Tuesday, November 27, 2012

roasted to perfection

On Saturday night, I had a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner Take Two at my friends Jill & Ethan's home. Jill made a delicious dinner pie with turkey, stuffing and mashed potato (topped with cranberry chutney), and we followed it up with her dad's chocolate icebox pie - amazing!
I brought some roasted vegetables; a good addition to the meal. Recipe courtesy of Giada.
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch thick circles
1 1/2 cups Brussels sprouts (about 1/2 pound), halved
4 cups red bliss potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
3 medium parsnips (about1 pound), cut into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
1 cup sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
generous amount of sea salt (to your taste)
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss all vegetables in a bowl with EVOO and herbs. Pam an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet pan.
Spread the vegetables evenly on a large baking sheet. Place on middle rack in oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Occasionally rotate vegetables to ensure they don't get too well done in one area.
These are quite good - and healthy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

the reality of a new holiday

Thanksgiving used to mean packing up the car and driving to my aunt and uncle's house in New York. Musicals in New York City on Black Friday. Radio Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular soundtrack blaring through the stereo all weekend. As time moved on, Thanksgiving shifted to dinners in Hershey. In years past, Billy and I would leave DC together and arrive at Mom and Dad's to be spoiled with good food, drinks and a warm fire.
The strangest part of getting married and moving away - is holidays. Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in India. Amazing as it was, it was sad to be away from my family. This year was a quiet dinner for Vance and me, before he headed off to the hospital. Thanksgiving has changed - but some, scratch that, most, of the food has stayed the same.
Enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, before Vance's overnight shift at the hospital.
The traditional Clark (now Clarbaugh) Thanksgiving includes an array of dishes. Last night's selection included herbed roasted turkey breast, creamed onions, candied sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy. As holidays change locations, company and traditions - one of the hardest parts to adjust to (for me) is new food. Vance loves brussel sprouts, so this year, my families' beloved Le Sueur peas got bumped for some roasted sprouts.
This year, I really took to heart the importance of (well-executed) short cuts. The Le Sueur peas will wait patiently until Christmas this year, but a few other easy sides were tested last night. Fresh Market's Traditional stuffing mix was quite good. I added some diced onion, celery, apple and toasted walnuts. My mom's cranberry sauce is so tasty and the easiest thing to make over the holidays.

Mary's Cranberry Sauce (note - recipes below are via my mom - thanks Mom!)
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
about 1/3 to 1/2 cup Port wine
Turn the cranberry sauce out on a dinner plate and mush with a fork until smooth. Pour into a sauce pan and add port wine. Simmer over medium heat to cook off the alcohol. Chill and serve with turkey.

Creamed Onions
1 bag pearl onions (typically come in a mesh bag in the onion section) 
 (small and white)
roughly a cup to 2 cups of milk (2% or whole)
2-3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
nutmeg for topping
Peal the onions - this is a pain, but worth it in the end. You may wish to Google different technique suggestions. I suggest drinking white wine while you peel. Boil onions for about 20 minutes, drain very well on paper towels. Onions must be dry!
In a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour into the butter and whisk until a roux is formed. Once the roux is formed - slowly add in milk, continuing to whisk. When cream mixture is smooth and hot, incorporate onions, fold them lightly into the sauce. Pour onions into a serving dish and top with some fresh grated nutmeg.

Candied Sweet Potatoes
small sweet potatoes (cook more quickly) - for the two of us, I used about four
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
Peel and half potatoes (don't cut lengthwise), boil until almost done - probably 12-15 minutes. Drain and slice into 1/2 inch round slices. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter. Assemble the potatoes in the pan and begin to cook over medium heat. After lightly sautéing for a few minutes, sprinkle half of the brown sugar all over potatoes. This begins the "candying" process. Allow to cook for a few more minutes and carefully flip potatoes - sprinkle remaining sugar. Flip one more time ensuring all sugar has melted. These are sticky goodness! 

Another great find was William Sonoma's Turkey Gravy. This gravy is thick and delicious and you simply cut it with milk - super quick and easier than making pan gravy. Instead of a selection of wine last night, we opted for Martinelli's Sparkling Cider - Vance needed to keep his wits about him. Now, after he left for work, I took a rocks glass and had a vodka 'n cider over ice - even better.
We've always had full-turkeys, but for just the two of us, I wanted a turkey breast. The breasts are all white meat and cook at a fraction of the time.
Granted, the turkey breasts don't make for the photo-op of the year, but this herb roasted breast was delicious. We will be having turkey sandwiches for days!
You can't write a Thanksgiving post and not share a bit of what you are thankful for this year, so here I go. Not just family, but an incredibly flexible family, who travel over the US to see us. Old friendships that are even better now, then they were when we were 8, 16 or 22 years old. New friends that amaze me because they so quickly feel like old friends. A house that we continue to make a home each day. More and more memories with Vance - thank goodness for Instagram to capture it all!

Monday, November 5, 2012

a Sunday of (new) favorites

There are some things I don't ever really cook. A big one is pancakes. I don't love pancakes (not the way, say, my brother does), and Vance and I are really egg people on weekend mornings. This Sunday, though, we woke up and before I was even out of bed, I had the urge to make pancakes. That is so odd.
Easy apple, walnut & cinnamon pancakes.
Bisquick! That is why these are easy apple, walnut and cinnamon pancakes. Prepare Bisquick mix as box notes and set aside. In the food processor combine:
2 medium peeled apples (quartered)
1/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pulse until mixed (but not all the way to mush). Mix with 1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts. In a well-buttered pan, pour pancake batter. Assemble a small scoop of apple mixture into pancake and drizzle a little more batter on top. When bubbles form at edges, flip. Top with butter and syrup - oh goodness - so good.

These recipes don't go together at all, but they were both enjoyed on Sunday and are quick and easy.
This makes a large portion that could easily feed four or five.
Chicken Tikka Masala via Slow Cooker
9 skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup yogurt
4 tablespoons butter
1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, diced
4 tablespoons butter
1 whole large onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Kosher salt 
3 tablespoons garam masala 
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2-3 Inches, peeled and grated
4 cups crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon raw or white sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1-½ cup heavy cream
Cut the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1- 1.5 inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, salt and pepper over the chicken, then stir in the yogurt until all the pieces are evenly coated. Cover lightly and let sit for 10 minutes before proceeding. Melt 1 tablespoon the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium high and quickly brown about 1/4 of the chicken. Transfer browned chicken to the slow cooker as it is finished, using 1 tablespoon of butter per batch, and repeat until the chicken is all in the slow-cooker. 
Prepare the sauce. Return the pan to the heat and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, jalapeno and kosher salt, then stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to lightly brown around the edges. Stir in the garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute) before raising the heat to high and adding the crushed tomatoes and raw sugar. Stir well, scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil. Pour over the chicken in the slow-cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender. Use a fork or whisk to stir the cornstarch into the heavy cream until smooth. Pour into the slow-cooker and stir gently until the colour is even. Replace the lid and let cook for 10 minutes or until bubbly around the edges. Serve over hot Jasmine or Basmati rice with naan. I also steamed some spinach so we had a bit green.
Happy cooking all.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

CMAs and spaghetti squash

Do you every get really excited to cook something for the first time? Although spaghetti squash has been all the rage since low carb became the thing years ago, I hadn't made it until this week. Well. Wow. It is good, so good. The CMAs with all my favs and a good dinner. That was a nice Thursday!
Pecorino Roasted Spaghetti Squash & Italian Tilapia with Sauteed Vegetables
1 medium/large spaghetti squash
2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup  Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 400 degree. Slice squash lengthwise (carefully - it is hard to get through the skin). Scoop out seeds. Coat flesh with EVOO and season with S&P well. Roast (flesh-side up) for roughly 50 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 20 or 30 minutes. Using a fork, shred squash in long threads. In a large saute pan, add 2 garlic cloves of garlic, minced in about 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Add squash and coat well. After squash is hot all the way through, remove from heat and sprinkle cheese and parsley throughout, mix well.

Another interesting and tasty treat from earlier this week were corn arepas. I had arepas for the first in the airport (of all places) on my way back from Minnesota last week. Arepas are corn-like pancakes and we enjoyed ours with cumin sauteed peppers and black beans. Arepas are found in Colombian and Venezuelan cooking.
1.5 cups yellow cornmeal, finely ground
1/2 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup fresh sweet corn kernels, or frozen kernels, thawed
1/4 cup chopped scallion
3 teaspoons dried cilantro
1 small serrano or jalapeño chili, seeded and minced, optional
3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
Cooked black beans or vegetables and sour cream and salsa for topping

Place cornmeal in a large bowl with salt and cheese. Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steam rises, then add butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir into cornmeal mixture until a thick batter is formed. Fold in the corn kernels, scallion, cilantro and chili if using. Let batter rest until it thickens into a soft dough, about 15 minutes. Gently pour the batter into the (well-oiled) saute pan, as you would pancakes. You can fit about three arepas in the pan at a time. Fry for roughly 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes on other side. Drain arepas on a paper towel and top with sauteed vegetables, beans, salsa and sour cream. Yum! I think these would be also be delicious with a fried egg on top for a South American breakfast flare.