Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Bird, and Two Food Gifts you Still have Time to Make!


I hope this season is bringing you the joy and peace that it's bringing me.

My mood is most certainly helped by the fact that I have the next three weeks off from work.  And that my family is happy with homemade gifts. And that my husband likes to shovel the walk.  Did I mention I'm off work?  I'm like a whole different (serene) person when the semester ends.

The extra hours have been spent in the kitchen as always.  I've gotten a few orders for Rosie's Best, some from brave etsy users who were kind enough to take a chance on me, and from some of my close friends and neighbors.  This is exactly the scenario I had hoped for, and I am very excited to see what this venture holds for me.

I have been a busy little bee in the kitchen getting ready for the holidays.  It really feels like Christmas time around here.  Check out the digs:

(The ariels are pretty much gone, sadly)



I wanted to make a meal that was homey and warming, so I decided on a simple roast chicken.  Here are the important things to remember about roasting birds for crispy skin and moist meat:

  • Brine if you have the time.  
  • Pat the skin dry with a paper towel, then rub it with butter, herbs, and seasoning on top of the skin and under the skin.  (I like lots of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper)
  • The bird should be as uniform in shape as possible.  A wing sticking out will get cooked too quickly, so, truss your chicken.  This is one of many things that are best explained through video rather than words.  God bless CHOW.
  • Pick the right pan.  I use  a shallow 1/2 sheet pan with just a few vegetables.  This is so the air in the oven is able to come in contact with the surface of the chicken.  
  • Stuff the cavity with aromatics to flavor the meat, rather than just the skin. 
Here's what I started with:

That's sage from the garden that I dried.  Here's everything roughly chopped to go inside the cavity.  I used a clementine because I love citrus with chicken and I always have them on hand this time of the year.  You can also see that I have some salt and pepper in that little tin.  I don't want to contaminate the rest of the salt, so this is a necessary part of mise en place.

This is before I rubbed the chicken with butter, sage, and salt and pepper.  I cut the veggies into large pieces so they would be done around the same time as the chicken.  This wasn't actually totally successful as I burned a few.   I started it at 450 for 10 minutes, then lowered the temperature to 425 and roasted for around 50 minutes.  The skin should be brown and the juices should run clear when you pierce the thigh.

Mmm. Crispy skin.  The meat was tasty and quite moist, and the veggies were flavorful because of  the chicken fat.


Like last year, I'm making some gifts to give to my family.  I'm redoing that apple butter because it's SO easy and so totally delicious.  Check out this post for all the details.  I also decided to try something different this year.  I've been eating my own weight in clementines this winter.  They are portable, easy to peel, seedless, and at the peak of their season right now.  This is one case where I will totally advocate for a non-local food.  Oranges don't grow in Iowa, but my winters wouldn't be the same without them.  Frankly, these are also a food I'd consider not buying organic still an ok choice because the peel is removed before eating.

So, I decided to put together some marmalade with these little jewels.   I, like most people I think, had an extra bag of cranberries sitting in the freezer.  It occurred to me that cranberries are also a very tart fruit and might add something to the marmalade while still preserving its bitter nature.

Cranberry Clementine Marmalade

Rinse and scrub your clementines.  I started with around 11 because that's all I had.

Halve and juice a lemon.  Reserve the juice for later, and put the seeds and peels into a cheesecloth sack.  I got these great little bags for tea that I use to infuse spices.

In a pot, simmer the clementines and lemon in water.  I used this recipe as a rough guideline and ended up using 3 1/4 cups of water.  Simmer these for two hours.  The fruit should be soft. Aren't they just beautiful?

Rolling away

Let this cool until you can handle them.  I did overnight in the fridge, but if it's cold where you are, put your pot outside for a little while.

Remove the peels from the fruits.

Thinly slice up those peels.  Make sure you rinse your cranberries well.

Press the fruits through a strainer into a bowl with the leftover syrup from cooking and sugar.  I used 5 cups, again based on that recipe. (I'd estimate I had around 1/3 of a cup of juice left)  Here, add the lemon juice you made earlier.  Bring this to a boil.

Boil this until it reaches 220 degrees.  Then add the peels and the cranberries and boil.  I had to boil for a good 10 minutes to get the texture I wanted.  It really depends on the amount of juice you start with.  The syrup should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Here is mine after cooling.

Put this into jars and process for 20 minutes.  I found these jars and think they're a nice alternative to the usual half pint jar.

Voila! Presents!  The apple butter:

One of my favorite things about Christmas is putting cloves into oranges, so I decided to add one to the marmalade.  It's a beautiful and fragrant gift.

I hope you spend this holiday with the people you love and wish you all good things before the new year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Announcing: Rosie's Best! Buy What I Make

Ok, I'm going to get right to the big news. 

I'd like to announce Rosie's Best, a small food company selling simple but special food, handmade by me!

Rosie's Best is home to whatever food products I'm making that I think you might like.  Every recipe is one that I've made many times and tested on my family and friends.

Everything is made after you order, and with high quality ingredients, so you can be sure it will be fresh, delicious, and beautiful.

You can find my products on Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade things.  Check out my shop here!

For now, you'll find these things, most of which make fantastic gifts. (Click the titles to get to the listings)

I eat granola most days of the week, and I love experimenting with new flavors.  Right now, I'm making a few different styles.

Rosie's Best Granola: Simplest Mix, made with local honey and chia seeds.

I'm also making my more indulgent chocolate granola in two mixes. 

Rosie's Best Granola: Double Chocolate Mocha, made with Ghirardelli cocoa powder and coffee.

Rosie's Best Granola: Double Chocolate Cherry, made with tart cherries.

I have been experimenting with marshmallows and have already had good success.  At my store, you'll find different permutations of marshmallows, including by the dozen, and in one of my favorite listings, a set of marshmallows, hot cocoa mix, and a gorgeous vintage cup and saucer set.

Rosie's Best Homemade Marshmallows, Hot Cocoa Mix gift-set with Vintage Cup and Saucer

I can't recommend these marshmallows enough.  They are so so good, and made with very simple ingredients.  These are better than any of the stuff you grew up with, but you bet you can still melt them into hot cocoa or toast them over the fire, or under the broiler ;)

I've also listed some of my handmade soft pretzels.  These were my first sale :)

Rosie's Best Homemade Soft Pretzels with Salt, Sesame, or Poppyseed 

Finally, I have listed some treats for the non-humans in the house: my homemade doggie treats!

Rosie's Best Homemade Dog Treats, made with peanut butter and parsley.

Look at my dog, modeling his Wooly Wooly Collar!  As I took this photo, the husband said, "Aw just give it to him! He's drooling!" 

I'm not quite sure what this venture will bring, but I couldn't have done it without the support of many people, including Maggie at Campbell-Raw Press.  Maggie has been an adviser, mentor, support group, and graphic designer all in one while I've been putting this stuff together  Check out her etsy here and order some of her gorgeous work. 

I strongly believe that the future of this country is in the hands of sellers and buyers.  Please, look beyond the dollar when judging the value of a product.  Something handmade might be a little more expensive than something mass produced, but the support of individuals and small businesses is a worthy investment.

Let's make this a handmade holiday!

Rosie's Best will change based on customer demand and my whims :)  If there's something you see on this blog, or somewhere else that you'd like me to consider selling, contact me and we'll make something work. 

I couldn't have done this without the blogger community, so thank you to you, too, dear reader. 

Until next time, have a look at the etsy and let me know what you think!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving Roundup: An Impressive Loaf, One Sweet Pie, and a LOCAL Savory Pie!


The two-day cycle of Thanksgiving is traditionally a frantic, heady one of over-indulgence first at the table and later at the mall.  I have tried to be conscious of achieving balance during the holidays this year by making, rather than buying, most of the gifts for my family.

I was also trying to achieve balance with what I brought to my family's Thanksgiving dinner.  I think good bread makes every dinner feel special, so I made Peter Reinhart's Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread.  In fact, I tweeted the whole process in real time.  If you're into that kind of thing, check me out on twitter @culinarybliss.

Here she is in all her glory, first shaped and proofed.

and gloriously baked.

I was put in charge of pecan pie, which put me in a tough position.  I wanted to make something delicious and indulgent, but I also wanted to be sure that there was something local and seasonal in our meal, and maybe even some greens.  I decided to make an extra special pecan pie and a philo pie made with local kale and pork sausage.  So, first, the sweet stuff

Burbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

I started with Alton's pie crust, referencing my own blog for the recipe :)

Here you can see how I roll out my pie crusts.  Last week, I couldn't find my rolling pin, so I reluctantly replaced it with a very cheap French-style rolling pin from Paula Deen, which I surprisingly prefer to the normal style of rolling pin.

The dough right out of the freezer.  I kneaded this just a bit to bring it together.

I keep my flour container close.  The goal is to move as quickly as possible to preserve the pockets of fat, and to keep a roundish shape.  See the big white sploches?  That's a good thing.

Once you have it flattened, roll the crust up on the rolling pin.  The PD is perfect for this.

Now unroll it onto a pan and form your crust.

Now pour into that crust 2 c. chopped pecans and 1 c. chocolate chips of your choice.

Meanwhile, bring these ingredients first to a boil, then simmer for three minutes:

1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. corn syrup
1/4 c. bourbon

In a bowl, beat

4 eggs

Temper the yolks by adding just a little of the hot mixture, stirring, and then slowly adding the rest of the liquids.  Then, add

1/4 c. melted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cornmeal (I got this idea from many Southern bourbon pie recipes)

Pour this over the nuts and chocolate.  Bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

I'll squeeze in extra crust any way that I can, so I made some leaves out of the extra dough.

Artfully arranged by the husband


This was gorgeous and very good, but it was so sickly sweet with the chocolate, even though I used dark chocolate.  I'll make this same filling again because it was perfect, but next time I'll skip the chocolate.
I'm not a fan of corn syrup and don't use it often, but did in this case to cut corners.  It helps give that toffee texture.

As a respite from the cloying sweetness of the desert, I threw together a phylo pie with local kale and sausage made at the coop from local pork.

Kale and Sausage Pie

I fried up the sausage so it was mostly cooked through and had rendered most of its fat and removed it. Then cooked a couple onions in the sausage fat until translucent, and then wilted the kale.  I added a tsp of water here and there to get the kale soft.

I prepared the crust by layering sheets of phylo and buttering each one.  I used a tart pan for this, and made sure to butter the bottom first and press each sheet against the side of the pan.

I poured in the filling and layered the second half of the phylo on top with more butter between each layer, and then folded over the edges.

Baked at 350 for 55 minutes.

This was absolutely delicious and I expect you'll see it again soon in appetizer form.:)

This week we purchased a big set of Pyrex storage tins.  I don't like to store or heat food in plastic, so we use these for leftovers and lunches.  This set came from Target and was quite reasonable, and the lids have held up better than my Martha Stewart ones from Anchor Hocking.

That's all for this post, but please come back tomorrow!  I'm going to have a big.huge.awesome announcement to share with you all!  I've been working hard getting ready and can't wait to let you in on it!
Until then, take care!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Anniversary and a Poem

One year ago today my mother-in-law died of breast cancer.  

There are so many things that come to mind when I type that sentence:  Saying that out loud feels strange, and typing it feels even stranger.  Cancer sucks. Loosing a parent completely shakes your foundation.  Bad things happen to good people.  I am so thankful that she got to see us get married and continue our lives together.  I loved her so much.  I can't believe how much she's missed.  

It's very strange to me to think about my life and how it's changed, or not changed, over the past year.  Just as I mentioned in this post where I wrote about the meals I cooked to soothe myself, I'm still thinking about food being a part of my professional life, but I now feel closer than ever.

It's hard to comment on how things have changed without resorting to meaningless tautologies like, "so much has changed, yet so much stays the same".  That said, things have most certainly changed.

This baby who comforted me a year ago

has grown into a beautiful little lady

and this doggie, who was brand new to me at the time

has been brightening up my life ever since.  He makes me laugh daily.

And today, I'm trying to take it all in and look forward.  There are great things coming, and I'm ready.  I'd like to leave you with one of my all time favorite poems which seems appropriate for this post.  I highly recommend listening to a moving reading in an interview about poetry with the author here, late in his long and full life.  

The Layers
Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned campsites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Baked Eggs! and First Fall Chili, with Roasted Hot Pepper Cornbread


I have to begin this post by giving thanks to my two fabulous guessers, Maggie and Linda, who both suspected that these ramekins hold something sweet.  :)

I enjoy baking nearly as much as I do cooking, but these little guys hold something that can be eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or sized down as a snack.  It can taste Asian, Italian, or Indian, depending on the spices you choose.
This beautiful and simple dish is....

Baked Eggs

Begin with one ramekin per each egg you'd like to cook.  I used these.
Grease each ramekin with butter, then drop in

1 tsp. of butter
1 tbsp. milk

Put these directly under the broiler for around 1 minute, until the butter melts and the liquid gets bubbly and thickens.

Meanwhile, crack an egg into a small bowl.  I also chopped up some parsley.  This is where you can get creative.  You could add fresh chili, ginger, and garlic, or oregano and fresh basil.  You could also skip the milk step and replace that liquid with stock, or soy sauce, coconut milk, or even tomato sauce.

That's why baked eggs are a great anytime food, because they can take what you have on hand and turn it into something simple, filling, healthy, and delicious.  I'm always looking for recipes that are simple and versatile.

I fried up diced bacon and used a little Tony's.

Pour one egg into each ramekin.  Add some parsley, bacon, goat cheese, and salt and pepper as you like.

Broil these 1-2 minutes, rotate, broil for another 1-2, and then check doneness.  How long you cook them will depend on how well you like your eggs done, but for me the whites should still be a little underdone when you pull them out from under the broiler, as they will continue cooking for a minute or so outside the oven.

Two of these are very simple and delicious breakfast, and a piece of toast nicely gets at the remaining runny bits, should there still be any.  I like my yolks very runny, so crunchy bread is a must.

If you didn't know, life in the midwest these last few days has been  Like, highs in the 70s.  Sunny and gorgeous.  We've been spending lots of time playing outside with the doggie, and walking around the 'hood.  This Sunday, we spent a few hours raking up the majority of our leaves, though the pin oak is still holding on to a few.

Last week marked the last normal market of the season, so I celebrated by buying some forced bulbs, which I believe are paperwhites, but who knows.

They have sprung up another four inches in the couple days since I took this photo.  They will bring a welcome green to an increasingly brown homestead.

Since the weather's been trending toward the cool, we're getting ready by making a huge batch of chili.  I usually make a chili with tons of beans and a little lean ground meat, like this post from more than two years ago, but this time I wanted to use a ton of fresh vegetables to stretch the meat and beans.  It's become very clear to me how much I love vegetables and how they belong in every meal.  Eating them simply makes my body feel better.

First Fall Chili

Here's the veggie spread:  five carrots, six stalks of celery, one red and one green bell pepper, two onions, and at around 10 cloves of garlic.  I used a small can of organic tomato paste. You can see my dry black and pinto beans.  I've become a little freaked out by BPA, which resides in plastics and can leach into our food.  Unfortunately, the lining of some canned goods is plastic and can contain BPA.  (See this article.)  I've been trying to choose dried beans instead of canned whenever possible.   Yet another reason why I need to can even more next year.

I added tons of hot chili powder, cayenne, and cumin.

This included a lot of chopping.

I started by cooking the veggies in a little butter and oil until they softened, then added some lean ground beef until it was nearly cooked through, and then added all the beans I cared to.  Speaking of canned things, I added two of these, too.

We have only eight jars left.  :(  Not NEARLY enough!

Cooked these all together and let them get happy.

To garnish, I use yogurt.  The food blogosphere is in love with "Greek style" yogurt, which is thick and tart compared to normal plain American yogurt.  I find that yogurt that comes from ethnic grocery stores tends to be much more tart and thick as a rule, while significantly cheaper than these "Greek" yogurts.  If you don't have access to an Indian or Middle Eastern market, just buy a normal plain yogurt and strain it.  Like this.  Use cheesecloth, or a paper towel, and put a sieve over a bowl.  You'll be amazed at how much liquid drains off in minutes.  Drain in the fridge overnight and you'll have a thick tart cream, prefect to use on chili instead of sour cream.

You should grate some cheddar on it too, and add some sliced green onions, and blue tortilla chips.

And I wouldn't dream of telling you to make chili without making cornbread.  You do have the special pan, right?

Roasted Pepper Cornbread

1 c. cornmeal
1. c. unbleached ap flour
4 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. sugar
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp salt
4 small chilies, roasted, seeded, peeled, and minced.
fresh grated pepper

Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, then fold together just until most of the flour has gotten wet. There will still be big lumps, like this, but don't overmix.

Preheat that pan to 425 with a little oil in each well.

Bake 30-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  They were just slightly brown on top.  You're probably supposed to wait and let them cool to room temperature, but you know I ate two hot of the oven, with a little local raw honey and butter. :)


Finally, I have to give a shout-out to Linda over at One Scoop at a Time!  I was at Goodwill on Saturday (for, uh, the second time that week.  I have a small problem...) and as soon as I saw this beeeautiful Pyrex, thought of her, and I knew it had to come home with me :)

Enjoy what's left of this glorious fall!

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