Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dinner Par-Tay!

Tonight's dinner event was a fantastic success, some of the best food I've ever prepared, some of the most fun I've had in quite a while:-)
To recap, I made:
A brined and butterflied turkey, baked at a high temp on a bed of homemade challah bread stuffing: the turkey was moist and flavorful, the stuffing hands down the BEST I've ever put in my mouth.
Praline sweet potatoes (of which I made waaaaay too many. There'll be leftovers for manymany days to come)
Kobucha squash (a bit overkill in the squash department, but it was a savory complement to the sweeter stuff)
Mashed potatoes and gravy: the gravy was *delectable*. Honestly, it was tasty enough to eat plain with a spoon, which was good considering it took about 3 hours to make.
Roasted brussell sprouts with brown butter and hazelnuts: excellent, truly. And well worth the hour I took to crack 80 gazillion hazelnuts 'cause no store in boonieland had shelled hazelnuts. Ow! My poor, sore crackin' hand:-(
Toasted rolls
Homemade cranberry orange sauce
I made the other cookies, too, that I listed previously, but man! What a waste of time and valuable cream cheese... the cocoa nut (?) and phyllo cookies were just plain gross, flavorless, nasty. The date nut balls more than made up for the yuckkiness, but what to do with all the other cookies??? (can chickens eat chocolate? I guess we're about to find out...maybe it'll inspire the little leakers to give me more than an egg every few days, those naughty girls.) I also made waaaay too many of those maple nut cups, hope the ladies at work are hungry tomorrow...
And to top it off, I made the bittersweet chocolate roulade cake, which was okay. Perhaps a little too much on the *bitter*sweet side, and very, very rich. Gorgeous, tho, and a lovely presentation.

It frightens me how well I can cook.
Yesterday, I baked from 10 am to just about 10 pm, sometimes prepping 3-4 dishes at the same time. I was cool as a cucumber, incredibly focused as I switched from one dish to the next, all the ingredients lined up, all the tools in order, the recipes on all the counters around me. I felt a bit like a conductor in the midst of my concoctions, tweaking flavors, enhancing this, blending that, putting it all together into a fantastic medley that was really incredible today, better than I could have ever imagined (altho with almost 20 hours of prep work and cooking, what else could it have been?).
Good, good stuff!
Note to self: the Heath dinnerware was handy, so so glad I was able to pick up about $3000 worth of it for $50 at the local resale shop, yippie yahooey! The serving pieces were perfect for all the side dishes, and we had more than enough place settings. We just need to pick up some glassware, pretty napkins, and more stemware, a few items I noticed we were lacking as Jake was pulling out the McDonald's commemorative Disney glasses (ack! My dirty little secret... those suckers NEVER break, and as such are some of the only glasses we own right now).

And finally, for all the work and effort, it was the most fun ever to have people over, having folks talking, eating, having a good time. Jacob was kindof frazzled to have to entertain little kids, but it's good for him, a bit like the little brothers I didn't provide for him;-)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

33 Miles:

I've fallen off the "Fat Flush" wagon in a major way today, making (and eating) cookies, scarfing on Triscuits.. (I <3<3 me some munchy crunchy triscuits!)

And after that admission, be both entranced and horrified at my new favorite spin class song:
"Up 2-3-4, Back 2-3-4, Sit 2-3-4..." over and over and over again, wheeeee! I could do it all dang day~

On a whole 'nother note, I made the date nut balls (recipe below) yesterday, and I have to tell ya, they're AMAZING! Kindof like the center of a 1000 Grand Bar, wrapped in coconut instead of chocolate. Yum like times a million... you can really taste the butter and richness of the dates, the vanilla, and the airy crunch of the Krispies, sooooooooo good!
I also made the "Chicken Kick" recipe (below), but skimped to make it a whole lot more time friendly: I couldn't find Andoullie sausage in these parts, so I bought some artichoke/mozzarella sausages instead and some jarred Bertolli Alfredo sauce, tossing in a chopped tomato at the last minute (vs making the relish). It was one of the few meals that ms. picky puss ate in months and months that she didn't grumble about; so for a brief shining moment, it was if the heavens themselves had parted and all was well with the world (cue hallelujah chorus, i.e. one of the less dim adolescent moments I've had in a while. Now if I could just figure out a way to include Captain Crunch and Alfredo sauce in every meal, it's sure to be bliss 'round here).

Oh, and I got a call tonight 'round about the time little dude's bus was to arrive back at school from skiing. Turns out the little goober went missing and was holding up the WHOLE SHOW. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be worried or just feign surprise for the lady who called, knowing that Jacob is mr. disappear-o when he doesn't want to stop doing something. Great. Three years ago he got lost on the ski hill when he and another 8 year old buddy somehow ended up on the biggest, baddest run they had (the dreaded Black Diamond, OooooOOoooooooo!). But other than looking a little freaked out, those boys were no worse for the wear. ME, on the other hand, OY! Anyhoo, all my little bugs are getting snug, and since the pellet stove is hooked back up, I'm ready to cozy up myself.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

More of My Favorite (Forgotten) Recipes/Teriyaki Chicken Pita, Chicken Kick

Chancery Teriyaki Chicken Pita
4 chicken breast halves (about 5 ounces each), cut in bite-size pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup pea pods, stems removed
1 cup broccoli buds
1/2 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup cut yellow squash, sliced in half-moon shapes
1 cup cut carrots, cut in very thin julienne strips
1/2 cup teriyaki glaze (see recipe)
8 slices jack cheese (1 ounce each)
4 pieces Greek pita bread
4 large lettuce leaves
4 pickle spears
In large oven-proof skillet, saute chicken pieces in oil. When chicken is almost cooked through, add vegetables and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Vegetables should be bright and firm to the bite. Do not overcook. Add teriyaki glaze to coat vegetables and chicken. Shingle cheese over chicken and vegetables and set under broiler. Broil until cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Microwave pita bread 10 seconds. Pour vegetable-cheese mixture over pita bread. Fold pita over and secure with decorative pick. Set on large leaf of lettuce and garnish with pickle spear. Serve with french fries, 5-bean salad or pasta salad.
Makes 4 servings.
Teriyaki glaze:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup plus
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons pineapple juice
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
In small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic powder, pepper, sherry and juice. Bring to simmer. Combine water and cornstarch; whisk together. Add to simmering liquid to thicken; continue to simmer 10 minutes. Put small, heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Add oil and seeds. Toast seeds until lightly browned. Immediately pour seed mixture into thickened teriyaki glaze to stop seeds from overtoasting; mix to combine. Use 1/2 cup with chicken/vegetable mixture. Reserve remaining glaze for another use.
Makes about 2/3 cup.

Chancery Restaurant Chicken Kick
Spicy tomato relish (see recipe)
Alfredo sauce (see recipe)
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 ounces julienne-cut red bell pepper (1 large)
8 ounces cooked andouille sausage (or precooked spicy Polishsausage), sliced on the bias
11 ounces dry penne pasta, cooked
1 tablespoon Poultry Magic (Cajun seasoning blend forblackening)

Prepare spicy tomato relish.
Prepare alfredo sauce and keep warm.
Saute chicken in oil in large, deep skillet. When half done, add red peppers and sausage. Cook over medium heat until chicken is cooked through.
Add Alfredo sauce, cooked pasta and poultry seasoning. Cook, tossing regularly, until mixture comes to a boil, then pour into serving bowl. Garnish with tomato relish.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Spicy tomato relish:
1 to 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced (or to taste)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Lawry's seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced fresh plum tomatoes cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Juice from half a lime
Combine all ingredients in bowl. Mix well.
Alfredo sauce:
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons chicken base
3 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
Place garlic powder and chicken base in saucepan. Add cream and heat, stirring occasionally. When hot,add Parmesan, stirring regularly until cheese melts. Add cornstarch that has been dissolved in water andcontinue to cook until sauce thickens enough to coat back of spoon. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gone in the Morning:

Just heard this song on the local radio station (WBSD, again the coolest radio station around)-- never heard it before, and what o what could it be??
Well, how great is it that I have this nifty application on my iPhone that can listen to any song and tell you what it is, and then gives you the option to purchase it via iTunes. So within like 15 seconds I not only knew what the song was, but bought it, watched the YouTube video, and then looked up the hilarious lyrics and laughed and laughed ("I'm gonna live inside a tiny zoo"???? Bwahahahaaaaaa!).

Lovelovelove my iPhone, glad to see that all the things I thought should have been invented eons ago finally exist.

One last thing:

I think I finally have my St Nick dinner menu planned. I'd like to make:

**Turkey a la Cooks Illustrated, roasted at a high temperature (with the breastbone removed, the turkey pounded somewhat flat, placed on a slotted rack over a tray of homemade challa bread and sausage stuffing)

*Praline sweet potatoes (more like a dessert than anything, but oh sooo goooood)

Oven roasted kobucha squash

**Toasted hazelnut and brown butter green beans or brussels sprouts

Mashed potatoes (yuk! but the kids like 'em...) (can you tell I've been reading Cooks Illustrated? Can't wait to try these):

Boil 2 # scrubbed russett or yukon gold potatoes in pan filled with water, covering the potatoes one inch. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. Set food mill over warm pan. Spear potato with dinner fork, and then peel back skin with a paring knife. Working in batches, cut peeled potatoes into rough chunks and process with food mill into pan. Str in 8 tb of butter, melted, 1 cup warmed half and half, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Add pepper to taste.


**Baked Brie with cranberries

*With an assortment of cookies and a dark chocolate roulade cake for dessert.

Turkey???? You might be asking yourself... but since we don't host Thanksgiving, we don't get any leftovers, and thusly we were all left craving turkey and the subsequent Wild Rice and Turkey soup that's sure to follow (see post below for recipe) this year. So a fabulous brined and roasted turkey it will be!

*these can all be made in advance, **these can all be prepped in advance

Christmas Sweets/Date Nut Balls, Roulade Cake:

Date Nut Balls (can be made ahead and stored)
Makes about 6 to 7 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups finely chopped dates
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts
4 cups crispy rice cereal
Sweetened shredded coconut (about 3 cups)

In medium pan, melt butter and sugar. Add dates and cook until mixture boils. Remove from heat. Whisk eggs into milk and stir into hot mixture with salt. Return to heat and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and nuts (tester used pecans). Cool completely, then stir in cereal, mixing until well coated. Shape into 1-inch balls, then roll in coconut.

What I'll be making for St Nick dessert:
Bittersweet Chocolate Roulade (from Cooks Illustrated): (make day before)

6 oz bittersweet (semisweet) chocolate, chopped fine
2 tb cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
2 tb cold water
1/4cup dutch process cocoa, sifted, plus extra for unmolding
1/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
1/8 tsp salt
6 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Adjust rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12 by 17.5 inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, cover bottom with parchment paper, and spray parchment with nonstick spray; dust surface with flour and tap out excess.

Bring 2 inches of water to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Combine chocolate, butter, and water in small heatproof bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set bowl over pan, reduce heat to medium low, and heat until bitter is almost completely melted and chocolate pieces are glossy, have lost definition, and are fully melted around edges, about 15 minutes. Do not stir or let water boil under chocolate. Remove bowl from pan, unwrap, and stir until smooth and glossy. While chocolate is melting, sift 1/4 cup cocoa, flour, and sat together into small bowl and set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat yolks at medium high speed until just combined, about 15 seconds. With mixer running, add half of sugar. Continue to beat, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary until yolks are pale yellow and mixture falls in thick ribbon when whisk is lifted, about 8 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to combine, scraping bowl once, bout 30 seconds. Turn mixture into medium bowl; wash mixer bowl and whisk attachment and dry.

In clean bowl with clean whisk attachment, beat whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, add about 1 tsp sugar; continue beating until soft peaks form, about 40 seconds. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat until whites are supple and glossy and hold stiff peaks when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer. Do not over beat. While whites are beating, stir chocolate mixture into yolks. With rubber spatula, stir 1/4 of whites into chocolate mixture to lighten it; fold in remaining whites until almost no streaks remain. Sprinkle dry ingredients over top and fold in quickly but gently

Pour batter into prepared pan; using an offset icing spatula and working quickly, even surface and smooth batter into corners of pan. Bake until center of cake springs back when touched with a finger, 8-10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, lay clean kitchen towel over work surface and sift remaining tablespoon cocoa powder over towel; with hands, rub cocoa towel. Run paring knife around perimeter of baking sheet to loosen cake. Invert cake onto towel and peel off parchment.

Roll cake, towel and all, into jelly roll shape. Cool for 15 minutes, then unroll cake and towel. Using offset spatula, immediately spread filling over surface of cake, almost to edges. Roll up cake snugly. Set large sheet pf parchment paper on overturned rimmed baking sheet and set cake seam side down on top. Trim both edges on diagonal; spread ganache over roulade with small icing spatula. Use fork to make wood grain striations on surface of ganache before it sets. Refrigerate baking sheet with cake to set icing, about 20 minutes.

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp finely ground espresso beans
6 tb confectioner's sugar
16.5 oz mascarpone (or cream) cheese

Bring cream to simmer i small pan over high heat. Off heat, stir in espresso and powdered sugar; cool slightly.
Beat mascarpone cheese and cooled cream until fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Dark Chocolate Ganache:
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tb unsalted butter
6 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 tb cognac (optional)

Microwave cream and butter in measuring cup in high until bubbling, about 90 seconds. Place chocolate in heatproof bowl (or bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade). Pour hot cream mix over chocolate and sit of a minute, then mix until well incorporated (or pour hot cream thru feed tube and process about 3 minutes). Cool at room temp about an hour until spreadable.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Holiday Food that Rocks/Praline Sweet potatoes, Maple Phyllo Dessert Cups, Wild Turkey Soup, Baked Brie:

Tried and true holiday food that will make your eyes roll heavenward in fits of ecstasy, but your booty more -licious than you might prefer:

Praline Sweet Potatoes
6 cups baked, mashed sweet potatoes (I mash 'em in the mixer, lazy girl style!)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 tb pumpkin pie spice (or equivalent)
1 tb grated ginger (we likes the ginger!)
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream

1 stick butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, syrup, vanilla extract, spices, eggs and cream. Whip until light and fluffy, and spread evenly in buttered casserole dish.
Prepare the topping by combining the butter, brown sugar, flour and pecans (I used the food processor and pulsed until crumbly). Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.
Bake for at least an hour in the preheated oven, maybe longer, until casserole is puffy in the middle and pecans are toasted.
Eat until the point of sickness like a little piggy.

Maple Phyllo Dessert Cups
two, 8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (real) maple syrup (preferrably from your own maple trees, he he. Martha ain't got nothing on this girl!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp maple extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

40+ phyllo prebaked phyllo shells

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

Blend first four ingredients together until well mixed. With balloon whip attachment, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream until fluffy (3-5 minutes or so). Place mix into pastry bag fitted with star tip, and pipe into phyllo shells. Chill at least 3 hours. Drizzle each cup with remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup (1/4 tsp or so for each) and top with the pecans shortly before serving (any leftover mix is pretty fan-freaking-tastic on plain bagels the next day, mmmmm~).

Someone made a Baked Brie with Orange Cranberry Sauce for our work party yesterday, it was AMAZING. I'll try to weasel the recipe somehow and post it when I can:
(Updated ACTUAL recipe follows... I was close:)

1/2 package Puff Pastry Sheets
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup +/- cooled cranberry sauce (recipe follows)
1 (13.2 ounce) round Brie cheese, rind intact

Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix egg and water.
Unfold pastry sheet on lightly floured surface. Roll into 14 inch square. Cut off corners to make a circle. Spread preserves to within 1 inch of pastry edge. Sprinkle cranberries and almonds over preserves. Top with cheese. Brush edge of circle with egg mixture. Fold two opposite sides over cheese. Trim remaining two sides to 2 inch from edge of cheese. Fold these two sides onto the round. Press edges to seal. Place seam-side down on baking sheet. Decorate top with pastry scraps if desired. Brush with egg mixture.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden. Let stand 30 minutes to allow cheese to set. Serve with crackers, or a fork, whatev. I was craving this the whole dang week after I had it.

Cranberry Sauce (modified from Cooks Illustrated)
3/4 cup orange juice (or water)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tb grated orange zest

1 bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (12 ounces)

In a medium saucepan, combine first 4 ingredients; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves.
Add cranberries and continue simmering until cranberries pop and mixture has thickened; about 5 minutes.
Off heat, stir in 2 tb orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or Triple Sec)

After Thanksgiving Soup:
(best when prepared with Jake's wild turkey, but he didn't get one this year, bummer)
Place turkey carcass (as much of it as you can fit) into a large crock pot. Cover with water and a splash of apple cider vinegar (leaving room at top to boil), and heat on high until mix starts to boil. Turn on low, and forget about it for a while (or overnight).
Strain the broth, picking out all the decent meat off the bones, and save for the soup.
*The vinegar removes a lot of minerals from the bones, making the broth super rich and the bones really soft. I feed the softest, mushiest ones to the dogs for treats.
Cool the broth until the fat is solid and can be removed with a spoon; put fat aside in a bowl.
In large dutch oven/soup kettle, sautee in 1/2 cup of the reserved fat (or butter) until tender but crisp:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced (+/-, we like a lot of carrots)
2 cups sliced mushrooms (the hen of the woods we find across the street are always nice, but you can use white or baby portabellas, whatever you can forage at the grocery store, lol!)

Reduce heat, and sprinkle in 1/2 cup flour, stirring until bubbly and well mixed. Add broth slowly, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, and add:
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups half and half (or heavy cream, or even whole milk if you prefer. It's all good.)
2 cups cooked, diced turkey
Parsley, pepper, garlic powder, dill, and chicken base to taste
Simmer for 30 minutes.

Jacob wanted me to add this one:

Jacob's "Da Bomb" (don't ask) Peppermint Fudge:
2 bags (11 oz) Ande's Candies chips
2 bags (12 oz) chocolate chips (your choice: milk, chocolate, semisweet, whatever you fancy)
2 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
dash salt
1 tsp peppermint extract

Heat the above in a large, heavy pan (we used our largest dutch oven), stirring constantly until melted and well incorporated. Pour into a 9x13 inch pan lined with wax paper. Crush as many peppermint candies as you feel like (up to a cup), and press into top of soft fudge. Cool slightly, and cut into 1 inch squares. Chill.