Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving: Success

Here's the run-down of Thanksgiving at my house:

Guests: 14
Estimated dinner time: 3 p.m.
Actual dinner time: 3:03 p.m.
Turkey weight: 17.7 lbs
Turkey cooking method: Brining overnight a la Nigella, then cooked by combining the Nigella and Joy of Cooking methods
Most successful appetizer: onion tart with mustard and fennel

The first dish to run out: slider stuffing (much to my brother's delight and my mother's dismay)
Best leftovers: green bean casserole
Hours I napped, having fallen asleep on the couch after everyone left: 2
My first Thanksgiving as head cook: a success

Slider Stuffing

10 White Castle sliders, no pickles
1 1/2 c celery, diced
1 1/4 tsp ground thyme
1 1/2 tsp ground sage
3/4 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
1/4 c chicken broth

Cut each of the sliders into about 9 pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the diced celery, thyme, sage, and black pepper, stirring to combine. Add the chicken broth and stir until everything is moistened. Transfer the stuffing into a buttered casserole dish and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Green Bean Casserole

20 oz. frozen french cut green beans
1/3 c chopped onions
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 c sour cream
1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Cook the green beans according to package directions and drain. Saute the onion in butter until translucent. Add the flour, salt, and pepper, stirring to blend. Add the sour cream, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until sauce is smooth and thickened. Add the cooked beans and pour into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the top with shredded cheddar.
Cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes.

Note: You can make this dish a day ahead and refrigerate it until you're about ready to heat it. It works best if you wait to top the casserole with the shredded cheese until just before it goes in the oven.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Prep

I exist in a land of lists right now. Lists of books left to read this semester (3), various writing projects due before finals (5, totaling about 50 pages), and preparations for Thanksgiving, just to name a few. All that craziness, combined with an attempt to not have a hugely stocked fridge over the holiday when I'll be back home, means I haven't been cooking the most exciting dishes. But I can attest to the general yummy-ness of Amy's Pesto Tortellini Bowl. If you care.

In my grand attempt at my first Thanksgiving, nearly all of my food energies are going toward planning and pre-planning for the rapidly-approaching Turkey Day. What does that mean for you, dear reader? You get to see my menu. Photos and recipes will come next week. Unless something disastrous happens and we end up eating pizza at my house for Thanksgiving. We'll see.

Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel
Veggies and Dip
Mixed Nuts

Roast Turkey
Classic Stuffing
Slider Stuff (yes, the kind that involves White Castle)
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Sweet Potatoes
Cranberry Sauce
Green Bean Casserole (not of the cream-of variety)
Egg Bread

Hot Apple Cider

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Cranberry Apple Tart

Monday, November 17, 2008

10 Reasons to Own a Slow Cooker

  1. Slow cookers are the easiest way to a hot meal on a cold day.
  2. You can make a huge variety of soups and stews with little to no work on your own part. That's right, no slaving over a stove until your arm is sore from stirring.
  3. The flavors of your ingredients meld and mellow in a way only slow cooking allows.
  4. It's economical. The longer cooking time means you can use the cheaper cuts and still get perfect, pull-apart tender meat.
  5. When you come home after a long day of work, school, etc., your house will smell wonderful.
  6. Dinner is ready when you get home. Since you threw everything in the slow cooker in the morning, you've maximized your relaxation time as well as the tastiness of your supper.
  7. Slow cooker recipes usually make things in larger quantities. Which means leftovers. Which means less cooking throughout the week with the guarantee of yummy meals.
  8. You can invite people over for dinner on a whim without stressing (hey, it's already cooking!) and hugely impress them with your tasty fare.
  9. Slow cookers (at least all the new models) are extremely easy to clean.
  10. It's remarkably easy to adapt all sorts of recipes for the slow cooker.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chicken and Noodles for Chilly and Busy Days

The seasonal weather has finally arrived…which means, happily (for someone with a busy schedule, at least), crockery cooking. This past week I broke out my slow cooker for the first time since last winter. And my, was the fare delicious. After deciding to make good on my self-promise to use my New Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book more often, I started off the chilly season with their beef stew recipe. I had a few friends over for dinner that night, and the stew was so good it was gone before I could snap a single photo.

This week I’ll be cooking a variation on a family recipe: my Aunt Kathy’s slow cooker adaptation of my Grandma Ethel’s chicken and noodles. Tonight I’m eating at the Elms, DePauw’s presidential mansion, so there’s no need for me to make a dinner; that means I won’t be posting pictures of the chicken and noodles until Monday after supper.

But for those of you too anxious to wait and see what the dish looks like before cooking it up for yourselves, here’s the recipe. Like any good family recipe, measurements are imprecise and depend entirely upon your taste and texture preferences. Have fun with it. And enjoy.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles
from Ethel Koester via Kathy Connor

boneless, skinless chicken breasts
water and/or chicken broth
onion, chopped
carrots, grated or chopped
chicken soup base
noodles (egg or Amish tastes best, unless of course you have homemade…)
corn starch (optional)

Place the raw chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle them with parsley, then cover pour over the water and/or chicken broth until the chicken is covered. Place the chopped onion and grated carrot in the slow cooker as well. Add some of the chicken soup base for a stronger chicken flavor. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-10 hours.
Add the noodles to the slow cooker with 30 minutes left in your cook time. If the broth is still particularly thin after the noodles have been added and cooked, add a bit of watered-down corn starch to thicken it.
Note: If you refrigerate leftovers, be aware that the noodles will continue absorbing some of the liquid. While this doesn’t affect the taste any, the texture will be noticeably thicker upon reheating.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

When You Repeat a New Dish for the First Time

What with my seemingly infinite amount of homework and the fact that I haven't done a real shop since sometime in October, I haven't been able to try any new dishes lately. I did, however, have time to repeat a dish I tried for the first time in September; a dish which, luckily for your blog reading, I have not yet written about and which is particularly tasty. Just a hint of spicy; easy to make; pasta; cheese; how can you go wrong?

For my birthday this summer, my parents got me two cooking-related items: Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes and a recipe card collection from America's Test Kitchen. While Sky High is by far the more fanciful of the two, for a college student with my life, the recipe card collections has proved most useful. It's got a slew of simple meat, pasta, poultry, and fish recipes, all of which photograph beautifully and just call out to me to try them. Too bad cooking for one means more days of leftovers than opportunities to try something new! (This last dish lasted me four days, I think; all of them were delicious.)

The combination of a little bit of heat and the pasta in this dish make it particularly suited for this time of year -- at least, this time of year when November in Indiana realizes it should be crisp and chilly as opposed to 75 degrees and begging for me to walk around barefoot. So take my advice: find out where they keep the chorizo in your grocery store, find a good book to cozy up with while this simmers, and get cooking!

Spicy Pasta Bake with Chorizo
from America's Test Kitchen Fast & Fresh Recipe Card Collection: 64 Suppers, 30 Minutes or Less

1 lb chorizo sausage
1 onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 (10-oz) can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1/2 c heavy cream
12 oz penne
salt and pepper
2 c shredded Jack cheese

Cook chorizo and onion in a large heatproof skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in broth, tomatoes, cream, pasta, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring frequently, until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat the broiler.
Taking the pan off the heat, uncover the pan and stir in 1/2 c cheese. Top with the remaining cheese and broil until the cheese is melted and spotty brown, about 3 minutes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night (and into the wee morning hours) Snacking Menu

I've been doing a significant amount of research for my thesis; and while I'm generally saving making broader connections and larger conclusions about this research for this winter when I have no other course commitments, occasionally I'll find little pieces of information or recipes that I can't help but link to one another. One such amusing category, and the reason for this special edition Election Day blog, I'm calling election food.

It all started last winter when I was perusing my mom's cookbooks for a good coffee cake recipe to serve on New Years Day. Both because it sounded delicious and because I found its connection with a presidential candidate entertaining, I selected Lenore's Coffee Cake; Lenore Romney is Mitt Romney's mother. The coffee cake was good, and I mentally filed it away as a recipe worth repeating before I went on with my life.

Fast forward to September. Soliciting for recipes for the Honor Scholar Community Cookbook I'm creating as a part of my thesis, I got an e-mail from one of my professors claiming she had a cookbook I might find helpful for my research. As an interesting side note, she added that it is authored by Rose B. and Nathra Nader. Also known as Ralph Nader's mother and sister. Ta-da, the election food category was born.

To these recipes from presidential candidates' family members I've added recipes from other candidates that have been published online. What I give you is a suggested menu for an Election Night party that goes until the wee hours of the morning, when (hopefully for real this time) the results are official. I hope you enjoy.

(Oh, and I don't want you to think that by not providing a recipe from Sarah Palin I am purposely under-representing the Republican ticket. I don't have a recipe from her simply because I couldn't find a genuine Palin recipe online. And I didn't want to pull a Cindy McCain and plagiarize.)

Election Night (and into the wee morning hours) Snacking Menu

Naders' Chicken Spread

(from Ralph Nader's mother and sister in It Happened in the Kitchen: Recipes for Food and Thought by Rose B. and Nathra Nader)

3 1/2 lb chicken
2 medium onions
3 celery stalks with leaves
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp thyme
1 cinnamon stick

Boil chicken in cold water, barely covering, for a few minutes. Throw water out and rinse the fowl, removing the skin. Return the fowl to the pot, cover with cold water, add the cinnamon stick, salt, and pepper, and cook until done. Grind the meat finely with the celery stalks including the leaves, parsley with stems, and onions. Season with salt, poultry seasoning, and thyme. Sever on crackers or whole wheat or other dark bread.

Senator Barack Obama's Chili
(from Good Morning America)

1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
several cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey or beef
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground basil
1 tbsp chili powder
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
1 can red kidney beans

Saute onions, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add ground meat and brown. Combine spices, then add to the ground meat. Add red wine vinegar. Add tomatoes and let simmer until tomatoes cook down. Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes. Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions, and sour cream.

Senator John McCain's Ribs
(from Good Morning America)

Dry Rub:
1/3 part Garlic Powder
1/3 part Salt
1/3 part Pepper
3 lemons

Turn the grill down to low temperature. Mix together garlic powder, salt, and pepper, then cover both sides of the ribs with the rub. Grill ribs, bone side down, for 90 percent of the time. It will take about an hour to an hour and a half. Squeeze the lemon on it frequently, because that makes it taste a lot better.

Senator Joe Biden's Favorite Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(from the kitchen of Mary Ann Kelley 2007, as printed for Yankee Magazine)

1 c shortening or butter
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 c old fashioned oats
1 c raisins
nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Beat together the shortenings and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add flour mixture, oats, and raisins and mix well. Use portion scoop and drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes (should be golden brown in color).

Lenore's Coffee Cake
(from Lenore Romney, mother of Mitt Romney, in Get Smakelijk)

1/2 c butter
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 2/3 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c pecans, chopped
1/2 c raisins, optional
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a greased 9"x9" baking dish. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Stir in vanilla. Pour half into baking dish. Combine brown sugar, pecans, raisins, and cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter in baking dish and cover with the rest of the batter. Bake 35 minutes.

Please make sure you vote today!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Weekend

Today, like the entire weekend, is dreadfully busy, so this will be a short post. Never fear, however; check back Tuesday for a special election-themed post. I don't like to disappoint.

Melt your chocolate chips slowly to prevent any extra trips to your local baking aisle.

The Betty Crocker costume was a hit at the two Halloween parties I attended this weekend, as were the white chocolate corn puffs I took along and which I so briefly mentioned before. While my intention had been to tint the white chocolate a bright Halloween orange with food coloring, my lack of orange (or red and yellow) food coloring precluded me from doing so. I don't think any party-goers wanted to complain.

So simple; so strange; yet so good.

White Chocolate Corn Puffs (or A Very Easy Party Treat)

1 pkg. white chocolate chips
1 pkg. generic brand baked corn puffs (the kind found in the chips aisle, not the cereal)

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium-low heat, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until smooth. Remove from heat.
Pour the corn puffs in a receptacle of some sort, be it a large bowl or casserole dish. Drizzle the melted white chocolate over the corn puffs. Use the spatula to turn the mixture, making sure that the corn puffs get an even coating of white chocolate. Let cool, stirring periodically to prevent the puffs from forming one giant lump.
Note: If you don't pay close enough attention to the chocolate chips in the double boiler, they will go straight past the melted stage and seize up into an unusable chalky mass that is not fun to scrape out of your double boiler. And then you have to go buy more chocolate chips, so please, be vigilant.

The Betty Crocker-font nametag did wonders for costume recognition.