Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pumpkin is Not Just for Thanksgiving and Halloween

My family has a tradition of traveling from Wisconsin to Dallas, Texas to spend Christmas with my family who lives there-my Aunt Mary, Uncle Rich,and originally my two cousins Christina and David. Our family expanded when Christina married Jonathan and David married Catherine. I feel very blessed that we have kept this tradition going for 24 years; it has made Christmas special and given me the chance to know my family despite the states between us. This year, Christina and Jonathan, who now live in South Carolina, couldn't make it because it was too difficult to fly with their precious baby boy, Owen. I made the tough decision to not travel to Texas this year either. I hope to join my family in Texas a different year when the whole family can be together.
An outdated but a classic picture. From left: Catherine, David, Myself, Jonathan, Christina
Our Christmas Tree. Some years it has been even bigger.

 I spent three fantastic days celebrating Christmas with my wonderful boyfriend, Paul and his welcoming family. Although I missed my family in Texas and our little traditions like watching "A Christmas Story" repeatedly as it plays for 24 hours on TV, and all of our inside jokes we have created over the years, I had a fun, warming Christmas with Paul's family. If I had to spend Christmas anywhere besides Texas I am thankful I was able to spend it with Paul and his family. I know that our Texas Christmas tradition hasn't ended, it has just been altered; we're a close knit family who will continue the family gathering for years to come, as much as we can.
Paul and I at my friend Allisen's wedding that I was in this summer

Now on with the recipe I made to share with Paul's large family, Pumpkin Bread.


2/3 cup shortening or 3/4 cup butter
2 and 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin (without spices and sugar added)
1/2 cup water
3 and 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg (I added this because I love nutmeg)
2/3cup coarsely chopped nuts
2/3 cup raisins


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. In large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Stir in eggs. pumpkin and water. Blend flour, soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir in nuts and raisins.

Pour into pans. Bake about 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

I omitted the nuts because not everyone likes them and I added the nutmeg because I love the extra spicy nuttiness it adds to any recipe like this. The pumpkin bread was a big hit with Paul's family. I have to agree, it was really delicious. Similar to pumpkin pie, only you can eat it as a snack, because it's not as sweet as pie, at least that's what I tell myself.

Pumpkin Bread
I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas spent with family and friends, and didn't receive any coal from Santa Claus. There will be more recipes to come using the Marinade Express very shortly, I promise.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sausage Rolls

With Christmas just around the corner I realized there were a few people to whom I wanted to give a useful and thoughtful gift. I decided to make something savory, but not sweet because I know chocolate and cookies are very popular to make for the holidays. I decided to make a few of my cousin Catherine's delicious sausage rolls.

Makes 2 Sausage Rolls

1 lb of Jimmy Dean's Breakfast Sausage with sage
1 lb of lean ground turkey
2 tubes of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Dried sage


Carefully place the tube of sausage and turkey meat inside the Marinade Express, both on the same side of the dividers. Once the lid is sealed and the air has been drawn out let the meat rotate within the Marinade Express for just three rotations. Stop the Marinade Express when the meat is resting on the dividers and outside of the water. Let the meat sit in this position for a few minutes to help drain the water out.

I found that the sausage held together just fine because it is more fatty. However, the ground turkey meat began to fall apart a little. I recommend placing it in a cheese cloth to help hold the meat together before processing it in the Marinade Express. Otherwise, I poured the liquid through a colander so I could salvage most of the ground turkey. Either way works great.

In a large bowl using your hands, mix together the sausage, turkey, palm full of sage, salt, and pepper. It is important to really mix everything together.

Next, lay one tube of crescent roll dough out on a cutting board; do not separate the crescents. Make sure to pinch together each perforation line so it forms one large rectangle.

Take half of the meat mixture and smooth it out evenly on top of the crescent roll.

Then roll the whole thing together so that the crescent roll is on the outside. You may need to push the ends so they aren't sticking out and pinch the dough together if you see meat showing. Repeat the process for the second sausage roll.

Wrap each sausage roll in saran wrap and freeze until they are semi-frozen. Then remove the sausage rolls from the saran wrap to slice in thick slices. Re-wrap each roll in the saran wrap and replace in the freezer.

Since I am giving these as gifts I used some masking tape and taped on the baking directions."Place in refrigerator the night before you want to eat them. The next morning place each slice on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Enjoy!" I decided to wrap them up like large candies in Christmas paper.

Sausage Roll before it has been baked

They are an unusual, delicious, thoughtful gift that anyone will love to have on hand for breakfast or even lunch or dinner. I love the added flavor of the sage, but you can be creative and add in any other spices. I have made sausage rolls with Italian sausage and added in some garlic salt, basil, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes for a little kick. They were a fun twist to the other sausage rolls I have made. The original recipe calls for just the sausage but I like adding the lean ground turkey so it's not as greasy but still has that zesty sausage taste. Happy gift giving!

Sliced and baked scrumptious sausage rolls!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Cheap and Tasty" Pork and Orange Stew

Preparing for the frigid winter months of Iowa I decided to make several kinds of soup that I could freeze and thaw for meals as needed, to keep me warm and satisfied. I found a great soup book called, Soup's On! by Leslie Jonath and Frankie Frankeny (believe it or not, I am not making that name up), I highly recommend it if you love soup as much as I do. The cookbook has great photographs of various soups. It's divided up into chapters, titled: 1. Broths and Stocks 2. Vegetable and Vegetarian Soups 3. Bean, Grain, and Legume Soups 4. Chicken, Turkey, and Duck Soups and Stews 5.Meaty Soups and Stews 6. Fish and Shellfish Soups and Stews. The cookbook is really informative, diverse, colorful, and delicious.

While I was thumbing through the cookbook to find my first soup to make, I knew I wanted one that would be a large enough batch to freeze and one that has enough meat and vegetables to make it a meal all on its own. I found the perfect recipe.

"Cheap and Tasty" Pork and Orange Stew
                           Serves 6

1-2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized chunks
Finely ground sea salt
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more if needed
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons Cointreau
2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
6 cups Chicken Stock or broth
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold,
      peeled and cut into half inch cubes.
12 pearl onions, peeled
2 cups stemmed fresh shiitake mushrooms, quartered
12 baby carrots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon grated orange zest


The Marinade Express
To prep my food I used the Marinade Express, (view my About page or  Marinade Express.com to learn more about this wonderful kitchen appliance). I used the Marinade Express to wash my vegetables for the stew. I bought a five pound bag of whole, organic carrots instead of baby carrots. That way I had more to use in another soup that I made later. I separately processed the carrots and the potatoes for 6-8 minutes each in the Marinade Express using the Veggie Prep solution. Doing this extra step cleans off the dirt and pesticides, eliminating the peeling process and keeping the nutritional value and flavor that resides within the skin of vegetables. I also used the Marinade Express to help tenderize and marinade the Pork.Since it is a tougher meat I processed it for 45 minutes and used an unflavored Pro Prep seasoning. After prepping the pork by using the Marinade Express, and cutting off the fat on the pork I followed the rest of the directions from the cookbook.

Season the pork well with 2 teaspoons salt. In a large sauce pan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. (The generous amount of oil allows the meat to brown well. The excess will be drained off.) Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, add the pork and let it brown on the first side before turning, then saute until well browned all over, about 10 minutes total. Pour the contents of the pan into a sieve to drain the excess fat.

Return the pan to high heat and return the meat to the pan. Add the wine, orange juice, Cointreau, and fennel seeds. Stir and scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to loosen all the browned bits. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bay leaf, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly until the meat is very tender, about 45 minutes.

About 15 minutes before the meat should be ready,  heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil with the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and carrots and saute until all the vegetables are well browned, about 15 minutes. Adjust the heat so the vegetables brown but do not burn, adding more oil if necessary. Add the garlic and rosemary and saute briefly, just to brown the garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Scrape the contents of the saute pan into the stew. Cook the stew until vegetables are tender and the flavors have blended, about 15 minutes more. Just before serving, stir the parsley and orange zest into the stew. Taste and adjust the seasonings, then serve.

"Cheap and Tasty" Pork and Orange Stew

I enjoyed the stew immediately, it was absolutely delicious. The pork was very tender and flavorful from using the Marinade Express and simmering it in the liquid. The rich robust flavor of the wine, and the fruity notes from the orange juice meld together perfectly. I had used dried rosemary and parsley instead of fresh because I had it on hand and a little goes a long way. I used a yellow onion instead of pearl onions because it's cheaper. I also used a container of baby Bella mushrooms because I am a big fan of mushrooms and they are cheaper than shiitake mushrooms. I still have a few containers of stew in my freezer.When I thawed a container it was just as satisfying and delectable as the day I had made it. Hope you try this recipe out. Happy soup making!