Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 III: Creamed spinach II (p. 305), Sweet-and-sour (Harvard) beets (p. 259), and Apple and cherry bread stuffing (p. 534)

And more side dishes!

I made Creamed spinach II (p. 305), which, in hindsight, was a strange decision because it was almost a guarantee that nobody would like it. Nobody in our family looks at creamed spinach and thinks "Yum! I can't wait!". I had actually never eaten creamed spinach before even though I really love spinach.

I blended milk, onion, butter, flour, salt, paprika, nutmeg, and garlic in the blender until smooth:


I added the spinach and chopped it. I then cooked everything in a skillet for a few minutes:

And poured it in to a nice bowl:

Done! It was good but rather bland, typical of creamed spinach. I think everybody took a little to be polite but I don't think anyone was thrilled with it. Maybe it would be better if I had included the buttered breadcrumbs and bacon. Does anyone out there really love creamed spinach?

Mom mentioned that beets would be a nice addition to Thanksgiving, so we made Sweet-and-sour (Harvard) beets (p. 259). It's basically a warmed up version of Pickled beets. I had a quick little chat with Professor Google (Sir Wikipedia wasn't up to the job) about the etymological origin of the name "Harvard beets". Apparently it's a bastardization of the name "Harwood beets".

I combined sugar, cider vinegar, cornstarch, salt, and cloves in a double broiler (or, more accurately, in a bowl on top of a pot of boiling water).


I cooked it until clear and let it stand for thirty minutes. I added the beets:

Added a bit of butter and poured them in to a pretty dish:

The beets were good. If you like beets, you will probably like these beets. If you don't, I don't recommend eating them, they won't change your mind. Harvard beets are beets for beet lovers. They had a smooth pickled flavor. My mom said they were absolutely delicious.

The stuffing is usually one of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal. Last year we made the switch to two stuffings. So this year, we decided that mom and I would freehand one batch of stuffing (it would include cornbread and sausage) and I would also make Apple and cherry bread stuffing (p. 534).

I melted butter and olive oil in my skillet and sauteed celery and onion. I decided to add everything except the breadcrumbs first, so it would mix more easily. I added apple, dried cherries, Madeira, raisins, rosemary, black pepper, and salt to the celery and onion:

I think I should have cut my cornbread breadcrumbs (that feels like a Jeopardy answer--CornBreadCrumbs) smaller, but they still worked. I mixed them in:

We didn't have a casserole that was avaliable and big enough so they went in two different dishes. Mom told me that when she was growing up, they always made the stuffing in loaf pans, so we decided to go with tradition. I moistoned them with chicken stock and popped them in to the oven:

By the time the green bean casserole and sweet potatoes were done, the stuffing was finished. It didn't take very long.

The oven was pretty crowded:

I wasn't very impressed with the stuffing. I didn't really like the sweet (dried fruit, cornbread) without a stronger balance of savory (I think it needed some sausage or something). I also didn't like my giant chunks of bread, I really needed to cut them smaller. Mom thought the stuffing was really good and particularly liked the cherries. I honestly think it would be better in a stuffed pork chop, because that would balance the sweetness better. This stuffing recipe would also be really easy to adapt for a vegan or vegetarian (although mine was not vegetarian, since I used chicken stock).

The Thanksgiving meal went amazingly smoothly. At no point during the preparations were we running around like chickens with our heads cut off, which was a wonderful and novel feeling. In fact, mom and I felt like something was wrong for most of the day because it was going so well. Mom and I each made about half of the meal, which was about perfect. Mom didn't feel pushed out of her own kitchen and I got to knock out some TJOC recipes. It was a particularly nice Thanksgiving.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 II: Fudge pie (p. 686) and Whole berry cranberry sauce (p. 221)

Mom was excited that she got to make half of the recipes again, since I essentially took Thanksgiving over for the last three years and pushed her out of the kitchen. It was really fun and laid back with both of us cooking. In fact, for most of the day we worried, because the cooking was going really smoothly and we had so much downtime--it seemed wrong almost. We are used to being stressed out and frantic!

Mom made her pumpkin pie Thursday morning. Because pumpkin pie is a single-crust pie (and mom bought store-bought crusts), she had a crust left over. She was convinced that I should whip up some sort of second pie.

I searched TJOC for something simple for which we already had the ingredients. I kept worrying that a pie was going to take vital time for other recipes that were already on the menu--I knew it would take at least an hour. I gave in, though, and decided to make Fudge pie (p. 686).

The recipe wasn't very difficult. I creamed sugar and butter in one bowl, egg yolks, melted chocolate, flour, and vanilla in a second, and egg whites and salt in a third.

I beat the egg mixture into the sugar mixture:

I added the nuts and then folded in the egg whites:

Folding in the egg whites took FOREVER. Honestly, I didn't think it was going to happen. I thought I was going to end up with a pie with huge chunks of egg white in the middle. Eventually it happened, so just be patient if you are making this recipe.

At this point I actually read the last sentence of the recipe. Remember, above, when I told you I was making this pie specifically to use the second pie crust? Well, Fudge pie is a crustless pie. It doesn't use a crust, just a greased pie pan. Whoops.

The finished product:

This is not a pie. It is a giant brownie. It's good but it's not a pie. I'm not sure why they call it a pie. It doesn't have a pie texture, it has no filling, it has no crust, it is not a pie. It has the exact consistency and taste of a giant brownie. If you like brownies, make this recipe.

Whole berry cranberry sauce (p. 221) is the third or fourth TJOC cranberry recipe I've made. It is a VERY simple recipe but it still managed to greatly confuse me.

I combined sugar and water and boiled it for five minutes:

I added a pound of cranberries to the pot:

TJOC says to simmer the berries until "translucent". How are cranberries going to become translucent? Doesn't translucent mean see-through? At no point could I see through any of the berries.

As mom read the recipe and looked at my cranberries, she wondered aloud what was supposed to cause the cranberries to gel in a way so that they could be unmolded:

I don't know the answer to that. I will tell you that they never firmed up enough to be unmolded. This cranberry recipe is delicious but intense. It is only for true cranberry lovers because it has nothing in it except water, sugar, and cranberries. It's incredibly sour--I thought it was delicious. Mom thought it was delicious. Josh and his brother found it far less amazing. The cranberries are vegan, so they'd be a good choice if you had a mixed crowd.

Mom's cranberry dish was far more accessible, although I'm not sure why it has a clear cap:

Yum! I loved both cranberries.

A few extra pictures:

Josh and his brother spent much of the day watching Supernatural and smoking cigars:

The beautiful turkey:

One more Thanksgiving post to go! I would love to hear what other people ate for Tday.
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Thanksgiving 2010, Part I: Cream cheese ball (p.75), Shrimp dip (p. 72), and XXBaked honey shrimp (p. 84)

And on to another edition of TJOC Thanksgiving! Did anyone else make any TJOC recipes for the holiday?

There were two major changes this Tday:
1. I'm getting to the point where I've made a very significant portion of certain chapters. The recipes that are left I've made the conscious decision (many, many times since I go through every recipe several times a month) not to make. Either I think it looks gross, it's time-consuming, it has difficult ingredients--whatever. One of the chapters I'm the furthest in is definitely "Appetizers and Hors D'oeuvres", from which I traditionally make a few selections for Thanksgiving lunch.

2. I've made the vast majority of the normal Tday TJOC recipes. So the turkey, one of the stuffings, one of the cranberries, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes were all made either from TJOC recipes I've made before--the green bean casserole, for example--or from mom and I just winging it.

Now, this was a long list of entrées. Guess how many people we had to dinner? Four. Josh, Mom, Josh's brother, and myself. Plenty of food for four people! I love Thanksgiving. We cook all day, eat around 5 or 6 pm, sleep for a couple hours, and then go to the mall to shop at midnight. We get home, sleep a couple more hours, and then get up and go to the mall again around 6 am. Fun!

The appetizers this year and why they haven't been previously made:

I hadn't yet made Cream cheese ball (p.75) because it's such a boring recipe. I made the Cheddar cheese ball a couple of Thanksgivings ago and it was a hit, but this was essentially just a more boring version of the same recipe.

I mixed cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, a little salt, and some horseradish:

The best part of cooking with mom is that she enjoys doing some parts of cooking that I can't stand. For some reason I really hate forming the cheese balls--but mom enjoys it. She says it's like working with clay. Look at the perfect ball she formed:

We cooled it in the refrigerator for a couple hours and then rolled it in crushed pecans:

Perfect! This cheeseball was a hit too. I think people don't make cheeseballs nowadays because they seem old-fashioned and way too retro but people seem to like them. I think it's time for a cheeseball renaissance. That being said, it was more boring than the other cheeseball and really needed to be spiced up with something else--probably more cheese.

Shrimp dip (p. 72). I hadn't made this recipe because it seemed odd--it's not a dip FOR shrimp, it's a dip made FROM shrimp. It was a simple recipe, I mixed a little can of tiny shrimp, sour cream, mayonnaise, chili sauce, lemon juice, and a little onion and refrigerated it for an hour:

Believe it or not, it was actually pretty good! I thought the little shrimp were very strange but it had a nice, tangy flavor. I had two issues though--it was a very strange little pink color and it was difficult to figure out what to spread it on. We gave plenty of options--crackers, bread, baguette, breadsticks, but none of them were perfect.

I actually haven't made any shrimp appetizer recipes up until this point. I'm not sure why. I decided to break the drought with Baked honey shrimp (p. 84).

The recipe called for Cajun seasoning, which I actually happened to not only have, but have at mom's house. I hadn't found a use for it before this point--I only had it because Penzey's had a coupon for a free jar. The ingredient list is hilarious--it's essentially every spice.

I mixed lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, honey, the Cajun seasoning, parsley, and red pepper and added my shrimp (it took a LONG time to peel two pounds of shrimp):

After they marinated for an hour, I popped them in the oven:

When they were done I sprinkled a lemon zest and parsley mixture over the top:

These shrimp were amazing. The Cajun seasoning was spicy but not too hot (if it was just me, I'd make it quite a bit more spicy) and was rounded out by the soy sauce and honey. These shrimp were really good both hot and cold--which is a great characteristic for a party appetizer. I would make these again in a second.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What I've been up to lately

As I posted before, I am still around! I haven't been doing a great job of timely posting but I'm getting the blog updated so keep checking back. If you don't read this blog in a blog reader, you might have to dig behind this post in a couple days because I date them the day I made the recipe, not the day I posted about it. I WILL be totally updated by the end of tomorrow night, including Thanksgiving!

I promise this to be one of my rare non-food posts. I am squeamish about talking about my non-food related life on my blog but I thought I would open up a little.

What have I been up to (in no particular order)?
1. I've been diligently working on my dissertation! I feel like an excellent student.

2. My friends Erin and Nicole flew me down to New Orleans for my birthday to hang out with them for a week or so! And since my birthday is next to Halloween, we spent some amazing time in costume.

For all of you who grew up in the 80's, we were Jem, Aja, and Pizzazz:

I've worn this costume two years now--it's custom--and still don't have a full-length picture. And the costume is amazing. For actual Halloween, I was Princess Leia. My costume was good enough that tourists kept stopping me for pictures. Erin was an Orion slave girl, so we were nice and dorky.

3. On my last visit to Des Moines I discovered that La Mie bakery has amazing macarons. I LOVE macarons. I used to gorge myself on them in Tokyo and I am incredibly excited to have a new source:

4. Mom and Josh bought me an amazing selection of tiny cakes for my pre-birthday celebration:

Look at all these amazing cakes (from Whole Foods):

5. When mom visited, we had a 1:1 dog to person ratio. And all of them love food. Look at that focus!

6. While at mom's house, I decimated her basil plants and turned them in to pesto. Look at all the pesto!

And that is what I've been up to! I apologize if you only tune in for food posts.

Actually, I would love to know your feelings on non-food posts--like them, hate them, don't care?

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