Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More than just a sweet ride for Cinderella...

Man, I hate it when I try to cheat and cut and paste formatting from hell. It always seems like a good idea at the time, and ends up costing me more time tweaking it that it would have just to key it in. But you know how were are in this technological age....as Homer would put it when told by Mo "It'll flash fry a buffalo in 45 seconds!" - "Awwww, but I want it NOW!!!" I just wanted you to know how much blood sweat and tears goes into this blog, and that I wouldn't do it for just ANYONE.

Giving thanks is a tradition for us here in the United States of America because we have it sooooo good. When you start getting down on yourself because you work in a call center, drive a Hyundai (not one of the cool new ones), and going out on the town involves matinee showings of something with Adam Sandler (SNAP OUT OF IT, MAN....YOU USED TO BE HILARIOUS!!) and 50 cent wing night at Buffalo Wild Wings in a cozy corner of the loudest sports bar EVER, remember it could be worse. I know some of you are thinking "Ewwwwww, HOW??, so to you I suggest asking the guy standing at an on ramp with a cardboard sign that says "Will stand here pitifully for food whilst you attempt to avoid eye contact" and I'm sure he can give you an idea. There, my guilt mongering is done for this festive holiday.

Thanksgiving should actually be called "Yum Yum I Wish I Had a Shovel So I Could Get Even More Delicious food in My Maw" Day, because that is really what it is. I don't know about you, but I've been thinking about it since before Halloween. More like stressing....not because of the day itself, just the number of calories I may or may not accidentally stumble and fall into with an open mouth. When you've restricted your intake, Thanksgiving means you should really eat something about the size of a Swanson Turkey dinner unless you want to grow out of your underpants before the end of the day. So my plan is to make what I normally would, but pull a few punches with butter, cream, sugar etc. and try to lighten it up a bit. That will not help when I am standing in front of a beautifully browned bird, glistening and crackly skin begging me to pull off a hunk and eat it because it's BAD for everyone else. Nor when the soft butter n' egg rolls have cooled off and the turkey carcass that still has an admirable amount of white meat still on it starts singing harmony with the Best Foods in the fridge to the tune of Just Eat It by the genius of Weird Al. Oh my.

So I shall try to persevere, attempt to eat my berry pie with the back of the crust removed and light ice cream on top, only have a little of each thing that requires gravy on it, and not feel the need to cap off my tremendous meal with another before the first one even hits the bottom of your stomach. Wish me luck....I did OK last year, but there were other people around that weren't my family - this year that will not be the case so I can fritter unfettered. Mmmmmm....fritters.

Here's a cool recipe I found from a website when I put pumpkin cheesecake muffins in the search bar. I made a couple changes, one because I did not think I had cloves, two because I thought it was an awful lot of spice (it would not have been), and three because I love nuts....have to, my family is full of em. I also went brown sugar in the topping, and changed the name to Pumpkin PRALINE cheesecake Muffins, cause that's what they are now. It's a hot pick, I tell ya.....brought them to a meeting and almost didn't make it to the room without being attacked...good thing I know how to buttonhook. I would not suggest you make this for Thanksgiving because it will just make Aunt Fanny's pumpkin pie look sick....and they don't require the least amount of whipped cream either.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 C. powdered sugar

3 C. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups vegetable oil

½ cup brown sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 C. chopped pecans

4 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces

Prep the filling first by mixing the cream cheese and powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

For the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners - I use foil because of the high fat content....it will make paper wrappers look greasy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended I used pumpkin we roasted in the oven and used a hand blender to make sure the fibers were chopped up well - you could also use a food processor. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing JUST until incorporated unless you want to use your tough muffins for softball practice..

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly, stir in pecans. Put in the fridge if it'll be a while before using.

To assemble, fill each muffin paper with about 1/4 C. batter. Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well, pushing it down into the batter. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool awhile before serving or even tasting unless you want to talk with a notable lisp for a couple days because of the giant blister on your tongue - the filling is MOLTEN. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, even if you have to sit at the folding table in the hallway....some kids have to sit at the ironing board.

Source: http://annies-eats.com/, adapted from BakeSpace

Friday, November 11, 2011

All eyes are on you....

Yup, another potato post - I bet you couldn't wait! I volunteered to make a gigantic pot of soup for St. Frank's annual Holiday Sampler, a yearly wingding our parish puts on with a giant bazaar of handmade items all donated by the congregation. There is some serious talent and very deep pockets in Roy, and they are not stingy about sharing with those willing to part with a few bucks. I'm always amazed at how much work these people do to benefit their church and school - not many bazaars you go to are all donations....we're unique!

Potatoes have always been a filler in my cooking - baked, boiled and mashed, hash browns, french fries, chowders and delicately browned in a skillet - there ain't a lot about em I don't like. Son #2 makes an ethereal buttermilk potato bread with them that KILLS me every time - it's just not something I can pass up, and my points tracker makes a frowny face at me on days he makes it. I also lovelovelove a giant baker stuffed with butter, sour cream, bacon, green onion and black pepper and will eat it skin and all if it's baked correctly. Wanna know how? Magic...haha.

Actually, you just wash and dry giant spuds, poke them all with a small sharp paring knive a couple times on each flat side, then toss them in a ziploc one or two at a time with some olive oil and coat, then put em on a cookie sheet and liberally sprinkle kosher salt on both sides and bake at 375 about 1.5 hours or until that paring knife will slide right through em...the salt tenderizes them and flavors from the outside in. I overcooked the soup batch, and had to peel them a bit deeper after they cooled - Handsome Stranger finally had to throw the peels in the trash with smelly garbage because he could not leave them alone. I was going to make some smart-ass comment about the Great Potato Famine, but after looking it up on Wiki, I was ashamed of myself. Yes, that does happen.

So yeah, the soup. I was asked to make some last year for the luncheon that is the "Sampler" part of this event, and my butternut coconut curry soup was very well received....a few people had a look on their face like "Yah, like I'm gonna eat something that looks like regurgitated carrots", but I didn't take offense. I just found out what they drove and poured a little in their gas tank to take home and try later. I agonize over something that a large number of random people will be exposed to, especially since I go to church with a lot of them - you really don't want people that have calluses on their knees from praying on them since they were 3 getting some kind of food borne illness because of you - you could end up with the 7 plagues of Roy all over you. I'm pretty sure they are doing chicken noodle and minestrone again, so I wanted a thicker and more calorific option - yes folks, this will not have WW points plus values at the end, the bacon alone will cause the scale to short out at your next weigh in, and when you fry, it's gonna smell like hickory.

I decided to go with a chowder-ish selection, and honed in on Baked Potato - it just sounded so good, and a giant bag of bakers at Costco is only a sawbuck (if you are not over 50, that's a fiver). I did some research and found a couple promising candidates, one from my friend Amber's McClusky (ND) Centennial Cookbook and the other Paula Deen...we all know where this is going. I whipped up a test batch, and I will not tell you what Handsome Stranger said about it because it was VERY naughty - suffice to say he quite enjoyed it. (the soup I mean...) I think you will too, and will curse me with a closed and shaking fist if you are trying to achieve a leaner, meaner you....it's quite heavenly in this lay person's opinion, but with devilish results to the dimples that will deepen on your heinie if you eat a lot. AMEN.

Baked Potato Soup

10 slices bacon
1/4 C. butter
1 C. onion
1/3 C. flour
4 C. milk (I used 2%, but you can use whatever your heart desires)
2 T. chicken base
4 HUGE baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 C. cheddar cheese, grated
1 C. sour cream
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Slice bacon across into ¼” strips, fry until crisp, remove from pan and set aside. Put bacon drippings in large pot with butter, sauté onions in fat until tender and stir in flour; cook 2 minutes. Pour in milk, whisking constantly then add chicken base and cook until it starts to bubble, add potatoes and bacon, grind in some fresh pepper and a bit of salt then turn heat down and cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly to keep from sticking. Stir in cheese and sour cream, check seasoning and adjust as needed. You will have to stir it a lot when it's over heat...the milk and flour will make it want to stick and burn constantly. I will also thicken if kept warm....add more milk as needed, and be prepared to add more chicken base and/or salt if need be.

If I was serving this at a meal, I would put some sour cream in a Ziploc, cut off the corner and make a little zig zag of it on top, then sprinkle with a tiny bit of cheese, a few sprinkles of chives or green onion, and one tiny bacon piece on top with a skosh of pepper…..how pretty would that be! Actually, I would just get in the way of the spoon....no one wants to wait that long. And if you overindulge, they'll just comment "That's a fine doorful of a woman".....