21 December 2008

These biscuits are very similar to Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I found the recipe online at one of those restaurant knock-off websites (can't remember which one.) Super easy.

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

2 cups Bisquick
⅔ cups milk
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
garlic cloves, smashed

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine Bisquick, milk, and cheese. Drop onto baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until middles are set. Meanwhile, put smashed garlic cloves and butter in saucepan and melt over low heat. Brush melted garlic butter over top of warm biscuits when they come out the oven.

Makes about 10 biscuits, depending on how big you make them.

The original recipe said to bake at 450° for 10 minutes, but they kept getting too dark on top and not done in the middle, so I tried them at 400° for 15 minutes and it's a lot better. I also found it works better to get the thicker shreds of cheddar instead of the finely shredded kind. That way you get more visible ribbons of cheese running through the biscuits. Don't skimp on how many garlic cloves you put in the butter. That's the only way of imparting garlic flavor since there isn't any inside the biscuits themselves. Also, I wouldn't use skim for the milk. Since they are biscuits, they have a tendency to be a tad dry, so I think the more fat you have in the milk, the less dry they will be. I make mine with 2% and that works.

I made these for an Advent dinner last week and they went over pretty well.

20 December 2008

Merry Christmas to me!  This year for Christmas, my lovely husband got me a Lodge cast iron grill pan.  It's something I have been wanting for a while now.  Rachael Ray got me interested in it, and I checked her line at foodnetwork.com.  Hers was more than twice the price of the Lodge; and I read somewhere that it is made by Lodge.  So I bought this one on Amazon.com.  It has like 196 reviews with an average of 4 1/2 stars (that's out of five).  They even gave me free shipping (which is a great savings considering it weighs about 15 pounds!)  And it came lighting quick.  I ordered it on Tuesday evening and it came on Thursday afternoon.  Wow!  

It is so nice!  It is a grill pan on one side, and a smooth griddle on the other side.  Both sides have a narrow grease gutter for draining. It lays across two burners on the stove.

I did have one problem with it at its inaugural use.  They don't tell you this, but apparently you are supposed to remove the paper label from the griddle side before heating it up!

OOPS!!!  Yeah, that stunk up the kitchen for a while!

I made some grilled chicken seasoned with a garlic and herb seasoning.  Very simple and delicious.  This will be a great substitute for the outdoors grill during the off season.

Thanks, Jimmy, for the wonderful Christmas gift!

12 December 2008

This was the dessert I chose to make for my Moroccan-themed meal.  It was the only one I found online that didn't involve some weird ingredient like rosewater or orange blossom water.  As you might have guessed from the picture, I didn't use plums.  Apparently plums are not available in Michigan in December!  So I had to use pears.  Having never cooked with pears before, I had no idea what variety to get.  I tried Anjou.

Spiced Plums 

6 medium red plums or purple plums
½ cup pineapple juice or apple juice
3 tbsp packed brown sugar (divided)
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
⅛ tsp cumin
1 pinch nutmeg
⅓ cup light sour cream or nonfat sour cream
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450°. Prepare a 2 qt. baking dish with a good amount of cooking spray.
Prepare plums by slicing in half and removing pits. Place in the baking pan cut side up.
Combine juice, 2 tbsp of brown sugar, and the spices in a small bowl. Drizzle spiced juice over the plums.
Bake the fruit for 20 minutes or until the plums are tender. Note that actual cooking time will vary according to the ripeness of the fruit.
In a small bowl combine the sour cream with the last tablespoon of brown sugar.
Place plum halves in a serving bowl. Dot with sour cream and sprinkle of cinnamon.

Makes 6 servings.

It was okay with the pears, but I can't wait to try it with the plums.  The pears did not really get soft at all, even though I let them bake a lot longer than the recipe called for.  I don't know if it would be this way with all varieties of pears, or if the Anjou are firmer than most.  I am not really very familiar with pears at all.  Like I said, it was okay; just not as good as if the fruit had softened up during baking.

I think the next time I make it, I will also try increasing the amount of the glaze.  I didn't think it was quite enough.  And a lot of it runs off the fruit onto the bottom of the pan, so a little extra would be good, I think.

This was the main dish of my Moroccan-themed meal.  A tagine is a slow-cooked stew.  It's also the name of the vessel it's traditionally cooked in.  I found a recipe for the slow cooker.

Lamb Tagine for Slow Cooker

1 ½ lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2” chunks
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed with press
1 can (15 – 19 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken broth
⅓ cup raisins
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2-3 lbs. boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1” chunks
½ cup pitted green olives

In a 6 qt. slow cooker, combine squash, tomatoes, onion, garlic, beans, broth, and raisins. In a small bowl, combine coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and ground black pepper. Rub spice mixture all over lamb; place lamb on top of vegetable mixture. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours.

Stir olives into stew.  Serve over couscous.

Makes 6 servings.

It was pretty good.  The squash cooked down completely, as did the raisins, apparently.  We couldn't taste them!  And the beans held up really well.  I thought they would have turned to mush by the time it was done.  But they didn't.  The only thing I did differently from how it's written here is that I totally forgot to add the olives in at the end.  Oops!  Oh, and I didn't have as much tomatoes as it called for; I think I only had one plum tomato.

A note on the lamb: I couldn't find a hunk of boneless lamb shoulder.  I ended up using lamb leg (that I found at Sam's.)  It was really fatty, so I took the time to trim it really well before cubing it.  Here's an idea of how fatty it was: when I bought it, it was 4 pounds; after trimming, it was about 2.7 pounds.  Yikes!  That would have made a total mess out of the stew.  So be sure your lamb is lean.

I needed a vegetable side dish for my Moroccan-themed meal and found this recipe on Recipezaar.

Moroccan Carrots

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
⅓ tsp ground cinnamon 
¼ tsp ground cumin
1 dash cayenne
1 ½ cups carrots, peeled and julienned (about ½ lb.)
⅓ cup orange juice
2 ½ tbsp dried currants, soaked in hot water
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over moderate heat.
Reduce the heat to low, add the sugar, spices, and carrots and stir for a few minutes.
Add the orange juice and the currants with some of their soaking liquid; bring to a boil.
Quickly reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the carrots are tender.
Add pepper and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

These were very good. I forgot about them as I was waiting for the glaze to reduce, so they got a bit dark on one side. But it didn't ruin them.

Interesting tidbit about this recipe: I found out when I reviewed it on recipezaar that the woman who originally posted it is a fellow LCMS pastor's wife! There were about four different Moroccan carrot recipes on that site that I was deciding between. What a coincidence that I would pick hers!

This is a cocktail that we created for our Moroccan-themed The Office watching party.  It is in no way Moroccan, but we found out ahead of time that on the episode, the character Meredith catches her hair on fire.  She is a redhead and it was a Christmas party so we chose cranberry schnapps. This drink is a variation on one that Hilary and I created back in 2001 or 2002 called the Flaming Mitsubishi.  (It was in memory of our tv that caught on fire.) That one was made with orange juice and raspberry pucker.

Flaming Meredith

1 shot Crantasia cranberry schnapps
orange juice
ice, if desired

Put ice in short tumbler.  Pour shot over ice.  Add desired amount of orange juice.

Makes one drink.

You can use pineapple juice instead of the orange juice, but the colors seem to mix more that way than with the orange juice. But it's just as tasty.

11 December 2008

Check back later for a post about the Moroccan dinner I made tonight.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

Moroccan Carrots

Spiced Pears

I have pics too!

02 December 2008

There it is, my first ever turkey!  So pretty!  It turned out beautifully.  I was really nervous about doing a turkey for the first time, and I had five people in my house who were counting on it, so I was praying that it turned out okay.  Well, it did.  My sister-in-law Amy said that it was the best turkey she's ever had.  Yay!

I used Alton Brown's recipe, Good Eats Roast Turkey.  It's the one he does on his 1999 Good Eats special, Romancing the Bird.  It uses the technique of brining to keep the bird moist without any basting.

Good Eats Roast Turkey

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey 

For the brine: 
1 cup kosher salt 
½ cup light brown sugar 
1 gallon vegetable stock 
1 tbsp black peppercorns 
½ tbsp allspice berries 
½ tbsp candied ginger 
1 gallon iced water 

For the aromatics: 
1 red apple, sliced 
½ onion, sliced 
1 cinnamon stick 
1 cup water 
4 sprigs rosemary 
6 leaves sage 
Canola oil

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5 gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.

A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500°. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.

Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350°. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 ½ hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

I pretty much followed the recipe as written.  My bird was a bit larger (20 lbs.) so I increased all of the brine ingredients by half.  

The only problem I had was that the oil in the bottom of my roaster smoked during the first half hour when I had the oven on 500°.  That's when FIL and SIL decided to take Lena for a walk!  The house got pretty smoky.  It stopped as soon as I turned the oven down to 350°.

Getting ready go into the oven.

A view of the aromatics.  Apple, onion, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, and sage.

All done!  

The best thing about this recipe is that it really does reduce the cooking time required.  I had a 20 lb. bird and it only took 3 hours.  There is something about how the brine makes it more moist that reduces the cooking time.  I'm just glad I didn't have to get up before dawn to put it in the oven!

I will definitely be using this method again next year.
This is an appetizer I made for Thanksgiving. It is courtesy of my friend, Claudia.

Apple & Brie Toast

1 French loaf, sliced
Brie cheese, sliced (or cheese of your choice)
Apples, sliced thinly
½ cup pecans, chopped
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup butter

Toast slices of bread on cookie sheet under oven broiler. Place slices of cheese on bread. Cover cheese with slices of apple. Mix pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Put 1 tsp of mixture on each apple. Heat in oven until butter and cheese melts.

Now, when Claudia made it, it had some kind of garlic butter on the toast. I know that it sounds weird, apples, cheese, brown sugar, and garlic, but it was awesome! That part wasn't listed in the recipe, but I think I would do it like this: spread a little butter on the bread before toasting it. Then, when the toast comes out, rub a garlic clove on it to impart the garlic flavor. Then proceed as directed. I'll have to ask her if that's how she did it.

But even without that, these were a hit at Thanksgiving. Sorry I didn't get a picture. I guess I'll have to make it again sometime soon! (Darn! :)

Yep, that's right! A bread that contains apples, cheese, and beer. Sounds weird, huh? Well, it is delicious. You can't really taste the apples or the beer.

This recipe is courtesy of my friend, Claudia.

Apple Cheese Beer Bread

1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup shallots, minced
½ cup apple, peeled and shredded (use paper towel to remove any excess moisture)
3 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
12 oz. beer or hard cider
½ cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 375°. Heat oil in skillet. Cook shallots and apple for 7 minutes. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Add cooked apple mixture, beer, applesauce, and cheese, stirring just until moist. Spoon mixture into 2 greased bread pans. Bake for 40 minutes or until done. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then remove and cool on wire rack.

I made this for Thanksgiving and everyone loved it. Letting it cool in the pan is really important, because I was impatient and tried to slice the first loaf without waiting for it to cool, and it didn't work. It's too soft and just collapses under the knife if you don't let it cool a bit first.

Also, I used a box grater to shred my apples. Just make sure you get the moisture out with paper towels.

I'll get a pic for this later.

Isabelle at Crumb chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in November 2011.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

Whyiamnotskinny chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in May 2014.  Click on the button below to check out her post.

Secret Recipe Club
This is one of the new recipes I tried on Thanksgiving. I had a hard time finding a recipe I wanted to try. Most of the popular ones right now involve fruit (I do not like to add fruit to savory dishes) or cornbread. I really wanted something more traditional. Finally I found this one on the Food Network website. It appeared to be exactly what I had in mind. I made a few changes to it; you can find the original here.

Mushroom Dressing

8 slices white bread, cut into ½” pieces
1 ½ lbs. mushrooms
2 to 3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
6 shallots, sliced or diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh sage
2 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup half and half
3 large eggs, beaten
black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Trim the dry part from the bottom of the cremini stem and quarter. Stem and quarter the shiitakes. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, rosemary, and sage, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften and brown, about 25 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and salt and bring to a simmer.

Whisk the cream, eggs, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the bread and mushroom mixture and toss until the bread is moistened. Transfer the dressing to a buttered 1 ½ quart baking dish. Bake, uncovered, until the dressing sets and the top browns, about 1 hour. Let dressing sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Some notes about what I changed:
  • I found some pre-dried cubes of bread in the bakery section of the grocery store and used that instead of making my own. I left instructions for making your own in the recipe because I think that is a seasonal item that they only have during the holidays.
  • About the mushroom types: You can really use whatever type you want. The original recipe called for crimini and shiitakes. I used 1 lb. of mini bellas and 4 oz. of shiitakes (I just now realized that that doesn't add up to 1 1/2 lbs!) But I really think it would work with white button mushrooms as well.
  • The shallots: I diced mine and didn't realize until now that the recipe calls for sliced. I really don't think it would make that big of a difference.
  • Herbage: The original recipe called for just rosemary, but I always like sage in a Thanksgiving dressing, so I threw a bunch of that in there too. I just tore it into little pieces.
  • The original recipe called for heavy cream but I used half and half.
  • Number of eggs: I think next time I will try reducing the number of eggs. While it was really good, I kind of feel like it was a little too "eggy." The eggs firmed up a lot and it seemed a little too firm or something. Maybe I overcooked it. I don't know. I will comment here if I try it again with a different number of eggs.
  • The original recipe also called for fresh parsley to be mixed in. Since I added the sage, I decided to skip the parsley.
  • It says to cook the shallots and mushrooms for 25 minutes, but I don't think I cooked mine that long. That is a long time! I think it's fine to increase the heat a bit so they cook a little faster. Just don't turn it up so much that the shallots start to get brown.
Okay, I think that is all I wanted to say about that. The dressing was well-liked and I was happy with it. Leftovers weren't the greatest, but I think that had something to do with the "eggy" consistency. Hopefully that will change when I tinker with the number of eggs.

The shallots and mushrooms getting all soft in the pan.
Not the best picture, but it's the only one I have right now. This is a dish that I was introduced to in Texas. I make it every Thanksgiving and it is always a huge hit. This year I offered everyone leftovers to take home and they all wanted sweet potato casserole and nothing else!

Sweet Potato Casserole

4 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1½ cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup plus 4 tsp flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups chopped pecans

Cook sweet potatoes and mash. Combine with ⅔ cup butter, salt, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and 4 tsp flour. Pour into a greased 9 x 13” casserole dish. Combine brown sugar, remaining butter, and remaining flour; mix together until crumbly. Add pecans. Put on top of casserole. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

In case you have never cooked sweet potatoes, here's what I do. Poke a few holes in each one with a paring knife. Wrap each in aluminum foil. Place them directly on the oven rack. I put a foil-lined baking sheet underneath them because as they cook, a clear sticky liquid comes out of them (sometimes) and this will make a stinky mess in your oven if not cleaned up right away. The baking sheet catches it all so that I don't have to clean my oven each time. Bake them at 400° for about an hour and fifteen minutes, or until they are soft to the touch. Remove them from the oven, let cool, and remove foil. If cooked long enough, you will be able to peel the skin right off with almost no effort. I bake them long enough so that I do not even have to do much mashing or pureeing (I do this for baby food all the time).

This recipe is so good; it's almost more like dessert than a side dish. Although it reheats well, Jim sometimes likes to eat the leftovers cold.