Category: Holidays


World’s Tastiest Soup

Dear World,

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! It took me a few days, but I finally got around to making turkey soup. If you still have your turkey’s carcass lying around, here’s something you can do with it. If you threw it away, do not despair – the World’s Tastiest Soup can also be made with the remainders of a chicken, home-roasted or rotisserie.

You’ll need:

  • one roasted turkey, or the carcass of a roasted turkey
  • 2-3 large carrots
  • one onion, with the peel
  • 2-3 large celery ribs
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • peppercorns or ground pepper
  • salt
  • any soup vegetables
  • optionally: rice or pasta

Start by stripping all the meat off of the bones. Whatever you don’t eat right then and their, you can add to the soup later. Place the carcass in a large pot. Chop the onion (wash the skin and add it for color), celery and carrots and add to the pot, along with peeled garlic cloves, peppercorns and salt (one or two big pinches should do the trick). Fill the pot with water, and bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes.

When that’s done, turn the heat off, and discard everything (bones and veggies) but the stock. Add about 2 cups of water, and throw in anything you like. I used more carrots and celery, whole wheat rotini, turkey meat and frozen peas. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, skimming off the fat with a spoon every two minutes. Alternately, if you’d rather, you can simmer the soup for 10 minutes, let it cool, then easily skim the fat, which will have formed into a skin at the surface.

And there you have it! If you need to store it, freezing it in serving-sized tupperware is your safest bet. I will close this post with my first poll: I simply cannot go through Thanksgiving without having thirds of stuffing, so I thought I’d ask.

With love,

– Viola –

How Viola Stole Thanksgiving

Dear World,

After being freshly pressed, I stopped posting altogether. How was I going to outdo myself? How was I going to get thousands (yes, thousands) of views again? Then, I remembered that it didn’t matter. I’m just going to keep blogging the way I do. Just in time for Thanksgiving, I bring to you:

MY THANKSGIVING MENU

That’s right, folks. With the exception of the cranberry sauce, nothing on the table tomorrow will be of my invention. This year, I will trust the experts (Alton, Martha, Rachael, etc.)

WHAT DO TURKEYSHA, MARIE ANTOINETTE AND MADAME MAXIME HAVE IN COMMON?

They all were turkeys of my Thanksgivings past. After I name my turkey (because anything 10 lb or over needs a name), I will BRINE it overnight. This is what makes the turkey juicy and flavorful. *drools* Check out Alton Brown’s recipe here.

When it comes to glazing, however, I will opt for Gourmet’s Maple Glazed Turkey. I can’t believe this gem of a magazine stopped printing! The only magazine that tested every single recipe they ever published! And with the beautiful photographs!

Ok, I’m done now. Check out Gourmet’s recipe here.

GOT GRAVY?

I can’t eat turkey without gravy. It just won’t go down. This year, instead of my traditional white wine gravy, I will spice things up with a paprika gravy,  another stroke of Gourmet genius. The stuffing in this recipe also looks divine. Check out the recipe here.

YES WE CRAN(BERRY)

All my life, I’ve been afraid of fresh cranberries. They are so uncommon in Europe, I didn’t even know what a cranberry looked like growing up! Plus, the stuff from the can looks really neat when you can get it out in its perfect cylindrical shape.

This year, I’m owning my fear: I’m making sauce from scratch! I’ll still buy a couple of cans, just in case things go horribly wrong (you never know). The recipe I found was from Simply Recipes (the photo sold me). Check it out here.

GETTING STUFFED

And now, my favorite part: the stuffing. I used to make three batches of stuffing, the same every year: one with celery and bread cooked inside the turkey, one with celery and bread cooked with turkey giblet broth, and one with just bread and celery, for the poor vegetarians who suffer throughout Thanksgiving.

This tradition of plain stuffing has gotten old, so I will go wild this year with Gourmet’s (again) Wild Rice, Apple and Dried Cranberry Stuffing, which you can find here.

YAM-MA LAMMA DING DONG

Now the sweet potato casserole, I refuse to change. It’s my father’s father’s mother’s (so, my great-grandmother’s) recipe. I usually have a strong aversion to anything labeled “casserole” (tuna, noodle, green bean, you name it), but I’ll gladly make an exception for this one.

You’ll need:

  • yams/sweet potatoes
  • 1 orange
  • maple syrup and/or brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • marshmallows

Peel yams, and cook in boiling water until soft. Mash yams, and mix with some zest and some juice of the orange (start with a little and taste as you go). Add a little maple syrup and/or brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for flavor. Put in casserole dish, and bake at 350˚F for 10 minutes. Top with marshmallows, and resume baking until marshmallows are toasted.
PINING FOR PIE

I am no pie maker, but this recipe is easy and so delicious, no one believes I actually make it! The secret is tons of corn syrup (I know, I know, but it’s so tasty!). For a beautiful illustrated recipe, click here.
That’s it, folks. Happy Thanksgiving! Safe travel and much merriment to all!

With love,

– Viola –

With the Holidays approaching, I bring you first hand advice on how to handle dinner catastrophes with grace and poise, from personal experience.

1. HELP! MY KITCHEN IS ON FIRE!

A classic situation. You only turned your back on the stove for five minutes , and all of the sudden, there are flames and smoke where dinner were supposed to be. The hardest and most important thing is to take a quick second to think. This is no time to react without thinking, trust me. My sophmore year, when my pot roast caught on fire (long story short, I was trying to brown it), my roommate impulsively grabbed the pot and shoved it in the sink, and when she turned on the cold water…yeah, you guessed it. Flames shot up to the ceiling (and left burn marks to prove it!). Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Moral of the story: DO NOT POUR WATER OVER AN OIL FIRE. Instead, cover the pan with its lid, or a baking sheet. If the fire is large, I would go straight for the fire extinguisher. If you can’t put it out yourself, it’s okay. Call the fire fighters. If the fire is electrical, cover with salt or baking soda. NOT LIQUIDS! It’s good to keep a spare pack of salt and baking soda in an easy-to-access spot in the kitchen, just in case. Consider it a very cheap kitchen accident insurance.

2. HELP! DINNER IS RUINED, AND I’D RATHER EAT MY TIE THAN ORDER PIZZA!

Either you just realized you don’t have enough chicken to go around, or the green beans for the nicoise are moldy, or your pot roast turned into boeuf flambe (see above). I’m not a big fan of the scouts, but I do agree with the motto: be prepared!

That’s why I always have a backup plan. At all times, you can find in my kitchen:

  • one or two boxes of pasta – served hot with chopped garlic, olive oil and parsley as a side dish. Or squash, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil, and call it “pasta primavera.”
  • some kind of rice – it takes a while to cook, but a little rice goes a long way. Goes with most any meat, fish, veggie and sauce.
  • homemade broth – not enough meat to go around? Toss it in a big pot of hot broth, cook briefly and call it soup. Add pasta!
  • canned tomato – last minute pasta sauce, or salsa, or bruschetta topping, these life savers will never go bad!

Of course, it never hurts to think of a back up plan the day before dinner, and maybe spring for a few extra ingredients, just in case.

3. HELP! I DID SOMETHING EMBARRASSING IN FRONT OF MY GUESTS!

Oh boy. We’ve all done that one. Unfortunate gas passing, spilling drinks, dropping dishes, you name it. One that sticks in my head is the first “real” dinner I hosted in my college apartment. Fancy japanese crackers and reisling were provided before the food was ready, and everyone was enjoying the evening so far. I was elated that everything was going so well. When I pulled the chicken out of the oven, everyone oohed and aahed. I was gleaming with pride, until I presented the bird neatly on the table, lifted the knife, and…nothing. I’d never carved a bird before, and had no clue how to do so.

I stood frozen, staring at the bird, knife in hand, perhaps wishing it’d just carve itself. Thankfully, after a couple awkwardly quiet minutes, a guest stood up and said: “Here: I’ll do it.” We all joked that he got to be the “father” for the evening. My boyfriend looked up chicken carving videos on youtube, and we all had a good laugh over the whole thing.

For the record: when you have done something embarrassing, excuse yourself. Then, if your guests found your blunder funny, laugh along. You may not see the humor in it right away, but if anything, you might have broken the ice! If your guests are as mortified as you, show them that you’re in control. Mop up the drink, quickly throw the ruined food in the trash, sweep up the broken plate before they can help you. Smile, joke that no one was severely harmed, wink, and carry on like it wasn’t a big deal. The bigger fuss you make over an accident, the more awkward.

There you have it! I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions about kitchen disasters, I’m your girl! Just leave a comment or send me an e-mail at violainthekitchen@gmail.com.  Happy Holiday planning!

With love,

– Viola –

Happy Halloween! (Yes, I know Halloween was yesterday.)

It was a nice, quiet celebration. Sebastian and I dressed up, and had a couple of friends over. It was our friend Emilia’s birthday, so I took it upon myself to make a pumpkin cake with caramel cream cheese frosting. It was delicious!

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar)
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
    2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel

Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices. In a large bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar and oil with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at the time, and the orange peel, beating well. Turn the mixer to low, and slowly add the flour mixture. Mix just until homogeneous. Divide the batter equally in   the pans, and bake for 30-40  minutes, or until an inserted  toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for  10 minutes, then remove from the pans (I turned them  upside down on plates) and cool completely on a rack.

Now for the caramel cream cheese frosting!

You’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 10 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

In a small sauce pan, melt the brown sugar and 4 tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and whisk in the heavy cream, blending well. Transfer to a heat-resistan bowl.

While it cools to room temperature, beat the remaining 6 tbsp of butter and the cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. Turn mixer setting to slow, and slowly pour in the cooled caramel (brown sugar mixture). Add the powdered sugar gradually, beating well after each addition until completely smooth. Refrigerate until firm enough (a runny frosting will leak), stirring occasionally.

And now for assembly: the fun part! When the cakes are cool and the frosting is a good texture, cover the top of one of the layers with frosting.

 

 

 

 

 

Delicately, with the help of a spatula, put the second layer on top of the first. Frost the top and sides of the entire cake. For an extra Halloween-y touch, I decorated my cake with candy corn.

This may have to be a repeat for Thanksgiving!

So I got off my ass and got to baking. Found this recipe on the Quaker Oats website, decided to tweak a little.

I used:

  • 1 1/3 cups instant oats
  • 2 cups white all purpose flour (I mixed 1 1/2 cups whole wheat with 1/2 cup white flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp fresh or 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (my idea!)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar –> I replaced this with 3/4 cup honey, it was a GREAT IDEA!
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin (canned, or freshly cooked)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • optionally: raisins, walnuts, or chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Mix the dry ingredients (oatmeal, flour, baking soda, and spices) in a medium bowl, and put aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar/honey with an electric mixer until the mixture thoroughly becomes light and fluffy. Add the egg, pumpkin and vanilla (I don’t actually measure it out, I just give a generous splash). Your mixture should look like this:

Add the dry ingredients in two installments. Mix briefly with the electric beater, then finish mixing with a spoon.

 

If you have raisins or nuts (or even chocolate chips), now’s the time to add them. The cookies are also fine plain. I save the chocolate chips for drizzling (see instructions below).

 

 

Using two tablespoons (or a small ice-cream scoop), form little balls of dough and display on a cookie sheet (NOT GREASED! the cookies won’t stick, they have a crap ton of butter in them). Each ball should be about 1/2 – 1 inch apart.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. I like to cool the cookies for two minutes on the tray (they keep cooking, even outside the oven), then transfer them to a cooling rack, or a paper towel.

While the cookies were cooling, I microwaved four small handfuls of chocolate chips until they were melted (pausing every 30 seconds  to stir – it’s VERY easy to burn chocolate). What I should’ve done then was spoon the chocolate into a pastry bag, using the thinnest nozzle available. Since I’m kind of a cheapo and don’t own a pastry bag, I went with a plastic ziplock sandwich bag – just snip a tiny bit off the corner, and viola! You have a 7 cent pastry bag. The result? Very good, until the bag split and released a large chocolate slug on the cookie I was attempting to drizzle. So, if like me, you’re too cheap to get a real pastry bag (or don’t want to deal with cleaning one up), just drizzle the chocolate from a knife. The bag makes the lines very neat, though.

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