Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hot Punch, the Drink of Many Aliases

Last Saturday, I made a punch that I suspected would be the "fruit tea" that I had drunk on special occasions like Thanksgiving in rural Tennessee when I was dating a native. It was indeed that drink and when J tasted it, she said, "This is Russian Tea," the drink her mom and aunts always made when their family made their annual vacation pilgrimage to a rental cabin in Bruce Mines, Ontario. It is sweet and delicious on a chilly fall evening.

Hot Fruit Punch/Fruit Tea/Russian Tea
2 qts. apple cider
3 tbsp. red hots (AKA cinnamon imperials)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. orange juice
2 c. pineapple juice

Simmer everything together for about 20 minutes. Serve hot. You can serve this with cinnamon stick stirrers, but my almost grandma Lenore says that's gilding the lily.

Sunday Italian

Since we'd just had bits of turkey right from the foil it was wrapped in for lunch, I decided to make my Beloved a special dinner Sunday night. The kids have usually eaten with their father before being dropped off, so the Sundays of visitation weekends are generally good for making grown folk-friendly meals. J adores pasta as much as she adores steak and vodka sauce is her favorite. So, I decided I would try making it at home instead of opening a jar of it. I made penne to go with the sauce, chicken scalloppine to go with the penne and a bagged Caesar salad to go with the chicken. Or something like that. Oh, and we had some Italian bread, too.

Chicken Scalloppine
1 egg, beaten
1 c. breadcrumbs
1 1/2 lb. chicken cutlets, pounded thin (if you can't find cutlets, as I couldn't, just pound some
boneless, skinless chicken breast halves thin...or you can use veal cutlets, but I am squeamish about veal)
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lemon, cut in wedges

Mix the egg with a couple tablespoons of water. Dredge the chicken in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a skillet. Add 1 tbsp. oil and allow to get hot. Fry the cutlets in this, 2-3 minutes per side, adding more butter and oil as needed. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.

Vodka Sauce
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 c. vodka
4 tbsp. butter
1 red onion, sliced
4 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. freshly-grated parmesan
Salt & pepper

Steep the pepper flakes in the vodka while you get pasta water going and prepare the onion. Melt butter and sauté onion on medium-high until golden and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add vodka. Simmer a couple minutes. Add tomato paste, mixing in thoroughly. Reduce heat to low and add cream and parmesan. Heat through. Season as desired with salt & pepper. Serve with your favorite kind of pasta. Serves 4.

The Rest of the Weekend

J always feels the urge to have a steak while we're staying with my mom. So, on Friday night when we stayed at the hotel so that we could have showers and soak in the hot tub, she indulged that desire when we had dinner at TGI Friday's. She and I both had the Jack Daniels New York strip. I found mine unpleasantly lukewarm, but wasn't in the mood to speak up about it. The flavor was fine and our service was terrific and I had already spoken up about the heat (or lack thereof). My mom had a portabella sandwich and we all shared the spinach artichoke dip. We also split the hot apple concoction between the three of us. It was fine, too, although I could have been perfectly happy without it. I hate when I go out to dinner and end up thinking dinner was fine. Not even good, but fine.

The next day, when I proposed grabbing a bite to eat before hitting the museum, J wanted to go to Friday's again. I get so bored with returning to the same place over & over. Besides that, I really wanted to go for Chinese. "Ethnic" food is not usually J's first choice, although she usually quite enjoys it once I've forced my will on her. I thought the Rice Bowl would have more options for my veggie mom, too. However, to thank my sweetest for hiking a treacherous hill in the middle of the night and for climbing up & down a ladder to pee in a bucket at night, I drove us to Friday's. I had the potstickers, J got pina colada chicken wings and my ma had the green bean fries. They are very little like green beans and very much like fried batter. Skip the mac & cheese bites, too. They are intolerably bland, especially when you've had the zingy and delicious ones at the Winking Lizard Tavern.

Back at The Homeplace, we had leftovers from Thursday for dinner. I forgot to post about the appetizers we had in my Thanksgiving post. Since we ate more of them Saturday, this is a perfect place to make up for my posting deficiency. I set out a platter of cheese and apples. We had Mt. Tam (Cowgirl Creamery's lush triple cream), some kind of farmhouse cheese J picked that had an unpleasant fruity note to it (I should add that everyone but me liked it) and some parmesan left over from the parmesan rice my mom made. The apples were Pink Ladies, which are one of our favorite varieties. I love Winesaps above all others, but J likes Pink Ladies best. The leftovers of the other appetizer we had on Thanksgiving were up the hill, but I'll put the recipe for it here:
Artichoke Dip
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
A dash of garlic salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix ingredients together in 2 qt. casserole or 8x8 baking pan. Bake 25 minutes. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips or bread rounds. I favor Triscuits for this and my wife likes Wheat Thins.

The parmesan rice my mom made to supplement the scant leftover mashed potatoes is a dish that she has made my whole life. It is absolutely wonderful. In high school, my friend Patricia & I would make that & have it with artichoke hearts for our dinner.
Parmesan Rice
2/3 c. long-grain rice (I like jasmine rice)
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. grated parmesan
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper

Cook the rice. Stir in the butter. Mix everything else together. Stir into rice. Cook 5 minutes.

For Sunday lunch, we had leftover turkey straight from the foil in the car, along with some gas station chips and King Dons. We were driving without a lunch break in order to get home before the boys did. That turkey was fantastic!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving in the Holler

Wednesday night, after having Fat Billy's pizza for dinner, I loaded the car to go down to visit my mom, her partner & his mom in West Virginia. Then, I commenced pie-making. Since there were only 5 of us for Thanksgiving dinner, I only made one pie, a derby pie. I have made a different, giant cookie-type derby pie, but this is my favorite variation. It was our sole dessert for the holiday.

Derby Pie
1 pie shell
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. light Karo syrup
4 eggs
1 c. pecan halves
1 c. chocolate chips
2 tbsp. bourbon (I actually used Jack Daniels)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together everything but the pie shell. Pour into shell. Bake 45-50 minutes.

My other contributions to Thanksgiving dinner were a salad made with bagged mixed baby greens, packaged candied walnuts, dried cranberries, blue cheese crumbles and raspberry vinaigrette and also a green bean casserole (I just use the recipe on the can of French's onions). My Beloved topped some of her company's sweet potato-banana mash with walnuts that she caramelized with butter and brown sugar and baked it. My mom, the vegetarian, made the first turkey she's roasted since 1973...and did a damn fine job of it...along with mashed potatoes and sage dressing. She also made, ahead of time, cranberry sauce (using the recipe on the cranberry bag) and our family's time-honored Thanksgiving raspberry Jello with raspberries in it. My almost-grandma's contribution was to clean up after us. She also had the bright idea of picking up some Kahlua for us to enjoy with our dessert, but we forgot until Saturday night.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Bunch of Recipes

I've been so busy with seminary & family life that I haven't had much time to write anything other than papers lately. So, here are a few of the things I've been cooking lately:

Beef Bourguignon
4-6 slices bacon
2 lb. beef, cubed
1 c. pearl onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. burgundy or other dry red wine
2 c. beef broth
1 c. sliced mushrooms

Fry the bacon until crisp ina big pot. Set aside for another use. Brown the beef in the bacon fat. Add onions & garlic & cook until tender. Add the wine, broth and mushrooms. Cover & cook on medium-high for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve over noodles or rice. Serves 6. I made this for my wife recently, along with the below-mentioned leek & fennel dish and a gorgeous salad. I used mixed baby greens & added slices of red pear, crumbles of blue cheese and candied walnuts. I was too lazy to make dressing, so we used the Kraft Light Done Right raspberry vinaigrette, which worked beautifully.

Leeks & Fennel with Olives and Goat Cheese
1/4 c. olive oil
2 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, halved and sliced
1/2 c. kalamata olives, pitted
Salt & pepper
5 oz. soft goat cheese, sliced into 4 rounds

Heat oil in skillet on medium-low heat. Add the leeks & fennel & cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fennel is tender, about half an hour. Add olives. Heat through. Season. Place a slice of cheese in the center of each of 4 warm salad plates. Top cheese with veggies & olives. Serves 4.

1 stick butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
4 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 c. ch. pecans

Melt butter and chocolate together. Cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 13x9 baking dish. Beat eggs & salt together, with mixer on medium, until foamy. Beat in the butter/chocolate mixture. Add sugar and vanilla. With rubber spatula, fold in flour and pecans. Put in prepared pan and bake 30 minutes. Cool before cutting. I made these for one of my classes and they went quickly.

Fruit Dip
8 oz. light cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. light sour cream (or lowfat plain yogurt)
4 tbsp. honey
2 c. light Cool Whip

Mix together all but Cool Whip. Gently fold in Cool Whip. Chill and sevre with your favorite dipping fruits. I like strawberries in this, my Dearest favors bananas. My children think it looks gross...they tend to shy away from anything white to eat, although the oldest has discovered a love for Alfredo sauce finally.

Country Egg Casserole
3 eggs
1/2 c. baking mix (I used reduced-fat, to good effect)
1/2 c. melted butter
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar
1/2 c. cubed ham

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9" pie plate. Mix all but ham & cheese, making sure it is well-blended. Pour into pie plate. Top with ham & cheese, pressing gently below the surface. Bake 45 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before cutting. I made this for my grandparents and they really enjoyed it.

Chocolate Cappuccino Cookies
2 c. butter, softened
4 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
5 1/2 c. flour
1 c. cocoa
1/4 c. instant coffee (I used Cafe Bustelo Mexican-style)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
10 oz. cinnamon chips (I used Hershey's)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter & sugar together until creamy. Add eggs, beating until blended. Mix flour with next 5 ingredients. Gradually beat into butter/sugar/egg mixture, with mixer on low speed. Add cinnamon chips. Drop by rounded teaspoons-ful, 2" apart, onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 8 dozen. I made these for my class and got 3 requests for the recipe. I also left my grands some to have at tea time and my grandmom asked me to make them for her next women's circle meeting. The recipe halves easily if you don't need 8 dozen cookies.

Fried Corn
2 c. fresh corn kernels, cut off the ears
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
2/3 c. flour
2/3 c. cornmeal
Salt & pepper
Oil for frying

Mix corn and buttermilk together. Let stand 1/2 hour, then drain. Mix flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper in a large ziploc bag. Add corn, a little at a time, and shake to coat. Heat about an inch of oil in a skillet, to about 375 degrees. Fry the corn, a bit at a time, until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. I was skeptical on this one, but ended up liking it quite a bit.

Olive Artichoke Sausage Quiche
1 pie shell
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 c. green olives with pimiento
15 oz. ricotta cheese
2 tbsp. parmesan

Brush about a tablespoon of egg over the unbaked pie shell. Chill 30 minutes. Brown the sausage. Drain and mix with all but 12 of the artichoke hearts. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the eggs, olives and ricotta. Sprinkle the pie shell with the parmesan. Spread the sausage & artichoke mixture over the bottom. Pour the egg mixture over this. Top with the reserved artichokes. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Pear Sauce
2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. water

Mix the pears with the lemon zest and juice, blending in a blender until smooth. Mix with the rest and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. This is a nice alternative to applesauce.

Wacky Cake
1 1/2 c. flour
3 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9" square pan. Mix dry ingredients in pan. Make 3 holes in dry mixture with the handle of a wooden spoon. Pour oil in one, vinegar in another, vanilla in the third. Pour cold water over the top. Mix. Bake 1/2 hour. This is delicious when served still warm, with a dusting of powdered sugar and a glass of cold, cold milk.

Cinnamon Bread
1/2 c. butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. milk
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in 12" cast iron skillet. Mix eggs, flour and cinnamon, but not too much. Pour over the butter in the skillet. Bake about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and eat while good & hot.

Roasted Winter Veggies
2 c. peeled, large-diced rutabaga (2-3 rutabagas)
2 c. peeled, large-diced parsnips (about 3)
2 c. peeled, large-diced butternut squash
2 peeled, large-diced onions
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the vegetables together. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put on baking sheet and sprinkle with herbs. Bake, stirring a couple of time, about 45 minutes.

Italian Beef Sandwiches
1 lb. thinly-sliced lean roast beef
1 can tomato soup
1/2 c. Italian dressing
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
6 buns

Spray a skillet with cooking spray. Sauté the meat about 5 minutes. Mix the soup, dressing and seasoning. Mix with beef and simmer 15 minutes. Serve on buns. Serves 4.

Vanilla Poached Fruit
1 lemon
1/4 c. sugar
2" vanilla bean, split in half
2 peeled pears, cut in wedges
2 peeled Granny Smith apples, cut in wedges
1/4 c. dried cranberries

Zest the lemon in long strips. Put zest in pan. Juice lemon & add juice. Add sugar, vanilla and 1 cup water. Stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Add fruit and simmer, basting with sugar water, until tender, about 10 minutes. Put the fruit in a bowl. Discard vanilla and simmer liquid about 5 minutes to reduce. When it is thick and syrupy, pour over fruit. This is a lovely, elegant finish to a meal. I love the pears so much, I'm tempted to substitute more pears in place of the apples next time I make it.

Zucchini Surprise Casserole
1 lb. bulk sausage (I am partial to Bob Evans)
4 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz. sour cream
6 oz. chicken-flavored stuffing mix
1/3 c. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown the sausage & drain. Add zucchini. Mix the soup and sour cream. Add to sausage. Mix the stuffing mix and the butter. Spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray. Add half the stuffing in a layer on the bottom of the pan. Add sausage mixture. Top with the rest of the stuffing. Bake 45 minutes. I made this for my grands & my granddad, who is not much for zucchini, really liked it.

I will try to be more diligent about regular posting!