Thursday, December 31, 2009

Our favorite pumpkin pie

My pumpkin pie turns out a little different each time I make it, especially if I'm using fresh pumpkin, but over the years I've managed to at least decide upon a basic recipe from which to start!

Pumpkin Pies (makes 2)

Single pie crust for each pie

4 c pumpkin puree (2 15oz cans will work)
3 c evaporated milk (2 12 oz cans)
1/2 c sugar
4 T molasses
4 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
4 t cinnamon
2 t powdered ginger
1 t ground cloves or allspice
1/2 t nutmeg
4 eggs

Mix all the ingredients together. Add eggs last so that you can adjust the flavorings if necessary. More sugar may be needed. Pour into two single pie shells and bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake an additional 45 minutes.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stroganoff meatballs

Stroganoff meatballs use as much of your Meatball Master Mix as you want. Serve them with egg noodles, and add some roasted veggies or salad for a hearty thirty minute meal! The recipe below is enough for 2/3 of your Master Mix, or approximately 2 lbs of meatballs.

Stroganoff Meatballs

3 c regular white sauce
3 oz cream cheese
2 T tomato paste
Clove of garlic, mashed
1 - 2 t fresh thyme
2 lb meatballs, pre-cooked
1 c sour cream

Combine white sauce through thyme in pot or slow cooker on high; heat and stir till blended. Stir in the meatballs and simmer. Stir in the sour cream without boiling. Add the paprika and salt.

Prepare egg noodles. Stir into sauce if desired, or just serve with meatballs and sauce poured over.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mexican pork and sweet potato stew

Compliments of Woman’s Day magazine, this tasty recipe comes under the heading of a one-dish wonder! It also clocks in as a thirty minute meals, hearty and spicy, even faster if you’ve done the once a week food preparation. You can add less heat if your family prefers by swapping out bell peppers and mild salsa without the chipotle kick. As for us, bring it on!

Mexican Pork and Sweet Potato Stew

Olive oil
1 1⁄4 lbs pork tenderloin, cut bite-size
1 1⁄2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed 2 poblano chile peppers, seeded and sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1 chopped garlic
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 can (14 oz) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 1⁄2 cups salsa (we used Old El Paso Fresh Mexican Style Smooth Chipotle)
Garnish: chopped cilantro, tortilla strips

1. Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a deep nonstick skillet. Add pork; cook over medium-high heat 7 minutes or until browned. Transfer pork to a plate.

2. Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in skillet. Add potatoes, peppers and onion. Cover; cook 5 minutes, stirring, until peppers and onion soften slightly.

3. Stir in garlic, cumin and cinnamon; cook a few seconds until fragrant. Add broth and water; bring to a boil. Add corn; cover and cook 5 minutes or until vegetables soften.

4. Stir in salsa and pork; heat through. Sprinkle servings with cilantro and tortilla strips if desired.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Scads of leftover ham?

We have been having prime rib for Christmas dinner for the last couple of years, so there haven’t been any leftovers, thankyouverymuch!!

Dang, I love leftovers, especially when there are a couple of good Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) recipes that I can make in double or triple batches, enjoying one tonight and others later when I’m in a hurry. So here are some recipes to help you use up your leftover ham, if you’re fortunate enough to have some, in style. A couple are OAMC recipes, and others are for serving fresh tonight!

Cranberry Ham Grill – an OAMC delight

Baked Jambalaya – freezes really well for OAMC cooking

Quick Jambalaya - for tonight

Red Pepper Risotto with Italian Sausage – substitute chopped ham for the sausage…you won’t have to spend time browning it!

Beet Greens with Canadian Bacon – substitute finely chopped ham for the bacon

Ham and Squash Stew - a delicious variation on Turkey and Squash stew

Spicy Split Pea Soup - nutritious

Image: MorgueFile

Saturday, December 26, 2009

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Grilled Gruyere cheese with onion sandwiches

Isn’t it nice to have a few really easy meals right before or even right after Christmas when you’re so rushed? But you still want them to be tasty and comforting, even if they’re easy. So how about this? Take the humble grilled cheese sandwich, and elevate it to a new art form! That’s what my husband and I think of these sandwiches. You can leave out all the extra goodies if the kiddies only like them traditional. I’m also thinking that the next time we grill, I’m going to construct these on a long loaf and wrap them in foil in order to do them panini style!

Easy to make in under thirty minutes, even if you do have to grate the cheese! Don’t be lazy and slice it…it’s much better grated and mixed with the other ingredients.

Grilled Gruyere Cheese with Onion Sandwiches

Olive oil
Large red onion, cut into rounds
1/2 to 3/4 lb of Gruyere cheese, grated
8 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 T balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
8 thick slices of Italian bread (or more)

Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet and saute the onions until well-cooked. Scrape into bowl with cheese through salt and pepper. Mix well. Divide up among 4 sandwiches. Add more oil to the skillet and grill each sandwich on medium low heat, flipping once. Cut in half to serve.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Corn and parmesan risotto

I posted awhile ago about how to make basic risotto. Don’t let the multiple steps throw you off…it’s not hard, and it’s really worth it. No other cooking method yields the creamy goodness of risotto!
This particular recipe mixes corn with the arborio rice. Fresh grated parmesan tops it off. It goes wonderfully with chicken – grilled, oven-roasted, crock potted, whatever! Make sure you add basil and olive oil to your chicken, and it’ll make your taste buds dance. The risotto could also be the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal, no meat required!

Corn and Parmesan Risotto
3 T butter (you can substitute olive oil)
1/2 c onion, chopped
1-1/2 c Arborio rice (short-grained)
1/2 c white wine
1/2 t salt
5 c (40 oz) chicken broth
1-1/2 c corn, fresh or canned
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan
Follow the directions for Basic Risotto. Add the corn when the broth is almost all absorbed. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and serve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Ultimate Chocolate Muffins

My friend Heather, over at Chocolate Bytes, shared her recipe for double chocolate nut muffins last spring. With very few changes (I use super-dark cocoa and chocolate), I’ve been making them ever since. I thought I already had a good chocolate muffin recipe, but Heather has made a convert out of me.

Visit Heather, not just for the great muffins, but for all her wisdom and recipes surrounding everything chocolate!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Black currant jelly

I was offered the chance to try making jelly out of R.W. Knudsen’s black currant juice, and of course I jumped at the chance. The Knudsen juices are 100% juice. No added sugar. No artificial sweeteners. Nothing extra. Nada, zip, zero! Therefore, when you drink them straight, a juice like this one will pucker your mouth so fast it’s funny! But my oh my, the jelly you can make from this juice.

Many of us don’t make jellies or jams ourselves because of the laborious process of picking, cleaning, and cutting the fruit, and then there’s the water-bath process. More time. Did you know that you can make freezer jellies and jams instead, and eliminate the water-bath? And if you start with pure fruit juice, you’ll save even more time.

R.W. Knudsen Family’s Just Juices work great – jelly-making in less than an hour. Just Juice Black Currant creates a tart fruit flavor – paired with clotted crème and a fresh scone it’s a holiday win. Here is the recipe provided by the Knudsen company, along with my variation:

Black Currant Jelly
1 32 ounce bottle of R.W. Knudsen Family’s Just Black Currant (4 cups juice)
1 1.75 ounce no sugar needed pectin
2 ½ cups sugar
Pour juice into 6-quart pan.
Gradually stir in pectin.
Bring mixture to full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
Stir in sugar and return to full rolling boil.
Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Skim as necessary.
Fill, seal, and water-bath process according to instructions included with pectin.
Yields 5-6 8 ounce jars.

Instead of doing the water-bath, I filled my freezer containers, refrigerated them for 24 hours, and then put all but one container into the freezer. The remaining container was obviously for right now! My freezer containers (shown above) might not be quite pretty enough to use as gifts, but there are jars available that are freezer safe if you’d like to use these for Holiday gift giving!

Images: R.W. Knudsen, Cyndi Lavin

Saturday, December 19, 2009

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Amish applesauce cake

This cake recipe is from the central Pennsylvania region where I grew up. NO ONE does desserts better than the Amish! The traditional recipe uses shortening, but if you’d like to replace it with butter, that works too. Either way, this ain’t no diet cake, but it’s not too unhealthy either. Lots of the sweetness comes from the applesauce.

Applesauce Cake

1/2 c shortening
1 c sugar (white or brown)
1 egg
1 c applesauce
1/2 t salt
1/2 baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 to 1 t cloves
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1 c flour
1 c raisins
1/2 c chopped nuts (I like walnuts, Mike likes almonds…we usually have almonds!)

Cream the shortening and butter together. Add egg and beat until light. Add the applesauce and stir in. If you’ve been using an electric beater, switch to a wooden spoon at this point. Stir in the salt through the spices, mixing well. Stir in the flour, raisins and nuts. Bake in a greased 8 inch pan (round or square) at 350 for 45 minutes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cookbook review: The New Lasagna Cookbook

The New Lasagna Cookbook
by Maria Bruscino Sanchez

Maria is wild about lasagna and is willing to bet that you will be too, if you aren’t already! Just listen to some of these dishes:

  • Sicilian chicken sauce lasagna
  • Arugula and prosciutto lasagna
  • Asparagus and goat cheese lasagna
  • Tortellini lasagna Bolognese

Maria has traveled all over the world to collect the inspiration for this book. Most of the recipes feature the traditional broad noodles that we think of with lasagna, but some of her varieties use crepes, phyllo, tortillas, and even sliced polenta.

There’s much to drool over in this wonderful new cookbook! I made the “Lazy Carbonara Penne for a Crowd” (shown above) and it was very very well received. Below is the “Artichoke and Spinach Lasagna” which was also very popular :-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brussels sprouts with bacon-horseradish cream

This is a great side dish! It’s possible that even your family members who don’t normally like Brussels sprouts will like these. Possible. Not necessarily highly likely though!

We love ‘em, and we always have. Maybe we’re just weird that way. With this wonderful sauce conjured up by Eating Well magazine, we love ‘em even more :-)

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon-Horseradish Cream

1-1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 strips crisp-cooked bacon, finely chopped
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream (I used plain yogurt instead)
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan
, add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Put Brussels sprouts in the basket and steam until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Mix bacon, sour cream, horseradish, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss to coat.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chicken and wild rice casserole with artichokes

After putting the first few ingredients into a pan, you’ll just stick it in the oven and walk away for about 45 minutes. Time to read a chapter of your novel, do a load of laundry (yuck), talk with a friend on the phone, supervise homework…

When you return to your kitchen, you’ll just saute up the veggies quickly, smother the rice and chicken with them, and eat! You can also substitute turkey if there are still leftovers hanging around :-)

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Artichokes

1 c uncooked wild rice
4-1/2 c stock
Skinned chicken breasts

Olive oil
3 carrots, sliced
2 c mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c flour
1 t rosemary
1/2 c sherry (cooking sherry is fine)
2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered

Mix rice, 2-1/2 c stock, chicken pieces, in a large baking pan and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 450, covered in foil, for 45 minutes.

Saute the carrots and mushrooms in olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the flour and rosemary and mix them in well. Add the rest of the stock and the sherry and cook for a few minutes until thickened. Add the artichoke quarters and stir till slightly heated. Arrange the vegetable mixture over and around the chicken on rice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Matzo brei for Hanukkah or for Christmas eve!

Oh how I love a heaping plateful of this savory goodness! This is one of my ultimate comfort foods, because I love the saltiness (helped by additional salt added at the table), the warmth, and the creamy deliciousness. Please, do not substitute olive or vegetable oil for the cooking butter!

I don’t care which holiday you’re celebrating or getting ready to celebrate: this is a great main dish to serve on a night when you’ve had no time for preparation. Everyone has just walked in the door and everyone is starving! Set the kids up making toast for everyone and getting out the jams and jellies, and you can have this on the table in under thirty minutes, easy!

Matzo Brei

1 onion, chopped

3 c crumbled matzos, or matzo farfelle
Boiling water to cover

6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c buttermilk or plain milk with a t of white vinegar

In a large heavy skillet, saute the onions in butter until tender. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, cover the matzo with just enough boiling water to barely cover. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly with the salt and buttermilk. Add the onions as soon as they’re ready. Mix in the softened matzo.

Add more butter to the skillet and cook the matzo brei until it is no longer runny. Don’t brown the mixture.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

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Beef and squash stew

This is a great beef stew to have for Rosh Hashanah, when everything is to be round and/or sweet to start off the new year right. Shallots, thyme, butternut squash, and cranberries all help to make this a savory but slightly sweet stew. We like it anytime during the fall and winter. So I thought I’d make it tonight to celebrate the first full day of Hanukkah, plus my sweetheart's birthday!

Cooked in a crock pot, you’ve got a couple of alternatives for preparation: stew the squash for a long time and it will break down like tzimmes, making the broth thick and rich (well, at least it seems rich, but there’s no added fat!). Stew it for a shorter time and the squash chunks will hold their shape. It really is up to you…we like it both ways.

Beef and Squash Stew

3 t canola oil
2 – 3 shallots, chopped

1 – 2 lb stew beef, cubed small
1 T flour
1 t thyme
1 t sage
Salt and pepper

2 14 oz cans of beef broth (or homemade)
4 – 5 c butternut squash, peeled and cubed (I buy it frozen in bags this way!)
1/2 c cranberries (slightly sweetened are fine)

Saute the shallots slightly in a heavy skillet and set them aside. Brown the beef, adding the flour and spices after the pink is all gone. Saute for an additional minute. Add a cup or so of broth, and scrape all the browned bits from the pan. Pour it all, plus the shallots, into the crock pot.

Plan to let the meat cook on low for at least four hours; more is fine. Add the cranberries. If you would like the squash really soft and somewhat incorporated into the broth, add it now. Otherwise, add it about 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Basic latkes

There are so many variations that you can make on the basic latke, or potato cake. They can be baked instead of fried, but we really love the crispness that you can only get with pan frying. You don’t have to use tons of oil…just a smidge of olive oil will do the trick.

Potatoes can be joined by many other vegetables, and I suggest that you experiment to see what you like best, but try the basics first! Carrots, parsnips, green onions, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, leeks, and many other veggies make good latke companions. Additionally, many folks add some matzo meal, or flour and leavening ingredients to make them more pancakey. We like them that way too, but our favorite is still the stripped down potato and vegetable version.

Basic Potato Latkes

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, shredded
Large yellow onion, shredded
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Optional for serving: applesauce, sour cream

Mix potatoes through salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Dip out by 1/3 cup measures and fry in olive oil until golden brown, turning once. Turn them carefully, as they fall apart easily. Serve immediately as they are finished; they lose their crispness quickly.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Epicurious has the complete Hanukkah guide

It starts tomorrow night, folks! So if you haven’t already planned the menu or you don’t even know where to start, it’s Epicurious to the rescue!

I love it: they’ve titled their guide Lots of Latkes, and it includes recipes, complete menus, and how-to videos. What more could you want, other than a take-home chef to prepare it all for you!

Photo by Lara Ferroni

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Panko crusted fish

Following along with our Japanese theme, I cooked tilapia fillets encrusted with panko bread crumbs. They are much lighter and fluffier than other bread crumbs, giving the fish a delightfully crisp coating that easily flakes apart along with the fish.

Panko Crusted Fish
1 lb tilapia fillets
1/2 c butter, melted
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 T lemon juice

1 c panko
1 t Old Bay seasoning, optional

Lemon wedges

Melt the butter in a shallow dish with the crushed garlic; add the lemon juice. On a plate, mix the panko with the seasoning. Dip each piece of fish into the butter and dredge with the panko mixture. Place fillets onto an oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Add any remaining panko to the tops of the fillets. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes and serve with lemon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Adventures in sushi

Since two out of the three of us are not much into raw fish, we make "cheater" sushi with mostly raw vegetables, but also with some smoked salmon. It's an awful lot of fun. Dani, Mike, and I each rolled two logs; we definitely got better at it on the second try. Please don't judge us based upon these uneven, crumbling pieces, half of them with fish hanging out...these were our first try!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Harira soup

Moroccan beef or lamb soup, known as harira, is full of delicious spices. Don't skip the step of serving it with lemon wedges...the little bit of acid and flavor from the lemon juice brightens the soup's flavor beyond compare!

Moroccan Harira Soup (with beef)

Olive oil
1 lb stew beef
1/2 t cinnamon
3/4 t ginger
1/2 t coriander
Black and red pepper
5 - 6 c beef broth
2 T tomato paste
Onion, chopped
2 - 3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 c dried lentils, soaked and rinsed
1/2 c small egg noodles
15 oz can of chickpeas
1/2 c flat leaf parsley, chopped
Fresh lemon wedges

Flour the beef and brown it in the oil in a large pot. Add the spices and cook for about a minute. Add 1 c broth, the tomato paste, and the vegetables, stirring well until they start to soften. Add lentils and remaining broth. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes, stirring often. Add noodles and chickpeas and continue to simmer until noodles are softened. Remove from heat and stir in parsley just before serving. Serve with lemon wedges.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas cookies galore at BHG!

Better Homes and Gardens has a wealth of Christmas cookie information that I don't want you to miss this year. Everything from traditional sugar cookies to the most decadent filled and iced varieties. Look at what you'll find:

Here are two big collections of cookies for you to start with:
Cookie Exchange Favorites
Christmas Cookies

Macaroni and cheese...crock pot style

Like their mother before them, my kids loved macaroni and cheese. Over my dead body were we going to have mac and cheese from a box, complete with powdered cheese (!) product. Yuck! But I also had time issues when they were young that kept me from being really excited about making a white sauce and baking the dish.

So I came up with a crock pot version. You don't get the crusty top that baked mac and cheese lovers covet, but otherwise it's a really good dish. I recommend baking when you've got the time, and crock potting when you don't. Is crock potting a word?

Macaroni and Cheese
1-1/2 lbs macaroni, cooked al dente (about 5-1/2 c dried)
4 T butter
1/2 c flour
Dried mustard, optional
2 c milk
3 to 4 c cheddar cheese, shredded

Boil up the macaroni to the al dente stage. Drain and pour into the crock pot. Add the butter and stir through until melted. Add the flour and still until coated. Sometimes I add some dried mustard now too. Pour the milk over the pasta and mix well. Keep the heat on low and stir occasionally until the milk is absorbed and the cheese is fully melted.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lemon chicken soup

This soup has a delicate egg-thickened broth that is just delicious! If you start with pre-cooked chicken, you can easily have this soup ready to go in thirty minutes. What I usually do is to put the chicken into a crock pot and let it simmer all day until it falls off the bone. Viola! You've got pre-cooked chicken and chicken stock to start your soup!

There's no reason you couldn't substitute some of your leftover turkey too!

Lemon Chicken Soup

Chicken breast, cooked, deboned, and chopped

Olive oil
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 t thyme

6 c chicken stock
1 c orzo pasta

2 eggs
3 T lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Cook the vegetables in oil in a stock pot until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and simmer for about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs and lemon juice in a bowl and add hot stock slowly, stirring constantly. Add the mixture to the pot and stir well. Do not allow the pot to boil. Add the chicken and season the soup with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ham and squash stew

This is a variation on Turkey and Squash Stew. It's great to make with the left over bone and meat from a spiral cut ham. Boil up the bone and meat (or use a slow cooker) until every scrap of meat has fallen off. Fish out any fat chunks, and break up the meat if necessary.

Ham and Squash Stew

Canola oil
1 - 2 leeks, sliced
Red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 c ham stock
A few cups of leftover ham, shredded
Bag of cubed butternut squash
15 oz can of corn
1 t cumin seeds
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a heavy stock pot and cook the leeks and peppers until soft. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add stock, ham, and vegetables, and simmer. Add herbs and seasonings and serve.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Basic turkey soup

I know, I know: there are as many ways to make turkey soup as there are cooks who make it! Well, I thought I’d just throw my hat in the ring and tell you how I do it…

Turkey Soup 

Turkey carcass
Additional turkey meat, if needed
Lots of water
1-2 c dry white wine
Onions, celery, carrots, shallots
Thyme sprigs
Bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Fresh tarragon (optional)
2 – 3 T turkey fat
1/4 c flour
Sour cream, milk, or half-and-half (optional)
Barley, rice, small pasta (pre-cooked)

Cover the turkey carcass with water and wine, and bring to a boil.  Add chopped vegetables, peppercorns, and bay leaf.  Lower heat to a simmer. Continue to add water as it boils for a couple of hours, letting the broth get nice and rich. Remove from heat and refrigerate overnight.

Skim off most of the fat on the surface, and save some for mixing with flour later. Pick through the carcass, removing skin, gristle, and bones, and breaking up the turkey meat.

Discard the sodden vegetables and chop up new ones for the soup. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer soup. It will take about 20 minutes for the vegetables to soften.

Mix the turkey fat with flour, and whisk into the soup to thicken it slightly. Add dairy if you’d like it creamy.

To serve, ladle the soup over the rice or barley in each bowl. Don’t add the grains to the soup as leftovers will get soggy.