Monday, November 26, 2012

Simple Dip and the Last of the Turkey

Tonight I will use up the last of the turkey, although there is a little soup left, which I expect to be gone by this time tomorrow.  I brought home a bag of habanero peppers from the food bank today--we had lots of food to process (and astonishing amounts of iceberg lettuce!) and there were too many hot peppers in general and way too many habaneros.  Most food pantry clients don't take them, so if there are extra on Mondays, I get them.  I am the only one here who eats the habaneros, although I will use other, less-hot peppers in cooking.  A nicely diced habanero is a really great addition to turkey-vegetable soup!  I will use some of the peppers and dice the rest, freezing them in little packets.  I used the last of the turkey broth I made on Saturday morning to cook some brown rice for supper tonight.  To go with the rice, I will cook some of the shredded turkey, a chopped bell pepper, a chopped jalapeno, and a chopped banana pepper, and a chopped onion.  I'll add some of my garlic shoots, snipped into small pieces, and some oregano and maybe some chili powder.  Oh yeah, I have a tomato, too, so I will add that.  Bill will probably top his off with salsa, but I will use some of my simple salsa dip (and a diced habanero).  I had a container of fat-free Greek yogurt that I thought was vanilla when I got it, but it was plain.  I was going to make a kind of chunky fruit sauce to add to it when I remembered the salsa-yogurt dip I used to make.  I had not thought about it in years, and I do not know why, because I always loved it.  It's simple--just mix plain yogurt with salsa.  Now that the Greek yogurt is everywhere, it is much easier than it used to be--I remember lining a colander with a coffee filter and letting the yogurt sit in that for hours to drain some of the liquid off so it would be thicker and not get too runny when the salsa was added.  This yogurt was beautifully thick right out of the container.  Now it can be a last-minute kind of thing.  Now that I've remembered this, I am sure I will have it more often.  I'm glad the yogurt wasn't vanilla after all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Apple Cake

I started my Thanksgiving prep this morning by making one of our desserts and cooking some squash in the Crock-Pot.  I got two butternut squash--one large and one small--in the crock and I added a little water.  I cooked it on high for a couple of hours and then on low for several hours more--until they pierced easily with a knife.  Then I scooped out the seeds and strings, scopped out the squash and that is that!  Except that Bill had some with supper, so I will cook another one tomorrow!  I prefer sweet potatoes to squash, and they take longer to cook, so tonight I will fill both Crock-Pots, set them to low, and let them cook overnight.  Tomorrow I will make oatmeal rolls and let my bread machine make the dough.

Heather does not like pumpkin pie, so she always has banana cream pie instead.  I will put that together Thanksgiving morning.  The pumpkin pie also gives Bill heartburn, so we gave it up, too.  I think we had blueberry pie last year, but this year I decided to make an apple cake.  It is an adaptation of a recipe that is in the New Laurel's Kitchen Cookbook.  I made it in the tube pan I found in like-new condition for 50 cents or so at the thrift store a few months ago.  I'd been keeping an eye out for one as I hardly ever use it, but like to have it around for the few times I want one.  You can see my "garbage garden" moved indoors in the background--basil plants, garlic shoots, and scallion ends that I replanted after using them all happy in the sunshine.  It is handy to snip some off as I did at lunch when I was making my salmon salad. 
Apple Cake
3 cups cored and peeled apples, chopped sort of small
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (the original recipe calls for raisins and I have used them, but I like these better--you can use any dried fruit of combination that you like)
3 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 cups boiling water

Place apples and dried fruit in bowl, pour boiling water over and add oil.  Let sit for 10 or 15 minutes.  Add

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir everything together.  Add

1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Stir everything together until well-blended.  Pour into greased tube pan (or square cake pan or loaf pans) and bake for about an hour at 350.  Let sit for a few minutes before removing from pans. 

I was thinking today that I could probably make these in muffin tins, too, and they would make nice mini-cakes to give as gifts.  They would require less baking time, though.  I might try this!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oven Stew and Carrot Sculpture in the Soup Kitchen

I cooked in the soup kitchen this morning.  I had decided at the end of last week that I would take advantage of the 1200 pound carrot donation that had come in and would make an oven stew today.  Since no unexpected donations came in that changed the plans, the crew and I set to work cutting stuff up.  Some did carrots, some potatoes, and I worked with someone else cutting up steak into chunks.  He pointed out one package that had a price sticker of $18.99 a pound.  Good thing I do not like or eat beef!  While we were cutting the meat, someone came up front to show us her two funky carrots that, when placed stem ends together, make a little carrot guy.  These got put aside and later on, when the stew was in the oven and the crew had wrapped silverware in napkins, gotten the salad ready and cleaned up the back prep area, I turned around and saw Arnie with his little tool, creating carrot guy. He even gave him a fig leaf! We're a creative bunch in the soup kitchen on Thursdays!
We looked in vain for some whole cloves to use for eyes, and in the end, Annette, the soup kitchen coordinator, got a marker and I drew on his little face. He was standing on the counter in a little cup until he got knocked over and alas, ended up with a broken arm.  I do not know where he ended up.  Don't know whether the pigs got him!

The oven stew was well-liked--lots of people asked for seconds and we even had some ask for thirds.  The carrots ended up being crisp-tender instead of mushy.  I was not sure how well that would go over in the dining room, since a lot of people seem to like their veggies well cooked.  But it did not seem to be a problem, and one person even asked for seconds, carrots only.  I fished out a small pile of carrots for her.

To make today's lunch, I greased a bunch of pans and in them I placed various kinds of steak, cut into cubes, cubed carrots and potatoes, and some onions. I sprinkled garlic powder, black pepper, and thyme over everything and mixed it all together.  Then I mixed up this au jus stuff--comes in a foil packet and is a powder that you mix with water.  I poured some of that into each pan and then into the convection oven they went.  I had about 70 minutes of cooking time, so I had the oven at 425 to start and then after about 40 minutes, I turned it up to 450, to make sure we reached the safe temperature of 160 degrees before serving.  We served this with bananas (the local target seems to overbuy bananas all the time and then we get boxes and boxes of them!), salad, and rolls.