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Friday, October 28, 2011

Sneaky Apple Muffins

You don't *have* to be sneaky about these muffins, if you don't want.  You *could* just tell everyone that they're whole wheat and that there's zucchini in them...or just keep that tidbit to yourself.  If you use green apples, the visible zucchini peel will totally pass for apple.  You *could* even flat-out lie and make this with all zucchini and still tell 'em it's apple ::shhh::

I used thawed frozen shredded zucchini from my garden bonanza.  If you grate up a fresh zucch for this, be sure to press as much moisture out as you can.  The zucchini will be a little "toothier" in the muffins if it's fresh, too.  You'll need a small apple and half a small zucchini for the amounts called for.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pepper Pot Stew

The authentic and original version of this recipe comes from the Frugal Gourmet Cooks American and dates from the 18th century.  It may have been one of George Washington's favorites, and if it's good enough for a founding father, by golly, it's good enough for me.

Except...the protein in the original (and authentic) recipe is tripe.  Cow stomach.  I'm going to let you, dear reader, digest (haha!) that thought for a moment.

I am profoundly respectful of families and cultures that use "everything but the oink" (or moo) including organ meats (side note: how awful is it that the general term for organ meats, "offal", is a homophone of "awful"?).  I wish I could count my family among their rank.  But I've tried, and tripe is unfortunately never again going to grace our dinner table.  It's one of the very, very few foods about which I say this.

I want to make it clear that the issue may have been that of inexperienced and inexpert cooking techniques (as it was the one and only time I've tried making tripe) rather than the meat itself, but until I meet a variety meat cookery expert who shows me both a delicious finished dish including tripe and also how to prepare it, it ain't happening.  But if you know what you're doing with tripe, 1) please do use it and 2) call me.

Back to the stew recipe...the combination of aromatics for this stew is mouth-watering, tantalizing as it wafts from the stew pot.  When you make this, be sure to open your windows and make your neighbors jealous.  It's a fabulous base for a stew using any protein you want.  Up until the addition of the (possibly improperly prepared) tripe, this was by far the best stew I've ever made.  Now that I make it with stew beef, stew lamb, veal shoulder, beans, or cooked poultry, it IS the best stew I make.  You could even make this is a wholly vegetarian stew by using oil in place of the bacon fat and rounding out the stew content with lots of hearty fall veggies like butternut squash and cabbage.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Potato Chip Frittata

Fast.  Uses the crumbly bits left at the bottom of the potato chip bag.  No prep required.  REALLY fast.  Apparently quite close to an authentic Spanish potato frittata (according to the Food and Wine recipe from which this is adapted).  Really, really, really fast.

We walked in the door tonight at quarter of six and I had dinner on the table at 6:05.  No prep-ahead, unless you count having already eaten 12 oz. of a 14 oz. bag of sour cream and onion chips.  I had ham leftover from breakfast that needed chopped, and I used jarred diced pimiento...if you use home-roasted peppers, that part will take you a bit longer.  I served this frittata with bagged salad greens and sliced fruit.

Measure your potato chip bits by weight rather than volume (I screw up so you don't have to).  Two single-serving bags work, or about 2 oz. of leftover potato chip bits.  It's about 2 cups of crushed chips, but it's easy to over-crush wind up with WAY too much potato.

Marjoram is my favorite herb with eggs, but you can leave it out or substitute something else if you want.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Grilled Spice-Rubbed Bologna

How retro grill-chic, right?  This is like fried bologna, but classy LOL 

When you go to the deli counter to get a slab o' bologna, ask them to cut you a chunk about 3" or 4" thick.  Adapted from a cookbook I found at our beach rental this summer.  Be sure to build a nice hot, smoky fire in your grill...more smoky flavor is better here.

The spice rub will keep for some time in your spice cabinet.  You could apply the rub to the bologna and wrap it in plastic wrap a couple of days in advance of cooking, or freeze the whole slab.  Leftovers of this recipe make OUTSTANDING lunchbox sandwiches.

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Peanut Butter 'n' Candy cookies

Or, How Prepping Ahead Makes Cooking With Kids Fun Instead of Stressful!

My older son's favorite phrase right now is "Mama, I haf an IDEA!"  Today's IDEA was to make cookies.  We picked out a peanut butter and chocolate kiss cookie recipe, but we didn't have any chocolate kisses.  We did have caramels and bags of Halloween candy (yeah, yeah, I cracked the H-ween candy already, but only for this recipe!) so I give you peanut butter and assorted-candy cookies LOL  This is a great thing to do with any leftover candy bars after Halloween.

It took about 15 minutes to prep while the boys watched a little Sesame Street.  Then Boy #1 helped me combine ingredients and shape cookies while Boy #2 got to play with all the toys that Boy #1 usually snatches away from him...good times all round!  I found the toddler help most useful in rolling formed cookie dough balls in sugar and putting them on a baking tray (I needed to rearrange them for baking ofc).  The finished product is not going to win any pretty food awards, but somehow the cookies are tastier when they're ugly b/c your kids helped you make them.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brown Sugar Double Apple Jam

Of all the sandwich spreads, jam is my favorite (to eat and make LOL).  I'm thinking about entering this one at next year's State Fair.  It's apple pie-y and slightly caramel-y from the unusual addition of brown sugar.  It's a "double" apple jam recipe b/c I use apple cider instead of water, the same way I do for applesauce.  I think I may play with the spice combination a bit, but as is, it's a delicious twist on regular apple jam.

I've tried a variety of chopping methods to make apple spreads, and the best IMHO is putting the apples through the coarse grating plate of my food processor.  The pieces come out uniformly and it's so much faster than hand-dicing.  The apples do seem to brown a bit faster when they're mechanically cut vs. handcutting (I guess b/c the plates aren't quite as sharp as my knives, and "tear" the apple flesh more, creating more surface area to oxidize?) but since you're using brown sugar anyway, color matters a little less.  You can toss the grated apples into some lemon-infused water if you want, but I think that just makes them wetter than you want for jam-making.

By the by, when you see butter called for in a jam or jelly recipe, it's to cut down on the foaming that occurs once the protein-heavy pectin is added to the pot. 

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Sauteed/Roasted Sunchokes

I'll be collecting sunchoke or Jerusalem artichoke recipes from anyone who has 'em.  I planted 14 or 15 tubers this spring, and harvested a full pound of crispy, low-glycemic impact veggies from the top quarter of the soil around 1/2 of 1 plant :-O  That's gonna be a LOT of sunchokes, people!

If you don't know what they are, sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes are the root of a ridiculously tall sunflower-looking plant.  They can be cooked much the same way as potatoes without all the dietary evils of potatoes...starch, carbs, blood sugar spikes and whatnot.  They taste, well, not like much...a bit like a bland turnip or maybe a water chestnut.  My husband thinks they taste faintly of celery, but I don't know that I perceive that one.  They're crunchy and edible raw, or you can cook them, rendering them more potato-like in texture.

A word of warning...a little goes a long way with these guys.  They contain a lot of indigestible fiber which can, in sensitive tummies, cause some distress.  Not everyone experiences this, but there you go.  Don't go bonkers eating this stuff just because it's healthy...moderation, moderation, moderation!

So far, I've roasted and sauteed and have been pleased with both recipes.

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Easy-Easier-Easiest: Celery Root

Celery root, or celeriac, is one of my favorite autumn veggies.  It's only available at this time of year, so I eagerly await it.  The edible root is covered in a nobbly, creviced peel that must be cut away with a knife...no veggie peelers here!...and has the grassy, bright aroma of celery married to the creamy, crunchy goodness of a root vegetable. 

It can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on how much time you want to spend with it.  Celery root is a happy participant in any root veggie ensemble, whether roasted alongside sweet potatoes and turnips or mashed with potatoes, or is particularly delicate on its own as a side dish.

Like apples and potatoes, cut celeriac will begin to brown so if you cut it ahead of time, be sure to toss it with something acidic like salad dressing or store it submerged in lemon water.

NOTE: While not evenly remotely related to celeriac, jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes) are low-glycemic impact tubers harvested in the fall that you can also prepare in the following ways.
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Five Allium Relish (or Super Caramelized Onions)

I debated whether to use the word "allium" in the title or "onion"...botanical/culinary accuracy vs. recognizability...and dithered long enough to use both.  Allium is a class of plants that includes ornamental forms, as well as edible forms, including onions, chives, scallions, shallots, garlic and leeks.  This recipe calls for several forms of edible allium (plural: allia); I have given suggested quantities and varieties, but really you could use whatever you wanted as long as you come up with 3-4 cups of sliced raw onion-like stuff.

So what to do with it?  Make it ahead and elevate plain, simple dishes to new levels of menu planning.  "Whatever's quickest" for dinner can sometimes be a little blah, and having a container of this relish in the fridge will keep quick-but-blah at bay.  Use it to top plain jane burgers or plain baked chicken breasts.  Put it on top of grilled pork chops or club sandwiches.  Make some before Thanksgiving to dress up leftover turkey sandwiches, or use it in my all-time favorite holiday leftover meal...cranberry sauce and caramelized onions on a toasted English muffins...glorious!

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Peanut Butter Oven-Baked French Toast

Another recipe pilfered from my husband's grandma's 1944 home ec cookbook.  Back in the day, this recipe was called "Peanut Chops", another attempt to pass off an alternate protein source as being "just like meat!!".  The virtues of this recipe in 1944 were being inexpensive, offering protein when meat was rationed, and bearing a passing resemblance to actual pork chops.  Today's virtues are that it's inexpensive, freezer-friendly, kid-friendly, easy to cook (think oven-baked French toast), and it does actually feel like an oven-fried pork chop in your mouth...strange, huh?  Actually they remind me of a vegetarian oven-baked chicken nugget.

My husband is still commenting on how filling this meal was...I guess he had expected differently?  But with 18g of protein and 5 grams of fiber (or more, if you use whole wheat crackers and whole grain bread), who is surprised?

The original recipe calls for cutting 6 slices of rye bread into "fingers".  I used 1/2 a loaf of "cocktail rye", you know those tiny 3"x3" loaves you see up by the deli.  The slices are easy to handle and are perfectly sized for the recipe, but feel free to use regular slices of rye, or even pumpernickel. 

You can also substitute any nut or seed butter you wish to make this recipe allergy-friendly to those with peanut sensitivities.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Honey Sage Butter

Having some of this compound butter stashed in the freezer is making fall squash cooking such cake.  I'm using it dotted over acorn squash slices to roast them, mashing it into steamed and pureed delicata squash and I'm even stepping away from squash and have plans for a roast turkey breast with this butter massaged under the skin. 

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