Apple Cranberry Pie

Nothing says holidays like pie, or something.  The evolution of this pie:  I wanted to bake a pie and use my Great Grandma's recipe and was thinking about pumpkin at Thanksgiving, but David had it covered.  While traveling through South Bend my cousin Abby gave me her apple pie recipe as a substitute for the pumpkin.  Later, my sister suggested substituting cranberries for the raisins in the apple-cranberry pie.  A few weeks later, voila!

2 pie crusts (store bought... or Grandma Goerss's recipe)
8 gala apples, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 tbl lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbl all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Prepare 2 pie crusts and put one int he bottom of a deep pie pan.

2. Sprinkle apples with lemon Juice.  Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add apples and cranberries and toss to coat.

3. Place apple-cranberry mixture in pie shale and trim the pastry.  Cut slits in the second pastry (I used a snowflake cookie cutter!) and place on filling, sealing and crimping. 

4. Cover edge of pie with foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes until the top is golden.  Cool and serve.

Good.  Very good.  Repeat after me:  I like pie.  The crust was as good as I remember, and as easy.  The pie was great.  I liked the cranberry add.  Any time I can eat cranberries I'm happy :)  They are a superfood after all!  Only down side -- I used 8 small gala apples and that was too much.  There was seepage out over the edge of the pie onto the bottom of the oven since I didn't do an expert job with my crimping.  Otherwise happy pie.

Amazing Roast Chicken

Adapted from Jamie Oliver (Naked Chef), as seen on Ezra Pound Cake.

4-5 lb roasting chicken
salt and pepper
4-5 lbs potatoes
1 lemon
1 head garlic
olive oil
rosemary and thyme
2-4 slices of bacon

Start out by cleaning the chicken, rinsing, patting dry and liberally applying salt and pepper to the inside and outside of your chicken.  Preheat the oven to 375 and allow your chicken to sit while you work on the potatoes.

Bring a pot of water to boil while you peel and cube the potatoes (golf ball size?).  Meanwhile, remove the garlic from its papery wrapper.  Boil the potatoes with the garlic cloves and lemon for about 12 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and remove the lemon and garlic.  Take a spoon and stir the potatoes around in the hot pot.  This makes them 'chuffy' as Jamie calls them.  I say it smooshes up the outsides and makes them roast even better!

Poke a handful of holes into the warm lemon.  Take the lemon, thyme (or rosemary), and garlic and place in the chicken cavity. Rub the outside of the bird with oil and apply extra salt and pepper if necessary.  Roast that bird for 45 minutes.

At the 45 minute mark take the bird out your pan.  Add the potatoes and some rosemary and stir them up in the pan, using your chicken drippings to coat the potatoes for roasting.  Place the chicken back in the center of the pan, surrounded by the taters.  Finally, the coup d'etat, put some bacon across the chicken breast.  Roast for another 45 minutes.  Crumble the bacon into the potatoes and serve.

Amazingly good.  Ok, maybe just good, I'm not sure.  This was the first chicken I've ever roasted.  I think that they can turn out badly, really dried out and bland.  Rumor has it that usually happens to your first roast chicken.That didn't seem to be the case -- this chicken was extremely moist, it had a good flavor, and was exceedingly appetizing.  The potatoes were good, the chuffy  thing appears to work.  In fact, i would say the parboil pre-roasting and chuffing thing is awesome.  I would recommend going in and tossing the potatoes mid cooking to get them good and roasty on all sides though.  Definitely a keeper -- I think David even enjoyed it. 

I even did things up fancy.  We had dinner at David's on Christmas Eve and at his Aunt's on Christmas night. This wasn't anything fancy (I had meant to steam some asparagus but lost track of time) but we did eat it off of my Christmas setting :)


Barefoot Contessa’s Lentil Sausage Soup

Adapted from Barefoot in Paris (Ina Garten)

½ lb lentils
Olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Several springs fresh thyme leaves
Ground cumin
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 lb baby carrots, chopped
1 quart chicken stock
¼ cup tomato paste
1 lb turkey kielbasa, cut in half and sliced

1. I rinsed and sorted the lentils, cleaning out any shriveled lentils or rocks. I placed them in a bowl and covered the lentils with boiling water, allowing them to sit for about 15 minutes

2. Meanwhile I heated the oil up in the bottom of a stockpot and added the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and thyme. I sautéed them over medium heat until the onions were translucent. At that point I added the carrots and celery and stirred, allowing them to cook for about 10 minutes.

3. I added the lentils, chicken stock, and tomato paste, stirring and bringing to a boil. I covered and simmered for an hour to cook the lentils thoroughly. At that point I added the kielbasa and allowed it to simmer for a few more minutes until heated through.

I have never made this particular soup, but I had it several years ago while visiting my cousin and her family in South Bend. Good memories of fun times with extended family and a realization that Barefoot Contessa‘s recipes were actually do-able for us mortal folk. Luckily, she warned me that it feeds quite the crowd, so this was my attempt at modifying and halving the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe to make a dinner for a cold rainy night and lunch for a snowy week at work. It was great - super hearty and filling and smelled amazing before eating this. I really do love soup at this time of year. Being in a land where winter is real is making my love for soup even deeper. I’m pretty sure it is not just a passing fancy since it seems to have spanned a few years now J

BTW…Barefoot Contessa recommends 1 tbl freshly chopped thyme leaves for double this amount of soup. I actually just put in a bunch of sprigs and remove the stems before serving. Also, she chops her veggies up pretty small to be closer in size to the lentils whereas I like to leave my veggies chunky, I enjoy the texture and juxtoposition of the large veggies and the little lentils.

Um yeah, I repeat. Great soup. Filling. Full of lentil fiber goodness. And flavor
BTW…I was trying to explain what lentils were to my mom, including what they taste like. Any suggestions as to how you would describe them besides merely fiber filled goodness?

Grove Dip

We caught the Steelers-Bengals Game a couple of weeks ago at our friends place. I wanted to bring something, and dip came up. I immediately thought of Grove Dip, from the Moo Groceries Cookbook for the Vicksburg Historical Society.

2 11-oz cans corn, drained and rinsed
1 4-oz can chopped green chiles
3 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tbl sugar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Drain and rinse the corn. In a bowl mix mayonnaise, sour cream, and sugar. Add corn, chiles, green onions, red peppers, and cheese. Mix and Chill for several hours before serving with tortilla chips.

It was delicious! I had a sample of this once before, and it was about as good as I remembered.

Things to note about the recipe -- it makes a ton of dip, and I mean a ton!!! I would definitely recommend halving it if you aren’t feeding a crowd. Likewise, I’ve actually considered two substitutions -- I would consider omitting one can of corn for a can of black beans. I would also consider subbing some strained non-fat yogurt or some greek yogurt for the sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar combo. Corn, beans, and yogurt would mean you could eat as much as you wanted!

Amber’s White Bean, Bacon, and Rosemary Soup

I spent the better part of 7 years in the south. While I try to lead a healthy lifestyle, I’ll admit, I have a penchant for bacon. There is just something about it -- I’ve always liked it, but it is amazing for infusing flavor. Oh lard, how wonderful you are. This soup uses the touch of bacon to go the extra mile. My friend Amber introduced me to it back in my Vicksburg days. This is my version of her version of the White Bean and Bacon soup that was originally published in Food and Wine.

½ lb bacon
Olive oil, as needed
1 celery heart, coarsely chopped
¾ bag of baby carrots, coarsely chopped
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 carton chicken stock
2 cans canellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt & Pepper to taste

In the bottom of your large stockpot or dutch oven cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and drain. Remove the majority of the grease, leaving a couple of teaspoons at the bottom of the pot.

While the bacon is cooking chop the vegetables -- the idea is to have somewhere around equal parts carrots, celery, and onions. After the bacon is done add olive oil as needed and cook the vegetables for a few minutes until soft.

Add the chicken stock, beans, rosemary, and thyme to the pot. I think that Amber’s recipe called for about 2 tbl of each -- I think these are some of the stars in the recipe, so I add as much as I feel like. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 30 min (or longer). Salt and pepper to taste prior to serving. Garnish with chopped up bacon and enjoy!

OK, a little commentary. This recipe is absolutely nothing new to me. However, it is probably one of my favorite foods at this time of year. I love the beans, the bacon, the rosemary, and the thyme. I am a soup girl and this is one of my soups. The one thing I’ve toyed with is actually adding the rosemary and thyme to the olive oil and bacon renderings mixture prior to adding the veggies. I think this could really make this soup even more amazing, which I previously thought was impossible. If you try just one soup this winter, I might heartily recommend this one. I’m not sure if this was better than previously, if it always this good, or perhaps being in real wintery weather made it even more comforting and delicious.