Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cranberry-Orange Relish

I saw this recipe in the paper a couple of years ago and thought it sounded really good. It is. This is not like the stuff out of a can. This is cranberry relish with a serious kick. Relish with an assertive personality.

Be warned: the full recipe makes a lot. They say a quart, but that's a serious underestimate. I started to make this in my 2 quart saucepan but had to switch to my big Dutch oven. The bowl in the photo below is about 8.5" in diameter at the top, and what you see there is half a recipe.

As usual, I made a few modifications to use what I had on hand. Instead of fresh ginger root, I used 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger for the full recipe. I thought this was about right, but you might want to reduce this if you think that's a bit much. I also used 2 tsp ground cinnamon instead of the cinnamon stick, and I left out the star anise. I also left out the salt, though that was mainly because I forgot to put it in at the end. For the orange zest, I just added the grated peel of one orange. For a full recipe, I probably should have used at least one more orange.

Oh, the standard-size bag of fresh cranberries is about 3 cups, so I just used 2 bags.

The relish does need to simmer for a couple of hours to cook the berries and thicken. But that's okay, because when it's simmering, the aroma is FABULOUS. Better than any scented candle. Plus, the cranberries pop as they heat, which will amuse the kids. Note that the finished product wasn't nearly as firm as the canned stuff, but who cares?

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Cranberry-Orange Relish
(source: USA Weekend, Nov. 13, 2005)

It's best to make the relish one day in advance so the flavors can meld.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey, preferably Acacia
4 cups fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh orange zest, pith removed
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
6 cups fresh cranberries (or substitute frozen cranberries)
2 tsps. fine sea salt

In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan over low heat, combine the sugar, honey and orange juice. Simmer until completely dissolved. Add ginger, zest, anise and cinnamon; stir to combine. Add the cranberries and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to thicken, about two hours. When thickened, add salt. Chill and serve.

Makes 1 quart. Serves 16.

Per serving: 169 calories, 1g protein, 44g carbohydrates, 0g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 2g fiber, 295mg sodium (nutritional analysis provided by the recipe source).

Recycle: honey jar

Compost: ginger peels, orange peel

Thursday, November 22, 2007

From Our Kitchens to Yours

A Wooden Spoon Thanksgiving


Cream of Mushroom Soup
Turkey with Herbed Stuffing
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
A's Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Orange Relish
Golden Crescents (rolls)
A's Top Secret Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie

This year OldRoses and A teamed up to do a joint Wooden Spoon Thanksgiving dinner. Above is the result (before eating). We decided to make some of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes, take pictures, and then post the recipes. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables

Microwave ovens are a working woman’s best friend. You can cook delicious meals when you have time and then just quickly nuke them when you get home and feed your family (or yourself!) incredible home-cooked meals. I especially love dishes that are all-in-one like soups and stews.

This recipe is a complete meal in itself. Chicken, potatoes and veggies. You can add dinner rolls if you like bread with your meals but it’s not necessary. I substitute chicken breasts for a whole, cut-up chicken. It’s easier and I prefer white meat. I also use chicken bouillon instead of the chicken broth. It works just as well and is what I have in my kitchen already.

This recipe takes a little time, but it’s worth it to be able to be able to come home on a cold day and heat up a tasty one-dish meal.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 2 ½ to 3 pounds broiler-fryer chicken, cut up and skinned
4 medium red potatoes, quartered
5 medium carrots, cut crosswise into thirds
3 celery stalks, cut crosswise into 2-inch-long pieces
2 medium onion, cut into wedges
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Fresh rosemary (optional)

In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook garlic in hot oil for 15 seconds. Add chicken pieces. Cook about 10 minutes or until chicken is light brown, turning to brown evenly. Drain off fat. Add potatoes carrots, celery, onions, chicken broth, wine, snipped rosemary, salt, and pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving platter; keep warm. Measure cooking liquid; add water, if necessary, to equal 1 cup total. For sauce, stir together cold water and cornstarch; stir into reserved liquid. Return to Dutch oven. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Season to taste. Serve with chicken. If desired, garnish with rosemary.

Makes 4 to 6 main-dish servings.

Recycle: rosemary container

Compost: celery leaves, garlic, carrot and onion skins

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bonnie Butter Cake with French Silk Frosting

Long, long ago when I was a young woman, the mother of the man I was then dating came to visit him. Not only were we serious enough that he wanted to introduce me to his mother, but since it was also her birthday, he wanted to show off my culinary talents and asked me to bake her a cake. I wanted to impress her but there was no internet back then and I only owned one cookbook, my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook.

I found a recipe in it for a three layer cake. Three layers! French frosting! At that time, I impressed easily. I also was blissfully unaware of the old adage that you should never make a brand new recipe for company. Betty Crocker never lets me down. The cake came out perfectly. Too perfectly.

His mother refused to believe that I had baked it. She accused me of buying a cake at a bakery and trying to pass it off as my own. My then boyfriend tried to defend me. He had witnessed me make it but she was adamant. I was a liar and a cheat. My relationship with her son did not survive very long after she left.

But I still bake that cake! It’s easy and delicious. Two things to bear in mind when you are making it. Don’t skimp on the time beating it or it will be dense and heavy. Go the full five minutes for a light airy texture. And double the frosting recipe. I’m sorry. Betty lies. As you can see from the picture, it does not make enough to fill and frost three 8-inch layers.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Bonnie Butter Cake with French Silk Frosting
(Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook)

Bonnie Butter Cake

⅔ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
3 cups cake flour or 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups milk

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour baking pan, 13x9x2 inches, or two 9-inch or three 8-inch round layer pans. In large mixer bowl, mix butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until fluffy. Beat 5 minutes on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. On low speed, mix in flour, baking powder and salt alternately with milk. Pour into pan(s).

Bake oblong 45 to 50 minutes, layers 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.

French Silk Frosting

2 ⅔ cups confectioners’ sugar
⅔ cup soft butter
2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate (cool)
¾ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

In small mixer bowl, blend sugar, butter, chocolate and vanilla on low speed. Greadully add milk; beat until smooth and fluffy.

Makes enough frosting for two 9-inch layer or three 8-inch layer cakes.

Recycle: vanilla bottle

Compost: eggshells

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Split Pea Soup with Barley

I love split pea soup. I’ve never made it, though because I lack one key ingredient: a ham bone. I live alone. I never have occasion to make a whole ham so that I would have a ham bone available for soup.

When I came across this recipe which uses cooked ham, the proverbial light bulb went off over my head. Ham steaks! My local grocery store often has specials on ham steaks. I buy them and chop them up for use in recipes that call for cooked ham.

I liked the idea of barley in this soup because I thought it would make it more filling. All the veggies also made it attractive. I’m not good about eating veggies unless they are raw, steamed, stir-fried or part of a soup or stew.

I should have picked up on two problems right away. This recipe calls for yellow split peas instead of the usual green ones and also lacks seasonings other than a bay leaf and salt and pepper. I forged ahead.

I made a couple of changes. I used a bouillon cube instead of instant granules because that’s what I have in the house. I also didn’t add any salt to it. I thought that the ham would be salty enough. And mindful of the minestrone soup disaster, I doubled the cooking time for each step.

This soup lacks the usual “pea” taste perhaps because it uses yellow instead of green peas. It also lacks taste although it was tastier the second day than the first. It definitely needs more seasonings. And it’s a good thing that I extended the cooking time. Not only were the veggies tender, but the barley and the peas didn’t really cook through until nearly the end. If I had used their times, I would have had raw veggies and hard peas and barley.

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Split Pea Soup with Barley
(Source: Better Homes and Gardens, November 2007)

10 cups water
1 lb. dry yellow split peas, rinsed and drained (about 2 cups)
½ cup regular barley
2 tbsp. instant chicken bouillon granules
1 bay leaf
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped (1 cup)
1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
5 ounces cooked ham, chopped (1 cup)
½ tsp. ground black pepper
Salt and ground black pepper

In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven or pot bring water, split peas, barley, bouillon granules, and bay leaf to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Stir in celery, carrots, and onion; return to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes more or until vegetables, peas, and barley are tender.

Stir in ham and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook 5 minutes more or until ham is heated through. Remove and discard bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and additional pepper.

Makes 8 (1 ½-cup) servings.

Compost: celery leaves, carrot and onion skins