24 November 2008

My Most Favorite Food Ever

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. Why? Because nothing, and I mean nothing, beats Mom's mashed potato casserole.

So delicious! It's like mashed potatoes on wonder-drugs. You'll love it. Trust me. You'll be collapsing with joy over every bite. Well, I do anyway.

Mom's Mashed Potato Casserole

~ 4 lbs baking potatoes (about 12 med. or 4-5 large)
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened (don't you dare use low-fat, come on, it's the holidays!)
1 8 oz carton sour cream
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 c chopped chives (fresh is best, but dried's okay too)
2-3 Tbs cold butter
paprika to garnish.

Peel & rinse potatoes, and cut into eighths. Boil potatoes in a large pan of salted water, ~ 20 minutes. Drain water & mash potatoes. Add cream cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper & garlic. Beat at high speed until light & fluffy. Stir in chives. Spoon into lightly buttered 9 x 13 glass dish or 2.5-3 quart casserole. Lightly garnish with paprika. Generously dot with chunks of butter.

If making ahead, refrigerate here & let sit on counter about 30 minutes before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

23 November 2008

The Pie-tastrophe Story

In honor of Thanksgiving, and all you cooks who are stressing out right about now, I thought I'd resurrect this email to a friend from late November 2005...

So here’s a story for your entertainment: after doing a bunch of cleaning last night, I finally got around to making a ‘test pie’ for the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Understand that my stepmother and her mom are incredible bakers, and that my grandma has taught me to make a pie crust from scratch. The problem is that I only do this once a year or every couple of years, so every time, it’s like starting from square 1, except I don’t have my grandma or Janet there as I did the first time.

So at 10 o’clock last night I call up Janet – fortunately, only 9 p.m. there. I’m covered in flour, the entire kitchen is covered in flour, and I can’t decipher my notes from when I learned the recipe with Grandma. So I call Janet, who has Grandma visiting, but of course is a darn good baker herself. Janet proceeds to talk me through the entire process, but only when I’m rolling the dough on the counter and it’s cracking all over the place – in fact, it looked like a map of Ireland rather than the circle it was meant to be – do we figure out that because the climate here is so freakishly dry, I need a lot more water.

So I put it back in the bowl, add more water mixed with flour, and try working it again. At this point, what is supposed to be adhering to itself in a ball is flaking like freaking Paris Hilton. It’s all over the place. So I add still more water. Now, it strongly resembles play-dough. I roll it out again, and this time manage to achieve something that basically looks like a pig, which is at least rounder than a map of Ireland. I put it in the pie pan, cut off the ragged edges, and pinch the rim into shape. I preheat the oven and make my pumpkin pie filling.

So you’re supposed to bake a pumpkin pie for 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then reduce heat to 325 and bake for 35 minutes. And this works great if you are in Owensboro, Kentucky. But in Colorado, at 6700 feet, this does not work so well. An hour and twenty minutes later, it was close enough to being fully cooked that I just turned the oven off, left the pie in there and went to bed at 1 in the morning.

This morning, Ben and I tried the pie for breakfast. We each had about two bites and threw the rest of the pie out. The crust was hard as a rock, and the filling was still too mushy. At least the flavor was good. Thank god I made a test pie, because I think now I know what to do (and not do) on the next go-round.

And yes, I am buying a ‘back-up pie’ on the pretext of having two flavors!!

05 November 2008

Victory Apple Crisp

We had a few friends over to watch the election last night, and celebrate Obama's win. I wanted to have something patriotically apple-y, but didn't feel like making pie crust. So I made my apple crisp recipe that I first posted here in June '07 - except I added a few things to enhance the yumminess.

Note - the instructions given here have you make this in a baking dish, but this last time I used eight ramekins at the same temp & time, and it worked fine. Hopefully this is common sense, but do not torture yourself trying to split the recipe into eighths - mix it up in a bowl and divvy it out. Riiiight.

Victory Apple Crisp!

6 T cold butter, cut into half-inch pieces
2/3 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c chopped pecans (could also try chopped walnuts)
1/4 c oatmeal
~1/8 c toffee bits
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground cinnamon

Whisk all ingredients except the butter together in a large bowl. Add the butter and use a mixer with a paddle attachment, pastry blender or your fingers to work it into the remaining ingredients, until the butter pieces are thoroughly coated and the rest of the mixture is coarse and crumbly.

5-6 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 T packed brown sugar
1 T lemon juice
1 t ground cinnamon

Make the topping and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375F. Put the apples into a 2-inch tall, about 2-2 1/2 quart gratin dish and gently toss with the filling's remaining ingredients, evenly coating the apples. Cover the filling with the topping. Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any dripping juices and place in the middle rack of the oven for 30-45 minutes, until apples are tender, juices are bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Once cooled, it can be covered and stored at room temperature up to two days. Reheat in a 250F oven for 15 minutes (also good cold or microwaved). Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but also tastes awesome on its own.