Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy (Thanksgiving) cooking

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving....I did the last of my shopping today (as well as regular weekly shopping) and when I was picking up my fresh turkey order at the local Publix I was amazed at the people with frozen turkeys in their carts. I'm prayerfully hoping that they are not having their holiday meal until this weekend....cause as I explained to Bella, "ain't NO way that Butterball will be thawed out by tomorrow!!"

Thanksgiving can be stressful for a lot of people. Admittedly, the more people you tend to invite, the stress level increases accordingly. I've always held Thanksgiving to pretty much a family only holiday, but have attended "bashes" where there were 30 to 40 people in attendance...not my idea of a good time. For us, Thanksgiving is a time to watch the Macy's parade, peruse the Black Friday ads (the internet has rendered the hunt for a paper on Thanksgiving morning no longer necessary, thank God!) and (if Karis is here) putting up the tree. This year will be the first year I will not be making a whole turkey, as there's just going to be the four of us. I refuse to torture my kids with turkey leftovers for two weeks time, so opted for a half breast and three drumsticks. There will, of course, be my husband's favorite cornbread stuffing, but this year we will be without Karis' sweet potato casserole and rosemary corn bread (she and Christine will be with Christine's family in Pennsylvania).

Don't stress this holiday. As I was watching the Food Channel yesterday, I heard some very good advice "Great is only 10% better than Good....and good is...good enough" Allow yourself to see the humor, the fun, the camaraderie in cooking together for this holiday. If the turkey is dry, use more gravy.....if the pumpkin pie is dry, use more whip cream. The most important thing is not what is ON your table, but who is AROUND your table. Be happy, be thankful..be less stressed. Even a turkey TV dinner eaten with the one you love can be the most bountiful meal ever.

Here's a recipe for one of my family's favorite holiday salads...although we won't be having it this year for Thanksgiving...it is almost always on the table for the holidays. Enjoy

"Miss Judy's Broccoli Salad"

2 heads of broccoli
1-2 pkgs of grape tomatoes
1 block of mild cheddar cheese
1 medium red onion
1 lb. bacon.

Cut the heads of broccoli into very small "florets", discarding most of the stalk. Halve the grape tomatoes, cut the cheddar cheese into small cubes, and dice the red onion. Cook the bacon until crisp, allow to cool and then crumble. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl

Dressing:

(I'm going to apologize in advance for the recipe for this dressing, because I never measure...I always make it "to taste")

take a large tablespoon from your drawer and measure three heaping spoons of mayonnaise into a small bowl. Add to that about 1/4 c. of sugar. Then add about 1/8 c. (slightly less than half of your quarter cup measure) of apple cider vinegar. Whisk well and then taste. This dressing should have a slightly "sweet" edge to it...if it's too "vinegar-y" add more sugar...if too "sugar-y" add more vinegar. Should be smooth in consistency at this point. Pour it over the salad and mix well. Make sure everything is well covered (honestly if it doesn't cover the salad well, you'll have to make it bit more...this happens to me sometimes, ok a lot actually---luckily it's quick and easy to make! lol)

Today's food quote: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Friday, November 19, 2010

A "Wizarding" recipe for my kids...and yours...with thanks to Tammy!!

Last night, to prove my love and devotion to my daughter, I went to bed at 11:30 and then got BACK up at 2:00 in the morning to go and pick her and her friends up from the midnight showing/opening night of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)" I must confess, that I am NOT a Harry Potter fan, but all of my children are, so I support them wholeheartedly. Anything that encourages reading...and I am there.

So it was with great interest that I read a recipe posted by my friend, Tammy, for "Butterbeer" which is (I'm told) a beverage enjoyed by the characters of the Harry Potter series, and served in lovely frosted mugs at our neighbor...the newly opened "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" (aka "WW", "Harry Potter Land", or "Potterville"). I can not personally vouch for whether or not this
recipe is authentic or tastes anything like the ones served in WW. I'll have to get back to you. But, in honor of last night's opening of "Deathly Hallows" and out of love for my daughter(s) and THEIR love for Butterbeer, I'm going to post it here. I'm told that "butter extract" (called for in this recipe) can be found in the baking aisle of almost all grocery stores; near the vanilla, lemon and almond extract. McCormick's supposedly makes some.
If anyone has made this, or does make this, please post your opinion of it's authenticity and taste.

So, Harry Potter fans, enjoy your Butterbeer. Maybe you can make some, kick back and watch the other movies before you head out to the theater to see the latest (and next to last) movie.

Homemade Butterbeer

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients


FOR THE BUTTERBEER
6 12-ounce bottles cream soda [I prefer IBC (which is vegan) or Polar Classics Vanilla, but any will work perfectly]
3 teaspoons butter extract


FOR THE FOAM (Vegan/Dairy-free recipe linked above)
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons butter extract

To make the butterbeer: Set out 6 16-ounce glasses. Place 1/2 teaspoon of butter extract in each glass. Pour 12 ounces of butterbeer into each glass. Lightly stir, if necessary.

To make the foam: In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, whip the heavy cream on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and continue whipping until very soft peaks begin to form, another 3-4 minutes (if you need to whip more or less, then be sure to do so, the times can vary quite a bit based on environment). Stir in the vanilla and butter extracts, then whip for another 30 seconds or so, until soft peaks form.

Spoon a generous portion of foam on top of each glass of butterbeer. Serve immediately.

Today's food quote: Harry found the hot drink as welcome as the firewhisky had been on the night that Mad-Eye had died; it seemed to burn away a little of the fear fluttering in his chest. ~J.K. Rowling, "The Thief," Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Holidaaaayyyyssss!!

Oh, the holidays are fast approaching. Someone I know posted on their Facebook the other day, "only two more paychecks until Christmas (they get paid on the 15th and the 30th/31st") and that struck mortal fear into my heart. We have purchased exactly TWO Christmas presents. Of course, it does not help that in our family we have four children having birthdays from the end of October until the end of November (the other two are in July...thus messing with the "back to school" period). I have my annual holiday party coming up in less than a month so it's pretty stressful this time of year, with parties, planning, gift giving and such. My plan, for today, is to give you ideas for both parties and gift giving. My favorite types of gifts are those from the heart...someone knows me, loves me, and took the time to make something they knew I'd love. So here are three ideas for both holiday gift giving from the heart, and special little additions for your holiday get-togethers.

Party Popcorn

2 Tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola, corn, or even olive oil will work)
1 c. (unpopped) popcorn
1/2 stick of butter
2 tsp.ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp. ground paprika
4 tsp. table salt (regular iodized salt, not the coarse kosher or sea salt varieties)
4 tsp. sugar

Put the oil in a large pan (one that has a tight fitting lid), add the popcorn and cover quickly, over medium to medium high heat. Let the popcorn pop, shaking the pan every now and then to keep everything moving. You'll hear it begin to pop (don't open the lid!!). Once it has stopped popping, remove from heat immediately.

Melt the butter with the spices in another pan and then pour it over the popcorn. Stir well to mix (another idea is to add the butter and spices mix to the popcorn and then turn everything out into a large paper grocery sack and SHAKE, SHAKE SHAKE!!)

Arrange in several party bowls or if giving as gifts place small amounts into festive plastic bags, or larger amount into gift tins/contains (these can be easily and inexpensively found at your local "dollar store".

Chocolate Pistachio Fudge:

12 oz. (70% dark) chocolate, chopped, or 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chips
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
pinch of salt
1 c. shelled pistachios

Melt the chopped chocolate, condensed milk and salt in a heavy based pan on very low heat.

Put the nuts into a ziploc bag and bash them with a rolling pin until broken up into both big and little pieces.

Add the nuts to the melted chocolate and condensed milk and stir well to mix. Pour the mixture into an 9 inch square foil tray, smoothing the top. Let the fudge cool and then refrigerate until set. You can then cut into small pieces approximately 3/4" by 1 3/4", or cutting 8 by 8 lines in the tin to give you 64 pieces.

Once cut you can keep it in the freezer, no need to thaw. Arrange on small holiday plates for your party, or place in festive holiday bags or tins.

Spiced Peaches:

2 (14 oz) cans peach halves in heavy syrup (you DEFINITELY need the peaches to be in heavy syrup, not fruit juice, for this recipe)
1 T. rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 short cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced thinly into rounds
1/2 tsp. crushed dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves

Empty the cans of peaches into a sauce pan with their syrup. Add the vinegar, cinnamon, sliced ginger, chiles, salt, whole peppercorns and cloves. Bring the pan to a boil and let boil for a minute or so then turn off the heat and leave it in the pan to keep warm.

These make an amazing side dish to a pork roast or ham...serve a peach half to each guest with some of the spiced juice. Several peach halves can be placed into decorative jars and then covered with the juice and this makes a wonderful holiday gift. Needs to be kept refrigerated...so if giving as a gift put than info onto the label.

So I hope this gives you some ideas for both parties and gift giving. If you have any of your own, PLEASE share them here.

Today's food quote: "Remember the good times and learn from the bad...there ain't nothin' you can't learn in the kitchen" Paula Deen

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Breakfast--any time!!

A friend of mine came over yesterday...my intention was for her to come for coffee and breakfast/brunch. My stock "company brunch" is a frittata...but I was bored with that. So...in perusing my recipes I made a surprising discovery; it was totally bereft of almost any breakfast recipes!! So armed with an idea, a pantry, and the internet..I set off on a quest to find recipes with an "Autumn/Thanksgiving" flair...and this is what I came up with. Dishes such as these can make ANY breakfast special. I highly recommend sitting down with a great friend over coffee (or tea, or even Diet Coke) and breakfast and have the kind of chat that stretches into the afternoon. It's the most awesome thing. Thank you, Dinorah...for being my friend and making my life richer.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. pumpkin pie filling
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 T. sugar
3 eggs
1 3/4 c. milk

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the eggs and milk. Use a blender or food processor on low and blend. This batter is REALLY thick. I would recommend making pancakes about the size of a salad plate..I made mine smaller and wish that I wouldn't have. Also, butter the griddle that you're cooking them on. These are great served dusted with powdered sugar and/or warmed maple syrup. They keep very well in a ziploc bag for breakfast the next day, warmed in the microwave.

The Dutch Baby:

4 eggs
1 c. milk
2/3 c. flour
1/2 stick melted butter
3 T. sugar
dash of vanilla
1-2 sliced pears (depending on size of pear)
extra butter for pan

Mix all ingredients except for the pears (and extra pan butter) together. Melt the extra butter in a medium sized cast iron skillet. Add the sliced pear, then add the batter. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar.

This is going to puff up REALLY high so don't be scared...also...when removed from the oven, it's going to "deflate" rather quickly--so I would recommend timing its removal at or VERY near the moment you intend to eat it. Also good with whipped cream....and it's been suggested here that it'd make a lovely dessert (maybe for a light lunch?) with vanilla ice cream on the side. The great thing about this is you can make it with almost any fruit (apples, berries, even bananas---or a combination). One of the most versatile things around.

Today's food quote: "Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable." Ina Garten--"The Barefoot Contessa"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mexican Rice.....fiesta! Ole!

Gosh I think I'm a horrible blogger...I get sidetracked by a little weekend (ok...so my husband had 5 days off over the weekend..it ran a little long)and then I get off track. So..today, I'm going to provide you with TWO recipes...as a kind of "catch-up". The first is one I not only make as a stand alone, but also make it (as I did last night) when I have left overs. It's one of the best uses for left over rice (outside of rice pudding..) Although I prefer to make it with yellow rice, you can also use white.

Mexican Rice Casserole:
3 cups yellow rice
1 can Ro-tell tomatoes
1 8 oz bag of shredded cheese (either cheddar or the taco/mexican blend, depending your preference)
1 lb. ground beef
1 small, or 1/2 medium onion (preferably red) chopped
1/2 can yellow corn
1 envelope taco seasoning
salt
pepper
cumin
sour cream

brown ground beef and chopped onions together; seasoning with salt, pepper and cumin to your taste. Add taco seasoning packet according to directions. Cook rice according to package directions (or use leftover rice). When finished combine the Ro-tel, 1/2 of the cheese, the corn, and the meat. Place in a casserole pan. (if I'm making this with leftovers I usually use a 9x9 pan, but if making it "from scratch" for a potluck, and using the entire rice package, you'll need a 13x9x2 pan). Top with remainder of the cheese. Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is "bubbly". Serve topped with sour cream.

The second recipe is a GREAT recipe for leftover potroast. I love to make soup from my leftover potroast, or sometimes a pot pie, but my kids get sick of it. For a change, I came up with this recipe and (for now) it seems to be quite popular.

Stroganoff

1/2 to 1 lb leftover pot roast, shredded (beef or pork).. You CAN make this out of a pound of browned ground beef if you want to, but I pretty much reserve this recipe for leftovers. Also good with leftover turkey, you'll just need to use turkey gravy.
1 small to 1/2 med diced sweet onion
1 package button mushrooms, sliced (optional...my kids hate them so I leave them out if they're going to be home...but it DOES really improve the flavor
1 jar of brown gravy (beef or pork)
1/4 to 1/2 c. sour cream (depending on how much meat there is)
package of egg noodles

Saute the onions and mushrooms in either olive oil or butter, your choice. Cook noodles according to package directions. After onions have been cooked until "clear" and mushrooms are done, add the meat so that it can warm through. Once warmed, add the gravy and then sour cream, stirring until gravy and sour cream are mixed together well. Don't boil. Let simmer for about 3 minutes. Drain noodles and add some butter. Serve gravy/meat mixture over noodles either on individual plates or on a large serving platter.

Both of these recipes are awesome for those colder evenings (and I'm SO glad they seem to be FINALLY getting here!!) and also are great ways to use up leftovers in the fridge. Isabella loves the Mexican Rice SO much, she even warms it up and eats it for BREAKFAST!!

Today's food quote: "I won't eat anything that has intelligent life, but I'd gladly eat a politician or a network executive" Marty Feldman, comedian