Monthly Archives: November 2011

Lighter

Phew!  After the holiday that started for us on Saturday and the onslaught of food it brought, we needed a bit of a break.  So we took a break from the leftovers and had burgers.  This recipe took less than 15 minutes start to finish and even my husband enjoyed them… as long as I promised that they would never replace the meat.  He declared them filling, which is something that you don’t often get out of my husband regarding meatless foods.  I loved them and they going on that ever-lengthening list of foods for me to eat at lunch!
Black Bean Burgers
  • 1 15 oz can of Black Beans
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic

Peel the carrot, garlic and onion.  Roughly chop and then place in the bowl of a food processor.  Drain the black beans and rinse them.  Add them to the food processor.  Puree.  Add the bread crumbs and the seasonings.  Then, add the flour as needed until the puree is thick and will stick together into patties.   Heat some coconut oil (or another neutral oil) in a skillet and then place each patty in the oil.  Fry until the patty is crispy, about 1 minute.  Turn the patties and finish frying.  Serve on a bun as you would a “normal” burger, garnishing however makes you the happiest!

The day after

I went Black Friday shopping.  Once.  Seven years ago.  I can remember standing in the middle of Best Buy terrified that I was going to get crushed by the mob of people.  I left with a dvd player for my dad and later that day had the discussion that led me to the altar 16 months later. 
For the last 6 years, we’ve chosen to avoid the chaos and the rush to spend by supporting the local businesses and making it a family day.  We go out at some point in the day and get our Christmas tree and then come home to decorate.  I know a lot of people do this, but I’ve made it a point to make sure that we keep after Thanksgiving to ourselves.  And to make sure we are being conscious with our money’s final destination.  
Liam on the wagon ridesus
The town I live in has a group that champions the slogan “Be Focal, Buy Local”.  I for one, am on board.  We’ve continued with our primarily local diet and spend as much of our dollars within the borders of our own county if at all possible.  When looking for our Christmas tree, I found the OurOhio.org site and promptly checked out our county’s offerings.  As a result, we found a wonderful little farm less than 20 minutes from our home that I never knew about.  We brought our tree home and decorated it after supper.  I’m typing in the glow of the lights. 

Regardless of how you’ve planned to spend your Black Friday or where you do your shopping, I’d like to encourage you to take the time to find a local artisan, farmer, or shop and support them instead of the big box stores.  If you’re looking for a place to start, how about with your Christmas tree?  Check out the Christmas Tree Farm Network for a listing of farms by state. 

Stuffed

Oh stuffing.  I grew up vegetarian, so Thanksgiving was one of the those holidays that we had to make some adaptations.  We always had pasta dishes to round out the menu, but those standard side dishes never altered.  So I spent all my Thanksgiving holidays eating mashed potatoes, yams, pasta and stuffing.  Carbs anyone?  When I finally started eating meat a few years ago, I was glad to leave the stuffing off my plate.  
And then, I had a little boy who loved stuffing.  When your baby boy loves something, you learn to make it and then you learn to love it.  For him.  
In my preparation for this dish, I purchased a loaf of French bread.  My aunt, who is in her mid-70s was horrified.  I’m not sure what other people use, but it’s French bread for me.  Stale French bread is the best, but I didn’t have the time to make the bread stale, so I toasted the cubed up bread in the oven.  Tada!  
French Bread Stuffing:
  • 1 large loaf, stale French bread cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley

Melt the butter in a large skillet.   Add in the onions, celery and garlic.  When the onions are translucent, sprinkle in the flour until it’s thick and bubbly.  Add the seasonings and half of the broth.  Then, add the bread to a buttered 9 by 13 inch casserole dish.  Mix in the onion mixture from the skillet and then pour in the rest of the chicken broth until the bread is covered.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. 

Mashed

I am sucker for mashed potatoes.  I try them everytime they come with meals and spend 364 days a year dreaming about Thanksgiving so that I can have huge servings of my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law’s mashed potatoes.  I’ve heard a few reasons why hers are the best: brown butter, cream cheese, the Bosch mixer, but no matter what I do, I’ve never been able to recreate them.  However, this recipe is so close it’s almost a clone.  I had posted on Facebook Friday night that it was going to take all my willpower to not serve them in the morning with big spoonfuls taken out and I wasn’t kidding.  Yesterday as I scraped out the last bits of the leftovers, I wondered if I had made a good decision in only making 2 and a half pounds.
The 2 1/2 pound measurement is taken after the potatoes are peeled and washed.  Then, those potatoes are tossed into a pot of salted, boiling water.  It is very important to salt your potatoes while they cook.  Not only does the salt flavor them from the start, but I feel that they are less water laden when you go to mash them.  After you’ve drained the potatoes, return them to the pan and put them on the warm stove.  If you like to use a potato masher, go for it.  I use an immersion blender.  I have to stop and clean out the blade a few times if the cream cheese gets packed in there, but I like it better than the traditional wire beaters on a hand mixer.
Because you’re keeping the potatoes warm, they don’t cool as quickly as they would in a mixing bowl therefore become that strange “mealy” texture.  I get the mashing process started before I add in the butter, cream cheese and milk.  A little salt and pepper to taste and then my favorite: horseradish.  Add as much or as little as you like, but I promise you, it brings a whole new dimension of flavor to the potatoes.  It wins over even the most skeptical of dinner guests.
Mashed Potatoes:
  • 2.5 lbs. Idaho potatoes, washed, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. horseradish
Boil a large pot of salted water and add the potatoes.  Cook until they are fork tender.  Drain the potatoes and then return to the pan.  Place over a warm burner and mash using the tool of your choice.  Mix in the butter and cream cheese, streaming in the milk to help mix.  Add the salt, pepper and horseradish to taste… in my opinion, the more horseradish, the better!

**I made these the night before and put them in a baking dish instead of a serving bowl and then covered them and refrigerated them for the night.  The next day, while the turkey was resting and then being sliced, I put a few pats of butter on top and then put them back in the 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.**

Thankful

Oh he’s thankful, alright… for PIE!!
Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  This story is proof positive that you can throw a dinner party 18 hours after confirming the date/time and still get a decent night’s rest.  I loved that part… the whole in-bed-before-1030 part.  I was tired.  I was still tired the next day, so there are photos missing from our adventure that which bothers me, but I guess I’ll survive.  I’m going to give you a little run down of how I did our day, our menu and then share the recipes throughout the week.  I realized that I don’t cook turkey’s nearly often enough so at some point I’ll do another so I can have a cooked bird photo for you!
Swoon… I just love my turkey: bacon, rum and Ohio maple syrup… it doesn’t get much better!
  Menu:
Maple-Rum Glazed Turkey (recipe below)
Stuffing
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Brussel sprouts
Roasted sweet potato slices (made for Sylvia so she could participate)
Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Pie
Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie (Recipe from here.  Go there right now and make it.  You’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.  I promise.)
I purchased our turkey on Thursday night.  I knew I wasn’t scheduled to entertain this week, but I really, really wanted to cook a turkey because people like the Pioneer Woman were posting these recipes for the turkey leftovers that motivated me enough to go to the store at 830 at night to find a turkey.  It was the smallest of the turkeys that didn’t have anything extra (preservatives, colorants, etc.) and it still weighed 17.33 pounds.  And it was frozen solid.  
The pretty brine, pre-turkey
Friday afternoon, we confirmed our lunch date for noon on Saturday.  I had the turkey in the fridge, but didn’t get a chance to actually start thawing it until around 5.  I followed instructions I found online to “emergency” thawing a turkey.  Every time I changed the water over the next 5 hours, I reminded myself that this is why I like to plan ahead: so I’m not wrestling a giant, half-frozen bird to drain the sink and washing my hands up to my elbows 27 times.  Once the turkey was almost completely thawed, we put it in for a last soak in the sink and I set up the brine.  I’ve made 3 turkeys and brined all 3.  I will probably never do one without one.  My brine consists of: 1 cup coarse salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. ginger, 2 tsp. whole peppercorns, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 gallon chicken stock and water.  We have a small cooler that is the perfect size to put a turkey on it’s side and fill with the brine.  First, I put in the chicken broth and then the bird.  Then, I sprinkle in the salt, sugar and spices.  Finally, I put in enough water to cover the whole bird, shifting it around so that the whole cavity is filled with the mixture.  We put the lid on and then stored it in the garage.  It was below freezing out over night, but since everything was in the cooler, I wasn’t worried.  Alton Brown did an episode on brining and just left his on the “back porch”.  I don’t.  There are too many wild animals around here to risk something like that the night before we have company.  I should also note that I made the pumpkin pie and the mashed potatoes the night before while I was waiting for the turkey to thaw and had a tart pan prepped with crust for the Maple Cream pie.  And I was in bed at 1015.
The pretty brine, with turkey
The next morning, I got up and made the Cream Pie and prepped the turkey while the pie was cooking.  My turkey is a little different that other people’s in that I swaddle it in bacon.   I know.  I’m all about the healthy foods and then I go and do something like that?!  Just stay with me for a minute.  I put the bacon slices on the body of the bird and then also on the legs.  I then throw some onions, parsley, salt, pepper and any extra bacon I feel like into the cavity of the bird.  The next step is to heave a roaster with the bacon covered turkey into the oven and cook it at 500 degrees for 45 minutes.  Then, I take it out (rather, Matt takes it out), cover it in foil and lower the heat to 350.  I put the bird in the oven at about 945, lowered the temperature around 1030 and went to take a shower.
The bacon swaddle
Around 11, I returned to the kitchen, showered, relaxed, hair and makeup done.  I got the mashed potatoes out of the fridge and diced up a loaf of French bread for my stuffing.  Once the bread was diced, I spread it on a baking sheet and popped it into the oven on the rack below the turkey.  I spent the next 15 minutes, getting the rest of my stuffing ready (recipe tomorrow), cleaning up what I could, setting the table and prepping the glaze for the turkey.  We took the turkey out of the oven at 1130 (temperature reading 168 degrees).  I removed the foil and the bacon.  The bacon gets set aside for the dogs… they should get to celebrate too!  The turkey is almost fully cooked, but has no color.  To remedy this, I spread on my glaze which consists of equal parts dark rum and maple syrup.  I usually start with 1/3 a cup of each and see where that gets me.  I covered the turkey with the glaze and then popped it back in the oven for 10 minutes.  I glazed it again and returned it for another 10 minutes.  By then the temperature was 175 degrees and considering that the internal temperature would continue to rise, I skipped the 3rd glazing in favor of not having a dry bird and took it out to rest.  It was about 1150, so I put the stuffing, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese in the oven.  
My little half pint post mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes and stuffing.  We’re big into the tactile experiences in this kitchen.
I fed Sylvia and was ready to carve the turkey by the time my in-laws got to the house.  We served lunch officially around 1, but only because it took forever to carve the giant bird and get the kids set up.  The turkey was amazing.  The bacon and tin foil serve to keep the meat moist while flavoring it.  The turkey wasn’t as dark as it has been in the past, but only because it cooked a little faster than I had anticipated.  We all ate until we were stuffed and yet I wasn’t tired enough of the turkey a few hours later when I made myself a turkey sandwich on some leftover French bread.  We had a wonderful day and was able to relax and enjoy the time with our children and my in-laws.  Of course, my kitchen still looks like a bomb went off in it, but it was well worth the mess.  After, it is our family and these moments we are most grateful for, isn’t it?

Sloppy

Recently, I started to crave the dishes my parents made as I grew up.  The more I think about it, the main ingredient in most of those dishes is lentils.   So down the road I headed to our new bulk foods store and bought a pound.  I have been doing so reading up on how to cook lentils and other legumes and it would seem that not everyone feels you need to soak them overnight before cooking them, but I like coming in the kitchen in the morning for my coffee and seeing the bowl of soaking lentils on my stovetop.  Now, all I need are those pans with the wonky handles I hated scrubbing cooked rice off of and I’d be 15 again.  This recipe is an adaptation of my dad’s sloppy joe sauce, but it still tastes like home.
With this meal, I also celebrated the end of the processed ketchup in our home.  I had bought two HUGE bottles for making sloppy joes for Liam’s birthday party last summer.  I gave away one, but have been slowly chipping away at the other bottle.  Really, for as much I’ve been wanting to get rid of the processed things in our home, I hate to waste.  And even though the only time we use that ketchup is when we have cookouts, I just couldn’t waste it.  I may have danced a little on the way to the recycling bin. 
As far as the family reviews on this meal, Matt ate it without complaint and said that he didn’t notice a difference in taste, but the texture got his attention.  He also said he didn’t want to take it for lunch at work.  No one in his office is vegetarian.  I get it.  Liam spit his out and declared it “yucky”.  He’s 2, I ignored him.  Sylvia didn’t get anything but a bit of the bun and the roasted sweet potatoes.  Currently, she’s my best eater in the house.  I loved it and I will be making it again to freeze for my own lunches.
Sloppy Lentils

  • 1 c. lentils, soaked over night and cooked until tender
  • 1 Tbsp. olive or coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 c. ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Brown sugar

Heat the oil in a saute pan and add the onions, peppers and garlic.  Stir in the lentils and mix thoroughly.  Then, add in all the ingredients for the sauce and bring to a boil.  Then, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.   Serve on buns.  Makes 8 sandwiches.

My favorite

I’m glad I got back into making my own yogurt again.  Now, I have a fresh quart of plain yogurt whenever I need it to do neat things like marinate chicken.  For months, I’ve had to make a note and a specific trip to the store if I wanted to make a lot of the dishes I’m dying to try.  Sunday afternoon, while the Pear butter was simmering, I grabbed some chicken out of the fridge and coated it in a thick bath of yogurt and spices, fully intending to grill it up for supper.  But then, we got company and company that doesn’t like Indian food.  Well, company that hasn’t ever had Indian food and I’d love to challenge their opinion of it.  I let it marinate overnight and we had this on Monday night and my goodness, I didn’t make enough of this to share.  As it was, I wept a tiny tear when I gave up the leftovers so Matt could take them to work this morning. 
Chicken Tikka Masala one of my absolute favorite Indian dishes.  I always order it when we go to an Indian restaurant and whenever I see the sauce jarred in the grocery, I buy it to try.  I haven’t had any since about a week before I had Sylvia so I was just dying to savor every bite.  And this dish did not disappoint.  Creamy and with just a hint of spice this is a dish that even the 7 month old licked her fingers over.

Chicken Tikka Masala
  • 1 c. yogurt
  • 1 c. fresh cilantro or coriander
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. chicken
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced  (this makes a fairly mild sauce, feel free to add more if you desire)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. pureed tomatoes
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Naan
 Mix the yogurt, cilantro, ginger, garlic, garam masala, and red pepper flakes.  Cover the chicken in the marinade.  Allow to set for at least 4 hours, but preferably over night. 
In a large saute pan, melt some ghee and saute the onion, garlic and jalapeno until tender.  Sprinkle the cumin, paprika and salt.  Saute until fragrant.  Pour in the tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the milk and cook over low until the sauce thickens.  In the meantime, grill the chicken until cooked through.  Cut the chicken up into small pieces and add to the sauce.  Serve over brown or basmati rice and with warm naan.  

** For the Cheflets:  Liam ate this just fine, but I’ll admit he was more interested in the naan.  I gave Sylvia the rice with a small amount of sauce on it.  She got the flavor, but none of the zing.**

Chai and Pears

A few months after Matt and I got married, the pear tree in our back yard bloomed and we were amazed by the sweet smell that drifted into our windows.  We waited anxiously for the pears that we were sure would overload the tree.  In the 4 springs we had in that home, I’d say we got a total of 10 pears that were worth using.  Most of those pears came the year I tried making pear butter.  I swore I’d make it every year thereafter.  That was in 2008.  I have not made a single spoonful since.  Even the following year when Liam was starting solids and I was freezing everything in sight.
Anyway, I saw a recipe on Pinterest and started to drool.  I had planned to follow the recipe posted, but I noticed a box of chai in my cupboard this morning and decided to tweak the recipe a tad.  Here’s the thing: I LOVE spices and flavors and depth.  For this, I essentially took the spices for my traditional Chai recipe and added it to the pears.  I was surprised how juicy my pears were, so I had to let them cook down for quite a while.  While they were cooking, we went outside and started hanging the Christmas lights.  Even though it’s November in Ohio, the weather is quite nice and this was the perfect weekend to get the decorating underway!  When we came back in the house smelled heavenly and I’m just so excited to add these little jars to my Christmas gifts this year.
Vanilla Chai Spice Pear Butter
  • 7 lbs. Pears
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 C. Orange juice
  • 3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground Cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground Cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Wash and roughly chop the pears.  Place them in a stock pot with the water and cook until tender.  Run the pears through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds and puree the pears.  Return the pear puree to the stock pot and add in the remaining ingredients.  Turn the heat to a low setting and let the pear mixture simmer until it has reduced in volume and water no longer separates out.  When the pear butter is thick and fragrant, pour into sterilized half pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Cap the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

**Note:  The word Chai in Hindi actually means tea.  So… it’s not Chai tea, it’s just plain old Chai.  Trust me.  I drank plenty of it in June in Calcutta.  Just plain Chai. **