Cranberry Sauce: 2 Varieties

It’s not uncommon in my family to find yourself with five pounds of cranberries in the fridge and only half the ingredients for your favorite cranberry sauce or cranberry muffin recipes. However, that didn’t stop me! I created two varieties of delicious, delicious cranberry sauce:

CranApple Cider Sauce & Citrus Spice Cranberry Sauce

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Fresh Basil Dinner Rolls

A friend gave me a bunch of fresh basil and mint the other day, and I figured what better way to use it than to make fresh dinner rolls for company? I called some people to come to dinner and then spent all afternoon in the kitchen, throwing things into bowls and hoping for the best. This time, I definitely got what I was hoping for!

You will need:
2T yeast
2 c warm water
3T fresh basil or 1 T dried basil
2 T olive oil
¼ c melted butter
1 T sugar
2 ¾ c white flour
2 c wheat flour
1 t salt

Oh, whoops. Pretend the salt in this picture, too.

Mix yeast into 1 c warm water and set aside for approx. 5 minutes.

Frothy!

Chop fresh basil.

Helpful hint: it takes longer to chop the basil if you insist on eating some of it as you go.

Mix flours, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

I prefer to do my bread in glass bowls. Seems like it comes out better. I don't know if that's all in my head, though.

Add basil, olive oil, butter, and yeast mixture; mix. Add additional water as necessary; I ended up using about 2 cups total.

My dough is always a little wet at this stage, because I'm bad at mixing. It's easier for me to knead in the last of the flour. Also, more fun.

Turn out dough and knead until it feels good. Put in a clean bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise undisturbed for 30 minutes.

See? Much smoother and more dough-like now.

Form into balls and let rise, covered, for 15 minutes.

Try not to eat them yet. I know it's hard.

Bake at 425 °F for 10-12 minutes.

Be prepared to defend these from your dinner guests until you actually put them on the table. I lost 3 rolls before dinner. (Uh, one of those was to me, though.)

Enjoy! Good alone, with butter, or with that excellent Wensleydale cheese that has cranberries in it.

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Rolling-Around Sandwich Rolls

Today, I got it in my head that I needed to make some sandwich rolls rather than pulling a loaf of store-bought bread out of the freezer. I knew that I had whole wheat flour, a home-made multigrain flour mix, and yeast, and I made some faulty assumptions about what else I might find in the kitchen. However, I decided to forge ahead anyway! I poked through the kitchen, pulled out some things that were rolling around in cabinets, and make a set of rather slap-dash rolls.

Ingredients I used:
1 1/4 c water (divided)
1 Tbsp sour cream
1 package active dry yeast
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp sea salt
3 c home-made multigrain flour blend
1 c whole wheat flour
1 arbitrary-sized squeeze of orange blossom honey
Olive oil for greasing

ingredients

Water not pictured. I imagine you know what it looks like, though.

Mix 1/2 c water with sour cream in a small bowl and let come to room temperature. In a second small bowl, gently stir yeast into 1/4 c warm water and let sit for five minutes. In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt, and the remainder of the water. Add the sour cream mixture and yeast mixture and stir.

Slowly add flour, starting with multigrain blend, until the consistency makes it too difficult to mix with a spoon. At some point, decide that honey would be fantastic in this, and run upstairs to get it off your desk. My arbitrary-sized squeeze was mostly based on the smell of the dough, which seems to work out for me most of the time.

dough in bowl

I like a wooden spoon and a glass bowl best when making bread.

Flour a work surface, turn out the dough, and knead more flour into it. Ideally, you’re using the whole wheat flour at this point; the multigrain is more difficult to work in, which is why I started with it in the bowl. When your bread is of a lovely consistency (smooth and not terribly sticky), wash your hands and, if you’re like me and don’t have a terrible lot of bowls, the bowl your dough was just in.

dough after kneading

I'm always tempted to start eating at this stage.

Use a paper towel or something to lightly grease the edges of your clean (and dry!) bowl, then set the dough in. Most recipes will tell you at this point to sort of roll the dough about in the bowl to be sure it gets greased on all sides, but I have never noticed a difference in end result if I forgot to do that. (Forgetting to grease the entire bowl, however….)

kneaded dough in bowl

Drape a clean towel over the top of the bowl and let it sit somewhere to rise for about an hour.

dough in towel-covered bowl

It's always fun when it rises enough to lift the towel off the bowl.

If you’re like me, you require most of this hour for cleaning up your mess so far, changing your floury clothes, and making “hurry up and be done so I can eat you” faces at the dough. If you’re significantly neater in the kitchen than me, perhaps you can use this hour to clean up your mess AND watch an episode of the tv show of your choice! Either way, the most fun part comes right after this hour is up – punch down the dough.

punching down the dough

I am a champion dough boxer: fact.

Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like. Ram that fist into the dough. Hear the satisfying release of gases. Smell the delicious, um, smells. And then decide if you like little air bubbles in your end-result bread or not. If not, turn your dough out onto a floured surface again – maybe you shouldn’t have cleaned up quite so studiously – and knead it for a few minutes. Divide your dough into sandwich roll size, whatever that may be for you. Keep in mind they will probably get a little bigger before you eat them.

rolls

They look disturbingly like hamburger patties at this point.

Grease a baking sheet, toss down some cornmeal if that’s your thing, and slap those rolls on there. If you’re into fun shapes, slice the top in an X pattern with a clean scalpel sort of thing. If not, don’t. Cover the rolls with that same clean towel and let them sit for another 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to something like 375 °F at some point along here, depending on how quickly you move and how quickly your oven preheats. I always find my oven is ready long before me, but maybe you’re significantly better at estimating time than I am.

rolls on baking tray

And then I decided pumpkin seeds on some of them would be a delicious plan.

Whenever your times come together, stick the rolls in the oven and wait for them to be done. Depending on what exactly you put in yours and how accurate your oven temperature is and if you started your timer a few minutes late, it should take them around 40 minutes to be ready. You’ll know they’re done by color changes (though that’s dependent on your flours; mine didn’t change terribly because I used a lot of darker-colored flours to start with), overall look, smell, and perhaps a sixth sense some people call Bake Too Much. There’s also the tap-the-bottom method – if it sounds sort of hollowish and not wet, it’s done.

baked rolls

And now they look like cookies. I can't win here.

Cool them on a rack or a towel or whatever. Or just eat them right now and burn your mouth. The choice is yours!

I should say that I have made more delicious breads, but always in a sensibly-stocked kitchen and/or with a trip to the grocery store before baking commenced. For just diving in cabinets and shoving almost random ingredients together, I would have to say these are a great success! Besides, home-baked bread. You have no idea how much I am looking forward to my sandwich lunch tomorrow.

I would make these again for sure, but I would use slightly fresher yeast; my bread did not rise as much as it really should have. I would probably also use less wheat and more white flour than just however much was in the multigrain blend (not a whole lot). Less dense bread would be a good thing. Still! Delicious! (And probably more honey, for I am a honey fiend.) If you decide to mess around with the recipe, let me know what you do and how it turns out – good or bad!

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Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Happy Nearly-American-Thanksgiving, you guys! Here is what I like most about thanksgiving dinners: mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and my nephew. I have faith that you all know how to mash potatoes, and I can’t give you my nephew, so I’m left with sharing a cranberry sauce recipe. I don’t know where we got it? My sister made it a few years ago and then allowed us all to fall madly in love with it. She’s doing some other sauces this year (about which I am quite excited), but tonight, my mother and I made a big pot of this. Some sort of Thanksgiving dinner at her church tomorrow afternoon, and then I am taking a bunch home with me after that. (Or we could forget to take it to the dinner and I could take it all home with me. I would be okay with that, too.)

Things to toss into a saucepan:
1 lb fresh cranberries (picked over & rinsed)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
finely grated zest of 1 orange
juice of zested orange
2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger

I may or may not have also zested my thumb a couple thumb.

Most tedious parts of this recipe are the oranges and the ginger. The oranges I gave up on halfway through and passed off to my mother when she finished making … some sort of rhubarb bread which is delicious and in my mouth as I type this. The ginger was made totally okay by the addition of some White Collar on the netflix machine (also known as “my laptop on the dining room table”).

All hail my mother's gas stove. I would like to take it home with me, but I don't think that would be easy. Or practical.

But then you get to throw everything in the pan and cook it. I took White Collar with me to the stove, and I watched Neal Caffrey not-assassinate someone while waiting for the berries to pop. And I’m a compulsive stirrer when my hands aren’t otherwise occupied. You should stir this occassionally; I stir constantly.

Homemade is always more delicious.

Let it cool, then chuck it in the fridge. It’ll keep for up to 2 months and/or freeze well. If you have trouble eating it all in those two months, feel free to send half of it to me.

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Adventures in CrockPottery: Thing the First (plus bonus dessert)

O hai food blog! I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise. There were just a couple weeks of Ramen and spaghetti is all. But I’m back again. All is well.

I know I’ve mentioned that my idea of a good plan with a crock pot is not to have a plan at all. This can apply to more than just chili! Though what I made is arguably quite chili-like. Even less work, though.

I had some dry kidney beans for some reason, and I kept forgetting to do anything with them, so I soaked them and tossed them in the crock pot. Then I went hunting for other things to add. Lo and behold, I had 2 chicken breasts in the freezer! I also had most of a jar of salsa in the fridge and no chips, so I dumped that in, too.

Not just any salsa, mind you. Fancy salsa. From the fancy WalMart boutique.

And then I left the cooker on low overnight and woke up to the most delicious-smelling house ever. Our story does not end there, though! Because the beans weren’t cooked beforehand and the chicken was still sort of frozen when I put it in (hey, at least my laziness is equal for all parts of the meal), it wasn’t cooked. So I left it on all day. Come lunch time, the chicken was ready.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I refuse to believe there is any other kind.

But wait, I don’t like big hunks of chicken. I get bored with cutting them, or I freak out about completely irrational things. (Meat, you guys. Meat is hard for me to handle sometimes. I have to mix it in and disguise it. I don’t even know. I’m ridiculous. It’s true.) So I made the meat smaller. In the most fun way ever.

Forking!

Then I mixed in the shredded chicken. Then I stared with vague disappointment at the ratio of chicken to not-chicken.

Seriously? This is chicken-with-a-couple-beans, not a deliciously balanced meal.

Too much meat! Irrational freakouts ahead! Nooooo! Quick, dig in the cabinets for something else to add in! I discarded the idea of a can of corn on the basis of not having any corn in the cabinets, but I still think that would have been pretty good. Instead, I found a can of pinto beans and a can of kidney beans, probably left over from the chili adventure (which nearly overflowed my crock pot, I’ll have you know). So I tossed those in and gave it a good stir.

Much better.

Served over a bed of white rice with a side of green beans. This picture is my roommate’s lunch for tomorrow, hence the addition of dessert in the handy-dandy third compartment. (Best. Tupperware. Purchase. Ever.)

I don't think I'll ever get over my love for sectioned tupperware.

The apples were the easiest lazy dessert in the world, and we have still a ton of apples in our fridge from a slightly over-zealous apple picking a while back. I grabbed one of the largest ones, peeled and sliced it, and dropped the slices in a bowl with some sugar and cinnamon. Tossed the bowl in the microwave for probably 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Faaaaaantastic. (Also, lazy. Also, pretending to be healthy.)

(I am in fact so in love with sectioned tupperware that I made my own lunch in one for tomorrow, despite the fact that I will be eating said lunch at home. Please enjoy my unusual kitchen habits.)

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Shepherd’s Pie

This is one of those dishes that I grew up eating. There are lots of variations on the actual dish (by which I think mostly the name changes depending on the meat you put in it; I suppose true shepherd’s pie involves eating sheep), and there are lots of variations in preparation in my family. My mother is the most extravagant when we go to visit her, my sister likes the lazy version for busy nights, and when I am showing off and not being lazy with her, I run a nice middle ground. This is my middle ground version:

Brown some sort of ground meat. Whatever you like. I often use venison, but this is turkey.

ground turkey browning in a pan

At the same time, cook up some potatoes for mashing.

potatoes boiling in a pot

mmm, look at all that starch

Also, grab a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and cook those, too. Mix the vegetables and the meat in an ovenproof dish. I actually saved out some of the meat to use in spaghetti sauce the next day.

mixed vegetables and ground meat in a bowl

I love how colourful this meal is.

Mash your potatoes. You don’t want to add a whole lot of milk or sour cream or whatever you like to use, but some butter is always nice.

potatoes being mashed

I try not to mash them in the pot itself, but it's just so convenient. At least I'm gentle?

Spread your mashed potatoes over the top of the vegetable-meat mixture. If you like to be fancy, make pretty patterns with a fork.

shepherd's pie in a bowl

Apple fork! We have fun silverware.

Sprinkle paprika over the top.

shepherd's pie in a bowl with paprika on top

It ends up being more for looks than flavor, I think.

Bake it at 350° for 20 minutes.

shepherd's pie with a serving dished out so you can see the meat & vegetables under the potatoes

OM NOM NOM.

Variations! I’m sure you’re curious. The lazy version is nice and quick. Brown the meat, cook the veggies, use instant potatoes, and skip the baking step. If you spoon it into your bowl hot, it’s basically just as good. The extravagant version, I’m not even sure. The recipe I have written down for it is … oddly incomplete:

1 lb ground meat
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
4 oz mushrooms
2 T tomato purée
1 t Worchestershire sauce
10 oz beef stock
salt & pepper
(mixed veg)

But it’s so customizable. Throw in whatever you have or whatever you like and go with it. And don’t burn your tongue like I do. (What can I say, I’m impatient when I’m hungry.)

someone holding a bowl of shepherd's pie fresh from the oven

All shall glory at my mismatched oven mitts! This bowl is my dinner portion. I hope you already got all you wanted.

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Hearthside Sandwich Loaf

I’m not really a fan of recipes, as a general rule. I like vague guidelines and wiggle room and the space to just make stuff up based on what I have and what I feel like. This is one of the few foods I use a recipe for every time, though.

Ingredients:
1 loaf of bread, 1 lb 2 oz, unsliced
½ c butter, softened
½ c minced onion
3T dry mustard
1T poppy seeds
2T lemon juice
a few drops of Tabasco sauce
12 slices of Swiss cheese

Slice the bread into 7 pieces, but don’t go all the way through the bottom; leave them attached.

a loaf of bread sliced into 7 pieces without cutting all the way through

I bought a giant loaf of clearance sourdough bread, so I cut it in half. The other half is in the freezer for the next time I'm craving.

In a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients except the cheese. I skipped out on the onion this time around, and I definitely got a little overzealous with the Tabasco sauce. Whoopsie. Oh well! At least I am well hydrated now.

a bowl with a yellowish mixture and a whisk

Whisking things tends to work better for me. And yes, that whisk belongs on a mixer. The pair are the only whisks we have.

Reserving 3T, spread the butter mixture on the cut surfaces of the bread. Place 2 slices of Swiss cheese in each cut.

a loaf of bread with slices of Swiss cheese sticking out

Some people are better at tucking the cheese in than others.

Spread the rest of the butter mixture on the top and sides of the loaf. If you aren’t getting totally messy, you’re doing it wrong. Or possibly you are magical. I suppose both could be true!

a loaf of bread with slices of Swiss cheese sticking out, covered in a yellowish mixture

This doesn't really look very attractive..

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes to melt the cheese all the way through.

a baked Hearthside Sandwich Loaf

Okay, yes, there's a slice missing. I was too hungry to wait even long enough to take a picture.

It is delicious with slices of bacon on it, or with it, or without it. (I am not sure if I just advocated baconless loaf or loafless bacon. Either one is delicious, really.)

Definitely put in too much Tabasco. I recommend 2-3 drops, not 5-6. Strongly recommend.

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Orange Awesome

This recipe was modified slightly from one found on The Rhubarb Compendium. It’s sort of complicated, and it took a while, but it was fairly low-maintenance; I was able to wash dishes and work on a crocheted scarf while it was cooking.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup orange lentils (uncooked)
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
oil
1 1/2 cup rhubarb, diced
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated
1 teaspoon chili powder

Put lentils in a deep pot full of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and add sweet potato slices. Simmer until soft (about 40 minutes).

Orange lentils and sweet potatoes simmering in a pot

The thinner your sweet potato slices, the faster this part goes.

Remove from heat, drain, and mash with a fork. Preheat oven to 400 °F.

Mashed sweet potatoes and lentils in a casserole dish

So much steam!

Heat oil in a skillet. Cook rhubarb until tender.

Rhubarb cooking in oil

I used frozen rhubarb; it worked out pretty well.

Stir in sugar and seasonings. Mix with lentils and potatoes in an oven-proof dish.

Orange awesome in a casserole dish, ready to go into the oven

You would not believe how delicious this smells. Even before it goes in the oven!

Bake 15 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

a bowl of brown rice with orange awesome on top

My brown rice looks awfully white in this picture.

It’s an odd combination of flavors, but it’s so fantastic. Just writing this post has made me want another bowl – so off I go!

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Crackpot Chili

My chili has often been called “Crackpot Chili”, as I have a fantastic habit of getting a little overexcited in the kitchen. I have been informed in no uncertain terms that it ceases to be chili the very moment I add potatoes to the pot, but that’s okay – most of the time, I’m eating the chili over baked potatoes. I have also been informed that what I make is vegetarian chili that sometimes has meat added to it. Now, maybe it’s just me, but once it has meat in it, I don’t consider a recipe to be vegetarian. Clearly this is my failing, though – all dishes with vegetables are obviously vegetarian.

There’s never a solid recipe to my chili. It’s very much dependent on what I find in my kitchen and how I feel that particular day. Here’s what I made on Friday:

1 lb. ground turkey (browned with garlic pepper)
2 cans dark red kidney beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 can navy beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can corn
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3/4 green pepper (we had to have some in our salads earlier in the week; it would have otherwise been a whole pepper)
Spices: salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika
Fresh herbs: oregano, thyme, cilantro, garlic

a colorful bowl of chili with a sprig of cilantro on top

Forgive our beginner-food-bloggers pictures for a bit. We're working on it.

My crock pot was as full as it could possibly be. Stirring this was difficult. I’m not sure if getting a larger slow cooker would help; I’d probably just make even more chili at one time. It cooked on high for just under two hours, then switched down to low for a couple more.

I like to bake up a potato (or two), drown it in chili, and add more fresh ground black pepper on top. I’m a bit of a pepper fiend, but alas, my housemate and blogging cohort is less so. (I would not be surprised to find her adding more salt to her bowl of chili.) It’s particularly spectacular with a thick layer of cheddar cheese between the potato and the chili (for maximum melting power).

In the past, I’ve included such things as okra, more varieties of squash & peppers, fresh tomato (instead of the tomato sauce but still in addition to the tomato paste), potato chunks, and cabbage. (Okay, the cabbage was a little misguided, but it was an attempt to have coleslaw and chili on the baked potato without actually making coleslaw. It did not quite work as hoped. It’s not a kitchen adventure unless you fail every now and then.) No matter what I do, even counting the cabbage fiasco, I’ve never been utterly disappointed in my chili. It’s always good enough to devour like a starving badger!

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