Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1, 2015

The holidays and winter are upon us, Poppets. Here in my house, the holidays start with Samhain (Halloween) and run through New Year’s Eve, encompassing Thanksgiving, Yule, and Christmas. 

But winter lasts a lot longer – especially now that we’ve moved back to New England.

With the cold, celebratory season also comes favorite recipes. Winter, more than any other season, makes me want to fill the house with the scents and aromas of the season – not to mention my tummy with the tastes, too!

But there’s also that element of thanksgiving. Of closeness that comes with the holiday season. Of being especially grateful for the people I love most. So this year, let me share with you some of my favorite people’s favorite winter recipes. (And no, none of them have Betty’s favorite ingredient in them! I’ll leave those recipes to her…)

Anna’s Gingerbread – This has become staple in David’s and my house. Just don’t use blackstrap molasses, because it makes it taste burnt instead of dark and rich. Yes, I know this to be true. Learn from my mistake, Poppets. Also, breaking this up and combining it with eggnog custard or pudding for a trifle is delicious!
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups dark molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons warm milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup raisins (optional, I always leave out)
Melt butter or margarine, sugar, and molasses in saucepan over low heat. Heat until sugar is dissolved and mix well. Remove from heat. Put flour, eggs, ginger, cinnamon, milk, baking soda, and raisins in mixing bowl. Add butter mixture and mix with spoon or electric mixer until well blended. Pour mixture into baking pan and bake in oven until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean (about 45 minutes). To serve, allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into squares.

Dan’s Honey and Walnut Dip – The holidays can mean gatherings of friends, colleagues, coworkers. And we’re all busy – but you can’t show up empty handed. The best part is there is literally no measuring, no way to do it wrong. Like walnuts? Add more. Like honey? Add more. Whatever works for you. This is so fast, you can almost make it in your car in the parking lot before you head into the party if you need to. 
1 block cream cheese, softened
Walnut pieces
Stir the walnuts into the cream cheese. Stir the honey into the walnut-cream cheese combo. Serve with wheat crackers. Seriously, that’s it. But it tastes like you slaved all day.

Lori’s Hot Italian Beef – This is the best version of the classic sandwich I have ever eaten (and I’ve eaten far more of my share of Italian beefs). Plus, it’s so damn easy. Put it on in the morning and walk away. Hot, drippy, delicious dinner a few hours later. What’s not to love?
1 rump roast
1 jar pepperoncini
Italian seasoning to taste
Beef broth to cover
6 or so cloves of garlic
Hoagie rolls
Put everything but the rolls in a crockpot. Let it cook for at least 6 hours. Check to see if it’s falling apart yet. Cook longer if necessary, but no longer than a total of 8 hours.
Remove beef from crock pot, keeping juice in reserve. Shred the beef and fill rolls. Dip (but don’t soak) the sandwich in reserved juice.

Mac’s Winter Root Soup – Rich, thick, and perfect for a cold night. Makes use of winter root vegetables to their most delicious potential.
Butternut squash
Sweet potato
Yukon gold potatoes (unpeeled)
Chicken broth
Cut all veggies into cubes. Put in large roasting pan with 5-6 whole garlic cloves. Top with olive oil and sprinkle w salt, pepper, cayenne & ginger to taste. Roast uncovered on 425 for 45-60 min, until cooked through. Let it cool.
Once cool, put veggies in a blender in batches with 1/2 cup chicken broth each batch until smooth. Reheat, pour into in bowls, and top with favorite garnish (paprika, chopped nuts, whatever). Serve with crusty bread. Maybe even…

Sister and Brother’s Easy Bread – In case you didn’t figure it out, this is my sister and brother-in-law’s recipe. And yes, we call each other Sister, and sometimes Brother. Your kitchen will smell like your favorite bakery when you’re done with this.
3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp yeast 
1-1/2 c warm water
 Put everything in a large bowl. Stir it all around with a fork until it's a gooey mess.  Cover it in plastic and let sit 12 - 24 hours.
Flour a board or counter (liberally), and with wet hands, scoop the risen goo out onto the floured surface.  Pull the edges in to the center and flip it over so you have a nice taut surface.  Flour a towel and cover the dough, let it 'nap' for an hour or so. 

Put a covered oven-safe bowl into the oven and preheat to 450 for 30 minutes.  Dump dough into hot pot, shake to distribute, cover, bake 27 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 11 minutes.  (These are random times, but they work!)
Remove and cool in the pot. Bread will just pop out when cool.

Starbuck’s Gingerbread Muffins – Want to pretend that gingerbread is a breakfast food, and not cake? These are what you’re looking for. And the same warning against blackstrap molasses is in effect. Try them toasted or grilled with (plain, not Dan’s) cream cheese.

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1 egg
1 cup unsulphured (not black strap) molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350. Grease & flour muffin tins. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar & butter. Beat in the egg, and then mix in the molasses. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. 
Blend the dry bowl into the creamed mixture, and add the applesauce. Stir in the hot water. Pour into muffin tins.
Bake 15 minutes.

Susan’s Spiced Tea – This is my mother’s recipe. It is literally the taste and smell of my childhood. Generally, I distain instant drinks. This is the exception. Plus, it will keep FOREVER in an air-tight container.
2 cups Tang
2 scoops instant lemonade (if anybody can still find Wyler's, it's especially good) 
1 cup instant, unsweetened tea (caffeinated or decaf, optional)
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
Combine all the ingredients. Add 2 T to a mug and pour in hot, not quite boiling, water. Stir well.

My Dear David’s Apple Cider – Because no article about some of my favorite people in the world would be complete without my dear David. We went apple picking last month and used the freshest apples EVER this time. I want to say it doesn’t make a difference…but it does. Still, the apples you can get a grocery store make it taste damn good.
12 medium apples 
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
2 t ground cloves
Orange peel for zest
Cut apples into 2 inch cubes (this can be approximate). Put in a large pot, just covered with water. Throw in cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and zest. Keep everything at a low boil for an hour or two, until it’s all liquid.
Let cool. Strain out solids with cheese cloth.
Add sugar to taste and reheat. Serve with a cinnamon stick (or rum!)

There you have it, Poppets. From some of my favorite kitchens to yours, for my favorite time of year – and into the snowy beyond.

May you find reasons to be thankful this month, Poppets, and know I’m thankful for you.

Until next month, take care of you – and each other.

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