Bashed Neeps with a little Sweet Potato

Behold the lowly, plebeian turnip.  If you were my Scottish great-grandfather you’d call them neeps.  The vegetable of the working class.  Nubbly root vegetables that overwinter remarkably well.  Tasty tubers.

You get the idea.

I’m fond of turnips.  Rutabaga as well.  They’re a little yellower, bigger, and stronger tasting than a turnip.

Thanksgiving is all about the harvest vegetables, and the turnip is a traditional addition.

I used 4 medium-sized turnips.  (And 2 large apples.  No picture of those sadly.)

Peel them with a sharp knife and cut them into cubes.

Chuck them in a pot with a pinch or two (or five) of cinnamon and enough water to cover.

Cover and simmer them until very tender, about an hour, maybe more.

Drain and mash with butter and a dash of maple syrup.

You can serve it as is, but this time we felt that the turnips were a little bland.

We peeled and cubed a single large sweet potato and boiled that up as well until it was tender.

Mash that sucker in with the turnip after you’re done your boiling.

Add a spoonful of ginger, as well as some nutmeg and a bit of brown sugar.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.

You can also freeze this stuff for thawing and reheating later.  It saves time on the big day.

Coconut Cream Cheese Cookies

There is a new god in the pantheon and its name is COOKIE.

Holy SMOKES these are wicked good.  And I don’t even really LIKE cookies.

I was going to make cream cheese brownies to give to the Pie when he came to visit for Thanksgiving, but I figured I should probably go with something new that he hadn’t had before, and besides, I had a lot of cream cheese on hand.  What goes well with cream cheese?

Coconut, of course.  This recipe was adapted with thanks from Dawn Finicane at Vanilla Sugar (who made some adaptations of her own) and it’s fantastic.  FANTASTIC. 

(Just note that this is a two-day cookie to make.  And yeah, I doubled the recipe, as usual.)

DAY ONE:

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and divide 5 cups unsweetened shredded coconut between them.  Seems like a lot, I know, but trust me on this one.

Bake for 10-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for even toasting.  When the coconut is a golden brown, take it out and let it cool.

Melt 1 1/2 cups butter and let it cool to room temperature.

Whisk together4 1/2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and set aside.

In a large bowl, plop in two 400g packages cream cheese.

Add to this your now-cooled butter.

Use an electric mixer to cream the crap out of it.

Add 2 cups packed brown sugar, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 4 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined.

Add your flour gradually and mix at a low speed until just combined. 

Stir in your cooled coconut.

Cover the dough and chill it overnight.

DAY TWO:

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  For this amount of cookie dough you’ll need to use your pans several times, so I prepped four pans, to bake two at a time.

Drop the dough onto the parchment — the cookies will not expand much but might settle slightly during baking.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are set and the bottoms are light brown.  You have to be careful not to overbake these babies. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets until you can lift them without breaking them. Place on wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container until you eat them all up!

Next time I think I might add a bit of lime juice and grated lime peel to the recipe.  I think that would boost its godliness to new heights.  It will be like the creamy coconut lime cupcakes, but in cookie form.

*** Ali’s Note, 31 January 2010: I added the juice and rind of two limes to this at the cream cheese stage.  The result? OH.  MY.  DO IT.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Dear David Lebovitz,

You are awesome.  I think we should be best friends.  We should hang out and stuff.

Sincerely,

Ali

p.s. My husband loves your ice cream.

Have I mentioned recently that I am in love with David Lebovitz and the magic he makes in his tiny Paris kitchen?  If you haven’t been reading his blog, you probably should.  It was from him that I got that amazing Devil’s Food Cake recipe with the coffee in it.  Mmmm …

The Pie came to visit me for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to make sure to make all of his favourite things for when he was here.  Because one of our family friends always brings  her amazing pumpkin pie to our Thanksgiving dinner, I figured what better complement to the dessert than a home-made ice cream?  And vanilla is the Pie’s favourite.  I’ve never made a “cooked” ice cream before but I have recently learned that all the things that used to intimidate me about cooking are not as hard as I once thought them to be.  So here we go.

This recipe, of course, is adapted from David Lebovitz.  You should read his post about it for all the interesting information about vanilla and where it comes from and how you can store your used beans. 

Start with 1 cup whole milk.  I used half whipping cream and half 1% milk, because that’s what I had.

Grab yourself as well 3/4 cup sugar.

Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan.

Split a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the milk and add the pod as well.  My vanilla bean was dried out so it kind of disintegrated on me, but that’s okay.

Remove the milk from the heat, cover it, and allow it to infuse for about an hour.

Set up an ice bath

Place a smaller bowl (at least 2L) in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water.  Set a strainer over top of the smaller bowl.

Pour 2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream) through the strainer.

Separate eight eggs and reserve the yolks (I used the whites to make chocolate meringues).

Stir the yolks together.

Re-warm your infused milk and gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly.

Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly (and I mean constantly) and scraping the bottom of the saucepan with a spatula, until the custard (because that’s what it is) thickens enough to coat the spatula.  It won’t take long so keep an eye out.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir over the ice in the bath until it’s cool. 

Chuck the vanilla bean pod back into the mix.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

I also added here 3 tablespoons Screech rum.  Lebovitz says that adding a little bit of alcohol to your ice cream will make it softer after it’s made.

When you are ready to freeze your ice cream, take out the vanilla bean pod and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Store in an airtight container in your freezer until thoroughly frozen.

Serve.  So very creamy …

No-Bake Peanut Butter Crunchy Squares

I made these as a present for the Pie when he came to visit me at Thanksgiving.  The man is a slave to peanut butter, and I like to express my love through food.  We’re a well-matched pair.

The recipe I have calls for 1 cup of crispy rice cereal and 2 cups corn flakes cereal.  I don’t particularly like eating either of those cereals (they get soggy too fast) so I didn’t want to be stuck with piles of cereal when I was finished the recipe.  The solution?  Special K.  A small box containing a mixture of both cereals.  And high in protein too.  In doubling the recipe, I ended up using the entire box (6 cups cereal), which was an added bonus.

For the double recipe you need 1 cup corn syrup.

Corn syrup photographs really well, don’t you think?

2 cups smooth peanut butter.

1/2 cup butter or margarine (go for the real deal).

1 cup packed brown sugar.

And 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

In a saucepan over low heat, stir together peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup.

Get it all melty and stuff until it’s all smooth and looks like caramel. Caramel made of peanut butter, that is.

Remove it from the heat and mix in the vanilla.

Pour your cereals (2 cups crispy rice, 4 cups corn flakes) in a bowl an mix them (or use my cop-out cheat method of 6 cups Special K Satisfaction).

Pour in the peanut butter goo and mix well.

Press evenly into a sprayed pan (double the recipe makes for a 9×13″ pan).

Chill for 6 hours or until firm.  Flip mixture onto a flat surface and cut into squares.  You might need a spatula to help you ease the squares out of the pan.

Enjoy.  I know the Pie did.

Will keep in an airtight container for ages and ages (separate layers with waxed paper).

Chocolate Meringues

Happy Birthday Minda!

I love meringues, and they’re something I actually mastered as a young child, though how I had the patience for them I will never know.  The sweet, crispy, chewy lightness of the meringue cookies made it worth the wait.

Recently I’ve been looking at alternative forms of meringue, and other methods of making them.  I made these amazing chocolate mocha meringues last year around Valentine’s Day but of course I can’t remember where I got the recipe from.  Do you remember Kª?  Perhaps it was an issue of Every Day Food.  Who knows …

In an effort to recreate these magic chocolate tasties (and because I had 8 egg whites left over from my foray into vanilla ice cream [post to follow next Wednesday, stay tuned]), I flipped through The Joy of Cooking (2006) for a new take on the old classic.  These ones are from page 741, and I doubled the batch (of course).

Now I’ve mentioned this before, but make sure that your egg whites are at room temperature before you start whipping them.  If they are cold you can always warm them up by putting them in a bowl of warm water.

Preheat your oven to 225°F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a mixer, plop in 1 egg whites, 1 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Whisk ’em up at high speed, and add, gradually, 2/3 cup granulated sugar

When you get to the stiff peak stage, you’re done.

Sift together 2/3 cup icing sugar with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and fold it into the beaten mixture as well.

If it’s still a little swirly, that’s okay.

Spoon the mixture onto the parchment and shape it however you wish.

I had enough leftover for a large meringue to make into a sort of pavlova.

Bake it for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (seriously).  You can see if it’s done if you can remove a meringue from the parchment without it breaking.

Turn off your oven and prop the door open a bit with a wooden spoon.  Leave it like that for an hour or so (again with the waiting).  The trick with good crisp meringue is to let it cool slowly. 

Store the meringues in an airtight container or wrap them tightly for up to three days.

For my little pavlova, I cut up some fruit for the top: raspberries, strawberries, and grapes.

Then I melted some chocolate in a double boiler.

Plopped the berries on the meringue.

Drizzled the chocolate on top.  It’s pretty much a pavlova, minus the whipped cream.

Cranberry Sauce

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

For those of you from elsewhere, Canadian Thanksgiving has nothing to do with pilgrims taking advantage of the hospitality of the local folk.  It’s a celebration of the end of the harvest (which, as Canada is further north than the United States, is a mite earlier in the year), and the harvest has been good this year, so let us FEAST.

I’ve been making this simple cranberry sauce (because, really, how can a cranberry sauce be complicated?) since I was tall enough to see the top of the stove.

We’ve got ten people coming to our feast tomorrow and they all like cranberry sauce so I’m going to make quite a bit of it.  If you’re familiar with my general-purpose fruit sauce, the process is very similar.  Or identical.

Take two packages (340g/12oz) fresh cranberries.

Wash them and bung them in a pot.  Add about 3/4 cup of granulated sugar as well as 1/2 cup cranberry juice or water.  You can add more sugar later if it’s not sweet enough for you.

Bring it to a boil, stirring often.

The berries will start to pop and foam.  You can help them along by gently squishing the popped berries against the side of the pot with the back of your spoon.

Then all of a sudden you’ll have a sauce.  You can add a bit of corn starch dissolved in liquid if you like a thick, jelly-like sauce, but we like ours runny so I didn’t bother.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Plop it in a pretty dish (though if it’s going to be there a while, avoid ones that are white in case they stain) and serve it with turkey and all your Thanksgiving goodness.  You can keep it covered in your fridge for ages, so it’s a good thing to make ahead, and make plenty of it for leftovers in the days to come.

Have a great holiday!

Vanilla and Nectarine Preserves

I told you I was going to attempt Vicious Sweet Tooth’s Vanilla and Nectarine preserves, and so here we go. 

She has some good tips on canning, and of course my mother and I recently made some grape jam with a canner, so just follow those instructions and you should be fine.

Pit and chop up about 4 1/2 lbs nectarines.  Leave the skins on, because that’s where you get the pectin from.  We used about 4L nectarines, so it probably is slightly more than we needed but what the hey.

Plop them in a pot with 2 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  We chucked in one of our old vanilla beans (you can re-use vanilla beans, did you know?) for good measure.

Bring the fruit mixture to a boil.  The pectin in the skins will help your preserves to gel. 

The mixture should thicken and darken a bit.

To see if it’s ready to can, put a plate (or in our case, a ramekin, which can handle the temperature change without cracking) in the freezer for a little while, then remove it and drop some of your hot jam mixture onto the plate.  Put it back in the freezer to cool for a few minutes.  If you give the drop a push and it wrinkles up, it’s ready for canning and will gel nicely in the jar.

Pour your mixture carefully into your hot, sterilized jars. 

Seal to finger-tip tightness before returning to the canner for another five minutes.

Tada, you have preserves!

This yielded us 7 half-pint jars (250mL each).

Bread and Butter Pickles

One summer when I was young, our kitchen was filled with cucumbers.  We made them into dill pickles and bread and butter pickles and there wasn’t a single counter that wasn’t packed with shiny, hot jars of the stuff.  The whole house smelled of vinegar.  It was great.

We made two batches of bread and butter pickles on this particular day and it took a long time, what with the sterilization and the soaking and the canning, so make sure you have a free day and plenty of space when you’re going to do this.

One batch of bread and butter pickles yields about six 1-pint jars and uses 3L (about 4lb) of pickling cucumbers.

Wash your cucumbers.  Scrub them and all their knobby bits well.

Cut the tops and bottoms of the cucumbers off (the bloom and stem ends).Using a mandolin or a food processor, slice the cucumbers into 1/4″ thick rounds.

Please do not cut off any of your fingers.  Mandolins are vicious.

This will take a while, especially if you are doing two batches.

Now you have a helluva lotta cucumber slices.  Put some on your eyes and take a rest for a while.

Just kidding.  There’s work to be done.

Now you have to slice some onions.  Use about three medium onions per batch of pickles.  Peel the onion and slice it in half lengthwise, then use a mandolin or food processor to slice them the same thickness as your cucumbers.

I like to use the Onion Goggles here to avoid bloodshed.  Or tearshed.  Or both.  If I’m weeping uncontrollably I may slice off an appendage on the mandolin.

Put all your cucumber and onion slices in an enormous bowl and sprinkle them with kosher or coarse pickling salt.  Cover with ice water (or water with ice cubes in it) and leave to soak for three hours.

Now you can take a break.  Or make something else while you wait.

You know what, why don’t you cut up two sweet red peppers, sliced thin on the mandolin again, and add them to the pile?  They make for a nice colour contrast in the jar.

Drain the vegetables after their three-hour soak, rinse them thoroughly in cold water, and then drain them again really well.

At this point you should probably start preparing your jars and lids.

Put your lids and rings in a pot of water and set that to boil. 

Plop your jars in your canner and set that to boil as well.  This will take a while.Now you can prepare your pickling brine.

The key spices here are celery seed, turmeric, and yellow mustard seeds.

In a small bowl, put 2 tablespoons mustard seed, 2 1/2 teaspoons celery seed, and 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric (the turmeric is what turns everything yellow).  Set it aside for now.

In an enormous pot (we used the large maslin pan from Lee Valley), put 5 cups granulated sugar (I know, it seems like an awful lot).

Add to this 4 cups pickling vinegar.  My grandmother insists that all pickling (unless otherwise stated) must use pickling vinegar.  It’s about twice as strong as regular distilled white vinegar.

Add in your pickling spices and give it a stir.

Bring it to a boil and dissolve the sugar.

Now plop in your vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until they are tender and yellow and the liquid is once more boiling, about fifteen minutes. 

Once your jars have been boiling for ten minutes, you can haul them out of the canner.  Turn off the heat for now to allow the water to cool slightly.

Drain the jars carefully using a jar gripper and put them near your pickle pot.

Using a canning funnel, carefully ladle pickle mixture into your six jars to within a half or quarter inch of the top of the jar. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you, your counter tops, and everything around you will become extremely sticky at this point.Make sure there is plenty of liquid in the jar as well, but be careful to leave some space at the top.

Use a wooden skewer (don’t use metal) to poke around and remove the air bubbles from amongst the pickles.

Remove your lids and rings from the heat and carefully place the lids on the jars. 

Twist the rings on to fingertip tightness and return the jars to your canner. 

Dunk them under and bring the water to a boil for fifteen minutes.

Remove the jars from the canner and allow to cool.  As they cool they will seal with a lovely POP sound.

You can eat these pickles right away, but store opened jars in the refrigerator.  Serve as a side to your dishes, put in sandwiches, or just eat straight from the jar.  Your choice.Our two batches left us with some extra pickles, which we put in a jar in the fridge. 

The rest we saved for you!You know you want one …