Friday, November 30, 2012

Swiss on Rye

In my family we have our favorites....we like to try new things but when it comes down to it on birthdays or special occasions we usually stick with what we know we love!  This is one of those old recipes that truly shows our German roots much like another one of our favorites, triscuits and onions.  

I never thought about it much growing up but my maternal grandmother always used mustard instead of mayonnaise and ALWAYS used rye bread instead of white or wheat.  

It wasn't really anything I ever questioned, it was just the way it was.  The same can be said for the Hershey kisses and original Lays potato chips my paternal grandparents always had in their is just how it was!

This is one of the recipes that my grandmother would just throw together as we were all standing in the kitchen chatting, like it was just something that was second nature to her, almost like no one noticed she was even doing it until they came, crispy and bubbly, out of the oven. 

Simple, yes, but that doesn't take anything away from the deliciousness that is our "Swiss on Rye's".

Swiss on Rye
Seedless Rye Bread
Sliced Swiss Cheese
butter (you can use margarine if you choose but I prefer butter)
Spicy mustard

Lay the slices of bread on a baking sheet and spread with a layer of butter and a layer of mustard.  Cut the pieces of bread into 6 or 8 equal parts.  
Place a small piece of swiss cheese on top of each piece of bread.  Broil until the cheese is gold and bubbly.  Be sure not to burn them!
Serve right out of the oven!
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spiced Whiskey Cider

Well it is that time of year again!

Family and friends come together to celebrate the holidays and in the midst of loving, laughing, and being thankful for one another we are all doing one very important thing.....looking for the bar!

Well look no further than this delicious, and festive, wintertime cocktail!  

Maggie recently came across this recipe and we thought we would try it for the Pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving...strictly for experimentation purposes of course!

We dumped all the ingredients in a crockpot, except for the whiskey which we added just before serving as we wouldn't want the alcohol to cook out or anything, and let this delicious concoction simmer for a while.  

When we add the whiskey, poured them in our mugs and started sipping we soon realized that they were dangerously delectable and incredibly potent. 

I realized I was in trouble when someone asked how many I had consumed and I confidently stated that I had only had one.  Well in fact I had only filled my glass in its entirety once....however, since it is so much better hot, I kept adding a ladle full here and a ladle full there, just to warm it up of course.....well after that who knows what my count was, but I was warm and cozy on the inside so who really cared!

Honeycrisp & Bourbon Spiced Cider

6 cups honeycrisp cider (or any apple cider of your choice)
peel of 1 lemon (removing all the pith)
10 whole cloves
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)
2 cups bourbon
2 honeycrisp apples (or sweet apples of your choice), thinly sliced crosswise (about
1/4 inch)

Place cider, lemon peel, cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, ginger, and sugar into a medium pot and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes, cover, remove from heat, and steep for 1 hour. Place mixture over stove again and heat through until warmed.
Strain mixture and stir in bourbon.
To serve: Using a 1 ½ -2 inch circle cutter, cut star centers out from the thin slices of apple and remove any remaining seeds. Pour cider into individual mugs and top with “stary” apple cut outs and serve.
In our family you can have whiskey any way you like it!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Matt's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I recently heard from a senior in high school state while giving a speech at our annual Thanksgiving assembly that she is thankful to constantly find magic in the mundane.  She urged everyone to take a chance to look at those moments in their every day lives when some thing truly special happens.  Whether it is hearing your favorite song on the radio, a beautiful fall day or a hug from a friend, find the magic in the mundane.

Where I find that magic is in my friendships.  My friends are magic for me.  They can make any day special, they can bring a smile to my face no matter what kind of mood I find myself, and they are the heart of my heart and the center of my world.

What is truly amazing to me is that I am so blessed to have not only friends I have known and loved for over 25 years, but I also have dear friends who mean so much to me and bring so much to my life and I have only known them for a short while.  

I guess this is what she meant by finding magic in the mundane.  Not that friendships are mundane but so often we take those friendships for granted and during this holiday season I want to relish every moment with all the people I love.  Friends old and new alike are dear to my heart and I am grateful!

One such new friend, my dear Matt, recently made these chocolate chip cookies and I must say I can be a bit of a chocolate chip cookie snob but these knocked my socks off!

Perfectly cooked so the bottom didn't even have a crispy rump and so deliciously gooey that they were as close to my favorite Christie Cookie as I have ever had!  I was in heaven!  They truly epic in ever sense of the word.

Matt's Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups plus 4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup Crisco
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon water
Chocolate chips

Soft together the flour, salt and baking soda.  
Add remaining ingredients. this point you may need to use your hands....get aggressive to make sure all the crisco is incorporated.  
Roll into golfball size balls and place several inches apart.

Bake at 375 for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and dip fingers in a bowl of water and press lightly on each cookie to flatten slightly.  
Eat and enjoy!!!

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Nicoll's Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving have typically been covered in tiny marshmallows and always the subject of the "crap, did I burn them" moment in the kitchen at that crucial time when the marshmallows are to be melted and browned but certainly not crispy (aka burnt).

They have not always been the star of my Thanksgiving plate, not even really in the bull pin of the spotlight for me, but for whatever reason, one clearly beyond my realm of knowledge, they are a must have each and every year!

This year, since no one jumped at the gun to make them I thought I would change it up a bit and make the sweet potatoes my best friend, Nicoll, had previously made for our Pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner.  They were delicious!!! So much so that when we were dividing up the leftovers I grabbed as many bags as I could to put in my freezer so I could pull them out later in the winter for a delicious dinner.

I thought surely no one would notice or care, after all it didn't seem like I had heard anyone discuss them as their "favorite" menu item in the past.  Nothing close to the gravy or even how passionately my uncle loves the jellied cranberry sauce that coves out of the can.

I thought I was safe with this small menu change.

I was sadly and sorely mistaken.  As I sat down to dinner my cousin sat next to me and with a perplexed look on his face he started scooting his food around like he was looking for something.  He suddenly looked up at me and asked "Where are the marshmallows".  This is not a 6 year old we are talking about here, this is my 26 year old cousin, but everyone has their thing and evidently the marshmallows were his.

A few moments later his brother sat down on the other side of me and asked the SAME question!  My aunt and I burst into laughter as we had never known how much they loved those little puffs of sugar!  

Alas these sweet potatoes were acceptable as well seeing as they did have crumbled gingersnaps on top but for future reference I must remember that if I am going to change up the sweet potatoes I had better throw some marshmallows on there for good measure!

Nicoll's Sweet Potato Casserole
6 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup half and half
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cold butter, cut into pieces
32 coarsley crushed gingersnap cookies

Cook sweet potatoes in Dutch oven in boiling water to cover over medium heat 30 minutes or until tender.  Cool; peel and mash potatoes.  Combine mashed sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup brown sugar and next 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl, beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth (or mash with potato masher until smooth).   Spoon into a greased 2 1/2 quart or 13x9-inch baking dish.  Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and flour.  Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter with pastry blender until crumbly.  Stir in crushed gingersnaps.  Sprinkle streusel over sweet potatoes.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until streusel is lightly browned.  
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Memories

I recently saw a post on a food blog I follow about clover rolls.  They are a fun way to change up the typical dinner roll but the second I saw that photo I was immediately transported back to cooking in my grandmother's kitchen the Wednesday before Thanksgiving preparing all our usual menu items.  This was something we did every year that became my favorite Thanksgiving tradition. 

We would start with the dough for her delicious homemade rolls and while that was rising we would start in on making the pumpkin pies.  At some point, before the kitchen was completely covered in flour, my grandfather would come into the kitchen and make his famous oyster stew.  We would all sit down at their tiny kitchen table, say a blessing and enjoy a relaxing, thoughtful meal together. 

After lunch we would get back to work and each year my grandmother would have something new she would want to try.  One year it was melting butter and then pouring it into rose molds so that the butter served with the rolls would look like roses.  Another time she decided she wanted to try and make radish roses....I guess she has a thing for roses!  Maybe that had something to do with their time at Churchill Downs....who knows!  This is where you take a radish, cut off the bottom tip and then, with a pairing knife, make slits all around the top so that as it "blooms" in ice cold water the "pedals" with flay out from the center. 

It is all about presentation after all!

One year, as we were taking the risen dough from the bowl, getting ready to roll it out for dinner rolls, Gramma said she wanted to try something different that year.  This was a bold statement as many in our family didn't care if nothing more was served at Thanksgiving besides the rolls....should they be any different we might have an angry mob on our hands.

She told me how she had seen her mother, Mom Gordon, make the rolls this particular way once before.  Instead of cutting the rolls with a cookie cutter, we rolled them into small balls just smaller than a fist, placed them in our hands and squeezed a small portion through the opening between out thumbs and index fingers.  You do this three times and place three small balls of dough in a muffin tin so that when they rise they look like clovers.  Hints the name "Clover Rolls".

There was a gleam in her eye, a certain expression on her face that made me see my grandmother not as the matriarch of our family, but as the young girl she once was, sitting on a stool like I had done in her kitchen a million times before, watching her mother prepare these same rolls for a generation of my family I barely knew. 

It was s surreal moment and one that I will never forget. 

There were many such memories such as these in the small kitchen my sweet grandmother referred to as a "one-ass kitchen" - I was 100% floored when my petite-always polite-never say a mean word about anyone-let alone say a curse word grandmother dropped that one on me!

As the years have past and time marches on I find myself now the mentor in the kitchen to my curious young cousins who help me make pancakes and pumpkin bread and am always delighted to hear my almost two year old nephew come up beside me by the stove saying "STIR!" It is then that I pick him up, stand before a pot of something and together we "STIR!" 

As it was in the past so too shall it be again.

Maybe it is the reason cooking is so cathartic for me.  Perhaps it is what takes me back to memories of comfort, love and sharing.  For these memories and all the time I have shared with those I love in my kitchen I am eternally grateful!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Favorite Turkey Brine

I posted this recipe last year when I did my Pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving post but this year I realized that I have made some adjustments to that recipe that I wanted to share with you.  Nothing too dramatic, just a few variations from my beloved Pioneer Woman's recipe.

Here it is dear readers

My Favorite Turkey Brine
as adapted from The Pioneer Woman

3 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
2 gallons Cold Water
4 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves
5 cloves Garlic, Minced
1-1/2 cup Kosher Salt
2 cups Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Peppercorns
5 whole Bay Leaves
Three Large Oranges, quartered

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. 
Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.
Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution, then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.
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Thanksgiving Day Desserts

Why is it that after such an enormous meal we feel the need to still have dessert?  Maybe it is the same reason that I feel the need to have lunch only an hour after I have had breakfast....after all, we are supposed to have three meals a day...everyday!  

Who knows but in any case dessert is a must at Thanksgiving dinner.  If you have been reading my blog long I am sure you have noticed that I rarely bake and if there are desserts posted on my humble Food Gospel they are typically recipes someone else has shared with me.  

Alas, I love to make a good dessert every now and then and Thanksgiving is just such a time!  Here are some of my favorites that I hope you enjoy!

Much love to you all and HAPPY almost THANKSGIVING!!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

The Turkey Options!

There are really a million ways to cook the perfect turkey....there are also a million and one ways to ruin a perfectly good bird!  When it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey here are my favorite my favorite gravy recipe!

I must give fair warning and plead with you that frying a turkey is a delicious way to cook the bird but you MUST know what you are doing, you have to be paying attention (and by that I mean sober) and please, for the love of all that is good on this earth, please keep children away from the hot grease!

My dear friend, Reed, has fried several turkeys for us over the years and every time he does it I am convinced there is no better way to cook the bird but there is one enormous piece missing from this puzzle...the drippings for the gravy.  As this is a must in our family we usually roast the turkey in the oven but if your family is freakishly obsessed with gravy like mine I highly suggest this option....or you can do what I am going to do this year and that is HAVE BOTH!!
Fried Turkey
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Basil Tomato Goat Cheese Appetizer

In my family we are always looking for new recipes to has become a favorite past time of mine, trying to find something new to test out on the family!  The funny thing is that this extends past just my immediate family.  My aunts are the same way!  Any time we all find a recipe we like, we want to make it for the next family event.  This is what leads to copious amounts of food for each and every family is like Thanksgiving every time!
I was recently at my aunt's house for a family gathering and as usual we had TONS of food, so much so in fact that the appetizer I brought which needed to be heated up in the microwave was accidentally forgotten about until just before dinner when it was found....still in the microwave...oops!  

The best part is that each time we gather it is like walking into a new cookbook...I acquire tons of delicious new recipes and this is one of those tasty treats!  Perfect for any cocktail gathering or holiday party...simple, tasty and super easy to put together.

Basil Tomato and Goat Cheese Appetizer

2 cans diced tomatoes, with garlic and onions
1 can chicken broth
1 tablespoons dried basil
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
goat cheese

In a skillet heat olive oil and cook minced garlic.  Add the tomatoes and the chicken broth and heat through. Add spices and let cook until thick.  Pour the sauce in a dish and lay goat cheese on top.  
Cook at 350 for 20 minutes or until the goat cheese is soft and the tomatoes are bubbly.
Serve with toast rounds.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

The Perfect Grilled Cheese

At the dawn of summer each year I give myself one treat, a tradition I have maintained since college, probably because it is cheap and can be made with even the fewest number of functioning brain cells.

It is incredibly detailed and has to be followed to the very last provision.  Do you want to know what it is?  Well it's too late now because I'm gonna tell ya!

I buy one loaf of Sunbeam white bread.  Very important!

Then I walk a few aisles down and pick up one package of sliced American cheese.

Then I go home, pull out a skillet, grab the butter and get to work.  Oh and butter isn't on the grocery list because if I don't already have butter in my fridge you had better check my pulse or start running because my body has been invaded by zombies!

I always have butter in my fridge.

Each day for lunch I make myself a grilled cheese...the BEST grilled cheese in the world!  After all, this tradition has been going on long enough that I have had PLENTY of practice!

Sometimes it isn't just for lunch...sometimes it is a mid-morning snack, an after-school treat, or just a "I am poor and need something to eat" kind of delight!

You see I am of the belief that if you deny yourself of life's greatest pleasure you will be a lonely, unhappy, bitter being and who wants to be that person, so every once in a while everyone must indulge...within reason of course!

So I thought I would share my secrets...lay it all out there!

Here is how to make the perfect grilled cheese... 

Grab a small non-stick skillet and throw in a pat of butter.  This is a southern form of measurement that leaves plenty of room for interpretation but basically less than a tablespoon but more than a sliver of butter.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Do not put it on high or you will more than likely burn your bread!
Once the better has melted swirl it around the pan to make sure every last inch is coated in butter.  You don't want a thick pool of butter, just a perfect thin coating across the pan.
Lay one piece of bread in the pan and top it with a piece (or two) of American cheese.
Lay the other piece of bread atop the cheese making sure that the outline of the bread coincides with that of the bottom piece.  Ok, that isn't crucial but it really crates on my OCD tendencies when they are not aligned!
Take a spatula and SQUISH, SMUSH and basically swirl it around to make sure your thin coat of butter is not on the bread and no longer visible on the pan.
Here is a critical moment in my grilled cheese making technique....Slide the spatula under the bread, remove the sandwich from the skillet....ADD MORE BUTTER....and return the sandwich to the pan, uncooked side down.  You want to make sure there is equal opportunity for each side to receive the same golden cripiness which is impossible if only one side receives the butter!
Once the sandwich is golden brown on each side remove it from the pan, slice diagonally (this is critical as it will not taste the same cut any other way) and enjoy!
This my dear readers is my guilty little secret and my foolproof technique for making the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich!
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