Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Latkes - Old & New

In honor of Chanukah, I made latkes last night. Let me start by saying that I love latkes. Simple, savory comfort food. Makes me feel like I am channeling my Jewish ancestors.

The traditional way to make these potato delights is to grate up some peeled potatoes and some onion. Add salt, pepper, flour and egg to bind up the mixture. Then you fry up the mixture like pancakes, preferably in a cast iron skillet. That's it. Easy peasy, as Kara would say.

A few notes on the basic recipe: Many people let their potatoes drain before mixing them up with the rest of the ingredients. I never have the time/patience for this, and I think my latkes are still pretty darn good. Also, many people - like my grandmother - would insist that latkes be made by grating your potatoes, and knuckles, on a box grater. I have done this many times. But I find that you can get an equally authentic product using a food processor with the shredding attachment. 

Because my mom and I have been participating in a fall CSA this year, I have an abundance of butternut squash. And if I am honest, I don't really like butternut squash that much. It's good as soup - for about a day. And I usually roast, puree and freeze up cubes of it to add to the instant mac and cheese my kids love and therefore assuage my guilt about feeding them instant mac and cheese. I was struggling to come up with uses for the all of the squash that are languishing in a box in our garage when I came across this recipe from Cooking Light that I had torn out and shoved in my recipe folder last year. Last night I gave it a try and found it to be excellent. I didn't follow the recipe to the letter, big surprise, but even as a blueprint, it was great. The curry makes these latkes a little spicy and very aromatic. I served them up with the traditional sour cream and added a side of mango chutney. They are hearty, too. I ate them as a main course last night and tonight.

Give latkes, of any variety, a try. They are incredibly flexible. Nearly impossible to screw up. Easily made vegan (no egg, use soy/rice milk instead) or gluten free (no flour, use corn starch or any gf flour). Happy Chanukah!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars.

Make them right now.

Do not pass go.

I found this on Dinner With Julie, a very cool blog with lots of delicious recipes. These bars will make you a the most popular party guest, the MVP of the cookie exchange, the most-loved employee at the office potluck. Amazing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

BBQ Beef - Holiday Party Perfection

The season of frolicking is upon us. As I have written about before, we really get into the Christmas spirit here. Decorating, eating, drinking, hanging out with family and friends - all of which we lump into the general term "frolicking." Last weekend the frolicking began in earnest when we hosted both of our families over for tree trimming and dinner. I have been known to go a little overboard when guests are eating with us (see Vegan Dumplings post of late), but in the holidays I do my best not to make things overly complicated.

To that end, I am all about the slow cooker for parties. For this event, I made bbq beef. In a couple of weeks I will pull out the slow cooker again so Dave can make his famous pulled pork. Pulled meats are the best for parties: they are almost entirely hands off in terms of preparation; they taste delicious; they look impressive (ie people will have a totally unrealistic view of your work ethic).

Here is what I did for the beef:
-I used a chuck roast, a rump roast and a round roast. Yes, I was also cleaning out my freezer. I am not sure about the weight of all this beef but I am going to say it was quite a bit.
-Chop up one large onion, a few cloves of garlic and toss into the slow cooker.
-Salt and pepper the meat and throw it in.
-Pour in one bottle of dark beer. We used Magic Hat Howl which was yummy by itself as well.
-In a small mixing bowl I combined a can of tomato sauce, 1 cup brown sugar, scant 1/4 cup mustard, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, garlic powder and some cumin. Basically, I made a raw bbq sauce.
-Dump the sauce over the meat. Turn the cooker to high and go do something productive/unproductive. I stuffed so much meat in the cooker, it took almost 7 hrs on high. Just check on it every hour or so. You want it all to fall off the bone.
-When the meat is done, take it out and shred it up. Pour out the liquid in the cooker, but reserve some in case your meat gets dry later. Return the meat to the cooker and stir in about a cup of bbq sauce. Add enough sauce to get the taste and moistness that suits you.

We served this up with coleslaw on little dinner rolls that I got from Costco. I have been known to make my own rolls, too, but I was feeling sane this time so I went with store-bought. A good decision because they were delicious. An ideal holiday party meal.