Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mixed News & Recipes

Mixed News

Paul's been hired for a three-month contract job, working through a temp agency. It could become permanent at the company where he's actually working, but we're not counting on it. We've been burned by that before. We've learned that until you've signed the paperwork for the actual company, instead of the temp agency, you have to plan for the possibility of not having a job. So, we'll continue the job hunt and save what we can toward either moving back out on our own or another period of unemployment. However, it will be a miracle if we can find a place we can afford on his salary because the places that take cats are more expensive than those that don't and rents have gone up a couple hundred dollars a month in the past eight months. The state turned me down for their training program. So, I'm going to have to update my skills on my own dime, if I'm going to try to make up the difference between what he's making and what it really costs to live here. Can't afford that right now, so it's on hold.

I'm catching up with stuff we didn't get done the past few days, since we haven't been home very much. Mostly we've been off doing errands. I've been at my older son's house helping him with his English portfolio. He needed that fresh set of eyes that can catch the spots where you didn't actually say what you thought you said, the typos, punctuation glitches, etc. that you miss when you've read it yourself for the umpteenth time.

I suspect it's going to be tomorrow before I can get to catching up with typing in the handwritten stuff. That's been on hold because I can't type if I'm not here and I've not been here so much lately. So, the handwritten stuff's been piling up. Maybe by the end of the week, I'll have an updated word count and can change my progress bar.

And we went to see Chronicles of Narnia. It was exactly what it should be. I loved it.

Recipes

Andi asked me for my Cranberry Sauce recipe. The recipe originally was from Cooking Light Magazine. I combined two different recipes, changed the amount of spices, and added a touch of my own. I can't remember whether the original had apples or pears, but it was my idea to do both.

Wen and Lisa asked me for the pot roast recipe that's the easiest I've ever made. It's an unusual recipe because pot roasts are usually braised in a bit of liquid over fairly low heat for several hours. This recipe is done at a high heat and you don't put any liquid in the pan. The high heat eliminates the need to sear the meat before you cook it, so prep time is really short. The onions have a lot of liquid in them, which forms the base for the braise. The fat from the chuck roast combines with the onion juices to caramelize the onions so they're sweet and golden brown. This recipe originally came from Gourmet Magazine. I changed some of the instructions to fit my "pinch of this and pinch of that" cooking style.

Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 package fresh cranberries
1 Granny Smith apple
1 Bosc (red) pear
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 dash of ground nutmeg

Instructions:


Seed, then dice the apple and the pear into pieces about the same size as the cranberries. Put everything in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down and let simmer until the apple and pear are tender and the cranberries start to pop. Cover the pot with plastic wrap and chill before serving.

Notes:

1. You can peel the apple and pear, if you want. It doesn't matter to the recipe, so do what you prefer.

2. The cranberries may start to pop before the pear and apple are tender. It's Ok. Just keep cooking until the pear and apple are done. Tender, however, doesn't mean mushy. A toothpick should go easily through a piece, but the piece shouldn't fall apart when you stab it. There should still be some firmness to it.

3. Adjust the spices to your taste. The original recipe had so little spice that you couldn't tell there was any. I figured why waste the spices if you can't taste them? So my ingredient list has double the spices of the original.

4. You can put the sauce in a bowl before you chill it. I serve my food from the kitchen, so I serve it from the pan and save myself some washing up. The sauce will thicken as it chills. It's not going to jell, like jelly or gelatin, but it won't be soupy, either.

Braised Beef and Onions

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1-1/2 pounds onions, halved and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
Chuck roast (See Notes for specific information)
Salt
Pepper
Ground allspice
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400ยบ .

2. Pat meat dry. Sprinkle top with salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle allspice over the meat and rub it in.

3. Put half the onions and garlic in the bottom of a 13x9-inch pan or a Dutch oven. Place the meat, spice-coated side down, on the onions.

4. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle allspice over the meat and rub it in.

5. Put the rest of the onions and garlic on top of the meat.

6. Cover the pan tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

7. Roast for an hour. Turn the meat over, scraping the onions and garlic off the top of the meat into the pan. Pick the meat up to spread the vegetables evenly underneath. Roast until the meat is very tender. (See notes for timing.)

8. Take the meat out and carve it against the grain.

9. Use a slotted spoon to put the onions and garlic into a sieve to drain off the fat. Mix the parsley in with the onions.

10. To serve: Put the meat on the plate and spoon some of the onion mixture on the top.

Notes:

1. The recipe calls for 2 2-lb. boneless roasts, 1-1/2-inch thick. I never found any that size. I used a 4-pound, bone-in roast and a 3 pound boneless roast. It took about an hour per pound, plus an extra half hour for the bone.

2. I usually use a Dutch oven that has a lid. I put the lid on top of the foil, which gives it a better seal. That's optional, though. The recipe will work fine if you just use the foil.

3. The onions won't caramelize properly if you leave them on top of the meat the whole time. That's why I suggest scraping them off when you turn the meat.

4. The parsley is optional, but it adds a nice color to an otherwise drab, brown dish. And it has a fresh flavor. Be sure you get the Italian parsley, not the regular kind.

5. The meat can be braised 2 days ahead and reheated. This makes it a good dish for company and the flavors will blend and intensify when it sits. Be sure to remove the fat before you store it for serving later. Because the liquid doesn't cover the whole dish, the trick you use for soups and chilis of taking the congealed fat off after it's chilled dosen't work for this recipe.

Mangia!