Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ginger Man Cookies

I have missed my blog! And all my blog friends. The last of our company pulled out yesterday around noon and I spent the rest of the day trying to get both my home and myself back together.  I had thought I would blog about some of the food we made for Thanksgiving, and post some recipes, but I  find myself wanting to put that behind me and move forward. 

Today, we are having a rainy day--one of those deary all day rains. I have beans soaking to make a bean soup for supper, I'm enjoying the quietude, and thinking about Christmas baking.  I have put away my Thanksgiving recipes and have out my folder of cookie recipes.

I am making lists of both items to bake and a companion grocery list. I like to make both sweet and savory goods and something new each year.  Last summer, while I was going through some of Mama's old recipes, I found Aunt Wanda's oatmeal cookie recipe, so that is added. I also recently discovered a recipe for peanut butter shortbread with salted chocolate, which sounds scrumptious to me, so I'll be baking those. 

To kick things off, here is a copycat recipe for the crispy and spicy Pepperidge Farms Ginger Man Cookies that I have always loved.  I found the recipe at keyingredient.com and they really do taste like the actual cookie. 

Ginger Man Cookies
1 cup dark brown sugar - (packed)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Sugar crystals
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cream together the sugars, shortening, molasses, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. In another large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, stirring while you add it.

Roll a portion of the dough out on a heavily floured surface. Roll to under 1/4-inch thick. Cut the cookies using a man-shaped cookie cutter, or any other cookie cutter shape you’ve got.

Place cookies on an oiled cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Bake only one cookie sheet of cookies at a time.

This recipe yields about 3 dozen cookies.

**These cookies expand a lot, so leave plenty of room between them**

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bacon, Spinach, Pear & Blue Cheese French Bread Pizzas

I have continued with the theme of super simple suppers, not only because I cut the dickens out of my thumb, but because I've been busy getting ready for a slew of company for Thanksgiving.  Also, I've been trying to use up bits and pieces of things in the refrigerator to make room for a big food shopping day. 

These were tasty! I realize I could call them open face sandwiches, but it is more fun to call them pizza and that also makes them taste better. 

Bacon, Spinach, Pear & Blue Cheese
French Bread Pizzas
French Bread
Olive Oil
Fresh minced garlic
Red pepper flakes
Red onion slices
Crisp bacon slices
Pear slices
Blue cheese crumbled
Fresh spinach
Provolone cheese slices

Slice the French bread horizontally, then cut into approximate pizza serving sizes. Brush each piece with a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until beginning to get toasty. Top each piece with a few slices of onion, then bacon, pear, and blue cheese crumbles. Top with a big handful of fresh spinach leaves and top that with a slice or two of provolone cheese. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homemade Poultry Seasoning + Save Big on Herbs and Spices--A RE-POST

(Originally posted 11- 3-2009)

I have never been a fan of buying commercial spice blends. You know, poultry seasoning, chili seasoning, taco seasoning, grill seasoning, apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice, seasoned salt. There are hundreds of them; they are expensive and often contain excessive salt, starch, MSG, sugar, artificial ingredients, and preservatives. The most expensive have celebrity chefs' names, with pretty labels. (I do like Old Bay seasoning.)

Here is a good poultry seasoning, which is easily adjusted to your own tastes. It contains no salt, so you can salt separately, if desired. It is delicious in stuffing/dressing, and also good on many autumn vegetables. Needless to say it is wonderful on chicken.

Poultry Seasoning
1 Tbsp. rosemary
1 Tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. sage
1 Tbsp. ginger
1 Tbsp. marjoram
1 Tbsp. thyme
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

All spices and herbs should be dry. Grind together in a mortar and pestle, or use a spice grinder. Store in an airtight container.

A huge money saving tip: buy your herbs and spices in bulk, at the health food store. Recently, while at the grocery store, I realized I was out of cumin and needed it for a recipe that evening. Feeling too lazy to make an extra stop at the health food store, even though it is a whopping mile out of the way, I said to myself, "I'll just go ahead and get it here." When I went to the spice aisle, I was shocked to discover that a tiny bottle of cumin, .9 oz., was $4.96. Yikes!

I quickly realized a extra stop was definately worth it. I bought bulk cumin for 79 cents an ounce. I calculated that the grocery store cumin was roughly 700% more expensive than what I bought from the bulk jar. Not to mention that it was organic and non-irradiated.

It is also a good way to keep your spices fresh as you can buy only as much as you need. Plus a good way to try out new spices and recipes you may be unfamiliar with. No need to make an investment in something you are not likely to use again.

Start saving those spice bottles you already have and refill them from the bulk jars.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What We ARE NOT Eating Wednesday: Veal Kidneys Flambeed

My friend and blogging buddy, Melynda, started a really fun feature on her blog last week.  She loves old cookbooks and decided to choose an icky recipe from one to post as "What we ARE NOT eating Wednesday" each week.

Last week, she focused on a salad made with both lemon jello and baked beans.  I'm not joking. You can check it out here.  This week, she DOES NOT eat French-Style Liver.

Because I also love old recipes and old cookbooks, and I thought it was such a cute idea, I decided to join her. A while back, my husband came home with a cookbook he found at a rummage sale. It is the first volume of Gourmet Magazine cookbook, published in 1950. I chose the Veal Kidneys Flambeed because I love the copper chafing dish but the thought of eating a baby cow's kidneys makes my stomach hurt.  And it also looks pretty awful.

If you want to join in on the fun, check with Melynda at her very sweet blog, Mom's Sunday Cafe

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taco Soup

I don't want to gross you out and I'm not giving gory details, but let's just say I was in my kitchen, happily slicing potatoes with a mandolin. . . yes, you know where this is going. I sliced a little more than potato, namely my thumb. 

I knew I was going to need super simple recipes for a few days, recipes which did not involve slicing or chopping vegetables. While I really don't feel like I have cooked if I don't dice something, necessity prevails.  I saw a recipe for Taco Soup on one of the many blogs I follow, and decided to try it. 

I used a packet of taco seasoning, unheard of for me.  I even bought a package of shredded cheese, which I never use because the cheese doesn't taste as good as freshly grated.  But I did what I had to do. I didn't follow Claudia's (love the name) recipe exactly, but then I never do.  I did use a jar of my home canned summer tomatoes so  I did have at least some of my tender loving care in the soup. 

I was surprised by how tasty this was and how much I enjoyed it!

Taco Soup
1 pound ground sirloin
1 package taco seasoning
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 quart tomatoes with their juices
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 cup water (rinse out the tomato sauce can)

In a soup pot, brown the ground sirloin. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Garnish with cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapeno peppers and serve with tortilla chips.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two Pair of Pears

My husband and I just celebrated our anniversary and a funny thing happened. We bought each other the same card. While we often joke that we are two people with one brain (we read each other's mind a lot) in this case I blame it on Beatrice and Virgil, a novel by Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, one of my favorite books. I recently read Beatrice and Virgil and also listened to it on audio. One day when Pritchard Parker and I were in the car together, I played my favorite part of the book for him.  

The scene opens when Virgil expresses his desire for a pear, Beatrice reveals she has never seen a pear and asks him to describe one.  I can't quote the entire passage, but here are some juicy excerpts in Virgil's words.

"To start with, a pear has an unusual shape. It's round and fat on the bottom, but tapered on top.

It's a pale, translucent yellow, moving towards beige, but not creamy, more watery, approaching the visual texture of a watercolour wash.

A ripe pear bruises easily, so it must be handled with care.

The pear is characterized by a thin roughness, delicate and interesting to the touch.

The skin of a pear is soft and yielding when ripe.

A ripe pear breathes a fragrance that is watery and subtle, its power lying in the lightness of its impression upon the olfactory sense.

The mind is arrested, spellbound, and a thousand and one memories and associations are thrown up as the mind burrows deep to understand the allure of the beguiling smell.

A pear overflows with sweet juiciness.

Slice a pear and you will find that its flesh is incandescent white. It glows with inner light. Those who carry a knife and a pear are never afraid of the dark.

The texture of a pear is a difficult matter to put into words. Some pears are a little crunchy. Not at all like an apple! An apple is not eaten, it is conquered. The crunchiness of a pear is far more appealing. It is giving and fragile. To eat a pear is akin to kissing.

The flesh of a pear can be slightly gritty. And yet it melts in the mouth.

The taste of a good pear is such that when you eat one, when your teeth sink into the bliss of one, it becomes a wholly engrossing activity. You want to do nothing else but eat your pear.  You would rather sit than stand. You would rather be alone than in company. You would rather have silence than music. All your senses but taste fall inactive.  You see nothing, you hear nothing, you feel nothing--or only as it helps you to appreciate the divine taste of your pear.

And if I had one, I would give it to you."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Loaded Baked Potatoes (as a Meal)

A loaded baked potato can be a meal in itself, and Pritchard Parker said that is what sounded really good to him. 

Almost anything can be used to top a baked potato--if you serve it beside a baked potato, you can serve it on top.  Some things I have used are leftover chili with cheese, leftover roast beef and gravy, scrambled eggs, with sauteed green peppers, onions, and salsa.  Taco toppings work really well. For a casual meal for family or friends, it is fun to set out a variety of toppings and let everyone fix their own potato.

Most produce departments have loose "Baking Potatoes", which are Russet potatoes, graded to be a consistent size and shape.  I start with those but any potato will work.

Loaded Baked Potatoes
One baked potato per person
Streamed fresh broccoli
Sauteed fresh mushrooms
Freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
Crisp bacon, broken into bite size pieces
Sour cream
Chopped scallions

Scrub potatoes very well and inspect carefully for any discolorations, blemishes, or sprouts, and trim away as necessary.  Dry them thoroughly.  Coat the outside of each potato lightly with vegetable oil and place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for approximately 1 hour, until the skin is crispy and the potato is tender.

To serve, pierce the potato in a dotted line from end to end, with a fork.  Crack the potato open by pushing the ends toward the center.  Dress each potato with desired amounts of toppings. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Orange Kiss-Me Cake

Here is another recipe I borrowed, last summer, from my Mother's collection

I have always loved her pretty handwriting. Here she has titled the dessert, "Orange Kiss Me Kate", marking over the "C" she had previously written.  I can just see her, sitting at the kitchen table, on the phone, with a sheet of notebook paper, taking down the recipe.  The recipe giver probably made sure to emphasize the "Kate", not "Cake".

When I decided I wanted to make it, I needed to clarify a couple of things. Mama wrote in her instructions, "Grease pan", but not what kind of pan.  When I asked her, she said she thinks she made it in a tube pan.  On further consideration, I was puzzled about the part of drizzling the topping on the warm cake.  Did you top the cake while it was still in the tube pan? What kept the topping from falling off when removed from the pan? Or should you take it out of the pan first? Immediately, or wait for. . .5 minutes? 10 minutes? 

I did a research about this cake and found out some interesting things. First of all the title is Orange Kiss-Me Cake (not Kate) and it was the winner of the 2nd Pillsbury Bake Off, in the year 1950.  And it was made as a sheet cake.  I saw some slight variations on the cake, but decided to stick with Mama's, with the exception of using butter rather than shortening.

Orange Kiss-Me Cake
6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, divided
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. cinnamon

Grease and flour a 13 x 9 inch baking pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the topping ingredients and set aside.

Combine 1/2 of the orange juice concentrate with remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Beat at low speed of an electric mixer for about 30 seconds.  Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Drizzle remaining orange juice concentrate over the warm cake and sprinkle on the topping.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rich and Hearty Beef Stew

Well, we had our first cold weather--down to 25 degrees.  It will get colder, but I always find the first cold days rather shocking until I get used to them.  I don't mind winter, and love certain aspects of it.  For example, I get to wear my favorite garment, the sweater, all the time.  I love snuggling under warm blankets.  And I really enjoy cooking hearty soups and stews, which can simmer all afternoon, to develop rich flavor, and keep the kitchen warm.  And baking, ooh-la-la, I love running my oven. 

Because I knew I would be simmering this stew for a few hours, I did not find it necessary to use beef stock for cooking.  The beef itself makes plenty of its own stock. But I did use coffee, which is a tip I learned from my Mother, and she learned from her Mother, from making the ubiquitous Southern Red Eye Gravy.  Although you don't really taste coffee in the end, it does add richness to the sauce, and more importantly, it helps tenderize the meat. 

The vegetables I added in the beginning mostly melted away and helped make a delicious gravy for the baby potatoes and mushrooms I added toward the end.  Once the potatoes were tender, I found myself staring into the pan and wondering what I would use to to thicken the sauce.  I thought about using flour or cornstarch but didn't like that idea. I also contemplated adding some dumplings to that delicious smelling, simmering broth.  In the end, I just keep simmering, uncovered, until it was thickened.  We were both very happy with the way this tasted. 

Rich and Hearty Beef Stew
2 lbs. stew beef
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. each, salt, pepper, and paprika
2 Tbsp. bacon fat, or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 15 oz. can tomatoes, with their juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 cup strong, brewed coffee
Several stems fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs. tiny Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed very well
6 oz. tiny white mushrooms, cleaned and inspected

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika; coat the beef very well, all over, with the mixture. Heat the bacon fat, in a large soup pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat.  Add the beef and cook until well browned.  Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and stir well.  Add the tomatoes with their juice. Stir in the soy sauce and coffee. Add enough water to barely cover all the ingredients in the pan, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the beef is very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the thyme stems and bay leaves and add more salt and pepper to taste. Drop the potatoes and mushrooms into the simmering stew, cover and continue to cook, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook the stew until it is reduced to desired consistency. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mexican Egg Rolls

I was lying back in the dental chair at 8:30 in the morning, and while my hygienist scraped at my teeth, I thought about food.  Specifically, what I would make for supper.  Because of my husband's schedule this day, I was thinking along the lines of a nice sandwich or maybe pizza.

Quesadillas occurred to me and I contemplated that for a while, scrape, scrape, for instance, what kind of quesadilla and did I want to grill them, cook them in a frypan, bake them, stack them? Pick, pick, scrape.  As I imagined this dish further, a reality struck. I don't really enjoy flour tortillas.  I like corn tortillas.  So I flipped to enchiladas in my mind, but no, once again, because of scheduling, I needed something that didn't necessarily need to be served piping hot. 

I think it was when the dental hygienist shined that light (you know the one I'm talking about) right in my eyes, that I thought about egg roll wrappers and decided to make Mexican egg rolls.  Or perhaps I should call them mini-chimichangas. 

For more about using egg roll wrappers, click here.  And I have also used them for dessert.  Now I'm thinking about using them for a "breakfast burrito". 

Mexican Egg Rolls
1 lb. ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, chopped, seeds removed if desired
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup water
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (15 oz.) can refried beans
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
8 oz. grated pepper jack cheese
1 pkg. (20) egg roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten with a little water

In a large skillet, cook ground chuck over medium heat until no longer pink.  Drain off any excess fat.  Stir in onions, garlic, peppers, tomato paste, water, chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper.  Simmer at medium low heat, until vegetables are tender and water has cooked off. 

Spread about a tablespoon of beans onto the center of each egg roll wrapper. Top with a couple tablespoons of the meat mixture, then some cheese, and a few diced tomatoes.  Roll up like a little envelope, using a little of the egg wash to seal them.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush all over with egg wash.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden brown. 

Serve with salsa and sour cream.  I wanted to also include guacamole, but I did not plan ahead and all the avocados at the store were rock hard.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nutritional Yeast (A Couple of Recipes Will Follow Immediately)

Nutritional yeast is a product and ingredient I came to know and love, around 20 years ago, when I was a vegetarian.  Though I am no longer  vegetarian, I still regularly enjoy cooking, serving, and eating vegetarian dishes I learned long ago. 

Nutritional yeast (not to be mistaken for baking yeast or brewing yeast) has long been recognized as an excellent source of nutrition, containing 18 amino acids, making it a complete protein, as well as 15 different minerals.  Nutritional yeast is also a rich source of B-complex vitamins, which among other great benefits, helps regulate mood.  

Did I mention that it is delicious?  It can be used in a variety of ways, adding a nutty, cheesy flavor to soups, salads, popcorn, toast, sprinkled on spaghetti in place of cheese, added to tomato juice for a quick pick-up, added to soups for a creamy taste and texture, in place of dairy.   

Stay tuned. . .

Oven Fried Tofu

Whenever I have been eating a lot of rich food, most specifically meat, I inevitably find myself desiring this simple and healthful meal.  My husband will also request it from time to time when he is feeling the need for some super nutrition. 

This is my favorite way to use nutritional yeast. If you are prejudiced about tofu, there is nothing I can say to change or open your mind so I won't bother.  But if you enjoy tofu, or are curious about ways to use tofu, may I invite you to try this? 

Any of your favorite herbs and spices can be used here with good results.  Garlic and onion powder are good, chili powder and cumin are good, any herbs I've ever used taste great.  This time I simply used parsley. 

Oven Fried Tofu
1 14-oz. block of extra firm tofu
2 - 3 Tbsp. soy sauce or Tamari
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. parsley
Canola oil

Drain the tofu, pat dry, and slice into 6 slices.  Put into a shallow dish in a single layer.  Drizzle with soy sauce and allow to marinate for about 10 minutes. Turn, and continue marinating, adding more soy sauce if needed, and marinate for another 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, mix together the nutritional yeast and parsley, or other seasonings of your choice, in another shallow dish.  Dredge the tofu slices and cover on all sides with the yeast mixture.  Place on a well-oiled, rimmed sheet pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn the tofu slices, rotate the pan, and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy on the outside.

Serve with brown rice sprinkled with Gomasio, and braised, steamed, or stir fried fresh vegetables.

Dare I say it tastes like chicken?

Nutritional Spread

Another delicious way to use nutritional yeast is this spread.  It looks like peanut butter but tastes more like cheese.  Use it on crackers, toast, or on a sandwich topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, and avocado. Make a "grilled cheese".  Wonderful with raw carrot and celery sticks.  It really is surprisingly yummy!

Nutritional Spread
2 cups nutritional yeast
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water

Mix together the yeast and oil; blend well, then add the soy sauce and mix until smooth.  Add the water, a little at a time, stirring after each addition.  Don't be discouraged if the mixture doesn't seem to be coming together, just keep stirring until it is a spreadable consistency.  Store in the refrigerator.