Eggnog Popovers

popovers in basketPerfect for Christmas or New Year’s morning. These popovers are crispy on the outside and custard-like on the inside, with the rich taste of eggnog.

Mix the batter the eve before, then pop them in the oven for a breakfast treat. I use  good quality eggnog for best results.

1 cup eggnog, heated with milk

½ cups hot milk. I use 1%, but you can use non fat or whole milk. (But don’t use lactose-free or other milk substitutes; they won’t work.)

3 large eggs

1 ½ cup white all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3 Tb melted butter

non-stick pan spray

Heat the milk and eggnog for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a saucepan until hot but not boiling.

Beat eggs well in a blender. Pour in eggnog/milk while beating until foamy. Add the flour and nutmeg, scraping the sides of the blender. Add melted butter and mix again. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, and preferably overnight.

???????????????????????????????In the morning, preheat the oven to 375’. Place a muffin pan into the oven for 3 minutes. Remove the pan and spray with non-stick pan spray.

Pour in the batter until holders are ¾ full.

baked popoversBake for 30-35 minutes, until tops are puffed up and browned. If popovers are baking unevenly, rotate the pan the last 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

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Meyer Lemon Triple Ginger Chocolate Gingerbread

dark-gingerbread-with-lemon-and-chocolateLemon and ginger are natural partners, so I added zest and juice from Meyer lemons, along with freshly grated ginger, candied crystallized ginger and powdered ginger for a triple ginger zing in this dark gingerbread.  Cocoa powder brings a warmth to complement the zesty flavors. The warmth of the cinnamon and the candied ginger make up for the smaller amount of sugar than you’ll find in most recipes.

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Warm the eggs in a bowl of warm water. If you forget to take the butter out early, you can soften it using one of these methods: Fill a glass with hot water, empty it and set it on top of the peeled butter cube, or you can microwave the butter for about 5 seconds.

Ingredients: Makes 8 x 8 square pan. You can also make it in an 9 x9 pan.

1 stick butter

2 eggs

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2/3 cup dark molasses (I used unsulphured organic blackstrap molasses)

1/4 cup candied crystallized ginger

3 Tb finely grated fresh ginger root

2 tsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest (the yellow part of the peel)

1 Tb fresh lemon juice

1 ¾ cups all-purpose unbleached flour

2 Tb cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp cloves

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

½ cup boiling water

1 tsp powdered sugar to sift on top of baked gingerbread

Preheat the oven to 350◦ Spray a 8 x 8 square pan with nonstick spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper. I set the pan on the parchment paper to measure it and cut it with scissors. Butter the parchment after placing it in the pan.

Mince the candied ginger. Peel the ginger root and grate on a fine hand grater. Grate the lemon zest, using the same grater. Squeeze the lemon juice, measuring 1 Tb.

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. I use an electric mixer. Add brown sugar and beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and molasses. Beat candied ginger, grated ginger, lemon juice and zest into the batter.

Sift the flour, cocoa, and spices together, and then add to the batter, stirring slowly just until combined, then scrape the bowl.

Stir boiling water gently into batter.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake 35 -40 minutes at 350◦ until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Place the cake on a metal cooling rack, and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Slide a thin knife around the sides, and then invert the cake on the rack and peel off the parchment paper. Invert on a plate to serve. Sift a spoonful of powdered sugar on top if desired, or serve with whipped cream.

Hannukah and Christmas Orange-Nutty Cookies

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This mufti-denominational cookie is based on my mom’s Hanukkah cookie recipe. I added some grated orange zest to heighten the fruity notes. The nuts are optional, but I love the crunch of nuts in cookies.

You can soften the butter in the microwave for about 10 seconds if you forgot to leave it out to soften! Crush nuts by pulsing in the food processor or rolling them with a rolling pin as my mom did. They should be tiny, but not pulverized into powder.

Makes about 30 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters.

Ingredients:

1 cube butter

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tb orange juice

1/4 tsp finely grated orange zest (the orange part of the peel)

2 eggs

3 cups all purpose unbleached flour

1/8 tsp salt (or a couple of shakes)

2 tsp baking powder

½ cup crushed walnuts and/ or pecans

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add orange juice and zest and beat again.

Sift dry ingredients together and then mix until combined with the moist ingredients. Stir in nuts until incorporated into the dough.

???????????????????????????????Roll the dough into a large ball, then flatten into a disk with your hands. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for ½ hour. This will harden the butter and make the dough easier to roll.

Preheat the oven to 375◦.

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Lightly flour a wooden board and the rolling pin. Grab a few handfuls of dough and roll it out to about 1/8 inch. Dip cookie cutters in flour, then shake out, to prevent the dough from sticking on them, and then cut out shapes.

???????????????????????????????Spray an insulated cookie sheet with nonstick spray or oil the sheet. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the cookie sheet. Sprinkle cookies with colored sugar sprinkles or a bit of table sugar to make them sparkle. Bake the cookies at 375◦ for about 10 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

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Eggnog biscuits

Slightly sweet, eggnog flavored biscuits! Good with a cup of coffee for the holiday mornings.

These are based on  but with the addition of eggnog and orange zest for the holidays. Perfect for a holiday breakfast. I freeze the eggnog and cream for 15 minutes before adding. Mix dough as little as possible for  tender biscuits.

Preheat oven to 450′

Makes 15 -20 biscuits depending on the size.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 Tb baking powder

1/8 tsp salt (I use sea salt)

1/2 cup cold eggnog

1 cup cold heavy cream

finely grated zest of one small orange (about 1 tsp) (zest is the orange part of the peel)

1 Tb cold butter, chopped

3 Tb melted butter, cooled

Chop 1 Tb cold butter and put in the freezer with the cream and the eggnog for 15 minutes. Melt 3 Tb butter in a shallow bowl and let it cool.

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add eggnog, cream, zest, and  chopped cold butter. Slowly stir until the dough is shaggy.

Rub an insulated  cookie sheet with a bit of the melted butter. Grab a piece of dough the size of the biscuit you wish to make. Dip each biscuit into the melted butter and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Buñuelos

My favorite New Year’s Eve memories include one spent with my in-laws in a small country town in South Texas. We went to the Knights of Columbus hall, where we joined couples of all ages dancing in a big circle to Mexican polkas and boleros. The men wore cowboy hats and the women danced in high heels. Most of the songs were about love, but I remember a few about chickens.
In the morning, my mother-in-law, Conchita, fried up delicious buñuelos, orange and cinnamon scented flour tortillas rolled in cinnamon sugar. We’ve made them every New Year’s morning since.

Makes 15 buñuelos

Cinnamon powder, divided. 1 tsp for dough and 1 Tb for coating

Sugar, divided. 1 tsp for dough and ½ cup for coating

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tb baking powder

2 Tb butter at room temperature

½ cup orange juice at room temperature

2 cups Canola oil for frying

Mix 1 Tb cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in a shallow dish for coating the buñelos and set aside.

Mix flour, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp sugar in a large bowl. Mix in butter. Mix in orange juice and knead until it forms a ball. Place on a floured board and knead for 5 minutes.

Form into small balls, cover with a warm damp dish towel. and let rest for 5 minutes.

Roll out each ball into a round tortilla shape, as thin as you can.

Heat oil in heavy skillet until hot. Place several layers of paper towels on a plate.
Carefully fry buñelos, one at a time. Fry the first side until it puffs up, or about 8-10 seconds. Turn it over and briefly fry the other side until it stops puffing up. Using tongs, hold the buñelo at an angle above the pan for a few seconds to drain excess oil.  Place on the paper towels to soak up oil for a few minutes,

then roll in cinnamon sugar.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!  Happy New Year!

Tamales de pollo y de frijoles – Chicken and Vegetarian Bean Tamales

cooked tamalesMy children’s Abuelita Conchita made tamales every Christmas. After marrying her son, I do too. She visited us on our first Thanksgiving together and taught me how to make them with our leftover turkey.

I’ve been tweaking the recipe ever since.  I now make them with boneless chicken breasts with a few legs for flavor. The boneless breast eliminates the risk of choking on a rib bone, which are easy to miss while shredding the chicken. I also make vegetarian tamales using frijoles pintos, roasted chili and jack cheese.

I make my masa with olive oil, with a bit of chicken fat and bacon grease for flavor. That kind of balances the heart-healthy effects of the olive oil.

tamales with tomatoesMakes 40 medium tamales.

Ingredients for filling: Some stores sell the dried chilies in cellophane packets, so I am including the equivalents here. Also be aware that some locations will call the poblano chilies fresh pasilla chilies.

16 cups of water (To use some of the broth for frijoles, increase the water to 24 cups.)

2 chopped onions

8 minced garlic cloves

2 Tb chipotle powder

2 Tb cumin powder (comino)

2 tsp cocoa powder

2 Tb dried oregano

6 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or a 28 oz can (or two 14 oz cans) diced tomatoes. Frie roasted tomatoes are nice.

2 green bell peppers

2 Tb salt to taste

6 poblano (sometimes sold as fresh pasilla) chilies

10-12 dried pasilla chilies (2 cellophane packets)

6-7 dried California chilies (1 cellophane packet)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves and 6 chicken legs

Heat a large pot with the water and bring to a boil.

There’s the easy way to add chili to the broth, which my mother-in-law did, by adding chili powder to it.

3 kinds of peppersThen there’s the labor-intensive way, adding fresh poblano and dried pasilla and California chilies. Pasilla chilies are dark and wrinkled, like giant raisins (pasa is raisin in Spanish) They make for a more intense, earthy flavor. I use a cast iron comal (coMAL), which is a shallow frying pan to toast the chilies and peppers to intensify their flavor. I wear thin disposable latex gloves when I work with the dried chilies. This way I emerge from the process without stained and sore hands and can rub my eyes afterwards without fear of blinding myself.

toasting pasilla chilisToast the dried chilies lightly on the comal. If you don’t have a comal, use a heavy frying pan. Sometimes the  pasilla will blow up like a balloon! Remove them to a plate while they are still soft.

soaked pastillaWear gloves for this part: Discard the stems and some of the seed pods from the chilies and but keep some seeds for spiciness, depending on your taste. Ladle 3 cups of the boiling water into a medium saucepan. Boil the chilies for 10 minutes, then soak them for 20 minutes until they soften. Let the California chilies cool, then peel them, discarding the outer skin. There’s no great need to peel the pasillas, as their skin is softer. Chop the chilies  and add them along with the soaking water to the broth.

While the dried chilies are boiling and soaking, prepare the rest of the broth ingredients:

blistered pasilla chilisDiscard the stems, ribs and some of seeds of the poblano and bell peppers  (add a few poblano seeds to make the broth spicier if you want.) Cut into strips and blister them on the comal.  Set aside a few handfuls of poblano strips to insert whole into vegetarian tamales. Coarsely chop up the rest and add to the water.

Add all ingredients except salt and chicken, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour out 10 cups into a separate pot to make Frijoles pintos.

For vegetarian tamales: Salt the broth and mix it in the blender. You will use it for mixing in the masa and making sauce.

For chicken tamales: Salt the broth and bring it to a boil. Add chicken legs  and cook for 45 minutes. Cut chicken breasts into large chunks and add to the broth, cooking for 20 minutes, until done. Remove chicken from water with slotted spoon, reserving broth.

Drain broth through a sieve into a large bowl. Place the chilies, peppers and onions and tomatoes in another bowl, with enough broth to make it soupy enough to blend into a thin sauce. Blend in batches to make the chili sauce and set aside.

Bring the strained broth back to a boil. Let chicken cool until you can handle it, then remove the bones from the legs and break them to expose the marrow (I use a kitchen shears). Return the bones to the soup and let it boil while you shred the chicken by hand. The marrow will add great flavor and nutrients to the broth.

Skim the fat from the broth and refrigerate it. We will add some of the fat to the masa for flavor. (You can freeze the broth briefly or refrigerate for several hours or overnight to ease skimming the fat.)

Pour 2 cups chili sauce into a skillet and heat it Add half the shredded chicken. Simmer and stir until chicken absorbs most of the sauce, but is not too dry. You should be able to see some sauce between the meat. Make the second batch, (I use 2 skillets at a time) then store in refrigerator until ready to use. It’s best to make this part the day before so that the chicken will absorb the sauce while it sits overnight. If you don’t have time, just let it cool in the freezer or fridge.

This is plenty of chicken. If you don’t want to turn it all into tamales,  they are great in tacos or enchiladas.

Reserve 5 cups of broth for the masa. Reduce any leftover broth in a saucepan to add to the sauce for the tamales.

Vegetarian tamales: Cook  Frijoles pintos the day before. Roast 4 more fresh poblano chilies on a grill or heavy frying pan until the skin chars. Cool in a covered container to aid in peeling, then peel charred skin, discarding skin, seeds and stem, and cut into strips. You can use canned chilies to save time, but I am giving you the fresh recipe, which has a much more earthy and intense flavor. Slice jack cheese.

Preparing the tamales:

Soak an 18 oz. package of hojas (OH-hass) (dried corn husks) in warm water in a large pot (such as the tamale steamer) until soft, about 1 hour. I put the steamer pan on top of the hojas and weight it down with a large bowl of water. Rinse them well afterward and remove the corn silk.

Masa

Most of the Mexicans I know with swear by lard, the traditional fat used to make tamales. I make my masa with heart-healthy olive oil, combined with a couple of spoonfuls of chicken fat and bacon grease for flavorful chicken tamales. You can substitute 1/2 cup + 1 Tb (5 Tb) chicken fat if you want kosher tamales. I use only olive oil for vegetarian tamales.

Be sure you are using pure olive oil (California olive oil is a good bet) which will solidify in the fridge. Some Spanish and other European “olive” oils are mixed with other oils and will not solidify. You can also solidify it in the freezer.

I make my masa in 2 batches, so I can fit it in my electric mixer. I’m giving the 1/2 measurements in parentheses.

Masa for 40 tamales (20):

7  (3 1/2) cups masa harina (corn flour) for tamales. This is coarser ground than the masa harina that is used for tortillas.
1 Tb + 1 tsp (2 tsp) salt
1 Tb (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
2 Tb (1 Tb) paprika
6 1/2 to 7 cups (3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups) reserved warm broth. If you run out of broth, add some chili powder to warm water

For chicken tamales: 1 1/2 cups (3/4 cup) olive oil, refrigerated or frozen until solid

1/4 cup plus 2 Tb (3 Tb) solidified chicken fat

1/4 cup (2 Tb) solidified bacon grease

For vegetarian tamales:

2 cups (1 cup) olive oil, refrigerated until solidified

Directions:

Mix masa harina with baking powder, salt and paprika.

For chicken tamales: Beat chicken fat and bacon grease in mixmaster on high. Add solidified olive oil and beat again.

For vegetarian tamales: Beat solidified olive oil on high

Add  broth to the dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon, then with your hands until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add about a quarter of the masa to the oil and beat well, then add another quarter of the masa, repeating until all masa is incorporated. Beat until dough has a fluffy and moist consistency.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the masa for an hour or so, then return it to the mixmaster. Beat it again, adding more broth if necessary to make a soft dough.

ball of masaIt should not stick to your fingers, and you should be able to form a smooth ball of masa.

Assembling the Tamales

Now you are ready to assemble the tamales. This is best done with your family and/or friends helping – a tamalada.

Spread the masa in a thin layer on the wide end of the hoja, leaving  about 3 inches bare on the pointy end and a small border around the sides.. You can use the back of a spoon, or your fingers. I find it works best if your fingers are moist and not too full of masa.

For chicken tamales, put in a spoonful of the shredded prepared chicken. Make it into a long rectangle.

For vegetarian tamales, place a spoonful of beans without liquid, a strip of chili and a piece of jack cheese. Vegans can skip the cheese, or use vegan cheese.

fold in one side

Fold the other side in so they overlap,

then fold up the pointy end.

Tear thin strips from several hojas to use for tying the tamales. I use the torn or ugly hojas. Tie tamale with the strip of hoja.

When all tamales are assembled, heat water in the bottom of a tamale pot or large steamer Put a dime in the water. Add the tamales with the folded end down and the tied end up on the steamer tray. Cover the steamer, and cook on low heat for 1 ½ hours. The dime will rattle in the water. If the water runs out, the dime will stop rattling and you must add more water or the tamales will burn!

When the masa separates easily from the corn husk, the tamales are done. Uncover the pot, turn off the flame and let dry out for 15 minutes or until you can’t wait any longer to eat them!

Unwrap and enjoy with sliced Roma tomatoes. Warm the reduced broth mixed with leftover chili sauce and pour over the tamales, or top with Frijoles pintos.

Feliz Navidad!

serving tamales with sliced tomatoes


Squash or Pumpkin Gingerbread

My neighbor Shauna gave me these beautiful acorn squash that she grew. I roasted them and used them to make squash gingerbread.

I made the bread again, this time with pumpkin. It’s a bit more gingerbread than pumpkin bread; the squash taste is overwhelmed  by the gingerbread spices. You can roast and /or purée the squash ahead of time.

I used whole wheat pastry flour for a healthier bread.

Ingredients:

1 cup pureed roasted squash or pumpkin

½ cup mild molasses

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

Roast squash or pumpkin at 450′ for an hour or until soft. Slice in half when cool enough to handle. Remove seeds and fibers, then scoop out flesh and purée in food processor. (You could also used canned pumpkin puree if you’re looking for a shortcut.)

If it has cooled down, heat with molasses in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Stir in baking soda. The soda should cause it to foam. Let cool.

Set oven to 325’ Spray a 8×8 inch pan with nonstick spray, and line the bottom of it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the paper and the pan sides. I’ve also made this in a loaf pan, but it took 15 minutes longer to cook.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl.

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs, applesauce and sugar on high speed 3-4 minutes until thick and the color is lighter.

Fold in 1/3 flour mixture, then alternate with ½ the squash mixture, mixing gently by hand. Pour into pan and shake pan to even out the batter to all sides. Bake it until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

It’s especially good spread with cream cheese or lower fat Neufchâtel (nuf-shuh-TEL) cheese and topped with walnuts.