Smokin’ soup to start off the new year

My sweetie and I had a tradition of smoking meats at Thanksgiving and Christmas until our smoker got stolen a couple years ago. Mercifully, we were able to get another one this year and pick up right where we left off.

The best part for me is, of course, the food. But a nice secondary benefit is I have one less thing taking up space and time in my kitchen. My sweetie handles the meat. I handle the sides and dessert.

I won’t bore you dear readers with all that we made at the two holidays even though I’m still drooling over them. But after Thanksgiving, I told my sweetie we were doing an extra bird at Christmas because I had plans for using it to kick off the new year right.

And ringing in my new If It Fits I Cooks project for 2019: the Dutch oven.

The wild rice and smoked chicken soup is an Amy Thielen recipe, though I varied it slightly because I already had a favorite creamy wild rice and chicken soup.

Chicken and wild rice soup ingredients.

My most important contribution is the addition of slivered almonds for added texture that blends with the wild rice well. Oh, and I used leftover (frozen) carcasses from the Thanksgiving chicken to make a smoky broth that added a little something.

Like most soups, this is difficult to mess up but it is time consuming. Wild rice always takes forever. Chopping veggies — something I weirdly enjoy but many don’t — is also a chore. And then of course simmering long enough for all the flavors to meld.

But it’s January and there’s not much else to do. This is the part where I’d usually say there’s the added benefit of keeping the stove going and warming up, but if you live in central Iowa, that has uh not been much of an issue so far this winter.

Happy New Year lovely readers and I hope you’ll follow me on this foodie adventure again in 2019!

Nom Nom Noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 c. chopped smoked chicken (I didn’t measure but it was roughly the breast meat)
  • ¾ c. natural wild rice (uncooked)
  • 6 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. white wine (preferably Chardonnay)
  • ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 8 c. chicken stock (homemade is best!)
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • ½ to 1 c. slivered almonds, to taste
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Add the rice (cleaned, if necessary) to 1 ½ c. water and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 25 to 45 minutes. (The wide time range is because mine never seems done at 25 minutes, but it’s good practice to start checking around then and taste testing — it goes in at the end of the soup-making so it needs to be done by the time it’s added.) Strain off any excess liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, and a little salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, adding the garlic near the end of the saute time. Add the flour slowly and stir until combined, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil (this happens quick in a Dutch oven).

Add the stock, the cream, and the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer. Add the chicken, and cook at a bare simmer for 30 minutes uncovered to meld the flavors together. Add the cooked wild rice and almonds and simmer the soup for another 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, serve, and enjoy!

So long, see ya, 2018 sheet pan scalloped potatoes

I’ll be honest, there’s not much I’m going to miss about 2018. It was a long slog of a year. But I am a bit disappointed to be leaving sheet pan recipes behind. It turned out to be more challenging and have more variety than I even imagined going in.

And that was delightfully true with my final sheet pan recipe of the year.

Mostly I was just looking for something that would be versatile for the many smoked meats my sweetie made over the Christmas holiday, but I was delighted at how tasty my scalloped potatoes were. Especially for my first time and really fudging the recipe.

Sheet pan scalloped potatoes ingredients.

They also might have the distinction of being one of the fattiest things I’ve made this year. Helped by the fact that I added more cheese and more cream because that’s what I do.

My fudges — I chose to do a bechamel sauce instead of just heating cream because I also wanted to add leeks. Then, because it was thicker, I added more cream than the recipe called for. And as usual, I added more cheese.

But despite all that, it worked. It was — much like my lasagna — quite crusty but in the most delightful way.

My only note: Don’t be lazy like me, and instead, put it in Tupperware or storage containers while it’s still warm/room temperature; otherwise, you’ll be scraping at the pan to get all the potatoes and solidified fat off your sheet pan.

So much fatty goodness. Just look at it.

Here’s what I did, tweaking another Food Network recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 T. unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 T. flour
  • 2 ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 large leek, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used more)
  • 1 T. dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 ½ lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (or similar), scrubbed and thinly sliced (a mandoline works best)
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan
  • 2 c. shredded Gruyere (about 6 oz.)

Directions

Grease a large rimmed sheet pan (the recipe calls for 18 by 13 inch, but mine is 15 by 12, and it was fine) with 1 T. of butter. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan. Add the sliced leek and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the leeks are softened. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the thyme and salt and pepper. Slowly add the flour mixture to the leek mixture.

Stir for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned.

Add the cream slowly and stir in. Thicken slightly but not too much. Set aside.

Arrange half the potato slices in a single overlapping layer on the prepared sheet pan. Add half the grated Parmesan (and some of the Gruyere if desired). Arrange another layer of potatoes using the remaining slices. Spread the sauce mixture on top.

Cover the sheet pan with foil and bake the potatoes for about 20 minutes.

Carefully remove the sheet pan from the oven and remove the foil. Top the warmed potato mixture with the remaining Parmesan and Gruyere. Cook uncovered for another 15 to 20 minutes until the top is brown and crusty on top, the potatoes are cooked through, and enjoy!

Happy New Year, dear readers, and I’ll be back with in 2019 with a new plan for a new year.

You’ll love a Yule log for Christmas

Long before I called a sheet pan a sheet pan, it was a jelly roll pan. I think it almost certainly stems from my mom making a Yule log regularly throughout my childhood.

Yule log ingredients.

I had no idea why my mom made the Christmas cake annually or what a log has to do with Christmas, and a quick perusal of Wikipedia doesn’t offer any clear answers to the latter.

Mom tells me she started making it for her dad, my Papa, and he liked it so much, she kept doing it. Wikipedia also says the cake originated in the region that includes his ancestral home of Belgium, but apparently that’s a coincidence.

Which is fair, it’s just a damn good cake.

The Yule log, also called a buche de Noel, has few ingredients but they’re used to make three separate parts that make it time-consuming if not difficult. There’s the eggy chocolate cake. There’s the vanilla cream filling. There’s the mocha buttercream frosting. And then, there’s the assembly.

Despite the difficulty, though, my sweetie rightly describes it as similar but easier tiramisu.

And besides, it’s a Christmas cake, so you make it just once a year. That makes it totally worth it.

A cake so good I’m disappointed Christmas comes once a year.

Here’s what I did following Mom’s recipe:

Ingredients

Cake

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 3 T. unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 T. flour, plus more for sheet pan

Filling

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. confectioner’s sugar

Mocha buttercream frosting

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing sheet pan
  • 1/2 confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 T. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 T. instant coffee
  • 1 t. warm water

To finish

  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 T. finely-chopped pistachio nuts

Directions

Cake

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15 x 10 x 1 inch jelly roll (sheet) pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease and lightly flour paper, tapping off excess flour.

Beat egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form.

Separately, beat egg yolks in a large bowl at high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until mixture is thick and pale in color. Beat in cocoa and flour at low speed.

Fold beaten egg whites into yolk mixture until no streaks of white remain.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven when cake springs back to a light touch

Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan.

Mocha buttercream frosting

While cake bakes, prepare the frosting. Beat the softened butter until fluffy in a small bowl. Beat in sugar and cocoa.

Dissolve coffee in water, and beat into butter mixture.

Store in cool (but not cold) place as you don’t want the butter to melt, but you don’t want the frosting to get too solid to spread.

Filling

When cake is cool, remove it from the pan by inverting onto a towel or *carefully* lifting using parchment paper.

Cut off 1/2 to 1 inch from the edges of all four sides of the cake (to remove the crunchier bits) and reserve for later use.

Beat heavy cream until thickened. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until stiff enough to spread.

Spread mixture evenly across the cake. Roll up the cake, starting with one of the shorter sides. Place cake roll seam-side down on a serving tray.

Finishing

Frost the cake roll all over (including ends) with the mocha buttercream frosting. Roll up some or all of the reserved cake ends and set onto the frosted cake (these are supposed to look like cut-off branches). Frost these well.

Run a fork across the frosted cake to mimic bark lines. Use the fork to create the same lines along the sides of the “branches” to create “age rings” in the center of these “branches.”

Press some of the chopped pistachios into the “cut” ends of the log (ends and the circular “branches) to mimic some moss/lichens.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar (to mimic dusting of snow). Enjoy and Merry Christmas/happy holidays to all who celebrate the season.

Oops! All crusts lasagna

This week I was craving more sheet pan pasta since I’ve loved both of the dishes I’ve made this year. I started Googling, and soon noticed that — unsurprisingly — most of the recipes were not too different from what I’d already made.

Then, I happened on a sheet pan lasagna. I would have been pretty skeptical that the famous, familiar casserole dish would work on a sheet pan, but it came from the Food Network, and I figured they couldn’t be all wrong.

Sheet pan lasagna ingredients (minus extra herbs and spices for the sauce).

I stuck fairly close to the original recipe, except I’m particular about my sausage and lazy about removing it from its casing. So, instead of de-cased Italian sausage, I bought Beeler’s ground hot sausage (a family favorite), and altered my tomato sauce to include onion powder and oregano.

It went over so well with friends that we had few leftovers, and I loved it so much, that I have already bought the ingredients to make the recipe again, only this time using my very favorite vegetarian lasagna recipe.

The recipe calls it “all-crusts” lasagna, which is fair, but I just think of it as the bits of traditional lasagna that are a little crunchier, and therefore the best.

Also, even better, it uses the same amounts as the regular casserole version so you’re not feeding fewer people (or having less leftovers), you’re just making a different kind of tasty lasagna.

So good I’m already making it again this weekend. *drool*

Here’s what I did (BUT feel free to adapt to your regular recipe as I plan to do this weekend):

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. ground hot sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (I used more, like 4 cloves)
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ c. milk
  • ½ c. packed basil leaves (I didn’t measure. I used some in the sauce and then in the cheese mix, and I’m sure it was more than ½ c., so do this to taste as well)
  • ¾ to 1 c. grated Parmesan
  • 1 lb. shredded mozzarella
  • 1 package no-boil noodles (It calls for “flat” noodles and 12 of ‘em, but I buy whatever, and use the whole package because who needs 3 leftover lasagna noodles crowding pantry space?)
  • 3 T. olive oil, plus more for coating foil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 T. dried oregano (optional)
  • 1 t. onion powder (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, and cook the sausage until it is browned and cooked through. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Reduce the stovetop heat to medium and add to the same skillet (with any drippings left in the pan) the remaining 2 T. of olive oil and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute until the garlic browns at the edges.

Add the crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper, and optional spices/herbs (I also added additional basil here). Cook for 10 minutes, at least, until the sauce smells more like a pasta sauce and not just tomatoes.

Separately, in a medium bowl, add the ricotta, egg, milk, basil, ½ c. of the Parmesan, and any more salt and pepper (to taste).

On a large rimmed sheet pan (estimated 18 x 13 inch), spread ⅔ c. of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Space out half the noodles (remembering that they expand when they cook). Top the noodles with all of the ricotta mixture, all of the sausage, another ⅔ c. of the sauce, and half the mozzarella. Add another layer with the remaining noodles and top with the remaining sauce. Then, top the noodles with the remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella, and another ¼ to ½ c. grated Parmesan.

Lightly oil one side of a piece of foil big enough to cover the sheet pan (I just used the spray stuff for this part).

Bake the covered lasagna for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the pasta is cooked through and the top is crusty and browned, and enjoy!

My favorite mistake

I’m going to say right up front that I forked this one up royally from beginning to end. So, I can’t say that it was a great recipe, but I do think that it’s salvageable, as in, the blame lies with me.

And, to be honest, I still had a lot of fun making it.

It’s been a stressful week, and I came home grumpy. But once I started to make this week’s poppy seed streusel and listening to podcasts about “Doctor Who” (*nerd alert*), I felt immensely better. I didn’t even really care that I was forking up.

Streusel ingredients. Notably not pictured is the milk I should have used.

I have loved my Amy Thielen “The New Midwestern Table” cookbook, so the fact that this recipe didn’t turn out I think is a fluke. I have made a lot of things from it, including hand pies this year.

And, seriously, it has a butt-ton of butter, sugar, and flour, so it should have been perfect.

Also, while her recipe said to bake for a half hour, I knew it looked done about 7 minutes early, and instead of trusting my gut, I let it go for another 5.

So, the fact that it’s hard as a rock, is on me.

Then, the second page of the recipe really spends a lot of time on the importance of grinding the poppy seeds well. This was after I had, uh, not done that. See, I bought a bunch of cream and figured there was not harm in replacing whole milk with cream. Except that, obviously, cream whips quite quickly. So, when I mixed them together in the blender, there was whipped cream well before poppy seed broke and bruised.

I made up for it by adding water instead of more cream later … but the damage (or lack thereof to the poppy seeds) was done.

So, the fact that the poppy seeds are intact and the innards of the streusel didn’t turn out as expected, is also on me.

Again, though, it was an adventure to make, and I’m pretty sure if I follow the recipe, and trust my gut, I’ll nail it next time.

It doesn’t look that bad until you noticed the blackened edges and that that ain’t *lightly* golden.

Here’s what I did. Actually, scratch that, here’s what I should have done:

Ingredients

  • ¾ c. poppy seeds
  • ¾ c. whole milk (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 3 c. sugar, divided
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. sea salt
  • 3 sticks butter (the recipe calls for salted; I used un- so hopefully that didn’t mess things up), and more for coating the pan, all at room temperature

Directions

Combine poppy seeds and MILK in a blender and process on high until the poppy seeds have broken down down. Add the raisins, 1 c. sugar, the cream, and the vinegar. Process until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a medium skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir often to prevent it from sticking, and continue reducing heat to keep the mixture at a slow bubble. Keep cooking until the mixture thickens to like jam, about 30 minutes. I’d say a little less but that might just be because I overcooked the thing from top to bottom in the oven.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and lightly butter a 9-inch by 13-inch sheet pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the remaining 2 c. sugar, salt, and the butter. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until well combined, and the mixture holds its shape when squeezed together.

Scoop 5 loose cups of the butter mixture onto the sheet pan, and use your hands to spread evenly, and then gently press down. Bake for about 10 minutes, and then let cool for about 10 minutes.

Then, pour the poppy seed mixture on top, and spread until smooth. Then squeeze the remaining butter mixture on top of the poppy seed mix to make decorative nuggets, leaving some space for the filling to show through.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until LIGHTLY golden brown, *checking often*, and then cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Enjoy, if you got this far and succeeded!

 

Beautiful briny bread

The checkout girl at Target told me not to tell anyone that the bread I made this week had anchovies on it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d be telling everyone through this blog post. So, let me get it out of the way at the front.

This bread is not for the faint-hearted.

If you can think of everything flavorful and potentially off-putting, this bread has it. Anchovies. Capers. Kalamata olives. Onions (lots of ‘em). Garlic.

Briny bread* ingredients. *Actually called “pissaladiere.”

It’s also got tomatoes, a butt-load of olive oil, and a no-knead yeasty bread.

Basically, me and my sweetie thought it would be perfect. And the recipe didn’t let us down. It’s been amazing.

The recipe comes from the cookbook my brother turned me on to about bread: “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. I finally got myself a copy.

Unlike last time, my deviations from the original recipe worked just fine. I mostly stuck to it — including all those delicious toppings — but I have regular yeast, not instant, and I figured there was no harm in swapping. Especially since I spent a year making bread.

To correct, I just upped the amount of yeast and added a little honey to get it kickstarted, but otherwise I stuck close to the original.

My only complaint — and it’s expected — is that it took a long time and dirtied quite a few dishes, including the pain-in-the-ass-to-clean food processor. But I knew all that going in, and a lot of the time is pretty passive and a great time to rewatch this amazing season of “Doctor Who.”

It looks so pretty, and it’s tasty too.

Here’s what I did (with notes to use instant yeast):

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (1 t. If using instant)
  • 2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. honey, optional

For the bread

  • 6 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 T. capers (I didn’t measure, I love capers)
  • ½ c. kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Directions

Make the dough. If using active dry yeast, mix together the yeast, warm water, and honey, and let sit for about 10 minutes before stirring in the flour and salt. If using instant, the recipe says to mix together the dry ingredients, and then add the water (and honey). Either way, use a rubber spatula to stir until the mixture combined and you have a sticky dough that’s sort of ball-shaped. Cover the mixture with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Just before the dough is ready, heat a large pan on high heat. Add 1 T. olive oil, and then add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, mix together the garlic and anchovies with 2 T. olive oil until pureed. Add the capers and pulse till chopped. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper, and pour on the remaining 3 T. olive oil. Use two forks to deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center until you get a rough ball. Lift the dough with the forks or pour it onto the oiled sheet pan. Roll the dough ball in oil to coat it all over, and then let it rest for 20 minutes.

With greased hands, push the dough to stretch it to the edges of the sheet pan, and use fingers to dimple it. When the dough resists stretching, let it rest for about 5 minutes and then stretch again until it fits most of the sheet pan.

To assemble, spread the anchovy paste on the dough. Scatter on the olives, and then the carmelized onions. Top with the tomatoes. Use fingers again to dimple the dough and stretch more if necessary.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the underside of the dough is golden and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares, and enjoy!

Giving thanks and baking cookies

As promised, I am posting this week’s recipe pre-Thanksgiving early so people can enjoy their loved ones. Or, at least tune out of the world wide web for a few days.

My recipe this week is my Grandma Crippes’ pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I’ve made them many, many times before, and I almost get them wrong every time.

Grandma’s pumpkin chocolate chip cookie ingredients.

That’s because the recipe I use is on an index card my grandma gave me years ago when I asked for some of her favorites. It’s carefully hand-written before her arthritis got too bad for her to even cook anymore.

But her wonderful absent-mindedness that I have frustratingly inherited means that the ingredient list doesn’t mention eggs, even though one of the first directions is to cream crisco and sugar, and then add eggs. It doesn’t even say how many.

Since it’s plural, I’ve assumed two eggs for years, and the recipe comes out right so it works either way.

Now that grandma’s gone, those recipes are among my most prized possessions. Especially since these days, most loving notes are typed instead of carefully — or not-so-carefully — handwritten. (And get off my lawn, you kids.)

As I think about this year, and because of my natural pessimism (another Crippes trait), I mostly remember the worst things about it. There’s no doubt it’s been a challenging year, not just for the country but also for my loved ones and for myself.

But this Thanksgiving as we’re literally giving thanks, I am also reminded that it hasn’t been all bad. My sweetie, myself, my Pookie, and a couple of our kitties have had some health scares this year, but everyone’s mostly OK managing chronic conditions. Not everyone is still with us, but so many still are.

Not every goal for the year has been achieved, but there’s still time. So, I’ll stop wasting my readers’ time, and let them get to work giving thanks, visiting loved ones, remembering those who are gone, and — hopefully — baking cookies.

Nom nom noms.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ½ c. crisco
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. Libby’s pumpkin
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. cinnamon
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • ¼ t. ground ginger (I used more)
  • 1 ½ c. chocolate chips (I used semisweet)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a large sheet pan. (This makes about 3 dozen cookies so you should grease multiple sheet pans or plan to grease/reuse the pan.)

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Cream the crisco; and add sugar gradually. Cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, and pumpkin, and mix well. Add the mixed dry ingredients, and mix until blended.

Add the chocolate chips.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the greased sheet pan (leaving a little room between them), and bake for 15 minutes — they don’t change shape much so I usually touch lightly to make sure they’re puffy, and then take out of the oven. Repeat as necessary to use up all the dough, and enjoy!

Meatball mashup

It’s 6 days until Thanksgiving, and so I decided to take it easy this week by going simple and safe. But still delicious.

I’ve already made meatballs this year but they were quite different, and I already made a similar recipe that I turned into individual meatloaves. So, this isn’t a unique recipe to this year; however, it’s a new twist.

Meatball ingredients, minus the garlic I decided to add at the last second. Also, in the background, next week’s recipe and spices!

Mostly, I love this meatball recipe because it’s quick and easy. It takes 5 to 10 minutes of prep, and 15 to 20 in the oven, so it’s quick. And it’s made of things I mostly already have on hand, except the beef, so it’s easy.

But it has the added benefit of being very versatile. It can be made into spaghetti and meatballs, or it can be a meatball hoagie, or just eat them on their own or with a little sauce. My sweetie and I tend to prefer hoagies with cheese and sauce, but I always have spaghetti just in case.

It’s nothing fancy but it’s always a treat.

Many mini meatballs.

Here’s what I did, building off a Betty Crocker recipe:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. lean ground beef
  • ⅔ c. dry bread crumbs
  • ⅓ c. milk
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • ½ t. rosemary chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I used the jarred stuff)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for coating

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a large rimmed sheet pan.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands, until well combined. Shape into about 1-inch balls, and place on the prepared sheet pan. You should get about 24 with this amount.

Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.

Serve with warmed red sauce of your choice and cooked spaghetti or hoagies with provolone or mozzarella cheese, all to your tastes and liking, and enjoy!

*Programming note: I’ll plan to post early next week for Thanksgiving. If you want to shop in advance so you can have them over the holiday, here’s the ingredients list for pumpkin cookies:

  • ½ c. Crisco
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. Libby’s pumpkin
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. cinnamon
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • ¼ t. ground ginger (I’ll probably use more)
  • 1 ½ c. chocolate chips (I’ll use semisweet)

 

The Handpie’s Tale

Thanks to my better half — who I’ll celebrate 6 years of marriage with tomorrow — for the title of this week’s blog post. It’s true. I’m making hand pies.

Meat hand pie ingredients.

When he said it, though, it was just one of those dumb puns he always — *always* — makes. But when I made hand pies on Election Day to keep sorta sane, his phrase seemed especially apropos.

Like my feelings about the book, I had some mixed thoughts about the election night. But more than that, it was another election where I had to think about women, and women’s role in our political world.

I promise I’ll get to the hand pies, but first:

All of this was unknown to me as I made my hand pies, but the questions of how it would all turn out was bubbling under the surface. I was full of anxiety, and as I once swore while cooking, my sweetie suggested I shouldn’t have taken on such a complicated project when I was already distracted.

And yet, it was the sort of frustration I could control.

As I reminded him, and myself: I had gone through this before; I knew it’d turn out fine; and even if every bit didn’t turn out perfect, it was going to be OK. As the election results have continued to pour in since Tuesday, I’m starting to feel the same about our country.

Hand pies not handmaids!

Here’s what I did, slightly tweaking Amy Thielen’s recipe from The New Midwestern Table:

Ingredients

  • 24 oz. ground beef (or mix of ground meats, but on a cold evening, trust me, the beef is the perfect level of heartiness)
  • 1 ½ c. rutabaga, diced
  • 1 c. onion, diced (about 1 medium onion)
  • 1 c. carrots, diced (about 2 small, or 1 ½ medium)
  • 2 t. fresh rosemary, minced
  • ¼ c. sour cream
  • ¼ c. fresh parsley, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 homemade crust doughs (Amy’s recipe at the bottom, but technically, any pie-like crust would do, though milk is recommended vs water for heartiness)
  • 1 large egg

Directions

Make the crust in advance, and divide into 6 equal disks. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Heat oven to 375 degrees, and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the meat and vegetables in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, parsley, and sour cream. Mix until well combined.

Roll out the chilled dough until you have an 8-inch round. (Save your extras if you cut the edges, as I found I had a little extra meat mixture, so I had 7 hand pies, with one being smaller.)

Place meat mixture on one half of one round, and flip the other half of the dough on top of the meat mixture. Press the edges of the round together to seal in the meat mixture. Repeat with the remaining rounds until the meat and dough is used up.

Place the half-moon, meat-filled crescents on the parchment-paper lined sheet pan. Try to leave room between them, though my sheet pan wasn’t quite big enough, and it turned out OK to leave a very minimal amount of space (this might have been when I swore).

Beat the egg with a bit of water (about 2 T., though I didn’t measure), and brush the tops of the hand pies with the mixture.

Bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown, let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Pie dough crust *for 2 pie doughs * from Amy Thielen:

Use a pastry blender or 2 butter knives or your two fingers to combine 2 ½ c. all-purpose flour with 2 sticks (16 T.) of unsalted butter. Place an egg yolk in a measuring cup, and fill with milk until ⅔ c. full (about ½ c. milk). Mix the eggs and milk, and then pour into the flour mixture. Stir with a fork, and/or your fingers until the dough is combined, adding more milk if necessary. Divide into 6 disks, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Happy birthday hot wings

It’s my birthday and I’ll make hot wings if I want to.

OK, my birthday was on Tuesday, and OK, I made the wings last weekend for a pre-planned get-together. BUT they were my little treat to myself, that something extra I would normally say is too much time and effort, but it’s my birthday, dammit, and I wanted to treat myself.

I made the sauces separately, so no ingredients photo this week.

Most people may not think of wings as their treat to themselves, but I’ve always had different birthday wishes. Growing up I remember two birthday foodie requests; we’d either go out for Chinese food, or I’d want Mom’s porcupine meatballs (they had rice in them, and weren’t actually spiky, but that was the name). So, hot wings suited me just fine.

Also, I had found two different recipes — one spicy, one mild — from Homesick Texan that I wanted to try, and figured this was as good of a time as any to try out her two recipes. Then, I realized that though they both used wingettes and drummettes, the recipes were vastly different.

So, I meshed them together. Look, it may have been my birthday, but I am not messing around with different oven temperatures and different cooking times, and methods.

And, whew, they both turned out perfectly. I was quite partial to the spicier ones that registered at about a 6 on my scale of spicy, but the milder creamy salsa verde ones also tasted just lovely, and worked well as a sauce to complement either variety.

These may be best served for a crowd if you make both, or pick your favorite.

Speaking of picking your favorite — segues are for amateurs, as my lovely father says — you still have time to VOTE. Please do so. Pick your favorite. Pick the one who’s not the one who you hate. Pick the person who will make it easier for you to vote (*nudge*). But mostly, just get out there and make your voice heard.

Finished, plated product. The spicy ones are in the back but this photo had me drooling for the milder ones.

And now, here’s what I did, adapting the cooking method but little else saucewise, from Homesick Texan’s recipe:

Ingredients

For the wings:

  • 2 lbs. wingettes and drummettes mix (AKA wings from here on out)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • One of the two sauce mixes, below, divided

Sauce 1 Spicy ingredients:

  • 10 chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded (I didn’t seed much)
  • 6 guajillo chiles or other milder chiles (I used dried Hatch peppers we had on hand, but ancho are easy to find), seeded and stemmed (I didn’t seed much)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. oregano
  • ¼ t. ground allspice
  • ¾ c. water, and more as needed
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. white vinegar, plus more as needed
  • Salt, to taste

Sauce 2 Milder ingredients:

  • 2 jalapenos, cut in half lengthwise and seeded (I did seed these)
  • 4-5 tomatillos (I used 5 because they were smaller), husked and cut in half
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ to 1 c. cilantro
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • ¼ c. mayonnaise
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. cayenne

Directions

Sauce 1 Spicy:

Place both types of chiles in a large bowl of boiling water, and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the peppers well, and place in blender. Add the garlic, spices, and water. Blend for 5 minutes until smooth (it seems like a lot, but you want it to be thin, not chunky). Then, heat the oil in a skillet and add the sauce mixture. Cook for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and add the vinegar. Add more vinegar or water until the sauce reaches desired thickness.

Sauce 2 Milder:

Place the jalapenos, tomatillos, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 7 to 10 minutes until the tomatillos have darkened and softened. Use a slotted spoon to remove the items from the boiling water, and place them in a blender. Add the cilantro, and blend until smooth, adding water if necessary.

Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, and add the sour cream, mayonnaise, and spices. Stir until combined.

For the wings:

Salt and pepper the chicken wings to taste. Place wings in a gallon-sized plastic bag or other large Tupperware. Add ½ c. of the sauce, mix well, and marinate for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the marinated wings on the sheet pan, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with another ¼ c. of the sauce on both sides of the wings, and return to oven with them turned so that the formerly top side is now on the bottom. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through and the wings seem mostly dried.

Let cool slightly and serve with the remaining sauce on the side, and enjoy!