Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good News & Bad News

I'm not sure if you've heard or not, but sick people and surgical patients don't magically get better just because it's the holidays. It's true. Just like my homework isn't magically getting done, no matter how many times I say abbra cadabbra. I think I need fairy dust.

Anyway, since I had to work today, I had my Thanksgiving on Saturday. I made four delicious dishes and then I told everyone about them. And neglected to post them in time for you all to make them for today. But in my defense, it's been a chaotic week between work and trying to cram in my final papers, projects, and assignments. The end of the semester is coming (hooray!) and I'm waaaaaay behind (gulp). So the blogging, much to my dismay, had to be postponed. And to be honest, I really should be working on homework right this second. So let's get the show on the road since the homework doesn't seem to want to finish itself. Jerk.

So the bad news is that I didn't get the recipes out before Thanksgiving, but the good news is that they're so good that who cares?! Make them anyway! Especially the rolls and sweet potato dish.

Dinner Rolls (Pioneer Woman)

* 4 cups Milk
* 1 cup Sugar
* 1 cup Vegetable Oil
* 9 cups Flour
* 2 packages (4 1/2 Tsp.) Active Dry Yeast
* 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
* 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
* 2 Tablespoons Salt

Pour 4 cups of milk into a stock pot or Dutch oven. Add one cup of sugar and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Stir to combine. Now, turn the burner on medium to medium-low and “scald” the mixture/lukewarm (between 90 and 110 degrees).

Before the mixture boils, turn off the heat. NOW. Very important stuff here: walk away. Walk away and allow this mixture to cool to warm/lukewarm. The mixture will need to be warm enough to be a hospitable environment for the yeast, but not so hot that it kills the yeast and makes it inactive. I don’t usually use a thermometer, but if you’d like to, a good temperature is between 90 and 110 degrees. I usually feel the side of the pan with the palm of my hand. If it’s hot at all, I wait another 20 minutes or so. The pan should feel comfortably warm.

When the mixture is the right temperature add in 4 cups of flour and 2 packages of (4-1/2 teaspoons) of active dry yeast. After the yeast and flour are nicely incorporated, add another 4 cups of flour. Stir together and allow to sit, covered with a tea towel or lid, for an hour. After about an hour it should have almost doubled in size. If it hasn’t changed much, put it in a warm (but turned off ) oven for 45 minutes or so. When it had risen sufficiently add 1 more cup of flour, 1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder, 1 scant teaspoon of baking soda and about 2 tablespoons of salt. Stir (or knead just a bit) until combined.

Butter 1 or 2 muffin pans. Form the rolls by pinching off a walnut sized piece of dough and rolling it into a little ball. Repeat and tuck three balls of dough into each buttered muffin cup. Continue until pan is full. Cover and allow to rise for about 1 to 2 hours.

Bake in a 400-degree oven until golden brown, about 17 to 20 minutes.

*** I actually baked mine for 10 minutes.

Soul Sweet 'Taters (Pioneer Woman)

* 4 whole Medium Sweet Potatoes
* 1 cup Sugar
* 1 cup Milk
* 2 whole Eggs
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
* 1 teaspoon Salt
* 1 cup Brown Sugar
* 1 cup Pecans
* 1/2 cups Flour
* 3/4 sticks Butter

Wash 4 medium sweet potatoes and bake them in a 375-degree oven until fork tender, about 30-35 minutes. When they are finished cooking slice them open and scrape out the flesh into a large bowl.

Add 1 cup of (regular grandulated) sugar, 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of salt. With a potato masher, mash them up just enough—you don’t want to be perfectly smooth.

Now, in a separate bowl, add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup pecans, chopped (that means measure a cup of pecans, then chop them), ½ cup flour, and ¾ stick of butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash together until thoroughly combined.

Spread the sweet potato mixture into a regular baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Make these!!!!!!!! This was my FAVORITE.

Pumpkin Cream Pie (Pioneer Woman)

* 1 1/2 package Graham Crackers (about 15 Cookie Sheets)
* 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
* 1 stick Butter, Melted

* 1 box (3 Oz. Box) Vanilla Pudding (Cook And Serve Variety)
* 1 cup Half-and-half
* 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
* Pinch Of Cinnamon
* Pinch Of Nutmeg
* Pinch Of Ground Cloves
* 2 Tablespoons Whiskey (optional)
* 1/2 cups (plus 3 Tablespoons) Pumpkin Puree
* 1/2 cups (additional) Heavy Cream
* 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
* Extra Graham Cracker Crumbs, For Garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Grind graham crackers in a food processor (or, if you don’t have a food processor, place them in a large ziploc and pound ‘em with a rolling pin.) Add powdered sugar and melted butter and process until totally combined. Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan until nice and firm. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until warm and “set.” Remove from oven and allow crust to cool completely.

In a medium saucepan, mix dry pudding mix with half-and-half and cream. Add spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and thick. Remove from heat and stir in whiskey, if using. Add pumpkin and stir to combine. Place lid on pot and set aside to cool. When cool enough, place pot in the fridge to cool completely.

When mixture is cool, remove from the fridge. In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and brown sugar. Beat until very light and fluffy. Fold in pumpkin cream mixture until combined. Pour into cooled crust.

Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. Serve with graham crackers crumbled on top.

*** I threw in a pinch of nutmeg too because I looooooove nutmeg.

Pumpkin Roll (Tasty Kitchen...a Pioneer Woman site)

* 3/4 cups Flour
* 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
* 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
* 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoons Cloves
* 1/4 teaspoons Salt
* 3 whole Eggs
* 1 cup White Sugar
* 2/3 cups Pure Pumpkin
* Powdered Sugar (for Powdering Your Kitchen Towel)

* 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese, softened
* 6 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
* 1 cup Sifted Powdered Sugar
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For Cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 17 x 11 jelly-roll pan. Line with wax paper; grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

In a bowl combine: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

In a separate bowl mix the eggs and white sugar until thick. Beat in the canned pumpkin. Stir into the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately turn cake onto prepared towel. Slowly peel off the wax paper. Roll the cake up in the towel, starting with narrow end. Cool on a wire rack.

For the filling: Beat cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth. Unroll cake and remove towel. Spread cream cheese filling over cake. Reroll cake. Store in a container with a lid. Keep refrigerated.

If you can refrain from eating the deliciousness of this roll right away it’s better when it’s been refrigerated for at least an hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if you like.

My aunt Gail told me I needed to try a pumpkin roll since I've never made one. I'd like to point out a couple things.
1. See that finger print? Yup. The cake did not spring back. Whoopsie. (I left it in the oven and it all worked out fine.)
2. The rolling pictures were taken by Stalena. My hands were a little occupied in case you didn't notice.

Final note, all recipes are copied from the sites as they're written. If you have specific questions about what I did, let me know. I followed most of them pretty closely.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Taco Soup

When I visited my aunt and uncle in North Carolina, my Aunt Gail made taco soup in her crockpot and it was deeeelicious. It's a perfect recipe for gatherings (it makes a lot) and for the colder weather.

2 lbs hamburger (I use 93/7 lean meat.)
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
2 cans diced tomatoes (I chose the ones with peppers and onions.)
1 can shoepeg corn
1 package Taco Seasoning
1 package Ranch Seasoning
2 cups water

Optional toppings:
Fritos or tortilla chips
sour cream

Brown the hamburger in a skillet and drain the grease. Rinse the beans and corn; place in the crockpot. Add the tomatoes with their juice. Place the cooked hamburger in the crockpot followed by the seasonings and water. Stir and let it hang out on high for 4 hours. Serve topped with cheese and sour cream, if desired. I keep my Fritos or tortilla chips to the side so they don't become soggy. Do whatever makes you happy. And if you really want to replicate my aunt's dining experience, drink a Diet Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash.

Isn't it pretty? It's only pretty because I chose to not include the picture that had the meat with the beans. Let's be honest: sometimes meat isn't very photogenic.

I had never heard of the Sierra Mist with cranberry until my visit. My aunt's stash was from last year's holiday season. I had to give her a kidney in exchange for one can. She also turned me onto Canada Dry with cranberry. Apparently, Missouri is not good enough for the Canada Dry/cranberry craze. I have yet to find it. If you see it somewhere, let me know! I'll give you my other kidney...okay, I won't. I down to one because of Aunt Gail. I'll give you my appendix. Or a portion of my liver. Maybe a lock of hair.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chili-Lime Pork

I love my crock pot. The crock pot is a magical tool. You put in all the ingredients and out comes a meal! Ta da!

I love spices and rubs. Seasonings make all the difference in a meal. They take a meal from eh to stellar.

Crock pot + seasonings = yummy (See below example.)

Remember, pork should be cooked low and slow. I rubbed on the chili-lime seasoning, placed the pork loin in the crock pot, added a cup of water, and let the crock pot work its magic for eight hours. That's it. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stuffed Shells

Is it bad that as I typed the Stuffed Shells title I wanted to make a stuffed bra joke? Because I did. I don't know what's wrong with me.

Today's blogging music: Glen Hansard. I have no words for Glen. I love him. His music weaves around my heart and curls into my soul.

Wow. From stuffing bras to music that curls into my soul....did I forget my meds this morning? I'm all kinds of random. And by "forget my meds" I mean, should I have ran to Starbucks for a chai tea this morning not because I need it (because let's face it: it wouldn't change my randomness), but because it keeps me stable? Wait. If chai tea keeps me stable then that means that I need it. Starbucks! I curse you and the hold your delightful chai tea has over me. But not nearly enough to give it up. I love it. Does that make me an addict? Maybe I should skip caffeine this morning. The extra hour of sleep from Daylight Savings seems to be all the crack I need today.

Okay, let's get back on track. And really, I mean me. I'm sure you're on track and much more mentally stable than I am.

I've been really inspired by recipes in magazines and cookbooks lately. Most of the recipes I've been eyeballing are main dishes. Let me be honest with you: baking is my strong point. I seem to have more of a knack for it. Cooking is something I do well when I've worked with a recipe a few times. I rarely cook a new recipe and love it straight off. Well, unless I precisely follow a recipe that has figured out the perfect seasoning. But when I get wacky and wild and throw caution to the wind (re: not following a specific recipe), I usually don't love the recipe. I may like it or see its potential, but I don't generally love it. Such was the case with the Stuffed Shells.

I had seen a recipe that had filled the shells with bacon and cabbages. It inspired me to do a little version of my own, but that meant that I was not going to be using a recipe. Run for your lives! I did look around online to try to figure out baking times, but I didn't use anything specific. The results were a tasty dish that has great potential, but not delicious. Not the moaning, I'd-give-up-my-children-if-I-had-them response that I wanted. So, I'm not going to give you a recipe today because I need to do some tweaking. Some tweaking? A project that needed "tweaking"? T-w-e-a-k-i-n-g. Tweaking. Sorry. You've Got Mail is permanently ingrained into my brain and I'm easily set off. Instead, I'm going to show you pictures and make a confession or two.

You have to cook the shells before you bake the shells.

Okay, this was a flub. I bought cube steak instead of ground beef. But I had recently read something about ground beef that disturbed me, so I wanted the closer to natural product that cube steak would allow. However, what my fear neglected to allow my practical brain to think was that steak needs longer and different cooking methods to become tender. My rational brain kicked in when I was home...with the cube steak...ready to cook. You can't see it, but I'm shaking my head. I was able to get the texture to an okay level of tenderness, but really, truly it didn't work. I'll be buying ground beef next time. That's what you get for reading. (Just kidding. Reading is a good thing.)

The sight of a busy stove makes me happy. Look at all that steam!

Hello, cheese. Welcome.

Lovely...just a little underseasoned...and with the wrong kind of meat. Bummer.

I'm predicting success during my next attempt.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This is bigger than food...

I promise not to abuse my blog with political agendas, but I just have to say this because it's bigger than food...

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 2) is voting day. Every time you vote you allow your voice to be heard. You take part in your right and duty as a citizen to help shape our government. We seem to have forgotten that the government is controlled by the people and that it exists for the people. So, tomorrow is your chance to be heard, to take back control over what's happening, and to say we will no longer tolerate the politicians having their own selfish agendas. I'm not here to say who you should vote for or the way you should vote on the issues. That's up to you. It's your right and your voice. I'm simply saying: Use your power and vote.

Plus, you'll get a cool sticker.