Friday, August 28, 2009

Cheese Coins (Food Processor Fridays)

I just realized something as I sat down to write this post. Until today, I've never made a Martha Stewart recipe. How does one blog about food for over a year and not make a single Martha recipe?

This may be one reason why. Her recipe for Cheese Coins With Jalapeno Jelly does not work as written. I know this because I've tried it as written. Without the addition of some type of liquid, this dough will not come together as she claims. However, it is beyond the scope of conceivability that I would get into a pissing cooking match with the queen of all that is culinary and crafty, so I'm going to just assume I screwed up somewhere and offer you my adaptation of her recipe for this edition of Food Processor Fridays.

Cheese Coins With Jalapeno Jelly (adapted from Martha Stewart)

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into one ounce pieces
1-2 TBSP cold water
1/3 cup jalapeno jelly

Skip step one if you choose to use shredded cheese. I didn't have any.

Step one:
Fit food processor with the metal blade. With machine running, drop cheese through the feed tube and process until crumbled. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.

Step two:
Add flour, salt, paprika and cayenne pepper to processor. Pulse to combine.

Step three:
Add butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Step four:
Add cheese and pulse to combine briefly.

Step five:
With machine running drizzle water in through feed tube until dough starts to come together.

Step six:
Remove dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times.

Step seven:
Divide dough into three pieces and shape into logs. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to three days. At this point dough can also be frozen for up to one month.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice dough into 1/3 inch sections and place 2 inches apart on silpat or parchment covered baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool on baking sheet 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

When ready to serve, spoon a small amount of jelly onto center of each coin.

The kids and the grand-dogs are about to descend upon us for the weekend. I'm going to serve these cheese coins tonight along with June's House Lemonade. I'll see you all next week. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Raspberry Cheesecakes (Treats For Co-Irkers)

Dearest Co-Irkers,

The white chocolate raspberry cheesecakes you're eating this morning were supposed to look like the one in the photo above. In fact, they actually did look like that in my mind's eye when I was baking them, and then again yesterday when I decorated just a few to see how well they'd hold up overnight in the refrigerator. For you see, as much as I love you all, I simply refuse to drag my sorry derriere out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to decorate treats for you. Those few that I decorated yesterday did not withstand the test of time, and this morning I awoke to droopy whipped cream and bleeding raspberries. Therefore, your treats came to you unadorned and probably bleeding their little raspberry hearts out. I hope the whipped cream-filled pastry bag is still intact and hasn't discharged its contents all over your cupcake liners. If so, please feel free to take your frustration out on hubby. That's what I do. And while you're at it, give him a pat on the shoulder and an "attaboy," because he had to listen to me whine about stupid whipped cream and raspberry bleed all night.


P.S. The recipe for these mini-cheesecakes and the (supposed to be) stabilized whipped cream can be found here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kaiser Rolls (BBA Challenge)

A few weeks ago when I leafed ahead in the Bread Baker's Apprentice to see what I might need for the upcoming BBA challenges, I noticed that the Kaiser roll might give me some problems in the shaping department. I've learned through many of the past challenges that my shaping and braiding skills still need some work, so I just assumed I would be knot-challenged as well. I ordered a Kaiser roll stamp because I wanted my rolls to be as pretty as the ones pictured in the book. I think of all the photos in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, the Kaiser rolls stand out as the most beautiful and typifiy how perfect rolls should look.

The stamp didn't work worth a darn. My Kaiser rolls, though ridiculously delicious, didn't turn out with the separate "blooms" which I think are trademark to the Kaiser. I tried my hand at knotting a few of them and I actually think I like the look of them better than the stamped ones, even though they don't scream "Kaiser roll" to me.

Other than the shaping problem, this was a wonderful recipe. The dough was a delight to work with; very soft and supple, and the taste of the finished product was fantastic. I made a batch of pulled pork in the crockpot and we ate pulled pork and creamy coleslaw sandwiches for dinner tonight.

Thanks again to Nicole over at Pinch My Salt for keeping us all motivated. I'm looking forward to making Lavash crackers next week!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Whole Grain Banana Crunch Cake

Did you guys know that you can freeze bananas? I didn't. Well, at least not until a few months ago. Before acquiring this knowledge I'll admit to being guilty of wasting a banana or two that had passed its prime before I had the time (or the inclination) to use it in a recipe. Now whenever I'm feeling lazy too busy with other matters, I just toss them whole and unpeeled into a ziploc freezer bag and wait until such a time when I feel inspired to use them in a baked good. That happened today. Well, actually last night. I took the bananas out of the freezer and let them thaw overnight in the fridge because I just knew that today I'd be filled with the need to bake.

Banana Crunch Cake (adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)

Cake batter

1 cup oat flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, traditional or white whole wheat
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mini-chocolate chips

Crunch topping

3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted

Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the cake batter:

Whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions. Mix in half the dry ingredients until moistened, then mix in the bananas, yogurt and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add the remaining dry ingredients and chocolate chips, mixing until evenly moistened. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

To make the topping:

Combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small mixing bowl until well blended. Stir in the melted butter until the moisture forms large crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.

Bake until the edges pull away from the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a rack to cool for 20 minutes before serving warm. Or cool completely for later use.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lime Chipotle Chicken Kabobs

I have never won the lottery. I've never been hit by lightning either. Luck is relative, I suppose.

My daughter-in-law Heather however, is another story entirely as it relates to luck (the good kind.) I've lost track of how many things she's won and I've taken to putting her name on any raffle ticket I buy just to see if I can fake out the gods of luck. Hasn't worked so far.

A month or so ago, Heather invited hubby and me to attend her company's annual summer family gathering. Each department has a booth at this theme related event and they go all out in the decorating of their booths and have the food and their costumes tie into whatever they've chosen as their theme. Heather's department chose Animal House and they all showed up to work in their togas. Guests happily stepped over empty beer cases and cans to get a taste of the fried macaroni and cheese they were serving. Next door to them was the "As Seen On TV" booth where a Vince (the ShamWow guy) look-alike was hawking the Slap Chop in a YOU'RE GONNA LOVE MY NUTS t-shirt. And across the alley was the booth where Heather was about to get lucky... yet again. She dropped her door prize ticket in the bucket and told us that we couldn't leave until the drawing because you needed to be present to win. Here's where it gets freaky. After she won the iPod that afternoon, she informed us that she knew she would win, BUT she also knew that her name would not be the first name drawn. Indeed, the first ticket drawn belonged to someone who'd left the picnic early and therefore left it all open for our Heather to take home the grand prize. Isn't that crazy?

So what does all of that have to do with chicken kabobs? I actually won the sauce that I used to marinate them!!

Steph over at Steph Chows was kind enough to have a Saucy Mama giveaway earlier this month and I won a bottle of Lime Chipotle Marinade. I knew I was going to use it on chicken and when I looked at all the garden produce in my fridge, the kabob idea was born. I marinated chicken breast chunks in the marinade for a few hours then skewered them along with cherry tomatoes, yellow squash and green peppers that I'd doused with a little olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. On the grill for 8-10 minutes and you're good to go. This marinade was awesome. A little spicy heat, but not overly much. Just great, great flavor.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pear, Pecan and Celery Salad

I have a confession to make. I don't like fruit. In fact, some of you might have already noticed that up until today I didn't even have a fruit label in my sidebar. I'm not proud of this characteristic. I'm just coming clean with you and hope you won't judge me too harshly or think I'm some type of unhealthy barbarian because I almost completely shun this particular food group.

I guess when I get right down to the nitty-gritty of this dislike, it's not even really a dislike. It's more that I tend to think of fruit as dessert instead of a regular part of the rest of the meal. And IF I'm going to have dessert, I'm going to splurge and go for something with a little more tooth-rotting capability, like cookies or cake.

However, all that's about to change. You read it here first, folks. Mags the fruit shunner is going to make herself eat fruit on a regular basis. I may have to start out slowly at first, but you can expect to see more recipes that include fruit on my blog in the future. We'll start with this pear salad, OK?

Pear, Pecan and Celery Salad (adapted from Penzey's Spices) Serves 4

2 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks with leafy tops, thinly sliced on the bias
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 TBSP sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2-1 tsp sugar (optional)
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Divide the pears and celery among four salad plates, arranging nicely. Sprinkle with the pecans, cheese and cranberries. Mix the oil and vinegar together with salt and pepper. Add optional sugar if your pears are more tart than sweet. Drizzle the dressing over the salads. Top with a bit of the chopped leafy celery tops.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blue Cheese Tomato Soup

Let's talk a little bit about blue cheese. Do you like it? Or do you hate it? Or are you somewhere in the middle, like me? I would never sit down with a slab of blue cheese and a box of Triscuits like I'm known to do with other cheeses, but in small quantities, I think blue cheese can really enhance the flavor of other ingredients and meld nicely into the background with its slightly salty and pungent presence.

OK, here's some information I recently learned that almost had me changing my mind completely about blue cheese though, and if you're already slightly squeamish or riding the fence regarding your opinion of this much hated/much loved cheese, then skip the next paragraph and head on down to the recipe itself.

It turns out that one of the bacteria that is encouraged to grow on this particular cheese is the same bacteria that is responsible for causing foot odor. (Makes you really want to dig in and try this recipe now, doesn't it?)

For the record, hubby is still riding the fence regarding his feelings about blue cheese. I listened to him comment after every bite of this soup; "I don't think I like this." Then after the next bite, "I really like this! Especially with a bite of crouton with it." Then, "I don't know if I like this or not." On and on this went through the entire bowl of soup. The final comment: "I do like this! I'd actually order this if I saw it on a menu."

Blue Cheese Tomato Soup

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced
8 cups tomato juice (I had a thin batch of pureed tomatoes in the fridge so that's what I used)
2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (or your favorite chili sauce, and use more or less according to your tastes)
2 oz reduced fat cream cheese
2 oz blue cheese (use less for a less pronounced flavor... or substitute with a milder goat or feta cheese)

In soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes then add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add the tomato juice, chicken broth, oregano, basil, and hot sauce. Increase heat a bit and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender, 20-25 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and blue cheese. Remove from heat and stir to melt the cheeses. Don't worry if they don't completely melt and incorporate into the soup. They will be smooth and melt in the blender. Working in batches, puree soup in blender and return to pot. Season again with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with crispy garlic bread or croutons.

To make homemade croutons I just cube old bread, drizzle on some olive oil, then season with whatever I'm in the mood for that day. Today it was salt, pepper, garlic powder and some Italian seasoning. Place on baking sheet and bake in a 300 degree oven for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Squash, Tomato and Basil Gratin (FPF)

Temperatures were in the 70's here today. Such a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of the past few weeks. The local kids have gone back to school and I can almost smell fall in the air. The depression that has been ever-present since the last seconds ticked off the Super Bowl clock last January is about to be lifted. Football. Say it with me. FOOTBALL. One more time. Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?

Actually, that all was written for hubby and daughter's benefit. My seasonal depression is about to start.

This week's Food Processor Friday's recipe is still very much about summer, however. Particularly, summer garden vegetables. You know, the ones that you were fighting over earlier in the season and are now growing a little tired of. And by you, of course I mean me. I've been putting up tomatoes all week and there's still a ton out there in the garden. I may be tempted into trying to make homemade ketchup. After all, why buy something for a dollar when you can spend all day and dirty every pot and pan making it?

Squash, Tomato and Basil Gratin

cooking spray
2 ounces Asiago cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 clove garlic, peeled
12 large fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2-3 small to medium yellow squash, zucchini, or mix of both
10-12 ripe plum tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray.

Insert the metal blade into food processor. With the machine running, drop the cheese cubes down the feed tube and process to chop finely, about 10 seconds. Remove cheese to another bowl and set aside.

With the machine running, drop the garlic through the feed tube to chop. Add the basil leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Process until smooth, about 10-15 seconds. Remove to another bowl and set aside.

Insert the slicing disc. Cut the squash/zucchini into lengths that will fit the large feed tube. Arrange in the zucchini in the feed tube, cut side down. Use medium pressure to slice. Remove squash/zucchini to another bowl and set aside.

I opted to slice my tomatoes by hand instead of using the food processor. I wanted a little thicker slices than what the processor was slicing for me, but you can use the processor in the same way you used it to slice the squash/zucchini if you prefer.

Arrange the squash and tomato slices in a single layer, overlapping them tightly.

Drizzle the basil/olive oil mixture over top.

Sprinkle all with the grated cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Serve hot or warm.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cupcakes for Co-Irkers

Usually the Cupcake itself is the star of the show. It delivers a steady and consistent performance and we know what we can expect from it. Buttercreams, fondants and ganache take their turns in supporting roles along side (or on top of) the Cupcake, but they know their place and they dare not outshine the star.

Until today.

Things got crazy at Mag's Kitchen Theatre this afternoon as Miss Dark Chocolate Dreams Icing decided to upstage the Cupcake. Pandemonium erupted as the little hussy spread herself over two dozen leading actors and single handedly destroyed their performances. One critic was reportedly overheard stating, "Cupcake? Was there a cupcake under that lovely mound of sweetness?" Blowing sugary kisses, Miss Dark Chocolate Dreams Icing dazzled under the photographer's lights and established herself as a confectionary superstar. When asked of her future plans, Miss Icing smiled sweetly and said, "I won't stop until I'm on top of everything."

This week's Treats For Co-Irkers recipe came from King Arthur. These simple golden vanilla cupcakes really are tasty in their own right, but the icing certainly did put them over the top. The inspiration for the icing came from Jen over at My Kitchen Addiction. She made this icing with Nutella and used it to frost her chocolate carrot and squash cupcakes. I didn't have any Nutella, but I did have this:

Dark Chocolate Dreams Cream Cheese Icing

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter
1/4 cup shortening
6 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp cream or half & half

Combine softened cream cheese, peanut butter and shortening in bowl of stand mixer. Beat on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally until smooth. Add the powdered sugar in one cup increments, scraping down bowl and beating well with each addition. Add a tablespoon (or more) of cream after the last addition of powdered sugar, to get icing to desired consistency.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oven Baked Chicken Tenders

Initially, this recipe post was going to be titled Chicken McMaggots. I think you can all figure out why I changed my mind.

Chicken nuggets or tenders are so easy to make at home that it's surprising to me that they're such a big seller at fast food restaurants. A little cutting and dipping is all that is necessary to prep these little guys for the oven, and by baking them instead of frying them, we're saving tons of calories and fat grams. Grab a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer and place them in a bag-o-buttermilk before you leave for work in the morning. By the time you get you home, you only have to slice them into serviceable pieces and dip them in the flour, egg, and Panko. Place them into the oven while you take out your contacts and take off your bra (or is that just me?) Then whip up a little honey mustard dipping sauce and you're good to go.

Oven Baked Chicken Tenders

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 3 inch strips
1 cup buttermilk

Place chicken pieces into a ziplock baggie and add buttermilk. Place in fridge for at least an hour.

Flour mixture:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp paprika
salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix above ingredients together in a shallow pan.

Egg mixture:

1 egg
1/4 cup milk
dash of hot sauce (optional)

Whisk above ingredients together in a shallow pan.

Breading mixture:

1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Combine above ingredients in a shallow pan.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray well with cooking spray.

Remove chicken pieces from buttermilk. Dip each piece first into flour mixture, then into egg mixture and lastly into breading mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet. Spray chicken pieces lightly with cooking spray.

Place pan in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, turning pieces halfway through baking time.

Honey mustard sauce:

3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp dijon mustard

Mix above ingredients together.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mini Cheddar Meat Loaves

As much as I write about my mom's recipes being my tried and true favorites, you'd think that would apply to her meatloaf recipe as well. You'd be thinking wrong. I'm not even sure what her meatloaf recipe was, because I didn't care for it so I never requested it! Lest you think I'm a horrible daughter, please know that she didn't make meatloaf very often, so this really isn't a big deal. Maybe she knew her recipe lacked something. Maybe she didn't like meatloaf. Maybe I should ask her the next time I visit her?

I guess when push comes to shove and apples not falling far from trees, I should admit that meatloaf was not always one of my favorites either. (ohh, the way we bloggers bare our souls!) However, years ago I came across this recipe for mini meatloaves, and I decided to give it another go. I'm not sure if it's the sauce that has me loving this recipe or the fact that I instantly adore all things that are mini, but this has been hubby and kids' favorite for at least the last ten years.
Individual loaves by design have more surface area for sauce. And I make little indentations on the top to serve as added sauce pockets (can you tell I'm all about sauce?)

What I think might be unique about this recipe (and please correct me if I'm wrong,) is that it uses oatmeal instead of bread crumbs or crackers as a binder. Also, the shredded cheese adds a nice, rich moisture to this meatloaf.

Little Cheddar Meat Loaves

1 TBSP olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cups of fresh spinach, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper
2 lbs. lean ground beef (I use Laura's Lean)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use 2%)


1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar (or 1/2 cup regular brown sugar)
1 Tbsp mustard

In a saute pan, heat olive oil. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add spinach and red pepper flakes, if using. Season again with salt and pepper and saute until spinach is wilted. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two.

In large bowl, whisk eggs and milk together. Add oats and cheddar cheese. Stir to combine. Crumble ground beef over mixture and mix together with your hands.

Spray a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients.

Divide meat mixture into 6-8 even pieces, depending on how large you want your mini-loaves. Form into oval loaves and place into prepared pan. Make a small indentation in the middle of each loaf to serve as a sauce receptacle. Divide sauce evenly over loaves and spread it around a bit.

Place pan in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.

I usually take the loaves out of the oven, remove from pan, and drain the grease. Then I put the loaves back in the pan and stick it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the tops of the loaves a little bit more.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Zucchini Corn Bake

Did you ever start out making a recipe and find it turning into something else entirely? Either through a good idea evolving into a better idea, or a good idea gone bad, I've frequently changed horses midstream and ended up with an entirely different meal than I'd initially set out to make. Today's zucchini/corn bake started out to be stuffed poblano peppers. (I can almost hear your collective groan.. not ANOTHER poblano recipe, Mags!) After I had the stuffing all mixed, it really seemed better suited as a stand-alone dish rather than as a stuffing. This was a good idea evolving into a better idea, definitely. And a great way to use zucchini (and corn) from your garden.

I had six cornbread muffins in my freezer leftover from a Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge a few weeks back. They were topped with crumbled bacon and I thought that really added to the flavor of this dish. When I make this again, I'll be sure to add some cooked, crumbled bacon to the mix if my muffins don't already include it.

Zucchini Corn Bake

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 stalk celery (including leaves,) diced
1/2 poblano pepper, seeded, diced (can use bell pepper)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely diced
2 cups shredded zucchini (can use yellow squash)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup chicken broth (I used 1/2 cup water and one packet of Savory Choice Chicken Broth Concentrate)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1 14 3/4 oz can creamed corn
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 cups crumbled cornbread (I used six cornbread muffins)
salt and pepper

In large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, poblano and jalapeno peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until onions are translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add zucchini, season again with salt and pepper and saute for another 5-6 minutes, until zucchini is softened and cooked. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle flour over all and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, to cook flour. Slowly add in broth and buttermilk and stir to a smooth consistency. Season with onion powder, thyme, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add creamed corn and frozen corn kernels. Simmer for a few more minutes then remove from heat. Stir in parsley.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl place cornbread crumbs. Add the above mixture and stir well to combine. Spray 9X9 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into dish. Place in preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Gift Of Life

In addition to celebrating the reunion of family members, this weekend's get together was also a celebration of the gift of life and love. It's been just a little over a year since Logan's kidney transplant and we spent some time Friday night being thankful for the success of the transplant as well as for the love that preceded it. Donor Aunt Karen and Logan were reunited in a much happier environment this time. Great job, both of you!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fresh Tomato Salsa (FPF)

Jarred salsa from the grocery store is fine, it really is. It's just something to sit on top of a tortilla chip after all. A reason to call chips and salsa an hors d'oeuvre. But fresh salsa, well that takes things to an entirely different level. Now chips and salsa can be a meal. Especially if you're using tomatoes that you just picked an hour ago.

In today's installment of "Food Processor Fridays" we'll be making fresh tomato salsa, and we're making the whole thing a breeze by using the food processor. Line up your ingredients and play along with me. You'll need:

1 clove of garlic, peeled
1-2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and quartered
2 ounces of sweet onion, peeled, cut in 1/2 inch pieces (this was half of a small onion for me)
1/2 cup fresh parsley (the recipe calls for cilantro but I think you all know how I feel about cilantro)
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into chunks (this was four average tomatoes for me. I know the picture only shows two, but you're not seeing the other two that I left over by the sink.)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander (that's cilantro in a form that even I enjoy)
2 TBSP fresh lime juice (one lime squeezed)
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Insert metal blade into food processor. With the machine running, drop the garlic and the jalapeno peppers through the feed tube and process about 10 seconds. Scrape the work bowl.

Add onion and parsley leaves. Pulse to chop, 8-10 times. Scrape the work bowl.

Add the tomatoes and pulse to chop, 10-15 times.

Add the salt, coriander, cumin and lime juice. Pulse a few times to combine.

Transfer to a medium bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. I opted to put the salsa through a fine-mesh strainer before serving as the tomatoes seemed to give off too much water. I then stirred in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Italian Bread (Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge)

I haven't seen Julie & Julia yet because I want to read the book before I see the movie, but I've read enough about it to know that it's based on a true story of a gal who cooked and blogged her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I can't help but see the similarities as I bake and blog my way through Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. Stepping way, way outside my comfort zone, I've learned terms, technology and techniques that I'd never have learned had I not jumped into the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge with both feet running.

I didn't know until recently that Julia Child was in her mid-thirties before she even considered culinary school. Now I'm over that by more years than I want to admit, but the bottom line is that it's never to late to discover a new passion. And for that newly found passion, I'd like to thank Nicole from Pinch My Salt for organizing and making this whole challenge possible.

This week's Italian bread recipe was as much of a delight to eat as it was a PITA to work with. I struggled with this dough, people. It turns out that I'm as batard challenged as I am braid challenged (think Challah bread.) I don't know if my dough was too wet or if I over-proofed it, but I had a heck of a time shaping this dough into rolls. I was disappointed in how they looked coming out of the oven but when I took my first bite, I knew I'd struck pay dirt. The flavor was amazing! I took Mr. Reinhart's suggestion of using milk instead of water since I knew I wanted a softer roll. And here's why:

Meat loaf subs! Think meat ball subs only with flat meat instead of round. Slices of my famous meatloaf (recipe to follow next week,) pepper jack and provolone cheese, lettuce, and some meatloaf sauce (recipe also to follow next week,) on a fresh Italian hoagie. Grill it and enjoy. Best grilled sandwich I've had this year!