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.

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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.

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.

A Clinton Portis reference? Really?!

Chicken and lentil burger

Citrus herb seasoning salt

And here's what my meal would look like in a earthquake.  (really need to learn to take better pictures)

And here’s what my meal would look like in a earthquake. (really need to learn to take better pictures)

It makes more than this.

It makes more than this.

These are good burgers.  I will say that they aren’t the burgers you think they are.  You’d probably think that they are chicken burgers with some lentils.  It’s the other way around.  The chicken is really just binding together the lentils.  I found that odd, but tasty.  It has a good flavor.

One tip I will offer is to grind your own chicken.  But, G!  I don’t have anything to grind meat!  Don’t you need a Kitchen Aid attachment or something glamorous like that?  False.  All you need is a freezer and a food processor.  Check out these instructions.  I may never buy ground chicken or pork again.  I’ll probably still have to buy ground turkey because when do you find whole pieces of turkey except at Thanksgiving?  Although….I do have a plan for that…  My work gives out food gifts for the holidays.  It used to be a grocery store gift card, but someone with just enough knowledge of tax law to hate fun realized that that would be a taxable accession to income.  (boo!)  So now we get a fruit basket or a turkey. I take the fruit basket because I don’t know what to do with a whole turkey in the middle of December.  Or do I?  Next year, I’m taking the turkey, cutting it up, grinding the meat, and using the still slightly meaty bones to make stock.  As Clinton Portis once said, “Off the grid is off the chain.”

Back to my burgers.  We loved them.  J loved them once I introduced him to ketchup.  Oops.

I put the citrus herb seasoning on some frozen veggies with butter.  This is kind of cheating because I made the seasoning last year.  But this should go to show that it’s still good a year later.  Maybe not quite so fresh and citrusy as it was a year ago, but still good.  I highly recommend this seasoning on popcorn.  It also makes for a nice gift.  The little bit that I have is actually overflow from a present I sent my sister-in-law last year.  She liked the salt on popcorn too.  I’m not sure if I’ve done anything with it besides season frozen vegetables and sprinkle on popcorn. Maybe it’s time to make more.

Merry Christmas, by the way!  Please enjoy the flurry of posts as we all pull ourselves out of our food comas.

Broccoli and salmon, in that order

Glazed Salmon with Spicy Broccoli

"This is my daughter, Dottie.  This is my other daughter, Dottie's sister."

“This is my daughter, Dottie. This is my other daughter, Dottie’s sister.”

This broccoli will haunt my dreams.  D and I were both very angry that there wasn’t more.  The glaze was nice on the salmon, but the broccoli was the real star of the show.  It’s just soy sauce, vegetable oil, rice vinegar, garlic, and some hot pepper flakes, but the combination is magic.  You’ve never been more excited to eat broccoli, trust me.  Oh, D did bump up the amount of garlic by half.  That couldn’t have hurt.  The best way I can try to explain how this broccoli tastes is that it tastes like really good Chinese food.  It is sweet, sour, and salty, but not greasy.

It’s an easy and quick recipe too.  D felt that the big problem with this recipe was that it calls for cooked brown rice in the ingredients list rather than giving you instructions on when to start the rice, how to cook it, and so on.  I’m of two minds about this one.  On one hand, we don’t need to be told how to cook rice, do we?  On the other hand, Everyday Food recipes are always giving the instructions on how to cook pasta.  Boiling pasta is arguably easier and more intuitive than cooking rice.  It is helpful to know if maybe you should start the rice first or take care of some other prep first.  All this is moot, however, because we used the instant brown rice from Aldi.  No recipe is going to include instructions on how to make instant rice.

Back to the real issue here: why am I not eating that broccoli right now?  This cup of tea, could it be filled with broccoli instead?  I think D and I will keep this recipe in mind, but probably just for the broccoli.

Yogurt-cheese spread (with special appearance by the rest of the sandwich)

Steak sandwich wrap

ignore my scaly gator-hands...

ignore my scaly gator-hands…

This was the recipe that used the leftovers from the notorious steak of the bazillion peppercorns.  So the key to these sandwiches was definitely to pick off the peppercorns.  Once that’s done, everything else is pretty straightforward.  I made these on some of those little “sandwich thin” things, because I sent D to the store with a grocery list that said “flatbread.”  These are, indeed, flat pieces of bread.  D acknowledges that it was a mistake.  But the sandwich thins are good!  And sometimes wraps are a mess.

This is mostly just a straight-ahead steak sandwich with the exception of that yogurt spread.  It’s low-fat Greek yogurt and Parmesan cheese in equal parts.  This spread should be on all sandwiches.  It’s so good.  It’s got the creaminess and tang of mayo (close enough) with the saltiness of cheese.  I’d eat this spread on crackers.  I’d dip carrots in it.  Suffice it to say, I’d recommend it.

 

Guest post: Maple Bourbon Cider

Maple-Bourbon Cider

the ingredients

the ingredients

D here again, handling bar-tending duties.
We’re trying out the recipe for Maple-Bourbon Cider, another of the recipes designed for holiday parties. Bourbon, maple syrup and lemon: this recipe sounded like it had potential to be very tasty.
As it turned out, the key word is “potential”…..
First off, there’s two things about the recipe as-written that are annoying to me. The first is that the measurements are a hodgepodge. Drink recipes are typically written in ounces, but if you’re dealing with a batch recipe, then it’s fine to use traditional kitchen measurements like cups. Anyway, I’ll save you the math if you’re making a batch: 6 ounces of bourbon is 3/4 of a cup.
The second annoying thing is that it is a batch recipe that doesn’t give you the breakdown for a single drink. This is a minor inconvenience.  I can divide.
So I divided this down to a 2 drink test batch so that G and I could both try it. We sampled our drinks first without the optional pinch of cayenne on top, and then we both tried it with the pinch of cayenne.
Underwhelmed. The drink was good but it mostly just tasted like apple cider with a little bit of bourbon in it. The lemon juice and maple syrup flavors were so muted that the drink ended up tasting watery and unsatisfying. But I was not giving up.
I’ve tinkered with enough cocktails in my day that I feel pretty confident in tasting a drink and being able to nail down what needs adjusting within a permutation or two. Back to the kitchen I went….
Version two came out, G sampled, and her assessment was the same as mine: much improved with a pronounced maple flavor, but the drink was too sweet. This is actually what I was going for. I reached into my secret tool kit, and the result (version 3) was so pitch-perfect that G refused to give it back.
So here’s the deal: to get the recipe right, you need to ramp up the lemon juice from the original some, but you need to ramp up the maple syrup even more. Once you make these adjustments, it will give you the right flavor proportions, but then you need to balance out the sweetness.
Hence, bitters. Angostura bitters. Total gamechanger.
Here’s what the recipe should be, for a single drink:
2 ounces apple cider
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce maple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake. I could see this drink being fine up, but we went with what the original recipe called for and had ours in a rocks glass. Or “rock” glass – as you can see, I have those fancy ice cube trays that make a single, huge, ice cube for rocks drinks. Because I’m weird like that.
vintage glassware...from 2000

vintage glassware…from 2000

Fun fact: those are Martha Stewart Everyday glasses. I bought them at the local K-Mart when I was going off to college. I felt so grown up.
But really, this drink is all about the bitters. If you don’t have a bottle of Angostura bitters on hand, go get one. This is a perfect training-wheels drink for someone who has never experienced the subtle depth and balance of flavors that bitters can bring to a drink.
Angostura was the only bitters I tried in this drink, and it was pretty much perfect, but I’m not sure that you couldn’t use something else to balance out the sweetness of the cider and the maple syrup. I’m sure Peychaud’s would work nice, but I wouldn’t be afraid to try an orange bitters, especially a spicy one like Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6. What’s that you say, this is a cooking blog? I’ve lost you all? Sorry. I’ll go back to doing my thing. Carry on. Come get me for the next cocktail recipe. I’ll be at the bar.