Monday, November 16, 2015

Two Kinds of People

in the Kitchen, there are typically 2 kinds of people. Cookers and bakers. I fall solidly in the cooker category but occasionally like to venture towards the latter. I lack the confidence as a baker that I have as a cooker but if you don't get out of your comfort zone you will never learn, expand or improve. With baking it seems most of the expanding is at my waistline! LOL! This weekend I just had the overwhelming urge to bake something, not just anything, scones. I don't know why. I mean I like them well enough but I wouldn't say I LOVE them. I remember my first scone was made in 7th grade home ec class. They weren't horrible but I remember them being dry and kind of bland. Fast Forward 20+ years .....a new bakery opens in my office building. They have raspberry white chocolate chip scone. WOW they were good. Still not overly sweet but just right with coffee. The downside though is they were HUGE (remember that waistline comment)! Eventually the bakery moved down the street so temptation was not greeting me at the elevator every day. But this weekend man was I hankering for one of those scones. I decided to take a walk on the wild side and make some myself. To the internet I went in search of recipes, I didn't have buttermilk and wasn't going to make a special trip for it so all those went out the window, checked out Tyler Florence's recipe - It looked delicious but make my own butter - um no. Finally I found one on chew out loud. It had sour cream in it and the reviews all commented on home moist the final product came out. I went through the ingredient list and I had everything I needed - BAM! We had a winner. I followed the recipe and I admit there was some trepidation getting that dough to come together. The raspberries were not enjoying the process and the dough was getting stickier and more pink the more I handled it. Finally I got it to the point where it seemed right and I cut it and put it in the oven. When the kitchen timer rang and I checked on them they looked awfully wet and under-cooked so I turned the oven off and let them sit in there another 10 minutes just to be safe. That seemed to work because when I finally removed them from the oven they actually looked OK. I did regret using red colored sugar as a topping because it made them look like they came off the set of a slasher movie but live and learn. They certainly tasted great and that's really what matters.

Raspberry White Chocolate Chip Scones
4 cups all purpose flour
⅔ cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
2 sticks (16 TB) salted butter, frozen
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 cup whole sour cream
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 container fresh raspberries
1 egg + 2 tsp water, lightly beaten together (for egg wash)
coarse sugar for sprinkling

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using large holes of a box grater, grate frozen butter into the flour. Use fingers to work in the butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir in white chocolate chips.

In separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, eggs, and almond extract until fully incorporated.

Use a fork to stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large clumps form. Gently stir in raspberries with a rubber spatula. Do be gentle, but the berries will break up somewhat; that's ok. Use hands to gently form dough into two even sized balls. Don't overwork dough. Dough will seem rather wet. Wrap dough balls tightly and chill until it's easier to work with, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set oven to 400F, with rack on lower-middle position.
On a lightly floured, flat surface, gently pat each dough ball (might still seem too wet, but it will bake up fine) evenly into an 8-inch circle, about ¾ inch thick each. Using a very sharp knife, cut each circle into 8 triangle wedges. Place triangles on lined baking sheets, 1 inch apart.

Brush the egg wash on top of each triangle. Sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake one sheet at a time, about 14-17 minutes or just until tops are light golden. Do not over bake. Allow scones to cool completely to room temp.

 Serve immediately, or store in airtight container for up to 2 days.

Vive la France

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bella Casseroli

So, this weekend I was hit with the cooking bug. The past few weeks have been so crazy busy that dinners have been haphazardly thrown together meals that I could get on the table in 30 minutes while still providing some basic nutritional needs. Sunday came around and I just wanted to have a nice traditional Sunday dinner at the table, once a regular occurrence at my house but not so much lately. I knew that I wanted a roast. I originally thought prime rib but forgot to set it out to thaw the night before so instead I opted for a much smaller eye round roast. To go with it we had mashed cauliflower, roasted potatoes (for hubs), and for the veggies I came up with this casserole to use up what was left from my CSA share. Now, I see a LOT of food blogs condemn the use of canned soups or other pre-made ingredients in recipes. To them I say, UP YOURS! Not all of us have the time, energy or desire to cook every fucking thing from scratch. Yes, it IS always better when it's homemade but it is NOT always convenient or economical, especially for people who are working very hard to make a living while simultaneously balancing work with family and personal lives.  I enjoy making things from scratch but certainly am not above using canned soups, broths or even an occasional jar of prepared spaghetti sauce if that is all that time and energy permits and that's perfectly OK! So go ahead and use those cans if you need/want to. Unless the man has holes in his hands, it ain't his place to judge!

Cheesy Fall Veggie Casserole
1 large head fresh broccoli, trimmed, peeled (stalks) and chopped
1 large handful fresh spinach, rinsed and rough chopped
1 leek sliced
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 can cream of broccoli soup
3/4 cup half and half or milk
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat over to 350F

In a large bowl mix broccoli, spinach, leeks, soups, half and half, crackers and 1/2 Cup cheddar cheese until combined. Place in an ungreased casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining cheddar cheese. return to oven and bake another 15 minutes until cooked through and cheese is melted and bubbly.

Pie! Oh My!

If I am to be totally honest, I have to admit that I don't really like pie. Pie season is in full swing here in New England with apples and pumpkins at peak harvest. Even I, the pie hater, got caught up in the hoopla and made one this weekend. I figured it would be easy to resist and I would stay on my diet. Boy was I wrong. This pie, even though I didn't get the bottom crust quite right (soggy) has changed my opinion regarding pie. I love pie. Well THIS pie!

Maple Whiskey Caramel Apple Pie (adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)

For the crumb topping:
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar (I used Imperial)
3 TBSP dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 TBSP chilled butter, cut into pieces

For the filling:
6 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced about ¼-inch thick
1/2 cup  butter
 3 TBSP ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Maple Whiskey (I used Cabin Fever)
1/2 cup half and half (can sub heavy cream)
1 tsp butter vanilla (can sub vanilla extract)

Preheat over to 400F

Prepare the topping:
In a bowl (or food processor) combine the both sugars, cinnamon, salt, and flour.
Cut in the butter (by hand, pastry cutter, or using the food processor) until crumbly and stir in the pecans.
Refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the filling:
Melt the butter for the filling in a large pot over medium-high heat and sauté the apples for 5-8 minutes.
Transfer the apples to a bowl and set aside
Add the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and whiskey to the pot, simmering for at least 5 minutes until much of the alcohol burns off.
Add the cream and cook another 5-10 minutes more, until it is about as thick as pourable caramel. Turn off heat and return the apples to the pot and stir to coat. Let filling cool before preparing pie crust.

Assemble Pie:
Roll out the pie dough onto a lightly floured surface and then transfer it to a deep dish pie plate, crimping the edges.
Pour the filling into the pie plate, sprinkle the crumb topping over, and put in the oven on a baking sheet for 50-60 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the topping has browned.
Serve warm or room temperature.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Falling for Fall

Yep, it's that time of year again. the mornings are crisp and the leaves are turning lovely hues of red and orange. Fall. I love it despite the winter that inevitably follows. Apples and pumpkins and squash abound. MMMM. While every one else posts recipes for Fall. I am going to hang on to summer just a tad longer. Today recipe is brought to you by my grocery store's olive bar.  I am obsessed with the olive bar at the grocery store. Not because I love olives. In fact, I don't really care for them at all. It's the other random stuff that shows up. The stuffed cherry peppers, the marinated mozzarella, the roasted red peppers, the roasted garlic cloves (YUM). This past week what did I find, ARTICHOKE HEARTS! I have never seen artichokes on the olive bar before so I felt compelled to buy them. I love artichokes although my husband does not. So now I had to figure out what to do with them so they would get eating quickly. Then I remembered that hubs LOVES spinach and artichoke dip. BINGO! I had a game plan and was ready to throw down. Here is what I did:

Chicken in a Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Sauce

2 Tbs oil
2 Chicken breast halves, filleted if very large
4-6 oz marinated artichoke hearts
1 box frozen, chopped spinach
2 medium carrots, shredded
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 C white wine
1 cup chicken stock
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet until shimmery
Add chicken breast pieces and brown on each side. Once browned, remove from skillet and set aside
Deglaze pan with white wine and allow to simmer down
Add artichokes, spinach, carrots, garlic and leeks to skillet and saute until soft.
Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.
Return chicken to skillet and let simmer until cooked through
Serve over pasta, rice or spaghetti squash.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

South of the Border Break Through!

Eureka I have Found it! A low carb enchilada recipe that tastes great and doesn't require me too cook all sorts of shit before I actually start cooking my dinner (i.e. cauliflower tortillas). YEEHAW! Thank you food gawker for the inspiration! What am I talking about you ask? Well, it all started when I saw this image:
What you see there are lamb cannelloni but instead of pasta sheets, the filling is wrapped in sliced eggplant! I shit you not! Immediately I went to the website (in French), translated it and read the recipe through. It required the eggplant to be sliced thinly on a mandolin and they lightly fried in olive oil before filling and baking in sauce. No problem. I just so happened to have an eggplant and a mandolin at home! BUT rather than recreate this recipe, I figured if it works with Italian food then surely it will work for Mexican as well. I had some leftover taco meat from dinner a few days earlier and a couple jars of home made enchilada sauce that I was dying to eat. You see this low carb thing I am on seriously limits my opportunities for eating Mexican beyond a taco salad (booo!). Needless to say, I was super excited to give this idea a shot. Now, when it comes to eggplants I think those big round purple things should only be used for baba ganoush, if at all. For Parmesan I use the Japanese varieties and for this I used the smaller white skinned eggplant. I set my mandolin on 1/8 inch (3mm) and sliced away. I spread the slices on paper towels and generously salted them with sea salt. Then I took the dogs to the park for a while. When I returned the eggplant had shed a lot of water, which I blotted up with more paper towels, and was fairly pliable. Enough so that I decided to skip the frying step and see what would happen. After all, my homemade sauce was very thick and wouldn't really be ruined by any additional water shed by the eggplant during baking. I overlapped 2 slices of the eggplant, put some taco meat at one end and rolled it up. It worked great. I placed the eggplant enchilada in a sauce lined baker and continued until all the large enough slices were used up.  At this point I should mention again that the sauce I had made was very thick and that helped keep the enchiladas from unrolling while in the pan. I topped the enchiladas with a little more sauce, covered them in foil and baked them at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. Then I removed the foil, topped them with cheddar cheese and baked them another 15 minutes until the cheese was good and melted. I was a little nervous that the eggplant would be tough to eat but I was thrilled to find that they worked perfectly. Not only were they easy to eat with a fork, but the eggplant was nearly undetectable. If I didn't know better, I would never have guessed that there was eggplant in this dish. WIN!

Now, I made the enchilada sauce last summer with fresh tomatoes and peppers but this is the basic recipe as far as I can remember it:

For the Enchilada Sauce:
6 ancho chile peppers, roasted, peeled, cored, and seeded
3 Anaheim Chilies, roasted, peeled, cored, and seeded
2 jalapeno peppers, 
2 chipotles, chopped  
2 medium tomatoes, halved  
1 medium white onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic  
1 Tbs chili powder  
1 teaspoon cumin  
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano S
alt and pepper to taste  
3½ to 4 cups chicken broth 
2 tablespoons masa harina

Combine the tomato, onion and garlic in a medium sauce pan. Cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until tomatoes are tender and onion is soft. Add chilies and blend with an immersion blender or transfer to traditional blender.  Add cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Blend on high until smooth, taste for salt.  Transfer sauce back to pan and heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Whisk the masa harina into the simmering sauce until well combined. Cook for 5 more minutes, keep warm on low.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Low Carb Little Beauties!

Hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day Weekend. The Hubs and I sure did. At first I wasn't so sure since he decided to have a party meaning a lot of cooking and cleaning for me. But it actually ended being a really nice time. We had a good turn out of friends joining us and I managed to not drink too much or stray too far off of my diet! YAY Me! What helped were these little beauties that I concocted using a bag of little baby bell peppers. I meant to take a picture of them but ate them all instead. lol.

Bacon, Cheddar, Ranch Stuffed Baby Bell Peppers

1 bag baby bell peppers, stemmed and cored
1 brick cream cheese
1 1/2 Tablespoon ranch seasoning
6 or so slices of bacon, cooked crisp
1 Cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Put the cheeses, ranch seasoning and bacon in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix at low speed and gradually increase until everything is full mixed together

Stuff cheese mixtures into the hollowed out bell peppers. I found that using your hands to do this was the easiest way to get them stuffed. Enjoy. Simple, tasty and low carb!