Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Taco Salad and Chili

This past Sunday I made chili.  It was flippin' humid but I had told my Mom earlier in the week that I would make chili for Sunday dinner.  My Mom was looking forward to it so I pressed on.  (I just love her so).

It was a wise decision because it actually has come in handy for a few quick meals.  You know chili always tastes better the next day anyhow. 

I know everyone likes their chili but I am putting this recipe on here for me because this was one of the better tasting ones I have made and I want to record what I did.

The other thing I had done was cook up a pound of white beans.  I don't know about you but when I cook up my beans I always put in aromatics while it cooks.  I think it really infuses the beans with flavor.  I cook it with a bay leaf or two, garlic and a whole onion, quartered.  These were used for some greens and beans the first night.  Then in the chili the next day and then in some beans and rice with scape pesto just recently. 

I tell you about this not because its some stunning new discovery but  because its economical and handy especially in the summer.

I had some pepperoncini that was really tough (hate that), so I chopped it up small and threw it into the chili.  It provided a really nice heat that was easy to gauge.

8 pepperoncini's minced
1 onion, minced
2 lbs ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked beans
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 quarts of stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon canola

Fry onions in oil until softened; add beef.  Cook until beef is browned.  Add tomatoes, garlic, pepperoncini, chili powder, and beans.  Simmer for three hours, add tomato paste towards the end of the cooking period.  Skim any grease off the top.

The salsa used on the salad is called Fire Roasted Salsa; you can find the recipe here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Zucchini and Pesto Toss

Zucchini Pesto Toss

1 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow summer squash
1/2 cup sweet onion, sliced thinly
a handful of basil, cut into thin strips/chiffonade
2 tablespoons scape pesto (recipe below)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Using a mandoline or a peeler, cut zucchini and summer squash into narrow strips that are thin.  Toss with olive oil, scape pesto, basil and sweet onion.  Don't use salt on it until ready to serve as the salt will pull the moisture out of the zucchini and you will have a limpy mess.

Scape Pesto
I kinda made a big batch here because I wanted to freeze some. It's really nice for soups.

2 cups scapes (about 8 or 9), cut into 2 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup peccorino romano cheese

Combine all ingredients in food processor except for olive oil.  Once ingredients have been thoroughly blended and sides scraped down, drizzle in olive oil in a steady stream. 

* Due to unusually high humidity for several weeks, I did not do this months Daring Baker challenge.  I will do it later this week when the weather dries out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Decadent Two Tone Ice Cream Cake

Ahhhh, summer.  End of school.  Picking fruits, going to the beach, going to the park, playground, crafts, library, get togethers with friends and family...  We always celebrate the end of the school year.  (And we also celebrate the beginning of the school year).  I wanted to make an ice cream cake, I thought it would be fun.  Besides it has just been to muggy for baking.  I did a search on the internet for an ice cream cake.  I found some good ones but they were not really kid friendly.  Then there were some that called for Oreos.  While I have nothing against Oreos, in fact it's one of my favorite store bought cookies, I wanted to use what I had. After some research and thought I came up with a plan for the cake. 

You know ice cream cakes are SO EXPENSIVE.  It's really amazing how easy (albeit time consuming) they are to make.  The hardest part is getting the ice cream into layers.

Decadent Two Tone Ice Cream Cake
Of course you can use any flavors you want.  This is merely a guideline of what I did.  Sprinkle nuts in if you like too! You could even do a banana split theme.  The possibilities are endless.

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup dulce de leche or caramel
4 cups rice crispy cereal
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

equipment needed:
1- 10 inch spring form pan (chill ahead of time if you can)
cookie sheet
plastic wrap
rubber spatula

Melt chocolate in a large bowl with butter- either in the microwave or a double boiler.  Spoon out half of chocolate/ganache mixture into a measuring cup.  Add rice crispy cereal to the chocolate in the large bowl and stir until combined.  Spread out on cookie sheet and let cool.

Take a 10" spring form pan and place plastic wrap on bottom and up sides if you don't want to deal with struggling to get the cake out after it freezes. 

Soften either the chocolate or the vanilla ice cream.  Because the ice cream melts at different rates, you need to spoon the softened ice cream into the spring form pan and place the pan in the freezer until the rest of the ice cream softens.  Once the first layer of ice cream is in, sprinkle the chocolate rice crispy cereal over the top.  Spoon dulce de leche over the crispy chocolate cereal.  With a spoon spread it out as best as you can.  Place pan back in the freezer. 

Place next 1/2 gallon of ice cream on the counter and repeat the process. Once all the ice cream is smoothed into the pan return to the freezer once again. Spread reserved ganache over this layer once it is firmed up.  Finally whip up the heavy cream until frothy, sprinkle in sugar.  Whip until peaks form.  Smooth the whipped cream over the top.  Decorate top at this point if you like.  Return to freezer.

Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Note:  I kept the spring form pan on a cookie sheet because it did dribble out of the pan a little.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sweet Potato and Cinnamon Swirled Bread

I had two sweet potatoes in my pantry that were begging to be used up before the hot weather brought them to their demise.  I saw this post at Elra's blog and I was intrigued.  I have used butternut squash before in bread but not sweet potatoes.  This was a very delicious roll.  I did make some changes tot he recipe because I always end up doing that.  Either I don't have all the ingredients or my taste dictates me.

Today I am sitting on the couch with my daughter.  Mid afternoon I felt a tremor.  The couch started rocking gently.  I thought, this feels like an earthquake.  I look up and I notice the mirror swaying on the wall.  I know that if there is a Californian reading this they will think big deal.  But to us, we never have that kind of thing here- it is a big deal.  It gives us something to talk about I guess.  Here I am talking about it.  I guess the epicenter was in Quebec, Canada.

Sweet Potato and Cinnamon Swirled Bread

1 cup mashed sweet potato
2½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp dry active yeast
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup water, adding more if dough is too dry
2 tbs butter, room temperature
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar

Put everything in a mixer bowl, except for the butter. With dough hook attachment, mix on low for 3 minutes, then increase the speed to medium low (speed#2 on a Kitchenaid mixer), mix for 5 minutes (if the dough seems too wet, add a little bit more flour, if it seems too dry add more water). Finally add the butter, continue to mix until the dough is elastic and shiny.  The dough should be smooth but slightly on the sticky side. It is a very soft dough.

Place the dough into a bowl that has been lightly coated oil, let it rest for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, fold the dough, and place it back into the bowl, let rest for another 40 minutes.  

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Turn the dough onto floured counter top. Roll into a large rectangl.  Sprinkle cinnamon over top, the brown sugar and finally dot with butter.  Roll up the dough lengthwise.  Pinch ends and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.  Let rest for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350F. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 45 minutes.  Internal temperature of bread should be around 200F.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mexican Corn Cakes

I know local is best but you know when that Florida corn hit the supermarket at 25 cents an ear, how could I refuse.  I had to get some.  That's it though, I swear I will not buy anymore until I see it at the Farmers Market... pinky swear. 

When I have some left over corn I always make these corn cakes- they are SO good.  Really they are very flavorful, easy, versatile... Can I sing their praises enough?  No.  But you know I had this 1 cup of masa harina left in my pantry and this here corn cake looked pretty good.  While we liked them and I would make it again, I still prefer the amazing recipe from Crescent Dragonwagon, The Cornbread Gospels.

Mex- Italian Corn Cakes
I kinda had to change the title here because I didnt have any Mexican cheese.

adapted from this recipe at Martha Stewart

1 cup masa harina
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups corn
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese
3/4 to 1 cup warm water

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients; flours, baking powder, salt and cheese.  Add the corn.  Pour 1/4 cup of water into the mix and stir.  Keep adding water a little at a time until the dough sticks together easily and patties can be formed.

Heat about 1/4 cup of oil in a griddle and fry the cakes, flipping when nicely browned. Salt and serve.

*warning: when I made these cakes and the oil was pretty hot, I found that the corn on the outside of the cake would pop and explode.  Scared me a few times, thankfully I was not int he line of fire.  Think popcorn with no lid.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Banana Almond Muffins

Super muggy here and certainly no day for baking.  I made these last week (the second batch of them).  They were gobbled up in a hurry both times.  I love having something for breakfast that is quick, especially this time of year with school ending.  So much going on and it seems harder and harder to motivate my girls out of bed.

The nice things about these muffins is the higher protein because of the almond flour.  With the toffee crunchies on top it is 250 per muffin.  It is a pretty big muffin and it definitely has some substance to it.

Banana Almond Muffins
adapted from this recipe at Stuff To Eat

1 cup almond flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons flax seed
1 tablespoon vanilla (yup that's a tablespoon)
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk (you may of may not need this)
12 generous teaspoons of toffee crunchies (for sprinkling over each muffin)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix dry ingredients into a large bowl; flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, flax seeds.  Mash the bananas and put them in a medium bowl.  Add the egg, vanilla and oil to the mashed bananas.  Stir into the dry mixture.  If the batter seems dry add the milk.  If it does not seem dry don't add it.  Spoon mixture into baking cups in a muffin tin; dividing equally among the 12.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of toffee bits over the top of each muffin.  Bake for about 20 minutes.

*I found that my batter was very moist so I omitted the milk.  Maybe my bananas were very large.  It is kind of variable. Next time I will measure the bananas to give you a more accurate measurement.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Move over pancakes, the Dutch Baby has arrived

Meet our new Saturday morning love. I have seen these around for a while. I have wanted to try them. I always stopped myself because I said what is the big deal. It's just a pancake in a skillet. Ah, to assume- not a good idea. This pancake is NOTHING like the regular skillet pancakes we make. It is more akin to a fine slice of French Toast but WAY better.

The kids enjoy this with maple syrup but I prefer mine with banana. I saw this over at Murasaki's blog, Samurai Viking Cuisine, and I need to try that next. I think fruit is really the way to go but you do what you need to do. Okay? okay. Oh, and the lemon juice thing is pretty darn good too- but that's fruit now isn't it?

Dutch Baby

adapted from this recipe at Martha Stewart

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3 large eggs

3/4 cup milk 2%

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 450°F. In a blender combine all of the ingredients. Run blender for a few minutes to fully mix the ingredients. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the mix. While your blender is running heat up the skillet on the stove and melt the other tablespoon of butter. Pour in the mix and place in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.

*I figured roughly it is about 250 calories for 1/4 of the recipe. Not bad for a breakfast I think. It's a treat. And really 1/4 of this pancake will fill your belly.

** You will also note that mine is not as brown as some of the others you see. One of my kids does not like the browned thing, not cheese, not anything (someday she will learn that browned cheese and stuff is pretty darn tasty). While it is cooked through , it is not REAL firm.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Vegetable Pâté

Having had pâté when I made my beef wellington, I have to say I liked it but I did not love it.  There are very few things in the food world that I dont like, liver and gamey meats are among them. So I went with the vegetable pâté .  Love beans! And I loved this.  Even the kids went crazy over this.  

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Please visit some of the other Daring Bakers and you will find other recipes for pate and some amazingly beautiful creations. To find out where some of the Daring Bakers are, visit the blogroll.

Tricolor Vegetable Pâté
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan
Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.

White Bean Layer

2 x 15-ounce / 900 ml cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
1 tbsp / 15 ml minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, pressed
Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.
Red Pepper Layer
7-ounce / 210 ml jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3/4 cup / 180 ml crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.

Pesto Layer
2 garlic cloves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh basil leaves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup / 60 ml toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp / 45 ml olive oil
1/2 cup / 120 ml low-fat ricotta cheese
Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Asian Style Noodles with Spring Vegetables and Pineapple Dressing

Summer is off to a flying start.  Lots to do. Tonight we went to my daughter's school play.  I think I had tears in the corner of my eyes the whole time.  It always moves me to see the kids having fun and getting into what they are doing.  They are all so cute in those moments; focused on their roles, having fun and doing their very best.  The play is called, "It's A Jungle Out There".  It's about the lion finding out that happiness can be found through the friendship.  Lots of jungle animals and safari people. My daughter was a bird.  A toucan more specifically. We had a lot of fun putting the costume together.  So many times I wanted to take over painting the beek.  Partly perfectionism and partly my need to create.  I didn't.  I controlled myself.  She did it all.  I think she did a great job.
And speaking of friendship I was able to connect with a friend from high school over the weekend.  I haven't seen her in about 25 years or so.  I was so excited.  So much time has passed but I was still very comfortable with her and it really felt good to make that connection.  Cheers girl, you look great!

I served this cold noodle dish for dinner.  It was refreshing and light.  Really a great meal for a hot summer night.

Asian Style Noodles with Spring Vegetables
greatly adapted from this recipe at Bon Apetit

16 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed
1 8- to 9-ounce package Korean style noodles
2 grilled chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup pineapple dressing(recipe below)
1 cup roasted red peppers, chopped

Cook noodles.  While noodles are cooking, steam or boil the sugar snap peas. Immerse in cold water.  Once cooled remove strings.  Place all the ingredients in a bowl.  Flavors have time to develop if left overnight.  Before serving add a little more dressing to the mix to freshen it up.

Pineapple Dressing
adapted from this recipe

3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup pineapple preserves*
1 tablepoon finely grated ginger
5 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Whisk together pineapple preserves, ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, dijon and red pepper together.  While whisking slowly drizzle in the canola oil.

*Remember those pineapple preserves?  I put them to good use in this salad.  Why?  because my coveted mango chutney that the recipe calls for went bad. Shame on me (bowing head).  At the risk of sounding boastful, it was a great substitute.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No Bake Special K Bars are pretty special alright

I have wanted to participate in SHF for a long time. Sometimes I have difficulty finding who is hosting and sometimes it just doesn't work out for the month. For those who have not heard of it please go and check it out at The Domestic Goddess site to learn more and find out who the latest host/hostess is. It's a great way to find collections of recipes. The most recent hostess is The Well Seasoned Cook.  Lots of great photos and wonderful recipes at her site. 

No Bake Special K Bars
Adapted from this recipe

1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups Special K cereal (any corn flake type cereal will work here)
1 cup flaked coconut

Lightly spray an 8 x 8 size pan.  In a medium sized bowl combine, coconut and cereal.  In a sauce pan heat syrup, honey and brown sugar until it boils.  Remove from heat and mix in peanut butter. Add mixture to the cereal mixture in the bowl. Combine quickly and  spoon into pan.  Press firmly on mixture to flatten and fill up the bottom of the pan.  A rubber spatula works really well to flatten the mixture.  Cool completely and cut into squares.

* I recommend making two batches because these disappeared quite quickly.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cheeseburger Soup

Since I respond well to inspiration I decided to have a new feature on my blog.  At least once a week I will pass along something that I found inspirational. Its a nice place for me to save these wonderful things I find that inspire me.  The one I am sharing here today is for children but some can be applied to the adults in your life as well.  We received it from my daughters school social worker.  It may inspire you to do one of the things on the list today.  

Giving Our Kids What They Need To Succeed

Tell them about yourself.
Ask them to help you.
Tell them how proud you are of them.
Respect the choices they make.
Become their advocate.
Expect their best; don't expect perfection.
Catch them doing something right.
Apologize when you've done something wrong.
Keep the promises you make.
Surprise them.
Above all, love them no matter what.

Armed with some leftover salt potatoes and hamburgers from Memorial Day weekend and a chunk of cheddar that needed some attention, I decided that some cheeseburger soup was in order.  I am going to toot my horn here and tell you this soup came out really good.  It was tasty without being rich as this soup normally can be.

Cheeseburger Soup

3 beef patties, cut up
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon canola
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 packet hot Chinese mustard
6 cups vegie broth (beef broth works real well but I had this on hand)
8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
1 T beef bouillon
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 1/2 cup chopped potatoes
1 1/4 cup marinara (tomato paste works well too, I had this on hand as well)

Saute carrots, celery and onion in butter and canola oil in a soup pot. When the veggies have sweated a little and become tender add the vegie broth. Add to the soup the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon, cut up hamburger, marinara, potatoes and garlic cloves.  Let that cook for about 20 minutes. Add milk and cheddar, warm the soup but do not boil. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Apricot Pistachio Energy Bars

I met a friend of mine the other day for a walk in the woods.  Its a beautiful nature trail located here in Rochester.  I am so glad we decided to go for a walk instead of shopping which was the original plan.  It was beautiful place and being in the company of a friend and laughing as my daughter discovered some new things, it was a true delight.

Apricot Pistachio Energy Bars
based on this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter melted
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
3/4 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pistachio nuts (Iused the salted variety)
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup dried apricots, cut into bits

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a 8x8 with foil or parchment.  Spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl comine flour, oats and brown sugar.  Stir in melted butter.  Once it comes together, press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine condensed milk and saffron.  Bring to a boil.  Be careful not to brown it.  Meanwhile in a bowl combine apricots, pistachios, coconut, and dates.  Pour hot condensed milk into the mixture.  Spoon over the oat layer in the baking pan.  Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over top.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  Cool completely and cut into squares or bars.

*These were very delicious.  A really nice treat for a hike. I bet using browned butter would make them even tastier.

A little hike at Corbett's Glen

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Vegetable Bouillon

Massive gardening over here at my place.  I planted some echinacea, my garden; tomatoes, basil, eggplant, Italian Pole beans, kale, dill, mint (in a pot), jalapenos, moved some hostas out of the blistering sun, and planted gerber daisies in their stead so my lavender can begin to take over the area.  Whawhoo!  I feel so accomplished.  At this very moment it is raining and I couldn't be happier.  My garden needs it.

At my local farmers market I have noticed a definite change in the amount of people going there.  I use to be able to get a parking spot on a Thursday- no problem.  Now I have to get there earlier.  I am glad to see more people buying local produce.  But I hope they are aware that about half the farmers there right now are actually vendors from the local produce warehouses.  Right now it's pretty obvious who the locals are. They are the ones with only what is in season.  At harvest time it's not so easy to tell.

This is a great way to preserve some veggies for soups.  I froze mine in small quantities but you certainly can make it like this recipe or this recipe and keep it in the fridge.  I just couldn't see putting that much salt in when I could use my freezer. 

Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
Mix it up with whatever you have on hand.  The following is what I used.

4 large carrots
5 stalks celery
1 onion
5 garlic cloves
6 big sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)
1 cup parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
10 peppercorns

In a food processor place garlic, peppercorns and parsley.  Pulse until minced.  Add the remainder of the ingredients, process until paste forms.  Spoon into small plastic containers or into ice cube trays, freeze and transfer to a freezer safe bag.

How nice to have a quick vegetable broth that doesn't take up a lot of space in your freezer.  Start your water boiling and add your bouillon cube and whatever else your going to use to make your soup.