Friday, December 18, 2009

Vegetable Quinoa Bake with Kuri Squash

I bought this red Kuri Squash at Figueroa Produce last week just because I had never seen one before and I thought it was beautiful. I guess I have a weakness for a pretty squash... fully knowing that I have way more vegetables than it is reasonable to prepare and eat before I leave town for Christmas, and having absolutely no idea what to do with this odd speciman, I bought it anyway.

It sat for a over a week in the windowsill of my kitchen, taunting me. I figured it was like a pumpkin and could be used in any of the numerous pumpkin recipes I've made in the past. But that felt like cheating. This is something new and exotic and I should make a new and exotic dish with it. So it sat and sat on the pedestal of too high expectations. I was unable to engage it for fear of seeming plebeian and dull. So finally I sat down and searched the good old world wide web and found a recipe, that while not exactly exotic, at least it something I've not made before and did not require a trip to the store. It turned out to be a nice, hearty, vegetarian entree (if you use vegetable stock rather than chicken stock). I found the recipe on a website called (not my usual stomping ground). It was adapted from a recipe published in the December 1994 issue of Vegetarian Times. I have adapted it somewhat here.

white wine or chicken stock
 1 medium onion, chopped
 1 large bell pepper, diced (I used 1 red & 1 green and part of 1 yellow)
 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional) (I didn't have one)
 1 small zucchini, diced (I didn't have any zucchini, but I suspect it would have been a good addition)
 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4)
 3 cups chicken broth
 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
 2 cups peeled and diced red kuri, pumpkin, or other winter squash
     (I used the whole squash, I would guess about 4 cups)
 1 cup chopped greens of your choice
 2 TBSP fresh parsley or 1TBSP dried (I forgot!)
 1/2 tsp salt    
 1/2 tsp pepper

 Preheat oven to 400ºF.
 Saute with wine or broth the onion, peppers, zucchini, and
 garlic for about 5 minutes.  Stir in rest of ingredients and bring to
 a boil.  (I did NOT stir in the greens, instead I placed them in the
 bottom of the dish first.)  Transfer mixture to a 9x13 casserole dish
 and cover.  Bake until liquid is absorbed, about 35 to 40 minutes. 
 Remove from oven and fluff with a fork.  Let stand 5 minutes before
 serving.  Makes 6-8 servings

I think you can adapt this pretty easily to whatever veggies you have on hand. The recipe posted asked for 8-10 mushrooms, which I don't care for, but perhaps you do...I served this with a lovely Persimmon, Walnut & Pomegranate Salad. I loosely stole the recipe from my friend Louisa who made it for our Community Garden Holiday potluck. I added avocado, which is always a nice touch. I used this meal to trap my friend Jan Smelk at my house for many hours when she dropped by to deliver her homemade Holiday Kahlua, a delight of the season I look forward to every year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oat Bread

I got this recipe off the back of a package of Bob's Red Mill Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats.

I love Bob's Red Mill. Not only do they make a huge assortment of grains and beans, but they were also underwriters on my favorite PBS reality show, "Colonial House". This is a show where a bunch of people went to live in a faux 16th Century New England colony for five months. They had to live completely in period: clothes, tools, food, houses, bathroom situations etc... I don't imagine it comes as a surprise I am a fan... anyway, Bob's Red Mill made it possible, so I buy his oats.

I am currently in the process of making my second loaf of this bread. I thought the first one turned out really nicely. It is a much better contender as a sandwich bread than the Simple Bread recipe I have been using. (I'm not saying it's better, the simple bread is denser and a more suitable companion to soups and stews.) I am going to put this recipe down as it is given by Bob's Red Mill, but in my current effort I have made a couple changes I will note below.

1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
11/2 Tablespoons Turbinado Sugar
11/4 cup warm water (95º-105ºF)
11/2  teaspoons Sea Salt
11/2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Oat Bran
1/4 cup Rolled Oats (I doubled this to 1/2 cup the second time because I didn't think it was "oaty" enough the first time.)
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups Unbleached White Flour (The second time I switched it to 2 cups whole wheat flour and one cup white flour)

In a large bowl mix the yeast, sugar and warm water. Let rest for a few minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients in the order given. Turn dough out on a well-floured pastry cloth (I have never heard of a pastry cloth before, I just kneaded the dough in the bowl.) and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more whole wheat flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Set bowl in a warm place and let dough rise until doubled in bulk. (About 1 hour). Then punch dough down and turn onto lightly floured pastry cloth, shape into loaf.

Place in an oiled bread pan, cover with towel and let rise again until doubled in bulk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place oven rack in the center of oven and place bread pan on center rack. Bake for 25 minutes, or until done.

Makes 1 loaf (13 slices).


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baby J's Birthday

Friday was Baby J's birthday. He is one year old! It is pretty hard to believe. I remember writing about how difficult it is cooking with a 10-month old in the kitchen when I started this craziness and already he is a year! That doesn't seem possible. That's not even to mention the fast-forward whirlwind of the previous 10 months!

We had a great little celebration for him. It was small and low-key, and he was the only kid, but I think he liked it that way. His grandparents from Seal Beach came, he saw his Omaha grandparents and cousins on Skype and all his other grandparents and aunts and uncles called wished him their best.

One of the things that I was celebrating, besides keeping him alive for a year, was the fact that this kid loves  to eat all kinds of food. He is a connoisseur of haute cuisine, and rustic home cooking. Bring it on, whatever you've got, he'll it with relish.

The party started at 5pm since it was a work day, and our guests trickled in between 5:15 & 7pm. So I fed him his dinner ahead of the guests to avoid a grumpy, hungry guy. He had a simple meal of pasta shells, mixed vegetables and chicken. We moved on to the cocktail hour, where I served Winter Sunshine Latkas in honor of it also being the first day of Hanukkah. (We are not Jewish, but I love cultural food traditions and celebrations of any kind.) These latkas were a big hit, and very delicious if I do say so myself. (What's not to like about fried potatoes, sweet potatoes and rutabagas?) Baby J showed himself to be a worldly man at age one and probably ate three whole latkas himself. As a result of his gluttony Superterrific didn't get one when she arrived a little late.

We moved from appetizers straight to cake, which as I described in the recipe was a bit of a disappointment. It was a traditional Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting.
But like a blind man seeing for the first time, this being Baby J's first cake experience he wasn't complaining.

After cake the grown ups had chili, corn bread and salad. It was a cozy, winter meal that was easy to prepare in advance and required no fussing in the kitchen. Or it would have required no fussing if I had been more organized and made the salad in advance, but time got away from me and DR had to throw it together at the last minute, but he is better at salads than me anyway.

We had a great time on a happy occasion and we are looking forward to all the birthdays to come.

Winter Sunshine Latkas

This recipe was in the Los Angeles Times. I made it twice this week, once for my son's birthday, which was also the first day of Hanukkah, and for my community garden holiday potluck, which was the third day of Hanukkah.

1 cup grated baking potato, drained and firmly packed.
3 cups mixed root vegetables, peeled and grated (I used sweet potato and rutabaga the first time. The second time it was sweet potato and carrotts. They both turned out great.)
3 eggs beaten
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fres parsley or cilantro (Leaves only)
Olive oil for frying
Yogurt or sour cream for garnish

1. In a large bowl, mix together the grated, well drained potato and root vegetables. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and parsley. Mix well.
2. Pour 1/4" of olive oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat until hot. To form each latka, use a 1/4 cup measure or ice cream scoop.
3. Form and fry a few latkas at a time (being careful not to crowd the pan), cooking tem until edges are crispy and brown, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove the latkas to a pack or paper towel lined plate, keeping them warm until all the latkas are fried. They are delicious served warm with yogurt or sour cream.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chocolate Frosting

This recipe is from 

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cocoa powder (can use Dutch-processed or regular unsweetened cocoa powder)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 cups confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted to remove lumps (I don't have a sifter, so this was a little lumpy until I mixed it with the hand mixer after chilling.)
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Yellow Butter Cake

I found this recipe on
There is a long description of how to combine the ingredients and why the order and process is important to the actual moistness of the cake. Due to the fact that my cooking assistant was a one year old birthday boy who thinks he's too big for a nap, I completely messed up this delicate process. The result was not the perfectly moist cake that was promised, but rather a kind of dry and crumbly one. The birthday boy in question had no reservations about enjoying his very first slice of cake, but I was disappointed....

However, I was comforted in knowing that this information matters, and that if I had followed the directions properly the cake would have been perfect, and in the future I might just do that.

6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup milk + 3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
3 cups sifted cake flour (I couldn't find cake flour at the store, but my brilliant baker cousin Molly informed me that I could just substitute all purpose flour with a bit of corn starch, and a little internet searching proved this to be true. Cornstarch lightens all purpose flour and reduces the protein content... however using actual cake flour probably would have helped some.)
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar 
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces (I was a little impatient with the butter getting to room temp. It was probably too cold)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


According to Ms. Julia Child, " a process of forcing eggs to absorb a fatty substance, oil in this case, and to hold it in thick and creamy suspension." I don't know exactly why, but I love that and now that I have made mayo, it makes the process make perfect sense.

Julia says that you can make mayonnaise one of two ways.
1. With a wisk or an electric hand mixer
2. with a blender.

"Blender mayonnaise uses a whole egg rather than egg yolks; it is almost automatic and no culinary skill whatsoever enters into its preparation."

"Mayonnaise made by hand or with an electric beater requires familiarity with egg yolks... and you should be able to make it by hand as part of your general mastery of the egg yolk."

Well I certainly couldn't handle the shame that making blender mayonnainse would have rained down on Some Assembly Required, so I opted for the electric hand mixer, and embarked on achieving my general mastery of the egg yolk.

Everything needs to be at room temperature. Julia suggests warming the mixing bowl with hot water before beginning to take a chill off.

3 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon Wine Vinegar of Lemon Juice (I used white wine vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon spalt
1/4 teaspoon dry or prepared mustard (I don't know what she means by "prepared mustard" I used dijon.)
11/2 - 21/4 cups olive oil, salad oil or a mixture of both. If you are a novice, use the minimum amount. (I did not read this novice advice until just now. It would have made the process shorter and easier. I used almost 2 cups of oil)
2 tablespoons of boiling water.

Add the egg yolks to a 3 quart mixing bowl and beat for 1-2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt and mustard. Beat for 30 seconds more.

The egg yolks are now ready to receive the oil. The oil must be added very slowly drop by drop. (I used condiment dispensers with a very tiny opening. I got them at the 99¢ store.) You must not stop beating until the sauce has thickened. (This is why I think that the electric mixer is a much better choice than the whisk unless you are trying to develop your Popeye forearms) Stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil. After 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis is over. (Crisis?!)  Beat in the remaining oil by 1 to 2 tablespoon dollops, blending thoroughly after each addition. (I just squirted larger amounts from the ketchup dispenser)

When the sauce becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out. Then continue with the oil.

Beat the 2 Tablespoons of boiling water into the sauce. This is an anti-curdling insurance. (I forgot this step and it was fine. Now curdling disaster, so no insurance needed.)

Season to taste.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Summation and the future

The project officially came to a close two days ago. I wish I could regale you with tales and photos of a beautifully assembled and delicious from scratch celebration meal that was a culmination of all the skills I have developed over the last two months. But alas, I petered along to the end just as I had all along. I didn't even keep very good track of what I ate in the final couple of days. I do promise you however that I remained faithful to the end. In fact, I have grown so accustomed to this manner of eating that I am committed to keeping it up now in my regular life. (Upon seeing a contraband package of goat cheese in the refrigerator used in a recipe made for someone outside of our family, my husband recoiled in shock.)

There will be a few slight modifications based on what I have learned so far. The following items will be admissable:

1. Canned tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste. (Tomato season is over, it is too late for me to learn how to can and put up tomatoes to use all winter, and these are useful in so many recipes. This is a rare instance where fresh produce is an unequal substitute, and the effort is not worth the reward. I hope to be canning like a frontiers-woman by next tomato season and we can amend this rule at that time.)
2. Olives (I love olives, and my research shows that they are extremely time consuming to cure, and there aren't many places to buy raw olives, and I hate buying things online for some reason. Also, olives are the kind of thing that people spend their lives perfecting, and I don't think I am going to make them better. Perhaps down the road when I am looking for a challenge I will investigate this further, but for now I want to enjoy some kalamata olives free of guilt.)
3. Salted nuts. (Because it is silly not to allow them.)
4. Dried Fruit. (I haven't bought any because of the sulfur dioxide counting as an ingredient. I think that's a little over the top for everyday living.)
5. Beer (Because I want to stay married. And, although I did go to the beer making workshop, and actually we need to drink that beer... this is another thing like the olives where I think that people dedicate their entire careers to making delicious beer, and I'm not going to all of the sudden make better beer. I want to experiment with this, and I do intend to make my own beer, but it also requires an investment in equipment, and in addition to hating to buy things online, I'm not crazy about buying special equipment in general. I like to improvise out of what I have, but maybe eventually I'll break down and buy some stuff to make beer. We'll see.)
6. Some combinations. Like the 13-bean soup mix that is just 13 beans. Or I saw a 10-grain cereal at the store, the ingredients are just 10 grains. That's one of those silly distinctions I am not going to worry about.
7. Homemade items made by someone else. (At the grocery store I go to they sell jam that is homemade by a person in the neighborhood. I support this idea and I intend to buy some of that jam. This will be applied on a per case basis, but if something is 'artisan' made and I support the ideology and practices I will buy it.)

These are the modifications I can think of right now. It's pretty minor stuff. Someone asked me on Saturday if there were specific things I really missed. Surprisingly I thought, not really. The things on this list were inconveniences I will be glad to leave behind or things I just don't see the benefit of making myself or not supporting. But I haven't woken up in the middle of the night jonesing for an olive or a beer. There are some foods I haven't really had that I look forward to eating sometime. Things like cheese, or a sandwich. But what I really want is to learn to make wonderful, springy, sandwich bread and a fantastic sharp cheddar cheese. I think I have mentioned that numerous recipes call for parmesan cheese and it is inconvenient not to have it available to me, and it takes a long time to make. But I have to some interesting conclusions about food and how we consume in relation to this project. Most fruits and vegetables are ready for consumption right off the tree or out of the ground. We can modify them to any degree we wish, but they are ready to eat right away if needed. Milk is more or less the same, you could drink it straight from the tap if that were available to you. But all other dairy products require some processing. You can do most of that processing yourself in your own kitchen. It just requires heat and time. The amount of time required seems to correlate well with how we should regulate our consumption. There is really no limit to the amount of fruits and vegetables we can eat in a healthy diet. Very few people are in danger of overindulging in vegetables. (I have eaten too much fruit and paid the price, but this isn't the same sort of problem as eating too many cheeseburgers). Dairy products are filled with important nutrients, but they require a little more moderation. The fact that it takes 24 hours to make a soft white cheese might make one think twice before slathering it so thickly on a bagel, and waiting 10 months for parmesan puts it into the luxury category where it belongs. The same can be said for meat. It always needs to be killed, butchered and cooked before you can safely eat it. This effort says that it is something to be eaten with a little less frequency than something that is ready immediately. And a step further, bacon takes a week to prepare, and should be eaten with more discrimination than a chicken that can be roasted within hours of being killed. This is rambling, but I hope it makes a little bit of sense. I don't miss the foods I haven't had, I look forward to enjoying them and the effort that goes into them on occasion. In the meantime, I have eaten more interesting and varied food in the last two months than in any similar span in my memory. I have been too busy loving the food I have been eating to miss anything else.

I plan to keep you all updated on my culinary adventures going forward. There are so many things I haven't made yet. I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on making things from scratch. I will no longer bore you and myself with lists of my daily meals. But I will continue to update with recipes and ruminations. And I will continue to want to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Round Two Day 27 & 28

I feel like I should be having some really exciting and adventurous entries here in the last few days, but in reality I'm still just trying to plow through the Thanksgiving leftovers and the CSA vegetables before they go bad. It's a little anti-climactic. I'm also getting a new box of veggies tomorrow, so I've got my work cut out for me. I had big plans tonight to make applesauce and mayonnaise (not together) but the siren song from the backlog of programs on my television DVR wooed me away and I did nothing. It's a miracle I pulled myself away to write this.

Day 27
Breakfast: Granola and Milk

Lunch: Potato Pesto Lasagna. I made this to take to my friend Kathryn who just had a baby. It made a lot, so I tested a bowl of it for lunch. I have to confess that this contained contraband. (Parmesan Cheese Ingredients: Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Cheese Cultures and Goat Cheese Ingredients: Pasteurized Goat Milk, Salt, Cheese Cultures, Vegetable Rennet- I justified buying these because I wasn't going to eat the dish myself, I swear that was my intention!) I did make the Pesto and Alfredo sauce from scratch though!

Dinner: Left over salad with mustard vinegarette. Leftover bean soup. The bacon that I added to the soup after finding it too thick and fatty for breakfast was also too thick and fatty for the soup.

Dessert: Two and a half sugar cookies and a small glass of milk. Drinking milk was not something I did before this project began. In fact we used rice milk in our cereal, the only time we had it in the house was if a recipe called for it. If I did use milk it was usually skim because it is the least milky. I'm not pouring myself a tall glass of milk to drink with dinner or anything. (a few of my brothers do this) But the fact that I would drink even a half cup of whole milk is rather surprising.

Day 28
Breakfast: Coffee, Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Syrup and Butter.

Snack: A banana I shared with Baby J

Lunch: 2 mini-meatballs with Herby Tomato Sauce - This is from the organic Baby Cookbook... I made too many for him to eat before they go bad, and I have discovered he is too snobby to eat food that has been frozen. Jeez! This kid doesn't know how good he has it!

Dinner: Brown Rice Penne Pasta (This has been in the pantry for months! I guess it is healthier or something, but the consistency is just not right. It's so mushy. I am hoping to make my own pasta sometime soon, and I am going to stick with Durham Wheat Semolina.) shrimp, tomato, onion, garlic, lemon juice and leftover pesto mix from yesterday.

Dessert: Peach Cobbler

Homemade Bisquick

I don't require that anyone else be as much as a maniac as I am, and I am in love with all the recipes that were brought to our Thanksgiving. But I just did a quick search because I was curious about what exactly makes up Bisquick and here is what I found. I am going to take a break of making desserts for a while as soon as I finish eating that peach cobbler and the shortbread cookies, but I am going to make that Buttermilk Pie sometime for sure.

I found this recipe on FoodieMama

Homemade Bisquick Baking Mix

Ingredients for Homemade Bisquick:

  • 2 1/4 cups white flour 
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (you can skip this if you don't use it normally. Double the amount of white flour instead)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 cup safflower oil or butter-flavored shortening

Instructions for Homemade Bisquick:

  1. In a large, flat bowl, blend first six ingredients.  
  2. Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender. Continue to work the ingredients until the mixture has the consistency of corn meal.
  3. Store in an airtight glass or plastic container.

Notes for Homemade Bisquick:

  1. This needs to be kept cool and dry.
  2. At room temperature, use within one month.In the refrigerator, it will keep about two months. In the freezer, you could probably store it for three or four months.
  3. Use as Bisquick or other baking mix, cup for cup.

Thanksgiving Desserts a la Cousin Tammy

Hi all! It is a sincere pleasure to be able to post on CCA's ever impressive blog. I am in awe of the time, effort and commitment that have gone into this project. My cousins are amazing!

So, my go-to recipe for potluck/dinner desserts is an old family recipe -- Buttermilk Pie. If I'm not mistaken, my mom actually got this recipe off of the back of a box of Bisquick when I was very young. Since it is so cheap and easy to make, it was a regular at my house growing up in Oklahoma. We passed the recipe around a bit and it eventually became a staple at holidays and special events back home. I realized when I moved to California that no one had ever heard of this gem of sweetness, so I began sharing the recipe with friends in college and have always gotten rave reviews. Fast forward to this Thanksgiving where I was graciously invited over for the big event. I mentioned to CCA that I might bring my favorite dessert and she informed me that they weren't familiar with it at all! I guess the family recipe didn't quite extend to the whole family.

So the Buttermilk Pie was my primary dessert, but I always fear that people will not love the rich flavors. I usually compare it to cheesecake, as it is the closest thing I can think of, and I know not everyone loves cheesecake like I do. be safe, I also included a second dessert (from the old arsenal of Bisquick recipes passed down from Mom) that I love -- Peach Cobbler. I love fruit cobblers, but I generally don't love the labor intensive cooking and making crusts, etc. The beauty of both of these recipes is that you mix a few simple ingredients and throw them in the oven and you have beautiful, tasty desserts with minimal effort (or expense). As CCA mentioned, I also brought some sliced strawberries for the Buttermilk isn't in the recipe, but I have learned over the years that a lot of people enjoy the combination of the fruit with the sweet/sour of the pie.

Overall, I think the desserts were a success. I had a bit of a snafu with the cobbler, as I mistakenly mixed the sugar in with the rest of the batter mix, rather than the peaches, so it made it a bit more doughy than I had hoped. (I have been making these recipes for so many years, I only have the ingredients written down, not the instructions...I only remembered how it was supposed to go AFTER I had mixed all of the ingredients together.) Otherwise, it all worked out well and EASY. Here are the recipes for you to enjoy!

Buttermilk Pie

1 ½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Bisquick® Mix
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Stick Butter (Melted)
3 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Beat until smooth. Pour into a 9” pie plate (lightly greased around the sides for non-stick). Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until golden and firm on top. Serve warm or room temperature for best results.

Peach Cobbler

1 Cup Bisquick® Mix
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Sugar
½ Cup Butter (Melted)
½ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 29 Oz Can Sliced Peaches (Drained)

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix Bisquick, milk and nutmeg together in a bowl, beat until smooth. Stir in butter until blended. Pour into ungreased 8” square baking dish (double the recipe for full 9”x13” baking dish). Stir together the sugar and peaches in a bowl, then spoon over mixture in baking dish, distributing evenly to sides/corners. Bake 50 minutes or until golden and firm on top.

Many thanks to the cousins for including me in their holiday! It was great to hang out with Baby J...I don't see him nearly enough and he's growing up so fast. I couldn't have had a better Thanksgiving and enjoyed being with my favorite cousins and their loving friends. It was a fantastic day. I am truly blessed!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Those Damn Sugar Cookies

So I am a huge Cook's Illustrated fan. Their recipes are super informative and delicious, but you need a membership, so I couldn't link it. I was forced to steal it. I feel bad because they don't accept advertising so they can tell the truth about product testing and I think that's cool. They are also on public TV as Americas Test Kitchen.

I really stuck to the recipe except for the tragical error of using aluminum foil on the sheets instead of parchment. TO HOT! BURNED BOTTOMS! There are those that say it adds something with tea or coffee though.

Oh, and I included the opening paragraph as I was surprised to learn that protein varies from flour to flour.

Cook's Illustrated:
The cookies are softer and more tender when made with unbleached flour that has a protein content of about 10.5 percent. Pillsbury or Gold Medal works best; King Arthur flour has a higher protein content (around 11.7 percent) and will result in slightly drier, cakier cookies. Do not discard the butter wrappers; they have just enough residual butter on them for buttering the bottom of the drinking glass used to flatten the dough balls. To make sure the cookies are flat, choose a glass with a smooth, flat bottom. Rolled into balls, the dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 week. The baked cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces), preferably Pillsbury or Gold Medal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still firm (60 to 65 degrees)
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces), for rolling dough
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

2. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment or with hand mixer, beat butter, 1 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add egg and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

3. Place sugar for rolling in shallow bowl. Fill medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Dip hands in water and shake off excess (this will prevent dough from sticking to your hands and ensure that sugar sticks to dough). Roll heaping tablespoon dough into 1 1/2-inch ball between moistened palms; roll ball in sugar, then place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, moistening hands after forming each ball and spacing balls about 2 inches apart on baking sheet (you should be able to fit 12 cookies on each sheet). Using butter wrapper, butter bottom of drinking glass; dip bottom of glass in remaining sugar and flatten dough balls with bottom of glass until dough is about 3/4 inch thick.

4. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges and just set and very lightly colored in center, 15 to 18 minutes, reversing position of cookie sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. Cool cookies on baking sheet about 3 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

EM's Thanksgiving post

Hi! I am delighted to add "guest blogger" to my resume!
I brought two contributions to the Scratch Thanksgiving feast - Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots and spiced cranberries.
The Brussels sprouts I've made before to great acclaim. They were not as delightful this year, unfortunately. I didn't want to double the recipe, but I thought it wouldn't quite be enough for 10 people as written, so I tried to just add a bit more of everything. It's too bad I wasn't more successful as I was hoping to convert some skeptics into Brussels sprouts lovers - they are so good! The only note I'd give about the linked recipe is that it is quite labor intensive unless you have a food processor. I don't, but I kind of like how cleaning and chopping can be meditative. On Thanksgiving morning I "meditated" for the better part of an hour!
The cranberries turned out better taste-wise, but were MUCH too liquidy. I didn't follow the linked recipe very closely, it was more of a jumping off point. I added freshly squeezed orange juice in the place of some of the wine and put in lots more of the rind than called for. I was thinking that either the rind or the berries themselves would provide some natural pectin to firm up the sauce, but no such luck. I did use the suggested amount of sugar and found that it was a bit too sweet for me. It tasted like cranberries in mulled wine. Which was good, but not what I was aiming for. I will look for a different recipe next time. One thing that struck me as I planned for this, my first foray into cranberry-sauce-making: it is super easy. Cranberries, some sugar, some spices, some liquid to cook it all in and you're done! And even though it wasn't even close to perfect it was really, really tasty and nicely complimented the other dishes.
All in all a wonderful holiday replete with great food, stimulating conversation, plenty of booze, and some toasts that made me tear up (thanks DR!). The Blatty's are amazing hosts and I am thankful every day of the year that they are in my life!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Four days left

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with a little heavy cream. Some EXTREMELY fatty bacon. In fact, I couldn't even really eat it. I ended up cutting it up into tiny pieces and adding it to the very bland leftover bean soup in hopes it improves and makes them both useful. Coffee.

Lunch: Turkey and the last of the gravy. Although I am sad to see it go, as gravy is wonderful as a rule, it gives me a feeling of accomplishment to polish off whole items from this odyssey of Thanksgiving leftovers, I feel like I have crested the mountain and am on the downward road now.

Tea: Yes, we had tea today at 4pm. We are very civilized. This was really an excuse to eat two shortbread cookies in the afternoon... I still have a ways to go here, if anyone wants to come to tea tomorrow.

Dinner: Salad, the same one from last night. It is a very winter vegetable salad: cabbage, celery, apple, red onion. The dressing is from the beet salad recipe. We also finished off the stuffing (Hooray!) by heating it up and throwing some chopped up turkey in with it.

I am planning on going to the store tomorrow now that I can see around the leftovers in my fridge and am noticing things like we haven't had milk in four days. (We have 3 containers of heavy cream though). So while I was looking around and making a list I decided to make provisions I can with what is here. I am getting much better at figuring out how to work with what I have, adapting recipes or making things up completely on my own. Before this project began I was very recipe dependent, running to the store when I didn't have the thing I needed. Now I feel like I understand the basics of food so much better and can make substitutions more easily and confidently, and I almost never look around the kitchen with a feeling of hopelessness sighing, "There is nothing to eat here!" In fact, this weekend's gluttony aside, there has actually been a lot less food here than at almost any other point in the last several years, yet I can always figure something out.

Right now I am simmering a pot of chicken stock, waiting for toasted oats to cool to make granola, steeping fennel seeds in warm oil for a salad I am going to make tomorrow, and I just finished making mini-meatballs. I'm going to watch the Biggest Loser while I wait for the stock to finish. Good day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hungry and grumpy

Today was a weird day. As I am writing this I am feeling hungry and unsatisfied that reminds of the way I felt often before the project started, but not so much since. Hungry, despite having eaten what should be a reasonable amount of food.
For breakfast I had cranberries and corn grits with pecans, which was great. Mid morning I split a banana with Baby J, so far everything was fine. For lunch I had some leftover turkey, gravy, dressing and potatoes, and a shortbread cookie which was fine. Then I met a friend for coffee where I had a cappuccino. When I got home I was starving and the power was out on our block. We had candles lit, but it was very hard to see in the kitchen, especially the refrigerator and nothing could be heated up since there was no electricity. I had some salad that my husband had made at that point, and a couple of bites of the open-faced turkey sandwich with gravy he made before the power went out. After I put the baby to bed and the power came back on, I microwaved a cup of bean soup that I made before Thanksgiving. After that I just felt more hungry, so I ate the last cornbread muffin, then another cup of the soup. I still feel weirdly hungry. It's 11:10pm. This sucks. I guess I'll just go to bed.

Poultry Seasoning

1 Tablespoon each:
Dried Rosemary
Dried Sage
Dried Thyme
Dried Majoram
Celery Seed

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns or 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Grind ingredients together in a mini-chopper, spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Makes about 1/3 cup.

Pilgrims Pie

This is from the Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Food Section of the Los Angeles Times. It is a simple and delicious way to use up a lot of leftovers.

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (I made this myself)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
4 cups combined diced leftover turkey and vegetables, at room temperature (We used brussel sprouts and a potato dish I made in a misguided panic that we didn't have enough food.)
2 cups leftover stuffing, more as needed, at room temperature
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes, more as needed, at room temperature

Leftover cranberry sauce, served on the side

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole (about 10 by 8 inches) and set aside. 2. Place a medium heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Melt the butter, then add the onion and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to soften and color, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Stir or whisk in the flour and poultry seasoning,  making sure to eliminate any lumps. The roux will pull together. Continue stirring frequently until the roux begins to toast and color, about 3 minutes.

4. Slowly whisk in the milk and broth, whisking to combine. Once the mixture begins to bubble, turn the heat down and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

5. Add the leftover turkey and vegetables, stirring to combine. Taste, adding more poultry seasoning, salt and pepper if desired. (Like I said, I made the poultry seasoning, and then accidently dumped the whole thing, about 1/2 cup, into the mix. I managed to get most of it out, but needless to say, I did not add more here.) Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

3. Use a spoon or an ice-cream scoop to alternate small scoops of stuffing and mashed potatoes on top of the vegetable mixture. Don't worry if the topping sinks slightly into the mixture. (Our stuffing wasn't the kind that could be made into scoops, so I just poured a layer of it over the turkey vegetable mix, then put scoops of mashed potatoes over that.)

Place the dish in the oven and bake until the vegetable mixture begins bubbling up and the stuffing and mashed potatoes are heated through and just beginning to brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and set aside for several minutes before serving. Serve in a bowl with a scoop of cranberry sauce on the side.


That's all I've been eating since Thursday, with the exception of the new pie (Paper Bag Apple Pie with Sour Cherries) that our friend Elizabeth brought over on Friday.

DR came up with a brilliant use for the leftover cranberries for breakfast. On Friday he just added them to oatmeal, which was pretty delicious, but on Sunday he made corn grits with cranberries and chopped pecans. We had it again this morning. I think that was finally the last of the cranberries...very sad.

On Friday I was too tired to be very creative, so we just heated up plates of leftovers as is for various meals. But on Saturday night I made Pilgrim's Pie. This is a recipe from Wednesday's LA Times, and it had that perfect, comforting, Thanksgiving leftovers taste. It was exactly what you imagine when you dream of eating leftovers. We ate it in warm bowls with cranberries on the side, so good. All along we've been doing our best to get through the desserts. On Saturday EM came over and did what she could for the cause. She even helped drink some of the wine that was open, and ate a shortbread cookie for good measure.

We finished off the pilgrim's pie last night, and the apple pie. We also made a salad of turkey, beets, celery and red onion, because it's good to throw some raw veggie's in the mix in these circumstances. Also, I don't have the luxury of falling down on the veggie eating front for too long. The CSA box requires you keep it up all week long or the guilt will destroy you. The pilgrim's pie finished off the mashed potatoes and dark meat turkey. We still have almost a full turkey breast, some stuffing/dressing, pumpkin pie, peach cobbler and buttermilk pie to go.


This is from Bon Appétit, November 2007. It is for the cornbread to accompany the Cornbread Dressing. But it could be used for just eating too.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Generously butter 9x9x2" metal baking pan.
Whisk together in a large bowl until well blended:
13/4 cups buttermilk. (I made the butter milk by combining milk and 13/4 tablespoons lemon juice.)
5 large eggs
2 Tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1.5 teaspoons baking powder (I'm still using what I have. But I plan to make some soon.)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Then whisk in 21/4 cups cornmeal
Then 3 Tablespoons melted butter.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until top is golden brown and tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. (It took about 35 minutes for me.)
Cool cornbread in pan on rack.

If you make this one day ahead, cool completely then cover and store at room temperature.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Fall Vegetables

This recipe is from Bon Appétit from November 2007

1 10 ounce bag pearl onions (if you can get multi-colored ones it is really beautiful)
2.5 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices (about 3/4lb)
2.5 cups peeled and sliced parsnips (about 3/4lb)
2 cups 1/2 cubes peeled rutabagas (about 3/4lb)
2/3 cup olive oil divided
1 pound crimini (baby bella mushrooms) stemmed, caps halved (I don't like mushrooms so we didn't use any.)
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
1.5 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
6 cups 1/2 inch cubes Cornbread
3 large eggs, beated to blend (I forgot to beat them, just cracked them over the mixture and stirred... it was fine.)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 cups chicken stock

Position one rack in the top third and one rack in the bottom third of the oven; Preheat to 425ºF. Cook onions is a small saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. (This will take the tearing burn out of them.) Drain.
Cool slightly, trim and peel. Place onions, carrots, parsnips and rutabagas in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 1/3 cup oil over and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to coat. 

Place mushrooms and garlic on another rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with remaining 1/3 cup oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat. Roast mushrooms and garlic on top rack until tender, stirring once for about 30 minutes. (Since I was not using mushrooms I didn't use as much oil and only roasted them for about 15 minutes). Roast root vegetables on the lower rack until tender and brown around the edges, stirring every 15 minutes for about 1 hour. (I gave them an extra 15 minutes). Add mushrooms, if using to root vegetables in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mash garlic with a fork until it's pureed. Add pureed garlic and herbs to vegetables and toss to coat. (I accidently mixed the herbs with the pureed garlic, which made it hard to toss with the vegetables, but I think it turned out OK.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

**You can do up to this point and make the cornbread a day ahead, which is a good idea because it is time consuming. Just let it cool, cover and stick in the fridge. Bring mixture to room temperature before continuing.

Place cornbread cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Let bread cubes stand at room temperature to dry slightly for about an hour. 

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter 13x9x2 inch oval baking dish. Add cornbread cubes to vegetables; toss to distribute evenly. Add eggs, toss to coat. Drizzle with melted butter, toss to coat. Add chicken stock and stir to combine. (Mixture will be very moist) Transfer to prepared dish.

Bake uncovered until lightly browned and crisp around the edges, about 45 minutes. (We put this in the oven as soon as we took the turkey out. The timing worked out perfectly.)



Shortcut Turkey Stock

In a large saucepan, combine:
8 cups chicken stock;
2 scrubbed unpeeled carrots cut into chunks (I used all the carrots in our stuffing recipe, so we didn't use any)
2 celery stalks cut into chunks
1 rinsed unpeeled onion, quartered
Stems from 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
Reserved Turkey neck, heart and gizzard
Bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low; simmer gently until gizzard is tender about 90 minutes. Transfer neck, heart and gizzardto plae. Strain stock into medium bowl and cool. If adding giblets to gravy, pull meat from turkey neck. Chop neck meat, heart and gizzard. (We did not do this.)
You can do this up to three days ahead of time. Just cover the stock and wrap the giblets and put it all in the fridge.

Lemon-Herb Turkey with Lemon Garlic Gravy

This is from Bon Appétit November 2007.

Lemon Herb Butter
1 large lemon
1 small head of garlic
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh fennel fronds
1 small shallot, chopped
1 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large pinch of powdered saffron or saffron threads

Make 4 long 1/2-inch deep cut in lemon. Place in a microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes. (This is a quick cheat for making Moroccan-Style "preserved" lemons, which usually takes from one week to one month to cure.)

Place garlic head in medium microwave safe bowl; add enough water to cover garlic. Cover bowl and microwave on high until soft, about 3 minutes. Transfer garlic to work surface: cool and peel.

Pour any lemon juice from bowl into small cup. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into same cup; reserve juice for gravy. Scrape all fruit and pith from inside peel halves; discard insides. Chop peel. Blend peel and garlic in mini-processor until finely chopped. Add butter and all remaining ingredients: process to blend.
**This can be made 2 days ahead. (We did it on Thanksgiving morning because we didn't read this ahead of time... I'm just glad it didn't require being made a day ahead - that happens to me sometimes)
Transfer to bowl. Cover lemon juice and lemon butter separately: chill. Bring butter to room temperature before using.

1 18 pound turkey, rinsed, patted dry inside and out: neck, heart and gizzard reserved for Shortcut Turkey Stock
3 lemons, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
10 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
6 fresh sage sprigs
6 fresh fennel fronds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Shortcut Turkey Stock or water

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 325ºF. Transfer 2 tablespoons lemon herb butter to small bowl; reserve for gravy. Sprinkle main turkey cavity with salt and pepper and spread with 2 tablespoons lemon butter. Starting at neck end of turkey, carefully slide hand between skin and meat of breast, thighs and upper drumstick to loosen skin.

Spread lemon butter over thigh and drumstick on both sides. Arrange a few lemon slices under skin. Spread remaining butter over breast meat; place lemon slices atop butter under skin.

Fill main cavity with any remaining lemon slices, parsley and sage sprigs, and fennel fronds. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Tuck wing tips under. (We could not get the wings to stay "tucked" so we pinned them with poultry pins.

Place turkey on a rack set in a large roasting pan. Rub outside of turkey all over with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. (My husband was doing this. He had a lot of left over butter, so he rubbed the outside of the turkey with butter instead of oil... I did pour a little oil over it before I put it in the oven.)

Pour stock into pan. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh reads 165º to 170ºF, about 3.5 hours. Tilt turkey so juices from main cavity run into pan. Transfer turkey to platter. Tent very loosely with foil; let rest at least 30 minutes. (internal temperature will raise 5-10º) Reserve pan.

2 cups (or more ) Shortcut Turkey Stock
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup creme fraiche (optional) We did not use this because I would have had to make it.

Scrape juices and browned bits from the reserved roasting pan into a large glass measuring cup. Spoon off fat, reserving 2 tablespoons. Add enough stock to juices to measure 12/3 cups.

Heat reserved 2 tablespoons fat in heavy large saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and shallot; sauté 2 minutes, Add flour; whisk until golden, about 4 minutes. Add degreased pan juices and 2 cups stock. Bring to boil, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat and simmer until gravy is reduced to desired consistency about 4 minutes. Whisk in 2 tablespoons reserved lemon juice, lemon peel, and sugar, then herbs. Whisk in creme fraiche, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


We hosted Thanksgiving at our house for ten people. It was a fun and delicious event. We made the Turkey, stuffing and gravy. Our guests brought everything else. My adorable brother Mike brought Bacon Wrapped Dates for the cocktail hour. Rich and delicious.

Jan Smelk brought Smashed Potatoes, I was thrilled that she went so far as to make her own Sour Cream. It's a good friend who is willing to indulge your craziness to that extent.

 EM made brussel sprouts and cranberries, both of which were tasty and fresh.We forgot to put the brussel sprouts out until we sat down, and I had already photographed the food, and I am a terrible blogger and picture taker, so I apologize for that. But they were good. Here are the beautiful cranberries.

We used a recipe for a Lemon-Herb Turkey we found in Bon Appétit Magazine. It was very good, but not the most amazing turkey I've ever had. I think simple might be more the way to go with turkey, as I have discovered with roast chicken. Next time I think we will try just brining the turkey overnight. This was a pretty beautiful bird, however.

We also did a lemon herb gravy. I liked it, but my husband thought it was too zesty. So again, I think simple can be better in these circumstances. It's fun to jazz things up with the traditional meals, but it's not always better than the traditional staples. I didn't get a picture of the gravy, again because I am the worst at taking pictures. Both of my sisters are great about things like that, and I wish they had been here because it would have been beautifully documented. But you are stuck with me, so it is hapharzard and incomplete.

I think the Roasted Vegetable and Corn Bread Stuffing was a top notch entry into the menu. I guess technically it is a dressing and not a stuffing since it was never stuffed into the bird. But I just can't get my head around calling it dressing because that makes me think of buttermilk ranch or thousand island, not a bread and vegetable side dish.

Of course I forgot to take a good picture of the finished project, so this one of the buffet will have to do. You can kind see how autumnal and beautiful it looks. Behind the stuffing are the cornbread muffins my friend the Yam Queen made for the festivities. She is a certified Southern Belle and these are her specialty. They were a great compliment to the meal.

Now for dessert!

It's kind of obscene how much dessert we had, and still have. I've been working hard to get through the leftovers, but it is a daunting task. Jan Smelk brought shortbread sugar cookies. Our cousin Tammy brought a buttermilk pie with strawberries AND a peach cobbler. My friend Lex, who just came back from Paris brought a Clafoutis. And Ben brought a pumpkin pie and real whipped cream to keep us from loosing site of tradition. Jan Smelk had the brilliant idea of adding whipped cream to her coffee and many of us followed suit, for just a little extra dose of decadence.

Here is a photo of our party right before eating. I am so thankful for every person at that table and everything about that meal. We ate so much delicious food, and sat around the table laughing and talking for hours after eating. To have such entertaining, generous and loving friends and family is no small thing and to have the time and resources to make and share so much good food is such a luxury I couldn't ask for more. It is a happy life I am leading and I hope I can always remember how lucky I am.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Smashed Potatoes

Hi all! Jan Smelk here with the potato recipe! Ok, so I kept on finding these awesome recipes for potatoes that all involved cheese. Since the process of "single ingredient" was encouraged (read: demanded), my BFF, cheese was not invited to the party. I had to figure out another way to attain rich dairy satisfaction. The answer: sour cream. But I had to make it! Shock, horror and disbelief were heard at the Smelk household when this was announced. But it was the easiest thing ever.

1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. buttermilk (turns out you can make that in five minutes!)

Put both liquids mixed in a jar (or a pint glass, like me) cover with lid or plastic wrap and leave in a warmish place for 24 hours. Then refridgerate. OMG it worked. And was tasty! And had no xanthum gum or gelatin. Wowza.

So that was done.
To make my potatoes, I read a whole bunch of recipes then made it up with stuff I thought would be good. I roasted two heads of garlic with olive oil in tin foil for an hour at 350. Sauteed a big shallot in a stick of butter for a bit, then added the roasted garlic by squeezing the heads in a rather disgusting and messy display of immaturity, giggling madly. They made farting noises, and plopped into the butter! I couldn't help it! I put that mixture in a tupperware, my sour cream in a tupperware, and 2 bunches of chopped green onion in a tupperware. I took these guys and a bag of yukon golds to CCA's house.

Boiled the potatoes for an hour, strained, then mashed with all the stuff in my tupperwares, adding the green onion last. I will admit, there were more potatoes than I had originally planned for, so I did add another half stick of butter and (don't tell CCA)a big splash of 1/2 and 1/2. But that evened the texture out to nearly perfect then we ate the heck out of them.

Everything served was delicious. The only thing that was better than the food was the company.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Round Two - Day 19 & 20

Yesterday began the preparations for Thanksgiving dinner, which we are having at our house. I will chronicle all the efforts to make it from scratch on Friday. In the meantime I will try to sum up the last couple of days. Tuesday I soaked some beans for a bean soup I made yesterday. I threw in the left over bones from the pork chops I made last week, and cut up a couple of the saltiest pieces of bacon. I thought this might be enough salt, but actually it wasn't. I ended up having to salt it when I served it, which never works as well as when you are cooking it. But that's a good lesson. Also, the recipe I used calls for chili powder, which I don't have, so I used curry powder instead. It didn't have the kick that I would have preferred. I'm going to have to learn how to make chili powder. I also had some bread with butter and some of the cookie pieces.

For lunch we had some left over roast chicken from Tuesday night with broccoli and bread. I am pretty excited about this chicken. I have been reafing the Julie/Julia blog, and she mentioned when she made Julia's roast chicken that she (like me) didn't find it worth all the turning and basting work. She said that she makes a roast chicken by rubbing it with olive oil, salt and pepper and putting it in the oven "for a while". So this is what I did and I think it was the best one I have made so far. I cooked it at 450º for about an hour and twenty minutes. Finally, the skin was almost crispy! I think if I had left it in for another 5-10 minutes the skin would have crisped up even more without drying out the meat. I can't believe that roasting a chicken has become the easiest dinner I can make. Two months ago this was something I would have to psyche myself up for for a few days and think about all day. This time I decided right before I put it in the oven. It worked out perfectly because I set Baby J up in his high chair with his dinner, and prepared the chicken and cut up some potatoes and carrots to roast underneath while he ate. I put it in the oven and then started the process of putting him to bed. By the time he was asleep it was almost ready, all I had to so was sauté some beet greens with olive oil and garlic to serve with it and a real grown up dinner was ready.

I apologize for skipping around. Yesterday morning, we had cornmeal pancakes and bacon. We made our own buttermilk for the first time for these pancakes. As promised, it couldn't be easier. A cup of milk, and a tablespoon of lemon juice, left to sit for five minutes. It fermented just like buttermilk! This kind of thing is one of the best parts of this project, seeing science at work! I wish I had paid more attention in school. Perhaps I will have a strong understanding of all of this chemisty and biology by the time Baby J is studying it.

I already told you about Tuesday's dinner, for lunch we finished off the mediocre pumpkin stew from book club night and for breakfast eggs and bacon. Throw in some broken cookie pieces and bread with butter and perhaps a banana or two and that should about cover it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 17 & 18 - Broken cookies are the best

Oh it is getting hard to do this. I think working backwards will help me... I just had some broken cookie pieces from a zip lock bag. I had a meeting last night at my garden about our holiday pot luck, and someone brought them from another event. She said they were samples from a "freelance baker" who was next to her at a neighborhood arts event.  She insisted I take them home, and since my brother was coming over for dinner and I figured they were homemade by this baker... I was trying to be helpful.

Before that I had Beet Salad, some of the mediocre Pumpkin Chowder from book club night, steamed broccoli and bread with butter. It was a rather nice meal. I love that beet salad. I also had it for lunch with the last of the lentil, meatball, bacon, salsa thing. That was a great combination when they mixed together on the plate. I was sad I didn't have more of both, it was kind of like the chocolate and peanut butter discovery in old Reeses commercials, except not as weird as eating from a jar of peanut butter while walking down the street or at the movies.

I think I also had parts of three bananas, all of which I shared with Baby J. He likes to act like he's eating the whole banana, and won't eat little pieces that are broken off, but he will only eat about a quarter of a banana in a sitting, so the rest is up to me.

For breakfast I had two eggs scrambled and some fried potatoes and coffee. Yesterday I left off at about midday so going back... for dessert I had some of the broken cookie parts and a glass of milk. Dinner was pumpkin stew in a pot and sautéed kale with garlic and oil, and bread. Before dinner, at the meeting I ate a whole cookie and some more of the broken cookie parts. I think that takes us back to where we left off.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Round Two - Day 16 and Beer

Are you as bored as I am with the daily report of what I am eating? It's just not as fun as it once was... There isn't much left in my house that would be considered contraband and when a lot of it is the same thing day after day it just get's too monotonous. I think I will have to work backwards this time. I just ate a banana. Before that I had some left over lentils cooked with salsa, onion, green pepper, bacon and mashed up meatballs I had made for Baby J. I made the meatballs almost a week ago and he really loved them, but I was afraid they would go bad if they didn't get eaten, and he only eats one per meal, so we finished them off. They were very good. I think I will post the recipe, as with a lot of the recipes for him, grown people would enjoy them as well. For breakfast I had oatmeal again, and coffee.

Last night I had a slice of pumpkin pie from Thursday night, before that we went to Wurstküche for dinner. This is a sausage and beer restaurant in Downtown LA. For obvious reasons it is a favorite of mine. In fact when I first read about it I felt as if it was created with me in mind as it's target demographic. Judging from it's popularity, I am not alone in my love of sausage & beer. The menu is simply that, about 20 different and exciting types of sausage (I had rabbit, veal and pork seasoned with white wine), your choice of two toppings from Carmelized Onions, Sauerkraut, Sweet Peppers and Spicy Peppers (I had onions and sweet peppers) and Belgian Fries and an assortment of dipping sauces (Bleu Cheese Walnut and Bacon). There are also about a hundred different beers, and they all come in the appropriate glass. I had the Floris Apple Ale, a witbier fermented with apples. It was sweet and autumnal tasting. We were inspired to go there because we were downtown at a beer making workshop.

We walked away with a half gallon jug of Winter Spice Ale. It is fermenting in our kitchen as we speak. If we don't carbonate it, it will be ready on December 5th, which is the official end day of this project. It is fitting to have some beer to drink, since we haven't had any in the house the whole time.

It looks like moonshine, which I love. The process was easier than I had imagined. The only ingredients you need are yeast, sugar and water. If I got it correctly you just have to bring one gallon of water to 140º, then add grains (must be at least 1/3 barley) and slowly raise the temp to 160º. Strain out the grains (which have broken down into sugar at this point). Then add your flavorings, spices and hops, etc. (I did learn that hops came into popularity because the Protestant Church of Germany required they be used exclusively because the majority of other herb growing was controlled by the Catholic Church - I might need to check the exact facts on this, but it was intriguing). Then you cool down the wort - that's what this mixture is called. When it gets to about 130º you can add a few gallons of cool water, which will bring the temp down even further. When it is about 95º, you pitch your brewers yeast. (Pitch means add). Then you cork it and put an airlock on it. Fill the airlock with some cheap high proof booze, like vodka, and wait 2 weeks for it ferment. At this point you have what Donny (Fella in the pic above) calls "alcoholic tea". He said they drink it this way all the time. But if you want to carbonate it, you can pour the mix into empty, clean beer bottles and cap them. They had a little device that puts caps on. If you leave it a few more days it will create the carbonation from the CO2 that naturally occurs. You can also sprinkle a little sugar into each bottle before capping to help the carbonation process along. The other alternative was to get a 5-gallon keg and a CO2 compressor. I'm not planning on doing that, so I didn't pay that much attention to that part. I'll let you know how it turns out.