Thursday, December 30, 2010

Family Pizza Night

Ahhhhh, the week between Christmas and New Year's brings something everyone's been craving:  down time.  The family celebrations were lovely and now it's time for celebrating with friends (aka the family we choose).  And so the Bowers were invited over for a bit of a reunion.  Our girls are the same ages and despite all of our moves, they've remained constant friends.  It's been a bit tricky during the high school and college years to coordinate schedules, so last night was probably the first time in three or four years that we were all together.  Good times.  Plenty of stories.  Lots of laughs.

candid photo of friends and family
please note the 9th plate in the corner, can't turn away a hungry boyfriend

Good night for a "simple" dinner.  Every winter I break out my deep dish pizza pan and someone has to come over to share the pizza;  I'm pretty sure the finished product weighs at least five pounds.  Since we were having 8 for dinner I decided to try a recipe for deep dish spinach pizza like Girodano's from Chicago in addition to my classic deep dish recipe.  Two pizzas.  One pizza pan.  The spinach pie was assembled and baked a day before.  The loaded pizza was a same day operation.  Both were served with a kitchen island salad bar.  

Let's open our discussion today with the classic deep dish recipe.  My younger brother gave us the deep dish pizza set (pan, cutter, recipe book and I believe peel which is long gone) over 20 years ago.  I checked the recipe booklet and it's dated 1978.  For the record, in 1978 I was either a freshman or sophomore in high school and my younger brother was either in third or fourth grade.  I am pretty sure he did not run out and buy me a pizza set in 1978.   I do remember walking little Keith into town almost every Saturday morning to go to the Bavarian Pastry Shop for bearclaws.  That would be our culinary history for 1978.  

I have used the recipes for cheese and onion dough and basic tomato sauce every year since the arrival of the pan.  Probably the only things that have changed are that I now freshly grate the Parmesan for the dough instead of using that fabulous green can from Kraft (classic), I use chicken italian sausage instead of pork and I use fresh mushrooms instead of canned mushrooms.   No need to reinvent the wheel.  (Okay, I say that a lot and this time it's a bit funny since college pizzas were always "death wheels" from Dominos and those did need reinvention).  

If you don't have a deep dish pizza pan, borrow mine!  If you aren't my neighbor then do a little research and find yourself a pan.  Mine is just a straight-sided massively deep metal pan.   This is all going to look supremely complicated, but just give yourself a Saturday or Sunday and take it in steps.  It's not terribly tricky, just a little time-consuming.  Something you hopefully have a little more of in the dead of winter than the rest of the year.  Your house will smell delicious!  

Cheese and Onion Pizza Dough 

4 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 T salt
1 T sugar
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1/2 C melted butter
1/2 C dried minced onion
2/3 C grated Parmesan 
2 1/4 tsp yeast  (one packet)
2/3 C very warm water (hot to the touch, but not scalding)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar.  Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.  Pour in the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir thoroughly with a big wooden spoon.  If your dough is not coming together, don't panic yet.  Beat the egg and egg yolks together and add with the melted butter to the flour bowl.  Mix until dough forms a ball in the bowl.  Add extra water sparingly if needed to form the ball.  Add flour sparingly if the dough is too sticky.  Stir in the onions and cheese.  It's okay if they aren't fully incorporated yet.

Dust a dough cloth, silicone mat or other suitable surface with flour.  Dump out the dough mixture and knead it all together for 8 to 10 minutes.  Make sure you incorporate all of the cheese and onions (i.e., the good stuff).  This is not hard;  turn on some good music, have a little flour handy and work it out until your dough is nice and smooth.   Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into your dough bowl and coat the inside of the bowl with the oil.  Put your nice big ball of dough in the oiled bowl and turn it a few times to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel.  Set it in a warm and draft-free place to double in size for an hour or so (I usually turn my oven on for just a couple of minutes to take the chill off and then put the dough in the oven with the door closed making sure the oven is now off).  Make your sauce and prep your toppings while the dough rises.  

risen dough not in my dough bowl which is a funny story for another day

Basic Tomato Sauce

1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 28-ounce can of San Marzano plum tomatoes or any tomato you enjoy (I used diced Muir Glen brand)
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano

In a large saucepan, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add remaining ingredients (except oregano) and stir well.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, uncovered.  Stir occasionally and keep the heat low.  Add oregano and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  

basic tomato sauce, mine is a little chunky

Pizza "toppings" (deep dish toppings are under the sauce)

1 pound pork or chicken Italian sausage; browned, crumbled and drained
4 to 8 ounces sliced Pepperoni
green pepper, chopped
white onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 C shredded Mozzarella and or Provolone

Deep Dish Pizza Assembly

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  

Punch down the risen dough.  Lightly flour a rolling surface.  Roll out dough large enough to cover bottom and sides of pan.  I patted mine into a giant circle.  A rolling pin works too.  This time I rolled onto parchment because my silicone mat that fits this dough is no longer with me and needs to be replaced.  Lightly oil the pan (or do whatever your pan's directions tell you to do).  Flip the dough into the pan and press into the corners and up the sides.  

Sprinkle the bottom crust with the shredded cheese.

Evenly distribute the toppings.

Evenly spoon on the sauce.

Add additional freshly grated Parmesan.

Bake in middle of hot oven for 25 minutes until crust is golden brown.  

Share with friends!
break out the vintage photos from their early years :)

College football calls.  I love college football.  Any teams, any game.  The season is almost over so I'll post the spinach pizza recipe tomorrow.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowball Cookies

It's Christmas Eve day!  My bread machine is kneading and rising dough for the much-requested cinnamon bun bread.  My oven just baked two sheets of snowball cookies because I had two egg whites left after making the cinnamon bun bread dough.  Now the delightful "stuffing bread" from Great Harvest is in the warm oven after being cut in rough cubes.  Note:  stuffing bread has onions, sage and all the seasonings you need for stuffing already baked in to a light wheat bread, how great is that?

So for a little stocking stuffer, here's a quick recipe for one last batch of cookies.  These cookies are almost guilt-free.   Our neighbors from the Saddleback Drive days, the Maryanskis passed this along to me probably 15 years ago.  We now live in the same neighborhood again, both of us moving here almost nine years ago.  We stopped in Michigan and Ohio first.  Kind of a nice little serendipity there.  They are the calmest, sweetest and rational people.  Perfect neighbors for when you have babies and toddlers in the house as we did then.  Now they are going to be grandparents this spring.  Awwww.....

Have a joyous and merry Christmas!

Snowball Cookies

1 C confectioner's sugar
1 C coarsely chopped pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (the box from Costco is fabulous, wider than the parchment from the grocery/Target).
Process the nuts and confectioner's sugar until finely ground (about 30 seconds to a minute).  Add the egg white and vanilla and process just until combined to a paste like consistency (alternately you can put the nut mixture in a bowl and just stir in the egg whites and vanilla).  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment lined sheets, placing 2-3 inches apart to allow the cookies to spread.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool and harden before removing from sheets.

nuts, l0x sugar, egg whites and vanilla that's it!

make a paste

drop on cookie sheets

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Maybe you are all ready with a day to go, maybe you are so not ready and you are reading my blog when you should be wrapping or baking or, heaven forbid, shopping.  Take a deep breath.  Put on some Christmas music and either get to it, or let it go.  There is no way you haven't done enough already.  That is unless you just remembered you didn't buy your sister-in-law a present and you are in the van on the way to Cleveland and opening presents as soon as you get there.  This actually happened to me a few years ago.    Oops.  Unfortunately (or fortunately as most everyone in the know sees it), she's no longer part of our family.  Coincidence??

It's Christmas Eve, eve and finally I could pull the extra Christmas cookie dough out of the freezer and Kelly and Sara could continue the decorating tradition.  My girls create some very interesting cookies.  I just roll and re-roll dough to maximize the batch.  And, I take pictures.  This Christmas my babies are 18 and 20.  Honestly, tears spring to my eyes just writing those words.  I need to put on some cheerier Christmas music (so many of them are pretty depressing, why is that???).  As hard as it was to imagine when I was 18 or 20, apparently my reason for being is just to be "Mom".  Nothing else has ever worked out so well.  And if you know me, you know even the Mom-thing has had it's epic moments of failure along with all the little and big moments of absolute happiness.  It's true enough that marriage has worked out pretty well for me too.  Might have a bit to do with why motherhood has been so great.

Ahhh, the little ones want enchiladas and I want to get this post done so the pondering is going to have to come to end for today.  If you haven't baked your cut-out cookies, give this recipe from my excellent mother-in-law Becky, a try.  It's a Hallmark recipe.  My in-laws owned Hallmark stores for years which contributed greatly to our ornament collection and to their lovely condominiums in Florida.

action shot

Kelly's first tray of 2010

Hallmark Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
(1/2 tsp almond extract, optional)
1 egg
1 C unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda

Cream powered sugar, vanilla, (almond extract if using), butter and egg.  Mix in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar (I usually add a tiny pinch of salt too).  Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough about 1 C at a time to an even thickness (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick).  Dip cutters in flour (at least the first time you use them).  Cut and place on un-greased cookie sheet (parchment paper is a good touch if you hate to clean pans).  Dough scraps can be gathered and rolled out again.  Decorate with sprinkles and colored sugars.  Bake until very lightly brown on the edges (8 minutes or so).  Cool on pan for a couple of minutes then remove from pan and finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Save a few cookies for Santa!
Note:  I still put out cookies on the Santa plate and the girls think I am nuts.

action shot from 2006

Sara's tray from 2004

50 posts! Let's celebrate with some wine.

This is my 51st post.  Probably should have thrown the party on the occasion of my 50th, but sadly I didn't even notice until I logged in to write tonight's little missive.  My theme for the night is casual cooking with wine.  Please celebrate with me then, and cook with wine and have a little glass for me.  I have a little Sauvignon Blanc open which has been both delicious pan sauce and delightful glass with dinner.  Tonight I opened a Cabernet Sauvignon to make "sophisticated Joe's" and my husband will happily finish the bottle.  It's a win-win.

First let's discuss white wine pan sauce.  Buy some nice boneless, skinless chicken breasts and place one between two sheets of waxed paper.  Get out your pounder (mine is a pounder/tenderizer from Target that ran about $12).  Pound your chicken into a paillard (the current trendy way to say chicken breast pounded thin) about 1/4-inch thick.  Start at the center and work your way out.  Dust or dredge your chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a heavy pan (enameled cast iron or stainless steel are better than non-stick for this).  Cook your floured chicken until golden brown on both sides (about 10 minutes total).  If you'd like garlic in your dish, add it now so it does not brown and cook it quickly for 30-60 seconds.  Turn your heat up to medium high and deglaze the pan with dry white wine.  All that means is you pour in your wine (1/2 to 1 cup) and scrape up the browned bits from the pan.  While the wine is boiling your sauce will thicken.  Feel free to use a little chicken broth to thin or extend the sauce.  Add some herbs of your choice, dried (Herbs de Provence is popular at my house) or fresh to season.

For a little variation, prepare the chicken and brown on both sides (no garlic) and deglaze your pan with dry white wine, a little broth and a freshly squeezed lemon.  Add a tablespoon or so of drained capers.  Voila!  A quick chicken piccata.

Now let's talk something a little heartier.  This is a recipe adapted from Epicurious, "Sophisto Joes".  Ground beef is hearty and savory in this dish.  If your family wants or needs a lightened version, use ground turkey or chicken as I have.  Just be sure to season your browned white meat well before you add the cooking liquids.  Ground turkey and especially ground chicken really need some help to be full of flavor.

Sloppy Joes with a little red wine

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, finely diced
olive oil
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 1/2 lb. ground turkey, chicken or beef
1 T chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 C dry red wine
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 T packed brown sugar

In a large pan, warm a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Saute onion, red pepper and garlic until softened.  Add carrot, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir now and then for 5-8 minutes until vegetables are softened.  Add ground meat and stir to break up lumps and brown meat, 8-10 minutes.  Add chili powder, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and stir to season for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, wine, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, 6-8 minutes.

oooh, look I used yellow pepper and mushrooms too  feel free to improvise!

ground chicken being seasoned


Serve with rolls or buns of your choice.  Butter them and toast them on a grill or skillet pan, so good that way.

Note:  started this post exactly one week ago, too much Christmas and too little time to finish :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In honor of my radio appearance.....Roasted Filet of Beef with Gorgonzoa Sauce

Yesterday afternoon I'm cruising down Meridian Street headed to Conseco Fieldhouse to pick up t-shirts and race packets for the family for Saturday's Arthritis Foundation "Jingle Bell Run" and I flip the radio to my favorite sports talk radio show.  Since I have the honor of driving our vintage van without satellite radio (and thankfully without a temperature display, who wanted to know it was in the 20's yesterday),  I will switch to AM radio when my favorite music station goes to commercial.  Actually, I will admit to liking sports talk radio when my favorite teams are playing well and there's something to talk about.  And truly, I don't talk to anyone other than my cat and my guinea pig most days, so it's a social thing too.  That is kind of sad, but true.  Anyway, it was the Dan Dakich Show and despite the fact that he played and coached at IU, I really like the guy.  We're the same age so we have some common ground.  Same with John Stewart, same vintage. I'd like them both regardless, but I get them both, we speak the same language.  Well, as much as a guy from "the Region", a New Yorker and a girl from a quaint waspy town in Northeastern Ohio can.  If you watch enough college basketball (love it), Dan's working games for ESPN.  You'll like him too.  You should already be watching John Stewart.

I'm driving and listening when Dan has a caller tell him he needs to check out Big Don's Deli in Zionsville.   The caller gets it wrong, it's Big Dave's Deli, and Dan asks for some help.  Bingo.  I can actually call in and have something relevant to say.  Dial up the show.  Get right through.  Tell the producer what I bring to the party and he puts me through.  Show time.  Thankfully I found a street parking spot by Conseco just in time for my shining moment.  What you probably don't know is that I am "The Official Carmel Housewife of the Dan Dakich Show".  You are jealous, I know.  I had to apply and be accepted and I've had a few bones tossed my way.  Dan read my e-mail about that wacky one end-zone situation for the Northwestern v Illinois game at Wrigley Field and wished Greg a happy 49th birthday on the air because I am The Official Carmel Housewife.  Awesome.

Back to my shining moment, what I have to offer is the recommendation that he should have Big Dave's Deli order him a beef tenderloin because they are delicious and reasonably priced.  If that wasn't reason enough, they will also grind the trimmings and you can make some killer burgers with them.  The Official Carmel Housewife of the Dan Dakich Show would know these things.  And that's pretty much exactly what I said on the air.  Dan thought it came roasted and I told him that indeed he would be receiving a fresh tenderloin that he could take home and have his wife roast.  He then questioned why he could not roast it himself and I told him to go ahead and do that, it's easy and delicious.   Which, in a very long and circuitous route leads me to today's recipe.  If you are having some company for the holidays, buy a nice beef tenderloin and follow my recipe from the Barefoot Contessa.  It is fool proof.  No matter the size of your tenderloin,  just do exactly as Ina and I say.  I've served this hot for dinner and room temperature for  party sandwiches.  Big hit every time.  Serve it with horseradish sauce too.  If you're really feeling festive, serve the Gorgonzola sauce.  I have served both sauces and let my guests choose.

Our delicious fresh turkey was $65 (worth it) so I don't have beef tenderloin in the budget this weekend.  Besides, roast tenderloin doesn't really take a pretty picture.  Here's something to warm you up:

ahhhhh, Fort Walton Beach, FL 10-10

Roasted Filet of Beef

1 whole filet of beef (tenderloin) 4 to 5 pounds, trimmed and tied
2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 T kosher salt
1 T freshly ground black pepper (coarse grind)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Place beef on a baking sheet and pat dry with a paper towel.  Spread the butter all over with your hands. Sprinkle roast evenly with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven (middle rack) at 500 degrees for exactly 22 minutes for rare and 25 minutes for medium-rare (size of roast does not change the cooking time).

Remove beef from the oven, cover tightly with foil and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Remove strings (if used) and slice thickly.

Gorgonzola Sauce

4 C heavy cream
3 to 4 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola
3 T freshly grated Parmesan
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 T minced fresh Italian parsley

Bring the cream to a full boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Continue to boil for 45-50 minutes until it's thickened, like a white sauce, stirring occasionally.

Remove pan from heat and add the Gorgonzola, Parmesan, salt, pepper and parsley.  Whisk until cheeses melt.  Serve warm.  If you need to reheat the sauce, reheat over low heat whisking until smooth.

Horseradish Sauce

1 1/2 C creme fraiche or sour cream (light sour cream is fine, fat free is not fine, ever)
1/2 C prepared horseradish
6 T chopped fresh chives
4 tsp fresh lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.  May be prepared a day ahead and chilled.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sara's Enchiladas

Holiday prep is filling my free time, but I'm going to sit down for a few minutes here and post a dinner idea for you today.  Over the weekend I served our version of burrito bowls.  That's not today's recipe, but it is another good dinner idea I'll share before the enchiladas recipe.  One kind of leads to the other (i.e., I had leftover guacamole and couldn't possibly waste it).

Buy a nice rotisserie chicken at Costco.  Shred the breast meat.  Heat up a medium saucepan, add one or two tablespoons canola or olive oil and saute half a chopped white/yellow/sweet onion.  Add two or three cloves of minced garlic and saute for a minute until fragrant.  Stir in a teaspoon of cumin and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt for another minute or so.  Don't brown your garlic (I can't remind you of this enough times).  Add the shredded chicken and stir until warmed through.  Juice one lime into the pan.  Toss and serve.  Other burrito bowl ingredients to serve on your table:  heated black beans or refried beans, heated rice (there are all kinds of good rice mixes out there:  cilantro/lime, brown rice/beans/peppers, spanish rice, etc.), guacamole, salsa (love the Margaritaville fresh salsa with Peppadew peppers from Meijer and the Garden Fresh salsas - please, do not serve salsa from a jar, I implore you to treat yourself to something better), chopped lettuce, cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream (go all out and add half a lime squeezed to a 1/2 cup of light sour cream) and shredded cheese.   Just let everyone do their own thing.  In the summer I make fresh mango salsa to lighten up the flavor (dice a mango, a little chopped sweet or white onion, chopped fresh jalepeno, diced red pepper, cilantro, 1/2 tsp or less of salt and juice of a lime).

Okay, so that was easy dinner idea number one.  If you were missing your other guacamole fan from dinner number one (at my house, that's Kelly and she's busy at Purdue studying for finals) and you have leftover guacamole you will want to serve another dish that enjoys a little guacamole on the side.  It is surely cold enough to heat up the oven for as long as possible, so I thought enchiladas would be a good thing to warm up in the oven.  My carnivorous husband is in Phoenix this week enjoying the lovely warm weather and working (not necessarily in that order, he is working and is not complaining about running outside in just shorts and a t-shirt at the end of his day).  This gives me free reign to serve a meal heavier on veggies.  So my new twist on enchiladas was to stuff them with roasted vegetables.  Besides, that gets the oven up to 450 degrees and Tuesday night I believe it was about 12 degrees outside.  And Sara will eat anything with roasted vegetables.  You can obviously fill your enchiladas however the spirit and your refrigerator/freezer/pantry moves you.  But you really should try this sauce.  It's easy and really delicious.

One more tip for freezing cold winter dinners:  warm your plates before you plate or serve food.  My cabinets are on the outside wall of my kitchen and my plates are very chilly to the touch.  I grab my plates and warm them in the oven if it's not too hot (preferably while cooling down after baking something comforting) or just microwave them in a stack for a minute or two.  

roasted vegetables

assembled enchiladas

sauced and ready to bake

ready to eat!

Sara's Enchiladas

one white/sweet/yellow onion, chopped
one zucchini squash, diced
one yellow summer squash, diced
one red/yellow/orange pepper, diced
olive oil
kosher salt

Enchilada Sauce
2 T canola oil
2 T flour
1/4 C chili powder
2 C chicken stock
10-0z. tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

rotisserie chicken, shredded
corn tortillas (8-10)
shredded cheese (mexican blend, monterey jack, colby-jack, sharp cheddar or whatever you like)

Prepare and roast your vegetables:  toss diced/chopped vegetables with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and 1/2 tsp or so kosher salt, spread on a baking sheet and roast in a 450 degree oven, stirring once or twice for 10-12 minutes.

Make your sauce:  heat canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stir in flour to make a paste, keep heat medium-high and stir in chili powder for about a minute to season paste.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, whisking constantly until thickened (a few minutes).  Lower heat to medium and add tomato paste, oregano, cumin and salt; stirring until well-blended.  Simmer for 15 minutes to blend flavors.

Soften your tortillas:  heat a flat griddle pan or large non-stick fry pan over medium heat, sprinkle very lightly with kosher salt, warm tortillas (mine fits 3 tortillas at a time) for about 2-3 minutes on each side, place tortillas in a stack on a warm plate and cover until ready to assemble enchiladas.

Lower your oven heat to 375 degrees.

Assemble your enchilada casserole:  spray baking dish with non-stick spray,  spoon in about 1 cup of prepared sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.  Take a warm tortilla and place chicken down the middle along with a few roasted vegetables and a nice sprinkling of cheese.  Roll up tortilla overlapping sides and place seam down in the sauce in the dish.  When you've filled your dish with enchiladas, spoon remaining sauce over top of casserole dish.  Sprinkle with a little additional cheese if desired.  Cover dish with foil and bake 20-25 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Serve with shredded lettuce, cilantro, sour cream and guacamole if desired.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Apple Pie Squares, the recipe as promised

Of course there is a story behind the recipe.  Last football season the Notre Dame tailgate in September (2009) was one for the record books.  The tailgate, not the game.  Anyway, it was a night game so I believe we started the tailgate around one o'clock in the afternoon.  Plenty of time to socialize.  Beautiful weather.  Oh, I remember it fondly and well.  The tailgate next to us was hosted by a Purdue professor and his sweet wife, Denise.  Both of their sons were there, one was still on campus but the other was out gainfully employed.  The boys always want their mom's apple pie squares, so naturally she had a nice full tray of them.  Enough to share with their tailgate neighbor who had enjoyed enough mojitos to just jump right in and inquire about them (the neighbor would be me-the DD can have a drink if she's not going to drive for eight hours or so).  A great big vintage aluminum jelly roll pan of iced apple pie squares.  Heaven.

She e-mailed me the recipe and let me preface it by saying that it was passed down to her and it is truly old-school pitch-in/church dinner/tailgate fare.  Nothing modern about it, but no one cares after the first bite.  Sara and Kelly's boyfriends joined us this past weekend for the Purdue/IU game and I believe they were responsible for a whole row of squares.

just glazed/iced

a repeat, but yummm!

If you've never rolled out a pie crust, this might seem kind of crazy.  The crusts cover the full sheet.  You can do it.  Either be super patient, use lots of flour so your crust doesn't stick and have a "spotter" to help you lift the crusts OR patch whatever crumbles.  You cover it with icing.  Perfect or not, it will taste the same (good!).  That's the thing with baking and me.  I can bake anything, but I'm probably not going to win any food styling awards.  Just not a talent of mine.  I'm forty seven.  No trouble admitting I have my strengths and my weaknesses.  Can't bowl.  Not very good at cleaning windows.  Sometimes should think before I speak.   I can, however, cook.

So here you go.  Enjoy!

Apple Pie Squares

3 3/4 C flour
3/4 C unsalted butter (cold)
3/4 C crisco (at least now it is trans-fat free)
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk and milk to measure 3/4 C

2 C cornflakes, measured then crushed to sprinkle over crust (someday I'm trying frosted flakes)
10 C apple slices (peeled and sliced nice and thin)
1 1/4 C sugar
1 T cinnamon

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
milk to thin

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix flour and salt, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles small peas (pulsing in a food processor works well).  Add egg yolk and milk.  Mix until dough forms a ball.  Divide dough in half.  Roll each portion large enough to cover the jelly roll pan (with a little up the sides and a little hanging down to crimp together).  The recipe says to roll it the crusts out on foil, I used parchment and dusted it with plenty of flour.  Line the pan with one crust and press up the sides of the jelly roll pan.  Leave the other crust for the top.

Mix together the apple slices, sugar and cinnamon.  Spread cornflakes evenly over bottom crust.  Place apples evenly atop cornflakes.  Top with second crust and crimp edges together.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool mix milk into powdered sugar to for an icing glaze and spread on top of pie.  Cut into squares to serve.

Thanksgiving wrap-up

If I didn't have a house full of family and if it didn't actually take me two hours to clean-up my kitchen I would have sat down and fired off this post Thursday evening.  Our feast was so delicious and delightful it was begging to be recorded for all time on my blog.  It would just have to wait, however with a ridiculously cold tailgate all day Saturday (a horrendous loss to IU keeps me from saying it was fun in almost any way) and a full day on Sunday which also included some horrible football (we went to the Colts game, you know "the worst home loss ever"one?).  Monday would have been a reasonably good day to write, but I was so tired from Sunday Night Football in America that whatever I might have written would have to be edited heavily.  So, here we are five days post holiday ready to share some goodness again.

Let's start with dessert, shall we?  We shall.  The week before Thanksgiving I rounded up every November issue of Fine Cooking in my kitchen.  Sure, all the recipes are on the website (accessed fully only by membership, but I consider that $9.99 annual fee a necessity).  I still like to thumb through the glossy pages, dog-ear them, stick the little mail reply subscription cards in as bookmarks and make an old school list (i.e. Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie, FC 96, p. 50).  I can guarantee you my girls will never make such a list.  They will probably not have cabinets bursting with cookbooks, cooking magazines, folders of clippings and my own crazy full binder of classic recipes either.  So I'd sit down with my stack of magazines, Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, my reading glasses (sad, but true), a pad of paper and a pen and plan out the menu.  Martha Stewart started sending my "Living" magazine a couple of months ago so I dog-eared those too just to keep it interesting.  Finally I settled on the aforementioned Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie, but I would use Dave's Mom's recipe for piecrust.

I made the crust the same day I made the crust for the apple pie squares.  Might as well clean up that flour-y mess just once.  Thought one pie would do since my mom was bringing a pumpkin cake.  Good thought, but Friday after Thanksgiving Kelly and I would roll out the saved crust and make another pie.  It was that good.  The only substitution I made in the recipe was using evaporated milk (not the fat free or skim kind either, it's pie for goodness sake) instead of heavy cream.  I'm sure it would be even more delicious with heavy cream but I had only bought one pint of heavy cream for the whipped cream to serve with the pie.

If you haven't had enough pumpkin pie, give this version a try while it's all dark and chilly out or just remember I'll have this recipe waiting for you next fall.  And next year make a pumpkin pie in October to kind of space out your enjoyment.

Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie

one blind-baked pie crust (heat your oven to 400 degrees, rollout your crust and place it in your pan, prick the bottom and sides with a fork, line the bottom with a circle of parchment, fill with pie weights/rice/beans and bake just until set about 16-20 minutes)

15-oz. can pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 C evaporated milk (not the sweetened condensed sticky kind)
3/4 C lightly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (get the good Vietnamese cinnamon)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground cloves (I like more, maybe you aren't so sure)
one fresh grind of black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large bowl (that nice 8-cup Pampered Chef batter bowl is good) whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk and evaporated milk.  In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and the spices.  Whisk the sugar mixture into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined.
Pour the filling into the blind-baked and cooled pie crust.  Bake in the 325 degree oven until the pie is set around the outside, but still slightly wet and jiggly in the center or about one hour.  The filling will continue to set as it cools.  If this freaks you out, keep it in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until more of it is set (but not all the way to the middle), your pie will still be good.  Let the pie completely cool on a wire rack before chilling it in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to two days before serving.  If you put it in your refrigerator with any kind of cover and it's still warm you'll have a not so lovely pond of condensed steam on your lovely pie, and you've gone to all the trouble of making it special.

Serve with real whipped cream.  If you serve it with whipped topping, that's just wrong.  You can have a child or a husband or  your mother who wants to be so helpful whip the cream while you get out the serving dishes.  A chilled bowl and beaters are nice, but not mandatory.  Pour your cream in and whip it at the highest speed.  Before it's set, add some powdered sugar.  Kelly whipped one pint of cream and I added about one-half cup of powdered sugar.  Start with a small quantity of sugar.  Lightly sweetened cream is one of the joys of life.  Fine Cooking whipped one cup of heavy cream with 2 T of brown sugar, 1 tsp of ground ginger and 1 tsp of brandy.  Decadent.

Before we leave today, let me just share a favorite moment from the holiday weekend.  Rewind to Wednesday when the kitchen was in full-on stay-out-of my-way motion.  Greg walks in and sees me with my camera taking photos of my apple pie squares and pumpkin pie.  He loves my blogging and all the photos of food.  He says that my blog is titled "blue skies with a squeeze of lime" and his blog would be titled "grey skies and a glass of scotch".  Funny man.  He hadn't even witnessed all the bad football and bad basketball from his teams yet.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

day before and the ovens are hot!

Kelly and I baked all morning.  We finished the apple pie squares with a glaze and moved them into a storage box for the tailgate Saturday.  We made the filling and baked the pumpkin pie.  She baked the delicious Trader Joe's gingerbread snack cake.  I baked the sweet potatoes, mashed them and sauteed the apples for the topping.  I made the cranberries (orange and Grand Marnier this year).  We crafted some cheesy panninis for lunch.  We're in the middle of cinnamon rolls for tomorrow's breakfast.  The last time we made this recipe from Fine Cooking they didn't see morning.

the apple pie squares for the tailgate, well except for the two that we've already eaten :)

Time to set the table and polish the place up a bit.  We're off to the Straight No Chaser concert this evening to enjoy our dear friend Ryan Ahlwardt and the other nine SNC members singing some a cappella holiday tunes and etc.  My parents are joining us and my dad not only sang in the Purdue Glee Club, but at 75 still sings to this day with the Singer's Club of Cleveland (men's chorus).  He will so love it.  I can hear him humming along already.

bag of cranberries, 1 cup sugar, zest of one orange, 1/2 C juice, 3 T grand marnier
stirred as they simmered for about 10 minutes until thickened

Probably will get a bit too busy to post until Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  In the meantime, I am thankful for time, the love of friends and family, our warm and cosy home and the health and presence to enjoy it.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving wherever you may be!


game on!

Round one of kitchen prep for Thanksgiving and the last tailgate of 2010 just wrapped in my kitchen.  Have to pace myself.  I have a beautiful kitchen that I designed for myself nine years ago and I'm thankful for it all.  But even my kitchen feels crowded and small when a big meal prep is on.  So tonight after dinner I blind-baked my pumpkin pie crust and baked an 11 x 15 tray of apple pie squares.  Two different pie crust recipes:  one, my tried and true pie crust from David Letterman's mom and the other shared through e-mail by a generous fellow tailgater after a Purdue game in 2009.  Let's just say I have Crisco and I'm not afraid to use it.  There's just no way around it.

Tomorrow morning I'll make the pumpkin pie filling and bake the pumpkin pie.  I'll glaze the tray of apple pie squares, cut them and pack them up for the tailgate.  I need my stoneware jelly roll pan the great big slab of apple pie is cooling in to roast some vegetables for Thanksgiving.  I'm also making cranberries in the morning just as soon as I decide on the recipe for this year.  Cosmopolitan Cranberries with vodka and chambord?  Kelly and I are really the only ones that eat the cranberries and she's not driving anywhere.  Cranberries with Orange Zest?  Or maybe Cranberries with Apples and Oranges?  I have a 48-ounce bag of berries from Costco, so really I could make them all.  Luckily it's going to be very cold here the next few days.  I'm going to need a third refrigerator  and as long as the raccoons don't get too curious as to what I'm keeping on the back deck that will do.

Kelly came home Saturday night for a nice long week at home after all but one of her classes this week was cancelled.   She had the brilliant idea that we order pizza from Bazbeaux tonight.  Awesome.  Her only request being that I make her favorite salad.  Ask and you shall receive.  Apparently she has learned that despite my love of cooking, there is a limit and no one needs to find that limit two days before Thanksgiving.  Smart girl.

The pizza was amazing.  The salad was pretty delicious too.  The thing she loves about this salad is the dressing and the feta.  Feel free to make your salad with anything you like and or whatever happens to be in your kitchen or garden.

salad in the low light of my winter kitchen
Kelly's Favorite Salad

romaine lettuce, washed and torn
red onion, sliced in thin vertical slices
avocado, pitted and sliced (if you have a nice ripe one on hand)
tomato, chopped
cucumber, sliced
carrots, sliced or shredded
feta cheese, crumbled

2 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 T chopped fresh thyme (both herbs are so easy to grow at home and they both winter over fine with a little water and minimal sunlight in our garage)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt, pepper
olive oil
white wine vinegar (I love sauvignon-blanc vinegar)

For the dressing chop the herbs and mince the garlic and mince and mash all together with about a half teaspoon of salt.  Put the herb/salt mix in your salad bowl and pour a few tablespoons of light olive oil followed by about half that amount of vinegar (red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar or lemon juice make a great salad too-experiment and pick your favorite one, but just one at a time please).   Grind in some black pepper.  Add the salad ingredients and toss.

Be good to yourself.  Eat yummy fresh food.

Happy Thanksgiving Prep day!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

thanksgiving recipes

I'll get back to my "stickies" note on my mac with all the recipes needing posting, but possibly you are looking for Thanksgiving ideas with just a week to go.  I go the updated traditional route.  No need to reinvent the wheel on this one.  The twists I make lighten the overall calorie load, but the point really is to add some freshness to a heavy meal.  I'm going to eat the full fat dressing, gravy, potatoes and pie because it's a holiday.  Besides, my whole little family runs the 3-mile Turkey Schlepp through our neighborhood at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  We'll be fine.  Life is short.  Food is love.

sorry, no photos of today's classic recipes yet
I will add them after Thanksgiving
in the meantime, this is Rio and wouldn't we all like to be our pets?

The first entry today is roasted cauliflower with rosemary-lemon-thyme oil.  Fine Cooking published an amazing guide to roasting vegetables a couple of years ago (found it: Oct./Nov. 2007 issue 88, a particularly good one) and I've photocopied it for many friends.  Roasting vegetables not only caramelizes the sugars in the vegetables it also produces a fabulous bite with crisp outsides and tender insides.  Yummm.  I like to cut the core of the cauliflower out and then vertically slice the florets into thin "fans".  Very pretty.  Your best results from roasting come when your vegetables are uniform thickness.  Roasted cauliflower is also good just with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a 1/2 tsp white sugar added when you toss it with some olive oil (broccoli is fabulous this way too).  Another version for company would be dijon mustard and a little honey tossed with the cauliflower after roasting.  If you don't think you like cauliflower, give roasting a try.

roasted cauliflower with rosemary-lemon-thyme oil


one large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets and/or vertical slices like fans
(for Thanksgiving I will roast 2 heads)
olive oil
rosemary-lemon-thyme olive oil (see below)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

rosemary-lemon-thyme oil

zest of one large lemon in long strips (love my cute yellow Zylis zester, but a peeler works well), save the lemon you might want to add the juice after baking
2 T olive oil
1tsp choopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
(double this for more than one head of cauliflower)

In a small saucepan, combine the lemon zest and olive oil.  Cook over medium-low heat until the zest bubbles steadily for about 30 seconds.   Remove from the heat and cool for about 3 minutes.  Stire in the rosemary and thyme and let sit about 20 minutes before using.

Heat the oven to 475 degrees (450 if you have a convection oven).  If you have a nice stoneware jelly roll pan like I do (Pampered Chef) you can brush some plain olive oil in a thin coat on the pan then sprinkle it with a little kosher salt and fresh pepper.  If you are using a baking sheet (roasting pans can have pretty high sides and you'll steam your veggies instead of crisp roasting them), line it with parchment paper.  Toss the cauliflower with the rosemary-lemon-thyme oil, salt and pepper regardless of your pan.  Place in a single layer on your pan/sheet.  REMOVE THE STRIPS OF ZEST before roasting (or they will be bitter and burned, ick).  Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring if you have florets and turning if you have "fans" after about 10 minutes.  Toss with additional rosemary-lemon-thyme oil if desired or the juice of a lemon (both additions are worth it).  Serve warm.

Ina Garten knows how to cook and she also knows how to generously employ butter and sugar.  I've adapted her sweet potato recipe which surely is delicious as written, but my version has it's own devoted following.  Basically you make mashed sweet potatoes and top them with cinnamon-sugar sauteed apple slices.  How could that be anything but fabulous?

baked sweet potatoes, milk, butter, brown sugar and spices ready to blend in the Kitchenaid

all mashed and ready to go

apples, butter and brown sugar in the saute pan

ready for the oven 
sweet potatoes with sauteed apples

4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 large)
1/2 C freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 C 2 % milk, half and half or go for broke with heavy cream
4 T unsalted butter, melted (you can use less, but at least 2 T)
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

sauteed apples

2 T unsalted butter
3 large McIntosh apples, peeled cored and sliced
3 T brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Scrub the potatoes then prick them in 5 or 6 spots with a knife or fork and bake for one hour or until very soft (do yourself a favor and put some nonstick foil on a baking sheet and either bake them on the sheet or put the sheet on the rack below in case the potatoes ooze out their sugary goodness-Thanksgiving is not a good time to have to clean your ovens).  Cool until you can handle them with a mitt and scoop out the insides into a large mixing bowl.  Add the orange juice, milk/cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg (buy it whole and use your rasp grater, very handy), cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Mix until combined, but not smooth.  Pour into a baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray (2 quart dish or  9 x 13 casserole).

Melt the butter for the apples in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the apple slices and brown sugar and cook for about 10 minutes, lightly browning both sides.  Place apples on top of sweet potato mixture.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until hot all the way through.

Serves 8-10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

waaayyy behind

Today we are in luck because it's another morning coming off painkillers from another visit to the oral surgeon.  So, all those recipes and photos accumulating on my desktop can start making their way on to my blog pages.  I've been out and about meeting lots of interesting people and usually tossing in that I write a food blog.  Well, sometimes I write a food blog and sometimes I just write in my head and post stickies on my mac and get way behind on my food blog.

It's still tailgate season.  We are firmly in fall cooking mode.    And almost everyone I know is the grown-up this year and is hosting Thanksgiving (a big shift that's been slowly occurring and at 47, I best embrace it).  Time to share some recipes.

Let's start today with a quick soup recipe I developed using Trader Joe's 17 Bean and Barley Soup Mix and Sara as my adviser and official taster.  She has become quite a reader of recipes and may just have the gift for just knowing a good recipe when she reads it.  It is a truly a gift.

my favorite picture from Tokyo, note Greg in the back with the old-school video camera
That of course will lead me to my "stream of consciousness" section for today.  Have I told you when I realized I had "the gift"?  We moved to Tokyo on a one-year assignment with TDK on Kelly's 4th birthday (1994).  Yes, we lived overseas in the days without e-mail, cell phones, the internet and Skype.  Imagine.  So when my girls were napping I would grab my cookbooks and just sit on the front step and read recipes over and over again.  I was so hungry for American food, I would devour the recipes and imagine their taste, texture and aroma.  It really wasn't as sad as it sounds.  I did put three meals a day on the little table in my tiny kitchen, but I only had a two-burner stove (like camping without the view) and a deluxe microwave that supposedly was also an oven that I could never figure out (significant written language barrier).  Almost forgot, I also had a rice cooker.  Loved that thing.  Thank God we hadn't been beaten to submission about not eating white food.  We would have starved without that lovely sticky white rice.  Besides, we walked or biked everywhere.  Oh, and we were just over 30 so who was worried about carbs (for the record, I'm still not worried).  We lived three subway lines and 45-minutes from the expatriate community and their imported groceries, so we ate a lot of rice, vegetables and fruit and a little chicken or beef.  Every day we went to one of five stops on the regular rotation to keep food in our little refrigerator.  Every week we went to the McDonald's on the ground floor of the Jusco department store for "cheeseburger sets" because that was pretty much the only meat Kelly would eat in Japan.  Sara turned two just after we moved and was still in toddler food mode.  There are lots of good stories from the Tokyo adventures.  But we'll wrap it up today by noting that this was really where my love of a good recipe and a bountiful meal had its genesis.

Back to the soup.  Consider it a good afternoon cooking project.   A super nutritious meal in a bowl.  Serve with crusty bread and a salad or just have a really nice big bowl of hot soup and maybe some apples or pears.

this is what you are looking for on the shelves at Trader Joe's
Kristin's 17 Bean and Barley Chicken Sausage Soup

one package Trader Joe's 17 Bean & Barley Soup Mix
6 C chicken broth (love the organic boxed broth at Costco or TJ's)
one 29-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (Muir Glen tomatoes are wonderful)
5 or 6 fresh chicken Italian sausages (Whole Foods) or turkey Italian sausages (sweet or hot, you choose)
one medium onion, diced
1 cup diced or sliced carrot
one or two zucchini, diced
one red or yellow pepper, diced
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 T apple cider vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 bay leaves
Parmesan rind or grated Parmesan

Soak beans overnight as directed on the package OR do as I did, put them in your soup pot with triple their volume of cold water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook uncovered over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Let sit to soften for one hour.

Drain the beans.  Rinse out and dry your soup pot.  Add 1-2 T of olive oil and cook the sausages either in bite-size pieces or squeeze the sausage from the casings and crumble the meat as you brown it.  Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels.  Wipe the pot clean-ish and add another 1-2 T of olive oil to saute the onions until translucent.  Add the peppers, zucchini and carrots and saute until soft (6-8 minutes).  Stir in the garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and saute for another minute until fragrant (do not brown the garlic).  Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and beans and bring the pot to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer and add the bay leaves, pinch of cayenne and Parmesan rind (if you have it, buy the wedge from Costco and save the rinds for soup).  Simmer for at least an hour or until the beans are soft.  Before serving, add the splash of cider vinegar and taste for salt and pepper.  Remove the bay leaves and the Parmesan rind.  Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.  Serves 8.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

spiced applesauce cake, as promised

A while back I posted my time-tested, well-loved and ever favorite recipe for cinnamon apple cake so you wouldn't think I needed another apple cake in my repertoire.  Au contraire, today's recipe combines a few desserts I love into one cute little everyday cake:  pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, spice cake and apple cake.  It's similar to pumpkin cake in two ways:  one, it's very moist and it's tender moistness only improves with time chilling in the fridge and two, it has cream cheese frosting which is always delicious.  It's similar to spice cake in the addition of ginger and cloves along with the cinnamon.  It's similar to apple cake because, hello; there are apples in it.

The recipe calls for unsweetened apple sauce which I whipped up earlier in the day because I had those pretty Arkansas Black apples from my Michigan trip.  For the record, they are not sauce apples because they really hold their shape well when cooked but my batches of applesauce I made in the early fall were sweetened so I gave it a go.  You, indeed, do not need to make applesauce from scratch to make this cake.  Unsweetened applesauce is very easy to find at the grocery and will get you from hungry for dessert to eating cake a lot sooner.

One other optional change I made in the recipe was substituting a 1/2 cup of oat flour (ground oats from the bulk bins at Whole Foods) for 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour.  Usually I might use half white whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, but I thought the oats and apples would be delicious.  I was not wrong.  Yummm.

I made this cake on Tuesday and I'll be enjoying a nice little piece of it with a cup of tea while Sara and I watch Grey's Anatomy tonight.  Enjoy!

the finished product

Spiced Applesauce Cake

2 C all-purpose flour (or 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour and 1/2 C oat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 C tightly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 C unsweetened applesauce

5 ounces 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, room temperature
3 T unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan (cooking spray or the baker's spray with flour).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients until blended (flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves).   In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla at medium speed until light in color and fluffy (if you are me, you test it every now and then and recall the joys of the butter and sugar sandwiches - no lie- your babysitter used to feed you for a snack).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in applesauce.  At low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert cake onto the wire rack.  Cool completely.  (Okay, I did this, but honestly you could leave it in the pan especially if you have a nice baking pan with a lid so you can easily cover and store the frosted cake).

When cool, make the frosting.  Beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla on medium-high until fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar and cinnamon and beat at low speed until well-blended.  Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

soup season is on!

Feeling "sweater weather" for tomorrow and pretty darn excited about it.  Nothing like a nice crisp autumn day, although the last two windy days have been fairly spectacular.  The massive weather front blew through here yesterday morning and by late afternoon the sky was the blue that named this blog.  Today the breeze kept flipping up my tennis skirt as I was running errands, but it was warm and my legs are still tan so no worries.  The temperature is falling and the remaining leaves aren't long on the trees.  I have that delightfully fuzzy feeling of too much fresh air, a nice shower and a cozy sweater.  Love it.

It is now officially soup season.  Tonight I greatly modified a simple soup recipe from Cooking Light so we all could enjoy it.  Originally this recipe called for Spanish chorizo sausage.  Being sausage, it's a pork product and one of us will not eat pork so hence the modification.  Also I stumbled upon "Babe, A Pig in the City" last night on HBO and that pig was just so adorable eating pork for me was out of the question (the first movie, "Babe" is a must see if you have small people).  I researched the spices involved in Spanish chorizo and tossed them with cubed chicken breast meat before browning the chicken as the base of the soup.  You could adapt this further and use ground pork and the seasonings, removing the meat to drain after browning and wiping the pot dry before cooking the onions and garlic.  

Tonight's soup was served with rosemary bread sliced and brushed with olive oil, baked at 350 degrees for 10 minutes before topping with a little plain goat cheese and returning to the oven until the cheese was bubbly (5-10 minutes more).  I made a pretty plate of raw orange pepper slices, cut carrots and broccoli florets instead of a salad.  Dessert on the table was fresh pears, but I still have apple cake in the refrigerator which might just be my second dessert (I'll share that recipe later this week).

So, here you go.  Grab a nice soup pot and in 30 minutes or so soup is on!  My soup pot is my blue LeCreuset round french oven which technically I can not just grab.  I have to use two hands and lift with my legs (it's in a low cabinet and kind of heavy).  But, it will keep the soup warm for hours even with the burner off!

Chicken Chorizo, White Bean and Kale Soup

one pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips or cubes
1 T olive oil
1 T paprika
1/4 tsp hot paprika (optional)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 C chopped onion
3 C chicken broth (buy the organic broth in boxes at Costco)
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 C chopped kale leaves (coarse stems removed)
1 T cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Toss chicken, olive oil and spices together (paprika through salt).  Heat 1 T of olive oil (or more if you need it) in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the chicken mixture and stir to cook through (10 minutes or so).  As the chicken is cooked you can break it up with your spatula if you like smaller pieces (I have a Mario Batali silicone spatula/spoon with a nice wooden handle from Sur La Table which is super useful).  Add onion to pan and saute with the chicken another 5 minutes until translucent and fragrant.  Add broth and raise the heat to bring soup to a boil, reducing to a simmer.  Partially mash some of the cannellini beans and add all of the beans to the pot.  Stir in kale and cook for another 10 minutes.  Add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste before serving.  

4 to 6 dinner servings

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

a small price to pay for a long weekend at the beach: basil, pear and gorgonzola salad

Upon returning from a perfect long weekend at the beach in Fort Walton, Florida with the entire Rogers clan except for our Kelly (busy with midterms) I found my basil good and lifeless.  It is October 26th and that is a small price to pay for long walks on the beach, paddling a kayak past dolphins and hours in a beach chair reading and drifting off for little naps.  Ahhhhhh......

I planted basil from seed this year and enjoyed an abundant supply for over four months.  If you still have basil to enjoy from your own garden, I have an amazing salad for you to try.  It will pain me a little to buy basil at Meijer (they usually have loose fresh bunches which are superior to the basil in the box), but since it is now pear season (another key ingredient) I will do it.  Forgive me, again for the lack of pictures.  I'm pretty sure you can imagine the emerald green goodness of this dressing and the pretty presentation of this salad.  I adapted this recipe from the Wine Guy's cookbook, "The Grapevine Cottage Cookbook".  

If you're an Indy person, stop by Grapevine Cottage on the red brick Main Street of Zionsville and meet The Wine Guy, buy some new and interesting wine and the cookbook.  They have a lovely assortment of gourmet treats too.  I first discovered Two Cooking Sisters jams and etc. there.  If you go in the afternoon and they've just baked french bread, you will leave with a warm batard and a good part of it will be missing by the time you get home.  Greg and I have enjoyed our membership in the Wine of the Month Club.  Two wines, a gourmet treat (often my favorite part, although only once did I not like the selection) and a little newsletter with a recipe.  Join up!  Keep a little wine journal in your kitchen or bar to help you remember what you liked.  The Wine Guy has little cards with all of the wine so you can just paste those in your journal if you like.  

Today's recipe includes gorgonzola cheese which I personally love.  I usually buy the crumbles at Trader Joe's.  Greg, who loves almost all food puts all blue cheeses on his short list of things he does not like (liver and onions, brussel sprouts, tuna anyway but raw or seared and sea urchin make up the entire list). So I serve this with feta cheese and gorgonzola on the side so he can enjoy it.  Goat cheese crumbles or baked goat cheese rounds are also delicious (cut the log in little rounds, dip them in beaten egg and roll them in bread crumbs and place them on a greased/sprayed or parchment lined baking sheet and lightly brown them in a 350 degree oven for around 10 minutes-addictive).  I usually use comice pears because I like them, but any variety will do.  

Basil, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

basil, garlic, salt, pepper and sugar ready to process

finished dressing

4 cloves of garlic
1/3 C sugar (you can try less if this freaks you out, I have already reduced it here)
1 to 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves (I usually use somewhere around 1 1/2 C to 2 C)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 C good olive oil (add slowly, 1/4 to 1/3 C might be enough for you if this freaks you out too, again I already reduced it)
1/3 C cider vinegar

big bowl of mixed baby greens, spring mix or baby greens and butter lettuce (your choice)
2 fresh ripe pears, cut in bite-size pieces (no need to peel the skin)
8-oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or other cheese as desired)
3/4 C toasted pecan pieces (toast in a dry heavy pan on the stove over medium heat or on a sheet in the oven at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, keep an eye on them and stir them so they don't burn)

Process the garlic, sugar, basil and pepper in a food processor or blender until finely chopped.  Add the oil and vinegar and mix until just blended.  Toss the dressing with the greens, pears, cheese and nuts.  Serve immediately.  

If you take this salad away from home (people will love you for it), place the greens in a big bowl and take along the dressing in a jar, the pears tossed with lemon juice in a bag or container, the cheese in a bag or the container you bought it in, and the nuts in a bag or container.  Toss just before serving.