Wednesday, April 29, 2009

White Chocolate Lime Cookies


I made these for the bachelorette/family weekend extraordinare and found these to be a neat alternative to regular chocolate chip cookies. Hubby's only complaint was that he couldn't taste the line, so I'd increase the zest a bit. I also only used about 1/2 of the white chocolate specified ... I don't like a lot of chocolate in my cookies. Odd, I know.


White Chocolate Lime Cookies
from Technicolor Kitchen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (**I increased the flour by about a 1/4 cup because my cookies spread something fierce in the oven.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
12oz white chocolate chips/chunks

Preheat oven to 350ºF; line two large baking sheets with parchment/baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl beat sugar, brown sugar and butter until combined but not fluffy.
Add eggs one, at a time, then add vanilla, lime juice and lime zest. Mix to combine.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix into creamed mixture until just combined. Fold in the white chocolate chips/chunks.

Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 in apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the centers are just set – mine needed 15 minutes.
Allow to sit on the pan for three minutes before moving to wire racks.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

An unexpected gift

My grandma died in February after a long battle with Alzheimer's. After she moved from her house into the nursing home, Ryan and I inherited a few odds and ends - my favorite chair and a half, the kitchen table and chairs, grandma's cookbooks and an ottoman that belonged to my grandpa Stan (which Ryan once insinuated was ugly ... an ugly argument ensued after that error. All is well, it's hidden in a corner.)

Anyway - Ryan had to move the ugly ottoman to make some room for new furniture we purchased with our wedding money. I'm not sure what prompted him to open the ottoman, but Ryan found a bunch of cake pans, some food service-quality baking sheets and other odds and ends. Most of these items were new or barely used, so I wonder if my grandma put them in the ottoman and forgot that they were there.

I think it's appropriate and a little ironic that amongst all of the wonderful kitchen-related gifts we received for our wedding, this one comes a little bit later and totally unexpected. I miss my grandparents every day - no day more so than on our wedding day - but they're still here very much in spirit.

Spinach Pies


OK - so I'm so going to toot my own horn right now: I got married last Saturday, April 18, 2009, to my best friend and partner-in-crime. Friends and family members have gotten to know my beloved and can probably attest to his awesomeness - for those of you who haven't met Ryan, he's the person who tries all of the concoctions that I create and is one of the best critics a person can ask for. (Except when he called my almond cake "mushy." It was dense. Really.)

For me, a big part of our wedding celebration was the food aspect of it. My coworkers were coming in from out of town, along with a lot of my old friends and peers ... I think it's easy to take small-town cooking for granted unless you've been away from it for awhile, so I wanted the food to be simple, plentiful and good. Schulte's BBQ & Catering of Waukon, Iowa, roasted pork tenderloin and turkey breast for the meat; mixed up batches of their homemade cheesy potatoes and green beans with bacon for side dishes and had orange fluff salad (my favorite that I didn't eat because I was so all about the meat aspect of the meal) and a mandarin orange/strawberry spinach salad that's my mom's particular favorite. Mary Jo Liddiard - a cake goddess from my area - made vanilla, chocolate and carrot cupcakes and Lorraine Sweeney handled the appetizers and there were several but my city friends were in awe of the squeaky cheese curds because let's be honest - you can't find those in any store - at least not the ones that squeak because they are fresh.

Ryan and I had a big wedding. We also had a lot of leftovers. The pork and turkey were easily frozen, as were the potatoes and green beans. But Ryan and I have about three bags of spinach leaves and three bags of romaine mix. I really don't give a rip about romaine, but I do have a soft spot for spinach, so I've been trying different recipes to make sure it doesn't go to waste. When I was looking into whether or not I could just freeze the fresh spinach, I came across a bunch of suggestions on how to use spinach. One of them was for Spinach Pie. And man ... it is good.


Spinach Pie
adapted from Erin's Eats

1 tsp. olive oil
9 oz. bag fresh spinach
1/4 c diced onion
3 T. pine nuts, toasted
1 egg
4 oz. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
one box (2 sheets) puff pastry

Preheat oven to 375. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add onions and saute until tender. Add spinach and allow it to wilt a bit. Remove from heat.

Toast pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Start rolling out the puff pastry (I actually used my hands and patted it down) and cut into nine squares.

Add the cheese, pine nuts and salt and pepper to the spinach mixture.

Spoon about 1-2 Tbsp. of the spinach mixture in each puff pastry square. Brush the sides of the square with a little water and then bring 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle. Press with your fingers to seal. Place on a baking sheet. Beat the egg and then brush the tops of the triangles with the egg. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden.

I wasn't too fond of these hot, but man they are BRILLIANT when they are room temperature. Love them, love them, love them!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My next culinary quest

http://www.lollyphile.com/maple-bacon.php

The husband wouldn't eat Mo's Bacon Bar - methinks if I order these bad boys I'd also have them all to myself.

Why do I like bacon so much? Is it the challenge of "why the hell would you put bacon in that?" which appeals me?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lentil, Bacon and Tomato Soup


OK - I want to look cool, so here is the French name of the soup I made: Potage Aux Lentilles Et Aux Lard - otherwise known as Lentil, Bacon and Tomato Soup. I made this a few weeks back when I was on my French kick and wow - Ryan and I demolished this soup in record time. I will definitely make this again. The bacon just adds a depth to it that is incredible.

Potage Aux Lentilles Et Aux Lard

from RecipeZaar.com

SERVES 6
3 tablespoons
olive oil
2 small
onions, finely chopped
6
garlic cloves, minced
2
celery ribs, sliced
4 ounces
bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips crosswise
1 1/3 cups
lentils (Lentilles de Puy, small green French lentils)
2 (14 ounce) cans
diced tomatoes
5 cups vegetable stock
3 sprigs
thyme
2
bay leaves
sea salt and pepper


Heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Add the bacon, onions and celery and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Don't allow to brown. Add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil and bacon fat. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until lentils are cooked. Add more broth if soup is getting too thick.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sweet and Salty Almonds


I got this recipe from Dragon's Kitchen. It was another offering I brought to the pre-wedding/Easter weekend.

Kind of interesting - when they first came out of the oven, I tried one and thought ... "oh, well this is OK." But then I kept going back for more and realized that they were pretty damn good.

Sweet and Salty Almonds
from Dragon's Kitchen

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups almonds
Fresh cracked pepper
Vegetable oil to grease the baking sheet

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and place a baking rack in the center of the oven. Line a large baking sheet with foil and grease the foil with some vegetable oil.

2. In a saucepan over low heat, combine honey, oils, sugar, cayenne, chili and salt. Heat until well the sugar is melted. Stir often.

3. Add the almonds to the honey mixture and stir until the almonds are evenly coated.

4. Spread the almonds onto the baking sheet and make sure they are in a single layer.

5. Roast the almonds in the oven for 13-15 minutes; stirring frequently until they are nicely glazed. Watch the nuts carefully as they bake because they will burn quickly.

6. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and transfer the almonds to another baking sheet to cool. Sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper. Cool completely.

7. Before serving the almonds, break apart any almonds that are stuck together.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Supernatural Brownies


This past weekend, my family decided to get together to celebrate the upcoming wedding and the Easter holiday. Well, no holiday is complete without a ton of food and since everyone else was bringing something savory, I volunteered to make some desserts.

Here was one of them. I'm not a huge brownie fan, but I figured that my nephews would appreciate them. Maybe even my dad. And every food blogger who has written about these brownies absolutely raves about them, so I decided to try my hand at them.

Supernatural Brownies
2 sticks unsalted butter, each cut into thirds
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used 4 ounces of each), broken into pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
One 13x9x2-inch pan, buttered

Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Combine the butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl and microwave in intervals of 30 seconds or so, until melted (stir in between heatings). Whisk eggs together in a large bowl, then whisk in the salt, sugars, and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the flour. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 45 minutes, until top has formed a shiny crust. Cool in pan, or enjoy hot from the oven.

Supernatural Brownies comes from Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers by Nick Malgieri.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bastardized Beer Bread


I'm slowly venturing into the world of trying to make my own bread. I am intimidated by yeast, bread is full of carbs ... I can think of a million reasons why I should just chicken out and be content to buy artisan breads when company comes over and just suffer through white bread sandwiches every other day of the week (Ryan likes white bread ... can't get the boy to eat wheat ...).

Quick breads? Now that's another story ... I can handle a quick bread and have been finding some savory versions lately that have been intriguing.

This one is a mix of a couple recipes that I found ... The Peanut Butter Boy posted this whole grain beer bread version a few weeks ago, while Peanut Butter & Julie posted this one for a Sam Adams Cheddar Apple Bread.

I borrowed heavily from Peanut Butter Boy to create this. PB&J gave me the idea of what kind of add-ins I could put in this bad boy. Just one note ... don't forget the sugar. You'd be surprised how badly the bread needs it.


Bastardized Beer Bread

3 cups flour (PBB uses wheat flour or spelt ... I only had white bread and also had to throw in some Bisquick when I ran out ... sigh) 1/2 c. cheese (I used cheddar jack blend ... meh - could have been better.)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2T raw sugar 1T baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt 1 (12oz) bottle dark beer (I used 1550 Bock from the folks who brew Fat Tire)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl, making sure to lightly spoon the flour into measuring cups to avoid using too much. Whisk together all the dry ingredients.
2. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 bread pan with butter or cooking spray. Pour beer into the dry mixture and stir to with a wooden spoon. Use your hands to mix once it becomes difficult just until all ingredients are combined. Transfer dough to your bread pan and press down gently so it spreads out evenly. Bake for 1 hour. Let sit for 5 minutes in the pan.
**Note ... Honestly? I wish I would have just drank the beer. I forgot the put in the sugar ... it wasn't as good as it could have been.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I *heart* formatting errors

... And in the case of poor potato galette down below, I don't know how to fix it. *sigh*. What I wanted to tell you is that the recipe comes from Recipezaar.com and that they recently had a newsletter featuring French recipes. This recipe is good, in theory, but it was also one of those things that looked like crap when I turned it out of the pan.

Ryan loved it though, so that's good. :)

Provencal Potato Galette


Provencal Potato Galette
from RecipeZaar.com

1 T. olive oil
7 ounces streaky bacon, finely chopped
2 brown onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 lb potato, thinly sliced
salt pepper
1 ounce butter

Preheat oven to 350. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon over medium heat until starting to brown. Add the onion and thyme and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Transfer to a large bowl, add the potato, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a 7-inch round cake tin and press down well. Dot with the butter. Place a piece of doubled baking paper over the toip and place a weight, such as a ramekin or a smaller cake tin, over the paper. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove the weight and the paper and cook for another 20-25 minutes (or until the potato is tender and lightly golden). Leave to rest for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the tin and turn out the galette. Enjoy!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spanish Kalimotxo

It's one thing for me to uncork a bottle of red wine (regular occurence) and it's another for me to drink Coca-Cola (it's a rare treat). But what happens when you mix them together?

I went to Savers yesterday and found Joan Baez's "Diamonds & Rust" album for $1.99. Thought it'd make a good backdrop for my exotic drink.

I found this article on Rachael Ray's website and decided to give it a try. Since I had a $2.99 bottle of Tisdale left in the rack, I figured that if it tasted like crap, I could just dump the drink down the drain and drink the rest of the wine sans cola.

I was pleasantly surprised though how tasty this drink was. I did a bit of research on Wikipedia and found the origins of this drink ... it's apparently a great cheap drink that's dug in Spain.

Spanish Kalimotxo
from RachaelRay.com

Take a pint glass. Fill with ice. Fill half with red wine. Top it off with chilled cola.

Drink. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Seasoning a cast iron skillet

Before ...

Our first wedding present came from a dear friend of mine from college. Since Ben's profession is playing church organ, he has a little bit of a conflict from coming up to Iowa for the wedding. (I also told him he needs to save up his vacation time since he's getting married on June 13. :))

As Ryan knows, I have something of a thing for Bobby Flay. What he doesn't know is that I also love cast iron skillets and have never had one. Our first wedding present was shipped to us from Kohl's and I finally got around to seasoning it.

Seasoning? Ah yes ... my grandma's cast iron skillets (as well as my aunt's) are sights to behold - crusty and wonderful. Before you use a skillet for the first time, you need to season the skillet - in my case, rub it down with some bacon grease and throwing it in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour.

Here's the link of the article that I consulted to season my beeeautiful skillet.

After ... complete with little bits o' bacon

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A bit more accurate

"It's a KitchenAid honey ... don't you understand?"
I post this demented picture of myself because I think it accurately depicts how freakin' excited I was to receive this gift.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Squee and Shriek


Mixers were the order of the day at the bridal shower thrown by Ryan's coworkers. I admit that I shrieked like a little girl when Ryan tore the paper off of the KitchenAid mixer. I've wanted a KitchenAid mixer for ... I don't know how long. But I shrieked. Loudly.

The top one is from Ryan's co-worker Derrick who was feeling bad after I shrieked about said KitchenAid ... the women in the group tried reassuring him that a hand mixer is just as important as a stand mixer (and probably more practical on a daily basis.)



The cat loves Derrick's mixer more ...



"What? Mommy loves the KitchenAid more than she loves me?"

Seriously though ... Ryan and I were so very touched and honored to have such wonderful people in our lives. Barb got us a Menards gift card and Terrence gave us a Target card and we were both just stunned by everyone's generosity.

And I can't wait until the weekend!

If you have to ask?

I think that is goes without saying that this is a dietary disaster:

http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/29980022/

All hail my aunt's cooking


Let me preface this post by saying: I will never cook as well as my Aunt Sue does. The women in my family are fabled for their culinary arts, but I must confess – I’m kind of scared of my Aunt Sue because I’ve never watched her crack open a cookbook or consult a recipe. It seems like 95% of what she does comes from off the top of her head or else she has a photographic memory that commits recipe details to her brain.

So when Ryan asked me to call her and ask for her pretzel recipe and the corresponding mustard dip that he had fallen in love with when we were home for my grandma’s funeral – I was kind of intimidated. This was like asking a celebrity for their autograph.

But of course, my aunt called me and gave me the recipes that I needed and reported that she had already improved the spicy pretzel recipe – you’re looking at the original one.

I made this for a going-away party that Ryan had at work. They loved my aunt’s cooking as much as I do. And now I share it with you. People like the matriarchs of my family are the reasons why I love simple cooking – a recipe doesn’t have to be mind bending to be damn good.

Sue’s Spicy Pretzels


3 bags pretzels
2 bottles Orville Reddenbacher butter flavored popping oil
2 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk dressing
1 T. black pepper
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 T. dill weed

Dump all of the ingredients together, stir. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 ½ hours, stirring every 20 minutes.

Sue’s Mustard Dip

8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. mayonnaise
8 oz. mustard
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk dressing
½ c. sugar

Mix together. Chill.