Martha Mondays: Chocolate Beet Cake

October 31, 2011

This week’s project was chosen by yours truly: Chocolate Beet Cake (from November Living, not online yet). Wow! The gold standard for chocolate cake in my house is my grandmother’s Miracle Whip cake and this was just as good. It was incredibly moist and you would never know there were beets in it. It just tasted like a delicious, very moist chocolate cake – it looked just like a chocolate cake too.

I don’t know how often I would make this though, because beets are just a pain to work with! You have to peel them, then cut into pieces then boil then puree. I have an off-white Corian sink and was totally paranoid about it getting stained. I was able to find a pair of medical gloves to wear so I didn’t stain my hands. I peeled the beets on top of newspaper. I drained them out in the yard to avoid the sink issue entirely.

Other than the beets, the cake was easy to make and had an easy chocolate glaze, only one layer which I appreciated. It was so good I sent it away with Mr. MarthaAndMe this morning – can’t have that in the house AND the Halloween candy!

As you can see, I took it out of the oven a smidge too early – the very center didn’t quite cook all the way. I took it out with5 minutes remaining because it seemed done. I should have tested it with a cake tester.

I’m wondering if this would work with roasted beets (where you roast them whole, then just rub the skin off with a paper towel), or even canned beets so you wouldn’t have to cook them yourself at all.


Apple Dumplings

October 26, 2011

It’s been a while since I tried a recipe from Martha’s show. Recently she made apple dumplings with the author of The Apple Lovers’ Cookbook. I had to make this one.

For several years, we rented a cottage each summer in New York state’s Finger Lakes region, on Cayuga Lake. One of our favorite things to do was visit Sauder’s Store in Seneca Falls (the town that Bedford Falls in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” was modeled after). Sauder’s was smaller then than it is now (now they sell woodcrafted items and plants outside), but it had a huge bulk section and lots of Mennonite and Amish made baked goods. There were always Mennonites shopping in the store when we were there, which my kids were fascinated by.  There is a bookstore section that sells Mennonite and Amish cookbooks and other books. We always purchased birch beer (similar to root beer) here, a treat we always enjoyed at the fair each summer, but which you could not find in stores at that time. There was a meat case and I always bought Lebanon bologna, a cold cut that looks exactly like salami, but tastes like sweet bologna.

The baked goods were the highlight (whoopie pies, breads, pies, cookies) and apple dumplings were one of our favorites. I’ve never tried to make this and really forgot about it until I saw it again on Martha’s show!

I followed the instructions on this recipe to a “T”, but I think the problem was that my apples were too big. It’s really hard to find small apples here in NY state, where our apple crop is a big deal and sellers pride themselves on selling big, ripe, beautiful apples. I ended up cutting an inch or so off the tops of my apples, but they were still too big to fit in the dough squares. I ended up rolling the pieces of dough out to be larger and I still had to smush them to get them to cover most of the apples.

Other than, that it went well. The cider sauce is simple and it was all much easier than I imagined. This was really delicious. I think I might make regular pie crust next time instead of this dough recipe. I will definitely make this again. The entire family loved this.


Pork Chops and Sauerkraut

October 20, 2011

I was dying to try making my own sauerkraut after seeing Martha’s article on it in October Living. It sounded so easy! My mom remembers her German grandmother making homemade sauerkraut, which she kept in a crock on the kitchen counter. My mom says she just remembers it smelling awful. I wasn’t afraid (and mine actually did not smell at all).

To start you thinly slice up a head of cabbage and mix it with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds. You let it sit for about 5 minutes then you are supposed to squeeze the cabbage to release the juices. This was not easy! I kept squeezing and squeezing, and didn’t get much. Next you’re supposed to put it in a jar and cover it with a cabbage leaf and put a lid on it, opening it each day to let the air out. I decided to follow the method in a book I have, DIY Delicious, and instead covered the jar with a cloth attached with a rubber band. You were supposed to make sure the cabbage was covered in the liquid. It was, but barely. You leave it out on the counter for several days until it reaches the sourness you like. I left mine out for 5 days and it did not get very sour, but that was ok with me. (Next time I will let it sit a little longer, just to experiment with the level of sourness).

The problem I did have was that the liquids evaporated a bit and it grew kind of a white crust on top (which I scooped out) after a few days. I checked with some friends who said that was ok – and also that I probably should have added some water if the liquid went down (I’ll do that next time).

I put my jar in the fridge for a few days, then decided it was time to use it in a dish, so I came up with this hearty supper:

4 bone-in pork chops

1 small shallot, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

4 slices bread

3 corn muffins

salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon sage

1/2 teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups sauerkraut

4 apples, cored

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

Spray an 8×12 pan with cooking spray. Cut a deep, wide pocket in each chop. Rip up the bread and muffins and mix with shallot, garlic, sage, thyme, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add water until the stuffing is moist enough that it holds together. Stuff the chops and place them in the pan. Season them with salt and pepper.

Distribute the sauerkraut around and on the chops. Cut each apple into 4 slices and place on top of the chops. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours, or until the chops are completely cooked. Be sure to spoon some of the liquid from the pan onto your chop and stuffing when you serve it.

This was fantastic. First of all, the kraut. It wasn’t very sour at all, but it had a little bite. It tasted so much fresher and sweeter than kraut I’ve purchased in the past. I will definitely be making this again, particularly since you can keep it in the fridge for months. And this time I’ll add a little water.

The chops baked up very moist, which pork chops often do not do when they are baked. The kraut and apples added moisture and lots of flavor. The stuffing had interest because of the corn muffins. The apples were tender and pretty and tasted delicious with the chops and kraut.

This was the perfect fall meal! I want to make it again soon because I just could not get enough of it!


Chicken and Biscuits

October 12, 2011

I learned to make chicken and biscuits from my mom. It’s one of her favorite dinners. She learned from my grandmother. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it and come up with my own slightly enhanced version. Everyone in my family loves this and it’s a big deal when I make it (and there’s fighting over the biscuits). This is perfect for a Sunday night supper, with some green beans and a pie for dessert.

There are two methods for making this. Usually I start with the leftover carcass from a roast chicken, and thus feel extremely frugal. You can also start with a whole chicken. Either way, the result is fabulous.

1 chicken carcass from a roast chicken plus 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts OR 1 whole chicken

1 stalk of celery

4 baby carrots

salt and pepper

big pinch dried rosemary

big pinch dried thyme

pinch sage

12 baby carrots sliced

1/2 cup frozen peas

Wondra flour

salt and pepper

Place your chicken carcass in a big pot and cover it with water. If you’re using a cooked carcass plus breasts, don’t add the breasts yet. Put in the celery and 4 whole carrots, and add the herbs. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium, so it continues to boil. Allow to cook about an hour and a half, until the joints come apart and the broth is looking rich. If you have chicken breasts to add, this is the time to add them and cook another half hour (if you’re using a whole chicken, you want to cook for a total of 2 hours).

Strain the mixture, reserving liquid and pouring it back into the pot. Allow the chicken to cool in a bowl. Once it has cooled, break it up into small chunks and big shreds and add back into the pot. Add the sliced carrots and bring to a boil, cooking until the carrots are tender. Add the peas (it’s ok if they’re frozen). Keep the mix boiling. Start whisking in Wondra flour, starting with about 1/2 cup and adding more until you get to the consistency you like. I like mine to be very thick, like a very thick gravy. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Make the biscuits:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

baking soda

1/3 cup cold or frozen butter

2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425. Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, or if using frozen butter, grate it with a cheese cutter and then rub the mixture with your hands to incorporate. Gently stir in the buttermilk and use your hands to full incorporate. Pat it down to about 1 1/2 inches and cut with a biscuit cutter into 6 biscuits. Bake for 11 minutes.

Plan on 1-2 biscuits per person. Serve by cutting biscuits in half so you have two rounds, and spooning the chicken mixture on top.

Sometimes I add 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese to the biscuits to mix things up.

The chicken part of the recipe usually makes enough so that I can freeze the leftovers for another night, or feed a crowd and double the biscuit recipe.


Martha Mondays: Lighter Chicken Potpie

October 10, 2011

Pru at Perfecting Pru chose Lighter Chicken Potpie for today’s recipe. Pru has never had chicken potpie before! Well, Pru, what did you think?

I had a little trouble with the recipe. First off, I quickly poached some chicken breasts but did not use the poaching water as directed – I used chicken broth, but that was just my cheat for the recipe. Secondly, as I was making it, it seemed like there was not enough liquid, so I increased the broth (and increased the flour). It was nice and thick when it went in the oven, but it came out looking like soup, so it was pretty disappointing. My family did not like the tarragon in this, something I don’t normally use. The phyllo dough was nice and I thought the flavors were fine otherwise. I don’t make chicken potpie often because I find it to be messy. I always think I would like it better with a bottom crust, but even when I make it that way, it all still runs all over the place. I’m posting a recipe for chicken and biscuits later this week and that is my version of chicken potpie that I like the best.


Martha Mondays: New York Crumb Cake

February 28, 2011

My pick for Martha Mondays was the New York Crumb Cake from March Living. OMG. This was amazing, I thought! I forgot to sprinkle powdered sugar on top, but it was good anyhow. Here’s the recipe:
Topping:

3 1/2 c cake flour

2/3 c sugar

2/3 c brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 sticks butter, melted

Cake:

1 1/2 sticks butter

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 c sugar

2 eggs and 2 yolks

1 tsp vanilla

2/3 c buttermilk

powdered sugar for dusting

optional 1 cup blueberry jam (I used this)

Mix dry crumb topping ingredients together. Pour butter over it and mix with hands until it makes large clumps.

Preheat oven to 325 and grease a 9×13 pan. Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolks and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk. Pour batter in pan. Top with jam (if desired) then crumb topping. Bake for 1 hour.

Yum. The amazing part is this thing sat on the counter at my house for 5 days (covered) and did not diminish in moisture or texture, which I cannot believe. Everyone here loved this. I am saving this recipe and it goes on my “Martha’s Best of” list for sure. Super easy to make and moist, delicious and gorgeous.  It was incredible.


Brioche Rolls

February 24, 2011

I’ve never made brioche before and this recipe from Cooking Light (from Dec 2010) sounded great, so I gave it a try.

1 packet yeast (2 1/14 tsp)

1/3 cup warm 1% milk (I used skim)

15.75 oz flour (about 3 1/2 cups)

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs

8 1/2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp water

1 egg white

Dissolve years in warm milk and let stand 5 minutes. Add flour, sugar, salt, and eggs and beat with paddle attachment on stand mixer on low, scraping down the side, until smooth. Remove the paddle and put in the dough hook. Mix on low for 5 minutes until it is elastic and pulls away from the sides. Cut up 6 1/2 tbsp of butter into cubes and add half, mixing on medium. Add the other half and mix on medium until incorporated. Mix on medium for 4 minutes. Put it in a greased bowl and cover, allowing to rise for an hour until doubled (I had to put mine in a warm oven to get it to rise – it was just too cold in this house in February!).

Punch the dough down and return to the bowl and cover, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight (I did overnight).

Remove the dough and uncover allowing it to come to room temp (about 90 min). Divide into 4 sections and cut each section into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place in a greased muffin tin. Cover and allow to rise 45 min (again, I had to use the oven).

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix water with egg white and brush the rolls with the mixture. Bake 14 minutes until golden. Melt remaining butter and brush the rolls with butter.

These were really, really delicious. Light, fluffy, and slightly sweet. My only complaint is that they weren’t very big. I would have liked them to be taller and just bigger. But other than that, they were great.

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Easter Carrots

February 17, 2011

I know I’m a few months early, but I’ve already decided what I’m making for Easter. I am in love with these carrots. There was a fight over the leftovers here.

half a bag of baby carrots

2 heaping tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp dried dill

salt and pepper

4 tbsp white wine

chives or green onions

Slice the carrots into thick matchsticks – you want to get 4-6 per carrot. Boil until just tender. At the very end, drop in the green from green onions (scallions) or a handful of chives and just cook for a minute to wilt. Drain. Make little bundles of the carrots and tie with the chives or green onions (even if you only do a few, this still will look cute). Melt butter, sugar, dill, salt and pepper, and wine. Cook for a minute or two until combined and the wine has time to burn off and it thickens slightly.  Add the carrot bundles and gently stir, then serve. As you can see, I didn’t have a lot of success with the bundles, but I didn’t have much green onion here to work with. Next time I will have more and will be prepared. I just think this is so darn cute and will look wonderful for Easter.

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Martha Momdays: Sauteed Sole

February 14, 2011

I called this post Martha Momdays instead of Martha Mondays because the recipe chosen for today by Lyndsey at Tiny Skillet, sauteed sole, is exactly how my mom used to make it, or almost. The only difference is that this recipe uses a lot more butter and oil. I doubled this recipe so I could feed four with it. I put the butter and oil in the pan and melted it and it was just too much to my eye. So I scooped out about 2 tbsp. Much better. When we were in Seattle over the summer I had sole at a restaurant there and it was supposed to be sauteed, but it arrived fried to a crisp and I didn’t want to relive that experience!

The sole cooks really quickly  (after being dusted with flour) and then you mix up the quick sauce of pan juice, lemon juice, zest, sliced almonds and parsley. Quick and perfect.

I haven’t had sole in a long time, so this was a treat. I am still trying to work my way through the salmon Mr. MarthaAndMe and DudeMartha caught in Alaska and haven’t been buying much seafood, other then shrimp. I was eyeing up the grouper in the fish store, so I may have to go back and buy some of that for another night.

This is a perfect recipe for a week night when you don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen, but want something delicious and full of flavor.Mr. MarthaAndMe is an especially big fan of this one.

Interested in joining Martha Mondays? Just leave a comment letting me know and I’ll add you to roster. You’ll get a turn to choose a project every couple of months and can cook or craft along with us, posting your results.

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Jamie Oliver’s Tray Chicken

February 10, 2011

The recipe for this was in our Sunday paper. I’ve never tried any of Jamie Oliver’s recipes, but this one sounded good. The little intro that accompanied it explained that Jamie likes this for Sunday dinner. In the winter especially, I do like to make Sunday dinners, so this appealed to me.

I had a bit of an oops with this one. I misread the recipe and forgot to add the broth with the potatoes. Eek. I realized it when I went to add the chicken and added it then. Of course it didn’t thicken enough and the potatoes did not cook completely either. I ended up siphoning some of the juices out and thickening them with flour and adding them back in. Don’t let my disaster scare you away though. This was really, really delicious and when I reheated the leftovers the next day (getting the potatoes cooked through) it was fab. The onion and garlic give this a real oomph of flavor. Having sweet and regular potatoes gives it color and an interesting mix of flavor. I will make this again – and this time I’ll make sure I’m awake enough to follow simple instructions!

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