Sunday, November 30, 2014

Best Cranberry Sauce

I really like cranberry sauce, but unfortunately, I am the only one in the family that does so I get to eat a lot of it.    This year, I was looking for the perfect recipe - nothing exotic like curry powder in it, no pecans, something that could be eaten on it's own, because it would be something I'd be eating long after Thanksgiving Thursday.   My friend Karen had suggested one she makes every year from an old issue of Cooking Light , circa 2001.   Let's pause a moment and lament the demise of Cooking Light.....

I finally had to let my subscription lapse after a while.   It changed - became more of a "woman's magazine" talking about beauty and fashion and less about cooking and lifestyle.   I used to love reading that magazine cover to cover on the day it arrived.   It would talk about an apres ski get together that included mulled wine and a roaring fireplace and appetizers that tried to stay below their unwritten caloric threshold of about 300 calories.   I don't know why it was 300 calories, but that's what it seemed to be.  Granted, if you ate enough 300 calorie appetizers, the point would be moot but that didn't matter.   What they did well was conjure up an image in my head of good friends getting together with good food after some exercise.   I don't know what drove them to change their format; it could be that I was part of the vanishing breed that still liked their food/lifestyle/travel groove.   After all, that's what killed Gourmet Magazine.   It seemed they were shooting for the Real Simple (a magazine I despise) style of mag....short brief articles with good photography intended on selling stuff more than content.   These days, Cooking Light has become a  Real Simple clone, so I let it go.   But I have hope for the kind of food mag that I like....Saveur and Bon Appetit are still really good at telling me about food and lifestyle.   EatingWell has filled the void that Cooking Light left in the world.   And thank God Martha Stewart Living (1-year auto-renewal) fired Pilar Guzman - during her brief tenure there she tried to "Real Simplify" that magazine too but luckily they got back on the right track.

Okay, back to the CRANBERRY SAUCE.   The original Cooking Light version had apples in it, instead of pears, but pears are what I had so I went with it.  I also added apple cider, but water or any kind of fruit juice could be used. It came out delicious!  It goes well even as a side dish - it's not too sweet.  Envision yourself eating this with good friends following an afternoon of snow shoeing in the woods for a winter solstice celebration. Don't you  feel like you are in a Cooking Light article from 20 years ago? Cranberry sauce like this is too good to be served just on Thanksgiving.....

Cranberry Pear Sauce

1 1/2 cups chopped unpeeled cored and seeded pears
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until thick (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Cool completely.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Cookies

This year, I've really been getting into making decorated cookies.   The latest in my collection are these Thanksgiving themed ones....I bought a pumpkin cutter for Halloween and never got around to making any, so I wanted to try it out.  A cookie project like this takes 3 days - one to bake the cookies and let them cool, one to decorate and let them dry, and then they are ready on the third day.

I wanted an autumnal flavor, so I tried a Dorie Greenspan recipe from a 2007 vintage Bon Appetit.   Speaking of BA, have you checked it out lately? I have been finding it very inspiring and I love my recent subscription.    I thought the recipe sounded unusual because of the dry mustard....they came out delicious and perfectly spiced.  I used dark molasses instead of light and amped up some of the spices a little.  This recipe is definitely a keeper for me!  It made a nice crisp cookie which is critical for iced cookies like these.

Spice Roll Out Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, allspice, nutmeg, mustard, and cloves into large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in another large bowl at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat 1 minute. Add molasses; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form each half into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic; chill until firm, at least 4 hours. I left mine in the fridge for 4 days until I had time to roll them out and bake.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper to 1/8-inch thickness for smaller (2-inch) cookies and 1/4-inch thickness for larger (3- to 4-inch) cookies. Using decorative cookie cutters, cut out cookies and transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.. Gather scraps, roll out dough, and cut more cookies, repeating until all dough is used. If not icing cookies, decorate with sprinkles or other sugar toppings, if desired. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are firm on top and slightly darker around edges, about 8 minutes for smaller cookies and up to 12 minutes for larger cookies. Cool completely on rack. Line baking sheets with fresh parchment as needed.

I have written very often on this blog about decorating with royal icing.   To get the recipe and technique, check out this blog post.  I had some brown left over from making footballs in early November that I kept in a plastic container in the fridge.  Royal icing is supposed to be good for a couple of weeks just sitting on the counter - but I put it in the fridge for good measure.   I had to add a little water to get it to the right consistency.  I used a Wilton #2 tip for the piping, and I flooded the pumpkin sections at different times to get the 3D affect.   To make the turkey tail feathers,  I piped 3 lines and used a toothpick in a figure 8 pattern.   I can't wait to try that same pattern with my Christmas tree cutter this year.    I made these cookies last week and froze them in a plastic container - to thaw them, keep them in the container and bring them up to room temp so the icing won't separate.

Mothers Kitchen Facebook Group

Hi everyone! I wanted to explain what this group is about...I've been writing my blog since January 2006. Almost 9 years! Over the course of the years, social media has changed quite a bit, and one thing I have noticed is that people tend not to comment on blog posts anymore...and I miss that interaction. So I am experimenting with facebook to see if a group will work well in that space. Also, I've found myself participating much less in yahoo groups and other email based social networking. So, I am going to try to keep the discussion going in facebook about food, cooking and canning etc. and see how it goes.  If you'd like to join the group, check it out here:

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Chicken Shawarma with Toum

The other day, I was listening to the Splendid Table and it featured a discussion about toum, the Middle Eastern garlic sauce.   I work in Dearborn, which is home to the largest group of Middle Eastern people in the U.S. and toum is a restaurant staple.    It's hard to describe, but it is a very light condiment and packs the largest wallop of garlic in any food I have ever eaten.    However, on the radio show, it was suggested that toum could be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a month.   It can be used whenever you'd use garlic - in a salad dressing, a marinade, etc.   I had made toum before, and it had egg white in it, but the recipe they discussed didn't, so I can see how it could be stored for a while.  It's just lemon juice, garlic and oil.   I like the idea of having it on hand for cooking, so I decided to whip up a batch yesterday.


Since I was making toum, I decided to make chicken shawarma sandwiches as well.   I marinated some chicken breast cubes in lemon juice, olive oil and some ground coriander and salt, and broiled the cubes.   I made a batch of Olga's Kitchen bread to wrap the chicken in, and added a dollop of toum and some dill pickle spears.   Delicious!

Here's my take on the Splendid Table recipe.    It requires a food processor, but I've made it in a blender before so I bet that will work too.  I tried their suggestion to peel garlic by soaking the cloves in lukewarm water, this DID NOT WORK.   I've tried the other method suggested in the past, which is shaking garlic cloves in 2 metal bowls; that is about 50 percent effective, so I didn't bother trying it again.   It's very messy and loud!  For perfectly peeled garlic, the best method I have found over the years is a garlic tube:
garlic tube

However, since the garlic for this recipe is going to be pureed, just smashing each clove with the side of a knife works great, so that's what I did.  

Makes about 2 cups

1 cups peeled garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, or more as needed
Juice from 1 fresh lemon
3 T water

Combine the garlic cloves and salt in a food processor. Puree until as smooth as possible, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl as needed. With the motor running, gradually add 3/4 cups of the oil in the thinnest possible stream; do not rush the process or the mixture will separate. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Gradually add 1/4 cup more of the oil in the same manner; the mixture should begin to set up a bit.  Then gradually add the lemon juice. The mixture will become lighter and whiter. Add 1/4 cup more of the oil in the same gradual fashion as before, then slowly add the water. The mixture will loosen but should not be runny.  Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. The resulting garlic paste should be creamy white and fluffy, like beaten egg whites. If not, keep the motor running and add more oil to achieve the right color and consistency.  Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid; seal and refrigerate for a few hours before using, and it's good up to a month.  Use it to add to salad dressing and marinades or anywhere else garlic is used.