Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pumpkin bread penance

I need to apologize. I know I promised you an abundance of Thanksgiving photos, but I got so wrapped up in my schedule and preoccupied monitoring how much time was left on the turkey, that I just plain forgot. Ooooh, it was good, though. I was brimming with pride over the success of the bird.

As Morgan was putting away the last of the leftovers, I realized what I had done (or failed to do, rather). What kind of food blogger forgets to take pictures on the most important food day of the year? I'll do better next year, promise.
As a small gesture of reparation, here's a really yummy pumpkin bread recipe. I made it last week as my first foray into baking for the holiday season. I looked on for the most highly rated pumpkin bread recipe. Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread definitely deserves its 2200-plus reviews with an average five-star rating. It's a really moist bread with a nice density (I prefer my sweet breads to be more dense than cake-like) and perfect balance of the four classic pumpkin spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Easy-Bake Pasta

Good things come to those who mix together random foodstuffs from their freezer and pantry and bake them. Mmmm. This is for Joy, who says my recipes look yummy, but she doesn’t have a lot of time to make them. I guarantee she (and everyone else) has enough time for this one. I made it last week when I wanted something warm and yummy to curl up with in front of Thursday night TV. And now I have enough in my freezer for many weeks to come ... and after this Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving!) I will have a lot of other leftovers, too. Not so impeccable timing on this one, but hey, what can you do?

It definitely hit the spot, even though the current writing on Grey’s Anatomy did not.

Easy-Bake Pasta

1 lb. pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 lb. uncooked pasta
1 bag frozen sliced zucchini
1 bag frozen yellow squash
1 C. shredded parmesan, divided

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Boil the pasta for ¾ the recommended cooking time.

Drain the pasta and mix with everything but the parmesan.

Pour the mixture into two lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dishes.

Top each pan with 1/2 C. shredded parmesan.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and bubbly.

Eat one batch and freeze the other into meal-sized portions in Ziplock bags, once it has cooled.

Bake from frozen for one hour covered, 15 minutes uncovered.

Tip: If the Ziplock is stuck to the pasta when you take it out of the freezer, just run the sealed bag under luke warm tap water to unstick. The pasta will pop right out.

Crab-a-roni crash and burn

First, a sincere thank you to everyone who rallied behind my Crab-a-Roni and Cheese recipe in the comfort food contest. I really was touched by the number of votes I received.

Unfortunately, however, I am now in the running to tie the Buffalo Bills for four consecutive second place finishes (a.k.a. first loser). First it was the burger contest, then the taps & apps challenge, now this. Seriously. It's getting ridiculous.

I'll still make a batch and post photos for you. It will be hard to eat through the tears, but I will persevere in the resilient spirit of Team O.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tell your mama, tell your friends ...

... tell anyone whose heart can comprehend.
OK, enough of the Janet Jackson lyrics. I am currently in second place in the Comfort Food Contest -- down by 50 votes. If you can help me out by directing anyone and everyone you know to the site by Sunday at midnight (I guess that's technically Monday)to cast a vote for "Crab-a-Roni and Cheese," it would make me very happy. And as another incentive, I promise to share lots of good Thanksgiving pictures with you next week (I will anyway, but I'll be happier doing it if I win this contest).

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vote for me (pretty, pretty please)!

I am one of 27 finalists in the Marx Foods Comfort Food Recipes Contest! I really, really want to win, so please visit their site by clicking on the image below and vote for "Crab-a-Roni and Cheese."

If I win, I will make you a batch. Or at least take pictures of it and post them for you to drool over (and I'll share the recipe, too). Promise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tick-tock goes the Thanksgiving clock

I am hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year. On Friday, though, instead of Thursday, so we can spend time with both of our families. I am so excited I can barely stand it.

Here is my menu and schedule in all their glory. I love menus and schedules. Their ability to keep me sane goes unrivaled. This holiday was made for me!

Roasted-corn and hickory bacon gougeres; served with chive crème fraîche

Main Course
"Good Eats" roast turkey and gravy
Baked stuffing with cranberries
Smashed sweet potatoes with apples
Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes
Green beans with caramelized onions and toasted almonds
Spinach salad with apples, blue cheese, cranberries & candied walnuts
Cranberry-orange relish
Rolls (guests)

Pumpkin chiffon pie (guests)

Week of Nov. 17
Purchase turkey

Monday, Nov. 24
Begin thawing turkey

Tuesday, Nov. 25
Grocery shopping

Wednesday, Nov. 26
Make ahead:
Cranberry relish
Mashed potatoes (caramelize extra onions for green beans)
Sweet potatoes
Roux/broth for gravy
Salad dressing

Thursday, Nov. 27
Make ahead:
Brine turkey
Baked stuffing with cranberries

Friday, Nov. 28
Cooking Schedule:

10:30-10:45 a.m.
Boil water for green beans; assemble and refrigerate salad

10:45-11 a.m.
Boil green beans, cold shock & refrigerate

11-11:30 a.m.
Rinse, prep turkey

Turkey on high; prep & set out appetizers

Noon-1:30/2 p.m.
Turkey on low

1 p.m.
Turn potatoes on low in Crock Pot

1 p.m.
Stuffing & sweet potatoes in oven

1:45 p.m.
Uncover stuffing & sweet potatoes

≈2 p.m. (when turkey reaches 161degrees)
Remove turkey from oven to rest, make gravy; melt butter & reheat green beans, toss w/ almonds; dress salad; re-whip potatoes

Between 2 & 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Whiskey crab soup to the rescue

The dark, wet and cold have officially settled in. They made a rather brazen entrance and promptly unpacked their belongings, very much like an unwanted house guest intending to stay awhile. If it were up to me, we would skip straight to April. Sure, I’d miss Thanksgiving and Christmas, so let’s just keep a week of winter holidays and fast forward to Easter.

There is a small saving grace, though. Soul-warming comfort food. It ranks right up there with bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens; just a few of my favorite things.
In college, one of the best places for a little winter pick-me-up was the Cliff House restaurant in Bellingham. None of us could afford to eat a full meal there (unless parents were visiting), but thankfully their whiskey crab soup was available by the bowl at the bar. I have been looking forward to making it for a few months, but needed to make sure we were far enough into the depths of the dark season to make it truly worthwhile. This week, the local flooding, chilly temperatures and 4:30 p.m. sunsets were all signs that it was definitely time.

I used up the last of our crab from this summer’s cabin adventures and the end result — a tangy, creamy, slight-spicy delight — made me feel as thought I will probably be able to survive another Seattle winter. Probably. If I don’t mildew before the sun comes out.

Side note: I couldn’t find fish boullion and substituted a bottle of clam juice. This requires increasing the salt and other spices quite a bit. I added another Tbsp. each of Old Bay (mostly salt) and cayenne. Adjust to your own taste if you need to substitute for fish boullion, too.

Oh, and do me a favor. Don't make this if you plan on using imitation crab meat. It's an insult to the recipe and you'll be better off just eating a can of Campbell's. I know, I'm a crab snob. My husband turned me into one the first time he took me crabbing. So sue me (or him).

Whiskey Crab Soup
Courtesy The Cliff House, Bellingham, Wash.
8 cups water
1/4 cup fish base (or 4 cubes fish boullion)
3/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup Red Sauce (see below)
2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp. white pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 1/4 cup lump crab meat
2 cups heavy whipping cream (1 pint)
1 cup milk
1 oz. sherry
1 oz. whiskey

First, make red sauce.

Red sauce ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups shredded carrots
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. dried basil
1 cup chopped red onions
3 large cans (84 oz. total) diced tomatoes

Red sauce instructions
Cook oil, carrots, garlic and basil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender; 5-10 minutes. Add onions and reduce heat to medium. Cook until very tender; about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 20-30 minutes over high heat, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. Puree and chill.

Note: This makes 4-5 cups of red sauce. Freeze excess in pre-measured Ziplock bags for future batches of soup.

Soup instructions
Bring water and fish base to a boil.

Meanwhile, make a roux with the flour and butter. To make the roux, start by melting the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan until it foams and bubbles. Add the flour all at once, whisking constantly until the two are combined and a smooth consistency has formed. Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes. At this point, the roux will develop a light brown hue and a nutty flavor; this will be used to thicken the soup.

Add roux to boiling stock. Whisk well over high heat until roux is completely incorporated and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.

Add red sauce and stir well.

Add next 5 ingredients (Old Bay through Tabasco) and stir well.

Add crab and cook 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes, until heated through.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I smell a winner

The fine folks at Marx Foods are holding another competition. I dare you to enter (you have until this coming Monday). I love me a show down ...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The legend of Chef Missy

I thought of something really sad today. When the Seattle SuperSonics packed up and skipped town for less-green pastures (a.k.a. Oklahoma City) earlier this year, Squatch, the Sonics mascot, essentially died. R.I.P., Squatch.

Reminiscing about our beloved Bigfoot mascot got me thinking about other Northwest legends and myths, too. Things a part of me has always believed in, but never seen (or, in the case I am about to describe, seen very little of) in real life. Like my friend Missy’s remarkable culinary ability and Suzy Homemaker-like crafting skills.
To her credit, she says that she just doesn’t really like to cook, not that she can’t. I was starting to wonder, though, when I was helping her find a recipe for a dinner party last year and she specifically asked for something with no more than five ingredients. Well, Mis, the jig’s up. You should have never made that mouth watering pumpkin roll and decorated your party tables with such darling centerpieces — I liked the one you gave me so much that I hung on to it for three weeks! A rogue seed sprouted from the bottom on Sunday, though, and I think it may be on it’s last leg. Great things are expected of you now. Kind of like Brooke Burke being judged as a professional on Dancing with the Stars. Yes, your pumpkin roll is that good. I ate three pieces and am still paying for it at the gym, nearly a month later. So readers, if you’re looking for a dessert other than pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, this is a fabulous option.

Missy’s (or Libby’s) Pumpkin Roll

Note: This recipe is for a roll cake. Missy’s, pictured above, is a variation (another sign of true kitchen genius). She made two cakes, filled them and cut them into squares.

Cake Ingredients
1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Filling Ingredients
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (optional for decoration)

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan; line with parchment or waxed paper. Grease and flour paper; set aside. Arrange clean thin, cotton kitchen towel on counter; sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Combine eggs and sugar in large bowl; beat until thickened. Add pumpkin; beat until well mixed. Stir in flour mixture. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with walnuts, if desired.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched. Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; invert onto prepared towel. Remove pan; carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake in towel while hot, starting with 10-inch side. Cool completely on wire rack.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla in small bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic food wrap; refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired..

Tip: Be sure to put enough powdered sugar on the towel before rolling up cake so it will not stick.