Friday, September 30, 2011


I have not had enough gingerbread in my life. A nice, thick slice of spicy gingerbread, with a drizzle of frosting, maybe spread with some apple butter and accompanied by a cup of hot cider...mmm. This recipe makes just enough for one loaf, and is so quick and easy that you'll hardly remember it took any effort at all.

You'll need a stick of softened butter and some brown sugar.

Cream them together until the butter is light and fluffy.

In an ideal world, I would have done that. But I got distracted and cracked the egg in before doing so.

It worked out fine. Just be more attentive than me, and do things in the right order.

Once you've followed the (correct!) instructions, add the molasses. Usually I would say pour the molasses into a greased measuring cup. But I had just a cup left in the bottle, so I poured it right in.

To get the rest of the molasses out of the bottle, I added some water and shook. You need water later in the recipe anyway, so if you're at the bottom of your bottle like me, just add your premeasured cup to the bottle and shake it around. You get water that looks like this. But you've also gotten all the molasses. And you won't have to throw away a molasses-coated bottle, which I'm sure would turn your kitchen to ant central in about five seconds. Anyway.

Set the molasses water aside for now.

Back in the mixing bowl ...

... scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is getting mixed evenly. Stir until all the molasses is distributed evenly throughout the batter.

Add the flour (a bit at a time, to help your batter out.)

Then the baking soda.

Here are your gingerbread spices.

I wanted to add a bit of minced candied ginger too, but I couldn't find any. If you have some and want to add it, a tablespoon would be lovely.

Add the spices to the bowl.

Now you can nab your water. Slowly pour it in (not all at once--just a bit at a time.)

Be sure to scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl!
Steal a container of applesauce from your Kid and crack it open before she notices.

Dump it in quick!

I would never hear the end of it if she caught me. "Why are you using my snack? That's my snack ... " Nevermind that I'm making a way better snack with this snack ...
Use the butter wrapper to butter a loaf pan. Or just use cooking spray.

Yup. I used salted butter. For baking! Gasp!

It was all I had. I just added less salt to make up for it.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Then toss it in a 350F oven for about an hour.

When a toothpick inserted into the center of the gingerbread comes out clean, that means it can come out!

Let the loaf pan cool for, say, 15 minutes before you try to turn the gingerbread out. Otherwise, the heat and moisture might cause some breakage.

Now that it's out and cooling, you can make the frosting!

Okay. This doesn't really need frosting. But I find the contrast of white frosting and brown gingerbread so, so pretty, and leaving it plain just seems boring.

Just a little butter will kick off the frosting-making. Microwave it for 20 seconds to melt it.

When it's melted, dump in the powdered sugar and use a small whisk or a fork to lump them together.

Add milk or cream in small increments until you get the consistency you're looking for.

Like this. I added a bit more afterward.

And don't forget to flavor with vanilla!

That's why I added a little more cream after the vanilla. Vanilla extract is a liquid, too, so adding it would thin the frosting out as well. I didn't want it to get too runny.

See how smooth and nice this is? :)

When the frosting is the consistency you want, just pour it onto your gingerbread.

Then cut yourself a slice.

This was The Kid's slice. I was a nice mom and gave her the frosting-covered heel.

Do I really have to tell you the next step? ;)

Recipe: Gingerbread

1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg
1 c. molasses
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/6 tsp. (just a pinch!) cardamom
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. minced candied ginger (optional)

1 c. water
1/2 c. applesauce

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until combined. Add molasses and beat until combined.

Add flour and baking soda slowly, until completely combined. Add spices.

Slowly add water, until completely combined. Scrape down the bowl!

Add applesauce and stir until combined.

Pour into a well-greased loaf pan (or a 9" cake pan) and bake for 350F for 1 hour. Let cool completely before drizzling with frosting.

Recipe: Gingerbread Frosting

1 tbsp. melted butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp. milk or cream

Combine all ingredients. Drizzle over gingerbread and allow to harden.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Harvest Soup

I saw a recipe for chicken-apple stew online and wanted to make it. A few additions, and it became a harvest-themed crock pot stew that was quick to throw together and the most seasonal meal you'll eat outside of Thanksgiving. This is Thanksgiving in a crock pot.

Here are the base ingredients.

Everything will need to be chopped up. I peeled anything that needed peeling.

Naked fruits and vegetables!!

Here's everything chopped up and ready to go in the crock pot. It's apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and cranberries. It's a pretty rainbow.

And remember this?

It's my Dried Sweet Corn!

If you didn't make any dried corn, you can add fresh, frozen, or canned corn. Just add it near the end of its cook time, not at the beginning.

I have to say, it was great. It plumped up perfectly and tasted exactly like it did back in the summer, at its peak of freshness. My only regret is that I should have made more. 

I was going to use a turkey breast. But this time of year, it's on the expensive side. I found these nice, cheap turkey legs instead.

I stuck 'em in the crock pot and sprinkled salt and pepper over the top of it all.

Then I added some dried sage and thyme.

And some caraway seeds.

I drizzled some olive oil over the top. Vegetable oil would be okay too.

Butter and oil oil will give the soup a little richness.

How could this get more harvest-y, you ask? There's already fall fruits and vegetables, seasonings, and turkey legs! Here's how--apple cider!

A splash of cider vinegar will bring out your fall flavors.

And a can of chicken broth will ensure there's enough liquid to go around.

Or use some of the Chicken Stock that I'm sure you rushed home to make.

You did, didn't you?

Some dried parsley and a bay leaf should have gone in with the thyme and sage. They're being added now.

Turn the crock pot on high and go do something else. Read a book. Do some laundry. Take a nap. Just do something else for the next 5-6 hours.

Here's what it should look like after a few hours.

When the turkey has cooked and is pull-off-the-bone tender, then ... well ... pull it off the bone.

At this point, you could serve it immediately, or just turn the crock pot on warm and let it wait until you're ready.

When you're ready to eat it, it'll be waiting! And don't worry about leftovers--it reheats beautifully! Give it a try--it's sweet and healthy and ust a really nice fall soup.

Recipe: Harvest Soup

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 sweet potato (or 1/2 large), peeled and cubed
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. fresh cranberries
1/4 c. dried corn

4 turkey legs (or one bone-in turkey breast)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. dried sage
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. caraway seeds

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. apple cider or juice
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 can chicken broth

Layer vegetables on the bottom of a large crock pot.

Lay turkey over the vegetables. Add seasonings.

Add oil, butter, cider, vinegar, and broth. Turn crock pot on high and let cook 5-6 hours. Remove turkey and pick meat. Return meat to crock pot and discard bones and skin. Serve.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken Stock

So, I found myself with some chicken carcasses that needed to get used up. And I love making soup with homemade chicken stock. It's got a richness that boxed stocks and broths just can't match. And it gives another use to a chicken carcass.

I always save the carcass after roasting a chicken. If I'm not going to use it right away, I put it in a plastic bag and freeze it until I'm ready.

I also supplemented the stock with some chicken backs. I found some on sale and bought them with the sole intent of stock.

The chicken carcass has already been roasted, but the backs needed some color. I browned them in some olive oil.

Browning them will add additional color and flavor to your stock.

I also save and freeze the chicken necks. They're perfect for stock, too.

To give the stock more flavor and color, I use onion, celery, and carrots. This is a great use for carrots going rubbery, onions going dry, and the rooty part of the celery. They get a rough chop. No need to make everything uniform or tiny.

Once all your chicken parts have gotten as much color as possible, remove them from the pot and throw in your vegetables.

The vegetables will soak up all that golden-brown meaty goodness left behind by the chicken backs. Once they're slightly softened and colored, you can throw in the chicken pieces. Pour in enough water to cover everything.

A bay leaf or two, and a palmful of whole peppercorns will add even more flavor.

And, I'll admit it--I add a bouillon cube, too. I find it adds a depth of flavor and a little richness.

Then the pot gets left alone to simmer.

You JUST want it to simmer. Lightly simmer. If you let it boil, your stock will be cloudy. It will also evaporate faster, leaving you with less stock in the end.

Skim off the scum while the stock simmers.

I let the stock simmer all day. I usually start it in the morning, and then use the stock to make soup for dinner.

When the stock is richly colored and has your house smelling amazing, you can strain out the vegetables and other solids. I just use a sieve or strainer but you could use cheesecloth if you're particular about having the clearest stock possible.

With minimal effort, you'll find yourself with a rich, clear stock perfect for soup, rice, risotto, or anything else you might want it for. I pour the stock into plastic containers and freeze them for later use. Try it in place of boxed or canned broth--you'll be able to tell the difference immediately. Give it a try--it's easy to make and easy to keep on hand.

Recipe: Chicken Stock
*One chicken makes about a quart to a quart and a half of stock. I usually use at least a whole chicken plus chicken backs/parts or two chickens, and separate them proportionately between my 6 qt. stock pot and 8 qt. stock pot. I have also made chicken/turkey stock and chicken/duck stock with great success.

1 chicken carcass
2-3 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly c hopped
2-3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 large bay leaf (or two small)
palmful of whole peppercorns
1 chicken bouillon cube


Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Add enough water to cover completely. Simmer gently for at least 3-4 hours, or more if desired. Strain and use as desired.