Friday, November 20, 2009

Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

I’m doing some early prep for Thanksgiving and today I whipped up the cranberry sauce. This recipe comes from the November ‘09 edition of Bon Appetit magazine. Greg got a subscription through Wyatt’s magazine sales, and now we’re never gonna want to eat plain old food again… Well, we never want to eat “old” food, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, homemade cranberry sauce is about the easiest thing to make when preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Except for having to boil/soften the chiles, this recipe took 10 minutes.

The flavor is sweet/hot and I can’t wait to taste it again after it sits awhile. cranberry sauce 002

  • 2 dried chipotle chiles*
  • 1 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) ground cumin
  • *Can be found at specialty foods stores, natural foods stores, and Latin markets.

  • Place chiles in medium saucepan filled with water; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until chiles are tender, adding more water if needed to keep chiles submerged, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on dryness of chiles. Drain.

  • Combine softened chipotles, cranberries, sugar, and lemon juice in heavy medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking until cranberries begin to pop, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cinnamon, and cumin. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly and flavors meld, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Cool.

  • Remove chipotles. Stem and seed.  Mince chiles and return to cranberry sauce (my chiles pretty much fell apart during all the stirring. I fished out the pieces and didn’t bother mincing and putting them back in); stir to distribute. Cover and chill.

  • DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cheesy Chicken Vegetable Soup

‘Twas a cloudy, chilly, blustery day yesterday, a good soup day. I had some cooked chicken in the freezer and a bowl full of fresh veggies to use up. The perfect combination!

cheesy chicken soup

This recipe came to me from my email friend, Robin. It lends well to improvisation and freezes great, just reheat slowly and stir it well.

Here’s the recipe, then I’ve added my notes at the end.

Cheesy Chicken Vegetable Soup

2 C chicken broth

2 C diced chicken

1/2 C sliced carrots

1/2 C sliced celery

1/2 C frozen mixed vegetables

1/2 C chopped onions

1/4 C each, butter and flour

2 C milk

1 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 C diced, cooked chicken

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, cook all prepared vegetables in the chicken broth until tender. DO NOT DRAIN. While vegetables are cooking, melt butter in a smaller pan. Add flour and let bubble for about 30 seconds, then whisk in milk. Let thicken, then stir in cheese until melted. Pour cheese sauce into vegetables and broth. Add chicken and heat through. Season as desired. (Use more veggies and/or cheese if desired.)

My notes: I always double this recipe so we’ll have leftovers. Usually I use a whole bag of frozen Asian veggies in place of all of the vegetables. Last night I had fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and baby carrots that needed to be used up. I simply cut them into small pieces (probably 3+ cups of vegetables) and simmered them in the broth. I used a combination of butter and olive oil and before making the roux, I sautéed the onions in it. There were also mushrooms to use up, so I quartered those and cooked them with the onions before adding the flour.

I used a little Velveeta that was hiding in the back of the frig in place of part of the cheese. I generally always use more veggies and cheese than the recipe calls for, and I always use skim milk.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Turkey Cookies

Ew. That title doesn’t sound too tasty, does it? Well, apparently the kids didn’t think so, either, because when I asked them yesterday if they wanted to make turkey cookies with me, there were no takers.

Okay, so we weren’t making cookies from turkey, rather, we were assembling cookie and candy “parts” to resemble a turkey. I went ahead and whipped one up, and when Wyatt saw it he got very excited, which excited the other two, and we were off and running.

turkey cookie lineup

This is a really simple version of the cookie turkey (hey! that sounds better, doesn’t it?). The most difficult part was being able to squeeze the tube of frosting hard enough to get it to come out.

Grace took photos as Wyatt and I worked on a couple of them, but we didn’t get step-by-step, so I’ll just tell you what we did and the photo of the finished products will probably answer any questions you may have.

The components we used were frosting, Oreo cookies, candy corn, and Whoppers. (The frosting we used was black Wilton decorator frosting in a tube that I got for 75 cents on clearance last summer. The Whoppers were leftovers from Halloween.)

First put a line of frosting down the middle of each candy corn. These are your feathers. Place the corns frosting side down onto one of the Oreo cookies. We were able to get four or five corns on the cookie, depending on placement.

On the second cookie, squeeze a thick, heavy blob of frosting toward one edge. Set the feathered cookie onto the frosting, and hold onto it until you get the head on. In front of the feathers, squeeze another blob of frosting and put the Whopper malted milk ball into that, right up next to the feathered cookie. It all should stick together now.

To finish it off, we bit off the end of the candy corn and used the small part as a beak, attaching it with a dot of frosting.

We left them to “dry” so they’d stick together well enough to survive the drive to their house. That might have been the hardest part, now that I think of it, because Wyatt sure did want to eat his. He asked me every five minutes or so if they were dry yet. 

These would be fun table favors for Thanksgiving, and an easy way for the kids to have a part of preparing for the feast. You can Google for different instructions – there are dozens of ways to put these together.

The best part was working with the kids one on one and having them be so excited about what they made. They didn’t care about the corn feathers being crooked or when we got frosting on the wrong side. We all just enjoyed the process and that’s what they’ll remember. :o)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Freezer Cooking

I should be crawling into bed right now, but I taught my Community Ed class on freezer cooking tonight, and need to unwind a little bit before I try to go to sleep. In order to do that, I was reading some blogs, and came across this Once A Month Cooking Festival at Moms In Need of Mercy. She invites us to post our favorite OAMC (or freezer cooking or cooking ahead) tips to share with everyone. I thought I’d share something I learned tonight from one of the ladies attending my class. We were talking about freezing recipes in single serving sizes and the best way to package those servings. One lady suggested using muffin tins – she uses a liner, fills it with the food, freezes the tin, then pops the frozen liners out, bags and freezes them. Specifically she was talking about sloppy joes, but this would work for many different recipes – casseroles, veggie side dishes, beans/rice/potato dishes.

One more tip I always pass on to my students: to make your own “refried” beans, sort and rinse one pound of pinto beans and put them in the crockpot. Add five cups of hot liquid (I use homemade chicken stock) and cook all day. Once the beans are cooked, I use the hand blender to process them until smooth. After they cool, portion them into quart-sized freezer zipper bags and freeze flat. I add a little salt, salsa and cheese when reheating. This method works well for ham and beans in the crockpot also.

Speaking of freezer cooking, tomorrow I’m going to make my pecan pies for Thanksgiving, and whip up some cookie dough for Christmas goodies. I’ll be back with the details.

Good night!