Monday, November 29, 2010

Microwave Caramel Corn

I've had this recipe forever. My grandma was the first one to make this delicious caramel corn, and I got the recipe from her. (Thanks, Grandma!)

The paper bag mixing method may seem a bit unorthodox, but trust me, it works perfectly! Later in the microwaving/shaking, the bag may get a little hot, so just be careful and use oven mitts if you need to. You really need to use a regular-strength brown grocery bag for this caramel corn, and shake it vigorously, making sure the top is rolled down and held securely. You'll also need to shake it upside down, holding a corner of the bottom of the bag, you know, just mix it up. You'll get the hang of it.

Caramel Corn, surrounded by Funnel Cakes!

You'll love this; our whole family does!

Microwave Caramel Corn
makes a lot!

1 cup unpopped corn
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 + 1/8 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 sticks butter
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pop corn, place in brown bag. (we use a hot air popper)

Boil brown sugar, corn syrup and butter for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, stirring, careful not to burn. Quickly add soda and vanilla, stir well until the mixture foams. Carefully pour into bag with corn, roll top down and shake well to mix.

Place bag in microwave (top still rolled), microwave 1 1/2 minutes on high, then shake bag hard and thoroughly. Microwave 1 minute on high, shake for 1/2 minute. Microwave 30 seconds on high, shake.

Pour into bowl or on baking sheet to cool. When cool, break into pieces if needed, and enjoy!

Funnel Cakes!

It all started with Julia Child, who else?

What I mean to say is, when it was finally my turn to pick a book for our book club, I picked Julie and Julia. You may remember that I then hosted a Saturday book club brunch, complete with three of Julia's recipes. And that's how it started.

For me at least, I like to tie things together. Sure, I could have just had a few random snacks for the ladies, but to me, it was more meaningful, and more FUN, to have a Julia-would-be-proud brunch. So that's how it started.

However, when it came time to choose my next book for book club, the choice wasn't because of any kind of food-related notion. I chose it because my dad told me Water for Elephants is one of the best books he's ever read. And that was enough for me. Naturally, then, the book club meeting needed (for me) to have a theme.

And the theme for the book club meeting? Well, Water for Elephants is largely about a circus. It is indeed a great book, so engaging and interesting and well-researched, it really makes you feel like you're part of the circus. There you have it.

Circus = cotton candy (no machine)
Circus = caramel corn (check, stay tuned!)
This particular circus = lemonade (check again)

I loved this book, and when it occurred to me that I had an excuse to make carnival/circus food, I loved it even more. This is going to be fun!

Also, for this month's Taste & Create, I was paired with Carol of No Reason Needed. Searching for a recipe of hers to make, guess what I found?

That's right, Funnel Cakes! She got her recipe from Moms Who Think, but added the water to get the batter to the right consistency.

I'm taking one small leap: I'm going to make the batter ahead of time, refrigerate it overnight and then transport it an hour to make the cakes at my friend's house so they're nice and fresh and warm. (It works for crepes, why not funnel cakes?) She's letting me use her house to host the book club since we had to reschedule at the last minute because we ran out of propane on an arctic cold Thanksgiving night and the propane guy won't come until next Monday at the earliest. Whew. I mean Brrrrr.

*If you STILL haven't heard of Taste & Create? It's the best monthly food blog event around, in which bloggers are paired up and must create a dish from their partner's blog. It is fun, can expand your cooking horizons, and can be as challenging as you make it. My friend Nicole, of For the Love of Food, created it, and if you haven't yet participated, what are you waiting for??*

So, the funnel cake batter worked fine being made ahead of time! This is great news. The only issue I ran into was that I had chosen a funnel with a hole that was too small--next time I will use a bigger funnel. But the cakes turned out great, and ended up cooking about 2 minutes total. I made a double batch, so I did need to add more oil in the middle of cooking (and then wait for it to heat up), but no big deal.

Jenny helped me, and sprinkled half of the cakes with powdered sugar, half with cinnamon sugar. Lovely! Served with Caramel Corn and Lemonade (if you read the book, you'll know why it HAD to be lemonade!)

Funnel Cakes

Makes 6

1 egg
2/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup water

powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar for topping

1. In a deep skillet, heat about two cups of oil over medium-high heat until hot. Test the temperature by dropping a pinch of flour into the hot oil. If it sizzles right away without smoking, it's perfect.

2. Beat egg and milk. Mix all other ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly add to the egg mixture, beating until smooth. (I tried to mix this by hand, but ended up pulling out my mixer to get the batter smooth).

3. Using a funnel, drop into hot oil working from center outwards in a web pattern. (You can use a gallon sized freezer bag instead of a funnel by pouring the batter into the bag, snipping off a small corner of it, and squeezing the batter into the oil.)

4. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally, remove from the oil when golden brown and crispy.

5. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar and serve.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Min's Thanksgiving Menu, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010


Hors d'Oeuvres:

Homemade Boursin

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Artisan Bread Crostini



Senegalese Shrimp Soup

I have wanted to try this soup ever since I saw the recipe back in June. I ran across it on Iron Stef's listings: Kitchen Parade's Sengalese (sic) Soup. You can serve this soup warm or cold, and delicious as it is warm, I think it would be fabulous served cold in the summer.

The whole family loved it. Next time I am doubling the shrimp. I used large ones, so each of us only got three or four shrimp, not enough! I'm going to stick with the large shrimp, but use 1 whole pound. Our shrimp were frozen and raw, so I thawed them in a bowl under cold running water while I was putting the rest of the soup together. When added to the soup, they were cooked through in less than 10 minutes.

It's fairly quick to put together, so have your ingredients prepped and ready. The soup has refreshingly complex flavors, hard to describe. We didn't let it sit for 6 hours, but I can imagine how much more fabulous it would be!

In my opinion, the lime zest is a must too.

Senegalese Shrimp Soup

Slightly sweet with honey,
summer corn and shrimp.

4 servings
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes - 24 hours
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 3-1/2 cups (28 ounces) low-fat chicken broth (not homemade)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice from about 2 limes
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup milk (preferably 2%, skim doesn't work)
  • ½ pound shrimp (uncooked or cooked)
  • Salt to taste
  • Strips of lime zest, for garnish

Heat a Dutch oven on medium high. Add butter. When bubbly, add onion and sauté for 3 – 5 minutes until onion is tender. Stir in flour and curry and cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, lime juice and honey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Stir in corn and simmer for 3 minutes. Add milk and shrimp. If serving warm, heat completely but do not boil, until shrimp is fully cooked (if uncooked) or warmed through (if cooked). Season to taste. To serve, top with lime zest. If serving cold, refrigerate until cold. The soup improves if left to rest for 6 - 24 hours before serving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wild Mushrooms a la Crème

This recipe comes from Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen, whom the San Fransisco Chronicle called "The Julia Child of Ireland." If you know anything at all about me, now you know several reasons why I own this book.

You may not know how much I love mushrooms. One of the things I miss most about Michigan is hunting morel mushrooms. Morels are my favorite, but I love every kind of mushroom. When I saw chanterelle mushrooms at Costco, I couldn't resist. And this recipe seemed like a fabulous use for them.

Now, I'll be the first to tell you that this is not a two-pan recipe, as Darina suggests it should be. I see absolutely no reason for it. I just cooked the onions first, removed them to a bowl, and cooked the mushrooms in batches in the same pan. They were to be added to the onion pan in the end anyway, so what's the difference?

I love Wild Mushrooms a la Crème. So delicious! Make some today!

Wild Mushrooms a la Crème

Serves 8

Mushrooms a la crème is a fantastic all-purpose recipe, and if you've got a surplus of wild mushrooms, use those instead of cultivated ones. You can even use dried mushrooms.

4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound wild mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, ceps, false chanterelles, or the common field mushroom), sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
good squeeze of lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onion, cover, and cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes or until quite soft but not colored; remove the onions to a bowl. Meanwhile, cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan with the remaining butter, in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add the chopped herbs.

Mushrooms a la Crème keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days and freezes perfectly.

Good things to do with Wild Mushrooms a la Crème
  • Serve as a vegetable
  • Filling for omelets or savory pancakes
  • Filling for vol-au-vents or pastry tartlets
  • Topping for baked potatoes
  • Sauce for chicken breasts, steaks, hamburgers, lamb chops, or veal
  • Sauce for pasta
  • Mushrooms on toast
  • Post enrichment for casseroles and stews

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sauteed Kale & Mushrooms

I thought I had shared this recipe before, but I guess not. We recently discovered kale, a bit late but better late than never! We don't really like it raw unless it's super fresh (don't like bitter), so we usually saute it with some mushrooms.

Sometimes we add onions, but most times not. Tonight, I stirred in a splash of lemon juice just before serving.

Easy, delicious, and good for you! Here's how to make it, so you can enjoy it too!

Sauteed Kale & Mushrooms
Serves about 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 small onion, diced (maybe 1/4 cup, optional)
8 to 12 mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch kale, washed and torn, green stems removed

Heat olive oil and butter together in a large pan over medium heat while you dice the onions. Add onions to the pan, then wash and slice the mushrooms. Add mushrooms to the pan and saute for a few minutes. Add kale to pan, stir together and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is bright green and mushrooms are cooked.

*If your kale is still bitter, turn heat to low and cook more until it's not.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Johnny Iuzzini's Apple Cranberry Pie

A possible first: I stumbled upon a recipe in the morning, made it in the afternoon, and it was gone by the evening. The source of the recipe was the Live! With Regis and Kelly TV show, where twists on favorite Thanksgiving recipes were being featured. I watched the pie being made in the morning and had a potluck to attend that evening. Why not? I like twisted.

I refer you to the website for the recipe with just a few comments about my pie-baking experience.

Let me first say, that I generally prefer making pies to eating them, but the reverse was true in this case. Also, please note that the pie-crust recipe given is for a single crust but two crusts are needed. Double the recipe, and use a full-size food processor.

I used Gala apples with much success. Additional varieties are suggested. Don't use Granny Smiths as noted.

Might as well use fresh-squeezed orange juice, since the recipe calls for the zest from an orange. I actually used two medium-sized oranges to get slightly more than 1/4 cup of juice. I used the extra juice to replace part of the water in the cranberry sauce used to make the Cranberry Whipped Cream, which is to die for. I put the zest of the second orange in the sauce after I had cooked it.

I substituted about a half-teaspoon of orange extract for the orange liqueur, which I didn't have on hand. The last change was not to fold all of the cranberry sauce into the whipped cream. Perhaps this wasn't necessary, but the Cranberry Whipped Cream was already such a lovely color, and I feared that too much folding in of too much sauce would take the air out of the whipped cream.

Do let the pie sit for a while after baking so that it won't be runny when served.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chicken Wraps with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Last week, CG asked me if I would prepare two lunches and a dinner on Monday and Tuesday, when ABEG would be here working cattle in the corral. You know, preg checking, branding, sorting. I said sure. And then I remembered that I wouldn't be around on Monday, since I had to drop H-Bomb off at school and then drive to the next town to take Sawed Off to the dentist. Then I'd have to drive back and pick up H-Bomb after school, which meant I'd be gone from 7:am until 4:pm. I needed a lunch I could put together the night before, one that would hold overnight and still be delicious.

I don't remember what made me pull The Gourmet Cookbook off the shelf, but I did. There I found a recipe for Turkey Wraps with Chipotle Mayonnaise, and roast chicken was listed as an option. I just happened to have a roast chicken in the freezer (which I had roasted myself, then froze for such an occasion). While the recipe didn't say anything about the make-ahead-ability of these wraps, I decided I'd take a chance. I made a triple batch--12 wraps. The only thing I did differently was use more roasted chicken. And I ate one for a late dinner Sunday night...excellent!

I'm so glad I took the chance! The wraps were amazing, and got many compliments from the folks hard at work in the corral. I actually made the pickled onions and chipotle mayonnaise on Saturday, then assembled the wraps on Sunday night. I rolled each wrap with one end closed, one end open, then wrapped each one tightly in foil, and stood them upright (closed ends down) in a bowl in a cooler. Also in the cooler was a bag of apples, a couple bags of good chips, and plenty of my Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies in a ziploc bag.

I heard raves about that lunch well into the next day and night. You should definitely try these wraps at home!

Chicken Wraps with Chipotle Mayonnaise
Makes 4 sandwiches
Active Time: 30 minutes
Start to Finish: 2 1/2 hours (includes chilling)

"For many of us, these turkey sandwiches are a post-Thanksgiving ritual. Spicy chipotle mayonnaise and Mexican pickled onion are the key players: both condiments are extremely easy to prepare and take virtually no time at all. As the onion cools in its brine, it turns the color of a pink pinata and becomes crisp. It will keep for weeks in a glass jar in the fridge. The mayo is made with canned chipotles en adobo sauce, one of our favorite pantry staples. Children might prefer salsa rosada (or as it's known in Utah, "fry sauce")--a combination of mayo and ketchup. The sandwiches are also delicious made with leftover pot roast, roast pork, roast chicken, you name it."

1 red onion (6 ounces), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo, including some adobo sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use Best Foods aka Hellmann's)

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1/4 pound sliced or shredded roast turkey or chicken
1/4 cup shredded lettuce leaves (I used romaine) or tender pea shoots
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

MAKE THE PICKLED ONION: Blanch onion in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute; drain. Return onion to pan, add vinegar, water and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl. Cool, uncovered, then refrigerate until cold, covered, about 2 hours.

MAKE THE CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE: Blend chipotle and mayonnaise in a blender or food processor until smooth.

MAKE THE WRAPS: Toast tortillas directly on (gas or electric) burners over moderate heat, turning over and rotating until slightly puffed and browned in spots, 40 to 60 seconds.

Spread 1 tablespoon chipotle mayonnaise on each tortilla. Arrange one quarter of chicken and lettuce across the middle of each tortilla and top with some drained pickled onion. Season with salt and pepper and roll up wraps.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Twice-Baked Potato Casserole

I was thumbing through Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks, looking for something to serve my cowboys, along with our version of Number One's Favorite Sandwich. I'd been craving some sort of stuffed baked potato, so her Twice-Baked Potatoes quickly caught my eye. I mentioned this on facebook, and my friend Jenny told me that when she makes twice-baked potatoes, she just puts them in a casserole dish instead of baking them individually. That sounded perfect for this crowd, especially since I'm serving at least 11 people tonight.

So these potatoes are loosely based on Ree's, technique influenced by Jenny, and the final product by me. I changed the quantities on some of the ingredients (mainly because I simply couldn't bring myself to add a whole pound of butter...) Feel free to reduce the quantities to serve your own crowd.

I like to dice my bacon before frying it (it's just easier to cook for me), and then for this recipe I diced it a bit smaller after it was cooked. I also did NOT peel the potatoes at all, ever. You need the peels to get the "baked potato" flavor. And the recipe is really so easy!

OMG. This casserole was soooooo good! It totally hit the spot and satisfied my baked potato cravings. Everyone loved it!!

Twice-Baked Potato Casserole
adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks' Twice-Baked Potatoes

13 baking potatoes, scrubbed clean
olive oil
kosher salt
1 pound thick-cut bacon, diced and fried and diced smaller
2 sticks butter, cut into slices
2 cups sour cream
1 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
black pepper to taste
3 to 4 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
4 green onions, whites and greens sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rub potatoes with olive oil to coat; place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 45 minutes, or until baked through. (easily poked with a fork) Chop roughly. (do not peel)

Put butter, sour cream, milk, seasoned salt and pepper in a LARGE bowl. Add chopped potatoes, and mash together to mix. Add bacon, 2 cups cheese, and green onions, mix well with wooden spoon.

Dump entire mixture into a 9x13" pan, smoothing top. Top with about 2 cups cheese.

At this point, you can freeze or refrigerate, or bake.

Bake potatoes in a preheated 300 degree F oven until heated through and cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes if baked right away; around 20 minutes if refrigerated. (I don't know about the baking-after-freezing, if you try it let me know, or I'll report back next time)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beef Burgundy Stew

It's Shipping Day again, which means it's time to make a meal for a big crew of cowboys. No matter what time we end up eating, it's called "Shipping Day Lunch" (even if it's after dark). This year, there's a possibility of 16 people, and it's cold outside, so I needed a big pot of something warm.

I grabbed my Betty Crocker's Country Favorites cookbook, which I honestly haven't used very much. When you're making lunch for cowboys and cattle buyers and ranch hands, it's a good idea to serve beef. Just so you know.

I decided on this Beef Burgundy Stew, just because it sounded so good. Expecting about 16 people, I had to double the recipe. I ended up cooking the onions and mushrooms in two separate pans to save time, and I browned the 6 pounds of beef in batches in the main stew pot, moving browned pieces to a platter to wait until all the beef was done. I made the executive decision not to drain the beef in the pot (although I did drain off a bit of juice from the plate). I also elected not to stir constantly after adding the broth and flour (there's really no point), but I did stir constantly during the 1 minute boil. Next time, I will do things a little differently.

I read somewhere that you shouldn't cook with a wine you wouldn't drink, but I also don't believe you have to pay a ton of money for a good bottle of wine. So use your best judgment when choosing a bottle of burgundy, or if you're in my small town, just buy the only bottle of burgundy the closet-sized liquor store has to offer, and hope for the best!

The stew was delicious and comforting and filling, and someone even asked me if I had made the beef broth myself. (no). I refrigerated it overnight and reheated it the next day, which worked fine but the wine in the broth did turn the mushrooms and onions a bit grayish. It did not effect the taste at all. This probably isn't a stew I'd freeze, but if you try it be sure and let me know how it works!

Beef Burgundy Stew
Serves: 8 Prep time: 25 minutes Start to finish: 2 hours 30 minutes

This is a great dish to make when you are having a crowd over. It feeds a lot of people without too much work for you! Grab several loaves of good French bread--this stew makes a wonderfully rich Burgundy sauce that is oh-so-good sopped up with crusty bread.

2 tablespoons butter
5 medium onions, sliced
1 pound sliced mushrooms (6 cups)
3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups red Burgundy (1 whole bottle of wine)
French bread, if desired

1. Melt butter in Dutch oven or 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions and mushrooms in butter about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender. Remove vegetables from Dutch oven; drain and reserve.

2. Cook beef and garlic in Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Sprinkle with salt, marjoram, thyme and pepper.

3. Mix broth and flour; pour over beef. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

4. Stir in Burgundy. Cover and simmer 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, stirring in onions and mushrooms 5 minutes before end of simmer time. Serve in bowls with bread for dipping into stew, if desired.
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