My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Braised Chicken with Olivia’s Stuffing 2

Posted on November 25, 2009 by crankycheryl

I’ve missed you, CrankyReader.  I was out of it there with all the working I was doing, and then last week crankyGreg said something to the effect of:

There’s something glorbity smorking about the mammary cache of the Tostito smookity-do, so we’ll have to transmogrify existing posts over to Bluehost, where we’ve already registered the dominoes and have 72 hours.

I nodded, sliding across the kitchen to reach Z., who was trying to duck as his brother was evoking piercing whines by shooting imaginary lightning bolts.  I tried to ignore, but quickly found myself shrieking, “You – the lightning bolts aren’t real!! You’re okay!  And you – your brother was not put on Planet Earth for you to whomp every time you feel bored!  And stop taking my kitchen tools!  And where the heck are your socks?”


Yep.  And then everything broke and I whined about it a lot.  And as a bonus I have tremendous blogger guilt, since it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I haven’t been able to post about the first product I’ve been sent for review in time for it to mean something.


I will admit that I have a big soft spot for Olivia’s Croutons.   They’re from adorable Charlotte, Vermont, and are a darned good product.  Once I spotted them in a Wild Oats in south Florida and squealed so loudly the woman next to me dropped her seitan.  (Ok.  I’m making up that last bit.  But I did get kind of excited to see them there in the tropical heat.)  When I got an email from someone at the p.r. firm who’s now handling their marketing, it was easy to accept some of their stuffing to review.


(Total disclosure: I’ve had coffee and baked goods and sometimes network with Nicole from pmg.)


If you’ve been reading along with me, you know that I believe that the job of cooking is primarily to use what you’ve got.  In this spirit, it’s hard to imagine ever buying croutons or stuffing, since there’s always leftover bread needing to become something or other.


But if I were to turn into someone who bought such things, Olivia’s would get my business.   And for testing purposes, I was delighted to have an excuse to make something from Molly Stevens‘s excellent “All About Braising.” And what a delight to find that I somehow managed to have nearly all the ingredients around for:

Braised Whole Chicken with Bread Stuffing and Bacon
Adapted from Molly Stevens’s All About Braising, a cookbook you should own if you don’t already
Serves 6

The Stuffing:

In a large dutch oven, heat over medium heat:

  • 4 T. unsalted butter, or mild-flavored vegetable oil

When rippling or foaming, add:

  • 1 1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2/3 c. finely chopped inner celery stalk, including leaves

Cook for a few minutes, or until nearly translucent, then place in a large bowl and mix in with your hands:

  • 2/3 c. finely chopped good ham (didn’t have it: used turkey bacon)
  • 1/3 c. pine nuts
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1 bag Olivia’s Stuffing, or 5 cups stale mild white bread with crusts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Set bowl aside.
The Chicken:

Preheat oven to 325.

Rinse and pat dry:

  • 1 6 – 7 lb. roasting chicken, trussed

Then sprinkle generously with:

  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

In the bottom of a large flame-proof dutch oven or large pot, heat:

  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. olive oil

Add and cook until the onion is lightly translucent and golden spots appear on all vegetables:

  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

With heat on medium-low, add and bring to a gentle boil:

  • 2 t. mixed fresh herbs – I used sage and thyme
  • 3 strips of lemon zest, removed from fresh lemon with peeler or zester
  • 1/2 c. dry wine (Stevens calls for white but the only thing I had in the fridge was an off-dry riesling so I went with a red)
  • 1 c. chicken stock

Place a couple of cups of the reserved stuffing inside the chicken, being sure to leave plenty of room for it to expand.  Place the chicken in the pot, and cover, including the legs, with:


  • 5 strips lean bacon (wished I still had some VT Smoke & Cure around, but was forced to use more turkey bacon since that’s what I had)

Bring back to a gentle boil, cover, and then place in the oven.

In the meantime, take the remaining stuffing and place it in a casserole dish for which you have a cover, pour:

  • 1 1/2 c. chicken stock over the top, and place it in the oven.

Cook chicken for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer reaches 170 when it pierces the thigh.  Remove chicken and stuffing from oven.  Using a carving fork and knife, or two wooden spoons, or your giant waterproof oven mitts, remove chicken from the pot and place on a rimmed cookie or half sheet pan.  Raise the oven temperature to 425.  Place the chicken back in the oven for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned.  (If you like crusty stuffing, you can scoop that onto the cooking sheet too, but cover it with foil or parchment after 10 minutes so you don’t burn it.)

In the meantime, remove any herb stalks and then puree the cooking liquid with your blender, immersion blender, or food processor, being careful of steam and splatters.  (I left in the lemon peel, Stevens removes it.  You decide whether you want it in or out.)  Pour the resulting liquid back into the pot and place over a low heat until barely boiling.  Stir in:

  • 1/4 c. heavy cream, light cream, or half-&-half

and turn down heat.  Stir until thickened.  Keep warm.

Remove chicken (and stuffing) from oven and let sit for 15 or 20 minutes so the juices settle to make for better and more beautiful carving.  To serve, I placed right on top of baby spinach leaves, which got all nicely wilted and kind of pleasantly oily and were otherwise delightful.


Seitan! 2

Posted on October 15, 2009 by crankycheryl
Breaded seitan cutlets frying happily away.

Breaded seitan cutlets frying happily away.

Put down that Tofurky!  Don’t torture your vegetarian friends while going broke on their behalf.  With just a few easy steps, and a couple hours of cooking and cooling, you can have a delicious and thrifty vegan alternative.

I grew up eating a lot of Chinese food, and what with 2 1/2 millenia of Buddhism, Chinese cuisines feature some of the most wonderful vegetarian foods.   I’ve always been especially fond of seitan in its many guises.  I like how it’s dense and chewy in a way that’s fairly unique in the veggie protein world.

After I complained about how pricey it’s gotten (nearly $10 a pound from a local company!), a friend clandestinely told me that she had worked out The Best Recipe for it.  But that it was a little complicated, and that it had taken her 9 years to develop, and that she wasn’t sure she could bring herself to share the recipe.

I think I had nearly convinced her to do so when I came across this one from my very favorite vegan blog, Post Punk Kitchen.

I almost felt guilty for having found a recipe that’s so easy, and that costs about a quarter what it would to buy it pre-made.  I’ve made it three times, and haven’t had it fail.  Though it grated on my attention-deficit nature, I followed the instructions exactly, especially about the temperature of the water when the seitan goes in (cold) and the time that the seitan stays in the broth after cooking (a while).

Give it a whirl.   You can double it and freeze some to have around when vegetarian friends drop by, or make it ahead for a holiday dinner.  Your guests will thank you, and you will bask in the glow of gratitude and thriftiness.

Homemade Seitan
From Post Punk Kitchen


  • 1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 cup very cold water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Simmering Broth

  • 10 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce


  1. In a large bowl, mix together vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast flakes.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients: water or broth, soy sauce. tomato paste, garlic, lemon zest.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine with a firm spatula, knead dough for about 3 minutes until a spongy, elastic dough is formed. [It’s really cool how the wet mess turns into this spongy thing right before your eyes!] Let dough rest for a couple of minutes and prepare your broth, but don’t start boiling it.
  4. Now roll your dough into a log shape about 8 inches long and cut into 3 equal sized pieces. Place the pieces in the broth. It is important that the liquid be very cold when you add the dough, as it helps with the texture and ensures that it doesn’t fall apart. Partially cover the pot (leave a little space for steam to escape) and bring to a boil.
  5. When the water has come to a boil set the heat to low and gently simmer for an hour, turning the pieces every now and again.
  6. Now you’ve got seitan. Let it cool in the simmering broth for at least a half an hour. It is best if it cools completely.

What you do next depends on the recipe you are using. If it calls for gluten use it as is. If you want to store some of it for later use put it in a sealable container covered in the simmering broth.

Up My Sleeve … Secret Ingredients, Part 1 3

Posted on December 15, 2008 by crankycheryl

My favorite secret ingredients:

  1. Umeboshi vinegar. (Made from salted, pickled plums. Very popular with macrobiotic cooking – intensely sour, intensely salty. Use a little for vinagrettes, rice, all sorts of things.).
  2. Canned pumpkin. (I use in all sorts of pancakes, waffles, baked goods. It adds a ton of nutrition and great color and usually gets by the minicritics as long as I don’t overdo.)
  3. Ground flaxseed. (Ups the nutritional value of whatever I’m cooking, and has a kind of nice nutty flavor.)
  4. Ground green chile powder. (But I got mine on a visit to New Mexico at a farmers’ market, and dangit I’m almost out.)
  5. Ground ginger. (Nearly always substitute for cinnamon if appropriate.)
  6. Dried orange or lemon peel. (Many things benefit from this!)
  7. Dark chocolate everything: cocoa powder, chips, chopped, whatever. (Milk chocolate wastes my time, flavorwise.)
  8. Olive oil. (I use it for just about everything that calls for a liquid fat, except high-heat sautees and the like, which do better with grapeseed oil.)

Mmmmmmaple Walnut Pie 0

Posted on December 13, 2008 by crankycheryl

After having been shut out of buying Maple Walnut Pie for THREE years at the Craftsbury Antiques & Uniques Festival, at last I decided to make my own to bring to the Thanksgiving potluck.

I made Cream Cheese Pie Crust (mine was from the 1997 Joy of Cooking), which I’ll immodestly admit was the best crust I’ve made ever. It turns out that following recipes can actually pay off. So much for my usual ADHD approach to baking.

It’s hard to say just why Maple Walnut Pie is so much more delicious than my old favorite pecan pie, but it just is. Of course they’re very similar, but the smoky maple taste and the slightly tannic, bitter walnuts of this one create a sort of accessible complexity that is just terrific. (The mini one in the picture, by the way, is one made with pumpkin seeds for my friend who’s allergic to nuts. I would have pan-toasted the seeds first except it was Thanksgiving morning and there was zero chance of this level of attention to detail by then.)

It seemed the right thing to choose Yankee Magazine’s recipe for such a Vermont-y seeming dessert, and I think I’ll be making this often.

Will You Shut Up About Thanksgiving? 1

Posted on December 13, 2008 by crankycheryl
Originally posted November 28,2008.

Here’s the deal: Thanksgiving makes me hate food.

I’m sorry. It’s curmudgeonly. But it’s true. I hate the annual festival of NPR announcers promising upcoming segments about new ways to cook the bird, the cranberries, ensure the stuffing is moist, combine unlikely pie ingredients, all of it. I do not want to learn more about cunning table decorations or place markers or how to put flowers into eviscerated squash.

I know this is a particularly privileged position. I’m a more than capable cook from a family of foodies who lives in a tight-knit community of excellent cooks. Our gatherings are convivial and delicious, and I’m usually lucky enough to have multiple invitations and friends to visit and eat with.

But do we have to all act like a bunch of stupid damn goldfish every year, pretending that we’ve forgotten what works and what doesn’t and that we’ve got to be the cleverest reinventers of everything autumnal?
Can’t we just eat the damn bird/seitan with the f’ing potatoes how we like them and the pie and the stuffing with whatever it is it’s supposed to have? Please?

That said, I’ll admit that Ruth Reichl knocked my socks off with her Pumpkin-Cheese Fondue in this year’s Gourmet, and so I attacked various squash and pumpkins left over from my CSA share and turned them into what my friend called “Cheese Bombs.”

But then again, she’s Ruth Reichl. Of course she knocks socks off. But the rest of ’em aren’t and should just leave us alone.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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