Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is the big day! I wish you all the happiness, food and family and friends  you can imagine. I hope, on this day when we are thankful for so much, you will indulge me a bit as I ask you to think also about those that are doing without.

Simply, look into your communities, I can give you examples in the community I live and work in, and then look into your hearts.

Most people that know me know that I work at United Way for Southeastern Michigan where our call to action is to “Give, Advocate, Volunteer.” What most people don’t understand about the United Way is that, after years of analysis, community interviews and research, we have focused our work to align on three critically important issues – education, family (financial) stability and basic needs like food and shelter.

There are many critical issues facing Detroit, but United Way believes, and truly, I believe that these three are at the core of the many ills facing our city right now.  If you look around you where you live, you’ll probably agree that it’s the same in many communities.

When looking at what is most critical in the education arena, we focus on Early Childhood Education (children from 0 – 5 years of age) and High School graduation rates. I’m particularly proud of our work in the High Schools! We work in 16 schools through Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties – many in the city proper – through the gracious support of the GM Foundation and the Skillman Foundation, among others.

In just four years the graduation rate in these schools, which once hovered around 40% is now upwards of 80% and in a few of the schools, it at 100%!  Isn’t that amazing, and wonderful?  Five hundred students graduated this last June that, statistically four years ago, would have dropped out.  And although five hundred doesn’t sound like a lot consider that each high school graduate represents the equivalent of $127,000 saved in extra tax revenues, reduced costs on public health and crime, and decreased welfare payments.  Do the math… that’s $63.5 million saved in just four years!  It truly boggles the mind!

The one thing that made the biggest difference in the schools was such a simple solution – we deliberately worked to create a family atmosphere by breaking large schools into small schools and assigning one teacher to one class for all four years. Teachers and Principals really got to know the students and understand the challenges they were facing at home, and on the streets. In too many instances, it was the first time anyone had cared about the student. School became much more than “just school” – it was a window into a different way of life where there was a possibility that they could work hard, be successful, and go one to, one day, create a better life for their future children. A literacy-rich life, healthy and living above the poverty line.  I was delighted to be a part of the celebration this past June for the  young men and young women that graduated through our programs.  I was so proud, I could have crowed!  They’re genuinely special people, with the right path ahead of them now.

Please take a few minutes to watch this video and see, first-hand, what that “simple” change looked like. It was profound! Much Love: The story of the Detroit school turnaround

Now I know that just because I mentioned the words “United Way” you are expecting me to drop the bomb any minute and ask for a donation and I’m not going to lie, “Give” is part of our call to action for a reason… this work is costly. But, relax… I’m not going to ask you for money. I just ask that today, while you and others all over the country are indulging in your well-deserved turduken, six desserts, gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and White Castle stuffing, take a moment to consider the contrast of what life is like for so many of the students in those high schools today.

·         In the city of Detroit,over 57% of children,  about 233,250, live in poverty.

·         By comparison, 1billion of the world’s 2.2 billion children live in poverty.

·         Statistically, children in Detroit live at a higher level of poverty than the world’s poverty rate.

Isn’t that stunning?  In the United States of America there is a population of children that is living below the statistical worldwide poverty level! It’s nothing short of a travesty.

So, what do these numbers have to do with everything else I just wrote about?  Children, and by extension their families, who are in poverty, generally, don’t eat well – or at all (1 in 6 of don’t know where our next meal is coming from). And it is scientifically proven that a lack of nutrition alters your ability to learn. So undernourished children statistically, under-perform in school.  Think about it this way, when you’re in a meeting, and you’re hungry, aren’t you distracted, and have trouble concentrating on the meeting?  Imagine a child who has that feeling chronically?

Lack of proper nutrition = lack of learning = learning disabilities = High School drop outs = increased poverty, increased crime, increased substance abuse, increased strain on the welfare system. Not always, but more often than not.

The most frustrating part of all of this is that it is easily solved!

So, in this season of so much giving and gratitude, please take a moment to funnel some of that energy back into your community and the greater good. Raise your hand and volunteer. Raise your voice and advocate for hungry kids (psst… the majority of food stamp recipients are children – so it is important that we don’t cut them because it only perpetuates a vicious circle!). And, if you are so inclined, raise your pocketbook and give to an institution like United Way that spends day in and day out doing everything they can to solve these issues.

Remember that every great societal change has started with small, incremental changes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving tips of the cooking trade!

The thanksgiving "tablescape" for my second Suliman Family Thanksgiving
The Thanksgiving “tablescape” for my second Suliman Family Thanksgiving

 

As I sit here in my home office, with my feet up on the window sill, drinking coffee and watching the birds come to the feeders I put out, I am reminded of how much I love making the whole Thanksgiving dinner, from soup to nuts and back again!   I am also reminded that, for this year, I am enjoying the respite from the hustle bustle that is preparing the dinner for 15 – 20 people!  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do it again and again, with full joy, but this year, we are taking a break from hosting.  So, I am thinking of sharing with you a few tips that I have used to help you prep with minimal fuss and hopefully minimal stress, after all, it’s is a day you should be able to enjoy with family and friends!

I usually start working a week or even two before the big event, so all the little prep ahead stuff gets done. Any baked breads get done at least a week before and frozen.  This way, Hubby’s family have their Pilgrim’s bread on the table!  I also try to purchase anything that’s non-perishable well in advance.  In my mind, the prices go up the closer the rush comes, so my mantra of a well stocked pantry really does apply here.  If you’re using stuffing cubes, canned vegetables, butter (which I freeze) and eggs, buy them in advance.  Eggs will stay fresh and usable for about three weeks when properly sealed in the fridge!  A huge tip here, I never buy white potatoes ahead of time, I never have luck keeping them from sprouting before I use them.  However, sweet potatoes, I buy weeks in advance and put in the fridge.

This brings us to the week of the big event.  I usually start the actual prep the Monday or Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.  In those days, I use the food processor to chop onions, garlic, vegetables for stuffing, and prep pie dough and freeze it.  This way, on the day all you have to do is grab a Ziplock™ and start cooking.  Vegetables prepped ahead, in particular onions, should always be kept in containers/bags separate from everything else.

Honestly, if you’re inclined, you can cook pies in advance, or prep them to the point of putting in the oven and wrap well and freeze them.  Just remember when you’re cooking them that you would have to loosely cover with foil and add about 10 – 12 minutes to the cooking time, to allow for thawing and prevent the crust from burning.  I would discourage thawing them at room temperature, just let the oven do that for you, and keep your counters free of clutter.  I have even been known to make pies a month or more in advance, when apples are at their peak, or I see them on sale at the market.  I also am a huge advocate of making your own pumpkin puree.  Especially after all the Halloween carving.  Buy a few extra pie pumpkins, they’re the small to medium size ones you see everywhere.  Don’t carve them, just put them out for decoration.  Then, once Halloween is over, remove the stem, cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds, lay cut side down on a roasting or baking sheet covered in foil and roast them in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Putting them cut side down helps to generate steam which will cook them a little faster.  Once a knife easily pierces the skin, take them out, let them cool completely and once cool, scrape the innards out of the shell with a spoon.  Give it a few pulses in the food processor and voila!  Instant pumpkin puree.  You can freeze this for months in a bag or container, or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  Then just measure as you would for a pie and forgo the canned stuff!  That’s truly homemade!

Speaking again of in advance, I have made the cranberry sauce as far in advance as possible many times.  The minute I see the bags of berries in the market, it gets made.  And it’s as easy as possible!

Cranberry sauce

1 bag cranberries, pikced through for rocks and white, unripe berries

1 cup water

1/2 cup white sugar (you can not replace this with anything but sugar, no stevia!)

Cinnamon stick, or 1 teaspoon powdered

In a heavy bottom pan that has a lid, bring the water and sugar to a boil.  Add the cranberries and cinnamon, lower theat to a simmer and cover.  Check the mixture and be ready for overflow, it just happens.  Once all the berries are starting to pop (you’ll hear it) take the lid off, stir and begin to crush the berries under the liquid, with a slotted spoon.  Once they’re all popped, cook for another 5 – 7 minutes, and allow everything to gel.  Take it off the heat and let it cool completely, removing the cinnamon stick once it is cool.  Isn’t that easy??

You can store them, in a bag or covered container int he fridge, but I usually freeze well ahead of time.

We do all the usual things, stuffing, turkey (see my fool proof one and a half hour 23 lb turkey here) , mashed potatoes, pies.  I do do a few different things though, purely because Hubby loves them, and let’s face it, that’s really who I cook for most of the time, so why not make things he enjoys! Item one is roasted cauliflower, and the other is roasted Brussels sprouts.  Now, I have to say, these styles of vegetable cooking seem to be very popular these days, but I have been doing them for years, at least 10, so I like to think I started the trend.  It’s also super easy.  Hot oven, lots of olive oil, tin foil covered baking sheet, salt, garlic (fresh minced, or powdered), cumin.  You can omit the cumin for the BS’s but it adds something amazing to the cauliflower, so don’t skimp there!  Tip for the Brussels, when you’re paring the base of them, cut a cross into it and roast them whole.  Any stray leaves that fall off them just toss them onto the sheet.  They’re what I like to call the cooks treat, they roast up super crispy and are delish!  When you’re prepping the cauliflower, just cut it into bite sizes, not too big or too small, then for both, douse with about 1/4 cup of olive oil, sprinkle well with salt, cumin and toss or stir everything together so it’s all well covered.  Put into a hot oven, 425 or so, and roast for 20 – 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on them, as they cook, make sure they don’t burn outright.  You do want to get brown and toasty.  Easy as anything and you can serve a room temperature or hot, your choice.  Just don’t reheat them, that makes them soggy and yuck.

Mashed potatoes, I do the day of, as close to dinner time as possible, and I don’t ever skimp on the butter and cream.  Heat the cream and butter together, if you have time, it’s so worth it!

What have I missed?  Oh, the rule at our house is the cook never has to wash the dishes, so be sure all the guests know they will be expected to clear the table and wash up!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner my dear American friends, and for those of you not celebrating, try some of theses and come back and let me know how they work for you!  As the Hubby’s Aunt Maxine used to say, “Add wine, and it’s a party!”

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving is here (almost)!

Every year the Hubby and I host his family for Thanksgiving.  The attendance numbers fluctuate year to year, but it’s usually no less than 16 people.  In the old house, it was super easy to accommodate the number, but since we have only just moved, we opted out of hosting this year.  We just don’t know how many people we can fit into our little dining room, although I am SURE we will have no problem, once we get settled.

I find myself completely at odds with myself, not having any planning to do, other than making a cake for the gathering we will be attending.  So, I thought I would spend a few days of blogging going over a few of the tried and true recipe’s for what we normally do, and share a few photo’s of the beautiful tables we have set over the years.

Each year, I try to do a completely different table from the previous year, and we do everything real.  Real plates, silverware, glasses, all from a stock I have accumulated over the years.  It was the big tradition of Hubby’s Uncle Henry and Aunt Max to have huge family gatherings at their house for the holiday, and we try to keep that tradition alive.  Henry built basic folding tables, with a T at the top, that would seat over 20 people in their basement.  But they were easily stored for future use, and we did use them last year!

The race to decorate the tables is usually something I really think through carefully.  One year I made my own table runner and loved the material so much, it became the pattern for our wedding announcements and party invites.

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I loved that table, and it got rave reviews!  You can see how long the table was, it went from our dining room all the way into the living room, and I think we had 18 that year for dinner.

Here is a typical menu for our Thanksgiving:

Roasted turkey

Gravy

Mashed potatoes

Sweet potatoes (with Red Hot’s sauce)

Fried or creamed corn

Stuffed celery

Olive puffs

Pickle and olive plate

Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts

Coleslaw

String bean casserole

Stuffed mushrooms

Dinner rolls

Tofurkey

Cranberry sauce

Pecan pie

Pumpkin pie

Lime Bavarian

Blackberry cobbler

It’s a lot to put on the table, but generally everyone makes one thing, or more, and brings it.  I do the turkey and mashed potatoes every year, along with the pies and the Tofurkey.  Can’t have Thanksgiving with out that for the Hubby!

So, I’ll miss making all that this year, but through you, dear blog readers, I will virtually make a great deal of it for you in this blog this week!

What are some of your family favorites?  Do you have the same group each year, or does it vary?  I used to do a lonely hearts Thanksgiving every year, for people that had no family locally, or just wanted to be somewhere other than with family (you wouldn’t believe how many peeps I had with that reason!) The Hubby’s Aunt Max used to call it her “Mystery Guest”, and I am thrilled that we do keep up with that tradition as well!

Have you ever heard of Lemon Curd? If you haven’t then read on!

My mother, as I have mentioned before many times, is Irish.  And when I used to visit there without her, I’d ask what I could bring back and it was always a jar of “Little Chip” marmalade, and a jar of lemon curd.  Now, American’s might get lemon curd if I liken it to the filling for a lemon meringue pie, but seriously, this is so much better and much more liquid.  The main difference between the two is that lemon meringue filling uses corn starch to thicken it, and that sets up as a much more solid texture than curd.  It’s much more silky, almost custard-like and less jelled than the filling. It’s also refreshingly tart, but with sweetness that stops you from the pucker.  Lemon curd is just something you have to experience to believe.  You can also make lime curd, blood orange curd, pretty much any citrus will make a good curd, and I have even seen raspberry and dulce de leche curd recently!

A few Sunday’s ago, we had breakfast at Brooklyn Street Local, one of our favorite breakfast spots in Detroit.  They’re wonderful, and they have poutine, which is uniquely Canadian (although I hear they also do it well in Wisconsin) and wonderfully indulgent, plus they do vegetarian (yay Hubby) and meat eater versions.  They use locally sourced food and lots of Michigan products including their wonderful coffee.  If you’re in the D, this is for sure a place to go!   We changed our usual routine and had the scones as a sort of breakfast appetizer.  It’s not the first time I have had them, but it was for the Hubby, they are served with a local jam, and some kick ass lemon curd.  It put me in mind of a cake I made for Mothers Day many years ago.  I won’t go into the excruciating details, but suffice it to say, I can not make white chocolate ganache to save my life.  However, I made the most wonderful lemon curd for my curd loving Mom.  The cake ended up being a lovely springy sponge, with whipped cream as the frosting, blackberries as the garnish and a lovely, rich lemon curd as the filling.  I think I remember my mom loving it.  In telling the story to the Hubby, he asked in a very accusatory fashion, “Why haven’t you made it for ME?”  And so, I am.

Now, before we start, some practical matters.  It is much easier to zest a lemon before you juice it, so refrigerate the lemons after you have washed them in hot soapy water, to remove any wax that may have been applied.  Let them get good and cold.  Then use a rasp if you have one, or a box grater on the fine side and lightly grate the yellow zest off.  You can even use a vegetable peeler, but once you reach the white pith, stop.  Pith isn’t going to do anyone any good in this recipe, or indeed in most others, so stop a few seconds after you start, and move to another area.  Another traditional thing when making this is that you use a double boiler.  But this time, I am going to say don’t do that.  Just keep the flame low, and whisk all the time.  It will make for more work, but it’s less fiddly.

Zested Lemons

This is how your lemons should look after zesting, before juicing!

Some ideas for the curd are pretty simple and easy.  Spread it on toast, with butter.  Fill a cake with it.  Use it for a pie filling. Fold it together with whipped cream for a light and lemony side to fruit salad.  So, here it is, lemon curd.

Lemon Curd

4 lemons (for 3 for zest and 4 for juice)
1/2 cup lemon juice (from above lemons)
1 stick unsalted butter melted and cooled completely
4 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if you’re using salted butter)

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, off the heat, whisk everything together.  Don’t be alarmed if it looks curdled, that’s OK.  This is what it might loom like:

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After everything is well mixed, and the sugar is dissolved, put it on a low heat, and start stirring.  Set your timer for 9 minutes, and don’t stop stirring.

After about 8 minutes, you should start to feel a slipperiness on the bottom of the pan.  That is a great sign, it means it’s starting to gel.

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It will start to look slightly grainy, and as though it is starting to curdle, but it isn’t, that’s the zest plumping up and rising to the surface.  Keep stirring, and when your timer stops, stop stirring and see if it starts to bubble.  If so, you’re almost done!  Keep stirring for another 3 minutes or so, and you’ll see it transform from a runny yellow liquid to a smooth and creamy custard-like consistency.  It’s exactly where you want it.  Take it off the heat and pour it into a waiting glass container.  You should immediately cover this with plastic wrap and press it onto the surface all over the exposed top.  You’ll prevent a skin forming.  Then let it completely cool at room temperature.  Once it’s completely cool, you can spoon it into jars, or a bowl with a lid, and store it in the fridge for up to a week.  Mine won’t last that long, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner!

My completed bowl!

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A very delayed flight, and a realization.

So I am currently on a flight from LaGuardia to Detroit, and I know this won’t post until I am on the ground. I first of all have realized that I write on here the way I speak. Most sentences start with a “So”. I also realize that on a blog, I can’t talk with my hands, which if you know me, you know is my New York style. (To which I add, I am delighted to see my two youngest nieces are echoing!)

My weekend was so much fun, the four kids, John, Elsa, Lily and Declan were delightful, and my carefully planned ritual with each of the children was in full effect. John and I had some hilarious and low key banter. Elsa and I shared cooking stories and talked about our shared birthdays. Miss Lily and I cooked our usual chocolate chip AND memenems cookies. Lil realized that she loves cookie dough as does her mamma. Little Declan and I had some lively laughs and had a great time, but a bit of a Mexican standoff, since he is completely besotted with his mamma, and I can’t compete. I wanted to scoop him up and live all over him. Such great kids!!! And my brother Mark, and sister in law Carie had great talks and connected more again!!

My mom and dad were in great form, and it was so wonderful to see the kiddies interact with them. Adoration on both sides! I didn’t get enough time with them! Hopefully when we go home for Christmas, we will have some proper grown up time with them!

And, now I am about to land, and we’re circling. My seat mate bought me a drink, because I was nice to him. So very sweet!!

I’m a bad NaBloPoMo Participant!

But, I have an excuse, yesterday was my birthday and I wasn’t feeling publishy!  Today I was off for half the day, but at work for a pretty cool meeting in the morning.  The Hubby and I went back to the old house to do some finalization of “stuff” removal and some cleaning.  Then back home, and getting ready to go home to NYC tomorrow morning! 

No cooking today, but tomorrow will be a different story.  My youngest niece Lily, reminded me when we were on FaceTime yesterday “Don’t forget, we have to make cookies when you come here!”  So, there will be cookies, and, I am super excited about making a lovely tea for my niece Elsa and I (and anyone else that’s around!)  We share a birthday, I mean seriously, that is the gift that keeps on giving!  And now she and I try to do something special to celebrate, even if it’s just having a special conversation on the day!

I am so looking forward to seeing the kiddies, in particular my youngest nephew, Declan.  I haven’t spent any time with him in almost a year, and so much happens when they’re between 1 and 2!  So, he is just going to have to get used to the kissy monster, AKA Aunt Elizabeth.  It’s a right of passage all the kids have had to endure!  I am also looking forward to seeing Mom and Dad.  I talk to them, but nothing beats a good face to face rap session, as my old religion teacher used to say.

Tomorrow I fly out at the butt crack of dawn, 6am, and I get to spend the whole day with my sister, and her kids, and my dad, just talking having fun and cooking up goodies for the tea party, then Saturday, it’s tea party, then American Girl Doll store (heaven help me and my wallet!) then home for dinner and nice family time!  What a great way to spend a weekend!

I’ll blog a bit tomorrow and let you know how it’s all going!

 

What a day!

We had our first snow today, but I am not ready for it!

Snow always reminds me of the house I grew up in and my bedroom.  I was so small that I would sit in the window and watch the first little flakes falling on the silent street!  House so cozy, blustery outside!  I spent a lot of time in that window, reading and watching Main Street parade by!

We’re overwhelmed from the lovely evening last night, so I think an early night is in order!  Maybe a book and some hot cocoa?  Sounds wonderful!

Good night!

Pop Up Dinner with Chef Greenhill to Benefit The Children’s Center of Detroit

I can’t wait to tell you about the event we just attended!  The Hubby works at a company called Team Detroit and a few weeks ago, he got an internal email about an event they were sponsoring called Pop-Up Dinner with Chef Brad Greenhill to Benefit The Children’s Center.  I had heard of The Children’s Center before through the work we do at the United Way.  But the chance to go to an event that was sponsored by my hubby’s company, that also benefits the kids of Detroit, how can I say no?

It was a spectacular and small event at Detroit Farm and Garden, the last place you would imagine a pop up restaurant, but it was the perfect locale!  DF&G is a barn like structure, near the I-75 service drive in the periphery between Corktown and Mexican Town.  It’s kind of a no-man’s land.  But the DF&G is there, and is a lovely local provider of everything you can imagine for the home farmer, as well as landscaper… in season.  Tonight it was transformed into a delightful foodie wonderland, with fairie lights and lovely mismatched settings all over!

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We were greeted by lovely hostesses and an even lovelier young lady bearing a plank of what looked like cedar with a delightful rum punch provided by the local cocktail emporium, Sugar House.  Any drink from there is worth it!  This was followed shortly after by the lights going out.  But the long farm-style, butcher paper covered tables were dressed with votive candles, which kept the ambiance, and the talk going.  Eventually the lights went back on, and we were drawn to the cheese plates.  Let me tell you they were practical and attractive!

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Once we had had a drink, and were seated, we listened to Tammy Zonker, who is a former colleague from the United Way.  She left the United Way to join The Children’s Center as Chief Philanthropy Officer.  She talked to us briefly about what the organization does, and introduced a video, which I am linking it below.  Talk about powerful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0E9hXyBsCk

After that very serious film, we started talking at the table, and we all realized we were very excited about the food.  The wine was lovely, and poured liberally, so we were really happy.  The Chef, Brad Greenhill is a genius, we were delighted each step of the way.  Honestly, this is the perfect fundraiser, lovely people, a great mix of old, new and some odd people thrown in.  The food was masterful, and honestly, we are supporting a wonderful organization, that is truly making a difference in some children’s very difficult lives.  The Children’s Center serves up to 7,500 children each year, with a multitude of issues, mainly relating to neglect and abuse.  I got a fantastic meal in aide of the cause.  The kids got some recognition and some funding.  That’s worth the price of admission surely!

Next up was the starter, grilled bread, apple butter, strachiatelli and apple salad.  Refreshing, delicious and even the picker eater in front of me was wide eyed with how good the pairing was.  It was paired with a bubbly rosè sparking wine.  The perfect foil to the lovely buttery and rich crostini.  I have never seen apple butter paired with anything but bread, so this was an unexpected delight.

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Next up, after lots of lovely conversation and another glass of wine was the Golden Beet Soup.  On the menu that the Hubby had gotten from work, it said Golden Beef Soup.  We were both puzzled by that, but it turned out to be a lovely silky golden beet pureé, with some lemon scented greek yogurt, and pitachio’s, perfect crunch and lovely fatty mouth feel.  there was definitely a spicy finish, which trurned out to be a red chile roasted and pureed with the beets.  All around a success, although I unfortunatley didn’t get a photo before devouring it!

Then there was a kale salad with mint and pomegranate.  I got the opportunity to share my long term secret for seeding a pom!  Cut in half, hold over bowl, thwack with a wooden spoon.  The seeds rain down like bejeweled beads!  The combo of Lachinato kale, lemon, olive oil, pom seeds and mint was classic and refreshing, and so delicious!  Normally I am all preoccupied with the dressing, I don’t even remember thinking about that tonight.

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Isn’t that pretty!

Next up was the main course.  For me it was lamb shank with pine nut gremolata.  For the Hubby, it was mushroom ragu with polenta, and the same gremolata.  Generally the husband hated line nuts, but here he didn’t seem to mind it! the lambwas perfect, fall off the bone tender, and the polenta was light and fluffy, not at all the way I can ever get it.  I ate every morsel, and I heard a few at the table saying they would like to pick the plate up and lick it!

Mine:

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The Hubby’s ragu:

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Considering that the dinner was to aid children, we were so engrossed with talking about food and the food we were eating, I swear the night ran by us.  Dessert was a salted caramel ice cream by Treat Dreams in Ferndale.  Even the Hubby was smacking his lips and lamenting that we couldn’t take boxes home!

Did you notice that not one dish matched another?  That was totally the charm of the evening.  That and viewing an actual Banksy at 555 Gallery.  Also worth trekking down to Mexican Town!

Bravo Children’s Center on a wonderful event, and to Chef Greenhill.  You’re a genius, and I don’t care who I tell!

Yay, kewl night, great food.  Such a great place Detroit is!

Mushroom Stroganoff

Ok, vegetarians, come on back to the fold!  This post is one I planned to write a while ago, and so the photos are of the old kitchen. But that doesn’t make it any less wonderful!  I wrote a favorite things post a while back, and mentioned one of my go-to’s for easy every night cooking is a mushroom soup base that is vegetarian.  The product is called Better Than Bouillon. It comes in Vegetable Base, No Chicken and No Beef flavors as well, so there are lots of options flavor wise, but to do this stroganoff well, you need a really deep tasting broth.  Just as an aside, they also do kicking Ham, Beef, Clam, Fish and a Lobster Bases that are amazingly good.  And, as an aside, I am not endorsing this product for any other reason than I love it.

So, yes, this recipe is vegetarian, but I wouldn’t recommend it be vegan.  Having said that though, if you can find a vegan sour cream style product, go for it!   For the meat lovers out there, yes, this is the same recipe as beef stroganoff, just with no beef.  If you want to do beef, add browned beef cubes to this, and you’ll be away with yourself!  I often make this for myself, because I love mushrooms, and I don’t add meat, but I sometimes add fake beef strips, to up the level of protein.

I use an array of mushrooms in this, but honestly the lowly button mushroom is also great here.  For mine I used oyster, Shitake and mini portobello mushrooms.  I would stay away from enoki, they really don’t have any flavor.  I also sometimes use dried porcini or morels if I have them handy.

 

Mushroom Stroganoff

3 medium packages of mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic minced finely, or crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup red wine, sherry or marsala (optional)

2 cups good broth (mushroom or vegetable, just make sure it tastes good)

16 oz container of sour cream (low fat, regal, no fat, makes no difference)

1 container/bag beef substitute (I used Gardein Beefless Tips)

1 bag of egg noodles, or rice or couscous, your preference

In a heavy bottomed pan that is cold, place the garlic and oil and turn on the heat to a medium flame.  Once you can smell the garlic, toss in all the mushrooms, and quickly stir to coat them in oil.  The mushrooms will absorb all the oil, but if you sprinkle the salt and pepper over them, stir and clamp a lid on them, they will start to cook and release their juices.  Once this starts to happen, take the lid off the pan and sauté the mushrooms so they are looking limp and cooked.

At this point, I add the wine of you’re using it, and raise the heat up so it bubbles down, all the while stirring.  If you’re not doing that, add the 2 cups of stock, keep the lid off the pan and stir well, then turn up the heat to a low boil, and keep an eye on it, stirring as you go.

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You may want to taste it at this point, for seasoning.  Adjust as you feel is necessary.  After about 10 minutes of high heat, the liquids should be reduced enough that when you stir with your spoon, you should briefly see the bottom of the pan.  Add the fake meat if you’re adding it and stir well.  This will lower the heat in the pan, so cover it and allow it to cook and heat through.  Once you get to that point, take the pot off the heat, and add the sour cream, stirring well to combine.  It may look as though it’s curdling, but it’s not, it’s just a bit shocked.  As you stir, it will all mix and turn a lovely buff color.

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At this point, I would set this aside, on a very low flame, and cook the starch you’re eating with it.  If it’s noodles, once they’re cooked and well drained, add them to the mushroom mixture and stir well.  If you’re using another grain or starch, pile it up on a plate and spoon the mushroom over it.

Yummy!  Enjoy it!

Dear Diary

As you know, we moved recently, and in moving, I found a great deal of “stuff” that I had forgotten about.  Like hows about a diary… which I made the mistake of reading?  Yeah, angsty youth isn’t all that attractive on me.  I will say, I am surprised about what I wrote, because 90% of it I don’t have any recollection of.  A friend of mine from when I was a kid, Catherine Daly, who is a book editor and a writer of young teen girls novels (check them out here) reminded me about a period when we were kids, and some of the things I said.  I remember the time she was talking about, but I have no recollection of what she told me I said, or the situation.  Isn’t that strange?  I usually pride myself on remembering things like that!

Another thing I found was my very first cookbook.  I still have it after ALL these years!  Below are a few photos of what a cook book looked like for kids, back in 1975, when I was all of 8!    There are some great recipes!  Like baked or deviled eggs.  I noticed that there are a few pages with bent corner, like Good Potatoes, which is comprised of baking potatoes, butter, sour cream, parsley or chives, a baking dish, fork and knife for cutting the potatoes.  They’re basically baked potatoes. Another one I have folded down is Pigs in Blankets, which is something I make with my nieces and nephews now!

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The kicker is the recipe I wrote myself on the last page which is titled “My Own Recipes” I put a recipe in for sponge cake:

Tablespoon of baking soda

2 cups of flour

1 cap full of vanilla

3 eggs

1 cup of water

Sift

I guess I didn’t get past that sifting stage! (PS – I’ll have to try this one and see what it’s like, I wonder where I got that from?)

This all put me in mind of what I do with my own nieces and nephews.  I asked the Hubby the other night, what am I going to write about for 30 days?  And he said, “Write about cooking with the kids, you have photos of that, right?”  And he is right.  It’s one of my favorite things to do, although, I rarely get to see all of them!  (My secret is that I am going home next weekend and will get to see at least a few of them!)

My niece Lily told her Mom that “I love when Aunt Elizabeth makes cookies, they’re special!”  Baked with more love!  So, here is something I use as a go to, that I cook with the kids in many styles, savory for Pigs in Blankets, sweet for sweet teeth! I have a variation of this with cherries on the site earlier this year, but seriously these were made to have sharp cheese in them.  Again, I borrow from Nigella Lawson, but have made my own tweaks.  These scones are more of a biscuit dough than a traditional heavy scone.

Cheese Scone Dough

2 cups plus self-rising flour
5 tablespoons of rye flour (just use self rising if you don’t have)
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard (omit if you’re making for young kiddies)
2 tablespoons grated sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients, flour/s, salt, dry mustard.  Mix them well, and make sure that the ingredients in the bottom of the bowl are all mixed well.  (Kids love to do this, especially with wooden spoons.  Make sure you have a few tablespoons of extra flour in that case.)  Once they’re well mixed, sprinkle the cheese over, and use a fork to toss it into the flour.  The idea is to cover the cheese in flour so that when the wet ingredients are added, the cheese stays separate and doesn’t lump up in one place.
In another smaller bowl, mix together the wet ingredients, making sure the egg yolk is well incorporated.  Add the wet to the dry and mix until it congeals, I suggest using a fork.  Place a few spoons full of flour on a countertop or cutting board, and dump the dough out on it.
You’ll have to knead a little, and as you do, it will firm up nicely.  Leave it to rest for 10 – 15 minutes under a tea towel, preparing for rolling out.
On a cleaned surface, scatter some flour ad roll the dough out, to about 1/2 inch or so into a rectangle.  Cut this into strips, about 1/2 inch wide, and wrap them around some hot dogs cut into quarters, or even eighths.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350° F, for about 15 – 20 min.  You’ll see the dough is all puffed and the hot dogs are sizzling.  You can make this with veggie hot dogs, it works really well!
Now my niece Elsa makes these with me, but we use chocolate chips, and they’re super duper!  Substitute salt for the sugar, and omit the cheese, to be replaced by about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.  Form it into an inch high or so round, cut into wedges and put into a baking a sheet, and cook for the same amount of time, watching there is no burning, since ovens vary a great deal.
Here’s a photo of a messy Aunt E and little E, making chocolate chip scones.  I love that I have these photos!!
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