Spiced Solstice Porter

The tl;dr version of this recipe is that it comes directly from Scott Russell.  Not just his web-published 2010 Holiday Porter recipe, but he was kind enough to collect the grains at the Lebanon Brew Shop for me.  I met up with him at the shop for an Oktoberfest event where I ground the grains and secured the hops and yeast. The two ways this recipe strays from Scott’s original is that the shop was out of the White Labs Bedford English Ale (WLP006) yeast and I used White Labs Whitbread II Ale (WLP017) on Scott’s suggestion. And rather than only use 1/2 ounce of two separate hops, I substituted Galena for the Goldings to limit waste and save a few bucks.

This is kind of a beer drinker’s mulled wine!

Continue reading “Spiced Solstice Porter”

Second Branch Ale ❤️❤️ Bell’s Two Hearted Ale Clone

Recently, I was reading a good friend’s beer blog, where he pondered the meaning of seasonal beers, and it helped light a fire under me to start brewing now when the conditions are good, in order to have beer in the winter when it can be a little more challenging to brew ales — which require warmer temperatures to ferment.

Inspiration also found me in the form of “mor beer plz” written on the chalkboard handles of the (empty) beer taps in our kitchen. There was also a sad face emoticon (not pictured).

To be fair, Sarah didn’t just drop … subtle … hints, she was a partner in this brew from start to finish. We completed the brew in record time, and she was able to go to her fiber spinning group’s monthly gathering on time. There were ❤️❤️ making this brew, and we had much fun brewing it together.

It was also exciting because it was our trial run with the FastFerment system I was given as a gift last year.  The try-out was overdue. Hopefully there will be a review of the product after we have had a chance to sample the finished beer.

Read the recipe… Continue reading “Second Branch Ale ❤️❤️ Bell’s Two Hearted Ale Clone”

Winter Bear Stout

This stout is my take on Scott Russell‘s clone recipe in his excellent book, North American Clone Brews. Not being a huge fan of Fuggles hops I opted for Styrian Golding, Kent Golding, and Bramling Cross.

Winter Bear Stout

5 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:
7lbs Pale Malt
8oz Roasted Barley
8oz Dark (90ºL) Crystal Malt
4oz Chocolate Malt
1oz Styrian Golding
1oz UK Kent Golding
1oz Bramling Cross

Procedure:
Crush grains. Heat 3 gallons of water to 165°F. Dough in grains and hold 90 minutes at 152°F. Heat 3.75 gallons water to 167°F. Begin runoff and sparge. Bring to a boil, add Styrian Golding. Boil 30 minutes and then add Kent Golding. Boil another 30 minutes and Bramling Cross. Chill to 80°F and take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch Irish ale yeast, seal and ferment at 65 – 68°F for 2 weeks. Rack to secondary, condition 3 to 4 weeks. I transferred this to a clean keg and pressurized to 15 PSI for about 5 days before tapping.

OG: 1048

Eggplant Casserole

While trying to figure out how to use up some vegetables from our weekly CSA basket, we improvised the following, which was inspired by a time-tested eggplant Parmesan recipe and a cheese-less savory tart that mom makes.

Ingredients
1 large eggplant
1 bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
8 medium tomatoes
1 jalapeno
olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 slices stale bread
3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
1 egg
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper

Preparations
Preheat your oven to 425F. Slice the eggplant thinly and salt well. Place in a colander to drain. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Lay the tomato halves on a baking sheet or in a glass baking pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skins begin to brown and the juices caremalize. Place the tomatoes in a food processor, add the jalapeno and puree.

Rinse the eggplant slices to remove the salt and blot dry with paper towels. Arrange slices on baking sheets and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the slices once halfway through.

In a medium skillet, saute the onion and bell pepper in a teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until tender.

Toast the stale bread. In a microwave-safe container, nuke the butter and the garlic for 30 seconds, or until the butter is melted. Brush the garlic butter onto the toast, then tear the bread into pieces. Spread these on a tray and bake them in the oven at 300F until they are dried. Remove, allow to cool a bit and then place in a paper or plastic bag and crush them into breadcrumbs.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, basil, egg, and a quarter of a cup of the garlic breadcrumbs.

In a 9″ by 9″ baking pan, layer all of the ingredients as follows: One tablespoon of the tomato sauce spread around the bottom of the pan. One third of the eggplant slices, layered One third of the cheese mixture, dolloped around One quarter of the pepper and onion mixture, sprinkled on One quarter of the remaining tomato sauce, dolloped on Another third of the eggplant a third of the cheese mixture a quarter of the vegetable mixture one quarter of the sauce final third of the eggplant final third of the cheese one quarter of the veggies several dollops of sauce ultimate veggies breadcrumbs Bake covered at 350 for thirty minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool for five minutes before slicing.

American India Pale Ale

This recipe came about as a desire to create a nice “session” IPA for the new keg tap set up Nancy and Sarah got for me for my birthday. At 5.2% ABV this is a little more than a traditional session beer, but it will do.  The target OG of about 1052 based on a mash of about 9 lbs.

  • 7 lbs. Crisp Pale Ale
  • 1 lb Light Crystal Malt
  • 1 lb light wheat (for body, for creaminess)

A low-temperature mash of 149° or so used to create a thin mash using 1.2 quarts per pound of grain (10.8 qts = 2.7 gallons)  for 75 minutes maximum to ensure a light color.

Sparged with 13.7 quarts (3.425 gallons) of water.

Boil was 60 minute boil exactly to avoid darkening the beer.  1 oz. of Galaxy hops were added at the beginning of the boil and
1 oz. of Citra hops were added in the last 10 minutes.

I used the SO-5 dry yeast for a more neutral yeast profile and I dry hopped with 1 oz. whole leaf of my own Chinook hops from the garden in the secondary.

Moroccan Lamb with Rice

This dish is adapted from several different lamb-with-dried-fruits recipes I’ve found on Food Network. Most of the dishes I came across had a ton of ingredients and so many individual steps that it looked like one would spend an entire day preparing it and dirtying up every food prep implement in the kitchen. Complicated isn’t a way I like to cook, so I created this simpler approach to a classic. The rice with vegetables can be served separately and is completely vegan.

You’ll need an electric slow-cooker or a dutch oven for slowly braising the meat.

For the Lamb
3 lbs. lamb, cubed or small bone-in cuts like chops, trimmed of all fat.
2 cups dried fruits, pitted and chopped. Traditionally apricots and golden raisins are used, but figs, dates and even a handful of prunes or cherries would be tasty.
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 head fresh cilantro
1T honey
1T coriander
1T cumin
2t dried ginger
2t turmeric
1/4 t cinnamon
2t salt
1t freshly ground black pepper

Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Rinse the meat and pat dry, then coat with the spice mixture.

In the bottom of the slow cooker layer the onions and garlic, then the meat, and top with the dried fruits and drizzle the honey. Add the broth, place the lid on tightly, and set on high. Cook for 3 hours before testing the meat for tenderness. (If using a dutch oven layer the ingredients as above and place in a 275F oven.)

After cooking the meat should be very tender and pull apart easily with a fork. A total of 4 hours may be required depending on the size of the cuts used.

Meanwhile make…

Vegetable Rice
1 1/2 cups (dry measure) brown basmati rice
1 cup vegetable broth plus water to cover rice
2 zucchini
1 large or 2 small red bell peppers
2 medium carrots
1 onion
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
14 oz. can garbanzo beans (low sodium preferred)
1T olive oil
2t turmeric
1t cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rice cooker, cook the rice according to the machine directions, substituting the vegetable broth for part of the water required. On the stove, use a small sauce pan with tight-fitting lid, add the rice and broth and then cover with water by 1 inch, cook on low heat until water is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, wash and dice the onion, zucchini, pepper, and carrot. In a large skillet or shallow enamel brasier, sauté the onion and spices in the oil for a few minutes, then add the zucchini, pepper and carrot. Cook for about 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to cook but are still firm.

Add the tomatoes (with juice). Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and add them as well. Cook for a few minutes more until some of the excess liquid from the tomatoes evaporates, then turn off the heat and let stand uncovered until the rice is done.

A few minutes before serving, add the cooked rice to the vegetables and toss to combine. Cover with a lid and if the dish has cooled off to much put it on low to reheat for a few minutes.

Serving
Tear the leafy head of the cilantro bunch from the stems, wash thoroughly and spin to dry. Roughly chop the cilantro just before serving the dish.

On a large platter, place the rice to make a bed. Layer the lamb and pour all of the cooked fruit/onion mixture over the top, then sprinkle heavily with the cilantro and serve immediately.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant

Equipment
9-inch round cake pan
Sauce pan and stainless steel bowl OR microwave-safe dish

Cake
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup organic canola oil
1 cup brewed coffee, cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cooking spray or extra canola oil

Chocolate Glaze
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (Check the label on the package to make sure you’re getting a truly vegan product. Some semi-sweet chocolate contains milk solids.)
1/2 cup chocolate soy milk or vanilla rice milk

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 375º. Spray the cake pan with cooking spray or wipe the inside liberally with oil.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. In a large measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk.

When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter, then quickly pour into the cake pan and place in the oven.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes. Turn the cake onto a wire cooling rack and set out to cool another 30 minutes before topping with glaze.

To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, microwave oven. Stir the soy or rice milk into the melted chocolate until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and smooth the top with a spoon.
Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Slow-Cooked BBQ Beans

I was inspired to make my own barbecue beans after receiving a gift of Saint Louis BBQ sauce from a former coworker. You can make these vegetarian or carnivorous.

It is important to wait until the beans are completely cooked before adding the BBQ sauce, as the acid in the sauce can halt the cooking process.

Ingredients
2 cups dried pinto beans
1 large ham hock or 2 lamb shanks (optional)
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
1 cup (more or less) BBQ sauce
1/2 t. dried mustard (or 1 tsp Dijon)
1 T. maple syrup
1 t. salt, or to taste

Procedure
Rinse the beans thoroughly, put in the slow cooker and cover by 1/2 inch with boiling water, and turn the cooker on HIGH.

Peel and roughly chop the onions and garlic and add to the cooker. Cover with the lid and cook for 1 hour. The beans should start to get plump but will not be cooked yet. Top off with a little hot water if needed, enough to keep the beans just under the surface.

If adding meat, make sure it is completely defrosted first, then trim any excess fat from the outside and place on top of the beans. Cook an additional 3 hours, checking every hour to make sure the beans are still slightly covered with water.

Test the meat – it should be very tender and start to fall off the bone. When the meat is tender, lift it bone and all onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Separate the lean bits of meat from the bone, fat, sinew etc, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add the meat pieces back to the cooker.

Add the BBQ sauce, mustard, and maple syrup, stir and let cook for 20 minutes. Taste, adding salt and/or more BBQ to your liking. If the mixture is too thin continue to cook it with the lid off, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Easy Vegetarian Cottage Pie

This is a quick and easy dish that captures the essence of the meat-based original. In our home it is often made on the weekend for a few days of quick suppers or portable lunches.

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Large yellow onion (diced)
2 Medium carrots (sliced or diced)
3 Medium crimini mushrooms
2 Cups peas (thawed if frozen)
5 Large russet potatoes cut into large chunks
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon dried sage (ground)
1 Teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves of garlic (whole)
12-ounces Condensed cream of celery soup (we use Pacific Foods organic)
1/4 Cup milk
12-ounce Package of Morningstar “meal starter” crumbles
Salt & Pepper

PROCEDURE

  • Boil water in a large pot and pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC)
  • Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is heated add the diced onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the meal starter crumbles to the saucepan and stir them into the mix.
  • Add the carrots and mushrooms and stir the mixture.
  • Once the mixture is heated through add the condensed soup and milk and stir until combined.
  • Add the sage and thyme and turn up heat to a simmer and thicken.
  • While the mixture is cooking, add the cut potatoes and garlic cloves to the boiling water, and cook until potatoes are cooked.
  • Drain the water from the potatoes and mash the potatoes slightly.
  • Add the butter and sour cream to the potatoes and mix or mash until blended.
  • Remove the “meat” and vegetable mixture from the heat and stir in the peas.
  • Spread the mixture into a glass Pyrex dish.
  • Spread the mashed potatoes over top of the “meat” and vegetable mixture until covered.

Place dish in oven and turn heat up to broil setting. Depending on your broiler’s power, leave in oven until potatoes on top are slightly browned, but not burnt!

Remove from oven and enjoy!

Cranberry & White Chocolate Holiday Bread

For years I’ve baked cookies for friends and neighbors for the winter holiday season. I enjoy it, but wanted to try something new this year, and decided to go with breads. This recipe is adapted from “Bread Machine Breads” for regular oven baking, and a little richer than the original. For gift-giving I’ve been doubling the recipe and baking two loaves at a time.

Equipment
10″ bread loaf pan
Stand mixer with dough hook (optional)

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
1 1/4 t. dry yeast (a little more if using fresh)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Procedure
Measure the flour into your mixing bowl or bowl of the stand mixer.

In a microwave-safe container, combine the milk, butter, salt, vanilla, and sugar. Heat the mixture until warm to the touch but not hot (about 80-90 degrees). Add the yeast and stir thoroughly.

Whisk the egg and pour into the center of the flour, then pour in the milk mixture. Mix the dough until all ingredients are combined, then work a little more to release the gluten in the flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and place in a warm spot to rise for about 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, grease a loaf pan and prepare a work surface dusted with flour. Measure out the cranberries and chocolate into a small bowl.

Dust your hands with flour and turn the dough out onto the work surface. Stretch the dough out into a flat shape and spread the cranberries and chocolate on the surface. Then roll the dough into a log shape to engulf the add-ins and knead for a few minutes, turning the dough 90 degrees after every few strokes, re-flouring as needed to prevent sticking on the work surface, and pushing any cranberries and chips that pop out firmly back into the dough. Pull the dough into a log shape and place in the loaf pan. Cover the dough again and let rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Remove the cover from the dough and bake for 45 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped.

Place the loaf pan on a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes before attempting to get the bread out. The loaf will shrink as it cools and should pop out of the pan but may need a tap or two. Transfer the loaf back to the cooling rack for 30 minutes before serving.

If this is a gift, you can wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for up to 4 days before giving it away, or use a seasonal colored plastic wrap to preserve freshness and make a festive presentation.

I like this toasted slightly with a little butter. It’s great for dessert, tea-time, or breakfast.

Cranberry Relish

My grandfather loved his cranberry jelly in a can; for me that stuff was the one part of Thanksgiving Dinner that was never touched. It wasn’t until I learned to make my own that I understood why this dish is traditional at all. I call this version of “cranberry sauce” a relish because it has discernible chunks of fruit in it. With the addition of some caramelized onions and apricot jelly this could become a lovely cranberry chutney.

Makes 2 pints of cranberry relish.

Ingredients
1 pound fresh cranberries
2 medium oranges (choose a juice variety with nice skin)
1 cup water
2 cups port
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp dried allspice
pinch salt

Procedure
Carefully wash and pick over the cranberries, discarding any that are squishy. In a large sauce pan cook the cranberries in the water and port over medium heat, stirring occasionally. You’ll hear them pop as the skins burst.

Meanwhile, zest and juice the oranges, finely chopping the zest. When the cranberries have started to break down (5-7 minutes) add the zest, juice and other ingredients and stir well. Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced and the pectin from the fruit is released. The mixture will take on a jam-like consistency. Taste for sweetness and seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Serve warm or at room-temperature with turkey.

Black Forest Stollen

For some time now I’ve been searching for a Stollen recipe that is authentically German and not overly sweet like the versions I’ve found in American cookbooks. As luck would have it, one of my coworkers is the son of a German baker. With a little pleading I was able to get a couple of authentic recipes.

This version is adapted from a recipe published in a modern German cooking magazine and the original version that my friend’s father made in his bakery. Without the marzipan center and the thick coating of powdered sugar, it is decidedly more bread-like and less sweet than American adaptations of this traditional recipe.

Measurements have been converted from weight to American volume and tweaked to my own tastes. You can adjust the amounts of the fruits and nuts to your liking.

Note: this recipe should be made at least one week before it is eaten, to allow the flavors to mature and blend together. Will keep for weeks unopened, so it’s great to make ahead of time for holiday gifts.

Makes 2 Stollen

Equipment
A large mixing bowl (at least 14-inch diameter) to mix and rise the dough
Stand mixer for first stage of the dough (optional)
Parchment paper
Aluminum foil

Ingredients
6 & 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2-3 T. fine sugar for dusting
2 packets dried bread yeast
1 pound unsalted butter plus extra for brushing
1 & 2/3 cups milk
2 cups whole almonds
4 cups golden raisins (sultanas)
1/2 cup (packed tight) candied lemon peel
1/2 cup (packed tight) candied orange peel
1/3 cup medium or dark rum (not spiced rum)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg

Procedure
1. Roast and chop the almonds.

2. Chop the candied citrus and place into a bowl with the raisins. Toss all the fruit with the 1/2 cup flour to ensure they are not clumping together.

3. Melt the butter and warm the milk slightly. In the large mixing bowl combine the 6 &1/2 cups flour, salt, 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, yeast, nutmeg, melted butter and warmed milk and mix until thoroughly combined. (Optionally, mix this first dough stage in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then transfer to the large mixing bowl.) Dough should be wet and sticky; if not add a little more milk. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen cloth and set in a warm place for 20 minutes to rise.

4. Add to the dough the dried fruit, almonds, rum and remaining granulated sugar, and knead together for 8-10 minutes or until thoroughly combined. If the dough is not wet enough it will be very difficult to work in all the fruit and nuts – add a little more milk if needed. Form the dough into a ball and let rise for another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.

5. Divide the dough in half. Dust with flour and roll each half into a flat rectangle approximately 14 by 14 inches. Shape the loaf by making a crease in the dough lengthwise at 1/3 of the width, then fold this third over onto the remaining 2/3 of the loaf. Repeat the folding process with the second loaf and place both loaves onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone baking mat. Set aside and allow to rise for a final 30 minutes.

6. Bake at 350F for 60 minutes. Remove the Stollen from the oven and allow to cool sightly. Brush each loaf with melted butter and dust with the fine grained sugar.

7. Wrap each loaf tightly first in parchment paper and then in a layer of aluminum foil. Store in a cool, dry place for at least one week before unwrapping and cutting. Stollen will keep for several weeks after cutting if kept wrapped between servings.

Hearty Vegetarian “Shepherd’s” Pie

This shepherd’s pie gets its heartiness from the mushrooms and its richness from the red wine and butter. Use the vegetable broth version to make it creamier. It is full-bodied comfort food, and guaranteed to satisfy even the pickiest carnivores. Serve with a full-bodied red wine or your favorite stout. Serves 6-8.

Ingredients:
7 medium-sized red potatoes
1 whole package Gimme Lean! faux beef (or other crumble-style), browned (optional)
1 red or yellow onion
3 large portabella mushrooms, sliced (stems removed)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, or sliced carrots
3-6 cloves of garlic (depending on mashed potato recipe used)
3 Tablespoons real butter
1.5 cups red wine*
1.5 cups vegetable broth (water can be substituted. See above.)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon finely grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Preparations:
1) Use the potatoes to make your favorite mashed potato recipe. Adding fresh roasted garlic adds a little something to the dish, but is optional. As a time saver, consider making the mashed potatoes ahead of time and thinning them with milk (if necessary) when it is time to use them in the recipe.

2) Over medium heat, in a 4-quart saucepan caramelize the onions. Lower the temperature, add the garlic, and stir for about 1 minute. Add the butter and mushrooms, and cook for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until the butter is completely melted and the mushrooms are thoroughly covered. Pour the wine and the vegetable broth into the mixture. If adding the faux beef, stir it into the mixture at this point. Last, add the tomato paste and the flour. Simmer over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until sauce reduces and thickens. Stir in the basil, sage and peas, and remove from heat.

3) Using your fingers, press a portion of the mashed potato mixture into the bottom—and up the sides—of an 8×12 inch glass baking dish (or into 6 smaller individual baking dishes). Spoon the mushroom mixture into the baking dish(es). Carefully cover the top(s) of the dish(es) with the remaining mashed potatoes, and sprinkle the top with the grated cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the the top(s) begin to brown.

Serve with a hearty red wine. There should be enough left from the bottle used for the recipe for at least 2 glasses with dinner. Reheat the rest later if need be, it stores well.

* We used Our Daily Red the first time we made this recipe and we were happy with the choice. Our Daily Red is an organic red wine with no sulfites. It is a blend of Fresno Syrah and Carignan and Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon according to its makers.

Hearty Lamb Cobbler

Hearty Lamb CobblerHaving picked up some lamb from Tamarack Tunis on New Year’s Day, I was charged with making a “lamb dish” by the week-end. Waking to snow on Saturday morning, I knew I wanted to make something warm and filling. Something to remind me of those chilly days on our recent trip to England, Wales and Ireland. This recipe was perfect, and the smoked bacon from our neighbours at Back Beyond Farm really helped this dish.

INGREDIENTS

    1 tbsp olive oil
    1/4 lb bacon, thick slice preferable
    1 lb lamb, cubed
    2 medium-sized yellow onions
    5 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
    3/4 lb crimini mushrooms, washed and trimmed
    1 1/2 cup peas thawed to room temperature
    4 tbsp all purpose flour
    2-3 bay leaves
    2-3 pinches ground sage
    1 tsp oregano
    1 tsp basil
    1/4 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon, or other red wine
    250 ml beef stock
    1 splash Worcestershire sauce
    1 egg to wash the tops of the cobbler biscuit topping

The Cobbler Top
I used Bisquick and followed their directions for biscuits/dumplings, which calls for 2 1/4 cups Bisquick mix and 2/3 cup milk. Mix together and then kneed 10 times before rolling out on a flour-dusted surface to about 2/3″ thick. I then used a metal measuring cup (I didn’t see any cookie cutters, so I improvised) to cut circular biscuits. Gather the scraps, and roll out to cut more biscuits if necessary. I do this procedure about 20-30 minutes before the dish comes out of the oven (see below).

PREPARATION
Heat oven to 350ºF (~180ºC). In a oven-safe dish heat the oil over medium heat, and sizzle the bacon for 5 minutes until it crisps. Leave the bacon in the dish, and turn up the heat before adding the lamb. Cook the lamb for about 10 minutes until brown. Remove the meats carefully with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Turn the heat up to maximum and add the carrots, onions and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the flour. Return the meats to the dish and add the herbs. Pour the wine, the beef stock and the Worcestershire sauce into the dish. Lightly season with fresh ground pepper, then cover the dish and place it in the pre-heated oven. Allow to cook undisturbed for about 1.5 hours.

After an hour of the cook time has passed make the biscuit dough as described above. When the dish is done cooking for the 1.5 hours, remove from the oven, add the peas and stir them into the dish. Then lightly place the biscuits discs onto the top of the meat and vegetable mixture. Wash the top of the biscuits with the beaten egg. Return the dish to the oven and allow to cook for an additional 35-45 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes, which will allow the gravy to thicken. Serve with the remaining Cabernet Sauvignon!

English Trifle

When not traveling for the holidays, we like to host a traditional Boxing Day dinner party at our house. Of course, this being a British tradition, it requires such delights as pudding, brandy, and the pulling of Christmas Crackers. And after having the best and most decadent Christmas dinner in England a few years ago, I’ve added Trifle to the dessert offerings. You can pretend it’s healthy because it has fruits in!

This recipe is adapted from #291836 at Syllabub: Words on Food.

Tools
Large round or oval clear serving bowl with a wide flat bottom
Large heat-proof whisk
Sauce pan
Hand-mixer for whipping cream (optional)

For the Custard
Ingredients
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 T vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch

Preparation
1. In a saucepan heat the milk and cream to boiling.
2. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch until smooth and pale.
3. While constantly whisking the egg yolk mixture, slowly trickle in the hot milk/cream.
4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over gentle heat whisking frequently until the custard thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil – it will split.
5. After thickening, chill the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

For the Trifle
Ingredients
6 cups assorted fruits*, washed, peeled, pitted & sliced as needed
36 ladyfingers, or enough to cover the bottom of your trifle bowl in two layers
4 cups custard (above)
1/4 cup brandy, sherry, or fine Marsala
1.5 cups heavy (whipping) cream
12 amaretti cookies

Preparation
1. Layer ladyfingers in two layers in the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle with brandy.
2. Layer fruits one at a time, with heavier varieties on the bottom and lighter fruits like raspberries on top.
3. Spread the cooled custard over the fruits, leaving about 1/4 inch of space from the custard layer to the edge of the bowl.
4. Crush the cookies and sprinkle the crumbs over the custard.
5. Finally, whip the cream until fluffy, adding the remaining tablespoons of brandy as you go, then dollop this over the top of the trifle.

*I prefer assorted berries but you can also use cherries, peaches, mangoes, etc

Keep the trifle chilled until served. Allow your guests a moment to admire the beautiful layered concoction before the first portion is served and the entire assemblage collapses into a bowl of delicious sloppy mush.

Holiday Stuffing

I used to use store-bought stuffing mix to make my holiday stuffing, and to be frank, it wasn’t bad at all. But after years of something that felt a bit like cheating, I decided to make my own stuffing this year from scratch. The results were amazing and now I know I can’t go back to that package again!

Tools
Large frying pan
Baking dish 9×12″

Ingredients
1 recipe Vermont Maple Cornbread
1 large loaf rustic wheat bread (whole wheat or white)
1 package spicy pork, chicken or faux veggie sausage
1 stick butter, melted (8 tablespoons)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 apples, cut into 1-inch chunks – a sweet & firm variety like Macon or Fuji
3 medium onions, any type, minced
2 tsp. dried sage
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Preparation
Fry the meat sausage in a large skillet until cooked through, then remove from heat and when cooled, peel off the casings and crumble the meat into a bowl and set aside. Drain off some of the excess sausage grease leaving about a tablespoon in the pan.

Saute the onion in the grease (vegetarians use olive oil) with the dried herbs and a small pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. When the onions have started to soften, add the apples and walnuts and cook for another 2 minutes until the apples are just heated but still crisp. Set the pan aside and allow to cool slightly.

Roughly chop half of the wheat bread and place into the baking dish. Crumble in half of the cornbread and add half the onion/apple mixture and sausage and toss this with your hands. In the skillet, add the remaining half of all the ingredients and toss this together as well, then add this to the baking dish. Press down slightly to squeeze everything into the dish.

Drizzle the melted butter and stock over the top. Bake at 375 F in the top of the oven for 45 minutes or until the stuffing is hot and steamy and the top is browned.

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers with Guacamole ... and Gin & TonicThis is a fairly standard stuffed pepper recipe, but I wanted to write it down with the proportions I used, since I just made this off the top of my head. This goes well with fresh guacamole and a little salad on the side. Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:
2 Poblano peppers (substitute bell peppers if you can’t find Poblanos or prefer a dish without any “heat”)
2/3 cup ground pork sausage*
1 cup cooked rice
3 scallions, white and half of green parts chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
1 small tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 pinch cinnamon

Instructions:
Break up the sausage into small pieces and place into a non-stick frying pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the meat is browned. Add the chopped vegetables and spices, and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Turn off the heat and add the cooked rice, mixing well to combine. The filling can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two if you want to make this ahead of time.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the Poblano peppers and slice each in half from top to bottom. Carefully cut out the stem and pinch out the white ribs inside. Roll up four pieces of aluminum foil and form into rings. Place rings in a 9-inch square baking dish (or larger). Divide the filling into four equal portions and fill each pepper half. Place each filled pepper on one of the rings in the baking dish (this keeps them from tipping over during baking). Pour a little water in the bottom of the baking dish and cover the entire dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the peppers are slightly tender and the filling is heated through.

*I used free-range, Certified Naturally Grown pork purchased directly from Walter Jeffries and his family at Sugar Mountain Farm. If you are using a pre-cooked sausage, cook the vegetables in a little olive oil first, then add the sausage and the rice together with the heat turned off. Vegetarians can substitute their favorite faux-meat product for the pork sausage.

Pesto Pasta with Peas

This alliterative recipe is a quick, easy summertime favorite. Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side dish.

Ingredients:
1 lb dried pasta, any shape
2 cups fresh English peas, shelled and blanched
1/3 cup fresh basil pesto (adjust to taste)
1 small in-season tomato or a small handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped (optional – omit if fresh tomatoes are not available)
grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:
In a large pot cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Do not overcook! While pasta is cooking, in a small bowl combine pesto with two tablespoons of boiling water to thin the sauce out just a bit.

When pasta is done, drain thoroughly (do NOT rinse) and replace in cooking pot. Add pesto, peas, and chopped tomatoes, and toss well so that all of the noodles are completely coated with pesto. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh grated Parmesan on top.

Pumpkin Pie – from scratch

I’ve never really loved pumpkin pie until I started experimenting with a recipe from the “Recipe Cottage,” which a co-worker shared with me. After some tweaking, I found that I really enjoyed the creamy texture and strong pumpkin flavor of this pie. The added bonus is that this version does not call for extra butter, cream cheese, or heavy cream, unlike other pumpkin pie recipes I’ve read.

Ingredients
1 medium pie pumpkin, enough to yield 2 cups cooked, drained pumpkin
2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups of whole milk
one pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
9-inch pie pan filled with your favorite crust
(I use an all-butter frozen pie shell but you can make one from scratch if you prefer.)

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out seeds and slimy stuff. Place them cut-side down on a baking sheet (preferably one with a lip to catch liquid) and roast in the middle of the oven for one hour. Remove and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, blind-bake the pie shell according to the recipe or package directions. Set the shell aside to cool, and turn the oven up to 425 degrees F.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, peel off the rind and discard. Take a handful of pumpkin at a time and squeeze it hard to get as much liquid out as possible. Place the drained pumpkin in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, stirring as necessary. Add a small amount of the milk from the recipe to get things moving in the processor if the pumpkin is too dry.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the sugar, maple syrup, salt and spices. Mix until the sugar has dissolved. Be sure the pumpkin is cooled to room temperature before measuring two cups and adding that to the egg/sugar mixture (to avoid cooking the eggs). Mix well. Next, add 3/4 cup of milk and mix. If it looks like there will be more room in your pie shell, or the filling is too thick, add a little more milk and mix again.

Pour the pie filling into the pre-baked pie shell and bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the custard is firm and the crust has darkened. Cool and serve with home-made whipped cream or ice cream.

Veggie Chicken Fajitas

Another recipe from our growing collection of Mexi-tarian dishes. This recipe is a favorite in our house because it can be pulled together quickly. To make it even easier consider prepping the cut vegetables ahead of time. This dish goes well with Spanish rice or with a simple side salad. Consider serving with a copper ale or lager.

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced
  • 2 bell peppers of any color
  • 2 packages of Morningstar Farms Chik’n Strips
  • 1 package of Mission Foods tortillas (these come in 6 or 10 packs)
  • Salsa
  • Shredded cheese (we prefer sharp cheddar)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Wrap the tortillas you will be using in aluminum foil and place them in a warm toaster oven or regular oven.

In a large frying pan sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, seasoning them with salt and pepper after they have been cooking for a few minutes. Add the bell peppers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add the frozen Chik’n Strips, season with chili powder and cumin, cover and cook for another 5 minutes (or until chik’n is tender) stiring often.

Remove warm tortillas from the oven. Spoon some of the meat and vegetable mixture onto individual tortillas, sprinkle with cheese, salsa and lettuce. Roll the tortillas and enjoy!