Monday, November 29, 2021

Bucket List Pork Crown Roast


Over the years I've worked my way through a sort of bucket list of foods I wanted to try and, hopefully, master. From buttercream frosting through eclairs and macarons to the perfect lamb shanks and excellent guacamole, I've tried quite a few of them with success, most of the time. 

One item on my bucket list is a crown roast of pork with stuffing. It's not something you make for everyday meals since it apparently takes at least 12 ribs to create a good roast, so that's a lot of meat. This year for Thanksgiving I finally had an opportunity to make one since we decided that we wanted to try something else for the feast. We were going to a friend's home and she was game, too, so I went to the butcher section of a locally owned market. They had advertised a pork crown roast as part of the specialty items available for Thanksgiving, so it seemed like a good market to go with. Turns out I was wrong. There is a tale to be told.

I went a week ahead and ordered it for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the morning. I told the fellow who was taking the order that I had never made one before so that I needed advice on what to order. He asked how many I'd be serving and said that eight ribs would do, so that's what I ordered, to be shaped by the butcher into a crown and tied, with the bone ends 'Frenched'. He wrote up the order and my phone number was included.

So there I was the day before Thanksgiving at 9:30 in the morning amid a mad rush of shoppers picking up their turkeys. When it was my turn, they brought out a package with a slab of ribs. I explained that I had ordered a tied crown roast. They said that I needed at least 12 ribs to do that (although no one had called when the order couldn't be made up as ordered), so I said to add the needed ribs...and then waited and waited, for almost 45 minutes. The roast came all wrapped up and it looked like the bones were in a circle, so I thanked them and took it home. The next morning when I unpackaged it, I discovered that they had tied it wrong. The bones are supposed to be to the outside, with the meat inside the circle...it was tied with the meat outside, cut into chops part way, and some were sort of splayed out, not tied in a neat roast.


It was too late to do anything about it, so I seasoned it and did the first fifteen minutes at high heat, as the recipe I had said to do. Then I roasted it at 325 degrees F for an hour and then put some stuffing in the middle, put foil over the stuffing and the bone ends, then roasted it some more. The whole thing received a heavy duty foil wrap to keep the heat in while we drove to our friends. Sweetie had nestled the roasting pan in a wooden box and used cardboard to hold in the heat, too.

Later it went into the oven for another 10 minutes to make sure that everything was hot and then I took a beauty photo and then we cut between the bones to serve it. It did look fairly impressive considering that it was tied incorrectly. Unfortunately having the meat on the outside instead of the inside meant that some of the meat was overcooked, although Sweetie got a rib that was juicy and delicious. The stuffing had chestnuts and was good, but I like my Mom's turkey stuffing better, so next time that's what I'll use. It was still a good experiment, but not successful. I will try this again, but I'll just order the slab of ribs and tie it myself. Julia Child will probably have drawings showing how to do it, or else someone on YouTube will. We'll invite our host and hostess, maybe at Christmas when our daughter and her family are here. A crown roast at Christmas sounds delicous!

In case you want to make your own, below is the recipe from The Ultimate Southern Living Christmas Book. If you are having your butcher create and tie your roast, be sure to order at least 12 ribs...14 to 18 would be even better.


Crown Roast of Pork with Chestnut Stuffing

Serves 8 

1 crown roast of pork, about 16 ribs, about 8 pounds
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (my addition...it helps with browning of meat)
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound ground pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 garlic clove, minced
8 oz (1/2 lb) French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (5 1/2 cups)
1 (11-oz) jar shelled chestnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
dash of salt
1/2 cup half-and-half
Garnishes: lady apples, fresh thyme sprigs, flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh rosemary and sage since I had those in abundance)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Brush roast with oil. In a small bowl combine the pepper, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle that mixture on all sides. Place roast, bone ends up, in a shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer, making sure it doesn't touch fat or bone. Roast at 475 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and roast an additional one hour and 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a large nonstick skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove from skillet, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet and draining the rest.
 

Cook onion, celery and garlic in skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until tender; remove from heat. (I added the herbs and spices and pork to this mixture, stirred to combine and put in the fridge overnight Wednesday night. I think that anything with onion tastes better if it melds overnight)

In a large bowl combine sausage, onion mixture, bread cubes, chestnuts, fresh parsley, poultry seasoning, dried thyme, pepper and salt. Pour half-and-half over stuffing, stirring gently until blended.

When roast has finished the time at 325 degrees F given above, remove from the oven, leaving oven on, and spoon 3 cups stuffing into center of roast, mounding slightly. Cover stuffing and exposed rib ends with aluminum foil. Spoon remaining stuffing into a greased 11 x 7-inch baking dish.

Return the roast in roasting pan to oven and put in the dish of stuffing, too. Roast for an additional 40 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Transfer roast to a large serving platter. Tent with foil to keep warm if necessary. Let stand 10 minutes before carving. Garnish if desired. 





Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Easy Dinner Rolls


Media has been full of suggestions for things to make for Thanksgiving but I suspect that most of us have already nailed down the menu and have even purchased most of the groceries and drinks needed. The turkey is probably already thawing in the fridge, if it was frozen, since it takes a few days for thawing. You may even have done some of the prep like cutting up the bread for the stuffing or chopping carrots and celery and onions or maybe you made cranberry sauce from scratch this year and it's already in the fridge melding flavors.

So this recipe could be added to your Thanksgiving menu since you can make the dough ahead and because it bakes pretty quickly, not taking up too much of the precious oven time and space on the big day. It could also be baked up as slider rolls the day after. Imagine small fluffy rolls stuffed with some leftover turkey, a bit of cranberry sauce, and a touch of gravy...sounds like a nice snack or easy meal to me.

This dough can be made up as long as a week before it's baked. The longer you leave it in the cold, the more flavorful it becomes, but you do need to punch it down once a day. When you are ready to bake a few rolls, cut off a chunk and shape the rolls while still cold, then let the dough warm up while it rises. Mine had quite a bit of oven spring and, since they were simple balls,  right before baking I cut a slit about an inch and a half long on the top of each one to make sure they didn't pop out to the side, after I had brushed them  with some milk.

An added benefit of baking these...your house will smell delightfully of freshly baked bread...all warm and yeasty!


Refrigerator Rolls

From The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

1 cup milk, warmed ( I used soy milk)

2 packages dry yeast

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted (I used non-dairy margarine)

1 egg, beaten

3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

 Stir the warm milk and yeast together in a large mixing bowl and let stand for a couple of minutes to dissolve. Add the sugar, salt, butter, egg, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat to mix well, then add enough more flour to make a manageable dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, knead for about 2 minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes.

 Resume kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, sprinkling on just enough additional flour to keep it from being too sticky. Place in a large greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double in bulk.

Punch down the dough, and place it in a greased bowl or a large plastic food-storage bag. Cover the bowl tightly, and refrigerate. If you use the plastic bag, seal it loosely around the dough  to allow room for the dough to expand. Come back sometime within 3 – 4 hours and punch the chilled dough down – until it is thoroughly cold, it will rise as usual. Check the dough once a day from then on, and if it has begun to rise, punch it down.

To make rolls, simply pull off as much of the dough as you think you’ll need, and shape in into rolls, such as crescent, Parker House, cloverleaf or fantan shapes. Let rise for about 20 minutes while the oven preheats to 400 degrees F. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

 This recipe makes about 30 rolls, depending on size. Can be stored in the fridge for about a week, ready to use whenever you need it. Just cut off enough for a few rolls, shape and bake as described above.


Saturday, November 20, 2021

Catching Up

Most of the time this is a food blog, but sometimes it's just a blog...a way to keep track of what has been going on in my life. Been a while, so let's catch up a bit. Above we have a photo of heron in the flooded field next to the Laguna. The rains in October and early November have been just what we needed after a couple years of severe drought.

The last few months...since mid-August really...I was brought low by a persistent ear infection that had a side effect of magnifying my hearing in the right ear. We complain as we get older about loss of hearing, but increase to the point of being painful isn't great either. Fortunately a couple of weeks ago I was able to have a hearing test following two weeks of a pair of medications. Things were much better and in the following week pretty much returned to normal hearing. All of that meant that I slept better, had more energy, more focus and enjoyed life a whole lot more than the time from mid-August through the end of October. Grateful for modern medicine and good doctors...and the time to heal.

During the ear infection time the garden suffered from lack of attention...and from a gopher suffering from lack of water. Our drought really was hard on all living things but we did have drip irrigation for part of the garden, including the rose bush my brother Jim gave me for my round number birthday. The gopher figured out how to break through the bottom of the wine barrel and had a feast on the roots of the rose. Once I realized what was going on, I took the plant out of the barrel and put it into a secure pot and kept the new soil around it moist. It was touch and go if the plant would survive. My brother died from cancer the December prior to the beginning of the pandemic, so I really wanted the rose bush to survive in his memory. Just three weeks ago I finally saw signs of new leaves and now there are new leaves on a number of stems...I think it is going to live. Joyful every time I see it.

The hot water heater for the farmhouse was in service for a very long time, but it came to the end of it's useful life in early fall and was replaced by Sweetie and Win a few weeks ago. Because the washer and dryer in the farmhouse laundry are larger than our stacking unit at the main house, it is the best place to wash bed linens and towels when someone stays in the farmhouse. Since that happened last week, I was so grateful to have a new hot water heater! Thanks Sweetie.

Our daughter Kate works for the big M in Redmond, WA and her team rolled out a new game last week, so that was exciting. She has only been with them since July, so this is the first roll out she has been part of and it went very well. Yay!

I'm now a great-great aunt of a beautiful baby girl born in Colorado on Nov. 9th. Her birth went well, too. So many blessings even without looking at the delicious food I have enjoyed lately.

As we get ready for  American Thanksgiving and all the seasonal joy and madness that follows, know that you, dear reader, are wished the happiest of holidays.

Here's another photo of the Laguna, filled with water and reflecting the huge live oaks along the banks.



Friday, November 19, 2021

Update On Pumpkin Pie Spectacular


Our wonderful daughter came to visit last week and she and I decided to bake the Pumpkin Pie Spectacular together since she won't be here for Thanksgiving, but wanted a practice session with me since she will be bringing the pie to a friend's home as her contribution to the turkey day feast.

It really is a Southern take on pumpkin pie since it uses lots of pecans...in the gingersnap crumb crust that goes on the regular pie crust plus the pecans that are in the streusel that is sprinkled on top. There is a bit of New England in it, too, because I always associate molasses and New England due to their place in the slave trade triangle with the West Indies in colonial times. Gingersnaps just wouldn't taste right without molasses. The pumpkin reminds me to be thankful for the original Americans, the native 'Indians', who introduced food items like squash and dried corn. They kept the Mayflower immigrants alive that first snowy winter in Massachusetts and might have wished later that they hadn't been so kind since the immigrants shoved them out of their land. Lastly I'm thankful for modern technology which has allowed for the humble soy bean to be turned into a creamer that stands in very well for milk. I added an extra egg for stability and some granulated sugar for sweetness since the recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk, which I can't use.


It all made for a decadent, delicious pie. I was even able to show Kate how I learned to crimp the pie crust edges and, after a few tries, she mastered it. I'll bet the pie she makes for Thanksgiving will be even better than our weekend effort!




Pumpkin Pie Spectacular for Dairy-Free Folks

adapted from a recipe from Southern Living Magazine  

Pumpkin Pie Spectacular
From Southern Living magazine Nov 09

½ (15 oz) package refrigerated non-dairy piecrusts or home made single crust pie dough made with vegetable shortening
2 cups crushed gingersnaps (about 40 gingersnaps) made without any dairy ingredients
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup non-dairy butter, melted
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 cup Silk soy creamer, unsweetened   
1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup non-dairy Greek or regular unsweetened yogurt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground ginger
Pecan Streusel (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp. If using home-made, roll to 1/8-inch thickness, fit into pie plate and trim dough to 1 1/2-inches from pie plate edge. Fold or roll edges under and crimp.


Stir together crushed gingersnaps, pecans, powdered sugar and melted butter. Press mixture on bottom and ½ inch up sides of piecrust. Don't press mixture too hard or pie will be difficult to serve. Use any extra for another purpose.

Note – if pie pan is not a very deep deep-dish type, you may have some of the gingersnap mixture left over.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

Stir together pumpkin, soy creamer, sugar, eggs, yogurt, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. Pour into prepared, cooled crust. Place pie on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes (but if you are using a shallower pie pan, only bake for 15 minutes). Sprinkle Pecan Streusel (recipe below) around edge of crust. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until set, shielding edges with aluminum foil during last 25 or so minutes of baking if necessary. If using, insert ginger cookie halves around edge of crust.
Let pie cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Serve small slices - it's very rich.

Pecan Streusel: Stir together ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar; 2 tablespoons melted non-dairy butter and ¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped.




Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Flatbread With The Babes

I've mostly had flatbread at restaurants, topped with delicious things like sautéed mushrooms and melted cheese. Making my own had never occurred to me, but our Kitchen of the Month, Kelly of A Messy Kitchen challenged us this month with Norrländska Hällakakor, a traditional flatbread from Sweden, originally baked in a pan or on a heated flat rock which had been placed over an open fire. 

The recipe she gave had rye flour and caraway seeds, but I'm not a big fan of either, so I substituted stoneground barley flour for the rye flour and skipped any seeds. I used whole wheat flour, too, so there was plenty of flavor from the flours. 

This is an easy recipe. I made the dough the night before I baked the flatbreads, which allowed them to develop even more flavor. I rolled them fairly thin and used a wooden muddler to dock the dough and make the indents since I had neither the rolling pin with ridges nor any other implement to allow for some sunken places and some high places. The muddler had a pattern similar to a meat mallet and it worked well, even if it took some time to work the whole piece of dough (since the muddler is about an inch in diameter). I brought a piece to my trainer at the gym and she thought that it had come from a restaurant!

As long as you don't over-bake it, this makes a delightful flatbread. The parts that are pressed thin are a bit crisp and the parts that are higher are soft and risen. When warm it makes a great bread to scoop with, as you would some stews, or can be used in a dip.


To be a Buddy, bake the flatbread (original recipe can be found on Kelly's page HERE), and send her an email with your URL and a photo of the finished bread or post it on the Facebook page. Deadline is November 29th.

Do visit the other Babes sites to see what they did with this delicious bread! (If you view this blog in "web view", you will see links to the other Babes in a box to the right and below the archive years and below the followers.)



Hallakor - Swedish flatbread

Makes: 8 pieces

350 g wholemeal wheat flour
62 g wholemeal rye flour (I used stoneground barley flour)
1 g (1/4 teaspoon) baking powder dissolved in water ( or use deer horn salt or baker's ammonia)
6 g yeast (about 2 teaspoons)
25 g golden syrup or honey
20 g butter
235 g milk (dairy or non-dairy are both OK)
1/2 teaspoon caraway, aniseed or fennel seed, crushed in a mortal/pestle - optional

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and knead thoroughly for 15 minutes. (I had to stop and let the machine cool about half way through...this is a very stiff dough). Let rise for 6 hours at room temperature and knock back and briefly knead 2 - 4 times between. (The dough can also be chilled overnight, which I did.)

Cut off ~85 gram portions and shape into round balls. Flour lightly and let rise briefly, about 20 minutes. Roll out round dough circles to about 25 cm or 9-inches with a notched or regular rolling pin. Dock well is using a regular flat rolling pin. If using a grooved pin, follow with the notched pin. (I used a flat pin to roll out and then docked with a 1-inch diameter wooden muddler.)





Preheat the oven (and a baking stone or steel, if possible) to the highest possible temperature - about 500 degrees F/260 degrees C. Ideally place the flatbread directly on the preheated baking stone or steel and bake them into golden soft flatbread, baking for 3 - 4 minutes each piece. If you don't have a stone or baking steel, bake on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Serve warm. Good with slated butter or grated cheese.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Cooler Weather Means Oven Roast Chicken Thighs With Veggies


I love the fall! Trees turning all the fall colors, air turning crisp, and, around here, foggy some mornings. Time for pumpkins and walnuts and apples. This year the acorns have masted, which means that they have produced an enormous crop that carpets the ground. It's also a wonderful time for using the oven. Not only am I drawn again to baking with the cooler weather, but increasingly I'm ready to move away from entrees cooked on the BBQ to ones cooked on the stove top or in the oven.

For dinner last night we had a great dish of boneless, skinless chicken thighs cooked in a Dutch oven. The bottom of the pot held seasoned pieces of various veggies including potatoes, red onion, carrots, and celery. I use a recycled clean produce bag to hold all the cut up vegetables, add the seasonings, close the bag and shake, then add the olive oil, close the bag and shake to distribute the seasonings and oil. Then they go into the pot. The seasoned chicken was placed on top, along with some whole green beans. They roasted for about 20 minutes, covered, then another 10 or so uncovered. 

It's the kind of dish you can prep in the morning or the night before, stash the filled Dutch oven in the fridge, then put it in the oven after work, leaving you time to have a glass or wine or a cup of tea while everything cooks and makes the house smell wonderful. Almost effortless, plus you'll have time to set the table and put together a salad if there will be hearty eaters. No Dutch oven? Use as deep a casserole as you have and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

You can use other veggies - peppers, mushrooms, parsnips or turnips all come to mind - and you can vary the seasonings, too, with other spices like oregano, fennel, tarragon or cumin, or by adding some mustard and/or lemon juice. Just remember that the juices from the chicken bathe the veggies below so the seasonings should go with chicken. All the vegetable pieces should be about the same size so that they are uniformly cooked through by the time the chicken is done. You can pierce the larger pieces with a sharp knife at the end to check for tenderness. The internal temperature for the chicken should be 165 degrees F, or you can cut on and the juices should run clear.




Roast Chicken Thighs with Veggies
Serves 3-4

3 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces, (not peeled)
1/2 medium red onion, peeled, ends removed, cut into wedges
2-3 large carrots, cleaned, ends removed, cut into bite-size pieces
2-3 large stalks celery, ends removed, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cups fresh whole green beans, ends removed
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, rinsed, dried, salt and pepper to taste added to both sides

If baking right away, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If baking later or the next day, preheat the oven when you are ready to bake.

Place the pieces of potato, onion, carrots, and celery in a large plastic bag (a clean produce bag works well). Add the pepper, salt, thyme, and rosemary to the bag. Close the bag tightly and shake vigorously to distribute spices. Open the bag and add the olive oil. Close the bag tightly and shake vigorously to distribute the oil to all the pieces. Open the bag and pour all the seasoned veggies into the bottom of a Dutch oven or deep casserole. Place the green beans and seasoned chicken thighs on top. Cover with the lid or with aluminum foil (tightly) and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Check to make sure that internal temperature for the chicken is 165 degrees F, or you can cut on and the juices should run clear. Pierce the largest pieces of veggies with a sharp knife to make sure they are tender. If necessary, bake longer until proper temperature for the chicken and tenderness for the veggies is reached.

Serve at once making sure to have a piece of chicken and some of all the veggies, in all the servings.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Raspberry Bread Pudding

When the days grow shorter and the evenings dark sooner, comfort food calls my name more often. The last few days the call was for some reason for bread pudding. I like mine served both warm and cold, so I made enough so that Sweetie and I could enjoy it warm one evening and then again another day served cold. The star of the pudding was the fresh, zesty raspberries. They were a great counterpoint to the mild and milky flavors from the bread, milk, eggs and almond extract. Some lemon zest added another layer of flavor. It's a great way to use up stale bread, too.

My usual way to make bread pudding is with raisins and lemon zest and some vanilla as the flavorings, but I have made it with other enhancements and I've made it savory, too. It really is a versatile treat. You can bake it in a wide casserole, for more crispy pieces, or in a narrow dish for more soft custardy bites.

This is an easy dish to make and truly worth the minimal time. The recipe is over 50 years old and given by a friend, then updated with the raspberries and switching to almond extract. It might not look like much, but everyone loves this pudding.



Bread Pudding with Raspberries      

A variation on a recipe from 1971, from a Fredricksburg, Maryland friend, Gale 


5 cups dry bread cubes            1/4 teaspoon salt           
3 cups milk, scalded                 1 teaspoon almond extract            
1 tablespoon butter                  1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries                  
4 slightly beaten eggs              1/4 cup golden raisins             
3/4 cup sugar                         
½ teaspoon lemon zest                                 
                       
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Melt the butter in the milk. Add a little of the milk to the beaten eggs, then add eggs to rest of milk. Stir in the sugar, lemon zest, salt, and almond extract.

3) Put the bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour the egg/milk mixture over, stir gently, and let sit 15 minutes.

4) Butter a large baking pan. A deep one will give a softer center, a shallower one will give more crispy crust. Gently stir raspberries and raisins into bread mixture and pour into baking pan.

5) Bake in a pan of hot water until firm, about 1 hour. Serve warm.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Family Cookbook Version Three

I recently got the third version of my cookbook back from the printers. This book started with a spiral bound black and white typed version with black and white seasonal illustrations and really none of the food! Of course this was ages ago when a photo of each recipe wasn't expected. I created that book to be a collection of our family's favorite recipes, mostly from the time when I was growing up and it was meant for my Mom and my siblings.

About ten years later I created a printed version in full color with lots of photos of the food made. It also had an index, something the first book lacked, plus it was organized in a more traditional way...beverages, breakfast foods, side dishes, beef, chicken, fish, desserts, cakes, cookie...like that. The first version had been organized by seasons. I actually sold this version, so it's tone was aimed at non-family members.


So for this third version is back to being for the family. Because of that it includes seven pages of family photo collages focused on my siblings and their progeny, plus spouses and significant others, with another page showing thumbnails and all of the names of the folks in the photos. It has more stories and tips from family members, more recipes and more photos of food. It took months but I enjoyed every minute of it! Guess what family members will be getting for Christmas this year?

Because Thanksgiving is coming ever closer and because this year many of us will actually be able to have dinner with family on Thanksgiving, I think that sharing a recipe for my favorite stuffing is a good idea. This recipe makes enough to stuff a 15-19 pound bird, but I use it to stuff a 12-15 pound turkey, plus extra to bake in a casserole dish on the side. This is a version of my Mom's stuffing recipe and uses both stale bread and corn bread. Each time I make it I very it slightly. Sometime I use pecans, sometimes I add dried cranberries or chopped apple. The breads differ, too, because I'm often using ends from breads that I baked over the previous three months. I keep those ends in the freezer for just this purpose! The point is that if you keep the proportions the same, you can make your own signature stuffing. You'll be glad you did! This will taste so much better than the stuff you get at the grocery.



Stuffing

1 cup margarine, melted (you can use butter if you prefer...I think Mom did in the mid-century version)
4 medium onions, minced
¾ cup parsley, chopped
1½ cups celery leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons pepper
4 quarts soft stale breadcrumbs/bread cubes and corn bread - I use a mixture of leftover bread ends of many kinds, plus corn bread

1 cup chicken broth 

Saute’ the onions, parsley, celery leaves, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper in the melted butter for 5 minutes. Combine sautéed mixture with the breadcrumbs/bread cubes (may substitute some cornbread). Moisten with chicken broth. You may also add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped apples, dried fruit, chopped toasted pecans, or oysters. Use
stuffing to stuff bird. Extra may be baked in a greased casserole dish in a 4250 F. oven ‘til brown (after turkey is out of oven). Enough for a 15-19 lb. turkey.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Go Spectacular With Your Pumpkin Pie


With Halloween getting close and Thanksgiving feasting not too far behind, it's time to think about a pumpkin pie. I usually make the classic one that can be found on the Libby's Pumpkin can label, but sometimes you want to go over the top.

Time for Pumpkin Pie Spectacular, a ginger-lover's dream, with a regular crust, a gingersnap inner crust and lots of rich, delicious pumpkin filling, plus streusel. You can gild the lily, so to speak, with dollops of whipped cream, too, but it is a fine pie just as it comes out of the pie pan.

Pumpkin pie has always been a favorite and I love ginger, too, so the recipe that K brought home with her to make seemed like a winner. The recipe comes from the November issue of Southern Living magazine. A regular crust is topped with a layer of a gingersnap-based crunch...

and then baked. A filling that includes sweetened condensed milk and sour cream, along with cinnamon ... and more ginger ...



is baked a short while, then topped with a pecan and brown sugar struesel around the edges of the pie. Once the filling bakes until set the pie cools on a rack.

Right before serving it gets decorated with a cinnamon and ginger spiked topping. I used real whipping cream (although the sweetened condensed milk and sour cream were non-fat versions) because I had some and everything goes better with real whipped cream.


This pie is outrageously good! Because this is from the Southern Living magazine, you know that it is rich and decadent...and Southern.  You could almost hear my Southern accent as I served Sweetie the first piece.


The pastry crust was crisp and golden, the gingersnap crust on top of that had absorbed some of the pumpkin mixture's liquid, so it was moist and a little chewy and full of ginger flavor! The filling (which I cooked less that the recipe suggested...I only baked it for 15 minutes before adding the struesel) was creamy yet firm enough to use a fork and not a spoon. The struesel added a nutty crunch and the whipped cream tied all of the flavors and textures together luxuriously. I left out the ginger cookie half rounds that were to adorn each slice...that was too much for me, which is a funny thing to say about such an over-the-top pie. 


It's been a few years since I enjoyed this pie (haven't found a substitute for sweetened condensed milk so far), but you can enjoy it with your family and friends this year and be grateful for each other and for being lucky enough to live where we can indulge ourselves.


If you make this pie, be prepared for compliments, requests for second helpings, and the need for small pieces. It is rich and intensely flavored in the best possible way.

Pumpkin Pie Spectacular
From Southern Living magazine Nov 09

½ (15 oz) package refrigerated piecrusts or home made single crust pie dough
2 cups crushed gingersnaps (about 40 gingersnaps)
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground ginger
Pecan Streusel
Topping: 7 thin ginger cookies, halved (optional)
Ginger-Spiced Topping & ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp.

Stir together crushed gingersnaps, pecans, powdered sugar and melted butter. Press mixture on bottom and ½ inch up sides of piecrust.

Note – if pie pan is not a very deep deep-dish type, you may have some of the gingersnap mixture left over.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

Stir together pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, sour cream, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. Pour into prepared, cooled crust. Place pie on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes (but if you are using a shallower pie pan, only bake for 15 minutes). Sprinkle Pecan Streusel around edge of crust. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until set, shielding edges with aluminum foil during last 25 or so minutes of baking if necessary. If using, insert ginger cookie halves around edge of crust.
Let pie cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Dollop with Ginger-Spice Topping; dust with cinnamon.

Pecan Streusel: Stir together ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar; 2 tablespoons melted butter and ¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped.

Ginger-Spice Topping: Stir together 1 cup whipping cream which has been whipped to a soft but firm stage (or use an 8 oz container of whipped topping, thawed), ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon ground ginger.

Recipe from Vivian Chateau, Mobile, Alabama Serves 8 - total time to make: 3 hrs, 25 minutes

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Half A Puffy Blueberry Pancake Recipe


Over the summer I played with a Dutch Baby recipe that you bake in a 9 x 13-inch pan and loved it so much that I made it multiple times. Dutch Babies are puffy pancakes that you bake in the oven instead of griddling on the stovetop. The batter is mixed up quickly in a blender and I like to scatter fresh blueberries or raspberries over as soon as the batter is in the pan.

It would be hard to top the original recipe for serving a group, but it's too much pancake for two people. Because this pancake puffs up while baking, but begins to flatten once removed from the oven, it really isn't a good dish for leftovers.

So the solution, since I wanted to have some a few days ago as our morning treat, was to take the original recipe and to divide the ingredient amounts in half. Then I baked it in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. That worked very well and we found room to eat the whole thing. The cast iron heated up well in the pre-heating oven, so the edges were nicely browned. I highly recommend it! 


German Pancakes with Blueberries (smaller version)

Serves 2-3

3 tablespoons butter (or non-dairy margarine or 'butter')
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (or nut milk)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
dash salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops lemon oil (optional)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and drained and picked over for stems or over-ripe berries
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

As oven preheats, put the butter in an ungreased 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet (or a 9-inch cake pan with high sides) and place in the oven, just until the butter is melted. (Mine started to brown slightly at the edges)

Place the eggs, milk, flour, salt and vanilla, (and lemon oil, if using) in a blender and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides, if needed, and process again for a few seconds.

Pour the batter into the hot baking pan, over the melted butter. Sprinkle with the blueberries and with the sugar (if using).

Bake, for 16-22 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Pancake will puff up, but will sink down again as it cools once removed from the oven.

Serve at once. Can sprinkle with powdered sugar, with lemon juice, or serve with maple syrup and/or more berries.

Note: you can make this without berries, too, and it will still puff up gloriously and taste wonderful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

In Two Days This Blog Will Be Fifteen Years Old


Back in October of 2006, when I started this blog, blogs were a relatively new thing and food focused blogs were probably even newer. It was a heady time because the internet was catching on and still had the feel of youth and the opportunity of being visionary. Not even sure that anyone had figured out analytics, and monetizing was still in the future, so no ads that I can remember. I loved that it was a place where writing, photography, and cooking could come together and that people around the world could potentially see what was posted and post on their own blogs, too. I knew that it was actually a fairly small percentage of that world that had the access to do so, but things could still go viral, even if that meant a smaller number than it does today. I tried many dishes and techniques that I would never have tried and I was inspired countless times by other bloggers. Friendships grew out of blogging, too. Some of my early blogging buddies found careers in photography, food catering, event planning, cookbook making and more through blogging and the skills needed to do it well. My photography improved, along with my Photoshop skills. I was even able to do short fiction once I invented the Land of St. Honore'.

I checked out some of the folks who commented on my early posts and most have stopped blogging, many quite a while ago. I may reach that point one day, but not yet. After all, the movement of folks to the internet now has surged past Blogger to Instagram and Snap Chat, and beyond those to Tik Tok and probably others that I'm too un-cool to even know about.

There are tons of special interest groups that still use blogs and I belong to the Bread Baking Babes, who, obviously, bake bread. I am interested in creative folks, including those who create in ink, in glass, and in various media like acrylic, watercolor and pastels, and in writing. I still find my creative self mostly in the kitchen and in graphic arts and in gardening, but do the occasional watercolor or acrylic piece.

I recently spent time in graphic arts land and as a result sent a cookbook to the printer. This time it won't be for sale, but it's based on the Comfort Food cookbook I did in 2012, with a few additional recipes and lots of family photos. It really is a family cookbook this time. I had such fun creating photo collages of my siblings and their offspring, plus my parents and my own hubby and kids and significant others. In the process I cooked and baked more recipes so that there would be more illustrated recipes. Things like Spicy Bean Bake, Morning Glory Muffins and Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, and my Dad's Fresh Tomato Soup brought back good memories. While most of the recipes were in the old book, there are new ones, too.

The year ahead is still a mystery, but I expect to try new dishes and baked goods, to see if I can reset my iPhone camera to get rid of that yellow tinge that seems to be omnipresent, and maybe illustrate some of my posts with ink and watercolor drawings instead of photos...stay tuned and see how it all turns out!

Looking back at the early days, the first post where the photo was remotely OK was one for Saucepan Fruit Bars. Since I've recently been wanting to have some of those with a nice cup of tea, I'm posting that recipe here, slightly updated for the upcoming holiday season. Think of it as a baked anniversary gift to us both. Thanks for hanging in with me all these years if you are an early reader, and thanks for reading this blog now, no matter how long you have been one of my dear readers. So far, with this post, I have done 1,578 posts and have had 1,386,115 views. 

Enjoy the bar cookies. They are cake-like cookies with a tangy sweet-sour lemon glaze and a touch of spice, plus dried fruit which keeps them moist for a few days. They ship well and would be a great holiday gift. Be sure to not overbake them. Check at about 18 minutes and every couple of minutes after...you are looking for a few crumbs sticking to toothpick inserted in the center. In an airtight tin or container, these keep for a while, if you can resist them, and they go really well with a nice hot cup of tea. Cheers!

Here is the original recipe...an easy one that is mixed in a saucepan, so fewer bowls to wash!


Here is my newer version, still mixed in a pot:


Holiday Saucepan Fruit Bars 

1/2 cup melted butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves
1/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk (or milk with a 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice stirred in)
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mixed diced candied fruits and/or peels (or fruitcake mixed candied fruits)
1 cup dried currants

Melt butter in saucepan. Add sugars and eggs; beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients and spices. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk, orange extract, lemon extract, vanilla extract, then all that to the pot. Mix well. Stir in the candied fruit and/or peels and the dried currants until well combines.

Spread batter in a greased 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 20-25 minutes. Test in center with toothpick - you are looking for a few clinging crumbs. Do not overbake.

Brush while hot with Glaze (see below); cool in pan. Cut into 2 x 1-inch bars. Makes about 45 cookies - one or two might go into the baker's mouth.

Glaze: Mix 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted, and 4 teaspoons lemon juice.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Babes Bake Pumpkin-Shaped Bread


You know fall has arrived when everywhere you turn there is pumpkin spice this and pumpkin spice that...and lots of actual carving pumpkins at the market, too.

For October, the Bread Baking Babes have been given a seasonal challenge by Cathy of Bread Experience, our Kitchen of the Month. She asked us to make boules (round loaves of bread) shaped with string to resemble pumpkins. She gave us a recipe for the bread, but I struck out in another direction, making a bread that I last made in 2007. It's a potato bread, with the potato part being boiled and mashed garnet yams. They impart a light orange color to the bread and contribute both flavor and moisture as well. In 2007 I made the bread with garlic as the recipe called for, but this time I wanted a more neutral bread so I skipped the garlic and added just a touch of...wait for it!...pumpkin spice.


Shaping these little loaves was fun if challenging. Mine had quite a bit of oven spring, so they tore a bit. The first one did that and I blamed it on my forgetting to cut any slashes to allow for expansion, but I did quite a few slashes on the second one and still had it tear . Fortunately, they both still had shape from the string and looked somewhat pumpkin-like. I used bakers twine which I marinated in olive oil for a while and I had no trouble removing the string once the loaves were done. The crust was thin but crisp and the crumb was moist and tight. I loved the flavor. It wasn't sweet, had a taste of yam and a hint of the spice mix. I liked it best with just a bit of non-dairy butter, but tried it toasted, too. Both were delicious. Sweetie says this is the best bread yet, but I think it's because its been so long since I baked bread.


Do try this yourself. The given recipe can be found on Cathy's site, and she also has great photos of the process of laying out the strings that shape the ball into a squash shape (after oiling the strings), and all the information you need to be successful.

Be sure to visit the other Babes sites, too, to see what they did with this fully fall bread! 



Yam Bread 'Pumpkins'

based on a recipe by Narsai David

1 cup warm water (preferably the water the yams were boiled in)
1 cup mashed yams (boil until tender, then peel and mash and cool to room temperature)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 - 4 cups white bread or all-purpose flour (about)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)
spray oil

Place the water, sweet potatoes (yams), sugar, and yeast in a mixing bowl. Let rest for 5 minutes. Add half the flour and all the salt, and pie spice if using. Mix well with a dough hook or heavy paddle. The dough will be quite soft and sticky. Add another cup of flour. If using a dough hook, you may need to add a little more flour to keep the dough around the hook and to make the dough firm enough to shape. Continue mixing for 4-5 minutes if you are using a mixing machine, knead about the same amount of time if kneading by hand.  Spray oil (I use olive oil spray) to coat a large bowl or rising container. Put in the dough and turn to coat the dough with oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap or with a clean shower cap.

Place the dough in a warm place to rise.. When the dough has doubled in volume, anywhere between 1 and 2 hours, turn it out onto a floured surface and punch it down to get out the air that has inflated it. Kneading a few times also helps in this step. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball, pulling the dough to the 'back' of the ball repeatedly to form a skin of dough. This is a very soft dough, so use plenty of flour to keep it from sticking to the board.

Now it's time to shape these balls into pumpkins! Use a round piece of parchment - either a pre-cut one or one that you cut to fit your Dutch oven or other baking pot.

Use a food safe string for tying. I used baker's twine. The key thing is to oil your string well. I cut eight lengths (four for each 'pumpkin') that would encircle the dough ball with a fair amount left over for tying, then put these, one by one, into a bowl. I added olive oil and pushed the string down into the oil and let them soak until it was time to use them. I had no trouble peeling the string off the pumpkins once the breads were baked, but if you do, use a sharp paring knife to help loosen the string if it sticks.



Lay four pieces of string on the parchment circle with the ends beyond the parchment paper. Lay two in a cross and the other two between those. Put the dough ball right where the strings all cross, then pick up the ends of the strings and gather them together and tie at the top. Don't tie the string too tight in order to give the loaf room to expand in the oven. However, you don't want it to have too much oven spring because it could tear and mess up the shape. (I had too much oven spring, so mine did tear and the pumpkin shape wasn't as clear, but it was still pretty.

Put each shaped and tied dough ball (boule) into a lined and floured banneton or flour two tea towels well and use them to line two bowls, then put the dough balls in those. Cover lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for about half an hour. Balls will get puffy. Reserve the parchment circles for baking time.

When it is about 45 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven and a deep cast iron pot or Dutch oven, with lid, to 450 degrees F. If you don't have that kind of pot, a baking stone with either a deep sauce pan or an overturned metal bowl will work. You are creating a mini-oven for each 'pumpkin' to bake in, in turn.

When ready to bake, return the bread to the parchment circles,  Score the bread in a pattern (I used a short vertical slash three time for each section) and then carefully remove the pot to a heavy towel.  Using hands protected with oven mitts, remove the lid and lower the 'pumpkin' loaf on the parchment paper into the pot. Immediately put on the lid and return the pot to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional 15-20 minutes. Loaf will be golden to medium brown and when the bottom of the loaf is tapped, it will sound hollow. Immediately remove the strings and set the loaf to cool on a wire rack. Repeat the baking with the second shaped ball of dough.

Makes two medium-sized pumpkin shaped rustic loaves.