Thanksgiving

I had a great Thanksgiving. Emily and I visited our friends Leigh & Joe & Dot & Rudy down in VA. Leigh & Joe did most of the cooking for Thanksgiving, but I got to make some pies for the weekend and I cooked one dinner. I made my Lemon Meringue pie and my Banana Cream pie. With Emily’s help I think I’ve decided to tone down the booze in the Banana Cream pie. I’m going to eliminate one or both of the shots added to the whipped cream. There’ll still be 4 shots of 99 proof alcohol in the rest of the pie, so it’ll still have a kick, but I don’t think it works as well in the whipped cream. I was excited to be able to bring an 11″ pie plate and a 10″ pie plate to VA with us. I managed to get more of them on eBay, so I don’t have to worry quite as much about transporting them. They’re still rare and expensive, but it isn’t just one irreplaceable 11″ plate any more.

I also made a new pie: Oatmeal chocolate chip. Leigh had suggested that kind of pie, and I found a recipe for an “Amish” oatmeal pie on-line that we modified. She made the crust and I made the filling. When I post the recipe for it, I’ll include the link to the source recipe. We went with that one because it was one of the only ones I found that didn’t require corn syrup. It did require coconut, which we left out. We added additional oatmeal to replace the absorption of the coconut and we added bittersweet chocolate chips. We think it needs some salt next time and I want to add the chips later in the process. The baking time for the pie is 10 minutes at 425 and 30 minutes at 350. This time we added the chips at the start, but I think it might go better if I add them after I change the temperature. As it was, all the chips melted and settled at the bottom. Adding them later might let them be more evenly distributed.

I also got to make pierogies. We did this last year too, but this time we had 2 fillings. 1 of potato and 1 of turkey. Emily and Leigh helped by adding the filling and sealing the pierogies, Joe made the fillings. I made the dough and cooked them. I’ll be posting recipes for these later too. It was everything a Thanksgiving should be, a wonderful time was had by all and there were great quantities of great food.

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Pots!

I will be gradually replacing my cookware. I suppose this is something I’ve been doing all along anyway, but I have a tendency to hang onto things much longer than I should. I recently got rid of my largest single-handle pot. It was once an aluminum pressure cooker, but I’d long since lost the lid so it was just a large pot with some jagged bits. It was also beginning to pit a little. I have some similar sized two-handle pots and some much larger pots, but I wanted something to replace the one I was getting rid of as I wanted a pot I could use without pot holders.

This is what I got to replace it.
Strainer Pot








It has a nice handle, is a good size and has the wonderful feature of no sharp bits protruding into the pot on the inside to catch bits of food and slash my hands when I clean it. We found it at Target while looking around for other things and I’m looking forward to using it for the first time. I’m pleased with the spouts and the strainer lid. I think I may want all my pots to have spouts for pouring, they’re so handy.
Strainer Spout








While we were in the pot aisle, Emily pointed out a tiny pot with a spout on another rack

Butter PotThis pot is designed for melting butter or chocolate or other small melting jobs. It was only $5 and I figured it’d be handy to have since I have a tendency to make butter explode when I try to melt it in the microwave. Yes, explode. I now know that butter evenly coats the inside of a microwave when you heat it for too long. It is also difficult to clean. Thus: the butter-melting pot. It too has a spout!

There are two other pots we’d purchased awhile ago, but I want to mention them because they’re so handy. We got these at Ikea and they’re really 2 sizes of the same pot.
Ikea Pots










They’re a little shiny in this shot and because they’re so shiny, I can’t get a clear photo of my favorite feature. Each pot has measurement lines inside! Makes it much easier to measure how much you’re making. I do need to use pot holders for these and they don’t have a spout, so they’re not ideal, but they’re good, solid pots of good sizes. They also have somewhat sharp rims, making them trickier to clean than they might be, but I still find them very handy.

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Meringue

I don’t like using cream of tartar in Meringue. I think it makes it too stiff. I like a nice, light meringue and only a little on the pie.

Ingredients:

egg whites
sugar

Preparation:

Use 1/4 cup sugar for every 2 egg whites.

Put the egg whites in a medium-sized mixing bowl. The volume will expand quite a bit, so the egg whites should look dwarfed in the bowl.
Set your power egg-beater on low and begin beating the egg whites.
Slowly add the sugar, mixing thoroughly as you add it. Move the beater around the bowl or spin the bowl as you add the sugar.
Once you’ve added the sugar, continue rotating the bowl or moving the beater around until you see stiff peaks.

Most instructions for making meringue will tell you to continue beating until you see soft peaks, but that’s when using the cream of tartar.

After you see the stiff peaks, you’re done. If you’re making the meringue for a pie, when you put the meringue on the pie, spread it out and make sure the meringue touches the crust at the edges. That’ll keep it from shrinking as much when you bake it again to brown the meringue.

To brown the meringue, preheat the oven to 350 and bake the pie for 10 to 12 minutes.

One other thing I like to do with meringue is to get little peaks when on the pie. Use the back-side of a spoon or a fork, I like a teaspoon. Gently press the back of the spoon into the meringue and pull straight up until the spoon is free from the meringue. This should make tiny little peaks which will brown nicely when you re-bake the pie.

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Pot Roast

I’m going to try to post all the family recipes here, checked by mom. Pot Roast is one of the standards. When I made it this past Friday, my friend Bill went into the kitchen and said “Oh! You’re making it in a pot!” I was surprised by this comment, but he explained that he’s always made it in a croc pot. This is a very simple, but hearty and inexpensive meal to make. It is great for when it is cold out.

Ingredients:

1 Bottom Round
salt
pepper
1 or 2 yellow onions
water

Preparation:

Slice the onion(s) as if you’re going to sautee them: small, but not diced.
Take a medium pot with a lid and set the bottom round in it. You’ll know your pot is the right size if you can put the lid on without it touching the roast and the space between the largest part of the roast and the wall of the pot is 2 or 3 fingers width on each side.
Season each side with salt and pepper, then set heat on high.
Place the onions in the pot around the roast.
Brown the roast on each side.
Set the roast in the pot the way you want to leave it until it is done, I like to leave it on the fatty side (if there is one) on top of the onions.
Add water to the pot to about the middle of the roast or a little lower.
Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot.
Cook for at least 3 hours, checking water to make sure there’s always at least an inch in the bottom so the roast doesn’t burn.
When the meat is tender enough to flake with a fork, it is done.

The onions will just dissolve in the water. I turned the heat too low when I made it last time so I’m looking forward to making it again.

Once you’ve removed the roast you can make gravy. I removed some of the juice left in the pot and that made a good sauce as well. To make the gravy, take around a cup of water and 1/4 cup of flour and mix it well to make a slurry, then add to the pot while the heat is on medium high or high. Mix well until the slurry is well mixed with everything else left in the pot. Let it cool a little and you have gravy.

I found the reason for making a slurry before adding the flour this time. I tried making a slurry with hot liquid from the pot and it didn’t mix well, then I added it to the pot hoping it would still mix, but I ended up with essentially little flour balls/dumplings in the gravy. If you want your gravy smoother, make the slurry and mix it well. This gravy will likely still be a little lumpy because of the bits of onion left in the juice, but that just makes it tastier.

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Chicken Soupstew

I really have no ide what to call this. I wanted to try making something in our crockpot, so I threw some things together and ended up with a tasty dish. I’ll try it a little differently next time, but it is pretty good. I wanted it to have a lot of liquid at the end, so it is a little more soupy than stew, but isn’t really a soup either.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups red wine
1 can black beans
1 can red beans
1 medium yellow onion
4 red potatoes
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Preparation (and cooking, this is a crock pot recipe. You just throw stuff in and let it simmer):

Put the uncooked chicken breasts in the crock pot.
Add the beans with just enough water to help get all the beans out of the cans
Add 2 cups chicken stock
Add 2 cups red wine. I used what we had left over from the red wine sauce I posted about earlier.
Dice the potatoes. I left them as cubes around 1.5″ on a side and this was probably too big. It took too long for them to cook, they were still crunchy when we wanted to eat, so we had to cook it longer.
Chop the onions. I left the onions around the same size as the potatoes. I like the feel of larger onion pieces, but these can be cut smaller to your liking. I’d say leave them as strips, like you’re going to saute them, don’t chop them into tiny cubes.
Add the onions and potatoes to the pot.
Add the spices and give it all a gentle stir. Enough to make sure the spices are dispersed in the liquid and the potatoes and onions are mostly covered.
Set the crock pot on low and go do things!
8 to 10 hours later, you’ll have a tasty dish. Test the potatoes at 8 hours and let them cook longer if they aren’t soft to the touch. If you’re concerned, turn up the heat for the next hour or so.

Variations

Next time I’m going to try a few tablespoons of cayenne pepper. The dish could use a little more flavor, I think and black pepper is not the way to go.

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Pie crust

For several of my pies I use a chocolate graham cracker crust. This works well in a 9″ plate, but can work as a thinner crust in a 10″ plate. I think I prefer it as the thinner crust.

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups Chocolate Graham Crackers
1/4 cup Teddy Grahams
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
6 tblsp butter

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
I like to use a mortar and pestle for my crumb making. I think it is more fun than using a food processor and takes around the same amount of time since you have to keep emptying the food processor and that takes a little longer than emptying the mortar.
Grind 1 3/4 cups chocolate graham crackers
Grind 1/4 cup Teddy Grahams
You can play with the ratios here. The graham crackers and teddy grahams are slightly different consistencies and flavors and make a nice mix.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar, mixing well over medium heat.
While still over medium heat, slowly add the graham cracker crumbs. Add only a tablespoon or two at a time, mixing until completely moistened. This will create a softer crust. As a hard crust turns into a HARD crust, keep this in mind while mixing.
Pour the mixture into your pie plate and using a spoon or flat kitchen implement, press the crumbs into the bottom of the plate and up the sides. Use the spoon or other implement to keep from burning your fingers.
If you’re using the larger plate, concentrate more on the bottom of the plate. If it doesn’t get all the way up the sides, that’s fine.
Bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes. I usually go for the full 12, but check at 10 to make sure you don’t burn it.
Cool crust completely before adding filling.

Variations:

When I’m making pies with this crust, they are frequently pudding fillings with alcohol to add to the flavor. I’ve found that the flavored liquers can also add to the flavors of the crust.

Banana Creme Pie After you have the butter and brown sugar mixed, but before you start adding the crumbs, add 2 shots of banana liquor to the mix. It will bubble up quite a bit, so let it settle between shots. Mix the liquor in thoroughly before beginning to add the crumbs as above.

Mint Chocolate Pudding Pie While the butter is melting, add 3 or 4 Andes mints to the pot and let them melt with the butter and brown sugar. Then add 2 shots of Creme de Menthe, Creme de Cacao or one of each as with the Banana liquor, let the bubbles settle before adding the next shot.

Other Pies Try adding a tablespoon or two of vanilla extract to the crust just as the alcohol is added above.

Presentation:

The main reason I started adding Teddy Grahams to the crust is that I made a banana creme pie for halloween and made a diorama on the top of the pie with Teddy Grahams. I didn’t want the rest of the box to go to waste, so I ground some up and added them to the crust. I think the result was a more flavorful crust.

The first time it just had severed heads of the teddy grahams on the top. The second time I used toothpicks as pikes to mount the heads and used red icing to make blood. There were other teddy grahams standing on the whipped cream. The last time was red icing making a pentagram while others stood around preparing the sacrifice of another teddy graham. If I can find pictures, I’ll post them.

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Heard on NPR

I heard an interview with the authors of The Geometry of Pasta on NPR on the way home and needed to post what they said about the shape of Tortillini. They said it was designed to evoke the shape of Lucrecia Borgia’s navel.

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Wine Sauce

I’d never made a wine sauce before, so I looked at a bunch of recipes on-line and got some ideas for how to go about it. I was looking for something to do with sirloin tips and egg noodles and most of the recipes said to use cream of mushroom soup. My fiance Emily doesn’t like mushrooms, so that was out. Some of the other recipes looked like they had promise, but started with things like “add 5 lbs of sirloin”, which is a hell of a lot more than I wanted to make. Fortunately, between them all there were sound concepts for how to start.

Neither Emily nor I drink wine, so we didn’t have any in the house and we didn’t have any cooking wine either. I went to the supermarket to get some cooking wine, but they apparently don’t carry any. I went across the street to the liquor store and asked for help from the guy behind the counter. He was very helpful and friendly and I ended up with a bottle of Tres Picos Borsao Garnacha (2008). I had around half a small glass of it to see if I liked it and it was ok, I guess. Of course now I have to make more dishes with it or have friends drink the rest of it.

Preparation:

I started by chopping 1 meduim yellow onion and crushing 4 cloves of fresh garlic.
I also cut around 10 oz of sirloin tips into 1″ cubes.

Cooking:

I started cooking by adding 1 tbsp of olive oil to a large frying pan and left it on high until the pan was hot and the bottom of the pan was evenly covered by the oil.
I added the onion and garlic to the pan and sauteed until the onions browned.
I pushed the onions to the edge of the pan and added the meat to the middle to brown it.
Once the meat was browned, I added 1 cup of beef stock and 1 cup of red wine.
I added 1tsp of garlic powder and mixed everything together, bringing the liquid to a boil.
Once the liquid was boiling, I removed the meat and put it on another plate for later.
I mixed in 1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tbsps of black pepper, 1 tsp of onion powder, 1 more tsp of garlic powder and 1 tbsp of cayenne pepper.
Once it was all mixed in I reduced the heat to a simmer and let the liquid simmer uncovered for 1/2 hour.
While waiting, I mixed 1.5 cups of water with 1/4 cup of all purpose flour, making a slurry to add later.
I also brought 3 quarts of water to a boil and added 6 oz of egg noodles.
After 30 minues had passed, I mixed in the slurry and stirred well, bringing it back to a boil.
I then added the meat back in and covered it in the sauce and then turned off the heat.
I took the meat out and put it on a plate for serving.
I strained the noodles and put them in a bowl for serving.

The meat was around 2 servings, the noodles around 3 and the sauce around 6 servings.
The sauce is around 59 or 60 calories a serving.

Ingredients:

1 meduim yellow onion
4 cloves fresh garlic
10 oz sirloin tips
6 oz egg noodles
1 cup beef broth
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tsps garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups water
1/4 cup all purpose flour

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Storage

I like cooking. Mostly I like playing with ingredients and seeing what happens. I tend to follow recipes or at least use them as something to build from so don’t expect wild combinations or exciting new dishes. This will mostly be a place for me to record what I’ve done and come back and review so I can try again. It’ll also be a place to keep the recipes that work so I can make them again or share them with others.

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