Grandma’s Vanilla Pudding

Vanilla pudding. So simple, yet so versatile. I felt an acute desire to talk to Grandma as I worked on this recipe. I actually made two batches because my first attempt was lumpy. You see, I was having to make up the cooking directions because this recipe came with ingredients only and Grandma’s not here to ask how she made this. I still don’t think I have it down pat. But, I’ll clue you in to how I made this, and if you want to try your own way, go for it!

To dress up my dish of pudding, I sautéed chopped apples and pecans in butter with a few sprinkles of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey. But you could choose to drizzle a puree of frozen berries over top. Or a dollop of fruit jam. Or just eat it plain-jane vanilla. The possibilities are endless. Simple, yet versatile. Not too sweet, leaving room for tastes to shine through. So much about this recipe reminds me of Grandma.

GRANDMA’S VANILLA PUDDING
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2 c. milk
3 Tbsp honey or 1/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
3 Tbsp cornstarch or 6 T. flour
1 tsp vanilla
Garnish with fruit, coconut etc.
Heat milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking frequently to prevent scalding. Beat eggs and honey or brown sugar together. When milk is steaming, slowly whisk in egg mixture.
In a small bowl add cornstarch, dip a few spoonfuls of the hot milk/egg mixture into the bowl and using a fork or whisk, mix until smooth. While whisking, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture and continue to whisk until pudding thickens.
Turn off heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into several small bowls, or one larger bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface. Refrigerate until cool.
To serve, top with desired fruits or nuts.
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Off the Shelf: March Magazine Reviews

Cooking Light (Stephanie): Usually I either love Cooking Light, or I’m disappointed by it. This month, though, I felt so-so about it. A few recipes jumped off the pages for me: Black Bean Hummus, Meyer Lemon Curd Tart, Tropical Sherbet, Chicken Souvlaki Pitas with Tahini Sauce. But most of the other recipes were just kind of forgettable.

I decided to try the Vegetable Korma as Jeremy likes Indian food and I haven’t been very proactive about making it in my own kitchen. The dish was good, but not quite as flavorful as either of us expected. The dish definitely needed some salt and maybe if I’d added a little curry powder, it might have packed more punch. I used chickpeas in place of the edamame, mostly because if we’re eating a meatless meal, chickpeas rank high on Jeremy’s preferred protein list. It was good and something I might make again, but with a little tweaking.

VEGETABLE KORMA
(from Cooking Light March 2011)
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1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 c. chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced peeled ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c. frozen shelled edamame
1 12-oz baking potato, peeled and diced
1 c. chicken broth
1 tsp flour
1 13.5-oz can light coconut milk
3 c. cauliflower florets
2 c. hot cooked rice

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute for 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp ginger and garlic; saute for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in tomato paste and spices; saute for 1 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in edamame and potato. Combine chicken broth, flour, and milk, stirring until smooth. Add broth mixture to pan , and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 3 c. cauliflower, and simmer for 9 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Serve over rice. Makes 4 servings.

Bon Appetit (Stephanie): Bon Appetit was filled with lots of great sounding  recipes, many of which I hope to make. Potato and Yam Soup with Bacon and Spinach; Pork and Lemongrass Meatballs in Lettuce Cups; Roasted Pears with Blackberries, Ricotta, and Lavender Sugar; Savoy Cabbage Rolls with Halibut, Browned Butter and Capers Espresso Pound Cake with Cranberries and Pecans. Don’t these sound amazing?!

But my pantry supplies dictated that those recipes would have to wait until a later date. Chocolate Puddings with Orange Whipped Cream won out for my recipe testing. It came together very quickly (besides the 3 hours for cooling in the fridge, of course). Now I don’t have any orange liqueur, but the recipe suggested Kahlua or amaretto as alternatives. So I dolloped Kahlua whipped cream on my chocolate pudding. I think the best chocolate pudding I’ve ever eaten. Delicious!

CHOCOLATE PUDDINGS WITH ORANGE WHIPPED CREAM
(from Bon Appetit March 2011)
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1/2 c. + 3 Tbsp sugar, divided
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 1/2 c. whole milk, divided
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 c. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c. chilled whipping cream
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (or Kahlua or amaretto)
1/4 tsp finely grated orange peel (omit if using a different liqueur)

Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp salt in a saucepan to blend. Add 1/2 cup milk and egg yolks; whisk until smooth. Whisk in remaining 2 cups of milk. Bring mixture to a boil over medium/high heat, whisking constantly. Boil 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove pan from heat; add chocolate chips and butter. Whisk pudding until melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla.

Divide pudding evenly among 6 dessert cups. Place plastic wrap directly onto surface of each, covering pudding completely. Chill at least 3 hours.

Beat whipping cream, liquer, zest, 1 Tbsp sugar until peaks form. Dollop whipped cream on puddings.

Cook’s Illustrated (Alaina): One magazine I have not reviewed often (or maybe ever?!) is Cook’s Illustrated. It is a fabulous magazine! My gift subscription is just coming to an end and I will be sad for that. The recipes are amazing, the product & brand reviews are excellent, and the articles & technique explanations are incredibly understandable and helpful. The magazine contains fewer recipes than most cooking magazines but the recipes are well chosen and you know they will turn out well.

They included Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread, Boston Cream Pie, and Spaghetti with Mushrom and Tomato Sauce among other delicious-looking recipes. I decided to try the snow peas. There was an article on how to use them and several variations to make a wonderful side dish. They were so good!

SAUTEED SNOW PEAS W/LEMON & PARSLEY
Cook’s Illustrated, March/April 2011
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1 Tb. vegetable oil
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 Tb.)
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt & Pepper
1/8 tsp. sugar
3/4 lb. snow peas, tips pulled off and strings removed
1 Tb. minced fresh parsley leaves

Combine 1 tsp oil, shallot, and lemon zest in small bowl. Combine 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, and sugar in second small bowl.

Heat remaining 2 tsp. oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add snow peas, sprinkle with salt mixture, and cook, without stirring, 30 second. Stir and continue to cook, without stirring, 30 seconds longer. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until peas are crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Push peas to sides of skillet; add shallot mixture to clearing and cook, mashing with spatula, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Toss to combine shallot mixture with vegetables. Transfer peas to bowl and stir in lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Food Network (Alaina): This magazine was once again great! I must have looked through it 20 times trying to decide which recipe to try. I had several marked like Rosemary Chips, Chicken, Sausage & Peppers, Tilapia Milanese, Citrus Salad, and Gorgonzola Polenta. It was an Italian themed issue and there were a lot of great pasta recipes, too. And the pull-out of 50 recipes for this month was pesto based recipes – yum. I will be sharing one of the pesto recipes next week – it was so good! 

They had a wonderful section on bruschetta with many variations. So inspiring! I decided to try a couple of the sweet ones and they were fabulous! They would be perfect for a tea, shower, or brunch especially. They were no-too-sweet and so pretty and they had eight different ideas for the sweet bruschetta and six ideas for the savory.

ORANGE CREAM BRUSCHETTA
Food Network Magazine, March 2011
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Segment a blood orange (I used regular) over a bowl: reserve juice. Toss the segments with 1 Tb. superfine sugar (I used regular). Simmer the juice and 1 Tb. of sugar in a saucepan until syrupy. Spread whipped cream on the toast rounds (I used a french baquette and toasted both sides of the bread in the oven); top with an orange segment and shaved chocolate. Drizzle with orange syrup.

BANANA-HAZELNUT BRUSCHETTA
Food Network Magazine, March 2011
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Toss 2 sliced bananas with 1 Tb. melted butter; spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 425 degress until golden, about 10 minutes (mine never really were golden but they were definitely roasted). Spread hazelnut butter (I used a chocolate hazelnut spread) on the toast rounds. Top with the toasted bananas, whipped cream, and chopped hazelnuts (I used toasted almonds).

Market Fresh: Sweet Potatoes

Well, this post will kick-off a week full of Thanksgiving recipes. We will be providing a couple of new recipes each day as well as linking back to other great ideas from last year! All of the posts will be collaborative. We are so excited!

Sweet Potatoes are so versatile. They have good nutritional value and our whole family enjoys them! We eat them all fall and winter but we especially like them around the holidays. Today we are offering three different types of recipes.

Both of my (Alaina) recipes are from this month’s Bon Appetit. They were both fabulous. The first is Sweet Potato Biscuits. These were only sweetened with maple syrup and the recipe is actually gluten free. I did not have gluten free flour so I used regular which worked just fine. The pecans were a wonderful addition – the texture and the flavor.

GLUTEN-FREE SWEET POTATO BISCUITS
(Bon Appetit, November 2010)
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1 large red-skinned sweet potato (yam; about 1 1/4 pounds), pierced with fork
1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour plus additional
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup pecans, toasted, chopped

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment. Microwave potato until tender, about 6 minutes per side. Halve; scoop out 1 cup flesh. Cool. Blend 1 1/3 cups flour and next 3 ingredients in processor. Add butter; pulse to coarse meal. Add potato, buttermilk, and syrup; process to blend. Add nuts; pulse to blend.

Sprinkle dough with flour. Pat into 8 1/2-inch square. Cut into 16 biscuits. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.

This next recipe is a Sweet Potato Pudding – perfect for your Thanksgiving celebration! The gingersnap, pecan topping provides a wonderful balance of crunch and sweet. I would have added just a little more half and half or milk to make this slightly creamier. Overall, we loved this!

SWEET POTATO PUDDING w/GINGERSNAP & PECAN TOPPING
(Bon Appetit, November 2010)
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Topping:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped gingersnaps
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Pudding:
3 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; about 3 large), scrubbed
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Toss first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in until well blended. Cover; chill. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.Preheat oven to 400°F. Roast potatoes on baking sheet until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Cool. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop flesh into bowl; mash. Transfer 4 cups potatoes to large bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Add half and half and next 5 ingredients to potatoes. Using mixer, beat on low speed until blended. Season with salt and pepper. Add yolks 1 at a time, blending after each addition. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar. Beat until peaks form. Fold whites into potatoes; spoon into dish. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake pudding until puffed and brown, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

The other evening I (Stephanie) realized I needed to make something for Jeremy to take to work the next day and I need to use ingredients I had on hand, chicken and sweet potatoes.  Browsing online I found a chicken and sweet potato stew recipe from a blog.  I adapted the recipe significantly, but the result was a deliciously spiced and warming stew.  Jeremy, not always a sweet potato lover, happily ate leftovers the following day.

CHICKEN SWEET POTATO STEW
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1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-in. cubes
2 slices bacon
1 Tbsp butter
olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in cubes
3 carrots sliced in 1/4-in rounds
2 ribs of celery, diced
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat and brown the chicken with the bacon. Remove the chicken and set aside. Remove the bacon and dice.

Add a little more olive oil along with the onion, celery, thyme, sage, and diced bacon. Saute until the onion and celery are tender. Add garlic and saute until fragrant.

Add the chicken, sweet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, chicken broth, milk, bay leaf, salt and pepper.

Simmer for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are cooked and fork tender. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. Remove the bay leaf. Enjoy.

The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap….

 Christmas Eve is almost here! I have always loved Christmas Eve, perhaps even more than Christmas. It’s a day of anticipation, festiveness, and wonderful smells wafting from the kitchen. Nothing can be more appropriate to a Christmas celebration than Christmas Pudding, also known as Plum Pudding, or Figgy Pudding. Below is a simple recipe that can be made in the microwave (saving you about 5 1/2 hours of steaming on the stovetop!). Our family enjoyed Christmas Pudding last year on New Year’s Day. It made a very festive start to the year.

CHEAT’S CHRISTMAS PUDDING
(adapted from Julia Child’s ‘The Way To Cook’ via About.com)

3 cups (lightly packed) crumbs from homemade type white bread, crust on is fine-I used part of an  Italian loaf (to make this pudding gluten-free, simply substitute gluten-free brown rice bread or whatever gluten-free bread you prefer)
1 cup each: black raisins, golden raisins, currants
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup butter, melted
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
few drops of almond extract
1/2 c. orange marmalade

For flaming:
1/2 c. rum or bourbon whiskey or brandy

Make the bread crumbs in a food processor or blender. Toss bread crumbs in a bowl with the raisins, currants, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Mix in the melted butter, eggs, almond extract, and orange marmalade:

Butter a microwave-safe bowl and cover the bottom of the dish with a piece of parchment paper. Pour in the batter. Cover with plastic wrap and pierce the plastic with a knife in several places. Place in the microwave and cook on “defrost” (low speed) for 30 minutes (this was power level 3 on my microwave). Finally, cook on high for 5 minutes. Let the pudding sit for a few minutes before unmolding. (I left mine in the mold until ready to serve at which time I could pop it back in the microwave to warm it up.) The pudding is ready when it is firm to the touch (it will be firm but also spongy). The pudding will also be paler than a properly steamed pudding.

To serve: Heat the brandy, whisky or rum in saucepan until warmed. Pour over the unmolded pudding and ignite. Serve immediately or ignite at the table. Serve with brandy butter.

BRANDY AND GINGER BUTTER
(adapted from www.bbcgoodfood.com)

1 cup butter, softened
grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup brandy or cognac
2 pieces of stem ginger or candied ginger, finely chopped

With a handheld mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well-combined. Store in fridge until ready to use.