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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cranberry Walnut Cornbread Stuffing

It would have been more timely had I posted this recipe, oh, say prior to Thanksgiving. Blame it on "Mom-Brain" 'cause like some turkeys over the holiday, I'm fried! Can't seem to remember a thing these days. Did I feed the baby at 11:30, and then again at 12:30 or 1 am? Did he eat 2 our 3 ounces? Where did I leave that messy diaper? Really? It's time for the dog's walk again? I don't have much short or long-term memory right now. I do remember to eat though, probably too much (but that's another story). I continue to cook - the moms' gotta eat. We never go without a good home-cooked meal. I did not make a big Thanksgiving dinner this year though; this was only the second Thanksgiving in over 20 years that I did not cook! Instead, we went to Liz's mom's house in Staten Island for dinner this year. The Nibblet celebrated his first Thanksgiving and had his first long car ride. We had a delightful day and it was a treat to go to someone else's house for dinner. My only complaint, no left-overs! Those are the best part of Thanksgiving dinner for me. I love the sides, the stuffing, all that turkey. I usually cook enough to feed 10 and to last for a week, even though most years it's just Liz and I (and now the baby, but he's on an all liquid diet still.)

Couldn't let the weekend pass by without making a modified version of Thanskgiving Dinner - roast chicken with pan roasted potatoes and vegetables. Cranberry and Apple Sauces; String Beans; Store-bought Apple Pie for dessert. Next time, pumpkin pie for sure. And this quick and easy dressing/stuffing - Cranberry Walnut Cornbread. Better than Stove-Top and you will know exactly what's in it and how much salt it contains. It's the kind of stuffing recipe that you will want to make at other times of the year. It holds up, it freezes well, and heats up great in either the microwave, toaster oven or in a skillet.

Cranberry Walnut Cornbread Stuffing Ingredients:


  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil or Butter
  • 1 Medium Onion - small dice
  • 1 Medium Carrot - small dice
  • 1 Celery Stalk - small dice
  • 2 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Sauvigon Blanc)
  • 1 Tablespoon Poultry Seasoning or Combination of Dried Thyme, Parsley, Dill, Oregano, Marjoram, Sage & Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries
  • 1/4 Cup Walnuts - chopped
  • 1/2 Package Dried Cornbread Cubes (about 4 cups loosely packed)
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock - Hot

Directions:


  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  2. Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers or the butter begins to turn light brown.
  3. Add in the diced onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sweat the vegetables until the onions turn translucent and the carrots become knife tender. Continue to saute the vegetables until they take on a golden colour - about 8 to 10 minutes total.
  4. Pour in the 1/4 cup of white wine and cook to reduce down to a tablespoon.
  5. Add in the poultry seasoning and saute for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
  6. Put the sautéed vegetables into a large mixing bowl. Add in the cornbread cubes and stir to combine. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt.
  7. Pour the hot stock, 1/2 cup at a time over the bread and vegetable mixture, gently tossing to combine. If the bread seems too dry, add in more stock. Don't add too much stock - or else the mixture will be too wet and will turn mushy.
  8. Put the stuffing mix into a greased 9 x 9 baking or 9 inch round cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the top of the stuffing is golden brown and crisped.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Days of Wine and Braised Lamb Shanks

One Pot Slow Cooking Alert! Here's another set it and forget it recipe for ya, yins, youse guys. I am all about tossing a few ingredients and some cheap ass cut of meat into a Dutch Oven pot, placing it into a hot oven and forgetting about it for oh, say 2 to 4 hours. No more searing and transferring hot stuff to a Crock Pot, dirtying up the stove, counter tops and endless pots, plates, tongs and such. Easy peasy cooking. Pinch me, I think I turned into Rachael Ray (YUCKO!) and may have my Martha Stewart card revoked!

Susan Hill brought me a lamb shank she found on manager's special at the grocery. After a few days of thinking about the best recipe for the shank, I realized I needed a bit more lamb. What should have been a cheap meal became a more expensive endeavor because I went to Whole Paycheck to buy more lamb to add to my one-pot dinner. Don't fall into this trap! Lamb shanks or shoulder are inexpensive at every other grocery or butcher. I just happened to be at Whole Foods so that's why I spent the big bucks. However, considering I spent an additional $18 for more lamb, I did feed three people hearty servings and we have at least 4 more meals left over. Cost per serving, around $2.5 per person. So, in a sense, this is an inexpensive meal to make. Think about what you would pay in a restaurant, my guess is the dish would be at least $18 to $22 per plate.

Taking stock of what I did have on hand, I used some Zatar Seasoning I had from Cost Plus World Market (though you could use curry powder), prunes (call them by their original name, not dried plums, don't be fooled!), apricots, onions, carrots, garlic, red wine and Worcestershire sauce , cinnamon sticks, clove and all spice. The overall dish has a vague Moroccan/Middle Eastern Flare. If you don't have Zatar, and really, who happens to have it except nut-case cooks like me? It's a combination of marjoram, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, and thyme. A mild curry powder is nice. As for wine, a dry full-bodied red is best, don't buy a cheap cheap bottle, but at the same time, don't waste two cups of an expensive wine either. A $10 bottle of a Cabernet will be fine.

Wine Braised Lamb Shanks Ingredients:
  • 4 Lamb Shanks or a 3 to 4 pound Lamb Shoulder - excess fat and silver skin trimmed
  • 1 Large Onion - cut into 1/4 inch half moon slices
  • 2 - 3 Medium/Large Carrots - large dice
  • 4 Garlic Cloves - coarsely chopped
  • 8 Dried Apricots - cut into quarters
  • 8 Prunes - cut into quarters
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks or 1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 6 Whole Cloves or 1/8 teaspoon Ground Clove
  • 4 All Spice Berries or 1/8 teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 2 Tablespoons Zatar Seasoning or Curry Powder
  • 2 Cups Red Wine
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/2 CupWorcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Peel, wash and cut all the vegetables.
  3. Place some in the bottom of a Dutch Oven Pot or other heavy bottom pot. Place the lamb shanks on top of the vegetables, and add the remaining vegetables to the top of the lamb shanks.
  4. Place the dried fruit, seasoning of choice on top of the lamb and vegetables. Pour the wine, water,Worcestershire sauce. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Put a tight fitting lid on the pot and place the dutch oven in the oven and roast/braise for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 4 hours. The meat should fall off the bones and the liquid will have reduced by more than half. Serve hot over couscous. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Friday, November 20, 2009

City Biking

There has been a lot of news over the past few weeks here in Philadelphia, regarding bicycling, bicycle accidents, bicycle regulation, rules of the road and enforcement. Until now, I've resisted writing about my thoughts on these topics for a variety of reasons: I wanted to be better informed on the issues and I need to be level-headed in my response; I needed to see what the position of the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia is regarding these weighty issues. The problems are manifold. There was a recent and extremely unfortunate accident involving a cyclist and a pedestrian, resulting in the death of the pedestrian. Let me be clear, I am in no way condoning the unknown cyclist's behavior and I am in no way blaming the pedestrian for this travesty. The pedestrian was run over, knocked out and left hurt on a city side walk near 16th and Locust Street; the pedestrian, Andre Steed, later died from the injuries he sustained. The cyclist fled the scene and has yet to be apprehended. This is the kind of horrendous news that makes me so angry that I could scream. It's a sad, senseless loss of a vibrant life and it makes the tenuous relationship of cyclists and the rest of the world at best, tense. We need to enforce bicycle laws, get cyclists, myself included, to stay off the sidewalks, bike the correct way on the streets and learn to stop at lights and signs. It will be a huge learning curve for everyone but I believe it can be done, if the right steps are taken to educate, enforce and encourage cyclists, drivers and pedestrians about the rules and rights of the road.
In light of these hot topic issues, I do feel the need to chime in on a few things that Philadelphia City Council is proposing. Specifically, Councilman Frank DiCiccio, has put forth a bill to make it mandatory for all bikes to be registered and licensed. I think this is a ridiculous bill that will be impossible to enforce and regulate and will severely hurt cycling in Philadelphia. It smacks of making a quick buck off the backs of some cyclists while others will either be turned off of biking or disregard the proposed rule altogether. Yeah, I'll pony up the twenty bucks per bike if the bill passes, the money for me is not the issue, it's the principal of the bill that pisses me off. How will the registration work? Will all bike shops and mega-stores be required to have the license at the point of sale? Will we cyclists have to pass through some arbitrary check point to prove we are registered? Somehow I don't see the hundreds of young, poor, non-driving immigrants I see biking everyday in my neighborhood to their jobs a) understanding the bill and b) complying with the rule enough without fearing for their own personal legal status. My partner, Liz, said that bikes are vehicles and like all vehicles, should be registered. True, but we aren't required to have insurance. When there is a never-ending scourge of bicycle thefts that never gets deterred, when we have fewer and fewer places to lock our bikes, and when motorists on cellphones run cyclists off the road, yell, honk or completely disregard our street rights, I find it reprehensible to create a bill that in effect, punishes the majority of law-abiding cyclists in Philadelphia. You want to know what bicycle bill should be discussed in City Council - making it mandatory that ALL CYCLISTS wear bike helmets. Take that $20 bucks and spend it on a helmet. We need safer streets, more poles and bike racks, better signage and less cars in Center City, not ineffective measures to discourage bikers from being green, clean and law-abiding citizens.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Food Finds: Taco Flavored Kisses


I've read that Hershey's had plans to develop 100 flavors of their iconic and tasty Kisses for the anniversary of the chocolate bud. Of the 100 flavors proposed, Taco Flavored Kisses is not one of them, but there are about 3o or more that hit the shelves over the past 2 years. Some have been duds (like Cherry Cordial) and others have been instant favorites, making seasonal cameo appearances. In the past month, I counted at least 14 flavors at Target : Regular, Chocolate with Almonds, Chocolate Mint, Truffle Mint, Special Dark, Chocolate Melt-away, Irish Creme, Cherry Cordial, Hugs, Caramel Swirl, Peanut Butter Chocolate and my top 3 favorites: Candy Corn, Pumpkin Spice and Peppermint Candy Cane. I am hooked. Addicted enough to these three flavors to a) stock up for the rest of the year and b) go online and start bartering and Ebaying for the Fall Seasonal flavors that seem to have disappeared from the store shelves. Their limited edition status has reached its expiration date, sending me into serious "Jonesing" mode.

I have loved Hershey's Kisses since I was a wee lass. My Babcia (Polish for grandmother) always had bowls of them around the house for all the grandchildren. We would use the Kisses, along with other candy like M&M's and candy fruit slices on our Candy Land game board, making the game a 3-dimensional and user-friendly hoopla! When you landed in the gumdrop forest, you actually got a gumdrop, or Kiss or some other sweet treat. On Christmas mornings when we lived in Aldan, Delaware County, the fire company had a Santa Claus come around to the neighborhood. He would deliver little "story books" filled with Hershey's Kisses to kids. Over the course of Christmas morning and through the day, I would sneak and eat practically the whole box of Kisses; hiding the wrappers inside my games and toys, my futile attempt at concealing the fact that I had eaten candy in the morning. Which is funny given the fact that back in those days of the sugary 1970's, breakfast cereals were just a marketing ploy to give kids mainlined sugar and candy in a "Wholesome Complete Breakfast" . Remember those photos on the cereal box with showing the bowl of cereal, whole milk, toast with real butter and the prerequisite glass of orange juice? What a crock. They should have had a photo of a kid with a crazed/dazed sugar high look on his face instead, that is if you could get the kid to sit still long enough for the photo shoot.
Nowadays, I try to limit my candy and dessert intake. I am fully aware of the powerful and negative affects that sugar has on my system. During my first year of Weight Watchers, I ate very little sugar. Aside from the obvious weight loss, the other thing I noticed was how "clear" and clean I felt, especially in my sinuses. Two plus years later, and I'm back on sugar, not a lot, but enough to see and feel a difference in my moods and body chemistry. Loving these new Hershey Kisses flavors isn't helping - but they are so good. Two of the flavors I love are white chocolate with additional flavorings. The Peppermint Candy Cane is white chocolate swirled with red mint strips and flecked with bits of candy cane. Buttery, light peppermint and with a hint of crunch. The candy corn looks like the candy corn colors and the taste is oddly hard to describe. A bit like syrupy candy corn, a bit like white chocolate and mostly just sweet - like candy corn. The pumpkin spice flavor is actually two flavors and textures. The outer shell is most likely white chocolate flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon. The inside of the Kiss is filled with a soft white creamy center. Yummo!

Sorry my friends at Mars - while I still love M&M's and the new high-end chocolates of Pure Dark- my first candy love will always be the Kiss.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cherry Wheat Beer Glazed Short Ribs

Tonight's dinner was a family affair. I called Liz from the office and asked her to literally toss together our one-pot pork meal 2-6-Quick so that when I got home, I could have dinner working allowing me a chance to go to the gym. Meals, gym and personal time have all taken on new complicated dimensions for us since the arrival of The Nibblet. I've been trying to do my major cooking on Sundays, but haven't had any blog-worthy examples to share. Sure, I'm using my Xpress Redi Set Go cooker. Today we had Egg-Beater Ham and light cheese omelets and Pillsbury Grand Mini-biscuits. We're finding our routine, and getting the baby on his eating schedule too. We are eager to take any chance we have to sleep or get back to areas of our lives that don't need to radically change - like cooking and eating. The baby is doing well, the mom's are coming along, and sleep, well, like I often say, I suppose I can sleep when I'm dead...

This recipe has few ingredients and even fewer steps. I find it works better in a "Dutch-oven" pot rather than a slow-cooker. By cooking this in the oven, the beer reduces down and creates a sweet and sticky glaze on the short or country style short ribs. A slow-cooker or Crock-Pot won't yeild the glaze. The slow-cooker holds the moisture in and creates even more. You need the evaporation that happens in the oven. Beer substitues other than the Sam Adams Cherry Wheat are, Oatmeal Stouts; Coffee Stouts; Porters; Guineess; Pumpkin Ales. I'd look for hearty, heavy-bodied beers, preferably with a hint of sweetness to them. Use at least 3 pounds of short-ribs or country style spare pork ribs. Trim away excess fat, but do leave some on the ribs; it melts away and helps create the final sauce. Cooking time is largely unattended in a 350 to 375 degree oven. An oven-safe pot, such as a cast-iron Dutch Oven will work best. We're looking for long slow cooking. Total cooking time, 3 to 4 hours for best results.

Cherry Wheat Beer Glazed Short Ribs Ingredients:
  • 3 Pounds Pork Ribs: Country Style or Short-Ribs
  • 1 12 ounce Bottle Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Beer
  • 1 Medium Onion - peeled and cut into large half-moon slices (about 1/2 inch thick)
  • 1 Large Carrot - peeled and large dice
  • 4 Garlic Cloves - roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Penzey's Barbecue 3000 Seasoning or a Mixture of Smoked Paprika, Ground Onion Powder, Ground Garlic Powder, Salt, Ground Black Pepper, Cinamon, Nutmeg and Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Worchestirshire Sauce
Directions:
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees
  2. Use a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch Oven and place all the ingredients into the pot. Stir to combine and submerge the pork ribs.
  3. Cover with a lid and place in oven.
  4. Roast, covered for 2 hours. Check the ribs after two hours and toss gently to redistribute the ribs. Cook, covered for another hour or up to 2 hours more.
  5. Ribs are done when they are falling off of the bone and the beer has reduced down to a few tablespoons. The pork should be sticky and glazed, the onions and carrot will have cooked down as well and appear to be "candied" or caramelized.
  6. Serve hot over mashed potatoes.
  7. Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Found Objects & Photos: Welfare Cheater Acuser

Sign posted on the front door of a house along South 11th Street:

"Dear 'Welfare-Cheater' Acuser, You have the wrong house. My wife and I are both hard-working young people who do not receive any money, or food, or anything else from the government. Stop leaving notes in our door. Thank you."

One of the better signs I've found around town. I would have loved to have seen and read the notes that were left at the house for the supposed welfare-cheaters. This sign should be partnered with the "Pooper-Law" sign I found on South 9th Street in my neighborhood. People in South Philly know how to say it like it is!