Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep and Joy

Been in the kitchen all day?

I have.  A couple days now.  But since it's my favorite place to be, it's all good.  The old girl feels a bit tired and thanks to my ceramic tile floor, the hips and back are a teensy bit achy, but that's for old people who like to complain, so never mind.

I want to wish you a VERY Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanks for reading my blog, trying the recipes, giving me your feedback.  I'm doing this for you and for me, so keep interacting, it's great.

Here's hoping you spend the day with the people you love the best, eating the foods you love the most, and taking more than a brief moment to stop and think about what you're thankful for this year.  Lots of people are hungry, hurting, or alone.  Some people are sick and in pain and long for a loving touch and a kind word.  I hope you all are among the joyful and well.

A little tip before you attack your bird tomorrow:  Be Prepared.

I've cooked probably 20 turkeys in my years.  And I learned a little trick many years ago that helps me get the bird ready to cook in the morning, and keeps the flow happening.  I use an electric roaster, and set it up on a table in my laundry room - out of the way, accessible to me :)

Oh, yeah, the tip:

Prepare a tray the night before.  Think of it like a surgical tray - everything at the ready!

Mine includes:

-  Instant read thermometer
-  Salt and pepper
-  Stick of butter
-  Pint jar with 1/3 cup flour (approx)
-  Spoon for stuffing the bird
-  Twine, for trussing
-  Skewers, for trussing
-  Fat separater
-  Baster
-  Scissors
-  Cotton gloves for extracting the hot bird out of the roaster
-  Wire whisk for making gravy
(in the morning, I'll take a quart of chicken broth out of my freezer)

I'm heading down to the laundry room now to set up the table, roaster, and tray.  Hoping the dog doesn't eat the butter before morning.

Many blessings to you and yours, have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Egg Coffee

No, it's the coffee you drink when you eat eggs.

It's the coffee that has an egg IN it!

There's a lot of debate among Scandinavians as to which country originated this delicious, rich coffee.  My darling mother in law is Swedish and she taught me how to make it.  My friend Carol is also very Swedish and makes this every day.  YET, when I was at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis not long ago, one of the experts there told me that it's very Swedish-American, and that people in Sweden often haven't heard of Egg Coffee.

You won't find chunks of eggs in your coffee, nor will it be cloudy or greasy.  When made right, Egg Coffee is a clear, rich, fragrant cup of joy.  It's simple to make, but obviously takes a bit more time and effort than Mr. Coffee.

Try it once.  Make sure you have something tasty to enjoy with it, preferably sweet and home made.  I had a slice of toast with butter and blackberry jam, and a bit of gouda cheese on the side.  Perfect.

Egg Coffee

1 heaping scoop freshly, slightly coarse-ground coffee for each cup of water
1 egg
2 tablespoons water to moisten grounds
1 more cup cold water

In a pot like this:

Or just a sauce pan on the stove (but the one above is so charming, and I bought it for $10 at a junk store),

Pour in your water, please make sure it's good, filtered water.  Bring the water to a boil.  While you're doing that, put your coffee grounds in a bowl, add an egg and the 2 tablespoons of water.

And then when you stir it up, it looks funky like this:

And then you dump that into your boiling water and turn down the temperature to medium low.  It'll sit in a blob on the top like this:

Now, this is important.  Don't let it boil!  Lower to just barely a simmer, so the bubbles come up around the edges.  You can take a wooden spoon and move the grounds gently apart to let some of the water simmer up amongst the mess. 

After about 7 minutes, pour in your cup of cold water and stir it all with the wooden spoon to break up the grounds and cause them to (mostly) sink to the bottom of the pot.

Cook gently for another minute or two and your coffee is DONE.  You might want to use a little hand-held strainer when you pour your coffee, just to catch any of the tiny grounds that rebelled and floated back to the surface.

Here's a happy cup of morning goodness.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wild Rice Casserole

Looking for a great new side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner this year?

Make this!  My mom would be so happy.  It's her recipe.

Wild rice is very Minnesota-ish.  And you can't go wrong with a stick of butter.

This is very simple to make, it can be made the day before with great results, and your house will smell so good, it'll bring tears to your eyes.  Or, maybe it only brings tears to my eyes because it reminds me of my childhood and my mom.

You don't get a picture today.  I'm not going to make this until Thanksgiving, but I wanted you to have the recipe so you can make it for YOUR dinner. 

Be thankful!  There's lots of reasons for it.

Wild Rice Casserole

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup wild rice
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1/2 cup slivered almonds
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms (crimini are good, white button are fine, too)
3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth, or water)

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Saute the rice, onion, almonds and mushrooms until slightly soft and fragrant, about 7-8 minutes, stirring here and there.  Don't let the rice brown.

Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish, and pour the chicken broth over it.  Cover and bake at 350 for about 1 1/2 hours, until broth is absorbed and rice is tender.  It's possible it could be done sooner, and it might take up to 2 hours.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Elderberry Syrup

This isn't for pancakes.

It's for health and wellness!

I thought it was time to introduce a few recipes and ideas you can use in your own home and family, just like we do, to get and stay healthy.

The Sassy Family gets sick, yes indeed.  We get colds, coughs, tummy bugs, flu every few years, the usual viral junk that most people have to deal with.

It's pretty rare that we have to visit a doctor for any of it, though.  Most of the time, I can treat my crew at home with herbs, supplements, water, chicken soup, rest, and love.

If we need medical care, we get it.  A year ago, all 8 of us got a horrid food-borne illness and we needed help, big time.  I ended up in the ER to get IV fluids.  That was not fun.  No one else got as sick as me, and we figure since I'm a high-mileage model, my body was more easily depleted and I needed extra help.  We all recovered, thankfully.

We choose not to get a flu shot.  I've done the research, and it works better for us to live a healthy life of good food, exercise, sunshine, water, and a happy home.  Everyone has to learn what they can about those decisions and do what's best for their families.

Oh, did I mention I'm not a doctor?  Nor a health professional in any way.  Whatever I tell you here is not intended to do anything but suggest and inform.  You're on your own.

Let's talk herbal medicine, and specifically Elderberry Syrup.  I make this every fall and keep it in a quart jar in my refrigerator.  If we are coming down with a bug, or have been exposed to some crud, we all take a daily dose.  If there's a virus in the house, we might have a spoonful a few times a day.

I buy my herbs in bulk from a wonderful, family-owned and operated business called "Savvy Teas and Herbs."  (  Nickole and her husband Brian and their kids all work together, selling the most pure, natural, delicious, and beneficial herbs and teas.  Their prices are GREAT, the service is excellent, and you can feel good knowing you're supporting a small business.

Elderberry:  Anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory.  Major immune booster!

Echinacea:  Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, blood purifier, immune boosting goodness. 

Rosehips:  High in vitamin C, anti-inflammatory, and just plain tasty.

Nettles:  Great for allergies and nasal inflammation.

Raw Honey:  Sweet taste, good bacteria, anti-oxidant, great for digestion.

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar:  Beneficial for sore throats, stomach viruses, pH balance, much more.

Those are the simple ingredients. 

A word about cost.  You can buy a bottle of elderberry syrup at a health food store or on line, but 4 ounces will run between $8 and $12.  I can make a quart for around $8.  A quart is 32 ounces.  Do the math.

The most labor-intensive part of the process is straining the liquid.  And it takes all of about 5 minutes.  The rest of it is just soaking and simmering.

Here's the recipe, and the steps.  Make some.  Give your family and yourself a spoonful each day during cold and flu season.  Kids love the taste!

Elderberry Syrup

2 cups dried elderberries
4 cups boiling water

Pour the water over the berries and let sit for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

1/4 cup dried rosehips
1/4 cup dried nettles
1/4 cup dried echinacea

Pour the elderberries and water into a large pot.  Add the dried herbs.  Add an extra two cups of water.  Simmer over low heat for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Cool the mixture.  Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender.  Pour in batches through a mesh strainer, pressing with a spoon to extract all the liquid.  Dump the sludge into your compost, but NOT down the drain.  It'll clog.  Ask my husband.

1 cup raw honey
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar OR fresh squeezed organic lemon juice

Stir the honey and vinegar into the elderberry mixture.  Store in a quart jar in the refrigerator. 

(This is what the herby mixture looks like when it's simmering, just for reference)

Mushroom Tart

My friend Karl wanted to know if I would make and the blog about mushroom tart, something new for the Thanksgiving meal.

Sure, Karl, give me a recipe and I'll make it and report back.

Nope.  No recipe.  "Find it yourself," was the reply, or something like that. 

Sure, Karl.  Whatever you say.

I found my basic recipe over at Fine Cooking.  They are brilliant cooks.  It's a total go-to for any recipe of quality and sure results.  I highly recommend adding their website to your list of favorites.

Here's the link to the original recipe:

I never say no to fungus. I like all different sorts of mushrooms, from the plain white ones to the super-earthy-meaty ones. Canned mushrooms are gross.

Few changes were made to the recipe.  I thought Gruyere cheese would be better than fontina, so I tried both, dividing the tart in half.  I also added thyme to the mushrooms at the end of the saute - thyme and mushrooms go together famously, in my opinion.  Shallots replaced the garlic.

Gruyere won the taste test among the discerning palates here.  Use whatever cheese you like, but make sure it's nutty, a bit earthy, and not too strong or tangy.

You can also change up the mushroom ratio.  I liked 2 ounces of shiitake, 6 ounces of white button, and 6 ounces of crimini, just like the recipe suggested.  Use your favorites!  Just come up with a pound.

Mushroom Tart

one sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package (Pepperidge Farm works well)
flour for dusting the work surface
1 egg, beaten

1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
black pepper

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

In a skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook for a couple of minutes.  Sprinkle with the salt and then continue cooking as the liquid is released.  Stir every few minutes until they just start to brown and the moisture is mostly gone, about 5-7 minutes.  stir in the parsley, thyme, and pepper, and taste to see if it needs additional salt.  Set aside to cool.

Heat oven to 425.  Dust a work surface with the flour.  Roll out the sheet of puff pastry to 10x15 inches.  Leaving a 1 inch border, prick all over with a fork and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush the border with the beaten egg.  Bake for 5 minutes until the surface looks mostly dry.  Scatter the mushrooms over the surface, leaving the border.  Bake an additional 10 minutes until the crust looks very golden.  Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for 2-3 more minutes.  Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before slicing into wedges and serving.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sassy Kids Birthday Cake

There's a new 13 year old in my house today.  That makes two teenagers.  Teenagers are awesome.  Never let anyone tell you differently.  Happy Birthday Asher!

Kids here get to pick their birthday meal and birthday cake.  9 times out of 10, they pick this chocolate cake.  The recipe originally came from Eric's mom and is called "Salad Dressing Cake" - which means you use either miracle whip or mayonnaise in it.  Not gross.  Stop gagging. 

It makes the most delicious, moist, rich cake ever.

I haven't used a boxed cake mix in many years.  I think they're gross, and not any less work than making a cake from scratch.  And the idea of "doctoring" a boxed cake mix baffles me.  Why start with an inferior product and then add a few good things to it? 

Fine, I'm a baking snob.

But try this cake - it's so simple!  You can make a 9x13 pan, two 8-inch rounds, or 2 dozen cupcakes.  Frost with a regular butter cream frosting, or use half butter and half cream cheese for a yummy change.

Sassy Kids Birthday Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise or miracle whip
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking soda

In a large bowl, beat sugar, water, mayo and vanilla.  Sift in the dry ingredients and beat til smooth.  Pour into a greased and floured pan of your choice and bake at 350 for 35 minutes (less for rounds or cupcakes).  The top should be slightly shiny but a toothpick should come out clean.  Cool completely, then frost!

Oooooo, shiny!

13 candles.  How is that possible?????