Monthly Archives: December 2013

Note to Self re: Holiday Baking

Note to self: Next year buy all holiday baked goods from a bakery. It’s Christmas Eve and I am so baked-out that I can’t stand the thought of another cookie coming out of my oven. Yet here I sit while the world’s most complicated pumpkin pie bakes in my oven. To be fair it is a maple bourbon pumpkin pie with a chocolate crust and it is fantastic, not to mention impressive when shared.

xmascookies

In the beginning it was really fun to make and decorate these roll out sugar cookies whose recipe I pulled from Bon Apetit Magazine. But after 3 or 4 go-rounds with the decorating and the sprinkles and the massive cleanup that comes when you mix a little boy and too much sugar, I am worn out! Not to mention the shopping, the wrapping, and all the holiday cheer a mom is responsible for creating. If you find yourself with extra holiday stamina and you want to make a larger batch, go here for another excellent recipe that produces almost 60 cookies.

The above link is for the cookie dough only. For fool-proof icing click here then go wild with food coloring and sprinkles.

Lastly, I put myself over the edge by trying these Red and White Vanilla Pinwheels for the first time. Here they are straight out of the oven:

pinwheels

These pinwheels are nice but warning! They are very complicated to make.

These pinwheels are nice but warning! They are very complicated to make and don’t offer a whole lot of leeway when it comes to being able to walk away and take a break from the process. I should have walked away from the recipe that told me to roll out dough to be “about” 11.5″ x 5.5″. I actually got out a measuring tape. This, I feel, is just wrong.

Whatever it is that you did or did not bake this year, I wish you a happy and relaxing holiday. Merry Christmas!

Leftovers reborn, hot & cold

Let’s say you roasted a chicken last night and now you have the leftover meat in your fridge. If you have a few cans of the right stuff on the shelf you can have a whole new meal with that leftover chicken. With mostly the same ingredients you have 2 choices, a salad or a soup. Both are easy and don’t require much more that opening a few cans and chopping a vegetable or two. 

Go ahead and toss in any other vegetables you have kicking around the produce drawer-both of these recipes are excellent with celery or carrots added. The salad could benefit from a few slivers of red onion, too.  

The rice can be cooked ahead of time and let cool.

salad

Salad

  • Leftover chicken chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 15oz can corn
  • 1 15oz can Cannellini beans
  • 2-ish cups cooked rice
  • 4 large kale leaves, chopped (Swiss chard or spinach will also work)
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • herbs fresh or dried like rosemary, basin or thyme

Measure out one cup of rice (dry) and cook according to directions. Rinse the corn and beans in a colander, drain to dry. When the rice is done let it cool in a large bowl. Add the corn, beans, chicken and kale to the bowl. Toss with olive oil, balsamic and any herbs you have. You can also use salad dressing from a bottle.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

If it feels a little bland, this is a really good place to add a little hot sauce like Sriracha.

soup

Soup

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Leftover chicken copped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 15oz can corn
  • 1 15oz can Cannellini beans
  • 1cup cooked rice
  • 4 large kale leaves, chopped (Swiss chard or spinach will also work)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp herbs fresh or dried like rosemary, basin or thyme
  • Sriracha or another hot sauce of your

Rinse the corn and beans in a colander, drain to dry. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over med-low heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until onion gets soft but does not burn. Add chicken broth, corn, beans, kale, rice, and leftover chicken. Add herbs, salt & pepper.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Put a lid on the pot but leave it ajar and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice to ensure the rice is not sticking. Serve with a little Sriracha.

Dinner in one hour

Roasted Chicken, potatoes and squash

wholechickenNot only can this meal be comforting and satisfying it can be cooked in one hour. Bonus: it yields not one but three potential leftover dishes.

I can’t believe I pulled it off. A meat and potatoes dinner made in one hour with three food groups and no recipe. I covered the meat group, the starch group and the vegetable group and here is how I did it.

The salt brings out the moisture in the chicken and makes the skin nice and crispy. This is why you do not baste until the roasting is almost complete, you need the salt to do its job. The basting will rinse off the super-saltiness towards the end of the process.  With nothing in the cavern of the chicken it will roast quickly and thoroughly at a high heat.

Do ahead: the potatoes and squash can be peeled and chopped at any time earlier in the day.

Roasted Chicken with potatoes and squash

  • Whole chicken about 4 lbs, more or less
  • Salt
  • Water
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 med onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried sage
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 450

Rinse the chicken and remove any neck and giblets. Generously salt inside the cavern and outside of the chicken on both sides. Place on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan. Fill the pan with a ½  inch of water. Roast for an hour basting only once, 45 minutes after the bird has been in the oven.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut roughly into 1” chunks. Peel the squash and cut into 1” chunks. Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, onions, salt and pepper. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saute pan. Add the sage and sauté for 1 minute, until fragrant. Pour over potatoes and squash. Add thyme and toss well. Transfer to a small roasting pan and add to the oven where the chicken has been roasting. Roast for 30 minutes or until the potatoes feel soft when pierced with a fork. Stir once halfway through roasting.

After an hour, remove the chicken from the oven and test the done-ness by cutting onto the breast.

Check my next post for the leftover magic.

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake-crisis averted again

pcheeseAs usual, I was waaaay too busy preparing for Thanksgiving to blog about what I planned to make. As I’ve said before with these big holidays, I am a mom first, a food blogger second. So here it is, my after-the-fact musings on my favorite holiday.

Every year I make a pumpkin cheesecake instead of a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Every year the same semi-disaster happens and every year I develop amnesia about it when I plan to make it again. It begs the question: what is the difference between a holiday tradition and a traditionally dumb thing I do again and again?

phase1

Straight out of the oven: a little cracked, a little burnt around the edges. How do I forget this happens every year?

The pumpkin cheesecake is delicious and gets lots of ooohs and aaahs from guests when I tell them about it (and before they see it) but making it pretty is my big challenge each year. It comes out of the oven looking like this:

When I remove it from the oven I have a panic attack. It’s so ugly!! What am I going to do??? But some careful slicing and even more careful topping-making, it looks acceptable. NOT beautiful, but acceptable.

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 375

Crust

  • ½ cup Graham cracker crumbs
  • ¾ cup gingersnap crumbs
  • 2.5 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1 TSP ground ginger
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1 egg white beaten

To make the crust: First off, you can now buy graham cracker crumbs in the box, already crumbed. Gingersnaps, however, tend to be very hard cookies when you buy them in a box so I recommend putting some gingersnaps in a plastic bag and smashing them with the back of a spoon to break them up. After that, you can put the broken pieces in a blender or food processor to pulverize them. Combine all crumbs with the ginger and sugar. Stir in the melted butter. Firmly press the mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch Springform pan. Brush the crust with the lightly beaten egg white and chill for at least 15 minutes.

To make the filling:

  • 16 oz of cream cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup plus
  • 1 tbsp canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 TSP vanilla extract
  • 3 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1 TSP ground ginger
  • ½ TSP ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves

Using a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, sour cream, and both sugars until smooth. Gently beat in egg yolks, then pumpkin puree, vanilla, cornstarch and all the spices. In another large bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed using a whisk or the whisk attachment on an electric mixer. Fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture using a hand-held spatula.

Fill an 8” sq baking pan halfway with water. Set it in the rack below the cheesecake rack in the oven.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust pan. Place in the oven and bake until the center does not tremble when the pan is gently shaken, between 1 hour and 1 ½ hours. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, you can make the topping:

  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 TSP ground ginger
  • 1.5 TBSP unsalted butter, but into small pieces

Turn the broiler in high. Combine all these ingredients in a small bowl and mix with a fork or clean fingers until crumbly.

sliced

A very careful slicing away of the uneven burnt parts

Now this is where it gets dicey for me. The creature that comes out of the oven is ugly-it’s puffy, it’s uneven, it’s cracked. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake to separate it from the pan. Remove the edges of the Springform pan and carefully trim any burnt or uneven edges with a sharp knife. Go slowly so you don’t take away big chunks. Spread the topping evenly over the top of the cheesecake filling in any cracks. Broil for 30-40 seconds with the oven door cracked keeping an eye on it every second!!!! The topping will melt and become a beautiful textured caramel.

wartsandall

Not perfect looking but soooo much better than before!

Place it on a rack and let it cool to room temp. Refrigerate it overnight. Devour.