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Brisket – gifted leftover scraps from the catering place I work on weekends.
Beans – heirloom cranberry beans from Rancho Gordo that my bro and sis bought me last Christmas.
Barley – bought at the fancy grocery store.
Together, with a few carrots, half an onion, and a stick of celery, they will make the ultimate stew for a cold, blustery, wintery day like today. Plus, I’m making the fourth B, Oma Bread, to go along side.
You don’t really need a recipe, that’s really it. Let the fat render out of some sliced brisket, saute half an onion, two carrots, and one stick of celery in it, add water, add beans that you soaked overnight. Let that hang out for an hour. Then add 1/2 a cup or 3/4 of a cup of barley. You can add more water if you want. Give it another hour. Warm your soul.
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I came back from the 8 hour drive from my parents house to be greeted by 927 messages in my Google Reader. While skimming, I noticed a recurring theme of Thanksgiving posts. People were thankful for the little things they could find to be happy about in their broken, normally unhappy families. They were thankful for pie to stop the fighting or football so they could escape conversation. Some were thankful for larger things – having a job in this economy, children, that they still have family alive to celebrate with. And I’m thankful for all those things too – pie, football, jobs… but I have to be really honest today, on this Saturday after Thanksgiving.
I am thankful for my perfect, wonderful, amazing family. My Dad, who is alive and vibrant after a lung transplant, who can joke and tease and tell me that he loves me, who can take me on a ride and get my dog to swim in a swamp and still show me he’s my hero. My mom, who is actually a candidate for sainthood, who cooks and cleans, and makes sure everyone feels not just included, but superbly, brilliantly adored and loved, and beyond all that, let my dog back in the house after he went swamp diving. My brother, who bickers with me and teases me, and takes care of me like no one else – who else would, all in one day, get the movie I wanted, clean (and VACUUM) my car, walk my dog, clean (thoroughly!) my mom’s kitchen, and bring the plug that I forgot. My sister-in-law, who, at 7 months pregnant, made the best dish for Thanksgiving, made a conscious effort to share gifts for her baby with me (ME!), who is kind and inviting and PERFECT for my brother, who came to spend time with us when she has her own parents who want to be with her, and who washed my dog. My aunt and uncle and cousins who came and complimented my one and only favorite pup, who came to spend time with us and enjoy us when I’m sure they had a million other things to do.
I am unapologetically thankful for having the best, most Rockwell-ian, kindest, most inclusive, most wonderful family in the world. Thanksgiving, today, and everyday. I’m thankful for lots of other things too – jobs, always pie, that UT won (HOOK ‘EM!) – but more than anything else, I am thankful to be a Bellamy.
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Homemade Pumpkin Spinach Ravioli is egg yolk pasta pillows filled with a creamy pumpkin and spinach filling, covered with a shallot, butter and cream sauce. Sounds heavenly, right? This is one that I came up with myself – mainly because of what was in my fridge. Now, I’ve made pasta before – this is the best walkthrough for pasta ever – but I’ve never made ravioli. But how different can it be, right? I have to admit, I learned a few things. Try it out and benefit from my mistakes.
You start by making pasta. I follow Pioneer’s Woman’s instructions (which is the link above). I originally thought I would never be able to pull off pasta – I have German and Scottish grandmothers, there’s no Italian women in the mix – but it’s easier than I thought. Two eggs per cup of flour, one egg per person. (I made this recipe for two, but I have to admit, I ate it all myself.) Pour a cup of flour in a bowl, add a teaspoon of salt, and make a well in the center of your flour. Crack in two eggs and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Now comes the fun part. Time to get your hands dirty. Start mixing it together with your hand until it comes together as a ball. Now you’ve got ten minutes of kneading. Sit down, watch TV, listen to music, or just punch away your troubles. You want to knead until it becomes elastic, smooth – not sticky or tacky. Once it’s there, coat it in a bit of olive oil and cover it in plastic wrap. Let it sit and think about things for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make your filling. You can make your filling whatever you want. Since this was my first time, I wanted to do a vegetarian filling, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about whether the meat was fully cooked. I mean, I can deal with lumpy pillows for a new experiment in the kitchen, but I don’t want to die or anything. I made some creamed spinach and mixed in a few spices and some pumpkin puree for a filling fall feel.
Creamed Spinach is pretty easy. Defrost a box of spinach (you could definitely use fresh if you have a less limited budget than mine), and drain out all the water. Melt half a stick of butter in a pot, and once it’s melted, add four tablespoons of flour. Stir, stir, stir until you have a pretty caramel colored mixture in your pan – about 2 minutes. That’s a roux! Toss in a diced shallot and a few diced cloves of garlic, and saute them for a bit. Add one and 1/2 cups milk, and stir, stir, stir again to get any lumps out. Let that get to a nice gravy consistency, and then toss in your spinach. Add a bit of salt, pepper, and secret weapon for all creamy dishes, nutmeg. Give it a taste and see it’s got enough spices.
Now comes the fun part. You can stop with spinach, that’s a great filling, but I added some pumpkin to get some extra iron, fiber, vitamins, all that great business. I added about half a can of pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling, that has sugar and whatnot) to my creamed spinach and let it all warm up. It made my filling creamier, fit great with the nutmeg, and added a new flavor to the dish. Realize now that you’re going to have some extra filling (a lot of extra filling) but this makes a fantastic side dish for tomorrow.
Ok, filling is resting, pasta has thought about life, we’re ready to roll. Start boiling your water and let me make a short announcement at this part: I do not have a pasta machine. If you do, by all means, use it to roll your pasta super thin. If you’re like me, then get out your rolling pin and do your best. I will admit, my pasta was not rolled to the thinness that the internet requested. It was supposed to be so thin you could see your hand through it, and I never got there. Whatever, it was still delicious.
So you’ve rolled out that pasta into a rectangle that is so super thin, it resembles a Hollywood starlet. Now, take a look at your rectangle. Consider how many raviolis you think you’ll get out of this. I got ten – but a few died before they got to the boiling water. Slice your rectangle in half longways, and set aside one half. (I used a pizza cutter). Brush your rectangle with some egg white – this is what will seal your ravioli. Dollop your filling, about one tablespoon, across the bottom of the rectangle you have in front of you. Fold over the top, and press your fingers around your dollops. Slice between your raviolis, and press down the edges. Another announcement: It would be awesome to have a tool like this to crimp the edges, but I don’t have one. So I crimped with a fork and my fingers. Make sure that every edge is crimped so that your filling doesn’t leak out. Now repeat with your other sheet.
Nice! Aren’t they cute! By now your water is boiling, so toss a few in. Don’t crowd your raviolis, boil them in shifts so that they don’t stick together in the pot. It takes about four minutes to cook them.
During these four to eight minutes, cook up your sauce. Mine was easy – butter, diced shallot and diced onion, and a bit of cream stirred in to make it saucey.
Pull out your ravioli with a slotted spoon and place in a shallow bowl. Coat with sauce, and top with Parmesan cheese. Wow!
Let me make one final announcement: I don’t have kids or a very stressful job, I have a pretty easy going dog, and my boyfriend is out playing soccer. I have the time on a weeknight to make a dish that makes a few hours. You may not. But try it out on a weekend when you have a few hours to spare, and believe me, you won’t regret it. I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself for homemade ravioli.
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This weekend was a full day of football. No, let me correct – a full day of FOOTBALL: all burnt orange, shouting at the screen, calling parents and friends every three minutes, beer, fritos and chili. A giant vat of chili. Chuck roast cooked all morning in beer, spices, onions, garlic, and a few secret ingredients to make it the most delicious, filling, perfect football food. With little corn muffins on the side. I did mention some of those ingredients were secret though, right? I can’t tell you the recipe because… then why would you invite me over to watch football with you?
So instead, you get another perfect fall food. Stuffed Acorn Squash – it’s got apples and spicy sausage and roasty goodness. Enjoy. And consider inviting me over for a football game – the chili is worth it, I promise.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Slice your squash in half and scoop out the seeds. (I’m going to try to roast mine like pumpkin seeds – I’ll let you know how it goes.) Smash and peel 4 cloves of garlic. Put two cloves of garlic in each squash half, and pour a tablespoon of olive oil in each half. Spoon or brush the oil around all visible edges of the squash. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over your squash, and pop both halves in the oven at 400′ for about 40 minutes – until you can poke a fork in your squash with no resistance, and your kitchen smells like roasted garlic. Mmm. Set down your squashes, and let them cool a bit.
Chop up two spicy uncooked sausage links and toss it in a pan with a splash of olive oil. Occasionally poke at it with a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, chop up half an onion or a whole shallot. When your sausage is browned, add the onions. Stir it all up. Now, dice up a Granny Smith apple. Once your shallots are browned, add the apple. Give that another stir and about two more minutes in the pan.
Get a big bowl, and scoop out your squash insides (including the garlic!). Leave yourself a squash rim in the squash bowls, but get lots of your soft garlicky good squash. I just said squash three times in one sentence. Mash your garlic and squash with a fork or potato masher in the bowl.
Ok, your apple is done. Sprinkle in a dash of salt, and some red pepper flakes if you like life spicy. I do. Now scoop out your sausage mixture into the bowl with the squash, and stir until everything is incorporated. Add about a cup of breadcrumbs (I actually use Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix instead of breadcrumbs for everything, and in this, since it IS stuffing, that’s probably a good call. Feel free to use whatever’s in your cabinet.)
Beat an egg in a bowl, and add that over your concoction. Stir it all together, and then here comes the fun part. Stuff your squash halves with your beautiful mixture. Mine made a LOT of stuffing, so it’s very mounded over the top of the squash. Grate a little parmesan cheese over the top, and toss it back in the oven for about 15 minutes.
It’s creamy from the squash, sweet and tart from the apples, spicy from the sausage – if that is not autumn in a (squash) bowl, I don’t know what is.
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Flash Forward and the Office were both new tonight, so I wanted to make a dinner that could be made during commercial breaks. I only missed 3 minutes of the Office when I topped the chicken with cheese. I bet you could time it better.
Easy Chicken Parmesan
So first commercial break I filled up the pot with water and salt and started the heat so it could come to a boil for the pasta. The water can boil until you need it, so it can start off. Then I wrapped a cookie sheet in foil – I was supposed to use a wire rack to make it crispy, but I don’t have one, so I used my grill pan. Preheat the oven to 425.
Then I ran in to the living room, and a white guy saw a flash forward where he turned black!
Ok, I’m going to do the recipe without TV updates now. But you should check out the show. It’s fun, and they have the hobbit from Lost on it now.
Without the TV interruptions, this will go much more smoothly.
Marinate some chicken tenderloins (I used a pound) in 2 tablespoons good mustard and a teaspoon of white wine vinegar. Meanwhile, get out three loaf pans or plates. Put a half cup of flour in one, a beaten egg in one, and breadcrumbs, about 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan, and a shake of salt and pepper in the third. Line them all up and put your covered cookie sheet on the end.
Now start the assembly line. Use one hand for all of the dipping – that keeps your other hand ungunked enough to grab whatever you forgot from the kitchen or to turn down the boiling water, or whatever else you need to do with an ungunked hand. The line goes: chicken dipped in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, then on the pan. Repeat as desired.
When all your chicken is all good to go, pop it in the preheated oven. My chicken strips were all pretty thin, so I cooked mine for 6 minutes. During that 6 minutes, and your preapproved commercial break, throw some tomato sauce in a pot and get it warm. Add your spaghetti to that boiling water so that it will be ready to go when the chicken is done.
Alright, the 6 minute timer beeped. Pull out your chicken, and top each piece with either some mozzarella or a slice of parmesan. Back in the oven we go, this one for 2 to 4 minutes – until you can cut into one chicken piece and the juices only run clear.
We’re done! Drain your spaghetti, stir your sauce, and get out your plates. Spaghetti first, a big spoonful of sauce, two pieces of chicken and a sprinkle of cheese. And you only missed three minutes of Michael Scott.
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Oh, wow. I could have taken pictures of Shrimp Risotto, but instead, I scarfed down an enormous bowl of it in about 10 minutes. So there were no pictures. Because they were eaten.
Instead, let me tell you about Shrimp Risotto. Creamy, delicious, you get to drink wine while you make it, little bits of shrimp in every bite, tastes of wine and cream and cheese and shrimp, did I mention you get to drink wine while you make it? This is superb. You should make it.
Three things you should know in advance:
1) If you don’t know what ‘mise en place’ means, this is the recipe to learn. Mise en place is French, literally meaning “everything in it’s place”. In cooking, it means everything should be chopped, placed in little bowls, and at the ready for when it is needed in the recipe. You’ll be stirring a lot (that’s point number 3), so there won’t be time to chop later. Get it all prepped and mised en placed (that’s totally made up French, by the way) before you start stirring and this will turn out wonderfully.
2) Frozen shrimp are totally fine. That’s what I used.
3) You will be stirring for like 30 minutes. Prepare yourself. Mise en place not only the food, but yourself. Have your book or magazine (quick, buy Gourmet magazine, there’s no more after this month!), pour yourself a glass of wine, and have the bottle within easy reaching distance.
1/2 pound shrimp
3 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1 shallot, minced
1 and 1/4 cup white wine
3 cups broth
Red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice (it has to be Arborio – it’s not really expensive, and I can find it in Lubbock, so you can do it, I promise)
2 tablespoons cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (please, I beg of you, not out of a can)
1 green onion, chopped
Lemon, sliced in wedges
First, heat up a tablespoon of butter in a deep pot on medium low. Toss in a few red pepper flakes – lots if you like it hot, a few if you don’t. Add one of those minced garlic cloves, and stir that around with a wooden spoon until it’s brown. Add your shrimp (no tails!) and if they’re not cooked at all yet (which means you live some place fancy with fresh shrimp), saute them for about two minutes. If they’re frozen, give them less time then that. Now add 1/4 cup white wine. Let the shrimp sizzle around in that for a while. Then drain the shrimp and put them in one bowl and reserve the liquid. (What you reserved is liquid shrimpy gold. We’ll use that soon.) Take a handful of the shrimp out of the keepers and chop them up in little bits, and put them in a separate bowl. This is what will infuse your risotto with shrimpy goodness.
Ok, you’re going to use that same pot for the risotto, but you need another pot for the broth. Pour your 3 cups broth into that pot and heat it on medium. You don’t need it boiling, but you want it warm, so that it just pulls right into the rice. *Note on broth – all I had was chicken stock. However, after making this risotto once, I have all the shrimp tails – so next time, I’ll make seafood broth and use that.
Alright, you’ve got a full glass of wine? You’ve got your magazine handy, or someone entertaining in your kitchen? You think you’re ready to roll? Let’s go. First, put the rest of the olive oil and butter in the pot you used for the shrimp. Keep the stove on medium low, and saute the rest of the garlic and the chopped shallot. (Kitchen smells good already, huh? Just wait.) Let the shallot get translucent, don’t burn the garlic, and now pour in your cup of rice. Toss it around a bit with that same wooden spoon, and let it get all coated in butter. Now, pour in your cup of wine. (If you’re like me, which mean immature and not too far out of college, you make a drinking game out of this. Every new splash the rice gets, you have to take a drink. Don’t feel obligated to do this if you’re way more mature than me.) Now begins the stirring. Just keep stirring. The rice is going to absorb all of that wine and beg for more. When it starts getting dry (it’s always going to look creamy, but dry to me says you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir), add a cup or half a cup of the broth. Then keep stirring. Always stirring. You can only stop to turn the page, kiss whoever grated the cheese for you, make the dog stop barking at you for shrimp, or pour more wine. These are the Priscilla Shrimp Risotto rules. You must obey.
You’re still stirring, I know. It’s been like 20 minutes, and you just poured in the last of the broth. I know, your arm is tired, you finished the magazine, the dog won’t stop, I know. Believe me, it’s worth it. So that last cup of broth is about absorbed. Pour in the cup you reserved from the shrimp and wine goodness. Keep stirring, you’re almost done. Now that’s absorbed. Taste it. The rice should still have a bit of a bite, but be warm and chewy and delicious. If you aren’t there yet, add more broth and start the next chapter. This could take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes depending on your rice. Mine was good to go at 30.
Alright, now you’re ready for the fun part. Take a sip of wine, and stir in the chopped up shrimp. Add your cream, your cheese, some pepper, and taste. Do you need salt? My cheese made mine salty enough, but check yours. Add if you think you need it. Now ladle a cup or two of rice into your bowl (and your friend’s, if you found someone lucky enough to enjoy the fruits of your labor). Top it off with your cooked shrimp (I arranged mine in a pretty circle), your green onions sprinkled over, and a squeeze of lemon around it all. Refill your glass of wine, and eat immediately.
Oh my. Did you eat immediately? Are you currently biting into your shrimpy, wine infused, cheesy rice? Could life be better right now?
No. No it couldn’t.
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I have discussed my obsession with nectarines with you before. I picked up a few more this week, and had 2 left after I spent the week devouring my fruit basket. So I made Nectarine Spice Cake. It’s beautiful, it’s simple, it’s a coffee cake if you want or an after party cake if you’d rather. It’s superb. And it has nectarines.
Nectarine Spice Cake
Adapted from Epicurious
Preheat your oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch cake pan (or Pam it, like I did). The Epicurious recipe called for a Springform pan, but mine is broken, so I just used my perfect for everything silicone cake pan, and it worked just fine. Mix 1/2 cup (1 stick) of room temperature butter in a big bowl until fluffy. Add 3/4 cup sugar (I used half brown and half white – would have been good with all brown, too) and blend. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and blend. Add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and the zest from that lemon. I threw in 1 teaspoon or so of vanilla, too, because what’s a cake without vanilla. Then beat in 1 1/4 cup self rising* flour.
*Self Rising Flour – I have a well stocked kitchen with appliances no one will ever need, whole wheat pastry flour that I used for one recipe, and 4 kinds of sugar. However, I do not have self rising flour. So I made my own – 1 cup self rising flour = 1 cup regular flour, 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Now, take 2 or 3 nectarines, and try to not eat them while you’re doing this. Slice them in half, and then slice the halves into 4 pieces. You want thick pieces of fruit. Now, the original recipe called for me to arrange the nectarines and then sprinkle them with sugar. I poured a few teaspoons of sugar (I used turbinado, because it makes for pretty caramelization, but you can use whatever), some cinnamon, and some ginger powder into a ziploc, put the nectarines in the bag and shook it around a bit.
Then pour the batter into the pan, and place the nectarines in a circle over the batter. Nestle the nectarines in good. You should have plenty of nectarines to make most of the top of the cake fruit.
Bake it for 45 minutes at 350, and you have yourself an awesome little cake.