Boxing Day bake

Emeril’s Christmas morning breakfast bake

Happy Boxing Day!

Happy Boxing Day!

My most-excellent husband made this one for me, so I’m pretty much just reporting on the results and noting a few things for other awesome people out there who want to make this for their loved ones.  First, this is a great way to use up leftovers from a Christmas dinner.  Hence, this is a Boxing Day bake.  D used leftover ham in place of the Canadian bacon.  Leftover ham?  Who has leftover ham?!  We had to leave later that day for D’s parents’ house, so we needed to use things up.  Plus, the seasoning on the ham gave the casserole some extra flavor.  D also substituted two 10 ounce packages of spinach (thawed, drained, etc) for the fresh baby spinach.  I think we could have gotten away with just one package.  This was a lot of spinach.

We can agree that looks like a lot of spinach, right?

We can agree that looks like a lot of spinach, right?

It was good, but it still would have been good with less spinach.  As for other substitutions, instead of the 6 ounces of Gruyere, D used some leftover cheese from the charcuterie plate my brother and his girlfriend brought as an appetizer.  Had we not already bought bread for this recipe, we could have used the leftover toast from that appetizer as well!  This was very tasty and easy.  I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to get out of town and use up some leftovers.  In fact, we made a similar breakfast bake the day we left the vacation house this summer.  I used up some random veggies, eggs, milk, and deli cheese that way.  Funny how you can remember things without knowing that you’ve remembered them.

Remember how I mentioned that we had to leave that day?  Well, we took this on the road with us.  No, we didn’t sit in the car and eat casserole.  We took in down to D’s parents’ house where it was well-received also.  However, I must say that this dish isn’t very good after about a day or so.  The ham gets dry and tough.  On day three, I threw out most of a slice and discouraged his brother’s girlfriend from eating it.  I wouldn’t have done that on day one, that’s for sure.  Make this for a crowd, but don’t expect the crowd to eat it for days on end.

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Anything that needs that much milk and butter might not be good

Shredded beef chuck roast

Celery root and potato puree

Those are whole cloves of garlic.  Remember when restaurants used to have roasted garlic as an appetizer?  I miss that.

Those are whole cloves of garlic. Remember when restaurants used to have roasted garlic as an appetizer? I miss that.

The beef is unremarkable.  It’s pot roast.  Sure, the rosemary and oregano made it smell nicer and taste a little herbier, but it’s still just pot roast except without the potatoes and carrots and such.  It could have used those, especially after the triumph that was panic carrots.  In the beef’s defense, this would have been better if I would have served it like they do in the picture in the magazine and online: on rolls with red onion and horseradish-mayo (aka horsey sauce).  I served it on the celery root puree instead.

About that puree…At first it seemed like normal mashed potatoes, but there was a little something extra there.  It was something kind of bitter and earthy, but subtly so.  It was something that definitely tasted like celery.  I enjoyed it.  It also had whole milk and butter in it, a cup and 6 tablespoons respectively.  That can’t hurt.  Well, it can hurt later on when you look at the recipe again and then remember how much of it you ate.  That can hurt.  In fact, it makes me think that celery root is super duper bitter.  Everyday Food doesn’t normally go quite that heavy on butter and milk, even for a holiday recipe.  I think it’s worth giving a try if you’re tired of plain mashed potatoes or if you don’t think you’re getting enough whole milk and butter in your diet.

Super healthy chicken and grape salad…with bacon and blue cheese

Chicken and grape salad

Yup.  That wins.  That's the worst picture in the entire blog.

Yup. That wins. That’s the worst picture in the entire blog.

We’ve got some power couples in this recipe:  Sweet and savory.  Bacon and blue cheese.  Leftovers and laziness.

The flavors on this one are amazing.  The grapes are sweet.  The blue cheese and the yogurt are tangy.  I used full fat yogurt because that’s what we have in the house as decadent people/parents of a toddler.  The chicken was savory and lovely because it was the chicken from the “panic carrots” recipe the day before and it had that nice garlicky, oniony flavor shining through.  The recipe calls for you to use half of a rotisserie chicken.  Everyday Food doesn’t normally miss an opportunity to tell you how to use the leftovers from one of the other recipes in the issue.  The bacon was bacon.

The fact that the salad recipe from this issue has blue cheese and bacon on it demonstrates very nicely how decadent this issue is.  I like the idea of cooking seasonally and everything but the Thanksgiving November issue and the Holiday December issue back to back is a little rough on the ol’ waistline.

I should try to excuse that picture, shouldn’t I?  I can’t.  I forgot to take a picture at dinner, so this picture was taken in the dark break room at work the next day.  If anyone noticed the Baby Bullet container in the background, that held salad dressing.  J graduated from purees a while ago, so those have just become small leftover containers.  When you have a baby and a small kitchen, certain lines get blurred.

 

Panic carrots

Slow-Cooker Garlic Chicken with Couscous

Here I come to save the day!

Here I come to save the day!

I’ve already said I’m a food safety nut.  I’m also pretty into fire safety.  I don’t want to get into it because it’s sad and this is not the place for it, but there was a fire in my old neighborhood that killed some people in an apartment building and it stuck with me.  No, I don’t have an escape plan, but thank you so so so much for putting that into my head.  Guess what you’re doing tonight instead of watching TV, D?  I digress…  Because of this fear of fire, I’m nervous about leaving my slow cooker on all day.  (I can hear your eyes rolling.)  My slow cooker has a big warning in the manual about making sure the slow cooker is filled at least halfway.  I suppose they are trying to say that you shouldn’t put a single pork chop into the cooker, crank it to high, and leave it for several hours and expect it to work out.  My fear is that a less than half-full slow cooker would cook down, start to smolder, burst into flames that climb up the kitchen cabinets, reach the walls, and engulf the apartment and my kittens in smoke and fire.  All this was running through my head as I rushed to get the dinner into the slow cooker and out the door to go to work.  I didn’t leave myself enough time, so I was frantically carving the super cold bird and chucking pieces into the cooker, all the while gauging the crock for whether it had reached the magic halfway mark.  I finished loading the carrots and chicken and it was only (ominous music here) 1/3 full.  So I did what any sensible person would do, I panicked.  I grabbed a pound of carrots from the fridge, washed them and hacked them into long pieces.  I stuffed the carrots under the chicken pieces to raise the food up to the halfway mark.  Then I turned the cooker on and dashed out the door, 15 minutes late to work.

That moment of panic turned out to be doubly awesome.  First, the house didn’t burn down.  Second, those carrots were completely delicious.  I mean they were the best part of the entire dish.  I’m not just saying that to justify what I did.  The lack of a house fire was justification enough for me.  I mean that the onions, garlic, and rendered chicken fat all turned those carrots into sweet and savory little flavor bombs.  I highly recommend adding carrots to this recipe, even if you’re already at the halfway mark on your crock or if it never occurred to you to worry about such a thing, you foolhardy, devil-may-care, ne’er-do-well, you.

Actually, it was triply awesome.  Baby J loved those carrots.

Panic carrots: one. Fire: zero.

Vegetable-Bean Soup

Finally some soup that supplies leftovers!

Vegetable-Bean Soup

And the obligatory grilled cheese!

And the obligatory grilled cheese!

I made this soup when we had our first truly cold (meaning below zero) snap of the winter.  It was nice and hearty and full of vegetables when I started to overload a bit on holiday sweets.  The best thing about it (or maybe the worst?) was that it tasted better a few days later.  Unfortunately, by that point there was only one bowl left.  I only made one substitution and that was to use chicken stock instead of vegetable.  I’m sure it would be quite tasty with vegetable, but I tend to enjoy the richness of chicken broth in most things.

Since we are coming into the New Year, I think you should all make this as a healthy start!  You’ll feel good about yourself and your waistline and you’ll also feel good because it is so tasty.

Beth Tries Beef… Again…

Tangerine Beef Stir-Fry

I learned that when a package says "thinly sliced" from the supermarket, it may not meet my standards of thinly sliced.  This was pretty chunky, even though I attempted to slice it a little thinner.

I learned that when a package says “thinly sliced” from the supermarket, it may not meet my standards of thinly sliced. This was pretty chunky, even though I attempted to slice it a little thinner.

In this recipe, I went ahead and added frozen green beans.  I like to have lots of veggies in my stir fry and just scallions doesn’t cut it.  As far as stir-fries go, this was pretty easy though not as awesome and tasty as some I’ve made from Everyday Food. (Has anyone else noticed how I always end up with the asian inspired food and G always ends up with the Mexican?)

It was beefy.  The tangerine cut the beefiness very slightly, so I did prefer this beef recipe to the last one I made.  The bear enjoyed it a lot, and I didn’t hate it.  I was willing to eat seconds even (mostly out of hunger).

Though I am not loving the taste at this point, I am enjoying my attempts at cooking beef.  One of these days maybe I will find a recipe I love.

Working Retail During the Holidays is Draining!!!

Not that I have any real excuse for abandoning the blog this month, but I have been truly and deeply exhausted by running around helping customers find the perfect Christmas gift. So, to you, I do apologize. I shall do my best to catch up and to keep myself up to date with writing in the future.  Now, on to bigger and tastier things.

Up first, Spicy Turkey Thighs and Bacon Stir-Fry.

I thought just scallions would be boring, so I made some additions...

I thought just scallions would be boring, so I made some additions…

So, the sad truth is that I started the month out strong.  I made this delectable dish with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.  (That’s right, it has taken me a full month to write this first post.)  Necessarily, I had to do a little fudging with the recipe since my turkey was already cooked.  Basically, I just added the turkey in after my vegetables had started to soften a touch.

I also made some additions.  The recipe just has bell pepper and scallions.  I cut one of the bell peppers and added snow peas to the mix (yay!) and then also added water chestnuts for some crunch.  I also struggled to find Sambal Olek so I ended up using a sweet chili sauce instead.  As a result, it was rather less spicy, but that isn’t a problem for me.

The overall outcome of this recipe was awesome.  It was delicious (what has bacon that isn’t delicious?).  I was so pleased to use up some of my turkey in something other than in a sandwich or on yet another Thanksgiving dinner plate.  So, if you still have some turkey left from Christmas, try this out!!

 

flipped cookies and the bar to be savored

Cinnamon-sugar palmiers

coconut-lime bars

If you look very closely, you can tell what day it was

If you look very closely, you can tell what day it was

Folks, you need to make these palmiers.  I’ll wait.

Good, right?  Let me show you a couple things in case the recipe looks weird and intimidating.  First of all, I need to say that you barely need to roll the puff pastry out to get it to 9 by 11 inches.  It’s about 8 by 10 to begin with.  Second, try folding a piece of paper the way they tell you to fold the dough in order to practice and get the idea.  It’s simple, but it’s very hard to picture in your mind, and it’s not something you can see a picture of and instantly understand.  At least it wasn’t for me.  So I had to try it with paper a few times.  Here’s what it looks like all folded up:

not unlike churros...

not unlike churros…

You can cut the slices with a knife.  It’s not too terribly delicate. Be sure to space them those 2 inches apart.  These puff up quite a bit.  That’s a good thing.  Look at how ridiculous they look raw!

cue the sad trombone

cue the sad trombone

Ah, but here they are finished:

even the burned ones are good

even the burned ones are good

The really odd thing about this recipe is that you flip the cookies about halfway through.  I don’t mean rotate the sheet or swap the top rack for the bottom rack.  I mean you literally take the cookies out of the oven, flip each cookie upside down and cook the other side.  That was a new one for me.

What you wind up with is a light, airy, delicate, sweet, wonderful cookie.  Good luck not eating them by the handful.  You’ll note that we didn’t drizzle them with chocolate.  It didn’t seem necessary.  They were sweet enough already.

Now, the coconut lime bars.  They’re also delicious.  They are thick and dense.  We used salted macadamia nuts because we couldn’t find unsalted.  All we did was just omit salt otherwise.  Easy peasy.  They are a nice bar cookie to sit and savor.  There’s really no trick to them except that I think the pan size is more forgiving than the recipe seems to suggest.  I only have an 8 by 8 pan.  This calls for a 9 by 9.  First we tried to do some half-assed math with surface area and volume.  Ugh.  Then, we thought we’d just make the normal batter and throw some of it out.  A triumph of American public schooling right here.  Well, when we pushed the batter for the bottom crust down into the pan, we noticed that it wasn’t all that thick.  So we figured, let’s just bake it a little longer and see how it goes.  It goes well.  It goes very well.  I think you could use a 9 by 9 or an 8 by 8.  Just keep an eye on them.  And enjoy!

Yeah, the coconut toasted just like that.  It was amazing.

Yeah, the coconut toasted just like that. It was amazing.

Hearty wintertime quiche

Sausage and Potato Quiche

something light to go with our two kinds of cookies, two kinds of cocktails, and wings

something light to go with our two kinds of cookies, two kinds of cocktails, and wings

Ok, I’ve already ranted about recipes that tell you to buy a store bought crust and how they should include a crust recipe instead.  Or maybe just tell you where there’s a good one in another issue or on Martha Stewart’s website or a Martha Stewart cookbook.  This is a missed marketing opportunity, really.  Ok, I said I wouldn’t rant and here I am.  Pie crust is easy to make.  I used a recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook.  This one wasn’t all that tasty, but I think it’s because the shortening was too old.  As in over a year old. And kinda grey.  Yeesh.  Perhaps one should find a recipe that calls for butter when one has nothing but ancient shortening…  Also, this has you blind bake the crust.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that for quiche before.  I think the filling and the crust are usually baked together.  The bottom crust definitely gets soggy, but I’ve always thought of that as being part of the deal with quiche.  Also also…I didn’t put down pie weights.  Long story short, there’s a great deal of operator error to factor in here.  Zero fault goes to my lovely assistant who rolled out the crust and put it in the pan.  He did a wonderful job.  😉

As for the filling, I had the same problem B did.  There was too much filling for the size of pan.  It was a bit of a mess.  We steamed the potato chunks in a steamer basket for 11 minutes or so to get them soft enough.  I thought that was faster than boiling a whole pot of water just for a few potato chunks.  Oh, and I used mild Italian sausage instead of spicy because that’s what I had.  I think it was good.

We made this for friends of ours who helped us make two cookies for the blog, two cocktails, and some wings.  It was an incredibly messy and fun afternoon.  That’s the best kind of holiday afternoon, I say.

Tangerine reverie

Tangerine Marmalade

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Sometimes working with your hands can be so tedious that it becomes a form of meditation.  Knitting can be like that.  If you’re just knitting row after row after row of a simple scarf, you start to disassociate just a touch.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Slicing 15 tangerines is like that.  Not only were they sliced paper thin, but these had seeds, so those had to be picked out.  Please note that the good people at MSLO don’t even mention the seeds.  I was still fishing seeds out of the marmalade several steps in.  So what did I meditate on?  Florida.  The tangerines were from Florida, and I think that got me started.  I started imagining what Florida meant for people back when it was exotic, when people took long train rides there, or when they were selling off the first swamps and dredging mangroves to make Miami Beach.  I thought about a time when you couldn’t get oranges year round.  I thought about a picture of wholesome things for girls and boys from The Little Engine that Could.  I thought about Bob Wallace and Phil Davis going to see a sister act in Florida as a favor to a pal in the army.  It’s easy to forget all that now.  I can buy an orange whenever I like.  Florida is a not-to-long drive or a cheap flight away.  I don’t even like visiting Florida all that much.  But there’s something romantic about it, isn’t there?  D’s family has a tradition of putting oranges in their stockings that goes back generations to when it was a very special treat.  I think there’s still something special about a Florida orange at Christmastime.

What hypnotized me.

What hypnotized me.

All that aside, this stuff is delicious.  Let me give you a few hints:

The directions about freezing a plate and pushing jelly around with your finger to figure out when it’s done were confusing and aggravating. I wound up looking up some directions that had you boil the marmalade to 8-10 degrees above the boiling point for water at your altitude.  That’s 211 degrees in Chicago, fun fact.  The candy thermometer seemed to stall out at 215 degrees.  And this was after maybe an hour or more of boiling away.  At that point, the baby was up from his nap and I had to move on with my life.  It’s fine.  It’s maybe a little thinner than you’d expect for a marmalade or a jelly, but it’s still very thick and delicious.  I’m not a fan of marmalade normally (too bitter for my taste), but this is good.  The peels are softened and de-bittered enough that it’s just sweet.  I very much like that it’s flesh and peel.  Think that’s more interesting and tasty than just peel and jelly.

Also, this made a ton.  I didn’t actually weigh my tangerines at the outset, so my 15 or so tangerines (a couple rotted while I slacked off on making this stuff…that’s what the fridge is for, G) may have been far more than I needed, weight-wise.  This was supposed to yield 5 cups of marmalade.  It may have been nearly double that.  I gave some away as a gift.  Hence the pretty bow in the picture.

What did I do with the rest?  Well, some is in the freezer.  Some is in the fridge.  Some went on bagels.  Some went on a spoon.  Some became filling for linzer cookies (more about those later).  Some was served on toast with grainy mustard, cheese, and thinly sliced prosciutto.  Still more was made into…

Tangerine-pistachio sticky buns

Breakfast…and lunch...

Breakfast…and lunch…

These are very tasty.  The 1/3 cup of marmalade seemed like it wouldn’t be enough to give it much flavor.  It was plenty.  The buns were plenty sticky.  There was a good balance between nuts and marmalade.  They didn’t take too terribly long to make.  All in all, an excellent holiday recipe.

I made my own pizza dough.  Side rant: Everyday Food is obviously awesome and great and everything, otherwise why am I writing this?  Ok.  Right?  But.  I do not like the way they call for convenience foods as ingredients like the pizza dough in this recipe.  They call for a store-bought crust in the quiche recipe too.  I wish they would include a short recipe for making your own instead.  I think the average cook, when reading a recipe for quiche or sticky buns, would read the instructions for making your own crust or dough and think “I know I can buy that at the store.”  If the directions are there to make it yourself, you can still choose to buy the pre made one at the store.  But when the directions just call for the pre made one, that forces the do-it-yourselfer to go find another recipe.  Am I alone on this?  I mean, I don’t expect a recipe for potato salad to tell me how to make mayonnaise.  I recognize that there’s a line and that the line may be very different for different people.  I’m sure some home cooks think of a pre made crust as being the equivalent of buying a jar of mayonnaise.  Just a side rant.  I found a recipe for making pizza dough in the bread machine, so I’m probably a hypocrite for not kneading it by hand, aren’t it?  *Shrug*

Moving on from the dough to how to cut it, I must offer a quick tip from the Betty Crocker cookbook.  Cut the sticky buns using a piece of unscented dental floss.  I’ll be honest.  I’m not sure that a mint scent would actually make it through the baking process, but I’m not about to find out.  What you do is you slide a 12 inch piece of dental floss under the rolled up dough so there’s an even amount on either end.  Then wrap both ends up and over so they meet on top of the roll.  Then pull the ends.  The force of the floss will slice through the dough perfectly without sticking.  It’s the only way to go.  This blogger has some pictures that get the idea across.

Finally, just two steps need to be switched to make this recipe just exactly right.  The recipe has you sprinkle the cake pan with the sugar and nut mixture, then add melted butter, then add the rolls.  I would definitely try it with the butter first next time.  That’s the way I remember my Betty Crocker sticky bun recipe works, and it always pops out gooey rolls with not much left in the pan.  There was plenty of goop sticking to the pan here.  In fact, you can kinda tell by looking at the finished rolls, can’t you?

Taken after G frantically pulled topping out of the pan with a spatula and smeared it on top of the buns

Taken after G frantically pulled topping out of the pan with a spatula and smeared it on top of the buns

I say, leave no nut behind!  Speaking of nuts, this was breakfast (and lunch) for the 12th annual G and D Christmas celebration.  These made it just that much more special.