Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

There's turkey, I roast it with bacon on it partly for flavor and partly because my mother did and we'd snack on it as the turkey cooked. Cooks treat. There's sage and onion dressing, mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole ala Ivy, roast carrots with tarragon and brown sugar, brussel sprouts with bacon, steamed green beans, the best gravy I ever made.

There's homemade bread to have with dinner or to cut into thick slices to hold more turkey sandwiches.

Lemon cheesecake, pumpkin spice streusel muffins or gingerbread for dessert.

I cook because I love it. I have people I love around me. They will devour a feast it took 2 days to make in 15 minutes, grunt, lay down and sleep without saying a word about the quality or quantity. No ooohs, ahh's, accolades or thanks but they love me and I love them and isn't that what it's really all about.

Happy Thanksgiving.

/cook because you love it

Pumpkin spice streusel muffins

Sometimes the name says it all. I found a shortcut recipe for pumpkin muffins online somewhere a while back and thought it sounded too interesting not to try. I'm always up for a culinary adventure including something prepared or packaged to turn it into something much more than it was ever meant to be. However, true to form, I am genetically incapable of following a recipe so mid-mix, I changed it up and I'm glad I did.

Make these. You'll be happy.

In an enormous bowl, combine:

1 box spice cake mix (really, Duncan Hines rocks here)
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pie filling!)
1/2 cup of water
1 egg

*the original "recipe" doesn't include an egg. I thought these needed the additional lightness and the egg supplies that beautifully. I also sometimes sprinkle a light dusting of cinnamon on the dry mix, not always, but I'm trying to keep it real and confess to the little somethings I do to recipes to make them a little more than they were.

Fill 12 papered and greased (trust me here) muffin tin.

You can bake them off like this, if you're dull, boring and pedantic when really all they need to take you to outer space is a streusel topping!


1 stick butter (or a stick of margarine will work here actually)
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar

Combine until it's crumbly and yummy, lightly pack it high on the muffins and press down slightly to be sure it's stuck into the batter. There is more topping than you need here so you can pop any leftover into a ziploc and toss it in the freezer for next time you need a streusel 'hit'.

Bake at 375 until a knife comes clean, mine too 25 minutes today.

Trust me, always have the cake mix and pumpkin on hand, a $1.64 investment will give you substantially more joy every time you make them!!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

When biscuits aren't rich enough, add gravy!

I'm always looking for things that my husband likes to eat. I'm sort of a girl that way. He is usually indifferent to food and I will never understand the "I eat to stay alive" mantra. I, on the other hand, stay alive merely to cook and eat. I haven't decided if he shrugs and says, "that's ok" to whatever I place before him to drive me crazy or whether he legitimately couldn't be bothered. Either way will drive a foodie directly around the bend. I'm on a mission to get a new reaction and today I have a plan.

Since he's an original Texan, it occurred to me, biscuits and gravy. Oh ya, stodge on stodge. Thick, creamy, rich, peppery sausage gravy smothering enormous, light fluffy biscuits seems one hell of a way to start a day (I must digress here, the fact they call it "gravy" drives me mad, it's a cream sauce but hey, if these southerners need it to be "gravy" and it floats their boat, who am I to nit pick. Have at it, Texans.) I will admit I do make killer biscuits and pretty darned good bechamel sauce, so this seems like rather a breeze breakfast feast to whip up on a Sunday morning.

I'm up before everyone else and am well into it, let us begin:

1/2 chub (hehehe I said chub, yeah, I live with an 11 yr old boy, I'm infected!) of whatever sausage you like, I have HEB Pork and Sage
1 heaping tablespoon flour
enough milk to cover or to take to consistency you like, maybe 2 cups for those who need a starting point
salt, pepper and a scrape of nutmeg

Brown the sausage in a drizzle of bacon fat if you have it, none if you don't.

Brown it well, this matters, you'll get crispy bits and the flavor is truly enhanced by a few extra moments here.

When it's brown, sprinkle with flour and cook it out until the sausage is dry and there's flavor stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan. It's called "fond" but no one knows that and it sounds chefy and I'm not chefy.

When it's all dry and you can see there's stuff stuck, pour in your milk, it'll bubble up like mad, stir stir stir. It will not be lumpy, scrape up the bits and bring the whole thing to a boil.

When it boils, that's the thickest it'll get so be sure it'll coat the back of a wooden spoon. Salt and pepper to taste then add a little more freshly cracked black pepper. I also scrape in a little nutmeg because nutmeg and cream based sauces are best best friends. If you want it thinner, add a little milk but the point here is thick, rich and sausagy delicious!


Here it is, finished. I just have to make some biscuits and pour it over. We'll see if my native Texan husband approves of his British wife's offerings!

These are the biscuits I'm making to go with these:

They're the lightest and come up the biggest and if you're covering something with sausage gravy, it'd better be light and gigantic.

I'll update when it's served up and give the quoted response!

Well, well, both son and husband seemed delighted, it was all eaten and I had a "that was good" whispered. Praise indeed?

I'm sure it'll be put into weekend winter breakfast rotation :) Even money says husband spends the rest of the morning snoozing it off while child and I hit the nature center and hike.


"extremely tasty" oh ya!


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fast food breakfast, it's my version of the breakfast sandwich

I felt like a sausage mcmuffin but really, there's no redeeming qualities at McD's to get me dressed on a Saturday morning when there's (finally) no soccer. I don't begrudge my beloved his enjoyment and fulfillment being part of a soccer team it's just that, well, unlike many parents, it's just for fun for us (hardly the end all/be all of many in the soccer world) We legitimately don't care if they win so long as they had fun. That being said, the season is over for now *yay*.

We are heading to kiddo's elementary school's carnival so he can revisit some of his teachers and younger friends. It's a beautiful day so I hope to find a quiet spot under a tree where my Nook and I can spend quality time, with a funnel cake of course.

Back to breakfast; necessity meet the mother of invention.

Problem one is solved, I know how to cook, bonus. Problem two is ingredients and luckily I have everything I need. As I see it, a few simple steps will result in gastronomic joy as well as excess. That just can't be bad and yes, it kind of only takes this to make me happy.

1. Make biscuits (easy)

2c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

rub in 1 stick of margarine (!) it makes it better, who knew

Combine 3/4 cup milk and 1 xl egg, stir into the dry until it's thick and stodgy, turn onto floured board, flip a couple of times, cut into 5 large biscuits, place on cast iron pan, cook at 425 for 15 minutes or until beautiful, remove to rack and cool enough to slice open.

2. Luckily, I'd bought a pack of frozen sausage on sale to try so I tossed them into a pan and cooked them.

3. Move sausages to foil to keep warm, fry 2 small fresh eggs from friends chicken - these are green/blue which is disturbing until you crack them into the sausage fat and the enormous bright orange yolk smiles happily back at you. Fry over easy so there's some firm yolk but some soft and runny.

4. Slice white English cheddar (or whatever you have) thin and grate some for the top of the egg.

5. Assemble. Slice biscuit, place some thin slices of cheese on bottom, place hot sausage patty on top, then place two small fried eggs on top, sprinkle the grated cheese over and place the 'lid' slightly to the side.

6. Child is still sleeping (thankfully) so he'll get his later...Serve this beautiful creation to waiting husband and cross fingers it's a hit. *I'm still waiting for a verdict.

Make these, you'll be a star and I honestly think I had 5 on the table faster than if we'd have dashed out to McD's or any other fast food joint to buy a paper bag full.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

White bean ragu, the perfect side

Ok, so I love roast chicken. I would eat roast chicken, in some incarnation, on a daily basis, given the opportunity. The weather is finally starting to cool down in Austin and as a result, my culinary fires begin to burn bright. I want to cook hearty, rib sticking, hearty food.

One of my issues with my desire to perpetually indulge in roast chicken is the sides. I will happily eat my roast chicken without a side but really, who on earth wants to do that?

Sure, mashed potatoes are the foods of the gods particularly when drowned in a rich chicken gravy. Sometimes, though, you need to shake up the menu. Enter my delicious white bean ragu. This is just as happy as a side as a main course. I ate an enormous serving of a version of this when I was in Brighton, England, a million years ago and it's never left me.

I roasted a couple of chickens - NEVER just roast one! and needed a little something to go with/under it. This is also as ridiculously cheap as it gets, the beans were on sale last week at 2/$1.00! so with the addition of one piece of each vegetable that everyone already has in the fridge, the cost is maybe $1.50? It makes 6 servings as a side and way more servings if you add more broth and eat it as a soup! Do the math on this and rejoice!


2 cans white beans
1 carrot
1 stick celery
1 small leek (because I had one and I love them; don't not make this for lack of a leek)
1 onion
2 pieces of bacon
water or chicken broth
chopped parsley (I buy 2 bunches of fresh parsley a week at .50 and keep them in a vase in my kitchen, partially to use daily and partially to fulfill my desire for greenery that I ultimately kill off, these only have to last a week and I can eat them! a win win!)
salt, pepper, thyme

Chop all the vegetables and leave them aside for a moment. Chop the bacon into small pieces and fry until almost crisp in a large saucepan. Toss the vegetables in and fry them around for a bit. We don't want color here, just soften them and release their flavor.

When the vegetables are softened, some pepper and some thyme and toss around. Add the two cans of white beans, drained, and enough water or chicken broth to cover by a couple of inches. Leave to simmer for an hour. Stir it occasionally, careful not to mash up the beans. Salt at the end if needed. Add the chopped parsley at the end as well so it's green and yummy looking.

It should be thick enough to not run all over the plate but thin enough to be smooth and velvety. This is a crazy dish that, as I said, can be thinned to be a soup, cooked down to be an even thicker side or you can puree into a soup as well, it if you're into that sort of thing.

This really is quite delicious, I serve it in big bowls with shredded roast chicken on top and a drizzle of the liquid from the roasting pan. Welcome to fall, you're going to love this!