Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Culinary Vacation, Day 4

Oops, I forgot to post here. Today's experiment will be foisted on an unsuspecting group of miscreants - er, my friends - when we attend a potluck dinner tonight. It's a recipe courtesy of a little country orchard in ... some Midwestern state through which we passed on the fall tour. *shrug*

APPLE BROWN BETTY
6 tbsp. butter
2 lbs. apples
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 c. breadcrumbs
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla
(opt.) whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Slice them and put them in a bowl. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well.

Melt butter in frying pan or microwave. Add breadcrumbs and mix well. Spread half the apples in a baking dish. Cover with half the breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with remaining apples and breadcrumbs.

Bake 35-45 minutes until topping is golden brown and apples are tender. If the topping browns too quickly, reduce heat to 325 degrees and tent with foil.

Notes: I didn't peel the apples because I'm lazy and because I like apple peel. I found it easier to mix the brown sugar et al in the bowl and THEN add the apples, as it saved mixing in a separate bowl. They still coated the same. The original recipe called for 3 cups of breadcrumbs; that seemed like a lot to me, so I reduced to 2 cups and still had more than enough. Likewise the original recipe called for using a 9-inch square pan; all I can say is that their pans must be hella deeper than mine. The apples more than filled a 9x13 pan.

Verdict: I'll let you know! The potluck's tonight. If they hate it, it'll be the first failure of the week.

Previous days....

TUESDAY: Mom's Chuckwagon Beans

Okay, not an experiment. But the boys were begging.

1/2 lb. bacon
2 lbs. hamburger
3 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery
beef bouillon
1 1/2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 c. catsup
3 tbsp. mustard
1/2 c. molasses
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 16-oz. cans beans

Fry bacon in large soup pot until crisp. Remove bacon and set it aside. In the bacon fat, saute onion, celery, garlic and hamburger until meat is no longer pink. Drain excess fat. Add 1/2 c. beef broth. Add all remaining ingredients except beans and bacon. Stir well and heat through. Drain beans a little and add to meat mixture, along with crumbled bacon. Cover pot and simmer on the stove an hour or two, or bake 1 1/4 hours covered at 375 degrees, stirring occasionally.

Notes: First, you can omit the bacon and saute in canola oil or similar lower-fat oils if you're trying to be health conscious, though I can't imagine why you would. I have omitted celery to no detrimental effect when I didn't have any, and you can get by with 1 pound of hamburger instead of two when you're pinching pennies. You can substitute ground turkey for the hamburger for less fat as well, and the taste is only slightly impacted. Mom prefers to use Campbell's beans; I use Bush's.

Verdict: The menfolk LOVE this. It's deadly good, with extra flavor coming from the molasses and bacon. Om nom nom. It makes a great big batch - a couple would end up freezing leftovers - but they heat up marvelously second day. My menfolk generally devour them in about a day and a half.

Coupled with....

KAREN'S SWEET CORNBREAD

Courtesy of my wonderful stepmother, this is the perfect side for chuckwagon beans or chili.

2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
2 eggs
16-oz. can creamed corn
1 box Jiffy yellow cake mix
8 oz. sour cream

Combine all the ingredients until mostly smooth. Pour into a 9x13 sprayed pan. Bake 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees. The cake is done when the center springs back from being pressed.

Notes: I generally find it takes 45 minutes to bake fully through the center, but remember that my oven really sucks. Best of all, the Jiffy mixes are insanely cheap.

Verdict: I can't keep this in the house. They gobble it up until crumbs remain, then the boy eats the crumbs.

WEDNESDAY: Disney French Toast

Some time ago I nabbed a bunch of recipes from my mother's Disneyland/Disney World cookbook: recipes from the parks. I haven't yet tried one that didn't succeed.

1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 c. powdered sugar
bread of choice

Combine milk, sugar eggs, salt and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Dip bread to soak. Fry in butter and roll in powdered sugar.

Notes: First of all, I had to make two batches to get through a loaf of Italian bread. If you're just using ordinary sliced bread, it might go further. I also ignored the powdered sugar part; my gang likes a lake of syrup and nothing else. I did find I needed to stir the mixture vigorously right before putting in the bread; otherwise, the cinnamon floated to the top and there would be nothing but cinnamon on one side. I generally prefer French, Italian or sourdough bread for French toast; your mileage may vary, but I do recommend thicker and/or stiffer bread to soak up the liquid without falling apart.

Verdict: They ate and they liked it, but apparently no more than my usual recipe, which is heavier on eggs and lighter on milk. Apparently French toast, pancakes and the like are just vessels to carry maple syrup. Who knew?

Tomorrow: cookies and cake. We've got Coffee Hour at church this week...

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