December 30, 2010

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Waffles

More waffles! I jotted down this recipe from a magazine a few years ago and have no idea from which one. As you can see in the photo, the waffles appear like regular waffles, but have hearty whole wheat flour and peanut butter. The peanut butter flavor isn't overwhelming, but can be tasted.

Break extra waffles into sections and freeze. Stick frozen sections in the toaster for a quick breakfast or snack.

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Waffles

2 ¼ c. whole wheat flour
4 tsp. baking powder
½ c. creamy natural peanut butter
1 ½ Tbsp. sugar or 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 eggs, beaten
2 ¼ c. whole milk, or almond milk, or half whole yogurt and half water
¼ c. oil or melted coconut oil
¼ tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and cook on waffle iron.

December 29, 2010

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Another excellent ice cream recipe from the ice cream master, David Lebovitz. I recommend using canned pumpkin puree. I used homemade puree and ended up with tiny strands of pumpkin in the ice cream, which made for an odd texture. Actually, in looking at the recipe again, I see that one of the last steps is to strain the ice cream, which I probably didn't do. I'm sometimes a sloppy cook; don't follow in my footsteps.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
adapted by David Lebovitz from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco

5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin puree

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks: set aside.

Warm the milk, cream, sugar, spices and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the edges begin to bubble. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by placing a medium-sized metal bowl in a larger bowl filled with some ice and a little water. Set a mesh strainer on top.

Gradually add half of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Turn the heat to low and scrape the yolks back in to the saucepan. Stir constantly, scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (between 160˚ – 170˚F).

Working quickly, pour mixture through the strainer and into the bowl with the ice bath. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved and cooled. Chill thoroughly in the fridge, preferably overnight.

Once chilled, add the vanilla and pumpkin puree. Whisk until incorporated, then press through a fine-mesh strainer. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze for at least one hour before serving.

December 20, 2010

Upside-Down Cranberry-Caramel Cake

I made this cake a few weeks ago and brought it to an event with friends.
It was still warm, and the first person to cut into it probably thought it was a pudding-filled cake. The center was not all the way baked! How embarassing. But my gracious friends ate the edges of the cake, which were fully baked and still said the cake tasted good.

This weekend I attempted this cake again, with great results! I don't think there's anything inherently difficult about this recipe; I must have unknowingly done something weird the first time.

A perfect Christmas cake, I love the tart cranberries. For the optional flavorings, I added almond extract and nutmeg. Delicious!

Upside-Down Cranberry-Caramel Cake
from Smitten Kitchen

Unsalted butter or cooking spray for the baking pan
2/3 cup (5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (8 1/2 ounces) sour cream
2 cups (8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
Optional flavorings: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 1 tablespoon orange or lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, few gratings of fresh nutmeg or a combination thereof
Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter and cover the bottom with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the melted butter, molasses and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Stir well and pour into prepared cake pan. Set pan aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sour cream together at medium speed until well blended. Add optional flavorings of your choice. Scrape down the bowl and add remaining melted butter (1/2 cup) and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Add the cranberries to the prepared baking pan and gently press the fruit into an even layer. Dollop the batter on top and use an offset spatula to gently nudge it into place without disturbing the cranberries underneath. Bake on the center rack (with a tray underneath to catch drips) until golden and a tester inserted into just the cake comes out clean, 35 - 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan then insert over a flat platter that is larger than your cake pan, to catch any puddling or jumping cranberries. Remove the parchment paper.

Serve warm, with freshly whipped cream. The cake will keep for two to three days covered at room temperature.

December 19, 2010

Sparkling Egg Nog

My grandpa was kind of quirky (aren't all grandpas?). He had several of his own concoctions that I still enjoy. One of my favorite is adding ginger ale to egg nog. It's quite delightful, and I much prefer sparkling egg nog than plain.

Here's how to do it - the method is important:
Fill a glass a little less than halfway with ginger ale, then fill the rest of the glass with egg nog.

December 18, 2010

Failproof Candy

Candy making is fun, but sometimes frustrating. These two candy recipes don't require any special skill, so if you want something easy, but really yummy, try either or both of these: peppermint bark and buckeyes.

Peppermint Bark

12 oz. dark chocolate
12 oz. white chocolate
4 - 6 candy canes, crushed

Prepare pan by lining it in wax paper. I used 8x8 square pan, but the bark was on the thick side. Also try a cookie sheet, but don't spread the chocolate all the way to the edge. Melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave (on high for 1 minute, stir, then short bursts of 10-20 seconds until melted. Stir after each burst). Spread the dark chocolate in the prepared pan. Let set. Repeat melting process with the white chocolate. Spread evenly over dark chocolate. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes, pressing the candy slightly into the chocolate. Let set. Remove the bark from the pan. Peel the paper away from the bark. Break or cut into pieces.

As many non-midwesterns may not know, buckeyes are a nut-like fruit that grows on trees. Candy buckeyes resemble the fruit. Ever wonder what the Ohio State Buckeyes are? Nuts (or fruits)!

Many buckeye recipes have a peanut butter center containing only peanut butter,powdered sugar, and butter. I tried this recipe with graham cracker crumbs and cream cheese in the center, and thought the consistency and taste were perfect.

I used a toothpick to dip the buckeyes in chocolate. After the buckeyes were set, I pushed the exposed peanut butter center around a little to get rid of the toothpick hole.

from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 14 graham crackers)
dash of salt
3 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
12 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped

Make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together until combined. Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat for 10 seconds. Add the sugar and butter, and mix on the lowest speed until it stops floating off everywhere, then increase the speed until the ingredients are combined. Scrape down the whole bowl well, then mix again. The mixture will be quite sturdy and a little dry — perfect for shaping. Set it aside while you prepare the coating.

Make the coating: Melt the chocolate either over a double boiler, stirring until it is completely smooth or in a microwave in 30 then 10 second increments, stirring before you start it again until it is completely smooth. Let it cool to tepid (about 100 degrees), while you shape the peanut butter centers.

Assemble the candies: Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out slightly more than one tablespoon’s worth of filling, and use your hands to form it into a ball. Place the ball on the prepared sheet and repeat the process until all of the candies have been shaped. They can sit close to each other but make sure they are not touching.

Using a fork or large skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate and roll it about so that almost the entire candy is coating, leaving a small circle uncoated.

Chill the buckeyes until they are set, about 30 minutes.

December 15, 2010

Meatball Soup

Cold weather is soup season! Here's another hearty, scrumptious soup to warm you up on a cold day.

Meatball Soup
from Heather W

1 lb. ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
¼ c. bread crumbs or quick oats
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1 tsp. basil
½ tsp. parsley
½ c. grated onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

3 cans chicken broth
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning (or combo of basil, oregano, and thyme)
2 c. fresh spinach, thinly sliced
1/2 c. uncooked orzo pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Combine all meatball ingredients. Form into meatballs – less than an inch in diameter. Broil in the oven until lightly browned. Heat oil in a large pot. Saute onion and garlic until tender. Add the broth, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium. Add meatballs, carrots, and spinach. Cover and simmer at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Add to soup.

December 14, 2010

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Crumble

This is my last Thanksgiving recipe for this year - now you can use it for Christmas! This was a recipe I found online and took a gamble they'd be good. I won the gamble! Smooth and creamy, the potatoes are slightly sweet; the cardamom (one of my favorite spices) gave the dish an extra kick.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Crumble
from Blissful Bite

3 to 3-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 large potatoes), peeled
1 egg
1-1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small dice (keep in fridge until needed)

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 1-1/2 quart baking dish and set aside.
Cut the sweet potatoes into 1-1/2 inch pieces. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, the potatoes will take about 10 minutes to become sufficiently tender. (Test one to confirm.) Strain and allow to sit in the colander for about 15 minutes.

Puree in a food processor, stopping to swipe the sides 2 or 3 times. You want the mixture to be quite smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, syrup, vanilla, lemon, salt, and cardamom. Scrape in the sweet potatoes and stir with a wooden spoon until well-combined.

Transfer the potato mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans, and diced butter. Rub with your fingertips until it forms small clumps. Scatter over the potatoes.

Set the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the hot oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, keeping an eye on it in the last 10 minutes to make sure the nuts don't burn. (If they get too dark, tent with foil.) Serve hot.

December 11, 2010

Homemade Oreos with Candy Cane Frosting

Homemade oreos - chocolate sandwich cookies with frosting - are a little less crunchy but way more tasty than store-bought. I went for a holiday option and added crushed candy canes to the frosting. The mint flavor works really well here.

I went all out with these cookies and also dipped them in chocolate and sprinkled crushed candy canes on top. While visually this is a plus, the extra chocolate doesn't add too much to the taste and is probably not worth the extra effort. This is the type of cookie that everyone will gobble down, so who cares what they look like?

Homemade Oreos with Candy Cane Frosting
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
optional: about 6 candy canes, finely ground in food processor

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the cream filling, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy. Add ground candy canes, mix, and taste. Add more candy canes as necessary for desired mint taste.

To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

Optional: Melt dark chocolate and dip sandwiched cookies halfway. Shake off excess chocolate and let set on wax paper. While chocolate is still wet, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top.

December 10, 2010

Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these cookies for a cookie exchange with women from church. I thought they were festive and unique. These cookies are quite delightful - the tart pomegranate arils complement the sweet white chocolate. The pomegranate arils lose most of their crunch while baking.

It turns out there were a few awards at the cookie exchange, based on appearance only. I was awarded most creative!

If you are unfamiliar with how to work with a fresh pomegranate, check out this tutorial. This method saves many arils from being cut open and juice spilling everywhere.

Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Two Peas and Their Pod

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned or quick oats
1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup pomegranate arils

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.

3. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

4. Stir in the oats and white chocolate chunks. Make dough balls-about 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie. Tuck about 6-8 pomegranate arils in each cookie dough ball. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies.

December 9, 2010

Pulled Pork

My brother found this recipe online. It's called Mean Chef's Pulled Pork. It's divine and super easy. Basically you rub a pork shoulder with a rub, let it sit overnight, and then slow cook it in the oven for 8 hours. The result is this:

Are you convinced yet? Probably not. After roasting for 8 hours, the rub forms a crunchy, burnt-looking crust. Don't be fooled - that crust is the secret. Next you shred the pork up, and the tasty crust is mixed in with the rest of the tender pork and the fat. Like this:

Then you can do whatever you'd like with the pork. Add barbeque sauce and eat it on buns, add it to tortillas with some cheese and salsa, or eat it plain. Here's mine served on homemade buns with barbeque sauce. So yummy...

Some tips: pork butt and pork shoulder are supposedly different names for the same cut of meat. It doesn't really make sense, but just go with it. I've used bone-in and boneless, and both work. Use your favorite barbeque sauce (homemade or store-bought). Since pork butt is a large piece of meat, feel free to cook it, shred it, and then freeze some for later. For me this amount of rub is enough for two pork butts. My mom claims she uses the whole amount on one.

Mean Chef's Pulled Pork
from Food

1 whole pork butt or pork shoulder
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne

For rub: mix all ingredients except pork in a small bowl. Rub pork with rub. Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

Take out pork and re-rub. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Roast on rack uncovered in oven at 250-275 degrees until falling apart tender. It will take 7-8 hours; the internal temperature of the pork when done should be between 195 and 200 degrees. Shred pork into pieces with two forks. Toss with barbeque sauce, if desired.

December 8, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar

I've recently discovered I like brussels sprouts! Especially fresh, they only need simple preparation to be quite scrumptious. The winter farmer's market has one farmer still selling them, and I get some each week.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar
from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 pound brussels sprouts, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Cut off the ends of the brussels sprouts. If the brussel sprouts are large, cut in half. Otherwise, leave sprouts whole.

3. Place sprouts in a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Pour sprouts on a baking sheet and roast 30-35 minutes or until sprouts are tender. Stir them a couple of times while they are roasting. Serve warm.

December 6, 2010

Flour Tortillas and Chicken Chimichungas

I like to buy tortillas from Whole Foods. Here's the list of ingredients for their whole wheat tortillas: flour, water, oil, salt, baking powder. However, the other day I was at the regular grocery store and needed some tortillas. Every single package of tortillas I picked up had a list of ingredients that was way too long. I got mad.

So, instead, I tried making my own flour tortillas. I've done it before, but I don't remember having much success. I found this recipe online (of course) and loved that it didn't require lard, and, in fact, almost matches exactly the ingredients found in the Whole Foods tortillas. This recipe worked out quite well. Warning: warm, freshly made tortillas may disappear faster than you can use them in your intended recipe.

Homemade Flour Tortillas
from Alexandra's Kitchen

Makes about 10 small tortillas or 6 large (burrito size) tortillas

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (or sub one cup with whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. table salt (not kosher)
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 c. unsalted butter
2/3 cup warm water
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Stir in warm water with a fork until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 3-4 minutes until smooth, soft, and not sticky, adding more flour if necessary.

Cut the dough into 2-oz. pieces for taco-sized tortillas or 3-oz pieces for burrito-sized tortillas. Shape pieces into a ball. Cover with a very light kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Be careful that your room isn’t too hot. Let the dough rest 30 minutes and up to two hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each ball to about 9 to 10 inches (taco) or 11 to 12 inches (burrito) in diameter, or until you can see the counter start to come through.

Heat a 12 inch non-stick or cast-iron pan (do not add any oil) on medium-high. Lay the tortilla in the pan and cook until it puffs and little brown spots on the underside appear. Turn with tongs and cook. Each tortilla takes about 45 seconds. Stack tortillas on a plate covered with a towel to keep them pliable.

Now what did I need these flour tortillas for? My favorite meal growing up (or at least the meal I'd always request on my birthday): chicken chimichungas.

These chimichungas are baked, not fried, and turn golden brown and crispy. They are perfect for using up leftover chicken.

Chicken Chimichungas
from my mother

2 ½ c. shredded cooked chicken
1 c. salsa
¾ tsp. cumin
¾- 1 tsp. salt
¼ c. melted butter
1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 c. green onions
½ tsp. crushed oregano leaves
8 flour tortillas

Simmer the chicken, salsa, cumin, salt, and onions, and oregano leaves for 5 minutes. Brush one side of each of the tortillas with the melted butter. Spoon ¼ c. chicken mixture and some cheese onto unbuttered side of tortilla. Roll up and place in 9x13 pan. Bake at 475˚ for 13 minutes or until golden brown.

December 1, 2010

Beef Stew

I know beef stew does not sound that interesting.  But can I say this could possibly be the best stew you'll ever taste?  The base is highly flavored and the beef very tender.  I love this stew, and so does my entire family.  My mom's been making it for years, to everyone's delight.

A couple years ago I put together a printed cookbook with many of my mom's classic recipes and gave it to family members.  I have two sisters-in-law.  When the second joined the family, the first said to her "All you need to make your new husband happy is in the cookbook."  I laughed a lot when I heard that.  This is definitely one of those recipes.  Right, bros?

Hearty Beef Stew
from Ann D

2 lb. beef chuck, cut into cubes
1 Tbsp. oil
4 c. water
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. paprika
2 bay leaves
dash of allspice
6 carrots, cut in quarters
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
¼ c. flour

In heavy Dutch oven, slowly brown beef cubes in shortening. Turn often to brown meat on all sides. This should take about 15 minutes. Then add water, onion, garlic, salt, lemon juice, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, paprika, bay leaves, and allspice. Cover with lid and simmer on low heat (do not boil) for 2 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. When meat is almost done, add carrots, onions, and potatoes, and simmer for 30 minutes more. Discard bay leaves. Pour ½ c. water in shaker and add ¼ c. flour, shake to blend. Either remove meat and vegetables from stock or move to one side in pan; stir in flour mixture. Cook and stir till gravy thickens and boils.