Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey hash with mustard sauce. And traditions.

Turkey hash with mustard sauce.

Tradition is serious business come the holidays. There are some traditions that people will just not let go. In my family, for example, we have jellied cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. The kind that jiggles out of the can. The kind that I, as a food blogger, probably should not be professing my love for in this very public space. But there you have it: This shameful dish has been on our Thanksgiving table for as long as I can remember, and I love the stuff.

Other traditions come and go, no matter how hard you want to hold on. Marriage will do these kinds of things, so that holiday traditions are doubled, tripled, quadrupled. And even though it can be tough splitting holidays between families, missing one Christmas morning for another, and spending another Thanksgiving without certain faces, there is something to be said for making brand new traditions that just might stick, and to embrace the traditions that are gifted from others.

I love hearing about other families' traditions. About annual hikes on Thanksgiving mornings, and special wrapping paper used only for Santa's gifts. About stockings, and lists, and Alaskan King crab dinners on New Year's Eve. About the best banana cream pie ever, and that favorite meal of leftovers enjoyed the day after Thanksgiving.

Turkey hash with mustard sauce.

Leslie's Turkey Hash with Mustard Sauce
*Note from Leslie: My dad's favorite meal on Earth. Best enjoyed the day after Thanksgiving.

This recipe is adapted from my recipe book. Just like most family recipes, the original had few exact measurements. Below are the measurements I used, with the addition of green pepper and garlic. The results were delicious. That sauce! I could bathe in it. Thanks, Les!

For the hash:
1 1/2 cups leftover cooked turkey, chopped
3 cups red potatoes, boiled but still firm, then chopped (I used 7 small ones)
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, green peppers, and garlic, and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add potatoes, turkey, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook everything until brown and potatoes are done to your tastes. I cooked mine until browned and slightly crispy.

Meanwhile, make mustard sauce.

For the mustard sauce:
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons dry powder mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour

In a small saucepan, heat the broths to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in mustards until combined. Add flour and butter to desired thickness.* Adjust to taste.

Pour sauce over hash and enjoy! Mmmmmm.

*The butter and flour are for thickening purposes. Just make sure you have equal parts. You may use more or less depending on how you like the sauce.

Friday, November 26, 2010



The holidays are officially here.
I hope the start of yours
was as lovely
as ours.

See more Thanksgiving photos here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sour Cream, Cheddar, and Green Onion Biscuit-ology.

I recently had a strange craving for biscuits. I say "strange" because I've never craved biscuits before. I hardly ever eat biscuits, unless they're popped from a canister and slathered with sausage gravy. Come to think of it, I don't think I've even had homemade biscuits. Ever. And yet, there I was, craving biscuits. The kind with cheddar.

Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits

I think it started when I spotted a recipe in a cookbook. It was this cookbook, and the recipe was for chipotle cheddar biscuits, and my sister Jenny had told me to flip through the book and tell her what she should bake. I saw the recipe and exclaimed, "Biscuits!" Savory, fluffy, dip-in-a-big-bowl-of-chili biscuits! She, of course, was thinking more along the lines of marshmallows or candy. I may have suggested biscuits another time after that, which she may have brushed off or pretended not to hear, it's hard to say. But either way: I knew that if I wanted these things, the baker in my life wasn't going to make them for me. I'd have to find a recipe that I could manage and make them on my own.

So I did. I made biscuits! Just like that.

Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits
Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits

Well, it wasn't that easy. I had to e-mail my sister beforehand to ask a question about one of the instructions, to which she gave a detailed response, and then once I was knuckle-deep in flour and butter, I had to call her when I reached said instruction on the recipe because I was still confused.

Listen, I thought baking was supposed to be a science, right? An exact science that requires exact measurements and leveling off with a knife and "Do Not Over Mix." It's part of the reason it scares me so. But then it goes on with these instructions like, "Cut the butter into the flour until it resembles course meal." Or, "Cream the butter until light and fluffy." Huh? I know some of you bakers may be thinking these descriptions seem obvious, but they lose me every time. Course meal? Light and fluffy? How is this scientific? How do I know when this exact point in the cutting and/or mixing process occurs? And how do I make sure I'm not over mixing?

Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits

Here is the part where Jenny said to me, "You seem kind of frantic." And that's when it hit me, I suppose. This is a recipe for biscuits, not an equation for solving life's mysteries. Dry ingredients, wet ingredients, mix, plop, heat, rise. I can do this, and it doesn't have to mean the end of the world if the butter isn't cut exactly how it should be. Live and learn. Trial and error. I just hate the error part.

Fortunately, there were no errors in this trial. These biscuits are delicious! Nice and crusty on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside, with bits of green onion and cheddar throughout. And I'll tell you every time I bake something, but I couldn't help but give a little squeal when I peered into the lit oven and saw the biscuits look as biscuits should, rising and turning golden brown. I don't squeal like that when I make soup, or fried rice, or pop breakfast biscuits out of a canister. Or when I'm studying science, which proves once more that this baking thing is something else entirely. I'm not quite sure what, but it involves delicious biscuits, and that's never a bad thing.

Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits

Sour Cream, Cheddar, and Green Onion Biscuits (from Cooking Light)
These are best served fresh out of the oven. Once they've sat out for a bit, they can get kind of gummy. Cooking Light says to wrap the biscuits loosely in foil and put in the oven at 300 F for 10 minutes to reheat. I put mine in my very powerful toaster oven for about 3 minutes at 200 F. Be careful not to leave them in for too long, because the bottoms get kind of burnt.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
1 cup fat-free buttermilk
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.* Add cheese and onions; toss well. Add buttermilk and sour cream; stir just until moist.

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove biscuits from pan; cool on wire racks.

Serving: 1 biscuit
Calories per serving: 146

*This means to take one knife in each hand and literally cut the butter into the flour, so that the mixture looks like it has small, bead-sized lumps, like unsifted flour. The point of this is to leave small chunks of butter so that the biscuits have that flaky, biscuit-y texture. I wish the original instructions would have told me this. Thank you, Jenny, for that bit of baking wisdom.

Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taking some getting used to. With butternut squash pasta.

I'm in the process of changing my name. It's not a particularly fun process -- there's a lot of standing in line and waiting involved, and I carry around my marriage certificate wherever I go, just in case. I've got my new driver's license and new credit cards, so that I'm signing checks and receipts with one name while still receiving bills in another. My personal e-mail still includes my maiden name, while my work e-mail has my new name. I'm getting used to answering to this, but I sometimes slip and still call myself that.

The name change isn't the only thing I'm getting used to around here. There is also the change in seasons and transition from fall to winter, Halloween to The Holidays -- a transition that makes me impatient for the bustle of Thanksgiving and Christmas but dreading the cold months ahead. The sky is nearly pitch black when I leave the office, which has been the hardest part so far, since the cold weather has been slow to catch up. It's actually getting warmer, reaching the 70s this week so that I drove with the window down on my lunch break yesterday and left my jacket in the car this morning.

And there's this butternut squash pasta, an in-between dish of sorts, which seems so right for these days when it's dark by 4:30 but still nice enough to keep the windows open. It features butternut squash, which I've been eating on a weekly basis lately, and even Murdo asked me the other day if I'm getting sick of squash yet. The answer is no, I'm not, and I certainly hope I don't get sick of it soon because it's a winter squash, after all, and not even winter yet.


The squash is tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and brown sugar, and roasted with a bunch of halved shallots, then thrown over wide ribbon noodles. There is a sprinkling of sage that brings in a hint of the holidays, and yet the dish is so light you'd think it was simple meal prepared for summer or spring.

But summer is long gone, and I hate to say it, but I kind of wish winter would just get here already. I know it's just around the corner and I'd rather get it over with, instead of remain stuck in this transitional period, wearing boots with no jacket, signing one name and answering to another. Until then, of course, I'm sure there will be lots more squash. Which I'm used to by now.

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallots (from Cooking Light)
I followed this recipe pretty closely, except ended up using 4 cups of squash instead of 3, and forgot about the cheese altogether. It was still tasty.

3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise (about 1/2 pound)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
4 ounces uncooked pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta) or fettuccine
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475 F.

Combine the squash, sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons oil, salt, pepper, and shallots in a jelly roll pan and toss well. Bake at 475 for 20 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in sage.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place cooked pasta in a bowl. Add 2 teaspoons oil and toss well. Serve the squash mixture over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

Serving size: 3/4 cup pasta, 3/4 cup squash mixture, 1 tablespoon cheese
Calories per serving: 248

Monday, November 8, 2010

My family's chicken adobo recipe.

Sometimes when I'm at work, I'll have a really great idea for a blog post that is completely unrelated to work. The sentences start forming in my head, and I think to myself, "Man, I should really be writing this down," but instead, I have to write about something more boring, like work. And then I get home and sit down to write a blog post, and I've completely forgotten what I wanted to write about.

So it goes with this chicken adobo. I knew exactly what I wanted to write for this chicken adobo post last week, sometime around two in the afternoon, when I was sitting at my desk staring at a spreadsheet and dreaming about dinner. And now, I just can't remember. I should really write these things down.

I'm the same way with recipes. I've been getting better about following recipes more precisely, ever since I started counting calories and cooking lighter foods. But then there are those recipes that just kind of float around in the back of my head, with no real measurements or times, just eyeball-and-taste methods that always seem to work out OK in the end. And I'm left with a dish I've made a million times before, with no real way to share it with you because I never thought to pay attention to how much onion I actually chopped, and how much soy sauce was in that "dash," and how long it took to taste just right. Until now.

Today, I present you with my family's chicken adobo recipe. I've written about chicken adobo here before, and how I grew up with the smell of chicken adobo in the kitchen, and how learning to make it in college was like bringing my mother's kitchen to my own. It's still like that. The rich aroma of chicken simmering slowly in soy sauce, garlic, and vinegar will always mean "home" to me.

One of my favorite things about this recipe, besides the smell and of course, the taste, is that it's just about the easiest dish to make. It's a simple chicken and rice dish, made with bone-in chicken pieces, although for a long time, I used to make it only with boneless, skinless chicken breasts simply for convenience's sake. Also, I didn't own a good cleaver, but more on that later. Chicken adobo made solely with boneless, skinless chicken breasts is not real chicken adobo. It's good, but it's not authentic. It'll do in a pinch, but it just doesn't taste the same.

Real chicken adobo requires bone-in chicken pieces. I use chicken drumsticks, whacked in half crosswise with a good cleaver (a wedding gift, yay! no more fake adobo in this kitchen!), exposing the bone marrow to make the broth richer and more flavorful.

Then comes the sauce, which involves equal parts water, vinegar, and soy sauce. That's the beauty of this dish -- as long as you have equal parts of these key ingredients, in addition to plenty of garlic, you really can't screw up the flavor. For four pounds of chicken, I used a cup of each, which was just enough to almost cover the chicken.

A couple of bay leaves, a pinch of whole black peppercorns, and an hour of simmer time, and you'll have tender, fall apart chicken that is sweet and tangy, garlicky and rich. A true Filipino classic.

Filipino Chicken Adobo
Adobo refers to the process of simmering in soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. Anything can be adobo-ed, including pork, ribs, and even veggies, although I've never tried vegetarian adobo. I prefer chicken adobo. If you don't own a good cleaver to cut the chicken in half, then simply leave the pieces whole. It'll still taste great.

The vinegar helps it keep longer than your usual chicken dish, and is actually better the next day. After it's refrigerated, the broth gets kind of gelatinous, which can look gross but don't be alarmed. Just skim the fat off the top and it'll reheat beautifully.

4 lbs chicken (Any bone-in parts will do, such as thighs or legs. I use drumsticks split in half crosswise and a couple boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced. Sometimes I'll add in boneless thighs, as well.)
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
steamed white rice

Throw everything (except for the rice) into a large pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. You'll know it's done when the meat begins to separate from the bone. Remove bay leaves and serve over white rice.

This makes a lot of adobo. I made this much and it fed 2 people for three meals. So about 6 servings.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cookies, calzones, and casseroles.

When you get married, life kind of explodes. No, scratch that. When you get engaged, life definitely explodes. Mostly good explosions, of course. First, there is the initial explosion of announcements: Quick! Call everyone you know! Send picture messages of the ring! Tell the proposal story so many times it makes you regret calling so many people! Next, there is the wedding planning explosion, which comes in the form of a nightmare. Then, the wedding day explosion, during which your heart is filled with so much love and emotion that it pretty much bursts. And then you’re married, and you think everything is back to normal, and for the most part, it is. Unless you and your husband live in a teeny tiny apartment, in which case, your living space is constantly exploding with all of the wedding gifts that you foolishly asked for.

Seriously. There are cabinets in my kitchen that I can’t open without a colander falling on my foot. There is a stack of large boxes that have made a permanent home behind our living room couch. And more towels just means a bigger pile of laundry next to the washing machine, which also happens to be next to my bed. Yes, that’s how small our apartment is.

But really, how can I complain? These are gifts, after all. My apartment is exploding with really nice things at the moment, and I am thankful for that. I just wish we had a place to put all of it. As a result, we’re not really inviting too many people over for dinner parties or anything, not because we don’t have the “stuff” required to entertain (Trust me, I’ve got the dip trays and the place settings and the wine glasses and the serving bowls etc. etc. etc.), but because there simply isn’t enough room to entertain, period. Also, we only have three dining room chairs that will not break if you sit on them.


So when we planned a Saturday night of Settlers of Catan and dinner followed by a Sunday morning of breakfast and football-watching and baking with my sister and her husband, we didn’t host. Instead, Jenny did all the cooking and the baking, and we just showed up, ate and took pictures. Because she's pretty awesome, and has plenty of room for all of her wedding stuff, and all the counter space in the world for a Kitchen Aid mixer, coffee maker, toaster oven and rice cooker, and even has an entire cabinet dedicated to baking ingredients. Including two kinds of chocolate chips, whole wheat flour, parchment paper, rolling pins, and a bag of dried cherries that she bought on sale thinking “Well, I’m sure I’ll use them someday.” Kind of like how I stock up on cans of chickpeas when they’re on sale, except she’d never buy chickpeas, and I’d never buy dried cherries.

Here is what we ate that weekend: Baked brie, spinach calzones with blue cheese, Cool Ranch Doritos, bon-bons, orange-pecan French toast casserole, bacon, eggs, and chocolate-cherry Heart Smart cookies. (See where those dried cherries come in? You knew this long ramble of post had to lead somewhere…) Also, Murdo won in Settlers of Catan. Again.

Sometimes, I dream of huge white kitchens with open shelving, stacked high with my white bone china place settings, and an entire section dedicated to baking ingredients. And soup ingredients. And pasta ingredients. And sandwich ingredients. And also, enough room for all of those wine glasses that are currently stored next to our printer.

All recipes are from Cooking Light:

Spinach Calzones with Blue Cheese - Murdo doesn't like spinach, mushrooms, or blue cheese, which were all included in these calzones, and yet he still truly enjoyed them. Three points for Jenny!

Orange Pecan French Toast Casserole - A perfectly sweet companion to the salty bacon. Doesn't even need maple syrup. It might even become a new Christmas morning treat for our family, although I do love cinnamon rolls...

Chocolate Cherry Heart Smart Cookies
- These are great for breakfast. Really.