Andrea Meyers http://andreasrecipes.com making life delicious blog Wed, 17 Dec 2014 01:18:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Slow Cooker Char Siu Pork Roast http://andreasrecipes.com/slow-cooker-char-siu-pork-roast/ http://andreasrecipes.com/slow-cooker-char-siu-pork-roast/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 01:52:11 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=14919 It’s the week before Christmas, and my to do list isn’t any shorter than last week. We have meetings, appointments, school stuff, Scout stuff, and I’m trying to figure out how to make it all work. Oh, and I still have to feed my guys and do laundry, but house cleaning may have to wait... 

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Slow Cooker Char Siu Pork Roast - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

It’s the week before Christmas, and my to do list isn’t any shorter than last week. We have meetings, appointments, school stuff, Scout stuff, and I’m trying to figure out how to make it all work. Oh, and I still have to feed my guys and do laundry, but house cleaning may have to wait until next week. So last week I made two of our favorite slow cooker recipes, which made my hungry guys happy and dinner planning a little easier for me.

This one is a riff on Chinese char siu, aka Chinese barbecue, a popular restaurant dish. The restaurant version is roasted or grilled, and this simplified version from Cooking Light is done in the slow cooker. The salty-sweet flavor is fantastic, and the juicy meat falls apart when I start shredding. We eat the shredded pork in lettuce wraps with sesame green beans and brown rice on the side.

One of the things I like about restaurant char siu is the crusty top, and it’s actually possible to get something close to that in a slow cooker. Make sure the pork shoulder has a good coating of the marinade on top of the meat when you start the slow cooker, and don’t brush any of it off or ladle on any of the sauce while cooking. It will stay put and thicken as it cooks, creating a delicious layer of charred goodness. Michael loves those pieces and call dibs on them, but he’ll share with me.

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Slow Cooker Char Siu Pork Roast
 
Prep time

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Adapted from Cooking Light.
Author:
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients
  • MARINADE
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • THE REST
  • 1 (2-pound/~900 g) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth (I use Pacific Foods Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, Low Sodium.)
  • iceberg lettuce leaves

Preparation
  1. MAKE THE MARINADE – Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  2. COOK THE MEAT – Place the trimmed pork in the slow cooker, and pour the marinade over the top slowly, letting it drip down the sides. Leave a good coating of the marinade on top of the meat. Cover and turn on warm for 2 hours. Change heat to low and continue cooking for 8 more hours.
  3. Remove pork from slow cooker using a sturdy slotted spoon and place it on a platter. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  4. If the sauce in the slow cooker has any extra fat, skim it off or pour the sauce through a gravy/fat separator. Transfer the extra sauce to a 2-quart saucepan and add the chicken broth. Cook over low heat until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Shred the pork with 2 forks, and serve with the sauce.

More Information
Equipment

small bowl
4-quart slow cooker with a warm setting
gravy/fat separator
2-quart saucepan

Recipe Notes

I have made this with an 8-pound pork shoulder in a 6-quart slow cooker, and tripled the sauce ingredients. It worked well.

I wrote the instructions based on how I make it. Cooking Light original instructions specify to marinate the meat in a large zip-top plastic bag in the refrigerator.

 

More Easy Slow Cooker Recipes

Ann's Slow Cooker Pulled Pork - Andrea Meyers Slow Cooker Paprika Chicken - Andrea Meyers Slow Cooker Turkey Breast and Gravy - Andrea Meyers Slow Cooker Boston Baked Beans (Kids Cook Monday) - Andrea Meyers

More Slow Cooker Dinner Recipes From Other Blogs

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection.]

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Cocoa Dusted Almonds http://andreasrecipes.com/cocoa-dusted-almonds/ http://andreasrecipes.com/cocoa-dusted-almonds/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 22:58:20 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=14908 Have you ever bought cocoa almonds? I got addicted to them a few years ago, and instantly thought how easy they would be to make at home. I’ve gone through a lot of almonds and cocoa powder trying different ways to make them, and this is by far my favorite. I skillet roast them in... 

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Cocoa Dusted Almonds - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

Have you ever bought cocoa almonds? I got addicted to them a few years ago, and instantly thought how easy they would be to make at home. I’ve gone through a lot of almonds and cocoa powder trying different ways to make them, and this is by far my favorite. I skillet roast them in a little bit of coconut oil, then drain and dust them with a mixture of cocoa powder and powdered sugar. My four guys can go through a bowl of these in no time, which is fine with me because this is a delicious and healthy snack.

Almonds are good for you, in fact they are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat. They are high in monounsaturated fats, which lowers LDL cholesterol levels, and they are high in beneficial magnesium and potassium. And they give a little protein boost. Coconut oil is a healthy oil with medium-chain fatty acids, though there is still much research to be done on the total health picture for coconut oils. I like that it has a high smoke point and subtly flavors the almonds. The cocoa powder is naturally sugar free, and you can control the amount of sugar in the recipe. My guys like an equal ratio of cocoa powder to sugar, and I prefer a little less sugar, so I can make batches for everyone. I’ve also done it with a little sea salt for extra flavor.

For a party, you can make larger amounts a week or two ahead of time and store them in tightly closed jars. These almonds almost make nice little hostess gifts for the holidays, just put them in a cute jar with a ribbon.

To make sure I use as little oil as necessary, I prepare the nuts in a nonstick pan. I use the Cuisinart GreenGourmet nonstick skillets (not sponsored) in my kitchen because they work well and are PTFE and PFOA free, and they are a snap to clean.

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Cocoa Dusted Almonds
 
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Author:
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

Preparation
  1. Warm the skillet over medium heat and melt the coconut oil in the pan. Sauté the almonds in the coconut oil for about 1 to 2 minutes, until warm. Strain the almonds and transfer to a medium bowl. Sift the cocoa powder and sugar together, then sift again over the almonds, tossing and stirring until the nuts are completely coated. Allow to cool and serve. Will keep in a tightly closed jar for a week or two.

More Information
Equipment

nonstick skillet
medium bowl
small sifter

Recipe Notes

You can reduce the amount of sugar to your taste.

 

More Holiday Party Recipes

Polenta Toasts with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, and Port Cranberries - Andrea Meyers Vaina Cocktail (Chile) - Andrea Meyers Creamy Cheese Torta with Prosciutto, Kalamata Olives, and Fig Jam - Andrea Meyers Pomegranate Ginger Chile Nojito Cocktail - Andrea Meyers

More Holiday Party Recipes From Other Blogs

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Hot Cranberry Tea http://andreasrecipes.com/hot-cranberry-tea/ http://andreasrecipes.com/hot-cranberry-tea/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 02:05:08 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=14762 One of my favorite moments on cold mornings is when I pour my cup of hot tea to start the day. Preparing the water, choosing a mug, and selecting my flavor is settling, calming, and my boys have started to participate in the tradition. We each choose a tea bag and steep it in hot... 

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Hot Cranberry Tea - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

One of my favorite moments on cold mornings is when I pour my cup of hot tea to start the day. Preparing the water, choosing a mug, and selecting my flavor is settling, calming, and my boys have started to participate in the tradition. We each choose a tea bag and steep it in hot water for a few minutes while preparing breakfast, then enjoy the fragrant vapors as we let the tea cool just enough to keep from burning our mouths as we take a first sip.

My collection of teas takes up more shelf space than it probably should, but my enjoyment of tea began as a child, and became a passion when living and traveling abroad. I grew up only knowing one kind of tea, then began drinking herbal teas in college, and later tasted my first oolong and Pu-erh teas in Hong Kong. In Colombia I purchased the local herbal teas, and my favorite was yerbabuena. In Istanbul, I sipped my first apple tea while negotiating rug prices.

But my ultimate tea experience was the Japanese tea ceremony, one on one, with students who were studying the Urasenke tradition of chado, The Way of Tea. The ceremony was led by SEN Soshitsu XV, a fifteenth-generation Grand Master who shared with us the teachings and ideals of chado: Harmony, Respect, Purity, and Tranquility. It was a beautiful way to experience a piece of Japanese culture, and truly unforgettable. And each time I sip a cup of tea, I feel as if I am bringing part of that experience to my day.

Twingings Orange Pekoe Tea - Andrea Meyers

The tea I grew up with was black, the common type found in tea bags in the supermarket. I remember reading the package and wondering what orange pekoe meant, and I just assumed it was the type of tea. Many years later I learned orange pekoe refers to the grade of the tea, mostly for teas from Sri Lanka, India, and countries other than China. There are about 30 different grades of tea in four categories (whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings, dust) and some jargon used to describe the consistency of the leaf.

That common black orange pekoe tea forms the base of this cranberry-infused mixture. Combine all the ingredients in a pot on the stove and simmer, then let it rest. Your home will fill with the scent of tea and cranberries, making a welcoming aroma to share with family and friends during the holidays. The flavor is full and on the tart side, but you can add a couple drops of stevia to your cup if desired.

Foodista Featured Blog[Update: Thanks to Foodista for featuring this post as Drink Blog of the Day for December 8, 2014!]

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Hot Cranberry Tea
 
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Adapted from Cooking Light.
Author:
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange pekoe tea leaves
  • 2 (3 x 1-inch) strips orange rind
  • 4-1/4 cups water

Preparation
  1. Combine the cranberries, sugar, orange pekoe tea, and orange rind strips in the stainless steel saucepan. Add water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Cover and let stand 10 minutes. Strain the mixture over the liquid measuring cup, and discard the solids. Serve hot.

More Information
Equipment

3-quart heavy stainless steel saucepan
fine mesh strainer
heat-resistant large liquid measuring cup

Recipe Notes

Look for loose leaf tea, but you can use bagged tea if necessary.

 

More Festive Holiday Drinks

Irish Coffee Eggnog - Andrea Meyers Sparkling Pomegranate Punch - Andrea Meyers Hot Mulled Wine - Andrea Meyers Peppermint Paddy Cocktail - Andrea Meyers

More Festive Tea Drinks From Other Blogs

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection.]

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Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Sour Cream http://andreasrecipes.com/crispy-smashed-potatoes-herbed-sour-cream/ http://andreasrecipes.com/crispy-smashed-potatoes-herbed-sour-cream/#respond Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=14304 Mashed potatoes are a staple on many Thanksgiving menus, and honestly it’s hard to top a helping of mashed potatoes and gravy to go with turkey. I like mine with roasted garlic, and I also like mashed sweet potatoes with a variety of flavors mixed in.  When it comes to Thanksgiving, I treasure our family... 

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Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Sour Cream - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

Mashed potatoes are a staple on many Thanksgiving menus, and honestly it’s hard to top a helping of mashed potatoes and gravy to go with turkey. I like mine with roasted garlic, and I also like mashed sweet potatoes with a variety of flavors mixed in.  When it comes to Thanksgiving, I treasure our family traditions.

But it’s also fun to change things up a little and try something different depending on the crowd that’s coming for a big Thanksgiving meal, and these crispy smashed potatoes from Cooking Light make a great  fast potato side dish. My guys devour the whole plate whenever I make them, and they are easy enough for young kids to get in the kitchen and help with, especially the smashing part. Kids can use a small plate or pan to press the potatoes, or give them a wide wooden spoon and have them press down on the spoon with their palms for better leverage. Even a rolling pin works.

Smashed potatoes are a terrific side dish for any time of year, and I play around with the sour cream ingredients using whatever is in season in our garden. Dill, parsley, cilantro, basil, and chives all work with the sour cream, and you can get more adventurous with chipotle peppers or roasted red pepper. Spice things up and have fun with the recipe!

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Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Sour Cream
 
Prep time

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Author:
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients
  • 2-1/2 pounds (1.13 k) small red potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) light sour cream (I use Daisy brand.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives

Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F/260°C. Place the oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.
  2. Place potatoes on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave at HIGH for 8 minutes or until tender. In the bowl, toss the hot potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Divide the potatoes evenly between prepared pans. Flatten the potatoes to about 1/2-inch thickness, and then brush on the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Rotate pans from front to back and top to bottom, and then bake for 10 minutes more, or until browned and crisp. Place potatoes on a serving platter.
  3. While the potatoes roast, combine the sour cream and chopped chives in a small bowl. Serve the sour cream with the potatoes.

More Information
Equipment

microwave-safe plate
large bowl
2 baking sheets, lightly coated with cooking spray
small bowl

Recipe Notes

The sour cream can be mixed up to one day ahead.

Flavor the sour cream with other herbs: cilantro, basil,parsley, dill. You can also try the flavored sour cream recipes mentioned in the blog post.

 

More Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Parmesan Cheese - Andrea Meyers Sweet Potato Souffle - Andrea Meyers Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce (The Kids Cook Monday) - Andrea Meyers Gluten-Free Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing with Herbs - Andrea Meyers

More Potato Recipes From Other Blogs

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection.]

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Sautéed Green Beans with Spice-Glazed Pecans http://andreasrecipes.com/sauteed-green-beans-spice-glazed-pecans/ http://andreasrecipes.com/sauteed-green-beans-spice-glazed-pecans/#respond Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:14:01 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=14282 I gave up the green bean casserole years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up eating that famous casserole and looked forward to it every Thanksgiving. My favorite part was the crunchy onions, and in my family everyone would try to get as many of them on our plates as possible. But change happens,... 

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Sautéed Green Beans with Spice-Glazed Pecans - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

I gave up the green bean casserole years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up eating that famous casserole and looked forward to it every Thanksgiving. My favorite part was the crunchy onions, and in my family everyone would try to get as many of them on our plates as possible.

But change happens, life throws curve balls, and sometimes things that we used to adore lose their luster. I am not the girl I was in my twenties. I lost my taste for rich, creamy sauces several years ago, and found that I prefer tasting the beans and fresh flavors. I adore the slow cooked Southern green beans of my childhood, but now I like my green beans a little al dente with crunchy nuts and flavorful mix ins.

This green beans recipe from the October issue of Cooking Light will make a fantastic addition to our Thanksgiving dinner this year. All of us enjoy the spicy-sweet pecans, and I also like the simplicity of the dish. Having a couple fast side dishes on the menu makes Thanksgiving a little less hectic, and these beans are perfect for that. Make the pecans a few days ahead, then whip up the beans right before dinner time. Tasty and ready in a flash.

And for a fun treat, make a bigger batch of the pecans and set out the extras in small bowls for football game nibbling. My guys can’t keep their hands out of them.

Yum

Sautéed Green Beans with Spice-Glazed Pecans
 
Prep time

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Author:
Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients
GLAZED PECANS
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
GREEN BEANS
  • 2 pounds whole green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
  2. GLAZED PECANS – Bring the brown sugar, water, cumin, and red pepper to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the pecans, rosemary, and salt. Spread the pecan mixture in an even layer on the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Cool in pan, and break into small pieces if necessary.
  3. BEANS – Place the green beans in a large saucepan of boiling water and cook for just 4 minutes, until the beans turn bright. Drain and plunge green beans into ice water and drain.
  4. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beans, and sauté 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Season with the salt and black pepper. Place the beans on a serving platter, and sprinkle with the pecan mixture. Serve immediately.

More Information
Equipment

small saucepan
baking sheet lined with parchment
large pot with lid
large nonstick skillet

Recipe Notes

Make Ahead – Prepare the pecans up to three days ahead and store in a sealed plastic container or bag.

When I make the pecans in the amounts listed above, I cook them in my counter top toaster oven rather than turn on the big oven. Cooking time can be reduced to about 8 minutes or less depending on your oven. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.

 

More Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

Cranberries with Orange Zest and Port - Andrea Meyers  Roasted Butternut Squash Polenta with Smoked Gouda and Sauteed Mushrooms - Andrea Meyers Waldorf Brussels Sprout Salad - Andrea Meyers

More Green Beans Recipes From Other Blogs

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection.]

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How to Make Cranberry Liqueur http://andreasrecipes.com/make-cranberry-liqueur/ http://andreasrecipes.com/make-cranberry-liqueur/#respond Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:00:10 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=14259 We began experimenting with homemade liqueurs and infusions several years ago. Our first adventure was the Italian classic limoncello, which we made with both lemons and oranges (arancello), and since then we’ve made Polish krupnik and other concoctions that are now traditions for us. This year we decided to experiment with cranberries, because we look... 

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We began experimenting with homemade liqueurs and infusions several years ago. Our first adventure was the Italian classic limoncello, which we made with both lemons and oranges (arancello), and since then we’ve made Polish krupnik and other concoctions that are now traditions for us. This year we decided to experiment with cranberries, because we look forward to cranberry season and make so many other things with cranberries. So why not a cranberry liqueur?

Cranberries - Andrea Meyers

I started with our arancello as a point of reference and went from there. The idea is to soak the fruit in the alcohol and sweeten it enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries and bite of the alcohol. For sweetener, I chose simple syrup, and vodka or rum for the alcohol. I wanted loads of cranberry flavor and a brilliant color, so the cranberries would be the lead ingredient. And I wanted a little extra something, a little richness, so I added vanilla bean. After some research, I decided on the following ratios:

  • 1 part cranberries (by weight) to 1 part alcohol (by volume)
  • 2 parts cranberries to 1 part sugar
  • 2 parts sugar to 1 part water

These ended up being somewhat rough, because when it came time to translate all of that into weighing and measuring, I fudged a little to make things easier.

Once I figured out all of that, the rest was easy. Make the simple syrup, puree the cranberries, stir it all together, and pour into bottles with the vanilla bean. The resting phase takes 2 to 3 weeks, then you just strain out the solids and use the infused liquid in cocktails. This is definitely a liqueur, a little on the sweet side, and good for mixing cocktails and serving with sparkling wine. If you plan to use it as a mixer with sweetened beverages such as lemon-lime sodas, you should probably reduce the sugar in the recipe.

And just in time for the holidays, little bottles of cranberry liqueur makes lovely hostess gifts, just put the liqueur into bottles with a tag and ribbon. I find cute bottles like the one in the top photo at stores such as Home Goods and Ross, or you can order online from other stores.

Yum

Cranberry Liqueur
 
Prep time

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Author:
Serves: 2 quarts

Ingredients
  • 6 cups (1.050 kg) granulated sugar
  • 3 cups (720 ml) water
  • 3 (12-ounce/340 g) bags cranberries
  • 36 ounces (1.65 L) vodka or rum
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • OPTIONAL FLAVOR ENHANCERS
  • orange rind
  • lemon rind
  • cinnamon stick

Preparation
  1. SIMPLE SYRUP – In the 3-quart pot, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat, stirring as it cooks. Don’t allow it to boil, just cook long enough to dissolve, then remove from heat and allow to cool. You can make this ahead and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  2. Rinse the cranberries well and pick through them to remove any bad berries. Puree the berries in the food processor, adding a cup or so of the simple syrup to help smooth the puree. Process in batches if necessary. Transfer the pureed berries and the rest of the simple syrup to the large mixing bowl and stir. Add the alcohol and stir.
  3. Cut each vanilla bean in half, then split the halves lengthwise. Place each bean half in the bottom of a mason jar, then pour in the cranberry mixture. Seal each jar and store in a cool dark place (cellar) or in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.
  4. Strain the cranberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Check the strained liquid to make sure it’s free of floating particles, and strain again if necessary. Pour into gift bottles. The liqueur will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

More Information
Equipment

3-quart heavy bottom pot with lid
food processor
large mixing bowl
6 quart mason jars with lids and bands, or other storage jars/bottles
fine mesh strainer
gift jars

Recipe Notes

I have used several types of bottles for the resting period, including used wine bottles with screw caps. Just make sure any bottles and lids you use are properly cleaned.

If you want to add other flavors, shave some fresh orange or lemon rind (minus the white pith) or add a stick of cinnamon to each bottle for steeping.

More Homemade Gifts

Easy Dulce de Leche Caramel - Andrea Meyers Bourbon Praline Pecans - Andrea Meyers Maple Cranberry Butter - Andrea Meyers Mom's Peanut Brittle - Andrea Meyers

More Homemade Gift Ideas From Other Blogs

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Food Drives 2.0: How to Really Help Your Local Food Bank http://andreasrecipes.com/food-drives-2-0-really-help-local-food-bank/ http://andreasrecipes.com/food-drives-2-0-really-help-local-food-bank/#respond Fri, 14 Nov 2014 15:20:00 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=14201 A few years ago I participated in a recipe contest trying to win money for my chosen charity, the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington D.C. While preparing for the contest, I did a fair amount of research on food banks and the services they provide to communities, and I learned a lot. And though... 

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A few years ago I participated in a recipe contest trying to win money for my chosen charity, the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington D.C. While preparing for the contest, I did a fair amount of research on food banks and the services they provide to communities, and I learned a lot. And though my sandwich did not ultimately win the contest—I think it came in second—I’m glad I participated and hopefully spread information about the good work of food banks and pantries.

For example, I learned that food banks and food pantries are two different types of organizations. A food bank solicits, stores, and distributes foods to local agencies that support the public directly, including food pantries, soup kitchens, halfway homes, orphanages, and shelters.

Food banks have access to food at a low price that the average consumer does not. They can get produce at one-tenth or less the retail price you and I pay in the store.  For every dollar they receive, the food bank can provide the equivalent of 3 or 4 meals to the local agencies. So that $1 spent on a can of beans or $2 on a jar of peanut butter could go directly to the food bank and provide 9 to 12 meals, not just one or two jars of food.

November and December and into the winter months is a big time of year for the organizations that support people in need. Schools, churches, and service organizations hold canned food drives to help stock the shelves at the local food pantries that provide food and other services for the community. And while those efforts are appreciated, they may not always be helpful in the way we think it is. Every item donated must be carefully selected and sorted, a lot of hands on labor for the food pantry. Food support organizations have reported that as much as 50% of the food donations received from food drives are unusable for a variety of reasons.

50% unusable. That’s not helpful, that’s wasteful.

Some food may not be suitable if it’s expired, or can cause health problems that we might not think of. For example, high-sodium soups may end up going to someone whose health problems require a low-sodium diet, or items with nuts could go to someone with allergies, putting their health at risk. Some food pantries have rules about the nutritional standards of foods they distribute and don’t accept high-sugar cereals and other food donations with empty calories. And often the food pantries provide and need other items we might not think of, such as toiletries or paper products.

So the most important thing to do before starting a food drive is to talk to the people at the food bank, pantry, shelter, or other organization you want to support. Many have websites, so I suggest visiting the organization’s website or contacting them directly. Work with them to find out what they need and how to best support them and the people who need help. Always ask! Many now have virtual food drives that allow supporters to donate money online that will go directly to food in amounts that will greatly outweigh the average consumer’s purchasing power. They may have online wishlists that let you know exactly what they need, and a few innovative organizations even have Amazon registries that you can peruse and order from directly for them.

Feeding America provides a searchable list of food banks throughout the United States, just go to their website (click the image above) and put in your zip code to find your local community food bank. They will appreciate the help. And while you are donating, consider volunteering to help stock shelves, distribute food, whatever they need. A few hours a month, not just November and December, helps keep the work of the pantry and food bank alive.

Because hunger happens every day, not just two months out of the year.

References

Image Credit

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Capital Area Food Bank) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

[Disclosure: This post is not sponsored by or connected with any of the organizations mentioned. Opinions are my own.]

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Sweet Potato and Cranberry Muffins with Maple Butter http://andreasrecipes.com/sweet-potato-cranberry-muffins-maple-butter/ http://andreasrecipes.com/sweet-potato-cranberry-muffins-maple-butter/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 03:25:09 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=14045 Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, especially on the weekends. While weekday morning are a rush to get everyone out the door and to school or work, I like that we plan to sit down and enjoy a nice breakfast together for one weekend morning with pancakes or muffins, and omelets or quiche.... 

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Sweet Potato and Cranberry Muffins with Maple Butter - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, especially on the weekends. While weekday morning are a rush to get everyone out the door and to school or work, I like that we plan to sit down and enjoy a nice breakfast together for one weekend morning with pancakes or muffins, and omelets or quiche. My guys love muffins with any kind of fruit in them, and I like to mix and match the flavors. These autumn muffins are made whole grains, but have a light texture, not heavy at all. I make them with mashed sweet potatoes, cranberries, and butter, and my guys gobble them up. Like all my muffins, I make a double batch and save some for the next day.

I used Kerrygold butter in this recipe, one of my very favorite butters. The flavor is rich and the texture is so creamy, and it is fabulous in these muffins and maple butter. I use unsalted butter for baking, but I use salted in the maple butter and even add a bit of sea salt to balance the sweetness of the maple syrup. I whip up the maple butter a day or two ahead and just keep it chilled until that morning, then let it sit at room temperature until the muffins are ready. You may find yourself spreading that delicious flavored butter on your toast and other breads.

The sweet potatoes are easy to prepare, just peel and cut into small pieces and steam in a little water until tender. One time saver I like is to make a batch of mashed sweet potatoes for dinner, and just set aside some of the cooked potatoes to make muffins later.

Sweet Potato and Cranberry Muffins with Maple Butter - Andrea MeyersYum

Sweet Potato and Cranberry Muffins with Maple Butter
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Maple butter recipe adapted from Cooking Light.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 12 muffins

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) dried cranberries
  • 1 cup (96 g) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 cup (80 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup (175 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (250 g) sweet potato puree
  • 8 tablespoons (113 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
MAPLE BUTTER
  • 8 tablespoons (113 g) Kerrygold Salted Butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
SWEET POTATO PUREE
  • 1 (12-ounce) sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks

Preparation
Maple Butter
  1. Combine the softened butter, maple syrup, and sea salt in a small bowl. Beat with a hand mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minutes. Cover and chill. Soften at room temperature to serve.
Sweet Potato Puree
  1. In the 2-quart pot, put the potato pieces in 1/2-inch of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until fork tender, about 10 more minutes. Drain and allow the potato to cool to room temperature. Mash well.
Muffins
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F/175° C. Soak the dried cranberries in a bowl of hot water until soft.
  2. Whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, unbleached all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a the 3 quart mixing bowl; make a well in center of mixture.
  3. In the bowl of the stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix sugar, 1 cup of the mashed sweet potato, melted butter, and eggs on low speed. If the mixture is very wet and the butter doesn’t mix in well, add another tablespoon or two of sweet potato and mix well. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring with a spatula just until moistened, about 15 turns. Drain the soaked cranberries and fold in with the muffin mixture. Scoop the batter into the greased muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 full.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the muffins are golden brown, about 20 to 23 minutes. Remove from the pan immediately, and cool on wire racks for a few minutes, then serve with the Maple Butter.

More Information
Equipment
small mixing bowl
hand mixer
2-quart pot with lid
small bowl
muffin tin, greased
3-quart mixing bowl
stand mixer with paddle attachment

Recipe Notes
Make Ahead Tip – The maple butter will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. I prefer the dark Grade B Maple Syrup for the butter, but use whatever is available in your area.

Mashed sweet potatoes and pumpkin puree can be used interchangeably in many recipes, and like the pumpkin puree, the texture of the cooked sweet potato is crucial. Baked is too dry, boiled is too wet, but cooked in a small amount of liquid will steam the potato tender without waterlogging it.

More Muffin Recipes

Apple Butter Muffins - Andrea Meyers Whole Wheat Cranberry Orange Ricotta Muffins - Andrea Meyers Banana Bran and Toasted Walnut Muffins - Andrea Meyers

More Buttery Muffin Recipes From Other Blogs

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection and worked on this recipe for Kerrygold as part of my partnership with Cooking Light.]

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Chicken and Tomatillo Posole http://andreasrecipes.com/chicken-tomatillo-posole/ http://andreasrecipes.com/chicken-tomatillo-posole/#respond Mon, 13 Oct 2014 12:00:36 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=13955 If chicken soup is truly good for the soul, then this recipe should be in your files. Think of a dark roasted chicken stock mixed with tomatillo puree, garlic, jalapenos, onion, and puffy pillows of hominy floating with shredded roast chicken. Stir in a little sour cream and cilantro, and you have comfort in a... 

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Chicken and Tomatillo Posole - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

If chicken soup is truly good for the soul, then this recipe should be in your files. Think of a dark roasted chicken stock mixed with tomatillo puree, garlic, jalapenos, onion, and puffy pillows of hominy floating with shredded roast chicken. Stir in a little sour cream and cilantro, and you have comfort in a bowl. It smells fantastic and warms you all the way through, and helps sore throats and coughs feel better. All of my guys give this soup big thumbs up.

We grow our own tomatillos, and the months of September and October is a busy time for our tomatillo plants, with harvest peaking right about now. So yes, we have plenty of tomatillos to work with and make this soup. This Cooking Light version of the classic Mexican soup posole, aka pozole, boils the tomatillos before pureeing. I like to make my own roasted chicken stock and cook the hominy myself, but you can also take some shortcuts with purchased stock—I recommend Pacific Foods Organic Unsalted Chicken Bone Broth (not sponsored)—or you can use your favorite brand, and you can substitute canned hominy. I save the chicken meat from the stock preparation and use it in the soup, which adds even more flavor.

Chicken and Tomatillo Posole
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Adapted from Cooking Light.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Course
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 pound (454 g) tomatillos
  • 6 cups (~1-1/2 liters) Roasted Chicken Stock
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • Chicken meat from the Roasted Chicken Stock, shredded
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise
  • 4 cups cooked white hominy, drained
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
GARNISH
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • Reduced-fat sour cream (I like Daisy brand.)
  • lime wedges

Preparation
  1. Discard the husks and stems from the tomatillos and rinse them well. Bring water to boil in a 4-quart heavy bottom pot. Cook the whole tomatillos in the boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes, then drain. Blend the tomatillos until smooth, and set aside.
  2. Combine the stock, onions, chicken meat, garlic, jalapeño peppers, and hominy in the 6-quart stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes. Stir in the pureed tomatillos and salt, and cook until heated. Serve with cilantro, sour cream, and squeeze lime juice over the bowl.

More Information
Equipment:
4-quart heavy bottom pot with lid
6-quart stockpot with lid
glass jar blender

Recipe Notes:
Substitutions:

2 (30-ounce) cans white hominy, drained

3 pounds chicken breast halves, skinned (Cook in the stock, them remove the bones and shred the meat.)

Make Ahead Tips: Make the stock, tomatillo puree, and hominy on the weekend, then save it all for a quick weeknight meal.

 

More Chicken Soup Recipes

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Kah Gai) - Andrea Meyers Get Well Chicken Noodle Soup - Andrea Meyers Jamaican Chicken Stew - Andrea Meyers

More Posole Recipes From Other Blogs

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection.]

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How to Cook Dry Hominy (From the Pantry) http://andreasrecipes.com/cook-dry-hominy-pantry/ http://andreasrecipes.com/cook-dry-hominy-pantry/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:49:11 +0000 http://andreasrecipes.com/?p=13941 I made posole for dinner a few weeks ago, and wanted to make it with dry hominy, a large kernel corn. After searching my local grocery without finding it, I asked for help, which didn’t work out at all. It turned into a comedy of miscommunication with me first stating what I was seeking, then... 

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How to Cook Dry Hominy (From the Pantry) - Andrea MeyersFollow Me on Pinterest

I made posole for dinner a few weeks ago, and wanted to make it with dry hominy, a large kernel corn. After searching my local grocery without finding it, I asked for help, which didn’t work out at all. It turned into a comedy of miscommunication with me first stating what I was seeking, then spelling it, followed by guided pronunciation, physical description, then finally locating a can of it and holding it up like a television product demonstrator saying, “It’s this, only dry and in a bag. Like buying dry beans instead of canned.”

For all my work, I received blank stares and went home empty-handed.

So what is dry hominy, exactly, and how do we cook it? Hominy, aka mote, is large kernel corn (maize) that has been treated with an alkaline solution to loosen the hulls and soften the corn, an ancient process that goes back to around 1500 B.C. Then it can be cooked whole in soups, or dried and ground into meal (masa) which can be used to make tortillas, arepas, and tamales.

The dry hominy keeps well in the pantry just like dry beans do, and you prepare them pretty much the same way. To cook dry hominy, rinse the hominy clean, soak it overnight, and finish cooking the next day. Canned is pretty convenient, but if you can find the dry hominy, I think the flavor and texture is better. Look for it in grocery stores with well-stocked international sections or Hispanic grocery stores.

How to Cook Dry Hominy (From the Pantry) - Andrea Meyers

How to Cook Dry Hominy (From the Pantry)
 
Author:
Serves: about 4-1/2 cups

Ingredients
  • 1 cup (4-1/2 ounces/129 g) dry hominy, rinsed

Preparation
  1. Put the rinsed hominy in a 3-quart pot with lid and cover with water about 2 to 3 inches over the hominy. Cover and allow to rest overnight. Before cooking, drain well and add fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Drain well and use in your favorite recipe.

More Information
Equipment:
colander
3-quart heavy bottom pot with lid

Recipe Notes:
1 cup dry hominy yields about 4-1/2 cups cooked.

A 15-ounce can of cooked hominy equals about 1-3/4 cups.

 

More Recipes From the Pantry

Slow Cooker Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya - Andrea Meyers Tamari Almonds - Andrea Meyers Chana Masala - Andrea Meyers

Recipes with Hominy From Other Blogs

Thanks for subscribing to this blog! Copyright © 2005-2014 Andrea Meyers: making life delicious.

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