Thursday, November 22, 2012

dutch oven pumpkin pie - a Foster Family specialty

In our family, it is just not Fall without pumpkin pie.  John and I absolutely love it, so imagine our excitement when we had a get-together a few weeks ago with the Reynolds and Foster families, and our friend Steve Foster, brought over all the ingredients to make one.  But in good Steve Foster fashion, he ramped up the coolness factor and did it all in a Dutch oven. 

It has been a little over ten years ago that I was introduced to the Dutch oven.  John and I journeyed West as a part of an education grant he had received to travel a portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail.  One leg of that trip included a three-night excursion on the Salmon River in Idaho.  I was over five months pregnant, mind you, but even my discomfort of sleeping on the ground in a tent after each day on the water (sometimes calm, many times not) could not take away from the fascinating experiences and wonderful memories.  That leg of the trip was definitely what I would call "roughing it," except for the outfitting company's gourmet meals they would cook us in the Dutch oven.  Each day, the guys would unload all of these coolers, equipment, and bags from the raft, just to set up shop and prepare some of the best meals I've ever eaten.  The salmon, as you can imagine, was out of this world!  

A couple of years ago, I happened upon my very own Dutch oven from a family friend who just didn't want theirs.  Although it had never been used and was in perfect condition, I couldn't begin to know what in the world to do with it.  Little did I know we would soon make friends with The King of Dutch Ovens himself, Steve Foster, and I no longer had to wonder.

From what I understand, this pumpkin pie was the first the Foster family had ever done in the Dutch oven... an experiment, if you will.  Total success, by the way!  At the start of a beautiful Fall, this last-minute get-together around a fire one evening brought together my absolute favorite flavors of the season, during one of my favorite seasons of the year, with some of my favorite people!  

Happy Thanksgiving from our backyard to yours!

The equipment.
Thoroughly heated charcoal is a must.  Steve explains how to determine how many briquettes are needed and ways to ensure even cooking.

 "Charcoal is based on the "rule of 3". If your dutch oven is 12 inches in diameter, form a ring of 9 charcoal briquettes (12 - 3 = 9) under the outside edge of the dutch oven. Place 15 charcoal briquettes (12 + 3= 15) on the lid of the dutch oven."
 "If it is windy, you need to try to block the wind as it will blow the heat away. You can take a long piece of aluminum foil and make a screen wall out of it to block the wind. If it is a cold day, you may have to add a could of extra charcoal briquettes on top."

 "With the "rule of 3" you can generally be assured that inside your dutch oven is a toasty 350 degrees Fahrenheit."

"For best results, that is even cooking, rotate the pot 180 degrees clockwise and the lid 180 degrees counter clockwise every 15 minutes. This will reduce the chance of burning our pie should there be a 'hot spot'."

 Ms. Sara's homemade pie filling recipe is below...  the best!

 "We cooked the pie for between 45 minutes and an hour. Pie is ready when tooth pick comes out clean."
"Don't open the dutch oven any more than you absolutely have to, because it will let all the heat out. You will smell your wonderful pie as it cooks."

Sara's Fresh Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin* or canned
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 slightly beaten eggs
  • 6 ounces of evaporated milk
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 9 inch deep dish pie shell

~ Combine all ingredients well and pour into pie shell. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an 
    hour (or in Dutch oven as explained above). 
~ Pie is cooked when knife/tooth pick comes out clean

Tips and Tricks:

  • Ms. Sara says to use first measures for mild-spiced pie and the second for richly flavored results.  For our get-together, she used the rich end of the spices and 12 ounces of evaporated milk.  She did not use any of the plain milk.

* For fresh pumpkin, see Ms. Sara's directions:

Take a jelly roll pan and line it with foil. Make holes in the pumpkin so the steam will escape and not explode in the oven. Place pumpkin on pan and cook for an hour in 300 degree oven or until you can peal the rind off easily, only pealing enough to test. When the pumpkin is done, cut it in half. Be careful of steam. Once you have it cut in half, scoop out all the seeds and strings of pumpkin. Then scoop out the meat of the pumpkin. I use a food processor to make a purée. Sometimes you have excess water from the steam that was created while cooking. You may want to drain your pumpkin before using the food processor.

Oh... and Charley got LOTS of lovin'.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

amish cinnamon rolls

Weeks ago, I told you I'd share with you what I do with the other half of my Amish Sandwich Bread recipe when I choose to only make one loaf.  Today is the day.

I have always wanted to perfect a homemade cinnamon roll recipe.  We eat them more times than not on Sunday mornings and have forever.  It's kind of like a tradition, I guess you'd say.  But, to be perfectly transparent, I would not say this recipe is perfected.  Not because it doesn't produce soft, yeasty, cinnamon and sugar buttery deliciousness, but because my boys are big fans of Pillsbury.

How do you like that?

Actually, it's more Luke than Daniel.  Luke's a creature of habit, and we began this habit years ago with popping open a can of orange and a can of traditional cinnamon every Sunday. 

But these, my friends, are not Pillsbury.

One tip I'd pass along is to not cram your pan with the rolls after cutting them.  As they rise, it forces them to go up rather than out, and as a result, they do tend to be really thick... not that I mind thick when it comes to bread.  It just makes it tough to balance out a good amount of icing for them.  

I usually stick to a basic butter, confectioners sugar, and milk icing...  one that just pours on.  I have given measurements of what I start out using, but I always alter it until it passes the taste test. 

Isn't that the most important one???

I'm sure many of you are having guests in for the holiday.  Cook up a couple of pans of these for breakfast, and rock stardom is guaranteed...   That is, unless Luke is staying with you.  

Ah, well... can't win them all.

Amish Cinnamon Rolls - 
makes aapproximately 16 rolls

For the rolls
For the icing
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • milk
~ Follow directions for Amish Sandwich Bread through the first rise.  
~ After punching down dough and kneading, take half of dough and roll out into rectangle
    as pictured.   


~ Spread the melted butter over the dough with a pastry brush, leaving about an inch 
    around the edge.
~ Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon, and spread generously over buttered surface.  
    Press mixture lightly into dough. 
~ Starting with the long side away from you, tightly roll the dough towards you.
~ Once rolled, use a sharp serrated knife to slice log into rolls.  If your dough is too soft, 
    you can pop in the fridge for a few minutes to harden.  
~ To ensure uniform thickness, I start in the middle of the log and slice.  I then find the 
    middle of each of the two logs I cut, and cut again.  I continue to slice in the middle of 
    each section until complete.
~ Place cut rolls in lightly greased pan (pans with sides will produce softer rolls, but for 
    crisper edges, you can use a baking sheet), leaving a little room for dough to rise and 
~ Place in warm spot to rise, covered loosely in lightly greased plastic wrap.  
~ Bake in 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are golden and dough is cooked 
   through.  If needed, tent pan with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning while dough 
   finishes cooking. 
~ Melt remaining butter in medium bowl.  Add in confectioners sugar and whisk until 
~ Stir in vanilla.  Add in milk, stirring or whisking, until desired consistency is reached.
~ Pour icing over rolls.

Tips and Tricks:  
  • If you don't want to cook your rolls immediately, you can loosely cover the pan/s with greased plastic wrap and place in the fridge after placing cut rolls in pan/s.  When ready to cook, take the rolls out and let them come to room temperature, allowing to rise as normal.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

SOUPer saturdays - chicken noodle soup

Hey, everyone... it's Saturday...  I cannot tell you how wonderful that sounds to me right now.  The boys and I are now on Thanksgiving Break and have a million things planned before we head to Indiana to visit family.  For The Greens, it's officially the beginning of "the most wonderful time of the year."  Crank up the Christmas music!

And on to the matters at hand...  I have a confession to make.  I love Chicken Noodle Soup.  That's not the confession part, though.  The confession is I'm actually OK with the Campbells version out of the can.  Actually, Campbells has never been a craving, necessarily, but I think the memories I've attached to it makes it more appealing.  Growing up, we always kept it stocked in case anyone was feeling under the weather.  And when I was feeling under the weather, that meant I got to go upstairs to my grandparent's apartment and hang out for the day watching Ma's "stories" with her.  You know those, right?  "Young and the Restless," "Days of Our Lives..."

Real life drama.

So, a can of soup, a glass of Sprite, and a stack of Zestas always did the trick, along with the goings on of Victor and Niki Newman and Beau and Hope Brady.

Confession #2.  This recipe is not Campbells.  This soup is creamier and richer.  There is definitely flexibility in how much you want to add.  Unlike Campbells, your spoon will not have to swim around for a time hoping to actually find a piece of chicken.

I am not sure of the origin of this recipe.  John's grandmother got her recipe from another grandmother...  I have adapted from there.  You can make this thicker, thinner, heartier, simpler... play around to your heart's content.

I am planning to post more through the week, so I won't say "Happy Thanksgiving" just yet.  I will  wish everyone a wonderful weekend and happy cooking, though.  Fire up the stove... your family is waiting!

Chicken Noodle Soup - makes 10-12 servings
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 T chicken base
  • 4 baby carrots, sliced
  • 2-3 pounds chicken*
  • 1 bag egg noodles**
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • milk
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
  • garlic salt and pepper to taste
~ Boil water and base, adding thyme, carrots, and noodles, cooking until tender.  Remove 
~ Meanwhile, boil chicken until cooked through and set aside until able to handle.  Shred 
    or cube.
~ In saucepan, melt butter and add flour, whisking constantly until incorporated.  
~ Add milk, still stirring, cooking until thick and desired consistency is achieved.  
~ Slowly add butter mix to chicken stock, stirring.  Add in chicken.  
~ Add garlic salt and pepper to taste.  

Tips and Tricks:

*The above is a quick and easy version, using boneless skinless breasts or chicken tenders.  If you have the time, an even more yummy way to make this is to either boil or crockpot (even easier!) a whole chicken, and use the meat and stock for extra flavor.  Just strain the stock and use as part of the 3 quarts water called for.  Add base for additional flavor, if needed.

**The whole bag of noodles makes for a pretty thick soup.  You might want to cook the noodles separately and add them in at the end to your preference.  If you are making this ahead of time, I would suggest not cooking the noodles at all until you reheat for serving.  Add them in and let soften as the soup comes to a simmer.  This will keep them from getting too mushy.

Recipe adapted from grandmas all over... 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

SOUPer saturdays - jerk chicken chili

Jerk.  I had never heard of such a thing - in the food-sense, anyway - until my honeymoon.

(I love this story.)

John and I were working in the kitchen of his duplex just a few months before our wedding.  We had not yet decided on a honeymoon destination when the phone rang.  You have to understand, even today, I'm a dreamer and terribly naive, and so 15 plus years ago you can imagine how much more was the case.

As I picked up the phone, the really nice and excitable lady on the other end was promising this super-trusting giddy bride-to-be the trip of her life with the love of her life, and before the night was over, it was a done deal.  A "cruise" to set out from the tip of Florida to the.... BAHAMAS... for only a few hundred dollars.

So, months later, we're married and unloading our bags to board the... umm...  I'll be kind here...


A boat.  Not a ship.  And a boat that maybe was a little nicer in it's younger days????


John had tried to tell me not to expect much, but you know me...


For the two-hour trip, we laid in the sun (peeling paint off the boat's floor) and talked of things to come.  We ate the "buffet" (as our plates and glasses slid on the table from side to side), and we anxiously waited for the upcoming entertainment in the "performance hall," (two u-shaped padded booths with a teeny tiny curtain-covered inset).

This was the best part.

We took our booth... just us... and watched a younger version of Wayne Newton walk into the room, open the curtain, step behind the curtain, and pull the curtain closed (mind you, we could still see his forehead above the curtain), just to watch him come right back out from behind the curtain, only after he pushed "start" on the CD player.  And, boy... did he ever have that half eye-wink/head-cock thing down pat...

Great memories.

At any rate, we finally made it to the islands without fail (or food poisoning) and had a fabulous time.  There's more I could tell about what else was in store, and what fabulous "deals" were included in our "great low price", but I'll spare you.

The one thing I did love on the islands was the food.  It was so flavorful and interesting... complex might be a good word.  And it was here that I was introduced to Jerk.

When looking for a different kind of chili to take to a get-together last week, I ran across this one in my search.  I think I chose it more for the laughs it brought me thinking of the story I just told, than the recipe itself, but I'm glad I did.  I didn't change a thing and it turned out really nice.  As with all chili it seems, the longer you let it set, the better it gets.  John and I both had it for meals following, and it seemed to improve each time.

As you look at the ingredient list, don't let any of them scare you.  For some traditional cooks, chocolate and cinnamon in chili doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I urge you to give it a try.  And for a smooth finish, stir in a bit of sour cream.  It's wonderful.

Thank you for indulging me in my sharing of probably the best memory I have of the "early days."  Life with my sweet husband has been a ball, and it just gets better and better...

Happy Weekend, everyone!  Get simmering!

Jerk Chicken Chili - makes 12 servings
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 large rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded (about 6 cups)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, undrained or partially drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) small white beans, undrained or partially drained
  • 2 tbsp. chopped pickled jalapeños
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp. cornmeal or 3 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp. water (optional for thickening)
~ Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat.
~ Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.
~ Add herbs and spices (chili powder through allspice), cooking and stirring constantly 
    until fragrant.
~ Add chicken and stir to coat with spices.
~ Add broth, tomatoes, beans, and jalapeños, bring to boil, cover partially, reduce heat, and 
   simmer to blend flavors, about 20 minutes.
~ Stir in garlic, cilantro, chocolate and thickener (if using), bringing up the heat, and 
    allowing chili to thicken.
~ Turn off heat and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe from Smells Like Home.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

mexican lasagna

Five reasons to add this one to your repertoire:

1.  Easily assembled.
2.  Can make ahead.
3.  Makes GREAT leftovers.
4.  Financially friendly ingredients.
5.  Super tasty.

Need I say more?

I really don't, but you know me.  I have to.

This casserole will make it's way back to the Sunday afternoon menu soon, I can assure you.  I put it together on Saturday night, wrapped it in foil and put it in the fridge, baked it on Sunday morning before church, wrapped it up once again and let it sit on the stove top to cool and set.  It was so nice coming home to a really satisfying meal in a matter of minutes.  We had it alongside a simple salad and have been enjoying the leftovers since.  And it goes even faster than expected, because it is not necessary to cook the lasagna noodles.  The original recipe called for ground beef, but I substituted with a couple of pounds of ground chicken I needed to use.  The spices and seasonings made for a fantastic Mexican flavor.  A family favorite... you'll love this one!

Mexican Lasagna - makes 12 servings
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 can (16 oz) refried beans
  • 1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. hot salsa
  • 4 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • 12 oz uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 jar (16 oz) mild salsa
  • 2 cups water
  • sour cream and green onions to garnish
~ In a large skillet, cook meat over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.
~ Stir in beans, chilies, taco seasoning and hot salsa.
~ In a greased 13 x 9 baking dish, layer a third of the noodles and meat mixture, and 
   sprinkle one cup of cheese.  Repeat layers twice.
~ Combine mild salsa and water; pour over top.  
~ Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until heated through (longer if going 
    straight from fridge to oven).  
~ Top with sour cream and green onions, if desired. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

pumpkin pancakes

I would venture to say that out of all the meal options my boys can choose from, they request breakfast more than any.  And if Pumpkin Pancakes are on the menu, then lit up eyes and wide smiles are a given.  I've tried several different recipes, but this one yields the lightest, most tender results.  Toasted pecans or walnuts are wonderful stirred into this batter, and cinnamon butter takes it over the top, no doubt!  But a busy morning when preparing these, and an empty pecan tin, didn't allow for either of those things to happen for the featured pictures... maybe next time.

I tend to get pumpkin happy this time of year, as I shared a couple of posts ago.  I also promised in that post that I would try to interject other things in between pumpkin highlights this season.  But I do know I have at least one more pumpkin recipe that has to be shared sooner than later.  It's a fun account of close friends, great food, and good times, with dessert being the star of the show.  Such is always the case when these particular friends are invited to the house.  Have I piqued your interest at all?  Check back later this week to find out how one of my favorite methods of cooking with some of my favorite people turned into one of the tastiest experiments this side of Nashville!

Pumpkin Pancakes - 
makes twelve large cakes (or a bunch of small ones)
  • 3 cups flour (I use 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup white-wheat)
  • 3 tbsp. white sugar
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg and cloves
~ Grease and heat griddle or skillet.
~ In a large bowl, mix together first 5 ingredients (flour through salt) with whisk.
~ In medium bowl, mix together next four ingredients (buttermilk through butter).
~ Add wet mixture to dry, along with spice, stirring until just combined (DO NOT OVER 
~ Check for proper heat by splashing drops of water on the griddle/skillet.  If they dance, 
    it's ready.
~ Poor batter to desired size, allowing the batter to sit until bubbles form and sides of 
    pancakes appear slightly dry.  Flip. 
~ Serve immediately, or keep warm in 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from All Recipes.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

SOUPer saturdays - butternut squash soup

I really do find recipes that call for butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin fascinating.  Chances are, you can exchange them one for another without fail.  Such is the case with this recipe.

Way back when John and I first married, I began my obsessive compulsion with collecting recipes.  It didn't matter if they were in the weekly paper, a magazine, on the pasta box, or under the lid of a food container.  I could not convince myself to throw many, if any, away.  John has finally quit questioning my intentions.  I guess after 15 years, he realizes it's futile.

This recipe was inspired by one of those treasures I stumbled upon when peeling back the seal to a yogurt container.  It originally called for sweet potatoes, but butternut squash is all I had on hand, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have included pictures of the squash-roasting process if you are like me in earlier days and haven't a clue as to what to do with the super-cool thing.  For years, I didn't know one could do anything with it but decorate. Boy.  Had I missed out, or what?

I can't imagine a soup being any healthier than this one.  And it is wonderfully filling.  On these evenings with dipping temps, I don't know that there's a better answer for dinner (and a couple of lunches following).

Enjoy and Happy November!

Begin with an approximate 2 lb squash.

Cut in half and remove seeds with spoon.

Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.  

Lay cut side down on foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 until tender and sides are browned.

Butternut Squash Soup - makes 10-12 servings
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 cups butternut squash, roasted
  • 1  1/2 qt. chicken broth
  • 1  3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2  tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup nuts, toasted (optional)
~ In a soup pot, heat oil and sauté' onions and cumin 3-4 minutes. 
~ Add squash and broth, bringing all to a boil.
~ Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes.
~ Puree soup with yogurt and cilantro.  I use my hand blender, but a regular one would also
~ Sprinkle servings with toasted nuts, if desired.
  • Plain regular yogurt can be substituted for the Greek variety.

  • I used toasted walnuts for the pictured soup, but I have also used toasted pumpkin seeds and other nuts.  Experiment to find your preference.

Recipe inspired by Dannon.