Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lifestyle Issues

I haven't posted any new recipes because truth be told I've been on a cleanse of sorts. I do drink smoothies, however, chock full of all manner of glorious things, and I have taken pictures as well as noted which blends make me feel particularly well, and why. Awhile back I also candied some tomatoes and made some fun and delicious flavored oils; photos and recipes of all these things to come at some point in the near future.

Mainly though I am eating a lot of raw foods. Spinach, nuts, seeds, cherries, bananas, etc. I use a little bit of olive oil to dress my veggies, and the rest of the time I use raw virgin coconut oil for medicinal reasons. I get more than enough healthy fats using that. I mix the coconut oil with orange juice (about a tablespoon to half a glass) and drink three times a day. The oil helps with thyroid function (I have Hashimoto's) and I am amazed over the great things it's doing for my skin, and also my energy levels. I will post more expansively on this soon.

Basically I eat the same thing nearly every day. This doesn't make good fodder for a food blog of course, but I will perhaps begin to include my observations on living 90% raw, as well as how this lifestyle is affecting my general well-being. I believe in nutritional intervention. I believe in holistic care. I believe in being the staunchest advocate for my own health care, and one way I do this is by trying to ingest things I know will truly feed my body. It's been a reverent exercise. The body truly is a temple, and the more we treat it as such, the better we begin to feel in so many areas of our life.

So, if nobody minds some deviation from the tried and true course (that being rad recipes that taste awesome), you'll be hearing from me more often on a variety of nutrtional topics currently of interest to me.

Peace.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rice with Pecans and Dried Cranberries

I know, I know, I just recently posted a rice recipe good for just about any occasion, but now I have another. Believe me, you'll thank me, it's that good. This one is adapted from the Whole Foods Cookbook and has a bit more crunch than the other, I'd say, mainly due to the raw vegetables. It's just as delicious and versatile (think lunch, dinner, potluck, debauched face-smothering).

And did I mention easy? Because easy is the best part. My grade: A

Rice with Pecans and Dried Cranberries

Ingredients:

Dressing:

6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons raspberry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 - 2 tsp sugar

Salad:

1 cup rice (I use calrose because I'm a Hawaii girl and addicted to calrose, but wild would probably be even better and you could also use brown)
water, enough to cook rice (see instructions according to rice used)
1 cup pecan halves, toasted
1/2 red onion, diced
1 yellow or orange pepper, seeded and diced
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup minced parsley
8 green onions, chopped

Directions:

For dressing, combine vinegars, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper and mix well. A blender is good for this.

For salad, cook rice according to specifications and reserve. Let cool.

Once rice is cool, add pecan halves, pepper, cranberries, parsley and green onions. Other nice bits for this salad might be celery and carrot. Combine the dressing with salad ingredients, starting with a quarter of the dressing and increasing until you are comfortable with the taste. For example, I do not use all the dressing called for this recipe -- probably about 3/4ths, actually.

Chill before serving.


Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook: 45 minutes for rice, 20 minutes for chopping/dressing -- 1 hr 5 min, all in

Sonoma Turkey Salad

This recipe is a riff on the Whole Foods Cookbook recipe which actually calls for chicken instead of turkey. I picked turkey, however, because first of all I prefer the taste and second, it's also a SuperFood. I always try to get a few SuperFoods in each day, and this is one easy way to do it (in fact there are three SuperFood ingredients within this recipe, which I note with an asterisk).

This dish is tremendously easy to make and also extremely summery. It would be great at a potluck or eaten as a light entree with a crisp white wine or an ice cold margarita. I also imagine adding a bit of horseradish to the dressing would give it some interesting punch -- though I have yet to try it. Excellent stuff! My grade: A+

Sonoma Turkey Salad

Ingredients:

Salad:

2 lbs turkey breast, cooked, cubed, chilled * (I buy mine cooked from Trader Joe's, but you can make your own, or use chicken breasts)
2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 red onion, diced
3/4 cup roasted pecan halves *
(sunflower seeds would probably also be great in this)

Dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise
5 teaspoons good honey (the darker the better) *
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar (I use raspberry red wine vinegar for added dimension)

Directions:

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, honey, poppy seeds and vinegar. Mix until thoroughly combined and there are no lumps.

In a separate bowl, add cubed turkey, pecans, diced onions and halved grapes. (Celery would also be good in this for some nice crunch.) To this mixture add the dressing, a quarter of a time. I never use all the dressing I make, but would rather have it on hand then not have enough. I usually use about three-fourths of the dressing for this entire dish. (The rest of the dressing is great on salads or can even be used as a marinade for fish, etc.) Mix well. Serve chilled as an entree (with a nice spinach salad) or in a sandwich.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/cook: 20 minutes (unless cooking your own turkey or chicken)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Most Delicious Caprese Paninis Ever, I SWEAR



Have you ever had a Caprese salad? They're delightful, really; thickly sliced tomatoes piled with fresh buffalo mozzarella and sweet basil leaves, and drizzled, typically, with balsamic vinegar and fine olive oil. They're fabulous in the summer. I sometimes add a little salt to my Caprese salads, but not always, since fine herbs and good vinegar/oil usually does the trick.

I decided to kick my Caprese salad up a notch, making a panini sandwich out of it. I thought I'd incorporate my Easy Breezy Every Day Pesto into it to add some nice punch and flavor. Because it's important, I made sure that all the ingredients were as fresh as possible.

The result was something out of this world -- fresh, light and even healthy. I made mine in a waffle maker because honestly? Do you think I'm going to spend $50 for a panini maker? Hardly. A waffle maker will do just fine, and if you don't have one of those, try toasting the sandwich in a cast iron skillet, the sandwich weighed down by another heavy pan or pot. Works expertly. My grade? To the moon and beyond! A++

The Most Delicious Caprese Paninis

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes
Good balsamic vinegar
Good extra virgin olive oil
1 container buffalo mozzarella in water
15 - 20 leaves fresh sweet Basil
pesto
1 loaf sliced Italian bread (or ciabatta)
butter

Directions:
About an hour before panini making, marinate thinly sliced Roma tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The tomatoes will let off liquid into the oil and vinegar, creating a nice marinade.

About ten minutes before panini making, turn on waffle maker or begin to heat pan.

One hour later, arrange two bread slices for sandwich making. Slather both pieces with homemade pesto (the more the merrier, depending on how much you like the green stuff). Atop the pesto create a layer of marinated Roma tomatoes. Atop the tomatoes layer thinly sliced buffalo mozzarella. Atop the mozzarella drape the sweet basil leaves. Create sandwich, lightly buttering the outsides of both pieces of bread, and then brushing on a light layer of olive oil.

Place sandwich into waffle maker and close lid. Watch closely, making sure cheese melts and tomatoes and basil become sufficiently wilted. Pull sandwich when bread is golden brown. Cut in half and serve immediately.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook time: 30 minutes prep, 5 minutes cooking (per panini)


Easy Breezy Every Day Pesto

Pesto is good in so many ways. With pasta, on sandwiches, or as an enhancement to other condiments like mayo or olive oil. And pesto is most fabulous when made fresh. There's nothing to it, even I can do it! For this recipe I pulled herbs from the garden and mixed it with simple store-bought items to make a panini entree too good to be believed. My grade: A

Every Day Pesto

2 cups fresh sweet basil
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup quality olive oil
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup quality Parmesan cheese (Pecorino is also quite nice)
2 - 4 garlic cloves (I use 4!)
Kosher salt to taste if you like (I rarely use any salt)

Take all ingredients and combine in food processor. Start conservatively with both olive oil and Parmesan cheese, tasting all the while. Blend until nicely mixed, presenting as a somewhat smooth and nutty texture.

This pesto will last several weeks in your refrigerator. You can add olive oil periodically to moisten the mixture.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook: 10 - 15 minutes

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wild Rice Salad

I came across this mouth-watering recipe on Simply Recipes, a site I really enjoy and also highly recommend. I knew I had to try it; the sesame oil, wild rice and cranberries seemed bound to be delightful. And they were; all of it was. I made a pig of myself with this dish, seriously. I did modify the it a bit to suit my particular tastes, which the recipe here will reflect. Feel free to do the same. Get creative. My grade: A+

Wild Rice Salad

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 8 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cups thawed frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dark sesame oil

Directions

1 Put the vegetable broth in a medium sized saucepan. Add the rice and wild rice, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover. Let cook for 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely. (I used calrose rice for this, and made both rices in a rice pot. Worked out nicely.)

2 Heat a small skillet on medium high heat. Add the almonds. (If you like, lightly coat the bottom of the skillet with oil.) Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. Remove almonds from pan and let cool.

3 Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil.

4 In a large bowl gently mix together the cooled cooked rice, green onions, peas, dried cranberries, almonds, and dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Chill completely before serving. Serves 8-10.

Difficulty: Easy

Oven Roasted Tomato Bruschetta (on Focaccia)

Surprisingly we're still doing the vegetarian thing, though now we're calling it the "no red meat thing", because every once in awhile (usually on Sundays, for barbecuing) we eat chicken. I don't miss it though, especially when there are so many fabulous tasting meatless meals to enjoy.

This bruschetta is a perfect example. Not like typical bruschetta, which is made with raw tomatoes and usually served on a more crusty bread, this bruschetta is made with "candied" tomatoes piled high on soft, toasted focaccia with mozzarella and fresh basil from the garden. It's a nice twist on the old standard. Additionally, these tomatoes would be fabulous in paninis, and for that reason I'll indicate their preparation separately from the entire dish. My grade for the bruschetta: B+

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Several ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and cored
Good balsamic vinegar
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Take the prepared tomatoes and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Drizzle as liberally as you like with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

When finished, chill and then set aside. Reserve some if you like for a jar. These last awhile in your fridge.

Oven Roasted Tomato Bruschetta (on focaccia)
One loaf store-bought focaccia (I use Trader Joe's)
Butter
Olive oil
Reserved oven roasted tomatoes (chilled)
12 - 15 leaves fresh sweet basil
Buffalo mozzarella, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced

I realize I don't have exact measurements here, and that's because I like a lot of basil and a little less mozzarella. I often omit the butter (though I like the taste it imparts). Prepare according to your proclivities.

Slice focaccia about 1/2 inch in thickness. Lay on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add a little bit of butter to each slide if you like. Broil on hi for approximately 5 minutes. Watch closely; they toast quickly and can burn. When finished, set aside.

Grab your oven-roasted tomatoes, now chilled, and if you like, add some garlic. If they need some more balsamic, add conservatively. Slice sweet basil in long thin strips. Arrange mozzarella on top of toasted focaccia, and then add tomato mixture and basil. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Best Hummus, Tabbouleh and Tzatziki you'll ever put in your big vegetarian mouth

This week we're being vegetarians.

I personally am doing this for spiritual reasons; the rest of my family, however, is doing it because I have to do it. Not to make it sound harsh or draconian; it's actually been pretty lovely eating this way. Vegetarian food doesn't have to suck, come to find out. In fact it can really be great, especially with recipes I'll be giving you today.

My husband loves hummus. I always thought it looked a bit like toddler poop and so was never really game to eat it. Until about four years ago, when I finally tried it slathered on pita bread and topped with tzatziki and tabbouleh which my husband insisted I try. Now, you won't hear me admitting this often, but my husband? He's been absolutely right, all along!

Here are three recipes for these dishes that are both easy and delish. They'd be great as an appetizer, but we enjoy them for dinner and no one is left unsatisfied. Enjoy! My grade: A+

Easy and Delicious Hummus (Hummous) (as adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine)

Ingredients:

2 16 oz cans chick peas (garbanzo beans)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4th cup olive oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

Add all ingredients into food processor and puree. I'm serious. It's that easy. Add more or less oil to get the consistency you prefer. If you don't want to use too much oil, warm water works well, too. Always taste during the process so the spices are just right. You can add olive oil and additional lemon juice on top of the hummus upon serving. I usually just do the oil, though, because the lemon used is adequate.

For a nice variation, add sun-dried tomatoes and/or roasted garlic.

Tabbouleh (as adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook by Diana Shaw)

Ingredients:

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cup water, boiled
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cucumber, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 scallions, minced, white part only (I also use shallots)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt to taste

Directions:

Bring water to a boil. Add bulgur wheat and remove from heat. Let sit for a 1/2 - 1 hour. In this time the bulgur wheat will soak up the water, enlarging. At the end of allotted time drain bulgur through sieve, making sure to remove all water. Transfer to bowl.

To bulgur wheat add add chopped cucumber and tomato, parsley, garlic, mint, olive oil and lemon juice, mixing thoroughly. Serve room temperature or refrigerate up to 3 hours.

Tzatziki (Cucumber-Yogurt Dip) (as adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine)

1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt (I like Greek)
1 cucumber, seeded, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh mint for garnish

Mix yogurt, salt and garlic. Add to this the diced cucumber (making sure to drain all excess water from cucumber), vinegar, mint, dill and olive oil. Stir to blend and season with more salt if needed. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.


Serve all three on whole grain pita bread. I like to layer first with the hummus and then atop that add razor-thin slices of cucumber and tomato. Atop that I add the tzatziki and then tabbouleh. Brilliant!

Difficulty: Easy
Serves: 4 people well

Spicy Tomato, Orange and Cucumber Salad


I like to make it a point to serve a side salad with nearly every meal, not simply because it's nutritious, but also because I love salads of all types. I also want to teach my child to love them as much as I do, and although it's been a long road to hoe with her, it seems we've finally hit a nice stride.

Case in point is this recipe, which was provided to me by the ever lovely Amy D. My daughter loved it (we served it with the Red Chile Grilled Chicken below, which she also loved), probably because of the orange slices and lime juice. Doesn't matter, though. It's nutritious and I'll take it! My grade: A

Spicy Tomato, Orange and Cucumber Salad


Ingredients:

4 Roma tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1 large orange, peeled and without pith, chopped
1/2 - 1 cucumber, peeled if you prefer, chopped
1 lime, juice of
1 tsp chili powder

Directions:

Chop all vegetables and fruits. Squeeze lime juice over mixture and add chili powder; toss. Add or increase lime as you prefer; same with the chili. A bit more orange in this might be nice, too.

Serve right away (if you let sit, the tomato and orange will devolve into a vinaigrette) with grilled meats.

Difficulty: Easy
Serves: 3 - 4, modest (side) portions

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Red Chile Grilled Chicken


I'd like to give a shout out to Simply Recipes, a fabulous site with loads of delicious and fairly uncomplicated recipes that every cook can enjoy.

Recently I saw a recipe there for Red Chile Marinated Grilled Chicken which immediately caught my eye. Because it's summer and we're always grilling (I recently bought my husband one of those robo-grills from Weber), I thought this recipe would fit the bill nicely for outdoor cooking, but also be decent enough for indoor broiling, if it came to that.

I also didn't have all the ingredients on hand, so please note that the recipe I've posted here is modified per my preparations, with the only glaring difference being my addition of one cup of dark brown sugar. After having tasted it, I cannot imagine having it without the sugar, so please do try it. My grade: A

Red Chile Grilled Chicken (adapted)

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, preferably thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat (I used four bone in breasts and four thighs, and liked it all)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/4 cup Mexican red chili sauce (I bought a large can of Mexican tomato sauce with chilis -- is this the same thing? Either way, it was perfect.)
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • A couple of turns on a black pepper grinder
  • A pinch of dried oregano, crushed (I used dried Greek oregano from my garden)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (I think I used 3 whole cloves, but we like garlic)
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Garnish

  • Avocado slices
  • Thinly sliced lettuce or cabbage
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Cilantro

* To make your own homemade sauce, take 2 ancho and 2 guajillo chiles, open them up, remove the stems, seeds, and ribs. Lightly toast the chiles on a medium griddle or cast iron pan for a minute or two, flattening them down with a metal spatula. Place the chiles in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let soak for 10-15 minutes, until chiles are softened. Place chiles, 1 1/4 cup of the soaking water, 1 clove of garlic, a pinch of salt, in a blender. Blend until completely smooth. Proceed with the recipe, but don't add any more garlic to the sauce.

Method

1 Combine chili sauce, vinegar (2 Tbsp if using canned sauce, 4 Tbsp in you've made your own sauce), allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, black pepper, oregano, sugar and garlic. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool.

2 Reserve some sauce for basting. To the rest of the sauce add all (salted) chicken parts and cook at low heat for an hour. (I always do this when I'm grilling chicken; it cuts down on cooking time and ensures tenderness). Once done cooking, let cool and then place in fridge until time to grill.

3 Remove the chicken from the refrigerator before starting up the grill. Preheat your grill, allowing for a space on the grill for cooking the chicken with indirect heat. (If using coals, move all the coals to one side of the grill, if using gas, after the grill is hot, turn off one of the burners.) Brush the grill grates with olive oil. Make sure the chicken pieces are well coated on all sides with the paste-like marinade. Place the chicken pieces on the indirect heat part of the grill (not over a flame or coals). Cook, covered, for 25-30 minutes, turning the pieces over after the first 15 minutes. Try to keep the temperature in the grill around 350°F. Chicken is done when juices run clear, breasts have an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 175°F.

If you aren't in a grilling mood, you can bake the chicken pieces in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan, skin-side up. Cook for about 45-50 minutes, until breasts have an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 175°F.

Serve garnished with sliced avocado, sliced lettuce or cabbage dressed with a little vinegar and oil, sliced radishes and cilantro.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Serves: 4- 6

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Easy Baked Chicken Paremsan

The following picture does not do what I just put into my mouth any justice whatsoever. Just know that going in:

I have an herb garden and it is rad.

Within this herb garden I have thyme, tarragon, sweet basil, rosemary, Greek oregano, sage, Italian oregano and Italian parsley. I also grow my own Roma tomatoes, broccoli, green beans and peppers. It makes me feel earthy. It makes me feel agriculturally superior. And that's because I am agriculturally superior.

Today with the basil and oregano I made a lovely sauce. My tomatoes are not in yet, so I used a can of plum tomatoes from Trader Joe's and they worked splendidly. I poured the thick sauce over breaded chicken breasts and baked, for the easiest and most fresh, most delicious Chicken Parm ever.

I mean, let's face it. Chicken Parmesan isn't the hardest dish to cook. It's actually damned easy. But when done right, it's good. And what helps make it "right"? Freshness. Herb-y freshness. And so I don't think I'm necessarily telling you to cook Chicken Parm so much as I am encouraging you to grow your own herb garden, because with fresh herbs you can make simple, rustic meals come alive. I served this one with garlic butter bread and it was stupid good. In fact I would smear the sauce all over my body and painstakingly lick it off if I wasn't wary of perhaps frightening my innocent child.

I'm that serious about it. My grade: A

Easy Baked Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients:

Chicken:

4 chicken breasts, pounded flat
seasoned bread crumbs (I make mine fresh from a baguette, which I toast and then grind)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
Bufallo mozzarella in water, drained, sliced
Parmesan cheese
vegetable oil for frying, about 1/2 cup

Sauce:

28 oz can whole, skinned plum tomatoes (or any tomato you prefre)
1.5 tsp Kosher salt
2.5 tsp sugar
1 tsp fresh Greek Oregano, minced
1 tsp fresh sweet basil, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pound breasts flat, about 1/2 inch in thickness. Whisk together egg and milk. Place breadcrumbs into bowl. Dip each breast into egg/milk mixture, then liberally coat with breadcrumbs. Fry in oil, 3 -4 minutes each side, until golden brown. When done, place into bake pan and layer two to three slices of buffalo mozarella atop each breast.

In food processor, add tomatoes, salt, sugar, herbs and garlic. Puree.

Pour tomato mixture over chicken layered with cheese. Atop this sprinkle the Parmesan cheese, according to your tastes. You may also layer more mozzarella, if you like.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes, serve.


Difficulty: Easy
Time: 20 minutes prep, 30 minutes cooking
Serves: 3 - 4

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hawaiian Style Chow Fun

My recent trip to Maui was exceptional for a variety of reasons, but mainly the food. I ate a lot of it. In fact I ate all my favorites multiple times, every day. It was why I went back to Hawaii, honestly. Sure it's lovely there and all; there's a great big beach and fantastic sunsets and sunrises. It's temperate. The people are lovely.

But let's be real here: with me, it's all about the food.

And one of my absolute all-time favorites? Hawaiian Style Chow Fun. I don't know how that might translate here on the mainland; names for stuff there are different than they are here (case in point: manapua in Hawaii is called char siu bao here on the mainland -- and it is way better in Hawaii, I might add). But what you're looking at in the picture is Chow Fun as I grew up with it, and as it ought to be served and enjoyed, because it is rad. It's easy to find the ingredients for it at your local Asian market, as well as easy to make.

So try it, mainlanders. You'll love it. My Grade: A+

Hawaiian Style Chow Fun


Ingredients:

1 TABLESPOON vegetable oil
1/2 pound pork or char siu, sliced in thin strips
1 T. chopped ginger
2 T. oyster sauce
2 T. soy sauce
2 cups bean sprouts
1 stalk celery (sliced thinly)
2 carrots julienne
2 green onions finely sliced
Chow Fun (or hefen) noodles, cooked and drained

Heat oil in skillet until very hot, fry either pork or char siu for 1 minute. Add ginger, oyster sauce and soy sauce, sauté 1 minute, add vegetables and stir fry for a couples of minutes. Add noodles and heat for 2 minutes, stir occasionally.

Serve on large platter.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Roasted Vegetable Menagerie


Vegetables all ways are just fine by me (except maybe out of a can and then boiled), but hands down I prefer to roast vegetables if I at all can. It doesn't matter what they are, either; usually whatever I have on hand that can stand a hot oven and blend well with potatoes, goes onto the pan. I eat roasted vegetables as an entire meal, too; usually with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. My husband likes to add some rice, which I think is superfluous because really, veggies can fill you up just fine. Veggies can make you healthy, too. And veggies always give me the big wide happy face!

Last night for my roasted vegetable concoction I included asparagus, brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots, red potatoes, russet potatoes, garlic, shallots and red onions. I know, crazy, isn't it? And the thing about these veggies is that they cannot all be fired at the same time; you have to stagger it. And so for this particular menagerie, I put the potatoes, carrots, minced garlic and parsnips in first (if I were using whole cloves of garlic I'd probably add them at the 30 minute mark), then 20 minutes later added brussels sprouts, then ten minutes after that I added onions and shallots and then eight minutes after that, the asparagus. I cooked the whole thing for an hour.

To break it down, that's:

  • 1 hr for potatoes, parsnips, minced garlic and carrots
  • 40 minutes for brussels sprouts
  • 30 minutes for onions and shallots, and;
  • 18 minutes for the asparagus
I cooked the whole thing at 375 and tossed all veggies liberally with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary (be conservative, it's a strong spice) and thyme.

Oh behave! The results? My grade: A+

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1 hr 15 minutes (15 minutes prep)
Serves: 4 - 6 (depending on how piggish you are -- I am quite piggish)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gadgets

I was reading Ruhlman's recent article on favorite kitchen gadgets. Of course his might as well have said a simple caveman club to kill a pig or a cow, given his apparent purist tendencies. (I mean that in a good way, I swear.) Still, it got me thinking about all the useless gadgets I've amassed over the years, and the ones I love, too. Because some I really do adore. But if I were on a desert island (equipped with electricity, running water and a stove), which of my many gadgets would I take?

It was an easy decision. It's my Kitchenaid Immersion Blender. I really do use it for everything. I make brilliant soups with it especially, and I happen to love soups, especially when they're filled with creamy goodness, like this one. It's so much easier then hauling piping hot liquid into a blender only to have it later spray all over your kitchen and also into your eyeballs, which hurts.

I have a lot of really preposterous gadgets, as well. Like the Fry-Daddy deep fryer which I never use and which is too small to fry anything sinful and delicious, like chicken. A waste of space is what it is. And then there are the garlic presses which do not work and which require the strength of ten Mr. Universes to use. Ridiculous. I ought to throw them out this instant, but do I? Will I, ever? No. And this, from the woman who hates clutter.

I think we have gadgets because it makes us feel like chefs. We see all those fancy people on Top Chef with their fandangled gadgets and we think Wow, if I just had gadgets, I could be somebody! Yet in actuality, just as Ruhlman asserts, you don't need much. A good knife, maybe some tongs, a nice spatula and you're golden.

Enough of this alleged white meat

I have officially had too much pork for one lifetime. I am off pork. Off it, I say, you cannot convince me otherwise. Even though we went to the butcher and had him section out four humungous pork butts for our culinary enjoyment, and I have three of them left. It's enough. I need vegetables; a nice Caprese salad with a light vinaigrette, perhaps. Chicken breast, yes, that's the ticket, or a soup. Nothing thick and creamy which I (and my thighs) prefer, but something brothy and filled with healthy goodness. I'm telling you, I'm turning over a new leaf. No more of the fabulous indulgences like cream sauces and entire pork butts, at least for today. Maybe even tomorrow, if I have the discipline. And I think I do.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's the Pig, I swear

It's not that I haven't been cooking these past few weeks; au contraire, my friends. I've been cooking quite a lot! It's just that I've been cooking much of the same recipes you see here over and over and over again, though mainly pork. I guess you could call it a rut, and that's your prerogative, but I prefer to call it lots and lots of really rad slow cook pulled pork straight from Jesus.

I will concede, for the record, that my other recipe for pulled pork is more difficult and not nearly as tasty as the following very simple and delicious recipe:

Really Ridiculously Easy (And Darn Tasty) Slow Cooked Pork

Ingredients:

1 pork butt roast (no loin, no ribs, it says butt and hey, I mean butt), at least 4 pounds
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple juice, unfiltered, organic
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Directions:

Place roast in slow cooker, sprinkling it on all sides with Worcestershire sauce, then patting it down with brown sugar everywhere. Add salt and pepper. Pour apple juice down the sides of the cooker, not directly onto roast. Cook for 6 - 8 hrs on low.

And then eat, pray, love.

Hey don't look at me that way. I realize it's potentially "wrong" or "bad" in some medical way that we eat one entire pork butt per weekend but I swear, it's just a fad. Or maybe it's that we just really really really love the pig. Whatever it is, you'll pry this slow cooked loveliness from my cold dead hands.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pineapple Pecan Upside Down Cake


Being a Hawaii girl, I approve of all things pineapple, even spam-and-pineapple over rice, but that is another matter altogether. Please don't challenge me ever.

And so I set out to make a fabulous pineapple upside-down cake for Easter supper, wanting a different kind of dessert, something flavorful and Spring-like. I think I managed all very handily. (Recipe
adapted from here.) The cake was moist, light and sweet with a nice after taste of rum, vanilla and almond. It was also easy (cooked in the same skillet in which you melt the butter and sugar) and truly delicious. I also liked the use of pecans as opposed to cherries (a trend I find kind of harftastic), and will in fact be making this in the future without the pineapple and with the pecans, for a nice and simple coffee cake.

Needless to say everyone at the table raved...mainly because they knew they'd better, but also because it really was fabulous. My grade: A

Pineapple Pecan Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 ripe medium pineapple, peeled, cored, eyes removed and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds (about 4 or 5 slices)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
14 pecan halves
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tablespoon dark rum

Directions:

Melt 3/4 stick of butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the sugar mixture is bubbly, about 2 minutes. Arrange pineapple slices in the skillet in a pleasing pattern and continue to cook for 2 minutes, or until the sugar mixture turns an amber color. Arrange the pecan halves in the spaces between the rings. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the remaining 1/2 cup butter and the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in 3 batches, mixing at low speed after each addition until just combined. Stir in the vanilla, almond extract and rum.

Spoon the batter evenly over the pineapple slices in the skillet. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool the cake in the skillet on a wire rack for 4 minutes only. Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake and, wearing oven mitts and working quickly, invert the cake onto a cake plate, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together. Carefully lift the skillet off cake and replace any fruit stuck to the bottom of the skillet, if necessary. Arrange the fresh cherry halves, cut side down, into the top of the cake, in the center of the pineapple rings.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hr 20 minutes (approx)
Serves: 6 - 8

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Copy-cat Jamba Juice Orange Dream Machine Recipe


One of the most addictive things for me is the Jamba Juice Orange Dream Machine smoothies. You probably know the ones -- extremely overpriced but oh so nom-nom-nom. Anyway, I found a copy-cat recipe for this marvelous drink and thought I'd post it here for both myself and anybody else who'd like to try it. (They're fab!)

Orange Dream Machine Smoothie Recipe:

Ingredients:

2 scoops frozen vanilla yogurt
2 scoops orange sherbet ice cream
1/2 cup low-fat milk (soy or rice is fine)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/8 cup - 1/2 cup of ice (not too much is needed)

Directions:

Add all ingredients to blender and, well...blend.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook: 5 minutes
Serving: 1

Monday, March 17, 2008

Slow Cooked Apple Roast Pork

While I delight in beef and chicken, my absolute favorite meat has to be pork. Barbecued pork, pork Asian-style, pork roast: you name it and by God, I'll eat it. And so because I love it so much, I am often looking to find or create a new recipe that will make my beloved piggy sing. By the rave reviews received from various members of my household, I think I may have done just that.

This slow cooked pork is fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy and full of beautiful apple-infused flavor. It is basically a bone-in roast pork cooked slowly in a flavorful apple-brown gravy, a concept both Midwestern and divine. I happened to cook mine in my slow cooker but this can easily be placed into a Dutch oven and cooked for about 3 (or more) hours at 325 degrees for about the same results.

What kind of results? Fabulous results. My grade: A

Slow Cooked Apple Roast Pork

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
32 ounces low-sodium pork stock (if you do not have pork stock, try beef or chicken)
  • You may want to use up to 64 ounces of stock, depending on consistency of sauce and amount desired to turn into gravy after roast is cooked. Make sure consistency is not too thick but also not too thin. If anything, err on the thin side.
1 1/2 cups apple juice
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 - 2 pork bouillon (or beef) (check for saltiness before adding second bouillon)
1 yellow onion, sliced in wedges
3 cloves minced garlic (we are garlic people and put up to five cloves and are very happy with it)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (build with salt, starting with half teaspoon and working up)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

+ 1 teaspoon cornstarch + 1/3 cup water, to be used after roast is cooked

Melt butter in pot big enough to contain amount of broth called for. When melted add flour and mix, making sure there are no lumps. Once mixed add broth gradually, continuing to mix to make sure there are no lumps. Once mixed add apple juice, Worcestershire sauce, onions, minced garlic, bouillon, salt and pepper. Test at all times for roundness of flavor. Add more salt and pepper, if needed, or more Worcestershire (though careful here, it has a distinct flavor). Start slowly on the salt and bouillon and build upward to desired taste.

Cook mixture until flavors are blended, about ten to fifteen minutes.

For the Roast:

4 pound bone in pork roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dry thyme (or 2 teaspoon fresh thyme)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in frying pan. Add pork roast and brown on both sides until meat is golden brown. Remove from pan and place in slow cooker or Dutch oven. Rub with minced garlic and then sprinkle with Kosher salt, black pepper and thyme. Reserve.

Pour sauce mixture over reserved pork roast. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 6 - 8 hours, depending on cooker. If using Dutch oven, cook for 3 hours (or more) at 325 degrees.

Once roast is finished, pull out pork and pour sauce through sieve into pot. The sieve should catch all onions, which should then be placed back over pork. At this point pork can be shredded if you prefer to eat it that way.

In pot with sauce, add cornstarch dissolved into water gradually and heat, stirring constantly until sauce becomes a thickened gravy. Taste always; season if needed. When at desired thickness, serve on the side as gravy or pour directly over roasted pork and onions and serve.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes plus 6 - 8 hours
Serves: 5 - 6

Fan-freaking-tastic Carrot (with Pineapple) Cake. I am SERIOUS.


I just love carrot cake. It's not that chocolate and vanilla cakes are bad, they're just kind of ... pedestrian. Common. I like a cake with some refinement, with some class. Yes, what I'm saying is that I like my cake with a little bit of jazz hands.

Carrot cake has been my favorite since childhood. I perpetually requested it for my birthday cake and we used to buy the Oregon Farms boxed version like crazy people. My mother never made it from scratch, and now after having made my own, I can't imagine why. It's not tough and plus, it's nine million times better. Even if you hate baking, or if everything you try turns out dry and flaky and off, try this recipe anyway, particularly if you like carrot cake. It's a combination of two great recipes and it's rich. It's moist. The cream cheese frosting is easy and to die for. I'm serious. I wanted to stuff my entire head right into this cake and stay there forever. My grade: A+

Carrot (with Pineapple) Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (I actually make mine closer to a puree, because my family doesn't like to actually KNOW they are eating carrots and therefore cannot actually SEE any.)
1/2 cup diced pineapple (I make a puree out of this, as well)
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
Non-stick baking spray, like Pam

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease 2 (8-inch) cake pans with non-stick spray and set aside. Cream butter in mixer. Add the sugar and beat. In separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Make sure to mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, alternating with the eggs (one egg at a time). Mix well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix. Add carrots and pineapple and beat on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Fold in the nuts. Divide evenly between the 2 cake pans and bake until set and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest in the cake pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, remove from the pans, and let cool.

For Frosting: In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar slowly, beating constantly. Add the vanilla. (Pecans can also be added to frosting mixture if you like. I don't do this because I don't like nutty frostings.)

When cake is cool, place 1 cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread the top with cream cheese frosting and then top with the second cake layer. Spread the icing on top and around the sides of the cake and let harden slightly before serving.

Difficulty: Easy - Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 8 - 10

Green Beans with Garlic and Shallots


This is a perfect side dish recipe. I love it with all roasts, all casseroles, even by itself. I use fresh green beans only because frozen or canned are not from Jesus. Add some crispy fried pancetta to the mixture too, if you're looking for something different and are feeling like Giada. Note too that my shallots are pretty dang caramelized, but that's because that's how I like them. If you like them less golden, by all means, YOU DO YOU.

Green Beans with Garlic and Shallots

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and washed
3 large shallots, sliced or chopped, depending on size desired
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Blanch green beans by boiling in water for approximately 1 - 3 minutes. Remove immediately and plunge into ice bath (a bowl filled with ice and water, which will stop the cooking process immediately). Leave in ice bath for a minute or so and then drain and reserve. (Blanching preserves texture, color and flavor of vegetables and is a preferred method of preparation.)

In pan heat up olive oil, adding sliced shallots and cooking until caramelized, about 5 - 10 minutes. Toward last two minutes of cooking add minced garlic and incorporate. When finished remove shallots and garlic from pan and place into bowl. Reserve.

Add one more tablespoon olive oil to pan and heat up. Add green beans and saute for four minutes. Add salt and saute another 1 - 2 minutes. Remove from heat and combine garlic and onions with green beans, mixing. Serve hot.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Cheese-Inside Cheesyburgers (Oh My God!)


Again, and this should go without saying: I am a Food Network Junkie. Certifiable. I watch all the hosts except maybe one or two that I simply cannot stand (I'm sorry but...Alton Brown? Manic! Insane! Slow down!) and am presently really enjoying Guy Fieri. You know him; he's the guy from Guy's Big Bite with the spiked white hair and a hankering for dude-food and big cocktails. The kind of guy I would like, right?

Anyway, I was watching Guy on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and just happened to see a couple of guys in Minnesota prepare what looked to be the best freaking cheeseburger in the world. Big, thick, packed with juice and what looked like flavor, these guys placed a big ol' hunk of cheese in the center of their patty as opposed to topping the patty with cheese after the fact. And oh my God.

I wanted to get into my car and go to St. Paul immediately, but given the price of gas these days and plus the fact that hello it's winter in Minnesota, I decided to try to make these fabulous burgers myself. I made sure to buy ground chuck with good fat content to insure juiciness, but also mixed it with ground sirloin which I knew would pack that wonderful flavor. And WOW, were they good. My grade: A+

Cheese-Inside Cheesyburgers

Ingredients:

2 parts 80/20 ground chuck to 1 part 90/10 ground sirloin (I used 2 lbs to 1 lb)
1 - 3 cloves of garlic (one clove for each pound of meat used)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 - 2 ounces cheese of choice per burger (about 1/2 inch thick and about 4 inches long) we used cheddar, pepper jack and American)
Hamburger buns, store bought, your favorite
1 tablespoon olive oil
Hamburger garnishes (lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo, mustard, you know the drill)

Directions:

Mix first four ingredients in large bowl. Salt and pepper is dependent upon amount of meat used. Needless to say seasoning is essential, meaning too little salt = bland while too much salt = inedible. Ride the lightning, my friends, and make the right choice for the amount of meat you have.

Pat down a thin, large patty with burger mixture and place hunk of cheese in the center of the patty. Pat another thin, large patty of equal size, and place it on top of the existing patty with cheese. Mold together, sealing ends. (Slapping the patty back and forth in your hands is the easy way to do this.) Fry in cast iron pan or atop grill until cooked to specification. Don't know how to judge when a hamburger is done? Read this.

While burgers are cooking, heat olive oil in griddle or frying pan atop stove. Toast hamburger buns until golden brown or desired coloration/texture is achieved.

When burgers and buns are finished, assemble with garnishes and EAT. Just EAT and EAT and EAT.

Difficulty: Extremely easy
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 8 + depending on size of burgers (and based on 3 lbs of meat)

Toasted Onion Mashed Potatoes


Another side dish I kind of just want to slather all over my body. I'm sorry, but mashed potatoes are the bomb. And bland mashed potatoes are ridiculous! Yet how many times have we all eaten them? Or else they come straight out of a box which is particularly gagtastic. Make your own mashed, people, and don't forget the butter and salt.

Look, if you're going to have mashed potatoes in the first place, you've already basically psychically agreed to put on some weight, am I right? So why not just go whole hog? Add that whole stick of butter (I know, I said it), add that salt, add that heavy whipping cream. Because trust me, you'll love these potatoes. LOVE THEM. My grade: A+ plus nine +s


Toasted Onion Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

4 - 5 extra large Russet potatoes, peeled, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons
2 teaspoon + Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper (add to taste)
1 - 2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


Peel and chop potatoes and place them in pot. Cover with water plus one inch and cook until done, which is when fork or knife slides through potato effortlessly. Turn off heat and reserve, undrained.

In pan, add two tablespoons unsalted butter and melt. When melted add 1 - 2 cups chopped onions and cook until truly toasted -- which means fully caramelized and golden -- about ten minutes.

Drain potatoes and place them into bowl. Add caramelized onions, and all other ingredients except heavy whipping cream. Mash potato mixture and then slowly begin adding heavy whipping cream until desired consistency is reached.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 - 6

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Best Ever Maple Oat Nut Scones

I was looking for a way to duplicate the Starbuck's Maple Nut Scone at home, since it's long been one of my favorite breakfast treats, ever. The thick, sweet glaze and tasty, maple-y moist bread has always been a winner to me. We're also the kind of family that likes to laze about on Sunday, with our tea or hot chocolate or piping hot mochas, and this scone is always the perfect complement. Have I found a way to duplicate the recipe? I think so, for the most part, but with a few important modifications (see recipe below). The scones themselves are not as thick as I'm used to, but I don't care about that -- for me it's all about the deliciousness. And are they delicious? Why yes, yes they are. My grade: A

Best Ever Maple Oat Nut Scones

Ingredients

For The Scones
  • 1 cup oats (quick or old-fashioned)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons good maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cold butter (small pieces)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Maple Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons good maple syrup
  • 5 teaspoons half and half
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Using a food processor or blender, finely grind oats.
  3. In a mixer, mix flour, oats, sugar (white and brown), salt and baking powder.
  4. Add maple syrup and butter and mix well.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the cream and maple extract.
  6. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix well.
  7. Add pecans and mix just to incorporate.
  8. Place dough on a floured surface. Knead and pat dough into a 8 to 10 inch circle and cut into 8 wedges.
  9. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place wedges on top and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until light brown.
  10. Remove scones from oven to wire rack. Let cool about 3 to 5 minutes.
  11. Mix glaze ingredients until smooth. Adjust the amount of water to get to the desired consistency. I like the glaze to be rather thick. Spread lots of glaze over each scone and dry about 15 minutes before serving.


Difficulty: Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 8

Best Ever Caramel Apple Crisp


As I've stated previously, I'm not the crisp or crumb person in the house -- my husband is. He could eat an entire crisp straight out of a dutch oven over a campfire if given the chance. I'm more a cake or pie person, but don't get me wrong, a good crisp is certainly hard to beat. But to me, crisps can tend to be a bit blah. Boring. Snore. I like something with a little oomph, which is what led me to do a world wide web innernets search for the best ever to-die for apple crisp, in order to please and wow my ever appreciative husband.

I may have found the recipe, folks. Granted I've adapted it a little, cutting out the evaporated milk and also processing the oats until they resembled bread crumbs more than whole oats, but either way, the end result sure comes close to what I was looking for. Who can turn away from ooey gooey caramel slathered over piping hot cinnamon apples? My grade: A

Best Ever Caramel Apple Crisp


Ingredients:

Apple filling:

5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup butter, softened

Caramel Sauce

1 14 ounce package caramels, unwrapped
3 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, toss apples with sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice and water; spread evenly in 9X13 pan.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the caramels with the milk. Heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth. Drizzle caramel sauce over the top of the apples.

In another bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, oats and butter; spoon mixture evenly over caramel and apples.

Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes (apple mixture will bubble and topping will be golden brown).

Difficulty: Intermediate
Cooking time: 1 hr 40 minutes
Yield: 12 servings

Perfectly Juicy Meatballs in Rich, Sweet Marinara Sauce

I like my marinara sauces thick and on the sweet side, packed with dimension and flavor. Of course I make it myself, because making it yourself is so easy and plus in the end you get exactly what you want, according to your tastes. It's fresh. It's homemade. It's delightful.

Oh and I love meatballs, too. I typically make them the same every time, although I'll switch it up here and there, adding minced mushrooms or different cheeses to taste. They're as easy as pie which is another reason I make them at home instead of buying them frozen in bags. Why do that? Meatballs are meant to be juicy and delicious, not thawed out and bland. I'm telling you, these two recipes are fabulous and easy, and once you try them you'll be making your own sauce and balls from this day forward, forever. My grade for each: A+

Rich, Sweet Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olve oil
3 14 oz cans Italian peeled tomatoes (I like San Marzano), pureed
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
5 cloves minced garlic
Half a yellow onion
7 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 ounces fresh basil, chopped, or to taste

Directions:

In a saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and saute until transparent. When cooked, add garlic, peeled/pureed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, pepper flakes, salt, bay leaf and basil. Cook, uncovered, for twenty minutes. When done, remove bay leaf and use immersion blender to puree, or regular stand blender. Blend until desired consistency is reached.

Perfectly Juicy Meatballs

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground chuck
2 ounces dried bread crumbs, as fresh as possible
3 large eggs
4 ounces grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 small yellow onion
2 ounces minced basil leaves
2 ounces minced Italian parsley leaves
5 - 7 minced garlic cloves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. If mixture seems too soft or loose, add bread crumbs. Roll meatballs about the size of a golfball or ice cream scoop. Cook for 35 - 40 minutes. When done, place in sauce and simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Difficulty: Easy
Yields: 8 servings

Paula Deen's Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake From Georgia


I love cake --- any kind of cake. Lemon, white, chocolate, and especially apple. Oh I've searched the internet round for the perfect apple cake recipe, and although I think I'll continue to try new things, I will say that Paula Deen's Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake From Georgia (omg mouthful) comes quite close to fitting the bill. The only thing I'll say is that the original recipe's 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil is just too much, producing great moisture, sure, but also too much synthetic oil taste which I don't happen to love. Instead I replace the oil with two sticks of melted unsalted butter and a half cup of pure vegetable oil. Sometimes I don't even add the oil and just use apple sauce instead (a half cup with the two sticks of melted butter). The taste is always more dimensional and pleasing, which is why I recommend you make the same replacement when trying the recipe, too. My grade: B+

Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake From Georgia

Ingredients:

Cake:
Butter, for greasing pan
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup pure vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups peeled and finely chopped apples
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Sauce:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease a tube pan.

For the cake: in a large bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, melted butter, oil, orange juice, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract; and mix well. Fold apples, coconut, and pecans into batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.

Shortly before the cake is done, make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the sugar, buttermilk, and baking soda, and bring to a good rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the hot cake in the pan as soon as you remove it from the oven. Let stand 1 hour, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook time: 1 hr 30 minutes
Yield: 16 - 20 servings

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (That Everyone Will Love)

Me? I tend to like things spicy. Some of the other members in my family? Not so much. This creates quite the conundrum when I'm in the mood for Mexican food, because I like blazing hot salsa and burn-your-tongue hot sauce. But those things are typically added after the fact, which is what makes this Creamy Chicken Enchiladas recipe so great. There's lots of flavor, but it's mild flavor. Add all the spices you like, or keep it low-key and mellow. The resulting enchiladas are thick and juicy, slathered in a savory, tasty sauce that everyone will love. And for those of you hot-heads out there who like your food like I do, add the inferno salsa after the fact. My grade: B+

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

Enchilada/Filling:
8 - 10 8 inch flour tortillas
1 pound chicken breasts, diced (or Rotisserie chicken from market, skinned and diced)
1 medium onion
1 cup sour cream
4 oz cheddar cheese (or your preferred cheese)
Cilantro to taste, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 15 oz can chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 10 oz can Rotel chopped tomatoes and chiles
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ancho chilli powder
1 tsp chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp salt
4 - 8 oz cheddar cheese

Directions:

Take cooked, skinned and cubed chicken breasts/meat and place in bowl. To that add 1 cup sour cream, cilantro, garlic, minced onion and 4 oz cheddar cheese. Mix well.

Divide chicken mixture evenly between eight tortillas. Roll and place seem down in lightly greased/sprayed 9X13 baking dish.

Melt butter in pan. Stir in flour and make a roux, cook until bubbly. Once bubbling add chicken broth and bring to boiling. Once boiling remove from heat, adding chili, ancho chili, chicken bouillon, Rotel tomatoes and chiles and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (I often puree the Rotel tomatoes before adding, as certain members of my family don't like chunky tomatoes in their meals. This adds the flavor without any of the texture objections.)

Pour sauce liberally over rolled enchiladas, making sure to get sauce into every nook and cranny. Atop the sauce liberally spread 4 - 8 oz cheddar or Mexican blend cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges are golden brown and bubbly.

Difficulty: Easy - Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 8

Perfectly Heavenly Potato Soup

I love potato soup, any time, anywhere, as long as it's warm and good. And if I'm making the soup myself, it not only has to be full of comfort and lots of flavor, but it has to be easy. Recently I threw together a wonderful soup that took about thirty minutes, tops, which, if you're like me and want your food and want it now, is a recipe made in heaven. And let me tell you, it was dee-lish. Next time I make it I'll probably add smoked ham chunks and corn. Oh my! My grade: A+


Perfectly Heavenly Potato Soup

Ingredients:

7 medium potatoes
Half a cup of butter
4 cups milk
2 cups half and half
1 pound bacon, fried crisp and chopped into bits
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup parsley, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
8 oz cheddar cheese

Directions:

Peel potatoes, then slice or cube into small chunks. Place in pot and cover with water, plus one inch. Boil and cook until ready, when knife or fork slides through potato easily.

In separate pan, fry bacon until crisp (bacon can also be baked in the oven on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes, or until crisp). Once bacon is done, remove from pan and chop into bits. Remove bacon grease from pan except for 1 tablespoon. To this add minced garlic, onion and green onion. Fry until onions are translucent and tender, about ten minutes. When cooked, add three fourths of the bacon bits and reserve entire mixture. The other fourth of the bacon bits can be put into a bowl or Ziploc bag for garnishing later.

In another pan, melt butter. Once melted, add flour to make a roux, mixing until lumps are gone, about one minute. Add two cups milk and one cup half and half to mixture, stirring continuously to make sure no lumps form. Set the burner on medium/high, adding rest of milk and half and half to mixture, plus chopped green onions, bacon, garlic and onion mixture. Heat until bubbling, making sure not to burn. After bubbling, turn heat off and add all remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, garnishing with more cheese, chopped green onions and bacon bits.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 5 - 6

Bobby Flay's Throw-down Winning Black Pepper Biscuits


Being a complete Food Network junkie, I just love the Bobby Flay throw-downs. Sometimes he gets a little wild and crazy for my tastes, transforming something simple and easy into something complicated and overly gourmand, but on average, I love what Flay creates. Every time I watch his throw down show I get hungry too, usually setting out within hours to duplicate the winning recipe and almost always being more than pleased. Next on my list are his chocolate chip cookies and meatloaf, but this weekend? This weekend it was biscuits, and boy were they good.

Is there anything more simple and delicious than a biscuit made right, slathered in butter or jam? I can't think of anything. Light and buttery with the perfect airiness, these biscuits won over the entire family. I prepared some regular style and others with Monterey Jack cheese (added at the last moment, with the buttermilk), and all of them were brilliant. My grade: A

Bobby Flay's Black Pepper Biscuits

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus 4 tablespoons, melted
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, not super fine and not coarse, somewhere in between


Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Using a dough cutter, combine until ingredients are incorporated. Scatter the cold butter pieces over the top of the flour mixture and continue to combine until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and pulse until the mixture just begins to come together.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly flour counter. Pat the dough into a 10 by 12-inch rectangle about 3/4-inch thick. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut out biscuits. Press together the scraps of dough, and repeat process. Place the biscuits on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper; brush the tops with cream and sprinkle with black pepper. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter.

Difficulty: Super Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 16 biscuits

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blueberry Crumb Cake


Ah, Ina has done it again. But then she always does! With me, this woman can do no wrong, literally. (Except for perhaps the Croissant Bread Pudding I recently made, but that was because I apparently detest bread pudding of all kinds, and not because of anything dear Ina did.) I want her home, her kitchen and especially her gardens. Covet, covet. I love nearly all of her recipes. I find them basically uncomplicated but also refined to the palate, thus thoroughly enjoyable.

I saw her make this Blueberry Crumb Cake on her recent Weekend Lunch episode. Frankly it looked divine. I myself am not an obsessive crumb cake personality such as my husband happens to be, but like any other good wife I do try to please him, and therefore decided to make this dessert on his behalf. Little did I know I'd end up eating most all of it myself.

It's just that it was so good. With the lemon zest and the fat, sweet blueberries---I found myself eating three whole pieces at one sitting. Oh the husband had some too, don't get me wrong, just not a whole lot, as most of it was gone by the time he made it home. And so if you like blueberries and crumb cakes of any kind, be sure to try this recipe. It will not disappoint!

My grade: B+
(I piled the streusel on too high, rendering it somewhat dry, which was completely my fault. Had I not, the grade would be higher.)


Blueberry Crumb Cake

Ingredients:

For the streusel:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

Preparation:


For the streusel:
Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake:
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers,
crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.







Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cakes


I'm not afraid to admit that I like Paula Deen. I'll shun nothing as long as it tastes great and won't give me a heart attack on the spot. (Four days later? Negotiable.) And Paula Deen's food pretty much always tastes good, plus it's easy. My only fundamental issue with Paula is the use of boxed products in some of her recipes. For example, the recipe I'm posting today, Gooey Butter Cakes, calls for a boxed yellow cake mix. I can see how this would be simpler. How it makes sense. But I tried it with the yellow box mix, and did I like it? No. Perhaps it's my palate, perhaps it's that I'm an elitist. Either way, it tasted too synthetic and, well, false. That's the only way to describe it.

But then my good friend pointed me to Whole Food's Yellow Cake Mix recipe. (Here is another Basic Yellow Cake Mix recipe that looks promising.) Call me dim, but I'd never considered that people spent their time actually making cake mixes. I thought if people wanted to make a cake from scratch, well they were going to go whole hog and make/bake that cake right then and there. Apparently not so, and the result? Homemade mixes. And me? Very pleased.

This means I can enjoy Paula's Gooey Butter Cakes with no palate issues and no elitist regrets. It should be noted that Paula's Pumpkin version of these butter cakes are apparently the best of all butter cake variations. I'll be trying it in the future, make no mistake. My grade: B+

Gooey Butter Cakes
(recipe pinched with thanks from recipelink.com)

Ingredients:

  • Cake
  • 1 (18.25-ounce) box yellow cake mix (or make from scratch, as I prefer, recipes above)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (16-ounce) box confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well. Pat into the bottom of prepared pan and set aside.
  3. Still using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth; add eggs and vanilla. Dump in confectioners' sugar and beat well. Reduce speed of mixer and slowly pour in butter. Mix well.
  4. Pour filling onto cake mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Don't be afraid to make a judgment call on the cooking time, because oven temperatures can vary. You want the center to be a little gooey, so don't bake it past that point!
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares. Just remember that these wonderful little cakes are very, very rich, and a little will go a long way.