Blueberry coffee cake


We go to DH’s aunt’s house in Nebraska for Thanksgiving every year. We love it. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s conservative in every sense of the word.

In one of those senses, it is very difficult to add different things to the menu, or leave anything off. This is probably true of Thanksgivings everywhere, it seems to be a menu we are married to, for better or for worse.

So, I like to bring things that fill in the gaps, stuff for breakfast, stuff to snack on with leftovers.I avoid anything that is too traditional, because when you mess with tradition, people are always disappointed. Nothing with sage, nothing with pumpkin.

DH brings avocados and makes his world- famous guacamole- (the secret ingredient is love).

Last year I brought cinnamon twists, which I baked on Tuesday night, brought in the car Wednesday, fed to people on Thursday and Friday morning, then when we were getting ready to leave, people hugged us, and murmured, “are there any of those cinnamon things left?” To my mind they were kind of stale, but how often do you get real homemade sweet rolls?

This year, I am trying coffee cake. I don’t know how it will go over, will people reminisce about the cinnamon rolls? Is that how menus become fixed?

I seem to remember an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated with a perfected coffee cake recipe. I’ll have to dig through my copies of the magazine, because the coffee cake story on the Cook’s website is behind a pay wall.

You won’t get my credit card number, Christopher Kimball!!! Actually, he probably will eventually, but not today. Even though I complain that Cook’s Illustrated is mostly just American food, and pretty meat-heavy at that, sometimes you want, even need, Meat Heavy American Food. Particularly at Thanksgiving in Nebraska.

I SAID NO PUMPKIN!

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ramen cabbage salad


I had extra napa cabbage left after I made kimchee, so I decided to make ramen noodle salad. I know- Michael Pollan says, “eat food that comes from plants, not food that was made in a plant.” but honestly we eat a lot of ramen at our house. We watched a documentary about how they make it, and it is really disgusting- the noodle part isn’t so terrible, but then it flows through a bath of oil to flash fry. Bleah. Not a foundation for a healthy diet. Still, it’s pretty good in this salad. Sources on the interwebs vary on whether the noodles are there to add crunch or if they should soften. I think it needs time to marinate, so the noodles soak up the flavor and soften. I put in radishes, green onions, carrots and whatever veggies I happen to have that would work with coleslaw.

Chopped veggies before the ramen and dressing have been added.

1 package of Ramen noodles with flavor packet
1/2 head of napa cabbage (or regular)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
shredded carrots, radish, brocoli stem, or whatever else you want                                                                                                   

In a jar with lid, shake up oil, vinegar, and flavor packet. Chop up napa cabbage and other vegetables and mix with dressing in a large bowl.  Break up the noodles and stir in with the veggies. If you like it crunchy, eat right away, or if you’re like me, let sit several hours or overnight- this is one of those that gets better the longer it sits. Top with sunflower seed or almonds for crunch and protein.

Kimchee update: There are bubbles rising up in the jar. DH worried that it was the source of the funky smell…but no, something else in the house smells funky.  I think it was the trash- the jar smells fine. I am a little scared to taste it- is it too hot? Not sour enough? I know, I’ve just got to be bold and try it…

Simmering stock


For years, when we go to DH’s grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving, one of the aunts has gathered up all the turkey bones after dinner, and given them to the dog, Lady. I always thought of that Far Side cartoon, where a dog is sitting at a table, with a chicken bone sandwich in front of him, thinking, “I think she’s trying to kill me.” A couple of times I voiced my concerns about the poor dog eating poultry bones, but they usually ignored me and gave the bones to the dog anyway. Lady wound up living a long, full life, barking at strangers who drove out to the farm.

            There’s a better thing to do with bones, though, than try to kill your dog. I’m talking about stock, of course. According to Ratio, http://www.amazon.com/Ratio-Simple-Behind-Everyday-Cooking/dp/1416571728/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1290297746&sr=8-1 which has become my new bible, homemade stock is what separates the good from the great. For example, I am doing braised leeks for my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. So, I chop the leeks, wash the dirt off them, put them in a casserole and cover with broth, then throw in the oven for an hour. I could dissolve some boullion, or open a can of broth. But homemade stock has a feeling to it, and a rich flavor, that isn’t too salty or tinny. It is worth having around. And not that hard to make, with either turkey bones, or chicken.

            So, you have some bones left over (I plan to beg some from our hosts before they give any to the dog. Sigh, Nate is the next generation of dogs risking perforation…) get out the crock pot, and cram the bones in.

I swear I had a photo of the crockpot, but I totally can't find it- here's Alice. Cute, isn't she?

Skin is fine, meat is fine, connective tissue, like in the rib cage or the wings, is great. As the connective tissue breaks down in the simmering water it will create a smooth “mouthfeel” in the stock. The crockpot is the ideal vessel because it stays at just the right temperature. When stock boils, it can evaporate too much water, and scorch. Trust me, this isn’t a smell you want in your house. To the crockpot, add a chopped yellow onion, some carrots and celery. These are for flavor, and you’ll strain them out later. The ratio book says do a 3:2 ratio of water to bones, by weight. I usually get a pitcher and pour water in until the bones are covered.  Although, I did get a food scale for my birthday (thx DH) so maybe I’ll weigh the bones this time.  Simmer all day, or night, if you can stand the smell of turkey soup when you wake up.  I can’t- it gets into my dreams… Anywho, simmer all day, then decant. Use tongs to pull out the big pieces, then strain the stock in a fine mesh strainer. I have a five quart crockpot, which make a little less than 3 quarts of stock. I strain them into 1 quart yogurt containers, pile them in the freezer, and pull one out when I want to make soup. I use it to make rice and beans, as well. One of my favorite applications is just to mix it half and half with spicyV-8 juice. And, of course, making braised leeks for Thanksgiving dinner in Nebraska. After the pan comes out of the oven, it can wait until the next day. I add bread crumbs and fresh-grated parmesan cheese, then bake again until the cheese melts, then put it at the kid’s table. That way, I know I’ll get a good share of it.