Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Skillet Cake and Three Winners!

I know. You are probably looking at the above and wondering, trick or treat. I know. She looks like crap. Like she sat in the sun too long. She maybe got a bit burnt. But she didn't. And she isn't. Crap, that is.  In fact, she is really good crap. She happens to be one of the best cakes, I've made, well,  since my last best cake. We loved this cake-manservant and I. It is the perfect cake for fall, for winter, forever. So now you know. She isn't crap. She isn't a trick. She's really a treat. And I mean that. (It's just my photos that are crap!)

She is a sultry, spicy beauty in disguise. She may not look pretty, but will totally warm your insides. She is mellow and luscious and exotic, all at the same time. And she could be yours, if you choose. Plus, she is easy to come by and quick to make. And she even comes warm out of the oven, all the while, making your home smell like an exotic paradise. And I could use some exotic paradise - like now- don't you know?

I think I've run out of adjectives now. But I must reinforce that she is a really good cake. I made her on Monday and she is still moist and delectable on Thursday. She may look like crap, but she is so totally worth baking. Truth is, I don't think I ever ate gingerbread as a kid. I remember my kids made it at the Pioneer outdoor museum (their 5th birthday party) and burnt baked it over a fire. They then got to shake heavy cream in a jar until it turned to whipped cream. I'm not sure if all of them liked gingerbread, but I do remember faces covered in whipped cream. And it was then I discovered that I loved gingerbread, burnt and all. 

Yes, it is Halloween and I am ready for some major league treats. I've had enough tricks to last a lifetime and unless you know one that is legal and can pay my bills, then I guess this beauty will have to do. She's kind of like Cinderella when she still wore rags - and cinders. But one bite or the right shoe (in Cinderella's case) can have anyone believing in fairy godmothers.

I'm not lying. This Cinderella is gingery with just the right overtones of spice. She's definitely a brunette wearing a crackly, caramelized brown sugar wig that magically starts in browned butter at the bottom and ends up melted and sugary on the top. (OK, it is because you flip the cake, so it's not really magic.) The brown sugar and the pears are worth the price of admission. And I'm sure most any fruit would work and you could  get away without fruit, too. I think it is supposed to make the cake pretty, but well, I'm not sure that theory holds!

I served this beauty with vanilla ice cream. But she can easily be had with whipped cream. And since she's so easy, she can even be had on her own. This is a good one to practice what is often preached. You know the old adage-beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Trust me - one bite and you will be a believer. This baby is no trick. She's a sumptuous treat!  

And now, the three winners of the Whole Foods Giveaway:
Angie Agerter, Lucy-whose husband makes the meatloaf, and Georgette C- I will contact Angie and Georgette, but Lucy you need to reach me by Monday, November 4th to claim your prize!

Gingerbread, Browned Butter, Upside Down Skillet Cake - Serves 8

2 1/2 firm pears OR I had an old large can of halved pears in light syrup and used those after draining and drying
1/2 stick unsalted butter 
3/4 c packed light brown sugar

2 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves
1/4 t salt
1 c molasses -not robust
1 c boiling water
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

Topping: Peel, halve and core pears. Cut each pear into 4 wedges.
Heat butter in 10 inch, well seasoned, cast iron skillet over moderate heat, until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low, sprinkle brown sugar over butter and cook, undisturbed, for three minutes. Not all the sugar will be melted. Arrange pears decoratively over the top and cook undisturbed for two minutes. (If using canned pears, just place in topping and then remove from heat.) Remove from heat.

Put rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in a bowl. Whisk together molasses and boiling water in a measuring cup.

Beat together butter, brown sugar and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about two minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately with molasses in three batches, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until smooth.

Pour batter over pears in skillet, spreading batter evenly, but being careful not to disturb the pears. Bake until a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Cool cake in skillet on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Run a thin knife around sides of skillet, invert onto a large plate with a lip over the skillet, and using potholders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert cake onto plate. Mine came out perfectly, however I didn't have it centered in the center of the plate. Once it is out there is no moving it. It is a sticky cake and held together well. It was not syrupy but had a sugary, slightly crunchy topping with a delectable brown sugar taste. The cake was sublime with just the right amount of spices.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  Happy Halloween!

Other Great Treats:
Gingerbread Waffles
Microwave Caramel Corn
Hot Fudge Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites
Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins
Brown sugar spice Cake with Caramel Glaze

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Smoky Pumpkin Hummus

Hummus is not my favorite dip, spread, whatever. That would have to go to my two old friends-onion or artichoke dip. However, I totally love hummus the Middle Eastern way. I've made the recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook and it is just like I like it. Creamy and fresh, not pasty and totally dip worthy. I even go to a Middle Eastern market, not too far from here, to buy fresh flatbread to eat with it. The problem is I don't make it very often because you have to soak the garbanzos over night and well, I'm just not so good at planning ahead. 

I really don't like hummus from the grocery. To me, it is a bit harsh tasting and there is never any creaminess in the mouth feel. So what was it about this pumpkin hummus that caught my eye? Perhaps it was the color. Or the green contrast of the pumpkin seeds floating on top. Whatever. It seemed like a good seasonal dish to have in one's repertoire, so I thought I would give it a go. You can see the original here and also lots of great grilled cheese recipes.

I didn't want to make it Kevin's way though. I like a more savory spread during happy hour and that is what this was intended for. So, I took a different route when it came to seasonings and this is what you are going to get. I love smoked paprika. And I love this lemon oil that my son left me. He thought it was a tad strong and he was right. The key is how you use it. It tastes great as a drizzle over lots of things like caesar salad and fish and white beans. And it tastes great over this hummus. If you don't have it, try to find a good fruity olive oil. 

Halloween is upon us. I just give out the treats, but it is nice to have some treats for me, too. This will work. That and a good bottle of Pinot. I don't know. I haven't gotten that far, but I did want to make sure you had this for your Halloween. And if not then, well... it would be a great appetizer for Thanksgiving.  

It's one of those make ahead things. Simple. Quick. And most ingredients are those you should have on hand. Try it. You will like it. It is a treat and not a trick! 

You have one more day to enter the Whole Foods giveaway. Do it now, Junior!

Smoky Pumpkin Hummus

Serves 4-6
Time to Make: About 10 minutes max!
1 15 oz can chickpeas/garbanzos drained
1 c pumpkin puree
1/4 c tahini
2 cloves garlic
1 canned chipotle
2 T olive oil
1/2 of lemon zested
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/4 t smoked salt (or regular and to taste)
1/4 t cayenne

Drizzle of olive oil or lemon oil
Sprinkle of smoked salt or coarse salt
Sprinkle of pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

Combine all of ingredients except garnish in food processor. Process until smooth and creamy. Feel free to add more oil or lemon. Garnish as you like.

Serve with toasted or baked pita chips.

Other Pumpkin Recipes:
Simple Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
Pumpkin Chipotle Soup
Chicken with Figs, Pumpkin and Red Wine
Magic Pumpkin Butter Bars
Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chili Lover's Meatloaf and a #Whole Foods #Giveaway! (I bet you saw that coming!)

I've always dreamed of travelling the globe, living in other places, meeting lots of new faces, feasting all over, and serving food to all my new friends. Wouldn't that be the life? Well, I'm not going to Bali, or to China or even Mexico or Hawaii, but I am becoming an ambassador. I'm livin' the dream, baby! Don't I wish? 

But really-I've been asked to do some giveaways and write one post a month for Whole Foods and I'm excited. They give me a few suggestions each month and I can write whatever I want. Like they think I wouldn't? And the good news is that you-yeah, that means YOU-my faithful readers get to have fun, too! 

I have the pleasure of giving away three giveaways to anyone in the US. Sorry, that this isn't a worldwide thing, but I would include you if I could! This is like their Halloween bag, but I think the pretzels and the bunny grahams would be great in someone's lunch box. And my manservant has been eating the little pretzel bags as snacks.

 Personally, I'd immediately hide the peanut butter cups somewhere where no one can find them- like in your lingerie drawer- so you can have them all to yourself. Yes, the peanut butter cups are to die for! No, I mean really. I do love Reese's but these are better. They are richer and more chocolatey with just the right amount of salt. I was going to use them in cookies, but well, I'll tell ya, they are too good for that. They deserve to be savored...every minute of every day. And they are rain forest alliance certified. We all love the rain forest, right?

Now Zoe, yes the Zoe who doesn't live here anymore, heard about the sour gummy worms and immediately said they were hers. And she always loved Annie's products and would have no trouble finishing off the little bags of graham bunnies. (Manservant sees bunnies and just wants to shoot them.) I guess that leaves the water bottle and Gianna for Alex. Now, I'm not sure how they will send this out, but that isn't my problemo. I just get to write and eat! And drink. That apple juice hit the spot. I'm not sure I've had tangy, sweet, apple juice since the kids were young. 

So how do we get to chili lover's meatloaf? Ya got me. Sometimes I get tired of cooking the same thing and my brain goes a bit haywire. Like when I clean house, manservant tells me it goes totally out of control. I can imagine everything under the sun and I have a pretty deep, sometimes dark, imagination. But one day I thought of this. And I thought I don't need to make a pot of chili. I'm going to make a chili meat loaf. Life changing, right? Well, not really. But I googled and I really couldn't find too many recipes that looked  good, so I made up my own. Now I need to find something else to imagine because this came out really good.

Whole Foods did suggest some different foods to write about and even though they were all really good suggestions, in this house we had to go chili. Manservant loves chili. He's from Tayxas, so that explains it, right? I'm from Illinois, and though we like chili, I never really needed chili. Well, Manservant needs chili. It's in his genes (jeans?). Especially after yard work, and during football games. And for lunch, and for breakfast over eggs, and well, I could go on and on. 

This meat loaf came out so good that I crumbled it up and put it on nachos. I put it in scrambled eggs. I put it between two slices of bread. I wrapped some in a tortilla with some beans and called it a burrito. Now, I know you could do all of that with a bowl of chili, but sometimes we all need a change. I know I'm ready and I'm not just talking meatloaf. Whole Foods does have a turkey chili on their blog (And it is a really nice blog, with tons of info) but I'll be honest here, folks. Their chili ain't for people from Tayxas. I mean it has mushrooms in it.  It looks like a really bean filled, easy chili to please a lot of people, but when I make my chili I like to up the ante, so to speak. In other words, feel free to dial the spices whatever direction you want.

This is another fun meatloaf. Compare it if you want to my Cap'n Crunch meat loaf. I like that a lot, too. One of my favorite things about making meatloaf is having leftovers. Now that the kids have moved on (sob, sob) we get a lot more leftovers. They were never a dirty word in our house. Don't forget all the things you can do with those leftovers. And when you are finished eating this spicy, delectable meatloaf, I hope you know where to head. Yeah, it's the lingerie drawer, fo' sho'!

All opinions expressed are mine, baby. All mine. This giveaway is easy to enter as long as you live in the US. Giveaway closes on October 30th.  Subscribe if you don't want to miss the announcement of the winner or tune in on October 31st-Halloween to see if you won! (And please, if you have a common name, you need to give me a hint like Sue from Sioux City or something like that.) All three winners will be chosen by a Random Number Generator! So now, to enter, (dahdah, dah, dah, de DAH!) just leave me a comment and tell me what your favorite way to make meatloaf is - or isn't!

Chili Lover's Meatloaf (Serves 8)
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (or meat of your choice)
2 minced garlic cloves
1 seeded, finely chopped jalapeno
1 chopped chipotle
2 T ancho chile powder
2 t smoked paprika
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/2 c chopped onions
2 T ketchup
1 egg
1 c crushed tortilla chips

1 c shredded cheese (I used a combo of cheddar and jalapeno)
1/3 c ketchup
1 can green chilies, drained or Hatch chilies

1/3 c ketchup
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t chipotle tabasco or another chopped chipotle

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine turkey and other ingredients through tortilla chips. Mix well. I use my hands. They work really well! Then take half the mixture and shape it in a long flat loaf in a rectangular pan. (I like to bake my meat loaf in a baking dish, not a loaf pan.)

Spread 1/2 of the 1/3 c of ketchup on the loaf. Top that with 1 c of shredded cheese. Top that with the can of drained green chilies. Now spread the rest of your ketchup over that. Or something like that! This green chile cheese ribbon is not too spicy, but makes your loaf tasty and pretty. (We all need pretty, right?)

Ready? Now you can take the other half of the meat mixture and spread it on top of your filling. Make sure your filling is sealed in well so it doesn't leak out the sides.

OK, mix up the ketchup with the garlic powder and chipotle tabasco. Spread that on all sides of your loaf.

Bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Sometimes with turkey there is a lot of liquid that makes its way into the pan. Feel free to drain this or pour it onto your dog's food. They will love it!

Serve this with beans or potatoes. Manservant voted beans.

Next Whole Foods giveaway is in November. Can't wait to see what they come up with! You won't want to miss it!

Other Game Day Winners:
Onion Dip
3 Ingredient Artichoke Dip and a Sandwich
Smoked Trout Pate
Sloppy Jose
Dan Dan Sliders
Boboli Pizza

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to Comment on a Blog (I think!)

Leaving a Comment isn't as Scary as Halloween.

  OK. I'm going to venture into territory that is not my area of expertise. Many of my friends ask how to comment. This shouldn't be so tough, but it appears it is. And after searching the internet it is also hard to find a good explanation for how to do this. So, I'm going to do my best and tell you how. I think... If anyone else knows how to explain or do this better, please feel free to chime in!

After you get done reading everything I write, ha ha, at the very bottom of the post  where it says published by, is a word that says comment. If there are already comments there, then it may something like 18 comments. Either way, that's OK. Click on it and that should open a box for you to write in. In some cases, the box may already be open. So go ahead, write me a really nice comment.

 Now, here comes the fun part.  After you comment, you need to hit the comment as box.  This will pop open with different ways to comment. If you have Gmail and use Google, you use the Google box. People in the US don't need to worry about Live Journal, as it appears that is how you comment if you are from Russia. Word Press and Typepad are for other bloggers, I think. AIM is what you use if you subscribe to AOL. With any of these, you type in your user name. Open ID is for lots of people like Yahoo, flicker, My Space and others. If you want to register for an Open ID you can, and then you can comment just about anywhere. Remember, you need to comment as somebody using your username. Anyone can be anonymous but that's no fun, right? And if I do a giveaway, which might be happening and you want to enter to WIN, I won't know who the heck you are.When you comment as, often it also asks for your email address. No one sees this. Even me. This apparently helps check for SPAM. And we don't like Spammers. Spammers are BAD. 

 So those are the  ways to comment-the best that I can tell...  Now after you have commented, and hit comment as it will say continue. That will allow you to edit your message if you don't like what you wrote. If you like it, just hit publish.Your message won't appear right away as I need to moderate the comments. Sometimes, on some blogs, I think I've corrected it on my blog, you have to enter one of those cryptic messages. I have a really hard time with them. Hopefully, you won't encounter one of these scarey words. Sometimes people send not very tasteful messages and this is another way to make sure you aren't one of those BAD people or machines that send SPAM!

 Now remember, you must comment as somebody and click continue and then publish. Otherwise I won't get it. And I love to get your comments. Really. And I know you love to read everybody's comments, too. That is called sharing. Right?

 Now if you want to see how I respond to your very sweet, informative comment, you must check back on the blog you wrote the comment on, to see what I wrote. Not everyone wants to take the time to do that. In that case, Blogger has added a little box at the end that you can check, called Notify. However, if you check that, I believe you will get all the comments that I and others write after that date. So, if you really want to reach me and tell me something, just email me. It's there. In the About Me page....that I need to update soon. I'm trying!

One last thing. If I do do giveaways, which could possibly be happening, and they could be a lot of fun and they might happen once a month, and I know you wouldn't want to miss them, well-then you should subscribe. Like NOW! What are you waiting for? You like to hear me ramble, don't you? So go back to the top of the page and subscribe. Please.

All right. Now let's test what I just tried to teach. Can you please leave me a message? Let's work out the kinks if there are any. Please feel free to lave me a short and sweet comment if you found this helpful. Trust me. This was much harder to write than a recipe!

Thank you!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Simple Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal and Why I Blog

It's hard to believe I've been writing this blog for two years. I've learned a lot and hope anyone who reads this has too. And if you haven't learned anything, I hope you've at least enjoyed yourself! This is How I Cook began as a way to file my favorite recipes. Often the kids would ask how I made this or that and it would take me a long time to find what it is they were asking about. Other times I would make something and forget where it is that it came from. And last but not least, often I would come up with a great recipe and not write that down either.

Now I actually keep a notebook. No, I'm really not organized, but it does help me to remember. And I'll be honest. I'm not good at planning ahead, so what I cook, is really what I wanted to eat that day. And since I have to take photographs, I have to remember what it is I took the photograph of. Generally, if it is that bad and I can't tell what the heck it is that I took the photo of, I don't share it with you. And let me tell you when I take a really good photograph I'm tempted to share it with you; even if it doesn't look any good. But I don't. That just doesn't seem fair.

Another thing this blog has allowed me to do is keep track of my memories. It is amazing to me how food creates so many memories. Where you ate it, who you were with, how it tasted, the good, the bad, the happy, the totally awful. Food seems to trigger a lot of emotions and is something I've always appreciated. I love to look at it, to shop for it, to discover it and to cook it. More importantly, I love to serve it. I love when people eat my food. It makes everything seem worthwhile.

I also love that one day, maybe, my kids will have kids. And maybe one day they will cook. And continue this blog. And maybe have a famous restaurant. Or write a book. Or travel the world, all while being a good person. And eating these foods. And reading my stories. And saying-hey mom-that person sounded like a pretty cool person. And boy, did she know how to cook!

And after two years of blogging and taking photographs, wouldn't you know the top ten of most looked for recipes, is my blueberry baked oatmeal? Yes, it is good, but it is not even close to MY favorite top 10. But that's OK. I'm happy if you are. So, I came up with a new baked oatmeal. Pumpkin baked oatmeal. Kind of fitting for the season. And it tastes a lot like a pumpkin pie for breakfast. Only crunchier. 

Now I'm going to be honest with you. Pumpkin pie is not my favorite. I love apple and cherry. And chocolate and cranberry. But pumpkin is good. Just not my favorite. And really if you've ever tasted pumpkin on its own, it doesn't have much flavor. The spices are what make it taste so good. The spices are what make the house smell good. The aroma is warm and inviting and that's one of the reasons I think pumpkin is so popular. That and well, the whipped cream.

I love breakfast and I'm not really good at making it for myself. Often I'll take out a container of yogurt and call it breakfast. Or I'll have a bowl of cereal - a holdover from my kid days. Sometimes I even have Cap'n Crunch and feel extra special. Or if I have graham crackers in the house I'll make the graham cracker cereal that my dad used to make for me. Dad used to take cinnamon grahams and break them into small chunks, put them in a bowl and pour milk over the top. Yep, I still do it, Dad. Do you think it would work with Oreos?

I do go on an oatmeal kick now and then when I want it every day. But I hated oatmeal as a kid. So what happened? I really don't know. Maybe it is because I've discovered brown sugar and honey and nuts and raisins? I'm not sure anyone served that to me as a kid. But that's OK. I loved graham cracker cereal. And liver sausage. But not together.

So over the weekend after buying pumpkin at the store, I decided to try this. I have no doubt there are a myriad of recipes out there, but this one is mine. And it is good. And you could crumble graham crackers into it. But I didn't. I ate it straight. With pears on top. Now the next time I do this, I think I would brush a little browned butter over the pears and maybe an extra drizzle of honey. Yes, there will be a next time because this was good. In lieu of whipped cream, I did dollop this with a big spoonful of Greek yogurt. The choice is yours when it comes to flavors. And you could put some maple syrup on top, too.

What I'm trying to say is that I'm sharing. With you. My blog. Me. Do what you want with it. Just make it yours. Because, really, that's what food is all about. Creating. Giving. Respecting. Sharing. Food is always more fun when you have someone to share it with. And it tastes better, too. I'm having fun cooking with you! I'm having fun writing and keeping track of my crazy life. Thanks for travelling with me!

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
Serves 4 or 2 very hungry people

1 c chopped nuts
1/2 c oats
3/4 c pumpkin
2 T brown sugar, honey or maple syrup
2 t maple extract or vanilla or a combo of both
1/8 t salt
1 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice or to taste or I used 1 t cinnamon,1/2 t allspice. 1/2 t ginger, 1/2 t nutmeg and 1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 c apple juice
1 c milk 
I sliced a pear on top and baked it that way. Feel free to add up to 1 c of dried fruit and 1 sliced banana if you want.

Combine in an 8" buttered or greased baking dish and bake at 350 about 45 minutes. 

Others to try:
Simple Banana Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins
Green Chile
Not My Mama's Cherry Pie
Microwave Caramel Corn

Friday, October 18, 2013

Not My Mama's Waldorf Salad

 Apple season is here and for me that means Waldorf salad. Now, this isn't the Waldorf salad that comes from the Waldorf Astoria in the Big Apple! Makes me wonder now how the Big Apple got to be the Big Apple seeing how this salad is so popular. (OK, I just looked it up and it has nothing to do with this salad. It has to do with horses. That's all I'm going to say.)

 It's been around since the 1890's and is still a signature dish at the hotel today. After viewing this video and recipe I can see why. My pictures pale in comparison when you see what is on those plates, as do my ingredients. But since I made my salad first and then watched the video, well, let's just say the next time I make mine, it could be quite a bit different than the one I'm showing today.

My mom used to make Waldorf salad. It was never my favorite though. I did like picking out the apples. And the nuts. And the celery. Just didn't like them all together. I think maybe she added marshmallows and I don't like marshmallows. So maybe it was the marshmallows I was removing. It was a long time ago and I don't remember! I also think she added a lot of mayonnaise and I do like mayonnaise but not that much mayonnaise. Really, those ingredients minus the marshmallows plus chicken equals a very good chicken salad. In mathematical terms it would look like this:

 Celery + Walnuts + Mayonnaise + Chicken = Good Chicken Salad.

 I make chicken Waldorf salad a lot but never really thought of it this way.

Well, at the Waldorf Astoria today you would find a very different Waldorf salad than what they served in the 1890's. Today's updated version contains black truffles and walnut oil and celery root. The walnuts are also glazed with sugar and paprika. AND they don't use mayo anymore! I must say I would LOVE to try this Waldorf Salad. I would love to try this Waldorf Salad - THERE! In the Big Apple. I could make it, minus the black truffle, but I know it just wouldn't be the same, if I am not sitting in that massive, but gorgeous dining room.  Now that is A Waldorf salad.

Mine pales in comparison. But it is good and my kids used to love it as children. We didn't wait to eat it only at Thanksgiving. We ate it whenever I had apples that needed a home. Or when I was brain dead and needed a salad, somehow I always had apples, nuts and yogurt on hand. It is a good salad that is a long lost cousin from the original Waldorf salad. However, it is from that, that this recipe derives. It's always good to have a rich cousin, right?

Not My Mama's Waldorf Salad

Serves 4

2 Chopped Apples - (Not too small)

1/4 c chopped hazelnuts or walnuts or pecans or almonds!
1/4 c raisins 
 1/4 c dried cranberries or your favorite dried fruit
1 T Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1 c yogurt - your favorite kind though plain, vanilla or honey works well. And I like the apple kind, too!

That's it! Just mix it up and you have a great way to get some fruit into your kids. And I SUPPOSE you could leave out the cinnamon and the sugar and add celery! Throw in some peanuts and you'd have ants on a log salad. Oh-it has been a long week!

Plese Pin and Share:

More to Try:
Sephardic Charoses (Dried Fruit Salad)
Frozen Cranberry Salad
Microwave Caramel Corn
Gingerbread Waffles
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Balinese Chicken or Take Me Away!

 Take me away - to Bali. Please.

 Leave it to manservant to leave the taxes to October 15th. He mailed them at 11:50 PM last night. I am exhausted. I was entering bank statements for 3 days because he sprung this upon me, very last minute. I deserve a trip to Bali. Right?

 Ahhhh-well, it's been a crazy year. But I would be happy to do taxes if it meant a trip to Bali. Truth is, 23 years ago we were planning one. It was then I found out I was pregnant with twins and the doctor didn't think it was such a great idea traipsing clear across the world. What do doctors know? In any case, I'm still wanting to take that trip. 

And so it is, I made this chicken. It was titled Balinese chicken and honestly, I don't know exactly what it is that makes it Balinese, except maybe the coconut. I bet they have lots of coconuts in Bali. Maybe one day I'll find out. I had Balinese chicken two times-in Hawaii. I remember this place-the Sibu cafe in Kona. I looked it up. It has since closed. It was a grilled chicken with a succulent sauce. It was a long time ago. I don't remember much except that it was good. So good we went back a few years after the first time and ate it again.

This recipe for so called Balinese chicken isn't grilled. It is pan fried in coconut oil. You can also use canola oil. But after all it is Bali we are talking about, where they have coconuts and not canolas. Right? I'm a little tired so bear with me. Or just skip right ahead to the recipe. I found this chicken very comforting. The leftovers were even better. It wasn't too spicy or too coconutty. Just right-like Goldilocks said. You remember Goldilocks? I think even Goldilocks would have liked this chicken.

I added the peas. Do they have peas in Bali? Maybe snow peas. Yes, you can decide for yourself. I'm too tired to tell you or to look it up. Do peas fall under the grocery heading or the meals and entertainment heading? Perhaps they could be filed under miscellaneous. Manservant does not like it when I put too many things in the miscellaneous column. Even worse if I use the unknown column. I think manservant should figure it out himself. Or take me to Bali.

Balinese Chicken Serves 4 in medium speed mode
4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
salt and pepper
flour for dusting
2 T coconut oil or canola oil
3/4 c diced onions
1 seeded jalapeno pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
12 cashews (not 11)
1/2 t red chili powder
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t garam masala
1/2 t ground ginger
1 can coconut milk
1 T soy sauce
1-2 t brown sugar
1 t wine vinegar
1/2 c frozen peas, thawed.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dust lightly in flour. Place in frying pan until browned on both sides. Remove and keep warm.

Puree the onions, garlic, jalapeno, nuts,chile powder, turmeric, garam masala and ginger in a blender with a little of the coconut milk until it is a fairly smooth paste. Place the paste in the frying pan and saute on high heat for five minutes, stirring all the while.

Add about another 1/2 c of coconut milk, the soy sauce, sugar and vinegar and quickly bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently.

Put chicken back in pan and simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered. Baste with the sauce and keep the chicken happy. Feel free to add more coconut milk as needed. Two minutes before serving you can stir in the peas. Season to taste. You may want more soy or sugar or heat. I kept this simmering for almost an hour because manservant was on the phone. I kept adding coconut milk. The chicken became more tender. It was happy chicken. Manservant was happy because I waited. 

Serve with rice. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and cilantro if you want to make it look pretty. A few chopped cashews would be nice, too.

Try these too:
Royal Thai Chicken
Cantonese Steamed Chicken with Black Mushrooms
Brazilian Coconut Lime Shrimp Stew
Meatball Vietnamese Noodle Bowl

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Barramundi White Fish with Mushrooms and Browned Butter

I hate to say it, but it is not often I attract manservant's attention. The banana cake did it and this fish did, too. Seems kind of funny that this simple preparation of fish and mushrooms would catch his eye-but it did. And that is a good thing, because this is really quick and easy to prepare. Perfect for a busy day when one is too tired to do much cooking. I love baked fish because rarely does it come out dry. Fish cooked properly is moist and succulent, which is exactly what this fish is.

Feel free to use your favorite fish fillets. I use my standby frozen barramundi fillets from Costco. I can have them thawed and ready to go in about 25 minutes by just putting the pouch they come in,into a sink of cold water. Works like a charm. Barramundi is known as an Asian sea bass and is firm, flaky, moist, and mild in flavor. It is very popular in Australia where Aboriginal drawings of barramundi have been found plus it is ecofriendly, and can be farmed.

Besides barramundi, Costco also had chanterelle mushrooms fresh and ready for me to buy. They were reasonably priced and the girl standing next to me was buying a lot of them. She was turning them into pierogies and was prepared. I, on the other hand, was still contemplating what to do with them. Tonight we are having mushroom soup with the remainder and I can't wait. Now this fish was good and healthy and a great weeknight meal but give me some rich, luscious wild mushroom soup and I will follow you anywhere. Today though we are focusing on an easy, quick dinner entree, right?

So here goes:

Baked White Fish with Mushrooms and Browned Butter  Serves 2

1 T butter

2 T olive oil
1/2 lb mushrooms (I usually try to mix these up a bit. I try to use some portabellas, or creminis, some dried reconstituted shitakes, and in this case I used  fresh chanterelles.)
2 green onions chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
2 T minced Italian parsley
1/4 c white wine
1/4 t thyme or a few fresh sprigs
1 lb white fish fillets or 2 fillets of barramundi
2 T panko bread crumbs
2 T grated parmesan cheese
2 T browned butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 400.

Heat butter and olive oil in oven proof skillet. Add onions and garlic and saute over medium high heat until fragrant. Add sliced mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms release their juice or until cooked through.  Now add parsley, white wine and thyme. Simmer until just a bit of liquid remains. This won't take long.

Push mushroom mixture to the side and grease bottom of skillet. It may already be oiled enough. Lay fish fillets in skillet and place mushroom mixture on top. Place bread crumbs on top of mushrooms and sprinkle parmesan cheese over all. Drizzle with about 1 T of olive oil.

Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

While fish is baking throw 2 T butter into a small pot. Melt the butter over medium high heat until it starts to sputter. That will stop when the butter is browned. The smell is intoxicating! And be careful not to over brown it, in which case it will be burnt butter!

When fish is finished cooking, drizzle with browned butter. You could also skip it, in which case your fish will be healthier but browned butter takes most anything over the top! I served this on a bed of sauteed chard that contained garlic, and hazelnuts. A serving of grains would work well with this, too!

Others you should try:

Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas, Lentils and Saffron Aioli
Tuscan Beans and Potatoes
Teriyaki Farro
Mexican Style Quinoa

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting, Fudge Sauce and Malted Chocolate Crumbs - or more from Milk Bar

 "You want me to make a choice?" manservant exhaled, with the fork still in his hand. It wasn't like I was making him choose between Penelope Cruz or Angelina Jolie, for God's sake. No, I just wanted to know which birthday cake he preferred. Our standard, triple layer, chocolate fudge cake or the new one set before him made from components of the Milk Bar cookbook. Was it the banana cake layered with chocolate malted crumbs, fudge sauce and nutella frosting or the perfectly moist, chocolatey, to die for fudge frosting, chocolate cake that I've been making for over thirty years? "Well", he looked at me totally perplexed with his mouth still full of banana cake. "Well", with a glint in his eye, he said, "Maybe...Maybe you could rotate every other year?" Nothing like diplomatic-my manservant.

The truth is - it is a hard choice. I love the old fashioned taste of a good cake, and the devil's food chocolate layer cake certainly fits the bill. But now and then, it is time to discover something new and Milk Bar's cake certainly does THAT. So, I guess it is time for a wrap up. I've been baking a lot from the Milk Bar cook book and it is now time to return it to the library. After three renewals, I can't renew it anymore. I did clean the pages really well and I think they are now unstuck. I need to buy this book.

I loved baking from it. But I will also admit I didn't love everything I baked. I loved it because it is fun to try new ideas and see what great chefs come up with. It is fun to get in their head and  see what they do and let me assure you that Christina Tosi has an incredible head. In my opinion, not everything in the book is worth the trouble but I was able to learn from everything I did. And that is worth the price of the book.

So here goes:

1. I made the chocolate crumb cookies with dried cherries. Totally worth it.

2. Black Pepper brioche turned into garlic bread. A bit too salty with a quick bread texture. It made great croutons, but this is one I wouldn't do again. Not sure if this is how it was supposed to be, but this is how it was for me!

3. Hot Fudge Sauce - this was a good one!

4. White Chocolate Crumbs should be in anyone's pantry. They can be added to cakes, cookies, used as a topping on ice cream or fruit, in oatmeal, on yogurt or just to snack on. All the crumbs I tried made anything taste new and fresh and the crumbs themselves are addicting!

5. Cinnamon Bun Pie - this was so good and we all wanted seconds of which there were NONE! But the concensus was that since it is easier to make a cinnamon roll, why go to all the trouble to make this? If I owned a restaurant, like this was intended for, then I would make these again. Hmm. Maybe I should open a restaurant.

6. Bagel Bombs - OMG. Yes, these were a hit and I still have frozen cream cheese balls ready for the next go round. These utilize the mother dough recipe which is then wrapped around  scallion bacon frozen cream cheese balls and then baked. Yes. It tastes like a bagel loaded to the gills exploded in your mouth. And they were easy to make!

7.Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting and Malted Chocolate Crumbs. YES, you know the answer to this. It is now in the rotation, not that I have one.

8. Birthday Cake- this is a sprinkle style confetti cake that to my daughter and myself was not worth the trouble. I'm not saying it was bad but I think you can capture the same effect with the boxed cake. My daughter has made the boxed cake and totally concurs. However she tells me, I should still make the crumbs and put it in the cake rings to make it pretty. Notice she said-me!

9. Crack Pie - I did not make this for this go round, but I have made it before. If you like pecan pie, you will adore this. It was a bit too sweet for me but I can see why most love it.

There are still many things from this book I need to take on. The carrot cake sounds very yummy as does the apple pie cake. I didn't try the Volcanoes made with caramelized onions and scalloped potatoes. They sound like a knish on steroids and I need to make these soon! They also have a blue cheese version. I'm told the peanut butter cookies are the best out there but I am not a huge pb fan so I skipped those. There is still a lot I skipped. Bummer.

A few tips if you choose to cook from this book. Plan ahead and read everything carefully. In general the directions are very good but there were a few times I had to beat things a bit longer than required. I would say it's pretty necessary to have a good stand mixer. I did buy glucose, but other than that I used regular ingredients. You can find glucose at cake decorating stores and I bet it is even in cake decorating departments like Michael's. 

Christina's recipes have  lots of steps. None of them are that hard. Most can be done ahead so you can make the entire recipe over a few days if that helps. I combined parts of different recipes without a problem. Like the following cake... I didn't want the banana cream filling so I used a frosting and crumbs. If you read the book, you'll see how it rocks! I did buy the 6" cake ring that is three inches deep. AND the acetate strips. I've washed the acetate and reused it without a problem. This technique makes a pretty cake but you can simplify and cut the cake in three rectangles and layer them, too.

Give it a try. It's fun to deviate and try something new like I did with the banana cake. The components of the cake required ingredients I didn't have such as feuilletine and hazelnut paste. So I just made the cake and combined it with different components from the book. This was a good thing and if Christina wants to use this version, that is OK with me. It was a hit! Manservant was happy and since that is all he received for his birthday, I guess that was a good thing!

Banana Cake with Chocolate Malted Crumbs, Nutella Frosting, and Chocolate Malted Sauce

Banana Cake

6 T butter at room temp
1 c sugar

1 egg

1/2 c buttermilk
2 T neutral tasting oil, like grapeseed
1/2 t banana extract
2 very, very ripe bananas
1 1/3 c flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt

Heat the oven to 325. Grease, use parchment or a silpat in a 13 x 9" pan.

Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg. Mix on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down bowl once more.

Stream in the buttermilk, oil and banana extract while the paddle swirls on low speed. Increase mixer speed to medium high and paddle for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white and twice the size of your original fluffy butter and sugar mixture and completely homogenous. Basically you are forcing to much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn't want to make room for it, so if after 6 minutes it doesn't look right, keep mixing. You will see little fat globules in the mixture. They must be evenly distributed. No streaks! Scrape the sides of the bowl periodically. I did beat this for about 10 minutes.

On low speed, add the bananas and mix for about 60 seconds to ensure all the bananas have broken down.

On low speed, add the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Mix until all dry ingredients have been incorporated-about 45 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Give the bottom of the pan a hard tap on the countertop to even out the layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 25 minutes gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger; it should bounce back and the center should not be jiggly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3-5 minutes if necessary.

Take cake out and cool on a wire rack. You can store the cake in the fridge or freezer wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 5 days.

Nutella Frosting

 8 T butter
1 c nutella
8 T confectioners sugar
1/4 t kosher salt

Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle, beat on medium high speed, until it is completely smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Add the nutella, confectioners sugar and salt and mix on high until the frosting is fluffy and has no lumps; about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix for 15 seconds to make sure it is nice and smooth. No fair tasting. This can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month. Bring to room temp before using.

Chocolate Malted Crumbs

2/3 c flour
1 t cornstarch
1/4 c sugar
1/3 c cocoa
1/3 c chocolate malted Ovaltine
1 t kosher salt
6 T melted butter

Heat the oven to 300.

Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa, Ovaltine and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and paddle on low speed until mixed.

Add the butter and paddle on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be slightly moist to the touch;they will dry and harden as they cool. Let cool completely before using in a recipe. They will keep fresh on a counter in a zip lock bag for a long time. Don't ask me how I know. You could freeze them if you want!

Chocolate Malt Fudge Sauce

4 oz 60% dark chocolate chopped (this is how I did it)
1 c Chocolate Malted Ovaltine
1 t molasses
1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 c glucose or 1/2 c light corn syrup
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c heavy cream

Combine chocolate, Ovaltine in a medium bowl. Mix it up.

Combine glucose, sugar, molasses and heavy cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan and stir intermittently while bringing to a boil over high heat. The moment it boils, pour into the bowl holding the chocolate. Let sit for one full minute.

Slowly begin to whisk the mixture. Then continue, increasing the vigor of your whisking until the mixture is glossy and silky smooth. This will take 2-4 minutes, depending on your speed and strength. You can use this or store it for up to two weeks. Do not freeze. You can heat it in the microwave on low in 30 second increments for two minutes of you like hot fudge. If not-never mind....

Ovaltine Soak
1/4 c milk
2 T Ovaltine

Whisk together until Ovaltine is dissolved.

 I used a 6" ring with a 3" acetate strip to hold the layers. You could also cut the cake into three rectangles and assemble it that way. 

1. Invert cake out of pan onto a parchment lined counter top. Stamp out the top right corner with your cake ring and the lower bottom left. The rest will still be used.

2. Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silpat pad. Use one strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring.

3. Put the cake scraps inside the ring and use the back of your hand to tamp the cake scraps together into a flat, even layer. 

4. Dunk the pastry brush into the Ovaltine soak and give the layer of cake a good bath.

5. Using the back of a spoon, spread some chocolate fudge over the cake layer. 

6. Top the fudge with a layer of crumbs.

7. Top the crumbs with a layer of hazelnut frosting. Spread it around.

8. More fudge.

9. Now tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top 1/4" of the first strip of acetate, so you now have a clear ring about 5-6 inches tall. Set a layer of banana cake on the fudge.

10. Repeat above steps.

11. After repeating the steps, top with the third cake round. Do the Ovaltine soak. Do the fudge. Do the crumbs. Do the frosting. Now do more crumbs. Drizzle with a little fudge.

12. Transfer the sheet to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. At least three hours before serving, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and using your fingers and thumbs, pop the cake out of the bottom of the ring. Gently peel off the acetate and transfer the cake to your serving plate. Let it defrost in the fridge for at least three hours but I like it at room temp so let it sit at room temp for another 20 minutes before serving. 

NOTE: This cake would also be superb with just the cake and the nutella frosting. If you choose to keep it simple that is OK by me!

And please congratulate me for the world's longest post!

Chocolate Cherry Chocolate Crumb Cookies
Hot Fudge Sundaes with White Chocolate Crumbs
Triple Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake
Brown Sugar Pumpkin Muffins
Cinnamon Rolls

#Milk Bar