Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's autumn in my kitchen Part... the rest of the parts.

So, I realize that I totally flaked on turning my fall foods experiment into multiple posts during fall... considering it's three days before Christmas and I'm just now getting back to y'all. But I've been busy! I'd love to turn this blog post into an update on me and my exciting life, but let's be honest. Food will always be more important.

Especially this food.

Now, I'll warn you. I had delusions of grandeur that my sweet potato fries, as mentioned in September during my trip to Gracie's in Salt Lake City, would taste like they do in restaurants. They didn't. I baked and fried them, and they both really turned into soggy messes. So, after this wedding business has passed, maybe I can save up enough pennies to buy myself this, and then I will revisit. For now, I'm deleting them from memory.

However, I did make two things that were quite successful: pumpkin puree and pepitas. Instead of pepitas, I could say pumpkin seeds, but the word pepitas is so much cooler. English is lame.

I started off with two pie pumpkins. Aren't they ador?

Take off the top of the pumpkins with a sharp knife. Or a chainsaw. Because they are solid little guys. Good thing I'm armed... with guns.

My mom thinks I'm funny.

Once the tops are off, you'll want to cut them in half. I realize that this photo does not depict half, and that I do math stuff so I should know what half looks like.

Dear 7th Grade Students, this is not what half is. This is what happens when you are really frustrated after lopping off the top of a pumpkin and instead of it being easy and smooth like on TV, you exert all human energy and just hafta stab something.

Just me?

After you take out your anger on squash, which is a total sign of mental stability, you'll get this:

Gutsy, right?

Man, I can hardly stop myself.

Now is the time to gut the little guys. Ina Garten probably would be polite and use a spoon or a knife, or have some fancy gadget do it, but here in 'Merica, we get our hands dirty.

Except during Swine Flu season, then the entire country knows how to cough into their elbows and not touch anything ever.

I digress. Gut the pumpkin.

Put guts, seeds, and everything into a separate bowl (throw them away and risk serious, serious consequences from me). Cut the halves in half (any math whizzes want to tell me what they are now?), and use a knife to cut the rest of the pulp away from the pumpkin flesh.

Line 'em up on the biggest baking sheet you have, and toss them in the oven (I say about 350) until they are golden and the sides start to pucker.

Meanwhile... remember the goo that came out of the pumpkin?

"Goo" being a scientific word, of course.

Give them a really good rinse, and line them up on a cookie sheet too. Do your best to get an even layer, then generously salt. Or don't. I don't want to be bossy.

You can pop these into the oven right along with the pumpkin, just don't let them burn. Then, in a little while, your pumpkin will be done! I don't know how long of a while. Just a while, alright?

(Note: I would have wanted these to be more done, so leave them in for a few extra minutes!)

This is what you're looking for. Puckering, golden sides. But more puckering and golden than this.

When the pepitas smell done, take them out and put them in a dish. And try not to make your next five meals out of them. I said try.

Pumpkin's done. You'll want to let it cool slightly until it's ok to handle, and then peel off the skin. If I would have roasted my pumpkin for a little longer, it would have been easier to peel off the skin.

Place all your pumpkin pieces in a food processor and give it a whirl. You may have to add water or you may not, depending on how watery the pumpkin is. See that logic? I'm wise, I'm just wise.

Up next: pumpkin puree!!

I measured the pumpkin into 2-cup increments, put them into Ziploc bags, and froze 'em. Come Christmas, there's going to be some pumpkin everything, because you know how many bags I got out of those two measly pumpkins?


Nine bags. Eighteen cups. (Again with the math. #1 on my To-Do list for 2010: get a life.) That's a lot of flipping pumpkin, but it's sooooo much better than the canned stuff. So do it!! Today!! Two days before Christmas Eve!! Come on, you know you've got time.

And, just because it's me, every dish in the house was dirty and the entire kitchen needed a deep clean. Nobody's perfect.

Merry Christmas y'all!! See you in 2010!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's autumn in my kitchen Part 1 - Kara's Squash Stuff

So, I got this idea in my head. I wanted to experiment with some of my favorite flavors of fall. This was for a few reasons: 1, I like to experiment with cooking, 2, I'm a little bit crazy, and 3, I live near a delightful farmer's market and I wanted to support the local economy.

I invited my friend Kara over and we attacked. I'm going to turn them into several posts because detailing all of the stuff we made would get overwhelming. And I prefer to just be whelmed.

Just to give you a taste of what's to come, this is what we looked like neck-deep in our day of cooking. I'm not sure why I look like a demon. But yes, that is a deep fryer, in delightful 1970s olive green.

So, today, I bring you Kara's baby. It has no name. It's the "squash stuff" she heard about at work.

Let me tell you why Kara is my friend. It's because, when I invite her over at 3 p.m. to cook, she brings this:

I wish you wouldn't wonder if we drank the whole bottle.

Anywho, the beginning of Kara's Squash Stuff has to do with an acorn squash. They are called this because they look like acorns.

It is written.

If you cut the acorn in half horizontally, the two sides will look like flowers. If you slice it from stem to stern, as Kara prefers, you'll get this:

Like you would with any squash, get the guts out. I tried to get Kara to let me save the seeds and bake them, but she wouldn't let me. So, to get her back, I snapped this photo:

Hahaha. That's me getting the last laugh.

Place the two halves in a baking dish and preheat the oven to 350. Or 375. Or 500. Whatever you are feeling.

In each halve, add some brown sugar. Not a specific amount of brown sugar, just some. Kara doesn't like to measure either. Another reason she is my friend.

Next: some pancake syrup. Kara used the fake corn syrupy stuff, and it offended me. When you make this, use pure maple for Pete's sake.

How about some butter next. Because butter's better.

Is that a slogan?! I just made that up. It's a shame my fantastic marketing skills will forever be lots on middle schoolers.

Once this is all in there, mix it up and spread it out along the flesh of the squash.

You know what would be amazing on this too? Cinnamon. Apple pie spice. Nutmeg. Use your imagination, folks.

Bake until the sides look brown, about 40 minutes. Once it cools a little, separate the flesh from the skin and enjoy!

Or, if it were me, I'd just fork the stuff into my face right from the squash. But that's me. I'm uncouth. I have no manners. I'm banned from the city of Chattanooga.

This would make an outstanding side dish for Thanksgiving. But I don't have to tell you that. You've all had Thanksgiving dinner. Unless you're English. In that case, sorry about that whole Revolutionary War thing.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

BIG NEWS... and braised chicken :)

Hello friends! I apologize for being so absent lately... I have been way too bogged down with school to post... but I have been cooking! I have a few recipes in the queue, it's just a matter of adding them! Also, a little bit of life changing news in my life...


Art proposed on Monday and we have already set a date for May, so I have been very busy this week. But, things are generally calming down so I am thrilled to get back to blogging!! I am also pretty thrilled with life in general. :) I am the luckiest girl in the world!!

Anyway, today I bring you...


This recipe I got from the Pioneer Woman a few months ago, but I can't seem to find it on her site. I believe it was a guest blog from Kay, but I can't find it there either. Regardless, it's the best braised chicken you will ever have.

Hmm... it appears that a large bottle of wine and a grinning mother-of-the-bride have found their way into my ingredients... as usual. (This was before Art and I got engaged, so my dear mother is thrilled about something else! Probably the wine.)

Anyway, here is what you will need: extra virgin olive oil, salt, any part of the chicken (I used drumsticks and breasts here, and I believe it works best with boneless skinless chicken breasts, but you could certainly use whatever you like), onion, garlic, 4 tomatoes, two peppers, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and the one ingredient I am NOT KIDDING about: CURRY. IF you make this without curry, you are missing out, friends. You'll also need chicken broth (not pictured).

The first thing to do is make the marinade/sauce/whatever this stuff is. Start with 6 Tablespoons EVOO (yes, 6.):

Grate in some garlic cloves. I used 8, because you really want the garlic flavor to come through. But I guess you could use less if you have to.

I love grating garlic. Mostly because my hands smell like garlic for days afterward, and because there's something really wrong with me, I like my hands to smell like garlic. It's a wonder Art wants to marry me (but he does!!!!!! Excuse me, giddy bride moment.)

I'm serious about this garlic situation.

Add in the following seasonings: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons curry powder (DO NOT OMIT!!!!!), and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir well, and you'll get this delightful mixture:

Next dice some up some veggies... like a red pepper...

... and a yellow pepper...

... and an onion...

... and 4 tomatoes. You can also dice up a chile pepper for some spice... but I didn't this time because my momma's a weenie.

Now take your chicken and salt and pepper both sides... like I said, I used drumsticks but really breasts are much much better.

Put some EVOO in the bottom of a skillet and quickly brown the chicken on either side. It won't cook through.

Instant tan!! Notice they are not cooked through.

It's 12:30 a.m. and I'm hungry. Wedding diet=already destroyed. I probably won't even try. Anyway, get all your chicken in a baking dish:

And brush with your delish marinade from above.

Use about half, taking care to get the underside of the chicken.

Add your veggies...

... and use the rest of the marinate. I can't tell you how delicious that really is.

Add your diced tomatoes all on top. Have I said this is the best braised chicken you'll ever eat? It is. And look ma, it's healthy too!!

Bake in a 350 degree for one hour, or until it looks like this:


By the way, I am the world's craziest DIY bride, so stay tuned for all my wacky craft projects in the next six (six. SIX?!?!) months!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grandma Jean's Coffee Cake

You'll thank me for this.

My Grandma Jean is a pretty fabulous cook, and she makes a lot of things that are legendary in our family. When my mom and Mikey first started dating, she won me over with her strawberry jelly. Then, when she cooked sausage and sauerkraut for the rest of my family, she made me macaroni and cheese (because there are several forms of torture I'd rather endure than eat sauerkraut). I had an ear infection once and she rubbed my back until I fell asleep. Ok, that last one didn't have anything to do with cooking, but it's just another reason I love her.

But don't be fooled. A really big reason that I love my grandma is this coffee cake. Write this recipe down and make it all the time for everyone you know. Perhaps people might love you too.

I must let you know that I doubled this recipe. I was making three coffee cakes, two for my parents to take to Florida (without me, mind you), and one for Andy and I, who got left alone all week long. Unless you are making coffee cake for a small army, make half this amount.

Gather these ingredients:

Eggs, vegetable oil, flour, sugar, brown sugar, milk, salt, pecans, cinnamon, baking powder, and butter or margarine or whatever. We're keeping it simple today.

I started with four whole eggs. (sooooo the regular recipe calls for two eggs. Get it?)

Mix in 3 cups sugar (this coffee cake is not for the faint of heart, my friends).

And 1 cup vegetable oil. On Grandma Jean's recipe it says "salad oil." Love.

Cream together all the ingredients until combined.

My mother thinks she's funny:

PS: GO BUCKEYES!!!!!! I love football season.

If you're doubling the recipe, use a really big bowl. This is mine:

I think, in my mom's divorce from my dad, she got the house, the car, me, and this bowl. It's enormous, and I'll tell you one thing: never in my memory of my life have I ever eaten popcorn out of this bowl. But it makes a great tool if you are doubling an already large recipe!

Here's an important step. Sift together 6 cups flour, 6 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt and add that mixture alternately with two cups milk. Or, you could be like me and forget the baking power and the salt completely, and then throw away three ruined coffee cakes.

Don't be like me. Pioneer Woman says that all the time, and I think you should heed this advice. Remember to sift, please. For Grandma Jean's sake.

Isn't sifted flour pretty?

Add some of the flour mixture...

And some of the milk...

Mix for a little while, then add some more flour stuff...

And some more milk...

You get the idea.

Beat the mixture well until it's all nice and combined.

Now make the brown sugar topping, aka the best part, aka the reason why you will dream about this coffee cake.

Start off with 2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar.

That white stuff? It's excess flour because I used the same measuring cup without washing it. I confess. Don't judge me.

As it turns out, it wasn't that big of a flub, because you NEED flour in the topping. 8 tablespoons in fact. There's 8 teaspoons melted butter or margarine or whatever in there, too. And 2 cups pecans or walnuts or whatever nut you like. Just picture it in your mind.

I mixed a little bit before I realized I forgot my cinnamon! Don't you do it. Two teaspoons cinnamon.

Are you halving everything in this post? You should be! Unless you are feeding a church group or an enormous potluck or a small country. Then you can make double.

Annnnnywho. Here's some fun! In a 9 x 13 pan, or an 8 x 8 pan, or a disposable tin cake pan, or a combination of all three, add half the batter!

Gotcha, ma.

Add half the filling, and then marble the two together. There's not a picture because I didn't do that the first (or second) time around, and I deeply, deeply regret it.

Lies. But please, do marble.

Then, add the rest of the batter...

And the rest of the crumbly filling on top:

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cook just enough so that it doesn't scald you, and then eat. You'll love Grandma Jean too.

This coffee cake changes lives friends!