Saturday, November 27, 2010

Herbed Butter

We got to have two Thanksgiving dinners this year. The first was Thanksgiving day with Lewis' mom and step-dad and the second the day after with his dad and step-mom. Each was delicious and I came away with new recipes to try.
I was in charge of a cherry pie for the first dinner but as I was looking at the cans of pie filling at the grocer I felt the need to add a bit more to it so I also grabbed a can of raspberry pie filling and using Alton Brown's pie crust recipe (best crust like ever) I made a raspberry cherry pie that was to die for. I wanted to kick myself though, it was beautiful and just turning golden when I took off the foil...and then I left it in for about five minutes to long and the crust started to burn. So no pictures of that version. I think I'm craving it now though so another may be in the works for tea with the ladies.

For our second dinner I was in charge of rolls and I got a bit lazier. I would have made them from scratch but we'd gotten home too late the night before to pull out the bread maker to pre-program (cut me some slack, I was tired and had had quite a bit of wine to drink) and dinner was scheduled fairly early and I didn't want to get up early to make them. So I did what any self respecting lady of the house would do.
I whipped up a batch of herbed butter to go with the store bought rolls. It came out better than I expected and was enjoyed on our rolls as well as home grown potatoes from M and L's garden.
I think this would be lovely on tea sandwiches as well.

1 stick butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried basil
just a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (you can get whole nutmeg for a song at Indian markets and they're so very worth it!)
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Allow the butter to soften, I speed things up by cutting it into slices and putting in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time until it's soft but not melted.
Add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Let it sit for a couple of hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
I kept it at room temp so it was spreadable, but you could also put it in a butter mold or roll and refrigerate until firm.

Musings Over a Pot of Soup

I do love a step back in time to where the pace was slower and food heartier. The image of ladies with their full, floor length skirts covered with large white aprons bending over a pot bubbling on a cheery, wood burning stove to smell the delicate aroma rising therein comes to mind But as I was culling through a stewed chicken to make my Chicken Soup from Scratch I realized there isn't really anything romantically charming about the process at all. In fact, it's rather messy and more than just bit yucky.
When we think of the Victorian Era I think most of us think of the elegance and charm of a higher class lady. The one that had a cook to see to the meals and at least one servant to assist with the rigors of daily living. One certainly doesn't usually think of the lady with her sleeves rolled up to the elbow fishing through a pile of aromatics and chicken parts for choice bits of meat to set aside for the soup. And yet we know that someone must have.

My mother was born the year the Great Depression began and there was nothing romantic about that at all. She never knew anything but labor and although she was required to wear dresses she wasn't spared from working in the fields of my grandparents farm based on her gender. She could toss hay, till a field and milk a cow just as well as make enough bread to last a family of eight for a week, fix an entire dinner for the family using a wood stove and do the wash with nothing more than her hands and two large tubs.
It was from a childhood standing at her side that I learned most of my cooking skills. There were never any formal lessons given, just the constant repetition, gentle instructions and corrections
I learned to cook as she had, to use what was available in the pantry and never let anything go to waste. What could be eaten was eaten and what couldn't went back to the earth to fortify it for a new harvest.

Now all of us know that there is nothing more delicious and satisfying as a bowl of hot soup made from scratch. They may try, but the cans just can't capture the nuances of flavor that a pot simmering over the course of the day has. My daughter love soup, and we do occasionally purchase it in cans for simplicity sake, but that is nothing more than sustenance for the stomach. When I make soup from scratch is becomes food for the soul as well.
Today my lovely young Miss. arrived home from a night of sledding and sleepover to the aroma of chicken and aromatics simmering for the stock. She paused, deeply inhaled then gleefully asked "Soup?" A nod from me was all it took to bring her into the kitchen , coat still on to stand over the pot inhaling blissfully.
Through the course of the day as I've gone in to stir or chop she's been close at hand proclaiming how happy she is to be having soup. I'm so glad that I can create something that makes her so happy and is so good for her at the same time.

Chicken Soup from Scratch

4 qt chicken stock
2 cups chopped chicken
1lb carrots
6 stalks celery including leafy bits
1 large turnip
2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp finely grated, fresh ginger*
1 tbsp chicken bullion
1/4 cup fish sauce*
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar*
freshly ground pepper & kosher salt to taste

Chop the vegetables to a uniform size, leave three cloves of garlic whole and finely chop the 4th and place all ingredients in a large stock pot. Set to simmer until vegetables are just tender. Serve with warm rolls slathered with herb butter.

*The ginger, fish sauce and rice wine vinegar are new to this recipe because the original plan was to make pho. It's not enough to give a distinctive Asian flavor but turned out so good that I've decided to keep them.

ETA: The soup was a hit! We all had seconds and there's enough for lunch tomorrow. Thanks so much for reading and take care.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies

My family isn't terribly keen on sweets to the point where I sometimes wonder if they're even mine.
Since there isn't much point in making cakes, pies and cookies for one I usually wait until I have friends come over for tea and go all out, or I just make something and resign myself to eating the majority of it and avoiding the mirror for a while.
I have finally discovered a cookie that we all enjoy though. a spicy delicious morsel that is beyond easy to make thanks to a box mix. I came up with the addition of the candied ginger and the daughter thought of the addition of chocolate chips.
I hope you give them a try and enjoy them as much as we do. Once you make gingerbread cookies with the candied ginger you will never go back to plain store bought again. It makes all the difference in the world as far as the flavor factor.

Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies

1 box gingerbread cookie/cake mix (I use Betty Crocker) and the ingredients called for in the cookie recipe on the back of the box.
1/2 of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz candied ginger finely chopped (you can get candied ginger at an amazing price at any Asian market)
1/4 cup sugar

Pour the gingerbread mix into a bowl, add the chocolate chips and ginger and mix. Then add the ingredients called for on the back of the box for cookies. Using a small (2 tablespoon) ice cream scoop form dough into balls and roll in sugar before placing on the cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass and bake as directed.

Makes about 2 dozen

Off subject: I just want to point out the beautiful tea set in my picture. I inherited several cups/saucers and plates from a dear friend when she passed away. They usually sit unused on a shelf but I thought this would be a lovely way to show one of the patterns off. Hopefully as I do more baking for the holidays you'll see more of them.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stove Top Chicken Enchiladas

I had a craving for chicken enchiladas this week, but since I was working 12 hour shifts and coming home exhausted I didn't want to do my usual oven baked version.
I needed to come up with something quick and easy. Cafe Rio's burritos were my inspiration and this was the result. Since I was told to make these over my oven version from now on, I think they were a hit. So much so that the were pretty much gone before I could get pictures.
As usual, I made a big batch so we could have leftovers but it's basic so super easy to pare down.

1 economy pack of chicken breasts
2 medium onions chopped small
3 large cans green enchilada sauce
2 cans chopped chilies
2 cans black beans,rinsed
3 cups instant rice
3 cups water
Mexican seasoning
Large flour tortillas
grated cheese (mexican blend)

Heat a large, deep pan with a little oil. Sprinkle mexican seasoning on both sides of the chicken brown both sides and cook until almost cooked through. Take the chicken out and add onions, saute until almost tender then add three cans of enchilada sauce and two cans chopped chilies. Set to simmer.
Meanwhile, finely chop the chicken and return to pan with sauce and let cook at a simmer while the rice is being prepared.
(If you want plain sauce for serving enchilada style, set some aside before adding the chicken. We just used the sauce with chicken for simplicity sake.)

For Rice
Follow basic instructions for instant rice with the following exceptions.
Bring water to boil add 2 tablespoons mexican seasoning, 2 cans black beans and the instant rice, stir to combine, cover with lid and remove from heat.

To make enchiladas, take a large flour tortilla and add rice and beans, with a slotted spoon (so you don't get too much liquid) add chicken mixture. Roll enchilada and top with sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.