 to 8 medium garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced or diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes (I used 1 can diced tomatoes, drained)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh spinach (my addition; optional)
red wine vinegar, to drizzle on top

1) Place lentils, water and salt in a kettle. Bring to a boil, lower heat to lowest possible simmer, and cook quietly, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes.

2) Add vegetables (except tomatoes & spinach), herbs, and black pepper. I also added another 1 1/2 cups of water. Partially cover, and let simmer peacefully another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Heat a medium saucepanful of water to boiling. Drop in the tomatoes for 10 seconds, then take them out peel off the skins, and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the remaining pulp and add to the soup. [or just throw in a can of tomatoes, who's going to know?]

Stir in about 1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh spinach.
Let the soup cook for at least 5 minutes more.

4) Serve hot, with a drizzle of vinegar on top of each steaming bowlful.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Horchata de Melon (Melon-Seed Drink)

I am posting this recipe for my friend Emily, who asked if I had a good Horchata recipe. I don't believe I've ever actually had horchata, but this recipe is from a very reputable cookbook, Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, so it's worth a try. I hope she'll try it and let us know how it is. Or I will. (or if any of you does, please let us know)

I have a feeling this may not be exactly what you're looking for, Em, but you never know. I'll keep looking, too...I think the rice/almond mixture sounds kind of good, so now I want to try that one too.

Diana writes: Horchata, a milky-looking drink originally made of almonds or a small white tuber called chufa, was brought from Spain to Mexico, where it became popular in the Yucatan. There it is generally made by soaking and grinding raw rice, often with the addition of a few almonds, then straining and serving over ice. It is considered delicious, healthy and refreshing, but what drink wouldn't be refreshing in that heat? I had always thought it was just plain dull--but there are always surprises in Mexico.

After lunch one day at a friend's house, I went back to the kitchen and saw that the maids were saving the seeds from the cantaloupes that we had been eating for lunch. They were going to make horchata from the seeds. Some cooks rinse, drain, and dry the seeds, but I think this is the most delicious version of all.

Horchata de Melon
Melon-Seed Drink
Serves 1

Scrape the center fleshy part from 1 cantaloupe, seeds and juice included, into a measuring cup, and for every cup add:

1 cup cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, or to taste

Put all the ingredients together in a blender jar and blend until very smooth. Set aside in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1/2 hour, then strain through a fine strainer and serve over ice cubes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup)

Although I already have an excellent recipe here for Martha's Potato Leek Soup, I've been reading Julie and Julia, and Potage Parmentier was one of the first recipes Julie made from Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

Although I'm not presuming to (gasp!) doubt Julia, her soup only has 6 ingredients (4 main ingredients). Martha's recipe has many more: subtle spices, shallots, garlic, and honestly I simply LOVE Martha's soup. I guess we'll have to see what happens with Julia's...I'm willing to give it a chance!

If you're not exactly sure how to clean the leeks, which can be quite dirty inside, please follow this link for a quick lesson!

I don't have a pressure cooker, but I've included those directions because I know a lot of people do. I stirred in cream at the end, but had I not had cream, I think butter would have been fine. We served our soup with a loaf of Artisan Bread. We were going to have a simple salad too, but I didn't get around to it. Soup and bread was plenty for us.

Julia's soup is simple and comforting, and yes, delicious! I should never have doubted it. I do still love Martha's soup, of course, but believe it or not, Julia's is sooooo much easier.

The boys started out dipping their Artisan Bread in the soup, and by the end of the meal, they were drinking the soup out of their mugs! I think H-Bomb even had seconds. If that isn't a Seal of Approval, I don't know what is.

You can also see this recipe featured on
in my very first spot as a Guest Host for
"Guess Who's Coming To Dinner"

Potage Parmentier
[Leek or Onion and Potato Soup]

Leek and potato soup smells good, tastes good, and is simplicity itself to make. It is also versatile as a soup base; add water cress and you have a watercress soup, or stir in cream and chill it for a vichyssoise. To change the formula a bit, add carrots, string beans, cauliflower, broccoli or anything else you think would go with it, and vary the proportions as you wish.

For about 2 quarts serving 6 to 8 people

a 3- to 4- quart saucepan or pressure cooker
3 to 4 cups or 1 pound peeled potatoes, sliced or diced
3 cups or 1 pound thinly sliced leeks including the tender green (and well washed); or yellow onions
2 quarts of water
1 tablespoon salt
4 to 6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2 to 3 tablespoons softened butter
2 to 3 tablespoons minced parsley or chives

Either simmer the vegetables, water and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender; or cook under 15 pounds pressure for 5 minutes, release pressure, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork, or pass the soup through a food mill. Correct seasoning. Set aside uncovered until just before serving, then reheat to the simmer.

Off heat and just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls. Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with the herbs.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Whole Grain Artisan Bread

I've been hearing about this new book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois for a long time now, but I don't have it yet. I am addicted to their Artisan Bread, thanks to Becky, of course I was intrigued by the whole grain variation.

My friend Cath told me recently that several of the recipes were featured in Mother Earth News, and she said she would photocopy the article for me and mail it. In the meantime, my friend Stacey mentioned the recipes to me yesterday on facebook, and then it dawned on me to check the Mother Earth News website--and there was the recipe!

I'm excited to try it, I'm mixing up a batch right now! I will report back with pictures and commentary and results, but I thought someone else out there might be wanting this recipe Right Now here it is.

A couple notes: I don't own a pizza peel or a baking stone, I bake the regular Artisan bread on a sheet pan, with cornmeal underneath, and it works just fine every time. I have also never messed with the water and the "steam baking" and I don't plan to do it this time. I guess wish me luck! This dough is a lot harder to mix by hand than the regular Artisan Bread dough, but I did it.

I think I didn't grab quite enough dough, because my loaf was a bit small...and the oval-shaping was a bit awkward, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it. I baked my loaf for about 40 minutes (I always bake longer here at 5,300 ft. altitude). It's cooling now, on a rack. I'll be back soon to let you know how it tastes!

Be sure to visit Jeff & Zoe's website for more ideas, hints, tips and if you have any questions you'd like them to answer personally!

Below is the excerpt from Mother Earth News (written by Jeff & Zoe, of course), and here's my cute little loaf!

Whole Grain Artisan Bread

We’re showcasing a free-form loaf that’s rich in whole wheat, shaped as an elongated oval, and topped with a delicious and nutritious seed mixture. It bakes easily and makes terrific sandwiches. Our wet dough develops sourdough character over two weeks of storage in the refrigerator. By mixing dough in bulk without kneading and using it as it’s required, you’ll truly be able to make this bread in five minutes a day (excluding resting and oven time).

Follow the instructions below to make enough dough for at least four 1-pound loaves. The recipe can easily be doubled or halved.

5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp (2 packets) granulated yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
4 cups lukewarm water (Note: You can add a teaspoon of dried herbs to the water for herb-flavored breads.)

Cornmeal or parchment paper

1 to 2 tbsp whole seed mixture for sprinkling on top of the crust: sesame, flaxseed, caraway, raw sunflower, poppy and/or anise (optional)

1. Mix dry ingredients. Use dry-ingredient measuring cups (avoid 2 cup measures, which compress the flour) to gently scoop up flour, then sweep the top level with a knife or spatula. Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl, or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket. Lidded (or even vented) plastic buckets designed for dough storage are readily available.

2. Mix with water — kneading is unnecessary. Heat the water to slightly warmer than body temperature (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit). Add to the dry ingredients and mix without kneading, using a spoon, food processor (with dough attachment), or heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You may need to get your hands wet to get the flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine. Don’t knead! It isn’t necessary.

You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes, and yields a wet dough that remains loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

3. Allow to rise. Cover with a lid (not airtight) or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flatten on top), which will take about 2 hours. Longer rising times — even overnight — will not change the result. Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. So, the first time you try our method, it’s best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours) before shaping a loaf.

After it’s been refrigerated, the dough will seem to have shrunk back upon itself. It will never rise again in the bucket, which is normal for our dough. Whatever you do, do not punch down this dough! With our method, you’re trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible, and punching it down knocks gas out and will make your loaves denser.

On Baking Day:

4. Quickly shape a loaf. First, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal (or lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat) to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Dust the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter-turn as you go to form a ball. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the ball may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive.

The entire process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds. If you work the dough longer than this, it may make your loaf too dense.

5. Form a narrow, oval-shaped loaf and let it rest. Stretch the ball gently to elongate it, and taper the ends by rolling them between your palms and pinching them.

6. Allow the loaf to rest — covered loosely with plastic wrap — on the pizza peel for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

Alternatively, you can allow the loaf to rest on a silicone mat or greased cookie sheet. Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise during this period. More rising will occur during baking.

7. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other rack that won’t interfere with the rising bread.

8. Paint and slash. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top of the loaf with a little water. Sprinkle with the seed and nut mixture. Slash the loaf with quarter-inch-deep parallel cuts across the top, using a serrated bread knife.

9. Baking with steam. After a 30-minute preheat, you’re ready to bake. With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. If you used parchment paper instead of cornmeal, it will slide onto the stone with the loaf. If you used a silicone mat or cookie sheet, just place it on the stone. Quickly but carefully pour about a cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch (smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time).

If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat, or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it and bake the loaf directly on the stone or an oven rack when the loaf is about two-thirds of the way through baking.

When you remove the loaf from the oven, it may audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room-temperature air. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.

10. Store the remaining dough in your container in the refrigerator and use it over the next couple of weeks. You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. The dough ferments and takes on sourdough characteristics. When your bucket is empty, don’t wash it! Mix another batch in the same container. The aged dough stuck to the sides will give you a head start on sourdough flavor. To take it even further, incorporate up to 2 cups of your old dough.
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