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Friday, February 25, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Brownie Points

While I have never had a career in food, food has seemed to help my career. A few years ago, I actually had a performance review that included a comment on a coffee cake I brought to work. Through both my retail and public service careers, brownies have been the most requested item. The last time I brought brownies to work, there were half-joking accusations of hoarding and threats of purse searches!

The district manager of my retail store was a chocoholic. (Probably still is.) When he first ate my brownies, there was a brief discussion of my marital status. (Very Married!) He appreciated my brownies so much that I made them for him on each of his quarterly visits. In those days, I made brownies from the directions on the box of Ghirardelli Ground Chocolate. A few years ago, they changed their recipe. Strangely, they reduced the amount of sugar and ground chocolate. Fortunately, I had copied the original recipe, and I've stuck with that. These are splendid and just this side of candy. This was the perfect recipe for my little store, with 6-8 employees.

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownies (Susan Style)
4 eggs
2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup melted butter
2 cup Ghirardelli Ground Chocolate
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and melted butter. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just blended. Place in a greased 9 X 13 inch pan. Bake about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Don't let melted chocolate chips fool you into thinking they are not done.) Cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

When I started working at my current job, I was suddenly working in a building that housed from 30 to 150 staff. Brownies became a mass production proposition. During one holiday season a couple years ago, I noticed this Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate brownie mix at Costco. I decided to give it a try and see how it compared to my old recipe. This box contains 6 pouches. Each pouch makes one 8 X 8 inch pan. Two pouches make one 9 X 13 inch pan. I did alter the recipe and these little secrets are what I share when people ask me for the recipe. All I do is follow the package, but I use melted butter instead of oil; I use strong espresso in place of the water; I add 1 tsp. vanilla for each pouch of mix. That is all. For almost no effort, these are absolutely scrumptious. These are the hit of any pot luck or bake sale. The espresso gives them a depth of flavor with no overt coffee flavor.

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies (Susan Style)
2 pouches of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie mix
2 eggs
2/3 cups water
2 heaping tsp. Medaglia d'Oro instant espresso powder
2/3 cups melted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the brownie mix into a large mixing bowl. Create a well in the middle. Dissolve the instant espresso powder in the water. Add all ingredients, except the nuts, into the well and stir to combine. Stir in the nuts. Place in a greased 9 X 13 inch pan. Bake about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Don't let melted chocolate chips fool you into thinking they are not done.) Cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Note: When I bake two pans in my convection oven, the baking time usually increases to 50-55 minutes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bubble and Squeak

Lemon Pepper Chicken, Bubble & Squeak and Steamed Veggies

I've had to get pretty good at using up things recently. I have a tendency to get excited about beautiful produce and over-buy. And then, there's my farm box. The new one is coming tomorrow and I still have some things to use up from last time. This dinner helped me to use up the last of four different types of veggies. On Friday, I made potato salad for the weekend and had two gigantic boiled russets leftover that were just too much for a salad that was already up to 10 cups volume. So, I decided to try Bubble & Squeak for the first time. I will certainly be making this again. Indeed, I may make extra potatoes on purpose in the near future. This version does not have the traditional ham or bacon, but still came out plenty tasty due to copious amounts of butter. I think this would be a great breakfast side, and for that, I would likely go for ham as a component.

Bubble & Squeak
2 very large russet potatoes, cooked and peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 of a large white onion, sliced thin
1/4 of a cabbage, cored and sliced thin
5 tbsp. butter
Plenty of salt and pepper

Heat a medium cast iron skillet over a medium-low flame. Add 4 tbsp. of the butter. When the butter is melted and foamy, add the onions and the cabbage. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. After they have softened a bit, add the potatoes and more salt and pepper. Toss everything to make sure the onions and cabbage are distributed and the potatoes are coated with butter. Use a potato masher to break up the potatoes and press the mixture into a pancake like form. Dot with the remaining 1 tbsp. butter and cover. Allow to brown on the bottom for 5-7 minutes. Flip it over in sections and let it brown on the other side for another 5-7 minutes. I kept cooking mine for 20-25 minutes. It can only get crunchier! Be careful to monitor the heat and do not let it scorch. Lower heat over a longer period of time seems to work the best.

I must say that I love my cast iron skillets. With good care a enough fat, they are virtually non-stick and there is no better surface for making a good golden crust.

Makes 4 servings
200 calories each

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Baked Meatballs

Ground meat is one of those magical foods that can take squillions of forms based on the home chef's preferences and creativity. My Baked Meatballs are made from the same basic recipe as my Sweet and Sour Meatballs. Instead of sweet and sour sauce, there is a quick tomato based pasta sauce, then it is topped with cheeses and baked in the oven. If you ask me, this is a great way to have most of the flavors of spaghetti without all those refined carb calories. OR, it is a great way to have fabulous artisan bread and butter instead of spaghetti. Meatballs can be made ahead and stored, ready to be sauced per your preference. Viva Meatballs!

Baked Meatballs
For the meatballs:
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tbsp. chopped dried onions
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic & herb seasoning

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 14 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup wine
1 cup of diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper (lots!)

1 cup of grated Italian Cheese Blend

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine ground turkey, bread crumbs, egg, dried onions, garlic and herb seasoning. (I like to stir with a carving fork because everything will combine nicely but the meat will not become compacted.) Form the meat into meatballs that are about 1/4 cup each. I usually get 12-14 meatballs. Place the meatballs onto a greased or lined baking sheet, making sure the meatballs do not touch one another. Bake in the hot oven for about 20 minutes or until browned and the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees.

Meanwhile make the sauce. Saute the onions in the olive oil over a medium flame. When the onions are soft, add the remaining ingredients. Simmer at least 20 minutes.

When meatballs and sauce are done, place the meatballs in an oven proof casserole dish. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Each meatball, with its associated sauce and cheese is 165 calories.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Citrus, Apple and Tea Jam, Plus Satsuma Marmalade

Citrus, Apple and Tea Jam & Satsuma Marmalade

I had a great Valentines Day weekend. I hope you did too. Friday, we spent a great day in San Francisco viewing antiquarian books and eating fine food. Saturday, I went to a fabulous party thrown by a childhood friend with whom I'm renewing a friendship. Sunday, I boiled Satsumas!
I've been wanting to make Satsuma marmalade for some time. I nearly missed their short season. I was able to purchase 5 lbs. of the "End of Season Uglies" at 99 Cents per pound at Newcastle Produce.
I used my basic orange marmalade recipe, with some adjustments. The skin is very thin and loose and I was unable to use my tool to strip the zest. Instead, I cut the top and bottom ends off and peeled the skin away in one long piece. I did not cut supremes from the mandarins, but just chopped them with their membranes attached. I then cut the peel into very thin strips. I used 1 and 1/2 cups of peel strips and boiled for 30 minutes in 6 cups of water. After 30 minutes, the softened peel and 4 cups of steeped liquid remain. I boiled the softened peel, the peel liquid and cut up segments with 1/4 cup lemon juice and 6 cups of sugar. Boil until it reaches the gel stage and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
The flavor and texture are similar to my orange marmalade, but these Satsuma Mandarins are tangy in a special way. Their flavor is truly unique.
My experiment for the day was this Citrus, Apple and Tea Jam. I used some of the Satsumas and a couple of tangelos I need to use up. The sliced peel you see comes from the Satsumas. I used this recipe as a basis, but of course, adjusted it for my purposes. I used a very good Earl Grey Tea with Lavender. The floral notes really came through. A few of the tea leaves escaped me when I did the straining, so I decided to add about a teaspoon back into the jam so that it would look like I meant to do it. I think the tea leaves tell the story of the flavor. I'm excited about using teas and spices to flavor my projects. I'm very pleased with this first attempt.

Citrus, Apple and Tea Jam
2 1/2 lbs. Apples (I used Gala)
(3 1/2 cups water for cooking apples)
1/4 cup, plus 2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 Cups freshly squeezed citrus juice (I used Satsuma and Tangelo Juice)
2 large Satsuma Mandarins or oranges
(1 cup water for simmering Satsumas)
5 cups, plus 1 cup sugar
4 heaping tbsp. best quality Earl Grey Tea
(1 cup water to steep tea)

Prepare jars and boiling water bath. Place some saucers in the freezer.

Wash and quarter apples. Do not remove cores or seeds. Place in a large pot with 3 1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the apples are tender and fall apart - about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, quarter and thinly slice the Satsumas or oranges. Place in a medium sauce pot with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until translucent - about 30 minutes.

Place the cooked apples in a strainer over a bowl and drain. Measure 2 cups apple juice.

Place the translucent Satsumas and their liquid, the citrus juice, the apple juice, the 2 tbsp. of lemon juice and 5 cups of sugar to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Bring up to the gel stage. (This should be 222 degrees, but is 224 on my thermometer.) This can take 40 minutes or more. Meanwhile bring a kettle to a boil and steep the tea in 1 cup of hot water for 3-5 minutes. Strain. When the gel stage is reached, add the tea and return to a boil. It will take some time for the mixture to return to the gel point. When it gets close, begin testing by placing a teaspoon of the jam on a frozen saucer. Allow it to cool, then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles, it is ready.

Remove from heat and stir for a few minutes. This will help the peel and any tea leaves to be evenly distributed. Carefully ladle into prepared jars. Wipe lids with a clean moist cloth and cover with lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars and additional 5 minutes. Carefully remove to a towel lined tray. Allow to stand over night before labeling for storage.

Makes 3 12 oz. jars.

Update 12/19/11 - I made the Citrus, Apple and Tea Jam again last night. It came out beautifully! I wanted to comment that I used Granny Smith apples this time around and got a much better set than I did with the Gala apples. I also used Earl Grey Tea with Lavender from Tea Cozy, a fabulous local tea shop. (Do visit them!) The floral fragrance of the bergamot and lavender is particularly special in this jam.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Orange Pineapple Ginger Marmalade

Use it up!
Wear it out!
Make it do, or
Do without!

I first heard this pithy saying from the ladies in my quilting class many years ago. These seem to be wise words, even though I experience this beautiful world as full of generous abundance. Thoughtful and respectful use of all things seems like the clearest path to gratitude.

I made this marmalade to use up some oranges. I didn't have enough for a full batch of orange marmalade, which I'd been making all day. I just had 5 beauties left. I scouted around my kitchen and found some crushed pineapple and some crystallized ginger. You've probably noticed that I like pineapple a lot and am liable to throw it into anything. This marmalade is eye-rolling good. Each flavor element contributes so much, but the ginger is what makes it special. After the sweet and tart, there is a lingering warmth that spreads through the body. I'm already scheming for more ginger infused preserves. Sometimes my experiments do not work out. Sometimes they are the best and happiest products of my kitchen.

Note - Experimentation with canning ingredients takes some know-how. I tested my mixture with litmus papers and added lemon juice until I had the appropriate acidity for the boiling water bath method.

Orange Pineapple Ginger Marmalade
Zest and segments of 5 large oranges
4 cups water
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice
Heaping 1/3 cup crystallized ginger, diced small
Juice of one lemon
6 cups sugar

Prepare jars, lids and boiling water bath for canning. Place several saucers in the freezer.

Peel the zest from the oranges. Place the zest and the diced ginger in a heavy bottomed sauce pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Place orange segments, pineapple and juice and lemon juice in a large heavy bottomed stock pot. Add the simmered zest, ginger and the poaching liquid to the fruit. Add the sugar.

Bring to a boil. Boil until marmalade reaches gel stage - This is about 224 on my current thermometer. This will take 30-40 minutes. To test set, pull one of the saucers out of the freezer and scoop a teaspoon of the marmalade onto it. Allow to cool. If it mounds or makes wrinkles when you push it, it is done.

Remove from heat. Stir for 2-3 minutes to distribute fruit. Carefully ladle into prepared jars. Wipe rims and top with lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes. Turn off the bath and let stand 5 minutes. Carefully remove to a towel lined tray. Allow to stand over night. Check the seals and label.

Makes 4 12 oz. jars


Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Family's Recipes - Grandma Grace's Bread & Rolls

We don't really need more white bread in our lives. But, we do need more loving remembrance. This bread recipe is from the Covey household's cook book, which I received at Christmas time. I've come to the conclusion that the recipes that were removed from the binder and stuffed back in, loose, are the frequent-use recipes. Grandma Grace's recipe for Bread and Rolls appears at least twice, and neither version was hooked into the rings of the binder. One is the typed version I've shown here, and another is hand copied by my mother-in-law, Pat, in pinkish, strawberry red ink.
This recipe is remarkably like the basic bread recipe that appears in the Prudence Penny Cook Book, published by the San Francisco Examiner in 1939. I'll have to ask Grandma Grace how she came by this recipe. In 1960, the family was still living in up-state New York.

This recipe is modern and gives a list of measured ingredients, along with instructions. I've come to appreciate modern recipes as I work through my cook book collection and my family's heirloom recipes. My grandmothers and great aunts often wrote down a list of ingredients with no instructions. There is a lot of assumption that you know what to do. I found one bread recipe in the Encyclopedia for the Home, by Maud C. Cooke (1902) that reads as follows:

"Good Bread - Set a thick sponge at night with warm water, not milk, using 2 yeast cakes for four very large loaves; beat the sponge thoroughly. In the morning take 4 tablespoonfuls of white sugar dissolved in 3/4 cup melted butter, 1 teaspoonful of salt and flour enough to make a soft dough. Mold vigorously. Let it rise until very light, mold again. Let it rise again, less time. Make in loaves, rub each one with melted butter and bake in a good oven. Bread made in this way is deliciously light and tender."

That's it! The mysteries of kneading and forming a working gluten layer are only alluded to as "Mold vigorously." Clearly these women must have seen bread made frequently, or they never would have been able to fill in the blanks.

Another thing I notice about these early recipes and cook books is that they often try to pack each dish with "energy." There is often a distinction made between "workers" and "brain-workers" and their nutritional needs are seen as very different. Bread was often fortified with milk, butter or eggs. These bread recipes arise out of a time in history when people doing heavy labor needed lots of calories.
Grandma Grace's recipe uses something like a sponge in that the initial gluten activation is done by beating the dough with wooden spoon while the dough contains only half of the flour. Once the remaining flour is added, it is kneaded by hand until smooth and elastic. I followed her instructions, except that I used my Kitchen Aid mixer in place of my muscles. I have found that I can shorten the kneading time by about 1/3 when using machinery. However, it is important to finish the kneading by hand. Kneading by pushing the dough, then, pulling the farthest edge up and over the top and pressing down, will create the gluten sheet that is needed to hold the yeast gases in the bread. By performing this motion repeatedly, turning a quarter turn each time, you will soon have a smooth ball.

I placed the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise twice. This isn't really necessary, but I was not ready to bake my bread after the first rise. Check the dough a few times as it rises. If you let it over-rise, the gluten layer will begin to have holes from the bubbles that have formed and popped. It's better to press the extra gases out and reform it into a ball while the gluten layer is still in tact and let it rise again.
When you are ready to form the loaves, press the excess gases out of the bread and split into two. (If making rolls, cut each half into 8 equal portions.) Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. When you return, place the gluten layer down on the work surface and press the dough into a rectangle.
Roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch the edges. Place the dough, seam side down in a greased loaf pan. Let the dough have a final rise in the pan. It should double in size in about 30 minutes. For rolls, stretch the gluten layer around the rest of the dough and pinch it together on the bottom. Place the rolls, pinched side down, on a greased baking sheet. They will also need a final rise of about 30 minutes.
Golden Brown!

Bread and Rolls
2 cups milk
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 mixing spoon oil per loaf (I used 2 tbsp. butter)
6 cups flour

Scald milk. Soften yeast in lukewarm water 5 t0 10 minutes. Measure sugar, salt and fat in mixing bowl. Add hot milk and stir until fat is melted. When milk mixture is lukewarm, add yeast and half of flour. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add enough more flour to make a soft dough, adding 1/2 cup at a time. Turn on to a floured board. Allow to rest 10 minutes. Cover to prevent drying.

Knead dough until smooth and satiny - 10 minutes - until it springs back when pressed with a finger. Shape into a ball and put into a greased bowl. Coat side and top of dough with the oil in the bowl. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Press down to remove bubbles.

Divide dough into two equal parts. Let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Put into greased loaf pans and brush top with fat. Let rise until doubled.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. 400 degrees for metal pans. 375 for glass pans.
(My rolls were ready in about 20 minutes.)

Bread is done when it shrinks from the pan and sounds hollow.

Note: Allow to cool thoroughly before slicing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Parsnip Patties

Parsnips are one of those misunderstood vegetables. There they are, at pretty much any grocery store, but what do you do with them? I have found one delicious answer, provided by Laurel's Kitchen.
These little patties are savory and slightly sweet. The walnuts and breadcrumbs make them toothsome and hearty. My Tomato and Fruit Ketchup is a great accompaniment.

Parsnip Patties (Adapted from The New Laurel's Kitchen)
4 cups raw parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large shallot, minced
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. dried tarragon
1 egg, lightly beaten (Laurel's Kitchen called for two, but one was plenty for me)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups fresh, whole grain bread crumbs (four slices pulsed in a food processor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Steam the parsnips until tender, mash or put through a potato ricer. (The ricer removes any stringy bits.) Saute the shallot in the butter. Add the tarragon to the butter and shallots after the shallots are translucent. Mix the parsnips, shallot mixture, egg, salt and walnuts. Form into 1/4 cup patties and flatten lightly. Coat in the bread crumbs. (I find it is easiest to place the scoop of parsnips in the prepared crumbs then scoop the bread crumbs around the patty to coat.) Place coated patties on greased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes. Makes 8 patties.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bright Beet and Carrot Salad

Sometimes I stockpile ideas for Random Food Fridays, just in case I haven't been brilliant once all week. I was going to save this one, but I just couldn't hold back.

Sometimes, especially in the deep of winter, I crave fresh and crunchy salads. One can throw together an awesome salad with winter veg in minutes. Most of the ingredients for this salad came from my farm box.
Between the yummy-happy noises, I heard my body whispering, "Oh, this was such a good idea! SUCH a good idea!" (Of course, my body whispers the same thing about butter...)

Bright Beet and Carrot Salad
2 medium carrots, grated
2 medium beet, grated
1 green onion, sliced
1 hand full of chopped parsley
1 hand full of golden raisins
1 orange, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
spinach leaves for serving

Toss all the ingredients and mound on spinach leaves. Eat with enthusiasm.