Saturday, December 30, 2017

Onion Fritters, Onion Pancakes, Onion Patties - A Rose by Any Other Name

Onion Fritters







































Love onions?  Love onion rings?  If you are a fan of onion rings but don't like the bother of slicing, separating, and battering individual onion rings, this recipe may be for you.  If when you bite into a ring, you inadvertently pull the onion from its coating and you have a dangling ring down the front of your chin and a handful of batter in your hand, this recipe may be for you.

With this recipe you have forkfuls of  onion flavor in golden batter with every bite and no embarrassing dangling ring, grins.  These fritters go well with just about any roasted meat of course.  A friend of mine loves these so much he wants to use them in place of hamburger buns.  That's a little much in my mind, but I understand it.  Made smaller, I think they would make a mighty tasty appetizer.

ONION FRITTERS

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar ***
1 tablespoon cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-2 teaspoons salt (according to taste)
3/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
Oil for frying

Mix together the dry ingredients and then add the milk; the batter will be quite thick.

Add onions and mix thoroughly.

Heat about a half an inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Drop batter by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil, using a second spoon if necessary to scoop it from the tablespoon.  Flatten slightly.  Brown on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.  Serve warm.  Best eaten soon after they're made.

COOK'S NOTES:  Be careful!  The oil is hot and you can get a splatter burn (as me how I know this).  After scooping the batter into the hot oil, you can gently reshape the batter if you're quick. Just take a spoon or a spatula and push the batter in the direction you want it to go. 

These do not reheat well but then I can't think of anything fried that does.

***A note about the sugar called for in this recipe.  I happen to think it's a perfect addition.  Someone tried the recipe and said it was too sweet.  So you might want to consider the amount of sugar, reducing it or eliminating it, especially if you're using a sweeter onion like Vidalia or Walla-Walla.  I was using regular plain ole yellow onions, so I think the sugar was a good addition, but then I'm a fan of sweet.




Saturday, December 23, 2017

Good Biscuits



My grandmother lived a humble life, ascetic by modern standards.  She didn't have much and she didn't ask for much.  She worked every day of her life until she couldn't, prayed daily until she forgot the words, head reverently bowed, knobby, wrinkled hands clasped in devotion, worn Bible in her lap, dog-eared from years of reading.

Early on in her marriage, my grandfather "took to logging" and settled her down in what she called The Camp.  She never described it in detail to me to me but since it was at the midst of the Great Depression, I'm pretty sure it was stark, no indoor plumbing and no electricity.  It was wood stoves, kerosene lanterns and outhouses.  And wide wood pine plank floors that she said she'd mop every day with bleach until they were white.

While my grandfather was out logging with the men-folk, sweating and swearing all day, heaving and hawing, two-man saws ringing in the dark woods, she'd be preparing supper for them. These were the days when bread of some sort was served at every meal, the days before we were knew that carbohydrates were bad, and white flour even worse.  Sliced bread was still a novelty and a luxury for her threadbare existence, so every day she made some kind of bread or biscuits.

The Great Depression, thankfully, came to an end.  She bought sliced bread, marveled at its convenience, and I thought she was being funny. But on Sundays, when we went to visit her in her little white house that my grandfather built for her, she'd make up a big pot of chicken fricassee, mashed potatoes, peas, and fluffy, tender biscuits that spilled off the platter.

Bless her heart, she tried to teach me how to make biscuits:  a pile of flour on the pastry board, shortening, baking powder, salt, a little milk.  No measuring, just feeling it.  I didn't get the biscuit-making gene I'm afraid.  I'm thinking that more than one of her prayers might've been for me.

Anyway, fast forwarded through years of biscuits in a can and more failed attempts, to the day I found this recipe. I'm not going to kid you, these are not the biscuits of my childhood.  There isn't going to be any biscuit on this earth that's as good as my grandmother's, smiles, but I'm satisfied.  Gosh, these are good with hamburger gravy, chipped beef gravy, chicken fricassee, even good as a base for strawberry shortcake.  The secret is not to overwork the dough; stop mixing when it all comes together and gently roll it out.  You'll be rewarded with nice, tender, flaky biscuits, slightly sweet, and golden deliciousness.

I'm pretty sure Gram is smiling down on me from Heaven, nodding approvingly, praising God for prayers answered.

Never Fail Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced (not margarine)
3/4 cup of milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Using two knives, cut the cold, diced butter into the dry ingredients.  (You're looking to cover the flour with butter, which is a different thought than covering the butter with flour.)  Anyway, cut the butter in until you get something about the size of coarse oatmeal.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk.  Stir until mixture just begins to pull together and dump out onto a floured surface.

Press dough together until about 3/4 of an inch thick.  Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out about 8 biscuits, gently gathering up scraps of dough to shape into biscuits.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.



COOK'S NOTES:  The cream of tartar in this is important to this recipe;  it's what makes the biscuit tender.  People have said they omit it, but I'm suggesting you don't.  It may seem like an extravagance to have it, but once you have it, you'll find it as an ingredient in beautiful soft sugar cookies, for example, as well as other recipes.

You can use a glass to cut the biscuits out, but a good biscuit cutter made for that purpose is a better choice.  A glass can compress the edges, making the biscuits less light and flaky, but go with what you have.  No judgment from me.  When I've been in a hurry (or couldn't find my biscuit cutter!) I've patted this out into a rectangle and just used a sharp knife to cut them into squares.  Works a charm.

Lastly, I saw this hint in an old Fanny Farmer or Farmer's Journal cookbook years ago, and I think it bears sharing.  Instead of rolling or patting the dough out to the 3/4 inch thickness, go a little thinner and fold the dough over in half on itself and then cut the biscuits out and bake.  This will make it easier to split the biscuit in half at the table.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

No Knead, Easy and Delicious, Overnight Refrigerator Rolls


Overnight Refrigerator Rolls

Do you want hot rolls for a special meal but don't have the time to measure and wait and roll?  I have an easy solution for you:  overnight refrigerator rolls.  Mix, let rise in the refrigerator, and the dough is good for up to four days (I find a maximum of three days is best for the best rise).  Take your dough out about 90 minutes before you are planning to serve, roll quickly into little balls and let rise and bake.  Easy peasy lemon squeezey.  I kid you not.

Some good years back, too many to recount, I received a solicitation from a recipe club or a book company or some such organization to receive laminated recipe cards in the mail every month, along with a handsome box and separator cards identifying each section.  Along with this amazing offer I also received some sample recipe cards with drool-worthy photos of the recipe.  And among those, was this recipe for overnight refrigerator rolls.

I never did sign up for the recipe cards (I was skeptical that these were the best of the lot--kind of like a movie trailer where they show you the best two minutes of the movie and the rest of the movie is a yawner).  Anyway, never mind all that.  What's important is that I tried the recipe and I've made it numerous times through the years.  Numerous.  Almost every holiday.  Almost every family gathering.  I've made this a lot of times.

They are fluffy and warm and golden brown goodness.  And they can be timed to pop into your oven when you take out your roast or casserole (if you happen to be making one) if the oven temperature is different, to let the other food rest while these are baking and then bringing everything to the table all hot and perfect at the same time.  Now that's a feat!

Overnight Refrigerator Rolls
(makes 2 dozen rolls)

1 cup of warm water (105-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 packages active dry yeast (not instant yeast) (4 1/2 teaspoons if going by volume)
1/2 cup butter melted
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 4 4/1 cups all-purpose flour (may need more less depending upon humidity)
additional butter for brushing on top of finished rolls - optional

In a large bowl, combine the warm water and yeast, proofing the yeast for about five minutes until it's foamy.  If it doesn't become foamy, you need to start over; the yeast isn't any good or your water was too hot.

Stir in butter, sugar, eggs, and salt.

Beat in the flour, one cup at a time, until the batter is too stiff to mix, but it will still be kind of goopy, if you know what I mean.

Cover and refrigerate anywhere from 2 hours, up to 4 days.

Grease a 13"x9" baking pan.

Turn the chilled dough out onto a slightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 24 equal-sized pieces.  Roll each into a smooth ball.  Place balls in even rows in the pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place, until double in bulk, about one hour.  (Allow consideration for the temperature of your room, may take more or less time.)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place rolls in oven and bake until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Brush with melted butter if desired.  Break apart rolls to serve.

COOK'S NOTES:   A couple of thoughts on this recipe.  This dough will RISE in the refrigerator, and if you used a bowl that's too small, it will overtake your shelf.  No kidding.  I have a huge Jadeite mixing bowl I use and it's just about right.  It may need to be punched down to keep it in control, grins.

You don't have to bake all two dozen at the same time.  Only want or need 8 rolls, then that's all you need to bake.  Just use a pan small enough to accommodate them and bake fresh rolls daily.  Muffin tins work great, one ball in each muffin cavity and you're good, or if you're feeling fancy, you can make cloverleaf rolls.

And a caveat:  The original recipe as I've posted it, says to bake in a 9"x13" pan.  Well, I've tried that on a couple of occasions, and for the life of me I cannot get the middle row of buns to thoroughly bake without the outside row of buns being overdone.  What I've found to be a much better solution is to do what my grandmother did and that was to use a cake pan, 8 or 10 in a cake pan.  I baked 8 in a pan this last time, and I probably should've gone smaller and made 9 or 10.  There's no wrong in any of this, just preference.

And a bonus:  A friend asked if cinnamon rolls could be made out of this.  Well, I hadn't thought of that.  I had the other half of the dough left over from this batch, and I thought, why not.  Next morning, I rolled out the dough, spread butter on it, sprinkled generously with sugar and cinnamon, rolled dough into a cylinder, cut into 8 gorgeous slices, let rise, baked, and voila!  Cinnamon rolls. A little glaze and we were enjoying nice hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast.



 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake


Oh, boy, this is sweet, sweet, sweet but good, good, good.  If you want something a little extra special to go with your morning coffee, this is a good choice. This looks like a lot of work, but really with an electric mixer and a couple of quick washes in between, it goes pretty quickly. And I'll think you'll note several of the ingredients are used are used in each layer, so the ingredient list really isn't as long as it might appear.  Simple pantry items combine to make a company and holiday worthy treat.

CREAM CHEESE COFFEE CAKE

Grease and flour a 9"x 13" baking pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the cake:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt  (I use salted butter so added only a pinch of salt)

Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs and beat well.
Add remaining dry ingredients gradually to wet mixture and mix well.
Batter is thick and heavy, almost like a sugar-cookie dough consistency.
Spread a little more than half the batter into a 9"x13" baking pan and reserve remaining batter to the side.

Filling:
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients and spread upon the bottom crust.
Spoon reserved batter over filling, just dropping it over the filling.

Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 stick butter

Combine sugar and flour and cut in butter until crumbly, either using two knives in a scissor motion, a pastry blender, or rubbing between the fingers of your impeccably clean hands.  Scatter the topping over the coffee cake.

Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick tests done.

When slightly cooled, top with a little simple glaze.

GLAZE
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk or water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combined all ingredients and stir until smooth.




















COOK'S NOTES: The batter for the bottom crust is pretty thick and doesn't like to spread with a knife or spatula. I spooned several gobs of batter evenly about the bottom of the pan and then used my fingers to spread it evenly to form a bottom crust.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Amish Ham Salad with Boiled Egg

Amish Ham Salad
Now here was something was a little different for us, and only because of the addition of one simple  ingredient:  boiled eggs.  Did you ever hear of such a thing?  I hadn't and of course couldn't resist trying it at the first opportunity.  And of course I'm thinking way ahead to Easter when there's an abundance of both ham and boiled eggs, grins.  And in between, what a great way to extend a recipe.  Frugal and delicious.

'Tis good!


HAM SALAD WITH BOILED EGG

3 cups cooked ham, diced
2-6 hard boiled eggs (depending on how much you like eggs)
1/2 cup celery, peeled and finely diced
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup pickle relish
2 tablespoons prepared mustard

In a large bowl, combine the ham, eggs and diced celery.

Blend the mayonnaise, relish and mustard and add to the ham mixture.  Blend well.  Taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Refrigerate for two or three hours to allow the flavors to meld.

COOK'S NOTE:  This is always how I've made my ham salad, sans the boiled eggs, which good.  The original recipe doesn't state what kind of pickle relish to use, and I've always just used sweet hot dog relish, nothing fancy, and I use the simple yellow mustard, again nothing fancy.  I use my food processor to dice the ham.  Fast and easy.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Welsh Potato Cake

Welsh Potato Cake
I'm pretty sure I never met a potato I didn't like.  When Sweetie-Pie and I go out to eat, he'll ask me what kind of potato should he order because I'm the one who's going to be eating it.  We're like Jack Spratt and his wife like that.  I take two bites of my meat, give him the rest, and he's scraping his potatoes onto my plate.  We work as a team like that.

I'm very content with the basic mashed or baked (and can we talked about fried?) potato.  No matter how you slice 'em, I love 'em. Yeah, it takes a little time to slice them and arrange them in the pan, but the little extra effort created a lot of wow.  Crispy, buttery potatoes on the outside, and melty, fluffy, buttery, onion-y potato on the inside.  Sometimes the simplest ingredients, beautifully presented, can garner the greatest wows, and this humble potato recipe is one of them.  No fancy ingredients and no advanced culinary skills needed here.

But you will need an eight-inch springform pan and either a mandolin or patience and a sharp knife to thinly slice the potatoes.



WELSH POTATO CAKE 

2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and sliced
8 ounces finely chopped onion
3 ounces melted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice your potatoes into thin discs (as if cutting for thick potato chips). Put the slices in a dish of ice water while you finish slicing the potatoes and then rinse and dry when ready to use.

Line the bottom of the springform pan in a layer of tight overlapping concentric circles (as you will want this and all potato layers to be snug so that when you slice into it the layers and slices will stay together).  

Sprinkle a bit of diced onion over the potatoes, a bit of butter and salt and pepper.

Repeat layers.

Bake for an 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until easily pierced with a knife.  

The thicker your potatoes slices, the longer it will take to cook.

COOK'S NOTE:  I've seen other recipes where a bit of grated cheese is added between the layers or a tiny touch of rosemary.  
 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Easiest Yet No Knead Italian Bread



I have so many friends who tell me they are afraid of trying to make bread because they're afraid of yeast, and I say, "I hear you."  It is intimidating and it does take some skill and experience but it's not impossible.  I don't think there's many of us whose first attempts weren't less than stellar.  My first attempt at white bread resulted in a beautiful golden mass that needed a chain saw to cut through it.  Well, that's an exaggeration, maybe a hacksaw.  No kidding.  My husband took it down to the trash bin below and I heard the resounding clank all the way up to our second-story apartment, windows and doors closed, over city traffic.  Yep, that was me.  I can still remember the ringing.  It was a good laugh but not good bread.  It was also good experience and I tried again.  And again.  And then I got it. That's what I'm doing with tortilla making, and that's not even a yeasted bread!

This bread is virtually goof proof.  I can't think of a way you can mess it up, unless you don't let it rise long enough or the water you use in the batter is too hot and you kill the yeast or you overhandle it when you put it on the pan for baking and you lose some of the holey-ness.  There's no worry about kneading it to a smooth ball, too much water, not enough water, too little flour, too much flour, folding and rolling.  Just mix and plop mostly.

I've made this so many times over the years I've memorized the simple recipe, but simple doesn't equate with flavorless.  Oh. My. Word.  The long slow rise develops the yeasty flavor, combined with a beautiful golden crust on the outside, tender on the inside and you're in bread heaven.  If you're a rustic, holey bread person, this will warm your heart and satisfy your belly.

I've toasted it, made sandwiches with it, eaten it slathered with thick pats of butter.  It's good alongside soup, salad, or anywhere a good artisan type bread rounds out a meal.  Bread here lasts maybe three days. I've shared loaves with a friend who freezes half a loaf and he says it thaws well and is just as good as fresh.  So, that's good to know.  Here, we tend to eat it almost as fast as I make it, grins.

NO KNEAD ITALIAN BREAD

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups of warm water 

Oven-proof baking dish or casserole dish with 2-3 cups of hot water to be used while baking bread 

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and add the 2 cups of warm water (about 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit). Stir the mixture.  You will have a gloopy, sticky mass.  It's okay; that's perfect!

Cover the bowl with a cloth or plastic wrap (not allowing it to touch the dough because the dough is going to rise).  Let sit in warm place about 4 hours, until double in volume.  The surface will have bubbles about 1/4 inch in diameter. 

Somewhere in this time frame, preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put the casserole dish with the 2-3 cups of hot water on a bottom rack and allow to heat with the oven.  You're trying to create a steamy, moist environment for the bread to bake.

Dump your dough onto a well-floured surface, covering the outside of the dough with flour as it is still gloopy and sticky.  Handle the dough as little as possible as you're trying not to burst the bubbles, and shape into desired shape.  A little stretching and pulling and patting into a log shape and you're good.  A pastry cloth is handy for rolling the dough onto your baking sheet.  If you've floured the outside of the dough well, you can just roll the dough off the pastry cloth onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  If you don't use parchment, grease the baking sheet well.

Once the dough is on the baking sheet, put it into oven rack that is set at the mid-point.  (Be careful of the steam as you open the oven door.  It's going to come rushing out at your face.)

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown and bread sounds hollow when thumped with the back of your forefinger knuckle.

COOK'S NOTES:  I've made this enough times to where I can skip the step about putting it onto a well-floured surface and shaping.  I now just generously sprinkle the dough with flour, scraping down the side of the bowl to flour the sides, line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper, flour that well, and scrape my dough out into the pan and shape it there. It does get sticky and can be a little tricky because it wants to stick to the parchment, but nowadays I'm about not having one more thing to clean.

Now the directions say to let rise in a warm place for 4 hours and let me add a thought to that. I live in Arizona and most times of the year we are cooling our house to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Every place is a warm place in my kitchen.  Four hours of rising time is too long here so I start checking it after 3 hours or so, and more often than not, the dough just needs another half hour or so, during which time I preheat the oven.  When I lived in New Hampshire where in the dead of winter we heated our house to just 70, well, that was a whole 'nother story.  I put a bowl of warm water in an oven that had been ever so briefly heated to the lowest possible oven temperature and turned off.  Leave the oven door open, put the hot water on the lowest rack, turn on the oven light, and put the covered dough on a rack above that.  Sometimes I had to change the hot water a couple of times to make sure that the air was still warm.  Drafty old New England farmhouses, grins.

If you're going to let your dough rise in the oven, remove it before preheating it to 500.

Oh, one last thought.  That water that you use as you bake the bread is going to be hot, hot, hot.  I let it sit there after I take the bread out and allow it to cool down before handling.  One splash and you're going to get burnt, uh, speaking from experience.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Garlic Studded Roast Pork with Rosemary and Thyme

Garlic Studded Roast Pork with Rosemary and Thyme


Good golly this is good!  And bonus, it's easy and fast, has great eye appeal,  is inexpensive,  result outweighs the effort, and doesn't make a huge amount, descriptions that make this roast a delicious choice for us. 

This recipe is like a little black dress that you can dress it up or down.  This is a handy recipe to know and have for those times when you might need something a little special but not a lot of time, or you just love a good pork roast.  I've served this to company with a wonderful creamy onion casserole as one of the sides and nice glasses of wine; I've made it just for us with canned vegetables and roasted potatoes.

The secret to this fabulous pork roast is studding the garlic into the pork loin.  I don't know how it happens, but that amazing garlic flavor infuses the pork with its seductive flavor.  Don't skip this step and just slather it on the top.  Your roast will still be good, of course, just not as good, grins.

GARLIC STUDDED ROAST PORK WITH ROSEMARY AND THYME

3 pound pork loin
3 garlic cloves, finely diced, or mashed into a paste
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
good sprinkling of ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Bring your roast to room temperature, letting it sit out for maybe 30 minutes or so. 

Using a sharp knife,  cut a couple dozen random slits into the top of your roast, about a half inch deep.  Stuff the garlic into each of the slits.

Combine the rest of the ingredients into a small bowl and then massage the mixture into the pork. 

Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until internal thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Let rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving. 

COOK'S NOTE:  My mother was one of those people who could make stone soup.  Do you know that story?  Point is, she could take what seemed like "nothing" and make a whole meal with it.  Anyway, one of her secrets was studding garlic into cheap cuts of steak and grilling the steak.  I swear, the garlic must've melted into the steak, leaving behind its piquant aroma and flavor.  Never a complaint.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pumpkin Muffins


Pumpkin Muffins

Mmm, I love a nice muffin or gorgeous pastry or bread at breakfast. Nowadays I'm not so much about making time-consuming recipes; time rushes like water over a dam.  We try to hold it back and yet it flows ever forward.  A beautiful muffin and good coffee have become a joyous, slow way to start an otherwise busy weekend with my Sweetie Pie.

This was very good and so simple to make.  Nothing fancy here.  The recipe calls for canned pumpkin, which is 100% pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling, which has all the added ingredients to make, well, pie.  I only ever buy the puree and keep it on the shelves, even when I make pies, because I follow a time-honored New England recipe for pie, and the canned pumpkin pie filling just isn't it.  But that's a story for another time.

Anyway, here's the recipe for the pumpkin muffins.  These freeze like a charm, which is a good thing, because the recipe makes just over two beautiful muffins.

PUMPKIN MUFFINS
 Combine in a large bowl:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

 Add to dry ingredients until just blended:
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
4 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree (solid pack pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare two muffin tins by lining with cupcake liners, or spraying with cake release, or greasing with shortening and flour and shaking out any excess.

Fill muffin cavities two-thirds full and bake 20-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.

For a little decadence, these can be frosted.  I haven't tried it, but I think making these muffins in one of those super-sized muffin tins and frosted, oh, be still my heart.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's Chili in Here, Folks!

Chili!


Hahaha! Sorry, I just can't stop myself with the bad chili jokes. And no matter how old and tired they are, Sweetie Pie and I just have to regale each other when them. But no joke, this was darned good chili. First thing Sweetie Pie said, hey, if it makes your nose run and your eyes water, it's gonna be good. Well, that's one measure I guess, grins. This chili is can be as spicy or as mild as you like, just adjust the hot stuff up and down to your liking. We're still newbies at spicy, but are slowly appreciating it more and more, to the point that some of our New England favorites are tasting kind of bland.

Chili!

1 lb ground beef, cooked and drained of fat
1 large onion, chopped
1 14-oz can diced tomato, undrained 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 cups beef broth
1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or fresh, minced)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Optional: pinto, kidney, black beans (or other beans) drained, added 10 minutes before end of cooking,

Add all ingredients into a large pot. Simmer 30 minutes or until thickened. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

A good dollop of sour cream and some grated cheddar or jack cheese is nice.  Smooths out the spiciness and adds a nice mouth feel.

Chili is pretty versatile and you can customize it according to your taste.  Some add jalapenos, corn, celery (really?!), green peppers. We tend to be more straightforward, though beans are often considered chili sacrilege.

COOK'S NOTE: A regional ingredient that wasn't called for in the original recipe but makes a nice addition is an ingredient called masa harina. It's limed, ground corn and is not the same as the ground corn that is used to make hoe cakes, johnny cakes, cornbread, and so on. I use it to make corn tortillas and someday tamales. Anyway, it's addition to chili is used to thicken the chili and adds a touch of sweetness. For some chili lovers it's the missing ingredient in really good chili and we seem to fall into that category.  I started with a tablespoon, let it cook four or five minutes to see the thickness, and added more until I received a thickness that was pleasing to me.  This chili was even better the second day and freezes well.  Believe it or not, it's good in place of regular spaghetti sauce and is delicious mixed with rice.  Mmm!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Italian Sausage and Peppers




















My Sweetie Pie has a life long friend who happily lives "just down the street" from us.  When I say life-long, I mean 50 plus years of solid friendship, an oddity these days in so many transient relationships.  It's fun to be in their company and listen to them talk of their schoolboy pranks, glory days, and senior problems.  And food.  Oh, we miss good homemade Italian food. 

I didn't have the good fortune to grow up Italian, but I did have the good fortune to live in an area where excellent Italian food abounded and beautiful women with joyous and generous hearts shared their recipes with me.  Now this platter of Italian sausages and peppers may be considered skimpy by some standards, grins, but there were only four of us for dinner and we had other food.  But I've been in homes where the platter was heaping and food almost falling off the edges.  And leftovers don't go to waste.  These make super submarine sandwiches (or hoagies, depending on where you live) or work up delicious in an omelet.  Or better yet, make any leftovers into an omelet and serve in a crusty roll with some provolone cheese.  Oooooh.  Swoon.

Like so many recipes, not a real recipe but a list of ingredients, and you adjust according to your family's preferences and needs.  This is what I did


ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS

4 sweet Italian sausage (can use hot sausages or a combination)
2 each green and yellow pepper, sliced
2 large onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, smashed
a pinch of rosemary, oregano, or basil or a combination, optional
a good splash of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all your ingredients on a roasting pan and give them a good tossing about to combine them.  Roast for about one hour, turning occasionally, or until the sausages are nicely brown and cooked through.  


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sweet, Cakey Cornbread


Sweet, Cakey Cornbread
Well, as my hairdresser would tell me, my roots are showing.  This time though we're talking about cornbread, and I mean Yankee cornbread, sweet and delicious, made to go with Sunday's Boston baked beans dinner, fried chicken, or steaming bowls of chowdah.  And if it's not sweet enough for you, slather on the honey butter, all drippy and sticky and wondrous.  Food of the gods, I'm telling you, grins.

















This cornbread, as the title suggests is cakey, not crumbly, with a finer texture.  It holds up well to lots of butter!  I happen to use white cornmeal this time but the yellow cornmeal works very well and near as I can tell it's just a difference in color.

One caveat:  As much as I love this recipe, it is not that great for cornbread dressing.  Look to our southern cousins for a recipe, where there is less sugar and can really showcase the savory seasonings.  Good stuff!  You need both in your life to be complete.

SWEET, CAKEY CORNBREAD

1 cup cornmeal
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar (I told you this was sweet!)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown on top and toothpick tests clean. 

COOK'S NOTES:  This makes delicious corn muffins.  Reduce cooking time, checking maybe after 20 minutes or so.  I use cupcake liners for easier clean up.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Bisquick "Danish"


Bisquick "Danish"































The older I become, the more I appreciate simpler things. Perhaps it's a sign of maturity and gained wisdom or more the result of my body getting older and just tiring more quickly. Grins, it doesn't matter. What I can say with certainty is these "Danish" are delightful. Of course they aren't going to taste like Danish made with puff pastry, but if you want something with a lot of wow power with little effort, these are for you.

I made two flavors, apricot and raspberry, and took them to work, and before I knew what had happened, people were cuing up to sneak away two at a time. No concerns about leftovers because there weren't any. However, when I make them for home, we do need to store leftovers overnight and wrapped in a tight container they are as good the next day, maybe a little softer, but still quite delicious.


























EASY DROP DANISH

1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups Bisquick (or similar brand or your DIY copycat mix)
2/3 cup milk (or half and half for a richer flavor or a mixture)
1/4 cup of preserves (of your choice)

Mix butter, sugar, and biscuit mix together until crumbly.  Stir in milk just until dough forms, probably like 25 strokes.  Don't overwork the dough or the biscuit can become tough.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls on greased, or parchment lined, sheet.  Make a shallow well in the center of each biscuit and fill the well with a teaspoonful or so of the preserves.

Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes or until biscuits are a pleasing golden brown.

Drizzle with glaze while Danish are still warm from the oven.

Glaze
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon warm water (or enough to liquid to make the glaze easy to drizzle)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

I drizzle the glaze from the tines of a fork.



Saturday, September 30, 2017

Irish Potato Pancakes

Irish Potato Pancakes

Our weekday mornings are typically crazy, looking for that first cup of coffee, and searching our souls to find that first cheery word and hint of smile. We always do of course, but some days it takes a while.  One thing that brings immediate cheer is a hearty, country-style breakfast, a rare indulgence, but when we pull out all the stops and treat ourselves, there are, afterwards, sighs of contentment and insincere promises of never eating such a big breakfast again.

A hearty breakfast that includes Irish potato pancakes and no-knead English muffin bread
I have the most amazing friends, Jackie McG, and her dear husband John, who visited me and Sweetie-Pie one March day and Jackie taught me to make Irish potato pancakes, the way her beloved mum taught her.  I still don't make them as good as that day as Jackie stood there watching me, her red haired head tilted and her blue eyes bright with a twinkle and a beatific smile as she watched me muck about in the mashed potato.

Even without her gentle coaching to add more flour, you're making a dough, don't be afraid of 'em, these turned out very well and are a satisfying addition to a meal.

IRISH POTATO PANCAKES

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1-2 large eggs
1/4 cup flour, more or less to make the mixture dough-like
a bit of finely diced onion (or chive or green onions/scallions)
salt
pepper

sour cream or creme fraiche or (optional but nice)
enough oil or shortening to fry the patties in

Mix the first six ingredients together.  The flour part can be kind of tricky on exactly how much to add.  You're looking to make a dough of sorts, so it's thicker than a pancake batter but probably not quite as heavy as a biscuit.  Depending on the type of potato you use will affect the amount of flour you need, so it's hard to give an exact amount.  Pat the dough out into patties.

Preheat your skillet, adding enough oil or shortening to fry the patties but not drown them because you'll be cooking on one side until golden brown and then turning and cooking the other.  If you're making a big batch, put cooked patties on an oven-proof plate and put in a 200*Fahrenheit oven.  I put them on a paper towel to soak up any additional grease.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Slice of Sunshine - Arizona Sunshine Lemon Pie


Arizona Sunshine Lemon Pie

Heavens, I love pie, maybe even more than cake.  I like pie so much, I include it in the long list of endearments for our kitties.  Maggie-Pie, Molly-Pie, Fluffy-Pie.  And of course, Sweetie-pie, but he's of the two-legged variety of pie, grins.  

Did you know that Arizona was second only to California to lemon production?  I had absolutely no idea—I thought all citrus came from Florida.  Orange trees abound here, boughs leaning heavy over brick walls, fabulous orange globes sold at local farmers' markets; one of my co-workers brings in the hugest, juiciest grapefruit I've ever seen in my entire life.  You bite into a grapefruit section and juice squirts and pours down your chin and you have to hurl your body into a 45 degree angle and mop your face before that sweet juice hits your chest and stains your favorite shirt and becomes testimony to your grapefruit greed. No bagfuls of lemons on the sharing table, though.  How can that be?  Too commonplace?  I figured it was all novelty and whimsy and supernatural, kind of like trying to grow roses here.

But lo and behold, Arizona sunshine is to lemons as lemons are to Arizona Sunshine Lemon Pie, or something like that.  

If you like a pie that's big on lemon flavor, is super fast to make (it's made in a blender and uses the entire lemon, sans seeds, of course) and is family and company worthy, this one is good!  I'll present the recipe as originally written, and then add my own thoughts in Cook's Notes.

ARIZONA SUNSHINE LEMON PIE

1 large lemon, well washed and rinsed
4 large eggs
8 tablespoons butter (4 ounces or one stick)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
whipped topping

single, uncooked pie crust, your own or store bought, for a 9" pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Leaving rind on, cut lemon in large chunks, remove seeds.  Pour all ingredients into a blender (or food processor) and process until smooth.  Pour into pie crust and bake for about 40 minutes.  If crust becomes too brown, cover it with tin foil.  Test with a toothpick for doneness.  Let cool before serving.  Refrigerate after cooled.

COOK'S NOTES:  I made a bit of a bigger project out of this than the recipe states.  First of all, I was concerned about the pith adding too much bitterness, so I cut the lemon flesh away from the rind, removed maybe half of the pith and then tossed the lemon peel and flesh into the blender.  Because I removed the pith, I added another half lemon, peel and flesh, minus pith, to the blender.  Besides, how large is a large lemon?  It's all in the eye of the beholder.  I wanted to see the lemon texture before going ahead so I added the sugar and vanilla and blended that first. Then I added the eggs and butter and gave it a few more spins in the blender, combining all ingredients well.


Arizona Sunshine Lemon Pie

This pie was a tad on the sweet side but not cloyingly so.  Regardless, for my personal tastes, I might add more lemon or less sugar the next time I make this. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

No Knead English Muffin Batter Bread

No Knead English Muffin Batter Bread

If you're new to baking and just a little timid of working with yeast, this is a bread I highly recommend starting with.  There's no kneading, a single rise, no fussy shaping, and the results far outweigh the effort.  This bread is toothsome and yeasty and oh so delicious and makes the crunchiest toast.











NO-KNEAD, ENGLISH MUFFIN BATTER BREAD
Makes 2 loaves
5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour  (more or less) (divided)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (yes, tablespoons, not teaspoons) 
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water 
Cornmeal for sprinkling inside baking pans and on top of loaves

Start by greasing two 8" x 4" baking loaves and sprinkling enough cornmeal inside and tipping and rotating the pan to leave a light coating on the sides and bottoms of the pans. Lightly tap out any excess.

In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda.  Give it a good stir.  

Heat milk and water to a temperature that falls between 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour liquids into the dry mixture and stir; what you should have is something that is about as thick as pancake batter.  Add additional flour as needed.  (See notes below)

Divide the dough between the two pans. Stretch the dough to fit the pan.  Sprinkle with a little corn meal and allow to rise in a warm place about 45 minutes or until the dough has risen about 1/4 inch over the edge of the pan.

Depending on how fast your dough is rising and how long it takes your oven to preheat, somewhere during this time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, or until when thumbed with a knuckle it sounds hollow.

Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes and then remove from pan and allow to finish cooling on rack.

COOKS NOTES:  Now you're going to have to use some judgment here.  Recipe says more or less 5 1/2 cups flour.  I can tell you depending on the brand of flour, the age, if it's spring or winter wheat, if it's summer or the winter, the alignment of the stars and if the day of the week you're making this has a "y" in it, you're going to need some judgment on how much additional flour to add.  I add a half a cup at a time and give it a stir until I end up with something that is gloopy (is that a baking term?), and stretchy.  You may not need the full amount; you may need to add a bit more.  This time I only needed 5 cups of flour and it was absolutely fine.

Recipe says to allow dough to rise for 45 minutes.  Well, it's the beginning of September, I live in Arizona, the sun is beating down on us, and my house is cooled to 75 degrees, grins, so needless to say 45 minutes of rising time is out of the question.  I checked at 35 minutes, and the dough was at the near perfect point.  It only takes a few short minutes to heat the oven, and we were good to go.

Mmm, homemade English muffin batter bread for breakfast!




 


 



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Tex-Mex Style Flour Tortillas

Flour Tortilla

In my question for tortilla perfection, I am reminded of the story of the guy who was married eight times and always blamed his failed marriages on the women he married.  Grins, this is like my fifth or sixth recipe I've tried and since it's unlikely all those recipes are failures, it seems like time for a little self-reflection.  While I have yet to find the secret for great tortillas, I think I'm onto something here. My ideal includes adjectives like soft, flexible, fluffy, flavorful.  Not too much to ask for, but past efforts have yielded tortillas that were thin, brittle, and tasted like pie crust. 

First of all, tortillas take practice.  Oh. Yeah, I guess I should've known that.  When I think of my first loaf of yeast bread and how it clunked so loudly that I could hear it hit the metal trash can from my second-story apartment over city traffic, I know the ringing sound of failure.  I never thought I could learn to make beautiful loaves of yeast bread.  A little diligence and knowing the "feel" of dough paid off.  I think tortilla making is similar; you have to know the feel of the dough, and that only comes through practice and diligence.  And eating your failures, which is better than eating crow, I've found.

Tortilla too brittle?  Too much shortening, too much baking powder, or quite possibly the griddle wasn't hot enough.  The griddle has to be hot.  Also, it could be too much baking powder.  Tortilla tough?  Handled it too much.  And probably the biggest thing I've learned, they need to be kept in a tortilla warmer.  You don't need anything fancy, just a clean dishtowel maybe with tin foil loosely folded around it to help it retain the heat but still allowing the steam to escape.  I've found they soften nicely once they've allowed to rest a bit after cooking.

The other neat thing I've learned is there two schools of tortilla makers depending on the region you grew up and family preferences:  the thicker Texan style, popular in certain parts of Mexico (like the ones pictured above and my favorite) and those who favor the paper thin tortilla, almost like a wonton wrapper (perfect for burritos), which I believe is popular in the Sonoran region of Mexico and thus quite popular here since we live so close to Sonora.  Both are equally good; it's just personal choice and what you're accustomed to and probably how you intend to use the tortilla.

Tex-Mex Style Flour Tortillas (makes 8 thick tortillas)

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup warm milk

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the first four ingredients.

Slowly add the warmed milk, stirring, until a sticky ball is formed.  Dump dough out onto a floured surface and knead, about two minutes, or until ball is smooth, soft, and firm.

Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel or dish towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, break the dough off into eight sections, rolling each section into a ball as you break them off.  Place the balls on a plate spaced far enough apart so that the balls are not touching.  Cover again with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap, and once again allow to rest, this time for 10 minutes.

On a floured surface, pat the dough into a 4-inch disc and then roll into 8-inch circle. In your mind's eye, see the disc as 4 pieces of pie and starting from the center, roll out to the one edge and over it to keep the edges thin. Go to the next quarter, repeat.  Flip the disc, repeat.  You can also stretch the dough over your knuckles, like for pizza dough, pulling on the edges while spinning over the knuckles of  your closed fist to help attain a circular shape.

Keep the uncooked tortillas covered until ready to cook as you don't want them to dry out.

Preheat a dry (do not grease) cast iron comal or skillet over high heat and cook the tortilla about 30 seconds each side.  Tortilla will puff and bubble when it's done.

Place cooked tortilla in clean dish towel, napkin, tortilla warmer, whatever you are using, to keep them warm until serving.

Cooks Note:  So this is the basic recipe I made and I followed it exactly.  I'm pleased with the results, of course, but when I try this next, I think I'm going to tinker with it a bit, perhaps adding a tad more milk, a tablespoon or so.  It may be the brand of flour I'm using, but I found the dough to be a bit on the dry side.  It's all about the feel.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Wicked Good Blueberry Muffins

Wicked Good Blueberry Muffins



There is truth to the adage that less is more, except when it comes to bank accounts maybe.  But in the case of recipes, simple, straightforward, no added extras, can be the recipe that pleases family and friends and become the keepsake recipes we return to again and again.  This 150-year old Maine blueberry muffin recipe is just that one.  No spices, no extracts, no sour cream, no crumb topping.  Just a beautiful, big blueberry-flavor muffin that delights. 

Wicked Good Blueberry Muffins (original recipe here)
Grandmother Hinckley's Blueberry Muffins

3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt**
1 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries, rinsed, picked over, dried with paper towel
Coarse sugar for sanding or regular table sugar (optional)

Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake-muffin papers.
Preheat oven to 350*F

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.
Add the beaten egg and milk.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the wet mixture.
Add the blueberries and gently fold them in, stirring the batter from the bottom and bringing it over the berries.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin wells and sprinkle a little sugar, just enough to give it a little sparkle.
Bake on the center rack in your oven for 20-25 minutes or until it tests done with a tooth pick.

**Because I typically use salted butter, I reduce the amount called for in the recipe to a slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon.

I've used frozen blueberries for this and they're still great.  I rinse the strawberries first to take off any ice chips, dry on paper towels, and follow the rest of the recipe.  The batter may turn blue, but that's fine.  Muffins are still lovely.  It may take a couple of extra minutes baking time to allow for the berries being frozen.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Chicken Croquettes

Chicken Croquettes

Oh boy, does this bring some memories of Sunday dinners at my beloved Grandmother's house.  No one noticed she lived in a tiny two-room house, because once you were there all you felt was love.  Her love for family filled every nooky and cranny and filled every pan and filled every dish.  My beloved grandmother was what would describe as a "plain cook," and no wonder as she endured the Great Depression..  There were no fancy sauces, but there was good white gravy seasoned with salt and pepper; no double baked loaded potatoes, but she could make a mash without lumps, loaded with sweet butter and fresh cream; and her nod to modern day living--canned peas



























And then there was the old Howard Johnson restaurant-hotel chain. Growing up, it was a big night out to dine at the Howard-Johnson (Ho-Jo's).  That orange roof with cupola could be seen from the road and beckoned many a traveler and promised good fare.  Many people wax nostalgic about their fried clams.  My Sweetie-pie and I, to our mutual surprise, learned we both loved the chicken croquettes there.  

It's taken me a long while to find a recipe I love.  Past attempts were pretty disastrous, with the food falling into the goopy or tasteless departments.  Ugh!  Disappointments abounded.  And then this.  Some may turn their nose up at the use of canned cream soup and packaged bread stuffing, and bless your heart, I respect that.  I ride that high horse sometimes, too, grins.  However, back in my real world, those products are made for ease and convenience in a life that is sometimes too busy, and like canned peas, can make a difference.

I can see why this was a Sunday meal.  This recipe takes some time; I start it in the morning to have it for dinnertime.  Mostly the time is the time spent in the refrigerator, the flavors getting to know each other and becoming all happy.

Chicken Croquettes  
(original recipe is found here:  http://www.food.com/recipe/easy-chicken-croquettes-253952)
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken**
1 (10 1/2 ounce) can cream of chicken soup (low sodium is good here)
1/4 cup milk
1 6-ounce box seasoned stuff mix (or your own homemade bread stuffing)
1 egg
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
unseasoned breadcrumbs in a separate plate, for dredging
1/4 cup oil or enough oil to have about 1/4 inch deep in pan, or skip the oil if baking

In a good sized bowl, combine the first seven ingredients together.  Give it a pretty good mushing and then put it in the fridge to get all happy, for at least three hours.   

About a half an hour before you think you want to serve these, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and shape.  
  • Using about 3/4 of a cup mixture for each, you can shape the mixture into patties (the easiest and fastest), roll into a log shape, or the traditional cone shape.  
  • If you opt for the cone shape, which is fun but a little trickier to cook, first make the log, something about three inches long and two inches wide.  From a little height (we're talking only three or four inches, you don't have to drop it from the ceiling to the floor, for example)  just drop the end onto a plate.  The force of its own weight should flatten and spread out the bottom.  I pinch the top a little to define the shape a little more.
Gently roll each croquette in unseasoned breadcrumbs.  From this point you have a couple of choices.  You can freeze up to two months for later use (and these freeze beautifully and taste as good as the day you made them); refrigerate to serve following day, bringing to room temperature first; or proceed with cooking.

The easiest method is to bake them for 25 to 30 minutes at 350*F, if fresh, 45 to 50 minutes if baking from frozen. I baked the ones pictured above.  These were good, but truthfully, a tad dry.  I spooned a bit of oil on top of each one before baking and they were still dry-ish.


For flavor, we greatly prefer frying these.  Patties are the easiest to fry of course and take the least amount of time and oil.  If you chose the pyramid shaped croquettes, have enough oil in the pan to reach a depth of 1/4 inch.  Heat oil over medium heat and gently lower the croquettes into the pan.  The pyramid shaped ones are a little trickier because you're trying to keep the conical shape, gently turning and rolling it about in the pan with a spatula, being careful not to break them, and then standing them on end to make sure the bottoms are cooked.  They're going to take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook.  If you lose control of your croquette, try not to splash yourself with the hot oil.  I found it was best to let each side reach a golden brown color before turning to the next side.  If you need to cook these in batches, keep them warm in a 200*F oven.

COOK'S NOTES:  This is a good way to use up leftover chicken, or if you're of a mind, store-bought rotisserie chicken.  For us, I poach boneless, skinless chicken thighs with a generous amount of my DIY onion soup mix and a half teaspoon of chicken bouillon to up the chicken flavor a bit.  I drain off the liquid, let cool, and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

I'm fortunate enough to have a mini food processor so I pulse the onion and celery in it.  I'm looking for a fine dice, not puree.  Same thing with the chicken.  I give it several good pulses.  The packaged stuffing mix I buy is cut into bread cubes, and I think would be too chunky for this.  So, once again, I give it a couple of whizzes through the food processor.  I'm not looking for bread dust here, just smaller pieces.  Once all the ingredients are mixed together, the stuffing breaks down even further, hence the caveat to keep the stuffing at a smaller-medium size, if that makes any sense.

I made my own white gravy.  I do it by sight, so no exact recipe and no thrills, no frills.  Over the lower end of medium heat, add three or four heaping tablespoons of flour and a good sized gob of butter, maybe half a stick.  Stir, stir, stir, stir.  Once it starts to get all bubbly, add a good splash of milk as you stir,  stir, stir, stir.  It's going to seize up and be a glop. Don't despair and don't give up. Stir, stir, stir.  Add another good splash of milk and stir, stir, stir, repeating until the gravy loosens up and is a consistency you like. You can't rush it, and you can't quit stirring and you can't despair.  This is going to need some flavoring, so a generous amount of freshly grated pepper is good here.  And my secret ingredient for my chicken croquette gravy:  chicken bouillon.  I use Knorr brand but I suppose they're all good.  The Knorr I like it because it's a powder, not a pressed cube, so I have more control over it.  Better Than Bouillon is a great brand too and would be equally as good. (Not an endorsement of either product, just observations of my own experience.) Whatever you choose, I think bouillon can be pretty salty, so I started with maybe a 1/4 teaspoon or less, tasted and then ever so carefully added more grains.  The gravy can easily and quickly become overpowered with salt and chicken flavor.  Remember you can add but you can't take away.

Got lumps?  I use a flat whisk but recently purchased a round collapsible one and it seems to work really well.  If all else fails, do as one of my good friends does, strain the gravy through a strainer to remove any lumps.  It works!  No one's the wiser and her gravy is silky smooth.  Just don't strain it down the sink drain as she did when she was first learning to cook.  HA!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Favorite Banana Bread



I tried a fair number of banana bread recipes over the years.  Some were good, others not quite so much.  Too crumbly, not enough banana flavor, added ingredients.  I forget where I discovered this recipe but it's the one I've settled on for our tastes.  It's straightforward, no added spices or fruits, just a nice moist, buttery banana-y banana bread that goes down a treat any time of the day.

Now here's a hint I saw on Facebook the other day and it's so brilliant I had to share it with you.  I'm chagrined to think I've gone all these years without knowing and doing this.  You know how quick breads seem to take forever to cook in the middle?  The outside gets all dark and dry and the center is gooey and raw?  Well, looky look.  Take a piece of aluminum foil and cut out an opening the size of the center of your uncooked loaf.  Put it back in the oven and let it go another three or four minutes or however long it needs.  The edges are protected and the center is cooked.  This worked a charm!






















Favorite Banana Bread

1/3 cup melted butter
3 or 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour a 9" x 5" pan and set aside.

In a large bowl mix the butter into the mashed bananas.  Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix.

Sprinkle the baking soda and salt** over the mixture and mix.

Add the flour and mix to combine.  This is a quick bread so just mix it until all moistened; you don't have to beat it.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let rest in pan for about ten minutes before running a thin knife around the edges of the loaf and tipping out on a rack to finish cooling.

**Recipe calls for a pinch of salt which is about an 1/8th of a teaspoon.  I use salted butter so I omit the salt entirely.