Saturday, February 28, 2009

Roast Chicken with Cornbread Stuffing

In case you're worried, the chicken has green spots for a reason (sage leaves). So this week was my mom's birthday (Happy birthday, Mom!). To celebrate, we had a big family dinner complete with aunt, uncle and grandma. My mom was a little at a loss for what to serve. She wanted something nice that didn't require a ton of prep time, so I suggested roast chicken. This was partly for selfish reasons. I happen to love roast chicken. But also, its very versatile. You can use the leftovers for pretty much anything. I also have a new-found love of cornbread stuffing. I had always hated stuffing at Thanksgiving, mostly because it tends to be dry and have tons of celery (which I also hate). Cornbread stuffing, on the other hand, is moister, in part because cornbread itself is pretty moist and sweeter than bread.

Adapted from Tyler Florence recipe "Maple Roasted Turkey with Sage, Smoked Bacon and Cornbread Stuffing"

Eat Rating
Difficulty: Easy to Medium. You need some sort of basting brush or baster to glaze the chicken.

1 whole chicken for roasting, recommended 5-6 pounds
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 bunch of fresh sage leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped (LN: As I said, I hate celery. So I only put a little in. Add more as desired)
2 apples, cored and chopped
1 loaf of cornbread, chopped into cubes or torn into pieces (about 6 cups) (LN: If making from scratch, I recommend Jiffy.)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack to lowest height. Chop sage leaves and then work into butter with your hands. The butter should be flecked with green spots all throughout.

In saute pan, melt half the sage butter, then saute chopped onion and celery about 5 minutes until softened. Put cornbread pieces in a medium bowl. Mix in chopped apple and softened onion/celery mix. Add the egg, buttermilk and chicken stock and mix until thoroughly moistened.

Wash chicken, removing gizzard packet from cavity. Pat dry with paper towel. Using your fingers, separate the chicken skin from the underlying meat on the breast and leg pieces. Slide pats of the remaining sage butter under the skin and massage into a thin layer. Fill the center cavity with the cornbread stuffing. Do not overpack. The cavity should fit about 1/3-1/2 of the stuffing. Grease an ovenproof bowl or casserole dish and place remaining stuffing in it to serve on the side.

Excess stuffing and maple-syrup glaze

In a small bowl, whisk the hot water with the maple syrup until it is the consistency of a glaze. Using a basting brush or baster, glaze the chicken with the maple syrup mixture. Place chicken in oven. Baste with the maple syrup mixture about ever 30 minutes. Place the extra dish of dressing in the oven about 30 minutes before the chicken will finish cooking. The chicken should take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to cook. If the roaster has a pop-up timer, remove from oven after the button pops. If there is no timer, check to ensure a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees before removing. When you cut into the thigh, the juice should run clear.

After removing from oven, scoop the stuffing from the chicken cavity and serve in a separate bowl. Cut chicken from bones and serve.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Once when I was unemployed and bored during the day I signed up for a community cooking class on Indian food. It was held in the kitchen at a high school. I had half expected the class to be boring, but you got to bring the food home at the end, so I figured I might as well try it. The class, however, ended up being awesome. It was run by this woman, Prithra Mehra, who does cooking classes for a ton of places, including Whole Foods and William Sonoma. Aside from teaching me how to cook some awesome Indian food, the class also made me less afraid of pressure cookers (although I still hesitate to stand directly behind the pot lest it explode). It also taught me how to use fresh ginger. My whole kitchen laughed at me when I took the piece of ginger and dropped it in the pot without peeling or dicing. I now use fresh ginger as much as I can.

Eat Rating:
Difficulty: Easy to Medium.

Prithra Mehra, The Mystic Kitchen

1 cup dried chickpeas
4 cups water
4 tbsp dried lentils
2 tsp salt
2 pods, cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1 tomato chopped (LN: you can also you a can of diced tomato, drained)
3 tbsp oil or butter
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp red chili powder
1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped (Most often this is labelled "cilantro" at the store)
1 tsp channa masala*
2 green chilis (optional)
1/4 tsp mango powder (optional)

Wash chickpeas and soak overnight in 4 cups water and 1 tsp salt. Soak lentils in water for 30 minutes before you begin cooking.

Peel and chop the ginger and the onion. Put chickpeas, water, lentils, salt, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ginger and 1/2 onion in pressure cooker. Bring to full pressure on high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes. (LN: This almost always takes me longer, more like 20-30 minutes. You want almost all the water to have been steamed out.)

Heat oil or butter in a frying pan. Add onion and cook until onion begins to brown. Add tomato, coriander, cumin, chili powder and coriander leaves. Cook till the oil begins to separate and the mixture becomes shiny around the oustide of the pan. Add chana masala and simmer 1 minute.
Add mixture to the chickpeas (make sure to remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods first) and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Garnish with remaining spices if desired. Serve with rice (basmati if you have it) and top with yogurt or raita.**

* When I first tried to find chana masala, it took me forever. You'll need to look at an Indian grocery or try World Market if there's one close by. You can also make it yourself by combining: 1 tbsp coriander, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp ginger, 1 tbsp cardamom, 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1 tbsp nutmeg.
** We made some make-shift raita by combining yogurt-cheese and cucumber. To make the yogurt-cheese, find a large bowl and place a colander in it so the colander rests on the edge. Line the colander with several layers of cheese cloth and place 1 cup yogurt in middle. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12 hours or overnight. Discard liquid in bowl. You will have a thick cheese, the consistency of cream cheese, but with a slight yogurty taste. Peel, seed and dice cucumber, then mix with cheese.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake

When C was a kid, his mom would make him a chocolate chip sour cream cake every year for his birthday. So this year, I tried to recreate the cake, using this recipe from the Boston Globe.

Eat Rating: Awesome. The cake itself is very moist from the sour cream. Two suggestions, make sure you mix the cinnamon and chocolate chips well or you'll end up with splotches of cinnamon rather than a consistent layer. Second, the cake is rather large. If you're making it for just a couple people, you might try halving the recipe.
Difficulty: Easy to medium. The hardest part is separating the eggs and whipping the whites.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Risotto with Sugar Snap Peas and Leeks

I love risotto. It's my favorite type of rice. To avoid food boredom with my regular recipe, I tried this veggie one from Cooking Light.

From Cooking Light, April 2003

Eat Rating: Awesome. I was a little surprised how the leeks almost dissolved into the rice, but that meant the onion flavor was not too overwhelming.
Difficulty: Medium

4 cups fat-free chicken broth (use veggie broth to make this vegetarian)
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups sliced leeks
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry vermouth (LN: I subbed 1/4 cup dry sauvignon blanc)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 tsp butter (omitted)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
fresh ground black pepper

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Keep warm on a back burner over low heat. In another pot, bring water to a boil and cook sugar snap peas for 3 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water.

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add leeks and carrots. Saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add in the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly so the rice doesn't stick to the pan. Stir in 1 cup broth and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until broth is almost completely incorporated into the rice. Stir in another 1/2 cup broth, the vermouth/wine, salt and oregano. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until broth is absorbed. Repeat with 1/2 cup of broth, cooking until incorporated, until all the broth is used. Stir in peas and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in cheese, then add lemon juice and black pepper to taste.

Risotto with sugar snap peas added

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blood Orange Chocolate Cake

So earlier this week, it was once again a coworker's birthday. I showed her the list of "Cakes to Try" and she picked out a Blood Orange Cake I had found in Cooking Light. It took me a couple of tries, but I eventually found blood oranges at Giant.

Blood oranges from Giant

I initially tried to make this recipe from Cooking Light magazine in December 2002. I noticed when I was putting together the ingredients for the cake that there was no leavening agent, but I figured maybe they knew something I didn't. Anyway, I was right. Without baking soda/powder, the cake did not rise and instead I had a thick, flat ugly pancake thingy. C even took a bite out of it, but found it inedible and gross.

Thick, flat, ugly pancake thingy

So, I had already juiced my blood oranges and frantically searched the internet for a new recipe. I came across this recipe on a fellow food blog for a blood orange and chocolate cake and figured I'd try it. I'm reprinting it here simply because the blog entry has all the ingredients in metric.

From anapestic, Feb. 25, 2006

Difficulty: Easy to moderate (it requires both zesting and juicing, which were not difficult for me because I have several zesters and an electric juicer but would be irritating if you did not have those things)
Eat Rating: My coworkers were generally positive, but not overwhelmingly so. I thought it was pretty great, though, considering the dire straights I was in during the baking process

3 blood oranges
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup milk
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms of two 9-inch cake pans, cut rounds of parchment or wax paper to place in bottom, then grease the rounds.

Zest the oranges (the zest came to about 2 tbsp per orange) then mix with sugar in a food processor.

Blood orange zest mixed with sugar

Squeeze juice from oranges, place in glass bowl and microwave for three to four minutes or until reduced. Place in freezer to cool down.

In a separate bowl, mix eggs, 1/4 cup of milk and vanilla extract. In another bowl, place flour, baking powder and zesty sugar. Mix. Add butter. Mix again. Add 3/4 cup milk and mix for about three minutes. Add reduced blood orange juice. Mix again. Add egg mixture gradually, mixing between each addition.

Split the batter between the two greased cake pans and bake for about 35 minutes. Let cakes cool for 15-20 minutes in pan, then cool completely on a wire rack.

Anapestic said the ganache was a little too intense for the cake, so I made a chocolate buttercream frosting instead.


1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tsp triple sec or other orange liqueur
3/4 cup cocoa powder

Cream butter in a small bowl. Add cocoa powder and mix completely. Add triple sec and whipping cream and mix till consistent throughout. Gradually add the powdered sugar until desired thickness.

I frosted the cake, then peeled the remaining oranges and garnished the top with segments. After awhile, I got tired of removing the pith from the various segments, so instead of a circle, my coworkers got a smiley face.

My coworker, J., with her cake

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pat Nixon's Meatloaf

I don't even know what struck me about this meatloaf. But someone in a recent
Post food chat suggested it and I have a bizarre love of meatloaf, so I figured I might as well try it.

White House Family Cookbook

Difficulty: Easy
Eat Rating: Awesome. Pat Nixon sure knew her meatloaf.

2 tbsp butter (LN: I used olive oil)
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 slices white bead (I used sourdough)
1 cup milk
2 lbs lean ground beef (I subbed some ground buffalo from Whole Foods to make this a little lighter)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
Pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (I didn't have any, so I omitted this)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp bread crumbs (I just used another piece of sourdough and stuck it in the food processor)

Grease a 9x13 glass or metal pan and set aside. Cut up slices of bread, place in bowl and pour milk on top. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes. While bread is soaking, heat olive oil in a skillet and saute onions and garlic until translucent. Add garlic, onions and soaked bread to the meat and mix with your hands until consistent throughout. Add eggs, mix again, then add in the spices. Put meatloaf into the greased pan and shape into loaf. Spread tomato puree on the top and then cover with bread crumbs. Chill the meatloaf in the fridge for 1 hour to allow the flavors to mix.

A chilled loaf of meat

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake meatloaf on lower rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour until completely cooked through. Pour off any accumulated fat (with the buffalo there wasn't really any) and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Creole Icing

I found this cookbook stuck inside a box in a store room at my parent's house. This is the revised and expanded 1934 Hershey's cookbook, printed in 1971. I needed a good chocolate frosting recipe for a cake, so I pulled it out.

Difficulty: Easy
Eat Rating: Awesome. The coffee flavor is more intense than the chocolate, but it gives it a nice mellowness.

1 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup black coffee
3 tbsp Hershey's cocoa
pinch cinnamon
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Combine butter, coffee, cocoa and cinnamon and beat until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until desired consistency.

Makes 1 3/4 cups icing.

I wanted a thinner frosting, so I only added 2 cups of the powdered sugar.

Because it was thinner, I just had to push it over the edges of the cake to frost the sides. It firmed up a little bit in the fridge later one. Here's the finished result:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chickpea Pasta Soup

I was really excited. Today I was going to go to Best Buy and get a new card and batteries for my brother's camera and take copious amounts of pictures as I made dinner. It was going to be beautiful. Then I had to argue with the sales clerk to get the correct size card for the camera. And then I had to argue with a manager at Best Buy because they insisted the price written on the front of the card reader was incorrect. But I prevailed. Got home and installed the new card in the camera. Then I stuck in the new AA batteries. Flipped the on switch. No dice. Took out the batteries and turned them around. No dice. Switched them so one was facing each way. Still no dice. Then I notice in tiny type in the battery compartment the words "EN-EL1." The camera does not take AA but rather some strangely shaped thing you must order from Nikon.

I was sad. Very sad. Then I made soup.

Difficulty: Super Easy
Eat Rating: Good. I cheated and used these leftover formerly dried chickpeas that I had soaked overnight to make falafel. This meant my chickpeas were still slightly hard. But otherwise an excellent soup.

(Note: To make this vegetarian [or vegan for that matter] use vegetable stock in place of chicken broth.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Just Another Meatless Monday

So I was briefly stumped how I should refer to recipes found on other blogs. I figure the best way is just to link.

Anyway, we have instituted "Meatless Mondays" at my house. It's good for the cholesterol issue, also because I know a ton of vegetarians now and it would always stump me what to make when they came over for dinner. This falafel recipe I tried tonight is our first real success. The first week we tried beans. They were somewhat boring and resulted in a lot of gas. The second week I made a mushroom barley stew. It was pretty good but I ended up having to cheat and use chicken broth. But the falafel was really great, even though half of it fell apart so I didn't manage to get the crispiness.

Difficulty: Medium. Note: when the directions say chill the dough for an hour, don't skip that step. I did, which is why mine didn't turn out perfectly. But even the little falafel heaps I filled my pita with were pretty amazing.

Eat Rating: Awesome

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oatmeal Molasses Bread

I made this bread earlier in the week to accompany a soup (Mushroom Barley Stew, to be exact). Unfortunately there are no pictures, as my camera seems to have finally died. It's a dark bread, very dense, with just a hint of sweet. Very good for soaking up broth. If you're making it for a savory stew, omit raisins.

Difficulty: Easy-to-medium (involves kneading)
Eat Rating: Good. Not great. But decent enough. It was good with the stew and subsequent leftovers, but I probably wouldn't make it on its own.

From Cooking Light, October 2003
Yield: 2 smallish loaves

2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (LN: Due to a shortage of all-purpose, I used 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup whole wheat flour (LN: I used 2 cups whole wheat flour)
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp yellow cornmeal

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine buttermilk, oats, molasses and oil in a bowl and mix well. In a separate large bowl, combine flours, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add buttermilk mixture and stir until moistened. Add in raisins. Let dough sit for 2 minutes.

Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, knead one half the dough with floured hands for about 1 minute. Shape into loaf. Repeat for second half of dough.

Dust a cookie sheet with corn meal. Place loaves on cookie sheet and make 3 diagonal cuts on the top of each loaf.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Without opening oven, reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake another 15 minutes, until a spoon tapped on the bottom of each loaf makes a hollow sound. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pumpkin-Praline Muffins

I like muffins because if I'm running late, I can always throw one into my purse to eat on the way in to work. Also because they make great characters in online, animated films. Like my "Cakes to Try" list, I recently started a "Muffin List" in the little black recipes book I carry around with me. This one I found in Better Homes and Gardens. The cholesterol and saturated fat content were a little high, I thought, so I subbed in Smart Balance butter, egg beaters and whole-wheat flour.

Difficulty: Easy (but uses a lot of bowls)
Eat Rating: Either because I used whole wheat flour or because I accidentally omitted the baking soda, the muffins are a little bit dense. Not bad, just thicker than you'd expect for a muffin. The praline topping though is pretty awesome.

Better Homes and Garden, New Baking Book 1998

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp sour cream (LN: I subbed lowfat yogurt)
2/3 cup chopped pecans
2 cups all-purpose flour (LN: I used whole-wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted (LN: I used Smart Balance butter)

Line muffin-tin with cups or grease. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup brown sugar, sour cream (or yogurt) and pecans. Set aside.

In medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and cloves. In a separate bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, pumpkin, 2/3 cup brown sugar and melted butter. Add to dry mixture and stir until just moistened.

Spoon batter into muffin cups. Spoon about 2 tsp of pecan mixture on top of each muffin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Best served slightly warm.