Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spicy Maple Acorn Squash

I have pretty low level of patience.  The other day I was facilitating a customer audit.  The customer representative kept pronouncing “metrics” as “matrix”.   It took a mass amount of self-willpower to not correct him.  It drove me nuts.  Unfortunately, we had to discuss several metrics through the day and by the end of it all, my will power was wearing thin.  Again, me and patience aren't really a pair.  

That’s only one example of my less than saintly patience.  Ben could tell you many, many more, including my ability to wait patiently for a surprise birthday gift.  I go nuts.  I beg.  I badger.  I may even nag.   Accordingly, Ben’s patience is continually tested and tried true.

So the night I made this acorn squash, tried it and didn't immediately love it, I therefore also immediately wrote them off.  My thinking was somewhere along the lines of something that used that much of my precious pure maple syrup had better be amazing its first time at bat.   Straight from the oven, this was not.  Tasty, fine, just not jaw dropping.  

But then came the leftovers.  I must admit that I, the queen of not wasting food, almost tossed these.  It was a lot of squash to tackle solo, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  So they came to work with me the next day.  And they were some much better!  The spiced had mellowed out a little bit and mingled much more with the maple.  It jived, it worked.  So, if you're not yet tired of squash and you're ok gambling with your pure maple syrup, give this a go.

Spicy Maple Acorn Squash

1 large acorn squash
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. Sriracha

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Coat lightly in oilive oil.

Slice acorn squash in half and using a large spoon, scrape and remove seeds from squash.  Slice into half moons about 1/2 thick.  Season with salt and pepper

Lay squash sliced side down on prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove and flip slices, return to oven and continue to roast another 15 minute.  Meanwhile, whisk together remaining ingredients and toss with squash slices until well coated.  Return to oven and roast until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes more.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Maxine's Turkey Dressing

I'm going to have to ask for your forgiveness here for two reasons. But then hopefully I can give you a recipe that should more than make up for my blogging transgressions.

The first thing I need forgiveness for is these photos.  They are not appetizing.  The reason behind this is also two-fold.  Stuffing/Dressing, very much like chocolate dough, is not an appetizing thing to photograph, at least not for an mature photographer like myself.  It either ends like it came out of the back end of a donkey or the front end of a dog.  In other words, not pretty.  Secondly, these pictures were taken with my good, old, trust Sony Cybershot, which has since given up it's life.  (It will always be loved, never forgotten).  Good little camera, but luckily I do have better now.  And this leads me to the second reason I am apologizing.

This recipe is just short of a year old.  Eek.  I'm sorry, I really am.  But really, who wants a dressing recipe after Thanksgiving?  Especially one that involves giblets...  If it makes you feel any better, it's been driving me nuts that I haven't been able to share this with you for almost a year.  But, finally, the magically, wonderful time that is known as Thanksgiving is here.  And here is the dressing that you should make.  And should you feel the need to thank me afterwards, well, I won't turn it down.

It has been a year since I've tasted this dish, but I do remember some things.  To start out with, it is delicious.  I am not a fan of Stove Top, and if you aren't either, than this is the dressing for you.  Also, this will take some time, not much, but enough to stress you if you're reading the recipe for the first time on Thanksgiving day.  Read the recipe once or twice before the grand day; it will help a lot.  Then just make sure you budget your time as needed.  Last thing, it is totally ok to be afraid of giblets.  I was and I'm pretty sure I still am.  Hopefully, you have a wonderful mother like mine to walk you through handling them and tell you not to freak out because they look funny and you have to stick you hand up a bird's yoohoo to get them.  And hopefully that wonderful mother makes you do it too, because that's a girl-turned-woman kind of moment right there.

Don't wuss out.  Stick your hand up the bird and grab the damn giblets.

(That is by far my favorite sentence ever on this blog).

This has been pasted in the BGCB since last November.  It is tried, it is true, and if you still need a dressing for your table this Thursday, well, this is it.  Enjoy!  And good luck with the giblets.


Maxine's Turkey Dressing
From BA November 2011 issue

I normally type each recipe, especially the directions, in my own words, to show you how I interrupted them, what I did, etc.  Since it's been about a year since I've made it, I don't really remember any of the specifics.  Therefore, below is Bon Appetit's recipe, word for word, from their website.  The link is below the title.  Therefore, all credit goes to them.

1 bag turkey giblets
1 turkey neck
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped, divided
1/2 cup celery leaves
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/3 cup leaves
8 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, plus more
1 pound breakfast sausage, casing removed
1 12-oz. bag Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine giblets (reserve liver), neck, 1 chopped celery stalk, celery leaves, parsley sprigs, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Add 6 cups of water; bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer for 30 minutes. Add liver; simmer until broth measures 4 cups, about 30 minutes longer. Strain; reserve broth. Pick meat from neck and chop giblets; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 2-qt. baking dish. Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Chop parsley leaves and remaining celery in a processor. Add neck meat, giblets, and sausage; pulse just to combine. Transfer to a large bowl; add stuffing mix. Add turkey broth by 1/2 cupfuls, mixing until moist but not wet. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to prepared baking dish.

Cover dish with foil. Bake until heated through, about 40 mintues. Uncover dot with butter and bake until browned, about 20 minutes longer.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Honey and Spice Apple Chips

There is a question that has been bothering me for awhile.  It has to do with what we are doing right now.  More importantly, it has to do with what you want from me.  In the beginning, it was easy enough to go on for awhile about the true terribleness of my photographs, regale with stories of lonesome Saturday nights and backyard barbecues and more than likely bore you in general with occasional work stories and complaints about the weather.

But now, 9 times out of 10, I have no idea what to say to you.  I sit and stare at an empty blogger page.  Do you want a witty anecdote?  My step-by-step reaction to the recipe?  Are you even out there at all, to care about what I put down here? Or am I that crazy woman, yelling at a wall?

This is deep for apple chips, I know, I'm sorry.  The truth is, I have no anecdote for apple chips, no recipe reactions.  I am a big fan of apple chips and was intrigued that I could make them and they would be prettier than store bought.  And that is the basic, boring and strange  reason I choose this recipe, because the result would be pretty.  It would end not in broken pieces in a cloud of cinnamon dust, but  in whole, gorgeous slices of applies with stars in the middle.  Because I needed some pretty stars in my life.  Who doesn't?

Lucky for me, the pretty stars lead to a yummy snack that didn't even last a whole morning.  The recipe for these beauties is a keeper, even if the rest of my words are not.

Apple Chips

3 apples (I used a honey crisp, a Jona-gold and a Pacific Rose)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (heaping, of course)
2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients, except apples.  Set aside.

Thinly slice apples.  I used a mandolin, which is best for me because it gives super thin, constant slices.  Pop out seeds and hard pieces of core as necessary.  Place in very large bowl and toss with lemon/honey/spice mixture.  The larger the bowl, the easier it will be to toss apple slices.  If necessary, hand rub mixture onto slices, so everything is evenly coated.

Line coated apple slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheets.  Bake in a 225 degree oven for 2 hours, flipping slices over after the first hour of baking.  Chips should be dry and crisp as they come out of the oven.  Let cool and if you don't eat them all right away, store in an airtight container!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Roasted Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberries

Work is kicking my ass.  And from what I've been told, it's not going to let up until the new year.  Part of it is my fault.  I signed up for a lot.  I could try to defend my decision to help out and stretch myself thin, but I have tried.  I just sound whiny.  I'd rather not sound whiny.  Let's just say, work is kicking my ass and I'm having trouble finding the bright spot on the horizon.

So life after work, what very little life I do have after work, has been subdivided into mini-sized goals.  Make new food, but make it fast, easy and simple.  Don't let home become a mess and laundry back up, because that's a hole I don't have a weekend to spend digging out of it.  Enjoy what is left of fall, because (and it pains me so to say this, but...) one day soon I'm going to blink and there will be snow outside.  Snow.  Do you see what we are up against here people?  It's daunting and we need solutions.

Luckily, I found at least one solution to my mid-November stress out.  Acorn squash that has been roasted with walnuts, cranberries, brown sugar and just the cutest little pat of butter.  In that one sentence, I not only described what I would consider to be a legitimate and delicious weeknight dinner, but the dinner that's going to save you from forgetting the wonders of fall.  It's quick, has five ingredients and takes minutes to throw together.  While it's roasting you will have time to start that load of laundry, empty the dishwasher and vacuum the living room.  Plus, your nose will be serenaded with the smells of fall the whole time.  Because squash and brown sugar are basically building blocks of fall.  Plus, it hits all your food groups: squash—vegetable, cranberries—fruit, walnuts—protein, butter—dairy, sugar—sugar!

Sugar is part of the food pyramid, right?  It's at the very top, so that must mean it is the most important.  Right??  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberries
Adapted from Let the Baking Begin!

This is absolutely a BGCB member.  I was simply in love with how quick, easy and delicious the recipe turned out.  To be honest, the full recipe (reflected below) is just a tad bit decadent.  Don't get me wrong, I loved it as it was, but for every day use, I would scale back the walnut/cranberry/sugar mixture.

1 acorn squash
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. frozen cranberries
4 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375.  Get out a rimmed baking sheet.  If you are afraid of spillage, line with aluminum foil.

Cut squash in half length wise.  Using a large spoon, scoop out inside "guts" and seeds, discard.  In small bowl, toss walnuts, cranberries and brown sugar.  Divide among squash halves equally.

Using 1 tablespoon of butter for each half, dot walnut/cranberry mixture with butter.  Move squash to baking sheet and tent loosely with foil.  Roast squash 1 hour and 15-20 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the flesh goes in easily.  Remove from oven and enjoy hot!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mocha Latte Biscotti

You would think that by this point in my life, the "holy crap I am almost a quarter century old" point, I would make more sense, at least to myself.  But, alas, it is not to be the case.  I am still a confusing mystery, especially to myself.  Here, let me prove it to you:

I am surprised every  month on the 11th that my cable/internet bill is due.  It just doesn't make sense in my head.  Plus, I believe internet should be free.  (But I think that's probably mostly because I am cheap...)

I like roasted potatoes with salt, lots of pepper and olive oil, but I make them very rarely.  They're easy to make and quick, I usually have potatoes on hands, but I just don't do it.  I don't know why.

I like fall and I love Thanksgiving, but am also terrified because it only leads to December.  I do not like the cold.  And I really hate the snow.

I am more excited to vote in the election this year than I was 4 years ago.  I realize that I am in a very small, very strange minority.  I only voted 4 years ago because my mom sent me an absentee ballot.

I did solve one mystery though, in my 287th month of life. I finally know well enough to not even bother taking pictures of chocolate dough in a log shape.  It's just going to look like a giant turd and no amount of plating, special-spoon-using, or lighting tricks will change that.  That's a start, right?

Mocha Latte Biscotti
Adapted from the GE website.  I know it's strange, roll with it.

So, I actually got this recipe from GE's HealthAhead website.  HealthAhead is the GE program in which they promote healthy eating, exercising, etc., in the hopes that we don't notice it's all for ulterior motives.  I'm not cynical, it's truth.  I am the oh-so-lucky HealthAhead champion for my site.  It is as terrible as it sounds.  But at least it will help explain why there may be increased blogging about HealthAhead recipes...

For a "healthy" recipe (read, super duper small portion sizes), these were good, as long as you ignored the portion sizes comment.  I love my biscotti and had high hopes for these.  It was chocolate plus espresso for crying out loud.  My hopes weren't dashed, just pretty firmly let down.  I mean, they were good, just not these.  (Truth time: Ben and I finished the whole batch in less than 3 days with no complaints.  I just doubt I would ever make them again).

2 c. flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. hot water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 325.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.  Lightly sprinkle with flour.

In large bowl combine all dry ingredients, from flour to salt.

In separate bowl, mix together water and espresso powder until the powder has dissolved completely.  Whisk in vanilla, eggs and egg white.  Slowly add wet ingredients to dry, stirring carefully until dough just comes together.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface.  With floured hands, knead a few times.  Dough will be incredibly sticky.  Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and using your hands, shape dough as best you can into a long long, about 3 inches wide and an inch tall.  Put dough in oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Dough will be hard and lightly browned.

Remove log from baking sheet and let cool on wire rack 10-15 minutes (maintain oven temp).  Using a serrated knife, slice log into 1 inch slices (portion control be damned!) and place back on cooking sheet, cut side down.  Bake at 325 for 10 minutes, then flip biscotti and bake another 8-12 minutes, until biscotti are hard.  Cool on wire rack.  Enjoy with tea!