Showing posts with label comfort food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comfort food. Show all posts

11/20/14

How to Host Thanksgiving Dinner 101 and a giveaway with Mint Arrow for my favorite Thanksgiving cooking tools!





WHAT.
It's your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner?
And you've never cooked Thanksgiving dinner?  Ever? If you're 25 or 55, you've come to the right place. Planning, recipes and step by step timeline to help you get Thanksgiving dinner on the table- without a meltdown! And guess what? I've partnered with my daughter, Corrine at Mint Arrow, to bring you my  favorite tools for Thanksgiving dinner and a chance to win them all!

Thanksgiving 101:

My first piece of advice is stick with traditional. Trust me. Traditional is best for Thanksgiving. That means turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, salad and of course, pie. 
A couple of suggestions before we start:

  1. Take a deep breath. This is just a meal. Sure, it's the most anticipated meal of the year, but in the end it's only a meal. Meat, potatoes, gravy. You can do this.
  2. Take any help offered. If you're hosting, and others want to help, LET THEM HELP.  It's okay if you don't have total control. If Aunt Betty's pie is a runny mess, no big deal. Remember, although I'm a bit of a food freak, it's okay if everything doesn't taste exactly as you planned or if every dish doesn't turn out to look like it could be photographed for the next issue of Martha Stewart Living. This holiday is about family and friends and blessings. If a guest offers to help, or if you ask them to help, I've found the best way to end up with the best dishes at your feast is to let guests bring what they love to cook. Every year my sister in law Sheri makes Southern specialties, because her husband is from the South, and she learned how to make broccoli casserole and cornbread dressing and Southern specialty pies while they lived in Alabama for years. Those are always her assignments. She makes them better than anyone else. Period.

Now those two important items are out of the way, I'm going to point you in the direction of recipes on A Bountiful Kitchen I believe are  both delicious and simple for first time cooks or hosts to use on Thanksgiving. After the recipes, Ill break down the timing as far as when to cook what, so it all ends up on the table hot, at the same time.
Here we go.

Typical Thanksgiving eve scene in A Bountiful Kitchen...



Turkey
If you can get a fresh turkey and you like fresh better than frozen, great. Order one. Don't plan on running to the store on Wednesday to pick up a fresh turkey up without ordering in advance!  
If frozen, make sure to start thawing it about three days before cooking. If I purchase a 24 lb turkey, I start thawing it (at least)  Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving. Place it in the fridge in a pan. You can leave it in the wrapping.  Don't ever thaw a turkey on the counter. Unless you want to end up in the bathroom or the ER for a very long time after Thanksgiving dinner...
Here's my tried and true most simple way to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. It involves a roasting bag, a few seasonings, butter and a roasting pan. A few minutes of prep and a few hours in the oven. That's it. No basting, just slide in the oven and bake.  Are we best friends yet?
And yes, it really does brown up nicely inside of a bag. Isn't that a thing of beauty?








Pan Gravy

Using the drippings from the turkey for the best gravy. If you have a roasting pan, you'll be able to roast the turkey in the pan and then make the gravy right in the same pan.

This recipe isn't up yet, but will be on Saturday. You'll need a few cans (2-3) of chicken broth, butter, flour, salt, pepper and chicken flavor booster (I like Swanson brand or Knorr) . Check back for recipe link...






Mashed Potatoes: If turkey is king, mashed potatoes are queen.



After you've made these, you'll never, ever go back to boiling on the stove.
Plug in the slow cooker early in the day, mash up your potatoes right in the slow cooker and keep your prepared dish on the warm setting until showtime!









Cranberry Sauce:


Fresh Cranberry Sauce (basic recipe)
look on ABK's index for a few variations of cranberry sauce

One of those- never, ever, EVER  buy in a can items. This is the most simple recipe of all. The difference in taste? Not even comparable.
You can make this up to a week in advance.
Takes about ten minutes total to make. Let cool, refrigerate and take out a few minutes before serving dinner.








Start drying your bread now.  Here's a few tips on preparing the bread for your stuffing. If you don't have time or just can't face cutting up and drying your own bread, grab a couple of boxes of bread cubes at the grocery.  This is my moms tried and true crowd favorite stuffing. you can make it a few days ahead and refrigerate until ready to heat up. Also, cooking tip- I stopped cooking stuffing in the bird a few years ago. It slowed the cooking time of the turkey considerably and made predicting the cooking time more tricky.  







Sweet Potatoes:
If you're a Southerner, you can't have Thanksgiving without at least one sweet potato dish. This is my sister in laws famous dish. So good, you'll be tempted to fill up on these before you get the rest of the meal on your plate. I like this dish,  again, because it's a total make-ahead dish.
Make it this weekend, and then place it in the fridge and follow the recipe directions for make ahead.







Green Salad:


Every Thanksgiving dinner needs a green salad. I love this one. It's simple and fresh. Cut the fruit the day (or two) before.  Use a Spring Mix or Spinach leaves for the greens. Make the dressing up to a week ahead. All you have to do the day of the meal is place the greens on salad plates on the table, top with fruits and drizzle with dressing. So simple.





Jello or fruit salad



What's Thanksgiving without J-E-L-L-O ?
You'll love this recipe. Make it on Tuesday. Let it sit until the big day. You can make it in a 9x13 or individual custard cups.
So good, it will turn a Jello hater into a fan.





Rolls:


I like this recipe for beginners because there's no rolling out and shaping. Just let rise once, scoop into pan, raise again and bake. You can make these the night before.





And finally, Pie.
Really now. Who can have Thanksgiving without pie? Can you fully trust a person who says they don't like pie? Maybe, but my inner voice tells me they really do like pie, they've just never eaten good pie.
I chose two recipes I think are simple and most people will love.
Pecan pie being the first. Pecan pie is probably the easiest pie to make for beginners.
Make the crust, shape and place in pan. Follow my tutorial on crust making here.
The second recipe is for classic pumpkin pie. My recipe takes the classic Libby's recipe and adjusts the spices and milk so you won't end up with a runny filling. Perfect pumpkin pie. Every time.







Oops, almost forgot. Ice Cream. No, you don't have to make your own. Just don't forget it.
If you DO want to make your own, here's the link to my Dark Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream.






Complete Menu and Links:



-TIMELINE-

5-6 days ahead-  
-Thaw the turkey in refrigerator if you are cooking over a 20 lb turkey. Remember, the insides need to be completely thawed before cooking. 
-Print out recipes, gather in one folder or binder and make grocery lists. 
-Buy all non-perishable groceries (and some fresh, depending on how early you are preparing dishes). Don't forget items like spices, jam, drinks, ice.
-Make cranberry sauce.
-Cut up bread, dry in oven. 
-Make dressing for the green salad.

3-4 days ahead-
-Cook the yams or sweet potatoes for the sweet potato casserole dish. Let cool, mash in bowl. Refrigerate until ready to complete recipe. 
-If you are making ice cream, mix it up, follow directions and keep frozen until Thanksgiving. 
-For the stuffing, cook the sausage and all of the veggies. Refrigerate until ready to add to the rest of the stuffing ingredients. 

2 days ahead-
-shop for any remaining perishable items- greens, dairy (don't forget the sour cream and whipping cream), flowers, if you like fresh flowers on your table. 
-Make the jello
-Complete the stuffing, mix together, place in fridge. 
-Cut up fruit for the green salad, place in separate bags. 

1 day ahead-
-Make pies. Set in a cool dry place. If you make pumpkin pie, refrigerate after completely cooled. Pecan pie may be left on the counter. 
-Wash potatoes.
-Make rolls, let cool and place in a plastic bag so they don't dry out after they are completely cooled.
-Gather ingredients for roasting turkey, place in one spot in kitchen. 
-Set out all serving platters, bowls, and utensils. I like to set the serving utensil right in the dish, so I don't have to look for (or direct someone to look for) serving utensils while I'm in the final stages of preparing the meal.  If you can, set the table for dinner. Don't forget the salt and pepper. 


Thanksgiving Day-
-Put on your apron and some comfy shoes. 
-Prepare turkey for cooking. Do this about 4-5 hours before serving dinner. 
-Cut up potatoes and place in slow cooker about 5 hours before dinner is served. 
-Cook Turkey according to chart on recipe notice how many pounds your turkey weighs BEFORE tossing the weight tag on the turkey. 
-About 2 hours before turkey is done, remove the sweet potatoes and stuffing from refrigerator. 
Let sit on counter for one hour. 
If you have a second oven, place these dishes in oven to warm at 325 for about one hour, loosely covered with foil. If the stuffing is too dry, add a few tablespoons of chicken broth and gently fold the stuffing a bit to loosen the bread and allow the broth to moisten the stuffing. 
If you have one oven, Place these dishes on another rack in oven with turkey if possible for about an hour. If you have to wait until the turkey is done, cook both side dishes at 375 for about 30 minutes on middle rack, uncovered. Check to see if they are warmed in the middle of dish before serving. They can go into the oven immediately after the turkey is removed, adjust the heat and start cooking right away. 
-After the mashed potatoes are cooked (about 4 hours), complete recipe and keep slow cooker on warm setting. 
-Place any frozen veggies (corn, green beans, etc) in pans on stove with water and butter in pan. Do not cook yet. 
-Place the rolls on table in basket. 
-Place butter, jam, cranberry sauce etc on table. 
-Plate and dress salad, set on table. 
-Place jello salad on table.
-Remove turkey from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Follow directions for removing bag.
-Transfer turkey to platter to serve. Cover loosely with foil while making gravy. 
-Have someone fill drink glasses. 
-Make gravy according to recipe. While making gravy, cook corn. 
-Transfer turkey to table.
-Remove stuffing and sweet potatoes from oven and corn from stove pour into serving dish, place on table. Place mashed potatoes in serving bowl on table. 
-Place gravy in bowl with ladle and place on table. 
-Take off your apron, gather with your loved ones at the table, and thank the Lord for all you have. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 






11/6/14

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes



If you are like me, no matter the size of your kitchen, when Thanksgiving rolls around, it never seems big enough. There are never enough cooking surfaces, oven space or counter space to fit all of the dishes you are hoping to serve piping hot, at the same time for your Thanksgiving feast.
So many dishes, so little space.
Enter the humble and oft forgotten slow cooker. Dump the potatoes in,  add a little water and salt. and in about 4 hours. BAM. You're in business.



It really is that simple.
Amazing.
Why didn't I think of this years ago??
Why doesn't my keypad have multiple emojis so I can insert the - bewildered, embarrassed, and now totally happy emoji  face parade??!! I'm sure you can picture those faces.
Happy days are here again my friends.
One less dish to keep warm on the stove or in the oven!
Happy cooking.
Here's a fantastic gravy recipe to go with your mashed potatoes- Simple Pan Gravy
PS are you following on INSTAGRAM? Look to the right, see the icon?  If not, do it. now. You'll be glad you did. Next week, I'm partnering with Harmons and 4 other bloggers to bring you original recipes for a delicious holiday meal AND  a big giveaway just in time for your multiple trips to the grocery store!





Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
A Bountiful Kitchen
print recipe

5 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed, cut into fourths (I leave the peels on)
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2- 3/4 cup butter, cut into tablespoons
half and half, about 1 1/2 -2 cups
1 cup sour cream (optional)
pepper and more salt if needed

Place potatoes in large 6-7 quart slow cooker or crock pot. Pour in water. Sprinkle salt over potatoes.
Place lid on slow cooker and set on high heat. Don't lift the lid! Cook for about 4 hours.
Leaving the insert (bowl) in the slowcooker do the following:
Do not drain the potatoes. Place the butter in with the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and butter together.  Add the half and half (about 1 1/2 cups). Continue to mash until desired consistency. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of half and half,  if needed.  Add sour cream (if using) and mix well. Taste and add more salt and a little pepper if desired.
Turn the heat to warm and keep warm until ready to serve for up to two hours. If needed, just before serving, add additional milk or half and half and fold the potatoes

Tips:
-Do not over mix, or beat the potatoes for a long time with a mixer. The potatoes will  take on a gluey type texture.  It is almost impossible to over mix the potatoes with a potato masher.  If you don't have one,  I highly recommend buying one.  I've had mine for at least 25-30 years,  and it's still going strong.
Click on the photo below to order yours for just a few dollars:









9/30/14

Old Fashioned Coca Cola Cake







Is there anything better than a cake that tastes like a slice of your childhood?  This recipe is an updated version of a classic favorite, made into a layer cake to dress it up a bit. The combo of Coke and buttermilk in the batter turns out a light, tender cake that stays moist for days.




I don't know about you, but I love homemade chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and pecans on top.   Pour me a glass of cold milk and I'm a happy girl.





Old Fashioned Coca Cola Cake
A Bountiful Kitchen

1 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts, I used pecans
Frosting (below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in middle of oven.
Mix Coke and buttermilk together in a measuring cup, set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars together until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Mix and add the coke mixture all at once. Fold in the marshmallows.
Spoon mixture into two greased and lined 9 inch cake pans or one greased 9x13 cake pan.
Bake 30-35 minutes for layer cake and about 35-40 minutes for 9x13. Cake is done when a few moist crumbs are attached to a toothpick.
Remove from oven and if using layer pans, run a butter knife around edges and invert onto a rack to cool, placing the parchment side down so it won't stick to the rack. Make sure to peel parchment paper off before frosting cakes.
Cool completely.

Frosting:
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup coke
2-3 tablespoons milk or cream as needed

Mix the butter in a bowl with powdered sugar and cocoa. Add salt, vanilla and coke. Beat until creamy. Add milk until desired spreading consistency.
Place cake on a platter. Spread 1/3 of frosting on layer. Top with other layer. Spread frosting on top and sides. Place chopped nuts on top of cake.
Serves 12

Tips:
-This cake is very tender, or falls apart easily because it is so moist. Be careful to not over bake. The first time I experimented with this recipe, it came out dry. I think I baked it for 40-45 minutes. I found that about 35 minutes worked perfect in my oven.
-The cake will come out with little indents where the marshmallows have melted and sunken into the batter. No worries. The frosting will fill in the indents.
-You may add up to another cup of marshmallows to the cake batter if you wish. Only use fresh marshmallows.
-Don't use Diet Coke. Or I'll have to come hurt you.







8/18/14

Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookies (2014)



School starts up next week in our community. Is there anything better after a long day at school than a melt-in-your-mouth homemade chocolate chip cookie?
If you've ever made chocolate chip cookies, you've probably had a baking failure. Am I right?
Today, we are going to solve that problem. Once and for all.
NO MORE CHOCOLATE CHIP PANCAKE COOKIES.  Ever again.




In 2010, after months of testing methods and ingredient combinations for baking chocolate chip cookies, I came up with a recipe that works.  Every. Single. Time.
Since then, I've continued to update, simplify and improve this recipe. For the original recipe, with step by step photos, check out  this post.  This recipe is a one bowl, 20 minute (start to finish)  success.




I've made these cookies a few hundred times. Everyone- from young neighbor kids to folks in nursing homes love these cookies.
I know you're going to love them too.
Happy Baking!






ABK's Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookies (updated 8/2014)
A Bountiful Kitchen (adapted from Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe)
print recipe

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened *
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt ( I prefer coarse salt)
2 cups  or 1 (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375° F. If using convection, preheat to 375 as well.
For regular oven, place rack in middle of oven. When using a convection oven, you should be able to bake on all racks at one time.
Cut butter into pieces ( about 2 tablespoons each) and place in mixing bowl. I use a Kitchen Aid and power it on 2 (low).  After a few seconds, add granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Mix on low speed until creamy (this takes just a few seconds). Add eggs, beating just until incorporated and smooth.  Never turn the beaters on high. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and bottom of the bowl to insure all ingredients are incorporated.
Dump 2 cups of the flour, soda, salt and chocolate chips all together into bowl with butter mixture. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour to the top of this mixture. Slowly mix the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips together.  Do not over mix.  Turn the dough with a rubber spatula so the bottom of the dough is mixed into the top of the dough. This will insure the flour is mixed in properly and the chips are distributed evenly.
Using a cookie scoop, drop onto un-greased baking sheets, or baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place 6 scoops of dough on each baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
If using convection, bake for 7-10 minutes until golden brown. If using regular oven, bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Cookies should be slightly golden and the cookie should not be wet on top.
Cool on baking sheets completely.
Yield 18 large cookies.

Tips:
(or my mini-epistle on cc cookie making and baking)
-Only use butter. Unsalted is best. The butter should be more firm than room temperature butter. I take it straight out of the fridge, and microwave it for about 20 seconds.
-*Our altitude is about 4,400 ft. So, I use about 2 3/4 cups flour total. The original Toll House recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups. If you are at sea level, you will probably need less flour than the 2 3/4 cup.
-Don't over beat the butter-sugar mixture, or the batter will become too soft, and your cookies will not be beautiful and puffy. They will resemble pancakes. 
-Don't sift the flour.
-There is usually a notable difference between using a convection and a standard oven. If you bake at the same temperature, for the same amount of time, the convection cookie will be done, with a beautiful, golden, slightly crispy outer layer. Still soft on the inside. And it will be taller than the cookie baked in a standard oven. Not everyone has a convection oven- if you don't, you can still bake a great cookie using a standard oven!
-I think two of the biggest mistakes made while baking cookies are:
1-Over mixing. This will cause the batter have too much air incorporated, producing a fluffy, instead of a chewy cookie.
2- Over bakingUnder baking is good! Not under baked to the point the cookie is wet and doughy, but just until the top sets, and the dough looks like it has a bit of a crust.
-Chocolate chips - For semi sweet,  I use Nestle Semi Sweet chips. You can't go wrong here. But for Milk Chocolate, we prefer Guittard . The chips are called Maxi Chips and are sold in a silver colored bag.
-If the cookie spreads too much, or the edges are not even, I take a small spatula and push the edges inward to create a cookie that is round. This has to be done immediately after removing from the oven. 
- High Altitude info: Not recommended-directions on Nestle Choc Chip package for high altitude- I have tried this variation, and don't like the result. The cookies aren't quite sweet enough, and have a crispy more cake like texture. Here are the directions on the package: (again I do NOT recommend using this method, but have printed it here as an FYI)  Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.
-Last tip. Mound the cookie into a ball. I make them about the size of a golf ball. I use a cookie scoop, because it's easier for me. For years, I just used a spoon, and then shaped them by hand. Make sure to flatten the cookie just a bit before baking. To yield 18 cookies use a  2 1/4 inch scoop.


3/5/14

Cracker Barrel Biscuits (copycat recipe)






You know how I love a good biscuit.
This recipe is a Southern classic. It's rumored to be the Cracker Barrel recipe.  It calls for ingredients all self-respecting Southern cooks have in their kitchen: self rising flour, shortening, and buttermilk. If you're a Yankee, (like me) you probably don't have self rising flour on hand at all times. No worries. You can make your own in a minute with three simple ingredients.


Oh, one more tip, My dear friend Miss Mary (what the kids love to call her) was visiting from Mississippi a few weeks ago. I made a big batch of biscuits for breakfast one morning, and we ended up having quite a few left over. I'm kind of a biscuit snob, so I'm not one to eat a leftover biscuit. I was about to throw them away when she told me the secret to re-heating leftover biscuits.  Listen up. Split them in half. Butter both of the insides. Lay them on a cookie sheet and broil just until lightly browned and heated through. Careful not to burn. They taste fresh and almost better than the first baking. We ate up every last crumb.
The rumor about these being the Cracker Barrel recipe? I've eaten a Cracker Barrel biscuit and I can tell you this.  This recipe makes a biscuit that's tender and flaky, like CB's. A bit of crunch from being baked at 450, a bit salty, which is perfect with the jam you're going to put inside. If we're comparing, I have to say no restaurant I've ever dined in serves a biscuit this good. It's hard to beat a home made biscuit.
Get baking.


Cracker Barrel Biscuits
adapted from cdkitchen.com found on Pinterest
print recipe

2 cups self rising flour (or  you may make your own, recipe below)
1/3 cup solid shortening, I prefer Crisco
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, shaken
melted butter

Pre heat oven to 450 degrees, and set rack in middle of oven.
Place the self rising flour into a medium size bowl. Cut the shortening in , using a pastry cutter, or two knives. Add the buttermilk all at once. Gently fold the buttermilk into the flour and shortening, until the
dough gathers together, and the flour is mixed in. I use a large wood spoon for this.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat gently into a disc about one inch thick. Do not over handle the biscuits, this will make them tough, and not tender.
Gently cut the biscuits, using a biscuit cutter or glass. Place onto a cookie sheet.
Brush the tops of biscuits with melted butter.
Make sure the oven is completely pre heated  and up to 450 when the biscuits are placed in to bake.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom.
Makes 9- 2 1/2 inch biscuits. Biscuit yield will depend on size of cutter.

Self Rising Flour :
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix together in a bowl with a fork. Store in a container or Ziploc bag until ready to use.
I double this for the Cracker Barrel recipe, and have a little leftover for the next time I make biscuits.
Measure out 2 cups for the recipe above.



1/8/14

The Best Chicken Fried Steak You'll Ever Eat




While growing up, at least once a month, we had chicken fried steak for dinner. I loved it with white gravy, on either biscuits or toast. I looked forward to peeling the coating off the meat, eating it plain, then cutting up the meat like it was a  separate dish.
I was that kid.
This recipe is the best I've found for Chicken Fried Steak. The buttermilk and hot sauce give it that extra bit of deliciousness to put it into the "Comfort Foods That Rock" category. Actually don't have that category on ABK, but if I did, this recipe would be there. 
It is a perfect recipe for this weather- one of those stayinsideandhibernate days. January in northern Utah seems to be filled with those days…
I figure you can either complain or embrace it.
Or go to Mexico.
Comfort food=embrace.
Have a great day.









The Best Chicken Fried Steak You'll Ever Eat
adapted from Allrecipes.com
print recipe

for steaks:
4 (1/2 pound) beef cube steaks*
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1/4 cup vegetable shortening for frying

for gravy:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3-4 cups milk, approximately
salt and pepper to taste

rice, biscuits or toast for serving

Pound the steaks to about 1/3-inch thick with mallet if needed.
Get out two shallow bowls.
Place 2 cups of flour in a bowl.
In another bowl, stir together the baking powder, baking soda, pepper, and salt.  Stir in the buttermilk, egg and Tabasco Sauce.
Dredge each steak first in the flour, then in the batter, and again in the flour.
Heat the shortening in a  cast-iron skillet to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Fry the steaks until evenly golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Place fried steaks on a plate lined with paper towels.  Drain any leftover oil from the skillet, reserving any of the solid remnants from the meat and coating on the meat. Do not clean skillet or wipe out.
To make gravy:
Return the skillet to medium heat. Melt butter in skillet. Whisk 1/2 cup flour into the melted butter. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to release solids into the gravy. Stir in the milk,  a little at a time using a whisk (I use between 3-4 cups, start with 1, then slowly add milk), raise the heat to medium. Bring the gravy to a simmer, cook until thick, 6 to 7 minutes.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
Place the meat on top of  biscuits , toast or rice and top with gravy.

Tips:
-* Cube steaks are found in the meat section of your grocery store. They are usually tougher cuts of beef that have been forced through a tenderizer that leaves square marks on the meat (that's why the name "cube steak").  The meat is usually processed to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
-The steaks may be fried in any type of heavy pan. If you fry two at a time, and need a bit more oil for the second batch, simply add a little more oil to the pan and let it heat up before frying. The original recipe calls for THREE cups of oil, which I found to be a ridiculously huge amount, so I cut way back. Feel free to add more oil if needed.
-My mom used to make this with milk and eggs instead of buttermilk. If you don't have buttermilk, substitute 2 eggs and 1 cup of milk. I'd omit the baking soda and powder as well. I believe those react with the buttermilk to cause a bit of a rise in the batter/coating on the meat, but may not have a the same effect if using milk. The buttermilk really makes this dish, I recommend using it instead of milk if possible.

11/25/13

Perfect Apple Pie & Step-by-Step Tutorial


Are you ready for this week? The week of thanks, family, friends, food, football, and P I E .
If you've never tackled pie, but want to try, I have a little tutorial for you. A step-by-step with photos to help you along (printable recipe at bottom of photos). I taught two pie classes in the last couple of weeks and have had people who have never made a pie in their lives report back and tell me they went home and baked a pie that their family LOVED. Two teenage girls in my neighborhood came to a class, and then had their mother take them to the store to buy apples so they could bake a pie. Yes, two teenage girls baked an apple pie. Successfully. Without using store bought crust. Hooray for home cooking!
You can do this.
The best apple pie in the world.
You know you want it.
 Let's get started.


Not my oven, but don't you just love a  turquoise oven?

Step one.
Get your oven ready:
Move the rack to the bottom third of the oven (usually the second to bottom shelf) and turn the oven on to 375 degrees.  I have been baking pies on the bottom shelf, or close to it, for years now. It insures the bottom crust is nicely browned and the top crust does not get over browned. The exception to this is if you have an oven like I now have (Wolf)  that has a special setting just for baking pies. In this case, leave the rack in the middle and use the convection bake (not convection, convection bake) setting, made especially for pie baking. Don't be jelly. I'm not all that impressed with this oven. I'd trade my old GE's for these in a heartbeat. That's a story for another post.
OK, back to our happy pie making toots.
Oh, and thanks in advance to Robilyn and Angie, who allowed me to photograph their pie making experience :) You'll see their pies and lovely hands in the photos to follow...




First, get yourself an apple-peeler-corer-slicer . Sold at most hardware stores. Also sold at kitchen stores. I've owned a couple. I like the type that suction to your counter top the best. Wet the counter a bit with a slightly damp cloth, then attach the peeler. If you can't get your hands on one of these, peel and core with a paring knife, slice the apples into about 1/4 inch thick slices.  Believe me, if you can spare the $25 it's the best money you'll ever spend. OK, maybe not the best money, but it will make you love me every time you make an apple pie. Oh, and buy apples that are uniform in size, it will make the peeling experience quick and easy. And refrigerate your apples. That helps them hold their shape while peeling. Take the peeled, sliced cored apple and cut it in half. Trim off any bits of seed or core that may be left inside of the apple.




Place the apples into a large bowl. Pour all of the dry filling ingredients for the pies on top of the apples but do not mix up yet. If you mix the sugar with the apples and are not immediately ready to pour the filling into the pie crust, the sugar will bring out the juices in the apples and cause the apples to  macerate and produce more juice than you may want sitting in your crust. If you are making an apple cranberry pie, add the raw cranberries and make the necessary adjustments in the recipe as well.
For our tutorial, we are making apple cranberry pies.




For the fat, I prefer shortening. I use Crisco, half regular and half butter flavor. I've experimented with butter but not had the result that I'm looking for, which is a light flaky crust. Trust me on this. I like to use the sticks because they are so convenient, and no messy measuring shortening into cups. I do not refrigerate my shortening, but if you feel inclined, chill away.




Measure the flour into a large bowl, plop the shortening in, along with the salt. 




Cut the shortening into the flour and salt. I usually use a pastry cutter, but two knives will work just as well. Cut the shortening by placing a table knife in each hand, blades down. Now, place your fists together and pull the knives across the bowl in a cutting motion. This is way more difficult to explain than it is to execute. This step takes about one minute, or less.  When you are out buying the apple-peeler-corer-slicer,  get yourself  a pastry cutter. Look it up. Very inexpensive. I'm sure you can get one at the $1 store.





After you take twenty minutes to figure out what I was trying to tell you in the last paragraph, your dough should look like this.  Go back and re-read that last sentence. I didn't say it should take 20 minutes to cut the shortening and flour together, just that figuring out my directions might take that long. Isn't this helpful?
You want to have little pea-like size pieces of dough. The little pieces of shortening in the dough are  what creates the air pockets in the crust, therefore producing a flaky crust. Pour the cold water into the dough all at once. Then mix the dough gently with a fork. I fold more than mix. Do not over mix. This should take about 10 seconds. The dough should come together with a few loose bits of flour and dough in the bowl. When you gather all of the dough together, the pieces should stick together. If not, add a tablespoon or so more of cold water. Do not knead. Do not mix. just pat together.




Flour the surface you are using generously. I use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of flour to prepare the surface.





Divide the dough in half if you are making a two crust fruit filled pie. I place a little more dough in the half that is covering the bottom of the pie plate. Gently shape the dough into a round disc. Start to roll out the dough evenly, not pressing down too hard on the rolling pin. Roll the dough into a circular shape. No worry if the circle is not perfect. Lift the dough occasionally and add more flour to the surface if the dough starts to stick. Also flour the rolling pin if needed. I do not advise flipping the dough,  less is more when handling the dough for pie crust. Think tender, flaky. What? You were thinking other words? Shame on you.




Now, take the pie plate you are using and place it upside down on the rolled out dough. You want to have about a two to three inch overhang, so when you place the dough in the plate, there is plenty of dough to fill the plate and hang over to make sure the pie seals properly.  Set the plate aside.




Take half of the dough and fold it over onto the other half like this. Some people like to then fold it again in quarters, but I usually just do halfsies.




Gently lift the dough onto the pie plate, so the dough covers half of the plate.




Take the folded portion of the dough and unfold it onto the plate. Don't stress if it tears, just pat it back together.




Ta dah!





Now, remember the apples we prepared earlier? Mix the dry ingredients into the apples and dump the apple filling into the pie plate.  See how the crust is not perfectly arranged on the plate, no big deal. We will take care of that when we seal and crimp. See the bits of peel on the apples? Also not a big deal. If this stresses you out, take a paring knife and remove every single last bit of peel. Now, that's better.




The fruit will settle when you bake the pie, so pile the fruit up high.





Dot the fruit with butter, and sprinkle the vanilla and/or almond extract on because everything is better with butter, right?




Roll out the dough for the top crust, same as you did for the bottom layer. 




Fold it in half and transfer onto the filled pie, then unfold so the whole top of the pie is covered.  Say goodbye to the filling. Go ahead say it. "Bye-bye see you after baking!" I always do this. not really.
If for some reason, your dough tears, don't worry, just gently pinch it back together, or wait until we make slits in the pie and strategically place your slits by the tear. Or cover them with dough cutouts. I have yet to make a pie with an imperfect crust and have someone point at the pie and say "Sheesh, your crust is imperfect, I don't think I want a piece of this pie.".




Gather the edges (didn't get a good photo of this step). I like to fold the layer of dough underneath upward, so it gathers and folds over onto the top layer of dough. If you are short on dough to fold over, take some dough from another area where there is extra and press it together where you have a shortage. Start to crimp and seal the edge. You can use a fork to press the dough down and make a little crimped edge with the end of the fork tines, or get a little more fancy and pinch the dough between your thumb and forefinger on one hand and forefinger on the other hand to make a nice little pointy edge. I believe this is Robilyn, who btw, was making her first apple pie. She's an expert crimper now.




I like to beat an egg and wash the top of the crust. You may use cream, or milk, or just a beaten egg white. Brush the whole top of the crust with the wash.




Sprinkle with granulated sugar. 





Make a few slits in the top crust for steam to escape. Any design will do. 





Place the pie on a sheet of foil or a thin cookie sheet. I like to use foil so it catches any excess juices from the pie, then I can simply throw away the foil after baking.  Place the pie in the hot oven and bake as directed on the recipe. After the pie is about half way through baking place a sheet of foil loosely on top of the pie to prevent over browning. How do you know it's done? People laugh when I say this, but you can smell it. It has a certain aroma when the apples and crust are done. Or just set the timer, It should be done in 1 hour and ten minutes, give or take a few.




In a short while, you'll be pulling this out of your oven. The crust on the bottom should be golden as well as the crust on top. After removing from oven, make sure to allow enough time to let the pie cool properly. It took years of baking to realize I wasn't allowing enough cooling time.  If you don't allow at least two and even better three to four hours for the juices to set up in the pie, your pie will be runny when you cut into it. After three hours, it will usually still be warm. This pie was cut about four hours after coming out of the oven...



There you have it. Everything you ever wanted to know about making an apple pie. And then some. Hope this inspires you to bake one this holiday season.
Happy baking!
loves,
Si




Print all three recipes here


Best Basic Flaky Pie Crust
A Bountiful Kitchen

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
½ cup very cold water

Mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or knives. Add water.
Fold with fork until flour is absorbed and dough comes together. Flour surface and rolling pin well. Flatten dough gently with hand to make round shape. Roll out from center to about 1/8” thickness. Fold in half, lift onto pie plate. Open and shape to pan.

Tips:
-Dough may be easier to handle if chilled for an hour or so.
-Try rolling the dough around the rolling pin and then unrolling right onto the plate.
-Try ½ regular and ½ butter flavor Crisco.
-Some people like to “cut” the flour in with their fingers.
-Don’t cut the flour and shortening too much, the pieces of shortening are what make the crust flaky, you want to have pebble size pieces of dough before adding the water.
-If your pie is getting too brown on the edges, but not on top, take a piece of foil, fold in half to make a square then cut a half circle out of the middle. Unfold and put over your pie.
-Brush beaten egg white over your pie dough before filling with pumpkin to avoid soggy bottom crust.
-If baking for a single cooked crust, prick the entire bottom crust with a fork (to allow steam to escape). Set the oven to 500 and bake for about 6-10 minutes on the middle rack, watching carefully to insure the crust doesn't burn. Remove the crust when done and let cool, then fill with custard or other filling.
This is for a single cooked crust only. Do not prick the bottom of the crust when baking a filled single crust pie (such as pumpkin or pecan).

Fresh Apple Cranberry Pie
A Bountiful Kitchen

6-7 apples any type, peeled, cored and sliced ( I like Granny Smith)
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, washed
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons almond extract
juice from 1/2 of a lemon (about 2 tablespoons) not necessary if using Granny Smith Apples
dash salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place rack on bottom third of oven.
Prepare crust. Roll out bottom crust, place in pie plate.
Place apples in large bowl and mix with cranberries. Add rest of filling ingredients.
Fill bottom crust with apple cranberry mixture. Place other half of rolled out dough on top of filling in pie plate. Crimp edges. Make slits on top of pie for steam to escape. Brush with egg wash if desired, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.
Place pie onto foil lined cookie sheet or sheet of foil (important, this usually bubbles over a bit).
Bake for about 60 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if pie is getting too brown.
Continue baking for about 10-15 minutes or until pie is bubbly and golden. Total baking time is usually 1 hour and 10 minutes, but may vary in your oven.

Mom's Favorite Apple Pie

6-8 large apples -I like a mixture of Granny Smith and Jonathan's
¾ cup sugar
1-2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter
Egg, sugar, cream for top crust

Peel, core and slice apples. Set in large bowl. Mix in sugar, spices, flour, and lemon juice. Place pastry in a 9 inch pie plate. Sprinkle with vanilla . Dot with butter. Top with crust. Crimp edges. Cut steam vents. Brush either beaten egg or egg white, sprinkle with sugar or brush with cream or milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 for about 50-60 minutes. May need to cover with foil for half of baking time.