Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Monday, December 31, 2007

Cappuccino Cheesecake

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I've only made this twice, but it really deserves to be made more often. It's pretty easy, serves a large number of people (easily 12+), and is plain ol' scrumptious. We made it for our Christmas party this year, forgoing the traditional pies.

Cappuccino Cheesecake (San Francisco Encore)

Preheat to 350 degrees. Coat a 9" springform pan with butter.

7 TB melted butter
1 ½ C chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
3 TB sugar

Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool on a cake rack.

In a large bowl, beat until smooth and fluffy:
2 1/4 lbs. cream cheese

Beat in:
1 C sugar
1/4 C heavy cream
1 ½ tsp vanilla

Add, one at a time, beating well:
5 eggs

Set aside 2 1/4 C of the filling.

Mix together, stirring until dissolved:
1 oz. ground semisweet chocolate
1/4 C strong hot espresso coffee
Stir in:
3 TB coffee liqueur (Kahlua)

Add the coffee mixture to the remaining batter, and blend well.

Pour the coffee/cream mix into the prepared crust. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the rim of the cake is set. The center should still be soft. Carefully remove from the oven.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir into the remaining filling:
½ tsp lemon juice

Carefully pour around the inside of the rim of the pan where the cake is set. Allow the filling to flow into the center. Do not pour directly onto the center or it will collapse. Return to the oven. Continue baking until the sides rise and the center is just set, about 35 minutes.

Cool on a rack. When the bottom and sides are completely cool, remove the rim. Continue to cool at room temperature. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, preferably overnight.

The Perfect Appetizer: Herbed Puffs

Pin It These babies are pure appetizer heaven.

What makes them so perfect?
  1. FAST.
  2. and EASY to make.
  3. Can be made well ahead of event.
  4. Freezer Friendly!
  5. They are DELICIOUS little morsels!
Cooking tip: Have all your ingredients measured out, ready to go. Once you start dumping it in the pot, you need to work fast!

I've made these several times. They are always a hit. Next time I will probably triple the recipe, and flash-freeze them so they are ready to go when we have guests.

Something else to try with them: slicing them in half and adding a slice of thin cheese and prusciotto or salami. I got this from my friends, Nikki & John, who made a similar appetizer. Their recipe called for the slicing and addition of the meat and cheese inside. They were tasty!

Herbed Puffs (San Francisco Encore)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 2 baking sheets.

Combine in a saucepan, and bring to a boil.
2/3 C water
1/3 C + 2 TB milk
1 stick (4 oz) butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

As soon as it boils, remove from heat and immediately pour in (all at once):
1 C flour

Using a wooden spoon, stir rapidly until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Return to a low heat and cook for an additional minute.

Beat in, until the mixture is thick and smooth:
4 eggs, one at a time

Add in:
4 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
2 green onions, minced
1 TB minced parsley
1 tsp dried dill

Spoon the batter into 1 ½” mounds onto the prepared baking sheets.

Beat together:
1 egg
pinch of salt
and brush over the tops of the puffs.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from the baking sheets and cool on wire racks.

These freeze well and can be reheated. (Since we had freezing temps, I did my flash freezing on the patio!)

Sunday, December 30, 2007


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Never in my life had I ever heard of cakeballs until a year or so ago. On a message board I frequent, posters were raving about all the different cakeball combos they made. They talked of co-workers, guests, and family members devouring these tasty treats. Two seasons of talk passed me by before I finally caved in and tried my hand at making cakeballs.

There is nothing homemade about them. It's all about the boxed, pre-packaged foods mixed together with some fake chocolate. This cook-from-scratch girl did not want to like them. I hoped I wouldn't; but I did. They really are a perfect little dessert item for a party...bite-sized, non-messy, delightful little morsels.

So what is a cakeball, and how do you make them? It's really quite easy. You buy three ingredients: cake mix, a container of frosting, and Almond Bark (that would be the fake chocolate stuff). The flavors are all up to you.


Using a boxed mix, make a cake. Let it cool a bit and then crumble it up in a large bowl.

Mix in about 2/3 of a can of store-bought frosting. Mix up the cake and frosting until you have a well-mixed mushy mess.

Using your hands, scoop out a little bit of the mushy mess and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on a jelly-roll pan and freeze for at least an hour. (The purpose of freezing is so the balls will be harder/easier to work with.)

Once the balls are frozen, place about 3/4 of a package of Almond Bark candy coating* (generic is fine.....yes, there is generic Almond Bark!) into a small saucepan.* Over medium-low heat, melt the Almond Bark.

Line a counter or cookie sheet with wax paper.

Place a toothpick in a frozen ball, and dip the ball into the melted Almond Bark. Swirl the ball around until it's all covered. Place the ball on the wax paper. Continue on until all balls are dipped.

The Almond Bark hardens fast, so you'll need to work fairly quickly. Once the balls are covered and the Almond Bark has hardened, place on a platter for serving (leave the toothpicks in) or in an air-tight container. They freeze well, and can be made at least a couple weeks ahead of an event. I would imagine they'd store well frozen in a vacuum-sealed freezer bag indefinitely.

*Sold in the baking aisle, near the chocolate chips.
**Choose your smallest, yet deepest, saucepan. This allows for easier dipping.

Your cake balls should have a nice, shiny, smooth appearance. Do you notice that mine are lumpy*? Yeah, I noticed that too. Huh. Last year they were smooth. However, the lumpy bumpy-ness of mine gave me an idea that you could probably put something (nuts, candy pieces, etc.) in the melted Almond Bark. Or you could sprinkle something on your cakeballs before the coating hardens.

Flavor combos: The choices are really endless. Simply think of your favorite cake/frosting combinations. I know the Almond Bark comes in vanilla and chocolate, although you might find other flavors as well.

*The lumpy cakeballs are from this year (2007). The nice smoooooth ones at top are from 2006. Don't they look nicer???

Added an hour later:
I think I've died and gone to cakeball heaven! On a whim I googled cakeballs, and came upon these glorious pictures on flickr! Okay...ditch the toothpicks and start decorating! How FUN are those?!!

The Perfect Party Punch

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Just in time for New Year's Eve...the PERFECT party punch. What makes it so perfect? It's the right balance of sweet fruitiness with some zip from the Sprite. It takes the simple Hawaiian Punch/Sprite combo and kicks it up a notch or two.

To spike or not to spike, that is the question. For the designated drivers and the kiddos (should there be any present) I recommend leaving the alcohol out. You can always leave a bottle (or two) next to the punch bowl (see above photo).

The ice ring was made with this handy little Jell-o mold from Tupperware. Though a staple in the south, this particlular Jell-o mold is rarely used. It is kept in the back of the cabinet for the annual ice ring. (It also could be used to make Rice Krispie Treat Wreaths at Christmastime.)

Don't have a punch bowl? Then use your largest mixing bowl and a soup ladle. Last year I served it in this Tupperware bowl before I stumbled on my yard sale bargain of the year: a punch bowl complete with 36 matching cups, some cup rings, and a ladle. All for $7.50. The box it came in is labeled, "Good Junque." For $7.50 I quite agree!

Fruit Punch

Makes 16 quarts

Mix together:
1 can frozen orange juice
1 can frozen lemonade
1 can pineapple juice
1 (1.89 liter) bottle cran-raspberry cocktail juice
1 2-liter bottle Sprite
2 oz. Grenadine

Pour some of this into a jello mold for an ice ring.

Garnish with lemon & orange slices.

Add vodka or rum if desired.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fudge Filled Foldovers (or Spirals!)

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I've had this cookie recipe in my box for at least 10 years, but I've never made it. I actually have collected a lot of cookie recipes that have yet to be tried and tasted. This year I made it a point to make three new cookies, and this was one of them.

It was coming along quite nicely until I looked in the oven and saw the cute little "foldovers" had un-folded. In subsequent batches I twisted and smooshed the dough with all my might, hoping they would stay closed. Most didn't. After 3 pans I had a 30% success rate.

At this point I gave up on the foldovers and moved on to spirals, jelly-roll style! This proved to be much easier, a lot faster, and they stayed together (as long as the seam was on the bottom). So, from now on, these "Foldovers" will be "Spirals".

Taste: I especially liked the not-too-sweet taste of the fudge filling and the cream cheese dough. If I can get the spirals to look a bit nicer, they might have a place in next year's cookie exchange.

Fudge Filled Foldovers

Mix together, and refrigerate* until the fudge-filling is made:
1-1/4 C flour
3 oz. package cream
1/2 C butter (1 stick)

Mix together:
1/2 C sugar
1 TB softened butter
1/3 C unsweetened cocoa

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk
1/2 Cwalnuts - finely chopped

Roll out 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured board or between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Use a pastry cutter to cut into 2-1/2 inch squares. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling into the center of each square. Bring 2 diagonal corners of each square together in the center over the filling and twist to seal**. Place the cookies 1/2 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

Yield: 25 cookies

*These do not have to be refrigerated very long. Mine were in the refrigerator for a few days before rolling out, and I actually had to let it soften quite a bit before it was workable. It doesn't have to be as cold/chilled as pie crust or sugar cookies.

**Twist and smoosh, twist and smoosh!!


Roll out a bit of dough until you have it about 3" x 12". Spread the fudge mixture onto the dough, pressing in so it stays in place as you roll. Roll up the dough, jelly-roll style. Place on a baking sheet (it's easier to put th whole roll on the sheet & cut right there), and make 1/2" slices. The dough doesn't spread much, so you can have them pretty close together on the baking sheet.

Monday, December 10, 2007

White Bean and Chicken Chili

Pin It This past weekend was jam-packed with holiday events and parties. To top it off, it was my turn to cook for our meal exchange. For the first time in many months I had no clue what to make! Brian immediately suggested "Julie's" White Chicken & Bean Chili. This was a recipe that Julie made for our meal exchange last year. It was Brian and Katie's favorite meal from the group last year, and so we decided to make it again.

One problem in our family is that while Katie, the vegetarian, loves beans of all kinds, her mother doesn't. I like the chicken in the soup; she likes the beans. Brian likes them both. We easily satisfied everyone's tastes by making two pots of the soup for our family: one with chicken and one with beans. Brian simply combined the two for his chili!

The recipe comes from Cooking Light's April 1997 issue. I love the flavor from the lime juice and tomatillos.

White Bean and Chicken Chili


Cooking spray
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound skinned, boned chicken breast halves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped shallots*
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
1 (14 1/4-ounce) can fat-free chicken broth
1 (11-ounce) can tomatillos, drained and coarsely chopped
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini beans or other white beans, drained
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
9 tablespoons (about 4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese


Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray. Add oil; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; set aside.

Add shallots and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in tomatoes and next 6 ingredients (tomatoes through cumin). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Add chicken and beans; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in lime juice and pepper. Ladle into bowls: top with cheese.

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: 1 cup chili and 1 tablespoon cheese)

Nutritional Information:
CALORIES 247(23% from fat); FAT 6.2g (sat 2g,mono 1.7g,poly 1.7g); PROTEIN 23.3g; CHOLESTEROL 38mg; CALCIUM 171mg; SODIUM 593mg; FIBER 3.1g; IRON 2.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 25.4g

*We couldn't find shallots, and substituted leeks instead. Worked just fine!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sunset's Frosted Ginger Cookies

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Friends of ours held their annual cookie exchange party this afternoon. I love going to this because we come home with so much variety! This week we are all supposed to email the hostess with our recipes. This excites me, because there were some really yummy cookies in the mix!! So, as soon as the recipes come through, I'll share our family's favorites with you.

But to start off the cookie recipe posts, here is a real winner that I made for the party. It came in last year's Sunset Magazine (December 2006 issue). What I love about it is that it was an easy dough to make and work with. The Pampered Chef cookie medium cookie scoop made perfectly round cookies. And the frosting was so quick and easy.

Frosted Ginger Cookies

In a large bowl (or mixer) cream until light and fluffy:
cup granulated sugar
cup butter, at room temperature

Mix in:
1 egg
tablespoons molasses

In a separate bowl mix together:
cups flour, sifted
teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2
teaspoons ground ginger
teaspoon cinnamon
teaspoon salt
teaspoon ground cloves
teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Slowly mix in dry ingredients with wet ones, and blend well.

Fill a shallow bowl with
sugar (about 1/2 cup)

Using a cookie scoop, scoop out balls of dough, and place a few at a time in the bowl of sugar. Roll the balls in sugar, and place on a cookie sheet. Leave room for spreading (on a 12 x 15 Pampered Chef stoneware pan, or the 10 x 15 1/2 bar pan, there was room for 12 cookies per pan).

Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes, or until the top starts to crackle. Transfer to cooling racks.

Once completely cool, drizzle icing over the cookies.


In a ziplock bag, mix together:
1 cup powdered sugar
teaspoon lemon juice
1-2 TB water

Mix until the icing is lump free and will drizzle easily. If it's too thick, add a little more water...just a few drops at a time. Arrange all your cookies out in one area (works best if you can do them all at once!) Cut a tiny corner off at the bottom of the bag and start drizzling the icing all over the cookies.

They take about 30-40 minutes for the icing to dry (the time really depends on how thick the icing is).

Yield: Makes 40 cookies*

Nutritional Information: CALORIES 102(33% from fat); FAT 3.8g (sat 2.2g); PROTEIN 0.8g; CHOLESTEROL 15mg; SODIUM 98mg; FIBER 0.2g; CARBOHYDRATE 16g (Nutritional analysis is per cookie.)

What I love about these cookies is that they taste and look great. We'll be making them again next year.

*Though the original recipe says the recipe makes 40 cookies, I only got 28 out of it! Perhaps my Pampered Chef medium cookie scoops were larger than the original "walnut sized" scoops the recipe originally called for. Anyway, using the larger scoop will also alter the nutritional information per cookie.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Rice Krispie Wreath

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Every year I make some holiday home baked/made treats for our neighbors and friends. A couple years ago, I made these adorable Rice Krispie Wreaths for our neighbors and friends. They were very well received...I mean, who doesn't just love a Rice Krispie treat??? (OK, maybe those with braces, as they're not able to eat them...)

They were so fun and easy to make!

Rice Krispie Wreaths

Prepare a bundt pan (the Pampered Chef stoneware one works great!) by greasing the sides and middle cone with butter or margarine.

Sprinkle into the bottom of the bundt pan:
small handful of Holiday M&Ms (red, green, white)

Melt in microwave for 1 ½ minutes on high:
1/4 cup butter, margarine, or spread
1 1b. package of marshmallows

Fold the melted butter and marshmallows together.

Add the following and then quickly fold the ingredients together:
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp green food coloring
5-6 cups Rice Krispies

This step needs to be done quickly so the mixture is still soft when scooped into the pan. It becomes difficult to work with, especially if the mixture is stirred, not folded.

Scoop out the mixture into prepared bundt pan. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The mixture will be easier to press down, and will be less sticky if you wait a little.

Using a scrap piece of parchment paper (not plastic wrap, foil, or wax paper...parchment paper), push the mixture down into the bowl. Let is set for another 5 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate. Add a bow and your wreath is ready!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Silicone Suction Lids

Pin It I'm not sure when I first heard about this product, but it was on my mind for some time.

A couple months ago, I was walking past our local kitchen store and decided to walk in and see if they carried them. The shopkeeper definitely knew what I was talking about, and she showed me a sample that was out on the counter. She lifted up the lid by the little top handle, and it stuck to the heavy stockpot, lifting it up into the air! COOL!! I went home with two in different sizes.

Lifting stockpots or bowls in the air, while cool, wasn't really what I had in mind. It's not a kitchen conundrum that had me searching for a solution. But I had a feeling these silicone discs had potential. Mainly I was hoping they would be able to act as a secure lid for my stainless steel bowls (or any bowls missing lids for that matter).

I also found they were good splatter covers for the microwave (yeah...but I like a dome shaped microwave lid that's not touching/smooshing my food). Another use is as a drain cover for the sink.

They are a good all purpose, fit any pot or bowl (w/out a spout) type of lid. I've even heard of cooks who tossed out ALL their various stock pot lids and JUST used these silicone lids. (They can also go in the oven up to 500 degrees.) I can see potential with that. It's kind of like putting all your CDs into a zippered flip album, tossing the plastic cases, and freeing up the bookcase. Or even better...putting all your CDs onto an MP3 player and getting rid of the actual CDs. Of course I still can't get rid of my plastic cases, much less the actual CDs, so that might not actually happen....

Back to my original purpose: to cover metal bowls. They do cover well, but in the fridge, the lid is simply resting on top of the bowl. Any movement in the fridge (shoving things aside to reach something in the way, way back...) can push the lid aside, leaving your bowl uncovered. Also, if you are trying to skimp by just getting the large silicone disc as a one-size-fits-all cover, you'll find the overhang on smaller bowls is a bit much.

So, yeah...I go back and forth on this one. Right now I'd rate them a 7 out of 10. But they do have potential for a higher score...especially if I can free up an entire pot lid drawer!! Oooo...casserole lids too.


Pin It I'm always interested to see what keywords lead search engines (like Google & Yahoo) to my little blog. For awhile there, my one little post on a garden spider was getting me lots of traffic. Who knew???

Here's what people are presently interested in finding: Potato Cheese Soup, Freezer Meals, Batch Cooking, that silly little spider, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, and Curry Cajun Chicken. I wonder if they ever make any of the recipes??

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Apple Streusel Coffeecake

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This coffeecake is our traditional breakfast for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I found the recipe years ago (10+) in a magazine (Better Homes and Garden, Family Circle, or McCalls are likely sources). It is soooooo delicious. A moist coffeecake (not dried out and crumbly like some get), tart apples, sweet and crunchy streusel combine to make a heavenly coffeecake.

The recipe calls for a bundt pan, and I've always stayed true to the recipe. When it turns out (meaning it comes out without falling apart) it looks FABULOUS. You make nice little slices, and you see all the layers. When part of it sticks to the pan though, it tumbles out of the bundt and splits at the middle apple level. So greasing the bundt pan well is essential.

Why then, if I know the secret to success, did my coffeecake split in half, and out of the pan this year? I blame it on the much beloved and talked about Pampered Chef stoneware. After owning the stoneware bundt pan for 3-4 years, I am still trying to get it properly seasoned. When the stoneware is seasoned, it doesn't look like the clean beige you see above. It darkens to a nice brown like you see in the pizza stone to the right. Once seasoned, food releases easily. Though I've had the bundt pan for a few years, it just doesn't get used enough. I really need to use it whenever possible (breads, meatloaf) so I can get it seasoned! If you are using a new-ish PC stoneware warned.

Like my lumpy pie crust, what matters most is taste. And this tastes damn good!

Apple Streusel Coffeecake


1 3/4 C packed light brown sugar
3/4 C all purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 C) cold butter, cut in small pieces
2 tsp cinnamon
1 C walnuts, coarsely chopped

In a medium size bowl, stir everything for the streusel (except the walnuts) together with fingertips until crumbly and butter is completely incorporated. Stir in walnuts.

3 1/4 C all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda

1 ½ sticks (3/4 C) butter or margarine (not spread), at room temperature
1 1/4 C sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1- 16 oz container plain low-fat yogurt
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced into ½” pieces

Mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla and yogurt. With mixer on low speed, beat in flour mixture.

Spoon 3 cups batter into pan, spread evenly.
Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the streusel, the apples, and then ½ cup of the streusel.

Spoon on remaining batter and spread evenly.

Sprinkle with remaining streusel, pressing down lightly so it sticks to the batter.

Heat oven to 350̊. Grease and flour a 14 C nonstick bundt pan. Bake 70-90 minutes or until a pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 15 minutes. Place cookie sheet over pan and carefully invert both. Remove pan and cool completely.

The most “undone” part of the cake is in the middle around the cone.

Serves 16. Per serving: 462 calories, 7 g pro, 63 g car, 21 g fat, 80 mg chol with butter, 41 mg chol with margarine, 291 mg sod. Exchanges: 2 1/4 starch/bread, 2 fruit, 4 fat.

Edited on 12/30/07: These pics are from our Christmas 2007 coffeecake. I made sure the pan was WELL-greased before baking. I also let it cook longer than the Thanksgiving one. It was amazing to see the difference in the cake the last 10, 20, and 30 minutes. I set the timer for 60 minutes, and then checked it every 10 minutes, with a final cook time of 90 minutes.The extra time allowed the center to rise up well above the top of the center cone.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Broccoli with Garlic Butter & Cashews

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We like garlic. Lots of garlic. Add a little soy sauce, brown sugar, and well....soon you'll have amazing flavors. To dress up the broccoli a bit, I add this simple sauce to it...and then the nuts for a little crunch. It's VERY easy to make. Enjoy!!

Broccoli with Garlic Butter & Cashews

1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped salted cashews

Place the broccoli into a large pot with about 1 inch of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil, and cook for 7 minutes, or until tender but still crisp. Drain, and arrange broccoli on a serving platter.
While the broccoli is cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Mix in the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper and garlic. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Mix in the cashews, and pour the sauce over the broccoli. Serve immediately.*

*It really does taste best when served immediately. When it's re-heated, the broccoli gets a little too mushy. So, I recommend only cooking the amount of broccoli your family will be eating at one sitting. You can reserve some of the marinade/cashews for another day when you quickly steam some fresh broccoli.

(Sorry for the poor picture image...I'll change it out next time I make the dish!!)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What do vegetarians eat on Thanksgiving?

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This year it was the infamous Tofurky!

Yes, Tofurky had a spot in our line up of yummy holiday foods. So what is Tofurky? It's a tofu roll stuffed with vegan stuffing. Apparently it tastes just like and has the same texture as real turkey. Some vegetarians might not go for that....they simply don't want to taste something that tastes like meat. My daughter, however, is one of those vegetarians who likes some meat (especially sausage!), but wants an alternative as she's a quiet animal rights activist who chooses not to eat them. And so, in this meat eating family, we make sure there are lots of protein Tofurky for Thanksgiving dinner!

Old Fashioned Apple Pie

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When Brian and I got married, we were given a general cookbook put out by McCalls (The New Revised and Updated McCalls Cookbook). It's rather unpretentious, and really doesn't get talked about much. But it has some really great basic recipes. Since it was probably the only cookbook I had when I started making holiday dinners (in my early 20s), most of my standard holiday recipes come from this book. Over the years I've changed it up a bit, but it really is my main source for Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners!

One of these great basics is for apple pie. I've never made an apple pie with any other recipe. This one is just sooooo good! I've tasted many apple pies, and I am forever comparing them to this recipe:

Old Fashioned Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

6 C tart apples (Granny Smith/about 4 apples or 2 lbs)

1 C sugar
1 tsp apple pie spice (made from equal parts of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and ground allspice)
1/4 C flour
dash salt

Add sliced apples, lightly toss.

2 pie crust shells*

Fill one pie crust and add the other on top. Seal edges and slit the top shell.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

To quickly peel, core, and slice the apples I use this handy gadget from Pampered Chef. I also swear by their stoneware for giving me nice bottom crusts (not soggy!). The pan shown here is the Deep Dish Baker (no longer sold as plain stoneware, but you can get it in cranberry or vanilla).

*Until this year I have relied on Pilsbury's refrigerated pie crust. It's pretty darn good, and most people think it tastes/looks homemade. In a pinch, it's better than any other store-bought crust. But, you really can't beat a homemade pie crust.

This year, I attempted my first homemade pie crust with the apple pie. The recipe came from a new favorite: Cook's Illustrated.

The Best Pie Dough
Double Crust 10-inch Regular or 9-inch Deep-Dish

When rolling out the dough, roll to a thickness of about 1/8-inch thick (about the thickness of two quarters).

For a double-crust 10-inch regular pie
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
13 tablespoons unsalted butter , cold, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
7 tablespoons vegetable shortening , chilled
4 - 5 tablespoons ice water

1. Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with some flour. cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add shortening and continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal with butter bits no larger than small peas, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if dough will not come together. Shape dough into two balls with your hands, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into 4-inch-wide disks. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

Time and temperature: I started the pie out at 425 degrees. Once the crust was nicely browned, I turned down the oven to 350 degrees. The result was delicious! I didn't have to use the pesky torn foil pieces around the edge of my pie (you keep the edges from burning). Next time I might brush a little water or egg over the raw upper crust and sprinkle on a dusting of cinnamon and sugar.

A handy trick: I had trouble lifting the bottom crust up and placing it in the pie pan. It kept breaking apart. So, I rolled it out on a Tupperware pastry sheet I own, set the pie pan (upside down) centered on the crust, and with the help of my husband, carefully flipped the pan/crust/pastry sheet. The crust landed nice and neat right in the pie pan!

My crust might not look like anything fancy (it was only my second home-made crust!), but it sure tasted good!! And when it comes right down to it, taste is what matters most!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner

Pin It So, how much does a made from scratch Thanksgiving dinner cost? I was surprised to see how much the price of Thanksgiving dinner varied ($115/8, $148/5, $200/5, $200/20, $120/5 $70/11, etc.) when I saw the responses on a message board I frequent. I added my 2¢....estimating our dinner (which should serve 8, with ample leftovers in turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes) cost me about $60, which is what I spent on groceries today. Considering I bought some extra food (like cereal, salad, etc.), and I have some staples at home that I'm using for Thanksgiving, I am pretty certain this is a good estimate. That's pretty darn good, I think....$7.50/person + leftovers. break it down and see how close my estimate was:
  • shelled walnuts (1 C) .88
  • plain low fat yogurt (16 oz) 1.58
  • Granny Smith apples (6) 2.23
  • broccoli (1 1/2 pounds) 2.33
  • salted cashews (1/3 C) 1.02
  • 2 pie crust shells (As a shortcut I use Pilsbury refrigerated pie crust, but you can make your own) Homemade this year: 1.50/flour, 1.00/butter, 1.00/shortening, .50 (other)
  • chicken broth (2 cans) 1.82
  • ground sausage (1 lb) 2.99
  • celery (1 C) 1.58
  • onion .50
  • fresh parsley (1/4 C) .48
  • herb seasoned stuffing mix (8 oz) 1.48
  • turkey 13 lbs/2.42
  • potatoes (for baking) 1.98
  • 1/4-1/2 pound ground soy “sausage” 2.99
On hand:
  • dried sage .25
  • dried thyme .25
  • olive oil 1.00
  • dried rosemary .25
  • bay leaves .25
  • ground marjoram .25
  • salt .25
  • black pepper .50
  • cinnamon .75
  • apple pie spice .50
  • butter, salted 3.00
  • sugar 1.00
  • flour 1.50
  • cornmeal 1.00
  • light brown sugar .75
  • baking powder .50
  • baking soda .25
  • canola oil .75
  • milk .75
  • soy sauce .75
  • white wine vinegar .50
  • garlic .25
Grand total: $43.53! Wow. That comes to $5.44/person, with generous leftovers.

Keeping the cost down, I did get the cheapo frozen turkey that was only 19¢/pound, with a $50 purchase. Had I chosen a fresh turkey, my cost would have been .99/pound, adding about $10 to my total...still very inexpensive.

Now....if I'd bought one of the turkeys my friends raise, that would've added another $50 to the bill.

So, my low is about $44, and my high (with the fresh free-range turkey) would've been $90.

(The only things not included in my cost are wine and cranberry sauce (my mother in law's making that). So add $4, for the sauce, and $30 for the wine.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Pot Pie

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When Brian and I were married, my cousin gave me a handwritten set of her favorite recipes. They were included with other useful kitchen items, but to this day, I recognize her recipes because of her handwriting and the hearts that she stenciled on the cards.

One of the recipes was for an after-Thanksgiving Pot Pie. The beauty of this pie is that it's made with leftovers from a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, gravy, vegetables. The only additional item I get is a pie crust.

Though I cook a lot, and am not one to take many short cuts, I've never been one to make my own pie crust. For some reason the dizzying array of tried and true pie crust recipes has intimidated me. You see, like when I tried to make salsa, I will sit and study 10 different recipes before settling on one to try.

However, this summer, my daughter and I made a homemade strawberry rhubarb pie complete with a homemade crust. It was spectacular (recipe from Cook's Illustrated...will share later). So, I think THIS year, I will be making my own pie crust for Thanksgiving dessert and for the turkey pot pie.

The anal person in me always follows a recipe precisely. There are very few things I will just "throw together". I'm just not that natural of a cook. This dish, however, I am comfortable with.

Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Pot Pie

In a bowl, combine:

1-2 C shredded/chopped turkey meat
1 C chopped celery*
1 C chopped onion*
1-2 C stuffing
1 C gravy

*You can saute these in a little butter if you like. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't!

Line a pie pan (I swear by the Pampered Chef stoneware ones...they do not produce soggy bottomed crusts!!) with one pie crust. Fill with the above contents. Place a second pie crust over the top, sealing the edges. Decorate as desired. (I used a turkey shaped cookie cutter to cut out all those little turkeys around the edges. Just wet the bottom of the dough piece with a little water so it will stick to the crust.) Put a few slits in the top crust so steam can escape.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes (until the crust is golden).

Let the pot pie cool and set for about 15 minutes before cutting into it.

The Cook's Illustrated crust recipe I'll be using:

The Best Pie Dough
Double Crust 10-inch Regular or 9-inch Deep-Dish

The following pie dough is one in a series for different size pies. When rolling out the dough, roll to a thickness of about 1/8-inch thick (about the thickness of two quarters).

For a double-crust 10-inch regular pie
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
13 tablespoons unsalted butter , cold, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
7 tablespoons vegetable shortening , chilled
4 - 5 tablespoons ice water

1. Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with some flour. cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add shortening and continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal with butter bits no larger than small peas, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if dough will not come together. Shape dough into two balls with your hands, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into 4-inch-wide disks. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

Denti d' Elefante with Bell Peppers and Swiss Chard

Pin It Sounds fancy, doesn't it?

I just finished sorting through all my digital pictures, getting them all into organized, labeled files on the computer (backed them up too!). In doing so, I found some food pics I had forgotten about.

The first is for Denti d' Elefante with Bell Peppers and Swiss Chard, more commonly known in our household as Pasta with Red Bell Peppers and Swiss Chard. It comes from my favorite pasta cookbook, The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Giuliano Hazan (son of famed Italian chef Marcella Hazan). The book is now out of print, but if you can find it, I highly recommend buying it. The recipes are wonderful, and in true Dorling Kindersley style, full of pictures, and step by step instructions.

Denti d' Elefante with Bell Peppers and Swiss Chard

In a large pot, bring water & 1 TB of salt to a boil. Cook al dente (soft, but still firm...not mushy)
1 lb. denti d'elefante (tube pasta)

Heat in large skillet over medium high heat:
3 TB extra virgin olive oil

Add, and cook until lightly browned:
4 cloves garlic, crushed

Remove the garlic and add until lightly browned:
2 red bell peppers, chopped into 3/4" squares

Reduce the heat to medium, and add:
1/2 lb Swiss chard leaves, roughly chopped
2 TB water

Season lightly with:
freshly ground black pepper

Cook until the vegetables are tender.

2 TB butter

When the pasta is ready, drain it, and add it to the skillet.
Add and toss to mix:
2 TB balsamic vinegar
1/3 C freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Serve immediately.