23 July 2015

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01 December 2014

The Cookie Crumbles

Now is the time of year when everyone, everywhere joyously gets their bake on.

Except me.

Lord, I hate to bake.

And the baking? It hates me. I have butchered pound cakes, debunked 'fool proof' cookie recipes, let untold numbers of pies boil over in the oven, and vulcanized oven-steamed puddings.

I once tried four times in a single day to bake a gingerbread cake for a friend's gathering. It had to be done that day, by the dinner hour.

Three trips to the grocery store and nobody knows (I know but I'm not telling) how much money later, I finally bought a cake mix, threw in some sliced pears and called it a day. If you love a challenge and want to try your hand at defeating the devil, in the form of the cake recipe from hell, the recipe is here. Good luck and please don't tell me if it turns out perfectly. I cling to the belief that only my friend Carolyn can successfully wrestle this recipe and come out on top.

This Christmas I am giving myself the gift of Not Baking. Rather than try to achieve the Martha Standard of Christmas Cookie Perfection I will make fudge.

Fudge is great. I mean it is seriously rewarding. It cooks up quickly and a little goes a long way - there is no need to make 50 batches. And success is almost guaranteed - who doesn't love fudge? It is gluten-free (isn't it?) can be nut-free and - perhaps this goes without saying but you never know - it should not contain shellfish. Thus it is 75% diet-sensitivity-friendly*. I'm sold. Are you sold? I am totally sold.

I've been making the following fudge for years - except last year when we didn't have a kitchen and the year before when we moved houses.

Other than that? Years and years. The original recipe is from the now-defunct Chocolatier magazine and...

***Time Lapse ***
I thought The Recipe was gone. I looked everywhere, high and low, and couldn't find it. I thought I'd lost it in the move. Panic attack. Googled the ingredients and came up with - absolutely nothing. So I think it is safe to say that, without this copy, the recipe would be lost to the ages. Luckily, the tiny scrap of paper was stuck to the inside pocket of my recipe book. :: great, heaving, sigh of relief::

The recipe is for microwave fudge, but because I tend to overcook/dehydrate things in the nuker, I melt the chocolate in a double-boiler (aka a Pyrex bowl over a simmering pot).

Black Forest Fudge

12 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsley chopped
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened, condensed milk
2 oz. kirsch (cherry liquor)
1 cup dried cherries

1. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil so that the foil extends 2 inches beyond the sides of the pan.

2. In a 3-quart microwaveable bowl, combine the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, milk and kirsch. Microwave uncovered, on High, for 3 minuts or until the chocolate begins to melt, stirring halfway through the heating time. Gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

3. Stir in the cherries. Do not overstir. Transfer the fudge into the prepared pan and, using an offset spatula, spread the fudge to the edges. Refrigerate 4 hours until firm.

4. Using the edges of the foil as handles, lift out the fudge.  Leave on counter to come up to nearly room temperature. On a cutting board, with a serrated bread knife, cut into 1-inch pieces. To store the fudge, refrigerate in an airtight container.

*Obviously not diabetic-friendly or Paleo.

30 November 2014

It started ....

...with this. Garden and Gun's recipe for Leftover Turkey Gumbo. This year I cooked two 20-pound turkeys which left me with....two 20-pound turkey carcasses. When this recipe showed up in my Facebook feed, it was talking to me. This is good.

Wrong. There are a couple of things about this recipe that did NOT speak to me. The lack of info about how much liquid we were working with...two quarts or two gallons? How big was his pot? There's a lot of room for error in here, which got me to the roux....2-3/4 cups oil and three cups flour? That's a LOT of roux, and if we don't have a ballpark figure for the amount of liquid? Getting a little antsy. Then, he said boil it a while and serve it bones and all. I boiled it a long time and who knew? Turkeys have little bitty needle-like bones. Skinny little long slivers. You cannot serve bones and broth to kids...just can't do it. By now, I was beginning to wonder if the recipe author had really made this, or just had a good idea.

So! Bring in The Gumbo Pages. I have been a fan for a long time and here we have a bartender who cooks and knows what he's talking about. Chuck is...a pleasure. A treat. Come on...how much do we love a guy who announces up front on his blog:

He is also knowledgeable and looking at those two mutilated turkey remains, I needed an expert. In his listing of gumbo recipes, this one seemed to best fit what I was looking for. 

Once upon a time, before we had all these kids, The Big Boy and I spent New Year's....or was it the Super Bowl?...spent some holiday that involved a King Cake, with the Gaucheaux family in Thibodeaux LA. Elderly mom with 12 grown kids and a million grandkids, and she made gumbo. I had never had the real thing and I was disappointed. Where are the tomatoes? THERE ARE NO TOMATOES!!! Dumbass...real gumbo doesn't HAVE tomatoes. It's poor people food made from whatever is handy that can be soaked in a lot of water to feed a lot of kids...like our chicken and dumplings. Duh moment.

Live and learn. 
When you're visiting New Orleans and southern Louisiana,  these things:
1. You don't need a full 8 hours of sleep a night -- there's too much fun to be had to waste it sleeping.
2. In Louisiana alcohol, butter, cream and big piles of fried seafood are still good for you.

So I started with the Garden and Gun suggestions, switched to the Gumbo Pages suggestions, went with what was handy late at night at my small-town grocery on the Friday after Thanksgiving and......DEAR LORD IN HEAVEN!!!!! People have been asking for this recipe for two days and I'm at the place where THERE IS NO RECIPE but I'm pretty sure I can remember what was in the refrigerator. Or not, but this is still some awesome crowd-pleasing gumbo.

You're welcome ;-)

Football Saturday After Thanksgiving Thursday Gumbo

1 whole turkey carcass
Put the turkey carcass in a stock pot, cover with water, and simmer for about four hours. Place a large metal colander over a big pan and strain the turkey broth through the colander. From here, I was working with about two gallons of broth. Pick the meat...this ain't fun, but you have to CAREFULLY pick through the bones and cartilage, setting the clean meat aside..

Dice three yellow onions, one green bell pepper, and half a bunch of celery. Add 1/4 cup chopped garlic. Saute the vegetables in one stick of butter on low heat until soft.

While vegetables saute, heat one cup vegetable oil. Whisk in one cup flour, and stir over medium heat until roux is a dark brown...20 to 30 minutes. STIR! Stirring is important.
Set the roux off the heat, add the broth to the vegetables and bring to a boil. Stir in the roux. It will foam up, so keep stirring. When roux is incorporated, add picked turkey meat. Slice two pounds Conecoh smoked sausage into thin medallions and add to the gumbo. Salt and pepper to taste, and add 1/4 cup paprika. I added about a teaspoon of thyme, because I like thyme.
Serve over rice, with crusty bread, good butter, and cold beer. Bask in the glory.

23 November 2014

An End to the Great Debate

When I was growing up I had absolutely no idea what a cranberry looked like. I never even imaged that a cran-berry was a real thing like a strawberry or a blueberry. Cranberries, in our house, came from a can in a glorious glistening lump. 

At Thanksgiving a lone can of cranberry, which had been sitting on the counter all morning teasing us kids with promises of sweet-tart semimasticated goodness,  was breached at both ends. Then the jelly was coaxed from the tin - carefully, carefully, so as not to dent the cylinder - and ceremoniously deposited onto a cut glass dish. Once there the nugget was sliced, using the can ridges as guidelines, like a little ruby-colored loaf of gleaming, jiggling bread.

I loved it. I still love it. If I was a famous foodie and an interviewer asked me to name guilty pleasure foods, gelatinous canned cranberry sauce would top the list.

This cranberry loaf represents one half of a rivalry that spans generations, regions, race and religion:
Fresh Cranberry Relish vs. Canned Cran

I should say it was a rivalry because a few years ago my aunt served a chunky, jellied sweet/tart cranberry dish that rocked my world and promised holiday relish peace. She shared the recipe with me and I am going to share it with you as a gift and a hope that it brings compromise and peace to your own family table.

This has been modified over the past few years - every time I make it I tweak something and update her recipe. Although I discovered yesterday it isn't really her recipe at all - it originated in Bon App├ętit magazine in 1998. So, thank you, Epicurious.

Cranberry Cherry Relish
2 1/2 cups cherry juice
2 cups dried cherries, roughly chopped
1 12-oz bag cranberries, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the juice to a gentle boil. Add cherries, cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 10 minutes. Return pot to heat and bring contents to a boil. Add sugar and cloves, stir to combine. Add pectin, stir to combine. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to partially cool. Transfer to a ceramic or glass dish, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until thoroughly chilled. 

20 November 2014

I [Heart] NYT

It happens every time we accept the NaBloPoMo challenge - we hit a dry spell and the quality of our posts deteriorates to the point of list-making, copy-less photographs and/or plagiarism.

Today we hit the trifecta. 

Many of you probably noticed this image in your news or social media feed on Wednesday...

...but did you click on the headline and read the article?

If you looked at the graphic, found your state and thought, "My family doesn't make X on Thanksgiving, this is completely wrong" and then clicked away, you missed out - big time.

Do yourself a favor and return to the article here. 

Every dish, whether or not it accurately represents what you know to be true about Thanksgiving food traditions in your region, is intriguing.

Some are blatantly odd... and thought provoking.

Some are dead genius.

Some will induce flashbacks to nightmarish childhood meals.

And some are just gorgeously photographed.

Take 15 minutes and head over to the New York Times. If you weren't already prepping your salivary glands for the feast next week, this very nicely constructed article will get you going.

**Note: I have no idea why the view of the NYT page is so large. When I clicked over I felt like my computer automatically adjusted to 90-year-old vision mode.

Killing Snakes and Puttin' Out Fires....

Pretty much sums it up for the next two months. Did y'all know basketball people don't take holiday breaks? Like...AT ALL? Four dogs, six cats and a conglomeration of chickens don't, either. We are shifting into high gear, just about the time the holidays come along and SHIFT INTO HIGH GEAR. Poor planning on someone's part.

Meals around here get sketchy. Four nights a week the closest to a dining table we'll get is the console in my car. Therefore, we have to think fast and recyclable and as I get ready to dump another can of something into the cans from last night....I'm smiling. They'll never know.

Dinner last night, per The Not Nice Kid's request, was this Hearty Tomato Soup (courtesy of Mz Jean across the street) and pigs in a blanket. Plain old cocktail smokies wrapped in canned crescent rolls and dipped in mustard. Win! Got this.

Hearty Tomato Soup

2 T butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 t paprika
1-1/2 t dried basil
6 oz cream cheese, room temp
1-1/4 cup milk
2 cans condensed tomato soup
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained

Saute onion and garlic in butter for two minutes. Add paprika, basil, and cream cheese and stir (Mz Jean uses a whisk, I can't get that to work) until the cream cheese is softened and mixed with the other ingredients. Gradually incorporate the milk and stir until smooth. Add soup and diced tomatoes and heat through.

Everyone loves this, and no one cares it comes out of a bunch of cans. I tend to use olive oil instead of butter, and sometimes smoked paprika.

And then....

The next night? Add some dried Italian seasoning and either another can of tomatoes, or a small jar of marinara sauce. Boil a bag of cheese ravioli and sauce it up, throw in a salad that you have dressed with the Good True Dressing and some bread and TaDa!! You are once again a hero.

Should you have the time...

...and it's really not very much time, wow your people with this Failproof Pizza Dough that makes real cheese sticks. This is a two-hour project, start to finish, because it only has to rise once. The mixer and your dough hooks do the work.

Your people will love you. I promise.