Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Flavor of the Season

I am not one to buy into fads. Here in New England in the Fall it is pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! I like pumpkin. I don't LOOOVE it.  I am not a big fan of it in pie and certainly don't want it in my coffee. Pumpkin muffins and cakes on the other hand.....YUM! Today I baked and pureed my first pumpkin. I got it from my CSA and, after reading that the canned stuff isn't really pumpkin at all, I decided to try and make my own pumpkin puree from scratch. Turns out it is super easy AND the resulting baked goods turned out delicious. This recipe certainly doesn't require freshly roasted pumpkin but if you have one on hand use it! You won't be disappointed.

Pumpkin Spice Whoopee Pie with Maple Whiskey Cream Filling

1/2 C butter
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs Cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs heavy cream

Pre heat oven to 350F

In a stand mixer cream together butter and sugars, add pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add eggs vanilla and cream to mixer. Gradually add dry ingredients until incorporated. Spoon batter onto cookie sheets and bake 12-15 minutes until a toothpick come out clean. Let cool and fill cookies with 1/2 recipe of Maple whiskey cream filling (Click here for recipe). Makes about 1 dozen whoopee pies.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Cooking for a Cause

Yesterday was the benefit for my dear friend who was in a very bad motorcycle accident this summer. Thankfully he will be ok although he will probably walk with a limp for the rest of his life. Sundays at my house are usually spent on the sofa watching football, especially when it is as dreary as it was yesterday. But, I promised that I would make an appetizer. I really didn't want to leave the house and with money being so tight lately I need to come up with something low effort and low budget but tasty. We have a ton of beef in our freezer since we bought a hind quarter in the spring, so I came up with these tasty little french onion sliders. All I needed to buy was the rolls. I got dinner rolls from the bakery department of our local grocery store. The kind that come in a sheet and you have to break them apart. They looked kind of like this (but mine came 12 to a sheet):

 This allowed me to slice them all open, toast and fill all at one time, thereby allowing me to make them in batches of 12. As a bonus, each pack fit perfectly in the disposable aluminum pans I bought for the occasion. It worked perfectly! Here is how I did it.

French Onion Roast Beef Sliders

2-3 pound chuck roast
2 cans french onion soup

4 Tbs Butter
2-3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs garlic powder
1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Gravy Master
1 Tbs beef base
salt and pepper to taste

3 dozen small dinner rolls
1 stick butter
1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced

Place roast and soup in a slow cooker, set low and cook overnight (8 hours minumum).
When cool enough to handle, remove roast from slow cooker (reserve cooking liquid), separate fat and shred meat. Place meat in a bowl and cover with cooking liquid from the slow cooker to keep meat moist.

Melt butter in a large skillet and add flour and garlic powder and make a roux. Add cooking liquid, Worcestershire, gravy master, and beef base and stir to create a thick sauce. Add meat to the pan and continue to add cooking liquid until meat and sauce are of a sloppy joe like consistency. You don't want it to be pasty but if too runny bread will be soggy. Once desired consistency in achieved, salt and pepper to taste, and remove meat from heat and set aside.

Slice rolls open. Melt butter in a skillet and place rolls cut side down to toast. I used a table top electric skillet and was able to toast and entire package of rolls at one time. I was able to do three batches with 1 stick of butter. Once toasted, place a slice of mozzarella on each roll, then top with meat mixture, and then the top of the roll.

To serve, cover with foil and bake at 350 for 10-20 minutes or until rolls are hot.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What's Stew With You!

It seems that Fall is most definitely upon us now. I have to admit I am loving these cool nights and have been sleeping like a champ! This past weekend was pretty damp and gloomy so I decided that it was a perfect day to make one of my favorite things, beef stew. Growing up I used to love eating Dinty More Stew from the can. So what if it smelled like dog food when you opened it, lol! This recipe of mine captures that same beefy flavor but with ingredients you can identify! I don't normally put green beans in my stew but since I had some from my CSA that needed to be used pronto, I included them this time. They were quite good and I will likely use them again in the future if I have them. You can certainly leave them out if they aren't your thing.

Erika's Beef Stew

1-2 pounds beef stew meat
1-2 Cups flour
1/4 oil
2 onions, chopped
4 large stalks celery, chopped
1 can beer
1 box beef broth
2 Tbs beef base
2 Tbs molasses
1-2 tsp fresh thyme
2 Tbs fresh parsley, rough chopped
4 large potatoes, cubed
1 small bag baby carrots (or 4 large carrots, chopped)
2 Cups fresh green beans, cut into 2-3 inch pieces (optional)

In a large pot heat oil over medium-high heat
Meanwhile toss stew beef in flour to coat
In batches, brown beef in hot oil. remove from pot when browned
Deglaze pot with half of the can of beef scraping the browned bits from the bottom
Add celery and onion to pot and saute until soft.
Return beef to pot and add remaining beer, broth and base.
Simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour
After 1 hour remaining ingredients and continue simmering until vegetables are soft
Once vegetables are soft, add salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CSA Overload

My parents have been on vacation the past couple of weeks. This means that I am getting the entire CSA share. I am bursting at the seams with fresh vegetables. While this is certainly not a bad thing, some of them were starting to look VERY sad and rather than let them be wasted I came up with this dish to maximize their use. I STILL have a ton left to use but this seemed to  at least make use of the ones that were closest to becoming inedible. It is a mash up of a pot pie and a shepherds pie and the hubs and I both found it to be tasty and filling. I does call for canned soup so if you are against that sort of thing you could certainly whip together a quick sauce with butter, flour and chicken broth. I wasn't feeling like adding any additional work to the dish so I used the can of soup I found in the cupboard.

Chicken Pot Shepherds Pie With Mashed Cauliflower

For the Mashed Cauliflower
2 small heads cauliflower, broken into florets
 2 Tbs butter
 3 small leeks, rinsed and sliced thin
1 Cup chicken broth
1/2 Cup half and half
S&P to taste

For the Pot Pie
3 small heads broccoli, cut into florets
3 carrots, sliced thin
3 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can half and half
S&P to taste

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350F

Prepare the Mashed Cauliflower
Add butter and leeks to a sauce pan over low heat. Stir and let leeks soften a bit. Add cauliflower and chicken broth. Cover pot and let simmer on low heat until cauliflower is soft. Add half and half in increments and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Salt and Pepper to taste. If cauliflower is too thin you can thicken it up a bit with almond flour without affecting the taste. When done remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare Filling
Add oil and chicken to a large saute pan over medium heat and brown. Once browned, remove from heat and set aside. Leave juices in pan. Chicken does not have to be cooked through, it will finish in the oven.
Add vegetables to pan and continue to saute until just beginning to soften. Return chicken to pan and add soup and half and half and stir to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer filling mixture to a casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese over the top of the filling. Pour mashed cauliflower over the filling and spread it to cover. Bake for 50 minutes. top casserole with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese for the last 15 minutes of baking. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Quick Hit

Wednesdays sometimes don't afford me much time for dinner. I am a volunteer on my hometowns Conservation Commission and we meet the second Wednesday of every month at 7PM. While I do enjoy being involved with local decision making, I have to admit that when meeting time rolls around I am never very excited to go. What can I say, once I get home I like to stay there. But since I planned ahead, I had an idea of what to do for dinner in the hour and I half that I had between getting home from work and having to leave for my meeting. I had some prepared veal cutlets that I had defrosted in the refrigerator overnight. I get them from an Italian market in New Haven and they are always excellent. Plus, it saves me the mess of having to bread them myself. YAY! I fried those up like one traditionally does in my cast iron skillet and topped them with what I call, "hot Italian salsa". That was really a jumble of things from my CSA share but I have to admit it was superb. You could pour this concoction over veal, chicken, fish or even eggplant cutlets and it would be delicious.

Hot Italian Salsa

2 Tbs butter
2 leeks, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced (my cloves were small so I used 4)
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 tomatoes, diced (or a generous Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved)
1/2 C Parmesan cheese
1/4 C balsamic vinegar

In a large frying pan, melt butter over low heat. Add leeks, garlic and zucchini and saute until vegetables begin to soften.
Add tomatoes and continue to saute.
Once tomatoes have release a fair amount of liquid, add cheese and vinegar and let simmer to reduce. Be careful not to scorch the vinegar.
Once veggies are cooked through, remove from heat and serve over cooked cutlets

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

It's the Little Things

Yesterday was CSA share pick up day. In this weeks share we had a reappearance of leeks. I love those things. So many delicious ways to use them. However, hubs mentioned Monday on our way home from camping that, if time permitted today, we would go visit a couple of friends who are in the hospital up in Hartford. One is there to get his foot amputated after a terrible motorcycle accident. The other is there recovering from yet another motorcycle accident. He will hopefully be keeping all of his limbs. With that in mind, I decided that I would use the leeks to make a big batch of chicken noodle soup to share with them both. Hubs didn't seem to think that either of them would want soup. He said they would want pizza and sandwiches. UM, what do you think everybody else is bringing. I am fairly confident nobody else would bother to actually make something. Any shmuck can stop at Subway or Dominoes to pick up some lousy thoughtless food stuffs. In fact, I think they are both right next door to the hospital just for that purpose. I would certainly appreciate the thought and effort put into a homemade offering over shitty take out any day! PLUS, after multiple surgeries and tubes and shit shoved down their throats, I would bet soup would be quite soothing. So, I am bringing them soup. Eat it or Die!

Erika's Chicken Noodle Soup
4 bone in chicken breasts (or a whole chicken if that is what you have - cut up or not - it doesn't matter)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 leeks (can sub with onions), cleaned and chopped
6 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
8-10 carrots, cleaned and chopped (peel if you want but it isn't mandatory)
1-2 cups small pasta
1 large can chicken broth
2 Tbs fresh dill chopped
1/2 Tbs Bells poultry seasoning (optional)
3 TBS chicken base
salt to taste

Place chicken breasts is a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Continue cooking until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to cool and RESERVE COOKING LIQUID! You can strain it if there is a bunch of icky shit floating in it. When cool enough to handle, shred/chop chicken meat.
In a second large pot, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add vegetables and saute for a few minutes. Add dill and continue to stir. Add chicken broth, chicken base and reserved chicken cooking liquid. Bring everything to a simmer.
Add cooked chicken.
In the pot that you cooked the chicken in, cook pasta until al dente (no sense dirtying another dish). You can add the pasta right to the soup to cook but you will lose practically all of your soup liquid so just cook it separately. When cooked, add it to the soup along with the Bells seasoning. Add salt to taste. Let cool a bit before you try to eat it. Trust me, it's too hot.