Thursday, July 28, 2011

Listen to Your Recipes

I had originally planned to do a posting today on my favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies. But that all changed when my mom gave me a big bag of ripe red cherries over the weekend.

Don't they look simply delicious?

After eating as many as I could, I started thinking about other ways to use them up. Then I remembered a recipe posted by Smitten Kitchen- Cherry Browned Butter Bars. Perfect. (and I had everything needed to make them in the house!)
Here's the recipe! (Link to Smitten Kitchen's recipe with pictures)

7 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter
1 pound sweet cherries, pitted

Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Line the bottom and the sides of an 8x8 inch pan with parchement paper. (Please please please do not skip this step! I did because my pan is non stick but see what happened below!)
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Using a rubber spatula, mix in the sugar and the vanilla. Add the flour and salt and stir. Plop it into the pan, and press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes. Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan.

Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan  over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn!!), swirling the pan and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.
Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.
Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (it only took 35 minutes, and they were a little too brown) Cool bars completely in pan on rack.
Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife.

Now, mine turned out a little bit browned but the topping isn't overcooked at all. Just please please please line your pan with parchment! I didn't because I thought that the nonstick coating would be enough. It wasn't. The crust stuck horribly and I had to chisel it out. I think the dark pan also made the crust cook and darken more than a lighter pan would. What I managed to chip off tasted delicious though and I will just eat these bars out of the pan and follow the directions next time!

Here's the (delicious) carnage.

I definitely encourage you to try these and don't limit yourself to just cherries! I think blackberries or blueberries would also be wonderful.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Two Recipe Thursday

I try to limit trips to the grocery store to about once a week. Even though I can walk the 10 blocks easily, lugging back bags of food isn't appealing to me. Plus, it's a tiny store and doesn't always have what I need which then results in me having to take the car to Wally World aka "giant headache".

 As a result, I have to get creative in my cooking. I don't always have everything a recipe calls for and have to substitute. Today the DB (dearest boyfriend) requested Spam and rice for dinner. I used to scorn Spam until I tried it. Alas, no rice to be found. Okay then, he wanted beenies and weenies (hot dogs and baked beans). Oh wait, no hot dogs. (And hello sodium overload! I prefer something a bit more well rounded)

After flinging the cupboard doors open repeatedly, hoping something new would appear, I remembered a recipe I saw a few days ago. Spicy black bean burgers. Hmmm. Healthy and flavorful served on a bun. But could I convince the DB that bean burgers are just as good as a hunk of meat? Worth a shot.

This recipe was discovered on Iowa Girl Eats, who got the original recipe from Eat Live Run. My adapted version is below.
3 cups cooked black beans (I had no canned so I prepared from dry using the recipe on the bag)
2 Tbsp chopped dried hot peppers reconstiuted in hot water
2 cloves garlic
2 T tomato sauce
1/2 cup homemade breadcrumbs
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked chipotle paprika seasoning (you could sub chili powder and cayenne)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup corn
Sunflower oil  (for frying burgers)

Grate the garlic cloves into your mixing bowl and add the peppers. Add 1 1/2 cups of the beans and mash with a fork until very smooth. Add the cumin, paprika seasoning, and salt and stir again to combine. Stir in the breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, and corn. Form into patties. I refrigerated mine for a few minutes so they could firm up.

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Fry the patties for about 4 minutes per side, or until they get nice and crusty. Serve on burger buns with chipotle mayo. (mayo and ketchup with chipotle seasoning mixed in. Easy.)
Conclusion? I loved these. They get a really nice crispy crust from cooking that is addictive and reminds me of the fried veggies at the county fair. The beans are really creamy and the peppers and spices give everything a nice kick. 8.5 out of 10.
I was nervous about testing these out of the DB since he's definitely a meat and potatoes kind of guy but he devoured 2 burgers and declared that I should make them again. He also gave them a 8.5 out of 10

Now me being the way I am had to avoid the store at all costs so I made homemade burger buns to serve these on. They're quite simple and don't squish down and get soggy like store bought.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
¼ cup water
1 cup warm milk
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
3 to 4 1/2 cups Flour

Mix the sugar, yeast, water, milk, oil and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the flour a little bit at a time until a dough forms. Remove from the bowl and knead on the counter until smooth and elastic. (See here how to knead bread dough.) Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled. Once the dough has doubled, dump it back out onto the counter and divide into 12 pieces or so. Roll into balls (they are a bit bigger than golf balls) and place on a grease baking sheet. Cover again and let rise until doubled. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until nice and browned.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Food Fail

Ever find a recipe that sounds amazing, has great reviews, and all the ingredients happen to be in the pantry? That happened to me last night. Before I moved my mom gave me some venison out of the freezer and I had been looking for a way to cook it for a while. After some time spent Googling and recipe searching, I found a recipe that sounded perfect and BONUS! I had all the ingredients stocked. Venison roast with apples and onions in the slow cooker, what could be easier and more delicious? A lot apparently.

Now I'm not completely blaming the recipe for how this turned out but it was certainly a disappointment. The apples cooked down and thickened the juices to a nice sauce (really good on egg noodles!) and the onions added good flavor as well. Sadly they couldn't distract me from the awful taste of the venison. I've had venison before. I usually like venison. But this hunk of deer was the gamey-est I've ever had. It tasted like musty, bad liver. Blech, my mouth hurts just thinking about it. Sadly, now my fridge is crammed with a Crock-Pot of venison that I refuse to eat, but am too stubborn to just throw away. Anyone want to lend me their dog?

For reference, here is the recipe. Sorry, I didn't deem it worthy enought for a picture.
 I plan to try this again with a well marbled pork roast and will report back with how that turns out.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds boneless venison roast, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large apple, cored and quartered
2 small onions, sliced
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 1 cup hot water

Pour the olive oil into the bottom of the slow cooker and place the meat on top. Arrange the apples, onions and garlic around the meat and then pour the broth over top. Cook on low 7-8 hours (mine went about 6 because that's when I had planned to eat, it was fairly tender and not dried out after this time). Remove meat onto cutting board and let rest 15 minutes, then slice against the grain. Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes with the juice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A quick. easy dinner

One of my favorite types of dinners are those that come together quickly without relying on a lot of prepared and "convenience" items. I never really cared for Hamburger Helper and the like and so thinking up of quick meals can be a challenge. There used to be a store in my hometown that catered to this issue: Super Suppers. Basically a food bar, you prepare a set menu of meals there to take home and freeze. While the concept is intriguing, the cost is more than most can handle and therefor not economical for some. I was privileged enough to attend a private fundraising session a few years ago and though I don't remember much I do remember one item: The Bread Braid
This meal is one of my favorites. It's easy, versatile and best of all it can be prepared quickly, with no fuss, and be on the table in about 45 minutes.

Bread Braid
Start with one loafs worth of bread dough (I used homemade part-white part-wheat *recipe below* today, but have also used store bought frozen with excellent results.)

If using homemade bread dough, roll out after the first rise. If using frozen, thaw before using and no need to rise
Put the dough onto a sheet pan and roll out or use your hands to press it into a large rectangle. I roll it the complete length and leave some space width wise. Don't spread the dough too thin, it will rip and the braid will leak. (This was a large recipe of dough so it almost filled the pan and was still fairly thick)

Next, add your fillings down the middle. I used 3/4 of a kielbasa sausage, 1 chopped green pepper, 1/4 of an onion, 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce, and Monterey Jack cheese to cover.

(cheese not pictured)

Once all of your toppings are laid out, snip the edges of the dough into strips on both sides and then criss-cross them to braid

(forgot to take a pic of this step, thank you Google)


Once your dough is braided, let it rise until it gets slightly puffy, maybe 30 minutes or so. Then bake it at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until well browned. Don't worry if it leaks, mine usually do and they turn out fine. Let cool a few minutes before cutting into slices. Serve.

Don't limit yourself to just kielbasa for the filling. Other great variations to try:

Ham and chedder
Chicken and broccoli with alfredo
Chicken with onions and barbeque sauce
Buffalo Chicken with ranch
Cheesesteak with fried onions and provelone
Corned beef with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.

The possibilities are endless! They freeze great too. Just fill, braid and wrap in plastic wrap. Be sure to let thaw on the sheet pan before baking.

And for reference, here is the bread recipe I used:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 cups flour (I used 2 1/2 white and 1 wheat)