November 30, 2009

Turkey Turkey All Around

What is there really to say about Thanksgiving?
You eat turkey.
Then the next day you eat some more.
Then, on the third day, you think about something else you can make. (I'll come back to this in another post.)
This year we had Thanksgiving at Mr. Coffee's sister's house. She made the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.
I made the desserts and a couple of side dishes.
Not everything was successful. Also, for some harebrained reason, I forgot to take pictures of some of my finished dishes.
But here's a list anyway.
Turnip greens with turnips, apples, and ham hocks
This was a great dish. The most time-consuming part was washing the greens. Would definitely make this again.
(By the way, this is not the finished dish—in case any of you are puzzled. These were the washed and cut turnip greens and the ham hocks before they went into the pot.)
Pecan Tassies
Easier to divide up than pecan pie. They take longer to make, but its more time-consuming than difficult. A keeper.
Caramel Apple Pie
Have made this recipe before and loved it. However, this time, though I baked it for two (two!) hours, the apples never got soft. Tasted good, but will have to get to the bottom of the apple issue before I make it again.
Tuscan Kale Salad
The hit of the evening. This will show up on my table all winter until Mr. Coffee bans me from making it anymore. Raw kale tossed with a caesar-like dressing and toasted bread crumbs. Delicious! Also a great buffet salad, as you can dress it way ahead of time and it doesn't wilt.

November 24, 2009

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

The weather's turning cold. Time for soup.

When I was little, soup was my favorite food.

I ate it for breakfast.
I ate it for lunch.
I ate it for dinner.

I mean, I really loved soup.

On my birthday, my mom would make four kinds of soup as my special birthday dinner.

The Vegetarian loves soup too. And she likes vegetables. (Which is a good thing, because otherwise she wouldn't be a very successful vegetarian.)

This soup is one of her favorites. It was one of my favorites when I was a kid.

Still is.

This soup was taught to me by my Hungarian mother. She made it using several different steps and pots, but as I am lazy busy I have simplified it down into a one-pot process.

Since this soup is Hungarian, it contains oodles of dill. And sour cream, oodles of sour cream. No one would mistake it for health food.

But it does have cauliflower. So I guess it's kinda sorta good for you.

Here's what you'll need to make it:

Cauliflower (I was tired and running late, so I had Mr. Coffee get me some already cut-up cauliflower at the vegetable market. I'm sure I will burn in hell for that)
Dill (And lots of it. My mother always used dried because she couldn't get fresh, but fresh is better if you can get it.)
Sour Cream
Pepper (didn't make it into the picture somehow)

Oh, and you'll also need these, to make the dumplings:

One egg, salt, and some sort of neutral (ie not olive) oil. And cream of wheat, the most important dumpling ingredient, which I somehow didn't manage to get a picture of.

Are you ready? let's get cooking!

First, make the dumpling batter. Beat 1 egg with about a tablespoon of oil in a bowl. Then add in about 3 tablespoons of cream of wheat and a pinch of salt.

The mixture should be loose—not stiff.

Put it in the fridge and begin the soup:

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy pot.

Then add about 2 tablespoons of flour.

We're making a roux here. Let it cook for a few minutes but not get brown.

Once the roux is done, add some water and bring it to a boil, whisking vigorously every so often to avoid lumps.

Then throw in the cut-up cauliflower, the chopped dill, salt and pepper (I like lots of pepper) and water to cover. Bring to a boil again.

Once it comes back to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and grab your dumpling batter from the fridge. (It will have thickened up.) Drop it into the soup by quarter teaspoonfuls.

Cover the pot and let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the cauliflower is mushy and the dumplings are soft.

Turn off the heat and add about a cup of sour cream.

Voila! Creamy cauliflower soup.

The Vegetarian likes to eat hers with some Texas Pete hot sauce added into her bowl.

She got that from me.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

For the dumplings:
1 egg
1 tablespoon oil
3 tablespoons cream of wheat (regular or quick)
pinch of salt

Beat egg and oil together in a bowl. add cream of wheat and salt. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

For the soup:
1 head cauliflower, cut up
1 bunch dill, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup sour cream

Make roux. Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir to cook for 2 minutes, to avoid a raw flour taste. Don't let the roux brown.
Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously and often.
Add cauliflower, dill, salt, pepper, and more water to cover.
Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
Add dumpling batter, a quarter-teaspoonful at a time.
Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes.
Turn off heat, uncover, and add sour cream.

Serve garnished with extra dill and sour cream (and Texas Pete), if desired.

November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Shopping

Even if I'm not cooking the Thanksgiving meal, I always make a point of grocery shopping the week of Thanksgiving.
Because certain things almost always go on sale that week. So it's a great time to stock up on particular items.
I saved about $20 on cracker barrel cheese today, by waiting for the sale that comes every thanksgiving and then buying a bunch. (My family eats a lot of cheddar cheese.)
Also in the photo and on sale were butter, brown sugar, and eggs.
There's a good chance the following items may be on sale the week of thanksgiving in your local grocery store:
• cheese
• cream cheese
• butter
• pasta (particularly macaroni)
• sugar
• brown sugar
• flour
• evaporated milk
• condensed milk
• sour cream
• frozen spinach
• frozen green beans
• ice cream
• sliced bread
• bacon
There are others, but I can't think of them at the moment.
Incidentally, butter should go on sale a couple more times until the spring. In the colder months, cow milk contains more butterfat; therefore butter is cheaper to produce and more likely to be on sale. If you bake a lot, as I do, it's always worth buying a few pounds when it's on sale and keeping it in your freezer.

November 20, 2009

Cookie Monster

The Soccer Monster has a problem.
A big problem.
He's addicted to sugar.

And like many addicts, he can exhibit some unsavory behavior when it comes to his addiction. He can wheedle and whine. He can plead and petition. He can even cry over sugar. (Which, when it happens, makes me feel like I have done the most god-awful parenting job in the world. Who lets their kid cry over sugar, for chrissakes?)

But sometimes, like all addicts, he can turn on the charm to get what he wants.

The other day, out of the blue, he handed me this:

I let him sweat for a few days. But then, because I am an enabler (Aren't all moms?) I gave in and decided to do what he asked.

But I chose peanut butter cookies. Peanut butter has protein. It has fat. If, like the Soccer Monster, you resemble a late-stage famine victim, it's actually good for you.

I'd never made peanut butter cookies before. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. I had to pick the kids up at 3.

So this recipe, in its simplicity, appealed to me.
It has exactly four ingredients: sugar, eggs, chocolate kisses, and peanut butter.

And there's no mixer involved. Simply take a whisk and mix together the eggs, peanut butter, and sugar until it looks like this:

Then take a measuring tablespoon and measure out level tablespoons, roll them into balls, and place on the cookie sheet. The recipe said to flour your hands because the mixture would be sticky, but I didn't find this necessary.
When your cookie sheet is full like this:

Put it in a 350 oven for about 12 minutes.
While the cookies are baking, unwrap as many chocolate kisses as you have cookies on the sheet. (I had 20, but probably could have fit more. They don't spread much.)
When the cookies come out of the oven, while they're hot, press a kiss into the top of each one. Let cool.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Kisses
2 cups creamy peanut butter (natural is ok)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
chocolate kisses

1) Heat oven to 350.
2) In a bowl with a whisk, cream together eggs, peanut butter, and sugar.
3) Use a measuring tablespoon to measure out level tablespoons of the dough. roll into balls and place on cookie sheets.
4) Bake for about 12 minutes.
5) As soon as they come out of the oven, place a kiss on top of each one, pressing down so that the kiss sinks in a little.

My Kitchen

Let me just get this out of the way right now. My kitchen is awful. It's old. It's run-down. It's tiny. And I mean really tiny. I have exactly 4 cabinets. And a smaller-than-normal sized stove. And not much counter space to speak of.
Look at it. This is as clean as it gets. (Trust me. It was scrubbed down today.)
However, I do a lot of cooking in my awful, tiny kitchen. It's ergonomically efficient. I can go from sink to stove to counter without moving a step. (the fridge is another matter—out and around the corner)
But mainly, I do a lot of cooking in this kitchen because I love to cook. And bake. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra: If I can... cook in here, You can cook... anywhere." So what are you waiting for? Let's get started!