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 27, 2010

Perfect Pecan Pie

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I'm not a big pecan pie fan.  Don't get me wrong...I like it, I really do.  It's just that it's usually so rich that a small slice is all I want to eat for days.  And since our family is small (3) one pie suffices for most dessert occasions, and if I'm going to be honest, my apple pie is always picked first.  It's that good.

But this Christmas we had 12 people for dinner (hello, family from far away!!) and everyone had a favorite "must have" pie request.  We narrowed it to three pies:  apple, pumpkin, and pecan.  My aunt Debbie was going to make the pecan pie but when it came time to make the pie (had to get done before the turkey, and her recipe was not in the kitchen), we had to quickly switch to plan B for a recipe.  Cook's Illustrated has yet to fail me, so that's where I turned.  And, oh, my glad I did (although Debbie's recipe is similar, with a toffee candy crunchy top too!)!!

The crust was heavenly (always is...).   Light and airy and flaky.  The top of the pecan pie was like a crunchy toffee candy bar.  So, so good!  Very rich and decadent!

You might feel that heating (in essence, double boiling) the mixture is a step you can skip.  But that's the part that creates that crunchy toffee candy bar surface.  You really want to take a moment to follow that part carefully.  Get out your candy thermometer (or in my case...the meat thermometer worked fine...) and ready, set, go!

Perfect Pecan Pie
(Cook's Illustrated)

If you want warm pie, cool the pie thoroughly, then cut and warm it in a 250-degree oven for about twenty minutes.

Serves 8

Pie Shell
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for dough and rolling surface
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , chilled, cut into 1/4 -inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening , frozen, cut into small pieces
1 large egg white , chilled, thoroughly mixed with ice water (about 2 tablespoons) to equal 1/4 cup
1 large egg yolk , beaten with 1/8 teaspoon water

6 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole pecans (8 ounces), toasted and chopped into small pieces

1. For Pie Crust: Mix flour, sugar, and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter and shortening over dry ingredients and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, 10 to 15 seconds. Turn mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle egg white mixture over flour mixture and, with blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together. Shape dough into ball with hands, then flatten into 4-inch disk. Dust dough lightly with flour, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

3. Roll dough on lightly floured surface into 13-inch circle and transfer to 9-inch pie pan, preferably glass. Press dough into corners and sides of pan, being careful not to stretch dough. Trim edges of dough to make 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck overhanging dough under so that folded edge is flush with rim of pan. Flute edge, (see illustration 1).

4. Chill shell until firm, about 1 hour. Prick sides and bottom with fork and line entire shell with heavy-duty aluminum foil, pressing foil firmly against shell and extending it over fluted rim (illustration 2). Prick foil with fork (illustration 3) and return shell to refrigerator while oven is heating.

5. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake, pressing once or twice with mitt-protected hands, if necessary, to flatten any puffing, until crust is firmly set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until bottom begins to color, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, brush sides and bottom with egg yolk, and return to oven until yolk glazes over, about 1 minute longer. Remove from oven, and set aside while preparing the filling.

6. Lower oven temperature to 275 degrees. Place pie shell in oven if not still warm.

7. For Pie: Melt butter in medium heatproof bowl set in skillet of water maintained at just below simmer. Remove bowl from skillet; mix in sugar and salt with wooden spoon until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs, then corn syrup and vanilla. Return bowl to hot water; stir until mixture is shiny and warm to the touch, about 130 degrees. Remove from heat; stir in pecans.

8. Pour mixture into warm shell; bake until center feels set yet soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pie to rack; let cool completely, at least 4 hours. Serve pie at room temperature or warm, with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Maria's Chicken Tamales with Guajillo Sauce

Pin It Yesterday I crashed the Two-Way Immersion program's tamale making session.  There were 15 teachers and parents from the school gathered together to learn how to make tamales.  Maria was our local tamale expert who patiently walked us through each step.

Thankfully, half the adults spoke both Spanish and English, because our lesson was in fast-paced Spanish.  Upon realizing there was no written recipe, I  grabbed my camera, some paper and a pen, and began to record the process....because you, see, I ALWAYS need a recipe.  I don't have that cooking gift where I just know it's all going to come together.

Maria arrived at the school kitchen prepared.  She had pre-shredded 10 pounds of chicken breast (best done with chicken on the bone as it has more flavor, explained Maria).  She also came with a HUGE pot of homemade chicken broth, flavored with onions and garlic.

As we gathered together, everyone (except those with colds...thank you for just watching!) helped out and we made 160 small tamales in 3 hours.  Here's what we did:


Rinsing Corn Husks
10 pounds shredded chicken breast, with fat, skin, and veins removed (shred while hot)
About 15 cups of hot chicken broth, flavored with onion and garlic (as hot as your hands can handle)
1 bag of Masa
48 oz. container of canola oil
2 TB baking powder
2 TB salt
corn husks, rinsed

5-6 garlic cloves
About 12 Guajillo dried chiles which have been steamed so they're soft*
1/4 of a small onion
1 1/2 C water
1/2 TB salt

To steam and soften the  Guajillo dried chiles, place them in a pan with some water.  Cover, and place in an oven (350 degrees) until softened.  
Checking to make sure the Guajillo chiles are soft.
Preparing the Tamales

Gather all your ingredients, measuring cups & spoons, and pans.

In a large bowl or deep pan, mix the dry ingredients:
     1 bag Masa
     2 TB baking powder
     2 TB salt

Add to the Masa mix, and mix together with your hands:
     2/3 of the oil (from the 48 oz bottle)
Through a strainer, add to the Masa mix:
     10-12 cups chicken broth

Mix with your hands 5-10 minutes.  Add a little more oil (a handful at a time) until the Masa mixture no longer sticks to the sides of the pan/bowl.  It should have the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough.  When you pick it up, it shouldn't stick to your hands.
Once the Masa is the right consistency, make little balls (about 1/3 cup of Masa), forming them into little patties.
Maria's Masa Patty
Flatten a piece of rinsed corn husk, and smoosh the Masa into the husk, with two hands. (Leave 2-3 inches of husk showing at the bottom (narrow part of husk) so it can be folded up.)


In a blender or food processor add:
     5-6 garlic cloves
     1/4 of a small onion
     about 12 of the steamed-and-softened dried Guajillo chiles
     1 1/2 cups of water

Blend for one minute.
Place 3 TB of oil in the bottom of a baking pan.  Strain the salsa (to get rid of seeds and skin) into the pan.  Add a little water to the strainer to get more of the sauce in the pan, if needed. 
Shaking and straining the salsa.
Finished Salsa
Fry or roast (350 degrees) the sauce until it bubbles around the edges.  Let it simmer for a few minutes. 

At this point you'll have a pile of corn husks with Masa, a pan of sauce, and a bowl of shredded chicken.
To fill the tamales, add a little chicken (you want to mostly taste the Masa; not the chicken), and drizzle a little salsa.  Roll the sides and tuck up the bottom end.
Once the tamales are filled, then it's time to arrange them in a pan for steaming.  Line a deep sided baking pan with some water and a dozen (or so) corn husks.
 Place the first layer of  tamales in the pan, all in the same direction.
Criss-cross the second layer and third layers.
Cover with foil, and bake in the oven (350 degrees) for one hour.  Check them as they come out of the oven to make sure the masa is cooked and firm, and the husks are slightly golden.

Eat & enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Accountability Tuesday

Pin It So I keep my blog topics strictly to the kitchen and garden topics.  I've veered twice...once when a president came to town, and then when we temporarily lived in Arizona last year.  I'm straying again, as the topic is my super messy office and my attempt to clean it.  But it is directly related to the blog.  How can I enjoy writing my blog from my computer when my office is such a pit?  How can I finish organizing the piles of recipes scraps  that I've recently pulled out of magazines?

Today is Accountability Tuesday.  It's just past 1 p.m. here and I'm going to keep at it all day until it's done.  I'll post progress photos on the hour (2:00, 3:00, etc.) so you can see if I've been slacking.  Anyone want to join in?  What project have you been putting off?

Office at 1 p.m.

What will 2 p.m. look like????
2:00 UPDATE:

3:00 UPDATE:
You can see the floor!  And some more counter!

4:00 UPDATE:
Found the floor!  Moved papers from the floor to the counter (easier to put away).  Took some time to take out trash, recycling, Goodwill items. Also moved a lot of things to other places in the house (their actual storage spots).  So, while a lot was accomplished, the pictures probably don't reflect that.

5:00 UPDATE:  Stopped working a bit when kids came over.  Now making dinner.  Will update again at 7 and keep going tonight!

December 12th UPDATE:  I spent the next few days filing away every single paper...a slow, but steady process. The room is *almost* clutter free!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Smoky Scalloped Potatoes

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Tomorrow I'm straying slightly off course from my annual Holdiay Meal Plan.  Shhhh...don't tell anyone!  Rather than the usual mashed potatoes, I decided to kick it up a notch and make scalloped potatoes.  I love scalloped potatoes, but when I've tried making them they usually fall flat...far from the creamy cheesy goodness that is floating around in my brain.  So, where to turn?  To Cook's Illustrated of course!

I'm pretty sure I made this recipe a few years ago, and loved it.  But I haven't made it since....not because it wasn't memorable, but because when in a hurry, those mashed potatoes are so darn easy.

I hate to alter my meal plan, because it just works so beautifully. After the turkey comes out, the cornbread and apple pie pop right into the oven at 425 degrees.  So, unless a dish can go in the oven with those two things, there's really no way to pull it off.   Well, golly gee, guess what?  The scalloped potatoes also take a 425 degree oven!  Yippee!!   And, it can be fully assembled the night before....another whooping shout of glee there!

For Thanksgiving I doubled the recipe.  I fully believe these will be gobbled up by the dinner guests tomorrow and there will be none for leftovers.  That's my little secret....the second pan will be in the fridge to heat up with all the other leftovers.  Another, "woohooo!" if you will....

If you do double the recipe, I recommend making it in two pots.  I tried one large (12 qt) one, but it was taking too long to get to a simmer, and I feared the bottom would burn.  Once I put have the contents into a smaller pot, things went smoothly.  You'll still want to pay attention to the bottom, scraping it gently (yeah, that's an oxymoron!)  so you don't mush the potatoes in the process.

As you can see, I cooked up a small little dish of them (used that handy dandy toaster oven) so I could "make sure they're good enough for company."  (That's what my mom used to say when we got Halloween candy...she wanted to sample some so she could make sure it was good enough for us.  Uh, huh....)  Oh, my... what a nice little treat to taste after cooking all day long.  I declare them good enough for company.

Smoky Scalloped Potatoes
(Cook's Illustrated) 

Move over, mashed potatoes—we love this recipe for an alternative holiday potato side dish. Buttermilk and smoked Gouda give this casserole its rich flavor and creamy consistency, so we don’t recommend substituting these ingredients. Here’s what else we discovered:

* Adding a pinch of baking soda to the potatoes as they cook helps to tenderize them without leaving any residual taste.
* This dish can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

Serves 8 or more

4 tablespoons unsalted butter*
1 large onion , minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 pounds russet potatoes , peeled and sliced thin**
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, mustard, thyme, salt, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in potatoes, cream, buttermilk, and baking soda and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in cheese and transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

2. Bake until cream is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead: The casserole can be prepared through step 1 and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.*** When ready to bake, cover with foil and bake in 400-degree oven until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue cooking until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

* I always have unsalted on hand, but with all my holiday cooking, I ran out.  I made it with salted butter and it came out just fine.  But if you have the unsalted on hand, I'd use that.
**I used the Cuisinart food processor to slice them up.  Easy and quick.  3 mm. was a good thickness....not too thick for tenderizing,  and not so thin that they got mushy when the cheese was mixed.
 ***Knowing this was going to be a big hit, I made two pans of it.  On Thanksgiving we had more food than we knew what to do with, so I didn't cook the second pan.  We invited some friends over Saturday night, and cooked it then....3 days after it was prepared.  Tasted just as good!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Biscuit-Topped Chicken Potpies

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Last week I went through a bunch of fairly recent recipe clippings and made two new meals.  The first was Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers (from Cooking Light).  Total winner that will end up in our "Family Favorites" recipe book.

The second new recipe of the week was chicken potpies from the January 2007 issue of Sunset.  ( some of the clippings weren't as new as others....)  There are a few classic American dishes that I've never made:
  1. Pot Roast (call me crazy, but these intimidate me...what cut of meat?  What's the best seasoning?  How do I make sure the veggies aren't mushy?  Crock pot or a Dutch oven?)
  2. Ribs  (Too much bone and fat and not enough meat. Messy.)  
  3. Chicken Pot Pie (Loved them as a kid, just never tried them.)
  4. Stew (Really wouldn't know where to start.)
  5. Home-Made Chicken Noodle Soup.  (Would love to make this, but just never have.)
  6. Potato Salad (This one is easy...I don't like things that are mayonnaise-y or mustard-y.)
Maybe this should be my cooking "bucket list"...the things I need to make before I die.  Well, if we're making a list like that, I'd really need to add all the other recipes in my "To Try" files and folders.  That could take some time!

Anyway, last week I made my first chicken potpie!  It was a bit time have the veggies to chop, the chicken to cook and chop, the biscuits to make, and the gravy/sauce to make.  It's not a recipe that will end up in one of those "30 minutes To Dinner" type of cookbooks.  No, this took some time.  Knowing that it would take some time, I doubled the recipe and made some for the freezer.  Honestly, if you're going to go to the trouble of making a few potpies, you may as well make a dozen.  The extra time is minimal.

Results:  Our family thoroughly enjoyed the potpies!  I found the biscuit recipe to be a bit more dense than I would have liked.  So, when I make these again, I'm going to search for a lighter (maybe a simple drop biscuit?) topping rather than the heavy biscuit blobs called for in this recipe.

Biscuit-Topped Chicken Potpies
(Sunset Magazine)
 Prep and Cook Time:  1 hour, 45 minutes*
Makes:   6-7 individual potpies

Read through the recipe and find a good time to make the biscuit mix.  It would be ideal to have a second helper who works on the biscuits while you put together the potpie filling. You can also make them ahead so they're ready to just plop right on the pies and pop in the oven.

Prep ahead

Cook and cube:
     2 1/2 cups of chicken (white and dark meat)

Finely chop:
     3 whole carrots
     1 stalk celery 
     1 medium onion 
     2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
     12 small cremini or button mushrooms
     1 tsp fresh thyme
     2 tsp flat leaf parsley
     2 tsp fresh sage

     1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil:
     2 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken stock


Lower heat to medium and cook until vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes.**   Drain  vegetables, reserving stock; set both aside separately.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan*** melt over medium heat:
     4 TB salted butter 

Add and cook until golden, 6 to 8 minutes:

Add  and cook 5 minutes:

Add and cook 2 minutes:
      5 TB flour

Slowly add, whisking constantly, until combined:
     1 C milk

Add and cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes:
     stock (that you set aside when you drained the veggies)

Season to taste:
     1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
     1 tsp salt
     freshly ground pepper

     cooked vegetables
     1/4 C frozen sweet peas

Divide filling evenly among 6 or 7 ovenproof containers**** (8 to 10 oz. each), leaving the top 1/4 inch unfilled.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Cheesy Biscuit Topping

Sift together:
     2 cups flour 
     1 1/2 tsp (or 1/2 TB) baking powder
     1/2 tsp baking soda
     1 tsp salt

Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, work in to form a coarse meal, working quickly to keep the butter from warming up and melting into the dough:
     5 TB cold unsalted butter, cubed

Stir in:

In a separate bowl, whisk together and add to the flour mixture, stirring gently until a shaggy dough forms:
     1egg and
    1/2 C + 2 TB (or 5/8 C) well-shaken buttermilk

Lightly flour a counter, a rolling pin, and your hands. Divide dough into 2 balls. Roll out first ball to a 1/4-in. thickness, then use a 2 1/2-in. biscuit cutter to cut into rounds, scraping and rerolling dough as needed. Repeat with second ball.

Place 3 rounds of dough on each potpie, overlapping as necessary (any unused rounds can be baked on their own as biscuits). Brush dough with egg wash, put potpies on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, and bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 17 to 22 minutes.

In the end there were some biscuit scraps on the counter.  I got lazy and just put the scraps on a pan and cooked them with the potpies!

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories:  538 (42% from fat)
Protein:  28g
Fat:  25g (sat 13)
Carbohydrate:  51g
Fiber:  3.5g
Sodium:  1034mg
Cholesterol:  160mg

*From start to finish, making these the very first time, it took me about 2 1/2 hours.  That's giving time to cook and shred the chicken, wash and chop all the veggies, etc.  It always takes longer the first time.

**Don't overcook or your veggies will be mushy.

***5-6 qt. for single recipe; 10-12 qt. for a doubled recipe

****I used 4 Corning Wear small casserole dishes (12 oz.) and a bunch of 8 oz. coffee mugs (oven safe dinnerware).  I preferred the sizes from the 8 oz. cups. 

For Freezing

I thought this would freeze beautifully but I was woefully wrong!  The biscuits held up just fine, but the veggie filling just turned to mush.  So, make a single batch and enjoy!

Have a vegetarian in the family?

You can use vegetable broth and put the chicken on the side.  Add chicken to the carnivores' containers, and simply leave it out for the vegetarians.  For a complete vegetarian potpie, double up on the veggies.