A cooking and baking journal

What Happens During the Weekdays

Besides cooking a meal every Sunday afternoon I spend my spare time crafting. That is, sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, watercolor, and rosary making, among other things. So last week I was hard at work quilting five pairs of potholders for a birthday present for Annemarie. You wouldn't believe how much we were in need of some new ones!

So take a look at my work by visiting my crafting blog called St. Gemma's Art and Needlework: www.artandneedlework.blogspot.com.

The Vegetable with a Funny Name

10/25/09: Chicken Spaghetti and Roasted Rutabaga

Meal Details: For the main course I made a casserole type dish called Chicken Spaghetti and for a side dish I roasted some rutabagas (say what?) in the oven seasoned with oil, salt, and pepper.

Defining moments: First time I have prepared or eaten rutabaga. To tell you the truth, this was actually the first time for rutabaga for most of my family. This is also the first time I used Celtop, an herb that has the flavor of celery.

Recipe sources: The Chicken Spaghetti came from the Sept/Oct 09 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen. I chose this recipe because I am part of the Food Network Challenge that is being hosted by the writer of the I Blame My Mother blog. (Learn more about this fun challenge by visiting this page.) The next Food Network chef for me this week was actually Bobby and Jamie Deen, but because I couldn't find a good recipe from their archive I chose to do one of their mother's. You can find the recipe all typed up for you, here on this blog.
And the rutabaga? I didn't have to use a recipe for the rutabaga. I just treated them like I would potatoes. Here is a quick recipe for the rutabagas for future reference:

Roasted Rutabagas
Yield: 6 servings

4 medium sized rutabagas, peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp ground pepper
3 tbsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place all ingredients into bowl and mix well. Dump seasoned rutabaga on cookie sheet and place in hot oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until fork tender.

What I learned: You know what? I can't really think of anything that was learned this week. Gosh. All the cooking techniques seemed familiar to me. I guess the only thing I learned was the flavor of rutabaga.

Any modifications? Yes. I adjusted some ingredient amounts and I omitted some. Here is my list of ingredients:

3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped celtop (since I didn't have celery, I used celtop)
2 cups of chicken broth
1 (28 oz) can of cream of mushroom soup
1 (10.75 oz) can of cream of chicken soup
1 (16 oz) jar of taco sauce (not canned tomatoes with chilies)
1 (6 oz) can of black olives, drained and chopped
No mushrooms
2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/4 cups of chopped cooked chicken
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 1/2 pounds of spaghetti noodles (not angel hair pasta)
1 1/8 cups of Italian bread crumbs (not Panko bread crumbs)
1 tbsp melted butter

Yield: both the big and small casserole dishes. Only the large casserole dish was eaten Sunday evening. Had the small dish and leftover spaghetti Monday evening.

How it tasted? The Chicken Spaghetti was creamy, cheesy, and had lots of wonderful flavor. Very good, I am glad I spotted this recipe in Mrs. Deen's magazine.
The rutabagas were also surprisingly good as well. They had the taste and texture of a potato with some turnip flavor. A very tasty vegetable.

How about a 2nd time? Yes, both dishes will find their way to the table.

Here is a closeup of a sprig of Celtop. Very flavorful herb!

These are rutabagas. They resemble turnips a lot, but as I found out this Sunday, they don't quite match them in flavor.

A Food Network Feast

10/18/09: Super Sloppy Joes and Oat Cake with Warm Blueberry-Lemon Sauce

Meal Details: For the main course I made homemade Sloppy Joes and for dessert I made an oat cake served with a warm blueberry sauce.

Defining moments: I've done these Sloppy Joes before and the oat cake didn't hold any surprises. So no momentous occasion for this week.

Recipe sources: The Super Sloppy Joes is a Rachael Ray recipe and the Oat Cake is a recipe created by Bobby Flay. The blueberry sauce is a Tyler Florence recipe. Gosh, lots of Food Network chefs this week! Lol! To see my first attempt with the Sloppy Joes see my previous post here. I specifically chose the Oat Cake by Bobby Flay because I am part of the Food Network Challenge that is being hosted by the writer of the I Blame My Mother blog. Learn more about this fun challenge by visiting this page. I know, I know, why on earth did I choose a baked item from Bobby Flay? He said on many occasions that his talents do not lie in the realm of baking. Well, to simply put it: I couldn't find anything in his Food Network recipe archive! His cuisine just doesn't match my family's. Sorry Chef!

What I learned: I learned as soon as I mentioned making Sloppy Joes again that Annemarie and Papa really liked the last Sloppy Joes I made. I mean really liked. I was glad to find that one out!

Any modifications: I did adjust some of the ingredient amounts for the Sloppy Joes so I will write out my ingredient list here for next time. And if Annemarie or Papa have a say in it, I think that next time will be very soon. :)

4 pounds ground beef
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground pepper
4 medium onions
3 medium bell peppers
4 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
32 oz. (1 quart) of tomato sauce; I used our homemade tomato puree
12 oz. of tomato paste, optional (if you omit the paste, your mixture will just not be as thick, which isn't always a bad thing)

How it tasted? The Sloppy Joes were wonderful once again! And I think Bobby Flay has redeemed himself with the Oat Cake. He may have lost the Wedding Cake Throwdown but he's a winner here. The Oat Cake has the texture of Pumpkin Squares with a wonderful oatmeal cookie flavor. My brother mentioned that cream cheese frosting would be great with this dessert.

How about a 2nd time? Yes, for both recipes.

Freezing Carrots and Beets

10/16/09: Freezing Carrots and Beets

The first time in a very long time we had good crops of carrots and beets. So much so that we had even enough to sell! :) Since carrots are so good in just about everything and my two youngest sisters are beet fiends, I decided we need some during the long winter months.

So this is how the carrot preparation went:

I peeled and chopped the carrots into bite size pieces (something like 1" cubes), I poured them into a 6 quart pot of boiling water with a colander inside, waited until they came to a boil, had them boil for three minutes, lifted the colander and slid the carrots into a bowl of cold water that had a strainer inserted. Once they were cool I placed them in freezer bags.

I also did whole carrots. I chose carrots that were on the smaller side, cut them in half so they could fit in the freezer bags, and did the same procedure as I wrote above only I allowed them to boil for 5 minutes instead of 3. My family likes to place these whole carrots in our spaghetti sauce to add flavor. After they cook for a couple hours in the sauce we remove them and eat the carrots as a side dish.

I also did a few beets. I cut the stem and root off the beet, peel it, chop it into 2 inch pieces, and boil them until they are fork tender. I then place them in freezer bags.

So in the end I froze. . .
4 1/2 quarts of chopped carrots
1 quart whole carrots
1 gallon chopped carrots
2 1/2 quarts chopped beets

To achieve this amount I used about one five gallon bucket of carrots and approximately 1 peck of beets.

Falling for the Fall Harvest

10/11/09: Butternut Squash Soup with Herb Roasted Potatoes

Meal Details: The main course consisted of soup made with butternut squash and as a side, I roasted red potatoes and Kennebec potatoes with sage and other flavorings.

Defining moments: This is the first time that a squash soup entered my family's meal lineup and it is the first ever Martha Stewart recipe I did. I never thought in a million years that I would be doing something from Martha!
This is also the first time that we have used Kennebec potatoes and first time to cook with fresh sage.

Recipe sources: The butternut squash soup came from the October 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living. (The original recipe was titled "Roasted Pumpkin Soup" but I substituted the pumpkin with butternut squash.) The Herb Roasted Potatoes came from the Food Network website and was thus chosen for this week because Anne Burrell is the recipe creator. I am part of the Food Network Challenge that is being hosted by the writer of the I Blame My Mother blog. Learn more about this fun challenge by visiting this page.

What I learned: First and foremost I learned that this soup is probably the least expensive soup you can ever make. With only four medium sized butternut squash you can make FIVE whole quarts of soup. And if you take a look at the recipe ingredient list you can see you don't have to load the shopping cart with many items!
I also learned that there is no need to use an immersion blender to blend the soup, just take out your electric beater and whisk away!
And instead of roasting the squash on a cookie sheet like we usually do I think it is better to use the large roasting tray that is meant for the turkey. It allows for me to quickly toss them so they can bake evenly.
And the potato recipe? I learned that the Kennebec potatoes have a very thin skin and can be easily washed.

Any modifications? Yes, only to the soup recipe. I took out the shiitake mushrooms that were called for and I peeled the squash with a potato peeler before I cubed them. I thought peeling them prior to baking would be a whole lot easier.

How it tasted? Both dishes were warm, rich, and full of flavor. They went exceptionally well together! The squash soup was smooth (it did have an occasional lump here and there but I didn't mind) and bright as a sunset. The potatoes, especially the Kennebec, had wonderful garlic flavor and those that had the sage (I only did half a tray with sage, as a test), were really good, too. The Kennebec are longish in shape so they are perfect for oven fries.

How about a 2nd time? Yes, absolutely. And I would like to pair these two recipes again, since they worked so well together.

Thank you, Anne with an "E", for the great potato recipe!

Freezing Tomato Soup

10/06/09: Freezing Tomato Soup

The tomato soup that was made last Sunday was so well liked that my family wanted some frozen so we can enjoy it during the winter months; along with Alton Brown's biscuits of course! I made a very large batch using our stainless steel stock pot--you should have seen the amount of roux I had to make! I used the exact same recipe from the Sunday before but I had to times it by 9.

When everything was done I managed to make 13 quarts of tomato soup.

Not a Can Opener in Sight

10/04/09: Homemade Tomato Soup with Southern Biscuits

Meal Details: For the main course I made homemade tomato soup and for a side I made southern biscuits. I thought we absolutely needed something for dunking, that's how the biscuits came into the picture!

Defining moments: I made biscuits. Wow! They seem like such an everyday sort of thing, but I feel that baking these biscuits was a monumental achievement! I heard about so many black bottom biscuits before, maybe that was why I was scared to death about trying them out.

Recipe sources: The tomato soup recipe came from allrecipes.com and can be viewed here. The biscuit recipe is from the cooking show Good Eats and was specifically chosen because I am part of the Food Network Challenge that is being hosted by the writer of the I Blame My Mother blog. Learn more about this fun challenge by visiting this page. You can view the recipe here. And the YouTube video of the original show here.

What I learned: Let me first discuss the tomato soup. At first I was planning on using Roma tomatoes because I thought their meatiness would make for a velvety soup, but I went with the regular slicing instead. I'm glad I did because I later realized that the soup benefits from all the tomato juice and velvety texture is achieved by way of the roux.

Now on to the biscuits! For those who would like to try out Alton Brown's recipe I highly recommend that you look at both the recipe and the YouTube video, because Alton and his grandmother give very helpful tips in the video that are not included in the written format. The following tips are very important: 1) use 1/2 all-purpose flour and 1/2 cake flour, 2) touch the top of each cut-out-biscuit with your finger to prevent the biscuit from forming a dome while baking, 3) preheat oven to 450 degrees F, not 400 like the recipe states, and 4) have the biscuits touch each other when you place them on the baking sheet, but don't have them too close.

And my tips for the biscuits is such: bake them on the Baker's Secret cookie sheet, the biscuits bake splendidly on it. I tried my first batch in a 13x9 Pyrex pan and they didn't rise as high as those on the Baker's Secret.
I don't know if there is any truth behind it but I think if I let the dough sit for a couple minutes (like 10) I think I will get higher biscuits. I say this because when my first batch was baking in the oven I left my dough sit on the counter for that amount of time. So when the second batch came out of the oven they were twice as high as my first. I will have to test my theory when I bake these again.

Any modifications? Actually, no. Quite amazing for me!

How it tasted? Both were exceptional. My whole family said that the soup is better than Campbell's. That's definitely good to hear. And the biscuits were tender, moist, and delicious. I don't quite remember having biscuits before (yeah, weird huh?) so I don't have anything to compare to. But Annemarie said that they were the best biscuits she has ever had. I'm blushing now.

How about a 2nd time? Yes, for both.

Mmm Mmm Good!
Sorry had to do it!