Thursday, November 27, 2008

Natural Cranberry Sauce

My family has been making this cranberry sauce for...gosh...a very long time. Since 1990, I think. We were living away from family, and decided to do something "different" for our holiday meal. The paper was running a series of "Native American" recipes, and THAT is what we'd do for our special holiday meal! Nothing but natural, baby!

The wild rice was dry, the roast duck inedible, and the pumpkin soup a massive FAIL with the four of us in the 10-and-under crowd. But the cranberry sauce? It was fantastic, and so dead-easy.

Since I can't tell you how much to make, because I don't know how many you're serving, here's the basic gist of what we do.

Put fresh, washed, cranberries in a saucepan. Pour in maple syrup (real, please!) to almost cover the berries. Now turn the stove on medium-lowish and cook to a simmer, covered. The berries will start to pop (causing pain and a lot of annoying stains if the pan isn't covered!) and the natural pectin in the berries will make this sauce set when it cools. Cook until thick and saucy, perhaps 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

And that's it!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Easy Apple Cake

Here's the world's easiest apple cake:

First off, prepare:
1 box (two layer size) yellow cake mix, mixed according to directions.

Put the cake into a greased 9x13 pan. Top with peeled, sliced, cored apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake according to box.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.


Aunt LoLo's Beef Stew

I knew if I didn't write this down, I'd never remember how I did it!

In your stew pot, combine:
A bit o' oil

One large onion, cut in eighths

Four garlic cloves, smashed

Cook for 10 minutes, or until everything is softened up and smells yummy.

6 cups water

4 teaspoons beef base

1 lb beef stew meat

Simmer for 30 minutes

4 carrots, peeled, 1" pieces

4 small white potatoes, 1" chunks

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled, 1" chunks

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Simmer until tender (30-60 minutes). Serve with Aunt LoLo's Bread with butter and honey, and a green salad.

Dessert: Easy Apple Cake

Friday, November 7, 2008

LoLo's Savory Pumpkin Pie

This year, I have pumpkin. A lot of pumpkin. Since canning it is not a recommended option, I am slowly, but surely, preparing all of it for the freezer.

I came across a recipe yesterday in the New York Times for Savory Pumpkin Pie. BBJ commandeered my computer to watch videos of herself while I was making dinner, so my pie was based on that recipe in theory only.

The pie came out tasty! I served it with a fresh loaf of bread, and lots of pepper. It needs that extra...something. It's very good cold, so it makes an excellent take-along lunch. Best of all, it uses nearly 4 cups of pumpkin! Hallelujah! I think next time, I might blend a little milk into the eggs before I add it to the pumpkin. My pie turned out a little more like scrambled eggs or quiche than custard, but it was still very tasty. Next time, I'll also add caramelized onions or at the very least, I'll cook up my garlic before adding it to give it a more "roasty" flavor.
Go crazy with the fillings. I might try another with parmiggiano-regianno and artichoke hearts. Mmmmm....

LoLo’s Savory Pumpkin Pie

Crust: (adapted from Betty Crocker)
Combine in a food processor:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (5.3 T.) unsalted butter, cut into chunks.

Pulse until it resembles course meal, then slowly drizzle in as much of 2 T. ice water as you need to make the crust clump together. Do not let it form a ball. By that point, you'll have way too much water.
Gather your crust into a ball, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour (or freeze 15 minutes). Roll it out and place it in your pie pan.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Combine in a food processor:
4 cups pumpkin (steamed, mashed, drained, or just use canned)
3 eggs
1 small zucchini, sliced
7 thin slices ham (deli meat), sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon course-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 oz. pecorino-romano cheese, grated

Mix until thoroughly combined, but try to leave some chunks of veg, meg and cheese visible.

Pour this mixture into your pie crust. This filled a large pie plate just to the top.

Top with another 3-4 ounces of grated pecorino-romano cheese.

Bake for about 90 minutes. The pie is done when the cheese is golden brown. My pie puffed up, starting from the outside and working its way in.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

LoLo's Savory Pumpkin Pie

LoLo’s Savory Pumpkin Pie

Betty Crocker Crust
Food Processor:
4 cups pumpkin (steamed, mashed, drained)
3 eggs
1 small zucchini, sliced
7 thin slices ham (deli meat)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon course-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 oz. (??) cheese

Top with three ounces (???) cheese

375 about 90 minutes. Whole pie will puff up, except center. Cheese golden brown.

Aunt LoLo's Pumpkin Bread

When I was about 17, I had a girlfriend who was crafty/domestic in really quirky ways. She didn't bake, but she made centerpieces out of silk butterflies. She never served cookies at Christmas, but handed out homemade jelly, sealed with paraffin.

One year, for Halloween, we decided that we simply should not throw out our jack o' lanterns after the evening's festivities. Instead, she showed up at my house at 9:30, when it was time to blow the candles out and call it a night. We sliced, diced, steamed, baked, peeled and mashed those jack o' lanterns into about 30 cups of pumpkin puree. We split up the spoils around 2 am, when we finished, put them in our freezers, and continued on our merry Holiday Season Way.

When it came time for Christmas baking, I knew just what to make - Pumpkin Bread! We had a fabulous party, every year, with all of our singing-type friends and would go around my neighborhood, carolling at every door. This year, I decided to give them something more than just a song. Pumpkin Bread for everyone.

Unfortunately, I didn't count before I started baking. I baked and I baked and I baked. All day long, I baked mini loaves, working in an assembly line fashion. At the end of the day, I had over 90 loaves of pumpkin bread...and not nearly that many neighbors. We dragged the loaves around in a red wagon, handing them out to everyone within 5 blocks of my parents' house. The remainder went to a church party that weekend, where we were barely able to hand out the last 20 loaves.

I've only ever used one recipe, and I just don't think I could switch now! Last night, as BBJ and I were preparing and freezing some of the pumpkin left over from Halloween, I knew it was time to make my Pumpkin Bread!

Note - when using pumpkin from a large jack-0-lantern type pumpkin, it is important to drain it before using it. Otherwise, your dough will be much too water-y. I sliced, seeded and peeled my pumpkins, then steamed them. When the pumpkin was nice and soft, I pureed them with an immersion blender and piled the whole mess into a "draining contraption" of my own design - a large bowl fitted with a tea-towel lined colander. I left the pumpkin there for at least 8 hours, to let the water drain away, and then packed it into sandwich-size zip top bags and put those in the freezer.

Aunt LoLo's Pumpkin Bread
(adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Makes 1 large loaf or 3 small loaves or 12 muffins and one small loaf.
(I used to quadruple the recipe and bake in small, disposable loaf pans. I loved the pretty, fluted edges.)

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together:

1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Add 1/3 cup powdered milk. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together until light and fluffy:
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
2 eggs

Add 2 cups pureed pumpkin, mix to combine.

Prepare 1 cup of water. Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three installments, alternating with the water. (1/3 dry mixture, 1/3 water, 1/3 dry mixture, 1/3 water, etc.)

Bake in a greased pan, of your choice, until the bread shrinks away from the sides of your pan and a toothpick comes out no more than crumby. The bread should be moist, but not doughy.

A large loaf pan will bake for about an hour. Small loaf pans will bake for about 45 minutes. Muffins bake for about 35 minutes. Check often as the timer nears "O".

This is delicious spread with a little butter for breakfast, or plain, straight off the counter, for afternoon tea!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nana's Apple Pie Filling

On an Autumn Day in 2006, I was introduced to the wonders of Home Canning. I had never attempted this domestic marathon by myself, but Wonder Woman's mother in law invited me along for a day of Apple Pie Filling. We brought all the jars we had, plus lemon juice and corn starch, and hunkered down for the long haul.

The recipe itself isn't difficult - simmer a syrup for about 20 minutes until it thickens, fill clean jars with peeled and cored apples, cover with syrup and process in a hot water bath for about 25 minutes. If I had to pick the point where our day got "difficult" it was when we decided that we would quadruple the recipe. That makes nearly anything difficult!

Some notes, before the recipe:
A handcrank style apple peeler makes this a much easier process.
I processed my jars in two batches in the largest pasta pot I've got, lined with a tea towel. A standard canning pot, with a rack, would have been much easier to manage!
Canning tongs are, I believe, necessary. I have no idea how I would have removed the finished jars from the boiling water otherwise.

Oh, and you can change the spices to whatever you like in apple pie. Go wild! I have used these apples in both pies and Danishes...both are delicious!

Now, by popular demand (and sweet permission from Nana herself), I give you....

.....Home Canned Apple Pie Filling

Peel, core, and slice about 7 lbs of apples.
Pack in jars.
Mix syrup:
10c. water
4 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. corn starch
3 T. lemon juice
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt

Boil until it is thick and pour over packed apples.

Process in a water bath for 25 minutes.

Makes about 7 quarts.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lo Gung's Favorite Bread

This recipe is originally from Blue Yonder. The bread went through a lot of changes to get to where it is now for her. She uses whole wheat flour, organic shortening, fancy honey...and she loves it.

I adapted the recipe to what I've got in my cupboards. This only gets better with each tweak, but Lo Gung has declared this to be the best bread I've made thus far in our marriage. (For a man who prefers rice to cinnamon rolls, that's saying something!)

Here's my version, adapted from Blue Yonder's "Like Country Line Bread"

In a small bowl, combine:
2 T. warm water
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar

Let this proof for about ten minutes.

Combine, in the large bowl of a mixer:
Yeast Mixture
1 c. warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

That can either knead in the mixer for about 5 minutes, or you can dump this out on the counter and knead it by hand. Either way, knead the dough until it loses its sticky quality and gets stretchy and smooth.

Put the smooth, stretchy dough ball into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let it rise until doubled in size.

Punch this down, form it into a loaf, and let it rise again in a greased loaf pan. When it has risen to double its original size, bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped.

My bread always comes out a little on the doughy/moist side...but Lo Gung says that's his favorite part, so I'll just leave it how it is.