Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quality over quantity

A more professional, on-the-ball blogger would probably have presented you with a multitude of recipes for Thanksgiving by now.  I don't have any Thanksgiving recipes.  (Well, if you peruse the archives, you could possibly find a few recipes for appetizers, sides or pies that appeal to you.)

Better bloggers would at least be at the ready with a list of ideas for your leftovers.  Honestly, I don't think my family has every had an amount of turkey leftover that couldn't be handled by a few turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce-and-mayo sandwiches. However, I do have one recipe suggestion from the archives for leftover turkey to offer you this week - Giada's Turkey Bolognese, a very anti-Thanksgiving use for leftover turkey. If you don't want to get right to it, you could freeze the leftover turkey and make this later.

Turkey Bolognese
Giada’s Family Dinners Copyright 2006

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 ½ pounds coarsely shredded cooked turkey (preferably dark meat)
6 cups marinara sauce she suggest her recipe but I used jarred Bertolli Organic
1 cup water
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ pounds spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the celery and carrot, and sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the turkey and sauté 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and water. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 25 minutes, stirring often, to all the flavors to blend. Stir in the basil. Season the sauce generously to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile in a very large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes, Drain, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat, add enough of the reserved liquid to moisten as needed. Serve with the Parmesan.

It's only one recipe but it's a good one. Happy Thanksgiving!

Question of the Day:  Are you cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My new favorite egg salad: Egg Tartare

Egg Tartare
River Cottage Every Day Copyright 2009

6 medium eggs, at room temperature
4 spring onions or 2 small shallots, finely chopped (I used green onions)
3-4 gherkins,finely diced
1 tbsp capers, rinsed
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley (I left this out)
1 tbsp finely chopped dill (optional) (I used a generous sprinkling of dried dill)
2-3 tbsp mayonnaise
Dab of Dijon mustard
2-3 dashes of Tabasco sauce (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slices of wholemeal, sourdough, rye or your favourite bread, to serve (I only had Fiber One Honey Wheat bread on hand)

1. First, boil the eggs. (The author discusses how to cook the eggs and suggests the egg yolks should be soft but I just hard boiled them.)

2. Peel the eggs.  Roughly chop the eggs and mix with the spring onions or shallots, gherkins, capers, parsley and dill, if using. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and Tabasco, if using.

3. Gently combine this mixture with the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Serve on wholemeal, sourdough or rye bread, as closed or open sandwiches.

I've always loved egg salad but no egg salad has ever impressed me as much as this one. I just happen to love green onions, capers and dill. The gherkins add a nice punch. You don't need very much mayo for this - the second time I made it I cut back on the mayo and punched up the Dijon mustard (I made a half-batch to start but it was so good I soon found myself making another half-batch). If you used eggs with a soft yolk as the author suggests, the salad would probably require even less dressing.

Green onions have become the staple onion in my produce bin. Sweet onions had been my staple onion forever but I think I've only purchased two of them since I've moved in August. I particularly like green onions for use in salads. 

This recipe is so named because it uses the classic ingredients in tartare (tartar) sauce.  I love tartar sauce sauce so it's no wonder I love this.  Tartar sauce often has tarragon so you could add that or switch out the dill for tarragon

I checked this cookbook out of the library.  It's a bit out of my league  - not in complexity but this is more for the crowd who buy organic, eat locally, eat seasonally, grind there own wheat, etc, while I am lucky to get food on the table at all these days.  However, I have my eye on many recipes in this cookbook.

I baked for a bake sale this week.  South Seas Cookies, 7 Up Cake, and Peppermint Patties  are my standards.  I should have taken a new picture of the South Seas Cookies!  They came out really nice.  I also made Sweet and Crunch popcorn (in pink), chocolate covered pretzel rods (chocolate with white chocolate drizzle and white chocolate with assorted sprinkles and jimmies) and boxed brownies that I melted and spread a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips on top after they came out of the oven (they were studier to package that way).  Everything sold well. People seemed a bit afraid of the pink popcorn. I used to eat pink popcorn at the zoo when I was a kid but maybe not everyone had that experience. But at least one woman who bought it soon came back for more. It's one of Nick's favorites.  Heidi's got some great recipes.

Question of the Day:  Do you like eggs?  Eggs seem to be one of those foods that many people dislike. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Old-fashioned goodness: Grated Apple Cake

Grated Apple Cake
The New Karo All American Cook Book (undated)

2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup margarine
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used light)
½ cup Karo dark corn syrup
2 eggs
1 ½ cups coarsely grated pared cooking apple

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together; set aside. Blend margarine and brown sugar in mixing bowl. Add Karo syrup, then eggs; blend until smooth. Add the sifted dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, beating until blended. Fold in grated apple. Pour into greased and lightly floured (13x9 ½ x 2 inch) baking pan. Bake in 350 degree F oven about 35 minutes, or until cake tests done. Cut into squares and serve warm with lemon sauce or sour cream. (I frosted it with a brown sugar frosting.)

I earmarked this recipe quite some time ago.  It was in an old Karo Syrup recipe book.  I think it was the grated apples that appealed to me - I knew that would make a moist cake.  What really made this cake shine for me though was that it was seasoned only with nutmeg and dark corn syrup (which adds a molasses flavor) - no cinnamon.  I love cinnamon of course but it seems like just about every apple cake recipe calls for a bit of it and it turned out to be a nice change to leave it out.  Although, I don't really know if I'd categorize this as an apple cake. The grated apples add moistness more than flavor, similar to using applesauce in a recipe. This is more of a spice cake. 

I chose to put some brown sugar frosting on it. I used the one from this Legacy Apple Cake (if you are looking for a more apple-y apple cake, that's the one to try.) A confectioners' sugar glaze would be a good option too.

This was a real hit with me.  I'm not sure if this type of cake still has mass appeal - you just don't see as many spice cake recipes or baking recipes flavored with nutmeg or molasses in newer cookbooks.  I enjoy recipes like this and they always go over well with the work crowd too.

Question of the Day:  Do you like spice cake?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Just what I needed: Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili
Favorite Brand Names Slow Cooker, Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound ground chicken or turkey I used chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 fresh jalapeño peppers,* chopped I used serranos
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, cut up, undrained
1 can (15-1/2 ounces) kidney beans, drained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Heat oil in 5-quart Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, onion and bell pepper until chicken is no longer pink and onion is crisp-tender, stirring frequently to break up chicken. Stir in jalapeño peppers, tomatoes with juice, beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, salt, oregano, cumin and red pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes to blend flavors. To serve, spoon into 6 bowls and top with cheese.

I've been in the mood for chili and it was also about time to try another ground chicken recipe.  I had a couple of packages of it in the freezer. Now, this particular recipe would be one where you could use just about any ground meat that you like - turkey, beef, pork or even venison - and you'd probably get good, somewhat similar results. 

I followed the recipe exactly except for having to use serrano chilies instead of jalapeños because that's what the store had.  Also, I used San Marzano tomatoes since I can finally get them here and I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about.  The chili turned out perfect but I can't say for sure if the San Marzano tomatoes made a difference.  They were definitely good canned tomatoes but I'm a little suspicious - I'm not sure if they were true Italian San Marzano tomatoes.  I'll have to do more research and experimenting on them before I decide if they are worth the extra money.

This had the right amount of heat for me - a  kick but it didn't linger too long.  That was just blind luck - I decided to add the two chilies with seeds and all.  I could have regretted that, depending on the peppers.  It had a good consistency and a bit of sweetness even though no sugar was added.  It had a good ratio of meat to beans but I think I could have stretched it with another can of beans.

Another successful ground chicken recipe. I'm going to add it to the ground chicken recipe round-up.

This is a monster of a cookbook. It's always been a favorite of mine. I've gotten quite a few good recipes from it (and one of my worst disasters - a crab enchilada that had cinnamon in the sauce. I still gag thinking about that.)

Question of the Day:  How hot (spicy) do you like your chili?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Something new for me: Five-Spice Roast Chicken

Five-Spice Roast Chicken
Quick & Easy Chinese Copyright 2008

1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dry sherry or Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 pound chicken legs and thighs or one whole chicken cut-up

In a large bowl combine the soy sauce, vegetable oil, sherry, garlic, ginger, five-spice powder, sugar and salt, and stir to mix everything well and dissolve the sugar and salt.

Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat them evenly. Cover and set aside for 1 hour or as long as overnight.

To cook the chicken, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the chicken pieces on the rack of a roasting pan, or simply place them on a baking sheet with sides to catch the juices. Cook 25 minutes and them remove from the oven and turn each piece over.

Continue cooking until the chicken is wonderfully and evenly brown and cooked through, about 45 minutes total.

Transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Five-spice powder was one of the few spices/spice mixtures that I did not already have in my cupboard. I saw it recently at a good price in a discount store but I passed it up at first. Then I started noticing several recipes that called for it, recipes that sounded good to me, if I turned out to like the taste of five-spice powder. I decided to go back and get the five-spice powder since at $1.49 for a bottle of the Spice Islands brand that wasn't anywhere near expiring, I didn't have much to lose.

I only made a half-batch of this so I only used 1/2 teaspoon of the powder in this recipe. It added a certain something without being overpowering. The chicken was really infused with the flavor of the marinade since I let it sit overnight (in the refrigerator of course).  It was enjoyable, not a real 'wow!', but it was a good introduction to five-spice powder.

Five-spice powder varies but Spice Islands brand contains cinnamon, anise, fennel, black pepper and cloves.  I was fearful of the cinnamon - I don't usually care for it in savory dishes (chili with cinnamon was one of the worst recipes I've made).   I liked this with the chicken and I'm going to try more recipes using it but I'm going to make sure to use it sparingly.

I have several Chinese cookbooks. Cooking Chinese food at home is really not that hard, especially now when you can easily get just about any ingredient you need from one source or another.  I really like the selection of recipes in this book (many classics, a few not-so-mundane recipes, all very doable) but the layout is a bit funky - I don't like the way ingredient lists are often carried on to the next page.  They could have chosen a layout that prevented this in all but the longest recipes.  That's a minor nitpick though. I would definitely recommend this as a starter Chinese cookbook.

Question of the Day:  Five-spice powder - have you tried it?  Do you like it?  What recipes have you used it in? (Okay, maybe that should have been Questions of the Day.)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Cooking For One: Chicken a la King

Chicken a la King
Cooking For One Is Fun Copyright 1976

1 tablespoon butter (I needed 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup mushrooms
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup chicken broth
½ to 2/3 cup cooked chicken
¼ cup pimientos, diced
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon sherry
Salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in a small casserole and sauté the mushrooms for 1 minute. Remove the mushrooms. Now stir the flour into the butter in the casserole (I had to add another tablespoon since the mushrooms absorbed the first tablespoon) and gradually add the chicken broth. Continue stirring until the sauce is smooth.
2. Add the chicken, pimientos, and mushrooms to the sauce and keep it warm.
3. At serving time, heat the casserole thoroughly and stir in the egg yolk, sherry, and season as necessary. Serve immediately.

I've always loved chicken a la king.  I used to buy it in boil-in-bags.  Yes, I used to eat boil-in-bags.  They were cheap, single serving, and I liked them.  They were a staple in my single days.  Sadly, they no longer make them and canned chicken a la king just isn't the same.  Chicken a la king can be a bit rich (some recipes call for heavy cream) so I've shied away from making a full recipe of it but the moment I first saw this recipe  - a single serving AND it had no cream - I knew right away I would make this someday.  Someday was last week when I had three mushrooms and most of a rotisserie chicken leftover in the refrigerator.  I picked up a 79 cent jar of pimientos and I was in business.

I know it's not the most attractive picture but trust me, chicken in a rich gravy with mushrooms?  Delicious.  I served it over some toasted Fiber One honey wheat bread.  I toasted the bread in the oven.  I didn't have a toaster oven or toaster at the time.(I have a toaster oven now - you'd be surprised how much you could miss toast!)  It was a very satisfying dinner.

I'm not surprised that most of you aren't cooking for one very often.  I'm still having trouble cooking just for myself.  I usually have the best intentions but when I don't have the boys, I'm usually more inclined to use up whatever is left in the refrigerator. I have to start cooking more on the weekends. Don't worry - I won't inundate you with one serving recipes.

Question of the Day: Are there any convenience foods that you miss? That's probably a repeat question but my brain is mush.