Friday, November 26, 2010

Molds make butter better on holiday table



One way to put a special touch on a holiday table is to mold the butter. I used my collectible Pampered Chef stoneware cookie molds that were just taking up room in my cupboard to make molded butter for Thanksgiving dinner. We set six tables at the community feast and each table got it's own heart-shaped butter.

The technique is simple.
1. Place your stoneware mold in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
2. At the same time, set out a stick of butter to soften for 20-30 minutes.
3. Remove the mold from the freezer and unwrap the butter.
4. Using the heel of your hand or the back of a metal spoon, smoosh the butter into the mold evenly.
5. Refrigerate the mold with the butter until the butter is firm.
6. Run a knife's thin blade around the outside of the butter, then use the tip of the knife to carefully pry up the butter in corner. Turn it out onto a plate.

I wrapped my butter hearts individually to protect them from odors. I packed them in a plastic lidded container to store and transport them. Make sure you put them on the butter plates while they are still cold and firm.

If you think you don't have the time or the equipment to pull that off, you can still make the butter special by flavoring it. This recipe tastes like the sweet, spiced butter served at steakhouses. In addition to hot rolls, it's also good on baked sweet potatoes.

CHRISTMAS SPICE BUTTER

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon sugar

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and well-combined. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. Makes 1 cup.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My part of the feast

This year we are sharing Thanksgiving dinner with at least two others families at our church, as I mentioned in an earlier post. I'm roasting two donated turkeys and bringing the dressing, four blueberry pies and many gallons of iced tea, plus a special touch I'll dedicate the next post to. Another church member gave me the blueberries that he had picked and frozen this summer. Here are the recipes and photos.


Traditional Bread Stuffing With Herbs (forefront of photo) on last year's Thanksgiving buffet

TRADITIONAL BREAD STUFFING WITH HERBS

1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick)
5 large celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 14 1/2-ounce can chicken broth
2 16-ounce loaves sliced firm white bread, lightly toasted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped


Preheat oven to 325. In 12-inch skillet, melt margarine or butter over medium heat. Add celery and onion, and cook 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in thyme, salt, pepper, sage, chicken broth and 1/2 cup water; remove skillet from heat.

Place bread cubes in very large bowl. Add celery mixture and parsley; toss to mix well.

Spoon stuffing into 13-inch-by-9-inch glass baking dish; cover with foil and bake 40 minutes or until heated through. Makes about 12 cups.

Originally published in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1999.




I made many Blueberry Dream Pies this summer. One time I even replaced the sugar with a sweetener to make a version for diabetics and people thought it was just as good. One of my pies won a blue ribbon for best presentation at the school fall festival. I changed the method for the garnish to get it to brown so read the recipe through.

BLUEBERRY DREAM PIE

Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)

CHEESE FILLING:
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg yolk

BLUEBERRY FILLING:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint
1 egg white, beaten


Line a 9-in. deep-dish pie plate with bottom crust. Trim pastry to 1/2 in. beyond edge of plate; flute edges. Line unpricked pastry shell with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Bake at 450° for 8 minutes. Remove foil; bake 5 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack. Reduce heat to 375°.

Cut decorative cutouts in remaining pastry. Place on a cookie sheet, brush with egg white, sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake at 375° for 9 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and lemon juice until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk until blended. Spread into crust.

In a large saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar, flour and cornstarch; stir in water until smooth. Stir in 2 cups berries. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Cool slightly. Gently stir in the lemon juice, mint and remaining berries. Pour over cheese filling.

Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Place pre-baked leaves on top of pie at this time. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition Facts: 1 piece equals 442 calories, 18 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 46 mg cholesterol, 269 mg sodium, 67 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Blueberry Dream Pie published in Taste of Home August/September 2010, p64

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Friendsgiving

by guest blogger Tracy Strother

The fridge is mostly empty right now, in anticipation of the turkey and the ham and the other festive foodstuffs that will soon be taking up residence inside it. I'm still trying to figure out where all the sides will go to warm up! Last year I tried to fit casserole dishes full of sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, green beans, and two different kinds of stuffing all together in my little oven with a turkey that was STILL COOKING well after it was supposed to be finished. This year, the turkey and the ham will be done early! I hope.

I'm making my Dad's Jack Daniels Ham recipe, because he was always in the kitchen when I was a kid, cooking all kinds of special things for us while the Macy's Parade flickered on the TV in the background. Now that he's laid up and can't cook, I plan to make enough so I can take him some leftovers.

Dad's Jack Daniels Ham

Ingredients :
  • one ham, whatever kind you like - canned, bone in, water added, spiral sliced, it doesn't matter. Bonus points if you won it by climbing up a greased pole. It should come with cooking directions, how hot the oven should be, how long it needs to bake, etc. If it doesn't, look up how to bake a ham in a cookbook or on the internet, that's what I do.
  • one bottle of Jack Daniels
  • one bottle of Apricot Brandy
  • one jar of Apricot Preserves

  1. Pour about half a cup of JD into a glass. Pour about one quarter cup of the JD into a bowl with about one quarter cup of Apricot Brandy and the whole jar of Apricot Preserves, and stir it well.
  2. Take a sip of the whiskey in the glass.
  3. Score your ham in a pretty diamond pattern.
  4. Take another sip of whiskey.
  5. Brush the ham with the Apricot Glaze.
  6. Take another sip of whiskey.
  7. Bake your ham according to the package directions, brushing occasionally with Apricot Glaze, taking sips of whiskey whenever you do.
  8. By the time the ham's heated through, you will be too!

Katie, one of by best girls, is bringing two different kinds of stuffing, again, and at least two other dishes besides. She was one of the organizers of our first Friendsgiving, last year. When my Grandmother passed away early last November, my Mom pretty much canceled Thanksgiving. The traveling over the river and through the woods, the cooking and eating and drinking, all of that happened two weeks before Turkey Day, and nobody really wanted to sit around that dining table again so soon without Grandma. It would have been a huge bummer. Instead of mourning the loss of one holiday tradition though, my girlfriends helped me decide to throw a Friendsgiving, the dinner for everyone who couldn't (or didn't really want to) go out of town for the holiday.

The first Friendsgiving was a fantastic experiment! We basically said to everyone we liked, "Hey, if you're not going out of town for the holiday, please join us!" Everyone brought something. Katie made no less than 4 side dishes, including the delicious beet and arugula salad that I am so happy she's bringing again this year. Lindsay brought hot cider, in a crock pot, which was incredibly difficult to transport and sloshed around comically on the way to my house - it also had a LOT of whiskey in it, which helped me get through the nerves of having what felt like a million people (it hovered at about 20 most of the night, but it felt like more) in my tiny house. Jesse and Eric came over at the end of the feast, bearing a lovely bottle of wine, which I couldn't open because I couldn't find a corkscrew. Well, I have one this year, I am ready!

There was so much food I am sure I could not list who brought what, but I do know that we all ate heartily and there was plenty left over. One thing I did last year was lay in a store of plastic containers so we could send some leftovers home with guests. Those containers helped a lot when we cleared the table, the food all got packed away and the dishes washed and dried (thank you Lisa!) and I had some peace to enjoy another cup of hot cider on the porch with my friends. While I am not a huge advocate of using plastics indiscriminately, I feel like those containers are my one ecologically unfriendly indulgence.

We like to eat on real plates (Fiestaware, just like at Grandma's house), with real silverware (although it is mix and match!) and use a real tablecloth with cloth napkins (which I found at the Goodwill in a lucky moment last week). We don't really decorate; there is no room on our table for a centerpiece after all the majestic food is laid out. Guests to my house know what to expect, we don't have a lot of pomp and ceremony here. I've been saving pickle jars from the recycling bin for a few weeks so there will be enough glasses for everyone!

This group of people who will show up at Edgehill House on November 25 bearing food and spirits, they may not be any blood relation to us, but they are in many ways our family. Friendsgiving is a celebration of that, the family we have built here in Morgantown. Keith, Delia and I have so much to be thankful for this holiday season, and the people joining us for Turkey and Two Kinds of Stuffing are right at the top of the list.



Tracy Strother lives and blogs at Edgehill House. When she isn't making bread in exchange for health insurance coverage at the New Day Bakery, you can find her by listening for a rhythmic clicking noise - it's either knitting needles or Mac keys. She is somebody's mother.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New ways to celebrate Thanksgiving

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. -- Psalm 126:3

This year, we are doing Thanksgiving a whole new way. At least it's new to us. We've been talking about doing something like this for a couple of years.

Our first Thanksgivings we prepared our share of the big meal and schlepped it 20 miles across the county to my mother's house, where my home-bound uncle also resided. When he died in 2009, we decided she could come to us. Besides, no one really wanted to spend Thanksgiving there without him.

On Thursday, we will hold another first: We'll join with two other families and host a free community dinner at our church. We have wanted for a couple of years to serve food at a soup kitchen. This will not be a soup kitchen, nor will it feel like a handout. Organizers have worked hard to make the church multipurpose sanctuary/fellowship hall feel like a home. The tables have centerpieces. Crayons are on the tables for children to color the place mats. Servers will carry plates of food to the guests -- they won't line up to get them filled. We'll show "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and "Facing the Giants" on a big screen. We have board games for after the feast. We won't talk about "need". All you "need" to attend is a desire to spend Thanksgiving with us.

Dinner will be served beginning at 1 p.m. Thanksgiving Day 2010 at Life Gate Church, a ministry of the Wesleyan Church in Terra Alta. (It's beside the Shop 'n Save.) Please join us if you desire.

Please check back Nov. 23 to read about another extraordinary Thanksgiving celebration. Guest blogger Tracy Strother will tell us about Friendsgiving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

By request: Buffalo Chicken Dip

This appetizer is one of my most requested recipes:

BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup blue cheese or ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup hot sauce
1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 chicken breast halves, cooked, shredded

Heat oven to 350°F. Mix cream cheese, dressing, hot sauce and cheddar cheese in a saucepan. Heat and stir to combine. Stir in the chicken.
Pour into a baking dish. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbly.
Serve with tortilla chips, slices of toasted baguette or crackers.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Family cooking contest reinvents hot dogs

I'm fortunate to be virtual friends with today's guest blogger, Kara Glenn, because we share a love of food. I ogled her photos of Thanksgiving dinner one year and sent her a Facebook friend request for that reason (though I had met her in person when we worked for the same company years ago.) And I'm excited to share with you the cooking contests her family holds.

Without further delay, meet Kara.



Kara Glenn lives in Morgantown with her husband Trevor and Golden Retriever Kelsey. She currently works for the Department of Energy doing design work, and enjoys cooking, reading (mostly Harry Potter), blogging, gaming with her husband and spending time with her family.

Here's her story of a recent family get-together over Columbus Day.

One of my family's favorite activities is eating. OK, actually it's our favorite. My mom went to culinary school in New Orleans, and good food has always been the centerpiece of our gatherings. With the growing popularity of the Food Network and competition-based cooking shows, we thought it would be fun to implement a friendly competition amongst ourselves.

Our first competition was a slider cook-off for the Fourth of July in which yours truly took home first-place honors. For Columbus Day weekend, we tapped a similar vein and chose a hot dog cook-off.

The competition takes place at my parents’ cabin in Canaan Valley, which provides amazing scenery for the festivities. We have few rules, if any. You are able to find the recipe for your entry wherever you choose, or make it up yourself. You can be quite creative in regards to how you view the competition food. We would never turn away a more modern interpretation of a hot dog, or whatever the food may be. Help is allowed, if needed. Often times we help each other when it gets to crunch time.
Judging is done by the whole family, including those competing (my mom, sister and I). Everyone gets a ballot and writes the name of their favorite entry. The entry with the most votes wins! Voting for yourself is allowed, but be prepared to be ridiculed for it.

The entrants were:



The Welsh Dog - Beef hot dog on a potato bun, smothered in beer cheese sauce (made with Irish Cheddar and Pumpkin Beer) and topped with caramelized onions.



The Monte Cristo Dog - Egg-battered fried bun topped with thinly sliced pork hot dog, hot turkey and melted Swiss and smothered in homemade Russian dressing.



The Poblano Dog - A roasted Poblano pepper stuffed with a beef hot dog, then battered and fried and topped with a red pepper jelly jalapeno sauce.

They were all amazing! I made the Welsh Dog, and as much as everyone loved it, I did not receive any votes. My vote went to the Monte Cristo Dog, which was amazingly delicious! This was my sister's creation, and she came up with the idea on her own (she's a chef and incredibly creative!). I've actually made these for dinner one night last week because I loved it so much!

As good as the creations my sister and I came up with were, my mom's Poblano Dog took home first place! It was sweet and spicy, and tasted very much like a Chinese chicken dish. It was slightly too spicy for my liking, which is why it did not receive my vote.



Overall the competition was as success, and the judges (aka my brother, father, husband and my sister's girlfriend) really enjoy our cook-offs (I wonder why...). It's a great family activity, and we talk about it often. For my birthday in August, my husband presented me with a giant trophy with lots of blank plaques for our winners. This has turned in to a wonderful family tradition, and a great way for my sister, mom and I to spend some quality time together doing what we do best—cooking.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Eat your heart out?

The cover of the Betty Crocker Christmas cookies supermarket aisle cookbook is disturbing.



Why is he winking? And am I the only one who reads it as "bite me" instead of "bake me" on first glance?
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