Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a very nice Thanksgiving. The husband and I are spending the day with the beagles at home with no guests. I am cooking all the usually Thankgiving Day fare. I brine my turkey, which since I started doing it, I absolutely swear by!

I will probably watch the James Bond marathon on the Sci-Fi channel. Not because I like James Bond movies (I don't) but because there is supposed to be a sneak peak at the new Battlestar Galactica season that starts in January! Actually, we will watch the parades like most folks.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

Monday, November 24, 2008

dutch baby!!

I always try to make something special on Saturday for breakfast. I prepare breakfast everyday but Sunday in our house. We usually grab something from the golden arches on Sunday morning on the way to church. I don't know why we have fallen into this routine but we have. I think it is because we have to be up and out of the house on Sunday an hour earlier than during the work week.

This past Saturday morning I was awake at about 5:30 and could not get back to sleep. I got up and took the dogs out. It was cold. The beagles were very quick about what they had to do and both of them went back upstairs to sleep. I made a pot of tea and sat down and read a book for awhile. It is always lovely to curl up with a book in my husband's arm chair. I never sit in my chair if his chair is free... it's funny, the chairs are actually a man's larger wing back chair and a smaller, more dainty arm chair that is a ladies' chair. Regardless, I had a great time curled up reading. I live in a funky, old, drafty farm house but I love it anyway!

Ok, so on to the Dutch baby. I had never made this before last Saturday! I love making new food for the first time. It is such a treat. Although, I have made popovers and this is really just a giant popover! It came out of the oven all puffy and golden brown and rather quickly deflated, which I understand is what it is supposed to do. We thoroughly enjoyed this with powdered sugar and lemon. I think I not have something to compete with buttermilk pancakes for my favored weekend breakfast!

Oh, before I forget, this was from Alton Brown's recipe and can be found here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

soup and sandwich

This is butternut squash soup with sage and a kind of croquette monsieur. It's like grown up soup and sandwich. I made this soup for a friend's birthday party lunch last November and it was very well received. My husband and I have long enjoyed it but it was nice to hear from others that it was good. Oh, my delicate ego! It is unlike other butternut squash soups I have had in that it is neither as thick as baby food nor is it bright orange. I don't really like those types of soups. This soup is light and creamy and truly savory. Delightfully savory and an acceptable color for food to be.

butternut squash soup with sage and sausage
4 – 6 servings
1 large butternut squash, about 3 pounds, halved, seeds removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound sweet (this important, don't get the hot or spicy kind) Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped dried sage
1/2 teaspoon chopped dried marjoram
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream, or more to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly coat the squash halves with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Season the inside with salt and pepper and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until very tender, about 45 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside. Throw the peel away.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the remaining vegetable oil and, when hot but not smoking, add the sausage. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until the onions wilted and starting to caramelize, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, sage and marjoram, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cooked squash and chicken stock, stir well to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
With a hand-held immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor or blender, puree the soup. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean saucepan. Add the cider vinegar and stir to combine. Add the cream and adjust seasoning, to taste.

The sandwich, as i have already said is a type of croquette monsieur. I know there are so many variations of this sandwich out there on the interwebz but here is mine. When I taught cooking over the summer, this was a big hit with the girls! I was surprised!

Croquette Monsieur
serves 2
4 slices of good white bread
4 ounces of good quality sliced ham
2 ounces of sharp cheese - Gruyere is traditional but baby swiss or even a sharp cheddar would work
3 tablespoons of butter

For the mustard sauce
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
1 tablespoon of dijion mustard
1 tablespoon of whole grain coarse mustard
1/2 cup of milk

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir together to make a roux. Add the milk and then stir in the mustard and some salt and pepper to your taste. No, just assemble the sandwiches with the ham, cheese and then the mustard sauce. Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over high heat and once it is foamy, carefully add the sandwiches and turn once the first side is golden brown. It's really so good! Maybe less mustard for folks who don't like mustard and I think you could get the same creamy mustard effect by mixing the mustard with some mayonnaise, but you didn't hear that here!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

someone wants to snuggle!

Huckie-may-may, you look so cute snuggled up in your basket!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

a time to stew

So, we had the strangest weather this past weekend. Saturday started out bleak and rainy then it was 77 degrees and sunny. Yesterday was windy and chilly and today is just cold! It's just strange. I think we are expecting snow tonight.

I made beef stew yesterday for dinner. I think I have mentioned this here before, but I love soups and stews. I mostly enjoy very savory soups. Yesterday, I wanted my stew thick (like gravy) and rich without a lot of acidity. I usually put tomatoes (diced or whole) in beef stew but yesterday, I just put a little tomato paste in at the beginning and let it develop into a nice, rich, think, beefy, good time! I usually put peas into my stew as well, but I was not really in the mood for peas yesterday. The husband and I were very happy with this dinner, although my husband confessed he is not crazy in love with pearl onions like I am. We watched the Steelers' game (the husband is a big fan) while we were eating dinner, and I think the fact that the Steelers won made dinner all the better for him!

Beef stew 6 servings
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
2 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
10 small red potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut in 1/2
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups pearl onions, peeled
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat with the oil and butter.
While the pan is heating, arrange the flour on a large dish. Season the cubed beef with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and the paprika and then toss in the flour to coat. Shake off the excess flour and add the beef chunks in a single layer to the hot pan, being careful not to over crowd the pan; you might have to work in batches. Thoroughly brown all of the cubes on all sides. Once all the meat has been browned remove it to a plate and reserve.
Add the stock to the pan and bring up to a simmer while you scrape the bottom of the pan being sure to loosen up all those tasty bits. Once the stock has gotten hot add the browned meat, thyme, minced garlic, ground black pepper and salt, to taste, bay leaves, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the liquids start to thicken, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat for 1 1/2 hours.
After 1 1/2 hours add halved potatoes, sliced carrots, and pearl onions. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Obviously, I served mine with cornbread. I love cornbread.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chinese takeout

We had Chinese takeout last night since I was not feeling up to cooking.

This was my fortune.

Call me crazy, but today I would be happy with just the good health!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

chicken kiev

Chicken kiev is one of the first dishes I learned to make when I was about 15 years old. I really enjoy making and eating this dish. I was determined to make this last night for dinner, although my husband had to be at a meeting at 7.I didn't have a lot of time but I did manage to prepare this with roasted garlic potatoes and a vegetable medley in about 45 minutes time. Ok, so the veggies were of the frozen variety in a little microwave steamer pouch. In cooking (just like everything else) you have to pick your battles wisely! I choose to die on the chicken kiev hill last night, not the mixed-veggie hill.

Ok, so it doesn't look like much on the outside but again a cliche' comes to my rescue: it's what's inside that really counts!

Chicken kiev (on the fly)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning chicken
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning chicken
4 ounces of Gruyere or provolone cheese
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup of flour
2 large whole eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
2 cups bread crumbs
Olive oil, for frying

Combine butter, parsley, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Place chicken breasts, 1 at a time, between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Pound to 1/8-inch thickness. Season each piece of chicken with salt and pepper.

Lay 1 chicken breast on a new piece of plastic wrap and place 1/4 of the butter mixture 1 ounce of cheese in the center of each breast. Using the plastic wrap, fold in ends of breast and roll breast into a log; roll very tightly twisting the ends. Place chicken in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Place flour in one pie pan, egg and water mixture in another pie pan and bread crumbs in a third pie pan.

Heat the oil in a large saute' pan.

Dip each breast in the flour, the the egg mixture and then roll in the bread crumbs. Gently place each breast in oil, seam-side down, and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side and then into a 350 oven for another 5 minutes.

I let them rest for a couple of minutes, then slice into 5 or so slices. The butter and cheese are so good and melted. It's like those little chocolate lava cakes that make their own sauce, you know? Yes, chicken kiev makes its own sauce.

Monday, November 10, 2008

fallen leaves with Pebbles

Who knows what Autumn looks like through the eyes of a beagle?

I spent much of last week and this past weekend sick so I didn't cook much of anything. I did manage to take the beagles out yesterday afternoon with my husband and I got this shot of Pebbles looking at the blanket of leaves in our front yard. I was a little shocked when I walked outside to find that the walkway to my front door was not discernible due to the leaves... it was as if the sky snowed leaves on Saturday night!

Anyway, I knelt down to see what it was Pebbles was so dialed in about - ears all perked up and head held so alertly. I could not see or hear anything that was so intriguing but thankfully she held the pose long enough for me to get this picture.

This is the farm where I live. Yesterday was a lovely, brisk, fall day. I don't anticipate we will have too many more of these but I count myself blessed beyond measure to get to experience even one of these days and to share it with my husband.

That is what is known as the concrete barn. My brain is stupid and when I hear someone say, "the concrete barn" I imagine a barn filled with concrete. I think of it as the yellow barn. My house is the blue shingled house just visible across from the yellow concrete barn.

My house numbers and some dried corn hanging on my blue shingled house.

All the corn has been harvested off of the farm now. There is still some hay to be harvested. Soon it will be gone and winter will be here for sure!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

time flies

Wow, Election Day already. I cannot believe how quickly 2008 is disappearing. I did my civic duty this morning and cast my ballot.

"Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society" - Oliver Wendell Holmes said that and it makes me laugh. That quote is actually over the front door to the IRS building in DC. I wonder why it is not really a directly proportional equation, you know? If taxes are what we pay for a civilized society, then the higher taxes the more civilized we should be right?

Anyway, this is a blog that is supposed to be about food. I think I will make clam chowder for dinner tonight and not think about the election until tomorrow when it is all said and done.

Monday, November 3, 2008

more pumpkin

I really did not think my husband would like these cookies but I was so wrong. He really enjoyed them. I had planned that in the event that he did not like them, I thought I would bring them in for my coworkers but Lenny liked them so much he said, "these are my cookies!" Funny man who never learned to share.

Anyway, these are spice and pumpkin cookies with cream cheese icing and they are wicked good if I do say so myself. They are kind of like eating little cakes. Yes, your own little cake. I made about 3 dozen of them. I do not expect them to last the week in my house as the husband and I each have a terrible sweet tooth!

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween. Lenny and I watched old monster movies until we were bleary eyed. That is our Halloween tradition. I cannot watch modern horror movies but give me a monster movie with Boris Karloff or Vincent Price and I am so happy. The Universal pictures are certainly my favorites! There is a certain drama that those movies portray that has been entirely lost in this day of gore and torture.