Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chicken and Artichoke Soup

It's a chinook wind here today.  It is blowing straight from the mountians, making it so warm out that it is melting.  The below zero cold air inversion that we've been living in is blown clean away.  The warm air can now get across the mountain and down into our valley.  Although we are grateful for the reprieve from the cold, we know this warm wind will drag with it a storm front, so we are getting prepared for that.  We are bringing in extra wood for the stove, and going to do chores early before it hits. 
On days like these, I like to have something warm for supper.  Tonight it will be Chicken and Artichoke Soup.  This is a version of my mother in law's soup.  She knows we like it, so she always makes it when we visit. I usually make it with chicken, but since we had turkey left over from the holidays, I'll be using that today. 
My pantry "star" in this recipe is canned artichokes.  I like to keep them on hand in my pantry for just such occasions.  I do enjoy the frozen artichokes, but for some reason, we have a hard time getting them here in Wyoming.  I like to buy the cans of quarters, just because I don't use them for any recipes that require them to be whole, and whenever the pieces of food are small, you get more of them.  It is a little cheaper to buy quarters.  I use artichokes in dips for quick entertaining of unexpected company, and also in pasta sauces, but the best way is in this soup. 
Besides the fresh onion, carrot celery, the rest of the ingredients are things I always have in the pantry, so this is an easy go to for lunch or dinner at our house. I don't like the salty slimy liquid that comes in cans of chickpeas, so I pour them out into a sieve, and rinse them well before adding them to this soup. 

Chicken and Artichoke Soup

2 T olive oil
1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion chopped
3 stalks celery chopped
2 carrots chopped and diced
1 small can/pint of diced tomatoes and their juice
1 can artichoke quarters chopped and their juice
1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 box/quart chicken stock
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
pinch red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste

In a stockpot, brown off chicken pieces in oil.  Remove chicken to a plate to add in later.  Add onion celery and diced carrots and cook until onion is translucent.  Add remaining ingredients, and scrape off browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add chicken back in an bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer for twenty minutes. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sourdough Orange Butterhorns are a favorite treat around here.  they are much like a cinnamon roll, but with a brown sugar orange filling, and an orange glaze on top.  These are whole wheat rolls, and are made with Splenda Brown Sugar,  and Splenda glaze, but you could certainly use regular brown sugar, and white powdered sugar instead.  I made these for family, but also gave a big plate of them to our paper carrier as a gift.  If you make them in a muffin tin, they raise up like a sheep horn in the middle, hence the name butterhorns.  I like to bake them in a 9 x 13" pan, as they seem to stay more moist. (Recipe below) 

Christmas is such a busy time.  I was very glad to have canned goods already done.  I made lots of pickled spiced peaches, and jam and salsa, so I just had a few batches of candy to make, and then my gift bags were complete.  I made homemade gumdrops this year, and candied orange peel dipped in chocolate, plus some Ritz candy.  The orange peel recipe is in a previous post, but I will share the other two here: 

Ritz Candy
1 box Ritz peanut butter filled crackers.  You'll want the tiny ones.
3 squares of chocolate almond butter candy coating
2 heaping T of swiss baking chocolate

In a double boiler, (I use a glass bowl above a saucepan of simmering water).  heat candy coating and chocolate until they are smooth.  You can also do this in a microwave, but the probability of the chocolate seizing is high, so I prefer this method.  Dip peanut butter filled crackers into chocolate coating mixture, and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet to dry.  Top with sprinkles if desired.  These are suprisingly good, and you'd never know they were only crackers. 

Homemade Gumdrops
2 C sugar
1 1/3 C applesauce
2 pkg jello gelatin( either cherry, lime, or orange flavored)
2 pkg Knox unflavored gelatin
Flavoring:  2 drops Clove oil (for cherry) 1 tsp mint extract (for green) and 1 tsp orange extract (for orange)

In a saucepan, heat all ingredients until dissolved and they come to a boil.  Boil for one minute, then pour into a well greased chilled 8 inch baking pan.  Add 2 drops of clove oil for red, 1 tsp of mint extract for green, and 1 tsp of orange extract for orange.  Stir with a spatula encorporate flavorings.  Refridgerate for 3 hours.  With a spatula to coax the jello out, turn onto a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Cut into one inch strips, and with a sharp kitchen scissors, cut into small pieces in a single layer on the wax paper.  Top with an additonal 1/3 C sugar, and roll in the sugar to coat all the sides.  Let dry for 24 hours before packaging.  These are delicious, and so much softer than store bought ones. 
These are so pretty mixed together in a serving dish for a Christmas buffet.  For gift giving, I had gift bags shaped like Christmas trees tied with curling ribbon.

Sourdough Orange Butterhorns
1 C buttermilk
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C butter
2 T yeast
1/4 C tepid water
2 eggs
1 C sourdough starter
6-7 C flour (I use 3 C white and about 3 C wheat)
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C butter
the peel of 1 orange grated

juice of 1 orange
enough splenda, or powdered sugar to make a thin glaze

In a bowl or large measuring cup, microwave buttermilk, sugar, salt and butter until milk is hot, about 1 minute.  Cool.  Proof yeast in tepid water.  In the mixer bowl, beat eggs.  Add starter, bloomed yeast and milk mixture.  Add 3 C white flour, and with the bread hook attachment, mix on medium speed for 4 minutes to develop the gluten.  Slowly add wheat flour 1/2 C at a time and allow the flour to be incorporated before adding more until the dough collects into a ball and starts to clean the sides of the mixing bowl.  The amount of flour needed will vary according to the humidity on that day.  It should be a soft tender feeling dough.  Turn out into a greased bowl and cover with a dampened tea towel.  Let raise in a warm place for two hours, or until doubled.
Meanwhile, mix the brown sugar with the orange peel and set aside.  It helps to do this now, as the orange oil in the peel flavors the sugar. 
Punch down  the dough, and on a lightly floured surface roll out into a large rectangle.  Spread butter evenly over the surface, and then add an even layer of the sugar/orange mixture.  Sarting at the long side, roll up the dough into a log, and slice into 1 inch rolls.  Place in a greased 11x13 inch pan, and let rise 1 1/2 hours covered.  Brush with melted butter, and bake at 375*F for 15-20 minutes, or until rolls are golden and sound hollow when tapped.  While they are hot, drizzle with glaze.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Making Candied Orange Peel, and Orange and Beet Salad

I made candied orange peel for the first time yesterday.  It's a pretty long process.  You have to boil the peels in water and let them simmer for ten minutes, pour the oranges and water into a strainer, and start over again three times. Then, you make a syrup from 2 1/2 C sugar and water (for the peel from six oranges).  Bring that to a boil, and let it simmer until almost all the syrup is gone.  The peel goes on a rack inside of a baking pan to get cool, and become sticky, and then you roll them in sugar.  The longer you cook the peel in the syrup, the stiffer and more chewy it will become.  I'll dip the bottom ends of the candied orange strips into melted chocolate, sprinkle a litte colored sugar on, and enclude a little bag of them in my gifts this year.
That leaves me with six oranges that are now peeled to use up.  So, I made this orange and beet salad with walnuts.  It used up four, and we ate the other two for snack time.

Orange Beet Salad

3 peeled oranges sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 can/pint of sliced beets drained
Red leaf lettuce
1 chopped shallot
Tajin Seasoning
1/2 C toasted walnuts

1/4 C italian dressing (I used leftover mushroom marinade)
juice from 1 orange
Tajin seasoning

This is an arranged salad.  Greens on the bottom, then the beets, then the sliced oranges.  Toast walnuts in a dry skillet, or in the oven at 400*F just until you can smell the nuts.  Sprinkle nuts and diced shallot over salad and season with a little Tajin.  If you don't have tajin, you could use the juice of one lime, and a little cayenne pepper and salt.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not for Everyday Brown Sugar Waffles

I am on a quest to be better about baking, so I've been trying out some new recipes.  Now, you can follow the recipe exactly like it was written, but for me that is no fun.  I want to have my own personal stamp on things, so I like to play around with ingredients, and make my own recipes.  Sometimes, like Martha, it's a good thing, and sometimes it's a big ole fail.  That just means I need to go back to the drawing board, and look at it a little differently.
Mostly, at our house, if Don wants waffles for breakfast he has to buy them in a box, and heat them in the toaster.  He gets up sometimes as early as three AM to get to where he needs to be that day.  I cannot function well enough to make waffles at three AM.  He's lucky if I manage coffee and eggs.  I can, however make them for the kids, and save him back some leftovers for the next few days, and he can heat them up like store bought ones.  We've kind of got in a rut of either yogurt and fruit, or hot cereal for the kiddies in the morning, so waffles will be a welcome change to them I'm sure.
This morning's breakfast fare was a fairly good success.  Not only did Joel and Little Bit like it, but the dog did too apparently, because just minutes after taking this picture above, she helped herself to one.  She was wolfing it down (no pun intended) under the table  when I came back in the kitchen after changing Lainey.  She has been hiding in the basement ever since I found her and scolded her.
This is one of those recipes that aren't good for every day, but during the holidays are a treat.  The reason being that they are so sweet they make your teeth hurt just reading the recipe.  There is no need for syrup, which made them wonderful for one year old Lainey to eat, and they make the house smell amazing, like the holidays. 

Brown Sugar Waffles

1 T vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 C buttermilk
1 C packed brown sugar
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Add more buttermilk if necessary to make the batter to your liking.  Melt a couple T butter in the microwave, and spread with a basting brush on the hot waffle iron for each waffle.  Ladle  onto grill, and cook until the steam is almost gone.  Because of the high sugar content of these waffles, you won't be able to get a crispy waffle.  Makes about five or six cakes.  Brush with melted butter and serve hot.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Apple Cider Gingerbread with Yogurt Lemon Sauce

Last night was meatloaf night.  We had a meat and veg loaf this time, with lots of chopped mushrooms and grated onion, carrot and a granny smith apple.  It turned out ok, but next time I will increase the breadcrumbs, as it didn't hold it's shape when serving it.
We also had whipped potatoes.  I don't often make mashed potatoes, but I do definitely know how.  When I was in high school, I had aspirations of becoming a dietician, so I got a job in the hospital kitchen.  We had the biggest kitchen aide mixer you've ever seen, and cooked the potatoes in a tilt table pot.  I got really good at making fluffy whipped potatoes.  The key is to have your buttermilk and butter hot and your potatoes hot, and use the ballon whisk attachment to get them fluffy. 
We don't often have dessert other than just fruit, but I am on a quest to learn to like baking, so I tried out this little cake.  You can actually mix it in the cake pan if you like, and then there's no mess of a mixing bowl.  The yogurt lemon sauce is brilliant and I'm sure I'll be using it for fruit salads and scones.
P.S. My new stoneware came in the mail yesterday.  I am so excited!  It is called Winterberry, and is made by Pfaltzgraff.  Now to wait until payday to start getting the casseroles and sugar and creamers is going to be hard!  It's nice to set a proper table with enough plates that are the same. 
Making this cake will be easy from what I have on hand.  We always have apple cider, because I like to use my glass percolator on the stove, and make hot cider with cinnamon and cloves.  This recipe was so easy, it will get made often this winter.

Apple Cider Gingerbread

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 C apple cider
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/4 C molasses
1 T cider vinegar

Lemon Sauce
1 C Vanilla Greek yogurt
grated zest of one lemon
2 tsp lemon juice

In a greased 8 inch cake pan, mix dry ingredients with a fork.  Make a well in the center, and pour in the remaining ingredients.  Mix with a fork just until you don't see any dry mix.  Bake in a preheated 350*F for 28-30 minutes.  
While cake is baking, mix lemon sauce ingredients, and refrigerate.  Serve over warm gingerbread.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pepper Cookies, Marinated Mushrooms, and Waffle Sandwiches (It's a Crazy Mixed Up Day)

It has come to the time of year when we have impromptu "mini parties".  You know, a couple friends drop by, and you pull out whatever you have in the pantry. We make some mixed drinks, or brew a pot of coffee,  and viola, you have a party.
I love having a well stocked pantry, because it affords me the tools necessary to entertain in a pinch.   I have pickles and salsa and pickled vegetables, cans and jars of olives, spiced fruits I have canned, dried fruits, a bowl full of fresh fruits.  We keep flavored crackers, and dried soup mix.  I stock up on cream or Neufatchel cheese, and keep sour cream on hand for making hors d'oeuvres. 
I have gotten my Christmas platters out, and washed them.  They are stacked at the ready in my white cupboard in my pantry.  Thanks to my decision to bake for the holidays this year, I have a ready stash of cookies.
It's not so much about what you serve to company, but how you serve it.  If you are well stocked, you can lay out a spread, and be relaxed in doing it.  It makes people feel at home, whether it's salsa and tortilla chips warm out of the oven, or a scones and honey butter, and people will enjoy themselves. My mother made me a quilted nine patch table cloth out of Christmas fabric.  In the center of the squares, she quilted snowman, and bells and gingerbread men.  That and a few candles in the window, and already it feels like a party.  It's those things that make the holidays seem cozy.   
We spent our Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin's house.  I took a couple cold salads, and a red hot apple jello.  I also took a jar of these quick marinated mushrooms.  You could use whole mushrooms, but I always have a couple containers of sliced mushrooms in the fridge. 

Marinated Mushrooms

1 boxes fresh sliced button mushrooms
Equal parts fat free Italian dressing, rice wine vinegar, olive oil.  I started with 1/2 C each.
Fresh thyme leaves

In a clean quart canning jar, stuff as many mushrooms as you can.  Heat marinating liquid in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.  Pour over mushrooms.  Press down mushrooms to release air, and add more mushrooms, then marinade if necessary.  Let stand at least 2 hours or longer.  After marinating, I spooned out the mushrooms into a covered jar, and topped with a little of the marinade.  We are enjoying the leftover marinade on salads, it is an excellent dresssing.  The mushrooms will keep a good week in the fridge.

This next recipe uses the waffle iron.  To heck with Pannini presses, I've already got a waffle iron!  My old iron does have removeable plates that reverse to a flat surface, but I like the look that the waffle iron makes on the bread. 

Waffle Sandwiches

Small rounded loaf of wheat bread
1 brick Cream cheese (goat cheese, boursin cheese, etc)
1 T Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning
Sliced fresh pears or apples
Thinly sliced ham or turkey

Heat waffle iron.  Butter one side of the bread pieces.  It will take 8 slices to fill the waffle iron.  On the other side of four slices, spread cream cheese that you've mixed with seasoning.  Add sliced fruit and meat, and top with the other four slices of buttered bread, butter side out.  Grill until golden brown and crisp, and cut into triangles. Really good served with some homemade jelly, or cranberry relish.

Spiced Black Pepper Cookies

2 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 C shortening
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 C sugar
1/3 C molasses
1 egg
1 T milk
Raisins or currants

Sift dry ing.  Cream shortening and spices with sugar.  Add molasses.  Beat in egg and milk.  Add dry ingredients, and drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheets.  Top each with a raisin and bake at 350*F for fifteen minutes or until browned around the edges.  Cool on wire racks.  Makes 3-5 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the spoonfuls.