Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Restock the freezer: Stuffed Peppers

I'm sure you all saw the news about the freak winter storm that hit CT last month. I won't dwell on it, but if you are my friend on facebook you know that I was without power for 8 days.

This means that all the food that I painstakingly stocked in my fridge and freezer was spoiled within the first 48 hours of the blackout. I don't think I have to tell you other food folk, that throwing away my stocked up freezer full of delicious steaks, frozen soups, and cookie dough was pretty painful. 
At least the vodka was still salvageable.

So when power was once again restored and I heard about a 1 week sale at a local grocery chain I was thrilled. It was a 'restock your freezer sale' and for $60 I got $100 worth of meat!

2 meatloaves
2 stuffed peppers
2 stuffed chicken breasts
1 pot roast
1 rack of baby back ribs
1 full roaster chicken
1 pork tenderloin

I told everyone I worked with about the sale, and a couple of them stocked up as well.
I'm not traditionally a stuffed pepper fan, but when my coworker Bethany texted me a photo of her delicious stuffed pepper from the same sale, I made a mental note to cook these up after the holidays!

Stuffed peppers are a perfect antidote to all that turkey and poultry seasoning. All I had to do was cook them through in the oven, about 45 mins at 350.
I served them up with a mix of green beans and carrots, steamed and dressed with some grapefruit juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a little bit of pasta mixed with pepper and Parmesan.

The peppers were enormous, easily the size of a softball - so Rafe and I split one.
Bethany was right, these were outstanding. I'm going to have to buy them once more, then I'm going to try and make them myself!

Do you like stuffed peppers? Do you have a go-to recipe?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: Cuban Black Beans

Sorry for the dark dreary photo! I assure you that although the photo is not my best, this recipe is a winner. I love doing meatless Monday dinners, but find that its a struggle to come up with an easy option that doesn't involve pasta. This recipe is my newest solution. Adapted from Real Simple's Cuban black beans, this is a great pantry meal.

Cuban Black Beans, adapted from Real Simple 

1 cup white rice
1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
dash cayenne (or to taste)
2 15.5 oz cans black beans, rinsed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Cook rice according to directions. Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat, once pan is heated, add onion and garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until softened and add cumin, chili powder and cayenne and cook for about 1 minute. Add rinsed black beans, 1 cup water, oregano. Cover and simmer for 10 mins.
Once simmered use a potato masher (or fork) to mash up some of the beans.
Add red wine vinegar, stir, and cook for another minute.
Serve beans over rice. Garnish with cilantro.
Optional toppings - red onion, avocado, cheese, sour cream, hot sauce.

For me, this is a great inexpensive riff on my favorite Chipotle burrito bowl.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Worth the Wait

I've been waiting all month for this day, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which I love almost as much as the turkey-centric holiday.

I spend this day recovering from the festivities of the weekend on the couch, in comfy clothes, watching football, and eating this.....

 Leftover dinner rolls, with cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy....
Oh baby.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Upside-Down Apple Cake: Scenes from My Kitchen

Apple upside-down cake will be my contribution for dessert this Thanksgiving. The recipe is on King Arthur Flour's website.

I'll let you know how it tastes on Thursday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Apple Pie Contest

I'm really loving my new job. In addition to the great work and people - there are some other cooks in the office!

We recently had an apple pie baking contest.  It was so much fun to taste all of the pies side-by-side. Generally I think apple pie is fairly standard, but it was so interesting to taste all the variations in the recipes.

There was a pie with a crumb topping,

One filled to the brim with appley-goodness!

 A very dainty, prim and proper lattice top,

And my pie (recipe here) topped with decorative leaves. I took home the prize for most creative appearance. We all won prizes, tasted all of the pies, and got a free vacation day for our participation - can't beat that!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Make ahead Cinnamon rolls

It is almost time for my most beloved holiday: Thanksgiving! This year Rafe and I are celebrating with my parents. Since my mom has had a busy few months at work, and I'm more than happy to contribute, I've taken on a few of the turkey-day recipes to bring. Even Rafe will be bringing his delicious mashed potatoes!

In an effort to limit day-of stresses, I do my best to do little things throughout the week preceding Thanksgiving so I don't get overwhelmed. Since I've been home bound most of the weekend, I decided that making the rolls for dinner would be a great thing to make-ahead. Once baked, I froze them. I will take them out of the freezer Thanksgiving morning, and warm them in the oven while the bird is resting.

This year is a fairly small group for dinner, only 5 adults (and one puppy) - so the yield of 30 rolls from Martha's recipe seemed a little excessive. Thankfully, Ms. Stewart reminded me that the same dough can be used for cinnamon rolls.

Once I baked half of the dough into dinner rolls, I got started with the cinnamon-nut buns. I omitted the chocolate chips, and I was feeling lazy, so rather than her recommended glaze, I made a simple one with some confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, milk, and a teaspoon of yogurt (was trying to make it a little tangy and a smidge less cloying) - it worked.

I generally prefer a savory breakfast on the weekends - but this was a nice treat with a hot cup of coffee. And, the dough made enough buns for another whole tray...maybe Christmas morning breakfast?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

Sick and homebound has its drawbacks: I have to break plans with friends to socialize, I'm too tired to run errands or workout. But there is one minor upside - a little quality time with my kitchen.

Sometimes when I'm sick only a bowl of chicken soup will do the trick, and nothing out of a can will ever live up to the chicken and dumplings recipe from Cooks Illustrated.


The stew is so rich and satisfying, and the dumplings are light, but don't fall apart in the soup.
And if you want my opinion. Make this a day ahead of when you want to serve it -- it gets even better a day later, after all the ingredients have had a chance to hang out for a while.

 What do you crave when you aren't feeling well?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Baked Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal

 I love when I find a recipe I want to try, and I already have all the ingredients in my cupboard. That's how I felt when I found this recipe for Pumpkin Oatmeal over on The Kitchn.

I eat oatmeal most mornings but I never blog about because its just a boring bowl of oats...but this recipe is more than a standard 'boil water add oats' situation. There was some serious stove top attention involved, and I utilized my Le Creuset to bake a week's worth of breakfasts.

In the past when I had tried steel cut oatmeal, I would get irritated because it required a lengthy cooking time and it would almost always boil over. The baking method totally solves this problem and the pumpkin and spices made me feel like I was eating dessert for breakfast!

This is definitely a great, and time saving recipe. I made one pot on Sunday and have been reheating it every morning....Great way to start the day!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ready, Set....POST!

Hellooo? anyone still out there?
I know, I know - I've been a bad, bad blogger. 1 post a month does not a blogger make, and for that I apologize. I can give a million excuses under the sun, but the truth is I know people who are much busier than I am who manage to post more than once a day. I need to get back into a groove.

I know what's happening to me - I'm getting way too caught up in the 'is this blog-worthy' debate. Somehow unless I'm making a 2 tiered phyllo pie of durian fruit I feel like I'm not doing something exciting enough to share.

The truth is that I've been cooking, but not photographing because I'm self-editing so much.
Enter the self-imposed blogger challenge. 
I'm going to keep my camera on me for the next 30 days...and I need to post a picture each day. Sometimes I might have a story to go with it, sometimes it might just be a caption. But frankly, I need to get over myself because I love my blog ... and I don't want it to fade into the night.

I need to get back to why I'm doing this. For me, this is a creative outlet. 
I'm not writing this blog to please other people, or one-up the next blogger. This is a place to capture the things I love: food and cooking, and sharing it with the people I care about. Sometimes those people are at the table alongside me - and some are off in the vast world of the internets....

Let's see how this goes shall we?
Ready, Set....POST!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Engagement Chicken

Changes do keep happening on the personal side of things - Roscoe is back to pre-snake status. Except for a small scar on his paw, he's as good as new and enjoying the fall along with all the crunchy leaves!

I'm VERY happy to announce that Rafe and I are also now engaged! He proposed one night after dinner, and I've been in a bit of a joyous fog ever since. I can't stop looking at my finger and being amazed that I get to marry my best friend.

In the days following our engagement I started planning all of the meals for the week. We had just gotten engaged, and air chilled whole chickens were on sale at Whole foods.....I figured, I should make engagement chicken! 

I realize that my idea was a bit backward, since the lore of this dish is that a woman makes this chicken for a fella of her choosing, and he is so amazed with her cooking prowess that he proposes marriage immediately. I felt a bit guilty that Rafe had never enjoyed this delicious meal...until I looked at the recipe.... It was so similar to my standard roast chicken I decided to scrap it and try something new.

Instead, since the weather was so beautiful, I decided to spatchcock and grill my chicken.

What is spatchcock you ask? its a fancy name that means 'butterfly'. You just cut out the backbone of the chicken, then lay the chicken out flat. I usually put my weight into it to flatten the breastbone. With a butchering process that is a bit, well, gruesome, its just better to say 'spatchcock' to lighten the mood of the whole thing. And its fun to say.

After the backbone was removed (put it in a zip-top bag and store it in the freezer - it will make great stock) I put the chicken in my giant food-grade plastic bucket. This item is not a 1 trick pony in my kitchen - I also use it to proof doughs...but if you don't have one, there are some brining bags that you can purchase at many grocery stores.

I made a quick brine by combining the following:

3/4 cup coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup honey cup  
1 cup boiling water 
1 gallon cold water 
1 tablespoon black peppercorns

zest of 1 lemon

I poured the mixture over the chicken and refrigerated it for about 6 hours in my giant bucket. When we were ready to prepare dinner and Rafe started the coals on the grill, I drained the bird, patted it dry with paper towels, rubbed it with a little olive oil and seasoned it with some more pepper (no salt necessary), paprika, and a bit of thyme.

A bit of time on the grill and we had a delicious dinner.

The beauty of the gruesome butchery is that your bird cooks much more quickly, and evenly. Because the chicken is approximately the same thickness once the backbone is removed, everything finishes cooking at the same time - rather than your breast meat drying out while the dark meat finishes.