As Thanksgiving rolls closer, Web searches for "green bean casserole," "how to brine a turkey," or "pumpkin pie" recipes always heat up. But more often than not, what people are searching for is some guidance on how to host a large dinner party with classic, favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Here are two cookbooks – and two approaches – to navigating the big day.
The editors and contributors of Fine Cooking magazine have released a paperback cookbook titled Fine Cooking Thanksgiving Cookbook (The Taunton Press, 2012), which has lots of recipes for cooking turkey and all its holiday trimmings. It gives you tips on "How to Survive Thanksgiving" such as, plan ahead, shop in phases, and don't do all your cooking on one day. Other tips tell you how to rescue dinner from kitchen disasters, such as burned pan drippings and lumpy gravy.
"Thanksgiving Cookbook" has chapters dedicated to each course of the Thanksgiving meal and includes updated and healthy versions of classics. (Sorry, you won't find green bean casserole made with canned mushroom soup in this cookbook. Their recipe for Garlic-Roasted Green Beans & Shallots with Hazelnuts follows.) The turkey chapter alone is 50 pages and covers everything from selecting to roasting to carving your turkey with style.
And it doesn't end with step-by-step instructions for rolling out the dough for homemade pecan pie. In the "Continuing the Feast" chapter you'll find recipes for what to do with leftovers: "From soothing soups to chile-spike Mexican-inspired dishes to heart pasts (and no turkey tetrazzini in sigh), turkey's obligingly mild flavor adapts to all kinds of dishes." Think: turkey enchiladas with creamy tomatillo sauce.
With its wide range of recipes, "Thanksgiving Cookbook" could be a resource that you could rely on for years of Thanksgiving dinners.
But if the idea of sifting through dozens of side dish and pie recipes to put together your own Thanksgiving menu is overwhelming, look no further than America's Test Kitchen. Their Menu Cookbook (Boston Common Press, 2011) has "kitchen-tested menus for foolproof dinner parties," and a chapter dedicated to the "Classic Thanksgiving Dinner." They have figured out all the hard stuff for you. Simply follow their lead and you'll be relaxed and ready to greet your guests on the big day.
"The Game Plan" sidebar for each dinner party features a timeline with a check list for what to do five days ahead, one day ahead, and the day of the dinner party. The America's Test Kitchen cooks also offer up clever tips to make prep work more efficient and help solve common cooking problems, such as how to fix a thin sauce or remove candle wax from a tablecloth. America's Test Kitchen offers a wealth of information and guidance online, too. You might enjoy touring their new online cooking school. This month's class on Thanksgiving dinner promises: "We teach you the skills you need to make any holiday meal a success."
You may not get the wealth of recipes choices in "Menu Cookbook" as you'll find in "Thanksgiving Cookbook" offers, but sometimes too many choices is not helpful for those with busy lifestyles. In addition, the tightly focused menu from America's Test Kitchen could help prevent an ambitious cook from biting off more than one can chew, as they say.
Here is the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner from "Menu Cookbook":
Big American Cheese Board
Roast Turkey for a Crowd
Make-ahead Turkey Gravy
Herbed Bread Stuffing
Cranberry Sauce with Pears and Ginger
Buttery Peas with Shallots and Thyme
Deep-Dish Apple Pie
Classic Pecan Pie
Whatever approach you use, whether you design your own meal or use a ready-made plan, your guests will be grateful. And hopefully someone else will do the dishes.
Garlic-Roasted Green Beans & Shallots with Hazelnuts
From "Fine Cooking Thanksgiving Cookbook" (Julianna Grimes)
Chopped hazelnuts are a fine flavor match for green beans– and a refreshing departure from the more-expected almonds. The beans will hold at room temperature for several minutes before serving; cover with foil to keep warm.
10 to 12 medium shallots, sliced lengthwise
1⁄4 inch thick
2 pounds green beans, trimmed
10 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Put the shallots, green beans, and garlic in a large bowl; toss with the oil. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the vegetables and toss again. Transfer to two large baking dishes (about 10x15 inches) and roast until tender and very lightly browned, stirring once, 18 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the parsley, hazelnuts, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Sprinkle this over the roasted vegetables when they come out of the oven and toss to coat. Serve warm.
I do give thanks for biscuits. And I love a little biscuit bite in the Thanksgiving bread basket, particularly when they are made seasonal with the addition of sweet potato. These angel biscuits use yeast to get an extra rise, which is helpful when you add the dense potato purée. Make sure you potato is cooked through and soft to create the smoothest purée.
I like these biscuits in their purest form, but you could add a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon if you want to, or even some very finely chopped fresh sage. They are delicious with plain butter, but a little honey or sorghum stirred into that butter takes them up a level. And they make a great breakfast treat or party snack, stuffed with a sliver of ham or leftover turkey and a cranberry sauce. Feel free to cut them as nice big biscuits or little bite-size babies.
Sweet Potato Angel Biscuits
Makes 12 2-inch biscuits
1 large sweet potato, about 12 ounces (to yield 1 cup purée)
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2-1/4 teaspoon (1 package) active dry yeast
5 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lilly)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
1-1/4 cup cold buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
Prick the sweet potato all over with a skewer or a thin knife. Microwave the potato on high for 12 to 15 minutes until it is very soft when squeezed. Alternately, you can bake the potato in the oven for about an hour. Holding the potato with a folded tea towel, cut it in half and scoop the flesh into a small bowl. Mash the flesh with a fork to a smooth purée. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans.
Stir the sugar and warm water (about 105 degrees F.) together in a small measuring jug. Sprinkle over the yeast and leave for 10 minutes until it is foamy.
Stir the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a large bowl of a stand mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Using the paddle attachment, blend the butter and flour on low speed until the butter is the size of small BBs. You want some butter blended in, but the visible small pieces of butter help make the biscuits fluffy.
Stir 1 cup of the buttermilk into the potato purée, mixing vigorously to create a smooth liquid. Add this to the flour and butter, add the yeast mixture, and beat on medium speed, just until everything comes together. If the mixture is dry, add a little of the extra buttermilk until the dough comes together.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just a few times to pull everything together. Pat the dough out to a circle about an inch thick. Dip a cutter into flour and press it into the dough and pull up (don’t twist the cutter or the sides won’t rise). Place the cut biscuits in the prepared cake pans, fitting them in tight with the sides touching. Pat any scraps together and cut out more biscuits. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. If you want to brown the top of the biscuits, turn the broiler on, and watch carefully until they start to brown. You can brush the hot cooked biscuits with a little extra melted butter if you like.
If you’d like to make these biscuits ahead, you can refrigerate the unrolled dough tightly covered for up to 2 days, then proceed with the recipe. To make them further ahead, roll and cut your biscuits, place them on a baking tray and freeze for an hour or so until solid. Transfer to a ziptop bag with all the air squeezed out. Bake from frozen, increasing the cooking time as needed. If you don’t serve these fresh from the oven or have leftovers, wrap them in foil and warm in a low oven.
Related post The Runaway Spoon: Fresh tomato buttermilk biscuits
Columbus, Ohio, is a city that invites walking, from German Village up through downtown, Victorian Village, Short North, the University District and beyond. Which is fortunate, because it also encourages overindulgence at just about every turn. Inspired food options abound, from locavore breakfast spots to taco truck tours and the best small batch ice cream I’ve ever eaten.
I visited Columbus for the first time last fall on a press tour (you’ll find that story here), a guest of Experience Columbus, a non-profit organization that promotes the city as a travel destination. The tour was orchestrated by Weirick Communications, a Columbus-based tourism marketing firm. The city utterly charmed me, and not just because of the food. So a couple of weeks ago, Marion and I visited. It was her first time there, and she was as taken with the city as I was.
Before going, I contacted Amy Weirick and asked her if she could suggest a few restaurants I hadn’t tried. Instead, she sent us a two-page itinerary of places for food, art, and shopping with only one repeat from my original trip. A little full disclosure here: Experience Columbus also picked up the check at a number of our stops. But we would have been thrilled with the choices even if they hadn’t.
The one official repeat on the itinerary was Pistacia Vera, a light-filled patisserie in German Village that smells like butter, sugar and coffee. They are rightly known for their sweet, airy macarons in many flavors and hues. We sampled some of those, of course, but we also wanted something a little more substantial. After all, it would be at least an hour before we had a chance to eat again. So we split an order of tomato Provençal baked eggs. Even before our first bite, I knew I had found an inspiration for a dish to cook.
This recipe is as much about technique as it is an actual recipe. Baked (or shirred) eggs are based on the classic French dish oeufs en cocotte, eggs baked in individual buttered baking dishes with milk or cream and served with salt and pepper at the table. They can be as simple as that and be delicious.
Baked eggs lend themselves to all kinds of variations and dressing up, though – with fresh herbs, cheese, bits of ham or bacon or even store bought salsa. And for serving weekend house guests, they’re actually easier to get to the table all at once (and still warm, thanks to the oven-heated ramekins) than making plain fried eggs for everyone. Best of all, serving them in individual baking dishes makes them seem special.
Here’s my recipe. I encourage you to improvise and make it your own. But be careful to not overwhelm the eggs with too much volume of other ingredients. The finished dish should be eggs with something, not something with eggs.
(See recipe next page)
Baked Eggs with Tomato and Spinach
For tomato spinach compote:
1 medium tomato
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped baby spinach (about 1 ounce)
1 medium clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons cream (or milk)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Tomato spinach compote
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
Special equipment: Individual baking dishes or large ovenproof ramekins
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F with an oven rack in middle position.
Prepare the compote. Blanch the tomato by dropping it into a medium saucepan of boiling water. After 10 seconds, remove with a strainer and set aside to cool slightly. Empty saucepan and return to burner (turned off) to dry. Core and peel tomato, scoop out the seeds using your fingers and gently squeeze out any liquid from the tomato. Then dice the tomato; you should have about 1/2 to 3/4 cup.
Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium low flame. Add tomato, spinach and garlic to pan and toss to combine and coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper and add chopped tarragon. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside. When it has cooled slightly, drain in a fine mesh strainer, pressing lightly with a wooden spoon to remove some of the liquid.
Prepare eggs. Lightly butter two small baking dishes. Break two eggs into each dish, being careful to not break yolks. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of cream over each dish (this will help keep the eggs from drying out). Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Parmesan over each dish. Divide tomato spinach compote between the two baking dishes, carefully spooning between egg yolks. Sprinkle the fresh tarragon over eggs.
Bake 12 to 16 minutes. Check the eggs after about 10 minutes baking time. Rotate the dishes if the eggs aren’t cooking evenly. When done, the whites should be completely set – not jiggly in the center – and the yolks beginning to thicken but not hard. (I found out just how unevenly our oven heats up – one dish was done about three minutes before the other.) The eggs will continue to cook after being removed from the oven. Remove from oven and serve immediately, with toast – or croissants or rolls. Don’t forget that the baking dishes are hot – put them on a saucer or plate to serve.
Related post on Blue Kitchen: Braised pork chops, mashed sweet potatoes, and Swiss chard
These pork pies may redefine savory for all time. They are rich and meaty with enough gorgeous crust to make the filling even more of a pleasure to eat.
They taste of cozy evenings around the TV, but also of a chill foggy morning wrapped in damp wool, with cold hands warmed by hot pie, and of a brisk spring afternoon spent at a sidewalk cafe in a new city, slowly enjoying a crisp salad and a wedge of pork pie while watching the world stroll by.
Make these pork pies if you dare … if you are the sort who can grind your own meat with ruthless cold, fat-slicked hands, filling the air with the tang of blood and minerals, and then turn around and apply the light magical touch of a baker to producing a pie crust that is substantial enough to cradle that meat securely, while still being as flaky and delicately crisp as a croissant.
And if you do dare, I hope you invite me over.
Slightly adapted from Carnivore by Mark Symon
8 ounces slab bacon, cut into medium dice
2 pounds ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped red onions
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
1⁄2 cup chopped celery leaves
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh savory
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
Pastry dough for 2 (8-inch) double-crust pies, homemade or store-bought
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
Put a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pot and set aside on a plate. Add the ground pork to the pot drippings along with some salt and pepper, and brown for about 5-10 minutes. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside on the plate with the bacon.
Add the celery, onions, and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes. Deglaze the pot with 1 cup water, scraping up the bits on the bottom with a wooden spoon. Return the pork and bacon to the pot along with the potatoes, celery leaves, parsley, savory, cinnamon, and cloves. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Meanwhile, roll out the chilled pie dough and prick all over with a fork. Line two 8-inch pie plates with half of the dough and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Fill the pie plates with the meat mixture. Cover both pies with the top crusts, trimming and crimping the edges together to seal. Brush the tops with the egg yolk mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cut several steam vents in the center of each pie with a paring knife.
Bake the pies for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crusts are golden brown. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Related post on The Rowdy Chowgirl: Pork and Spanish rice
The Nov. 5 cover story for The Christian Science Monitor weekly edition shares the voices of voters in swing states. In addition to the resounding chorus of “Washington, get something done!,” the sentiment from these towns, which may be deeply divided politically and with serious concerns about our individual and collective future, is that neighbors and friends are still able to get along.
“My best friend in the world is a super-left-wing liberal,” Anne Wanke, an unswerving Republican, from Janesville, Wis., told the Monitor. “I mean, she’s pro-abortion. I’m pro-life. She’s very Democrat. But we’ve worked on projects for 30-something years in this town and love each other dearly. I wish our politicians did the same thing.”
If you are watching the election returns tonight with friends who may or may not share your political persuasion, break out a bag of blue and a bag of red tortilla chips (and maybe a plain corn one for Third Party fans) and dig into this delicious, warm artichoke and spinach dip.
You’ve probably made spinach and artichoke dip from frozen spinach before. I’m going to challenge you to make it from fresh spinach. (I’ll leave peeling artichokes for another day.) It is just as fast to wilt chopped, fresh spinach in some melted butter with browned garlic as it is to rip open a frozen box of spinach.
Pepper jack cheese adds a layer of heat (and if you don’t have that handy, just add a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes).
This dip takes almost no time to make. So hustle and get to the polls to cast your vote and then head home to warm up with this cheesy, creamy dip.
Artichoke and spinach dip
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce bag fresh spinach, chopped
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts (about 2 cups), chopped
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, cubed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonaise
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper flakes, optional
Melt butter in a large skillet add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add spinach and stir. When the spinach cooks down add artichoke hearts and heat through. Add cream cheese and pepper jack cheese and stir until cheeses melt. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir to mix thoroughly.
Serve warm with your choice of tortilla chips, pita chips, or crackers.
Related post: Presidential ballot 2012: Which cookie will win?
There's no doubt about it, cupcakes work for every occasion. Banish any thought that these treats are just for kids, and quell your rollar coaster of Election Day emotions with a sugar rush.
This simple recipe, which can be done ahead of the Tuesday night returns, is perfect for an election night party. Both the batter and the frosting can be stored at room temperature for a couple hours, or in the refrigerator for a couple days. The chocolate cake batter makes fudgy, moist cakes, and the vanilla frosting starts off velvety, but hardens a bit on the cakes to form a crispy, sugary coating that melts in your mouth.
This recipe is specifically for cupcakes, rather than an adapted cake recipe, so it's intended to make exactly 12. My muffin tin is a bit smaller than the standard size, and I found I had enough batter for about 14 cupcakes. I also found myself with a lot of extra frosting, even after I layered more frosting onto the cakes than I usually would.
Decorate the cupcakes with red or blue to celebrate your political party, or both if you're feeling a bit bipartisan. I used thin red licorice and the blue pieces from Hershey's York Peppermint Paddy Pieces for my American "flags." Blue M&Ms would work just as well. I also experimented with red food coloring and shredded coconut.
Even if you're watching the election results alone, you may want to have some cupcakes on hand. Is there any better way to celebrate your candidate's win, or drown the dismay of a loss than with chocolate and frosting?
Chocolate cupcakes with crispy magic frosting
Recipe adapted from "Flour" by Joanne Chang
Makes about 12 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cocoa powder (the original recipe calls for Dutch-processed cocoa powder, I used regular Hershey's, which worked fine)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the frosting:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 2-inch chunks
1-2/3 cups confections' sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
About 2 tablespoons red or blue food coloring (optional) – experiment with the exact amount until you get your desired color, though I have a suspicion this frosting doesn't take coloring well. My red turned out more like hot pink.
For the decorations:
Thin red licorice cut into smaller pieces, blue and white candy, or decorations of your choice
For the cupcakes:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Set aside.
2. In large heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and cocoa powder. In a small saucepan, heat the granulated sugar, butter, and water over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot butter-sugar mixture over the chocolate-cocoa mixture and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
3. Whisk the milk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.
4. Dump the flour mixture on top of the chocolate mixture. Whisk until the dry ingredients are totally mixed into the chocolate mixture.
5. Let the batter sit for at least 1 hour (I recommend longer) at room temperature, or transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to three days. (This allows the liquid to be totally absorbed into the batter, so the batter thickens up a bit and isn't so soupy.)
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a muffin tin, or line with paper liners.
7. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, dividing it evenly. Leave about 1/4 to 1/8-inch space at the top of each cup (the cakes spread in the oven). Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
For the frosting:
1. In a small heatproof bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and egg whites to make a thick frothy slurry. Place the bowl over, (not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat, whisking occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is hot to the touch. It will thin out a bit as the sugar melts.
I suppose a double boiler would work best for this step, but if you're like me and don't have one, you can use a large pot and a Pyrex measuring cup with a handle. Experiment with the water level in your pot and hanging the measuring cup over the side before measuring the sugar and egg whites. I used very little water. With this method it takes much longer for the egg whites and sugar to get hot, almost 10 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat and scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment (or a handheld mixer). Whip on medium-high speed for 6-8 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a light, bright white meringue and is cool to the touch. (For me this took less than 6 minutes.)
Turn down the speed to medium, add the butter, a few chunks at a time, and beat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the butter is thoroughly incorporated. Add the confectioners' sugar, salt, milk, vanilla, and food coloring (if using) and continue to beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and satiny. You should have about 3-1/2 cups.
Use the icing immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to three days, then beat with the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for a few minutes until smooth before using. Or, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, then bring to room temperature and paddle for a few minutes until smooth before using.
3. Ice the cupcakes. I used a cake decorator and experimented with a star tip and a flat edge tip, but an icing spatula or a butter knife would work fine. Decorate with your candy!
The first known recipe for Election Cake, one of the first foods to be identified with American politics, was published as early as 1796 in Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery” cookbook. In the 1800s, the cake was served at election time and by the 1830s it had became popularly known as Hartford Election Cake.
Election Cake actually tastes more like a fruit bread, similar to an English fruit cake, but not as dense. Its purpose is to fortify, not serve as a sweet finish to a meal. In fact, these cakes were originally known as “muster cakes,” prepared and packed for farmers when they left the fields to travel into towns for military training or “mustering.”
Do you know why Election Day is held on a Tuesday in November?
Washington staff writer Peter Grier for CSMonitor.com explains, “For a society in which most people lived on farms, November was a good month to vote. The harvest was in, and snow hadn’t yet closed the roads. Why Tuesday? Records of lawmaker debate show that officials thought Sunday wouldn’t work, because many people were in church. Monday wouldn’t work, because most polling places were in county seats, and folks from outlying areas could not always get there in time.
“Tuesday was the earliest day everybody could make it into town. So Tuesday it was. Congress similarly standardized congressional elections in 1872.”
So, like militia training, farmers would head into town for a few days for electioneering, to vote, hang out at the tavern, and wait for the results. The women, who wouldn’t win the right to vote until Aug. 26, 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment, stayed on the farm.
Sometimes Election Cake was sold at church suppers proceeding the election, or it was sold at polling stations. In 1830 in Hartford, Conn., Election Cake was given to every man who voted a straight party ticket. And the name “Hartford Election Cake” stuck when every household in Hartford would prepare a cake to serve to out-of-town guests. You can read more about that here.
I bought a bundt pan to make the Election Cake recipe from “The American Heritage Cookbook.” As you can see, I didn’t quite master the dripping of the Milk Frosting. I ran into trouble when I tried to pour multiple layers as the frosting was hardening. Oops! I’m not sure I will ever master attractive frosting.
I’m relieved to report that the frosting still tastes delicious and so does this Election Cake. It is thick and doughy, with a hint of raisins, and it makes a delicious spiced aroma as you bake it in the oven. I think it would make a lovely afternoon tea cake, even when the polls are closed.
Election Cake could be just want you need to survive a long night of election returns. Just think, on Wednesday the political ads will be finished!
(See next page for recipe)
From “The American Heritage Cookbook”
1 medium-size potato
1 cup milk
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 package active dry yeast
1 egg, well beaten
3-1/2 to 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon butter, melted
Cook potato in boiling water until tender. Drain, peel, and work through a sieve or ricer, then set aside. Scald milk. Pour into a large bowl and stir in salt, sugar, shortening, and potato. When lukewarm, stir in yeast until dissolved. Add egg, then flour, a little at a time, to make a soft but still manageable dough. Turn out on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, brush with a little melted butter, cover with a tea towel, and put in a warm spot to rise. Let rise until a little more than double in size.
[Tip: Set your oven to "Warm" while you are mixing the dough. Then, turn the oven off and set your tea-towel covered bowl into the oven as a warm place to help your dough rise.]
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter
1-1/4 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup sherry [I used cooking sherry]
1 cup seedless raisins, chopped [I add some dried cranberries so I threw those in, too]
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
When yeast dough has risen sufficiently push down the dough with your fix and work in butter thoroughly (I used a mixer with dough beaters). Toss the raisins with 2 tablespoons of the flour. Then using your hand as the mixer, stir in the egg, sugar, raisins, and remaining flour sifted with the spices and salt. Pour into a large greased Turk’s-head or gugelhupf mold or 10-inch tube pan, filling pan only two-thirds full. Cover with a tea towel and let rise about 1 to 1-1/2 hours in a warm place. Bake in a preheated 325 degree F. oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes, then turn out of the pan, and cool completely before frosting.
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Combine sugar, milk, and butter in a saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil. Then boil, without stirring, until a few drops tested in cold water form a soft ball. Remove from the heat, stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until frosting is of a spreading consistency. Spread over top of cake, letting it dribble down the sides. If frosting becomes too stiff to spread, melt in top of double boiler over boiling water, then beat again.
Related post on Kitchen Report: Revolutionary gingerbread cupcakes
Everyone loves fried rice!
I know, I know, it’s a bold statement to make. I don’t think it’s a stretch though. Just think about the infinite permutations worldwide. Examples include: Indonesian nasi goreng, Thai pineapple fried rice, Filipino garlic fried rice (siningag), and that’s only in Asia! Fried rice is also wildly popular at Asian restaurants, often served with lunch specials and always ordered by my friend, X, who shall go unnamed.
I have a confession to make. Fried rice is the last thing on the menu I’d order when dining out (unless it’s chicken and salted fish fried rice, yum!) for one reason – it’s so very simple to make at home. A quick dig in the fridge for cooked rice, last night’s leftovers and whatever treasures are lurking in the back, and everything comes together in the wok in less than 20 minutes!
Making fried rice is easy in theory, but getting it right does take a little know-how. I don’t know about you but I’ve dished up my fair share of burnt fried rice, clumpy fried rice, and simply not very good fried rice.
After years of experimenting and watching, however, I have to say my fried rice is pretty good. So here are my 5 secrets anyone can pick up and you’ll soon be on your way to making fabulous fried rice.
5 secrets for perfect fried rice
1. Use cold, leftover cooked rice. Left in the fridge overnight, the rice grains will firm up, making it easier to separate and decreasing the chances of your fried rice turning out mushy. If you can’t wait, air freshly cooked rice to remove moisture and refrigerate the rice for a few hours before cooking.
2. Use medium to long grain rice, not short grain sweet/sushi rice or glutinous rice. Medium grain jasmine rice is my choice for fluffy, sturdy grains that don’t clump or fall apart when fried. Short grain rice tends to be softer and to stick together.
3. A blazing hot wok (a wok is ideal but a large pan, skillet, or Dutch oven will do) and an adequate amount of oil will ensure your ingredients don’t stick to the surface. That’s how restaurants achieve the smoky, “burnt” flavor in their stir-fried dishes. Your home stove probably doesn’t have the same BTU strength (unless you have a commercial Viking or Wolf range) but just remember to preheat your wok before adding ingredients.
4. Use the biggest pan available in your kitchen and don’t crowd it with ingredients. Don’t try to cook for your spouse, son, twin daughters, and grandma and grandpa, too. You’ll have rice and peas flying everywhere! Ideally, you should cook one to two servings at a time. My recipe below makes enough for three moderate appetites. When you have too many ingredients, the wok doesn’t get hot enough and your ingredients will get soggy causing the rice to clump together. If you prefer, cook each ingredient individually (raw vegetables or meat, egg) and remove to separate plates. Return all the ingredients to the pan at the end for the final mixing and seasoning.
5. Don’t overdo the saucy seasonings like soy sauce or oyster sauce. I add just a few tablespoons of my chosen sauce for flavor and then add salt for saltiness and savor. Too much sauce will make your rice mushy.
It’s a lot to remember but keep your mind set on one goal: non-mushy fried rice and everything will fall into place.
Fried rice any way you like it
Cooking fried rice isn’t a science; you don’t need exact ingredients or measurements. And just about anything belongs in fried rice: leftover roast chicken, fried tofu, ham, frozen veggies. Just don’t use super “wet” leftovers like a curry or chap chye, or your fried rice will most likely turn to mush. As for seasonings, experiment with ginger, sesame oil, kecap manis, chili paste, etc. or add herbs like Thai basil or cilantro.
Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 3 to 4 servings
4 cups cooked long or medium grain rice, leftover from the day before or refrigerated for at least 2 hours
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup carrots chopped into small pieces (about 2 medium)
1 cup chopped leftover meat or tofu
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (or sweet soy sauce)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or fish sauce)
white pepper powder
1. Break up large clumps of rice and separate the grains with wet fingers.
2. Preheat a 14-inch wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat for about 1 minute. Swirl in the oil and heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer.
3. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic and onion and stir until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds. Add the carrots and cook until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Move all the ingredients to one side of the wok. Break the eggs into the wok, and stir to scramble until they are almost cooked through but still a little soggy, about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.
5. Add the meat and the peas, followed by the rice, stirring and tossing between each addition. Use your spatula to break up any clumps.
6. Add the sauces, and salt and white pepper to taste. Stir everything swiftly around the wok until the rice is well-coated and -colored (little bits of white here and there is OK) and heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add more oil if the rice begins to stick to the wok; reduce the heat if it starts to scorch. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Divide the rice among dinner plates. Serve immediately.
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I am one of those parents who flood their Facebook page with pictures of my children. Yes, I’m that person. Everyone knows at least one these people. For my friends, it’s me. My Facebook wall reads like most parents’ baby books … full of photos, videos, firsts, favorites, and funny anecdotes. (They’re funny to me, at least.) And my profile pictures are mostly pictures of my kids, rather than of myself.
I have heard comments such as You are not your kids, in regards to this issue. And it’s true. I am my own person. I am not my kids … at least not completely. But the truth is, my children are a huge part of me. They are the very best representation of me. They are my finest creation and my life’s grandest purpose. If I do nothing else of importance during the rest of my life, I can rest easy in knowing that I grew, loved, and nurtured these precious little people.
Why wouldn’t I associate part of my identity with that of my children? Aren’t we all little bits of every person and every event we’ve experienced. And don’t we all continue to change as our lives change courses? Why wouldn’t my children shape me in the same way that I shape them? Why wouldn’t my children be irreversibly intertwined with my identity?
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At this point in my life, perhaps for always and forever, my children are the center of my world. They are my passion and my motivation. They are at least as much a part of me as my love of cooking, my fear of failure, or my passion for bacon.
And in my children’s eyes, I see the me I strive to be. In their eyes, I am love. I am security. I am healing. I am their mom. I have never felt more beautiful than the way I look in my children’s eyes. I am in those profile pictures I post of my children. I’m right there, in their eyes.
This soup is beautiful in my eyes. I may make it my facebook profile pic. It’s broccoli cheddar soup for grown-ups. Spicy chorizo gives the soup a smokey bit of heat, while the aged white cheddar (get the good stuff) adds intense cheesy flavor. There’s nothing like eating a big bowl of cheesy soup on a chilly winter day. Ultra-comforting.
Aged white cheddar and broccoli soup with chorizo
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces spicy Spanish chorizo, halved and sliced
1 small onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk (skim milk works well)
8 ounces aged white cheddar, shredded
3 cups broccoli, steamed until tender and well chopped
about 1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook for a few minutes, until the chorizo begins to release its oil.
2. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and continue cooking for a minute or two, stirring constantly.
3. Add the milk and whisk until well combined. Bring the milk to a simmer as you continue whisking. Simmer for about 3 minutes, until the milk begins to thicken.
4. Turn down the heat and stir in the cheese. Continue stirring until melted. Stir in the broccoli. Season with salt, to taste.
Related post from The Gourmand Mom: Ham and corn chowder
Let's address the all-important issue of what to do with leftover Halloween candy.
Besides the obvious of sneaking in a piece here and there until suddenly it's December (or earlier) and you've consumed them all without any conscious memory of tearing open those wrappers and having "just one small piece."
Don't do it. Instead, sift through those bags you optimistically bought but ended up with less trick or treaters this year than last year or else go through that hard-earned pile your kids gathered traipsing through the neighborhood. Pull out the Snickers and the Reese's peanut butter cups and use them for this recipe.
You make the brownie layer and right before it's done, you sprinkle it with chopped toasted peanuts and chopped peanut butter cups and Snickers, return it to the oven for a few minutes, just long enough for the candy to begin to melt, then you take it out and top it with a rice krispie peanut butter chocolate mixture that will make you salivate.
It's similar in concept to my Nutella crunch topping but uses peanut butter instead of Nutella. You can't see the middle layer very well in the picture since it's smothered by the Rice Krispie peanut butter chocolate topping but rest assured, every bite of this brownie will give you the full impact of how much goodness you can turn that candy into.
If you're a peanut butter and chocolate lover, this is a brownie must-make and have-to-consume. After it cools completely, it's easy to cut and share with others so not only are you not the only one eating all that leftover Halloween candy but you (and your friends and family) are also consuming it in a much loftier fashion. These also freeze well for future consumption.
Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.
1/2 cup butter
8 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1-1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanuts, toasted
1/2 cup peanut butter cups, chopped
1/2 cup Snickers, chopped
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9- x 9-inch baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Melt butter and chocolate in the top half of a double boiler set over hot water on medium heat, stirring constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in sugar.
3. Add in the eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in the vanilla. Gently fold in the flour and salt. By hand, stir enough to emulsify the batter and bring it together but do not overbeat or your brownies will be cakey rather than fudgy if too much air is whipped into them.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top with a knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.
5. Remove brownies from the oven and sprinkle the top with the peanuts, chopped peanut butter cups and chopped Snickers. Return to the oven and bake for 3-5 additional minutes.
6. While the brownies are finishing up in the oven, melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the Rice Krispies until evenly coated. Remove the brownies from the oven and pour the chocolate and peanut butter mixture over top. Spread to cover evenly. Refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting into 24 squares. Share.
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