holiday

dress up your stuffing mix

Stuffing is one of those dishes with the most liberal of interpretations, depending on who makes it and what ingredients are used. Technically, what I make is not stuffing, but rather dressing. It’s not stuffing because it’s not stuffed in anything. (I never roast my bird, and frying a stuffed turkey would just be bad news.) But I like calling it “stuffing” anyway, because that word is just more fun to say than “dressing.” (Plus I always think of salad vinaigrettes when I hear “dressing.”)

One of my earliest memories of stuffing was when I was in college and had a box of StoveTop for whatever reason. Maybe I was looking for an easy side to accompany some chicken I’d made. But I quickly became addicted to StoveTop and would eat it by itself as a full meal. There was so much flavor, and there was something about the pillowy texture that exuded comfort.

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sweet creole corn

I love corn and have to have it every Thanksgiving. It adds a nice crispy texture next to the creamy potatoes and casseroles. Back when I was an amateur cook, I used to serve them straight out of a can with some butter, salt, and pepper. Now I’ve graduated to cutting them off the cob and increasing the number of ingredients used.
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whipped potatoes

When I think of American comfort food, I think of potatoes. I love potatoes in all forms: fried, baked, mashed, smashed, or whipped.

What, you might ask, is the difference between mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, and whipped potatoes? After digging around online, I’ve come up with this answer.
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in the polyscience: sous vide turkey

This was the first Thanksgiving in 12 years that I did not serve a fried turkey for our family Thanksgiving meal. Since my mama-in-law shrinks away from fried foods, we decided to put the new PolyScience immersion circulator to good use and sous vide our turkey instead.
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peanut oil: the key to fried turkey

IT’S THANKSGIVING WEEK! I’m that excited that I have to type it in all caps. I’ve said it many times before: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Most get four days off, the weather is lovely, there is no pressure and stress of gift-giving, and all you do is watch/play football and stuff your faces with comfort foods.
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roasted lamb chops

Juicy lovely lamb

I don’t understand people who claim they don’t eat lamb because it’s “too gamey.” Duck and lamb, when it’s a good cut of meat and when it’s fresh, have got to be some of the least gamey meat around. But to each his own, I guess.

For me, I adore lamb. And not just because it used to be a cute cuddly hand puppet (I say “used to” because it’s now a juicy pink piece of meat on my plate) but because it tastes pretty darn good. But because it’s expensive, I’d always been intimidated to try it at home. But during a recent trip to Costco, I couldn’t resist. Into our cart went a half rack of lamb (which yields about 7 bones) for $22. After tinkering around online, I found a surefire recipe online. The only thing I changed was to omit the bread crumbs since John was eating low carbs.

Before cooking this, you MUST have a meat or food thermometer. It is vital to cooking all meats—you cannot cook a perfect steak, pot roast, turkey, prime rib, or rack of lamb without one. I just got my digital thermometer at Target, and it’s served me fine. For convenience, buy one with a timer and a alarm option for when it reaches a certain temperature. That way, you can set it to ___°F and go watch “Jersey Shore” until it beeps and announces your rump roast is ready. (Just kidding—don’t watch “Jersey Shore.”)

So here is an easy way to cook a rack of lamb. Try it next time for a special occasion. It makes for a beautiful presentation, especially when served with some colorful vegetables like asparagus and purple potatoes. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

 

: Roasted Lamb Chops

 

  1. 1 single (7-bone) rack of lamb, trimmed & frenched
  2. 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  3. 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  4. 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  5. 2 tsp. salt
  6. 1.25 tsp. ground black pepper
  7. 4 tbsp. olive oil
  8. 1 tbsp. dijon mustard

 

  1. Roasted Lamb ChopsMove oven rack to center position. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a lg. bowl, combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss in 2 tbsp. olive oil to moisten mixture.
  3. Season rack of lamb with remaining salt & pepper. Heat remaining olive oil in a lg. heavy oven-proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1 to 2 min. on all sides. Set aside for a few min.
  4. Brush rack of lamb with mustard. Roll in bread crumb mixture until evenly coated. Cover the bone ends with foil to prevent charring.
  5. Arrange rack boneside down in skillet. Insert thermometer into rack. Roast for 12 to 18 min. depending on desired doneness. Let it rest for 5 to 7 min., loosely covered, before carving between ribs.

 

To “french” a rack of lamb means to clean the meat, cartilage, and fat between tips of the bones to make for a neater presentation.

Allow for the internal temperature to be 5 to 10 degrees lower than desired since meat will continue cooking once removed from the oven.

Bloody rare – 115-125 degrees
Rare – 125-130 degrees
Med.rare – 130-140 degrees
**Med. – 140-150 degrees

**I like my lamb medium.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

my go-to recipes for thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving already. Boy, has this year slipped past. I’ve been swamped with all of the usual end-of-year business such as holiday prepping and semester wrapping-up not to mention I’m in the middle of my Rituxan treatments which have got me all exhausted. Why doesIt seem like I only get beat down by this NMO during such inconvenient times like the holidays or when a hurricane is coming to town? But as with most things in life, you get all sorts of things thrown at you, and you just learn to take them in stride. I’ve been thinking about Joan Didion’s novel Play It As It Lays lately, how you just need to play the cards you’re dealt. Anyway, it’s Thanksgiving, and I still have lots to be thankful for.

I’ve already posted some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes last year, so no need to waste cyberspace and repost. Instead, I’ll just link to them. Slap on your apron and get to cookin’! Happy Thanksgiving, and don’t forget what you’re grateful for.

 

 

 

prime rib au jus with horseradish sauce

Ta da! The main entree served with the roasted new red potatoes and the country green beans is prime rib.

I have not had the privilege to consume a lot of prime rib in my life, but I can tell you the best prime rib I’ve had is at San Francisco’s House of Prime Rib. They serve succulent slices of prime rib cut off the cart right in front of your table. And the best thing is seconds are on the house. They don’t advertise this on the menu but guests are allowed a second serving of prime rib–all one has to do is ask.

I decided to do a prime rib for this year’s Christmas lunch because my dad was tired of fried turkey, and as the thought of roasting a duck for the first time at a family holiday gathering was intimidating, I settled on prime rib instead. Originally, I was going to purchase a pre-marinated prime rib from Costco but when I realized that marinating your own prime rib was a fairly simple process, I decided to forego the ready-to-go prime rib at $8.99/lb. and go for the naked slab of USDA beef at $7.99/lb. I bought a five-pound hunk of prime rib, assuming that my family, with their dainty appetites, will only eat about half a pound each. (I heard my relatives are also bringing lobster and chicken wings.)

The must-have tool for cooking prime rib (and just about any big chunk of meat, for that matter) is the digital meat thermometer. We got ours last-minute from Target the other night for roughly $20. Cooking meats–whether it’s beef, pork, and chicken, and whether you roast, grill, or fry it–requires an exact temperature reading to indicate doneness. It’s a shame I’ve been cooking all these years without using one; I usually just get John to cut the meat open and look to see if it’s pink or bloody or done. But as cooking is as much a science as it is an art, the best way to produce consistent, edible, and desirable results is to use a thermometer. There are even digital talking thermometers for the blind, and I will one day get to blogging about all these independent living aids for the blind (I know I keep saying that, but I promise.)

The prime rib should be served with two sauces: an au jus and a horseradish. Au jus is French for “with juice,. In French cooking, au jus is usually made by taking the natural drippings from the roasted meat and served as an accompaniment to enhance flavor. In American cooking, however, au jus refers to a sauce that may or may not be made from the pan drippings but is almost always prepared by combining other ingredients such as beef broth, soy sauce, or worcestershire sauce and reduced to a sometimes gravy-like consistency. American au jus is frequently made separately using additional external ingredients whereas the French au jus is purer in the sense that it’s the natural juices produced during cooking.

Horseradish sauce provides a little creamy kick to the savory meat. I find that horseradish meshes well with beef: think of a roast beef sandwich topped with horseradish sauce. (Hello–Arby’s!) So without further adieu, here are the triple decker recipes to make prime rib, au jus, and horseradish sauce.

Note: Pictures to come after Christmas.


Recipe: Prime Rib

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 (5 lb.) standing beef rib roast
  • 2 tsp. kosher or rock salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder or more to taste

Instructions

  1. Allow roast to stand at room tempreature for at least 1 hr.–very important!
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a sm. bowl. Place the rib roast on a rack in the roasting pan, fatty side up. Rub seasoning on the roast.
  3. Place the thermometer in the meat, and roast in oven for 1 hr. Turn off oven, and let roast sit inside the oven for 2 to 3 hrs. Do not open oven door–the roast is still cooking. Before serving, turn the oven back on to 375 degrees and roast for another 30 min. or so to heat through. The internal temperature should read at least 145 degrees when ready. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 min. before carving and serving. Serve with au jus and horseradish sauce.

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Recipe: Au Jus

Ingredients

  • 1 (10.5 oz.) can French onion soup
  • 1 (10.5 oz.) can beef broth
  • 1 can cold water
  • 1/2 tsp. white sugar
  • 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Bring ingredients to boil in a med. saucepan. Strain, discard onions, and serve in sm. ramekins alongside prime rib.

Quick Notes

Makes 3.5 cups. Can be made 2 days ahead.

Cooking time (duration): 5

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Recipe: Horseradish Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hr. to develop flavors. Serve in sm. ramekins alongside prime rib.

Quick Notes

Makes 1.25 cups. Can be made 2 days ahead.

Cooking time (duration): 5

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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gingerbread cookies

Hello! Happy holidays! Welcome to the week of Christmas. Every day this week up until Saturday the 25th, I will post an entry featuring–of course–food. So let the blogging and cooking begin…

As with most desserts containing warm, rich spices of ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and/or cinnamon, gingerbread cookies are a tasty holiday treat. I usually like to bake these and snickerdoodles to give away during Christmas. I’m posting the recipe a few days before Christmas just in case you’d like to have them all wrapped up in pretty ribbon for your guests by the holiday.

The first time I ever bit into a gingerbread man was when I was in the seventh grade, and my friend, Jennifer, had baked a dozen as my Christmas present. They came neatly wrapped inside a paper box designed to look like a little gingerbread house. At first, I didn’t think I’d like the spicy cookies–I didn’t like much of anything with ginger in them, let alone dessert–but I was pleasantly surprised that the cookies were very delicious. In fact, the spices made them perfect for munching on a cold winter’s day. Gobble them up with a glass of milk by the fire, and you’ve got a true American Christmas. And as always, if the Blind can Cook it, you can too.

A photo will be posted as soon as I bake them and get John to take a picture.


Recipe: Gingerbread Cookies

Summary: An easy recipe that doesn’t require molasses. Originally from All Recipes. Number of cookies made depends on the size of your cookie cutter. Usually makes 15 to 30 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3.5 oz.) pkg. butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1.5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened

Instructions

  1. In a med. bowl, cream together butterscotch mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in egg.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon. Stir in the pudding mixture. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hr.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
  4. On a floured board, roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness using a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter (I have both gingerbread man and mitten shapes) to cut into shapes. Place about 1″ apart on the cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 min. or until edges are golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack. Decorate with frosting if desired.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin cheesecake

Don't let the two pounds of cream cheese scare you away.



Ah…now finally we come to the dessert portion of our grand Thanksgiving holiday meal. Naturally, it’s often a pie of some sorts, pumpkin or apple. But this year, I also decided to put a twist on the dessert and make a pumpkin cheesecake a la Cheesecake Factory style. What better way than to use up all that leftover pumpkin from Halloween than to bake it in a dessert?

When I was younger, I loved cheescake, especially the chocolate covered kind from Olive Garden. But as I got older, I found the cake too rich and creamy for my taste. I came across this recipe, however, online through the Food Network website, and all the reviews said even though they didn’t like pumpkin or didn’t like cheesecake, this hybrid dessert was to die for, a full five stars. I’ve also never had the pumpkin cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory, but I figured John loves cheesecake, so why not try to make this fully from scratch using our homemade pumpkin puree instead of the canned variety?

A funny story on the side about the pumpkin puree. We had spent all that time as described in this post to create this pumpkin puree from a leftover Halloween pumpkin. But when we were at the grocery store the other week, we passed by rows and rows of canned pumpkin puree, all going for less than $2 each. If I calculated it out, we basically saved 50 cents an hour by making it ourselves. We are some damn cheap labor.

Anyway, back to the cheesecake. We used the food processor to ensure even mixing but forgot to add the spices until after we had already poured it out into a bowl. The hand-mixing post-spices was a mistake because not all of the spices were distributed evenly, and we would get an occasional mouthful of ground ginger or ground cloves in the end product. Regardless, I was very happy with my first attempt at making cheesecake and pleasantly surprised that if you use a pre-baked graham cracker crust, the recipe really wasn’t that tedious. Warning, though: this dessert is not for the weight-conscious. I guess you could try using fat-free sour cream and cream cheese. Let me know how that turns out.

And this concludes our edition of the Thanksgiving series. You can whip up any of these recipes for Christmas, too. Remember, if the Blind can Cook a fabulous feast, so can you.


Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Summary: Original recipe from Food Network‘s “Almost Famous” collection, which calls for a crust made from scratch

Ingredients

  • 3 (9″) pre-baked graham cracker crusts
  • 4 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
  • 2.25 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 6 lg. eggs at room temp., lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/3 c. toasted pecans, roughly chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until just light, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters as needed. Beat in the sour cream. Then add in the pumpkin puree, eggs, vanilla, salt, and the spices. Beat until just combined. Pour into the crusts.
  3. Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets but center is still loose, about 35 to 40 min. Then turn off oven and open door briefly to let out heat. Leave cheesecake in oven for 30 more min. Let cool on a rack. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hrs. or overnight. Serve with a sprinkle of pecans.

Variations

My version of this recipe makes three 9″ pie-sized cheesecakes. If you prefer to make one thicker, larger cheesecake, use the same ingredient measurements but refer to the original recipe linked above to make the graham cracker crust from scratch. With busy lives, though, I figured who had the time? Too bad I can’t say my cheesecake is 100% made from scratch since the crust wasn’t, but hey, the pumpkin was.

Cooking time (duration): 50

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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