December – Gifts From the Kitchen

December – Gifts From the Kitchen

This year I am having fun making many of the gifts I am giving during the holidays. As well, it is wonderful to have something ready for hostess gifts when invited to a party. Wrap any of these in a pretty tea towel for a personalized gift.

Here are some ideas, most have been posted on my blog over the past few years.

II didn’t realize I had so many recipes for lemons! Skip past this section if they are not available to you. But, if you are lucky enough to a backyard lemon tree (or don’t know what to do with ALL THOSE LEMONS), here are some options, make:

Meyer Lemon Confit

Confit Meyer Lemons in Olive Oil

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices (would work with regular organic lemons, wash and maybe add more sugar as Meyers are sweet):

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

Meyer Lemon Indian Spiced Pickle

What about preserved lemons? Use some holiday spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in the preserving process.

Preserved Lemons 

Preserved lemons

There is Lemon Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Just the thing for Christmas tea.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Toast and Tea

There is Meyer Lemon Aigre-doux. This is an Italian sweet and sour preserved lemon recipe, wonderful blended with olive oil for a lemony salad or roasted vegetable dressing.

Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux,
Preserved Lemons

And lastly Lemon-Lime Curd, amazing on any kind of holiday bread or toast. You could also make this all lemon curd or even all lime curd. Panettone anyone?

Lemon Curd

Lemon Lime Curd

What about homemade applesauce? Apples are readily available in many areas. Add a few cranberries to the simmering apples to color them pink or red. Homemade applesauce is so much better than any commercial one you can purchase.

Gala Applesauce

Consider a pretty crock of cheddar beer dip or spread. Use a sharp cheddar and one that is the darkest orange for the best color (I used a white sharp cheddar which wasn’t as pretty).

Cheddar-Beer Dip

Or a jar of homemade mustard, there are two recipes on my blog. Choose the one that fits your schedule. Here is the second for hot and sweet mustard, it’s quick and easy.

Hot and Sweet Mustard

Give it in a pretty container for a special treat.

What about spice mixes? Most of the commercial spices are full of sugar, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want to put in your food.

A popular mix with my friends is the Fennel Spice from Michael Chiarello. Although it is easy, I find most folks would rather receive a jar than make it themselves. I have given it many times in the past and it is always a much appreciated gift. He also has an excellent toasted chili spice. I use it to coat port tenderloin (or a slow cooked shoulder of pork) before I cook it sous vide. It’s also great on grilled chicken. For a vegetarian or vegan option it is wonderful coating slices or wedges of sweet potatoes.

Fennel Spice Before Being Blended – Can’t you just smell those fennel and coriander?

Pork Tenderloin Coated with Vinegar Then Coated with Toasted Spice Rub

There are other bloggers who have amazing spice mixes, Mollie from the Frugal Housewife has a delicious “smokin’ Chipotle Taco Seasoning‘. Any Mexican food fan would love a jar. She has a number of other spice mixes and blends, all of which don’t contain any preservatives or additives you don’t want to feed your family. Plus, they taste better than commercial blends. The Foodbod is another source of various spice blends, focused on vegetarian cooking. She is also the queen of sourdough. She sells her own starter on her bread website, which is full of tips and instructions.

You’ll also find a number of spice mixes on my Pinterest page.

I am taking these last minute ideas to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #254. Join the party by adding your own link. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives

December – Hot and Sweet Mustard

December – Hot and Sweet Mustard

Are you looking for an easy homemade gift idea for someone who likes spicy and hot foods? Look no further. This recipe originally came from my mother and was labeled fondue mustard. Do you remember those days in the 60’s and 70’s when beef fondue was all the rage. Yep, that was the source. But, I find this mustard is wonderful at any time. It’s great as a horseradish replacement with roast beef, fantastic with pot roast or beef brisket or beef stew. Sometimes you just need a little bit of a flavor boost. And believe me, you will want to use this in judiciously.

I like to give these in pretty jars as gifts, the jars themselves are part of it. I happened across these lovely handmade jars by a friend of a friend, Patricia Lorenz. Each one is a work of art, never the same.

In themselves they make a unique gift.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz container of Colemans mustard powder
  • 1 cup of wine vinegar (I used my own home brewed but commercial red or white is fine)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 eggs well beaten

Method:

  1. Combine the mustard powder and vinegar in a large jar, mix well. Let stand overnight.
  2. The next day combine the brown sugar, eggs and mustard mixture in a double boiler.
  3. Cook over simmering water until the mixture thickens.

 

  1. Thickened Hot and Sweet Mustard

The mustard will keep several months in the fridge.

Hot and Sweet Mustard – this one is for me

Patricia also made larger jars, I just need to figure out what to put in them to give as gifts.

Any suggestions?

November – Happy Thanksgiving

November – Happy Thanksgiving

I want to wish all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving.

My sous-vide turkey has been cooking away overnight, 12 hours for the dark meat and 8 for the white. Stay tuned, I will post the results and let you know how it turns out.

Sous vide turkey

When do we get our turkey dinner?

We are in the process of packing up the house in Oakland, plans are for it to go on the market in late January if we can complete all the work. You may have seen posts about the remodel and addition to our second home in Fort Bragg, CA. Soon it will become our first home although we plan to keep a smaller apartment or condo in the SF Bay Area. Downsizing is an emotional experience, I see the value of a minimalist lifestyle. After 27 years in this home we have accumulated way too much. And, if we couldn’t figure out what to do with it, we simply stashed it in our garage. Sooner or later you pay the price don’t you?

I will close with a couple of pictures from the coast near Fort Bragg.

From the secret beach

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Sunset

November – Raisin Cornbread Sausage Stuffing or Dressing

November – Raisin Cornbread Sausage Stuffing or Dressing

I briefly considered calling this Ma Barnes’ stuffing, the last remnant of a brief first marriage at the tender age of 21. The original recipe came from my ex mother-in-law. She was from Wisconsin and her stuffing had a definite midwestern, no-nonsense appeal.  In my own hands it has undergone many variations, especially once I moved to the west coast. But, you can still detect the bones of that first recipe in this one. Some of my adaptations have been more successful than others…chestnuts added (couldn’t really detect them), walnuts (nice crunch but not needed), artichoke hearts (that was an interesting year, kids weren’t crazy about them), Italian sausage (spicy, non-spicy, chicken – all delicious), no sausage (vegetarian version), olive oil instead of butter, currents instead of raisins, and lastly the addition of cornbread. I think you get the idea. I am going to give you the most current iteration, the one that finally stuck. However feel free to adapt it to match your families taste.

The addition of cornbread was what elevated this recipe to a new high. Ma Barnes used crumbled hamburger or hot dog rolls and poultry seasoning, I did the same for the first few years. It was good. But, magic happened the first time I added cornbread and herbs de Provence. It went from simply good to “Oh my!” and “Can I have thirds?”. Now I use about half  torn stale brioche or ciabatta bread and half cornbread. The cornbread gives additional texture and depth of flavor. In my family the holiday meals are all about the stuffing and/or dressing. I have to make enough to last for several days; it’s the first thing that they look for when they open the refrigerator the morning after Thanksgiving. This dressing is the heart of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner…forget the turkey.

I am using the terms stuffing and dressing interchangeably. But technically it is called stuffing if stuffed inside your turkey or other bird, and dressing if cooked outside the bird in a casserole. I started out cooking it only as a stuffing, but there was not enough copious leftovers. Now I either do both, or cook it entirely as a dressing. It is good both ways. And it is excellent reheated with a poached or fried egg on top, makes an excellent sandwich with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, and an over the top panini with cheese and turkey.

Speaking of turkey, this is the year I have discovered sous-vide. Stay tuned for sous vide turkey. But that is a discussion for another post, probably after Thanksgiving but in time for Christmas. Aren’t you impressed by all the bloggers who cook a full holiday dinner weeks before the actual event so they can write and photograph a holiday dinner? I sure am. I admit to being more of a ‘just in time’ blogger, or even ‘after the fact’ blogger. I will only be way ahead of the game for 2018!

If you are a regular reader, you might notice that this is not the first time you have seen this recipe. It was first posted it in January of 2015 under the heading of Friday Chicken. I think it would be difficult for you to find, and it deserves a post all of its own. Check out the link above to the Friday Chicken post if you have time. It is a great trick (borrowed from Richard Olney and Vincent Price) to stuff a chicken under the skin before roasting. I have done the same with a turkey, however the longer cooking time means that the skin can easily burn. You do get an extremely flavorful bird, but you have to watch it very carefully.

You can buy prepared cornbread from a bakery or grocery store (try not to use one that is very sweet). Or, you can make your own. This year I am using a recipe from the frugal hausfrau for Southern Skillet Cornbread. You will need about half a recipe for the stuffing; save the rest for serving with a bowl of chili or soup Yum! I am not going to reprint her recipe. You can follow the link to see Mollie’s post. I did change one thing, because I was going to use it in the dressing, I substituted 1/4 cup butter instead of the drippings or vegetable oil called for in her recipe. Wouldn’t bacon fat be wonderful? Oh my! But this doesn’t need it because you already have the sausage. I think it would be over kill.

Take a look at this cornbread…

Southern Skillet Cornbread from the frugal hausfrau

If short on time you can always use a boxed cornbread mix, they aren’t half bad. Your stuffing will still be delicious.

Raisin Cornbread Sausage Stuffing or Dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons of butter, plus more if needed
  • 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, either bulk or removed from casings
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Pinch or red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 fresh brioche rolls or other soft bread, torn into pieces
  • 8 oz. of cornbread, crumbled
  • 2 small handfuls of golden raisins or currents
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of turkey or chicken stock if baked outside the bird

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet.
  2. Add the sausage, crumble it into small pieces as it browns.
  3. Add the onion, celery, Herbs de Provence, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes.
  4. Stir and continue to sauté on medium heat until the onion and celery are softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile tear the cornbread and brioche bread into 3/4 inch pieces in a large bowl, you don’t want them too small.
  6. Add the raisins and mix.
  7. When cooked and while still warm, add the contents of the skillet to the large bowl and mix well. Taste for salt, you want it well seasoned.
  8. If the contents look dry (it depends on how much fat is in your sausage), add another 2 (or more) tablespoons of butter to the skillet to melt. Then add it to the bowl. Ma Barnes would add as much as a full stick of butter at this point.
  9. Cover and bake immediately as per numbers 10 and 11 below, or set aside to cool. In my household that needs to be far away from the edge of the counter and out of reach of the dogs. Once cool you can refrigerate it for a day. Keep your last minute stress level down and prepare it the day before the holiday.
  10. If using as a dressing: When ready to bake as a dressing (outside the bird), preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the stuffing in a shallow casserole dish and add the stock. You want the bread to be moist but not swimming. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until hot, about 30 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to 425 degrees F and crisp the top. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn although those charred crispy bits are my favorite.
  11. If using as a stuffing: When ready to cook your turkey, heat the stuffing in the microwave until very hot. Using clean rubber gloves, stuff the turkey inside both the body and neck cavity. Truss and bake immediately. The hot dressing ensures food safety, you will also find that your turkey will also need less time in the oven. Be sure to check the doneness frequently with an instant read thermometer.

Sausage, onions and celery with seasonings sauteed in butter

Cornbread, Brioche and Raisins combined in a large bowl

Ready to bake or stuff into turkey, wet ingredients added to the dry

Finished baked Dressing

Moist on the middle but crisp on the top, it was delicious.

I baked this in the afternoon to post, took some photos, and went out to dinner with a couple of friends. The dressing was left on the stove to cool.

This is what was left when I arrived home a few hours later…

Demolished

It wasn’t the dogs either.

Enough said, I don’t think you can have a better recommendation. I think I need to make a quadruple batch for the holiday meal.

I am co-hosting this week’s Fiesta Friday, #198. It’s always fun to have several stuffings/dressings to choose from and I think this one will be a hit. Come see all the delicious offerings at this week’s party by clicking on the FF link, it will take you to our host, Angie’s. My cohost this week is Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com. Her sausage gravy will go well with my offering.

April – Basic Kitchen Equipment

April – Basic Kitchen Equipment

What items in your kitchen do you consider essential? I thought it would be interesting to explore what is considered “basic” as far as utensils and equipment. Where do you start if you are setting up a new kitchen? What do you keep if you are downsizing (something I will be doing this year)? I’ve compiled a list of equipment I find essential with a little help from Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything) and Cal Peternell (Twelve Recipes).

What we have in our kitchen is often very personal. Much of my own was inherited from my mother and grandmother. Cast iron skillets only get better if they are properly cared for, and my wooden spoons still retain the stains of my mother’s tomato sauce or pickled beets. I have casserole and gratin dishes given to me by friends over the years. They retain the memories of special meals and the loved ones with whom they were shared. One casserole dish in particular screams Swedish meatballs at me every time I pull it out of the cupboard. It was my younger brother’s favorite meal, always served on his birthday.

So here goes:

  • 2 wooden cutting boards, reserve one for fruit so it doesn’t become flavored with garlic or onion
  • 1 plastic cutting board for chicken (not glass which will damage your knives) – that can go in the dishwasher
  • 8 quart pasta and/or stock pot
  • 1 1/2 or 2 quart saucepan

    Sauce pans from Ikea

  • 3 or 4 quart saucepan
  • 8 inch cast iron skillet
  • 10 inch skillet (stainless steel if you can afford it)
  • 12 inch skillet (ditto)
  • Lids for skillets
  • Mixing bowls – large, medium and small
  • Big wire mesh strainer (my preference) or colander
  • Salad spinner
  • Tongs – several pairs
  • Metal spatula
  • Wooden spoons
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Box type cheese grater
  • Whisk
  • A bamboo-handled spider or other sieve

    Spider or hand held sieve

  • Slotted spoon
  • Potato masher
  • Rubber spatula
  • Can opener
  • Soup ladle
  • Small bowl or container for salt
  • Peppermill
  • Timer
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Kitchen scissors

    Joyce Chen kitchen shears – sharp enough to be used as poultry shears

  • Knives – 8 inch chef’s knife, 2-3 paring knives, serrated bread knife
  • Knife sharpener
  • 9 inch cake pans
  • Baking/casserole dishes – a 13 x 9-inch casserole is often called for in recipes – pyrex, you may also want an 8 x 8 inch
  • A casserole or gratin dish you can bring to the table – clay is very nice
  • Large roasting pan if you eat meat
  • V shaped rack for roasting pan
  • Baking sheets for cookies and roasting vegetables (I like the large jelly role pans, line with parchment paper)
  • baking pans if you bake cupcakes
  • Cooling racks for cookies or cakes
  • Blender

Then there are those items that I find indispensable and use almost daily.

  • A microplane grater – for hard cheese, ginger, garlic, and zesting citrus
  • 10 inch non-stick skillet for eggs
  • Fish spatula for turning delicate things
  • Silicone baking mat
  • Cheese slicer – for thinly slicing cheese (grilled cheese sandwiches or cheese platters)

    cheese slicer

  • Serving platters, bowls
  • Tea pot
  • Coffee cone and filters
  • Rice cooker (you don’t need a fancy one, my own is over 35 years old and going strong)
  • Mortar and pestle for grinding salt and spices – buy a larger one so you can make pesto sauce in it

You don’t need all these items at one time if you are just starting out. And don’t go out and buy a set, you may not need everything that is included. Start slowly and consider each purchase. Most of what is in my kitchen has been in use for many years. One skillet and one pot will do nicely at first, buy the larger sizes to give yourself more flexibility. Second hand stores are great places to find cast iron and many of the utensils. Check out garage sales, many of us our downsizing right now. Visit a restaurant supply store for real bargains plus high quality, they are also wonderful sources for glassware and crockery. If you have an Ikea close to you, it can be a source of good bargains. The larger pot pictured above has a wider opening and is perfect for making preserves. Similar pots at Williams Sonoma are many times the price.

What do you consider essential that I have not included? I would love to have your input and will update the list.