Archive for January, 2011

January 16, 2011

Doughnut Muffins

(www.kingarthurflour.com)

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Batter

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, to taste (I reduced this from 1 1/4 KAF says to use)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup milk (I substituted half ‘n half I was out of milk!)

Topping

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon and sugar (1/4 cup sugar 1T cinnamon)

1) Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin. Or line with 12 paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups with non-stick vegetable oil spray; this will ensure that they peel off the muffins nicely.

2) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars till smooth.

3) Add the eggs, beating to combine.

4) Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.

5) Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

6) Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups nearly full.

7) Bake the muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they’re a pale golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.

8) Remove them from the oven, and let them cool for a couple of minutes, or until you can handle them. While they’re cooling, melt the butter for the topping (this is easily done in the microwave).

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9) Use a pastry brush to paint the top of each muffin with the butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Or simply dip the tops of muffins into the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar.

10) Serve warm, or cool on a rack and wrap airtight. Store for a day or so at room temperature.

Yield: 12 muffins.

January 16, 2011

Garlic Potato Wedges with Jalapeno Aioli

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This past summer we had family from out of town visiting so we took them to Virginia City (a true Wild West town) we ate at one of the casinos. My hopes weren’t too high for this place, but I walked away pretty impressed with what we had! Garlic Steak fries with jalapeno aioli….can I say Y-U-M! My little brother loves jalapenos so I told he and his girlfriend I’d come up with a jalapeno aioli recipe. It didn’t take me long to find an addicting concoction of jalapeno, lime, and mayonnaise! I used it with my Spicy Lime Marinated Chicken and it rocked that too…

4 russet potatoes
1 c. flour
1T garlic salt
2T onion powder
1T kosher salt
1t pepper
1T butter
1 or 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
grated parmesan
parsley, finely chopped

Toss flour, garlic powder, onion powder, S & P in a paper or plastic bag.

Wash and scrub potatoes. Cut into wedges 8-10 wedges each potato,, depending on how thick you like them.

Place the wedges in the flour mixture, close bag and shake to coat all wedges.  Place wedges on a baking sheet. Spray with canola or olive oil.

In 450 oven, cook the wedges for 25 minutes, turning once through cooking.

While the wedges are cooking melt 1T butter in a sauce pan. finely chop one to two cloves of garlic. Sauté garlic for 1 min, before it turns brown, but just enough to infuse the butter with garlic flavor.

Once wedges are done cooking, drizzle with garlic and butter, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Top with some chopped fresh parsley.

January 12, 2011

Beef Bourguignon (#1)

To continue with my “Making it with Your Own Hands” goal, here is a recipe that is a good weekend dinner, and is excellent to freeze the leftovers for quick a weeknight meal. In the Basil-Garlic Bread post I mentioned I purchased a Tyler Florence book – Stirring the Pot, which inspired me to become more organized. The thing that intrigued me the most about the book is the suggestion to use a freezer to the fullest, rather than it being a graveyard of freezer burned foods that go to waste in the end.

You know, I always liked the idea of buying in bulk to save money and trips to the grocery store. But it always seems I forget to “thaw” something for dinner and I end up looking in the freezer, walking away and deciding to go get something from the store when I have perfectly good food at home! On top of that, the only beef I will freeze is ground beef because steaks and other cuts have a different flavor after freezing/thawing that I don’t care for. Which Florence has some advice  in his book about freezing meat, and it becomes very apparent to me why I don’t like frozen beef. (Note, I’m not saying you shouldn’t freeze for bulk it just doesn’t work for me. I do freeze whole chickens and pork ribs that are vacuum packed and they seem to work just the same).

Florence suggests:
Beef = 1 week
Whole chicken = 1 month

Food Safety rules (USDA online)
Beef = 4-12 months
Ground Beef = 3-4 months
Whole Poultry = 12 months
Chicken Pieces = 9 months

Florence’s advice is not for safety reasons, but for quality purposes! Think fresh food, not a year old chicken with ice crystals!

Freezer burn is when food dries out. The moisture from inside the food is squeezed out during the freezing process and forms ice crystals – so food is dehydrated during freezing. Makes sense now! Sauces, cooked vegetables, and other prepared meat dishes hold up well the in the freezer. Especially foods with sauces are ideal because there is plenty of moisture in sauce, so the food doesn’t dry out as fast. This is exactly the type of information I want to put to use and share with you. The only problem with Florence’s book is that he doesn’t really dive into that idea – he only touches on it at the beginning and leaves you wanting more ideas…(we I did anyway).

As I mentioned before, I like to cook new things on the weekend – when I have time to spend three hours or more on Beef Bourguignon, or a few hours to roast a whole chicken. On New Year’s weekend I made Ham and Beans and Beef Bourguignon. There was so much left over I was able to add some to the freezer for future dinners. So I saved two bags of Ham and Beans and one of Beef Bourguignon – with enough to make one dinner for both my daughter and I out of each bag. Tonight we took out the Beef Bourguignon, and it was just as good as the first round. Stews have sauces so they freeze well and because there are no potatoes in the Bourguignon it’s a good stew to freeze your left over – or make extra to freeze for another dinner.

You can always add the potatoes the day you reheat a dish. While this recipe is really great, I must say I still have to try Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon to really “test” this recipe. But for now this still is a really great recipe, I like the flavor of the rosemary with beefiness of this meal (that is not in Childs’s recipe).

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Served with parmesan mashed potatoes and peas

(tylerflorence.com)

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 bacon slices, cut into 3-inch strips
  • 4 pounds beef chuck or round, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup Cognac (Brandy)
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine, such as Burgundy
  • 5 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • Bouquet garni (2 fresh rosemary sprigs, 8 fresh thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves, tied together with kitchen twine or tied in cheesecloth)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, sliced thick
  • 3 cups blanched and peeled pearl onions
  • Pinch sugar
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

Place a large Dutch oven over medium heat; drizzle with a 1/2-count of oil. Fry the bacon until crisp and then remove it to a paper towel; you’ll crumble it at the end and use it for garnish. Dry each piece of beef on a paper towel then add the beef to the pot in batches. Fry the cubes in the bacon fat until evenly browned on all sides; turn with tongs. Season with salt and pepper. (Don’t skimp on this step—it’s key.)

After the meat is browned, put it all back in the pot. Sprinkle the flour over the meat; then stir to make sure the beef is well coated and there are no flour lumps. Pour in the Cognac and stir to scrape up the flavorful bits in the bottom of the pan. Cook and stir to evaporate the alcohol. Pour in the red wine and beef broth; then add the tomato paste and bouquet garni. Stir everything together and bring the pot up to a simmer. Cook until the liquid starts to thicken and has the consistency of a sauce; this should take about 15 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.

Uncover the pot and add the garlic, pearl onions, and mushrooms, along with the pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes longer, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Remove the bouquet garni and then stir in the butter to finish up the sauce. Shower with chopped parsley and the reserved crumbled bacon before serving. Deep and rich flavor!

January 8, 2011

Basil-Garlic Bread

Adapted from Tyler Florence, Stirring the PotIMG_6146-29

This is a good recipe to freeze and use for later, in fact that is how Tyler Florence presents this recipe in the book. Buy a few loaves of bread at a time so you have a few on hand in your freezer. You can save any leftover basil-garlic butter for sandwiches, pasta, or anything else you can think up!

This is my new favorite garlic bread, although my daughter did not like it. I think if I make it enough she’ll eventually cave…

1 stick butter

3 cloves garlic

1 cup bunch fresh basil leaves

1 loaf French or artisan bread

½ cup grated parmesan

¼ teaspoon salt

couple cracks black pepper

In a food processor, add butter, garlic, and basil leaves, process until the basil and garlic cloves are finely chopped and combined.

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Stir in the salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese.

Cut the loaves of bread into slices – cut almost all the way through, leaving a bit of the bottom intact.

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Spread the butter between the slices of bread and then on the top of the bread. Wrap up in foil and label the bread so you know what it is and mark it with instructions “325°- 30 minutes”

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If you want to make this bread right away, bake it in foil at 450°for 15 minutes.

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January 5, 2011

Making it with Your Own Hands

As a single mother, working full-time and having a 30-minute commute home each weeknight, my biggest challenge is making dinners that are ready before 8pm. I can see why there is so much popularity with pre-made foods and eating at fast-food establishments. On top of a full work day, there are errands to run and children’s activities to take care of. By the time all that is done, what energy is left for cooking a homemade meal? Yeah sounds daunting! (Oh wait! You still have to make a lunch for everyone for the next day).

Thinking all this over, and realizing that I have been spoiled over the past 4 years – my sitter has been my sister-in-law and she has provided lunches for my daughter, I realize that it’s about to get tougher!

The challenge we all have with making homemade meals is the misconception that it is more time consuming and more expensive. I spend much less money on food when I make it at home, than I do going out to eat dinner every night. (I am not saying do not ever eat out – because that is ridiculous and it is a lot of fun to try new restaurants or to visit your favorites! Just don’t make it an everyday habit.) On top of saving money you end up eating healthier because now you are in control of the fat, salt, fiber etc… that is in your food. With a little organization and a well-stocked pantry, the goal is more attainable and your misconceptions start to melt away! (I’m a huge fan of organization, by the way, and actually I thrive on it).

Each year I set “culinary goals” for myself (last years was this blog in fact), and with the changes coming up this year, I decided I want to get myself and my kitchen better organized. I want more than half of my weekly meals to be homemade. Meaning I need to find a way to have homemade meals at my fingertips.

Some initial ideas off the top of my head …freezer friendly meals/food, weekly meal planning, creating menus, learning to better stock my pantry and fridge, waste less food, and collect or create recipes that are easy, fast, and fresh.

Also on my “culinary goals” list is to finally join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). With a CSA, you pay a local farmer at the beginning of the season (sometimes in combination with volunteering your time on the farm) and in exchange you get a weekly basket of fresh produce. Some farmers include eggs, while others offer packages that include meat. This all depends on where you live and what the farmers in your area offer. I am so excited about this because not only will I feel better about what my daughter eats, but I will also be challenged to cook and eat things I might not have otherwise chosen. Plus the money I pay goes to help support a local family farm, and in turn contributes to the health of the earth. Each Saturday I take my daughter to the Farmer’s Market; it’s actually something my daughter and I both look forward to doing (perhaps it’s the bounce house, but we do learn along the way). We have a good time and it is really neat to see so much of our community each week supporting the farmers and eating local!

If you have ever read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma you may know why I believe strongly in eating locally and sustainably. A local farm is more likely one that is “sustainable” and not using a bunch of chemicals to grow food. A sustainable farm has its own ecology – a farmer can feed the crop wastes to animals and then feed the animals’ waste to the crops and very little waste is put out into the environment causing pollution. Commercial farmers pump synthetic nitrogen into their crops to help pump out as much produce as possible. There is something about robbing the soil of all its ability to produce plants, flooding rivers with pollution from synthetic chemicals, affecting communities’ tap water and dead zones in the sea that makes me think industrial agriculture is not working as well as we once thought. If you have not read the The Omnivores Dilemma, I highly recommend the book. Reading this book has helped me to understand the whys of eating locally and sustainably, why it is good for our bodies and for our environment. (My personal opinion).

My, ever-changing, personal food philosophy is to make what I eat with my own hands, rather than out of a box or from a fast-food company.

So with all that said, here are my 2011 Food/Culinary Goals:

1. Organize!
2. Clean out and stock up!
3. Find ways to waste less food.
4. Create an arsenal of Go-To recipes for lunches and weeknight dinners to help save time. A restaurant has a menu, why not my kitchen!
5. Make more than half our weekly meals homemade.
6. Eat local, when I can.

Wish me luck – I’m open to all suggestions and information you may have, please share!

Here is one of my new favorite fast weeknight dinners to start off.

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 shallot
½ box spaghetti noodles
1 can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan

(You could also use a can of garbanzo bean and roast them with the cauliflower to mix it up – roasted garbanzos are good!)

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Coat the cauliflower lightly in olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Roast the cauliflower in a 450° oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook spaghetti noodles according to the package directions, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water when you drain the noodles.

Put 2T. Olive oil in the pot and sauté the shallots for 2 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower and sauté for another minute more.

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Drain a can of cannellini, or other white beans, and add the beans to the cauliflower. Add the noodles and pasta water. Add chopped parsley and stir to coat the pasta.

Serve with parmesan cheese and garlic bread.

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(Hopefully these are the last crummy weeknight photos that I have to use – I just ordered a lightscoop which will make it easier to take photos on weeknights when it’s dark and I don’t have natural light…)

Happy New Year everyone! Cheers!

 

January 1, 2011

Brownies

Ah, New Years Day! Another year begins and another fresh start. Seems this year is getting off to a great start for me – although it could just be that last year is ending on a good note. One day, I know, doesn’t make all the difference, but I think that it really gets everyone motivated – I hope you all keep your motivations! There will be lots of change this year for my daughter and I – all good of course. We will be moving and she will start Kindergarten. Last year was a bit bipolar with some terrible things happening in my family, but personally some really great things ending the last part of my year. So I hope for a better year with less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff. I hope that all you reading and following my blog have terrific years as well, and I hope you continue following me here – and putting in your suggestions!

To start the year off with some inspiration I finally watched Julie and Julia (this I will add to my personal DVD collection). This is such a foodie movie! I can’t believe I waited so long to watch this movie. Everyone has suggested it to me and I don’t know why I didn’t watch it sooner. It’s probably that pre-Wii and Netflix I rarely paid $5 for a pay-per-view and I suck at returning Redbox movies. Either way I am glad I finally watched this movie, because I am more inspired now. I can relate to both of these ladies so much. There is a point in the movie when Julie received her first comment on her blog (granted it was from her mother) she was elated – I felt that same way when the first person (that I didn’t know) commented on my blog. Something interesting happened, right after watching the movie this morning, I received my FIRST pingback! I was SUPER excited – a little silly I know, it’s ONE pingback (link to one of my posts), but that is where it all starts. I have worked hard this past year on my blog and I have been published and now have a regular spot in the food column in the local paper. I must be doing something right! Now I am vowing to spend more time on my blog (one of the #1 blogger rules – blog often!) and more time on my other food writing goals – I am going to be fearless and step out of my comfort zone!

The other part of my new year inspiration came from Tyler Florence’s book Stirring the Pot. After reading it I have become very inspired to ORGANIZE my kitchen (If you know me, you know organization excites me and that I am a little obsessed with it). TF has some great ideas for organizing your kitchen and fridge/freezer by having dinners you can just pull out of the freezer for quick instant meals.  So as I journey through this year organizing, moving and beginning new chapters in my life I hope to share it all with you and hopefully we’ll suck in a few others along the way. So thank you for being a friend and following my blog. The brownie recipe below is the dessert that I finally mastered and my daughter and I rang in the new year with (along with Beef Bourguignon, which I will also be blogging).

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL! Welcome to 2011!

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adaptation from Epicurious.com

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup espresso powder (optional)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips/chunks
  • 2/2 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Line a 9×13 square baking pan with parchment paper overhanging two sides.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a pot of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a whisk. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with a little batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

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You can make many variations of brownies I have put caramel on them, white chocolate chunks, dark chocolate chips, walnuts, pecans, dried fruit. We topped these with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, while they were still warm …. MMMMM!