Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Bread-Fall Storm





I don't know where you live. In the foothills of Colorado, fall and spring bring the worst (best?) weather. Right now, we're getting ready for Halloween

just like the rest of the country. But we're also in the middle of a snow storm. Luckily, I live up on this beautiful mesa just west of downtown Colorado Springs and, usually, we are somehow protected from the very worst (and deepest) of the snows. We've lived somewhat north of here in two different woman-killer houses (when we needed 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms-- you see what could kill the woman about that) and the snows have been DEEEEEp. Here, the winds do other things and just about blow Gabby and I away some dark nights. (She barked for HOURS last night. Of course, we have a bear, too... daily clean-ups of that mess.)

Never mind, it's still time for pumpkin bread and... all things pumpkin. More on that later. I have a soup to share that has some pumpkin. Maybe closer to Thanksgiving would be a good time for that. Meantime, check out the pumpkin cookies made from Ina Garten's "Shortbread Cookies..." that originally came from Eli Zabar:


I made these for Halloween Night dinner, when my six-year-old grandson was coming to trick-or-treat in the 'hood. Right now, he needs your prayers because he's not coming for Halloween; he's home with H1N1. (Boo-hoo)
Freezing cookies and chili for when he CAN come!


Is there anyone who doesn't like pumpkin bread? Usually people say, "Oh, I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuv pumpkin bread." I can't remember a time when I didn't make it, but, surely that time existed. I will tell you one thing:
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Just use canned pumpkin.
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Don't kill a pumpkin to make this bread because the bread is no better and you might as well carve the pumpkin.
Same is true for pumpkin soup.
Same is true for pumpkin pie.
I hate to take you away from all that cutting and hand-sliming opportunity, but I tell you the truth. I've done it both ways and I know.
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There are people whose incomes depend on canning pumpkin. Let them do it.

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Now, this year (2009), you just might have to do something really weird in order to get your canned pumpkin. I got mine early and I paid a fortune for it at Whole Foods because there was no pumpkin on the shelves anywhere else. My husband happens to have someone who works for him somewhere (it could be anywhere in North or South America) who also owns an organic pumpkin farm, so I had the heads-up early on. If you didn't, you could still be sliming that big squash pretty soon despite my advice against it.
Is a pumpkin a squash or a gourd? I seem to remember it might be a berry? Anyway, you might be getting your hands into something deep. (Sorry.)Whatever you have to do, get the pumpkin and make this bread.

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Coffee Cup Muffins--same recipe
 Lots of folks like it with cream cheese. I like it with butter... or plain. You choose. I've tweaked it over the years from THE FANNY FARMER BAKING BOOK, which is one of my very favorite baking books of all time. Might be out of print (I think it is), but you can probably get a copy from Amazon.com used. If so, get it. Original recipe calls for dates and walnuts; I still do that, too. Have some in the freezer like that right now.

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Alyce's Pumpkin Bread
makes 2 9x5" loaves
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Preheat oven to 350 F.
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In a bowl, mix
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 c raisins
1 c hot water (You'll drain them in a minute.)
Set aside.
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In another bowl, mix 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips with 1 t all-purpose flour; Set aside.
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Grease and flour your pans. In electric mixer, or in large bowl using hand mixer, beat together
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2/3 c butter, softened
2 c canned pumpkin
4 eggs
2 1/2 c sugar
2/3 c milk (I like low-fat evaporated)
Drain and add the 1/2 c ea cranberries and raisins (see above)
Stir in: 1/2 c chopped walnuts
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On top of liquid ingredients add:
3 1/3 c flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
3/4 ground cloves
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Mix the dry ingredients together on top of the wet and then gently mix together until flour is just barely incorporated.
Add floured chocolate chips (from the start of the recipe) and mix well.
Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake about 60 minutes (test at 50).
Test by inserting skewer or toothpick into middle of bread. Bread is done when skewer comes out almost clean. Let sit on rack in pans five minutes before turning out onto rack to cool completely. When very cool, wrap well in aluminum foil. Store in frig up to one week and in freezer for up to two months.
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Makes nice muffins, too. Bake at 400 in greased tins for 15-17 min.
Great for Thanksgiving on the cheese tray before dinner.
Nice holiday gift in small pans. Bake 20-30 min. 350 F.



Happy Halloween, my friends. It's wonderful whatever the weather.
This blog is dedicated to my friend, 'Lena, who adores this bread.
I LOVE FALL-----------------------------------------------------------------
Sing a new song--pull out the Peanuts Pumpkin Carols...great Halloween lyrics to traditional Christmas tunes.
Alyce
p.s. I've included a video of some of today's weather and it's sideways. I'll try and upload it again and see if it rights itself. You'll get the idea anyway!

  photos added 9/2012

video

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Italian Beef Sandwiches and "I Yam What I Yam Fries"



"Please make me," said the Italian Beef.

You can make a bunch and feed a lot of people and make them all happy. You can feed just two of you and freeze some for later. Whatever you do, just get a pot going and make this "I'm so happy I came" Italian Beef. Definitely a head-shaking, eye-rolling lip-smacker. You probably have the picture. Great for the weekend after Thanksgiving or the holiday office potluck.

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Is Italian beef really Italian? I’m not sure I know, but where I grew up in Chicago, it was sliced thinly with a bit of heat and a lot of spice and garlic, piled high on a great piece of baguette (we didn’t know that word; I’m sure we said ‘Italian bread’) and served with marinated vegetables (giardiniera) or maybe just pepperocini, which is what I prefer. I grew up eating this whenever I could get it and, when I got married, my mother-in-law proudly passed on her recipe. Over the years, it's tweaked itself into something somewhat different....similar, but up the ladder a peg or two flavor-wise.

My childhood Chicago version was wrapped in white paper or in white paper topped with aluminum foil if you were going far. Adored and consumed quickly while hot. If you waited too long to eat it, the juice (ah, the juice!) would seep into the bread’s deepest corners rendering a knife and fork necessary. Still good, but not exactly a sandwich anymore. And juice, lots of it, is a big part of THE Italian Beef Sandwich. Think of French Dip without the dip. Ya gotta have it. I DO like to serve a small side bowl of this spicy broth for dipping in just the same way you serve the au jus for French dips. Cheese? If you must. Only provolone.



Your choice about how to cook this beef. If you’re home, you might like it in the oven; its smells like heaven and people won’t be able to wait to eat what’s in there. “What smells so good in here?” will be the favorite line. Isn’t that what you want to hear? Teenagers might stay home for dinner. If you’re working, throw the mess in a crock-pot and come home able to say, “Dinner’s ready!” These are many people’s favorite words in life.
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Feel free to double or triple the recipe for either two pans in the oven, two crock-pots, or one counter top roaster, such as a Rival. (These come in a few sizes starting at 10 quarts) I purchased one for a frantic Thanksgiving a few years back and use it often as an over-sized crock-pot. At any rate, you then have enough to freeze a couple of meals ahead in two quart containers. Simply take one out in the morning of the day you require a do-nothing dinner, run it under hot water to pop it out and then place it in the large crock-pot that you’ve put a little water into. Turn to low and leave all day. Presto……….dinner.
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Starting out in the morning........................
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Add a little Caesar Salad on the side or try my "I Yam" oven yam fries; I've included the recipe after the one for the beef.
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Italian Beef Sandwiches
Serves 6 -8
Ingredients:


5 pounds (approx.) Beef rump roast or top round
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (can use more, but broth can be salty)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons each dried oregano and basil (you need this much or more)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
5 cups beef broth, low-sodium
1 cup red wine (can make it 6 c beef broth if you don’t care for wine; you can also use white wine)
2 stalks celery cut into large chunks; 2 carrots peeled and cut in thirds
1 large onion, quartered
Pepperocini
Sliced provolone (opt)
8-10 small baguettes, hard rolls such as Kaiser rolls, or sliced Italian bread, toasted

Directions:

Rub beef roast with salt, pepper and garlic.* Place in 6 qt crock-pot and cover with oregano, basil, marjoram and red pepper. Pour broth and wine over all and add celery and onion. Set crock-pot on low and cook 5-6 hours until tender (1 hr more at altitude) but not falling apart. (Or roast in oven, covered, at 350 about 4-5 hrs) To eat today: Remove beef from broth; let sit while you strain the broth, discarding celery and onions. Place a ladle full of strained broth in each of six small cups; return remainder to crock-pot. Slice beef thinly and add to broth in crock-pot. To eat later (best because the flavors marry overnight and you can slice cold meat more easily): Cool meat in strained broth; ; store in frig. Slice cold beef very thinly and return to covered pot. Re-heat gently in oven at 350 F for 30-40 min. Serve with toasted baguette or sliced Italian bread and pepperocini on plates with bowls of broth for dipping. Add provolone cheese to sandwich if desired.

*At this point, you can brown the meat on all sides in a Dutch oven with a small amount of oil or bacon grease but, while this improves the taste, it is not absolutely necessary and adds 10-15 min. to the preparation time in the morning. Do it night before and have it ready to go if it makes a big difference for you.



"I Yam What I Yam Fries"
Serves 6
Ingredients:
8 medium yams, peeled and cut into 1/2" x 3" segments
3-4T canola oil
1/4 t ground cayenne (or to taste)
1/2 t Vietnamese cinnamon
1/2 t Kosher salt
1/4 t freshly-ground pepper
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Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large bowl, toss cut yams with oil and spices. Spread out onto a large, rimmed baking sheet (2 if needed) and bake until crispy at ends--45 min to an hour. Do not over cook.
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Wine: Chianti or another inexpensive Italian red. Nothing pricey.
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Dessert: Pick up some cannolis if you have a source. If you have a pizzelle maker, you can make cannolis yourself. Or, for a group, spumoni and biscotti is a perfect ending.
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Current reading: MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS, by Michael Chabon
Current Listening: Regina Spektor: "far"
-
-----------------------Cooks Against Hunger............................................................
While we love to cook and share time with families and friends, it's sometimes not so easy to think of how many people are hungry right now in our world.
The current number stands at about 1 billion, 35.5 million of which are in the United States. In the U.S., 12.6 million, out of the 35.5 million, are children.
16,000 children die world-wide every day due to hunger-related causes.
What can we do?
  • Each of us can begin, on our own, by not wasting food. In our world, statistics vary, but often quoted numbers note 25-30% of the food produced is thrown away.
  • Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or food pantry.
  • Keep the food in your own kitchen pantry up to date. Clean out your cabinets now and take the extra food to church or the local food pantry.
  • Donate money there for meat, perishables and things food stamps don't buy.
  • Check out bread.org (website for Bread for the World, a Christian Voice for Ending Hunger) for facts and for ideas for helping in your community or place of worship.
  • Or, for other information and for places to support financially, go to
charitywatch.org
and check the listings under HUNGER for an organization you might want to support. Go to that website for information on donations or volunteering.
What else? Comment here for thoughts to share with fellow cooks.
It's snowing outside my window and I am blessed indeed to be warm and well-fed. I had the great privilege to worship in a safe place and hear the Word brought beautifully. My family treated me to a birthday lunch out and what is better than sitting next to your grandson in a restaurant booth?



When the cold winds blow and you've got two or ten that'll be hungry, pull out this recipe. In fact, get a rump roast or two the next time you see them on sale. Freeze them and be ready to make this beef. You won't be sorry and.. you'll be smiling as you draw the smell deeply into your nostrils and breathe...Italian Beef!

Sing a new song; make a hot sandwich,
Alyce

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scallops with Asparagus and Couscous in 15


Faster than a speeding bullet......

" " pizza delivery.....
" " going for burgers
" " cheese sandwich...well, not faster than a cheese sandwich

First of all, I'm just not about speed in cooking or anything else. If I can't take my time about whatever it is, I'm generally not interested. And, I adore slow-cooking. I'm never happier than if something is braising away in the oven for hours on end while I...while I.. while I...

  • iron linen napkins
  • look at my husband
  • throw the ball for the golden retriever
  • watch old movies (or MSNBC--I'm a politics junky)
  • walk
  • talk to a friend
  • have lunch with a book
  • make candy
  • listen to "Fresh Air" on NPR
  • play the piano or listen to someone else do it better
  • go shopping (if someone else is home to watch the oven)
  • run down to Coaltrain and see what's new
  • write a letter (Yes, I write letters. I write something to my daughter
    snailmail every single week. Well, I try.)

But, once in a while I take a lesson, run to the grocery, run home to teach a lesson, do three more loads of wash....(Ok. Where does it come from? There are only two of us. Can't we wear dirty clothes?)

On those days, I'm desperate for something for dinner. And, yes, I could have wine and cheese (I almost typed "swine." I have that, too, occasionally.) I could have a grilled cheese and tomato soup. I could order out. Or, I could "throw something together" like grilled scallops and asparagus with couscous cooked with yellow raisins and onions.


If I know I'm going to be desperate, even on a cold and blustery fall day, I search for desperate food at the store on my way home. What looks good, doesn't cost a fortune, and, here's the hard part, sounds good to me? In this case, my husband had to eat, too--so I couldn't just consider my desires. He's not picky and will eat anything but tuna casserole, and I have to confess that once in a while, I'll buy a frozen tuna casserole just for me. For lunch. Over a whole can of green beans. Ah, confessions.

Today, I grabbed asparagus, 2 for $3.00. (Like my friend Sue, I'll pay nearly anything for asparagus anyway.) I checked the meat counter for specials (Lamb chops are quick, but they're rarely on sale to coin a phrase.) No on-sale tiny steaks. Chicken was on sale (when isn't it) and I had no desire for it. I've given up boneless breasts for humane and political reasons and the rest would take too long. Hmm. Fish? My store doesn't have the best fish market and, to tell the truth, the dolt serving the counter was texting ... who? I don't know. Luckily, someone else saw me waiting. "Can I help you?" Scallops, fresh, were $11.99 a pound. Not a great price for 4 or 6, but not bad for 1 or 2 in a real hurry.


Home again, home again. Teach, have tea with great student. Husband home. Dinner?

GAME PLAN
---------------Things you need are in green---------------

Make couscous. (I like the kind with olive oil and garlic)

Heat 1 1/3 c (1 1/4 at sea level) water to boiling. Meantime, in 2 qt saucepan, saute 1/2 red onion, chopped and 1/3 c golden raisins in 2 T olive oil with kosher salt and pepper. When onion is soft, add couscous and water. Cover for 5-7 minutes. 5 at sea level; 7 at altitude. Fluff with fork when done. Keep warm in pan covered.
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Grill asparagus and scallops.

Meantime, heat grill pan, brushed with olive oil, over medium heat to make scallops and asparagus. Add 1# asparagus (washed and trimmed). Co0k about 1 minute and push to perimeter. Add towel-dried 1# scallops. Salt and pepper all. Turn asparagus several times; turn scallops once when medium-brown grill marks on first side--after about 2 minutes. Salt and pepper all on this side. Cook another 2 minutes or so and test scallops for doneness. They should give slightly to the touch; you don't want them well-done... just cooked through is more like it. You can take a sharp knife and check the inside. It should be just barely opaque and still juicy.

Put it together

Place about 1 cup of couscous on each plate. Top with 3-4 scallops and a few asparagus spears. Squeeze lemon over scallops and asparagus. Eat while hot.
(Serves 2)

15 minutes... total... maybe-------------------------Why go out?
For gluten free, omit couscous and sub salad and gluten-free bread.

Wine: California Chardonnay

Sigh... You can fix this for friends another night. You know how to do it now.

Oh, and you'd better set the table and pour the water and wine before you begin!

Sing a new song while you love the scallops, even in the cold and snow---
Alyce

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Peach Amaretto Bread Pudding

I don't know how they do it, but for the last couple of weeks Idaho and Utah orchards have still been shipping peaches to Colorado. Of course, we are very taken with our own western-slope peaches (gone for over a month by now) and our small, but delectable selection of irrigated Penrose apples, but when you can't get local and the brought-in stuff is still firmly-fleshed and sweetly calling, you eat them for breakfast with Greek yogurt every morning until............until there are no more.

Every day or two, I buy some plums (upcoming blog dessert) and see if there are still peaches and, so far, there are. I put a few in a great ceramic bowl in my sunlit living room and leave them steam a bit for a couple of days, et voila, just juicy peaches are available one more time. I've never seen a fall like that before. In fact, I just got back from Minnesota, where a friend said they had no good peaches at all late summer or early fall. Colorado blessed.

(Here's the new view (above) from my front stoop... Pike's Peak to the west.
With the help of Mike next door, we got out those old junipers that blocked our coffee hour sights.)
One night, roasting a chicken for dinner, I thought about making a peach dessert. I had some leftover hard rolls that I could have given to the birds out back, but decided something could be done with a bread pudding of some sort. Custardy things are my husband's things and I'm always looking for new ones. It didn't take long to come up with a flavored bread pudding with fruit that baked in my lower oven as the chicken roasted and sat a while, exhaling, while we ate.

You could do it with apples (Calvados instead of Amaretto?) or plums (Brandy?); use your imagination. I know I've tried apples with no liquor at all--just cinnamon and some vanilla. Luscious.

(Gab--enjoying the cool air.)

A touch of late summer............ in mid-fall.

Invite a friend for dessert!

Peach-Amaretto Bread Pudding
Ingredients:

2 large hard rolls, cut into ½” slices and buttered
2 large peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into 1/3” pieces

3 extra large eggs
1 ½ -1 ¾ cups milk
1/8 c Amaretto liqueur
1 t cinnamon (Vietnamese is good)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 2 qt round casserole and set aside.
In medium bowl, beat eggs and add remaining ingredients. Beat well.

Layer bread and peaches in casserole dish and pour egg mixture over all, stirring just a bit to make sure all ingredients are wet. If some bread/peaches are sticking out on top, it’s fine.

Bake 60-70 min. until edges are crispy, but bread is still tender. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Can also be served at room temperature or cold.
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Wine: I had a bit of Amaretto in my coffee, but you could do Moscato d'Asti, a late-harvest Riesling or perhaps a small, light port.
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What else: We had chicken roasted with squash and a saute of Swiss Chard. The entire dinner menu, with recipes will soon be up on my new blog, "Dinner Place," which will be a spot for more complicated and time consuming recipes for special occasions or just days when you have more time to cook. Watch for
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dinnerplace.blogspot.com
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Just a bit of fun news: This week, I'm testing soups to go with Stony Hill '04 Chardonnay. Our wine group gathers this Friday night up in the mountains with a great selection of Stony Hill wines for a long tasting and boocoo courses. (I have the third course, the second of three whites.) Someone sweet, from the winery, is coming to share the meal and talk big about wine. So far, I've tried an ultra cool Lentil Soup with a Pumpkin-Crab Custard in the middle..my own invention and... well, while it's very tasty..... it needs tweaking to pair with that Chard. After tasting the '02 today, I'm reworking the broth entirely. Soon, it'll be called "Gentle Lentil, " I think. Why not? Watch the Dinner Place to see the process blogged; I may have even gotten decent pictures.
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I'd love to know if you like the new template. Click on "Comments" below.
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Sing a new song; blog a new blog, sip a new soup..........

Alyce

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lamb-Italian Sausage Stew

 

My favorite stew-----It might be yours, too!

The weather has gone from autumn brilliant:



to frozen solid with all of the leaves on. We've had three lynx on our back deck (I got only one horrible pic), as well as these gorgeous bucks


trying to get something to eat through the ice. One wants to know why I'm taking pictures off the ice rink of an upper deck. We spent a couple of lovely days at home working on projects and enjoying cooking time. Ice, ice!

Today's blog is actually not totally from that cooking weekend, though we began it with a Friday night version of this lovely, original stew, layered with some rice topped with chiffonade of basil and a tish black pepper: I even added some carrots to round the stew out.   Another night, we had it with pasta.


I do apologize for the picture, but you get the idea. This is a full-bodied, hearty lamb stew that you could make


1. in the crock-pot,
2. on the stovetop or
3 in the oven if you so choose.


You can eat it just like it is in deep bowls, adding some baguette for dipping. Or, you can freeze a few containers and have them with rice or pasta some other week. Totally up to you.




LAMB/ITALIAN SAUSAGE STEW
--Can sub beef or pork for lamb (but I wish you wouldn't)
6-8 servings

In microwave oven or stove, cook 2 c dry white beans, one large onion, halved (keep skin on), 4 cloves of garlic with papers, 3 sprigs of rosemary and a teaspoon of freshly-ground pepper (no salt) in 2qts water, covered, until nearly tender. (Dry beans cook wonderfully in the micro.) Drain beans, remove vegetables and herbs. Set aside.  (If you choose to use canned beans (drained), add them in for the last hour of cooking in the crock-pot.)


In large skillet, brown 2# lean lamb, cubed and 4 Italian sausage links, cut into chunks.



Here, I cooked the meat in two pans at once (left and right) to hasten the process.

Add 2 c chopped onion, 1 c chopped celery, 2-4 cloves crushed garlic, 1 t each rosemary, thyme. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.


Cook 5-7 minutes until onion is becoming limp and translucent.

In 6qt. crock-pot, combine drained beans, meat and veggies. Add 2qt. beef stock , 1 32 oz can chopped tomatoes and 1 c red wine.*


Cook on low 6-8 hours. Make sure beans are tender before serving. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Alternately:  Cook on the stove top.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook until everything is tender--about an hour and a half.  Don't overcook.

Serve w/ crusty bread and the rest of the bottle of red wine. An inexpensive French Cote du Rhone or even a lighter Italian red would be great. Any red would do in a pinch. We have enjoyed Pinot Noir with this meal. (Of course.)


A note on the meat: I use boneless leg of lamb for this stew and there is plenty left to do some lamb kabobs the next day if you have bought a whole leg.  Alternate onion and lamb on soaked skewers. Brush with olive oil and dust with garlic salt and oregano. Grill until medium rare. Serve with a side of cucumbers and dill in yogurt.

I have also used Lamb top round, which cooks a bit too quickly for this stew.  Stick with the leg or shoulder if you can.

Turkey Italian Sausage can be subbed for the pork sausage. If you use turkey, do not cook it all day in the crockpot. Just brown it and add it right before serving.

*This is a great method for altitude cooking.  If you live at sea level, or near it, you can just cook the beans half-way before adding them.


This is one of my very favorite stews and certainly a favorite recipe. I heard the words lamb and beans one day and this is what transpired.

There must be a special blessing for eating lamb; it's so tasty, homey and still elegant. Think of one and post it? We are always so incredibly grateful for such stomach-warming dishes. Particularly when it snows ice for hours on end. Brr.

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

Meantime, the weather has broken a tad and I'm in the middle of baking loaf after loaf of pumpkin bread. Pumpkin is a little scarce this year, but I got enough for my bread and for the Thanksgiving pies. Yes, it's coming!

I'm traveling the next few days. I will put up something new if I can, but might have to wait until early next week. Include me in your prayers for travel mercies?

Sing a new song...
Alyce
additional pictures added Feb, 2013

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brownie Pie a la Mary Pat


If it's your birthday and someone wants to throw a party for you, you usually let them. And so it was for Mary Pat, my across-the-street "next-door" neighbor. She arrived dressed to the nines (you should feel like a queen or king on your birthday) and ready to party. I was in the shower. I had spent so long that day getting things ready (bbq brisket and trimmings, to say nothing of the house!) that when it was time for people to arrive, I still wasn’t clean and I had no idea what I was wearing. I didn’t think anyone would show up on time and I can take a pretty quick shower. Naturally, I made sure the starters were out, the drinks table was set-up; the candles were lit. The rule of thumb for even casual entertaining is to have all of the prep done an hour ahead so that you have time to clean-up and maybe even put your feet up for a minute. I have never lived by any rules of thumb. (My thumb seems to be nearly 2 inches, but that’s a piano player.) I sometimes miss a few minutes of my own gatherings because I can’t abide by the rule.

At fifteen minutes beforehand, I may decide on another dish to serve and begin it. “Oh, I have lemons, limes and oranges (and leftover wine), I can make sangria!” There are two small pieces of cheese left and a big hunk of goat’s cheese, let’s make a cheese spread.” And so on. Or, “Vacuum!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” If you have dogs like retrievers or Great Pyrenees (see Rocket below), you can’t clean the sofas or vacuum until five minutes before anyone comes. You’d like them to taste the food, not the fur. Putht, Putht (sound of your guests trying to get hair out of their mouths.)
You try and remember to say “Beige or jeans only,” but you forget after awhile and, truly, people like to choose their own party attire.



All dressed-up with somewhere to go............................................
Girls in the 'hood............................................................................
Rocket our, by now, very well-adopted Great Pyrenees, wandered all over during this party with fur flying despite the $100 grooming and defurring; some folks had to step outside.




He’s much happier in his new home, where he can jump in and get a free bath at will. ( Rocketman’s new owner has been very generous with pics send from the ranch via I-Phone (I’m jealous of this capability.), so I share a couple here with you…)




He also has views like this ---



Photos courtesy R. Saunders.
While we enjoyed all of the food (brisket is another blog), the highlight seemed to be the brownies. Now, Mary Pat, despite my urging, refused to choose her birthday dessert. When that happens, I don’t know what to do! Chocolate is my answer, but I did end of up making three bars (see leftovers below) so folks had a choice. Not everyone likes chocolate (hard to believe, but true).





Still, what to make to which a candle could be added? A brownie pie. What better? And here it is. If you make it, they will come. I have had more than a few people say to me, in the many years I’ve baked this dessert, that this is the very best brownie they’ve ever eaten in their lives. Now, my secret is this: I think they’ve only had box brownies!!! (These are from a maybe 40 yr old Betty Crocker recipe, tweaked over the years. ) So any brownie made with real chocolate might seem close to a blessing. My other secret is that I can’t make these for just us; I will eat them all. There’s very little else that I’m so addicted to, but I have to make these when someone else is coming. I can pass by pie, cake, most cookies, etc. These brownies: they don’t pass go or collect $200. Straight in my mouth and right onto my hips. I could skip eating them and just add them to my girth directly. Achh.

They do not keep well; store them tightly wrapped in the frig for a day or so and, still, they will just be incredibly better on the day you made them. Do not make ahead; do not freeze. Give away instead. Did I say that? These are VERY fast to make; they are all you ever wanted of chocolate, loved ones. A one-bowl wonder.

Make the time.

Brownie Pie a la Mary Pat
12 smallish servings, 8 for real big chocolate fans
frosting: see separate recipe below


Spray with PAM a 9-10 quiche/tart/pie pan (I like the 9.5x2” Corningware quiche dish) and set aside.

In small skillet ( remember this is optional), toast nuts, over medium heat, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Set aside.

In large covered * glass bowl or measuring cup, melt in microwave (take out and stir halfway through/repeat for extra 10 seconds as needed) for 1-2 minutes. I do this on HIGH, but sometimes use my cool microwave setting for melting chocolate, which takes longer.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
10 2/3T unsalted butter



Set aside to cool for a couple of minutes, stirring to make sure chocolate is well-melted and incorporated into butter. To this mixture, add and stir well:

2 c granulated sugar
4 beaten eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 ¼ c unbleached white flour
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 c chopped, toasted (if desired) walnuts or pecans


Spread a decent layer—half-way up the sides- in the brownie pie pan. You’ll have some batter left that you can bake in another small, sprayed dish. I use a baby loaf pan. (Your secret stash.) Wash the glass container you mixed this in; you’ll need it for the frosting.

Bake them about 25 minutes. They are done not when a toothpick comes out clean—forget that—but when they are almost solid in the middle and the brownies are drawing away from the sides of the pan. Underdone is better than overdone. Who wants burned chocolate. I know, I know, you like crusty brownies, don’t you. Well, then go ahead and ruin your little batch. Leave the rest barely done.

Cool the pans on a rack. When cool, make the frosting. Now, this is a bit of a stuff to do, but, trust me, it’s worth every minute.



*I use a large, microwave proof plate for a cover whenever I can.

Brownie Pie Frosting(take off of “Glossy Chocolate Frosting" from B. C.)

3T butter-unsalted
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 c powdered sugar
¼ t salt
1/3 c milk
1 t vanilla

In large glass measuring cup or bowl, melt chocolate with butter in microwave. You do not need a double boiler. God has been very good here. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Ok, taste it. Place this bowl over a larger pan 1/3 full of water with lots of ice. Beat the frosting with a whisk until it’s thickened. Spread thickened mixture on the brownie pie and your little stash pan, too. Lick bowl well. (Do this when no one else is home so you needn’t share. After all, they get to eat the brownies later.) Let pie sit with frosting for at least 15 minutes (if you can wait). Cut into 8-12 servings depending on number of guests and hunger.



Wine: I'm a sucker for Port with chocolate.

Other drink: Coffee with Bailey's. Ok, ok: MILK.


Here's lookin' at you, kid----

Need something more or to stretch the dessert? Serve with coffee ice cream or make brownie sundaes, using the coffee ice cream and drizzling Kahlua over the brownies along with some hot fudge. Whipped cream? Sure.
Make a birthday for someone. You don't need to do dinner. Just make the brownies and invite them. They'll feel honored and loved.

"You're invited for dessert in honor of __________________"


Sounds like a good invitation.

Sing a new song or just "Happy Birthday to you!"
Alyce
P.S. A small apology for the recent photos to those out there with wonderful digital cameras (or wonderful camera skills!), I am finally testing out a new camera as mine has been in sad shape for a while. Suggestions for what kind of new camera to buy are welcome!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Spicy Shrimp Pasta or Rocky's Got a Brand New Bag


I’ve heard it said that dogs come into our lives for a reason, leaving something we must learn……….and we are fed by those who help us most to grow -- if we let them—and we help them in return. Now, I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today because I met you….
("For Good" from “Wicked” paraphrase with changes)

Rocky’s got a great new home:





Our sweet Rocketman, fostering with us for just a month, found a new calling guarding sheep on a ranch just south of Pueblo. If you’re missing seeing his pics on my blog in the future, imagine how Dave, Gabby and I feel. We’re a tad lost, a tish happy and breathing well to know he’s in the right place. A rancher who had been looking for a Pyr for quite a while was happy, indeed, to find our “little” pup (over 100 pounds) to add to the ranch entourage and to fend off coyote, bobcat and, hopefully not bear. Truly, “The Rock” was simply too big for our house and needed a bit more room to roam. He now has boocoo acres to call his own and a perimeter I wouldn’t like to walk. All’s well that ends well. If I do get further pics, I’ll share them with you. New owner has invited us to come visit the ranch, so hopefully there'll be a few more. Meantime, Gabby needs a friend---badly.

Of course, I’m still cooking and blogging, but I had to really suck it up and sigh more than a few times to get the blog up today… But, friends, you are in for a treat. I have been dreaming of a shrimp pasta for a long time and just hadn’t made it for some reason. The vision held heat and I don’t do a lot of heat (I’ve been known to put the hot sauce on the table for everyone else) because I’m interested in flavor, not being burned to death. This, however, just appealed to me and I had to try it out to see how it might work. And, oh, how it worked. And, oh, how it worked so very quickly. If you’re going to cook anyway and you know how to make spaghetti, MAKE THIS INSTEAD! Get out of your box; move your cheese. Forget the hamburger. Go buy a little shrimp. Splurge. Be healthy.

SPICY SHRIMP PASTA
serves 2

Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
Large shallot
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup red or yellow (sweet) pepper
2 stalks celery, chopped
½ teaspoon herbes de Provence
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 32 oz can chopped tomatoes (I like Cento)
½ cup white wine
½ lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
½ # uncooked fresh, peeled and deveined shrimp

½ # whole wheat linguine (use corn or other gluten-free pasta for GF meal)

freshly grated parmesan cheese
fresh basil julienne, optional

Bring 5-6 qt. water to boil in an 8-10 qt. kettle. Salt and pepper water and add fresh basil leaves if you have them.




Saute shallot, onion, peppers and celery in oil with herbes de Provence and red pepper for about 10 minutes until softened well.



Add garlic and cook, stirring 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine and the lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Throw the lemon into the pan. Cook 2 minutes or so and add shrimp.




Cover and cook until shrimp are pinking and opaque—about 3 minutes, though check at 2. Serve over linguine and pass the cheese and basil, if using, at the table. Please roll your eyes heavenward, wrinkle your nose and lift the corners of your mouth; you are well-fed!


If your shrimp are frozen, just throw them in the sauce and let them unthaw.


Making the meal bigger: baguette and salad

Wine: A nice Chianti Classico, puhleeze..  (Pairing the prep, not the protein.)

Dessert: Sorbetto, por favore

Seen this week: "You Can't Take it With You" (Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore-- 1938?)
Reading: Still finishing the Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Brown Taylor's THE PREACHING LIFE. (slow reader lately?)

Upcoming: Brownie pie a la Marypat and Lamb Stew. Don’t hold your breath, loved ones, but remember to

Sing a new song,
Alyce
--In memoriam: GOURMET magazine... a dreaming, far-reaching food
enterprise for many years. Pick up the last issue: November, 2009

The Rocket..............................