Friday, November 30, 2012

Bulk-You-Up Potato Soup

Before my husband went into the hospital, he lost a bit of weight and the hospital wanted him to eat high-calorie foods to get some of that weight back on before his surgery. And, they had to be liquid. Pureed soups, ice cream, shakes, puddings ...

When they told me I could bring home-cooked food, my eyes lit up. Finally, something I could do besides fluff pillows, worry, and arrange blankets. Unfortunately, he was put on a ventilator the day before the surgery, so that was the end of my cooking for him, but I'm keeping this recipe handy so I can make it for him when he's again able to handle "real" food.

Since potato soup was on their liquid-diet menu, I decided to make my own version. Trust me, if you're on a diet, you don't want to make this. If you're not on a diet and want to stay at normal weight, you don't want to make this.

But if you need to pack on some weight, this ought to help.

I'd like to point out that it's not heart-healthy, nutrient balanced, or in any other way good for you. It tastes really good, though. And it would be pretty easy to lighten up.

The chicken stock I used was home made, but a good-quality purchased stock would be fine. The one I used was reduced a lot, so it was very flavorful and gelatin-rich. It was also very low in salt - I always make my stocks with just a small amount of salt, because it's easy enough to add that later. That's why you need to taste it as it's finished - if you're using a commercial stock, it might have plenty of salt, so you might not need any more.

I considered adding cheddar cheese to this soup for a little more protein, but I wasn't sure if that would push it over the boundary as far as what's considered liquid. If this was something that I would be feeding him on a long-term basis, I'd look into what sort of supplements I could add. This was just for the short term, though.

Bulk-You-Up Potato Soup

4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
5 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock (home made is best)
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
Salt, to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot (I used a large saucier from Anolon) and add the onion. Cook until the onions soften, then add the potatoes. Cook for a few minutes, stirring as needed.

Ad the chicken stock. This should be enough to cover the potatoes. If not, add more stock or water to just barely cover the potatoes. It's fine if a couple edges stick out.

Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook, stirring once in a while, until the potatoes are soft.

Take the soup off the heat and let it cool for a minute or two. Add the cream, pepper, and dill weed. Use a stick blender* to puree the soup until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add salt, as desired.

If it needs to be reheated, do it gently to avoid curdling the cream.

*If you don't have a stick blender, you can puree the soup in a blender. Do it in small batches or you risk having the soup blast out of the blender. You can also puree this in a food processor.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stupendously Simple Beef

Guest Post by Maurita Plouff

There are lazy days, and then there are busy days. A lazy day might be rainy or gloomy, with a bit of chill in the air - a perfect day to snuggle in a favorite chair with a quilt, a book, and a mug of tea. A busy day takes me out of the house for hour after hour, working,  running errands or involved with some important project. 

This is the perfect supper for either day. In fact, I like to cook as much of this as my oven will hold, because the uses of the leftovers are so fabulous.

Stupendously Simple Beef
beef chuck roast, 2-3 inches thick
freshly ground pepper

Looks simple, right? Oh, it is. Heat your oven to 250˚ F. That's not a typo: two hundred fifty degrees. Get as many chuck roasts as you like. Put them in one, or more, baking dishes or low roasting pans, so that they fit snugly, all in one layer. If you have a lot of roasts, use multiple pans. I find that two average chuck roasts fit well in a 9x13 Pyrex baking dish. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Cover the pans with foil (no, it doesn't matter whether shiny side is in or out) and stick 'em in the oven. Bake, blissfully unattended, for about 5 hours.

At the end of the cooking time, the beef will be thoroughly browned on top, and will be fork tender and ready to fall apart. Carefully remove the beef to a carving board, and let it rest, covered with foil while you deal with the liquid. Pour off all the liquid - there will be a surprising amount! - into a fat separator, and let stand 10 minutes or so. At this point you can pour off the fat, and use the liquid to make gravy (if you like). If you're cooking ahead, you can just pour all of it into a storage vessel, refrigerate it, and lift off the solidified fat from the top the next day.

Now here's the best part about this beef: how to use it! Of course there's a delicious pot roast dinner (I like mine with gravy, mashed potatoes, and veggies of the season). But if you've made extra, think of all the great things you can do with the meat! Some ideas are listed here, but I'm sure you'll come up with your own great plans:

Shredded, season as you prefer, put in beef tacos
Shredded or chunked, mix with your favorite barbeque sauce
Chunked, in beef vegetable soup (with or without barley) - use the de-fatted liquid in here! Amazingly good.
In pot roast sandwiches
Pot roast hash (use some of that liquid, plus cream and ketchup)


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Crock Pot Roast Pork Shoulder

With my husband in the hospital, my meals need to be quick. I usually don't leave the hospital in the evening until I realize that I'm hungry - and although its just a short drive home, by the time I get there, I'm ready to gnaw an elbow off.

If I don't have something planned, I'm doomed. That's when I end up eating peanut butter on graham crackers for dinner.

My best plans involve having something in my crockpot, so it's hot and ready to eat when I get home. This roast pork was perfect. And, yes, I said roast. Not braised. I used my Ninja Cooking System (read my review here) to roast a small pork shoulder roast, and served it with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

This was probably one of the cheapest meals I've made. The pork shoulder roast was on sale, and then I had a $5 coupon. So a 2 1/2(ish) pound roast was under $1. That's a good deal. The potatoes came from a company that was promoting their new breed of spuds - Rooster potatoes. So those didn't cost anything. And the frozen Brussels sprouts were on sale. Cheap. And considering my budget lately, cheap is really, really good.

The Rooster potatoes are very popular in the UK, and according to Wikipedia, they're the most popular potato in Ireland. Now they're being grown right here in my home state of Colorado. Local is good.

Are potatoes really that different? Some people might say that the only important differences are red vs. white, but since I've been buying potatoes from the farmer's market, I've become a bit of a potato snob. The ones from the grocery store are pretty bland in comparison to the ones I buy from the local farmers.

I was curious about these new potatoes, and I gave them the ultimate test - mashed, with just salt, butter and milk. Some people rave about their marvelous mashed potatoes with all sorts of flavorings like garlic or herbs of cheese. There's nothing wrong with that - I like to add sour cream for the added richness and tang. Of course all those additions make the potatoes good. But plain mashed potatoes ... well, they're pretty plain. That's why there's gravy.

The mashed potatoes I made from the Rooster potatoes were probably the best mashed potatoes I made in a long time. Perfect texture and great texture. Maybe it was just a fluke and I happened to cook them perfectly, but they were at least as good as the farmer's market potatoes. At least. Maybe better. I don't know if it's the variety of potatoes, or that they were recently harvested and locally grown, but they were pretty darned good.

But back to the pork roast. This is an incredibly simple recipe - basically just a roast pork shoulder. I slathered it with a Hungarian pepper spread - just slightly spicy. You could use anything you like - mustard, barbecue sauce, or any spice rub you like - or just salt and pepper, if that's your preference.

The Ninja Cooking System has an "oven" setting that allows you to roast meat in the cooker. This might work in a different slow cooker, but I haven't tested that.

Crock Pot Roast Pork Shoulder

2 1/2- 3-pound bone-in pork shoulder roast
Sauce/spread/rub, as needed

Slather the roast with your preferred sauce or spread, or sprinkle with salt, pepper, herbs, or spices, as desired.

Place on a rack in your Ninja Cooking System (or other similar cooker) Put the roast on the rack, set the cooker for 300 degrees, and set the time for 3 hours.

When the time is up, check the meat - it should be fork tender.

Remove from the slow cooker and let it rest before cutting - I sliced it into cubes, but you could slice it, if you prefer.

The best part about this is that ir's just as good - or even better - the next day.

The potatoes have a Facebook page, if you're interested.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fast and Fabulous Oatmeal

Guest post by Fran Blank, The Country Cousin at The Kitchen Cousins

Cold mornings are here and I love a hot breakfast that warms me up and keeps my stomach happy until lunch. Traditional recipes for cooking oatmeal have always left me with a bowl of pasty, gluey gruel AND they took time AND stirring. I thought I would share two ways to make oatmeal worth eating. The first recipe gives you a bowl of chewy, yummy oatmeal AND takes less than 10 minutes AND you only have to stir it a few times - just to mix things up. The second oatmeal recipe has NO cooking, is put together before you go to bed, AND is company "brunch" worthy.

Both recipes start with regular whole oats, NOT instant oats.

1. The Best Oatmeal I Have Ever Eaten!
This recipe makes two generous servings.

- Mix together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil:
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 to 1/2 cup of dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, cherries (my favorite), bananas, etc.
pinch of salt

- When the water boils pour in:
1 cup regular oats and stir to moisten

Put on a lid and take the pan off the heat. Allow the pan to sit, off the heat, for 5 minutes. Remove lid and give things a good stir. Spoon oatmeal into a bowl and then get creative. Top with your favorite sweetener: honey, raw sugar, real maple syrup, brown sugar, ?? Toss in a small handful of walnuts, half of a banana, sliced, or half of an apple, chopped, or any fresh, frozen, or even canned fruit - whatever you have. Pour in a little milk and YUM!! The bowl of oatmeal pictured below has dried cherries, sliced bananas, walnuts, maple syrup, and milk. Now that is oatmeal worth eating!

2. Breakfast Parfait
This is soooo simple and soooo good! The recipe is from my friend, Linda, and we used it for a healthy eating program we did for our local after-school program. The children LOVED it! They came back for seconds!

- Before you go to bed mix regular oats and apple juice half and half. Cover and refrigerate over night. The amount is measured by the number of servings you will need. For example, one cup oats to one cup apple juice should be enough for two generous servings.

- The next morning dish up a portion of the apple juice/oats mixture and top with vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit in season (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, ???), or frozen or canned fruit when fresh is not available. You can also layer this in a parfait glass - oats, yogurt and fruit and it is company worthy. The pictured parfait was topped with frozen blueberries and mango chunks.

I have made this with canned pineapple, peaches or pears. Use the juice from the can to mix with the oats and the fruit for the topping. Then - - add extra toppings that accent the juice and fruit. For instance if you use pineapple toss in some coconut. Use your imagination.

A healthy breakfast is like a hug from Mom. Not a bad thing for any of us.

Hey from the farm,
Fran The Country Cousin

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Chai

Back in the stone age, you could get coffee with these interesting flavored syrups, but the only way you could buy the syrups for use at home was to talk someone at the coffee shop into selling you a bottle. It was it and miss whether there would be an unopened bottle in the flavor you wanted.

Fast forward to now, and you can buy the flavors online and in stores.

And thanks to Torani and SheSpeaks, I was able to sample a few flavors without doing any shopping. That's always a plus.

One of the flavors I received was Pumpkin Pie Spice. I've run across that flavor profile a few times this season, but it's different every time. This time, it seemed just right to flavor some tea. The spices used in pumpkin pie are similar to the flavors in chai tea. A little less assertive, though.

So I decided to brew some tea, add some flavor, and give it a try. The flavor was what I expected - chai-like, with a hint of fruitiness from the pumpkin. I don't usually add milk to tea, but it seemed just right in this one.

You can use any tea you like, but I'd suggest an un-flavored black tea. If you must use a flavored tea, go with something simple, like a vanilla flavor that wouldn't clash with the pumpkin pie flavors.

Pumpkin Pie Chai

8 ounces hot brewed black tea
1 ounce (or to taste) Torani Pumpkin Pie Syrup
1 ounce (or to taste) milk, half-and-half, or cream

Put the brewed tea in your favorite cup. Add the syrup and milk Stir, taste, and adjust the flavors the way you like them.

And that's it.

But ... if you're old enough, and you're inclined to do so, a little bit of brandy wouldn't hurt.

Torani's got a few things going that you might be interested in. First, you can get 10% off your order at through November 30 with the coupon code SHESPEAKS.

Second, Torani, you can enter the Torani Holiday Cheers Contest

This post was sponsored by Torani and SheSpeaks. 


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gadgets: Ninja Cooking System

Slow cookers have been around for a long time, and they've gone through a lot of changes over the years. The Ninja Cooking System isn't your mom's slow cooker - not only does it have low and high slow cooker settings, plus a "buffet" setting for keeping food warm, but it also has three "stovetop" settings for searing or frying, and it also has "oven" temperature settings from 250 to 425 degrees.

Yup, the instructions say you can use it like an oven. We'll see about that, won't we?

The first thing I attempted was cheesecake, using a recipe that came with the unit. Perfect little 4-inch cheesecakes were the result - just like cooking in a waterbath in the oven.

I decided to try a few roasting recipes. First, I tried a chicken. I didn't get the typical brown, crisp skin. but the chicken itself was moist and very juicy.

The instructions had a workaround for the fact that meats don't brown like they would in a large oven - searing the meat before or after cooking - but the shape of a chicken isn't particularly conducive for that treatment. While I got parts of the chicken browned, other parts were pallid. So, if you're a big fan of poultry skin or you need beautiful presentation of a whole bird, this might not be the best option. If all you want is the meat, then this works just fine.

I had much better results with a leg of lamb. I browned the meat first, then roasted it on the Ninja's rack with no extra liquid. The result was the same as if I roasted it in the oven, and the drippings were ready for making gravy.

The unit included a few recipes for baked goods, and the theory is that you can use less fat because the steam contained in the oven will keep the baked goods moist. Since the heat source is on the bottom, you won't get a lot of browning on top, which might or might not make a difference.

As far as a slow cooker, it does the job well and cleans up easily since it's got a nonstick finish. The oblong shape means it accommodates things like roasts or whole chickens better than a round cooker, and also gives you more surface area for browning foods.

This gadget has been living on my counter since I got it, and has gotten a lot of use. So far, I've been happy with all the results. For sure, this isn't going to replace my oven for things like baking cookies or the Thanksgiving turkey, but it's a heck of a lot more versatile than my old slow cooker that had dire warnings about not cooking anything without sufficient liquid.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Flash Recipe: Turkey Tacos, Part 2

Not that long ago, I posted about the turkey tacos I'd made using turkey legs that I braised specifically to make the tacos. Shortly after that, I decided I wanted to roast a turkey breast in a more traditional way. Instead of the usual mashed potatoes, I roasted potatoes along with the turkey.

I guess that made up for the lack of stuffing.

After I had a few sandwiches, I was ready to get a little more creative.

This isn't much of a recipe - it's all about what you like, so the amount are up to you. Use more or less salsa, and whatever proportions of meat and potato you like. If you've got other left over vegetables that would make sense in a taco, add them.

The great thing about this meal was that it was incredibly fast to throw together, since I was working with leftovers. I just cubed the turkey and potatoes, tossed them with a salsa I had on hand, and quickly heated them.

I served this on tortillas, topped with my favorite lime-pickled red onions.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Noodle Nonsense

So, ya wanna see what kind of crazy stuff I put together when I'm not being creative for the blog?

This is a prime example. It's simple, it's filling and it used up left over turkey and some other odds and ends I had in the pantry and freezer.

Yes, I know it's only Thanksgiving now and I'm talking about leftover turkey, but since I'm not doing Thanksgiving at home this year, I cooked some turkey early, and this used up the last of it.

This stretched my leftovers into several more meals. Almost like free food. What else can a gal ask for?

This would work just as well with chicken. As for the spinach, other frozen vegetables would be great, too. I almost reached for peas, but decided the spinach would be more interesting just this one time.

And if you want something a little lighter than a bowl of noodles, there's an easy way around that - just add enough water to turn this into soup. There's enough concentrated stock here to make that work. You might want to add a pinch of salt, though.

Turkey Noodle Nonsense

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
6 not-huge carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 bag egg noodles (about 6 ounces)
1 quart turkey stock
Salt, as needed
2 cups cooked turkey, diced or shredded
2 cups frozen spinach
Lemon juice (optional)

Melt the butter in a large pan (I used a large saucier) and add the onion, potato, and carrots. Cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the noodles and cook, stirring as needed, until the noodles are lightly toasted. Depending on the shape of the noodles, you might not get all the surfaces toasted. That doesn't matter.

Add the turkey stock and cook, stirring as needed, until the noodles and vegetables are cooked through. If you need more liquid, add water, as needed. The goal is to have some liquid without this being soupy.

Taste for seasoning when the liquid is about halfway absorbed. Whether you need salt or not is going to depend on how salty the stock was. And that depends on how salty the turkey was. Add salt, if needed.

When the noodles are fully cooked, add the turkey and spinach, and continue cooking, stirring, until the turkey and spinach are warmed through.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired. I like lemon with spinach  so lemon made perfect sense to me.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Margaritas with Carlos Santana

Ally Widlak, a mixologist from from Tahona (a local Boulder restaurant) recently competed in a national cocktail contest – the “Noble Places” Specialty Cocktail Competition. That's a mouthful, eh?

It was hosted by Casa Noble (a boutique tequila distillery) at the House of Blues in Las Vegas.

MMmmmm ... tequila ... 

Cocktails from 10 mixologists were judged by a panel including musician Carlos Santana (part owner of Casa Noble), Casa Noble CEO Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo, and House of Blues Las Vegas GM Andrew Economon. Prizes included a guitar signed by Carlos Santana.

I didn't know Carlos Santana owned part of a distillery, but that's pretty cool... “It is an honor to be around people with a passion for exploration, flavor, and good taste,” Santana said. “I look for people and things that complement any environment and create a synthesis that changes your molecular structure.”

Well, okay, then.

The mixologists were required to create recipes with no more than five ingredients, including a Casa Noble Anejo, Crystal, or Reposado tequila. The two drinks rated highest became official Casa Noble cocktails, and were renamed the “Supernatural Margarita” after Santana’s top-selling album, Supernatural, and “El Beso Margarita.”

Since Ally's a local gal, I was offered her recipe to publish, along with a few others. Sure, why not. It's just like a guest recipe post except more ... drink-like.

Old Gold
By Ally Widlak, from Tahona in Boulder

1 1/2 oz Casa Noble Reposado
3/4 oz Canton Ginger Liqueur
1 to 1 1/2 oz Fresh Organic Orange juice
pinch of Organic Cardamom spice
Organic Turbinado Sugar for the rim

All shaken over ice and served straight up in a Martini glass with an orange peel twist.

But wait! There's more!

Unfortunately, the local gal didn't win (awwww... bummer) but I do have the two winning cocktail recipes for you as well.

Mix 'em up, and see what you think!

“Welcome to Casa” 
Carlos Santana and J.R. Starkus. © Erik Kabik/
(Now called Supernatural Margarita)
By J.R. Staruks from RM Seafood in Las Vegas

1 1/2 oz Casa Noble Reposado
3/4 oz lime juice
1 oz Monin Spicy Mango Syrup
2 dashes of Grapefruit Bitters
4-6 basil Leaves

Shaken in a shaker tin, double strained, placed in a rocks glass, and topped with a basil leaf

“EL Vato” 
(Now called EL BESO)
By Dimitri Sequeira from El Vato’s in Miami

2 oz. Casa Noble Crystal
1/2 oz Liquor 43
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz Agave Nectar
1/4 oz cut orange (squeeze and drop)
8 oz ice

Shake well. Serve in 12 oz Pilsner glass.

For some reason I feel like dragging out one of my old Santana albums now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Spice Coffee Cake

When I saw a sponsored opportunity for International Delight coffee creamers, I hesitated a bit. I usually drink my coffee with plain old milk.

Then I saw they were looking for a recipe, and OH YEAH I can do that. I love creating recipes with different products -and the weirder the better. It's my own little version of Chopped. Except I don't have a time limit or judges or multiple ingredients that don't make any sense.

I like using products in unusual ways, so I scurried off to the store to see what flavors I might use. I brought home two of the seasonal flavors - Chocolate Mint and Pumpkin Pie Spice. I figured I'd taste them and then decide what to make.

Before we go any further, I have to say that I was pleased to see that these contain sugar. Not that I was excited about sugar, but I was happy that they didn't have corn syrup.

The chocolate mint would have worked well for cupcakes or a cake, but I wasn't in the mood for that. I decided to make coffee cake.

I figured that the pumpkin pie spice flavor would add a nice dimension to a coffee cake. And then I remembered the graham cracker streusel from a coffee cake I made recently, and I decided to use graham crackers for the topping on this cake. It made sense. Pumpkin pies often have graham cracker crusts, right?

The graham crackers are intentionally left with some larger bits along with the completely crushed pieces, which creates some great texture in the topping.

International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Coffee Cake

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs and pieces
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons butter)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9-inch square baking pan with baking spray.

To make the topping:

Crush the graham crackers so that you still have some larger pieces - about the size of a pea - along with some finely crushed crumbs. Combine the graham crackers with the  cinnamon, sugar,  and salt.

Melt the butter and pour it over the graham cracker mixture. Stir to combine and set aside.

To make the cake:

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl, using an electric hand mixer) beat the sugar and butter together until smooth (this is easier if the butter is a little soft.) Add the oil and eggs and beat until you have a smooth mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the flour mixture and mix slowly until the flour is incorporated until the mixture is smooth. Add the International Delights creamer and beat until the creamer is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pour the cake into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top. Sprinkle the cracker mixture over the top evenly.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean - about 35 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 -15 minutes, then turn the cake out and let it cool completely on a rack. If you prefer, you can leave the cake in the pan and slice and serve directly from the pan. Or, of course you can slice and serve while the cake is still slightly warm.

Help keep a child warm!

When you buy that International Delight, you can do something for someone else!

For every UPC code from specially marked bottles of International Delight and other products that you register on the Share You Delight page, 50 cents will be donated to the Coats for Kids Foundation. Head on over to get a coupon for your International Delight product, too.

Follow the #IDBaking hashtag on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram for more baking recipes.

The International Delight Facebook page shares coupon savings and a chance to share your delight this holiday season.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Have a cup of coffee! #DDatHome #Spon

My favorite coffee cup - it's one of a kind.
Ah, Dunkin' Donuts coffee... I don't remember when I first discovered that coffee, but I do remember thinking that it was such a shame it couldn't be brewed at home. Yes, I started drinking it that long ago.

Way back in the stone age, when I was first dating Bob, there was a Dunkin' Donuts not far from where I lived. Conveniently, it was on the way to where he lived, and on my way to where my parents lived.

I think my car knew automatically that it should turn into that parking lot to pick up a large coffee for the road. Maybe a donut. But always the coffee. Particularly when the weather turned cold and the car heater was a little unenthusiastic.

Today when I was visiting my husband at the hospital, I reminded my him of that Dunkin' Donuts that we used to stop at and he grinned and nodded. Yup, it's a fond memory. Two large coffees, one with sugar and cream, one with just cream. One maple frosted donut, one marble frosted. There's a trip down memory lane. I can almost smell the maple.

Okay, I'll admit that I had a particular fondness for those maple frosted donuts, too.

But, dang, that coffee was sooooo good. And unlike some nostalgic foods that only the younger-me could love, I still adore a good cup of coffee.

For me, coffee is one of those "homey" smells. Like baked bread. When I was a kid, mom didn't bake bread, but there was coffee every day. I wasn't allowed to drink it, but it was there, in the background. Morning, lunch, and sometimes after dinner. Coffee was a punctuation mark for the day. Funny how you associate things like that.

In the morning, Dad had his first cup. I wasn't always awake - he got up at the crack of dawn, but there was that coffee smell wafting through the house. He worked close to home, so he came home every day for lunch and had a cup of coffee then, as well. And sometimes after dinner.

And of course, whenever there were visitors, they were offered a cup of coffee as soon as they stepped in the door. On holidays, coffee was served after dinner and the adults lingered at the table.

Eventually, I reached the coffee-drinking age, ordered it at restaurants, learned to brew my own, and started paying attention to beans. I might admit that I squealed just a little bit the first time I saw Dunkin' Donuts coffee in the grocery store. I'm serious. Squealed. Brought it home and said "LOOK what I FOUND!!!"

Yeah, I'm a little crazy. But you expect that. And I really, honestly, giddily, love Dunkin' Donuts coffee. I can't explain why I love it so much, I just do.

And for the folks who like a little variety, there are flavored coffees as well the original and decaf. The limited edition ones you'll find now are Mocha Mint, Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread Cookie. If you need a quick gift or a stocking stuffer, the seasonal bags have gift tags on them. Great last-minute hostess gift, eh?

Is there a Dunkin Donuts in your area? Have you had their coffee? Are you going to try one of the flavored versions, or are you a purist? Tell me YOUR coffee story!

Thank you to Dunkin’ Donuts® packaged coffee at grocery for being a sponsor. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Turkey Sandwich #Thanksgiving #Leftovers

On Thanksgiving, my husband will be celebrating 11 weeks in the hospital. Well, celebrating might not be the right word, but we continue to see gradual improvements, and that's something to be happy about. Despite that happiness, I'm really not in the mood for my usual Thanksgiving celebration this year.

Not only is my husband not going to be home for Thanksgiving, but he's also not able to eat anything yet, so it's not like I could bring him a meal - not even mashed potatoes and gravy. And there's no way I want to spend a lot of time prepping and cooking a huge meal that would keep me away from the hospital.

But that didn't stop me from buying a turkey. At this time of year, they're just about the cheapest meat you can buy. How could I pass that up? So I bought a turkey and disassembled it so I could make smaller meals from all the parts. A few days ago I roasted a breast half.

The day after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. The house is clean and all the usual chores are done, I'm looking forward to a few days off of work with no big obligations to do anything, and I have fantastic leftovers.

That's what I was most looking forward to with that turkey breast - turkey sandwiches.

Of course, there's the traditional turkey, mayo and tomato sandwich, but I decided to change things up a bit. And of course the bread was home made. Of course ...

The extras on this beauty were raspberry jam and Roth Horseradish & Chive Havarti cheese. Of course, if you've got cranberry sauce, you could use that instead of the raspberry jam. And then I pressed and warmed the sandwich in a sandwich press. Perfect!

What's your favorite Thanksgiving leftover? Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag in Twitter to share your thoughts and get ideas before the big day-after.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving made easy(er) (Sponsored video)

That darned turkey! Are you afraid of ruining it with your poor carving skilz? Hey, everything's online. Like this video on HOW TO CARVE A TURKEY. It's only one minute of video. It will take you a little longer than that to carve yours, but that's because you're going to be sneaking bits of crackly crispy skin and snagging a few bites as you go.

What? You don't do that. Um, well, neither do I, I guess.

And what goes with turkey? POTATOES.

Here's a quick video on how to make mashed potatoes. I thought everyone grew up knowing how to make mashed potatoes, but given some of the un-good potatoes I've eaten, perhaps there are a few people who could benefit from this one.

And really, there are good tips here.

Last, but not least, let's have some vegetables. Or at least PRETEND we're having vegetables, as we stuff ourselves with stuffing and gravy.

But really, if you're going to make vegetables, you might as well blanch them ahead of time. It keeps the color bright and makes the final cooking a little more civilized. I like blanching those little teeny fancy green beans - you know, the hairy corvairs? Or haricot verts, if you prefer. I like to blanch them, then give them a quick reheat on the stove in some butter before serving.

This method works for a lot of different vegetables, actually.

So there ya go. Three simple videos to help make your Thanksgiving just a teeny bit less stressful. Now pass the gravy, please.

This post is sponsored by Campbell's Kitchen

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oreo Cookie Butter

I'm going to say three words that are going to blow your mind.

Oreo. Cookie. Butter.

You've might have heard about that fancy cookie butter than so many foodies are cooing about. Yeah, me too. And then I thought, "why not do the same thing with other cookies?"

Specifically, Oreos.

Yes, I made Oreo cookie butter. Like peanut butter that tastes like Oreos and has no peanuts. Spreadable Oreo chocolate fudgy goodness.

If you've ever had an Oreo cookie (and who hasn't?) you know that flavor. It's the perfect cookie to transform into something else, and have people say HUH? and wonder how you did it.

It's so easy, it's embarrassing. It's almost not a recipe. It's magic.

What can you do with this magic cookie butter goodness?

Well, to start with, I spread it on graham crackers. You could spread it between other cookies to make sandwich cookies (try it with peanut butter cookies).You could eat it with a spoon. You could mix it into ice cream. So many options, so easy to make ...

Oreo Cookie Butter

12 Oreo cookies*
2 tablespoons water

Put the cookies in your food processor and process until you have a very very fine powder.

Scrape down the sides and make sure you don't have any chunky pieces left. Keep processing until it's all a fine powder.

Add the water a teaspoon at a time until you have a thick, shiny, fudgy spread.

And that's it. Pure magic.

*Note: I haven't tried this with the double-stuffed. I suspect it would take less water - maybe none.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Samoa Shortbread

Guest post by the Food Floozie!

It's November now ... I can hardly believe it. I'm behind on my holiday baking.

I don't do much shopping for gifts - my son Jeremy, who's 21, obviously receives presents. My boyfriend will receive something for Chrismakkuh, since each of us celebrates both Christmas and Chanukkah. That's pretty much it.

Everyone else gets cookies.

So I start my baking early, in order to have enough to go 'round for family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, mail carriers, condo maintenance workers ... and, of course, lil' ol' me. Gotta be vigilant about quality control, right???

And shortbread cookies are just about my favorites. Whether I make simple old-fashioned treats, or stir in some candied ginger or grated citrus peel, or add cocoa to make a chocolate dough ... well, there are countless variations.  Shortbread cookies freeze and defrost well, which makes them practical.

But most of all, they're just rich, buttery, crumbly, and delicious!

Samoa Shortbread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached flour
5 Girl Scouts Samoas cookies, chopped

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease a 9"x9" baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and shortening; mix in egg, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.  Stir in flour until mixture is crumbly, then press dough into prepared pan.  Sprinkle chopped cookies over the top of the dough, and press in lightly.

Bake for 40 minutes, until edges of cookies are golden. Let cool completely.

Trim 1/2" from all edges, reserving the trimmings as your reward for baking. Cut the remaining block of shortbread into 4 columns, then across into 6 rows.

Makes 24 cookies.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's an OXO Giveaway!

If you read yesterday's post, you probably read the teaser about the awesome giveaway from OXO. I have to say that I own a whole lot of OXO tools, and when Virtual Potluck got an offer of sponsorship from them, I was pretty excited,

And then I thought, gee, considering how many of their tools I own, would I get anything new?

Well, yes, I did!

The first thing I saw that I was over-the-moon about was the new ricer. This is the third ricer I've owned. The first one had a one-piece basket, so you couldn't  select different sized holes. That was one downside, but the other was that it had holes on the sides as well as the bottom. So every time I used it, potatoes squished out the sides as well as the bottom. It was a bit of a mess.

The second ricer had removeable bottom plates, but they simply slid into the bottom of the basket. About half the time, that plate would come up when I opened the lever to add more potatoes. It did the job well enough, but it was annoying to use.

With the OXO ricer, you change the hole size by turning the bottom plate. Easy peasy. It works brilliantly.

Just for the fun of it, I decided to see if it would mash graham crackers for my cheesecake. It worked pretty well, First, I smashed, then I shook the ricer like you'd shake a strainer. The small-enough bits fell through the holes and the larger pieces stayed in the basket to be smashed some more.

This whole basket o' goodies is worth winning, just to get the ricer.

But there's MORE!

The thermometer is pretty cool, and what I really appreciate is that not only does it give the USDA recommended temperatures for meats, it also displays the "chef recommended" temperatures. And it was easy to set. No need to read the directions. That's a plus.

The most awesome thing about the thermometer might be that the probe stores neatly in a hole in the thermometer so it's not all loose and tangled up when you put it in a drawer. It's neat and compact. Less chance for the cable to get kinked, crimped, and cracked. Genius.

The poultry shears, as I said in my post yesterday, are awesome because they come apart for cleaning. That's a huge selling point for me - actually one of the most important things to look for in poultry shears.

Woah. Look at all that!
The pot holders have a silcone coating, so if you're picking up something wet or steamy, you've got some protection. Thick cloth oven mitts are great, but if you're dealing with something wet and those mitts get wet - well, you might as well not have mitts at all. That's why these were great for handling that cake pan with hot water.

And, they have magnets, so you can slap them on the refrigerator, AND they have a loop for hanging. They also work as trivets. The ones I got were red, but these come in a few different colors.

There's also a turkey baster that includes a brush for cleaning it. Instead of a completely round squeeze bulb, it's an oval shape that's easier to grab. It comes apart easily for cleaning, and if you wanted to, you could store the cleaning brush inside the baster. I tried; it fits.

There's a silicone brush that is slightly angled so when you put it on the counter, the brush end will be raised off the counter surface. Besides the usual thin brush strands, it also has thicker inner strands with holes that trap the basting liquid better. I remember seeing Alton Brown recommend a brush like this.

Last but not least is a 4-cup fat separator. There's a plug that fits the spout so liquid doesn't immediately fill the spout. That means you won't have fat in that first bit you pour out. There's also a strainer that fits the top so you can strain out the large bits, bay leaves, or whatever else is in your stock. It's also got measurements on the side, so you can use it as a measuring cup. And who doesn't need an extra measuring cup?

How to WIN! Contest is OVER ... and the winner is:
Perky Mac! 
Congrats and I hope you enjoy your new gadgets

  • For your first entry, tell me which of the OXO products I described is the one you'd most like to own. That is the only mandatory entry.

OPTIONAL entries - no particular order - do any that you like.

  • Go to THIS POST and either pin one of the photos to Pinterest or Stumble the post. Come back here and leave a comment telling me what you did.
  • Tweet "Win @OXO tools from Cookistry! @dbcurrie" and then come back here and tell me that you tweeted. You can add something extra to that tweet if you like.
  • Like OXO and Cookistry on Facebook and come back here and leave a comment that you've liked us.

And that's it. One mandatory entry, three optional, and a whole LOT of awesome OXO tools you could win. This giveaway starts today and ends on November 21 at midnight, mountain time. All usual contest rules apply. OXO will ship the prize to the winner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's a mini Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a big food event. But what if you've got a small family? What if you're flying solo? What if you want to save money by buying an extra turkey, but you don't want to eat another traditional stuffed bird in a month or three?

What if you don't want a traditional bird at all?

And what if you want to top it off with a small but decadent dessert?

This year, I think I fit the "all of the above" category. Or most of them, anyway. With my husband still in the hospital, cooking a big Thanksgiving meal is not on my radar. But I love turkey. And I love a bargain. So I bought a 14-pound turkey and went to work.

When it comes to poultry, I love dark meat. When it comes to turkey, my least-favorite part is the legs. Or, more accurately, they're my least favorite part on turkey that's cooked the traditional way. The meat is never tender and it's impossible to cut into nice pieces for sandwiches. I'd rather have thighs. Heck, I prefer breast meat, if it's not overcooked.

But if you treat those legs differently - cook them like the tough meat they are - well, you get nice, tender meat. It's still not great for slicing, but it's perfect for shredding. And perfect for ... TACOS!

Yep, turkey tacos. And they were incredibly good.

But before we get to making the tacos, let's talk about dismantling a turkey. If you've ever cut up a chicken, it's the same thing, only bigger. The bones are a sturdier. But it's the same thing. A good, sharp knife and a pair of poultry shears makes the job easier.

I really love the OXO shears for two reasons. First, they do the job well. And second, they come apart. That means you don't have to worry about bits of stuff sticking in the hinge. When you're dealing with raw poultry, that's a big deal.

When I was done, I had two legs, two thighs, and two breast halves. The back, wings, and the rest of the carcass went into the oven for roasting. The thighs and breast halves were wrapped and frozen.

Meanwhile, the legs went into the slow cooker, not quite covered with water, and I cooked them on low until they were fork tender - about 4 hours. I took the legs out of the slow cooker and let them cool a bit and then the roasted turkey went into the slow cooker (less some parts saved for nibbling) to make stock. That's not part of the turkey taco recipe, though, but if you decide to disassemble a turkey, it's a good way of handling it.

The turkey legs can be shredded immediately, or you can refrigerate them and shred the next day.

The sauce is based on a very simple pepper sauce that I make quite often, but this time I pushed it a little further with some spices and chocolate. It's not mole, but it flirts with the idea of mole.

You can find adobo seasoning in just about any store these days. Some have a lot of salt; some have very little. That's why you need to taste and adjust seasonings at the end.

When the tacos are assembled, you can add whatever toppings you like. I opted for some shredded cabbage and lime-pickled red onions. I also tried a some of my spicy pickled cauliflower on some. Avocado chunks or guacamole would also work well.

Turkey Tacos

2 turkey legs, braised until tender
1 cup Simple Pepper Sauce
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1 ounce chocolate
Salt, to taste

Shred the cooked turkey meat and add it to a small skillet. Add the pepper sauce, adobo seasoning, and chocolate. Cook, stirring as needed, until the liquid is mostly gone and you have shredded turkey in a thick sauce.

Serve on tortillas with your choice of toppings.

And now for DESSERT

Going with the theme of dinner for just a few people - or just one (with leftovers, which is the best part of Thanksgiving) I made a very small cheesecake - just four inches in diameter.

As much as I like cheesecake, most recipes are huge - for serving 8 or 12 or 14 people. That's way too much for me to make on a regular basis, and way too much even when we've got company.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake

For the crust:
2 graham crackers
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter

For the filling:
8 ounces softened cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Have you ever used a ricer to crush crackers?
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 4-inch springform pan with aluminum foil.

Crush the graham crackers. You should have about 1/4 cup of crumbs. If not, crush some more. Mix the crackers crumbs with the salt and sugar. Melt the butter and mix it with the crumbs until they're evenly moistened.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 4-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Cream the cream cheese and sugar together in a medium bowl. Add the pumpkin, egg yolk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla extra. Beat until thoroughly combined. Pour this mixture into the springform pan.

Place the springform pan in a cake pan or other ovenproof container. Add about an inch of hot water to the cake pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes. When the cheesecake is done, it will still move a bit when you jiggle it, but it shouldn't be sloppy wet looking.

Take the pan out of oven (carefully! You've got really hot water there!), remove the springform pan, and let it cool for about 15 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before removing the cheesecake from the pan and slicing.

Did I mention that this post is sponsored by OXO and that there's a really AWESOME giveaway right HERE? And I'll tell you about some of the tools I used and why I love 'em.

Oh yeah, you're going to absolutely love it!