when life gives you lemons

When I was a kid, my parents had a French friend name Aurora (which is SO French, right?!). I swear I’ve mentioned her name here before, but once you write a blog for 3 years, it becomes hard to keep track. So forgive me if I’m on repeat.

Either way, being around Aurora, in those few years that I knew her, was a definite treat.

My parents, Aurora, and Clyde (her boyfriend) used to play cards together on what seemed like every Saturday. They’d take the extra leaf out of our dining room table, load up with beverages, using bar stools as coasters, and deal out hands of Spades and Hearts for hours. It was through these card games that I learned about the awesomeness of getting drunk with your friends. Man, the songs they’d sing, the shit they’d say; I probably don’t remember half of it, but I remember thinking they were so cool. And also, a little bit weird.

I wish I had access to some of our family photo albums, and I’d show you the awesomeness of the styles back then. Clyde and my dad used to rock these awesome hats, like the ones the golfers wore before they all had Nike and Titleist logos. And the pants, oh boy, the pants. Sorta tight, plaid, and kinda big at the bottom – not quite like a bell-bottom, but close. Flare leg, I reckon. And the ladies wore these polyester button-up shirts with these weird ribbon ties at the top. Aurora had a sexy red number with a hole right near her boobs, what today I’d probably call a cleavage shirt. Is it weird that I remember these details? Who cares…

I also remember showering one night when they were over. I’d just learned to shave my legs, and I suppose my fancy Bic razor was on the dull side, because the second I aligned the razor with my thigh, the water hit the razor and slipped, taking a ginormous slice of my thigh with it. I wasn’t sure what to do about gushing blood, so I proceeded to toss on a towel and run out to the adults. Drunk adults aren’t very helpful in those situations, as it turns out. But eventually, the bleeding stopped and I was probably way too dramatic about it anyway. That was probably too much information, but you’ll deal.

Last but certainly not least, I remember Aurora for her skinny long cigarettes (so French and sophisticated) and her love of citrus fruits. We’d sometimes eat lemon rinds together, just to gross everyone else out. If it wouldn’t tear the enamel from my teeth, I’d probably eat a lemon daily just like an apple or a bowl of cherries. Dang, they’re tasty.

So when I found out about my coworker’s lemon tree burgeoning with fruit, I easily volunteered to take some off of her hands. What she gave me were the biggest lemons I’ve ever seen, and after a little thought, I made yet another batch of lemon curd. It’s sour enough to remind me of all those lemons I used to eat, but tempered by the eggs and the butter so other people will like it, too. Its biggest claim to fame? the stuff goes on everything. I like a regular ol’ piece of toasted bread, truth be told, but next week I’ll give you an extra-tasty option. Of course, you can always see what you find in the bread or breakfast section of the recipe index, but if all else fails, a spoonful is just as good all by its lonesome, or with a plate of berries.

Lemon Curd
from Gourmet via Epicurious; makes 1 1/3 cups

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes (15 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into bits

instructions
Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain curd into a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.

I Got Crabs

Getting crabs can go either way, I suppose. Hopefully your mind is outta the gutter and you’re realizing that since this is a food blog, I’m referring to the more positive aspect of crab procurement.

But if you weren’t thinking along those lines, I really can’t fault you, because I probably would have gone there first, too. I can’t help it that I’m almost 32 and still relatively immature. What can I say – I try not to take life too seriously. Things have worked out ok for me so far, so there is that.

But let’s get to the point. It’s crab season in the Bay Area, folks! If you’ve got a big enough pot for some live Dungeness crabs (which I do not – yet), now is the time to get your hands on some. Otherwise, buying the pre-picked lump crab meat is the next best thing.

Now for me, having a “crab season” is something of an oddity. In North Carolina, it was always crab season. Blue crabs. If you’ve read along from the very beginning, you might remember me talking about our place at the beach. My pops had 3 or 4 crab pots, and every weekend we went to the beach he’d take the crab pots out and let them hang out in the sound for a few days. The next weekend we’d check them, and if we were lucky, they’d be FULL of crabs.

I never appreciated the crabbing and fishing like I do now. What I wouldn’t give for another weekend like those weekends we spent down there – taking out our own pots (or at least, watching pops do it), dragging the shrimp nets through the mud, digging for clams (the term “clam diggers” took on a whole new meaning, a legit meaning, then), peeling shrimp and watching a fat ol’ flounder fry up. Our little vacation trailer smelled like a shrimp shack almost nightly, and the steam fogged up the windows in a flash. We went through jars of cocktail and tartar sauce, and man, I totally took the hushpuppies for granted.

I don’t even think I cared much for seafood back then – unless, of course, the shrimp were fried up nice and crunchy. Nowadays, a nice piece of fish, or a handful of shrimp, and this time, a ginormous container of extra-fresh West Coast Dungeness crab, is a highlight of the day. My friend, Judy, told me their company had gotten a great deal on live or picked crab and if I wanted any, all I had to do was tell her how much and I could pick it up later that day. As much as I wanted to buy a few live crabs for dinner that Friday, I knew my lil’ pot couldn’t handle them in their full-on shell-on form. (And to be honest, I haven’t tossed a live crab in a pot of boiling water in a looooong time, so that was another issue that quickly became a non-issue.) So instead, I opted for pre-picked and with that, I knew it was crab-cake time. But not the crab cakes you get at the restaurant that are loaded with bread crumbs – real, meat-filled crab cakes was what I had in mind.

And so I went full California style and figured a recipe with avocado sauce was entirely appropriate. Sure, my cakes were so much more crab and so much less ‘glue’ that they didn’t quite stay together in cake form, so to speak, but I was generally ok with that – what was lacking in presentation was entirely overshadowed by taste this time around.

Even though I never ate crab cakes with avocado sauce back home, I still felt a twinge of nostalgia for all those weekends back East. It was a good feeling, and for a few moments I felt like I could have easily been sitting back there, shoving fried shrimp and a few bites of flounder and stuffed crab into my face. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and I was transported 3,000 miles away. ‘Twas a good night, a good night indeed.

Crab Cakes with Spicy Avocado Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet, 2004 via Epicurious.com; serves 4 

I meant to include an egg and more panko in my crabs, but I totally forgot to do both. Mine didn’t stick together very well, but I am sure that adding an egg and more panko will do the trick, plus I think a little more breading in the cake is nice for texture. Normally I’d try these things out before posting, but I doubt I’ll be buying a pound of crab again in the near future, and I wanted to share this while Dungeness is in season out here! plus, after reading a ton of reviews on Epicurious, I get the sense that others already tried these additions with success, so I’m sure you will, too. You’re welcome ;).

time commitment: 45 minutes (30 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
sauce
1/2 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
1 T low-fat mayonnaise
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4 t salt
1/4 t sugar
1 fresh jalapeño (including seeds), stemmed and quartered lengthwise
1/4 c skim milk

crab cakes
1 lb Dungeness (or other) crabmeat, picked over and coarsely shredded
3 T low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 c coarsely chopped cilantro
1 T fresh lime juice
1 t Dijon mustard
1/4 t black pepper
1 c panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 T unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 t chipotle chile powder
1/4 t salt

instructions
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 F. Line with parchment paper.

prepare sauce
Pulse avocado with mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, sugar, and jalapeño in a food processor until chile is finely chopped. Add milk and purée until smooth. Transfer sauce to a bowl and chill, covered.

make crab cakes
Stir together crabmeat, mayonnaise, cilantro, lime juice, mustard, pepper, 1/2 c panko, and egg in a large bowl until blended well, then chill, covered.

Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet over moderate heat, then cook garlic, stirring, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chile powder, salt, and remaining panko and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer crumbs to a plate to cool. Discard garlic.

Divide crabmeat mixture into 4 mounds. Form 1 mound into a patty, then carefully turn patty in crumb mixture to coat top and bottom. Transfer to baking sheet and repeat with remaining 3 mounds, then sprinkle remaining crumbs on top of crab cakes. Bake until heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve crab cakes with sauce.

Verdammt gut

You may remember (but you probably don’t, or if you did it would be weird) a comment I made a few months ago about Germany. German, to more specific. I considered myself quite the ‘language buff’ in high school and college. For a while, my intended major was business with minors in French and Spanish. I had dreams of being a big-time international businesswoman, racking up miles like George Clooney and living out of hotels with only the best room service, a constant supply of freshly-made cookies, 700-count sheets, and a suite with French doors opening out to the sun each morning.

That lasted approximately 1 semester. I hated economics, I did not like the idea of constant groupwork and presentations using pie charts, and the business building was slam on the other side of campus from my other classes. I liked the language coursework though, and I had full intentions of sticking with those minors until I took that damn genetics class.

I took both Spanish and French in high school, and to be totally honest, they were both easy to me, though it was probably because our classes were full of hoodlums (myself included) who acted up all the time, deterring Señora Williford and Madame Whatever-her-name-was from teaching too much anyway.

For whatever reason, I left the Spanish behind (which I now regret) and continued with French for a couple of semesters at college. Once I challenged myself to take French AND German at the same time. Ballsy, yes; smart, no.

Decidedly, the German language was not for me. I couldn’t get the difference between der and das and the crazy crazy noun inflections; most of all, I couldn’t get anywhere close to sounding German, and when I tried I was too busy laughing at myself (I also would not make a good actress, I know).

The only phrase I could say and know it was right was, “Ich komme aus Bombay” which translates to “I come from Bombay”. Why did I say that?! Who knows – we were told to pick names and countries of origin, so I thought being from India sounded pretty rad for someone in German class. It was short-lived, all of it.

Ironically enough, the Hubs is of 100% German descent, but I didn’t hold that against him when we met. Furthermore, I’d probably consider German food to be my absolute least favorite type of food (at least of what I can think of now). And don’t take that the wrong way – I like German food. Bratwurst? Mustard? Pretzels? Let’s not forget the bier und Rießlingen (beer & Riesling). And when, thanks to the CSA, I found myself with some red cabbage and pork chops, I couldn’t get the German themed combo out of my mind. I knew the cabbage needed a good braise, and both cabbage and pork needed more pork – bacon. It seemed to be a match made in heaven, and it was.

That said, I racked my wee ol’ brain and conjured up one more German phrase to add to the only other one I know: “Dies ist gut. Dies ist verdammt gut.”

Pork Chops with Braised Red Cabbage
Adapted from Gourmet, 2006 via Epicurious.com, serves 4

time commitment: 45 minutes, mostly active time

printable version

ingredients
6 bacon slices, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red cabbage, halved lengthwise, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 granny smith apple, sliced into thin sticks
1/4 c sherry vinegar
3/4 c water
2 T sugar
1/2 t caraway seeds
1 1/4 t salt
3/4 t black pepper
1 T canola oil
4 (1-inch-thick) bone-in rib pork chops (2 1/2 to 3 lb total)

instructions
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450 F.

Cook bacon in a 4- to 5-quart wide heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, and transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Heat remaining bacon fat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add cabbage and apples and turn with tongs until coated with fat. Stir in sherry vinegar, water, sugar, caraway seeds, 3/4 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper and braise cabbage over moderately low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat pork chops dry and sprinkle both sides with remaining salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown seasoned chops, turning over once, 5 minutes total, and transfer to a shallow baking pan (1 inch deep). Roast chops in oven until thermometer inserted horizontally 2 inches into center of a chop (do not touch bone) registers 145 F, 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir half of bacon into cabbage, then finely chop remaining bacon for sprinkling.

Let chops stand in pan, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes. Serve chops over cabbage, with any pan juices spooned over and sprinkled with bacon.

Puppy Love

My list of ‘Southern foods I miss’ is rather substantial. I manage to get my fill of some of them over Christmas, or if I’m in NC for any other occasion throughout the year. Fried chicken? Easy. Chicken pastry? As long as Aunt Faye keeps inviting us over, I will put off making my own. Cheerwine? This one’s often forgotten, but I still think about that ginormous styrofoam cup with free refills from the bbq place. Did you know you can find it in Norway? Get out! I even get a biscuit or two and some sweet tea tossed in for good measure.

For whatever reason, I haven’t caught up on my pulled pork or hushpuppy needs. Thankfully, we have a new BBQ spot in our neighborhood that is close to the real deal, and once they decide to straighten up and make some Eastern NC bbq sauce, we’ll be in business. Until then, what they call “Carolina” works alright. Their cornbread leaves a little to be desired though, and if you ask me, I’d prefer a handful or two of hushpuppies anyway.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten bbq pork, hushpuppies, and coleslaw. Rarely eaten at home, it was generally reserved for family get-togethers (like one year when we had a whole pig for Christmas dinner) and after-school functions. Is that weird? I remember those meals pretty clearly, and I certainly remember the take-out plates: those styrofoam sectioned boxes, the big section loaded with bbq, the top left with watery, mayo-ish coleslaw (which was killer), and the top right overflowing with oval-shaped hushpuppies of all sizes. One small container of butter was tucked haphazardly into the box, but typically I had no time to waste on butter – the sooner those things were popped into my mouth, the better.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I’d never made my own hushpuppies. I’m not sure why. Some things, I’d rather not mess with making, like chicken pastry, because I just know it won’t be as good as Aunt Faye’s. Others, I suppose I just never get around to it.

But for some reason, I couldn’t resist a recipe for hushpuppies and green tomato jam. Plus, since I’d already chosen tomatoes as the ingredient for the Iron Chef battle, I took it as a sign that it was time to whip up some hushpuppies so I could serve some of this jam alongside them.

As it turns out, that very well could have been a fatal error. The jam? It was, well, jammy. A little tart, a lot sweet, and something I could imagine working wonderfully on a warm piece of nearly-burnt toast, or a fluffy buttermilk biscuit. Served alongside the hushpuppies? Not a bad idea, for sure. And if I weren’t so into hushpuppies in all their naked glory, I’m sure I would have dropped spoonfuls of that jam on them.

For me though, I love them just the way they are: the thin crispiness on the outside, rugged at the edges, soft in the middle but warm enough that they taste like freshness, and perfectly gritty and rampant with corn flavor. Don’t get me wrong – I could eat them straight outta the fridge too, but let’s just pretend that I didn’t grab one every time I walked into the kitchen, and let’s instead assume that that guy I live with did, and that’s why they disappeared so quickly.

No matter where they disappeared to, I realized in a matter of moments that my feelings toward these little treats can easily get out of control, if I let them. And while a long-term relationship can’t possibly be a bad idea, I’m gonna try to settle on a short-lived occasional fling, a crush of sorts, so that I continue to appreciate them in their ruggedness, their simplicity, and their reminder of all things good in the world.

(Gluten/Dairy-Free) Hush Puppies w/ Green Tomato Jam
Adapted from Food & Wine, July 2010; makes ~3 dozen

It’s worth a mention that these little cornmeal balls are a cinch to whip up, and I’m a little sad about not having done so before. And given the occasion, a gluten-free / dairy-free adaptation was effortless, if that’s what you’re looking for.

printable version

ingredients
hush puppies
1 c yellow cornmeal
1 c all purpose gluten-free flour (or regular ap flour)
3 T sugar
1 T kosher salt
1 T baking powder
1 c plain soy milk (or 1% milk)
3 T vegan butter spread (or butter), melted

jam
2 lbs green tomatoes, 1/2-inch dice
1/2 c honey
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c sugar
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
1 1/2 t g cumin
1/4 t cayenne pepper
salt
canola oil, for frying

instructions
In a large bowl, whisk the cornmeal with the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the egg, soymilk and melted butter and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate the hush puppy batter for at least 1 hour (can refrigerate overnight, if needed).

In a medium saucepan, combine the diced tomatoes with the honey, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, cumin and cayenne. Bring to a boil and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and jammy, about 40 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. Season the tomato jam with salt. Transfer the jam to a bowl and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Set a rack over a large rimmed baking sheet and place near the stove. Stir the hush puppy batter. Drop tablespoon-size balls of batter into the hot oil, about 6 at a time, and fry, turning a few times, until they’re deeply browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the hush puppies to the rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter. When all of the hush puppies have been fried, reheat them in the oven for about 3 minutes, or until they’re hot (or, reheat when ready to serve). Serve them with the green tomato jam.

Battle Ginger: Luck of the Draw

In Iron Chef land, winning is everything. Well, winning and spending time with friends, is everything. A win is a true testament to your culinary skills, your creativity, and in some cases, your hard work. And if that wasn’t enough, winning entitles you, as Iron Chef, to select the theme ingredient the next time around. It is a daunting, but coveted, task. When that task is yours, you take advantage and choose wisely, not knowing when, or even if, you’ll ever get that chance again.

Unless that is, you are as busy as Emily, our past reigning Iron Chef and one of our founding competitors. Up to her eyelids in work events and such obligations, she was forced to surrender her title prior to battle, unable to even select the ingredient, let alone defend her throne. Bummer, huh?

As a result, our ensuing party was ingredient-less, and we were in need of a quick fix given our decision to forge ahead, otherwise put off IC for another two months. So, someone was about to get lucky; we decided to draw a name and that person would choose, and that person was Rachel. To my excitement, she chose well, and in no time, Battle Ginger was upon us.

Ten Iron Chefs in, I’ve learned to choose a dish quickly, unwaveringly, and with confidence. I was ready on Wednesday, knowing sushi would be made, along with a strange dessert I’d never heard of, ‘oeufs à la niege’ which for those who either aren’t French or haven’t taken a couple of semesters of it in college, means ‘eggs in the snow’.

You start out by separating a few eggs, and with the egg whites you whip them with sugar and ginger into a smooth silken bowl of firm, shiny peaks. And instead of slathering the meringue onto the base of a key lime pie and then breaking out your blow torch, you poach said meringues, dollop by dollop, in milk that’s flavored with cardamom and a generous amount of ginger – or if you have a crowd of lactose-challenged people, you use almond milk instead, which works perfectly.

After the little meringues are poached and literally resembling hard-boiled and peeled eggs, you turn that almond milk into custard using the remaining milk and egg. Sure, you could use that custard to spin up some ice cream, but then these little eggies would be snow-less, and that’d be a sad state of affairs.

Especially if those eggs-in-custard win you back your Iron Chef title :). Just sayin’.


Left to right: vegan ginger chocolate cupcakes with ‘cream cheese’ icing, ginger chocolate cookies, ginger ale & vodka, ginger-garlic shrimp and asparagus with ginger rice, ginger rogers cocktail, crunchy shrimp sushi roll with ginger-soy sauce and pickled ginger, ginger and pecan stuffed apples, vegan butternut squash and ginger chili, ginger crab cakes with tomato-ginger jam.

The Top Three:

  1. Ginger-Cardamom Oeufs à la Niege (dairy & gluten-free)
  2. Butternut Squash & Ginger Chili (vegan & gluten-free)
  3. Ginger Crab Cakes w/ Ginger-Tomato Jam

 

In Chi-town and wanna join? Holler! Next IC: 7/10/10.

Ginger Cardamom Oeufs à la Niege
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2008; makes 8

i’m so not kidding here – this is an easy dessert that can be made well in advance, and the recipe is easily adaptable to other flavor variations. i picture a chocolate-basil version, and now i’m drooling. and if you’re not lactose-intolerant, feel free to use whole milk instead of almond milk. to halve the recipe, use 3 eggs (2 whites and 2 yolks + 1 whole), a little less sugar, and half the milk.

printable version

ingredients
4 eggs
3/4 c sugar, divided
1  t ground ginger, divided
4 c almond milk
1 chunk of fresh peeled ginger (size of your thumb)
1/4 t ground cardamom
1/2 t cornstarch
1/8 t salt
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 c shelled pistachios, chopped

instructions
Line bottom of a small sheet pan with parchment paper.

Separate 3 eggs; put yolks in a large bowl and whites in another. Add remaining whole egg to yolks.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Add 1/2 c + 1 T sugar and 1/2 t ground ginger in a slow stream, beating at medium-high speed until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.

Meanwhile, bring almond milk to a bare simmer with remaining ground ginger, fresh ginger, and cardamom in a wide 4-quart heavy pot over medium heat.

Drop 8 large dollops (or 16 small, depending on what they’re being served in; if large bowl use large dollops) of beaten whites into milk and poach at a bare simmer, turning once, 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to lined pan (reserve milk). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whisk remaining 3 T sugar, cornstarch, and salt into yolk mixture. Add hot almond milk in a slow stream, whisking until incorporated, then return to pot. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 170 F. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in vanilla. Drop ginger back into mixture and allow it to continue to steep in hot custard until ready to serve.

Quick-chill custard by setting bowl in an ice bath and stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or refrigerate until ready to use. Remove ginger chunk and ladle chilled custard into 8 bowls (or cups) and put a meringue in each. Sprinkle with nuts.

Stewy Indian Giver

ancho pork stew

I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. I might be what some would call an “Indian giver” (Simps – don’t tell Jon I’m talking about his people). I know, amidst my excitement about the oozing with tastiness triple ginger cookies, that I offered to give you guys control of the next post. As things go, that would have ‘technically’ been this post. You all aren’t all that nitpicky though, are you? Will you forgive me? Forego the little details, pretty please?

pork spice mix

You see, I wholeheartedly intended to write 4 straight posts about all those cookies I made. I really did. But two things happened that caused me to veer a wee bit off track.

  1. I worried that maybe I was just a tad too excited about those cookies, and maybe you are not as excited? I was sorta hoping for a close voting battle, a little competition, for the next cookie post. I mean, I did give you a choice, right – the chance to pick the next cookie? I thought that was cool. I thought ya’ll liked cookies as much as me. But I think I must have been delusional as the voting wasn’t quite the fierceness I was anticipating.
  2. Probably more importantly, I worried about ya’ll being all chilly, teeth chattering in your abodes as you nibbled on little morsels of ginger and sugar cookies and chocolate bark. Morsels that surely fill the cookie tins for the work crowd or your home-snacking desires but definitely do not satisfy the soul. Morsels that don’t stop the shivering and nullify the goosebumps caused by (in these parts, at least) the single digit windchills.

jalapeno corn muffins

You know what will take your temp up a notch or two? Stew – it warms the heart and makes that weather seem like a non-issue. Stew makes you want to wrap your sweatered arms around someone you love and stay indoors all weekend without a care in the world.

Specifically pork stew infused with ancho chile powder – the smells emanating from the kitchen, wafting into all nooks and crannies are enough to make you forget about all those sweet treats and instead focus on those Mexican spices, peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, and hominy – if only for a little while. (And I do mean a little while – this is a straight-up under 1 hour recipe from start to finish. Cook it on Monday – I dare you).

stew and muffin

Not to mention a little palm-sized nugget of corn meal, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno. I love cookies, but I can’t (or shouldn’t, rather) dunk cookies into a glowing bowl of ancho-spiced broth and come out with anything close to what happens when you douse these babies with soup broth. I mean, you can eat them without the stew juices, no doubt, but in some households it’s better to sop up juice with muffins rather than lick the bowl clean with your tongue. Just sayin’. Although, you could do both…

stew and muffin

So yeah, I reneged on the cookie offer. But only temporarily – I promise. I hope you forgive me :). In the meantime, whip yourself up some of this yummy stew and some sauce-soppin’ muffins. I’ll be back next week to share another cookie recipe – and from the looks of the comments so far, I’m guessing it’s gonna be those cardamom-clementine sugar cookies. Ya might wanna bake those up for Santa!

Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2009; makes 6 servings
300 kcal, 2.1 g sat fat, 28.9 g protein, 6.1 g fiber

printable recipe

ingredients
2 T ancho chile powder
2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t g cumin
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T olive oil, divided
2 c chopped onion (1 lg yellow onion)
1 1/2 c chopped green bell pepper (1 lg pepper)
1 T minced garlic
1 28-oz can hominy, drained
2 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
1 14.5-0z can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

instructions
combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl (set aside 1.5 t spice mixture) and add in pork, tossing well to coat.

heat 2 t oil in Dutch oven over med-hi heat. add pork and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. remove pork and set aside. add remaining 1 t oil to pan and add onion, pepper, garlic. saute 5 minutes or until tender. return pork to pan. add spice mixture, broth, hominy, tomatoes; bring to a boil. partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.

Cheddar-Jalapeno Corn Muffins*
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009; makes 12 muffins

printable recipe

ingredients
5 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c yellow cornmeal
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c corn (fresh or thawed)
1 1/4 c buttermilk
1 egg
1 3/4 c grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and small-diced

instructions
spray or butter muffin pans and preheat oven to 425 F with rack in middle.

whisk together cornmeal, salt, baking powder and soda in large bowl.

whisk together corn, buttermilk, egg, melted butter in another bowl and then stir it into the flour mixture until just combined. stir in 1 1/2 c cheese and jalapeno.

divide among muffin tins and top muffins with remaining cheese. bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. cool on rack and serve warm or room temp.

If desired, muffins can be frozen individually on a sheet and put into ziploc freezer bag for individual use 🙂

*Muffins gluten-free, not dairy-free

I Am Thankful

7

I am thankful for my sister. She says what she is thankful for every day on facebook. She also likes Meatloaf. And since I enjoy her facebook gig, I’m going to try to catch up with her.

I am thankful for _____.

the guy upstairs pounding down the long hallway and the puppy downstairs yipping through the night.

mullets. Even if you have to drive to a Rush concert in Ohio to see them in the midwest. That don’t make no sense….

good mullet

the drool on my pillow. That means I had some good sleepin’ last night.

my father-in-law, who just had two knees replaced! He is one crazy mo-fo.

my mommy. today is her birthday. she’s getting old younger by the year.

my washing machine, even though it has started to tear my clothes. I will give it the boot soon. Love ‘Black Friday’ deals.

apple pie, with cranberries! If you behave, I’ll post the recipe below…

apple-cranberry pie filling

good wine; I only wish I had barrels of it and not bottles. *sigh*

wine barrels

my friends, some of my favorite people on earth. They also like to eat. A lot.

Thanksgiving 2008

my husband, as he is only very occasionally annoying but usually cute and delightful. Wait… is he trying to take off his wedding ring here? I guess there’s no better time than when you have balloons on your head and are in the midst of the famous “fist dance”…

Chris - New Year's

my cats, who can sleep standing up. that is so cool. and mine has great teeth. see? Thanks, Lindsay, for this lovely picture!

Tangerine

Rock Band. We love you, xbox game. Look how serious we are. Every. Year.

Rock Band 2007Rock Band 2008Rock Band 2009


knife skillz. that first turkey we made in 2004 was a massacre.

bad turkey carving 2004

and last but certainly not least, leftovers. we will eat you up like there’s no tomorrow. we always do.


Thanksgiving 2008 spread

Cranberry-Apple Crumble Pie
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009; serves 8

printable recipe

You didn’t think I’d leave you with no recipe did you? Sure, Thanksgiving is officially over, BUT that never means that you can’t make more pie. You’re probably running low anyway, right? And this here pie is a great version of apple pie and a great way to use any leftover cranberries. Sweet and tart. That’s my kinda pie.

ingredients
pastry dough
1 1/2 c ap flour
3/4 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 T vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3-4 T ice water

crumble topping
3/4 c ap flour
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 c pecans, coarsely chopped

fruit filling
2 lb mixed apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
8 oz fresh cranberries (or frozen, unthawed)
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
3 T ap flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

instructions
make pastry: blend flour, butter, shortening, and salt into bowl with fingertips or pastry cutter (or by pulsing in a food processor a few times) just until mix resembles coarse meal with some rough clumps. drizzle 3 T ice water and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. squeeze a portion, and if dough doesn’t clump together, add another T water. don’t overwork the dough! turn out dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and gather dough into round disk. cover with wrap and place in fridge for an hour.

make crumble topping: stir together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. blend in butter with fingertips until large clumps form, then stir in pecans. chill until ready to use.

make fruit filling:  stir together apples, cranberries, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and lemon juice in a large bowl.

assemble pie: preheat oven to 425 F with rack in lower third. roll out dough on lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round, then fit gently into pie plate. trim edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhand, then fold and crimp. transfer fruit filling to pie shell. loosely cover with foil and bake until apples droop slightly, about 30 minutes. reduce oven to 375 F. sprinkle crumble topping over filling is bubbling, and apples are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour more. cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.