Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Roast

Dear Lauren,

I like it that together we've been working on cleaning up our eating habits and trying to figure out if we have any food triggers that might be causing us health problems. You've been a great partner, especially because you seem to have no addiction to sugar. You're a great role model for me! 

The other day, a lady named Lynne, posted a note and photo in our food group we belong to. She had the idea to combine Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and fresh cranberries. She said she liked it so much, she decided to put it on her Thanksgiving menu. I was immediately intrigued because I love all three of these.

So I decided to play around with veggies today and guess what? Big win. I'm adding this dish to our Thanksgiving this year as well. Thank you, Lynne! 

Thanksgiving Roast

6 Brussels sprouts, cut in half through the stem
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 bag fresh cranberries
olive oil or avocado oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the cranberries on one sheet and both the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on the other. Add a little oil, start with 1-2 tablespoons, to each baking sheet. With your hands, toss the contents of each sheet until well covered with oil. Add salt and pepper and toss again. Turn the cut sides of the Brussels down so they will brown nicely. Add each sheet to the oven. Cook the cranberries for 18 minutes and the Brussels/sweet potato combination for 20 minutes. Your oven may run a little cooler or hotter than mine so watch to make sure nothing burns. Remove from the oven when nicely browned and toss the contents of both baking sheets together and serve.


P.S. Thank you for taking care of Max and Catarina so often for Dad and I. I left you some Thanksgiving Roast in the fridge as a thank you. Love you!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Celebrating the One Year Anniversary of Donna Currie's Make Ahead Bread!

Cheese Ball Rolls

Dear Lauren, 

As I've told you many times before, Donna Currie is an incredible baker, cook, and all-around person. I have thoroughly enjoyed baking from her book, Make Ahead Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day, which celebrates its one year anniversary Wednesday, November 4. 

Donna breaks down every recipe into baby steps over at least two days so even beginning bread bakers will have success. Take the recipe I've highlighted for you here. I've never made cinnamon rolls before, yet my dough was fantastic! I mean look at it! If I can do this, so can you!   

In addition to these rolls, I just want to tell you about some of my other successes with this book that have now become staples in my kitchen.

Sweet Bubble Loaf - I followed Donna's instructions and I looked at the unbaked results on Day 1. I was concerned. How in the world would these little dough balls turn into something amazing? Yet, they did! I think of this loaf as a cross between cinnamon bread and monkey bread. It's better than either!

Grandma Pizza - I've made this so many times you thinks it's "my" recipe! No, it's Donna's! My favorite toppings are Muir Glen Pizza Sauce, grated Dubliner cheese (untraditional, but so flavorful!), and Boar's Head pepperoni. I go very lightly on the toppings because it's the "bread" that is the real star of this pizza show.

Gluten-Free Seed and Nut Bread - We have a neighbor whose mother must eat a gluten free diet so he is always looking for a good gluten free this or that. This loaf is a wonderful nut bread. It could be used for french toast but we really liked ours buttered and toasted. It's wonderful straight out of the oven too! Had I been served this, I would not have known this was a gluten free bread!

Crisp Sesame Breadsticks - I'm planning a party at my home in November and these breadsticks will provide an edible centerpiece. And bonus - these breadsticks will keep in the pantry for weeks in the unlikely event I have leftovers!

Basic Pizza Dough (not photographed, I am SO SORRY!) - I read and re-read this recipe. Are you kidding me? You literally throw all the ingredients in a ziploc bag, zip it, and then squish and smush the ingredients around for a minute. That's it? No kneading? No mess? I admit, I had low expectations for this. I've put a lot more effort into pizza dough in the past and it never tasted very good to me. But what was there to lose? It's so easy! I will tell you this. I made a pizza with this dough and it was a thing of beauty. Thin crust that holds the ingredients without bending, yet is flavorful and tender to the bite. Keeper.

Cheese Ball Rolls
by Sandra
Adapted from Blueberry and Cream Cheese Buns with Lemon Zest from Make Ahead Bread by Donna Currie

For the Dough:

3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg, slightly beaten, plus water to equal 1 1/2 cups total

For the Filling:
One recipe of a cheese ball of your choice, I used Nettie's Cheese Ball (see below) but a double recipe of this would be another excellent choice.

On Prep Day:

1. Butter a 9" x 13" glass baking dish. 

2. Make the cheese ball. Set it aside and keep it at room temperature for easy spreading.

3. Combine all dough ingredients in a mixing bowl and then knead for 10 minutes until dough is elastic. You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook if you like, I didn't. 

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit until the dough has doubled in size, about one hour in a warm room. (Tip: When you begin making this recipe, preheat your oven to 180°F and as soon as it has preheated, shut the oven off and open the oven door. Set the covered bowl of dough in the oven to rise. If your house is already warm - 70 to 80 degrees - this step is unnecessary.)

5. On a clean, dry work surface, spread a little flour and pat the dough into a rectangular shape. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is approximately 12" x 16". With an offset spatula, spread the cheese ball mixture evenly over the dough, leaving about a 1" edge on the long side free of cheese ball mixture.

6. Starting on the opposite long side from where you left the dough free of cheese ball mixture, loosely roll up the dough, jellyroll style. Cut into 1" rolls. You will end up with 12, but if your end rolls are small you might end up with 13. This is fine.

7. Place the rolls in the baking dish 3 across and 4 down. If you have 13 rolls, place the two smallest side by side as if they are one. Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

To Bake:
1. Take the rolls out of the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350°F

2. Bake the rolls for 40-45 minutes. If the rolls seem to be browning too much, tent the pan with aluminum foil for the rest of the baking period.

3. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then serve. Can be served as they are, with sausage and eggs, or with butter and fig spread.*  

4. These rolls are best the day they are baked. Unlike any other bread I know of though, you can reheat these one at a time for 20-30 seconds in the microwave and the roll's texture does not suffer. Try it and see what you think. We refrigerated these rolls and every day for 3 days had another and another, all of them reheated in the microwave. 

Nettie's Cheese Ball

by Sandra
Adapted from Nettie's recipe that my friend Tamela shared with me

2 8-ounce cream cheese, softened

2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup beer
2 - 3 Tablespoons green bell pepper, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons pimentos, minced
2 green onions (both white and green parts), minced
1/2 cup nuts of your choice, finely chopped (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well-combined. Set aside.

If you are making a cheese ball with this recipe, rather than the Cheese Ball Rolls, mix all ingredients except the nuts together and form a ball. Roll in the nuts. Refrigerate from several hours to overnight before serving.


P.S. I now consider my obsession with this fig spread to be lifelong. You've seen it, I know you have. It's in the cheese section of many grocery stores. You can try to substitute fig preserves or fig jam, but it's not even close to the same. This goes very well with these delicious Cheeseball Rolls or with the Sweet Bubble Bread. Or in a spoon. Yum yum.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Cake that Got Uncle Preston to Bake

Dear Lauren,

I happened to make this cake about a week before we received a visit from Uncle Preston. It was so delicious, I decided to make one for him too. And he thought it was so fabulous, he asked me to teach him how to bake one. I taught him and I mailed him a bundt pan so he can bake one for himself back in California.

Lemon Cardamom Zucchini Bundt Cake
adapted from Back to the Table

2 large zucchini, ends cut off and discarded, the rest shredded
zest from 1 lemon or 1 orange
390 grams of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup avocado oil (or vegetable oil you like)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pecan (can be chopped if you like, I throw them in just as they are in the bag)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray Baker's Joy* (NOT PAM) in a bundt pan and set aside. Use a box grater or a food processor and grate your zucchini. Place the shredded zucchini over several paper towels to dry out a bit. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the zucchini.

Whisk the flour, cardamom, baking powder and soda in a bowl and set aside. Whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, and extract in a bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well with a large spoon**. Add the zucchini, the lemon zest, and the pecans and mix well. Add the mixture to the bundt pan and bake on the rack in the lower third of the oven for 50 minutes. Test for doneness with a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. Ovens vary, my cake takes one hour to bake.


P.S. *If you can't find Baker's Joy where you live (and I sincerely hope you can), butter the bundt and then flour it. Tap out the excess flour. This method is second best to Baker's Joy.
P.P.S This recipe is mixed by hand. *When you first start stirring in the wet ingredients with the dry ones, you might think the batter is too dry. Keep stirring, it will come together just fine with a little work. The only equipment you need is a bundt pan (I love this one!), a zester, and (in my opinion) a kitchen scale to measure the flour. If you want to measure the flour using cups, add 3 cups instead of 390 grams.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bourbon-Pickled Jalapeños (and Serranos)

Dear Lauren,

I really didn't know what to think about this recipe because I'm not a pickler. I'm not a canner. I wish I was! I've tried maybe one or two quick pickling recipes and they didn't really work out. I nearly talked myself out of this one, but then I thought about Missy's Famous Pickles* and I thought, hmmmm, I better give this bourbon pickling recipe a try. So glad I did! These were a real hit! I used mostly Serrano peppers because that's what we had the most of in our garden but, unless you can really take the heat, I would suggest using jalapenos as the original recipe author suggests. And by the way, the book "Smoke & Pickles" is excellent. I made ten recipes within about two weeks out of this book. Edward Lee is my new sweetheart and I plan to stalk him on the Internet. For recipes! 

Bourbon-Pickled Jalapeños (and Serranos)
adapted from Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee
(Thank you to my friend, Woo Brower, for sharing her book with me!)

12 ounces jalapeño peppers, tops cut off, sliced in 1/4" rounds (WEAR GLOVES! Substitute Serranos or other peppers depending upon your heat tolerance.)
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 cup Maker's Mark (or whatever bourbon you like)
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 bay leaves

Place your pepper slices in a quart-sized mason jar (I like wide-mouth jars and I like this funnel, which is optional). Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into the mason jar and top with a lid (I like these.) Refrigerate for 5 days. They will last for up to 2 weeks.


P.S. Missy is known far and wide in her neck of the woods and beyond for her famous pickles. If you make these, put them in mason jars, and give them away as gifts, you will be the most popular person in your town! They are that good!

Missy's Famous Pickles

1 gallon hamburger dill pickles, drained
2 small jars sliced jalape
ños, drained (you can use 1/2 jar of the Bourbon-Pickled Peppers above, if you like)
1 small bottle Tabasco
4-5 garlic cloves
5 pounds sugar

Mix all ingredients in a giant plastic Tupperware and seal well. Turn it upside down on its lid. Flip it back over once a day and stir it. Do this for 5 days. On the 6th day, taste and then feel free to add more jalape
ños or garlic. Put in mason jars and keep the jars refrigerated.They will keep 2-3 weeks but they won't last that long, trust me. You can serve these on anything or eat them by the fistful all on their lonesome, they are fantastic!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Langostino Tails and Squash Salad

Dear Lauren, 

This started as a recipe called Saffron Rice Salad (Thomas Keller from Ad Hoc at Home cookbook). I removed the saffron and the rice to make this recipe something everyone in our family could eat while you are on your Whole 30 eating plan, so it is a little different than the author intended, but I do think he would approve! 

Langostino Tails and Squash Salad

A handful of haricot verts (thin green beans, Trader Joe’s sells some delicious ones in a sealed bag)
2 yellow summer squash
1-2 zucchini, depending on size
½ large red onion, sliced
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, sliced (do not remove seeds or membrane)
Langostino tails (Trader Joe’s sells a frozen bag of these already cooked. You could also use cooked and chilled shrimp, crawfish, lobster, or crab.)
Sherry Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
½ lemon, juiced

Salt and pepper

Boil water. Prepare a large bowl of ice and cold water (ice bath). Get out a colander and place a bowl or plate under it.

Blanch the vegetables:

1) Put the haricot verts in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then move the beans to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Finally, move the beans to the colander.

2) Repeat the steps in #1 for the uncut yellow squash.

3) Repeat the steps in #1 for the uncut zucchini.

Cut up the beans and squash into bite-sized pieces and add them to a serving bowl. Add the onion, jalapeno or Serrano, and langostino tails. Add well-shaken sherry vinaigrette. Toss. Add the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss again and serve.

Can be served as an entrée or a side dish with a steak.

Sherry Vinaigrette
2 Tablespoons sherry wine vinegar (do not substitute)
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Put all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake it well. Taste, add more salt and pepper, shake again. If you have any left over, it will keep in the refrigerator for a month.