Saturday, December 27, 2008

roasted pepper hummus and the mason cable clan

Last evening, David, Layne, Lynden and I drove to Chambersburg to meet up with the Mason clan.  I hadn't seen them in several years, so it was a real treat - everyone was there but Scott, who is doing well in Florida with wife Lisa and two little ones.  Matriarch Mom Mason with her husband Chet, big brother Steve and Marilyn, sister Jan with her daughter Nicki with her husband Warren (I remember Nickie coming into this world a tiny premie, uncertain if she would make it!), thoughts of Judy, gone since the early 1980's aren't overlooked, Rod, Laurie, and sweet, silly Olivia,  Sandy, Ed and all the boys save Jonathan.

We stopped at Sandy and Ed's on the way, meeting up with everyone for a hike up the mountain before dinner.  I seem to be totally out of shape - but the hill was steep and the leaves slippery.  But David seemed to have no trouble getting quickly ahead in his new Italian leather shoes!  He's simply at home in such surroundings.  The view was lovely, even overcast as it was - humbling to see the world at your feet.  

After arriving at Rod and Lauries, I procurred my homemade roasted pepper hummus, and cheeses, but the hummus got all the attention - everyone asking for the recipe.  Below is the recipe, culled from my favorite publication "Cooking Light" many years ago.  

We left around 10, after rounds of Life, Pictionary and "If I had a do-over...", rhythmic knockings on the basement poles, Pirates of the Carribean, piano and guitar music, and a rousing "Happy Birthday to David" with offerings of chocolate and candles.  The evening was glorious in company, delicious food - ham, rice pilaf, snow peas and salad - and repeated smiles and hugs.  On climbing into the car at the end of the evening, Layne said - "so why don't we visit more often?  Everyone is so nice, fun, and there was no awkwardness at all!"  Emerging from the weirdness of holiday seasons in recent years - that's saying a lot.  Family... as it should be!

roasted pepper hummus
combine in food processor and process until smooth:
1 garlic clove
19 oz. can chick peas, drained
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tbs. lemon juice
1 tbs. olive oil

remove from food processor and put in bowl.

add the following and process until smooth:
7 oz. roasted peppers, drained
1 tbs. tomatoe paste
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt

add spoonfuls of the roasted pepper mixture to the top of the hummus and swirl for an interesting presentation.

or - do what i most often do, and simply add the roasted pepper ingredients right into the processor with the chick pea combination, and process until all is smooth and combined.  easy and delicious!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

christmas eve jambalaya and cheese cake

Christmas Eve is the time we count on having all the Bedenbaugh kids together for the holidays.  We attend Christmas Eve service, then return home to a late dinner, stockings and gift exchange.  This year, I made Jambalaya from a recipe Ned Wert gave me after dinner at his house one evening when I went to visit his studio.  He's known as an awesome cook and his hospitality if reknown if you have the privilege of an overnight stay.

In a large soup pot, bring to a boil and cook until chicken is opaque in appearance:
4 cups chicken stock
1 chicken breast split
Remove the chicken, tear meat loose from bones and return to simmer with the broth.

in a large saute pan (a fry pan works just as well), heat 3 tbs. olive oil, then add and saute:
1 lb. sausage or kielbassa, cut into pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb. cooked ham, cubed
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 large green peppers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Add to the pot with the chicken.

Add the following, stir, and bring to a boil:
2 1/2 cups plum tomatoes, drained and seeded, torn into pieces
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. basil
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cup long grain rice, or up to 3 cups cooked leftover rice
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
Cover and simmer until rice is tender.

Add and simmer low all day long until ready to eat:
1 lb. medium shrimp, deveined and shelled 

Christmas Eve dessert has traditionally become our favorite Cheesecake, a recipe I altered years ago to accommodate diabetes and healthful eating for all of us.  This delicious cake has no fat, and little carbs, save the butter in the crust, and the topping.

cherry cheesecake
Prepare a graham cracker crust as follows:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease the sides of a springform pan, and cut a sheet of parchment or waxed paper to fit the bottom.

In a large ziplock bag, cruch about 20 graham crackers with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs.  Put 1 2/3 cups of crumbs mixed with 2 tbs. white sugar in a 4 cup glass measuring cup with a 1/4 cup butter buried in the center.  Put in a microwave for 30 seconds to melt butter, then combine the ingredients with a fork until evenly wet.

Line the side and bottom of the springform pan with the crumbs, pressing until somewhat firm.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, combine the filling ingredients in a mixer, or by hand:
First add:
2 8-oz. non-fat neufachel cheese, softened
1/2 cup non-fat sour cream

Then add the remainder and beat until smooth with no lumps:
3/4 cup egg beaters, or another egg substitute
14 oz. can non-fat Eagle Brand milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Bake in oven at 325 degrees for about an hour and a half.  The original recipe called for baking one hour, and I always start checking it at an hour, but have never baked one for less than an hour and a half.  It's done when a knife comes out fairly clean and the center no longer wobbles like liquid.

Top with a 16 oz. can of sugar free cherry pie filling. 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

joe's graduation from penn state, "wings over the susquehanna," and that amazing bean dip

Joe graduated from Penn State the Saturday before Christmas and all the family, grandparents included, joined in the celebration - congrats Joe!  A party was held at the gallery, and friends and family from all walks of his life attended.  Faced with the challenge of feeding many over several hours, I ended up making a recipe (times 4!) of one of our family favorites.  It seemed fitting, as I think Joe lived on this regularly cooking for himself at Penn State.

baked refried bean dip
Preheat oven to 350% and grease a 13 x 9" pan with cooking spray.  

Spread a 32 oz. can of refried beans evenly on the bottom.  

Add the following ingredients in layers:
8 oz block of neufachel cheese, cut into about 12 pieces, spaced evenly apart
16 oz jar, or 2 cups of your favorite salsa, poured over top
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese, or any combination of hard cheeses leftover in your fridge, shredded

Bake in oven on center rack for 20-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.  Use it to fill tortilla shells for dinner the first night, and as a snack with nacho chips the second night.  If there is still some left over, throw in leftover rice and make bean tacos or burittos.

wings over the susquehanna"
When Jenna graduated from DeVry a few years back, I gave her a small painting by Ned Wert - the artist's work she seemed to respond to most when she came in the gallery to visit me.  In giving it to her, I mentioned, if I'm doing my job right, this would be an investment, and increase in value over time!  

I asked Joe which artist he was interested in, and he immediately said, "Brad Stroman."  I knew immediately which painting I would select for him, the title seemingly the perfect send off for my second child reaching this important moment.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

gingersnap cookies

This recipe is another favorite from the Westinghouse cookbook, adjusted to accommodate diabetes and general good health and well-being.  It's a family favorite for the Bedenbaugh kids, and the cookie my brother Brad declares "keeps us all regular."  Yummy, when baked until ALMOST done!

Combine in a large mixing bowl:
1 2/3 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup toasted wheatgerm
1 1/2 cups margarine (the soybean oil variety)

Add and whip until combined:
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
2 eggs

Fold in: 
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour, plus a bit more
1 cup non-fat dry milk
3 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Roll into balls and then into a mixture of 1/2 white sugar, and 1/2 non-fat dry milk.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on your oven.  Remove when the middles are still a bit soft for a chewey cookie, or leave them in a bit longer for a crunchier cookie.  Be prepared to make them often!

Monday, December 15, 2008

whole wheat cinnamon swirl raisin bread

The week before Christmas, the baking frenzy starts in my kitchen - and typically, it's not cookies, but bread.  My favorite for the holidays is a cinnamon raisin swirl bread from a recipe I adapted from Country Living back when Jenna and Joe were little.  When each of my children were in Nursery School, I'd make a double batch and have each child in the class knead, roll and sugar their own small loaf to take home.  This bread is awesome right out of the oven, and makes great toast and delicious french toast, if there is any left!

whole wheat cinnamon swirl raisin bread
Heat in a medium saucepan until bubbly:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup honey

Add to milk and honey mixture and heat until hot, but not too hot to touch - hint: use a metal diffuser under the pot and ac candy thermometer to heat to the proper temperature:
1/2 cup butter (sorry, margarine just isn't the same!)
2 cups raisins

Meanwhile, combine in 1 cup glass measuring cup:
1/2 cup very warm water
1 tsp. honey
2 tbs. yeast (or two packets)

In a large mixing bowl - I still prefer a large crock, a wooden spoon and my hands - add the following:
milk mixture
2  eggs, beaten
yeast mixture

Mix and combine the following additional ingredients:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Gradually add in 3-4 cups white flour, moving the dough to a greased and floured counter surface when it's too hard to stir anymore.  Begin kneading, adding flour until dough is no longer sticky.  Grease the original mixing crock with cooking spray and return the dough to the bowl.

Let rise in a warm place, covered with a linen towel, until double the size.  

Grease 2 large bread pans (or 3 medium-sized pans, 6 small, or 12 midget-sized pans)
Beat down the dough and knead further.  Divide the dough according to how many pans you have prepared, and cover with a towel on a floured surface.  

On a greased and lightly floured surface, roll out each part to about 1/4 inch, long and narrow - the width a bit less than the length of your pan.  Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and white sugar.  Roll up tightly and place in pan with the seam on the bottom.  Slash the top every 3/4" and let rise in warm place under a towel until about double the size.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes for 2 - 5 x 9 bread pans - less for smaller pans.  Bread should release easily, be lightly browned, and sound hollow to tapping on the bottom.   Let cool on a rack or on their sides - bottoms will get soggy otherwise.

Drizzle icing made of water and confectioner's sugar on the top of cooled bread.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

thanksgiving in turkmanistan - by Jess

This email came from a brave, young friend in the peace corp, currently stationed in Turkmanistan.  This is her first Thanksgiving so far away, but not without her humorous commentary on making it special!  

Loved ones,

These two items are, in fact, unrelated.   I appreciated all the Happy Thanksgiving wishes.  What's Thanksgiving like in T-stan?  Well, kind of a blip, really.  It's not a holiday celebrated here.  Some groups took it upon themselves to cook a "real" Thanksgiving dinner.   We just kind of let it go – there are only 4 of us and one is a vegetarian.  Not that Turkey is a total necessity but it just seemed like a lot to take on.  We were going to mooch off of some volunteers hosting T-giving dinner for themselves at the office, but most of them are about to leave the country  and we don't know them very well, so we didn't crash their party because of anticipated feelings of awkwardness.  (We did happen to be in the office during their festivities and they brought us a plate of food:  real salad, turkey, stuffing w/gravy, sweet potatoes!  oh, it was heaven!  I ate a ton, my second lunch that day.  Worth every calorie).   On Thursday we each taught in the morning.  Went to lunch where we had our cook's version of pizza.  We'd gotten a can of cranberry sauce from PC the day before so we had that, too.  Only we didn't have a real can opener.  So we got this ghetto one from the cook and she tried to open the can from the wrong end.  In the end, we managed to get a bit pulled back but the thing looked like a case of tetanus waiting to happen.  We also had gummy bears, courtesy of my loving daddy J 

And…. yes, I made a pumpkin pie!  It was alright; probably could have cooked the pumpkin a bit more. But even Summer ate some, and she says she never eats pumpkin pie.  I have pictures; I'll try to post them.

On Saturday we took the day off and went to the city.  We went to a shopping center called "Yimpash" (the 'y' is silent) which was incredible.  It was like a department store and a grocery store all in one.  Three floors – food court on the third floor.  We had cheeseburgers and sodas for lunch and then the 5 of us shared a banana split.  Heavenly.  After eating, we shopped and I dropped 111,000 manat on baking supplies: butter, powdered sugar, corn starch, whipped topping mix, baking powder.  It was amazing.  It was a little slice of Western decadence right in Ashgabat and it was as comforting as a mother's love.  I'm sighing a little sigh of happiness now. 

Arms laden with cooking supplies, I left Impash with the ladies and we headed to a salon to have our eyebrows done.  Rather than wax, threading is the common method of hair removal here.  Basically, the lady twists a piece of thread together, holds on end in her mouth and the other in her hand, and runs the twist along the hair.  Somehow it gets pulled out.  I'm not exactly sure how it works because my eyes were closed and I was trying hard not to flinch the whole time, but she did a good job.  For 30,000 manat ( a little over $2 ) I am a new woman.  Or, at least one with shaped eyebrows.

From the salon, it was off to Peace Corps.  Briefly checked mail, ate tons of food as I mentioned, and then with happy hearts we headed home.  On the way back, I stopped at a bazaar to buy 4 kilos of apples for my apple pies. 


Can't get much more American than that, right?  So, we're discussing pie last week at home and I am telling my host sister about the different pies I can make.  She was particularly intrigued by apple pie so I told her that rather than go to the city, I would stay home on Sunday and teach her how to make it.  I bought all the requisite ingredients.  My friend's were trembling with the thought of eating fresh baked apple pie.  Mmm… I even have cinnamon!  And nutmeg! (also thanks to my dear father)  Amazing!

This will awkwardly tie together eventually:

Sunday rolls around and I need to do some laundry.  And by some I mean probably a load and a half/two loads worth in a washing machine.  But, I can't get into the banya to do my washing because it's occupied the whole morning.  So, resigned to waiting, I sit and begin to read an American newsweekly.  My host sister comes in and says we're leaving to her aunt's house.  It's nearly 11:00 and I'm moderately upset because I want to do my laundry!  But I trudge along because that's what a good anthropologist would do.  Sit with a bunch of young girls around a plastic table cloth laid on the floor.  Admire the celing – exposed wood beams!  How log cabin quaint!  How familiar! Eat fried bread.  And more fried bread.  And tons of pickled veggies.  Every time I try to stop eating, someone sees and says, "Jess, eat!  Eat!"  Damn those Turkmen and their incessant hospitality.  I'm gaining weight here!  Argh!  Anyhow:  then lunch comes out.  Steaming, hot bowls of… goat soup!  My favorite!  Luckily, my host sister explains that I don't eat goat and I'm spared the discomfort of having to sip at the goaty broth.  And really, the "soup" was goat broth and goat.  Not just meat, but tongue, cheek, gross, squishy white chunks of either fat or brain (or both).  So I gorged on pickled veggies and it was good.  Don't get enough veggies anyhow.  And I'm satisfied that this family, with whom I will be living only another 3 days, understands that I do not like goat. 

We head home and I do my barge load of laundry.  I can definitely forsee developing carpal tunnel because after 2 hours of washing and wringing, I was in pain.  I need a wrist brace for that kind of manual labor.  Laundry hung, it's time for pie.

As a baker, I am very attached to my measuring cups.  Cooking without measuring scares me.  Out of necessity, I cooked for myself all last winter, and I must say, I made great strides in "winging it".  Nonetheless, for this pie I had to measure three cups of flour with a tea cup and it made me slightly anxious.  But then I thought that the home bakers of yesteryear probably did without measuring, so maybe I could to.  My host sister and I each made a pie.  It was hard to describe to her how exactly to make pie crust – she's used to making dough for bread and at one point, started kneading her dough!  Big no-no in pie crust making!  She ended up not using enough liquid but whatever.  It worked.  My crust turned out beautifully much to my surpise – no measuring and no food processer.   My dad would be proud: he cuts his butter into the dough with his hands and now I can to.  I'm quite pleased, actually. 

Things are going swimmingly.  The random fly is buzzing around, landing on my arm, my face, my head,  as wantonly as though I were a dead puppy [there is, by the by, a dead puppy in the no man's land outside our town, decaying in a trash heap.  Sad.]  Then one landed on the dough and Towus (my host sister) tried to brush it away.  The fly wasn't going for it.  So she PICKED IT UP and tossed it aside.  Seriously.  These flies are freakin' domesticated.  Nothing scares them and I so loathe them and their audacity.

Next comes peeling and slicing 4 kilos of apples.  No sweat, except my hands turned orange.  But the apples smell and taste so wonderfully delicious that looking like an oopma loompa is totally worth it.  Roll out the dough -- little difficulty with her dough here but no biggie --  and we're in business.  Assembling the pies – rolled the dough too thin and the bottom layer's leaking all the juice and the perfectionist in me is screaming bloody murder – but then I think, "hey, I'm in Turkmenistan, who says I have to make a perfect apple pie every time?  It'll still taste the same."  Feeling good about not being overwhelmed by my temporary baking shortcomings and sit back as Towus puts the pies in their brick oven.

Not even 2 minutes later she calls my name and both pies are out of the oven, top crust layers scorched.  Huh.  Apparently there were flames.  I didn't think to check the temperature on the brick oven.  Which is total sarcasm because there is no temperature to check!  It must have been mighty hot to burn the crust so quickly.  I entertained thoughts of Hansel and Gretel and Sweeny Todd.  So she turns the gas waaaay down and we put the pies back in.  I try to explain that they need to cook for a long time, but she stood there anyway, waiting for them to cook.  And took them out nearly every 5 minutes for me to check.   I stood with her, enjoying the heat radiating from the bricks, listening to the juice in the pies bubble.  That oven would be an amazing marshmallow roaster.    So, lah-dih-dah the pies are done and I slice one up into 9 pieces for everyone to try.  One plate for me, 8 pieces in the pan for everyone else to eat out of.

Now, I could have only made one pie, but silly me assumed that it would be a big hit and two would be best.  Besides, that way Towus would learn by doing!  Alas, as I devour my piece of pie, I am met with sheepish grins and giggles and spoons being lowered to the plastic tablecloth.  They don't like spice it turns out.  The cinnamon was too much.  But frankly I bet the results would have been the same sans cinnamon.  My host mother said, "Turkmen don't like spices.  We use salt and pepper and that's all."  Which is true and highly unfortunate for them, IMO.   And rather remarkable, considering the close proximity of such spicy empires as, say, India.  She also said, "We only eat Turkmen food."  My heart breaks for them. 

So they don't like my pie which is fine.  My feelings aren't hurt.  It's a damn tasty pie.  My host mother made me eat two pieces (yes, she made me.  You seriously do not understand how important it is for you to have food in your mouth at all times here.  She wanted me to eat three pieces but I put my foot down there. )  But them not liking my pie is good because now they understand me not liking goat (I told you there was a tie-in!)  This makes it easier for me to refuse gross food for the next 3 days.  Then I'll have to make another apple pie for the next family to turn their noses up.  The only problem was that I had a pie and a half left.  My fellow Americans happily ate our homemade slices of America  yesterday and today.  And burnt though it was, my crust was flaky and delicious.

I learned my lesson: when cooking tasty American food for Turkmen, underestimate the amount of food needed. 

I wrote a rousing journal entry on (the lack of) diversity in Turkmenistan and its cultural implications but I'll leave that for another time when I'm not waxing poetic about apple pie for 2 pages.  It just occurred to me that very shortly I will be without internet for an indefinite amount of time (as of Dec. 7 – the big move!)  So, keep that in mind. I'll be in Ashgabat until Saturday so I'll try to get in another email before then. 

I still fit into my skinny jeans,