A Little Southern Comfort

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Happy almost Turkey Day!

I can't believe my favorite holiday is nearly here.  Just one more day, my friends.  It's one of the few holidays that are entirely about food, family, and fellowship- three lovely things indeed.  It is also one of the only holidays that commercialism hasn't overtaken...yet. 

Let's hope it never gets to that point.  Good grief.

Okay- this one'll be short because this girl has much to do before the big day but I just couldn't pass up sharing this one.  I decided to embark on another endeavor with the lonely berry.  This little crimson beauty is so versatile- and adds pizzazz to everything it encounters.  I just love it.  LOVE it, I tell you. 

As if you couldn't tell.

So...the other day I came across THIS recipe and fell in love.  I still had a bag of cranberries in my fridge and thought, well why not?  And then I read down the recipe list and noticed that this little fine ingredient was included:




Uh-huh.  I was sold. 

Thus I went about making these lovely little things:


 


Delish I tell you.  And incredibly easy.

Just crush some graham crackers, mix 'em with sugar and melted butter and press into a greased 12 cup muffin pan.


Then mix up some fresh cranberries, toasted pecans, light corn syrup, flour, Southern Comfort (mmmhmm), and cinnamon.


Fill up those graham cracker crusts


Bake 'em off at 350 for 25 minutes or so.  Cool them before removing from pan.

*I did tweak the recipe at this point.  After they're cooled, I mixed 1/2 cup of light corn syrup with 1/4 tsp maple flavoring, nuked 'em together for 20 seconds (just long enough to make the corn syrup loose) and brushed the glaze overtop each mini pie.  This helps take the edge off the tartness a bit more and adds a further depth of flavor with the hint of maple.


They slide right out, easy.  A slide just as easy down the hatchet.


How adorable (and decadent) do these look?


Mmm, delightful.

Go enjoy your holiday, will you?
And gear up for the abundance of holiday posts to come...

Happy eating!

The Lonely Berry

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I did a little dance yesterday when I stepped into the produce section of my local grocery store. 

Not literally, but you know, in my heart.

My favorite berry, THE best of it's kind in my opinion, was perched smack between the oranges and grapefruits (don't ask me why- it isn't of the citrus variety, but possibly because it pairs so well with 'em).

The Cranberry.

Oh yes, the lonely berry.  The one that only comes out once a year in canned form (while maintaining it's canned form, mind you, after you suction it out of it's sorry said-can and plop it on a plate or into a bowl).  The obligatory canned glop that sits on the table for few to partake in- because, let's be honest, not many people actually partake.

I mean, who would want to?  The stuff looks like bright crimson gelatinous goo that's been sitting far too long in it's canned state for anyone to really enjoy, let alone crave.  Plus, it's so jacked up with sugar that you can hardly discern the real cranberry tang of it's original form.

No- I don't blame those averse to the canned variety.  However the real stuff?  THAT is what I love.  Whole berry cranberry sauce.  Made yourself, at home, with a bit of orange juice, zest, and ginger.  Oh yes.  This is what I long for.

And it's so. darn. easy to make.  Really.   I mean, yes, it's much easier to open a can and suck out goo with a spoon- but really, trust me on this- the made-yourself kind is better.

Much better.

Many people, not just myself, actually love these little guys.  So much that the great state of Wisconsin has devoted an entire festival to them.  And I actually know a faithful family that has attended for years (yes, Hoards, I'm referring to you!).  In addition, the cranberry has it's own institute- fully devoted to seeking research on the many health benefits of this little fruit. 

Speaking of health benefits, the little guy is stocked with good-for-you perks.  Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs) that can prevent certain bacteria, including E. coli, from sticking urinary tract wall and thus preventing infection. The cranberry may also inhibit bacteria associated with gum disease AND stomach ulcers.  In addition, cranberries contain large amounts of antioxidants and other nutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.  Joe Vinson, a doctor and research chemist at the University of Scranton, states,


Cranberries [contain] the most antioxidant phenols compared to 19 other commonly eaten fruits.  Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants and should be eaten more often. 

(Source: http://www.cranberryinstitute.org/healthresearch.htm)


Well thanks, Joe- I'll take your word for it!

So let's, shall we?

My favorite cranberry concoction is a simple whole berry sauce.  You can spoon this stuff onto your turkey, sure, but you can also put it atop ice cream, slathered on your morning muffin or toast (my fav way to eat it), or mixed in Greek yogurt.  Your choice!  The possibilities are endless.

Gingery Orange Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
- 1/2 C water
- 1/2 C freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 C sugar
- 4 C fresh cranberries or one 12oz package fresh or frozen
- Zest of one orange
- 1 tsp ground ginger or freshly grated

Instructions:
- Bring water, orange juice, and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add cranberries and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Crush some with a potato masher, if desired (I like some crushed, some whole).  Mix in zest and ginger, stir to combine.  Pour sauce into a bowl, cover, and cool completely to room temperature.  Refrigerate once cooled (or freeze/can in individual containers).  Makes 2 1/4 cups.

How lovely are these colors?

 

Gorgeous, I tell you.

 

Once the liquid is boiling, add those crimson beauties.


Boil together at a reduced heat for 10 min.

Slowly reducing...


Mix in your zest and ginger

Stir it all together and let cool completely.



Then portion it into your choice jars/containers

And enjoy for months to come :)

What's your favorite way to eat cranberries?
I urge you to try 'em on more than just the seasonal bird.
They deserve far more recognition than the once-a-year obligatory placement on the dinner table.

Trust me.

Stewing at Home

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Whew.  It's hot in here.  Literally- I think my oven and range have been on since mid-October creating all sorts of autumny concoctions.

Remember my recent post

Baking has increased a hundredfold around these parts and isn't appearing to ease up.  All by choice, of course.  I have an affinity for baked goods and their subsequent aromas.  While I adore cooking, it isn't my forte- nor do I like it as well as baking.  Sugary, buttery, chocolatey, yeasty, carby...those are my specialties.

Cooking, though, is a must.  As a wife and mother it's really inevitable.  Thus I've made it my goal to attempt most things and try my hand at an array of intimidating tasks.  One I haven't tried?  Roasting a bird.  It terrifies me.  However this weekend I purchased a 13lb turkey and plan to go about teaching myself how to roast that sucker sometime in the next few weeks.
I'll keep you posted on how THAT goes.  {Shaking in my boots}.

I also want to become better at grilling.  I'm not bad at it- it's simply not one of my favorite things to do, nor do I feel I have the ample knowledge required to know when a piece of meat is cooked to a specified "doneness".  Someday.  Maybe next summer.

However baking I can do.  And HAVE been doing.

These have been perpetually been on my counter lately:



Yes.  Butter and eggs.  We've gone through way too many batches of 'em.  I should really just buy a cow and some chickens. 

It's in the 10 year plan. 

That, and a greenhouse.  And a garden.  And more counterspace.  And a convection oven with an induction range and a porcelain farmhouse sink, and distressed wood floors, and all stainless steel/cast iron cookware, and a walk-in pantry, and a butcher block as a kitchen island, and a gig as Ina's sous chef... well, a girl can dream, right?  :)

Moving on.

Anyway- this has also been the state of my counters lately:


Putting that butter n' eggs to good use I made some chocolate chip cookies for my cousin and his girlfriend who were so sweet to come babysit for us the other night.  Date nights have become rare around these parts.  We treat them like gold (date nights and sitters!).

Also baked up four dozen rolls for meal swap this month.
Rolls, along with Bacon Lentil Stew.
Mmm, stew.  Hold that thought!

In addition, we were invited by a sweet college friend of mine to dine at their house Saturday evening.  So, of course not being able to come empty-handed, a French silk pie was a must.  I made two.  Because if one is good, two is better, right?
We ended up taking the second to our bi-monthly small group gathering Sunday evening.


Then, my friends, today I made something I've been craving for weeks.

It's a must during the winter months.  A MUST, I tell you.  I mean, what's chilly weather without some hearty beef stew?  Really, I don't think there is such a thing.  The two go hand-in-hand.  In fact, at least three of my blogger friends have posted on beef stew this week so I'm pretty certain it isn't just me.  We foodies (and non-foodies alike) just know it's about that time. 

It's been. that. time. in my stomach for weeks and I simply haven't gotten around to making it but then I saw a recipe in Gina and Pat Neely's cookbook and knew I had to partake.  Then I read THIS book, a very broody English generational tale with ample amounts of romanticism, mystery, and intrigue.  At one point in the story the main character is entertained by a British countryman and his daughter.  While discussing the mystery of an ill-fated family they partake in beef stew for supper.  I had visions of sitting in an ivy-laden little cottage on the moors, sipping tea and eating stew while the rain pattered outside.  That was it.  Done and done.  I had to make it.

Thus, this weekend we picked up our 100 lbs of beef from a locker a few hours away (did I mention we bought a portion of cow this year- yes, THAT'S a story in itself).  The minute that beef entered my house I knew it was meant to become my coveted stew.

So enough preamble already.

Hearty Beef Stew

Ingredients:

- 3lbs trimmed boneless beef chuck, cubed
- salt & pepper
- 6 T butter
- 3 T all-purpose flour
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1/4 C tomato paste
- 3 C dry red wine
- Two 14oz cans beef broth (or 3 C homemade)
- 1 T brown sugar
- 1.5lbs baby red-skinned potatoes, quartered
- One 10oz package baby carrots
- 1lb fresh cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (optional- Mr. K isn't a fan)
- Two cans dark red kidney beans (optional- I like the added fiber)
- 3 T whole-grain mustard
- 3 T chopped fresh parsley

Instructions:

1. Place the meat in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.  Melt 4 T of the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, toss the meat with the flour; add to the pot, and brown on all sides.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate.

2. Melt the remaining 2 T butter in the same pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until tender, about 6 minutes.  Mix in the tomato paste and then the red wine.  Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.  Add the broth and sugar, then the browned beef.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, 1.5 hours, until the beef is very tender.

3. Add the potatoes and carrots, and simmer, uncovered, until the veggies are tender, about 25 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, beans, mustard, and parsley; simmer until the mushrooms are tender, another 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (though if you are using regular sodium beef broth, you may not need to add salt- commercial broths are generally very salty).

Sorry, no step-by-step pics a la Pioneer Woman.
I've decided those take way too much time.  No idea how she does it!
I chose to double the recipe and thus needed a hefty stock pot (seen below).
Half of the stew went to a couple of dear friends who just had a sweet baby girl.  Hope they enjoyed it!



Like Rachael Ray always says, "I wish they'd just invent smell-o-vision!"
The aroma of this stuff is to. die. for.  I'm convinced it's the red wine.
Plus, you can pour yourself a glass while it cooks.
Bonus!



Pour a heaping bowl of stew over some multigrain egg noodles (or eat it plain), 
with some homemade bread,
and you have yourself a fabulously filling fall meal.


Yes, this is exactly what I needed this week.



Now I'll go continue on in my broody English novel,
all the while envisioning myself on the moors.
Cheers and happy stewing...