Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do You Know How To Use The Search Feature?

In the upper left-hand corner of the blog you'll find the "Search" box.  Type in a word or phrase you know appears in a recipe into the search box and then click on the looking glass.  It will bring up only those blog postings that include your "search" words.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

The Christmas Cactus is a little early this year.  It bloomed the week of Thanksgiving, and it's beautiful.  It has about five hot pink blossoms.  It is absolutely gorgeous.

Emma and I spent last night cooking and prepping for our Thanksgiving feast today.  We prepped and stuffed our turkey to roast.  It was stuffed with oranges, lemons, garlic, fennel, carrots, celery, and parsley tossed in kosher salt, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Melted butter combined with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper was smeared under the skin of the turkey as well as on the skin.  This went into a Reynolds cooking bag and then into a roasting pan and into the fridge overnight.

We prepped the fresh turkey to go into its brine for about 20 hours.  It went into a 22 quart stock pot with kosher salt, brown sugar, water and ice.  We set it into a cooler out on the deck and it stayed icy cold.

Then, it was on to salad and sides.  We made a hearty turkey stock out of the giblets and necks.  They went into a soup pot with 4 quarts of water, the celery tops and leaves, tomatoes, onions, carrots, a potato, and fennel tops.    After the stock was strained, it was used in the stuffing.  It was used again on Thurs. to steam the broccoli, make the gravy,  and boil potatoes instead of water.  A subtle way to add that turkey richness to the other Thanksgiving dishes.

We made a simple molded Jell-o salad (lemon and orange).  We made a traditional stuffing.  It wasn't to be stuffed in the turkey, so we added three eggs and a can of Cream of Celery soup to keep it moist.

We made two pumpkin pies, two pecan pies, a pudding pie, and a gorgeous pan of sticky buns to serve for breakfast before throwing in the towel and going to bed about 2:00 A.M.  No need to count sheep last night!

Take a look at the sticky buns before they went into the fridge overnight.  

They went into the oven for 1/2 hour this morning.  Oh, they were so sticky, ooey and gooey, but oh so good!  We had Johnsonville sausage patties to go with them.  Mmmmmm!

We did a little decorating and cleaning, and then it was on to cooking again.  The green beans were trimmed and steamed in turkey stock, and then they went into Green Bean Casserole.  A must have for Thanksgiving!

Countless potatoes and sweet potatoes were peeled for mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes. Yummmm!  The potatoes were mashed with butter and evaporated milk.  The sweet potatoes were mashed with brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and nutmeg.  

Lots of hours went into our Thanksgiving meal, but it was so worth it.  Friends and family around our dining room table enjoyed everything.  I think the best part is getting the whole family into cutting the turkey and getting everything ready to serve.  My kids still love to help with this.  I think it's the best Thanksgiving moment every year - no matter how old they get.  I hope one day they'll share these moments with their own children.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Planning

What a day I had today!  Any thoughts of accomplishing anything were out the window by 10:00 a.m.  I spent my day playing with my grandson, Christian.  He is so much fun!  He learned to hop yesterday, so we spent lots of time hopping and "going crazy".  We spin around, jump up and down, wave our arms over our head, and yell "Go Crazy".  His little feet get moving so fast - and he really can say "Go Crazy".  Too cute!  He was so worn out today that he actually fell asleep in his high chair in the middle of his lunch.  Secret . . . Grammy's tired too!

I have been trying really hard to get inspired to plan my Thanksgiving menu this year.  So far, creativity has eluded me.  It will come . . . I just hope it's soon.

As I cruised the internet looking for some new ideas, I ran across the following list of Thanksgiving hotlines on iVillage:

Holiday Cooking Hotlines

For answers to all of your holiday cooking queries, try these three hotlines:

Turning Leaf’s Holiday Hotline: Call 1-877-TLWINE-3 from October 31 through December 31 for tips and a fresh perspective on holiday entertaining. Help is available around the clock with 24-hour access to automated tips.

Crisco® Pie Hotline: Call 1-877-FOR PIE TIPS if you need a little help baking your Thanksgiving pie. The line is open 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET year round, but hours are extended from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET from November 15-24 and December 13-23.

Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line: Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL or e-mail talkline@butterball.com throughout November and December. No question is too tough for these turkey talkers, and they are ready and excited to tackle any challenge you throw at them.

I learned a tidbit of Thanksgiving trivia too . . . 
          Did you know that Thanksgiving Day is the busiest day for plumbers?

It's because people shove way too many things into their garbage disposals and clog their drains.       *** Be careful out there ***

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lemon Potatoes

2 lbs baby red potatoes (scrubbed and halved - quartered if large)
2 garlic cloves (peeled and smashed, plus 2 cloves minced)
1 1/2 tsp grated zest and 2 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
1 cup chicken broth
Salt & Pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Wash potatoes and drop them into a large skillet.  Add the smashed garlic, lemon juice, chicken broth, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until potatoes are just tender, 12 - 15 minutes.  Remove lid and increase heat to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Discard garlic cloves and add oil to pan.  Turn all potatoes cut-side down and continue to cook until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Of heat, stir in parsley, lemon zest, and minced garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve.

Serves 4

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm Planning An Athenos Feel Good House Party December 9, 2010

I was notified today that I will receive a party planning package of samples, coupons, recipes, etc. from Athenos Greek Yogurt.  I am inviting friends and family for a couple of hours of fun and trying new foods that include Athenos Greek Yogurt.  It should be fun!  Besides good food, there will be Greek trivia, yoga and meditation ideas, and games.  Everyone will leave with coupons for future purchases and recipes to take home and make for their own family.

The party will start at 6:00 pm. and we'll finish up about 8:00 pm.  Please send an e-mail to keplen@charter.net if you're able to make it.  Feel free to visit the party website and take a look around.  http://houseparty.com/parties/view/435098

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Have So Much To Be Thankful For . . .

Our kids are such blessings!  I admit, we have our share of challenges, but what parents don't?  The teenage years are tough, but we know from experience kids need to make mistakes and learn from them to become responsible adults.  Paul, our oldest son, made some poor teenage choices, but became a young man his father and I are so proud of.  He married Katy, who we absolutely love, and 16 months ago they gave us the sweetest gift of all . . . Christian.  He really is a joy!

Luke and Emily are seniors this year.  What an exciting time!  Luke has a goal to play volleyball in the Olympics.  It's a lofty goal, but if anyone can make it happen, he can.  He works really hard at his sport. He is a good student and we're busy looking at colleges.  Wouldn't it be fun to watch him play beach volleyball in the 2012 or 2016 Olympics?  There would be no keeping me away.

Emily wants to be a pastry chef.  She likes to make cakes and cupcakes.  She's very artistic so this could be a good career choice for her.  We've looked at several culinary schools.  All I can say about that is "I wanna go!".  She's quite the cook and really seems to have a good idea of what she wants to do with her life.

I didn't have that clarity when I was a senior in high school.  I just couldn't wait to get out of school.  I didn't really have any idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life when I was 18.

This Thanksgiving, it isn't hard to count my blessings.  The whole family is employed.  We spend time together.  And . . . we all love each other.  What more could I ask for?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Deep-Fried Turkey

Those who know me well know I love to cook with fresh produce and use natural ingredients.  We don't eat a lot of processed food in our house.  I use butter, not margarine and I don't buy anything that says "low fat" or "fat free".  

Ordinarily I try to cook meat in ways that avoid fat . . . but there is one exception to that rule.  A few years ago, we bought a turkey fryer, and I absolutely love deep fried turkey!  If you haven't tried it, you must.  We usually do two turkeys for Thanksgiving day - one fried and one roasted in the oven.  (Gotta have one to stuff.)  

Here is this year's Deep-Fried Turkey recipe:

6 quarts hot water
1 lb kosher salt
1 lb dark brown sugar
5 lbs ice
1 (13 - 14 lb) turkey (thawed and giblets removed)
4 - 4 1/4 gallons of peanut oil

Brine the turkey:  Put the hot water, salt and brown sugar in a 5 gallon upright cooler or sterilized bucket.  Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve completely.  Add the ice and stir until the mixture is cool.  Gently lower the turkey into the container.  If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed in the brine.  Cover and set in a cool place for 8 - 16 hours.  

Remove from the brine and pat dry.  

Set your empty pot on your burner unit and attach the thermometer to the side of the pot.  Fill the pot with peanut oil (enough to cover the turkey without overflowing).  

Light the gas burner and adjust the gas and airflow; do not put a lid on the pot.  Bring the temp to 350 degrees. 

Slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil.  Cook your turkey for about 3 minutes per pound.  Do not leave the pot while cooking.  You do not need an overflow of hot oil.  This could cause a fire.  Be sure to keep all children and any family activities away from the fryer.  

After allotted time of 3 minutes per pound has passed, lift turkey from hot oil and place it on a lipped surface to rest and allow oil to drain from turkey.  Continue to keep everyone away from turkey fryer.  The oil is still extremely hot.  

After about 30 minutes of resting, place the turkey on a plate for all to admire!

Remember:  Turkey fryers are serious business.   It matters a lot where you use yours.  Keep it at least 10 feet away from your home, garage, deck, or wooden fence.  Keep it on a level surface and make sure kids and adults stay at least 10 feet away.  Keep your heat resistant gloves and  your fire extinguisher nearby.  You may want a chair and a beverage to keep you comfortable while you don't leave your fryer.  (Do not make that beverage the alcoholic kind until your oil is no longer hot - you may not break this rule!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chicken-Fried Steak & Bacon Gravy

1 cup flour
1/2 cup cracker crumbs (about 30 saltines)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup buttermilk
4 (6 oz) cube steaks
4 cups canola oil
3 slices bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2" wide pieces
1 small yellow onion (finely chopped)
2/3 cup button mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt (for gravy)
2 garlic cloves (finely minced or pressed through a garlic press)
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper for gravy
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour for gravy
3 cups whole milk (warmed but not hot)

Whisk the flour, cracker crumbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper together in a wide, shallow dish.  Pour the buttermilk into a wide bowl.  Dip each steak into the buttermilk, then dredge it through the dry ingredients, making sure both sides are evenly coated.

Cook the bacon over medium high heat in a medium skillet until crispy, stirring often for 4 - 5 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel-lined plat and set aside.

Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, until soft and just starting to brown, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the mushrooms and the salt and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms release their juices, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the garlic, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the butter and let it melt, stirring often.  Use a wooden spoon to mix in the flour.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, then slowly begin to add the milk a little at a time, mixing well between additions to avoid lumps.  Cook until slightly thickened, 1 - 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cover, stirring occasionally to keep the gravy warm.  Just before serving, stir in the reserved bacon.

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet (preferably a cast-iron one) over medium-high heat.  Once the oil reaches between 350 and 375 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, reduce the heat to medium and carefully slide the steaks into the hot oil.  Fry on both sides until the coating is golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel - or brown bag - lined plat to drain.  Serve the steak immediately covered with the bacon gravy

Cheddar Bacon Biscuits

6 oz bacon (diced)
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces, plus 2 Tbsp melted butter
3/4 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp buttermilk

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.

In an 11" frying pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.  Discard all but 1 Tbsp of the fat in the pan.  Using a pastry brush, spread the fat evenly over the pan bottom.  Finely chop the bacon and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and pepper.  Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the cold butter until pea-size crumbs form, then use your fingers to pinch the crumbs into flat disks.  Stir in the cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses and the bacon.  Stir in the buttermilk until the dough just comes together.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and roll out into a 9 1/2 x 11" rectangle.  Fold the dough into thirds, rotate 90 degrees and roll out into the same-size rectangle.  Fold into thirds again, rotate 90 degrees and roll out into a 7 x 9 1/2" rectangle about 1/2" thick.  Using a floured 2 1/2" biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits and place in the fry pan.  Gather up the scraps, re-roll the dough and cut out more biscuits.  You should have 9 biscuits around t he circumference of the pan and 3 in the center.  Brush the tops of biscuits with the melted butter.

Bake the biscuits until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 - 25 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.  Makes 12 biscuits.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Update On The Avocado Tree

About 2 months ago, I thought it would be fun to follow the instructions to grow an Avocado Tree from a seed.  After my last batch of guacamole, I saved the pits.  I pushed toothpicks into each side of two pits and then placed the pits pointed side down into a clear glass of water.  I placed both glasses in a sunny spot and left them for a week.  I made sure daily that there was still enough water in the glass to keep the tip submerged.

After about 6 weeks, I had a white root growing out of one pit.  The other one had just become squishy and obviously was not going to produce anything.  I planted the one with the root in a pot on the deck about three weeks ago.  I covered it with good soil, set it in a sunny place and watered it frequently.  Nothing happened.  Day after day I looked in the pot for any sign of life -- NOTHING!

The forecast for tonight is for frost, and guess what . . . all of a sudden, today there is a tiny sprout poking up through the soil in that pot.  Just in the knick of time.  It managed to get itself moved into the house just before the first frost tonight.  Avocado Trees must be slow growers.

I'll keep you posted .

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thanksgiving Timeline

Home Made Simple

Last night, I told you one of my favorite websites is www.homemadesimple.com.  You can get there easily by clicking on the link above.  There is so much great information there.

Right now, if you visit their site and look on the right side bar under "Articles" you should select "Thanksgiving Timeline".  This is a pretty good outline of everything you need to think about if you're having Thanksgiving dinner at your house.  I'll be using this to help with my planning.  A shopping list is also included.

Visit the blog daily for Thanksgiving ideas.  It's time to start thinking about that menu.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Do You Shop With A List?

I am totally an impromptu shopper.  I arm myself with my coupon box and debit card, and off to the grocery store I go.  I do look at all of the grocery ads before I go to get a good idea of what is on sale where and what store will be the best for me to shop on any given weekend.  There are lots of weeks when I shop more than one store.  I always pull any coupons I know I'll use before I leave home.

Most grocery stores will have what are called "loss leaders".  These are the items featured in the weekly ad at such a low price that shoppers just have to go to that store to buy that item.  Call me crazy, but I stock up on those loss leaders and use coupons to bring the price of those items down even more.  It requires a place to store those items, but the money you can save is tremendous!  I never pay full price for things like ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, pickles, canned fruit and veggies, dessert mixes, biscuits, etc.  I buy them when they are a featured item and use coupons from my coupon box.  They are often free or close to free.

My weekly meal plan is devised as I cruise the aisles of the grocery store.  I have a pretty good idea of what I have in my pantry/fridge/freezer at home, and I plan my weekly meals around the items that are on sale that week.  Special produce pricing really influences my meal planning.

One of my favorite websites www.homemadesimple.com has an online shopping list.  I plan to give it a try.  Maybe, just maybe, I can become a list shopper.  The list is organized to match the layout of most grocery stores.  I don't know about you, but I tend to have to go back an aisle or two to pick up another ingredient that I didn't think I'd need until I decide on a menu item for the week.  Maybe planning could be a good thing . . .

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good

I found this recipe at Epicurious.com.  It's one of my favorite foodie websites.  This recipe, or as they call it, outline, sounds so good.  It's a hollowed-out pumpkin stuffed with bread, cheese, garlic, and cream.  Since pumpkins come in various sizes, baking times depend on how long it takes for the pumpkin to get soft enough to pierce with a knife.

1 pumpkin (about 3 lbs)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 lb stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2" chunks
1/4 lb cheese, such as Gruyere, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2" chunks
2 - 4 garlic cloves (to taste), coarsely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped (optional)
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions (optional)
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme (optional)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Find a baking dish that's just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin.  If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot - which is an appealingly homey way to serve it.  If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn't so easy.

Using a very sturdy knife - and caution - cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin.  It's easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45 degree angle.  You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin.  Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin.  Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.

Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl.  Season with pepper  - you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure - and pick the mix into the pumpkin.  The pumpkin should be filled - you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it.  Stir the cram with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin.  Again, you might have too much or too little - you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened.  (It's hard to go wrong here.)

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours - check after 90 minutes - or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.  Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully - it's heavy, hot, and wobbly - bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.  You have a choice - you can either spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful, or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up.  I'm a fan of the pull-and-mix option.  Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect sold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls, it's just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

There are many ways to very this recipe.  Instead of bread, try cooked rice - when it's baked, it's almost risotto-like.  Try it with or without bacon, or cooked sausage or cubed ham.  Nuts are a great addition, as are chunks of apple or pear, or pieces of chestnut.