by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of www.cmroman.com
Here is a toast to replacing the everyday with the truly extraordinary – especially when the extraordinary is exceedingly simple to create. Take these hash browns, for example. Paired with Sunday morning omlettes (try them stuffed with spinach, scallions, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and some spicy pepper jack), this preparation is a surprisingly simple, altogether incredible addition to the breakfast table.
Light some white candles and serve with a pot of hot tea. (Even if you’re still in your jammies.)
Hash-Browned Sweet Potatoes with Garam Masala and Turmeric
2 med. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut to ¼”dice
2 small russet potatoes, cut to ¼” dice
1 onion, cut to ½” dice
5 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
¼ C olive oil
3 tsp garam masala or to taste
1 tsp turmeric, or to taste
In large heavy pan with a good lid, heat pan over medium heat. Add oil until hot but not smoking. When oil is ready, add potatoes, onion, garlic, and spices. Combine and cover – cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When potatoes are golden brown and lightly caramelized on the base of the pan, remove lid and allow some of the moisture to dissipate. Keep warm until ready to serve.
by Danica Waters
Danish Pastry With Lemon and Cream Cheese remains one of my family’s Christmas morning standards, just as it has been for the last ten years. It is not only a recipe that is deceptively easy to make, it also happens to be one that is easy to make ahead of the big day, which is very, very mportant.
Indeed, I have far better things to do with my time and energy on Christmas Eve than worry about what I’m going to feed everybody the next morning.
Like figuring out where I put all the gifts I’d tucked out of sight (and mind) during the previous year. And then gift wrapping them all. Every last one.
So here it is, folks. The most dee-licious cheese-filled danish, with a crisp-tender, yeast-based crust and a yummy lemony-cream cheese center.
Make it now. Freeze it for Christmas. Love your inner procrastinator.
Danish Pastry With Lemon and Cream Cheese
(Colorado Cache Cookbook)
1 package dry yeast
1/4 C lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 C all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C butter
2 – 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice + 1/2 tsp zest of lemon
Powdered sugar, to dust danishes
Mix yeast, water, and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add egg. Cut butter into flour and salt and mix well. Add yeast mixture. Divide into two balls and roll each out into 8×10 inch rectangles.
Make filling by combining cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice and zest.
Spread 1/2 of the filling on each rectangle in the center, and fold each long side in towards the middle, trying to make sure the sides overlap a little bit at first (they will spread).
Fold the short ends up about 1-1/2 inches.
Bake immediately at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Cool danishes on racks and dust with powdered sugar.
To serve, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into wedges.
by Danica Waters
There’s just some days when you need a good old dish of piping hot, creamy macaroni and cheese. Not the day-glo-orange kind. I’m talkin’ REAL homestyle mac and cheese with rich chunks of cheddar and a creamy, dreamy, tangy-deelish sauce.
Here it is, folks. The perfect cure to the Tuesday Blues.
The Ultimate Country-Style Macaroni and Cheese
7 oz uncooked elbow macaroni
1/4 C butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 C milk
8-oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. country-style dijon mustard
2 C cubed 1/2″ Cheddar Cheese
2 C steamed fresh broccoli florets, chopped
Potato chips, crumbled fine or 1 C fresh bread crumbs mixed with 2 Tbsp melted butter and 2 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley, for topping
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in 3-quart saucepan, melt 1/4 C butter, stir in flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth and bubbly (about a minute).
Stir in milk, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and mustard. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened (3-4 minutes).
Stir in cooked macaroni and Cheddar cheese cubes, fold in cooked broccoli.; pour into 2-quart casserole or individual oven-safe ramekins.
In small bowl, crush potato chips, or stir together ingredients for bread crumb topping; sprinkle over macaroni and cheese.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.
by Danica Waters
“What is it? A red banana? “
Ummmm….No. This is the Crown Fold. If you need something regal or royal, this is one way to pull out all the stops and embellish your table setting (in a royal banana sort of way).
Just about the time you think it’s “stuffy”, think again! This is a terrific fold for a kids’ party; use reversible patterned napkins for fun results.
Don’t panic if you have to practice this one a few times. And note: an iron and some spray starch work wonders… if you’re going to the trouble, go all the way!
The Crown Fold
Lay the napkin face-down in front of you.
Fold the napkin in half diagonally, and orient it so that the open ends face away from you.
Fold the right corner up so that the point rests directly on top of the middle corner and the fold creates a center line.
Repeat Step 3 with the other side, and create a diamond shape with all points facing away from you.
Turn napkin over carefully so that the new open seam lies face down.
Fold the bottom corner closest to you up about 2/3rds of the way up and press down well.
Now take the top of the inner triangle and fold it down, bringing the point to rest on the near edge of the napkin, and exactly on the center line. Press well. (This is a good time for an iron!)
Curl the right and left sides of the napkin up and around, tucking one inside the other so that they securely meet and hold in the middle.
Now stand the napkin up and tug at the sides, molding and shaping where needed to make sure it’s even and well-rounded in appearance.
by Danica Waters / chipotle photo courtesy of www.motherearthnews.com
I love Thanksgiving. However, I must confess, once it’s over, my personal palate wants to be as far away from Thanksgiving flavors as is humanly possible.
Out of desperation and sheer will several Thanksgivings ago, I pulled everything out of my kitchen cabinets, chose a few ingredients that looked like they’d be light years from anything closely resembling potatoes or stuffing, and ended up what my family feels is a little masterpiece. They expect it to follow Thanksgiving at this point, it’s that good.
Now keep in mind that although chipotles play really well against the strong flavor of turkey meat (and the darker the meat, the better) they can be a bit on the naughty side; their heat will sneak up on you and set your tongue on fire if you’re not careful. Adding a whole 6-oz can to your soup will most certainly put hair on your chest and enliven your step, so judge your own tastes accordingly.
I, for one, don’t like to perpetuate that Thanksgiving-food-coma-feeling any longer than I have to, so I make it per my original recipe and serve it with a hearty piece of Corn Bread.
And Milk. Lots of cold milk.
Southwestern Turkey Chipotle Chowder
1 – 18 lb turkey carcass
1 medium onion chopped coarsely
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
Several sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
2 tsp chicken or vegetable bullion, or to taste
1 – 6 oz can chipotle chile peppers, chopped fine (or use to taste!)
1 – 8 oz can green chiles, chopped fine
1 – 16 oz can black beans rinsed and drained
1 ear corn, kernels stripped
3 Tbsp minced cilantro
3 Tbsp minced parsley
2 C basmati rice
Sour Cream, Lime Sections, Minced Cilantro for garnish
Place turkey carcass (all of it) into a large stockpot. Add 1 coarsely chopped onion, 2 stalks celery, bay leaf, and several sprigs of parsley. Cover all with water, and boil until meat loosens from bone and stock becomes fragrant. For richer stock, allow liquid to reduce a bit. Allow to cool thoroughly; strain off stock and reserve in stock pot.
Discard vegetables. Remove meat from bone, being ultra-careful to separate any bone and cartilage from the meat. (Sorry, but NOTHING will ruin a great homemade soup faster than finding a bit of bone or cartilage in it. That’s just… ick.) Chop or shred turkey meat and set aside.
In separate pan, saute onion and garlic until soft, add celery. Saute about 1 minute, add carrots and allow to sauté for approximately 2 minutes more.
Season reserved stock in stockpot with chicken bullion or stock concentrate – preferably MSG-free! Add vegetable mixture to reserved stock; add chopped de-boned turkey, green chiles, black beans, cilantro & parsley.
Add finely chopped chipotle peppers to taste – be careful – add a bit at a time, as the smoky heat can sneak up quickly!
Add raw rice to soup, simmer until rice is tender, approximately 30 minutes. Add fresh corn just prior to serving – the crisp tender texture makes the soup wonderful!
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with sour cream, cilantro, and a generous squeeze of lime juice.
by Danica Waters
Tomorrow brings the United States of America’s cherished annual Thanksgiving celebration. A kickoff to our winter holiday season, Thanksgiving is a special day hopefully spent with family and close friends in shared celebration of each other and with a grateful spirit for all that we have. In an ideal world, Thanksgiving inspires warm and beautiful visions of bounty and togetherness, laughter and shared memories, hopes and dreams for the future, and lots and lots of “Kodak Moments”. And food. Lots of food.
Indeed, across Facebook, American friends of the Allspice Chronicles are conversing about how their kettles are steaming, their pie crusts are filled with lovely, tempting deliciousness, their tables are set and ready for wonderful celebrations nationwide. As most cooks will confess: on this holiday, there is no place we’d rather be than creating art in the kitchen by stirring spices, magic and love into a feast for those we love the most, for new friends and old.
But Thanksgiving can quickly turn into a daunting and disheartening experience for those who have fallen on hard times, and in our great country and around the world, that number is rising. I am reminded of a young mother of two whose husband had lost his job last year when his company closed its doors. She was one of the best employees at this place of work- always on time, always one to give 110 percent. Although she never complained about her situation, just before Thanksgiving she became rather withdrawn. We all vaguely knew she must have been under some serious financial stress, given that there were medical problems within the family and she had no medical benefits, but no one knew the extent of it, and everyone felt uncomfortable about inquiring into the particulars.
In a moment of work stress and desperation, she finally confided in one of her peers about her financial situation, about how she didn’t know how she was even going to afford groceries, let alone a celebratory dinner for her husband and her precious little girls.
(Now here, folks, is where the human spirit shines.)
The news went around the workplace like wildfire, and within 24 hours a plan was developed to provide her family all the ingredients for a generous Thanksgiving dinner. Employees who really didn’t have the extra cash to give found a way to pitch in, and what started as a Thanksgiving rescue plan morphed into an offering of food and enough cash and grocery gift cards to take care of the distressed employee and her family for a good while.
This Thanksgiving, the Allspice Chronicles would like to offer its first toast to the human spirit. May we always remain aware of and sensitive to the plight of others, and may we diligently work together to alleviate suffering in our own backyard, if not worldwide.
It is, after all, a very small world.
To that point, after posting Camille Glenn’s recipe for Alabama Yams with Oranges, one of our readers from Africa submitted a request for the Allspice Chronicles to expand on the traditional American preparation for Sweet Potatoes/Yams with Toasted Marshmallows. Given that the sweet potato is a staple of the African diet, and given the horrible state of drought and famine that certain portions of Africa are experiencing, it was humbling, endearing and enlightening to receive such a request.
We at the Allspice Chronicles hope more than anything to see the eradication of world hunger, poverty, suffering. It is the least we can do to provide a recipe, extracted from the sentimental foundation of our cherished common American experiences, and we look forward to the day when our little blog will feature personal stories and heirloom recipes from around the world. Diversity makes us rich, stories show us how much we are the same.
After all, food, like music, is an international language. We all may express it differently, but in the end it contains the same basic ingredients which serve to nourish and inspire, comfort and console our weary spirits. And for this, may we all be thankful.
Here’s the recipe for Thanksgiving-Style Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows.
Thanksgiving-Style Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows
4-5 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 C butter
1/4 C milk
2-3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Bake sweet potatoes until soft. Scoop out the soft flesh from the skins into a large bowl; discard the skins. Add butter, milk, salt, and brown sugar; mix with hand mixer or potato masher until light and fluffy. Taste mixture and adjust seasonings to suit your preference; mix thoroughly.
Spoon sweet potato mixture into buttered 9 x 9″ baking dish.
Top with miniature marshmallows, or with whole marshmallows cut in half.
Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes; switch heat to “Broil – High Heat” and allow to cook until marshmallows bubble and turn dark brown on top. (This will give it the perfect flavor)
Allow to rest 5 minutes prior to serving.
Serves 4 – 6
by Danica Waters
The Standing Fan fold is an elegant, show-stopping way to dress up your formal holiday table. Although it looks a bit intimidating, it’s actually very simple to achieve.
For a softer presentation, hand-pressing the folds is sufficient; however, for crisp folds, an iron and a bit of spray starch will work wonders.
Here’s the how-to:
Lay the napkin face down in front of you.
Fold the napkin in half, bringing the corners towards you. (Yours won’t have the accordion creases yet… we’ve worked the fold backwards so you can see what it is supposed to look like!)
Fold the napkin accordion-style from either side, leaving approximately 2-1/2 – 3 inches on the opposite side un-folded to support the fan.
Fold the napkin in half with the accordion folds on the outside.
Holding the accordion folds in one hand, grab the unfolded corners with your other hand and tuck them under the accordion folds.
Open up the fan and stand it upright. Voila!
by Danica Waters
I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago. What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.
During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.
(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long. And it was full.)
While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box. My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”
This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie. Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…
Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies
½ C white sugar
½ C brown sugar
½ C butter
½ C chunky peanut butter
1 egg slightly beaten
1-1/4 C flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.
Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.
by Danica Waters / butternut squash image courtesy of www.cookinglight.com
This, dear readers, is a recipe for Butternut Squash soup excellence. Clipped from an issue of the Rocky Mountain News years ago, this recipe qualifies as one of my personal all-time favorites for the following reasons:
It is definitely “comforting”, which makes it a great bet for weekend soup-and-sandwich fare (think grilled Havarti cheese with caramelized onions on French – or better yet, homemade – bread);
It is also extremely sophisticated, which makes it an outstanding choice for a formal, multiple-course meal;
But the best part of all is that this is not your ordinary comforting cream soup. It is far more exciting; the addition of cayenne pepper creates a sensory surprise and leaves a delicious tingle on your tongue; go sparingly at first and add to suit your preference.
Creamy Squash Soup
(as seen in the Rocky Mountain News)
1/3 C diced white onion (don’t substitute – the white onion is more delicate than its yellow cousins!)
3 Tbsp dry white wine
1/8 tsp marjoram
2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks*
4 C rich chicken stock
1-1/2 C heavy cream or half and half
4 Tbsp butter, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
Garnish: sour cream, freshly snipped chives or fresh rosemary sprig; toasted pumpkin seeds or toasted chopped walnuts
Saute the onion in one tablespoon of the butter until soft and transparent. Add the wine, marjoram, squash and stock and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes or so, or until the squash is very tender.
Carefully puree the mixture in a blender, a little at a time. Pour it back into the pan over medium heat and add cream and butter. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Heat the soup, stirring constantly, until heated through (do not allow to boil). Taste and add more seasonings, if desired. If the soup is too thick, thin it with more stock or cream.
Keep the soup warm over low heat or over a double-boiler. Be careful not to scorch it. Serve the soup in mugs or wide, flat bowls with your choice of garnishes.
*Note from author: Figuring out how to cut and peel a butternut squash safely and efficiently is a bit of a challenge due to their hard, thick skins. Here’s some tips:
1) Use a large, very sharp Chef’s knife or Santoku.
2) Use a thick cutting board with a non-skid bottom. Wood is great!
3) Turn the squash on its side, and, cutting from the widest end first, cut the squash into rings approximately 1-1/2” thick.
4) Remove the seeds and fibers from the inside of the rings and discard.
5) Cut the rings into quarters.
6) Using a paring knife, peel the hard skins off the squash and discard.
7) Cut the squash into smaller pieces if desired.
Voila! You have conquered a butternut squash! (And you get to keep your fingers!)
by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post
I will never forget the day I first tried my hand at making cranberry bread. I’d discovered this fantastic heirloom recipe in a fall issue of Taste of Home Magazine, and I was particularly excited because I happened to be experiencing one of those rare, breathtaking moments when the house was gleaming, the laundry was done, the kids were clean and contentedly immersed in their paper dolls upstairs, and the groceries were in-house – all before it started to snow.
I put some CD’s on shuffle, pulled out all the ingredients, and prepared for a fun afternoon of baking. All was going swimmingly well until I actually pondered the recipe.
It said to put the fresh cranberries with the sugar and orange peel in a pot, and bring it to a boil.
Just cranberries, orange peel, and sugar.
Something had to be wrong.
Call me crazy, but fresh cranberries look like little red leather balls. They don’t squirt when you pinch them. Having never worked with fresh cranberries before, I cut one open just to see if I was missing something.
It was still the equivalent of a little red leather ball.
I’ll admit I am a person who tends to over-think things. I also will reluctantly admit to having a few trust issues, which I personally prefer to label “Critical Thinking”. And my Critical Thinking Cap was spinning with visions of little red leather balls coated in a goopy sugar-brittle mess that would take weeks to clean. Heaven knows there was nothing to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan!
I called my mom to see if she had any insight into the world of cranberries, certain that the recipe was missing a step or some ingredients or something. Mom told me I had trust issues, and I should just do what the recipe said to do.
I told her I would enlist her assistance in cleaning up the mess if it didn’t work.
She said to bring her a loaf when it did.
The insides of those little red leather balls melted like butter once I turned on the heat; the internal pressure made the skins “pop”, and my terror visions of singed sugar-brittle turned into a ruby-colored mash that made the whole house smell like Christmas. I was ecstatic.
So now we know. And I have pictures to prove it.
This recipe is an annual favorite. It is a rich, moist, dark bread with the perfect balance of sweet-tart and savory, and it is equally delicious with a smear of cream cheese on top as it is served all by itself. Best of all, it takes mere minutes to make, and it freezes ahead like a charm.
Cranberry Nut Bread
(Taste of Home Magazine, December/January 1995 issue)
2-1/2 C halved fresh or frozen cranberries, divided (note: over the years, I’ve taken to leaving my cranberries whole – it gives a chunkier, jewel-studded texture to the bread)
2/3 C sugar
2 tsp grated orange peel
2-1/4 C all-purpose flour
¾ C light brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ C sour cream
¼ C butter or margarine, melted
1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans preferred)
In a saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups cranberries, sugar, and orange peel. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the cranberries are soft. Remove from the heat; stir in the remaining berries and set aside.
In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Combine eggs, sour cream and melted butter; stir into dry ingredients until blended. Fold in cranberries and pecans. Pour into two greased 8-1/2 in x 4-1/2 in x 2-1/2 in loaf pans (mini loaf pans and muffin tins work, too – just adjust your baking time accordingly!).
Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests done.
Cranberry photo courtesy www.vegetarian-nutrition.info via Google images
All other graphics by the Allspice Chronicles