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?.