A Thanksgiving Treat: Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

I wanted to post this earlier today, but I have been a baking machine!  Seriously, I have put my Kitchenaid through its paces today.  Right now I have a salt crust dough settling, challah dough rising, and cookie dough chilling.  Yum!  Not to mention piles of bread chucks drying out for the stuffing tomorrow.

Anyways, yesterday I did a trail run of these Pumpkin Dinner Rolls for my book club (aka dinner club) and they were a huge hit!

While I got several requests for the recipe, these bad boys can be made using your favorite dinner roll recipe.  Heck, did you buy unbaked dinner rolls from the store?  You could fancy them up in a jiffy!

Simply roll your dough into small balls, flatten a bit, and cut 8 slices into them being careful not to cut the center.  Lay them out on a greased or lined baking sheet and using your pinky poke a hole in the centers.  Let them rise for another 20 minutes or so and re-poke the centers with your pinky.  Brush with egg wash and bake as your recipe directs.  Once removed from the oven brush them with butter to make them shiny!  Now don’t forget the stems.  Place a sliced pecan into the centers and viola pumpkin shaped dinner rolls!

These were 2 year-old tested and approved by the way!  The little boy at dinner last night used the “stem” as a handle and happily munched away.  He ate more of that roll then he did anything else on his plate. 😀

Looking for gorgeous step-by-step pictures, I got the directions here.   The recipe for the actual pumpkin rolls (yes they have pumpkin in them) are here.  While these were good, I opted to make tomorrow’s batch from Challah which can be found here.

Happy Thanksgiving to ALL!!!

Homemade Chicken Stock

It has been a long time since I posted any kind of recipe, and if you have recently had a roasted chicken dinner, like the one above, this one is for you!  Homemade chicken stock!  I have seen so many recipes out there that just say boil the chicken neck and some bones for an hour before making soup; well I’m here to tell you, you are missing out if that’s all you’re doing.  I feel like a grandma making my own stock, but this recipe is SO good.  Trust me a good homemade stock will rock your world! (Or at least your cooking.)  Seriously, it is a sad, sad day for me when I have to buy stock from the store.  It is nowhere near as flavorful and inspiring as my homemade stock.  Fortunately, this recipe will have all your stock needs met for quiet some time!

Here’s what you’ll need:

The carcase of a roasted chicken, plus the neck (giblets optional).  If you want to save some of the crispy skin or bones from the wings or legs from your roasted chicken dinner those can be thrown into the pot as well, but they aren’t necessary.  I usually stuff my chicken dinners with onion, a lemon or orange, and celery or herbs; all of this goes into the pot with the carcase.

Note: this also works well with leftover turkey.

In addition, you’ll need carrots, onion, celery, and herbs.  Do NOT add salt!

I like to use my large pasta pot with its fitted colander.  It makes your life a whole heck of a lot easier at the end of the boiling process!

Add the carcase and neck to the pot and fill with as much water as possible.  Boil for an hour and a half. (I did not take any pictures of this cause who wants to see a boiling carcase?!)  Do NOT stir at any point throughout this process!

After the first hour and a half, roughly chop the carrots, celery, and onion and toss them into the pot.  You can add a lemon here as well if you want for a hint of citrus in the finished stock.

Next cut a piece of cheese cloth (double layered) or use a tea ball, and fill it with slightly cracked whole peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, and sage.  Here I have also added mixed Italian herbs, garlic powder, and onion powder.  The intensity of dried herbs work best for a stock.

Use some string and tie into a satchel.  Drop the herb satchel into the pot and tie the other end to your pots handle for easy retrieval if you aren’t using the colander in the pot method.  Boil for another hour and a half.  Do not add more water, you want the flavors to concentrate.

After all three hours have passed, turn off the heat and let cool slightly.  When the handles are cool enough to hold remove the inside colander and put that in your sink to cool off the pile of bones.  If you weren’t using a colander, use tongs and a slotted spoon to remove everything you can.  It is best to do this near a thrash day if possible.  I toss the boiled remains into a double layer of shopping bags, and tie that up before throwing away.  Anyways, you should end up with a lovely pot of liquid like this and a house that smells fantastic.

Now you want to cool this down rapidly before bacteria starts to form.  I stick the whole pot directly into ice water.

Keep an eye on the ice, replacing them when melted.  This takes about 1/2 an hour or so to cool down.  Now it’s time to strain this again.  Pour the cooled stock into another large bowl through a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth.  This will remove any tiny bits that might be left.  You’ll end up with a beautiful golden liquid.

Cover this with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, any fat will have congealed on top.

Place this by the sink and skim off as much of the fat as possible.  Now you can ladle your finished stock into jars for freezing!  I always fill at least one Tupperware container to go into the fridge for more immediate use.

Take care to not fill your jars to the top, leave room for expansion.  It is a very sad day when after all that work, this happens to you. 😦

Sigh, I can’t tell you how disappointing that day was.  Anyways, now that you have fabulously, delicious stock check out my Chicken Soup for the Cold Soul recipe.  Stock makes a great base for some many meals, it can also be added to just about any meat dish to keep it moist.  In my kitchen it is a must have.  Enjoy!

Chicken Soup for the Cold Soul

With all this hot and cold weather we have been seeing here in New England I have caught a nasty cold.  One of my favorite things to cook and eat are soups.  I take great pride in the soups I produce!  When I was first thinking about starting a small business selling soup was on the top of my list.

Now here’s the thing, when Mr. Pea is not feeling well it’s easy for me to regal him with my homemade chicken soup, but when I’m sick it’s a different matter.  I am stuck with either canned soup (yuck) or quick frozen meals.  Fair warning, once you’ve started making homemade soup, you are spoiled for life; canned soup will never be good enough again.   So even though it’s 75 degrees outside today, I am making myself a quick version of chicken soup for my cold soul.

Chicken Soup

*Tip: If making this while you are sick, start it in the morning when you have a little more energy.  Then you can have it for lunch and dinner.

 1 lb. Chicken Breast
8 cups water
2 large chicken bullion
2 cups chicken stock
All the veggies you can find in the fridge (pasta can work too if you’re short on veggies)
Spices (I used Black Pepper, Salt, Rosemary, Tarragon, Ground Sage, Thyme, Parsley, and Paprika.)
Splash of Sherry if you’ve got it

Pull out the largest soup pot you got and defrost the chicken if needed.  Cube the chicken while bringing the water and bullion to a boil.

Boil the chicken until done, about 20 minutes.

Rest and chop the veggies while the chicken is boiling.  These just happen to be the veggies I had on hand.

Remove the chicken and add the diced veggies, chicken stock, and season to taste with the herbs you’ve chosen. I don’t measure these, but I make sure the top of the pot is covered with seasonings.

The rosemary, tarragon, sage, & thyme are a classic french pairing, but you can certainly add italian herbs instead.  Don’t forget to add a splash of sherry, this brings a lot of richness to the table.

Shred the chicken if you’ve got it in you, otherwise leave the cubed chicken in the pot.

Reward any helpers you might have.  After all they lovingly sit by your bedside keeping you company while you aren’t feeling so well.

Stir and bring to a boil.  Are you resting in between these steps?  Once boiling, stir and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and let simmer for at least an hour stirring occasionally.  The longer you can let this simmer the better the flavor.  Be sure to taste the broth during the simmering process to make sure it is seasoned properly.

Pour yourself a large mug or bowl full of soup and enjoy with crackers or a chunk of bread.  Enjoy and feel better!

Marinated Strawberries

Today I wanted to share a very simple recipe for a very delicious topping to just about anything!  I use marinated strawberries on my yogurt, ice cream, strawberry short-cake, and even in cocktails.  So simple and so versatile!

2 cups Strawberries
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar

That’s it!  Cut the strawberries in half and mix well with the sugar.

Cover the bowl and leave in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.  The sugar will draw out the juices from the strawberries.  The longer you let them sit, the softer and sweeter they will get.

Add the sweet juices and strawberries directly to your dish and ENJOY!

Is it Spring yet?!

I got hit hard this week with a bad case of Spring fever!  I know daylight savings in on Sunday but there’s must be something in the air because I can not sit still.  This morning alone I made more yogurt, fresh granola, butchered my first chicken, and made mojo sauce to marinate the chicken in!  Yesterday I couldn’t wait any longer to sink my hands into some dirt, so I did my gardening inside and re-potted all my plants.  What a fun way to mess up your living room!  I feel like I’m going to go out of my head waiting for warm weather and sunny evenings.

So if you too are in need of a taste of warmer weather, here is my Mojo Sauce recipe.*  It’s a garlicky, citrus sauce from Cuba that is out of this world.  It’s a good marinade or dipping sauce for just about any meat or veggies.

Mojo Sauce:

1 Orange (freshly squeezed and zested)
1 Lime (freshly squeezed and zested)
6 cloves of Garlic
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Vinegar (cider or white)
1 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp dried Cilantro (or a handful of fresh cilantro)
Salt & Pepper to your liking
For a little kick, add 1 Jalapeno or 1/2 Onion

Mix all the above ingredients with a food processor and store in the refrigerator.  This makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Enjoy!

*On a side note, I just want to say I’m terrible at following recipes (even my own).  I used 6 mandarins instead of an orange and fresh globe basil instead of cilantro.  I greatly encourage you all to experiment with this sauce!

Friday Reflections

Today’s Reflection, Tales of my Kitchen Experiments

I love experimenting in the kitchen.  When I was younger my brother, Alex, and I would rummage through the cabinets and make god awful things in the name of science!  We’d mix together every condiment in the fridge and then dare each other to eat it.  Or we’d pull out an old fondue pot, found in the back of a storage closet, and announce we’d be having frying chicken pieces for dinner tonight.  To this day we both continue to rummage through our cabinets and triumphantly declare the resulting meal a kitchen experiment!

This week my experimenting took me to a realm I’ve never been before, the land of milk.  I made (or attempted to make) homemade greek yogurt and mozzarella.  Mr. Pea is typically very cautious about food safety, if I leave frozen meat out on the counter to defrost he usually gives me a worried face and makes me promise not to leave it out to long.  Even with a promise I can see he’s fighting the urge not to put it in the fridge.

My first attempt at yogurt I followed some very simple directions found in the book, Make the Bread Buy the Butter.  Her recipes have never lead me wrong, and it pains me to say this, but in this case it did.  She didn’t explain the science involved in the yogurt making process, so when I saw a way to stream line and skip a step I had no idea it was vital to my success.  Likewise, she says to keep it somewhere warm overnight, so I just covered it up and left it on the counter.  You should have seen my sheepish face when Mr. Pea asked me what was in that red bowl, I was really hoping he wouldn’t notice it.  How could I tell my cautious husband I was letting milk sit out?!  To my surprise, he had no problem with this.  To my greater surprise he was even willing to try the yogurt in the morning!  Just one problem, as Mr. Pea put it in his announcer’s voice, “That’s not yogurt!”

It smelled like yogurt, but was definitely just milk left out on a counter overnight.  Google to the rescue!  I found all the help I needed over at Salad-in-a-jar.  While the Tipsy Baker had all the steps in her book, you really need to understand there is biology at play here and you are essentially growing a culture.  For attempt #2 I followed my new-found directions and Voila!  That IS yogurt! Thanks Paula for all your great posts on making yogurt at home.

Bolstered by new ability to make yogurt, I moved on to cheese-making.  There would be no skipping of steps this time.  I got a Mozzarella kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and set out to pick up some more milk.  I had already read in the before mentioned book, Make the Bread Buy the Butter, cheese-making is all about the milk.  Ultra-Pasteurized won’t do, she also mentions a lot of commercial milk that is labeled only pasteurized could still be heated just below UP classification.  At the grocery store I must have stood in front of the dairy case for at least 10 minutes reading labels and double checking them on my iPhone.

I ended up choosing Garelick farms whole milk.  I followed the recipe step by step.  It’s amazing how fast milk is separated into curds and whey!  I cut the curd but alas they did not hold together.  Instead of the square curds I was supposed to have, mine looked more like cottage cheese.  I went ahead and followed the rest of the recipe anyways, but the mozzarella would not melt into something that could be stretched.

Now that's some stretching!

We tried it anyways and it was delicious!  I looked through the trouble shooting section on the cheese making website and it turns out the milk was in fact heated past pasteurization which is why the curds wouldn’t hold up.  I added some dried italian herbs into the mozzarella mush and got a fantastic cheese spread.  While it wasn’t the mozzarella I was hoping for, Mr. Pea assured me it was by no means a failure.  Thanks hunny!

I hope to find better milk this weekend and try this experiment again.  It was fun taking my experiments to a whole new level this week!  I just read the cured meats section of Make the Bread Not the Butter and it’s giving me ideas.  What do you think Mr. Pea would think of me hanging meat in the coat closet?