Monthly Archives: November 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner – no power – Sausage Ciabatta Stuffing

Firstly I hope you all had a wonderful day with delicious food and great conversations with your family and friends

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Talk about having a pretty traditional Thanksgiving here in NH we got hit with a heavy snow storm on Wednesday; I think the final total was 15 +/- inches.  While that much snow is generally not a big deal for us, this one kind of kicked our butt.  We lost power for 10 hours on Wednesday; which is always my prep day. I peel and cut up all the veggies, set the table, get out all the serving dishes and prep the dressing aka stuffing.

A few years ago I opted for cooking 2 smaller sized turkeys together versus the 16+lb bird I used to get. I find that they have a better chance of being super moist which pretty much is the main cooking goal for any cook. This year in particular it was an amazing choice. My gas Viking stove top works but my gas oven does not. My girlfriend who lives up the road did offer me hers and I was going to use it; however I was concerned about not being on site while it cooks, I like to keep an eye on it and I couldn’t be 2 places at once.

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Not as pretty as when cooked in my oven; but they tasted wonderful!

Thursday we lost power again at 8:30 am; it came back right after we finished dessert around 4:30 pm.  While my guys were out plowing and shoveling; I cleared a path to the gas grill and cleaned it off at least a foot of fresh powder. I actually grabbed my roasting pan and put the birds; packaging an all into the pan to see if they would all fit on the grill. It was perfect. I make beer can chicken on the grill all the time; so I felt pretty confident it would work.  I filled the bottom of the pan with water; stuffed both with apples, onions, and garlic and seasoned them well; covered them with foil and hoped for the best. The grill was a solid 450′ and they took approximately 2 hours.

They came out excellent and outside smelled awesome!!!

There were only 2 things that I couldn’t make as I wanted.  I could not make the dinner rolls this year; which was fine and the dressing I made couldn’t be baked to get all the crust that everyone loves. But I was able to brown them with a little crust on the stove top.  If you are in search of a great tasting dressing/stuffing I wholly suggest this one!  Flavor galore and everyone loves it.  My son had 4 helpings yup I said 4.

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Fennel

Fennel

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It is based off of a Mario Batali sausage stuffing

Sausage Ciabatta Dressing

Your favorite Olive Oil for the pan

1 lb of your favorite Italian sausage – casing removed crumbled and browned

1 medium onion – diced

1 bulb fennel also called anise – sliced thin, fronds reserved

1 cup of chestnuts – I found them already cooked and peeled – brilliant

2 apples – I used granny smiths – peeled and diced

5 cups ciabatta bread cubed and toasted – I toasted them in a pan on the stove top

¼ cup fresh parsley – chopped

2 ½ cups chicken stock

½ melted butter

Add oil to the pan, crumble the sausage and cook till the sausage starts to brown, add the onion, fennel, chestnuts, apples and cook. Stirring occasionally, until the sausage is cooked through

In a large bowl, place the cubed bread and pour the cooked sausage mixture over the top. Sprinkle with parsley, and pour the stock and melted butter; toss to combine.

In a 9×13 baking dish place all ingredients in and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, uncover and bake until the top is golden browned and crisp. Serve garnished with some of the fennel fronds.

Gingerbread Men Army

Friday a girlfriend and I spent 6+ hours making cookies. Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, Sugar, Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip and Gingerbread Men 10 dough’s in total. We baked several dozen but find it is so much easier to freeze the dough’s in tube form and take them out as needed. Not all cookies can be frozen so we do tend to pick the ones we can. It helps to get them all done before the holidays; time is super tight this time of year. We do still need to get together so we can roll and cut out the sugar cookies; the discs are still sitting in my fridge.

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We did the same thing last year and the gingerbread men were by far everyone’s favorite. So this year we thought we would make 2 double batches; thankfully we were only able to make 3 batches because I didn’t have enough molasses; by the time we were done cutting and baking them; we had over 80 of them.  By the time the last batch was rolled out and cut, we were extremely tired and a quite silly. Someone, and she will remain nameless, came up with a great idea. “We should have had some fund with some of these” yup we made a few anatomically kind of correct but not really gingerbread men/women. It was all in good fun and we laughed so hard it was difficult to not burn ourselves putting them in the oven.

My guys came home from work and we showed them our army of gingerbread. No lie they had a discussion about how we didn’t have enough for an army it was more like a platoon.  REALLY – it sure felt like an army to us.

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Gingerbread Cookies

3 cups AP flour

¾ Cup packed brown sugar

¾ tsp baking soda

1 TBS ground cinnamon

1 TBS ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp salt

12 TBS unsalted butter – softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces

¾ Cup molasses

2 TBS milk

In an electric mixer; using the paddle, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt at low speed until combined.  Stop the mixer add the butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until the mixture resembles fine meal; a couple of minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the molasses and milk. Mix until the dough us evenly moistened. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.

Scrape the dough onto a work surface; divide it in half. Working with one portion at a time, roll to ¼ inch thick between 2 large sheets if parchment paper. Leaving the dough sandwiched between the parchment, stack on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Roughly 15-20 minutes.

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions, preheat 350’ line baking sheet s with either parchment or silipat mats.  Work with 1 dough at a time; peel away the parchment and set it aside, you can reuse it to roll out the scraps.  Cut and place on the sheet about ¾” apart. Bake cookies until the center of the cookies when touched barely retains an imprint. 8-11 minutes. Do not over bake.  Cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer to a wire rack. They freeze well and taste wonderful with ice cream.

My husband used to get us a coffee cup of coffee ice cream and a gingerbread cookie – Delish!!!

Crab Rangoon

A few weeks ago I took a cooking class at a local kitchen store. I was intrigued for a few reasons; one was what they were offering Won-ton Soup, Crab Rangoon and Pot stickers; I have made Rangoon’s many times and they are really yummy and very easy, another is my guys love won-ton soup so that would be a win win; lastly I have tried and failed to make pot stickers in the past and I really wanted to know how to make them correctly. There was also a bonus; the class was being taught by Helen Chen. Her mother was the famous chef, restaurant owner and cookbook author Joyce Chen; Joyce was also one of the 5 famous chefs that the US Post office just released a stamp of.

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Crab Rangoon

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The class was pretty interesting on a few fronts.  It was less hands on than my classes that I teach in my home and we didn’t get to eat what we prepared.  Helen made up all the dumplings that we were served.  She made all the filings and we watched her make all the Rangoon’s. We did make a few won-tons and a few pot stickers so we knew how to make them which is what I wanted so I was very happy I attended.  It was also very enlightening to me that at the end of class Helen asked all of us what we would like for future classes; they had to cancel the noodle class that was supposed to be the night before as only one person signed up.

Potstickers

Potstickers

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Won-ton Soup My son brought us the chopsticks from Japan

Won-ton Soup
My son brought us the chopsticks back from Japan

I too struggle with finding things people would like to come to a class for. What I love to cook and would like to share with people may not be something anyone else is interested in making/eating. I am going to shoot for having at least one class a month and just put out there things I am excited about and hope they will come.

She did share with us that Crab Rangoon is not authentically Chinese; she said it originated from Trader Vic’s Restaurant in San Francisco – I had no idea!

I am sharing with you my recipe for the crab Rangoon, my family didn’t love the one I received from Helen and mine has less ingredients.

Crab Rangoon – fried won-ton

Package of won-ton wrappers

8 ounce brick of cream cheese

8 ounce crab meat, remove any cartilage (6 ounce cans can be used as well, drain)

2 scallions green and white chopped finely

2 tsp soy sauce

Small cup or saucer of water

1-2 inches of vegetable oil for frying

Mix last 4 ingredients well, take a nice size teaspoon of cream cheese mixture and place in the center of one won-ton at a time, using your finger dunk in the water and go around the won-ton, fold making a triangle making sure each edge is sealed and as much as the air you can remove. Fry till browned on both sides flipping once in 350’oil – be careful if they split open, it will snap crackle and pop and you will end up getting burned, not that that has ever happened to me…

My far more tech savvy daughter will be home for Christmas, if we can make it work, I will post a video on how to make the pot stickers because that was super cool – just look at the picture. I still have some in the freezer and will be making them sometime this week!!!

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese comfort food simple and delicious

As you are reading this my husband and I are in Key West FL for good friends of ours wedding.  My son is home taking care of the house, dog and my husband’s construction business. While I know he will never go hungry I still wanted to make sure he didn’t survive on takeout pizza.  He must have been thinking the same thing as he asked me if I would teach him how to make a few dishes.  The funny part of this is we both were thinking the same dishes. So Sunday morning we made chili, shepherd’s pie, lasagna and macaroni and cheese. All can be frozen and keep really well – we packaged them up into small meals for him.

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When making this many different dishes you really want to make the most of prep and cooking so you don’t spend the rest of the day doing dishes.

We used one pot to cook the meat one meal at a time and set aside. We browned the burger for the pie, sausage for the lasagna and the burger, sausage and ground turkey for the chili. We cooked the pasta as directed on the box for the mac and cheese then use the same pot for the potatoes, rinsed and wiped it out so we could use it for the sauce for the lasagna. We diced and sliced the onions and garlic for all the dishes and then the veggies and set aside. I bet we had all dishes made and assembled in about 2.5 hours and all but 1 pot fit in the dishwasher. It was a very successful morning.

While I do use the internet and magazines to find recipes to try I know they are just a starting point, there are so many ways you can take a recipe to make it to you and your families tastes.  Everybody’s shepherd’s pies is a little different; I use creamed and niblet corn to add moisture. I know of a family the use pre-bought gravy to add moisture to theirs. There is nothing like good homemade comfort food.

Easy Mac and Cheese that has great flavor and comes together quickly

1 small onion diced very small

4 tbs. Butter

4 tbs. Flour

2 cups milk

1 box elbow macaroni or other small pasta

4-6 cups shredded cheese – cheddar, mozzarella, Provolone your favorite combination works here

3-4 slices American cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In salted water cook the pasta according to the direction on the box; drain and set aside. In a sauté pan melt the butter over medium heat, add the onions and cook to translucent about 3 minutes. Add flour stirring to mix.  Let cook about 2 minutes, it helps remove the flour taste. Using a whisk add the milk all at once. Whisk thoroughly till all incorporated.  Let this thicken on low heat, do not boil just simmer and stir frequently.  Remove from the heat and add all the cheese.  Lightly stir to incorporate.  Add the cooked pasta and salt and pepper to taste.  If you chop the onions small enough the kids won’t even know they are there.

Eat as is or bake for 15 minutes in a 350’ oven.  Add a crumb top or not – whatever is your preference

Eggplant Parmesan – that will convert you

All through high school I worked at a local Pizza place, there were a few items that I swore that I would never try; they looked and smelled WAY too funky for me.  Here is yet another example of never say never.  Feta cheese came in a metal vat filled with what I believe was oil or a vinegar maybe.  We had to take a chunk out at a time and crumble it; the smell was horrid. Another was breaded eggplant, it just looked and felt wrong on all levels and then there was the dreaded anchovy the smell and look was just plain rancid; we used to flip to see who had to make the anchovy pizza when someone ordered it.

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Now as an adult I love feta cheese, it adds so much tart briny flavor to anything you put it on.  I love adding it to pasta salad it makes it pop. I still would not order an anchovy pizza but I do appreciate a true Caesar salad made with them and I understand why and when they are needed; I even have a can of them in my pantry as I write this.  The recipe I am going to share now for Eggplant Parmesan has completely changed my mind about the veggie and I am now open to and have used eggplant so much so, that I am thinking of planting it in next year’s garden. With age comes wisdom – or as I explain it; you have to try new food as you get older your taste buds change.

I have also used the sauce for a quick pasta sauce during the week; it has a great taste and a little kick. My mother and a friend were here visiting the last few weeks and I made this; they both loved it and wanted the recipe. My mom even said and I quote “I thought mine was really good but this one I want the recipe” I hope she is reading this and smiling…

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Sauce

2 tbs. good olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 ½ tsp sugar

2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano plum tomatoes

Kosher salt

Eggplant

2 medium eggplants sliced ½ inch thick rounds

½ cup flour

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

3 large eggs

1½ tbs milk

2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs

1½ tsp dried oregano

1½ tsp thyme

Vegetable oil for frying – about 1 inch in the pan you are using

12-16 ounces fresh mozzarella thinly sliced

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups sliced provolone

Slice the eggplant and sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and let sit while you make the sauce.  Place on paper towels on a sheet pan.

In a large skillet add the olive oil heat over medium. Add the onions saute for 1-2 minutes; add the garlic and season with salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes.  Saute till the onion are translucent about 6-7 minutes.  Add the sugar and tomatoes, while you are pouring them out of the can squeeze to break them up a bit. Reduce heat to medium low and cook stirring occasionally about 15-20 minutes.

Rinse the eggplant under water and dry off thoroughly with some paper towels. The reason we do this step draws out some of the liquid and removes some of the bitterness.

Get out 3 pie plates or whatever you use when you batter and fry.  Flour goes in one, eggs and milk in another and the third combine the breadcrumbs, oregano and thyme.  Make sure to salt and pepper each pie plate. Dredge each eggplant round in the flour, shake off excess. Dip in the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Lay each round on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly (between 380’ and 400’) Use tongs to add and flip the eggplant, making sure to each piece is golden brown, I like them a little extra crispy so they are not mushy.  Transfer to a sheet pan covered with paper towels.  Repeat until all pieces are fried.

Preheat oven to 350’ using an 11 x 13 baking dish

Spoon some sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer eggplant over sauce slightly overlapping, top with some mozzarella and the some provolone; repeat with remaining sauce, eggplant and cheeses.  Press the layers firmly into the dish. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly. About 35-40 minutes.