Monday, January 2, 2017

Drunken Fruit Bread

Lovey loves date nut bread to enjoy with his coffee in the mornings.  I can take it or leave it; I'm more of an eggs and bacon kind of gal.

 Lucille gave Lovey and me a basket of dried fruit for Christmas. It had dates, apricots, papaya, peaches, prunes, pineapple, and angelino plums

As you can see, there aren't enough dates for a loaf of bread so I thought I'd make a bread with a combination of all the fruits.  I also decided to soak all of the fruits in booze for three days rather than the 30 minutes the recipe normally suggests.

I chopped up about 2 cups of the fruit combo to fit in a pint mason jar (I packed the jar fairly tight).  Then I grabbed a bottle of brandy and poured over the fruit until it reached the top. There wasn't quite enough brandy in my bottle so I used a little rum to fill the jar. You can use whatever booze you choose; brandy just seems to pair well with fruit.

Put the lid on tight, give the jar a gentle shake and place in a cool, dark place for three days.  If you think about it you can give the jar a shake each day.

After three days of soaking it's time to bake.  Butter the bottom of the pan line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

 Butter the parchment and the sides of the pan then sprinkle with flour.  Set the pan aside.

This is a typical quick bread recipe where the butter and sugar are creamed

then the eggs and flavorings are added

 The flour and spice mixture is added in alternately with the liquids which for this bread include freshly squeezed orange juice and the brandy from the fruit.


The fruits and nuts are then stirred in by hand

The batter is turned into the pan, put into a 350° oven

and this is what you get after about an hour.

It's a dense but moist bread with a beautiful texture and flavor.

Rather than the typical flavor of a date nut bread  this had the distinct flavor of a fruit cake due to the different fruits used along with the dates.   And it is v-e-r-y boozy.  I liked it with a slathering of butter.

Drunken Fruit Bread
Yield 1 loaf

2 cups dried fruit, coarsely chopped
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. round cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

 3 days prior to baking prepare the drunken fruit.  Chop all fruit and pack, somewhat tightly, into a pint Mason Jar.  Pour enough brandy into the jar to cover the fruit.  Secure lid tightly on to jar and store in a dark, cool place.

On baking day, preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare pan by buttering the bottom of an 8-1/2" x 4-1/2" x 2-1/2: loaf pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.

In bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar. with the mixer on low speed add the egg, vanilla and the orange zest.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.  With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the butter mixture, mixing only until combined.

Drain the brandy from the fruit into a measuring cup.  Fold the fruit into the batter along with a little under 1/3 cup of the drained brandy (if you have more of 1/3 cup brandy drained off, treat yourself and sip on  it).  Fold the pecans into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Turkey Stock

Good stocks are always welcome items in my freezer.  They couldn't be easier to make. They may take time, but there is always a good day to mark on your calendar to spend comfort time in the kitchen. Turkey stock is the champion during the holiday season.  It can be used for gravies and soup bases.

Stock can be made way ahead of the holiday. In the Fall, as soon as I see packages of turkey necks, wings, legs, gizzards, etc. show up in the meat department of my favorite grocery store, I get to work.

This year I used turkey necks, wings and legs.  Everything gets rubbed in oil, salted and peppered.

These get roasted in a 400° oven for about 45 minutes.

 While the turkey parts are roasting, prepare the vegetables. I used carrots, onion, garlic, celery, and fresh sage leaves.

Once the meats are roasted, remove them, temporarily, and place the vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Give the vegetables a toss to coat with the drippings in the pan.

Return the meats to the pan placing them on top of the vegetables, turning the meats over with the roasted side down.

This gets returned to the oven to roast for 35 minutes longer.

Once the turkey parts and vegetables are removed from the oven they are placed in a large stock pot, covered with water and simmered for 2 hours.

Everything is strained and the stock is cooled in the refrigerator so any fat can be skimmed off.

The stock is now ready for freezing.  Pour into four 1-quart Mason jars or four 1-quart plastic freezer bags.  If you freeze in Mason jars, be sure to leave space at the top for the stock to expand and put the lid on loosely until the stock is frozen solid.  If you elect to freeze in freezer baggies lay them flat on a sided baking sheet until the stock is frozen solid.  Also,  I would highly suggest NOT using the bags with the slider zippers.  They can leak while the baggy is lying flat on a baking sheet.  Once frozen solid, the baggies will stack well in the freezer.

Turkey Stock
Adapted from a recipe of Guy Fieri's
Yields 4 quarts of stock

2 turkey legs
2 turkey wings
2 turkey necks
2 Tbsp. canola oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large garlic cloves
2 large yellow onions, quartered
2 large carrots scrubbed
3 stalks of celery, chopped in half
6 fresh sage leaves
6 quarts water

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Evenly rub turkey parts with oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place turkey parts in a large roasting pan, skin side down, in oven and roast for 45 minutes.

Prepare and combine vegetables and sage leaves.  Reduce heat of oven to 350°F., briefly remove turkey from roasting pan. Add vegetables to roasting pan, tossing to coat in pan juices.  Return turkey parts placing skin side up on top of vegetables and continue to roast for another 35 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and transfer turkey parts and vegetables to a 10 quart or larger stock pot. Place the roasting pan over burners of range top (do this only if your roasting pan is a heavy-duty pan), add 2 cups of water to the pan and boil, scraping up any stuck bits.  Pour this into the stock pot.

Add 6 quarts of water to the stock pot.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and keep to a medium to low simmer for 2 hours, uncovered until stock is deep in color and flavor.  Strain turkey and vegetables from stock, pushing any vegetable matter through strainer.  Let stock sit, overnight in refrigerator if time allows, then skim off any fat from top.

Divide stock into 4 Mason jars or plastic freezer bags and place in freezer.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Holiday Cornbread Dressing

I refer to this as Holiday dressing because that is pretty much the only time I make it; Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Most of us create some derivative of recipes we grew up with and that is the category this recipe falls into.

I loved my mom and dad's dressings growing up. Mom would make our traditional cornbread based dressing and dad would like to change it up by adding oysters to his batch. I liked both.

Once I left home for college then living on my own, I didn't make or have dressing unless I went home. Years later at my sister's house she was making a big batch of Mom's dressing and I paid close attention. I've been making mine ever since.  As with so many recipes it's easy to make them your own. This is pretty much the way we had it growing up, except for the "other" bread used in conjunction with the cornbread.

The cornbread....I don't make the cornbread from scratch the way I do for, say, ham hock and beans. I whip up a couple packages of Martha White's Yellow Cornbread Mix. There are others on the market such as Corn-Kits & Pioneer but one that I will not use for dressing is Jiffy. It's much too sweet for my taste.

Using a packaged mix makes things a little simpler; especially when there are so many other things going on in the kitchen during Thanksgiving and Christmas day.

I bake mine in an 8 x 8 Pyrex pan.   Once the corn bread is baked and cooled in the pan crumble it up. Two packages make about 8 cups crumbled cornbread. Whatever other bread you use for your dressing, you want to keep it at a ratio of 2 parts cornbread to 1 part other.

So, for the other bread choices to add to the dressing....I have used plain white sandwich bread (my favorite) such as Rainbow or, here in Texas, Mrs. Baird's. I have also had great luck with baking up a batch of canned biscuits. Enter Lovey into my life and he prefers a 'healthier' choice like La Madeleine Country Wheat. Ssshhh, don't tell him that this will not make his dressing 'healthy'. But, I aim to please my man so I now use the country wheat. In this recipe I'll use about 4 cups bread. Tear it up by hand or cube using a knife.

Once the breads are combine I saut├ę onion and celery in a couple sticks of butter.  Yes, I said a couple of sticks.  Butter makes everything better and tastier.  Add the vegetables to the mix and use chicken stock to moisten. How moist you like your dressing can be determined by the amount of stock you add. There's not a strict rule; it's what you like.

Prior to adding the egg to bind the mixture I season to taste with salt, pepper, and rubbed sage lastI don't usually have to add much salt because the chicken stock is normally salty enough.  Add sage a Tbsp. at a time.  I like a lot of sage but if you use too much it can leave a bitter after taste.  Get in there with your hands and mix it all up.

If you are serving dinner at a nicely set table, you can bake this in a nice oven proof, serve-at-the-table baking dish.  I made this in a disposable this year because it's just Lovey and myself.

Now, if you want to use part of this recipe as stuffing and cook it inside the bird, please just make sure that, 1) don't cram it in the cavity of the bird; pack it loosely as it will expand; and 2) take the temp of the dressing and make sure it registers at 165°F. 

 Bake for about 30 minutes until hot throughout.

This recipe will serve about 12 if the servings are approximate to the photo above.  In our house this recipe would serve about 6 ­čśő.

2 - 6 ounce packages yellow cornbread baked according to package instructions
4 cups cubed bread or biscuits
2 sticks salted butter
6 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped

4 cups chicken broth, boxed or homemade
salt and pepper to taste
5 Tbsp. rubbed sage
3 large eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare cornbread according to package instructions.  Cool and crumble in a large mixing bowl.  Cube or tear up bread and add to mixing bowl.

Melt butter and saute' celery and onion until beginning to soften.  Add to bread mixture and toss well.  Add chicken broth and mix.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add sage.  Once you are satisfied with the seasoning, add the eggs.

Turn mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Bake for 30 - to 40 minutes or until top is golden brown. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Butternut Squash Soup with Sea Scallops and Shrimp

Come Autumn, butternut squash is used a lot in our house.  Soup is a staple.  I've tasted many delicious butternut squash soups that are more on the sweet side, using apples, cinnamon and nutmeg. This one is a more savory recipe garnished with scallops and shrimp.

It's really easy; the majority of the labor is in chopping all the vegetables.

The squash, onion and garlic are all thrown into a Dutch oven.  I've also added a bouquet garni of thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, and bay leaf. For this soup I wrapped the herbs in cheese cloth because I didn't want flecks of the herbs in the soup. 

 After the chicken broth and cream are added to the pot it's all brought to a boil. Cover the pot and lit it simmer over reduced heat until the squash is tender.

 Discard the bouquet garni

In batches, puree in a blender or food processor.  With this batch I had to use my immersion blender because my blender broke and I sold my food processor in our estate sale.  It is at this point that you can make this soup as thick or thin as you like.  You can add chicken broth, milk,  or cream.

You can garnish the soup with anything you want; pepitaps, croutons, grated cheese, and on and on.  I opted for saute├ęd scallops and shrimp saute├ęd in butter.

Ladle into soup bowl, garnish and enjoy.

Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 10 or more

3 pounds butternut squash
1 large yellow onion
1 large clove garlic
1-1/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
3 sprigs flat leaf parsley
1 fresh sage leaf
1 large sprig rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
 3-4 bay leaves
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
10 sea scallops
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
10 large shrimp
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Peel, seed and cube the squash and toss in a 5 to 6 quart Dutch Oven.  Chop onion and dice garlic and add to pot.  Add 3/4 tsp of the salt and pepper to the pot. 

In the center of a square piece of cheese cloth  bundle the parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. Roll the cheese cloth around the herbs and tie at each end and the middle with kitchen twine.  Throw into pot.

Pour the chicken broth and whipping cream into the pot. Stir to mix, cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Peel and de-vein the shrimp and set aside. Pat scallops dry on both sides and set aside.

In batches, pure├ę the mixture until smooth and return to pot.  Add additional broth or cream if you wish, depending on your desire of thickness of the soup. Keep soup warm.

For the scallops, preheat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over high heat.  Add 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt.  When oil starts to smoke, add scallops to pan.  When scallops brown, turn over and turn off heat. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from skillet  to avoid overcooking.  Wipe out skillet.

Return skillet to medium heat and melt the unsalted butter until foaming subsides and the butter is golden brown   Add shrimp and saut├ę for 1-1/2 minutes on each side.

Ladle soup into soup bowls and garnish with the scallops and shrimp.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Southern Smothered Pork Chops

I love a good pork chop. When I was in Junior High I baked them sitting on a thick slice of onion with a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup poured on top; a recipe I learned from a family I baby sat for.  

After moving back out to west Texas to take care of Papa I began baking them, at his request, smothered with cream of mushroom soup.  I wanted to get away from the canned soup thing so I started looking for recipes that made its gravy from scratch rather than a can.

I didn't have to look far because there was one in the current October/November 2016 issue of Cook's Country.

 Start with great meat. Luckily for me there is a great source for that in Midland.  I bought 4 beautiful pork loin chops, weighing about 8 oz. each, at Midland Meat Company.  They are rubbed with a seasoned salt mixture.

 They get dredged in flour that has been seasoned with some of that same seasoned salt mixture.  Set them aside on a wire rack to rest.

Fry two chops at a time for 3-5 minutes per side.

Put the chops back on the rack while you prepare the gravy.

 Make a roux with 1/4 cup of the pan drippings/oil and flour.  Cook until the roux reaches the color of peanut butter.

Throw the onions into the roux.

Add more of the seasoned salt mixture and cook for several minutes until onions begin to soften

Slowly add 3 cups of water and mix until smooth.  Let simmer until thickened.

Pour half of the gravy into a 13 x 9 baking dish.  Place the chops in the pan then pour the rest of the gravy over the chops.

Cover with foil and bake for 1-1/2 hours in a 350° F. oven.

 Transfer the chops to a serving platter. Add some cider vinegar to the gravy and pour the gravy over the chops.  MMmmmmm. Dinner.  Serve 'em up with rice or couscous.

NOTE:  This can also be make with Top Round Steak for Smothered Steak

Southern-Style Smothered Pork Chops
Adapted from Cook's Country October-November 2016 issue
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. pepper
4 (8 to 10 ounce) bone-in pork loin chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, quartered through root end and sliced thin crosswise
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar


Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350°F.  Set wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.  Combine the seasoned salt, onion powder, granulated garlic, paprika, and 1 tsp. pepper in a small bowl.  Pat chops dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle both sides of each chop with 1 tsp. of the seasoned salt (1/2 tsp. per side).

Combine 1/2 cup of the flour and 4 tsp. of the salt mixture in a shallow dish.  Dredge chops lightly in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess, and transfer to the prepared rack.

Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add 2 chops to skillet and fry until deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side.  Let excess oil drip from chops, then return chops to rack.  Repeat with remaining 2 chops.

Transfer fat left in skillet to a liquid measuring cup.  Return 1/4 cup fat to skillet and stir in remaining 1/2 cup flour.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until roux is color of peanut butter, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onions and remaining 4 tsp. salt mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until onions begin to soften slightly, about 2 minutes.

Slowly stir water into roux mixture until gravy is smooth and free of lumps.  Bring to simmer and cook until gravy begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.

Pour half of gravy into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.  Nestle browned chops in dish, overlapping slightly if necessary.  Pour remaining gravy over chops and cover dish tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake until chops are fully tender, about 1-1/2 hours.

Carefully transfer chops to serving platter (they may be fall apart-tender). Skim fat from surface of gravy.  Add vinegar to gravy and season with pepper to taste.  Pour gravy over chops.