Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sausage and Zucchini Carbonara

  The other day, while lazing on the couch with my iPad, I thought it was a grand shame I had all these interesting cooking apps, and I've not tried many of recipes in them.  Taking a few minutes to browse and swipe, this marvelous dish popped up on Jamie Oliver's app.  Italian sausage.  Zucchini.  Bacon.  Lemon Zest.  Pasta.   Yeah, I was goin' have to make this one, and you might, too.  This recipe says it serves 2 - well, those servings are very generous.  I'm thinking with a salad served along side, more like 3 or 4.

Sausage and Zucchini Carbonara
Serves 2-4

3 Italian sausages
2 slices of bacon
8 ounces dry spaghetti (recipe called for 9, but boxes around here come in 8 & 16.  Sorry, Jamie)
2 egg yolks (use the whites for breakfast in the morning, or freeze them)
1 medium zucchini
1/2 cup heavy cream
zest from 1/2 of a lemon
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
a small bunch fresh Italian parsley (about half a bunch sold by my store)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

  In a stock pot, or other pot large enough to boil the pasta, add lots of water and a little salt (around 2 teaspoons.)  Put the pot on the stove to boil.  Now is a good time to do your prep work.  Chop the parsley finely, and set aside.  Trim off the ends of the zucchini.  Cut the zuke in half, lengthwise, and repeat for each half.  Now you should have 4 nice spears.  Slice up the quarters, and set aside.  Chop the bacon into small pieces.  Put a large frying pan on the stove with a little bit of olive oil on medium heat to warm.  Here's the fun part - you are going to make meatballs out of the Italian sausage.  With a sharp knife (paring knife works wonders for this), slit the sausage casing and squeeze out the sausages.  Wet your hands and pull each sausage apart into 6 chunks.  Roll each chunk into a mini meatball.  You should end up with about 18 little guys.

  By now, the pasta water should be boiling.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, making sure to stir from time to time, to keep the pasta from sticking.  Add the meatballs to the hot pan, and saute them for about 6 minutes, or until brown all over.

  While the pasta is boiling away and the meatballs are becoming golden brown and delicious, start putting together the sauce.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cream.  When those are thoroughly combined, whisk in the lemon zest and half of the grated Parmesan.  Add in most of the parsley to the egg mixture and stir.  Set aside.

  When the meatballs are brown, add in the zucchini slices and bacon to the frying pan.  Continue to saute until the bacon is cooked.

  The pasta should be finishing up about this time.  Carefully ladle out a cup of the pasta water and set aside.  This will be used to thin out the sauce later, if desired.  Drain the pasta in a colander.  Once drained, add the pasta to the large mixing bowl with the egg mixture.  Toss the pasta all around with tongs.  The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and melt the cheese.  Pour the pasta and sauce into the frying pan with the meatballs, zucchini, and bacon.  Toss everything together; if the sauce is too thick for your liking, add in some of the pasta's cooking water until the consistency you desire.  Plate up the pasta and top with more of the parsley and Parmesan.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

BLT Benedict with Avocado-Tomato Relish

  I'll admit it, I've been in a bit of a funk lately.  So, when sorting through some digital pics recently, I realized I had a few things I've not posted here yet.  Bacon, eggs, avocado, and tomatoes....who could resist?  I couldn't when I saw this recipe in Southern Living's March '11 issue.

BLT Benedict with Avocado-Tomato Relish

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, divided
6 large eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
6 thick slices of bakery bread
3 cups of your favorite lettuce mix
12 cooked bacon slices

  We're going to start off by making the relish - combine the grape tomatoes, diced avocado, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of the red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the benedicts.

  Poach the eggs - Fill a large saucepan with 3 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat until the water steadily simmers lightly. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of red wine vinegar; this will help the egg whites curl around the yolks as the eggs poach. Break the eggs, one at a time into a small bowl, and slide them into the simmering water. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they are done to your liking. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon.  Or, if you have an electric food steamer with a rice bowl, you can cheat like I do, and poach your eggs in it.  *wink*

  Assembly - Spread a layer of mayonnaise on one side of the toasted bread. Add about 1/2 cup of lettuce, 2 slices of bacon, followed by one poached egg on top of each toast slice. Top with the relish and enjoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Blast from the Past

"What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?" - Lin Yutang

  We live in a world full of food trends.  Food trends?!  Who would have thought as a younger self we would be in a time where we see food as being trendy.  In a day of constant flux, sometimes we forget the past.  The New York Public Library is looking to preserve our food history, and they would certainly appreciate any help they can get.  Got a minute?  Have more?  Then check out this link:  menus.nypl.org

  The NYPL is in the process of transcribing historical menus, and they need a helping hand.  This past week, I've been transcribing when I have a few spare moments of idle time.  And, it has been very interesting.  Menus from the 1800s-1950s, from railways to the Waldorf, all sorts of cuisines...all of these dishes and drinks are being put into a searchable database.  Who cares?  Chefs seeking inspiration, historians, authors looking to add that last detail that sucks you in...the every day person who is just plain ol' curious.  Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing how this project develops. 

  The process is very easy.  Pick a menu that looks interesting and look for stuff you can eat, drink, or in some cases, smoke.  Click on the first letter of the line, and you'll be taken to a screen where you can type in what you see and the price.  Keep in mind, many are written in a time when most prices were under a dollar so that 40 on the menu is .40, not $40.  And that's pretty much it!   But as a first time user, I highly recommend reading the Help section (http://menus.nypl.org/help).  It will give you a clear idea on how to enter some items properly for the database. 

  I hope I've piqued your interest, and you'll take a few seconds to at least swing by to see what it is all about!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Still Kickin'

  I'm still alive and kickin', despite the lack of posting.  I deeply apologize, but man, the school year has started, and I've had to hit the floor running.  We're already more than 3 weeks in!  

  Still cooking, and my newest object of obsession is.... *drumroll*  meals and desserts for two.  I'm really having hits and misses on the dessert area.  I hope to start sharing some of my experiences with you fine folks soon.  So, sit back, pour a glass of tea, and relax.  I'll be back in action before you know it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who Loves Ya, Honey?

  Alright, let's see what new project we can start.  I still have some of those great vanilla beans I ordered - and this time, I'll share my source, later in the post.  I've been browsing, asking for suggestions, and some wonderful gals over at the Kittencal's Kitchen forums what to do with my vanilla bounty, and Swedish Chef and MaMere suggested this magical elixir called Love Honey. I headed over to check it out, and it sounded fantastic.  So guess what we're making today? 

  Love Honey!  This recipe has been scaled up for 12 oz from the original 8 oz, and I'm leaving out the cardamom from the source recipe.  I don't have anything against cardamom, mind you.  I just do have a thing against paying $8.50 for a bottle when I just need a pinch.  To check out the original, go visit EdsGirlAngie's recipe here: http://www.food.com/recipe/love-honey-110383

Love Honey

12 oz honey
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
2-3 pieces of lemon rind
1 vanilla bean
3/8 teaspoon ground ginger

  In a small pot, pour the honey.  Heat over low heat for just a minute or two.  In a jar, or in my case - honey bear, put the spices in.  Pour the slightly heated honey over the spices and seal tightly.  Store for 3-4 weeks before using to let the flavors blend.

Notes - Just a word on how I prepped my vanilla bean and lemon rind.  As per MaMere's advice, I took a sharp knife and just scored my vanilla bean with about 4 slashes.  And the lemon was done simply with a vegetable peeler, just taking the yellow rind.  Once you get down into the white pith, you begin to get very bitter flavors.  I enjoy a lemon flavor, so I went with 3 strips for my honey bear.

  The hard part? Waiting.  I'm really curious to how this tastes.  The spices were rich and heady just putting them into the container.


  Now back to the first vanilla project we started.  We're at day 21!  Wanna see how it's progressed?

  Seven days into our vanilla extract mellowing, and wow!  Look how much color our vodka has taken on.  It's becoming a lovely amber shade, and more beans have come away from the pod during the jar's weekly shake.  I was pleasantly surprised how it is matured already; I was not expecting to see this kind of coloring this early in the process.

  Today marks week 3.  The color has become richer and darker as time as passed.  I bet the flavor has, too!  Patience, grasshopper, patience.


  I realized much later after my post where I started my vanilla extract, I forgot to give you links to my supplier.  I purchased my vanilla beans on Ebay.  Yep, Ebay.  Now, hold up.  This is a very reputable vendor, that comes highly recommended: Vanilla Products USA.  They also have a website storefront, as well.  Vanilla Products actually has 2 separate stores on Ebay - one for vanilla, and the second for other things, although, there are some smaller packages of beans on the second account, which is where I bought my dozen Tahitian beauties.
http://stores.ebay.com/Doylestown-General-Store  (Seller - greenerdogjr)
http://stores.ebay.com/Vanilla-Products-USA  (Seller - vanillaproducts)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Creamed Chicken with Cornmeal Biscuits

  This is a fine example of Southern comfort food.  Simple milk gravy and chicken are plenty fine, but the cornmeal cheddar biscuits really make this one a keeper.  The slightly sweet biscuit has a wholesome tooth from a bit of cornmeal, and the cheddar rounds it all out.

Creamed Chicken with Cornmeal Biscuits

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed or shredded
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or cooking spray
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 cups milk (I use whole for this part)
3 cups baking mix (like Bisquick or Pioneer Brand)
3/4 cup plain yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar (2 ounces by weight)
4 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup low-fat milk (I use skim)
flour for dusting

  Preheat your oven to 400°.  I like to start this recipe off by making the biscuits first, so I can keep my attention when we start making the gravy.  In a large mixing bowl, add the baking mix, cornmeal, cheddar, and sugar.  Give it a good mix and pour in the 1 cup of low-fat milk.  Stir the biscuit dough, just until moistened.  The dough will come together when you knead, which is our next step.

  Sprinkle some flour out on the surface you are going to use to knead the dough.  Turn the dough out of the bowl on to the floured surface and knead the dough about 8-10 times.  Pat or roll out the dough so that it's about 1/2 inch thick.  Find a 2 1/2 inch round cutter and dip it into some flour and begin cutting out the biscuits.  I find 8 biscuits are a perfect fit for my 10 inch pan.

  Now we can turn our attention to the chicken.  In a small mixing bowl, put the chicken, flour, salt and pepper.  Toss until all the chicken is coated.  Take a oven-proof skillet, like cast iron, and heat the pan with oil (or spray with the cooking spray, if you prefer.)  Dump the floured chicken into the pan and start stirring.  The flour will be difficult to see as it cooks into the oil. Just allow this to cook for short time only - maybe 30 seconds, when you are sure the flour is in the oil.  Pour in the 2 cups of milk.  Stir constantly and bring the milk to a boil.  At this point, you should have a thickened gravy on your hands.  Move the pan to a cool spot on the stove and lay the cut biscuits on top of the chicken and gravy.  Put the pan in the heated oven to bake for 15 to 18 minutes, just until the biscuits take on a nice, golden color.  Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

  I like mine served up with a simple salad.  I hope you like this as much as we do at home!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spinach-Basil Pesto

  Summertime, especially here in the south, brings the hot, sunny days, slows the blood in our veins, and brings on a hunger for lighter, brighter flavors.  Pesto hits the spot with its fragrant herbs, toasted nuts, and luscious olive oil.  You can serve this versatile sauce on pasta, as a spread, or mix with mayo for sandwiches.  This recipe takes advantage of both spinach and basil for this particular version of pesto.   

Spinach-Basil Pesto

1 1/2 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped into 3-4 pieces each
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Special equipment - food processor

  To begin, toast the walnut pieces.  This is an easy process that really brings out the flavor of the nuts.  Take a small skillet and bring the heat up to medium.  Toss in the nuts.  No oil, no cooking spray - just the nuts.  Give them an occasional shake and take them off the heat as soon as you smell the walnuts. This will only take a couple of minutes.  Toasting brings the oils to the forefront and brings a much more complex taste to the nuts. 

  Set up the food processor and dump in the spinach, basil, toasted walnuts, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Pulse until the mixture is nearly smooth, taking the time to stop and scrape down the sides with a spatula a time or two. At this point, drizzle the rest of the olive oil in as the processor is churning.  Once all the oil is added, stop the processor, stir in the grated cheese and serve.

  When I serve it on pasta, I normally use a thin spaghetti or angel hair.  The pesto will loosen up a bit when you add it to hot noodles, but if you want the sauce a tad more loose, add a little olive oil when you are stirring the sauce together with the pasta.  Of course, extra cheese on top isn't going to hurt anything, either.

  To store the leftovers, there are a couple of options.  If you plan on using all the pesto in the next few days, drizzle a little olive oil on the top, cover and stash in the refrigerator.  If you plan on more long term storage in the freezer, skip adding in the Parmesan before freezing.  Spoon into an ice cube tray and into a heavy-duty freezer bag once the cubes are solid.  Add in the cheese when you thaw the sauce for use.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Great Vanilla Bean Endeavour

  I'm in perfect agreement when Alton Brown laments the conception that vanilla is mediocre, nothing special, meh, just plain, well, vanilla.  I just don't know how something so fragrant and exotic can be seen as so-so.  Sadly, I think many of us have been jaded on experiences with artificial flavorings, which sometimes come from wood pulp.  Yep, wood pulp.  I can see how the magic is lost in that case. 

  Vanilla beans are pods from a type of orchid that originated in Mexico.  Now, vanilla pods are cultivated in several places across the globe, and are frequently classified from where they are grown, as each area adds subtleties to the flavor.  Among the most well-known types are Mexican, Bourbon/Madagascar, West Indian, and Tahitian.  Harvesting vanilla pods is no easy feat, hence the price that comes second to saffron in the spice market.  But there are some reputable dealers out there with fair prices if you are willing to do a bit of research.

What to Look for:
  A good quality bean will be plump, slightly oily, flexible, and fragrant.  Old pods will be brittle and dry.
  What can you do with them?  Well, lots of things.  My first experiment with vanilla beans started today.  I'm beginning my first batch of homemade vanilla extract.  I hope to keep you, gentle reader, apprized of the progress over the coming weeks.  All you really need to start making your own extract is a glass jar, some vodka, a few beans, and patience.

Vanilla Extract
Yields 8 oz.

1 cup vodka
2-3 vanilla beans
small glass jar

  First, we're going to split the beans.  Take a sharp knife and run the tip through, starting near one end and all the way down through the other end.  For this application, we are not going to scrape out the seeds.  Just look at this beautiful bean footage.  Decadent vanilla 'caviar' for the win.  (Click this picture for a nice close-up.)
  Put the beans in a small, glass jar and fill with the vodka.  Avoid using a plastic container to avoid picking up off-flavors.  (Plastic lids are okay.)  Twist on the lid and store for at least 2 months in a cool, dark, dry place.

   Day 1 and counting!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf

  The smell of garlic and black pepper permeate the air right now. In the oven, my cast-iron dutch oven is simmering away with one of my favorite ways to make rice. I found this recipe a couple of years ago, back when food.com was recipezaar.com. It was posted by Northwest Lynnie, and it's become a staple in my house since. I've streamlined her recipe ever so slightly, but please keep in mind it does take a little time to make - 70 minutes of baking time, plus just a few minutes on the stove-top beforehand.

Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf
Serves 5

2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 cup long-grain rice (Basmati is fantastic in this)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  Start by preheating the oven to 375°F. In a dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the rice and garlic if you are using the cloves. You'll want to make sure all the rice is coated in butter. Stir occasionally, making sure the garlic and rice doesn't burn. Essentially, you are toasting the rice, and you'll get this wonderful nutty aroma. The rice will be just a light golden brown when it's ready. This takes just a couple of minutes, so don't wander off.

  Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth, salt, and pepper. If you are opting for the garlic paste, stir it in now. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Cover with the dutch oven's lid, and slide it carefully into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes.

  Remove the dutch oven and lift the lid. The rice will have already drank up the previous cup of broth and the edges will be brown and crusty. Add in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of broth and stir the rice. Cover, and return to the oven for another 45 minutes. Once the time is up, it is ready to spoon up and serve. Enjoy!

Note - I use garlic paste when I make this, just so I don't risk burning the garlic.  The first time I made this, I was going to use regular garlic, but it had sprouted.  I'm very glad I had the paste as a back up!  If you'd like to see the original recipe, visit Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A New Look Sprouting for Volunteer Vittles

  Today was spent sprucing up the ol' place.  I hope the new look reflects well of the blog.  It certainly is a brighter, fresher look.  I have been slacking on photos lately; and let's face it, a picture is worth a thousand words.  So my goal is to get back behind the camera more often.  If anyone has any thoughts, comments, or suggestions, let's hear them! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kitchen 101: Ice Cream & Frozen Desserts

  Yes, true believers, there's more to ice cream than cruising the freezer aisle at your local grocery. (Bonus points for identifying who calls fans "true believers"!)   If you start looking at the various cartons and food trends, lots of terminology comes to light - ice cream, ice milk, gelato, sherbet, sorbet... it's enough to make your head spin.  But it all boils down to a few definitions, mainly determined by ingredients and fat content, which may be helpful if you venture out into making your own frozen confections.

Ice Cream - By definition, ice cream is a frozen dairy product with a minimum 10% milk fat content.

Philadelphia Style -  This mixture has no eggs in the base.  These are quick to put together, but since they have no eggs in the recipe, this kind of ice cream will freeze harder than a custard base.  You may see this kind of ice cream referred to as New York or American-style as well.

Custard -  This ice cream has a base that has egg yolks or whole eggs in the recipe, and the base is cooked before frozen.  The trick with this type of ice cream is to temper the eggs during the cooking process and strain to ensure no cooked egg pieces end up in your ice cream.  Custards can also be called French-style ice cream.

Ice Milk -  Similar to ice cream, but has less milk fat (3-6%).

Frozen Yogurt - Pretty much what it says it is - sweetened flavored yogurt that has been frozen.

Sherbet - Usually mainly made of fruit/fruit juices, it has a small amount of dairy (1-2% milk fat.)

Sorbet - Another fruity frozen dessert, but contains no dairy at all.

Gelato - There is no legal American benchmark for gelato, so be advised any ice cream or flavored ice can be labelled gelato in the US.  The term is Italian and is distinctive from American desserts because it doesn't contain as much air (or "overrun"), therefore a more dense dessert.

Granita - A dessert ice that is more coarse than sorbet.  Most granitas are made from fruit juice, but you can find coffee and wine granitas, as well.

Overrun - Overrun is the air that is whipped into the ice cream base as it freezes.  The less overrun an ice cream contains, the more dense it is.

Ripen -  This is done with homemade ice cream before serving that keeps it from melting so quickly, and take the texture from soft-serve to firm.  Simply transfer the ice cream from the machine into an air-tight container and freeze for a few hours before serving.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Garlic Crusted Rib-Eyes

  Down here, amid record highs for May, it's easy to see grill covers being flung aside and grills being fired up.  Rightly so, we followed suit this Memorial Day.  This recipe comes from Jamie Purviance, author of a popular series of grilling books for Weber.  The steaks came out juicy, succulent, and needed no sauce.  The trick to these steaks is not the ingredients, as there are relatively few needed, but the method of how to prepare the garlic.  The stinkin' rose will be used to create a paste that won't burn like traditional minced garlic.  And if you've ever had the misfortune of tasting burnt garlic, you know how bitter it is.  So, let's get to it, shall we?

Garlic Crusted Rib-Eyes
Serves 4

4 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 Rib-eyes, about 1 inch thick, and excess fat trimmed away

  Start off by creating the garlic paste.  You will need a cutting board and chef's knife, or a knife with a similar sized blade (a santoku knife comes to mind, and one of my favorite blades).  Peel the garlic cloves and finely chop the garlic.  Sprinkle about a teaspoon of the salt over the chopped garlic.  Carefully, using the side of the knife, keeping pressure near the tip, drag the knife over the garlic until a paste forms.  This will take a few times of smashing and smearing the garlic back and forth on the cutting board.  It'll take on an almost transparent consistency, since it will have been smashed so thin.  Scrap up the garlic and add it to a small bowl.  Mix in the remaining salt, olive oil, parsley, vinegar and pepper.

  Take your garlic mixture and rub it on both sides of the steaks.  Allow the steaks to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.

  Fire up the grill and get it ready to grill on high, direct heat.  Grill the steaks until desired done-ness.  Move the steaks to a plate, loosely cover with aluminum foil and allow them to rest about 5 minutes under the foil tent before serving.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Creamy Lemon Rice

  Out of all the things to make in a slow cooker, rice is just one of those things that does NOT cross my mind.  I was flipping through one of my notebooks and I saw I had jotted down Creamy Lemon Rice in one of my random moments and tagged which of my cookbooks in was in.  Good thing, or I'd never figured out which book it was in, because the last place I'd look would be my slow cooker books.    But there on page 144 of Carlean Johnson's Six Ingredients of Less: Slow Cooker, it was.  And I'm glad I tried it - easy, frees up the stove, and really tasty.  I have found just like any other recipe, the newer slow cookers cook (surprise!) much faster.  I've noted my time in the recipe (the time for newer cookers), along with her original times (for older cookers).  I made this in 4 quart pot, but you could easily make this in one smaller than that.

Creamy Lemon Rice
Serves 6

1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest

Spray your slow cooker with no-stick cooking spray.  Add all the ingredients - yes, even the cream - at once and stir.  Cover and cook the rice on LOW 2 1/2 - 3 hours in newer slow cookers, 4-5 hours in an older cooker.  The rice is ready when the liquid is absorbed and the rice is nice and tender. Mine was ready at the 2 1/2 hour mark.

Note - Ms. Johnson says you can skip the cream for a lighter rice dish.  I'll just take her word on it, and stick with the cream.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Herb Butter

  Yesterday, it was a nice dinner treat.  We grilled out steaks, and I tried my hand at herb butter.  It was the first time I put something other than steak sauce on a hunk of beef like that, and I have to say it was delish.  I found a recipe on the net, and it's a keeper.  I'm looking forward to tossing some of the leftovers on hot noodles or chicken.

Herb Butter
Yields 1 cup

2 sticks (8 oz. total) butter, softened
5 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped fine (or 1 1/2 tsp of dried chives, crushed between your fingers - which was what I used)
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper

  In a medium mixing bowl, add in all the ingredients.  With an electric mixer on low, mix until everything is smooth and well combined.  Take a sheet of plastic wrap and lay it out.  Spoon the butter into a log shape on the plastic wrap.  Roll up the butter and continue to roll the butter a bit to make the log uniform.  Twist up the ends and stash in the freezer.  It will only take about 20 minutes to firm back up.  Slice off what you need and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lemon Glazed Carrots

  I love carrots.  I have since I was a little tyke; so much so, Mom had to take me to the hospital as a baby.  She panicked when she woke up to an orange kid.  Turns out, when you eat a lot of your favorite carrot and squash baby food, you end up with carotenosis.

  I've branched out since then, but I still love carrots.  Recently, I found a recipe for glazed carrots that has one of my other favorite flavors - lemon.  Just in time for lighter spring meals!

Lemon Glazed Carrots
Serves 6

9 medium carrots
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar

  Start by peeling the carrots, and slicing them in half lengthwise.  Boil the carrot slices in salted water, just until tender, and drain well.

  In a heavy skillet, melt the butter.  Add the lemon juice and brown sugar.  Stir the mixture until it thickens.  Add in the carrots and cook until they are well glazed and heated through.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Captain Russell's Jambalaya

  Laissez les bons temps rouler, mes amis!  Down in N'awlins, the parades are rolling down the streets, and folks are living it up before Lent.  Tonight, we dug into this recipe - Captain Russell's Jambalaya, in the March 2011 issue of Taste of Home magazine.  Definitely a keeper.

Captain Russell's Jambalaya
Serves 6

1 can (10.5 oz) condensed French onion soup, undiluted
1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cubed
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound andouille sausage, fully cooked, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
2 cups uncooked long grain rice

  Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Spray a 13 by 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

  In a large saucepan, add in the French onion soup, beef broth, tomato sauce, butter, bell pepper, onion, Creole seasoning, and hot sauce.  Stir and bring it to a boil.  Take it off the heat and add in the shrimp, sausage, and rice.  Stir it up and pour it into the baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake it for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked all the way through.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

  It's Super Bowl Sunday!  And you better believe I'm flingin' a Terrible Towel today.  (I'd rather be pulling for the Saints, but alas, it wasn't meant to be this year.  Next year, boys, next year.)  But this Sunday is all about the pigskin, commercials, and the munchies.  So I'm sharing a great pizza I found awhile back on recipezaar.com (now food.com) by Mini R. - and it is simple and scratches that itch when you can't decide between wings and pizza.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

1 portion of pizza dough *
1/2 pound (8 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, grilled
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/3 cup ranch salad dressing
2 cups shredded mozzarella (8 oz by weight)

  Start off by preheating your oven to 400°F. Cut up the grilled chicken into bite-sized chunks.  In a bowl, stir together the melted butter and hot sauce.  Toss in the chicken chunks and make sure all the pieces are coated.

  Press your pizza dough into the pizza pan.  Spread the ranch dressing onto the pizza dough.  Layer the chicken over the dressing, and sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is done, and the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Notes - Let's discuss the pizza dough for a minute.  The original recipe called for dough to cover a 12 inch pizza pan.  You can, of course, make your own dough - or - buy it at the store.  Some stores sell dough balls in the refrigerated section.  If you're like me and not lucky enough for that, check over with the canned biscuits.  There are some pretty decent canned pizza doughs out there that you just unroll and press into your pan.  If you find the middle of your dough isn't getting baked all the way through, but the crust is done, you may want to try doing a partial bake.  (If we were making a pie, we'd call this a blind bake.)  Put your dough in your pan and bake for about 5-8 minutes before adding any toppings- depending on the size of your pizza.  Pull it out and add toppings, and pop it back in until the pizza is done.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Garlic Cheese Rolls (ABM)

  I hope everyone has enjoyed their holidays.  I've been lucky to get some lovely gifts in the culinary vein, so you know, I've been busy in the kitchen.  Right now, in my neck of the south, life's in slow motion, due to snow, ice, and more ice.  So it's time to update my dear blog - as we all know, I'm overdue. 

  I received a bread machine as an early Christmas gift.  I swear enabling a carboholic should be illegal.  Oh wait, my sweet hubby gave it to me, and he's a carboholic, too.  Never mind.  I have this love-hate relationship with bread - I love to eat bread, bread hates for me to make it.  Whenever I've tried to make kneaded breads in the past, my kitchen, my clothes, my cat all seem to be covered in flour.  Yeast pizza crust in the stand mixer...yeah, uh, I won't be doing that again.  My kitchen smelled like fermenting yeast for two days.  Quick breads have been my one saving grace, until now.  Ladies and gentlemen, I have made homemade rolls, with minimal flour clean up.

 See!  Look!  Soft, tasty, edible rolls that I made.

   You may have noticed the acronym in the post title - if you aren't familiar with it, ABM stands for Automatic Bread Machine.  Today's bread machines have many options and cycles on board.  My machine has a dough cycle which is perfect for people like me, people who can't knead a loaf of bread correctly to save their hides, or busy people, take your pick.  This particular recipe takes advantage of the dough cycle.  It comes from Bread Machine Magic, Revised Edition by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway.  I have an old copy of the first edition of this book I picked up for 50 cents at McKay.  For 50 cents, I figured it was good research to see if I really wanted a bread machine.  The great thing about this book is it gives you options to make 1 lb, 1.5 lb, or 2 lb sized loaves.  (The first edition featured only 1 and 1.5 lb sizes and focused on several brands of bread machines that aren't prevalent on the market any longer.)  I chose to make the 1.5 lb size, which yields 24 rolls.  You will also need 2 pie plates or baking dishes for this recipe.  As you can see, I only own 1 pie plate and a baking dish works pretty well for these rolls.

Garlic Cheese Rolls
Yields 24 rolls
1 cup water (about 80°F)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

1/4 cup melted butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  Every machine has its own order for adding ingredients to the bread pan.  The order for my model goes liquids, dry, flour, and yeast.  Pick the dough setting and start.

  Grease your pie plates or baking dishes and set aside.

  Once the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface - a  clean counter works well. Roll out the dough into a 24 inch rope.  With a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut the dough into 24 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball in your hands and place into the greased pans.  Leave a little room between each ball because they will go through a rise session before baking.

  In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and crushed garlic.  Pour or spoon the butter over the rolls, and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Cover the rolls and prepare for the dough to rise.

  Rising: This is a neat trick I've picked up and also given in the book - if you don't have a warm spot, use a slightly warm oven to rise.  Flip the oven to Warm (or low temperature if your oven doesn't have a Warm setting) for 1 minute.  Cut it off, and put the dough in to rise 30 to 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. 

  Remove the dough from the oven and then preheat the oven to 375°F.  Uncover the rolls and return them to the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Notes - Here are some tips for using a bread machine.  The water temperature is important - too hot and it will kill the yeast before it gets a chance to work.  75-85°F is a common temperature range in ABM recipes.  It will feel cool to your skin, since our body temperatures are much warmer than this temp range.  Bread machine yeast is sold in jars near the envelopes of yeast.  Once opened, store the jar in the refrigerator.