Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dilled Potato Soup

Got leftover mashed potatoes? What are you going to do with them?

How about a dilled potato soup?

Maybe it's the Polish in me, but I find it hard to resist anything pickled. When I was a kid, if I was going to sneak something out of the refrigerator as a little snack, there's a good chance it would be a dill pickle.

So, when I first "met" dill pickle soup, I was enthralled. It's not like drinking pickle juice, but the pickles add a nice tang to what might otherwise be a pretty ... um ... normal ... soup.

If you're freaked out by pickles in soup, you can skip 'em and you'd have a nice potato vegetable soup.

This soup is infinitely customizable. To begin with, you're using leftover mashed potatoes - with whatever you put in them. Garlic, butter, cheese, chives - it's all good. Then we have the leftover vegetables. I had broccoli and cauliflower, but peas, carrots, green beans, lima beans - just about anything would work.

And then there are the pickles. There are endless brands and varieties, but if you like to eat the pickle, you'll like it in the soup. Trust me. If you're squeamish but curious, start with less pickle and add more to taste.

Since everything is cooked, this soup can be ready to eat in about 5 minutes. It's better if it simmers for a while so the flavors mingle, but it's not necessary. And it's great the next day, too.

Dilled Potato Soup

2 cups left over mashed potatoes
2 cups liquid - water, stock, milk, cream - whatever you have on hand. A mix is fine.
1 cup left over cooked vegetables
1 teaspoon dill weed (more to taste)
1 dill pickle, diced (or about 3 baby dills, diced)

Combine the potatoes, liquid, vegetables (chop them roughly if the pieces are large), dill weed, and pickles in a medium saucepan.

Heat to a boil, stirring to break up the mashed potatoes. Lower to a simmer. Taste for seasoning.

Since you're starting with ingredients that should have already been seasoned and the pickles are salty, you might not need to add any extra salt or seasoning, but add more dill, salt, or ground pepper, to taste.

Do you like those pickle bits in the soup? You can add more, and a few bits of diced dill pickle make a nice garnish on the soup.

Serve hot.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cranberry Bread

I had dough rising, and I was thinking about making some kind of cranberry bread ring or braid when someone posted a link to this Nutella bread in a Facebook group. I knew I had to try it with my
cranberry bread.

You can use whatever cranberry relish, jam, chutney, jelly, or whatever that you have on hand. Or, when cranberry season is over, use any other jam or similar product. Some might not work as well as others - it needs to be thick enough to stay in place in the bread and not ooze all over, but that's a trial-and-error sort of thing. The thinner the product is, the less you want to use, though.

If you're bound and determined to use a runny jam or jelly, you can mitigate the seepage by laying down a layer of cake or cookie crumbs that will absorb some of the liquid. It will change the texture of the filling, but at least you won't have a baking sheet full of oozy, burning, sugary goo.

I used a cran-raspberry jam that I made for Thanksgiving, and for this filling I added a little bit of instant pectin to thicken it even more.

Beware: if you make this once, you will make it again. Probably the next day. So make sure you've got plenty of extra jam on hand.

Cranberry Bread

For the dough:
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups (13 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
For the filling:
3/4 cup cranberry sauce (I used homemade cran-raspberry)
For finishing:
Egg wash (one egg beaten with one tablespoon water)

Combine all the dough ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled - about 1 1/2 hours.

Flour your work surface, heat the oven to 350 degrees, and have a baking pan and parchment sheet or silicone mat (preferred) on hand.

Divide the dough in half, form each half into a ball, and roll each ball into a circle about 9-10 inches in diameter. Place the first piece on the silicone mat and spread the cranberry sauce thinly and evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving about 1 inch covered all around the outside.

Top with the second piece of dough.

Cut four slits in the dough - cutting all the way through the dough (but being careful not to cut the baking mat) as though you are cutting the dough into quarters, but not cutting the center section - try to leave a 2-3 inch uncut section in the center.

Make another four slits in the same way, centering them between your original four. Now, make eight more slits, centering them between the eight you already have.

Now, grab two adjacent strips of dough and twist them - either inward or outward, whichever feels more natural to you, as long as you're not twisting both in the same direction. Count how many twists you're making, so that you twist all the pairs the same number of times. Then just continue around the circle twisting each pair of dough strips the same way.

There are a couple tricks to keep in mind. First, make sure you've cut all the way through both layers of dough. I had a couple pieces that weren't quite cut and when I tried to twist, it got a teeny bit messy. Second, try to make all the cuts to the center even, so you end up with a pretty star pattern in the middle. Third, don't worry about it. When it bakes, it will look amazing, even if it is a little messy.

I rushed through the twisting a bit because my timing was off. Dinner was ready to go on the table so I didn't take as much time as I could have, but I was still very happy with the result. And next time, I'll have a better idea what I'm doing.

When you're done, slide the mat onto the baking sheet. Straighten the dough so it's a nice even circle, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until it's doubled, about 45 minutes. If it doesn't seem like it's doubled, give it a poke it gently with your finger - if the indent remains, it's ready to bake.

Remove the plastic wrap, brush the dough with the egg wash, and bake until the bread is a deep golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Remove the dough from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chive and black garlic cream cheese spread

This is one of those recipes that's greater than the sum of its parts. And it's a perfect last-minute appetizer.

If you haven't tried it yet, black garlic is like ... uh ... garlic candy? Well, maybe not quite, but it's certainly not like garlic you know. It starts out as regular garlic, but then it's fermented. The cloves are actually black, and they're sticky, a little caramel-y, a tiny bit sweet, and much, much milder than regular garlic.

People will try this and say, "What's in it?" And when you tell them, they'll say, "No, really. What's in it?"

It's best made a couple hours ahead of time - or better yet, the day before. This gives the flavors a chance to mingle, and for the chives to mellow a bit.

Did I mention that black garlic is soft and sticky? Yeah, it is. It's a teeny bit hard to mince because it wants to stick to the knife. Although some of it will dissolve right into the cream cheese, you do want to mince it because some bits will stay whole.

Chive and Black Garlic Cream Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
2 cloves black garlic, minced.

Combine the cream cheese and milk in a small bowl, mashing until it is smooth. Add more milk, if needed, to bring it to a spreading consistency.

Add the chives and black garlic. Mix well to combine. Taste, and add more chives, if you prefer. Cover and refrigerate.

This is fine right after it's made, but I think it improves with a little time - like the next day. Stir again before serving. You can servethis chilled or at room temperature.

I received the black garlic from Frieda's Specialty Produce - it's like the wackiest CSA ever.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Sweet Swirl Buns

Who says pumpkin's just for dessert? These sweet buns are perfect breakfast treat. The sugary drizzle is optional, but pretty.

The great thing about this recipe is that you do most of the work the night before, then refrigerate the formed rolls and bake them the next day.

The dough continues to rise in the refrigerator and the buns are ready to bake the next morning ... or afternoon ... or evening. After a while, the cold temperature slows the rise, so the buns can happily spend more time in the refrigerator with no ill effect.

Of course, there's a limit. Sooner or later, the dough will over-rise or the gluten will degrade and you'll have a pan full of sludge instead of a pan full of buns. So keep that in mind.

Pumpkin Sweet Swirl Buns
Makes 9 rolls

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
13 1/2 ounces (3 cups) bread flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the pumpkin puree, water, yeast, sugar, and bread flour. Knead with the bread hook until the dough becomes smooth and elastic - this will take some time - figure 7-10 minutes.

Add the salt and butter and continue kneading until the butter is completely incorporated into the dough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour. The dough should have visibly risen, but it doesn't have to double in size.

Flour your work surface and spray a 9-inch square pan with baking spray.

Turn out the dough and form it into a rough square - this makes it easier to keep it square as you roll it. With a rolling pin, roll it to about 10 x 18 inches.

In a small bowl, combine the hazelnut meal, sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and  cinnamon. Spread this mixture evenly over the top of the dough, leaving about 1/2 inch uncovered on one of the long sides.

Starting from the other long side, roll the dough up loosely, and when you reach the uncovered edge, seal the seam by pinching it together.

If there are any sections of the dough that are fatter, roll it gently so the whole roll is approximately the same diameter.

Cut the roll into nine even pieces. Place the pieces, cut side down, in the pan. The filling is quite loose and will want to come out as you lift the pieces the easiest way to move them without losing a lot of filling is to flip the pieces onto a large dough scraper and move the to the pan and slide them off. When you've moved all nine pieces to the pan, scoop up any of the filling that's left on the counter and sprinkle it over the buns.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap or put it in a large plastic bag and close the bag. Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

When you're ready to bake, remove the pan from the refrigerator and let it rest on the counter while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap (or remove the pan from the plastic bag) and bake at 350 degrees until the buns are nicely browned, about 40 minutes. If you're not sure if the buns are done, you can take the dough's temperature - it should be about 200 degrees, but make sure you're checking the temperature of the dough and not the sugar filling.

Let the pan cool on a rack. Drizzle the buns with a sugar icing, if desired (powdered sugar and just a bit of water to reach a drizzling consistency).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Potato Flowers for Thanksgiving #MakeItYours

I love mashed potatoes. You can't beat a bowl of perfectly-seasoned, unreasonably-buttered, glorious, fluffy mashed potatoes.

Heck, I even like them when they're a little lumpy.

But sometimes I want to dress them up a bit for a party.

There are soooo many options, like adding spices and cheese, like these jalapeno cheddar mashed potatoes from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts or Colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage and onion) from An Edible Mosaic.

I actually used bits of both ideas, with the cheese on top of some of my spuds, and an unexpected ingredient - not cabbage, but you'll see - mixed into the potatoes.

And then for even more of a twist (perhaps even a twirl) I piped them onto a baking sheet for a pretty presentation.

The resulting potato "flowers" are easy to make if you've got piping tips, and they look like you spent way more time than you did. Even better, you can do most of the prep work a day or two ahead, pipe them the day you need them, and finish them in the oven while the roast is resting.

For extra flavor, my additional ingredient was celery root. If you're not familiar with it, it's that round, brown gnarly-looking thing at the grocery store that's probably near the fresh horseradish and rutabagas.

One problem with celery root is that some of them can be a little woody, and that's not what I want in my mashed potatoes. The solution is to run the puree through a sieve to remove the tough bits. It's an extra step, but if you're doing it a day or to in advance, it's not that bad.

The second problem with celery root is that once cooked, it can be sort of ... soggy. Lots of water in it that will turn your mashed potatoes into potato soup in the blink of an eye. The solution is to cook the puree to evaporate the extra liquid and intensify the flavor. It doesn't take long, and I think it's well worth it, because then you can add more cream.

But first, a word from our sponsor:

This post is sponsored by Anolon, and they've offered a giveaway to my readers. For this recipe, I used the Nouvelle Copper 3.5 quart saucepan with straining lid, which is becoming one of my favorite pieces of cookware, and that's the one I'm giving away.

It's got a nonstick interior that's metal-utensil safe, and it's got two pouring spouts and a straining lid, so you can pour the water out while keeping the contents safely enclosed in the pot. But that straining feature has an added benefit - you can vent the pot, or turn the lid and it's completely closed.

That venting feature is nice when you're cooking something with the potential to boil over if the lid isn't vented. It's also great for making popcorn on the stove. Keeping a standard lid tilted on a pot to release steam while shaking the pot for proper popcorn popping takes way more coordination than I have some days. A vented lid is so much more convenient.

Potato Flowers

1 medium celery root (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 pounds russet, Idaho, or Yukon gold potatoes (or a mix)
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup heavy cream (more as needed)
2 eggs
Several generous grinds black pepper
Grated cheese, for garnish
Paprika, for garnish

Peel, cube and cook the celery root in boiling salted water until fork tender. Peel, cube, and cook the potatoes in a separate pot of boiling salted water. For both of these, you want to start in cold water in the pot, bring it to boiling, then simmer until fork-tender.

When the celery root is tender, run it though a food mill or ricer on the finest setting. Taste the puree - either there will be small, tough fibers, or there won't. If there are tough fibers, run the puree through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the fibers. At this point the puree will be the consistency of applesauce.

Return the celery root puree to the pot and add the butter. Cook, stirring as needed, until the extra water is evaporated and the texture resembles mashed potatoes.

Meanwhile, rice the potatoes.

When the celery root puree has reached the correct consistency, add the riced potatoes to the pot, along with the heavy cream. Stir to combine, then taste. Add salt, if needed, and add more cream if the potatoes seem dry. Add several generous grinds of black pepper, stir to combine, and take the mixture off the heat. Let it cool a bit before adding the egg, or refrigerate and continue the next day.

When you're ready to continue, heat the oven to 375 degrees. If you've just taken a roast out of the oven, you're already there, or at least close. If you need to cook other things at other temperatures, it's fine. The potatoes won't mind if they're cooked at a slightly higher or lower temperature - they'll just take a little more or less time to cook.

Since the vegetables are completely cooked, we're just looking for some browning, some melted cheese, and a hot interior to cook the egg.

Line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats.

Add the eggs to the potatoes and mix well. Working in batches, put the potato mixture in a piping bag fitted with a large decorative tip. Pipe mounded circles of potatoes onto the baking sheets. I made 24 mounds, 12 on each sheet. Be as decorative as you like. You can make them all the same (hah! as if!) or make each one different (more likely!)

I actually like to make them different sizes. I'm a big proponent of letting people have as much of whatever they want, so if folks have smaller appetites, they can choose a smaller flower. Those with larger appetites can choose a larger one (or two or three small ones. I don't judge.)

For an added garnish, grate cheese (I used a mild cheddar) on top of some or all, or put a small cube of cheese in the center. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. An extra sprinkle of black pepper or even some scattered herbs would also be fine.

Bake at 375 degrees until the cheese (if used) has melted and there's some browning on the edges of the potatoes and on the ridges of the piping design. Timing will depend on how warm or cool the potatoes were when you started, as well as oven temp and the size of your potato mounds, but check at 15 minutes and figure it might take up to 25.

Carefully remove the mounds from the trays using a small spatula for serving.

To enter to win:

Anolon is giving away one 3.5-quart Nouvelle Copper straining saucepan with lid to one of my lucky readers.
  • To enter, just leave a comment letting me know how you'd make this dish your own? What would you add, swap, or change? This is the only required entry.
  • For an optional second entry, Like Anolon on Facebook or follow on Twitter, and leave a comment here telling me which you've done.
Contest begins NOW and ends on Saturday, November 30 at midnight, Mountain time. US residents only, 18 years and older. Comments must be made on THIS blog post and not left elsewhere or sent by email. Prize will be shipped to the winner from Anolon. All usual Cookistry rules apply.

This post was sponsored by Anolon. Opinions and commentary are my own.

Cran-Raspberry Sauce with Spiced Rum and a Cran-Raspberry Rum Punch

Turkey is the easy answer, of course. But while turkey is the official protein of the day, the official condiment/fruit/relish/bright-colored-accent is the cranberry. Whether it's jellied, or a chutney, or relish, cranberries usually end up on the table somewhere.

I grew up with the canned jellied stuff, but to be honest, I wasn't that crazy about it. I'd like a little taste of it with some of the bone-dry turkey breast, but a little was enough.

When I discovered a cran-raspberry canned jellied product, I switched to that. That was back in the day when I had never even seen a fresh cranberry, and I loved the flavor that the raspberries brought to the usual jiggle-dish.

But then, when I found fresh cranberries, I started having fun.

Instead of treating the cranberry as something that has to be on the table whether you like it or not, now I'm

This relish is an homage to that first cran-raspberry dish that changed my ideas about cranberry sauce, but it starts with fresh cranberries. Since raspberries aren't in season at this time of year, I opted for frozen berries.

And then I used some of the resulting cranberry sauce in a cocktail. Yeah, you heard me.

Since this post is sponsored by Captain Morgan's as part of their Captain's Table challenge, of course there's rum in everything - including the chef.

Cran-Raspberry Sauce with Spiced Rum

12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
12 ounces frozen raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Captain Morgan's Original Spiced Rum
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and cook on medium heat, stirring as needed, until the cranberries have soften and burst, and the sauce has thickened.

Take the sauce off the heat - and here's where you have a choice. You can serve this chunky and seedy, or you can pass it through a fine sieve to get a smooth sauce. I ended up doing both, and had a pint of the chunky sauce and about 1 1/2 cups of the smooth sauce.

Cran-Raspberry Rum Punch

This can be served as a warm or cold drink. Warm, it's a comforting drink for a cold day. Cold, it's bright and refreshing. Either way, the color is bright and inviting. I suggest using the strained sauce for this.

I let my husband sample this, and he really liked it - a lot. That's surprising because he doesn't like cranberries at all. And he doesn't drink mixed drinks. But I had to steal this away from him.

1 1/2 ounces strained cran-raspberry sauce
1 ounce Captain Morgan's Original Spiced Rum
Hot or cold water, to fill glass

Combine the cran-raspberry sauce, rum, and water in a short, squat glass - if you're serving it cols, you can add ice before you fill with water - your choice.

This post was sponsored by Captain Morgan's as part of their #CaptainsTable challenge. I received rum for use in recipes and a stipend to purchase additional ingredients.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pumpkin-shaped, pumpkin-free buns

Damn you, Internet.

Someone, somewhere, on some group or timeline or feed or tweet posted a photo of some adorable buns made in the shape of pumpkins. And I said, awwwww, that's awesome and I went on my merry way.

But I couldn't get the idea of the buns out of my head. It seemed simple enough, even though I never saw the original recipe. I mean, I'm always baking bread. Or at least it seems like it.

I'd love to give credit to the originator of those pumpkin buns, but I have no idea if the photo was from a magazine, commercial site, or blog. It could have also been a dream. Because even though I don't bake in my sleep, I've been known to dream about bread. Yes, I'm serious.

I'm guessing (but don't really know) that the buns I saw (or dreamed about) had some pumpkin in them. I mean, that would make sense.

I decided I had to bake pumpkin-shaped buns, but I was all out of pumpkin, so instead I made a slightly sweet, rich bread.

Be forewarned that these take forever to rise if you start with cold ingredients. That's not a problem for me, but if you have things to do and don't want to have forever-slowly-rising dough sitting around, you can let the butter, egg, and sour cream get to room temperature, the add HOT water to get it all a little warmer before you introduce the yeast to the pool.

It's still going to be a slow riser since it's a rich dough, but at least you won't be waiting quite as long. Or, of course you can let it rise in a very warm place. I gave the dough some time in my oven on the proofing setting, and the second rise was sitting on top of the stove while it preheated.

Pumpkin-Shaped Buns

1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) white whet flour
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semolina flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
Egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
8 walnut pieces

Combine the egg, sour cream, and water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Whisk to combine (this should get it closer to a lukewarm temperature.) Add the rest of the ingredients, except the egg wash and walnuts.

Knead with the dough hook until the dough is elastic.

Cover the bowl and set in a warm place to rise until doubled. Be prepared for a long wait.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Flour your work surface lightly and turn out the dough and divide it into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, then, using a sharp pair of scissors, cut 6-8 slits all the way through the dough around the edges of the dough, to within about an inch of the center.

Take a look a the photo - that might help make sense of it.

Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and continue cutting the rest of them in the same way, arranging them on the baking sheet and leaving space between the buns for them to rise.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. When you poke it gently with a fingertip, the dent should remain or fill in slowly, rather than bouncing back immediately. This should take about half the amount of time as the first rise.

When the buns have risen, brush them with the egg wash. You can opt to not brush the slashes, or brush the whole thing.

Poke the walnut piece - I used halves of walnut halves - into the center of the dough to make the "stem" of the pumpkins. Don't be afraid to push them down - if  you don't embed them well there's a chance they'll fall out as the dough rises. And, it's fine if the buns have a slight indent in the center after they're baked.

Bake at 350 degrees until the buns are nicely browned, about 20-25 minutes. Remove them from the pan and let them cool completely on a rack.

Breaking news! Someone gave me the original link to the photo I saw. Check 'em out on Beyond Kimchee!

Check out the sweet board I got from Pink Monogram:

The board is generously sized - it's the large one that measures 15.74" by 11.8" by .15" and sells for $60 on the site. Pretty awesome, right?

The boards are sold as cutting boards, but I'm much more likely to use it as a backdrop for photos and for serving. Like this:

Want to know more about Pink Monogram? Here ya go:

Disclaimer: I was given a board at no charge by Pink Monogram; I also ran a giveaway for them that has now ended.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stuffing Buns

No, these buns aren't made from stuffing - they're made to taste like stuffing.

Of course, every family's stuffing recipe is different, and some are very, very different. But this one hits all the typical flavor notes.

If you have any leftover buns, they make great croutons. Just cut them into cubes and drizzle with just  a little olive oil and toast them in the oven until they're completely dry. Your salads will thank you.

At this size these are perfect dinner rolls, or for slider-sized sandwiches. Make them a little larger for more hefty leftover sandwiches, if you like.

If you want to guild the lily a little bit, you could add some dried cranberries to the dough. Mix them in during the last step. About 1/4 cup will be just enough.

Stuffing Buns
Makes 24 buns

1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon dry celery flakes
1 tablespoon dry parsley
1 teaspoon dried chives
1 teaspoon dried toasted onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon dry lemon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, sugar, yeast, flour, poultry seasoning, celery flakes, parsley, chives, onion flakes, and thyme. Knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth - except, of course, for the herbs, which will make the dough a little bumpy.

Add the salt and butter and continue kneading until the butter is completely incorporated.

Cover the bowl and set aside until the dough has doubled in size, about 50 minutes.

When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal, and dust your work surface with flour.

Turn the dough out and divide into 24 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and place the finished balls onto the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the buns have doubled in size and an indent remains if you press the dough lightly with a fingertip.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake at 350 degrees until the buns are nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Remove the buns from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rum 'n Root Beer Cocktail for the #CaptainsTable

When I posted on Facebook that I was going to be doing some posts for "the Captain" and I asked people to guess who that was, I was a little surprised that 100 percent of the people who guessed said, "Captain Morgan."

Wow. Not one person guessed Captain Kangaroo or The Captain and Tennille.

Hmmm. Maybe my friends know me better than I thought. I never liked Captain Kangaroo or his sidekick, Mr. Green Jeans. And I'm pretty sure that neither the Kangaroo-man or the music man said much about cooking.

On the other hand, Captain Morgan will be a fine companion for the holidays, and I'm planning a few posts that'll include both food and beverage recipes using rum. I'm not entirely sure yet what I'll be making, but I'm guessing there will be some baking.

Because that's how I roll.

Just for a little sampler of the havoc I plan on creating, I decided to start with a little cocktail. Maybe this is too simple, but it's something I've liked for years, and every time I mention it to someone, they look at me like I'm a little crazy. Then they think about it for a second or two - probably thinking about the flavors ... and then it's "hmmmm ... well, yes, I can see how that would work."

Why yes. Yes it does.

And just because I can't leave well enough alone, I added a little bit of a garnish. Just for the fun of it.

Rum 'n Root Beer

1 ounce Captain Morgan's Original Spiced Rum
Root beer, to fill glass
Cinnamon stick

Fill a glass with ice. Add the rum and root beer and garnish with the cinnamon stick. Depending on how that cinnamon stick is rolled, you might be able to use it as a straw. Or, you'll just look silly. But it adds a touch of cinnamon flavor to the drink, and it's a fun stir-stick.

Serve. To me, preferably.

Disclaimer: I was provided with rum for recipes, and a stipend to cover the cost of my ingredients for my posts.

Midnight Chocolate Cake

The more I get to know Carla Gonzales from Good Cook, the more I become convinced that we're twin sisters in some alternate universe. We were chatting the other day and she told me how she's got a lot of purple stuff in her house, because it's her favorite color.

Uh ... my car is purple.

And then she said that her mom's last name was Curry. With a "y" not an "ie" like mine. But still ... weird. In that alternate universe, not-quite-exactly-the-same kind of way.

Then she went on to describe her favorite birthday cake, and when she said that she didn't want to cut into a chocolate cake and find a filling with bananas or strawberries. Well, I almost fell out of my chair right there. Because although I like bananas and strawberries, I don't want to see either of them in my chocolate cake, either.

And her favorite frosting is ganache. Me, too. Hands down. No doubt.

And if there has to be a filling inside a chocolate cake, it's okay if it's whipped cream. Oh yeah, now we're talking. She's just like me.

But when that alternate universe thing is on some sci-fi show, there's always one thing that's completely out of whack. One thing totally opposite, right? And there's one thing where Carla and I are about as opposite as you can get.

One thing. Can you guess?

Probably not. So I'll tell you.

Ya see, she doesn't actually cook a lot. Nope. We were on the phone one day, and she said, "Whatcha doin'?" and I said I was making some mashed potatoes. And she said, "You know you can just buy those in a box?"


But I decided I'd give her a pass on that since she works for Good Cook. So, I decided to bake her a birthday cake (which, of course, I will valiantly volunteer to eat) since today is her birthday.

This is a very dark chocolate cake, thanks to the black onyx cocoa powder - with a ganache frosting. No whipped cream filling, since it's just one layer. But if you wanted to bake two layers or decorate with whipped cream, I wouldn't stop you. I might even join in.

I named it Midnight Cake for two reasons. First, it's really really dark. Second, at about midnight, you'll hear this cake calling you ... and the next thing you know, it's midnight and you've got a milk mustache and chocolate crumbs on your jammies.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Midnight Cake

For the cake:

1 ounce good "good" chocolate*
1/3 cup cocoa powder (I used about half black onyx and half standard cocoa)
1 cup boiling water
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the ganache:
8 ounce "good" chocolate*
3/4 cup heavy cream

To make the cake:
Spray a 9-inch cake pan with baking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium heatproof mixing bowl, combine the chocolate (chopped) and the cocoa. Add the boiling water and stir until the chocolate is melted and it's smooth.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir or whisk to blend.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, where you'll mix with an electric mixer), beat the white and brown sugars with the mayonnaise until it's all well mixed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of the chocolate mixture, beating just until everything is well combined.

Pour the cake batter into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees until the cake bounces back when lightly touched in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. This cake is very moist so the toothpick might seem damp, but you shouldn't have any wet batter.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache:
Chop the chocolate and put it in a heat-resistant bowl.

Bring the cream just to a boil (I did this in the microwave in a heatproof measuring cup, or you can heat it in a small saucepan on the stove).

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir or whisk until the chocolate is melted.

To finish the cake:
To frost the cake, just pour the ganache over the top of the cake - when it's slightly warm, it will be a nice pouring consistency. If it gets too thick, you can gently re-warm it - you want to loose enough to pour, but not completely liquid.

Smooth the top of the frosting - let some drip over the edge, if you like.

The frosting will stay relatively soft at room temperature - it will firm up when you refrigerate the cake. Since the ganache has cream, I do suggest refrigerating for longer-term storage.

*Use a decent chocolate sold for baking or a higher-end bar - not one of the kiddie chocolate bars. I used Ghirardelli 60% for both the cake and the ganache.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gadgets: The Turkey Canon

I was slightly disappointed that the turkey cannon ($25) does not shoot turkeys. What it is, according to the manufacturer, is beer can chicken on steroids.

Unlike shoving a beer can into a chicken and forcing it to stand upright, this lets the turkey rest at an angle. Which makes a heck of a lot of sense, since most of us don't have an oven (or outdoor grill) that's tall enough to allow a turkey to roast vertically.

The cannon is pretty heavy duty, and it's dishwasher safe. But does it work?

I decided to use a Butterball turkey since I've probably eaten my weight in Butterballs over the years - I know exactly what I should expect. I opted not to brine (even though the cannon came with a brining kit) because I didn't want the brining to affect the testing.

I filled the cannon with a flavored liquid and then encountered the first small hurdle - getting the turkey onto the cannon. The instructions said that turkeys over 18 pounds might need to be roasted breast-side down, but my 17-pound bird didn't fit comfortably breast-side up, so it had to roast breast-down. The turkey breast wasn't quite touching the pan, but it was close, so I propped up one end of the cannon so the turkey for sure couldn't touch the pan. Probably not necessary.

Wrestling the turkey onto the cannon wasn't all that difficult once I figured out which way it needed to rest. I stabbed the bird with a thermometer and set it to roast at 325 degrees.

After an hour in the oven, the turkey looked ... uh ... uncomfortable.

After two hours, it was getting a nice brown color, but still looked strange.

Roasting at 325 degrees, the turkey was done in about 3 hours - faster than conventional roasting, that's for sure.

Second small hurdle was getting the bird off its perch, and it wasn't as difficult as I expected. A spare pair of hands held the cannon in place while I donned protective gloves and wiggled the bird a bit to dislodge it where it was slightly stuck to the cannon. Then it pulled right off.

Since the bird had roasted upside down, the breast was pale, but I was more interested in how well it had cooked. This cannon can also be used on a grill, and in that case the bottom would have browned just fine. And of course a smaller bird would have perched upright so the breast would have browned. Or, I could have taken it off the cannon a bit sooner and let it roast upright for the last part of cooking.

But I did none of those things, so my turkey looks like it has a bald spot.

Since the cannon cooked the turkey from the inside because of the steam, cooking was much more consistent. I've had fully-cooked turkeys, measured in both breast and thigh, that had pink juices in the cavity of the turkey. This had none of that.

The meat was definitely moist - people who have only tried conventionally-roasted turkeys will be totally impressed. And the turkey cooked much faster than it would have otherwise.

So, it's it worth $25 for something you might use once a year? Perhaps not. On the other hand, it can also be used to cook chicken or other poultry (from 4 to 20 pounds according to the site, although larger turkeys might work with some strategic propping), and it can be used in the oven, on the grill, or in the smoker.

I have a couple gadgets that are designed for beer-can style cooking of chickens in the oven, and one problem is that a completely-upright chicken can be a little tall. And wobbly. I've tipped more than one over. Cooking it at an angle while still taking advantage of the steam makes a whole lot more sense. And, unlike the chicken devices that shoot steam from the open end of the device, this has holes along the sides as well, so there's more steam-action inside the bird.

Overall, I'm pleased. Plus, if someone peeks in your oven, you get the joy of seeing the "what the heck is that!?" look on their faces.

The product was supplied for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats; this was previously published on Serious Eats.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Time for a Cocktail: The Local

The seed of the idea for this cocktail started with balsamic vinegar.

Yes, vinegar. I went to a shop here in town called Picasso's Olive Oil Company that sells custom olive oils and vinegar, and when I tasted the cherry balsamic vinegar, I thought, gee, I could drink this stuff!.

And then I thought, well, why not?

Now before you think it's weird to put vinegar in a drink, you have to know about this vinegar. When I tasted it, the first thing I thought of was tart cherry pie filling. Yes, there's tarness. But there's also sweetness and a LOT of cherry flavor.

So, once I had it in my head that this stuff was drinkable, that meant I had to figure out what to pair it with to make an actual drink and not just a slurp of vinegar. What to do? I decided that since I bought the vinegar from a local purveyor, I should use local ingredients all the way.

Next, I decided to use Peak 7 Vodka, which is vodka from a Colorado company.

And then I decided to finish the concept with a little bit of a local honey. I chose the Ambrosia honey from Madhava. It's one of my favorites. If you have a chance to try it, buy it.

So what did I call it?

The Local

Madhava Ambrosia Honey
1 ounce Peak 7 vodka
1 teaspoon Picasso's Olive Oil black cherry balsamic vinegar
Club soda, soda water, tonic water, sparkling water, or ... water water (as needed)

Fill a short, squat glass with ice. Drizzle some honey along the insides of the glass.

Add the cherry balsamic vinegar and the vodka. Top with a splash of the water-like substance - or more, as desired. It depends on how strong you like your drinks, really. You could make this in a tall glass with a lot of soda, if that's what you wanted.


Now, don't go blaming me if you make this with plain balsamic vinegar and it tastes horrible. Because it probably will. Or if you try some other cherry vinegar and it tastes awful. The vinegar needs to taste right, or you're doomed. If you don't think the stuff you've got will work, use a tart cherry syrup or even cherry mosto cotto instead. Or maybe a splash of pomegranate molasses.

Disclaimer: I received the Peak7 vodka from the company; I bought the honey, vinegar, and, well, we pay for our water, too.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jolly Fruit Cocktail

Remember back when the whole point of vodka was that it was clear and tasteless? Seems like, well, not all that long ago.

Sure you can still buy clear tasteless vodka, but I’ve been having a bit of fun with the flavored ones. It seems like every time I look, there are more flavors. Which means more possibilities for experimenting.

This time around, I combined one of the Smirnoff sorbet vodkas with simple syrup from a company called Not-So-Simple Syrup. The interesting thing was that the resulting cocktail reminded me a lot of watermelon-flavored Jolly Rancher candies.

Or maybe it’s just me.

This is a sweet cocktail with just a little tartness to balance it. If you like a more tart cocktail, this could be mixed with lemonade or even iced tea, or mixed with other fruit juices.

You might remember that I wrote about Not-So-Simple Syrup a while back, when the company sent me some small sample bottles. This time I received a lovely gift basket, and I’ve also got one for one of my lucky readers. More on that after we have a cocktail

Jolly Fruit Cocktail

1 ounce Smirnoff Raspberry Pomegranate Light Sorbet vodka
1 ounce strawberry Not-So-Simple Syrup
1 teaspoon lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, then serve over ice. Garnish with a slice of citrus or a piece of fruit.

If you prefer, you can add soda water or seltzer for some fizz and to lighten up the cocktail. Or, add lemonade if you want more tartness.

Speaking of lemonade, the Not-So-Simple-Syrup products make a pretty nice sweetener for plain old lemonade, adding flavor along with the sweet.

I received the Not-so-Simple syrups from the manufacturer.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Lemon Screwdriver

Why is a cocktail with orange juice and vodka called a
screwdriver? I have no clue.

But that doesn't mean I can't riff on it.

This time around, I wanted to use an ingredient called "Fizzy" that I received from The Spice House through my friends at 37 Cooks. Fizzy is an interesting product. It looks like little bits of Styrofoam. Or maybe miniature albino Cheetos.

But it tastes a little lemony. And it fizzes. Bet you couldn't guess that.

It's not as violent of a pop as you get with Pop Rocks - it's a more gentle fizz. Its pleasant. And lemony. And what was I going to do with it?

I decided it would make an interesting rimmer for a cocktail, but then I wondered how I'd get it to stick without dissolving too much and losing the fizz.

For a change, the first thing I tried worked really well. I wet the rim of the glass with a little bit of honey, and then I dipped the rim into some bits of the Fizzy that I had cut into smaller bits. It worked really well.

I had some extra Fizzy that wasn't stuck to the rim of the glass, so I added that to the cocktail to add just a little fizz there. It was a fun little drink.

Lemon Screwdriver

1 teaspoon Fizzy
1 ounce Smirnoff Lemon Sorbet vodka
1 ounce lemon simple syrup*
Orange juice to fill glass

Use your finger or a small food-safe paintbrush to paint the rim of the glass with honey. Chop the Fizzy into smaller pieces and place it on a plate. Dip the rim of the glass into the Fizzy to get as much of it adhered as possible.

I used a martini glass, but you can use any glass you like.

Put the leftover Fizzy in the glass.

Pour the vodka, simple syrup, and orange juice into the glass and serve. Or, add ice to the glass, if you prefer, then add the vodka, simple syrup, and orange juice. Or put the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with some ice, then shake, then pour it into the glass. Whatever makes you happy.


*I used a lemon-flavored simple syrup from a company called Not-So-Simple Syrup. If you can't find it, you can make your own, or make a plain simple syrup and then add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the cocktail.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cocktails: Apple Pie al la Mode

Hoo boy! Another flavored vodka for me to play with!

I'm really getting giddy about all the flavored vodkas that are available these days. And it's not just, hey, we added some lemon zest to this one and chocolate syrup to that one. The flavors are getting pretty creative.

The vodka du jour is Dutch Apple courtesy of my new friends at Ivanabitch.

Read that brand name a couple times, and if you still don't get it, say it out loud. I'll wait.

Done? Okay, then.

So, with a name like that, I was a leetle bit skeered of the vodka. I mean, what if it was harsh and weird. So I tasted a little. Hmmm. Well... sip-sip-sip. Nice and smooth. That's a pleasant surprise. This is the sort of stuff you could sip over ice, maybe. Or mix with a little splash of something.

But oh, no. My plans involved much, much more than that. I wanted PIE.

Apple Pie a la Mode

For the mulled cider:
1 quart apple cider
2 tablespoons mulling spices

For the cocktail:
Mulled cider - cold - to fill glass to about "there" (Yeah, I didn't measure. Shoot me.)
1 ounce Ivanabitch Dutch Apple vodka
1 ounce heavy cream (go big or go home)

To make the mulled cider:
Pour the apple cider into a medium saucepan. Add the mulling spices. You could tie the spices in a piece of cheesecloth, but eh, this works, too.

Bring the cider to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Let the cider cool to room temperature, then strain into a storage container. Refrigerate until cold.

To make a cocktail:
Pour the mulled cider into the glass, leaving room for the vodka and cream. Carefully pour the vodka on top of the cider to create a clear layer. Ooooh, nice!

Carefully pour the cream on top of the vodka to create the final layer.

If you think I'm a genius of layered drinks, think again. I cheat and use one of these. You still need to figure out which layer will float on which other layer (and some things won't layer at all) but this thing makes it a lot easier.

If you're into it, grate a little nutmeg on top. Or not. Serve.

I was a little concerned that the apple cider would be too acidic and would cause the cream to curdle when it was stirred together - which, really, is the best way to drink this. But it didn't. And the flavor was an awful like like apple pie and ice cream.

Obviously, you'll have plenty of mulled cider left over. It's great as-is, or just make another cocktail for yourself.

I received the vodka, mulling spices, and layering tools from their respective companies. I was not required to write a post about them.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pumpkin Cream Pie (with a no-cook filling!)

There's a recipe for chilled, no-cook pumpkin pie that uses Cool Whip and pumpkin puree. I've been thinking about that recipe for a while. I like the idea, since it's a lot lighter than traditional pumpkin pie - which I think can be way too dense and filling, particularly after a big meal.

I love pumpkin cheesecake, but that's pretty darned rich. It can be a little fluffier and lighter on the tastebuds than traditional pumpkin pie, but it's still really really rich.

Then we have this cream pie.

Whipped cream is still cream - but it's got a lot of air. It adds a frothiness and fluffiness when it's mixed with pumpkin. But it also deflates pretty easily, which is probably why there's that Cool Whip recipe. Cool Whip doesn't deflate.

But ... although I'm fine with quite a number of prepared foods and snacky things, I just don't see the point in Cool Whip when it's so simple to whip cream - and it tastes so much better.

So, I was thinking about that recipe and thinking about how to stabilize whipped cream. Gelatin is one option, which is why I found some recipes for stabilized whipped cream that used marshmallows - it was the gelatin in the marshmallows that did the trick.

But I wanted something even easier. No cooking. Just mixing. Almost as easy as Cool Whip. So, how about instant pectin? I used it before to stabilize whipped cream that I used for a topping, but I wasn't sure what the result would be once I added pumpkin.

Turns out, it was just fine.

And then I decided to make a gingersnap and graham cracker crust for the no-bake filling. It's almost no-bake - just 10(ish) minutes in the oven to "set" the crust so it doesn't turn into crumbs when you cut it.

And then of course I made whipped cream for a garnish. Because that's how I roll.

This was the first run at this concept and I might tweak it a bit, but so far I'm pretty darned happy with the results. Feel free to taste and tweak the seasoning. This wasn't super-sweet, but that's how I like it.

This pie is best made a day ahead of serving, if you've got the patience to do that. The crust is a little bit crunchy at first, but after a day in the refrigerator, it loses the crunch but doesn't crumble when you cut it.

Pumpkin Cream Pie

For the crust:
24 gingersnaps
2 graham crackers
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar

For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream
1 tablespoon instant pectin
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For the whipped cream topping:
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of sugar

To make the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put all the crust ingredients in a food processor and process until you have wet crumbs - there shouldn't be any bits of butter, and the crumbs should be a consistent size. You can, in theory, over-process this until you have cookie butter, so don't walk away from it for too long. Just process to crumbs.

Dump the crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan and press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan. At first, it will seem like a lot of crumbs, but it will compact a lot.

Bake the crust until it's just barely browned - about 10 minutes. Put the pan on a rack and let it cool completely.

To make the pie filling:

Put the whipped cream in a bowl and sprinkle the pectin on top. Add the vanilla extract and begin whipping. When the mixture starts to thicken, add the sugar and keep whipping until you have peaks. I did this by hand - it didn't take long - but you can use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer if you prefer.

Combine the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl. Mix well, then add this in several additions to the whipped cream mixture until it's well blended.

Use this to fill your prepared pie shell - this will fill a regular 9-inch shell with leftovers, if you fill it evenly - or you can mound it, if you prefer. But the leftovers make a nice mousse. I haven't measured it in a deep-dish pan, put it should be enough to fill that.

To make the whipped cream for garnish:

Remember how I said that I don't mind whipping cream? Well, in this case, I used my nitrous cream whipper, because I wanted to be able to keep the whipped cream on hand and use it for several different things I had planned during the week. So I used the whipper.

If you don't happen to have a nitrous cream whipper, just whip by hand or with an electric mixer. This makes a lot of whipped cream - more than you'll need for the pie. But it's the holidays - I'm sure you'll find something to do with the extra.

Just combine all the ingredients, whisk to make sure it's all blended, and pour it into the cream whipper. Charge with nitrous according to manufacturer's directions, and dispense as needed.