|It’s….HOLIDAY KITCHEN TIME!|
The news is full of mayhem and murder….people angry – for good reason….people frustrated – again for good reason. Lots of us are feeling more than just “the pinch,” we’re feeling the punch in the gut of our nation’s economic woes.
There’s that and the global economy.
And the wars here and there….
and the people that hate us….
and the people that like us but are catching grief from the people who hate us….
on and on and on.
I looked at the calendar after watching the morning events…..and found myself smiling. It’s holiday baking time at last! Time for the house to be filled with hints of cinnamon, cloves, bread, fruits and nuts….spicy, tactile, alive.
Sure, money’s tight and it’s gonna be hard to get enough walnuts; coffee’s prices are through the roof too but what the heck! Making due is a very special kind of magic; more satisfying….more meaningful than throwing a store bought mix together in 20 minutes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
|Artwork from Grand Canyon Tower|
So with glad heart and ready hands, a few special prayers of thanks and a box full of recipes we begin this Food Holiday Season with playful anticipation….hoping that all the warmth, joy, lightness and love that’s generated in this and other kitchens all over the world spread and grow.
May the Holy Spirit of Peace and the Healing Power of Love Abide and Grow in the Hearts and Minds of All, Amen.
As always, please feel free to share your memories, recipes, traditions, ideas and so on!
There’s nothing like a basket (or so) of fresh harvested apples!
Jack’s sister has a great back yard filled with seasonal fruits and flowers. Among these is a wonderful apple tree and we’ve been blessed with some of its bounty.
All the way home from our visit, the fruit’s aromatics teased my senses. I envisioned pies, cobblers, cakes, cookies, breads and ciders…..roasts with apples, chops with apples, chicken with apples….stuffings, sauces and relishes – to say the least, I had a lot on my mind!
I wanted to make something to bring to Jack’s family Thanksgiving dinner….using the apples would make it even more special. I asked him what he thought and Jack voted for apple pie. It was up to me to decide which type of pie, crust and so on.
Some may wonder what I mean. “Apple pie is apple pie, right?”
Well, yes and no. There are different types, different ways to make it, different crusts. For example, maybe instead of just plain old apple I might want to throw in some raisins and walnuts….or maybe pears. I
may want to make it with a crumb topping, or lattice, or plain old slit-top pie crust, or even just go crazy and make the crust with cereal. I may even make a “Cookie Pie,” which is a pie with a thin “cookie” top crust. For that matter, maybe make the whole crust like a cookie…..who knows?
As far as the fruit goes, I don’t peel the apples before pie-ing them. But if you have digestive problems perhaps you should peel them.
There are a lot of ways to make an apple pie! Do I make it in a paper bag? Do I put plain apples in a pie shell, lattice the top and pour sugared, thickened liquid through the lattice before baking?
The sky’s the limit!
I decided to try a few different recipes, after we had plenty of apples!
This first one is a standard double-crust pie. I’ll be doing another pie crust in a couple of days, so watch for it! The pie crust is the most complicated part. Common rule of thumb is to keep everything cold, cold butter, cold liquids, heck even cold bowl and rolling pin!
PIE CRUST 1
Chill butter and liquids before you begin.
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons liquid (Try using apple juice (or other fruit juice) instead of water)
2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
Preheat oven to 450 Degrees
Place a cookie sheet in the oven.
Sift flour, salt, cinnamon and cloves into a large bowl. Stir until evenly mixed. Cut 1/2 of chilled butter into dry ingredients using pastry knife, mezzaluna or two table knives until it reaches a cornmeal state. Add the remaining butter and continue cutting in until it looks like cornmeal with large bits in it.
|Filled Pie ready for oven|
Add liquid a little at a time, stirring with a fork, add more liquid until dough, when squeezed in hand, stays together. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flour to absorb all the moisture.
Dust a dry, clean surface with flour. I use a large sheet-cake pan; plenty of working room and no flour mess on the counter. Some people roll their dough out in between layers of waxed paper. If you do, just be sure to dust it with flour first! Otherwise it’ll stick.
|Pie filled, extra crust around edge|
Working quickly roll dough to 1/4 ” thick or smaller. While rolling, turn the dough one-quarter turn at a time to keep rolling even. When you’ve reached the desired thickness, roll the dough over the pin and unroll it over the top of a pie pan. Make sure to leave a little overhang of dough around the edges, this will be part of what crimps the pie together.
For filled fruit pies, pierce bottom of crust before filling it.
APPLE PIE FILLING
|Mixing the apples, sugars and spices|
5-6 apples cored and sliced
Juice of one lemon
1 cup sugar (mixed brown and white)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1 Tablespoon butter
|Crimping the pie edge|
Mix apples with lemon juice, corn starch, sugars, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg until apples are evenly coated.
Fill empty pie shell, dot top with butter . Cover with top crust.
Fold the excess bottom crust over the top crust edge then crimp using your fingers or a fork.
|Venting the top|
Pierce the top with a knife to vent the pie. Place pie on pre-heated cookie sheet in the oven.
Cook for 15 minutes at 450 degrees then lower heat to 350 degrees and cook for 50 minutes longer.
If your oven is slow, rotate the pie once during 350 degree cooking. Pie will be done when top crust is golden brown.
This is just one recipe. More to come!
Please feel free to share your pie recipes, thoughts and ideas!
|Cutting into pie|
|Autumn by rcw|
Here it is, Halloween!
Don’t you just love this time of year? I sure do!
From the pumpkins and costumes to piles of crunchy leaves and chilly nights, Autumn is a very special time!
If Halloween hadn’t been invented, we’d have had to come up with some sort of holiday to acknowledge this season!
As a kid, I’d worry for weeks over costumes and “bag strategy.” I grew tired of the princesses, pirates and clowns that were available at our local Five and Dime store. My last such store bought outfit was a Micky Dolenz costume….I actually got it more for my growing Monkees collection than for actual trick-or-treating.
What I enjoyed most of all through the years was when I made my own costumes….usually with just things I had around the house. One year I was a sack of laundry, and when I was done with it as a costume I just popped the clothes into the washing machine!
As I got older, I started going “Halloween Caroling” instead of begging for candy and doing tricks. Doing this enabled me to crash parties without crashing them.
My unsuspecting host or hostess would ask “Oh! You actually use that guitar?! How’s about a tune?”
Of course I’d have to oblige….with songs like “Silent Night, Haunted Night,” “Here Comes Frankenstein” (to the tune of “Here Comes Santa Claus”), “The Twelve Days Of Halloween,” and “We Three Ghosts” to name a few. Most folks seemed to like it.
This year we’re celebrating the holiday in a more low-key fashion. Jack’s health issues makes him tire easily, so rather than going through a lot of stress we decided to spend the evening together, just the two of us; a nice meal, a couple of horror flicks on the t.v…..perfect!
I wanted something for dinner that would incorporate the colors of autumn within the confines of a one pan, healthy meal. Jack suggested Beef Stew with Biscuits. So that’s what I did.
Grab yourself a cauldron and some Witches’ Brew, chase the bats from the belfry and tell Dracula to go get some take-out….let’s cook!
|1/4 lb per person|
AUTUMNY BEEF STEW
Meat-wise, 1/4 lb of uncooked cubed meat per person is the rule of thumb
1 large or 2 small rutabaga
1 or 2 potatoes
3 or 4 large carrots or 1/2 bag of baby carrots, cut up
1 or 2 crowns of broccoli cut up
1 to 2 cloves of garlic
1 or 2 bay leaves
2 tsp corn starch
1/4 cup cold water
Seasonings to taste
2 cups of broth (from pan drippings after browning the cubed meat and veggie steaming water)
Any other ingredients you’d like to add….kitchen sink included!
Prepare almost everything in the same pan to insure maximum flavor! The exception would be those veggies that require extra cooking. Use a steamer for things like your chopped rutabaga, carrots, potatoes. Steam them ’til they’re about 3/4 done. Use the steaming liquid as your “water” for the broth base.
|Steaming the “hard” veggies|
Brown the meat with chopped onions and garlic, set it aside. Add 2 cups of the steaming water to the pan drippings, let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add bay leaves, veggies, starting with the steamed ones first. Let this cook for about 10 minutes.
Add , broccoli, what ever other “softer” veggies you might have. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste. Adjust your seasonings. Add meat and any remaining ingredients. Let simmer another 10 minutes and taste again. Some folks like a thin stew, but if you want to thicken it, mix the cornstarch and cold water together then add to the stew. Let simmer another 5 minutes or so. Taste again, adjust seasoning.
|Let sit 1/2 hour before serving|
HERE’S THE SECRET- Let it sit for about 1/2 hour before serving, this allows it to cool down for a bit, and also helps the flavors to mingle and work with one another.
Serve with a salad and good bread or rolls.
|Serve with rolls and salad|
As usual, if you have any suggestions, comments or recipes feel free to share!
|Ingredients for a quickie|
Okay, so you’re in a hurry…I mean a really BIG hurry and ya gotta put something on the table – but there’s no boxed Mac N Cheese to be found…not in the pantry, or the cupboard or even the emergency/camping stash!
So now what?
That’s where I found myself earlier tonight.
There was a chicken-looking left over thing that needed something-something to make it plate worthy. Thought I had it all figured out earlier but….I’d committed the deadly sin of assuming there’s be some sort of boxed side dish that would pull a poor excuse for a dinner together.
There wasn’t. Not surprising. I’d gotten away from depending on a lot of pre-packaged food through the years, with the exceptions of camping and/or emergencies that is.
So with another quick tour of the pantry I came up with the following ingredients:
1 1/2 cups macaroni noodles, Nida brand powdered whole milk, Swanson’s Chicken Broth.
I had a couple bits of garlic and a good selection of spices in the racks.
The fridge contributed 3 Tablespoons of butter, some tomatoes for slicing on the side and of course the chicken.
Suddenly there lay before me the makings of a good meal.
Okay, so to begin I boiled the noodles then drained them. Using the same pan, I heated up the chicken with a dash of the broth then removed it from the pan and set it aside.
|Cheese melt down|
Next I grated the cheese and made up the milk according to package directions using chicken broth instead of water. 3 Tablespoons of butter and the milk mixture landed in the pan used for cooking the chicken and macaroni. Then I added the grated cheese and stirred, stirred, stirred as the cheese melted. The sauce thickened more and more until at last, about 4 minutes later, it seemed thick enough to add the macaroni….and so I did.
The trick is to use a kind of folding-in stir rather than a liquid stir if you want the noodles to stay whole. This also insures a more even coating of cheese per noodle.
I added the chicken chunks and some left over peas to my bowl, but you don’t have to. Jack likes his chicken served separately….hey, what ever flies yer kite!
|Mac n Cheese with Chicken n Peas|
Anyway, this little recipe is one for the Just In Case files. Feel free to share, contribute recipes, send comments! Enjoy!
Throwing a bunch of ingredients into a bowl, mixing them about then throwing the stuff into an oven for a specified amount of time can be considered “cooking,” if you want to get technical. But is it really?
Have you ever thrown your heart and soul into a project? By contrast, have you ever just “phoned something in”? I believe there is a noticeable difference in the quality when extra effort is applied. It’s impossible to do that when distracted or your heart’s not into it.
Being passionate about cooking doesn’t mean you have to give up your present life, go to le Cordon Blu Academy and get a show on the Food Network. Fundamentally, being passionate about cooking means that you are interested, engaged, enthusiastic about what you are doing and why.
People can loose their passion. I’ve seen it a lot. Folks who’ve been in the restaurant business can get burnt out as the burdens of running a business overshadow their love of preparing food. Homemakers can get sick of things, too; being forced into a culinary rut because of finicky family members, having too many mouths and not enough food and having to cook after an already long, duty-filled day constitute only the tip of the iceberg. Personally I’m amazed at how many mega-multi-taskers survive!
So how does one keep passion alive? That question has been asked since the beginning of time. Granted, most folks ask it with regards to their sex-life, but passion is passion….to me, anyway.
The answer to both is surprisingly similar….keep it interesting.
Try new ingredients or new methods of preparation. Consider involving family members, including kids, in cooking projects. Change the meal menu once in a while; if Mondays are always meatloaf try burgers instead. There’s no reason why chicken and stuffing should be reserved for Sundays, either!
If you feel overworked, consider delegating some chores to those wonderful people who live in the house with you! Why should everything fall on to your shoulders? You’ll be surprised at how much more time there is when others help keep the household in order! You may even find some of that elusive “me time” hiding in the rafters!
Between the heat, manipulations and mess, one might say that cooking and making love have a lot in common. Just like in the bedroom, you have to work at it to keep passion alive in the kitchen too.
We’re heading into the “food holiday season” – a perfect excuse for bringing some fun back into your kitchen!
Try making food gifts…a way to try new and different recipes without alienating finicky family members. Their curiosity may be aroused as they see new dishes being made….and who knows?
They may try something new, and like it!
So go ahead….turn up the tunes, put on your favorite comfy clothes and have at it!
I was at the grocery store the other day, just picking up some milk and eggs. As is my usual custom, I paroosed the various aisles, just to keep current and to see if there was anything on sale to bring home for dinner.
Sure, we had hot dogs at home…some tuna…eggs….that sort of thing. This being the end of the month, it was to be expected. What was also to be expected was for me to do something like I usually do. A souffle, casserole, or quiche would be predictable responses. But I didn’t want to do “business as usual.” I wanted something different.
|Ingredients for a roast|
So once my listed needs were assured, it was time for The Hunt. For a moment, I pictured being on the planes somewhere, foraging for sustenance for my brood and wondered what my prehistoric counterpart would make of our modern day “hunting ground.” Would they get the concept of meat already “off the hoof,” prepackaged plant material and boxed cereal?
In my mind I played out a few moments of the scenario and realized that the poor cave person wouldn’t even survive the parking lot, let alone the wonders inside that cavernous and well lit supermarket! I caught an imagined glimpse at Ms. Neanderthal stalked and attacked one of the many S.U.V.s as it vied for a parking spot! It wasn’t pretty.
With a shake of the head I was instantly back at my post, leaning against the shopping cart at the veggie aisle.
The eggplants seemed like a good price until I looked at them. Scuffed, pocked and dulling, they wouldn’t be a good choice for main course. As they age or get damaged, eggplants go sour. I moved on.
There were plenty of other vegetables at home….and no shortage of green grocers in case of emergency, so I moved on. Next stop was the specialty bread section, nope.
Along the back wall was the meat department. This store has come a long way from when we first became acquainted. Back then, about 15 years ago, I had to stop patronizing it because I questioned the sanitary conditions in the butcher’s station. It was one of those sections you could smell a mile away.
Just last year I finally had the chance to stop by again and boy! What a difference! They’re apparently under new management, thank God. The meat counter was immaculate, not a sour smell or hint of decomp to be had.
I stood before the gleaming open faced cabinets, scouting the terrain. Nobody seemed to be down by the Clearance bin, so that’s where I went first. There it was, buried beneath a package of chicken drumsticks a 2.7 lb boneless pork loin roast. It would have to be used right away, but was a bargain at $2.50.
I staked my claim and made a bee line for the check-out line.
Once home, I settled in for a little cooking frenzy.
ROAST BONELESS LOIN OF PORK
2 lb. boneless loin of pork
3 cloves garlic, crushed
|Crushing the rosemary|
1 Tbs dried, crushed rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
Splash of apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs butter or margarine
1 cup apple juice, stock or water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce roast all ’round with a fork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Mix butter, dried rosemary crushed garlic, the splash of apple cider vinegar and 3 Tbs of olive oil in a bowl, rub roast both sides generously with this mixture.
Combine remaining olive oil with cup of liquid (juice, stock or water)
Spray oval baking pan and rack with release spray. Pour liquid into baking pan.
Place roasting rack into pan, place meat on rack fat side up. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake for one hour, basting once.
Put meat thermometer into roast, baste once more then cover it and return it to the oven for another 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove foil and let finish baking for another 15 minutes. Internal temperature should be at 145 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before carving.
Meanwhile, strain the pan drippings, pour them into a sauce pan. Thicken with a mixture of 1 Tbsp. corn starch mixed with 1/4 cup of cooled broth, milk or cold water. Season to taste and drizzle over meat servings.
So that’s it. How I turned an end of the month dinner into a culinary opportunity. Sometimes the magic really does work! If you have any recipes, suggestions, comments or anything feel free to submit them!
For now, enjoy!