Pie Crust Cookie Search

Monday, January 28, 2019

Why You Eat What You Eat

Part of the reason I love to cook is that the results, in addition to providing sustenance and tasting delicious, can mean so much, as we have recently highlighted. I was on a nonfiction kick last year in my reading, and over the summer I read Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship With Food by Rachel Herz. It's a fascinating and illuminating discussion; Herz describes what we know from scientific studies and offers brief advice on how to apply this knowledge to enhance our eating, our health, and our relationship to food. I especially enjoyed the sections on how our brains associate emotion with food and how much the sense of smell affects our enjoyment of food.

The last paragraph (spoiler alert!) sums up the complexity of food nicely:

"Food nourishes the body and the soul, and knowing how to get the most from our senses and our mind while eating makes it all that it can be. Food is an aesthetic immersion, whether you turn a salad into a Kandinsky painting or not. Food connects us to our past, to other people, to the world, and to ourselves. Food is memory, celebration, identity, conversation, emotion, glory, pleasure, pain, fear, disgust, comfort, and guilt. Food is aromatic, salty, sour, sweet, bitter, savory, tingly, hot and cold. Food is flavor and savor, art and sight, sound and music, texture and design, words and poetry, divine and decadent. Food is love and food is life. And knowledge of how our mind and body are affected by our food choices, and how our senses and psychology alter our experience of food and the consequences of eating, is power."

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

Combine the first 3 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.