Tag Archives: sugar

Turkey Day Trials 2014; Floating

25 Nov

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Sometimes, just silly things happen in the kitchen. Like when I went to strain a sauce and acting on habit, strained it down the drain. Or when (and this is from my mom’s perspective) I do a little kitchen jig when the food I make is good. Or spicy. Well, the other day, as a part of my Turkey Day Trials, another mishap came about that still has me giggling.

When Rob and I lived in Oregon, for a treat we would go for a cocktail and appetizers at the lounge at Bandon Dunes. We would dress up Pacific-Northwest-Golf-Club-fancy (yes that is a real fashion category) and watch as the cold-to-the-bone expert golfers would finish up the 18th. It was a little bit boushie and out of our Coos Bay ordinary, and we always struck up conversations with the most interesting (and sometimes famous) people. It got to a point that “our” bartender would put in the usual orders when he saw us walk in the door, and a few minutes later our Blue Cheese Chips were fragrantly awaiting our devour.

The bowl of freshly-fried potato chips always went down quickly and shook off the lingering chill from the constantly-present coastal winds. But what always added to our Bandon experience was driving by the cranberry bogs on the way to the golf resort. I’d always strain my neck to see what stage of growth the cranberries were in, and harvest was always the best time. Stretching fields of red bogs, like giant ruby blankets against the green pines, the floating berries were sucked up into a tube and then shot out like miniature cannon balls into a truck, ready for processing and distribution.

This water-powered firing of small, red fruit usually marked the autumnal season, signaling Thanksgiving was right around the corner. So this year, I paid homage to the cranberry by making an irresistible cranberry relish – one that puts even the coveted, jellied amazingness to shame.

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By simply taking 1 quart of fresh cranberries, ½ c sugar, a bottle of strong ginger beer (I like Reeds), a 4-in stick of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and (here’s the kicker), a tea infuser of chamomile flowers, you will end up with a reduced, naturally pectin-infused bowl of beautiful, fragrant, and more-than-tasty cranberry relish. The trick is waiting until the boiling bubbles are shiny and slow-to-pop in the pot, almost like preparing a jam. After the relish is cooled, it will be thick yet spreadable, sweet yet tangy. Simple perfection at the Thanksgiving dinner table, or just the everyday autumn and winter breakfast spread.

So what was so silly about making this relish? The fact that in my first batch (a major mishap), I added a bit of liquid, then a bit more, then a bit more, each time expecting the berries to be covered and give me a culinary visual of the accurate liquid amount. And after all those days watching the bogs, I completely forgot that… cranberries float!!! No matter the liquid amount, the cranberries will never sink in the pot like they do with other jam fruit. So stick with the recipe – it works, thanks to my silly mistake.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy with food, love, laughter, and memories!

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Turkey Day Trials 2012

26 Nov

Some of you may remember the epic meltdown I experienced in the grocery store last year, catalyzed by my lack of prepping and preparedness for the most joyous, calorie-filled day of the year.  It was a mess.  I was a wreck.  Yet, the day turned out as beautifully as ever.  Nonetheless, in wanting to avoid the same feelings that made me retreat into a 5-yr old blubbering pile of mush, I made time to do Turkey Day Trials again this year.

As I had been looking through the many holiday cooking magazines and catalogs (like I tend to do during this time of year… ok, always), I’ve noticed a shift in style and food.  The glossy seductive pages show a comfortable shift from elegant sophistication to rustically casual.  This also happens to be the way I’ve been cooking and entertaining for years.  So as the gourds get funkier shaped, and the stuffing becomes more chunky, in preparing for Thanksgiving, I was basking in the abundant farm-fresh feast of a holiday that was upon us.

For my Turkey Day Trials this year, I made a vegetable pie, smashed Yukon Golds with cabbage and bacon, and a cardamom spiced turkey breast. The veg pie was a wonderful mixture of root veggies and crusty, custardy bread.  The potatoes, laced with rosemary and maple, and dotted with pine nuts, were addictive.  But as most toasting-turkey stories go, halfway through the cooking process, I fretted the worst.  “It’s going to be too dry,” “It’s been cooking too long,” and “Crap, I think it’s over-done,” were constant stress-inducing mantras interlaced with choice four-letter words.

When my friend and I took the dinner to Rob and her boyfriend on duty, I prepared them for the worst – a Christmas Vacation soot of a turkey.  I have the Carving duties to Rob.  Looking at my foul catastrophe would sink my heart.

“Jill?”

“Yeah?”

“Uh, you might want to look at this.”

“I know, I know, it’s bad,” My annoyance was evident.

“No, it’s –“ Rob trailed off.

My eyes popped as I looked down and as pink as a baboon’s butt, my turkey was raw.  Are you kidding me?!  All my over-cooked worry for a raw turkey?  Well, at least it was fixable.  The fatty, turkey skin had a silver lining.

With the hearty veggie pie and sweet and savory potatoes starting to loose their glamour, we did the unthinkable: we nuked the turkey.  Personally, I only use the microwave for late-night, stuff-the-face quick cheesy nachos, and would never dare think to put a beautiful, protein-rich bird in a radioactive hotbox.  But desperate times, a military ward room, and hungry boy stomachs called for desperate measures.

Five magical minutes later, the bird was perfectly cooked.  My cardamom and rosemary rub had infused and flavored the meat with a warming holiday taste, perfect with the simple and very rustic sides.  Considering all the main ingredients were locally produced, our casual pre-Turkey Day dinner was guiltless.

Needless to say, come last Thursday, I did not microwave our 16.8 pound turkey.  But the cardamom rosemary rub definitely made its Thanksgiving Day debut, and I felt completely prepared for a humble, local, rustically casual Thanksgiving Day celebration.  There were no grocery store meltdowns, and all the dishes came out perfectly.  Other standard traditions remained – The Macy’s Day Parade, The Dog Show, lots of libations, second and third helpings, and leftover turkey sandwiches.  Not to mention, lots of thanks for all of it.  Even for the microwave.

Happy Holidays!

(sorry for the lack of pictures – having technical difficulties with camera/computer connections)  :/

Cardamom Rosemary Rub
(can make as much as you wish) 

  • equal parts sugar and salt 
  • 1/4 of the salt/sugar ratio of equal parts ground cardamom and dried rosemary 
  • cracked black pepper, to taste 

Using a mortar and pestle, grind together the sugar, salt, dried rosemary, and cardamom until well combined and rosemary has been broken down considerably.  Add as much cracked pepper to taste (I like quite a bit; I feel it brings out the spice in the cardamom).  

This will be a very fragrant rub, that also goes well with lemon zest.  Rub on poultry, sprinkle on fatty fish (like salmon), or use as a flavoring for bread pudding.  

Enjoy! 

Fall Breakfast

3 Oct

Since Rob and I got married, it has been go, go go.  His job, my job, keeping house, both of us being under the weather from stress and little kid germs… we have been busy.  That’s not to say that we haven’t been having our share of fun.  We have been having our own date nights, and happy hours, and the occasional wine tasting at the Empire Cafe down the street.  The last two weekends, Rob has been on duty one day, and we took a day trip to Eugene the other, but this weekend we devoted it to ourselves – food, fun, and relaxation.

This morning, I SLEPT IN.  It was fantastic.  Rob actually came in to the bedroom around 9:45 to make sure I was ok.  He kindly awoke me from a blissful, diagonally-whole-bed-hogging sleep, and I noticed the cool fall Oregon foggy air, and thought about the football games that were probably already making an appearance on the TV downstairs.  And, opposite of my usual granola with fruit and hard-boiled egg breakfast, the first thing that came to my mind for breakfast was Rob’s personal favorite: pancakes (he tried his hardest to hide his enthusiasm).

For those of you who also share a dry and sarcastic humor, you may be familiar with the late Mitch Hedberg and his take on everyday ideas.  He does a one-liner on pancakes and how we crave them, but then you have one bite and you are sick of them.  Like many jokes, it’s funny because it’s more than likely true.  I couldn’t eat a plate of pancakes if you paid me!!  Well, that’s not true…. how much??

But the pancakes we flipped this morning, I ate 3 of them!  They weren’t your typical buttermilk pancakes.  Please note, I’m not knocking the buttermilk pancake – there are many diners that make fabulous buttermilk pancakes (and maybe after a collegiate night of liquid indulgence, a whole double order of them).  Today’s pancakes were indulgent.  And unique.  And very yummy.

Is there anyone in this world that does not love the sweet/salty, crunchy/creamy combination?  On many brunch occasions and Mother’s Day celebrations I have made maple glazed bacon.  It’s a mixture of sweet and salty flavors that have been around forever, similar to the rustic Tuscan melon and prosciutto appetizer.  But I wanted to do a little bit more.  It’s fall, the Washington Honey Crisp apples just popped into season, and what better accompaniment to apples than cinnamon?  Bacon and Maple.

I took my basic whole wheat blueberry pancake recipe, and simply added cinnamon, nutmeg, and the crunchy apples.  The smell of bacon getting super crunchy filled the household (my secret is cooking it in the microwave – thanks mom!), and I made a simple maple glaze by combining confectioners sugar, grade A maple syrup, and a touch of cinnamon.  Sticking to my roots, I still needed that raw fruit for breakfast, and the end of the summer plum turned out to be the perfect palate cleanser at the end of the meal.

So, pour a cup of coffee, and let the aromas of cinnamon, apples, bacon and pancakes fill your house with comfort and warmth.  Enjoy the crunch of the apples and bacon, and the creaminess of the pancake and it’s sweet, sticky glaze.  It’s perfect for a blustery fall morning to share with others, or a fantastic treat for yourself.  And don’t forget your serving of healthy fruit!

Cinnamon Apple Pancakes with Maple Bacon Glaze (serves 4)

  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (ground or freshly grated)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 c skim milk
  • 1 c half and half
  • 1 med. Honey Crisp Apple, small dice
  • 1 tbsp butter, for the griddle or skillet

Mix dry ingredients together, then add the wet ingredients.  Fold in the apples.  On a preheated, buttered griddle or skillet, use a 1/3 dry measuring cup, spoon out batter.  When small bubbles start to form in a fairly even layer on the surface of the pancake, it is ready to flip.  Using a spatula, flip!  Cook on other side until it easily lifts from the pan, and put on reserve plate.  Serve hot with Maple Bacon glaze.

NOTE: To keep cooked pancakes warm while cooking batter, put pancakes on oven-proof plate in a 170 degree oven.

Maple Bacon Glaze

  • 2 tbsp confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 c grade A maple syrup
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 strips of bacon, cooked crispy

Cook the bacon to crispy by putting 2 sheets of paper towels on a microwave proof plate, and lay strips of bacon on the towels.  Cover the bacon with another sheet of paper towel.  Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, until bacon is crispy.  Remove from microwave (plate will be hot!), and set aside for towels to soak up excess fat.

Meanwhile, mix confectioners sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon.  When bacon is cool enough to handle, crunchle it into the glaze (aim for small pieces, but imperfect pieces always look wonderfully homemade).

Pour desired amount of glaze over hot Cinnamon Apple Pancakes, and ENJOY!!

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