March 6, 2017

Multi-grain Granola

I had several less-common grains hanging out in my pantry and had the idea to add them to granola. This granola is a simple, basic one that can be made with or without the quinoa, millet, buckwheat, or amaranth. I usually do not add dried fruit, as I prefer to eat it with fresh fruit.


4 c. old-fashioned oats
2 Tbsp. quinoa
2 Tbsp. millet
2 Tbsp. buckwheat groats
1 Tbsp. amaranth
1 c. unsweetened coconut (flakes or chips)
1 c. pepitas
1 c. chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
dash of cinnamon

1 c. dried fruit, chopped

Add all ingredients (except dried fruit) to a large bowl. Stir to combine, making sure the liquids are evenly distributed. Place on one or two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 250 for 50 minutes. Allow to cool. Stir in dried fruit.

Gingerbread House and Royal Icing

I've used this gingerbread house and royal icing recipe for several years at Christmas. It's always worked out very well - easy to make, cut out, bakes evenly, and the house is sturdy (depending on your construction skills).

Two tips: 1) To make stained glass windows, cut out a window from cut-out dough (one of the sides of the house). Place the piece on the baking sheet. Add crushed, transparent hard candies to the cut-out area. They will melt during baking.
2) Assemble the house in stages at least the day before decorating. This will the icing to harden sufficiently before decorating.






Gingerbread House
from Simply Recipes

6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup dark molasses
1 Tbsp water

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.

Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook) until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 350°F, with the oven rack in the middle. Have several flat cookie sheets ready, preferably ones that you know will not warp in the oven heat.

Divide the dough in two. Spread parchment paper or wax paper on a large flat surface for rolling. Dust the paper lightly with flour. Working with one portion of the dough at a time, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an even thickness of 1/4-inch. Add a little flour to the surface of the dough, and check for sticking as you roll it out. If it sticks to either your rolling pin or the rolling surface, dust with more flour. If the rolled out dough is very soft, you may want to freeze it for an hour before cutting out the patterns.

Rub a little flour over the surface of the dough. Place the pattern pieces on the dough, as many pattern pieces as will fit on the dough. Use a small sharp knife to cut out the pattern pieces from the dough, wiping the knife surface clean frequently. Depending on how soft the dough is, you may need to use scissors to cut the wax paper or parchment paper. You can cut out the patterns through the dough and parchment paper, placing the dough pieces with the paper directly on the cookie sheets. If you are not using parchment paper or wax paper, you may need to use a large metal spatula to transfer the dough pieces to a greased cookie sheet. Space the pieces on the cookie sheet an inch apart from each other. If dough pieces stretch during the transfer process, push them back into shape.

You can cut out a door and window(s) at this point, or you can wait until after baking, soon after the pieces have come out of the oven while the cookies are still warm.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the edges are just beginning to darken, 11-15 minutes for the large pieces, 6-8 minutes for the small pieces. Rotate the cookie sheets half way through the baking for more even browning. Remove the sheets to racks to cool, about 15 minutes.

While the pieces are still slightly warm, lay the pattern pieces over them and use a large straight chef's knife to trim off any parts of the pieces that have through cooking spread beyond the pattern.


Royal Icing

2 large egg whites
2 2/3 cup powdered sugar, divided

Whisk together until smooth the egg whites and 1 1/3 cups of the powdered sugar.

If you are planning to eat your gingerbread house, and are concerned about the safety of raw eggs, you can microwave the egg white powdered sugar mixture for several seconds (30-40) until the mixture reaches a temperature of 160 degrees, but not higher than 175°F. You can also use pasteurized dried or liquid egg whites.

Add the remaining 1 1/3 cup of powdered sugar to the sugar egg mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until the icing holds stiff peaks. If it doesn't form stiff peaks, add more powdered sugar.

Place a dampened clean towel over the bowl of royal icing. Keep this towel over the icing to prevent it from drying out while you work with it.

When you are ready to mortar or decorate, fill a pastry bag with the icing. If you don't have a pastry bag, you can make your own with a re-sealable plastic freezer bag, just cut off the tip (a small cut) of one of the corners of the bag. Plastic or metal piping tips are available in supermarkets which you can also use with a freezer bag, for more controlled piping.



Caesar Salad Dressing and Homemade Croutons

When I have some leftover crusty bread, making croutons is so easy. Good croutons and salad dressing are essential to a Caesar salad, since there are so few ingredients. Caesar salad is such an easy way to get anyone to eat lots of leafy greens.

To assemble Caesar Salad, chop romaine lettuce, add croutons (below), salad dressing (below), and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Toss to combine.


Caesar Salad Dressing

from Eating Well
makes enough for one medium to large salad

1/2 small clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Place garlic and salt in a medium bowl and mash with the back of a spoon to form a paste. Add lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, and pepper; whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. Add cheese and whisk to combine.


Homemade Croutons

Make sure the bread has lots of air holes for crunchiest croutons.

small chunk of day-old (or longer) crusty bread, cut into bite-sized cubes
olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic powder

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a generous amount of olive oil. Add the bread cubes to the skillet, and stir to coat. Add more olive oil, if necessary, to ensure each cube is coated with olive oil. Add a generous sprinkling of salt, some pepper, and garlic powder. Taste for seasoning. Stir frequently until the croutons are light brown and toasted, lowering heat if needed to allow even browning. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.

Beef Stew and Polenta

A couple of things:
- I love parsnips! If you haven't tried them, I recommend it.
- I have been stuck on my mom's beef stew for a long time, but wanted to try something new. This recipe blew me away with deliciousness.
- Since this recipe does not have potatoes, I had the idea to serve it with starch. Polenta is sooo good, and it's great with this stew. When serving the polenta with stew, I don't think the Parmesan in the polenta is necessary as the stew has plenty of flavor.
- From a show about Italian food, "Polenta is the pasta of Northern Italy."


Beef Stew
from A Whole New Twist

1 Tbs butter or olive oil
2 lbs stew beef
4 carrots peeled and sliced on the bias
3 parsnips peeled and sliced on the bias
4 celery stalks sliced
1 large yellow onion diced
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried sage
2 dried bay leaves
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp honey
1 Tbs worcestershire sauce
2 quarts of beef stock or chicken stock
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 cup of frozen peas

Wash and pat dry the stew beef. Cut into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper.

On medium, heat a Dutch oven, or ovenproof stockpot with a cover. Add butter to pot and melt to coat. Add seasoned beef to the pot to brown, then remove to another plate.

Add the carrots and parsnips to the pan and sauté for about three minutes.

Add the celery and diced onion to the pan and sauté for three more minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté until it just begins to be fragrant, be careful not to burn it.

Return the browned beef to the pot, as well as the remaining ingredients, except for the peas. Stir and raise the heat to high.

When stew just comes to a boil, cover and move pot to a 350 degree oven. Bake in the oven for an hour.

Transfer pot to the stove, stir and simmer for at least another hour. Stir the stew frequently, the liquid will reduce and thicken naturally.

When the beef is fork tender, add the frozen peas and cook for a few more minutes until the peas are heated through.


Polenta
from Alton Brown

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for grilling or sauteing if desired
3/4 cup finely onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 quart chicken stock or broth
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmesan, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.

Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent lumps. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.

Serve as is, or pour the polenta into 9 by 13-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Once set, turn the polenta out onto a cutting board and cut into squares, rounds, or triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and saute in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, or grill.

February 15, 2017

Cabbage and Potatoes with Bacon

My favorite local pork farmer sells bacon in slices and in a package called bits and pieces. The bits and pieces are cheaper, and are just the ends leftover from uniform bacon slices. They're perfect for a recipe like this, where they end up in pieces anyway.

Cabbage is not something I eat regularly, but would like to. This recipe is delicious. It reminds of another from one of Heidi Swanson's cookbooks, but she uses white beans instead of bacon.



Cabbage and Potatoes with Bacon
adapted from I'm Bored

1/2 head green cabbage, cut into bite sized pieces
5 slices thick cut bacon
1.5 lbs. red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 lg. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. caraway seeds
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spread potatoes on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Season liberally with salt & pepper, garlic powder. Roast potatoes about 15 minutes, stirring half way through, until tender and crispy. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a high sided skillet, big enough to add your cabbage to later. Either cook the bacon in strips and break it up later or dice the bacon first, then cook. Remove bacon, set aside. Drain grease from pan but leave about 2 tablespoons in the skillet to cook the vegetables in.

To the skillet with the bacon grease, add onions and cook over medium heat, until they start to soften. Add cabbage, garlic, a little salt & pepper and caraway seeds. Stir and continue to cook a few minutes until the cabbage starts to soften and everything is combined well. Add a splash of water, stir, cover and cook about 5 more minutes until cabbage is tender. Stir the cabbage a few times while it's cooking.

When cabbage is done, remove lid, add the roasted potatoes and bacon. Toss well to combine and serve.

Lentil Soup

I've made too many basic lentil soups before finding one that's worth repeating. This one is good.


Lentil Soup
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 large carrots, peeled
1 medium sweet potato, peeled
2 stalks of celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Italian herbs
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 cup green or dePuy Lentils
1/2 cup split red lentils
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or olive oil
3 cups roughly chopped kale
squeeze of lemon

1/2 cup chopped parsley, for garnish
1/2-3/4 cup grated Parmesan

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Chop the onion, carrot, sweet potato and celery into roughly 1/4" pieces. Put all of the vegetables, including garlic, into the warm pot with the sea salt and saute until just softened, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the pepper, Italian herbs, red pepper and both lentils. Add the broth and stir. Turn the heat to low and cover. Cook for 30-40 minutes until everything is tender but not mushy. Using an immersion or regular blender, blend up about half of the soup just so it gets thicker, leaving some chunks. You still want the texture of the vegetables to come through. Turn off the heat. Stir in the turmeric, butter/oil and kale and stir for the greens to just soften and marry into the soup. Add lemon juice and taste for seasoning.

Serve each bowl with parsley, Parmesan, and toasty bread.

October 23, 2016

Strawberry Cake

I'm back! Is anyone there?

My father-in-law requested strawberry cake for his birthday. An internet search brought up so many recipes that included strawberry jello. Using jello probably results in a pinker color and more pronounced strawberry flavor than this cake, but I prefer not to use jello. This cake was delicious, so I wanted to keep it for later by posting it here.

Strawberry Cake


12 medium strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Prepare three 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick baking spray or prepare with butter and flour. Remove any excess flour.

Blend the strawberries in a blender on medium speed until pureed, about 3 minutes. This should result in three-fourths cup strawberry puree. Set aside.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Slowly add the sugar one cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each cup before adding another. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding another.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour milks, vanilla, and the strawberry puree into a measuring cup and whisk together with a fork. Add to the butter and shortening mixture, alternately with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Gently stir all ingredients until well combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, making sure to have all ingredients mixed well.

Evenly distribute the cake batter between the cake pans and place the pans into the preheated oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cake releases from the edges of the pan and springs back to a light touch. Remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool slightly in the cake pans for about 5 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto wire racks and let them cool completely.

Frost cake with desired frosting, like cream cheese frosting.