Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Grilling... Chicken Wings

Sometimes you just want wings on Sundays. And it usually happens when you've been working out in the yard all afternoon, drinking a few beers, and generally just enjoying the beautiful weather. Unfortunately, this also typically coincides with your being in ratty shorts and t-shirt, hair a mess, and the remnants of last night's makeup sweating off your face. In other words, there will be no jetting off to the store to buy ingredients to make the sauce. We're just going to have to wing it (get it?) and make the sauce with whatever ingredients we happen to have on hand here.
I'm writing the directions for this wing sauce as I'm looking at the picture. It looks like I used about a third of the bottle of chili sauce, doesn't it? (help me out here, please!) And... let's say about the same amount of duck sauce. The amount of habanero sauce is best left to your discretion, but I will tell you that my bottle had all kinds of warnings on it... keep out of the reach of children, no smoking around this item, items in this bottle are hotter than they appear, harmful if swallowed. Again, discretionary use is advised. The garlic powder... I'd say about a half of a teaspoon. And if you don't have a Maxine Christmas mug to mix this all up in, you're just going to have to find a different wing sauce recipe. Sorry.

Hubby said it was his favorite wing sauce.... ever.

The basic directions we use for grilling chicken wings can be found here. And what I like best about making wings is not knowing in advance how we're going to sauce them. They turn out different every time. Even Sloopy eagerly awaits his chicken wing. (Ohhh... don't be going and getting your knickers in a knot; we don't really give him chicken bones. I just needed a way to work this photo into the conversation.)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pork Loin With Cranberry Sauce

You know that can of jellied cranberry sauce that you have in the pantry? The one that you forgot to put into a pretty glass dish last Thanksgiving? And then you forgot that you had it come New Year's Eve when you went to make your crockpot meatballs...so then you bought yet another can? (Go ahead and look in your pantry; you know it's in there. I'll wait)
Well, here's a way to lay it to rest without actually having to throw it out. This is a tasty and easy recipe. The pork loin is made in the crock pot and the sauce ingredients are simply stirred together and heated in a sauce pan before serving. Add a steamed veggie on the side and your meal is complete!

Pork Loin With Cranberry Sauce

2 1/2- 3 pound pork loin (I used a boneless blade roast)
Montreal Grill Seasoning

(didn't I tell you this was going to be easy?)

Sprinkle roast liberally with seasoning, place in crock pot, fat side down, and set temperature to high. Cook on high for two hours then reduce heat to low. Continue cooking until internal temperature of meat is 165 degrees (approximately 2 hours)

Meanwhile, in sauce pan combine the following:

1/2 can jellied cranberry sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp mustard
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
A couple of splashes of Tabasco (depending on your taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together above ingredients. Heat thoroughly. Serve atop pork loin.... or chicken breasts.. or meatballs. Your choice.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Squares

There's spelt in them thar squares, but don't let that scare you off. (OK, I'll admit it... it almost scared me off...LOL) I'd never baked anything with spelt flour before, so of course I was going to be a little leery. I am a creature of habit, after all. However, since I've yet to bake anything from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking that wasn't spectacular, I really wasn't all that worried. My biggest concern, I suppose, was that I wouldn't be able to find spelt flour. Thankfully, I found it available through Amazon.
As it turns out, spelt is a relative to wheat. However, it contains more protein than wheat does, and that protein is more easily digested, possibly making spelt an alternative for people who have a sensitivity to wheat. And lest you've forgotten how I groove on anything with fiber, spelt is an excellent source of that as well! It has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, making it a great complement to the banana and spices in this recipe.
These little squares of sweetness went to work with hubby today, so once again I'm asking any co-workers (or co-irkers..Hee!) to let me know if they tickled your tastebuds

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Squares

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about one cup)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (I happen to like pecans better, so I used those instead)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 X 13 pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Beat in the bananas, lemon juice, vanilla, baking powder, salt and spices, scraping the bowl. Add the egg, beating until smooth and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl again. Stir in the flour, mixing thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Allow the batter to rest for 15 minutes; it'll thicken a bit as it stands. Sprinkle the chocolate and nuts on top.

Bake until the center is moist but not liquid, 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack. For best texture, allow them to rest overnight, covered, before cutting and serving.

Also. Here's a little banana tip for you. Did you know you could freeze bananas? If you've got some that are really ripe and ready to use, but you don't have the time or inclination to use them at the moment, just place them whole and unpeeled in a freezer bag and freeze them until you need them. Thaw overnight in the fridge. They'll be messy and soft, but full of flavor. No more throwing out bananas.... YAY!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bagels, Part 2 (BBA Challenge)

When I made the dough for this week's Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, I divided it in two and made one half into bagel dogs (yesterday's post) and I used the other half to make traditional bagels.
I struggled just a bit to get the raisins incorporated into the cinnamon dough, but they eventually figured out that I wasn't going to give up, and they finally acquiesced into submission. Sometimes you just have to show 'em who's boss! I really, really loved the chewy texture of these bagels and they tasted divine, especially when topped with this cinnamon cream cheese spread.
I also made some plain bagels which I topped with a combination of salt, poppy seeds and sesame seeds. These were quite tasty made into curried chicken salad sandwiches.
I will definitely use this recipe to make all future bagels. Now that I know the technique and how the dough is supposed to feel and react, I'm going to attempt to substitute at least half of the regular flour with whole wheat flour to add some fiber to this recipe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bagels With A Twist! (BBA Challenge)

Bagel dogs! Who doesn't like bagel dogs? Or bagel brats? Or bagel sausages? If it's shaped like a hot dog, you can wrap it in bagel, baby!
This week's Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge was all about bagels, and I knew from the moment I saw the recipe, I was going to turn at least part of my dough into bagel dogs. When the kids were little, bagel dogs were one of their favorite foods and I loved the convenience of being able to pop them out of the freezer and into the microwave. I got the help I needed regarding the wrapping technique from Cooking Dunkin Style and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy these were to put together. Precooked dogs or brats must be used, and I took them from the fridge and brought them to room temperature before wrapping them. The only step I eliminated from the book's original recipe was that I did not do the float test. I just let them rest for about thirty minutes before covering them and putting them in the fridge. I kept the temperature and baking time the same, but I think the next time I make these I'll leave them in the oven for another minute or two.

I ordered Sir Lancelot Flour from King Arthur and I also got my diastatic malt power there. The dough was so nice to knead and form, and I loved the silky smooth texture as I rolled it into ropes. This was a very fun bread recipe for me and I will most certainly be making these again.

The participants of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge were asked not to post the recipes on their blogs but I did find the full recipe for Peter Reinhart's bagels over at Smitten Kitchen if you'd like to check it out there.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Have A Wonderful Holiday Weekend!

We're off to celebrate graduations and birthdays. Everyone have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chorizo, Kale and Potato Soup

What do three links of semi-freezer burned chorizo links, 2 stalks of semi-frozen celery (darn fridge controls,) a huge bag of kale that I bought for no reason, and a couple of past-their-prime potatoes have in common?

I can't believe it's not obvious. Seriously.

They're now soup! (and darned good soup, if I do say so myself) I love making something edible out of things that I might have otherwise thrown away. Not only does it save me from feeling guilty about being wasteful, it makes me feel like an artist, that special kind of someone who can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, so to speak.

OK... enough, I know. On with the recipe.

The inspiration for this recipe came from a post at Epicurious. I changed up the technique a bit, but most of the ingredients are the same. I really, really like the stew-like quality of this soup, and the fact that its thickness comes from the pureed potatoes instead of a flour/gravy background.

Chorizo, Kale and Potato Soup

3 links of chorizo (yours need not be suffering from freezer burn) casings removed, then sliced into 1/2 inch pieces.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced (again, yours doesn't have to be semi-frozen...lol)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
2 quarts chicken broth
1/2-3/4 pound of kale
1 pound red potatoes, scrubbed well, cut into 1 inch cubes

In soup pot, heat olive oil, then saute chorizo pieces until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove from pan to paper towel.

To the soup pot, add onion, celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper and saute until veggies have softened, approximately 5-7 minutes. (make sure you scrape up all those little bits leftover from the chorizo) Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add broth and russet potatoes and bring to a boil. Season generously with salt, then reduce heat to simmer, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer potato pieces to your blender. Add a bit of the broth from the pot, and puree until smooth. Add puree back to the soup pot.

Bring soup back to a boil and add in red potatoes and kale. Season again with salt and pepper, reduce heat, cover pot and simmer until potatoes are tender. You may need to add a bit more broth or water at this point, depending on how thick you want your soup.

Add the chorizo pieces and heat through.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Strawberry Muffins

The strawberries in these muffins were supposed to be sitting atop a strawberry shortcake gone bad that I attempted to make over the weekend. Without going into detail, let's just say that there was much batter overflowage, lots and lots of smoke, and an oven that needed several hours of cleanup. (Hey, at least I didn't have to call the fire department!)

That left me with strawberries that really needed to get used before they went bad. Luckily, Cathy over at Noble Pig posted this recipe just in the nick of time.
Strawberry Muffins (with my modifications)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (she used regular whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup chopped strawberries
2 eggs
1 cup fat free sour cream (she used non-fat vanilla yogurt)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon buttery sweet dough flavoring (this was my add-in, optional, but quite tasty)
Coarse sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place muffin papers in 12-cup muffin tray and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Whisk together the flours, sugar and baking soda. Stir in the chopped strawberries.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream, butter and extracts. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture until all is incorporated.

Divide the batter among the twelve muffin cups. Sprinkle with coarse sugar (if using.)

Bake for 18-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove pan from oven and transfer muffins to cooling rack to cool completely.
You could swirl mounds of whipped cream on top of these and pretend they're strawberry shortcakes. Much. Healthier. Strawberry. Shortcakes.

My Big Fat Greek Bread (BBA Challenge)

Week two of the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge has us making Artos, Greek celebration bread. I chose to use the master formula only, opting out of using any of the add ins. Even though I am both a fruit and a nut, I don't care for either in my bread.
You're going to have to add on to your house, or at least your breadbox if you make this bread, that's how HUGE it is! And you know what? Judging by the amount of pride I felt when I saw its final size, I now think I have an idea why men get that way about the size of their... well, ya know.

This was a relatively easy recipe to follow. My only note was that I once again used way more flour than the recipe called for. I started the knead by hand but when I couldn't even begin to get it into a manageable ball, I tossed it back into the Kitchen Aid and kneaded it in there, adding more and more flour until it was stiff enough for me to tackle by hand. I'm guessing I used at least one more cup of flour in the process.

I think this bread would make excellent french toast. I split the loaf in half and froze one half with the intent of using it in the future for this purpose. Maybe Father's Day brunch?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Meatball, Pasta and Spinach Soup

After a week of bread, muffins and brownies, don't you think it's time we eat something a little healthier? Maybe so we won't have to get the fat pants out again? Or maybe it's already too late for us?

And of course, by us, I mean me.

This soup was inspired by a Rachael Ray recipe. The main thing that I changed was that I browned/cooked my meatballs before adding them to the soup. This added an extra layer of flavor due to the yummy caramelized bits left on the bottom of the pan after browning. I've watched Rachael enough to know that she'd have made it this way too if she wasn't under that darn 30-minute meal deadline. I also chose to use ground turkey breast because I can fit more of it into my fat pants.

Meatball, Pasta and Spinach Soup

1 pound ground turkey breast seasoned with 1 Tbsp Penzey's sausage seasoning
OR
1 pound ground turkey sausage
1 egg
1/3 cup dried whole wheat bread crumbs
1/3 cup skim milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups dried pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti, broken into 4ths)
6 oz bag of fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
parmesan cheese

Combine meat, egg, bread crumbs and milk. Shape into small meatballs. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in soup pot. Working in batches, add meatballs to hot oil and cook thoroughly, turned after a few minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels.

To the remaining oil, add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Saute to soften, 5-7 minutes. Add chicken broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, then add spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Remove bay leaf. Add in the spinach and simmer for a minute to wilt spinach. Add meatballs back in and season again with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Whole Wheat Double Fudge Brownies

It is extremely rare for hubby to get up in the morning before I do. The insomniac that I am is typically up and ready to start the day by 4:00 a.m.... sometimes even earlier. I can be found in the guest bathroom with my coffee grinder, trying to get that first round of beans ground without waking up the rest of the house.

So when I went to bed last night, I wasn't concerned in the least that these brownies would be cut and on their way to work with hubby without me getting to see or taste them first. The recipe directions specifically state to let the brownies rest overnight before cutting, enabling the bran in the whole grain to soften and develop the textures of the finished product.

I woke up to one tiny little corner piece of brownie wrapped in saran wrap and sitting on the kitchen counter. I'm not complaining about him leaving me such a little piece. I'm whining that he took them to share with his coworkers before I got a chance to taste them and make certain that they tasted delicious enough to share with those coworkers!! I've never made them before... imagine how embarrassing this could be if they tasted like total crap!

This recipe came from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking. I was tempted to use whole wheat pastry flour instead of the regular whole wheat flour, but I went with the recipe as written. My little corner piece was delicious, I must say. I'm hoping that the center pieces weren't too fudgy and that they were the perfect brownie consistency. Feel free to comment, any of you coworkers who might happen to be reading my blog!

One item of note is that this recipe calls for Dutch-process cocoa, which can be difficult to find. I bought mine at Penzey's but it's also available at other online retailers.

Whole Wheat Double Fudge Brownies

1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp espresso powder (optional, but I did use)
1 Tbsp vanilla
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups traditional whole wheat flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Heat this mixture until it's hot and just starting to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa, baking powder, salt, espresso powder and vanilla. Cool the mixture until you can test it with your finger; it should feel like comfortably warm bath water. Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth, then add the flour and the chocolate chips, again stirring until smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the brownies until a knife poked into the center reveals wet crumbs but not raw batter, 30 minutes. The brownies should feel set on the edges and in the center. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack; cover when cool. Let sit overnight before serving; this give the bran a chance to soften, giving the brownies more pleasing texture.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I learned two new things today.

The first is that I love lemon poppy seed muffins. I'd never been tempted to make them before because they just didn't seem like something I'd like, for some reason. But this mix was a freebie so it gave me a good reason to try something new. When I ordered my last round of supplies from King Arthur Flour, they included this mix for free.
I guess it's a little reward to me for spending so much money there (kinda like frequent flour miles?)

I substituted buttermilk for the regular milk listed on the directions, and I decided to add in a half teaspoon of this flavoring that I also just received from King Art.

I'm going to attempt to make a whole grain version of this muffin in the future. In Googling for such a recipe, I discovered the second new thing I learned today. Eating poppy seeds can make your drug test positive. Therefore, these muffins that were supposed to go to work with hubby tomorrow, are now going to be staying home with me. I don't need to be responsible for getting his coworkers in trouble!

Guess I'll make them brownies instead. REGULAR brownies though... not the "funny" kind.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Five Truckloads of Dirt and Mulch

You gotta love a man who works 60 hours a week at his "real" job and then spends another 15 hours on the weekend whipping the landscaping into shape. I'm not without worth here, however. Who do you think lugged around this whopping 5 ounce camera snapping photos all day? (I've got the Canon PowerShot blisters and flash rash to prove it!)
I present to you my hubby's Mother's Day gift to me. WARNING: This will be intensely more painful than looking at pictures of your friends' grandchildren's school plays and sporting events.

As the post title states, there were five truckloads of dirt and mulch that went into this weekend's grounds grooming. And please keep in mind that we live on a hill, so all of that dirt/mulch had to be wheelbarrowed down that slippery slope to its final destination.

This is only our second year living at this home. Last year we did the bare minimum outside because we were too busy inside fighting over where the furniture and his boxer shorts should go.

I'm loving that we have blooming shrubs. But I'm relatively stupid when it comes to knowing the names of living green things, and the only one I know for sure is this lilac. And that's only because I know the scent.

If anyone can tell me the name of this shrub, I'd be ever so grateful. And so would the bee. Although he probably already knows since he's taken up permanent residence there. (Brave of me to get this close, yes?)



INTERMISSION: (go mix yourself a Bloody Mary while I show the flowers I feebly planted)

You have to admit that this coffee cup planter is to die for. (and yessss... I realize that they will die.. probably prematurely, because my thumb lacks any shade of green)

A few herbs to make me feel like I'm better than Sandra Lee yet lesser than Martha Stewart.



And here's the garden. *pause for a moment of future hope and pride*




Remember when you first thought of having kids and you had all these hopes and plans for their future? Like you just knew they'd be perfect and fruitful and multiply (OK, that was before sixth grade math class and the drama of Ms. Quail, but you get my drift.)
I'm hopeful that come August, I'll be the proud parent of this productive tomato plant. We're not even going to imagine that one morning I might find an empty Jack Daniel's bottle and a condom laying by its roots. (true story regarding my oldest offspring, but that's another story, another time.)
I'll leave you with this photo... which warmed my heart. My man, his dog, and his beer (Kroger had 24 oz. Budweisers for a buck apiece last week, how heartwarming is that!)