Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving for Two

As usual, Cyd and I received an invitation to share Thanksgiving with my very kind and generous officemate and friend, Lee Ann, and her family. But we had also been invited to our newly-married friends Tony and Larry's first Thanksgiving gathering of friends down in the City. So we declined Lee Ann's kind offer, as we would go out of town instead. But as the date drew near, Cyd and I confessed to each other that we were simply EXHAUSTED, and just couldn't face the impeding road trip. Plus, I have also been hemorrhaging money lately, with home and car repairs and such. So we decided just to stay home, in our jammies, and watch the entire first season of Homeland, and make our own Turkey Day feast.

I had yesterday off, so I made almost everything ahead of time while my roomie was at work and I had the house to myself. First, I assembled my traditional holiday pickle bucket. Then I prepared my new favorite Thanksgiving tradition from last year, the zesty cranberry strumpet. Next, I made two side dishes from the Pioneer Woman, who never lets you down for a holiday feast. I made her cornbread, sausage, and apple stuffing, and also some deceptively simple, but really delicious Spanish green beans. In fact, I think it's to be a new holiday staple at my house!

Next, for something really out of the ordinary, I made kimchi mashed potatoes. Yes, kimchi! A friend had sent me the link to the recipe on Facebook, and I suspect he was kidding about it, but I thought it sounded great. And I really loved how they turned out, a sweet, orange-colored melange of both white and sweet potatoes, as well as carrots, although I did pull way back on the kimchi (and consequently, on the cream). Unusually scrumptious! Then for my last day-ahead project, I baked a pecan pie. WHEW!

So then today, after watching one of my favorite PBGVs, Fabio, get a Group Two in the National Dog Show (YAY!), I spatchcocked and roasted a 13-pound turkey slathered with herb butter (as I did last year) and made a simple gravy with the pan drippings and some Gew├╝rztraminer to deglaze. While the turkey was in the oven, I also roasted some Brussels sprouts with maple syrup and a squirt of sriracha and garnished them with toasted hazelnuts. Finally, I confess that I cheated and bought some sweet multigrain rolls to complete our Thanksgiving spread. Not bad for a simple dinner for two, eh?

I hope you are all having a lovely, restful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. ENJOY IT!

Pioneer Woman's Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Apples
(Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!)

32 ounces white button or crimini mushrooms
4 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups artisan/crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound Italian sausage
2 cups diced onion
5 whole Granny Smith Apples, large dice (I only used two apples)
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
32 ounces low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons rosemary, minced
*I added 1 tablespoon ground sage

1/2 teaspoon (additional) salt
black pepper, to taste
fresh parsley, minced

Allow diced bread to sit out on cookie sheets for several hours or overnight, until dried out. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Wash mushrooms thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Toss in a bowl with canola oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mushrooms will be very coated, but that’s good! Divide mushrooms between two sheet pans and roast in the upper half of the oven for at least 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through roasting. Remove from oven when mushrooms are deep brown. Set aside.

In a large skillet, crumble and brown sausage over medium high heat. Remove sausage from skillet and set aside. Without cleaning the skillet, add in diced onions and brown for five minutes. Increase heat to high and add diced apples, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until deep golden brown.

Decrease heat to medium and pour in wine (be careful if you’re using an open flame). Stir and cook to reduce liquid by half, about two to three minutes. Pour apple/onion mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Return skillet to medium heat (again, without washing) and add thyme, turmeric, rosemary, sage (if using), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Heat for a few minutes, then set aside.

Add bread to a large bowl, then add browned sausage, mushrooms, and apple/onion mixture (and juice that might have accumulated.) Next, add broth mixture gradually as you toss the ingredients, being prepared not to use all of the liquid according to your taste.

Check seasonings at the end and add in minced parsley. Pour into a large baking dish (I used an iron skillet) and bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. (Or you can stuff the turkey if you’re into that kind of thing.)

Pioneer Woman's Spanish Green Beans
(Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!)

5 slices bacon
1 medium onion
1 pound whole green beans (I use frozen)
1 can (14.5 oz.) whole tomatoes (I prefer diced, fire-roasted for this=more smoky flavor)
cayenne pepper, to taste
Slice the bacon up into 1 inch pieces and start cooking them in a large skillet or Dutch oven.
Keep cooking until bacon turns brown.

Meanwhile, dice one onion. When the bacon is beginning to brown, drain some of the fat and then add the onions. Cook, stirring now and then, until bacon and onions are both turning a nice golden.

Add the green beans right into the pan with the bacon and the onions. Next, throw in the tomatoes with their juice. Stir around gently and then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 45 minutes.
When they are finished cooking add cayenne pepper to taste up to about 1/4 of a teaspoon for a hotter dish. Stir gently and serve.

Kimchi Mashed Potatoes
(Source: adapted from NPR)

1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered
1/2 pound carrots, peeled, quartered
1 yellow onion, cut in large dice
3-4 garlic cloves
1 quart chicken broth
1 quart milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 pound butter, unsalted, cut into cubes
1 cup heavy cream, warm (I used much less)
2 cups kimchi, drained and cut into small dice (I only used 1/2 cup which was plenty, without being overpowering)

1. Boil potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic in chicken broth and milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain well.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add butter, cream, and potato mixture. Mash well.
3. Add kimchi and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 8-10 portions

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon (or 10 grinds) black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
*I added a squeeze of sriracha...and I'd do it again!
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped ( probably used half this much and there were plenty)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. To prepare the Brussels sprouts, remove any yellow or brown outer leaves, cut off the stems and cut in half.
3. In a large bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Once all of the Brussels sprouts are coated in oil, spread them into a 9- by 13-inch (or larger) baking dish or sheet tray to roast. Note: You may want to line your sheet tray with foil for easy cleanup because the caramelizing process leaves a sticky residue. Place in oven.
4. After 15 minutes, stir the Brussels sprouts with a spatula or large spoon to even out the browning. After 30 minutes, stir in the maple syrup and sriracha, if using. (Steps 1 through 4 can be done a day in advance; store covered in the refrigerator. Continue with Steps 5 and 6 right before serving.)
5. Continue to roast the Brussels sprouts for about 15 more minutes, or until they are fork tender (about 45 minutes total roasting time).
6. Toss the roasted Brussels sprouts with the hazelnuts and devour!

Yield: Serves 6

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'm thankful for this sassy green casserole!

WHOO-HOO! Finally, I'm on Thanksgiving Break--a brief respite before the onslaught of finals. So despite the fact that it's technically my roomie's night to cook, I told her I'd be in charge of dinner tonight.

I have been itching to try out the salsa verde that I made last month, so I was thinking maybe of making chicken enchiladas. But I didn't want to bother with rolling each one. So I envisioned a layered casserole, like a Mexican lasagna of sorts. I took another shortcut by using a deli chicken for the filling. And because I am currently drowning in milk from my (cow) farm share, I am always looking for ways to add dairy to a recipe. Hence, I mixed up a quickie salsa verde cream sauce to lusciously bind everything together.

This turned out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself! And there are plenty of leftovers for tomorrow night's dinner when I will already be working on Thanksgiving preparations, so that's a bonus!

Chicken Enchilada Verde Casserole

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 deli roasted chicken, skinned, deboned, and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon dark chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
salt, to taste (1/2 teaspoon? depends on how salty the chicken is)
2 cups prepared salsa verde (preferably, homemade!)
2 cups cream or half-and-half
12-16 small corn (or flour) tortillas
3 cups grated Mexi-cheese blend

To a skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions until tender and just starting to turn golden. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two. Combine the onions and garlic with the chopped chicken and the spices. Reserve.

Mix together the salsa verde and the cream or half-and-half. In the bottom of a 9x13 dish, spoon in about a cup of the sauce. Using kitchen shears to trim the tortillas, cover the bottom of the dish with an even layer of tortillas, overlapping a bit to cover any gaps. On top of the tortillas, place half of the chicken mixture, a cup of shredded cheese, and drizzle on another cup of the sauce. Repeat with another layer of ingredients in the same order, then top with one final layer of tortillas and the last cup of sauce.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then add the last cup of cheese evenly on top and put it back in the oven for five minutes or so, just until the cheese melts. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or Mexican crema and a sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Midwestern Memories: Chicken and Noodles

I made the BEST pot of chicken and noodles for dinner tonight, which is really saying something, as I've been making some version of this dish for almost 20 years now! I was first introduced to chicken and noodles in 1993 by my sweet friend, Karen, who made it for me and our other roommates when we were living together in a big house in Kankakee, Illinois. And I'm sad to say that, after I moved away to Utah and then to New York, that there was a long stretch where I couldn't replicate the exact recipe, because I couldn't find Reame's frozen noodles anywhere outside the Midwest. But thankfully, Walmart has started carrying them for the past couple of years. Of course, you can use a different kind of noodle or make your own (which I had to do for years, in the absence of Reame's), but it's really not the same.

Now, there are several ways to do this, of course, including doing it all on the stove top or all in the crock pot. But I have devised a hybrid methodology that works well for me. I also like to split the prep over two days, doing some of it a day ahead. But you needn't. Here's my favorite way of making this hearty, comforting dish...

Gina's Chicken and Noodles

1 whole chicken
4 quarts chicken broth, divided
1 tablespoon chicken soup base (or to taste)
1 onion, peeled and cut in eighths
2 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 family-size can cream of chicken soup
1 24 oz. package Reame's frozen egg noodles
2 cups cream or half-and-half
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

(I do this the night before I want to have chicken and noodles.) Place the chicken along with two quarts of broth, the soup base, the veggies, and the bay leaves and peppercorns in the crock pot. Cook for about four hours on high (or all day/overnight on low). When the chicken is tender, remove it from the crock pot and refrigerate. Strain the stock through a sieve, then refrigerate that, too.

The next day, de-fat the cooked and chilled stock, then combine it with the other two quarts of broth, and bring all the liquid to a boil in a large stock pot. Whisk in the cream of chicken soup until mostly smooth and return to a boil. Add in the frozen noodles and bring back to a boil, stirring to separate. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the noodles are sufficiently tender.

Meanwhile, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and break the meat into large chunks. When the noodles are tender, stir in the chicken, the cream, and the fresh parsley, and cook on low until heated through (don't boil). Correct the seasonings if necessary, then serve piping hot in large bowls.

*If you want the authentic Midwestern carbo-loading experience, serve over homemade mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Monster Cookies Before Christmas

My friend June has been so busy at school this semester, that she asked me to be the co-advisor of the student gay-straight alliance club. This week, the GSA hosted a fundraising bake sale with a dark and semi-creepy "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme. Of course, I wanted to contribute something for the sale, but this was also the week of the intramural public speaking competition that I coordinate each semester, so I wasn't up for anything too involved. Plus, I find that fussy things don't always go over well at bake sales. Simpler is usually better.

I remembered that on a recent episode of "The Pioneer Woman," she made some yummy-looking (and theme-appropriate) "monster" cookies that also looked very quick and easy. The recipe calls for everything but the kitchen sink, but it's also very adaptable, so you can use whatever goodies you have on hand or prefer.

PW's Monster Cookies
(Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

2 sticks (salted) butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 whole large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup M-n-M's (I swapped out macadamia pieces)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used bittersweet chunks)
1/2 cups peanut butter chips (I swapped out toffee bits)
2 1/4 cups Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter with sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and kosher salt. Add to mixing bowl and mix till combined. After that, add in remaining ingredients in whatever quantity you prefer. Add more nuts if you’d like, or more M & M’s, more peanut butter chips or chocolate chips. Add Rice Crispies at the very end, mixing until just combined. Do not overmix!

Use a cookie scoop to scoop balls of dough onto a cookie sheet. (I used a half-sheet pan line with a Silpat, and used a muffin scoop to make six monster-sized cookies per pan.) Bake until golden brown, then allow to cool on a rack. (The large cookies took about 15 minutes to bake, and I got 20 cookies out of one batch of dough.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Like that Bible miracle...but with ham.

I have been playing my Aldi "Chopped" game again, where I wander around the store, grabbing random things, then I come home and figure out how to combine them. This round, I sliced up half a large onion and put it in the bottom of the crock pot, then put in a small ham (3-4 lbs.). I sprinkled it with pepper, garlic, and ground celery seed, and slathered it with grainy honey mustard and a handful of brown sugar. Then I added the mystery ingredient--a jar of red cabbage and apples--and finally, a good splash of apple cider vinegar. I cooked it in the crock pot on low all day (6-8 hours) then served it with homemade mashed potatoes. This is my basic methodology for cooking pork roast, but I wasn't sure what it would be like with ham. As it turns out, it's DELICIOUS! My roommate was heard to exclaim, "I never want to eat anything else but THIS!" Ha ha.

We had this ham dinner for two nights, and there was still plenty left. Monday night after choir rehearsal, I stopped by Panera to buy a loaf of bread to make some sandwiches for an Election Night party (FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!), but they were closed. Boo hiss. So I popped into Walmart and I was surprised to find that they had Cubano bread in their bakery. So I made two (whole loaf) Cubano sandwiches for the get-together.

A Cubano is normally ham and pork roast, but I used ham and honey roasted turkey, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and homemade pickles, and crisped up the bread and melted the cheese in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes before serving. My fellow Democrats gobbled them up, despite the fact that Cuban sandwiches made no sense thematically for the occasion. Tee hee. (Pictured left is the AWESOME serving platter than my darling friend, Kurt, sent me for my birthday. It reads: "Democrat: a person who believes in the political and social equality of all. A member of the Democratic Party of the United States." How perfect is that??)

And can you believe that there was STILL ham left after all of this? So for lunch today, I chopped the remaining ham (a couple of cups?) and whizzed it up in the food processor with half of an onion and three medium dill pickles, a good dash of black pepper, and about a half cup of mayo. Then I toasted up some bread, slathered on the ham salad, topped each open-faced sandwich with a slice of sharp cheddar (one had to have pepper jack when I ran out of cheddar), and some tomato slices for my roommate's sammies. YUM! And all this from one little seven-dollar Aldi ham! I AM THE BUDGET MASTER! FEAR ME!

Saturday, November 03, 2012


This silly anecdote will come as a surprise to know one who knows me, but here it is. I was watching the Halloween episode of Minday Kaling's new sitcom, and she made the following joke: "This Ethiopian lady in my building is handing out doro wat. It's like this chicken stew with eggs in it. Kids love it." So naturally, I had to Google doro wat....and then make some for myself, along with a reasonable fascimile of injera, the Ethiopian flatbread that one uses to mop up the spicy, saucy goodness.

The main problem with making Ethiopian cuisine at home is not having access to authentic ingredients--namely, the berbere spice mixture for the doro wat and the grain, teff, for the injera. So I had to fashion a faux berbere using nearly every spice in the cupboard, and then I converted the recipe to made in the crock pot, as is my way. Also, the injera batter is described as fermented and slightly sour-tasting, so I used some whole-wheat flour and a half cup of sourdough starter. That worked fairly well, and the resulting dinner was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself! Thanks for the inspiration, Mindy Kaling!

Crock Pot Doro Wat (Ethiopian Chicken and Pepper Paste Stew)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 lbs. skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cardamom
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon fenugreek (I swapped out cumin)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

8 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and then brown the chicken on both sides. When browned, take the chicken out of the skillet, remove the skin, and place the pieces in the crock pot. Then, in the bowl of a food processor, add the onions, ginger, and garlic, and process to almost a paste. Drain most of the oil from the skillet, leaving about two tablespoons. Melt the butter in the pan, add the onion-ginger-garlic mixture, and cook for a few minutes until translucent and tender. Stir in the tomato paste and ALL of the spices, except the salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomato mixture just starts to color. Whisk in the chicken stock, red wine, lemon juice. When thoroughly combined, pour this sauce over the chicken in the crock pot, cover, and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8, until the meat is almost falling off the bone. Serve with one hard-cooked egg in each helping, and injera (flatbread) or rice on the side.

GREAT TIP FOR LEFTOVERS: When the doro wat has cooled, remove the bones and gristle and any bits of skin from the chicken and discard. Shred the chicken back into the sauce and refrigerate. The next day, peel and dice one large sweet potato and add to the crock pot with a quart of vegetable (or chicken) stock, along with a teaspoon of dried thyme. Cook for about two hours on high or four hours on low until the sweet potato pieces are tender. Stir in the leftover doro wat, plus one or two cans of drained chickpeas. Cook another hour or two until heated through. This makes a TERRIFIC soup, maybe even better than the doro wat in its original form!

Faux Injera (Ethiopian Flatbread)
(Source: adapted from Whats4Eats)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 cup sourdough starter
2 to 2 1/2 cups club soda (or water) 

1. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over a medium flame. Mix the flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in the club soda and mix to a smooth batter. It should have the thin consistency of a pancake batter.
2. Wipe the skillet with a little oil using a paper towel. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the batter into the skillet and spread it with a spatula to make a large crepe. Let bake in the skillet until all the bubbles on top burst and begin to dry out, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Carefully turn the injera over and cook on second side another minute or two. Try not to brown it too much.
4. Remove the injera to a warm platter and repeat with the rest of the batter, wiping the skillet clean with an oiled paper towel each time.
5. Serve immediately or hold covered in a warm oven.