Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chiles Rellenos

Let's just get this out of the way. I've never made chiles rellenos before today. I've never even HAD chiles rellenos before today. And my Spanish-challenged tongue sure as heck can't even pronounce it correctly. Why then, oh why, would I choose to make such a ridiculously complicated recipe?

Because my poblano pepper plants are reproducing like inner city rats and I'm driven to find new ways to prepare them. That's why.

Have you ever started an ambitious project and then about half way through you just wanted to calls it quits and curl up with your new Dean Koontz novel? No? Well, that's what happened to me midway through this adventure.

By the time I'd roasted the peppers, skinned the peppers and seeded the peppers, I was ready to call it a day. This is where I admit that I don't like skinning peppers. I don't like peeling potatoes either, but that's another post, another day.

Next came stuffing the peppers. Then whipping the eggwhites to fold into the batter. I was hanging in there by a thread at this point.

I heated the oil and like Jethro in the ce-ment pond, I commenced to swimming those peppers in the pool of batter. THAT'S where it got really ugly, really fast. The cheese wanted to slip out the bottom of the peppers and the batter was dripping EVERYWHERE. I was just winging it at this point, people. Plop, drop, drip, fry. Messy. Messy. Messy. You'll pardon the lack of photos from here on out, as I have only two hands and they were both occupied. And that Bud Light? Yeah, I drank the rest of it. I had to.

The result? Very tasty. Will I make them again... NEVER! But now that I know what they are and how delicious they can be, I'll definitely order them the next time I dine at a Mexican restaurant. And I'll just point to them on the menu.

By the way, I served these with a side of my crockpot refried beans. Delish!

Chiles Rellenos

6-8 poblano peppers
6-8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, in cheese stick form

Broil whole peppers in oven, 6-8 inches from heat, turning halfway through, until blistered and charred, (10-15 minutes.) Remove from oven and place in ziploc bag. Let sit for 15 minutes. Remove from bag and peel skin off peppers. Make a slit on one side of pepper and remove seeds. Stuff peppers with cheese sticks and fold peppers over to seal. Set aside.

Batter:

1 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup beer

Mix together the flour, salt, chili powder and egg yolks. Gradually add in the beer and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into flour mixture.

In a shallow dish, place some additional flour (1/2 cup or so) and season with salt and pepper. You're going to coat your peppers in this first before dipping in the batter. This step helps the batter stick to the pepper.

Heat 3-4 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a heavy pot.

(this is where you're going to start cussing me out) Take each stuffed pepper, roll it in flour, then dunk it in the batter. Let excess batter drip into bowl. Drop pepper into heated oil and fry for 4-5 minutes. Turn and fry for another 2-3 minutes, until browned. Remove to paper towels to drain.
Use your favorite salsa or sauce to top the pepper. I used a canned red enchilada sauce because all I wanted to do at this point was drink beer and read my novel.

Whole Grain Cinnamon Rolls (Co-Irker Treats)

Most of you probably didn't know that in addition to being a fabulous cook (self-proclaimed of course,) I am also a registered dental hygienist (retired.) For thirty years I protected the world's teeth from the ravages of gingivitis (well, maybe just a small percentage of Ohio.) I preached the benefits of proper diet and extolled the virtues of daily dental flossing. And for thirty years I brought all that knowledge and preaching home to my hubby and kids, hoping the terrible tooth tales I told them would scare them into taking vigilant care of their own mouths. All to no avail. Each and everyone of them fought me tooth and nail in matters of oral hygiene. My own darlings' teeth were flossed only twice a year. And that was by me.

A month or so ago, hubby attended a health and safety seminar at work. The speaker proceeded to inform the participants of the importance of flossing. Hubby hasn't missed a day since. (You're all feeling for me right now, aren't you. I thought so.)

OK, so what does the above have to do with cinnamon rolls? I would think that the answer is obvious, but I will go ahead and give it to you...

I used dental floss to cut the dough into rolls, silly!

These are 100% whole grained goodness, people. And they're delicious. Enjoy them with a minimal amount of guilt, please.

Dark And Dangerous Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)

For the dough:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
5 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3 TBSP potato flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

For the filling:

I used one cup of King Arthur's Baker's Cinnamon Filling mixed with 4 TBSP of water. But the recipe lists:

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg white
2 TBSP cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Mix all the dough ingredients in a mixing bowl using your paddle attachment. Switch to dough hook and kneed for 8-10 minutes. Dough will be very sticky, but resist the urge to add more flour. Using greased hands transfer the dough to a large bowl, spray lightly with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly double. It took a full two hours for mine to rise to that level.

Mix the filling ingredients.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface. Roll out dough with a rolling pin to a 12x16 rectangle. Evenly spread the filling over the dough leaving a 1 inch margin along one long edge. Starting with the filling-covered long edge, roll the dough into a log, turning it so the seam side is flat against the work surface. Using dental floss, cut the dough into 12 even pieces. Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray and cover with a towel. Let rise until they're almost touching each other, 60-90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 26-28 minutes. Remove pan from oven and transfer rolls to cooling rack. When rolls are completely cool, glaze with your favorite glaze. I just used some glazing sugar, a little bit of vanilla, and water.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Focaccia (Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge)

This week's Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge resulted in a surprisingly wonderful focaccia. I've had supermarket focaccia before, and although I found it pleasant enough, it was never anything to write home about. Peter Reinhart's focaccia is not only worthy of writing home about, you might just want to call the local newspaper. It. Is. That. Good. Swear.

A couple of noteworthy mentions. If you make this, take the time to make the herb oil that he suggests. It really, really adds to the overall flavor of this bread. Also, eat it warm. Oh my holey-bread-dipped-in-oil goodness! It actually kind of reminded me of a croissant.... flaky, crispy, chewy, WOW! When it cooled, it was still delicious, but when I make this again, it will be timed to coincide with a meal.

I chose to make the poolish version. I used bread flour in my poolish, but I used Sir Lancelot flour in the final dough. The only toppings I added were the herb-infused oil and some sun-dried tomato pesto. And guess what? I FINALLY learned how to work with wetter dough. My ciabatta experience taught me that wetter is better. This stuff was all new to me folks. And now I know!
This one's a keeper, right up there with his cinnamon rolls.

Thanks Nicole... I'd still be bread-challenged if it wasn't for you!

Tomato Tarts

Little is cute, yes? The size 5 shoes that you pull off of the display rack are always much cuter than the size 9 clown shoes the clerk brings back from the storeroom for you to "try on in your size, ma'am." And don't even get me started on puppies. We all know how cute they are when they're little. And some of them stay that way, while others grow up to be Marmadukes. (Awww Marmaduke, we still love you.)
I'll admit that I made these cute little tarts because they were just that.... little and cute! Imagine my delight when I discovered that they were delicious as well.

Tomato Tarts (adapted from King Arthur)

Crust (for 4 tarts):

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 oz. cream cheese
1/8 tsp. salt
1 TBSP buttermilk powder
5 TBSP cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 TBSP ice water

Place flour, cream cheese, salt and buttermilk powder in mixing bowl and mix until crumbly. Add in butter and mix briefly, just until butter pieces resemble the size of small peas. Gradually add in water and mix until dough comes together in a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Divide dough into four pieces and roll each dough ball out into a 6 inch circle. I used my silpat to roll them on and there was no sticking, but if you're using your counter you may need to lightly flour it.

Place rolled out dough into tart pans and shape. Roll your rolling pin over the tops of the pan to seal the dough and cut off extra dough. Prick crusts several times with a fork to avoid them puffing while they bake.

Bake for 10 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven. Remove and set aside while preparing the filling ingredients.

Filling:

1-2 TBSP Dijon mustard
2-3 dozen (depending on size) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a little blue cheese and some sharp cheddar)
2-3 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
fresh herbs (I used some Italian parsley and some basil) chopped

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Spread a little mustard on the bottom of each tart crust. Arrange tomatoes in each tart and top with cheeses, bacon and herbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheeses melted.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hi Maize Buns (and BELT sandwiches)

Yep, they're from my garden and aren't they beautiful? No more fighting over tomatoes here. There's finally enough to eat our fill every day.

When I was a little girl my Mom used to make us BELT sandwiches. I must have been too stupid to figure out that was an acronym for Bacon, Egg, Lettuce and Tomato because I thought it was called that because it was this huge slippery sandwich that needed a belt to hold it together. I know, I know... it's amazing they ever let me out of the house, isn't it?

But this post isn't about tomatoes, nor is it about BELT sandwiches, unless you count the bread the BELT was built on. Because hubby and I both border on having high blood sugar, I really try to stay away from white bread. I know that whole grain bread is much better for the body's metabolism. But sometimes, depending on what I'm sandwiching, I crave the taste and texture of white bread. BLT's are one such example.

There's is now a product on the market called Hi Maize. It is a natural dietary fiber made from corn. It can be added to foods to boost the amount of fiber, without changing the taste, texture or appearance. The skeptic in me immediately had flashbacks of the one time I tried to add Metamucil to a bread recipe. (You don't even want to hear about that disaster, trust me.) But the part of me that loves to experiment went ahead and ordered a bag because I was so darn curious. I have made the recipe below into both sandwich rolls and standard bread loaves, and I have to tell you that this is now my new go-to white bread recipe. These turned out to be tender, fluffy, light and very, very tasty buns. And there's a whopping 6 grams of non-soluble dietary fiber packed into each bun!

Featherweight Rolls (adapted from King Arthur)

2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Hi-maize
1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp butter, softened or melted

Whisk together the yeast, salt, flour, Hi-maize, nonfat dried milk, and vital wheat gluten. Add the water, butter and honey. Mix until cohesive. Knead the dough using your hands or a dough hook and mixer until it's smooth and supple, 6-8 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces (mine were about 3 ounces each.) Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Grease a baking sheet and place balls on baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Cover with a towel and allow them to rise until they're puffy and nearly doubled in size, about one hour.

Bake the rolls in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack to cool. Brush tops of rolls with butter if desired, for a softer crust.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Freezer Pickles

Gas up the food processor and dust off your freezer containers gang. We're making freezer pickles. (Hey, this is real life and it can't always be about cheesecake and cookies.)

We didn't grow cucumbers in our garden this year. Being first-timers with limited garden space, we stuck with tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and a few herbs. But the generosity of hubby's co-irkers (now you know the real reason I make them all those treats) has supplied us with a boatload of cucumbers. What to do with them after you've eaten your fill of them fresh? You make them into freezer pickles.

Freezer Pickles

Beg, borrow or steal a food processor if you don't own one. Otherwise plan on spending a good part of the day slicing cucumbers.

For each 8 cups of (unpeeled) sliced cucumbers, you will need:

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 cup vinegar
1 Tbsp pickling salt
3/4 tsp celery seed
2 cups sugar (or Splenda)

Layer sliced cucumbers and onions in a large bowl. Combine vinegar, salt, celery seed and sugar. Stir to combine/dissolve. Pour over cucumbers and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for three days, stirring once each day. After three days place cucumbers into freezer containers and cover with the brine. Freeze for up to one year (if they last that long.)

TasteStopping... Feasting On Seconds

We food bloggers rely heavily on sites such as Tastespotting and Foodgawker to drive traffic to our websites. For the most part, we are not professional chefs, food stylists, nor photographers. We're merely passionate about food. When the current subject of our passion is rejected, we take it personally. Sometimes to the point of tears. Why? Well maybe it's because we've stood out in the rain to garner the only available daylight to photograph our favorite muffin recipe. Or because we've had to shoo the dog away as we attempt to take a picture of a plate of cookies placed on a sunspot on the floor. Perhaps we've served dinner at 3:00 in the afternoon, simply because we know that's when the sunlight hits the dinner table perfectly. The point is, we try so hard to get the perfect photo of our passion, when the photo isn't even the point. The food is the point.

Enter TasteStopping. Finally a place to post our rejects. And I have to tell you, I've found some very good recipes that I wouldn't have otherwise found. Photo perfect, maybe not. But palate perfect, definitely. And isn't that what it's all about?

Thanks Casey, for giving our rejects another chance.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mini Turtle Cheesecakes (Treats For Co-Irkers)

Cheesecake, How Do I Love Thee (by Mags Barrett Browning)

How do I love thee Cheesecake, let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and size
My thighs can reach.

The end. (Hey, I could have made it into a haiku. Would that have made it any better? Didn't think so.)

This week's Treats For Co-Irkers is also doubling as a birthday cake for our daughter Molly. She'll be 20 on Sunday and I'm feeling a little verklempt (can we tawk?) All three of my kids are now in their 20's and I have to tell you that it's making me feel quite old. Seems like only yesterday I was tearing my hair out with three toddlers and screaming at them to just grow up already. Careful what you wish for, eh?

Mini Turtle Cheesecakes

Crust:
1 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly spray two mini-cheesecake pans (each pan equals 12 mini-cheesecakes so we're going for a total of 24 with this recipe.) Combine above ingredients and press mixture into the wells of each pan. I used a shot glass to press the crust into the wells. Place cheesecake pans on a cookie sheet (to avoid any butter dripping into your oven.) Bake in oven for 5 minutes then remove to cool slightly.

Turtle layer:
24 caramels
1/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Combine the caramels and cream and melt until smooth on stove or in microwave. Top each crust with a small amount of caramel then with the chopped pecans. Place pans in freezer for 15 minutes to set this layer so it doesn't become part of the filling.

Filling:
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 oz semi sweet chocolate
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
20 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate and butter in microwave-safe bowl at 15-second increments, until chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Cream together cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa with mixer until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time, and blend until incorporated into batter. Stir in sour cream and vanilla then add the melted chocolate and combine well.

Distribute batter evenly amongst mini-cheesecake wells. Bake until filling is set, 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire rack, and then refrigerate at least three hours before unmolding.

Garnish (optional)
caramel topping (the kind you put on ice cream)
chopped pecans
mini chocolate chips

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ham, Potato, and Green Bean Soup

Q: What's better than having a best friend who is a hairdresser?
A: Said hairdresser best friend comes with a hubby who plants a huge garden.

Nancy and Chris spent last weekend with us and brought along a big bag of vegetables to share. Our produce bundle included fresh green beans, potatoes, onions, and a lovely head of broccoli. Chris cooked up a wicked good batch of green beans, bacon, mushrooms and onions for our Saturday night cookout, then graciously left the remaining veggies behind for us to enjoy this week.

It was cold and rainy when I woke up this morning, so I knew those vegetables were destined to become soup. I also had some leftover ham that needed to be used. I grabbed a ham bone from the freezer and decided to make my own stock for this soup. Had I not had that bone, I would have grabbed two quart boxes of chicken broth from my pantry and called it a day.

Other past-its-prime produce went into the pot as well. A lone carrot, a couple of garlic cloves, a celery stalk, a chunk of green bell pepper, and some thyme and rosemary sprigs were dumped into the pot and I covered them all with two quarts of water, then boiled the whole bunch for about an hour and a half. Then I strained the broth and chilled it so I could skim the fat from the surface. The result was a delicious ham broth that then became the base for this soup.

Ham, Potato, and Green Bean Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
6-8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp flour
2 quarts stock (I used ham broth but chicken will work well here too)
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed (That was 3 large potatoes for me)
3 cups fresh or frozen green beans
3 cups cooked, cubed ham
3/4 cup half & half
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

In large soup pot heat oil. Add onion, celery, mushrooms and crushed red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat until onions are translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and thyme and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle flour over all and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes to ensure that the flour is cooked through. Gradually add in stock and bring to a boil Add potatoes, reduce heat a bit, and boil for 10 minutes. Add in green beans and ham and continue to boil for another 10 minutes or so, until potatoes and green beans are tender. Remove from heat and stir in half & half and fresh parsley.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

English Muffins (Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge)

This was the first recipe of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge in which I attempted to incorporate some whole wheat flour. We switched over to whole grain bread here years ago, and it's been bugging me that I'm making all these strictly white flour recipes, week after week. I've also been a bad girl and skipped the cranberry walnut celebration bread because quite frankly, I can't fit another loaf of enriched bread in my freezer! I plan on coming back to it and making it around the holidays. Much more appropriate for that time, I think. Please forgive me for baking out of order.

I've never made English muffins before and I had no idea that they are fried before they're baked! I realize that this is not a closely guarded secret, but I felt like I'd been let in on something that the rest of the general public probably doesn't know (nor care about, I suppose...lol)

With regard to my addition of whole wheat flour, I substituted about a third of the bread flour with white whole wheat flour. My goal of course, is to get them 100% whole wheat, but I'll work on that after this challenge is completed.

OK. Now that we've taken care of the challenge business, we can get down to the real reason these muffins made my day, my week, and my summer thus far. From the moment I planted my first tomato plant in May, I've dreamed of this:

What is it and what is so special about it, you ask? Well, it's peanut butter and fat-garden-ripe-sliced-tomato on an English muffin. If you've never had a peanut butter and tomato sandwich, you seriously need to try this. Oh go ahead and hold out all you want. I did too. My best friend bragged on these for years before I succumbed. I thought it sounded like the strangest combination ever. But one night after she'd "forced" me into drinking too much wine, I gave in and ate her little concoction. I've never looked back and each year I anxiously await the ripening of my first garden tomato, for this very reason. (If I've enticed you into trying it, please let me know what you thought, OK?)

Whole Grain Caramel-Rum Squares

Here's another winner from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. Nutty, chewy and gooey, these bars are a delicious way to incorporate whole grains into your baking. And the little nip of rum takes it all to another level.



Crust

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp orange juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling

2/3 cup caramel (from a block) or 21 individual candies
2 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp rum
2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Topping

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan.

To prepare the crust: Whisk the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add in the orange juice and melted butter, stirring till thoroughly combined.

Measure out 1 3/4 cups of the crust mixture and spread it in the prepared pan, gently patting it down. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool while preparing the filling.

To prepare the filling: Melt the caramel, milk and rum in a small saucepan, stirring constantly until smooth. Pour the thinned caramel mixture evenly over the baked crust. Sprinkle with the almonds, then spread the remaining crust mixture over the almonds.

Return the pan to the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle them with the chocolate chips. Let cool until chocolate has solidified before cutting.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Does anyone know what this is?

Edited 7/21/09. The nice folks over at Garden Web have been kind enough to help me identify this as an ironweed (vernonia gigantea, to be exact.)

I'm no Jack but I think I've got myself a beanstalk growing off the back side of my deck. This baby's been growing at the rate of about two feet per week and has these little berry like blossoms that I swear are going to bloom sometime before I die. If I weren't so sure of this, I'd just cut the monster down. It really isn't attractive at this stage, but curiosity has gotten the best of me. Any ideas?


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Whoopie Pies (Treats For Co-Irkers)

I missed last week's Treats For Co-Irkers due to hubby being on vacation, so I felt it necessary to pull out all the stops and go for the gusto this week. These whoopie pies took sweets to a new level for me, and if a person could be arrested and sentenced for putting too much fat into a food item, I'd be on death row right now. But you know what? I think I'd ask for these for my last meal (HEE!)

I really just need to quit visiting Baker's Banter, King Arthur's food blog. I go there pretending to check out whole grain recipes and then I get suckered into the other sinfully delicious treats that they're continuously baking over there. PJ, I'm blaming my last two pounds on you!

I won't post the recipe here; you'll find everything you need to know there, and you'll be able to enjoy all the great photos that accompany the step-by-step directions.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cornbread (BBA Challenge)

Truthfully, I was not looking forward to this week's Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. I'm not a huge fan of cornbread and I seriously contemplated just sitting this one out. And then I remembered how much I adore this cornbread salad.

From looking at the bread recipe I knew I wasn't going to like having corn chunks in my muffins, so I left the corn kernels out completely. I also decided to add in about a quarter of a cup of finely diced jalapeno peppers to give it a little kick. And I eased up on the bacon a bit because I knew there would be additional bacon in the salad.

I wasn't impressed with the appearance of the muffins. I would have liked to have seen a little more rise out of them. Instead I ended up with a dozen sunken-in muffins. But what they lacked in appearance they made up for in taste once they combined with the other salad ingredients.

Layered Cornbread Salad

1 1/2 cups fat-free sour cream
1 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1 package ranch dressing mix

Combine above ingredients and set aside.

5-6 cornbread muffins, crumbled
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups diced green pepper
1 cup thinly sliced green onion
2-3 cups shredded 2% sharp cheddar cheese
1 can corn kernels, drained
6-8 slices bacon, cooked crisp, crumbled (I used regular bacon here, but usually use turkey bacon)

In a large bowl layer one half of all the ingredients. Cover with one half of the dressing. Continue layering with the other half of the ingredients. Cover with the rest of the dressing. Garnish with additional green onions and bacon, if desired. Cover and chill for at least two hours before serving. This actually is best made the day before.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stuffed Banana Peppers

Throughout the next six weeks or so, you may just have to be tolerant with my posts. Kind of like how you smile and act interested when someone shows you photo after photo after photo of their grandkid. You see, I'm relatively new to this gardening business, and that translates into "Nobody's ever grown a banana pepper like I have before!" I'm going to expect you to ooh and ahh over my produce babies, and comment on how they look just like their mother (?)

I love banana peppers, but I confess that my experience with them has been mostly limited to the sliced, jarred variety that I love to put on grilled sandwiches and pizza. So when my banana pepper plant exploded with reproductivity this past week, I was forced to think outside the pizza box and come up with a way to use these lovelies in another recipe.

All peppers were designed to be stuffed, so I knew I couldn't go wrong if I went that route. But what to stuff these banana boats with? Well, since my experience with them leaned toward the pizza side, I decided to go with a kind of inside-out, crustless pizza theme. Pure genius Mags. It's no wonder that your family adores you.

My initial pepper prep attempt had me cutting the caps off of the peppers and forcing the stuffing longitudinally, for lack of better description. I finally figured out (on the last pepper) that I was better off slicing them lengthwise, treating them nicely (dinner, drinks and a movie,) and then stuffing them from the side.


Stuffed Banana Peppers

4 large banana peppers (the straighter, the better)
24 turkey pepperonis, chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced (not the oil packed kind)
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used 2%)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced (I believe the pros call that chiffonade?)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper
2 cups of some type of tomato sauce... spaghetti, marinara, pizza (I used my homemade pizza sauce.) divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8X8 baking dish with cooking spray.

Make a 2-3 inch incision lengthwise down one side of each pepper, being careful not to cut all the way through into the other side. Widen this incision by making another cut parallel to the first cut, carving out a narrow space where you'll be able to remove the seeds from the pepper. Remove seeds and set peppers aside.

Combine the pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes, mayonnaise, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic powder, basil and oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Gently pry apart the pepper and stuff with the pepperoni/cheese mixture. Lay peppers in baking dish, stuffed side up. Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with half of tomato sauce. Return dish to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with remaining tomato sauce on the side.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Muffins

There is a little bit of science involved in baking, and I'm quite sure that my high school chemistry teacher would attest to the fact that I have no business conjuring up formulas for cookies, cakes and such. So for the most part, I'm content being a copy-cat when it comes to recipes for baked goods. The price of ingredients scares me away from creating something new because I just hate wasting money on something that doesn't turn out.

Every whipstitch though, I want to think that I'm qualified to get out the beakers and the bunsen burner, and create my own formula. Today was such a day. (I used bowls and my oven instead of the beakers and the bunsen burner, however.)

This recipe turned out even better than I had anticipated. The muffins are very moist and flavorful and the minimal use of oil and the incorporation of whole wheat flour also make them a relatively healthy breakfast or snack.

Mr. Corbin, you can kiss my periodic table. I've finally channeled my inner scientist!


Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Muffins

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup Brown Sugar Splenda (or 1 1/3 cup regular brown sugar)
1 1/2 cup pureed sweet potatoes (This was one large sweet potato which I cubed and boiled in slightly salted water for 20 minutes, then pureed in the food processor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-count cupcake pan with paper liners, then spray them lightly with cooking spray.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, oil, yogurt, vanilla, brown sugar and sweet potatoes.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Do not over mix. Divide batter between the 12 cupcake wells. Top with topping (recipe below) if desired. Bake for 23-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in tin for 5 minutes before removing to finish cooling on cooling rack.

Topping:

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup oat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons soft butter

Combine topping ingredients until crumbly. This makes a big batch of topping. You won't need anywhere near all of it. I always keep a bag of this in my freezer, ready made.