Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Open Letter to the Next Farmer In Chief: Michael Pollan in The New York Times

Please take the time to read this. There are many good points here, including one that I have been making for at least 15 years: Food Stamps should be regulated so you can't buy soda or junk food with them. But there's lots more meat to this guy's proposals for sustainable agriculture.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Substituting and adapting: Country ribs a new way

I have long made country ribs in the oven covered with a thick, rich, spicy sauce from a recipe in an old The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. YUM! But when I read a new recipe for Sweet 'n' Spicy Country Ribs in Taste of Home's Simple & Delicious Sept./Oct. 2008, I decided to try it. I had everything for the recipe except apple juice. I could've bought it but I already had apple cider so I decided to use that instead. It caused no problem as far as I could tell. The big change I made was in the preparation method. The recipe is for the grill. I have no desire to fire up the charcoal grill, especially on a day when my house could use the warming from the oven. I have a cast-iron grill pan but no desire to cook two ribs at a time for 45 minutes per batch. So instead I used the grill pan at an extremely high heat to sear each rib and get sexy grill marks, then I finished the meat off in the oven. Oven roasting is the method used in my preferred recipe, which follows.

I think I still prefer the saucy recipe for country ribs I've made for years. But this is a good treatment for meat that would wind up cold sliced on a sandwich.

Finding the right accompaniment for these ribs was troublesome. I like cole slaw but I'm the only one in the house. I like sauerkraut but again I'm in the minority. I settled on something I modified from an Everyday with Rachael Ray recipe. I would like to make that recipe the right way some day. But this time I substituted frozen hash brown potatoes for the fresh potato, reduced the number of eggs, omitted the bacon, used half and half instead of whole cream and replaced the caraway seed with anise seed, which I already had. I just wish I had remembered to grease the casserole dish, as I didn't use a pie crust. It was still tasty, but didn't hit the spot like I'd hoped. RaeRay's original recipe follows, too.

adapted from Simple & Delicious magazine
3/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cola
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Liquid Smoke, optional
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 to 4 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs

In a small bowl, combine the apple juice, oil, cola, brown sugar, honey, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Smoke and seasonings. Pour 1 1/2 cups marinade into a large resealable plastic bag; add the ribs. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 5 hours or overnight, turning once. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade for basting.

Coat grill pan with cooking oil. Get it really hot. Drain the ribs and discard the marinade. Sear every side of the ribs, working in batches. Put the meat in a baking pan and cover with foil. Roast at 350 for two hours or until fork tender.

The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook
6 pounds pork ribs
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons salad oil
1 tablespoon grated onion
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chili powder

Arrange ribs in a large open roasting pan in one layer. Roast at 325 for 1 1/2 hours or until fork tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze: In bowl, mix tomato paste with remaining ingredients.

During the last 30 minutes of roasting time, brush ribs frequently with glaze.

I usually serve this with cheesy scalloped potatoes.

Every Day With Rachael Ray October 2008
1 cup sauerkraut, squeezed dry
2 baking potatoes (about 1 pound) -- peeled, grated and squeezed dry
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
Salt and pepper
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 9-inch frozen pie shell

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, combine the sauerkraut, potatoes, bacon and caraway seeds, season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and cream. Stir into the potato mixture. Pour the potato mixture into the pie shell, transfer to a baking pan. Bake until the filling has set and is golden around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: I have heard, and had some success with this, that you can use a salad spinner to wring the water from thawed chopped spinach, sauerkraut and potatoes, etc. I didn't try it this time but I bet it would work all right.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

First Time: Italian Wedding Soup and
Product Review: New York Ciabatta Rolls

This soup was relatively quick to make, hearty without seeming heavy and passed muster with my sometimes-picky family. My husband liked that the spinach didn't seem slimy. I think I will chop the spinach next time before adding it to the pot. I also think I will add one more can of chicken broth. I liked that it packed in a lot of vegetables and low-fat meats -- that's turkey in the meatballs.

Taste of Home's Simple & Delicious magazine Sept./Oct. 2008
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup chopped onion, divided
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 cups sliced fresh carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups fresh baby spinach (coarsely chopped)
3 (plus 1) 14 1/2-ounce cans chicken broth
1 cup cubed cooked chicken breast
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspooon pepper
1 1/4 cups acini di pepe pasta

In a large bowl, combine the egg, 1/4 cup onion and bread crumbs. Crumble turkey over mixture and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls. In a large skillet, brown meatballs in oil until no longer pink; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute the carrots, celery and remaning onion in butter until crisp-tender. Add the spinach, broth, chicken, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and reserved meatballs. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Bring to a boil. Add pasta; cook, uncovered for 6-7 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Yield: 6 servings.

I poached boneless skinless chicken breasts for use in this recipe by covering the chicken with water up to an inch above it. Bring the water to a boil then reduce to a bare simmer and partly cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Then cover completely and remove from heat. Let stand 15 minutes more.

I served big steaming mugs of this with a new product I found in the freezer case: New York brand Ciabatta Rolls. They were soft and chewy with the right amount of garlic and cheese and a lightly crackly crust. It didn't cut my mouth when I chewed it and I appreciate that. Very good. I will buy them again until I see how much they cost in relation to regular Texas Toast and then I may deem them a luxury.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Winging it: Chicken salad sandwiches

I used to be a diehard recipe follower. Now I'm less afraid of messing up something. I'm not completely at ease just mixing random things without measuring. Ingredients are too expensive to throw away and I am too picky to eat my mistakes. But I have come to trust my palate more and will occasionally wing it.

I must really be taking risks in my sleep-deprived state of late because I mixed up some chicken salad for sandwich filling to serve at a church luncheon reception with only a vague notion of what I was going for and a quick glance at a couple of recipes. Tyler Florence helped only marginally. I didn't boil my chicken with onion, carrots and celery and save the stock but someday I will. A review of Baltimore's Atwater's restaurant sparked the notion of adding dried cherries as well as the golden raisins I planned. The resulting sandwich wasn't bad -- no complaints but no requests for the recipe (unlike my Rocky Road Brownies, which drew raves.)

Here's what I did -- as best as I can remember as I threw it together early this morning on just a couple of hours' sleep. I'll give you the brownie recipe for good measure.

1 4-pound whole chicken
olive oil
McCormick's French Herb Roasting Rub
1 small jar Hellman's Mayonnaise mixed with a heaping tablespoon of powdered mustard
a cup or so toasted walnuts, chopped
a half-cup or less dried cherries, coarsely chopped
a half-cup or so golden raisins
a couple of stalks of celery, cleaned and finely chopped
3-4 green onions, finely chopped

Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with the seasoning mix. Roast. Cool. Skin, debone and cube the chicken meat.

Mix with the other ingredients and spread on white or wheat sandwich bread. Cut in halves and arrange artfully on a platter.

1 box Duncan Hines Brownie Mix
mini marshmallows
chopped walnuts
1/2 cup or so chocolate chips
a couple of tablespoons of milk

Prepare the brownie mix according to package directions for fudgy brownies. Within the last 5 minutes of bake time, scatter some mini marshmallows on top of the batter. Don't make it a solid layer, but get it even. Return the pan to the oven to finish baking the brownies and melt and toast the marshmallows. Remove from oven and sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top. In a saucepan or the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the milk and stir until smooth. Dribble on top of the brownies. Cool, cut and serve by, uh, arranging artfully on a platter. ;)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pepperoni rolls

A couple just moved from Sedona, Arizona, to Terra Alta to join my church's ministry team. One of my contributions to the luncheon reception to welcome them is pepperoni rolls, a West Virginia invention. Someone in Marion County got the notion to bake pepperoni in bread dough for Italian American coal miners to carry in their lunchboxes.

Here's how I make mine:

Two loaves Rhodes frozen bread dough, thawed
3/4 pound thin sliced deli sandwich pepperoni
1/4 pound thin sliced salami
Mozzarella or provolone cheese (optional, I didn't use it this time) sliced is more manageable than shredded

Cut the bread dough loaves each into 12 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll out the dough till it's about the size of a deck of cards. Stack together about 3 slices pepperoni and one slice salami (and a slice of cheese if you're using). Roll up. Roughly chop it with your knife on your workspace (this releases oils from the meat to make a good orange "grease spot" on the bottom of the roll.) Put it in the center of the dough. Fold in the short ends and then roll up the long ends. Place it in a greased 13-by-9-inch pan to double in size -- about 12 rolls per pan. Bake according to the dough package directions. Rub with butter when they come out of the oven. Makes two dozen.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cool nights, warm wings

We had an out-of-the-ordinary main dish tonight. I made chicken wings in the crockpot because it was an overscheduled day. So much so that they might've been left in a little too long -- they were falling off the bone. Not a quality I want in a meaty, saucy rib I grip and gnosh. While I might remember this for football games and the Christmas Eve party, I might more likely try the recipe again with ribs and serve the sauce over rice. I think it would go just fine. Some of you might like to try it with chicken thighs.

From Taste of Home's Simple & Delicious March/April 2008
3 pounds chicken wingettes (about 30)
dash pepper
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic (not the jarred kind, folks -- icky)
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke, optional
Sesame seeds, optional

Sprinkle chicken wings with salt and pepper. Broil 4-6 inches from the heat for 5-10 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer to a greased 5-quart slow cooker.

Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, Liquid Smoke if desired and a little more salt if you wish. Pour over wings. Toss to coat. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours 15 minutes to 3 hours 45 minutes or until chicken juices run clear. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Comfort in a cup

My house smells like scorched dust, leftover spaghetti and hot cocoa. Mmmm.
It is 39 degrees and drizzly here on the mountain. My husband turned on the furnace tonight when he got home -- unbidden. I was prepared to bundle up and take it a few more weeks. Also without much prompting he made hot cocoa from scratch while our daughter took her bath. "Smells like brownies," she said. After she was tucked in, I set to putting away our summer clothes and hanging up our winter wear. I couldn't think of a nicer way to welcome my favorite season on the first truly cold night.

Here's the recipe:

Top of stove six servings
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
Dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in saucepan; stir in water.
Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir 2 minutes.
Stir in milk and heat. Do not boil.
Remove from heat; add vanilla.
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