Thursday, November 24, 2011

Preschoolers Like Indian Pudding!

Happy Thanksgiving! The day for thanks and feasting has arrived. This year I get to enjoy the holiday with my fianc√©, Michael, and his family. Then comes a drive to Missouri for another holiday feast tomorrow. For this foodie, these two days are a celebration of the traditional dishes that tend to show up only on Thanksgiving.  

Earlier this week, the preschoolers at Discovery Montessori School, where I teach part time, had their own holiday feast. Actually, it was more like a tasting. They got to try some of the foods that may have been served at the first Thanksgiving—wild turkey, venison meatloaf, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, popcorn, pumpkin pie, and cranberries (both the berry and Craisins—you should have seen the faces of those brave enough to bite into a raw cranberry!)

My contribution to the feast was Indian Pudding. This dish is a New England tradition. According to the Plimoth Plantation food blog, the recipe first shows up in cookbooks in 1796, but historians believe it was served for many years before.

My recipe comes from my friend, Kathy, in New Hampshire. She would serve it at our neighborhood Thanksgiving feast on Wyman Street in Hillsborough.

My preschoolers loved it! To tempt them to try it, I put a little whipped cream on top. I also had them smell it—the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg aroma was too alluring to pass up. (Kathy likes to serve it warm with vanilla ice cream. I like it that way, too!)

Here’s the recipe. It does take a long time to cook, so for a slow cooker version, check out the Plimoth Plantation’s food blog here.

Kathy’s Baked Indian Pudding

Serves 6 to 8

4 cups milk
5 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a sauce pan, bring 3 cups of the milk to a boil. Mix 1 cup of cold milk with the cornmeal and stir slowly into the hot milk. Cook on low for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Add butter, sugar and molasses. Remove from the heat and add salt and spices. Stir in eggs.

Pour into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours [mine only took 2 hours], stirring occasionally during the first hour. [I stirred it every 15 minutes.] After 1 hour, pour cream over the top and finish baking without stirring. Served warm topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Historic Thanksgiving Dinner

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, most of us are anticipating the roast turkey, family-recipe stuffing, buttery mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, sweet-tart cranberry sauce and cinnamon-spiced pumpkin pie that will adorn our dinner tables. Many of us also assume that these dishes are inspired by what the Pilgrims and Native Americans consumed when they first gathered centuries ago.
We’re wrong.

The first Thanksgiving feast was in 1621, and while there is no exact evidence of the actual date, it is thought to have taken place over the course of three days sometime between late September and early November.

A detailed description of the feast comes from a letter written by Edward Winslow to a friend in December, 1621. From his account, historians only know for certain that venison and fowl, which may have included wild turkey, were served at that first meal. However, they do have a good idea of what foods were available to the colonists at the time. These may have included:

·        Seafood: cod, eel, bass, clams, lobsters, mussels
·        Fowl: wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge, eagles
·        Meat: venison
·        Grains: wheat flour, Indian corn, and barley
·        Vegetables: squashes (including pumpkin), peas, beans, onions, leeks, lettuce, radishes, carrots
·        Fruits: plums, grapes
·        Nuts: walnuts, chestnuts, acorns
·        Other: Olive oil (brought over with them), liverwort, watercress, sorrel, yarrow, maple syrup,  honey, and small amounts of butter, cheese and eggs

Some of our most popular Thanksgiving dishes would have never appeared on the 1621 table. Ham was probably off the menu; the Pilgrims did bring pigs over with them, but historians have found no evidence that any had been butchered.

Sweet potatoes and white potatoes were not a part of the meal since they were not yet common in New England. Also, scratch off cranberry sauce from the list. While the colonists did have cranberries, they didn’t have sugar.

What about that famous Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie? Sorry. While the colonists did eat stewed pumpkin sweetened with syrup or honey, pumpkin pie was not a recipe that existed at the time.

If you would like to add some historic Thanksgiving dishes to this year’s meal, here are a few Colonial-inspired recipes courtesy of the Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts for you to try at home. The Stewed Pompion (the English word for squash), Onion Sauce for Roast Turkey, and Sobaheg (a Wampanoag stew great for leftover turkey) are modern versions of 1600s recipes. Each should bring the spirit of that first Thanksgiving to your own celebration.

Stewed Pompion
4 cups cooked (boiled, steamed or baked) squash, roughly mashed
3 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 or 2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
     
In a saucepan over medium heat, stir and heat all the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve hot.

Onion Sauce for Roast Turkey
6 medium onions, sliced thinly
2 cups of water
2 teaspoons of coarsely ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
 
Follow your favorite recipe for roast turkey. Remove the turkey to a platter reserving the pan juices.
         
Place thinly sliced onions in a pot with water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook until the onions are tender but not mushy. A good deal of the water should have boiled away. Set aside for a moment.
           
Place the roasting pan over medium heat and stir to loosen any brown bits. Stir in the onion sauce, sugar, vinegar and breadcrumbs if desired. Add pepper to taste and adjust seasonings. To serve, pour over sliced turkey or serve alongside in a separate dish.

Sobaheg made with Turkey
1/2 pound dry beans (white, red, brown, or spotted kidney-shaped beans)
1/2 pound yellow samp or coarse grits
1 pound turkey meat (legs or breast, with bone and skin)
3 quarts cold water
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 pound winter squash, trimmed and cubed
1/2 cup raw sunflower seed meats, pounded to a coarse flour
          
Combine dried beans, corn, turkey, and water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, turn down to a very low simmer, and cook for about 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally to be certain that the bottom is not sticking.
         
When dried beans are tender, but not mushy, break up turkey meat, removing skin and bones. Add green beans and squash, and simmer very gently until they are tender.
           
Add sunflower flour, stirring until thoroughly blended.

Please note: All photos are courtsey of the Plimoth Plantation.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Paula Deen’s Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

Paula Deen is this week’s selection on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in the food world that I and a number of fellow food bloggers are paying tribute to by posting a recipe from each on Fridays. I have to be honest—I’m not a fan of her show. I’ve watched it a number of times wanting to like it, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t capture my attention very often.  

However, I do admire Paula Deen the woman. The story of how she overcame a major downturn in her life—the death of her parents, divorce, and near homelessness with her two small sons—as well as battling agoraphobia (a panic disorder that made her afraid to leave her house) to start her first food business making bagged lunches delivered by her sons is inspiring. And now she is a food phenomenon. 

One of the recipes that did catch my eye on her show was for a slow cooker macaroni and cheese. It takes some preparation time, but the results are delicious. In fact, I took it to a gathering of my sweetheart’s family and everyone enjoyed it.

One note: the mac and cheese was very creamy for the first 2 hours of cooking, and then it became more coagulated in the final hour. If you want the recipe creamy, I suggest shortening the cooking time.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe by Paula Deen

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of water until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, mix the butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. In a slow cooker, combine cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well. Then add drained macaroni and stir again. Set the slow cooker on low setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

 
Here are my fellow food bloggers. Be sure to check them out!

Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia -A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living
April - Abby Sweets
Katie -Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Kathleen -Bake Away with Me
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds
Amy - Beloved Green
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Linda - Ciao Chow Linda
Nancy - Picadillo
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Turkey 101

Few things are more intimidating than preparing your first Thanksgiving turkey. Staring down a frozen block of bird can send the inexperienced cook straight to the nearest restaurant. Or perhaps you are an old hand at turkey roasting but your bird doesn’t always come out tasting the way you want. Here are a few helpful tips on preparing this holiday’s main attraction.

(Image from the National Turkey Federation)

Let’s start with the basics. When buying a turkey, choose one that allows for approximately one pound of bird per person. If this means purchasing one 24 pounds or larger, consider buying two smaller birds to cut down on the cooking time. It is also a good idea to check ahead of time to be sure a large bird will fit in your oven. Of course, if leftovers are important (and when are they not) buy a slightly larger bird than needed.

Give a frozen turkey plenty of time to thaw. The best way is to place the bird in the back part of the refrigerator, allowing at least one day of thawing time for every four pounds of turkey. If time is short, a quicker method is to place the still-wrapped bird breast-side down into a sink or large container and cover with cold water. It will take about 30 minute per pound to thaw a whole bird, and you will need to change the water every 30 minutes to keep things cold.

Next, be sure to have all the kitchen tools you need to prepare the turkey:

  • A roasting pan and rack large-enough to hold the bird. Disposable aluminum pans will work fine. Just be sure to set the pan on a cookie sheet to give it added stability. Also, in place of a rack, the bird can go on top of cut-up roasting vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, etc). This will keep the turkey elevated while also flavoring the pan drippings.
  • Kitchen twine for trussing, which allows the bird to cook evenly and keeps it looking nice. Many cookbooks give instructions on trussing, which may seem a bit complicated. All that is really needed is to tie the legs together.
  • An instant-read thermometer to take the guess work out of when the turkey is done.
To prepare the turkey for the oven, cover your work surface with plastic wrap or waxed paper to keep it free from contamination and for easy clean-up. Then rinse the bird inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels to insure the seasoning sticks to the skin.
(My friend, Steve Barns, looks amazed at his turkey efforts years ago.)
Turkey is traditionally roasted at 325 degrees with the oven’s rack placed in the lower third of the oven. Coat the rinsed and dried bird with butter or oil to keep it moist and promote browning. Then sprinkle with salt, pepper and your favorite poultry seasoning. If you are not stuffing the bird, then place a quartered onion, celery and carrots inside the bird before trussing to help flavor the meat.

If you are worried about a dry turkey, cover just the breast with foil to keep the meat moist, and then remove 45 minutes before the turkey is scheduled to be done to allow the breast to brown. Another idea is to rub some softened butter mixed with your favorite herbs under the turkey’s skin. Just be careful not to tear the skin while separating it from the meat.

If you plan to stuff the turkey, it is important to do so just before roasting to prevent any harmful bacteria growth. Do not prepare the stuffing or stuff the bird the night before. Also, be sure the bird is completely thawed and do not tightly pack the stuffing into the turkey.
      
It takes approximately 20 minutes per pound to completely roast a turkey, a little longer if the bird is stuffed. Start checking for doneness 30 to 45 minutes before the scheduled finish time. This is where an instant-read thermometer becomes essential.

(My friend, Aaron Burnham, was getting ready to deep fry this bird years ago.)
   
The turkey is done when the thermometer reaches 170 to 175 degrees in the thigh (away from the bone) and 165 degrees in the breast. Also, the juices should run clear. If the bird is stuffed, the center of the stuffing needs to be 160 degrees. After removing the turkey from the oven, allow it to rest covered with foil for 30 minutes before carving so the juices redistribute back into the meat.

When the meal is over, what about the leftovers? First, be sure to take the meat off the bone and remove any remaining stuffing within two hours of roasting.  Then wrap them separately and refrigerate to use within three days. Leftovers may also be frozen for up to two months. Just wrap the meat and stuffing in foil, place in zippered plastic bags, and freeze. That way you can enjoy a little bit of Thanksgiving whenever you like.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ginger Tea and the Never-ending Virus

Have you ever had a virus that wouldn’t go away? One where you felt so bad for so long that it seemed like you would never get back to feeling normal?

I just spent the last three weeks feeling that way. I teach preschool part-time, so viruses are an occupational hazard. This one made its way through my classroom and home to parents and siblings. I passed it to my sweetheart and on to his son when we paid him a visit. As last week came to an end, I was beginning to believe I would always have a sore, scratchy throat, plus a stuffy nose and a cough to wake me up multiple times through the night.

Thank goodness for ginger tea. My friend and second cousin once removed (or something like that), Mark, told me about this concoction a couple of years ago. If I remember the story correctly, he got the recipe from a Chinese man who said it would help sooth the throat.

I forgot all about the recipe until week three of my cold. When a sales clerk at the local health food store recommended ginger, I remembered the recipe and immediately made up a batch.

It worked wonders—better than any cold medicine I’d tried! I felt better right away and the cold was gone within a couple of days.

Here’s how to make it:

Peal and cut up a couple of good-sized pieces of fresh ginger into cubes—about 1 cup. Place in a pan of water (about 4 to 6 cups, I would guess) and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute and then remove from the heat. Allow the ginger to steep in the water for 5 minutes or so. Strain into your favorite cup and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of honey. Drink up, and save the rest in the refrigerator to heat up when needed.

It’s a cup of Heaven! The warmth from the ginger and the smooth sweetness of the honey cut through the throat scratchiness and lessened my cough. And the drink just gives you a sense of wellness and comfort. Plus, ginger also offers relief to an upset stomach.

If you give it a try, you won’t be sorry! Let me know what you think.
 

P.S. I bought the mug years ago from a craftsman at the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire. It always makes me smile when I'm feeling low.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Amanda Hesser: She Never Said Yes


As an inexperienced and naive food writer, I dreamed of having an article published in The New York Times Magazine. Amanda Hesser was the food editor and, from time to time, I would send her a story idea. She would graciously turn me down. I never made it into the magazine, but all of the other publications that said “yes” to my ideas helped ease the pain.

And now, here I am, writing about her. Amanda Hesser is this week’s selection on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in the food world that I and a number of fellow food bloggers are paying tribute to by posting a recipe from each on Fridays. She is no longer with the NYT magazine. Instead she is one of the founders of Food52, a blog community for food lovers. (Check out the section where you can ask for advice on food-related topic.)

I’ve wanted to make an apple cake all autumn, so I was glad to see this recipe on the Epicurious website. It’s from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, which Hesser authored. She said that icing isn’t necessary, and the cake works well as either dessert or for breakfast. This was one of the most popular reader recipes, and she never discovered the identity of Teddie.

With such healthy ingredients as apples, walnuts, and raisins. I decided to switch out one of the cups of all-purpose flour for whole wheat. The batter looked almost like caramel as I poured it into the pan. The finished cake is very moist—in fact, it was a bit too oily for my taste—and very sweet. A little too sweet for breakfast, so I would save this cake for dessert. And even though the toothpick came out clean when I tested the cake, next time I would let it bake a few minutes longer. However, it was delicious!

Teddie’s Apple Cake
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

3 cups all-purpose flour [2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour]
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups peanut, vegetable, or corn oil [I used canola oil]
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups peeled, cored, and thickly sliced apples [I used golden delicious]
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. [I used non-stick spray instead.] sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.

Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer with a paddle (or in a bowl with a hand mixer) for 5 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy. Stir in the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla, apples, walnuts, and raisins and stir until combined. [I stirred in the apples, walnuts, and raisins by hand.]

Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out.

Here are my fellow food bloggers. Be sure to check them out!

Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia -A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living
April - Abby Sweets
Katie -Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Kathleen -Bake Away with Me
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds
Amy - Beloved Green
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Linda - Ciao Chow Linda
Nancy - Picadillo
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits