Molasses Cornmeal Loaves

This is a full-flavored, winter bread, which goes well with your favorite soup. Often called Anadama bread (do a Google search for that story, if you wish), I chose a more descriptive name. The day I made these loaves I had no interest in following a recipe so I just started putting the ingredients that I thought made sense into the Kitchenaid mixer and the result was lovely, one that I’m happy to share. I love the flavor of molasses and the chewiness of cornmeal. Try this when you have a taste for something different.

Molasses Cornmeal Loaves (makes 2 round loaves)

  • 2-1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2/3 c. molasses plus about 1 Tbs. to proof the yeast
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1/2 c. dry milk
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 c. white flour (approx.)

Proof the yeast in the warm water with the tablespoon of molasses. After it gets foamy stir in the whole wheat flour, cornmeal, salt, dry milk and olive oil. Stir in the white flour, a bit at a time until you are able to knead the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes. Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours, until doubled. Grease a cookie sheet, then sprinkle with a little corn meal. Form the dough into two round loaves, place onto the prepared cookie sheet, cover with a towel and let rise for 1 more hour. Then bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Waiting all year for turkey soup!

We had bad luck with our turkey this year. For some reason an entire half refused to cook. I wound up carving half, which was more than ample to serve the five of us, and I threw the rest of the turkey—undercooked half, carcass and all— into the freezer. This morning I took it all out and turned it into a heavenly pot of soup. With a rich, smokey flavor, this is absolutely my favorite soup. The main ingredient is a turkey carcass, and you can usually find someone who is happy to part with theirs after the holiday. On more than one occasion I’ve left a Thanksgiving dinner with the carcass in a bag—the best possible party favor.

Turkey Soup

To make the stock:

  • 1 turkey carcass
  • extra gravy (optional)
  • 2 onions, halved
  • the leafy tops of a bunch of celery
  • a bunch of parsley
  • 2 Tbs. salt

To finish the soup:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1-2 cups of greens, chopped: bok choy, kale or swiss chard
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 large sweet potato, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • egg noodles or matzo balls

In your largest pot, cover the turkey carcass half-way with water, add the other stock ingredients and bring to a boil. As the carcass cooks you’ll be able to break it apart and push it down so that the entire thing is covered with water. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain out the broth into another large pot or into a very large bowl. Set the strained boney parts aside to cool. While that is cooling, add the rest of the soup ingredients to the stock, bring back to a boil, and let simmer. When the sweet potatoes are soft, mash some of them against the side of the pot, and then stir them back into the stock to thicken and sweeten the broth. When the bones are cool enough to handle, pick through them and remove all usable meat, then chop and add the meat to the soup. While the soup is heating, cook your noodles. To serve put a spoonful of noodles in the bottom of each bowl and then ladle over the soup.

Throw the carcass in your largest pot, along with the onions, parsley and celery tops. Cover half-way with water.

Strain the stock into another large pot or bowl.

Cranberry-Orange Chutney

This has a magnificent color and is best served in a clear bowl. The lace-work beneath the bowl is a piano scarf made by my great-grandmother, Dora Ann, for whom I am named. Dora made the lace by hand.

From the Colorado Cache cookbook, this is our favorite thing to make with cranberries. The ingredients are bizarre but the complex flavor is extraordinary. This has become the only cranberry “relish” we serve at the holidays. It makes quite a bit, and will keep in the refrigerator for up to six weeks.

Cranberry Orange Chutney

  • 4 oranges, peeled, segmented and cut into 1/2″ pieces; and 1/4 c. thinly slivered orange rind
  • 1 lb. cranberries
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. orange juice
  • 1/4 c. crystalized ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole clove garlic
  • 3/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 3/4 c. raisins

In a saucepan, heat everything except for the orange segments. Cook until the berries pop. Remove from heat. Discard the cinnamon and garlic. Stir in the oranges. Serve warm or chilled. Will keep for 6 weeks in the ‘fridge.

Green Tomato Chutney

Here's a jar from last year. You can buy sheets of printer-friendly large, round adhesive labels, and make something special for your canning lids.

I learned about this chutney from Jani Greving when we lived in Ft. Collins. It’s a good way to use that final tomato harvest when the frost warning is issued. This particular chutney is not spicy, but is more like a chunky relish. We take out a jar when we’re having a roasted lamb or turkey, and sometimes with chicken or pork, just to add a little zest, a little something extra for the meat. It’s not unlike the way we use cranberry sauce with turkey.

Green Tomato Chutney (makes 6 pints)

  • 9 c. coarsely diced unpeeled green tomatoes
  • 6 c. coarsely diced, peeled and cored green cooking apples
  • 4-1/2 c. coarsely chopped onions
  • 2 c. coarsely diced celery
  • 3/4 c. golden raisins
  • 1/2 c. candied ginger, cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. salt

Combine everything in a 4-5 quart pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, sirring occasionally. Reduce to low, simmer uncovered for 3 hours or until liquid has cooked away and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape in a spoon, stirring frequently. Ladle into hot sterilized jars. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Performance art: tortellini, cauliflower and a pot too small

Throw the vegetable right in the pot with the pasta. You'll loose a bit of nutrients to the water, but maybe some of them are absorbed by the pasta, right?

While in the middle of making two kinds of applesauce, in the largest pots I own, I noticed that it was 5:30 and thought, “Shoot, I bet those kids will be expecting some dinner soon.” I grabbed the package of 3-cheese tortellini that I keep for such emergencies, and a head of cauliflower (must have a vegetable with every meal!), and threw them all together into my barely-big-enough pot.

Everything was going swimmingly until the pasta expanded and things started flowing over the rim of the pot.

We ate it anyway.

If you want to enjoy a bit of performance art right before you eat, simply use a pot that's a bit too small to boil the tortellini.

For the love of jam — having something to show for my day.

Last year I canned over 200 jars of jam and placed them on display in the breakfront in my dining room.

I love to can jars of jam, with the challenge set several years ago of getting through the school year and all of the PB&J sandwiches without having to purchase any. Last season I exceeded my goal by canning over 200 jars, turning the challenge into a loving obsession. I designed special labels for each of the dozen or so varieties, and arranged them in tidy rows, prominently displayed in the breakfront of my dining room. Even my mother’s china had to move over as I shuffled things around to make room for the jam. I couldn’t bear to relegate the beautifully labeled, magnificently colored darlings to a dark cabinet in the basement.

The satisfaction I get from canning is quite simple: I like to have something to show for my day—a visual marker of my industry and creativity. I love my husband and kids, I love that I can run errands and shop and cook to make their lives easier, I love the pleasures of a clean house and of folded clothes, and I love it when my jam cabinet is full. I walk past the breakfront and gaze happily at the visual reminder that I’ve created something beautiful and delicious which, unlike the clean house and folded clothes, will last throughout the year.

Our old family breakfront—looks aren't everything.

The breakfront and I have a long history. This piece stood on top of the lime-green carpet in my family’s den for over 30 years. Back in the day, when we had to walk across the room to change the channel, I remember my dad drilling a hole in the back (you can barely see it just above the jam jars) creating one of the first entertainment centers. Our black and white television fit in the middle and the cord went out the back. And when I was three or four and had just learned to write my name, I took a ball point pen and wrote on my new doll’s forehead, scribbled on our new vinyl covered couch, and very proudly gouged my name into the side of this breakfront.

My first and only art installation piece.

Today I pitted 14.5 pounds of sour cherries that will wait patiently in my freezer, joining the blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and plums, until August when I’ll get out my giant bowls and canning pot, and spend a wonderful couple of steamy days in my kitchen canning jam for next year. And then I will place them very carefully into the breakfront, the one piece of furniture that has my name on it.

This is the best iced coffee you’ve ever tasted.

This tastes better if you drink it in a clear glass.

I’m serious. And now I’m going to share my formula for preparing a super-strong, rich and smooth glass of ice-cold coffee.

Follow these three very simple rules:

  1. Make the coffee double-strength. Instead of 1 scoop of coffee for every 2 cups of water, use 1 scoop of coffee for every 1 cup of water.
  2. Don’t dilute the coffee while it’s chilling.
  3. Use at LEAST 2% milk; whole milk is preferable.

I use a simple little drip coffee maker—if you can find a little drip maker like this then snatch it up. I got mine from my grandparents about 25 years ago. They found it, abandoned, in a cabinet of a condo they bought in North Miami. I’ve since purchased a second pot on e-bay. However,  you can make great iced coffee using any coffee maker, as long as you follow the three rules.

Iced Coffee (for 1 tall glass)

  • Brew 2 cups of double-strength coffee.
  • After the coffee has brewed, stir in 2-3 teaspoons of sugar. If you do this while the coffee is still hot the sugar will completely dissolve and you won’t find yourself chewing on little granules while you’re having your drink.
  • Cool the coffee completely before adding the milk. Use an ice-bath, or cool in the refrigerator.
  • Stir in milk. Use at least 2% milk. If you want really luxurious coffee then splurge and use whole milk.
  • Add the ice last. Since you’re adding the ice to an already cold drink your coffee will not get diluted and you’ll enjoy pure, intense coffee flavor.

This is my Wearever 2-cup drip coffee maker.

I fill this with grounds for 2 cups,

and I add water for 1 cup, thereby making the coffee double-strength.

This is important! While the coffee is still hot, stir in a couple of teaspoons of sugar, so that the sugar can dissolve. Use an ice bath (or, if you plan ahead, put it in the refrigerator to cool for a couple of hours) to cool down the coffee before adding milk.

Popovers

Soup night is transformed by popovers. These lovely little breads puff way up in the pan, are hollow and buttery on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside. They only take about 45 minutes start to finish, and are amazingly simple to make. Is there anything better than a hot bread product to serve with your nice pot of soup?

Popovers

  • 4 Tbs. melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and when it’s hot, stick your 12-slot muffin pan in the oven to heat up for about 5 minutes.

While the pan is heating up, mix together the slightly beaten eggs with the milk, and mix in the flour and salt. Don’t worry if there are some small lumps in the batter.

Take the hot pan out of the oven and brush it with the melted butter. You’ll use up all the butter to do this. Then very quickly fill each hole with about 2/3 cup of the batter. Do this quickly so that the pan doesn’t cool down, and then put it back in the oven.

Bake for 35 mins. Serve hot!

Dear Dr. Hill, just a note to let you know that the sodas in my cart were not for me.

Please don’t judge me by the contents of my shopping cart. In a town of this size, with my foody reputation at stake, I worry about being seen with some inorganic, white bread, prepackaged, corn syrup -infused product. With my best friends carrying around Michael Pollan’s Food Rules like a bible in their pocketbooks, I don’t dare risk being caught with anything but the slowest of foods. So it was with great dismay that today, after purchasing 6 entire liters of soda, I felt a gentle touch on my arm, and there was my children’s pediatrician saying, “Hi there. Nice to see you.” I smiled and murmured something back (knowing of course, that he doesn’t even know my name — just that I’m MaxMollyJoe’s mom), but all the while wondering, “Did Dr. Hill see the soda in the bags in my cart? Will he blame their asthma on the Diet Sprite? Thank goodness they have healthy BMIs!”

Last year my friend AJ asked me to pick up some brownie mix for her at our neighborhood IGA grocery. No big deal for most people, but I was mortified at the idea of having to purchase such a product. Have you ever read the list of ingredients? Do you know how silly-easy it is to make them from scratch?!  My son Max was with me and I said to him, “Max, what if one of my friends sees me buying brownie mix? I’m known for my brownies!” He said, “Mom, I’ll go down the brownie mix aisle myself and get the box.” I seem to recall that he even offered to stand in a different check-out aisle and pay for it himself. He was willing to take the fall for me. My son is a mensch.

I loath soda, and brownie or pancake mixes, and prepared salad dressings. Anything “light” or diet are even worse. Take a good read at any of these packages and you can’t help but realize that you’re in for a tasty meal of additives. Not to mention that it takes about as much time to whip up something from scratch as it does to make it from a mix. There are a few mixes that I will occasionally purchase, if they have real ingredients, with names that I recognize and would use myself.

I recommend the books Fast Food Nation, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. My husband bought me Fast Food Nation as a gift about 10 years ago. Since reading it cover-to-cover, all in that day, we no longer take our kids to McDonalds. In fact 2 out of 3 of them will refuse to go.

So, Dr. Hill, just a note to let you know that the sodas in my cart were for an event at our temple tonight. The other ladies like the idea of serving a punch and they had me pick up the ingredients. I didn’t taste a drop, nor did my children. I swear.