Friday, October 31, 2008

Thanksgiving Menus from Food Magazines, part 2

Saveur, with mincemeat pie on the cover, features a New Orleans-inspired menu, which includes: oyster stew; roasted turkey; gateau de sirop (Acadian syrup cake); and spiced pecans.

Side dishes include: roasted cranberry sauce; sweet potato casserole (half sweet, half savory); green beans with pancetta and mint; whipped mashed potatoes with celery root; and oyster stuffing.

Also in this issue: Missouri wines (including Adam Puchta - my favorite); mincemeat pie (the business I work for is listed as the supplier for suet); Laos; France; and homemade pizza.

My summary: In my opinion, Saveur is a little more food literature than recipes or cooking information (not to say that their recipes aren't good, but for some reason it just strikes me as a magazine you read but do not necessarily cook from). That said, the Thanksgiving recipes look tasty and the ingredients and preparation seem reasonable. There is also a recipe for truffade (skillet cooked potatoes and cheese) that looks like seriously indulgent comfort food. It is a good issue, but I probably wouldn't pay the $5 cover price for it.

Food & Wine

Food & Wine magazine has organized their Ultimate Thanksgiving Planner with 3 menus into a convenient grid, allowing you to see all components of all menus at the same time.

  1. Grilled butterflied turkey and caraway ancho gravy with: ham and cheddar sourdough stuffing; smoky seafood cocktails; creamed spinach and parsnips; grill-roasted vegetables with pine nut pesto; and pumpkin-gingersnap tiramisu
  2. Apricot-glazed turkey and fresh herb gravy with: fennel, red onion and focaccia stuffing; cauliflower soup with chorizo bread crumbs; celery salad with walnuts, dates and pecorino; cranberry-pomegranate sauce; and a pear tart with pecan crust
  3. Either turkey option (grilled or apricot-glazed) with: corn bread dressing with brussels sprouts; goat cheese edamame dip with spiced pepitas; mashed potatoes with creme fraiche and chives; crunchy baked fennel; and caramel cream pie with crispy rice topping

Bonus: wine suggestions; dishes also have color-coded icons indicating to use the freezer, use the refrigerator, use the grill, use the stovetop, or use the oven - which helps with planning.

Also in this issue:
Yogurt - the new superfood; testing skillets; homemade ricotta; features on Atlanta, Georgia and Boise, Idaho; cooking club; and "upcycling" - using portions of ingredients that ususally end up in the trash (mushroom stems, potato peels, etc.).

My summary: I like the variety of cooking methods - grill, oven, stovetop, etc. I'm especially intrigued with grilling the Thanksgiving turkey (although I probably wouldn't actually do it, unless we moved Thanksgiving to one of the Southern - i.e. warmer - states). There is a nice mix of recipes, some simple, some more advanced, and the majority of ingredients should be widely available. Definitely not your boring, standard holiday recipes, but not too crazy either. Overall, the November issue of Food & Wine seems like a good addition to my food magazine collection.

Cook's Country
Cook's Country takes a more subtle approach to promoting its Thanksgiving menu than most. No crazy, too-good-to-be-true claims (the BEST! the EASIEST! Whatever!) and no turkey picture on the front cover. Their recipes appear to be the type to stand on their own merit, without wordy exclamations. The Thanksgiving selections include:

  • Old-fashioned roast turkey with gravy
  • Bread stuffing outside the bird

  • Skillet roasted carrots and parsnips

  • Make ahead green bean casserole

  • Easy crescent rolls

  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Butternut squash soup

  • Bonus: Leftover turkey recipes (that look so good it makes me want to cook a turkey just for the leftovers)

Also: 30 minute supper recipe cards; great tips, reviews, and illustrated instructions; guide to getting to know nuts; and chocolate shadow cake.

My summary: You can never go wrong with any publications or recipes from Cook's Illustrated. Although not necessarily trendy or gourmet, you can count on Cook's Country's recipes to turn out well (they test everything to perfection) - and their well-written instructions and helpful illustrations make cooking practically foolproof. Their classic Thanksgiving menu is perfect for anyone who wants to cook really good food, but isn't necessarily a gourmet cook, doesn't have the desire to use exotic ingredients, or doesn't want to risk a new-recipe failure on Thanksgiving. If you are considering buying this issue of Cook's Country (or a subscription), focus on the quality of the recipes and the tips they offer, not the quantity of pages in the magazine. The magazine seems thin, but because there is no advertising (which is so nice), 100% of the content is recipes, reviews, and helpful tips, making it a good buy.

Update: For more, check out Part 1 and Part 3.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Flash Chicken and Glazed Carrots

Two good recipes to share . . . and one that was a flop. Flash chicken saute with cider and almonds has a long title, but it was actually a relatively quick and easy recipe. It was so good . . . it makes me sad, thinking about all the people who eat tasteless, plain, boring chicken breasts. With just a little effort, a chicken breast can actually become flavorful and something you look forward to eating. The carrots were also good, if you're a fan of carrots. With the exception of carrots cooked with pot roast, I've always had a cooked carrot aversion (by the way - boiling peas and carrots and serving them plain is great way to make sure your kids never want to eat either vegetable when they grow up). However, when I saw glazed carrots in Everyday Food and realized I had all the ingredients, I decided to give cooked carrots another try. I'm glad I did, because they actually can be good . . . I no longer feel obligated to hate cooked carrots.

Honey Glazed Carrots
1 tsp. oil (olive or canola)
2 lbs. carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces, halved if thick
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
coarse salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp. unsalted butter


  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add carrots and cook, stirring once, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add broth, honey, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until crisp-tender (about 10-15 minutes). Uncover and cook over medium to medium-high heat until carrots are tender and liquid is syrupy, 8 to 10 minutes more (there should not be much liquid remaining).
  3. Remove skillet from heat; add butter and swirl skillet until melted. Season with salt and pepper. - Everyday Food

    Notes: to make this dairy free, leave out butter or substitute with a dairy-free butter alternative. The carrots are pretty sweet, so it might seem strange to add salt at the end, but I encourage you to give it a try - I think it enhances the flavor.
Flash Chicken Saute with Cider and Almonds

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (the original recipe calls for 4)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
optional: 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tablespoons whole salted almonds, coarsely chopped

  1. In a 10-inch saute pan (not nonstick), boil down broth until it is reduced by about two-thirds. Pour it into a container (a bowl or glass measuring cup) and set aside. Rinse and dry pan.
  2. Lightly coat pan with olive oil and heat over high heat. Place chicken breasts in pan, season with salt and pepper. Lightly brown them on both sides. Lower heat to medium low and cook uncovered for about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. Make the sauce by adding cider vinegar and garlic to the pan. Boil, scraping up the brown bits in the pan, until the vinegar is reduced to 1/4 cup (hint: place 1/4 cup of water in the pan before you begin cooking to have a reference point for estimating 1/4 cup vinegar). Stir in the reserved broth and boil 2 minutes, or until sauce is rich-tasting. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in butter (if using). Immediately pour sauce over chicken, top with almonds, and serve.

Note: I didn't add butter to the sauce and I thought it was really good without it. I imagine it might be even better with butter, but if you want to cut fat and calories, you won't miss the butter. - The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper

About the macaroni and cheese . . . the recipe was from Ellie Krieger and included a lot more butternut squash puree than cheese . . . I made it a while back and froze it, then baked it to go with this meal. Ken ate his, but mine went in the trash. Yuck. I usually like Ellie Krieger's healthy recipes - not sure what happened with this one!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Menus from Food Magazines, part 1

Unless you're totally overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of political advertising right now, you've probably noticed that the November issues of most of the food magazines have arrived on newsstands, complete with Thanksgiving menus. If you're looking for inspiration to help plan your menu for the biggest food day in the US, there are lots of options. Since I'm a food magazine addict enthusiast, I decided to help you decide which magazine has the best menu for you by summarizing the offerings of each. (Note: this will be a 2 3-part series of posts)

Everyday Food's November feature is "The Easiest Feast Ever;" the menu has a "Downhome Tradition" theme, including:

  • Roast turkey with brown-sugar and mustard glaze
  • Bourbon gravy
  • Pecan cornbread dressing
  • Stewed green beans with bacon

  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Basic cranberry sauce
  • Also included is a basic pie crust recipe, plus recipes for pumpkin cream pie, chocolate pecan pie, cheddar-crusted apple pie, and coconut custard pie
  • Bonus: a preparation schedule, beginning 3 days before Thanksgiving
My summary: the menu has a relaxed family-style appeal, with classic recipes which have been "kicked up a notch," but shouldn't push anyone outside the traditional Thanksgiving menu comfort zone. I love the compact size of Everyday Food, and that the focus is primarily recipes, with clear instructions, pictures, and small bits of relevant information dispersed throughout. The November issue has several down-to-earth recipes that look good, including a feature on Flat Iron steaks.

The cover of Cooking Light features a pecan pie and advertises "112 festive, fabulous recipes . . . and more in our holiday cookbook." The extensive holiday cookbook section includes:
Appetizers, drinks, and salads: spinach salad with gorgonzola, pistachios, and pepper jelly viniagrette, roasted cauliflower soup with hazelnut oil, arugula salad with goat cheese, bacon, and balsamic-fig dressing, gingered pear and brandy cocktail, pink grapefruit and lychee cocktail, spicy baked pita chips, orange chipotle-spiced pecans, shrimp skewers with coconut, jalapeno, and cilantro dipping sauce, traditional hummus (with three flavor options), caramelized sweet onion dip, and white hot spiced chocolate

Main dishes:

  • Spice-brined turkey with cider pan gravy
  • Roast turkey with onion and cranberry chutney
  • Shallot and sage-roasted turkey with shallot gravy
  • Red currant-glazed cornish hens and pearl onions
  • Turkey cutlets with pancetta sage sauce
  • Mixed peppercorn beef tenderloin with shallot-port reduction
  • Beef tenderloin with roasted tomato salsa
  • Marinated beef tenderloin with caramelized onion and mushroom ragout
  • Seared beef tenderloin with dijon and herbs
  • Braised lamb shanks with parsley-mint gremolata
  • Classic bouillabaisse with rouille-topped croutons
  • Maple-sage roasted pork tenderloin
  • Parmesan and root vegetable lasagna
Side dishes: several varieties of mashed potatoes, gratin of cauliflower with gruyere, and soft polenta with wild mushroom saute
Desserts: cranberry oatmeal bars (with variations), pear pie with streusel topping and caramel sauce, old-fashioned gingerbread, chocolate roulade, and yellow butter cake with vanilla meringue frosting
Extras: fig-walnut sticky buns, beer-cheese bread (with variations), buttermilk biscuits, apricot mustard sauce, saffron aioli, chunky chai applesauce, classic cranberry sauce, pistachio-cranberry scones, bakery dinner rolls
Bonus: "Gifts from the kitchen," with suggestions and recipes for homemade Christmas gifts and a "Holiday meal strategies" section with lots of tips

My summary: The holiday cookbook section is comprehensive and should have something to please everyone. However, if you're indecisive and/or unwilling to make a glaze, reduction, or chutney, this may not be the perfect Thanksgiving menu for you. Cooking Light always does a great job of making delicious food a little lighter, and this issue is no exception. Outside the holiday section, there are several more recipes, a travel feature (this month it is North Carolina), and lifestyle and health articles (mostly geared toward women).

Gourmet magazine has the requisite perfect turkey on the cover. Inside the magazine, editor Ruth Reichl reveals Gourmet's plan to take your Thanksgiving dinner "Over the Top." The menu includes:
  • Foie gras toasts with sauternes gelee
  • Pecan and goat cheese marbles
  • Smoked-sable tartare with beets and watercress
  • Roast turkey with black truffle butter and white wine gravy
  • Chestnut, leek and apple stuffing
  • Cranberry, quince, and pearl onion compote
  • Parsnip puree with sauteed brussels sprouts leaves
  • Roasted sweet potato rounds with garlic oil and fried sage
  • Wild mushroom bundles
  • Celery apple granitas
  • Seckel pear tart with poire william cream
  • Spiced pumpkin souffles with bourbon molasses sauce
  • Bonus: wine advice and a 3-day "game plan"

If the "Over the Top" menu sounds a bit over the top for you, Gourmet has more menu options:

  1. A menu incorporating Latino flavors, which includes: chipotle meatballs; mango pomegranate guacamole; plantain chips; clementine jicama salad; adobo turkey with red chile gravy; cornbread and chorizo stuffing; cranberry pineapple salsa; roasted chayotes with garlic; sweet potato coconut puree; poblano potato gratin; lattice apple pie with Mexican brown sugar; rum ice cream; and chocolate cinnamon cream pie.
  2. A "Four Hour Feast," including: carrot fennel soup; extra-moist roast turkey with pan gravy; sage stuffing; cranberry tangerine conserve; haricots verts with bacon and chestnuts; roasted potatoes and shallots; cider poached apples with candied walnuts, rum ice cream, and cider syrup.
  3. A "Vegetarian Feast" with the following recipes: marinated olives; sliced fresh fennel; cheese plate with crackers; artichokes braised in lemon and olive oil; mushroom and farro pie; parmesan-roasted butternut squash; cranberry sauce with dates and orange; moscatel-glazed parsnips; smashed potatoes with roasted garlic gravy; sauteed broccoli rabe; kohlrabi and mache salad; prune, apricot, and cherry frangipane tart; pumpkin tart with anise seed crust; and roasted chestnuts.

My summary: Unless you are a real foodie (or someone in your family has a gourmet catering business), Gourmet's Thanksgiving menus may be a little overwhelming. The "four hour feast" is by far the most reasonable for the everyday cook - it utilizes some ingredients you may not be used to but should probably be able to find without a huge struggle. I will probably never make 95% of the recipes in Gourmet, but I have a feeling the other 5% will be absolutely amazing and will make my subscription worthwhile.

Magazines featured in the next post: Bon Appetit, Cook's Country, Saveur, Everyday with Rachael Ray, and whatever else shows up in my mailbox. (Note: I don't subscribe to or buy all these magazines - some are borrowed . . . seriously!)

Update: Find more Thanksgiving menus here and here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Menu for this week

Monday - not cooking (Master Gardeners)
Tuesday - not cooking (yoga)
Wednesday - Flash Chicken (Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper), Glazed Carrots, "Healthy" Mac & Cheese
Thursday - Taco Soup
Friday - Spinach/Prosciutto Lasagna
Saturday - possibly baking pies for a church function

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemon

Although this recipe was quick and easy, it also proved to be a major test of patience. Here's why: I got The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper in the early summer. As usual, I flagged some recipes, including this one. Of course, I'm sure you guessed by now that I couldn't find preserved lemons . . . not even in St Louis. So, with a little help from Google and Simply Recipes, I made my own. This project was a test of my patience because I really wanted to make this recipe . . . in July . . . and preserving things takes time! However, I placed the in-progress lemons in the very back of the refrigerator, thus forgetting about them for quite a while, which made it easier. When I finally uncovered them last weekend, I knew I better try this recipe while the lemons were at the front of the fridge. This recipe is not for the faint of heart, and not for lemon or garlic-phobes either. It really packs a punch, and is quick and easy too (with the exception of preserving lemons!). Roasted Chicken Breasts with Preserved Lemon
1/2 preserved lemon, lightly rinsed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. thyme (original recipe calls for fresh coriander sprigs)
1 tsp. cumin (original recipe calls for whole cumin seeds)
1 large garlic clove
2 large chicken breasts
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, finely chop together the lemon, olive oil, herbs/spices, and garlic.
  2. Cover a large, shallow roasting pan with heavy duty foil. Arrange chicken breasts on the foil, spread 1/4 lemon mixture on each, flip and spread remaining lemon mixture evenly over them. Grind black pepper over the chicken, place in oven. Reduce heat to 325 degrees.
  3. Roast chicken 45 minutes or until it reaches 170 degrees internally. Chicken may be placed under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes per side to increase browning (optional, I didn't do this).
  4. Serve immediately. Chicken reheats well and may be kept in refrigerator up to 2 days. Yield: 2 servings. - Adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper
Preserved Lemons

8-10 Meyer lemons OR 4-6 regular lemons, scrubbed very clean (I used regular lemons)
1/2 cup kosher salt, more if needed
Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed

Sterilized quart canning jar


Place 2 Tbsp of salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar.

One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons, and cut 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwise, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but again, attached at the base.

Pry the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.

Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. Fill up the jar with lemons, make sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt.

Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.

To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.

Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months. - Recipe from Simply Recipes

BB: Vegetable Pot Pie

Mmm. . . it's Barefoot Bloggers time again! It was Deb's turn to pick this week, and she went all out . . . check out her pot pie pics on her blog, Kahakai Kitchen.

I applied a 1960s filter to the photo above, because I think vegetable pot pies seem like a retro comfort food. As you can tell, my pot pies turned out a little messy. It seemed like a lot of the filling oozed out the side and onto the baking sheet. I think I might have:
a) used too many vegetables (I didn't measure them); and
b) filled the individual pie dishes too full

Overall, I was pleased with how the recipe turned out. I would definitely make it again. Next time I think I will use my own pie crust recipe, season the filling a bit more, and try to get a better balance of vegetables to sauce. I added some shredded chicken to Ken's portion (he never fails to ask "where's the meat?" when I cook something with little or no meat), so that would be a good way to add some protein to the meal. You can also substitute vegetables to suit your taste. I'm glad I took time to try this recipe (and also glad that my taste-testers are always willing to help with dishes)!

Vegetable Pot Pie

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks) 1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod white wine
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions [and fennel] and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod or white wine, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned (translation: add more salt and pepper now, even if you don't think you should!).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, [onions], and parsley to the sauce and mix well.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.
- Recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

White Chili

I am a big fan of white chili, but have not been able to find the perfect recipe. This recipe turned out really well, if just a bit too thick (maybe because I didn't really measure out the chicken stock and the chicken). I think I'll keep working with the recipe, but here is the current version:

White Chicken Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 4-ounce cans chopped green chiles
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 15-ounce cans great northern beans, rinsed
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 cups shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar OR fresh lime juice
optional: 1 tablespoon butter

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in chiles, oregano, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Stir in beans and broth; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add shredded chicken, butter (if using) and vinegar; cook for 5 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Optional toppings:
Shredded jack cheese
Tortilla chips
Sour cream
Lime Slices

Note: this recipe could easily be dairy free - just leave out the butter (which won't hurt anything!) and don't garnish with cheese or sour cream.

- Adapted from Eating Well

Doggie Bag, Please

I made gourmet muffins for the dogs! I started last night, soaked the whole wheat and spelt flours in organic buttermilk . . . then tonight, added eggs, baking soda, sea salt, shredded cheese, fresh herbs, and garlic. All so Piper and the bird dogs could have a gourmet breakfast tomorrow.

Okay, that was totally a lie. I made these cheesy herb muffins to go with our white chicken chili tonight - but they were terrible, so they've been relegated to dog food. The major flaw in the process happened when I decided to make a basic sweet muffin recipe savory instead. Ugghhh . . . sometimes I forget that baking is as much a science as an art - and I definitely learned from this experience!

Weekly Menu Plan

Like many others, I have been trying to implement a weekly menu plan. I bought a really cute magnetic menu planning notepad to put on our fridge . . . but I don't use it that often, and even when I do I sometimes have trouble sticking with my plan. This week, I decided to make a menu plan and post it, so I might be more likely to follow my plan.

Monday: didn't cook - Master Gardener class

Tuesday: White Chili, Cheese/Herb Muffins

Wednesday: Vegetable Pot Pie

Thursday: Roasted Chicken Breasts with Preserved Lemon, Salad

Friday: Fajita Quesadillas

Saturday: not cooking - Go Mizzou!

Sunday: Beef Pot Roast

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bethany's Challenge

Bethany left me a note recently asking for suggestions for dairy free recipes. Apparently her new baby boy doesn't like it when she eats dairy - and she's getting tired of salad, meat, and fruit! I went through my old posts and made a new "dairy free" tag - but I didn't realize how many of my recipes contain dairy - yikes!

Bethany's challenge aside, I am actually interested in reducing the amount of dairy I consume. (I've been reading the Eat Right 4 Your Type books and according to their philosophy, dairy isn't compatible with my blood type. You don't have to believe in this - in fact, I'm not sure I do, but it is an interesting philosophy)

So, Bethany - I'll try to make some dairy free recipes this fall. In the meantime, here are some links you might find helpful:

All Recipes Dairy Free Page

Recipe Zaar Dairy Free Page

Eating Well's How to Eat Around Food Allergies

Dairy Free Recipe Blog

Links to a few yummy-looking dairy free recipes on blogs:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Freezer Biscuits

I'm always looking for ideas to help speed up dinner preparation, and have started experimenting with make ahead (or freeze and bake) recipes. On a recent trip home to visit my parents, I discovered my mom's copy of The Best Make-Ahead Recipe, from Cook's Illustrated. All the Cook's Illustrated recipes I've tried have turned out very well (not surprising, with all the testing they do), so I asked to borrow the cookbook and give some of the recipes a try. She also loaned me her Oprah Magazine Cookbook (thanks, Mom!).

These biscuits are very easy to prepare, especially if you use my tip for cutting them into squares (see below). I baked some right away and froze the rest. I have to be honest -I wasn't wowed by the batch I baked right away. The batch I froze and baked tonight turned out much, much better. I had a pot roast in the crockpot and put these in the oven when I got home from work - a wonderful, fast, and easy dinner for the first cold evening of fall. Keep in mind - these are cream biscuits, not the flaky type, but they are much better than purchased freezer biscuits!

Freezer Biscuits
6 cups (30 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for counter
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 1/2 cups heavy cream

Line baking sheet with parchment paper (may need 2 baking sheets); set aside. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in the cream with a wooden spoon until a dough forms, about 30 seconds. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a ball. Knead dough briefly until smooth, about 1 minute, adding extra flour if necessary (if dough is too sticky).

Pat the dough into a 3/4-inch thick circle (or square). Cut biscuits using a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter. (Note: I like to form the dough into a square and cut square biscuits using a butter knife or pizza cutter - this eliminates scraps and the need to re-work the dough). Lay biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, spaced about 1/2 inch apart. If using a round cutter, gather scraps and re-knead them briefly to combine, then pat dough into a 3/4-inch thick circle and cut more biscuits; process can be repeated a third time. Yield: about 24 biscuits, depending on size and shape.

To bake and serve immediately: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. After cutting biscuits, spread them out over 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake biscuits one sheet at a time, 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

- OR -

To freeze: Wrap the baking sheet tightly with greased plastic wrap (or ungreased press-n-seal) and freeze until biscuits are solid, about 6 hours. Transfer frozen biscuits to a large ziplock freezer bag and freeze up to 1 month.

When ready to bake biscuits, do not thaw. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay biscuits on parchment-lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Notes: You may bake as few or as many biscuits at a time as you wish. Regardless of how many you bake, make sure they are spaced 2 inches apart, and if using more than one baking sheet, bake only one sheet at a time.

Guidelines for additions:
mild herbs - add 6 tbsp. (cilantro, parsley, chives, dill, etc.)
hearty herbs - add 3 tbsp. (rosemary, sage, thyme, etc. )
cheese - 6 oz. shredded or cubed (no larger than 1/4-inch pieces)
Add additions to the flour mixture, if using.

- Adapted from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe

The jury is still out: pumpkin swirl brownies

I was very excited to try these Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies and made them for last week's Friday Night Football tailgate. They were good, but not fantastic; I'm still looking for some good recipes to help alleviate my pumpkin baking obsession. The tailgate crowd wasn't quite sure what to think of the brownies. Some thought they were good, some just thought they were weird. One thought they'd be better with vanilla whipped cream on top. It was evident, however, that they were not the best thing I've ever baked. That's okay, not everything can be the best thing you've ever baked!

Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 can solid-pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.

Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don't set.With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with nuts.

Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.
- Recipe originally from Martha Stewart; I saw it on How to Eat a Cupcake

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Celebrate with Champagne Cupcakes

We had a family celebration on Sunday, and I had been looking for a reason to try champagne cake. I first had champagne cake at a convention I planned and thought it was the most delicious cake I'd ever tried. Maybe it just seemed so great because I tasted it after dinner - which also happened to be the first time I sat down the entire day. Either way, I've been looking forward to making my own version ever since. When I saw this recipe on The Beantown Baker, I saved it for our Sunday celebration. These cupcakes aren't exactly how I remember the cake, but they are easy to make and very good.

Champagne Cupcakes

2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder1 tsp salt
3/4 cup champagne
6 large egg whites, at room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.
  2. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. In a separate medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Blend the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture alternately with champagne.
  5. In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter until blended, then fold in the remaining egg whites until well blended.
  6. Fill the cupcakes liners 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan.
  7. Once completely cooled, brush 1 Tbsp of champagne onto the tops of the cupcakes.

Champagne Frosting

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp champagne
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

In a large bowl beat the shortening and butter until combined. Add the champagne. Slowly add the confectioners sugar and beat until smooth.
- Recipe from The Beantown Baker, originally from Crazy about Cupcakes

Thursday, October 09, 2008

BB: Butternut Squash Risotto

YUM! Although it's not extremely photogenic, Ina Garten's Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash is delicious! This was my first attempt at risotto, and I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

Rachel from the blog Rachel Likes To Cook picked the first Barefoot Bloggers recipe for October - and she made a great choice! Making risotto is not for the faint of heart - it was pretty time consuming (1 1/2 to 2 hours total), but I'm definitely glad I took the time to try it! This recipe is creamy and rich, and the butternut squash provide just enough sweetness to give it a perfect sweet/savory balance. If you're thinking about leaving out the squash - don't do it! Ken even ate this . . . and we discovered that Piper loves roasted butternut squash.

Saute pancetta, shallots, and butter
Add white wine and riceSlowly add chicken stockAllow rice to absorb each additionYUM!

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes (I did not peel the squash; I could barely cut it! I peeled it after roasting). You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total (Ha! It took at least 45, maybe more). Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve. - Recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style, via The Food Network

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Apple Pecan Muffins

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it can also be the most challenging. Not many people have time (okay, make time) to fix a nutritious breakfast on weekdays. Lately, my breakfast has consisted of tea and a sprouted grain English muffin with almond butter (and sometimes honey). Ken usually eats cereal (good, because it is the lesser of the evils when compared to Pop Tarts, but bad because it is high carb and not very nutrient dense).

These Apple Pecan Muffins turned out to be a perfect alternative to our normal breakfasts. I found the recipe in Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave, which has "recipes for a healthy lifestyle." I made a few changes (and I have a few more I'd like to experiment with in the future). Here is my version:

Apple Pecan Muffins
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup spelt flour (substitute for all-purpose flour)
1 cup oat flour (substitute for whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
2 large eggs (I used brown/cage free)
1 cup natural, unsweetened applesauce (2 of the individual servings)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-capacity muffin pan with olive oil or cooking spray, or use paper or foil muffin liners.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the pecans and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla.

Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined. Gently stir in the apple chunks.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pecan mixture. Tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen. Remove from pan and cool completely on the rack.

Note: for me, this recipe yielded 12 regular muffins, plus 5 muffins baked in mini-tart pans. You can keep these muffins in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer up to 3 months, in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Quick Dinner and Why I Almost Ate Donut Holes Instead

It was after dark when I got home this evening (commute+errands+grocery store), so I had to fix a quick dinner to keep us from eating too late. I made a bourbon-honey-mustard glazed shoulder tender steak for Ken and trimmed a little of the end of the steak off to cube up for stir fry meat for my dinner. No real recipes, but here are some rough guidelines:

Combine equal parts bourbon, honey, chicken stock, and spicy brown mustard (I used about 2 tbsp. each); cook in a saucepan until well combined (allow to reduce if you have time). Brush over both sides of steak; season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet (or grill pan) over medium-high heat. Sear each side of the steak (this was grass-fed, so I gave it a little less than 2 minutes per side). Remove steak from skillet; transfer to oven-safe baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over steak and bake in a 350 degree oven to desired doneness (I didn't check the time - maybe 10-15 minutes).

Super green (and yellow) (and brown) stir fry:
I cooked the small cubes of beef (seasoned with salt and pepper) in the grill pan with the steak (above), then set the meat aside. In another skillet, sauté asparagus and bell pepper (chopped pieces of both; I used a yellow pepper) in olive oil. Meanwhile, steam green beans (using your favorite steaming method). When tender, add equal parts soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, and spinach, green onions, fresh basil, cooked beef, and steamed green beans. Add toasted sesame ginger seasoning to taste (1-2 tsp.). Cook until sauce and seasoning have coated vegetables (about 1 minute). Serve immediately.

I got the inspiration for adding fresh herbs to my stir fry from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking (she also has a good healthy cooking blog - 101 Cookbooks). It was so good, it almost made me think I could eat low-carb! However, I used a little too much sesame seasoning and by the time I got to the last couple of bites, I was wishing for rice!

Stir Fry

Honey-Bourbon-Mustard Shoulder Tender Steak
About the donut holes . . . I went to a decent-sized grocery store in Hannibal to shop for ingredients for my recipes for the rest of the week and weekend (normally I like to go to Quincy for groceries, but I had to run errands in Hannibal, so I thought it would be more efficient to get groceries there) . . . since it has been rainy and cloudy, I wanted to make a quick Mediterranean soup. However, [this particular grocery store] didn't have HALF of the ingredients I needed - and they weren't all that exotic! I was also unable to find a couple crucial items for the risotto I'm making this week . . . and to top it all off, the liquor dept. didn't even have champagne, which I need for cupcakes this weekend! By the time I made it to the checkout, I felt pretty defeated and really wanted to pick up the strategically-placed sugared donut holes for dinner . . . sometimes it is hard to attempt to eat well in the rural Midwest! However, I did get gas for less than $3/gallon, so that made me feel a little better about living in a place with no eggplant, shallots, or champagne.

Monday, October 06, 2008

This Week

Sorry, nothing exciting and new to post today. I made two things over the weekend - and neither were blog-worthy (cheesy hashbrown potato casserole for a bonfire/Mizzou football watch party on Saturday night and "oven fried" chicken tenders Sunday night).

However, I am looking forward to cooking some good stuff this week:
Saffron risotto with butternut squash (Barefoot Bloggers)
Pumpkin frozen custard
Green-packed stir fry
Shoulder tender steak

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I'm going to be working on "harvest food" - portable things Ken can eat in the combine during the evening (or quick-fix things I can make when he gets home late).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Now that October is here, I feel like I MUST bake some pumpkin-flavored treats. I have got to move this up on my priority list so I can stop obsessing over thinking about pumpkin treats!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Speaking of pumpkin treats, I saw Pumpkin Spice Kiss Chocolate Brownies on Annie's Eats recently, but I cannot find Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses around here! Fortunately, I do have all the ingredients for Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies, as seen on How to Eat a Cupcake.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Although I didn't do much cooking this weekend, I did pick up the October issues of Southern Living and Cook's Country, and got Williams Sonoma's Cake (thanks, Mom!) as well as Super Natural Cooking, by Heidi Swanson. I can't wait to try some of Heidi's healthful, delicious-looking recipes. Now, online to order mesquite flour.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Zingerman's Guide to Good Eatingcame in the mail today. Thank goodness for and! I like Amazon - a huge selection and fast shipping . . . but I can get a lot of good books, cookbooks, and audiobooks from for under $2 each (not including shipping).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Finally, I'm working on a package for Blogging by Mail!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My kind of history

History wasn't one of my favorite subjects in school; I think it is one of those things you develop a greater appreciation for as you get older (although I'm still not into watching The History Channel). Food history, however, is really interesting to me. As much as I like trying new recipes, I'm also interested in learning about the history of food and meals. Some historical foods suit me better than others (for example, I love heirloom tomatoes but I can't get very excited about eating liver).

In addition to heirloom tomatoes, another thing I love is cookbooks. This summer, just before our anniversary, Ken and I went to an estate sale near our home. I think he was interested in a pressure washer, but I was drawn to the boxes of old cookbooks. I started looking through some of them while they were selling items I wasn't interested in . . . and found a few I thought were really cool. However, it was a really hot day and I had a lot of things on my weekend to-do list . . . so Ken took me home (empty handed) and he returned to the sale. He stayed there for quite a while, so I thought he would buy the pressure washer - but instead, he came home with 2 boxes of old cookbooks! He waited around for them to sell long after the pressure washer had sold. In the hot, humid August weather. Isn't he nice?

The boxes were filled with lots of community cookbooks (from churches, daycares, 4-H clubs, flower societies, etc.), plus a few hardcover books. Here are two of my favorites - the Culinary Arts Institute's Encyclopedic Cookbook and the White House Cookbook.

The White House Cookbook is a reprint of the original 1887 Edition - the recipes are in a different format than recipes we see today. They don't list the ingredients; ingredients are incorporated into the directions instead. Both cookbooks also have monthly menu plans (you can tell I intended to post this in September!):

(Culinary Arts Cookbok's September Dinner Menus)

(The White House Cookbook's September menus)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Healthy Chocolate Cake?

Would you believe me if I told you this cake was good for you? Well, believe it - it is GOOD for you. Not just a little better than your average chocolate cake - actually good for you (and after the sugar-high inducing Sweet 100 in the last post, good-for-you is much needed around here)!

First, let me give you the background on this cake. It is made from a mix from Wellness Bakeries (as is the "ganache"). It was a sample my boss got at work; I was tasked with baking it and bringing it in for a taste test.

Per serving, this cake has:
  • Fewer grams of sugar than a quarter of an apple
  • More protein than a scrambled egg
  • More antioxidant power than 6 cups of blueberries
  • More fiber than a bowl of bran flakes
  • Fewer calories than a serving of yogurt
Sounds healthy, right? Now to the really important part - how did it taste? I'll start by saying - it's really good! But it does make a difference at which point you find out it is a "healthy" chocolate cake. If you tasted it before finding out, you'd probably think it was okay - maybe not the richest or most flavorful chocolate cake ever, but not too bad. If you knew it was healthy before you tasted it, you would be amazed how good it tastes, especially considering the nutritional benefits.

So why am I bragging about this healthy cake? I'm not sure - I guess it just surprises me that a piece of cake that is better for me than yogurt, bran flakes, an egg, an apple, and blueberries actually tastes good! I'm not an affiliate of Wellness Bakeries. In fact, I've never met or talked to the Wellness Bakeries people; I'm definitely not getting any credit for telling you about this cake. It's just interesting. Somewhere on the Wellness Bakeries website, I read that they are developing more mixes, including gluten free.

I hope we will start carrying it at work (healthy chocolate cake would be a great finish to a grass-fed steak dinner, no?).