Monday, June 30, 2008

Sicilian Penne and Sausage ala Batter Splattered

Today was a standard busy Monday. I had physical therapy, where they finally let me on a stationary bike for a whole 6 minutes. Yay! Then I helped my fabulous mother-in-law learn some fun tricks in Word. And it's been rainy and fairly cold today. So I decided to finally participate in Ruth over at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments' weekly blog event Bookmarked Recipes (every Monday).

Molly at Batter Splattered posted this recipe for Sicilian Rigatoni and Sausage in late April and I've been waiting for the opportunity to make it ever since. I didn't have any rigatoni so I substituted some penne. And I only had 2 large ripe tomatoes so I added a can of petite diced tomatoes. This pasta was worth the time it took to cook. It was rich and delicious. I think next time I make it I'll do it exactly as she posted it because it was so satisfying that I can't think of a way to improve it.

Also, the always lovely Amanda over at Mrs. W's Kitchen has awarded me the Arte Y Pico Award for creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community. I am so incredibly honored.
I am very happy to pass this award on to these other deserving bloggers:

1. Jennie of Straight From The Farm because she not only informs about interesting plants and gardening, but also creates tasty recipes for a variety of vegetables and herbs.

2. Speedbump Kitchen who is extremely informative about cooking for children with allergies. I like to peek on her site when I need to figure out how to be careful about cooking for people with food allergies and intolerances.

3. Clara over at I heart Cuppycakes who consistently makes a better cupcake entry for Cupcake Hero than me. And who has some fierce skills in decorating.

4.Courtney of Coco Cooks because she lives an exciting and glamorous life and the diversity of dishes on her blog reflect it.

5. Janna, The Honeyed Hashette, who creates beautiful desserts and dinners. Her Paula Deen Chocolate Cake had me drooling!
Here are the rules for this award:
You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contrubutes to the blogger community.
Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
Each award winner must display the award along with the name and link to the blog that gave it.
Winners must link to the "Arte Y Pico" blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.
Winners must display these rules

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Multicultural Danish Braid

In case you haven't noticed the Danish Braids taking over the Internet, today is post day for the latest Daring Baker's Challenge, Danish Braid. This month's challenge is hosted by Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking. The definitely challenging part of this challenge was learning how to make a laminated dough. This is the same type of dough as croissants are made of. I saw Jacques Pepin make this dough on PBS years ago and have been afraid of it ever since. In fact, I procrastinated so bad on making it that I just finished at 12:45 this morning.

I should not have been so afraid. The dough was nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be. I followed the directions (posted on the host blogs) carefully and ended up with a nice flaky and delicious dough. But why do I call it multicultural? Because my filling was inspired by the Orange Chocolate Baklava in the book Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger. The orange flavoring really comes out. I used Lindt 70% chocolate only because I didn't have time, or the forethought, to drive to the next county to get some yummy Scharffenberger chocolate.

And oh yeah I'll be making this again.
Make sure to check out the rest of the Daring Bakers and their yummy braids!

Orange Chocolate Filling

1 cup unblanched whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 cup walnuts lightly toasted
6 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate
4 oz. chopped dates
zest of 1 orange

Place nuts in food processor and pulse to chop very small. Add orange zest, chocolate, and dates and process until crumbly in texture.

This makes enough filling for 2 Danish Braids.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Marshmallow Walnut Chocolate Ice Cream

So I'm procrastinating on making my Daring Baker challenge for this month. I've cleaned the house some. Watched the Brain do some serious housework. Taken my Focus in to see what's wrong with it this month. Played on a parked Vespa, imagining myself to be scooting around Nowhere, Ohio in a kicky skirt while speaking fluent Italian. And learned about Ford Escapes. The Brain has left to run some all day errands and I really need to get my butt in gear and make this challenge.

But instead I decided to finish the ice cream that I made this week and tell you about it. Remember last month's cocoa Cupcake Hero? And how the theme ingredient was cocoa and we were supposed to highlight Askinosie cocoa and those lovely people at Askinosie Chocolate sent me some of the cocoa. Well, I decided that probably I should use it again because my habit of sneaking into the kitchen just to sniff it was starting to get a little weird. That and there's this ice cream blogging event going on at Mike's Table called You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Frozen Desserts.

The flavor of the Askinosie Cocoa comes out so clear and luscious in this ice cream. I had a hard time not just eating the custard before I even got started freezing it. That and I also learned that I can not be left alone with fresh mini marshmallows. I apparently love them. So yes, this recipe makes smooth and velvety chocolate ice cream studded with crunchy walnuts and springy marshmallows and over the course of the week I ate it all. And I'm not sorry that I didn't share.

I did tell the Brain that I will make him a milk-free sorbet this week though. I didn't tell him that I was going to use some of my donut frying money to order me some more of that cocoa powder. I'm not addicted or anything. I can quit whenever I want.

Marshmallow Walnut Chocolate Ice Cream

1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Place the sugar, eggs, and cocoa in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. With the food processor running, slowly pour the hot milk into the food processor feed tube. Process until well blended. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly and reaches 170 degrees F. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot chocolate custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the machine is running and the ice cream is semi-frozen, add the marshmallows and walnuts. Allow the machine to thoroughly mix them in. When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fruits of My Labor

Remember how I was saying I got this ridiculously fun, but hard work job of frying donuts? Well this lovely assortment of donuts, all made by me, is a mere sampling of my handiwork. Yes, this is what I get to be surrounded with while I'm working. I'm a lucky girl.

My physical therapists are also lucky. Because they're getting this lovely assortment of donuts. And to top it off, Wilma the Knee has decided to regress so I'll be in physical therapy for much much longer. They probably will get more donuts. Wilma has decided to continue to swell and cause me pain (which I faithfully report on a 0-10 scale, 0 being pain free and 10 being agony. Today is about a 4 1/2.) The doctor says that I'm still in the normal range for recovery, just at the bottom of it. So I am no longer allowed to ride my bike, work out, take long walks. It's highly annoying. No working out means no eating donuts. Shoot.

So while I'm pretty much laying on the couch icing and elevating (again) while I'm not at work, I've taken up a new hobby. Partly because interesting TV dies around 2:00. I've begun to knit. I'm currently looking for something cool to knit so that I can buy some of the buttons on this website. One of my physical therapy team members (yes, I have a team) just had a baby. So I made her this cute baby beanie and old man style cardigan sweater. The set is modeled by the oh so lovely Travel Bear.

Don't worry, I'm still cooking, it's just hot here and I thought you might like to see what I've been up to.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bacony Baked Beans

Saturday night the Brain and I went over to a friend's house for dinner. They are a young couple with the cutest 2 year old daughter EVER. Very very very cute little girl. But I digress, the wife, A. made some very delicious baked beans that inspired tonight's Legume Wednesday.

I had a completely different recipe in mind though. But today was a sort of comedy of errors. First it turns out that the recipe I wanted to cook took 4 hours to cook, and I apparently ran out of dried navy beans. Ooops. Then I was going to doctor this recipe differently by adding different types of beans, but like Old Mother Hubbard, my cupboard was bare. I had 2 cans of "seasoned" black beans (bought by mistake), 3 cans of garbanzo beans, a can of refried beans, and 2 cans of navy beans. I may need to stock up the pantry fairly soon.

So tonight's recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking, except I doctored it a bit. I made it spicy. It's super delicious. I did learn a very important lesson though. Don't wipe your eyes while chopping jalapenos. Ouch. These beans probably can be made vegetarian with a fair amount of success by omitting the bacon.

Bacony Baked Beans
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

3 cups canned great northern beans
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 small onion minced
2 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 minced, seeded jalapeno
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
3 shakes of Frank's hot sauce
9 slices bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a separate bowl, mix all ingredients reserving 1/3 of the bacon. Sprinkle the bacon on top. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Honey Date Whole Wheat Muffins

Tonight I have to get out of bed at midnight to go make the donuts. This makes breakfast tricky. Do I eat a quick breakfast before I go to work and then not eat again for 9 hours? Or do I not eat at all and run a little sluggish. If I eat at 12:15 does that count as breakfast? What do I call the meal at 9? It's looking like the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner aren't working so well for me with this new job.

I'm thinking muffins are the answer. Something filling, a little bit sweet, full of good for me carbs that will keep me running around the donut fryer. These Honey Date Whole Wheat Muffins rise to the challenge. The whole wheat flour and buckwheat honey add a nice earthiness and the chopped dates add nice little surprises of sweet. The muffins are under 200 calories, have a little more than 3 grams of fat, and almost 3 grams of fiber each. Way better than a fresh cake donut.

Honey Date Whole Wheat Muffins
an original Shazam recipe

1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 large egg
1 1/4 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup buckwheat honey
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and fill 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Lightly spray liners with cooking spray.

Combine flours, baking powder, salt and ginger in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. In a separate bowl combine egg, milk, honey, and butter, whisking to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients with a few swift strokes. Fold dates in before dry ingredients are completely incorporated.

Divide batter evenly among the 12 baking cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Veal Parmigiana

I don't always follow my philosophy of eating fresh, clean, healthy food. Sometimes I need comfort food. Something about food from childhood that's quick, easy, and processed just hits the spot. It's also not very expensive.

I like to think that the reason that I can successfully keep my grocery budget to an average of $30 a week is because when I was a youngster, my mother had a strict grocery budget and could economize like a pro. (A freezer full of meat from Costco also helps in reducing the weekly grocery budget.) Originally, there were 8 of us for my mom to feed. We weren't poor, but 6 kids are a lot to feed. So my mom got creative. She also served this veal over spaghetti tossed with oil and garlic salt. This lovely and filling meal (including 1lb. of spaghetti, will feed 8 and came to a total cost of $8.21. You can't beat cheap comfort food.

For a family of ethnically German-Irish, why veal parm is so beloved will remain a mystery. I think this is still my sister M's favorite meal.

Veal Parmigiana
an old Shazam family favorite

8 Redi Serve veal patties
1 (29oz) can tomato sauce
1 (2-cup) bag shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Heat an electric skillet to 350 degrees and spray with cooking spray. If the skillet is large enough brown both sides of all 8 patties at the same time, otherwise brown the patties in two batches and then layer the patties back into the skillet. Pour the tomato sauce over the patties and then sprinkle the thyme and the cheese on top. Turn the temperature down to 200 degrees and simmer for 10 minutes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Grilled Chicken, Red Onion and Mint Kebabs with Greek Salad

Every night this week, I've had to go to bed around 7 or 8pm so that I can get up ultra early and make the donuts. Yes, I fry donuts. For a living. Well, for minimum wage, but I get PAID to make donuts. And yes, it's hard work. Yesterday morning the donut girl who's training me and I made 45 dozen just for delivery and then many more dozen for the bakery case. We have to proof a whole bunch of previously frozen dough, mix up batter for cake donuts, and then fry and fry and fry and fry donuts.

The cake dough donuts are my favorite, I wish we could start from scratch, but, reality check here, it's the IGA. We use a mix. Frying them are the most fun too because I have a funnel like contraption that is attached to a mechanical arm so that it will swing over the vat of hot grease. It also has a handle and a crank on it. What I get to do is to hold the handle and guide it over the hot grease while cranking the crank so that little round blobs of raw donuts plop out and start to cook. So fun!

So for 8 hours every morning this week, I have immersed myself in donut making. It's pretty funny because I'm just so happy to be frying up donuts and working the machine that injects the donuts with fillings, and glazing, frosting and decorating the freshly made donuts. It's hard, physical work, and Wilma the Knee is really pissed off that I'm doing it, but she'll get over it. Because it's a minimum wage job and it's not really like the people in the bakery are skilled pastry chefs, the other girls in the bakery tend to grumble a little about a lot of things. But really, how can you be grumbly when at the end of your work day you have a whole tray of frosted donuts with sprinkles staring you down? It's the best of all worlds because I can make the wide variety of donuts and the glazed donuts are shining, the cream cheese frosting is melting on the cinnamon rolls, the tiger tails have puffed up so beautifully, and the cream is oozing out of the long johns, and it all looks so beautiful and tasty and I'm challenged and I don't have to eat any of them. Of course I might snack on a cinnamon sugar cake donut at about 3am.

My latest career move means that dinner time has been moved up significantly. We used to eat dinner at 7 or 8, now it's more like at 5. And if I'm asleep by 5, which has happened, the Brain is on his own to figure out dinner. So a quick, easy, and yet supremely tasty dish is really good to find. And we found it in the Bon Appetit Cookbook with these Grilled Chicken, Red Onion and Mint Kababs with Greek Salad. I was able to put these together while chatting on the phone with my best friend T. And the kebabs took very little time to cook. And they were delicious. The Brain even offered to let me do the grilling from now on.

Grilled Chicken, Red Onion and Mint Kebabs with Greek Salad
from The Bon Appetit Cookbook

1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 bunch fresh mint
1 onion cut into 1 inch pieces
8 skewers

Mix chicken, 2 Tbsp oil. garlic, mint, oregano, salt, and pepper in medium bowl. Let marinate 30 minuets. Whisk remaining 2 Tbsp oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend.Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Pull off large fresh mint leaves from stems. Alternate chicken, onion, and mint leaves on skeweres; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until chicken is just cooked through, turning and basting occasionally with oil-lemon mixture, about 9 minutes. Transfer skewers to platter.

2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 pitted Kalamata olives chopped
1/4 cup diced onion
3 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Mix first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl to combine. Gently mix in cheese. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

White Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Sage

Yes it's time for another installment of Legume Wednesday! Hooray! Tonight's recipe is excellent. Tonight we travel to the home of some of my husband's family's roots. Italy. Apparently white beans, tomatoes and garlic are ubiquitous in Florence. And most of my cookbooks have some recipe for "Tuscan White Beans". The recipes were mostly similar and some weren't very appetizing. Also, as I've never had these beans before, I wanted to make sure I made something fairly authentic. So I turned to my giant The New Best Recipe Cookbook. According to this cookbook, the traditional way for these beans to be made is for them to be stuck in an empty Chianti bottle and stuck in the embers of the fire overnight. Fortunately for me, and for you dear readers, the cookbook modernized the process for today's cook.

Although it took a long time to make these White Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Sage, the effort level was small and the rewards were tremendous. I realized at about 3:00 this morning in the middle of glazing some donuts at work that I forgot to soak the beans overnight. This was a little unnerving as I was determined to do another dried bean recipe. When I got home I immediately checked the recipe and found to my delight that there is no soaking required. Yay!

Boiling the beans with the onion, carrot, garlic, and bay leaves add tremendous flavor too. I have to admit, I tasted the beans several times while the tomatoes were cooking. The cookbook says you can use canned beans instead, but I can't imagine how you would get canned beans to taste so good. The recipe does use two pots, but I managed to do the dishes while making it so it all came out even in the end!

So yeah, this is one of the tastiest bean dishes I've ever had. It totally hit the spot tonight. I even helped myself to seconds. Fortunately it makes a lot of beans and I can have them for lunches for the rest of the week. These beans are also ridiculously good for you, low calorie, high in protein and fiber. They also are crazy cheap to make provided you have a well stocked pantry and an herb garden. And they are so very delicious.

White Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Sage

1 pound dried white beans (navy, great northern or cannellini) rinsed and picked over
1 medium onion, unpeeled and halved through the root end
1 medium carrot cut into 2 inch chunks
1 garlic head, top quarter cut off and loose papery skin removed
2 bay leaves
6 cups water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 medium garlic cloves sliced thin
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh sage leaves
2 (15oz) cans diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
ground black pepper
Bring the beans, onion, carrot, garlic head, 1 tsp salt, the bay leaves, and water to a boil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, partly cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are almost tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, adding more liquid if necessary. Remove the pot from the heat, completely cover, and let stand until the beans are fully tender, 30 to 60 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Remove and discard the onion, carrot, and bay leaves. With a slotted spoon, transfer the head of garlic to a cutting board. Using the tongs, squeeze the cloves out of the skins and return the softened cloves to the pot with the beans; discard the skins.

Heat the olive oil, sliced garlic, and sage in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. As the oil begins to sizzle, shake the pan back and forth so that the garlic does not stick (stirring with a wooden spoon will cause the garlic to clump). Cook until the garlic turns very pale gold and the sage darkens, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomato juices have evaporated and the tomatoes look shiny, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the beans and reserved cooking liquid. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated. 18 to 20 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, accompanied by extra virgin olive oil for drizzling.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer Cantaloupe Cupcakes

Yeah, it's Cupcake Hero time again. This time the Cupcake Hero Staff are on summer vacation and the lovely April of Abby Sweets is hosting the event. The theme for June is melon. Any kind of melon we want. The sky's the limit. There's only one small problem.

I don't like melon. Any of it. It all falls squarely on the I'm Not Eating It list. This was going to provide one heck of a challenge for me. So I started thinking of which melons I don't dislike as much as the others. Honeydew ranks at the bottom for me. And I'm not at all a fan of watermelon. I'd rather go hungry. But I did have a cantaloupe salad once that I sort of thought was okay. So I narrowed down the melon theme to cantaloupe.

Then I started thinking some more. There's a small town in North Central Ohio, not far from over here in Nowhere, Ohio. And every Labor Day Weekend they have the Milan Melon Festival. Mostly they pack a lot of food vendors in the town square, they have a 5k race and it's your standard small town festival. The thing about the Milan Melon Festival though is that Toft's Dairy out of Sandusky makes a cantaloupe ice cream specifically for the festival. And if you get there on Labor Day, chances are they've run out. And they don't make it any other time of the year. The crazy thing is that I actually really like the cantaloupe ice cream. Bizarre.

So with the melon salad I had once and the ice cream in my head, I called around to see what other people like about melon. My sister, Super G, told me that "even people who like melon, don't like it warm". She was a little put off by the idea of a baked melon cupcake. She told me she liked melons that are cold, juicy and sweet. The Queen Geek, told me she likes that melons have very few calories. She sees them more as a vehicle for berries in fruit salads.

Thus the Summer Cantaloupe Cupcake was born. I tried to keep the lightness of the melon and not overpower it's subtle flavor by making it a white cake with just a hint of ginger. I knew from that one salad the one time that ginger and melon go well together. Then I decided to get fancy and create a melon curd. I didn't know it could be done. But I did it. Hooray! It's actually pretty good. And adding that to the center of the simple white cupcake contributes to the juicy factor of melon that Super G likes. Then I topped the whole cupcake with a cantaloupe cream cheese frosting which has a subtle flavor that reminds me of that ice cream at the melon festival.

I have a feeling if you like melon you will really like this cupcake. Because I don't think it's too bad.

Summer Cantaloupe Cupcakes
an original Shazam recipe

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners in 16 cupcake wells.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.Whisk egg whites and milk together in a small bowl to combine; set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternately with the egg white and milk mixture. Begin and end with the flour mixture and beat briefly until smooth on medium speed after each addition.

Divide batter evenly among cupcake wells. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges turn light golden brown; a toothpick inserted in the center will show a few moist crumbs. Set aside to cool completely.

melon curd:
1/2 cantaloupe peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup sugar1 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Puree the first 4 ingredients in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large glass bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.

Set glass bowl over sauce pan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170 degrees F, about 12 minutes. Remove from over water. Whisk in butter. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4 cups powdered sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 (8oz.) package Neufatchel cheese
6 Tbsp Cantaloupe curd

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and beat well. Add cantaloupe curd and beat well.

to assemble:
Once cupcakes are cool, with a paring knife cut out a cone from the top of each cupcake. Level off the top of the cone to create a space on the inside of the cupcake. Fill the space with a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of curd. Replace the cupcake top. Pipe the frosting on top. If the frosting is soft chill for 20 minutes or until firm enough to pipe.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bulgur and Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

So my math test is over. I have no clue if I passed or not, but it would have helped if I remembered the area of a circle. The Father's Day full of barbecues are also over. And I can finally get back to posting on a regular basis. Well, working around the little Ford Focus that had to be towed today (thanks to yet another common calamity with it). And Wilma the Knee being ornery. And my new Donut Fryer job that starts at 1am tomorrow.

But enough complaining. Tonight, I bring you a healthy dinner of Bulgur and Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce. The lamb just adds a hint of flavor to the bulgur flavored meatballs. There's also a pinch of cinnamon that reminds me of Lebanese cooking and growing up in Michigan. They really were tasty. They weren't quick or easy, but I felt good eating them and most of the time was spent chilling the meat/bulgur mixture and meatballs. So yeah, I'd make these again.

But now I have to go take a long nap before I can hop out of bed at midnight and say "Time to make the donuts!"

Bulgur and Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light

2 cups water
1 cup uncooked bulgur
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
2 large egg whites
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

To prepare meatballs, soak bulgur in 2 cups water for 2 minutes; drain through a fine sieve Combine bulgur and next 7 ingredients (bulgur through 2 minced garlic cloves). Cover and chill 30 minutes. Shape lamb mixture into 18 meatballs; cover and chill 30 minutes.

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 minced garlic clove; cook 3 minutes, stirring often. Add red wine; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Stir 1/2 cup water, cinnamon, and diced tomatoes.Add meatballs; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Steven's Perfect Dungeness Crab Cakes

So last weekend I received a lovely package from the truly amazing Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Peabody had a contest celebrating her new blog Northwest Noshings that I was lucky enough to win. Unfortunately, the package arrived on a very hot Saturday and we were out of town at a beautiful wedding in Fort Wayne (where incidentally I met the guy who makes flies for urinals. Yeah, you read that right. Apparently boys need something to aim at. You can use them at home too. Check it out here.)

So in this beautiful package was some super delicious honey, the most amazing thick caramel sauce, a chicken rub that I'm itching to try out, and some half melted chocolates that despite not being at all photogenic by the time I got them were damn ass tasty. Peabody also sent me a great little cookbook called I Love Crab Cakes! Now, I live in rural North central Ohio. The closest crab is a long long long way off. So I called the Queen Geek and she was nice enough to bring down almost a full pound of canned crab meat. Surprisingly, the Detroit area has many many fish markets. Maybe next time I'm up there I'll pick up some fresh stuff. I was eyeing the Etta's Crab Cakes, but Peabody made those for one of her first posts.

Frankly, Peabody can make just about anything look a bazillion times better than I can. So I flipped through the book and decided on Steven's Perfect Dungeness Crab Cakes. I also have to confess here that I altered the recipe a little bit. The recipe calls for a full pound of crab meat and I only had 12 ounces. And after I almost chopped my finger off chopping the chives I decided that I was neither going to chop the herbs very fine, nor was I going to measure them. Actually I was fairly bad at measuring because I was in a wee bit of a rush. I had just taken a practice math exam and was on my way to my very first spin class since Wilma the knee made her debut, and I knew that I would pretty much be coming home from spin only to head for the shower, get dressed and leave for what counts as ballet in Nowhere, Ohio. Nowhere, Ohio is apparently a fairly cultured place. There was a surprisingly huge turnout for the local ballet school's recital. Fortunately these crab cakes were perfect. Just like the name. They were quick and lite and perfect for a quick afternoon dinner. I served them with some mashed avocado and tomato.

And if you're wondering if my friend the Queen Geek brought the crab while she was down here about 2 weeks ago, and if you remember seeing the contest on Culinary Concoctions by Peabody oh almost a month ago, why did I wait so long to make the crab cakes? And if you are wondering about the fairly sporadic posting that has been going on here, and what the hell is it with all this math? Let me fill you in. After a year and a half of being unemployed in a county that has an 11% unemployment rate and not really wanting to commute over 50 miles each way to work in a city, and some serious soul searching, I've decided to go back to school. I am going to be a high school math teacher. I figure I may just be warped enough to get kids' attention and share the joy of math. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have an undergraduate degree in Statistics and the school has offered me a deal. If I take the Praxis II content test for math and pass it before December, I don't have to take any more math classes (a savings of over $8,000). The test is tomorrow morning and if anyone has any tidbits of math advice, please leave a comment. It's been almost 20 years since I've taken most of this math and I'm a little skittish about it. So that's why I've been distant. Why I've been horrible slow at answering emails or responding to comments. Why the Brain might just get stuck with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner tonight. And after tomorrow morning I'll know if I need to keep studying and take the test again in September. Oh yeah. And I got a job at the local IGA as a "Donut Fryer". This could be fun.

So for now, enjoy the recipe for crab cakes and go check out Peabody's new blog Northwest Noshings it's pretty amazing, and if you haven't already, peak at her old blog Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. I'm going to continue writing SOHCAHTOA over every piece of paper I can find and I'll be desperately trying to remember matrix algebra.

Steven's Perfect Dungeness Crab Cakes
adapted from I Love Crab Cakes! by Tom Douglas

12 ounces Dungeness crab meat
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
the zest from one lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp minced fresh dill
2 Tbsp thinly sliced chives
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko plus more for dredging
about 4 Tbsp butter

To make the crab cakes, put the crab meat, mayonnaise, lemon zest, dill, chives, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix everything together gently with a rubber spatula. Add the 1.2 cup panko and mix again. Pour some more panko into a shallow container.

Form the crab mixture into 8 patties. Pat them gently into shape without pressing them too much. Drop the patties into the panko and turn them to coat both sides, patting to shake off the excess. If you have time, cover with plastic wrap and chill the crab cakes in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more before frying.

When you are ready to fry the crab cakes, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put 2 large nonstick ovenproof skillets over medium-high heat and add about 2 Tbsp butter to each pan. As soon as the butter is melted, add 4 crab cakes to each pan. Leave the pans on the burners for about a minute (the butter should not start to brown), then place the pans in the oven. Cook the crab cakes until they are heated through and golden brown on both sides, about 12 minutes, carefully turning them with a spatula about halfway through the cooking time. Remove the pans from the oven and transfer the crab cakes to plates, serving 2 crab cakes to each person. Garnish with a dill sprig and a lemon wedge.

(If you are like me and are only feeding two people, you can freeze the crab cakes before cooking and then thaw in the refrigerator and cook at a later date.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice

For today's installment of Legume Wednesdays I turned to Cooking Light's Annual Recipes 2008 and their oh so delicious Cuban Black Bean Patties. That's what they named them, although I'm not exactly sure what makes them so Cuban.

I worked with a Cuban woman while bartending in Chicago. She was a tiny little coked up dynamo that had an eerie similarity to Yzma from the Emporer's New Groove. She could be downright scary. But when you're all of 5 feet 3 inches I guess that's how you maintain control of a big noisy dive bar. I'm not sure she would agree with the assessment that these are Cuban tasting.

They are delicious though. A little slimy to put together and they took a bit of effort. But darn tasty. They are also very nutritious and pretty cheap to make. Pineapple happens to be on sale this time of year and I picked mine up at 2 for $5. A can of Great Value (the Walmart brand) black beans is less than a dollar. Although the recipe calls for boil in the bag white rice, a cup of regular white rice would work just fine. My cilantro plant decided to die on me and I had to substitute Italian parsley. I think cilantro would have tasted better.

The only problem I had was that the recipe was that it called for one 15 ounce can of black beans and that should hold 2 cups of beans. I measured my beans three times and although I had one bean make a run for freedom and I had to throw it out, my beans did not equal two cups. I had a touch more than 1 1/2 cups.

Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice
from Cooking Light

1 (3 1/2 ounce) bag boil-in-bag long grain rice
2 tsp butter
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups rinsed, drained, canned black beans (contents of one 15 ounce can), divided
1/2 tsp bottled minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup cornmeal

Prepare rice according to package directions, without salt or added fat. Drain, place rice in large bowl. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pineapple and saute for 4 minutes or until pineapple just begins to brown. Add pineapple mixture, cilantro, and 1/4 tsp salt to rice in bowl. cover and keep warm. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.

To prepare patties, place all but 1/2 cup beans in a bowl with garlic, cumin, and 1/8 tsp salt; partially mash with a fork. Place 1/2 cup beans and egg white in a food processor; process 30 seconds or until well combined. Add bean puree to bean mixture in bowl, and stir until combined. Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2 inch thick patty. Place cornmeal in a shallow dish. Dredge both sides of each patty in cornmeal. Heat pan over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.

Spoon about 1/2 cup rice onto each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 patty.

Per Serving: Calories 294, Fat 8.7g (sat 5.4g, mono 1.7g, poly 0.2g); Protein 10.2g, Carbohydrates 45g, Fiber 3.5g, Cholesterol 28mg, Iron 2mg, Sodium 532mg, Calcium 155mg

Monday, June 9, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Salad

It is hot. Any piece of exposed skin sticks to anything it touches. Any skin not exposed is getting kinda sweaty. Lately the whole motive when planning dinner is minimizing the amount of time adding to the already sweltering temperatures inside the house. Partly this is my fault. I've been so far successful in keeping the air conditioning unit out of the window. You know keeping our energy usage down and being green and all that crap. Besides, this third day of weather over 90 degrees is just a heat wave. It's supposed to end tonight. Or tomorrow morning. Call me an optimist.

So today's effort to make dinner without resorting to raw food, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, is a delicious Buffalo Chicken Salad. Total cooking time is about 6 minutes of broiling. It also involved opening and closing the fridge a bunch of times. So I think it evens right out. And it was very healthy and delicious to boot!
Now if we could just get these thunderstorms that are looming on the horizon to cut the humidity. Then things would be just fine.

Buffalo Chicken Salad
adapted from Ellie Krieger and the Food Network

2 (8ounce) boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
3 Tbsp Frank's Hot Sauce
2 tsp olive oil
2 hearts Romaine, cut into 1-inch strips (about 8 cups)
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 carrots, coarsely grated
2 scallions, green part only, sliced
1/2 cup Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe follows)

Preheat the broiler. Thinly slice the chicken and toss in a large bowl with the hot sauce and oil until the chicken is well coated. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet and broil until it is cooked through, about 6 minutes.In a large bowl, combine the Romaine, celery, shredded carrots and scallions. Divide the greens between 4 plates. Top with chicken and serve with Blue Cheese Dressing and more hot sauce

Blue Cheese Dressing

2 Tbsp Hellman's Canola mayonnaise
1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
1/4 cup plain fat free yogurt
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
salt and ground pepper

Fold a full sheet of paper towel into quarters and put it into a small bowl. Spoon the yogurt onto the paper towel and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to drain and thicken. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and thickened yogurt into the mayonnaise until smooth. Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to whisk until all the ingredients are well combined. Stir in the blue cheese and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce on the Grill

Today, while sitting and sweating and studying Trigonometry (I've moved on from the Geometry) I was wishing a lot of things. I was wishing they could make a knee brace that wasn't hot and itchy. I was wishing I was 10 and could run through the sprinkler. I was wishing that maybe it was less than a million percent humidity and maybe a little cooler. But mostly I was wishing for an idea of what to cook for dinner without turning on the oven or the stove. The grill of course leaps to mind, but we just had grilled chicken thighs the other day and I didn't want to do anything elaborate.

It is very rare that my wishes come true, but today they did. See Courtney posted the other day about Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce. Which really put me in the mood for some tasty barbecue. So I left a nice comment. One thing led to another and a package containing 2 bottles of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce and some recipes arrived at my doorstop today. Yes that's TWO bottles. I am a very lucky wish granted girl. Apparently Country Bob's also makes a spicy version of the sauce, a barbecue sauce, and seasoning salt. But let me tell you this All Purpose Sauce is amazing.

It has a real tangy and zesty smell. I tasted a little of it and it had a nice zingy taste. It's not thick like a barbecue sauce, but it seems a little thicker and smoother than A1 Steak Sauce. So I opened up the little recipe package and there weren't any recipes in it for pork chops (which I quickly pulled out of the freezer and was already thawing in the microwave). There was a recipe for a grilled pork tenderloin, so I used that as my inspiration. I whipped it together in a Ziploc bag and let those pork chops marinate for 2 hours.

You know it's hot when the Brain didn't want to grill. So I became the grill mistress. I decided while I was at it that I would grill those 2 leftover chicken thighs. (Costco thighs come in packages of 5 and that other grill recipe this week called for 8). So although our meal was heavy on the meat side, a chicken thigh and a pork chop each, we had a nice tossed salad and our house stayed nice and cool.
On the side of the bottle it says "Christ is our CEO". Does that mean that I can say GOD wanted me to grill today?

Grilled Pork Chops and Chicken Thighs
original Shazam recipe

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp ground ginger
2 scallions chopped
1 cup Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce
2 boneless pork chops
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Mix the garlic, soy sauce, oil, ginger, and scallions in a large zip top bag. Add the pork chops and marinade, turning occasionally, for 2 hours. Add the chicken thighs to the bag and marinate for another 20 minutes.

Prepare the grill. Turn the flame down very low and place the pork chops on the grill, leaving the chicken still in the bag. 5 minutes later add the chicken thighs to the grill. Basting halfway through, continue to grill until the pork chops are 170 degrees and the thighs 180 degrees.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pyaaz Waale Sabud Masoor

Also known as Brown Lentils with Chunky Onion and Chiles.
So remember how I was saying the Queen Geek came to visit this weekend. Well yeah. And we had a fabulous time. And she stopped before coming down here at the Bombay Grocers in Ann Arbor. Queen Geek had never been in an Indian grocery store before. I think she was surprised at the tremendous deals she found there. So she picked me up some legumes.

From bottom to top she brought me: urid dal, red lentils, brown lentils, mung beans, and Horse gram. I am completely unfamiliar with Horse gram and mung beans. And urid dal. But I'm excited that she brought them to me. (with some Nigella seeds. Yay!) Because don't forget that I still have that 660 Curries excellent cookbook. And so I added all these legumes to the massive pile of dried legumes in my cupboard and an idea struck me.

Well so did a couple bags of dried beans.

I will be having a legume project. Legumes are ridiculously healthy. They provide loads of dietary fiber, and protein. And they don't have any fat. And most of the worlds cultures have bean dishes. And they're pretty damn cheap. Cheap is really good when the cost of food and gasoline are skyrocketing. SO, once a week, I'm liking Wednesdays, I'll be making a legume dish. Don't worry, they won't all be dals. (Although I do like various dals and will make more.) I also can't promise that they'll all be vegetarian, but I think most of them will be. I can promise there will be no soybeans. Curse those soybeans and my inability to digest them.

For the inaugural legume dish, we travel to India for Pyaaz Waale Sabud Masoor. And no I don't really know how to pronounce it. It's a lovely, hearty dish of brown lentils with big chunks of onions and slices of chiles. It has a very chewy texture and the sweetness of the onions is really surprising. And even though I put 3 Serrano peppers in it, it doesn't overwhelm with spiciness. Served with some Trader Joe's Tandoori Naan it was pretty tasty!

Pyaaz Waale Sabud Masoor
From 660 Curries (also known as Brown Lentils with Chunky Onion and Chiles

1 cup whole brown lentils (sabud masoor) picked over to remove stones
1 medium sized onion cut in half lengthwise, and then cut into 1 inch chunks
2 Tbsp Ghee or canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
3 to 5 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or Serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices (do not remove seeds)

Place the lentils in a medium size bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with water and rinse the lentils by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water will become slightly cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now fill the bowl halfway with hot water and let it sit on the counter, covered with plastic wrap, until the lentils soften, at least 8 hours or as long as overnight.

Drain the lentils and transfer them to a medium size saucepan. Add the onion and 4 cups water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that rises to the surface. Lower the heat to medium, cover partially, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, heat the ghee (canola oil) in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover the skillet, and cook until the seeds have stopped popping(not unlike popcorn), about 30 seconds. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and lower the heat to medium (to prevent excess spattering when the tomato paste hits the hot ghee/oil). Simmer, uncovered stirring occasionally, until some of the ghee starts to separate around the edges, about 2 minutes.

Scrape the lush red sauce into the cooked lentils. Transfer a spoonful of the dal to the skillet and stir it around to get every bit of flavor; pour this back into the saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have absorbed the seasonings, about 5 minutes. Then serve.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Grilled Chicken Thighs and Grape Tomatoes

I'm sorry about the long delay since the last time I blogged. I have a sort of big project I'm working on that I'll tell you more about in a couple months and it entails long hours of studying Geometry. I'm trying to remember things I learned in school over (gulp) 20 years ago. I also got to tour the NASA Plum Brook facility twice this past weekend. First when my mom came down and then when the Queen Geek came down. It was a blast. (hee hee hee get it?)
So I think I've eaten out more this past weekend than in the entire past month. And last night as I was frantically re-learning math and feeling sorry for 16 year old kids everywhere, I wanted something quick and easy for dinner. The humidity yesterday was brutal too. The thermostat inside the house read 76 degrees at 5:30pm. So really I didn't want to even think about turning on the oven.

Cooking Light to the rescue! I was leafing through the June issue and saw Grilled Chicken Thighs with Roasted Grape Tomatoes. The recipe is beyond easy. All it involves is marinating the chicken in a lemony marinade and grilling it. I altered it a little too because there was no way I was cranking the oven up to 425 degrees F. My little house would have retained the heat and I just can't sleep when it's 80 in the house. The Brain hasn't pulled out the window air conditioning unit yet, and I'm trying to delay that. So I wrapped those little tomatoes up in tinfoil and had the Brain grill them with the thighs. Probably we could have grilled them longer, but I really liked how they turned out. They were hot, but still were fairly firm. Be careful though. They're slippery. I had several of them go sailing across the room. The Brain says he's never seen anyone have a meltdown over flying tomatoes before. (It was kind of a long day. I don't normally go into histrionics that easily.)

Grilled Chicken Thighs and Grape Tomatoes
adapted from Cooking Light

1 Tbsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves crushed
8 skinless boneless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 cups grape tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp capers
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Prepare grill.
To prepare the marinade, combine lemon rind, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in a large zip top bag. Add the chicken, seal the bag and move the chicken around (squish the bag) so that the marinade coats all of the chicken. Marinate for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

Place 2 large pieces of aluminum foil on a workspace. Place the tomatoes in the center of the foil. Drizzle them with the olive oil and toss to coat evenly. Wrap the foil up so it make a sealed pouch.

Remove chicken from bag and throw away remaining marinade. Salt and pepper the chicken and grill until done. While the chicken is grilling grill the foil pack of tomatoes. They should get very tender.

Combine tomatoes, parsley, capers, salt and pepper stirring gently. Serve with chicken.