Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hot Links Comin' Up

For those few who may come here without stopping by my other place first, there are a buncha foodie links that're good readin' under "Blogging Around: Foodie Stuff." Go take a look.

Christmas Pudding

Historically, the Christmas pudding was seen as a religious affront. In 1664, Oliver Cromwell banned it as a "lewd custom," considering the rich pudding "unfit for God-fearing people," and the Quakers rather gloriously condemned it as "the invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon." I have to say I think the Quakers make Christmas pudding sound rather more exciting than it is but, wanting to rise to the occasion, I have tried to come up with a pudding that the scarlet whore of Babylon would be truly proud of.
Just what was everybody doing with those puddings that made Cromwell call them a "lewd custom?" I know he just meant having any fun was out of bounds for "God-fearing people" (perhaps he was the prototype for Dickens' Scrooge) but that phrase boggles the imagination.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sal's Christmas Fruit Gems

Sal made these over Thanksgiving weekend and tucked them in the freezer.

She says, "It's my own recipe- basically my mom's applesauce cake recipe with extra fruit and nuts. (And that was originally an Imperial Sugar recipe, so you know it's good.) I make it every year, though I'm the only one who really likes it. "

Ah, I know that feeling, as I am the lone fruitcake lover at our house. This looks tailor made for me and I have a feeling I'm going to be perusing the dried fruit options at Central Market.

1/2 C. butter
1 C. sugar
1 egg
2 C. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
dash nutmeg
1 C. applesauce
1 C. raisins
1 C. golden raisins
1 C. Sunkist Fruit Bits, or other dried fruit, diced fine
1 C. chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well.

Sift dry ingredients together and add to butter and egg mixture alternately with applesauce. Fold in fruits and nuts.

Grease gem pans or use paper muffin cups. Fill cups level with top of pan. Bake at 300 for 25 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from gem tins and cool on rack.

These may be frosted with a simple glaze or royal icing, if desired. Store in airtight container.

Yield: about 3 dozen.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Those Pesky Turkey Leftovers

I never saw so many diverse ways to use leftovers as they are posting over at Slashfood. Take a look.

Butterbells for the Holidays


Remember my favorite butterbell? Honestly, I'm not sure I could do without it. Now Butterbell has come up with a holiday collection and a special offer of buying two butterbells and getting a third free. Check it out!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Amaretti


I kicked off our Christmas cookie season by whipping up a batch of Amaretti. Absurdly simple, these are some of my favorites ... basically meringue cookies with ground almonds mixed in. They were made much easier by the fact that I found Almond Meal at the Central Market so I didn't have to grind the almonds in the food processor. I also saw Pecan Meal and Hazelnut Meal there and am now wondering how those would work in variations.

I'm not usually fond of meringues but love these so they had to go into the freezer ASAP otherwise we wouldn't have had many left.

This recipe came from my mother and I'm not sure what cookbook it came from. However, it is not too different from other such recipes I've seen ... except it is a great deal simpler than some.

Step 1:
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Beat egg whites until foamy, gradually beat in sugar and almond extract. Continue beating for several minutes until whites form very stiff, shiny peaks.

Step 2:
2 cups (8 ounces) finely ground, blanched almonds
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Stir in almonds and cornstarch until well combined.

Drop generous tablespoon of batter into small mounds about 2" apart on parchment-lined, baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 17-22 minutes until firm and lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 30 cookies.

Chewy Variation:
Beat egg whites with a fork until broken up and slightly frothy. Stir in sugar until combined; then mix in remaining ingredients (and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon optional cardamom if desired) to make very stiff paste.

With moistened hands, form scant tablespoons of paste into 11/4" balls. Arrange 2" apart on baking sheets. Use moistened fingertips to flatten each ball slightly. Bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes or until firm and very lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. These are like traditional macaroons.

Flavor Variation Update:
I tried these yesterday with finely ground pecans and vanilla instead of the almond extract. Mmmm, mmmm good!

Friday, November 25, 2005

"Leftover" Meals

My family's tradition was always to have a big chef salad the day after Thanksgiving with the "must have" ingredients being turkey, bacon, and blue cheese dressing. (Well, of course, lettuce also ... but that is a given with chef salad.) I just posted a Creamy Roquefort Dressing that you can try or you can do as my parents often did ... use a vinaigrette with generous crumbles of blue cheese everywhere. Mmmm, my mouth is watering.

I was really bummed to realize that the day after Thanksgiving is Friday! Obviously, we began our meatless Friday devotions after Thanksgiving last year so ... with many a sigh ... we are having our traditional chef salad on Saturday.

I see that Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred are experts with the leftovers also. The guys have recipes up for Turkey and Mashed Potato Frittata, Turkey Hash with Egg, and Turkey Apple Scramble. Check it out.

Creamy Roquefort Dressing

From the The New Doubleday Cookbook which is not really new having last been updated in 1985 to the best of my knowledge. However, that is of little account as it remains my "go to" book for the basics.

Yields 2-1/2 cups.

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon prepared mild yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/2 pound Roquefort cheese (I use Maytag Blue ... I know, I know, it isn't a true Roquefort, so sue me)
3-4 tablespoons cider vinegar

Blend mayonnaise with sugar, mustard, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and onion. Crumble in Roquefort and stir well. Mix in 3-4 tablespoons vinegar, depending upon how thick a dressing you want.

Post-Game Show

THE GOOD
That cranberry relish is one of the best things I've ever eaten. Rose and I (the only sweet potato eaters in the house) gave the Cook's Illustrated Sweet Potato Casserole two thumbs way up.

THE BAD
Note to self: when making a pie with a runny filling to be baked ... do NOT prick the pie shell for prebaking. The Pecan Pie filling seeped through the holes and formed a cement-like bond with the bottom crust. Luckily no one cared and the fantastic flavor was still there so all was not lost. So sorry if I led anyone else astray with that. I think that method of prebaking would be fine for Chocolate Pies or something where the precooked filling is put in the crust to chill.

THE UGLY
(or shall we say, the not quite so perfect?)
I tried a Celery and Parmesan Salad. It had slices of celery, minced red onion and parsley, and was dressed with a lemon juice vinaigrette. Then topped with shavings of parmesan. It was pretty good but the vinaigrette was WAY too lemony and strong. I am going to try it again after adjusting the dressing (perhaps a Dijon vinaigrette?).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Vegetarians and Thanksgiving

As for vegetarians, you will see that I have made no special suggestions for what to feed them [at Thanksgiving]. And there is no point in pretending that, with my tastes, they are anything other than "them." This is not because I have anything against vegetarianism or, indeed, vegetarians. I feel about it and them rather as I do about exercise: it's all fine so long as it's someone else doing it. But, the thing is, I don't see a vegetarian option as being necessary here. It seems to me that it's hard to beat a meal of roast potatoes, roast parsnips, lemony beans, buttery Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, cranberry and cornbread stuffing and cranberry and bread sauces. What on earth would you want to add?
As is obvious from the side dishes mentioned above, Nigella is British and really doesn't understand that Thanksgiving requires mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cranberries kept away from the stuffing. But aside from that, she's spot on.

Kitchen Updates

Breaking news from the Julie D. kitchen:

Prebaked pie shell
I recently read (can't remember where) an older woman talking about making pies and saying that all they ever did was prick the crust with a fork well all over and bake it at about 450 for 10-15 minutes. No lining with parchment paper, no filling with dried beans or rice. So I tried it. And she was right. It worked great. And it was so easy!

Cranberry Ginger Relish
Oh. my. gosh. y'all! Just ground this up in the food processor and even without time to rest it was so delicious! Even the girls liked their infinitesimal tastes and this year I will have someone to eat cranberry relish with me. Ahhhh. Now I just have to find that sweet potato recipe that will help anyone else in the family to eat them ... and it'll be Thanksgiving from heaven time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Blogging For Food

If you are one of the very few who don't come here from Happy Catholic, I have some interesting foodie links up right here. Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Culinary Confessions

This is something that swept through the cooking blog world recently and, although I call this a cooking blog, it actually is the kitchen for Happy Catholic. Which leaves me feeling rather disconnected from the cooking blog world, largely an observer with little interaction. And that's ok. Heaven only knows I get plenty of interaction in the Christian/Catholic blogging world.

However, this is where my true "foodie" impulses show themselves, in the items that are included on my list of Culinary Confessions. Reading through others' lists I felt the strongest connection with David Lebovitz and Cooking with the Headhunter. These lists really tell you the attitude that everyone takes toward cooking and their kitchens. I am putting my confessions here and you will find links to other confessions at the bottom should you be interested in the deep, dark secrets of the cooking blog world.
  1. I wash mushrooms in running water.
  2. I use pre-ground pepper in recipes.
  3. I use pre-ground coffee.
  4. I like Velveeta ...
  5. and American cheese ...
  6. and Spam (the edible kind, though I know that is a topic for debate!) ...
  7. and Cool Whip ...
  8. and instant mashed potatoes.
  9. I hate meringue on pies.
  10. I am fascinated by recipes that use mixes or soup, though I often don't like the results. (But I keep trying them)
  11. I don't sift. Anything.
  12. I buy cauliflower for the sole purpose of letting it take up space, turn brown, and then be thrown away (or so an impartial observer would think).
  13. I hate it when guests show up with food to a dinner party (unless that has been pre-arranged somehow).
  14. I hate cooking in someone's kitchen when the knives are dull and there isn't one decent saucepan (and you'd be surprised at how many of those there are ... when going to my mother-in-law's I take my own knives with me).
  15. I love the idea of organic food but rarely pony up the cash for it (except for milk and chicken ... don't ask me why I do it for those and not anything else).
  16. I judge people by what I see in their shopping carts (which means I have to hide my Velveeta and American cheese and Spam and Cool Whip under larger items in my cart).
  17. My food must be hot (and it is surprising just how many people in my own family do not understand what that means).
  18. I like being tipsy but not drunk (a very fine line, I realize, but one that makes all the difference).
  19. Often I'll chop by hand to avoid having to wash the Cuisinart later.
Other Kitchen Confessionals
Cooking with Amy
Savory Notebook

Sweetnicks

Comfort Food

Soul Fusion Kitchen

Thanksgiving Outside the U.S., Part III

Turkeys

Mandy Dowd, a poet and artist living in the south of France, once had the challenging task of explaining pumpkin pie to a guest who was highly skeptical of what he called une tarte Americaine. She did not help her cause by pronouncing molasses as malaise, the French word for, well, malaise. He declared the pie "special" and left it half uneaten.

In Bangladesh, Debbie Ingram, a development worker, and her partner managed to get a turkey from the U.s. embassy's commissary. When it was cooked, they paraded their proud dinner around on a platter. "Our guests could hardly believe there was a bird on earth that big," says Ingram, "as animals and vegetables in Bangladesh tend to be quite small."
James Ledbetter for Chow magazine, Holiday 2004 issue

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Are We Ready for Thanksgiving?

Just in case the answer is no, here is a little info for anyone who cares to check it out ... in time to pick up ingredients this weekend.

Holiday Central
O Chef has this up and running. I think they must answer just about every question you could think of there ... including any that my "short-hand" recipes may leave you with!

Herbed Thanksgiving Stuffing
This is the best stuffing ever and cooks in a slow cooker. I have made this four times now and never been disappointed. It really frees up the oven for other things and, if you happen to have a problem with sticking your hand up a turkey (no problemo here) then you're set free from that as well.

Skillet Cornbread
If you happen to like cornbread stuffing (which I do not), you may want to make this for your base. I've never found a better recipe.

Cranberry Ginger Relish
The recipe I'm trying out this year.

Perfect Piecrust
This is not a misnomer. Very easy and very delicious. It is long but that is to give detailed directions. You can't go wrong with this.

Pecan Pie
This is non-negotiable. Gotta have it.

Pumpkin Pie

Are you allowed to have Thanksgiving without this? Nope.

Cranberry-Ginger Relish

From Sunset magazine. I am the only cranberry lover in the house and I wind up trying a new relish or sauce recipe every year. It's my Thanksgiving funny bone you might say.

This was a contest runner up. Can't wait to try it.

Fresh Cranberry-Ginger Relish

From Sunset

Notes: You can make this relish up to 3 days ahead; cover and chill.

1 bag (12 oz.; 3 1/2 cups) fresh cranberries
1 lemon (5 oz.), rinsed
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Rinse and drain cranberries. Remove and discard any bruised or soft ones. Gently pat berries dry.

2. With a vegetable peeler, pare all the yellow peel (not the white pith) from lemon in thin strips; coarsely chop. Save lemon for other uses.

3. In a food processor, whirl cranberries, lemon peel, sugar, crystallized ginger, and ground ginger just until finely chopped. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.


Yield: Makes about 3 cups; 12 servings (serving size: 1/4 cup)

Perfect Pecan Pie


Another one from
Cook's Illustrated. Here my tweaking substitutes Lyle's Golden Syrup (thanks to a tip from John Thorne) if you have it around. If you don't it is no problem but somehow it adds a certain depth ... at least that's what Hannah and I think (being the pecan pie afficianados that we are).

This might be another one that takes longer than the recipe says to bake ... when you make them once a year you forget.

Step 1:
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 325°. Mix butter, sugar and salt with wooden spoon until butter is absorbed.

Step 2:
3 large eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
Beat in eggs, then corn syrup and vanilla. Stir in pecans.

Step 3:
One 9” baked pie shell, brushed with beaten egg white and let sit in fridge until dry (approximately 30 minutes) before it was baked (this helps keep it crisp later ... skip the egg white if you don't care about that)
Pour mixture into pie shell; bake until center feels set yet soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed, 40-45 minutes. Cool completely on rack, at least 4 hours. Serve at room temperature or warm.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Originally from Cook's Illustrated, I tweaked this by eliminating the step where they had you heat the canned pumpkin in a saucepan for a while to get rid of that "canned taste." Never could tell the difference so why do it?

It seems to me that this pie always takes longer to bake than the directions say (but I don't have my notes here at the moment) so if it does just keep on going until it matches the description they give.

Step 1:
2 cups (16 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
Mix all filling ingredients and pour into pie shell. (Ladle any excess filling into pie after it has baked for 5 minutes or so — filling will have settled.)

Step 2:
Unbaked 9” pie shell, brushed with beaten egg white and let sit in fridge until dry (approximately 30 minutes ... this helps keep it crisp later ... skip the egg white if you don't care about that)
Bake at 400° until filling is puffed, dry-looking, and lightly cracked around edges and center wiggles like gelatin when pie is gently shaken, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.

Thanksgiving Outside the U.S., Part II

Pumpkin Pie

Part of the challenge for Americans living abroad is explaining to your new neighbors the historical significance of thanksgiving and why, exactly, we commemorate this secular holiday by gorging ourselves and watching football. My first year in London, a British colleague asked me if Americans sat around on Thanksgiving making fun of the British for having lost that particular patch of empire. I didn't have the heart to tell her that, outside of Austin powers movies, Americans spend very little time thinking about the British, period.
James Ledbetter for Chow magazine, Holiday 2004 issue

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Top 10 Things that Sound Dirty at Thanksgiving But Aren't

Shamelessly stolen from Jules.

10. "Talk about a huge breast!"

9. "It's a little dry, do you still want to eat it?"

8. "Don't play with your meat."

7. "Just spread the legs open & stuff it in."

6. "I didn't expect everyone to come at once!"

5. "You still have a little bit on your chin."

4. "How long will it take after you stick it in?"

3. "You'll know it's ready when it pops up."

2. "That's the biggest one I've ever seen!"

1. "How long do I beat it before it's ready?"

Blog Name Change

Glad Gastronome was a clever name and we all had fun coming up with it (thanks again Penni and Rose!) but over time it just wasn't me. This blog really is where I just step out from Happy Catholic to mess around in the kitchen a bit every so often ... so we'll see how this name does.

Parenting and Pancakes


Whenever I'm trying to be Nice Mummy, rather than normal Bad-tempered Impatient Mummy, I make pancakes. Unfortunately, it can often be counter-productive, but the sad truth about parenting is that it's virtually impossible to learn from your mistakes. The whole business is a Dantesque punishment: you're trapped in the cycle, knowing what you're doing, but seemingly unable to stop.
Really, we're so much alike that we might as well be twins (except for the cooking show, British citizenship, and a few other little details like those). That Bad Mummy description would sound awfully familiar to my kids. Although I have not found the cycle to be so unbreakable as all that.

For a fantastically easy pancakes recipe as well as numerous variations, go here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wine Tumblers? What's Up With That?



Riedel makes wonderful wine glasses. I have a set and just love them. But wine tumblers? I though the whole point of wine glasses was to hold the glass by the stem so you wouldn't heat up the wine with your hot little hands all over the glass. They must be the latest thing though since a version by a different manufacturer is being given away by Central Market as their holiday coupon item.

You can see all the different versions of Riedel's wine tumblersat Amazon.

Monday, November 14, 2005

This is a Terror I Share


...I think it tends to be the case that vegetarian food takes more time, more effort than most meat heavy feasts. It's even more a labor of love if what you want to do is make someone who doesn't eat meat feel comfortable at the table. This is always a difficult area for me. I wouldn't want to be rude, and the idea of inviting someone who doesn't eat meat for dinner and then having the table heaving with flesh, except for some specially wrought, individual portion of some veggie-pleaser, however delightful, does make me uncomfortable. I do understand that squeamishness, moral and visceral, of those who abhor eating meat would be hard to overcome.

Indeed, I live in terror of being infected with it. There is a Graham Greene play, The Potting Shed, which tells the angst-ridden story of the impact on a devoutly atheistic family when one of their number has a religious vision, smartly followed by a stunned conversion, in the potting shed of the title. The fear and tension of the family whose scornful disbelief is so suddenly shot to pieces resound particularly with me, for I have a concomitant fear. One day something terrible, so ideologically unforeseen, could happen to me: one day I could wake up and find myself vegetarian.
And then to have to eat veggie burgers at summer barbecues? That is indeed a terrible vision.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Taste

A few things of interest from the Dallas Morning News food section.

A simple sauce for broccoli
What a no-brainer and I can't believe I never thought of doing it before. But I will be very soon in the future ... as soon as I buy some broccoli!

All about dark chocolate
Mmmmmm ... dark chocolate. The very best kind of chocolate.

Coming soon to a store near you
Dark Cherry Vanilla Coke is coming in January. Coca Cola dropped plain Vanilla Coke and also Diet Lemon Coke.

Dump cake recipes
This is the sort of cooking that makes my parents blanch but makes me secretly curious. I have a perverse attraction for recipes that dump things or combine mixes, etc.

Thanksgiving Outside the U.S., Part 1

Cranberries

Vicki Lopow and Kate Menken wanted a kosher Thanksgiving in Kenya. They procured a wild turkey from the wildlife region aound Lake Naivasha, and then had it shechted (killed in a kosher way) by a kosher expert visiting the Israeli embassy. They knew stuffing would be a challenge in a country that has no native bread (the closest substitute is ugali, a kind of porridge), but Menken found a baguette in a store catering to expats. The biggest stretch was the "cranberry sauce" made out of local tree tomatoes, a variant of the potato family that produces a red oval-shaped, sharp-tasting fruit -- "kind of tart like cranberries are, so I made preserves out of them," says Menken (who now lives in Manhattan, well within Ocean Spray territory). "It tasted good but was definitely not cranberry sauce." The real score came through a connection at the U.S. embassy; Lopow managed to secure Pepperidge Farm herb-flavor seasoning through the diplomatic pouch.
James Ledbetter for Chow magazine, Holiday 2004 issue
I'm getting in the spirit early so thought I'd take y'all along for the ride!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hot Links Comin' Up

THE CHEESEBURGER BILL
The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would prevent people from blaming food companies and restaurants for their weight problems.
Read the whole story. It's about time people started taking responsibility for their own actions. What a crying shame that the culture of blaming others has gone so far we have to have legislation for it. Via Minivan Mom.

COMPARING APPLES TO APPLES
Accidental Hedonist decides to compare the prices at Whole Foods, Krogers and Safeway using her own list and money. See what she found.

NO THANKS, I'M NOT HUNGRY
Recipe for chili using a blowtorch.

Grilled cheese sandwich made with a steam iron.

Prison wine made in a toilet.
Find out how to do this and much, much more at Miss Cellania.

FIVE WORST FOODS
Robert Duncan gives us Dr. Joseph Mercola's list of the five worst foods you can eat. What are they? There aren't really any surprises but Homer Simpson really isn't going to like what got ranked number one on the list. Get the whole scoop over at his place.

CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES
Get it right here.

Thanksgiving: the Meta-Feast

At their heart, Christmas and Thanksgiving share some central purpose: to bring the family together round food, to celebrate being together. In both feasts,the majestic, and much-maligned, turkey rules the roost. But Thanksgiving is different in one crucial, and for me exciting, respect. There is something magnificent in the idea of what the great French structuralists might have dubbed a meta-feast: that's to say, fancy epithets aside, an occasion when the very purpose of the feast is to celebrate the feasting. Thanksgiving really is about the food itself. Most crucially, it is about American food, a glorification of the luck of living in a world of plenty.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

H is for Hedgehog

A small insectivorous animal, Erinaceus europaeus, found throughout W. and C. Europe. It is best known for a defense mechanism which consists of rolling up and exposing a spiny back to the world, a method which fails against the threat of road traffic. It is nocturnal in habit, and hibernates from October to April.

There are related species in other parts of Europe, and in Asia; but the porcupine, although similarly protected by spines, is an animal of a different genus.

Hedgehogs are not normally sold or hunted for food, except by gypsies, whose traditional method for dealing with them is to encase the animals in clay and roast them, after which the baked clay is broken off, taking the spines with it. The meat is said to be tender and well flavoured, resembling chicken or sucking pig...

The 'hedgehog pudding' which formerly enjoyed some popularity in England, notably in the 18th century but also in the 19th, was so called because of the slivered almonds which were stuck into its upper surface, where they resembled spines.
How did I already know it would taste like chicken?