Monday, November 30, 2009

What We'll Be Doing This Weekend...



Some post Thanksgiving fun... starring TBHITW.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!


Hope your T-day was wonderful!! I'll be back tomorrow with some light, vegetarian dishes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feeling Grateful


(Thank you to Nancy over at Life In The Second Half for today's post title)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

I hope that wherever you find yourselves on Thursday - be it with friends or family, you find yourself happy, healthy and able to give thanks for whatever blessings life has bestowed on you.

Me, I am thankful for:

My husband. He is the love of my life and is truly The Best Husband In The World (for me)

My children. In them I see our future.

My grandchildren. They are precious reminders that life goes on...

My parents. They serve as examples of a life well lived, a marriage taken care of and family values.

My siblings. They put the FUN in dysfunctional and make me smile and laugh out loud.

My home. We built it together - and it is more than a house.

My kitchen. This room is where I do my best work.

My friends. I can count you all on one hand. And that's all I need. You sustain me.

My dog. You drive me crazy, but you give me such love and loyalty.

My health. I will strive to do more to protect it.

My God. For always listening and answering - even when I don't like the answer.

My country. This truly is the greatest nation on earth.

My freedom (see "My country" above)

My countrymen and women. To those serving here and oversees, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Here is hoping you have a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Dessert and Other Activities



Do you have a family activity or tradition that you do every year AFTER the turkey, stuffing and all the sides have been devoured?

Do you serve dessert right after the dinner plates are cleared? Or do you take a leisurely stroll? Perhaps play a rousing game of touch football? Maybe just relax and watch some football on TV?

Football not your sport? Perhaps a favorite board game gets taken out of storage.. or maybe you just need a nap?

Whatever you and your family do right after the turkey is cleared one thing is clear, at some point in the day, the table will once again be groaning under the weight of food. This time, instead of a savory roast bird and all the trimmings, I'm willing to bet the table will be covered with pies, cakes, cookies and all sort of delicious sweet concoctions.

In my family, my mom is the official baker at holiday time. Pumpkin pie, blueberry buckle, pumpkin roll are just a few of her specialties.... but this year I'm going to add something sweet of my own concoction:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes with Maple Brown Sugar Frosting* (makes 12 to 15 cupcakes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line cupcake tin with paper. (depending on the size, this recipe will make 12 to 15 cupcakes)

One 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, egg white and vanilla. Set aside.

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

In another bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Whisk into the flour mixture.

Place a heaping tablespoon of pumpkin mixture in bottom of each cupcake liner. Then place a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese mixture. Go back and top each cupcake tin with more pumpkin batter.

Bake in center of oven for 25 minutes. The cupcake tops will crack during baking. Cool completely on a rack.

Brown Sugar Maple Frosting:

1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into tablespoon size slices
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Using an electric mixer, beat brown sugar, maple syrup and egg whites and salt until combined. Fill a saucepan with 1 inch of water - bring to a simmer. Place the mixing bowl with the egg whites on top of saucepan. Whisk the mixture for about 3 to 5 minutes. This will melt the sugar and give you a syrupy base. Remove from heat and beat with the mixer at high speed until fluffy.



Lower the speed and continue to beat until frosting cools to room temperature. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until combined, then beat again on high for 5 minutes. Beat in 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Transfer to pastry bag and pipe decoratively on cupcakes.

A Cook's Notes: I store the cupcakes in the refrigerator. Also, any cupcakes over the dozen, I bake in aluminum liners and sprinkle with walnuts before baking... TBHITW eats these as breakfast muffins!



*Adapted from Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine.








Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Side Dishes


Okay.

You have the turkey.
You have the stuffing recipe.
Corn - check.
Dinner Rolls - check.
Sweet Potatoes - check.
Mashed Potatoes - check.

Seems there is more starch on a Thanksgiving table than at a Chinese Laundry. But we still need more don't we?

Herewith my family favorites as contributions to the already groaning table:

Peas with Bacon, Turnips and Dill (serves 6 - 8)

1 package frozen peas (16 ounces) cooked to package directions
6 strips bacon - fried crisp and drained on a paper towel. Reserve bacon grease.
1 small turnip, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons dill

Fry bacon, drain on paper towel and set aside.
In bacon fat, brown and saute the turnips until soft and golden - about 5 to 7 minutes.
Mix dill with softened butter in a small dish.
Cook peas according to package directions. Drain.
Toss the turnips into the peas, add dilled butter and stir to coat peas and turnips. Season with pepper. Crumble bacon over top and serve immediately.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries, Walnuts and Wilted Spinach (serves 6 to 8)

One butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cups fresh spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place the butternut squash cubes in a heavy, oven proof casserole (with a lid if you have one, if not, you will use aluminum foil).

Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Add the butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Put a lid on the casserole and place in the center of the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Uncover and stir. Toss the walnuts and cranberries in with the squash and stir to mix around. Put back in oven and roast for another 20-30 minutes until nicely browned and soft. Stir once or twice while checking for doneness.
Remove from oven and toss in spinach leaves. Cover for 5 minutes to wilt the spinach.
Serve.

Cranberry Relish with Oranges and Walnuts:

1 package (16 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 cup water
2 small naval oranges, cut into eighths
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup (optional) Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liquor
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted

In a heavy saucepan combine cranberries, water, oranges, sugar and liquor. Cook over high heat until mixture reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cranberries begin to burst and liquid is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, transfer to bowl with lid and chill thoroughly. Top with chopped walnuts just before serving.

Pomegranate Spiced Apples: serves 6 to 8

4 Large Granny Smith Apples
1/3 cup Pomegranate Molasses
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
rind of 1 small orange (or clementine)
juice of 1 small orange (or clementine)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel and core apples, then cut into wedges about 3/4 inch thick.
Melt butter in heavy saute pan. Add pomegranate molasses, then apples, toss to coat. Sprinkle orange rind and juice over apples. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon and toss again to coat. Saute over medium heat until apples are semi soft and liquid is syrupy. Serve warm.

I chop the leftover apple mixture and add them to wild rice the next day and warm... ummm.. a yummy, sweet, nutty, side dish with leftover turkey or chicken.

Lemon Brussel Spouts with Pistachios:

One basket of brussel sprouts (about 10)
1/2 lemon, juiced and zest removed
1/4 cup shelled pistachios (unsalted if you can get them)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Cut the bottoms off the brussel sprouts and separate all the leaves. This takes a little time but you want brussel sprout leaves, not bundles.




Heat the oil and butter in a medium saute pan. Add the brussel sprouts and saute over medium high heat. Add the lemon juice and continue to saute until sprouts are beginning to wilt. Add the lemon zest and pistachios and toss around to heat the nuts.

Season with salt and a few good grinds of pepper. (if you are using salted pistachios, omit salting or taste to test.

Serve piping hot and don't tell me you don't like brussel sprouts again.


What are you favorite side dishes?


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stuffing: My Dad's, Mine and Yours


Is there anything more near and dear to a family's heart than the "traditional" family stuffing they grew up with on the holidays? When I use the term stuffing by the way, I am referring to the side of wet bread that is served up next to thousands of turkeys across the land. Whether it is cooked inside the bird or outside of the bird, for clarity sake, I'm just calling it stuffing.

I mean, really - I've tasted (and made) dozens of different stuffings. Some good, some really good and some outright awful.

Now that I am all grown up and have my own kitchen, I always serve two types of stuffing:

My dad's (the one I grew up with, with NO variations)
And mine. (always something different)
Just for you, my readers, I am offering up a third kind, Your Stuffing.

My Dad's Traditional Holiday Stuffing:

2 loaves fresh white bread, crust left on, cut into 1/2 X 1/2 inch cubes
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups celery, chopped small
2 cups onion, chopped small
Crisco for frying

In a blender, blend the eggs and milk together. Add a generous teaspoon of salt and blend to mix.

Put the bread cubes in a big bowl and pour the milk/egg mixture over, tossing to coat evenly. The bread will be damp, but not sodden. Set aside.

In an electric or large frying pan, place about 2 heaping tablespoons of crisco. Melt and heat over medium heat until hot. Add 1/3 cup onions and 1/3 cup celery and saute until almost soft. About 3-5 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Add 1/3 of the bread cube mixture and fry until the bread cubes are browned all over. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with more crisco, then remaining onions and celery and bread cube mixture until all done (about 3 batches or more, depending on the size of your frying pan)

Let cool completely*. When cool, stuff the bird loosely. Any left over stuffing, place in greased casserole with lid and bake along side of your turkey, basting at least twice with pan drippings. Bake about an hour.

*you may want to make it the day before and refrigerate until ready to proceed.

Make it you own:
Vegetarian: Bake in greased casserole, adding about a cup of vegetable broth.
Herbal: Add 1 tablespoon each: fresh sage, thyme, rosemary. (dried herbs, use 1 teaspoon)
Savory: Add 1 pound cooked ground country sausage and 1 tablespoon sage.
Nutty: Add cooked, diced chestnuts and sage and fresh ground pepper
Whole Wheat: use 1 loaf whole wheat bread and 1 loaf white
Cider: instead of basting with pan drippings use apple cider and season with ground sage.

My Stuffing (at least for this year)

Sourdough with sausage and apples:

1 large loaf sourdough bread, crusts cut off and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 10 cups)
1 pound ground country style sausage
1 large onion, chopped about 2 cups
3 (about) celery stalks, chopped, about 1 cup
1/2 stick butter (about 4 tablespoons)
3 cups Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 eggs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread cubes on a cookie sheet and bake until golden, stirring occasionally. (about 15 minutes) Transfer to large bowl.

Saute sausage over medium high heat until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon transfer to bowl with bread cubes. Add onions and celery to skillet with sausage fat and saute until soft. Transfer to bowl with bread and sausage.
Melt butter in same frying pan and add apples and saute until soft, add sage and stir. Add to bread mixture, season with salt and pepper and combine all ingredients well. Cool completely. You may want to make this one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to proceed.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a large casserole. Whisk together eggs and chicken broth. Add to stuffing mix and toss well. Spoon into prepared casserole and bake uncovered 45 to 60 minutes.

Make it your own:
Substitute dried cranberries for the apples.
Add chopped pecans for sweetness and crunch
Use whole wheat or cracked wheat bread instead of sourdough
Use bacon instead of sausage
Omit the sausage to make it vegetarian (use vegetable broth)

A Cook's Notes:
Stuffing is all about bread, eggs and flavorings. Mix and match. Add fresh herbs, nuts or dried fruits (apricots are awesome too). Wild rice mixes with nuts and fruit are also wholesome and tasty. Just remember a few things:
A stuffed turkey will take longer to roast than an unstuffed one. Add about 5 minutes per pound for stuffed.
NEVER use hot stuffing to stuff a bird. The stuffing ingredients must be cold.
NEVER stuff the bird the day before. ALWAYS stuff just prior to popping in the oven.
ALWAYS taste the stuffing and make seasoning adjustments before baking.

AND always aim for a new / old family tradition. If you do make adjustments to recipes, write them down so you remember what you liked or disliked about the dish. It will help the next time you try to recreate it.

Do you have a favorite stuffing / dressing recipe? Something from your childhood that you just can't live without during the holidays? Tell me about them - if you want to share a recipe, all the better!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let's Talk Turkey - Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving


Is there anything that strikes fear in the heart of home cooks more than the thought of preparing Thanksgiving Turkey?

I mean, really, how are you supposed to go from something that looks like this:


Okay, maybe something that looks more like this:


To something that looks like this:

To complicate the matter, there are literally hundreds of websites dedicated to roasting the perfect turkey. For every mother or grandmother out there, there are probably 500 websites that will recommend the absolute REVERSE of what they have been doing for generations.

Ahem.

What's a Good Cook to do?

Let's start with the irrefutables.

Thawing: if you purchase a frozen turkey, you will need to thaw it.

IRREFUTABLE #1:
DO NOT THAW IT ON THE COUNTER.

You can thaw it in the refrigerator or you can use the cold water method.

Refrigerator method: Place the frozen bird in a pan to catch melt. Drain off daily.

Allow 5 hours of refrigerator defrost time per pound of meat. Use my handy guide below.
8 - 12 pounds = 1 to 2 days
12 - 16 pounds = 2 to 3 days
16 - 20 pounds = 3 to 4 days
20 - 24 pounds = 4 to 5 days

Cold Water Bath method: allow 1/2 hour of defrost time per pound of bird

Place the frozen turkey in the sink. Fill with cold water. Change the water every 1/2 hour. Repeat until you reach the 1/2 hour per pound of bird time allotment.

Microwave method:

DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

Now that your bird is thawed you have to start thinking about roasting it. Take it out of the refrigerator 60 minutes before you are going to pop it into the oven.

You need to time roasting the bird with your dinner hour. Twenty minutes per pound cooked at 325 degrees is a good rule of thumb. Let's do some math:

A twelve (12) pound, unstuffed turkey will take approximately 240 minutes. 240 minutes = 4 hours. PLUS 40 to 60 minutes resting time.

A 12 pound bird is going to take about 5 hours from oven to table. This is true for a heritage turkey, a fresh turkey, a frozen (now thawed) turkey, whatever type of turkey you can come up with.

Okay. Got that?

Now, you have to decide what to put on / in / or around your turkey. Again, variations abound. Citrus, herbs, root vegetables, I have tasted turkey with pomegranate molasses glaze and another with maple syrup... but my family's favorite traditional Thanksgiving turkey is the tried and true, butter and herb roasted turkey - so that is what I am offering you.

Butter and Herb Roasted Turkey with herb gravy:

I make a 12 to 14 pound turkey - think 1 pound of meat per person. I prefer to make 2 turkeys if I need more - but members of my family have made 20 - 24 pound birds that have been absolutely delicious.

1 stick (1/4 pound butter, softened)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped fine
1 onion, unpeeled, cut in quarters
1 carrot, unpeeled, cut in half
1 stalk celery, washed, cut in half
Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Run cold water into the cavity of the turkey (remove giblets, reserve), rinse, and pat inside and outside dry with paper towels.

Mix the chopped herbs with the softened butter. With your fingers, gently separate the skin from the breast meat and rub about 1/3 of the butter/herb mixture under the skin. Be careful not to tear it. Salt and pepper the cavity. Spread remaining butter herb mixture all over the bird. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the vegetables all around the bottom of a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Place neck, heart and gizzard among the vegetables (do not use the liver, it will make the gravy bitter) Fill with about 1 inch of water. Make sure the rack does not touch water. Place turkey on rack, tie legs together with kitchen twine. Cover with lid or aluminum foil. Place in center of oven on rack.

Roast - basting every 30 to 45 minutes AFTER the first hour. The last hour of roasting, remove lid and continue to roast until temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh and skin is golden and crisp. Remove from oven. Transfer turkey (and rack) to large cutting board or platter and tent with foil. Let rest 40- 60 minutes.

While turkey is resting, make the gravy. Remove the vegetables, neck, heart and gizzard from roasting pan. Strain if necessary. Place the pan on two burners of your stove - turn up to medium high and bring to boil. Reduce the stock to about 3/4 of original volume. Dissolve 2 tablespoons flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 cups cold water. Stir, whisk or shake to remove any lumps.

*optional: add about 1/2 cup white wine, whatever you are serving with dinner (Riesling is perfect for turkey) to stock.

Slowly add flour / cornstarch mixture while whisking to hot, simmering stock. Adding only enough to slightly thicken. Continue to simmer for about 2 minutes. If not thick enough, add a little more and continue to whisk and simmer. Check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Turn off heat, whisk in 2 tablespoons unsalted COLD butter. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley if desired. Transfer to gravy boat and serve immediately.

A Cook's Notes: I like to buy the very best fresh turkey I can afford. I DO NOT buy anything that is labeled "prebasted" or "self basting" which means the producer has injected fat and/or some type of broth solution - usually a salt water solution into the meat to keep it moist.

A word about herBoldbs. I like to use fresh herbs when I can but realize they can be very pricey if you don't have your own herb garden. Because you are roasting your turkey for so long it is perfectly fine to use dried herbs. Just cut the recipe amounts by 2/3 - in other words, if a recipe calls for a tablespoon (equal to 3 teaspoons) of fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon of the dry.

Tomorrow, and the next day and the next... :
Stuffing - 3 ways!! (I call it stuffing whether you are stuffing the bird or not) Family Tradition aka My Dad's Stuffing (stuffed), Sour Dough and Cornbread dressings
roasted vegetable gravy (for my vegan friends)
peas with crisp turnips and bacon and dill
roasted butternut squash with spinach, cranberries and walnuts
fresh cranberry, orange relish
and more...

If you have any questions or requests, simply fill out the comment field and I'll answer (or die finding the answer) your Thanksgiving Feast questions....


Monday, November 16, 2009

Travels and Apple Crisp


I am going to take a few days off this week to travel up North with my good friend Anne. We are looking at a piece of property at the foot of the Berkshires.



Dare I dream?

I promise I'll be back on Thursday and will devote the rest of the days leading up to "the big day" that is, Thanksgiving, with some turkey, stuffing and side recipes.

Until then, Bon Appetite!

The Best Husband In The World and I went apple picking yesterday. The last day of the season for Pick-Ur-Own. It was a beautiful day after so many rainy, cold ones last week. Even though the apples were not that plentiful, we filled our basket and had a lovely day out in the orchard, under a blue, sun filled autumn sky.

Apple Crisp: serves 6

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole.

Peel, core and slice 4 to 5 large apples.
Toss with the juice and rind of one lemon.
Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Place in buttered casserole and drizzle 1/4 cup water over.

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Whisk together the sugars, the flour, the oats and the salt. With your fingers, work the melted butter into the flour/sugar mix until well blended. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the apples.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until apples are soft and topping is brown and crisp.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.




Friday, November 13, 2009

Guest Post

I have been absolutely honored by my friend Meeko Fabulous over at The Ramblings of a Disgruntled Secretary.




Meeko is on vacation this week (it's his Birthday everyone!!) and asked if I would do a guest post in his absence. I reached all the way back into my past to when I was held hostage by the corporate world and wrote today's post. Hurry on over for a read and while you're at it, check out some of Meeko's older posts - you're gonna love him!

ps. Just click on The Ramblings of a Disgruntled Secretary cartoon (above) or HERE

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

So That's What They Were Doing In The Barn....and Herb Garni



We've been back from the farm for a few days and it recently came to my attention that the four teenage boys I took with me and the farmer's daughter had spent a considerable amount of time in the barn.. um.. ahem.. um.. (the farmer owns guns...) after some investigative work I found out exactly what was going on in that barn...


Send your own ElfYourself eCards


A great way to add flavor to your stews, soups and braised meals is to add an herb garni (packet). Using this method of packaging your fresh herbs infuses your stocks, gravies and bouillons with flavor while eliminating the need to strain the liquid before using. Try it this holiday season and prepare to be wowed.

Herb Garni:

Assorted fresh herbs.

In this packet I've used garlic cloves, fresh rosemary and fresh thyme.
Leave the herbs whole - no need to chop, although you should remove the papery covering on garlic if you are using it.

Wrap the herbs in cheese cloth and tie securely. Keep the wrap thin and don't tie too tight.

I dropped the packet in a roasting pan with a mixture of 1/2 beef broth and 1/2 red wine, added a lovely 3 pound leg of lamb, covered the whole thing, popped in the oven at 375 degrees and voila - 2 1/2 hours later had a meal worth remembering. I simply removed the herb packet, boiled down the broth to 1/2 of its volume and thickened with some corn starch mixed in a little more red wine for a rich, fragrant sauce. If you want to add some extra richness, swirl in a tablespoon or two of butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve sauce on the side.



A Cook's Notes: Don't be shy - click on the link and go Elf yourself, family and friends. It's free and great fun!! Let me know if you do Elf yourself AND send me your Elf links - the BEST will receive a special holiday gift courtesy - THE GOOD COOK AND WINDSWEPT FARM

Suggested herb garni combinations:

Sage, rosemary and thyme (Simon and Garfunkel combo - poultry, beef)
Garlic, lemon slices, thyme - poached fish, lamb
Sage, thyme, lemon slices - turkey, chicken
Garlic, rosemary, thyme - pot roast
Thyme, orange slices, cloves - duck, goose


Monday, November 9, 2009

Windswept Farm, Teenage Boys and Mixed Green Salad with Roasted Beet Vinaigrette and Warm Goat Cheese Crouton




This weekend I took my 15 year old kidadult and three of his friends to my best friend Michele's farm in Upstate New York. Some of you may recognize the name Windswept Farm from previous posts.

What is it about teenage boys and tractors?

The weather was beautiful, cool and crisp under azure skies. Perfect for working on a farm.

The boys cut greens for my girlfriend's holiday wreath making; an entire hay wagon full!


And I learned something about making evergreen wreaths.



I remained hopeless in the bow tying division. Thankfully for the wreaths and her customers Michele is an expert and had quickly tied up 65! (I helped by handing her wire and scissors)


While Michele and I made wreaths and bows for her local holiday bazaar we talked about the farm, the grape and vegetable harvest, our children and our friendship that has spanned 30 years. I still have a warm feeling today thinking about the last 48 hours spent in the embrace of a lifelong friendship and shared memories.

The boys cleared and leveled a field, rode a 4 wheeler, helped with feeding the horses and generally had the best time four 15 year-olds can have without a video game in sight! Michele's husband proclaimed them excellent farmers and invited them back anytime. He knows free labor when he sees it! Of course it didn't hurt the boys performance that Michele's lovely 15 year old daughter was on hand to be suitably impressed.



What did you do this weekend?

All the wonderful root vegetables are in markets now; parsnips, turnips and beets of every color. These fall harvest vegetables store beautifully over a long period of time so stock up now while they are plentiful and inexpensive. Just keep them in a cool, dark and dry place and you can enjoy their goodness throughout winter.



Mixed Green Salad with Roasted Beet Vinaigrette and Warm Goat Cheese Crouton.
(serves 6)

Four small to medium sized red beets, scrubbed and greens chopped off
Aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each beet in foil. Place wrapped beets in shallow roasting pan and fill with water to cover beets halfway. Roast in oven for 1 1/2 hours or until soft when pierced with tip of knife. Remove from water and allow to cool.

When cool enough to handle, unwrap beets and slip the skins off. You may want to wear gloves and cover your work surface with paper to avoid beet stained hands and counters.

Beet Vinaigrette:

2 roasted beets
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper

Place 2 beets in food processor. Minimally process using on / off pulses. You don't want to puree the beets, just mince. Remove beets from processor and place in medium sized bowl. Replace bowl of processor on machine. With machine running, pour in sherry vinegar and slowing drizzle in olive oil until emulsified. Add honey, pulse. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk into the finely minced beets.

Warm Goat Cheese Croutons:

4 ounce log goat cheese
1 egg white
1/4 cup panko or fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Slice goat cheese log into 6 rounds. Dip into beaten egg white, then bread crumbs. Freeze for 15 minutes. Heat oil on medium high in small nonstick frying pan. Quickly add goat cheese rounds and brown each side about 30 to 60 seconds. Turn and brown other side. Remove to plate.

Salad Assembly:

6 cups mixed greens
2 roasted beets, sliced in rounds, then halved to form half moons.
Pine Nuts, toasted (optional)

Arrange 1 cup of greens on 6 salad plates. Arrange a few half moons of beets on top of each salad. Place one warm goat cheese crouton on top of beets. Drizzle all over with (room temperature) roasted beet vinaigrette, top with pine nuts.



A Cook's Notes: This is a lovely luncheon salad when served with a warm, crusty bread. For dinner, serve with roasted chicken, bread and a crisp Riesling. That's what I'm having for dinner tonight!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mini Rant and Mushroom Pie with Sour Cream Crust




After yesterday's post regarding E. Coli I feel like Lucy - I've got some splainin' to do.

The bacteria E. Coli is present in food that has come into contact with feces. In the case of tainted hamburger it happens on the slaughterhouse floor. Stomach and/or bowel contents come into contact with the freshly cut meat. E. Coli lives on the surface of meat - when it is ground into hamburger you are effectively mixing the bacteria into the entire product. That is why you always hear about hamburger being recalled and the need to cook it until it is well done. A steak (for example) may have E. Coli living on its surface but as soon as you sear the meat you have killed the bacteria; even if you serve it rare.

Cooking hamburger to the internal temperature of 160 degrees will effectively kill the bacteria. Do not rely on the COLOR of the meat - use an instant read thermometer. Of course you are still eating feces....

Purchasing your meat products from a local farm will reduce the chances that your meat has come in contact with E. Coli. Your local farmer either has a license to butcher the meat himself or uses a small, local food processing facility.

Purchasing your meat products from a local, reputable butcher will also reduce the chances. Don't be afraid to ask your butcher where he purchases his meats from.

Grinding your own hamburger from a local farmer or local butcher will greatly reduce the probability.

Purchasing organic beef will lower your chances also. In order to be labeled organic the animal has had to have been butchered at an organic slaughterhouse. Chances are an organic processing house has a much lower production rate than the commercial beef houses, thereby lowering the chances of improper handling due to increasingly high line speeds and unskilled labor.

A vegan diet of course will eliminate the chances of E. Coli infection from hamburger completely. BUT it will not eliminate the chances of E. Coli infection from other sources. Make sure you rinse your vegetables well - especially leafy greens produced outside of the United States. A few years ago there was an E. Coli outbreak traced to fresh spinach. It had come in contact with raw manure used as a fertilizer. Another reason to eat locally and seasonally.

So after all of this if you're feeling like a meatless day, try this mushroom pie recipe. It is rich, satisfying and the portabellas in the pie give it a meaty, hearty flavor. I've served this on Thanksgiving to my vegan friends and have always received rave reviews!

Mushroom Pie with Sour Cream Crust: - Serves 6 to 8 as a main course

Crust: This is one of the easiest, most delicious pastry doughs I have ever worked with. Trust me, you're going to love it.

2 1/2 cups flour (you can use whole wheat or all purpose, unbleached white flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup sour cream (you can substitute Greek Style yogurt for less calories)

Whisk first three ingredients in bowl. Cut in the butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Add sour cream and stir until dough comes together. Shape dough into 2 disks, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out larger disk and fit into pie plate. Refrigerate. Wrap other (smaller) disc of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Filling:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped shallots
6 cups coarsely chopped mushrooms (portabella, shitake, white button or any combination you like)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese (you can use Neufchatel style if you like) - room temperature and cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saute pan. Add onions and shallots and gently saute until translucent. About 5-8 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme. Saute until tender, about 10 minutes and most of liquid from mushrooms had cooked off.

Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.

Roll out smaller disc of dough and cut into strips. Form a lattice crust. Brush with egg white.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

A Cook's Notes: You can make this pie up to one day before. To reheat, cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly.

To find local farmers near you:


I have also purchased wonderful, organic, grass fed beef, as well as heritage turkey from Heritage Foods, USA (and shipping is free!)





Wednesday, November 4, 2009

E. Coli Outbreak - PLEASE READ



Please read, this outbreak has affected people in 12 states - in all corners of the U.S. I can't believe the article was "buried" and not front page news. Another case FOR farm to table consumption.


http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/11/03/beef.recall.e.coli/index.html


2 dead, 28 sick from E. coli outbreak

November 3, 2009 2:37 p.m. EST
Consumers should ask at their point of purchase if products are subject to recall, the USDA said.
Consumers should ask at their point of purchase if products are subject to recall, the USDA said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two people have died after becoming infected with E. coli in this outbreak
  • E. coli is a bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, kidney failure
  • Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of beef

New York (CNN) -- Two people have died and 28 people have fallen ill with matching strains of E. coli after an outbreak in ground beef, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Sixteen of those people are in hospitals and three have developed kidney failure as a result of the contamination, the CDC said late Monday.

The U.S. Department of Agricultureannounced last week that Fairbank Farms in Ashville, New York, was recalling more than half a million pounds of fresh ground beef products that may be contaminated with a strain of E. coli, a potentially deadly species of bacteria.

The products subject to recall were sent to retailers including Trader Joe's, Price Chopper, Lancaster and Wild Harvest, Shaw's, BJ's, Ford Brothers, and Giant Food Stores. The exact products affected are listed on the USDA's Web site.

The recall was for distribution centers in eight states, but Fairbank Farms said some retailers may have sent the affected beef to other states.

Each package is printed with "EST. 492" inside the USDA mark of inspection or on the nutrition label. They were packaged on September 15 and 16 and may have been labeled at the retail stores with a sell-by date from September 19 through 28, the USDA said.

Consumers should ask at their point of purchase if the products they have purchased are subject to recall, the USDA said.

E. coli can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and people with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service advised consumers to safely prepare raw meat products, whether they are fresh or frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The only way to be sure ground beef is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature, the FSIS said.

Of the 28 people infected with E. coli from the outbreak, eight are in Massachusetts; four each are in Connecticut and New Hampshire; two each are in Maine, Pennsylvania and South Dakota; and one each is in California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Vermont, according to the CDC.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons




I'm still feeling a little bit tired from our long weekend, but not too tired to make some warm comfort food.

This soup is creamy, thick, nutritious, a little spicy and has the surprise ingredient of balsamic vinegar. I think it's perfect for a crisp November day.

My original recipe calls for using a whole pumpkin - because I have a little pumpkin patch - but I simplified this for you and use canned pumpkin puree. If you'd like to use a whole, fresh pumpkin, see instructions at the end of the recipe.




Pumpkin Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

One 15.5 ounce can pumpkin puree
One medium size butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2 inch chunks
2 medium apples, washed, cored and cut in half, skin on
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
2 shallots, peeled and halved
3 medium carrots, peeled, cut in half
2 stalks celery, cut in half
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 big sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon each: all spice, ginger, ground cloves, nutmeg
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the butternut squash, apples, onion, shallots, carrot, celery, thyme and bay leaves in a heavy roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Roast in hot oven for 1 hour or until all the vegetables are soft, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Remove from oven. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Place on top of stove and over medium high heat add wine to deglaze. Add chicken or vegetable broth, balsamic vinegar and spices and cook for 15 minutes.

Puree in batches in a blender - placing pureed vegetables in a large soup pot. Add pumpkin puree to soup pot and whisk to thoroughly combine. Heat through and taste to adjust seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary.

Stir in 1/4 cup heavy cream (if desired), heat through, ladle into soup bowls and top with pumpernickel croutons.

Pumpernickel Croutons:

Four, one inch thick slices of pumpernickel bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Toss bread cubes with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. Spread out on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes, turning and tossing half way through.

If using a Whole Pumpkin:

Remove seeds and strings from pumpkin. Cut into pieces about the size of your hand. Add to roasting pan with the rest of the vegetables. When done roasting, remove pumpkin and when cooled, scrape out flesh, discarding shell. Add back to roasting pan with the rest of the vegetables and proceed with wine and broth....


A Cook's Notes: Roasting the vegetables gives this soup a nice earthy (almost smoky) taste. Start to finish only takes about 1 1/2 hours and for the most part, the oven does the work!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Marathon Weekend



The NY City Marathon's Fortieth Anniversary Medal - 2009





Our weekend guests have just left - they are on their way to the Empire State Building (with TBHITW) then on to La Guardia for their flight home.

It was an awesome weekend filled with family, food, fun, museums, the NY City Marathon, planes, trains and automobiles.

This Good Cook is going to take a nap now and will be back tomorrow with new recipes, tips, tricks and kitchen stories. For now, a little recap in pictures:


Allyson, Shane and Caitlyn trick or treating:

Scary stuff in our mailbox
Bones in the yard
A train ride:

A subway ride
Times Square

Marathon Runners!




Mark and Dee - our favorite marathoners ultimately raised over $15k for pediatric cancer research for the charity Fred's Team AND ran 26.2 miles...

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