Selma’s Chicken Liver Pate

In which my brother submits a guest post.

I asked all of my siblings if they’d like to make a recipe and submit a guest post.  My brother, Greg Ehrendreich, agreed.  I sent him a few different recipes to choose from.  He chose this one.  If anyone else would like to submit a guest post, please contact me.  If you’ve made one of these recipes and your take is different than mine, I’m interested in your thoughts.  If you changed something up to make it gluten-free or healthier and had great results, tell me about it.  If you have a recipe from your grandmother you’d like to use, I’d love to hear about it.  If your grandma didn’t cook and you’d like to use one of my grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s, let me know.

When my work decided to hold a potluck holiday party, I knew where to turn for inspiration. My dear sister had been asking me to do a guest post for her blog, so I asked her to supply some recipes. She sent several options – a weird chopped herring recipe that had crumbled sponge cake (?!) in it, an orange meringue pie that would probably have been great but would not have traveled well on my bike commute, and Selma’s Chicken Liver Pâté, which is what I decided to make.

I know that my sister would have preferred that I make this recipe exactly as written, for the sake of authenticity, and then discuss how I would change it to modernize it. But look at that recipe and think about it a little bit and you’ll see how impractical that would have been. (I would’ve been fine with it in any capacity.  I’m just excited that he wanted to play along.)

To start with, the recipe calls for ¼ lb each of chicken livers and mushrooms – but each of those comes in 1 lb quantities from the store and it wasn’t like I had another chicken liver recipe I was just aching to make. Therefore, I made a quadruple batch. In retrospect, that wasn’t a good call. Nobody needs that much pate. My wife and I both love liver, but even after taking half of it to the holiday party, I still had more left over than we could eat before tiring of it. Maybe someday I will thaw out the portion I put in the freezer to see if it froze well, or maybe someday I will just toss it out when I find it in a freezer burned lump forgotten in a back corner. Only time will tell.

Then there is the fact that 10 Tbsp. of butter times a quadruple batch = 40 Tbsp. of butter. That’s 5 sticks. I didn’t even have that much butter on hand, and if I had, I still just couldn’t. I used 2 sticks of butter for the quadruple batch. It was plenty.

Once it was bubbling away in the cast iron, wow did it start to smell great in my kitchen. I could have just dug in to that pan with a spoon and a loaf of good bread (if I wasn’t on a low carb diet since last September…another reason I didn’t make the pie). inthepan

Now, let’s talk about seasoned salt. I get it, it’s an old recipe. But I haven’t had plain old “seasoned salt” in my spice shelf for decades. What I did have though is Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning. Which is great stuff and I highly recommend it. My Chicago Greek coworker says that in his family they literally put it on everything. (This is where I insert that I would’ve used Penzey’s 4/S salt.)suppliesThe Spotted Cow was not part of the recipe, but was a vital part of the cooking process. I was whipping this up after coming home from dinner at my mother-in-law’s house and had a pleasant buzz going so it would have been a shame to not keep riding that while I cooked. Spotted Cow is one of the benefits you get from having a sister who still lives in Wisconsin.

Once everything was all cooked and ready for blending, that’s when I realized that I had forgotten to hard boil the eggs. Thanks to my InstantPot, that hurdle was promptly overcome. The eggs was another place where I cut back from what was called for in the original recipe – I only did 4 eggs for the batch instead of 2 per recipe quadrupled to 8 because I was lazy and didn’t want to have to peel that many eggs. Sue me.

I am allergic to tree nuts, so I subbed in pine nuts for the pistachios. Lightly toasted the pine nuts in a dry pan until they were golden brown and added them at the end after the blending just as it calls for with the pistachios. I didn’t really measure, just used the whole package.

I also realized once I was all done and molded into bowls that I had forgotten to add the lemon juice, but I didn’t want to try to hand mix that in or re-blend it and lose the whole pine nuts into the mush. It wasn’t vital. Your mileage may vary.

The result was not pretty. It was a grey lump. It might have looked nicer if I had some kind of fancier mold instead of just a metal mixing bowl. It was prettier in cross section, though.

Reactions from my coworkers were mixed. I solicited their feedback and prepared a chart. My sister may have mentioned that she has one nerdy brother and one artistic brother. Guess which one I am…

Reactions to Selmas Chicken Liver Pate

Here’s my thoughts on improvements to the recipe:

  • Don’t quadruple it. Find something else to do with ¾ of a pound of chicken livers. Nobody wants that much pate.
  • As I noted before, you definitely don’t need that much butter. For a single recipe, I wouldn’t go over a single stick. Probably only a half stick.
  •  It definitely could take some additional spice beyond what the seasoned salt provides. A heavy hand with some coarse black pepper would have been a good start, as one of my coworkers noted. It is very sweet and rich so additional spice would have helped balance it.
  • The lemon juice that I forgot might have also helped balance the sweetness with some acid. Cider vinegar would work well as a substitute there and would give a different flavor profile.
  • Some kind of final add-in – like the nuts – is definitely necessary to provide contrasting texture. You could get fun with this. Chopped cornichons, different kinds of nuts (if that’s your thing), coarsely-chopped hard boiled eggs (in addition to or subbed in for part of the blended-in ones), capers, chives, crispy bacon bits…you could really change it up with your choice of accessories.

Thanks, Sis, for the recipe and the opportunity to share it with your audience. (Thanks, Greg, for doing this!)

Selma's Chicken Liver Pate

 

Oven Stew

In which I am freezing.

It has been so cold!  My house is having trouble keeping up with the temperatures, or at least the room with the thermostat is.  Let me just take a second to complain about flawed logic with thermostat planning.  If you put a thermostat in the room that contains the fireplace, that room will get nice and toasty and your thermostat will say that the temperature of the house is comfortable.  Your body will probably feel otherwise if you take a step outside of the room that is being heated by the fireplace.  Likewise, if your thermostat is in a room with a ton of possibly leaky windows, the temperature of the room registers as colder than it should be.  Then your furnace runs continuously and the rest of the house is warmer than you’d like, even though the thermostat is not showing that.  On a related note, I think I need to reconsider the placement of my thermostat.DSCN3443

These are the sorts of days where hibernation makes sense.  Of course there are a thousand projects I could be doing, but it just seems like a lot of effort to get moving.  It’s the sort of day where I just want dinner to cook itself without a lot of intervention from me.  As I was pouring over recipes, I found a recipe for Oven Stew.  It is the perfect recipe for frigid, lazy days.  DSCN3450I made this recipe while my son had a friend over. His friend saw the onion on my cutting board and said, “Is that an onion?  I like onions.”

“Like raw onions?” I asked.

“Any kind of onion.” He stated.

“Like on something…or….?” I questioned, confused.

“Like anything.  Chopped up in pieces.  Can I have some?”

“Like for a snack?”  I queried, still trying to figure this kid out.

“Yeah, like 50 of them.”

“Um…I’m cutting up cheese and sausage for you guys.”  During this whole thing, I was trying to decide if this kid was for real.  We’ve all heard about those old men that will eat onions like apples after they finish their braunschweiger and Limburger sandwiches, but a kid?!?

He is an awesome kid, even if I was a little surprised by his request.

I ended up not giving them onions as a snack and just put the onion into my oven stew.  When his mom came to pick him up later, she commented on how good the house smelled. “It’s my great-grandma’s recipe.” I replied.  (But then again, it seems like they all are these days.)DSCN3451

This recipe does not say to add water to the pan.  Do it anyway.  It’s not stew without the water.  It also doesn’t call for tossing the beef cubes with flour and browning them before adding them to the pan.  Do that also.  It just makes for deeper flavors in the stew.

Have you ever had oven stew?  It is incredible and easy.  Once you are done putting everything into the pot, you are done.  You can just walk away.  That makes this an ideal recipe for the crockpot if the temperature outside isn’t so cold that you want your oven on all day to try to warm up the house.

We ate ours with homemade bread.  But you do you and eat it with whatever you want.

Oven Stew

Oven Stew

1 1/2 pounds of beef cut into cubes
1 cup chopped celery
1 can of tomatoes
1 TB sugar
6 carrots, cut
2 TB minute tapioca
1 large onion, sliced
4 medium potatoes, quartered
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients well in pan or kettle with tight fitting cover.  Bake at 250°.  Do not disturb while baking.

Cherry Dessert

In which I explore some literature.

I have this view of Iowans as practical people.  People without a lot of nonsense.  Straightforward, honest, and hardworking.  It’s a stereotype to be sure. But then again, some of those stereotypes are reinforced by literature.  So maybe I’m not totally off-base.

In college, I would take weekend visits to my grandparents’ house.  I usually brought along homework of some sort.  One weekend I brought along a book I was reading for one of my classes.  It was called Making Hay.  Grandpa picked up the book, studied it for a minute and turned to my grandma.  “Dorothy, look at this. Verlyn Klinkenborg.” “Who?” I asked.  “Oh, he used to play with your uncle when they were kids.”  I almost asked if they were sure it was the same guy, but then I realized that the chances of two people having that name were slim.

For Christmas this year, my husband got me the book Prairie Fires since I have been a fan of the Little House books since I was young.   In it, the author discusses both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Hamlin Garland‘s connection to Burr Oak, Iowa.  My grandparents introduced me to Hamlin Garland’s books when I was young.  We went on a tour of his house.  I can barely remember the trip, but my copy of Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly has moved with me for nearly 30 years.  DSCN3362The practical people that named some of these recipes were not nearly as eloquent as the writers which is why we have recipes named things like “Darned Good Candy” and “Cherry Dessert.”

So what is Cherry Dessert?  It’s a nut and cherry filled cake topped with a jammy cherry sauce and whipped cream.  It is delicious and addicting.

 

The first time I made it, I mixed everything up together (with cherries from my trees) and put it into a prepared 9×13 pan.  Before I even got it all into the pan, I realized that I probably should’ve used a smaller pan.  The cake layer was about equal to the whipped cream layer.  The bad part about this was that it took a large piece (or two) to leave me feeling satisfied and the cherry dessert would call my name as it sat in my fridge.  DSCN3368The second time I made it, I had much better results in a smaller 8×8 pan.  I neglected to let the cake cool completely before adding the whipped cream to the top.  The results were a bit runny and messy, but nonetheless incredible.

 

The sweetness of the cake, the tartness of the cherries, and the creamy layer all combine to make a dessert that satiates every dessert craving except chocolate.  It’s cool and a bit crunchy.  This is going to be a staple at my house during cherry season.   Cherry Dessert

Cherry Dessert

1 c sugar
1 egg
1 TB butter, melted
1 c flour
1 t soda
1/4 t salt
1 c sour cherries (reserve juice)
3/4 c nuts

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes

Cool.  Cover with whipped cream.

Heat juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 TB flour, 1 TB cornstarch.  Cook until thick.  Add 1 T butter. Chill, spread over cream.

 

Knit-ivity Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve…

1 Day Until Christmas…

There are no more cookies.  There are no more candies.  There are no recipes today at all.  Today, I am simply going to show you a wonderful gift that was given to me by my family.  My dear aunties, mom, and grandma all knitted me (and all my siblings and cousins) a Nativity.  My grandpa built the creche.  DSCN3536

When the boys were little, they got to play with this nativity. I used it to tell the story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.  I got to the part where “…and in the manger Mary had a baby.” and was interrupted by my oldest correcting me, “No, mom.  Mary had a little lamb.”

Around the time the boys started to get bored by the Nativity, the girl was born.  Her second Christmas, she stared wide-eyed as I got it out.  She looked at it, got a naughty smile on her face and went toward it.  “It’s ok, baby girl, you can play with that.” I said.  She lost the smirk and went to find something else to do.

Every year when I get out this Nativity, I smile.  There are four generations of love wrapped up in it.

Christmas Sugar Cookies and Peanut Brittle

2 Days Until Christmas…

2 days until Christmas…

It seems appropriate to finish off my cookie plates with classic treats that are as good today as they were when my great-grandma made them.  These are the sorts of treats that most American kids grew up eating.  I am not sure I remember a single Christmas without Sugar Cookies and peanut brittle.  DSCN3532Being a very modern woman, I’ve dabbled in other types of brittle.  We’ve made bacon almond brittle with hints of rosemary and chilis.  We’ve tried pecan brittle with a bit of orange rind.  I’ve even tried to make brittle in the off-season.  Somehow, though, we always find our way back to peanut brittle.  It’s crunchy and caramel-y.  It’s chunky, salty, and sweet.  This is better than the weird boxes of peanut brittle you can pick up at the drug store.  It’s worth risking the burns. DSCN3531 Another thing to note, I had a heck of a time finding appropriate peanuts to put in the brittle.  I just wanted some Spanish peanuts.  I feel like I used to see them all over, but I went to a couple of different stores and didn’t see them.  I used cocktail peanuts instead, lightly salted. DSCN3529 There are an insane amount of sugar cookie recipes available.  This one is one that you should not make according to the recipe.  If you follow the recipe, the thing you make will be a sweet quiche-y sort of thing.  It will not be cookies.  The recipe is missing flour.  I don’t know how the proofreader missed that.  After consulting various cookbooks, I determined that for the amount of fat and eggs in the recipe, about 5 cups of flour was the right amount.  I was slightly wrong.  I think 4 1/2 would’ve been better.  I added a couple of tablespoons of milk to hold everything together.

The best part of making sugar cookies is decorating them afterwards.  We cheated this year and bought cookie frosting.  I get a break on this one, I made 6 different kinds of cookies and 6 different kinds of candy in 2 days.  It allowed me to sit down with the kids and decorate with minimal clean up after.  The kids love to decorate cookies.  They are getting quite accomplished at it.  There was some marbling going on and some fancy sugar work.

That wraps up the cookie plate for this year.  Plates were taken to neighbors, plates were taken to work.  We are going to need to have people over to help us eat the rest of them.

Christmas Sugar CookiesPeanut Brittle(Velva)

Church Windows and Darned Good Candy

3 Days Until Christmas…

3 Days until Christmas!

Before I even begin with discussion on these recipes, I need to comment about those mini colored marshmallows.  Do they really exist for a reason outside of small children, jello salads, and grandparents? DSCN3523The first time I heard about Church Windows cookies (are they cookies or are they candy?) was after our tree fell on our neighbor’s fence.  It might be the biggest event this neighborhood has seen in a while.  It was such a big event that as we were cutting it down, neighbors from the senior housing facility put out their chairs, plugged in their crockpots, and sat outside to watch.  I treated them to some rhubarb brownies and some chocolate chip cookies.  Some of the men came over to help.  We started chatting about Christmas cookie plates and he told me about the church windows cookies.  I assumed he was talking about stained glass cookies, but when he described them, this was exactly what he meant.  I never expected to find that recipe among my great-grandma’s.  DSCN3526No matter what the recipe says about double boiler, melt the chocolate in the microwave.  It’s so much easier.  Put it in for a minute, stir it after a minute, it might need another 15 or 30 seconds, but it won’t need much more.  Stirring these bad boys is hard.  It’s messy and involved.  DSCN3520Ok, so flavor…think something like rocky road.  But vaguely fruity with coconut.  They aren’t bad, but probably best in small doses.

As for the candy…who in could resist something called “Darned Good Candy”?  I made it wrong the first time I did it.  Use chopped pecans instead of whole pecans.  It makes a difference.  I also learned to not put hot candy on waxed paper.  Guess what happens?  It sticks.  You end up with delicious candy that leaves paper in your mouth.  So these pictures are of the second time that I tried making the candy.  DSCN3522

Darned Good Candy is like a caramel taffy.  It’s stiff and it’s creamy.  It’s got buttery undertones and the pecan flavor permeates the whole candy.  Yeah, it sticks to your teeth, but in the best possible way.  It’s really darned good.

Church WindowsDarned Good Candy

Darned Good Candy

3 cups sugar
1 cup sweet or sour cream
1 cup white corn syrup

Bring ingredients to a boil.

Add 1 heaping cup of chopped pecans and 1 tsp salt.  Boil to a very hard ball.

Add 4 TB butter and 2 tsp vanilla (mix until butter is melted).

Let cool 10 minutes.  Start beating lightly until mixture begins to hold its shape.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased sheet.  (I shaped the warm candy into small oblong pieces).

 

Crispy Spicy Cookies and Seaside Candy Roll

4 Days Until Christmas

4 days until Christmas…

Christmas flavors.  Ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate, peppermint, and…maple?

Since I know everyone loves when I do my true confessions, the big reason I decided to make the Seaside Candy roll is because it was on the same page as the Crispy Spicy Cookies and the Easy Divinity. As I was making it, I realized how much my friend’s mom would like it.  When I was done making it and firmly into the tasting phase, I realized that it was very much like something you would find for sale at Cracker Barrel.  (My husband’s family’s natural habitat).  For some people it probably does bring back memories of vacations in those beach towns on the East Coast.  I’ve never been, so I don’t know.  There is something sort of Christmassy about it, though.  Pecans and maple and sweetness.  DSCN3518This is one of those candies that requires no heat.  If you are going to use your handy Kitchen Aid, you want to use the paddle attachment until everything comes together.  At that point you can switch to the bread hook to knead the candy.  DSCN3519

We had friends over to help decorate the Crispy Spicy Cookies.  My darling, patient husband led a 3 year old, 4 year old, and 6 year old in the process while I was out Christmas shopping.  I’m only kind of sorry that I missed it.  I walked in to the house to see little hands putting the lightly spiced cookies into open mouths.  The flavors are gingerbread without molasses.  We had a minor issue while making cookies.  Someone didn’t really understand the directions and didn’t know to cream the butter and sugar before adding the dry ingredients.  It dried the mixture out a lot.  We ended up adding a bit of liquid to loosen things up a bit.  I don’t think it affected the flavor.DSCN3517

Christmas isn’t Christmas without something like gingerbread.  My son is describing gingerbread as “that soft, sweet, spicy deliciousness that tickles the back of your throat.”  I keep telling him that I’m not writing about gingerbread right now, but it doesn’t stop him from telling me.  DSCN3516That’s what these cookies are like.  Snuggling with your oldest on the couch, with a Hallmark Christmas movie on, and the tree lit.  The smell of cookies in the air and the sound of your middle child reading a bedtime story to his younger sister.  Just light perfection.  Crispy Spicy CookiesSeaside Candy Roll