Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jack-o-Lanterns vs Pie Pumpkins

Well, partly I just wanted to post the cool Jack-o-Lantern V carved. But I also wanted to share a link about whether or not you really need to buy the fancy pie pumpkins to bake with or if you can use the cheaper J-o-L versions. Here is the link. I haven't done the comparison myself but I thought she was very thorough. I did buy a pie pumpkin to make my pie with but only because I was only going to do one and it sounded fun. If I were going to freeze a bunch of pureed pumpkin, I would totally go with the cheaper ones. If only I had more freezer space! Unfortunately, canning pumpkin at home is not recommended. So I'll just dream of that chest freezer for next harvest season and enjoy my pie for now.

Real Pumpkin Pie

1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup butter, cold
2 TB minced candied ginger
3 TB flour
1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cups pureed, cooked pumpkin
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground clove
3 eggs
1 ½ oz apple juice
Pre-baked 9 inch pie shell

Rub all topping ingredients together with fingertips until crumbly. Preheat oven to 350’. Mix filling ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour filling into pie shell. Bake at 350’ for 1 hour. Top with crumb mixture and bake for another 45 minutes or until set in center. Allowing the pie to cool overnight before serving will enhance the flavor. 

To make pureed, cooked pumpkin: Cut pumpkin in half horizontally and place in a roasting pan in ¼ inch of water. Cover with foil and bake at 400’ until tender - time will vary with pumpkin size and variety. Puree in a food processor. Thanks KC!

Note: This is the pumpkin I bought to make this with but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I'll post more pictures when I do. I've made it before though. If I remember right, it's really good.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pot Roast Sandwiches

Pot Roast Sandwiches are the best thing ever to do with leftover pot roast. Sometimes I even make pot roast just to have these. They are so good.

Crusty artisan bread or hamburger buns
Shredded pot roast
Pot roast gravy
Provolone cheese
Mustard (opt)
spinach or lettuce (opt)

Saute sliced onions and peppers in butter or oil. Toast bread lightly. If using one large loaf of bread, slice horizontally and scoop out some of the inner bread  on the bottom slice to make room for the pot roast. Spread mayo on both sides of bread and mustard, if using. Generously layer pot roast on bread. Top with gravy, then cheese. Add sauteed peppers and onions. Top with spinach or lettuce, if using. Place top of bread on and push down a bit to help it stay together. If using one large loaf, slice into pieces and serve immediately. (Thanks TM!)

Note: to make pot roast gravy, reduce pot roast drippings by boiling the liquid left in the pot after the pot roast comes out of the oven. I generally use a slotted spoon to fish out the chunks of onion and mushrooms. When the drippings start looking like a good broth, mix some cornstarch with a little bit of water and pour into the drippings while whisking vigorously. When the mixture boils, test for thickness on the back of a spoon. Add more cornstarch mixture and bring back to a boil if necessary. My usual gravy uses milk and flour but this style works well for the sandwiches. Feel free to use your normal version of gravy as well.

Failed Kefir

After a few months of gathering the courage, I bought some kefir grains to try to make some homemade kefir. I had made a few batches of lousy yogurt and wanted to try something new. It was a total flop. The top picture is what came out of the little packet I ordered for $20.

The directions say to soak the grains in milk for 1-2 weeks, changing out the milk daily to reconstitute the grains. Also, the grains are not supposed to touch metal. So I had my mason jar of milk on the counter with kefir grains in it and changed out the milk faithfully. I think my main problem was that I don't have a non-metal strainer small enough to catch the grains, so I had to fish them out with my hands every day. It was gross. They are really small to begin with and don't feel much different than lumps of yogurty-curded milk so I must have dumped a lot of them down the sink. After two weeks of doing this, I ended up with six itty-bitty curdy lumps, pictured below.

They never did make anything that seemed like kefir or even yogurt. I imagine if I had a strainer and ended up with all of the grains I started with in this size, they might do a sufficient job. They'd still be hard to fish out of a mason jar of thickened liquid though. Anyway, I threw them out and am happy to buy kefir for now. I think I'll go back to making yogurt. I probably just wore out my starter. I hear you're supposed to use new yogurt every once in a while instead of using it from the last batch every time.

Witch Hats and Spiders

These are some fun Halloween treats. Not real food but so cute!

Chocolate Bugles Chips
Ritz Crackers
Peanut Butter

Place cracker on a plate. Spread peanut butter around the bottom of one chocolate bugle, and place on center of cracker. If using regular bugles, use Cheez-It (or equiv.) instead of peanut butter.

To make Spiders, spread peanut butter on one Ritz cracker and top with another cracker to form a sandwich. Push four pretzel sticks into the peanut butter on each side of cracker, for 8 legs. Put a dab of PB on two raisins and place on top of cracker as eyes. Thanks Mal!

Bloody Fingers

These are a regular at Mal's Halloween Party. The recipe is from her friend MA. They're just so creepy!
pretzel sticks
sliced almonds
red gel frosting
1 cube butter, softened
2 cups Peanut Butter
2 1/2 - 3 cups powdered sugar

Mix butter and PB in mixer. Slowly add powdered sugar until you get a good, thick consistency like cookie dough. Wrap PB dough around pretzel sticks so they look like fingers. Place one sliced almond on the top of each finger, halfway sticking off, for the nail. If you want extra effect, use a toothpick to put small lines like knuckle lines in the fingers. Drizzle a line or zigzag of frosting up the length of the finger, on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

White Enchiladas

This is the other freezer meal I made this month. It's my Mexican-Style version of creamy enchiladas - using actual cream. The recipe is for a 9x9 pan. I made extra for the 9x13 version pictured.

equivalent of 2 chicken breasts, shredded

½ onion, chopped
3 TB grated parmesan
8 oz Monterey jack cheese, shredded
4 oz can of green chilies
13 oz can tomatillos or tomatoes, drained
¼ cup cilantro leaves
¾ cup whipping cream
1 egg
8 corn tortillas

Mix chicken with onion, parmesan, and 4 oz Monterey Jack (1 cup). Add salt if needed. Set aside. In blender or food processor, combine green chilies, tomatillos, cilantro, whipping cream and egg. Blend until smooth. Add salt to taste. Set aside. 

Preheat oven to 350’ and heat lard in small skillet. Place one tortilla at a time in the hot lard. Hold 3-5 seconds or just until softened on each side. Drain or pat with paper towels. Roll up chicken mixture in soft tortillas and place seam side down in a square Pyrex. Pour cream mixture over the top and sprinkle with remaining 4 oz of cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with guacamole, sour cream and shredded lettuce. 

Notes: If not using Enchilada Chicken meat, cover two chicken breasts with water in a pot. Add ½ onion, one bay leaf, eight peppercorns and salt to taste. Boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 45 minutes or until tender. Cool chicken in broth. Drain, then shred chicken.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicken Divan

This is another recipe that freezes really well. I made three 9x9s of these in my recent freezer meal frenzy using two whole roasted chickens. This recipe is geared towards a 9x13 serving.

Half of a Roasted Chicken
1 large head broccoli
1 1/2 cups brown basamati rice
3 cups water or broth
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
2-4 TB butter
Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

De-bone the chicken and chop it into cubes or shred it. You probably only need about half of a full chicken for this and this part can be done ahead of time (recommended). Cook the rice in the 3 cups water by bringing the rice and water to a boil and then turning down to simmer for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender. Meanwhile, chop broccoli into flowerettes. If using stems, peel and dice them. Steam broccoli about 5 minutes or until barely cooked.

Next, make the cheese sauce. I don't use a recipe for this so my amounts are estimates. Just use your favorite bechamel recipe and add sharp Cheddar to taste.You can also use the blender method I posted here. My usual method is just to melt the butter on med-high, add milk and then flour, whisking well, and whisk until the mixture boils. Remove from heat, then add lots of cheese, some salt and maybe some pepper - usually white pepper. Stir until cheese it melted.

Combine rice and broccoli first. Then add as much chicken as you want to use. Finally pour in the cheese sauce slowly, mixing as you go. You don't want to end up with rice soup and leftover cheese sauce is never a bad thing. Pour mixture into a 9x13 casserole dish and sprinkle with additional cheese. Bake at 350' for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and everything is hot.

Note: Two chicken breasts also work in place of the roasted half-chicken. Just sprinkle with seasoning salt and bake at 350' until cooked thru. Since we eat pasture-raised chickens, I only buy whole chickens so I've adjusted the recipe based on what I use.

Red Chicken Enchiladas

I knew this month would be pretty hectic so I made some freezer meals ahead of time. These red chicken enchiladas freeze really well and are one of V's favorites.

Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
Corn tortillas

Heat corn tortillas in a dry skillet or in a toaster oven until pliable. Roll each tortilla up with some enchilada chicken and cheese. Place seem side down in a pyrex dish, close together. Pour red enchilada sauce over generously and top with more cheese. You may wrap tightly in saran wrap and foil at this point and freeze, if desired.

Otherwise, bake (thawed enchilada pan) at 350' for 40 minutes or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Serve with sour cream. Note: One batch of Enchilada Chicken makes enough for at least two 9x13 pans of enchiladas. For reference, out of one batch of chicken, I made three 9x9 Red Enchiladas and one 9x13 White Enchilada recipe. I like to freeze casseroles in 9x9 dishes so there aren't as many leftovers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poached Eggs for McMuffins

I'm back! I haven't posted in forever because we took a last minute trip to Texas. Things were hectic before-hand and then we were gone for ten days. I'm still catching up on laundry but breakfast was so yummy, I had to post about it. I definitely learned that it is hard to eat 'real food' on vacation. Now that we're back, I am ready for a detox but I still have cravings for all the splurges I didn't get to during our trip. So I made some homemade Egg McMuffins this morning :)

I don't have a fancy egg poaching pan so I improvise with this flat bottomed pan with sides and some ramekins. I'm sure you could use a saucepan or pot if you don't have one like mine. Fill the pan with about 1.5" of water. Put empty ramekins in and adjust the water level so it comes 2/3s up the sides of the ramekins. Butter ramekins well. Fill ramekins with one egg each and salt and pepper them. Place into pan if you took them out for this process. Turn the stove on and cover with a lid. They take about three minutes after the water comes to a boil if you like them like me - yolk cooked thru without the white all the way to rubbery. When done, remove the lid, take ramkins out with tongs (they're hot!), remove eggs by going around the edge with a table knife and sliding or lifting them out, and bribe someone else to do the dishes - the ramekins usually take some soaking.

For the McMuffins, just toast some English muffins, butter them, put a hot poached egg on the bottom slice, cover with a thin slice of cheddar cheese, top with bacon and then the top piece of toast. Let sit for a moment so the cheese will melt. You may also wrap it in tin foil for a minute if it needs a bit of help melting. Serve with OJ. Delicious!