Monday, January 14, 2019

Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet

Cabbage has a constant presence in my fridge these days. Its long shelf life enables pantry meals like this one. It works well for my family, as it is easy to deconstruct into both low carb and kid-friendly meals. Maybe someday my boys will see the appeal of cabbage and onions, but until then they can eat the potatoes and sausage.


Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet

 Minimally adapted from Good Fast Eats by Amy Flanagan

1/2 lb red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 T olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 14-oz cooked polska kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small head cabbage, core removed, coarsely chopped (about 6 cups)
1 large onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, mined
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas black pepper
2 teas rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 teas Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss potatoes with 1/2 T olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet for 18-20 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and cook for 1 minute without stirring; then stir occasionally for 3 minutes or so. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the fat and oil as you can in the pan.

Add the cabbage, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook for 8-10 minutes. Mix in the vinegar and mustard; add the sausage back to the pan and cook for another couple of minutes. Toss in the roasted potatoes and enjoy!

Note: The original recipe called for new potatoes, but these aren't always easy to come by so I usually make them with red potatoes. Also I don't weigh them, because I have kids who will eat just potatoes so I cook enough potatoes to feed all six of us, and then add the desired amount to each grown-up's serving.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

This was a good use for excess sour cream almost at its expiration date before a long trip.  Since a whole bundt cake is a bit much for this household to manage, I cut the cake in half and froze it for a month. It thawed beautifully. I'm not sure I would top with a glaze before freezing, however.


Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Source:  Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Serves: 12-14

For altitudes of around 4000 ft to 6000 ft make the following changes:
2 T less sugar
2 T more flour
3/4 teas soda ( I may try less next time)

This time I didn't have enough regular cocoa so I used about 1/3 of the amount in Dutch processed. This may have affected how the soda reacted.

I found my kitchen was so cool the chocolate sour cream mixture started to set up while I was gathering and mixing other ingredients.

It seems the cocoa/butter coating of the pan was able to sit quite awhile without any trouble. I would extend it even higher in the pan since the batter filled the entire pan.


pan coating (cake release):

1 T butter, melted
1 T cocoa

Mix together in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, brush all of the interior of a standard bundt pan (12-cup). If the mixture becomes cool and thick, heat it again in the microwave for a 10 seconds or so. Inspect the pan (especially if it has a dark coating) to make sure that the mixture covers all the of the surface. I used all of the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350F with the rack at the lower third of the oven.

For the cake, first step:

3/4 c boiling water
3/4 c natural cocoa (avoid Dutch processed because of the reduction of alkali)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teas instant espresso powder
1/2 c boiling water
1 c sour cream at room temperature

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a medium size bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir until smooth and well combined. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then stir the sour cream into the chocolate mixture ensuring no white streaks remain. This will look a lot like a bowl of frosting.

For the cake, subsequent steps:

1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1 teas table salt
1 teas baking soda
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) butter at room temperature
2 c packed light brown sugar
1 T vanilla extract
5 large eggs at room temperature

Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Place the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, mix at medium to medium-high speed for 5 minutes or so until creamed. Scrape the sides and add the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides after adding 2 eggs and again when finished. Don't worry if the batter appears curdled or separated.

Combining the elements:

At medium low speed add about a third of the flour mixture and half the chocolate mixture and mix just until incorporated. Scrape sides of the bowl and add another third of the flour mixture and the remaining half of the chocolate mixture. Mix until incorporated. Stir in the last third of the flour mixture just until combined. Scrape sides and mix on medium-low until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Place the batter in the prepared pan taking care not to leave batter on the inner sides of the pan above the level of the batter. (I found the batter came close to filling my pan.)

Place the filled cake pan into the oven and bake for 50 minutes. Test that cake is done with only a few crumbs remaining on the testing skewer. Remove from the oven and allow to sit in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack covered with parchment paper. Allow to cool for at least 3 hours.

Top with any assortment of garnishes--powdered sugar, a glaze, or ganache. Serve as is, or with fruit and whipped cream or with ice cream.

Spiced Shepherd's Pie

A couple of decades ago when I began reading cook books for entertainment, I found this in one  of the few volumes available at the NATO support unit library near our home in Belgium. It became staple family fare until our nest emptied. I still love what once seemed an unusual spice combination.


Spiced Shepherd's Pie

Although the recipe calls for using a baking dish, I imagine it could be baked in the skillet, as long as it is oven safe. When the meat is done, spread it out and top with the potatoes and place in the oven. This would save some clean up.

Serves: 8-10

For potato topping:

3 1/2-4 pds of potatoes (I choose the larger amount)
1 T butter
1/2 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper 
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese (or sour cream or Greek yogurt or a chunk of cream cheese)

For the meat layer:

1 pd ground beef or lamb 
1 c chopped onion
1 c chopped celery, optional 
1 minced garlic clove
1 teas dried mint
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas allspice
1/4 teas pepper
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, slightly blended
3/4 teas salt

Spray a 9X13 or 10X13 pan with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Peel and cut potatoes into chunks and cook in water over medium heat until tender.

In the meantime brown the beef (or lamb), onion, and celery in a 12-inch skillet on medium heat. If your meat is very lean, you may want to add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the meat is cooking and onions and celery are softened, add the garlic, mint, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper and cook and stir for a minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes along with the salt. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down somewhat. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish (or individual 16-oz  ramekins). 

When potatoes are cooked, drain them but leave a couple tablespoons of cooking water in the bottom of the pan. Add the butter, salt, pepper, and feta cheese and mash the potatoes by hand or with a hand mixer. Continue until they are fluffy and light. Evenly spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture.

Place baking pan or ramekins in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until you can see the meat mixture bubbling at the edges and the potatoes have started to brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes or so before serving.

This can easily be halved especially if you substitute a 8-oz can tomato sauce for the tomatoes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Weeknight Chicken Pot Pie

The week after Christmas is a good time for fast, comforting dinners.

I don't remember eating chicken pot pies growing up, but I love them now and it seems a luxury to have a (mostly) homemade one on a weeknight. But this recipe and deciding to use store bought pie-crust allows it. My bigs are funny about it; one eats only the filling, the other only the crust. The baby still eats almost everything and the other little doesn't eat anything I make. But hey, at least the pot pie tastes delicious for me and Daddy, and the two bigs can deconstruct to their hearts' desire.


Weeknight Chicken Pot Pie

Adapted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
Yields a 9-inch pie

2 c chicken broth
~1 c sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium red or Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 teas thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 c milk
2 T all-purpose flour
2 c rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/3 c frozen peas
1 9-inch pie crust
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425F. Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Then add potatoes, carrots, onions, thyme, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and simmer for about 15 minutes. The vegetables should be soft, but not falling apart.

Meanwhile, whisk the milk and flour together in a measuring cup or small bowl.

Once the vegetables are done, slowly add the flour-milk mixture, stirring until the filling has thickened a little. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the chicken and peas.

Place the vegetable mixture in a 9-inch pie plate. Cover with the pie crust and cut a few slits in the top. Paint the top with the egg wash.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling looks bubbly. Place a sheet pan under the pie plate to catch drips, which do happen in this slightly overfilled pie.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas Fried Scones

I once had a friend, a mom of four kids, tell me that all she wanted for Christmas was for it to be over. I, too, often felt overwhelmed by the season and refused to cook an elegant Christmas dinner. Following my mom's example, I served homemade soups and what we called "scones". Growing up in Utah that was the only kind of scone I was aware of. Over the years I've run into other types of fried bread: sopapillas, fry bread, and beignets. Of course there were always doughnuts and these are similar since we serve them rolled in cinnamon sugar or drizzled with honey.


Christmas Fried Scones 

(or Fry Bread)

Adapted from a recipe I received in the early 80s from Debbie Wade, a friend at K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan. Of course, these can be served any time of year but to me they are distinctly related to Christmas. 

2 c milk
3/4 c butter
3/4 c sugar
2 teas salt

2 pkg yeast (or a rounded 1 1/2 T granulated yeast
1/2 c warm water (just above body temperature, approximately 110F)

2 beaten eggs
7-9 c all purpose flour

Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt and scald in a saucepan (you'll see little bubbles where the milk meets the pan). Set aside and allow to cool. If you are in a hurry, scald the milk, sugar, and salt and add the cold butter to cool the mixture.

While this mixture continues to cool, mix the following together and allow to sit until the yeast has started to bubble. Add the yeast mixture to the cool milk mixture. (If you have instant yeast you can add the yeast directly with the flour but don't forget to add the water to the milk mixture.) 

Mix the cool milk/yeast mixture into the eggs and add the flour. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Add more flour if needed. (A good measure of dough texture is taught by teachers of my Turkish cooking class who say dough should have the same "give" as your ear lobe.) Knead for 5 minutes or so. Cover and let rise until double in size.

Heat oil to the depth of 3/4 inches in a skillet over medium heat, testing the heat of the oil by how it spatters when flicked with water. Or test by dropping a tiny bit of dough in the oil and when it rises to the top of the oil and starts to brown, you're ready to go. I find I have to fiddle with the stove top controls often to keep it at an appropriate heat for cooking. If you have an instant-read thermometer use it to test the oil and shoot for 300-350F.

Roll out dough in batches on a floured surface with a rolling pin or pat it with your hands until about a half inch thick.  Cut into rough rectangles about 3 inches in size. Place 3-4 pieces of dough in the hot oil, stretching them a little just before they go in. Allow to cook on one side and turn and allow to cook on the other. You may want to tear open an early finished scone to make sure it isn't doughy inside. Or take its temperature with an instant-read thermometer and look for 190-200F. Cook subsequent scones at a lower heat for a little longer. Or stretch them a bit thinner before cooking.

Keep the "scones" in the oven at 200F to keep them warm until time to serve. Our family has warmed them up in the microwave the following morning but their quality suffers. If you have more dough than you need, it can be refrigerated and fried in the next couple of days.

Serve with butter, jams, cinnamon sugar, Nutella, or honey.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Peppermint Popcorn

I made this often when kids were in high school and college and then it rather faded from memory for some reason and I misplaced it. I am grateful Betsy had it in her files.

Popcorn without optional green food coloring. Just as tasty.


Peppermint Popcorn

Serves: 6 or so

1 c popcorn kernels
1 cube (8 T) unsalted butter
1 c sugar
1/2 teas salt
1/4 c corn syrup
1/2 teas peppermint extract
1/8 teas green food coloring if you want it to be green

Preheat oven to 250F. Pop the popcorn and keep it warm in the oven in a large roasting pan or two 9X13 pans. Another alternative to a roasting pan might be your largest pasta pot, instead; or a canning pot if it fits in your oven.

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, salt, and corn syrup. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. If you are at sea level, let it continue boiling for 4-5 minutes without stirring. At 4500-5000 feet above sea level this step may take 7-8 minutes. The syrup will start to turn a light golden color and smell nutty, rather like browned butter--but it shouldn't get really brown.  Remove from heat and add the peppermint extract. Remove popcorn from oven and carefully stir the syrup into popcorn until it is coated. (You'll have to estimate what half the syrup is, if you use two cake pans.)

Place the pan back in the oven and let it cook for an hour stirring 3-4 times. (This is the hardest step because by the time you're at this stage, you're hungry!)


I found when I used a thinner bottomed pan, I had to cook it less time to get to the lightly colored stage.

I like it a little less sweet so I cooked 1 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels. There was enough syrup to coat all the popcorn lightly. It might be harder to fit into two cake pans with extra popcorn, though.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Grandma Betty's Strawberry Pie (or Raspberry or Peach)

My mother was part of the American generation of cooks who fully relied on the convenience offered and marketed in the mid-nineteenth century and most of our family dinners were dishes concocted with a can of soup. Naturally this is how I learned to cook. Strawberry pies started to make frequent appearances in Mom's kitchen when I was in late high school and I came to make strawberry pies almost as often as she did. True to form, this pie relies on a convenience food: jello.

I'm ambivalent about jello so I've tried other recipes for strawberry pie, but history and funny memories attached to this pie keep me returning to the old recipe box. If I load it up with berries, it tastes good, too.


Grandma Betty's Strawberry Pie (or Raspberry or Peach) 

One 9-inch pre-baked pie shell, cooled
1 pkg strawberry jello (American--jello isn't reliably the same outside of this country)
2 T cornstarch
1 c sugar
2 c boiling water
2-3 c sliced strawberries (or more if you like)

Bring the water to a boil in a kettle, small saucepan, or microwave. Mix the dry ingredients together in another small saucepan and pour the water over. Whisk together, place on the burner, and return mixture to a boil. Stir carefully and remove from heat. Let sit on counter until cool enough to place in refrigerator. Let it chill for an hour or more until the mixture has gelled but hasn't set. Stir in berries. (I like more fruit than jello and a thicker pie so I definitely go with the higher amount.) Place fruit mixture in the pie shell and let rest in fridge for several more hours until the mixture has set. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

This is particularly good with tiny strawberries left whole although these can be hard to lay your hands on.

Raspberries or sliced peaches also make good pies (make sure you use matching flavors of jello, but good luck finding peach).