Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Cards Found!

I found the Christmas cards!  Last year, it seemed a good idea to put all the cards in this colorful bag. While it was, I couldn't remember exactly what I'd put them in or where I'd put what I put them in.  Were you able to follow that?  I spent days passively looking for them.  While pulling a coat out of the guest room closet, a spot of bright green caught my eye and there they were.  Now to find my quill and ink.


Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Savory Apple Chutney

Can it possibly be only fifteen days until Christmas?  Didn't I say the same thing last year?  And the year before?  Every year, starting in September (or the day after Christmas) I plan to make plans to avoid the last minute rush.  In my mind's eye, I see the tree going up the day after Thanksgiving.  Christmas music is playing.  By the weekend, all the presents are wrapped and under the tree.  December 1-5 will be spent baking cookies and sweet breads.  A batch of marmalade will be on the kitchen window sill.  From December 6 on, I'll relax by the fire and read or watch the Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel.  Did I mention that the Christmas cards will be signed, sealed and delivered to the post office the first week?

Here is the reality.  It is December 9.  The tree was put in the stand yesterday.  It is lit but not decorated.  Not one present has been wrapped.  Not one carol has wafted through the house.  Nothing has been baked.  I can't find the Christmas cards.

In the midst of getting nothing accomplished, my Canon Rebel turned up ailing last Wednesday.  It was mailed off to the Canon hospital and they performed diagnostic tests.  The prognosis is good and it should be home in a week.

One thing got accomplished.  A lovely apple chutney to go with our Sunday pork roast.  It has been a favorite for years.  The original recipe is from the Santa Fe Recipe cookbook.  


The above photo taken with my iPhone.
The photo below taken with my Canon point and shoot.



Savory Apple Chutney

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups of thinly sliced onion
3/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup light brown sugar, NOT packed
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp curry powder
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are opaque.  Add the ginger and raisins and sauté for 2 minutes.
2.  In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and curry.  Add the mixture to the skillet and boil for 1 minute.
3.  Add the apples and salt and continue to boil until the chutney thickens.  This takes about 20 minutes.  Watch closely and stir often.
4.  Cool, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours to allow the flavor to develop.
5.  Reheat and serve.

ENJOY!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cranberry Focaccia

I make an earnest effort to never be without cranberries.  Fresh, frozen, dried and canned.  Yes, there is always a can of whole berry cranberry sauce in the pantry.  It mixes well with a little mayonnaise and a dab of prepared horseradish to slather on a turkey sandwich.  Over the weekend, I roasted a turkey breast so we could enjoy turkey sandwiches.  While it was resting and cooling, I stuck this often-made and well-loved cranberry focaccia into the oven.


The timing was perfect!



Cranberry Cornmeal Focaccia
From an ancient Gourmet Magazine

3/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115F)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus sprigs for topping

In a small saucepan, bring cold water and cranberries just to a boil and remove pan from heat. Let cranberries stand 15 minutes. Drain cranberries into a sieve set over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid, and cool. Coarsely chop half the cranberries and set both the chopped and whole cranberries aside.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir on lowest speed the yeast, sugar and warm water for a few seconds and let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Add the chopped cranberries, reserved 1/4 cup of the cranberry liquid, flour, cornmeal, Parmesan, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, 2 tsp of the salt, the pepper and the chopped rosemary.

Continuing with the paddle attachment, knead dough 3 minutes, or until soft and slightly sticky. Scrape dough into a lightly oiled large bowl and form into a ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise, in a warm place, 30 minutes or until almost doubled in bulk.

Transfer dough to an oiled, well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet or an oiled 10-inch pie plate and let rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375.

Brush dough with remaining tablespoon oil and press the reserved whole cranberries and rosemary sprigs randomly on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp coarse salt.

Bake focaccia in middle of oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

ENJOY!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Latte and Holiday Musing


We missed having the children over Thanksgiving.  However, when I read in this morning's paper that the lines to get through security at Midway on Sunday morning were over a mile long--stretching from the security checkpoint all the way out to the CTA Orange Line, I was glad they weren't in it!

The Baker and I had only a short drive of less than twenty miles on Thanksgiving before we were seated by a warm fire sipping champagne and enjoying good company.  I wish I'd gotten a few photos of the beautiful table, my delicious plate holding roast turkey, dressing napped with some of the best gravy I've had (insert smile), Jim's cranberry relish (truly just like my mother used to make), bright orange carrots simply steamed and a mixed green salad with poppy seed dressing.  When we thought we could not eat another bite, coffee was served accompanied by The Baker's pumpkin pecan pie.  Oh my!

Speaking of coffee, I like mine unadulterated with any flavor.  Good strong coffee, very hot, and a generous pour of half and half.  On the other hand, I think of a latte as a hot milkshake with no ice cream.  Starbuck's makes a good pumpkin spice latte.  So does The Baker.  In fact, I think his is better.  Since finding this recipe (which I've shared with you before) in the Chicago Tribune several year's ago, it has become a tradition for us.  We (well, lately, he) always saves a bit of pureed pumpkin--enough this year for us to enjoy this treat twice.  In fact, as I type this, he is stirring up one for me.  It will be my lunch to sip while I visit your blogs.



DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte from the Chicago Tribune 

For 2 servings:

2 cups of 1% milk (or whatever % you like)
3 tbsp pumpkin puree
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon (more for sprinkling)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup strong brewed coffee
Whipped cream, optional (well, not really optional)

Combine milk, pumpkin and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring until steaming and the sugar is melted.  Remove from heat.

Stir in the vanilla and spices.  Whisk until foamy.

Pour into two heated mugs, filling each only half way; top off with the coffee.  Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon.

Curl up in front of a roaring fire

Friday, November 21, 2014

Spiced Pumpkin Balls and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

"Come said the wind to the leaves one day,
come o'er the meadows and we will play.
Put on your dresses scarlet and gold,
for summer is gone and the days grow cold."
A child's song from the 1880s

It's less than a week until Thanksgiving.  There are a few trees and bushes around town that are holding on to fall color.  Mostly the leaves are on the ground and piled at curbs.  City trucks make circuitous routes through neighborhoods "vacuuming" them up daily.  The weather has been dry for the past week leaving a bed of crunchy leaves to walk through.

As each of you prepare to celebrate the harvest in your own way, I'm once again sharing a few favorite recipes of mine.  The spiced pumpkin ball recipe is handwritten on a  card.  I'm almost certain that it came from a decade's old Gourmet.  Whatever the source, it is a delicious addition to a relish tray.  If you haven't already, I hope you'll give it a try.



Spiced Pumpkin Balls-from Gourmet?

2 cups pumpkin balls (use the larger end of a melon baller) from 3 pie pumpkins
(Save the pumpkin seeds)
1 2/3 cups of sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
4 2" strips of lemon peel

Combine all ingredients except the pumpkin in a stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. 

Add the pumpkin balls and simmer for fifteen minutes.  

Transfer to a pint jar and pour the liquid over.

Chill at least three hours or up to a week.

Next up, use those saved pumpkin seeds for this delicious snack.


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) 

I used three pie pumpkins for my spiced pumpkin balls and saved the seeds.  I had approximately two cups of seeds.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

Lightly oil a 12 x 11 baking pan.
Spread the seeds out in a single layer.

Sprinkle with sea salt and toss, pulling some of the oil onto the seeds.

Roast for about 25 minutes, just until they start to lightly brown.

Cool and store in an airtight container.


ENJOY and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Crab Louis

I'm remaining steadfast on the refrigerator and pantry clean out.  Saturday turned out to be a bit of a day for backsliding.  The Baker called from Costco to say they had King Crab legs.  I said "bring some home".  He did.  The sun was shining  even though the temperature hovered at 24 degrees.  I put a checkered cloth on the table, turned the thermostat a little higher and made us a Crab Louis salad.  Sometimes one just has to pretend.  And, to think, winter is still another month away!!

Crab Louis has been a favorite of ours for a very long while.  It seems to have started on the west coast in the early 1900s.  Some say it was named for King Louis (one of them).  Probably true since it is a regal dish.  Give it a try or save the recipe for summer or do both.



Crab Louis

Dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
juice of half a lemon
dash of hot sauce

Mix well.

Shell about a pound of King Crab legs.  Tear into bite sized pieces and add the dressing to taste.  Serve over a bed of mixed greens.  Accompany with toasts.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

I am finally back on track for the big fall food clean out!  Even though I've done this on a small scale for years, Nathalie Dupree inspired me to be serious about the purge each fall and spring.  Do you all y'all know Nathalie?  I first "met" her through PBS's "New Southern Cooking with Nathalie" on Saturday mornings while living in Charleston.  Ironically, she moved to Charleston about the same time we moved away.  The author of a number of southern-style cookbooks, Nathalie continues to be very much involved in the culinary world.  I enjoy keeping up with her on Facebook.

Our first meal from what was on hand was inspired by a recipe I saw on La Table De Nana.  Monique had shared the recipe that she found on another blog and it sounded delicious.  Going with what I had, a few changes were made (chicken thighs instead of breast tenders, radiatori pasta instead of penne and an ounce or two more on the sun-dried tomatoes).  It turned out to be a tasty meal that will be repeated.



Pasta with Chicken, Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 4

2 TBSP olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
4-5 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs,  cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup half and half
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
8 oz pasta.  I used radiatori
Fresh basil, as much as you like
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste

1.  Over high heat, sauté  the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in the olive oil for one minute until the garlic is fragrant.  Remove from the pan, leaving the oil.  Add the chicken and cook on high heat for one minute on each side.  Remove from heat and cover the pan.
2.  Cook the pasta according to instructions.  Reserve a bit of the pasta water in case the sauce is too thick.
3.  Add the tomatoes and garlic back to the chicken.  Add the half and half along with the cheese.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  When the boil is attained, immediately lower the heat and continue to stir until a smooth sauce is obtained.  This will only take a minute or less.  Taste and add salt as needed.  Stir in red pepper flakes to taste.  If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of the pasta water.  Our's was perfect without it.
4.  Stir in the drained pasta and heat, stirring for one minute.

ENJOY!