Sunday, December 30, 2018

My Top Ten Favorite Recipes of 2018!

This year was by far the busiest year I've ever had. Maybe it's because I went back to work after taking time off, maybe it's because my daughter is a senior, or maybe it's because both kids are in several different activities. Either way, this year flew by!

I had a few #FOODGOALS that I made back in January. The first was to blog about my mom's recipes. I cooked them, but I never got around to sharing them because I could never find the words. I don't think I realized how hard it would be. Hopefully, I'll find the words in 2019. The second goal was to teach my daughter how to cook some new recipes. That was a much easier goal and I definitely succeeded in that. The third goal was to share ALL of my dishes on Instagram and while I certainly didn't share them ALL, I did manage to share most of the dishes I shared here on Stirring The Pot.

Now let's talk about my food trends of 2018. I started the year addicted to food on toast. I think I lived off random things on toast for the first four months of the year. Also big in 2018 was shrimp, a big staple in the Stirring the Pot kitchen, year after year. However, the biggest food trend for me this year was hands-down potatoes! Holy cow... I made A LOT of potato dishes this year, and to prove it, there are FOUR potato dishes in this roundup.

By far, one of my favorite things to do this year was going to The Farmer's Market at The Castle. I enjoyed the peaceful ride down the winding country roads and all the wonderful goodies in my weekly farmer's box. It was such a delight! I love winter and spring, but I will definitely be counting down the days until I can do it again next year.

And, lastly, I'm ending my roundup with two of my favorite desserts. It's always good to end on a sweet note!

Happy New Year to all! I wish you all the best in the coming year.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Cheddar and Garlic Twice-Baked Potatoes

My Mom was a big fan of twice-baked potatoes. They were pretty much a Christmas classic in our house, a yearly tradition, served next to the standing rib roast.

She would get out her cookbook, open it to the page, and it pretty much stopped there. It dawns on me as I write this...she never really looked at the cookbook. It just sat on the counter because she never followed the amounts, never set a timer, and she seasoned her food however she pleased. In fact, if the recipe called for 4 potatoes, she would use 5 just out of spite! That woman was a rebel like no other. And, when it came to cheese...well, she almost always doubled it. If she made you a twice-baked potato it was likely to be the cheesiest potato you'd ever have.

Then there's me. Rule-follower extraordinaire. I actually like to be told what to do. Except, in this case, I don't like sour cream, so I substituted with heavy cream. That's about as far as I go in breaking the rules. I was tempted to make 5 potatoes instead of 4, but I just couldn't go through with it.

I've made my fair share of twice-baked potatoes and I gotta say, this version is delicious. The slow roasted garlic lends a lovely touch of garlic to the potatoes, giving them a good punch of flavor. These take time, but they are most definitely not difficult, and I like to believe everyone loves a good twice-baked potato.

These are for you, Mom.

Cheddar and Garlic Twice-Baked Potatoes
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 4

1 medium head garlic 
4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 heavy cream or sour cream
1-1/2 cups grated Cheddar
salt and pepper, to taste

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.

Cut off and discard top quarter of garlic head. Wrap garlic in foil. Prick potatoes with a fork. Bake potatoes and garlic on oven rack for 45 minutes. Remove garlic and let cool. Continue baking potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes more.

Squeeze pulp from garlic cloves into a medium bowl and discard skin. Stir in butter, cream, and 1 cup cheddar. Cutting lengthwise, slice off top quarter of each potato and discard. Leaving 1/4" thick shells, scoop the flesh out of potatoes and add to cheese mixture. Mash with a fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper and divide among shells.

Arrange potatoes in a buttered baking pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar. Bake until heated through and slightly golden brown on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

I had gingerbread once as a kid and didn't love it. Then I never had gingerbread again...for like forty years. I just assumed I wouldn't like it. However, my feelings were complex because I wanted to like it. Gingerbread is quintessentially festive and it smells SO GOOD. I needed to like gingerbread. So, I  decided to try it.

I did a little research because I wanted to give it the best chance. Most people said good gingerbread depends on the type of molasses you use. All of the recommendations said to use unsulphured molasses because it is the sweetest and makes the best gingerbread. My grocery store only had one jar of Grandma's brand molasses and it happened to be unsulphured so I was thankful for that. 

The second thing I noticed was the addition of ground ginger, cinnamon, and clove. I have never liked a heavy taste of spice in my desserts. I find it too overpowering, in both aroma and taste. After years of experimenting with spices, I've found that I simply DO NOT like clove at all. It is simply far too strong, so I always leave it out.

Making the gingerbread was easy! It came together in no time and filled the house with a wonderful holiday aroma. The color was a lighter brown and I could tell right away that my gingerbread wasn't overly spicy. Major success! I decided to serve mine with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I was pleasantly surprised and found the gingerbread to be delightful.  

The flavor is similar to pumpkin pie, which makes sense considering the spices are the same, but the texture was much different since gingerbread is quite dense and thick. I know some people shy away from dense cakes and desserts, but not me. I found the dense texture of the gingerbread to be a wonderful contrast to the cool and creamy whipped cream I served on top. 

Ruth calls this Old-Fashioned Gingerbread and it definitely does look and feel old-fashioned. It's simple dessert, nothing flashy, and something about the scent of the spices takes you back to your Grandma's kitchen. Overall, I really enjoyed this for dessert and will have no issues finishing it off in the coming days.

 Is gingerbread my favorite dessert? No, I still prefer chocolate and fruity desserts the most, but I definitely DO LIKE gingerbread and can see myself making a batch each season to celebrate Christmas.

 What are your thoughts? Do you like gingerbread?

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 9

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
2/3 cup hot water

Notes: I left out the cloves because I'm not partial to them. Include them if you'd like.

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.

Stir together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt into a bowl. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in molasses (batter may look separated). Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture, then add water and mix until batter is smooth about 1 minute.

Pour batter into baking pan. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for about 20 minutes and serve warm.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Lentil, Sausage, and Brown Rice Stew

"House to myself. Quiet music playing. Chop. Slice. Sizzle
Stir. Nothing but my senses. I am at peace."

I love a quiet kitchen. Gives me time to think while I do some of my favorite things: chop, slice, stir. The sound of onions sizzling in the pan, and the aroma that follows shortly thereafter, hold the promise of good things to come.

Kitchen therapy is the best kind of therapy. Crafting something with my own two hands. It doesn't get any better than that.

This stew lends itself perfectly to kitchen therapy as I sliced, chopped, stirred, and smelled my way to happiness. Not to mention, I was even more satisfied at the chance to use up an abundance of brown rice and lentils I found languishing about in my pantry. I always feel quite accomplished when I use up all the bits and bobs laying about.

This is a soul-soothing wintry stew that comes together with humble ingredients and love. I'm convinced it holds the power to heal whatever ails you.
Ruth says, "In cold weather when we ponder what dish will provide comfort all weekend long, we decide with remarkable frequency to make this stew. The beauty of using brown rice is that it keeps its texture during the long cooking time (white rice becomes too soft). Adding about a pound of smoked sausage makes a great dish even better. For a vegetarian meal, use vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock"

Lentil, Sausage Brown Rice Stew
Adapted The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 6-8

1 (28-ounce to 32-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
5 cups chicken stock 
3 cups water
1-1/2 cups lentils picked over and rinsed
 1 cup brown rice
3 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4" wide pieces 
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/3 - 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley (to taste)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or to taste
salt and black pepper, to taste

 Combine tomatoes, with their juice, stock, water, lentils, rice, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf in a 6-quart heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils and rice are tender, 45 to 55 minutes.

Stir in cilantro, vinegar, salt, and pepper and discard bay leaf. Stew will be thick, and it will continue to thicken as it stands; if desired, thin with additional hot chicken broth or water before serving.

Kitchen Therapy @ I Heart Cooking Clubs

Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Brussels Sprouts & Caramelized Onion Ravioli with Brown Butter

Ravioli make for a super speedy and satisfyingly delicious weeknight supper. Awhile back I made Giada's Cheese Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter and I fell in love. It is a dish that has been repeated over and over again ever since. I even wrote a letter about it.

I absolutely love that meal and thought it was perfect just as it was until I discovered Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Caramelized Onion Ravioli. This ravioli, my friends, is the stuff of dreams. It is cheesy and creamy with the perfect balance of Brussels sprouts and caramelized onions and it goes EVEN BETTER with the brown butter, walnuts, and Parmesan.

It is quite simply a masterpiece! If you can still find this ravioli at Trader Joe's I encourage you to grab as many packages as possible and give this a go. If you love these flavors then you will LOVE this dish!

Brussels Sprouts & Caramelized Onion Ravioli with Brown Butter
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

18 to 20 ounces store-bought ravioli
6 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup walnuts
Parmesan cheese, to taste (1/4 cup, or more)
*Optional: Add a splash of Balsamic vinegar to the brown butter if you like!

Bring a medium saucepan to boil and cook the ravioli according to package directions. Drain and set ravioli aside.

In a medium skillet add the butter and walnuts and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter begins to foam. This should take about 2-3 minutes. At this point, the walnuts will be toasted and the butter should be browned. If not, cook the butter another minute. Do not overcook or the butter and walnuts will burn.

Add the ravioli into the brown butter and mix carefully. Add in the Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.