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"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

roast cornish hen with stuffing. . .

fullsizeoutput_120One of our regular dinners is roast cornish hen with stuffing. The size of these small birds is ideal: half for each of us. Plus, they roast up beautifully with a glaze of orange marmalade & a dab of butter, set up on a bed of Pepperidge Farm stuffing.

The stuffing is made by sauteeing chopped a shallot with some chopped celery heart in butter and a sprinkling of Bell’s Seasoning. Then, I add the chopped up giblets and brown with the vegetables. Add some Pepperidge Farm stuffing crumbs and chicken broth to moisten.

I empty the skillet of the cooked stuffing and then melt some butter in the clean skillet. The hen is split in half by cutting through the breastbone. I dry the rinsed halves and  brown them in the medium-high skillet.

After the cornish hen is golden brown, the stuffing is divided and the two halves placed on top.  In the microwave, I heat up some orange marmalade with a dab of butter and brush it on the bird before sliding the pan  into a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes.

When the hens are cooked through (meat thermometer at 165 degrees,) take them out of the oven. With a wide spatula, lift each serving with the stuffing on the bottom and place it on a plate. A salad of lettuce, avocado and blood orange goes along well with this dish.

As G. and I prefer the dark meat, so we usually finish that off and save the breast meat for a tender chicken salad sandwich for lunch the next day.  Bon Appetit!

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Braised veal shanks . . . aka “osso bucco”

 

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Yesterday, I saw a can of white beans (cannellini) in the pantry, I had some grape cherry tomatoes in the fridge and some lovely broth in the freezer I wanted to use. As I drove to the grocery store, I dismissed making beef stew (boeuf bourguinon,) or pot roast. We had a truly lovely boneless prime rib roast for Christmas Eve and a ham for New Year’s Day.

To my surprise, I found some veal shanks and the label said “osso bucco.” I’ve cooked veal shanks in the length-wise cut but not “osso bucco” although I’d read rapturous descriptions about this dish over the years. When I got home, I looked up a number of recipes for this dish and found that some used white wine while others called for red wine. Some called for lots of stewed tomatoes and others called for tomato paste.

In no recipes did any include bacon (I had a few slices that I’d wanted to use – and the boeuf bourguinon recipes call for bacon in the beginning. Nor did they include white beans which I have used in a braised veal dish awhile ago. So, here’s my version of braised veal shanks which I think will be lovely for our dinner tonight.

  1. Tie shanks together with twine, salt and pepper them and lightly dust in flour.
  2. Cut up 3 slices of bacon into small pieces and brown in a heavy enamelled deep braiser pan.
  3. Add and brown chopped garlic (3); onion (1 small whole) and quarter cut carrots (5) in the same pan. Stir and cook until aromatic and golden brown. Add halved grape tomatoes and rinsed large white beans (canned.)
  4. Make a well in the middle of the cooked vegetables and add a little olive oil; Place the prepared veal shanks in the center and brown on both sides.
  5. Add fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme.
  6. I sprinkled a little red wine on top of and around the veal bundles; then added Chicken stock until the liquid almost covered most of the contents.
  7. Place the pot into a 350 degree oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours until veal is fork-tender. Let it rest.

Open up some refrigerator rolls and bake a batch of crescent rolls. Serve the braised veal and vegetables on top of a bed of cooked fresh noodles in shallow pasta bowls.   A small tumbler of chilled Riesling seemed just right to drink with the meal – besides that’s what we had opened!

 

a new year’s apple pie! . . .

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Today is January 3rd, a Wednesday, and I thought it was a good time to go through the fridge and straighten it out after the holidays. In the middle shelf were two unopened pie crusts that I hadn’t needed for the mince pies that I had made and frozen earlier. In the fruit bin, I plucked out the Harry and David pears and apples, putting them into an old wooden bowl on the bottom shelf – and about six Honey Crisp apples that needed a new lease on life.

So, I peeled the apples, cored them and sliced them thinly. Made a mixture of flour (a small handful, light brown sugar (same) and a resplendent sprinkling of Penzey’s Indonesian cinnamon that my daughter, C. had given me.) Yum! After consultation with G., I added a generous handful of golden raisins (we love them plumped up and warm in baked goods!

One pie crust came out of its sleeve and cooperated as I patted it into my glass pie pan. The other one was kind of stuck together and unshapely after I smoothed it out on the board I was using. So, I took out my pie crimper roller thingie and cut generous strips of pie crust to cover the top. A brush with half and half with sparkling sugar sprinkled on top (love that stuff!) remembering to insert tiny pats of unsalted butter into the holes peeking out on the crust. Into the oven it went with an aluminum sheet underneath in case it drips and overflows.

Usually when I make apple pie, I prefer to use Cortland apples. They are crisp when raw and melt down to a beautiful apple pie. These Honey Crisp ones are probably not going to do that but they should be tasty, nevertheless.

So, in two swipes, the fridge is clean (YAY!) and there’s an apple pie happily baking away in the oven. And this is even before we have lunch!

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

cream scones . . .

 

 

I’ve made scones before but not like these. I followed the recipe from “Bon Appetit’s best cream scones.” Usually when a recipe calls for blending cold hard butter into a dry flour mixture like this one does, I gently process it in my Cuisinart. Today, however, I used a deep shallow bowl and stirred the dry ingredients together (baking powder, soda and salt, measuring the flour loosely into a cup.)

Taking a stick of unsalted butter, I used an old fashioned pie crust thingie and mixed the flour mixture with the butter until it was the consistency of coarse corn meal. Into a well made in the middle, I folded in a beaten large egg. Gently, I added a cup and a quarter of cream, mixing it in until the flour mixture held together. It was a little sticky, but after I floured a board, just dipping my hands into some loose flour, I patted the dough until it was one inch thick. Instead of cutting the circle into wedges, I used a square crimped edge cutter, lifting the soft dough and putting it on parchment paper placed on a baking sheet.

In a preheated oven of 370 degrees (5 degrees less due to the dark finish of my baking pan,) the scones were baked until golden brown (25-30 minutes.) I had brushed the tops with cream and sprinkled sparkling sugar on top before putting the scones into the oven.

When my daughter, C. and her husband T. arrived, we split the scones in half, added warm raspberry jam and cream fraiche, a new flavor called Madagascar vanilla. It was a delicious combination eaten along with hot Lapsang Souchang tea. Fresh raspberries added to this afternoon treat.

Just lovely for a holiday respite!

 

 

rosemary shortbread . . .

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The tray of rosemary shortbread is the third one I’ve made over the holidays. Each time, I’ve tweaked the process and this batch is the result of a few lessons learned.

I followed Melissa Clark’s recipe from the NYTimes. She suggests adding all kinds of things to it like raisins or nuts, etc. But what I was hoping for was a classic shortbread the way the Scots and British like it – but flavored with fresh rosemary leaves.

The first time I made it, I didn’t run my Cuisinart food processor long enough for the dough to come together. Instead, it looked like crumbly bits of pie crust and I pressed it into a baking pan. It was so loose you couldn’t prick it with a fork before baking. So, I did the fork pricks at the end. It’s also important to cut the shortbread once it cools a bit, but not until it’s cold – very hard to cut at that point.

The second time I made it, the “dough” improved a little. Today, when I made it for the third time, I observed that instead of scraping into the flour bag for a cup of flour, that I loosened it up first, then I gently piled it into the cup. Turns out, compacting flour or letting it lie loose in a measuring cup makes a notable difference in the amount of flour you (think) you’re using. Hence, too much flour doesn’t combine with the butter/sugar mixture – it stays crumbly. I’ve also noticed this flour measurement phenomenom when making chocolate chip cookies (they cake up instead of flattening out with the brown sugar) and brownies too.

Sure enough this time, the mixture consolidated into a dough-like ball after processing. I pressed it into an 8 X 8 pan with my fingers and baked it at 340 (slightly lower to accommodate the dark finish of the pan) for about 45 minutes. When it turned golden brown on the top, I took it out, pricked it with a fork – and cut it into squares before it cooled completely.

It’s a tender, tasty shortbread to make and goes well with hot tea or coffee.

Hope you will enjoy them – and treat yourselves and family to these sweet, savory treats.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

really “crazy bark” for final exams. . . !

My granddaughter, A., is studying for her final exams of her senior year at JHU. As you might recall, these are the ones that really count since 2nd semester is usually taken up with job interviews, graduate school applications and other things that Seniors occupy themselves with.

In honor of this intense timeframe, I’m making up a “Care Package” to send tomorrow. This morning, I made a big batch of rice crispy marshmallow treats.

Then, I made some “really crazy bars” copied from Ree Drummond’s recipe online. Here’s what I used:

  1. Chocolate honey graham crackers (put sugar side down so it will show later after you’ve piled all the goodies on top.
  2. Hershey’s milk chocolate bars (3) – which I thought were white chocolate because the wrapper was white, aiming for almond bark but couldn’t find any of either in the store. Chocolate on top of chocolate didn’t sound too bad, though.
  3. Melted the chocolate in a double boiler set on low heat on the stove.
  4. Laid out the chocolate graham crackers on to two baking sheets, cutting some of them to fit the entire sheets.
  5. Spread the slightly cooled melted chocolate on top of the graham crackers, smoothing it out with a spatula so all the crackers are covered.
  6. Then the toppings were added: Peanut M & M’s; Reese’s pieces in M-M form; salted stick pretzels, broken up (you want a combo of sweet and salty which are crunchy and chewy!)  Salted macadamia nuts, cut up into smaller pieces; mixed nut topping; cut-up bite-size Kit Kats, two kinds of multi-color sprinkles that filled up all the chocolate spaces.
  7. Pressed the toppings gently into the chocolate; covered with clingwrap and put in the fridge for the whole thing to harden.
  8. Later, will break the “bark” into manageable pieces and pack up in aluminum pans and wrap up for mailing.

I don’t even want to know how much sugar there is in these crazy bark pieces – the only way I can rationalize it is that they represent ALL the sugar I’m NOT going to be eating for the next five weeks!  YAY!

This is crazy, isn’t it? College students are young so they’ll probably be able to take it. Hope so, anyhow! Happy Exams!!

 

 

 

cheese straws for final exam munching! . . .

My granddaughter is studying for her final exams and I thought I’d make up a quick recipe of cheese straws. It’s an easy recipe that calls for:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened and beaten with a mixer until creamy. Add 2 cups of shredded cheese (cheddar & Parmesan) and mix with butter; add 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne.  The mixture was a little crumbly so I added a dash of half-and-half just so I could roll it out. Using a pie crimp cutter, I cut the dough into strips and baked them for about 17 minutes in a 350 oven.

My husband came out from his study and asked what was cooking because it smelled so divine while baking. When I took them out and tried a few bits, I found that they needed a little more salt – so I sprinkled some sea salt flakes on top after they cooled.

Once they’re stone cold, I’ll pack them up in an aluminum loaf pan with a cover inside a box and send it on its way to dorm-land. They might last 15 minutes – okay, maybe 20?

They’re fragrant and tasty. Next time, I’ll add a little more cheese and salt. I’ll also be mindful of how I measure the flour – not packed, because I think that’s what accounted for the mixture being crumbly.

 

 

 

 

Roasted acorn squash and wild rice . . .

Last week, I saw a photo of a stuffed acorn squash recipe that looked promising. The only reservation I had as I selected a medium size squash was how to cut it crosswise into thick rings.

And it wasn’t easy either, I would caution you. First, I cooked a packet of Minnesota wild rice in a pan along with a handful of golden raisins. Alongside, I sauteed fresh mushroom pieces with some diced red onion. Once the rice was cooked, I thought it was a little too wet and sauteed it (like fried rice) with the mushroom onion mix until the moisture was absorbed.

Cutting the acorn squash lengthwise required a sharp weighty bread knife, alternating with a sharp-pointed slicing knife. Between the two of them, I managed to make 1-inch slices, cleaning out the seeds. On a baking sheet, I added a little spring water to the aluminum foil in the pan before placing the squash slices in a 400 degree oven. Forty-five minutes later, I melted some butter, added it to brown sugar and glazed the tops of the squash, letting it cook 15 minutes longer. By this step, the acorn squash was cooked through before adding rice to it.

When cooled, I poured off any residual water in the baking pan, and scooped a handful of the wild rice mushroom mixture into each opening. I brushed the edges of the squash with the brown sugar/butter glaze.

Before serving, I’ll pop the stuffed squash into a 375 degree oven for another 20-30 minutes. Along with the squash, I’m baking a batch of Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits (they’re handy to have in the fridge for meals like this.)

We just enjoyed this supper – a new dish for us, and it was really delicious! We’re fans of golden raisins and they were plumped up from being cooked with the wild rice. I ate the peel of the squash and G. ate the squash from the inside out – but we both agreed it was really tasty! A keeper!

 

New England apple pie! . . .

Today, I made an apple pie for us to enjoy while we watch the Patriots game against Tampa Bay tonight. It’s been ideal New England Fall weather the last couple of days although it’s quite a bit warmer today. Despite that, I picked up some Cortland apples at the store to make an old-fashioned apple pie. Recently, it’s occurred to me that I enjoy making (and eating) pies more than making cakes. I don’t really know why, but it’s a really different cooking process and eating experience too!

The biggest difference of course is the crust. I confess I used to buy frozen pie crusts and just use two of them over the cored apple mixture. But recently, I’ve been interested in making pie crust from scratch. The last time, I used too much ice water to the flour/fat mixture and the resulting crust was hard and not tender at all.  This time, here’s what I did for my second try at homemade pie crust:

  1. Measured 2 1/2 cups of King Arthur flour into the bowl of  my Cuisinart
  2. Took two very cold (hard) sticks of unsalted butter from the fridge.
  3. Unwrapped them, cut them lengthwise twice, and then into small bits.
  4. Put the bits of cold butter into the Cuisinart and pulsed a couple of times until the butter was incorporated in tiny bits in the dry flour.
  5. Added salt (1/2 teaspoon); Added scant 1/2 cup of ice water while pulsing the mixture until it was still crumbly but still able to be patted into a ball without any other handling when I turned the machine off.
  6. Wrapped up the ball of crust (for bottom and top crusts) and refrigerated for about 4 hours (honestly!)

To make the filling and finish making the pie:

  1. I peeled about 8 Cortland apples (I have a new peeler for thin skins like peaches, tomatoes and apples – it works great!)
  2. Sliced the usable apple pieces into a bowl, discarding bruised spots, cores and skin.
  3. In a separate large bowl, I mixed together 1/3 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, 2 heaping teaspoons of Indonesian cinnamon spice; 1 heaping teaspoon of nutmeg, salt. Mixed the dry ingredients together really well and poured the prepared apple pieces into it, mixing well with my hands.
  4. Then poured the coated apple mixture back into the pie crust and dotted the top with bits of butter.
  5. I rolled out the top crust and used a crimped scone cutter to make impressions into the crust for decoration and also to provide steam holes when the apples bake. Crimped the edge into a pretty design and sprinkled the top of the pie with a little sugar.
  6. I tore three lengths of aluminum foil and wrapped them around the crust so that it wouldn’t burn prematurely.
  7. Into a preheated 400 degree oven, I turned on the oven light and set the timer for an hour.

We like to reheat the pie right before eating so it’s still a bit warm. With some vanilla ice cream, it’s a dream dessert. Especially here in New England during apple season and when we’re looking forward to watching a football game tonight!

Go Pats!

Sunday meatballs for after the game! . . .

It is the most glorious Sunday, weather-wise at least – and I decided to make a batch of meatballs to stir into sauce for our supper tonight after the Patriots play this afternoon.

I discovered that baking meatballs on cookie sheets is a much simpler and easier way to make meatballs than browning them in a skillet and turning them over. Here’s a very simple and tasty recipe that I use, sometimes I use ground turkey and sometimes a meatloaf mixture of ground veal, pork and beef.

  1. Pour about 2/3rds cup of dry Pepperidge Farm stuffing crumbs into a bowl.
  2. Add milk to moisten – but not runny – about 1/2 cup.
  3. Grate a raw onion half into the crumbs; sprinkle generously with Lawry’s garlic salt and freshly ground pepper; add dried parsley flakes.
  4. Add an egg and mix the whole thing together until well blended.
  5. Add a pack of meatloaf mixture into the breadcrumb/onion mixture.
  6. Blend gently until the ground meat and crumb mixture are combined.
  7. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Using your hands, gently form meatballs that are not too big and not too small and place on the sheets so they are not touching each other.
  9. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. The meatballs will continue cooking after they’re taken out of the oven.
  10. Depending on the size of the meatballs, I’ll save 3-4 each serving for spaghetti tonight (Ragu sauce, thin spaghetti, hand grated parmesan cheese on top.)
  11. Then when the meatballs are cool, I’ll freeze them in packs of 6-8 where they will come in handy to serve either Swedish meatballs (beef broth and sour cream with parsley and noodles) or more Spaghetti and meatballs.

This is a foolproof, quick to put together recipe to make a lot of meatballs! They’re tender and full of flavor. Enjoy!