Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Home for the Holidays; Food Edition

               The holidays are here... almost.  I know many of you are probably thinking "But Theresa, Thanksgiving is still a month away."  And while that is true, there is another holiday just right around the corner: Dia de los Muertos or for my non-Spanish speaking readers Day of the Dead.  Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday to honor family members who have passed away.  Altars are made honoring the loved ones and a special bread is prepared.  I learned about this holiday in high school while studying Spanish.  There is more to this special holiday but it's been a long time since high school and I can't remember all of the details.  Of course, I remember the part about the food.  I want to celebrate other cultures' holidays and learn to make the traditional foods.  I think it would be a great way to teach our kids about different cultures' celebrations and traditions.  A few years ago, I did a search on for the bread that is prepared for Dia de los Muertos.  I made it and took it to work for the Spanish interpreters to try.  I wanted to make sure that the recipe was authentic.  It was given their stamp of approval and I was thrilled.  It's been a few years since I've made it but I plan on making it this year.  The recipe is as follows:

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)
1/4 C margarine (I always use butter in my baking)
1/4 C milk
1/4 C warm water
3 C flour
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp anise seed
1/4 C sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp sugar

Heat the milk and butter in a medium saucepan until butter melts.  Remove from heat and add warm water.  Mixture should be 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup sugar.  Beat in the warm milk mixture.  Then add eggs and orange zest (2 tsp) and beat until well combined.  Stir in 1/2 cup flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until dough is doubled in size (about 1-2 hours).  Punch down dough.  Shape into a large round loaf with a a round knob on top.  Place onto a baking sheet and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Let cool slightly and brush with glaze.

Pan de Muertos glaze
In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of sugar, orange juice and orange zest.  Bring to a boil over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Brush over top of bread while warm.  Sprinkle with white sugar.   

I know some of you are probably thinking "Anise seed?  Doesn't that have the same flavor as black licorice? No thanks!".  And you're right, it does but try the bread anyways.  I don't like black licorice.  In fact, I hate it and I still love this bread.  The orange zest and the glaze balance out the anise seed flavor.

         As you all know (and are probably sick of hearing about), we host Thanksgiving for Steve's side of the family.  As a result, I'm always on the look-out for new Thanksgiving-themed recipes.  My older sister told me about the blog Budget Bytes.  This blog is about eating tasty healthy food on a budget.  We could all use help with that area!  This blog has a section for Thanksgiving and a section called Pumpkin Recipe Round-up 2012.  Each section has a bunch of pumpkin recipes which I'm anxious to try.  (Stay tuned for more blogs about those!)  The Thanksgiving section also has recipes for cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, turkey and biscuits.  Check it out.  It seems pretty cool.  Disclaimer: I have not tried any of the recipes or read them in depth yet.  Steve and I are working on finding recipes and foods that will become traditions for our Thanksgiving.  We're having fun experimenting with serving different foods and seeing which ones will stick.  I'll do a blog post about our Thanksgiving later in the year.

      How many of you think of Christmas when drinking hot chocolate?  I don't know why I do.  It wasn't something my family traditionally drank on Christmas.  Hot chocolate makes me think of cold snowy days and being curled up in a blanket watching a movie.  Now hot chocolate mixes are perfectly fine... but so is this recipe:

Mexican Hot Chocolate
3 tbsp instant hot cocoa mix
1 tbsp chocolate syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch chili powder
1/4 C milk
3/4 C boiling water

In a large mug, mix the hot cocoa mix, chocolate syrup, cinnamon and chili powder.  Add the boiling water and stir.  Add in the milk and stir.

I doubt this recipe is an authentic Mexican drink.  I did make a few changes to the recipe above.  I made the milk and water about half and half to make the drink a little richer.  It's slightly watery if you follow the recipe exactly.  I also wait to add the chocolate syrup until after the milk and water have been mixed with the spices.  It just works better this way.  This hot chocolate recipe has a nice spicy flavor courtesy of the chili powder.  I know it seems a little weird to put chili powder in a drink but the cinnamon balances it out nicely. Give it a try!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin for All

                 Happy Fall!!!  I'm enjoying this fall, especially because I got to bring my baby home from the hospital.  It was still summer when she was born and the seasons changed while she was in the NICU.  When we brought her home, I decided to enjoy this fall season for the blessing it was and because I'm currently on maternity leave.  I haven't ventured outside very much because I don't want to expose Katherine to germs for the first few weeks.  With that in mind, I've had to bring the fall season indoors... in a small way.  I do have a newborn after all!  I decided to make pumpkin pancakes for lunch on Sunday.  I've always liked the flavor of pumpkin.  When I was younger I didn't think much past pumpkin pie, which I loved and looked forward to every Thanksgiving.  Over the past few years, I've had fun finding pumpkin recipes.  Recipes like this Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe that was modeled after the Starbucks latte (I have no idea how it measures up... I don't go to Starbucks.) and this Pumpkin Pie Smoothie recipe.  I de-veganize these recipes when I make them... partly because I'm not vegan, partly because I don't have the ingredients for them to be vegan. I'm extremely grateful for my cousin Angie's secret pumpkin bar recipe which I blogged about here.  The bars are amazing and I love sharing a secret with my family members.  Sharing the recipe made me feel like Angie was right next door instead of in Virginia where she lives with her family.
                I've gotten extremely off-track... sorry!  But thanks for taking that little detour with me!  Back to the pumpkin pancakes.  I decided to make them before I actually had a recipe so I turned to my trusty recipe search engine,  If you haven't visited this site, do.  Just make sure you don't have anything to do or anywhere to go for the next hour.  It's that addictive.  I found this recipe for pumpkin pancakes:

Pumpkin Pancakes with Nutmeg Whipped Cream

2 1/3 C pancake mix
2 1/2 tbsp white sugar
1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs
1 1/4 C milk
1/3 C canned pumpkin
1/4 C vegetable oil

Nutmeg Whipped Cream
1 C whipping cream
2 tbsp white sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

The directions for the recipe were pretty standard: mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and then mix the two together.  Being me, I made a few changes.  I used a 1/2 cup of pumpkin rather than 1/3 cup based on the recipe reviews.  I also used 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger.  This was not for any reason relating to flavor.  I just don't have a measuring spoon for 1/3 teaspoon.  In fact, this was the first recipe I've seen to call for that measurement.  I also used 1 1/2 cups milk... just so I wouldn't have a 1/4 cup of milk left in the fridge.    I did sift the dry ingredients because Bisquick tends to be clumpy and I didn't want to have to deal with clumps in the batter.  I mixed the batter and had 4 pancakes on the griddle and Katherine started to fuss.  I turned the reins over to Steve so I could feed her.  He finished cooking the pancakes and we sat down to lunch.  The pancakes have a very subtle pumpkin flavor.  The flavor does build with each pancake you eat.  These are an excellent addition to any fall baking and cooking you might be doing.  In fact, Steve and I both thought at the same time about serving these for Thanksgiving breakfast.  We did have left-overs which we've safely put away in the freezer for Thanksgiving morning.  I hope these pancakes will become a traditional part of our Thanksgiving.

(Side note about the whipped cream: You'll notice I didn't mention it at all.  That's because I didn't make it due to the lack of whipping cream.  Hopefully I'll remember to buy some for Thanksgiving!)

Friday, October 12, 2012

I'm Back!!!!

      That's right, my faithful blog readers.  I'm finally back in the kitchen.  Having swollen ankles and later bed rest and an emergency C-section prevented me from cooking very much this past year.  But this week is my return to the kitchen.  Katherine came home on Saturday (yay!).  Sunday I made a menu and a grocery list and sent Steve to the store.  I'm still not ready to take Katherine out shopping... too many germs for my little NICU baby.  It's nice to have a stocked kitchen and a plan as to what we'll be eating for the week.  For the past month, I've been eating hospital food or sandwiches.  Exciting stuff, right?  Here's our menu for this week:

Monday October 8th
chicken pot pie, fruit, salad

Tuesday October 9th
grilled cheese, vegetables, fruit

Wednesday October 10th
ham steak, salad, vegetables, fruit

Thursday October 11th
chicken noodle soup, salad, fruit

Friday October 12th

Saturday October 13th
tacos, salad, fruit

Notice I've optimistically put a salad, fruit and vegetables on practically every meal.  We've already had a few meals without them but I'm still hoping we'll eat them.  On Monday my mom was visiting so I was able to teach her how to make chicken pot pie.  It was my first meal back in the kitchen and it was so fun.  I had fun showing Mom how to make it.  I promised her that it was simple and tasty.  She agreed and copied the recipe so she could make it at home.  On Tuesday I made the grilled cheese sandwiches which reminded me of when I was younger and would make them for our family.  Of course, I usually made a lot more back then.  There's quite a difference between cooking for two and cooking for five or six.  Steve made the ham steaks and chicken noodle soup.  I'm already looking forward to creating next week's menu and grocery list.