Monday, November 30, 2015

Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2015

This year we celebrated Thanksgiving in Chattanooga at my husband's sister's family's house.

My husband's brother's family from Upstate New York also made the (grueling) trip down. So we were three families, eighteen people in all.

Our hosts knocked themselves out making us comfortable. They gave up all their bedrooms, and each family got their own bathroom. There was a hot beverage bar complete with hot chocolate mix, mini marshmallows, flavored creamers, and a steady supply of candy canes. All mugs, wine glasses, and regular drinking glasses were labeled with each person's name. The whole setup was the epitome of thoughtfulness and efficiency.

Our three families were among the thousands participating in Chattanooga's Grateful Gobbler Run on Thursday morning. I've never run with that many people before, and it was so entertaining that it felt like the race was over before it even started. The race was a great introduction to the city—such a friendly, active, and community-oriented town!—and a fun way to kick off Thanksgiving. I'm thinking a Thanksgiving 5K is a tradition worth keeping.

The next day we walked a few miles on the Tennessee River Walk, roasted hot dogs, and then the adults went out while the kids stayed home and texted us pictures of them icing cookies (and themselves) and cleaning some random bloody liver out of the fridge while wearing gloves to prevent a possible Ebola contamination. We first went to The Southside Social for the long-promised whiskey slushies (and then we noticed the staff was wearing WTF shirts, so we asked, “Um, WTF?” and they were like, “Where's the fireball, dude,” so then of course we had to try the Fireball whiskey, too). After that, we hit up a lovely sushi bar before heading to the Flying Squirrel for their award-winning cocktail that tasted like shellac and was about as drinkable. Too bad we ordered five of them.

Other things that happened: multiple sessions of Take One, a speaker phone conversation with The Grands, a simultaneous skype session with the West Coast and Hong Kong families, front-yard sports, movies, card games, and lots of eating, cooking, and cleaning up.

Saturday morning on our way out of town, our family stopped at Krispy Kreme to goggle at the production line, sip the free mocha shots, and order a bunch of donuts for the trip back. Four hundred and seventy-five miles, multiple bathroom stops, and a bunch of hamburgers later, and we were home.

The end.

This same time, years previous: in my kitchen: 7:35 a.m., the day before, the quotidian (11.25.13), a treat, kale pomegranate salad, Thanksgiving of 2012, monster cookies, pot of red beans, Thanksgiving of 2011, peppermint lip balm, butternut squash pesto cheesecake, Thanksgiving of 2010, and apple chutney.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

apple crumb pie

We're gearing up for the Thankfully long weekend holiday. Our family is heading to Chattanooga where we have big plans to run the Turkey Gobbler race on Thanksgiving morning and drink whiskey slushies in the evening. I spent yesterday cooking my contributions to the weekend: French chocolate granola, the various components for two apple crumb pies (to be assembled and baked there), plain granola, and caramel popcorn. By evening I felt sickish from too many tastes. 

About those apple crumb pies. I've always been a sucker for a two-crust apple pie—up until now, it's been my standby. But a few weeks ago I decided I simply must have an apple crumb pie. Not having one in my repertoire felt like a moral shortcoming of unforgivable proportions. After a bit of digging around, I settled on this recipe. (I'm not sure where it is from. Perhaps Epicurious? Do forgive.)

What's delightful about this topping is that the crumbs don't melt into a lid of slimy sog. Perhaps this is because the topping calls for lots of nuts which help the topping hold up against the satiny apples and crispy-golden pastry. At first, some of my kids turned up their noses about the nuts, but I kept making the pies (I think I've made about six so far) and eventually they got over their silly hang-ups.

I never thought I would say this about a pie, but I actually think this one is better after it sits for a day or so. It gets deeper, or something. More luscious, but in a comforting sort of way. In other words, make two. Apple pie makes an excellent breakfast.

Apple Crumb Pie 

I always make two pies at time, so I double the crumb topping. Even if you're only making one pie, I recommend doubling the crumbs. They freeze well, and then your next pie is that much closer to becoming a reality.

To measure your apples, slice them into the empty pie plate. The apples will cook down in the oven, so the raw apples ought to mound up high above the plate. Once you have enough apples, dump the slices into a bowl, rinse and dry the pie plate, and proceed with the recipe.

for the pastry:
½ recipe rich butter pastry

Line a 9 or 10-inch pie plate with the pastry and crimp the edges. Place the lined pie plate in the fridge while readying the remaining components.

for the filling:
5-8 large apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
½ to ¾ cup white sugar
2-3 tablespoons flour
1 slightly rounded teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Stir together the flour, sugar, and spices before tossing with the apples. Arrange the apples into the pastry-lined pie plate. Pack them in—you want to eliminate air pockets and mound the apples high. 

for the crumb topping:
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
¾ cup chopped walnuts
6 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt

Using your fingers, cut the butter into the other ingredients. Distribute the crumbs over the apples (don't pack them).

Bake the pie on the lowest oven rack (to make sure the bottom crust browns) at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes before reducing the temperature to 350 degrees and baking for another 20-30 minutes. If the crust starts to get too brown, cover the top with foil. The pie is done when it is golden brown all over and the juices are bubbling merrily. (Merrily bubbling juices are important. If the juices don't bubble, then the flour in the filling won't cook and the pie will taste floury.) When you first pull the pie from the oven, it will be puffy high, but as it cools, the apples will settle and sink.

This same time, years previous: apple raisin bran muffins, how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers in 10 easy steps, sock curls, candid crazy, a Thanksgiving walk, ushering in the fun, right now, pasta with creamy pumpkin sauce, apple rum cakechocolate pots de crème, and pumpkin pie.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

spiced applesauce cake with caramel glaze

The evening Molly posted this recipe for applesauce cake, I had to talk myself out of starting a baking project at bedtime.

I'm not exactly sure why I was so completely smitten. I already have an applesauce cake on this blog. Plus, applesauce cake isn't the most thrilling-sounding recipe. It reminds me more of a practical-scuffed-up-shoes cake than a flashy-fancy-heels cake, and I've always had this (perhaps unfounded) assumption that cake ought always be a flashy heels sort of venture. But this recipe disregarded my uptight notions, wiggled into my brain with an upturned kettle and a wooden spoon, and started pounding away on the kettle while screeching, Make me! Make me!

By the next morning, my intense desire for applesauce cake RIGHT NOW had not waned in the least, so I made it. I had a piece with my coffee after lunch. I thought it delicious, but my husband was all like, Yeah it's fine. It doesn't taste like much, though. I decided he was being obtuse and that his opinion didn't count.

About an hour later, I covered the cake with plastic wrap and drove over to my parents' house where they were (again) in the midst of hosting out-of-town guests that I, too (again), wanted to visit. When I arrived, everyone was still gathered around the table. My mother placed the cake on the table beside the partially-eaten lemon poppy seed cake, and set about brewing another pot of coffee.

“There's a secret ingredient in this cake,” I said. “See if you can guess.”

Out of curiosity and politeness (because it certainly wasn't hunger), they all helped themselves to small slivers. Some of them started guessing ingredients before they even tasted the cake. I forget who guessed black pepper, but winning ended up being kind of underwhelming. The exotic bite from the pepper is so gentle that it went unnoticed by some.

But the icing, now. That's what got their attention. Soon they were all reaching for the knife to cut another slice. And then the coffee was ready and of course you must have another slice to go with your coffee…

By the time I was ready to leave, there was just a small piece of cake left on the plate. Back home, I divided it among the kids. Less than six hours after I had first cut into it, the cake was gone, gone, gone.

I made the cake again, just the other day. This time I swapped half of the white flour for whole wheat, and I used a heavy hand when grinding in the pepper. Right after I pulled the cake from the oven, we had to leave for a church supper, so I didn't get around to making the icing. And then later that night, after we tucked the kids into bed, I didn't feel like making the icing. Anyway, it was the soft, spicy cake that was calling my name. Turns out, I loved the cake plain.

The next morning I served it for breakfast along with oatmeal and fresh fruit. My husband packed some in his lunch (he reported it was good and was surprised to learn it was the same cake as the first one he didn't like!), and that afternoon I doled out the remaining pieces to the children for their snack. Wouldn't you know, less than 24 hours after making the cake, it was gone. Funny how that happens.

Spiced Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's blog Orangette.

The glaze is similar to this brown sugar icing, but this version has less butter and brown sugar, and more cream. It is really good.

for the cake:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup oil
1½ cups applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ ample teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Beat together the eggs and sugars. Beat in the oil, applesauce, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the cake batter into a greased baking pan. (Molly used a bundt pan or loaf pans; I used a springform pan, greased and lined with parchment paper.) Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the cake is pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool to room temperature. (If turning the cake out of its pan, allow it to cool for just ten minutes before doing so.)

for the glaze:
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cream
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup confectioner's sugar

Combine all the ingredients but the confectioner's sugar in a pan and set over medium high heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly, and let it boil for one minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the confectioner's sugar. Let it rest for a few minutes to thicken before pouring over the cooled cake.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.17.14), in my kitchen: noon, lessons from a shopping trip, the quotidian (11.18.13), the quotidian (11.18.12), red lentil soup with lemon and spinach, three things, orange cranberry bread, Swiss chard and sweet potato gratin, and brownies.

Monday, November 16, 2015

the quotidian (11.16.15)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

A rare occurrence: I said yes to her request to make a kitchen mess.

I'm on a quest for the perfect sour cream cake donut. Things could get dangerous.

A delicious solution to the ongoing "problem" of too much cream.

For five girls: an indoor broccoli soup picnic.

Reading him to sleep.

For many months he begged for lessons. He finally got them.

And for this boy, a birthday guitar and some lessons to go with.

Staying warm.

Harder than it looks: measuring pigs. 
(They're ready to butcher!)

How many tosses does it take to get a Yahtzee?: show Numberphile videos to your children
and they will spend hours tossing dice. 
(Also recommended: a mile of pi.)

Parallel art.

Friday night's full table.

Family game time: round one did not end well, so a little later they (successfully) had a redo.

This same time, years previous: I will never be good at sales, gravity, refrigerator bran muffins, sparkle blondies, the wiggles, official, why I'm glad we don't have guns in our house, the quotidian (11.16.11), my apple line-up, chicken salad, so far so good, Chinese cabbage and apple salad, and SSR.      

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

George Washington Carver sweet potato soup with peanut butter and ginger

In the morning after I fix my coffee, locate my reading glasses, and snatch a piece of scrap paper out of the desk drawer, I write up a to-do list for all of us. Each child has chores, plus academics. List-making is the only way I can stay on the ball and keep everyone on task. Otherwise, a child might wander off and, without her in my line of vision, I may forget that, oh yes, I wanted her to empty the compost, write an essay, and wash the eggs. So I put all my ideas and goals on paper, first thing in the morning.

Lunch was late today because everyone was on a roll. My older son was practicing his choir music in his room. My older daughter was rewriting an essay we had just edited together. My younger daughter was doing some self-initiated letter writing. My younger son was in the downstairs room listening to a recording of Story of the World while jumping around and waving a wooden stake. While I waited for them to wrap it up, I pulled leftovers from the fridge and began reheating them: broccoli soup, chili, chicken and rice, and, for me, George Washington Carver soup.

I first had this soup at my mother's house. We had stopped by one evening to say hi to their out-of-town guests (and maybe to pick up some of our children? I can't remember now). When we arrived, they were just sitting down to their dinner of Carver soup, onion-corn bake, sauteed greens, and cake (I think). We pulled up chairs, intending to visit for a bit before heading back home. Mom, of course, invited us to eat, too, but we said no. However, she was insistent that I taste the soup. Fine, I said, and watched as she ladled a small scoop into a bowl, plopped a dollop of sour cream in the center, and sprinkled chopped peanuts on top.

One bite and my eyes widened. Wow, I said.

“I know.” she whispered. “I think it may be the best soup I ever made.”

I finally got around to making the soup for myself just last week. The soup appears plain and dull, but it's anything but. There's so much going on: the sweet potatoes give it a creamy sweetness, the peanut butter adds richness, the fresh ginger and cayenne give it a bite, and the spices (cumin! coriander! cloves! cinnamon!) supply depth and complexity. It's like a kaleidoscope for the taste buds. Enjoy!

George Washington Carver Sweet Potato Soup with Peanut Butter and Ginger 
Adapted from a recipe that my mother's friend, Lois, found in a some flyer, magazine, or newspaper. 

I used about ¼ cup fresh ginger, and the ginger flavor did not overwhelm. Also, I substituted ground chipotle pepper in place of the cayenne, and, while I thought the spice was pleasant, one of the children thought it was too spicy: be discerning.

This soup freezes well. To save freezer space, my mother omits much of the liquid when making the soup, and then adds the liquid when she is reheating the soup.

½ cup peanut oil, divided
2 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons (or more) fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons each ground cumin and ground coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup roasted tomato sauce
8 cups chicken broth (or water)
½ cup creamy peanut butter
condiments, optional but highly recommended: fresh cilantro, dry-roasted peanuts, and sour cream.

Toss the sweet potatoes, carrots, and onion with all but 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil. Spread the veggies on a sided baking sheet, sprinkle with plenty of salt, and roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until fork-tender. 

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and remaining spices and saute for half a minute. Stir in the tomato sauce, peanut butter, stock, and roasted veggies. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes. Using an immersion stick blender (or a stand one), puree the soup. Taste to correct seasonings: you'll probably need a fair bit of salt.

To serve, pour the soup into serving bowls and top with sour cream, fresh cilantro, and chopped dry-roasted peanuts.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.10.14), butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and goat cheese, the quotidian (11.11.13), the quotidian (11.11.12), mashed sweet potatoes, a boy book, chicken and white bean chili, and peanut butter cream pie.    

Monday, November 9, 2015

the quotidian (11.9.15)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

With sweet potatoes, chicken pot pie.

My view while taking the laundry off the line.

Leftover summer.

Treats and reads, post-Halloween.

For a leaf fort.

My older son bought a computer and then built a desk to put it on.

Off to work!

Self-selected screen time for the younger two: once a week for about ten minutes (per child).

Indoor rainbows.

Perhaps I take "wearing it out" a little too seriously? 

This same time, years previous: musing from the coffee shop, for the time change, awkward, "How are you different now?", maple roasted squash, meat and cabbage rolls, yesterday, let me sum up, Halloween candy-infused brownies, and crispy cinnamon cookies.