Friday, December 31, 2010

Wines I Like

Not that I know a ton about wine, but I have learned lots by buying wine at Morgan and York in Ann Arbor.   I have taken a couple classes there, too about fondue and raclette.   The best thing about M&Y is that the staff is friendly and laid back and knowlegeable, and not food snobby at all, which they could be if they wanted to be.    They know their if you wanted to buy a fine French wine they could help you with that, and if you wanted some Boone's Farm, they'd offer to order it for you, no questions asked.

I took a "Reading Wine Labels" course there last winter, and wanted to learn more about the kind of wines I like.   I know that I like a really grapey tasting wine and that I had some good luck with Spanish tempranillo wines, but didn't know what kind of French wines would be like them.   Here was what I learned in the class - suggestions of wines I might like:

  • Côtes du Rhône
  • Vacqueyras
  • Gigondas
  • Cairanne
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape
  • Languedoc:
    • Vin de Pays d'oc
    • Pic St Loup
    • St. Chinian
    • Corbieres
    • Cotes du Roussillon 
 Now to print this out and put it in my wallet!

January Spice Rack Challenge: Rosemary

I have tons of rosemary in my house right now.   For the holidays, I bought a beautiful rosemary wreath that I have hanging in my kitchen.   My neighbor Martha's mom gave me a huge rosemary plant that is shrub sized - I have tried to grow rosemary indoors many times and I just don't get enough sun (I live in the woods) and I tend to forget to water my plants and rosemary needs a lot of water.   It's name means "dew of the sea" because where it grows in it's native Mediterranean, it likes to live near the ocean.   But I am trying to keep my shrubbery alive this winter and it is doing fantastic thus far.   The question is, what to do with it all?

Looking forward to seeing what you can do with it....feel free to use fresh or dried.   Please post by January 21, 2011 and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  It's not too late to join the Spice Rack Challenge....if you wanted to be added to the blog roll, just email me at momskitchen{at}comcast{dot}net.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ground meat recipes I want to try

Thai Beef with Chilis and Basil over Coconut Rice - from the Everday Food Show on PBS

Turkey Meatloaf with Fontina and Mushrooms - ditto

2011 Spice Rack Challenge - A Food Blog Challenge

There are many food blog challenges out there - the Daring Bakers, where participants are encouraged to bake a specific treat, or Tigress Can Jam  where there's all sorts of food preservation going on, or the Dark Days Challenge where you make a meal that's truly local and blog about it.    I was cleaning out my spice cabinet the other day...they don't fit into a mere rack; instead my dried herbs and spices have taken over two cupboards in my kitchen.  It dawned on me that I have some herbs and spices that are my favorites and get used up at a rapid clip, and still others that I use only occasionally.     I need inspiration - enter the 2011 Spice Rack Challenge!
  • Each month we'll focus on one dried herb or spice and post a recipe you've cooked using it.  The recipe may include others but the herb/spice of focus must be integral to the recipe. 
  • The month's spice/herb of focus will be announced the last Friday of the prior month.    The focused herb/spice will not be repeated in subsequent months. 
  • Bloggers will post their recipes on their blogs during the 3rd week of the month with the deadline being Friday midnight. (exact dates will be clarified each month when new produce in focus is announced) 
  • On the last Wednesday of the month I will post a round-up here and announce the new spice/herb of focus. 
  • Although this isn't a local food challenge, use of ingredients found locally are strongly encouraged.  For many of us, finding a locally grown spice isn't possible.   In fact, the desire to import spices developed the trade routes centuries ago and are an important part of our history.   Hundreds of years ago, the spice trade was controlled by the wealthy Middle East and inspired Columbus, de Gama and Magellan to find a better way around the world.  Nutmeg was worth more than gold!    Spain and Portugal spent much of the 16th century fighting over cloves, while England and the Dutch dueled over nutmeg in Indonesia.  So, lets use herbs and spices to inspire us to cook more with local ingredients.  

  • When do I need to sign up?  To participate in the challenge, sign up before the deadline for the first post, which will be January 21, 2011.  
  • How do I sign up? Send an email to: momskitchen(at)comcast(dot)net please put Spice Rack Challenge as the subject and include your name and blog url.  Participants will be listed here.
  • Do I have to have a blog to participate?  Yes.  It's really easy to start a blog.   This blog is written with Google's Blogger.  Or there's others out there like WordPress 
  • What happens if I should miss a month?   To participate, you will need to blog all 12 months.   If you miss a month, you can still participate, but will not be included in future roundups.   But you are welcome to post in the comments section of the round up post with a link to your blog post. 
  • What if it's past the Jan. 21 deadline and I still want to participate?  Great!  Just post a link in the comments section of the round up post each month.  
I look forward to your spicy posts!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Slow Cooker Sticky Toffee Pudding

I am a huge fan of the Not Your Mother's series of cookbooks.   I loved the slow cooker one so much I have given it as a gift and I just recently gifted myself with the latest one regarding microwave cookery.    In the slow cooker cookbook, there is a whole chapter on desserts, many are steamed cakes in a water bath, a la British puddings.    I decided for Christmas Eve this year, I would try sticky toffee pudding.   According to Saveur, this dessert was introduced  at the Sharrow Bay Hotel restaurant in England's Lake District in the 60s.  It is a steamed date cake that is very moist, and it is served with a toffee sauce and creme anglaise.   I looked at the techniques used in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook  and gave it a shot using the Cook's Illustrated recipe as a base and adapting it as I saw fit to make things easier and less fussy that the usual CI recipe.  If you are worried about not liking dates, don't worry.   The dates will be unrecognizable in the finished product.   Also, try it with different dried fruits like prunes or apricots, which I am sure would be lovely as well.
British pudding mold
To make a steamed cake in a slow cooker, you need a large oval one.     I have an All Clad Slow Cooker - it's large enough to do the job.  (note that I have been less than thrilled with this cooker - I got it with a gift card from Williams Sonoma and have had to send it back twice to All Clad for repairs)  There are other brands of slow cookers that are much less spendy that are better.    I used a proper British pudding mold to make my sticky toffee pudding.    I am not sure where something like a pudding mold could be bought in Ann Arbor these days, but you can get one easily online .     Originally, I bought one the now closed Ann Arbor cooking emporium Kitchen Port (may it RIP). Check Hollander's Kitchen and Home which I really want to like but never seem to find anything I want to buy there, or Barnes Hardware which is exactly the opposite - I always find too much stuff that I want to buy there.  You too?  On second thought, don't run out and buy a new pudding mold - I've seen them kicking around garage sales and the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Shop from time to time.  A steamed cake can be made in a ceramic bowl with aluminum foil tightly tied on top too.  The important thing is to have it tightly covered in the water bath.

Slow Cooker Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 ¼ c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ c whole dates, pitted and sliced.  Chop half of them into as tiny pieces as possible.
¾ c warm water
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
½ t salt
¾ c packed brown sugar
2  eggs
1 ½ t vanilla extract
4 T unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted

Grease and flour a small lidded pudding mold (1 ½ qt) or a medium sized ceramic bowl.   Fill a tea kettle with water and put it on to boil.  Combine the chopped tiny date pieces with water and baking soda and soak for 5 minutes.  CI says that the baking soda helps soften the skin on the dates.   Good to know!  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a food processor, combine remaining (large pieces) of dates with the brown sugar and process for about 30 seconds until the mixture looks like wet sand. Drain the  soaking liquid from the dates (reserve dates) and add to the processor, plus the eggs, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 5 seconds. With food processor running, pour melted butter through feed tube in steady stream and process until smooth.  With a spoon (don’t process) mix in the softened dates to the bowl.  

Gently stir dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking dish or mold.  Cover with lid or aluminum foil tied down with kitchen twine.   Place in slow cooker, and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up sides.  Cook on high for 2 ½ - 3 hours, until cake is firm and springs back when touched. Set on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert on a plate.

Toffee sauce

Toffee Sauce
8 T  unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 c packed brown sugar
2/3 c heavy cream
1 Tablespoon rum – Captain Morgan’s Private Reserve is wonderfully spiced and great in this sauce!

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks puffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly pour in cream and rum, whisk just to combine, reduce heat, and simmer until frothy, about 3 minutes. Pour into serving pitcher.

Crème Anglaise

½ c whole milk
5  egg yolks
¼ c sugar
Pinch salt
1 t vanilla

In a medium saucepan heat milk over medium heat until steaming, about 3 minutes. . Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl until pale yellow in color, about 1 minute.  Slowly pour 1/2 cup hot milk into yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture thickens slightly, coats back of spoon with thin film, and registers 175 to 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Add  vanilla.  Immediately pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer into serving pitcher.

To serve – plate pieces of cake and pass the toffee sauce and crème anglaise to pour over the top.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ammoglio in Winter

Everybody just LOVES Italian restaurants.   People always pick Italian for special occasions....ask 10 people what their favorite Ann Arbor restaurant is, and the majority will say Gratzi.   Heck, even Billy Joel wrote a song about Italian restaurants.....

I'm in the minority when it comes to both Billy Joel and Italian restaurants.   They are both not my first choice for the same reason - boring stuff that you've experienced too many times.    So I was prepared to be underwhelmed at a holiday luncheon I had at the Dearborn branch of a ho-hum Detroit based Italian restaurant chain called Andiamo this week.   I have never had a memorable meal there before... pasta is a cop out meal for me to make at home when I am crunched for time.   I don't care if it is hand rolled with semolina imported from Italy....I can't taste the difference.  I'm afraid Mario Batali is going to show up on my front porch for a throw down just for saying this.   Italian food is like Billy Joel on the radio - I'll put up with listening to the occasional "Piano Man" maybe once a year, but otherwise he's a guaranteed channel changer for me.

So imagine my surprise when I had this fantastic meal at Andiamo's...first of all, the building is really beautiful and sunny and overlooks the Rouge River and the woods.   I was going to get a salad because I'm trying to eat light this holiday season, but ended up sampling tons of appetizers and got a wonderful spicy seafood risotto that I am still thinking about, it was that good.   One of the appetizers we had was ammoglio, which is something I see around these southeastern Michigan parts.   It's a garlicy tomato based bread dipping sauce.   My brother served it with chicken fingers last spring at my nephews First Holy Communion.   I'm not sure if it's an Italian American thing or a true native dish from Italy, but it's very good!    I wanted to try making it at home with canned tomatoes.   The good people over at Red Gold tomatoes had recently sent me a case of their products for I decided to experiment.    I have always bought Red Gold tomatoes because they are a local Midwest brand and the tomatoes are grown here on Michigan farms.   Canning tomatoes myself isn't worth the effort for me - I find Red Gold tastes just as good and I can't can tomatoes any cheaper myself.    Just for fun, my family tasted Red Gold tomatoes and compared them with spendy canned San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy, and it was agreed that we all liked the Red Gold better.   It tasted less like the can and more tomatoey, and had a better texture, too.  I'm glad I can keep my food dollars here in Michigan where we need them.

I made ammoglio with canned tomatoes and dried herbs, instead of the traditional fresh ingredients, and it was great for this time of year.   Serve it with thin sliced Italian bread - I had some day old Zingerman's Farm Bread and it was delicious.

Winter Ammoglio
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
2 T dried basil
1 T olive oil
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 can petite diced tomatoes drained
2 T balsamic vinegar

In a blender, coarsely blend the ingredients in two stages.  Start with the garlic, salt, basil, olive oil, and  pepper.  When that is thoroughly mixed, blend in add the diced tomato and balsamic vinegar.  Tastes better if you can refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld,  but it can be eaten right when it is made and it's good, too.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Can Jam December - Cranberry Mustard

What a great canning year it has been for me!   I've canned some really great stuff this year, thanks to Tigress and her Can Jam.  I've also had the opportunity to teach lots of people how to can things at Ann Arbor Rec and Ed or demonstrating at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market.   For the last month of the Can Jam, we were requested to can something with dried fruit, and I have to admit, I took some liberties.  First, I decided to make a mustard.   I figured isn't mustard seed the fruit of the mustard plant?   I was hell bent on making a mustard because I am teaching a condiment class this winter and needed to try a few more recipes.   Plus, I am making ham for Christmas and I wanted to have something interesting to serve with it, and mustard is where I wanted to go.   So mustard it is!

I was inspired by a recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for cranberry mustard that said it was particularly delicious with ham, and it adds color and interest to meat and fish entrees.    I had some cranberries kicking around in fridge from the Thanksgiving holiday.   Dried cranberries could be used - just rehydrate a cup or so of dried berries in boiling water instead of using fresh.   

makes about 5 4 oz. jars

3/4 cup sugar 
1/4 cup dry mustard 
2 1/2 tsp ground allspice 

Bring vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add mustard seeds. Cover and let stand at room temperature until seeds have absorbed most of the moisture, about an hour or so.  
Combine mustard seeds and liquid, water and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Process until slightly grainy. Add cranberries and blend until chopped. 
1 cup red wine vinegar 
2/3 cup yellow mustard seeds 
1 cup water 
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
2-3/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Bring cranberry mixture to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in sugar, dry mustard and allspice. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by a third, about 15 minutes. 

Ladle hot mustard into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cloverleaf Rolls

Happy Thanksgiving!    We are celebrating Thanksgiving today just with my immediate family, which is fun.   We don't have to drive anywhere, so I can spend the day cooking, drinking wine, listening to Lynn Rosetto Kasper's Turkey Confidential and watching Detroit's Thanksgiving Day Parade (which I still call "Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Parade" because that is what it once was!).   Tomorrow I'll hit some Black Friday sales and then I am volunteering for a Selma event tomorrow making donuts to raise money to help local farmers.    Then off to my sister's for a bigger family celebration.  

My niece is home for Thanksgiving from college and this will be the first time we will celebrate Thanksgiving without my folks.   I still can't believe they are gone - last year, they both were well enough to eat Thanksgiving turkey with us and we did a StoryCorp interview and everyone cried.  By that time, it was obvious to all that Mom was dying.   My mom didn't come to know it until I got another doctor to tell her she wasn't going to beat this cancer because her oncologist was either a wimp or a scam artist and just wanted the $2500 a dose the Medicare would pay for chemo.   But at Thanksgiving, I didn't know that I would have to do this.   And of course, none of us could have predicted Mom and Dad would both go in the same year.   So, I am glad we did the interview so the grandkids would have something to remember the grandparents by.   Now with both my parents gone, I guess as the eldest I am the matriarch of the family now!  I can be "old Aunt Cindy, smellin' of lilac water" and forcing everyone to kiss me on the cheek.

But back to today....what's on the menu?   I decided I am not brining the bird.  Instead, I will do a riff on  Martha Stewart's Herb Roasted Turkey with whatever herbs I have in the house. I bought a small Peacock Farm turkey, and we'll have green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce from scratch and some pie.   My son was selling Grand Traverse Pie Company pies for his Washington DC trip.   I will start off my morning by taking the bird out of the fridge for a couple hours to come to room temp and cleaning the fridge out (an annual Thanksgiving tradition) so I can make room for leftovers.  And I will make cloverleaf rolls.   Here's my's a variant of a Martha Stewart classic white bread recipe that works for me every time.  

Cloverleaf Rolls - Makes 12 

      2 teaspoons instant yeast (or 1 envelope active dry yeast)
      1 cup warm water (110 degrees) water
      2 tablespoons honey, divided
      2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for bowl, pans, and brushing
      3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and dusting
      2 teaspoons coarse salt
      1 egg

Sprinkle yeast over 1/2 cup water. Add 1 tablespoon or so of the honey. Whisk until yeast dissolves. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add butter and remaining water and honey. Whisk flour with salt; add half to yeast. Mix on low speed until smooth. Add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing until dough comes away from sides of bowl and forms a ragged, slightly sticky ball. 

Butter a large bowl. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball. Transfer to prepared bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let dough stand in a warm place until it doubles in volume (it should not spring back when pressed), about 1 hour. 

Butter a muffin pan. Punch down dough. Divide dough into 36 pieces, roll into balls.   Place 3 balls in each muffin cup,  cover with a towel. Let stand until dough rises about 1 inch above top of pans, 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, beat egg until blended; brush onto rolls. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let rolls cool 15 minutes before serving.

And why not listen to Alice's Restaurant while you are at it?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nueske's Bacon Wrapped Dates

I have been writing this blog for almost 5 years now, and I am still genuinely amazed to find that other people besides my friends and family ever read it.   Sometimes I look at my blog's statistics and I am just shocked.....96 pageviews today already and it is only 8 am?   Almost 5000 pages were looked at in the last month?  Over 80 followers?   Wow!  In the last week, people have wanted to know how to make pickled eggs and Olga's Kitchen bread....which are always in my top 5 posts of all time.  However, for some reason folks are reading about how to make Bob Talbert's White Chicken Chili this week too.   These are all posts I wrote a long time ago but they are still getting read by someone.   How cool is that?

Another blessing about writing this blog is that occasionally, people send me stuff they want me to write about.   If it's something that's good, I will write about it.   And that brings me to Nueske's bacon.   Long before I started blogging, I fell in love with Nueske's.   Their apple wood smoked bacon smells like a campfire when you cook it, and it's taste is out of this world.   It's no accident that Nueske's is the bacon served at Zingerman's famous deli here in Ann Arbor.  It is really great Ann Arbor, this Wisconsin product can be found at Busch's and Hiller's.     So, I was really pleased when the good people from Nueske's sent me some of their products to evaluate.     I tried out their uncured cherrywood smoked bacon last night - it's a great choice for people trying to avoid nitrates.   They use celery juice instead of the nitrates and the cherrywood smoke is wonderful.   I made bacon wrapped dates for a cocktail party and the smell of it cooking drew a crowd into the kitchen.   This recipe is from one of my classic blog posts from years past - holiday appetizer hacks.   Since the holidays are upon us, check it out.  It features recipes that are easy and real crowd pleasers.    And thanks for reading!

Bacon Wrapped Dates

24 pitted dates
12 slices bacon, cut in half lengthwise

Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll each date in bacon and place on a foil covered broiler pan with the edge down. If it won't stay rolled up, fasten it with a toothpick. Cook until bacon is browned nicely, about 30 minutes.

This recipe is so ridiculously simple that it can be committed to memory., which is nice when the holidays are upon us and unexpected guests drop in.     Usually dates are easy to find this time of year and they will last quite a while in the pantry.   And bacon lasts a long time in the fridge - make sure to keep some on hand!  People that profess to hate dates will even gobble these tastes like a sweet savory bite of smoky goodness.    

Saturday, November 20, 2010


The best dad a girl could ever hope to have died on November 10, 2010.   What to say about my dad?  There are so many things....he was a wonderful guy, a sweet dad and loved to tell jokes.   He was the kind of person everyone liked.  I look a lot like him - his funeral picture is one from when he joined the Navy during WWII and everyone keeps telling me how much he looked like me at 17.   Same dimples, same eyes.   He'd been sick a long time....he lived a long life, etc.   It's still a shock when I think about it.  My mom died only 5 months ago - 2010 has been a tough year for us.  Now that our parents our gone, it's official....we are no longer "kids".    Pretty soon, I will have to put my childhood home on the market.   Not sure how that is going to feel.  

My sister shocked the guy at the phone company when she had to cancel our family phone line....he caught his breath when he looked at the service date....I am not sure when they got that phone number but we've had it at least since 1969.   She remarked that it was back from the Michigan Bell days.  I am surprised at how sentimental I am about that phone number.  I can remember memorizing it when I was going off to kindergarten.  Back then, no one needed to know the area code....of course it was 313.   It changed as Detroit grew into the suburbs, but the base number stayed the same.   Back in the day,  anything that wasn't 313 was long distance,  and no one called long distance then because it was expensive.    How many times have I written that number down in my life?   Thousands, I am sure.  I can remember being thrilled when some young man finally asked me for that phone number.   These days, when a boy likes you, you don't talk on the phone - you text.    A young woman might go through quite a few phone numbers now - it doesn't feel the same.   In my day, the first 3 digits indicated where you lived.   It meant something   Now with Vonage or Skype or a cell phone, who knows where you are?   I used that phone number on my first job application.    I called that number from college most every Saturday morning early, a tradition I continued until my mother got too sick to get up in the morning to chat as we always did.  

So I called it one last time just to see what would happen.  Sure enough, the recorded voice let me know that the number I had reached is disconnected.   Just like me.  Disconnected.   

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Can Jam November: Spiced Apple Rings

For this month's challenge, I decided to try a product I read about called Pickle Crisp, made by Ball.   It's calcium chloride, and it is added to pickles to make them more crisp, similar to pickling lime.  Linda Ziedrich wrote about it here on Culinate, so I gave it a try.  The result is a toothy apple ring - I was worried this batch would come out mushy.   I can't wait to use Pickle Crisp next year for all my pickling ventures!

Spiced apple rings are technically a sweet pickle, and I fondly remember them from my youth.  On vacation one time, we were at a restaurant that featured what we called a "smorgasbord" and they had a bowl of spiced apple rings in their bright fluorescent red dyed glory.  I ate them all!  Here's my shot at making them myself, sans the red food coloring.  

Spiced Apple Rings

12 lbs firm tart apples (maximum diameter 2-1/2 inches)
12 cups sugar
6 cups water
1-1/4 cups white vinegar (5%)
3 tbsp whole cloves
8 cinnamon sticks

Yield: About 8 to 9 pints

Wash apples. To prevent discoloration, peel and slice one apple at a time. Immediately cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, remove core area with a melon baller and immerse in ascorbic acid solution. To make flavored syrup, combine sugar water, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon sticks and in a 6-qt saucepan. Stir, heat to boil, and simmer 3 minutes. Drain apples, add to hot syrup, and cook 5 minutes. Fill jars (preferably wide-mouth) with apple rings and hot flavored syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Add 1/8th teaspoon Pickle Crisp, if you are so inclined.  Adjust lids and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.  

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fall back - what to do with my extra hour today?

Today is "fall back" day, where we end daylight savings time.  I am not a fan of daylight savings time - here in Michigan, this means it might be a little lighter when I leave for work in the morning for a while, but it will be dark when I leave.   Pretty soon it will return to it being dark when I leave and dark when I return and it will seem like I am spending my entire life in the office.   I need to remember to try to go out for a walk every day at lunch so I can see the sun!   On the plus side, today gives me an extra hour to do things....I am going to spend my day organizing and planning.  It's a good day to clean out drawers, bring out the sweaters, etc.

I am watching all the cooking shows I have recorded to free up some space on the are some recipes I have watched that I want to try:

Everyday Food's Chicken, Lemon and Dill with Orzo  is a great looking busy day casserole - I'd use chicken breast instead of the tenders and the bonus - the pasta doesn't need to be cooked first.

Lucinda Scala Quinn's Busy Day Chocolate Cake  - I am becoming a HUGE FAN of Lucinda Scala Quinn.   Just checked her cookbook Mad Hungry out of the library and I love her new TV show.   This recipe rocks because this vintage cake is mixed up and baked in the same pan, and it's vegan friendly, to boot.   Can't wait to try it.  It's a great recipe for kids to try, just as she suggests.  Heck, I think today is a great day for her short ribs menu

What are you doing with your extra hour today?.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en Eagle Tavern Corn Muffins

Yes, I do want you to spell it with the apostrophe....just like we used to do....

I am really blessed to be a member of the Henry's a museum complex right across the street from my office that my company's founder started so we could remember our past.   Henry once famously said "History is bunk" but he also created what he called "The Edison Institute" (what we now call "The Henry Ford").   About it, he said "I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used.... When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition."

The Henry Ford has a great collection of vintage Hallowe'en art, such as the witch postcard above, complete with the smiling moon, or the one above showing a witch riding in a melon car.    Check out the witch plane:

This charming postcard from the 30's says "May Hallowe'en frolics engage you tonight and your future by witches predicted be bright".  I love the cats having all sorts of fun in this one.

Looking for some good recipes to make for a tasty Hallowe'en dinner?  Recently the Henry Ford published an online collection of recipes called the Historic Recipe Bank.    I also found an out of print cookbook from the Eagle Tavern, Henry Ford's historically correct restaurant that makes the best corn muffins I have ever tasted.   Here is the recipe:

Eagle Tavern Corn Muffins

3/4 c all purpose flour
2 1/2 t double acting baking powder
2 T sugar
3/4 t salt
1 1/4 c yellow stone ground cornmeal
1 egg
3 T melted butter on bacon drippings
1 c milk

Preheat oven to 425 F and grease muffin pan with butter, oil or bacon drippings.  Place muffin pan in the oven until it is sizzling hot.   Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, then add cornmeal.   In a separate bowl, beat egg and add butter or drippings and milk.  Combine with the dry mixture with a  few rapid strokes. Put the batter in the hot pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.   Makes about 15 muffins.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yeasted Waffles

I'm currently reading a wonderful inspirational memoir by food writer Kim Severson called Spoon Fed and it featured Marion Cunningham's yeasted waffle recipe.  Marion was famous for serving guests these waffles, and I have to say they are a total hit at my house, too.   The recipe can be found all over the internet, including Orangette, but I tweaked the recipe to make use of what I have on hand....instant yeast and a round waffle iron.   The best part of the recipe is that it is started the night before and left to rise on the countertop, a la "friendship bread".  

Yeasted Waffles

½ cup warm water
1 package (2 ¼ tsp.) dry yeast
2 cups whole milk, warmed
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp. baking soda

Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. (The batter will rise to double its volume, so keep that in mind when you choose the bowl.) Sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour, and beat until well blended and smooth with a whisk. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it stand overnight at room temperature.

Before cooking the waffles, preheat a waffle maker. Follow your waffle maker’s instruction manual for this, but my guess is that you’ll want to heat it on whatever setting is approximately medium-high. My waffle maker has a heat dial that runs from 1 to 7, and I turned it to 5. My waffle maker is nonstick, so I didn’t grease it, and Marion Cunningham doesn’t call for greasing it, either.

Just before cooking the waffles, add the eggs and baking soda, and stir to mix well with a whisk. The batter will be very thin. Cook until golden and crisp.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vodka Pie Crust

Yesterday, I taught a pie making class for Ann Arbor Rec and Ed and several of my students had what I call "pie crust phobia" - they were scared of making pie because of the crust.   One woman wanted to make pie like her grandmama, but every time she rolled it out, it would crumble.   Another was from Puerto Rico and had never made a pie in her life because she heard it was difficult.   Pie has always been a passion of mine - I have loved making them since I was a girl and it saddens me that no one is making them any more.  I am thrilled that my good friend Ellen has gotten involved with Slow Food Huron Valley's Pie Lovers Unite, an annual celebration of pie.   If you'd like to impress others at your next potluck or surprise someone with a wonderful hostess gift, bring a pie!  Don't use the disposable aluminum pie pans that can be bought at the grocery store, they tend to burn.  Instead, stock up on pie pans.  I see tons of them all the time at the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Shop - they are usually no more than 50 cents.  Often they can be found at estate sales, too.   In the winter I shop estate sales for pie pans, vintage pyrex mixing bowls, and canning jars.  

My usual "go to" pie crust recipe is the one I like to call my Old Reliable Pie Crust, which is the same recipe I've been making since my 7th grade home economics class, and it's a good one straight from the familiar red gingham plaid Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.   However, it can be a challenge to roll out right if not enough water is added.   The challenge for new bakers is that water encourages gluten production, and if a crust gets manhandled when rolled out by making repairs or rerolling, it tends to get tough.     So, I started to experiment with a new technique that includes vodka popularized originally by Cooks Illustrated but now it's all over the food blogosphere.  By replacing some of the water with vodka, and goosing up the fat content with respect to flour, a novice baker is able to have a really wet dough with a soft consistency that is very forgiving.    Like many Cooks Illustrated recipes, their original is fraught with fussiness; it requires a food processor and lots of complicated instructions.   Any recipe that requires me to get my food processor out is what I consider an ordeal - not something I'd do unless I planned on spending the day in the kitchen.   

I wanted a recipe for my pie students that was easy and one that they could make on a weekday evening without lots of gadgets.  This recipe requires only a fork and a rolling pin.   If you have a bench scraper, it's nice to have to pick up and move the dough, but an egg turner would do in a pinch.  I've heard of people using a bottled water to roll out pie dough, so I guess you don't even need a rolling pin!  (However, rolling pins can often be found at estate sales)  The recipe uses both butter and shortening, although it could be used with all shortening or even lard.  No need for any fancy pastry flour.  The result is a light flaky crust and it's easy to roll out - it doesn't tend to form cracks.  Make sure to use lots of flour on the countertop and on the rolling pin - this dough has a very wet consistency.  If you need to pick it up and reroll it because you've made a mistake, have no fear, it will still come out great.   I prefer to use shortening in stick form - it makes it an easy job to cut it into small pieces.   Use the cheapest vodka you can find - save your Grey Goose to treat yourself to a cosmopolitan when the pie is in the oven.   The vodka will cook out while baking, and it won't leave any flavor in the crust.  Since alcohol prohibits gluten formation, it allows the dough to be wet enough to roll out easily.

Vodka Pie Crust - enough for a double crust pie

2.5 c all purpose unbleached flour
1 t salt
2 T sugar (omit for savory pies)
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter (if salted is all you have on hand, use it)
1/2 stick shortening  (8 T or 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup cheap vodka 
1/4 cup cold water

How to make pie crust:
1. Keep the fat  and liquid cold - I store my shortening and vodka in the fridge
2. Mix the dry stuff together with a fork
3. Cut up the fat in small pieces and mash it into the dry stuff with a fork until the pieces are about pea sized
4. Add enough liquid to form 2 hockey pucks that hold together well.
5. Refrigerate the pucks until it's time to roll out

How to roll it out:
1. Make sure the hockey puck doesn't have lots of cracks around the edges - use your hands  to fix any cracks
2.  Put  plenty of flour on the countertop put the puck on it.  Sprinkle flour on the puck.
3. Rub some flour on the rolling pin and roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick circle, rotating the dough to make the circle even. 
4.  Flip the dough over and sprinkle dough with flour and roll out to about an 1/8th inch thick.
5.  Use a bench scraper or spatula to fold the dough in half and put the pie pan next to the fold.
6.  Use the scraper to help place the dough in the pan, and unfold it. 
7.  Fill the crust and top using the same roll out and transfer technique. 

Want an idea for what to fill it with?  How about's how to invent your own apple pie 

6 apples good for baking - Ida Red, Northern Spy, Empire, Rome peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 - 3/4 c. sugar
3 T. flour
Spices - some ideas are 1 teaspoon or so of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, and (go easy on these! they have strong tastes) maybe a pinch of ginger, mace, nutmeg or allspice

Mix together and fill a double crust pie.  Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes with foil around the edges. Remove foil and bake for 20 - 25 min until crust is golden